Monday, March 31, 2008

spring is bolero season

At least it is in New Haven, where the springlike temperatures are hovering in the high 30s. I started work on this last spring, finished knitting all the pieces and then left it for ages because I was too afraid of seaming. Luckily, I needed something to keep my shoulders warm at a friend's wedding, so I picked up my yarn needle and my courage.

Turns out, I didn't need to be afraid. With the knitty tutorial on seaming at my side, no sleeve could stand in my way. I'm not going to lie: I even enjoyed seaming. I think my hang-up in the past was that seaming took a long time and still looked bad. Now that it looks decent (even though it still takes a long time) and results in a finished product that I can wear, I love seaming!

The yarn is Rowan Scottish Tweed Aran, and if it's scratchier than I might like, it is definitely versatile: I wore the bolero to the wedding, and to Easter, and to class today. I knit the picot edging during an entertaining conference call with EW and CH, so I've told myself that my mistakes aren't super noticeable.

I was so inspired by learning to seam that I worked my way through the seams on another unfinished piece this past weekend. And then I learned about blocking superwash wool. Apparently, I'm not the first to learn this the hard way. (last two are ravelry links; sign up for an invite!) Full story to come.

(For those of you who think about such things, that picture is from EW's lovely house in Oakland. You should all be so lucky as to visit her.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Knitting for Myself after Christmas

Since Christmas, I've been knitting for myself. I've finished two sweaters and my first pair of socks.

I started the socks rights after Christmas and quickly finished one, and then took a break while I knit a sweater. That was probably a mistake because the second sock is much tighter knit so they don't fit the same. I have a book about using two long flexible double pointed needles instead of a set of five double pointed needles so that you knit both socks at the same time to prevent this problem. Maybe I'll try that next time. I usually wear thinner socks, so I'm not sure about handknit socks in any case, but it was fun to try, and they work well with clogs. It was self striping yarn, so the stripes aren't as impressive to knit as they look.

Next, I hurried to knit a winter sweater before the weather got too warm to wear it, but I needn't have worried! I had plenty of opportunities. This was a very expensive yarn and I had some worries that the lace pattern I picked didn't really maximize it's potential, but I am pretty happy with the finished product. The yarn had two strands, one mohair and the other a loopy synthetic strand that was a little shiny. Very dramatic!

Finally I knit a sweater to wear for Easter. The yarn is 55% cotton/45% silk - very soft. I actually knit the sample guage square twice to make sure the size would be right since fit seemed important. I was glad I did and I'm very happy with this sweater.

I've knit so much I have a pain in my right elbow. I may have to take a break! I have more projects lined up but haven't decided what to tackle next.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

posting to procrastinate

In need of a baby gift, and a project that I could knit while reading, I designed a simple baby blanket. I had some Blue Skies Alpaca Blue Sky Cotton in a lovely blue and I thought that I'd knit up some stockinette squares and then attach them with a contrasting color. Nine squares, probably about 8 inches square each. With an i-cord border. Maybe in another color. And I'd add a seed-stitch star to the central square to make it a little more special. Simple, right?

Problem #1: Does this really look like a star?

I wasn't so sure it was appealing enough to be the one highlight in an otherwise plain blanket. So the solution, of course, was to make more squares with star patterns. And maybe some hearts too. Though potentially ugly individually, they had to be cute en masse, right? The problem with this plan is that I couldn't really knit the patterned sqaures while reading, so knitting five of them instead of one was a big time-suck.

Problem #2
: By the time I got to the end of my first skein of blue yarn, I'd only finished 4 squares. Obvious that I would not get the remaining 5 out of the other skein, I had to reassess. I decided that I could make the squares shorter by 4 rows without hurting the aesthetic of the baby blanket too much. Add to that the smidge of yarn that was leftover from the first skein and I should be able to squeek out nine squares, right? Wrong. I neglected to add to my calculations the fact that the seed-stitched squares would take up more yarn than the stockinette ones. So instead of picking up the orange stitches from the bound off edges of the blue squares, I tore out the bind-offs and started knitting in orange (as if the bind-offs were functioning as stitch holders). Salvaging the yarn from the bind-offs got me to the end of that ninth square, but you can see the final square and count how many times I added a new piece of yarn:

Problem #3: Blue yarn wasn't the only limiting factor. I decided a green i-Cord edging would be pretty and luckily I had some of the same yarn leftover from another project in a nice bright green. Unluckily, I had enough of the green to edge three and one-third sides, and no more. Here you can sort of see where I started the new skein of green, on the fourth side of the blanket:

So, after all the effort to resist buying an extra skein of blue, I had to buy an extra skein of green. (Yes, I did have plenty of orange left for the edging. So I considered tearing out the green and redoing it in orange. But, basically, being lazy won out over being frugal. This was the project where I'd cursed myself for not just buying an extra skein of blue, after all.)

I also learned a lot about steam blocking so that the squidgy shape you see in the prior picture now reasonably resembles a square. But this post is long enough already, so I'll save all those lessons for some other time.