Wednesday, September 30, 2009

OMG! It Fits!!

Squeeeee!! Look at that! Jim is the proud owner of a new sweater.

When I first joined the shoulders I thought that there was no way this was going to fit. That area looked so small! So the sweater sat in time out for a while. Jim would speak wistfully of his sweater, while I scorned the stupid pattern and cheap yarn. Sure it was a nice color, sure the yarn was soft, sure the design was unique. But look what wandering from the beaten path gets you, a no good-nik sweater with no shoulders to speak of. Then Jim would gently reaffirm his faith that it would fit, and coax me to just try. Just put the seams together before I gave up on it.

How could I refuse him?

I eased myself into the seaming. I set in one sleeve at a time. He tried it on and things looked a little more hopeful. So tonight I sat me down and stitched the whole thing up. You could have knocked me down with a feather when the darned thing fit! Want to see it again?

It was a close call, and it's a good thing that Jim is a slim fellow, or I don't think he would have been comfortable wearing it. Oh yes, he still would have worn it, just not able to move his arms much.

To give the pattern credit, I think I may have caused the problem by switching the cable designs from what was written. First off, I started knitting this design with the sleeves. The ribbing for the sleeves is set up to flow straight off into the cables. It's a nice design feature. When I started on the body, there was a similar set up with the ribbing. But the cables didn't flow with the ribbing, instead they went in the opposite to what they should have if they were going to match the sleeves. So I switched the cables.

The problem happened when I reached the armhole shaping. A signifigant part of the design is the addition and removal of stitches for the cables. If I had followed the pattern as written then the cables would have been at maximum stitches. See below.

Instead, we ended up at minimum stitches:

And that's what you get kiddies for trying to get smart with the pattern. Forget top-down raglans, my next sweater is going to be a vest.

By the way, from the comments to my last post, here is a very clear explanation of the relationship between heat and acid when dying yarn with food color:

Beadlizard said...
I love "The mordant is love. The heat is marriage." Wow.

In almost as brief terms, heat opens the scales on the wool, thus expanding the surface area, plus it facilitates bonding. The acid in the vinegar is an essential part of the bond.

You can get a feel for the process by playing with the order of things. If you mix the dye with cool water and vinegar, then add the wool, then bring up the heat, stirring gently, you'll get pretty level dyeing. If you hold it at the proper heat (just under a simmer usually) until the water is clear, then turn off the heat and let it sit until cool, *then* rinse, you'll get maximum take-up.

If you start with cool water, vinegar, and wool, bring it up to heat, *then* add the dye powder or stock solution, you'll get instant take-up, but ONLY where the dye contacts the fiber. This is how to get distinct sprinkles -- dry powder on a hot acidic bath.

To get darker colors you can go for full saturation -- use more dyestuff and the maximum take-up method (and plenty of vinegar). Or, add a bit of a darker hue like navy or black. We often use grape Kool-Aid to tint things darker.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Deep Purple

Alex borrowed Rock Band for the Wii from a friend and Friday night he and I rocked out till the sun went down. Poor Dexter had to miss his walk. I love my boy, but Alex and I are so much alike that sometimes it works against us and we don't get along easily. So it was a real gift and a treat to be able to hang out with my youngest son, doing something we both enjoyed.

In between gigs, I took time out this weekend to dye some more yarn. I was inspired by purple maples because they don't really look purple. Some are so dark, they almost look black. If you turn them over, you can see a green tint to the underside.

My idea then was to dye some yarn green, and then over-dye it with burgundy. At the last moment I decided to add tie-dye techniques to the mix. First, I skeined up the yarn, then wrapped knobs of it with hair elastics. I soaked the skeins in water with dish detergent in it, then dyed it Moss Green using Wilton Icing dye.

Janice from the Forest City Hand Knitters told me that it is vinegar that sets the dye and not the heat as I had thought. She recommended pouring in the vinegar at the end for an even distribution of color. Can anyone tell me what the heat is for? It seemed to me that the yarn didn't really take up the dye until after I poured in the vinegar.

Anyway, once the yarn came out of the green dye, I took off the hair elastics and replaced them in new locations.

Next up, the yarn went back into the warm crock pot with burgundy from Wilton. I hadn't realized that the burgundy was so pink. I was expecting a much darker color. I'm not disappointed though. Here are my results, in the original skein on the right and also re-skeined to distribute the colors on the left.

It's not as dark as a purple maple, but its on the right track. Perhaps I should have used a greater quantity of dye and more patience. I sort of rushed the process a bit by only heating the yarn minimally and then cooling it using gradually cooler rinse water.

Its a nice color and it should make a very interesting knit. The tie dye effect worked great. I'm definitely going to use that again. I'm calling this color way "September Rose."

Now for Monday morning and the beginning of my days as a commuter. I wonder if we'll see an increase in my knitting production?

Sweater Rant

Sweaters hate me. Which is fine because the feeling is mutual. The reason there is so much sweater yarn in the stash is because I don't often knit sweaters and I don't often knit sweaters because of the mutual hate.

I have actually finished knitting two sweaters, one that still needs to be sewn up and another that is complete. I haven't blogged about the FO, even though it was done a couple of weeks ago, because it pissed me off. I had a horrible time sewing in the sleeves and it took me a week to work up the stomach to get them both in. After that it was pretty smooth sailing and I like the sweater well enough, but it fits a bit large and the sleeves are a tad long.

Oh, I know I look all happy in the picture. I'm giddy from finally being quits with the darned thing!!

The pattern is lovely, by Kathy Zimmerman, and it's called V is for Violet from Interweave Knits, Fall 2006. The yarn is Rowan Cashcotton of which I expect great things. Like durability. I expect that this will be a cozy sweater this winter, suitable for good casual wear.

The second sweater is the green chunky cables and the shoulders are ridiculously small. We'll see if it works up okay once sewn, but it might take me a while to get to it. Every time I look at it I start to see red. Setting sleeves seriously sucks.

Next sweater I do will be a top down seamless one. Geeze... would you look at that? It seems I haven't given up on sweaters after all.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Love

Last night, I reached the neck on the front of my current sweater and decided I was too tired to work the fiddly decisions required for a proper fit. But it was only 9:00 so I went stash diving and came up with this:

Oh yeah! This is more the stuff. Chuck the green chunky, bring on the teensy stitches, twisted edging and Canadian colors. I'm in love!!

Never mind that I'm suspicious I don't have enough yarn, and let's just ignore questions of fit. This is beautiful and I want to knit it all day long.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Third Time's the Charm

Hey! Happy weekend! I hereby dedicate this weekend to rest and relaxation. I intend to make the most of the last few sunny days of patio knitting. I'm reconciling myself to the bus plan. I can tell because I've been plotting what new hand knits I'll need to keep me comfortable at the bus stop and contemplating what other projects, besides socks, I will be able to work on the bus.

Now here's a bit of something bright to change the subject with.

The yarn is Lucy Neatby's Cat's Pajamas and it was hard work finding the right pattern.
First thing I tried with this yarn was the Monkey pattern.

The yarn looks great, but the sock was too small. I once tried the Pomatomus socks and they also didn't fit. Cookie A's patterns are awesome, but these two designs have taught me the futility of spending money on any of her other patterns.

Next up I tried a slip stitch pattern that everybody said was great for wildly variegated handpaints. I can't even remember the name of the pattern, but I hate what it did with the yarn.

Perhaps I was particularly jarred by how different this version was from the charming way the colors had striped in the Monkey sock. There was no tears lost ripping this one and I could console myself with the thought of more time spent knitting this yummy yarn.

When I finally did settle on Charlene Schurch's Chevron pattern, I was so entranced I couldn't put the sock down. I sang through the first almost in one weekend. So much for savouring the knitting of my cashmere blend sock yarn. I'll just have to savour them on my feet instead.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Facing Reality

I've been thinking about how to manage my stash. It's seriously out of control. I've got yarn for 14 sweaters alone. Don't ask me to count sock yarns, odd balls, hat yarn or laceweight. I know there are bigger stashes, I know there are smaller ones. What I want is the just right stash.

Mary Jane made an excellent point when she told me "You can't think about what NOT to do. Your brain just won't grasp it." I understand this from what I learned about dealing with my children. Barbara Coloroso gives the example of telling children "Don't touch" in a china shop. When you say that, you put the idea of touching into their minds. Instead, she says to tell them "Put your hands in your pockets or behind your backs." In this case the little hands have a choice to make that has nothing to do with the breakables and therefore keeps them safe.

So I need to find something else to say to myself besides "Don't buy more yarn." I've decided that it should be "Knit more sweaters." But I don't think that's going to be enough because my brain automatically finishes the statement to be "You can't buy more yarn until you knit up all the sweaters." It could take me years to knit through what I currently have and we're back to the can't.

I used to have a yarn budget, in which I gave myself a certain amount of money each paycheck. But when Jim lost his work, I felt I had to stop that. Since he's picked up some work this summer, I guess I felt the pressure was off and hence we had yarn purchases. So, to keep the output of FOs greater than the input of new yarn, I've decided to reward myself with a certain amount of yarn money for each finished sweater. I figure I'll have to knit two or three sweaters to "earn" enough to buy new yarn.

I don't know if it's going to work, but I'm going to try. One thing I've learned, everybody does things differently. You've got to keep trying till you find out what works for you.

Somehow this is all tied in with losing my car. Take a look at this picture. This is never going to drive again.

The insurance company's payout will not be sufficient for me to afford a new car, so I'm making the hard decision to take the bus to work for a while. It seems a simple no brainer, pay off debt or take on more debt; especially with Jim's income so uncertain, and the economy still recovering.

But man, reality bites.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Crash and the Fall Out

Fall came in with a bang. Literally.

September 8, first day back to school, Jim was in an accident with my car. No one was hurt. The other vehicle was a truck and Jim was the only person in my car. He was badly bruised and shaken but no worse. My car, however, will not recover.

All week I've been telling Jim how delighted I am that the car got crumpled because it protected him beautifully. It's only a car, my husband is irreplaceable. I've been fondly reminiscing about the good times we've had in that car. It feels like this vehicle did me one last good service. I'm almost in mourning for my first, practically-new car.

It was a 2002 Intrepid that we've had for six years. At this ripe age its chief accomplishment was that it was paid for. We suspect that the insurance company will write it off, but I am currently in a state of limbo as to what vehicle I will be driving next. I do have a rental for now and it has no charge mileage on it, so after a stressful week I felt I deserved a trip to the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter's Fair.

I met up with LisaRae and off we went into the blue horizon. The Fair has such a festival atmosphere and we saw a ton of London knitters there. I thought I'd take in the free classes, but I was seduced by the two ballrooms of vendors.

Over my last summer vacation I had browsed through three different yarn stores without buying a thing, so I thought I'd be safe to go to the fair. I really have no need of more yarn. It's been my mantra "I don't need more yarn." But I claim fall out of stress because I fell.

At first, I only bought a Chibi, a pattern, and some Lantern Moon DPNs, all on sale. But by the end of the day I was pacing feverishly through both ball rooms looking for the Headwater Wool booth where I'd stashed the glorious red lace weight behind some greeny-yellow. In my search, I passed the Yarn Harlot twice, and I never even thought to kinnear her. Of course I wouldn't stop to say Hi because she's famous now and we Canadians leave our celebrities alone. We feel sorry for the poor dears.

(A co-worker told me a story, about how he and his wife had spotted Rick Mercer in a restaurant while on vacation. They asked his waitress and she confirmed Rick's identity. I wanted to know if they'd got an autograph and my co-worker said, "Well no, the man was having lunch.")

I'm sorry I didn't get any pictures for you all, except here's a picture of my sin:

And the red that I snatched out of Lisa's hands when I saw her coming towards me with it. I hope I haven't traumatized her too badly, because she was an awesome companion to take to the fair. She likes linen and cotton and I like wool.

Really, I promise, I'm not going to buy more yarn.

Aw cripes, I just remembered that alpaca I bought at the Harrow Fair. Isn't there a cure for this disease?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Something Funny Going On

Yesterday I went to the Harrow Fair to pick up my entries in the knitting section of the homecrafts division. Harrow is a really lovely little fair, with lots of categories to enter including adorable kids crafts, gorgeous photography and art, and breathtaking quilts. I had only entered two pieces, my white mohair Irtfa'a and my Noro ten stitch twist. I do this for fun, and to hang out with my good friend Mary Jane who is one kick-butt knitter.

Mary Jane had entered a beautiful lace tunic, a black cobweb lace piece (couldn't tell if it was a shawl or a stole because the display was so bunched) beaded socks that won Shall We Knit's sock design contest last year, and a pair of Estonian socks she knit under the tutelage of Nancy Bush at Sock Summit.

We were both surprised at the judging. I went to see Mary Jane before going to the fair and she didn't say a lot about it. No wonder. A sherbet orange acrylic cape beat out both our lace pieces and her Estonian socks lost to self-patterning sock yarn and some worsted weight acrylic knit into long lace stockings.

You know, it was just so ridiculous that we both were laughing our heads off. My suspicion is that the judge wasn't knowledgeable enough to appreciate the nuances of our work. That sounds like ego talking which is why both Mary Jane and I were glad to have someone else confirm this opinion.

Oh well, it was still a great day at the fair, hanging out with Jim and have a gut-busting laugh with my knit-pal. Let's do it again next year!!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Dye Jobs

It finally feels like summer, never mind that the calendar says September. Jim and I are both on vacation this week and the weather couldn't be better: sunny and warm without a cloud in the sky.

We're having another staycation and I had planned all sorts of knitting projects, but instead I find myself dedicated to churning out a pair of white lace socks. So relaxing! But there has been more color in my life, in the form of a couple more dye experiments. Here's what the kids called my Fruit Loop color way:

I tried the cold paint method, where you get the dye on the yarn cold, then heat the yarn set it. I wrapped the yarn in plastic wrap and put it in the crock pot with some water to warm it up. The dye leaked out of the plastic but the colors didn't mix. I'm learning that once the color goes on, it pretty much stays where you put it. I guess I thought there would be more transfer of colors within the yarn, like mixing paint on paper, but there's not. I also experimented with re-skiening and I like the effect. I'm very curious about how this color-way will knit up.

Today I dyed what I think looks like Summer Berries:

I find I go in with one plan of dying and end up doing things with colors on the fly. In this case, I used a spritz bottle to spray some blue on parts that I thought were too light. I don't know if I like the effect. The colors are a bit pale and muddy in places. Not in a bad way since at least I stayed on one side of the color wheel. The important thing is I'm learning about the way yarn and dye behave together.

I was wanted to see what the Kermit in a Blender yarn would look like knit up so I cast it on for my next traveling sock:

This green must have been beginner's luck because I think it is by far my best dye job. Perhaps I need to get away from the kiddie food color shades.

And lookie at this. A yarn prezzie all the way from Sock Summit! Aren't I a lucky duck?

Boy, I've got a lot to learn.