Monday, December 26, 2011

Pattern Quest

Guess what I got for Christmas? Yarn!!

Okay, true confession time. I've always wanted a Silk Garden sweater, so I told Jim that was what I wanted for Christmas this year. I've been going to knit and chat on Friday nights at Cotton By Post (first time I've ever felt like I truly had a LYS) and Suzanne carries Noro, so that's where I bought it from. She even wrapped up my purchase so I could open it Christmas morning. (Thanks Suzanne for the extra love.)

Once I had a quiet moment on Christmas day, I swatched it up using a 4.5mm needle and also with a 4mm needle. I washed it, left it to dry and later measured the gauge to be 4.5 stitches to the inch on 4.5mm needles and 5 stitches to the inch on 4mm needles. I liked the firmer gauge on the smaller needle. Silk Garden has oodles of drape, and the looser gauge feels floppy to me. My stitches also seemed neater on the smaller needle.
I chose color 84 - reds, which is understandably very popular. 

I had planned to make the Banstead Pullover, but it calls for 4 stitches to the inch, so that pattern was right out for this yarn. I really love the Knitting Plus book, so I pored over it, hoping to match my yarn to a pattern. I considered the Passayunk Pullover, it looked like the gauge would match, but then these words in the pattern description brought me up short:
"The Yoke is fairly shallow... If you know this shallow yoke will not work for you because you are tall or have broad shoulders..."

Oh me! I am tall, I do have broad shoulders. Then I remembered that Lisa Shroyer covers this topic at the beginning of her book:
"...I found that drop-shoulder sweaters fit some women - those with broad, high shoulders - beautifully. The sweaters weren't oversized or disproportionate. In fact, they fit these women much better than the set-in sweaters (my assumed best-fit style for all plus-sized women). Women, and especially tall women, with broad shoulders and a large frame benefit greatly from the wider shoulder and wider cross-back of the drop-shoulder construction."
For me, this is a lightening bolt of truth. The sweater I wear the most is a drop-shoulder design, but I use it for walking the dog because it always seemed wrong. Yes, the sweater was comfortable and fit well, but everything we read these days talks about "fit to flatter", with words like "body skimming" and all sorts of shaping techniques like darts and short rows. Making an old eighties-style boxy design seems so out-dated.

I've worked the yoke sweaters. One creeps up my neck and chokes me, the other is the opposite extreme with a neck far to wide to be warm and an awkward fit. I know raglans are absolutely no good, I look like a ball player.

But now I understand, I have a large boned, tall frame and I'm not the only one. So I'm going to embrace my shape and knit what works for me. This yarn is beautiful and I deserve to have it knit into a sweater that I will want to wear all the time.

I'm using Paton's Back to Basics pattern book for Canadiana, which fit my preferred gauge. I'm leaning towards doing a v-neck, but I haven't ruled out a round neck either. I'm also working this flat because Lisa suggested it for another singles yarn in her book, in order to counteract the tendency of a single to bias. She's smart, that Lisa Shroyer, isn't she?

Oh! And you know what that cutie-patootie husband of mine did? He utterly spoilt me, that's what. Look at this lovely new project bag he gave me for Christmas, also from Cotton-By-Post, art by Laurel Burch:

It was a very good Christmas.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas - the chaos and the aftermath

Christmas Eve we hosted Jim's family for the annual clan gathering. Our house was warmed with 24 souls. A fraction of our group:
What a pleasure it was to see them all, to catch up and offer them a wonderful Christmas dinner. And also, what a pleasure when they all went home and we could enjoy the peace of our small family.

I hope all my friends near and far are also enjoying friends, family and some quiet Christmas moments.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Christmas Sacrifice

If you were asked to make a gawd-awful ugly Christmas sweater for a teenager, what would you do?

London knitter Lisa decided to go all out. Her cousin asked for a sweater to help him win a contest at his school. Here's what she came up with:

As you can tell, she's not done yet, but already we have intarsia, embroidered snowflakes, snowman buttons on the tree and a fuzzy beard on Santa.  Here's the back:

Yep, that's Santa's butt coming out the back. I think the kid's a shoo-in for the contest.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Demon Santa and his Stoner Monkey Pal

Found these two criminals hanging out in the hall at the Vintage Green. I don't think my mother-in-law knows that they let such riff-raff in the building. Then again, they let us in there.

We couldn't resist this pair. But if you get too close...

Jim didn't know that Demon Santa was a zombie...

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Road Trip

This past Saturday a local spinning pal and I went on a road trip to Mount Albert to take the intermediate spinning class at Gemini Fibers with Wendy Walen . If you are ever up that way and get a chance to stop in to the store, it's well worth it. The place is jammed to the rafters and I've never seen so many knitting books in one place. 

It was a three-hour trip, both ways, and so I just didn't have the time for the blog. You understand. However, here are my notes for your edification and enjoyment.
  • Slow down. Your singles will be more even. Take time to enjoy the process.
  • For a ply-back test, let the single wind all the way onto the bobbin (move your hand pinching the single up to the orifice), then pull out the single and do the ply back. This is because you want even twist in the whole single and twist is still being added to the yarn as it winds on to the bobbin.
  • Make a sample bracelet. Using freshly spun singles that are of the type of yarn you want to make, do a ply back and tie the resulting yarn around your wrist. When you do a ply-back for sampling, you can compare your bracelet to the sample, by touch as well as sight.
  • Commercial rovings are compacted by shipping, and storage, so it's worth while to do some pre-drafting to get air back into the fibers.
  • Always test your staple length before you start. It will tell you how far apart to hold your hands, and a lot about the qualities of the fiber (crimp, fiber directions, how "grabby" is it?)
  • Crimpy wool needs more twist. This I didn't see demonstrated, so I'll have to do a bit of a test for myself with some sampling.
  • To join smoothly, consider the length of the fiber and the type of spinning you are doing. For the Blue Faced Leicester that we were spinning, Wendy recommended you feather out both ends finely, overlap them and then begin to spin. The join happens as the twist enters the fiber.
  • Sample lots, sample often. Sampling is not waste. Sample different grist, sample different ratios, sample in the skein and knitted up. While you are learning, buy extra fiber for each project so you can work up many samples to see what works best for the fiber you have.
  • You can always go back to the single or the plied-yarn and add or remove twist. (Can't believe I forgot this one.)
  • Worsted yarns need lest ply twist, more single twist. Woolen yarns have more ply twist to compensate for their low single twist.
  • To fine tune my chain ply:
    • I need to make smaller loops. I didn't have control over the very large loops I was making.
    • No tension necessary on the lazy kate. Keep tension in the singles between my two hands.
    • Must have good integrity in the singles for a successful chain ply.