September 2003 Archives

Bribery

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One back, two fronts, one sleeve down and one sleeve (started) to go. I'm pretty pleased with getting that sleeve finished yesterday. Especially since I was working on it along with another project I need to work on that isn't on my WIP list -- my masters thesis. Yesterday I told myself I could only work on the sleeve if I worked on the code. So every time I made it to a coding milestone I got to do a few rows. Worked out pretty well as I got to where I wanted to on both projects.

It's a pretty ugly day here in Chicago, so I am thinking the next sleeve might get done today. Might even be cool enough here to wear it when I am done...

Oh -- and for anyone who might want to know, the sweater is blocking on my SpaceBoard. You can get them at KnitPicks. They're a pretty handy blocking accessory for an urban knitter without too much extra space!

The Silk Garden Starts to Bloom

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DBSGCardiganSleeves20030902.JPG

My only ambition today was to finish up the second sleeve. I decided to go with the same kind of look as in the pattern book and make the sleeves different as far as where the striping pattern was concerned. I only have one complaint about this color way -- I wish they hadn't put quite so much grey/black striping in the mix. It is much more dominant in the knit up garment than I thought it would be from the swatches I've seen. But this is a relatively minor complaint. When I look at the sleeves together in the picture it bothers me much less than it did while I was knitting them. I guess I am only happy when I am knitting in color.

Our original plans for the day fell through, however, due to an all day rain, and I had some extra time to assemble the sweater in. Here's the result:

DBSGCardiganAssembled20030902.JPG

This sweater is still quite a ways from being finished. All the edges have to be crocheted yet and a set of buttons have to be attached. I tried it on and am generally pleased with the fit. It's definitely not a loose fitting sweater. It's going to need that crochet edging for me to have any hope of ever buttoning it. The proportions are all correct, and the sleeves are long enough, which is the most important thing at this point, as I wear very few of my cardigans buttoned up (I can already picture it over this little black turtleneck that I love). The edging will also add a level of structure to the sweater that it doesn't have yet.

But I think this garden is going to have to wait patiently for more rain. It's my Mom's birthday next weekend and I have to get a little something going for her before we head to Ann Arbor. I swatched for that project too, and am pleased with the result (pictures tomorrow, maybe). So I'll be casting the real thing on tomorrow once I figure out what kind of cast on I want to do...

Wearing Charlotte

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Just a few quick pics of Charlotte in "going out" mode. I think she looks quite dashing over a black ensemble. For some reason, it's really the fringe that does it for me in terms of wearing her on the town factor. I didn't think of myself as a shawl person, but maybe I just needed to find the right shawl.

Last night I swatched for the project I want to do before I finish up the sweater.
I have to say that for once I am really glad that I swatched. The pattern isn't hard, but it took me a couple of repetitions to figure out some of the ins and outs of it.

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This is the Indian Cross Stitch pattern as modeled in Koigu p201. The project I'm going to do uses p201 and p319 (which is a fabulous purply, orangey, yellowish, olivey mixture). I'm sure you can all guess what it is, but I'm going to remain silent for a few more days. Mom doesn't read my blog too often, but, of course, if I have something she shouldn't see on it, she'll be magically drawn to it. I've gotten through one set of crosses on the big project and all I can say so far is that 264 stitches is a lot of stitches. When I've got both colors worked in effectively, I'll post another shot.

Indian Cross Stitch

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Here's a little piece of the progress I've made on the project. The bottom section of crossed stitches are in Koigu p201 and the to set of crosses are in p319. Every other pair of rows is done in the same color. I think the contrast between the two color ways will be a little more prominent when I get another repetition of the main pattern (what you see here) completed.

And here's a closeup of the stitch so you can see the composition of it. If you want stitch instructions, you can find them in the Vogue Knitting book in the stitch pattern section. Because these colors are lighter than the colors in the swatch, I thought it was a nicer demonstration of what the stitch actually looks like.

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Halfway There

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Here's today's progress. I'm a little over 50% done now. Mom will probably see this tomorrow afternoon after we get to Ann Arbor anyway, so I figured I could share a snap of the project before I go. Normally I don't ever want to do anything more than once, but I kind of like this project. It's much more entertaining than all the EROS scarves I made last year. I'm hoping that I can get most of the rest of it finished up in the car on the way to Ann Arbor tomorrow. Believe it or not, it takes me about 45 minutes to get across one row when I am doing the crossing over stuff.

Not sure what else I will be bringing. Definitely my dad's LoTech Sweat and the Noro sweater that needs the edging put on it. And probably a sock. John's decided that it is getting cool enough to wear socks again, so it's time to think about getting that grey striped Opal worked up into something he can keep warm with.

I found a couple of interesting links today. The first comes from John, who somehow manages to find all manner of strange things on the Internet.

Use the Gender Genie to figure out a person's gender with a text sample. Apparently my blog is actually written by a man (at least yesterday's post was), but it's entertaining to understand why it predicts what it does.

Ever wanted to know something about a particular breed of sheep? I always knew that there were different kinds of sheep -- I just didn't know how many kinds there actually were before I went to this page sponsored by Oklahoma State University. I didn't realize that there were so many sub-breeds of Merino sheep! There are good pictures here as well as some breed history and standards. Definitely a good substitute for getting your own sheep for your back yard!

Happy Birthday to Mom!

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I won't tell you how old she is, but I will show you what I gave her for her birthday! I didn't finish the knitting up until Saturday morning. Nothing like sitting in my parents great room listening to the birds sing and knowing that I am in the middle of an ex-corn field instead of an urban jungle. I love Chicago, but my parents' place in Ann Arbor has a peaceful calm that I just don't get in the city.

The shot below is how the scarf looks without any blocking. I almost considered not blocking it, but then decided that a bit more drape might be a better look for it.

Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf Before Blocking

So on Sunday morning, I improvised a blocking board and let the scarf block while we went out to brunch.

Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf Blocking on A Bed

What does it look like up close when blocked?

Cross Section of Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf After Blocking

I definitely like the open airy feeling of this scarf after you block it. Knowing the Koigu, it will fight that blocking a little, but the scarf will still look good. My dad, the incredible woodworker, was quite taken with this scarf. Not sure if it is masculine enough...although that might just be the colors I did Mom's in.

Cross Stitch Scarf Completed and Fringed

I fringed it after blocking and the result is set on the backdrop of my parents gazebo and rich green backyard. I still want a shot with Mom, but it got kind of warm for scarf modeling, so I'll have to wait until it gets a little cooler for that. Mom did seem to like it.

This scarf was designed by Joe Wilcox and you can get the yarn and the pattern as a kit from his LYS, Simply Knit. This is a nice, classy project that would make a wonderful gift. It knits up relatively quickly, although I recommend doing a test swatch so that you can find the best way to get the stitches to look the way you want them to. It takes only 2 skeins of Koigu, so it's a pretty cost-effective gift as well. I had no difficulty with yardage. There was plenty of both before I did the fringe. The pattern is clear and well written. It's a pretty straight-forward design, and the stitch pattern really is not as hard as it looks. I would recommend doing a crochet cast on so that the beginning and ending edges have a more similar look to them, but that is all I have to add.

I did do a few more things in Ann Arbor, but I'll save that for tomorrow's post.

More Weekend Adventures

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I have to start this post by saying that Knit A Round, in Ann Arbor, MI is one of my all time favorite yarn stores. My mom knows now that any visit I make to Ann Arbor needs to include a trip to KAR. They have a very nice selection of Koigu, more flashy trashy yarns that you can shake a stick at, and a lot of great old standards, to boot. And they're incredibly friendly.

I wore Charlotte for the first time last Saturday because it was cool enough to get away with throwing a shawl over my little black T-shirt. Let me tell you right now that Charlotte is a shameless flirt and loves attention. And she was at her most audacious at Knit A Round. She got noticed from the moment I walked in the door and then she had to say hello to everyone. And she got lots of positive feed back.

The Stash Enhancement Exercise

From the picture it would look like I was pretty well behaved -- two skeins of Cascade 220 (for an idea I had for a felted item that I'd like to submit to Knitty), a beaded purse project, and the size 0000 double pointed needles for the purse(I got the crochet book at Barnes and Noble). But rest assured, I wasn't quite that good. I also ordered 7 skeins of Jaeger Matchmaker Merino DK in Burgundy for the Elisabeth Lavold vest from the most recent Knitters. I just couldn't resist -- that vest looks like the right combination of interesting and uncomplicated for me to try to accomplish it this fall.

Of course, since I finished one project, I had to pick up a new one! I decided that I would start Karen Baumer's Multidirectional Scarf in Noro Silk Garden in colorway #87.

Multidirectional Scarf in Noro Silk Garden #87

I'm not sure if there's enough wild color in that scarf for me. Actually, I am feeling very much back in the 80's -- Noro seems very into alternating pink and green in this colorway. If it wasn't so totally un-conservative, I'd say it needed a little alligator somewhere. This scarf is great mindless knitting -- it's all garter stitch, but since you have to pay attention to the short rowing, it seems a lot more interesting. I'm wondering how it would work out to alternate between a ribbon yarn and a chenille or a boucle. That's the other thing I love about simple but interesting patterns -- they call me back to do them again.

But what about my little Silk Garden sweater you ask? Certainly I didn't forget about it the whole trip, did I? No, I didn't. She got her edging and I found some buttons I like. The crochet edging needed a little blocking before she could make a proper introduction. Hopefully she'll make her debut tomorrow!

Silk Garden Sweater Finished

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Warning to everyone: lots of pictures in this post. Advance apologies to those with slow Internet connections. I hope the pictures are worth the wait!

Silk Garden Cardigan Trimmed and Finished

Well, here she is! This is the Scoop Neck Cardigan from Debbie Bliss Noro#1 done in Noro Silk Garden #71 -- trimmed and finished. The crochet edging makes a big deal in this sweater -- it adds lots of structural integrity to the overall garment, but it does have to be blocked again to make everything lay flat.

In spite of the 1.5 mm crochet hook that I used to put all the edging on, I am very pleased with it. I pretty much abhor buttonholes -- but didn't mind creating them this way at all. If you do the edging, follow Bliss' instructions closely when it comes to stitch spacing in the first row of crochet. If you don't you'll get too many stitches and the edging will flare out.

Here's some up close pictures of the edging, from the right side of the sweater:

Edging as Seen from the Right Side

And from the wrong side:

Edging as Seen from the Wrong Side

And here's a couple of those button holes that I like so much:

Crochet Edging Button Holes

And in case you wanted a better look, here's a close up of one of the buttons (run your mouse over the image to see a little secret about how I attached the buttons -- I'm still not sure if the size or the button is exactly what I want, so this helps keep them attached without making them permanent.):

Sweater Button Close Up

And here's me in the sweater. I know the white shirt doesn't really make the best background, but I don't have a thin enough black shirt right at the moment. I'm trying to do my best combination smile with heroin chic here.

Sweater with Closed Front

Here's the back:

Sweater Back

I know the neck line looks a little uneven -- but it isn't really, it's just the angle John took the picture from. And here's a shot of how I will probably be wearing the sweater most of the time -- John says this is my "biker chick" look:

Sweater with Open Front

This is obviously a tight, fitted little sweater. It's supposed to be a 34 and it's exactly that. If you want to do this project and don't like skin tight, move it up a size. I had no problems dealing with this pattern -- the instructions were clear and easy to follow. I did modify the sleeves a bit to make the decreases symmetrical, but even if you didn't it wouldn't make a radical difference in the look of the sweater. The set-in sleeves are probably the hardest part of the assembly, but now that I've done a few sweaters with that kind of sleeve, it didn't seem so bad. The yardage estimates were good. I definitely needed all seven recommended skeins, but I had enough of the last one left that I never got worried about having enough yarn to finish the project

What I really enjoyed about this sweater was the crochet edging. At first I thought that the call for a 1.5 mm crochet hook must have been a mistake, but it worked fine and definitely helped make the edging nice and tight. This sweater made me think a lot more about the possibilites of crochet (hence the book purchase from my last post), especially for button bands.

Right now the sweater is a little stiff looking from all the blocking. I think I am going to need to wear it a few times before it softens up and looks a little more natural.

I'm still not settled on the buttons... the edges of the buttons don't play nice with the button holes (they get caught on the edges too easily), and I think if they were 1/16" wider in diameter they would sit better (I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but they rotate in a lot and don't sit as flat as I would like them to.

One thing I really like when I knit is to learn new things. This pattern is a great chance to try a few new skills out: crochet edgings, short row shaping, and cast on rows in the middle of the fabric. I can't wait for it to get cool enough for me to actually wear this sweater for real.

If you want to see another version of this sweater, check out Elisabeth's version in her post for today. She did her lovely version in the colorway I almost picked!

Proceed with Caution

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Back of LoTech Sweat Shirt

Well, with one sweater finished, I decided I needed to get focused on another one. I started my first ChicKnits design, the LoTech Sweat for my Dad during the middle of August. This is great, easy knitting. Given the color and yarn I chose, I am not sure that this project will make for exciting pictures, but I am enjoying it.

I do have one bold statement of the obvious to make however: Men are Big! There's a lot more knitting in man's size 44 than in my usual 34-36.

The title of this entry comes from something that will become obvious if you stare at the picture long enough -- a color change that would suggest to you that I grabbed this yarn from multiple dye lots.

But I didn't. I went back and checked all my ball bands and they all are the same color and dye lot shipped directly from Elann. Honestly, these skeins were all sitting in the same bag together and I couldn't see the differences between them. But now, knitted into the garment, it is as plain as day. I'm not terribly happy about that and I wanted to put the word out to anyone who may have bought the Merino Light from Schoeller Esslinger from Elann that this could be an issue.

It's not so much of a problem for me because the goal of this garment is really to keep my dad warm in the winter while he is out keeping his heart healthy. But I would be really bummed if this was a less formal garment. It makes me wonder if this is a problem for this yarn brand, or if this is the reason that Elann could pass on such a good deal. Otherwise, this yarn is soft and pillowy to knit with and makes a delightful fabric.

I'm thinking that I am going to start another project as well. Just not sure which yet. I'm deciding between the following:

  1. Bonkers Rainbow Dyed Pullover kit I bought at the fiber fest
  2. Neroli Sweater in Jaeger Chamonix
  3. the Simple and Sleeveless shell (top right corner) from The Purl Stitch in Colinette Giotto
  4. A Day in the Life of a Knitter's Cat sampler scarf in a Blackberry Ridge wool silk blend
  5. Shadow Boxes Cardigan which I ordered as a kit from Shelridge Farm and which mom picked out for her Christmas present. (It's not here yet, but it should be soon!)

I'll probably give myself a couple of days to decide and work on one of the sleeves for dad's cardigan (I want to work on another "big" part of the sweater before I tackle the fronts). At least 2 of these projects will require the size 8 Addis that are in that diagonal scarf -- so I definitely have to finish that before I can go too much farther...

Giotto Swatch

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Stockinette Giotto Swatch in Jay

Well, it wasn't a very ambitious knitting night for me. I'm ambitious when I know where I am going, but tonight I felt pretty ambivalent. I'm now concerned about color variations in the Merino Light for my Dad's sweater and worried that when the sweater gets washed it will loosen up too much to be good for him to go running in. I sent an email to Elann about the color problems. Normally I would just bull on ahead, but I just don't want to put any more time into something that might not work out right now.

So for a little while I knit on the mulitdirectional scarf -- I got one more wedge, so I'll wait 'til I'm a little farther to post more pics. While I was knitting on that scarf I decided that it wasn't a good use of a pair of size 8 Addis. Suddenly I could hear that Colinette that Emma sent me calling out:

Don't forget me! I could still be a great fall top! Please don't leave me in this yarn box! You know you want another top. And it's still too warm to knit with all that mohair and wool. Swatch me for that top in Sally Melville's The Purl Stitch... you know the one... Simple and Sleeveless. The model is knit up in Zen -- I'm a lot like Zen! I bet I would knit to guage if you got got those Addis out of that Silk Garden and tried them on me...Silly knitter! How could you be ignoring custom dyed ribbon for silk and mohair when it's still 75 degrees?

I bet you didn't know that Giotto was so persuasive. It is. So I swatched. And to my pleasant surprise, I do get 26 rows and 17.5 stitches (or so) to 4". So I think it's just meant to be this:

Simple and Sleeveless Top

So now I get to another moment of severe indecisiveness...what size should I make? Sally says when using a "slinky yarn" for a "closer fit" you should choose one size smaller than your normal size. Her calculation is bust + 1 - 2. For me this would be 34 + 1 - 2 = 33. The pattern is written for 32" and 36" option. I think the 36 would be a little too big in any event, but will the 32" be too small? There's a fair amount of give in my swatch, but I don't want the top to look painted on. Hmmm.

There's lots more to say about The Purl Stitch, but I'll save that for a separate post.

Knitting Sentiment

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On Friday, I got a nice email from Stephannie -- she'd received the Noro Kureyon that had been delivered to me because the Ebay seller wouldn't ship outside the US. If you want the whole story (and to see the project it's for) check out her blog. Suffice it to say that I am taking classes at the ThreadBear School of Enabling Sciences. What made me feel all warm and fuzzy was when she wrote that she would be thinking nice thoughts about me while she knit it up. I thought, How cool! Somewhere in Toronto, there's a project that will be special to someone that I had a hand in helping along.

And it reminded me of a lovely package of sock yarn that showed up on my porch in January. A package that would start off a trans-Atlantic yarn trade with Emma, the world's greatest blog ring neighbor. I definitely thought of her when I was knitting up my first pair of socks in one of those skeins of Opal. I've made quite a few pairs since then, and because of her kindness, I almost always remember her whilst knitting socks.

She was also the person who sent me the Colinette Giotto in Jay that I swatched with on Friday. Thus, I would like to think I was knitting good Emma vibes into both projects that I was working on today: the Simple and Sleeveless Top by Sally Melville and a pair of socks for my sweetie from the second skein of Opal. I think this is what makes trading so much fun for me. Somewhere else, in another part of the world, someone is taking the trouble to pick out something lovely. They look at it and decide if it is neat enough to go in a box or a bag and travel to someone else. Maybe they have a theme, maybe it just makes them happy to send a surprise to someone else. And I get to do the same. And thus, we both get to put a little of ourselves into someone else's knitting basket.

So what did I do with that Giotto swatch from Friday? Well, I ripped it down a little bit (I'm such a cheapskate and I hate leaving good yarn in a swatch), bound it off and soaked it in some cool water and some Woolite. It gave up a little color, but rinsed clear. I measured before and after and didn't notice much change in the size of the swatch. Alrighty then, I thought, nothing to worry about, time to cast on!

Nothing to worry about except my inability to do simple measurements. I cast on according to the pattern only to find out that it was about an inch wider than expected. Hmmm.. Me? Gauge Problems? No Way! After all I swatched! Well... I went back to my swatch and to the piece I was working on and realized that my gauge was 4 stitches/inch instead of the 4-3/8 stitches/inch to make the pattern work out.

So, I played frog princess, ripped out what I had started, re-calculated all the stitch widths and shaping in the pattern (with the help of the very handy Knitting Companion) and got started again. And I must say, I'm pretty pleased with myself and my modifications. I know it's not rocket science, but it's a relatively original move for me. So without further ado, here's the back of the top:

Back of Simple and Sleeveless Top in Colinette Giotto Jay

Natural light does this yarn more justice, but it the picture gives you a good sense for the variation. I alternated skeins every two rows to prevent any color oddities from occuring. This had the unintended, but very desirable, effect of limiting the twisting of the Giotto ribbon, because I found that by rotating my knitting and the balls of yarn as I was working I could undo the twisting I was creating.

Side Shaping for the Simple and Sleeveless Top

This picture was taken in more natural light (it was overcast and rainy all day here in Chicago, so my camera always wanted to use its flash) and the colors are truer. I liked the way the shaping came out. And because I am head over heels in love with this yarn, here's a closeup of the color and texture of Giotto in stockinette:

Colinette Giotto Jay Stockinette Close Up

I love the flashes of purple and olive green that hide in the colorway. It gives the fabric a lot of depth. And I love the feel of the fabric -- thick and springy. I am a little concerned about how the effects of gravity will play out on the finished garment (I would bet that the back weighs 125 grams or so), but I have hope that the cotton/rayon blend won't let me down too much.

Now I am going to head back to John's sock. Once I hit a milestone with a project, I like to let it sit for a while and do something else. It helps me keep excited about it and satisfies my short attention span.

Tomorrow: A Happy Ending to a Sad Story...

Happy Endings

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No pictures today. I've gotten through the decreases on the front of the Simple and Sleeveless top. But the front and the back of this piece are identical, so I'll show do more show and tell when I've accomplished a little more.

Instead, I want to share with you a happy ending to the start of my sad blue Merino Light sweater story. On Thursday I showed off the back of the Lo Tech Sweat that I had started for my Dad. The more I thought about it, the less happy I was about the situation. After all, I wanted this sweater to be a gift for my Dad. I wanted it to look like it was knit by someone who at least understood how to pick all her yarn from the same dyelot.

And then Sarah posted this to my comments:

I had the same experience with Tahki Cotton Classic and with K1C2 Frosting. Tahki responded to my letter with a "gee, that's never happened before." K1C2 responded by sending replacement yarn -- and letting me keep the old yarn, too!

That got me thinking that maybe I should contact Elann and ask them what I might do. I figured they might let me return the unused yarn for a credit, but then I realized that I had purchased it over 30 days ago. Oh well, I figured. I lose this time, but maybe they'd at least like to know.

So at midnight on Friday morning I sent them an email. I got this back from Diane, one of their customer service reps:

Thanks so much for your email...I am dismayed at what happened with your purchase of Schoeller Stahl/Schoeller Esslinger Merino Light in color 11 Denim. Thank you for the link to your scan of half of the sweater. The picture is very clear; I doubt that it will be necessary for you to send a photograph in the regular mail.

I have forwarded your message to Bob, who will discuss your concern with Ann and then contact you with precise details of our remedy to you. Rest assured that, as our "Returns Policy" states:

"Most important to us is that you be pleased with your Elann order. We guarantee our products to be of first quality and free of manufacturing defects. If you are not completely satisfied with any purchase we want to know about it."

Under your circumstances, you do not need to worry about our 30-day policy for returns, which applies more to people changing their minds about colors and so on.

Wow! I thought. I'll probably be able to return the yarn for credit. How cool is that? I figured I wouldn't hear back from them until Monday. But this showed up in my email inbox later that afternoon:

Diane has made Ann and I aware of the problem that you are having with the Merino Light. We are certainly distressed by this, as we never want to sell anything but the finest quality yarn. We offer excellent pricing, and excellent service, and we want only to sell excellent yarn.

I have just placed a credit into your Elann account for the full cost of the yarn, including shipping. You may keep the yarn as well, if you want it. Or, if you would rather return it to us, we will also credit your Elann account for the return shipping.

By the way, we have taken this color off our website until we investigate further. We will be contacting all customers who have bought this color to see if we can determine the extent of the problem. We certainly hope that the problem you have had with the yarn is an isolated incident, but until we are sure, this color is not for sale. Schoeller Stahl is a very reputable supplier, so we are hoping that the problem is not extensive.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Please let me know if you intend to return the yarn.

This really blew me away. Not only did they credit all my money and not want the yarn back, but they were also going to make sure that they didn't try to sell something that could cause problems for someone else! It really made me feel good about Elann and how they want to do business. I'd always felt that they were a class operation, but that became even more apparent on Friday. I've shopped a lot of places because of good prices, but only a few places because they've earned my respect. The folks at Elann are certainly worthy of respect. At some level, the problem was not their problem, but the manufacturers, but they took care of me anyway. You can bet they are going to get a lot more of my business and that I will have nothing but good words to pass on about them!

I got one last email from Elann that day:

Recently, you purchased from us some Schoeller Stahl Merino Light yarn in the color 11 Denim L219027. We were wondering if you have any problems with this yarn. One customer has contacted us and has had a problem with the dye lot not being consistent from skein to skein, or even within a skein, and thus her garment’s color is not consistent.

This is a surprise to us, as it is impossible to tell by looking at the skein if there is an inconsistency, and all skeins have the same dye lot number. Also, the supplier, Schoeller Stahl, is a very reputable company.

Could you let me know what your experience with this color has been?

I’m very sorry to inconvenience you, but your response will help us to make sure that the quality of our yarns is only first rate.

If you bought any of this yarn, please look at it carefully and let them know about any strangeness you might encounter. I got word from them this morning that some people had responded and that so far it looks like my experience was an isolated one. (I also got permission from them to share my story here -- I thought their emails said it all, so I decided to post them for everyone). I hope it is, because they certainly deserve to be able to sell their yarn, and everyone else who bought it deserves to be able to knit up something beautiful without worry.

And I want to say "Thanks!!!" to Sarah for making her suggestion. I never would have thought to do that without a little encouragement.

After a lot of hemming and hawing and an email discussion with my mother, I've decided that I will go ahead with Dad's sweater. It won't be his primary Christmas present anymore, but even if it has odd stripes, it will still keep him warm while he's out running in the Michigan winter.

Getting Closer

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Front of Simple and Sleeveless Too

Well, it's not the most glamorous knitting shot I've ever taken, but it does let you know how much I got done on this over the last two days. If I had had another hour in the day today I might have tried to finish it. As it is, I decided to let it rest at the armhole shapings. I think I should be able to get it all finished up by Thursday night -- at least the seaming part. The collar is knit in the round after the pieces are assembled.

Something nice showed up on my doorstep yesterday:

Shadow Boxes Cardigan Kit from Shelridge Farm

This is the Shadow Boxes Cardigan Kit that I ordered from Shelridge Farm. The sweater was desgined by Maureen Mason-Jamieson and my mother fell in love with it when we were at the Michigan Fiber Festival wandering through the Shelridge booth. This is the red version of the kit, featuring (from left to right) raspberry, plum and iris colors (the color on the far right is the black contrast yarn). This sweater is destined to be my Mom's Christmas present. It won't be a surprise, because I wanted her to pick a sweater she really liked. Mom's a crafty type, so I'm hoping she'll enjoy watching the process of the sweater coming to life here on my blog.

The kit contains the Soft Touch DK weight wool. The yarn from Shelridge is very nice and soft. You can feel that little touch of lanolin that remains in it, and I can tell already it is going to be fun to knit. I'll probably try to start it after I get my top finished. Assuming I can get through the instructions! 6 pages of instructions and tips come with this kit. I'm looking forward to seeing how the shadowing works and to the small amount of Fair Isle color work

Yarn Terrorists

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I woke up to this today:

The Victim

A skein of Cascade 220 that had been pulled out of a basket, unwound, and tangled up. Amazing. Not the tangling part, but the untwisting is impressive. Who could have wanted to distress this lovely yarn so much? Well, I think I know the possible culprits.

Sydney
Sydney a.k.a "Skinny Rat"
Mercutio
Mercutio, a.k.a. "Fat Boy"
Beezle
Marco Polo, a.k.a "Beezle Weasel"

Well, I did my best John Ashcroft and rounded up the suspects. When questioned, all three potential enemies of the state vehemently protested their innocence. Looks to me like we're going to be withholding kitty treats for the foreseeable future. But I'm putting my money on the Beeze. He's my "kitten" and conspicuously avoided me when I picked up my poor, victimized Cascade(both Sydney and Mercutio came up, inspected the damage, and walked off). I am so not looking forward to trying to get this wound up so I can use it.

Moral of the story: Always put the lid on your knitting basket. You can never be complacent when there are potential yarn terrorists on the loose.

Although I wasn't so happy about the Cascade, I had left my Colinette top front on my desk out in open view, so I was mostly glad that if they had to pick something, the didn't pick the Colinette. Speaking of which, I finished the front tonight:

Simple and Sleeveless Back and Front

Assembly and collar knitting to commence tomorrow night after the ChicKnits KIP at 7 PM at Letizia's Natural Bakery on Division (I don't think I can assemble and talk at the same time!). Not sure what I'll be bringing along... probably Dad's LoTech. If you're in Chicago and want to meet some fun knitters, be sure to stop by!

Crafty Parents

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Purple and Green Needle Caddy

Not much time to write tonight -- it's already late and I have an early morning meeting to get myself to. But I wanted to show off some of the crafty work my parents have done. I don't think I would be into knitting as much as I am if it wasn't for two people who also value hand made things. The picture above is a circular needle caddy that my mom created for a trade.

Here's a close up of the bottom of the caddy:

Needle Caddy Close Up

My dad doesn't work in fabric, he prefers wood. One of his newest toys is a lathe. When I was home in Ann Arbor two weekends ago, he made this gorgeous bowl for me:

Pretty Turned Bowl

The wood gets its shadings from the fact that there was a little rotting going on. I bet you never knew that decay could look so nice. He's had his lathe for less than 6 months and it is incredible the things he has already done.

Finally, here's the Colinette Top:

Colinette Simple and Sleeveless Top Seamed

I got it seamed but still have to finish the collar. Not sure how much longer I will make the collar, but I am sure I will get it finished tomorrow. This top will definitely be worth a happy dance. Giotto is just totally fab stuff. I haven't tried it on yet, and I can hardly wait.

Had a blast at my knit night tonight! Got to meet the lovely Carolyn of girlreaction. Welcome to Chicago, Carolyn!

Simple and Sleeveless Giotto Top Complete

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Simple and Sleeveless Giotto Top Sun Bathing
The Simple and Sleeveless Top Catches Some Late Afternoon Rays

This little number just wanted to bask in the sunshine after I finished her. I love the way the colors look under natural sunlight. From this angle, the thickness of the Giotto fabric comes through a bit. This is definitely not a thin little top! But that said, the shaping and the ribbon quality of the yarn makes for a very nice fitting top.

Modeling Simple and Sleeveless Giotto Top
Simple And Sleeveless and Shaped Just Right!

All my angst over sizing and shaping was laid to rest after I tried the top on. It's not completely form fitting, but the fit is definitely close. I think the weight of the fabric helps to give it some hug. This is definitely a support friendly top. The Giotto feels wonderful against my skin. I can see myself wearing this top with both casual and more formal bottoms, but I'd love to find a silk skirt to pair with it. And the fabric does move with you when you move! For proof, you can take a look at this action shot. Only time will tell whether it will hold it's shape or succumb to gravity, but right now, the fabric feels very elastic, so I have high hopes.

So what did I learn from this project?

  • I need more Giotto.
  • When I am not pathologically lazy, I can convert a pattern to the gauge I want it to be in.
  • Ribbon yarns look much better knit up when I am careful about not splitting them with the tips of my needles.
  • Alternating skeins of yarn every two rows not only helps keep the colors even, but it helps keep the ribbon yarn from twisting in a terrible, horrible way.
  • It's a good idea to subject gauge swatches to water.

I enjoyed this project, both yarn and pattern, a great deal. I can certainly see myself using this pattern as a template for future tops. This project also restored my desire to work with ribbon yarns. I'd done a few scarf projects with ribbons and swore I would never go near them again because the twisting made me crazy. The Giotto still twisted, but by rotating my project counter-clockwise I avoided the worst of it. Done at my gauge, this top took almost all of the three skeins of Giotto that I had. I used my AddiTurbos for this project. For some, this might be a little too slippery to maintain a neat tension, but for me they were perfect (I'm a pretty tight knitter) and they didn't snag the ribbon in any way.

This is my first completed project from Sally Melville's The Purl Stitch, and given my success with this one, you can bet I'll be thinking about some of the other projects in the book. I'd love to find some Koigu that would coordinate with the Giotto so that I could make a pair a of gauntlets to go with it in the winter.

Circular Reasoning

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Some of you might have noticed that I re-organized my works in progress section. I broke my projects into three categories:

  1. Projects I am actively working on.
  2. Projects that I started but stalled out on.
  3. Projects I could start if I wanted to.

I understand that there is nothing revolutionary about this scheme. However, like any good scientist, I couldn't just leave well enough alone and go on to something else I needed to do, I had to analyze exactly why these projects fell into the categories they did. Why things fall into the first and last category is more or less self-evident: I'm either working on them or haven't started yet. But what caused me to get stalled on the rest. Hmmm...

So I dug into my big basket of stalled projects... several scarves, the Pebbles sweater, the Malin sweater, a project I can't reveal here and a sock. Well, they aren't all the same kind of knitted item, so it couldn't be just shape or size. They're made out of wool, ribbon, acrylic blend, polar fleece, a cotton-wool blend and a cotton-silk blen. So no correlation there either.

Hmmm... Hmmmm... Hmmm.... Certainly there must be some connection. After all, I am a human, a creature of habit!

And then I had one of those "A-ha!" moments. I was doing all these projects on straight needles. And all the ones I was plugging away at happily were on circs. "But wait", you say, "What about that sock? You never do socks on straights!" Heh. Well. I frogged the sock when I realized that it had stalled because I hadn't followed the pattern and I wasn't going to be able to fit my foot into it. In other words, like all good scientists, if some data point didn't fit my model, I threw it out.*

Now, in the spirit of making deals with myself, I decided that I couldn't start anything off the third list until I finished something in the second list. I really do want to wear the Pebbles sweater before I grow old. Maybe you don't remember Pebbles? Here she is in all her Rowan glory:

pebbles.jpg

And here is how far I had gotten as of May 7th. The back and one of the fronts.

PebblesFrontLeft.jpg

And then I started on one of the sleeves and just coudn't keep myself moving on it. I told myself at first it was the moss stitch. And then it was the dry texture of the yarn. But now I know it was something else: the needles. I slipped that sleeve off the Casein straight needles and onto AddiTurbo circs. Et Voila! The stitches just seemed to fly by. No more problems with moss stitch or dry yarn.

Pebbles Sleeves in Progress

Now I am in absolute love with this project and with the Summer Tweed again. This stuff has great drape and the moss stitch makes for a perfect texture for it. I've only got one more set of increases to go before knitting straight to the cap. It was all in the needles. Not only is the nickel plated surface better for me, but having the weight of the fabric shifted from my elbows to my lap is much more pleasant.

So Pebbles is no longer stalled. And I have more insights into my personal knitting demons. All it needed was a scientific approach. And if I can get it done by the weekend, I'll do my best to wear Pebbles just like the model -- minus the beach. Be afraid. Be very afraid.


*I hope you all realize that I am joking about scientists fudging their data sets. That's a no no. I would never do it in real life. But this is knitting, not trying to find a cure for cancer, so I hope you'll all be lenient with my data selection/manipulation techniques.

Man Socks

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Manly Grey Striped Socks
Oooh! Grey Stripes

Here's the last of my weekend accomplishments: one of a pair of socks for John. Socks are my travelling projects and my "need a break at lunch time" projects. This sock has been worked on while on airplanes, in cars, and at the picnic tables outside my office. I hadn't paid much attention to it in a while because it was warm outside and John gave me a funny look when I suggested trying on wool socks in the summer. Then it started to get cooler, and he went and pulled out the blue Mission Falls 1824 socks I knit him last winter. So I figured it was time to get this pair finished.

When I knit for John, whatever item I am working on gets the prefix "man", i.e. "man" socks or "man" sweater or "man" scarf. This prefix is an abbreviation for "some very large item that is likely to be knit in a boring color and with some really boring simple stitch pattern that he could have bought at the store, but I wanted to make him something so I acquiesed to his desires". I always try to remember that something that he is going to wear is not about me, but there has to be some balance, somewhere, between what I would like to knit and he would like to wear. Little by little, he's getting a more adventurous, and I'm getting better at trying to find things that are interesting for me but not too disturbing for him.

This sock is knit in Opal 140 and was a lovely gift from Emma a long time ago. At first I didn't think it would pattern at all. Then it started to stripe. This made me ecstatic (at least in reference to the prospect of knitting two grey man socks on size 0 needles), but I got some very suspicious looks from the recipient.

John: I don't know, Treese, I might not wear that.
Me (casting suspicious look in his direction, knitting slows): Don't tell me these are too radical for you..
John: Well, they're striped. If they were all grey, it wouldn't be a problem.
Me (sighing in frustration, already knowing the answer, knitting stops): What's the problem with stripes?
John: Too much pattern.
Me (resigned, knitting starts again slowly): Too much pattern? Grey stripes are too much patterning? Okay. Whatever. If you decide you don't like them, I'll just give them to my dad.
John: Well, I didn't say that I wouldn't wear them, just that I wasn't sure...

This is a pretty good synopsis of every conversation John and I have ever had about something that might be knit for him. (It's not too far off from the conversations we have when I try to buy clothes for him, either). Fortunately for me, he's a patient, sensible guy who knows his woman just wants him to have warm, happy feet -- aided by her crafty efforts.

Still, he was skeptical about these socks until they got washed and loosened up and softened up a little bit. I do have to say that Opal really can't be judged until you wash it. It's a lot rougher in the skein than after a wash. I'm definitely glad I did this pair on the size 0's. It's a pain from the size perspective, but the nice dense fabric makes it worthwhile.

I'll be casting on the second one soon if Pebbles lets me out of her grasp.

And Then There Were Two...

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Both Pebbles Sleeves
Moss Stitch A-Go-Go

I do wish this yarn photographed better. Of course, it would probably help if I was taking my pictures during daylight hours. Tonight I made it over the hurdle of Pebbles' second sleeve. Miles and miles of uninterrupted moss stitch are now complete. I was hoping to get the last piece cast on tonight, but work and my masters thesis slowed me down a little on the sleeves. Tomorrow I'll be casting on the remaining front piece for the sweater -- cabling, moss stitch and nifty shaping all await. And possibly a new sweater in my wardrobe over the weekend. What more could a knitty girl want?

I'm also pleased to say that I have two full skeins of the yarn left at this point -- more than sufficient to finish the project. It really just makes me ecstatically happy not to have to worry about running out of yarn.

Things I Wish I'd Known

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Right Front of Pebbles
Not much progress tonight, folks

Well, that's it. That's the sum total of what I got done tonight. I wish I could make the cable stand out a little better. At least this is a better representation of the true color of Powder.

I've enjoyed reading all of the people who have posted the knitting things that they wished they had know earlier. Since Nanette, one of my favorite daily reads, invited us all to jump in and share, how could I not participate? Sometimes I wonder if we do know these things early on, but we avoid them and only decide they are important after some major knitting disaster like a far too large sweater or ugly seams. At any rate, here's my top ten list, in no particular order.

  1. Two words: Mattress Stitch. The wonderful friend who taught me how to knit, showed me how to seam using backstitch, and it never occurred to me that there were other wasy to do this. Then, when I did figure out there might be other ways, I couldn't find a good picture of how to do it. I finally learned through Debbie Bliss How to Knit, which I definitely recommend.
  2. Blocking is the key to a beautifully finished garment. Blocking makes it easier to deal with edge stitches and really does help set the finished shape the way you want it to be. Blocking is not hard. It just takes a space to do it in, patience, a spray bottle and rust-proof pins.
  3. How you hold the yarn makes all the difference. For a long time I carried the yarn in my left hand, but was a thrower. It was a lot of effort for me to knit this way, and it was hard for me to maintain my tension consistently. With the help of Maggie Righetti's Knitting in Plain English and a few other pictoral references, I finally got it down. My tension is better and my speed is much improved.
  4. Don't be afraid of speed demon needles. I used to worry about the loss of control with AddiTurbos. Now I don't want to knit with anything else. Along the same lines: circular needles are the only way to fly. I like straight needles as art objects, but I find I get a lot less strain on my joints when I use circs.
  5. Sock knitting is not hard! I wish I had learned to knit socks much earlier in my career than I did. Socks are quick and rewarding and can be wonderful color trips. Self-patterning sock yarn can make even boring stockinette interesting.
  6. There is no knitting religion. Everyone has favorite techniques, but that doesn't mean that there aren't other ways to do things. If I had to use DP needles to knit socks, well, I wouldn't knit socks. My best kntting buddy wouldn't knit them any other way. We both get great results. Don't let anyone tell you that there's only one way to knit something!
  7. Patterns are only reference points. I'm still learning this, but I've ventured off the beaten path enough to know that there's no pattern police and no reason why you shouldn't make a garment be what you want it to be.
  8. If you're going to knit for other people, knit with them in mind. I no longer expect my husband to want a brightly colored Fair Isle sweater or Koigu socks. If you knit something for yourself for someone else, don't expect them to be as excited about it as you would be. The only way to make sure that your gift is appreciated is to make sure that you fit the recipeint's style and likes.
  9. Felting is fast, fabulous and therapeautic.
  10. It's okay to have a range of projects going at any one time. In the late 90's I didn't do much knitting at all because I thought I could only do one project at a time, and I was working on a complicated project that needed a lot of attention. Now I almost always have a couple of simple projects (like socks and scarves) that can go in a car, and one or two more challengeing things. Even when I don't feel motivated to work on the hard stuff, I have something I enjoy.

Pebbles Makes Her Debut

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Finished Pebbles on a Hanger
Oh yeah!

Here she is: Pebbles in all her Summer Tweed-y glory. The fancy pin holding her closed is one of my Chibi needles. Before I treat you to the glory shots, I thought I'd share some of the finishing process. This is the second raglan sweater that I've put together. I do like to put these sweaters together -- it's a lot easier and less fussy than sweaters with set-in sleeves, at least as far as I am concerned.

Pebbles Front Cables
See the pretty cables...

This is probably the best picture I have of the cables. Summer Tweed in Powder is very camera unfriendly when the flash goes off. All that nice silk reflects the light and washes everything out.

When I first started working on this sweater, Emma made the suggestion that seaming with Summer Tweed was not a good idea. For any of you that haven't worked with ST, it breaks fairly easily if you pull on it too hard. I didn't have any problems with this during the knitting, but it didn't seem worth taking the chance at the finishing step. Instead, I went out and bought some fingering weight white cotton. Not only did this work like a charm, but it reduced the bulk of the seams. I may do this with other sweaters even where the yarn would work.

The following is a little slide show of the sweater assembly. I know it's a lot of pictures, but I think of this blog as a knitting journal, so I hope no one minds as I indulge in sharing the process of putting this sweater together.

All the Pieces Ready to Seam
Ready, Set, Seam!
The First Raglan Sleeve Seam
The Front Left is Connected to the Left Sleeve
The Second Raglan Sleeve Seam
The Front Right is Connected to the Right Sleeve
The Third Raglan Seam
The Right Sleeve is Connected to the Back
The Fourth Raglan Seam
The Left Sleeve is Connected to the Back
After the Neck Band
Neck Band Added
All Seamed Up
All seamed up. Is there somewhere to go?

I wish that the pictures I took of the neck band had come out better. But don't worry, you aren't missing too much. You just pick up 101 stitches and knit two rows of garter stitch and bind off. Here's a close-up of my raglan seams from the right side of the work.

Raglan Seam
Can you find the seam in this picture?

I'm pretty pleased with how the finishing worked out. But the proof really isn't in the finishing, is it? It's in the wearing. So with out further ado, here's my new favorite sweater:

Finished Pebbles from the Front
Comfy sweater and retro jewelry
Finished Pebbles from the Back
Pebbles from the back
Finished Pebbles from the Side
Look, Ma! Pretty side seams

Can you tell I like this sweater? I've decided that I am not going to add the press studs to the sweater as directed, I am just going to pin it closed when I want to wear it that way. I've worn it most of the day, and it's been keeping me warm and happy. It's loose without being too baggy and the shaping is perfect for me. After a day of wear, the sweater is holding its shape just fine -- gravity seems to be kinder to silk/cotton blends than to straight cotton.

This pattern, all things considered, is a pretty good one. I didn't find any errors and the yarn estimates were just fine (I had most of the 10th skein left over). The only thing I didn't really like were the edges of the pieces, but in the end that didn't make too much difference.

And what did I learn on this project?

  • I'm done knitting with un-elastic yarns for a little while.
  • I'm done knitting moss stitch sweaters for a little while.
  • A Summer Tweed moss stitch sweater is a little unfriendly to knit, but the finished fabric is fabulous and worth the effort.
  • Seaming is a lot easier with a finer yarn, and makes for less seam bulk inside the sweater.
  • Becky is right to advocate selvedge stitches. If I were to do this sweater again, the edge stitches of all the pieces would be in stockinette. It wasn't that hard to mattress stitch the thing together, but that would have made it easier.
  • My husband would wear a Summer Tweed sweater (OMG!), albeit not in baby blue.
  • AddiTurbo circular needles ROCK! (And probably saved this project from oblivion)
  • In my hands, Summer Tweed is not the demon yarn that a lot of folks wanted to make it out to be. It didn't break on me and I don't think it smells funny. I'd definitely do something else with it in the future if the right project presented itself.

And for everyone who had the patience to read down this far... I leave you with the cheesecake shot I promised if I got the sweater finished over the weekend...
No beach, no hotpants, no tan. Just a pasty white woman and my beachwear from France. My photographer selected the shot. All those Rowan models should start quaking in fear now! Can You Say Cheese?.

Have A Great Monday!

Next Up...

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Why was I so adamant about getting Pebbles finished? Well, in addition to really wanting the sweater, I had this yarn whispering sweet nothings in my ear...

Shelridge Farm SoftTouch Wool DK Weight
Yarn Parfait

Iris, Raspberry, Plum and Black all waiting to become the Shadow Boxes Cardigan (see my side bar for a link to the sweater on the designer's site) for Mom for Christmas. Once I finished Pebbles I gave myself license to start swatching for this project. For once, I decided not to be a cheap cheeser and do a real swatch that I don't rip out -- with all the colors. If I'm feeling really ambitious, I might actually wash it....

Shadow Boxes Swatch Head-On
Berries Behind Bars

Of course, this isn't really the interesting angle. Take a look at it from a different direction and it looks completely different.

Shadow Boxes Swatch From the Side
Raised Berry Boxes

Neat, eh? And even better, I got gauge on the first shot, so now I am ready to go. Whaddya think, Ma? Do you like the colors? Click the link to my comments and let me know!

This year Mom and I decided to trade handmade things for Christmas (just so you don't think that she's the only one whose going to have something special for the holidays). She's getting this sweater, and I am going to get a beautiful handmade art doll. I've made her promise to take progress pictures of the doll project. Would you like to see them here? She doesn't think anyone would be interested, but I'm betting otherwise. Here's a simple little project that she did for me. Mom wasn't very happy with them, but I love them -- they sit in my knitting room. I think they're the perfect knitting mascots.

Froggy Went A Courtin'
Froggy Went A Courtin'

You've gotta love those sculpted feet and hands and those great froggy eyes. I wish I could get Girl Froggy posed better with her hand crafted dress and pantaloons. My Froggies are a little more country than what's coming. My Christmas present is supposed to be some kind of fairy themed doll. Are there knitting fairies to go along with Mare's Felting Pixies? We'll know soon.

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