October 2003 Archives

Back of Shadow Boxes Cardigan Head On View   Back of Shadow Boxes Cardigan Side View
The back of the cardigan begins...

This is the first color panel of the back of the Shadow Boxes Cardigan (which I will probably refer to as SBC because, a) I am lazy, and b) as a scientist I have a pathological need to turn everything into an acronym). This sweater is worked from side to side instead of top to bottom. The patterning is essentially garter stitch rows offset by stockinette areas. Only the lower part of the cardigan (the bottom 36 stitches) have the shadow patterning. The stitch work is a little wavy at this point, but I think a good blocking will take care of that!

So far, so good. Finished with the iris striping for a bit and onto plum!

Oh! And a big Happy Birthday to my very first knitting buddy and teacher, Judy Smith. She's busy being a pediatric rhumatologist, but hopefully someone is taking time to feed her cake!

A Few More Boxes

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Back of Shadow Boxes Cardigan  Side View of Shadow Boxes Cardigan

Wednesdays are not a high productivity knitting night for me -- but I did get half of the next color interval done. Ever since my husband and I started dating, Wednesday has been our date night. In the past 6 or so years, I think I can count on one hand the number of times that we haven't spent the evening on a date. Tonight we went to Frontera Grill for margaritas and a little new job celebration for John. If you want a good margarita, Frontera is one of the best places to go. It's also one of my happy places.

I also got a little work done on my travelling project today. It was just nice enough outside so that I could sit on the grass and soak up the fall sunshine. This picture was actually taken yesterday, I've now turned the heal and am doing the ankle decreases.

Regia MultiEffekt Sock

The yarn is Regia Multi Effekt, 5375. I purchased it from KnitPicks a while back when Knitters Review posted the 10% off coupon and I just couldn't resist fall sock yarn. Supposedly this sock yarn is "masculine". But when I tried it out on my resident male, I got a raised eyebrown. Good thing I didn't buy it for him. So I guess the folks at KnitPicks need to think again. (BTW, when did KnitPicks drop the free shipping on orders over $30?)

Here's a closeup that gives a little closer look at the colors and patterning.

Regia MultiEffekt 5375 Swatch

It's such a pleasure to knit with Regia. I love how soft it is right out of the skein, and I am always intrigued by the patterning. Maybe another sock will be born this weekend!

Almost to the Neck Shaping

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Shadow Boxes Cardigan Back  Shadow Boxes Back from the Side.JPG

I'm still pretty fascinated by how this shadow thing works. At some level it just feels a little magical. Even though the knitting is mostly garter and stockinette stitch, watching the patterning keeps pulling me forward. Where the Raspberry starts is the edge of the center color panel panel. There's a little bit of neck shaping that starts soon.

I also got something nice in the mail from my mom. On my last visit, I placed a special order at Knit A Round for some yarn to start Elsabeth Lavold's fabulous Culdesac from the Fall 2003 Knitter's.

Jaeger Matchmaker Merino for Culdesac
The beginnings of culdesac

I think Culdesac will be the right combination of interesting detail and standard stitches for me to get accomplished this fall. The Matchmaker is Mmm Mmm Soft! It's almost an exact match for the Debbie Bliss yarn suggested for the pattern. I think there's enough sheen in the yarn that the cables will come out well. One more project to add to my "to do list". But I am going to make myself finish something before I get started on this one. Anyone else out there going to do Culdesac and want to knit along with me?

Back to the Back

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2/3 of the way

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I didn't get quite as far as I had hoped on the back of the SBC over the weekend. I'm only about 2/3 of the way there. There's still about 7 more inches to go. I'm almost done with the raspberry, however. I'm still amazed at how alternating garter stitch and stockinette can make something that fakes out my eyes so well when I look straight at it.

I swatched the Matchmaker. I'm not going to post pictures of a stockinette swatch, but I did get gauge and as soon as I get a little farther along with SBC, I'll be casting on Culdesac. I'm really looking forward to Culdesac. I don't have anything in my "in progress" list that is too mind challenging right now, and I am actually beginning to feel the need to pick up a more complicated project. Saturday night at around midnight I was combing through my yarn boxes trying to decide if I should start a lace scarf project or not. I restrained the urge (it's not good for me to start anything that late at night) by swatching the Matchmaker.

The Matchmaker is pretty fabu stuff. Soft and rich and easy to knit. It's also machine washable (which surprised me compeltely). It's not dirt cheap, but it's not crazy expensive, either -- $6/skein 120 m/50 g skein. I don't think I've knit with DK weight yarn before, so this should be a fun first. Becky's right about it being worth hugging the postman for!

Speaking of hugging the postman, I got something else in the mail that was in the same postman hugging category on Saturday. Feast your eyes on this:

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4 skeins of Colinette Giotto in Florentina that is destined to become the Sienna Cardigan. Every year John and I throw a big holday party. This cardigan is going to be part of my dress up outfit for the event. I'm particularly pleased with the cost of the top. It pays to order your Colinette from the UK. Without printing actual numbers, even with the book and shipping and handling I still paid around half of what it would cost to buy the stuff here in the US.

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I just love the colors in the Florentina colorway... magenta, pink, blue, green. Hard for a jewel tone girl like myself to resist. It's probably a good thing that I don't have two out of the 3 sizes of circular Addis that I need to get started!

Holographic Home Stretch

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20031006_ShadowBoxesBack.JPG

20031006_ShadowBoxesBackSide.JPG

Almost there! I actually completed the first page of instructions for this sweater tonight. At this point, I am about 22 rows from binding off. Carolyn left a comment on my last post about knitted holography. I think that describes this sweater incredibly well! I think from now on I will refer to this as the Holographic sweater. It definitely has an extra, unexpected, dimension.

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Over the weekend, when I needed a break from the sweater and while we were out running errands, I switched over to socks. I'm now the proud owner of one finished Regia MultiEffekt sock. Very fall, don't you think? And having finished a sock for me, I went back to the Opal socks for John. This helps me solve that second sock syndrome.

I've become shameless about knitting in public. While wandering around MicroCenter or Costco, I just knit away while wandering through the aisles. My felted daypack is an excellent knitting companion in this respect. I hold my needles and keep the skein in a zip lock bag in the daypack and just pull on the working strand as needed. I'm probably getting a few very strange looks, but I don't notice because I am too busy knitting. Just say knitting geek. Yep. Yep. Yep. Almost anything I do, I take to geek proportions.

I've been asked by a couple of people "How in blue blazes do you knit so fast, woman?" To be honest, I never really thought of myself as a fast knitter until recently. I am not sure I have a great answer to this question, but here are a few things I can say about it:

  1. I don't mind knitting in public. I'll pull out my sock knitting any where. Chicagoans don't seem to phased. Maybe they all like hand knit socks.
  2. I am a product knitter. I enjoy the process, and I love to learn new things, but I really really want to be able to wear or share the thing I am knitting. When I get close to the end of something, I get totally revved up to get it finished. I stay up late, I get up early, I just get in this mode where I want the creation to become reality. I don't know if this is latent goal-orientedness from my PhD training or just me. All I can say is don't get between me and a sweater I really really want.
  3. I have no children and I am married to a man who not only cooks, but can look after himself. John never gets irritable when I sit and knit, even when I do it compulsively. I try to do the same for him when he is diving into one of his hobbies. We love to be together, but we love to do our own things as well.
  4. When I first learned to knit, my dear knitting teacher tried to convince me that if I held my yarn better I could improve my speed and tension. I ignored her because it seemed too hard. This fall, I decided to take her advice and get some better yarn control going. It took a little while to get used to knitting and purling "the right way" (I hate to say that because I think any way that works for you is the right way) but once I got it down, I saw a vast improvement in my speed and in the quality of my knitting. Definitely a double bonus.
  5. I am definitely in obsessive compulsive mode with my knitting hobby right now. It's been a while since I bought a computer game or read straight through a book. I keep finding new things that I want to try, new clothes that I want to have in my wardrobe.
  6. I've had a lot of stress in my job lately, and knitting helps take the edge off. I can come home from work, sit down in front of my 21" window on the electronic world and immediately move my mind from the days problems to somewhere entirely different. It's very meditative for me.

I think this all boils down to one fact: I spend a lot of my free time knitting. Speaking of which... I think I hear some soft seductive voices from my knitting basket....

Holographic Back Completed

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20031007_ShadowBoxesBackSide.JPG

Hooray! The back is done. Meeting a milestone on a project always makes me happy. Makes the goal-oriented part of me feel all smug and satisfied. But I will probably be pausing here for a little while before I start on the front.

Why? Well... I'm worried about sweater dimensions. Yes, I did a gauge swatch. Yes, my row and stitch gauge still seems to be correct. But when I complete a piece, I usually expect to have to stretch it a little bit as part of the blocking process. Not here. Here I found myself massaging the sweater into a somewhat smaller form. I am somewhat worried that as I knit across the back of the sweater gravity took some toll on the width, added a little stretch. I think the lengthwise stretching is one of the hazzards of knitting something that is more or less garter stitch.

Normally at this phase in the game I would just bull on ahead and assume it would come out okay. But, I want this sweater to be as perfect as possible. So it will block and I will rest and think about what to do next.

Lucky for me, I have something very nice to relax with. Something soft and seductive, totally decadent and totally for me.

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When I started blogging last year, I had no idea that I would "meet" so many neat people, much less get a chance to hang out with them. On Sunday, the very chic Bonne Marie and I headed out on a little "yarn trolling" expedition in northern Chicago (check out her blog to see the fab mini poncho design she was planning out while we were shopping!).

We hit a couple of stores in Evanston (Montoya and Close Knit) and a couple in Chicago proper (Arcadia and Knitting Workshop). I picked up a couple of books (including Rowan's new A Yorkshire Fable which is absolutely awesome and definitely a "must see") and thought I was going to get away with avoiding any new yarn purchases until I got tempted by an angel.

Lorna's Laces Angel, that is. Angel is a 70% Angora, 30% Lambswool blend that is just irresistable. At least to me. The colorway is called "Seaside". When I saw it at Arcadia, all my will to resist new stash additions evaporated... after all, how much trouble could I get into with 200 yards of the most fabulously soft yarn I'd ever touched?

Heh. Lots. Suffice it to say that you're not seeing the price tags on that yarn for a reason.

I cast this stuff on almost as soon as I got home. I thought I knew for certain what it wanted to be -- a lace scarf. (I've got lace knitting on the brain right now, I think every yarn I see lately wants to be lace.) What could be nicer, I thought than an airy angora scarf wrapped around my neck in the winter?

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This was my first attempt. A modififcation of a pattern stitch in the Blackberry Ridge A Week in the Life of A Knitter's Cat scarf pattern.

I looked at it for a while and then decided that it did not want to be that lace pattern. Somehow all the colors looked muddy to me and the pattern wasn't showing up at all. And so I cast on another... one with big open holes from the Koigu Take Along Scarves pattern book. I figured, hey, Koigu is variagated, right, and so is Lornas. It should work, no problem.

Nope. Nyet. Nein. Nada. Angora swiss cheese. I didn't like it so much I frogged it before taking a picture of it. I regret that now, because I like to show negative results as well as the positive ones to spare others the special joy of learning the hard way.

So then I felt a little frustrated. This yarn did not want to be what I wanted it to be. How could it not want to be lace? And then I heard a tiny soft whisper...You're trying to make me work too hard.. my colors are pretty and complex, my texture is soft and fuzzy, just do something simple with me. Trust that my complexity will make simplicity beautiful.

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So here's my most recent attempt. It's not at all complex, but I do like it. I cast on, knit in stockinette for a while and then halved the stitch number by doing K2tog across an entire row to get the ruffly effect. Now I am just going to stitch in stockinette until I am close to running out yarn and then a ruffle at the other end. I'm not worried about too much curling. The angora has almost no elasticity. When I ripped, you could hardly even tell that the yarn had been stitched, it has no memory at all.

So far Angel is a real treat to knit with. Soft and luxurious, it glides through my fingers almost like it isn't there. Almost makes me want to run out and get myself an angora bunny of my very own. It has a nice halo, and so far there's not a lot of shedding going on. Speaking of shedding... I seem to remember something about putting angora yarns into the freezer for a while to prevent shedding. If anyone out there knows any more about this, please let me know.

Of course, I still have this insane desire to knit lace...

Johnny Appleseed

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Johnny Appleseed

I'm lucky to be the child of very crafty parents. I was always encouraged to develop crafty hobbies and engage in the creation of special things. Mom's newest passion is fabric doll making.She started doing it several years ago. The doll above is "Johnny Appleseed" one of her very first dolls. For anyone that might be interested, Mom does have a group of dollmakers that she gets together with regularly. If you're in southeastern Michigan and want to know more about them, let me know and I'll get you in touch.

Dad took a bunch of pictures of her creations. Because I think they are all wonderful and each one has a story, I decided that rather than post a whole bunch of pictures at once, I would devote a blog post to each one. For this post, I asked mom some questions. Here are my questions and her answers:

Why did you make him?

Making art dolls started out as a lark – a different new crafty experience. I joined a class at a semi-local quilt shop that was teaching Julie McCollough’s Razzamatazz doll pattern. Johnny is an adaptation of that pattern. Although Johnny doesn’t exhibit many different skills because he was my first birth, what I really discovered was in making art dolls I could used nearly every bit of sewing, painting, and varied needle expertise that I had ever acquired over the years.

What you were trying to do with him?

Over and over you will hear doll-makers say we’re just having fun. That was the second discovery; that it was OK to make something that had no real practical purpose.

What you like most about him?

That he makes me smile. His hair was in place when I set his eyes. I got them a bit higher on his face than they should have been and so he ended up with this sort of surprised innocent look. It was as if he woke up and said “Wow! This is a great place and I have a need to do something to keep it that way.” That’s when he really became Johnny Appleseed. That’s what happens with dolls – they eventually tell you what how they really want to look and dress.

Any special things you did to make it better or more interesting?

Once a doll tells you what it really wants, there’s no end to the embellishments and backdrops you can make for it. I’ve graduated a long way from Johnny, but you can see some of the first attempts at add-ons with his “leather” boots and apple pack. I think it was dad’s idea to use a ¼ cup measure for his “pot”.

Like knitters, or maybe way beyond knitters, doll makers collect a stash of fabrics. I say way beyond, because rarely more than a fat-quarter is needed in any one construction. So it’s incredibly easy to compile a stash of hundreds of fat-quarters that you “might use someday”. And also like knitters, eventually the collection expands into the very expensive with acquisitions of silks and velvets, hand wovens, hand dyed, beaded, leather and antique pieces.

Chuckle. She thinks she can out stash us, eh? Well, actually, she can. And she has. She's got the better part of a room filled with fabric and sewing goodies. And not only does she get to stash fabrics, bus she also stashes yarn, roving, buttons, beads and all sorts of decorative notions.

Culdesac Begins

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20031009_FallColors.JPG

This view out my window is why I love the midwest. Where else can you see yellow like that?* When I was in college, I lived in San Antonio (I went to Trinity University from 1987-1991). The trees kept their leaves. They did Christmas and strung tinsel and decorations around but it always looked to me like it was April where I came from and no one had remembered to take the decorations down. When I moved back to the home country for grad school I couldn't believe how much I missed the changing seasons. You'll never hear me complain too much about the weather. I love to measure the passing of time this way.

So what have I been doing the past couple of days while pondering the Holographic sweater? Take a look at this:

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This is Culdesac from the Fall 2003 Knitters. It's an Elsabeth Lavold design. I'm knitting it up in Jaeger Matchmaker Merino, DK color 655. I'm about an inch and a half from the armhole shaping. Since I picked a dark yarn that doesn't photograph very well, my advance apologies. So far so good with this pattern. I'm cabling without a cable needle, which I like when the cables are narrow (i.e. about 4-6 stitches wide). About the only thing I can complain about is that the Matchmaker likes to split a lot, and this can sometimes be difficult when not doing cabling the old fashioned way. Otherwise is it very nice to knit with.

So far, I have only changed one thing about this pattern -- because life is just too short to mattress stitch reverse stockinette edges -- I decided to turn the edge stitches into a column of stockinette instead of reverse stockinette.

20031009_CuldesacBackSeamEdge.JPG

This is one of those things that I would never have thought about doing if I hadn't been reading Finishing Goddess Becky's stories of creating Smooch. The edge is curling now, but when I go to put it together, it will become beautiful and no one will know that I didn't fight that reverse stockinette seaming.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to this juncture without some issues to deal with. The central cable motif has some increasing and decreasing to help form those lovely loops. After I had completed the motif and decided to count the stitches, I realized one was missing on the left side.

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I don't know how visible it is, but the top loop on the left side looked sort of misshapen, otherwise I probably would have just increased in a discrete area and gone on. For once in my knitting life, however, I listened to all that good advice out there and decided to fix the mistake before I went any further. Did I frog? Yes! Did I rip all the way back... well, no. I cheated. I only ripped back about 8 rows by 12 stitches.

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As near as I can tell, repairing aran motifs is about the only useful purpose double pointed needles have (can you tell I abhor sock knitting on DPs?). Basically, you just disloge the group of stitches you want to do the repair within and then just rip out those. When you've ripped back far enough, you put the stitches you want to start with back on one of the DPs. I usually use two double pointed needles in a slightly smaller size than the main needles to do the repair work.

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Here's the repaired motif. There's a little distortion around the left side of the top loop but that will work itself out when I block the piece. I am definitely enjoying this pattern. It has the right balance of speed knitting areas and areas that require my attention. I just don't have a long enough attention span or enough patience to work with really complicated Arans these days -- my languishing Malin is a testiment to that.

*As a biological aside... did you know that leaves don't really change color? A green leaf actually contains many pigments that are involved in helping the tree convert light into energy. The dominant pigment is chlorophyll, which is green. When the tree gets ready for winter, it pulls all that chlorophyll into the tree itself to use for energy later on and the other colored pigments remain. These colored pigments are called "xanthophylls" (xantho means "other"). You can check out this link for more info. And this link, too.

Wanna Trade?

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Well... I've made a lot of acquisitions lately. I never regret buying yarn, but I have gotten to the point where I know that there is some yarn I am simply never going to use. Today I got my act in gear and set up a trading blog. This is where I am going to post all the goodies that I'd like to de-stash.

All of this stuff is good stuff -- if I do say so myself. I'll trade for yarn/other knitting goodies or cash. If you're interested in something, make me a fair offer and we'll swap.

Culdesac Back Complete

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Back of Lavold Vest from Fall 2003 Knitters
Elsabeth Lavold Vest Back in Jaeger Matchmaker Merino

Is there anything as satisfying as pinning a well executed piece of knitting down onto a blocking board? Well, yes, there is that wearing the knitted piece part, but blocking really does make me inordinantly happy. Perhaps it is because I can finally see my knitting formed into what will be its final shape. Perhaps it is the joy of bonding with my SpaceBoard. Perhaps I am just fascinated with seeing how many shiny gold-headed rust-proof pins I can use to tack down my most recently captured butterfly.

I'm feeling particularly smug about the back of this vest because I just love the way the cables came out. The center cables are even and well formed, the knotwork pattern stands out on a field of reverse stockinette. I think for the first time ever I felt like I was "feeling" the cables. I almost didn't have to refer to the pattern, it just seemed obvious where to go with them.

In the past, the other Aran sweaters that I have made or attempted have been all over cable affairs a la Alice Starmore. Beautiful, but complicated. I've started several, but only ever finished one. I like this vest a great deal because it's beautiful and uncomplicated. The cabling keeps my brain active, but there are large areas that I can speed knit through, providing me a with a good, balanced project. I think that because the cable elements are isolated, they stand out more and thus make more of an impression on me.

Just a few notes about the pattern. So far so good. I think this pattern is fairly well written and easy to follow. That's not to say that you don't have to spend a little time thinking about it, but I haven't found any mistakes thus far. I would recommend a little something with regards to the armhole cables. Your life is a lot easier if the cables at the armholes and the cables at the center crossover at the same row. I started the armholes at the suggested place, but started the cable pattern two rows higher in order to match them all up. Obviously, the shift you would need to make is somewhat dependent on the size of the vest (I'm doing the smallest size), but it will never be more than 3 rows. By making that 2 row shift I didn't have to keep track of two different cable intervals. I'm generally lazy and the less counting I have to do the better. I think, in this case, it also adds to the visual quality of the vest and decreased the chances that I would make a mistake.

Given how much fun I am having with this vest, I am definitely looking forward to receiving Elsabeth Lavold's Viking Knits Collection, Book One from the ThreadBears. I can already tell that there will be some Silky Wool in my future.

So much fiber... so little time...

Culdesac Front Left

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Lavold Vest Front Left

All that's left on the front left side is the second motif and a little shoulder shaping. And no, I didn't do this all this evening. I really only did about 1/3 of it. The rest was done yesterday. Sometimes when I know I am going to be busy I save up something to show.

The fronts are definitely more complicated than the back of the sweater. Short rows in the front provide that nice point and the armhole and neck shaping require that I pay some attention to the pattern. Not because they are complicated, but because the intervals are not regular at the neck edge and you have to get the armhole shaping from the instructions for the back. Not hard... just some actual neuronal activity required to make sure it all works out correctly. And some nights, it's harder than others to whip those neurons into a frenzy.

Ribbit!

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AdultXenopus.jpg
Frog in Water

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Frog in Sun

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Frog in Sweater

Forgive the bad pun (read the caption for the last picture again quickly for my attempt at knitting humor), but that's what I did last night. For some reason, I just totally misread the instructions for the neck-side decreases and I had to frog all the way back to the start of the armhole shaping and start again. Not sure why I misread the pattern, the instructions were clear.

I almost didn't frog. I almost left it because I didn't think it would really change the shaping all that much and I could just do the same stupid thing on the other side. And then I caught myself and did the right thing. I don't know what's come over me lately. Normally I can't bear to frog and I've done it twice on this project. I guess the knit blog ring is just a good influence on me. Either that, or I am just getting better at looking at frogging as a minor setback along the way to greatness instead of a major defeat.

Of course, then when I started again I proceeded to forget to do the decreased on the armhole. More frogging, but this time only a few rows. Now I think I am finally back on the right track!

While in this case the mistake was all mine, I did go search out the Knitter's errata to see if there was a problem in the pattern. If you're ever in need of this sort of information, you can find it here. It took me a while to track it down (is their site hard to navigate or is it just me?) so I thought I would post it for future reference.

Little Victories and Big Losses

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Finished Front Left Panel of Culdesac Vest
I sent the frogs home...

Well... I finally made it to the end of this particular road. Since I couldn't bear to watch the last innings of the Cubbies/Marlins game, I got back to Culdesac. (Just so everyone knows... you can blame me for the loss... every sports team that I root for and watch on TV chokes. John and I went to dinner at Nola's and they had TV's up with the Cubs game on -- so it's all my fault since I knew better. We left right after dessert at the bottom of the 6th, but it probably wasn't soon enough).

This time I got the shaping done correctly. Well. Almost. I did the very last decrease a little later than I should have. But I was willing to let this one go by. If you guys don't tell, no one will ever know.

Scarf Using 2 Skeins of Angel

This is the Angel scarf. I knit through the second ball last Friday night watching CSI and Without A Trace on our version of Tivo. It doesn't look like it from the picture, but the scarf is actually 40" long. I think one more ball will take me to 60", which I consider a respectable scarf length. I am still trying to decide whether I am going to block it out or let it curl. I sort of like the idea of just letting the stockinette do its own thing and having the rolls of color around my neck. Opinions?

And then I have one more skein of Angel left over. Any suggestions about what to do with it? I am thinking about a ribbed headband to cover my ears with. I think 50 yards should be enough for that... Any other suggestions?

Everyone has to think good thoughts at my cable connection... our Internet service went wonky last night and I don't have any access at home -- and Comcast doesn't know of any reasons why this should be so. Good thing I have access at work or I'd start going into withdrawl!

And for anyone else who uses Blogrolling with MovableType... are you having a hard time with pinging? I'm using http://rpc.blogrolling.com/pinger/ (as their FAQ says to) but I am getting failure errors when I post. Did the ping URL change and they just haven't updated it yet?

Knitting in Public

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Tonight was the ChicKnits KIP night in Chicago's West Town area. A very fun night for me, to listen to other local knitters and relax with a sock. John's second sock is coming along slowly. I'm almost done with the heel flap.

Second Opal 140 Sock

I'm not very good at doing complicated knitting while I hang out with other people, and the past two weeks at work have been dreadful. So the sock was perfect. One decaf skim latte and a lemon cookie and some fun conversation later, I'd almost forgotten about work for a little while.

Actually, this sock has another knitting in public experience. Last Friday as I was coming back from my meeting with my thesis advisor on the El, I was working on this sock. A man in front of me was sort of looking around and he sees me. I stay focused on my sock because my stop is soon and I just want to get a few more rows in. Finally, his curiosity gets the better of him...

Him: So what're you doing? Knitting a sock?
Me (sort of surprised that he would know what it is): Yep. I'm knitting a sock
Him: Is it hard? It doesn't look too hard.
Me: Nope. It's not really hard at all once you get a few simple hand motions down.
Him: Who's it for? You?
Me: No. It's for my husband. It's getting colder and he likes his feet to be warm.
Him:Wow. Well, I hope he treats you right if you knit socks for him.
Me (smiling): Oh, he does. He definitely does!

A lot of people have seen me knit in public. Very few people actually comment. Those who have, generally seem interested and friendly. That conversation made me smile all day. After all, how often do you meet a complete stranger, and a guy at that, who appreciates hand knit socks.

I also tried to cast on some Crystal Palace Splash for a quick fun scarf for myself, but it doesn't seem to like plastic or bamboo needles. It has a very sticky quality. Anyone else out there ever worked with this yarn and have a feeling for what its preferences are?

Oh.. and for those of you out there who like Apple, like iPods, or both, but have a Windows system, Apple released iTunes for Windows today! I've been waiting for this since Christmas when John got me my iPod. And it's very cool -- definitely worth the wait. I've already downloaded a few songs... this could get very addicting for a child of the 80's who has a love of all those one hit wonders that shared her high school years. I've always wanted a copy of 867-5309 Jenny...

All The Vest Pieces

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It's always amazing to me that this:

Front Right Before Blocking
Before blocking...

Can become this:

Lavold Vest Fronts
After blocking

with a few pins and some water.

That's the last of the major pieces. And not a moment too soon! I think I did more frogging on this garment than almost anything else I have done up to this point. Probably that has something to do with working on it when I was too tired to pay proper attention to it.

Unfortunately, for this project, blocking is only about 3/4 of the way finished. I still have to join the shoulders, extend the cables around the back of the neckline, attach the extended cables to the back of the neck, pick up and knit >140 stitches on each front side and neck for the button bands, pick up and knit >100 sitches on each armhole for the armhold edging, seam up the sides and attach the buttons. It's hard for me to get too excited about picking up any number of stitches, let alone over 480, and I haven't gotten any buttons yet, so this project will probably progress gradually to the finish over this week

All the Lavold Vest Pieces
All blocked up and ready to sew!

Still not exactly sure what kind of buttons I will be topping this one off with. I'm thinking pewter buttons with some kind of knotwork pattern. Hmmm.

Culdesac Finishing Derby, Part I

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Sewn Shoulders and Extended Cables
The finishing commences!

So now the major finishing marathon starts with Culdesac. There's a lot of layers to the finishing work on this vest. The picture above shows the vest after the shoulder seams have been stitched together and the cables running up the neckline have been extended to just long enough to meet at the middle of the back neckline. This is probably the first time I've had to stitch reverse stockinette shoulder seams together. Probably it is also my last. I think next time I will just do the edges to be bound off in stockinette. Here's a closeup of my efforts:

Culdesac Shoulder Seam Close Up
Seaming reverse stockinette is not my favorite thing to do...

All in all it didn't come out too bad. After connecting those shoulders and knitting the extended cables, it was time to attach those cables to the back neckline.

Back Neckline Cable Attachment
The first cable gets attached to the back neckline


I'm pretty pleased with how the attachment process went. Joining the back center was a little rough simply because my cables ended in a place where there wasn't much pattern to join together, so the area just looks a little flattened out instead of being a place where the cables join nicely. But if I'd done fewer rows, it would have looked stretched. If I did more it would have looked bunched up. C'est la vie.

Culdesac Cabled Neckline
Culdesac neckline after cable attachment

This is the completed cabling attached to the neckline and connected at the back of the neck. Doesn't look like much yet. And actually, the cables are just the first part of the neckband. The second part is the garter stitch band that goes all the way alround the neckline. I'll be tackling the rest of those neck and armhold bands in stages... 141 picked up stitches, here I come!

Culdesac Button Bands

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Pinning and Marking

Picking up stitches. This is probably my least favorite finishing operation. Lots of measuring and thinking and a crochet hook. When I pick up stiches I divide the length along which I am going to do so into quadrants and then determine how many stitches I need to pick up in each quadrant. Lest you think that my SpaceBoard is only useful for blocking, those nice gridlines also make it pretty handy for picking up stitches. First I used the grid to line up the edges, then I put pins where I thought the quadrants should be. This lets me adjust them globally without worrying about snagging the fabric.

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141 Stitches Picked Up, 141 Stitches...

After marking on the board, then I put pins into the garment. The extra pins you see "below" the main line are to remind me that I am going to put 8 stitches in those intervals instead of 9. (Yes, you also see an ultimate geek girl accessory -- the reverse polish notation HP calculator. Yes, I did use it to help me do basic math for the number of stitches I needed in each interval.)

One of the interesting elements of the finishing part of this vest is that you do the buttonhole band and the button band separately and then join the seam at the back. I am not sure why. Perhaps it provides extra structural stability? Probably if I had had a longer cable needle I just would have picked up all 282 stitches.

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Shiny Happy Button Band

Pretty spiffy if I do say so myself. Those little silver safety pins are button pins that are marking the place where the button holes had to be set. They're coil-less and pretty handy for this sort of thing.

The other side went more or less the same way. I'll spare you the extra pictures. Suffice it to say that it's the same thing without any holes for buttons. However, I marked another "first" with this project mattress stitching up the garter stitch edges. Here's a close up of the back of the neck. Can you tell where the seam is?

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Where it all comes together

Here's the wrap up shot:

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When I saw this, I almost got excited about picking up stitches in the armholes. Could I have a vest to wear this weekend? Maybe I ought to think about finding those buttons.

P.S. to everyone who has been leaving nice comments about Culdesac... I do want to say a big thank you. It is very much appreciated right now. Things are pretty stressful at work and when I see comments on my blog it really does make my day and make me want to keep moving forward instead of feeling sorry for myself. If I don't respond quickly, please don't think your words weren't noticed. I just don't have as much time as I would like right now to keep up.

Close to Victory

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20031022_LavoldVestArmholeDetail.JPG
Front Armhole Detail

I took a personal day today to work on my masters thesis project and to give myself a breather from some of the things that we causing a disturbance in my personal force. Believe it or not, I actually did get a reasonable amount accomplished on my project. But, of course, I did not neglect Culdesac, two armbands and 2 seams short of being a real finished project.

The picture above is a closeup of the front with both the armhole band and button band in place. I did all the stitch picking up for the armholes in exactly the same way that I did for the button bands.

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All But the Seams

I was actually quite good. I did one armhole in the morning and the second one after I had met my milestone on my project. It was a good day for both knitting and coding.

The problem for me at this point is I simply have an uncontrollable attraction to finishing when I am this close. I literally can't walk away. At this point I know the project wants to be finished. It's sort of like having one chapter left in a mystery novel. I'm too close to the end to close the book without knowing the ending.

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Reverse Stockinette Seam

Before I get to the "good stuff" I thought I would show off my seams. I think the stockinette stitch selvedge was a good thing. It made the seaming process a lot easier. It's not a very flat seam But I think that is the nature of these kinds of seams where the reverse stockinette is facing out. The worst part is in the most highly shaped area. I will probably do a little careful steaming or pressing to on a curved surface to even it out a bit. I noticed that both pictures in Knitter's conveniently do not show the seam, so I can't use that as a reference. Overall though, I am pleased with the seam. I think it looks neat and tidy, which was my goal.

So, without further ado, I'd like to present Culdesac in mostly finished form:

20031022_LavoldVestFinishedFront.JPG
Culdesac from the Front
20031022_LavoldVestFinishedBack.JPG
Culdesac from the Back

Yes, I did try it on. (I don't have enough willpower to leave it sit until it's completely finished). Yes, I am very pleased with the results and the fit. I won't take any final model shots until I have finished weaving in the ends (I've got most of them, but the ones along the side seams remain) and have attached some buttons. Could mean that I have to take a little trip to Tender Buttons downtown and see if I can find something mah-vel-ous. I'm a little nervous about attaching the buttons. Historically, button attachment has not one of my greatest finishing successes.

Anyone care to share any tips or tricks for attaching shank style buttons to a fabric that has a lot of give? I want to keep the button band neat and pretty but get the buttons to stay put as well.

Opal 140 Man Socks

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Stripey Opal 140 Man socks

How about it? My first pair of mostly identical socks. Because these are for the pickiest (but most wonderful) husband, those stripes had to match pretty well. After all he's a software engineer -- and we all know what stylin' guys they are. (Actually, he has a new job where his title is "applications architect". Apparently this requires better dressing because now he wears khakis and other nice pants and button down shirts where before he got away with T-shirts and jeans. But a computer guy, by any other name is still a computer guy. First thing he does when he gets home is get's rid of the "marketing guy clothes".)

I finished them up while hanging out with Carolyn, Heidi and Elisabeth (I hope I am remembering your name correctly! It was great to meet you, I am just lousy with names!) at Letizia's. I was pretty impressed with Carolyn as she was carrying this huge (and I mean huge) cone of wool to work on her wonderful wintery ribby cardie (scroll down... it's the lovely dark green sweater in the middle of the page). I can almost handle knitting and decreasing and talking at the same time.

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Happy Man Feet

And here's the victory shot: John wearing his socks. He stayed up late so that I could Kitchener the toes and take a pic to post. And a big thanks again to Emma -- she gave me the yarn not too long after I first started my blog and inspired me to become a wild and crazy sock knitting woman. An excellent choice in colorway. I'm hoping it will be a step in a more colorful direction.

Enter Culdesac

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20031026_LavoldVestButton.JPG
The Button Selection

On Saturday I got myself to Tender Buttons (946 N. Rush St., Chicago) and took a look around for something that might complement Culdesac. The result is pictured above. I got 6, because I know, no matter what I do, how well I secure them, if I didn't get 6, then one of the middle buttons would get lost somewhere and Culdesac would be forever bereft.

Since Saturday night was spent with family, I didn't get the chance to weave in the last ends and attach the buttons until Sunday morning. And I chickened out with regards to doing anything like permanently attaching the buttons. I decided that I would wait until my sewing expert mother shows up at my house for Thanksgiving and have her show me a few things. I attached the buttons with those handy little-bitty safety pins made for buttons. These things, to put it bluntly, rock. Especially for those of us who are sewing impaired.

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Culdesac Catches Some Rays

Here's the finished product! I left it unbuttoned so the inside could be seen a little bit. For some reason I like the way the back side of the cable band looks. It also gives some idea of how the front and back shapings work together.

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Culdesac Flipped

I know these pictures are similar to some I have shown in previous days, but today I was finally able to get some natural light shots, and I think it brings out the cables better. Here's one last shot of the vest, buttoned and hanging.

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All Buttoned Up

But it is really easy to make a vest look good on a hanger. The real proof is seeing how it fits on the intended wearer.

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Culdesac Front (left) and Side (right)

These pics are probably the best I have with regards to the true color of the vest. The hubster claims that digital cameras have a real difficult time processing reds due to the way they deal with light handling. For a look at the back of the vest and how it hangs, click here. Here's the mandatory silly action shot. I was trying to do the twist... good thing all the neighbors were inside this morning!

To say that I am pleased with the result of this knitting operation would be an understatement. My only regret is that I don't have more blouses and turtlenecks that I can wear with it! Vests have been an essential part of my wardrobe since high school. My mom and grandmother made most of the ones I wore (and still wear). It's kind of cool to have one created with my own fingers. Can you guess what I will be wearing to work tomorrow?

So, what did I learn from this project?

  • I like my cables isolated and elemental. I completed this project because there were neat cable elements interspersed with fast knitting sections. This satisfied both my my need for higher brain activity and my need to see something come together relatively quickly.
  • Everyone should learn to cable without a cable needle. After you get used to coping with the abject fear of having stitches floating free of your needle, it speeds things up greatly. I wouldn't use it for cables wider than 6-8 stitches across, but it's perfect for 4-stitch crossovers.
  • I am beginning to understand shortrowing. I still haven't completely figured out how I would incorporate short rows into a design of my own, but at least I am getting a feel for what can be done with them.
  • Merino wool is yummy and DK weight wool is not to be feared for being too fine.
  • Stockinette selvedge stitches make life a lot easier.
  • Elsebeth Lavold is my new favorite designer. Not only do I love this design (and others I have seen), I really liked the fact that the pattern was well written and relatively error free (about the only thing I found "wrong" was that the button spacing was a little narrow). That said, it's not a "turn your brain off and roll" sort of pattern. But if you read carefully and know how to count, everything is clear.
  • I still hate picking up stitches.

This pattern has an "advanced" rating in Knitter's, but if you like it, you should go for it -- don't be daunted by the rating system. All the shaping is easy to do, and there's not very much about the cabling that is complicated either. Probably the only thing that is difficult is that you have to pay attention to the instructions and do a lot of counting. It's definitely not mindless TV knitting, but it's not out of reach either. In fact, it's a great way to learn some new things, and if you've never done cables before, it's a very gentle introduction.

Yardage estimates appear to be good, as well. I completed the project with about 1/2 a skein left -- even with a swatch (I had bought an extra due to my general paranoia about these things since I had never knit a pattern out of Knitter's before). The Matchmaker worked out well as a substitute for the Debbie Bliss yarn. A lot of folks have said they think this should have been done in Lavold's Silky Wool, but I really like a bold solid color for this project. I'm not sure that the tweedy quality of the Silky Wool would have been exactly right. (But that is personal preference for this project... I've met the Silky Wool in person and can't wait to have a good excuse to knit up something with it).

Regia Multi Effekt 5375 Socks

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New Socks for Yours Truly

It's that time of the year again... when the fall leaves are almost gone and a keyboard biologist's thoughts turn to warm snuggly socks. I got on a rampage with the second sock of this pair. I started Friday morning on my way to visit my masters thesis advisor and finished by mid-Sunday afternoon. Self-patterning sock yarn just keeps my fingers moving! Today I got to wear two of my knitted creations to work. My new vest and socks!

I like the MultiEffekt. I am not sure it falls into the "masculine" category that KnitPicks claims (my hubster would have nothing to do with this yarn no matter how many times I told him it was masculine). I've got another pair of skeins in a blue/green/orange colorway that will probably see the needles in the not too distant future. I have a feeling that this winter I will accumulate quite a collection of handknit socks.

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Happy Feet in My Knittng Room

I've gotten so that I can't walk out the door without knowing I've got a sock project stuck in my bag. They're portable, and I don't have to think too hard about them. No sooner did I finish up the socks for John and I this weekend than I cast on new pairs for both of us. John's next pair is in olive green Mission Falls 1824 wool, my next pair is going to be some Opal Croc Socks (colorway 10). John's next pair is a radical departure for me: socks on double pointed needles! So far I seem to be doing much better on 4 DPs rather than 3. Of course, it could also be that I am just more comfortable with DPs now.

Since John's new socks are going to be solid, I decided to dress them up with a little simple cabling. If I like the result, I'll share the pattern.

Ever since Michelle pointed it out on her blog, I've been casting on my socks with the Twisted German Cast-On. If you're a tight knitter like me, this helps loosen up the cuffs so that you can actually get a foot into your sock. I like it a lot, but I always have to look at the pictures to get started.

With the exception of John's current pair of socks, I also do all my socks on 2 circs. If you want an excellent free introduction to this technique, you should definitely check out the CyberSocks Class by Sheron Goldin hosted by SockKnitters. It's focus is doing two socks at the same time, but it's pretty easy to figure out how to do one sock at a time from the instructions as well. I do my socks one at a time because it's too clunky for me to be carrying around two skeins of yarn or to knit from both ends of a skein. This excellent web class covers everything from casting on to Kitchenering the toes.

What's coming next from the sweater bin... well, that Holographic Sweater is calling my name...

P.S. To everyone who left me a nice comment yesterday -- thankyouthankyouthankyou! Nothing could make for a better day than to be wearing a new vest and to be reading such nice words in my inbox!

Return of the Holographic Sweater

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20031028_ShadowBoxesCardiLeftFront.JPG
Exit, Front Left

Well, I think my next major finished item is going to be my mother's sweater. It's giving me a case of the "not enough yarn heebeegeebees" with regards to the raspberry color, but I think that is just because it was a kit and I didn't get to buy myself my usual extra skein security blanket. This is what happens, folks, when you don't learn about the importance of gauge early in your knitting career -- your knitted garments come out too big and you end up eternally concerned that you won't have enough yarn to finish a project.

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A Little Fair Isle Border
Here's my first official knitted Fair Isle -- the button band for the sweater. Ugh! I thought I remembered how to do the two handed thing... but apparently I didn't do it enough to really get it ingrained. For this I ended up doing it with my left hand and dropping and picking up the alternating color strands. Not a fun or recommended way to proceed, but I figured that there were only 4 rows and I didn't really want to deal with the English method tonight.

The little white yarn thread is a life line to help me pick up stitches. The button band is a double thickness with the Fair Isle pattern on one side and stockinette to cover up the stranding on the other. After my ordeal with the Fair Isle rows, I didn't have the energy to pick up stitches and deal with the back of the band and the Japanese Three Needle Bindoff.

Needless to say, I won't be ordering from Virtual Yarns any time soon. At least not until I do a little practicing. If anyone out there knows of a good book or web reference with good pictures of knitting Fair Isle with both strands in your left hand (Continental) please let me know.

Not Croc'd

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Where's the Croc?

No progress made on the Holographic Sweater tonight. Got home later than normal from work (for good reasons -- we're prepping a completed genome for customer delivery) and then John and I went on our regular Wednesday date -- the best ribs in Chicagoland from a place called Merle's in Evanston. But it's a little bit of a car ride from central Chicago to Evanston, so I go a chance to work a little on my next pair of socks in Opal Croc 10.

So far I am a little disappointed. My socks aren't croc'ing. To see what they are supposed to look like, click here. To see what I think they are going to look like, click here and scroll about midway down. I'm doing my socks on 2.25 mm (US 1), and it looks like I am getting about 8 stitches/inch. Any looser seems like it would be too loose for comfort and wear. Ah well, they were just for me anyway. Strange stuff, Opal. Since 2 out of the 3 skeins of patterning Opal I've knit with have had some little oddities, I think I will be reserving Opal for knitting socks for myself. Regia seems a little more trustworthy for gift knitting purposes. I must say that this Croc yarn is a lot softer than the other two skeins I knit with, so I'm looking forward to wearing them.

But there was more than one skein of Opal in my life today. Guess what came in the mail for me?

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Yummy Yummy Yarn from Karine

This is 500 meters (200 g) of Opal Batikgarn in stunning colorway 3, accompanied by some very fab Regia Mini Ringel in color 5217 from Karine in Norway. The Opal is a little richer looking in person, the reds are a little less raspberry and more deep fuschia. It's a hand dyed superwash and I think it's destiny will be something that I can wear close to my skin. Maybe a hat and a scarf and mitts? It seems like it's a little heavier than fingering weight. Is that sport weight? I can never remember these things.

This was part of a trade via my trading blog (which I will be updating soon, I promise!). I sent her this Kureyon which she's planning on turning into a Booga Bag. I acquired all the skeins randomly, and never thought about combining into one project, but looking at them now, I think they go together quite well -- that rusty stripe is actually present in all three skeins. I'm looking forward to seeing how Karine combines them.

I'll be on hiatus tomorrow... John and I have to make a trek up to northern Michigan to say a final goodbye to one of my aunts who lost her battle with chronic heart disease and our travel schedule isn't going to permit me time to get a Friday post up. It'll be good to see some of my cousins who I haven't seen in a long time, but I have to admit I'm feeling a little guilty about becoming a weddings and funerals family member. Then we're going to drive back to Ann Arbor with my parents. Mom's going to help me get Culdesac finished up and a little trip to Knit A Round is planned. Lots of driving so I'll be taking the Croc socks my new stripey Regia and some of my unfinished scarves.

Have a great Halloween everyone!

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