November 2008 Archives

Rogue Gets A Hood

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I am taking my sweet time with Rogue.  On Saturday evening I finished up the hood cabling (Claudia is right... the hood eats up a surprising amount of yarn!) and set it down hoping for a sunny Sunday on which to use the good light of day to graft the two cable panels together.  After digging out my Montse Stanley book (Knitter's Handbook : A Comprehensive Guide to the Principles and Techniques of Handknitting ) and reviewing the process of grafting when there are knits and purls to deal with I tested it out on the first couple of stitches and then promptly backed it out and did a three needle bind off instead.  My rationale was threefold:

  1.  The grafting is fussy and I am impatient -- especially given that even a good nap time only gets me three hours.
  2.  If I am not wearing the hood, no one will be at all paying attention to the seam.  And, on the rare occasion that I have the hood up, most people will not be staring down on my head, and, thus, also not paying attention to the seam.
  3. The three-needle bind off results look quite good and don't (in my humble estimation) detract from the loveliness that is the cable work on the hood.
This seam does bring me to the completion of all the major knitting work.  Now it's on to the finishing.  And for the cardiganized Rogue, there is an extravaganza of finishing.  Left to do:

  • Graft the back of the head stitches to the hood cable band.
  • Block the body of the sweater out.
  • Set in the sleeves.
  • Attach the applied I-cord edging to the front edges.
  • Sew in the remaining ends.
  • Order and sew in the zipper. 
At the moment I'm in no real rush.  We've still got at least a week of unseasonably warm weather ahead (60 and 70 F weather in Chicago in November qualifies as unseasonably warm in my book -- not unwelcome, but definitely unseasonable) which means the pile of warm wool that is Rogue will not be welcome in my lap.   I've also become mildly obsessed with making toys... there will definitely be more discussion about that later this week.

Election Day, 2008

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There is so much that I could say... but I think I said most of it 4 years ago.  Reading back over my pre-election sentiments for the 2004 US presidential elections, I find myself confronted with a blog post that comes deep from my heart, that I still love and that still is as heartfelt and topical today as it was in 2004.  Perhaps you would like to re-read it -- or read it for the first time if you started visiting my blog after 2004.  Don't worry, I'll still be here when you come back.

I am the Lorax


I think it is more true for this year and my candidate choice for this year than it was for John Kerry.  The real difference in that election is that while I thought John Kerry was ok, I was really voting against George Bush.  This year I find myself truly excited to be voting for Barack Obama. So excited that I am going to take Ms. Z with me when I go to vote tomorrow morning.  It has become incredibly important to me that I be able to tell her that she was there when the great people of the US elected a truly great man to lead them for the next 4 years.  That she was there to be part of history, even if only in a small way. 

Not only that, but I believe that as the citizen of a country with a rich democratic heritage, it is my responsibility to help my children to understand and be a part of the democratic process.  It is not convenient, really, to take a baby to a voting booth.  I know she will not remember.  But maybe as she gets older and she goes with me again and again, this first primordial voting experience will help deepen in her the understanding of how important it is to participate in selecting our country's leadership at both the local and national level. 

There have been many eloquent voices speaking about why and how and who they vote for.  This year, I'd like to point out Carolyn's rationale for why and how she votes.  I think it's well written and beautifully stated and contains some very useful information, to boot.

I don't vote my tax bracket

Vote, my friends.  Vote carefully and with thought for what you want the next four years to look like.

*Updated: I corrected the link to my old post. Thank you Holly! 

Yes We Can

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obama_4color_omark.jpg Or maybe I should say, yes we did!

Wow.

I can't wait to see what happens next.

Rainy Thursday Afternoon

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This afternoon's latte for a rainy day brought to you by a lovely mug from Jennie the Potter. I've seen her at several craft shows and wool festivals but at this year's Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago (September, 2008) I finally bought one of her lovely sheepy mugs*.  It makes a perfect latte mug and is dishwasher safe (absolutely essential in my house!).  She was lovely to talk to at Renegade (helping me hunt for just the perfect color) and she and her husband provided excellent customer service when we ran into a little snafu with my credit card.  I'm also in love with her Yarn Ball Bowl.  So much cute sheepy goodness!

*I'm showing off Jennie's lovely goods strictly on my own.   I simply think her work is sweet and lovely and wanted to share in case you need a special mug for your own collection. And because I love to show off my latte making skills on my blog :-)

Ow-ul

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20081107_AmigurumiOwl.jpg

One thing about knitting for other people's children: it makes you feel guilty if you haven't knitted for your own child in a while.  Ms. Z has a very favorite onesie -- it has an owl on it and it's one of the few items of clothing that she will let you put on her without struggling.  She'll point to it and say "Ow-ul! Ow-ul!" when she sees it.  In fact, almost any owl will elicit that response, so it seems that my daughter has developed a thing for nocturnal birds of prey and that gave me an idea for creating a toy for her.

Sometime back, Mary recommended a great amigurumi book to me at one of our KIP nights.



While I thought the projects were adorable, I hadn't sat myself down with it and tried anything out.  When I was thinking about toys, I pulled it out and saw the owl and knew that I needed to see if I could make one for Z.  Well, one trip to JoAnn's and an afternoon later, the owl was made.  And Z was incredibly excited to see me working on it.  When she finally got it into her hands, she just smiled and smiled and ran around the play area "Ow-ul!  Ow-ul!  Ow-ul!" showing it to her father and me any time she could.  And Ow-ul has quickly become one of those toys that she pays attention to.  She regularly wants to know where Ow-ul is and every time she even sees the Amigurumi World book, she tries to grab it and reminds me who is on the cover.

For the record, Ow-ul is made out of Lion Brand "Vanna's Choice" yarn -- a worsted weight 100% acrylic yarn that has just the slightest halo that makes it a nice choice for animal toys because it gives them that vaguely fuzzy quality.   You might wonder why I would actually go out and buy acrylic when I have a collection of Cascade 220 in my stash.  There are some very good reasons:

  • It's washable, and even 16 month old babies still like to chew on their toys occasionally.  They also like to try to give their toys a bath in the kitty water bowl, they take them outside and sometimes toys get invited to dinner when you didn't expect company.  So washability is a must.
  • It's soft and comfortable to knit with.  I've crocheted with enough cotton to know that over time it hurts my hands a little bit if I am making a stiffer fabric, which is required for stuffed toys.
  • It's cheap.  It was 30% off at JoAnn's and that made it almost as cheap as Red Heart. And it's much nicer than Red Heart from a texture perspective.  It makes no sense to spend a lot of money on yarn for a toy that will probably get a lot of love and abuse.
  • It's durable.  Ms. Z was gifted with an acrylic fuzzy blanket that has become her one and only blankie.  It gets filthy and gets washed and comes out looking like new.  If Z gets as attached to Ow-ul as she is to her blankie, I can't afford to use yarn that can't take a beating.
I thought the yarn also was quite nice to work with -- it was easy on my hands and actually felt pretty nice slipping through my fingers.  So for budget acrylic, I definitely give it a thumb's up.  It seems to come in a fair number of nice colors, too.  So it gives you a wide pallette for  toy making.

With Ow-ul under my belt and getting such a good reception, you can bet there will be more toys like this for Ms. Z in the future.  One of her other favorite words (and snacks!) is "Ap-pull" so you can guess what might be next.

Hemlock, Blocked

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Blocking, while not a panacea for every knitting problem, can solve a lot of them.
 
20081109_HemlockBlanketFull.jpgOnce soaked (actually washed on gentle cycle in my washing machine), the fabric relaxed a good deal and I was able to pin it out and tame some of the unruly curvaceousness of this blanket.  As you can see towards the top of the picture, some parts of the feather and fan still have a ruched look, but I am imaging that the baby will not notice these things.

20081109_HemlockBlanketCent.jpgThe center of the blanket is lovely after blocking.  The flower motif really shines and almost looks delicate even in this aran weight yarn.  I definitely learned something when I had to make those openings under each of the petals.

20081109_HemlockBlanketF&F.jpgBelieve it or not, this is the first time that I have worked a feather and fan pattern into anything.  Easy easy and certainly nice results.  This would also probably be lovely with striping yarns.

20081109_HemlockBlanketChai.jpgI had helped for a more festive photo shoot for the blanket, but it was cold, almost snowy and damp on Saturday so my upstairs balcony was my best option and it was cold enough to keep me from getting too creative with the pictures.  It looks nice draped over the back of a chair, does it not?

20081109_HemlockBlanketEdge.jpgThis edge was incredibly time consuming, incredibly yarn consuming and absolutely worth it.  So pretty!  And definitely something that will provide textural interest for an infant. 

20081109_HemlockBlanketQuar.jpgThe specifics:

Hemlock Ring Blanket

worked in Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton, "Periwinkle", ~4.5 skeins
needle sizes as specified in Jared Flood's modification of the original doily design

Comments on the Yarn
:
This yarn is suggested as hand wash or dry clean... well, hand washing and dry cleaning are not something any new mom wants to bother with so I washed it in the gentle cycle of my top-loading washer.  It came out looking a little more careworn but not raggedy or shaggy.  I suspect that if I washed it on it's own in a front loader there would be very little wear on it.  I also washed (and dried) Z's Circles Stroller Jacket in the same load with similar acceptable results.  This yarn is a loosely spun cotton, so I do suspect that over time it might end up moving past careworn to more abused looking, but I think it's worth the trade off to be able to put something so soft next to a baby's skin.  This cotton is probably the nicest cotton I've ever worked with (in fact, it almost has a hand like silk).  It's cost definitely makes it a luxury yarn purchase, but for a special baby, it might be a worthwhile splurge, and I whole heartedly recommend it as long as you can accept that it needs to be treated just a little bit more gently than standard cotton yarns and understand that it may have poorer wear parameters than standard cotton yarns as well.

Blocking has definitely made me happy with this project again, and it will be on it's way to its intended recipient soon... well, just as soon as I stop knitting little toys for Z and make a few to accompany the blanket!

Have A Ball

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20081110_DoddyBrickWall.jpg
A few posts back, showed you 4 pentagons worked together and I asked you all to guess what I was working on.  There were several guesses that I was working on a ball.   That is exactly what I was doing.  In fact, I was working the Doddy pattern from the Winter 2007 issue of Knitty. The idea, as you might guess from the fact that it is made of yarn that is very similar to that of the Hemlock blanket, is that it was supposed to be a companion piece for the blanket.

But that is the hazard of knitting toys for another baby when your own baby is running about and very excited about what you are working on.  The project changes ownership. 

20081110_DoddyonHemlock.jpgI do have a few more reasons to justify the change than just the look in a pretty set of blue eyes.  First, it's quite large in the size I made it and unlikely to be the sort of toy that a newborn can manipulate.  By the time he is big enough, I will have had plenty of time to make him one of his own.  Second, I have a couple of other much better projects in the wings for a newborn.  And finally, Ms. Z loves her balls.  It's really hard for me not to cave in and give her things she can identify with words.  Especially when I know there is a long winter ahead and no more likely outdoor play days in the foreseeable future for a toddler who really likes to go outside.

20081110_DoddyFallTree.jpg
Doddy Project Specs

Project: Doddy from the Fall 2007 Knitty
Yarn: Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed and Organic Cotton

My own personal touch to this project was to lay out the pentagons such that no two pentagons of the same color touched.  The colors are remnants from the Circles Stroller Jacket, Baby Bobbi Bear and the Hemlock Blanket (I guess that also makes it a fair gift for Z since three of the four remnant yarns are from projects for her). 

This ball looks very round in the picture, but the combination of movable fiberfill and cotton yarn means that it can take on all sorts of strange shapes.  I suspect it will also spend some of its life as a pillow and that round is not something that it will be very often.  But compared to other balls its size, this one is easy for a small person to grab and carry and it is a safe indoor playmate compared to the plastic balls that are also in our collection

App-pull

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20081113_AmiApple.jpg
A little more sweet Amigurumi to round up the week.  This is the apple from the same book as the owl came from: Amigurumi World: Seriously Cute Crochet.  The pattern in the book includes a cute worm poking his head out of the apple, but I omitted that detail because I didn't think it would add anything to the toy for Z.

Like the owl, (or rather, I should say Ow-ul) this ami is made from Lion Brand Vanna's Choice acrylic.

I nearly lost control of App-pull before he even got his stuffing.  "App-pull!  App-pull!" I guess she liked the idea of having one of her favorite fruits turned into a stuffed toy.  Needless to say, Z was happy to take possession of the final product.

20081113_AmiAppleAndZ.jpgI only wish that App-pull could help make some of the teething pain go away.  Lately we've been battling the arrival of at least two molars and what look to be a couple of other teeth, and in the evenings our usually happy baby has been having an over abundance of sad meltdowns that are not temper tantrums.  On the other hand, we have added a new component to her bedtime ritual.  Now before she goes to bed she starts saying "ABC's!  ABCs!"  because she loves it when we go to this website and work through the letters.  Some parts of it are a little advanced for the average 16 month old but she likes the graphics and the occasional bits of music that come around.  She will sit with rapt attention in one of our laps so that she can watch this stuff.  She's also thoroughly discovered computer peripherals.  If you aren't careful now, she'll grab your mouse off your desk "Mouse! Mouse!"  and run off with it.  It's just amazing to see how many things she can put real words to now -- and how well she can pronounce so many words.

When Darning isn't Enough

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You know your husband loves his socks when he wears them a lot and he doesn't notice that they have suffered an incredible trauma.  Of course, you also know you are a crazy sock knitter, when you find yourself looking at your husband's socks at the dinner table, thinking that one of his socks looks different from the other and then asking him to show you the bottom of his feet and finally demanding that he remove his sock immediately while you consider repair options.

20081116_SockRepair1.jpgThis is the toe of one of John's "Mudslide" socks.  These socks are made of STR Heavyweight, and when it gets cold, John reaches for these socks first (at least that is what he tells me... but he is a wise man and he has learned to flatter his sock knitter every now and again if he wants new socks),  I spent a while evaluating that hole and decided it was just too far gone for simple darning.  More drastic measures would have to be taken to repair this pair of over loved foot warmers.

The first thing I did was determine the region over which the weak yarn was located.  Around the edges of the hole, there was significant wear, so I decided I would make sure that my replacement job repaired as much damage as possible.  After I identified what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to go, I put a set of needles in the first row of stitches that I wanted to keep below the hole.

20081116_SockRepair2.jpgThen I repeated the process above the hole and worn area.  If you pick up the right hand side of the "V" in the knit stitch, you'll get the stitches seated correctly on the needles.

Since there was already a hole, I didn't worry about snipping yarn, I just unravelled from the hole down to the bottom needles and up to the top needles.

20081116_SockRepair3.jpgThis left the toe on the top needles and the rest of the sock topped by the needles that had been below the hole.   I joined some yarn I had remaining from the project (this is the reason that it is always good to keep a little yarn in reserve if you can) and knit back the rows that I had taken out.  When I got to the point where I needed to join the toe, I grafted the toe onto the rest of the sock using Kitchener Stitch.  What you see here is the sock just before I started grafting.

20081116_SockRepair4.jpgI didn't photograph the grafting part (if you'd like grafting instructions there are good instructions in both Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook and the Vogue Knitting book as well as the Knitter's Companion) but this picture shows the result of my labor.  The only really obvious sign of the repair work is that the new yarn is a bit more vivid than the old yarn, which is not surprising given that these socks have been through the wash quite a few times.

20081116_SockRepair5.jpgThe color (and pooling) differences are a bit more obvious when you see the whole sock.  Fortunately, since the repair is in the toe, and it wasn't too obvious, it won't be noticeable to the "sock police" who apparently inspect men's socks for their uniform drabness and conformity to a very limited set of colors, textures and styles.   And because of that, it was happily accepted back into John's sock drawer, along with its mate.  The mate will likely need a similar repair in the future (hopefully I have enough left over yarn for that when it happens) but for now they can be pressed back into foot warming service as Chicago proceeds to welcome the arrival of winter.

I know some folks don't bother with sock repair, and normally I'm in that category, but in this case, it was definitely easier to repair than to knit a whole new pair of socks.  And it always makes me happy to see John smile when he knows I've done something special for him to help him hold onto something in his warddrobe that he really likes.

Zebra Striper Dress, Finished

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Well!  This project has been a long time in coming.  At least, the pictures have.  It's actually been finished for over a month or so now and has mostly been awaiting a nice day for photographs.  So here it finally is: the Zebra Striper Dress from Dale of Norway, enjoying it's time in the fall sun.

20081118_ZebraStriperNeck.jpgThis is one of those projects where you had better love the little details because the rest of it is just a slow slog through a lot of stockinette in the round in one color of yarn at roughly the same gauge that you would knit socks.  Since the base of this project starts at about 350 stitches around, that's a lot of knitting after the fun two color part.  That said, I loved trying out the duplicate stitch (which I had never done before).  It's so sweet and so perfect on the little dress.
20081118_ZebraStriperEdging.jpgThe edging for the neck and armscyes is also sweet and delicate and perfect for the design. 

20081118_ZebraStriperHem.jpgOf course, it's really the bottom edging that this project is all about.  It starts with a little lacy scalloped bottom and works its way into the two color stranded work.  It's all easy, but the zebra striping is slow going because the repeat is hard to memorize.  The final result is quite worth it, though.  And having a lot of knitting to do helped me perfect my two handed two color knitting.  If I were to do it again, I would switch hands and hold the white in my left hand and the black in my right so that the black wouldn't look quite as overwhelming.  For my first time out, I feel really good about how the color work worked out.  After blocking, it doesn't pull in hardly at all.

20081118_ZebraStriperInside.jpgNo project like this would be complete without a look on the inside.  See?  Not so bad. 

You might be wondering where my final shot of the recipient wearing the garment is.  Well, apparently 2 year olds in Norway are absolutely gigantic, because my 16 month old baby positively swims in this thing, which is unfortunate, because I think she would really like to wear it.  I can only hope that when she does grow into it a bit more, it will be cold enough for her to wear it without melting.  Then I promise as many cute pictures of her as I can take!

Project Details:
Pattern: Zebra Striper Dress from Dale of Norway, Favorite Baby Designs Nr. 8101
Size: 24 months
Yarn: Dale of Norway, Baby Ull (Superwash Merino Wool)
Needles: KnitPicks Harmony Circulars

Project Notes:
This is an easy introduction to colorwork.  There's no steeking and all the finishing is relatively simple.  The miles and miles of yellow knitting in the main body of the dress become a little tiresome -- until you have the finished dress, and then it's all worth while.

The only element of the project that I changed was to sew the seams on the top of the straps.  The pattern has you put on buttons and loops to hold them closed, but that seemed like a lot of work for something that could just get caught on things and certainly wouldn't be needed for dressing and undressing a two year old (perhaps it would be helpful for a younger baby, but the neckline is pretty wide, so even then I don't think it's necessary).  The other reason I seamed the tops of the straps together was that I thought it gave the garment a more finished look -- otherwise the cast off edge would have been visible and I didn't like that at all. 

Would I do this project again?  Yes, but definitely only for my own kid.  There's just too much time in this thing to make it as a gift if you're making it for a larger child.  Even the smallest size is quite large, so it definitely falls into one of those "labor of love" project categories. But it is clever and sweet and I really just can't wait to see Zosia wear it -- and fit into it -- for the first time!


20081120_GetAJobSocksInActi.jpgWhen a knitter's husband loses his job at a particularly bad time for both the year and the economic cycle, what does the knitter think she needs to do to make sure he finds another one?

She starts a pair of socks for him, of course!

I know, I know, the world does not make decisions based on whether John has a new pair of socks, but to give myself something more positive to think about, I convinced myself that if John had a lovely new pair of socks to start a new job with, certainly the job would come.  Of course, they couldn't be just any pair of socks, there had to be some more challenging element about them to reflect both the challenge John faced looking for a job, and the supportive sentiments that I had for him.  At the same time, being man socks, they had to conform to John's standards for socks as well, so the design couldn't be too complicated, and the yarn couldn't be too out there.  The yarn also needed to be thick enough to keep John's feet warm during his downtown winter commute.

20081120_GetAJobSocksShapin.jpgThe yarn was the easy part!  It's Blue Moon Fiber Arts, Socks that Rock Heavyweight in "Thraven" -- just about as perfect a yarn as you could ask for as far as this project and John and the knitter are concerned.  The yarn is thick and warm, the colorway is subtle but still lovely and engaging. 

20081120_GetAJobSocksRelief.jpgFor the pattern, I decided to stay simple.  It's a toe-up stockinette sock until it gets past the heel, and then on each side of the sock there's an X and O cable -- my way of sending hugs and kisses along with him to work in a subtle way, since the element isn't very visible from the front or back of the sock.  To account for the extra stitches taken up by the cabling and to shape the sock better to John's calf, there are also two increase rows, one at the start of the pattern and one at the midway point (STR Heavyweight is pretty bulky for a sock yarn so it doesn't take many extra stitches to give you reasonable increases in circumference).  The cuff is about 2" of K2 P2 ribbing, placed so as to make the top of the cable look a little as if it is extending into the ribbing.

20081120_GetAJobSocksCuff.jpgThe socks have actually been finished for a little while now, but I decided I couldn't do a reveal until John actually accepted an offer. Yesterday that happy moment finally came (we found out he was going to get an offer for one of the jobs he was really interested last week, but it took almost a week for all the details to get nailed down) so the socks get to make their appearance.

I wouldn't let him wear the socks until the offer was almost certain. In typical, very sweet John fashion, he played along and once he got "permission" to put the socks on, they have been on ever since.   I think it's fair to say that he doesn't mind the cables, and he finds the coloration of the socks subtle enough not to be worried about the prying eyes of the sock police. 

20081120_GetAJobSocksStealt.jpgSo he's happy that he has a warm pair of socks that actually go with dress pants and I'm happy because there's a special little detail that I know is there, even if no one else does.  Definitely a successful pair of socks -- in more ways than one!

I love you, babe! I know you're going to rock the new job! I'm so excited for you!

Simple Baby Socks

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To all of you who left your kind comments on John's new socks or congratulated John on his new job, both John and I would like to extend our thanks.  We are very excited and relieved that he was able to find something new so quickly.  To those of you out there with spouses and partners who are looking for something, you are in our thoughts.  We understand completely what it feels like and we are both really hoping that things will start to get back on track for many people soon.

I've been thinking about small projects lately.  In part because small projects have that rapid gratification aspect that the product knitter that I am really loves, but also in part because I have a small person running around and it's such a treat to see her eyes light up when she's presented with a new toy or a new pair of socks.  I know she doesn't really understand what it means to me to make her things by hand, but when I watch her get excited about a new hand made gift, I like to think that she can sense the love that went into the project, even if it was only a little project.

20081123_Trekking108BabySoc.jpgI like to think of  these socks as my "Reverse Claudia" pattern -- they are modeled on Claudia's default sock design.  The "reverse" part comes from the fact that they are knit toe up instead of top down.  But they are a fundamentally similar sock* with a short row heel and picot cuff.  They make a sweet baby sock. 

The socks themselves are knit on 2.25 mm dpns using Trekking XXL colorway 108.  As with the last pair of socks I made for Z, just above the ankle there is a decreased area to help give her better fit and help the socks stay on.  I started with 16 stitches and increased up to 40, which makes for a good fit for her right now.

20081123_Trekking108BabyMod.jpgIt was hard to get her to slow down for very long once I put the socks on, but John was able to get her it sit for a few seconds so that I could get a model shot.  They fit like a glove -- or a sock -- but there's still plenty of stretch in them so I suspect that we will make it through the winter.

* Those of you who are familiar with Claudia's pattern will know that both her heels and toes are knit with shortrows.  I will admit that i've never switched to a short row toe because the standard 4 point increase toe works just fine for me and because the discovery of the magic cast on for toe up socks pretty much eliminated my desire to experiment with short row toes and grafting.

Noro Raglan Sweater Redux

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I've been blogging since the fall of 2002.  Six years gives you the time to make a lot of knitted projects.  It also gives you a fair amount of time to live with and test drive garments to determine which ones actually do stand the test of time for you and which ones made little contribution to your life other than to be interesting when you made them.  Since winter is here again, and winter gets me to root around in my drawers and under-bed containers for warmer garments, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about and celebrate the sweaters that have really withstood the test of time for me.

The first sweater in this line up is probably my all time favorite hand-knit by me sweater ever.  It's first photo shoot was weak (and in the dark of winter) so I decided that, 5 years later, it would get another chance.  Which is only fitting since the photography chez Keyboard Biologist has gotten much better and this sweater hardly appears to have aged at all.

20081125_NoroSweater1.jpgI first "FO'd" this sweater in early February, 2003.  The pattern is by Debbie Bliss, it's called, very descriptively "Raglan Sweater with Cable Detail" and is from Noro 1 (which appears to be out of print).  It's a very simple pattern: raglan sleeves with a cable detail, roll neck collar sweater bottom and unembellished cuffs.  I knit the sweater using Noro Silk Garden, Colorway #7 (which has long since been discontinued... I think when I got the yarn, I got it on sale for that reason -- a shame because it's a fab colorway).

20081125_NoroSweater2.jpgThere is absolutely nothing complicated about this sweater.  If I remember correctly, the big learning experience for me with this sweater was learning how to mattress stitch seams instead of backstitching them (which was the only thing I knew up to that point).  It took a lot of inertia to overcome some of the intial problems I had figuring that out, but once I did, I've never looked back.  I don't think I've backstitched a single sweater seam since then.

20081125_NoroSweater3.jpgWhat makes this sweater such a staple item for me?
 
  • First and foremost, it's warm.  Silk Garden is a blend of wool, mohair and silk -- silk and mohair are both fibers that excel at providing a lot of insulation for relatively little weight.  With a nice turtleneck, this sweater can head outside on it's own in 40 degree weather. 
  • Second, and almost as important, this yarn wears like iron.  Once again, you can thank the mohair and the silk.  Neither of these fibers pill because they are generally very long staple fibers and both are very durable fibers.  This sweater loosened up a little when I washed it the first time, but other than that the yarn looks just as good now as it did when I first knit it.  I don't really need any more yarn right now, but I've been considering another Silk Garden sweater just based on the warmth and wear characteristics. 
  • Third, it's an easy to wear shape.  The raglan sleeves make it fit comfortably and it has side shaping so it doesn't look like a sack.  I can wear it to work, I can wear it at home and it's even been worn out to some mildly dressy events.  It's got enough ease so that it goes easily over other layering pieces and the loose rollneck doesn't bind or set my itching radar wild (I am incredibly intolerant of most wool or animal based fibers near my neck -- even some cashmeres send me into a frenzy of scratching).
  • Fourth: color, color, color.  Jewel tones with blue undertones have always been my friends.  I would love to say that when I got this yarn I purchased it knowing that, but in fact, I just thought the yarn was pretty. 
  • Fifth and finally, striping serendipity.  While I did try to start the sweater pieces in the same place in the color progression for all the pieces, it was harder to do than I thought it would be.  In the end, it was sheer luck that the stripes on the sleeves seem to match up  almost exactly with the stripes on the front of the sweater.  The back and the front don't really match up at all, and since I don't see the back when I am wearing it, it doesn't bother me much -- not to mention that it helps me remember which way round to wear the sweater!

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I think that about sums it up: warm, hard wearing, well shaped, flattering colors and serendipitous striping.  It's hard to ask much more from a sweater.  Interestingly enough, this is probably the only sweater in my wardrobe that has also evoked questions about where I got it ("er, I made it") and whether I would knit one for someone else (a question that led to respectful silence when I told him the cost of the yarn).

Happy almost 5th Birthday, raglan sweater.  Thank you for keeping me warm and happy.  I look forward to many more winters with you 




A belated Happy Thanksgiving to all who were celebrating today.  It was a restful day spent at my parents house with an incredibly excited baby who couldn't believe her good fortune when she saw some of the new toys that her grandparents had found for her.  She was especially thankful for the little table and chairs and simple shape puzzle. 

What am I thankful for this year?  Many things.

  • I am thankful for a healthy family.  Last year we were dealing with my father's heart surgery situation which blossomed into far more than it should have.  This year, he is healthy, happy and also enjoying better mobility from a very successful hip replacement. 
  • I am thankful for a beautiful, vivacious, active and loquacious baby girl.  She has made my heart grow bigger and watching her grow and mature is just the most amazing thing I've been a part of.  Every day she brings something new into my world.  Today it was adding adjectives to nouns "Flowers!  Pretty!" 
  • I am thankful for my wonderful, caring husband.  He constantly helps me see so many different sides to things and always helps me be a better person than I am sometimes inclined to be.  He also never complains about my hobbies or the time they take or makes me feel bad when I need some space.  He is a rare and wonderful person.
  • I am thankful for my brand new baby nephew -- my brother's first child.  I will probably be this child's only aunt, and I plan to spoil him silly even though he is far away in Houston.  He is a beautiful healthy little guy and I am sure the world will be a better place for his presence in it.
  • I am thankful for the good friends I have.  Making friends has never been easy for me, so I cherish the ones that I have.
  • I am thankful that John was able to find a new job, and one that he is very happy to be taking on.  I hope it opens up new doors for him and brings fun challenges his way.
  • I am thankful for vacation time and grand parents who find joy in spending time with Z
I feel like I could go on and on this year, but what it really comes down to is that I am thankful for my family and the good things that have happened this year.  I think Thanksgiving, in some ways, is better than New Years for looking back and thinking about what the year has dealt you.  It encourages you to look at your blessings instead of counting your hardships and failures.  It's always a time that makes me realize how truly lucky I really am.

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