December 2009 Archives

Found: Perfect Husband Sweater

Anyone who has followed my blog for a while knows that I like to knit for my family.   And when I'm not knitting socks, I really like to knit sweaters.  I love giving socks and scarves as gifts, but, I have to admit, that nothing really floats my boat like making and giving a special sweater.  You can invest time and effort in a sweater, knowing that, while it will someday wear out, that wear time will be much longer than socks.  It's a knitted gift with a much longer lifespan, permitting nicer materials and where extra attention to detail really feels like it pays off.

But there's been one person in my life that I've had a dreadful time finding the right sweater for: John.  True, true, if you go back through my archives, you'll find a couple of sweaters that I made for him.  The truth is, though, that he doesn't wear them.  The bulky one is too warm (and pills too much because the wool was softly spun) and Fitzgerald fits him in the shoulders, but is like a sack at the waistline, and he doesn't really love that.  But he loves hand knit socks (as long as they are in the right part of the color spectrum), so I resigned myself to the fact that maybe the best thing I could do was make him many pair of special socks.

And then I found this:

20091201_AspinwallPullover.jpgThis is the Aspinwall Pullover from the most recent IK.   The sweater has several elements that are perfect for John -- the collar with the zip, the fact that the sweater tapers from the shoulder to the waist and the half brioche stitch region below the midline that is a favorite texture of John's.  For me, its also fabulous that there are some interesting details like the color work motifs, not to mention the fact that the model is knit out of a spectacular alpaca, wool, silk blend yarn (the Fiber Company, Terra)  that will make this sweater a real luxury item, as well as warm on his commutes to work.

But you know what's even better?  When I showed John the picture, I got a thumbs up -- well, a qualified thumbs up.  He'd prefer if it was done in dark red or dark green, which I think would be fine without changing the colors of the colorwork motif.    I just can't believe that I've found a sweater that should be perfect on my guy shape wise and that he likes, and that I really want to knit.  I think this sweater is meant to be. 

Clearly, even if I ordered the yarn today, he wouldn't get it for Christmas, but, lucky for me,  there's still a whole lot of winter ahead.  Now I just need to find a good place to order the yarn from and fire up the ol' credit card.... and welcome the good knitting mojo back in!


A while back I had a commenter wonder when I was going to talk about weaving again. 

20091203_CarolynLoom.jpgI think this little number is going to dramatically enhance weaving content on this blog.  It's a Woolhouse Tools 8 Shaft "Carolyn" Loom with the overhead beater.  At this point, my life is just a little too full for me to invite a floor loom into it, but this loom is a nice compromise and should give me lots of room to grow.  These are the looms that we use in my weaving classes, and the mechanisms are very nice and there are many nice design elements that really make them a pleasure to use.   While certainly not considered a portable loom, it does fold up a bit for storage -- even when in use -- so it can be kept out of the hands of inquisitive small people. 

I think the biggest challenge is going to be deciding what project I will do on it first.  A simple scarf is likely since I just wrapped up a large, rather complicated project in my class and I think I need to do something that doesn't require quite so much thinking!

Some Assembly Required

As you might have gathered from Friday's picture, my loom didn't come fully assembled.  In my mind, this is a good thing, because there is nothing like assembling a piece of equipment to help you understand how it works.  The castle of the loom was fully assembled, but I had to put the pieces together for the base, the beams and the overhead beater. 

20091206_LoomAssembled.jpgThe instructions that came with the loom were quite good, and it really didn't take much time at all to assemble.  Of course, the husband couldn't let me use the little screwdriver that came with it to screw things together, he had to go find the bit for his cordless drill, which not only sped up the assembly time, but also made the project incredibly interesting to Ms. Z.

I was without my camera for the assembly process, otherwise I'd have a couple of darling pictures of her wielding a socket wrench, trying to be help tighten down the bolts for the overhead beater.   Z is absolutely fascinated by the loom, it's parts and what it does.  She loves playing with the shaft levers and moving the beater. 

Once you've got a fully assembled loom, well, it just seems wrong not to figure out how to get a warp on it.  And since it has 8 shafts, I really wanted to do something that used all of them.   So, I've decided I'm going to do a series of Rosepath (you can see a 4 shaft example of the weave structure here at WeaveZine) samplers using a dark blue warp and backround and either a light blue or white foreground color.   I'll talk more about what's going on when I start to have pictures of the project.

Because it's a sampler, I decided to keep it narrow (just 5"), so it didn't take very long to measure my warp (120 ends, at 24 e.p.i -- I'm using 10/2 perle cotton), sley my reed, thread my heddles and get the warp wound onto the back beam.

20091206_FirstWarp.jpgWith a little luck, I'll get it tied onto the front apron bar tomorrow, test out all the sheds and maybe even start weaving!

Box of Terra

Hail! Hail! The gang's all here!  John's Aspinwell sweater is now ready to roll.

In what strikes me as stunningly good timing that involved three different online yarn stores (Webs, Knitting Central and Yarn Country) to get all the colors all of the yarn for John's sweater arrived on Saturday and Monday.  18 skeins of Fiber Company Terra in Beet (for the body of the sweater) and 1 skein each of Medium Indigo, Yarrow, Iron and Olive Leaf.  Since there was so much color variability across the interwebs with regards to all of these colors (to give you an idea, while the sweater in IK looks very blue, it's actually knit in the colorway called "Shale" which is very much grey)

I was a little worried about what to expect, especially with the Beet.  A touch lighter or more pink and the husband would have rejected it completely, even though this yarn has the most divine hand I've come across in a long time.  I mean, yowza -- fill up a bathtub with this stuff and let me dive it.  It's against the skin soft if ever there was such a yarn.  Even John seemed to enjoy feeling this yarn up a little bit.   And then there was my concern about how the pattern colors would go with the main color.  But seeing them altogether, I'm sure they're going to look great and I can't wait to get started. Clearly some swatching will have to happen soon.

One thing I should remark on for anyone considering this sweater... this yarn is pricey stuff.  Not surprising, given it's luxury fiber content.  And I've no regrets about it, given the rare opportunity I have to make John a sweater, I want it to be stuff that I know he's going to love -- soft and inviting.  However,  ordering it from Webs was great because in the amount I had to order it in, it was $4 per skein off the regular price.  While that hardly makes it a budget sweater, since 19 of the 22 skeins came from Webs, it knocked $76 off the price, which is nothing to sneeze at!

With this project, my new loom and a whole whack of sock yarn, I think I'm going to be hard pressed to be bored this winter!

Dobby Loom Assembly


No. Don't worry.  I did not suddenly go out and acquire another loom.  Trust me.  A full sized dobby floor loom is so out of my picture right now, I wouldn't even know where to find the camera. 

But not so long ago, my weaving teacher found an old, under-appreciated AVL 16 harness dobby loom.  It came to live in the weaving studio but space and time issues meant that its assembly trajectory has been a mild one. 

And in I walked tonight with my color gamp blanket project.  A color gamp is essentially a way to look at a rainbow of colors in your warp, and the same rainbow in the weft and see how all the colors interplay.  I bought mine from Halcyon in 3/2 cotton and it comes with a pattern for a huck lace baby blanket, which has a weaving width of 40".  And the only floor loom in the studio that was available was 36" wide.

Well, the only assembled  floor loom was 36" wide. 

Then Nathalie, my teacher, got this inspired look on her face. 

That loom is big enough, she said, pointing to the dobby loom.  But it's not ready yet.

Well, what if I help you put it together?

You really want to do that?

Yeah, I really want to do that, 
I said with the kind of smile you will only ever see on the face of an engineer faced with a toy to assemble.  Most definitely.

Now, a good bit of it was already together, so I got to start with connecting the harnesses to the dobby and making the dobby work.  The dobby is the part of the loom that helps automate the raising and lowering of the harnesses for weaving.  You won't be surprised to know that figuring out the dobby just geeked me out, both on the computer and weaving geek sides of the equations.  Pushing the treadles, watching the harnesses go up and down the way they were supposed to.  Good times, I tell you, good times.

By the end of the evening, it still wasn't all together, but I felt like I had learned so much just by helping to put together the parts that I did (I also installed some of the cloth beam assembly) -- I can't wait to work on it a little more next week.  It's almost like watching something come to life!

There was even knitting today... I've started swatching for Aspinwall.  Standard ol' stockinette swatch looks good, and I'm most of the way through the half-brioche stitch swatch.  This yarn is absolutely delicious to work with .  And the half-brioche stitch is a lot more fun to do than a standard K1 P1 ribbing.


Guess What? It's More Yarn!


I was almost about to apologize for the lack of significant crafting going on here. I was almost going to, but I'm not.  Not for the standard "this is my blog and I'll do what I want to reasons", but because taking a little break from crafting while I did other things has helped me really start to get excited about the crafting projects I want to tackle. There have been bits and bobs of knitting and weaving when I'm hanging out with the kid and watching TV,  but most of my free time is still going into Dragon Age.  What's funny, now, though, is while I am still enjoying the game a great deal, all the great new yarn I have been acquiring has starting to shift the balance of what I want to do.  I've gotten to that point where I know the end of the game is coming relatively soon, and I'll be okay with that since there are so many other fun things waiting for me once it's complete. 

Okay, Yeah.  So that means today there's still precious little knitting to discuss.  But there is new yarn.

Julie and I headed out to Marengo to pay a visit to the Fold.  I have to say, I always feel like going out to see Toni is a little bit of a pilgrimage if you love fiber or yarn.  There's always something new to see and Toni has a real knack for finding hand dyers who make beautiful stuff.  My primary mission for the trip was to acquire some more Mountain Colors 3-Ply wool to continue my diagonal squares blanket.

20091213_BlanketWool.jpgMission accomplished! 

This was one of the most fun and fast color selection processes I've ever done.  I spread my completed squares out on a table in the sunlight, started grabbing hanks of yarn and tossing them on top.  Keeping some, returning some to where they came from.  I want this  blanket to be big and very patchwork feeling when it is complete, so I looked for harmonious colors, but also a fair amount of variation.    Most of these yarns fall into the dark jewel tone end of the spectrum, but I absolutely love how the yarns with the rich gold jump in and out.   I would love to end up with a full size or queen-sized blanket when all is said and done -- I think this project is going to be my mindless TV knitting project.  Honestly, there's nothing you have to pay less attention to knitting than a garter stitch square.

But, no trip to the Fold would be complete unless I found a few unexpected treasures that I just couldn't leave without.

20091213_ScarfSilk.jpgThe yarn on the left is Blue Moon Silk Thread II -- which to my eye looks roughly equivalent to 10/2 perle cotton, thus making it a yarn with the potential to be a spectacular scarf warp.  I think it is the ST-2 colorway.  The yarn is 100% silk and there's about 1200 yards, so if I was feeling ambitious, there is actually two scarves worth of warp there.  Clearly I will be thinking about suitable weft and weave patterns to complement.  The Luscious is another 100% silk yarn, but more of a worsted weight preparation.    I haven't talked about it much, but over the last 9 months or so I've been dealing with eczema.  I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that I might be developing a little bit of a wool sensitivity (something that it is paining me greatly to admit to myself).  Right now, it's incredibly easy to send my into a frenzy of itching.  But I've discovered that many of my silk and silk blend things can be worn next to my skin without making me feel like I want to take the top layer of my skin off and slather myself in steroids.  I've wanted a simple, luxurious black scarf for a while now, so the Luscious jumped right into my hands and never jumped out.

And while I will never say never about yarn acquisitions here chez Keyboard Biologists, I think it's fair to say that my basket overfloweth at the moment and I'm going to try to be a good deal more reserved for a while. 

And now I'm off to rid the world of corrupt nobility and darkspawn.  See you on Wednesday!

Terra Swatches

There has been much knitting of squares of late.  Diagonal garter stitch squares for my blanket and swatches for John's Aspinwall sweater, in the Fiber Company Terra yarn. The swatch on the right is the standard stockinette swatch, knit on US 7 (4.5 mm) needles.  My gauge is pretty much bang on for that one, even after a good soak and blocking.  The swatch on the left is the half-brioche stitch swatch, knit on US 6 (4.0 mm) needles.  I liked the flow of the stitch pattern (it's a K1P1 variant, but it moved a little faster for me than K1 P1 ribbing generally does) but my gauge is off.  I'll be ripping and re-knitting on US 5 (3.5 mm) needles next, and hoping for the best.

It's a real joy to knit with the Terra.  You might think that a yarn that is made up of 60% mostly inelastic fibers would be less than comfortable on the hands, but that didn't turn out to be the case.  It's delightfully soft, and the variations in both the color and texture of the yarn as I went along made it an interesting yarn to knit with.  I really love the qualities that silk brings to the yarn party when its blended with other things.  This yarn feels strong without feeling heavy, soft without feeling underspun or as if it is going to be a pilling nightmare.  I still have high hopes that it is going to make for one most excellent and durable man garment.

Time to rip out that brioche swatch and get back to work!

Wrapping Up the Week

One thing I've always wondered about fantasy heroes... you spend some undetermined amount of time saving the world, accomplish your goal, get a little fan fare, and then what?  Where do you go from that?  After you save the world, is everything else a let down or do you spend the rest of your life just feeling unnaturally good about yourself?

Well, if you're playing Dragon Age, you decide you want to see what's going on with the other endings and you start thinking about which save games you're going to re-load from.  Planning your next character.  This is probably the first RPG ever where I felt like I wanted to actually play the whole darn thing again.  The characters really are that good. 

Whenever I finish a good book wherein I got attached to the characters, I'm always a little bummed that the book is finished.  I feel that way about Dragon Age, too.  But since most books don't take me over 100 hours to read, there's also a bit of relief that whatever I do next, I'll be able to visit Ferelden in a much more relaxed manner, dropping by when I need to get a break from the real world, without the intense compulsion to want to know how the story ends.

Speaking of stories... if you're looking for another good fantasy series to pick up, might I recommend Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos books?  I've just finished up Taltos and Yendi and just started Dragon (I'm reading them in chronological order for the character, as opposed to the order they were written in) and while they aren't deep, they are really just a lot of fun.  I really love books written in first person, and these don't disappoint, as the main character, Vlad, is a wisecracking assassin with a mini-dragon familiar and penchant for witchcraft and getting in and out of challenging situations.  These books just make me happy to read, and because they are pretty light weight, it's easy to pick them up and put them down as necessary. 

Not only did I finish up DA today, I also got the pleasure of getting to finish up assembly of that AVL loom I mentioned last week.  All it's major pieces are in place, so warping might happen soon.  I'm so excited about getting to weave on a floor loom, I could just dance.  I mean, wow, warping a loom that I can sit inside... actually having to throw that shuttle for a fair number of inches.  Foot treadles.  Too. Wonderful. For. Words.

And then there's the squares and the swatching.  I have 4 new squares for my Targhee blanket, and I'm one swatch away from starting John's sweater.  Not monumental knitting productivity, but enough to make me really itchy to get things started on Aspinwall!

More Squares

While I am coping with my Dragon Age withdrawl (yes, it really does sort of feel that way... and I go back and forth on the whole issue of another playthrough) I've been knitting squares and catching up with some of the recordings on our DVR.  I was hoping this afternoon to get some nice artsy looking pictures of my efforts, but the dark grey clouds hanging over Chicago thwarted my efforts.  I really hate winter lighting in my house.  It can take the nicest colors and turn them in to something strange, particularly the oranges and yellows, which just seem to blow out.  You'll have to trust me that these squares look nicer together than the do in this picture.

20091220_BlanketSquares.jpgSo this photo is really more about documenting progress than it is about trying to make the project look nice.   I've now finished 36 squares (I got three more knitted up after this photo was taken) and together they are about the size of a large-ish baby blanket.   As much as I would love to have something that ends up the size of a full-to-queen sized blanket, I feel like that may be unrealistic, if only from a cost perspective.  So I think I'm going to be hoping for something that works out more as a smallish afghan for my couch. 

Pretty Colors

I was going to whine a bit about the weather in Chicago, and the purgatory on Earth that is driving on I-90 when it snows, and the fact that I still have far too much holiday shopping to do, but my dear blogging buddy Emma has saved you all by surprising me with some fabulous color that would make anyone forget about grey weather, at least for a little while. 

Emma and I have traded yarn for some time (which reminds me that it might be time to send what I have been collecting back across the Atlantic), both of us looking for things that are more likely to be found on our sides of the pond.  Every time I get a package from Emma, I'm surprised at what great stuff she finds.  The UK hand dying community is clearly a deep one when it comes to quality and talent.

From left to right, the yarns are: Violet Green, Socrates Super Sock in "Burnt Orange".  It's a blend of 80% superwash merino and 20% nylon, and appears to be a 3 ply yarn.  Just about as perfect a combination as you can get for socks.  Posh Yarn, Martha in "Glade".  This yarn is 80% merino, 10% cashmere and 10% nylon.  It has an incredible hand to go along with the beatuiful, subtly variegated green color.  It's a 4 ply yarn, which I never would have guessed if I hadn't just unplied a bit to check.  The last yarn is Skein Queen, Squash in "Rose Red".  It's 100% superwash merino and a 4 ply yarn.  While I'll turn anything with a little nylon into socks, 100% merino yarns need to be dedicated to different projects.  I think the colors in this skein would be beautiful in a small shawl or scarf, worn near my face.

I'd like to take the last bit of this post to wish you all a very happy holiday season.    May you all have a peaceful, joyous time with family and friends and find plenty of time to indulge yourself in the things that make you happy.  We've got a lot of family activities planned, so posting here may be sparse until after the New Year.  It's been a pleasure to be able to share my crafty pursuits with you all for another year. I'd like to thank everyone who drops by for their interest and attention.  I'm looking forward to a 2010 full of crafty goodness and I hope you'll all continue to share in the fun with me!


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