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Lotus on the Island

Pattern: Lotus from Rowan 45 by Marie Wallin
Yarn: Rowan Fine Milk Cotton  (Snow and Shrimps)
Size: Small
Project Archives: Lotus Archive

After an afternoon nap's worth of seaming, Lotus is now complete.  When I first tried it on after those final stitches, I admit to having had one of those let down moments. Something didn't feel right.  I put Lotus down on the bed and figured I'd come back to her later and test her out again before I got disappointed.  Sure enough, fresh from a dip in the ocean with John and Z a few hours later, I slipped back into Lotus and decided that I'd been overly critical of both myself and the sweater earlier in the day.  So I grabbed my camera and headed back to the beach. If any sweater deserves a beach photo shoot, it's Lotus.  To me, this sweater's airy quality, cotton foundation and lacy details speak to breezy afternoons in the sun. 

20090708_LotusSide1.jpgThe light on the north side of Kauai in the late afternoon is perfect for a photo shoot.  All these pictures were taken by John, who did an admirable job of having one eye on the camera and the other on a happy toddler.  The styling, as it were, is intentionally informal and meant to evoke both wind swept and apres swim (and to hide my post-baby untoned belly).


20090708_LotusFront2.jpgAll these pictures might lead you to believe that I have confused Lotus for Narcissus.  Perhaps that is so.  Certainly the sweater makes me happy, and it was more than a little bit wonderful to get to celebrate it's completion with my family on a stunning beach front.  And John did a nice job, I think, of capturing both me and the sweater, I felt it deserved a few extra  victory dance steps. 

I'm not sure what else there is to say about Lotus that I haven't already said. We're I to make it again, I think I would shoot for just a little bit larger diameter. I wouldn't go up a size, but I would probably add a little more width to the fronts.  As you can see from the pictures of the back, the sizing there is perfect, but, in addition to the post-baby tummy issues, I also seem to have experienced a post-baby boobal area size increase that made the front coverage not quite as perfect as I would have liked it.

Overall, I'm pleased with the sweater.  I have yet to make a Rowan garment that I have design complaints about, and Lotus is no exception.  I believe this is my first "3 skein" Rowan sweater, so completing Lotus gives me another merit badge to add to my knitter's sash.  I made no modifications other than to knit the crochet lace for the body of Lotus directly on to the garment and in the round.  In spite of its small gauge, this sweater didn't really seem like it took all that long for me to knit.  I like the texture and the hand of the Fine Milk Cotton, but found it somewhat fussy to knit and crochet with, as the plies in the yarn become easily untwisted and separated. Given it's light color and special care needs, it's unlikely that Lotus will see constant daily wear, but with those fabulous bell sleeves and neutral coloration, I suspect this sweater will see it's fair share of summer for seasons to come.
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(click on the images for larger)

top left: little cove near Kilauea Point, top center: sea bird (red footed booby?) in flight, top left: Kilauea Lighthouse, bottom left: greater frigate bird, bottom center: Z at the Lighthouse, bottom left: breakers near the Lighthouse

It was a low key day today, some swimming, some seaming and a trip to the Kilauea Point to see the Lighthouse.  The Lighthouse area is a state park and wildlife refuge that is filled with ocean birds.  We visited the Point on our last trip, but I was unable to get any good pictures of the birds in flight with my little point and shoot camera.  This time, with big DSLR and telephoto lens (a much appreciated Christmas present from John that is finally getting a real work out) in hand I was finally able to capture some of these birds.  I think the bird in the top center picture is a red footed booby -- he reminded me of my memories of reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  But the photos that I was most excited about were those of the Greater Frigate Birds, which have forked tails and perform beautiful acrobatics in the air.  Using the mode that allowed for rapid shooting, I was able to take a whole series.  I am particularly happy with the one above and the way the bird is juxtaposed with the clouds.

I mentioned that there was some seaming.  Indeed, Lotus is now has all crochet completed and all ends woven in.  Just one more sleeve remains to be attached. 

Beach view.  Coffee.  Sweater without sleeves.  Seaming inspiration.  Looking forward to tomorrow when the light is good again and I can get the second sleeve sewn in.
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Lotus, All Laced Up

The lace border for Lotus is now complete.  (Well, all but the one row of pink edging that I don't think will take any time compared to the last row of the main motif).  Since we're leaving for our vacation on Kauai on Friday, I'm clearly cutting this one a little close*.  It will be interesting to see at what point I am sewing on those sleeves.  But at least all the hard work is done.  I spent the evening feeling rather pleased with myself and treated myself to an interchangeable set of tiny gauge crochet hooks (to take with me on my trip) that I can use to test out those Japanese doily motifs.

I remain somewhat curious as to how the final fit of this garment is going to be.  Even with all that lace, when I tried it on, the edges just touch over the bust line.  Given that this sweater is not really meant to be closed in front, I don't think it's a big issue (especially since the rest of the shaping and sizing looks good), but I was hoping for a little more ease, given that the small size should be about 36" around. 

Please send motivation for setting in those sleeves.  I know how to do it and can even do it reasonably well, but it always takes a lot of good knitting mojo to get me started!

* I plead guilty to a bit of descent into adolescent OCD when I discovered that all the issues of a favorite graphic novel series of mine from high school, ElfQuest, are now available online.  Instead of knitting I've been re-reading and reading for the first time the issues that were published after I went to college (I never had a car, so I never really had an opportunity to regularly seek out a comic book store like I could in Ann Arbor.  I warn you, should you be into fantasy fiction, that should you take a trip over there, you might not come up for air for a while.  I don't know why, but ElfQuest really pulls me out of my normal headspace and holds me in its zone.  Getting away from it is like waking up from a really vivid dream... it takes a while.

And for anyone interested, that lovely bit of color sneaking into the picture with Lotus is my newest, very fab handbag.  I am in love with this darn thing -- and not just because strangers come up to me and ask me about it -- I bough it because it's big enough to carry my stuff and some kid-related gear and it doesn't look like a "mom" bag.   

And Lotus Continues

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My knitting labors this weekend were all about Lotus. 

20080614_LotusAndSomeBorder.jpg As it turns out, it takes longer than I expected to crochet all the way around the edge.  I got things started and am almost through the 5th row of 10 -- which sounds impressive until you realize that the next 5 rows are much more complicated and take a lot more time than the lace that provides the foundation.

20080614_LotusCrochetBorder.jpgSimplicity, however, does not take away from the loveliness that is the foundation for the big flouncy border lace. 

It is not difficult to convert this flat crocheted border that is sewn on after the fact to a border that is crocheted in the round and attached to the garment.  I started at the back of the neck (but you couldn't really tell at this point except for the yarn where I started) because I know that any differences will be almost invisible because of my hair.  For the first row or so, it does take a lot of counting -- because you do have to figure out how to end up with enough of those lacework openings to create an even number of the big flouncy repeats.  I started by doing a row of slip stitch all the way around the edge to provide a foundation.  I counted as I went so I knew how many stitches and then I worked things out to have an even number of repeats -- I ended up with one more repeat than called for if the edging was crocheted flat.  This was another reason that I wanted to do the edging in the round.  While I got stitch gauge on target, my row gauge was a little compressed.  This meant that I got a few more rows to reach any given measurement, and that good stitch counts for the border would be slightly different than originally designed for.   Also, when I did Audrey, I knit the border separately and attached it -- and I never really liked how the joined area looked.  Here you can see that the edge is quite nice!

So now it's just a matter of keeping plugging away until I reach the finish line.  I have no doubts that a few more "in progress" discussions will be the subject of future posts!

Seaming is Believing

Seaming a sweater is a process.  Sometimes it is a journey.  Always, for me,  it is a time of hopefulness.  It is a time when the knitting is done and I start to wonder what all my knitting effort is going to turn into.  As I've gotten to be a more experienced knitter, I go into the finishing process with more comfort that "everything will turn out all right".  My technical finsihing skills are much more polished now than they were over 10 years ago when I first learned to knit.  I understand how to block a piece of knitted fabric. I understand what a selvedge is and how to use it. My mattress seams are lovely and even.  I understand the process of setting in a sleeve and have a good understanding of how to minimize bulk in the seams.  I can weave in ends so that they are hard to see.  But there are still always the little things that get you worried.  Things, that even if all the technical things in the world have been done correctly, might still result in a not-quite-successful sweater... what if I didn't measure myself properly?  What if my gauge was a little off? What if I should have made the sleeves just a little bit longer? 

And there in lies the hopefulness.  The hope that when all the effort it complete, the garment will be one that looks as I envisioned it and makes me look like the walking goddess of the needles that I want to think myself to be.

If anything is a prayer to the knitting gods, it is careful finishing.   It is a detail oriented thing.  Pieces of a sweater that have to fit together must have edges that fit together.  Blocking must be done so as to maximize the shape of similar curves.  Then those edges have to be brought together, and brought together in the right order.  To do this, I have to clear my mind, clear some time and focus on joining edge stitches together neatly.  Almost as if there is no seam at all.  This process takes time.  Often I find that the finishing takes more time than the knitting of one of the major pieces.  Just to get where I have with Lotus is probably 5 or so hours of effort -- and I still have not yet tackled setting in the sleeves.  Something I consider to be the most challenging part of the finishing to make look neat. 

For this project, though, I will probably delay setting in the sleeves until after I work the crochet border.  I have decided that that border will be worked in the round and it goes around the entire outer edge of the body of the sweater.  The sleeves will likely just make that process harder, so I will sew them in after the edging is complete.

The finishing of this sweater has had another purpose for me as well.  It has helped me get ready for another journey.  Last week, we were doing some decision making on our vacation for the summer.  We were just about to sign the agreement for the most perfect beach house on the northern shores of Kauai, when things started to happen... vacation took longer to approve than expected, family health issues came up.  Suddenly that beach house that I could visualize lounging in and in front of started to feel as if it were farther away. It occurred to me that I had promised myself that Lotus would be ready for that vacation.  In a way that only a knitter can, I decided that lack of garment completion was the issue.  Perhaps the fact that I was not focused on getting the sweater finished was causing our vacation plans to get unfocused as well.   I decided to begin to dedicate more time to finishing Lotus.  After the shoulder and side seams were in place, the vacation got approved, the family health issues resolved enough for us to be able to feel okay about leaving the mainland for 2 weeks.  And we signed the paperwork on the beach house.

Seaming is believing, my friends.  Seaming is believing. 

And Then There Were Two...

... sleeves, that is.  I've finally finished the second of Lotus' sleeves and got them both blocked.  All that remains is some seaming and a good bit of crocheting before this sweater becomes a reality.  I've slipped the completion deadline back a little bit because John has decided that for his birthday dinner he'd rather go someplace where he can have good Belgian beer than someplace where he has to dress up.  So now my finish date is sometime before we head to Kauai for a vacation (date still to be determined, but likely in July) because it seems like a sweater that would be very happy sipping Mai Tai's and watching the sunset over the ocean. 

Lotus Sleeve


20080503_LotusRuffle.jpgThe only problem with working a project on tiny needles, and being excited about the project and devoting much energy to it, is that it doesn't make for the most smashingly interesting blog discussion.  However, I am hoping that by being able to show continued progress in a relatively short period of time will be encouraging to anyone out there who is on the fence about this project because of the combination of small needles and crochet lace.  I'm now finished with the first sleeve and have started on the lace edging for the second sleeve.  I'd be farther along (maybe done with the edging for the second sleeve) if this weekend hadn't been more about gardening than about knitting, but early May is the time that those annuals need to go into pots if I hope to enjoy summer floral bounty later on.

The best thing about being done with the first sleeve is that there is only one major structural piece of the sweater left to go: the last sleeve.  Once the crochet lace is worked, the rest of it is pretty much smooth sailing and it will be time to block the sleeves and assemble the garment.

The sleeve is a small task compared to the final task after the assembly: crocheting the lace edging that goes all the way around the outer edge of the sweater.  In true Rowan style, they have you crochet the lace and then attach it to the garment.  Which isn't really that hard. But I'm considering actually just starting the lace on the body of the sweater and working it in the round to avoid both the seam that I would have to make to put both edges together -- and the possibility that it will be hard to ease an inelastic cotton lace piece around the garment.  Clearly I would have to do some figuring and work out the region of the pattern that has been adapted for flat crochet, and I'd have to work at making my numbers work out with the lace pattern and the distance around the garment.  But, Experienced Crocheters, am I missing something else that I should be considering?  Any advice, suggestions or general thoughts would be appreciated.

A Little More Lotus

The on and off rain we got all weekend didn't give me many good opportunities for photographs.  I spent most of my crafting time this weekend with Lotus and I made some small amount of progress on the sleeve.  I was thinking of not posting, but I thought a few out there might like to see how that long stretch of lace from Friday gets compressed into the most lovely frill for the sleeve.

20090426_LotusCuff2.jpgThe crochet lace in this project really has me thinking that I would like to try my hand at a crochet sweater sometime this summer.  Crochet really makes cotton and other "summer" yarns shine and in summer I love to have cotton sweaters for layering pieces in my normally chilly office.

 Is it just me or is the most recent issue of IK kind of boring?  I was looking forward to getting it and reading through it, but my reaction to it was really "Meh."  About the only project in it that grabbed my attention was the modular felted bag.  And I just can see myself doing that any time soon.  I know a lot of people complain about Vogue Knitting, but lately I've felt like it's presenting more interesting designs -- or at least designs that make me want to go back and look through the magazine again.   I know spring and summer are hard times for knitting magazines, so I'm hoping for better things from IK in the fall.

A Little Crochet Lace

One lace cuff. The lovely crocheted lace cuff that is the start of Lotus' sleeves.  Watching this cuff come together made me happy.  It took a long time, I couldn't work on it and read or watch TV, but watching the lace grow out of it just made me feel good.  It's so easy and so lovely.  Even the splitty yarn issues couldn't dull my enjoyment of watching it go from being a chain of 161 stitches to a full fledged piece of lace.

20090423_LotusCuffClose.jpgPretty, no?  And actually not that hard to memorize, in spite of how it might look.  But definitely time consuming -- or at least more time consuming that you might think, given that it's only 10 rows!

Now I'm all ready to get the knitting started for the first sleeve.  I'm beginning to feel like I might have a new sweater by June after all!

Pieces of Lotus

While I haven't had much to say about Lotus, it has not been because I haven't been working on it, rather because there is only so much that one can say about largish-pieces of white stockinette on tiny needles.   Well, I can say one thing: it went much faster than I expected, because the fronts are quite tiny!  I significant portion of the width in front is made up of the crochet lace edging, so the fronts take almost no time to knit at all (and are actually kind of fun with the shaping on both sides), even on the tiny needles.

Now that I have knit three pieces, I have more insight into the Fine Milk Cotton.  If you are the sort of person who is driven crazy by slightly uneven tension here and there, this yarn is not for you. I am not that sort of person, but even I could notice the places where the tension on the yarn I was carrying was not quite the same as it was in other places.   Will this make one whit of difference to someone seeing me wear the finished garment?  I doubt it, unless the viewer is another very very detail oriented knitter.    And since I was aware of some of the less pleasant behaviors of cotton yarn before I started knitting Lotus, I'm not particularly disturbed by the little flaws I see that are of this nature.

While the yarn makes a nice fabric, knitting with it can be a bit fussy.  It defines "splitty".  I was still able to knit a lot of this by touch, but if you're using sharp tipped needles you may find this yarn more frustrating.  And if your needles have any, even slight burrs or splinters, this yarn is going to catch on it.  Metal needles may be the best call.  I ended up using my Inox needles because I just couldn't find an Addi Turbo of the right size in my needle stash.

My quibbles about the yarn aside (I provide the details more so that others will have a bit of a review of the yarn, not really to discourage the knitting of it, more to prepare) I do like the fabric.  Even if I do have to make sure my hands are clean when I'm creating it (ah, the joys of light colored yarn!) and avoid eating anything greasy or dark colored!

I'm moving on to the sleeves now -- and this is where the fun begins, since the crochet edging is created and then the stitches are picked up from the edging for the body of the sleeve.  While I've knit crochet edges before, none have been as elaborate as the one in this garment, so this should really work out my crochet chops -- especially since the Rowan instructions use the English definitions of the stitches (no surprise, given where the publication is produced) and I will have to be constantly translating back into the American definitions when I follow the instructions. 

So far, so good. I'm happy with the progress I've made, and I'm happy to report that I've run into no problems in the instructions (at least not for the garment in my size).  Now I just need to find a 2.5 mm crochet hook...

Swatching for Lotus

Yeah, I know, it's just a swatch.  But when you're knitting on small needles with small yarn, getting a good swatch is a milestone. 

The desired tension for Lotus is 7.5 stitches/inch and about 9.5 rows/row.  After I got my hands on a pair of 2.75 mm needles, I cast on and promptly discovered that I didn't need them after all: too big.  So I switched to 2.5 mm needles.  Still no dice.  Finally, I hit my target (sort of) on 2.25 mm needles.  Wooo boy.  I'm going to knit an entire sweater on needles I would normally use for socks.

For the record (mostly my own) I got the following results from swatching:

2.75 mm needles: 7 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch
2.50 mm needles: 7.2 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch
2.25 mm needles: 7.5 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

I never really got the ideal row gauge, but, since the shaping in this garment is mild, I should be fine just knitting to the desired lengths.

After ripping out the work from the 2.75 mm needles, when it became clear that the 2.5 mm needles wouldn't be quite right either, I just knit a seed stitch band in the middle and then started with the 2.25 mm needles.  Probably not the best idea given the distortion of the swatch at the middle, but I think I was still, ultimately able to get a fair measurement.

The swatch didn't change at all after a warm soak.  I let it dry flat on a counter top instead of hanging because it's unlikely that I will wash this sweater and let it hang dry and I felt that the weight of the wet swatch drying would probably distort the fabric too much. 

The swatch has lovely stitch definition and is soft and smooth on the front and the back.  It has a nice, drapey, but not too loose quality about it that I think will make for a nice sweater. On the reverse stockinette side, you can see any hint of unevenness in my tension, but nothing really shows up on the right side, so the wrong side doesn't bother me at all. 

Overall the yarn was nice to knit with -- I found I could knit and read at the same time, so it's not hard to knit successfully just by touch.  However, this stuff does want to split, so I found it necessary to pay attention to edge stitches or stitches that were tight to make sure that I didn't split the plies -- which would definitely be visible in the fabric.

Of course, casting on has commenced, so in the not too distant future I'll be able to see how "honest" my swatch really was with me.

Lusting for Lotus

It has been a long, long time since I have picked up a knitting magazine and found a garment that I absolutely positvely without any hesitation must start knitting right this moment no matter what the cost or how small the needles.  So long, in fact, that I can't even remember the last time it happened.  But the minute I saw the cover of the new Rowan (Rowan 45) I knew that I must have that sweater now! And I had the yarn ordered from the UK less than 24 hours later.

Lotus lotus lotus.  I am obsessed with this sweater now.  So obsessed that when I discovered that it is knit on 2.75 mm (US Size 2) in cotton yarn it didn't cause even one iota of concern.  Yes, friends and neighbors, this is an adult woman's sweater knit at 7.5 stitches/inch in yarn with no elasticity.  And my only disappointment is that I do not appear to have a suitable circular needle in my collection on which to swatch. 

What would make a normally sensible knitter throw caution and her credit card to the wind (although, to be fair, with the current dollar/UK pound exchange rate the credit card was not unfairly exercised)?  It simply is meant to be my sweater.  The bell sleeves, the feminine shaping, the perfect amount of ease, the incredible crochet edging.  In this case, the fine gauge is a benefit, just adding to the delicate nature and sophistication of the garment.   This sweater could easily go to a wedding, a fancy restaurant or even just to work.  When I showed it to John, Hey, that's a really nice sweater.  You should make that.  And one final thing: when I look through all the sweaters I have made, my Rowan sweaters have been the ones that I am most proud of and like to wear.  They are often more work (and this one is definitely a "3 yarn ball" design) but I don't think I've ever felt like my work has been wasted.

The gauge would have been daunting to me 5 years ago.  But the longer I knit, the more I realize that there are really only a finite number of sweaters that I can own, wear and enjoy regularly, if only because at some point I will run out of places to store them.  Not only that, but I also am finding that as I get older, I become less and less excited by sweaters and garments knit with yarn heavier than DK weight.  I like the finer resolution of details and lower addition of bulk that comes from finer yarns. Finally, I just have less time to knit, so I really want every sweater I make for me "to count".  This sweater will likely take me some time, but if I hold myself to exacting standards for construction and finishing, I feel that I really will have a sweater that I will love and wear. 

The sweater is knit with Rowan Fine Milk Cotton, which is a new yarn to their line and which is composed of 30% milk protein and 70% cotton.  The yarn feels like nice cotton, soft and smooth and just a touch silky.  Just as inelastic as you expect cotton to be -- the milk proteins give it better hand, but don't give it any stretch -- at least not that I can tell before knitting it. 

I'm hoping to find that pair of 2.75 mm needles today so that I can get swatching and get knitting.  No matter how much optimism I have, there is only so much time, and I think it would be ever so nice to be wearing this sweater when I take my husband out for his special birthday dinner in June.

Overall, I think this Rowan is one of the better ones in my collection.  There are actually two mens sweaters that John would consider wearing and the colorwork is not all that crazy floral intarsia that they sometimes get crazy with. Several of the sweaters in the collection with Lotus also caught my eye.   There's also a huge shawl that is so gorgeous that it is making me want to renege on the promise I made to myself never to knit detailed lace in Kid Silk Haze ever again and is getting me to consider other yarns I have stashed to see if they would fit.  I think of all the recent knitting magazines I've gotten this is the one that won't just end up ignored in a magazine box.