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Aspinwell At Last

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20110102_AspinwellFront.jpgProject: Aspinwall, Interweave Knits, Winter 2009; size S & M
Yarn: The Fiber Company Terra, Main Color: Beet
Needles: As specified in pattern

I'm so happy to be finally sharing the finished pictures of this sweater. I started it early winter 2009 and thought I would have it finished before the winter ended.  But zipper insertion mojo evaporated and it wasn't until this holiday break that I got all the components together and the motivation to put them all together.  I'm glad I pushed my way through it (and I learned how to use the basting function on my Bernina), because the zip neckline and roll over collar are really flattering on John. And I'm not the only one happy with the finished result!

In order to make this sweater work well for John I started off with the lower half of the sweater in the small size (he's fairly narrow through the hips) and used the medium size for the body above the ribbing where his broad shoulders take over.  Those adjustments created just the right amount of ease for him all over, instead of swimming in a sweater that is just to wide at the bottom, which has been a problem in previous sweater attempts.

The Terra is a silk/wool blend with a lot of silk, so this yarn is light and warm (perfect for John) but lacks much in the way of elasticity. Also perfect because once I blocked the ribbing out a bit, it no longer has the unflattering clingy quality that would have made it a no go for my fella.

20110102_AspinwellSide.jpgOne thing it bears pointing out about Terra is that it is not a "polished" yarn.  It has thick and thin areas, an a very rustic quality about it and even within the same dye lot, the color should be considered to have the same kind of variability as hand dyed stuff (see the back shot of the sweater -- the darker ares in the ribbing are pooling, not shadows). I really like it, and the outdoorsy, manly tone it gives the garment, but if you consider this sweater and don't like the little slubby bits in the finished garment, you might be better off selecting a different yarn.  What remains to be seen for me is the durability of the sweater.  The yarn is wonderfully soft -- definitely against the skin soft, which is what made it worth the cost.  And I've always liked silk for the strength it brings to most yarns, but this yarn is relatively lightly spun, and it's not clear yet whether the wool will want to pill with wearing.

This sweater got it's first outing on New Years Day (here's to hoping that start as you wish to go on applies to my husband enjoying his hand knit sweaters), hanging out with family.  The sweater got compliments from John's younger (and *ahem* slightly more stylish) brother and good reception from others who were surprised that it had been made by hand.  What could thrill a knitter more than hearing her husband happily let people know that his wife had made him the sweater?

20110102_AspinwellBack.jpg I enjoyed making this sweater. It was a nice blend of two-color knitting, brioche stitch (which I will certainly be back to) and beautiful yarn.  I learned a little, pushed my skills in other areas and now have a "mold" for the kind of sweater my husband enjoys.  And even though the pattern may seem complicated at first blush, it was well written and easy to modify to suit my husband's shaping needs.  

Getting this sweater wrapped up on January 1 also works well with my "start as you mean to go on" thoughts at the beginning of 2011 -- I am still working my way through the many ongoing projects I have and hope to keep that going!

Happy New Years, Everyone!

Aspinwall Progress

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Well, well, well... most of the major knitting on Aspinwall is complete.  I need to pick up some stitches and knit up the collar, but that's the last element in this knitting adventure.  It doesn't even look like I'm going to have to get concerned about running out of yarn -- something I am almost always doing somewhere along the way when I knit a large project.

Once the chest band of two color knitting is done and the sleeves are attached, it's a pretty easy run to the finish line.  It's a bit bulky moving the thing around, but I'm happy to deal with the bulk to avoid dealing with a lot of seaming later on.   Which is not to say I executed perfectly on the top half... somewhere along the way I seem to have picked up (or not decreased) a couple of stitches.  I've looked over and over and I can't figure out where exactly it happened.  One is on one of the fronts, the other is in the back.  I could have ripped back and figured it out, but since the extra stitches don't seem to affect the look of the sweater, I've decided not to worry.  I think this is one of the benefits of working with a somewhat irregular yarn.  The presence of big slubby stitches here and there softens everything and your eye doesn't really look for perfection everywhere.

After the collar goes in, the only thing left is to find a zipper and sew it in and weave in the ends.  Keep your fingers crossed that John will be wearing this item before the end of the month!

Sleevage

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As John works his way through Mass Effect , I'm working my way through his sweater. it's actually quite a lot of fun watching someone play a cinematic video game on a ginormous movie screen.  The only bad part about it is that I have much more sweater to knit than he has game left to play.  It is perhaps a good thing that Mass Effect 2 is supposed to drop on January 26th.

  20100117_AspinwallSleeve.jpg Aspinwall is knit as a variation on a bottom up raglan.  It's knit in the round from the bottom to the the midsection, then both sleeves are knit and joined and the yoke of the sweater is knit up from there.   This is the first of two sleeves (the second is cast on, but not so interesting to look at, at this point), knit in the round on DP needles.  While I do like color work, I really don't like doing it on DP needles... so fussy keeping things moving.  I find myself constantly dealing with re-setting my yarn as I move from needle to needle.  But that's a relatively minor niggle. 

I really enjoyed reading the comments and suggestions on Friday's post.  I think I'm going to have to learn to take a few more deep breaths and remind myself that no matter what, once this phase is over, I will probably look back and miss something about it and not remember so much of the willful craziness.  We do try to give her choices about things, when we can. But somethings just don't come with choice options...  How do you explain to a naked two year old racing up and down the hall way that  diaper is a non-negotiable? 

Which is not to say that she doesn't surprise me, in a good way, sometimes.  On Saturday night, after fighting everything from her bath to her diaper to getting her pajamas on, she up and declared she wanted to go to bed -- before her normal bedtime.  Okay. Into bed she went.  Then she indicated she wanted a book.  Okay.  One book in bed with the kid.  And then she quieted down immediately and we didn't hear a peep out of her until morning. 

Clearly, parenting is a journey. 

An "A" for Aspinwall

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While I've been busy thinking about play area redesigns and diving into my Kindle, I've been getting a little bit of knitting in as well.  John has been playing Mass Effect and I figured there was nothing more appropriate than working on a sweater for him, while he played a game that was entertaining me.

20100110_AspinwallProgress.jpgWhen last I talked about swatching for this project, I indicated that I was having problems getting gauge.  In the end, I just decided that to get the row gauge required, the fabric would be too stiff and would likely consume way too much yarn.  So I settled on the 4.00 mm needles that the designer suggested because even though I didn't get row gauge (fewer rows/inch than suggested), I had a fabric that I liked.  And,all things considered, I decided that having the right fabric was more important than adhering to a strict gauge measurement, especially since the general instructions for the half brioche stitch section work out to "knit straight for a certain number of inches".  I did end up knitting about a half an inch more to compensate for lost length when the fabric is stretched to gauge, but that was easy enough.

I enjoyed knitting the two color band a great deal.  And it was even more rewarding for me when John took a look at it and said "hey, I like that"  (translation: I might actually wear this sweater).  I'm also very pleased with the way the colors work against the main colorway that I selected.

20100110_AspinwallDetail.jpgClearly, it needs to be blocked out a little bit.  Even once that happens, though, because the yarn is a a slubby yarn with a inconsistent "diameter" this pattern will still look a little more uneven than if I was working in a differently milled yarn.  But I think that the rusticity of the yarn adds a bit to the masculinity of the garment, makes it a little more comfy and casual, which fits well with John's aesthetic.

The sweater is worked in the round up to where the sleeves are joined.  Then the sleeves are worked and connected to the body to build the yoke of the sweater (it's kind of a bottom-up raglan construction).  Last night I cast on for the first sleeve.  Of course, even though I thought I had every size DP needle available, it turns out that I didn't have 4.00 mm needles.  A quick trip to the yarn store solved that problem (if you got Vogue Knitting this month, you can see a little article on Nina's) and got me on my way.  Of course, I didn't pay attention and the US 6 needles I bought were 4.25 mm instead of 4, but since it was only 2 inches worth of cuff knitting, I didn't see the point in worrying too much, especially since John likes looser cuffs anyway.

Beyond the status discussion, I am really enjoying working on this garment.  The half brioche stitch is an easy stitch to work with, the yarn has wonderful hand, and the colors are rich and saturated and very nice color therapy for the Chicago winter. The fabric is soft and friendly and I can tell John will enjoy having this fabric against his skin. I have also been pleasantly surprised to find that the deep red yarn does not bleed... in the past, I've had yarns in this color range be a little leaky, so it's nice not to have this yarn rubbing off on my hands.  It's also nice to be focused really on just one garment at the moment.  I promised John that he was going to wear this sweater before it started getting too warm out!

Wrapping Up the Week

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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!

Terra Swatches

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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!

Box of Terra

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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!

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