Recently in Tank Tops Category

Family Trees

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Today I am going to deviat from the usual knitting content to share the activities of last Saturday afternoon. John and I travelled to Ann Arbor to do two things: celebrate Father's Day with my dad and plant a tree.

Some day I will finish my "100 things about me list". One of the 100 things will be this little tidbit: John and I share the same wedding anniversary as my parents. It wasn't really planned that way. Back when we were planning our wedding we found a hall that we absolutely had to have. They had two Saturdays open for the whole year when we got there: Saturday August 22nd and Saturday October 31st. We didn't really want a Halloween wedding. It seems cool at first, but orange and black really weren't my first choice of colors. But August 22nd was my parents wedding anniversary. And it didn't seem right to take their day.

But as it turned out, Mom and Dad didn't have any problems sharing their day. John and I were married on their 34th wedding anniversary. And dad likes it because he never forgets the date. We've had several fun anniversary celebrations together, but this year, since it's their 40th anniversary, and they are taking a special trip to Hawaii, we decided to celebrate a little early and share in the purchase of an "anniversary tree".

John and I love trees, but our postage stamp sized yard is more or less dominated by the little Japanese maple that we bought. My parents, on the other hand, have 10 fabulous acres. Plenty of room for trees. Since we were going to plant on Father's Day, I invited my brother to get in on our little project. He and his wife were married a year ago at the end of May. So whatever tree we picked would represent 47 years of marriage. How cool is that?

What did we pick? Well, she won't show her stripes in an obvious way until next spring, but the newest denizen of my parent's domain is a Saucer Magnolia:

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Pink Saucer Magnolia Waiting for Her Forever Home

All the rain that we've had here in the midwest this spring has made my parents backyard so lush it's almost hard to tell there's a tree there. But "Maggie" is an 8 foot tall and very lovely speciment of her species. Once we got her unloaded, it was time to break ground. Dad got out one of his favorite new toys: the backhoe attachment for his John Deere tractor:

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Breaking Ground

Of course, it's really not possible for an engineer, no matter how much of a computer guy he is, to resist heavy machinery and digging holes. So after a quick lesson on the controls, John got involved in the digging too.

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John Prepares for a New Career in Construction

After they got the hole dug and got some nice new top soil to line the bottom of the hole, it was time to move Maggie to her new home. I bet you never knew how versitile a piece of equipment a tractor was!

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Maggie's Big Move

After a quick trip across the back yard, John and Dad and Ufer (the dog) got the tree all settled in.

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Maggie Settles In

Apparently one very loud any happy pheasant has decided that this tree was planted for him and is now coming out to crow underneath it. Seems like Mother Nature is happy with our planting adventure.

Just in case you were wondering what I was doing while all this hole digging and tree moving was going on, I was getting started on this:

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Confetti Tank

Yep, you knew if you waited long enough I would post some actual knitting content. Here's the bottom of the back of the microfiber ribbon tank, which I have taken to calling the "Confetti Tank" after the name of the colorway of the ribbon.

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Tank Top Stitch Pattern Detail

The colors are pooling a bit -- that red definitely likes to be with the blue -- but there's enough drift that I don't think it's going to be too bad. The picture shows the one repeat that I got in between the tree and dinner.

Why, you might ask, is that all I have to show since I had all of Sunday and a car-ride home? Well, another project managed to slip into my fingers and I just couldn't put it down. But I'll be back to this project soon. I think it will be perfect for the trip to San Antonio we have planned over the 4th of July weekend. I think the colors will go just smashingly with the fireworks!

Sheepy Souveneirs

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Thank you for all the compliments on my Biscotti top. It is definitely one of those projects that I am truly and completely happy with. I got to wear it again this weekend when we took my Dad out to dinner to celebrate Father's Day. The Biscotti top really does have all the elements I wanted it to have: it can go to work, but it's a little sexy; it can go out, but it can still be subtle; it has texture, but the texture isn't over the top. And the shaping is perfect. There's definitely something to be said for a pattern designed for the individual who is going to wear the garment.

We had a number of missions to take care of while we were in Ann Arbor. Most involved shopping for something (for instance, making sure that my mother got her very late Mother's Day present, a set of Denise needles that she can take on the airplane when she wings off to Hawaii for her 40th anniversary). One of our shopping trips took us to a lovely nursery full of wonderful annuals, perennials and other good plants -- even some pretty extraordinary bonsai trees. I was able to avoid most purchasing opportunities (except for one day lilly destined for a big pot on my deck) until I found this:

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Very Silly, Very Delightful Sheepy Whirligig

Sometimes, a girl just gotta get something silly in her life. What could be more silly than a metal sheep whirligig? Since I can't have a real sheep in the back yard, I thought this guy might be a good alternative.

(The trip to the nursery also involved the purchase of a gorgeous magnolia tree for Mom and Dad's yard, but that's a multi-picture story that will take more time than I have tonight to put together. Stay tuned.)

I also figured out what top project I wanted to tackle next -- the brightly colored tank top made out of the incredible microfiber ribbon that I bought from Tess' Designer Yarns at MSW. Winding this stuff into a ball was a little bit of a challenge, given it's eel-like slipperiness, but they put very helpful directions on the ball band to help you get going. I didn't think there was much more to learn about ball winding, but now I do know something handy -- turn your swift 90 degrees from it's normal angle when working with slippery yarns and wind by hand as tightly as you can and then stick the ball into a nice safe plastic sandwich bag.

I haven't had a lot of good swatching luck lately. The pattern recommends US size 6 needles (4.0 mm) to get gauge. I ended up on US size 9 (5.5 mm, I think). The good thing about this yarn though, after ripping out my swatch 3 times, it still looked fresh and happy in my final swatch. Which you can see below:

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Tess Microfiber Ribbon Yarn Swatch -- Click the Picture to See the "wrong" side of the swatch

The main pattern stitch is mostly reverse stockinette. If you click the image, you can also see the stockinette side, which I think is quite neat as well. Sometimes hand dyed stuff just doesn't give you nice intervals, even when the colors look lovely together. This stuff (the Confetti colorway) is just as lovely knit up as it is in the hank -- and it smells good as well! I'd love to know what they use to wash this stuff after dying it.

Biscotti Top Round Up

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I realized after I posted yesterday that I didn't really give this project a proper completion party. So now that I have a few shots of me in the top, I think it's time to put together a more impressive send off.

Before I get to the pictures, let me state the particulars: the yarn for this top is ArtFibers Biscotti in the "Shadowbox" colorway -- a mix of black, blue, green and brown. This yarn is referred to as "bead chain" and is 100% Nylong/Microfiber. At close to recommended gauge, it knits up into a lovely drapey fabric. I should mention that all of the yarns that ArtFibers sells are custom made and dyed for them. And when you buy from ArtFibers, they will help you custom design a garment meant to be perfect for you. This top was designed after I swatched in the store and worked with one of the wonderful friendly store employees. Before I left the store, I was told that they offer the same services to their online buyers -- you just have to give them measurements and guidlines for the shaping and style. And they are happy to mail out samples so that you can swatch in the comfort of your own home. So you don't have to go to San Francisco to get personalized attention and a custom garment!*

From a picture taking perspective, it was probably unfortunate that I chose such a dark colorway, so you'll have to use your imagination as far as the texture and color details are concerned. But I hope these shots will give a good sense of the fit and shape of the garment.

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Front
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Side
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Back

I'm pretty much in love with this yarn and this top. The fabric is soft and drapey and the top is comfortable and a little sexy without being dramatically revealing. To test out the "go to work" aspects of the top, I did, in fact, wear it to work. The top and I both had a great day. I haven't noticed any adverse gravitational effects, nor did it snag easily. And all my woven in ends stayed in place too, in spite of the fact that Biscotti is a tad slippery.

One question came up in my comments yesterday -- why didn't I do this top in the round? The answer is: structure. Since I didn't know this yarn very well, I was concerned that knitting the garment in the round would leave it without any good structural side seams and the garment would bag or lose its shape. (In addition to the side seams, the neckline and armhole ribbing also do a very nice job of adding structure). A second reason was that I knit my swatch flat and I would have had to re-swatch for an in the round project. And finally, I wanted a portable project. This project was easier to schlep around in pieces than it would have been all in one piece, and it was nice to have the seams to tuck some ends into.

What did I learn?

  • Seams can be a good thing.
  • Knitting collars and armhole edging flat has some advantages. For one, it kept my tension looser and that meant that I was able to get the top over my head. No unpleasant ripping!
  • Dynamic texture hides all manner of ills, and in particular, makes seams almost invisible. Especially in a dark fabric.
  • This yarn is no fun to seam with, but it's worth the payoff if you do, since the color and texture match perfectly (of course).
  • Biscotti will snag if you catch it on things like ragged fingernails or other things with jagged edges. You do have to be a little careful when knitting with it. It's tough stuff though. Don't expect to break a strand of this stuff without scissors.
  • This top is going to be a nice wardrobe addition. It's dressy enough for work, but not so dressy that it can't go out and play a little bit. And it goes ever so well with my favorite black pearl pendant!

I was going to add "don't be afraid to try texture" but at this point, that's a lesson I've long since learned and taken. I love yarns with their own special texture. Yarns where even "simple stockinette" looks neat because the yarn adds it's own extra dimension.

I had a great time at our KIP tonight. So nice to be done with school and able to take time to go do some more knitting things. Most of what I did was swatch. I really like the Phil Ruban, but I think I am going to have to try to get another skein... as much as I might like to, I don't think I am going to be able to squeeze myself into a top that is 32 inches around. I'm thinking I might add a stripe of a contrasting color to the top I want to make. Now I'm just going to have to find another skein of the stuff somewhere... Hmmm...


*And for anyone who is interested, these patterns are created with the help of a neat program called Knitware Design. I got to see the program in action and I was pretty impressed. The schematics the software creates are really great! I'm a sucker for great schematics, and I'll likely be buying a copy soon, myself. And there's even a demo that you can download if you want to check it out.

Finished Biscotti

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Finished Biscotti Top

I rushed home from work today to finish the last seam on my Biscotti top so I would have enough light to take an outdoor shot. This picture actually does capture the top quite well in terms of color. I took some detail shots of the neckline, sleeves and my lovely side seams, but they weren't particularly enlightening. You'll just have to trust me when I tell you that the collar is an inch of K1P1 rib and the armhole finishing is about a half inch of the same, and that you can hardly tell that the top wasn't knit in the round.

So what about an action shot? Well, there was enough light for the pictures I took, but not enough light to fully change and and get pictures of the top. So I'll have to wait to do the official photo shoot tomorrow. But when I did try it on, it got a thumbs up from the hubster (I also discovered that I'll always have to remember to wear a dark colored bra underneath). The top definitely looks like it was perfectly matched to my shape. Which it was. Score one for the friendly helpful folks at ArtFibers in San Francisco who put the pattern together for me.

I definitely think I'll be tackling the Phil Ruban top next... as soon as I figure out how to translate this lovely pattern that I have. Kinda sad when I can't even figure out what pattern stitch I need to use in order to do a gauge swatch! Maybe it's time to invest in that book that helps translate knitting abbreviations...

One Side Seam from Victory

I would post a picture, but it wouldn't look much different from last night, except now there is a neckline and armhole edging on the Biscotti top. Biscotti isn't a problem to knit with, but the nubby bits make it a little less pleasant to finish with. Normally I would just be going crazy trying to get the second side seam sewn up so that I could try on my new garment, but one side seam proved enough for me today. I'll tackle the second one tomorrow.

Now, you might be asking why I would be so foolish as to decide to do my seaming with the Biscotti instead of another yarn. Well. I did think about it for quite some time. And the problem I kept running into was that the fabric the Biscotti knits up into has a very open breezy texture. Any yarn that I use to seam is going to show up. So the best way to keep my seaming yarn invisible was simply to fight my way through seaming with the Biscott.

And, to be fair, my effort, so far, has paid off. Because of the all-over-the-place texture of the Biscotti it's almost impossible to tell where the seam is. I'd take a picture, but dark yarn at night is dark yarn at night, and no amount of fancy photography will make it any more interesting. Hopefully tomorrow will bring full victory!

And if you haven't taken a look recently, there's been a lot of interesting stuff going on over in the Audrey blog!

Biscotti Top Front

Well, I think it's fair to say that summer has arrived here in Chicago. Those who were here last week would probably tell me that it's been here a while. I mark the start of summer by the first day on which I think we should turn on the air conditioner. We're perilously close to that day today. Though it does seem to be cooling off enough tonight for us to hold off for another day.

One good thing about this weather, it is very inspirational for adding tank tops to my wardrobe. Sometimes I forget how quickly projects without sleeves work themselves up.

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Biscotti Tank Top Front

Here's the finished front of the Biscotti top. I think I am going to like the neckline. There's also going to be an inch wide neckband, which will add a little more girth to those shoulder straps. I'm working on the neckband right now, which may mean that I get the armholes and final seeming done tomorrow.

And then what will I start? Another tank top of course! The big question is going to be which one? I have some lovely Phil Ruban that I've been looking forward to knitting with, some pretty shiny ribbon from Tess Designer Yarns and the ArtFibers Mousse that came back with me from San Francisco. Right now the Phil Ruban is calling my name the most loudly. After the Biscotti top, I think it is going to be time for something bright and happy!

Textured Tank Top

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One of my purchases while I was in San Francisco was a bit of ArtFibers Biscotti with which to make a tank top that could cross over from worktime to playtime. I've been getting a lot more serious lately about picking out yarns and designs that can go to work. Because, let's face it, if it can't go to work, it's not going to have very many days of possible wear. And who wants to make something wonderful and then leave it in the closet?

With that in mind, when I went to ArtFibers I tried to select yarns and colors -- as well as designs and shapes -- that could do double duty. I loved the texture of the Biscotti, and chose a dark colorway. It looks almost black at first, until you get close up, and see the greens, browns and blues.

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Click the Pic For a Close-Up of the Biscotti Texture

This is the back of the top. It's a shaped top that pinches in a little bit at the waist. The "hem" of the top will fall just at hip level. The top will have a shallow ballet neck line (similar to the neckline of the Phil'Onde sweater I just completed) with "shoulder straps" and shallow armholes that are undergarment friendly. Because the texture and color are complex, the garment and construction are simple. The only details are an inch or so of garter-stitch at the hemline and a little bit of ribbing around the neckline to give it a little extra structure.

Biscotti is a quick knit yarn -- this project is on US size 10.5 needles -- and I'm already half-way done with the front. I could have myself a nice new top by my trip to Ann Arbor this coming weekend for Father's Day if everything works out.

P.S. to anyone who has sent me email in the last week or so... I am way way way behind on my email correspondance. I'm hoping to work my way through my inbox this week...

Zodiac Halter Show and Tell

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Well, here's the moment of truth -- the unveiling of the Zodiac Halter Top on my frame. Here are the "serious" shots, meant to show how the fit and finish came out. Please excuse my funky looking skin and hair. It's been a warm day and I've spent most of it scratching my head in front of a computer.

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I think it's pretty clear from the back and the side shot that there is a little rippling action that's not terribly desirable. I'm going to darn all the ends in and dump this baby in the wash to see if I can't get things to tighten up a little bit.

It is comfortable to wear -- nothing feels too exposed and the Zodiac is pretty smooth against the skin.

Of course, this whole photo shoot wouldn't be complete with out a few hair swinging shots, so here you go....Every knitter should have a photographer this great!

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So what's next? I spent some time working on Charlotte tonight -- only two more bands to go! I really should finish Charlotte and Pebbles before starting on anything else. However, I've got these size 8 AddiTurbos free now and a couple of fall sweaters that want to go on them. And that lace scarf from Blackberry Ridge... hmmm...

Zodiac Halter Finsihed

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It's for real this time -- I think I am finished (well, finished except for sewing 3-4 ends). My fashion photographer had to take care of some other business this morning, so the real photo shoot won't happen until later tonight.

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Because of the potential loss of elasticity, I decided to attach the back without blocking. Here's what it looks like:

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I decided to change the back from being P2 K2 ribbing at just the sides to being P2 K2 ribbing all across the back. When I needed to decrease or increase I did it in what would be the purl grooves on the right side of the work. I also shifted down from the medium size (17.5") to the small size (16") for the back in hopes of shoring up some of the extra fabric that I had the first time. It was my hope that the combination of ribbing and a narrower fabric and no blocking would eliminate the looseness I experienced the first time.

Here's a shot of the back the first time so you can see the difference in how they looked (I actually did a little more than twice as much ribbing as called for in the pattern):

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The modeling shots will be up later, but I will say that while I was happier with this than the previous fit, I still don't think it's perfect. However, at this point, I don't think ripping and re-knitting will solve the problem. I will pass on some words of advice to those who haven't started this project yet, but want to -- and don't mind getting a little unsolicited advice.

  1. Shorten the pattern a little bit if you are short-waisted like me. I think part of the reason that it rolls a little in back has to do with the fact that it hits and falls over my hips. The shaping isn't bad, it's probably just not the best for me. Especially when you combine the shaping with the fact that cotton is heavy and inelastic and submits to the force of gravity.
  2. Change the back, even if you're not short-wasted. I'd recommend ribbing all the way across the back, but there are probably other ways to go as well. You can match a smaller back with a larger front because all the backs are knit to the same height, and have the same shaping, it's just the starting width that changes.
  3. If you block, block minimally until after the project is done. Once you wet and stretch that cotton out, it's definitely not going anywhere.
  4. Try it on before you get all your ends woven in and tied down. It's a lot easier to undo/re-do if you need to fuss with it.
  5. Consider starting with K2 P2 ribbing on the right side instead of P2 K2. The effect won't be that different and you'll save yourself some frustration at the end. I found seaming up purl edges to be time consuming and I didn't get as neat a seam as I would have liked because my purl edges are never as neat as I would like them

And what was I knitting on the way to the fiber festival? My Dad's Lo Tech sweat, of course. The fall running season is almost here so I need to get cracking! Here's the back so far. Have I mentioned that I love knitting with this yarn?

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Shrinking and Thinking

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Well... good news and bad news... the good news is that I got the halter top seamed up and that my husband's first words when he saw the front were "Oh! I like that!".

The bad news? The back is hopelessly too wide. I probably shouldn't have blocked it before seaming it. So now it is back on my blocking board kind of bunched up and wet, and I'm hoping that the ribbing will pull things back in enough to make it better.

Otherwise... it's going to be ribbing all the way across the back and I'm gonna be doing a whole lotta frogging. Bummer.

I think to make myself feel better I am going to swatch my Giotto....yum!

Zodiac Halter Knitting Finished!

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No pictures until later today -- I literally finished the back and got it to the blocking board right before running off to work today. The back is blocking as I type. It's kind of humid in Chicago right now, so I knew that if I didn't get the blocking started before this evening I probably wouldn't be able to get the garment all seamed up in time for tomorrow and my big trip the the

Michigan Fiber Festival

Should be a pretty awesome trip. I'm driving out with ChicKnits Bonnie Marie and meeting up with Julie so that we can all run amok amidst the incredible fibers and furry creatures. We're hoping to meet up with Lynn and any other bloggers who are going to be there.

If you're going to be there, drop me and email and I'll send you my mobile number so we can all meet up spontaneously at the fair ground.

Zodiac Halter Back

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Thanks to everyone who left nice comments yesterday -- I'm quite excited about the top so far and it's really nice to get so much encouragement. It's exactly what I need to help me get through the back, which doesn't have as much visual or knitting interest as the front. I got about 4-1/2 inches done last night (out of 14 inches total). And really, anyone can knit this little number up fast -- the front only used up about 3-1/2 skeins of the yarn (there's 90 m on each Zodiac skein) for the medium size.

I'm modifying the pattern just a little bit. I'm not the only blogger who has decided to work on this one this summer, Michelle at My Knitting and Great Danes also tackled this project. Based on her reports that the back was a little loose fitting, I decided to extend the ribbing a little bit farther around to give the back a little more elasticity. (There's only 2 knit ribs on either side in the original). I thought about doing it all the way across the back, but couldn't figure out a really good way to make the increases and decreases work out in the subtle way they are when there's a panel of non-ribbing in the back. Hopefully the ribbing will give it enough elasticity to pick up some of the slack in the back.

For anyone who would like to know, the pattern is Karabella KK201 (you can find it if you go to their website, select "patterns", and "Zodiac Solid" -- it's the first pattern). I bought it from the lovely people at School Products. I don't think the yarn or the pattern is listed on their website. You can call them at 1-800-847-4127. They are an extremely friendly bunch and will help you do everything from pick the color yarn to making sure you have enough to complete the pattern. When I bought the yarn, they included the pattern for free.

Oh, and as to trying to mimic the model... I've talked to my chief fashion photographer and he's up to the challenge. He's pretty interested in this top, too!

Halter Neckline

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Slow night tonight. Not such great day at work and kind of a blue evening. I probably should have picked up my knitting sooner than I did, because it did make me feel better to accomplish something. I knit the 2 remaining inches and then Kitchenered the ends together. Pretty neat. Something else I'll have to put in my knitting play book for the future. I've Kitchenered sock toes, but never worked with it in any other kind of garment. The cotton isn't very forgiving though. I ripped it out a couple of times before I got something that I liked.

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Pretty spiffy! Came out better than I thought it would. The pattern has you slip stitches on all the edges once you get to the neckline and it definitely helps make for a smoother edge.

Off to the blocking board I go!

Ambitious Zodiac

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Yesterday I looked at my top after one cable interval of progress and looked at the calendar and realized that I needed to be a little more ambitious. After all, come September, we can expect the beginning of cooler weather here in Chicago. If I wanted to wear this little top more than once, I needed to work faster.

I talked to my wrists... asked them how they felt about the top. They thought they would look great in it and that they were willing to work a little overtime to get it ready. And this morning, they feel fine, so they lived up to their end of the bargain. There's just a little bit more to go before I Kitchener the top edges together and start on the back. I'm hoping to have it done by the time I go to the Michigan Fiber Festival on Saturday. I know I don't need a sexy halter top to see sheep and fiber, but hey!

Julie and I will be there on Saturday. We're trying to find a good place to meet up and hopefully meet up with other Great Lakes area bloggers. Please leave me a comment or drop me an email if you're going to be there & I'll let you know what we're planning!

Omnivorous Knitting

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My slow work with the halter continues. I thought about getting wild and doing another cable interval yesterday, but then my wrists reminded me why that wouldn't be such a good idea. I'm quite enamoured of this simple cable pattern, however. If you want to take a look at a closeup, click here.

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After the halter, I switched my attention back to Charlotte's Web for the first time in a long time. Probably because I had enough peace and quiet to do the repetitive counting that I need to do to maintain lace patterns. Those of you who are familiar with Charlotte know that the basic pattern is 18 repetitions of the primary lace panel, divided up into 2-repetition stripes, which alternate between a solid color (or as solid as Koigu gets) and alternating stripes of two colors. I'm halfway through the 4th solid color stripe, which means that I am actually starting to come down the home stretch. At this point there are ~220 stitches on my needles. By the time it's done there will be greater than 300 stitches. Fortunately, the lace pattern is fairly easy to memorize, and Koigu is a joy to knit with.

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By around eleven or so, my brain isn't usually functioning well enough to cope with lace patterns so I decided to switch off onto another wooly project, Dad's LoTech Sweat. The perfect knitting to end the day with -- simple but satisfying. I love the way this wool is knitting up. My stitches are even, the fabric is soft and dense, and even the purl side looks great. Just makes me happy, even though it's simple stockinette.

When I was in the lab, I always liked to have several projects moving at once. That way, if I got stalled with one of them, there was always something to do. These three projects work well together, given their yarn and complexity levels.

I took the marquee tags off my works in progress list. Those tags don't seem to be equally compatible with all browsers, plus, I discovered that it was annoying to me to wait to see them come by. Of course, I was surprised to see how big the whole list has gotten.

It's a good thing a lot of the projects I have waiting in the wings are done on size 8 needles... means I have to wait to free up my AddiTurbos, which are fast becoming my only needles. Working with bamboo just seems to slow for me now that I have my Addis.

Progress

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Slow but steady wins the race -- hopefully! I got past my third cable iteration and started on the first set of shaping increases with the halter. While I am still not falling desperately in love with the yarn, the more I knit, the more I like the way the top itself is coming out.

I also started something new to fulfill my need for a simple, fun wooly project:

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Here's the bottom of the back of the ChicKnits Lo Tech Sweat done in Schoeller Esslinger Merino Light. (Check here, too, for some of their upcoming yarn offerings). The color is Denim. Merino Light is a 100% merino wool yarn. It's also superwash, which is what I wanted. It's a pretty respectable match for Mission Falls 1824 wool. It knits up big and squishy and soft and definitely makes my hands happier than the Zodiac does.

Last but not least, please feel free to check out my newest site addition -- Links to Yarn Manufacturers and Distributors (you can find a permanent link under my "knitting info" panel in the right hand bar). Of course, it is not all inclusive, but I am going to work towards making it that way. Email me if you find a link that doesn't work, have a company that should be added, or know a link for one of the companies that I couldn't find a link for. It's meant as a personal resource, but I'm happy to share!

Zodiac: 2nd Interval

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I'm finding it a little hard on my hands to knit a lot of this top at once, so I'm going to shoot for doing one cable interval a day. In the mean time, I'm getting back to some wooly adventures.

I've started swatching the Schoeller Esslinger Merino Light and so far I am very pleased. It appears to knit up to 18/24 on US size 8 (bamboo) for me. What I really like is that it creates a thick, soft fabric that will be perfect for the pattern it's going into -- Bonnie Marie Burns of ChicKnits Lo Tech Sweat. It's going to be a Christmas present for my health conscious Dad -- something that he can go out running in in the winter and throw in the washer.

My only beef with this yarn so far is that my first ball is a little barf globby (thanks to Wendy for that useful and descriptive term). Otherwise, so far, so good.

Zodiac

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Well, I'm giving St. Tropez a little vacation until I can get to a yarn store and see if I can find any embellishments that will make a difference. Something tells me that those bulldog clips Emma mentioned in the comments to my last post won't make the fashion statement I'm looking for, and I've been told that there's no budget for unnecessary surgery.

One thing I can say about not having a project come out exactly the way I would like, it gets me even more motivated to get started on something else that I can try to make perfect.

Now, I've tried to gauge swatch the Karabella Zodiac that I have twice before. Once on the recommended size needles and once on a size higher. Apparently the designer for the halter and I have radically different knitting styles because I had to go up two needle sizes to hit gauge. Once again, I'm back to my faithful AddiTurbos. Here's the results of tonight's efforts:

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I have a feeling this is going to go a little slower than I want it to. For one, while I like the feel of the Zodiac, it's still cotton and it just doesn't move as fast as wool. For another, it likes to twist, so I have to stop all the time and let the yarn relax. And finally, also because it's cotton, I have to pay a little bit more attention to the tensioning to make sure that my stitches don't end up uneven across the fabric, and cabling across 6 stitches with a totally inelastic yarn is not really a lot of fun (even though I think the look will be worth the effort).

Besides those reasons, I'm beginning to get a little cottoned out. Even though it's warm, I am missing the feeling of wool fibers. Charlotte is raising her voice to be heard from my knitting basket and I have some wool for a project for my dad that is crying out to be swatched -- 25 skeins of Schoeller Esslinger Merino Light in Denim from Elann. I know I shouldn't start another project... but merion has a very soothing voice. For me, merino yarns have voices like Barry White.

Ambivalence

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Here it is all seamed up. Word to the wise -- don't try to seam St Tropez with itself, it's like trying to pull two pieces of velcro past each other. It looked pretty decent on the hanger, so I was looking forward to trying it on for size.

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I want to stop here and make the comment that I blocked this top to the measurements in the book. If you check out this entry you can see that the top looks a lot more fitted on the model, and the straps look a good deal narrower (they were also blocked to the correct size). As I look back and forth between the pattern and the picture, I'm just not sure that I think the shaping they describe will get you to a fit like the one in the picture.

My version of this tank is definitely much looser and drapier. Given that I think my gauge was pretty close, I was expecting something with a little spiffier fit. Perhaps by leaving out the Brilla I changed the shaping? Maybe I should try blocking it again? Maybe I should look into breast enlargement surgery? I'm definitely not going to entertain ideas of ripping... this stuff is like mohair and doesn't really want to be ripped out.

On the positive side, as long as it's a demi, I can wear a bra underneath it. And the fabric feels fine against my skin. It's definitely light and airy and there's no problem with "breathability". And it is most certainly wearable -- it just wasn't what I was expecting it to be.

I like the texture of the St. Tropez, but I don't think I would recommend this pattern to anyone without some modification. I probably wouldn't do the increases in the pattern (they add an inch to the width) -- I might even consider some gentle shaping at the waist.

So what next? Either the Woodstock lace camisole from this summer's IK or the Karabella Zodiac halter. But before I can get started, a little swatching must ensue.

St. Tropez to Completion

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2 Skeins:

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3 Skeins:

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Finished:

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The take home message from this project: don't trust Filatura's yarn requirements, get yourself some extra buffer yarn if you decide to do a pattern from this book. I needed a reasonable amount of yarn from a 4th ball of St. Tropez to finish off the front of this top. Granted, it is possible that my gauge was not exact. It seemed pretty close, but it's a little hard to tell with the St. Tropez.

In fact, it's hard to tell a lot of things with this yarn. Can you tell whether this is the right side or the wrong side (the right side is stockinette)?

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Can you tell that I accidentally switched from knitting on the right side to purling on the right side in this picture? If you can, you've got better eyes than me. I've got the fabric in front of me and really can't tell unless the light hits it the right way. St. Tropez is pretty much the ultimate in error hiding yarn. Even though I can't tell, this piece will probably become the back (where I can definitely pretend it's all knitted correctly).

I did get to try out a new technique for this top -- knitting backwards. For the straps, you are working back and forth with either end of the ball of yarn (one for each strap) and it gets to be kind of painful to turn the thing back and forth for knitting and purling, esp. since there are ony 7 stitches. So I pulled out my Winter 2002 copy of Vogue Knitting, which had an article on knitting backwards. Very handy. I wouldn't use it for everything (because I can purl faster than I can do this), but it sure is a nicer way to deal with narrow areas.

Here's a few places you can go to find instructions for this technique. Try here, and here (pictures) and here (mpeg movie) if you don't have the issue of Vogue Knitting.

Julie and I did a little yarn store hopping yesterday: Flying Colors in Clarendon Hills and Have Ewe Any Wool in Elmhurst. Even I am finding it hard to believe, but all I bought were the new Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits, Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton's Noro Collection and one size 4 Inox circular needle. The Hamilton book is definitely worth taking a look at if you get the chance. The cover sweater is definitely on my "to do" list, assuming I can find the Noro Iro at a reasonable price.

St Tropez, Skein 1

My 4th Filatura summer top has begun in earnest. Here's the progress from the first skein:

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Yep, I know, it's very exciting 18" x 7" of stockinette (I've actually managed to get a few more inches done since the picture was taken a couple of hours ago). So far, so good, however. This stuff doesn't knit up too badly. I have to watch it a little more than non-boucle type yarn, but I still had no problem cruising around the blog ring and working on this piece. I do like the drape of the fabric as it is knitting up. It's not a terribly elastic fabric, however, and even though I am knitting to gauge, I have a feeling that the top will end up a little looser than it looks on the model. I'm thinking I've got a good chance of getting the back finished this weekend and having a good start on the front by the time Monday rolls around.

I am beginning to tire a little of cotton-based yarns, however. Which is not so good, given that I have two more of them to go before the summer's done.

I got a chance to duck into a Borders on Wednesday night, and I was hoping to find the new Interweave Knits or Vogue Knitting.

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I pretty much struck out on both counts with the magazines, but I did finally decide to pick up Nancie Wiseman's The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques. This is one of those books that I've picked up and put down a number of times, mostly because I kept telling myself that I already knew how to do mattress stitch, and I had a copy of the Vogue Knitting Bible. But after paging through it again I decided I liked both the illustrations in the book and the author's attempt to provide hints about when -- and when not -- to use a particular technique. It goes way beyond mattress stitch. It also has the extra added advantage of being a lot more portable than the big Vogue book.

Julie and I are heading off to Flying Colors in Clarendon Hills tomorrow to check out another Chicagoland store that we haven't visited yet and to engage in a little retail therapy (we'll be there around noon for anyone who might like to join us). My goal is to be good and not indulge in too much (or any) new yarn, but I know I will probably cave in over something. I've been thinking that I might like to try Julie's felted bag pattern in some fall colored Kureyon, and I need some US size 4 Addis...

St. Tropez

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So what's up next? Well, in my continuing efforts to be a poster-child for Filatura di Crossa novelty yarn, I swatched up some St. Tropez that I purchased from Elann when it showed up not to long ago at a price I was unable to say no to (I'm slowly but surely edging my way towards that $500 mark). The color you see above is color #104 - primarily a rich blue spectrum red with flecks of pink, brown, black, gold and mauve. This yarn is 40% cotton, 40% viscose, 10% acrylic and 10% polyamide.

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I think you can describe this yarn as a boucle style yarn with a few short cotton eyelashes thrown in for good measure. What appeals to me most is its texture.

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The swatch was done in stockinette 16 stitches wide, 22 rows to 4" x 4". I did this swatch twice -- after the garter stitch edging I initially used on it flattened it down and made it difficult to get a good gauge measurement. It's still not easy to see the stitches, which I predict will either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how easy it is for me to drop them -- I usually love yarns whose textures hide flaws since I don't enjoy ripping very much.

I knit up the swatch on my US 8 (5.0) AdditTurbos -- I thought it would catch too much on my bamboos or my Denise needles. As always, my Addis came through for me. The project I am going to do with this yarn only takes three skeins (supposedly) and I'm curious to see how well I'll like it after I'm done. The yarn flows through my hand well enough, but likes to get caught on itself, making tensioning a little more effort. Also, it's really easy to knit into the stich below, or pick up something that shouldn't be picked up. But sometimes you have to make sacrifices for fun texture.

So what is it I am going to make? Well, here comes pattern number 4 from the Filatura di Crossa Spring/Summer 2003 book (BTW... their new fall patterns are out... click here to go to their website and check them out. I think I am going to need to pick up the Stacy Charles Fall 2003 book sometime soon.)

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I'm going to cast on for this top tonight. The only thing I will be doing differently is that I will be leaving out the stripes in the yoke area. Call me cheap, but I just wasn't willing to go out and spend another $8 on a skein of yarn for a few thin stripes. Mine will be solid St. Tropez. I'm hoping that it will knit up in the "wicked fast" category so that I can enjoy it soon and have a chance to work on a couple more summer tops.

As an aside... I wore my Tai top to work today... this is definitely going to be a favorite for me. It held its shape well and feels really nice against my skin. It breathes pretty well, too. Probably the only problem I had was that it does snag when it comes in contact with things that can hook it -- like my rings -- so I need to pay attention to what I am doing when I wear it.

Brilla Top

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Here's tank top number two from the Filatura di Crossa Spring/Summer Collection 2003. The tank top is made out of Filatura di Crossa Brilla, color 388. I love this color because it's got enough blue in it to go well with my skin color and depending on the lighting, it looks blue or grey. It has a lovely iridescence that is hard to tell from photos (except for the fact that it is very hard to see stitch detailing when you have to use a flash).

Brilla's a Cotton/Viscose blend and it has a very nice smooth feeling against the skin (important because this top is not completely bra-friendly, given the strap positioning. I found it easy to knit with as well. It can split, but only if you work at it. It says it's handwash. I suspect that when I need to, this top will go into the gentle cycle on my machine.

Right now, I am a total fan of this Filatura pattern book. Both patterns that I have done from it have provided rapid gratification. Not only that, but I have found the instructions to be relatively clear and easy to follow -- and the end product quite satisfying. Good for beginners and easy for more experienced folks. My only complaint is their yardage estimates. I think that they are not at all generous enough. I had scraps of yarn from the first project I did, and if I hadn't modified this pattern a little, I think I would have run into the same problem.

Fortunately, the modifcations that I made were to make the shape of the top a little more compatible with my shape. I shortened the body of the top by an inch so that I didn't get too much drape over my hips, which usually isn't too flattering for me. I also changed the edging on the armholes.

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The pattern calls for a row of single crochet and a row of reverse single crochet around the neck and armholes. I left it around the neck, but removed it completely from the arm holes. Even after agressive blocking, the armholes still rolled on the edges with the crochet. I just didn't like it. (You can see a little bit of the rolling behavior on the neckline). When I took it out, I decided that the armholes didn't really need any edging, at least in my opinion. I also felt that the crochet edging took away from the cable detail, which was why I liked the top in the first place

This last shot shows the top off in profile. I don't suppose I really need to post another shot, and the colors aren't terribly accurate, but I also just like the picture for some reason I can't quite put my finger on.

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What's up next.... well, Elann.com has gotten me hooked twice this week... once on some Tai and today on some St. Tropez... so I'll be doing at least two more tops out of the Filatura book, along with working on Charlotte.

Other news... I had the pleasure of getting to meet one of my knitting neighbors -- Bonnie Marie Burns of ChicKnits, who happens to share a Chicago neighborhood with yours truly. She and Julie and I all met up at Letizia's Natural Bakery on Division tonight for a little knitting and chatting get together. What a great evening! It was definitely a pleasure to meet and knit a while with Bonnie Marie (and it's always fun to hang out with Julie!). I love having interesting and inspiring creative neighbors!

Haut de Cagne

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Yep, I'm back! I had a wonderful time in France, and would definitely recommend Nice and its surroundings to others thinking about a European vacation spot.

Our trip started out in Haut de Cagne -- one of the medieval "perched villages" that sits on one of the hills above the Mediterranean to the west of Nice (the website link is in French, but you don't need to speak French to enjoy the lovely pictures of the town). We stayed at a bed and breakfast "Les Terrasses du Soleil" and were treated to an extremely pleasant and peaceful start to our vacation.

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The Bougainvillea that you see in this picture was a hallmark of Haut de Cagne. Everywhere we went in this little village we found huge sweeps of vivid magenta and green.

The picture on top of this post is the view we had from the large terrace attached to our room. I got to work on Charlotte's Web, inspired by this view. Here's how far I got on Charlotte while we were there:

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Actually, this is how far I got on Charlotte during the whole trip. Most of the work was done in Haut de Cagne because we did a few long walks and touristy things, but mostly focused on relaxing. For me this meant Charlotte, for John this meant a lot of Civilization III: Play the World.

I'll should probably mention now that that John and I are not very good at remembering to take pictures on our vacations... so if you want to see more of what things looked like where we stayed, check out the links I put in.

But we did do more than knit and play video games. Here's a picture of me (with my wonderful daypack) trying to work out my rudimentary French skills in the Chateau Grimaldi -- a castle/museum that was built ~1300 AD that is the center of Haut de Cagne:

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Here's a link to some 360 degree panarama shots provided by the tourism council (just click the orange button at the top of the page that says "visite virtuelle". Select "Chateau Grimaldi" from the pull down list to see some more interior shots of the castle.

And here's a shot of John sitting on a wall overlooking Cagne-sur-Mer and Le Cros de Cagne next to La Chapelle Notre Dame de Protection, a 14th century church that was literally next door to our bed and breakfast.

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We stayed in Haut de Cagne from the 29th until the 4th and would certainly go back again. There's not a lot of things to see he Haut de Cagne (after you see the castle), but there are a number of good restaurants and the views are spectacular, and you feel like you've walked back into time. I'll put up some of our pictures in Nice and Monaco in tomorrow's post, since we have a lot more of those!

Finally, you migh be wondering what happened with my Brilla tank top. I got it seamed and started doing the crochet edging around the neck and armholes. It's one row of single crochet followed by a row of reverse single crochet. But I found that it didn't really have a nice effect and left off of it to deal with when I got home. Here's a picture of the whole top:

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Which fit me quite well without any edging work. Here's a detail of the top where you can see the crochet edging around the neck (single and reverse single) and one armhole (single crochet only because I really didn't like the way the fabric was pulling and rippling with the single and reverse single together.

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It is not completely obvious, but the crocheted armhole edge is rolling up. I'm thinking I may try to block it to see if I can get it to lay flat. I'm very tempted to rip it out completely, but I am thinking I will probably need something there to support the structure of the garment. Any opinions, comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Brilla Back

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This would have been up last night except for the fact that this yarn does not lend itself well to flash photography -- its very reflective stuff and every picture I took looked washed out. It's a beautiful day in Chicago this morning, so I unpinned the back of the top from my blocking board and took it out to get some sun.

I should have taken a "before blocking" picture just so everyone could see the difference, but let me say that blocking is a good thing and I still can't believe I went for so long thinking that a) I didn't need to do it and b) it's hard to do. Because a) it makes your garments look so much more polished and b) it's not hard at all.

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What makes this top special, however, is not the blocking, but the pretty cable detail around the neck. I was a little worried about the slate colored yarn not showing up the cables, but figured that the reflective properties of the yarn would probably compensate for the dark color.

So far I am pleased with both the pattern and the yarn. The yarn is pleasant to work with -- it moves easily and is not abrasive. However, because of it's nature it is not a "perfect stitch" sort of yarn. The texture ends up a little uneven, a quality which I like, especially for a little summer tank. I did modify the pattern a little bit, opting for only 12" below the armhole shaping instead of 13" as the pattern calls for. I'm a little on the short-waisted side and didn't want a lot of extra fabric flaring over my hips.

I've only found one "error" in the pattern -- the schematic diagram in the book says 7" for the armhole height while the instructions say 7-1/2" for the smallest size (it's shifted for all the sizes). I opted for the size in the diagram because I want a little snugger fit and would like to be able to wear a bra under it without showing it off too much.

This top would be a great project for anyone wanting to try out cabling -- there's not too much and the cable is simple. I used the opportunity to try out Wendy's recipe for cabling without a cable needle. It's definitely a handy technique, but I am not sure I would want to do it for big cables (i.e. cables where you had more than 2-4 stitches to worry about) because there is a lot of potential for dropping stitches.

Meanwhile, I am trying to resist the call of Charlotte's Web. I have to admit though, the only thing that is holding me back is that both of my size 6 AddiTurbos are tied up in other projects (I cast on the front of the tank top and John's sweater) and I just can't justify buying another pair of size 6 circulars right now... Must finish tank top.... must finish tank top..

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