Recently in Culdesac Category

Enter Culdesac

The Button Selection

On Saturday I got myself to Tender Buttons (946 N. Rush St., Chicago) and took a look around for something that might complement Culdesac. The result is pictured above. I got 6, because I know, no matter what I do, how well I secure them, if I didn't get 6, then one of the middle buttons would get lost somewhere and Culdesac would be forever bereft.

Since Saturday night was spent with family, I didn't get the chance to weave in the last ends and attach the buttons until Sunday morning. And I chickened out with regards to doing anything like permanently attaching the buttons. I decided that I would wait until my sewing expert mother shows up at my house for Thanksgiving and have her show me a few things. I attached the buttons with those handy little-bitty safety pins made for buttons. These things, to put it bluntly, rock. Especially for those of us who are sewing impaired.

Culdesac Catches Some Rays

Here's the finished product! I left it unbuttoned so the inside could be seen a little bit. For some reason I like the way the back side of the cable band looks. It also gives some idea of how the front and back shapings work together.

Culdesac Flipped

I know these pictures are similar to some I have shown in previous days, but today I was finally able to get some natural light shots, and I think it brings out the cables better. Here's one last shot of the vest, buttoned and hanging.

All Buttoned Up

But it is really easy to make a vest look good on a hanger. The real proof is seeing how it fits on the intended wearer.

Culdesac Front (left) and Side (right)

These pics are probably the best I have with regards to the true color of the vest. The hubster claims that digital cameras have a real difficult time processing reds due to the way they deal with light handling. For a look at the back of the vest and how it hangs, click here. Here's the mandatory silly action shot. I was trying to do the twist... good thing all the neighbors were inside this morning!

To say that I am pleased with the result of this knitting operation would be an understatement. My only regret is that I don't have more blouses and turtlenecks that I can wear with it! Vests have been an essential part of my wardrobe since high school. My mom and grandmother made most of the ones I wore (and still wear). It's kind of cool to have one created with my own fingers. Can you guess what I will be wearing to work tomorrow?

So, what did I learn from this project?

  • I like my cables isolated and elemental. I completed this project because there were neat cable elements interspersed with fast knitting sections. This satisfied both my my need for higher brain activity and my need to see something come together relatively quickly.
  • Everyone should learn to cable without a cable needle. After you get used to coping with the abject fear of having stitches floating free of your needle, it speeds things up greatly. I wouldn't use it for cables wider than 6-8 stitches across, but it's perfect for 4-stitch crossovers.
  • I am beginning to understand shortrowing. I still haven't completely figured out how I would incorporate short rows into a design of my own, but at least I am getting a feel for what can be done with them.
  • Merino wool is yummy and DK weight wool is not to be feared for being too fine.
  • Stockinette selvedge stitches make life a lot easier.
  • Elsebeth Lavold is my new favorite designer. Not only do I love this design (and others I have seen), I really liked the fact that the pattern was well written and relatively error free (about the only thing I found "wrong" was that the button spacing was a little narrow). That said, it's not a "turn your brain off and roll" sort of pattern. But if you read carefully and know how to count, everything is clear.
  • I still hate picking up stitches.

This pattern has an "advanced" rating in Knitter's, but if you like it, you should go for it -- don't be daunted by the rating system. All the shaping is easy to do, and there's not very much about the cabling that is complicated either. Probably the only thing that is difficult is that you have to pay attention to the instructions and do a lot of counting. It's definitely not mindless TV knitting, but it's not out of reach either. In fact, it's a great way to learn some new things, and if you've never done cables before, it's a very gentle introduction.

Yardage estimates appear to be good, as well. I completed the project with about 1/2 a skein left -- even with a swatch (I had bought an extra due to my general paranoia about these things since I had never knit a pattern out of Knitter's before). The Matchmaker worked out well as a substitute for the Debbie Bliss yarn. A lot of folks have said they think this should have been done in Lavold's Silky Wool, but I really like a bold solid color for this project. I'm not sure that the tweedy quality of the Silky Wool would have been exactly right. (But that is personal preference for this project... I've met the Silky Wool in person and can't wait to have a good excuse to knit up something with it).

Close to Victory

Front Armhole Detail

I took a personal day today to work on my masters thesis project and to give myself a breather from some of the things that we causing a disturbance in my personal force. Believe it or not, I actually did get a reasonable amount accomplished on my project. But, of course, I did not neglect Culdesac, two armbands and 2 seams short of being a real finished project.

The picture above is a closeup of the front with both the armhole band and button band in place. I did all the stitch picking up for the armholes in exactly the same way that I did for the button bands.

All But the Seams

I was actually quite good. I did one armhole in the morning and the second one after I had met my milestone on my project. It was a good day for both knitting and coding.

The problem for me at this point is I simply have an uncontrollable attraction to finishing when I am this close. I literally can't walk away. At this point I know the project wants to be finished. It's sort of like having one chapter left in a mystery novel. I'm too close to the end to close the book without knowing the ending.

Reverse Stockinette Seam

Before I get to the "good stuff" I thought I would show off my seams. I think the stockinette stitch selvedge was a good thing. It made the seaming process a lot easier. It's not a very flat seam But I think that is the nature of these kinds of seams where the reverse stockinette is facing out. The worst part is in the most highly shaped area. I will probably do a little careful steaming or pressing to on a curved surface to even it out a bit. I noticed that both pictures in Knitter's conveniently do not show the seam, so I can't use that as a reference. Overall though, I am pleased with the seam. I think it looks neat and tidy, which was my goal.

So, without further ado, I'd like to present Culdesac in mostly finished form:

Culdesac from the Front
Culdesac from the Back

Yes, I did try it on. (I don't have enough willpower to leave it sit until it's completely finished). Yes, I am very pleased with the results and the fit. I won't take any final model shots until I have finished weaving in the ends (I've got most of them, but the ones along the side seams remain) and have attached some buttons. Could mean that I have to take a little trip to Tender Buttons downtown and see if I can find something mah-vel-ous. I'm a little nervous about attaching the buttons. Historically, button attachment has not one of my greatest finishing successes.

Anyone care to share any tips or tricks for attaching shank style buttons to a fabric that has a lot of give? I want to keep the button band neat and pretty but get the buttons to stay put as well.

Culdesac Button Bands

Pinning and Marking

Picking up stitches. This is probably my least favorite finishing operation. Lots of measuring and thinking and a crochet hook. When I pick up stiches I divide the length along which I am going to do so into quadrants and then determine how many stitches I need to pick up in each quadrant. Lest you think that my SpaceBoard is only useful for blocking, those nice gridlines also make it pretty handy for picking up stitches. First I used the grid to line up the edges, then I put pins where I thought the quadrants should be. This lets me adjust them globally without worrying about snagging the fabric.

141 Stitches Picked Up, 141 Stitches...

After marking on the board, then I put pins into the garment. The extra pins you see "below" the main line are to remind me that I am going to put 8 stitches in those intervals instead of 9. (Yes, you also see an ultimate geek girl accessory -- the reverse polish notation HP calculator. Yes, I did use it to help me do basic math for the number of stitches I needed in each interval.)

One of the interesting elements of the finishing part of this vest is that you do the buttonhole band and the button band separately and then join the seam at the back. I am not sure why. Perhaps it provides extra structural stability? Probably if I had had a longer cable needle I just would have picked up all 282 stitches.

Shiny Happy Button Band

Pretty spiffy if I do say so myself. Those little silver safety pins are button pins that are marking the place where the button holes had to be set. They're coil-less and pretty handy for this sort of thing.

The other side went more or less the same way. I'll spare you the extra pictures. Suffice it to say that it's the same thing without any holes for buttons. However, I marked another "first" with this project mattress stitching up the garter stitch edges. Here's a close up of the back of the neck. Can you tell where the seam is?

Where it all comes together

Here's the wrap up shot:


When I saw this, I almost got excited about picking up stitches in the armholes. Could I have a vest to wear this weekend? Maybe I ought to think about finding those buttons.

P.S. to everyone who has been leaving nice comments about Culdesac... I do want to say a big thank you. It is very much appreciated right now. Things are pretty stressful at work and when I see comments on my blog it really does make my day and make me want to keep moving forward instead of feeling sorry for myself. If I don't respond quickly, please don't think your words weren't noticed. I just don't have as much time as I would like right now to keep up.

Culdesac Finishing Derby, Part I

Sewn Shoulders and Extended Cables
The finishing commences!

So now the major finishing marathon starts with Culdesac. There's a lot of layers to the finishing work on this vest. The picture above shows the vest after the shoulder seams have been stitched together and the cables running up the neckline have been extended to just long enough to meet at the middle of the back neckline. This is probably the first time I've had to stitch reverse stockinette shoulder seams together. Probably it is also my last. I think next time I will just do the edges to be bound off in stockinette. Here's a closeup of my efforts:

Culdesac Shoulder Seam Close Up
Seaming reverse stockinette is not my favorite thing to do...

All in all it didn't come out too bad. After connecting those shoulders and knitting the extended cables, it was time to attach those cables to the back neckline.

Back Neckline Cable Attachment
The first cable gets attached to the back neckline

I'm pretty pleased with how the attachment process went. Joining the back center was a little rough simply because my cables ended in a place where there wasn't much pattern to join together, so the area just looks a little flattened out instead of being a place where the cables join nicely. But if I'd done fewer rows, it would have looked stretched. If I did more it would have looked bunched up. C'est la vie.

Culdesac Cabled Neckline
Culdesac neckline after cable attachment

This is the completed cabling attached to the neckline and connected at the back of the neck. Doesn't look like much yet. And actually, the cables are just the first part of the neckband. The second part is the garter stitch band that goes all the way alround the neckline. I'll be tackling the rest of those neck and armhold bands in stages... 141 picked up stitches, here I come!

All The Vest Pieces


It's always amazing to me that this:

Front Right Before Blocking
Before blocking...

Can become this:

Lavold Vest Fronts
After blocking

with a few pins and some water.

That's the last of the major pieces. And not a moment too soon! I think I did more frogging on this garment than almost anything else I have done up to this point. Probably that has something to do with working on it when I was too tired to pay proper attention to it.

Unfortunately, for this project, blocking is only about 3/4 of the way finished. I still have to join the shoulders, extend the cables around the back of the neckline, attach the extended cables to the back of the neck, pick up and knit >140 stitches on each front side and neck for the button bands, pick up and knit >100 sitches on each armhole for the armhold edging, seam up the sides and attach the buttons. It's hard for me to get too excited about picking up any number of stitches, let alone over 480, and I haven't gotten any buttons yet, so this project will probably progress gradually to the finish over this week

All the Lavold Vest Pieces
All blocked up and ready to sew!

Still not exactly sure what kind of buttons I will be topping this one off with. I'm thinking pewter buttons with some kind of knotwork pattern. Hmmm.

Little Victories and Big Losses

Finished Front Left Panel of Culdesac Vest
I sent the frogs home...

Well... I finally made it to the end of this particular road. Since I couldn't bear to watch the last innings of the Cubbies/Marlins game, I got back to Culdesac. (Just so everyone knows... you can blame me for the loss... every sports team that I root for and watch on TV chokes. John and I went to dinner at Nola's and they had TV's up with the Cubs game on -- so it's all my fault since I knew better. We left right after dessert at the bottom of the 6th, but it probably wasn't soon enough).

This time I got the shaping done correctly. Well. Almost. I did the very last decrease a little later than I should have. But I was willing to let this one go by. If you guys don't tell, no one will ever know.

Scarf Using 2 Skeins of Angel

This is the Angel scarf. I knit through the second ball last Friday night watching CSI and Without A Trace on our version of Tivo. It doesn't look like it from the picture, but the scarf is actually 40" long. I think one more ball will take me to 60", which I consider a respectable scarf length. I am still trying to decide whether I am going to block it out or let it curl. I sort of like the idea of just letting the stockinette do its own thing and having the rolls of color around my neck. Opinions?

And then I have one more skein of Angel left over. Any suggestions about what to do with it? I am thinking about a ribbed headband to cover my ears with. I think 50 yards should be enough for that... Any other suggestions?

Everyone has to think good thoughts at my cable connection... our Internet service went wonky last night and I don't have any access at home -- and Comcast doesn't know of any reasons why this should be so. Good thing I have access at work or I'd start going into withdrawl!

And for anyone else who uses Blogrolling with MovableType... are you having a hard time with pinging? I'm using (as their FAQ says to) but I am getting failure errors when I post. Did the ping URL change and they just haven't updated it yet?


Frog in Water

Frog in Sun

Frog in Sweater

Forgive the bad pun (read the caption for the last picture again quickly for my attempt at knitting humor), but that's what I did last night. For some reason, I just totally misread the instructions for the neck-side decreases and I had to frog all the way back to the start of the armhole shaping and start again. Not sure why I misread the pattern, the instructions were clear.

I almost didn't frog. I almost left it because I didn't think it would really change the shaping all that much and I could just do the same stupid thing on the other side. And then I caught myself and did the right thing. I don't know what's come over me lately. Normally I can't bear to frog and I've done it twice on this project. I guess the knit blog ring is just a good influence on me. Either that, or I am just getting better at looking at frogging as a minor setback along the way to greatness instead of a major defeat.

Of course, then when I started again I proceeded to forget to do the decreased on the armhole. More frogging, but this time only a few rows. Now I think I am finally back on the right track!

While in this case the mistake was all mine, I did go search out the Knitter's errata to see if there was a problem in the pattern. If you're ever in need of this sort of information, you can find it here. It took me a while to track it down (is their site hard to navigate or is it just me?) so I thought I would post it for future reference.

Culdesac Front Left

Lavold Vest Front Left

All that's left on the front left side is the second motif and a little shoulder shaping. And no, I didn't do this all this evening. I really only did about 1/3 of it. The rest was done yesterday. Sometimes when I know I am going to be busy I save up something to show.

The fronts are definitely more complicated than the back of the sweater. Short rows in the front provide that nice point and the armhole and neck shaping require that I pay some attention to the pattern. Not because they are complicated, but because the intervals are not regular at the neck edge and you have to get the armhole shaping from the instructions for the back. Not hard... just some actual neuronal activity required to make sure it all works out correctly. And some nights, it's harder than others to whip those neurons into a frenzy.

Culdesac Back Complete

Back of Lavold Vest from Fall 2003 Knitters
Elsabeth Lavold Vest Back in Jaeger Matchmaker Merino

Is there anything as satisfying as pinning a well executed piece of knitting down onto a blocking board? Well, yes, there is that wearing the knitted piece part, but blocking really does make me inordinantly happy. Perhaps it is because I can finally see my knitting formed into what will be its final shape. Perhaps it is the joy of bonding with my SpaceBoard. Perhaps I am just fascinated with seeing how many shiny gold-headed rust-proof pins I can use to tack down my most recently captured butterfly.

I'm feeling particularly smug about the back of this vest because I just love the way the cables came out. The center cables are even and well formed, the knotwork pattern stands out on a field of reverse stockinette. I think for the first time ever I felt like I was "feeling" the cables. I almost didn't have to refer to the pattern, it just seemed obvious where to go with them.

In the past, the other Aran sweaters that I have made or attempted have been all over cable affairs a la Alice Starmore. Beautiful, but complicated. I've started several, but only ever finished one. I like this vest a great deal because it's beautiful and uncomplicated. The cabling keeps my brain active, but there are large areas that I can speed knit through, providing me a with a good, balanced project. I think that because the cable elements are isolated, they stand out more and thus make more of an impression on me.

Just a few notes about the pattern. So far so good. I think this pattern is fairly well written and easy to follow. That's not to say that you don't have to spend a little time thinking about it, but I haven't found any mistakes thus far. I would recommend a little something with regards to the armhole cables. Your life is a lot easier if the cables at the armholes and the cables at the center crossover at the same row. I started the armholes at the suggested place, but started the cable pattern two rows higher in order to match them all up. Obviously, the shift you would need to make is somewhat dependent on the size of the vest (I'm doing the smallest size), but it will never be more than 3 rows. By making that 2 row shift I didn't have to keep track of two different cable intervals. I'm generally lazy and the less counting I have to do the better. I think, in this case, it also adds to the visual quality of the vest and decreased the chances that I would make a mistake.

Given how much fun I am having with this vest, I am definitely looking forward to receiving Elsabeth Lavold's Viking Knits Collection, Book One from the ThreadBears. I can already tell that there will be some Silky Wool in my future.

So much fiber... so little time...

Culdesac Begins


This view out my window is why I love the midwest. Where else can you see yellow like that?* When I was in college, I lived in San Antonio (I went to Trinity University from 1987-1991). The trees kept their leaves. They did Christmas and strung tinsel and decorations around but it always looked to me like it was April where I came from and no one had remembered to take the decorations down. When I moved back to the home country for grad school I couldn't believe how much I missed the changing seasons. You'll never hear me complain too much about the weather. I love to measure the passing of time this way.

So what have I been doing the past couple of days while pondering the Holographic sweater? Take a look at this:


This is Culdesac from the Fall 2003 Knitters. It's an Elsabeth Lavold design. I'm knitting it up in Jaeger Matchmaker Merino, DK color 655. I'm about an inch and a half from the armhole shaping. Since I picked a dark yarn that doesn't photograph very well, my advance apologies. So far so good with this pattern. I'm cabling without a cable needle, which I like when the cables are narrow (i.e. about 4-6 stitches wide). About the only thing I can complain about is that the Matchmaker likes to split a lot, and this can sometimes be difficult when not doing cabling the old fashioned way. Otherwise is it very nice to knit with.

So far, I have only changed one thing about this pattern -- because life is just too short to mattress stitch reverse stockinette edges -- I decided to turn the edge stitches into a column of stockinette instead of reverse stockinette.


This is one of those things that I would never have thought about doing if I hadn't been reading Finishing Goddess Becky's stories of creating Smooch. The edge is curling now, but when I go to put it together, it will become beautiful and no one will know that I didn't fight that reverse stockinette seaming.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to this juncture without some issues to deal with. The central cable motif has some increasing and decreasing to help form those lovely loops. After I had completed the motif and decided to count the stitches, I realized one was missing on the left side.


I don't know how visible it is, but the top loop on the left side looked sort of misshapen, otherwise I probably would have just increased in a discrete area and gone on. For once in my knitting life, however, I listened to all that good advice out there and decided to fix the mistake before I went any further. Did I frog? Yes! Did I rip all the way back... well, no. I cheated. I only ripped back about 8 rows by 12 stitches.


As near as I can tell, repairing aran motifs is about the only useful purpose double pointed needles have (can you tell I abhor sock knitting on DPs?). Basically, you just disloge the group of stitches you want to do the repair within and then just rip out those. When you've ripped back far enough, you put the stitches you want to start with back on one of the DPs. I usually use two double pointed needles in a slightly smaller size than the main needles to do the repair work.


Here's the repaired motif. There's a little distortion around the left side of the top loop but that will work itself out when I block the piece. I am definitely enjoying this pattern. It has the right balance of speed knitting areas and areas that require my attention. I just don't have a long enough attention span or enough patience to work with really complicated Arans these days -- my languishing Malin is a testiment to that.

*As a biological aside... did you know that leaves don't really change color? A green leaf actually contains many pigments that are involved in helping the tree convert light into energy. The dominant pigment is chlorophyll, which is green. When the tree gets ready for winter, it pulls all that chlorophyll into the tree itself to use for energy later on and the other colored pigments remain. These colored pigments are called "xanthophylls" (xantho means "other"). You can check out this link for more info. And this link, too.