Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Hear Chariots of Fire

Actually, I just hear the first few lines of Chariots of Fire... over ... and ... over again.

I'm still on the toe of these toe-up, two at a time, knee socks.   That's after 4 days of knitting.  I knit a sweater in two hours a few weeks ago; what is going on here?

I chose them as my Ravellenics challenge (If you don't know what it is, just do a blog search on it and be slightly uneasy about the sheer number of nerdy knitters in the world.) and they are proving challenging indeed.  It's not so much because of all the yarn tangling everywhere or the increases on microscopic needles.  I don't even think it's because I have never used a Magic Cast On before.  It's probably more about me getting distracted and setting it aside only to return and say, "Huh?" as if I've forgotten what I was doing with all of that string.

Honestly, I didn't want to break from my summer project plans to include socks.  I'm just not crazy about knitting them.  Socks are things I either abuse or lose.  I already have a bunch of knee highs in all kinds of argyles and stripes that I rarely wear, so why make more?

I blame it on Elena for inspiring me with this post.  Anyway, it is vacation yarn, and it is a challenge.   Plus, I found a fun group to compete with:

(a group of podcasters and listeners.)

(my Ravelry and my Flickr)

I don't think I've learned so much, skill-wise, in one project since I first began knitting.  There's: 

Knitting two at once so that I won't run out of yarn at the top of the last sock

The idea of using only one long circular as a magic loop.

Working from the toe up. 

And, the idea of customizing as I go for a better fit.  

The only other pair of socks I ever made were a frustration and impractical.  (As if this Fruit Stripe looking yarn is.)

So, yeah, it feels Olympic to me.  Now, I'm going to get back to the needles so I can hear the climactic ending of that song.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I'm Not the One Preparing for Campus...

... that would be my daughter... but I'll wear the jacket just the same.

This is Campus Jacket from Amy Christoffers, who has some of the most wearable looking sweater patterns out there, and it was also my project for the Summer Sweater Knit Along at luvinthemommyhood.

I can't mention the knit along without feeling a little regret that I didn't participate more in the chat.  I mostly lurked and knitted like crazy.  Before I knew it, I was finished.  But, like I said, I'm new to group knitting, so I'll cut myself some slack.

This knit up really fast; however, the finishing had me indecisive and took a while.  I found myself mentally pacing, procrastinating with late night bouts of Pinterest and pattern searches.  I was avoiding making a decision about the closures.  More on that later (hold onto your wig.)   

Here's what I love about this:

The yarn- Campus is nubby, rustic, multihued and fun to wear.  Very fall.

The collar- it looks very grandfatherly.  I like.

Toggles- Cool, no matter how you hook them.

contrasting pocket linings.

and how, here and there, all the stitches are bound off, with more picked up from the bound off edge to create a deconstructed look.  

Here's what I did different: 

I cast on for the smallest size but added a 5 stitch ribbed button band to each front edge (10 extra stitches) as several Ravelers had done.  
I kept the ribbing for the button band live after binding off the bottom edge ribbing.  I then worked the rib st of button band and began picking up stitches for body, finishing with working the rib st on button band of other side.
I wanted to make sure the sweater closed all of the way with no gaps, however it seemed that added stitches in the button band didn't work with leather toggle loops.  I tried every configuration of toggle closure I could, but in the end it just didn't look good (see my last post) so I was faced with the choice of re-knitting or southern engineering it.  

I am from the south.  

What I should've done:
Nix the toggles and extra stitches, and work buttonholes into the band.
I decided to sew my toggles on as buttons and use the natural gaps on the corresponding area of the other band as button holes, since it was too late for me to add them.  I used my needle to widen a stitch for each button, and it's working fine, thanks to the nature of the thick and thin yarn.

Now the button bands lay, one over the other, and the fit is much better, smoothing out the pockets so that they look less like tumors hanging from my hips.  I may still stretch the pocket linings a little when blocking because they are really small and don't work too well as pockets, but I really like that bit of contrasting color peeking out.

More Deets:
I started the ribbing with the wrong side (k1,p1, repeat) so there would be a purl ridge before the stockinette portion, giving a clean transition, as I'd seen suggested on Ravelry.   However, if you don't add extra stitches, this isn't necessary.  

Don't forget to bind off in rib stitch (I forgot on my first bind off, but it's not too noticeable)

To create the neatest ridge when picking up body stitches I picked up the stitch from the row just beneath the bind off row, moving under the right "leg"of every stitch from the wrong side so that it was easier to count the correct pick ups.

Personal notes:
On sleeve ribbing it took me 22 rounds to get 6 in.  From the end of sleeve increase to 20 inches (just before wrist bone on me) was 18 rounds even.

On increases I used m1L and m1R.

Possible errata:
Page 4, 1st paragraph: At shoulder shaping there should be 8 sts on holder (for size 32") and 26 for collar.  I think the pattern has a misprint reading 7 sts on holder here.

Page 4, 3rd paragraph: Also, on rt front potion there's a direction to knit 15 sts before the end then m1 increase, p1, [k1,p1] 8 times.  Well, I think the 15 should be a 17.

More friendly advice that may be completely unnecessary: 
When adding attached I cord bind off to pocket make sure to add it to the back side of pocket opening.  I screwed up the first time and added it to the front edge and it was way too bulky and visible.

If anyone  out there does choose to make leather toggle loops, Amy Christoffers has a visual tutorial here.  I still found it difficult to attach them in a way that looked good, but I guess that won't be a problem now.

Now I plan to stretch the pocket lining out a little while blocking and smooth the outside of the pocket opening as well, because mine are small and bulky.

Ideas:  If the pockets are just too poofy, I could always remove the lining and sew them shut, but that shouldn't be necessary.
If the fit still isn't quite right, knitting a rib stitch belt to wear instead of toggles would be a good alternative and take up any loose fabric.
It might also be cool to add more of the contrasting color, if it isn't too crazy a color combo, by felting  some elbow patches in that color to sew on.  Since I didn't get the leather toggles, I may felt some brown patches and add them to the elbows... maybe.

More on my flickr and Ravelry.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Toggle Fail

I tried to make toggles with leather loops for my Campus Jacket.  Amy Christoffers' were really cute, but it just didn't work for me.  (See, Amy Christoffers' photo tutorial on toggle making.)
My sweater was too loose and the gaps in the front looked messy, so I snapped a photo and took them out.  I'm sewing the toggles on as buttons and going to create button holes with loose stitches. 

I grew really attached to the idea of a toggle and loop closure, so it was hard for me to take them out.  RIP little toggles.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Sweater, So Far...

This is my Campus Jacket, a pattern by Amy Christoffers.  I've been wanting something toggled and tweedy for winter, and when I saw that Webs had just enough of one Campus colorway left on sale to make this, I went with it.

(I've never knitted a real pocket before.)

The pattern is named after the yarn, but honestly, it makes me think of that idealized image of a fresh faced, college girl, like something Ali MacGraw would wear across the commons or what Felicity Porter would pace back and forth in as she rambles into her tape recorder.   I don't know, it's possible I could make it look like something a housefrau with a center part wears over her pajamas to schlep about in with her cats, but let me dream...

The colorway is Leatherbound, and very Fall.  It's making me want to move north, actually.

I decided to squeeze most of my Summer Sweater Knit Along knitting in between refurbishing my living room and the Ravellenics.  It's coming along so fast, however, that I may be finishing it completely before the games even begin.   I like the purl bind off edges where the ribbing joins the body and at the back yoke.  They have a homespun look and add some structure.

(my Ravelry and Flickr)

Speaking of Felicity, I found Sweater of Felicity, which cracks me up, because as a knitter, I did sit through a few seasons of the show while plugging away at my Owls sweater, and found myself pausing netflix, not to absorb deep content or symbolism, (it is Felicity) but to get a better look at one of her oversized sweaters, like this.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer Music

I wasn't in too big a rush when buying The Idler Wheel... album.

I learned from my mistake of buying the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' album Here as a download.  I was in such a hurry to get vacation music together and just knew this album was perfect summer music (and it is, like being at a great outdoor concert on a summer evening,) that I didn't look at my options.

But after I returned, I saw that I could have had the vinyl and digital download for the same price.  Doh.

So when Fiona's new album came out I made sure to buy the actual record from World Records  with the digital download for only $7 more than the average cost of the album.  

I'm a huge fan of vinyl, and not even for the technical reasons others site about sound quality- though I'm sure that's true.  It's just that I love nothing more than making a moment by playing records just like when I was a girl with my Duran Duran 45s on a record player in a candy cane striped box.  My first songs to own were all vinyl.   There was a time when people said, "Want to come over and listen to records?"

I want to hear that again.  I want to make time to put it on the turntable and set the needle and listen.  Nothing transports me like this.  It requires a little time,  being somewhat still (especially if you're listening in a house on piers.)   I think of my mother's Herb Alpert collection that I inherited, my brother's Sonny and Cher 45, and all of the read along story lps we had.  This was before I found a transistor radio under the front seat of my dad's Ford LTD .   Before all of the excitement of turning it on just as my favorite song came on.  When I was a little girl that was something like Eddy Rabbitt.

Pretty soon it was all about boom boxes, mixed tapes, and Columbia House.   

 I have a JVC player from the late eighties that I picked up at a Goodwill years ago.  It was never state of the art, but it plays on, only needing a new belt twice.   When I finally had the chance to put The Idler Wheel on the turntable last night, it was so worth the wait, especially for the percussion- heavy, off- broadway sound.  I don't think my husband could have tolerated it were it not just so cool to listen to a new record.

 Now, I'm gonna have to do the same with Here:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pembroke Tank

This is how I envisioned this tank looking when I knit it the first time- with thick and thin yarn in hand painted colors.  Basically as much like the sample in the pattern book as possible.

(on my Ravelry and Flickr)

I used two skeins of Araucania Liwen held together and am very pleased with the effect.  It is wool and  superfine alpaca, with each skein's dye being slightly unique.  I initially thought this would be more of a cream color, but the pinkish, grey tones have grown on me.  I have never had anything like this before. 

And there is nothing like knitting a whole sweater in one day.

The look of the thick and thin is refreshingly laid back to me.  I used almost all of the yarn this time, too.

So, again, my only modification was to knit the front and back straps for the right side as one piece with the front of the body and the strap for the left side, in the same way, in one piece with the back of the body.  I joined the straps to their respective back or front side with Kitcheners Stitch, thus avoiding a few joins and saving a little bit of yarn.  I really wish I had a little more yarn to lengthen it just a bit, so it could blouse just a little bit above the ribbed edge.  But I still haven't blocked it, so I think it will lengthen a little, or I can unknit the bottom and lengthen with my remaining yarn by a row or two.

 I really lack a good place to photograph the things I make.  These were taken in the pauses between my son and his friends running past me, yelling, with bebe guns.

 I now have the Summer Sweater Knit Along and Ravellenics to busy myself with, but when that's over, my next knit from Good Night, Day will probably be the Markham collar.  I also purchased some more green Araucania in anticipation of Tara-Lynn Morrison's Kingston sweater pattern being published.

Umbre Lovre

I love this little top.  It was what first made me want to subscribe to Holla Knits.  So simple in design and technique but with unique, hand knit details that make it special.  Plus look at all of those great blues, and stripes, and the fact that it can be worn year round in Texas.

There is an instructional video, a fun extra to give a girl courage, available to subscribers that demonstrates the honeycomb stitch along the top and bottom edge.

The whole thing could have easily been done in a few days, but I have this tendency to go at things a little like Jethro Bodean (big, stupid grin on my face as I move full speed ahead in a state of bliss, heedless of everything around me) so, after knitting much of the front, I realized my garter stitch stripes weren't nice and even, but looked like the reverse side should.  After I separated the front and back, I had joined yarn from the wrong side to start working the front. In other words, I ignored a knitting basic.  But it didn't take long to reknit that part, and the colors are soothing so it was no biggie.

The design seems so versatile with all body types that, for once, I felt like I could just relax and knit stockinette and garter without worrying about modifications or shaping.  And I did.

My one modification was to add an extra stripe to the middle contrast color portion, before dividing the piece for the armholes (11 total stripes here, instead of 10) because my gauge was a little off and I didn't want a crop top.

This was my second time to knit something for warm weather.  I wasn't sure how the Comfy Sport cotton/ acrylic yarn would wear.  But, it is very lightweight and doesn't seem to have stretched out much with wear.  I was a little nervous about weaving in all of those cotton ends because they don't  "grab" onto the fibers around them like wool does.  So, I found two ways online to handle them:

1. Split each individual end in half and tie them around a purl stitch "bump" on the inside, pull tight, and trim.

2.  Split in half and weave each half separately, skimming (or splitting and sewing through) the purl heads of several stitches in a row on the reverse side before making a u-turn and skimming through the purl heads of an adjacent row from the opposite direction.  That makes no sense, so watch the tutorial if cotton end weaving fascinates you.

The first just sounds too easy to be good, but the kid in me really wanted to do that with all of those loose bits.  I also messaged the designer, Allyson, on Ravelry for suggestions, but instead of waiting for the answer I got that Jethro look on my face and powered through method number 2.   Yes, I listened to the "mature" knitter in me, which gave me double the normal amount of ends to contend with.  At one point during the process of splitting a zillion threads in half and winding each little part around and around on the back of my work, I found myself wondering if this was a psych experiment.  Maybe that web site was just messing with us to see who was insane enough to do this.

I said mature knitter, but actually I still had four ends or so hanging commando on the inside as I took these photos - it was taking forever!

My knitting photos are always a sort of Where's Waldo in which you can search the photo to find the loose yarn ends sneaking out of various openings.  Below, is my tribute to all of the knitters who've edited out yarn ends.

(more on Ravelry and Flickr)

If only I had waited for her reply.  (By the way, thanks for replying, Allyson!) Turns out Allyson just ties a few knots away from the edge of the garment on the inside and trims the ends when there is positive ease.  No splitting.  No maturity. That's even easier than option 1!

Why didn't I listen to my inner voice or at least wait for direction?  Anyway, one million yarn ends later, I am an expert at skimming and love my Umbre Lovre.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tennessee via instagram


 Our streamside campsite.

 Clingmans Dome observation deck
 Somewhere between Tennessee and North Carolina.

 Morning at Cades Cove above and below

 Gatlinburg skylift
 Pigeon River White Water
Thunderhead, faster than any wooden coaster I ever rode as a child.
View from Charlie's Bunion on Appalachian Trail
(my instagram feed or Flickr)