Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Downton Cardigan and How Grown-ups Wash Wool

This is my Downton Cardigan that I knit for the Downton Knitalong hosted by Shannon of Luvinthemommyhood this month.  I kind of love it... and the bike... and links... so be warned.

I've spotted loop frames like this bicycle several times through all three seasons of Downton Abbey, so I thought it was a good excuse for photo overload.

 (on my Ravelry and Flickr )

The pattern is Hannah Fettig's Whispy Cardi and required only one skein of lace yarn, with some to spare.  I made a size xs and had plenty of ease though I'm normally a size 34".  (Many knitters went down a size for a better fit.)  Hannah's patterns are so easy to follow and so beautifully photographed that I had to get the actual print copy of Knitbot Essentials.

My notes:
I used sizes 0,1, and 2 needles to get gauge and Madelinetosh lace yarn in Nectar.  I do have to say that, though I loved using Madelinetosh lace, I wish I'd used a fingering weight instead.  It isn't really a problem, just a personal preference toward a little more heft.  Buying the sock yarn, however, would have required purchasing 2 skeins rather than 1.  Remember, I justified this purchase with the whole group knitting experience as an excuse; I couldn't justify more than one skein to myself.

This was a pretty quick project, completed within January even though I worked sporadically. The details I love best about it are the gather at the center of the back and how stitches are picked up to form the collar and band around the back (as below).   They make it special without requiring difficult techniques.  One note about the photo below: I did go back, after finishing the whole thing, and picked up stitches on the right sleeve, adding a few rows because they somehow came out uneven.

Speaking of group knitting, The knitalong forum was key to keeping me motivated.  I'd see everyone's progress and feel compelled to pick my little sweater back up and finish.  Aside from commiserating after last week's episode of Downton- you know, the one with Sybil- the group also gave me some good project ideas for the future.

There's the Downton CowlRegina, the Sideways Grande ClocheLucy, and Rustling Leaves.   But the most Downtonesque pattern I came across, as I tried to choose what my own project would be, was Ecuador by Joji Locatelli. It required too much yardage or else it would be mine.

Enough about the making of this sweater.  I want to talk about something even more riveting: the washing of this sweater.

Shannon's post (in the first link) got me thinking about how, since I've been churning out more knits in the last few years, I've graduated into a more serious washing/ blocking ritual.  Not only do I usually knit and block a swatch these days, I've also started washing with gentle detergent instead of whatever I had sitting beside the washing machine.  I cringe as I think of how I mishandled my first few years worth of knitting projects in order to clean them.

Now, I use Dawn, or the store brand equivalent detergent (not soap).  This may not seem like a big improvement since it's not as gentle and rinse free like Soak or Eucalan, but it's working for me and I always have some handy.

To wash this paper thin cardigan:

I just filled the bathroom lavatory with hot water (this was a very hard leap of faith for me the first time)  and a squirt of Dawn, I laid my sweater on it, then pressed it down so it absorbed water.
After letting it soak a bit, I pulled the plug to drain.  I pushed the sweater to the side as I refilled the basin with more hot water.  Another soak to rinse it.

The rinse process can be repeated until the water seems clear.  Of course, if you use Soak, you can skip rinsing altogether and move on to drying.

I carefully lifted my sweater from the water and laid it on a towel, which I rolled up and stomped on to press out the water.  

Then I laid it across my kitchen table on a dry towel and shaped it, being careful to keep the bottom, front edges from curling.  It only took a few hours for this one to dry.

If I'm doing several sweaters at once, I follow the same method, only I use the washing machine, utilizing the rinse cycles until I'm ready to spin them dry.  They dry very quickly after a spin.  I haven't had a sweater shrink up, or grow in an unusual way, since I've been doing this.

(on my instagram

A couple of good blocking posts here: from Shannon at Luvinthemommyhood and Fuzzy Galore.

Here are my previous posts about the Downton Cardigan if you're interested:  swatching, week 1, week 2, and week 3 .

Friday, January 25, 2013

Downton Knitalong Update

I'm past the halfway point in my cardigan for the Downton Knitalong.  Which means all of the picking up of stitches and seaming lace is done.  The rest is just easy shaping and stockinette.  I am appreciating this yarn more and more as I knit.

So, I've seamed the ends of the rectangle up to make sleeves, then picked up stitches all the way around to knit the ribbed collar and band that goes around to the back of the body.  Basically, it's at a shrug stage, here.  I will have to go back and lengthen the ribbing on one sleeve by a couple of rows, but that shouldn't be too hard.

(my flickr and instagram)

DIY Spring Wreath

This is the more subtle, natural answer to the very shiny, artificial Christmas wreath I made for Christmas.

It's a spring wreath that I made for my grandmother with grapevine clipped from my yard and some hobby store moss.  It's so incredibly easy to do, I thought I'd share.

All you need is grapevine, moss, glue gun, and whatever other decorations you like (I used a bird's nest here, but I sort of just like vine and moss.)  Make sure your grapevine is not totally dried out and stiff so that it can bend and hold it's shape.  If it is too dry, try soaking it in water for a few hours.

I began bending a strand of grapevine into a circle, running each strand over and under the last to sort of twist them together.  Each time I ran out of vine, I just introduced a new one in that spot, tucking the end under.

I separated the moss and dotted hot glue on the wreath where I wanted the moss to sit and gently pressed it down.  I glued the nest in (You can easily make your own with very pliable grapevine.) and glued in the eggs.  The end.

(my Flickr) 

 It can be more holiday focused like this or this.  My personal favorite is a wreath cradling succulents like this.  But I went with a robin's nest because my grandparents used to love watching birds in their yard; my grandfather was always trying to devise feeders the squirrels couldn't disturb.

Monday, January 21, 2013

I Need to Be Outside

69 degrees, sunshine, light breeze, no school.

Please take a moment to check out one of my favorite photo sites- Mortal Muses.  My resolution is nestled in the middle (num. 9) of all that January Resolution inspiration.

(my flickr and instagram)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Halfway Through This KnitALong

I really should be almost finished with the Downton knitalong sweater, but lots of things have been happening in our lives and that of close family.  My time to work on this is usually at night, in poor lighting for tiny stitches.  I did drop one and not realize until the bind off was sewn, which took an entire evening to fix.

Here's the instagram recap of my knitting for the last couple of weeks:

 (more on my Ravelry, Flickr, or Instagram)

Guess I just haven't been able to concentrate.  Maybe it's the fact that I've been too busy since New Year to take down the Christmas tree until today, and I feel wrong sitting down and doing anything at night with it looming beside me.  I know.  The whole enjoying-the-lights-until-my-birthday thing is starting to feel a little more like mental illness.  I live in a very small home; it's not like we have one of those Christmas tree rooms set aside for year round cheer.  When this thing is set up, it's another entity, like an adopted child, that we are making room for.  It's gotten a little embarrassing, especially since I've had more unexpected visitors in my home than ever before in the last week.  One visitor just looked form me to the tree, then back again.

I am happy to have it all packed away today, and determined to finish this cardigan soon.  I have the next Downton episode to help me focus. It doesn't look like a cardigan yet, does it?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Winter Thinking

Do you do it too?  You store up your ideas, your energy, maybe even your joy while it's sort of bleak and just wait, letting them germinate?  But there are times when I realize I've been holding my breath for days.  I'm static, like a broken record.  Am I hiding or preserving something from being wasted on the wrong day?

(on Flickr or instagram)

Should I do either?  I feel a little guilty when I find it happening, but no one else really notices.  And just about the time I see what I'm doing, it no longer seems necessary.  Then, I can exhale into frosty air.  Nothing's changed, but I'm renewed all the same -  textbook introversion.

What do you wait for?  A bright day with enough light to see what you're working on?  To stop reeling from crisis?  For an awkward phase to pass?  For a slow day?  Take it.  Think, but think big.  Recover and exhale with me.  He says it's in being still that we really know Him.

"Be still and know that I am God" - Psalm 46:10.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Downton KAL Progress

So, my Ravelry knitalong friends were not kidding when they said I'd love using Madelinetosh.  I misread the yarn requirements and ordered one skein of lace for a woman's small or medium, however, it was actually the requirement for a child's large.  It's a shame that I have the ability to make all sorts of colorworked, cabled-y, and felted things, yet still cannot read yarn requirements correctly.  Luckily, many women who've knit this cardigan went down one or two sizes to get a more fitted shrug, so I'm moving forward with the size 12/14.

I've started at one arm and worked across the back for the top of the cardigan.  I'm almost to the right arm.  Then, I'll add the collar and bottom.  The gather in the center back is so clever.

Though this is mostly stockinette, it isn't boring to me.  The color variations in the fiber are so beautiful to watch as they grow from the needles that it maintains my interest.  It's also perfect for distracted knitting, during which I listen to podcasts or read.

She is such a control freak. (more on my Ravelry or Flickr)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Instagram Holiday

I don't like to take down Christmas lights until my birthday.  No, my birthday isn't in February.  But it's soon and I'm enjoying my late morning coffee all alone with the the lights blinking, just as lazy as these pictures make me seem.  Thought I'd share these instagram glimpses into our Christmas and New Year.  I say "our" but no one in my family really wants a picture of themselves on the internet... except the animals.

(find me on instagram as michellecarte and flickr)

That's the Proven├žal dough bowl my brother gave me for Christmas.  It's from the 1860s and the sort of thing I'd decorate a house around if I could.  It's beautiful, so of course she has claimed it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I never thought I'd own this bicycle.  It's the only bicycle I've ever really, really wanted since the re-built bike my grandparents gave me as a teenager, which I foolishly sold.  The Schwinn I bought a couple of years ago was fun to work on and ride, but it wasn't my dream bike.  This is.

After three or more years of checking Craigslist occasionally for a Raleigh DL-1Tourist, I finally found one.  It was extremely reasonable, since all the parts worked and were original except the pedals.  It was also within my experimental project budget, which is definitely smallish.  There is a bit of rust, here and there, but the paint is decent for a '74.   I have to put on the brake pads, move some temporary pedals on, and clean it up.  I've just been staring at it... a lot.  Now, you stare with me.

 (more on my Flickr)

 Oh, I have plans for you little bike.