Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Just for Laughs (no knitting content)

The other day, while I was cleaning my house, I found an envelope full of senior pictures. (Did you exchange senior pictures in high school, or was that a Midwestern thing?) Anyway, this discovery somewhat coincided with the start of the "remember the 80's?" thread on the Knittyboards. So, for some laughs look at the photos below.

Before I embarrass anyone else, here's a photo of me at the prom. Unfortunately, my hair blends in with my date's jacket, so you can't see how big my hair really is. Don't you just love late-80's prom fashion? (My mother made my dress.)
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Now, let's look at some of my friends. If you know any of these people first tell them that I'm sorry and then tell them that I said hi.

Meet Mark. He's quite the fashion plate. Notice how his socks match his shirt which matches the stripes on his sweater? Looking good! Mark dressed like this all the time--very preppie! (I'll bet that his penny loafers have pennies in them.)
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This is Steve. Ok, no big fashion gaffes here, but you gotta love the mullet. It was the hair style of choice for the non-preppie boys in my high school. (Years later, after Steve got a better hair style, he became the recipient of my first knitted object.)
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Christy is sporting a turquoise shirt-dress with a faux leather belt. The belt goes well with her barely visible white plastic earrings and white plastic beaded necklace. And she has tall hair.
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Holly, with her shoulder pads and shellacked hair, is ready for some football! I think that her heavy blue eye shadow is somewhat similar to the black streaks that football players put under their eyes.
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Mark, Steve, Christy, and Holly: I'm sorry. Please laugh. If you have a copy of my senior photo, send it to me and I will display it here. Oh, and Steve, don't tell me what happened to the sweater.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Giganto Tank and Tiny Swatch

I don't have anything witty or exciting to say today. I will have to allow Scout's cuteness entertain my readers on this blog entry.

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Yes, it's Coral--or at least part of it. Shall I let you in on my deep dark secret? This is the first pattern in which I have made modifications beyond changing the length. While newbie knitters rush out and design patterns and make up things as they go, I have been knitting patterns with blinders on. I never even considered altering a pattern until I stumbled across the Knittyboards last fall and discovered a whole new world of knitting. I'm not making major modifications to Coral, but I am thinking about designing a sweater from scratch.

Tivoli, Peacock Feathers, Yarn, and Money
Sadly, my Peacock Feathers pattern and my yarn for the Rebecca sweater are not shipping in a timely manner. The Rebecca yarn was a special order so I'm not at all surprised about that. But the delay in both the Peacock pattern and the Rebecca yarn has sent me scrambling for something else to do. I think that something else is going to be Grumperina's Tivoli Tee. However, there's a catch!

Yesterday, Peter made some comments about my yarn spending habits. He didn't go all the way and say that I had to stop buying yarn, but I know my husband. And, more importantly, I know how to handle him. No more yarn purchases for the next few months. I have a tiny stash and I'm going to work with that--even if it means knitting winter sweaters.

So, I started swatching for Tivoli using some stash cotton yarn. I like the yarn color, but I'm not sure the texture will work for Tivoli. The yarn is a bit...lumpy. I'm not sure the gauge is working out for me either. I'll need to think about this yarn and Tivoli some more.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Incredible Shrinking Swatch

For the last half year, I have been mulling over knitting with linen. It seems like the perfect fiber for summer knitting. The fact that linen is completely machine washable and dryable is a big lure, too. "It gets softer with washing and drying," said Wendy at Yarns 2 Ewe. So, understandably, I was very excited to start working with the Euroflax linen that I got for my birthday. This excitement quickly wore off once I started knitting with the so-called yarn.

First of all, it doesn't feel like yarn. It's more like smooth twine. Or rough string. I had been told of this fact about linen before I got the yarn, but I didn't think it was really that bad. But I was wrong, it is that bad. It hurts. After knitting with the linen for awhile, my fingers feel raw. Not a pleasant knitting experience at all.

Secondly, knitting gauge swatches is tricky because you can't know your gauge until after you wash and dry your swatches. Good thing that I had lots of laundry. I could knit a swatch, throw it in with a load, and measure it. Then, repeat the process. Look at these before and after photos (in a drop-stitch pattern):

Before: 7.5 inches wide, 4.5 inches tall.
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After: 5.75 inches wide, 4.5 inches tall.
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Amazing! Amazing that it shrunk so much width-wise but didn't shrink at all length-wise. And also an amazing transformation in texture. Burlap bag before and cottony soft after. I don't know if will ever knit with twine linen again. It's rather pricey and not pleasant with which to knit. But right now, my linen is quickly becoming a slightly modified version of Coral and I expect to get a lot of use out of it--after running through the wash a couple of times.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

What are friends for?

I'm gearing up to start two new projects--projects that could not happen without the help of a couple of knitting friends. What are friends for if not to enable you to keep your knitting obsession alive?

A week or so ago, Monkee gave me this beautiful yarn.

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Four ounces from that gigantic cone of Zephyr that she was showing off not too long ago. I didn't need much time to find a use for this highly pet-able yarn. I'm going to make the Peacock Feathers shawl from Fiddlesticks knitting. I've knitted lace before, but nothing on this scale. It will be yet another learning experience for me. According to the pattern description, this shawl is 88 inches wide and 43 inches tall. Sounds more like a blanket to me. I'm thinking about doing it on smaller needles in hopes of making a smaller size. I realize that using smaller needles will make the fabric less airy, but I'm short! What am I going to do with a giant shawl? And I'm thinking about giving this to my Mom, who is even shorter than I am.

My second knitting enabler is Amylovie. She helped me track down the pattern for the Rebecca 29 cover sweater. I'm not sure what's attracting me to this sweater. The cables? The puffy sleeves? I haven't worn puffy sleeves since the 80s. But I think the sweater is cute and I have ordered the yarn.

As I wait for the Peacock pattern and the Rebecca yarn, I'm working on a tank made from the Euroflax linen that I got for my birthday. But more on that later. Here's a preview: OUCH.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

We're in the Moni!

After three days of finishing work and a last minute trip to Michael's to buy ribbon, I finally have my first adult-sized cardigan.

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Pattern: Moni from Rowan 31
Yarn: Rowan 4-ply Cotton in Violet (MC), Flirty, Cheeky, Aegean, and Lemongrass (CCs) from Richesse Online (A very special thanks to Wendy at Richesse for her assistance picking colors.)
Needles: US sizes 1 and 2
Additional Notions: Narrow ribbon, 8 tiny buttons, and invisible elastic thread.
Alterations: I made body about 1 inch longer because the swatch shrunk when washed and I didn't want this to turn into a belly-baring sweater.
New Technique Used: Sewn on button band.
What I would change if I had to do it again: I probably wouldn't put the ribbon in. I wasn't sure if I would use the ribbon when I started, but I thought that the eyelets wouldn't show if I decided not to include the ribbon at the end. But the eyelets show. So the ribbon was added.

Close up of the fair isle, button band, and cute little buttons:
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Close up of the wrong side. So neat and tidy! I'm fanatical about weaving the carried yarn because I hate floats.
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On a sad note: My freebie digital camera seems to be dying. The flash doesn't work anymore. Hence, the above photos are a bit blurry. I guess I have to start hunting for a new one.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Moni: Almost

All the knitting for Moni has been finished. I am in the process of seaming and weaving ends. I am also weaving ends. And then, I weave some more ends. Remind me of this weekend if I ever speak of doing lots of colorwork again.

Moni so far--one side seam and one sleeve seam to go.
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The pile of ends so far:
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(The number of ends will nearly double by the time this is all done.)

Lily Chin Fans:
Ms. Chin (the designer of the fluffy pink shawl shown in my sidebar) is launching her own yarn and pattern line. See them here. Sadly, I wasn't very impressed.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Button Band? Didn't they sing "Who's Got the Button?"

Although I haven't mentioned Moni in awhile, I haven't forgotten about her. But I have been busy these last few weeks--mostly playing the attentive and inoffensive wife for Peter during social functions. This summer he is clerking at law firms, attempting to land a few job offers for after he graduates from law school. Apparently, part of getting these offers involves schmoozing with the partners and associates in the firms. I'm not a good schmoozer. But I'm doing my best.

But I digress. Moni. I finished the sleeves on Tuesday night at the spanking-new Pearland-Area SnB. I'm so happy that I managed to get this SnB organized. It's five minutes from my house--can't beat that. As soon as I got home (five minutes later), I started knitting the button band.

The last time I mentioned the button bands, I was debating whether I should block the front panels before or after I sewed on the bands. Several people responded with advice (thank you), and I finally decided that the button bands should be knitted and sewn on before blocking. So, without further delay, I present "Button band with cat."

Button band with cat

I'm so pleased. It looks much better without the safety pins on it. Nice and flat, no ripples, invisible seam. (The safety pins are marking the approximate locations of the buttons.) The reason why I decided to do the button bands before blocking is because my swatch shrunk length-wise when I blocked it. I was afraid that, if I blocked the fronts without the bands, the bands and fronts would shrink in different ratios after washing the completed sweater.

The comments I received about the button bands also indicated that some people didn't understand what I'm doing. (And why should you, you're not reading my pattern!) So here's a photo of the buttonhole band in progress.

Buttonhole band in progress

You can see that the band is knitted onto the ribbing at the bottom of the sweater, but is not knitted onto the front edge of the sweater. I'm knitting a long strip of ribbing and then mattress stitching it to the front edge. It is a pain in the patootie, but the finished result looks much better than a button band that is picked up and knit sideways.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Book Meme

Elizabeth, a fellow Houston Knitter tagged me with the book meme. And like her, I'm not going to take the time to find the true answer to number one.

1. Total number of books I own?
Way too many! (Can you really have too many books?) Both Peter and I love reading. I am a textbook editor. He is in law school. The result: book chaos. We have five big, tall bookshelves but, despite all this book-storage space, the floor of my office looks like this:

too many books!

The pile of papers in the front are copies of chapters printed prior to publication. In the back left are copies of unbound books. The rest are various textbooks of which only 2 are different printings of the same book. All the rest are unique.

And the floor of the "library" looks like this:

even more books!

Peter filled up the top-most shelves with his law school books. So, he's resorted to storing the more recent books on the floor. Did you notice that some of the shelves in the background have books stacked in front of other books and books stacked on top of books?

2. The last book I purchased?
The last book that I bought for myself was Middlemarch for the Knit the Classics KAL. But the last two books that I acquired (for my birthday) were The Jane Austen Book Club and What Einstein Told His Cook.

3. The last book I read?
I re-read Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I first read this book soon after it was published. I like it, but not as much as I like some of Maguire's other books.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me?
* To Kill a Mockingbird: My father gave me this book when I was in elementary school. At the time, it was a long and difficult read for me, but I got through it with a fair understanding of what was going on. Obviously, I didn't understand some parts. Since then, I have read the book numerous times and I still love it. My cat Scout is named after Jean Louise Finch.
* Little Women: What can I say? I still think that Jo should have married Laurie and I cry every time that Beth dies. I have three copies of this book (one of which was printed in the 1890s).
* Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: Another book from my childhood. I have read the original "cleaned-up" version, the critical edition, and the definitive edition. I own the cleaned-up and the definitive edition and would recommend the definitive edition over the others.
* "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" Richard Feynman is an amazing story-teller and a physics genius to boot. The book isn't really about science and is pretty darn funny.
* Anything by Jane Austen: because I can't pick a favorite.

5. Tag five four people and have them fill this out in their blogs.
Amy (because she's another Houston knitter), Ingrid (though she already answered a similar meme), the Bad Hippie (because she knits the classics, too), and Monkee (because someone tagged her before and she didn't answer).

Saturday, June 11, 2005

More on Elspeth and why I don't look like a Rowan model

Helene left a comment on my previous post about how my Elspeth doesn't seem to fit the same way that the Elspeth in Rowan 37 fits the model. And someone left a comment on Heather's blog along the same lines. (Why that person didn't comment on my blog is beyond me.)

Now I'm going to tell you why. After studying the pattern and the photo in the magazine several times, I'm convinced that the bolero the model is wearing is either not knitted from the same pattern that was published, pinned in the back like Heather's, or both. Probably both. And I have evidence.

First, look at the my front panels in this post. Notice how pointy they are at the top? There are 4 rows of 4 stitches and then 4 rows of 2 stitches and a row of 1 stitch. That's why the fronts are so pointy. When I seamed the bolero together, the pointiness is still visible. I marked the seams in the photo below.

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Now, look a the shoulder of the sweater in the Rowan magazine. Hmmm... not so pointy! It's not knitted in the same way! You cannot tell me that these fronts are the same shape as my fronts. So, I give this as proof that the pattern used to knit the bolero in the photo is not the same pattern that was published.

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Why do I think the sweater is pinned in the back? Well, first look at my photo in the previous entry. My bust size is 34 inches. According to the pattern, the 2nd size is to fit a person with a 34" bust. According to the pattern, the 2nd size will yield a bolero that is 35" in circumference and therefore 1" of ease. That's approximately how it does fit on me when the front panels are touching each other (i.e. no gap between the front panels). A perfect fit in my book.

Now look the Rowan photo again and just LOOK at the big gap between the front panels in the photo. It must be at least 2 inches wide. Let's assume that the model in the photo is much skinnier than I am (a good assumption). What do you suppose her bust size is? 32 inches? 30 inches? The smallest size in the book is supposed to yield a bolero with a circumference of 32" with the front panels touching. How in the heck can this waif be wearing this bolero with such a big gap in the front? Easy--the bolero is pinned in the back!

Also, look at the bottom of the sweater in the Rowan magazine--the slope-y parts seem to go all the way around the front of the model. How is this possible? The bolero is pinned in the back. And see how the neckline of the bolero is much higher up on the model's shoulders than it is on mine? How did she do that? Some one pinned the bolero in the back!

Ok, I'm done raving now. I'm actually not unhappy with the way Elspeth fits on me. I just think the photo is extremely misleading.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Suddenly, I feel very British

I completed my first Rowan pattern and it's Elspeth (sorry Moni). Ta Da!

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Pattern: Elspeth from Rowan 37
Yarn: Cashcotton from Rowan Classic Yarns in white
Needles: US 6 and US E4 and US H8 crochet hooks
What I learned/did for the first time: Crochet edging, short rows (on sleeves), and raglan shaping

As many other knitbloggers have said, this is not the most clearly written pattern. However, I can confidently say that there are no errors in the pattern and that the lace chart can be used for more than just the first 12 rows. So, I offer the following hints for those of you who are either struggling with the pattern or fearfully considering knitting this cute bolero.

Elspeth hints for those who care:
1) The lace pattern has a repeat of 9 stitches. Place a marker between the repeats and mark the repeats on the lace chart. This will help you know where to place YOs and K2togs after doing the increases or decreases. It will also help you spot mistakes and save you from having to count stitches every row.
2) All the YOs are paired with a decrease (K2tog, P2tog, K2tog tbl, P2tog tbl). When working the lace near the edges of your piece, remember that YOs and decreases are like love and marriage in the old song--i.e. "if you care you'd bother, don't have one without the other."
3) I used selvege stitches--2 sts on the side and raglan edges and 1 stitch on the front edge. I did not add stitches, I just kept those stitches in stockinette and ignored the lace chart. But remember to keep pointer #2 in mind while doing this. The selvege stitches allowed me to sew nice neat mattress-stitch seams and made it easy for me to pick up the front-edge stitches for the crochet border.
4) The instructions for the increases and decreases on the front panels are very confusing. I wrote out row-by-row instructions for the increases and decreases. I will be happy to send these instructions to anyone--just email me or leave a comment.
5) For those in the US, remember that the British use different terms in crochet. Specifically, a British double crochet (dc) is a US single crochet.
6) When picking up stitches for the crochet border, experiment with the ratio of stitches that you are picking up to insure that the border will lie flat. For example, I found that on the top and bottom edges I needed to pick up every stitch, but on the front slopes picking up 3 out of every 4 stitches looked much better.
7) When making the ties for the front, use a larger crochet hook to make the base chain and then use the smaller one to make the picots. When I used the smaller hook to make the chain and the picots, the tie was too short and was extremely curly.

Have a rambled on long enough? Even Scout is bored with me.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Spinning and Winding things

Although Friday may not have been the best birthday ever, Saturday was definitely the best day after birthday ever. First, I had time in the morning to seam together the pieces of Elspeth and to try her on. She fits! But more on that later. Then, Peter came home from Dallas. He gave me a card that contained 2 IOUs--one for a "spin-y knitty thingie" and one for a "wind-y knitty thingie." Apparently, he was planning to buy me a swift and a winder on his way home from the airport, but wasn't able to. Sooooo, on the way to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Houston, we stopped at my favorite yarn store in Houston, and purchased these goodies:

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A swift, a winder, and yarn to wind. That yarn is enough Euroflax linen to make a tank top. Happy happy happy!

Damn the torpedoes crochet hooks!
Back to Elspeth. I finished knitting, blocking, and seaming the pieces together. Then, I danced around in joy upon discovering that she fits. Here I am wearing it with a stitch marker holding it closed. (Note that I don't have to stand with my arms akimbo.)

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But soon, the joy of the fitting bolero started to fade. It was time to crochet. With the handy diagrams in Vogue Knitting, I figured out how to do the crochet borders around the sleeves and allllll the way around the sweater. The sleeve-borders went well. The very very long border around the sweater ... um ... not so good. After spending hours crocheting that border, I held up my work and saw that the border flared outward badly. UGH. Riiiippp.... Good thing that I have a new wool winder. I'm starting over. Needless to say, the progress on my other sweater (Moni) has been nonexistent.

Friday, June 03, 2005

"Happy Birthday to Me...

...I live in a tree! I look like a Monkee..." No wait, she doesn't look anything like me.

Today won't be the best birthday ever. Peter is in Dallas on business. He said that I could go with him, but I didn't feel like poking around Dallas by myself during the day or attending some social function with a bunch of total strangers in the evening. Instead, I'm staying home, playing with my cats, knitting, and eating macaroni and cheese.

However, glittrgirl and others from the knitty coffeeshop have said that they are going to throw me a party in the knitty chat room later today. What fun! I'll have to make sure that Scout doesn't try to wear a lamp shade.

Anyway, have some (ice cream) cake:
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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Welcome to Sleeve Island! *

Four front panels done and four sleeves to go! Lucky for me, all sleeves involved are short sleeves. However, the anticipation of finishing both Moni and Elspeth is giving me anxiety attacks. Why? Because I'm venturing into uncharted territory and I have perfectionist tendencies. I'm not sure how well I can do the finishing of each sweater and I'm afraid that these sweaters won't turn out perfect as nicely as I want them to be.

I mostly finished the front of Moni over the weekend.
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I say "mostly finished" because I haven't knitted the sewn-on button bands yet. The button bands are the anxiety-inducers on this sweater. The instructions say to press (i.e. block) the sweater and sew the shoulder seams before knitting and sewing on the button bands. That just seems so wrong to me. I think that the button bands should be blocked at the same time as the rest of the sweater. But should I knit and sew the bands before I block the whole thing, or should I knit the bands and then block and then sew? Oh decisions, decisions! The fact that I have never made sewn-on button bands makes this decision harder.

Elspeth's front panels were finished last night.
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Two anxiety-inducers for this little sweater. First, the trim around all the edges is crochet. When it comes to crochet, I don't know a slip stitch from a half-double crochet. (Remember, my first attempt at crochet was not very long ago.) Second, after several searches through the blogosphere, I have yet to see a completed, well-fitting Elspeth. I'm worried that I will have to stand with my arms akimbo the entire time I'm wearing this sweater. (Furthermore, It disturbs me to no end that the lace is not symmetrical. But I will do my best to ignore that.)

* I always thought the term sleeve island was rather weird. But this title reminded me of Mr. Roark saying, "Welcome to Fantasy Island!" And once that thought crossed my mind, it stuck.