Thursday, January 31, 2008

Gauge and I are not friends

I have not been able to get gauge with the past THREE projects I've done, which has resulted in me ripping out said projects and starting over at least twice per project.

First, the Toasty Topper Debacle posted about below.

Second, my attempt at the Child's Cotton Hat from Last Minute Knitted Gifts:
See how it's all pointy? Knitting with the recommended size 7 gave me 4.5 stitches to the inch, while the size 8 gave me 4 stitches but a ridiculous looking fabric. So I split the difference and knit the toddler size at 4.5 stitches to the inch. Other than the point, it actually looks pretty cute, and despite the mysterious extra eyelet, I won't be ashamed to give the hat to its recipient. But it's still frustrating.

I bet some of you are wondering "why isn't she doing gauge swatches and saving herself a lot of frustration?" I'm not doing them because I am trying to channel my Inner Elizabeth Zimmermann, who said that one should just start knitting, particularly if it's a small project, and then check gauge. And for the most part, she's right because it doesn't make sense to swatch for a baby hat, particularly when it's done in the round. But MAN, EZ must have had the patience of a saint if she was willing to do it this way and just keep ripping, ripping, ripping if it didn't work out.

And that brings me to the third project, the sweater vest for The Toddler that I had originally intended to make for a Christmas present. I've ripped it out three times already. Here's a question: other than doing the Dreaded Math, would it be better to knit a larger size in a tighter gauge or loosen up the gauge and knit the size intended, even if one is not nuts about the fabric created? Or what about Option C, chuck the whole thing and knit something else?

Monday, January 28, 2008

If at first you don't succeed....

...keep ripping it out. Seriously, after several attempts and just in time for this glorious thaw we're having, I finished The Toddler's Toasty Topper from Knitty. It's a clever little pattern, a hat knit top down with a built-in scarf.

I'd had it in my Ravelry queue since the pattern came out, thinking it would be a good stash-busting charity knitting project. But this past cold snap made this kind of hat a necessity, so I set to work.

First I tried using two strands of Cascade 220 Superwash together. That got me gauge, but after I'd knit all the increases, I realized the hat was stiffer than cardboard. So I ripped (that's becoming a habit with me lately). And I broke my resolve to stash-bust and ran down to Natural Stitches to pick up two skeins of Wisdom Yarn Poems.

Still, I had problems: instead of getting 4 stitches to the inch, I was getting 4.5, and the yarn was suspiciously itchy. But I could not, would not buy more yarn. I had to, to quote my beloved Tim Gunn, "make it work."

So here are the modifications to the original pattern:
  • Yarn: Wisdom Yarn Poems
  • Gauge: 4.5 stitches to the inch using size 9 US needles, ribbing done on size 8 US
  • Added an additional round of increases to 72 stitches
  • Worked short rows as written (but as a short row newbie, that's another story....let's just say it didn't occur to me to work the wraps as I went, but I don't think they show too much.)
  • Followed short rows with an additional four rows in pattern before casting on for scarf portion
  • Added pitiful attempt at a pompom

Then the hat took a bath in a little bit of Eucalan in an attempt to soften it up. But the big question remains....after all this, will the Toddler wear it?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Best. Knitting. Day. Ever.


Yesterday morning I started reading Ravelry and various blogs and realized EVERYONE had their January Rockin' Sock package but me! How could this be? I paid, right? I gave them the correct address, right? I even started pacing a little bit by the doorway and peered down the street for the mailman. But no package.

But Beth, Lisa, and Not-So-Blogless Michelle were coming over later that day to knit, and I needed to go to the store, so I bundled The Toddler up in the stroller and off we went. To my great surprise, when we got back, I found not one but TWO packages on my porch!

The first package was from Plimoth Plantation and contained a kit for Square Heel Tudor socks, which I volunteered to knit for the interpreters at PP. (You can read more about that here.)

The second package, of course, was from Blue Moon Fibers. I don't even know what to say, I am so delighted with it. I adore the colorway and am looking forward to learning how to do a short row heel. I'd been starting to worry that the club was just too much money, but now that I see everything that you get, I am really pleased.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Flying (and knitting) solo

Okay, so only Blogless Michelle is really going to get this joke. Today marks my first full day of solo parenting for a few weeks, and I'm going to try to mark the time by accomplishing a few things.

I'm actually going to refer to "books" part of this blog and work on a paper for a conference at the end of February. But more importantly, the "yarn" goals:
  • I have a "secret knitting" project that I started last night that I want to finish.
  • I want to start and finish The Toddler's sweater vest that I meant to make for Christmas.
  • I must finish my husband's Gentleman's Socks, which were also supposed to be a Christmas Present. I had the lengthen the foot considerably and that was demoralizing, so I stuffed them down in the bottom of my knitting basket.
  • I must, must, must finish my mother's Clapotis. I tried to appease her with a pair of Fetchings and a Tudora, but I must finish the Clap. (By the way, you can get Fetching and Tudora out of one skein of Malabrigo and it's a great quick fix.)
Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I ripped

So the pooling on the Subway Mittens broke up beautifully when I switched to larger needles and did the increases for the thumb gusset. Yay! Imagine my dismay when it started pooling all over again after I put the thumb stitches on waste yarn. Boo!

Considering I'd cast on for these mittens three times, I figured the Universe was trying to tell me something, namely that this beautiful colorway isn't meant to be mittens. I put it back on the ballwinder and frogged it, and I'll do the mittens some other time in the plain old Cascade 220 I had originally planned.

But, but, I wanted to knit something, anything with Malabrigo! Never mind that I have oh, around four UFOs I could have been working on instead. I needed my fix. So while I had the ballwinder and swift out, I decided to wind up a hank of a semisolid colorway from my stash. Big mistake. I had a winding disaster that reminded me why I should not feel nostalgic for the old Knit and Bead days where I'd spend entire Saturdays winding customers' yarn. It was 9:30 at night: I had wet laundry waiting to go in the dryer, the dishes were undone, and here I was untangling Malabrigo.

But finally I cast on for Dashing. I got my Malabrigo fix, but it was hard-won. Ahhhh, that feels better.

In other exciting knitting news, I have a Secret Knitting Project to do! However, I know something that I'm not supposed to know, so not only do I have to keep the Secret Knitting a secret from the recipient, I have to rig the Secret Knitting so people other than the recipient don't know that I know that secret something. Confused yet? I am.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Holy pooling, Batman! (or, To Rip or Not to Rip)

I love Malabrigo. I love this Stonechat colorway.

That said, UGH! I cast on for the Subway Mittens from Interweave Knits last night (even though we really have no use for such a thing, given the way public transportation is set up in Pittsburgh).

Here's one side of the cuff. Very pretty, huh?

And now here's the other side. UGH!

What would you do? Whenever I see projects that have pooled on Ravelry, I think "Man, that would drive me nuts. Why didn't she rip that out?" But now that I'm in that position, I spent two freaking hours on that cuff last night (yes, I know I am a slow knitter). The pooling is shifting as I work more on the thumb gusset, but will I look at the cuff and think "yuck!" every time I wear this?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Is spinning the new knitting? And other short musings on fiber arts

Is everyone spinning but me? I see spinning everywhere lately. Cosy is teaching classes. Every time I go into Natural Stitches, they have more new drop spindles and roving. Knitty Gritty has aired multiple episodes about it.

Is this the trendy new thing, or the natural evolution of the knitting craze, as knitters and crocheters take a greater interest in where their materials come from and want more control over the final product?

The irony in this is that I have no strong interest in spinning, and yet I have access to a plethora of materials. My mother has an art degree and her minor concentration was fiber arts. She mainly focused on weaving and felt work, but she has a spinning wheel, a few drop spindles, a hand carder, a carding machine, huge rubbermaid storage containers of roving, plus many more containers of yarn that she spun herself and never used. She went back to ceramics, so all this stuff is just sitting in storage and I could borrow it at the drop of a hat. The question is, do I want to go down that road and get into what I would consider an entirely new hobby?

In semi-related fiber musings, have I been living under a rock in terms of the level of vitriol and hate towards crochet? I've always been aware of the subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) bias against it: I worked at the Knit and Bead, not the Knit and Crochet and Bead, and we had only one employee who could crochet worth a darn. One day, a regular knitting customer came in to select a project for her daughter-in-law. The customer announced "She crochets but I love her dearly anyway" and we all laughed and then looked at some beautiful hand-carved crochet hooks. So I was aware of the red-headed stepchild thing, but my goodness, have you all ever seen anything at the level of this outburst when Knitting Daily dared to feature one blog entry about crochet? Sweet merciful crap, people. And I'm told that this is tame in comparison to other boards!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Last FO of 2007/First FO of 2008

Out of nowhere, yesterday afternoon during The Toddler's nap, I started whipping through the pattern repeats on Foliage. Other than my barely started Embossed Leaves sock, I've never done lace before and I've never knit from a chart before. When I started it, I was so afraid I was going to screw this up that I would only work on it when I was alone, no baby, no husband, to distract me, and if you have a baby and/or a husband, you know that time is rare.

Then suddenly I realized I could do this. If I could do all those complicated cross stitch charts in my other Crafty Grad School Period, I could certainly handle a few yarn-overs and double decreases. The Foliage pattern is pretty straightforward, and it hides the few mistakes I made well.

When The Toddler went to bed, I realized I had only one set of pattern repeats plus the ribbing to do, so I set to it, determined (particularly after The Debacle that was Christmas Knitting 2007) to have just one more thing off the needles for the New Year. We watched The Departed and I made it through the pattern repeats. We watched an old tivo'd episode of Kitchen Nightmares and I almost finished the ribbing. Just as the ball dropped I realized I still had 20 stitches still left to bind off and the ends to weave in! Shoot, I almost made it.*

But here it is! Foliage knit with Malabrigo Merino Worsted in the Forest colorway. I used size 7 and size 5 US needles as called for in the pattern. This pattern is not suited to the blunt Clover needles I have and in fact went much faster when I switched to my size 5 Knitpicks Harmony needles. It's a hard pattern on the hands, since you are using a smaller needle than recommended for Malabrigo. Between that and the second pair of Malabrigo Fetchings I started for my mother the other night, my hands are pretty sore.

A glance at Ravelry tells me I completed eighteen projects in 2007, not counting the umpty million Mason-Dixon bibs, burp cloths, and warshrags that I refuse to enter individually. I have five WIPs right now thanks to the Christmas Knitting that is still hanging over my head. So much for my rule that I have to finish something before I cast on for another.

* And yes, since starting Ravelry, I realize I must be an extraordinarily slow knitter. I refuse to blame the fact that I throw. It must be something else.

Happy New Year!