Monday, December 4, 2017

Moving in the right direction

Sometimes it takes me awhile to get up the guts to pull the plug on a project, but I will eventually get them.  I just counted back, and I'm pretty sure I've unraveled four almost-finished sweaters this year.  That's a lot of wasted knitting time, isn't it?  These were all things I cast on in haste, either by being desperate to try a new yarn, or being persuaded by an expiring discount code, or being too lazy to wind something and just using what was handy [if you can believe it, that is something I actually do] or suffering from FOMO, or boredom, or yarnlove blindness, or whatever.  I'd been working on a Granito in Holst Supersoft since last summer, and from the very beginning, I sort of knew that Supersoft was the wrong choice.  It was gray and in the stash at the exact moment I was ready to cast on for the project, and I got gauge.  So, go for launch!  Don't think about it or anything!  On the plus side, Supersoft comes already wound and ready to go, but straight out of the cake, Supersoft is not supersoft.  Supersoft has a hand only a mother could love, and it requires a leap of faith, and you have to keep on leaping for the duration of the project.  Actually, I have to carry that unrelated purple swatch along with any Supersoft project, and I need to keep it right in front of me the whole time I'm knitting with Supersoft, and I have to keep cuddling it now and then to remind myself what that yarn really is inside, because otherwise, I will completely forget about how it transforms with washing and becomes a nice fabric and I will hate my knitting.   Witness.  Supersoft before a bath:
String-like and rough.  A bit like what your grandad uses to tie up the tomato plants.  On the recommended US 4, the fabric is mesh, and pretty unappealing.  It can be dispiriting.  However.  Supersoft after a bath:
Lo, it is good!  Fluffy and plumped, and comparatively soft.  It's never going to be merino, but not everything has to be that soft.  This is a rustic, wooly wool, and light as a feather.   So, even though I had a pretty strong feeling this wasn't the yarn I wanted for my Granito, I kept thinking about its potential for dramatic transformation and that made me keep going.  Then, last week, when I realized I hadn't put even one stitch on that project since August, I knew it was time to let it go and I unraveled the whole thing, which always hurts a little, but which is, in the end, a move in the right direction.  This time, it also left me with two holes in my life, because I still desperately want a Granito, and I have some Supersoft now, which wants to be a sweater.  Obviously, faced with a situation like that, even though I already have what Ethel refers to as my Yarn Museum, I betook myself to the LYS to find a remedy, and came home with a bunch more Supersoft.  Sigh.  It comes in so many colors!  I can't resist it!  I have quite a stash of it now, but never exactly what I'm looking for, which is how stashes grow.  [Could I do one of these in time for Rhinebeck 2018?] That up there, the cream-and-olive striped thing?  That's neither the sweater I unraveled, nor the yarn I unraveled from it, nor a new Granito.  That is Yet Another Sweater, on my needles.  I am running out of size fours.  Ravello, by Isabell Kraemer.  In Supersoft.    

Monday, November 27, 2017

All day, every day

Friends, I apologize for gushing.  This sweater is just...squeal!  Ahhhh!  This sweater!  I am just so in love with it.  I have hardly taken it off since it dried from blocking.  
There isn't any pattern because I had some gorgeous yarn and an idea, so I just went ahead and did it.  This happened the way it usually does, whenever I start with the yarn; using my Fashionary Panels (indispensable, honestly) I drew a silhouette, and then measured my back neck and raglan lengths, and knit that.  I tried to write this one down, but somewhere around the armpits I forgot to keep taking notes, and then it was mostly too late.  Starting with the yarn.  This is just occurring to me right now; if I have a yarn I want to use, I almost always just make up something to fit me.  Somehow it works better for me that way, and I am more likely to get what I want.  Trying to find a pattern to match what I've got in my hand is hard for me.  If there's a pattern I want to make, finding a yarn to match it is easier.  Why would this even be true?  I don't know, but it seems to be true for me.  Maybe having the yarn in my hand starts up the creative process?  Certainly the way a yarn feels matters a lot to what kind of thing should be made from it.  Right, the yarn!  This is the (deep, contented sigh) very luxurious "Tynd" by Woolfolk, in colors 18 (a warm, pinkish gray) and 19 (a raw umberish/chocolately brown).  This is not a commercial for Woolfolk, but let me just tell you the truth here:  this yarn is the very softest yarn in the world.  I do not exaggerate.  It is softer than cashmere.  It feels like a kitten.  Working on this sweater was like cuddling a warm, sleepy kitten.  I could hardly knit this sweater slowly enough, because it (is all stockinette) was a tremendous pleasure to have on the needles, but I also could hardly wait to finish it so I could put it on.  And now that I have it on, I will wear it all day, every day.  If you see me anywhere, ever, this is what I'll be wearing.  I must tell you, it has already become pretty fuzzy, and there is the expected amount of pilling in the high friction areas--this is soft yarn (did I mention it was soft?  SO SOFT!) and soft yarn will pill.  I'm not worried about it. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Snowy

I just want to make all the things right now.  There are so many things, and I am dying to start about forty-two new knitting projects.  This little papier mache sailboat (free pattern, from the wonderful Ann Wood) has kept me busy this morning, and I only had to stop because it needs a mast and I can't find a skewer.  The skewers were a casualty of the big clear-out I did over the summer, and now I'm either going to buy more skewers (probably a hundred of them, when I only need one) or improvise with a knitting needle or something else.  A stick from the yard would be my usual solution to needing a stick, but this happened:
I can't.  Look, it's still trying to be golden out there!  Or it would be, if the sun knew we were here.  New York, you are so hard to love right now.  This dark weather just gets to me.  A thousand pounds of snow just slid off the roof and crashed onto the ground.  Why do people love this?  Honestly?  Don't say sweaters and soup, I do those things all year.  I just don't get it.  I have lots of opinions about this.  I know people love snow, and I'm happy for them, but I really struggle in this cold, dark time of year.  Anyway, if you love a snowy day, come on over; I'll put the kettle on. 
Probably in response to the encroaching cold, I made a pair of legwarmers!  My legs are cold!  My feet are cold, too, and I need to be knitting socks, but that is less colorful and uses up far fewer scraps.  These really scratched the itch to make granny squares--come on, you know the one I'm talking about.  I have no use at all for any more granny square blankets, but that doesn't keep me from wanting to make granny squares, and all those little leftover balls of pretty colors just cry out to me.  There is something so wonderful about the humble, scrappy, granny square.  These are made with 18 5-round grannies (9 per leg) and joined-as-you-go, and then trimmed top and bottom with a few more colorful rows, just to jazz them up a little, because they aren't quite jazzy enough already.  
I think with a pair of thick socks underneath (note to self: get busy!) these gauntlets will be very cheerful.  I think I'd quite like to have them on inside my winter boots, cuddling my chilly shins and peeking out the top, all cheeky and bright.  Cozy. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fixing

I made this sweater last winter.  It's a combination of the known-to-fit-me Lisbon pullover by Misa Erder and the lovely (and free!) yoke design from Rydraud, by Steinunn Birna Gudjonsdottir.  I used Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, in the gorgeous and golden colorway "Hayloft", which was harvested from my lovely, but too large (and thus unraveled) "Levenwick".  Yarn, good.  Pattern, good.  Gauge?  Not good.  I have developed a bad habit:  I have this idea that all my knitting will be 5 sts/inch.  I don't know why I think this, because it is hardly ever the case, and I fully know that gauge matters, and I swatch and I wash and block my swatches, but still, this belief persists.  Anyway, the Shelter, as knit by me in this particular case, did not make a fabric that was 5 sts/inch, and I made this a year ago, so I can't remember how much I measured or swatched or which needles I used, but I'll bet I went into it all confident that I had successfully used this pattern before, and that (due to the Levenwick, and also the almost finished but also unraveled Timber I knit 85% of before deciding it wasn't working) I knew the yarn pretty well, and so just figured, you know, 5 sts/inch.  So I tinkered with the Rydraud chart a little to make it fit the numbers of the Lisbon pattern, and then probably just went ahead and knit it without even checking any measurements.  Which is obviously a mistake.  And the yoke was really deep, which meant the armpits were way too low and there was a ton of extra fabric across the chest, which billowed unpleasantly and made me feel sloppy.  I talked myself into it at first--aw, hey, it's slouchy!  It's comfy!  Roomy!  Weekend wear! Boyfriend Style!--but every time I put it on, it just bugged me.  Slouchy, sloppy, boyfriendy, weekend-sized sweaters are great, but all that bigness has to be intentional, and I have to feel good wearing it.  And I wasn't.  I almost got rid of it.  But the color is so good, and the yarn (Shelter!  Brooklyn Tweed!) is so good. And that yoke design, oh my goodness.  I just love it so much.  Why didn't it fit?  Argh!  It seemed so close to being right.  I tried reblocking it, hoping that I could adjust things that way, and the body and sleeves became even more perfect than before, but the yoke was still too deep.  There were just too many inches in it.  Too many rows.  Now, in case you're not familiar with round yoke construction, the way these sweaters work is this:  You start at the hem and knit the body, headed upwards.  When you reach the armpits, you set that aside, and make two sleeves, the same way, headed upwards.  Then you put all three pieces on a long circular needle and start knitting the yoke, which for the first (approximately) 50% of the depth, is just knit straight up.  Just a big tall tube, with no shaping.  At the 50% mark, decreases start happening, every couple inches, or wherever it fits into the colorwork design, until A) you have the right number of stitches for the neck, and B) the yoke [the distance from your armpits to your collar] is the right depth.  So, B is where I went wrong, and this sweater, beautiful in almost every way, sat on the shelf.  Then, a few weeks ago, I read Laura Nelkin say somewhere that her personal yoke depth was fairly shallow, and that when she knits a round yoke design, she leaves out a few rounds.  Well, whaaaat?  Suddenly, I thought of this sweater, sitting at the bottom of a pile on the closet shelf, unworn, but as yet undonated, but on the bubble, and wondered if I could fix it.  I love/hated this sweater, but it was so close to good.  So close!  I decided to see whether taking out a few rounds would save it, and unless you want to rip out the neck and all the color work and re-do it (argh, I didn't want to do that) the only way is to cut.  
This would have been a lot scarier a year ago, when this was a fresh project and I still had so much hope for it, but I had tried and tried to wear this sweater and just couldn't. It was fix it, or get rid of it.  So taking the scissors, I snipped one stitch right at the front, underneath the colorwork (which I thought might help hide any messiness that might ensue later) and unpicked an entire row, one stitch at a time.  Once the whole yoke was off, I had live stitches again, on the body and on the yoke, and I unraveled about six rounds from the body, and then put both pieces back on the needles--one needle for the body stitches and one needle for the yoke stitches.  Then I told Doc not to talk to me, and that he should pretend I was not in the house, and that he should under no circumstances speak any numbers out loud, and I began grafting the two pieces back together, using Kitchener stitch.  Now, I'm a sock knitter too, and kitchenering is solid in my toolbox, but I have to count "1,2,3,4..." the whole time, and if I get interrupted, either by a knot in the yarn, a friendly comment from someone else in the room, getting startled by the doorbell--anything, really--it is all over and it is a mess and I can't figure out how to fix it.  So Doc left the room and put on his headphones and made himself silent and invisible, and I counted to four for an hour.  
When you graft some knitting, you are basically sewing in a new row, using a tapestry needle and weaving the yarn in and out through the top and bottom rows of loops in the same way it would go in a knitted row, and when done well, it can be invisible.  It should just look like any other knitted row.  However, I can't do this very well.  My grafted row was a little bit gnarly-looking, and it would never in a million years have been possible (for me) in a less wooly yarn, but Shelter is wooly and pretty forgiving.  I wove in the ends and put it in the sink for a block, and then waited a couple days while it dried, to see if the gnarly row would straighten out, and if the newly shortened yoke would be the right depth.  I want this sweater to fit me!  
Aw, yeah!  All the hooray!  There's a little bit of a visible scar, but the yoke is the right depth for me now.  It fits.  Doing this was so worth it, because this sweater is saved, and so are all the round yoke sweaters in my future.  There is always so much to learn, isn't there?  

Monday, October 30, 2017

Do-over

It is always well to know when it's time to pull the plug on a project.  I had the Bulb pullover/tunic/dress thing a little more than one sleeve from finished, then I spread it out to measure it and had a good look:
I am really inspired by all the Find Your Fades and So Fadeds and whatever other fade-type things are happening out there, and I think they're really good, a great way to make use of these very tempting multi-colored yarns that look so pretty in the skein, but maybe a little too much most everywhere else.  They are so beautiful, and so complex, and so evocative.  Their colorway names completely slay me.  They just jump into my shopping basket.  I feel powerless over them.  So I have fair stash of speckly, handpainted, arty-looking yarn, but honestly, a whole big sweater/dress/tunic made of that just isn't something I am going to wear.  I was blinded by beautiful yarn.  So I put Tom Petty on Spotify and pulled out the needle, and then I just unraveled the whole entire thing, and it felt great.  There's always a little bit of awful, when the realization hits that a total unravel is the only route to happiness; that's a sinking feeling I don't enjoy.  But there's nothing else for it, guys, and once the ripping is underway, it stops hurting. There's no reason to keep knitting this (and the knitting of it was so much fun, you can see how much, because I got all this way, almost to the end of a dress in fingering weight yarn, before I realized it wasn't working) when the fate of it is to end up in the pile for Goodwill.  And it does feel good later, when you've got a fresh pile of yarn, waiting to become something new.  
Pretty yarn!  I like this.  For me, the only real way to wear multis or speckles or handpainted things is in accessories.  My feet, my hands, my neck.  So, a big wrap, another of the stunning and statement-y designs by Beata Jezek, went onto my needles:  this one is Shockwaves.  
My dad used to tell me, "Know when to say when."  It took longer than usual, but I did finally know when, and now this yarn can be what it really wants to be, and I can make a different Bulb (oh, just look at this gorgeous one!) in the right yarn.  [Editor's note:  all this is well and good, so what's up with that Granito, still sitting there halfway done, in the wrongitty-wrongest yarn ever?  Hmmm?]. Okay, something in me is still hoping that one can work.  [It won't].  There will be a Granito someday, in some yarn or another.  Stay tuned.  

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rhinebeck

All this talk about Rhinebeck.  What a good day.  What a lovely, wonderful day I had there.  It was eighty degrees, and there were very few sweaters to see, which disappointed me a little, because I was hoping to use the sweaters as a way to start conversations with people, and there wasn't much of that in the end anyway, because as it turns out, I really didn't even notice people until they talked to me first.  I was focused like a laser beam on all the beautiful things and apparently I hardly looked up at all.  I did not see a single Famous Knitter--not a single one.  And I know they were there, I've seen a million pictures!  Well.  Anyway, if you were there and I missed seeing you because I was facedown in the Cormo, I am so sorry.  And if you weren't there, and you wish you could've been, I'm so sorry about that, too.  I think too much talk about Rhinebeck amongst the yarny people can get to be a little irritating for those who can't go, or who don't care to go.  I did have a terrific day, full of friends and doughnuts and beautiful things.  That is my haul, up there.  
Doc, my true love and constant companion, got up with me at 4:00 am, drove us, through the fog, across the state to the fairgrounds, and once there carried the water and snacks on his back, stood patiently while I felt up all the fleeces, carried the first load of yarn back to the car and then came back for more, waited in the long lines for apple cider doughnuts and falafel so I wouldn't have to, bought me an iced coffee, posed for selfies with me.  He never once raised an eyebrow about any of it.  And he wore a kilt:
I know!  He always gets so many wonderful comments and questions, and is so happy to talk to people about it.  Men always want to know why he wears the kilt; what kind of kilt it is, where the sporran came from [he made it himself, yowza!] and women always tell him how handsome he looks, and to tell me how lucky I am.  [I do feel lucky!]. Everyone wants to know what's on underneath it [answer: tradition and etiquette requires that to be a mystery] and to tell him about their recent trips to Scotland, which we love to hear about.  Guys, wear a kilt.  It's the very best.  
 
 
There is so much to see there.  The beautiful wool, in all its forms, is abundant.  The lambs are smiling.  The people all around are kindred souls.  A couple of our tribe spotted me and said hello:
I really loved meeting them in person.  See you again next year!  
Our hotel for the night was beautiful and spooky.  We had the third floor attic (still undergoing renovations)--with four mostly-empty rooms, including a bedroom, two sitting rooms and a workspace, a brick and iron furnace, black-specked gilt mirrors and transoms and wood-paneled everything, and oil paintings and glossy Victorian furniture and an actual suit of armor and creaky closet doors and other doors marked DO NOT OPEN!--all to ourselves.  It was delicious.  I slept with one eye open.  And that view, the next morning, from the one of the windows in the second of our four turrets.  I can hardly wait until next year.  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Woollen

At the moment, there is this.  It is so pretty I can't stop looking at it.  I was just about to say that this yarn is nothing like me, what is this speckle stuff?  Purple???  but I had four skeins of it in the stash, so apparently this yarn is exactly like me.  I fell for it like I always do, just picking up a beautiful skein here and there, with no solid plan in mind, maybe with vague, long-range notions of making a Find Your Fade (all the finished projects, you guys.  I am under the spell.). But I guess I just couldn't wait any longer to see what it would do when I knit with it, and now I see, and hoo!  It is good.  The pattern I'm working with is Bulb by Veera Valimaki.  I love that loose, comfy, tunic shape with the floppy neck.  I couldn't even get close to gauge, no matter what needle or which size I chose, so Doc reworked all the math for me (oh, the blessings of having a Doc around the house! There's really nothing he isn't good at) and have been using Andrea's fade strategy to blend the different skeins where they meet each other.  I don't know what I'm going to end up with, but working on this has been so lovely already, it is almost beside the point.  Right now it is just a lap full of happy rainbows.  
Here's something more familiar:  this is Shadow by Olga Buraya Kefelian, in the very soft and natural "Fleece" by West Yorkshire Spinners.  Neutral.  Whew.  This is one I really want to wear; wooly, heathery goodness.  Those smooshy cables.  I've said this many times before, but there really is room for both color and gray in my knitting life, and possibly in my wardrobe as well.  As I age and my hair turns more and more white, I am more and more inclined to wear only black every day forever, and honestly, the only thing that holds me back is how boring that would be for my knitting.  Well, my hair isn't all the way white yet.  
I am still carding the Super Pale Grey Border Leicester/Finn fleece from September's fiber festival.  There is only one small handful left to do, and then I will start spinning it.  Oh my goodness, I can hardly wait.  I am still such a total amateur at all of this, and these little mini batts/rolags/fauxlags I'm making on two old dog brushes are pretty full of imperfections; stray pieces of hay and uncombed blobs that will sneak past me and make their way intact into the yarn, and it will surely be far less than perfect, but I am not concerning myself with that right now.  If I want perfect yarn, I can go buy it.  This process--the sorting, the washing, the carding, the general handling and sniffing and cuddling of all this fleece; it has been so lovely.  I am intimately acquainted with it now.  We know each other.  It is soft and clean and light as air.  I am so looking forward to the next part of this project, and the next, and the next.  
Some parts of it are perfect little crinkly locks, some parts of it are longer and fluffier, like a Santa Claus beard.  Some of it is pure white, and some is caramel, and some is dove gray, and some is warm and buttery yellow.  I can't wait to see what kind of yarn it becomes.  
On Sunday, Doc and I will be at Rhinebeck, and part of what I think will be fun about this festival is seeing all the other makers in their most beautiful handmades, and meeting other like-minded souls.  I can't wait to see your sweater/shawl/cowl/mittens/hat and I want to hear all about them.  I will be wearing this cardigan.  There has been much talk out there about how warm it will be over the weekend, but believe me when I tell you that at 72 degrees F, I will still be able to wear a sweater.  I am almost never, ever, EVER too warm.  Doc, however, does not share my reptilian blood and has decided to forego his sweater this year, and I don't blame him a bit. [Also, whew!  It will give me a chance to properly fix that mess.] He will wear a kilt, and his Toirneach hose, though, and will be looking fierece, as always.  If you are there on Sunday and you spot us, please come over and say hello?  Look for a mustached warrior in a kilt and a girl with glasses and Wensleydale hair who probably has kettle corn stuck to her face.  I'd really, really like to meet you.