June 2008 Archives

The 48-Hour Sweater


I mentioned in my last entry that I might drop everything I was working on and whip up a version of Ysolda's new Liesl pattern. And, as it turns out, that is exactly what I did.


This was by far the quickest garment I have ever made, and the fact that it's an entire sweater - a flattering, well-fitted sweater at that - kind of blows my mind. It took literally forty-eight hours from cast-on to bind-off - and that includes quite a number of minor rippings-out, mostly due to my attempts at convincing the different skeins of hand-dyed yarn to color match as closely as possible.


I'm really pleased. It's a perfect little confection to throw on over one's shoulders at an outdoor dinner party on a summer evening, while sipping a glass of champagne in the midst of fragrant blossoms, sprawling tomato plants, and good friends. Which is lucky, because I plan on doing a lot of that kind of thing this summer. A girl needs to be properly outfitted for the task at hand. What's more, since I don't really wear jewelry, the fantastic color of this yarn is the closest I'll get to fastening a ruby lavalier around my neck.

And speaking of the yarn:


It's Sundara Aran Silky Merino, in the Ruby Port colorway, and it is some of the most scrumptious stuff I've ever touched. From that perspective, it's a little bit sad that the project flew off the needles so quickly, because it meant less knitting time with this delicious yarn. The depth of color is just gorgeous, and this sweater is now vying with my Kidsilk Haze lace sweater for the coveted position of "softest garment in Emily's wardrobe." It's so soft, in fact, that it's in danger of wearing ill in "high-stress" areas (a polite euphemism for "armpits"), but I'm hoping that the loose, drapey fit through the arms will help alleviate that problem. And frankly, any wool sweater will pill if you wear it enough, which I generally end up doing. Best to just knit up beautiful things, buy a little de-pilling gadget, and go merrily along my way, n'est-ce pas? Plus, I finally found a use for these gorgeous green ceramic leaf buttons I've been coveting for ages:


And the gauge is so large that I actually have an entire skein of the Sundara left over - something I never would have believed at the outset. I'll have to think about what to do with the leftovers - perhaps a matching hat, or a bolero gift for some lucky lady (then we could match! I'll have to think who I know who would be willing to put up with that much cutesiness). I have to admit that, despite being tickled pink with the results, I won't be switching to huge-gauge projects with any kind of regularity; my only complaint about this whole project is that knitting, and especially working yarnovers, with such large needles was murder on my shoulders. I'll be returning presently to my size 1's, but in the meantime this was a very pleasant excursion - a sort of knitting equivalent of a romantic weekend getaway.


One skein in


I always love that point in a sweater project when I use up the first skein of yarn and move on to the second. To me, it's like that moment on a road trip when you finally get done with all of your grocery stops, car washes, and city driving, and are finally out on the open road. You are gathering momentum. All loose ends are tied up. You have a great adventure stretching out before you.


Of course, being one skein into a project when the previous one isn't quite done makes me feel a bit like a person who left on a cross-country trip with a pot of soup still simmering on the stove at home. Nevertheless, I'm enjoying this immensely. It's been so long (possibly EVER) since I've done a project involving this much plain knitting, and let me tell you: it's pretty darn easy! In fact, it just flies along, even though I'm using fingering-weight yarn on US size 1 needles. There will be a colorwork band farther along, which should hit just about when I'm sick of stockinette.


The first skein took me through the waist decreases, and I'm now (halfway through Skein #2) about an inch from beginning to increase again. I'm having fun!

And it just came to my attention while writing this entry that another lovely distraction is now available. I have some very special yarn slated for this project; I've been checking Ysolda's site on a daily basis, and planning to drop everything and cast on the moment she published the pattern. Now I'm not sure if that's exactly how things will go...but they might.

End with the beginning


When we come home from an excursion and let Mr. Bingley out of his crate, he rockets around our legs, twirling and cavorting, rushing back and forth between us and wiggling so exuberantly that his little body seems insufficient to contain the concentration of his excitement. That's kind of how I feel about getting started on this sweater.


There is still quite a bit to be done on the Warren Johnson jacket - David and I are going to make a little video tutorial on the "strandtarsia" technique, for anyone who wants to take a walk on the knitting wild side with me. After that I can finish the second sleeve, felt it, seam it, and add all those little finishing touches. Not to mention the sizing, final photo shoot (which ought to be fun - we'll be coordinating a trip out to Cascade Locks with my dad), essay composition, and so on.

BUT. All the while, I am absolutely chomping at the bit to get going on this next sweater, which will be a tribute to Warren's wife, my paternal grandmother, Betty McNeil.


Betty and Warnie (or Grandma and Papa, as I knew them) lived about a mile from my parents and I while I was growing up, and they both played big parts in my childhood. I'm glad to be doing "their" projects consecutively. Honestly, there isn't a day that goes by when I don't think about my Grandma Betty. She's the person who taught me to wave-jump in icy Pacific waters, to feel the allure of foreign places, to love the crisp, cold autumn. She told me that the only things she regretted were the ones she didn't do. She let my friend Sara and I cut up her old sheets for ghost costumes and ruin her lipsticks and walls playing "murdered waifs" on her stairs. She sat with me for hours in her cramped upstairs attic room under the slanted roof, listening with interest while I invented epic tales about my dinosaur figurines, or recited my picture-books by heart. I know she had bitterness in her heart at being disappointed by and for people she loved, but even in her most caustic moments she was still so good at loving us all.


It's odd to me to think of her as a high-school girl, but once upon a time she was. And the sweater I'm planning is inspired by Betty's high-school persona: crisp and tailored, yet feminine. I am so excited to cast on!

A tale in two parts



This is some lovely silk/merino yarn that arrived yesterday from Sundara. It's inspired me to leap into plans for the sweaterette inspired by...well...myself. What depths of meta-narcissism I am about to sound! It's good that I have a funny little tube dog to bring things back into perspective.

Almost there


At long last, it's actually starting to look like a garment.


One side, sleeve and back, felted and seamed together. The second front is done and waiting to be felted, and I'm about a third of the way done with the second sleeve. After that, it's just felting, seaming, and knitting the collar. And let me tell you, I am really ready to be moving on from this project. It's been a lot of fun and I'm excited about how it's turning out - the feel, in particular, is stunning - but I feel like I've been working on it for about a year.

In my experience, matching plaids is something about which one can get as neurotic as one chooses. In the excellent Eudora Welty collection The Golden Apples, there's a paragraph that opens "There's nothing Virgie Rainey likes better than struggling against a real hard plaid." Reading that, I know just what kind of woman Virgie must be. It's about the struggle and the triumph for her, and she has become less than present to those around her. In past sewing projects, I too have chosen to get hard-nosed about my plaids, but going that level of crazy on this jacket, what with the huge scale of the tartan and all of the other technical challenges, would have completely undone me. So I opted for the more manageable, "mildly neurotic" option, and ended up with a plaid that is more-or-less matched across the shoulder in front, and slightly less so across the back.





I have to admit that the reversed order of the grey and cream stripes across the shoulder in front was not intentional, and I thought about doing it over. But the effect has actually grown on me, and I've decided to keep it and just replicate the effect on the other side. My grandfather was a quirky man who did a lot of altering materials to fit circumstances. I think the slight discrepancy would have suited him.

On Father's Day, the jacket-in-progress came with me to a Dr. John/Neville Brothers show that David and I attended with my parents, and my dad tried it on. At this point, his enthusiasm is really helping me to keep up my own momentum on the project, and he was thrilled - especially about the sleeves, which are very different from the type of sleeve I normally design, but which he said "fits just like I like them." It's really good to hear, especially when I'm leaving my comfort zone in terms of style and size.

So, just the final sprint to go, plus the fine-tuning of the final pattern. I have to say, I am hankering to start my next project. I ordered some buttons for it off Etsy, and look at this perfect match:


Think 1940's schoolgirl cardigan, with a few extra treats thrown in for good measure. I can't wait to get started.

Tutu's tortoise socks


One get-well present, all wrapped up and ready to go.


I'm not as excited about these as about many of my finished projects, but they were a quick, interesting knit from a novel pattern, and I think they'll be well appreciated. These modeled shots are of me wearing the socks, and they're a smidge small on me - which is good, since my grandmother's feet are at least a size smaller than mine. They should fit quite well.

My main beef with these socks is their tendency toward slouchiness. I think it's because the garter-stitch mitred squares are too multi-directional; there aren't the normal columns of stitches stacked on top of one another, so the fabric doesn't "know" which way it's supposed to fall. That said, the garter stitch is a nice texture on the foot, and I learned a lot about sock construction during the process of making these. It's actually quite a practical approach to long-term sock-making, because you knit the leg and the instep (the low-stress areas) together, and then add the heel, sole and toe (high-stress). When the sock wears out, it would be very easy simply to rip out the entire bottom/heel portion and replace it, without having to unravel the instep too. Clever! The approach does involve seaming, but I am unusual among knitters in quite enjoying a good seam. And I like the little picot cuff:


I made them slightly shorter than written, because these socks came VERY close to using up every single yard of yarn. Knitters take note: if you make these in a single color, each sock takes exactly one skein of Koigu. No more, but also not a foot less. I love it when socks work out that way, even if it is a little hair-raising toward the toe end.

Speaking of challenges, Mr. Bingley simply could not understand why we would spend twenty minutes paying so much attention to my feet, when there was a perfectly good dog right there who was willing to be in the picture.


He was probably just remembering that Tutu asked for more photos of HIM the last time we talked to her. Thank you, sir!

So, one get-well present down, and much progress on the Warren Johnson jacket also. Although I hope these knitted items bring comfort and joy to their recipients, I also advise anyone reading this that going into major surgery in order to get your own version of one of these items is not a feasible idea. It would send me round the twist, frankly, and I can't knit anything if I'm trussed up in a straitjacket. Goodbye illness, say I, and hello beautiful summer days.




Lovely Megan at Everyday Autumn tagged me for a meme. This is precisely the kind of low-energy, self-centered blogging which I am totally craving today, so thank you, Megan! Here we go:

The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?
Ten years ago I was a junior in high school! I was hip-deep in angst, reading Franny and Zooey like Salinger was some kind of obscure discovery comprehensible to myself alone. Amping up the volunteerism quotient to impress future colleges. Going to see Sleater-Kinney, The Third Sex, and The Need in little holes in the wall. Wringing my hands whenever I had to miss the Spinanes, who always played 21+ venues. Scowling darkly whenever a band I liked signed a major-label contract. Writing songs about how I would never sign a major-label contract. In short, navel-gazing.

2. Five things on my to-do list for today (in no particular order):
Send out the weekly newsletter for my office (I always procrastinate about doing this, because I have an ongoing feud with our mailing software); seam the left front to the back of the Warren Johnson jacket; take Mr. Bingley for a walk; schedule a time to get together with my friends Ariel and Charlie before they up and move to Idaho; relax on the couch with some E.B. White essays.

3. Snacks I enjoy:
Sesame seed bread dipped in whole-milk yogurt. Thin Mint cookies straight from the freezer. Sugar snap peas. Cinnamon toast.

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Pay off mine, and all my friends' and families' debts. Travel. Donate to causes important to me.

5. Places I have lived:
Bend, Oregon; Portland, Oregon; Galicia, Spain.

6. Jobs I have had:
Mental health office girl, insurance office girl, barista/counterperson, mortgage processor, full-time student, academic record coordinator/processor, copywriter, billing coordinator, front desk person, knitwear designer (heh).

7. People I'd like to know more about:
Well, there are lots of them, really. But most bloggers I know have already played this little game, so I think I'll let this particular strand die with me. It was fun!

*If you want to see the hilarious re-worked public service announcement that inspired this title, go get it here.

Bad news, good news, very good news


I had a scary day yesterday. I went to meet my parents and godparents at the hospital because my dad, who is strong as an armored bear and who I always think of as able to plow through anything, had a fit of dizziness and chest pain that ended with two nights in the hospital, an angiogram and a huge stent put in a major artery. I don't know whether these things are harder or easier if you know about them in advance, but this definitely took me by surprise like a bucket of anvils being dropped off a bridge. The (very) good news is that the blockage is gone, his heart is in fantastic general health, and there was no damage to the muscle. He was discharged this morning and sounded like his usual, hearty self when I talked to him earlier. The whole experience reminded me forcibly how much I love and value my family, and how much I count on them.

On that note, I do have a felted jacket front to show you:


It's laid on the back, and you can see that for the most part the plaid is staying pretty well matched through the felting process, which is something that concerned me when I decided to hand-felt each piece. I haven't finished the buttonhole edge yet; it occurred to me mid-way through the felting that I ought to have done the crochet edging BEFORE felting the whole shebang, but at that point I was already committed. In fact, I was almost over-committed; I forgot to protect the buttonhole openings, and nearly felted them together. Luckily, some last-minute reinforcing with a closed pair of scissors brought them back to usability. After all that work on the transition between waistband and body, I'm pleased with this line:


And of course, since the finished jacket will be a gift for my dad, and my parents own a large black-and-tan dog, I had to use my smaller model as a "dog swatch," to see if the plaid coordinates well with the canine color scheme.


Pretty dashing, no? I look forward to seeing my dad in this jacket for many seasons to come.

Our new addition


Okay, okay, I know this is a fiber arts blog and I'm supposed to stick to the task at hand, but who could resist this little face?


This is Mr. Bingley! (Some of you BBC/Austen fans might argue that this is Mr. Bingley, but we beg to differ.) David and I just adopted him from the amazing and worthwhile Pixie Project. We are so excited to have a new addition to our family, and he has been a delight thus far. We are still getting to know each other, of course. Mr. Bingley is not at all convinced of our decision that he will not be sleeping on the big bed, and we are just beginning to get acquainted with his manners and his habits.


"I have habits?"

He's getting less freaked out all the time at moving to a new place, and is showing a friskier side than he did at first (he napped for most of yesterday). Nonetheless, as soon as there is a lap in which to sit, he crawls right in and burrows into slumber. He also burrows in blankets, robes, and bedding, and would do the same to a decent-sized piece of knitting if given half the chance. He tried in his dainty way to make off with a ball of Jo Sharp DK, grabbing it delicately by one strand and carrying it toward his nest before I intercepted him.


Wish us luck! We are incredibly excited.

Socks for Tutu


Well, I know I just wrote that I was relieved to have finished some projects, and I know I wrote, too, that I'm an instinctively monogamous project-maker who gets stressed at having too many things going at once. All of which is true. That said, at least I have a good reason for having another little sock project on the needles.


These socks are slated to be a get-well present for my grandmother, a.k.a. Tutu, a.k.a. Marge. You may know her as the woman who inspired the Marjorie sweater. Unfortunately, she's been in and out of the hospital over the last few weeks with complications from a hip replacement surgery. Things were pretty rough there for a while, but I'm happy to report that she's now back home with skilled nursing care, working at her physical therapy and improving a little bit each day. Nevertheless, it's been an extremely stressful and painful month for her, and for the rest of my family. I took her one of my shawls as a loaner while she was in the hospital, and it was so highly appreciated that I thought a true knitted gift might cheer her up on the journey toward complete recovery. Thus, the Michael Warren jacket suffers another slight setback (sorry, Dad!).


I like to make gift-socks an opportunity to try patterns that intrigue me, but that I wouldn't necessarily wear myself. This novel pattern, Posey, is my issue-mate in the Spring '08 Knitty, and it caught my eye from the first for its unusual, seamed modular construction. I even had the perfect yarn: a lovely sea-colored Koigu which my friend Celeste gave me for my birthday last year. I love Koigu, but this particular colorway tended to pool whenever I tried a more traditional sock pattern with it. Posey is the perfect solution, because all each little square is knitted individually. Obviously, I'm modifying the pattern to be knitted in only one colorway, which I think gives quite enough visual interest, thank you very much.

So whether or not these end up being something I would wear personally, I'm enjoying the process and I hope they'll brighten my Tutu's day.