Archive for the 'Sweaters' Category

I am repentant

February 19, 2011

It was pointed out to me by a few kind readers that the JBW contest award skeins of Koigu in pink are indeed perfect for not only the five, six and seven-year-old girls in my life (and I should knit something for them); but, it is also appropriate for several of the 40-something-year-old girlfriends in my life (and I should knit something for them). Alas, I have no five, six or seven-year-old girls in my life.

Apparently, the 40-something age group has slow reflexes. Before anyone could convince me to knit something for them, I had already received an offer to trade from one of the contest winners!

Furthermore, I just stumbled across this interesting post on Knit Buddies about the color of the year.

None-the-less, the pink left the building. It winged its way to the winner of Kim’s yarn, who has a six-year-old granddaughter. In return, I got some lovely purple Koigu. No muted tones for me!

I am happy to report that finally, I finished Mendocino. I look like a cow in it. But hey, you can’t have everything. It is warm, it’s comfortable and it fits. It’s just that the heavily textured cable patterns on the tits and back add a little girth in a most unflattering way. This is one of those knits that would look great on a flat-chested twig of a girl. Wouldn’t they all?

Let me point out that the color is off in all but the very last picture. I did not knit a pink sweater. Let me be very, very clear about that. And no, I am not happy having my picture taken. Ever.

I also finished a second Spiralucious exactly like the one I gave Chris last fall. Another one, just like the other one. Well, two rows short of the last full pattern repeat before I started the edging because I would have run out of yarn otherwise.

Here’s what the other one looked like:

Ok, sorry, bad joke that no one got except for me. That’s the same one photographed twice. But really, it is exactly what the other one looked like.

Later, dudes.

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It’s a bit discouraging

April 8, 2010

to be reading about spring and flowers everywhere else in the northern hemisphere. Here, at 8,500 feet, we’ve still got snow banks against the north side of the house. It’s also wind season.

In the San Luis Valley, our seasons go like this:

  • Summer (1 month)
  • Fall wind (1 month)
  • Winter wind (1 month)
  • Dead of winter with bitter cold (3 months)
  • Downhill side of winter (2 months)
  • Mud season (1 month)
  • Spring wind (3 months)

When I first moved to the San Luis Valley, I would ask people about the wind, and they would say, “Oh, it’s only windy in the spring.” They neglected to mention that (as long-time residents, who stand at an angle when it is not windy) they classify Spring as the BIG wind season, that spring lasts for about three months and that there are lesser wind seasons in the fall and early winter. It is generally not windy in the dead of winter. Thank goodness because temperatures dip to 40 below. (Cecilius or Fahrenheit — doesn’t matter. The scales converge at this point.)

We do have some hollyhocks starting to come up. Those are some tough plants! There are a couple of tulip bulbs, located about 6 inches from the house in the protected courtyard area, who are considering poking their heads up above the soil line. I can just see the little spikes of the leaf tips.

You would think that all this cold, inside weather would inspire much knitting. Au contraire. Mendocino languishes because of seaming issues. I may have solved that and may have a progress report in a week or so. Rosarie languishes because Mendocino languishes. New possum socks are on the needles and I haven’t worked on them in days. What a funk!

So why do we stay here in this land of wind and cold?
1. Incredibly blue skies.

This is “Chico” a balloon that belongs to some friends of ours. The sun shines an average of 320-something days a year.

2. That makes even snow and frigid cold temperatures tolerable.

This was taken in February 2008 in a protected area on the south side of the house, where, despite cold temperatures, the sun is warm enough to convince a trickle of snow to melt on our smiling Buddha.

3. Sunsets are amazing, especially in summer

What can I say? We enjoy evening vistas like this one year-round!

4. There are mountains all around us.

5. And yesterday morning, on his way to work, the RNK saw (sorry no pictures!) a large owl, a bobcat and an antelope. Very cool.

Seven more rows to go

March 12, 2010

I say the same exact thing every day. It’s not like I’m not knitting. I knit for a couple hours every evening. But every time I measure the Mendocino sleeves, I still end up thinking, just seven more rows should do it.

Where do they go? How can I knit and knit and knit and it never changes?

One of the great mysteries of my life.

Sometimes, when I am

March 9, 2010

in bed at the end of the day, drifting between awake and asleep, I have amazing ideas I can’t wait to write about on the blog.

Usually however, one of two things happens the next morning. Sometimes, I remember the idea, and when I subject it to the bright light of day, I realize how stupid that idea really is. Other times, I just don’t remember. Who knows. Maybe the second situation is a blessing in disguise. Those could be the thought trains that would take the blog to crazy town.*

Last night, I fell asleep thinking about logarithmic curves. One semester when I was first in college eons ago, I had to take a bunch of prerequisite classes all at the same time. That’s because I was slow to make a decision on what I would pursue as a major, so the first few years of dawdling ended up filling in every single one of the “elective” spots in my required class curriculum. Fly fishing, weight lifting, logic and astronomy may be the components of a well-rounded education; but, they don’t do much as far as fulfilling degree requirements. At least not any degree I could find in the course catalog.

So, to graduate under a somewhat normal timeline with my late-to-be-elected forestry degree, I had to take botany, biology, ecology and chemistry all at the same time. On the negative side, one hell of a lot of studying had to go on that semester. On the positive side, these classes fit together like a glove. Everything supported everything. There were recurring patterns and themes as I moved from one lecture hall to another over the course of the day — themes I may have never picked up on had I taken these classes in a more rational manner.

One of those themes was a shape. A sigmoid curve to be precise. Every single professor drew this curve on the blackboard at least once, if not several times over the course of the semester.

The rate of chemical reactions. The pace of discovery of new species. The dispersal distances of seeds from the parent plant. And just to be fancy, double logarithmic curves traced population densities of insects and birds and rabbits and coyotes.

Yep, I lay there last night thinking about logarithmic curves, and Mendocino and progress and sleeve completion and how I’m somewhere on the far right side of that graph.

*This might have been one of those pre-sleep ideas that I should have just walked away from.

Keeping with the “lympic” momentum

March 2, 2010

Pictures, as promised:

Mendocino goal met

The shaping on this sweater is extremely clever. I know that some Starmore knitters are not interested in knitting a sweater with this much stockinette. However, I have enjoyed knitting this pattern very much because of the ingenious way the cables are used to create shaping. Here’s an “inside” photo to show you what I mean.

Notice the gathers created by the cables

The cables, and actually I wonder if they aren’t really traveling stitches, create gathering which gives a nice “swing” design to the body. At this stage, it appears this will be a very wearable design. I am still thinking that the reduction in length was a good choice. I hope I feel that way when I get the sleeve saddles in.

One more shot of the fronts:

Traveling stitches or cables?

And the medal:

which I feel like I really cheated to get. This was so much fun to knit I really didn’t want to put it down. I might have even been inspired to knit this much in two weeks even without the Olympics in the background. Very far background. We don’t have TV.

But probably not. This was one heck of a lot of knitting! I started knitting continental, but had to switch to “throwing” because I don’t keep my tension quite as nice on the purl rows when I knit continental. That really, really slowed the knitting down. Oh well. I like the way the fabric looks better and that’s what counts.

I’ll try to get some more interesting pictures for my next post. We will have to take the bird feeder down in a couple more weeks when the bears come out of hibernation. I will be sad. I really am fond of the birds who come to visit. The juniper titmouse, my favorite, has to be the cutest little bird in our area. Yesterday, a white-breasted nuthatch came. Last week, we had an evening grosbeak. Very fun. Hopefully, I’ll capture something in pixels that will prove to be more interesting than a half-finished sweater and all my gloating about “lympic” knitting.

Years ago

February 22, 2010

I used to buy a black tea at Pike Street Market whenever I visited Seattle. If I’m remembering correctly, it was called “Market Spice” although really, the only spice was cinnamon oil. Maybe you’ve had that tea, or one like it with tons and tons of cinnamon flavor.

I hadn’t thought about that tea in ages. Not until I made my afternoon cup of tea today. I was getting ready to pour a bit of half and half into the cup, when I had the happy idea to add a little scoop of this instead:

Cinnamon Almond Ice Cream

Yep, we made homemade ice cream again this weekend. The RNK picked the flavor this time: Cinnamon Almond. Yummy. You can see some little tiny dark flecks in the photo if you look close. Those are vanilla bean seeds. He used cinnamon oil to replicate a cinnamon ice cream he used to eat as a kid. I added chopped almonds for a bit of crunch. Nice addition.

I used a slightly less rich recipe to make the custard for this ice cream. Four eggs, not eight, like I used in the French Vanilla I made last time. Which was, if I do say so, wickedly delicious. However, I could feel that one sliding down my throat and straight onto my hips, so I backed off a bit on the eggs, cream and half and half. No worries. Even with the reduction in fat content, the resulting ice cream is still sinfully rich.

If you are interested in our recipe, I’ve added it at the bottom of the post.

Besides making ice cream, I managed to fit in some knitting time this weekend on my Ravelylmpic project. I made good progress on Mendocino. I hope to finish the back and fronts by Wednesday night.

4.5 inches to the neck decreases

I am enjoying the cleverness of this pattern and am really looking forward to seeing how it fits. I sure hope it does!

And in parting, the gratuitous animal shots. Ida Rose Parker, our big cat, has taken to pushing Jakob out of his bed during the day when I’m working. Poor little Jakob is no match for our obese monster cat little kitty.

Ida Rose just nestles and settles and pushes and resettles until Jakob finally gives up, crawls out of the bed and lays on the floor next to it. He used to sleep in his carrier, but lately, that holds no appeal. Curious.

Cinnamon Almond Ice Cream recipe

4 eggs
2 2/3 cups sugar
1 quart half and half
1 vanilla bean
cinnamon oil
3/4 cup chopped almonds
1 quart whole milk

Using a whisk, mix the eggs and sugar together in a saucepan to make a paste. Add the half and half. Cut the vanilla bean into half lengthwise to expose the seeds, then drop it into the egg mixture. Cook over medium low heat, stirring, until the temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon oil into the custard mixture. We used a lot (something on the order of 4 or 5 TBSP); how much to use depends upon the type of cinnamon oil you find. If you are lucky, you might still be able to find pure cinnamon oil. The one we found was mixed with sunflower oil so it wasn’t quite as concentrated. The cinnamon flavor becomes stronger when the mixture is cool, so you may want to be cautious if this is your first go at using cinnamon oil.

Cool the custard mixture overnight in the refrigerator. When you are ready to churn the ice cream, fish out the vanilla bean and scrape any remaining seeds free from the pod. Stir the tiny black seeds into the custard and discard the pod. Add the chopped almonds and whole milk. Pour the mixture into the freezer compartment of your ice cream freezer and churn according to the directions that came with your freezer.

I like to use a hand churn freezer, turning about 1 turn per second at first. Then, when it starts to get hard to turn, we up it to double time, turning 2 turns per second to whip as much air as possible into the ice cream mixture inside the can. We churn it until it’s just about too hard to churn any more with me holding the freezer down and the RNK doing the turning at the end.

Then we remove the dasher, use a spatula to push the ice cream down into the freezing can, then repack the freezing can inside the freezer with more rock salt and ice taking care to make sure the drain hole on the freezer is clear. We cover the whole thing with towels and let it sit outside in the cold for an hour or two. I suppose if it was above freezing outside, we might have to do it differently. But that works pretty well this time of year. Finally, we remove the freezing can and place it into the freezer compartment of the refrigerator for the last little bit of freezing. This recipe makes 1 gallon of ice cream.

I wanted to post these pictures yesterday

February 19, 2010

but WordPress said, “No.” Just a blank screen. One time it offered to let me tell someone about my difficulties; but, I figured they were probably already on it.

It’s not like I didn’t have other things to do. It’s been a wild, crazy week. Car is repaired and home. Big desktop computer is still dead. My skills as a computer mechanic have expanded multi-fold. I removed and replaced the motherboard! I’ve gotten newsletters finished and off to the printer. I started on the web site for selling our house. Well, mostly it’s started in my mind. However, for me, that’s a huge part of the battle.

I have progressed on Mendocino. In fact, it’s even further along now that these pictures show since they were taken yesterday morning.

Mendocino Fronts and Back

What you are seeing is the back and the two front pieces. I’m knitting all three at the same time for sanity’s sake. It’s my way of dealing with oceans of stockinette. This way too, I’ll be sure that the cable pattern, decreases for the neck, etc. all start at the exact same spot on each piece. I know, it doesn’t really look like much. Not very impressive Ravelympic knitting. Such is life.

The AS Bainin yarn is a bit rough to work with. It rolls like crazy at the edges, more than any other stockinette sweater I’ve knitted. I’m glad I decided to do the proper thing and wash my swatch. It feels much nicer and when I get discouraged about how tough and scratchy the yarn feels, I reach into my project back and fondle the swatch for a minute. The swatch also behaves well. It lays nice and flat and it drapes quite nicely. I did go down one needle size after I measured the washed swatch. My sweater fabric is a bit denser. It probably will wear like iron!

I am making the sweater two inches shorter. I hope this isn’t a mistake. If my calculations are correct, the finished sweater will hit just below the bottom roll of fat on my butt. I think another two inches would have made the sweater look too 80s. It already has an 80s look and the length just took it over the edge for me.

I’m going to have to sit down and do some math. My gauge is slightly smaller. 20.5 stitches per 10 cm instead of 19. However, when I measure each panel, the pieces measure larger than the pattern schematic shows. I need to look at the stitch counts and redo the math to discover if this schematic shows something different that I think it does. As it stands right now, I’ve got about 5 inches positive ease instead of the 2 or 3 I thought I would have. Curious, isn’t it?

The appeasement knitting. The bistro cozy.

Bistro in bondage

Bistro in bondage

Resident non-knitter hates it. I love it. Finally, a cup of really hot tea. It’s OK. Scroll back up to that picture and laugh. It makes me laugh too. I probably could have done a more elegant design — one that looks less like coils of rope wrapped around the glass. I’m not sure I could have created a more effective design. Heat loss = zero. Brioche stitch in bulky wool yarn with I-cord loops as closures.

I also finished the sewing project that had me stalled for so long.

Fireplace

There are four square cushions, the round bolster cushion and the foam-covered seat cushion. For someone who hates to sew, this was one heck of a lot of sewing. Plus, I did some warm-up sewing in the way of a dog bed, a couple of cushions for the dog and a couple of travel pillows to replace the ones the RNK always looses. I even did some cool-down sewing in the form of a cushion for the chase lounge in our bedroom. Surprisingly, it all turned out OK.

I sat on the window seat for a while yesterday morning, leaning back on a couple of cushions with my feet propped up on the bolster. Cozy. Comfortable. Fantastic views of Mt. Blanca. Cold. It would be much more appealing with a fire in the fireplace. Sitting this close to a window when it’s 20 degrees out is cold.

I could sew a curtain to make it warmer. Hey I know! How about a window warmer knitted from bulky wool in brioche stitch? I could hang it from I-cord loops. Guaranteed to push the windows up to an R-value of something like, say, R = 10,398,632. Of course, it would defeat the purpose of sitting next to the window. No view.

And for sure, it would make people laugh. I’m not sure that would be quite as desirable in this situation.

The sweater found

November 4, 2009

a new home yesterday. I wore it and as I was sitting in a meeting I could almost feel it “grow.” By the time I finished petting the horses and feeding them treats, the cuffs were getting hard to keep out of the way.

I drove to town, thinking about the sweater and the talented knitter, Claire, I was going to have lunch with. Hmmm. She knits gorgeous shawls (that sold like hotcakes at the Taos Wool Festival in early October). She’s taller than me. This would be a good color for her. Perhaps she would consider a trade?

Yes! Well, tentatively yes. I am giving her some time with the sweater to decide if she really likes it enough to trade. I know I love her shawls because I look at them every time she’s out and about offering them for sale. I just can’t justify buying one of them because, well, I’m a knitter. How can a knitter with an unmentionable amount of lace yarn and shawl patterns justify buying a shawl? Somehow though, as much as I love shawls and lace yarn, I just never seem to get around to knitting one. I would feel guilty buying a shawl. But, a trade. That’s another story!

Besides, the sweater looks really nice on her! See:

newhome

Don’t you agree it looks great?

It’s done!

November 2, 2009

Well, almost. It still has to dry and I have to sew the buttons on. And perhaps, tack down that ribbon strip.

After I washed it, it grew and grew and grew. I couldn’t believe how huge it was. The arms were over 24 inches long! I tried patting it all into place and squishing it in and shortening it up.

predryer

I messed with it for quite a while yesterday and again this morning. At least I have a nice view from the sunroom where it’s drying.

notabadview

It looked kind of OK on the fronts, but the back was all scrunched weird and it just wasn’t right. So I threw the sweater and the towels it was drying on into the dryer for about 15 minutes. Maybe even a little longer.

Much, much better!

afterdryer

Stitches evened up and the texture smoothed out. The texture isn’t as overwhelming as I feared it might be. Of course, I won’t really be able to tell until it’s bone dry and I try it on.

texture

I positioned the buttons over the buttonholes to get the “effect” of when they are sewn on. I like the buttons.

button

I still have to decide if that ribbon (see previous post) is useful inside the bind-off around the bands and collar. It did not get weird in the washing. It’s just fine. But is it a benefit? I don’t know. It doesn’t seem to be a detriment. Maybe I should leave it because if I pull it out, It would be a bear to put it back in later if I decided I really did need some stabilization along the button bands.

collar

The collar seems to lay just fine with it in. Probably would lay just fine without it too.

Do I like the sweater? Am I pleased with the result? Would I recommend the pattern?

As far as the first two questions go, I always have this love/hate relationship with my knitting. I love the yarn; I love the pattern. I hate the finished product. However, I just pulled out two of my last season’s projects out last week (Refined Raglan and Textured Raglan) and was totally delighted and surprised at how well they fit and how nice they felt on. I’m not saying they are fantastic sweaters or anything like that. But, I’m not ashamed to be seen in public wearing either one. I even got a complement on Refined Raglan when I wore it to town.

As far as this one? Well, right now, I do not want to burn it. That’s a good sign.

Would I recommend the pattern? Yes. It is well-written. I found the knitting to be entertaining with all the do this every 8 rows and this every 16 and this every 4th or 5th or whatevers. Yet, it was repetitious enough to be able to learn the stitch pattern. I would describe it as a moderately challenging knit.

It is a very clever design (designed by Deborah Newton for Classic Elite). If you think that someday, you would like to try your hand at sweater design, I highly recommend knitting this one to see how it was shaped. The shaping is very well-done in this pattern. It is hidden, yet at the same time, not at all hidden. The shaping becomes part of the design. Nice. Kudos to Newton on this one.

Stop me before I

October 30, 2009

do something stupid. If that’s how this looks to you.

I made a couple of modifications in the blue cardigan.

1. I decided after reading a post by b r o o k l y n t w e e d to use a twisted rib for the ribbing on the bottom of the sweater. Jared Flood said, “I also opted for twisted stitch ribbing at the waist band and ankle-cuffs – a choice made to achieve a bit more elasticity – a great little perk of knitting things through the back loops.”

In my brain, I casually omitted the next part of what he says about stumpy limbs. I wanted stretch around the bottom of the sweater. Sounded good. When I got to the sleeves, it was a no-brainer to use the same ribbing on the cuffs. I also looked at my favorite sweater. (No, I did not knit it. So, no hesitation whatsoever in saying it is a magnificent sweater; it’s an Irish handknit.) It has twisted rib cuffs and a twisted rib lower hem.

So, twisted rib it was. I merrily proceeded onward. Then, I could hardly switch to a different ribbing for the button bands. This leads to choice two.

2. I changed the collar to a shawl collar of my own invention since I couldn’t find a pattern for one. All my knitting patterns were packed at that point, so I just sallied forth. It uses twisted rib — to match the bottom and the cuffs.

Twisted rib shawl collar took some time. A really long time. On to choice three.

3. On both the bottom and sleeve cuffs, since I had ribbing, I did a kitchner sewn bind off. Looks good, is stretchy, works well with twisted rib.

Here’s the problem. I don’t want stretchy button bands. That seems wrong. It also seems wrong to use a different bind off along the front of the sweater. So, what I am doing is this:

ribbon

I looked for a grosgrain ribbon, but I wasn’t sure how to make button holes in it for the button hole side and it didn’t make sense to put it on one side and not the other. The store did have this tiny little satin ribbon in a good color, so I bought it and I am just laying inside the sewn bind off.

I figured I will need to tack it down at the top of the button bands:

tackpoint

So, I’ve left myself a little loop on either side of one stitch where I can sew the ribbon to itself to keep the front band from stretching. Then, I can arrange the collar with the ribbon as loosely or as firmly inside as it wants to block. I’ll tack it again when I get around to the other side at the top of the band and finally, after it’s all done, I’ll tack it down at the bottoms of each of the front button bands. All you should see is a little blip of ribbon at each of the four tack points.

Is this stupid? Will I have problems washing the sweater with the satin ribbon inside? Will it want to curl up or stretch or something when it’s wet?

I don’t think the ribbon will show more than the tiniest bit here and there:

edge

You can see a tiny glimpse about four stitches in from the bottom edge of the photo.

What do people normally do to stabilize button bands? Besides of course the obvious: plan ahead and do not use an exceptionally stretchy stitch as the button band foundation and bind off. Your thoughts, please.