And then there were three

Posted by caroline in Knitting, V neck cardi on December 7th, 2007

backI was rejoicing in getting the knitting bag down to four items and then suddenly it was down to three. I wish I’d pulled my finger out and finished this sooner because I like it. There are three things that I would rather have done differently now that I’ve seen the results but they didn’t offend me enough for me to think about ripping back to the underarms to fix them. The first thing that I should have sorted out is that splay at the centre back neck but as I’ve only just seen that it is staying. The main thing is that it fits. Those of you who have seen me in person will recognise that this is no mean achievement, the difference between my bust and hip measurement being something of a fitting challenge. I usually have clothes that bury me around the shoulders so that they don’t gape horribly around my bum. This fits me all the way down. I like the sleeves the most, these are now the sleeves against which all others will be judged. They’re the right length and they just feel good.

I ripped out the bottom band and replaced it with a facing. This was in part because of one of my errors. I put all of the increases at the sides and this has made it flare a little there. It’s less noticeable with the facing than with the seed stitch band I had originally (or at least I think that it is). Another time I’d distribute the increases more evenly around the row and avoid concentrating them in one place. I did actually consider doing that but I didn’t really know whether it would make it stick out at the back. Now it sticks out at the sides instead. It doesn’t flare out all around like the pink hat does because with this I thought about what I was doing and used a smaller needle for the facing. I’d like to say that I’d learned from my experience with the hat but that would be a big fat lie, I’d sewn up the facing on the cardi before I’d even cast on for the hat.

front with bottom edge that needs blockingThe seed stitch band on the fronts is much better now that it’s worked on the smaller needle but I left off the buttonholes because of my other error. This was just a flat out error in principal. When I drafted out the pattern I had to remember to allow for the width of the band which would be added when the garment was complete. I got really carried away with adding an inch and a half here, there and everywhere and I added it where I shouldn’t have done. The result is that the top buttonhole (placed at the bottom of the V) was an inch and a half lower than where I wanted it because the bottom of the V is an inch and a half lower than I thought it would be. Now I’ve looked at no end of hand knits on Ravelry and lots of them have buttons that start under the top of the bust but that’s not where I wanted mine. I don’t want to be looking at this every time I wear it and fiddling with the top button so to avoid that I’m not having a top button at all. Don’t ask me why having a clasp in exactly the same place makes this any better, it does to me and it’s me that’s wearing it. I bought three clasps but at the moment I’m still uncertain whether I’ll put the other two on or not. I have been wearing it with no fastening at all so one clasp is a step forward.

Was it worth the effort? Yes it was. It feels like your favorite sweater that you’ve worn for years, the one that you know you should bin because it’s too shabby to be seen in but you keep it because it just feels so right. To knit one of your very own I’d suggest a yarn that stripes, a copy of Maggie Righetti’s “Sweater Design in Plain English” and a tape measure. I’d also suggest that you sew in the ends as you go along and use wider bands of colour so that there aren’t as many ends to deal with. Sewing in the ends and avoiding sewing in the ends took about a quarter of the time spent on this.

oopsThis weighs 590g, much less than I had anticipated. I have 240g of leftover yarn and another 100g of leftover fibre so I could have probably gone for knee length with a third arm if I’d wanted to. I have learned that it takes less yarn to cover me than I thought. I have also learned that the self timer on the camera resets itself after every shot.

Motivation in a bag

Posted by caroline in Knitting, V neck cardi on November 28th, 2007

If you knit for the desire for the finished item then I imagine that you get more focussed as you reach the last stages when you get to see the item you imagined taking shape. That doesn’t happen to me, I knit because I like knitting. When I reach the stage where the end of the knitting is in sight I start planning the next knit because I’m done with this one. I have been known to cast off, bundle the project into a bag, stick it in the bottom of the wardrobe for six years and then reclaim the yarn. I know myself very well which means I know what sort of a push I need to get this done.

the knitting carrotIt may look as if I went shopping yesterday and I did indeed visit a yarn shop. I’d like to make it clear that this is not just any old stash enhancement, what you are seeing here is a finely honed motivational tool designed to get the big blue cardigan finished. It may look like a pile of wool to you but it has been very carefully selected to fulfill certain criteria. The white is the yarn for the project that will come after the blue cardi, the blue is for when I’ve finished the sock that I cannot bring myself to pick up and the pink that is pretending to be black is for a hat (or mittens) when Agatha is done. I have the yarn, I have the needles and the patterns and the plan is that this will give me the desire to finish. I know myself well enough to know that what will happen is that I will finish Agatha and start on the new project well before the cardigan is done and that’s why the Agatha successor is a small project.

now you see it...It’s working, last night I sewed in 18 ends on the cardi, worked out exactly how many rows I need on the sleeves and this morning I’ve had a good look at the front band. It’s going to have to come off, I had hoped for a crochet cure but I’m kidding myself. The bands on the cuff are worked on 3.5mm needles and they are good (where “good” is defined as “I like them”). The band on the bottom of the body is on a 4mm needle and that is good (I didn’t use the smaller needle there because it’s an area where I didn’t want any pulling in). The front band is on a 3.75mm needle simply because that was the closest size I had that was long enough. The picking up was probably the best I’ve ever done because I’ve learned how to do it right rather than just guessing so the band sits well. I’ve been struggling to think why it is that I find it so horrid and now that I’ve had a good poke at it I think that it’s simply because it’s too floppy. Version two will be a sewn on band as then I can use a 3.5mm needle and hopefully get a fabric I like. This time around I might ditch the buttonholes because I don’t like those either.

Division of labour

Posted by caroline in Knitting, Spinning, V neck cardi on November 27th, 2007

pick a colourIf I’d spent all my knitting time over the weekend on one thing then I would have a finished item to show you now. How boring would that be? Instead I have three nearly finished items. I started on Friday by knitting a sock from heel to toe, that has now vanished into the depths of the knitting bag so isn’t in the photo. I then knitted some very long rows in blue until I reached the long awaited big blue cast off. I still haven’t sewn the other sleeve seam or finished all the ends so the knitting is finished but the cardigan isn’t. I’m not happy with the front band but as yet I haven’t decided what it is that I think is wrong with it. The band may be too wide, the cast off may be too loose, there may be nothing wrong with it at all. I have plenty of time to think about this while sewing in the ends.

I then switched from long rows of blue to long rows of grey. I’ve reached the edging of Agatha so the end is now in sight. I still like the yarn and the pattern but I’ve reached the stage where I’m thinking of what to knit next. I’ve had enough of it now and I’m counting the rows to the cast off. This would no doubt be blocking if I hadn’t then abandoned grey for pink.

three pinksbig pink skeinThe wheel has been empty for a week and I always have this lingering fear that if I leave it too long I will forget how to spin so I felt the need to spin something and it didn’t matter what. This is a three ply from three pink rovings that came in the big surprise box. It was no surprise that the resulting yarn was pink, there was a bit of variation in the bobbin on the top right but the other two were pink on pink. This first skein is 138g and 386 yards and this is half of the fibre. This is the first time I’ve used the jumbo flyer for the Sonata and this went on the big bobbin easily. I will probably end up with 800 yards of double knit which means a revision of my plans. I had thought to spin something for some colourwork mittens but I’d not actually considered that I’m going to get a fair number of mittens from 300g of fibre, especially if I use another yarn as the contrast rather than overdying the pink. There will be a swatch, some washing and drying and then maybe a rethink.

The end is in sight

Posted by caroline in Knitting, V neck cardi on November 16th, 2007

buttons (no, you don;t say)It’s Friday so it must be time for a big blue cardi update. The buttons that I’d ordered on line turned out to be a little smaller than I’d expected so they are acceptable rather than wonderful. What I am going to do is make the buttonholes bigger than I need and then sew them up to fit the buttons I have so that if I ever see my dream (bigger) buttons I can make a quick substitution. The front bands are the last thing I have to do now but before I start I want to block the fronts to stamp out that rolling stockinette edge and make picking up the stitches easier.

bottom edge, with cast offI have a few ends to sew in as well. I’ve started, I’ve set myself the target of sewing in ten ends a day until they are all done. I do usually weave them in as I knit but I’ve found that if I do a lot of weaving in I get a pain across the back of my left hand. That meant that I’ve woven in the ends from the odd ball that ran out but the first and last rows have a lot of ends to tackle. I explained the construction to everyone that asked in the comments but I’m not sure whether I ever said it on the blog. This is knitted with vertical stripes, the stripes happen to change colour a little but there’s just one ball of yarn for each stripe so you knit for 20 or so stitches and then swap to another ball of yarn. It’s simple knitting but the multiple balls of yarn can make a big tangle on the back if you don’t know what you’re doing, which I clearly don’t. I have made intarsia sweaters before now and I just don’t remember there being such a mess on the back so I must have had the trick of yarn management back then (or more likely, fewer balls in a round). I estimate that there are close to 80 ends to weave in so by this time next week I should be at the end of it. You will notice that I’m at the end of the back as well, that’s a cast off edge at the bottom of the photo.

dire photo of good hatbetter photo without a mirrorI did finish the hat. There is a reason for the really dodgy photo on the left, it failed to meet even my low photographic standards but it was the best of the dozen I took. I had to take it in bad light, in a mirror, in my nightie because by the time it was daylight the hat was wrapped up and ready to leave the house. I finished it on Wednesday evening, my son then declared me to look a “total idiot” in it but went on to say that his teacher would look fantastic in it. He doesn’t usually show much interest in my knitting unless it’s something that he’s designed and then I can’t knit fast enough to come up with the product. He wanted the hat very badly so it went to school on Thursday morning. This was a quick knit, as hats often are, the pattern is the Wedge hat and I have 20g of the skein of Manos del Uruguay wool left over. I may well make another, but not for me as I have the message now that mummy does not wear hats, even ones that other people are going to look good in. I think a “total idiot” is better than a “torpedohead” though so I’m moving forward. I have a skein of cashmere drying for the next chapter in my efforts to have a warm head this winter.

The guinea pigs ate my knitting homework

Posted by caroline in Knitting, Spinning, V neck cardi on November 9th, 2007

The things that are not knittingI can’t blame it on the dog (we don’t have one) but I was struggling to come up with a reason for not making bigger advances on the cardigan. A quick tidy up of the house gave a few clues. My copy of the holiday issue of Interweave Knits came on Monday so that was a few hours lost there. I went on the school visit to the fire station yesterday which was another two hours of knitting time given over to a good cause. I’ve helped build a K’Nex tilt a whirl and a racing buggy (which is very hard on the feet when you stand on it at half six the next morning) but the biggest culprit was the pile of pink silk which took more time than the rest put together.

300 yards two ply silkI got 300 yards from just under half of the bean coloured lump of silk. I could have made it finer but that takes longer to knit and spin so I’m happy with what I’ve got. The drape and shine is lovely but I’m still not in love with the colour. When I have spun the rest of it (I have half of that done already) I’ll think about adding a touch of red, something to take it away from the blue side of pink. I should have a little over 600 yards which is enough to give me a lot of choice in patterns. I shall overlook that I don’t like knitting silk to the extent that I swore that I’d never knit with it again.

now with added sleeve There has been some progress on the big blue cardi even though it spent the earlier part of this week in the bag while I had a lengthy discussion with my inner knitter over the sleeves. Despite all my measuring and calculating they seemed narrower than I’d wanted. Part of me knew that this was just because of the fabric taken up by the roll of the stockinette and that it would be fine when blocked but the part of me that was doing the knitting wasn’t convinced enough to want to knit any further. I did what needed to be done and wet blocked one sleeve. It was fine so while it was nice and flat I sewed the seam. Now I have the cuff the sleeve is about the right length although I can’t be sure of that until I have the bands on the fronts. At the moment the fronts have the nice rolling stockinette edge that the sleeves had and the neck is gaping . It doesn’t do much for the fit of the body which then knocks on into the fit of the sleeves. I’ve had two attempts at getting the sleeve length right and have settled on leaving the stitches live and sorting it out at the end. (There is another sleeve off the right of the photo but as that one wasn’t blocked and doesn’t have the seam sewn it just looks plain odd)

The body needs a few inches more on the length, then the seed stitch border that I have on the cuffs. Hopefully by then the postman will have brought my buttons, they will turn out to be perfect and I can work out what I’m doing with the button holes. Then it’s buttonbands, sleeve alterations, one sleeve seam, blocking and done. There is the business of sewing in the ends of course but that’s such a little job that it’s not worth mentioning (self delusion will get me through it)

Plain knitting

Posted by caroline in Knitting, socks, Spinning, V neck cardi on October 31st, 2007

three ply socksock detailThe sample sock yarn came out well enough, I’m still not sure that I liked the scary rainbow roving but I don’t really need to worry about that as this is the last of it spun up now. There will be eight stripes in the 50g ball, if I were making this again I think I would like the stripes to be a bit narrower, eight seemed like a good number at the time but I think I would like ten or twelve even more. Now that I’ve seen this knitted I’m going to make the second half of the yarn with just the brown rather than the red/brown stripe. I like the way that the different colours pop out of the brown and they don’t pop out of the red in the same way. This is the second time that I’ve used this red/orange fibre and the second time that I’ve been unhappy with it so it’s had its chance and it now has a hot date with a dye pot.

now with added sleeves The V neck cardi is progressing. I’m back to working on the body now, I’ve had a few evenings of sleeves and I’m happy that I’m on track with the decreases. I have a couple more inches of plain knitting to add to the body before I start with any shaping. I’d have a guess that I’m a bit less than half done with the knitting, it seems to be going faster now that the rows are shorter (no surprises there then). I do have some more dark stripes to match that one on the left, they’re round the back and under the arms so providing I keep moving it shouldn’t turn out to be as unbalanced as it looks now.

Unless anything exciting happens my next post will be after the weekend. My car is now taxed and tested but I still have the freezer to sort out and my tax return to deal with. Oh happy day.


Dreaming of pink cashmere

Posted by caroline in Knitting, V neck cardi on October 26th, 2007

I am daydreaming about spinning something else, something that’s not blue faced leicester in shades of blue or natural alpaca in need of more washing. I have filled bobbin after bobbin of blue and white and I am sorely in need of a change. The end of the blue is in sight, there is another bobbin to fill, two at the most. The alpaca is endless, there are at least three carrier bags full that need to be washed and carded but that is a long term work in progress and it can take as long as it takes. As soon as the blue is done I am having a sampling session. I’m planning beaded silk (not that I’ve ever made a beaded yarn) and delicate cashmere (not that I’ve ever successfully spun anything so short) in colours that are not blue or white. I can see browns and golds, reds and pinks, everything except blue.

just a little past the armsThe knitting of the blue is fine, it’s just the spinning I’m itching to be done with. This is just as well because there has been a slight set back with the cardigan. I made two samples and they both came out at five stitches to the inch. I calculated the back neck width I wanted and cast on, increasing every other row and knowing roughly how many stitches I’d need on the back to make it fit. The moment of truth came and I slipped it onto smooth yarn to try it on, tada!. The words “skimpy”, “binding” and “negative ease” fitted the occasion rather more than the cardigan fitted me. I had a recount and then in a moment of brilliance actually used a tape measure. The reason that the protocardi was inches too small is because I’m now getting six stitches to the inch rather than the five that I had in the sample. Hello and welcome to an extra 20% more knitting. I don’t mind the extra stitches, it’s knitting and I like knitting, but I felt as if the sweetie had been snatched from my grasp when I thought I was at the division for the arms and then found myself inches away.

Trying this on for fit has been a bit of a joke, I had imagined just slipping it on and hadn’t given any thought to the impact of being attached to so many balls of yarn. When you’re twisting in front of a mirror upstairs and one of the balls is still downstairs there’s no chance of getting the garment to hang correctly even if you have managed to negotiate the yarn tangle and get your arm through the right gap. I’m now working on the first sleeve and am decreasing merrily away and loving it. In another three decrease rows I get to cut off another ball of yarn which really is something to look forward to (if you’re me and have been untangling 31 balls every hour or so, getting to cut one free is a big thing) I’m going to work six inches or so on this sleeve, then the same amount on the other sleeve and then a similar amount on the body. That should put me close to the fitting challenge of my hips at which point I need to decide whether to stick with the side slits in my original design or slip in some increases at the sides. Hopefully I will have got the yarn management issues sorted by then so I can try it on without some errant ball of yarn dragging it out of shape.

Other knitting – well there isn’t any. There is a pair of gloves but I’ve managed to misread the pattern AGAIN so they are doomed to a start-over. Depending on whether my hand falls first on the camera or the ball winder there may or may not be a photo. Other spinning – only in my dreams.

What I really want

Posted by caroline in Knitting, V neck cardi on October 16th, 2007

the second swatch (just in case the first one lied)The time spent spinning the cardigan yarn has given me plenty of opportunity to think about what it is that I really want in a cardigan and why. It’s a pause for thought that I wouldn’t have had if I’d bought the yarn. I did say that I wanted three buttons at the top. What I really wanted was for it to not fasten all the way to the bottom, so buttons at the top will work but clasps will too and it doesn’t matter whether there’s one or three. This means that if it comes out small then the bands at the front that are planned to overlap can instead meet edge to edge. I’m adding those bands at the end so if I want I can make them wider or narrower so there’s another easy adjustment to the fit. I’ve thought why it is that I wanted a V neck. What I really want is to not have a collar or anything around my neck. I avoid polo necked shirts for this reason. It doesn’t matter to me what shape the V is or where it finishes, it just has to be away from my neck.

hypothetical cardigan designAfter designing a sleeve and sleeve opening and working out the pattern for the back and fronts I decided to ditch the lot and go for a top down raglan. The sleeves were the issue but not for the reasons that I originally considered. The joining of the vertical bands on the body with the bands on the sleeve was the thing that I couldn’t get over. My sketch had a break line of a solid colour to avoid the bands on each side of the garment coming together. That worked in the diagram because it echoed the dark lines I’d drawn between the bands but they were only there to cover up the white paper left by my poor colouring in. In reality there would be nothing that went with that dark band on the sleeve so it had to go. A top down raglan would allow me to deal with the potential problem area of the sleeve/body join as the first stage in the knitting rather than leaving it as something to tackle near the end. If I don’t like the way it’s looking I have only a few inches to rip rather than having to redesign the join after some of the parts are completed. It also starts small so I don’t need to be using all the various balls of yarn and I can try it on to check the fit. As I’m making both fronts at the same time I can make up the V neck shaping as I go and stop when it’s deep enough and have both sides match. In terms of management of uncertainty, knitting top down has a lot going for it.

There are some disadvantages to top down knitting and I’m well aware of them. It’s going to be a big lump of knitting in my lap and not in the least bit transportable (winter is coming so a lap full of wool is not a bad thing and I will always have socks for a take along project). I’m also going to be working with more than the usual numbers of balls of wool. I’m not sure just how many at the moment because I’ve misplaced my knitting book that has the plan in the back but a quick estimate says that it will be more balls of yarn than a sensible knitter should consider. That’s what you get for planning an intarsia pattern with all the pieces worked together. I’m going to work in one piece until the division for the sleeves and then if it has become a total pain I will divide the fronts and backs and work on each separately. It might be worth the sewing up of the seams to have less yarn management issues.

the start of the cardi I’ve managed to weasel out of my commitment to spinning all the yarn before I started knitting (you knew that would happen). The reasons for spinning everything before I started was so that any differences in dyeing or spinning could be spread throughout the garment, rather than being obviously concentrated in one place. I’ve dyed all the fibre I think I’ll need and I’ve spun some of each batch. I’m knitting all the pieces at the same time, sleeves, back, both fronts, so I have ample opportunity to add new yarn wherever I want. There looks to be very little difference between the various balls, except for one batch that has some very dark blue and another that is a bit short on purple. (After I wrote this I tried to work out which of those two skeins was which and they both looked exactly the same. So much for the major differences then.) I have a bit of fibre left to spin but what I really want right now is to get started. So I have. If it all goes pear shaped then I shall have only myself to blame but the first inch or so looks fine. On reflection, pear shaped is just what I’m aiming for in terms of fit anyway.