Archive for January 2008

I just bet

January 28, 2008

I admit it: I don’t believe in mental blocks. I’m compassionate enough to recognize that people do experience the inability to write or the inability to create, and that must be a horrible experience. But I don’t see writing as creation, but work. Even if you can’t get anything down that’s any good, you can put down a sentence.

Knitting is the same thing, surely. All you have to do is knit the next row, follow the next direction, make the next stitch. There’s just no room for being unable to continue. It doesn’t make sense.

So why did my NaKniSweMo sweater (Ravelry link) sit practically untouched from early November until two weeks ago? A lot of reasons — Christmas presents to finish, a sudden fingerless glove obsession to indulge, etc. But as hard as it is for me to admit it, psychological factors did come into play. I got it into my head that I had finished the first section of the top-down raglan (only a few rows, I thought), and next would have to divide for sleeves and figure out whether the thing was fitting. I simply wasn’t ready to face an operation I had never performed before and a test that could betray my incompetence.

But having reached the end of a small project, and not yet ready to start something new, I pulled the barely-begun sweater out of the knitting bag just to confirm my memory of where I was. Lo and behold — I was nowhere near the point where the sleeves get put on hold. There were about 60 rows of increases on stockingette to do before then. Suddenly the block dissolved. That I could do! And when Noel was away at Sundance, the revived sweater became my evening knitting project.

Before I knew it, I really had reached the point to divide for sleeves. And now my curiosity overwhelmed me: was it really going to fit? Unable to restrain myself, I laboriously put the whole thing on waste yarn and draped it over my shoulders.

To my disbelief, it looked … just about right.

I can’t really credit that my seat-of-the-pants calculations (lighter weight yarn, ballband needle size recommendation, making one size larger than needed to compensate for the smaller gauge) are going to work.  But I can see that it’s going to be somewhere in the ballpark.  And now I can’t wait to get to the next part — completing the V-neck and joining in the round — so I can try it on again.  Suddenly my reluctance to be confronted by evidence of failure has changed into eagerness to see the gradual, magical appearance of something garment-shaped out of those row by row, stitch by stitch, section by section directions.

We never knock (because nobody’s there)

January 19, 2008

Pattern: Cabled Fingerless Mitts by Carissa Browning
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft Shadows (100% acrylic, worsted weight), Pearl Frost colorway
Needles: U.S. 6 32″ circular Harmony Options (Magic Loop)

The fingerless glove bug has officially bit. I was finishing up my pair of Dashing on St. Simons Island at Christmastime, and I couldn’t wait to cast on for more. So when a member of the Fingerless Glove Fanatics group on Ravelry suggested a knitalong of this pattern, I was one of the first to sign up. It didn’t hurt that I had a variation on the pattern’s recommended yarn in my stash. I didn’t quite get started on New Year’s Day, but I was off and running pretty quickly.

I’ll remember these gloves for the lessons they taught me. On the first glove, I paid more attention to my row count than to the way the glove actually looked. I reached the top of the finger ribbing and suddenly realized that the thumb hole was like 75% of the way down the glove, which didn’t look right. Sure enough, the glove was so long that only my fingertips peeked out. Looking back at the pattern, I realized that the row count specified before the top ribbing was for total rows from cast-on, not for pattern rows.

I knew I had to rip, but … I was afraid. I’d lose stitches, I was sure. For over an hour I schemed how to thread waste yarn with a tapestry needle through the row where I wanted to stop. But when I summoned up my courage and actually started pulling stitches out, I saw that the loops were going to stick up and await my pleasure. After frogging confidently, I started putting the needle back through the stitches and saw that this is where my Chibi was required. I knit tight, so pulling on the loops enough to get the knitting needle in tended to tug the next loop down — leading to dropped stitch danger. No problem — the waste yarn was a quick step, and replacing it with the knitting needle was a breeze.

Then came glove number 2. I knew what I was doing. Off I went, all the way to the top. Then I put my hand in and … the cables were on my palm. I looked back at the pattern. “Reverse shaping,” it said.

Aha. Fetching and Dashing don’t have thumb gussets, so they’re reversible. On these the thumb opening is knit into the glove with extra stitches, which have to be put on opposite sides of the hand … which means that the pattern has to be knit backwards the second time so that the cables remain on the back.

This forced me to figure out for the first time what “reverse shaping” means. In this case, you just broke the round into sections and knit them in reverse. Instead of k19 p1 cable p1 k17, you work k17 p1 cable p1 k19. The thumb gusset increases go in the middle of the k17 section both times. In both cases you’re starting the round in the middle of the palm and working counterclockwise, but on the right mitt you hit the thumb right before the end of the round, and on the left you hit it right at the beginning.

This is the sort of thing that no doubt is obvious to anyone who did a little thinking before plunging into shaped knitting (or even the conceptualization thereof), but in my usual blundering way I thought that it would work out without my having to apply any logic to it.

I didn’t mind all the ripping though — really, I didn’t. It was good practice, a confidence-builder, and I knew these gloves would be done all too soon anyway. I was perfectly happy to knit them about 1.6 times instead of just the once.

These are on their way to Katie J., who agreed to … you know … do unto others as she has requested I do unto her. Why don’t you take her up on her offer?

A face through a window

January 5, 2008

Pattern: The Amanda Hat by Gina House
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted, Bijou Blue colorway
Needles: U.S. 9 Harmony Options 32″ circular (Magic Loop)

Mmmmmmmmmalabrigo.

This is the beautiful yarn that the Secret Knitter sent me for Christmas. And after making this soft, warm, totally stylin’ hat, I still have almost half the ball left.

While I had a little frogging incident after the first repeat of the lace pattern — the stitch count wasn’t coming out right — I overcame my fear of ripping, courageously unraveled the thing down to the garter stitch brim, and picked it back up on the needles. Because I couldn’t exactly tell how the yarnovers were supposed to be positioned, I did them from back to front over the needles on the first lace panel and the normal way on the second one … can’t tell the difference, and the normal way is a lot easier to knit into on the next round.

I have only myself to blame, since I didn’t check my gauge, but this is a closer fit than I anticipated. I would make the brim wider or do extra lace repeats to make it a little taller, if I were starting over.

Yet I love it so. Soft, a beautiful undulating blue, warm, and look at that stitch pattern definition. I believe I enjoy the single ply worsteds as much as any yarn I’ve worked with — their soft, untwisted fuzziness is like wearing a cloud. Walking home from the gym this afternoon wearing it, I had a sudden vision of a matching scarf, using the same stitch pattern and narrow garter stitch strips, maybe in a related colorway. I have other plans for my remaining half a skein of Malabrigo, but this is a yarn I’ll be buying for myself, no question. I’ve fallen for it utterly.

And since an Amanda Hat Knitalong started the same day I finished the hat — this is the quickest KAL I imagine I’ll ever participate in. One and done!