I'm almost ready to work on the red sweater sleeve again. It is pulled back and I've recalculated the numbers of stitches I need to have a well fitting sleeve. I just need to start knitting it.
I'm almost done the green Topsy Turvy wrap. I knit last night till the coffee shop turned the lights down low, but just could not quite get there. There is one half row left with the patterning on it, and the final knit and purl row and whatever cast off the pattern needs. I'll have to go back to the pattern to find that out.
And then, I have those two books almost read to get me to my goal for 2010.
Almost is an exciting place to be. Its like being half way done on a second sock. This is the place where you have time to think about what is next. Next isn't far off or hypothetical anymore. Next is days away, hours away. Next requires serious contemplation. Next requires careful thought, and serious deliberation.
If I choose wisely, if I chose something my hands and heart can't wait to wake up in the morning to work on, I'll have a speedy knit and big shot of happy.
Almost is so close to reaching goal you can taste it. Almost is right beside next. Next is a place of wide open possibilities.
Wow, this little computer really shows a washed out version of this marvelous Granny Smith apple green. It doesn't show the subtle variations of colour in the yarn either. What these photos do show is how nice this pattern looks in the Mini Maiden. The titling blocks interpreted as Moebius is one of those symbiotic wonders of design. It just works. It isn't a hard knit. Its fun, its fast and it is knitting even I can take to my knitting groups.
Except on the first row of either half of the repeat. Ask me how I know. I did a first row of a repeat at knitting yesterday, and came home to find I had knit one decrease wrong, and it took two hours to repair. It shouldn't have I know, but before it was over I had to drop a section all the way back to the stockinette of the section below. The repair worked so well that I can't tell which square it is anymore.
Topsy Turvy symbiotic.
I could call it done, but I'd like to knit a few more rows to see if I will have enough yarn to complete 3 full repeats. It will be close, but well worth the time to try it.
Besides the knitting, I've done a bunch of reading. I picked up Edward Rutherford's new book, New York. If you know his other works, you will understand the structure of this one. It is the story of a city told through its families and their history in the events of the day. I picked it up on Monday and I am half done. Yup. It is good.
I am also half done another book, In Another Light, by Andrew Greig. It's good but not perfect. Two stories, one of the father and one of the son are being told at the same time, and there just is something to be wished for in the way the two stories flow alongside each other.
But here I sit, with two books half done, and 4 days to finish them before the end of NaJuReMoNoMo for 2010. I feel confident that I will beat my miserly total of 3 in 2009 with the equally miserly total of 4. An improvement. The best thing is that once the challenge is over, I can go back and reread the very lyrical Lost Garden. Well worth it.
Before I knit this proto sleeve, I worried that sleeves without a pattern might be unattainable magic. It has stopped me once before (the mohair sweater I am working on - currently on recess, in closet, waiting for sleeves).
But no. No magic. Just a little common sense, and knitting. There is a point where you have to trust Barbara Walker, you have to set aside your questions and just do exactly what she says. I did and see what happened?
Its a sleeve! As usual, I will pull this out and reknit.
Now that I understand what to do, I know I can do better. To start, I think, I'll block the body. Then, I want to pick up stitches just a little differently to make a crisper 'seam' an I'm going to re-work my numbers. If I kept going I'd have too much ease in the sleeve for the look I want. It would be exactly right for a big loose over sweater, but not for the closer fitting dressier look I am after.
I have discovered something else about knitting sleeves. When you knit a sleeve from the bottom up, the short rows at the top of the sleeve are a kind of relief.
When you knit from the top down, the short rows feel fiddly, irritating. I'm going to work really hard to get past the fiddly bits.
I am an enthusiastic knitter. An ardent knitter. A passionate knitter. I don't think I am a great technical knitter and I don't always match project, yarn and stitch choices as well as I would like. I'm OK with that. These are things my hands must come to understand as much as my head, but sometimes, even an enthusiastic, ardent, passionate knitter comes to realize that the yarn must die
The body of the baby blanket I am working on, is simple garter stitch. I thought about doing a lace edging, but I am using acrylic yarn. It wouldn't hold the blocking lace would need. Knit double, this DK weight yarn, Baby by Stylecraft, forms a wonderfully squooshy, surprisingly lofty fabric. Lofty and squooshy are the perfect thing for a baby blanket, and I wanted something sweet and delicate, light and airy. A ruffle seemed like just the thing.
I knit the ruffle with one strand of plain white yarn and one strand of Ice Cream from Adriafil. Ice Cream is a perfect girly yarn, with candy coloured bits sprinkled through it. Because picking up all the stitches around a garter stitch edge is easy and brainless, I decided to knit the edging in the round and because the edging is in the round, the edging is stockinette. I didn't even think about it, I just did it.
As you can see in the photo, what was knit was anything but soft looking. It is more roly poly than ruffly. It doesn't have the soft drape that I was hoping for. I could have cried.
I think there were two problems between planning and completion. First, the stockinette caused the ruffle to roll badly. It is just the nature of the stitch. I knew this. Second, I held the yarn double. Though that might have been fine for the squooshy body, doubling the yarn made the fabric too thick. Hard to create soft drape when you are thick and squooshy. The candy coloured bits were just about perfect though.
I didn't want to reknit. I was happy with how fast this worked up and I really didn't want to unstrand all these doubled yarns. I thought about tossing the whole thing in the corner. I might have too, if it wasn't that a friend introduced me to the idea of killing acrylic.
Killing acrylic yarn is usually accidental. Heat and moisture can make the acrylic fibres sag. The yarn completely loses its bounce. Once gone, it cannot be restored. Killed. Murdered. Dead. It is easy to do. Just toss the acrylic project in the dryer on moderate heat instead of letting it air dry. Does it every single time.
Here I was with a rolling edge blankie when I wanted a soft drape and gentle ruffled edging. What I needed was to do was kill the ruffle. I've killed whole things before by tossing them in the dryer. I couldn't do that this time and retain the centre.
I wet the edging with a spray bottle, put down a pressing cloth and pressed with a medium heat. It worked. Killed it dead. Murdered it. With glee even.
It is lays perfectly. The ruffles are just so, staying exactly where I put them. I have every confidence that the yarn will continue to drape softly. It is exactly what I hoped for.
I might have committed 'murder' but I feel like celebrating.
They managed to switch things around so I don't have to work today. I get the luxury of being sick. Which really isn't the sort of luxury I would like.
And yet, if today goes better than yesterday, it ought to be a free day for knitting, which means I have the luxury of time. Beyond a doubt, time is the greatest luxury of all. Or it would be, if it weren't for being sick.
And yes, it is just a cold, a miserable nasty cold, which is how I am paying for not having a lot of colds (Cold FX, I love you)
I really wish I had more to show you. I had planned to be onto the second part, the sweet little edging of the baby blanket I am working on. It is the sweet thing that will make this baby blanket different from all the other blankets in the world. This morning finds me still working on the body of the blanket, long miles of plain garter stitch body.
As I knit this, I am fully aware of the irony of the plain garter stitch that I chose. Miles of stockinette. Long repeats of lace. Plain garter stitch. Same, same. Not really thinking knitting, and yet, by adding this third project of long simple stitches, to the things I am knitting each day, I have found the balance I needed.
If I make it to the edging I'll post some photos. If not, you can assume I am having a nap.
I'm working away at the red sweater. Pleased as punch. It is so nice when something you are winging it on is working out. Or seems to be working out.
It still is possible to fail miserably and I would be an idiot not to acknowledge that.
But I think you will agree with me. It's looking pretty darn good.
Besides red knitting, I did do some shopping for baby yarn. I hemmed and hawed over some soft girly pink yarn. I thought and thought and thought about what I was going to make, but the pink yarn did not speak at all. It waited in the most delicate way for me to guide it, as if it was some Victorian miss, waiting for it's mother.
All right already, but this is the new millennium. No little missish-ness allowed here. There were huge skeins of a simple acrylic, a heavier than an average baby yarn, calling, "Hey, what about me? I'm first string. I'll take care of many babies. Knit me fast!"
And then there was a daintier call, ladylike, but modern, from a high shelf,
reminding me about quiet conversations we have had about how good it would look on the edge of something delicate and dainty and about how it wanted to be something just a little more. So I took the yarn that would speak and brought it home.
Something with a little loft. Something with a little dainty. I grabbed a strand from each ball of white and started to knit with it. I needed to get a feel for it. Impressive loft. Light with just a hint of weight. Warm and cushy and amazingly good. So I kept on just knitting. It seems the yarn wanted to be a blanket. A good plain garter stitch blanket. So there you have it. Mundane.
But I did have that nice little bobbly dainty stuff to use us too. I have a plan. Wait till you see what happens with that!
Did I mention a little yarn accident that I had? But only a little one.
Sigh. Zauberball Lace. Bright anything but winter colours. Who could resist.
I ended up not going to town yesterday. Why waste the gas when I go in today to knit with friends today and run errands. And I have a couple hours to spare in the morning. These are supposed to be my spinning hours, but...we'll talk about that later.
Staying home meant I got tons done on the red sweater. Guess what? It fits. Just like I hoped. No loosey goosey, but fitted just a little, hanging just right. I should be done the body, but I had to fix an error.
Way back when I did the Summer Chevron, I found that thinking of the stitches from the underarm as a side panel works great for placement of the increases I need to smoothly accommodate my hips. If I do the shaping there it stays almost hidden and doesn't change the drape or flow of the lines of the sweater. To keep it looking right,increases need to be placed in the same manner on both sides of the panel. I wasn't, thus the fix.
Still I got tons done. But now I am at the point where I don't have to increase, I just need to knit, and you know what? There is a LOT of stockinette to be knit. I am just the teensiest bit bored by it. I shall soldier on. I can't wait to see how the end product will look.
I knit on the Topsy Turvy mobius too, but it didn't help. It is exactly the same number of stitches, alternating the pattern every 8 rows. Interesting, but still same-same.
So here I sit in the very merry middle and it is a little bit of a relief to think of knitting a little something else. I still have not decided. The yarn I choose will tell me what it wants to be.
I am going to take a short detour to knit a baby something. My nephew who lives just down the road just had a wee baby girl named Emily.
I considred blankets. I put that aside. Too big. I considered baby socks. I put that aside. Too small. She received a bunch of sweaters from her great gran, my knitting hero. No need for more of those. I put that aside too. Not a whole lot left but hats and I am not in the mood for hats.
sigh. It is a very tough decision. Maybe a dress? One of those cute little things styled more like a little jumper dress. If it is knit right, it would be year round wear, important when you don't know how big she will be in what season. It should be cotton, or at least a blend of cotton or a plant fibre. No point in knitting an all season thing if it is made in wool, which is just too warm for summer.
And it has to be pink, soft baby girly pink, by request of her mommy.
In all my many many, many balls of yarn, I have no such pink. I have eye sucking pink. I have sherbet multis. I have soft creams and sweet little neutrals. I have bright cheery baby blues, greens, yellows, turquoises, but no soft pink.
So I must go to town to buy new yarn. I sense danger.
Haiti is having a terrible, terrible time right now. No matter what sort of political feelings you have about international aid and helping countries with such a difficult record of government (check out some of the comments on Achenblog. Hard to believe but...) but no one can disagree with the simple fact of the disaster.
I believe we have a responsibility to help our friends when bad things happen. I believe we have a responsibility to help our neighbours when bad things happen. I believe we have a responsibility to give assistance to those who are less than our friends when bad things happen.
I beg of you give and give often.
I always wonder about these days as the response begins. 3 days. It is 3 days till real relief gets there. They can get teams there a little sooner, but the real bulk of the relief takes 3 days to mobilize.
You know how some people seem like natural teachers? And how some teachers make us feel that no matter how silly the question, no matter how often we need it repeated, they are sticking with us and will help us get there. This was better than that.
Cynthia from the store is a master teacher. Her way of phrasing the instructions is quiet and deliberate and clear. But there is so much more to her way of teaching.
Yesterday she had 3 clients with very different challenges and as the day progressed, she worked them through their problems. As I listened to her work with each client, I realized she not only begins as a clear and talented teacher, but that she changed the focus of what she was saying to address the specific areas of difficulty that each client faced. It was sublte and nuancd and a brilliant sort of masterful magic.
Yesterday I watched and heard a master teach. I wish I could capture it for you better, but I can't. If the opportunity to take a class with her comes up, take it. You wouldn't have to knit a stitch. You will learn just by listening.
I'm working on the red sweater and all is going well, but about midday yesterday I just had to put it down and leave it alone for a while. Tove is a crunchy wool and my fingers were getting really sensitive to it. Time for an antidote.
I picked up another of the ongoing knits, the green Topsy Turvy Mobius. The yarn is Handmaiden's Mini Maiden, a more than adequate antidote to crunchy. The wool silk blend feels like butter.
The project had gone past the ongoing stage and was back to the ripped right off the needles stage. There are some errors you can't fix and one of them is being 8 stitches out in a patterned project.
I did not look forward to beginning again. Casting on is never my favourite part. It took a couple of hours to get 216 stitches and only 216 stitches on to the needles. Normally you can pop an extra stitch off the needles but here, there is no grace. You need to be right the first time. 225,210, 228, 193. It went on for a while.
OK, there is a little bit of grace. You can work a stitch or two as a knit two together but by and large, you have to be right on. In the end I had 2 stitches to clear up, but I did start knitting.
I knew from the first time I saw this pattern, it was going to be a nice pattern to knit. It has all the parts I like. It has a pattern that once established, is easy enough to keep in your head and yet, you cant zone out as if it is garter stitch.
With a pattern like this, you have to be there every 8 stitches. I can do 8 stitches. I can do 8 stitches, just not 2. (I do not understand why 2 is so hard) And every 8 rows, you switch the pattern just enough to keep yourself from starting to get too confident, too comfortable.
Once established this pattern does that thing I like most about lace It finds its rhythm and flows right off your needles. It took very little time to be half way through the first repeat.
This is going to knit up fast.
I hope this antidote to red doesn't interfere too much with the sweater. The red sweater is needed. This pattern, this yarn? It is just wanted but wanted a whole lot.
Kilometers even. I knit red yesterday. A whole bunch of red, and yet, I am no farther along than I was last Wednesday.
First there was the size issue. Right there along with my obsession about running out of yarn for a project, there exists a worry. Did I knit it the right size? Are there enough stitches here to go around me? The plan was to add stitches under the arms between the fronts and the backs to complete the armsyce and the parts looked so small, sitting there unjoined, all curled up along the edges.
Even though I had worked up the numbers, the numbers just couldn't be right, now could they. There was after all, the fact that I am a large woman, and I'd really like this sweater to fit nicely. So I added 6 stitches over and above my calculations on each of the seam edges. I completely ignored that my gauge is 4.75 stitches per inch, that 6 stitches on each of 4 edges meant I was adding5 inchesto the sweater, indeed a whooping 2.5 inches to each arm opening.
When I tried the sweater on, the arms drooped distressingly low. They drooped below my waist. A reknit was in order.
So I stuck to my numbers....Still too much room in the arm. Note to self: Watch for extra large armholes. They really are not needed. Recalculate and reknit.
By this point, I was getting pretty sick and tired of math and red knitting. I stuck with it and knit and knit and knit some more.
I thought about where the few more stitches I needed ought to be. They quite clearly didn't belong at the underarms.
It seems they want to fit along the front edges of the sweater. These few extra stitches I needed are doing just what I wanted
They are making a nice rounded bottom to a simple v neck that is exactly as deep as I wanted the neckline to be. This morning finds me with a sweater that looks like it is going to fit.
Knitting without a pattern, thinking it through as I go on, means reknitting is always one of the possible outcomes. With that possibility always on the horizon, its a darn good thing I like working with this yarn.
On a Friday you should be able to look back at a week and say 'I accomplished something'. Friday is a good day for taking stock of all the things you meant to do and balance them against what happened. I think I did OK this week.
Not huge amounts of knitting, but enough that I am content with what I did. The red sweater is well on its way, finished to the underarms but not quite ready for photos or fitting just yet. It is still at that geeky looking stage where the parts hang in bits rather than fit as a cohesive whole.
My work today is going to be to get it to a good place to assess the fit.
I have enjoyed reading this book. I'm about half way through it. While I am not engaged completely, I am enamoured enough to be looking for ways to fit reading in the corners of the day where I can' t knit and I am inventing a few new corners too.
I have a plant. A nice big fern that fits just right in the plant stand I have had for a very long time. It ought to be just the right kind of plant for my bright sunny dining room.
And I spent some time listening to music. I have wanted to try it on my new computer, but never got around to it yet. Last night I pulled out my geeky little ear buds
and listened to Placido Dominogo and John Denver sing that loveliest of ballads, Perhaps Love, and to Susan Boyle on her debut performance and a single from her CD, and a few other bits and pieces of things I have not heard for a while. It was nice except for one little thing.
Geeky, yet cool rubber ducky ear buds don't actually fit well If it wouldn't have been for transcendent music, I'd have turfed the ear pieces before the second note.
and if you don't know what that means, it pretty much says Merry Christmas!
I think I am going to do the plain red sweater. I just really need the a plain red sweater and more and more, I have a picture of exactly what I want it to look like sitting firmly in my head.
No plain neckline for me. I am going to aim for a deeper slow sloped v, think of Mrs. Darcy if that explains it. Not so low cut, perhaps. I don't know if that would suit a full busted person, but that same gentle v shape is what I am hoping to get. If I can figure it all out correctly, I'll have pictures for you before the end of the day.
There might be a little knitting on something green and soft today as well, but if there is, telling you more will hold to Friday.
There will be red knitting today, there will be reading of a 'red' book too. I picked up a copy of The Red Tent, by Anna Diamante. I tried reading Rob Roy but it seemed to move so slowly. I tried a book called the Historian by Elisabeth Kostova, but that one would have given me nightmares. The Red Tent is from a few years ago and is one of those softer novels that borders on fluff, but has just a wee bit too much substance to go quite so low. It re-interprets the story of Dinah, daughter to Leah and Jacob.
Not literature, but then, not everything can be. Sort of like my red sweater. Not couture, but then, not everything can be.
OK, I have that red thing down to the armpits. Its time to work the fronts and I need to make some decisions.
Part of me wants to knit a regular round necked sweater with a band of I-cord around all the edges. That is the kind of red sweater that you could wear forever, with everything you ever bought. Something with 3/4 length sleeves and just enough style to make it go from jeans to fancy dress dinners to work and back again. I do need a sweater like that. A nice little versatile red conservative, go everywhere, do everything sweater. My regular old red sweater is on its last legs, and there will soon be an enourmous hole in my wardrobe.
Part of me wants to make a deep cut front and finish the sweater along both fronts with a band of some kind of white stranded colourwork. That sort of colourwork changes how you can wear the sweater. It looks a little more casual and might not go as far as an plain red sweater in wardrobe terms. But it would be a challange, and it would be a lot of fun to knit.
This is only the second time I have done a top down, no pattern sweater and the first time I am doing the 'set in' sleeve. I am the teeniest bit hesitant to play when I barely understand what I am doing in the first place.
This is a really nice red, and I want to do this really nice red justice.
I used to have a lot of plants. We had a very small house and only 5 windows and yet there was a point where I had something near a hundred individual plants. Moving took care of some, more moving cleaned out a few more and by the time we moved here, I had very few left. The cat took care of anything that wasn't hanging and the hanging things slowly disappeared.
The cat is gone now and I have been contemplating plants. Or at least one plant. I am going to go to the greenhouse today where they ought to have a few nice bug free plants and pick one. And then I am going to go to the yarn store to get a wee small birthday gift for myself. But only wee small. Maybe. And then I think I will stop by a few bookstores and see what sort of trouble I can find.
Tonight is curling night for Mr. Needles so I am going to make my favourite thing for dinner, I will sip a wee glass of something sweet and rich and I will go to bed early.
This is the perfect birthday for me. No parties, no noise, just quiet contemplation, a little bit of yarn, a good book and a peaceful evening. Of course it would be nice if someone would cook my favourite dinner, but you can't have everything.
I think it finally is setting in, that I am home, that the wedding is done, that the holidays are over, that life can get back to normal and routine.
Or maybe its just that the knitting I began when we traveled is done. Aestlight Shawl by the Shetland Trader, Gudrun Johnston.
An enjoyable little knit but it is the yarn colour that is most striking and that is what I am going to miss. I've lived quite some time now, with the prospect of knitting with these colours in my stash. They have always been a possibility.
And now they are done, I miss them. Its like a little security blanket of having them to look forward to is gone.
Is that why stash is so important? That we like to surround ourselves with the security of known possibilities? That stash comforts, cushions and balances the face of other possibilities we don't know and cannot control?
When I knit socks my head is filled with which sock yarn I'll knit next but with other projects, there is a lull, a place where I have nothing, where I feel more than a little empty.
I'm there and a sensible person would just pick up and finish one of these many things that are already on the go. But not I. It's to early in the new year to start with old things.
What is next? I don't know, I don't have anything clear in mind. Here I stand, on the edge of all possible knitting with a soft cushion there to greet me when I do choose to fall.
As much as anything, this standing on the edge of knitting the next thing makes me feel like I'm home.
It is time again for National Just Read More Novels Month. I have promised myself to do better than my lowly 3 of last year. This year if a novel doesn't capture me, I am going to put it down to read more slowly later.
My inability to read for long periods is one of the saddest things of my life. I grew up inhaling novels. They did not so much get read by me as they captured me and became part of me. There are books that I read so many times the covers wore out. I'm on a second personal copy of these and these are the books I still read at least once a year. Some are childhood favourites, like Little House in the Big Woods and the Swiss Family Robinson and some are new favourites like Stephen King's the Stand and everything Jane Austen ever wrote.
NaJuReMoNoMo is a great way to move me off my complacent behind and try some new authors or new stories from authors I know. Last year I read the wonderful novel, The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks and before this month is over, I am gong to read March, her Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
I don't know what else will come my way, but there will be more than 3 books.
As you can see I also have a nifty new Knit Metre widget on the side of my blog. I hope that it doesn't make loading the blog painfully slow. It is there to track my meterage for the 5 k in 2010 challenge that we are having on the Edmonton Knitter's group on Ravelry. As we talked about setting the 5 k up, some of the ladies realized they knit considerably more, but they are kindly keeping the number reachable for all.
My other goal for the year is to learn to read some Russian and Ukrainian. That is going to be step one of learning to speak the language. We felt like such stupid Canadians when we traveled, and though I did study some French in school, without using it, I had no reason to retain it. I'm back to cereal box French and that doesn't count in the grand scheme of things. Next time I go the Ukraine, it would be nice to be able to communicate with ordinary people in writing if nothing else.
So, back to books, back to knitting, back to the routines of everyday life. Only one question remains. How long will it feel odd to write 2010?