Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Semi Satisfactory Sakiori

Remember this pattern? Probably not. I hardly remember it myself. According to my Ravelry project file, I started knitting the Sakiori Vest in October 2007. Yikes! The knitting was completed in Spring 2008, but that surfaced a fit issue, and Sakiori took an extended sabbatical. The little side pieces made the vest hang oddly. That plus the absence of shoulder shaping gave it a blocky, too-big appearance. I suspect this vest would look best on a much larger person.

The most important thing I learned here? Never, never, never knit an item of clothing that is not modeled by a human being. Much as I love Cheryl Oberle's "Folk Vests" (from which this pattern was taken), every single vest in the book is photographed lying flat. Not helpful. Another clue should have been the absence of any pictures of the vest on the actual body of one of the 20-30 Ravellers who have knit it. A few claimed to like it, but supplied no pix in support of this supposed devotion.

While Sakiori was hibernating I thought of sewing up the sides and putting a zipper in the front. But I couldn't decide how long the zipper should be. In the end I simply sewed up both sides and the front to about the same point and turned it into a pullover.

I'm happy with this as something warm to wear around the house, but not so sure about public appearances. The shoulders have a "take me to your leader" look, not so very fashion forward. But I love all the colors and especially the memories of the socks I knit with these leftover bits. On the upper right front there is some yarn from the first pair of socks I ever made.

Interestingly, Cheryl Oberle's newest book "Knitted Jackets" has a pattern – the Wabi Sabi Jacket -- that looks just like the Sakiori with solid-color sleeves added. See what I mean? At first I was tempted to run with the idea and knit on some sleeves. But this project has taken up enough time and brain space. It's not perfect, but it will do. And, like all the best projects, it has been a valuable learning experience.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yes, It's A Hat

As many guessed, the amoeba (aka grapefruit warmer, aka paramecium) has turned out to be a hat. It is a beret that is knit sideways. Voila!

The pattern is "Arbacia," one of Wooly Wormhead's incredibly clever and convoluted designs. It uses short rows not only to allow the top to taper to the crown, but also between the top and the band so that the top stays full while the band fits snugly. I still can't quite believe that this actually came out okay, looks good, and fits. What a knitting adventure!

The short rows were a nice refresher on creating and picking up wraps. Other fun? Well, let's see. How about "p2tog tbl"? Yes, that is "purl 2 together through the (ack!) back loop." Not my favorite maneuver at the best of times. And on 2.75mm needles with a somewhat hairy alpaca blend (Classic Elite Alpaca Sox), it was amazingly challenging. By the eighth, and last, repeat, I finally got the hang of it.

But the best was saved for last. Since the hat is knit around, there is some seaming involved. The pattern suggests a provisional cast-on in order to pop those stitches back onto a needle at the end and Kitchener all 136 stitches (68 on each side). I have Kitchenered many a sock toe, but that's only 12-14 stitches. Not one-hundred-thirty-six! And besides, why put those original stitches back on a needle just so you can sew them?

I decided to try Lucy Neatby's method, which I had watched on a DVD, but never practiced. I began with orange waste yarn and finished up with yellow waste yarn. Here's what I learned -- the Neatby method is so incredibly tidy and perfect that it's impossible to look back and see which bit is your sewing and which are the actual stitches. Makes tightening up the sewing difficult. It was easy enough to do on the straight stockinette part, but the band, with it's delightful cables and yarnovers, was another story. When next I knit this pattern (and I probably will, it's serious fun) I shall attach a new piece of yarn and begin weaving from the center of the circle. I'll also knit fewer rows with waste yarn. I thought more would be better, but they just added bulk and got in the way of the sewing.

Blocking was a breeze. I used a dinner plate, as recommended, and added one little variation. Because alpaca is prone to stretch, I fastened the hatband tightly to a glass in the middle of the plate. This provided maximum stretch for the crown and zero stretch of the band.

Two other points in favor of the Arbacia pattern – 1) it's free, and 2) it used only 40 grams of fingering yarn.

I was so enchanted with my adventures in hatland that I immediately cast on another hat. This one will be knit from the top down. And next in the hat queue is a fair isle tam knit from the bottom up. So . . . sideways, top down, bottom up. Have I missed any directions? Is there another way to do it?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What Am I Knitting?

The Pastiche Shawl is coming along nicely, but I'm feeling unenthused about the Purple Pullover. It's hard to get excited about a cotton sweater in the middle of cold winter weather. In search of some instant gratification, I have embarked upon a small project. Here it is.

Can't tell what it is? Oh, here, let me spread it out so you can see it better.

Still can't tell? Me neither. This thing in no way resembles that which it is destined to be. It looks like a cute little alpaca amoeba (nope, not knitting an amoeba). The pattern is interesting. And different. It features some techniques I haven't used in quite a while; the fingers are re-learning how to do this stuff.

I like the little twisty bits too. And it might actually turn out be a . . . . . . . well, what do you think? What is this blob going to be?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Yet Another Shawl

I simply cannot stop knitting shawls. I'm powerless before this obsession. Is there a 12-step program for shawl addicts?

I'm calling this one the Pastiche Shawl, because it incorporates elements from three different patterns. The basic stitch pattern is taken from the Feather and Fan Comfort Shawl. But I didn't like the cast-on, which generated an odd number of stitches on each side of the center (not so good with an 18-stitch pattern repeat), and I wasn't too crazy about the edging either. So I used the cast-on and the edging from the Danish Tie Shawl. Then I borrowed the half-repeats from Cheryl Oberle's Feather and Fan Triangle Shawl pattern in "Folk Shawls" to make it even more featherfanish.

Delving into the stash of fingering yarn for color choices, I came up with these three. I like the way the gold, red, and multi harmonize. Not exactly picking up the same colors, but working well together. The gold is Fleece Artist 'Saffron'; the multi is Claudia Handpainted 'Butter Pecan'; and the red has a whole story around it. It's Cherry Tree Hill brand, originally called 'Nantucket Red,' then 'Nantucket', then 'Island Red', then discontinued. Apparently there were issues with another company using the name 'Nantucket Red.' Too bad; it's a splendid color, exactly the shade of old bricks that have been weathered over many years of exposure in a coastal environment.

Altogether these three colors provided about 1200 yards of yarn, to be knit on U.S. #5 needles. Surely enough for a decent sized shawl. But I wanted this one to be truly huge. And I'm not planning to stretch it much in the blocking. Perhaps more yarn. Heh. Back to the stash.

This is the final choice – 400 grams, 1600 yards. Got to be enough. I added 100 grams of dark gold – handspun and home dyed with tumeric. It's always a thrill to knit with my own handspun.

And here's where I am as of December 15. The wingspan measures about 2.5 feet and all four colors are in place. Just reaching the point where it feels like real knitting. You know, when each row takes at least 20 minutes and then they get longer and loonger and looooonger. Since Madame Pastiche had become a bit cramped on her 24" cable I relocated her to a 32" cable, and I've ordered some longer cables (60 inches!!!!) from Knitpicks just in case.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hardly Worth It

The Stealth Socks are finished, and I am quite pleased with them. Here they are lounging on the patio.

So what are my complaints about this pattern? Well, none really. It's all my own fault. Had I taken the trouble to purchase 2.50mm (U.S. #1.5) needles, the knitting would have gone smoothly. But instead I had to switch to 2.75mm's for the cable twist, because 2.25mm's, which were just right for the rest of the sock, pulled the cable in too tight. The mental acuity required to swap needles back and forth put this project right out of the mindless knitting category.

And the other issue? Well, the pattern said that you could twist the cables on both socks in the same direction or you could mirror them. Always ready to do things the hard way, I mirrored them. Two cable twists down the second sock, I realized that crossing this particular cable in front was considerably more awkward than crossing it in back. Decision time – frog 25 rounds? Or grit teeth and forge on? Yeah, I forged on. Such needless suffering too. If you look really, really hard at the picture on the left you can just discern the cables on each leg going in a different direction. Someone would have to grab my foot and use a magnifying glass to see the mirroring effect.

Anyway, the yarn is good, the color is good, the cables are good, and the suffering is over. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here. Maybe the most difficult way is not always the best way. Who knew?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's A Wrap!

Isn't it thrilling when things actually work out the way you planned? Perhaps it's the rarity factor.

Anyway, the Colorblock Shawl cooperated in keeping a solid 25" back length after being released from its blocking pins, so I picked up 3 stitches at each end and made two 12" i-cord ties. As usual, there was just enough yarn. I had a 2-gram squib held in reserve in case the bindoff gave me grief. But it didn't. And I unraveled a 3-gram swatch that had been knit by the original owner of the yarn.

Wrapped and tied in back, the shawl is about waist length in front. Very toasty and warm.

Here's a side view. You can see how it slopes to a longer length in back. That's because the wrapping shortens the front.

And a back view. If you look closely you might see a wee i-cord tail peeking out front under the point.