Saturday, January 24, 2009

What the WSJ has to do with knitting

Yesterday I was browsing the Wall Street Journal online and stumbled across an article discussing how the dollar has risen against certain European currencies, particularly the pound. The exchange rate for the pound was something like $1.35, quite a drop from the nearly $2 that I remember from previous months. My first thought upon reading this: now is the time to buy up Starmore kits.

Alice Starmore has been on my mind lately because I've been working on the DH's Christmas present. The table full of yarn that I briefly touched on here is a Virtual Yarns kit for Lismore (Ravelry link). The yarns are gorgeous and, aside from a knot in a couple of the skeins, everything that you would hope for in a nice wool. The kit comes with Ms. Starmore's Hebridean 3-ply, a luscious woolen-spun collection of heathers whose colors seem to glow from within. It is pricey but worth every bit.

Don't just take my word for it, look:

It's really too bad that I'm not buying yarn right now (one of my New Year's resolutions is to see how long I can go without buying new yarn. Another, related, resolution is to knit through my stash). I suppose I'll just have to keep watching the exchange rates and see if I should start convincing the DH to get me an early anniversary present (gifts of yarn are an exception to the resolution). Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Plugging away

Now that the holidays are over - no, wait, I still have one last gift to finish up (sorry, sis, your sweater is growing and should be done soon). Let me start over: now that the holidays are mostly over, my knitting seems to have slowed down a bit. This is not to say that I have not been knitting but rather that some of the frenzy has dissipated. I have actually been knitting quite a bit.

I finished a pair of socks.

Trust me, there are two. Unfortunately (for me, fortunately for him) my husband grabbed them, wore them, praised them, and threw them in the laundry before I had a chance to take a picture of the finished product. The yarn is Briar Rose Grandma's Blessing, a lovely cushy sport-weight superwash.

Actually, I finished another pair of socks recently. This one is Nancy Bush's Gentleman's Sock with Fluted Pattern (or something like that) from her book Knitting Vintage Socks. The yarn is Dream in Color Smooshy, color Black Parade.

As much as I liked wearing this pair for the modeling shoot, I exercised self restraint and shipped them off to my father. He called as soon as he got the package and asked for more; my favorite response when I gift hand knits.

I haven't confined myself to socks over the past few weeks. I have nearly finished Cluaranach (ravelry link) and started Frost Flowers and Leaves. The knitting is done on Cluaranach; the shawl just needs blocking.

Now, I have a last picture to whet your appetite for next time:

About a month ago, I got an air mail package and hid it in the back of a closet. When Christmas came around I wrapped it up and gave it to the DH. He opened it up, oohed and aahed, and gave it back to me. Let's just say that this gift could be described as "some assembly required."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


She's done!

Actually, Victoria (Ravelry link) has been been in varying stages of doneness for the past couple of weeks. I attached the last button on 12/20 or thereabouts but did not get around to blocking the piece until this past weekend.

All in all, this was a delightful pattern to knit - nothing too tricky and thus perfect to work on while reading.

As you can see from the picture, I made a few mods to the pattern. First, no picots. Not that they aren't lovely in the pattern photos and in the projects on Ravelry, but picots on a sweater were just a bit too girly for me. Instead I went with a basic turned hem. If you want to do this, just knit the turning row (it's a WS row) to create a ridge of purl bumps instead of the picots.

Second, I didn't work the full neck and went for a shorter version instead. After picking up the stitches for the collar, I worked 6 rows in the pattern stitch. Then I worked a turning section (again, with no picots) done with 3 rows before the turn as opposed to the 5 called for by the pattern. A 3 row turn seemed better proportioned than a 5-row one.

The third mod is a bit obscure but is one that I find infinitely helpful when it comes time to finish a sweater. Let me digress a moment and sincerely thank the designer for using short-rows in the shoulder shaping. This is something that I always substitute since, when combined with a three-needle bind-off, it makes a much cleaner shoulder than what you get with binding off so many stitches at the beginning or end of every alternate row. (For a nice article on how to convert traditional shoulder shaping to short-rows, look here.) So after seeing short-rows at the shoulder, I was a bit surprised not to see them in the neck shaping. Since all of the little details like this earlier in the pattern seemed carefully chosen, I tried the staircase-like bind-offs and just did not like my chances of picking up a nice clean edge for the collar (perhaps this was a result of the editing process rather than personal choice by the designer). Naturally, I ripped back and re-knit the neck shaping with short-rows. When I bound off it was so nice to see an unbroken curve at the neckline. The same principle in the short-row shoulders article works just as well at the neck.

Another kudos to the designer for making me pull out a crochet hook on this project, something I am usually loathe to do. Here the chain stitch detailing around the neck before picking up stitches for the collar was pure genius. Not only did the chain give a nice clean line, mirroring the bind-off line at the top of the pattern stitches at the bottom of the torso, but it also showed exactly where to pick up each new stitch for the collar. The extra structural support was wonderful as well.

Thinking back on the project, what I am most proud of is the button bands. The pattern says something like "make button loops and attach buttons." The prospect of making 15 little crochet chains and then sewing them on was enough to make me set the sweater aside for a week or so. 30 little ends to weave in! So I spent that week trying to think of a way around the problem. The designer's use of chain stitch at the neck served as inspiration. I decided to work a chain stitch up the button-hole side of the sweater and add little loops as I went. The way my math worked out, I needed a button loop every 7 stitches (one chain for each stitch on the turned band). I chained 7 stitches, each of which was attached to the button band, and then chained an additional 3 without attaching. I then attached the next chain stitch (number 11) to the 8th knit stitch and began my count to 7 all over again. Only 2 ends to weave in if you do it this way.

Attaching the buttons proved to be another challenge. For the record, I hate attaching buttons. Sewing them on with needle and threat drives me absolutely crazy. I had managed to sew on half the buttons when I decided to button the sides together and see how things looked. Apparently eyeballing it is not a good technique for button placement (yes, yes, I did know this but I didn't want to take the time to count stitches). A few expletives later, I cut all of the buttons out again. For take two, I decided to pull out my crochet hook instead of needle and thread. No need for any math this time: I knew that I needed one button every 7 stitches. First I wove in one end of my yarn to secure it at the bottom of the sweater. Then I strung all of my buttons (pearl buttons with shanks from M&J Trimming) on the yarn and began to chain. I worked 7 attached chains just like I did with the button loop side. Then I moved one button up the strand of yarn so that it was snug up against the last chain worked. Holding the button in place with my finger (more to keep it from flopping around and getting in the way than anything else), I worked another 7 attached chain stitches before placing the second button. You get the idea. I will have to remember this for the next time I use shank buttons since it was relatively quick and easy and looks spectacular (poor picture notwithstanding).

One last pic:

Until next time. . .