Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Knit stalker

There was a time when I didn't gape hopelessly at every knit-clad torso I encountered. Not any more. In the back of my work folder are lots of little doodles which I like to think of as "design sketches", although really they're just scribbled rendering of garments I see on people in the library and want to copy. Yesterday, I saw a girl in a longer-length knitted top, in st st up to just below the bust, and then with a diagonal lace pattern covering the bust and upper back. It had cute little puffed cap sleeves and I wanted it. Armed only with Vogue Knitting and some DB Cathay from the stash, I've made my first approaches to knocking off the pattern.

Ideally, I would like to make a vintage-looking blouse like this in 4-ply; I don't have any hanging around at the moment, but fortunately the yarn I have can knit to a fairly small gauge. There are some parts of working out the pattern which alarm me. Specifically, what to do with the hems and how to manage the lace pattern around the shoulder and armhole shaping fill me with dread. But at the moment, I'm excited about working out the answers, though I'm not yet sure that my enthusiasm will outrun any disappointments in making this.

The cloud bolero is taking shape again, on smaller needles. I'm hoping to have it finished on Thursay so I can wear it at the ATP festival this weekend, but that may be a little ambitious. It's certainly less fun second time around.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Queen bolero

The cloud bolero is so swishy in her satin ribbon (let's hope there are more Hunky-Dory loving knitters than me out there, or that joke will be incomprehensible as well as bad) that she's downright unwearable. As with many dysfunctional relationships, it turns out that our problems go right back to the beginning. I remeasured my gauge swatch, and even though I am absolutely certain that I counted 12st to 4" back on Monday when I started, on the recount I got 10st to 4".

I'll admit that I was less exacting than usual with this swatch. My usual procedure is to knit a big swatch (normally 5"x5") and then leave it for a day or so before measuring; sometimes I chuck it in my handbag to find out what it will suffer with wear-and-tear, or wear it tucked into the top of my jeans for a few hours to find out how comfy it is against my skin. This time, I cast off the swatch, measured it, pronounced myself happy, and immediately cast on for the bolero - so I wouldn't rule out a fair dose of wishful thinking influencing me in my eagerness to get started, especially since the lovely shiny Addi I swatched with was the is the needle I wanted to knit with.

But my preferred explanation (because it makes me look slightly less foolish, even though I'm doubtful of the logic) is that the swatch grew and so did the bolero, which would mean that for all the bolero's heartfelt protestations, she has been out to betray me from the beginning.

So now I consider my options. Because of the design, I could rip back to two repeats before the sleeve and then reknit, following the directions for size xs. At 10st/4", that would give me a 36" bust, and a bolero that fits. I could start again on smaller needles, but my next size down happen to be bamboo, and since I was cross enough with the yarn on Addis, I might become murderous on stickier needles. Or I could start entirely afresh using some Rowanspun Chunky which has been in my stash since before I learned to knit, and which is a nice dependably 100% wool - although I am loathe to, since the bolero is very much what I want, if only it wasn't twice my size. The other thing I could do is take my newfound insight into gauge and just start something new. But want this, and most of all, I want to solve the problem I've made for myself, and manufacture a happy ending for the Mills-and-Bolero (thank-you, Seahorse!) story.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Cloud whine

The romance between me and the cloud bolero has been of the whirlwind sort, but as with all romances, eventually enthusiasm had to confront reality. I cast it it off. I put it on. I wasn't sure.

"I just don't think it's working out, cloud," I thought. "It's not you, it's me. But you're a lovely thing - I have this great friend I could introduce you to."
"Don't say that!" sobbed the bolero, "I can only be what you make me! Don't punish me for your mistakes!"
"I'm sorry, cloud. I've changed. I started out getting gauge but it looks like I loosened up after the arms, and now you're just too big. And you're sort of flaring out at the back."
"But I can change too!" the bolero protested. "I'm adaptable. You could cross the front pieces and make me smaller that way. Or you could let me hang open as a sort of sleeved shawl. I'll try anything! You haven't even blocked me!"
"Well, you are very soft and a nice colour. Perhaps we could experiment to see what makes us happy."
The bolero felt confident enough to press the issue now: "And don't forget our plans for the future! The top you bought to wear with me! The shoes you bought to go with the top! And there's the knitalong, too. People will expect to see us together."

Now I felt myself at a disadvantage. Perhaps I had been too rash. I had certainly been a spendthrift. The bolero deserved another chance. It would be wrong to cast her aside just because she failed to fulfill the platonic ideal of her I cherished at the start. I gently packed her in the knitting bag and agreed that when I finished work today, I would buy some ribbon and we could work things out together.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Socks march on

One down and a toe to go. There are flaws here but what I'm really thinking about is how much I love to turn a heel. Oh my, I think I've become one of the sock people!

Partly cloudy

The cloud bolero is two days old. I know that makes it seem like quick work but believe me, it's not. The yarn (an eBay bargain) is a discontinued Rowan called Soft Chunky. In content, it's very similar to the Polar Ysolda originally used for the pattern - some wool, less alpaca, acrylic and nylon. In composition, it's like Kidsilk Haze writ large: a nylon core with a dense fuzzy halo, 3-plied (does that sound right?), and, as when knitting up Kidsilk Haze, my needle occasionally finds its way in where it shouldn't, between the plies or into the halo. Sometimes this makes me so frustrated I put down the knitting just to dream of ringing up the mill and asking the first person to answer if they KNOW what they've DONE. But the bolero itself looks pretty adorable. I really enjoy the feather and fan pattern (this is my first lace garment), and the deco look of the lovely waves it forms itself into. Actually I'd like to wear it today but since I don't really think a circular needle is a viable accessory, I can wait til the weekend.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Ester is here!

I finished Ester on Thursday while at my parents' house. That's a nine-day knit, working on the piece for an hour or two each day: the designer was not being facetious when she said it was a quick knit. I absolutely love it. So much so that I put it on and got the Bear to take a picture straight away (he's 4, so now you know that my lopped-off head and the prominent compost bin aren't verite-style contrivances) - no blocking, which is why the finished item looks more shrug-like than the sample modeled by the designer on Knitty.

However, I don't think any amount of blocking could introduce the extra 12 inches of ease needed for the front of mine to meet up. I have a feeling that the pattern doesn't really allow for a bust. If you look at the schematic on Knitty, you'll see that Ester is knit in one t-shaped piece: the edges of the t's "cross-stroke" are seamed to the sides of the t's "down-stroke" to form the shrug-shape. The directions tell you to knit the cross-stroke and the down-stroke until the length of each is one quarter of the desired finished bust measurement; the two quarter-lengths are intended to meet across the front half of the body. But on my body, the front "half" actually takes up rather more than half of the total circumference of my bust, resulting in the finished piece being not quite the thing I thought I was making, albeit a very lovely thing.

I rather like the idea of making another to play with the proportions (after I've blocked this one, of course). I loved making it: it thoroughly satisfied my passion for cabling. Incidentally, I really like the cable pattern Alice used here. The cables look to me like arrows heads nestling together, pointing out the direction of the knitting and the curious structure of the garment.

Pattern Ester from Knitty
Materials Emu Aran (100% wool) shade 6179 (5 balls)
Cost and source A very thrifty £2 plus £3.95 for an 80cm 5mm Addi Turbo
Knit as written

Monday, 9 April 2007

Spoiling a stocking

When I'm not knitting, or chasing down children, my "proper job" is writing a thesis on George Eliot. From this information, you could reasonably assume that I really, really like George Eliot; I do, and one of the things I enjoy most of all are the minor characters and their distinguishing foibles. Here is Mrs Hackitt, introduced at the beginning of Scenes of Clerical Life:
She has brought her knitting - no frivolous fancy knitting, but a substantial woollen stocking; the click-click of her knitting needles is the running accompaniment to all her conversation, and in her utmost enjoyment of spoiling a friend's self-satisfaction, she was never known to spoil a stocking.
Well right now I seem to be letting a stocking spoil my thesis. I just can't seem to get my ideas in order (even though Mr. Nath has taken the Bear and the Moomin away to help me work) and whenever I begin to struggle, I revert to the nice orderly business of making this child-size sock:

I had a bit of a disagreement with the 1/1 ribbing and ripped back my first attempt to replace it with what VK calls "half-twist" 1/1 ribbing: that is, I knit through the back loop on every other row, and the result is much tidier than the untwisted version (and thanks to the Sheffield Knitters who helped to solve this problem). The rest of the sock is rather imperfect anyway. My tension has wandered in a few places and there are a few obvious pulls in the fabric. Still, I'm happy with it for a first try (with 4-ply and with dpns) - and I know the boy it is intended for will be oblivious to the flaws and just happy to see his sock materializing when he gets home.

In other distractions, I've become quite obsessed with Ysolda's patterns. Arisaig from Knitty was my "aspirational knit" when I first began following the trail of yarn, and I have just acquired a lovely-looking vintage 4-ply to make this beautiful cardigan. But that's not all! I've also bought some chunky yarn to make the Cloud Bolero. And that's still not all, because I also bought the Matilda Jane pattern and I'm considering stash options to make the Opera Gloves. There's something so appealing about these patterns, which have a just-right balance of winsome style and quirky details (I love the deep ribbing on Arisaig, and the little picot trimmed cap sleeves on the Bolero, and most of all the Liberty-print bow on Matilda Jane). Also, I think I may just have the teeniest tiniest desire to be Ysolda so that I too can knit and study at the same time.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Ester! Ester! Read all about it!

I don't know if I've just become much more accomplished at this knitting lark (maybe) or if it's a result of displacement activity as I drift towards my chapter deadline like a small boat floating into the shadow of a black and huge peak (more likely) but I seem to be making quick work of Ester. Two days in and we have this:

Pretty good, no? The cable pattern is a memorable one, and even though I haven't taken to cabling without a cable needle, it's going fast. I chose to go with the navy (from my thrifty haul) because it will match a skirt I have, and was for a while slightly worried that the cables were sinking into the dark colour, but looking at it now I think the cables are standing out smartly. And one more thing... look, no ends! I tried the felted join for the first time and I think the magical results have truly defeated my squeamishness about putting wool in my mouth.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

The picovoli that ate everything

First of all it devoured 7-and-bit balls of Rowan Wool Cotton and then, not satisfied with that, it ate my waistline. Here it is in all its ravenous glory, and in case you hadn't already guessed, I'm not sure how pleased I am with it.

On the one hand, I think I can be fairly happy with the garment in and of itself. I wanted to make a tunic, I adapted a pattern I liked, and I have indeed made a tunic. I like the colour accent around the edges (my little boy said. "Oh! I like where you've just squeezed the purple in!"). I'm pretty satisfied with my knitting: outstanding knitwrongs notwithstanding, it looks pretty good, and my superpowered new steam iron blocks like a mofo. And worn over a long-sleeve t-shirt and jeans, it's perfectly cosy and lightweight for a breezy spring day.

But, but, but... I don't think it suits me. It cleaves unflatteringly to my post-partum tummy and it slices me off aggravatingly at the widest point of my thighs. I think my next job will be to make a sash belt and see if that can't summon up some curves. Well now I know I can adapt a pattern anyway; next time, let's see if I my adaptations can't make something better rather than just different.

The specs:

Pattern Picovoli from Magknits
Materials Rowan Wool Cotton in shade 903 (7 balls) and shade 959 (1 ball)
Cost and source £24 (the MC was bought on eBay for £19.50, the CC from John Lewis for £4.50)
Adaptations I wanted to make a tunic so I worked 10 sets of waist increases rather than the 6 given in the pattern, and knit until I used up all my wool. I used a contrast colour for hem accents. I included the suggested short rows.