Monday, November 01, 2010

In which we make the journey from motheaten to FO

 And now, a story.

Once upon a time, there was a girl and a sweater.  The sweater was one of those light-as-air micro-knit v-neck pullovers that you see everywhere, that are staples in every wardrobe.  But this sweater was just fitted enough to flatter, without becoming sausage casing.  The v-neck was low, alluring without showing too much skin.  It was light enough to create an extra layer, but not so heavy that it made the girl sweat.  Important in a Los Angeles winter.  It was even light enough to throw in her purse in case her arms got cold later, as they so often did.  The girl loved the sweater, and it quickly moved into the rotation of clothes she wore the most often.

One day, the girl pulled the sweater out of a drawer and noticed a hole in one of the sleeves.  It was high, around the biceps, about the size of the tip of her pinky.  She was sad, but it was just one hole, so she continued to wear it anyway.  A few weeks later, she pulled it out of the drawer again and saw more holes.  The girl was living with cats at the time, and she knew that the cats liked to make a nest in the laundry.  She assumed the cats had kneaded her sweater and caused the holes.  Later, the girl's mother insisted it was moths.  But moths or cats, it didn't matter.  The girl knew how to repair the sweater, but she had no matching yarn to do it with.  Even if she had, trying to repair all those minuscule, micro-knit stitches would have been a massive headache.  And she had better sense than to wear a sweater with lots of holes in it.

So the sweater went back into a drawer, because the girl was too heartbroken to throw it away.  But that is not the end of our story.  The girl was a knitter, and she knew that this was not the end, not by a long shot.  Armed with her tape measure and several skeins of acrylic/merino blend, the girl got to work.

The girl worked quickly and steadily, measuring and re-measuring to make everything right.  She took copious notes, so that she could come back to it and have two, maybe three, of her favorite sweater in the future.  All went well until the armhole split, where the girl came across problems.  She measured and re-measured, and had to knit the armscye three times to get it right.  But she got it right.  As she was measuring for the fourth time, the girl wondered if it might have been better if the sweater was made with raglan sleeves, or perhaps a square sleeve with a saddle shoulder.  Such options would have been much easier to calculate and measure.  "But no!" argued a little voice in the girl's head.  "Part of why we love the sweater is that it has set-in sleeves, even if they are hard to design!"  The girl knew the voice was right, and she silenced the other voice in her head, the voice that had been anxious about reproducing set-in sleeves from the start.

Soon, the body was finished, and the girl tried it on, her belly full to the brim with butterflies.  As she pulled it over her head, the girl realized that, in all the time she had spent knitting, she hadn't tried it on once.  She even remembered thinking that she should try it on, and then thinking that she would have to stop knitting to try it on, and why should she stop knitting?  She was enjoying the rhythmic, meditative repetition of each little stockinette stitch.  On top of that, if she tried it on, stitches would surely fall off the needles and unravel themselves.  Not that it was hard to retrieve and fix them, but that took time and effort that the girl didn't want to spare.  Now, as she pulled on the half-made sweater, she wished she had a better idea of how it would fit, and most of all, she fervently hoped she wouldn't have to rip it apart and start over.  What if her numbers were off from the start, and the whole thing was too small?  Or too big?  What if, by being too impatient to stop knitting and try it on, she had done all this knitting for naught?  But all went without a hitch.  The new sweater fit as the old one had.  The neckline was a little low, but she knew that when she added the edging, it would be just right, just like the original.  And then the girl had a moment of clarity, and thought that this was encouraging her not to try on her knits, and to perpetuate these mistakes, when they might happen with much less favorable results.  But no time to dwell on that, there were sleeves to knit.

The girl knew, that this fabric was about twice as heavy, but she could always come back to the pattern with lighter yarn.  As it was, it would make a good outer layer, and it would keep her warmer than the original.

Flushed with success, the girl raced through the sleeves.  When the time came to knit the sleeve caps, she became anxious once again, but she fought down the doubting voices and, with her meticulous measuring and re-measuring, she finished them.  Until the sleeves were sewn into the armscyes, she wouldn't know if the sleeve caps were knit right, but the girl felt confident.  She had developed a new way of measuring the old sweater, and she trusted in herself.

Finally, with needles one size smaller, the girl picked up stitches around the neckline edge, and she knit the edging.  Compared to the rest of the sweater, which required extensive measuring, this detail was a breeze.  She folded over the edging, bound it off with the purl bumps of the first row, and tried on the sweater body for the second time.  More success.

Then, the sweater got washed, soaked and blocked.  Though it was cool when the girl started this project, LA was experiencing a heat wave.  The sweater was blocked and dry almost before the girl could blink.  And good thing it was, too, because the girl has had problems with heavy knits and mold in the past.

And then came the moment of truth: when the girl unpinned the sweater and sewed the first sleeve cap into the armscye.  She noticed that the sleeve cap seemed a little baggy, but other than that, it fit relatively well.  She tried it on before sewing in the other sleeve cap, and to her dismay, it was a terrible fit.  The sleeve cap bagged away from the girl's upper arm in a bizarre way, and the armscye felt too tight.

Now that she was trying on the sweater, the girl realized that the armscye was oddly high and snug around her arm.  She tried on the original, and realized that it was, too.  The girl knew she would have to re-do the sleeve caps, but now she considered doing the armscyes over again too.  Even if she would have to take out the edging to get to it.  But the girl knew the original fit, and never had an issue with the sleeve join in the original, so she decided to take the path of least resistance and just re-do the sleeve caps.

With much cursing, the girl measured and re-knit the sleeve caps two more times before they were finished.  But eventually, they were, and they got blocked and installed in the sweater.  The girl tried sewing them in before blocking to save time, and she already knew that they would work.  But it was still exciting, and thrilling, when the sweater was finally finished and seamed.  Worried that the armscye had originally felt too tight, the girl seamed loosely this last time, and had no trouble with the finished seam.  All was well.

And then the girl tried on the sweater.  It looked good, and it fit well.  But it was itchy.  The yarn had never felt anything but soft when the girl was working with it, softer, even, than a lot of others.  "You can't have everything," the girl sighed, and she resolved to wear it with a long sleeve tee underneath.  Or perhaps this could be the sweater to help her get over her problems with itchiness.  She had always intended to make a second, and the girl resolved that the second would be softer, and lighter.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vivian 2 and Elijah

The zipper install on Vivian 2 didn't take quite so long as I thought it would.  LA's heat wave abated, and I forced myself to really buckle down and work on it.  After a few days of diligent work, the zipper was in, with a layer of grosgrain over it.  It was cool enough that I wore it yesterday, and though I had some problems with itchiness during the first fittings, it felt great.  I've mentioned my problem with itchiness in the past on this blog, and though I've gotten a little better with age, it's no coincidence that the itchiest things in my wardrobe get worn the least.  I was discouraged when I first felt itchiness during the knitting process, but I'm happy to report that I wore it all day yesterday with no complaints.  I suspect the blocking helped.

Of course, you can't see the zipper and grosgrain very well in the photo, but we can chalk that up to my armshot skills.  Trust me, they are there.

I can also report definitively on the mods.  I love the added length in the body.  I really hate when bits of skin pop out between the top of a skirt or pair of pants and the bottom of a top, and as a result, I generally like my tops on the long side.  Even halfway down my butt is better than exposing muffin tops.  The first Vivian was a good length, but not great.  I often found myself tugging at the bottom hem to make it lower, and I reminded myself of that as I slogged through that extra repeat on Vivian 2.  I also like the ultra-fitted sleeves on Vivian, and I think they're quite flattering.  But I think they're impractical if I want to wear an extra layer, and jewelry and watches become problematic.  The same goes for the length.  Mid-palm is great for the cozy factor, but they get in the way more often than not.  I will, however, report that the modified length is a bit odd.  They are a little short of the wrist, and fall maybe a half inch or so above it.  If I did it again, I'd make the sleeves about an inch longer.  And though I made a lot of modifications to enlarge the hood on the first, I made more on this one.  This hood looks relatively good, although I almost never pull the hood up, so it's really just decoration.  But good decoration.

Back to the backlog.  I mentioned before that I didn't knit very much in the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010.  Thinking back, I don't really know why, and I suppose I was trying to minimize my yarn purchases and concentrate on school.  I did, however, make Elijah.  At the time, I thought knitting stuffies would be a good way to get my hands in a new yarn and get a feel for it without committing to something big.  I was living in Tokyo at the time, and I misunderstood the yarn label and brought home fingering, or even laceweight instead of DK.  I think I even tricked my eyes into thinking it was DK.  I had had enough of lace after the summer of 2009, and with the yarn I had bought, a shawl's worth would cost more than I wanted to spend.  And I hadn't found a good new DK-weight yarn.  Still, I had wanted to make Elijah, and it was a fun, easy project, so I went ahead and made it.  It was a good project, and I have a lot of respect for Ysolda for designing it without seams (and for a well-written pattern!).  Not easy with a stuffie.

Finished Elijah, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Elijah, sitting, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

There is more to come, but it has just come to my attention that some of the backlog has not yet been photographed.  Coming soon: fingering-weight gloves, and another vest for my mom.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Continuing through the backlog,

we have arrived at July and August, 2009.  I had a month off between semesters, and I spent almost this entire time with needles in my hands.  These projects traveled with me on the subway to and from school, and between my new apartment and the dorms, when I moved.  I called this month the Summer of Lace, because I knit one lace shawl and two scarves with two skeins of cobweb weight in a little less than a month.  First was Autumn Arbor, and the whole reason I started knitting lace to begin with.  From my limited understanding of japanese, I bought a skein of what I thought was cotton lace weight.  When I got it on my needles, it was more like cobweb, so I worked with it held double.  There's not much to say about this project, mostly because it raced by.  The lace was easy to memorize, which helped considering how much it traveled with me.

Finished Autumn Arbor, Blocking, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

End detail, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Pattern detail, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Graft detail, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

I had to buy another skein to finish Autumn Arbor, and after I finished it, I had more yarn left, more than enough to make Fernfrost.  So, I cast on and again knit this with yarn held double.  Fernfrost didn't travel with me quite as much as Autumn Arbor did, mostly because I had moved in by then and my time off from school had already begun.  Still, it was an easy, enjoyable knit, and it kept my hands busy.

Fernfrost in progress, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Fernfrost Unblocked Detail, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

And after Fernfrost, I guesstimated that there was enough for yet one more lace scarf, so I cast on for Elm Row.  This, too raced by, and there's little to report.

Summer of lace, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

I love knitting lace, and these projects were the highlight of my school vacation.  I enjoyed watching how each stitch fit into the pattern, and watching the motifs grow and develop under my needle tips.

However, this was not the end for my summer of knitting.  I liked Vivian, and I was happy with the finished sweater, and I thought my wardrobe could use another.  I cast on for a new Vivian in white, even though a bulky-weight sweater isn't the smartest summer knitting, and I raced through it.  Though the first Vivian was made exactly as the pattern specified, with a few modifications for a bigger hood, I made a lot of changes for the second.  I did an extra repeat of the pattern at the bottom for added length, and knit the sleeves all one width - the same as at the bicep - to make a more jacket-like sleeve.  I cut out a repeat of length in the sleeves to hit at the wrist, instead of mid-palm.  I believe the hood also got some extensive modifications to make it bigger.  It was a fun, quick knit, especially because I had already made one.  I finished the knitting before school started again, and stopped when I got to the finishing stage.  I thought, "Meh, I'll do it later," and didn't get to the finishing stage until a year later.

Vivian number two blocking, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

A year later, I pulled Vivian out of the back of my closet, and I discovered some distressing news.  First, there was a yellowish stain about the size of a half-dollar on the left front.  Looking at the stain, I remembered making pancakes one day while I was still knitting it, and there was a mishap involving a spill.  How I managed to not clean it is still a mystery to me.  The project still needed blocking, so I used its soak and wash time to work on the stain.  It was a stressful few minutes, but the stain came out, and now, it looks like it was never there.

But the hits kept coming.  Then, I discovered a hole, about the size of the tip of my pinky.

Vivian 2: oops., originally uploaded by rubychan4.

A year later, the fuzzy memories came back.  I was using acrylic/merino blend, and I hoped very much that the wool in the yarn would hold up to a spit splice, and save me having to weave in ends.  I was very stubborn on this point, and attempted my felted join, even though it didn't seem to be holding together.  It didn't hold together, and it created a hole in the knitted fabric.  I had to give up, and adopt a more conventional join for the rest of the project.  But the hole remained.  So I very carefully wove a new piece of yarn through the hole, and now, it is invisible (at least, to everyone but me).

Vivian 2: fixed!, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Next came the zipper install.  I spent a very long time on this stage with the first Vivian, and this was no different.  Hand-sewing anything makes me nervous, because it just seems so flimsy, especially when compared with something like machine-sewing.  But I didn't have a sewing machine, and I wanted to install the zipper by hand, anyway, so I used lots of teensy stitches, and I also relied on the fact that I would later add grosgrain, and with it, an extra layer of stitching.

Vivian 2: zipper install, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

I finished one side of the zipper and began sewing the grosgrain on before I stopped.  It was very hard to be patient with all those tiny, meticulous stitches, and there were more interesting things to catch my attention.  I still intend to go back to it and finish the zipper, but it will have to wait until it's cool enough that I can stand to have a bulky-weight sweater in my lap long enough to sew it in.

After all this activity, I went through a dry spell with my knitting.  Except Rose Green, I didn't knit anything until December.  So I will leave you for now, dear reader, with the promise of reports of the projects from December to come.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

In the interest of narrowing the gap of backlogged projects,

I thought I could at least report on the status of the projects I mentioned the last time I wrote.

I finished knitting Labyrinth a little over a week after I started, but I let it sit in the back of my closet for a really long time, because I didn't want to spend the time blocking it.  Also, I was living in very small spaces in Tokyo at the time, and I would have had to block it on my bed and sleep on the floor.  I blocked it a year after finishing knitting it.  In the end, I didn't like the way the gray looked against the maroon body color, so I ripped it out and re-did it with black.

Here it is as it was blocking:

Labyrinth - Blocking, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

And here it is hot of the needles:

Finished Labyrinth, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Gir got stuffed and assembled, and I even worked on his dog suit. Now his dog suit is in the back of a drawer, waiting to be finished.

Finished Gir:

Gir - Finished!, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

and half-finished suit:

Dog suit in progress, empty, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Dog suit in progress with Gir, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Dog suit in progress, back, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

Some notes on the suit:
I'm trying to make it with as few seams as possible (so far, none!).  I started at the feet, and worked up, then joined with green yarn and worked up the body.  I left holes for the arms, then picked up stitches and worked the arms from the shoulder down, in black.  For the tail, I simply picked up stitches, and worked a narrowing i-cord: four stitches, down to three.  I'm trying to imitate the way the suit works in the show as best as possible, so I left a slit down the belly of the suit, where I will later install a red zipper.  The head of the suit will work like a hood, with the zipper coming up the neck and across the bottom of the jaw, where it will stop at the snout and the zipper pull will be the "tongue".  I'll probably decorate the zipper pull, too, to make it more tongue-like.  I should also mention that Gir's dimensions in the suit and his dimensions out of the suit are completely different.  For one, his feet are much wider when he's not wearing the suit, and when he is, they narrow down to little points.  Possible in an animated series, but not in life.  I tried my best to compromise between the two images, although I was already limited by the fact that I made Gir without the suit first.  I had a lot of doubts about how big the head should be, because the way the suit is in the show, it wouldn't fit snugly on a real Gir.  I knit and ripped a few times, and I still wasn't confident it would look true to the show, and that's part of why I let the suit sit in my closet for so long.

The gap-duster Sahara still hasn't been blocked or seamed.  I hope to do that soon (read: someday).  The main reason why I haven't touched it is because I got a little over-zealous with the waist shaping, and I hope that I can fix that with blocking, and I don't want to rip and knit it over again.  Then again, if I block it and it's still too small, I'll be upset.  Either way, I'm tired of having it in my UFO pile, so I'll try one or the other soon.

Shedir also got finished within a few days, maybe a week.  When I got to the finishing stage, I thought of pulling out my tapestry needle and weaving in ends, and thought, "meh I'll do it later."  I only just finished it last night, a full year later.  I have no excuses.  Here it is, almost finished, in the state I left it for over a year:

Finished Shedir, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

And here it is now, with the ends woven in.

Shedir, top view, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

The gray yarn I originally intended for the contrast detail on Labyrinth went to good use, too.  I think I originally thought of using it to make Elijah, but considering it's soft, good wool, I decided to use it for something that goes against the skin.  I had two balls of DK weight yarn, so it seemed like a good idea to use it to make socks.  I made Spindle socks with them:

Spindle sock side view, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

The color is just about true to life in the first photo.

Finished Spindle Sox, originally uploaded by rubychan4.

There's not much to report about these socks, really.  I made them in about four days, so they were barely a blip on my radar.  However, to their credit, they kept my hands busy (always a plus) and I enjoyed watching them grow.  They fit well, and they're soft and warm, so overall a good and satisfying knit.  I would make them again, but I'm not particularly interested in making socks, and I usually prefer to make sweaters.

Coming up soon: I had what I called the summer of lace summer a year ago.  This was when I had a month off in August between semesters, and I used that time to make one shawl and two scarves.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Additional Pictures

Well, contrary to what this blog would lead you to believe, I have been knitting.  I went through a long dry spell, but there are still a lot of projects that I have been completely silent about for no other reason than that even I surprise myself with my own ability to procrastinate.  It appears that many of my posts include an apology for my long silences, and this will follow the norm.  Apologies, dear reader.  I hope to be better in the future, but knowing me, it could really go either way.

There will be more posts in the future about what has been on my needles in the last year, but until I take pictures (and take stock of everything), they will have to wait.  For now, I will leave you with a few pictures of Rose Green that I took a year ago and never posted.

And more good news: when I originally took a picture of this hat, my camera was unequal to the task of reproducing the color.  The first of these two is much closer, although it's more saturated in life.