Monday, February 25, 2008

How I Made It My Own

You might be able to recognize this top. It is a heavily modified Cable-Down Raglan sweater (IK, Spring 2007) Ravelry Link here . Most notably, I've eliminated the sleeves.

Living in Southern California I find that I don't wear long sleeve sweaters all that often. So, it seemed like a good idea to convert this into a warm top rather than a full fledged sweater.

The other modifications really happened during the knitting process. I believe it was the renowned Elizabeth Zimmermann who pronounced that more than reading a pattern you need to pay attention to how the knitting is unfolding, or something to that effect. For those of you unfamiliar, Elizabeth Zimmermann was founder of Schoolhouse Press a wonderful knitting resource/supplier and a business that is continued today by her daughter, Meg Swansen. Someday I would really like to knit Meg's Wrap Yourself in Lace shawl. Mr Puffy, please make a note of that.

My other modifications were pretty minor. Rather than knitting a sweater measuring 11 inches from the underarm, I chose instead to opt for a generous 15 inches. I don't know about you, but I don't much care for sweaters that leave my mid-drift area exposed to a cool breeze.

I also adjusted the body cable pattern. Often you will find that with cable patterns they will require you to choose between bust sizes that are 3 or more inches apart rather than the customary 2 inches. This is because the cable design itself takes a certain number of stitches in order for it to work out correctly in each size. For me, as I have a slight build, that is just too large a margin. With this pattern I would have had to chose between knitting a sweater that was a size too large or too small. Rather than go that route, I simply modified the cable pattern to work for my in-between size. I did this by eliminating the vertical lines that separated each of the smaller cables patterns. Since the design was a bit "busy" for my taste anyway, this seemed a good choice.

Lastly, to keep with my theme of making the overall pattern a little lighter, I knit only one band of purl stitches at the hem and sleeves, rather than two.

So that's the story of how I made it my own. By making just a few modifications you can customize a sweater pattern to better suit your personality, climate, and body type! This, of course, can all go horribly wrong. But, in this case, I'm very pleased with the result!

Specs: Cable-Down Raglan, Interweave Knits Magazine, Spring 2007; Tilli Tomas yarn, Aspen (130 yds /skein 100% Australian Merino) colorway Skydrop; US 6 needles; just over 4 skeins. This is an incredibly soft yarn and a pleasure to wear next to your skin. It is a single ply yarn, though, and I must admit to some concern as to how well it will wear. For example, as you can see in the picture below, some of the strands waiting to be woven have, well, come undone or unspun, if you wish. I've not seen this happen before, at least not to the extent I'm seeing with this yarn. For that reason I personally will avoid open work and patterns calling for a loose guage with this yarn.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Congratulations Uno!

I'm sure most of you have already heard about Uno the beagle and his amazing win at Westminster Kennel Club Dog show. It is the first time in the 100 plus year history of the show that a beagle has won and we would like to offer our congratulations to this special little beagle. You can see Uno's exciting win here. I will allow that I may, once or twice, have mentioned that Uno must have worked very hard. That I was particularly impressed by his obedience and that other little beagles might benefit from his example by using him as a role model. For whatever reason, Mr Puffy has taken to blowing rasberries whenever Uno's name is mentioned. So embarrassing.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Maybe It's in the Genes

I like fiber and it might just be in my genes. I like all types of fiber from the rustic variety shown above to the super refined silk that I recently used in my Silver Birch Hat. It's just fun for me to experiment with the different fibers and textures. I also want to learn to spin someday and I recently took the first step by subscribing to Spin-Off, a magazine focused on spinning and working with handspun yarns. I can't wait for my first issue!

Why I say it might be in the genes is because my paternal grandmother used to spin yarn and knit for her family. She was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1898 to parents that emigrated from Sweden and Norway, respectively. In her mid-twenties she married a local farmer from rural Minnesota (just outside Swanville) where they raised six children during the great depression (an oxymoron if I ever heard one). By necessity she would spin wool and knit for the family as well as bake bread and perform all the other tasks that go with living on a farm. Then, when my dad was in the 3rd grade, a fire destroyed their shed along with her spinning wheel. Many years later (in the 1950s) knowing that his mother felt badly about losing her spinning wheel, my dad borrowed a spinning wheel and made her a new one - complete with inlaid woodwork.

I find it fascinating how in such a relatively short time our society and way of life has changed so dramatically. What used to be a sign of poverty - to wear homespun wool - is now a luxury item known as handspun yarn.

My paternal grandmother, incidentally, is the one who taught me to crochet when I was a child. Moreover, my father still has that spinning wheel tucked away in the attic and someday I hope it will be mine!

Where was I? Oh, yes, I like to experiment with fiber and the Gesta vest is my experiment with angora. The Gesta vest is knit with Noro's Kochoran (pictured above) a worsted weight yarn comprised of 50% wool; 20% silk; and 30% angora. But it's the angora component that defines this yarn in my view. It's very fluffy, warm, and does not have much memory. Although I don't think I would use this yarn again for that reason (lack of memory), it's a fun yarn and I'm glad I made this vest!

Pattern Specs: Gesta Vest; Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton, Hand Knitting Collection, Book Number Two; 3 skeins Kochoran; US 10.5 needles.

PS The pin I'm wearing is made from fine bone china by Crown English. I love china flowers and this pins adds a finishing touch to lots of my outfits!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

It's an Art ~ Not a Science

I have at last finished my Silver Birch hat and I am once again humbly reminded that knitting is an art, not a science.

I want to make it clear from the outset that I love, love, love the hat. But, it could be a little smaller and fit better. Next time.

In fact, a little ditty came to mind when I was finishing this hat up. It goes like this:

Little dabs of powder,
Little dabs of paint,
Help a girl look,
Just what she aint!

You see, I had to use little dabs of powder and little dabs of paint to "finish" this hat. The yarn and design of the hat combined to create fabulous drape but not much elasticity. In addition, while the crochet edging is beautiful it does not have any elasticity either. Now, if the hat had been smaller this probably would not have been a problem because the mohair content is quite "clingy" and the lack of elasticity would probably not have been a problem. But, as already mentioned, the hat would have fit me better if it was smaller. So, a few strategically placed sew-on snaps were needed to keep the hat brim up where it belongs.

Here's the artist shot amidst my peppermint scented geraniums leaves! Both the Tao silk and the Parisinnie mohair are in the moss colorway.

Even though crochet was, I believe, my first foray into the world of crafting (think garish yellow and purple throw) it has been a very very long time and I found this YouTube instructional video on the double crochet stitch very helpful. I was somewhat discouraged at first when I realized that I was not getting it based on the diagrams provided by Crochet for Dummies. Things that make you go hum. This is a closeup of the crochet edgeing, which I really do like.

I must observe that while the pattern is simplicity itself, it could certainly have been written a great deal more clearly. Also be forewarned that if you ask a non-knitter for help following directions that refer to sewing together "right sides" of an object that is shaped like a parallelogram , you might find yourself politely listening to a discussion of things like the Pythagorean theorem. Honestly, I don't know where Mr Puffy picks this stuff up.

The finished hat is very elegant and I think I shall wrap it in tissue paper when tucked away between wearings!

Project Specs: Pattern: Silver Birch Hat, Colinette Arboretum Book; US 6 needles; 1 skein tao (100% silk); 1 skein Parisienne (70% mohair/30% ).

Friday, February 1, 2008

Pillow or Tapestry?

Some projects just reach that critical decision point that can not be crossed. I would tell you just how long this project decision has been percolating, but for the fact that your heart may not stand the shock. The decision I cannot seem to make is whether this should be a pillow or a tapestry.....

Despite it's long neglect, I really do love this project. The yarn is Rowan wool and the colors sing to me. I also love it because the landscape reminds me of our trip to Patagonia back in the mid 90s. While I'm certainly not well traveled by some standards, I have trod on some pretty exotic soils and the Patagonia region would count among them. You likely have seen a National Geographic program on this area featuring a lonely bird hunkered down to keep warm as a bitter wind whips about its feathers. That's not staged.

The scenery is stunning though. We took a tour of Torres del Paine National Park that encompassed Andean condors, awe inspiring waterfalls, jewel toned lakes, icebergs afloat, glaciers, craggy mountain peaks, exotic wildlife, and sheep. Lots of sheep. I saw gauchos riding herd over vast flocks of sheep scattered over what seemed like miles. Unfortunately I don't have any digital pictures from this trip, but I found these pictures that could be mine. In fact, wait, I think I recognize myself standing next to the waterfall! Oh, no, sorry, my mistake. I think they took the same tour we did.

Don't go for the food, though. I had a most disappointing meal while there.

See how I use any excuse to avoid the decision that must be made. I'm hoping the axiom "a problem shared is a problem halved" will prove true. Really, it's cathartic just to discuss it. Although I don't feel any closer to a decision. Steve feels strongly a tapestry would be nice. I like the idea of a pillow, but I am concerned that a pillow won't work well with our decidely modern decor. Let's talk more about Patagonia instead! While you are there be sure to stop at the Cave of Milodon!

Project Specs: Vogue Knitting Magazine - a really, really, really old issue that I've regrettably lost; US 4 needles; Rowan wool; stockinette stitch with a small amount of embroidery embellishment. Purchased as a kit.