Saturday, February 23, 2008

One for you, one for me

I admit it. I am not among the ranks of the knitting super women. Take Stephanie P-McP. How does the Yarn Harlot do it? I mean, she started her grey cardigan just a few days ago; then abandoned it to make a pair of socks, then finished the cardigan before I could even select my next knitting project!! During this time she flew to Madrona, took classes and gave a speech, took care of 3 teenager daughters and husband, and is working on a gazillion more books no doubt!!

Here at my homefront, where I have only one teenager, am retired but do volunteer work and am equally buried in snow and grey and cold, it was all I could do to finish these: the first ever socks REQUESTED by daughter #2, the 16 year old!!
The yarn is a Kaffe Fasset colorway that Regia came out with recently. I did a k3, p2 ribbing on the entire cuff and leg and the top of the instep. She wears the socks inside of her fake Ugg boots, to school, to keep her feet warm during this the winter to end all winters in the upper Mid-west!! She likes them, the really likes them!!

Now, for me these socks took time. They weren't difficult, but they did take time. Size 2 mm needles, size 8.5 feet. I mean, I didn't knock them off while taking a short breather from a cabled cardigan!

It took me a while to select my next big project. I don't get to make myself a lot of items, since I am now keeping myself, my father, daughter #1 and daughter #2 in handmade socks!! I showed you several possibilities for my perfect project. I didn't select any of them. I went off on a wild tangent.

Did you hear that Dale of Norway has discontinued the production of they fabulous yarn, Tiur?? I didn't. I think I was the last US knitter to learn of this. I panicked. I have had in my mind, for at least 8 years, to make about 8 or so Dale of Norway sweaters for myself in Tiur. I never accumulated the yarn, but I (incorrectly) had faith that the venerable Dale would never discontinue a staple of their stable. My faith was utterly misplaced.

I went on a mission to collect, by hook or by crook, sufficient Tiur to make all the sweaters that were bubbling back in my mind. I collected enough Tiur to make about 8 sweaters. I spent the entirety of my of my 2008 yarn budget. Forget the sewing machine that my yarn diet was accumulating money for.

Here is my first project. I purchased the pattern for this when I visited Norway in 2001. Red is my favorite color. Despite being brunette/grey haired, I think I became convinced that I would look like this model if I made the sweater.

Don't you love that "come hither" look in the model's eyes?? In that warm sweater with cables, color work, embroidery and textured stitches, I will be a sultry, blond 20-something Scandinavian! Forget the Marilyn Monroe and Lindsay Lohan nude photos, I will give them a run for their money in the allure department, dressed in wool/mohair and pointsettia/stars.

It took me longer to do my swatch than it did the Yarn Harlot to start and finish her socks!! Why I worried and did two swatches with two different needle sizes I'll never know. The gauge instructions gave dimensions over stockinette. There is NO area of stockinette in the entire sweater. Be that as it may, I achieved gauge for a stockinette sweater; not that I'm making a stockinette sweater....
So, I started with the sleeve. Turns out that the cuff was too narrow and the sleeve increases too dramatic for my taste. Rip out, start again. Use larger needles for the small needle size. Increase for the sleeve more slowly.
And I finished, one sleeve!! Looks like it will fit!! And, it's for ME!!!! Now, cast on for sleeve #2, and finish the second sock for my father. By the time I finish sleeve #2, Stephanie will have made her next cabled sweater in a more lively color AND made more grape leaves for another pair of Vintage socks for another friend........

We mere mortals slog on.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Some Assembly Required

Ta, daaaa!!!!
Look at this handsome, proud man. This is my husband wearing his Dale of Norway sweater that I FINALLY finished. Was the finishing painful? Not really. Was it intimidating? Definitely.

Back in 2006 I gave my husband what I thought was a wonderful Christmas present. I gave him a Dale of Norway pattern and invited him to my favorite LYS to select yarn. Well, he didn't like the pattern I selected ("too flowery" ?????). It took several trips to more than one LYS to select the above pattern and yarn. This was a painful process. He finally selected the winning "daring" color combination: navy blue, dark red and grey. Aren't 98% of men's sweaters done in navy blue, dark red and grey?? But I digress.

I shouldn't berate my husband, however, for the long and painful time it took for him to select a pattern and yarn-- it took me nearly two years to knit the sweater!! We who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones!!

I finished the actual knitting of the sweater just after Christmas. But, somehow, the steek and other assembly intimidated me. I previously suffered traumatic experiences with two other steeks in intricate color work. I used baby ull and the shoulders and upper torsos unravelled as I sewed in the sleeves, despite the fact that I thought I had securely prepared the steeked area. PTSS--Post-traumatic-steek-syndrome--haunted this sweater.

This past week I finally faced my "issues" and tackled the beast.
Here is the torso awaiting dissection. I liked the little faux cables running down the front.
Here is the obligatory photo of the innards. I thought I had done quite well, thank you very much. I hated the thought to cutting into those perfect little stitches, on which I had worked so very, very hard!

In my unwillingness to do the steek, I completely forgot to photograph the entire process. I thought I had, but my camera bears no photos of early steps. Oh well.

Step 1: measure and remeasure and measure again the width of the upper sleeve.

Step 2: locate, relocate and locate again the side stitches of the torso. You don't want a sleeve hole in the middle of the chest! AT least, I didn't.....

Step 3: insert sweater into sewing machine. Realize that sewing down the middle of a navy blue stitch next to other navy blue stitches would cause blindness. Remove sweater from sewing machine.

Step 4: Take some contrasting color sock yarn and sew down the middle of the stitches to be cut. Re-insert sweater into sewing machine. Sew up (or down) the middle of the stitch on either side of the marked line of stitches. Remember previous traumas and sweat profusely. Sew up (or down) the middle of the next line of stitches as well.

Step 5: Remove sweater from machine and pace to release tension.

Here's the cut edge. Not bad.. Very clean--no blood and no unravelled stitches!!
Step 6: Sew up the shoulder seams using the modified whip stitch shown in the pattern book. Dale typically leaves a bit up to your imagination in its instructions. The photo showing the seaming of the shoulders and arms was blurry!!! I didn't know if my shoulder seam was as it "should" be, but it looked good enough.
Step 7: Figure out how to sew the sleeves in. I had two sleeves with five rows of reverse stockinette at the top, which was to form a facing to cover the cut edges of the torso.
OK, right sides together. Ok........ Use lots of pins. I wanted the resulting product to have a neat seam along one line of stitches, following that line from the arm pit, up the arm, over the shoulder, down the arm and back to the pit. But, following navy blue stitches lined up with navy blue stitches resulted in stars before my eyes.
Step 8: Remove the pins and sew a contrasting sock yarn up the middle of the stitch I would be following for the seam. Much better. Blindness averted.

Step 9: Replace the pins, admire the neat rows of tiny machine stitches, and place right sides together. No, that didn't seem to work.
Step 10: Pin sleeve into steeked hole WRONG sides together. And begin to kitchener (is that a verb?) the pieces together.

I hope you can see that I inserted the needle through the body of the sweater just above the contrast thread. That way, I didn't have to pick out the contrast "thread"!!! Nifty, huh?

Here's a shot of the sleeve (on the bottom) going into the armhole, and the five rows of reverse stockinette efficiently being "sucked up" under the torso edge. I used the row of stitching just under the reverse stockinette on the sleeve as the "base" of my kitchener stitches.

Step 11: Admire one's handiwork. Do a little finished steek dance! Ignore stares of family members.
Step 12: sew up the hem of the sweater. See those two itty-bitty yarn over holes in the center of the hem? Those are for the elastic cord that gets inserted to snug up the bottom of the sweater to keep out those cold Norwegian (and Wisconsin) gusts of bitter cold wind and to make the wearer look dashing. A loose sweater bottom is simply unattractive!

But wait, isn't the black cord hanging out of the sweater also unattractive??

Step 13: Research mission. Go to LYS and inspect Dale sweaters hanging on display from the wall. Look at what they do! How clever!
They single crochet a couple of inches of yarn and sew it into the side "seam" (or lack thereof on a circularly knit hand made sweater) and the elastic cord passes through the little loop. Now, why didn't I think of that??

Step 14: Are we ever going to finish this thing??? Pick up stitches for around the neck. Ask husband whether he wants stripes on the neckband, as shown in the photo in the pattern book. Ask husband whether he wants the neck band as high as shown in the photo in the pattern book. Hubby says no stripes. Therefore, knit stripes to be on the INSIDE of the neck band, just for cuteness sake. I was very tired of working only in navy blue at this point. Show hubby the progress. Hubby now asks if the stripes can be on the OUTSIDE. Respond, "No!! It's too late. I'm done with this project!!!

Step 15: Put away the leftover yarn, the pattern book with notes about what I changed in the pattern. Skip the finished sweater dance. Go directly to step 16.

Step 16: Narrow choices for new project for myself!!!! Order yarn!!! Begin swatch!!! Yippee!! Do new sweater project dance!