Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Struggling towards monogamy

I have been trying, for about 20 years now, to establish a clear pattern of monogamy--in my knitting, that is. [Although sometimes my dear husband seems like he is trying to drive me away from monogamy--such as when he puts dirty dishes on the countertop above the empty dishwasher, and when he........But that's another story.]

Back to knitting monogamy. I'm afraid that I have a limited attention span for any particular project. I need different projects for different situations.

For example, I like to have an easy project that I can do in the dark of movie theaters, in the back pew at church, while at stop signs, etc. Typically this is a simple sock project.
Like his one. The fake cables on the side are two twisted stitches, side by side. The yarn is Trekking. This projects fits in a zip lock sandwich bag in my purse.

Then, I usually have a repair project or two. Such as duplicate stitching my mittens where they have worn out on the palms and inner thumbs, from driving I believe. Or such as this little breach of knitting know-how.
My dad is diabetic; his feet and lower legs swell during the day.I made him these socks, using the short row garter stitch heel as shown in the bottom. Lucy Neatby advocates using more than half of the total stitches for the heel. Usually her advice is excellent, but in this case it failed. The resulting sock had a heel big enough for an elephant with swollen feet. My dad's heels don't swell--his ankles, foot and calves swell. These socks bulged out over his shoes, creating other problems. He wore the socks as a dutiful father, but they were clearly uncomfortable. So I simply cut off the cuff, frogged the foot and heel and made my typical flap heel on half the stitches. The new (upper) sock fits perfectly. Now I need to do the same thing to the lower sock.

I also love to have a lace project in the works. To give me a little challenge. For when I have alone time to focus only on my knitting. My current challenge is Sivia Harding's Shetland Garden Faroese Shawl. Challenge is an understatement. This shawl brought me sobbing to my knees last week!!! But, I'm over that now.

You can't see in this photo, but I added a lifeline on row 151. (If you click to embiggen you can see the blue lifeline.) My bravado of knitting without a safety net failed me. No mistakes thus far, and I'm 2/3 of the way through the last pattern segment!!

Usually I have at least one present for someone on my needles. I long to knit cute little things for children, such as grandchildren. Alas, my dear husband and I do not have any grandkids, despite having children aged 42 and 32. The 17 year old has no business reproducing yet! So, we've "adopted" some surrogate grandkids: two little boys aged 6 and 4. The 6 year old started kindergarten this year, so in August I decided to make him a shawl collared cardigan for school. Well, Christmas knitting intervened and I never finished it.
Here are the back, two fronts and most of one sleeve. The project has languished because the ribbed pattern makes the pieces look as if they will never fit a real human. I'm hoping blocking will solve the problem. (don't we all!! ) The pattern is from Sirdar's Sweet Pea Knits. I've been hoping that this 6 year does not grow in girth this year!! I've added this project to my car knitting so that I can finish it for Valentine's day!

But, I would throw over all of these projects to concentrate solely and monogamously on this one:

It's for me. I thought I had lost it. I searched the house from top to bottom four times--in secret because if Dear Husband or Dear Daughters caught me searching for a lost project, I would be subject to long recriminating lectures about organization, too many projects at once, etc., etc., etc. Finally, when a pair of mittens fell to the closet floor I noticed this army green zipped bag from Knitting Camp. I opened it--my long lost love, waiting for me!!! A bag of discontinued Tiur. Two partially finished sleeves! A Dale of Norway yoke necked pullover for me. In my favorite color. In my favorite yarn. It is calling me. It has seduced me.

I am longing to commit myself exclusively to this seductive garment. The solid color body is worked in a knit and purl pattern stitch to hold my wandering attention until I get to the multi colored yoke.

However, the other projects are closer to being finished. They have entertained and occupied my knitting time and are close to fruition. Should I toss them aside for true love? How fickle am I?? Should I finish the socks for my dad, and the shawl for my mother and the cardigan for the little boy?? Or, should I selfishly focus only on myself and my heart's desire??

I am caught in a web of anguish of my own creation. If I were a monogamous knitter, I never would have started so many projects. I would have gone sensibly from one to the next, only after complete exploration of each relationship.

Ah well, now I need to clean the kitchen, mop the floor and put away folded wash. I'll think about the situation.....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Do NOT follow my example

This post is a lesson to lace knitters. If you are dutiful, you will follow my recommendation and learn from my painful lesson. If you are like me, well......read on.

I have been working on Sivia Harding's gorgeous Shetland Garden Faroese Shawl for months. Well, not consistently. I took it along for a two week car trip and quickly discovered that the slight rumbling of the car on the road made it impossible to do lace knitting with cobweb laceweight yarn. I'm using Cashwool color 988 ocean. Therefore, I waited to begin the shawl until I was on the steady unmoving sofa in my family room.

The pattern is challenging in that there are three or four designs in each row. One cannot simply memorize each row's pattern repeat and hum the mantra until the end of the row. One must slavishly follow the charts--at least I must.

So, after about 119 rows, progressing through various charts to Chart F, and repeating rows 24 to 39 of Chart "Center Panel" 6 times (are you with me??) I got to row 120.
It is "clear as day" on this fuzzy photo that after working rows 24 to 39 six times, one goes up to row 120 for the center panel. You can see that I use Post It notes to keep my place moving the note up each row, showing all previous rows. I guess you had to be there at the time because this was NOT clear to me. For some now inexplicable reason I returned to row 24 of the center panel and worked that along with rows 122 to 126 of the pattern. When thousands (!!) of stitches on my needle, I looked at the lovely photo of the shawl. I then realized that my Post-It note was hiding row 120 and I needed to rip back 6 times about 300 (or so) cobweb stitches that liked to enthusiastically fly off the needles when I wasn't looking.

"Oh, easy," you experienced knitters say, "Just rip back to your lifeline." I am an experienced knitter, but I tend to work without a safety net! No lifeline. Nada. Ningun. Rien. Rip, baby, rip!

Aha, I thought. I will just rip out the center panel stitches, put them on another needle and work back up. Theoretically, this sounded just fine. In practice....

After dropping back the stitches, here is what I had. Angel hair spaghetti strands, all wrapped around each other.

So, I tried to separate them.
Can you tell which is the bottom yarn?? Each time I thought I had the bottom-most yarn on one side of the center panel, it wasn't the bottom-most yarn on the other side.

I finally selected the order of the yarns, found new needles of the same size, and began to work my way back up.

After hours of ripping, sorting, taking time-outs to calm down, and drinking strong beverages, I worked back the rows. The inside of the panel was fine, but the side column of yarn overs was pure trash. Trash, trash, trash!! How did that happen?? I followed the chart exactly. Honest!
Do you think blocking would work it out? I almost convinced myself that it would, and I went to bed.
The next morning I ripped back again, used straight needles and worked back up.

Still trash on the sides.

Time to rip out six complete rows. Time for a retro-fit life line.
I threaded a needle with leftover sock yarn and tried to follow a straight line of stitches from one side of the shawl to the other.

This is harder, much harder, much, much harder, than one would think. Looks as if I had been drinking the Yarn Harlot's screech rather than some herbal tea.
As I worked my way along, dis-assembling the shawl stitch by stitch, I made another heart stopping discovery. I had actually pierced the shawl yarn in some places when making my lifeline. What are the odds?? The cashwool is about 1/4 the thickness of the sock yarn. I used a blunt needle. I cried.

When I had all seven or so rows ripped back I looked at the tangled web of yarn and cried some more. Then, I put down the camera and set to work untangling and rewinding the yarn.

I have now worked correctly to row 150. There are now 429 stitches on the needle. Surely, you say, you must have numerous life lines in the work!! Nope. Nada. Ningun. Rien. Non! I have continued to work foolishly without a safety net!! I'm following the chart in careful numerical order. I only have 25 more rows to go and then I do the applied border!! Lifelines take too much time............ I won't make another mistake that I can't fix!!!

Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Back in the Game

Well, I didn't fall off the face of the earth, but I did take a longer break from blogging than I had intended. During the interim my retired husband and I explored:

1. the coast of Maine. We stayed in Brooklin where E.B. White had a farm. If you wrote papers while in college you probably used his guide to writing and grammar called Elements of Style. Or, if you loved to read as a child or to your children you probably read Charlotte's Web--not the movie version. Here is the farm (now gussied up as a luxury vacation home):
And, here is the former pig pen at a neighboring farm that inspired the character of Wilbur:
2. the Bay of Fundy, location of the famous Tidal Bore. I wasn't so terribly impressed. I was looking for a wall of water similar to what is said to have occurred when Moses parted the sea, but the reality of nature sometimes is not as dramatic as the hype when on vacation.
3. Prince Edward Island (and Anne of Green Gables land). If you loved the Anne of Green Gables books, or even the movies, this is the place for you. Although Anne was a fictional character, thousands of tourists from around the world (particularly the Japanese!!??) look for the places that this young girl lived, went to school, first kissed Gilbert, etc. Great, great fun.

3. a bit of Nova Scotia. While in Halifax, I crossed the river and visited Lucy Neatby's home/office/studio. She was on tour but her able assistant showed me the yarn--impossible to resist. I loved handling the originals of her creations, seeing her piles of yarn and needles and stacks of her fabulous DVD's.

We also visited Seattle and the San Juan Island area where I purchased more yarn. (the summer was actually an Atlantic to Pacific knitting journey.)

Yarn purchased in Anacortes was destined for a blanket for my husband's daughter and her new husband, to keep warm in their vacation yurt on Decatur Island. I knit and knit and knit while on vacation--making uninspiring diagonal garter stitch squares out of Cascade's Ecological Wool. The result was better than I had dreamed:

I changed colors somewhat randomly in the first 24 squares, then duplicated them for the second 24 squares. I did not at all anticipate the star effect in the middle, but I love the unplanned surprise.

I cannot take credit for the idea of the blanket, as much as I would like to believe that I have such a high level of creativity. Rather, I brazenly took the idea from Anna in Finland, whose blankets are an absolute work of art. If you haven't seen her blog, check it out and stand in awe. She has made more than 125 blankets that she has given away to charities. I can no longer find the link to her gallery of blankets. Maybe if you sent her a message she would send you the link.

I love making blankets for other people. I think of the people wrapped in warmth, love and my best wishes for their well being. I certainly hope that the recipients find warmth, love and good wishes when keeping when wrapped in all that wool. But, blankets take a long, long time to make. I think the next one will be for me. But, I'm still looking for the perfect pattern whose color will go perfectly with my decor (or lack thereof).

Have you made a blanket for yourself? How did you select the color, yarn, pattern? Fancy or plain? In pieces or knit all in one large rectangle, square or circle?? How do I choose???