Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oh, the weather outside is frightful....

"And the fire is so delightful,
Since we've no place to go,
Let it snow
Let it snow
Let it snow." (with gratitude to the composer Jule Style and lyricist Sammy Cahn)

Being a true Wisconsinite, this is one of my favorite winter songs. I also managed to convince daughter #2 that this is the best song in the world. She and I would sing it with great vigor and enthusiasm when she was little, sitting in front of the fire and watching the snow come down outside. I have successfully raised her as a winter-lover.

Therefore, when I opened the Fall 2008 Vogue Knitting's Mitten Issue, I fell head over heels in love with the "Let IT Snow" mittens. Perfect Christmas present, I thought. I finished only the "Snow" mitten for Christmas, however, and made the second in early January.
I used Paton's sock yarn so the palms would last forever. Maybe that threw off my gauge. The first mitten was wide enough for two hands. Realizing that I could not simply wash and shrink the mitten (cause I was using sock yarn) I had to rip out the first mitten and alter the pattern. I took four stitches out of each side of the pattern (16 stitches in total).

My color choice (blue and green) was determined by a hat I made for my daughter when she was in grade school and that she still loves. She refuses to let me knit her another hat. "I already have a hat, Mom!" How many 17 year old girls do you know who refuse new clothing??

Although I love the backs of the mittens with the pine trees and drifting snow flakes, I also heartily love the palms of the mittens.

As a special treat, I told my daughter that I would knit an angora lining into the mittens. She declined. Her hands are too sensitive, apparently, for even angora. She begged for polar fleece lining. Sigh, what is a knitting mother to do??

I went to JoAnn Fabric store to find some microfleece. Nada. So, I purchased the lightest weight non-pilling fleece that I could find--a remnant with seashells on it!! I figured that the incongruous fabric would be inside the mittens and no one would know that serious winter mittens are lined with a beach scene fabric!! I simply traced the mitten on the fleece, extending the thumb a bit, cut it out and seamed it up.
I slid the fleece mitten inside of the knit mitten,

and whip stitched the two together at the cuff. I made the fleece cuff a little narrower so that the mitten would hug the wrist to stay on.

My daughter loves the mittens and wears them when the weather is really cold. She has some cheap, lined acrylic mittens (given to her by a school friend for Christmas) that she wears for normally cold Wisconsin weather. (Here in Wisconsin we need a variety of mittens to get through winter. When the temperature is below 0 F and the wind is blowing, unlined mittens are useless!! For snowblowing and snow shoveling, I use insulated, deep cuffed leather gloves that look like something for Antarctica.

I've been wearing her mittens recently and I find that the fleece lining is very soft, nice and insulating and cozy. Not too bulky. Very fast to make. Much faster than angora knitting. I may be on to something.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Holes in the walls, in the knitting and in my head

Normally, at this time of year in Wisconsin, the ground is covered in snow and ice and we need to wear warm wool hats, mittens and scarves when we venture out of the house. Some of us also wear hats, mittens and scarves inside of our homes because our old windows leak dreadfully. Fortunately, earlier this week Great Mother Earth blessed us with a 50F day--the same day that the Window Men came to remove most of the windows in our house, leaving large gaping holes in our walls. Two capable, strong, polite and handsome young men arrived at 8:00 a.m. and proceeded to efficiently remove the 60 year old single pane windows that let in so much cold air that we needed to wear wool mittens to wash dishes! (Well, not really, but you get the idea.)
The day was so warm that I considered telling the young men to leave the holes in the walls for a few days--just so we could enjoy the unseasonable warmth. But, they had a job to do and they climbed right up on top of my sink and installed the new window!

The window installation is almost done. Just a few more trim strips and some finish work on the outside of the house and we will be cozy warm inside when the next blast of arctic air swoops down on us. No more holes.

The efficient creation of gaping holes in our walls followed by prompt installation of the windows is in sharp contrast to my progress on the Shetland Garden Faroese Shawl. Although I tried and tried to make sure that every stitch was perfect, sometimes the cobweb laceweight yarn conspired with some evil force to make a neatly twisted yarn over into a gaping hole.

Look above to the "southeast" of my knuckle. The line of nice, neat faggoting type yarn overs is broken by that large hole.
And in another spot the yarn over line is broken by a wayward sideways "ladder". I have no idea of what happened. Did I notice the mistake when doing that row and fall victime to the "blocking-will-take-care-of-that" syndrome? Or, did I miss the mistake altogether?

Now what do I do? These hole-y mistakes are tens of thousands of stitches away from where I am now. They sicken me. Can I fix the mistakes by the judicious use of after-the-fact darning? Or, do I pretend the mistakes aren't there?

I've been in the denial. Actually, I've been focusing on a rather inspired (even if I say so myself) decision to change the edging of the shawl. Sivia Harding, the designer, called for about 3-5 ridges of garter stitch along the 453 stitch long edge, followed by binding off!!! I couldn't do it. So, I searched and searched for an edge lace that would complement the stitch patterns in the shawl.

The patterns in the body of the shawl include roses inside of a trellis.
And pretty little flowers and leaves.

I took my stack of lace books to our Guild's weekend Knitting Retreat. Finally, I happened upon a pattern in "Victorian Lace Today." The shawl has the uninspired name of "Large Rectangle" on page 54. The knitted on edging is called "trellis border". OK, I thought that would be lovelier than three ridges of garter stitch.
Knitting on a border is quite simple, actually, in concept. You knit perpendicularly to the live edge stitches, knitting one stitch of the border with one of the live edge stitches in every other row. Easy, right? Well, I neglected to do the simple math ahead of time. If I had done so, I may have had second thoughts.

Six rows of garter stitch--to produce three ridges--over 453 or so stitches per row would have been 2,718 stitches, plus bind off of 453 stitches--meaning 3171 stitches until completion.

OK, my "simple" knitted border solution has approximately 25 stitches per row in an 18 row pattern repeat. This is a total of 450 stitches per pattern repeat. One "eats up" only 9 live shawl stitches per pattern repeat. So, 453 divided by 9 is about 50--pattern repeats that is. So, 50 times 450 is 22,500 stitches!!!! I must have holes in my head!!

My solution to avoid the constricting bind off of garter stitches has resulted in 19,329 extra stitches!!!

But, it's lovely, don't you think?? After two weeks of work, I have only 10 pattern repeats to go. Let's see, that's 4,500 stitches....
And then, I need to focus on fixing the yarn over hole issues and this dropped stitch.