Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kate's Cardigan for Gail

This is a very belated post. I made Kate's Cardigan last spring, but am finally writing about it this spring, after a season of wear and a winter in the basement closet! My apologies to those who think I am a speed knitter--I truly am not!!

I definitely have a soft spot for anything named "Kate," and I don't know why. I wanted to name my second daughter Katherine just so I could call her Kate. (I was overruled by my husband) My fascination with all things "Kate" has nothing to do with "Taming of the Shrew" but may have something to do with Thomas More's beloved daughter. (I am too old to have another daughter, just to use the name. But if my daughter's ever get pregnant, there will be a lot of lobbying on my part for the best girl's name!) I also have a thing for pie crust collars--me, a woman who eschews ruffles and typically wears only unadorned and very simple items of clothing.

So, last year when Knit Circus (Issue #5) came out with the Kate's Cardigan and put the signature sample in my LYS, I had to make the cardigan-- it even had a pie crust collar!!! It was made in lovely green wool, but I wanted the cardigan for summer wear. I selected Queensland Bebe Cotsoy as my yarn of choice, due to the color, the drape, the gauge and the light weight.

The sleeve construction was quite interesting--stitches picked up across the top of the armhole, working short rows to pick up additional stitches along the armhole, then knitting down. Unfortunately, did the body of the sweater in one piece (I hate to sew fronts and backs together) and then had a difficult time doing the short rows. But, fudging a bit it all worked out.
This sideways photo (I don't know how to turn photos once they are uploaded into Blogger) shows a couple of my attempts to make Kate's Cardigan truly "Gail's Cardigan." First, I loved the simple diagonal lace accent up the front. Why not put it also in the middle of the back?? Done! A few more air holes for a summer cardigan, and it give people something to look at in the back--that is, people can think, "Oh, what pretty lace detail down the back of that cardigan" rather than, "Oh, that woman is getting big in the hips."

I also wanted to be sure that the bound off edge of the pie crust collar did not pull in. therefore, while binding off I added stitches so that the bound off edge would continue the minimal ruffle and lie flat. Success.
Third modification--I added I-cord up the button bands. I dislike button holes in ribbing or in stockinette. I don't know why, but they always shout "home-made!!" to me. Therefore, I usually find a way to use I-cord to make hidden button holes. Praise to Elizabeth Zimmermann and Meg Swansen. Those women know detail.
Fourth modification--I knit the lace edging perpendicularly onto the bottom of the cardigan. I abhor sewing knitted pieces together if there is a way to knit them together. With some fudging, this worked well.

A few weeks ago I dug into my summer clothes bin in the basement and found the cardigan. I took it with me to the Smokey Mountains and didn't wear it--due to the fact that there was unseasonably warmer weather in the mountains than typical! I would have worn the cardigan, had I needed it!! Just looking at the cardigan made me evaluate my choices.

Evaluation one year later:
1) good pattern selection. Love the lace detail on the back.
2) bad yarn selection. Great drape, great color. But the cotsoy pills under the arms and along the side. Ugh!!!
3) "dreaded frontal droop" Meg Swansen's phrase for sweaters that end up being longer in the front than in the back. One problem for this sweater is that the lace border stretches more than the stockinette. When picking up the button bands I should have picked up fewer stitches. now, I think I will do a chain crochet up the inside of the button bands to pull the fronts up.
4) button misplacement. I put a button hole in the bottom lace edging. This pulls in a weird manner. My tummy and hips are too big and the pulling makes them look even bigger. Solution--Weight Watchers.
5) good drape. The cardigan lends itself to a drapey yarn, in my opinion. The waist shaping holds its own and gives the illusion of having a waist when one no longer has one. And the draping is great for summer. Just select a yarn that does not pill.

Meanwhile, my college daughter is home for the summer and the house now feels complete again! My older daughter drops by more often and the cat is in his heaven--sleeping next to her on her bed. Life is good.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Double Applied I-Cord with Apologies to Elizabeth Zimmerman

Apologies to my husband whom I blamed for deleting photos of the blanket I made for Daughter #2. I found the photos on i-Photo!

I thought I would do a small tutorial on using I-cord to join two knitted fabrics. I could not find anything about this technique in Elizabeth Zimmerman's books, so I un-vented the technique myself. I later learned that Meg Swansen has a demonstration of this on one of her videos. Experience doing applied I-cord to an edge of fabric is helpful.

Getting ready: Pin the two fabrics together with the amount of ease you need to make the two pieces match.


Perhaps you can see that I am applying a double edging (the pink garter stitch strip with the purple knitted-on lace) to the blanket. The section on the middle left has already been applied with green yarn using I-cord. The upper middle shows the edging pinned to the blanket but not yet applied. There are three stitches on my (sharp points) double pointed needle. This is a three stitch I-cord. I simply cast on three stitches to begin.

Concept: The idea is to generate one stitch from each fabric being joined. In this case, I generated one stitch from the blanket and one stitch from the edging. I obtain easy and good stitches from the blanket, which was knit on the bias, I did a single crochet in the green yarn all the way around the blanket, doing one single crochet stitch in each garter stitch "valley" row.

STEP TWO: Picking up stitch from the edging.

I "generated" an I-cord stitch from the edging after working the three I-cord stitches. Using the working yarn from the left, I pulled the yarn through the slipped stitch edge of the edging using a second double pointed needle. I found that this all worked much easier with very sharp double pointed needles.

Put this new stitch on the right side of your working needle and knit it together with the second stitch (previously the first stitch) on the needle.


Do the same idea for the blanket edge. You have already knit the first (new) and second stitch on your needle together. You then knit the middle stitch of the I-cord on the needle. Then, you slip the third I-cord stitch.
Put your left needle under both loops of the single crochet edge of the blanket. Pull the working yarn through these loops so that you have one strand of yarn on the left needle as a fourth stitch. Put this stitch on the right needle.


Pass the slipped (third) stitch over the new stitch. Slide the stitches to the other end of the needle and repeat from the top.

This photo (ABOVE) was taken just after I slipped the third stitch over the new stitch. You can also see the single crochet edging on the blanket (left of center) and the edge of the pink and purple edging to the right of center.

Here is the corner of the completed blanket with the I-cord holding together the edging strip and the blanket. I think it gives a nice framed picture kind of look. The I-cord adds texture and depth to the blanket.

I am very proud of how the blanket turned out. As with most projects, there was a point at which I thought the entire project was stupid and should be tossed into the trash barrel.
Because the knitting of the squares was so easy (garter stitch squares on the bias), I concluded that I needed to have a very nice edging. I didn't want future generations to say the blanket was ugly or that great-grandmother really didn't have many knitting tricks up her sleeve.

I like how the squares go together to form x's and diamonds. The effect is of an optical illusion at some points.
Credit where credit is due to Cosmic the Knitting Kitty. He helps with blocking, sitting on the wet wool to help it dry and removing the pins holding the pointed edges of the blanket in place.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Keeping My Girl Warm

As a knitter and as a mother my main goal in life seems to be keeping my daughters warm. The main goal of my daughters, however, seems to be avoiding receiving un-stylish sweaters from their mother. Un-stylish translates as "anything mom would knit." They do accept hats, mittens and gloves, provided that they have approved the yarn and the style ahead of time. Daughter #1 also accepts socks--in certain colors and certain (plain) styles.

These smaller projects were not enough to fulfill my mother/knitter goal however. Four years ago I convinced Daughter #2 that she needed a blanket for when she went to college. I began to make a blanket on size 2.5mm needles, using leftover sock yarn. The blanket went slowly, since I needed to generate leftover sock yarn. Then, people began to give me their leftover sock yarn, but progress was still slow. Gradually the blanket grew and grew and my daughter, while in high school, kept the unfinished blanket on her bed. Click here for previous posts about the blanket.

Well, in September Daughter #2 left for college and the blanket still needed an edging!! There is nothing wrong with her memory, and she reminded me as we dropped her off at college, "Mom, where is my blanket!!??" Now, I knew that the weather wouldn't require a blanket until late October, when I finally finished the blanket.

Unfortunately, my husband's camera (or my husband) deleted the photos of the blanket that I had taken while it was blocking. This is a photo taken by a friend at The Sow's Ear, a much loved knitting and coffee shop. I think the sun shining through gives the blanket a nice effect.
I made a chart for Daughter #2 identifying the yarn in each square, for whom the socks were knitted and whether the yarn was donated. When she comes home from college, I will take better photos.

The blanket edging was a life time project in itself. Daughter #2 selected the edging colors while we were on vacation in 2008. She wanted a three colored edging, to give the blanket a framed and matted effect. I first knit miles of a 10 stitch garter stitch strip, with mitered corners. (The blanket is the size of a sheet for a long twin size bed.) That nearly drove me insane. In my blind need to find a more interesting stitch, I found a garter stitch lace diamond pattern, which I knit onto the garter stitch strip using a purple sock yarn. Although that was far more interesting to knit, it was twice as wide as the plain pink garter stitch and took about three times as long to knit.

I was ready to stop right there. Forget the green yarn my daughter had selected. But, promises are promises and mothers have to keep their promises. So, I determined to minimize the number of stitches using the green. I "un-vented" the double-applied-I-cord. If Elizabeth Zimmer could un-vent knitting techniques, I figured that I could un-vent something that she probably tried, but never published. I attached the pink/purple strip to the blanket using the green yarn and a four stitch I-cord, picking up one stitch on the edge of the blanket and one stitch on the edge of the edging. After a few fits and starts, I got into the rhythm and it worked!!

I delivered the blanket to my daughter's dorm in early December 2009, hoping to keep her cozy and warm from the brisk, frigid winter winds of Minnesota. Her bunk bed is right against the uninsulated windows of the room. Has she used it? No. The dorm heating system blasts out hot air 24 hours a day and she is always too hot. Does anyone see it? No. To make room for three girls in a room built for two, the beds are elevated with the desks and dressers underneath. No one can see what is on top of the bed. Does she love it? Yes--she treasures the blanket and would not part with it.

I guess, after all, what is most important is that we mother-knitters warm our children's hearts, even if we are unsuccessful at warming their bodies.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

15 Seconds of Fame

I'm basking in my 15 seconds of fame. Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting recent blog posting showed me (minus my head) and my recently de-bottomed Dale of Norway sweater. The "Gail" she described, that's me!! She thought I was brave/delusional/insane for cutting the bottom off of my recently finished sweater. No one else has knocked at my door to admire my sweater, but I'm honored nonetheless.

Here are some photos of my other Olympic entries.

1) Completed Blackberry Mittens, pattern from Blackberry Ridge. Made out of sock yarns from Shi Bui (hand dyed) and Kraemer (white). I made one mitten two years ago for my Christmas gift basket. Unfortunately, no one selected the mitten as a present, even though I promised to make a second one. Therefore, during the Olympics I started and finished the second mitten and now I am wearing them. Perfect weight for Wisconsin early spring-late winter.

2) Leftover Sock Yarn Blanket. Before Christmas I finished the leftover sock yarn blanket for daughter #2. (More about this blanket in a later post.) Upon seeing the blanket, daughter #1 asked, "Where's mine?" Note that I worked for four years on the blanket for daughter #2. Not wanting to be accused of unfair or unequal mothering, I began to make squares for the second blanket. During the Olympics, I sewed these squares together, to show my good faith in actually making a blanket for daughter #1. Check back in 2014 to see the completed object. Meanwhile, I'll be generating leftover sock yarn by continuing to make socks.

Tonight I'll be scrubbing mold and mildew out of the shower, from under old caulking. Nasty job. I'd rather be knitting. But, the state of the shower was caused by regular knitting rather than regular house cleaning. Rats!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again--but still struggling to stay on!

As Gene Autry, the old cowboy crooner, used to sing, I'm back in the saddle again, after a long absence. I don't have any good excuses, I guess. Life got in the way, but I kept on knitting.

For my private knitting olympics I resolved to finish all incomplete projects. Let's say that my medal is not the gold.

For three years I have been working on a Dale of Norway Tiur sweater known by two different numbers (17008 or 10014) but no name. It appears in the ill-fated "Best of Tiur" and in Book 100. In year #1 I knit two sleeves whose cuffs were too tight. I shut the sleeves into the closet of denial. In year #2 I dug out the sleeves, cut off the cuffs, picked up the stitches and knit wider cuffs. Actually, I did that for only one sleeve. The other sleeve had stitch-pick-up issues and I ripped out the entire sleeve and knit a new one. I followed by knitting 2/3 of the torso. In year #3, before the Olympics, I finished the torso, joined the sleeves and torso and knit about 2/3 of the yoke.

I started strong out of the gate. The color work went quickly. Then, I almost veered off course. The yoke required duplicate stitch and embroidery. I found a basic embroidery book and learned the boullion stitch, the chain stitch and the lazy daisy.

Weaving in hundreds of ends threw me off balance onto one ski, but I recovered, weakened but determined. Before long, I was ready to block. My blocking-buddy, Cosmic the Cat, helped.

The sweater looked gorgeous--until I put it on.
Let's just say that my derriere should not be emphasized, regardless of the quality of yarn hugging it tightly. Spectators at the the finish line were supportive, arguing that if I purchased a pair of tight leggings, maybe the ribbing wouldn't cling so to the bottom curve of the butt. Or, maybe I could lose some weight. No, I decided, I am not getting younger. My two decade attempt to return to the svelte shape of my youth did not bode well for the weight loss option. And, I wore leggings and tight knit pants their first time around the fashion scene (thing Mary Tyler Moore on the Dick Van Dyke Show). I won't be doing leggings again. I waited until after the Olympics to make my decision. My rationale--I had a completed object in hand. Alterations can always be done later. So, on March 12 I made my decision.

Scissors, that's what I needed.

First, I marked the row in the texture pattern where I wanted to cut. then,

I picked up 288 stitches around the sweater. After which,
emboldened by friends at the Sow's Ear and by a surprise visiting knitting celebrity who ventured north for the weekend, I snipped half of one stitch and proceeded to pull out the row. (Yes, a Mason-Dixon sister watched me do this!! She was even impressed and took photos!! Will I make it onto her blog, only time will tell!)

My approach to applying scissors to painstakingly knit items is as follows: 1) Measure 29 times, cut once; 2) cut in public and pretend you know what you are doing, you have a reputation to uphold; 3) if you insist on cutting alone in the privacy of your own home you will NEVER do it; 4) don't look back.

In violation of my rule #4, I had a brief thought of kitchener stitching the cut-off piece back onto the torso. I moved forward and unraveled the entire lower piece. I dutifully washed the yarn and hung it to dry. Now, I'm taking my bravery pills (as my husband says) and am planning the re-knit. I think I will do a few rows of color pattern before starting the ribbing.

I need to finish this sweater before spring really comes. We've been experiencing the fickle false spring, so common to the upper midwest. All the snow has melted, The daffodil greens have shot up through the matted leaves. Runners have switched from polar fleece to shorts! But, snow is forecast for this weekend. I still have time to wear the sweater if I finish it soon!!!