Friday, May 6, 2016

Bang the Sweater Slowly

The neck, the lace, the shoulders, the body, contrast bands, button and buttonhole bands, all banged out quickly.

All that's left is the sleeves, and the banging has slowed to a lazy thud. Why? Not for lack of effort, let me quickly say. Sleeves are the worm in the apple of top-down sweaters. When you do them one at a time, you constantly are throwing a big ball of sweater around and around in your lap as you knit these smaller tubes attached to the main bulk. This time, I essayed two-at-a-time on two circular needles. They're more likely to match, another knitter said. (True. I often knit flat sleeves simultaneously on straight needles and they do match better.) It's easy, she said. So much faster, she said. Well..... not so much, in my experience.

There's the skootching of the stitches down to the needle end ready to go. Then finding the other end of the correct circ. Finding the right yarn. Untangling said yarn from the other sleeve's yarn. Tugging the first couple of stitches tight so as not to have a gappy column between needles. Four times on every round. A method for even sleeves it might be; an aid to rapid banging it is not. So while I skootch and untangle, here's a video to watch. Kinda dirty, pretty weird, pretty misogynistic, outstanding male beauty, great tune:

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Banging On

It's been a bit more than a week since I started #bangingout the Blaer sweater. Got the hardest part (the lace and shoulder increases) done at the knitting retreat, and since then it has been simple smooth sailing with plain old stocking stitch back and forth, back and forth.

Right now with its curliness, unblockedness, and gathering on the needles, it looks a bit like a baby's romper, but I assure you it is on its way to becoming a full size adult cardigan. Couple more inches of this and it will be ready for the bottom contrast bands, then on to the sleeves!

Warning: Possibly NSFW Section Ahead! 

It may depend on where you work. A bar, no problem. A kindergarten, close the window now! It's also not knitting related, but it gave me such a case of the giggles, I had to share it.

The origin is a random browser ad I caught in the corner of my eye. Did I really see that? For once, I had to click on the ad to see what the heck this actually was:
It had to be yellow, didn't it? Turns out, when divers need to take a whiz underwater, they just have to let 'er rip in the wetsuit. That plus sweat and any other body secretions tend to make the neoprene stinky and deteriorated after a few uses. Piss Off (and other wetsuit shampoos) to the rescue! It neutralizes the nastiness and makes it much more pleasant to don the garment for your next underwater adventure. And I discovered all this on the very day I was making this in my British swear word coloring book:

You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Retreat Goes Forward

Friends, has this ever happened to you? You make meticulous plans for a project, let's say just for a random example, banging out a sweater at a weekend knitting retreat. You print out your pattern, order and receive your yarn from exotic foreign sources, swatch, assemble correct needles plus extras just in case, add measuring, cutting, and sewing tools. You pop it all in a bag and haul it off to said retreat.

That was me this weekend, all geared up to #bangoutablaer. (See previous post for all the sweater-banging-out background.) I cast on the minute I arrived at the cabin, and by Friday evening had made excellent progress, to wit: the contrast neck band and lace section.

It may not look like much to you, but lace doesn't get banged out quickly. In fact, some of the lace areas had to be knitted more than once. Let's just say that liquor and lace are not an ideal combination for fast progress. Well, fast and correct progress, anyway.

This being a top-down yoke cardigan, what followed on Saturday was a whole lot of horizontal knitting as the number of stitches expanded for shoulders. At one point there were 300+ stitches per row. By Sunday morning, the yoke was all banged out, sleeve stitches separated and held, then the fronts and back joined for the body of the sweater.

After that, it's just straight back and forth stocking stitch down to the contrast bands that finish off the bottom of the body. By the time I headed home, I had added about another inch to what you see in the photo above and was mightily pleased with myself. The hard, fiddly part was all banged out and the rest would be plain, if fine gauge, sailing.

And Then. And then I check my email when I get home and OMG at the top of the pile is a cheery note from Ravelry inviting me to download a revised corrected version of a pattern in my library--BLAER! Consternation is the polite word for what I felt. Deep, screaming, table-pounding consternation.  From the peak of self-congratulatory progress to the weedy bottom of the Slough of Despond.  Instead of banging out a few more rows before bedtime, I had to compare new and old pattern versions to figure out what had changed. (Note to Ravelry: you might want to help a knitter out by highlighting changed text in a new pattern version. Just sayin'.) Good news/bad news is that I can't find anything different in the size I'm making after (bad news) spending an hour comparing old and new. If something's off in the lace chart--pffft! I've done it and it looks ok, and I'm not going back there. I'm banging on undeterred.

But back to the retreat. As always, it was a joy to be with the amigas, eating delicious meals

Grilled fresh halibut, Mexican spoon bread, and salad, for example, drinking various potations, eating chocolate, soaking in the hot tub, and knitting, knitting, knitting.

Here are the members of our merry band:
Judy, in her regular clothes, banging out a beautiful green Aran sweater.

 Anne, our super host, banging out a Rowan denim gansey.

Jere, showing off her first pair of socks on her beautiful pointed Pilates toes.

Linda, who not only crocheted a scarf, but learned to knit!

Camden working on her heirloom Kaffe Fassett sweater.

You guys are all so beautiful and skilled!

And though we were inside knitting knitting knitting, browsing, and sluicing a lot, we did pop outside from time to time to admire King Mountain across the valley still wearing a lot of its winter snow

and watch the tiny new leaves emerge. They seemed to visibly expand by the hour.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Banging Out a Blaer

Followers of the Mason Dixon blog will recall from a short time ago their #bangoutasweater project. The idea was to pick pattern and gauge that would be quick to knit, and to make a sweater in a short enough time to enjoy wearing it before the weather turned too warm. The pattern was Stopover in an Icelandic aran wool, very light and airy yet warm. It turned into a big knitalong where many knitters did indeed #bangoutasweater.

I was enchanted by the concept, but not really on board with the chosen pattern. I even had been lurking in Icelandic yarn stores on the web, electronically drooling on the yarn, but not ready to commit. And then the very same Mason Dixons flashed this in my receptive eyes.

The Blaer Icelandic cardigan! Not in the big gauge of the other one, but still a swell excuse to venture into Icelandic yarns. Being a creature of weak will, off I went. A couple of weeks later, a genuine parcel of yarn from Iceland plopped on my doorstep, and it is very exciting.

It smells not of sheep or lanolin, nor of dye and processing, but has a very pleasant herb-y soap-y scent. If Yankee Candle tried to capture it, might it be called Clean Wool?

And pondering (yet another) delicious new pile of yarn, it occurred to me that I maybe should try to #bangoutablaer. Yes, this is finer gauge than Stopover,  but the spring knitting retreat is coming soon, and wouldn't it be fun to see how much of a simple cardigan I could #bangout in a weekend dedicated to hours and hours of knitting in the company of like-minded souls? Stay tuned to this station for thrilling updates!

P.S. No worries about finishing too late to wear it. It's always sweater weather in Alaska!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Yet More Yarn Yarns

Trawling (appropriate for fisherman sweater, no?) through denim yarn patterns, I think I've found what my ecru Rowan pile wants to be:

The Cornish Knit Frock by Jane Gottelier from the book Indigo Knits. I had a flirtation with the Whitby Sweater from the same book, but decided that in ecru it would look like any old aran, as it would not have the lightening effect that makes the cables stand out when using a colored yarn. Besides, Whitby is in Yorkshire, not Cornwall.

An added attraction is that the Cornish sweater was made by one of the Knitting Goddesses, Kay Gardiner of Mason-Dixon fame, and was done with the same yarn substitution I am using, Rowan Denim for Den-M-Nit. Happily for me, Kay demonstrated that the shrinkage of the two yarns is the same.

Plus there is the connection to Cornwall. My DH is from there, and we have visited family there many times.

Fisher ganseys are also on my mind because I am happily anticipating my sojourn to Cordova, Alaska this summer for the Fisher Folk knitfest:
I have always loved gansey sweaters, the look of them and their lore. I have knitted a few, and will enjoy knitting more. They are a garment that looks great on everyone, men and women, big people and little people.

And when I'm in Cordova, one of the workshops I'll be attending is an indigo dyeing session. I'm going to take my now-foofed 6 Juniper Moon CSA cormo skeins and dunk them in the pot.

For a while, I was conflicted about whether I should just do them plain indigo, or go for spaced shades of blue, or tie them up to get white spaces in the blue. Wait. Three techniques into six skeins divides evenly--I could do 2 of each! Hope the teacher agrees...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Another Yarn Yarn

I'm sure this has happened to you. You nip to the local yarn store for just one skein that you need immediately to finish/enhance a current project. Their friendly personnel help you find said skein right away--hurray! But since you're in this yarn store and you haven't been to this particular one for a while, it would be a good idea to have a quick scout around to see what they've got these days in case you have another yarn emergency. Emergency preparedness, right?

And so it was with me. Just running my eyes over the goods until--oh my stars and garters!! A big ol' heap of one of my very favorite yarns, now discontinued, Rowan Denim by name. On sale! 50% off! OK, it wasn't in one of the actual indigo blue shades that behave so bluejeans-y when washed and worn. It was ecru, but still...

Reader, I succumbed. To all 26 balls:

If you're not familiar with this denim yarn, you may not know that because of its built-in shrinkage, it must be knit to its own specific patterns. There's no substitution. For a while, sold a knockoff yarn, that was much like the Rowan, but sadly, it, too, is no longer with us.

Once home with my bulging bag of cotton, I hauled out my old Rowan magazines to hunt for the sort of gansey pattern I dimly remembered from those august publications in the '90s. I knitted a plain blue gansey with Rowan denim long ago, and finally had to part from it when the denim wear pattern began to lighten up the boobage area on my front and to highlight the girls in a way that was most unseemly. (At least that won't happen with ecru!)

That was when I fell down a nostalgic rabbit hole. Do you remember Rowan in its heyday? The tunic lengths! The baggy volume! It was a heckofa way to sell a ton of yarn.

In Rowan's defense, it was a British company conceiving garments for a British climate, and of  course people needed to show off their knitting chops while chilling in houses without central heating or walking colourfully on the windy heath. Plenty of room under there for more woolen layers and maybe a hot water bottle or heated brick or two.

But not only did the large mass of the sweaters demand a lot of yarn, there was an insane intarsia design trend, possibly the acme of this technique, that required the purchase of many, many balls of yarn, of which you would only use a few yards. Stocks of knitting bobbin companies soared, I'm sure. And it all probably peaked with this amazing pattern:

Persian Carpet, by Donna Lauren. It calls for 30 (30!) different shades of Rowan DK yarn. I don't know how you could use the chart without blowing it up to the size of a table top. 30 colors means 30 different chart symbols. Did anyone ever actually make this sweater? I checked on Ravelry to see. No projects, and in only 2 queues. How long would you dangle this thing in your queue before you cast on? Probably forever, in my case. There would always be something I wanted more than to fiddle with over 30 bobbins and weave in umpty-gazillion (an actual count) ends.

The end of this trawl through nostalgic Rowanland was to wonder if these dead tree publications have any resale value. The answer is yes, indeedy! Many of mine weren't shown on Ebay, but the older numbers seem to go for $20-$40, and one rarity for $120. Don't get your hopes up or your bankrolls out yet though, folks. Old Rowan magazine $20, knitting nostalgia--priceless!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Yarn Matters

Good old Ravelry. I got my CSA share from Juniper Moon Farm a few months ago. Checking to see what others planned to do with their dk Cormo yarn, I read that the first thing was to foof it out by soaking the skeins in water. Whoa. Glad I heard to do that--it makes a b-i-i-i-g-g difference!

Here are the skeins as received:

Color is yellower than real life

And post-soak. All foofed out, as you can see!

It wouldn't even fit in a square frame!

That could make such a big difference in the final product! Still haven't figured out what I'm going to do with it. It's not quite a sweater's worth, but more than a scarf. Perhaps I'll experiment with indigo dyeing it and figure out for what later.

Lately I've been having fun using up stash with the Crazed Scandinavian Cowl

It's fun because the pattern changes frequently--all sorts of traditional and modern Scandinavian fair isle that I decided to mix up further with various selections of Knit Picks Chroma.  Then at nearly the half way mark (300 of the 600 rows), I looked back and found this:

It's what happens when you knit in dim winter light. Some of my "white" wasn't so white. Some of it was ivory! I decided to laugh and consider it another element of crazy in the crazed cowl.
As the tube grows, I am thinking I might stop well before I do all 600 rows. Doubling what I have at the halfway point, this thing could be 6 feet in diameter! That is way more cowlage than one person needs or possibly could even see over. Maybe I could  do it as two cowls?

One more yarnly yarn. Handmaiden's Great Big Sea has been discontinued. I found some beautiful skeins on sale intending to knit for a special event. Then my idea got bigger, and the yarn was still available, and somehow my pile got bigger.  And then the event was cancelled. The yarn makes a beautiful arrangement in a basket on the coffee table. I wonder what it wants to become now?