Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Victory, how sweet you truly are...

It's done.  It's been mostly done for a few days, but I couldn't be bothered to go and buy buttons in a snowstorm, so the finishing took a bit longer than expected.  But it's done.  THANK GOD.  I like it.  Can I say that? I like this (completed) sweater.  It's silly.  It's a bit baggy through the sleeves.  It's comfy and cozy and grey and delightful.  I am glad that I own this sweater.

The finished product took a little more than 9 balls of yarn.  It fits around (and below) my boobs.  The buttons are darling.  I had to do some post-bind off modifications to the hood.  As it turns out, the hood starts mid shoulder, not at the neck.  If I had realized this earlier, there would have been an increase in raglan shaping... but that's all finished now.  To compensate for the massive gap-osis in the hood, I gathered every other stitch for 6 rows along the back panel (between markers 3 and 4 if you care)
Look at that lovely gather.  Isn't that nice
The result is quite structurally pleasant.  I thought about doing a little bit more along the shoulders, but it seems unnecessary.  The neck gaps a bit when the hood is up, but let's be honest--no one wears hoods unless it's raining.  When the hood is down, all is well and I am blissful.

So--I have conquered the cropped hoodie.  Fear me, miswritten patterns.  I have analyzed your brethren and seen its errors.  I do not fear your misprinted charts, your miscounted decreases, and your unrelated pictures, for I have risen triumphant out of the Green Iivy (I don't know why it has 2 "i"s.  I've never known)
"Moody Picture"
I think I'll take a moody picture to celebrate.  In other news, I'm starting a moebius shawl.  Also, I am unbelievable pale... It's bordering on bioluminescence... you know, like those deep-sea fish of terror? Yeah.  Like that. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sighs of Relief

I finished the yoke of the sweater today.  All the sleeve shaping is done.  All of the neck shaping is done.  The nightmare is over.  With my revisions the body is 16" at the beginning of the hood.  I tried it on and it fit exactly the way I wanted it to fit.  It falls below my bust, it's not tight through the shoulders, and the ease is perfect.  I could sing (and I might).
I didn't end up working extra short rows through the shoulders because I was done with this sweater 8" earlier.  I had washed my hands of it.  The good news is it apparently doesn't need more shoulder if you simply knit enough back and bust.  Yesterday I was super angry about everything, so today I will make a list of good things about this sweater so far

1. The shape is wonderful--this is actually a pull-over, not a cardigan.  The button band is sewn up and the lower band is tacked down to form the romantic little shape.  I do love it, and that's why I wanted to make this thing in the first place.
2. The sleeves are good sleeves.  There is nothing wrong with them.  They are roomy and comfortable, with adequate shaping.
3. The yarn.  I haven't worked too much with Wool of the Andes, but if it's all like this and if it wears well, I would highly recommend it.  It splices like a dream, which is a weird thing to get excited about, but when you've spliced 8 balls without a hitch in the middle of a giant, sweater shaped hitch, it's stuff like that that gets you through.
4. Seamless shaping--even though it's notated wrong, the idea behind it is nice.  The sweater isn't exactly seamless because of the button band, but it's constructed that way and it was a nice lesson in bottom up raglan shaping.
5. This sweater has given me confidence in my ability to read, judge, and modify patterns as well as boosted my confidence regarding my imminent designing.  I have been meaning to start writing for myself for years, but haven't had the technical know how to do so.  I am now intimately familiar with gauge, with shaping, with lengths for arm holes, and the like.

Still--this thing is hoodless, so what is there to be done?  Well, let me show you:

That is my sweater.. sort of.  And that is my hood... sort of.  The neck is two squares flanking a trapezoid which increases with the skull's natural curvature (or the presence of my ponytail.  Take your pick).  After 8" or so, short rows are worked to compensate for the distance around the top of the head (see the nice squiggly line? that's short rows).  The sides are then brought in to the center 5" square and the cables, leaving only the cables and the center stitches.  The cables are worked in short rows to the center, grabbing a stitch from the center panel every time they pass it, then grafted together.  The goal is a round hood that is the same shape as the human head.  We'll see how it goes.

Wish me luck.  Right now I feel invincible, so this probably seems easier than it actually is...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sweater Distress

I need to stop looking at the picture in the magazine before I have an aneurism. The pattern really should have an asterisk by it directing you to a footnote that says *picture unrelated.  I get the feeling the designer made her sweater on the fly, didn't take good notes, and then sort of retraced her way back through the pattern because I'm either reading this wrong (which is possible, but highly unlikely at this point since I'm in borderline zen with the text on the page and have reread and rewritten it enough to work entirely from memory if need be) or--

The picture shouldn't ever show decreases every 4 rows instead of every other row.  It does. Click on it and make it big and you'll see (it's especially obvious on the sleeve side of the raglan seam)

(I apologize for picture quality on this one, but as it turns out, vogue may even be trying to deny the existence of this pattern altogether, so getting a high res picture was... tedious and difficult.  What do I mean when I say denying? Well, here's the patterns listed in the issue from their store.  It's supposed to be in between the red wrap coat and the white cable jumper. The stitch workshop is still up but... I don't know)

I may just start adding rows in there because quite frankly, it needs them and there's no way that there will magically be 15" at the start of the neck and hood. The back, which is the longest point of the sweater, is currently 9" long.  I have 16 rows of decreasing left.  At a gauge of 25 rounds/4 inches, I'll be lucky if this thing is a 12" total. gah. If I turn 16 rows into 32 rows, then I'll get (quick math) 5 3/4"... Oh hey. 9"+6" makes 15". But did I mention that I already added 2" on to this thing? Yeah.

I am so angry right now.  Patterns need to be test knit before you publish them.  Someone needs to be paid to catch this sort of thing.

I would post pictures, but it's not particularly interesting to look at right now because I've got it crammed onto a small circular needle.  I decided to compensate for the difference between my rib cage and my bust line by shrinking down the cabled hem.  Now I have 36" worth of stitches at the bust and 34" of cable under it, which means it shouldn't flare out unpleasantly.  I knit 1" before starting the pattern. I also waited to add on the sleeves until almost all of the short rows were completed.  That works out to an extra 2" of length. I'll probably make it to the neck soon--it's smooth sailing in the knitting department.  I just have to stop and reevaluate every few rows to make sure something new and exciting hasn't gone wrong.

I have a diagram drawn for the hood, and as soon as I know how many stitches I have (aka, when I get there), I'll write a recipe.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Intervening Bunny Rabbit

I've been on a stuffed animal kick lately (mostly as a result of purchasing a bag of poly-fill.  That stuff is hard to store in a little apartment).  It works out rather handily since everyone I know is having children these days.  Stuffed animals have three real benefits: first, they are usually less than a foot tall and therefore take only a day or two to knit; second, they are easily gender neutral; third, they are cheap to make.

The downsides to them are usually things like seeming until your eyes and fingers want to bleed, and hand embroidering features on a knitted fabric.  I am not against embroidery, per se. I just suck at it rather royally.  Seeming, while time consuming, produces predictable, repeatable results.  It's really just a long game of connect the dots.  Embroidery is definitely a circle in my personal Inferno: I'm inefficient, have terrible aim, and heaven help me if it needs to be symmetrical.

That being said, this weekend's project was a bunny rabbit (this one) for an upcoming baby shower.  I love the results I got from this pattern, but I won't go so far as to say I love the pattern itself.  It was alright, but deviations were made.  First, I changed the head shape so that the bunny would have a jaw and nose.  The original pattern had a nearly circular head, and bunnies, well, don't.  Next, I knit inner ears a bit narrower and shorter than the brown outer ear.  If there is anything I dislike more than embroidery, it is hand-sewing non-knitted things to knitted things.  Third, I shrunk the arms a bit.  Originally I was going to change them to triangles which merged with the belly, but after re-examing, I decided that 20 rows would make them just right.

Then I had to put the face on this thing... four tries later, I feel moderately successful. I did a bit of shaping with the eyes--rabbits are herbivores, or rather food for carnivores, and surviving means seeing as much as you can as often as you can.  It's because of this that rabbits have eyes on the sides of their face rather than in front (like, say, a bear).  The nose is a simplified version of the rabbit nostril pattern, or a heart... take your pick.

This leads me to one of those things I always wonder about--how much should a stuffed animal look like a real one? Clearly most teddy bears aren't particularly bear shaped.  They are thin, have discrete, separate limbs, and large fluffy ears disproportionate to their body size.  But it's still a bear.  You still look at it and think, "that's a bear." If I tacked on an extra limb or made something inordinately large, you'd probably think, "that's an ugly bear... thing" but you'd still recognize it.  I have 2 pink rabbits from my childhood (must have been a sale). One of them is shaped like a bunny--it's a quadruped, and basically rabbit shaped, except maybe for some of its facial features and that pink fur.  The other is done in classic teddy bear style, sitting with big, floppy ears, and also very pink.  I'm pretty sure I was told at some point that this one was a rabbit, because it could just as easily be a dog.  All that to say I'm curious as to what makes a good stuffed animal.

But not so curious as to stop making them.  It's going to be hard to give this little guy away, even if he does have the legs of a Mara (which he totally does.  Look at those spindly things and tell me otherwise)

I'll get back to the sweater soon.  My life has been consumed by cables and I've got about 3" left before I never knit chart A again. After that it'll be more intellectually stimulating to knit.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Blocking things that aren't regular polygons

There are a ga-ba-zillion tutorials on how to block lace using pins and wires, but I find that these are really only helpful is you worked something that is basically a regular polygon--a triangle, a rectangle, a square.  A few months back, I knit Herbert Niebling's Lyra, which is the most beautiful and most frustrating thing I have made to date.  Niebling uses different notation for stitches than the common practice nowadays (probably because he drew the picture he wanted, then wrote out how to make it happen), and his patterns are in reprints by a company that doesn't really seem to care about the quality of the paper and ink they use, making things like distinguishing bold lines from regular lines nigh on impossible.

But it was totally worth every minute.  I knit the circular version of this lace monster, and  since I needed to wash it, I also needed to re-block it.

So, without further ado, blocking irregular shapes:
What you need--T pins (hundreds of them), towels, a measuring tape, and an hour or so.

First, pin the center.  You need to anchor it.
Next pin the point farthest from the center (1)--Because this is a circular-ish piece, I pin several of the loops at 12 and 6 o'clock, then 3 and 9 o'clock, and repeat this pattern on the diagonals (2).  At this point, you should measure to make sure your piece is larger than the furniture it will cover.  The next points pinned are the two loops at the tips of the tulips, once again pinning the loops on opposite sides of the piece to ensure even tension (3).  Here, we remeasure.  The top of the tulip is the smallest diameter measurement, and needs to be slightly larger than your furniture, even if it's just by an inch or so (which mine usually is.  I have a large round table this covers)

Pin points 1-3
The next thing we're going to pin are the fans between the leaves and the tulips--we pin the center of each fan so that they are all even (4), then we pin down to the top of the tulip (5), and back to the leaf (6).  The ensures an even arch, giving every fan the exact same high point.

 The final pinning is the remaining loops between (2) and (6)  We pin these last because it's easiest to make them look pretty when everything else is already appropriately stretched and pinned, and also because we're going to take advantage of section (6) Pin down the sides(7), starting at (2) and working towards (6). You'll notice at the bottom that there's an extra loop with nowhere to left to really put a T-pin.  Use the same pin as its neighboring loop (2 loops stretched on 1 pin).

See the overlap in my poorly drawn brackets? That's the pin with 2 loops

And that's the gist of it.  You can apply the same principles to almost any irregular shape or one with tons and tons of loops.  Pin similar things as a group, measure a lot, and pin apexes of arches before you pin the arch itself.

I hope this was helpful--I've been digging malware of my computer all weekend, so I haven't been knitting. (Rootkits are evil.  The last one I picked up hid all my files and told me my computer was about to burst into flames.  This one was just annoying and rerouted all my google searches, and prevented me from accessing blogger and related google sites.  Also it ate up my CPUs. What's really amazing about them is the amount of effort people put into making them look like legitimate programs.  They're trying to con you out of money, and some of these people are darned good at it. Fortunately many of the anti-virus companies are willing to let you use their "fix your computer" software, hoping that you will purchase protection from them afterwards.)

I realized that I wasn't slipping the stitches on my sweater's bottom band about 18 inches in (It makes a difference.  I can now say with total authority that they were slipped on the sample pictured in the magazine, and that it is absent from the directions.  Also, Chart A is wrong, but my brain fixed it automatically on the cuffs, so I didn't even notice until I screwed up the longer band).  I've had to rip it all back start over. Lesson learned.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


The sleeves are finished... except for the finishing of course. They match, much to my delight. I finally convinced myself to knit the last 32 rows.  The strip of cables next to the sleeves is the under-bust.  38" of cabling.  8" down. hoo-buddy.

Aren't those lovely

Now, you may be wondering about that.  I told you I was adding about 2" to the bust of this thing, which has a max measurement of 34". Well, in the original pattern, you knit 36" of cables.  Part of this is because the edge tucks up in a delightful fashion but most of those two extra inches are consumed by the depth.  That is to say, the length you knit will be the outside circumference, but because of that 1cm depth (give or take), over the course of those 36"/38" you lose almost 2" on the inside.  Like a long skinny doughnut...  made of yarn. Because the pick up is on the edge, with the outside rolling down, your picking up over the smaller measurement.  Nifty, right?  There are a lot of clever things about this pattern.

There are also a lot of abominable things.  I cannot overstate this.  I know Vogue Knitting is mildly notorious (can you be mildly notorious? I don't know) for printing patterns rife with errors and this is no exception.  The only difference is, and you'll love this, there isn't an errata.  There are a few author's notes on Ravelry, but other than that, you're on your own.  The reason I already know that the errors are coming (and they're mostly in the decreases) is because I have been rewriting the pattern systematically in my notebook so that the alterations are already finished by the time I get to the desired section.
Five pages so far...
 There are knits on the (ws) in the middle of a field of stockinette.  There are decreases that don't add up.  And to make matters worse, there are no stitch counts. Everything is by the marker, which is fine, but it would be nice to have a count at some point.  (this after I said I don't care about stitch counts, too.  Murphy's out to get me, I swear.)

I've made it to the hood in my re-writing, but I may need to go back through and tack on a few decreases across the chest (or rather above it). As for the hood, I'm referencing a pattern I've made before--the wintersweet scarf--for decreases and increases.  The scarf uses short rows to fill out the mid section and cinches up tightly at the base of the neck.  I think it's exactly what I'm looking for.  (A note on the scarf.  It's a really interesting pattern, and when it's finished, it looks very much like a head covering.  For all you ladies out there who cover your head for modesty's sake, this one might be worth looking into as part of your winter-wear)

So, back to grinding out cables. I may take a break from the sweater to experiment with a concept floating around in my brain... It could be amazing...

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Intervening Teddy Bear

Occasionally (This is a word where I double all the consonants and have spell check correct me. Other words include license, and hemorrhaging. I am a miserable speller...)... Occasionally I get a wild hair and can't help myself.  I just have to knit thing "x," whatever it may be.  Sometimes it's a shawl or scarf, but usually it's mittens.  Saturday it was a teddy bear (this one).  I have made him once before in itty bitty fingering yarn, but this time I chose a super-bulk, roving style wool which I inherited from a nice lady in my college town upon her passing (I inherited a lot of yarn from her. I'm still working through it.) It's called Vail and clearly it was purchased long ago, because the company's logo has changed and the yarn itself has been discontinued.  Needless to say, I was quite lucky because I have about 2 yards left of the stuff post-bear.  Close call.
Pieces and Pieces of Bear
 He looks like the snuggle laundry detergent bear, and that is adorable.  The whole thing was knit in an evening--each piece is about 8 stitches wide and only a 30-40 rows long, so it goes by quickly.  I blocked them the next morning and started sewing him up.  I'm moderately obsessed with clean seams and I'm happier with this one than the last one, but not pleased as punch.  I did an alright job...
 When you knit for long enough, you start to develop things you either care about far too much or don't care about at all.  I don't generally care about stitch counts after I've established the pattern.  I also don't usually care about markers (usually.  Every once and a while I bust them out upon realizing my own folly). I probably care too much about my seams. I've been known to sew up a whole garment and take it apart again because it just wasn't right up in the armpits (you know, that place where everyone stares, waiting to judge your underarm joins. I see them staring.) I'm also sort of a bind-off fanatic.  There are about 80 gazillion ways to bind off.  I want to know them all. I am learning, slowly but surely.

As you can probably infer--I did not work on the grey sweater this weekend.  Still, I'm about 4 inches short of 2 sleeves and then it's a yard of cables before any major decisions need to be made.  Wish me luck.