Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lace Sampling

pore: (verb) to examine closely, as in "to pore over a pile of books"

Finishing a large project like my red sweater is very freeing. I love the adventure of plotting the next foray into some magical combination of yarn and pattern. Planning a knitting project is taking into account both the form and the function, and tempering them to my liking.  Oh, it can be fun! At times, sifting through the endless possibilities can be overwhelming.

As I search Ravelry for inspiration, I notice that it enables me to knit other people's patterns--which is great for those times when I need to focus my energy due to some time constraint--but it does not help me much when it comes to the ideas that have been cooking in the back of my brain as I knit. Sometimes all the brilliant patterns out there simply do not achieve the effect I am seeking; especially when it comes to texture and lace stitches, staring at finished products can feel a bit stifling. (Sidenote: colorwork seems to run by different rules, as do simple textures like garter stitch; maybe this is why the revered Elizabeth Zimmermann enjoyed both so much.)

I have some wonderfully open-ended resources right here in my home: books that are chock full of stitch patterns that I pore over when I'm feeling the itch to venture out into the unknown. Most of the time, I pull the books down, study the pages, keep them out for a couple weeks, then move on. The books go back on the shelf, and I tell myself that someday I need to sample sampling. I even have a book by Susanna Lewis that is based on a lace sampler. So why has it taken me so long to actually sit down and cast on a few stitches to try it out?

Poring over a picture or written pattern does not compare to poring over a lace stitch pattern firsthand by working it. You can pause after an individual stitch and see where it has been and watch where it is going. Now we're exploring! After only two stitch patterns, I begin to understand why such an accomplished knitter such as Ms. Lewis would say that studying a lace sampler would teach her new things about the way lace works. After all, you can tweak a lace pattern by adding or subtracting stitches or rows, or by changing knits to purls, or by eliminating the resting rows. Suddenly, a static photograph pales in comparison to the overwhelming possibilities that lay before me in the form of live stitches. It is almost unnerving.

In her Treasury of Knitting Patterns (I highly recommend it!), Barbara Walker will sometimes take a few lines to introduce a stitch pattern and explain how it logically grows from another stitch by a simple change in placement of one of the elements. My mind does not do much with a written explanation, though; I need to see it firsthand. As I knit along, I find myself asking questions: what if I stretched out the pattern by adding another row in this spot? Or what if I added a column of knits here to make it broader? Ooh, what if I framed this with stockinette? The possibilities are endless, and they are freeing.

Lace Sampling

I feel like an adventurer, the world open before me, and I have set sail.

Monday, February 11, 2013

As promised

I got buttons.

Red Sweater is done!

As soon as I put on the buttons, I proceeded to wear my new sweater around the house for much of my time at home over the next few days. It definitely fits the bill as being comfortable, and the revisions on the collar were worth the effort.

Red Sweater is done!

After work I ran out to the front porch to make use of the lingering daylight, and did the best I could with a couple of brick walls and a camera timer. And then there's the old stick-out-your-arm-as-far-as-you-can-and-click method, which kinda turned out best, I think. This sweater is a bit tricky to photograph so that it looks attractive; I've only showed you the better bits. In the search for the perfect sweater, this is only a stop along the way, and there are a number of issues with my unvention. That said, my goal was not to produce the perfect sweater for going out and showing off, but rather a great sweater for combating the chill around the house. In that regard, I am quite satisfied. Even the front being a bit short when I stand is actually an asset when I am seated--as I so often am when I knit.

Red Sweater is done!

An unofficial yarn review: 
Having spent a decent amount of time with (and in) the Spud & Chloe Sweater yarn, I am increasingly convinced that it is an excellent yarn for sweaters and blankets... especially if you prefer a bit of weight on you. It feels very nice to wear, though the cotton is a bit wearisome during long knitting sessions. Its gauge does not seem to change much (or at all?) when machine washed; from my experience the only effect the washer has on this yarn is to cause it to lose its crisp and clean look after several washings. Like anything, the gentler you treat it, the better it will wear. I've been making a couple baby sweaters in this yarn, and think it does quite nicely.

Speaking of baby sweaters... here's one I finished:

Baby Sophisticate

The only problem is that the pattern calls for worsted weight yarn (like Sweater), but the gauge is much more in the bulky range. So the sweater came out small. Meh--it was nice to make a shawl collar sweater that looks nice and didn't take for-friggin-ever.

Oh, and I also finished a pair of socks last night!

PGR Socks

Remember these? I call them my PGR socks, as in Priscilla Gibson Roberts, since it was her book that guided me on the path to knitting them. I'm adding her method to my list of "because I can" sock constructions, but I am not convinced I love it above my usual cuff-down-heel-flappy method as described in Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Knitting Rules! I have already pulled three balls of yarn from the stash for the next pair, and they are sitting next to me in monk-like contemplation. One is Hedgehog Fibres in a yarn I've been wanting to try firsthand (or firstfoot?), another is Briar Rose Fibers (in a very different kind of sock wool from the others I've used), and the third is a colorway of Madeline Tosh that has a nice cobalt blue that calls to me. Decisions, decisions! Maybe I should just slate them all for socks in the next several months...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Buttons! Get me buttons, quick!

Guess who just finished his epic Rhinebeck Sweater!!! Well, all but the ten buttons... I still have yet to find the right ones since revising the band.

Just finished!

I don't mind its quirks so much, now that I can see it completed. The problem with a sweater that you can try on to get the perfect sleeve length is the way you can always pull it on too far or not far enough, and psych yourself out.

Just finished!

Better pictures will come once the buttons are added. Talk about a huge item checked off my list! I'm kinda loving this sweater right now; the house is a bit chilly tonight.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Groundhog Day!

When it comes to movies, I am a wimp. I managed to sit through a Bourne movie marathon, and it worked well for two reasons:

1) I was not paying full attention, as my knitting created a buffer from some of the tension, and
2) the tense and somewhat annoying soundtrack and action sequences left me knitting probably as fast as I possibly can.

After a while ribbing becomes second nature; I remember that I used to feel daunted by the idea of constantly switching between knit and purl stitches, but now it is little more than an annoyance. On a good day, I don't even notice it -- like when I'm watching action films.

Thanks for the love and support for the prodigal cardigan; it appears to be repentant. Here you can see the changes I've been making.

Button Band update

Lest you think that I did not center my buttonholes very well, I should warn you that I am taking Jeff's suggestion for a double-breasted button band to manage the width with a bit more grace. This process of making decisions as I go is both fun and frightening, and I find myself compensating for shortcomings along the way. It is nice to have a second try. I thought button bands were simpler than this. Once again, I am reminded of the work that goes into creating a design -- and why I am willing to pay someone who has put in the work behind the scenes to make a pattern seem so effortless. 
Button Band update

A lot of people may be looking forward to an early spring, but I am just hoping to get some good opportunities to enjoy my cardigan. Summer, please don't come too soon.