Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reasons to love the swatch

I'm gearing up for Tour de Fleece, which starts this weekend! Here's my plan:
Spin a sweater's worth of yarn from a couple pounds of rambouillet wool from A Touch of Twist.  I sampled a bit of brown/green for a test run, and I'm having second thoughts about whether I should spin it up or go with my earlier plan to spin up the blue-orange fiber. It's a good problem.  The swatch is so soft, and I anticipate that I'll be able to make a lovely sweater with it!

Brown Swatch

I also am planning to squeeze in some spindle time using my new Golding. Wanting to push myself to try a new breed, I decided upon this gorgeous Dorset/Silk blend dyed by Dan at Gnomespun Yarns. It's one of his favorite breeds for making socks, so I thought that might help give me some direction to aim for in my spinning. 

Gnomespun Dorset/Silk Combed Top
Seeing this next to my brown and green swatch made me consider that fiber all over again for keeping a  color continuity, and I still have time to make a last minute switch. Time shall tell...

Aside from a bit of spinning 'training,' after I finished my green sweater, I found myself floundering a bit as to which project to hone in on next. Eager to begin another sweater but unsure about the details, I found myself swatching.

Segue into rant about swatching...
Hopping around on Ravelry, I came across one of those moments when one person is urging a fellow knitter to embrace the swatch. I felt the need to voice my own opinion on the matter, too, but as I wrote I decided it would be best to vent my feelings here instead of on some poor, unsuspecting soul.

Never fear, it's all warm fuzzies. Literally.  (Sometimes I crack myself up.)

Reasons to love the swatch
1. Swatching takes virtually no prep, except to wind the yarn and have needles handy- at least for stockinette stitch.
When you don't know where to begin, can't decide which color to use, or are overwhelmed with figuring out a part of a pattern, swatching gives you the chance to jump in and do something proactive.  And sometimes it helps you make those  tough decisions, too!

2. You don't have to worry about messing up. 
That is to say, you can afford to take certain liberties while swatching.
Swatching time

3. You don't have to let the swatch down gently if you decide the relationship isn't going to work. Knitting a swatch gives you a quick idea of what you might get if you combine a certain yarn with a certain needle and use a certain stitch. It's got the warm fuzzies of puppy love, the instant gratification of finishing, and the beauty of a bath and block - all at a negligible cost to you.
2013-04-15 17.26.38

4. Swatches are comforting--at least if you're as wool-crazy as I am. 
I know I'm not the only person who has fantasies of cuddling up with a nice yarn, or becomes a bit goofy when gazing at a freshly bloomed bit of wool. It's wool for wool's sake.
Marr Haven Sport - washed

5. Swatching is an exhilirating way to learn new techniques and a very smart way to try out an idea you're unsure will work. 
Seaming practice: mattress stitch

Again, it gives you the chance to experiment without the agony of an entire hat -- or sweater -- forever telling you that you have made a grave error. 
3-D Collar Swatching
Swatches are reusable, and they can be green, too!
And if you're one of those folks who brazenly declare that you don't mind ripping out an entire project, after the third or fourth time you may start to see what I'm getting at.  Ask me how I know.

6. Swatching is great for morale. 
Not all of us find knitting meditative and relaxing; we often play too hard for that to be the case. But knitting a simple square in a great yarn, or picking a stitch out of a stitch dictionary and just knitting away (again, in a beautiful yarn) can be cathartic -- even therapeutic -- once you've mastered the basics.  And for you new knitters, it gets better. 
Lace Sampler

Abrupt Rabbit Trail: that last line can be read with a different subtext. Knitting has played an important role in my personal journey in making peace with being gay and becoming comfortable in my own skin. A mere day after the Supreme Court took a stand for people like me, I rejoice that our prospects are brighter today than they were, say, fifty years ago. While I have gone through my own share of inner torture along the way, since my youth I have also been blessed to know a good number of conservative Christians who, while they have strong personal convictions that may not always be comfortable with my sexuality, have given space to a real and palpable desire to love the person and refrain from passing judgement. They have prayed for me, they have paid for me, they have given me rides, they have sat up with me, they have loved me as one of their own, they have wept for me, and they have talked and talked and talked with me -- and still talk to me. And I know, I know, I know that they love me. I am grieved that such experiences are often eclipsed by the horror stories that are so useful in our fight to be treated without contempt, and I feel it's worth mentioning there are many conservatives out there who deeply love gay people. I'm not saying that everything is easy-breezy, but having walked in both sets of shoes, I understand that it is a big obstacle to overcome in one's thinking, and I can appreciate the process. Even if attitudes in the conservative camp continue to become more favorable towards the GLBTQ community, there will always be a need to overcome  judgements and excuses for people to ostracize other people. I want to offer my gratitude for each person who makes that journey to extend grace to people so impossibly different from them in the conviction that those people are valuable and precious. The truth is that we are all far less different than we like to think. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Green Sweater Reveal!

It's time!  (And there's a slight breeze.)

Green Sweater
Um, my shirt has chest pockets with buttons.

Green Sweater
We can't all be perfect. But I still love the collar; don't be surprised if it turns up again.
Green Sweater
I friggin love that shoulder.

Green Sweater

Green Sweater
Meh. So the drastic shaping was probably a bit misled.

Green Sweater

I think I have a new favorite sweater.

Oh, yeah... I learned stuff. What did I learn?
(Warning: this is probably stuff you and everyone else already knows. Captain Obvious, and all that.)

Moving between positive and negative ease probably needs to be taken into account when adding shaping along the seam.  Or better yet, don't shape right along the seam... or only one side of the seam.

Maggie Righetti was right - add that extra inch to your planned sleeve length for a sleeve that extends below the elbow. (Or don't measure along the inside of your arm, which is bound to be the shortest length when you bend your arms.)

With a bit of planning, seaming can be a beautiful thing. Everyone should at least try it, at least with a practice swatch.  (Well, two swatches.) It's rather exciting.

Despite what sweater books may say on the cover, they're probably not the only book you'll ever need on the subject. Be willing to use your library system.

Taking a lot of time on the front end to plan well actually makes the process much quicker and is generally good for morale.

A lot of focus has been given to encouraging women to feel comfortable in their own bodies, and fitting women's sweaters in flattering ways. The fact that attention was being given primarily to female anatomy (bust and waist shaping) distracted me from the most important point -- the one that was right there in front of me. As a man, it's fine if I want a fitted sweater, so long as I'm honest about my body, too -- which in my case means acknowledging that little belly and knitting for it.

... Now I'm in sweater withdrawal. Luckily for me, I plan to make more!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bath Time!!!

The Green Sweater is getting its bath!

Bath time!!!

Now I just need to find some air conditioned space for some photos!

Also, a few pics from my own private Knit In Public Day.

Ambler Music Fest
Our town held its own music festival today... perfect for some public knitting!

Baby Fishie

Baby Fishie

Happy Knitting!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nearing the finish...

This evening I bit the bullet and seamed the first sleeve, as well as the collar. Both leave something to be desired, but considering I'm reinventing the wheel, I'm proud of my work.

Collar: whoops!

Here you can see my first attempt at the collar.  I neglected to accomodate the bottom of the V-neck. Too bad, because it had a nice clean edge for seaming...


And this is the new version, with increases added sloppily onto the end of the ribbing. The method I used for seaming this hides that edge, but it's extremely bulky.  I'm hoping it blocks a bit smoother, but I'm not going to cry if it looks as bad as it does now.  I still like the overall effect.

First shoulder seam done!

Now that I have the first shoulder seam done and know it will work well enough, I can finish the second sleeve.  I'm already a fifth of the way into the sleeve cap, so I am hoping to have a new sweater by next week!  This weekend promises to be pretty full, though, so I will have to see if I can squeeze the sweater in somewhere, probably by lamplight.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Oh, what's that you say?

I'm really good about being out of the loop on things, so it's only now that I found out that Google is getting rid of its Reader. Some time ago, I switched to Bloglovin' because a couple of my friends were using it, and I found it to be an easier format for me to manage.  In case you're interested in importing your blog feed from Google Reader to Bloglovin', click here:

While I don't get anything out of this, I figured I'd share with you the blog reader that I've found serves my purposes, both on my laptop and on my smartphone. Just set up a free account and you're ready to rock and roll!

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's getting there... I hope

Time for an update on the Green Sweater.

The pieces are coming together...

It's out of the Naughty Seat - though I hope it stays that way... I'm nearing some crucial challenges (the collar and the shoulder seaming).  I appealed to Shirley Paden's assistance in shaping the sleeve cap. Aaand then I fudged it a bit right at the last moment. I hope it works, because I only got my hands on her Knitwear Design Workshop after the body was seamed -- which, by the way, you can see modeled now!

Sweater body

Sweater body

I was soaking up the beautiful rainy weather this evening until the rain dwindled and stopped. The temperature dropped as a breeze kicked up. Good thing I had a partial sweater on hand.

3-D Collar swatching

For me, learning the slow way seems inevitable, but I like to think that I'm saving myself a bit of trouble  with this one.

3-D Collar Swatching

It's my 3-D swatch for the collar! Now I can see how my pick-up rates work in both directions.

And now for another super sexy knitting photo.  Because pouting in an unfinished sweater with stitch markers still in its fabric is super sexy.

One sleeve ISO seaming

I do like that the sleeve cap is pouting a bit, though; it only seems fitting. Keep your fingers crossed until I can get this thing seamed. Might be a while, though... I intend to knit the collar first.

Tour de Fleece Update:
I've committed myself to spinning up a sweater's worth of yarn out of this lovely Rambouillet from A Touch Of Twist:

Batt 3

I think that qualifies me for Team Climbers. In addition, I've joined the Golding Nuggets team for a bit of spindle action on the side.  I don't think I've showed you my present from my sweetie yet:

2013-05-07 12.21.17

I'm still debating which fiber to use with this, but I'm thinking it will be some Finn dyed by Dan of Gnomespun Yarn.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spinning update

Well, after ripping back the sleeve about three or four times, the Green Sweater is in the naughty chair for a bit.

Instead, I've been rather easily persuaded to start thinking about Tour de Fleece, which starts at the end of this month. Considering my lack of skills at long-draw spinning, I might do well to make that my focus.  TdF has turned out to be one of the best things for improving my spinning skills, a sort of spinning 'boot camp,' if you will. I have been avoiding my spinning wheel because during a previous TdF I spun solely on the Trindle and became so comfortable with it that spinning on the wheel just makes me feel stupid. 
The other night, I unearthed a bump of fiber I had remaining from my first trip to Rhinebeck. This is the second skein I've spun up in this fiber, and I have to say, my skills have dramatically improved. 

Sunlight through the treetops

It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm proud of it because, compared with the earlier skein, this actually looks like yarn. The other is bad enough that I don't know what to do with it; it's not even pretty enough to tie a gift, unless I am looking for something similar to twine.

Enough of that monstrosity. Back to the good stuff. I'm also proud of it because I spun it up using a sort of longdraw -- at least as much as I could manage. 

Sunlight through the treetops

Oh, and I'm spinning on the wheel again!

Sunlight through the treetops

I even have something else on the wheel at the moment as I mull over my options for TdF. It's a beautiful fiber carded by Aaron:

2013-05-23 09.47.26

Spinner's Hill Purple/Green

I was thinking I'd save this fiber for TdF, but I couldn't wait till then.

Oh, and look what I recently acquired! It's not handspun, but it's scrummy all the same. Marr Haven sport weight!!
Marr Haven Sport!

Marr Haven Sport - washed

The washed swatch is so lovely. And one cone of this stuff should be enough for a sweater!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

5 Lessons I'm Learning

1. Cats are sent to spy on us.
This morning Jake planted himself on the bed to watch me till I got up. When I went into the bathroom, he found a perch on the floor where he could see me. After that I went into the living room and told my partner about our spy cat. At that moment, I looked through the kitchen door into the hall, and there was Jake, sitting in just the right spot to see me through a narrow slit in the doorway. Either cats are spies, or they merely think they are spies.

2. If you give children presents wrapped in bubble wrap, the church will sound suspiciously like popcorn.
There's nothing like the acoustics of a vaulted church ceiling for noisy gift wrappings.  I'm just sayin'. 

3. If you're going to seam your sweater, block your pieces before you join any of them together. 
Don't worry; after the added weight stretched the shoulders too long, I was able to coax the damp wool back into shape. I've done so many fuss-free blocking jobs, I didn't realize how important it is to block a fitted garment to the desired measurements. Stop mocking me!

Blocking the body: back shaping

Shoulder Seam

4. Basting makes a great roasted turkey; it also makes for a good sweater experience.
It's like instant-gratification seaming. Oh, newsflash: I seamed my sweater yesterday! Basting it first gave me a chance to try on the sweater before committing to the way I've knit up the body of my sweater. It also held things in place until I was ready to seam it; I just unraveled the basting yarn a bit ahead of my seam.

I'm sooo basted.

Basted side seam with back shaping

5. Mattress stitch is the new kitchener stitch.
It's so much fun that I might have to make more seamed sweaters just so I can do it again. I feel a bit obsessive when I realize how gleeful I become upon seeing the sloppy edge turn into a tidy, stable, and smooth fabric. That said, I'm knitting my sleeves in the round. Screw seaming.

Body seamed

Body seamed