Monday, September 28, 2009

The Yarn Is Always Greener

or, in Search of a Portable Project.

So, I haven't fallen out of love with the colorwork sweater, but progress has slowed down quite a bit since it got too big to carry around. Let's face it, anything with four balls of yarn attached to it is going to be awkward in the carrying-around department anyway, and only things like long car trips when a giant sized project bag isn't too much of a hassle make it possible at all. (Being just a teensy bit obsessive doesn't hurt either.) Since I finished the body and started on the sleeves, it's only gotten worse. (I'm going to pause here, and let you admire it- sweaters in progress don't always make for interesting photos, but I never get tired of this sweater!)
Now with sleeve

I know what you're thinking. "But a sleeve! Everyone knows a sleeve is a portable project! Elizabeth Zimmerman said so." Well. That would be true if I'd, say, copied down a sheet with all the patterns I chose for the sweater. (I've done it as a sampler- each band has a different pattern, and no two are alike.) Since I'm too lazy to do that- and also, it introduces another potential source of error- instead I'm just referring back to the sweater body to see which pattern comes next. And carrying around a completed sweater body, *plus* a sleeve with four balls of yarn attached- well, I think even EZ would have admitted it's a little awkward.

So I needed another portable project. Now, I could have grabbed the fine gauge bamboo sweater (which I occasionally do for variety). I don't think I've actually shown that one yet because giant rectangles are so widely known for being visually interesting. But I suppose now is as good a time as any:
Bamboo Sweater

Now, while the bamboo sweater is just the thing for when I need miles of mindless knitting/no brain required? There are times I find it just a bit boring. Plus, the point where I realized there was no chance I'd get it done in time to wear it this summer made it seem a bit less urgent. I'm thinking that after the Christmas knitting rush, when I'm up to my tailbone in snow, I'll be seized with a violent urge to knit light summery things. (It's a theory, anyway.)

But, I still needed a portable project. Socks are my usual carrying-around thing, but I've had socks on the needles continuously most of the year, and felt like a change. And (thanks to multiple designs rejected for the colorwork sweater), I had nearly a sweaters-worth of green wool hanging out without a plan. And EZ *did* say that a sleeve makes for a good portable project. So I spent one morning sitting on the floor of the sewing room surrounded by patterns, and finally selected one from a booklet I inherited from my grandmother. I think she liked it- she made at least two sweaters from the book that I know of (I still own one), though not to my knowledge the one I'm knitting now.
green aran sleeve

And I see why she liked these. In a continuation of the confluence of weirdly convenient happenings from last week, this sweater knit perfectly in gauge on the needles the pattern called for. I was so suspicious of this, I even washed my swatch (something I'm not always religious about), but it was real. My preference tends to be for densely knitted fabric, and this isn't, but once I got a couple of inches on the needles, I found the pattern draws the piece up into an air-trapping mass of poofy cables- I think it's going to be light as well as warm.

Now my only problem is- I keep knitting on it when I don't need a portable project, to the point where the colorwork is getting jealous. Really, sweaters, I can love you both. I promise.

This post brought to you by my new wireless router, which finally consented to speak to the computers on our home network after a couple of hours of pleading and the intercession of a professional matchmaker from tech support.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This Is Getting a Little Spooky

I want to say right up front that this was not planned. I didn't look at the repeat length at all, I wasn't paying attention to the colors. I didn't even notice until I was almost through.
fall socks

Do you see it? Look more closely:
fall socks

It was when I was holding up the second sock to see if the cuff was the right length that I spotted it. A perfect match. What are the odds, people?

It wasn't the only piece of good fortune that came my way this week. Saturday morning before heading off to western Massachusetts on a family visit, I decided to pull out all the yarn for the colorwork sweater and get an estimate of how much yarn I was using. I was reasonably sure I had enough, but I've got a second project queued in the same yarn and if there was extra, I could exchange a couple of the colorwork balls to use in the second sweater.

But when I laid it out, I discovered that contrary to my vague recollection, I had only gotten one ball of dark red. So instead of discovering this later in the week, when I would have had to stop the project and place a mail order, instead I found out in time to stop by Webs and get more. I did have two extra balls of the beige and brown. And so I was able to exchange two and buy only one ball. Which I did. And that's all I did. If you'd told me I could get out of Webs spending less than $5 I'd have giggled. (Okay, I do admit that I went in, did the exchange and then told my husband we had to get out of there before I started browsing. But still. There was willpower involved.)

It helped that it was a gorgeous day. From there, we went out to the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary on the Oxbow of the Connecticut River. The green of the forest is starting to fade a little with the first touch of autumn, and a few early adopters are starting to show some color, but it was still quite lovely, if not as showy as it will be in a few weeks:
arcadia wildlife sanctuary
See more Arcadia photos.

Good knitting fortune, self-discipline in the yarn store, perfect weather on a I said. Spooky.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Drained but Pleased

It's not every day you have the chance to save a life. I donate blood as often as I can manage, which is pretty often, because there's a drive with late hours that happens regularly a few blocks from my house and I'm fortunate enough to be eligible to donate. And it's an absolutely stellar excuse to take knitting and a book, and go avoid housework for a while.

I knew I'd been doing it for a while, but hadn't realized I had hit another milestone until yesterday.
blood donor 7 gallon pin

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

October 6 House Concert, News at Eleven

We interrupt this blog for a brief announcement:

Canadian singer-songwriter and Celtic musician Heather Dale will be appearing in a house concert in our library (that's my personal library, not the city library!) in Nashua, NH, Tuesday Oct 6 at 7:30pm.

Reservations required, for reservations and directions email me at House Concert Reservations.

You heard it here first!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Think I've Finally Figured It Out

I noticed with the last colorwork sweater how astonishingly speedy it is. And the current sweater is proving just as quick. And I think I've figured out why. It's not that knitting with two hands is faster than knitting with one- it's not. And it's not that colorwork combines the speed of stockinette with the interest of patterned knitting, which it does. No, the reason colorwork goes so fast--
Long Time Courting Sweater
I just can't seem to put it down.

In Which My Suspicions Are Confirmed

One of the projects I've been working on off and on is to rebuild my kayak cart- just a little two-wheeled affair that I wheel the kayak around on instead of carrying it. It weighs about forty pounds, which is quite enough to be awkward for any distance. Plus, I can't carry the kayak, the removable seat, paddle and life jacket all at the same time without the cart. The original cart was damaged, and while repair might have been possible, I decided I wanted to redesign it to improve the stability.

Which makes it all the more ironic that on Monday, I decided to take the half-finished cart for a test drive. I had meant to put more cross bracing on it, but hadn't had time. But. The weather was just gorgeous, I had several hours free before hordes of company descended and it was the last chance I'd have to get out for the week. And the river's only a few blocks away. So I loaded the kayak up onto the cart and trundled it cautiously out into the street.

At first it wasn't so bad. There was swaying, which I expected, and I concluded with a certain amount of satisfaction that I was right about the need for cross bracing. When I got to the end of the street, leading to the dirt path that crosses the railroad tracks en route to the river, things started to get more...interesting. The swaying was worse on the ruts, and then I discovered a problem in the redesign- the center of gravity is higher than the old cart. I'd only replaced one stability problem with another. I shifted back so instead of towing the kayak behind me, I was walking beside it, making sure it didn't fall over, though this made it more difficult to balance.

At the railroad tracks, the problems were worse. I got the kayak-and-cart assembly over the tracks with the application of brute force punctuated with occasional heartfelt curses. When I hit the last rutted slope leading to the river's edge, I called it quits, unloaded the kayak from the cart, and carried it down to the water.

I'm happy to say it was totally worth it.
Merrimack river
The sun shone, the air was cool with just a hint of September in it, and there was enough of a gentle breeze to make the exertion of paddling pleasantly warming. I had the river to myself- I only saw one other boat out the whole time- and once away from the bridge there were no traffic noises- just sound of the water against the boat, the rustle of leaves and birdsong.

On the way back I carried the kayak to the edge of the pavement taking two trips, then loaded it up and wheeled it the rest of the way home. I'm not sorry I tried the cart out- taking it apart to lower the center of gravity will be easier to do before putting in the cross-bracing. And I wouldn't have wanted to skip going out. But I need to finish fixing that cart soon- now that I've finally gotten back out on the water, I'm eager to go out again before the weather gets too cold.
Merrimack river

Monday, September 7, 2009

Long Time Courting

Long Time Courting is a band, and also an apt description of the slow start to the sweater I finally cast on this week. First the band- they're a local band- they play a mix of Celtic dance tunes, and folk songs in beautiful four-part harmony. They were playing in my town last night, so we went out to hear them. Fortunately for us, we had to double check the address of the venue, and were therefore some of the few who caught a late announcement of a location change. But the performers were unfazed and sounded terrific. Flute (always my fave!), accordian, fiddle, guitar and cello. You so rarely hear folk cello, but it's a awesome part of an ensemble- the deep mellow tone lends a lot of depth to the higher instruments. By all means check them out- you can hear some of their music on their website, and find out where they're playing next.

And, the sweater:
colorwork sweater

I bought the yarn for this sweater back in the spring. The original idea I had turned out to not work at all and I wound up buying a couple more colors of yarn, to give me some options with higher contrast. Since then, I've thought through a dozen ideas, played with options for styling, swatched, test knit patterns, swatched some more. And every idea I thought would be really cool--I hated when I knit it. Finally I decided to simplify. Picked some colors. Started knitting. Picked patterns out of a book on the fly. And- I love it. It's my new favorite project. I took it to work (not because I thought I've have time to work on it, just because). But that was fortunate, since I then had it with me when I had to wait for my car at the garage. (I had a flat. Which I changed in under fifteen minutes, but since my little compact only has a mini-tire, and said mini-tire is original equipment to the 9-year-old vehicle, I wasn't about to drive it a mile further than I had to. Hence, garage, new tire, and a little extra time with my new sweetie.) I took it to the concert. I took it with me in the car today.

If you haven't gotten it yet, I'm perhaps a tad more attached to this project than is completely healthy for a yarn-knitter relationship. My husband isn't bothered though...he's known about me and yarn for a while. And, after all, the sweater is for him.