Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spring Fling

Over the weekend, I was in Dallas for the North Texas Irish Festival. It's always a good time, but this year was a standout.

The weather was sunny and warm. There were green things growing. (I know you folks in warmer climes are puzzled, you have to understand that by March we're starting to forget what green looks like in New England.) I walked around without a jacket on. In short sleeves. That's not going to happen around here until probably the end of May. Here's a couple of photos- ignore the Texans with jackets. They didn't really need them. The photos just don't do justice to the size of the thing. We're talking in the neighborhood of 40,000 people.

The music- the music is always good there, but this year, it was amazing. Ten stages, over 50 groups. We saw Tommy Sands, who performed with his son and daughter, who were both excellent. We saw Altan. We basically rushed from stage to stage, trying to pack in as much music as humanly possible into the weekend. (As a side note for my fellow music fans- this festival is a really good deal. The festival ticket was $25. For the whole weekend. A concert ticket to see a single one of these groups one time would cost more. And it's not an expensive place to travel to or get lodging in, either.)

Of course, two 5 hour plane flights with attendant waiting in airports, not to mention listening to awesome music meant there was knitting. A lot of knitting. And there were odds and ends of things I did in the run up and time after to add to that. So.

I finished the red and black socks:
red and black plain socks
The red was Wildfoote from Brown Sheep Company in Geranium. The black was some leftover Trekking solid, which annoyingly I can't seem to find more of. A pity, as it was a very useful contrast color.

And then, because socks are such useful travel projects, I cast on another pair. These were supposed to be the Herringbone Rib socks, but after a lot of frustrating knitting, finding my stitch count off, ripping back, re-knitting, I finally concludes these were Not Suitable for Travel Knitting. I frogged the whole mess and cast on for my usual basic toe-up socks, in Twin Rib, which I know well enough to knit even with the distraction of world-class music and occasional hit and run Celtic step dancers. (They roamed the festival in pods, when they weren't performing, looking for groups playing lively instrumentals. The Energizer Bunny would be left choking the dust of these kids.) Anyway, the socks:
twin rib socks in Trekking

I finished the crocheted red beret to go with the red mittens and matching scarf, so here's the set:
beret, mittens and scarf set

I took a couple of balls of sport weight wool to Texas- it's a very pretty brown plied with strands of blue and gold. I don't like sport weight for mittens (unless they're colorwork, to double the thickness) but I thought that they might be just right for fingerless mitts. Of course I don't have a pattern for fingerless mitts in sport weight yarn, but that sort of thing has never stopped me before. I've knit so many mittens over the years that I have a pretty good grasp of proportions, so it was just a matter of adjusting for gauge. Also, I'd been wanting to try something that I'd seen Lynne from my knitting group doing, which was a mitt in 2x2 rib where the ribs flowed into a cable pattern and back out. However the ones I'd seen her doing were just tubes, and I have a strong preference for thumb gussets. So I started with her idea as inspiration, swatched for gauge, and cast on, essentially doodling in yarn. Here's the first draft:
sport weight mitts, version one

These are perfectly functional mitts, the gussets work and they're comfortable. But there were still a few things I thought could be improved. So here's the second draft, still in process:
sport weight mitts, version two

The most visible change is the addition of a second repetition of the cabling, which I think looks more balanced. I also made some small adjustments in the length of the cuff, and the number of stitches around the thumb, to tweak the fit a little. I'm quite pleased with the second version.

Then for my next didn't think I was finished, did you?...I did a little salvage job. One of the things that came with my gift yarn were these two pairs of mittens.
legacy mittens

Examining them, I think I have a fair reconstruction of what happened. The knitter was almost done, and she found that the decorative stripes of red yarn had broken. She tried to fix it, using more of the same yarn and tried to weave in the loose ends, but the yarn was simply disintegrating. In the end, they were banished to a dark corner of the stash where they sulked alone for many years, firmly ignored.

I could see a couple of options. The most elegant would have been to extricate the red yarn and graft the bits back together. I rejected this for two reasons- first the attempt to weave in loose ends would make getting it out without disturbing the other stitches difficult, and second because I really stink at grafting in pattern. I can manage a reasonable graft for a short span of stitches in stockinette, but my skill level isn't really up to an invisible repair around a whole cuff.

So I went with plan B, which was to amputate the cuff, frog it, pick up the stitches at the wrist and reknit the cuff in the other direction. I could have tried to just knit from the red stripe down, but I figured that re-knitting the whole cuff would help to disguise the change in direction of the knitting (as well as the change in knitters) and give a smoother result. So that's what I did.
mitten surgery

I added some decorative stripes in a non-disintegrating yarn to make up the difference in length, and four cuffs and one thumb later, I have two more finished pairs of mittens.
legacy mittens, all fixed now

Of course it wasn't until I got done with the last mitten- one of the brown ones- that I saw the insult added to injury. This poor woman had not only had disintegrating yarn, but she'd knit two left mittens. (Take another look at the first photo.) It's no wonder she never wanted to see them again. (I took out the tip decreases in one of them, refolded it into a right-hand mitten and reknit the tip in the new orientation. Somewhere, I'm sure she's heaving a sigh of relief.)

I plan to wash these before donating them anywhere- they have the look of heritage mittens...passed down from mother to daughter, still unfinished (which I believe is actually what happened).

And that really is the end. Next up--adventures in maple sugar! Because that's how we start our pre-spring celebrations in New England.


  1. I love those mitts. Are you willing to share your pattern?

  2. @Lisa- Oh, absolutely! I was planning to write it down for my own future use anyway. I'll post it on the blog.