Monday, January 27, 2014

Moving Right Along

For the first day after I finally got the bulky weight sweater cast off, I just knit socks and reveled in having finally finished something.  See?  Mr. Dress-Up is coming along quite satisfactorily.

And would likely even be done had I not been dividing my attention between him and Ms. Rose Petite. 

Size 5 socks?  They're so fast they practically don't count.

But I have a queue of sweaters that have all been stacked and circling in formation (at least in my mind) behind the bulky weight sweater, so it didn't take me long to get the next project cast on.  This one is going to be a vest, for the friend who gave me this yarn. (She passed on to me a large box of knitting and sewing supplies that had belonged to her mother.)  Her mother had started a sweater for her in it before she went into the nursing home.  It was only part of a back, there was no pattern, and I didn't think it was a good choice for the yarn, which is quite busy, so I'm going with something simpler- the bulk of it will be plain stockinette.   
As you can see, it's a top-down raglan, which I like because I can make a nice long vest if the yarn holds out.  The pattern calls for crochet edging to finish it, but I will likely do something different- I'm thinking picot edging on the armhole edge and the bottom, and some kind of long knitted strip for the front and neck edging.  I've got a couple of ideas, but I'll have to wait and see if they work out.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Trial and Error

I'm usually not the kind of knitter who hesitates to fiddle with patterns, make my own modifications, or just wing it.  But I'm feeling a strong desire at the moment to look up a pattern and make it exactly as written.  You see, I have finally finished this sweater:

Yarn is Ella Rae Country Tweed, and the tale of this sweater is a saga.  The Norse kind, with lots of swordfights, buckets of blood and whimsical gods throwing a wrench into the works. 

It all started with my perfectly understandable desire to knit my husband a sweater.  Something thick and warm, I thought.  A bit oversized, for layering on really cold wintry days.  Simple, plain, in bulky yarn.  A nice quick knit.  (Cue the mocking laughter of the god of chaos.)   

I found the yarn on sale at Webs a year and a half ago, during their spring tent sale.  The tent is crucial to the story, because it was due to the shade of the tent that I failed to realize I had not twenty skeins of a single color, but rather ten skeins each of two different colorways- one black tweed, the other navy blue tweed.  I made the discovery at the point where I had knit ten skeins into the entire body of a sweater and opened the second packet, only to realize the color difference. 

And then I dithered.  I looked to see if there was more yarn available.  Not that I really wanted to buy more- I'd then have enough yarn in the other color for half a sweater.  And I certainly didn't want two sweaters in this yarn.  I was already getting a little tired of it.  (Not the sign of a speedy resolution, you will note.)  However, I eventually formulated a Plan.  I would redesign the sweater in two colors.    The only problem with this plan is that the new design called for me to start in the other color- the one I hadn't been using.  But I gritted my teeth and ripped back the whole body of the sweater, and then reknit it up to the yoke in the blue, threw in a row of black for contrast (a trick I developed knitting mittens out of scrap yarn years ago) and then switched to the darker color.  So far, so good. 

But no sooner had I changed colors and it was time to tackle the neckline.  I'd seen a kid's sweater pattern with the crossover shawl collar, and thought it looked both cozy and well suited to my husband's dislike of things that fit closely around the front of his neck.  (Most of his sweaters are stretched out in the neck from his habit of plucking them away from his throat- the only one that isn't is the one with a zippered placquet- which he never zips, no matter how chilly the day.)

But, not having a pattern, I had no real idea what the right proportions were.  I knit it once, but the collar was too shallow.  I ripped it back to the armscyes and reknit it, starting the neck sooner.  I got past the crossover, but the collar itself needed a lot of extra fullness- probably short rows would have been sensible, but I didn't want the garter rows of the collar to angle-  I wanted them all parallel.  The first attempt was way too tight.  The second, still too tight.   On the third attempt I knit quadruple the stitches I had originally thought it needed and that finally did the trick.  Four garter rows knit into each column of stitches around the neck.  It ripples a bit around the seam at the back of the neck, but that's fine- the fold over of the collar hides it, and the fullness allows the collar to settle comfortably around the neck.  Finally, I was happy with it. 

And once I had the neck finally straight, I could safely knit the sleeves.   But even here, I had take a couple of runs at it before sorting it out.  I wanted to knit from the shoulder down to the cuff (it makes it easy to adjust the length of the sleeves at the end).  But I couldn't get picked-up stitches around the shoulder to look right- the bulky yarn wouldn't lie smoothly.  So I cast on, and knit down a ways, then joined the first sleeve with a seam.   I carefully calculated what seemed like a reasonable rate of decreases to go down the sleeve- but by the time I reached elbow length, it was clear that the sleeve wasn't decreasing nearly fast enough.  I took it back to the color change and tried again, this time finally getting it right. 

Not even photographing the sweater was easy- I spread out the sweater on the floor and then had to remove a fluffy cat several times before he got bored and let me take the shot. 
Biscuit thinks the sweater is cozy.
I'm glad that I persevered until I got something I was satisfied with.   I am reminded that 'trial and error' is a long annoying way to do something.  I have a renewed appreciation for the efforts of pattern designers.   And  I'm really really glad it's finally done. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Devil is in the Details

Going into last weekend I was happily winding yarn for the sock knit-a-long, and contemplating starting the socks when two things dawned on me.  The first was that the KAL started Sunday.  And the second was that I had a long car ride coming up on Saturday.   I mentally reviewed my other WIPs...a lace scarf (that is probably going to be frogged, I'm not feeling the love).  There's the sweater, awkward to travel with, in a dark colored yarn.  The bamboo summer top which is waiting for me to a lot of fiddly math for the arms and neckline.  Clearly I was going to have to cast something on.  Socks would be ideal- small and portable.  I decided I had to remain true to the spirit of the knit-a-long however, and not cast on the new socks until Sunday.  Which logically means I had to cast on different socks for the car ride.  So.  Two skeins of Serenity sock yarn, a long car ride, two evenings of board games, and a music festival later (it was an eventful eight days), I have these:

And of course the KAL socks, which, although they have suffered by comparison, have made at least some progress. 

Biscuit helped by keeping me company on the couch and striking cute poses for my entertainment.

Sunday my adorable spouse went off to play games that I'm not involved in, which made it a perfect day to drill, hammer and swear at the house.   So I tackled the next Lost Project on my list.    This is one that has been annoying me daily for over a year.  The bracket that holds one end of the door closer for the screen door going into my kitchen pulled out of the doorframe .  I couldn't just screw it back in, the holes were stripped.  I couldn't move it without also moving the end attached to the door- that seemed more annoying that I wanted to deal with. 

So it sat until I figured out a plan a couple of weeks back.   First I drilled out the original holes, and immediately hit my first setback.  Two of the screws had pulled out of the doorframe.  The other two had broken off the head leaving the screw shank still in the hole.  So there was a pause, as I did some work with a wood chisel, pliers, and blistering profanity getting the old screws out.   

A couple of headless screws are no match for a woman with
a wood chisel and a mission.
That obstacle surmounted, I finished drilling holes and then plugged them with pieces of dowel.  I'd have preferred the dowel to be just a smidge oversized, but that wasn't the case so I wrapped the pieces with strips of silk from an old shirt, saturated it all in glue, and pounded them into the holes.   Then I left the whole mess to dry for a few days, and came back to it on Sunday. 

After all that, remounting the bracket was relatively simple- I'd already purchased screws (probably a year ago!), and it was just a matter of drilling the holes and remounting the bracket.  A bolt to replace the pin holding the closer to the bracket and some thread-lock to keep the nut on the bolt and I was all set.    I was still concerned about the dowels pulling out of the doorframe, however, since the door closer was going to be pulling on them.  So I found some long finish nails and the nail set (which took longer than it should since the nail set is one of those tools that is small enough to be just about anywhere) and drove a finish nail at an angle through the doorframe and each dowel.  Now the crosswise nail is holding each dowel in the frame, and it's not likely to go anywhere, at least not in one piece. 

Of course, this initiated a cascade of other odds and ends- since I had the thread-lock out, I used it on the handles of a couple of pans that have loose screws.  And once the door-closer was on, I could at last change out the screens for the storm windows (the lack of which I felt keenly during the recent cold spell).   If you're wondering why I didn't put them in earlier, picture a screen door, with heavy glass storm windows and no door-closer, catching the breeze and being flung back into the porch rail with loud shattering tinkling noises, and you'll figure it out. 

So, I unearthed the storm windows from the basement.  Of course they were filthy, so they had to be washed.  And once they were clean, I had to go get back out the screwdriver I'd just put away and unfasten all the screens.  Now, every single time I've changed these screens since I first bought this house in 2002, I've cursed the rusty old screws.  And thought, these are going to start stripping out, and then it'll be a pain getting them out.  And I thought, I should replace them before that happens.   And guess how much effect that had?  Absolutely none.  Until Sunday. Because I did strip one of the screws, and it was just as annoying to get out as I had expected.  So I added a hardware store stop to my list of errands that afternoon and invested $1.98 in a package of new stainless steel screws and when I got home, I took off my coat and then removed all the old screws and replaced them with the new ones before I had time to sit down, or get distracted or lose the packet or misplace the screwdriver or any of the one thousand and one things that lead to something becoming a Lost Project.  And now I have shiny clean storm windows on my doors held on with shiny new screws, and while I'm unlikely to give up my lifelong habit of procrastination anytime soon--for once I feel like I'm ahead of the curve!

Friday, January 3, 2014

The End and the Beginning

In accordance with our usual custom, we invited a bunch of friends over to play board games for New Year's.  In fact I was too busy trying to dominate the railway industry of the US to pay much attention to the clock-we noticed about three minutes after the hour that the New Year had arrived without ceremony.  (The game was Ticket to Ride, and while I did not succeed in that game, I redeemed my honor the next day and crushed all opposition in the final game of the party.)

However the party was the occasion of the year's last FO- many of our frequent guests bring slippers to wear, since we tend to leave shoes at the door in the winter to avoid tracking in slush.  One young guest arrived without her own slippers- and since all the guest slippers on hand were too large for her, I grabbed a convenient skein of yarn and knit her a pair.   I will admit that I mainly did it because it amused me that I could. 

After I finished the slippers I went back to the socks-of-the moment.   I didn't finish them right away, but I made enough progress that I finished them today.   So the first proper FO of 2014 is the Panda Silk Sagittarius socks:
I was really quite pleased with them.  The yarn showed off the pattern beautifully.

And then in a fit of efficiency, I rounded up various other WIPs that were near completion.  The way the holidays fell this year, I didn't have all that much extra time to do an end-of-year WIP marathon.   Also, I'd already told Toni I was in for another 100 projects challenge this year, and we both appear to have held off on a couple of WIPs just to get a running start at the total.

In my case, I also plan to try and wipe out some more Lost Projects on my list, so my projects will likely be a varied lot.   See, last year when I was reading about the goals other people were setting for the year, I decided to try and make a list of all the things I had planned/wanted/intended to do.  So I started writing.  And writing.  And when I got done I winced, and decided not  to post it, because it was four pages long.  And that was after I reduced the font to 8 point.   I concluded that  I'm either enormously ambitious or not too tightly wrapped.  (You don't have to tell me which you think it is.  Really.)

Still, it never hurts to start off the year on a high note- it deludes encourages you that your goals are reasonable.  So I found these mittens that fell off my needles in the car last weekend and did the finishing for FO#2.

And one day-  Monday?   I think it was last Monday, I attached the handle for the little bag I'd crocheted last summer.    Then I ripped it off again.  It turns out there are a surprising number of ways to incorrectly attach a handle.   I managed most of them- wrong position, wrong side facing the bag, with a twist in the handle, with two twists in the handle. (One guess as to what problem got the bag put into time-out in the first place.)  I did it twice more, determinedly remaining calm until I finally got the darn thing on to my satisfaction,.  Then I hurled it into the knitting bag where it remained until I fished it back out this morning, wove in the ends, and sewed the button on.   And finally, here it is:
While it would fit a book, or other small items, I actually made it to fit my Nook.  While listening to audiobooks is fine if I'm in the car (with the Nook plugged into the car speakers) or sitting down at home, I really wanted some way to easily carry it- so I could listen to an audiobook while washing the dishes, for instance, or take it with me when I'm walking.  I did consider an iPod or something of the sort, but I don't want to own a zillion electronic devices, and the Nook interfaces very smoothly with the electronic offerings from the local library.   Besides (as you saw at the start of this post) it amuses me to apply yarn to solve such minor problems.   It's not the prettiest bag- I'm still a beginner when it comes to crochet- but it works quite well.

I started the year with five WIPs, and I'm now down to two (unless I've mislaid and forgotten something, which is entirely possible).  I have a vast list of goals, and quite a few intentions that aren't written down.  I've joined a KAL for the Mr. Dress-Up Socks.  I've never done a knit-a-long, so a new experience there.  I've already got one trip planned, another in the works, and possible business travel on the horizon.  And the 100 Projects goal to spur me along. 

So far 2014 promises to be a fun time- here's hoping it's also a productive one!