Cables, man.

I can’t believe I am within 3″ of finishing the Cabled Coat! I don’t know if I dare say that I’ll have it done this three day Labor Day weekend. After all, you will recall that I’ve given projections for finishing it before, and then realized I’d made some silly error and had to rip back as much as 10″ of hard-fought work. But I think I may actually get it done—soon. I’m using my WordPress blogging application on my iPhone for the first time, which includes the ability to load pictures directly from the phone, but it places pictures at the bottom of the post, so that is where you can see a picture of the collar in progress.  By the way, it took a year for Apple to make iPhone a truly useful device when it opened-up its phone to third party software earlier this summer, and now with all of the handy applications out there such as this WordPress blogging application, I can say that I don’t miss my old Treo so much anymore.

Finishing is contingent upon how much car-riding time I get, of course, and I got some good riding in as we drove to Rick Steves’ Europe Through The Back Door store/office in Edmonds to see what was there for our upcoming trip. We’ve been taking our son on long car trips to get him used to sitting for similar rides in Europe.

While at Rick Steves’ I safely steered myself from breaking our pre-trip budget by not visiting Spin A Yarn across the street. Rather, we timed our Edmonds trip during the local farmers’ market where we found a bite to eat: I had a wonderful meatball sandwich (also known as a grinder) from a vendor who comes from just outside of Assisi.

Then there was the family dinner we had at a Korean restaurant all the way down in Federal Way. We picked-up my skates from the skate repair guy in the south Everett area earlier in the day. Distances like these are best accomplished with an eye on economy, so we used the Prius, as we do during all of our family drives, unfortunately we won’t have that capability in Europe.

So close, and yet so far….

I came within 8″ of finishing Cabled Coat over the weekend, then realized that I had left out an element of the stitch pattern which is found everywhere on the coat, and which I’d included at the beginning of the collar.  I ripped about 10″ of work the other day.  Silly mistake, and a clear sign that I am rushing to get it done.  Serves me right.

That wasn’t the only in a string of calamities that have befallen me on this project, because last week I also broke the Knit Picks Harmony circular needle I’ve been using for Cabled Coat.  I stepped on it.  Wooden needles aren’t meant to be stepped on, in case you didn’t know.  Actually, what happened, was that my knitting was on the floor at my feet, and I stood up right on them.  Poor pretty dears never had a chance.  I think I heard faint wail as knitting needles around the world empathized with my needles.  So I ordered another set of needle tips for my circular.  They came a couple of days ago, and I was relieved because the clunky bamboo circular I was using was killing my knitting mojo.  And so it goes…

Anatomy of a Well-Made Sweater Coat

One day I visited my friend Pamela at work and stopped short when I saw her wearing this sweater. She bought this hand-knitted marvel at a consignment store for $5.00! At first, I couldn’t decide if it was the price tag that bowled me over or the quality of it. Either way, what a find! We think it’s 100% wool. I should be so lucky to make or buy such a beautiful sweater. And for $5.00! I have been admiring it for two years, so she handed it over to me for analysis. I present to you, Pamela’s Sweater Coat:

It has well-planned shaping.

Just enough herringbone stitch for visual interest.

Sewn-in tape for strengthening across shoulders.

Hand-stitched buttonholes.

Picot edging throughout (notice a different shade of yellow here).

Hand-stitched buttons (made around plastic rings).

I would like to make a copy of this well-designed knitting marvel, but I don’t have the time to sit there and measure it out and write it all down, so instead I admire it and wonder who made it and how it ended-up in a consignment store for $5.00.

Grand Duchess in the Red

I did it! I dyed all of the Orenburg yarn for Medallion Shawl, a.k.a., “Grand Duchess”. It was a bit scary, and yet it was very satisfying. I didn’t really realize just how much I didn’t like the way the original colorway knitted-up until I watched it change to deep red and a feeling of happiness overcame me. The words “good riddance” kept coming to mind. The result is a beautiful shade of deep crimson to burgundy yarn that is a delight to look at.

The project was not without its perilous moments, though. Early on when I was trying to determine the right combination of crimson and jet black dyes, I was using an old soup pan I had lying around as a decor item to mix the dyes in, and I lifted it off the stove and discovered it had a crack in it: red dye across the kitchen floor and on a white cupboard. Luckily, I acted quickly and cleaned it up fast enough, leaving just a very faint hint of pink in the floor boards closest to the sink. Lesson #1: never use an 150-year old soup pot, and if you do, check really well for cracks before you start. It makes sense to check first, I know, but common sense just seems to elude me at times. I went to the thrift store and bought a stock pot for the project. Also, it’s hard to really know, but it seemed like the mohair portion of a couple of the skeins were just a bit too close to felting. I am a very inexperienced dyer, and probably should stay away from it altogether because I get impatient and lose my cool, so if the yarn started to felt, it is of little surprise to me because I had a few moments of panic in the process. I suppose mohair is a fairly sticky yarn to work with when dying, and either some yarn within the skeins started to felt together or they just stuck together because mohair acts like that. I don’t know, but I was able to loosen the strands that might have just come close to felting.

Preparing the original yarn in water prior to dying.

Dying the yarn.

One skein after dying, washing, and squeezing water out.

Portion of the shawl that has been knitted so far sporting the new color.

For reference, here's what the orignal colorway looked as a skein and knitted.

I had hoped to dye the shawl with its current skein attached, but the yarn is too delicate, so I had to cut the skein off and will re-attach it when I resume knitting it.

I’m quite pleased with the new color, and it’s quite vibrant and with the silk in it, it has a luscious luster to it. Because the original colorway had bands of different colors in it, the resultant color has bands of different shades of red, but I’m okay with that.  The best part is that I will be able to actually see the yarn better as I knit it.