Confessions of a missing bloggist

I confess, that despite my absence from blogging I have been knitting, and therefore, I also confess that I have not been blogging about it. Having said that, I think it’s time to do some catching-up.

From the depths of my knitting projects languishing in neglect, I present Bird’s Eye Shawl. Never reaching it’s originally intended size, and having become bored at the one-third point, I decided to call it “finished” and began casting-off last fall. The cast-off was so laborious, I didn’t finish it until April. Actually, I’m now glad that I didn’t make it bigger, because the rate of increases would have made the ends so long that I would not be able to wear it much. As it is, the ends are so long and tapering that I don’t know what to do with the ends; they get caught on things, trapped in car doors, pulled by small children. The resulting fabric is beautiful, and so soft, but I find I don’t wear it much because of the long ends. If I were to do it differently, I’d forgo the increases and make it into a rectangular wrap. Finished size: 200 cm (78 in.) x 85 cm (33 in.), blocked.

Project: Bird’s Eye Shawl, by Sharon Miller
Yarn: Heirloom Knitting Merino Lace
Needles: 3.00 mm/US 2.5

Next to finish was Langston, in response to my daughter’s request, “Please knit me a sweater.” I added a few more rows to the bottom and cuffs, and a crocheted a little reinforcement to inside of the collar, to keep it slipping off of my 4-year old’s shoulders. Of course, by the time I finished it, she wasn’t able to wear it because the weather had turned too warm for wool sweaters on an active and vivacious 4-year old, but it should fit her fine this fall because it’s pretty roomy.

Project: Langston, by Teresa Cole
Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss DK
3.25 mm/US 3 & 3.75 mm/US 5

Then came Chinook Scarf, an end-of-the-year gift for my son’s first grade teacher. Fortunately, I started Chinook in April, and by most accounts of others on Ravelry who had knitted it before me, there was a good chance it would be done in less than a month, and it was. It is a narrow crescent-shaped scarf that started-out kind of fun and by about the middle began to drag on. The only thing that kept me going was that looming deadline of the last day of school in June, and still, it is a fun scarf, and I am toying with idea of making another one. It was tricky to get the I-cord edging just right because of it’s tendency to curl, and I found that if I kept the three stitches that comprise the I-cord quite loose, the curling wouldn’t be as pronounced. The other thing I realized, which is hard to see in many of the finished photos on Ravelry, is that the scarf is and arced crescent, and therefore to some degree the curling of the edge creates the arc.

Project: Chinook Scarf, by Ali Green
Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Fingering
3.5 mm/US 4

For fun and relief after Chinook, I went onto Twig. I had this ball of fingering weight Shetland wool yarn loitering around in my stash, begging for a chance on stage, and I could leave it standing in the wings anymore, and I needed something fun and quick. I have no idea what brand it is nor could I trace it to any project I’d ever made, but I loved it’s peaty green color and was desirous of making a neck wrap of it. Based on the yarn weight, I approximated that I had about 150 yards of it, which gave me very few options, and then I saw Twig, and I knew that that was the one. Twig was fun to knit and, as you can tell from the pictures, very unusual to make. Great fun and I look forward to wearing it under a coat or sweater this fall.

Project: Twig, by Grace Mcewen
Yarn: stashed fingering weight Shetland yarn

Elm Row came out of buying a skein of Cascade Yarns Alpaca Lace for a specific project and then deciding to use something else, so into the stash this went. I found Elm Row while sifting through Ravelry using the Advanced Pattern search (my favorite method of finding patterns) and knew that this would be perfect for Alpaca Lace. I loved knitting this, although I had to keep back-tracking and fixing mistakes because I was trying to knit it while watching movies. I fell in love with the yarn, and it’s so indescribably soft, I would love to have a whole bed made of it. I think this will probably be my new go-to scarf this fall and winter.

Elm Row, by Anne Hanson
Cascade Yarns Alpaca Lace
Needles: 3.25 mm/US 3

Since I didn’t use all of the skein of the Alpaca Lace for Elm Row, I just had to do something with as much of the remainder as I could. So I decided to look at Anne Hanson’s patterns and found Hellebores, which consists of a beret and wristlets, so I chose the wristlets. I like these wristlets! Just enough lace where it counts and ribbing where the cuffs are hidden by a coat sleeve. This pattern was easier to knit while watching movies, and it went along quite smoothly. I have to say that I am impressed with Anne Hanson’s patterns; she has such a sizable collection to choose from and they are well-written and interesting to knit.

Project: Hellebores Wristlets, by Anne Hanson
Yarn: Cascade Yarns Alpaca Lace
Needles: 3.25 mm/US 3

New – Not So New

I have a confession:  I’ve been working on a new cardigan since early July and haven’t posted about it until now. In fact, I’m close to finishing with just the buttonband left. The project?  Oriel Lace Cardigan by Kirsten Hipsky.  There I was, paging through the Summer 2010 issue of Interweave Knits and spotted a Webs ad (page 39) featuring this cardigan; within the span of a few hours I’d purchased the pattern, downloaded it, and cast on.  I’ve decided to make my version with 3/4-length sleeves, versus the cap sleeves of the pattern.  I love the cap-sleeved version, but I have to be honest, I just don’t see myself wearing a cardigan with cap sleeves these days.  And why make something that would be destined not to be worn and enjoyed?

The source of the yarn for the project is my 10-year old On the Border pullover, just another example of a sweater I made and never wore.  I loved On the Border, but it turned out to be a sweater that didn’t look good on me. The yarn I used for it, Cleckheaton Nature (70% cotton, 30% wool), I love even more.  I love the yarn so much that I couldn’t part with the sweater, no many how many times I held it tentatively over a pile of clothes destined for charity over the years. I can’t wait to wear this yarn knitted-up into Oriel Lace.

On a sadder note, my poor 20-year old kitty died last week.  It was a rough decision to make to have her put to sleep, but in the last photos I took that day, her eyes said quite clearly, to the point it shocked me, “I feel awful and I’m nearing the end.”  All the weeks we’d spent deliberating, but when she’d come to a point where she was dropping weight quickly, among other health issues, our options were obvious:  have her go quickly and with some dignity left, or have her go slowly and more painfully.  I feel a bit guilty that we’d let her prolong her suffering so long due to my husband’s and my indecision.  I adopted her as a 6-week old kitten through my vet, after someone had rescued her whole family, including her mother, from a vacant lot, which was mowed the next day; they were all slightly feral and she hissed the instant I picked her up. She used to stand on her hind legs and beg for attention and her fur was as soft as a rabbit. She saw me through so much over the past 20 years and she was a good little furry friend and member of my family. She’s left quite a hole in my days, but I know that she is in a better place now.


Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, and in keeping with what seems to be a trend, I finished Shawl Neck Cardigan, making it my 5th cardigan for 2009, and making it my 10th and final finished object for 2009. The number of finished items is something close to phenomenal for me, considering how little available time I have knit in a typical day. Posting about it has been delayed by a nasty cold that has held us all captive since December 27, causing us to ring in the new year so differently than I’d thought.

(There's style: I'm standing in front of in front of the shower curtain in the bathroom.)

There were times when I thought I’d never finish it.

(It's my IKEA shower curtain.)

Apparently my stitch gauge went off while knitting it. This became evident when I discovered that the side seams didn’t match-up properly with the waistband piece. This was most obvious when I put it on and the side seams were too far forward. The thought occurred to me that this is a flaw that most people wouldn’t notice, especially with dark yarn and on a garment with a lot of drape. But I quickly set about undoing part of the seams and re-sewing them so that everything looks as it should. It looks fine.

Having worked on it in minute increments, I’m happy it’s done much sooner than I’d thought. Back when I started my second attempt on it last July, I thought I’d have it done 2 months later.  But then we got the call to get our daughter in South Korea, life got more busy, knitting schedules fell to the wayside, and I thought I would lucky to have it done by March 2010.

The yarn, Elann’s Peruvian Quechua, is very nice, maybe splitting a bit, and the tencel gives it a silky feel and a lot of drape, while the alpaca makes it soft. I used almost all 12 skeins of it (for medium size cardigan), with only 25 grams left; that’s cutting it too close for my comfort. Of course, it probably wouldn’t be so close if my gauge hadn’t loosened-up so much.

Pattern: #14 Shawl Neck Cardigan by Vladimir Teriokhin (Knit.1, Winter 2007)
Yarn: Elann Peruvian Quechua (65% alpaca, 35% tencel)
Needle: 3.25 mm/U.S. 3

The only thing I changed in the design was that I added a 4th button.

Don't know where I bought these pretty purple buttons....

Those were the days…

I don’t know what came over me, but last night I remembered a sweater I’d knit about 20 years ago and that I no longer have.  It wasn’t an old favorite sweater, but it was a could-have-been-a-fave.  It wasn’t an old fave because the way it turned out was disappointing; it never looked like the photo in the pattern book, Pingouin No. 62.  Remembering that sweater caused me to set about searching for that pattern book, which I still have.  You can say it:  “Packrat.”  In fact, I’ve knitted two patterns from Pingouin No. 62, and turning it’s pages sent me back in time to when I was single and would longingly look at the pictures of couples modeling sweaters and I would dream of such romance and such knitting.

Although there is no publication information in the book, it’s quite the ’80s look throughout, and it’s a bit scary.

I think you can tell by looking at the cover, just how ’80s we’re talking, okay? But there are some good sweaters to be had in it, and my problem is to decide if it’s my old 1980s self coming back saying how great they look, or if my 2009 self can win and help me see that some (not all) of these sweaters have no place in the current era. Do you know what I’m saying here? I think my head is stuck in a time warp. Have you ever seen someone who is older, who still wears the actual clothes they wore 20 years before and they think it’s just fine and haven’t a clue how funny they look? No, that’s not me…or at least I don’t think so. No, I know that’s not me, because I have people who would tell the truth no matter how much it hurts.

Anyhow, look at the two I’ve knit—

This one I’ve knit three times (don’t they look romantic?  Sigh).  The first one  I knit in Pingouin Pingolaine (I think), in natural, and I just loved it. In fact, I still have it, because I dig it out when it gets really cold and I’m going to be outside for a bit. Don’t worry, it doesn’t look like I’ve been dancing to Duran Duran or something, and it just serves as my last resort sweater. I do think it’s time to pitch it though, but it’s hard to let go of my knits. Real hard. Besides, it’s slightly felted from when I washed it a long time ago, so it doesn’t look so oversized anymore.

Perhaps because of the felting, I later made the same Aran-style pattern in some superwash wool that I bought from WEBS and I made it into a blue cardigan in 1990. I loved that huge, oversized cardigan. It was with that cardigan that brought me to the decision to never knit for anyone (paying for the yarn, or anything else, for that matter) again, because a coworker liked my cardigan so much that she begged me to make the same one for her, so I did. It turned out well enough considering that I’d made a few sweaters by then, and I was and am no professional knitter, but she criticized the way the buttonband curled slightly at the bottom, and she went on and on about it. I politely refused to reknit it, and pointed-out that it was a handmade sweater and that if she wanted something that didn’t look handmade to go buy one. I was very nice about, and maybe too nice, considering how much work I put into it. I think I even offered to give her her money back, but she didn’t accept my offer. Shortly afterward, another coworker asked me if I would knit something for her too, but I was not going down that road again.

The above pattern I knit with Pingouin Fleur du Laine in navy, and I was so disappointed with it because the collar was all loose and floppy. I think this one would fly in today’s look, don’t you? Maybe I could make it less boxy, but it is a jacket, so it could get by looking a bit oversized. I would love to make another one, but I don’t think this is a good time for me to be starting an Aran weight yarn sweater. Too busy these days.

This is the one that got away. I wanted to make this one, but finances made it hard to rationalize spending so much on another knitting project. Back in the day when I learned how to knit, I was either in college and or working jobs that barely paid my rent, and in the ’80s everything was oversized, causing the price of a handknit sweater to approach prices well beyond my reach. It is for this reason that I didn’t knit much until about 10 years ago. I just couldn’t afford the luxury and I thought I had to take special classes to learn how to knit sox and mittens, and for some reason, it didn’t occur to me to make scarves. Maybe because back then scarves were more stockinette and didn’t have the fun stitch patterns and colors that they do now.

So that’s my little trip down knitting memory lane, for today, at least, because there are the two Phildar pattern books I have from back then. We’ll explore them another day. Happy knitting dreams to you!

February is a Lion

Having finished Wine and Roses Mitts for my mother, I have resumed work on February Lady Sweater, which I actually just barely started on April 1, the same day I started Wine and Roses. When it took 11 days of swatching to get gauge on Wine and Roses, I decided that if I was going to finish them for my mother by Mother’s Day, I’d better focus on them solely. Now that they are out of the way, I’m making lots of progress really quickly on February Lady.

I want to have this as my wear-around-the-house sweater when we bring our daughter home from South Korea in the few months. For this reason, I am using Lion Brand Wool-Ease, so that I do not freak when it gets some form of something burped-up on it and just throw it in the washer and dryer to be worn again soon.  While making Nantucket Jacket a short time ago, it occurred to me that black would be a refreshing color to knit something in, so I chose black for this project.  I love natural fibers, especially wool, but there are times when a project calls for something more practical, and this is one of those. I do miss the smell of pure wool, and this stuff has a slightly, um, hard to describe smell, but it smells just a bit like plastic or something manufactured—I just try to push through and concentrate on the finished item.

Making progress at Pacific Beach, Washington from our trip in April.

Because of the Lion Brand yarn, I’ve decided to call it “February is a Lion Sweater”.

Progress, as of today.

This is a nice pattern, and the designer, Pamela Wynne, has put a relaxed feel in it by incorporating phrases like “…when you try on the sweater, the sleeves stitches almost meet under your arms,” and “Continue until the body is 1.5″ shorter than the desired length.”  Along with such a relaxed feel, all the information I need to successfully knit the sweater is there for me, and I find such non-specifics a relaxing tone to set; just what I need for my less-than-relaxed nature.

We’ve received notification that my fingerprints failed the ever-so-efficient biometric scanning machines at Homeland Security, and now I have to go for a re-do at the end of May (you get assigned appointment times, you can’t choose them). Frustrating, disappointing, heartbreaking, annoying, sad—words that float in my brain every day as I look at our little girl’s picture on my iPhone and I think of how being able to get her sooner has been pushed back because someone wasn’t doing their job carefully and really making sure my fingerprints were accurately scanned. Apparently this is really common. Next time I go, I will watch the screen closely as my prints appear on the machine, and when I see the red boxes appear in various places on the fingerprint scans (I believe they indicate undetected fingerprints), I won’t trust the agent when she says I am done. Next time, I will kindly request doing them again unless she can explain the red boxes, and if that doesn’t happen, I will respectfully request a meeting with a supervisor to make sure that I get good scans.

From Montepulciano with Love

My one big splurge from the trip to Europe in September has finally made it’s debut.

All lavender and lace and cashmere.

Sometimes buying a nice sweater is okay, even if you could’ve made it yourself.  It doesn’t have to be cashmere.

What a treat to wear.

From Del Santo Cashmere, Montepulciano, Italy.

Not a lot of knitting to report on over the past week, although I started my mother’s Christmas present using the yarn she picked-out in Montecatini Terme, Italy.  A simple garter stitch scarf.

I was under the weather all last week with an upset stomach, and then there was that call we got from the adoption agency that facilitated the adoption of our son from South Korea four years ago. Some interesting news (in a good way) that I can’t share yet; just a whole lot of waiting going on around here right now. I hate waiting. I am not a patient person. I guess that’s why I am in this position of waiting right now.

Aside from the interesting news, I’ve been feeling sentimental lately about our son’s adoption.  It was such a joyful time when we finally met the baby whom we’d seen pictures of.  And it’s been nonstop joy and entertainment ever since.

My favorite picture:  aunties sitting on the bed sharing a chuckle with our 6 month old son and waiting for our departure to the airport.

It was also a rather odd time because some of my husband’s family members who live in Seoul showed-up unannounced at the meeting when the foster family handed him to us, and suddenly there was this crowd when it should have been a more intimate event.  Even stranger was that with so many willing hands present, I was unable to actually hold him until they’d all gone home a couple of hours later, and I remember the pain I experienced from that missed opportunity after the initial exchange. I did get to hold him a bit over a few meetings we had during the two weeks prior to the hand-off. Despite that odd day of exchange, it was probably just as well that that we had so many people there because it provided a distraction from any awkwardness of the exchange of our son from his foster family to us (which was really minimal).

Our son is a delightful addition to our family. He is so adorable, I must say, and everyone tells me so. And so smart, it almost scares me; we can’t get anything past him.

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.