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February 27, 2006

As Good as Gold

It's not what I intended to do for the Olympics, but sometimes the best results come unintentionally. I really, really love this sweater! I made it with oddments of yarn that Knitsmith Lisa gave me. It was a typical act of Lisa-esque generosity: "You knit with cotton. Here, take these three bags of yarn." And before I could protest, she was gone.

The main colors are Cotton Fleece (I think -- Lisa, correct me if I'm wrong!), and the additional colors in the striping sequence are 100% cotton. The pattern is the Child's Placket Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. (Because of errors in the original text, the author published a corrected version on-line (that's a PDF!).) I made three major changes. First, I recalculated for my (loosey-goosey) gauge. Then, to make sure that the sweater was adequately "girly", I did a picot hem on the body and sleeves instead of the seed stitch called for. Then, obviously, I threw in some crazy striping. (Note to self: remember that said crazy striping led to added bulkiness under the arms -- all those ends have to go somewhere!)


Love these buttons.

And how goes the original Olympic project, you ask? Well, as evidenced by its absence in this post I did not finish it in time. But I made good progress yesterday when my back of the envelope calculations for the turtleneck set-up rows worked on the first try! After the other calculating and counting woes with this sweater, I think this proves that I just really needed a break from it. Unfortunately, that break has to last a bit longer, as I have a baby shower present that must be done very, very soon. I should be back to the Olympic sweater by the end of the week!

Posted by shannon at 2:50 PM | Comments (7) | For related posts: For Me!, Miscellaneous Small Projects, Olympic Knitting

February 24, 2006


Get comfortable, dear readers. This is a long one.

When we last checked in on the Olympic sweater, I was basking in my victory over non-linear raglan lines. While admiring my work, I was startled to realize that one feature of my model sweater's raglan lines had been entirely left out my Olympic sweater: the purl separators. I don't have a great picture of them, but you can sort of see the "valley" they create along the raglan seams here. My Olympic sweater seams had no such valley.

I seriously considered leaving it as-is, since I thought my seams looked just fine. Then I remembered -- this is the Olympics! Olympians don't settle for "just fine"! Time to rip and reknit that shaping. Lucky for me, the women's figure skating short program was on and provided both distraction and several hours of uninterrupted knitting time. (Which, of course, also meant several hours of uninterrupted "let's bother the human who knits!" time for my cat as well.)

He just can't resist...
"Oh, you want a picture of me? How sweet! Here, let me just lay down on this piece of knitting you're pointing the camera at." (A cat free picture of the new raglan line is here.)

As of bedtime on Wednesday night, all of the pieces had been knit (or re-knit) with the new and improved raglan shaping. All that was left were the few rows at the top of each piece to set up for the turtleneck, the seaming, and the turtleneck itself. We're traveling to NYC this weekend so knitting time will be limited, but I thought my medal chances were still pretty good.

Until last night.

As soon as I got home from work, I did some quick seaming for the preliminary try-on. I had already attached the sleeves and started basting the side seams when the feeling of dread started. I kept wondering why the front and back seemed to be different lengths. It turns out there's an easy answer: because they are.

Picture 075
First I put a marker on the last row before the armhole. Then, working from the bottom up, I put a marker every 10 rows. The stitch markers on the two pieces should be spaced identically if there are the same number of rows from the cast on edge to the beginning of armhole shaping. Read it and weep.

I need to add four rows to the length of the front, but I have to rip it back to the armhole to do it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, may keep me off the podium.

I'm not usually one to shy away from a challenge, but there's a good reason I'm reluctant to take this one on: my hands, wrists, and elbows are killing me. Knitting on nothing but this yarn at this gauge for nearly two weeks has really done a number on them. Powering through a re-knit of the front doesn't seem like a good idea just now.

  When I first considered joining the Knitting Olympics, I consulted my mental "babies-to-be-knit-for" list and verified the Games wouldn't conflict with any baby knitting. I had two entire weeks after the end of the Games before the next baby would need a welcome gift. Except, not. This little madam not only managed to be born four weeks early but also on the day of the Opening Ceremonies.

That means we'll get to meet her this weekend in New York while we're there on a trip that we thought would be two weeks before her arrival, which is thrilling. It also means that I was about to break my cardinal rule of baby knitting: don't meet the baby empty-handed.

A change of gauge and fiber would do my aching joints a favor. And it seems right that if I have to take a break from my official Olympic knitting that I should use that time to make something to welcome a little one born during the opening of the Games, and who I'll meet during the closing weekend.

Picture 076
Baby buttons

Seems like I might salvage my Olympics after all.

Posted by shannon at 12:34 PM | Comments (3) | For related posts: For Me!, Olympic Knitting

February 21, 2006

aČ + bČ ≠ my sweater

Here's a confession: I haven't knit that many raglan sweaters in my knitting career. So it wasn't a big surprise when I hit a conceptual wall on the raglan shaping of my trusty Olympic sweater late Saturday afternoon. With one sleeve and the back complete, I was confronted with the following set of facts:

(No pictures, I'm afraid. The Olympic deadline does not allow for such luxuries as snapping pictures of miscues before ripping them out. [If only NBC had the same approach to capturing Olympians -- if I have to see that poor Canadian skater fall one more time...])

A re-write of this section of my pattern was clearly in order. I consulted Jenna's awesome sleeve tutorial to make sure I had a grasp of the general raglan principles. I measured again (and again) and sketched out the raglan lines on graph paper. Somehow, the numbers still weren't working out right. At this point, Jason got involved, and there was much talk about how one calculates the slope of a line and the Pythagorean theorem. This served as a great geometry refresher, but still didn't solve the problem. Finally, I put down the measuring tape and graph paper and looked -- really looked -- at the raglan lines on my model sweater.

Not straight!

Eureka! Those lines aren't straight! Looking at the raglan shaping on the body, the first four decreases are worked every four rows. The remaining decreases are then worked every other row. This makes the raglan shaping "bow" out a bit rather than follow a straight line from armpit to neckline. Here's the real kicker: in order to make the sleeve and body fit together, the "bow" has to be reversed on the sleeve. So the decreases are worked every other row for the first 12 rows, and then every fourth row for the rest of the sleeve.

I did some quick calculations to get the same effect on my raglan sleeves, ripped back, and tried again. This time, it worked.

Also not straight!
Take that, Pythagorus!

Posted by shannon at 11:28 PM | Comments (4) | For related posts: For Me!, Olympic Knitting

February 17, 2006

Trust the Math

Just when the Boston area weather has started to beat me down -- as it does every February -- here's something to get happy about: progress on the Olympic Sweater!

I started the first sleeve last Sunday. (I know! Two whole days after the opening ceremonies! I wasn't kidding when I said I was going to be crazy busy last weekend.) I had some trouble with the increases, but eventually calmed down and tried to believe that all of my measuring, calculating, and converting was right. You can't imagine my relief when I laid the sleeve on top of the model sweater on Tuesday night, and saw this:

It's working!*

Heartened by my success, I cast on for the back and started knitting with abandon. Now that I knew my calculations were generally on target, I could knit much more quickly -- that is to say, without stopping at the end of every row to measure, hold up to my body, hold up to the model sweater, re-measure, etc. On Wednesday night I finished the 5 3/4" of ribbing on the back, and by the time I put the needles down last night I was through the 7 inches of stockingette stitch and had started the armhole decreases. Zooooooom!

My progress as of last night. Knitting goes fast when you're watching Seth Wescott. Rawr.
(I'm fairly certain the back piece looks smaller than the model sweater because the edges are rolling.)

Just a few details on how I'm making this sweater. As you might recall from this picture, the ribbing does not really "pull in" on my favorite sweater. I'm guessing that this is because of the fiber (mostly acrylic!), but whatever the reason I was sure that the Samoa was not going to behave the same way. So instead of ribbing with smaller needles and switching to larger ones for the body, I'm doing the reverse. I'm doing the ribbing with US7s, and switching to US6s for the stockingette sections. So far, it seems to be producing a straighter transition from one section to the other, rather than the "pouf" created by ribbing on the smaller needles. (I could have sworn I read about Claudia doing this same thing, but I've scoured her archives over the last week and found nothing!)

My progress this weekend will determine whether I've got a speed skater's chance in Hades of getting this sweater done before the flame is extinguished. One thing is for certain, though: these knittin' hands and wrists are going to be sore by the end of the Games. Pass the Tylenol and ice packs, please.

*This is not the actual color. The light was so low I had to use the flash -- it's not that pink!

Posted by shannon at 3:16 PM | Comments (4) | For related posts: For Me!, Olympic Knitting

February 15, 2006

I'm Wondering...

This Wednesday, I'm not really wondering about anything at all.

Actually, that's not true. I'm intensely wondering (i.e. worrying) about a number of things on my Olympic Sweater. But those wonderings aren't ready for prime time -- no pictures, for example -- and since the Olympic Sweater is all I'm working on these days, I don't have any other questions burning a hole in my blog.

So, instead, I'll show you how a previous Wednesday wondering helped me finish a project:

I'm still perfecting my tubular cast-off. One of the socks has a
much tighter edge than the other. I told Jason that we must
have been watching something really gripping on TV when I did that one.

They're speckled! I love the colors of these socks so much that I found a way to wear them to the office last week with dress pants. Everytime I got glum about the dreary winter day, I just looked at my socks. Instant mood improvement!

Yarn: ArtYarns Supermerino (107)
Needles: US 3s. (Next time, try 2s. Or twist the first knit stitch after purling.)
Pattern: 3x1 ribbed version of Wendy's toe-up sock (with short-row technique modifications)

Posted by shannon at 5:59 PM | Comments (3) | For related posts: For Me!, Socks, Wondering Wednesday

February 13, 2006

Olympics in Peril

Where do I start?

About mid-last week, I was beginning to get a bit worried about the fate of my Olympic yarn (end of this post). I was headed for DC for a combined work/play trip, and had everything precisely planned to allow for maximum Olympic progress under the circumstances. Early in the week, I made a schematic of my favorite sweater with tons of notes on measurements. Thursday evening, in the quiet solitude of a hotel room, I would swatch and plug numbers into my schematic to produce the rough outlines of a pattern. Then I could spend the rest of the weekend knitting while chatting with friends. Seems like a pretty good plan, right?

Well, sure, if you actually have your yarn. I will not belabor the story (here's the gist of it), but I learned on Wednesday afternoon that the yarn wasn't coming. With less than 24 hours before I was to take off for the nation's capitol, I needed to work fast to salvage this project. So I went where any 21st century knitter goes when she gets in a bind: Google. The result? Knit Happens saved my Olympic dreams.

When I saw that they had Samoa in some nice colors on their website, I sent Kristine -- the owner -- a plea an e-mail asking about availability in the store. (Seriously, if e-mail "tone of voice" could be translated into audible tone of voice, my email would have shrieked with desperation when she opened it.) Despite my near hysteria, she responded quickly and calmly. Less than 24 hours later I got off a plane at National Airport, drove 6 miles down the road and walked into the store to pick up my yarn.

Picture 038
Knit Happens to the rescue!*

It was, without a doubt, one of the best yarn buying experiences I have ever had. I don't think the transaction posed a huge inconvenience for Kristine and the gang at Knit Happens, but it really meant a lot to me. (YARN STORE OWNERS TAKE NOTE: This is how you get and keep customer loyalty.) And did I mention the store itself? Beautiful and friendly. I can't think of another yarn store that had more awesome sock yarn -- Lorna's Laces, KPPPM, Cherry Hill, ArtYarns Supermerino and Ultramerino -- in more varied colorways than this one.

I did make some progress on the sweater, but that'll have to wait for at least a day. In addition to a yarn debacle, this weekend's snow fall also caused a travel debacle. Our flight back was cancelled last night, so Jason and I were on an early morning shuttle this morning. I'm living on little sleep, no shower, and out of a suitcase. Give me 24 hours to regroup, and I'll be back -- I still have so much to tell you!

*But wait!, you say. That's not the red we heard about! Here's the thing . Back when I ordered the Samoa (the first time), I had been on the fence between the bold solid red and the subtle orange/red/pink variegation of Samoa Mouline number 504 colorway. I first went with the safe bet -- solid red -- but Knit Happens only had the variegated version available. I figured this whole debacle was a sign to take the risk and buy the variegated colorway, and boy am I glad I did. It's gorgeous.

Posted by shannon at 6:14 PM | Comments (7) | For related posts: Olympic Knitting

February 8, 2006

I'm Wondering....

This Wednesday, I'm wondering...

How do you tame stubbornly curly yarn?

Almost exactly three years ago, I made Jason a hat. In a frenzy of cleaning and organizing a few weeks back, I came across the hat and asked him why I so seldom saw it on his cabeza. His answer: The hat had been a tiny bit loose when I made it, remember? Not a problem at first, he told me, but with each successive wearing it grew. It got bigger and bigger until it was really too big -- not to mention ineffective for keeping his noggin warm.

In a world of intractable problems, I told him, this was one I could actually solve. I ripped the hat, gave the yarn -- a wool/acrylic blend, by the way -- a good washing, and hung it up to dry. I did some math and got the needles ready for a re-knit. But wait! The next morning the yarn was dry but still really curly. Huh? I repeated the bath (in warmer water this time, trying to relax the fibers a bit) and this time when I hung it to dry I hung a heavy hanger on the bottom of it to try to coax it straight. Still no luck.

My experience has been that knitting with curly yarn makes for uneven, bumpy knitting. What else can I do to straighten this out? Can I apply more tension while the yarn is drying, or will I damage it? Is there such a thing as "straight enough" for knitting?

Posted by shannon at 1:42 PM | Comments (4) | For related posts: Wondering Wednesday

February 7, 2006

Pre-Olympic Butterflies

This is my favorite sweater. Isn't it lovely? It's been a workhorse, surviving nearly weekly wearings and washings for three consecutive winters -- and until a few weeks ago it was still fit as a fiddle. But now it's starting to pill and fray and feel a little thin in spots. (It's surprising, really, that it held up this long -- after all, I paid less than $20 for it at H&M!)

I spent the weekend measuring and sketching this sweater and its pieces, because it is this sweater I will be attempting to recreate for the Knitting Olympics. Here's two things about my old faithful that surprised me:

  1. It has negative ease -- like four inches worth around the bust. I would never have guessed this, since I don't think of this as a particularly form-fitting sweater. I spent an inordinate amount of time tugging on the sweater to see how stretcy it was (very), and trying to decide if I should assume equal amounts of stretchiness from my own knitting. The juy's still out on this.
  2. It has waist shaping. It's subtle, but it's definitely there. The wear and tear on the sweater has made the stitches really blurry, so I had to do some guessing on the direction of the shaping in a couple of places ("is that an increase or a decrease?"). I'm pretty sure I got it right, but I might use the waist shaping from Mango as a model since the gauge is similar and I know it works.

When my yarn arrives, I'll swatch and test for stretchiness -- and then I'll get out the calculator and get down to business. And yes, I said when my yarn arrives. I got great input last week on possible cotton blends; that list will definitely come in handy for a long time to come. There were especially good recommendations on warm-weather cotton yarns like Cotton Plus and Lara. But when I made up a comparison list -- I didn't need a spreadsheet, but it was close! -- I kept coming back to the GGH Samoa in red (color #23 here). So that's what I ordered.

Here's the kicker -- I'm leaving for DC on Thursday afternoon. I've got a work thing all day Friday and we're spending the rest of the weekend with friends. I've been a bit bummed that this trip means I'll miss the Team Boston Opening Ceremonies shindig, not to mention the fact that I might not get very much "sit and knit" time during the crucial first 48 hours of the Olympics. Now, a new source of agita: my yarn hasn't arrived yet and I'm starting to have visions getting on that plane empty-handed on Thursday.

It's enough to give a girl nightmares, I tell you.

Posted by shannon at 3:05 PM | Comments (3) | For related posts: For Me!, Olympic Knitting

February 6, 2006

Moving Right Along...



In the spirit of getting the knitting and blogging plate "very, very clean" (as Colleen would say) in time for the Olympics to start on Friday, here's something I can move to the Finished Projects file!

I actually finished Clapotis before Christmas, but didn't get around to blocking it until recently. (This didn't stop me from wearing it as a scarf in the interim, of course.) I'd like to go on record saying that Clapotis is like lace when it comes to finishing -- it looks good when it's done, but looks awesome once it's blocked.

Posted by shannon at 12:01 PM | Comments (4) | For related posts: For Me!, Pinnacle Clapotis

February 5, 2006

Wait, Don't Answer That

My mom got me a subscription to Interweave Knits for Christmas -- hurrah! Today, I finally got around to going online to access the Subscribers-Only Content. This is one of the things that I was most excited about when I got the subscription, so you can imagine my distress when I failed completely.

First of all, the explanation of where to find the password (sometimes called a "code", which absent any other indication, I have to assume is the same thing) reads:

The password is normally located on the cover in a shaded bar above the white box containing your name and mailing address.

There is no such shaded bar on my Winter 2005 issue, which is the only one I've received. I tried all the numbers and letters on the address label, but no dice. Then I read that:
If you subscribed online and haven't yet received your first issue, the current website password is included in the e-mail confirmation you were sent.

I asked my mom to forward me the confirmation e-mail that she received, and guess what? No password.

Finally, I accessed my subscription account online (using my mailing address, because the customer number on my address label didn't work) I saw that the estimated mailing date for the Spring issue is January 31st. Since the Spring issue is now the issue on the IK homepage, does that mean it's the current issue? And if so, does that mean that I can't access any of the subscriber-only content until I get it?

Or am I an idiot who just can't figure any of this out?

Posted by shannon at 2:34 PM | Comments (4) | For related posts:

February 2, 2006

Holding My Breath

Early morning. Excellent light + groggy photographer = well-lit, cockeyed pictures

So, here's the score on Pam. The back and one sleeve (above) are completely knit, as well as about half of one front. That has used up 6.25 balls of yarn. It's definitely time to start looking for a back-up plan, that's way too close for comfort. Ack, the anxiety!

I'm also holding my breath for...

... my new laptop! It should be delivered to my apartment at any minute, but I won't be able to get my hands on it until this evening. I can't wait!

Posted by shannon at 12:46 PM | Comments (3) | For related posts: Pam

February 1, 2006

I'm Wondering....

This Wednesday, I'm wondering...

What's your favorite cotton/synthetic blend?

I'm looking for the perfect yarn for my Olympic Sweater, and I'd love input! Here are the rules of the game:

  1. No animal fibers. This includes wool, angora, cashmere, alpaca, etc.
  2. No 100% cotton. If I knit only pure cotton for 16 straight days, my arms will be in casts by the time the flame goes out. Also, the synthetics help with durability.
  3. Must be machine washable. How can it become my new Favorite Sweater if I have to hand wash it?
  4. Gauge should be between 4 and 5.5 stitches per inch (ETA: that would be 16-22 stitches over four inches. Duh.). I want it to look sophisticated -- but I don't want it to take a dog's age to knit.
  5. Should come in grown-up colors.

And here are the Olympic sweater hopefuls.

  • Valley Yarns Longmeadow: Meets all of the above criteria, but I don't know anybody who's used it.
  • Debbie Bliss Cathay: I love this yarn, but I'm worried about the growth factor. If you've worked with it: does it only grow once (when you wash it the first time), or does it just keep growing between washes? How annoying is this?
  • Rowan Calmer: What more can I say? It's Calmer.
  • Rowan All Seasons Cotton: A strong contender, though the gauge is a bit big.
  • The GGH family: Samoa, Bali, and Java. Of the three, I think I'd lean toward Samoa or Bali --but I'd love to hear about all of them.
  • Your ideas. So let's hear 'em!

    Judge's Note: The rules are a bit flexible. In fact, you'll notice that some of my contenders already violate them! So if you've got a yarn you think would be perfect, please do tell me about it even if it's a rule-breaker. (Unless it breaks the "no animal fibers" rule. That one's non-negotiable, unless you also have a cure for allergies.)

    Special thanks to Colleen and Lisa who helped brainstorm this list with me!

    Posted by shannon at 12:50 PM | Comments (12) | For related posts: Wondering Wednesday