One Stitch At A Time

Vacation knitting is supposed to be quick knitting, in my world.   You have lots of time to sit and relax, just veg.  All of this travel time to different places – in a car, then a plane, then a car.  Prime knitting time.  So this is what my sock looks like…

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I know, it’s a horrible photo.  Uusally, I would leave it out or retake it or something, but I think that anyone who a knitter knows what that is.  That is a toe covering.  Barely.  Not even, really.  It is almost the completed increases, so the very top of my toes aren’t covered yet.  I should say, this is the third time I’ve had to start the socks over, and it’s not the fault of the pattern, it’s totally my vacation brain being unable to retain information.  I started doing the YOs, read the note about how the designer recommends doing a pick-up YO on the following row, to make the holes over the toes smaller, realized when I was almost done with the increases that this was a VERY wise suggestion, and ripped back to the beginning.  Then I started knitting again and got halfway through the increases before realizing I hadn’t changed a thing, I had just done the exact same thing as before, YOs and all.

I’d like to say that I worked hard on the plane, but I really didn’t.  I got sucked into reading a bunch of stuff, and then we had a *lot* of turbulence on the flight, which makes it hard to knit.  (It’s also a little scary to hit a bump and worry for just a moment that the very pointy sharp teeny size 0’s you’re knitting on could very well jab your eyeballs and cause some serious retinal damage.)  I meant to come home and veg on the couch and knit.

That didn’t happen.  Joel and I have different ideas about what coming home from a trip means.  For me, it means I’m tired and just want to flop somewhere and take the rest of the night off.  For him, it means immediately wanting to unpack and set the house to rights, somewhat.  You can guess which one of us is more productive in life, right?

We both sort of compromised, because we’re good at communicating about this stuff now.  We went out for a late lunch, since we were both starving and neither of us wanted to try to cook in a house mostly empty of groceries.  We went to this great little bar near us, Granite City, which replaced one of my favourite bookshops in Cleveland – Joseph Beth Booksellers.  I used to get all of my holiday gifts there when I first moved to Cleveland.  Then they went under, and this place moved in awhile ago.  The beer was really great – we both did a flight and found a few that we would happily return for.  (Let me tell you, the beer did nothing to motivate me further.)  When we got home, Joel jumped into unpacking and I sort of flopped around for a few minutes, wanting to be lazy but also wanting to feel like I had accomplished something.

In the end, I settled for half and half.  I went to the basement and did a load of laundry, simultaneously trying to felt my old clogs a little.  They developed big honkin’ holes in them, which I patched and sewed up some, so they needed to be re-felted.  Unfortunately, we have a High Efficiency washer with no agitator stick, and while that’s great for our laundry, it’s *awful* to try felting with.  I wound up sending them back and forth between the hottest wash cycle I could manage and the dryer.  They’re not as felted as I’d like, but they’re definitely better than they were.  I made a pair of slippers for our friend Chris and his brand-new wife, Gemma, for Christmas.  They tried to felt them and they only partially took.  Chris is coming by tonight for a little hang out time before he leaves.  (They both travel for months at a time for work.)  He’s bringing the slippers, and I’m hoping that I can get them to cooperate for me, so it was important that I test my theories.

Then I moved up to the living room and got a fire roaring in the hearth, watched some of the shows my DVR had caught for me, and typed up some class notes for Joel.  I’m a quick typist, and I love him, so I do these kinds of things from time to time.  Now I’m on the couch, watching my Steelers struggle to get any time of score over the Ravens, and I’ve finally accomplished enough to feel like I could get my knit on…so realistically, these socks are barely going to grow tonight.

Sigh.  At least we have clean towels.

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New Year, New Projects

Happy 2015 everyone! I’m on the last few days of my honeymoon in Sanibel with Joel. Let me tell you, it feels beyond strange to be sitting in 80 degree weather on January 1st. I’ll take it though – it’s just lovely to be wearing sundresses and walking barefoot in the sand. I get the feeling going home to Cleveland is going to be a real shock to the system…

As always, I packed way too many knitting projects. Isn’t that the way it always is on vacation? You want to make sure you don’t run out, so you totally overpack. I brought 3 projects and while I’ve tinkered with all of them, I’m nowhere near completing any. It doesn’t help that Joel and I spent 3 intense days working on a puzzle together, eating into swaths of knitting time. Still, I really just love getting to spend time together, doing small couple-y things. Joel doesn’t care about puzzles that much – he’d never pull one out on his own to do – but if you sit him down in front of one, he’ll work on it until it’s done.

Today I cast on a new project. I remembered that I had packed a pair of socks that I wanted to be able to bring on the plane, since I didn’t want to try to sneak my metal Addi lace turbos on board. I know that knitting is allowed, and I’ve never had an issue with it before, but it seems smarter and safer to bring the little wooden DPNs on than the needle sharp Addis. Here’s what I’m working on:

I know, fabulous, right?  That’s not my photo, obviously, since I just began knitting them. The photo belongs to niella on Ravelry – I used it because when I scrolled through the projects, that was the one that made me go, “Oh dear God, I hope that my socks look that awesome when I’m done!”  The pattern is Firebird by Lisa Grossman.  I just love it, love the way that bird looks and how the sewing just makes it POP.  I know that I’m going to wind up hating that embroidery bit, but these socks are so, so worth it.

I’m just a few rows in, and already I love this project.  Love the Turkish cast-on, love how it jumps right into the lacy pattern, and am loving the yarn.  The base yarn is this:

That’s Holiday Yarns Flocksock Sock Yarn in Hellfire, and the teeny yarn skeinlet is Holiday Yarns Jennifer’s Superfine Laceweight in Gold Flame.  I got this kit ages ago, probably 2008 or 2009, and it’s been sitting patiently in my stash, just waiting to be created.  It’s that just awful?  How long we let things sit and don’t allow them to become because there is only a finite number of things we can knit at any given time?  I wish I could be always knitting.  I know that I try to be, but I do need to sleep, don’t I?

I also love the way this pattern is laid out.  Instead of being regular paper-sized sheets, she made it into a little booklets.  Lots of illustrations, clear definitions.  It works on many many levels and just tickles me every time I get to turn a page.

I feel like I want to somehow make a goal or a project for myself this year.  I’m not really a resolution sort of person, but I like projects.  I’ve been kicking around the idea for a few days that I want to do a 100 Yarns project.  The thing is, I don’t really know what that means, even to me.  100 different yarns?  100 skeins?  100 projects?  I just can’t come up with a working definition.  I mean, if I pick the simple concept of using up 100 different yarns in 2015, does that mean that a sweater’s worth of skeins would still only count as 1 yarn?  And how would that even work, given that skein is just a word that defines a product – a hank of yarn – rather than a yardage amount?

But still, I can’t quite get past the idea.  100 Yarns in 2015.  There’s just a ring to it that I can’t quite let go of.  Especially the idea of using up yarns…I feel like I’m constantly trying to knit down the scraps that I have from old projects, but then I turn around and they keep multiplying.  Maybe my very basic vision will be:

100 Yarns = 100 skeins.  This does not, however, equal complete skeins.  If I work on a project that uses a whole skein of fingering weight, that’s 1 skein.  If I work on a project that uses up 5 different scrap yarns completely, that’s 5 different skeins.

I just like the idea of challenging myself, of learning things as I go along.  So today, I start.  Today, I have begun my self-challenge.  I have entered the fray (which consists of only me) with a whole new project, completely untouched and unused yarns, bases that I’m unfamiliar with.

I’m excited!

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Dear Past Hester…

…I know, you wrote that letter to your sweater, berating it for not going the way it was supposed to, being part of a conspiracy of poorly written patterns, and generally wishing that the knitting faeries would come along and finish your sweater for you.

The trouble is, your sweater was not to blame. You were. Remember how you screwed up the project at the very beginning by having difficulties with counting? Well, this time, you have difficulties following directions. (This is rather a shock to me, since I know that you are by and large compliant in a way that makes you occasionally appear terribly naive.) I know, I know, Little Birds was difficult and wore your nerves down to nothing, and so you’ve had trouble getting into bed with this pattern and fully trusting it to be cohesive and well-written. Boo freakin’ hoo – that was years ago, lady, get over it! (Please note for the record, this is not a sentence I ever use when therapist-ing my clients.) This pattern does not have any flaws or faults in it that I can find. Oh sure, there are parts that could be expanded on, maybe an instruction added here or there to keep people from second guessing their knitterly instincts. But as far as errata goes, nada.

If you had just followed the directions for where and how to join the sweaters to the body from the beginning, it would have been fine. It all would have made sense, and you’d probably be up to the neckline by now because you wouldn’t have put the sweater away in frustration for over a week. Heck, maybe you’d even be finished! (Okay, that one is a stretch…) But for some reason, you couldn’t see the grand vision of how the cables were supposed to run up along the armholes…and so you thought that the placement of the sleeves was cutting into the 4-stitch cables and rearranged where they should go. I know, it was only by 2 stitches on each side, but that was enough to throw off the whole concept. And what happened because of this mistrust? You have now ripped back and rejoined the sleeves to the sweater 3 times. This time, it had better be right because if it isn’t…well, we’ll just bind it off and claim that it’s an off-the-shoulder sweater, a la the 80s.

Past Hester, I know that I can’t possibly recall what you were thinking at the time – you put this sweater into cold storage so long ago that the memory of the what and why and wherefore is a distant illusion of a memory. All I can do is urge you to get in touch with Future Hester and remind her that in the future, if a pattern is giving her difficulties, she should set it aside for 2 days, cast on something new, and then come back to it again. We all need to step away from our knitting to time to time. That’s what helps good knitters become great knitters.

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Letter to a Naughty Sweater

Dear Vivian,
First, I’d like to thank you for giving me something to write about. It’s been quite some time since I visited my blog, and now, you’ve caused me to return to the fold. Well done you. I believe it was The Yarn Harlot who at some point said of her own blog, “The only thing that keeps this interesting is my uncanny ability to make massive mistakes” – or something of that sort. Vivian, you are currently that massive mistake.

I know what you’re thinking – but Hester, things were going so well when you put me into hibernation for the winter. You had gotten the arms attached, only having to rip back once to adjust their placement since the pattern wanted you to armholes in spaces that would have cut the cables in half and didn’t really make a ton of sense. And you’re on the decreases, which attaches the arms to the sweater – Hester, this is the good part!

I know, Vivian, I know. The trouble is, your decreases aren’t really making a ton of sense to me either. It wasn’t just the armhole placement and the arms themselves. This entire issue of trying to cleanly attach the arms to you is driving me bananas. And as usual, Ravelry has failed to provide even one other person that is saying, “Um guys…does this make sense to you? Because I feel like the pattern is missing something.” Really, if I could just get the pattern to clearly state how many stitches I want at the end of all of these decreases, I’d be able to figure it out. Am I decreasing across the cable? Just across the sleeve? Are you trying to get me to do a centered double decrease, or should this blend in with the seed stitch? I just don’t know!

And of course, Vivian lies there scarlet and beautiful and warm and still unwearable. Oh my darling sweater, I know you’ll be done before the first snow hits…but I hate the idea of needing to rip you back just to make that happen.

Sigh.

I just don’t get why this is where I always get lost with Ysolda’s patterns. She designs some of the most beautiful sweaters I’ve ever seen…but her arm attachment just baffles me. I don’t know what quirk it is, what it is that I’m not getting that everyone else seems to understand. But for some reason, I can never fully comprehend at this point in the pattern how she wants me to get from point A to point D.

So right now, I’m going to just take this off the needles, rip back the 7 or 8 rows that I completed on Saturday at knitting, pop it back on the needles, and pray to all the Rulers of Knitting that when I pick it up again, I’ll understand what I’m supposed to do with the decreases and why I should do them that way.

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Simple math

A word problem:

If you start a sweater in March (say 3 months ago) and work on it just a little on and off between the other projects (say, 10 WIPS) as kind of a good “toss this one into the car, can work on it in the dark of movies and in meetings” sort of project, and you work on it until you hit row 52 on the cable chart that is so confusingly framed because it includes stitches that AREN’T in the cable panel even a little and yet, kind of makes them look like they are because of the way the decreases are done (factor in that you have tried to do this patten about 5 times before and gotten confused about this blasted cable layout every single time, and yet, this is the first time that you decided to actually mark off the stitches so that you won’t be confused next time) – divided by the fact that you needed to cast on 299 stitches initially (143 for the back, 78 for both front panels) and then multiply by the fact that you somehow only cast on 293 stitches and missed 6 on one of the front panels, meaning that the cable panels are in two completely different spots on your body when you finally have to rip back after making way too many mistakes knitting in the dark of the movies and it’s only when you’re putting the stitches back on the needles and trying to make sure you have the right numbers between the stitch markers – how many hours will you spend cursing that you began this project at all?

Wait, that’s pretty confusing – let me frame it a different way:

3 months sporadic knitting / 10 WIPs = 52 rows completed x 299 stitches (- 6 necessary stitches on Left Front Panel)

Yeah, this project.  This is going to be one of those projects that once I finish it, I am going to love wearing it.  It’s one of those sweaters that I look at and it instantly makes me want to curl up in a chair with a good book on a rainy day by a toasty fire.  The yarn is just a wee bit scratchy, the colour is so perfectly calming and relaxing, and there is nothing complicated about the knitting itself, just the wording and the charts…but for some reason, this is about the 6th time in my life that I’ve cast this on and I have nothing more than about 2 inches of knitting to show for it.

I know, I know, I could have just reconciled myself to the cables not being symmetrical…but I really just couldn’t.  Not after all this time.  Not after all this effort.

Let’s just say that for now, this sweater and I are both happy that it’s going into hibernation until the fall when I actually want to wear a sweater again.  Because really, if I had to look at this for much longer, I think I would shove it into the back of my yarn cupboard, rather than leaving it to rest quietly in my WIPs drawer.

I swear, I did learn counting at an early age, as well as the importance of double checking my work… 

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Joining Can Really Kill You

For the second time in a row, I’ve tried to join the sleeves onto my Vivian sweater.  In part, it’s because I want to at least have the body and sleeves connected before I lay it aside for the season.  That way, it’s at a good stopping point and when I pick it up again as the seasons cool down, I won’t have to wonder where I’m supped to be beginning.  No matter how many notes you take on a project, if you give it long enough, you will forget what the scribbled note of “117 rows in, begin at second decrease” meant to you way back when.  My other reason for so fastidiously sticking to this project is that I feel like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to things I’m working on that already have a pattern.  I have 3 or 4 things floating around right now that I’m in the process of designing myself, but let’s face it, that can be an arduous process.  I need to pick those projects up, really study them and focus on them to figure out not only where I am but also where I need to be.  (It does not help that I have not been the most organized note-taker when it comes to these designs…I’m amazed I have *any* designs finished!)  Because those require so much energy, it’s just seemed easier to pick up the projects that have ready made patterns.  We’ve hit the point in wedding planning where I feel constantly busy with it, and so I want something a little more brainless to work on when it’s just me, sitting on my couch.

Yet this sweater, Vivian, is turning out to be anything but brainless.  It was already somewhat complicated – lots of cables = lots of charts.  But it had definitely hit that point where I knew what was coming next for each chart and could follow along without really looking.  Then on Wednesday, I finished the second sleeve and started trying to attach them.  First, I ripped back that night because I didn’t like what the pattern was telling me to do in terms of the right vs left sleeves.  I wanted the sleeve to be near the part of the body with the same cabling, and for some reason, the pattern instructions told me to do the opposite.  That sort of dissonance is not something I could handle, so I detached the only sleeve I had put onto the sweater to fix it.

Tonight, I picked it up again.  Now, I’ve done one other sweater pattern by lovely Ysolda, and I had this exact same issue back then.  I don’t know if it’s her instructions, or if it’s the editor describing how the joining and decreases should go, but somewhere in that equation is my confusion.  To start with, it’s not made clear at this point how many stitches should be on each front panel and the back panel.  (I know, this sweater is all in one piece and doesn’t actually have panels, but still, it’s about to get armholes at this point.  It would be nice if it would give a head count, as it were.)  I think that creates the initial confusion.  Then, somehow between the instruction to knit x number of stitches on the right front, then knit across the sleeve stitches to attach it, then knit across the back before joining the second sleeve and knitting to the end, everything just gets kind of messy.  It’s so hard for me to know where the issues lie – is it me, having not counted correctly?  Is it the wording of the pattern?  Is the description not setting me up well to complete this part of the sweater, so that by the time everything is connected, it’s already too late?  I just can’t put my fingers on it.  But I will say this – for most knitters, joining sleeves to a sweater is similar to dismantling a bomb.  (Ok, I’ve never actually done that, but humor me.)  It’s something that no matter how many times you’ve done it in you life, it still feels a little different every time.  Every sweater has its own personality, its own unique needs and requirements.  You have to be patient, to listen to the sweater.  It’s something that’s terrifying but also exciting and that you’ve been wanting to do – joining the sleeves is when the whole concept of the sweater becomes real.  And in both of these situations, the most helpful thing is to give the most information possible.  It helps me way more for a sweater designer to over explain these things.  You should have 53 stitches on both front panels and 106 stitches on the back.  You will be putting 5 stitches of the sweater on scrap yarn at each armhole.  After doing that, you should have 50 stitches on each front panel and 102 stitches on the back.

To me, that’s helpful.  Because otherwise, here’s what happens – I struggle.  I look at the pattern instructions when I get to where it claims my armhole should be and I wonder – did she really want me to chop a cable in half so that 2 stitches are on the body and 2 are on the sleeve?  I mean, I can do that but it seems like an odd placement.  Then I dither and try counting stitches and a few other things that are totally useless except to make me feel like I’m doing something.  Then I decide to just shut up and trust the pattern and keep going.  It looks pretty good, so I do another row.  And then, on the next right side row where I need to start doing centered double decreases to continue joining the sleeve to the sweater, it becomes obvious that there’s just something off about the sleeve placement of at least one sleeve.  Then I reread and recount and bitch and moan and complain because I know that once again, I am going to need to remove the sleeves to make this sweater work.

That’s my exciting Friday night – it’s been awhile since I was this low-key, and I’m enjoying it.  I just really desperately wish that instead of having a basket full of sweater that still needs to be tinked back so that I could fix it, I had a basket full of sweater with correctly attached arms that I was about to put away for the summer.

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Why Is This On My Needles?

We’ve hit that time of year, here in the MidWest, where the weather is positively unpredictable.  The morning will start out cold enough for you to wear not only a jacket, but a scarf and hat too, and by afternoon, you’re wondering how many layers of clothing you can strip off before you become indecent.  Cold and wet and rainy and gray, then suddenly blue skies and no jacket needed. 

This is the time of year when I try to figure out what the heck I’m supposed to be knitting.  Right now, I have two sweaters on the needles, and I’m trying to figure out what to do next.  Do I keep knitting them, knowing full well that I’ll be thrilled to have them finished and ready to wear once winter comes along?  Do I set them aside and cast on something more springy, a nice tank top or skirt or short sleeved sweater?  I mean, I love this sweater that I’m about halfway through:

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That’s Vivian, by Ysolda Teague, in MadelineTosh Vintage.  I swore after my hideous experience with that Little Birds pattern that I wouldn’t do an more of her sweaters, but I’d been wanting to make this one forever.  I really couldn’t stay away, and honestly, the pattern hasn’t given me issues this time around.  Well alright, the set-up rows were just kind of a mess to translate and get on the needles, which feels more like a few key words were removed in the editing process than anything else.  And I did wind up cursing up one side and down the other of those first half dozen rows or so, but that was really my own incompetence more than anything else.  I had somehow forgotten how to count higher than 8 – I hate it when that happens.  But that was totally my own fault, not the pattern’s.  Once I was about 10 rows in, I definitely found my rhythm.  The trouble is that with all of those glorious cables, it’s definitely slow knitting.  I need to follow multiple charts at any given time, which means that despite having started this on New Years Day, I’m still only about 50% of the way through.  That’s one completed sleeve that you see and what barely counts as a cuff for the other.  The body is completed up to the armholes…really, I’m sure that the sweater would just fall off the needles once the second sleeve is done.  I’ve been wanting this sweater for so long now – I bought that yarn about 3 years ago as a holiday gift for myself.  (This turned out to be a wise choice that year – it was a very hard winter, and I was happy to have that yarn to look at and plan for.)  But let’s say that I finish it in the next few weeks – highly unlikely since I’ve finally gotten the yarn I need for the chuppah and that now has my full attention.  Even if I do finish it – so what?  It’s not like I’m going to get to wear it.

By the time I finish this or that other sweater, full Cleveland springintosummer will be upon us, which means damp, humid weather, sunshine and heat.  The only time that you find yourself needing a sweater is when you go into one of the establishments that has the hideous habit of making the air conditioning so high that you forget why you bothered wearing that sundress out of the house.  Do I really want to finish a sweater just in time not to wear it? 

Of course not – the joy of being a knitter is finishing a project and being able to immediately make it a part of your wardrobe rotation.  But do I really want to be so fickle as to set this beautiful project aside?  Come September, I would be happy to find it completed and sleeping in my sweater drawer, just waiting for the day that comes when I start to notice a chill in the air.

What about you?  Does it ever hit that point where the seasons make you want to abandon your current project of choice?  And if you give in, how do you deal with those feelings of guilt?

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