Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cathode sweater, knitting complete

Here's my latest sweater. I knit this using yarn I had stashed over a year ago. Back then, if it was yarn, if it was discounted or on sale, I bought it. I'm only slightly more discrimating now. If it is nice yarn and on sale at a good discount, I buy it. Thank goodness I've improved my tastes, and have since learned that not all the yarn that is priced right is the right yarn to knit.

The blue yarn is Kaleidoscope by Manetto Hill Yarnery. I found a lot of their yarns at Tuesday Morning. I suppose Manetto Hill has gone out of business, or at least this line of yarn has been discontinued. Otherwise, I wouldn't have found it there--Tuesday Morning is a closeout retailer. The yarn is a loosely chained concoction of single plies, one of which is a shiny teal thread. The other ply goes through color changes along the length. The fiber content is wool, acrylic, and acetate. Touching these with any degree of pressure will cause the plies to separate, fly apart even, as though they hate each other. To say it snags easily is an understatement. I'm glad my 350 yards of this stuff is knitted up.

The teal cuffs and ribbing is Berroco Ultra Alpaca. I had bought one hank to try and dithered a bit about the color, settling on this one as a favorite. It is close enough to the teal in the Manetto to pass without too close an inspection. This photo shows the match well enough:

I like the Ultra Alpaca a lot and wouldn't mind knitting an entire sweater with it. It is scratchy in the hank, but washing softens it a lot, making it wearable. It knits easily, but is a bit slippery. Once knitted it is fluffy, squishy, and has a nice halo from the alpaca. There's enough wool in it to make it elastic. That's where the scratchy comes from, I suppose, but it is worth a little scratchy for yarn this pretty. The colors are intense, with nice flecks of darker and lighter hues.

Since I mean this to be a spring sweater, I was glad to find that the alpaca is not too warm. I suppose that is because I'm only using it in the cuffs and ribbing.

The pattern I used is Cathode by Stephanie Japel, published in Knitty. You may not recognize it, since I knit in a much smaller gauge (13 st/in) and left off the collar. I tried out a garter stitch edging at the neckline, knitting it flat for those rows to make it an easier knit and to allow for a button, just in case the neck was too tight to get over my head. It turns out that I need that small break, otherwise I would just sew it shut. I found a small, round, black button in my button drawer that works.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Crochet to Knit--the hard way

Back when I was really into crochet, and read the crochet boards, I often saw questions about converting a knit pattern to crochet, or vice-versa. Most often, the question linked to a nice knit sweater, and wanted to know how it could be converted to crochet. And, most often, the answer was that the effect would not be the same. Of course, there are ways to crochet a design that was originally knitted, and to produce knitted objects that look as though they have been crocheted. There might even be one or two crochet stitches which will produce a similar fabric to knitting. The merits and demerits of each craft have been discussed, compared and debated endlessly.

I'm not looking to start another crochet v. knit debate. I am actually just reminiscing. It was my desire for sweaters that turned me from crochet back to knit. Now, I'm literally re-experiencing that moment as I frog one of my crochet camisoles so I can knit another with the yarn.

I crocheted this top about three years ago, following my first visit to a lys. Having in hand at last some good quality cotton yarn (Berroco Cotton Twist), I designed a simple tank with a lace midriff and beaded edging.

I was quite happy with the result at the time. (If you want to see a modeled shot, there's one in my poster for '05.) I even wrote up the pattern and offered it for publication. There was a positive response, but I never pursued it past sending off the contract. I quickly realized that pattern writing is much too time consuming. (That's why I so appreciate a well-written pattern and admire those that write them.)

I wore this often, but wear and washing has stretched it too much. Styles have changed, as has what I consider age-appropriate and flattering. Still, it was hard to frog it. I like it. It was also hard to frog because I was very meticulous in weaving in the ends. Oh, and those seams--all the sewing had to be picked out.

I kept at it, though. I'm still under the influence of the 'clear the decks' crusade I began in January, so frogged it was.

Now that I've learned that recycling yarn is not a fun job, I won't undertake all that work for a bunch of little short pieces of yarn without more thought to the value of the yarn. I'm afraid I was motivated by sentiment on this one. I wasn't wearing it, and I didn't want to throw it out.

Now I have to skein, wash and reball it all.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Knit, Caftan Pullover

I've finished my modified version of Norah Gaughan's Caftan Pullover, as I planned, in time for Spring. The weather has certainly cooperated by providing a beautiful spring day with the beginnings of green everywhere.

I left out the split neckline which you see in the pattern (Interweave Knits, Spring 2006). As I explained earlier, I was concerned about having to sew the split together. I hated to leave out all the pretty cabling and motifs, but I wanted a sweater I would wear comfortably. It is totally comfortable, and not without some nice details. The Ultra Silk yarn is wonderful for cables and seed stitch. I used a size 9 needle. My gauge was perhaps a fraction of a stitch too large, but I got too small a gauge on the size 8s.

The fit came out ok. Actually, the yarn is so stretchy, I could have made it smaller. However, that would have made it even more clingy.

I followed the instructions exactly on sleeve length, although I had my doubts. It isn't perfect, but I've decided it is close enough. I much prefer too long to too short.

If I hadn't modified the bell sleeves to tapered ones, I'd have wanted them to be bracelet-length, as in the pattern picture. I narrowed the cuffs as much as I could and still have the motif nicely centered, then increased as I went up to make them 13" wide at the bind-offs. I don't usually need them that wide, but I followed the schematic on that after I saw how tight they are on the model's upper arms. She must be much taller and larger boned than I am. I have long arms, so it worked out, but I think only a very tall person would need the 18" sleeves.

Probably the shoulders slide down a bit more than they should, making the sleeves longer. I thought I'd try a three-needle bind-off there, since the seaming would show in this yarn. The problem is, the bound-off shoulder seam is much more stretchy than a sewn one. I may reinforce it there with some crochet, it I can find some yarn to do it in. Ultra Silk is so stretchy, it would not provide much reinforcement.

One last look at that front motif. I'll use this photo to update my Ravelry page for this project. I have one there of the motif before the sweater was finished. It looks very much the same, but there's loose ends showing because it wasn't seamed together yet.

This leaves me with only one unfinished project, my mitered jacket in Wooly Stripes Tweed. It's hibernating, trying to decide if it should be a sweater or an afghan, and there it will stay.

Clearing the decks by finishing up old things is a good way to start Spring.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Diminishing Cables Sweater, Done!

Let's all breathe a sigh of relief. The sweater blocked out ok. I am relieved that all the modifications I made to this pattern did not mess it up. It is finally done. I can't wait to wear it out somewhere.

Actually, I'd like the weather to warm up a bit. It was in the thirties (Farenheit) when I took these photos. After I took a couple outside, I gave up and came inside where it is warmer. I don't like the way the sunlight (such as it is) makes the Aurora 8 yarn look shiny. Nontheless, I've used this first photo because it shows that the yoke, which I knit twice to get the right fit, is just where I wanted it. Besides, it is, err, attention-getting. Camera angles, it's all camera angles.

Stats: Diminishing Cables Sweater pattern by Annie Modesitt. Published in Interweave Knits, Fall 2003. Karabella Aurora 8 yarn, 9 balls (900 yards). Size 7 Bryspun straight needles, size 7 bamboo circular needles. 12 days knitting time. Modifications: substituted worsted weight yarn for double-stranded fingering weight; changed stitch pattern in body; narrowed and shortened sleeves; shortened yoke. For detailed explanations of my mods, see my earlier entries, here and here and, yes, here.

I'm a bit surprised that I blogged so much about this sweater. I usually just mention a project when I start it, then blog about it when it is done. I guess I just became obsessed by the thrill of creating something different.

Once I finished the yoke and could see that I had enough yarn left to lengthen the sleeves, I cut the 'provisional' yellow cuffs off and knit a new one with the leftover green Aurora 8. Since I was knitting down from the provisional cast-on, there was no way the 3x3 ribbing would line up. It would be a half stitch off. Instead, I used the twisted rib stitch called for in the cuffs, neck, and bottom of the sweater. This is the only place I used it, since I didn't want the bottom to be tight around my hips, and I didn't knit as high a neckline as in the pattern. I could stand for the sleeves to be about a half an inch shorter, so they wouldn't wrinkle up when I bend my elbow. I think they are about 8" long. I'm not sure because I just knit until I ran out of yarn. Now that I see them, I like them better than the long sleeves in the pattern.

The yarn has held up to multiple froggings, washings and blockings just fine. How it will wear remains to be seen. Even if it does pill, I won't complain. I'll just shave it with my sweater shaver and consider it worth it for the wool. The yarn is so incredibly soft, I can not believe it is wool. This is without doubt the most comfortable sweater I have ever knit.

I will say, though, that it is very clingy. I'll have to be careful what I wear under it.

This is a good shot of the side cable. See how it diminishes and grows, then diminishes again for the yoke? All the body shaping is done in the four side cables. That made it easier to seam, since there were no increases and decreases to try to line up in the side seam.
I'm trying to come up with a new name for my version...

Come and Go Cables Pullover
Thick and Thin Cables Pullover
Shaping Cables Pullover

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My Knitted Angora Lace Beret

I have wasted much time trying to photograph the beret I knitted from the A.C.A. angora yarn. I'm pleased with the beret, but it is so fuzzy, and the fuzzies catch the light. K says that when I wear it, it looks like a squirrel is sitting on my head. I find that amusing, and a bit endearing. That is, it makes me think of the beret endearingly, not of K endearingly. Smart remarks will only get you so far...)

This one at least shows a little of the lace pattern. I followed the pattern for the lace beret from A Gathering of Lace.

This may be the only pattern I knit from this book. I bought the book a couple of years ago, after I knit my first couple of lace projects, and thought I'd be knitting lace often. That thought lasted until I saw the complexity of some of the lace projects, especially the shawls. Then, once I found I can knit lace shawls, but won't wear them, I put the book away.

The only thing that stuck in my mind was this beret. When I first saw it, it looked so complex, but lovely. Although the yarn doesn't show off the pattern much, and I had to omit much of the band and one of the repeats, I still am so happy to find that the complex-looking pattern is actually quite simple to knit.

After all, the lace strips and cables are the same that I used when I knitted Spring Fling and Sienna. Add to that the increases and decreases you need for a beret, and you've got it. I've knitted a couple or three berets before, so I'm familar with the concept. I've certainly gotten the 'block around a dinner plate' process down. However, I've never knit one that fit me before.

This beret actually fits well. It is snug enough so that I haven't had to put elastic in the brim, but loose enough to be comfortable. I think that can be credited to the light weight of the angora. If it were heavier, it would probably slide down around my ears.

Another thing about it, it is the warmest thing. If I wear it too long when I'm indoors, my head actually begins to sweat.