Thursday, May 14, 2009

Garter Yoke Cardigan yarn shortage

Recently, someone was amused to learn that I would adapt a pattern to fit the yarn I had. If they looked at my projects, they would really be entertained. Almost all my projects are based on the yarn. For me, it is all about the materials. Patterns photos can inspire me to knit, but rarely to purchase. However, the sight of yarn invariably causes my wallet to leap out of my purse. The touch, the color and the texture of yarn provides the inspiration I need to knit. Once I have the yarn, I pick out a pattern for it. If I can't find a pattern that works, I modify a pattern to make it work.

My most recently completed sweater is both and exception and an example of this rule.

Garter Yoke Cardigan, in last fall's Knit.1 magazine. I've been wanting to knit this sweater all this past winter. I even bought the magazine just to get the pattern, thereby disproving my "yarn first" rule. Even stranger, I've never bought the recommended yarn for the pattern. Actually, I never bought any yarn for the pattern.

What I did buy last year was a bunch of Karabella yarn that was marked down at my lys. I bought some green Aurora 8. I liked it so much that I went back and bought some more in peach, with some Margrite Bulky that I thought complemented it well. It was over 700 yards of yarn, and should have been enough for some type of garment.

It was enough for the Sweet Tee from Interweave Knits. The worry that a bunch of plain stockinette knitting in a light color would visually enlarge my waistline until the possibility of its existence was questioned stayed my needles. *sigh* Consulting a fabulous article on fit in the silver anniversary issue of Vogue Knitting, I learned that a vertical line has a slimming effect. Aha. A cardigan was what I needed. I thought I'd knit the GYC, using the peach yarn as a kind of "muslin" (sewers know what I mean) to see how I'd like to knit the pattern once I actually buy yarn for it.

The knitting didn't take long. I actually finished it in tandem with my last sweater, the green cabled pullover. As you can see, I had to cut it very short. Short sleeves, short cardi. I tried to make up for it with details. The contrasting, picked-up button band was one thing, but the detail I really like is the cuffs.

I copied the cuff idea from a raveler (check my ravelry project for more construction details and a link to the brilliant knitter who thought of deep, buttoned, garter stitch cuffs for this sweater), but I made them short. I had to, I was short of yarn, but I also thought they would be cuter short.

Knitting this "muslin" taught me several things about the pattern. This smooth yarn has too much stitch definition for this pattern, making it difficult to hide the short rows at the back of the neck. I'll look for a fuzzier yarn for my next go-round. Also, I need to keep in mind that garter stitch uses more yarn to cover less area, and buy extra hanks. The pattern shaping is great, though. I probably didn't need those stitches I added under the arm, and thus could knit it again with almost no modifications. The garter stitch yoke really stretches to accomodate my shoulders, making for a very comfortable fit.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day for a deer

A couple of mornings ago, I caught an interloper in my back yard. I knew who she was. I had seen her before and could easily identify her by the two notches in her right ear.

Last July I wrote about this deer, who rested in our yard for a couple of mornings while her twin fawns napped in the weeds of the adjacent vacant lot. I've seen deer around town fairly often since then, but never have I been sure that I saw this particular doe and her fawns, though I've often wondered how they fared during the winter.

I knew that some deer were jumping our fence to eat last year's crabapples. All the wildlife, deer, squirrels, and birds alike, love to eat the little, soft, dried-up, fallen fruits. They've eaten almost all of them, mostly during the night or in our absence, leaving their droppings as evidence of their visits.

There are a few crabapples left to tempt a deer. Also tempted were the deer on the outside of the fence. There were three others in the vacant lot next door. One of them, a fairly large doe, was peacefully munching weeds. The other two smaller does were pacing around our fenceline. I could clearly see the segmented motion of two deer shapes through the cracks between our old fence boards. Watching the brief flashes of their shadows as they walked around, trying to decide what to do, was like watching an old, jerky, silent movie. It was clear that they knew mom was eating crabapples and they wanted some too, or perhaps they were just nervous being separated from their mother.

Then, suddenly, action! With only a little difficulty, a young doe jumped in and started eating while mom watched to see if the other one was coming. There followed a brief interval of nibbling, watching, more nibbling and more watching. They seemed to see and hear us through the window, but were not as interested in us as they were in other noises. Mom was watching her other kid across the fence, but she also took notice whenever a car passed or someone walked by. The morning was well under way and the neighborhhod was becoming increasingly active. The deer became more nervous, both these two and the two in the lot on the other side of the fence.

Since I figured that they would be leaving soon anyway, I thought I'd see what they would do if I went outside. Neither the noise of the door opening or my appearance spooked them enough to cause them to leave.

They simply stood still and stared at me. It was a standoff. I approached ever closer, but they never moved. I waved my ams and said "Shoo!". Nothing. Perhaps they thought I had food for them. A few more steps and I began to wonder if the doe would be motivated to protect her nearly-grown yearling daughter. Deciding that getting too close might not be a good idea, I backed off and went inside.

My leaving shook them out of their trance. After one last brief look around, the doe made her exit. Good. I didn't have to worry about my flower beds or the birdseed and nuts I had put out for the squirrels on the patio. The three other deer were waiting for her. Once she made it across, they headed down the alley and were gone.
This simple drama of the two young does who did not want to be separated from their mother, the one who dared the jump to be with mom, but then hesitated to follow her back out, the one who waited nervously for mom to return, and mom's protective watchfulness while trying to get a bite to eat, seemed so familar. Whether animal or human, the tie between mother and child is obvious.
Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cabled, Cotton, and Knitted

Finally, the cabled cotton sweater is blocked and ready for photos. Actually, the shot below was taken yesterday morning, just before I put it in the washer (hand wash cycle, fabric softener only, no detergent).

It's so nice and new that I'm still treating it a little gently. After squeezing it between towels (for some reason, my washer doesn't spin-dry in the hand wash cycle), I laid it out flat with the fan on it. It was dry by morning and I went out to the crab apple for a few photos.

Unfortunately for the sweater, it was chilly, the sprinklers were on (K exhibited bad timing on the sprinkler project), and the crab apple flowers were distracting.

So that's all the decent photos. I abandoned the camera for the days chores. An excursion to you-know-what Mart has proved the sweater to be quite wearable, comfy and fairly warm, thus proving that using a worsted weight yarn and size 7 needles in the Cabled Pullover pattern from the Silver Anniversary issue of Vogue Knitting can produce a fitted sweater, rather than an oversize one.

The pattern calls for over 3,000 yards of a sportweight wool yarn. I had 1240 yards of a cotton and acrylic blend (ye olde Cotton-ease). Since the sportweight yarn is held double, a heavier weight yarn held single would require 1,500 yards. I thought I'd knit a shorter version to reduce the yards needed to around 1200. Unfortunately, I got carried away with my cables and didn't start the armholes quite soon enough.

The sweater is a smidge too long. That's not a serious problem, but it does explain that crease you see at the bottom in the photo above. I first thought I messed it up in blocking, but now I realize that it gets caught in my lap when I sit. After a couple of cups of coffee this morning, I had a crease. Also, if the sweater had been shorter, I would have had enough yarn to knit the turtleneck to the recommended 11" length. As it is, I only had enough for a 7" turtleneck. The jury is still out on the question of collar length. Certainly it will do, especially since it is short enough to wear up, as a mock turtleneck, or just flopped down in front, cowl-style. For comfort, I prefer it rolled down.

My final commentary on the sweater concerns the shoulders and sleeves, where I made some pattern modifications. When knitting the back armhole decreases, I stopped cabling as soon as the decreases cut into the cable stitches. This left several rows of stockinette above the last cable twist. To eliminate that effect on the front, I cabled and decreased at the same time, crossing the stitches first, then decreasing when knitting the two stitches closest to the edge. You can see the result in the photo above. (All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them). The cable twists go right up to the decrease line. I'd rather have done this on the back as well, but having this difference in the front and back cable endings makes it easier to tell the front from the back when I'm pulling on the sweater.
My second modification was to change the pattern in the sleeves, replacing the diamond cable with a plain cable and the reverse stockinette with broken ribbing. I thought this would make the pattern line up better. In a way, it does. The broken ribbing on the sleeve matches up with the same pattern on the body, the outside cable matches with the second cable on the body, and the inside cable matches with the third cable on the body. It's not perfect, but considering that the sleeve is reduced by approximately 30 stitches and the body is reduced by approximately 60, the only way to get a perfect match would have been to reduce the number of stitches in the central twisted ribbing enough to make room for the diamond cable.

Although I considered it for days, I finally decided against reducing the ribbing. I'm glad now that I left it, for a completely unforseen reason. It allows a lot of stretch over my shoulders.
The shoulders are a part of this sweater that probably need to be re-designed in my version. The oversize version falls off the shoulder; no fit needed. In a fitted version, the back should be raised (I added two sets of short-rows to the back shoulders, but the back neck is still too low). Also, for someone with square shoulders (me!), either the sleeve cap or the shoulders should be wider.

I've read that a yoke sweater might need extra increases in the yoke for someone with square shoulders. Overall, set-in sleeves would fit that body type better. I think the same rule applies with raglans, which are just yoke sweaters with the increases (or decreases) confined to one area.

As it is, I've skated by with this one. My other cotton-ease sweaters have stretched out tremendously. This one will loosen up with each wash.

 Update:  I've worn this sweater frequently for a couple of years, always machine washing and sometimes machine drying it.  Now that it has stretched a good bit, I ripped back the neck, decreased the stitches by nearly half and reknit the neck in a simple ribbing with short rows at the back.  The sweater is even more comfortable now.