Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year's-end Knitting

As the year comes to a close, I am keeping busy with small knitting projects, nothing too demanding. Following the pressure of wedding knitting and a year of knitting obligations, what I need are a couple of simple little knits that no one needs.

I've been simply knitting socks, following the pattern (Monkey! in Austermann Step) to the letter, happy to find that I knit socks tighter after a couple of years of doing it. I thought tighter knitting would mean a better fit. The first time I knit this pattern, the socks were too big. Now tighter has turned into too tight, an unexpected result.

Another project is not simple, but at least it's little, and gives me a chance to practice fair isle. I'm sure it's something no one needs. (Whaaah is that? Keep reading, I'll show you.)

While knitting, I've been thinking about the past year. 2010 was another productive year for me. The past 363 days have given me time to complete more than 30 knitting projects. The number is nothing remarkable. It's even a little below average, considering that about half of them are pairs of socks. Quantitatively, the knitted items were expected. After all, I knit every one of those 363 days. Qualitatively, some were unexpected.

To reacquaint myself with the past year's knitting, I looked over this blog, refreshing my memory of the things I knit and my experience knitting them. At the beginning of the year, I found only one resolution, or, really, just one remark that was even close to a resolution for the coming year. At first read, the one statement I made in this blog in January 2010 as I looked forward to the coming year, now past, seemed reasonable.

What I said in January, 2010 was "Expect the unexpected, laugh when it arrives."

Oh ho. It's good I didn't know how right I was! If I had, I would have approached knitting in 2010 with a lot more hesitancy.

This was certainly a year of unexpected knitting projects. I was happy to hit upon a marketable sock pattern. I didn't expect to knit samples--5 pairs, actually 5 and one-half pairs, in the pattern.

I expected to knit a little something for a wedding at the end of the year. I did not expect to knit a bridal veil, certainly not using very thin silk thread.

I thought I'd be knitting a sweater with some silk yarn I bought in 2009. I didn't expect to knit a stole. I never expected it would block out so large. I had originally hoped I could give it to the bride to wear during the reception. I didn't expect that she would wear it as part of her going-away outfit. (I loved that she did, though.)

I'd say that my resolution for 2010 was right on point. Following it, I somehow should have expected all those unexpected events. In the superstitious fear that the resolve in some strange way might have shaped the year, I'll try to be more careful when I prepare my resolutions for 2011. In these last few days of 2010, I'm preparing for next-year's knitting.

I have all my yarn wound. I have my patterns queued, and have marked a reasonble number to be knit in 2011. I've settled on 15, allowing room for an few unexpected projects.

But before the end of this year, I need to finish that fairly useless fair isle project.

It's a pair of boot toppers. All I've done so far is the hard part, the cuffs. They need an edging to stop the curling at the bottom, inner cuffs to stop the curling at the top and hold them in the boots, and a good blocking. All of that will improve their looks. I consider these simply decorative, not functional--of no real use--unless they keep your legs warmer? They're an impulse project that occurred to me when I was looking at these boots the other day, just what no one needs--boot cozies!

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Knitting Dam Broken

Ha, being a fan of double entendres and puns, I am pleased with the title of this post. I composed it to announce that the bit of a knitting block I experienced after finishing three projects in a short space of time was miracously broken the other night by something I read in another knit blog. I was hoping that just looking at Ravelry projects would do the trick, but it didn't. However, reading a few blog posts served to remind me that I had the perfect sock project waiting to fill the gap left when I finished these...

Details: Kaiso Socks from Knitted Socks East and West, Unisono yarn. Ravelry page here.

Yes, things are done, beautiful blue socks for me, a wedding veil for the bride, and my shawl for the wedding.

Details: Tibetan Clouds Beaded Stole from The Knitter's Book of Wool, Louisa Harding Mulberry yarn. Ravelry page here.

I can't believe I considered not blocking this shawl. It is so much better after a full wet block, lighter, smoother, shinier. The beads are more obvious and the drape is enhanced.

What's next? I did start those socks I've been mentally designing for weeks, but they take a bit of thinking. And, honestly, I've got two tv-watching spots. I need a project for each.

Thus, I'm very happy to have settled on a simple project, with pre-wound sock yarn, following a set pattern.

Monkey socks, once again, knit tighter this time. I'm so surprised by this yarn. It's a big skein of Austermann Step (Mit Aloe Vera und JoJoba Ol!) in what I thought was a super-unattractive colorway made tolerable by a sale price. It looks much better knitted.

It's a relief to find that my early failure to knit Monkey socks that fit has been remedied. All it took was a little sock-knitting experience. Smaller yarn, smaller needles, tighter gauge. Simple, of course, but the hard thing to accept is that socks must be knit smaller than your leg. They stretch to fit.

Oh, and the title--Dam Knitting, broken! Broken knitting, Dam! Broken Dam Knitting? (assuming there's a place named Broken Dam) The combinations amuse me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Knitting a wedding veil

Most times during the weeks I spent knitting a wedding veil with fine silk thread, I wouldn't have said that I was experiencing any level of torture. Even though the task was difficult, required a lot of concentration and promoted anxiety, it was still enjoyable. Once it was done, I blocked the veil and stepped back to take a photo...

and grinned. It certainly did look painful. Ouch, poor head! I wasn't just taking out pent-up frustrations in the blocking, though. I knit the veil to have a shape and couldn't block it flat. It would have puckered. I needed the styrofoam head to round out the top, which I knit to fit similar to a hat (actually, half a hat). Since I limited the increases after the top, the sides didn't come out to a complete semi-circle and needed multiple wires to shape them, as did the line from the head to the board. With a lot of pins, flexible blocking wires and the styrofoam head, I managed it. The head is also great for showing off the result.

What a transformation. After I bound off, it was a crumpled ball that fit in my hand. Even as I knit, I didn't imagine that it would open as much as it did. A quick dip in a sinkful of cool water and a few minutes of pinning was all it took. I credit the combination of 2/30 silk thread from Halcyon Yarn and a size 5 needle, along with the knitted lace patterns. I copied the patterns from the Percy Shawl and Eugen Buegler's Feather and Fan Shawl, improvising the shaping. The middle pattern, a version of Frost Flowers, has yarn overs and decreases on both the knit and purl side. It requires twice as much concentration, but it is worth doing.

While the feather and fan pattern in the edging is lovely, it is not as open as the Frost Flowers. Though the flowers are pretty, after just two repeats of that pattern, I was happy to begin the edging. It's so much easier to knit. However, since it is an increasing pattern, the edging widens the veil considerably. I hope it will make a nice flounce around the waist, but the drape of the silk may overwhelm it. Either way, it really used a lot of yarn. I knew from previous shipments that Halcyon Yarn delivers quickly. However, when I finally faced the certainty that I needed a second mini-cone, I thought I'd have a break from veil-knitting while I waited for it to arrive. Not a chance. I placed my order on Friday and received it on Monday, before I'd even finished the first cone.

Now the only difficulty remaining is putting it on the bride. Headbands, hairstyles, --there's choices to be made. At least they are hers and not mine. I made so many decisions and took so many chances with the veil. I'm glad they all worked out so well. If you can stand more details on the process, look at my Ravelry page on the project.

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