Sunday, January 29, 2006

Auld Steekie

Well, I cut my first steek over the weekend, and I have the pictures to prove it!

I decided to cut the neck steek first since it was the smallest. I managed not to freak out too much. There was a moment's anxiety as the scissors first took to the stitches, but that moment quickly faded as I got engrossed cutting up the center. I did the long front steek as well, and now I'm picking up the stitches on either side of the band. I have to admit, there is something really satisfying about cutting up a knitted vest with scissors, especially when you know it isn't going to unravel.

A prize goes to the first person who correctly identifies the inspiration for the title of this post!

Friday, January 27, 2006

How Freaksome?

Yesterday afternoon, I finally got to the place on Rosemarkie where I get to do top, only to discover that I left the pattern at home. Extremely frustrating. Since I was spending the evening in town, I decided it would be worth it for me to run to a local Borders with the Celtic Collection in stock and peek at the book. Checking inventory online revealed that the local Borders didn't have it, but the one up at Water Tower Place did. Realizing that my time was limited and I had to be somewhere, I took an emergency bus run up Michigan Avenue, went darting across the plaza and up the stairs of the Borders there, only to be overwhelmed by knitting books in no particular order.

I finally found the book about five minutes later and jotted down the few lines in it that I needed. (Does this violate copyright laws?) Anyways, I dashed down the stairs, across the plaza, and over to the Red Line as fast as I could. I ended up getting where I had to be about 5 minutes early. The whole train ride I spent in an elevated state of being. Most of the time I spent fumbling around with the notes I took, scrawling numbers and equations on the notes, and punching the calculator with reckless abandon. I kept dropping things, including the papers, the calculator, the yarn, and my knitting bag. I'm sure that I was the designated freak of my train car.

The clincher is that I didn't end up knitting a stitch of the vest until after I got home.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Men's Knit Out

It was another great Stitches in Britches meeting last night. This time, there were six of us who came out to knit in public together. The Argo Tea Café proved to be a good venue, as there was plenty of room and the noise wasn't too awful (though the occasional sound of the espresso machine did pause conversation more than once). We got the passing glance a couple of times and the frequent supportive comment from other patrons. Franklin tells the full story quite eloquently.

Rosemarkie is starting to drive me batty. I'm at the point in the project where I'm really close to closing the top, but every time I check to see if I'm ready, I'm not. I've been measuring how far I have to go over the past few days, and I'm still 1/2 inch short. I guess I should remember the old addage, "A watched pot never boils" and apply it to knitting: "A measured garment never grows." I'm within a few rounds of doing the top, though, so it will be really soon.

This will be where it gets interesting. I will have to get out my calculator and figure out how exactly this is going to work, since my gauge is quite different than what the pattern calls for. I don't want to make the neck too large, but I don't want it to be too small, either. I also want to have enough stitches across the shoulders, but not so many that they are falling off. I guess this is why they say gauge is so important. Otherwise, it's loads of calculations in all directions.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Knitting Shorts

Just the other day, Aidan found the short film The Knit Club on the Internet. All I have to say is... wow. I think my favorite part of the film is this: "As the Knit Club became more popular, even the Sewing Club tried to intimidate us..." followed by a shot of thugs beating the crap out of the guy. Some of the other films on that site are excellent as well.

Then there is this, a movie which illustrates how people from very different backgrounds can come together to share a common interest. It also suggests that the projects that they choose somehow relate to memories of their childhood. An interesting idea. I imagine there is truth to the whole "you knit how you are" philosophy.

I don't think our group will evolve into either an underground group where men gather around their favorite competitor to cheer them on, or a group where we only knit things that relate to our childhood. I imagine we'll be like most other knitting groups across the country, simply a gathering place to hang out, talk, share ideas, and have a good time.

I bet you thought this post was actually about me knitting a pair of shorts.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Future Predictions about Rosemarkie

Rosemarkie is moving along splendidly. It's actually starting to look less like a blob of fabric and more like a vest. (I could be wrong, though, as a passerby yesterday asked if I was making a purse.) The project started on a 32" needle, then it was down to a 24" needle after a significant number of decreases. Now I'm employing the 3 circular method, i.e. circulars as very long dpns.

I've made a couple of observations about the differences between how it is supposed to come out and how it is going to come out:
  • It will be significantly heavier than the original Rosemarkie. I imagine this is mostly because I used thicker (and possibly denser) yarn than what was called for, but I believe that another factor is that there will be more rows per inch than the original pattern, too.
  • Because it will be heavier, it will likely be warmer than the original Rosemarkie. I'm figuring that the 60/40 alpaca/cotton blend will trap about the same amount of air as the Merino wool, maybe a little less.
  • The pattern will be wider and shorter than the original, due to fewer stitches per inch and more rows per inch. This means that what is supposed to essentially be a square is going to end up with only rectangular properties.
  • The bottom of each armhole will open up faster than the pattern intended (because of the row gauge).
  • I will have to knit longer bands around the steeked areas, since my row gauge is different. Therefore I will have to put the buttonholes in different places than where the pattern calls for.
Noting the differences above, I predict that the vest will fit but will look quite different from what Alice Starmore intended (apart from the obvious color deviations). I hope she doesn't mind me taking a few intended (and unintended) liberties!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A knitter and a fiddler walk into a bar....

Last night, the Fool and I went to the Irish session at the Grafton. He was fiddling; I was hanging out with my friend Maura, talking and knitting a sock. We were sitting in the big picture windowsill listening to the music when this guy came up to ask what I was doing.
(Side note: The last time this happened, the guy was a software engineer from Poughkeepsie who was so mortified when he discovered I was married that he introduced himself to the Fool and apologized for hitting on me. So Maura and the Fool and I always anticipate high hilarity from guys in bars who want to talk about knitting.)
Instead, it turned out that this guy was himself a knitter, who had just finished his first project, a scarf, for his mom, for Christmas. She loved it, and so did he.
I told him about the new men's knitting group, and pulled the Fool out of the fiddle melee to meet him.
The conversation went sort of like this.
GUY: So, wow, what do you do at knitting club? (side note: I love how this comes out sounding kinda like "fight club.")
FOOL: Well, we sit around and knit and talk. About knitting and stuff.
GUY: Cool! But I'm not sure what I want to knit next ... wait, I think I want to learn how to do that! (points to my socks.)
E-mails were exchanged, and perhaps you'll be hearing more about him later.
Then I learned I don't get a recruitment bonus.

Debate continues in the household about whether to sign on to the Yarn Harlot's 2006 Knitting Olympics. Me, I'd finish Eris if I did it, and I'm not saying I will or won't .... The Fool? That's another story entirely.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Complaining is part of swatching, dear

In a decision which shows I have no sense at all, I asked for (and received) this Japanese knitting book for Christmas. It's got a cardigan in it that the good folks blogging at Crossed in Translation ( are knitting. I'm knitting it too, but I'm not posting on the blog, because my posts would go like this:

"What the hell, I can't read Japanese! What are all these fish-shaped thingers on my cable charts? Why are the fish swimming in a sea of hyphens? Where's the first line of the chart?! Damnation!"

Instead, I'm soaking up the knowledge of smarter knitters than I, and mucking on through. I've been trying to find a yarn to use that shows the cables well, with little success. Now that the Fool has shown me how to actually "purl through the back loop," rather than the wack-ass thing I was doing - "knitting backwards through the back loop," maybe, or just "purling weirdly through the back loop," or "Wrong, wrong, all wrong," - I'm hoping for better luck with the swatching.
But two nights ago, I was sitting and knitting and muttering to myself, when the Fool said, "You know, you could give up."
I tell you, it was like the part in a Western when the bad guy comes in through the swinging saloon doors and a hush falls over the bar.
Give up?
Two sticks and a ball of yarn, and he suggested I give up? There are a lot of other things I do that I'd be happy to give up first. Flossing. Running. Bananas.
But not this.
I am not giving up. I might be a gibbering idiot, reduced to garter stitch fun fur scarves by the end of it, but I'm not giving up.
I mean, it's only a sweater. How hard can this be?

In less fraught-with-complicated-twisty-stitches news, I finished the Jaywalker socks. They're all the rage among some bloggers, and they were fun to knit and I think they showed off the yarn stripes very well.
But ... but, but, but .... the stitch pattern does something to the sizing of the sock that I don't understand. Despite the number of stitches on the needles, the Fool has to grunt and mutter to get the socks on over his gigantic heel. I have high hopes for washing.

Here they are:
This is a closeup of the stitch pattern (try to ignore the drunken Jaywalking that happened when I cast on to knit these socks in a dark car en route to a contra dance weekend - don't ask; seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Here they are, fully deployed on the Fool's feet.
I knit them on two Addi Turbo #1s, out of Regia Strato Color, #5741 (I think.)

Ha! Wild Success!

So the Leaf and Tendril sock is a smashing success thus far. I was going to replace the heel called for in the pattern with something else, but I thought I would give this a try before ruling it out. The verdict is that I would definitely do it again this way.

I have completely turned the heel and am on my way up the leg. It looks fabulous (i.e. no holes) and it actually fits on the first try. I did get a bit confused when I was reading some of the directions, but I eventually figured out the right way to do it by the process of elimination.

I'm amazed at how well the leaves pop out. This is Wildfoot and is absolutely perfect for the pattern. So okay, I take it back. Not all toe-up socks with gusset increases are evil.

In other news, I have started the arm steeks for this:

I have about 10 more inches to knit, but the good news is that 14 inches are done, and that the rounds only get smaller as they go up the neckline. I had a mild steek panic attack the other day (that involved me thinking, "Oh my God! What if the stitches run and the steek doesn't hold?") but I think I'm over it. I don't have to cut for awhile, so I will see how I really feel about this once I finish the project.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What Have I Done?

I must be crazy, because I just cast on for Cat Bordhi's Leaf and Tendril socks out of Socks Soar on Two Circulars. Why is this crazy, you ask? Because they are toe-up socks! If you have followed projects of mine in months past, you probably realize that it took me 11 months to finish my first pair of toe-up socks. So after all of my whining, my procrastinating, my frogging, and my pain, I'm trying it again. Things are different this time. No figure-eight cast on, no gusset increases, no awful heel flap with giant holes. Cat actually has gusset increases as part of her pattern, but I am not succumbing to the temptation of such a method. I have bigger and better plans for my socks that will be the envy of Leaf and Tendril socks everywhere...

I spent the commute this morning working out a provisional cast on using a circular needle as the "waste yarn." I am surprised at how easy this is. Having done it this way, I don't see why anyone would want to go back to using a waste yarn. It's incredibly easy and fast. I still remember the first time I tried a provisional cast on. It was accompanied by a crochet hook and lots of swearing. None of that here. Thanks to Knitting Help for making this possible.

So tonight is the first meeting of Stitches in Britches with Aidan and company. I have two other friends that are interested in being a part of the group, but neither of them are going to be there tonight. I know that Franklin has a previous commitment, so I might be the only "company." You never know, though. Perhaps someone saw one of those flyers I posted in Oak Park... like the male knitter who works at Tangled Web, our local yarn store. His specialty is monsters.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Toe-Up Socks

This was the first pair of socks I started for my feet. These were finished at one point, but the first sock was so large for my foot that it was unwearable, so I snipped off the top and frogged back to the gusset.

Following Denise's Toe-Up Socks on Socknitters, I tried her cast-on and found it really uncomfortable and sort of ugly looking, so for sock #2, I used a provisional cast-on on the underside of the toe which I thought worked a lot better. Next time I will use a cable needle instead of waste yarn.

The gusset increases proved to be slightly annoying, and the whole back of the heel was even more annoying, as I was plucking a stitch off the instep on each go round. And the cast-off at the top of the sock looked sloppy. When I re-did sock #1, I frogged back to the point where I started the gusset increases and simply did an afterthought heel. It worked out so much better than the first time. What a difference a heel makes!

So... I haven't given up on toe-ups yet. I'm thinking about doing Cat Bordhi's Leaf and Tendril Socks for Meg, substituting out her heel for a pattern with no gusset increases. I'm never doing sock gusset increases again!

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Male Knitting Group in Chicago... Can It Be True?

Quite recently, I stumbled across Aidan Gilbert's blog, a fellow knitter in the area. It's quite an interesting blog, so I added him to my roll. Just last week, it turns out he was trying to get a male knitting group off the ground with another fellow from the North Side. I had previously thought of starting a group, but the task seemed a bit daunting. Now that I know that there are two other male knitters who want to do this, the task seems much simpler!

It has been a few e-mails later, and we have set a place and time for our first event! We are calling the group Stitches in Britches and will meet the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month at:

Café Espresso (in Borders Books and Music)
150 N. State St.
Chicago, IL
6:30 - 9:30 p.m.

It's right off the Red Line and the 29 State bus line.

If you happen to be a male in the area who knits or crochets and are interested in joining us, we'd love to have you! Sign up for the discussion group for more information. Even if this date, time, and/or place doesn't work for you and you're interested, please sign up anyways. We can certainly try to change the time to accomodate everyone.

Flyers will be distributed to our local yarn stores and area businesses soon.

Monday, January 02, 2006

What I learned by knitting a giant Aran sweater right before Christmas

1. It sucks and is very difficult to keep a secret like that from the other knitter in the house.
2. No, really. When I finished that sweater I wanted to skip down the street swinging it over my head so all the neighbors could see it, but instead, I had to sneak it home and hide it in the closet.
3. Where I was sure the cats were sleeping on it every day and licking it and otherwise showing it the depths of their weird feline passion.
4. I could have knitted that sweater a lot faster, had I not distracted myself with socks and mittens and mice and other knitted odds and ends along the way. See, I cast it on in May, and knit the back and a sleeve, and then got a little tired of it, so I put it down. Then, in late October, I discovered, in someone else's knitblog, an absolutely amazing sweater from a Japanese book (expect to hear more on this soon) and I decided that I would not have two insanely cabled sweaters in progress, so St. Enda had to go.
On Nov. 1, I swore that I would have no other knitting before me until I finished every last twiddly little stitch (the front, a sleeve, the assembly and a collar.) By the middle of December, I was done.
5. Done. I could have finished that thing in four months if I wasn't so easily distracted.
6. Either the Fool has weirdly long arms (possible, as he tends toward "gangly,") or the Irish people have arms that are short in comparison to the torso. I knit the sleeves with the increases as specified in the pattern, and then when I measured? They were a good four inches too short. So I continued knitting on, and it all worked out, but it did cause me some cold sweats as I wondered if I'd somehow mismeasured and made the sleeves too long.
7. It actually caused me so much angst that I thought of a way to shorten the sleeves without taking the entire sweater apart first. I don't know that it would have worked, but I felt better having a last-ditch plan.
8. It's possible his arms are freakishly long, too. I haven't ruled that out. It would explain why he fits best in "large/tall" shirts, v. "XXL."
9. Socks are easier to keep secret.
10. Knowing that I'm in the hot seat now for "spectacular knitted Christmas gifts," I think what I will do is not give him any socks that I knit for him all year long, and just make a giant present of them in December, eight pairs of hand-knit socks all at once.