Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Glentrekker, or: the cardigan of my dreams

Really, I don't have to say a word, do I?  The photos of this just tell you the whole story.  Those cables, that shawl collar, those super-long sleeves, oh my goodness.  This cardigan is The One.  This perfect pattern is Glentrekker by Jennifer Hagan, and it only took as long as it did because I worked on other things at the same time.  It was endlessly interesting and engaging as a project, and while there were moments where I needed complete silence in order to concentrate on the different rates of decreasing at the armhole, raglans, and neckline all at once, it was never difficult.  And, well, just looooook at the finished result.  Guys, I want to wear this, I want to wear this right now, and every day.  The yarn (oh man, this is the best part) is an unknown who-knows-what, bought at the thrift store, ten long sausage-shaped vintage skeins of it for four dollars.  It is creamy, natural, DK-weight wool, and probably came as part of a kit for either a pretty big sweater or possibly a blanket--somebody had rolled some of it into a ball, probably in an unravel, and then gave up on the whole thing.  For four dollars, I was willing to gamble that it would be wool, so when I got it home, I tested it by setting the end of a piece of it on fire.  Wait!  Hold on!  Safety first!  If you're going to do this, do it over the sink:  take a three-inch length of the yarn in question, and light one end of it.  Let it catch and burn for a second, then blow it out.  If what's left on the end of the yarn is a hard ball of melted plastic that doesn't easily break off, you have acrylic (or maybe a mostly-acrylic blend).  If what's left looks like a ball, but crumbles away when you touch it, you've got wool.  (Another way to tell is to try felting it--I did this too, eventually, when joining one skein to the next.  If it felts together with any kind of alacrity, it's wool.  Plastic won't felt.)   I love this thing, so much.  Normally, the beginning of Pumpkin Spice Season makes this beach-loving summer girl a little bit sad, but whoo!  This cardigan.  I can see how a chilly day might not be so bad.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fading pullover, in handspun

No, wait.  First the yarn:
A few weeks ago, Ann Weaver was having a destash on Instagram, and for one lot of random chunks of spinning fiber from her collection, pieces of who knew what all sorts of sheep or wool or states of prep, I got there first and bought it.  So there was this peach and gray and cream fiber from Carodan Farm with no color name, so I spun it all fluffy and gave it a name:  "Grilled Salmon."  It is as soft as butter. 
Next was something else mysterious from Spunky Eclectic--it is pink and purple and more pink, with a little bit of yellow, possibly accidentally.  I called this one "Plastic Pony."  (I love good color names.  Why wouldn't you give it a great name?)  
This is a merino/tencel blend in a misty blue-gray that matched my ring almost exactly, so--"Moonstone."  
This is another Spunky Eclectic, and it had a label--this is Wensleydale, and she called it "Perfect Storm".  Wensleydale is a "longwool", and on the sheep, the fleece looks like--I'm not kidding--my own hair.  Look.  Dyed here, and spun into a two-ply, it looked less like me and more like tourmaline.  More jewels.  
This last one is a combination of everything and the kitchen sink, including sparkle.  I spun two unrelated fibers as singles and then plied them together, and they made the prettiest yarn of the bunch.  Deep blue and glitter, with flecks of foam: "Ocean."  
The yellow ("Big Yellow Taxi") didn't make the sweater cut, but it looks so good, doesn't it?  Anyway, even though my first impulse is to add these skeins to the stash and let them sit there forever, or at least until they've become way too precious to use for anything, I thought they just looked great all together, so I decided to make a sweater out of it.  I counted up the total yardage, figured out that I had spun this all mostly at an aran weight, and knit a swatch--4 stitches per one inch, on a US 8.  I drew a quickie sketch of what I wanted, measured myself, set Doc to calculating how many rows of each I would need to knit in order to both use it up and also not run out, and started knitting, a self-drafted, top-down pullover.  I measured it a lot as I went, to make sure I was still on track.  I'm not gonna lie, I fretted some; this, I'm sure you've noticed, is not gray.  Purply-pink yarn?  Peach?  Bright blue?  But then, what else is the point of all the spinning, if I'm too chicken to wear the yarn?  Guess what, self?  It's pretty.  You made that.  Shut up and knit.  The project bristled with needles as, at one point, I had the body and both sleeves going at the same time, with strands coming up from both ends of two balls of yarn, and then I came close to running out of yarn--there's no finding a second ball of any of this anywhere--and then, because I'd decided not to use the yellow, I did run short and had to stash dive, coming up with a handspun from my friend Deb's sheep, a rescued orphan of unknown origin called Liam, a few batts of whose fleece I spun four years ago, and which was (shockingly) beautifully balanced and kind of perfect, and which was the perfect finish for the hem and cuffs.  Whew, some gray.  
You guys.  This is my favorite thing I've made this year.  It is so warm, and so cozy, and so just right in every way.  Because it was made exactly for me, it fits perfectly.  It's a little bit heavy, so bring it on, winter!  I'm not afraid of you!  I wore it for ten minutes on Saturday, to the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival, and no less than Jill Draper told me it was beautiful and that she loved it, and that I had done a good job.  I folded that moment into a little origami heart and tucked it away for a rainy day.  Then I took off the sweater and stuffed it in a bag because it was a gorgeous 81 degrees, and bought a whole bunch more yarn.  And a fleece.  For more spinning.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Rhinebeck Sweater For Doc, or: It Happened at Midnight

Well, it's done.  Friends, this is what comes from my knitting for other people.  I should stay selfish.  I am a downright stinking selfish knitter deep in my dark little heart, and I know it.  You know how sometimes anything that can go wrong will go wrong?  That's the story of this poor sweater.  Doc's sweater for Rhinebeck is finished, and it was a battle, and there was crisis and frustration, and it ended, finally, last night at midnight--which is when all significant things happen--in a tie.  To begin with, even though I measured him, I chose the wrong size.  I also chose the wrong yarn (I will not speak its name.  The leftovers are going to Goodwill, and good luck to whoever gets them) and gambled (and lost) on a collar modification, and even as I hoped that sh** would block right out, I knew that this thing was going to grow and grow and groooooowwwww, which it did.  He could have worn it as a dress.  It was eight inches too long.  That's really an awful lot.  [ROW GAUGE!  Rage Alert!  Row gauge, I hate you.  We are not friends.  Don't call, don't write.]  So I cut away the extra (of course it was a bottom-up project, why oh why?) and put all the stitches back on the needle and re-knit the ribbing, and then--and this tells you everything you need to know about me--at five minutes to twelve I impetuously decided that one aberrent stitch at the middle of the upper back could be removed and replaced.  You guys, the ends were all woven in.  It was blocked.  It was, after all the above problems had been solved, completely finished.  But there was one bit of blurf in one stitch at the middle of the back.   
See it?  It was a production blob in the yarn, and because I was probably knitting in the dark or was all absorbed in Father Brown, I didn't see it go by, but in the light of day, it was pretty visible in this very smooth, pale gray yarn.  I was prepared to try and ignore it, but then Doc pointed to it and said, "What happened here?"  And that was the end of that.  I really wanted to go to bed with this project DONE.  So I thought, "I'll just snip that out of there and graft in a new row.  Take a couple minutes.  Easy peasy."  Four ugly attempts later, as it dawned on me that there were a couple things I didn't know yet about how to do this, I realized it was never going to work, and I was overflowing with regret and thinking about having to rip out the whole huge collar and the whole enormous yoke, just to go back and fix this little mess of my own making, and the yarn was getting blurfier and the stitches at the edge of the growing hole were getting looser and uglier, Doc--this tells you everything you need to know about him--just sat there calmly, listening to podcasts on his phone and saying, "take all the time you need", and I was wailing "Whyyyy?  Why did I do this?  Just wear a backpack!"  Finally, I made an approximation of a reasonable-looking graft, got it wet and thumped it into place, and called it a draw.  I'm not sure whether it looks better than before, or worse.  If you see us at Rhinebeck, stop me and I'll show it to you.  He'll be the great-looking guy in a kilt, these kilt hose, and a new, near-perfect, but not-quite-perfect sweater.  Who knows what I'll be wearing.  There's a month to go!  I'm still knitting.  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

When one is not enough

This skirt, you guys.  What a success!  I can't even tell you how much I love it, and how much fun it was to make this.  If you are unfamiliar with the general look of what's going on here, put down what you're doing and go look at Alabama Chanin right now, I will wait.  The concept is basically jersey knits + handstitching + texture + no rules, ya'll.  I made this one double-layered (the outer layer is from a piece of jersey I found at the thrift store, and the lining is made from two men's XL t-shirts from Target) because I hadn't yet decided whether or not to cut out the stenciled shapes--in the end I decided that this stencil pattern (AC's Magdalena) was a little too fine for me to tackle on the first try.  I'm glad I did, though, because the double-thickness of this skirt feels really substantial, and like it might be nice and warm for winter.  Which is coming.  We will not think about that right now.  I feel completely het up about this concept--jersey + handwork + do whatever you want--and I want to make All The Things out of jersey knits and paint and stitch them all up with a needle and thread and wear cottony clothes all day every day.  I will wear this with boots and black tights and black or blue sweaters--up there is my Folded, all fixed and fitting me just like it should, hooray!  I think my Stormtracker will work with this skirt, too.  It's just so good.  So satisfying, that it fits so well and comfortably, that it has a place in my wardrobe, and that it was tremendously fun to work on.  You can do this too, try it.  Just scrounge up a few big t-shirts, borrow one of the Alabama Chanin books from your public library, and make something.  I want to make another, longer skirt, with a different stencil and maybe cut out the shapes this time, and then a long-sleeve t-shirt (double-thick, and embellished like crazy) and then a tunic dress, oh, friends, there are so many things to make.  I want to show you this, too:   
Here's the Walnut sweater, in action--Walnut Grove.  This one makes me so happy.  Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments when I first showed this piece on the mannequin.   You are all so wonderful, really, thank you.  I don't know anything about how to write and grade a knitting pattern so somebody else could follow it, otherwise I would be delighted to share it with you, but I want to tell you that I know for a fact that you can make something like this, too, without any pattern.  I know you can!  You just need to measure yourself, knit a swatch, do some basic multiplication, and start knitting.  Truly.  If you know how big around any given part of you is in inches, and you know how many stitches per inch you will get when you're knitting, you can make anything.  Don't be afraid to try, because (as Doc pointed out to me yesterday as I planned my next project) it's only knitting; it's only a sweater!  The potential for real disaster is monumentally low.    
Doesn't that just look like fall?  There's a nip in the air today, and dew on what I am quaintly thinking of as my dye garden (ha!  It's a huge thicket of weeds that are beginning to intimidate me) I might wear Walnut Grove to Rhinebeck, or maybe I'll wear it to the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival (less than two weeks away!  I'll never get last year's fleece spun in time!) or maybe there will be something else that turned out pretty well coming up soon...the knitting is happening fast and furiously around here right now, with pauses here and there for handstitching on jersey.  It just feels like the thing to do.