Monthly Archives: December 2003

Merry gifting.

Zara Watch Cap
Can I just say it’s really nice to be a knitter at Christmas? All gifts, garter-stitch scarves and ribbed watch cap, were well-received, and they fit (or were the right size) – whew! As I’ve detailed, this took more work than I thought, and I was actually casting off for the last scarf in the car on the way to Christmas dinner. Nothing like a little adrenaline to make gifting more exciting.

The Zara watch cap was nice and stretchy; I liked the yarn, but couldn’t imagine doing an entire sweater in a yarn so springy. The hat led to my favorite comment, from my brother-in-law: “I’m in awe of people who can create things like that.” And I wanted to say “It’s just K2 P2 ribbing.” Hee.

The scarf in Quark Mondial looked lovely and was nice and warm. I could actually have done it on slightly larger needles for looser stitches, but there was no way I was re-knitting it a third time. Hands down, my favorite yarn was the one that seemed the fussiest at first – Artful Yarns’ Circus. I had to re-start the scarf three times to get a cast-on I liked, but the scarf had warmth, the yarn was both pretty and substantial, and the color was beautiful. Tragically, this was the scarf I finished at the last minute, so I don’t have a picture – the closest I could come would be a photo of the yarn and needles in the glovebox of my car.

Santa was very good to me – a ball winder, two, count them TWO, sets of Denise needles (I think I’m keeping them both – is that wrong?), and three great books: Knit Hats! by Gwen Steege, The Green Mountain Spinnery Knitting Book by Margaret Klein Wilson and perhaps best of all Men in Knits by Tara Jon Manning. There is not a sweater in that book that I don’t want to knit, but the cabled cardigan version of this vest made my husband go “ooh!”, so I’m ordering the yarn from Blackwater Abbey Yarns this week (Moss, I think). I’m excited to be getting to a project that doesn’t require fuzzy yarn or big needles – I must be a more traditional knitter than I thought.

Happy Holidays. and Happy New Year – after a brief break, I’ve already picked up the needles again, so I’ll have a progress report soon.

Knitting equals math.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently: though it’s tempting to jump right in and start knitting away, careful planning can help you avoid a trip to the frog pond.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson from this little fiasco, but no, my thought process for my aunt’s garter-stitch scarf (a Christmas gift due in exactly eight days) went like this:

Saturday, 11:30 a.m. Dammit, I dropped a stitch in this other garter-stitch scarf I’m making – it’s not responding to my attempts to fix it, so I’ll put it aside for the moment. I’m glad I brought another project to work on for this car ride.

Saturday, 11:45 a.m. Pattern says cast on 15 stitches on size 11 needles, knit every row. I brought size 10 needles because I’m a loose knitter – I’ll cast on two extra stitches to make it a little wider. That should work out fine (right?) because smaller stitches on a smaller needle take less yarn, so it will all even out in the end.

Sunday, 8:45 a.m. Wow, this is going fast. I’m almost done with the first ball of yarn, and it’s only taken a day. I might actually finish all of my Christmas knitting on time.

Sunday, 10:03 a.m. I’m running out of yarn – this scarf is going to be too short. Cripes.

Sunday, 10:04 a.m. Panicking seems to be a good idea. Does anyone carry the yarn I need locally? No? Should I pay nearly the cost of the yarn in postage to buy more? Should I *gasp* frog the entire thing and start over? I. am. the. worst. knitter. ever. (See, that’s the panic talking.)

It was at this point that Knit One, Purl Too’s official Scarf Knitting Technician (my husband) took over, reminding me that if I knew my gauge and did some simple math, I could say “I want a four foot scarf, how many stitches should I cast on on size 10 needles?” and get my answer. My answer was thirteen. See? Math helps because my earlier guess that took me in the other direction (more stitches) was wrong! Guessing=bad. Math=good!

So now, I am in a thirteen-stitches-wide knitting frenzy, almost back to where I was before I frogged (actually, since this picture was taken, showing the tiny yarn nugget remaining from the first ball, I’ve knitted through lunch and watched three hours of television and am nearly halfway through the second ball). For what it’s worth, I’ve also done a decent job of picking up the dropped stitch in garter scarf #1, so that’s three out of four holiday gifts close to completion. Thank goodness! But I’ve made some rules for next year:

1. All holiday knitting must be completed by Halloween. Start anytime during the year, finish by November 1.

2. If I participate in gift exchanges with family or co-workers, where I don’t know the recipient’s taste far in advance, those will be the only holiday projects allowed after November 1.

3. Ideally, those gifts will be another version of an item I’ve previously knitted, to avoid finding out midstream that a particular technique takes far longer than I thought.

4. Only under the most dire knitting circumstances will I allow myself to knit under time constraints that cause me to utter the words “I don’t have time to make a mistake with this project.” For then, I surely will do just that.

5. If I make a mistake, I am not allowed to abandon or perform major frogging on a gift project for at least 24 hours – I’ll let the error mellow rather than acting out of panic. Perspective is everything.

6. When all holiday knitting is done, I’ll reward myself with a large, relaxing (perhaps even complex) project to wind down from all the hats and scarves – knitted at whatever pace I want.

I went a little crazy.

I came, I saw, I bought yarn. Vacation was very, very good to me, because the yarn store I located via the internet before departure turned out to be really great and very entertaining.

Geneva, New York, home to The Yarn Shop of Geneva, is the Finger Lakes capital of fancy scarf-making. Knitters were coming in, and eyelash yarn and sparkly yarn and boucle yarn was leaving, by the bagful. Knitters *cough* who didn’t know how to cast on *cough* had the shop owner start their scarves for them – isn’t that like driving after someone starts the car for you? – and I watched a dizzying array of skeins make their way through the store’s ball-winding service.

But for all my snarking, let me say this – they had some damn fine yarn. Tahki Soho Tweed, Bunny, Lopi, Dale Helio, and, bless my soul, I got to touch some Schaefer yarn, some of which is used in the BPT cabled hoodie. I was like a yarn groupie, oohing and ahhing over each new find. I talked Lopi cardigans and steeking with the staff, I loved their selection of sock yarn…to be honest, this store wiped the floor with my LYS, and I like my LYS – it’s 4 1/2 hours closer than this store, I’ll say that.

I walked away with two skeins of Artful Yarns’ Circus, for my mother-in-law’s garter stitch scarf (cast on 13 stitches on size 11 needles, knit until time to cast off). I committed to two post-Christmas projects with two skeins of Encore worsted that will be that double-knitted hat from Alison for my brother-in-law and a skein that will be a cabled hat for my sister-in-law. I also went against my usual conservative instincts and bought two skeins of Quark by Mondial in a lovely pink and purple colorway that will be another garter stitch scarf for my aunt (cast on 15 stitches on size 11 needles; knit until it’s time to cast off). She’s the kind of person ho has a white winter coat, and I mean that in a nice way. She’ll like it.

I also added to my hat yarn stash with some Classic Elite Montera and Tahki Shannon (more burgundy than this photo really shows) – I have no pattern yet, just a yearning to knit, and Elisabeth’s love for Shannon was the inspiration, so much so that I bought another ball of Shannon in black.

It’s a good thing the Stash Redistribution Project is on the horizon, gsrp_button.jpg because I am entering the Mason-Dixon Knitting Ultrafestive Holiday Contest – you should too. Personally, I think preference in awarding of prizes should be given to those (like me) who do not already have Rowan Magpie Tweed in their stash. I’m just saying…

My own stash reduction (i.e., the ribbed hat) continues apace; I’m halfway through color two, and the forest green end is in sight. The ribbing is getting faster, but note to self: perhaps size 4s would be better for the next hat. I don’t think it’s too airy, but I don’t want those winter winds sneaking in. For the remaining hats, I have two lovely shades of navy, coffee with cream, oatmeal and dark and light grey. So classy!

The before picture.

Holiday knitting in full swing here – as I said to Alison:

Two, count them two projects on the needles at once; a garter stitch scarf I’m calling Pemberley, because I’m knitting it while listening to the Pride and Prejudice audio book, and the first of three ribbed watch caps that I’m referring to as “my god, I had no idea ribbing would take so long.” I’m planning on calling the second “here’s hoping I don’t knit the wrong way around and accidentally short row this hat like I did the last one” and the third will be “hope you like your blasted hat.” The yarn is nice, I will say that for 100% merino.

Saddest auction ever – you know the woman selling the sweater is not Arleen, and I feel appropriately yarn righteous that she can’t tell the difference between Noro and Koigu (yes, i was searching EBay for Koigu). As I write this, the high bid is $34; let’s hope for Arleen’s sake it reaches the cost of the yarn it took to make the sweater.

Yarn spun from border collie hair; let me be clear – I would by dog hair yarn, but I do not know if I would buy “outside dog who has rolled in mud and whose hair is kind of smelly” yarn.

Tomorrow, we leave on a long-weekend car trip to upstate New York, and you know what that means – car knitting! So this is the “before” picture – I hope the after picture will be really ribby, and hopefully three stripes long.

Be careful what you say…

In my last entry, I called the sweater I’m planning for my husband a Fair Isle – but it’s not. I realized my mistake soon after I left a comment for Wendy, queen of Fair Isles, and I set out to determine the distinction between types of two-color knitting – which was easier than I thought.

Actually, Lisa of blogdogblog recently went to the source and asked Meg Swansen about the difference between Fair Isle and other two-color knitting recently. According to Meg, Fair Isle is unique for a few reasons, some having to do with technique, but also because the colors in the background can change at the same time as the colors in the foreground – and they don’t in two-color Scandanavian knitting like my faux-Lopi sweater. Faux because it’s Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride, not because it’s a knockoff pattern. For further reading, here’s a description of Fair Isle knitting from the Shetland Museum – and they should know.

cathat.jpg In other news, I have finished purple hat #2 – so lovely! It needs finishing work but I can rest easy knowing that it will wait for me unmolested by dogs looking for snacks. I’ve picked up two more skeins of the Lamb’s Pride Bulky in sage green and corn yellow for more hats – but quite simply, I have bigger fish to fry.

That’s right the Christmas knitting marathon has officially begun – stay tuned for an update, because I’ll be posting a lot this month to track my progress.