Friday, November 30, 2007

Lace Leaf Pullover

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey....

And I'm going to show you a ton of pictures.
Because, well, y'all, I finally finished this freakin' sweater.

pattern: Lace Leaf Pullover from Loop-d-Loop, by Teva Durham
yarn: KnitPicks Decadence, 100% alpaca (discontinued), in Chocolate, 6 skeins (726 yards)
needles: KnitPicks Options, size 10
started knitting: August 18
finished knitting: September 3
finished sweater: November 15
modifications: I used a less bulky yarn than called for in the pattern, and therefore had to seriously modify my stitch count. To do this, I used a combination of intuition and mathematics, with mostly good results. The fit is pretty perfect, but the leaf motifs didn't end up exactly in the same places as in the pattern pictures. Only after I was well into this knit, did I read pieknits' straightforward explanation of how to modify a pattern to fit your gauge. [I swear that's where I read it, but now that I'm looking to link it, I can't find it.]
unintentional modification: left out one set of yarnovers on the right arm. Seriously annoying, and so far I haven't come up with a fix.
after the fact mod: erasing some of the bags under my eyes in these pictures.
Dude. I didn't realize what a hag I'm becoming. I need more sleep!
if I had it to do over again: I would use a bulkier yarn (as called for by the pattern), in a lighter color. I went with this yarn because it's what I had (received as a Mother's Day gift, with another pattern in mind, but then I got obsessed with the Lace Leaf). I like the drape of this yarn a lot, but I decided after the fact that for this sweater I really like the look of the original pattern - that sort of bulky, over-sized, stand-up sweater kind of look that a body can get lost in.
Also, the leaf motifs don't show up as well in this smaller yarn, and especially in this dark color.
So I go around holding my left arm up near my face a lot, so people can get a glimpse of that leaf cuff action.
Like this:

And this:

Hi! I'm a dork! It's 20 degrees! I don't have a coat on! But look! I have leaf motifs!

As usual, my favorite-est part was the button.

Perfect, no?
Good thing I've got the short hair thing going now, or I can assure you I would be contorting myself somehow so people could get a glimpse of the awesome button. (If you doubt me, see leaf motif photos, above).

Of course, my former long locks would have come in quite handy covering up the unintentional design feature, as seen below:

How I missed those yarnovers is beyond me.
How I didn't even notice I'd missed them until I was seaming the sweater is even further beyond me.
That I chose to do nothing about it before seaming is no real surprise.
[Is there anything I can do about it now? I mean, aside from taking the sweater apart and ripping back?]
ETA: the right sleeve is indeed supposed to have two lines of eyelets running up the arm. It's just that on one row, I skipped both yarnovers - eyelets - which you can see about 4 inches below the top of the sleeve. I have tried to figure out how to go back and create holes right there, without causing a huge unraveling. Another idea someone gave me was to embroidered a small branch with leaves there....

If you know this design, you know that the biggest difference between it and any other sweater design is that you knit the bottom from the bottom and the top from the top and then you graft in the middle. The reasoning Teva Durham gives is that the leaf motifs come out better that way. Some people do knit it all in one piece anyway, just reversing the chart at either top or bottom. I had already changed every number in the pattern, because of my gauge being so drastically different, and I was not up for making further modifications. So in the end, that meant grafting 136 stitches. I do not mind kitchener stitch at all. But after the first 10 I somehow messed up somewhere, and didn't notice it until many stitches later. At that point, I set the sweater aside for two months, while I finished up my Gothic Leaf Stole.

When I picked it up again, I made a mess of things multiple times. I would rip back and start grafting again, only discover a bit later that my stitch count was off by one (top and bottom stitch count not matching). I finally ripped all the way back. As I got ready to start again, I really wanted to cry. I could hardly face doing it again. I had thought I needed to do the whole grafting with one piece of yarn, and was using a piece about 6 feet long. Have you ever tried to kitchener with a piece of yarn longer than your own body? It is unbelievably tedious, and slow. A very experienced knitter then encouraged me to cut the yarn, use only about 18 inches or so at a time, and just weave in the ends. That's what I did. It was done in a night. It looked fine. If I had tried this in the first place, I would've had it done at the beginning of September.

The seam was noticeable, but the blocking took care of most of that (there is one tiny bit of the seam that is barely noticeable in the back). It startles me to think of how I used to never block anything. Now I can't imagine not blocking.

verdict: Overall, I'm pretty happy. A great design, a delicious yarn, a favorite color, and a few lessons learned. A keeper for sure.
Now get that girl a coat!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gothic Leaf Stole

Gothic Leaf Stole

I have a lot to say about this knit. For just the stats, see below the next picture, and then just scroll through for the photos [clicking on any of the photos will take you to flickr for the full photo shoot, which was done in 40-degree weather at a monastery, and I still wonder what the nuns who could see me in the courtyard from their windows must've thought....]. Otherwise, grab a cup of joe and settle in. This will be lengthy. Consider yourself warned.

Gothic Leaf Stole
pattern: Sivia Harding's Gothic Leaf Stole
yarn: Handmaiden Sea Silk, "Straw," roughly 880 yds.
needles: Addi Lace, size 3
notions: 4mm silver-lined crystal megatamas, from Earth Faire
size: 22" x 73"
started: 1 August
finished: 6 November
modifications: none
verdict: my masterpiece so far. I have never made anything so beautiful. I love it.

The story goes like this. While visiting family in Georgia and Alabama, I took a couple of trips to Knit Nouveau, a shop I adore. This was just a couple of weeks after Little Buddha's near-fatal accident, and I was still a bit dazed, and living very close to the trauma of what had happened. Going to a yarn shop felt like the first sort of normal thing I did after the accident - it was the opposite of the hunkering-down instinct that had set in.

While I was there, a yarn I had seen online but never in person caught my eye - it was Handmaiden Sea Silk. And the colorway that really beckoned to me was "straw" - a lovely, shimmery, perfectly variegated golden. It reminded me of Little Buddha's hair.

I had no need for a megahank (600m) of silk yarn. It was pricey. Extravagant. Not sensible.

I bought it.

It felt like a very celebratory, life-affirming kind of thing to do. But I still didn't know what I was going to do with the yarn. Enter Ravelry. A search for what others had done with Sea Silk turned up many lovely options. But it was Sivia Harding's Gothic Leaf Stole that really got in my head. Blackbun was working it in Sea Silk with 4 mm megatama beads. That sealed it - I would make this stole, with beads, and would wear it with my bridemaid's dress at our niece's wedding in November.

I cast on at the beginning of August, and would have coasted to the finish had I not allowed myself to be sidetracked by several other knits along the way. In the end, I had to practice an uncharacteristic knitterly monogamy, as well as a characteristic panic and last-minute finish.

The pattern is simple yet elegant. It was exactly what I was looking for - something that would be lacey while still allowing the yarn to shine. I really wanted to highlight the subtle variations of the Sea Silk, which I thought a lacier shawl might not do. This was the perfect pattern for this yarn. And the beads kicked it up another notch. They also added considerably to the amount of time it took to knit, but it was WELL worth it.

I joined Sivia Harding's yahoo list (and the Gothic Leaf KAL there), and I would highly recommend this to anyone knitting any of Sivia's designs. She is so accessible, and very quickly responds to any questions anyone has about any of her designs.

In addition to learning how to knit with beads, I learned a few new techniques with this knit, all of them Russian.
  1. Russian join. This was the join Sivia recommended on the yahoo list. It took me a few tries to really get it, but I was so pleased when I did. A great, invisible join, with no ends to weave in.
  2. Russian bind-off. Also recommended by Sivia. There are a few different ways to execute this - you can knit it, purl it, or knit through the back loop. After experimenting with the options, I chose to knit through the back loop. It gave a great finish to the stole, and I thought it most closely mimicked the cast-on edge.
  3. Russian wire-blocking (links to KP blocking wires which includes a link to a pdf tutorial). This was the biggest surprise of my experience - how easy and quick it is to block lace this way, and how superior the results are. I spent a ridiculous amount of time my first go-round, blocking with pins like I usually do, trying to get everything just right, only to discover I still had tiny scallops around the edges. Then I ran out and bought blocking wires at my LYS (they had one set in stock - the same set that KnitPicks sells). I had always been daunted by the idea of blocking with wires or string. I was truly surprised by how simple it was. And the results were perfect.
Gothic Leaf Stole

This knit was an exercise in "doing it right" - a new thing for me, honestly. As I've mentioned before, My Old Man calls me Miss Approximate. I'd usually rather do something fast than perfectly (this sometimes includes approximating facts, in which case perhaps my nickname would better be Miss Exaggeration). But this time, my investment was too large to consider cutting any corners. The money, the time, the event - all of these merited my listening to the little voice in my head that cautioned me to "do it right" anytime I considered letting a mistake go.

Which is not to say there are no mistakes. There is one pattern repeat where I inadvertently skipped a row and didn't realize it until much later. It made one set of beads one row closer to another set of beads than anywhere else in the stole, so I definitely can spot the error anytime I look for it. But it was too far back (and I should admit here that I did not use a lifeline) for me to tink back. Also, the saga of running out of yarn did not end as perfectly as my previous post might've indicated. Though I did purchase the second megahank from Knit Nouveau (yes, that sound you hear is my wallet screaming), and though it did match more closely than the hank I had ordered online in hopes of matching "well enough," it definitely was not an absolute match. In the end, one third of the stole is, to my eyes, a lighter gold with browner notes than the other third. My Old Man did not find it nearly as noticeable as I did. And in the end, there wasn't anything I could do about it. "Doing it right" ended up meaning "doing my best" not "doing it perfectly."

Gothic Leaf Stole

That was good enough for me. I adore it, and am rather proud of it, and will always have happy associations with it - affirmation of life after near-disaster, celebration of love and marriage and family, and a personal challenge to do my best. Thanks for enjoying the ride with me!

Gothic Leaf Stole

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Little Men

Rob and Charlie
Originally uploaded by earthchick

Rob and Charlie

I am out of town still and not able yet to really blog. My notes about the wedding and the stole (which will be lengthy, I assure you!) will have to wait. For now, I just wanted to say hello, and to show off my little guys in their tuxes. I'm so proud to be their mama (and to be wife to their handsome father, who looked equally smashing in his tux).

my guys

the four of us

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Done. Undone.

one gorgeous, golden, beaded, silk Gothic Leaf Stole. I adore it.

- full-on photo shoot of stole
- seaming and blocking of Lace Leaf Pullover
- sewing of corduroy pants for trip
- packing
- planning of packing
- 72 other things I was going to do before leaving town

I am also a little undone over one thing I had done today - a haircut that is a little too short and little not right. Right before a big wedding. Which I'm in. Trying to get over it, let go, move on.

I will save the details of the stole until I have adequate pictures of it in action (possibly this weekend, at the wedding). For now, there is still so much to be done.

folded and ready to be packed

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Down to the Wire

yesterday: I finished knitting the shawl
this morning: I spent an hour and a half using 250 pins trying to block it, leaving an unfortunate mess, scalloped in some places, biased in others
this afternoon: I went out and purchased a set of blocking wires. In less than half the time it took me to block with pins, I got everything blocked out on the wires (new toy = love).
tonight: I must finish seaming and grafting this
tomorrow: it will take its turn on the wires
Thursday: we leave for the wedding

Down to the wire. That's how I roll.

Monday, November 05, 2007

My New Standby

Nevermind that I was wrung out from the intensity of the all-consuming task that is costume-making (thanks for all the costume-love, y'all!). Nevermind that I still had 1/4 of a shawl left to finish for a wedding I'm in. I needed this. And I needed it now.

brown skirt, blue piping

I found this fabric tucked away on the shelf with the corduroy, which is what I went to the fabric store for. This isn't corduroy but it was simply too lovely to pass up. A chocolate brown cotton with pale blue, velvet-y flowers embossed on it. Gorgeous, and super-cheap. I bought a pile of corduroy fabric that day, at a huge sale at Joann's, with big ideas of everything I was going to make - jackets for the boys! pants for me! skirts for me! etc.! Me likey the corduroy. So far, none of that has come to pass. But I couldn't resist banging out this little number.

brown and blue A-line skirt

pattern: simple size-zip A-line skirt, from Sew What? Skirts
fabric: brown cotton with pale blue velvet embossed flowers, super-cheap
notions: zipper, pale blue piping. PIPING, people! I LOVE THE PIPING!
made: in an afternoon last week, after I finally got the boys' costumes off my machine
modifications: This book is really a guide to making your own skirts based on your own measurements, so there really is no such thing as modifications. I will say that I woke up the morning I was going to make this, with a very vivid vision in my head of light blue piping on the trim. I really think it makes the skirt, and was so pleased to have thought to add it.
verdict: I'm sure you've figured out by now. I LOVE IT. These super-cheap, super-quick, super-cute A-line skirts have become my new standby. Before this year, I always tended towards very long, slim skirts, primarily in neutral solids. Making my first knee-length A-line skirt, from Sew U, in January was a real departure for me. I made another one from that pattern in April, and felt so-so about it. But once I got my hot little hands on the Sew What? book, I was hooked. My little orange print skirt and cherry print skirt became my quick favorites, and they never fail to elicit compliments, mostly from people who don't know that they are handmade. More importantly, I just plain enjoy wearing them. So I thought I needed one for fall, and I couldn't be more pleased with it. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone who has been considering trying to sew but has been nervous. This book offers such a simple, straightforward approach, and the results are so immediately gratifying. It has taught me, among many other things not to be afraid of installing a zipper (but if you are, the book offers many no-zip options).

For fall: brown boots, new skirt, blue turtleneck, and a tree

Soon, I will venture on to try a few other skirt styles from the book. But it will be tough, given how much I have fallen for the look of a knee-length A-line. There is something just so kicky about it, wouldn't you agree?


under the Japanese Red Maple

Hello, Fall!
At last!