Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tomten, I am done with you. I think.

Let it be known that approximately one year after the Great Tomten Disaster of 2007, I finally managed to complete a Tomten. For those of you who do not keep tabs on the ups-and-downs of my knitterly life, the short version is this: I planned to knit two Tomtens, one for each son. One would be light green trimmed in blue, the other would be blue trimmed in light green. I severely underestimated the amount of yarn I needed (KnitPicks Sierra), and just as I realized that I also discovered that KnitPicks had discontinued - and sold out of - those two colors (approximately two weeks after I had just ordered those colors in what I hadn't realized was a closeout sale). But then a very generous soul sent me the yarn in the blue I needed. And I decided to harvest the green from my very first sweater. I got started, but didn't finish before warm weather hit and I lost my enthusiasm. I set it aside for a year and picked it back up last month.

Just in time to complete what shall hereafter be known as the Great Tomten Disaster of 2008. Okay, perhaps "disaster" is a bit of an exaggeration. Given my string of knitting messes lately it might more accurately be labeled "par for the course."

Actually, the Tomten itself is kind of cute.

pattern: Modular Tomten Jacket, Knitting Without Tears, Elizabeth Zimmermann
yarn: Knit Picks Sierra, in Tide and Lettuce - I have no idea how many skeins
needles: size 9 KP Options
cast on: March 2007
finished: March 2008

But the hood ... well, the hood is what could only be described as ginormous.

I'm not sure how it happened, or why I didn't realize it till I was done, or if anything could be done at this point to correct it. I modified the pattern for the bulky yarn I was using but perhaps I didn't modify the hood enough? Who knows - I did that part over a year ago. At any rate, by the time I was done with this one, I was too disgusted to pick up the other one and finish it for Tiny Dancer. I need to do major recalculating first. Perhaps next March?

I didn't bother adding a zipper, because I figured it wasn't going to get any wear. But then we did this photo shoot. And 43 shots later, I realized something - it actually looks kind of cute on him, ridiculous hood notwithstanding. So I may go back and add a closure after all (current thinking: an added i-cord buttonhole, like this one).

But for now, I leave you with a whole lotta pictures.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Canvas Calamity

in which earthchick demonstrates her amazing ability to pay no attention to important details

Allow me to interrupt my string of knit fiascos with a sewing one.

So I wanted to make a Scalloped Blanket (from Bend the Rules) to go with the Baby Surprise Jacket and booties I am making for our Administrative Assistant. The yarn I am using is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, in Green Apple (a color exclusive to Angelika's, which is where I always buy my Lorna's Laces. Y'alll, Angelika is AWESOME. I once purchased some yarn on a Saturday morning, and it arrived in my mailbox on Monday afternoon - $5 priority shipping. I swear one of these days, I am going to receive my yarn from her before I actually purchase it!). So anyway, I wanted to make a blanket that would coordinate with the lovely lime green, light-to-sunny yellows, creams, and taupe in the yarn. I thought I'd like to do a lime green print that had yellow and light brown accents on one side, and then maybe a taupe flannel on the back. I found the perfect fabric on reprodepot.

Lovely, isn't it? It arrived Monday.

It looks great with the BSJ.

Guess what? It's canvas.

That's right - I ordered canvas to make a baby blanket out of. How on earth did I miss that detail? I thought all the fabric I was ordering was 100% cotton. It is. 100% cotton canvas. And you know what really sucks? This sweet little Japanese print cost me $9 a half yard. Oof.

But it gets worse. Inspired by Nova's horizontally-striped easy lap quilt (also from Bend the Rules), I decided I'd like to make quilts for my boys, who turn 4 next month. Little Buddha actually helped me pick a couple of the fabrics - all from the "folk tales" section of the children's section of reprodepot. My boys love fairy tales, and I thought it would be fun to make a storytime-themed quilt (plus, it would make them less likely to always be fighting over using MY quilt!).

Little Buddha was quite taken with the Jack-in-the-Beanstalk fabric, as was I. I also found this super-cute Gingerbread Man fabric (another obsession of his), as well as a Goldilocks and the Three Bears fabric and a general "fairy tales" fabric (Little Red Riding Hood, Puss-in-Boots, etc.) which I was going to use for the back. I thought I'd get solids in lime green, red, and a third yet-to-be-determined color (possibly bright blue).

But guess what, again? Half of these fabrics are canvas as well. ARGH. And they're the cutest ones - the Jack-in-the-Beanstalk and the Gingerbread Man. I am SO disappointed.

So. I've already picked out alternate fabric (from Joann's) for the Scalloped Blanket. But I'm back to the drawing board for the other two prints for the lap quilt. And now I'm taking suggestions. What would you make with canvas fabric (1 yard each)? I don't want to do tote bags, I don't think. I've thought of messenger bags (with this print fabric as an accent). A friend mentioned aprons for the boys, which I thought was a fantastic idea. Would this fabric work as a bucket hat? What else do you make with canvas? I just thought I'd make myself a whole list of options, so that I won't feel so bad for having struck out with the quilt. Then when I get the chance (and the inspiration) to make something from canvas, I'll be all set.

Also, the little honey bear fabric I'm probably not going to use for anything. If anyone out there wants to trade for it, I'm wide open.

* now back to my previously scheduled knitting fiascos *

Thursday, April 10, 2008

For March

While I was knitting along on my January Aran for Little Buddha, I showed him the picture on the cover of Knitter's Almanac and pointed out which one I was making for him. His response: "I want that one" - pointing at the Chainmail Sweater (March's project). Honestly, I have never been all that enthused about that sweater, and I had no intentions of making it. [My knitter-friend Jamie argues that it is sexy. I did explain that this was for my 3 year-old.] Little Buddha was confident in his choice, though, and I have to admit the boy has a pretty good eye. "I want that one, in green."

Here is a lesson I keep failing to learn: 3 year-olds may be certain, but they are also fickle. They like the idea of your making something for them, they may even put in an occasional request, but they always reserve the right never ever to wear it. Little Buddha proved this again recently, after I presented him with another recently finished object (yet to be blogged). So I am choosing not to feel bad about the fact that I will likely never present him with a finished version of the Chainmail Sweater. Because truth be told, I kind of hate it.

Okay, hate may be too strong a word. But I do not love it, not at all. I like the idea of it. I like the colors of it. I liked the anticipation of seeing how the first whole repeat would turn out (it's what's shown in the above pic). I liked the idea of contributing a Chainmail to the internet, because there are woefully few versions of them out there, and no child-size ones. But once I got the first repeat done, I just put it down and never looked back. It's possible that part of the issue is that the medium and darks I chose were too close in value:

But I really don't care all that much for the high contrast shown in the picture on the book cover. I wanted something subtler, and I though this would work - and sometimes when I look at it, I sort of think it does. I think I just don't care so much for the chainmail pattern itself (if you want to see a really yummy redesign of this pattern, check out KittyCreates' version - she's doing Eunny Jang's argyle vest but with this pattern - how cool is that? - and it is TOTALLY gorgeous).

In the end, though, the biggest problem for me was that my quirky knitting technique kept getting in the way of actually enjoying doing colorwork (this was my first real stranded project). One of these days I'll take a picture or some video of how I knit because it's hard to explain - it's continental, but I really do all the work with my left hand and needle, rather than with my right (I don't actually "pick," I wrap the yarn with the first two fingers of my left hand, or, when I'm purling, with my left thumb). Anyway, with two strands in that hand, I kept getting slowed down by all the tangling that happened and untangling I had to do - and nothing I tried kept things straight. It seemed a direct result of how much I use the fingers I am holding the yarn with. So I tried knitting with one color in each hand. That worked fine - except that it completely whacked out my tension, and I also didn't enjoy it.

So between my disillusionment with this project and my mortifying cable issues on the January project, I ended the season with no sweaters for Little Buddha. Sort of (because there is yet one more failed project to show you, and I don't know yet if it's salvageable). [Just so you know, my plans for the January Aran involve no ripping and no cutting, just what I hope will be a fairly straightforward isolation of each cable and dropping down to fix it - does that make sense? It makes sense in my head.]

When KnitPicks had a closeout on certain colors of Swish, I went ahead and stocked up, with the idea of making a Chainmail for each of the boys.

So yeah, a whole pile of blue for another sweater I have no intention of making. [I'll take any and all suggestions for how I might use the greens from Little Buddha's Chainmail and blues for Tiny Dancer's!]

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

For January

You are all so kind. Thank you for your very kind words. It means a lot, even though we don't know each other in real life. Actually, it makes me wish we did.

Now, on with the craft blogging.

Beautiful yarn, isn't it? It's Classic Elite Skye Tweed, in Macalester Orange, purchased from the closeout sale at WEBS last August. I bought enough in four different colors to make sweaters for our whole family. The first of those you've already seen. My original idea was Cobblestones for both boys. In retrospect, if I had done that I actually would've gotten the second one done in time for it still to be worn this season. But then I got the idea that I would knit along with EZ's Knitter's Almanac, and that a small child's version of the January Aran would be simple and quick enough. I decided to do garter trim cuffs and waist, to echo the same thing on Tiny Dancer's Cobblestone. It was a lovely idea, and probably would've been do-able, if I had just kept knitting it.

But I got this far, and realized I needed to interrupt January to make something for February, when our Co-Op preschool would be having their silent auction. So the February Baby Sweater it was. I do not regret that choice at all. What I regret is that when I came back to the Aran, I tried to work simultaneously on another small cable project - that had cables going the opposite direction. You can probably guess what happened as I switched back and forth between the two projects....

Can you see it? I didn't. Not until I had more than doubled the amount of sweater I had knitted. Now I can't look at the above picture without my eye immediately falling on the place where I made the fateful mistake.

Yeah, right there.

Yes, I did this on every cable round. On all four cables. All the way up to where I was getting ready to steek.

So I put the sweater in time-out while I decided whether or not I was going to choose to be the boss of my knitting. I knew I could suck it up and fix this thing, but the question was did I want to. My answer turned out to be yes, I do want to - but by then I was absorbed in another (equally ill-fated) project and never found the time. And now - at long last - sweater weather seems to be gone.

It was a really super knit, and I am in love with the yarn. I think it is going to make a fantastic fall sweater for next fall, and I did leave enough room in it that it should still be able to fit by then. The only question that remains now is whether I will do my future self a favor and fix these cables soon, so that when I pick it up to knit again in earnest (probably late summer) I can actually come back to the project with joy and anticipation, rather than with dread. That sounds like a sensible thing to do, right? In other words, exactly the kind of decision I'm not known for....

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Where March Went

Though my blogging has certainly slowed down lately, I had not intended to let almost a whole month go by between posts. But despite the fact that I write blog posts in my head on a regular basis, I haven't been able to find the time to actually write them with, you know, actual typed words. Perhaps you received them telepathically?

Life has felt unusually busy ever since the beginning of the year, and I don't know quite what to attribute it all to. The Co-Op Preschool that my boys are in this year has been a wonderful experience - and also more demanding of my time than I had ever imagined (with two children in the school, I have two volunteer jobs, one of which is Membership Coordinator, which at certain times of the year - like January/February/March - takes an unbelievable amount of time). My actual paid job is always busy, but in some ways has been busier these last few months. I am also apparently trying to find a new balance in my life - trying to actually tend to things I usually avoid (like finances, house maintenance, housecleaning, and the like). This was not intentional but certainly not unwelcome. It also takes time. I will blame it on my current yoga practice, which has seemed to be all about balance lately (not only in the physical sense) and has somehow helped create a shift on a deeper level of consciousness for me. Who knew that yoga would end up leading me to clean the kitchen more thoroughly? I didn't.

In the midst of everything else, there was a sudden and tragic death in my extended family right before Easter. My 24 year-old cousin Blake - honestly the sweetest, most innocent person I've ever known - was killed in an explosion on my aunt and uncle's farm right before Easter. I drove to North Carolina for the funeral with my boys last week, and it was really good to be with family, but also really sad. The fact of his death doesn't get any more believable, or any less awful. I have felt vunerable and a bit fragile lately, and not much like blogging even if I had had the time (which I haven't).

That doesn't seem much like happy crafty blog fodder, does it? But I just needed to let you know that I'm here. I'm still crafting, though that has certainly taken a hit as my life tries to lean more towards this strange thing called "balance" (I get loads more knitting done when I'm less balanced and more, say, obsessive). I have lots of show-and-tell to do, much of it old news, plenty of it now in hibernation. But I've got to start somewhere. I'll be trying to get back into regular posting in the next day or two, and I hope some of you are still out there.