Sometimes, it’s best to admit defeat

I’ve spent this past week working on a new pair of mittens. During lunch on Monday, I went to “The Needleworks,” a small yarn store in Mission Valley and bought some lovely classic one fifty yarn, by Classic Elite Yarns – one ball of dark blue and one ball of white. When I got home I went straight to Ravelry and picked out a pattern, then dove right in. The pattern calls for fingering weight yarn and size one needles, but classic one fifty is sport weight. This, I decided, would not be a problem because I want to add a liner, a la “Fiddle Head,” and having the mittens turn out a little big would be great. The pattern, likewise, recommended a gauge of 10 stitches per inch. After casting on and knitting a few rows, I was getting about 7 stitches per inch, and the color work was looking a bit sloppy.

It was getting late anyway, so I put the mitten away and went to bed.

Tuesday at lunch, I cast on again, using the next smaller size needles that I had access to – size 00. After a few rows, I found my gauge had only improved to 7.5 stitches per inch, and my color work still looked crappy. Fine. Lunch was over anyway.

When I got home I unravelled the uncooperative mitten and cast on once again, still using the size 00 needles, but increasing my tension a fair bit. A few rows in, I measured my gauge and found it was at 9.25 stitches per inch – exactly what I was going for. And, as a bonus, the little white stitches were showing up perfectly against the dark blue background rather than being pulled so tightly they disappeared into the fabric, or knit so loosely that they stuck out like Frankenstein’s monster at a cotillion.

And so, I knit on.

I knit on for several days (until this morning, in fact), the sides of my lovely little mitten rising up straight and even. Then I decided to try it on, to ensure I wasn’t knitting mittens that would fit the aforementioned monster.

As I mushed my hand in I swore silently, as the mitten was really quite tight. When I got it on all the way I found myself getting a little claustrophobic. And as I eased it off my hand, my swearing gained volume until, at the moment I was finally freed from its woolly snare, my face was nearly blue from cursing. I took a deep breath, then unravelled 5 days worth of knitting, put all the yarn and the needles back into the bag, and walked into my bedroom to tell my husband about how the mitten had vanquished me.

When I entered, I noticed “Girasole” sitting demurely on top of my yarn chest, where she’d been put last night because we were too tired to return her to her home inside the trunk where she’s lived for the past year waiting patiently for me to weave in the ends before giving her a bath stretching her out to dry. Right then, I knew the reason for the mittens’ attitude.

I needed to finish Girasole.

And so, without further ado (or whining – I promise to stop whining too), here she is, in all her sunflowery glory.

This is where it all started – just a few little stitches

The Great (and Evil) Brooklyn Tweed

I am a knitter (still not a Knitter, though). Not a sock knitter, nor a sweater knitter, nor even a scarf knitter. I enjoy knitting in all its forms, and love trying new techniques as much as I enjoy knitting a familiar item. Which is funny, because Jared Flood, aka Brooklyn Tweed, is the designer that has haunted me the most in each of these categories (although Cookie A is running a close second – I love her sock designs).

Right after I started knitting, with only a few swatches and a pair of mittens under my belt, I knit the Habitat Hat. That was the first pattern I purchased on-line, and the first project I knit using “fancy” yarn. I’ve knit it numerous times since, in Cascade 220 and Noro Silk Garden and Wool of the Andes (this one is still in progress); in sizes little to ginormous and in between; in blue and red and white and gray and multi-colored. This pattern helped forge my love for cables, and when I’ve attempted to chart out a cable myself, I still refer to the charts from this pattern because they are precise and exact and familiar.

I also knit the Noro Striped scarf, twice, because of Mr. Flood. The first one became a Christmas gift for my good friend Sharon; the second one became mine. The entertainment factor that is inherent in multi-colored yarns is increased exponentially when you combine two colorways and knit them into stripes. If you’re an OCD-type person, you can manipulated the color combinations by snipping one of the strings and advancing to a color that creates a more pleasing balance or striking contrast; I preferred to knit the yarn as it came and found myself occasionally knitting at the edge of my seat as I waited to see if the orange from ball A would come up at the same time as the purple from ball B (o, how sad that I was so enthralled by this!).

Some of his designs, like Girasol and Willoughby, have only resulted in a single finished project, but not because I didn’t love them. I’ve only knit them each once because they require and deserve to be knit monogamously, without distraction, and in either very wonderful (read pricey) or very copious amounts of yarn, and so I am saving my pennies and waiting to find just the perfect someone to splurge on with these woolly gifts.

Which brings us to the subject of my post today. Jared Flood is most truly and surely evil. His designs are so captivating – not to mention error free – that I am helpless to resist most of them. On Wednesday I was entranced by a pattern he’d just released (I shouldn’t follow him on Facebook – I can’t help but see when he publishes something new) – Here’s what happened:

I was sitting at the bookstore, enjoying a cup of coffee and knitting diligently on my Hedera sock (keep in mind that the only reason this sock even got started in the first place was because I am waiting for the yarn I ordered to complete the second of Jojo’s kilt hose to arrive). I set my sock down for a brief moment to check in on Facebook and there it was…photos of “Rock Island” from Brooklyn Tweed, in a lovely purple lace yarn.

Photo © Brooklyn Tweed – Rock Island Shawl

“Oh, that’s pretty,” I thought to myself. “But I have Hedera to work on, and next week I’ll have the yarn for Jojo’s other sock. Plus, I don’t know what I’d do with such a lovely lacy shawl, not to mention I really don’t like using lace weight yarn.”

I went back to Hedera, and knit a few rounds. “Well, he just released it. Let me look on Ravelry and see if anyone has purchased it yet.”

I logged into Ravelry, and sure enough there were several people who had not only bought the pattern, but they were knitting at it furiously – although some of them may have been his test knitters. “Well,” thought I, “I do have a bunch of lace yarn already at the house. And I’ve never been disappointed by one of his designs. I’ll just add it to my queue so I don’t forget what it was called. But I’m not going to buy it now.”

I again returned to my knitting, and managed to ignore my computer for quite a while. Then I started glancing at it in between rounds. “This is crazy. I do not need to start knitting a shawl right now. Heck, if I really want to work on a shawl, I have the “Crow’s Waltz” right here in my bag. I can just knit a few rows on that and get it out of my system.” I did, in fact, lay Hedera aside and pulled Crow’s Waltz out and added a few rows/subtracted a few stitches from it. I then decided I’d go home, where Alex, Max and Penny would keep me busy enough to help me forget about Rock Island and all its lacy goodness.

While I arranged myself and all my stuff in the car, I pulled out the computer again. I went from the Rock Island page on Ravelry to several other lace pages, then back to Rock Island – this went on for at least 15 minutes. Finally I decided I’d just buy the pattern – it was only a couple of dollars – and look it over. I was sure I would see the stitch count or the charts and decide that I would be insane to knit something this difficult, at which point I could return to my socks and Crow without a lacy shawl nagging at me.

So I bought it. And looked it over. Ok, I read the directions…carefully…twice. Then I went home, resolved to finish my other projects before starting this shawl, if I ever started it at all.

Yeah, that worked.

The edging for Rock Island, in Alpaca with a Twist Fino

A Brief Update

Today is window-washing day at my house, so I don’t have a lot of time, but I just wanted to say that I only have 57 little points left to do on the afghan due to going to bed outrageously early last night, then getting up at an ungodly hour this morning and getting through 31 of the little buggers. This project WILL get done this weekend, even if it kills me. I won’t bore you with a photo, as it looks pretty much the same as it did the other night, only a little less scrunched up due to fewer stitches hanging out on the circulars.

Girasole Progress

I’ve been working on my focus, and have dedicated all of my attention and knitting time over the past few days to Girasole. As a reward for my single-mindedness, I’ve surpassed the halfway pot of the bind off, and have a mere 88 points left to go. It’s funny how quickly I can make progress when I don’t think about it too much. Oh, and it also helps if I don’t stop to count how many “points” I’ve completed after each one.

I took a few minutes last night to lay this lovely bit out on my bed, stretching it as far as the 60″ circular needled would allow without dumping a bunch of stitches off to show off the pattern. So, what do you think?

I love how the bind off looks so much that I’ve nearly forgiven it for being a pain in the arse to execute.

No excuse, Drill Sergeant!

I have no good excuse for my prolonged absence from this blog. I’ve told myself a few lies, but really, I’ve just been slacking off. I tried blaming Facebook (damn that Bejeweled game!) or the fact that I’m pregnant, but really, it only takes a few minutes to stop by WordPress and write a post… at least something to let you all know that I’m still here.

Enough about why I wasn’t here, and on to why I’m back. I’m currently in the midst of three projects that I love. I love them all so much that I can’t seem to dedicate enough of my brain to finishing any of them (see the lame excuses above for my attempt at rationalizing this).

The first project is the Girasole blanket that I’m making for my lovely husband. The body of the blanket is finished, and without any painful frogging involved (this time). Now I’m stuck at the bind off. I truly believe Jared Flood is a brilliant designer, and I aspire to someday be as creative and thorough as he is. But the bind offs he uses!! I occasionally think he does it in a conscious attempt to drive me, specifically, insane. I’m on the 70th repeat out of 213 (by my historically faulty math reckoning) of the bind off chart, and the whole project is too bulky and, at the same time, delicate to be pushed into and yanked out of my knitting bag. The stitches I’m working with are tenuously perched upon a DPN, while the rest of the million stitches I’ve not gotten to yet languish upon my ginormous circular needles. And so it sits, buried beneath library books and the sweater I wore yesterday, on top of my yarn chest, whining about how I’m neglecting it. I was going to work on it this evening, but I’m telling you stories instead. I don’t feel too badly about shuffling my priorities.

These are kind of old photos… I’ll get some new ones for you tomorrow. I promise! No really, I’ll be back!!

Next up is a Christening gown for Miss Penelope (aka Pumpkin, or Octavia) from Vintage Baby Knits. I’m using Malabrigo lace weight yarn in Natural, and it’s actually coming along very nicely. I started it almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant, then felt like I was tempting fate by being a little too happy about her eventual arrival. So, in a fit of superstition, I mushed the little piece of lace to the bottom of my bag, where it will stay until the end of July. This timeline serves two purposes: the first being that it seems prudent, at that point, to start preparing for her big debut in October; the second being that in July it will be toooooooooo hot to knit anything heavier than lace. See, my procrastination has logic!!

This is Penelope, not the Christening gown. I thought you might like to take a peek.

My third really great project is the Eastlake sweater by Norah Gaughan. I first saw this sweater on Orata’s website and I loved it. Of course, I made no note of the site nor of the pattern name, so it took several months of searching Ravelry with lame terms like  “leaves” and “pullover sweater” to finally find it. Then, several more months before I felt justified shelling out $$ for a book of patterns that had only one that I was interested in. But a few weeks ago, I took the plunge and bought not only the book, but the yarn and needles I needed, and I started in on it right away. The back is finished, and I’m up to row 67 out of 93 (or so) that I need to do for the front before I get to the yoke & arm hole shaping. I’m not in a huge hurry to finish this sweater, due to the fact that my belly is fairly monsterous already and so the sweater won’t fit me until sometime in November or December. I hate to think of what will become of it if I don’t lose the “baby weight” this time. I would hate to give it away as a Christmas gift.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing instead of writing. Today it hit me just how much I missed telling stories to people I don’t necessarily know, and now that I’ve caught you up on my life, I feel SO much better!! See you tomorrow!

Cruel

I’m not sure what I’ve done to so anger the knitting fates, but let me tell you – they seriously have it in for me.

First it was Girasole. I’ve been knitting away at it since I finished my Christmas knitting. When I got to the third chart, I thought, “Wow, you’d think I’d be getting faster with my needles. How odd that it takes me more than 20 minutes to do a round (320 stitches)…” When I got to the fourth chart, I thought, “Wow, it sure seems like I’m doing this boring little 4-stitch repeat a lot more than 80 times…” When I got to row 10 of the fourth chart, I got a little worried. By my calculations, I had more than 38,000 stitches to go, having completed about 12,000 stitches to that point. And I was already starting my fifth ball of yarn out of the 10 I’d purchased for this project. But I merrily knit on, knowing that I have a very bad track record when it comes to how much yarn is required (see Fascine Braid Socks and February Lady Sweater posts).

At row 14, I finally tracked down a pair of 60″ circular needles, and proceeded to move my lovely blanket off of the short pair. Once I had the stitches mostly-evenly distributed, I laid the afghan out on my bed, and called my husband in to admire my work. “Look,” I said, “it’s even lovely from the back!” because I’d finally managed to control my tension and make all of the stitches the same size.

Then, for reasons I can’t explain, I counted the leaves at the center of the blanket (this would be the part knit whilst I was pontificating the possible reasons for my slower-than-molasses knitting). I should have had 20. When I got to the 20th leaf, I wasn’t even half way around the blanket. Holy crap!

I know that my mistake started somewhere in chart A (back when there were only 80 stitches in each round), but I can’t for the life of me identify what happened.

Luckily, my mom bought me a ball winder for Christmas, so I was able to re-wind 1100 yards of yarn in no time at all (by the way, watching 1100 yards worth of knitting unravel, intentionally, because you screwed up is one of the most heartbreaking, yet beautiful things ever. The yarn I knotted in ever increasing circles seemed to jump joyously back into ball form). Then I took my yarn, and the needles, and the pattern, and I put them into my knitting chest to “rest” until I am stable enough to try it again.

But all was not lost (well, all was lost for Girasole; but that’s not the only stick I’ve got in the fire). I started over on the Alpaka Tunic from Interweave Knits Fall 2009 that I’m making for my daughter. I’d misinterpreted the chart so many times that I had stopped making a sweater and started making a jumble of yarn that wouldn’t, in the end, make either of us happy. This time, in order to practice with the chart a bit, I’ve started with the sleeves, which only have one pattern repeat, and are only 30 or so rows long. I finished the first one yesterday at the bookstore, and I was looking forward to getting the second one cast on today during lunch.

Anyone want to venture a guess as to what happened to that plan? Please note the time of this post (obviously written around lunch time), and the use of the phrase “…was looking forward…” in the previous paragraph. Well, I have my yarn. I have my pattern.

But I have no needles.

So, if anyone knows why the knitting fates are ticked off at me, please share the reason with me so I can make amends. This is getting old, and I’d really like to knit something (anything) this evening.