April 28, 2004

Blanket and Garden

Again, thank you, everyone, for your kind words about the sweater. I think the wet-blocking’s going to work, so I’m back to feeling completely happy about the project.

I’ve finished another Critter blanket, using the same Red Heart yarn as I did for the first one (here is a picture of it, with a close-up of the Rice Stitch I used). I’m steadily working on the baby blanket, but it’s slow going.

I’ve also taken a few more pictures of the garden, just to see how things are progressing. Here are the hops that I showed you last time (April 14):

hopsapril.jpg

They’re already out of control and need to be drastically pruned and cut back; maybe I’ll get to that this weekend. Also coming up nicely are the rhubarb, sorrel, mint and lovage:

lovage.jpg

The beds need to be cleared out and weeding needs to be done, but clearly these plants, at least, need no help from us — they’re looking almost too vigorous, especially the mint! There are 5 or 6 different kinds of mint in that bed, which is next to the hops, on the other side of the garden from the rest of the herbs, in a (probably) vain attempt to stop the mint from taking everything over. Last year the mint battled the hops to a draw, with neither being able to quite block the other from intruding into its growing space. We’ll see if the arms race has escalated this year!

Posted by Aven at 02:34 PM | Comments (4)

April 26, 2004

Honeycomb Aran -- Finished

Here it is:

honeycombaranmark.jpg

We were taking advantage of the briefly lovely weather — sorry, Mark, for making you squint into the sun!

I haven’t posted since Friday because after the very kind and rather overwhelming response to my cable-fixing I felt I couldn’t put up an entry until I had something respectable to talk about — and the seaming took all weekend, in the end, so I only finished the aran last night. For the sake of completeness, here it is lying flat — the details are a little easier to see:

honeycombaran.jpg

I’m very happy with how it looks, and with my finishing job (still not perfect, but light-years better than some of my previous work). Unfortunately my joy is not unmitigated. I have been betrayed by swatches! I dutifully knit myself a swatch before starting this project, even though I’ve used the yarn before and have always used needles half a millimetre larger than what’s called for; I didn’t want to take anything on faith, so I did what I was supposed to. And, lo and behold, I got the required gauge on the needles that the pattern called for! I was surprised, but I accepted the verdict and went with it.

Bad choice. Should have gone with my instinct and previous experience. The sweater’s final measurements (post-blocking, though only gentle blocking since I didn’t want to flatten the cables) are those of the smallest size; I was theoretically knitting the Large, two sizes up. I know I should have noticed this before, as I was blocking the pieces, but I didn’t measure them, I just stretched them slightly and made them even. So the result is a sweater that, especially in the arms, is much tighter than Mark prefers in his sweaters. Sigh.

We’re trying some aggressive wet-blocking, and I have hopes that we can yet make this work, but it somewhat spoils my happiness at finishing such a long project, especially if it doesn’t end up being what Mark wanted — I was making this for him, after all, and I want him to enjoy wearing it. Next time I’ll measure obsessively and go with my instincts about needle size, I guess.

Oh well, one way or the other I’m finished and can start something new — as soon as I finish the baby blanket I’m also working on, since the due date is fast approaching.

Posted by Aven at 04:40 PM | Comments (12)

April 23, 2004

Update

Since several people have asked, the reference book in which I found the technique for cutting and re-crossing cables was The Harmony Guides Knitting Techniques Vol. 1. Oh, and the book on finishing was my recent acquisition The Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques by Nancy Wiseman. I take no credit for the idea, and only some for bravery — really, it was just a desperate attempt to avoid ripping out several days’ worth of knitting. But thanks for the compliments, nonetheless!

Posted by Aven at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2004

Conquering my fears

Well, in spite of the Leafs’ loss tonight I’m feeling pretty triumphant right now. I have met (one set of) my knitting demons and conquered them! Of course, it all stems from a mistake on my part in the first place, and perhaps a certain amount of laziness, but I choose to concentrate on the good, personally.

See, last night I joined the first shoulder of the aran (using a new, more invisible sewing method, courtesy of my new book on finishing techniques), picked up the stitches for the collar and settled into working on the twisted ribbing (all 3.5” of it — for a folded collar). I was perhaps halfway through the ribbing and about to put away my knitting for the night when I looked at the front of the sweater and suddenly saw this:

cablesmistake.jpg

Only 4 or 5 inches below the collar, right smack dab in the most noticeable place on the sweater. You do see the problem, right? If not, here are the four (4!) miscrossed cables indicated with pins. I was heartbroken. I have a history of making mistakes with my cabling, and being too lazy (or, often, oblivious until long after the sweater is completed and worn) to rip out the piece and re-knit them. But I had been so proud of myself for finally becoming an accomplished enough knitter to pay attention and get the darn things right! No other mistakes anywhere on the sweater (at least I think — believe me, I checked pretty carefully). And yet I’d managed to mess up four separate cable crossings in the most obvious place possible, without noticing until I’d started the finishing process.

Now, I’m sure many of you would have just sighed, ripped out the collar, unpicked the shoulder, ripped out the top 8 inches of the sweater and reknit it. And I applaud your patience and virtue — but I couldn’t face the thought. I want this to be done! But at the same time I knew I would just get more and more annoyed about those stupid cables every time I saw them, and it would be pretty hard not to see them (unless Mark never faced me while wearing the sweater, as he offered). And then I remembered one of the techniques I’d always dismissed as being far, far too frightening to even think about attempting — cutting cables and re-crossing them on a finished piece of knitting. Ack! Did I dare? Mark reminded me that if I messed it up I could just rip it all out, which I’d probably have ended up doing anyway, so what did I have to lose? And with that encouragement, I sat down this afternoon, scissors and reference book in hand, and started:

cablescut.jpg

I cut the middle stitch where the first cable crossed, pulled the two stitches on either side through to the back of the work, and joined them underneath, thus reversing the cable. Now, I won’t show you the wrong side of the knitting because the instructions say to graft the stitches closed, but I didn’t do that. Well, I couldn’t do that. I’m horrible at grafting, and this was particularly confusing. So I threaded the cut yarn through all the stitches and tied the ends. I know, bad knitter. But the knots will hold, especially with such sticky wool, and they don’t show because they’re under the cable crossing.

The end result made me very, very happy:

cablesfixed.jpg

Can you tell which cables I fixed? (Humour me. Pretend you have to check here where I’ve indicated the re-crossed rows). I can tell, mainly by some slightly tight stitches at the crossings, but only if I look carefully, and even that might even out with wearing and washing. And it only took me half an hour, instead of the two or three evenings ripping and re-knitting would have taken. Hurray! A new knitting milestone has been achieved!

After my epic adventure I did finish the neck and sewed it down, so tomorrow will be all about seaming, and then maybe it will all be done. As long as I don’t discover any more glaring-but-hitherto-invisible errors!

I think it took me almost as long to describe this as it took me to do — sorry for the long post! I’ll try not to be so long-winded or self-congratulatory tomorrow!

Posted by Aven at 11:13 PM | Comments (14)

April 21, 2004

Bring on the Flyers!

Thank you boys in blue! Not only did you win Game 7 to move on to the next round, you scored two early goals, saving me from the multiple heart-attacks that would definitely have accompanied a close game. Hurrah!

To add to the excitement of a successful conclusion to the hockey game (and playoff series), I ventured into (for me) unknown territory — knitting in a pub.1 I couldn’t pass up the hours of knitting time while I watched the hockey (plus I find the knitting helps relieve the inevitable tension of enduring important games) so I decided I would brave the strange looks, humorous comments, and smoke. And in fact it was fine — I got some curious questions and discovered that one of Mark’s friends was a new knitter, giving us lots to talk about. And I finished the sleeve, with no mistakes or drastic beer spills, in spite of the excitement and the imbibing of alcohol. Watch out, Toronto pubs, I fear you no longer!

The sleeve, however, looks exactly like the first (thank goodness), so no pictures until the sweater’s sewn together and finished. At which point it will be put away, of course, since it’s far too warm now for a pure wool aran. Instead, I’ll give you a Tigger picture, since it’s been ages since I’ve posted a gratuitous cat shot. Here he is engaged in his second-favourite activity (after sleeping) — wreaking havoc.

tiggerwreaking.jpg

1 To Mike and Tyla: sorry, the evening worked out a little differently than I expected. Not 5 minutes after I sent you that email saying Mark and I couldn’t come over to watch the game because we had too much work to do, Mark (the person who had decided we couldn’t go out because of work) phoned from the pub he’d gone to with friends after a talk at his department, and suggested I join them there to watch the game. Silly boy. Still, we’ve now got minimum four more games to watch, so what are you doing on Thursday night?

Posted by Aven at 12:47 PM | Comments (2)

April 20, 2004

Obscure skills

I have suddenly found my Classics training useful in an unexpected way — as part of an art project! Last night I spent an hour or so sitting in front of a microphone and reciting short passages of the Odyssey in the original Greek; these were recorded and will be used in a “sound collage” based on the poem, which a friend of ours is putting together for a friend of his. It was a little odd, because I’m actually not terribly skilled at reading Greek, and my greatest fear is that one of my professors will somehow hear this production and be deeply saddened by the poor quality of my recitation. Still, it was intriguing, and so nice to find my more obscure skills useful to someone!

I’m almost done the last piece of the aran — pictures tomorrow, maybe, if I can manage to knit tonight and am not overcome by the stress of a Game 7 between Toronto and Ottawa. Urgh. Go Leafs! Please!

Posted by Aven at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2004

Joining in

I finished a couple of projects a little while ago, but forgot to blog about them. Or perhaps it was shame — because I have a confession. Both projects are made out of Red Heart acrylic. Now, there’s a story to this. Ever since I started reading knitblogs I’ve encountered references to Red Heart yarn, usually made in a deeply disparaging tone, but sometimes less critically meant. These references confused me a little, because the bloggers always assumed that this yarn was the most common one out there, even as they dismissed it as cheap, ugly, and horrible to knit with. But I’d never laid eyes on the stuff, or seen it advertised anywhere. I soon realised that it’s probably because I’m in Canada, and the yarn is either not available or not very widely distributed here. I was curious about it, though, since it was mentioned so often.

Well, a few weeks ago I was walking by a tiny little “Dollar Store”-type place in my neighbourhood and I noticed a few skeins of Red Heart yarn lying in the window, next to the plastic flowers and chipped plates. I just had to take a look. In the end I bought two skeins of a variegated colour, for $2.50 each, I think. I just wanted to see what it was like! But I needed the right project for it — and I had the perfect one waiting. I made (out of only one of the skeins!) a blanket for the Critter Knitters Knit-a-thon,

critterblanket.jpg

and a square for the Afghans for Afghans project that Mason-Dixon Knitting are hosting:

afghansq.jpg

I think this yarn works well for both — it’s quite springy and durable, and it is completely washable. I wouldn’t make a sweater out of it, but there are plenty of other yarns out there of which that’s also true. I particularly like how the colour repeats worked out on the square — I like the zigzag effect. Here is a close-up of the stitch I used — I think it’s called box-stitch.

Of course, I really should know what stitch it is, now that I have (finally) received my Amazon order:

books.jpg

All three of these books look very useful, Men in Knits perhaps the least, but only because Mark doesn’t need any help deciding what sort of sweaters he likes, which is one of the main purposes of the book. But there are some nice patterns in it, and I’m looking forward to reading through it more carefully. The stitch library and the finishing book, however, are going to be invaluable. Finishing has always been the bane of my existence, and I know perfectly well that I’ve compromised the look of some of my projects because the finishing has been sloppy. With the help of this book I may well be reformed, though!

Now I’m all caught up, I think — no more hiding projects from the blog! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Posted by Aven at 07:00 PM | Comments (3)

April 14, 2004

Slow and steady

First, some knitting news — it’s been a while! I finished the front of the aran:

aranfront.jpg

One more sleeve, and then I’m on to the finishing. I’m hoping to get a fair amount done on the sleeve tonight while watching hockey, so maybe it won’t be much longer until the sweater’s done. The baby blanket, though, will be a while yet; I only work on it while reading blogs in the morning, and I’m not yet half finished it.

A while back I mentioned that I would post some pictures of our back garden in its early spring state, before it’s really started to grow; today there was finally a conjunction of me remembering to take the pictures and a sunny day, so here they are. This is looking towards the left from our tiny back porch:

backyard.jpg

and this is straight ahead and to the right:

backyard2.jpg

Rather unprepossessing, at the moment. Against the far left fence there will soon be a frighteningly quick-growing profusion of hops, but right now they look like this. The strip on the right is the herb garden, filled with perennials such as sage, various types of thyme, lovage, tarragon, and so on. A few years back we tried to grow a salad mix in the bed towards the back of the garden; we were never able to satisfactorily tell the difference between the exotic lettuces and weeds, so we never used the resulting greenery; the only thing we could recognise was the radicchio, because it’s bright red. All the other plants have disappeared, but the radicchio is thriving, and spreading out into the lawn:

radicchio.jpg

I can’t quite bring myself to uproot it because it’s so pretty, if rather ridiculous (raddichulous?).

It’s a fairly modest and not terribly carefully tended garden, but it pleases us, and produces quite a few useful and edible things. I’ll put a couple more photos up as the season advances, just for interest’s sake. (I’m interested, anyway; I don’t know if anyone else is!)

And, finally:

GoLeafsGo_thumb.jpg

Posted by Aven at 02:15 PM | Comments (2)

April 12, 2004

Resurfacing

We’ve been having a lovely weekend, but it’s been very full, so I haven’t had a chance to blog. We hosted Easter dinner, with Mark’s parents and his sister and her husband:

easterdinner.jpg

(Mark’s dad is taking the picture, so he’s not in the shot, but Mark and I are at the far end of the table, and the others should be straightforward to identify). Note that I’m wearing my white Shapely Tee, and that, miracle of miracles, it escaped unscathed — I even cooked while wearing it, and it has no stains at all!

Mark and I shared the cooking of the Easter dinner equally, but I did make the cake myself — a Grand Marnier and chocolate cake, to be precise:

cakefull.jpg

This is, I must admit, trick photography. I forgot to take a picture of the cake before we cut into it, so this photo is taken from an angle that makes the cake appear whole — but really, it looks like this right now. It was pretty popular!

I did get a fair amount of time to knit, so I’m getting close to finishing the front of Mark’s aran. Then only one sleeve and the finishing to go … it seems like it’s taking forever! Probably because I have so many other projects lined up that I want to get started on!

I hope you all had a lovely long weekend, and celebrated the arrival of spring in whatever way seemed best. Tomorrow I go back to the real world, to deal with all the students complaining about late penalties on their essays, so I need all the vernal cheer I can muster!

Posted by Aven at 11:37 PM | Comments (2)

April 09, 2004

Bad blogger

Sorry for the intermittent posting! This week is the end of term, and it’s been pretty hectic. Plus, the cold I developed over the weekend became pretty miserable in the first part of the week, which sapped my energy. I’m feeling better now, though I’m not 100% yet. On Wednesday and Thursday I’d pretty much lost my voice, which provided amusement, at least — it doesn’t matter how much it hurts to speak, somehow I’m not capable of resting my voice! I just always seem to have something important to say — in my view, at least.

Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be catching up much this weekend; Mark’s parents are coming for Easter, and we’ll be having a family dinner on Sunday with his sister and her husband as well, so we’ll probably be too busy to blog. I’m looking forward to some nice roast lamb, though — as Anne says, Easter has great traditional food associated with it. We don’t keep up with all of the traditions (I won’t be baking a simnel cake this year, for instance, because I don’t have time, but I did last year, and it was a great success) but what we do have is very yummy.

I haven’t been knitting much, but I’m hoping that a family weekend will help fix that — lots of sitting around chatting, which is great for getting knitting done. I did finish some rows on the aran last night while watching the Leafs lose their frist playoff game, but that memory makes me unhappy, so I won’t talk about it any more.

And finally, Rethabile, the term ‘cosy’ is just an extension, as far as I am aware, of the term “tea-cosy”, which describes the insulating cover one puts over a tea-pot to keep it warm so that the tea isn’t cold before one finishes it. It’s a term I always considered absolutely common and normal until I started running into many, many people who had no idea what I meant by it — I guess it is a product of my British Isles background. We drink a lot of tea in my family!

Happy Easter to those celebrating it — and happy Spring to everyone!

Posted by Aven at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2004

Hmm. Sensing a pattern?

Oh dear. Stephanie warned me about this. I haven’t even cast on for the socks in the first batch of self-patterning wool I bought, and now this arrives:

esprit.jpg

Damn you, Elann. It’s that scarcity marketing — I don’t need this yarn now, but what if it’s gone by the time I do need it? (Hah. Need. Now that’s self-deception if I’ve ever seen it!). Obviously I must immediately buy enough yarn for 5 pairs of socks, just in case!

This just seemed like such neat yarn — cotton and elastic, perfect for socks that won’t fall down and can be worn beyond the depths of winter. I don’t usually wear wool socks, so I was a little concerned about making too many pairs out of wool/nylon, but I knew plain cotton wouldn’t be the best idea. This seems perfect… of course, we’ll see if I still think so after trying to knit with it! I have no idea what knitting with elasticated yarn will be like.

In other news, I came down with an annoying cold on Saturday night, and have been moping around ever since. Last night I didn’t get to sleep until well past 4 a.m. because my nose was dripping and my head felt like it was going to explode. Bah. Spring colds are horrid — though I’ve got to admit it doesn’t feel much like spring right now; down to -7 overnight, and -11 with windchill this morning! Some Easter week this is…

Enough grumping. It’s sunny out, and spring will come, probably sooner than later. After all, the baseball season has started! Eternal optimism, that shall be my watchword.

Posted by Aven at 05:30 PM | Comments (2)

April 03, 2004

Quick comments

Two things. First, what do you think this is?

eggcosy.jpg

Why, it’s an egg-cosy, of course! Mark likes his soft-boiled eggs, but needed some way to keep the second egg warm while he ate the first. So I used a mini-hat pattern, the same one I used for many of the Christmas ornaments I made this year, to make him an egg-cosy. It amuses me, and Mark says it works very well — so we’re both happy!

Second, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators soundly tonight, ensuring home-ice advantage for the playoffs and leaving open the possibility of winning their division. It’s been a great season, and I’m really looking forward to the playoffs. Especially since we might even have time to watch the games with friends this year! It’s very exciting.

So even though my real knitting projects are proceeding slowly, I’m in a good mood tonight. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Posted by Aven at 10:32 PM | Comments (5)

April 01, 2004

Over-eager

Finishing one project means I can start another — but unfortunately I’m not known for my restraint. I started two new projects yesterday, which puts me over my self-imposed threshold of two things on the go at once. This has the potential to make me anxious, or (probably more likely) make me stop doing anything except knitting until one of the projects is finished. Fortunately, one of the things I started was a cat blanket for the Critter Knitters Knit-a-thon that Wendy and Liz are hosting, and that should be pretty quick. But the other thing, as I mentioned, was a baby blanket:

romanstripe.jpg

Exciting, isn’t it? I haven’t got very far. A (not very good) close-up of the stitch pattern (Roman Stripe) is here. I’m not sure if it will open up much more than that, since the yarn is acrylic and probably won’t block easily — would steaming it affect acrylic at all? I don’t think just wet-blocking it would work. I like the pattern but it’s rather slow, so it’s going to take longer to make this blanket than I thought it would. Oh well — I’m knitting for process as much as result, right? I just have to remind myself about that occasionally.

My supervisor is taking Mark and me out for dinner to a very nice French restaurant tonight to celebrate my Major Fields being over. Mmmm. Lots of butter and cream and overly-rich food — perfect. Not much knitting time, though, so I may not have much to report tomorrow.

Posted by Aven at 04:10 PM | Comments (2)