Crouch We Here A-While and Lurk

I finished the wrap cardigan that I've taken to calling "the Penelope sweater", due to the number of times I've had to tear out problems. Or so I thought after finishing the (insanely long) belt and sewing up the side seams. This morning, I rose from my bed thinking of wearing said sweater to work today. The knitting gods had other plans. It looks homemade, friends, in the worst way. No, the sleeves aren't different lengths or anything, but they are ugly, 1980s mutton sleeves. This wasn't apparent until I put it on. I wasn't thrilled with the (assumed to be slight at the time) poofiness of the sleeve caps when I eased them in, but when I saw them on, I wanted to die. I will never leave my house in this sweater as is. Maybe the poof wouldn't be so horrendous if the sleeves, which should be fitted caps, fit my shoulders. No, the shoulder does that weird wingy thing that sweater vests often, unfortunately, do. This puts the poof about 5 cm down my arm. Hate, hate, hate! No, I have to tear out my carefully crafted seams, frog the sleeves, and knit a smaller size, in the hopes that they won't suck. If I didn't love this yarn, I would have ditched this piece of shit pattern ages ago. It reminds me of a Monet painting. I'm sure that he had to rework his pieces on occasion, so I'll try to keep that in mind as I dismember the sweater.
Adding insult to injury: I can't find the magazine with the pattern and may have to buy another copy in order to finish this beast. Rage may ensue. Still, I delude myself with ideas like, maybe if I were to reseam the shoulders, I could hide the poofiness in the underarm. Yeah, except the sleeve cap is knit in an inevitably poofy manner. How did I not foresee this problem, you ask. The model in the picture has her arms cleverly arranged akimbo, as to minimize poof, and stands at an angle that obscures the other side.
I don't want to buy another copy of the magazine. I'm broke, for starters, because I've just shelled out for my upcoming Spring vacation. Also, the email correspondence that I've had with one of the sub-editors or assistant types has been less than elucidating. That they responded at all to my question on their website about errata for this pattern is pretty cool, but they missed the big picture. The armholes were crazy long when I knit the fronts according to the pattern, so doing the decreases further apart will not rectify that problem. That seems dead obvious to me, but apparently not to the knitting professionals at the magazine.
Luckily, I have other irons in the fire. I am making a pair of fingerless gloves for a friend out of Noro Kureyon, purchased from my love/hate mail-order Canadian yarn shop. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to the proprietor there about an ongoing backorder. Adorable accent! I ordered the Noro about a month ago (?) along with the alpaca yarn needed to finish my Phildar cardigan, but still await the non-impulse purchase yarn. One of the gloves is already finished, tried on the recipient a couple of times. They're not a surprise gift. Since they're for a man, I had to measure his hand size, and well, the fittings were to prevent an unfortunate too-small present. I worked from the fabulous fingerless glove pattern in SnB Nation, but modified. Ornate cable patterns for a man? Well, maybe if he were my love-slave, but he's not. I knit a plain panel instead, to be worn on the palm side. Also adjusted was the thumb gusset, which provides more ease. About halfway through the first one, I had a fleeting fear that Kureyon is too *fancy* for a man, but he was interested by the variegation. I also wonder if he would tell me if he didn't like them, or if said present could be misconstrued. God, I overthink things sometimes.


Some Red Letter Days...

I have a few of them, occasionally. I am very excited about my upcoming trip to Europe. I finally booked it. Finally is a little overly dramatic there. I talked to my darling cousin in London about it on Sunday, but didn't buy the tickets until confirming the dates with him via email. The problem was that I was waiting for him to respond to emails that had gone to Internet Limbo (since spiritual Limbo doesn't exist anymore, that term will soon only refer to the dance). I sent one from one of my other accounts and all was settled. He even sent me a very useful link to the British Eurostar website. Now, there's another instance of Americans being fleeced. The websites for Americans to buy tickets for the Chunnel train charge a lot more than what I spent by booking through their British site. I wish that my vacation was sooner. Well, not in the middle of February, as I am looking forward to seeing London and Paris in the spring. I have that child-at-xmas anticipation. Paris in the spring! Even the idea is intoxicating! I may have to start crossing out the days on my calendar.
Fortunately, I've just about everything that I need for my trip since I kitted myself out so well last time. This time around, I won't pack so much, which will make it so much easier to drag my rockin' suitcase up the Metro station stairs. I always overpack. I've got my passport (in its swanky case) and don't need a visa for any of the places that I am going. All I need is a St. Christopher medal and a robe that packs small. My old St. Christopher medal is apparently traveling on without me, since I've not been able to lay my hands on it in ages. I'd ask St. Anthony for it, but I'm still looking for my work keys. That Anthony of Padua keychain seems not to be as helpful as hoped!
With that in mind, I headed off to the mall. It was time to replace my mascara. I don't use it everyday, so I don't use it up within its six months of freshness. My favorite makeup artist was working the MAC counter, which was lovely. She was very enthusiastic about their new Icon 3 collection. MAC has Catherine Deneuve as its style icon! Amazing! The product design is really fabulous, apparently designed by Mme Deneuve herself. I wasn't sure that any of the colors would work with my fair complexion, but my favorite makeup artist raved about the Strawberry Blonde lipstick. It is divine! Strawberry Blonde has a hint of coral and fantastic sheer coverage.
Clearly, I was on a roll. Dimly remembering an email announcing the end of their semi-annual sale, I made a visit to the better local Victoria's Secret. The Henley sweater that I snapped up in their online sale just arrived yesterday, so I felt optimistic. Good instinct. All of the "sleepwear" on the sales rack was an additional 50% off. There I found a lovely, silky, knee-length robe that will take very little packing space in a sophisticated shade of peach, two camisole/tap pants sets, and a lace camisole only to be worn under things as the lining just isn't opaque. I am always looking out for camisoles to wear under my sundry sweaters, so finding three of them marked down 75% felt like hitting the jackpot. Even the sales associate oohed over the prices as she rung it up. I'm glad that I went there today, since the local VS was totally picked over last week. I had a fabulous, feminine shopping spree. Notice the lovely violet color. I think that I am on a purple kick these days. Not everything I own can be pink.
As I've mentioned before, I am a big Phildar fan. Their patterns don't have crazy long sleeves and they're stylish and fun. Phildar doesn't sell their product in the States, so when I read on their French website that they were opening an online store in mid-January, I was excited. A little impatient, too. Well, it opened this week, with a few bugs, but some very good features. On their old website, there was no information with the project images from the pattern catalogues. The new, improved site has a little description and links to the yarn used in the pattern, so that you can purchase both at once. It's usually difficult to put together a project through mail order, because most merchants don't provide the yardage requirements, forcing you to wait until you have the pattern in hand. The yarn gallery still needs work. It has some sort of flash error that makes it jittery and (quickly) headache inducing. It was very hard for me to focus on the information with several layers of flash danced about on the screen. Well, Phildar had a yarn that I like, out of which I have an ongoing project, on sale for 1,60 euro. That's about two dollars--per skein! I waded through five pages of French forms to order a sweater sized amount, only to be outraged by the shipping rates. They wanted more than $30 to ship the yarn to America! It was suddenly much less of a bargain. Shipping it across La Manche was another matter. My darling cousin consented to accept my package of maraschino cherry colored angora yarn and keep it for me until my visit. In the future, I will probably only window shop at the Phildar website. My other European source for Phildar only charged me $6 to ship an identically sized order. It took a month and arrived in a tattered brown box tied up with string, but that's neither here nor there. Crossing the Atlantic to go pick up the package isn't exactly economical.


Tearing Back and Moving Forward

That damn ballet wrap sweater! I was nearly finished with one of the front pieces when I realized that I'd missed an "at the same time" in the pattern. I had to tear out 10" of knitting because the pattern couldn't integrate the neck shaping, armhole shaping, and at the same time into some sort of chronological set of instructions. Most knitters will tell you how much they hate "at the same time" instructions, but this was a third set of instructions to juggle at once! Yes, it is kinda my fault for missing them in the first place, but that doesn't make me any less exasperated! So, I go back and remedy that problem, then proceed. I knit for hours before realizing that the neck shaping instructions are flawed, flawed, flawed. I checked the pattern. I checked my gauge. I counted the stitches and compared the piece to the back. Not bloody possible. So, I checked the magazine's site for errata (none yet!), sent them an email, and set out to noodle the neck myself. I'll try to avoid this designer in the future.
My back-ordered Malabrigo is back-ordered no longer. It is sitting in a box in my living room. I long to work on it, as sweater weather has returned to Chicago. I know it would be a breeze to finish on big old elevens, except I'm using them on the Colinette project. And I've got the beautiful Cashmerino project running in rep with the ballet wrap. I'd feel guilty, even though I am rarely project monogamous. The Cashmerino cowl has gotten to the point that the rows are insanely long and therefore less appealing to knit. It took me fifteen minutes to do a purl row! Soon, it will be joined in the round. Projects in the round don't seem to drag on. Funny, since it doesn't take that long to turn a flat piece to start the next row. Oh, well.


Knitting fulfillment

I bought a sweater last night. Seems like cheating, especially since I had that stereotypical knitter thought recently: I could go for quite a while without buying a sweater. That was in response to my WIP/UFO list. The sweater is a deep purple angora blend cowl neck, purchased at Target for the princely sum of $6.24. Soft, cozy, and cheap-- how could I resist?
So, here's a rundown of my UnFinished Objects and Works In Progress. I need some sort of knitting/life coach to tackle all this, but in the mean time, I'll do my own analysis.
Here are all of my projects and the reasons why I haven't finished them:
* Colinette Tagliatelle moss stitch scarf, a gift for Margaret.
This has been lingering on the xmas back burner. I justify it by thinking that I have until opening to finish it.
* Socks in Lorna's Laces watercolor for Grandma Helen
I had a xmas reality check regarding knitting presents. No rush to finish now.
* Auracania colorblock raglan pullover
I bought three balls of Nature Wool in an electric shade of green to finally make the sleeves. Now all I need is to get around to it.
* Phildar mod sweater.
Love it, totally lost in short row instructions en francais. Ordered a translation of the pattern from Canada.
* Phildar Cecilia wrap cardigan
Missing collar piece. Ordered a replacement skein from Canada. I have a sneaking suspicion that the lost piece will be found in the clusterfuck of cables under the mixer at work.
* Colinette wrap cardigan from the latest issue of Interweave Knits
In progress. Will have to think out front neck shaping, as I think I have found an error in the pattern.
* Top down, cashmerino sweater
My current fave. Oh, those tiny needles!

* Kureyon fingerless gloves.
Maybe I can work the thumb better this time.
* Two pairs of laceup fingerless gloves in Malabrigo.
Purple for me and green for Rita. Should get moving on these while it's still cold!
* Phildar (see a pattern developing here. I can't even buy it in the States and I've become a Phildar addict!) Onde cardigan
I've had this kit stashed since 2004, but hope springs eternal.
* Another yukata, in Tahki Cotton Classic.
This time, not swimmingly large. The yarn is a beautiful burgundy, but I must be a real masochist to remake this pattern. And I'm not a big fan of cotton.
* A Malabrigo hoodie, for me this time.
Lewis proclaimed that it would never look good on a woman and that I should give him this one too. Then I told him that he was wearing a ladies' sweater. I switched my (back)order from Bobby Blue to Polygala, a lively violet.
* A couple of rolled brim hats, in Manos
* Something out of R2 Print, maybe a handbag.
I bought it to make a poncho, but the time for that has passed. Sometimes a little procrastination goes a long way.
* A scarf out of Cascade Quatro and Rowan Kidsilk Haze, originally purchased to make a pair of legwarmers.
* More boucle scarves

Oh, and I'd love to make:
* Phildar Fall '04 couture jacket, tres elegante!
* My beloved Phildar boucle cardigan ("the Paris sweater") in other colors

In other news, I am trying to pull together my faux spring break. I realized yesterday that if I want to get decent prices on the flights, I need to stop being an indecisive Pisces. So, I hit all the usual travel sites: Orbitz, Travelocity, BA, American, Air France, etc. That was an interesting exercise in price comparisons. If you're going to Europe, it is cheaper to fly to London and catch a commuter flight than to take a direct flight. That's the advice that everyone dispenses. But what about cheap flights to London? Funnily enough, I discovered that it's cheaper to fly to Dublin and hop another flight (One euro before taxes! Gotta love it!) to London. However, if I tell the airline that I'm flying from Chicago to London, it routes me the same way and charges me another $100! Fleece the Americans, eh? Actually, I think the price difference has to do with the ridiculous federal taxes here in the States being levied on both legs of the trip, instead of just the transatlantic flight. I was initially surprised by all the cheap flights from Chicago to Ireland, then I had to laugh. Of course there are lots of flights between here and there, the city is full of Irish-Americans!


Today is a pretty blah day. Our beautiful fifty degree weather has come to a wet, grey end. It's January again. Thank goodness I have so many things to occupy me indoors--and no pressing engagements.
Last night, I finally gave the script of my next show a good read. Yikes. I have done plenty of lousy plays in my time, but this is a real turkey. The prospect of seeing it thirty-odd times doesn't thrill me. That's why they call it work. Still, this is going to be a big change from my last show.

I have started a new project, a beautiful top-down raglan sweater designed by Wendy Bernard. A new project makes me feel a wee bit guilty, as I've a few going already. Still, I just finished a project, so it's just maintaining equilibrium. The sweater is knit at a mind-numbing six stitches to the inch on size five needles. This sweater isn't moving nearly as fast as my #11 wonders, but it's more refined. Look at the elegant raglan seams. There aren't any real seams in the garment (a big plus for someone who hates seaming projects). These are a clever illusion created by mirrored increases. Even though it isn't instant gratification material, I really enjoy working on this.


I will not develop startitis. I will not start a dozen projects at once. Really, I swear! I am sorely tempted to start on this yarn though. I went to Nina yesterday and bought a couple of skeins of Malabrigo, the yarn that I used for Lewis's excellent sweater, to make fingerless gloves for Rita. Oh, and a pair for me while I'm at it. The Hannah silk ribbon took a trip to a second yarn shop today, while I had a strong bar smell about me. Not that nasty, uncleaned tap drain smell, but the musty cigarette smell that is quite out of place in a yarn shop. I was a wee bit self-conscious, but I don't go there very often. My fingerless gloves from last year got a very-predictable hole under one of the thumbs, through which I would inevitably put my thumb. That's no good. I really like them, but I recall thinking as I made them that the thumb wasn't very well engineered. Time has proved me right.
How did I get that bar smell, you ask? Well, I went out with Rita and drank like we were in college again. Rita knew the bartender and we lured Ken and Joe there to join in the fun. Everyone's got some sort of theatre connection in this town. I drank, I think, five gloggs. I wasn't really counting, which is rare for me. We shut the place down. The room spun as I lay in bed last night. It's been a long time since that happened. My liver isn't an undergrad anymore, so this can't become a regular occurence. Still, I can see how people become regulars there. I had a great time hanging out there with my friends.

Here's a photo of Lewis in his sweater. He looks so happy about it that you can't tell that he's miserable with pneumonia. When I gave it to him, he put it on, looked at himself in the mirror, then declared that he wants to be buried in it. Just a wee bit morbid. I imagined keeping it in a drawer and taking it out every once in a while to wear and think about him, but he can have it his way.

I'm taking a break from my Colinette sweater. I realized that if I want to get a Valentine's gift to someone in the UK, I need to hustle to get it in the mail. So, I started on this funky boucle scarf. I picked up the yarn when I took back my freaky identical secret santa gift. There's nothing as appealing to a knitter as free yarn. The structure of the yarn is a bit tricky to stitch, but I've worked with worse. The fabric has a muppet-like quality, with lots of texture and surprising density. Check out the funny contrast with my old man pyjama pants.


The sweater

Look, I'm wearing Lewis's sweater! I had to try it on to make sure that it wasn't oddly misshapen. It has sleeves of a length appropriate for long man arms, but way too long for me! It's very cozy. Makes me wish that it was for me (minus oddly long sleeves)! So, I'll just have to make another one. Not identical, though, unless Lewis and I want to look like the Supertwins. Maybe I'll make mine a bit more girly.
I was totally stumped as to how to attach the hood. It's a big rectangle, with a border, not hood shaped at all. The pattern very helpfully says, "sew hood on". I guess safety pins are only a stopgap measure! So, I put out a call for help on the SnB listserv. Then I realized, I just have to fold it in half. Simple knitting origami. I feel like such a little idiot!

Here's a picture of part of a sweater that I plan to keep. It's the second sleeve, in progress, of my Colinette wrap sweater. This is my third project with their yarn and I totally love it. If only it wasn't so goddamned expensive in this country! It's going fairly quick, on the same needles that I used for the glorified drug rug for Lewis. That name would probably give its designer a conniption fit, but that's what it looks like! I've got some crazy, ambitious plan to knit a sweater a month this year, or as long as my hands can take it.


I'm in the home stretch on Lewis's sweater. Only the hood remains to be knit. That sounds small, doesn't it? Sadly, it's 26 inches long, with a moss stitch border, so not as quick moving as I would hope. As I was knitting it last night, I actually thought that I might like to start sewing the sweater together, as a change of pace. I hate finishing sweaters, because it can make or break a garment. You can spend weeks knitting beautifully and ruin the garment in an hour of bad sewing. Eeek. Instead, I read a refresher on finishing, which was very exciting. Very good tips on sewing sleeves to a body, though the ilustration was pretty humorous, showing the stitches between armhole and sleeve like big shark's teeth. Now I face a decision: do I want to put dangly cords on the hood? The sweater is shown with them, but they're pure ornament. That can't be used to cinch up the hood, so I don't see the point. And I'm afraid they might be a bit dainty for a man's sweater, but suspect that they may hide some horrible join between neckline and hood. Hmmm... And, well, I'm looking forward to starting my next project.
One of my regular online reads, blue blog, pointed me in two delightful new directions: another knitting blog and a knitting podcast. The blog, knit and tonic has some delightful designs and great attitude. I even bought one of her patterns, the Somewhat Cowl, which I hope to make soon. You know, after all of my current things. I think it's swell (you can check it out here) and plan to make it up in teal Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. I snapped up a millpack of it on ebay on the cheap recently.
The second find was a knitting podcast, Cast On. It seems like it wouldn't be very interesting, as knitting is very visual. Maybe I like the idea of knitting podcast because it brings out my supernerd: knitting and sound all in one! The podcast is like having a long (one-sided) chat with a friend, with excellent music breaks. Highly recommended!
You're probably wondering why I haven't referenced that photo yet. It was attached to an email from one of my knitting comrades from Sound of Music. Other people had a lot of free time on that show..


She knits all her own socks

But not lately.... It sounds kinda creepy when someone else (my cousin Chris) says it, but yeah, I knit my own socks. When I wear them, which is rare. Lately, my knitting attentions have been elsewhere, such as the three scarves I gave away at Christmas. All of them were previously featured in this blog, but none of the recipients seemed to recognize them. More proof of what a vanity project this blog is! I've also made three hats lately, and started a pair of socks for my grandmother ridiculously close to Christmas. She has two feet, so three days really aren't enough! Maybe they'll be her birthday socks instead, which gives me six months to finish them.
I was rummaging around in all the pre-chrimbo madness and came across a long-abandoned UFO. It was supposed to have been my first sweater with sleeves, but I never got around to making them. First, I had to remember what pattern I was using, because the dark navy of the body made it damn near impossible to do any knitting archeology. Yes, a little joke. Hypothetically, I could have charted out all my decreases and designed a matching raglan sleeve cap to match, but the idea alone makes my head hurt. So, I tracked down the pattern and got out the needles. After finishing one sleeve, I realized that I don't have quite enough yarn to make the second one. Maybe that's why I didn't knit the sleeves in the first place... I'd used a formula to calculate how much yardage I'd need for the sleeves (since they're colorblock, this is an important detail), which clearly doesn't work for raglan sleeves. So, now I'm looking for the no-dye lots random yarn to finish the project, with little success. I may have to just start over on the sleeves, which means that this project is going back on the back burner.
I broke down and ordered another ball of the French alpaca yarn that I need to finish my sweater. The Canadian yarn shop, which I love/hate, carries the yarn, so I ordered it from them. Seemed more expedient. I also ordered a couple of balls of Noro Kureyon (which I heard pronounced as "crayon" in a very full-of-themselves NYC yarn shop once. It is colorful as a box of Crayolas, but I had to laugh on the inside.) to make a pair of fingerless gloves for Rita. Another project for the list!
So, I've been working on the long-promised Not Another Sweatshirt sweater for Lewis. It's moving so fast, I thought as I worked on it last night, until I realized that I'm knitting it on #11 needles, instead of the #6 ones that are the hallmark of most of my sweaters. I'm on the sleeves now, which I'm knitting concurrently. Since, it's a very variegated yarn, I'm afraid of the sleeves looking wildly different from each other, so I hop back and forth between the two of them. This is a bit slower than one at a time, but worth the effort. I think.

Next up? Hard to say. I really want to dive into my Christmas sweater. No, not with reindeer or snowflakes. My mom gave me absolutely amazing Colinette yarn to make the sweater on the cover of the current issue of Interweave Knits. It arrived two days after Christmas. This could lead to startitis, very easily, so I've decided not to even wind the skeins into balls until I have finished Lewis's sweater. It's such a temptation! I also have a bunch of little projects that I could do, like scarves and those socks. When I have a bit of cash, I'd like to check out the awesome cabled armwarmers I saw at Knit1. I hope that store takes off. It's tiny and carries a lot of high end yarn, but maybe it will find a following. Of course, I should concentrate on finishing the projects I have going now, knitting the yarn in my stash before snapping up anymore. Since I have a few weeks before my next show starts, I think I can make a dent in the current inventory.

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