Thursday, May 27, 2010

Studies in Two Colors: A Video Tutorial and Dirty Feet

All guys need a Wingman, and now hubby has this one. I hope to have a second Wingman for him in the near future.

I've had a lot of time to knit lately since our Pink Ribbon Sock KAL is delayed a bit, and I'm enjoying it while I can! Yesterday I downloaded a new audio book, Scott Turow's Innocent, and sat out in the sun with my knitting for quite a while! Today I'm a bit pink on the knees and shoulders - sometimes I'm just sunscreened challenged.

I've made significant progress on all my Two-Row Repeat projects that I previously spoke of, most notably I've finished Wingman Number 1! Man Socks are hard to design. I think most men would prefer fairly plain socks in fairly dark neutral colors, but that is just SO boring for the knitter. I believe I have reached a nice compromise with Wingman - it has two color detail at the cuff and on the heel where most people won't see it, so men don't have to be self-conscious about their feet, and their knitters get to have a little fun while working on the project.

Wingman starts out with two-color K1 x P1 ribbing. Two-color ribbing lies more open than its single-color counterpart, but still has some stretch to it. This kind of ribbing can be worked two ways: using a mosaic technique where one color is worked at a time, or using a two-color stranded technique. Below is a video we put together that demonstrates the two methods. I was a little hoarse when we recorded this, so please excuse my sexy low voice - ha!

After the ribbing, the top of the leg features a 28-round diamond pattern that is done using Mosaic technique. Mosaic work is easy and fun, and always looks like it is more complicated to do than it really is. Next we move onto the leg, where I've used a 3x2 ribbing that includes a central slip stitch. It has a little more interesting look to it than plain ribbing, and helps with fit shaping as we move down the leg. For the heel, we're back to two-color work again, only this time there is no purling involved. I've taken the standard YO short row heel that I've used on several designs, and integrated alternate colors to form the vertical striping. I think it's so cool the way the colors angle through the heel turn!

For the foot, we continue the 3x2 ribbing down the top of the foot and switch to stockinette for the sole. I considered some colorwork around the toe area, but decided that it could add some bulk that would be uncomfortable in a shoe, so I went with a plain main color toe instead. Hubby says these are comfortable and he likes the way the tops stay up - success! Now to finish Wingman Number Two.

My other study in two colors comes courtesy of my cat Buddy who is black and white. Normally he keeps his white areas very white, but yesterday he came inside and showed me that he had been playing in the dirt... boys will be boys!

Cheers -

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The 26 Hour Housework Sweater

This is a story of one person's complete lack of restraint. This is my story.

Last Saturday, my knitting buddy Kelie pulled out two large bags of yarn that she is planning to destash - much of which had been destashed to her. Of course, I had to go through the goodies in the bag, not that I need any more yarn or projects in my queue, but it was there in front of me, and well... it was yarn. I was just going to touch it a little...

But then I found 8 balls of Casablanca by Stahl sche Wolle, which is a bulky cotton/poly boucle. It just called to me for some reason, it's nubby little cottony goodness was just not going to let me leave it in the bag. I don't even like knitting with cotton, and I still had to take it. All told, there was a little over 600 yards in a natural white with a red-orange thread running through it.

My second mistake was not putting it into my yarn stash trunk the minute I brought it home. Instead, it sat next to my desk, where I thought about it while chatting on Ravelry with my online friends. What could I make? Ahhh! A summer sleeveless shell would be perfect. And don't I have some other cotton boucle in my stash that I could use as a contrast color - yes! And since it's boucle, I can just knit it in stockinette, which means I can do it on the machine, which means it won't take very long, which means I MUST cast on! This is how my brain works. It's way scary sometimes.

So then I played the Justification Game. This is where I bargain with myself about how I'm going to justify starting another project. Ever do this? Generally, I tell myself I can reward myself by starting new project B, if I finish WIP project A first, and that works. In this case, however, my WIP projects are all a ways off from completion so that was not going to be a successful bargaining chip. I needed a new justification.

Housework. We're expecting visitors this week, so I have more housework on my "to do" list than usual. Because I'm a normal, breathing, human, I haven't been very motivated to do any of it, so I came up with this plan on Monday morning:

1. Shampoo the carpets, and be rewarded by getting to swatch, chart, and knit the back of the sweater.

2. Dust the house, and be rewarded by getting to knit the front of the sweater.

The plan executed beautifully through step 1. The carpets got cleaned, and I set up my machine at about 2pm. I swatched, calculated gauge, and then charted the new sweater based on measurements I took off another sweater I have that fits well. By 3pm I was working away on the back, and had it finished by 5pm. I held the finished piece up to my torso in front of the mirror and found that the fit seemed to be working out fine - yay!

I ran some errands, and then came home to execute step 2 of the plan. After getting about half of the first room dusted, I said "screw it!" and headed back over to the knitting machine to knock out the front of the sweater. By 8:30 the front was done and I spent the rest of the evening seaming the sides and shoulders while I watched TV.

On Tuesday, all that was left was crocheted borders on the armholes, neckline, and lower edge, but I was feeling some major guilt over my Day 1 behavour. I came up with a new plan to tackle four significant housework tasks by alternating tasks and crochet time. I was much better disciplined on Day 2 - finishing both the housework and the sweater by 4pm - 26 hours after I started swatching.

A little blocking was required to uncurl the lower edge - I just wet it down and hung it to dry overnight. Although the yarn is bulky, the sweater doesn't make me look thick, and it's really soft and comfortable and will probably end up being high in my rotation of summer tops.

So "Thanks, Kelie!" for the new summer sweater, and the inspiration to finish the housework I needed to do this week. Now I need to plan the menus and food shopping... what can I make while I do that?


Friday, May 14, 2010

Same Two Rows - Over and Over Again

Most of us knitters like to keep a variety of projects lying around, so that when it's time to knit, we can choose to spend time with a project that fits the mood and environment. Project monogamy is not particularly popular in this community.

I prefer not too have too much WIP - I feel guilty if I have too many unfinished projects on the sticks. I do, however, agree that it's important to have a variety of projects in the works, and mine generally fall into three categories:
  1. The most important project type to me is the Mobile Project: usually a small item like a sock or scarf, which isn't terribly complicated. I find that "mobile" gets less so if I have to keep pulling directions out.
  2. Then there is the TV Project: usually a larger project such as a sweater, which is too large to lug around, and requires that instructions, measuring implements, and/or special tools be close at hand. The difficulty of these project can range from easy to intermediate, as long as I can knit without missing the plot of the movie (or audiobook).
  3. And finally, the Thinking Project: projects that have complicated patterns or are being designed as they go. These projects often involve ongoing math, frequent trips to Excel spreadsheets, and/or lots of counting. When I'm working on one of these projects, it's pretty much all I can do at the time.
I've hit this funny cusp in the universe right now where my three active projects (one from each category, no less) have all hit a stage where they are nothing but mindless repeats of two-row stitch patterns. I'm finding it particularly odd, because I can't remember a time before this when I had a project with a two-row stitch pattern, and now I have three of them at once! Here they are:

My Mobile Project: This is a Scottish-Themed scarf (shown at the top) that I've designed to go with specially hand-dyed yarn to create the plaid effect. The two-row pattern is stockinette with a seed stitch border on each side - the yarn does all the impressive work, so I don't have to!

My TV Project: This is the Catalina sweater by Jordana Paige. I'm making it out of DK weight Lisa Souza baby alpaca/silk, and it is the softest sweater EVER! So far it seems to be knitting without incident due to well-written instructions, and it seems to be fitting well, too. It's a top-down raglan, and I've reached the section below the waistband which is a two-row stitch pattern. The pattern is lacy, but easy - an 8 stitch repeat on the right side and all purl on the wrong side. Great TV knitting!

My Thinking Project: This is the new Man Sock (to be named later) that I'm working on. It's a two-color sock, featuring corregated 1x1 ribbing, a cool looking diamond pattern below the cuff, and a sweet two-color yarn over short row heel. It looks complicated, but the cuff and diamond pattern can be worked mosaic-style - and I guess the heel can be, too, if you use DPNs. The solid blue section on the leg and foot-in-process are (wait for it...) a two-row stitch pattern. In this case it's a two row slip stitch rib that is pretty nice looking.

So - I guess I'm currently enjoying a phase where all three of my active projects can be worked on auto-pilot. This is a good place to be on a Friday. With any luck, I won't have to think again until Monday.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Knitters Guide to Reviewing Movies

I love to watch movies. Doesn't really matter what kind of movie it is - I'll watch whatever happens to be showing. I also love to knit, and most of the time the two activities go together beautifully. I'm not really sure in which order these two loves arrived in my life, but one undoubtedly arrived to justify the other.

It occurred to me as I was watching Inglourious Basterds last night that a knitter would review a movie based on different criteria than say, Roger Ebert would. I've read Roger Ebert's review of the movie, and it is wonderfully thorough, capturing the cinematographic nuances of Tarantino's use of 35mm film, the rich performances by actors whose breadth suprises us, the brilliant script which provides the much-needed alternate ending to Nazi occupation, the tactical sparcity with which key characters are presented, and a brief summary of the entertaining story line. He covers every topic on the Movie Reviewer's Checklist, except... Can you knit to it?

I enjoyed Inglourious Basterds very much - I find Tarantino's stories entertaining in plot, as well as in presentation. I must say, however, that I was disapointed by my lack of knitting productivity during the 2 hour and 33 minute long feature due to his frequent use of subtitles. The movie's setting in German-occupied France necessitated that a significant amount of the dialog was in French or German. Some directors handle this type of situation by having actors speak English, while viewers pretend that characters are speaking in their native tongue - a ruse that we are willing to accept based on how the actors are clothed. Tarantino instead chose to bolster the film's realism by featuring the foreign languages with English subtitles prominently - at least half of the film is done this way. I tried very hard to make progress on my new Catalina Sweater project (by Jordana Paige - shown above), but gave up after having to take many extended mid-row breaks to read and process dialog. I enjoyed the rest of the movie sans knitting, but must say that I feel slightly cheated. How cherry is the opportunity for 2-1/2 hours of uninterrupted movie knitting time?

My suggestion to American film directors for future multi-lingual works is to produce an alternate English Knitters Version of films where all spoken dialogue is in English. When the characters are supposed to be speakng a foreign language, run subtitles in that language. This way, as we knitters bob our heads up from time to time to catch glimpses of the movie, we'll gather the full ambience of the scene without losing our pattern stitch count.

So I guess the Score is... Roger Ebert: 2 thumb ups. Wendy Gaal: 2 needles down.

More on my new Catalina sweater in the next post - it's coming along well!

Monday, May 3, 2010

We Have the Technology - The Final Chapter

More success to report: the new sleeves are done, and I think they look much better! I put nearly all the extra yarn to use, so I think this project can count as stash reduction, too. Win-win!

Each sleeve has been lengthened by about 3-1/2 inches, and they seem much more flattering now. They're fun and poofy and very girlie, and tie into the rest of the design.

I started the sleeve remodel by picking up stitches along the bottom of each existing sleeve so that I could get a stitch count. The magic number was 57. I then made two more bands using the same patterns I used to make the mirror-image neck bands. I completed each band by picking up 57 stitches along the long (sleeve) edge of the band, and grafing it into a ring.

Then I went back to the sleeves, and worked stockinette on each sleeve - going back and forth between the sleeves to keep them even in length without running out of yarn. When they were as long as they were going to get (9 rows of stockinette) I attached the band using the three-needle bind off method. Gave them each a little steam, and voila! Finishville. I now have a sweater I enjoy wearing!

This project was mentally healthy for me for a couple of reasons. First, I turned what was going to be a neglected mass of yarn and resources into something of value that I will use. Second, I wasn't quite ready to cast on anything new when I started this remodel. While working on it, I thought about new projects and new designs, and now I have two new things I want to start. One of them is another sweater - more in my next post!