Sunday, March 30, 2008

On the home stretch

Thomas's vest is making good progress. Or rather, I'm making good progress on finishing it, but knitting projects always seem to take on a life of their own so I tend to think of them as accomplishing their own rate of finishing with me just doing the manual labour part. Perhaps it's time to admit that my knitting owns me, not the other way around. As I like knitting a lot, this doesn't bother me as long as I'm still in charge of the yarn purchasing budget. If my knitting starts having it's own ideas about yarns that differ from my preferences might be trouble.

But I'm wandering a bit. The vest is now complete about halfway through the 2nd front; I've got about 20 rows to go to reach the armhole and neck and then things really speed up. Good timing too, as I'm darn close to running out of yarn. I have that little tangle of yarn next to the unfinished side of the front, one intact ball, a very large swatch, and a tiny ball that I think is what is left from one ball after doing the swatch. So if I have what I think I have, two full balls are left to complete the 2nd front plus do some narrow garter stitch bands around the armholes and the front/neck edges. I'm holding off on working on the Hex Coat so that I can really crank on the vest, as the sooner I find out whether or not I have enough yarn the better, especially if I have to reorder another ball or two.

In case anyone is wondering, all of those little markers on the vest are my way of keeping track of what I'm doing when I am making up the pattern on my own. I write down some key details such as gauge, needle size, number of stitches I cast on, etc, and then mostly I use markers to keep track of the number of rows, etc. On this vest I am also working in a series of short rows on the front to make the center fronts a little longer than the side seams in order to accommodateThomas's physique; he's got a bit of a belly and if I make the fronts perfectly flat the hemline ill hike up in front. The short rows are like adding darts for the bust line; just a lot lower down.

Monday, March 24, 2008

This and that

My apologies for missing my Sunday post; I had a wonderful day at my brother's for an Easter Egg hunt with my niece and utterly lost track of what day of the week it was! (One would think I would make the connection between Easter Sunday and Sunday, wouldn't one?) Madison is now 2 1/2 years old - such a cute age. She recognizes me and knows my name now, and is such a sweetie. She's still tiny so still doesn't fit into some of the clothes I've made her, but they'll fit someday, I'm sure. Aren't they a beautiful family?

I got a sudden bee in my bonnet to make something for her for Easter, and decided to make her a poncho using some very bulky chenille from Lion Brand that my sister in law had passed on to me. I used Barbara Walker's directions for a top-down poncho, and made a drawstring neck so it would be sure to be able to grow with her for a while. With the large gauge and size 11 US needles it was a fast, fast, fast project. I started it before lunch on Saturday, and finished it after dinner, including taking time out to go to the grocery store, get my car washed and the oil changed, and a few other errands. Sometimes, fat yarn and big needles are really, really great.

In my last post I completely forgot to mention anything about what I had worked on at Bodega Bay. I usually take knitting and spinning with me so that I can be independent of electrical outlets and perfect lighting, as that tends to be in short supply. This was the perfect opportunity to start the Hex Coat from Knitting Nature. Thomas gave me the book for Christmas 2006, and then gave me a very generous gift certificate to my LYS for 2007, which I used to by a whole bag of Cascade 220 to make the coat. I got a nice amount done on one side of the front - here it's just about up to the armhole shaping.

My other project was to spin more of the deep brown Perendale roving that my Dad brought me from New Zealand a while back. I already had 2 bobbins spun up, and managed to complete 2 more over the BB weekend. I now think I have enough to ply up into an amount of yarn that's actually enough to do something with. Now I need to move onto the cream merino roving that he also brought me. I'm looking forward to finally making something beautiful with this wonderful wool.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bodega Bay was great!

While there were some differences this year, the annual Bodega Bay weekend that Sew Group has been doing for 16 years now was as wonderful as always. We really missed the folks who could not be there, and the absence of Laurel, who passed away last year, was palpable. Laurel was a larger than life person and love her or not, her presence was always there and her absence was deeply felt. During her illness she was not able to come every year, but this time we knew she'd never come again and I think we all were aware of it. Others were unable to come due to changes in their personal lives and while we missed them very, very much, I know I am not alone in wishing them all the best as they move forward with their lives. We also had several new participants and it's great to have a new wave of people joining in - welcome to you all!

As is so often the case with wonderful experiences, there isn't a lot to say about the great time we had. As always, the environment is unbelievably beautiful. There were 20 of us spread out over 3 houses, and as the 3rd house (which I was staying in) was a few blocks away from the other 2 I probably spent more time out of doors than I ever have at BB before (which is not a testament to my outdoorswomanship, I must say). It was quite a stiff walk uphill from House # 1 & 2 to House # 3 and required some fortitude to make the trip.

We did lots of sewing, spinning, silk-flower-making; knitting; cross-stitch, and you name it. We ate more terrific meals than I count recount, we drank loads of wine, talked until we were hoarse, slept late ( or not), and had the time of our lives. Do you remember what it was like as a kid to look forward to Christmas, or you birthday, or some other meaningful event? That sense of anticipation, of thinking "the day" would never come, and of the delight when it finally did? Bodega Bay is for all of us what those events were like as a kid. We just wish we could do it twice a year instead of just once.

The hum of activity of all the needlework and handicrafts hardly stopped from Friday night through Monday morning. We churned out aprons, jackets, blouses, silk flowers, knitted coats (or at least portions thereof), pieced shirts, baby quilts, vests, tee shirts, and more. I am truly humbled by the creative genius of these wonderful women who I have been honored to know, in some cases, for over 25 years, and am deeply grateful for the friendship, support, love, and example of these extraordinary friends. I don't know what I did to deserve to be part of this group, but I am so glad I am. I wish I knew what else to say, but words fail me in an attempt to describe how much this weekend, and the Sew Group as a whole, means to me. I just hope you all know what I mean. Thank you all for being a part of my life.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's time for Bodega Bay!

Every year the sewing group I belong to goes on a retreat to Bodega Bay on the Sonoma Coast of California. We take all of our projects - sewing, knitting, needlework of all kinds, spinning (me, at least), take turns cooking for each other in teams, drink lots of wine, talk,laugh ourselves crazy, and generally have as great a time as can be imagined. There's usually about 20+ of us, and this year it's taking 3 houses to accommodate us all. We've been doing this for at least 15 years now and it's the highlight of our year for many of us.

I'll be taking off in about an hour and won't be back until late Monday so I won't be posting on Sunday as usual. But I will try to catch up on Tuesday with lots of pictures to go along.

I checked back in my archives and realized that my first real post with pictures, descriptions of projects,etc. was to do a catch up for last year's BB retreat, so that means I am fast approaching my first blog-iversary! It's hard to believe it's been almost a year. More to come!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lace & Cables Cardigan

It's done! When I started the Lace & Cables Cardigan there were two goals I was hoping to accomplish. One was to commit to an intensive, long term commitment with a knitting project, and the other was to replace a much loved cardigan that had finally needed to be retired. I am happy to say both goals were achieved.

Modeled by the lovely Jezebel, my vintage mannequin, the varied patterns that went into this cardigan are visible. There are 3 main patterns - a 4 x 4 cable bordered with seed stitch; a lace chevron; and a lace zig-zag. All were borrowed from an old Debbie Bliss design of children's garments with only one adjustment - I added a purl stitch on either side of the cable to set it off a little bit from the seed stitches on either side. I also more or less followed the shape and details of the original Debbie Bliss design, including the seed stitch front bands and collar.

I did arrange the various panels in my own combination across the body, which is knitted in one piece with no side seams. I centered the chevron patterns on the back and more or less on the fronts, with the cable pattern marking the side seams. However, being utterly unable to think in three dimensions, I arranged the three patterns across the body as if the sweater would be viewed in its entirety as a single large flat piece. All seemed fine until I got close to finishing the armholes, when it finally dawned on me that the patterns would not match up in any conceivable manner at the shoulders. If I had thought about it ahead of time, I would have mirrored the patterns on either side of the side cable patterns. Oops.

So what to do? Improvise, of course! A small detail such as unbelievable wonky shoulder seams was not enough to warrant unraveling the whole thing back to the beginning and starting over. But it did give impetus to creative problem-solving. I had, with stunning foresight, used the chevron lace pattern as the centre of the sleeves (which I had done before the body as a life-size gauge swatch) and this made for a perfect opportunity to do a saddle shoulder with the chevron continuing across the shoulder strap. Not only did this solve the dilemma of the wonky shoulder seams, but it looked darn good in the process.

With the sleeves being knitted in the round, and the body done in a single piece the only seams were the shoulder strap seams and the sleeve cap/armholes. I used vintage Czech glass buttons that had been salvaged from the original, now retired, blue wool cardigan that I was replacing, and the finished sweater is everything I had hoped for.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Server problems

For some reason my pictures won't upload today. After several attempts it's just not happening. I have finished the blue cotton Lace & Cables Cardigan and planned to give a full description of this project (which I am very happy with) but without the pictures it's not nearly as interesting or effective, so I will try again tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed that Blogger's server problem will have been resolved!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Three Stages

I missed my usual Sunday post due to a sudden and unpleasant attack of the flu. While I'm still not up to taking pictures of my projects (the blue lace and cable cardigan has progressed nicely up until the onset of the flu) or writing about them extensively, I've had a chance to reflect on how being sick affects my knitting, and have identified three stages of illness:

Stage One: I can knit on basic projects or ones that have progressed to the point where not much thought is required;

Stage Two: I want to knit, but don't have the energy or thought capability to handle even rote tasks;

Stage Three: I don't even want to knit.

I shudder to contemplate any possibility of there being more stages after stage three. After all, once ceases to want to knit, what is left out there?

So, at any rate, I am ascending slowly upwards from Stage Three and am now back at Stage One. An update on the Lace and Cables Cardigan to come on Sunday. Keep well.