Wednesday, December 31, 2008

demi, from rowan vintage knits

The neckline was easy to fix. The abalone buttons weren't what I had in mind, but ended up being perfect.

The best part about knitting it circularly was seeing neat details like the side ribbing emerge right as I knitted them.
And yes, it is entirely possible to knit this circularly, even with its set-in sleeves. Simply consult Knitting Without Tears (Elizabeth Zimmermann)for instructions on how to knit up to the underams, follow the pattern's instructions for the initial decreasing of sleeves and body, and finish the decreasing and neck using Knitting Workshop (also EZ) as a guide.

This, along with four (or was it five?) skeins of Cascade 220 (I had to knit a different size to achieve a good fit since my gauge was different), should just about do it.
And while we're on the subject of finished projects, remember the bobbin lace tablecloth?

It had a makeover.Happy new year!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

let it snow!

I honestly haven't had any time for knitting lately, so it was a great surprise to wake up on Friday and realize that I was going to be snowed in for the whole day.
I had ripped out the appropriate parts of Demi a few days before, so I was able to jump right in and try to solve the problem I had made for myself.

The sleeve "seams" are great. I used Elizabeth Zimmermann's technique for set-in sleeves on a circular needle (found in Knitting Workshop) and it all went smoothly. I had the presence of mind to even try it on at that point, and it fit just as I had imagined it should. But then I tried to tackle that neckline, and found myself hopelessly lost and confused. I think I might have solved it now, but I need to do a little more work on it before I can post pictures. The pattern has a little separate shoulder piece that has to be sewn onto that left shoulder, in addition to the separate button band, and then picking up stitches around somehow incorporating them all together. I misunderstood the directions, and I think I picked up too many stitches around the neckline, too. I'm in the process of fixing that now.

The other project I've been working on involves the antique lace I mentioned before. Here's one of the tatted doilies. There are five altogether, all matching.

They're beautiful, but have some nasty looking stains in the centers of them that won't come out.

I think my solution wakes them up a little bit. I've still got one more to go, but I'm getting there.
I also have this small circular tablecloth of Cluny lace that needs some help.

The stains on this one are horrendous, although of course they stubbornly refuse to show up in photographs. I've made a whole lot of progress on this one, but you'll have to wait until I've finished it to see. This is going to be a Christmas present, so let's see if I can get it together.

I've been handsewing all of these items, and I'm really starting to get the hang of it. True, I still have to use a ruler to make sure that I'm placing my hemming stitches exactly half an inch apart, but I'm enjoying myself. As a guide, I'm using Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire B. Shaefer. Couture sewing refers to garments that are entirely made by hand, and there is wonderful information in this book on different hand sewing stitches, and what they are best used for. For the complete novice like me, there's even diagrams of the knots you need to use to begin and end your sewing. I actually bought this book with the intention of trying out some of the techniques on clothes, and now that I know how easy the actual sewing can be, I'm newly enthusiastic over persuing that. If you want a quick, free guide on a few sewing stitches, I was also shown this site. It's nowhere as good as Couture Sewing Techniques, but it's a place to start.

If you can stand anymore sewing, I've got a whole pile of it that's (almost) done and ready to go out for Christmas.

For now, though, I'm once again snowbound for the day, so I'm going to get to work on Demi, wash the pair of socks I finished, and then pick out something new to cast on. This will take my mind off the fact that I still don't have any milk in the house, and probably won't until tomorrow afternoon. Enjoy your Sunday, I know I will!

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

the good, the bad and the ugly

I'm really nearing the finish line on Demi. I have the body, arms, and a good deal of the shoulders done. I knew that I had made a mistake somewhere along the shoulders, but since I was having a hard time grasping how the construction of this sweater worked, I figured I'd finish off the shoulders, graft one, and then try it on.

The good news is that most of it fits great, and it is so comfortable to wear. The lace blouse I had on today even mimicked the outfit on the model in the book. I was right, though, I had made a mistake on the shoulders.

Yikes. I just decreased incorrectly on the last few inches - namely, I forgot to keep the sweater in one piece, which would be the total goal of circular knitting. It shouldn't take more than one really good knitting session to fix the shoulders, re-knit, and finish up little things like weaving in ends and grafting the underarms. I'm going to use Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Workshop as a guide. So maybe you will see the end of this sweater next week!

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

are you pondering what I'm pondering?

I was without internet access for a month, so Demi will probably look a lot different from when you saw it last.

I don't know if I ever mentioned that I'm knitting this circularly, so I won't have any seams to sew when I'm done. I managed to knit the sleeves and body up to the underarms without any problems, but now I am a little perplexed.

(The color is somewhere between these two pictures.)

The joining of the sleeve and body looks right, but I'm just not sure. All I did was follow the decreasing instructions that the pattern gave, I just worked the whole sweater at the same time rather than worked on one piece at a time. (Many, many Post Its were used in this effort, and one bamboo knitting needle was sacrificed.) I am not too concerned, because I know that at least I am right up to the underarm. I don't see why I would be wrong, but I'm also not too convinced that I am correct.

Every time I got bored or confused with Demi this past month, I worked a few rows on some other knitting until I felt like looking at Demi again.

Okay, so I got bored and confused a lot. But the good news is, with the way I am confused over Demi's neckline, I will have two matching pairs of socks in no time.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

bobbin lace

Here are two of the bobbin lace pieces that I had the opportunity to work with recently. As far as I know, they were made in the Victorian era. When I first received them, they were absolutely filthy and I thought they would have to be dyed to hide the stains. However, after soaking in lukewarm water with a mixture of Woolite and Borax, they came out almost entirely perfect. I'm guessing that the designs must have been pretty exotic when they were made. Each girl is wearing a turban, and one of them has a snake.

I sewed them carefully onto cotton fabric and framed them so that no further harm could come to them. I figured if I had done some true evil by sewing them onto fabric, it would be easy enough to clip the threads on the back of the piece and free them.

I'm now working on resurrecting a table cloth of Cluny bobbin lace, and I have some more beautiful Cluny lace that I actually get to keep. The table cloth needs to be done by Christmas, so I'm posting this to motivate myself to keep on working on it and posting pictures. I've also been messing around with creating some of my own bobbin lace, so I will have to show you how it is made. It is really very clever.
I've also completed three repeats on Demi. The color in this picture is completely off, it's really more of a red with flecks of brighter red and the purple you see in the picture. It really photographs erratically, depending on the light. I only have 1.5 inches to go, then I can start the arms and attach them all onto one needle. To the left you can see the neat effect of the cables on the seam. It reminds me a little of a rib cage.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008


I needed something to distract me from the unarguable disaster that my last cardigan turned out to be. I had set aside a few sweaters to be ripped and re-knitted into something more classic, and the heathered red Cascade 220 I had really caught my eye. I decided to start Demi from Rowan's Vintage Knits, a sweater that I have been meaning to knit for at least two years now.

Cascade 220 is not an exact substitution for the Rowan yarn that is recommended. This means that even though I'm following the pattern for the extra small, my finished sweater will be a few sizes larger. I'm also knitting this in the round, which is already working out much better than knitting it flat. The "wrong side" rows are so much easier to work when all you need to do is knit through the back loop and purl.
So far, so good. I'm nearly obsessively checking my progress on this one, making sure that I don't have another ill-fitting sweater on my hands. I've already finished the ribbing and one pattern repeat, making seven inches of this sweater completed.

Today is deceptively sunny. It looks beautiful outside, but in reality we've hit freezing temperatures. I can't wait until this sweater is done, I know it will get a lot of use this winter.

I'm sheltering these flowers inside the house, since it's too cold to plant them outside now. Besides, they would be prime deer treats since I still need to put up my fence. They look remarkably fake, don't they?

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

attack of the cardigan

I rarely have a true knitting disaster, which I guess is lucky, although I like to think that I'm just good at being careful. I also usually enjoy salvaging portions of an unlikeable project, and long time readers will remember my penchant for dismembering fair isle sweaters and then using their guts for smaller fair isle projects.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that this might be the first time that I've knitted something as large as a sweater that was so awful, so truly bad, that if the yarn was any less special, this whole thing would be in the dump.

And so, meet my Tangled Yoke Cardigan.

The back story is that I acquired 8 skeins of wool, marked only with "4 ply" and "Color: Hathor". The gauge and yardage was equal to Rowan Felted Tweed, and I thought this would be a great time to use up this yarn on a Tangled Yoke Cardigan.

Now, if you read any of my earlier posts, you'll see that a lot of the time, I drastically alter patterns. This is because I am shaped funny, like all of us in the world. I am usually in between sizes, and also like to work with less ease than what is usually called for. For some reason, none of these facts occured to me when I started working on this cardigan. This is perhaps due to the fact that I was on massive amounts of antibiotics, decongestants, and over the counter sinus relievers for the entire time that I was working on this sweater. Or, it is just because sometimes I do silly, silly things.

So, I didn't alter the pattern. I didn't bother to make sure that those sleeves were actually going to be a good size for me, and when the neck came out looking rather large, I still didn't stop. In fact, I didn't stop until after I had knitted the ugly neck border (my yarn was too thin for the project, really, it looks fine in the photo and other people's cardigans), after I had finished picking up the gazillions of stitches and knitted the button bands, and after I had woven in every single end.

In other words, I actually blocked this disastrous thing and tried it on before realizing that at some point in the past few weeks, I had totally lost my mind. Maybe it doesn't look so awful on the table, but trust me, it is bad.

Depression. The cardigan has been resigned to a spare cardboard box. I need some cooling off time before I can frog this thing. I was recently encouraged to try my hand at designing, and the yarn from this might be turned into something that I'll actually make (and maybe not screw up) myself. At the moment, though, we're both in time out.

Lessons learned:

1. Just because the sweater looks lovely on the model, does not mean that I am the model and have the same measurements as her.

2. Don't substitute a non-felted tweed yarn for Rowan Felted Tweed. It will just be too thin, even if the gauge appears to be the same.

3. Friends don't let friends knit when they're taking prescription cold medicine.

Oh, and P.S. To add insult to injury, this sweater is so ornery that the color won't even be photographed. The second picture is the most accurate, although I think it's still a little more purple in color.

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