I wonder how non-knitters do this

At the end of July I cast on for a Locke St. cardigan for myself. The original sample still lives at the Purple Purl, which is actually fine with me, and over the summer when I was there looking at the colours of Tanis‘ yarns, and I just really liked the look of her new Sprout green so I grabbed an armload of it and walked right over to the cash register. I’ve been wanting one of these cardis for me (along with a few other patterns of my own design…this may be an ongoing fall project) so I just cast it on hoping I’d be done it by the time it was starting to get cool.

Aug24-LockeSt2

True to plan, now that September is nearing the halfway mark, I’m finishing up the second sleeve of this Locke St. cardi, and if the knitting gods are with me should be onto the collar and finishing this weekend. (Well, that and if I don’t get distracted by other projects. This is also highly probable.) At the same time, I’ve just started a new day job in Toronto, which means about an hour of train commuting time at either end of the day, so the bulk of this project has been accomplished in small chunks of time while commuting.

LockeSt train knitting

It is an interesting cultural phenomenon that when I mention this to regular non-knitting people, they respond with commiseration about how awful it must be to have to get up that much earlier and have that much travelling time in the day. When I mention it to knitters, on the other hand, they don’t even blink. They just say “oh wow, so you must get so much knitting time on train then!” It’s completely true. No one’s saying it’s not a bit of an ordeal to be a commuter (I’m pretty sure the bleary-eyed Starbucks lineups are proof of that), but when you have knitting then it pretty much instantly becomes mobile knitting time, and that makes the whole thing just loads easier. And then after a month of train knitting it turns out you can have most of a sweater done.

Aug24-LockeSt1

Onwards with more sweaters! Also looking forward to attending the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter’s Fair this weekend. As per usual I have no idea what yarn I’ll be getting, or how much (really I have no need of any more, any time soon…not that that ever stops any of us), but it’s always nice to peruse.

I hope you have some good knitterly time this Thursday!

 

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But for a few buttons

Except for wanting a few buttons, folks, this Uji cardigan is a wrap. I gotta say, I welcome the chilly fall weekends if that means I’ll finally get to wear it!

I’ll get some modelled shots of it on a person (me, preferably) once some button shopping gets on the docket, but for now – pretty darned pleased.

Sept8-UjiFinished2b

Sept8-UjiFinished1b

Sept8-UjiFinished3b

Admittedly, I’m also pretty pleased at the prospect of getting to start new sweaters now that there’s a gap in my project pile. Finishing a project I started 7 months ago means I get to start three new ones, right? Let’s go with yes.

Sweater season! Let’s get this party started.

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Pattern: Uji, by Ann-Marie Jackson
Yarn: Knit Picks Cadena, in cranberry

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Piece by piece

Since February I’ve been knitting my Uji cardigan in bits and pieces of time, and knitting friends, it is almost done. I’ve kept needing to put it down in order to give time to other projects, and then of course there was a while towards the end of spring when it was hard to find the mojo to work away on a bulky all-over cabled cardigan (when one is realistically several months away from ever being able to wear it).

Aug24-Uji1

Also, allow me to admit to you nice folks out there in blog land, that I keep having to stop and correct dumb-ass mistakes. The pattern itself is lovely, and actually relatively un-complicated once you’re in the swing of things. But it’s happened that I’ve been knitting this mostly in hour-long stints after dinner when the rest of the day is complete, and it’s entirely possible that not all of my brain cells have been in play at all moments. I finished the second cardigan front only to realize that I’d done the body a totally different length before the armhole than the first front was, and then ripped and re-knitted to fix it.

Aug24-Uji3

Sept2-FrontFinished

Then, as I was starting up on the button-band (which here is knitted vertically, in a separate piece once the hem ribbing has been completed – body and band are worked separately from that point), I realized that the very first button-hole i’d placed at the hem (and therefore well beyond the point of ripping out since it would require ripping out the entire front piece by then) had been placed entirely wrong and was going to end up looking funny. And while I don’t generally tend to button my cardigans all the way to the bottom, I couldn’t really live with myself if I let that go.

So I dropped down several rows from the start of the band, reworked the whole button-hole (this involved a bit of Macguyvering-level reverse-engineering of the row involved, then re-picking up all the dropped down stitches – imagine something like this cable fix, but for a button-hole re-do), and then re-started the band. (I’d like to tell you that I photographed it, but some times a girl just has to get the thing done). Then I finished all the blocking of the final pieces, and thought for a moment that the top neckline scoop was a very different length on each side, except when I went to start the re-do on that, it actually all looked just fine.

Aug31-Washing

Aug31-Blocking

And so I’m now merrily seaming away and starting on the collar, and you know, I just might get this sucker done. I’m tucked in at home for the evening on the last day of a long weekend and I’m going to get finished as much as I can. Then some time later this week I’ll go off in search of buttons. And when it turns chilly in a month or so, this cozy cardigan jacket will be waiting.

Soon. Sooooooon.

Aug24-Uji2

Happy knitting this week!

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Pattern: Uji, by Ann-Marie Jackson
Yarn: Knit Picks Cadena, in cranberry

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On a Tuesday

So It turns out that when you knit a Pi Shawl and then post photos about it on the internet, not only do you get the finished shawl but you also get lots of interest and curiosity. Many of you had more questions about how to do the Pi Shawl or similar projects, so here I’ll try to follow up on some of them!

1. “But what kind of pattern are you using for the pattern? And where are all the increases?

So, the thing about Elizabeth Zimmerman’s patterns is that she does a lot of conversational “you-can-do-this-because-you’re-a-knitter-with-a-brain” kind of instructions mixed with “knitting-is-also-my-life-story-here-let-me-tell-you-parts-of-it”, especially in the Knitter’s Almanac. But then she always follows it with a quick-and-dirty (or ‘pithy’ as she calls it) instructions for the project, which you are usually free to customize however you want. It’s an entirely different style of pattern writing than what many of us have become used to in the current moment of knitting pattern writing. And it makes for good bathtub reading. You know, if you, uh, are the sort of person who would want to do that sort of thing.

However, the advantage here (along with ultimately making you a more confident knitter – which is the goal, always) is that there are usually a few variations for every pattern. The Pi Shawl, straight up, is written as a circular shawl in the round, where increase rounds are done as [k1, yo] repeated all the way around. The increase round always double the stitches on the round. So, you’re going to have yarnover rounds anyway when you do the increases. The variation does this the same way AND installs a yarnover round every 6th round also, in the form of [k2tog, yo]. This is both visually appealing as a pattern AND is intended to camouflage the yarnover increase rounds by making them part of a repeating pattern, essentially.

PiShawl1_1

2. “How does blocking work? I want to know more about that.”

Blocking is a pretty magical thing. You’re most likely to encounter blocking as a part of sweater projects and lace shawl project. In either case, blocking is part of the final stage of the project where you pin out the finished item or its constituent parts (many knitters prefer to block the finished individual sweater pieces and then do the seaming and finishing, others prefer to seam first and then block the final garment)  to the intended size and shape. Most often this also involves adding some moisture to the fabric so that the fibres relax and allow themselves to be pinned out into the desired shape. (This is especially the case with wool, by the way – it’s nice and elastic).

Below is a shot of my Peacock Feathers shawl – in Tanis Fiber Arts mulberry silk in ‘velvet’ – which I knitted 3 years ago and finished while I was attending Sock Summit. (I really wanted to wear it on my birthday, which fell during that trip). Because I knew I was going to be finishing it on the trip, I brought my blocking pins – I use T-pins like what quilters use – with me in my suitcase (you know, as one does) and pinned it out for blocking on the hotel bed in the middle of the afternoon. (It was all fine. If housekeeping noticed, they didn’t say anything). This is actually a desirable spot to use for blocking in general, albeit usually it’s your own bed not a hotel bed, since it’s a large flat space that is amenable to pinning out a large object. Alternately, you can use a patch of carpet, or a bunch of foam interlocking mats laid out on the floor.

July29-PeacockBlocking

You can also acquire blocking wires which are designed to be threaded through the little lacy tips of finished shawls, and are a bit nicer to use than pinning out individual little pins all the way around the edge – particularly for large shawls. I don’t actually own a set of my own so still tend to use the pins, but i’ve borrowed them before and definitely recommend them if you’re looking for birthday gift requests.

In conclusion: blocking, it’s pretty great.

Also, just as a bonus, here is a (distant) photo of Nathan Fillion, who I saw on Sunday at the Toronto Fan Expo convention. Which actually has very little to do with knitting or shawls, except for the fact that the smattering of Jayne hats (which Firefly fans knit and wear happily in homage to one episode) in the audience did make me wonder why I haven’t actually gone and knitted myself a Jayne hat yet, since I darned well could. One of these days, I will totally get around to that. And in any case, Nathan Fillion is delightful.

Aug25-NathanFillion3

Have a great Tuesday!

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Worth it

About a week ago, I gave my finished Pi Shawl a little cold-water bath in the sink and laid it out for blocking. In the process, it looked something like this:

Aug18-PiShawl

That’s a relatively mediocre iPod Touch photo, but you get the gist. Essentially, it took all the blocking pins I had and covered most of the span of a double-bed-sized flat sheet laid out over a carpeted floor. It turns out a circle made with 1250 yards of fingering weight yarn on 5.0mm needles results in a fairly substantial shawl. (You can also tell pretty easily from that photo that the skein that formed the centre of the circle was noticeably lighter than the outer 2 skeins. At least when this happens on a circular project, you don’t have to worry so much about dye lot differences interrupting the finished look of the project.)

Now, post-blocking (and a bit of wearing), it looks like this:

PiShawl6_1

I measured the final size at about 5-and-a-half-feet across, which is big enough that it’s even hard to find a surface to drape it over for easy photographing. It turns out you have to go find a fence to accommodate that.

Am I complaining about the finished size? Abso-freaking-lutely not. I love it. I’m a 5-foot-9-inch-tall gal and a bit of extra length on a shawl is just fine by me.

PiShawlMe2_1

I like the simplicity and versatility of this pattern, because it really is good for all occasions. It can be a wrap-up-while-watching-TV shawl or a drape-over-the-couch-for-whenever-you-need-it shawl, but is pretty darned fine as an I-am-impossibly-elegant-while-wearing-this-with-jeans-even-though-I’m-only-dashing-out-for-Starbucks shawl. Anything goes.

In her pattern instructions (well, more like guidelines, really) in the Knitter’s Almanac, Elizabeth Zimmerman gives you a few options for finishing the border. If I did this pattern a 3rd time (because this is actually my 2nd go at it), I’d probably go for one of the lacier border options, but the garter stitch edge is simple and practical and does the trick. It also lets you conserve brain cells right up until the very end of the project, and save them for other more complicated knits in your life.

PiShawl4_1

PiShawl2_1

In the end I worked (I think) 70 rounds of the final section, and if I’d stopped at 60 that would have been fine too – and probably would be an adviseable stopping place for shawl-wearers more petite than I. I judged the final length by holding up the width from centre to outside edge against my arm, and when it felt like I was just about at half of my own ‘wingspan’, I stopped the rounds and started the knitted-on border. It’s the sort of project that lets you do that kind of thing, without encumbering you with too much decision-making. That Elizabeth Zimmerman was pretty groovy, I tell you what.

PiShawl7_1

I won’t lie, there’s probably going to be a 3rd one of these shawls in my knitting life. I don’t know when exactly, but it’ll happen. A girl can never have too many shawls, can she?

Happy knitting this fine weekend!

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Pattern: Pi Shawl (July shawl), directions in Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock, in ‘ivy’

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A photo finish if ever there was one

Last week, the day after my previous blog post, I took myself up for a day trip to hang with some knitter friends in Peterborough (because they and Peterborough are both delightful, and I need to visit there more often than I do), and I still had the Pi Shawl to content with along the way. On the bus ride up I knitted away on the border, now well into the 2nd half of it, and kept checking the yarn quantity that was left. The more I kept knitting, the more I decided that I should really make peace with the likelihood that I was not going to make it. The little ball of yarn just kept getting littler, and I realized that if I did need to go and get a 4th skein of yarn, it was going to be for something ridiculous like 5 yards of that skein. So, I reasoned with myself, I could just use the rest and make a pair of fingerless mitts to match the shawl.

And then, lo and behold – I finished the shawl.

Aug15-FinishedPi

It was by a nose – just 2g of yarn remaining from that 3rd ball, but I did it. Over post-lunch beers I picked up stitches from the original border cast-on and MacGuyvered a three-needle bind-off (because generally you do that with live stitches on both sides, but I figured it was a nice clean finish for the joined border ends), and then it was DONE.

Aug15-PiBindoff

My relief, let me show you it.

Aug18-PiShawl

I still need to block the sucker (it’s a bit of an undertaking), but that’ll happen soon enough. Hurray for completed shawls!

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Pattern: Pi Shawl (July shawl), directions in Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock, in ‘ivy’

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And now for some back-and-forth

I’m still working away at the Pi Shawl – it’s the only thing I’ve been knitting on for the last week in fact, and knitter friends, I’d really thought I was going to be finished it by now. I’m doing a stint of cat-minding for fellow knitter friend Lisa here in Toronto, and boy howdy did I ever figure I was going to be well on my way knitting happily on one of the other 2 projects I brought with me. But no, these big circular shawls (on, uh, fingering weight yarn) do take their time, so all right, I can keep knitting. Back and forth, on the wee garter stitch knitted-on edging.

I’d sort of figured on that part – the knitting forever part. Once you get to the almost-600-sts rounds, every completed round starts to feel like cause for celebration, but then once you do several dozen of them…yeah. But I’ve done the Pi Shawl before so I saw that coming and have just been hunkering down and knitting my way through it. There’s no specific number of rounds required once you get to that last section, because it all depends on the yarn and needle size you’re using, and how big you want the shawl. So when I got to a width that looked wingspan-ish I stopped the shawl knitting and started the border, and I figured on that taking a while since I’m a tall-ish gal.

The part that I didn’t count on was that I’d get halfway through the border and realize with a sinking feeling that I am probably really for sure going to run out of yarn. Hahahah.

Aug14-PiShawl

Which in and of itself isn’t the worst thing ever – I mean, it’s Malabrigo Sock in a new colourway, so it should be find-able in a few different places – but for the part where I really thought I was going to be done and oh wait a minute, you mean if I’d saved myself from doing a few of those almost-600-sts rounds I wouldn’t be twitchily watching the ball get smaller and smaller while I still have at least a third of the border left to go? I could have kept myself from two agonies at once?

HAH HAH. GOOD ONE KNITTING, that’s some sense of humour you have there. IT SURE IS.

I’m going to keep knitting and if I have to go to a yarn store to get my way knitted to the end of it, then by gar I may not be held responsible if I have to buy a new skein of something else to take the edge off. Fall’s coming and this girl needs to start some sweaters.

May your knitting this evening have plentiful yarn and a refreshing beverage to go with it!

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Pattern: Pi Shawl (July shawl), directions in Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock, in ‘ivy’

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