Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Highly Irregular

For a moment, I'm between large knitting projects. I've recently finished my Bleecker Street cardigan and my Prairie Ridge Shawlette (SCARF). In the time since I've last posted I whipped up a bath puff with some cotton scraps and a simple baby blanket to use up one of those pound of love skeins that was taking up space in my stash. (And yes, I DO think that the light gray bits look like brains!)



I've swatched (to check for gauge) for a new sweater, and even washed my swatch, but I haven't gotten around to measuring it yet to cast on. It's a fingering weight cardigan and I just don't know if I have the mojo to start that at the moment. I've matched up my other sweater quantities of yarn with projects they'd like to grow up to be, but the light cardigan is the only one I currently own the pattern for, so it jumped to the top of the list. Use what you've got, right?

So in the meantime, I decided to pick away at that hex quilt I started many moons ago. Oh, this project feels a bit troubled to me! Several months ago, my parents were over and my dad knocked a full glass of red wine over......right into the bag holding my paper templates, finished block or two, and pre-cut fabric. I was a bit in a "throw the baby out with the bathwater" mood already when that happened, but my husband kept a level head and washed all the fabric in an oxyclean soak and laid it out flat to dry. In the end it was all saved, but I was annoyed by the whole thing, not to mention my behavior.

The other kind of irregular thing about it so far is that the hex template I had printed out from a Craftsy tutorial just never seemed quite....symmetrical. I could sometimes find a better fit between pieces by rotating them, which, as sort of a geometry professional, I knew was not right. On my last trip to the fabric store, I was enticed by a sale and picked up one of those fancy rulers shaped like a hexagon. I thought, I'll just cut out some new 5" paper templates and keep going. Sure, the first 3 blocks will not be QUITE the same, but it's ok and it will make the rest of the assembly much more smooth. It seemed like a valid plan.

I cut out a small stack of perfect 5" hexagons and set one in the negative space next to a completed block. In no way were the blocks I already had 5". At best, 4.5". While yes, I'm not exactly far along in this project, I HAVE already cut up a bunch of fabric for more blocks based on that original template. If I went up to a true 5" block, I'd have to really start over and that seemed like a waste. Instead, I painstakingly trimmed a bit at a time until I came up with an ALMOST perfectly symmetrical template the same size as my "5" lying wonky templates that I could use going forward.


It was really annoying.


However, I did manage to piece together the three irregular blocks I had already completed (note the wrinkliness from the wine bath, and further wrinkliness from not being perfect hexagons) - the front three in the photo above. I also took a few deep breaths and put together a fourth block (the orange one in the back), which happily took only about an hour. (For the orange block....not the rest of my whining.) As you can see, even though the fabric itself suffered the same wash as everything else, symmetrical hexagons make the whole thing lay much more nicely. I think I'll make the wonky flowers (that's what I'm calling them) the center of the quilt, and surround them by my now even new blocks.

Here is the whole thing draped over a chair in the dim February morning light for scale:


Slowly but surely, it's growing. Slow yes, but still faster than a fingering weight cardigan. For now I might focus my knitting energy on socks - I have a new two at a time pair going and I've turned the heels, so I'm in the home stretch!

Finally for today, I have to put a brag here. I don't talk a lot about my personal life, and if you are friends with me on facebook, you already know, but I am so damn proud I want to shout it from the rooftops. WE HAVE PAID OFF OUR STUDENT LOANS!!!! We graduated with two bachelor and two masters degrees between us in Dec 2006 and May 2007. We got married in October of 2007, so the majority of that total amount has been paid as a joint effort. Which, just for kicks and for the record, was an original loan amount of, drumroll and scary dun-dun-DUUUUUN music please, was $125,500. One hundred and twenty five thousand dollars. That's a modest house here in the midwest. Luckily we are both gainfully employed in our fields, so these degrees and that money isn't just in the wind, but, ouch.

I'm not entirely sure my husband felt the weight of it the way I did. I'm the money and budgeting half of our relationship. Before me, he had a little credit card debt. When we got engaged, I took away his card and added him as an authorized user on mine so that we could focus on paying his off. I am allergic to having a lot of expenses I can't just write a check to cover. Yes, I do sometimes make payments on 0 or 1% interest plans. I calculate it out to make sure I pay the whole thing off at least a month before that interest kicks in. I'm frugal, sometimes to a fault. If I'd had complete control over paying off our debt, I'd have been so crazy about it that it would have been gone a few years sooner, but likely so would my husband! He's more the type to buy the bar a round, where I'd be sipping water or nursing a single glass of wine to stretch my pennies. Needless to say, we compromised.

I can write more about how we pulled this off if people are interested. We aren't rich, far from it. We started out with pretty modest incomes despite advanced degrees - it's the nature of our field. We've grown over the past 7, almost 8, years of debt repayment to a fairly comfortable income, but still nothing terribly impressive when you put it up against pharmacists or most business majors (I'd guess). As I said, we took on the full load in 2007, but I got really serious about paying this off in 2010. I haven't always been able to stick to my plan exactly - life changes, job loss - but the basic timeline has come out much the way I'd hoped. I'm not sure what we'll do now. Paying bills next month will probably feel like we've gotten a huge raise! I have a couple of ideas, sadly none of which will likely involve a spur of the moment trip to Tahiti. We've got more changes coming up this year that will shake up the budget picture, but I am honestly so happy and so relieved that this burden has been lifted.

To celebrate I bought my knitting group a round of cookies last night. I haven't completely turned over a new leaf though - I waited until after 6 when they were half price!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Capital "K"


Once upon a time, I said that I believed one must have knit adult sized socks and a sweater to be a REAL KNITTER.

Yesterday, as I dressed to go to knitting, I was totally a real Knitter. Capital K. I snapped this spectacularly crappy picture as I was getting ready to go of my first pair of fingering weight toe up socks and my Bleecker Street Cardigan. I've worn the socks several times before, but it was the maiden voyage for the freshly blocked sweater.  The socks are nice and warm, though they have some fit issues that I'm working through as I prepare to turn the heels on my second pair. The toes are a bit too pointy, and they are awfully tight getting over my heel when I put them on. They seem fine once they are on, it's just kind of hard getting them there. I don't know if it's because I didn't do any ribbing on the leg apart from the cuff, which I also wish I'd have done more of but I was just DONE knitting at that point, or if it's because the yarn is a wool-cotton-nylon blend rather than just wool-nylon. In any case, they fit well enough and I've appreciated having them this cold, cold winter.

The sweater, I LOVE. It's so warm without being heavy, and I think the fit came out really nicely. The pattern is written by Melissa Wehrle (affiliate link) and the yarn is Lousia Harding Kashmir Baby. I have yet to buy buttons, and technically I didn't add any buttonholes to the bottom ribbing. I'm undecided if I will, and if I'll do some kind of afterthought buttonhole to accommodate lower buttons. I typically wear cardigans unfastened, so the buttons are really decorative. I may end up putting buttons all the way down on the button side and letting the bottom 3 or so be purely decorative, while the top of the sweater could actually be buttoned. The only modifications I made to the pattern was to increase the length of the fronts between the waist shaping and the neck shaping (the sweater is worked bottom up in pieces) to make them match the backs - I have no idea why the math was coming out different. I didn't check my row gauge which was probably naughty and the culprit, but it all came out well in the end. I also started the whole extravaganza with a provisional cast on. After I seamed the sweater together, I went back and knitted the ribbing, which I did as 3x2 rather than 1x1 as written, as long as I could stand going. The pattern called for just an inch of ribbing, but I like a long cardigan. I went for about 6 inches before calling it done, and I'm really glad I did. I'm glad I did wider ribbing too, not only because I like the more substantial look with such a large length of ribbing, but also because I think 1x1 for that long may have driven me mad. For some reason I had an absurdly hard time keeping the rhythm of the 3x2 as I knit it, and had to drop down every few rows to fix an errant knit or purl. It's always good to practice those rescue knitting techniques, right?!

Someday I may get around to better finished object pictures, but for now I'll wear my sweater as often as possible and be happy that I have it this very cold February.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Personal Day


It's been an incredibly busy two weeks at work. So much so that I ended up sleeping most of Saturday to recover from a few straight days of big meetings and travel, and enough extra hours to take a day off all to myself. I didn't get to sleep in much, but I did get to knit a bit on my Quaker Ridge Shawlette while I watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey. (Wow, what an episode!) Yes, lord help me, I'm knitting a shawl. I tell myself that it's just a big squishy scarf and I'm not 100% an old lady just yet. And it IS nice and squishy, as I'm using a pretty tonal shade of malabrigo Arroyo in Aguas. I'm a little worried about running out of yarn. My calculations have me running out at the cast on row, so perhaps I'll just do one or two fewer rows of the ruffle. Those are mighty long rows to have to knit backward.
 



I also got to putter around in the studio a bit, clearing off the big table, getting things in order. The shelves still need their trim pieces, but I just haven't gotten around to it. I started filling them instead. I finally found a cute little tin to corral my double pointed needles. I mean, I hadn't actually been looking that hard, but I found it in the dollar spot at Target.


I plan to get a rotary cutter this weekend. It's been on my list for quite awhile, and I think the time has come. I tell myself it will make my cutting much more even.


I dipped a toe back into sewing with a couple of little project bags. I wanted them to be sturdy so I interfaced the outside fabric. The stuff I had on hand was really too sturdy for the job, but I didn't feel like making a special trip out. I did make the bags a bit harder to work, and harder to line up the seams as you can see on the fruit print bag. Oh well, learning experience. They're just for me anyway. I'll have to pick up some ribbon to make the drawstring closures. I might get a zipper too to make a larger wedge type bag for sweaters or a baby blanket or something. These bags are good for socks and mitt size projects. I thought it would be nice to have something a little cuter to corral my projects than the makeshift bags I've been using - which are actually the casings to a couple sets of twin sheets! They work pretty well, but I've been wanting to dip a toe back into sewing and this seemed like a nice quick project. It would have been quicker if I hadn't made a few dumb mistakes! If the directions seem goofy....there's a good chance it's operator error. :)

Monday, February 2, 2015

In the studio



It feels like there's been a lot happening and at the same time very little. I've taken advantage of the end of the Christmas rush with a good deal of selfish knitting. I finished my Bleecker Street cardigan, finally, and it's drying on the blocking board. The fit, from what I can tell so far, is great. The fronts were doing quite a lot of curling though, so I wanted to give it a good block before wearing. It would be wonderful if it were ready to wear to Monday night knitting!

After that, I immediately cast on a simple, plain hat with the leftover ball and change from the sweater. I haven't photographed it. It turned out well, though I wish I'd done it with either more or less slouch. It's right on the edge. I might line it though, as it's only a sport weight and I could use a little more warmth here up north. That will probably fill in the not enough slouch just enough to make it a good hat for me.




After THAT I cast on the Chilly Podsters that have been on my list for years. I started out working the fingering weight pattern, but quit after deciding they wouldn't be warm enough. They're a fingerless glove with a mitten flip top. I've needed them ever since the advent of touch screen phones, and now they are mine. They are knit from Cascade 220 superwash worsted weight on size 3 needles. I usually knit my kids mittens, also worsted weight, on size 5's, so this fabric is even more dense than I'm used to. They were really tight when I first put them on, but they are loosening up nicely with wear, and the dense fabric keeps them warm. Even so, I might go ahead and line the flip top if and when I line the hat, because why not. I love the functionality of the flip top thumb. I only did it on my right hand and I'm glad I did. Sometimes it doesn't quite overlap and that's a little annoying, but that's really the only thing!



I've been picking away at the sock yarn blanket too after snapping up scraps from a much smarter knitter whose blocks are about 4x the size of mine. I'm really loving this time to myself. I've yet to feel much in the mood for sewing, but I'm hoping it will come soon. I've got some ideas for myself, and possibly the shop. We'll see. I'm not pushing it.



I also, after a few years of idle speculation, acquired a spinning wheel. My years of speculation have merely been idle because it turns out wheels start at $400 and go up steeply from there. A little much to invest in a possibly passing fancy. I'd been casually looking on Craigslist, and found a working vintage wheel, origin unknown, listed for $150 and I offered $125 and she was mine. The guy threw in a dress form, which I've also been looking for, for just $5, and a pile of yarn (chosen from several bins) for another $10. She's a bit bustier than I am, but since I'm looking more for decor than fit, and more for a $5 pricetag than $50-200, she's perfect. She needs a stand. I'll have to work on that. It was a pretty good trip, and no mom, I didn't get murdered or maimed.





As for the spinning, I spent an evening disassembling, dusting, and greasing up the moving parts. It still runs a bit rough but I think it will get better with time. I ordered some fiber. I'm pretty terrible. Most of the time I spin frustration, the others I seem to be spinning tightly spun rope, not pretty soft yarn. Yes, this will take some practice.

Monday, January 12, 2015

TIme Elapsed



















So the end of 2014 really wiped me out. I ended up with three rolling and simultaneous work deadlines, a fairly heavy load of knitting, none of which was for me, and a harebrained idea that I had to fix up a vintage dollhouse by Christmas Eve. It was already somewhat painted on the inside, so those are the surfaces I touched. I didn't mess with any of the natural wood. It turned out really cute, and hasn't looked this orderly since December 25. The studio is nowhere near "finished," but it's mostly functioning. I haven't had the time to spruce it up or fully organize it, but it was great to have a place to stash and work on Christmas gifts. I really need to order a space heater though. Winter has unmistakably arrived. It's definitely taken a while to get back the desire to be creative and to write and to do anything in my spare time but sleep.


This weekend though, I cast on a new pair of socks from the wonderful and slightly over my head Sock Architecture (affiliate link) book by Lara Neel. I did the long wedge toe based on the exercises in the beginning of the book, and I already like the fit much better than my first pair. I also finished knitting the two fronts of my Bleecker Street Cardigan, and I even ripped out and redid both of the sleeve caps. I've been putting off that rip for months, but I was just in the right headspace to sit down and do it. I'm glad I did. There was another mistake aside from the one I ripped for, so re-knitting made the whole thing assemble much more easily. Which it is now, mostly. I'm just attaching the neckband, and then I'll be starting the ribbing along the bottom where I left the provisional cast on. I ended up with just shy of three balls of yarn left. I won't use it all. I'll rib till I get bored or I feel like it's long enough. Then I'll block - it's curly as hell - and photograph the finished object. I can't wait to wear it. It's been so cold here.

As for me and the blog in 2015? I don't know. I haven't felt much in the mood for twice weekly updates, so I just stopped. I'd rather post nothing than post nonsense for the sake of it, you know? I feel both inspired and overwhelmed by the resolution or goal or theme of the year posts I've read elsewhere. Part of me would love to say "I'm going to knit a pair of socks a month!" and the other part of me is like, well, good luck with that, not going to happen. I guess my main goal for the year is to roll with it. I want to be kind to myself and not set myself up for disappointment. Realistically all of this is my hobby. I was feeling pretty burned out by knitting for my Etsy shop this holiday, so for now I think I'm just going to stop. I took down all the custom listings right before the holiday order deadline, but not before I over-committed myself. I'm not going to shut the shop down altogether, but I think I'm going to take it in another direction, as the mood strikes. No definite plans to share right now, I'm going to do it more as I'm moved to. I'd forgotten how nice it was to knit for me, so I'm glad I had this weekend to rediscover it. I knit about 21 things (mostly PAIRS of things) for Etsy sales last year, and just 12 for my nearest and dearest. For now, I'm hanging up my commission knitting hat, no pun intended. Perhaps selfish is my 2015 theme. Or taking care of the home front. It's actually not as bad as it sounds - part of what's been on MY list and gotten pushed down a lot is knitting newborn and preemie hats for local hospitals, and I just haven't had the time to do it. Perhaps as soon as I cast off my sweater, I'll cast on a little hat. Yes, I think that feels right.