37 Reasons that I’m NOT a Master Knitter

I knew someone who I would call a Knitting Artist or Master Knitter, Virginia van Santen. Her earliest memory was when she was 2, sitting on the back of her mother’s bike, knitting. She worked in the same yarn store as my brother in Edmonton and knew everything about knitting. She died her own yarns specifically for projects (and to sell) to be able to expand her palette of colours. My brother and I would always go to her to ask her about problems, new techniques, fibres whenever we came across them. Really she was a living knitting expert. She could rattle off the proper recipe for socks, sweaters, mitts off from memory like nobody’s business.

The coolest things that she would make would be these fabulous knitted boxes/bowls. Stranded with her own dyed yarns and knit in the round, she would start at the inside bottom work her way up, turn for the top edge and knit all the way back down to the bottom again. Some even had matching sculptural lids. She never used patterns, would make up her own regardless of stranded colourwork or knitted lace. Virginia was a Master Knitter.

And though I’m able to knit lace, and make a mean stranded colourwork mitten, I’m no Virginia.

But the main reason that I wouldn’t call myself a Master Knitter or associate ‘Artist’ with my skills as a knitter is because I have yet to make a sweater that fits just how I like. The first sweater I ever made, I don’t even wear. The next two are in time outs (as some may have noticed on the right side) and the third, well, let’s just say the body’s going to be going back to ribbing.

That’s why I took NO knitting with me on holiday. Nothing. Not one skein of yarn or pair of double points entered into my luggage the ENTIRE trip. But that’s not to say I didn’t have knitting on the brain. I was spending the quality time away from the knitting to figure out what to do to fix the sweater angst I’ve been having. This may be the first time you’re hearing of it, but let me tell you, there’s been angst. And it’s been tightening my gauge for months.

Let’s take a look at the gallery of misbehaving sweaters:

1. Illfittin’ Sweater, 2. Too Short Sleeves, 3. Pregancy Pouch, 4. Adds two extra inches

This sweater is made out of beautiful Rowan tweedy goodness and cost a pretty penny. I figured if I was going to take the time to make a sweater, I might as well use something I liked. And at the time I had very few expenses and a well paying University job. But I should have been more discriminating when choosing a pattern.

The sweater has been adapted to be narrower, longer, and to get rid of the drop sleeves and STILL could use more improvements. The gauge is too loose. The front pocket should have 2-3 rows less than the sweater behind so that it doesn’t pooch open and add more to the bellular area. There’s at least 2 more inches that could come out of the side. I may have been sporting a little more poundage at the time I knit this, but this was never a fitted garment. The sweater could use 2 inches more length and 1.5 inches longer on the sleeves. Oh and that white stripe? It’s a slightly smaller gauge. And when I don’t wear a cream t-shirt underneath, you can see (or read) what’s underneath.

Plus this mo-fo is WAAAAAAARM. Really it’s an outer layer Spring/Fallish sort of sweater, not the deal with the winter thermostat wars at work weight that I was going for. That’s what you get with worsted weight 100% wool I guess.

Next, whatever happened to the Noro Surprise Jacket?

1. Bodice Neckline, 2. The Back, 3. The Front, 4. But the sleeves are good

Well I’ll tell you. In the second (or is it the third?) reknitting of this sweater, I over compensated in the creating a better fitting sleeve and rather than start all over again (again), I decided to be smarter and knit in some short rowish darts or ‘speed stripes’ as I termed them. What I didn’t consider was how these speed stripes would change the neckline from a simple square necked cardigan to a Renaissance Festival ready bodice necklined sweater (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s simply not my style). But the sleeves are perfection right down to the colour transitions that the yarn gave me.

So frustrated with the having finished this sweater for the second (or is it the third?) time, I put the misbehaving knit into a time out. Theoretically all it needs is some buttons & blocking, but some careful consideration of how to get this knit to behave have left it in a time out for a while now. I am the sort of crazy that would completely rip it out for a third (or is it fourth?) time and start all over again, but then I’m pretty sure something else would go wrong. Or maybe I just wouldn’t like how the colour on the sleeves worked out.

Instead, I think taking it back to wear the 4 inches of neckline stitches are put on holders and knit a few inches more. Then reducing the neck by 1 or 2 inches would probably work much better with the amount of extra neck that’s added by the ‘speed stripes.’ At least that’s what I’m thinking. But I’m still not quite ready to launch into the shenanigans quite yet. So Time Out is where it shall remain for the moment.

How about the progress on the Sideways Pullover?

Also recently placed in a time out, this sweater has some problems as you can see. I was worried how it was going to turn out, so stole Sharon’s strategy of seaming while knitting to see how this was going to fit and was not happy with what I saw. The sleeve is too long. The body of the sweater is too short. The bottom ribbing is picked up and knit down from where it currently ends and I’d have to knit about 4 inches to get it to a length that I like and that’s NOT the look I was going for. Oh AND the sweater body is too narrow. I’d like a little more ease please.

You can see that when blocked flat (which was in my plans) the brioche expands enough to add the length the sweater is lacking (yay for blocking!) but I’ve knit the sweater at a tight enough gauge that I don’t think it will want to stay blocked out, or block as much as I’d like (boo for tight gauge!). So looks like a restart is needed.

But that’s not where we’re going to be stopping with this examination.

The length of the sleeve and general sleeve appearance could be fixed with a simple stitched down hem with a lovely contrasting colour in a lighter weight yarn (Briggs & Little Sport anyone?) and I think I’ll begin with a provisional cast on to allow for just that.

In terms of adding more length, I could follow the pattern more closely and add some more rows before & after the neck part. Instead, I think I’m going to go for more of a boat neck/cowly sort of thing and knit the neck itself longer. If I were to continue in this gauge I would rip back on the front & backs to just before casting off the neck and add an inch or two. But as I’m pretty sure about going for a looser gauge, I think I’ll make the neck a little taller too. I think a little more cowl won’t drive me crazy.

But what’s the status on the Pink Lopi Raglan?

Well the body’s all knit up. But measuring the width I’ve realised it’s not wide enough and no amount of magic blocking can fix that. I’m not even sure I could physically get it on my body and am certain that I’m not comfortable putting what that would look like onto the internets. All you need to know is that it’s too narrow, the gauge is way too tight and the ribbing flips up even just as I’m knitting.

Instead I give you two perfect sleeves!

The power of a little bit of smart knitting, I spent time measuring how wide I REALLY wanted it to be at the wrist and how much ease I REALLY wanted around the biggest part of my arm. I plugged those measurements into the gauge to figure out the initial cast on and the target number of stitches. Then I took the length of the sleeve to the underarm and figured out how frequently I would have to increase to get to the target amount of stitches in the right number of rows. This probably isn’t going to mean much to some of you, I just wanted you to know how hard (or not hard) it was.

The big change I made from knitting the sweater body to the sleeves (and probably why they are so perfect) is that I went up by 0.5 mm in needle size after the ribbing. No flipping and perfect gauge make these sleeves perfection. Even trying to wrangle an octopus can’t get me down on these sleeves. I’m so high on the now completed perfect sleeves that I’m about ready to re-tackle the sweater body and maybe even start on the Time Out pile.

Some of you may be asking ‘But what about the Cable Eyelet Ribbed Cardigan? Is it also been misbehaving and in a time out?’
Nope, it’s coming along just fine. Like a great book, I’m in no rush to finish it. Instead I pick it up here and there and savour every stitch. Every yarn over, knit 2 together, and purl is so delightful that I don’t mind making it last. With the gauge of yarn that I’m using it’s not hard to do.

Almost at the finish line

The extra Noro found it’s way to my mailbox so I am almost done with my Adult Surprise Jacket (again). This time the sleeves are too narrow rather than too loose. But rather than start over (again) I decided that a little modification could save the sweater. A few short rows later and I have what I like to call speed stripes. But now the neckline is a little more bodice like so I’m leaving it to marinate for a bit while I figure out how I feel about it.

The second mitten is finished and I’m about half way through working in the ends. I’m semi considering blocking them before mailing off the package. Maybe just a steam job.

And of course I can’t be almost done a few projects without at least considering my next project. Well ‘considering’ turned into casting on for a Sideways Pullover from the Winter ’04 Interweave Knits. I’m adapting for smaller gauge and a closer fit than shown in the picture. I forgot how fabulously fun and mindless brioche stitch was.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get back to procrastinating the laundry a little longer.

The ‘Other’ side of Fair Isle

They’re not done yet. I haven’t even quite finished one (thumb still to be done) but I just couldn’t wait to show off how great these mitts are turning out. Way amazinger than I thought possible. It blows my mind enough to make up words. Unfortunately the colour palette is tricky to capture, but you get the idea.

Here you can see the proper colour transitions. I reknit the body of the mittens several times to figure out the right combination of colours and the right order. I’m really happy with the final sequence.

I love Love LOVE the final effect of the mitten/cuff combo. I originally was going to use brown instead of the grey, but it just looked sucked the life out of the colours compared to the brightness of the cuff.

Here you can see the ‘other’ side of Fair Isle and crazy Latvian Mittens. TONS of ends to work in. I’m going to do it before working the thumb so that it doesn’t seem like such a chore. Yes I did carry yarns up the side when it made sense, but never more than one extra at a time. It’s just too many balls of yarn to wrangle for me.

I will most definitely be showing these off more when they’re finally done. I’m just so proud of them!

Oh and an update on the Adult Surprise Jacket, I guess I don’t have any extra balls kicking around, so I had planned to pick up another one when I was next at Effiloché only to find it was the one colour they didn’t have. Some Yarndex research indicates that it’s an extinct colour. Oy. But don’t fear, I found some on eBay.

Where’d I put that extra ball?

I’m this close to finishing up my Adult Suprise Jacket. All I need is that last ball of Noro Silk Garden that I swore I had kicking around. But now I can’t find it. I may have to get all drastic and completely go through my tub ‘o’ yarn to find it. Yargh! I swear it’s around here somewhere! Maybe I’ll have to suck it up and go buy another ball. Ugh. Not too worried about dye lots as there’s tons of colours going on that always shift.

In other news I’ve begun to work on the mittens for the No More Humdrum Mitten Swap. My partner asked for autumnal colours so I am going to town (as you can see). That’s just the cuff. I’ve worked into the body of the mitten, but think I may have to tweak the colour selection and transitions. They aren’t singing to me in the same way that they are in the cuff.

A Parcel of Patterns

More treats from my Secret Pal. I could really get used to these daily mini-spoilings. Sure the big parcels are fun, but the bigger they are, the more time in between them.

Three fabulous patterns complete with page protectors and everything! One of these days I’m going to have to head to Bureau-en-gros to get me some page protectors and a binder to organise the rest of my pattern collection.

Two fabulous sock patterns and a super fun felted knitting bag. I’m so happy I just found a Knitty article that discusses Felting without a washing machine and I get to try needle felting too!

Thanks Pal! And I think I better get knitting me some socks.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention. I’m currently concentrating most of my knit time to finally finishing up the Adult Surprise Jacket. I’m a half a sleeve away from weaving in ends and shopping for buttons.

Knitting Nowhere

Why does it feel like I’m knitting and knitting with no results? Oh yes. Maybe it’s because I have 5 very active projects at the moment. That’s right. 5 projects. I’ve been working on the Ravenclaw toe-up knee highs and Adult Surprise Jacket at knit nites. But then I couldn’t help but start up on the Cable Eyelet Cardigan and one day a sudden urge for Fair Isle resurrected the hibernating mitten.

Now the Cardigan is using up all my knitting attention span and happens to also be the smallest gauge item that I’m knitting at the moment. So I really feel like all the knitting is getting me nowhere.

And now I have a sore forearm. It’s not from knitting, it’s from work. But still the knitting isn’t helping. Not knitting is making me quite restless. Yargh.

Knitting in the Afternoon

Alternative Title: Knitting with Lou Reed.

Knitting with others again, this time downtown at a lovely little café just east of McGill. Due to unforeseen structural problems in the Downtown Metro system, I had a lovely stroll from Square Victoria. Not the most direct route, but a lovely walk. An interesting mix of soon-to-be-new McGill students, tourists and scavenger hunters of some sort.

Once at the café I met up with a whole new group of ladies working on various projects. Interestingly a different blend from the Wednesday night NDG knitters I met a few weeks ago. All were more seasoned veterans working with various interesting challenges. There was double sided knitting, crazy intarsia (both content and amount of yarn bobbins), teeny tiny moss stitch sweater, test knitting a local designer’s latest pattern, designing her own creation out of the loveliest wool silk blend and some toe up lace knit socks. I felt like I should have brought something a little more substantial than my ongoing Adult Surprise Jacket. The heat also made me wish I’d brought something a little smaller, the sweater already takes up a decent portion of my lap. Next time I’ll HAVE to bring some options.

The real conversation piece was the afternoon’s soundtrack. Obviously someone was newly ‘getting into’ music, it was a mix of Lou Reed, Beck, Nancy Sinatra, The Beatles, Lou Reed and Lou Reed. Oh and some old school pop hits from the 50’s and 60’s. When Beck’s Loser came on for the third time, most of us called it an afternoon. Celia was kind enough to give a couple of us a ride to Sherbrooke Metro with some interesting insights into the bill 101 debate sparked by seeing the disbanding of rallyers from a nearby park.

Then I went to do my procrastinated laundry in the deserted local Lavoir which was surprisingly and refreshingly cool.

a conundrum

Exhibit A, originally uploaded by bunnieprops.

I finished the second sleeve. They are way too baggy for my liking. Now should I take out the sleeves, readjust the shoulder seams and (dare I say it) cut out the extra fabric or do I reknit the entire sweater?

The top part of the arm is determined at the very beginning with how many stitches are initially cast on and allotted to the different parts of the sweater. I figured out the proportions that I’d like (initially cast on 8 x K instead of 9 and mark off 1.5 x K sections from either end and work according to the rest of the directions).

I’ve just been knitting this sweater for so long and it’s done (even if it’s not perfect). But because it’s not perfect, I probably won’t wear it. That’s the fate that has befallen my first sweater.

Because I’m such a crazy perfectionist, I’ll probably rip it all out and reknit the entire thing. Sigh. But in the meantime I think I’m going to leave it sit for a while and work on some other knitting projects. I’ve got some fun Fair Isle* going on and a knitted shark to figure out.

So close to being done!

Okay. I’ll most likely reknit the whole thing again. Mostly because my Great-Grandma always used to say, if it’s worth doing something, it’s worth doing it well. And I’m working with some supremely quality yarn, so no point in doing a halfway decent job. And if (really, when) I start over, I think I’ll use a crochet provisional cast on to be sure to have a nice even tension for the loops to pick up later. I used waste yarn the first time and ended up with some loops that are just too loose which is quite troubling.

* I know Fair Isle refers to specific colour patterning, but calling it ‘two colour stranded knitting’ takes too long and sounds WAY dorkier.

sticky needles.

In progress front view, originally uploaded by bunnieprops.

It’s almost done. So close I can taste it.

I’ve worked the button band, sewed up the shoulders and am finishing up the sleeves. I reknit one sleeve a few times to figure out the proper proportion of decreases for garter stitch and am now fussing with sticky double points.

I am a needle snob. I love to knit, but for years fought the utter dislike of how it felt to knit with metal needles. The odd squeak of needle against yarn, the finger-on-chalkboard like shudder of needle against needle makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Since discovering that wood and bamboo needles existed, I have built up my own personal arsenal, but alas, my collection is far from complete.

So I’m working with my brother’s stash of Inox needles. I worked the body with metal circulars (made me a little edgy) and now am working with plastic double points. They are driving me nuts!

I worked the early parts of the sleeves with a short circular and have had to switch to the double points due to the reduced number of stitches. The rubbery-ness of the plastic makes the needles stick to each other as I knit and is throwing off my tension. I’m getting ladders and they are making me quite cranky.

I should have known better and gone to get some piece of mind by way of bamboo.

It’s all happening!

Progress shot, originally uploaded by bunnieprops.

Finally it’s starting to make some sense to me.

In lightning speed I was able to redo all the knitting I lost the other day and get further along so that I could actually start to make sense of how it gets put together. Suddenly it’s completely clear.

Now it’s going to take a little break while I try to keep from melting in the summer heat and humidity. It’s no fun to knit in 30°C (~90°F) weather with a growing wool blanket in your lap. I think I’m going to cast on something else while waiting for it to cool down a bit.

I’m thinking it’s time to play with my soy. Yes. That sounds like much fun.