Friday, July 27, 2007

In good news

I have an interview set up in mid-August for a company at which I would actually be doing research, so things aren't all doom and gloom. Yet.

Also: the Candlelight Halter pattern is up now at This Is Knit! Yay! Please have a look, and if you knit it, please please let me know how it goes. My feelings about feedback apply to knitting as well as job interviews.

And in more good news:

Silk Garden scoop neck pullover
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden, colour 84, 5 skeins; ribbing in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, 1 skein
Needles: 4.5 mm bamboo Pony straights; 3.5 mm Addi Turbos for the ribbing
Pattern: my own

Notes: This was a sweater of many firsts for me, the most notable being steeking. I'm happy to report that it worked out fine. The stitches seem to be in no danger of unraveling past the first sewn line of defense. I'm pretty happy with how it all came out. The fit is good, and it turns out I can wear all those colours together. While it was blocking, I thought maybe I'd want the scoop neck deeper, but now that I'm wearing it, it seems at just the right height.

Also: the sleeve length turned out well. I used my Standard Operating Procedure for when I don't have enough yarn: I cast on provisionally and knit the sleeve caps first, then I pick up from the cast on and knit down. I do both sleeves at the same time, one from either end of the skein, and just go until I run out of yarn. This way, I use up all my yarn and both sleeves end up the same length.

Some words on the yarns I used. This was my first time working with Noro yarn, and I fully admit that the accolades it gets for the colours are justified. The colours are gorgeous. However. I'm not sure I would work with the self-striping Noro yarns again. I don't like not being able to control the colours! In fact, at some points, when the muddy browns started coming out of the skein, I cut them out. I know I was short on yarn anyway, but I just hated that colour.
The Cashmerino looks okay in the photos, but in real life, it doesn't stand up well to the Silk Garden. It's not the colour- that's alright. But the silk content of the Silk Garden makes the colours bright, vibrant, lively. Compared to that, the Cashmerino looks flat and dull. I think, if I were to do it again, I'd definitely choose a yarn with some silk or bamboo content- something that would stand up better against the Silk Garden.

All in all, a success, I think. I washed the whole thing in baby shampoo, and it softened enough that it feels fine against my skin. It helps that the points that rub- sleeve hems and neckline- are in soft Cashmerino, but the Silk Garden should soften more and more.

Getting used to it

I heard I was rejected for the Swindon job today. They sent the rejection by post, which is new. The letter included a name of one of the interviewers and a phone number in case I wanted feedback on my performance during the round of interviews. Of course I called- as I've said before, yeses and nos are useless without reasons- only to be told that the woman was out of the office until after the first week of August. Ha! Cowards.

Anyway, I am disappointed, of course, but not as devastatingly so as for the journal job. There are several reasons for this, the foremost one probably being that I'm simply getting used to rejection. The other reasons: it's in Swindon, and it paid shit. Don't get me wrong, neither of those would have stopped me taking the job had I been offered it. It would have been a great career move, and the job itself would have been interesting.

At any rate, the situation is now getting somewhat desperate. The Limey's contract ends in September, and he's already told his boss that he won't be able to renew it, because what with the immigration issues, we probably won't be staying in Dublin. And, I mean, at least one of us has to be bringing in some income. I'd promised him at the beginning of the year that it was his turn next to sit at home and wander about the internet all day. Hmm...may be time to think "outside the box".

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The moment of reckoning

Today I went down to This Is Knit and bought some yarn to use for the ribbing of the Silk Garden pullover. Lisa and I tried to find the best match to the Silk Garden (colour 84) but with so many colours, it was difficult. Eventually I chose a ball of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in a brickish red colour. I was hoping there would be a goldeny yellow orange, but no such luck.

It took only a bit of time to do the ribbing on the hem and sleeves, so then I had to face the inevitable:

I'd hand-sewn the reinforcement for the steek. Two lines of stitching on either side of the row of stitches I would cut through. I didn't trust just the one line of stitching, so I put in another one one stitch away. Then I went over the first line again, just to be sure.

I made myself a cup of tea (okay, I lie, The Limey made me a cup of tea) and I got down to work.

It was surprisingly...easy. I did some more.
I don't think I inhaled at all during the cutting, mind you. But it got done. The steek reinforcement held together. I was shocked.

I folded the steek stitches back and sewed the selvedge to the wrong side of the fabric. It still held. I picked up stitches along the edge and knit the ribbing for the scoop neck. It still held.

I think I only really took a proper, deep breath after I'd picked up the stitches for the ribbing. I could see that I wasn't going to have an unraveling mess on my hands.

It's washed and blocking now. Whew.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Swindon was...uh...well, to quote the HR person at the interview, "The great thing about Swindon is that it's so easy to get to other places from it." The interview went all right, I think. It took all day. There was the actual interview, I gave a presentation, there was a "group exercise" and a written assessment. I felt like I was back in school taking exams again, and not in a good way.

Luckily, I waltzed through airport security with my bamboo straights, so I got lots done on the Silk Garden sweater in my hotel room.

In fact, I only stopped because I got to the point where I had to put the front neck stitches on a holder and start the steeked section, and I had no stitch holders or anything.

I'm a little frightened by the steeking bit, actually. I was reading through steek tutorials and stuff, and it seems like non-colourwork steeks would be a little more difficult to hold together. Steek reinforcement will be essential and I don't have a sewing machine (well, I do, but it's at my father's in San Francisco, like so much of my other stuff), so I am planning to hand sew the steeks. Don't know whether that will be as good. Yeech. Plus, it turns out I will need a wider steek band than I thought. This is fine, but as you all know, I'm watching and scrimping on every metre of yarn on this project.

I thought briefly about knitting the sides of the neck opening separately. I mean, if the stripes on the sleeves don't match, would it be that big of a deal if the shoulders didn't match, either?

On the plus side, I'm feeling a little better about all the colours...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

To calm me down

Thanks for the kind words on the halter, everyone. I'm glad I persevered and got it done. Now we just have to see if I'm capable of writing a decipherable pattern!

I have a job interview in Swindon on Thursday, but it starts too early in the morning for me to fly in the day of, so I have to fly in tomorrow evening. What is there to do in Swindon for the night? Is there a yarn shop?

To calm my nerves, I've started another sweater. The deal with this one (there's always a backstory) is that I really wanted to finally knit up that Noro Silk Garden I've had in my stash forever. I bought it on my very first trip to Springwools. I'd been knitting for a couple years, and had heard lots about the wonderfulness of Noro. I'd seen some in yarn shops back home, but it always seemed too expensive. When I saw it in Springwools, it was the same price, but in Euro, so the number looked smaller. My desire for yarn short-circuited the math portion of my brain, and I thought, well, that's cheaper. So I bought some. As usual, though, I couldn't bring myself to buy a good, safe, sweater's-worth quantity of yarn, but also didn't want to buy just one skein. I wanted enough for a substantial piece of knitting, but couldn't justify enough for a sweater. So I had five skeins. Five. A totally useless amount.

I got it home, and started thinking about what to do with it. Then it hit me that I don't normally wear horizontal stripes. I'm short enough, thank you. So what the hell was I going to do with self-striping yarn? I hadn't seen this cardigan (on the cover) yet. I didn't want to make a shawl. So the yarn sat in my stash for a year and a half. Then I saw this:

Eunny Jang
's Autumn Rose pullover, for Jamieson's Simply Shetland 4. It's abso-fucking-lutely gorgeous, of course. Even though I'm not that big on colourwork, and don't normally wear that style of clothing, it is beautiful. However, I took two things from this: 1) the shape- scoop necks look really good on me and 2) it's horizontally striped, and it's not as bad as I'd imagined. Of course, it's on a model. But still.

So I thought I'd design my Silk Garden top with this as inspiration. I won't be doing the fancy-schmancy sleeve and armscye shaping Eunny's done. Or the fancy-schmancy coloured ribbing. I'm also not keen on that sleeve length, but with five skeins, I'll knit until I run out, I guess. Also, I'll make the scoop much deeper, starting below the boobs, I think. Definitely one where I'll wear a tank or shirt underneath. I'll have to find some yarn in the same gauge in a complementary colour for the ribbing later.

So far, I've done the back, and, thank the Gods, it took just less than two skeins.
The front, with its deep scoop neck, will take much less, leaving me maybe a skein and a half for the sleeves. I hope it will be enough for a 3/4-length sleeve, but I'm guessing it won't be.

I want the two sides of the shoulders at the front to match, though, so I'll have to learn something new for this: steeking. Otherwise, the stripes will be different on each shoulder once I bind off for the scoop neck, and that would drive me crazy. Of course, I don't have enough yarn to be this picky with the sleeves- there's no way those will match.

This may all be pointless, anyway, because I keep looking at the back, and it seems very bright to me. Too bright. I don't know if I could wear it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The goat entrails worked...

After the failure of the last halter, I had to think quickly. I had already told Lisa I had a pattern I thought she might be interested in, and I must have had an inkling in the back of my mind that the bamboo halter was too good to be true, because I started casting on for the second version while the first was blocking.

This time, I used the Cathay I'd had in my stash forever; in fact, the very same magentish Cathay that I tried, and failed, to get rid of at the beginning of this project.

I reworked the back and beginning of the halter shaping completely, hoping it would improve the fit. There were a bunch of smaller details I changed as well. I really should re-knit stuff more often. It's not as experimental and fun, but it sure as hell gives good results. I'll show the back first:

Ta-da! Nice, smooth line. No drooping, high enough to hide the back of a strapless bra.

And the side, compared to the first version, 100% better:

A lot of this is due to the fact that the Cathay simply holds its shape better than the bamboo. So the waist actually ends up at my waist! Amazing.

And the front:

Yes, wearing this made me happy even while waiting for Dublin Bus. And that is no small feat.

If you also want to be happy while waiting for the 46A, you're in luck.

As I was knitting up the second version, I wrote up my notes on the construction, then worked out a pattern for it. Lisa and Jacqui at This is Knit have very, very kindly agreed to put it up for downloading- free!- from their website. It should be up in a week or so, assuming they don't find some terrible error in my amateur pattern-writing. Squee!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


My hunch was journal editor job for me. They went with someone with more editorial experience. And here I was worrying about my lack of bio background!

This is too bad. Aside from the fact that I wanted the job and think I would have been good at it, I was also looking forward to not having to apply for any more jobs! I hate the whole application process.

Well, back to revising my CV.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

In which I am reminded that the Gods punish hubris

I was so proud of myself. It was the quickest, most brilliant knit ever. One week from buying the yarn in London, to design, to knitting, to finished object. I was patting myself on the back and doing all kinds of triumphant, self-congratulatory dances around the living room.

I figured I was perfectly right to call myself a genius. I mean, it looked great blocking:

In fact, it looked so great that, in my self-delusion, I e-mailed Lisa at This Is Knit and offered her the pattern. (What pattern?, a little voice in my head said. I ignored it.)

After it finished blocking, I noticed little niggling things: my gauge had loosened slightly while I was knitting, and the fabric seemed to stretch and sag a bit more than my gauge swatch had. But these are small issues. Not actual problems, right?

I thread the straps through and put it on. The front looked awesome, if a little longer than I had planned:

The back is where the Gods decided to strike:

Waaaay too wide. It wasn't going to stay up for anything. While I was designing the thing, I'd failed to realize that the halter shape on the front and a flat back meant that the "hole" created for my chest wouldn't be a circle, which was what I'd planned. It would be closer to a really long ellipse. An oval. Meaning the circumference of the thing was going to be waaay larger than the circumference around my chest. At least, I think that's the problem. Well. One of the problems.

The whole thing isn't helped by the bamboo being drapey and slinky as anything. I know that's why people like bamboo. And why I loved petting the fabric. (And I have to admit, even though the damned top didn't fit, it sure as hell felt really nice and soft during wearing.) Also, even though the gauge swatch lied a bit, I really couldn't have predicted how the fabric would behave when it had the weight of a whole garment pulling it down. It totally, totally stretched. I know I could have dried the swatch with a weight and what not, but I have trouble believing that would totally reproduce the stresses of the real thing.

You can see from the picture of the side here how distorted the side "seam" has to be to get the halter to cover a decent amount of flesh at my side. And the stretching meant that the waist decreases ended up somewhere at my hipbone.

So this has been frogged while I wait for my brain to catch up with my ego.

Maybe a sacrifice to the Gods is in order. Do they still appreciate goat entrails these days?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Tale of Two Liens

So, one day, I was surfing the web during my copious free time. I may have been Googling myself*, or maybe just randomly reading knit blogs, when I found another knitblogger named Lien! Isn't that just crazy? I mean, I know those of you named, for instance, Wendy, are numerous enough to get your own knit blog ring, but I've never met another Lien before, let alone another knitter and blogger named Lien. It's awesome. We're about the same age and everything, and when I first found her blog, the post she had up was about John Howard shamelessly pandering to Australia's Asian immigrant population. Her reply was something I hope I have the chance to write someday.

I repeat: it's awesome. Ah, the wonder of the Interweb.

*Oh, come on, you know you all do it, too. If you honestly don't, you should. I figure since potential employers were Googling my name, I should sure as hell know what's floating around in the web about me. Google your usernames and nicknames, too. It's sometimes surprising what can be traced back to you.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

It's everywhere!

The Limey and I went to the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin this weekend. We go every few weeks, more frequently in May and June when the peonies are in bloom. We go so often we feel guilty that they don't charge admission or anything. Once, we asked if there was a donation box, and they thanked us for the thought, but said no. So now we just try to buy juice or ice cream in their cafe whenever we go.

We saw the usual plant-y things, like these tiger lilies:

and these great maples with their bendy twirly branches:

and these artichokes, one of The Limey's favourite plants and vegetables:

In all this time, we'd never gone up into the exhibition rooms in the visitor's centre, and we decided it was time. The exhibit on right now is titled "Baobobs and Big Beans: an exploration of plants for people," and what did I see?

Yarn and fibre! Plus some finished objects:

And my favourite:

Wool dyed with a variety of native Irish plants. Those colours are awesome. I know the Irish SnBers include some spinners and dyers. Wouldn't this be a great project for a field trip?