Saturday, September 26, 2009

Behold! Sleeves!

It took some wrangling with numbers and some frogging (if only I'd taken my own advice that lifelines are not just for lace), but I have finished both sleeves for Louhi.

It would have been easier if I hadn't done that last little pretzel-y arch, but it's such a great detail. There are no schematics, and no pictures of the whole sleeve, so I'm not sure, but from working through the numbers, the pattern doesn't seem to result in a normal sleeve cap shape. I haven't taken any pattern rows out, so the height of my sleeve cap is the same as the pattern's, but the width is much smaller. This means I'll have to calculate my armscye shaping, of course, but that should be okay. I just hope the wide, short sleeve cap will seam into the armscye okay and won't look too weird.

Now, the bigger problem. When I first got this yarn, it was in with a bunch of other yarns- most memorably bags and bags of muppet pelt mohair- and I swear I counted 20 skeins and a few pieces of an almost-finished Aran jumper, done in the same yarn. Now, however, I can only find 14 skeins of the yarn, and no sign of the jumper. I can only guess that everything else was lost in the move from Surrey. Since this yarn was from the '80s, I'm pretty sure I can't get any more.

Okay, I used 4-1/2 skeins for both sleeves, so the 9-1/2 skeins left would normally be perfectly adequate for a sweater body. But I wanted a hip-length cardigan. So, to get as much length as I can, I'm going to knit the body of this sweater from the top down. This may require a radical re-interpretation of the pattern, in addition to the re-calculation of all the numbers I'd already signed up for, but there are a few advantages to doing it this way.

First, I'm essentially knitting the armscye first, so I'll be able to see if it fits the strange sleeve caps, and, if not, adjust it accordingly, without having the whole rest of the cardigan body to contend with. Second, the back of Louhi is taken up by a gigantic cable motif which, if knitted from the bottom up, requires prior knowledge of length and precise row gauge and then some charting magic. If I do it top down, I can stop the motif when I want, and just continue the rest of the length in normal seed stitch. Otherwise, I may merrily knit up to the back and realize that I have half a cable motif left, but no more back length, or that I'm done with the cable, but there's still inches and inches of back still to do, which would look weird at the top. Third, hmmm, I had a third advantage, but now I've forgotten it. Damn.

Anyway, yes, so now I'm working the left cardigan front from the shoulder down. It's interesting...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mods galore

So remember I wanted to knit a long cabled cardigan? Well, I eventually decided on Louhi. There are a few challenging things about this decision: 1) as the designer says, the pattern isn't so much a pattern as a set of guidelines; 2) it was written for a 48"/ 122cm chest size; 3) it's ankle length, and I want mid-thigh length.

As I said, these are challenges, and not insurmountable, but I'll be making major major modifications.

Luckily, I got gauge with my seed stitch swatch. Oh, right, I'm doing this with the "normal" seed stitch (purl the knits and knit the purls) rather than the double seed stitch (?) used in the pattern.

First up, the sleeve. The cabled hem band is knit, then stitches for the sleeve are picked up along one edge. To make the sleeve skinnier, I made the hem band shorter, and took the pattern's advice about where to start and stop knitting the cables to make them symmetric when I seam it into a circle.

I also picked up fewer stitches for the sleeve itself. This was fine as long as I had enough stitches to accommodate the large cable running up the sleeve. I also ignored all the instructions about increasing for the sleeve and pretty much winged it until it looked like it would fit right- wrapping the sleeve-in-progress around my arm gives me a pretty good idea of fit.

So far, so good.

The next tricky bit will be the sleeve cap shaping, which I will have to recalculate. This is trickier than it would normally be, because the sleeve cap for Louhi has a special cabled arch, and the pattern has carefully placed decreases to shape that arch. I'll have the same number of rows for the cap, but fewer stitches, so I'll have to figure out how to decrease fewer stitches in the same number of rows, yet still keep the arch shape. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My downfall

I generally try to eat well, and these days, because I'm not working and can get out to the shops frequently, I buy lots of fresh food. The covered market may be a bit touristy and some of it pricey, but I've found I can manage pretty well on our one-income budget there. I buy veggies from the greengrocer (they are very good about having local produce and it's easy to see at a glance what's in season- and when stuff is in season, it's cheap; I was buying kilos of broad beans for less than £1/kilo); meat from the butcher (there's actually an organic butcher in the market! And again, easy to see what's available and in season); seafood from the fishmonger; bread from the baker; I try to stay away from the cheese stall (spendy), but The Limey loves it.

Having said all that, there is one packaged food I will not give up. I know it's terrible and barely counts as edible food, it's bad for me, it's basically petroleum by-products and chemical flavouring, but...instant noodles. I have a big salt tooth...well, let's face it, it's an MSG addiction, really...and instant noodles are satisfying in a way almost nothing else is: starchy, salty, soupy goodness. I have tried lots of brands from that one aisle in the Asian market- you know the one, lined with random brightly-coloured rectangular packets with lettering in scripts you can't even begin to read. The best- the absolute best- instant noodle on the market is the Korean Shin Ramyun "Hot & Spicy". I used to buy it by the 20-packet box. If you don't like spicy, then I can't help you. (Pic taken from Amazon.)
I add whatever I have in the fridge to the ramen. Asian greens such as bak choi or gai lan are obvious choices, but green beans, mange tout- anything with a bit of bite or crunch. If I have tofu, especially cubes of the fried stuff, I'll toss that in. If I'm really hungry, I'll stir in an egg as well. If I happen to have frozen potstickers (a kind of dumpling) I'll add a few of those. The Limey prefers his potstickers cooked properly- steamed and browned in a skillet- but that would involve using another pan, which is so not the point of packaged noodles.

All this takes five minutes, and then I can get back to the couch with my Agatha Christie or trashy romance. (Those may be more elements to my downfall.) Oh yeah.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

IKnit day

On Friday I went down to London to take in some of IKnit's weekender. I went last year, and this year they've expanded to a full two-day show. I hadn't booked any of their workshops or talks, although they certainly produced an all-star line-up. Mostly I wanted to mooch around and see if anyone I knew was there.

Though there was a good crowd, I was kind of surprised at how calm and easily-navigated the main exhibition floor was. I think because it was a Friday rather than a weekend. Also maybe lots of people were at the workshops?

I delivered some patterns to Jeni at the Fyberspates stall. She was displaying a bunch of knitted samples. And look what was there!

My Hera Jacket! She said there'd been lots of interest in it, and by mid-afternoon, she'd sold all but one copy of the pattern. I greeted this news with pleased surprise, but she said this meant she'd have none to sell the rest of the weekender. I hope she found a copy machine. Still, this news made me very happy.

Surprisingly, I didn't buy much. IKnit had a blocking wire set which I thought hard about, but decided to leave for another day. The House of Hemp had a beautiful display and some of their hand-dyed hanks were gorgeous. They were madly busy every time I went by. Eventually, I elbowed my way through and, after much dithering, bought four skeins of their 4-ply in a pretty blue, with a sleeveless shell in mind.

They'd organized the yarns into baskets based on broad colour families, and I needed help getting four skeins of the same colour. The lady was really nice and pulled out skein after skein, comparing colours and running under a skylight to see better. We eventually felt these four were as close as we were going to get. I'll probably use two skeins for the front of the shell and two for the back, doing a couple rows from each skein to blend the colours. If I like working with the yarn, I get the feeling I might be heading to their website to buy some of the hand-dyed; they had a hank which reminded me of glorious peacocks...

I also bought a skein of some faaaabulous yarn from the IKnit stall, which will be a present for The Limey. You, and he, will have to wait until I finish it to see.

I stopped by say hi to Diane, then ended up spending most of the day sitting around knitting and talking with her and some fairly random strangers.

Eventually, hunger and the fear of spending more money drove me out of the show. I stopped by an Oxfam bookshop on the way to the tube station and- surprise!- found a few really good knitting books. I got one of Kim Hargreaves older books, and one from Kaffe Fassett as well.

I ate, and then hung around until it was time for my train back. One thing I don't like about training it from Oxford is that the cheaper day tickets mean pre-booking specific trains; how do I know beforehand when I'll be ready to head home? But it turns out I needn't have worried.

I was well-entertained at Paddington station by the Great Western Railway Paddington Band. Who knew?

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I started and finished Aeolian while on holiday. Then it sat in a drawer here for ten days while I tried to figure out where to block it. It turns out, the bed worked great.

Yarn: Malabrigo lace, baby! In "Buscando azul", bought during a long ago field trip to Get Knitted; shoulderette used about 40g of the 50g skein.
Needles: 3.5mm Addi Turbos
Pattern: the lovely Aeolian, from Knitty Spring '09, by Elizabeth Freeman; shoulderette version

Notes: This was a total breeze to knit. I even got the hang of the nupps after only the first couple. I knit this exactly as written for the small shoulderette version, except without beads. I had a dickens of a time blocking it though. I didn't know what the heck "The shawl will block to slightly more than a triangle" meant. "More than a triangle"? Wha? I looked at a bunch of pictures of blocking Aeolians on Ravelry and got the jist, though. Apparently, "more than a triangle" is this:

I wasn't really happy with my blocking. I felt that the nupped "flowers" of the edging could have been stretched more, but there wasn't room, if you know what I mean. The body of the shawl wanted to be "slightly more than a triangle" but the edging wanted to be way more than triangle. If I could have blocked in 3-D, the edging would have given a ruffled effect.

Speaking of the nupps...I say I got the hang of them, but maybe not. See this close-up here?

Those red arrows point to nupps. Can you see them? Of course not. But can you see them here?

Yes you can. On the reverse side. Those bastard nupps, which weren't exactly easy to make, popped out on the wrong side. I thought blocking would help. But no. Traitors.

But overall, it's a gorgeous shawl, and the Malabrigo lace makes it basically weightless. It's featherlight. I kind of wished I'd used beads, which would have anchored it in case I encounter a slight breeze. I do note the yarn is a single and spun very loosely- it feels like it'll felt if you look at it weird.

The finished size is roughly 42in/107cm from tip to tip, and 20in/51cm from centre to point. Because I had a fifth of the yarn left over, I could probably have added a few repeats- the pattern is great because it tells you how to work varying sizes.

It's a beautiful, delicate shawl, but I'll probably be wearing it like this, where you can see the laciness so well.

I think I'll wear it to the iknit show tomorrow. Say hi if you see me!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Hera Jacket pattern up for sale

The Hera Jacket is up for sale on both the Fyberspates website and Ravelry.

(Click on pictures to biggerize.)

This jacket is all about texture and shape, both kept simple and wearable. The nubbly, woven-like fabric is made with the easy-to-work rosette stitch. The swingy shape can be worn open, or closed with a belt knitted in the same yarn, or with a store-bought belt.

The body is worked in one piece, and the sleeves worked in the round, so the only seaming is at the armholes. For a professional, finished look, all edges are hemmed with fold-over, knit-as-you-go hems.

Hera is a great cover-up for when the days start getting chilly. The wool/silk blend of the Scrumptious yarn is warm and soft and really pops in the textured pattern.

The fronts of the jacket overlap, so one size will fit a wide range of bodies. This is also meant to go over other clothing, so choose a size with a couple of inches of ease.

Finished measurements: 36.5 (40.75, 44.75, 48.75, 52.75, 57.25, 61.25) inches at bust, including 3-inch overlap on jacket fronts; 18 (18, 19, 19, 20, 20, 20) inches long from hem to underarm;
92.5 (103.5, 114, 124, 134, 145, 155.5) cm at bust, including 8 cm overlap on jacket fronts; 46 (46, 48, 48, 51, 51, 51) cm long from hem to underarm

Yarn: Fyberspates Scrumptious Chunky (45% silk/55% merino wool, 122m per 100g skeins): 13 (14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21) skeins

Gauge: 20 sts / 22 rows = 4 inches / 10 cm in rosette st pattern

Needles: 4.5mm/US 7, or size needed to get gauge, 40 inch / 100 cm circulars; 3.5 mm/US 4 40 inch / 100 cm circulars.

Notions: removable stitch markers, stitch holders or waste yarn.

The pattern is an 8-page PDF with clear schematics and finished measurements for 7 sizes.

The pattern is available for £4 and you can buy from the Fyberspates site, from Ravelry, and by clicking the "Buy Now" button on the blog here.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Travel broadens more than the mind

As I've mentioned before, when I travel nowadays, whatever little planning I do is centred around food and yarn. I've found that it's a great way to travel. If I'm looking for specific yarn shops and restaurants, this involves my navigating around new places with a goal in mind, rather than mindlesslessing wandering around the easy-to-find touristy areas. Often, these places are out of the most touristed bits, so I am forced to interact more with locals and to use whatever little language skills I may have picked up from a guidebook.

This latest trip home may not have required navigating around strange cities and foreign language skills, but I still got in a lot of food and knitting. Here are some highlights.

Ramen, tempura and tonkatsu at Suzu Noodle House in Japantown in SF. That is some good stuff. My veggie tempura had a piece of aubergine that was done damned near perfectly (which is good, 'cause it's so easy to make aubergine gross).

Imperial rolls at Turtle Tower in the Tenderloin in SF. Not the best neighbourhood, no (though I grew up there), but great Vietnamese food- just down the street from here is the place that makes the best bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) in the city. The dishes we had here came with lots and lots of greens, which is what I loved most about eating on my trip to Vietnam. I'd ordered the cha ca, and it was the nearest to what I'd had in Hanoi than any version I've had since.

Oysters at Hog Island in the ferry building market in SF. I love oysters, but the picture here is The Limey trying a Kumamoto. This is amazing because before he met me, the only fish The Limey had ever eaten was battered and deep-fried beyond recognition. Although he's tried lots of fish since and even liked some of it, oysters weren't something he was ever even vaguely interested in. But here he is! His verdict? "I could see how some people could get used to it."

Uh....we didn't actually eat or buy anything at this deli in the ferry building market, but you gotta give it points for truth in advertising.

And the best thing I ate in SF: crab in ginger and scallions, cooked at home. This is one of my favourite dishes in the world and I've never had it better than the way my father cooks it. He makes this for me whenever I go home. The last two times, he has tried to teach The Limey how to do it. I think he's nearly got it down now, although my father's method of killing the crab is a bit too ruthless for us- we'll have to find a a wussier way of doing it.

Did you say yarn?

Some Lana Gross sock yarn from Bluebird Yarn and Fiber in Sausalito- these were picked out by The Limey for his next socks. A skein of Online Linie12 from Knit and Pearl in Santa Barbara for me to play with; I've been kinda interested in linen yarns for a while.

Jared Flood's book of patterns for Classic Elite Yarns, again from Knit and Pearl in SB. There are some lovely patterns in here and the Classic Elite stuff is hard to get in the UK, so I jumped at the chance to grab it. A Japanese stitch dictionary from the Kunokuniya bookstore in Japantown in SF. I was tempted by a few of the pattern books as well, but figured I wouldn't actually knit anything out of them. This stitch dictionary, though, has a bunch of stitch patterns I've not seen anywhere else, so I couldn't resist. The bookstore had a large knitting section, which I had to go through book by book because I can't read Japanese and therefore couldn't tell what was in the books by the spine!

And, oh yes, I finished knitting my Aeolian. It's still unblocked, but it was a great knit.