Monday, March 22, 2010

Failure to Launch

It's been like two weeks without a blog entry, all because I am a moron and can't ever remember that when posting by e-mail I am supposed to send to instead of Sigh. So I have this entry written that's all out of date now, and I'm not sure how to handle it. I guess I will just post what I had written before with minor edits to update things that are no longer accurate. So if you see something where the tense or date reference is whacky, it's probably because that text was old and I missed that it needed to be updated.
I finally did the bind-off on my Aeolian shawl last weekend a couple of weekends ago. I love the final product, it's beautiful. I'm thrilled with the color, I'm thrilled with the beads. I'm not thrilled with the bind-off. I used a larger needle, because - well, why wouldn't I? Unfortunately, I think I shouldn't have. I think the bind-off would actually look better if it was tighter, making a cleaner edge for the points. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure undoing the whole thing would put me in the looney bin so I'm going to have to live with it. I did end up just using a single strand for the bind-off. I sent the designer a message on Ravelry and she was kind enough to reply and tell me her reasoning for using the two strands, and as they weren't really structural reasons, I decided it wasn't worth the trouble to try and figure out a way to use the yarn doubled. The bind-off took me a couple of hours, it was a lot of stitches and it was very, very boring. I might have been able to get it done faster if I had just powered through it, but instead I kept getting distracted because it was SO DULL.
Then there was the blocking. I almost didn't have enough room. I block in the floor of my guest room which is probably the smallest room in the house, and I had to pin part of it out under the bed because there wasn't enough room on the open floor! I also ran out of pins towards the end of blocking, pinning out all those points on the flowers! I had to dig into my sewing box and get regular pins for a couple of points. They seemed to have worked okay. I checked this morning and saw no sign of rust, which was my main worry. I intended to unpin it that evening, but I haven't done it yet it took me a week to get around to it.

Anyway, I think the shawl is beautiful and I can't wait to wear it I wore it to church this past Sunday. I do think I'm going to have to sit with it and secure a few nupp loops that are loose (I didn't bother). This is why I haven't unpinned it yet. Once I do, I'll actually have to deal with all those little finishing aspects that are so much less fun than actual knitting (or I could just ignore it and decide to deal with it when it becomes a problem. I acknowledge that this is probably a bad plan).
I also finished the last pair of Olympic socks, which I can now reveal were Lothlorian socks from The Enchanted Sole. They really don't look very impressive when not actually on a foot, so I did some acrobatics to take pictures, but they're on the big camera so photos will have to wait. For now, I give you, crappy iphone pix. You can see the ladder stitches in between the tree trunks on the leg.

Once that was over with, I considered powering through Hanami to see if I could finish it off, but it goes so quickly that I decided to go ahead and start Evenstar instead. I think I could finish Hanami in a couple of good weekend days, maybe, and I was just too excited over the Evenstar project. Plus, Hanami is so fun and quick, I may need it as a sanity saver during the process of this mystery shawl. I'm about halfway more than halfway through Chart C.
I have actually had numerous difficulties with the Evenstar project, and I'm trying not to let it dampen my enthusiasm. First, there were my issues with color, mentioned in the previous post. Then, I started winding the yarn. I had read that winding silk lace on a ball winder is an invitation to disaster so I was like, okay, I give up, I'll wind it by hand. And I did. And it took hours. And it was a MESS. I was so depressed. I put the second skein on my swift and winder and - no problem at all. None. Worked just fine. Put an empty toilet paper roll in the center to keep it from disaster and I'm knitting from the outside in, so it was fine. I rewound the handwound skein on the ball winder and the end result was still kind of a mess, so I wound it AGAIN. I finally got a ball I could work with, but I'm a little concerned that all the rewinding (which did not go as smoothly as one would hope, due to the mess the original ball was in) had an effect on the integrity of the yarn.

Anyway, I got that problem solved, so that Sunday I cast on, and - MORE problems. The cast-on took me a couple of tries, no big deal. But knitting was a NIGHTMARE. Oh my goodness. That yarn clung to the needles for dear life and just would not slide along it. I was knitting on two circulars for the center, the same way I do socks, and I just couldn't believe the trouble I was having. I was nearly in tears at the thought that the whole project would be like that. I was using my nickle-plated KnitPicks needles, the slickest ones I owned! I really expected silk to be slippery, not sticky, but the stuff just wouldn't let go. It was killing my fingers trying to get it to move along the needle.
I finally figured out a couple of things I could do to get the stitches to slide, so by the end of the evening I was greatly relieved. I think this won't be so much of a problem once I am only working on one circular - one thing I found was that if I supported the weight of the second circular so it wasn't pulling on the stitches I was trying to slide, they moved much more easily. I was still having a little trouble getting the last couple of stitches on a given needle to go over the join, but I figured I could live with that until I could get onto a single needle.
I got home the following Monday night and got a paper cut taking some things out of my car. I didn't think anything about it until I got in the house and picked up my white silk laceweight shawl. Then I realized that the paper cut was oozing blood...which got on my shawl. I stared in horror, went and washed my hands, put pressure on the cut until it stopped bleeding, and went back to think about how to deal with the problem. It was only a couple of bright red dots on the yarn, but - I decided that it would be easiest just to start over. Fortunately, the second time around I didn't have as much trouble (due to the aforementioned lessons learned).
I'm working it on a single 16" circular now, and it is in fact making my life easier. I am a little annoyed that there are ladder stitches through my center from when I had it on the two circs, but I'm not going to worry too much about it. It won't bug anyone but me, and I'm hoping I can redistribute some of the slack with a crochet hook so that they're not so obvious. We'll see. I'm most of the way through the Clue 1 chart. Clue 3 came out this weekend. I'm hoping to put in some time this weekend so that I can try to catch up. I have 2 weeks before Clue 4 comes out, so hopefully I can get there. I finished Clue 3 last night so I am totally on schedule with everyone else now. This makes me proud. I will work on Hanami until Clue 4 is released.
I'm getting back some of my delight with the color. I'm still not sure it's going to come out as something I would wear, but the thought of giving it to my friend for her wedding is enough to keep me going anyway. The color IS there, however - it's elusive. When I flatten out the project to look at it in full light, it looks white, but while I'm working on it, so that it's hanging down and I'm looking at it obliquely and in the shadow of my hands, I can see some of the blue come into it. I think it really will be fascinating to see how it works up. It literally appears and disappears as I'm working. It's really awesome in its way. If I were intending to make something for a wedding, I would totally buy something from this collection. I guess my advice to prospective buyers is, if you wouldn't use white yarn for the project, then choose something else, but if you are okay with white yarn that has a little something extra, this is fantastic.
I also finished the pair of socks I was working on when the Olympics started.
These are made of Fly Designs/Angora Valley Fibers Blue Faced Leicester in colorway Blacklight. (I have total deja vu right now - have I posted this before? Maybe on twitter.)

And last but not least, I finally got back to spinning last week. Rather than finish half-spun merino bamboo blend that had been sitting around all this time I was on hiatus, I picked up something new and exciting from amongst the bags of Spunky Eclectic fiber that have been piling up as month after month has gone by without spinning. This was also a merino-bamboo blend dyed in a colorway called 'Beach.' I love it. I'm also having some success spinning it fairly fine. I plan to make a two-ply yarn this time rather than navajo plying, which I tend to do with my Spunky Eclectic fibers. I'm not a fan of barber pole yarn, and I'm not experienced enough yet to know how to maintain the color sequence without navajo plying. But, I love the way these colors blend together and I think I will just go with the two ply and see what I get. I've spun up about half (this photo was taken early in the process) so I'm hoping that this week I can spin the other half. I have some fears that the singles are too fine in some places and may break when I try to ply (or that some of the thicker areas don't have enough twist may break), but I'm going to just go with it and see what happens.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


No medal for me. It became fairly obvious when pair no. 1 took me most of a week that I was proooobably not going to make it. However, I thought I could probably get 3 pairs done and I would be happy with that. I told myself, well, it's kind of like getting the silver. But, I didn't even get three pairs done. I made up some ground on pair no. 2. I used my favorite Handmaiden Casbah, which I enjoy knitting with (the fabric it makes is like velvet), and which is a heavier fingering weight yarn. I got one entire sock done almost entirely in one day, and then I spent the evenings the rest of the week doing the second one.

It was my third pair that really killed me, though. If I had just done a plain top-down stockinette sock, I might have made it, but a certain someone's birthday is coming up and I needed a gift, so I picked a pattern I thought she would like. This was a toe-up pattern, which we all know I've had issues with in the past, but I discovered Judy's Magic Cast-On, which circumvented all of the problems I'd been having getting out of the gate with Toe-Ups.

I'm not entirely sure why this pair took so long but it did. I thought I would rip through it until I got to the cable pattern on the leg, but whereas I got an entire cuff-down sock done on a weekend day, it took me most of a day to even get to the chart on the first sock of this third pair. Then I had trouble with the chart. Most of it wasn't a big deal - I copied the chart and enlarged it because it was teeny in the book, but my copy didn't carry over the shading that indicates whether I was supposed to knit both stitches of my cable or knit one and then the other. Once I realized that I went back and highlighted. Then there were just random places where things didn't look right - what had been a line of knits suddenly had a purl, or something. I spent a lot of time second-guessing those moments. This would really not have happened if I hadn't gotten so confused on two instructions:

1) When the chart says to bind off a stitch, am I knitting that stitch and pulling the previous stitch over it, or am I knitting to one past that stitch and then slipping the marked stitch over? If my chart says ABCDE where B is the place that I'm supposed to bind off a stitch, then which stitch actually gets slipped over? B or C?

2) Working chart elements that go across the first and last stitch of the round confuses me. I'm never sure whether I'm supposed to unknit the last stitch of the previous round, (just ignoring whatever was on the chart for the last stitch of that round) or whether I'm supposed to just knit past the first stitch of the round and then work the element that goes across. Then what do I do at the beginning of the next round? Just skip that stitch?

Some of that took me some time to work out. I actually threw the sock on the floor at one point I was so aggravated. I don't get that frustrated with knitting very often.

So when the closing ceremonies came, I was only halfway through the foot of the second sock, and I'm only just now getting to the leg chart again.

Even though I did not medal, though, I really pushed my limits, and I got gifts to two friends to whom I had long ago promised socks, so that made me happy. And, despite the troubles with pair no. 3, which I will discuss further in a minute, I am proud of myself for finally conquering the toe-up madness. I don't think I will be a convert anytime soon, though. Toe-up socks require too much planning ahead.

Oddly enough when discussing cuff-down vs. toe-up with the SO he said exactly the opposite. His point is valid - when you're working toe-up you don't have to figure out what pattern you want to use until the end. But, I was thinking in the opposite direction. See, socks are my mindless project. Toe-up socks start with something that requires attention. You have to increase around the toe until you have enough stitches. Then you have to be careful about measuring the foot as you go, and then you turn the heel and then you get to the leg and THEN they become mindless.

I don't plan my mindless knitting far enough ahead of time to live with that. When I want mindless knitting I want to pick it up and just start. I have to count to cast on and then it's mindless ribbing followed by whatever simple pattern I have picked out. I've got the heel flap and turn down pat so I don't even really have to put too much thought into those pieces. Then I have to wait until I'm somewhere I can concentrate to pick up gusset stitches and get through the decreases (although I've gotten to the point that with the help of markers I can be at least moderately distracted during decrease times and still not mess up - usually), and then I have to worry about measuring the foot and decreasing for the toe.

It's just a personal preference thing, I guess. And at least part of my feelings come from frustration with having to learn a new way to do things when I'm perfectly satisfied with the old way. But, now I know that I CAN do a toe-up sock and so I'm not limited in my pattern choices. It's good to push your boundaries.

Unfortunately I am really unhappy with this pair of socks. For one thing, it has some pretty obvious ladder stitches going all the way up. I never have a problem with ladder stitches!! Also, the foot looks HUGE. I swear I measured it a hundred times and it comes out the way it is supposed to for that size, but it looks HUMONGOUS. I'm really worried about fit. Also, I think my guage is different between the first sock (where I was racing for gold) and the second sock (without Olympic pressure).

On top of that, I'm worried the leg will be too narrow. This pattern is not given in multiple sizes and the pattern has only two repeats for round, so adding another one would have made it 90 stitches instead of 60, which is just rediculous.

I'm hoping that a good wash will even out the tension a little and ease up the ladder stitches somewhat. I'm thinking maybe that happened because the yarn is a bamboo blend with more drape than I usually work with. The only other time I've had ladder stitches this bad was on the mitts I made out of the cashmere/silk blend, so it may be that my knitting style requires yarn with some bounce to keep that from happening. I may have to move stitches around on the needle to avoid them when using drapey yarns in the future (although to be honest, I've lost the ball band from this yarn and I didn't remember it was bamboo until I was well into the sock). I'm still not done with the second sock - I expect to finish either tomorrow evening or sometime on Saturday. I'm dying to get back to my lace. I knit a couple of rows of Hanami every couple of evenings just to keep from going insane.

Also disappointing - I received my yarn yesterday for the Evenstar knitalong, and I'm just not quite happy with the color. I have no one but myself and the internet to blame for this, I think. I knew I was taking a risk. If you'll recall, I was interested in the Blue Moon Spirits Collection. It says right there that these colors are as diluted as possible. Well, they are not kidding. I ordered the Jengu colorway and y'all, it's really white. You can see the blue in the skein, sort of dusted on there, exactly the way I'm sure it was intended to be. Very very subtle. To my mind...maybe a little too subtle. It really looks white to me. I started winding the skein, because what it looks like in a ball is always a much better indicator of how it will look in the final project, I think. It's still really white. It's white with a faint blue sheen. I think some of this is the silk - because it is so shiny and reflects so much of the light, maybe the white is overwhelming the blue more than originally intended. I knew this was a risk when I ordered the yarn, it was something that I really waffled over and I came really close to e-mailing and asking them to send me a picture of the color in the silk so I could see what it looked like, but I finally just said, "the hell with it" and ordered. So, I can't really blame this on anyone else (which is my way of saying, if any of the ladies from BMFA should somehow stumble upon this, I think the best of you and your company and I understand and blame no one for the hazards of internet shopping). I could return the unwound skein if I really wanted to, but--well, I'm kind of lazy.

I'm really torn about what to do here. I could get different yarn, maybe save this for another occasion, or I could go ahead and use it and see how it looks knit up. It could actually have a really cool effect, I don't know, especially because this is a circular shawl so the color will likely be more concentrated in the center and more diluted toward the outside, as the rows get longer.

Wearability is another concern...I'm not sure how often I would wear a mostly-white shawl. This is, to be honest, always a bit of a secondary concern for me. I would happily knit something I would never wear just for the pleasure of doing it. But it is something I try to think about at least a little bit. (Though, let's face it - there aren't that many people who are going to understand the awesomeness of a hand-knit Lord of the Rings themed shawl anyway. Mostly I just don't want to walk around looking like I'm ready for a wedding at any moment.)

I did take a look at the beads I ordered alongside it. I got several different varieties of blue beads, and now I'm not really sure any of them are exactly right for this shawl, but they gave me an idea of what I WOULD like, and there are one or two possibilities that I think I like okay. Ideally I would love to cross these with these. I love the dyed rainbow beads, but I think the tone of the blue in them is not quite right. We'll see - I don't need those till the edging so I don't have to make a decision any time soon.

I went back and looked at the other colors I'd been considering, and I honestly didn't get that excited. Cloudy with a Chance was the runner up, but I swear they've changed their picture and it doesn't look at all like what I would want.

Right now, I'm leaning on going with what I have and seeing how it all works out. If worst comes to worst and I think I won't wear whatever I have at the end, I have a friend who just got engaged who is one of the few people who could probably actually appreciate this shawl. It would hurt to give it up but it would make an awesome wedding present. I can always knit another one, right?

I signed up for the Fellowship pattern collection. I'm not certain I will knit all of them, but I'm pretty intrigued and I also love the idea of just randomly getting a pattern in my inbox every couple of months. Argonath and Darrowdelf are on my definitely-plan-to-knit-eventually list, and although colorwork makes me a little crazy, I might just have to knit the Tom Bombadil hat when it comes out. I have high hopes for the Mithril vest, as well, although I'm a leeeeeetle skeptical of how wearable a laceweight vest will really be. I think it will depend on the length of the finished pattern. I'm thinking some Casbah DK would make a great Legolas kerchief, too.