Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 5: In the Penalty Box

I'm not much of a coffee drinker. Mostly I drink tea, since I seem to be one of those people whom caffeine affects in an exaggerated way. On Monday, whilst driving back on  the 401 from TO, I had that tired feeling that can be dangerous in multi-lane traffic, so I stopped around Trenton and picked up a double double from Tim Horton's. The effect was gratifying in the short-term, but dreadful long-term. I couldn't go to sleep until close to midnight, and once asleep, I kept waking up. The consequence was that I ended up sleeping in yesterday, and thus I failed to get off to my usual early start. Getting through all 62 rows to the back neck was a real slog. I finished at about 10:00 pm, though, and took a photo this morning (work on right front already in progress).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 4: In Which I Learn a Couple of Things

When I was a musician, I knew that time spent away from my instrument was part of the learning process. I knew that my brain continued to process material recently practised, and that time away (especially overnight) would result in greater mastery of the skills practised during the previous day.
Of course, this concept applies in other areas. A little time spent away from a project can lead to a greater understanding of what's going on. This is the second version of Downton that I've knitted. I knew that when I measured my blocked gauge swatch, I always got 32 rows to 4 inches or 8 rows to 1 inch. I knew that the unblocked knitting was slightly more compressed. I also knew that when I blocked the body to the underarms, somehow I had acquired an extra inch, if I counted the rows. So, it was a good thing to have a day of driving to Toronto and back. I had time to ruminate, without even realizing that that was what I was doing--a sort of free flow of mental fluids and electrical currents doing their best to solve a puzzle in the background of other thoughts.
I told James I wanted to leave at 7:30, knowing full well that this meant we would leave by 8:00 (my real goal). We arrived in downtown TO by 11:00, and he was moved in by 12:30. Very efficient. Then I moved the car to my favourite parking spot in front of Trinity College (where James spent the last 4 years).

Gardens in front of Trin.

View of the quad from the main hallway.

We "did" Bloor St. First to the Bay, for James who had failed to follow the advice in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" to "bring a towel". Then, to the Source for an clock radio, then to H&M where I bought 3 sweaters for $75 and Isabel bought a dress, a sweater, and a belt. I hugged James good-bye, resisted the urge to cry, and we were off on the return journey.

All this while the torso of Downton was quietly drying on the sunroom floor back home.By the time of our return, I knew the cause of all my gauge problems. My real gauge wasn't 8 rows to the inch, it was 7.69--not enough to show on a 4-inch swatch, especially in double moss stitch, where the eye sees everything in twos. But definitely enough to make a difference over 13 inches of knitting. Duh!
Now I'm going to rip back 6 rows, put the fronts on threads and proceed up the back to the neck, with my REAL, TRUE row gauge in mind.

What was the other thing I learned? Much as I loved having James around all summer, and hard as it was to say good-bye, I also love not having him around all the time. I guess we're both growing up.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I managed on top of everything else to knit the back tab.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 3: A Pot Pie Kind of Day

Woke up to a big blow--Irene far to the southeast making herself felt.

View from our 3rd floor balcony.
The silver maple behind our house getting tossed around.
Not much rain, just a few sprinkles. The temperature kept dropping, so that by early afternoon I decided it was going to be a chicken pot pie day. I walked down to the Block and Cleaver and had the proprietor cut up a chicken for me. I roasted it, made gravy, sauteed some onions, carrots, yellow wax beans, zucchini, potatoes, and corn, made some pie crust, and voila--2 pot pies. One for tonight, one for tomorrow when we come home exhausted from our trip to Toronto (unless Bill demolishes it while we're away!)
I knitted and knitted and knitted, and listened to audio books and at long last arrived at the underarms. My experience with this pattern stitch is that it has a tendency to grow in length when blocked, so I put everything on lengths of waste yarn, gave it a bath, and laid it out to dry. As expected, it appears to have gained an inch. There's a chance it will shrink back when dry, but probably not. In that case, I'll frog the last inch before proceeding with the upper body. I'm putting a suggestion re blocking in the written pattern so anyone who wants to knit this jacket will have the info they need to make it fit properly.

Day 2: Knitting in the Gaps

Day 2: Goals achieved--but not without making a conscious effort to knit in all available gaps of time. I'm a morning person, so not surprisingly, getting a good head start is important to achieving my quota. This morning I woke up, made a mug of tea, and sat down to get a good inch of work completed before the rest of the household began to stir. The rows in this section are long: 182 sts in my size. And double moss stitch isn't a quick stitch to work. And attention must be paid to seam stitches, selvedge stitches, and row counts.
Before noon I took a break, did a little garden tidy-up, then hopped on my bicycle for a quick trip to Tara Foods. I sent Isabel down to the farmer's market for some wild blueberries. After lunch, I threw together a blueberry cake in anticipation of a visit from friends from Ottawa, Ann and Steve, who are here helping their daughter get settled into her apartment (she's entering 2nd year engineering at Queen's). I knitted while the cake baked, then I knitted while it cooled, then I knitted while Ann and Steve visited and ate the cake and drank tea. Then I realized that I wasn't really in the mood to cook dinner, so I hopped on my bicycle again and ordered take-out Greek food. Of course I knitted while the food was prepared at the restaurant. I asked the restaurant people to pack the food as compactly as possible so that it would fit in my bicycle basket along with my knitting. After dinner, I knitted some more while the kids cleaned up the kitchen, then I wrote up the waist shaping. Mission accomplished. Bill and I walked down to the waterfront for some ice cream to celebrate.

Work growing ever so slowly.

3 waist decreases at bottom, 2 increases (so far) at top.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 1: Not part of the plan

Report on Day 1: Mission accomplished. Back flap knitted and blocked (OK, I cheated and did that the day before when I was swatching). Right front and right side back knitted. Ditto left front and left side back. And everything joined together. Waist shaping begun. Pattern formally written to same spot as knitting. Yay!
Results here.

Left front and side, back flap, right front and side all joined together.

Close up from wrong side of side seam stitch with markers showing first 2 waist decreases.
Back flap from wrong side showing joins strengthened by knitting in ends for 2 sts at joins.

What I didn't anticipate, though, was Isabel wanting to start this. We walked over to our LYS to see what was there, purchased some Diamond "Lima" in a nice burgundy heather, and then I supervised the casting on and taught her how to increase for the raglans (k1, YO, k1 all into the same st). I may have created a monster. Either that or Isabel is very bored while she waits for frosh week and has nothing else to do. Or both.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Plan

I have a plan. I'm going to knit my new Downton jacket to a self-imposed deadline. This will be a test to see if my knitting objectives are realistic. Here are the details:
Day 1 (Fri., Aug. 26): Knit the back flap, left front, and right front sections to the point where they're joined.
Day 2 (Sat., Aug. 27): Knit to the waist.
Day 3: (Sun., Aug. 28): Knit to the underarms.Put front sections on lengths of waste yarn.
Day 4: (Mon., Aug. 29): I drive James to TO with all his stuff. Drive home if the weather is good and there's time. If not stay over. This will be a stressful day, physically and emotionally, but I'll take yarn and needles and knit the back tab in the gaps.
Day 5 (Tues., Aug. 30): Knit the back to the neck.
Day 6 (Wed., Aug. 31): Knit the left and right fronts to the neck and join the shoulders with 3-needle bind off. Block body and allow to dry. This will probably take 24 hours. Pray that body dries to finished dimensions.
Day 7: (Thurs., Sept. 1): I hate this day. No actual knitting. Feels like a waste of time, but I know it's important to take this step.
Day 8 (Fri., Sept. 2): Knit collar and complete front edgings and buttonholes. Sew on buttons.
Day 9 (Sat., Sept. 3): Knit half of one sleeve.
Day 10 (Sat. Sept 4): Finish first sleeve, including re-vamped cuff with buttons.
Day 11 (Sun. Sept 5): Knit half of second sleeve.
Day 12 (Mon., Sept. 6): Finish second sleeve. Weave in ends and block.
I plan to write up the pattern as I go.
Of course, I could be delayed if the result of the blocking on Days 6-7 is not what is desired. That might add a day. Life may intervene in the plan, but barring the unexpected, I think the goals are achievable. We'll see.
Now, on with the preliminaries. If you follow this blog, you may have noticed that I've struggled with settling on a yarn for the re-make of this design. I did a couple of swatches several months ago with Rowan Felted Tweed Aran and Naturally Aran Tweed. I wasn't happy with either. In my last post, I expressed an intention to knit the jacket in Louet's Gems Worsted. This was after a shop owner reassured me that it really would knit up as a worsted even though the label describes it as a #3 (dk), not a #4 (worsted). I should have trusted my instincts. The Gems, while gorgeous, will have to wait for another project. Yesterday, I thought I would switch to Berroco's Ultra Alpaca. I knitted up a swatch before dinner and blocked it overnight. Want to guess the result? While it knits up to 5 sts/inch, the row gauge is somewhat compressed. Finally, I did a swatch in Ella Rae Classic. Not as luscious, but the gauge is perfect.
Here are my last three swatches, each one 30 sts and 42 rows knitted on a 4.5mm needle and wet-blocked until dry. Note the height difference with the deep blue heather Ella Rae. Note the slight biasing of the Gems. I love the Ultra Alpaca, but the double moss stitch is a little too compressed for my taste.

Now for the good news about this design. The first bit to be knitted is the back flap (see here). This little piece of knitting also functions as the gauge swatch. No yarn wasted. Even better, no time wasted. Yay!
I've decided to add buttons to the deep garter stitch cuffs. I've been looking for a button that is available in two sizes--large for the front closure and smaller for the back tab and cuffs-- and yesterday at Janie H.'s I found the ones.

Lovely, reproduction antique ones.
Ready, set, go!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Inspiration: Downton Abbey

It's the last week before James goes back to school in Toronto and we're doing a few things together in the meantime. Like watching Downton Abbey. We don't have a TV, so we've been watching online, computer on the coffee table/trunk, all of us on the chesterfield. The problem is that PBS is geo-blocked here in Canada. Fortunately, James figured out a way to download the episodes. It's probably illegal, but sometimes you do what you have to do.
I've always loved the easy, flowing elegance of Edwardian fashions. If you're old enough, think Meryl Streep in "Out of Africa". So, when I was casting about for a new name for the slimmer, shorter re-make of "Chocolat", I naturally thought of "Downton". The final version isn't ready yet, but I've given up on the Cascade 220 in "Bluestone" in favour of Louet Gems merino in "Eggplant".

 Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

This One's for You, Natalie

On our way back from Picton today,we passed a field of these--

a really big field.
I'm not sure for what purpose these were planted, but it would be worth the effort, I think, just for sheer happiness. I doubt it would be possible to drive past and not smile.
Of course, I immediately thought of this. What knitter wouldn't?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Down by the Bay

Did a little grocery shopping this morning, because I just had to have a salade Nicoise and we needed some fresh-picked local green beans. On the way back, I encountered this.

I thought it looked like a bunch of knitters all waggling their fingers to loosen them up, but it turns out that it's a tai chi group meeting for morning exercises. After wiggling their fingers around for a long while, they began to do deep bends.


and then, up.
It looked supremely relaxing. Maybe I'll have to explore this further...
I wandered off to one side and had a close-up view of Murney Tower, one of Kingston's martello towers.

The roof of the gazebo with the tai chi people is visible at centre left.
On the knitting front, I've been writing up a submission, so I haven't anything much to show, except for this little swatch done in the Fiber Company's "Canopy". 

 Very delicate. Suitable for a baby garment, I think.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I've made a big decison. This year, instead of going to Rhinebeck, I'm going to go to KnitEast. I'm going to drive, even though it's an overnight trip, because I've done the same trip before in the fall and the ride through northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine is gorgeous. But I'm looking for some road companions to keep me awake and talk knitting (of course!) So, if you think you'd like to join me, write to me on Ravelry, or e-mail me at to let me know. Come on; this is going to be serious fun.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The No-Sweat Guide to Gauge

In an earlier post I commented that I'm a slacker when it comes to doing gauge swatches. There are times when knitting a swatch is useful and even necessary. However, yesterday at the final session of the Perth Cardi KAL at Janie H. Knits, I reminded the group that when knitting a top-down garment, you can cheat a little and get away with no swatching. Here's how.
1. Guestimate, based on yarn and needle size which size to start working on. The differences in neck measurements aren't huge, so if you're off by a size, it's no biggy.
2. After you've knitted around 4 inches, check your gauge. If you're off, figure out how many stitches you need in the body to end up with your desired size based on YOUR gauge.
3. See which numbers in the pattern correspond to that size and simply make the switch. You'll just keep increasing until you reach the back number for that size. If your sleeve numbers are very slightly off, don't sweat it. When you get to the sleeves, just work with the stitches you have and decrease down to where the sleeve feels right for you.
Don't forget, since it's a top-down garment, you can try it on at any time and make any necessary changes along the way. You're in control!
On my way to Janie's yesterday, I took 20 minutes to stroll through beautiful downtown Perth.

                                Here's the Rideau Canal as it goes through the town.

And a great old house by the mill.

On the way back into Kingston, the Friday afternoon cricketers were practising in front of the courthouse.

    After all, they were here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Suffering for Beauty

I took Isabel out for a stroll in her new cardigan for a few photos this afternoon. OK, so it was hot, hot, hot in the sun and she was decked out in 100% alpaca. We found a good location in a nice early 19-century doorway and after checking with the owner, Isabel posed and I clicked until we were both sweaty and grumpy. The next-door neighbour smiled at us as he got out of his car. We explained. He smiled some more. Can't show you the results yet, but I think it was worth braving the teenage lack of cooperation and sweat. Fortunately no blood or tears.

Isabel checking out her new hairstyle

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The School of Experience (I Learn the Hard Way--Again)

Knitted garments have a tendency to grow lengthwise. I know this and have known it for years. So, why, in my rush to get on with Isabel's cardigan did I fail to properly block the body before knitting on the front borders? Impatience. It's the only answer. I knitted the sleeves and left the ends unwoven so that their length could be easily adjusted post-blocking, but I finished the body off completely. Stupid!
Isabel tried on the sweater and, while it looked terrific, we both decided that it would be even more terrific if it were about 2 inches shorter. That's how much the garment grew through blocking. For some perverse reason, the sleeves remained the same. Go figure.
Now for the solution. Knitting surgery. Here's what I did. First, I dragged out the sewing machine and stitched across the front border only (not catching in any of the cardigan body) at the exact spot where I wanted to pick up stitches to re-knit the cardi's fun ruffley lower border. Then I whacked off the lower part of the front border and picked out its bits and pieces from the body. I frogged the body back to the point where the border was removed, picked up all the body stitches, and re-knit the lower border. Fortunately, the lower border is the type that curls back on itself, so I used the yarn ends to tidy up the rollover bit so it hides the machine stitching at the lower front border. Finally, I steamed the ruffle back into shape.
Was it worth all this to avoid having to re-do the entire front border and neck? Yes, definitely. But it would have been even better if I'd used some common sense and blocked the body early on before attaching the borders. Maybe someday I'll graduate from the school of experience.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to Make Button Loops

Crocheted button loops are a favourite of mine. I like the fact that I can add them after a cardigan or jacket is otherwise completed; the decision about where to place them can wait until I see how the garment hangs on its intended victim. Likewise, I don't have to make a final decision on the actual buttons until the knitting is over. If you'd like to try out these button loops, here's how to make them. I generally use a crochet hook two sizes smaller than the needle size used for the body of the garment.
Button Loops
With WS facing, join yarn by pulling a loop through the front edge, ch 3, sl st into edge, ch 1, turn, 5 sc into centre of loop, then sl st into spot where yarn was joined (but from RS this time). Cut yarn, leaving an end long enough to thread back through the loop for added firmness.

You can experiment if necessary to change the size of the loop to fit your buttons.