Sunday, January 29, 2006

Rebirth of The Cardi

Today, I must report the sad demise of my favorite sweater. My mother bought this cashmere cardigan for me several winters ago, and I have to admit that I've finally worn the poor thing into the ground. I'm just not sure I can wear any more holes into the poor thing with good conscience. Ever since its demise, I've realized just how much I wore this sweater, because I simply don't have anything else this flattering or flexible in my wardrobe. Thus, the cardi must be reincarnated. Like all reincarnation, the goal will be to improve the sweater, not simply recreate it.

Cardi pros:

  • A light grey colour that coordinates with nearly everything I own, including my dark grey pants, my jeans, and all the purple I seem to be wearing.
  • A clingy shape that doesn't make me look like I'm wearing maternity wear. There's something about loose tops that makes me look downright odd, for some reason.
  • Warmth and softness. The poor cardi made a perfect bottom layer to keep on indoors, but wasn't too hot when I layered my down coat over it.
  • Classic styling. The 1x1 ribbing to the waist gives it some interest, but it's simple enough to look great with anything.

In fact, I didn't realize how much I missed my sweater until I felt this Prime Alpaca. Prime Alpaca comes in... alpaca colours. Seriously. They don't dye it at all, which might explain part of why it's so soft. Stunningly, it's actually cheaper to knit this out of this incredible yarn than to buy myself a replacement cashmere cardi. I'm actually lacking words to explain exactly how soft this yarn is, but it's a good bit softer than the rather nice cashmere it's replacing. When I picked it up and couldn't stop cuddling it, I knew that it was the perfect candidate to replace my poor holey cardi. The yarn itself fulfills the colour, warmth, and softness requirements for the Replacement Cardi. Now, I need to pick a pattern that fulfils its promise.

Pattern needs:

  • While the original cardi didn't have a lot of waist shaping, its drape and 1x1 rib went a long way. It could have used more waist shaping, however, to give a bit more ease to my hips.
  • I could not button the original cardi over my bust. This actually isn't surprising, as I've never had a decently fitting cardi that I could button. Inspired by Grumperina's cardi, I decided that this time, I'd be able to button the thing. There's got to be a first for everything, right? Most likely, I'll use a normal cardigan pattern and add short-row bust shaping like the shaping from the Shapely Tank.

This still leaves me looking for a classic cardi pattern, but with some interest. I could simply recreate original cardi, with some shaping fixes (and a slightly thicker fabric, because the original sweater is in a stunningly small gauge), but I'm more than open to suggestions. Does anyone have a pattern they love, or would love to see someone knit? (Keep in mind that I'm about 36-27-38 with a shirt on, so I will have to add shaping to anything not already shaped.) I have enough yarn to knit anything you could think of in my size; extras will probably be turned into presents for very good boys and girls.

Thick socks are quick socks

Part of this is that I've been knitting while I'm reading papers, but part of it is just the thick yarn. Obervations:

  • I think I'm going to keep a pair of plain socks on the needles at pretty much all times for seminar/reading knitting. At the very least, having some knitting I don't really need to look at is helpful both for my output and for my inherent twichiness.
  • The small size of my feet fights against knitting without looking; a large part of my socks is heel or toe. Short row heels are fine, but I think I'm going to try a rectangle toe next. I'm not sure this thick yarn would work as well with the toes I know for top-down socks, and I certainly wouldn't use a heel flap.
  • These socks are truly incredible for people with cold feet like I have. I want more of these, or to surgically attach them to my feet. They could use a bit more cuff, but I used one skien per foot so that I could estimate future yarn usage.

These socks were made from Artyarns supermerino 107 using Wendy's toe-up sock pattern. Other sites you might find useful when knitting socks (especially toe-up socks) include a listing of sock toes and heels and a listing of short-row tutorials, especially clear pictures of how to knit double-wrapped rows.

So, the next socks are probably from my Atlantic Regia sock yarn, since that's what I've got in the house. Coming up on my sock list is the Birch Leaf socks from A Gathering of Lace. I bought some Jo Sharp for them, but I'm considering returning it in favour of something a bit less expensive. After that, I think I'm going to break down and buy a little Supermerino and a little Jazz for more warm socks.

A few FOs...

...although never as much to show as Lea! Here's a baby hat for our new niece. (She arrived on Monday - mom and baby are doing great.)

Based on the cotton baby hat in "Last Minute Knitted Gifts."

My dog, rakishly modeling said hat.

Further canine humiliation - showing off one of two finished socks for my father in law.

(I am also participating in the Knitting Olympics, on Team USA and Team Sweater (vest). Stay tuned for potential Team Pittsburgh and Team Procrastination buttons.)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Plays well with others

Today is devoted to showing how I'm being a Joiner and Playing Along at Home. I've signed up for a good number of things, and I'll sign up for more before I'm done, I'm sure.

First, Sockapaloooza from The Blue Blog. Signups are closed for this one, but they look like a lot of fun; sign up for the next one! In this knitalong, each knitter knits a pair of socks for their "sock buddy". (BTW, do not Google "sock buddy". I do not know what the fetish you get when "I'm feeling lucky" entails, but I'm not going to find out.) Seriously, what beats getting a pair of hand-knit socks in the mail?

Next, the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics. The sign-up for this one is still open, though the harlot's a bit snowed under. Hopefully my sign-up will make it! Anyway, I signed up to tweak and knit Zippy the sweater, then knit socks. Yes, my math was wrong. Yes, you can tease me about it. No, that won't stop me from teasing you about your math skills in return.

I also have these nationalistic team buttons: (thanks, JenLa)
USA Sweater Team
USA Sock Team
We're still missing a "Team Pittsburgh" button, though there will be quite a few Pittsburgh players. What I really want to see is a "Team Procrastinator". I have one more Olympic button, though, just for my mother-in-law:
Canada Sweater Team
Ever since I took up knitting she's been telling me about this sweater she started for her daughter years and years ago. I believe there's also an implicit threat involving my needles instead of hers. Anyway, maybe she'll take up the Olympic challenge. Somehow, I doubt it. :)

The most important signup, however, is for Tricoteuses Sans Frontières, also run by Yarn Harlot to encourage donations to Medecins Sans Frontières. I've been staggeringly lucky in my life. I can even afford a hobby in which I make warm, comfy clothes and actually have warm, comfy clothes. Even more than that, I have medical care. I've had quite a bit of medical care over the years, in fact, not even counting the vaccinations that help keep our society healthy. Even though I'm a bit crimped for money right now, I'm crimped because I have incredible opportunities, so I'm donating money to try to give other people a shot at happiness as well.

The last knitalong I'm linking to is one that I'm not actually participating in yet. My Mermaid kit may be burning in my hot little hands, but it's also buried in my stash for the moment. When warmer weather is coming (the kind of weather that might allow me to actually wear the thing), I'll dig it out and join the Hanne-along for motivation and commiseration. At least I'll be knitting the small size (if I remember correctly), so it'll move along a bit faster. I never saw that much of an advantage to being small until I started knitting and noticed that it takes a good bit less yarn to go around me. I can't complain about that!


Friday, January 27, 2006

Next time, trust the pattern

I continued with my toe-up sock with short-row heels and toes. The heel turned out credibly as well, though at the end of the join, there's a little tiny hole (easily fixed with thread, I'm sure). I worried and worried that the sock would be too big, too small, or just run out of yarn (how far does 50g of DK-weight go on a size 6.5-7 foot?).

Oh. It's pretty much perfect (the toes could stand to be a little smaller). What was I so worried about agan? Anyway, I think it'll be a short sock (though that little ball of yarn has fooled me before), so I'm going to put sock #1 on stichholders and knit sock #2 so I have a reasonable chance of ending up with two somewhat-matching socks.

As for the yarn, the varigation is turning out perfectly: no pooling, no flashing, not even a spiral. The colours are lovely, and much more saturated than what I'm seeing in Artyarn's picture. The colours are lovely deep bluey greens, not a light turquoise. (As with all hand-painted yarns, YMMV quite dramatically. I'm just hoping my second sock comes out like the first!) The yarn is incredibly soft when knit at the reccomended gauge, and it's still soft and fluffy on #3 needles. There's something about the tight ply that reminds me of cotton while I'm knitting, though. My LYS doesn't sell Artyarns, so I'll have to find something else to try. I've seen some Twisted Sisters lurking in a basket... wouldn't Iris or Lapis in Jazz (merino of about the same weight as the Artyarns supermerino) be lovely? I'm a bit worried about opting for a non-superwash yarn for socks, even if I don't intend to machine-wash them. Will they felt right on my feet from the moisture and wear?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lengthening the short

Using the pictures from a great short-row toe/heel tutorial, my reknit toe turned out just fine. (It did turn out a bit bigger than I wanted; knitting with the wooly nylon changed my gague by quite a bit.) I tightened up for the foot, which is nice and cozy and soft.

I want to buy some more sock yarn for more nice big thick cozy socks, but I'm still not sure whether the 50g per sock I bought will be enough. This tightly-wound ball is all I have left for this sock. Mind you, I have tiny feet: size 6.5-7 for my 5'9" height. I'll just cross my fingers for now.

At least more socks will give me a chance to try out different toes and heels. With all the cold around here, I certainly appreciate having wool socks that feel like a nice warm hug on my feet.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Yielding to the demands of the Supermerino, I swatched. If anyone's curious, I got a gauge of 7 sts/in on #3 bamboos. (Washing didn't change this.) I decided to use a toe-up sock pattern for this pair, because I'm not sure how far 50g of DK-weight merino will go in a sock for me. I hadn't made a short-row toe before.

Problem #1: The pattern doesn't tell you how to pick up the wraps on your short rows.
Solution #1: Video on making short rows
Problem with semi-solution #1: This video doesn't tell you jack about how to pick up wraps from two different directions.
Solution #2: Rip out toe. Try again.
Problem #2: Inability to figure out how to effectively how to reinforce a toe with Wooly Nylon without knitting it right in. (Note that Wooly Nylon is serger thread, and you will not find it in the yarn section with the crochet thread, as I thought.)
Solution #2: Rip out toe. Try again.
Problem #3: Toe still doesn't look quite right (see closeup).
Solution #3: Look on the internet to find different toes for toe-up socks and pictures to go with short-row toes. Note that I still have no explanation of how to pick up the freaking wraps when they come from both sides. Consider ripping out the toe and using the yarn-over method.
Problem #4: Toe still doesn't look quite right.
Solution #5: Struggle to stop caring so much. Fail. Finally find a short-row tutorial with clear pictures (that look quite a bit like the method that came to me in the middle of the night). Rip out the toe again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The attack!

When last we left our protagonist, SOCK, he was being menaced by some highfalutin' supermerino. What motivate/d this heinous attack?

Oh no! SOCK has fallen down, splaying its heel flap across the ground. It looks like it's in for a pounding now!

But wait... calling on its superpowers, sock chants "FOOT! FOOT! FOOT!" and rears up on end! Supermerino looks like it's in trouble!

The battle raged for hours. Back and forth the yarn flew. When I returned, this is the sad sight that greeted me.

SOCK, deprived of its needles, lies listless on the ground. Supermerino, in the glow of its triumph, drives the casein needles through SOCK. Still, all is not lost, because SOCK has called upon the mighty TOE, putting itself into a state of stasis. Someday... someday revenge might come.

What drove Supermerino to this heinous ambush? After it staked out SOCK, it pulled my bamboo #3 needles towards me, and impaled itself upon them. Such jealousy! Supermerino simply could not stand to see another becoming a sock, and sacrificed himself on the points of his pride (and my needles). But, hey, I have a pair of socks now, and another on the way.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sneaky yarn!

Well, hello ArtYarns supermerino 107. What are you wriggling out of the sock stash for?

Wait, wait! You let that poor defenseless sock alone! Poor cowering sock!

What are you going to do to that poor sock???

Tune in next time to see to what lengths jealousy will drive a sock yarn!

Friday, January 20, 2006


As you will notice, there is considerably less sock on my needles than there was before. No great disaster, though; I have achieved SOCK. A nice, comfy sock it is, too. I certainly could have cast on fewer stiches and/or decreased more over the foot. Next time I'm hoping to get it better. (Next time is already planned out, both yarn and pattern type.)

In order to combat second sock syndrome, I cast on for the next sock immediately. Actually, as I was in my office, I didn't have much choice of projects. Plus, I don't get to have any handknit socks until I knit said socks. It's not a bad inducement. I'm motivating the second sock with this view. (Note to self: lengthwise leg shots in which one's leg is encased in loose sweatpants create the illusion that one's leg is either nonexistent or giant.) BTW, these casein knitting needles rock: they're somewhat flexible, but not wriggly, they've got nice sharp tips, they're warm in my hands, and they're pretty. I fear that I might need some more of these to hold in reserve, as my backpack isn't the most hospitable environment.

Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Tahoe (34). I haven't been able to weigh the sock, but Claudia has kindly weighed a similar sock at 30g.
Needles: US 1 casein
Pattern: toes from Koigu sock pattern, grafting from

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pittsburgh Bloggers meetup

Lea and I had a lovely adventure last night finding the location of the Pittsburgh Bloggers meetup, and had a great time once we found it. We met the cool folks behind Creating Textiles, Words for Snow, Inner Bitch, Grabass, Subdivided We Stand, and Unreserved, as well as a bunch of others whose names I didn't catch - the perils of being deaf in a crowd. Lea got a lot of knitting done and I got a lot of baby-holding done - practice for the niece, whenever she decides to show up, don't you know.

Thanks to the organizers of the event, and to Finnegan's Wake on the north side for graciously hosting such a large crowd!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

One piece down... four to go?

I've just finished the back of Zippy the Sweater. The jaunty horns are from the circular needles I'm using as a stich holder. Technically the instructions say something about casting off the shoulder stiches, but I think this would be a very good opportunity to learn the three-needle bind-off. Shoulder seams, here I come!

So the next step in this sweater is doing the math for the fronts. I'm postponing work on the sleeves until I fit the body of the sweater together, just to make sure my row gauge doesn't change too much when I wash the sweater. It didn't in the swatch, but why not try to make my life easier when easing the sleeves into the hole? Anyway, as promised, here are my simple theories for why mathematical-types often fail to do more simple mathematics correctly:

  • We're not used to it anymore. I may work with numbers, but they don't act the way they do in arithmetic. Sometimes 3+2=0, in my world. My world is an interesting place.
  • The "math" part of our brains is already busy, thank you very much. Interestingly, most of the people I know who work with math tend to do theoretical work in the background of their brains while they're doing other things. This might leave less "room" for other kinds of math. (I can't explain how forgetful and spaced-out I am when I'm working on a hard theory problem.)

Next time I'm working on knitting math, the big-gun theory will come out. I'm sure you can't wait. :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

*This* is what I spend my precious knitting time doing?

Due to a dog-related injury (I know you can't really see it in that picture, just trust me that it's a lovely colour. at least it's finger-shaped again, if still a bit swollen), I haven't been getting much knitting done. It turns out that my left index finger, in addition to being necessary for writing, is also really important for continental-style knitting. I hereby pledge to avoid doing anything so mindbogglingly stupid in the future. Those of you who know me are giggling (more likely laughing so hard you fell out of your chairs and aren't reading this). I'd like to point out that while I've had an array of stupid injuries in my life, they are precisely that: an array. That means we probably don't need to worry about any more freak accidents involving smallish dogs and storm doors.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Oooh! Armhole shaping! I did the math for this, but I still need to tweak the fronts to end up with the same number of stiches. Given the ribbing, I might be a bit off. I'm not really afraid of fudging with the colours to hide it, though. I've sewn clothes before, I know the game. I am glad that I've gotten this far, because now I can show you how incredibly drape-y this Karaoke yarn knits up. I can't show you the fluffy and the soft, but I'll endevour to borrow a small child to enjoy it, so that I'll have some documentary evidence. Given that any children I might have are still firmy ensconsed in my ovaries, this isn't a simple trick.

About the proportions of the sweater back: (1) I'm pretty sure I did the math right; (2) it's in k2p2 rib, which stretches a lot; (3) I'm not the widest kid on the block. I chose this sweater because I wanted to learn how to make seams on knitted garments without worrying about my fitting problems. (Think Grumperina-style fitting problems.) The first three sweaters I've lined up have either ribbing over the waist, (so I don't have to worry about waist shaping vs bust shaping, and how much I can get away with of each) or the pattern should shape itself just fine for an outer garment (i.e. Mermaid).

After those three sweaters are done, you'd think that I'd have to learn bust shaping. Au contraire! Instead, I'm planning to procrastinate on my thesis with a wedding shawl. Really, I do need to write my thesis. I should get on that. Still, it's hard to resist this loveliness. Note that I have a very poor sense of my own limitations, and I'm still looking for a "cooler" (which probably means "more complex") pattern. I'm not sure what I want to knit it up in, but price isn't a huge concern for this piece. I'm thinking a silk blend might be nice, to make the plumes shimmer just a bit.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Playing catch-up

Sorry I haven't updated in a bit, but my home net has been dropping packets. Lots of packets. Somewhere between 30-80% of packets. This means that I've been struggling to do anything, and updating has been pretty much impossible.

First, I'll note that the sock has expanded a bit since you last saw it. I'll also note that I think I overcompensated for my V-is-not-for-victory sock. The ribbing will help, of course, but when I'm finished with these socks, I'm going to use them to estimate a more reasonable size for my socks. I swear, these next ones are going to be Just Right. Of course, the next ones may use DK-weight yarn, but we'll ignore that little complication.

Zippy is now at the point where I need to do some more math. Unfortunately, this math is rather different from the math that I do pretty much all day, every day. No, this is the arithmetic kind of math. Here's a fun experiment for you: take your local math geek (the more Ph.D.-level mathematics s/he's taken, the better), and ask them to do something that any 3rd grader can do, like add or multiply. In most cases, you'll find that the geek has spent so much time with abstract algebra that s/he can no longer do the regular kind without a lot of grunting. I have several theories why this is the case, which may be explained in depth if I get stuck on the very simple math for this very simple sweater.

I've been cranking along on Krista's delayed holiday present. I'll post some pictures soon, once I finish it and block it into submission.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Not keeping up my end of things...

Obviously, I am not as productive as my lovely colleague. I have my reasons!
Nevertheless, here are two small things:

A sock in progress for my father in law. What do you think are the odds it, plus a mate, will be finished in time for his birthday party Saturday? Yeah, that's what I thought.

1/3 of a scarf (on metal 13s) for a friend. This yarn, FFF's Polar, is pretty nice to knit with, but I'm not sure it's worth the price for a very small, 33 yard, skein.

Here's a close up of the drop stitch pattern, which I've found works well for showing off ribbony yarns.

March on, Zippy!

If I didn't spend so much time doing math, I'd have more time to watch these pretty stripes appear:

As it is, I think I'm going to have to stick to my day job. As shown by the following progress meter, I am now into skien 2:

Skien the second has thus far been devoid of the little surprises that made skien #1 oh-so-fun. I have also figured out how to de-slub the outside surface of the sweater (not reflected in above photo) by tugging on the yarn in various ways. I figure the slubs are probably happier having a little party on the back, anyway. You may also note that, contrary to the wishes of so many knitters using Noro, I have gone to extra effort to make sure the stripes aren't all uniform. Part of this is through sheer laziness: I don't want to match them up. Really, more of it is because I don't want to be wearing something uniformly striped like a rugby shirt. Call it perversity. Call it laziness. I think I'm going to call it an aesthetic choice.

A Certain Someone has indicated his approval of the sweater back as well. I used to think that the cats on people's knitting blogs were just posed or odd in some way (well, they're cats), but I suppose the urge to play with knitting is quite common. Guilt is apparently quite uncommon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The bloom is off (and on) the yarn

As I've been talking your collective ears off a bit about how nice this Karaoke is, now I'm going to tell you all the annoying things about it I've found so far.

First: slubs. Seriously, slubs? Big fat slubs in this nice soft yarn? I'm not even sure what to do with them (other than try to put them on the wrong side) because losing 12" (according to Maggie Righetti) every time probably wouldn't leave me with enough yarn to actually knit the sweater! I'm trying to trim them down to a reasonable size, but I still find them really annoying. I'd probably find them even more annoying if the yarn wasn't stripey, because I don't want it to look too regular (more on this later). There was also a knot in the skien, but that doesn't annoy me as much, because I tend to undo them.

Along with the slubs we have thin bits. Sometimes really thin bits. This doesn't bug me as much as the slubs, partially because I know from swatching that this effect will be minimized after washing.

Super magical fun happy baby balls. Well, actually this was more of a separate baby tangle of yarn that came as a fun surprise in the skien. I'm going to use this to make the stripes of the yarn more un-uniform, so not a big deal. I like the irregularity of the Noro, so I'm going to tweak this yarn to reproduce that a bit.

And, of course, the reason I've found all of these annoyances is because I got a few more inches of Zippy the Sweater's back done in between cursing at the necessity of counting exact bits used in the papers written by certain cryptographers who obviously didn't care about allowing this. I'm certainly guilty of this myself, on occasion. It's just one of the things that makes grad school a good way of working off any bad karma you might happen to have. Self-flagellation has nothing on a Ph.D. sometimes. :P