Thursday, November 29, 2007

Done like dinner!

I've been knitting an Aran sweater for a customer at the store. The gentleman came in looking for a hand-knit Aran sweater for his wife's birthday. Money was not a problem, and he realized that Aran sweaters require LOTS of work. Also, there really wasn't a deadline as his wife was in on the surprise. With that in mind, I accepted the commission.

She selected a design from Susan Bates booklet no. 17670, circa 1983, knit in Paton's Classic Merino. All well and good, and quite in line with what I would have chosen. Unfortunately, the wool wasn't available from the warehouse immediately, so I had to wait until the latter half of October to cast on.

I knit dutifully and carefully, following the pattern diligently. Christy asked if I made any alterations to compensate for the difference between the style as written (long and lean) and the current styles and/or body styles. Well, I did. First, I cast on using the numbers for a size 42, and tapered to a size 40 to mimic the customer's body. I also shortened the length to the underarm shaping since the customer is vertically challenged.

One of my friends from the store questioned whether I had knit a gauge swatch. "Ha! I know this yarn and I know me! I'll be fine!" And when she wasn't looking, I measured. Once the back and two fronts were completed, I took them home for a little blocking. Unfortunately, the goddess of knitting didn't look kindly upon my arrogance. I needed six more stitches. I compensated by knitting up a gusset from the bottom ribbing to the armhole, sewing it in darn near invisibly.

The sleeves were knit just as written, only for a size 42. This provided some extra width across the shoulders and the necessary length. The collar was also knit as directed, for the size 42.

All in all, looking at the photo, it does appear to be a credible job, and one I hope the customer will find worthy. After the photo shoot, I sewed on the 7 buttons. All in all, the sweater consumed 8 balls of wool and six weeks of my life. It could've been completed sooner, with more diligence on my part in the store. But sometimes a girl has to do the bookwork, and stock the shelves, and play on the computer. Ya know? And I'm happy with it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

An attempt at normalcy

My family in the US celebrated Thanksgiving last weekend. This is the second year in which I didn't pull Carrie from school and make the mad drive on Wednesday. She takes her high school classes a little bit seriously ... doesn't want to miss the time in school. Coupled with her involvement in the high school play (Voices 2000), the Rebel Improv Team, and her having missed so many days earlier in the year, not to mention her paying job, it just didn't seem right to forcefully yank her away for the long weekend. She does just fine with missing the family activities. I do miss them ... and the recognition that life is finite just makes things more difficult.

In an effort to cheer myself up, then, I am posting some amazing photos of my Lizzie kitty. She regularly gets thumped by both Henry and Mimi when in the house, so she is always on the look-out for a new hideaway. This past summer she found what she thought was a truly great spot --
Fortunately for her, we spotted her in there before we shut the drawer -- hence the photo. She really didn't understand why we were killing ourselves laughing at her. Perhaps I don't either. After all, it IS a secure hideaway.

Fast forward to last weekend and the arrival of cold, ice and snow. NOW the kitties are looking for somewhere warm to roost. Remember when I said that Henry and Mimi regularly thump poor Lizzie? Apparently, all is forgiven.
Yes, you saw it here first. Henry and Lizzie sharing the same lap. Even more amazing, they've shared the lap at least once more since this photo. I'm not sure, but it may be getting a little cooler in a place not known for warm weather. (As in hell freezing over in case I've been too cute!)

And now for something completely different ... if you are near and dear to my heart, or married to someone near and dear to my heart, you should now wander on to the next place in your internet wanderings. Nothing else here for you to see. Really.

I mean it. Nothing here for you to see. Just keep on moving.

Still here, eh? Well, don't say I didn't warn you. Now you will have to take the chance of ruining your Christmas surprise. Glad to see you took the warning. See ya later!

For those of you still here, remember the day I spent dying wool with my friends? The wool dried and was wound into pretty little centre pull balls. Very cute. The photo doesn't do them justice, but they are truly things of beauty. The "manly" colours on the right are two shades of green, a gold, an orange, a yellow and a brown. Truly they look like autumn colours in their brightest shades of glory. The "girly" colours on the left are a vivid yellow, hot pink, green ... you almost need sunglasses to look at the yarn.
All in all, a dying experience worthy of praise, and definitely one to repeat. Especially the manly colours. I really want a pair of socks from that colourway.

Finally, a not-very-good photo of another Christmas gift. This is a lace skirt from Interweave Knits Summer 2007 issue, knit in Blue Sky Cotton. The skirt itself is lovely and the photo truly doesn't do it justice. I hope to get a better photo after the gift-giving.
As with all lace, it is better knit with few distractions. However, the pattern shows itself almost immediately thus making it an easier knit than it might otherwise have been. The designer attempted to have a "fake" I-cord border up the sides with a provisional cast-on finished off with a real knitted I-cord edging. In my humble opinion, the I-cord should have been knit around the sides and bottom afterward as the imitation cord really doesn't stand out. Other than that, a delightful knit. I used one and a half balls of this cotton to make the skirt, by the way, making it a very economical holiday gift.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A day of painting

Several months ago, my friend Barb and I attended a dyeing workshop offered by a local spinner. We had fun. Just prior to our workshop, our friend Irene also attended a dye workshop held by the same local spinner. She also had fun.

In fact, we had so much fun that we decided that we should try to recreate the fun. We ordered Jacquard Acid Dyes and Bare yarns from Knitpicks. Barb has a wonderfully large basement with sturdy linoleum floors. It was agreed that we would meet there and begin our adventures.

This is a photo of Irene and I painting our yarns. Irene and her sister, Kathy, were painting wool to make a sweater. Me? I'm just painting sock yarn.
Barb decided to attempt some immersion dyeing with lace-weight wool. She is trying to explain to us how it will work.

Here you see Barb pulling some of the laceweight out of the dye bath and letting it run into the rinse water. The theory was that the wool in the dye bath would continue absorbing dye, making it darker and darker.
The theory is good. Unfortunately, it probably should not have been attempted with lace-weight. 880 meters is a lot to be pulling from the dyebath at 5-15 meters at a time. The truly frightening part of the endeavor was that the wool in the rinse water was just pooling there, waiting to be rewound. We kept teasing Barb that we were going to stir the rinsewater. Her shrieks were quite amazing.

We were quite thrilled with the results. The colours were vivid and rich. Even before the heat setting process. And after? Even better. We are all waiting (im)patiently for the yarns to dry so that we can wind them into balls and show them off.

And what was Doug up to while I was out having fun? He spent the day on his hands and knees, spreading out the heating element for the new bathroom.
To say that I am thrilled with the progress being made would be an understatement--possibly the biggest understatement of 2007. Stay tuned for more updates on the yarns and the bathroom!