Cabin fever

Cabin fever in the summer just seems wrong. Coming from cold places with what it’s fair to call dreadful weather, I’m conditioned to expect cabin fever in the winter. There’s a logic in it that makes sense to me – the cold, wet, ice, and snow,  the short dreary days – they drive you inside, where you do what you can to create light in the darkness, and heat in the dark, to foster the illusion that you didn’t really want to go outside anyway.

But cabin fever in the desert (at least, my desert) comes in the summer, because it is simply much too hot to go outside. You spend your time going from one artificial climate to the next, trying to avoid contact with the outside world at all costs. Even walking out into the dark of night is like walking into an oven, which seems very odd when you’re used to thinking of the shade as cool. Your skin isn’t burning from the sun and you keep thinking you should feel cooler, but you just really don’t.

And the worst is that this is the time of year when I expect to be able to go outside. Summer is vacation and a break from school and relaxed schedules and picnics and swimming and hiking and biking. It’s freedom in a way that winter, in a cold climate, is not – the freedom of long days and golden twilights extending the time you can spend in all your summer pursuits.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that the freedom of summer is illusory in many other places, too. Massachusetts and Minnesota can both get ridiculously humid (not helped by a dearth of AC, either because buildings were too old and never retrofitted, or cheap bastards figured AC wasn’t worth it for the three to five weeks it was truly necessary), which leads to MOSQUITOS. There’s nothing like collecting 32 bites to your ankles while waiting in line at the outdoor ice-cream stand to convince you that summer is actually kind of a pain.

But the northeast and Midwest still fit that glossy magazine ideal of summer better than the desert, which is winter cabin fever turned on its head. (And don’t get me started on how the bugs here can be worse.)

Which is all a long drawn-out way of saying that the summer is making me a bit nutty, which may be why this:

IMG_1910

Has now turned into this:

28256309482_2d997d946c_o

And I swear that when I sat down to write this, I didn’t even realize my last post was about (potentially) ripping things back, too. For some reason it’s clearly on my mind these days.

Argggghhh

Question of the day: what will compel you to rip back a sweater? What do you do when your momentum on a project comes to a screeching halt?

My most recent knitting project has been the Lena Tee, by Carrie Bostick Hoge. I started knitting it because I am a sheep: Karen Templar of Fringe Association linked to this Instagram of a finished Lena, by danabarath. There is something indefinably inspiring about that garment in that shot, and I thought, self, you NEED to make that sweater.

The pattern calls for fingering weight in something drapey, and I decided to use some stashed Malabrigo Silkpaca, which is laceweight, held double. Silkpaca is (shockingly) silk and alpaca, so drapes beautifully, and I thought it would be soft and light for a summer tee. (Of course, alpaca is really warm, but eh.)

So I cast on.

27694329140_83fb444ba4_o

The color is Zarzamora, which is this wonderful kind of mottled steel-gray/purple/greenish stormcloud color.

Except that it is also handdyed, with all the beautiful variation that accompanies hand-dying.

See, I had originally bought 2 skeins (back in 2013), intending to make some kind of infinity scarf. I then decided that knitting an infinity scarf in stockinette on small needles was tedious even for me, so bought two more skeins to make a lace cardigan. I bought the second pair at a totally different time and totally different place from the first, and yet they ended up pretty much an exact match.

Then when I decided to make this sweater holding the lace double, I realized I needed a couple more skeins. They arrived. They are beautiful. But they are way more PURPLE.

See?

28103535731_17b4e95950_o

It may look like the top is just in shadow, but I promise that it’s not – there’s a really distinct line where the new skeins started and the sweater turns decidedly more purple.

Hence the post title.

So I find myself at a crossroads. I’m really – well – cross, because I only have a few more inches of knitting to go, and might have been able to finish the sweater this weekend (you knit from the bottom up in the round, then divide front and back; I finished the front and have been plowing away on the back). I was really looking forward to a finished object, I really really don’t want to start over. Also, this is laceweight held double on size three needles, and even for a basically sleeveless tee, that’s a lot of knitting. Further, frogging (mostly) alpaca is not my idea of a great time.

BUT. Will I really wear this sweater if most of the body is lavender-gray and then the top third-ish is purple?

Frankly, I don’t think I will. It will bug the heck out of me.

It’s not a hard fix, at all, in theory – frog and start over. Especially since I’m holding the laceweight double, I can then mix and match holding skeins together and end up with a much more uniform fabric.

I just have to frog and start over.

Or, if I can’t face that, I can just finish it, and wear it with the big purple stripe effect.

So. What have I done? Shoved it in its project bag and cast on something new (which is itself an example of halted momentum: I knit the entire yoke and an inch or two below the armholes of a swing cardigarn, then figured out it was too big). Someday I will come back to this one and decide what to do.

Till then, I have lots of other yarn.

Au revoir to 2015 in knitting

It’s year-in-review time! I didn’t have any more specific goal this year than “knit stuff when I have time,” so that I certainly accomplished. But I think I’ve also come a long way in thinking about what I like (and need) to wear, and identifying ways that I can make garments that fit those needs.

I finished three sweaters, two adult and one baby:

IMG_0972Dalyla by Cecily Glowik MacDonald (I don’t know why more people haven’t made this; I LOVE this sweater. It’s much less square on the human body than it looks in this [bad] picture. Also, I swear the switch-to-new-skein lines are less obvious in real life. But I should have alternated skeins. The tragedy of this sweater is that it seems to have attracted moths and it has a hole in one sleeve, which I MUST darn before it gets bigger.)

IMG_1910Boxy and Buttony by Joji Locatelli (and I realize I never blogged this – I made it as part of Joji’s Fall KAL this year. The yarn is The Plucky Knitter‘s Plucky Single in Green Goddess, and it’s wonderfully light and soft. I knew going into the project that a single-ply yarn probably isn’t the best sweater yarn, at least in terms of durability, which is true – the sweater isn’t pilling so much as it’s developing the tiniest wee halo of fuzz everywhere – but I don’t need hardy outdoor winter sweaters, and the fabric is wonderful to wear. Am amused at how the last skein – at the bottom of the sweater – turned out “stripier” than the others, though.)

IMG_0240garter yoke baby cardi by Jennifer Hoel (Cascade Ultra Pima Fine in Chartreuse – love this yarn. Buttons from yumyumbuttons on etsy.)

I also knit a scarf, and a winter hat (not yet photographed) for a road trip we ended up having to cancel, womp womp.

I still have some unfinished projects that I will be carrying over into 2016. The ones that I started this year are the Havra shawl from Gudrun Johnston, a Talavera by Amanda Collins, and a pair of Tabi Mittens by Olga Buraya-Kefelian (these are for my husband and I am wracked with guilt because I have no. desire. at. all. to work on them – the needles are so tiny and uncomfortable; maybe metal ones would work better than wood, which feels like working with toothpicks?).

Then there are the long-term lodgers, started before 2015 – my StratumRelax, and Grey Goose Cardi. I’ve been working on the Stratum and feel confident I can get that done this season. And don’t want to give up on the others yet (though I’m a little bit terrified I’ll never figure out where I’ve got to on the Grey Goose Cardi).

I did admit defeat and frog my Adrift and Frost at Midnight. I decided that neither was going to flatter me very much or be very practical for my lifestyle, and that there were other things I’d rather do with the yarn. And I haven’t yet frogged my Worsted Boxy, but I think I am going to, so I can use the yarn for a Tsubasa.

That’s one of the things I adore about knitting – nothing is permanent; mistakes, whether in execution or judgement, can always be fixed.

I wish I had finished more things, but having two sweaters that I adore and wear all the time is a decent outcome.

I will talk about goals for 2016 another time, but must also admit that in the last days of the dying year I’ve cast on something new:

24028402086_72de9dd6cc_oMore about that, as well, another time.

Sewing fail

Somehow I never got into Project Runway before now. Recently I was looking for knitting-on-the-weekends TV, and decided to rectify that deficiency. I started with the most recent season on Hulu, Season 9, and am hooked.

For one challenge, the contestants are paired with kids from the Harlem School of the Arts (?) to collaborate on a painting, which will be the inspiration for the garment the contestant makes later in the challenge. Laura Kathleen was paired with this incredibly articulate 11-year-old, Kai. Laura was telling Kai about being on the bottom the previous week, and how hard it was to get the negative feedback. Without missing a beat, Kai says, “Failure is just an opportunity to learn in disguise.”

Which is to say, I have been learning this weekend!

One of my wardrobe holes is nice short-sleeved tops I can wear under suit jackets and cardigans, so I decided to try making Fancy Tailor Crafts‘ Sailor Top, which looked like a good convergence of my clothing wants and sewing skills.

So here it is, almost entirely finished (absent only the hem, though you can’t see that in this picture).  

It actually looks pretty decent here, doesn’t it? (Barring the terrible nighttime lighting turning everything drab.) The fabric is Cotton + Steel Mochi Lawn in Speckled Navy, and I like it – it’s light, hangs nicely, and has a slight sheen. It’s not something super drapey, but it’s not quite as sturdy as quilting cotton. It was also easy to work with.

And I tried really hard to do everything properly. I even used French seams on the side seams, which worked really well with the weight of the fabric.  

The one bit that looks decidedly amateurish is the yoke facing – you sew the facing to the yoke, then you sew the yoke to the neckline, fold the facing over, press the bottom of the facing under 1/4″ and pin, then stitch in the ditch from the front. It worked pretty well, but my “press the facing under 1/4” was eyeballed and while I managed to catch the edge of the facing all the way around, the seam looks kind of drunken in the interior. But no one but me would see that, of course.

So what’s the failure, then?

It’s too small – I made the wrong size! Such a newbie mistake, right?

I can actually get it on and off (though the latter was a little dodgy), because it’s a loose-fitting shape without closures, with a lot of built-in ease. But it pulls across my back. Some of that may be because my “gather fabric evenly” around the yoke isn’t the most even – the yoke feels like it sits just a little bit skewed – but really it’s because I need the next size up.

With respect to the learning, though, this was a useful reminder of the difference between knits and wovens, and the importance of ease. I chose the size based on the measurements I use for knitting, but knits are obviously much more forgiving than wovens. Also, I tend to use a high bust measurement for knits (based on Amy Herzog‘s advice that what you really want is to have the sweater fit your shoulders), but I’m realizing that’s probably not what I should be using for wovens, especially when I compare my high bust and bra measurements.

(If I’m being brutally honest, there’s also the little matter of working off measurements that are about 5-7 pounds ago. Again, for knits this isn’t that big a deal, because stretch, and because I tend to wear slouchy knits anyway. Alas, for wovens I probably shouldn’t rely on them right now.)

So anyway. I’m disappointed that I haven’t yet finished a “wear outside the house” garment (my fantabulous pajama pants are going strong, and in fact I want to make more in flannel, but they don’t go outside the house, except maybe to the courtyard to feed the feral cats), especially because I think if this one had fit, it would have been outside-the-house-worthy. And while I got the fabric pretty cheap, I like it a lot and am disappointed that it’s been sacrificed on the altar of failure learning. (But speaking of “learning,” I just realized tonight that I had completely misread the fabric requirements and this top was supposed to take 2 1/2 yards, so I’m fairly happy I managed to cut it out of 2.)

But to look on the bright side, the pattern was great and easy to follow, and I think if I made this in the right size it would be a great top I’d wear all the time. I made sleeves for the first time (okay, they’re raglan so not that complicated, but still, sleeves), and I made a yoke facing for the first time. I got French seams to work on a garment (rather than practice scraps). And I gathered a neckline for the first time (second time ever gathering anything). So that’s all pretty positive, right?

So sometime soon I will buy some new fabric and try again. I think this would be great (for my wardrobe) in something a little flowier, like a nice rayon twill, and I’d also really like to try making this in a knit (and then I think this size might actually work well). In the meantime, maybe I will cannibalize the fabric to line a zippered pouch or project bag. Or maybe I’ll leave the top as it is, to remind me of those opportunities in disguise.

Oh dear

IMG_0879 I should probably begin by pointing out that my current career requires minimal math skills, and my previous career required minimal math skills. They’re both fields where when you do have to deal with numbers, you may well get it wrong the first time, and you may well then say something like “There’s a reason I went into field X, because I’m bad with numbers.”

Of course, knitting frequently requires at least minimal math skills. Like, it would be expected that you can look at the amount of yarn a pattern requires, and look at the amount of yarn in a single skein of the yarn you’re considering, and figure out how much of the latter you need for the former.

Or you could be me, and figure out halfway through your “baby” blanket that you have one skein left, you had originally bought five, each skein is 210 yards, and for some reason you thought that five skeins at 210 yards a skein would get you to the 1,950 yards the pattern requires.

Even though I knew I was knitting the largest size of this blanket (not “lovie,” not “stroller,” not “crib,” but “throw”), for some reason I was sure that five skeins would be enough and it would nonetheless end up a nice baby-sized thing.

In any case, late last night – after I had spent much of the day binge-watching Anthony Bourdain and speed-knitting – I finally, finally figured out my error. Since I’d had a baby-sized object in my head, and what I’d produced was pretty much that size, I had convinced myself I was nearly done (after all, I was using up the yarn!), and realizing I had basically a whole other baby blanket left to knit was…depressing.

I faced two choices: buy more yarn, keep knitting, and produce something very not baby-sized; or frog what I’d done, and start over with a more reasonable-sized project. It seemed really sad to consider frogging all. that. work, but I had pretty much the same amount of knitting in front of me either way. And buying more yarn was going to be expensive.

RIPPPPP.

IMG_0885

(Of course because I’d alternated skeins, ripping back got me into a huge tangle to begin with, so that was fun, too.)

I’ll admit, though, that I couldn’t face continuing on with the original pattern I’d chosen, the Harvest Moon Blanket. This has absolutely nothing to do with the pattern, which is perfectly clear (both in general and with regard to size and yarn requirements – apparently I just can’t read) and produces perfectly lovely results (I particularly liked the border texture). It’s more that after already knitting the equivalent of a whole baby blanket in that pattern, I couldn’t bear to do another one. (Not being a regular blanket knitter, I found those rows lonnng.)

So I’ve started over, with Tanis Lavallee’s Smooth Sailing. (Some day I am going to buy some of her gorgeous yarn, too.) The nice thing about this pattern is that the reverse side looks prettier than on the Harvest Moon Blanket, and I actually think that the stitch pattern works better for my yarn, which I’ve decided is a little too variegated for the Harvest Moon Blanket anyway. (So all that wasted work was for the best, right???)

IMG_0888It’s a good thing it won’t get cold here for – well, it doesn’t get truly cold here, but it won’t be chilly enough for a blanket for a while. Hopefully I can at least beat winter.

Reboot

I was traveling for much of this week.

IMG_0179It reminded me what it looks like where water falls from the sky on a regular basis.

IMG_0080

IMG_0099

IMG_0121And I got to see a cat catch a lizard:

IMG_0096And I bought some shoes.

IMG_0108I also brought some knitting with me:

IMG_0075One of the things I love about travel knitting is how guiltless it is. There’s no concern that you should be doing something other than knitting; you’re away from home, you can’t really put a dent in your to-do list or clean the house, and often you’re trapped on public transport anyway. Knitting transforms tedium into pleasure. Four hour layover? Great, lots of time to knit! So I very much appreciate the opportunity I had to knit the above project.

But as the yarn shrank and the knitted fabric grew, I finally had to admit to myself: I just didn’t like it.

I liked (and still like) the pattern, the Harvest Moon Blanket by Aimee Alexander. (All her blankets look lovely.)

And I like the yarn fine – Comfy Worsted Special Reserve Heather by KnitPicks (in Overcast Heather – much lighter than it looks photographed above). I had wanted to use cotton (or in this case, a blend) because it seemed more functional here in the desert, and I have some fingering weight Comfy, and I thought the acrylic in it would be fine, and help keep it a bit stronger and lighter than all cotton. I looked at the project pictures on Ravelry, and thought the cotton ones looked perfectly nice.

But I just didn’t like them put together. In part, that’s because the Comfy Worsted is fluffy, fuzzy, and soft-edged. The stitches don’t get completely lost, but there isn’t the kind of stitch definition that I think would highlight the pattern best. Beyond that, though, I didn’t love the fabric. It was extremely soft, so perfect for a wee baby in that respect. But it was also supremely floppy. And word choice matters here, I think. If I said the fabric was drapey, that would sound fairly positive, but when I say floppy, that doesn’t sound so good. And it’s not so good. I don’t want something stiff, but I would like a little body, a little bounce. I think that would benefit the stitch pattern, too.

And it matters mostly because this is a gift, and I want it to be as nice as I can possibly make it. In part because I really want my friend to love it, and in part because I want to give her something that looks handmade, but not so much homemade.

So back to the drawing board. I’ve ordered new yarn – wool this time (superwash, because I hope for my friend to use this, and making her handwash it seems cruel). And now that I’m back, will start over again.

(And figure out something else to make with floppy cotton yarn.)