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.

What do you need to fix and what can you leave alone?

So, about my Havra: I made a lot of progress while traveling! Aaaaaaaand…..after finishing the body of the shawl I found a row all the way back near the beginning where I knit the wrong side of the pattern for a stretch. It’s down at the little silver stitch marker (see the little purl ridge across the smooth twisted knit columns?) (well, they will look smoother once finished and blocked, of course – they’ve been sitting squished in a project bag).IMG_1827

This gives you a better idea of how far down the shawl it is:arrowWhile I’m sure my mistake created other errors in this row (pretty sure I have 4 garter stitches rather than 2 garter and 1 k2tog/ssk), what ends up being really obvious is the two garter stitches where I should have two twisted knit stitches.

So I actually ended up dropping a WHOLE LOT of stitches to reach the error, fixing the purl stitches, and working the twisted knit stitches back up again. Because it was going to drive me CRAZY if I didn’t.

But my perfectionism only goes so far, because I realized that the lefthand purled stitch in each column was right next to a yarnover column. And when I started to drop that purl stitch, I realized I was going to have a LOT of loose yarn flapping around, if I ended up dropping and trying to rework all those yarnovers. I didn’t trust my ability to rework all those yarnovers, and knew I’d blow a gasket if I cocked everything up somewhere about halfway up the column.

So in my mistake row, instead of each column starting with two nice twisted knit stitches, you have one purl stitch and one twisted knit. Annoyingly imperfect, but it’s a lot less obvious than 2 purls in a row. 

(This post is really making me wish I had a more sophisticated camera than what’s on my iPhone. Pardon the poor quality.)

The whole thing got me thinking about how many errors are tolerable in a finished project. I’m kind of a perfectionist/type A personality, and my preference would be to go back and fix all mistakes. I rip back a LOT. Sometimes this gets me in trouble, when I think I can fix something and I end up in a huge tangle. Here, I wanted to avoid the latter, and knew that if I ripped back the whole shawl to the error, I’d probably give up on the project entirely. So while I know the error is there, and you can see it if you look, which bugs me, I will live with it in this project. In other projects? I don’t know. How much imperfection do you put up with?

I read somewhere once that weavers of Muslim prayer mats always make one mistake, deliberately, to reflect their humanity and humility – to show that they, unlike God, are not perfect. I have no idea if this is actually true or some author’s conceit, but I like the idea. And I’m trying to think about my mistakes this way, rather than as failures.

Speaking of travel 

I didn’t mention the knitting I brought with me: Gudrun Johnston’s Havra shawl (originally a Mystery Knit A Long, but the mystery has long since dissipated, since the KAL ended a few months ago).

 For a while this was my desk-lunch-break knitting at work. 

I’m using Tosh Merino Light in Composition Book Gray. Originally I planned to do the colorblocked version, and use up some TML half-skeins I had left over from other projects, but once all the finished object photos started popping up on Ravelry, I realized I liked the single color versions much better. So I bought a second skein (so much for this being a fun way to use up the stash!), which luckily ended up virtually identical to the first. 

The pattern is beautifully clear, and I appreciate that the lace pattern repeats are written out as well as charted – especially because having both helped me learn how to read charts, which I can do now! (I think the reason I’ve had problems with charts before was that they involved cable stitches, and I have a terrible time remembering which symbol means you hold the cable needle in front or behind. It’s sort of like Z plying and S plying – mirror images just trip me up. I can never figure out which button in the elevator opens or shuts the doors, either.)

Nonetheless, I’ve found that through no fault of its own, this shawl has become my back-up knitting. Mostly I picked it up for the fun of the KAL, without having a burning desire for a gray shawl, and while I actually find myself very much enjoying the process of this project, my product-driven compass keeps swinging back to whatever more desired object I’m currently constructing.

But ironically, backup knitting – or at least, this example – turns out to be wonderful travel knitting. It’s one of my few non-sweater projects going right now. My established sweater projects are all far enough along to be unwieldy to wrangle on an airplane. While I thought about casting on a new sweater project for this trip (because the beginnings of a sweater are often pretty manageable), the next ones I have next in my queue will require alternating skeins, which isn’t very portable. I’ve been pondering a Prowl by Steven West, but the yarn I want to use is handdyed, so I’d likely have to alternate skeins on that, too.

This is where people who knit sweaters in pieces and seam them up at the end definitely have an edge. A sleeve, or a cardigan front, or even a pullover front, is pretty portable compared to a 3/4-finished seamless sweater. But I realized the problem isn’t just that I tend to knit seamless sweaters that get bigger and unwieldier as you go. It’s also that my sweaters are too precious to me! The idea of something happening to a sweater project – with its significant investment of time, and yarn! – is horrifying; I find myself unable to risk it. (It’s true that something happening to a sleeve or cardigan front is less risky – but I’m still not sure I’d have enough yarn to replace one if tragedy struck.)

So the sad truth is that I can travel with my Havra because I’m less afraid of something happening to it. Sorry, Gudrun! That’s not at all a comment on your lovely pattern, just on me and my priorities. I hadn’t spent a ton of time on this shawl (at the time I took it with me) and I can replace a couple of skeins of TML if need be. But for instance, the top-down sweater I’m knitting out of Plucky Knitter Single? The yarn that I splurged on for my birthday and managed to snag in one of their fast-moving updates? I can’t replace that so easily. And a sweater’s worth of stitches is (usually) quite a bit more than a shawl’s worth. So even though I’ve reached the point of that sweater where all I need to do is finish the body by knitting stockinette in the round for about 8 more inches, and plane travel is the almost perfect situation for a lot of mindless knitting, I can’t bring myself to take it out of the house.

So my Havra will be well-traveled, and it will make her all the more well-loved. Eventually.

(Do any of you feel the same way about travel knitting?)

What I’ve been doing lately

Did you ever have pets who did that thing where you’d open the door to let them out, and it was bad weather, and they’d look at you in dismay, then go to another door of the house, hoping that the weather outside that door would magically be better? I feel kind of like that these days. I keep looking out the window thinking, “I’m sure it’s cooled down by now,” and then I walk outside and go, “Nope, still hot.”

So the focus is still on indoor activities over here. Work has been busy, so I have been spending the free time I have on making things, rather than blogging about making things.

My knitting has been fairly monotonous lately, because I am still working on a baby blanket for a friend. Unfortunately I thought I had until September, but the baby decided almost 32 weeks was plenty, and he was coming out NOW. So far he seems to be doing extremely well, and it’s too hot for blankets here anyway, but I need to get it done. One night when I needed to wind a new ball, I cheated with my Talavera, on which I managed to knit 3 rows and then rip back two, so that’s proceeding pretty much as usual.

I tend to be a very selfish knitter and knit only for myself, when it never matters how long the project takes, so sticking to one project till it’s done with a vague deadline in mind is…less fun than my normal knitting. I’m also wondering why I decided I would be all ambitious and knit the “throw” size, when “crib” or “stroller” would have been totally fine. It feels never-ending, and I’m afraid I won’t have enough yarn, but I’m almost halfway done and the only way out is through.

However, while I feel guilty knitting something besides this blanket, somehow other crafts don’t seem to count, because I’ve been spending chunks of the last few weekends sewing. I made a pair of pajama pants in a print I absolutely love:

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Amusingly, if you look at it from far enough away, it looks like the print is actually dark purple alien heads with golden eyes – which I like just as well.

I’ve also cut out the pieces for a skirt in the white fabric below (the bicycles are the right way up on the skirt, I promise):

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It’s really intended as more of a wearable muslin/practice at making a skirt, than as something I would wear regularly; I bought the fabric because I thought it was adorable, and thought I would make another pair of pajama pants (I love pajama pants), but then decided I might as well play around with it.

This weekend I wasn’t feeling focused enough to work more on the skirt, though, so I made what has got to be the jankiest project bag ever:

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It’s a cheap remnant from Jo-Ann Fabrics, I didn’t measure very carefully so I don’t think there are any straight lines/angles, and my seams are terrible, but it’s actually very functional. The baby blanket has got too big for all my other project bags; I also get weird about textures, and the feeling of the soft-but-woolly wool scraping against the cheap cotton I’d used for my other project bags has been sending shivers down my spine. (I can’t bear the feeling of toilet paper or paper towel rolls rubbing against each other, either – it’s like nails on a chalkboard; does anyone else get this feeling?) So I lined this with a polyester lining fabric, and it’s SO much nicer to put the project away/take it out again. The slipperiness of the polyester is a big factor in all the wonkiness, since it slides around so badly, and the edges frayed so quickly, that keeping a consistent seam allowance was beyond my current skills. But again, good practice, since now I want to put a smooth lining in all my project bags.

I have some other, more focused posts I’d like to write, but when I have the free time knitting or sewing always seem to win out. So I guess I’ll get to those later, and end here for now, with a couple of pictures from early morning and twilight in the desert.

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Fickle

I used to feel sort of strongly about finishing a project before starting a new one.

But somewhere along the line I lost that discipline.

And now…oh dear. I have way too many different things on the needles.

The funny thing is that there’s an arbitrary dividing line in my head between “recent enough projects that I should feel bad for not working on them,” and “old enough projects that (for no particularly good reason) I don’t count them as works in progress any more.” When projects cross that imaginary line and fall into the abyss of “really old projects,” for some reason they no longer count against my total, so casting on something new is entirely justified, right?

Going back in reverse chronological order, here’s what I currently have going:

The Harvest Moon Blanket (which is getting frogged, but will get restarted when the new yarn arrives, so I think counts as a current project)IMG_0075

Frost at Midnight

Stratum

Relax 

Worsted Boxy

Gray Goose CardiIMG_0196

Adrift

(For the record: the photo-bombing cat is Harvey. He loves to sleep on that table, which is conveniently placed for me to get natural light so is a good place for me to take pictures, although it’s definitely seen better days… let’s just say it has a patina, shall we? His tail is like that naturally – he’s a Japanese Bobtail. Here’s a better picture:)

I would say that the arbitrary, imaginary dividing line between projects that count as WIPs and projects that don’t falls right around the Relax. Adrift and the Worsted Boxy are both patterns I cast on sort of as placeholders while I was between other projects, to be dropped when something better came along. I never had a clear goal for when I’d finish them. I like both yarns but don’t love them, so was easily lured away by other, shinier projects, and they’ve languished long enough in my work basket that I don’t really count them as current WIPs. (Not that this makes any sense, but there you go.)

I actually really like the way the Gray Goose Cardigan is turning out. The yarn is Nashua Handknits Summer Garden, bought ages ago, and I’ve had a hard time finding the right pattern for it, but this fabric is a lovely weight and drape. It’s also a great summer project, but when I put it down I never thought it would be for long, and now I seriously have no idea where I am in the pattern. (Lesson: take notes!) Knitting something new has always seemed easier than figuring out where I am, so it’s fallen out of rotation.

Relax hovers on the edge of my knitting consciousness, nagging me to knit it. The back is done and the piece pictured is the front – then it will just be the not-very-big sleeves. It would also be a great summer project. I don’t really have any excuse for not working on this one, except that while I like the fabric it makes, I don’t find the yarn the easiest; it’s KnitPicks Lindy Chain, and while I love that it’s fingering weight in linen-cotton (great for a hot climate), it’s chainette construction, and I keep snagging it. It does have the loveliest drape, though.

Stratum is on hold mostly because I won’t be able to wear it for another 5-6 months, so there’s no rush to work on it.

Then we get to projects that (in my head) I am currently working on: I’ve been making good progress on Frost at Midnight, and am close to starting the sleeves. I’m not convinced it’s going to look very good on me, but I’ve been enjoying plowing through the body. And, of course, once the new yarn comes in, the Harvest Moon Blanket.

So, I have plenty of projects in the works right now, even if you don’t count the ones that aren’t right in front of me, and so (in my head) don’t exist.

And yet… I find myself swatching. For new projects. As if I need any.

More on that to come.