Sunday, January 25, 2009

A bit of nice, warm knitting for January

Blech, who likes January. London is cold, wet and miserable. Plus, the overcast skies make it so dark, it's impossible to take decent photos of knitting. Fortunately, the knitting itself doesn't care about the weather, so I've been industriously working on various sweaters, socks and scarves.

My Kaffe Fassette socks are finished; the ends are woven in and they just need blocking. I don't always bother blocking socks, but these were knit on 56 sts rather than my usual 60. (I wanted to try a pair of socks with a narrower fit, just on the offchance that that might be a better fit for my feet.) They go on okay but they are a tiny bit tight so I'm going to block them properly on my smallest sock blockers and see what happens. I am optimistic.

I've got a new pair of travelling socks on the go: the Fading Friendship socks in a slightly stretchy Lana Grossa sock yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit 100 Cotton Stretch. It says stretch on the label, but doesn’t feel particularly stretchy to knit with. The resulting fabric is slightly stretchier than one might expect from a vey firm, almost hard, yarn with no splitting and good stitch definition. The yarn is 41% cotton; 39% superwash wool; 13% polyamide, 7% Elite, which I think is elastane. It's an unusual colourway: pale pink gives way to stripes of red, black and orange. This potentially violent colourway is mediated by a white ply in the yarn that gives everything, even the black sections, a faded, dusty, washed-out appearance. I might add that the hazy appearance of the knitted fabric is most forgiving when it comes to hiding mistakes. Which is a good thing, as I made a bit of a pig's ear out of picking up the gusset stitches (stupid slipped stitches up the sides of the heel flap are always too loose, even if you cross them, don't you find?) When this sock is off the needles, I'll take to those sections with a bit of Swiss darning to firm them up.

I picked up my long-neglected Silk Jaywalkers last weekend. I got up early and thought I'd use the sparse winter light to sort out a little problem I'd been having. The sort of problem that means swearing while twiddling a crochet hook. To my enormous surprise, I not only fixed the problem, but finished the sock. I guess I'd better get on and knit the other one now, they have been in progress for about a year. I am so pleased that this one suddenly reached completion, it is as though it were desperate to get off the needles. It fits like a dream and feels like pure luxury. I'm excited about this project again now. One thing I've learned about the Jaywalkers pattern: you must pay attention. There are a lot of increases, decreases and passovers, and so unpicking mistakes is very slow and painful. You really do not want to tink this more often than you can help, it is not fun. But if you concentrate on this superficially simple pattern, and don't make any mistakes, it whips along in no time and is really quite unputdownable.

I've also just made a scarf, which has been - annoying. It is shorter than I meant to make it, and now I'm relying on the gods of blocking to lengthen it for me. Backstory: last year I made Sven a lovely scarf using (I am sure this is right) one skein of Noro Kureyon and one of Noro Silk Garden. Lots of earthy black and brown base shades with a few patches of strawberry, mint green and peacock blue. But mostly black and brown. Of course, I didn't bother writing down the pattern I used because I am not that sensible. It seemed so obvious at the time. So when he lost his scarf this year, I thought I'd easily make another. I'd forgotten about using Silk Garden so I went out and bought two skeins of Kureyon. They don't make the original black/red/blue/green colourway that Sven loved which was disappointing so I ended up with two skeins in a brown/orange/blue colourway that I am frankly still not sure about. Anyway, based on memory of the rib pattern, I cast on 39 stitches and knit my little heart out, six rows from each skein, from opposite ends of the skein, to get those alternating stripes, until I ran out of yarn. So it turned out okay and Sven seems to like it, but why the buggery is it so short? Gah! Did I use a lot more yarn than I thought last time? Did I have two skeins of each yarn? I dunno. Blocking is my only hope now.

Next up, let's talk about Joe's Edan sweater. I have really put in a lot of work on this, and I'm not sure it's finished with me yet. As you know, he wanted me to modify this sweater by adding a hood. I've never made a hood before, so I did some reading up about it. There seem to be a few different ways to make hoods. I read a lot of patterns, none perfect, but all offering something. So eventually I settled on following these instructions I'd found somewhere, which said 'pick up stitches around the neckline, but cast off 16 sts at the centre front. That sounded reasonable to me so that's what I did. Then I knit straight upwards, for several inches, until I realised that the hood I was making was much too small because I had not allowed any room for the curve of the head. I tried it on Joe. The hood was ridiculously small. Joe was not pleased, and showed me various hooded garments with large hoods. I frogged it back to the neckline and tried again. I had another look at hood patterns. I found one in Debbie Stoller's "Son of Stitch & Bitch" that showed a baseball-type sweater with quite a large hood on. I followed the instructions and knit for bloody hours and hours and hours until I'd increased where appropriate, and the hood measured 16" from the start of the neckline. Then I did a three needle bindoff. Then I had Joe try it on. OMG. I don't know what to think. I think it is too large. Way too large. And there is a massive point at the back (why don't hood patterns tell you to decrease to mirror the increase shaping at the back of the head?). Also, because the thing is so large, it's quite heavy, and it hangs heavily at the back, pulling on the neckline. Which might be okay if I'd thought to do one of those crosses-in-front necklines, but no, I cast off 16sts in front to make a face opening and it looks - weird. Am I going to have to frog this damn hood and knit it a third time in a smaller size? I don't know. Also not helping: the knitting is unblocked so edges are curling everywhere and I can't see how large things are relative to each other. So I'm going to set in sleeves, sew side seams, and weave in all the ends except the ones connected to the hood, and then block it. And then I'll have Joe try it on again and find out if it is really okay or if I have weeks more knitting in front of me. Wish me luck.

Finally, as you know, I like to tempt myself with new projects when I am labouring to complete something. Look at this spectacularly sexy top by Kim Hargreaves. Isn't that beautiful? I want to make it. Matter of fact, I want to make it in every colour, but I'll start with the one you see here (that's RYC Cashsoft 4ply in rose pink, and Rowan Kidsilk Haze in pearl). Why I didn't buy a kit, I don't know. I could have got buttons as part of the kit and now I have to buy them separately. Note to self: in future, get kit. But perhaps looking around for nice buttons will be fun, and it will take me a good long time to finish, in any case. I love this top so much. I don't usually like frills (at ALL) but this won my heart because of the gorgeous curvy fit and the unreasonably deep button placket. Why is it necessary to be able to unbutton this very busty top nearly to the waist? Just for fun, that's why. Va-va-voom.

And that's all the knitting news. Please wish me luck that that hood turns out okay, otherwise I'll be reknitting it all of February.