In which I tempt a curse and thus far succeed

In the knitting universe, there is a phenomenon known as “The Sweater Curse,” whereby if you knit a sweater for your significant other, the relationship will end during the knitting of or sometime in the near future. There is some truth to the curse and it’s widely believed by many knitters. Sweaters are long projects to make, especially if you’re knitting one for a moderate to large person.  They are tricky things to fit and there’s accounting for personal taste as well. You may love to knit a large oversized heavily cabled and decorated sweater, and the recipient may feel that this makes him look like a tea cosy, and thus never wear it. You see the sweater as a physical embodiment of love, and yet it sits shapeless on a shelf. The presence of the unworn sweater will be a constant reminder of love rejected, a catalyst for arguments and eventually, the demise of the relationship.

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Things I’ve knitted along the way on this trip

Thus, while Eric has long asked for a knitted sweater, I felt that our relationship should be in a stable place before undertaking such a task. It’s taken almost 13 years of marriage, but I thought we could handle it at this point. I hope I’m not proven wrong.

At home I have an entire arsenal of needles at my disposal, as one may need different sizes and lengths for various projects. I brought along with me a roll of mostly bamboo needles as I was worried that if I brought my sets of metal needles they might be taken away by airport authorities. I don’t quite understand why it is that you can’t bring a pair of nail clippers on a flight, but I can bring long wooden sticks on board no problem as long as they’re attached to some yarn. Not that I’m complaining, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had some heroic fantasies of saving the plane from evil doers with a sharp set of circular needles. I’ve never had any issues with the needles on any flights, and if I were to do this again, I’d bring my metal Addi interchangeable set and just check that bag and take on board the one set I was using at the time.

Throughout the trip I’ve picked up yarn at various places, as it’s fun to visit the shops, chat with the owners and then make a souvenir out of them. In New Zealand, this is a possum blend yarn that became a pair of socks. In Budapest, I bought yarn that became a baby blanket for my new nephew and another pair of socks. Japan provided bulky green yarn for a hat and a feathery looking cowl. In Ireland, I’ve picked up yarn at local woolen mills as mentioned in the last post.

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Sock yarn from Austria and Budapest on the left, Black yarn from japan tucked behind. White and purple yarn from Studio Donegal in Ireland, Gray/brown from Kerry woolen mills. Green Wollewein from Vienna, and white yarn on the right from Lisbon.

For Eric’s sweater, he really wanted wool from Irish sheep. Personally, I find this wool to have the softness of a kitchen scrubber, but it is sturdy and he’s not sensitive to the roughness. We went to the shop together where he picked out the color, a lovely tweedy green. I knew I’d want to knit a Brooklyn Tweed design for the sweater – they’re all classic, well designed patterns and make modern gorgeous garments, nary a tea cosy in sight.

 

Note: The next few paragraphs are going to be knitting detail. Feel free to skip.

Eric gave me a favorite sweater of his to copy for sizing, and while the width was around the medium size,the length was longer than the largest size listed. Additionally I was using a DK and the pattern called for worsted. I also decided to add shaping so it wouldn’t be such a large rectangle and would be more flattering, as it’s knit with a fair amount of positive ease as is. I knitted a gauge swatch and got 19 stitches/4 inches, so did quite a bit of math and cast on 190 for the ribbing, planning on increasing by 4 stitches every 3″ up to the armpit for a total of 209, which would bring me back to the pattern and I would then follow.

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Planning notes, and math, lots of math. I totally messed up the stitch counts the first time and had to rip out four inches and redo it.  Ouch.

I was nervous about the sleeve lengths in particular – the largest size the pattern calls for is 17″, but Eric measures a 18.5″ sleeve – so I cast on with a provisional cast on and knitted them up in stockinette then knit down in ribbing which made the addition of thumb holes very easy and would also make it easy to add or subtract length. For the thumb holes, I simply knit back and forth for several rows before joining the sleeve back up, then when weaving in the ends I looped around the edges of the hole to strengthen it.

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Several times during the knitting, Eric would look at my progress and say “That looks a little narrow, doesn’t it?” Instead of stabbing him with one of the sharp pointy ends, I’d spread the stitches out on several circulars and have him try it on. The pattern does call for short rows in the back, and this is the only thing I wish I’d done a little differently – the sweater does bulge out a bit where the shoulders meet the arms, and I don’t think it needs all the short rows the pattern calls for. The other change was that instead of twisting the yarn for the button loops, which I thought looked janky, I crocheted a single chain and attached that to the sweater instead.

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It’s pretty near perfect as far as I can tell and looks gorgeous, if I do say so myself. He says he’s going to wear it every day. He’d better.

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-S

Umaro Blanket

When our friends Sarah and Ben announced their engagement, I knew that I’d knit them a blanket.  I know I’ve said that I wouldn’t do it again, but I’d been wanting to make this pattern for some time and this was the perfect reason.

IMG_3407Pattern: Umaro by Jared Flood

Yarn: Cascade Eco Wool in Latte (5 1/4 skeins total)

I LOVE this blanket.  It is soft and squishy and beautiful and snuggly. I chose a minimally processed undyed wool-I love that this is the color that it grows on the sheep. Something about that just feels organic.

Whenever I knit a large piece like this, especially one that is intended for gifting, I always think of the emotions and feelings and places that are knitted into the piece itself. This blanket travelled with me to New York and to the mountains. It has travelled by train, car, and plane.  I was at times happy while knitting it, sometimes loving, sometimes angry, sometimes weary, and sometimes sad.  I think that these are knitted into the fabric itself-and all are important especially for a blanket gifted for a wedding, or perhaps more importantly a marriage.

The lessons of knitting a large piece also lend itself to some other metaphors-there was a time when I found a minor error a few rows down, where I was able to fix it without having to unravel very much.  There was another time that I looked at the piece only to see that 10 rows back I had forgotten an entire row of cables. The only way to fix that was to unravel all those 10 rows and do it right. As in marriage, so goes knitting.

Knitterly details for the fiber artists among you-I found Flood’s instructions for cabling to be onerous, especially when using such a bulky wool. I switched to one of those U shaped cable needles instead and then would slip stitches from the front and back of it to my left hand needle when it came time to knit them. Blocking was also a bit treacherous-I tried to steam block as Flood recommends but my little puny iron didn’t even touch the fabric. So I nervously placed it in my front loader and ran it on soak for 5 minutes, then let it spin while I prayed it wouldn’t felt.  This enabled the stitches to really open up, and I’m so so glad I did it–it was 43×67 pre blocking and 52 x 65 after. And while the yarn was held double, it quickly got too tricky to hold two strands from two skeins, so I simply knit from the front and back ends of a center wound ball instead.

Pre blocking-43x67 and all squished up looking

Pre blocking-43×67 and all squished up looking

I’ve also been doing a fair amount of cardmaking these days, so stitched up this card to accompany it. I really like stitched cards-it’s such a simple embellishment and it looks wonderful.

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All wrapped up, with my new stamp labels to boot!

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I hope that Sarah and Ben enjoy this blanket as much as I enjoyed making it! Lots and lots of happiness (and warm cozy nights) to them!

New York 2012, continued

We had a BIG NIGHT planned tonight and after the lesson of the previous day, scrapped plans to go to the Statue of Liberty (which is closed anyway) and instead visit the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

We walked there from my sister’s apartment, which she insisted was not far. Of course, she was thinking in adult terms of not far and not 4-year old legs, so it got to be a bit long getting there. As soon as we got inside the gardens, though, the girl ran about merrily and the second we hit pavement after leaving, she began to complain about walking.

In Brooklyn, the size of kids that are in strollers is truly, truly astonishing. I know there’s already a tumblr on the topic, but I couldn’t help but stare at these very large children in tiny strollers. I guess for Brooklyn, this is the equivalent of a car and you simply need to get from Home to School and then Work in a short amount of time and can’t be leisurely strolling. Some of these kids were 7 or 8, though, easily and could have been on a scooter next to the parent, if they were in a hurry. I’ll keep this in mind the next time I strap my kids into the minivan to go less than a mile away, which I do frequently. Back to our previously scheduled programming…

After what need up being a one and a half mile walk, we got to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. So, so pretty! We took some time to smell the roses, literally.


There’s a lovely discovery garden with some nice little tree-y nooks

And a compost bin where the girl got to do one of her favorite activities: digging for worms.


Then, we went back to Sapana’s place for a well deserved nap!

And in the evening, Times Square! On the way to the subway, the girl swung her arms side to side and sang as loud as she could, “I Loooovvveee Meeee! I love me! I so fancy! I so fancy!” Ah, if only she can keep up that self-confidence her whole life.

Soooooo BIG!

And someone was VERY excited for the Ferris Wheel inside the Toys R Us building

After that, we went to watch

The girl has never seen Mary Poppins, so before the show we had a little conversation that went like this:

Girl: “Mom, what this show about?”

Me: “Well…it’s about two kids and their nanny.”

Girl: “And then the kids die?”

Me: “No! They don’t die!”

Sapana: “Well, that would be more interesting then your boring description!”

The show was surprisingly delightful, albeit with some tongue-in-cheek drug references, like, did they really need to keep taking spoonfuls of “medicine”?And while you could take alcoholic beverages into the theatre, they were served in…sippy cups. What cracked me up was the number of groups of adults without children that came to the show and merrily sang along with Mary.

Late, late taxi ride home with a sleepy little girl, to get ready for the next day of adventure.

Habitat

Eric’s been asking for a hat for a while to match the scarf I made him last year.  I had plenty of the same yarn left over, so when I saw this pattern, I knew it would be perfect.

Cables are pretty and functional–they make the fabric thicker and a lot warmer.  Here’s a close up of the cabling at the top, which decreases to form a star pattern.

Pattern: Habitat by Jared Flood

Yarn: Cascade 220

I love this hat!  I was initially daunted by all the cables, but I used Grumperina’s tutorial on cabling without a needle and it made it speed by and a lot simpler. The length is also just right to pull over your ears but not get in your eyes.

I may have to make one of these for myself, with some matching wristwarmers.