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

Dryad Scarf

The scarf is done! I gave it to Eric, who put it on, wrinkled his nose, and asked, “Do you think it’s too long?”

I had to restrain myself from grabbing a pair of scissors and simply slicing off a few inches of the scarf in spite, and then watching it unravel.

I tried to get an “action” shot of Eric as he usually is on a Saturday morning, but my artistic integrity was interrupted.

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I love this scarf-here’s a detail of the cabling:

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This tweed looks so pretty with the pattern. Perfect for the lounging intellectual reading some relaxing Plato on a Saturday morning.

IMGP5155Pattern: Dryad by Jared Flood

Yarn: Takhi Yarns Donegal Tweed, 4 skeins

Preblocked the scarf was 9″ by 72″, post blocking it’s 9 1/2″ by 80″. So yes, a bit on the long side but not really for someone who’s as tall as Eric.

I did pick up that sweater I’d been a bit bored of, so will try to get that one done before too long.  And then apparently I have to teach someone how to make a sweater with a wolf on it, which as we all know is the sign of an ultimate weirdo, so I may have to refuse for the person’s own good.

Knitting, old and new

So let’s do some catchup on relatively recent projects, shall we?

There’s these fingerless gloves that I made for the kids, waaay too big really but they don’t seem to care. The Boy has already lost one of them anyway. What is it about gloves in our house? We can NOT hold onto an actual pair through a whole season. How do people make this magic happen?

fingerless mitts

fingerless mitts

Next up: the Gretel tank top, knit with my favorite yarn obsession, Habu. This is knit with a cotton tape yarn, which feels like paper when you’re knitting with it. According to the pattern, you only need two tiny little balls for a whole tank top! See how well that worked out?

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Or…not.  I used up all 2 balls of yarn that the pattern told me I would need and had nowhere near enough yarn. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the one I wanted anywhere but New York as Fancy Tiger wasn’t carrying this yarn at the time. So I waited for my summer trip, went to Habu, and got another ball of black yarn. You can see how well it matches by looking at the difference in colors in the cowl and the bottom, where I picked up stitches and knit down to make it long enough.

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Actually…that looks pretty cool. When it was all done I enlisted my elves to help me take a picture, and they insisted on photobombing me at every step.

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IMG_4012Pattern: Gretel, by Julie Weisberger

Yarn: Habu Cotton Gima, 2 balls in black and 1 in charcoal (pattern states you’ll only need 2, this is not true)

It was fortuitous that this lacy, lightweight tank was finished just in time for winter!

Since I couldn’t wear the tank top during that crazy cold snap we had in December, and I needed a warm hat, I made one.

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Pattern: Really Warm Hat by Melissa LeBarre

Yarn: Blue Sky Alpaca Bulky, 1 ish skein.

Don’t even think about stealing this hat, people. This one is actually a bit too big around the brim so I threaded elastic cord through the bottom and now it stays on nicely.

And last is the current project I’m working on, another Jared Flood design. I started this sometime over the summer and then actually looked at my knitting.

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See how the first pattern section looks nothing like the second? Yeah, that’s a complete screw up where I missed some cables and then did some others backwards.  Since it’s going to be a scarf for Eric, I asked him what he thought, and he promptly replied, “Oh yeah that’s all messed up. It would bug me.” Not cool, knitting recipient, not cool. However, he was right and the whole thing was ripped out and reknit correctly. Color is much truer in this picture.

IMG_3944Pattern: Dryad by Jared Flood

Yarn: Takhi Yarns Donegal Tweed

I’m about 2/3 of the way done with it by now, and I love this scarf. The tweedy yarn works so well with the big cables, and it’s going to be big and cozy and warm and lovely when it’s all done.

After the scarf I have a sweater to finish up that I’ve lost some interest in, so we’ll see if I pick that back up again or start something new. Part of me wants to make a big crazy throw out of all the yarn scraps I have, something to snuggle under in our basement when it gets to be cold, but that might  make me feel like a 70s afghan knitter, chevron pattern and all.  Am I that person? Maybe so.

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!

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.