Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mistakes Unmade

I am in the home stretch on my Twist cardigan. I am knee deep--or should I say elbow deep?--in the sleeves at this point. I have to say that, for me, sleeves are the biggest slog of a sweater project. For one thing, they are deceptive. They start all nice and narrow, but then you have to increase every specified number of rows so they get wider and wider. They are really boring, because every row is just more of the same as the row before it. And they need to be a lot longer than you think. This one needs to be 19 inches long before I can start decreasing for the sleeve cap. YAWN.

You know the worst thing about sleeves? Once you triumph and finish have to do another one. Ack.

I am trying a couple of new strategies in my efforts to stave off sleeve ennui this time. First I started the second sleeve already, and have it going on seperate needles. When the first sleeve just seems too monotonous, I will switch to the second one and work on that for a while. So far, it is not providing any real excitement. However, I think that, when I finish the first one, it will be nice to know that the second one already has a good amount done on it. Hopefully, it will give me that "light at the end of the tunnel" moment that would encourage me to keep working and maybe even pick up the pace.
I also am blocking the body pieces of the sweater. There is no reason why I can't seam the shoulders and get going on the button bands and the collar. Hopefully, that will provide a needed change of pace.

Another one of my strategies for combating sleeve ennui is to take some breaks and knit something else. Rocket science, I know! Anyway, I caved to spring startitis and cast on a shawl in a beautiful bright color.
The color is much more fun to knit than the sedate taupe/khaki of my Twist. At this point, I am still in the super-dull stockinette increase section of the Traveling Woman shawlette, which makes even a Twist sleeve seem interesting. I am not sure if this is good or not. I am almost up to the lace part, which will be more interesting.

Spring is definitely here, and I am so glad. I switched around all the closets this week and cleared out the shirts in Mathboy's closet that don't fit anymore. Honestly, how is it that he can wear these things and not recognize how short they are? He had a couple turtlenecks that almost looked like crop-tops when he wore them. He came down for church this Sunday wearing one of these shirts and he was rather annoyed when I made him go change. Aside from the simple fact that wearing a turtleneck is ridiculous when it has been 75 degrees out for couple days, the hem of the shirt hovered right at his pants' waistband. He could not have tucked it in.

So this week I confiscated all the short shirts from both Mathboy's and Catgirl's closets, moved the t-shirts into the fronts and the sweaters and such into the backs. Then I moved on to my own closet. I was switching the contents of the shelves around when I came upon a sweater I knit for myself many years ago.

It was made with silk fingering weight yarn in a gorgeous bronze. The yarn was spectacularly beautiful. I had gotten a good deal on eBay, but it still wasn't cheap. I used it to make a pullover sweater with a deep V-neck and knitted ruffles around the V and the bottom of the sleeves. I had worn it once, right after I finished it, and never wore it again. It had spent years languishing on the shelf in my closet. Why would I neglect such beautiful silk so shamefully?

Because it was a train wreck--a knitted train wreck.

First of all, choosing this pattern was a mistake from the beginning. For example, I am a firm believer that bikinis should not even be made in sizes that have more than one digit in the number. If you need something bigger than a size 8, you should not be allowed to buy a bikini. Sometimes clothing manufacturers need to save us from ourselves, you know? Similarly, I think this sweater should only have been offered in small and extra-small sizes. The designer could have gently explained the limited sizing:

"For those ladies who do not fit into the measurements set forth in this pattern, please find another pattern to knit. Be assured that we are not impugning your body shape in any way. We simply want you to know that if you spend many months knitting this sweater on size 3 needles and using expensive silk yarn, you will be very unhappy when the result not only fails to flatter your body but instead emphasizes parts of you that you usually try to hide. Please don't be insulted; we have only your best interests at heart. There are much better uses for your time and money than to knit something that you will hate.

Sincerely, The Designer."

Would that have been so hard?

Maybe I should have known that I would look ridiculous wearing a deep-v neck with knitted ruffles all over the place, but I did not have that wisdom yet. I plunged on in and knitted it. The body and sleeves of the sweater were all stockinette, and then the ruffles were added on by knitting up from the cuffs and v-neck. It took several months of knitting, using tiny needles with this slippery silk.


I made a size medium, but I had my usual gauge issues so the actual size is a lot closer to the large and the stitches are a bit loose and sloppy. The sleeves were supposed to be 3/4 length and relatively tight. Mine ended up being way too long and wide and floppy, with the cuff ruffles hanging over my hands. By the time I was done, I knew that it was bad. My finishing work wasn't even very good, probably because I just wanted to have done with the montrosity by that time.

I pulled that sweater down from its exile in the top reaches of my closet this week and I faced the horror of it with honesty. I hate this sweater. I will never wear this sweater. Even more: I should never wear this sweater, because it is that bad. And I thought to myself, What a waste of really top-notch luxury yarn. If I had this yarn now, I could make something much better with it.

And then, just as I was preparing to throw it in the garbage--it was too bad even to force it on Goodwill--I had a thought. Why not try to rip the sweater down and unknit it?

So that is my newest project: unknitting the silk. This is going to take a bit of time. Fingering weight silk doesn't knit up too fast, and it doesn't unknit too fast, either. The crummy finishing work doesn't help matters at all. The seams are messy and hard to take apart.

So far, I have one sleeve and the neck ruffle undone. I tied what I have up in hanks, soaked it in some cold water to relax the ramen noodle effect of frogged yarn. Then I wrung it out, and it is currently hanging in the shower to dry. It's actually drying very quickly. I was a little nervous that soaking it would harm the yarn, but I figured that it anything I reclaim from the sweater is a bonus, anyway. If it's ruined, it can't be any worse off than when it was in Ghastly Sweater form.

When it's dry, I'll wind it up into balls. Meanwhile, I have to pick a project to make with it--something better suited to the yarn. I am hoping I can get a good 500 yards or so out of this thing. If so, that would be enough for a nice lace scarf or shawlette, or maybe a shrug or a vest? Any of these would be good summer knitting!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Signs of Spring

The last of the snow melted this weekend. The million inches of rain we got this weekend may have been the deciding factor. So, yes, it is kind of squishy outside these days, but you can definitely see signs that Spring is on its way!
Bulbs are poking their heads out of the ground all over the place. On the drive to church and school, I can see that carpets of little white flowers are popping up in many places. Can spring be far behind?

In another sign of spring, Rudolph emerged from his days of snuggling in his fuzzy cat bed to luxuriate in a sunny spot in the playroom.
Rudolph find the sunny spot
I thought he had a great idea to enjoy the sunlight today; after five days of heavy rain, the sun is a welcome sight today. I would like to go lie in a sunny spot myself.

Poor Rudolph did not get much time to enjoy the sun this morning before his person rudely manhandled him into a pet carrier and dragged him off to the vet for a teeth cleaning and his annual shots. Rudolph is a F.O.U.S., or a Feline of Unusual Size. Weighing something over 20 pounds, he is not easily squeezed into a pet carrier designed for normal cats. Unfortunately, they don't really make pet carriers for his size: you got your small carriers (for cats and small dogs) and then you got your large carriers (for large dogs). It's ridiculous to put him in a carrier for a large dog, so it's the small carrier for him.

Some time ago, after Rudolph's infamous and unsuccessful attempt to bring home a dinner of wild turkey, we bought him a fancy canvas carrier for the multiple vet visits he had to make at that time. I got it out of the basement to use today for the first time in about a year. After I wrestled him into the carrier, I tried to zip the end closed, without any luck. Not one, but BOTH zippers broke and I could not zip the end shut. I had to think fast, as the F.O.U.S. was doing his darnedest to escape, cat hair was flying everywhere, and I didn't want to be late for our appointment. In the end, I resorted to safety pins. It took six big brass safety pins to contain my vicious beast. He is at the vet's for the day today; I will pick him up after the kids get out of school. I hope the vet doesn't lose my safety pins...

We've actually had a lot of spring projects going in the past couple of weeks. My seed order finally arrived this weekend, so we planted lots of seeds. We have the seed starters all crowded close to the window that gets the most morning sun.
I want to improve the vegetable garden greatly this year. Last year, my fence did keep the bunnies out, but the deer reached right over and treated my garden like a buffet. So I need a better fence, and I need to improve the nutritive quality of the soil. Last year's just did not have the yield I have gotten before.

Catgirl and a friend in her Girl Scout troop have been working on their bronze award project. They have a goal of making and collecting 100 Easter "baskets" to donate to Catholic Charities. The "baskets" are made by cutting off the bottom half of a milk carton, punching holes around the edge and threading yarn through the holes. The yarn serves both to protect little kids against the sharpness of the cut plastic and to make the "baskets" look like more than just recycled plastic.
Catgirl's friend's mom (who is the leader) organized a big "basket" decorating event on Friday, where they got help from a troop of Daisies and a troop of Brownies in decorating the makeshift "baskets" with yarn. At one point, I looked around at all these little girls working hard threading yarn through milk cartons, and I said to the friend's mom, "We are running a Girl Scout sweatshop!"

The girls plowed through about 60 "baskets" in one hour Friday night. Admittedly, we did have to spend a few hours fixing many of them on Saturday, but it was still a great help.
These baskets, in addition to the ones the girls whave made over the past month, get them very close to their goal. Now Catgirl and her friend have to fill them with Easter grass and the treats they have collected and we will deliver them to the church this coming Saturday.

This past Sunday was Pi Day, of course: March 14th (3.14, get it?), so Catgirl's math teacher asked kids to bring in pie for Monday. Catgirl decided, for some reason that neither of us has figured out, that she wanted to make Key Lime pie. She had never even tried Key Lime Pie before, but she had it in her mind that that was the pie she wanted to make. I happen to have a good recipe for it that I used to make when Rich and I first got married. It's pretty much the same work to make two pies as one, so we ended up making one for us to enjoy at home and one for Catgirl to take to school.
Pie for Pi day
Unfortunately, only a couple kids were game enough to try Key Lime pie. Most of them went for the chocolate cream pie that one girl brought or the ice cream pie that another one brought. I hear the teachers liked it, but in the end a lot of it came back home.

So now, we have a lot of pie in this house, people. This morning I had a piece of pie for breakfast. Not exactly the breakfast of champions, I suppose. I am going to try freezing some pie. It sure will be tasty in the summer. Mmmm!

In knitting news, I have finished the back and one front side on my Twist cardigan sweater.
Twist cardi back
I reallyreally want to wear this, so I am seriously motivated to knit it up fast. The yarn is very nice: soft to knit and a classy khaki color that will look great with everything. I am enjoying the pattern, too.