Let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him. (Oswalt Chambers)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Monkeys Done, Anne's Steps Started

These 64 stitch socks would never have fit my narrow feet using my old 2.5mm Addi Turbos.

The Options 2.25mm needles are opening all kinds of new pattern possibilities for me. And I love the points on them.

Pattern: Monkey Socks by Cookie A. in Winter 2006 Knitty

Yarn: Opal sock yarn, 75% wool, 25% nylon

Color: UNI-Solid Green (#40)

Needles: Options 2.25mm 24" circulars

Gauge: 8.5 stitches/inch, 11 rows/inch in stockinette

I had forgotten how soft this yarn feels. It's a very pleasurable knit so I'm trying to enjoy the process and not hurry.

At the same time, I'm trying to hurry because I need to get these socks in the mail soon if they're going to make Idaho by the 10th, Anne's birthday.

Pattern: Basic sock with k3,p1 ribbing on cuff and instep

Yarn: Austermann Step with Aloe Vera and Jojoba Oil

Color: Gray, purple, and tan

Needles: Options 2.5mm 24" circulars

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Friday, December 28, 2007

Socks: Done, On The Needles, and Future

While I impatiently wait for my special order purple Cascade 220 for the She Said Aran to arrive, I'm sock knitting.

Done. Daughter-in-law Anne's Birthday Socks.

Pattern: Basic sock with wide ribbing on cuff and instep

Yarn: Stahl Fortissima Colori, Socka Color. 75% superwash wool, 25% polymid.

Color: 07

Needles: Options 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

On the needles.

I needed some green socks. Being one of the few online sock knitters who has never knit a pair of Monkey Socks, I decided to give the pattern a try and see why it's so popular.

Monkey socks are pretty, stretchy, and much easier to knit than they appear. It didn't take long to memorize the pattern.

The yarn is Opal UNI-Solid fingering weight.


I was instructed to open my birthday present from Idaho immediately. The whole family went to the yarn store and each member picked out some yarn for Grandma B (me).

Son John selected the Sassy Stripes on the left and hopes it will become his birthday socks. It will! And I'm so happy to know he'll like the colors in his socks when they're done.

Daughter-in-Law Anne selected the Austermann Step in the hopes I would use it for her birthday socks. When I explained her socks were done, she said I could use it for myself.

Am I going to do that? No. I'm going to quickly knit her a second pair of socks before I mail her birthday package next week. Don't tell the rest of the family that Anne is getting two pair of birthday socks.

Granddaughter Sydney selected the brown Shi Bui superwash Merino. For me. I've never knit with the Shi Bui and am looking forward to giving it a try. It feels oh so soft.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Sorry I didn't get a pre-Christmas post done to wish you all a wonderful holiday.

Before dawn Sunday morning a huge gust of wind came through bringing down many branches and leaving ~200,000 homes (number varied according to source) in SW Michigan without power, including us.

Power came back late Sunday afternoon, a minor miracle to have it repaired so quick.

Sunday night we got about four inches of snow over icy roads. Monday we were without phone lines, but so happy to have power we didn't mind being without a phone.

With all the utility interruptions and bad roads, Christmas was still able to happen on schedule. There was a little last minute shopping that didn't get done which turned out to be unnecessary. I always suspected the "last minute" stuff might never be missed.

Christmas Eve the Michigan members of the family all met at Mom's in Kalamazoo for our celebration.

This is Mom's Christmas tableau of cherished decorations and gifts collected through the years. On the right is a Patsy Anne doll from Santa when she was a little girl.

Most of the evening I was too busy eating and having a good time to think about the camera.

Mom's wish list requested tee shirts for exercise class.

Everyone was so happy to have a clue what to get her, I think she got about a dozen. This is one of her many favorites.

Granddaughter Kimmy passed out gifts to be opened, saving her pile until last.

Labels were a little confusing considering we had three "Moms" and two "Grandmas" in the room.

Daughter Heather's partner Jason is a professional cook. He brought a yummy, beautifully decorated cake for us. I can't believe I failed to get a picture of it before it was cut!

It was huge. Our share to bring home after the party filled this normal size cake tote.

This is the corner with "M" from Merry Christmas, taken this afternoon to attempt to make my readers drool and show some of the detail icing work.

Meanwhile, across the US in Idaho Granddaughter Sydney had a tricycle under her Christmas tree from her grandparents in Michigan. (Assembled by her dad. Thank you John!)

For family and other Sydney fans, there are Sydney Christmas pictures and videos on John's Blog.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What Is This?

It is a Huge Box From Amazon.
Our Christmas tradition is to haul gifts to Mom's and open them there.

DH Bob requested I post this picture on my blog so the family will know he got me something nice for Christmas, even though he let me open it early and at home.

It is a Big Boombox and a Tiny MP3 Player.
Perfect enablers for my audio book habit. It is set up right next to my knitting spot in the back bedroom.

This is my first MP3 player and I like it. And, of course, the boombox also plays CDs, tapes, and radio.

Now I need to start a fun knitting project. (Stopping here before I digress into knitting babble.)

It is a new Toyota Corolla.
Yesterday I picked up Mom for lunch. When I started my car it loudly howled at us - like a noisy, sick ghost.

After lunch (I needed food to face this), I took Mom home and drove to the Toyota dealer. The verdict: a broken strut, have to order parts, can't get it fixed until next week, not safe to drive, we'll give you a loaner.

While it's fun to have a new car with new car smell, it's more of a worry than a thrill. The dogs are banned and what if it gets dinged or stained?

There's a certain relaxed feeling to driving an (almost) eight year old car that's been initiated with a few minor bangs and muddy paws - except when it scares me by howling like a ghost in pain.

It is a Redpoll.
These cute little birds are about five inches long, just a tiny bit bigger than a Chickadee and smaller than a House Finch (bird on the left).

They're rare visitors to our feeders (see
irruption year). I'm buying thistle seed just for them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Road Construction Continued

Just yesterday this road sign was erected along the road in front of our pond.

We are puzzled by its purpose since anyone with eyesight good enough to get a driver's license can see there is no shoulder.

Maybe it means, "If you slide off the road here you're going to end up in a snow bank."

Or, for a vehicle that is going too fast it might mean, "If you slide off the road here you're going to end up in a pond."

Last summer's road construction left the phone lines laying on the ground with occasional tangled heaps where the boxes used to be. I was sure they were going to stay that way for the winter, but no. Verizon hired this winter worthy crew to sort them out and put them back where they belong.

Having the Ding Ding Ding of a backhoe in the front yard is like a little bit of summer revisited.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Snow and Socks

Am I the only Michigan blogger who didn't post a snow picture yesterday?

That's only because when I sat down to do it yesterday evening, our ISP (Internet Service Provider) was out so I couldn't get online.

This is our road yesterday (Sunday) in mid-afternoon. Residents without four wheel drive had to stay home.

It did get plowed overnight, resulting in a pile of snow at the end of the driveway.

This morning was shovel time. Great exercise and it's free.

Perfect knitting weather.

Daughter-in-law Anne's birthday is January 10. I've found, over the years, that I need to treat her birthday in with Christmas or it gets forgotten in the post-Christmas/New Years lull. So, I'm knitting on her requested birthday socks - something with dark blue.

Pattern: Basic sock with wide ribbing on cuff and instep

Yarn: Stahl Fortissima Colori, Socka Color. 75% superwash wool, 25% polymid.

Color: 07

Needles: Options 2.5mm

Gauge: 8 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

Friday, December 14, 2007

Start of Weekender Wrap

Have you seen this beautiful free Weekender Lace Wrap pattern designed by Lisa? Check out the link. My unblocked, black version doesn't begin to do it justice.

It's an easy knit. Just four pattern rows.

This is the first time I've ever used a lifeline - that dental floss you see going through a wrong side row in case I need to frog back.

Before I started the lifelines, I had several opportunities to rip back. With the black yarn, my 60+ year old eyes, and the yarnovers and double decreases, I ended up taking out more than needed before getting all the stitches back on the needle. Therefore, it was time to master the lifeline technique.

A while ago I read this great helpful lifeline hint (sorry, no idea where): When using Options needles there's a handy little hole where the point joins the cord. Thread the hole with dental floss, knit a wrong side row, and the lifeline is perfectly inserted.

The tricky part is being sure not to catch the lifeline in the following row's stitches. Not too difficult with the Options sharp point, but I do have to pay attention.

This piece is about seven inches long. I've knit four inches since starting to insert the lifelines and haven't used one yet. But, they're so easy to do with the Options needles I plan to keep using them just in case.

Pattern: Weekender Lace Wrap Stole by Lisa Dykstra.

Yarn: Regia Silk. Fingering weight. Black.

Needles: #5 Options.

Gauge: I have no idea how this is going to block out. And, I didn't swatch.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Autumn Song Modeled

This afternoon I wore Autumn Song to lunch with a friend in Kalamazoo. Before I left, DH Bob was kind enough to come out in the cold and take a few pictures.

I enjoyed wearing it and declare the fit to be almost perfect. My friend is not a knitter and never mentioned my sweater, but we had a good lunch anyway and I still love her.

Pattern: Herbstlied (Autumn Song) from New Style of Heirloom Knitting.

Yarn: Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, 100% wool.

Color: Firecracker heather

Needles: Options #5.

Gauge: 5.5 stitches/inch, 8.4 rows/inch in pattern

Click on the label Herbstlied at the end of this post to see all posts on this blog mentioning Herbstlied.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Autumn Song Finished

No modeled shot yet. It's still a little damp in places.

How to block the shoulder saddles was a bit of a puzzle with the leaves and acorns puffing out across the tops of the sleeves. I may have to give blocking a second try if they don't behave themselves once I get the sweater on. What I really need is a mannequin so I can dry the sleeves in a round shape.

A few other Herbstlied knitters sewed shut the hole at the base of the leaves. None of the holes hit me in a critical place, so I don't plan on doing that.

On the left is the top half of a sleeve. On the right, the bottom half of a sleeve.

The pattern called for eight leaf/acorn sets up each sleeve, too long for my short arms. Seven sets would have been just right, but the design needed an even number of sets to use the pattern neck chart.

I recharted the sleeves for six sets of leaf/acorns and made up the difference with longer cuffs. I love the look of the lacy ribbing.

Pattern: Herbstlied (Autumn Song) from New Style of Heirloom Knitting.

Yarn: Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, 100% wool.

Color: Firecracker heather

Needles: Options #5.

Gauge: 5.5 stitches/inch, 8.4 rows/inch in pattern

Click on the label Herbstlied at the end of this post to see all posts on this blog mentioning Herbstlied.

Monday, December 10, 2007

More on Swatching

The swatch for Hourglass Cables in Knitpicks Cadena, a bulky weight 70% wool, 30% alpaca, is done, washed, and drying.

It looks like gauge is right on with #7 needles. The fabric is dense, maybe too dense. Final judgement when it's dry.

I counted five comments asking what I do with my swatches. The answer: It depends.

If I'm going to knit the project, the swatch is valuable for calculating stitch counts and measurements so the project will fit and the stitch pattern will end on an attractive row at the neck and/or shoulder seam and/or wrist. A little math, a little planning, makes a big difference in the finished garment.

Before and after measurements are both important. When knitting all I have are the before washing measurements. They need to be converted to after washing measurements if the sweater is going to fit.

Also, the swatch is a comfort to have in case the yarn runs out before the knitting is finished.

If there is a reason, however small, to keep a non-project swatch, I stick it in a yarn bin for future reference. Colors in the skein often look different when they're knit up. If I love the color and/or the stitch pattern I keep the swatch to inspire future projects.

If the swatch is wool and I don't want to keep it, it's frogged and added to my CIC stash bin.

With a non-wool swatch, I usually keep it a while and eventually throw it out. Knitting a swatch is educational and a cheap evening's entertainment. The price of a swatching skein is small to avoid knitting a project where the yarn is not right and/or the project doesn't fit.

This is the Swish superwash wool swatch where I determined I never wanted to use Swish for a heavily cabled project. (Details here.)

I'll save this swatch for reference - to remind myself why I really don't want to use superwash wool. At least not Swish.

Instead of being organized enough to keep and file swatch notes, I tie knots in the yarn end to indicate the number of the needle used for the swatch. Then I store it with the yarn label.

Autumn Song is done. Later today I'll wash and block it in preparation for its final photo session.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Very Purple Yarn Order

I've been away from home for a few days. Very little knitting, end weaving, or anything else has been done. As soon as I catch up on my sleep things will be back to normal. Or, as back to normal as things can be with only 17 days until Christmas.

Knowing that Autumn Song is on the last few hours before being wearable, I gave myself orders for my Thursday trip to Kalamazoo - Stop dithering around and get some yarn for the She Said Aran even if you have to special order it!

With that mission firmly in mind, I stopped at Handweavers Inspiring Yarn Shop, a small shop that carrys Cascade 220. There was nothing there in any shade of purple. I asked to see the Cascade 220 sample book, picked out the brightest shade of medium purple, ordered 10 skeins, and came home empty handed but happy.

The yarn isn't expected until the first week in January. What to do until then? I'm sure I can think of something once I catch up on my sleep.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Autumn Song is Almost Done

I knit the neckline exactly as shown on the pattern neck chart and was surprised when it fit just about perfect.

The front neck opening and back neck opening are exactly the same, not like most sweaters that have a high neck back and a lower neck front.

As of this evening the entire sweater is sewn together. All that remains is half of one sleeve cuff and weaving in the ends.

Pattern: Herbstlied (Autumn Song) from New Style of Heirloom Knitting.

Yarn: Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, 100% wool.

Color: Firecracker heather

Needles: Options #5.

Gauge: 5.5 stitches/inch, 8.4 rows/inch in pattern

The She Said Aran Swatch in Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, Amethyst Heather, is on the needles.

When I looked at the yarn in the skeins, this was the color I liked best. Only after knitting a swatch could I see that it's too dark for this cabled pattern. Now I know. One of the many reasons I like to swatch.

I stopped at the biggest yarn store in Kalamazoo today to check out the Cascade 220. The only purple color they had in stock was as dark as the Amethyst Heather, so I left it there.

Monday, December 03, 2007

She Said Swatch in Swish

Say that (the title) fast three times in a row.

The first swatch for She Said turned out nice.

Using Knitpicks Swish, a worsted weight superwash wool, and #5 needles, the fabric is not too tight, not too loose, and also not on gauge. While knitting it appeared the gauge was going to be very close. After washing it stretched way out.

I'm knitting a She Said Wool of the Andes swatch now but I think the purple color is too dark.

When I drive to Kalamazoo for a haircut Thursday, I will be very close to a yarn store that carries Cascade 220, the yarn used in the pattern. If my car happens to turn into their parking lot and they happen to have a color that speaks to me, I may come home with a bag full of yarn.

Meanwhile, I have not neglected Autumn Song. There is only one more side seam to mattress stitch and I think I've achieved a neckline I can live with. It's not bound off yet, so I can't be 100% sure.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Gail's Socks and Greaser Dog

There isn't much to be said about these socks except that they're done.

They will be given to dog trainer Gail at the doggy school Christmas party. She's looking forward to getting another pair of hand knit socks to add to her collection.

Pattern: Basic socks on 64 stitches with k1p1 cuff and k7p1 leg.

Yarn: ON-line Supersocke, 75% wool 25% polyamide, fingering weight.

Color: Afrika, 992

Needles: 2.50mm circulars

Gauge: 8 stitches/10 rows per inch

Last Sunday Pappy started holding his head funny and acting like his ear hurt - because his ear hurt. Poor boy.

First thing Monday he was in the vets office getting diagnosed with a yeast infection in his inner and outer ear. The cure? Ten days of oily ear drops.

His beautiful fur is getting greasier and greasier. The yeast has a tendency to reoccur, so he needs the drops twice a week for a month after his ear heals.

Then, to make sure he never looks fluffy and beautiful again, the vet said I should give him a couple doses after every visit to the groomer.

If he just gets better, I'll happily grease him up. Tomorrow it will be a week since he started treatment. His ear still hurts enough so that sometimes he cries out in pain even when I give him pain medication.

I think we're going to end up at the vet's office again.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'd Rather Be Knitting

What's even less fun than mattress stitch?

Mattress stitch where rows meet stitches!

When I picked it up to sew the saddles onto the front and back, I was temporarily mystified to realize I had live stitches on the front and back. This problem was solved by picking up stitches along the edge of the saddles, 3 stitches to every 4 rows, and doing a three needle bind-off. I was happily surprised to get good results with that technique and am pleased to have a strong seam there that won't be stretching out when I wear the sweater.

The sleeves are sewn to the front and back sides with mattress stitch, 4 front/back rows to every sleeve stitch.

The list of things needed to do to finish Autumn Song is getting shorter:
  • Under side of sleeve seams - row to row mattress stitch.
  • Side seams - row to row mattress stitch.
  • Neck. I expect this to take two tries. I'll knit it according to the chart, frog it, and then knit it a second time so it fits and doesn't come up too high on me.
  • Knit sleeve cuffs in the round.
  • Weave in ends.
  • Block.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What's Next?

There was a Knitpicks box in the mail today. It contained a good supply of Options metal sock circulars. I'm hooked on that nice sharp point. Now that I've learned not to prick my finger bloody, I want to use them all the time.

Also in the box, an interesting supply of swatching yarn. There are three pattern candidates for my next sweater. I'm going to swatch and decide which pattern to knit next - but no swatching allowed until Autumn Song is done. (I'm sewing. It's going painfully slow because I'm painfully slow at sewing. Sigh.)

Potential Project 1 - Set-in Sleeve Aran in Janet's Szabo's book Aran Sweater Design.

Swatching Yarns for Set-in Sleeve Aran

Left - Merino Style (100% Merino Wool, DK wieght) in Fog. A few years ago I ordered a swatching ball of red Merino Style and didn't like the scratchy feel of it. This skein is entirely different, very soft and nice. The color is a bit uninspiring, but may look better when it's knit up.

Center - Wool of the Andes (100% Peruvian Highland Wool, worsted weight) in Lake Ice Heather. I love this heathery light blue. Wish the Merino Style came in this color.

Right - Wool of the Andes (100% Peruvian Highland Wool, worsted weight) in Dove Heather. An unlikely choice now that I've seen it. I'll probably strand it with some leftover sock yarn for color and knit a pair of toddler CIC socks.

Potential Project 2 - Hourglass Cables designed by Charlotte Morris. From Knitter's Magazine Fall 2001, #64.

Swatching Yarn for Hour Glass Cables

Cadena (70% wool, 30% superfine alpaca) in Neptune. This is a super soft heavy yarn. I love the feel of it and only wish it came in more interesting colors.

Neptune was the only Cadena color in stock I'd consider for this sweater. At first I was disappointed, but the color is growing on me. I'm very curious to see how it knits up.

Potential Project 3 - She Said Aran designed by Barbara Venishnick. From Knitter's Magazine Winter 1999, #57.

I've been wanting to knit this sweater since I first saw it eight years ago. I love the way the cables turn into diamonds and finally join together at the top.

Swatching Yarns for She Said Aran

Left - Swish (100% superwash wool, worsted weight) in Wisteria. I'd love to knit another sweater in Swish. I'm hoping it works out gauge wise, but I'll only use it if the cables really pop.

Center - Wool of the Andes (100% Peruvian Highland Wool, worsted weight) in Amethyst Heather. I love this color. It's about time Stitches of Violet knit something in purple, don't you think?

Right - Wool of the Andes (100% Peruvian Highland Wool, worsted weight) in Iris Heather. Pretty but way lighter color than I want for this sweater. It's going in my CIC stash.

The pattern shows the She Said Aran knit in Cascade 220. That's what I'll use if I don't get the results I want with the Knitpicks yarn.

All opinions welcome. What should I knit next?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday Miscellany for November 26

An unrelated mix of information in response to recent comments and questions.

Fluffy Knitter Deb asked . . .
Couldn't you knit a smaller size in the bigger gauge and still use the yarn of your choice?
Sure I can although it's usually not as simple as that. For the Set-in Sleeve Aran, it's important that the center cable end in an attraction position, but I'm willing and able to plan ahead and do the math.

I haven't found the perfect yarn for this sweater yet. When I do find it, I may surprise everyone and cast on without a gauge swatch. But probably not.

Kathy and Dorothy both made nice comments about the Vesper Sparrow picture.

Dorothy asked . . .
Are you sure you didn't work for National Geographic in another life?
The camera (Canon S3 IS) does it all. I only turn it on, extend the zoom lens the amount I want, point, let the camera focus, and click.

It works better when my windows are cleaner. Need to address that soon.

The bird pictures on my blog are cropped using the software that comes with the camera. Super easy.

Marie asked about this picture . . .
Did you have much waste? And how did you know you would have enough yarn for sock #1 before breaking the wool for sock #2? By weight?

The amount of waste depends on length of the color repeats and where the sock starts in the color sequence. It's usually minimal.

I wind the balls before starting the socks and I know with yarn like Opal I'll have plenty of yarn, even when knitting for my large footed son. Should I ever run out of yarn (which has never happened unless I'm trying to eke out a second pair), I have a small stash of solid color leftover balls to finish the toes.

I divide the balls into equal balls using a kitchen scale I bought cheap at Target. A skein of Opal weights about 3.4 ounces, so each ball is approximately 1.7 ounces.

Another big big benefit of pre-winding the yarn is finding knots and other upsetting flaws before spending hours on knitting and then reaching the unpleasant surprise in the skein.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Three Excuses . . .

. . . for not having Autumn Song sewn together yet.

It's Thanksgiving.

I needed something simple to knit so I can jump up to prepare food and/or eat more food.

I took advantage of the season to get a good start on dog trainer Gail's Christmas socks.

Pattern: Basic socks on 64 stitches with k1p1 cuff and k7p1 leg.

Yarn: ON-line Supersocke, 75% wool 25% polyamide, fingering weight.

Color: Afrika, 992

Needles: 2.50mm circulars

Gauge: 8 stitches/10 rows per inch

It's Sale Time.

Amoung the many emails I've received from companies wanting my holiday dollars was an offer of "$0.00 Standard Shipping On $55 Orders - 4 Days Only" from Patternworks.

I am was considering Bretton, one of their house yarns, for the Set-in Sleeve Aran. In order to make the Sunday night deadline on the shipping offer, I had to stop all other knitting to quickly knit a gauge swatch to see if Bretton would work.

The required gauge for the sweater is 5 stitches/7.5 rows over sand stitch filler. My preliminary swatch, filler stitch only, was perfect gauge on #5 needles after being washed. I got very excited and knit the second, larger swatch over half the front pattern. It was an inch and a half too big.

Just goes to prove that gauge swatches only done on the filler stitch aren't worth a hill of beans. 1.5 inches on 1/4th of the sweater is 6 inches on the whole sweater.

I'm thankful I swatched this before ordering the yarn, but not happy I have one more swatch for this sweater that isn't close to the right size. Maybe I should think about knitting something else?

There will be no Patternworks order from me this weekend.

The birds must be fed.

It took me a while to identiy this unfamiliar visitor to the feeder. It's a Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus).

They migrate late in the season. This one was probably just passing through.

The camera makes bird watching so much more fun. I can shoot pictures of the unidentified and compare them to the bird books until I'm sure of the name.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesday Tidbits

Autumn Song
Thank you for all the kind and encouraging comments on the Regrets on Missing Cable post.

I'm over my disappointment and looking forward to finishing the sweater soon. Estimated completion is this weekend or early next week.

It's time to sew things together. I'm capable of postponing that task for weeks so I mention a completion time to put some pressure on myself.

Surprise in the Mail
What's a better surprise than unexpected, gorgeous yarn in the mail?

Joanne in Oregon sent this Fancy Image hand dyed sock yarn by Myra at Fancy Image Yarns in Shelton, Washington. Isn't it pretty? It will be fun to try a new yarn. Thanks Joanne.

She also sent a sweet card featuring one of her bearded collies, champion Cee Cee.

The Castle Mouser
Pappy is growing out his winter coat, although so far we haven't had much winter. That's not a complaint. The longer winter takes to get here, the shorter it will be.

Here he is doing some serious rodent hunting in the late autumn weeds. I had no idea the field was full of shrews until Pappy started catching them this summer. I thought they were baby moles until someone straightened me out.

Sydney and Grandma on U Tube
For those who follow the family, there are some Sydney videos on John's Blog. There's one where I'm calling Sydney with a plastic pail over my head so my voice will echo. Yes, I do have fun in Idaho.

Just to prove it, here's a picture John sent. There are more in his latest Picture Trail album Fall Pictures of Sydney.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lessons From Swatching

I've been wanting to knit this sweater ever since I first saw it on Janet's website. It's the Set-in Sleeve Aran in Janet's book Aran Sweater Design.

Since I want my next project to be written in English and a pattern I can follow with no or minor modifications, it appeared to be time to knit this sweater.

I also wanted to knit another sweater with Knitpicks Andean Treasure, a heathery sport weight baby alpaca. It's soft, cuddly, and a pleasure to wear. Like cashmere only much less pricey.

I assumed this sweater pattern would be perfect for the Alpaca because:
  • The cables aren't intense. (Andean Treasure has mediocre to poor stitch definition.)
  • There is no ribbing (Andean Treasure ribbing is worthless.)
  • The pattern is drapy so I could knit with a loose enough gauge to get pattern gauge, 5 stitches/inch in sand stitch.

One of the lessons from FLAK is that for an Aran sweater (or any sweater with multiple and diverse stitch patterns), it pays to knit a large swatch.

I like to swatch from the center panel back to the side seam. This almost guarantees a perfect fitting sweater. Plus it gives opportunity to become acquainted with the stitches (Do I want to knit this stitch for an entire sweater? Does this stitch look OK in this yarn at this gauge?)and the fabric (Is it too loose? Too tight? Is the color OK for this stitch pattern?)

I got stitch gauge, 5 stitches/inch in sand stitch, with my first swatch on #4 needles. But the row gauge was way off, 9 rows/inch instead of the needed 7.5 rows/inch.

Remember, I want to be lazy and not have to calculate and plan. Row gauge matters in this pattern, so I tried a second swatch with a #5 needle. The stitch gauge remained at 5, but there were still too many rows.

I knit a third swatch on #6 needles. The fabric was too loose, there weren't enough stitches/inch, and there were still too many rows.

Then I noticed what could have spared me knitting the last two swatches if I had been paying attention instead of stubbornly trying to get the Andean Treasure to work with this pattern. To fit, I needed 10 inches from center to side seam. The swatches have 13 inches from center to side seam.

Note to myself: Just because you make gauge on the filler stitch doesn't mean the sweater is going to come out the size you want. Measure the whole swatch! That's why you knit it!

Instead of the cables popping they plopped and spread.

They plopped because the Andean Treasure is sport weight so the fabric was loose and they plopped because alpaca doesn't have good stitch definition. So with two good reasons to plop, the plopping was impressive. Three inches worth of spreading.

Using Andean Treasure for this pattern won't work. Now I need to decide if I'm going to find another pattern for the yarn or find another yarn for the sweater or knit something completely different.