January 30, 2008

HIRED GUNS

I'll be having a booth again this year at the Madrona Fiber Arts retreat in Tacoma in mid-February. And I was longing to have some new and different shop sample garments this year. But, you know those blues I've been singing, about how I'm already so overwhelmed with knitting homework for Nihon Vogue class, on top of all the other things I need to do to keep Two Swans swimming, that I just didn't see how I was going to fit in the knitting of sample garments, too.

Time to call in the hired guns.

After Anne made the Duxbury Point pullover for me, she was willing to finish knitting the Autumn Rose that I'd started. No trip to Portland could be complete without seeing her, and so last Sunday we met for dinner and she handed to me my Autumn Rose.

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(Pardon my clenched-teeth expression -- I was trying to smile through my shivers and keep my hair from blowing into my face -- it's cold enough to snow!)

I had felt some attachment to this project. It was hard for me to hand over Autumn Rose to another knitter, after I'd already started her. But, realistically, I knew I wasn't going to get it knitted by the time of the retreat.

Anne was a really good sport about it, too. She picked right up where I left off, matching my gauge. She kept on with the DK weight in the solid rows, as I had done when I'd started, even though that meant switching balls of yarn more often, and more spit splicing. I requested a higher, more modest neckline, and she indulged me in this request, even though that threw off the stitch count for picking up the neckline and also meant that, once the raglan sleeves were attached and she was knitting the top yoke, following the charts was more difficult because she was now in a different place than the published pattern. (Notice how my sweater's neckline begins after a full repeat of the rose, whereas the original sweater has the neckline beginning in the middle of a repeat. Starting in the middle of a repeat bothered me, visually, and I am glad to have a higher neckline, too.) After trying the neckband using graduated needle sizes as per the written pattern, Anne ripped all of that out because it seemed to pull in too much, and just went with knitting the neckband on size US 2s. You can see that the neckband lies nicely flat on me.

Similarly, I wanted a pair of the Rovaniemi fingerless mitts for display in my booth. And who better to hire to knit them for me, than Seattle Knitter's Guild member Sirkku Bingham, who is a native of Finland and learned the Rovaniemi technique in elementary school?

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Did I mention that it was cold enough to snow, here? We've been having intermittent snow showers, followed by rain to wash it all away, followed by snow again, since Sunday.

Sirkku sent me a sweet note with the finished mitts, saying that knitting them had brought back memories for her. And the mitts are charming! The blue and green colors go well together. I especially like the lines of the gusseted thumb. (I'll try to get a picture of that, tomorrow.)

I had sent Sirkku a set of yarns that I'd kitted up:

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and she sent back the leftovers along with the mitts. And there were a lot of leftovers! I'm thinking that a knitter could get two pairs of mitts out of one kit . . . but I don't want to guarantee that! I am kitting up the yarns by weight, winding off one-quarter of the colored skeins and including one whole skein of off-white, because that seems the most efficient way for me to prepare a kit. Do with the leftover yarns what you will.

Behind the scenes, I also have Feral Knitter June working on a pair of fingerless gloves, and Sirkku is working on a vest. My booth this year will be wonderful, thanks to the contributions of all three of these knitters. And I'll be wearing my simple stockinette top-down raglan -- so if you're attending the retreat, stop by and say hi, and I will be accepting compliments on my plain little sweater, too!

If you have a knitting project that you're ready to hire a professional to help you finish, you can contact Anne Berk at the yarn shop where she teaches and does finishing work in Portland, Knit/Purl, or Sirkku Bingham at Pinchknitter.com.


Posted by Karen at 01:18 PM | Comments (7)

January 29, 2008

FIVE, SIX, SE-VEN, EIGHT

It was another trip to Portland for Allegra and me last weekend, this time so that she could attend the NYCDA dance convention.

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Ballet class. Allegra is just to the left of center, in the long-sleeved black shirt. The boy ahead of her in the white T-shirt and black pants is Colin, and behind Allegra in the green tank top is Claire, both from Allegra's dance school.

There were easily 200 teenaged girls at the dance convention, maybe even 300 or more. And there were only about 11 boys. Oh, and Sabra and Jaimie from the television show So You Think You Can Dance were there as part of the troupe of demonstration dancers -- and those girls can dance, "and they're really funny," Allegra says.

Allegra took all of the classes, jazz, tap, and ballet. They danced six hours a day, with only the shortest of breaks to get a sip of water and eat a quick snack. She would be in our hotel room at night saying how tired she was, and go to brush her teeth before bed. Then she'd come out of the bathroom with her toothbrush in her mouth and dance around the room, practicing her combinations one last time.

Kind of like her mom saying, Just let me knit one more row - !

I thought of the trip as my own private knitting retreat. I popped in and out of the dance classes to check on Allegra a little bit, but spent most of the time in our hotel room, knitting. My goal was to finish the second sleeve of the top-down raglan that's an assignment for the Nihon Vogue class, and I daresay I succeeded:

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Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed, color Midnight - approx 6 balls
Needles: Size US 5, with US 3 used for the ribbing

I still have a few ends to weave in, and to block it, but the knitting is over with and the sweater fits.

This sweater and I have had a long journey (and I don't mean just to Portland twice) since class met in November. In November, I had completed the body and one sleeve, and I was deeply disappointed in the fit. The sleeve was like a dolman sleeve at the upper arm, but then skin tight from the elbow to the wrist. (Okay, I exaggerate -- not exactly like a dolman, but there was a lot of extra fabric across the shoulder and at the upper arm.) Overall, the body was larger than I would have liked, too. That was a sweater I would have worn once and then relegated to the depths of my closet. Note that I had followed the directions we were given in class, to the letter, to the number, to the centimeter -- you name it, I had done exactly what I was supposed to do. So back in November, before I set out to knit the second sleeve, I consulted with Jean about the fit. And she discussed with me what I needed to do to make the armhole less deep and the sleeve, overall, fewer stitches in circumference. This essentially meant ripping out the sweater to a point about six inches below the neck. And in November I had a big heart-to-heart talk with myself, over four days, about whether I wanted or needed to do that much ripping and re-knitting. Was I a knitting martyr, or did this really make sense to do?

In the end, I chose to rip and re-knit, even though the consequence of this was that I am even further behind in my homework than my classmates.

But the class is not a race. I have learned good lessons about raglans, about ease and about how much depth I like in an armhole. (Less is more, for me!) And in the end, I have knitted myself a sweater that I will actually wear.

A footnote, in the "how much knitting can you get out of one ball" category: The first sleeve took exactly one ball of yarn, supplemented by a few yards more to complete the last four rows of ribbing. This was true of the first permutation of the sweater that I had completed back in November, and of this current version of the sweater, too. The second sleeve took exactly one ball of yarn and I have a few yards left over! Yes, the two sleeves are the same number of rows. I chalk up the difference to a slight variation in the put-up.

Posted by Karen at 09:53 AM | Comments (1)

January 28, 2008

JANUARY 28, 2008

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Felix models his Elephants vest. Wendi, his mom, made my day the last time Feral Knitters met. I'd just arrived, hadn't even pulled my knitting out of my bag yet, and the first words out of her mouth were, "I love the vest!" She also has reassured me that it goes with everything and that he wears it all the time.

Given how frustrated I am with knitting right now due to the homework in the Nihon Vogue class, I am savoring this success.

Posted by Karen at 12:17 PM | Comments (2)

January 20, 2008

JANUARY 20, 2008

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My dear friend Anne finished my Duxbury Point sweater! And it fits perfectly. I wore it to Nihon knitting class last weekend, and it was duly admired.

The main subject of class was: sleeves. I am so far behind in my homework that I didn't get a sleeve knitted, so there was no seaming for me! But here's a picture of my seatmate, Arlene, and her sleeve pinned into her sweater and ready to seam. With all the bamboo pins sticking up, it looked like shark's teeth! (That's Shiori and Andrea in the background, looking as if they've never had a moment of stress about getting their homework done.)

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Using Arlene's sweater, Jean demonstrated how to crochet the seam:

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* * *

I got a new computer in November, and subsequent events are something that could be right out of the pages of the children's book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. One thing leads to another. The new computer and my old camera weren't compatible. (My old camera was a mere 5 years old -- and already obsolete! Harumph!) I got a new camera for Christmas. Until then, every time I wanted to upload a photo to my blog or to the Two Swans site, I had to go the long 'way 'round. (I resorted to taking the old camera to the camera store and burning CDs of the photos; then I could load the CDs into the new computer....) And now that I have the driver on the new computer able to work with the new camera, every time I want to upload photos, it feels like I have to figure out how to transfer the images as if for the first time.

All of this messing around with cameras and drivers has put a crimp in my blogging and my listing of new products on the Two Swans site.

But here are a couple of things I have listed recently:

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Light Blue, a new-to-Two-Swans color of Satakieli. It is meant for Lene's Rovaniemi fingerless mitts, about which she wrote an article and pattern that appear in the current issue of Piecework :

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I'm kitting up the yarns for these mitts.

Soon, Susanna Hansson will be publishing a pattern for Rovaniemi mittens, and I'll be selling kits for hers, as well. Stay tuned!

And also making a long-overdue debut on the Two Swans site is the new yarn from Crystal Palace, Panda Silk.
I am carrying most of the colors. It comes in solids and variegateds. Only today did I begin successfully taking pictures of the yarns and uploading them, so continue to check back over the next day or two and see what colors I've added most recently. This is a particularly lustrous yarn; it would make gorgeous socks but it is so drapey and lustrous, it just begs to not be hidden under pant legs or inside shoes but instead to be shown off as a lacy scarf or shawl.

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Posted by Karen at 08:57 PM