Sunday, July 23, 2006

Knitting While Sober

The St. Brigid sweater is coming along nicely. I've done three repeats of the cable pattern on the back, which translates into about 10", or about a third of the needed length.

So far, I've only screwed it up twice, and both screw-ups happened on the braided cable borders. The first time, I only had to ladder one cable back about four rows. Last night, though, I had to ladder all four dratted braids back, because I'd done the entire row wrong without noticing. Sadly, there was no alcohol involved (well, not at that point), and in fact I had virtuously set aside the sweater and switched to a sock once I started drinking.

The irony of this is that I purposely stopped knitting the cable pattern solely because the last time I did a project with that same braided border while drinking, I had had to ladder all nine cable stitches back about 30 rows to fix the same freakin' mistake I made last night while dead sober.

I'm sure there's a moral in there somewhere, and I'm not entirely sure that it's not along the lines of "it doesn't matter if you drink or not, you will find a way to screw up your knitting."

Monday, July 17, 2006

St. Brigid Sweater

I am, at long last, knitting a sweater for myself. I've lusted after the St. Brigid sweater in Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting for many years, and today cast on to begin the back.

That may sound simple, but there were a number of factors that made said cast-on something of a triumph.

First, the largest pattern size for said sweater finishes at 48" (supposedly for a 40" person, who apparently needs 8" of ease, but never mind that). My bust is 50".

Second, since the yarn called for in the pattern doesn't seem to exist anymore (and would probably be prohibitively expensive if it did), I chose a different yarn, which is also a slightly heavier weight.

Third, when I knit a single column of one knit stitch between a purl background, it looks like crap, so I knew (from having made small objects with this same chart before) that I would need an extra stitch for every chart repeat.

Fourth, the gauge for the orginal pattern was given over a 2 x 2 basket stitch instead of stockinette, so I really had no idea how my usual gauge compared.

I knew going in that these things would be a factor, so when I purchased my yarn (Cascade 220, for the record), I tried to wildly overestimate and then ordered three skeins more than that, to (hopefully) ensure that I would have a full skein just for swatching. Last week, I cast on my "swatch."

In one of her books, Elizabeth Zimmermann made the observation that half a sweater was more or less the same length as an adult's head circumference, and suggested doing a "swatch hat" for patterns that involved lots of cables, since cables tend to have their own idiosyncratic gauge that might have little or nothing to do with stockinette (or 2 x 2 basket stitch) gauge.

I thought this was a good project to try it out, so I cast on the full pattern for the back of the sweater, minus the basket stitch edging. I worked two full pattern repeats, and came up with a swatch that was 19" wide, or about 7 1/2" short of what I needed for one half of the sweater.

Now, I admit that I don't often block my swatches. The vast majority of my knitting is either knitting I've done so many times before that I know what's going to happen, or it's a design where blocking and/or gauge doesn't matter enough to bother. This time, though, I wasn't taking any chances. Sure enough, my 19" swatch bloomed two whole inches. It was 23" after it first dried, then shrank down to 21" after a couple of days (just the right size for a hat, amazing!). Now, I don't mind oversize clothes, but 6" of ease was a bit more than I'd counted on. Yay for blocking.

So, today, I did the math. I figured up my swatch, and how many basket stitch stitches I'd need to make up the extra inches on the sides, and cast on. I bought one of those spiffy Clover row counters, the small ones that can be worn as pendant and locked (very important with a toddler in the house), so I have no excuses. Onward and upward!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

How to Knit a Sock, Part Two

After planning, scrapping, planning, ripping, ripping, ripping...

Try socks on. Realize that cables are making socks way too small, despite math.

Say very bad word in front of friends' four-year old.

Decide yarn is cursed.

Send husband to house on sock yarn mission.

Begin pair of different socks for said husband.

Watch socks whiz like magic from needles.

Ponder mysteries of the universe.