Friday, June 24, 2011

FO: scotland snowbird

Hello from my last day in Aberdeenshire! These last three weeks flew by; despite it being June, it's been cold and rainy most of the time, which left ample time for finishing up my Snowbird sweater. Fortunately the sun came out briefly right after I finished it, so I was able to drag Iain out to take some photos:

I knit this in nine days, which is obscenely fast for me. Once I got started, with little else to do out here, finishing it became a bit of an unhealthy obsession. I knit an entire sleeve in one day and knit 35 cm in another; if I ever get so stupid as to decide to knit something this fast again, I'm definitely going for a shorter sweater with fatter yarn.

My frenetic knitting was made slightly stressful by the fact that this sweater looked like @$*&! while I was knitting it. Fortunately, I steam blocked this rather aggressively with an iron, and am very, very happy to see that steam blocking forgives a number of sins and results in a much softer, much drapier fabric. It's still not perfect, so, um, don't look too closely!

The Pattern: This is a gorgeous sweater, the kind I would buy in a store, and my first purlwise-facing project, which I like quite a bit; the directions are generally easy to follow, though they don't spell things out as much as some others do (something I always appreciate, since if there's a wrong way to do something, that's probably how I'll do it unless firmly ordered otherwise). The construction is not forgiving of mistakes, with some of the seaming or more fiddly bits in very visually central areas, like the shoulders (mine do not look wonderful). The seaming of the back threw me a bit, until some helpful Ravelers pointed out that to do mattress stitch on two different fabrics, you follow mattress stitch directions for stockinette on the stockinette side, and directions for purl-side on the other - a bit obvious when you think about it, but the sort of thing I need pointed out (also I was a bit delirious after my nine day knitting binge and was probably not thinking clearly).

I actually really enjoy seaming, though I'm not very good at it - like I said, I think I may use the last remnants of my yarn to redo the shoulders when I get home - and so I'm less happy with this sweater than others because all the goofs are in the most prominent places of the sweater. But, that's my problem, not the pattern's, and I would definitely recommend this to a confident knitter. And maybe not doing it over nine days!

Modifications: I didn't modify anything, except to knit one sleeve inside out (I knit the other sleeve entirely in purls; not surprisingly, it took three days where the other took one) and then pop it rightside out when I got to the cuffs. So much easier, so much nicer looking. I also purled the last row on the cuffs before binding off knit-wise to minimize rolling, and then blocked it with an iron (like, literally ironed it - not something I think you're supposed to do? but it worked for me) to flatten it even more. I'm not a big fan of curling.

The yarn: I honestly don't remember why I choose this yarn or the color - I seem to remember it being a decent price, though it doesn't fit any of my usual criteria for yarn (either ridiculously soft, or a crazy vibrant color that doesn't actually match anything I own).  Hence, it was a bit boring and scratchy to knit with, but after blocking has transformed into a softer, much drapier fabric that I like much, much more. Though I'm still toying with the idea of dying the whole thing black (it'd cover up all those mistakes in the shoulders!),  I do have to admit that oatmeal, while not the most striking color, definitely goes with almost everything.

PS, The knitting of Snowbird would probably have gone even faster were it not for this grouchy old lady, who developed an instant need to sit on my lap or stand on my project whenever I broke it out. Here she is studying the pattern. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

now that i have time to play on the internet again...

... my Ravelry queue is spiraling out of control towards unrealistically ambitious levels. Also, I want to knit everything designed by Cecily Glowik Macdonald and Gudrun Johnson. That is all. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

lost: knitting mojo

Whenever I don't knit for awhile, it always takes me awhile to regain my knitting mojo, for lack of a better, less dorky term, and my first attempts to pick up the needles again always feel clunky and awkward. Case in point: my tri-country Ishbel, to which I clearly did not pay enough attention during my intermittent attempts to pick it up while traveling through Vietnam and India (though partially this is because I crashed my motorbike directly onto my wrist and was a bit out of commission for a few weeks - though it's OK now!) After two days of dutifully working away at it here in Scotland, I finally had to come to terms with the fact that after three repeats of the charts, it looked nothing like the gorgeous Ishbels populating Ravelry. Not even a tiny bit. I've never been much of a lacy shawl knitter, so it's probably not surprising that I wasn't doing my best while trying to read a faded, crumpled pattern in a Mysore hotel room while deciding if I could justify ordering room service curry while watching reruns of last year's So You Think You Can Dance (I could, it turned out).

I'm too embarrassed to post photos of my terrible Ishbel, but - as much as I'd love to have a lovely knitted shawl I could say I worked on in three countries - I know that it's too far gone and that I'm going to have to just give in and frog the whole thing. My fear of frogging and all the wasted time it represents is one of the reasons I'm probably so willing to accept imperfection in my knitting projects, and though I'm typically fairly laid back about not being perfect, I do think that this time around, for myself, striving to get it right is the only way I'll ever be able to manage lace - otherwise I'll just end up with a closetful of horribly mangled shawls that even I'm embarrassed to wear in public. So a little perfectionism is a good thing, right?

In the meantime, depressed by my total loss of knitting mojo, I cracked open the only other project I had waiting for me in the UK. Months ago, when we were packing up and moving out of our house in Japan, I sent enough yarn for one Snowbird sweater to my boyfriend's Aberdeenshire home. I'm knitting it in Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light, which at the moment feels a bit scratchy, but which has a nice texture, particularly on the reverse stockinette in which most of the sweater is knit. Besides that, though, it just feels nice to be back in my knitting comfort zone, using nice familiar size six needles and being able to knit and watch TV again. Yay, sweater knitting! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

yet more wayfaring (a little bit of knitting)

The last month or so has been lots more living out of a backpack - great fun, but not always conducive to knitting. While I wasn't getting much knitting done, I was riding a moped over roads of various quality in Northern Vietnam:

And then visiting India for the first time! After dreaming of visiting for most of my life, I stumbled across some cheap Air Asia tickets and decided to go for it despite the time constraints, because who knows when I'll be in Asia again. I only had a few days, but I saw a little bit of Kerala...

... and also Mysore in Karnataka, where I became obsessed with all the insanely gorgeous colors: 

I wish I'd had more time in India, but I had to hurry to Scotland in time for a friend's wedding: 

Throughout all of this, I did have an increasingly crinkled WIP in my backpack - a very slow-going Ishbel shawl, knit in madtosh prairie in Oxblood, which looks far more luminous in this photo than it does in real life. 

To be fair, living in a crumpled up Citimart shopping bag for six weeks is probably not the ideal condition for any yarn. I finally made it to the lace section in India, and since then it has started to move a lot faster. It was hard to work up enthusiasm for knitting in Asia's 40 degree early summer weather, but Scotland - with it's cold, rainy June - is much better knitting weather, so here's hoping I can finish it before I head back to the States (and to all the yarn I sent home from Japan months ago).