Saturday, March 31, 2007

The pattern--a book review

The pattern for the Celtic Seas Vest comes from a book called 25 Gorgeous Sweaters for the Brand-New Knitter by Catherine Ham (Lark Books, 2000) At $17.95 it's quite reasonable (and at $14.00 new and as low as $4.19 used at amazon, it's an even better bargain.

The pattern is not called Celtic Seas Vest--I made that up, in honor of the Celtic-looking clasp I plan to put on it and the ocean-y colors of the Kureyon yarn. It's actually called Shawl Collar Vest. There's also a pattern called Shawl Collar Jacket done in garter stitch that's designed the same way.

The book includes simple patterns for 10 women's sweater, 4 vests, and 5 kids sweaters or vests, and most of them look both do-able and wearable.

One negative is that in order to keep them simple enough for the brand-new knitter, there is minimal shaping. I added decreases to my pattern in order to narrow the shoulders a bit. The original is basically just a square, and when I made a mock-up out of a piece of fleece, I could see that the shoulder look wasn't all that flattering. Most of the finished objects in the book are displayed either flat or on a clothes-rack, so the wide shoulders look ok, but on a real person, especially a person with hips, the angular look may not work out quite so well.

The sweaters with sleeves are all dropped-shoulder as well, which does make them easy to knit, but is not exactly high-style these days. But there are many ideas of how to adapt and adjust the patterns, and I think I will make a couple more sweaters from this book before I exhaust its usefulness.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Celtic Seas Vest coming into its own!

I have been busily knitting away on the back of the vest which I have christened Celtic Seas, and last night I bound off the shoulders.

To wit:

I am very happy with it so far. It seems like the size is going to be right, and the colors and texture are really pleasing. I soaked it in cool water for a few moments and then blocked it. When it got wet, it emitted a rather alarming odor (wet dog? wet sheep??) But once it dried, the smell was gone. So the moral of that is, don't wear this in the rain! However, dampening it did soften the texture nicely. The yarn as it comes off the skein is rather earthy and primitive feeling, but it settles down some as you handle it while knitting and it settles down even more when it's been wet blocked.

I also really like the textured stitch pattern:

It took me a while to fully understand the pattern. The book calls it "box stitch," but I prefer another term: double moss stitch. It's basically


But you need to start on the second row rather than the first in order to get it to come out right. And you alternate between knitting the purls and knitting the knits:

KK (knit the knits)
KK (knit the purls)
PP (purl the knits)
PP (purl the purls)

And you need to cast on a multiple of 4 plus 2 extra.

But it makes a nice flat fabric which is exactly the same on both sides, and which has an interesting amount of texture. I'm thinking of trying it on a dish-cloth in cotton to see how the texture works for that. It seems basically kind of "scrubby."

So now I've cast on the first front side, but I realize that the self-striping will turn out completely different. Even on the back, when I decreased for the arm-holes, the width of the stripes changed noticeably. But that is the nature of the yarn, so I am determined not to let it bother me. I really like the way it subtly changes colors. It took me 3 weeks to make the back, and the fronts should take maybe a little less, if I don't get confused and have to spend time figuring things out again. Ha.

Kristen goes back to Chicago tomorrow around noon. We had a great time while she was home. And she ordered Cash-soft yarn online at a great discount and had it shipped to Chicago, so when she gets back, she will have a go at knitting a sweater. She found out her grades today, and she had an A, A- and B+, which was better than feared, so she can once again go back a happy camper. Spring term is sure to be more enjoyable than winter term was.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Baby Yoda Sweater

Beautiful Baby Pru models the Baby Yoda sweater! Thanks to Pru's Mom for forwarding this lovely picture to me.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Yarn Shopping

Christine and Teresa arranged for a full day of yarn shopping--aka as SEX (Stash Enhancement Expedition.) We met at 9:30 am at Let's Knit in Gardena. I wanted to do most of my actual buying there, since that is my trusty LYS (Local Yarn Shop)--the place where I can get emergency needles at 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon, and because I suppose that Mrs. Oyama needs my business more than a fancy-dancy shop in Santa Monica does. So I had my pattern all ready--a shawl collar vest for myself in size large. I made a mock-up of it from a piece of fleece, to assure myself that it will fit. I already have the clasp that will hold it closed. All I needed was the yarn. And I pictured lovely flowing colors. So I rather quickly settled on Noro's Kureyon. I was tempted by Noro's Silk Garden, but that was even more expensive-- $11 a ball. Kureyon was bad enough at $8.50. Then I was a bit shocked to find that I needed 9 balls. Even with a generous 10% discount, that still came to $68.85. Yeouch! I had better do a good job on this vest, and wear it with joy for at least 10 years!!

I also picked up 4 balls of emerald green yarn in a cashmere/silk/merino blend, mainly because it was so soft and 50% off. It will make a beautiful scarf when I decide to learn how to make a simple cable. Nancy Terasaki showed us the scarf she completed--from the same pink merino I used for my hat--with a beautiful cable down the middle. It is beautiful, and inspired me to think that a simple shape such as a scarf is a good place to learn cabling. I think I will do that instead of the shawl with cabled pockets that I had in mind. Less overall knitting and more cabling. that should be do-able.

Next we went to Santa Monica and the nicest of all the yarn shops on our itinerary: Wildfiber. Spacious, wood floors, bins and bins of every kind of gourgeous fiber imaginable--from alpaca to linen. I was sorely tempted to buy some lovely soft sock yarn, but I resisted. I am not ready to knit socks yet and I know it. And the $70 vest will keep me busy for quite some time. And sock yarn will be there when I am ready for it. I am thinking that before next winter, Kristen could use a pair of wool socks for the Chicago winters to come. Maybe over the summer, when she's home and her foot is available for measuring, I will work on that. I did buy a skein of periwinkle colored Brown Sheep bulky, with a felted bowl in mind. Maybe this time I'll follow the directions and get an actual bowl shape!

We also visited another shop also in Santa Monica I think, called something like Knit from the Heart, that specializes in knitting for charity. More homey than Wildfiber, but not as exciting.

Then we drove to El Segundo (which involved being in a scary old van on the scary 105 ovepass, which has distressingly low sides while making swooping curves. Good think I wasn't driving!). We had lunch at a Philipino/Chinese/Vegetarian restaurant with a French name: Papillon. All strange, but it was good. And we ended our expedition at Slipt Stitch, which is close enough to home that I might stop by there sometime again. Again I almost succumbed to the sock knitting siren, but again I resisted. I bought a row counter instead.

So I came home and fired up the needles I got for $1.50 at Marukai, and knit an actual swatch. This is the first time I've swatched, but it's also the first time I spent serious money and the first garment for myself that I am knitting. The swatch seemed way off, so I went back to Let's Knit (thank God for LYS, eh?) to try to buy size 101/2 needles, since I thought I was using 10s. Come to find out, I had Japanese size 10, which is much smaller than American size 10s. So I didn't need 101/2 after all, I needed a real size 9.

I have about 5 rows done on the back--96 stitches per row. The pattern is simple enough--a box pattern that is like a broken 2 x 2 rib. So far so good, and I think that even if I mess up a knit or purl here or there, it won't make a big difference, as it does in straight rows of ribbing. But I am a little concerned about Kureyon (which, incidently, when pronounced by Japanese ladies seems to mean Crayon. Try it.) It is quite a rough wool. The colors are delightful, but the texture is quite rough. I knew that, but I read that it softens when washed. So I washed the swatch, and it does indeed seem a lot softer. And a vest will always be worn over a turtleneck, so it doesn't need to be soft against my skin. So I think it will be good when it's finished. But it's a little less than a joy to work with. I hope that this won't discourage me from enjoying my first sweater throughout the process. Nothing else has as pretty colors, except perhaps Manos de ...where? Uruguay? Something like that. It also has gourgeous colors, but it's also very rough to the touch.

Well, I now have my work cut out for me, so off to knit for a while!