Sunday, 30 March 2014

Modifying a Sweater, Part I

In my last post, I said I was going to rip out the sweater I had started because I didn't like how the pattern wasn't lining up at the sides and that I was going to play with the gauge and ease to see if I could come up with some numbers that would make this pattern work for my size. I was talking about this yesterday at a knitting group and someone expressed some surprise that you could do such a thing. With that in mind, I decided to tell you how I modify a sweater pattern.

The first thing I do once I have a pattern I like is select my yarn. I try to stick to the same weight (fingering, DK, etc) as the original but I certainly don't go out of my way to find the exact yarn that was used in the model. I prefer to "shop" from my stash and frankly, there is no shortage, but I digress.

Once I have yarn, I knit at least one gauge swatch. Yes, probably more than one. No, you can't skip this part. Really, it only takes 45 minutes for me to make one - do it while watching TV. I start with knitting a 4 inch square in plain stockinette (or whatever pattern I'm trying to measure against) in the manufacture's recommended needle size for that yarn. Then sit back and look at the swatch you just made. Do you like the density of the fabric? The drape or hand of it? If you have even a whiff of "maybe this should be lighter/denser/something other than it is" then make another swatch to correct for what you don't like. Keep doing this until you are happy with the swatch 'cause I can guarantee that if something bugs you in the swatch, it will definitely bug you in the finished item.

This is the first swatch I made on a 4 mm needle, and my initial thought was that it's too loose so I made another using a 3.75 mm needle.  This one is visibly denser and I like it more for a summer top.

If you want something denser, go down one needle size. If you want to open up the fabric a bit, then go up. When you have a selection of swatches - remember two is the minimum for this - then go ahead and wash them the way you would the final garment according to the directions on the ball band or tag. For the swatches I'm doing, the ball band says to machine wash in cold water. So I dropped the swatches in the laundry. To tell them apart, I tied one knot on the tail of the first one (4 mm), and two knots in the tail of the second (3.75 mm). I won't make a final decision about needle size or gauge until they are washed and dry but right now, I'm leaning towards the second swatch.

While these are in the wash, consider how and where you are going to wear this and then measure yourself (or better yet, get someone to measure you) according to the schematic provided in the pattern. What I mean is, if the pattern only gives a bust measurement then measure yourself there. Don't worry about hip and waist measurements - the garment won't have any shaping. If you want to put that shaping in, that's another subject. While I'm on the subject of measuring your bust, make sure you're wearing the "right" bra. If this is something you're going to wear to work, don't take a measurement in your running bra which compresses everything, or your "slop around the house bra" which really doesn't to anything at all. You need a real number so measure while wearing your good, workday bra. Don't worry about what that number is and don't go off on a tangent about how you have to lose weight before you can make anything for yourself.  You're beautiful and deserve to have nice things.

Stay tuned - when the swatches are out of the wash, I'll continue with the next steps.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Rent Socks

Some of you know that I have a very long commute to work - 84 km (~50 miles) each way. In addition to this, my role at work has been changing lately and now I'm doing training in a classroom setting. The result of this is that now I have a hard and fast start time in the mornings and when you have to cross a city of a million people to get to work, traffic is unpredictable at best. So on the days when I teach, I spend the night before at a friend's place much closer to work. We have experimented with how to compensate her for this. She's not really comfortable taking my money. I've brought a roast a few times, wine others but I think we've settled on something that will work: socks. She doesn't knit, but loves hand-knit socks.

So here is what is likely going to be the first of many:  Rent Socks.  The yarn is Trail Socks by Fleece Artist in "cedar" colourway. After she's tried it on and I know it's the right length, I'll graft the toe.

In other news, the calendar says it's spring now, but it seems mother nature didn't get the memo. It's still very cold outside (-10C) with lots of snow. But one of the oddities of Eastern Ontario is how fast the seasons change, especially from Winter to Spring.  When the change happens it will be very fast, a matter of days.  I've lived here long enough to know this so I've got some seeds started.

I know this is very early but I really only have a few things here.  I have some herbs (basil, cilantro, dill) which were decimated by some unknown critter last year, I have some pumpkins which I'll transplant when I can, some celery because home grown is really the only kind I like, and some tomatoes.  See, I've been looking at the tomato plants in May with the fruit already on them and think I'd really like to have one, but I won't pay the $20 the nursery is asking for them.  I figure I can grow it myself with a little bit of planning.

I'm also working on a new tank top for summer.  This is called Fifty-Fifty and you can find the pattern on Knitty.  I spent last night and a few hours this morning working on this and this is what I have so far.  As is normal for me, I'm not using the recommended yarn so I'm not getting the recommended gauge so I've had to recalculate all the numbers.  It turns out, that with my recalculated numbers I was 4 stitches off the numbers for a different size so I decided to try that. Here is the pattern. I think this will be really cute when it's all knit up.

I quite like the pattern, but one of my pet peeves with patterns like this is when the pattern doesn't quite fit around the number of stitches so you end up with a really awkward join on the sides.  In this case, there is a huge gap (ok, not so huge, only 4 stitches) on the sides where the pattern doesn't meet up.  Still, this makes me crazy.  

Not all the sizes have this problem, so I'm going to rip this all out and recalculate, maybe change the ease a little bit to see if I can use the numbers for a size that doesn't have this problem.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

In the backyard

Life continues much as it always has here.  There is knitting and spinning happening but I have no photos to share.  No photos of the knitting because this week I made Chuck a new toque and no sooner was it cast off then he was away with it on his head.  I guess he likes it.  The spinning looks just like it did last week, only more of it.

I did however, have a visitor in the backyard this morning.

I also saw the first robin of the season, but I don't have a picture of that either.  By the time I got my camera, it was gone.  There are those who say that if there is no picture, then it didn't really happen.  Believe what you like, I'm clinging to this lovely vision of spring.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Things are Looking Up

I always think of March as being something of an endurance test - something to get through before April and Spring starts in earnest. But today, on the 9th, I feel like things are looking up.

First of all, the sky is blue and the snow is melting.

No really, trust me - it is. And the temperature's are up. Today is only a little bit below freezing. The birds which are still here, the Jays and Chickadees are flitting around the trees and chattering away and there is heat in the sun when it comes through the window. I've also noticed that rivers and streams are starting to open up, which means the ducks and geese will be back soon.

My husband is getting better. He's had an extremely heavy chest cold that was bordering on the plague. This was the kind of cold where he didn't get out of bed for four days - and I've been in the guest room for four days because I didn't want it. He actually got out of bed today, got dressed and ate. Which means I might get to sleep in my own bed tonight. Fingers crossed. On a related note, I've discovered that we need a new mattress for the guest room but that doesn't have to happen right away.

Ian progressed through two levels of snowboarding this year! I don't have a picture of this because I forgot my camera yesterday, but we spent the day at Mount Pakenham where he's been taking lessons. He'll be starting in Level 4 next year - pretty good considering he only started riding a year ago. And while I was there waiting for him.....

...I finished a pair of socks; almost.

I need to graft the toe and weave in the tail from my cast on then I'll have something new. These are knit in Malabrigo yarn in the Archangel colourway.

I also got back in the proverbial saddle and decided to try spinning more Alpaca. This time it is working wonderfully and a good thing too because this isn't actually for me. A couple years ago, a lady I worked for took a vacation to Vermont but before she went she asked me if she bought fibre, would I spin it? And being so keen as a new spinner I said "Sure!"

So I've had this - about a pound and a half of Alpaca fibre in my stash for about two years.

The white is pretty standard white, 4 oz but the brown is the most beautiful mahogany colour which really doesn't show in this picture. She's got 8 oz of that. I'm sure she's a bit annoyed at me by now - or has forgotten about it. Two years ago, I really didn't have the confidence or skill to do it.

Now I feel and do, at least enough to spin this well and give her something that she can use. In exchange for my time, she also gave me 8 oz of Alpaca from a lovely animal named Gus from Maple Farm Alpacas in Brandon, Vermont.

I might have the order of who gets what wrong but either way, it's such a pleasure to spin. I really like how this is prepared, the fibre is extremely clean and wrapped neatly into bumps. While I didn't buy this, I would order more from them (once our dollar goes up again).