Monday, February 20, 2012

Yarn Hubris

So: my eggplant scarf was sheer bliss to knit and sheer excitement to mail off. It received rave reviews from its recipient.

I started the Orchid Thief Shawlette with the same high hopes. A beautiful design from one of my favorite designers...a springy sparkly yarn...size 6 needles (one of my top three sizes to knit with) and LOTS of charts. (I love charts.)

All was going well and, because I get a tad obsessy, I was on pace to finish the whole thing in less than a week.


Yarn hubris, to be more specific.

The pattern calls for a 440-yard skein of Malabrigo sock. My skein of Dream in Color Starry had 450 yards. The pattern did say that the sample shawl was finished with only yards to spare, and that the careful knitter might buy an extra skein to be safe.


First: I didn't decide to make the shawlette until after I'd bought the yarn.
Second: my LYS only HAD one skein.
Third: I am on a limited yarn budget. I could not justify buying a second skein of $28-a-skein yarn Just In Case.
Fourth: my yarn already had 10 extra yards compared to the Malabrigo sock.

I think you know how this story ends.

OH yes.

I'm knitting happily along...each row getting subsequently and seemingly exponentially longer...pulling the yarn out of its huge yarn cake in my project bag...humming a merry tune and mentally devising fictional formal events at which to wear my sparkly midnight blue shawlette...and then...

Boom baby. On row 112 of 114, I pulled the yarn out to check on it and, poof, where had it gone? I did the trick where you tie a slip knot at the halfway point to see how you're doing and...I barely made it one more row. Yes, two yards from the finish line (114 is also the bindoff row) I was Out Of Yarn.

And the yarn is discontinued.

And one person has it for sale or trade in his Ravelry stash. One Person in all the world. He's willing to sell it...but only the whole skein.

March 1, when the fun money budget resets, that skein is coming my way. And I Will Finish.

And then I will have 90+ percent of a skein of Dream in Color Starry left over.

At least I'll know one project it's NOT enough yarn for.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Knitting Book Review: Textured Stitches

Knitting Book Review: Textured Stitches: Knitted sweaters & accessories with smart details
(2011, Interweave Press, 144 pages, 19 projects. Source: personal purchase.)
By: Connie Chang Chinchio
Nutshell: 75% classic, 25% detail-work in a well-worth-purchasing collection of women’s garments.

Background: Connie Chang Chinchio is a name you likely recognize, either from her blog or from the numerous patterns she’s recently published in venues like Interweave Knits, Knitscene, and Twist Collective. I have always been drawn to her patterns, which combine classic lines with intriguing details.

I rediscovered some of her previous patterns as I browsed Ravelry doing research for this review, and remembered how much I love the Henley Perfected and Far Afield Vest. (And, of course, I wrote recently about my plans for a Geodesic Cardigan, assuming I can get up da noive to knit a me-sized sweater in lace-weight yarn.)

Synopsis: A collection of ten sweaters and nine accessories (ten, if you count the hat and mittens set as two patterns), Chang Chinchio integrates her love of stitch patterns and motifs with (mostly) fine-gauge yarns and classic, feminine silhouettes.

Each pattern contains an unexpected element or delightful surprise; lace, cables, smocking, and twisted stitches all make an appearance. All patterns are within the reach of an intermediate knitter, or even a determined beginner. Colorwork is nowhere to be found, not even stripes; like the title says, it’s all about texture.

Additionally, Chang Chinchio provides four sidebars with detail-filled explanations of a variety of techniques she loves and uses: tubular cast-on & sewn bindoff, glove-knitting, reading charts, and working sleeves from the top down using short rows. The book also includes several pages of Interweave’s always-quality knitting instructions and diagrams at the end.

Writing Sample: Charts are a convenient way to communicate complex stitch patterns accurately and succinctly. Whereas it’s easy to make a typo or skip a stitch when writing out stitch patterns row by row, missing or erroneous stitches tend to be obvious when plotted on a chart. (from “Reading a Chart,” the sidebar on page 103.)

Woot: My favorite aspect of Textured Stitches was the way it looked and felt like a unified collection. From repeated design elements like short-row shaping on collars to its meticulous instructions and level of detail (the Gems Hoodie gets 12 pages of instructions and detailed photos and charts) the book is accessible, careful, and beautiful. Not one time did I think, as I sometimes do, “This is the pattern that got slapped together at the last minute.” The texture is often botanical or geometrically inspired, and she never repeated a motif.

Next: nobody designs a sport- or DK-weight sweater like Ms. Chang Chinchio. I have to admit to being a worsted fan, myself, but seeing the lovely sweaters in this book makes me want to break out the size 5s and settle in for a while. That said, there are three patterns written for worsted-weight (a scarf, a pullover, and a jacket) and each uses the heavier gauge to its best advantage.

I also appreciated the variety of yarns used. Everything from affordable Cascade Heritage to spendy Road to China Light shows up.

Meh: Beware, endowed women, of the sweater patterns. Those of us with a bit of junk in the trunk or "huge tracts of land" in the front: we may be disappointed by these patterns’s fit, which tends toward the subtly-shaped-but-not-shapely. I’m a C cup (funny how the internet encourages such odd revelations) and I would definitely need to add bust darts to nearly every sweater to keep their body-skimming silhouettes from becoming too va-va-voom.

(Bust dart side note: the hands-down best tutorial I’ve seen on this topic is in Ysolda Teague’s Little Red in the City. Run, don’t walk, to get a copy of this book.)

I also must say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the accessories patterns.
Both hats were kind of odd looking, and – I know I should never say never – I don’t see myself EVER knitting gloves, especially in fingering weight. However, the ten sweaters were worth the price of admission. My favorites: the relaxed and fun Gems Hoodie, the sophisticated Honeycomb Tunic, and the delicate Tulip Henley.

Boo: patterns for men. I’d love to see what Chang Chinchio would do with fine-gauge yarn and a man’s sweater. Men like texture, too!

Also: the tutorials are text-heavy and could have benefited from diagrams. The description of magic loop was particularly mind-boggling, and I already know how to do it.

Audience? Knitters who love classic lines and finer gauges, plus patterns with surprising detail and texture that elevate the garment to an heirloom, or at least a favorite.

Sequel-worthy? Certainly. I’d love to see more vests, men’s and/or children’s patterns, and some attention to adapting patterns for different body shapes.

I hope this review is helpful. I plan to continue to go through my shelves and highlight books—some new, some not—of interest to other knitters. Let me know in comments if there are any unanswered questions, or features you’d like me to consider adding. As with any review, my comments are intended to educate, illuminate, and entertain; your mileage may vary.
Have you read this book? What did you think?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Annnnnnd--blocked, beautiful (if I do say so myself) and ready to she is....the lovely Loreli. Her stitch pattern is beautiful, like waving seagrass on the ocean floor. It's also the rare lace pattern that is reversible without a sooooper obvious wrong side. The sides are different, but the back looks good, too. I personally think this is a good quality in a scarf.

See? Back pretty.

Also, you can pretend you're French:
Ooh la la. (On me, this method is a bit too short. But for my 5'2" friend I think it'll hit at a good spot.)

Or drape it like a stole:

Or--my personal favorite scarf-wearing technique--the once-around-falling-forward.

Everything about this project tickles me, from the stitch pattern, to the yarn, to the invisible kitchenered seam, to the way I will always think of Downton Abbey when I see it. Yay for happy gifty projects.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Starting blocks, building blocks

It is a truth universally acknowledged -- by knitters, at least -- that a lace scarf must be in want of a block.

I've been working on this Loreli's Gift scarf for my dearest friend. We had wandered our way into a lovely yarn shop in Seattle last fall while on one of our celebrated and traditional rambling walk-and-talks. She happened to drop the hint that she was loving gold and eggplant these days. (But not together: too UW Huskies.) I, being the dutiful knitting friend I am, filed that away (and left the store with a beautiful skein of Hazel Knits sock yarn in Hoppy Blonde). Hoppy Blonde was intended for a scarf (and might still be one day) but then, later that month, I popped into my own favorite local yarn store (which had just started carrying Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock) and the eggplantiest of eggplants made its way home. Suddenly I had two choices. Texts followed:

Me: Answer w/o thinking: gold or eggplant?
Her: Eggplant!

Then, a day later after I'd pored over my Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders book:

Me: Now: traveling vine, loreli, or candle glow?
Her: Gilmore girls! Loreli. this is mysterious and delightful.

Isn't it funny, and wonderful, the thought and love that goes into a knitted item for a dear one?

One consideration the color. I always want it to be something that is both familiar and surprising--a color I know they love, presented in a unique way. Both potentials fit the bill -- gorgeously hand-dyed and tonal.

Another conundrum: the pattern. What will the person wear? What suits their job, their style, their height, their shape? My friend has a professional job in a city...she's just over five feet tall...she is outdoorsy and tough, yet feminine and funny. I wanted the scarf pattern to reflect all of this. (And I was glad she picked Loreli's Gift, which I was leaning toward anyway!)

The final test: will I enjoy knitting this pattern? Sometimes, the tedium of a simple pattern can be overcome by sheer love for the recipient. (See: plain brown socks for men.) The rest of the time, one has to find a happy medium between what one loves to knit and what the recipient will enjoy.

I'm pleased to report that Loreli is almost ready to make her way to her home. I had already blocked her first half before I started part two, as you can see in the photo above...I wanted to make sure that she'd block to the full 50" measure. The second half went even faster than the first and I kitchenered her halves together this afternoon whilst snuggling with a sick little girl home from school.

It's been said many times on the knitterwebs, but it begs mentioning whenever possible: blocking is magical. The bumpy lumpy lace suddenly sleeks up and becomes slender, glamorous, smooth. The Soak softens the fibers and tames them into silken submission.

Here's to having people you love to knit for. Here's to blocking. And here's to checking item one off of my "projects to do" list.