Monday, September 24, 2012

Allons-y, Alonso!

I remember being a little girl and watching my 3 favorite shows on PBS: Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Doctor Who.  To this day, whenever someone says "Doctor Who" to me, I immediately think of Tom Baker and his delightfully endless scarf, floppy hat, and 1970s fro-like hair-do.  He will always be the perfect embodiment of Doctor Who for me.  Running a close second is David Tennant.  I will admit it took me a little while to get beyond Barty Crouch, Jr. being Doctor Who.  (And it was really peculiar to see Barty Crouch, Sr. as the inventor of the Cybermen facing off against "his son" in season 2 of the recent Doctor Who reboot.)  But after a few episodes, it was clear that Tennant was the right choice to pick up the yoke of Doctor Who and run with it.  Some of the most memorable episodes in the recent series reboot of 2005 have been Tennant's.  I've found seasons 3 and 4 to be my favorites.

Every Doctor Who has their specific quirks and Tennant's Doctor, I think, was the funniest.  One particular thing he liked to say was "Allons-y!"  Quasi-proving that I didn't waste 6 years of French study, Allons-y means "Let's go."  In a couple episodes The Doctor mentioned how he always wanted to meet a person named Alonso, just so he could say, "Allons-y, Alonso!"  Well, The Doctor gets his wish in the Christmas episode of 2007, Voyage of the Damned, when he meets an officer on a space cruise ship bearing that most-desirable moniker.  The Doctor is ecstatic. 

After I finished knitting my Owls sweater on vacation, I started knitting these Tardis socks.  I had originally used a chart that I found on Ravelry.  But after knitting up the top portion and the start of the paneling, I just didn't like how it was turning out.  The letters were too indistinct, the window part was too smooshed together, and the door panels were not visible enough.  So I ripped out everything back to the ribbing and wrote my own charts with clearer lettering and devised my own technique for doing the windows/paneling.  I think they turned out really well!  The chart is available for free on Ravelry.  If you don't have access to Ravelry and still want the chart, just comment and include your e-mail address and I'll send it to you.

The rest of the sock is just the standard, awesome Ann Budd "sock recipe," with one minor exception: I do a circular, tubular cast-on for the cuff.  At some point I hope to write up how to do this cast-on.  But it is hard to explain in writing.  I'll have to make sure to include lots of photos.  It's a very easy cast-on process, once you do it a couple times. And it looks amazing.  It also maintains its shape, is very stretchy, and doesn't cut-off circulation in your calf.  It does use more yarn and it takes about 4 times as long to do it than any regular cast-on.  But the end result is worth it. I also use this cast on whenever possible for cuffs for sleeves, sweater bottoms, and hats.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

OMG, Y'All, the Mayans May Be Right

Because I finished the fucking pinwheel sweater! AW YEAH, BITCHES!

Nearly four and a half years after I started, it is, indeed, finally done.  I wandered around the house while wearing this for about 20 minutes contemplating the idea of not having this unfinished project looming in the back on my mind somewhere.  It was very bizarre.  I felt like Frodo after the ring was destroyed in Mount Doom.  To put it another way: I cast this on when George Bush was president, m-kay? 

I don't hate it, but I don't love it either.  I think the concept of knitting a giant circle with sleeves was intriguing to me at the time.  I was a much less-experienced knitter then, and this project had no shaping, no seaming and it was knit on large-ish needles (size 9).  Looking back, this really needs some shaping.  Unless you have a perfectly proportioned body---and I don't mean like a gorgeous, photogenic body (though that would help), I mean mathematically perfect---this thing will not fit correctly.  And I have neither of the aforementioned.

The yarn (Lion Brand Cotton-Ease) was great to work with.  It's very soft and the end result is a very comfy sweater.  BUT---there is always a but, isn't there?---it was not the best choice for this project.  Because of the cotton content, and the vast amount of yarn required to make this, AND because there are no seams to help with the structuring of the garment (see, knitting a garment without seaming is truly a double-edged sword) this sweater is very heavy and a little droopy.  I didn't block it because it doesn't need any help stretching out.  Just picking it up from the shoulders I can feel it pulling down and stretching the knitting.

Another problem I have is with the sleeves.  There doesn't seem to be a good, fool-proof method for making the sleeves for this sweater.  I haven't revisited the pattern instructions for this area in years, but whatever method you use for making the sleeves, they are still done in between YOs, which causes giant holes at the shoulders and back of the armpit areas of the sleeves.  I am actually wearing this sweater today.  It was cool enough this morning to warrant something, so I figured, why not?  It looks fine, but I am extremely peeved about the holes.  As the day is progressing, I am noticing that the stockinette around the holes is expanding, probably due to the natural pulling of the garment down from my shoulders (and as I mentioned above, the yarn is helping this right along).

 See?  RAGE.

At first I thought it was because the sleeves were too tight, but they are actually pretty loose up there.  I've got something like 3 inches of extra fabric around my arms.  So that's not it. I don't even know what to do about this.  Do I try to stitch it together somehow?  Mattress stitch, maybe?  Do I care?  Meh.  I'm totally open to your suggestions.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Why is this ugly-ass, shitty yarn $40 for only 35-40 yards?

I mean do people really want yarn with gaudy tchotchkes in it?  Come on.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Are You Prepared for Fall?

I am. I realized that I now have 4 knitted garments to wear in the fall and even winter.  I never got the opportunity to wear my Channel sweater, having finished it just as the weather started warming up in early May. I have the Owls sweater just waiting in the wings for a cool October day. Plus, I have last year's good ol' February Lady at the ready too.  And now I also have the B.O.B., which stands for "Button On Blanket."

I had gotten seven hanks of a very coarse and itchy rustic locally-produced, bulky-weight, 100% wool yarn when I was on vacation on Vermont this year.  I fell in love with the color: a lovely marl of the natural gray of the wool and red, resulting in an overall mauve-ish look with some red flecks.  Here's a close-up shot of the front cabling that shows the coloration really well:

My friend, Marsha, knit one of these about 3.5 years ago.  It's a great pattern for using up that not-so-soft, bulky-weight wool because it's meant to be worn as an over-sized, bundle-up cozy thing over clothes, rather than as a delicate, next-to-the-skin cardigan.  The pattern lives in our shared Dropbox of patterns, so I figured I'd give it a go.  The B.O.B. comes in three size instructions (33", 39", and 46").  None of those sizes really works for me.  Although, in retrospect, the 39" would have been fine.  So I decided to split the difference between the 39" and 46" and make a 42".  The end result is more like a little coat or jacket.  It's well over-sized (even for Busty McBooberson, like me), but I think that's a good thing. Someday, I will get pictures of myself wearing these things for reference. I swear.

I don't think I've ever knit a project that didn't pose SOME problem (except maybe for the February Lady) and for the BOB it was the yarn's overall texture.  This yarn is scratchy. It is itchy. It is coarse like sandpaper. What to do? I researched ways to soften up wool.  I don't know why this never occurred to me before, but my research turned up several recommendations to use generic shampoo and conditioner.  After all, wool IS a form of mammal hair, and that is what shampoos and conditioners are made to clean and manage!

So I spent a whopping $.89 each on freesia-scented VO5 shampoo and conditioner for normal hair.  I gave the B.O.B. a gentle bath in the shampoo after it was all done (sans buttons).  And boy howdy did it need it.  My fingers would get filthy after a few hours of knitting this.  I thought it might have been dye, but it was just dirt.  Maybe the yarn was on the shelf for a long time and it was dust?

Then I let it sit submerged in cool water with about 1/4 cup of the conditioner mixed in for a half hour.  I did a quick rinse, as best I could --- this thing was HEAVY, laden with water.  Then I had to hold it it my arms and let it drain off as much as possible.  No wringing or twisting, as this would felt if I breathed on it wrong. I got soaking wet in the process. Then I laid it on towels on the bathroom floor and pressed out as much water as I could.  Then I laid it on more towels on blocking mats on the dining-room table. It didn't need much shaping or stretching or pinning.  I only used about 6 pins to hold the button plackets into place.  That's it.  It took about 6 days to dry and then I sewed on the buttons.

It is MUCH softer.  I can still feel that it would be a little itchy if worn right against the skin, but practically all of the coarseness is gone.  So I am quite happy with the result.  My one complaint is the scent.  It smelled great when I was using it.  But it seems a little over-powering now.  I'm hoping that wearing it out in the open air a couple times will diminish the fragrance a little.  I would have gotten traditional-scented VO5 (you know, the golden stuff, which is a scent that is really nice, to me anyway) but the grocery store didn't have it! So, if you ever get some wool yarn or wool with mohair (a real "bastid" for itchiness), I recommend shampooing and conditioning! 

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course.  So what I SHOULD have done was shampoo and condition the yarn BEFORE I knit it.  It would have been infinitely easier to manage the open hanks of yarn.  But I didn't even think about it until I got 1/2 way through knitting the B.O.B. 

Now I'm knitting a pair of Tardis socks (yes, I'm a Doctor Who fan).  I'll blog about those after I am done.  And also I am trying my hand at real lace knitting with lace-weight yarn.  I've done plenty of lace patterns before on dishcloths, scarves, hats, baby items---even the February Lady is a lace pattern---but never with true lace-weight yarn. I'll blog about this experience soon too (preview of coming attractions: OY VEY).