Monday, September 29, 2008

Welcome Lyra!

After almost a month without internet or email, I'm back. Our computer, pushed to the edges of it's capacity, gave us the big blue screen and was resistant to our meager efforts to repair it. Enter Jorge, the talented and clever, and husband to Kindnessgirl. As Jorge awaited the arrival of child number four and began a new demanding job, he parked our computer on their dining room table and worked to get us up and running in his "spare time." Isn't that just incredible?

Now our computer is not just running again but better, faster, stronger. And most importantly, baby Lyra has now joined us.

Here is the sweater for Lyra ...

Pattern: Busy Lizzy by Louisa Harding from Tadpoles and Tiddlers (Rowan)
Yarn: Louet Gems, Fine/Sport Weight, Goldilocks and leftovers from a BSJ
Needles: US 2s and 3s

I modified a number of things on this sweater, I'm not even sure I remember all the changes I made. I knit the body together, dividing for the sleeves, and then grafted at the shoulders to avoid any bulk from seaming. This made the colorwork easier and more continuous without any nasty seams to break it up.

I knit the sleeves in the round on dpns then seamed them into the round openings. I am moving away from seaming whenever I can (I'm with Anne Marie -- avoid seams whenever possible). I found the stitch count for the sleeves to be way off and increased to only 57 sts instead of 67. Also, I am in love with the smocking stitch. It has stretch and texture and is just a joy to knit.

This yellow is the truest to actual color.

And the button. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know where it's from via The Yarn Lounge. I love that it matches the flowers (I didn't pick the button until after I had knit the sweater!).

Louet Gems may just become my go-to-yarn for baby things. It's a bit splitty, but finishes so smoothly, shows colorwork and texture well, comes in great colors (this yellow, Goldilocks, is fabulous), and is machine washable and dryable.

So welcome Lyra! We're all so glad you've joined us on this big blue ball we call home!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Knitwear Smackdown: The Marital Version

I thought I'd interrupt the cavalcade of FO posts to get your input about the current sweater on the needles, the Counterpane Pullover.

I love it. I loved it when it came out in the magazine, and I love it now. I think it is Twinkle-esque, Anthropologie-ish, and has the potential to be a really interesting but wearable garment. The construction is simple and unique, and the central motif is striking. Bulky-weight sweaters are very chic right now, and in cream colored yarn, I think it has a classic yet stylish feel.

My husband, on the other hand, is seriously dubious. He thinks its going to look lumpy and, well, bulky. He thinks it's putting a giant X across my bust, or worse, giant flower petals directly on the girls, in a bad way. For a man who rarely expresses anything but encouragement about my knitwear, this was a vociferous objection.

After looking at a couple of FOs on Ravelry, I think it is a really flattering garment when knit with negative ease, so I am knitting the smallest size, placing the central motif so that it sits more below my bustline, and am modifying the sleeves to make them a bit smaller. I don't often take fashion advice from my husband, but I am just not so sure anymore. I am a small person, and have always shied away from knitting bulky sweaters. This sweater will never qualify for nomination for the Sexy Knitters Club, but for a warm winter sweater, I think it will be funky.

Pepe, by the way, thinks it's awesome.

I just don't know!!! Any input?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cardigan Catch-Up

Here's something I made during the blog hiatus:

It's a little cropped cardi for my Rosebud. My daughter will tell you she's a little bit of a tomboy and a little bit of a girly girl, and that's about right. She's the kid in the frilly dress crossing the monkey bars again and again. The girl with the gaudy cocktail ring on her calloused, dirty hands. It's the girly part of her that understands the need for a little white cardigan in your wardrobe, but it's the tomboy in her that led me to this combination of pattern and yarn.

Pattern: Eyelet Yoke Cardigan, a free pattern from Lion Brand. It's also called the Fresh Picked Cardigan, but it's the same pattern nonetheless.
Yarn: Cascade Sierra, white, 2 skeins

Notes: When she grew out her commercially-made little white cardigan, I knew I wanted to knit her a replacement, but I was really disappointed at the lack of patterns available for kids her size. I know I could have written a pattern, or sized down or up an existing pattern, but I was not looking for a challenge here. I just wanted to knit a cute little cardi for my girl.

Proving that I am not a complete pattern snob, I came upon this Lion Brand pattern on Ravelry. I wasn't totally thrilled with the proportions of it; the pattern calls for 3/4 sleeves, but I think they are a little too short, the sweater a bit too cropped. I realized, however, that sleeves of this length do not need to be pulled up for worm-digging expeditions, and will likely keep the sweater cleaner overall.

Knitters with children, get yourself some Cascade Sierra and make some garments for your children. It is an ideal yarn for kid knits, especially if you prefer natural fibers. It's very easy care. I wash it in the machine on the gentle cycle with cold water, and they lay it flat until it's almost dry, and then throw it in the dryer on low for about 10 minutes, and it looks great! It's an 80/20 cotton/wool blend, so it is lightweight and doesn't stretch like cotton. Having made a sweater with it before, I can attest to its durability. Mr S wears his DGE sweater quite a bit, and there is no sign on wear at all, and because of the wool, it has not stretched out of shape either. Plus, it is an amazing value -- I think I paid $12 total for this sweater. It's a great worsted yarn, really.

Still, though, I'm disappointed that there aren't many patterns for kids her age and size. There's a lot for babies and toddlers, and of course, plenty for adult women, but not a huge amount of patterns for bigger kids. Leave me a comment if you have some good pattern sources for kids -- I need them!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Blog Blahs.

Life has seriously licked our collective asses here at XRK, making it difficult for either of us to blog with any regularity. Ann is experiencing computer issues, and I have been experiencing life issues that are keeping me busy. I have been knitting, though, and I have several FOs to share. I am hoping to get those out of the way over the next few posts, and hopefully, those posts will be a bit more frequent.

The blog is experiencing some growing pains, frankly. Mo gave some serious consideration to dropping out completely, but now is thinking of coming back. Ann and I continue to be busy with the kids, even though they are all in school again. With flickr accounts and Ravelry, I'm feeling less like blogging about my knitting, as it feels redundant and time consuming. I think many knit bloggers have been experiencing similar malaise about their blogs, and that's just where the XRK knitters seem to be at this point. There may be some changes: we've considered a platform move. I've considered writing more about life when knitting just isn't doing it for me. For now, dear readers, all of you that remain, we ask that you stick with us through this period, and when we have something to report, we'll let you know.

In the meantime, here's a long-finished, FO, about which I have little to say. Now, if you happen to be expecting a baby and happen to be married to my brother-in-law and live in San Diego and want to be surprised about your baby gift, read no further. Everyone else, carry on:

Rav details here.

It's a February Baby Sweater, knit in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock. I knit it with fingering weight because I wanted it to roughly fit a newborn. My new niece will be born in November, and for the first few months of her life, it will be chilly in her hometown of San Diego. The gauge was not all that off, as I used US4 needles, but it should not overwhelm her little newborn body. I had to add the booties and the hat because they are so stinkin' cute, and I had the yarn.

I have two more sweaters to share, plus a cowl and hopefully a finished pair of socks to share in the near future. If I ever get around to blogging again.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sock Blahs

After seven years of knitting, I am ready to announce that I am officially A Product Knitter. I know, I'm slow. It took me so long to figure it out because I really do enjoy the process: the thinking, matching yarn and pattern, the act of stitch after stitch after stitch. I take great pleasure in the materials of my craft, and I think the fact that often I choose a project simply because I want to try a certain technique or because I've decided a yarn's time had come to be knit confused things for me.

But socks made it clear for me. At some point, I decided I wanted a drawer full of handknitted socks. I wanted to go through a winter wearing nothing but my knitted socks. I wanted enough socks that I could do handwash the socks once a week or so, and still have enough in the drawer while I got around to doing the laundry. I wanted durable socks, socks that matched my clogs, really pretty socks, orange socks, neutral socks, and socks to wear with sneakers. I was obsessed with patterns and yarns and the combination of the two. I made tons of socks. I gave many pairs away, but ended up with about a dozen pairs of socks for me. I had all the socks I wanted and needed.

And at that point, as a Product Knitter, my interest in sock knitting dried up, as did my desire for sock yarns. Sock patterns no longer excite me and swell my Ravelry queue. Remember my torrid affair with Nancy last summer? I'm so over it. I've got the Sock Blahs.

I'm not hanging up my size 0 dpns by any means. I'm still knitting socks, and I doubt that I'll ever give them up for any length of time. We all know that they are great travel knitting, car pool knitting, purse knitting, and since socks wear out, I'll have to keep rotating in new pairs. My stash still overflows with lovely sock yarns which will have their time to be knit.

This skein of Sunshine Yarns in Neapolitan, for example, came to me as part of a destash from Laura, and it sat, wound, in a drawer, for at least a year or two until it's time had come. The yarn is highly variegated, very likely to pool, so Jaywalkers were the obvious solution. No offense to a classic pattern, but knitting Jaywalkers is symptom of serious Sock Blah.

Right now, I'm obsessed with sweaters. All I want to knit are sweaters. Baby sweaters and Lady Sweaters. Cabled sweaters and tweedy sweaters. Cardigans for Rosebud, and maybe a stripey pullover. A vest for Pepe too. Mostly sweaters for me, though. I've actually finished two that I'll be sure to blog about soon, and that cardigan for Rosebud is already knit to the yoke.

Brooks Farm Acero, 3 x 1 rib. More blah.

But it seems that Mr S also wants a drawer full of handknit socks. For those readers new to the blog, Mr S has size 13 feet. I guess now every pair is even more an act of love, since his feet are big, he wants boring socks, and I've got a bad case of the Sock Blahs.