Sunday, March 18, 2012

On the off-chance you thought it was all-knitting-all-the-time around here

I have proof that I have been doing Things Other Than Knitting:

It's a new bathmat, made from old t-shirts we've been collecting for a few years.  We seem to developing a habit of making stuff out of my husband's old clothes...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Post For Helena

Don't mind me, I just need a place to post a diagram and notes I'm helping a (Portugese!) friend out with.  I'm too cheap to pay $5 so that I can upload photos to Ravelry's forums.  We're designing Seamless Hybrid Sweaters for ourselves and this is her first time, so this is for her:

Does this make sense, Helena (click on it to see it bigger)?  When you send me the other measurements I need (see my notes on Ravelry), I'll add them to this.

Sweater Progress

Yo, what up.

I have good news: my front darts turned out perfectly.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Ok, so mentioned this on Ravelry (to my peeps), but it bears repeating:

I love Elizabeth Zimmermann. 

I recently bought two of her books, The Opinionated Knitter and The Knitter's Almanac Commemorative Edition when KnitPicks had them on a deep discount for their February book sale.  They arrived about a week ago and my brain has been completely blindsided by the awesomeness.  Holy crap.  I'm getting the shivers, just thinking about how awesome these books are.  For reals.  Go and buy them now.

Also, I bought some yarn.  You have to understand something about this yarn, before I show it to you.  I have been lusting after this particular yarn in this particular colour for over a year.  Jenny posted it in January of 2011 (second photo from the top) and when I saw it, I fainted and then, when I regained consciousness, I fainted again.

We were talking about yarn/pattern obsessions on Ravelry and I remembered it and posted it and then smacked myself in the head for not just buying it already and then I went and found it online and paid for it and waited an eternity for it to arrive and then fell on the parcel like a pack of rabid hyenas when it arrived.

And then I fainted.  And then I fainted again.

The wool is so smooth and even that it almost feels like silk.  And I think this yarn contains every single one of my favourite colours ever and I am totally in love with it.  In kind of an illogical and irrational way.

Oh crap, what am I going to make with it?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Progress has been made

This is going to be another long-winded knitting blog, so if you couldn't care less and would rather go and watch paint dry than hear me blather on for an age on this, know that I won't be offended if you bugger off for a while.  I'll let you know when it's safe to return.

I've been diligently working away on my Seamless Hybrid and have made a couple of important discoveries:
  1. You are never ever so good at something that you stop making mistakes.
  2. The mistakes just get more "interesting" (read: frustrating).
  3. As I would have known, had I taken the time to figure it out, performing a short row doesn't add ONE row to your knitting, it adds TWO.
To demonstrate:

The blue lines represent the regular, in-the-round knitting that form the body of my sweater.  The orange lines represent the short rows.  So when you do a short row, you're adding two rows to the section you're working on.  Right.  Lesson learned.

Apparently, I am also not past the point of accidentally twisting my knitting when I join to knit in the round.   I wasn't in the mood to knit a Moebius sweater, so I ripped it all back (2" worth of sweater) and started over.  Grrrr.

But who cares about all that?  I have some progress to show you.  First, I should probably tell you that I decided to make this sweater in a funny way.  My main area of concern was the bust area, so I decided to start with that.  It's not a top-down sweater, though, so I had to get creative.  I have no idea if this was a good idea or not, but I started with a provisional cast on at the armpit mark and started working down from there.  When I'm done with the body of the sweater, I'll pick up the yoke stitches and work up to the collar.  Smart?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I'm sort of channelling EZ on this one and have taken on a devil-may-care attitude.  We'll see if it works: you'll be the first to know (well, after me, of course).

Admittedly, I have a bit of an advantage with this whole design-as-you-go process: I have a custom body form/mannequin to use as a reference:

The top edge is the provisional cast-on.  The bottom edge contains my needle cable (with the nifty little end caps that come with KnitPicks interchangeable needles).  The markers are helping me keep track of the sides of the sweater and the location of the back darts:

No, it isn't perfect.  I think I need to add some darts below the bust on the front (I pinned it there for these photos) and that means ripping back 2" of work to put them in.  I'm not worried about that, though: it goes quickly.  I'm so used to knitting with fingering weight that this worsted feels like rope.

But the short rows did the trick!  I'm not sure why I'm surprised because I've heard it from enough knitters to know that it SHOULD work.  Still, I'm pleased.

You can just barely make the ends of the short rows out in this photo (sorry, but I am kind of addicted to my iPod's camera at the moment and didn't feel like dragging out my behemoth Canon 40D for one picture).

To recap:
  1. This mannequin represents the best $200 I ever spent.
  2. I am going to rip back to insert some darts in the front.
  3. I adjusted my scheme for inserting short rows because I figured out that each one adds 2 rows of knitting, not just 1.  I knew I needed 9 extra rows (maximum) in the bust area.  I ended up putting in 10 (5 short rows), because the math worked out really well, but it was probably overkill.  I could have stopped at 8 (4 short rows).  Maybe when I rip back to put in the darts, I'll take out that last short row.
  4. The back darts are beautiful.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mama bought herself a new iPod Touch

...'cause the old one completely died today. Anyone who knows me knows that I have trouble living without music and I just couldn't face a future without it.

So what does that mean? Instagram!

Also, as you can see, I got my shipment of KnitPicks yarn, so I think I finally have the right colour combination for my Caller Herrin.

Monday, March 5, 2012


My cousin F with her little guy, D (2 days old).  I can't WAIT to meet him in person, this summer!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Seamless Hybrid Part I (Planning)

As I mentioned in my recent posts, I'm attempting a Seamless Hybrid sweater.  My Ravelry peeps are kind of following along, so I'm going to post my steps so that they can a) follow along or b) watch the train wreck as it unfolds.  If you're not here for the knitting, feel free to come back in a few days.

So here goes (please note: I have no idea what I'm doing - copy me at your own risk):

Planning Stage:

Using my yarn and a circular needle, I knit up some swatches until I got the right fabric density/softness/etc and blocked my swatch.  I got: 18.5 sts/4" and 28 rows/4".

(Helena, if you need metric, let me know... I'm horrible for flipping back and forth between metric and imperial.  The blame can be laid entirely at the feet of those pesky Americans - they refuse to switch over to SI and they're kind of the boss of us, so we have to learn both.)

(Americans: you're not pesky.  I'm just kidding.)(Also, you're not really the boss of us.  So don't get any ideas.)

Sorry, where was I?  Oh yes.  I took out my measuring tape and measured a few things:
  • My upper bust circumference (at armpit height)
  • My bust circumference (fullest part of the bust)
  • My ribcage circumference just under my bust
  • The vertical distances between all of these imaginary horizontal lines on my torso
  • The circumference of my upper arms (at armpit height)
  • The circumference of my arm at the elbow
  • The circumference of my wrist
  • The vertical distance between wrist and elbow and then from elbow to armpit
I drew myself a little diagram of my body, showing all of these things.  Note: these are called ACTUAL BODY DIMENSIONS.  If you need a starting point, you can borrow this image from my Magic Raglan pattern (don't worry about the raglan length or collarbone - they don't apply, here):

Then, I drew up a little sketch of how I want my sweater to look.  I know that I want to make a jacket-style sweater and that it needs to have positive ease (meaning: I want it to be loose so I can wear a couple of layers underneath). To do that, I added 2" to each of my actual circumference measurements and wrote them down on a sketch of my sweater.  Note: these are called FINISHED DIMENSIONS.  I also wrote down the vertical distances (in inches) between each of those important points on the sweater (armpit, bust, ribcage, etc).

Here's the key part of your design: shaping.  If you want a non-manly sweater, you need to look at a few things.  One of them is shaping.  It is not easy to figure out how shaping works, so don't expect a magic formula that will make it all just come together for you.  (Also, I'm not a fashion designer, so I'm just fumbling around in the dark here, myself.)  Here are some key areas where you can place shaping:
  • Some increases/decreases along the side "seams" of the sweater body (because this is a seamless, there are no actual side seams, but you get the idea)
  • Some short rows at the bust area
  • Some increases/decreases to form darts at the back, under your shoulder blades
  • Some increases/decreases in the sleeves, so that they fit more snugly.  Bell sleeves can also be very feminine...
  • Some ribbing along the side seams to "snug" everything in
  • Some ribbing just under the bust, so you get an empire waist effect
  • Look through some of your favourite patterns to see where they have placed some shaping to see if you get any other ideas.
One of the problems I ALWAYS run across is that if I choose a sweater size based on my bust dimension, the sweater is too big.  My bust is 38" around, so I fall in the "Medium/Large" range.  Trouble is, my ribcage is only 32.5" around.  That's a big difference.  When I try shirts on in the store, I almost always end up buying a Small (Medium at the very biggest).  So I am going to try something with my sweater: I'm going to design it so it fits above and below the bust and the fullest part of my bust is going to get some extra fabric in the form of short rows.  I am going to ignore the measurement of my bust at its fullest point.

I'm going to try my best to explain this in writing:

I know what my upper bust measurement is and I know what the ribcage dimension is.  I've figured out that if I measure between those two lines perfectly vertically (I measure this by standing in front of a mirror and holding the tape up in my armpit so that it can hang down straight along my side), I get 6".  BUT, if I measure the distance between those SAME POINTS down the front of my *ahem* boobies, across the fullest part of my bust, that measurement becomes 7.5".   

Right.  So what? you ask.  Ok well, I know that I need to vertically add 1.5" of fabric in the front of my sweater, between my armpit line and my ribcage line.  The goal is that there will some extra fabric there to go around my boobs - this will look like a bulge when the sweater is laid flat. 

What was my row gauge again?  Right, it was 7 rows/1".   So that means that between those two points, I will have something like 42 rows of knitting I don't do any shaping.  And it means that I need to add 7 or 9 short rows in that area (for the sake of simplicity and in the spirit of not overdoing things, I'm going to stick with 7) in order to get some extra space for the girls.  One short row will go right at the fullest point of my bust.  There will be 3 above that, evenly spaced between my armpit line and my fullest bust line (one per inch)(in other words: one for every 7 regular rows). {ETA: I revised this later on, when I made a discovery about short rows: every time you perform a short row, you're actually adding TWO rows of knitting into your here for more info.}  Make sense?  Short rows are basically partial rows - they do not go all the way around the sweater body.  You sneak them in wherever you want them.  In my case, I'm going to make them run from armpit to armpit, across my bust.

Are you even still with me?

Other shaping I'm contemplating:
  • Two vertical darts in the back, starting under my shoulder blades.  I need to take it in a bit back there - all my sweaters always gape in that area.  I need to go from 176 stitches (armpit height) to 162 sts (ribcage height), so I'm going to try and take it out of the body in the back, as opposed to just on the sides.  (Kate Davies did something similar in this most amazing dress she made herself - only it is very fitted and she calls it an arse-accommodator.)  Mine is much less exaggerated - just a little taking in.
  • Some increases in the body (along the side seams), below the ribcage line, so it forms a slight A-line.
Feel free to step in here, Chris, if you think I'm barking up the wrong tree.

Decorative Stitches:

Another way to inject a feminine touch in to your sweater is to use decorative stitches (lace, cables, twisted stitches, etc) in various areas.  There are entire books dedicated to this sort of thing, so I won't get into details here.  Suffice it to say that if you want something to look more girly, it's easy to find a nice simple lace pattern that you can slip into the side "seam" area or in a panel up the middle of the back.  My yarn is variegated and has a beautiful sheen, so I think I'm going to leave it alone and just use stockinette stitch.  If you have an idea and you aren't sure how to implement it, let me know and I'll help you out.

Knitting, Phase I: Sleeves

Sleeves are a major component of the design.  Do you want bell sleeves, fitted sleeves, 3/4 sleeves?  This is something you'll have to decide (along with how many stitches you want to start with.  The Seamless Hybrid is a hem-up sweater, so you start with the cuff measurement, but you'll want to figure out how big around that upper arm needs to be and how often/where you're going to increase to get there.  EZ gives some guidelines in the form of percentages, but I've learned that these have been modified over the years to suit evolving fashions and are really just meant as a guideline.  I'm kind of ignoring them, myself.

I want long sleeves for this jacket.  I am notorious for underestimating how cold it is outside and I want to be able to pull the cuffs down over my hands if the steering wheel is cold.  I don't want any special shaping, though - just simple and easy.  In my particular case, that means casting on 42 sts (I figured that out by doing some math with my gauge and sweater schematic) with my 4.0mm needles and knitting in 2x1 rib for 4" (ALWAYS GO DOWN A NEEDLE SIZE OR TWO WHEN RIBBING - otherwise your ribbing is going to be schlumpy).  Then, switching to 5.0mm needles and knitting in stockinette, increasing every 5 or 6 rows as EZ describes in the Seamless Hybrid pattern (except I'm so lazy, I didn't even count the rows) until I got to 66 sts (which is 14" - that's the measurement I wanted for the upper arm).  Then I stopped increasing and just knit straight until the sleeve measured 22.5" in length (total).  Easy peasy.  My sleeves aren't *exactly* the same (see reference to laziness above), but you can't tell.

And guess what?  I knit the sleeves first so that they act as insurance gauge swatches.  Turns out I got just a *little* tighter when I knit them up (it didn't affect the size of the sleeves, really) and I was able to adjust my gauge number as a result.  It means that I had to go back and adjust my numbers for the body of the sweater, but I'm fine with that.  Better safe than sorry.

(to be continued...)


My cousin had her baby last night! My sister emailed me to say that he is 7lbs, 56 oz (which I assume was a typo - 'cause that doesn't sound right). He has an elevated heart rate (course, I prolly would too, had I gone through that ordeal). They're monitoring him, but it sounds like everyone's super happy! Squee!

Friday, March 2, 2012


My cousin is in labour!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


So you know how you hear all these stories and claims on the news and internet about the environment and you don't know what it is true and what isn't?  It seems like everyone contradicts each other constantly and it's impossible to know who has a clue and who doesn't.  I find it totally bewildering and not to mention infuriating: the only voices we seem to hear are from those who stand to financially gain from keeping us in the dark.  (In North America, this is the case - I can't speak to what Europeans are hearing.)

You may have heard some of the disturbing comments coming out of the Prime Minister's office and the office of some of his Ministers, recently.  Apparently, if you are harbouring or voicing serious concerns about the rate and scope at which the Tar Sands (I refuse to gloss over it: it's tar, people.  Let's call it what it is) are growing and about how the Canadian People are going to deal with the fallout of it ('cause you know we will, right?  Despite what they might say, Syncrude won't have any compunction about leaving their mess behind when they're through) or the fact that they want to run a huge oil pipeline through the Rockies and some extremely sensitive ecosystems, you are an Enemy of Canada.  That's right.  If Mr. Harper or one of his lackeys reads this blog post, they could very well brand me a terrorist.  And the idea that he could find me (despite the fact that I have posted no personal information here, beyond my dogs' names) is not so incredible: his Minister of Public Safety (Vic Toews) is doing his damnedest at the moment to make it perfectly legal to search everyone's computer and obtain someone's IP address without a warrant or any evidence of wrongdoing.

My point?  I think we, as Canadians, have to start speaking up for ourselves.  En masse.  Suddenly, though my family has been in this country for 400+ years, I've never broken the law and I have never even so much as stepped off Canadian soil, I am an Enemy of Canada.


Sorry, STEVE.  I am just as Canadian as you are and I have every RIGHT to disagree with everything you do, say and stand for.  You were elected in a Democracy and it shall remain a Democracy.

Nice try, though.  You effing bully.

So, in the spirit of fighting back and speaking up, I'm doing something (very small, but hey, it's something): I'm going to suggest that you go and check out this blog.  It is written by someone who is extremely knowledgeable about current environmental issues and policy surrounding it.  This person is studying to earn a Master's Degree on this topic, with the hopes of someday working in in the public sector as a policy advisor.   If you have any questions about anything you've read (on the blog or anywhere else, for that matter), write the author and ask; he is more than happy to respond.  His writing is to the point, simple to understand and, best of all, based firmly in SCIENCE.  Which, at the moment, means he is left-leaning.  Our current right-leaning government doesn't much like "science". 

(Disclosure: this person also happens to be my husband.  But don't let that fool you - I wouldn't send you over there if I thought it would, in any way, be a waste of your time.  Au contraire, mes amis.  You shall not regret it.)

Thanks for putting up with my rare foray into activism.  Stand by for more knitting.