Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dickinson Sweater revisited.

The other day I was searching for something to knit. I went through almost every book and magazine I own to find something I wanted to knit. It had to meet a couple of requirements, it had to be something useful, and it had to be something that only required a yarn I already had. I searched for a while, made a couple of guage swatches, but nothing that I started on made it past a coupld of hours. Everything was ripped out (frogged) right after I started on it. Then I remembered a sweater I had started on a while ago. It's the Dickinson Sweater from Fall 2007 Edition of Interweave Knits Magazine. I loved knitting that sweater, it consists of many cables all ove the place. I fell in love with the picture in the magazine and had to make it. The best part is that I found some really nice yarn at Michael's on sale for $2 a skein, it's merino wool and a really pretty red. I bought every skein of the dye lot they had. I thought it was amazing that they had all of these skeins of yarn in the same dye lot.

I had made some good progress with the sweater the last time I worked on it, I'm almost finished with the back. I am a little nervous because I have read on Ravelry that the sweater tends to come out a good bit bigger than the pattern says. But I'm optimistic because I like big sweaters, I'm just hoping that it isn't too huge for me.

There is one tip, I'd like to share with you, I'm sure some of you already do this, but when I am knitting from an intricate pattern, like lace or cables, I like to use post-it notes to keep track of my place in the pattern. I just line up the post-it with the line of pattern I am on and move it everytime I finish the row. I've also found that cutting the post-it to the length of the pattern's row is very helpful.

I hope everyone has a great day and a happy holiday season!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Snowy Day in New Orleans

Northerners might think Southerners are funny, but we really do get excited when it snows here. Of course we don't usually have the messy chores associated with snow, because it just melts away in a few hours.

It was funny this morning when I arrived at work, I was greeted by a group of people watching the snow on the porch in the front of my building and another bigger group standing in the lobby looking outside, trying not to get too cold. When I went inside, a small group actually inspected my coat to see if it was snow or ice. Then one of them told me I should get inside and dry off because I would catch pneumonia. A guy from somewhere up north who is working on my office laughed when I asked him if Southerners were funny. Then he told me how his wife had to shovel seven inches of snow recently.

Its really nice to see grown ups acting like little kids, to see older people with huge smiles on their faces.
The worst part of this morning was that I didn't know it was going to snow, so I didn't bring my knitted gloves or any scarfs. It was the perfect weather for knitted things. Oh well, maybe we'll get a lot more cold weather this year and I'll get to wear lots of warm knitted items. The last time it snowed here was Christmas Day of 2004.

The Golden Swatch

This post sort of compliments the one entitled "The Gauge Swatch" which was released on December 6th. I couldn't decide which way I wanted to present the information. The previous post gives a good description, this one tells a story about Swatches.

There once was a knitter who saw the most beautiful sweater in a magazine. It had cables in all the right places and the elegant way it hung on the model would be perfect for her son’s wedding. She only had a year until the wedding so she decided to get started soon. She went to her yarn shop and found a very soft Alpaca yarn, in a beautiful golden hank. This yarn wasn’t the exact yarn the pattern called for, but she fell in love with the Alpaca and knew it would be unbelievably gorgeous with the dress she planned on wearing to the wedding. She picked up the yarn (the amount called for and an extra skein, just in case) and told the sales lady all about her son’s wedding and how she wished she could see into the future. She wanted to know that the yarn would really be as perfect for the sweater as the picture she had in her mind. She wanted to make sure that when she washed it, the yarn would still have the same shine. She wanted to make sure that the pattern would look as glorious in the cables as the yarn used in the magazine’s version. That’s when the sales lady said “Why don’t you do a Gauge Swatch?” The knitter looked at her like she was speaking another language, being the kind of knitter who always knitted blankets and scarves and asked “What’s a Gauge Swatch?” The sales lady explained that a gauge swatch is a small representation of the knitted project. A swatch is usually knitted in the same pattern as the majority of the project. The Sales Lady then explained that the swatch is sort of like a crystal ball to see the future of your project. A swatch should answer most of your questions about what the finished project will look like and what it will do when it gets washed and blocked (stretched into shape).

The knitter bought the yarn and went home to make a Swatch. Her first attempt was definitely much bigger than the Gauge called for in the pattern, and she knew that washing it wasn’t going to make it any smaller. Then she switched to a smaller needle and the next swatch was just about perfect. She washed it and blocked it just as she had planned on washing and blocking the actual sweater. The swatch looked a little different, but it was even more beautiful. She measured the washed, blocked and dried swatch again and it was just the right size. Very excitedly, she started knitting her sweater. In just a few days she had made great progress on the back. She knitted every free minute that she could and in a few months, she had a sweater. She tried it on for her son and he was very impressed with her work. He was so impressed that he wanted her to make a white one for his fiancĂ©’s going away outfit.

The knitter went to her favorite yarn shop and bought a beautiful silk and wool blend yarn. She knew that her future daughter in law would love the decadence of the silk. Ignoring the need for a Gauge Swatch, the knitter went home and started on the sweater. As she was working on the back of the sweater, she realized that something was not right. She knew that there was no way the huge sweater back would ever fit her petite future daughter in law. At this point, she realized that the yarn was a little thicker than the Alpaca she had used for her sweater and knitting a gauge swatch would’ve been a very good idea. She couldn’t bring herself to rip out the knitted sweater back, so she picked up another ball of yarn and some smaller needles and started on her gauge swatch. After she was finished, she took great care to wash the yarn exactly as the directions on the ball band told her. She was a little flabbergasted when she realized that the yarn seemed to have grown. It was bigger now and she knew she would have to go down at least another needle size. She went down two needle sizes, hoping that would give her the right gauge. She carefully repeated the knitting, washing, blocking and drying of the yarn. This time when she measured the swatch, it was a prefect four inches, just like the pattern had called for. Ecstatic, she started on her future daughter in law’s sweater. This sweater went much quicker, she could tell she was becoming a better and much more efficient knitter. This sweater was finished in a couple of months. She washed and blocked and let the sweater dry. Then it was time for the moment of truth. Would the sweater fit her son’s finance? She immediately called up her son and told him she wanted to take the happy couple out to lunch. They agreed to meet at their favorite restaurant for one pm. Then she carefully folded the sweater and placed it in a box. After lunch, the three of them went out to the knitter’s car, where she presented the beautiful bride to be with the sweater. It fit perfectly, and at that point, she realized why her son loved this girl. Her future daughter in law was actually giggling because she was so excited that someone would actually spend all that time to make her such an intricate sweater. She told the knitter how amazing this sweater is. How she wanted more than anything to learn to knit.

At the wedding, everyone knew how much the bride loved the sweater, so no one was exactly surprised when at the reception; the bride put the sweater on over her dress. With a big smile on her face, the bride gave the knitter a big hug and said that this was the best day of her life! When it came time for pictures, the photographer asked if the bride wanted to take the sweater off, so she could show off her lovely wedding dress, but the bride said “no, I want all of the pictures to have this sweater in them.”

After the knitter’s new Daughter-in-law and son left, she started getting compliments, on how beautiful both sweaters were and how talented of a knitter she is. That night she went home and started knitting a new sweater, a smaller version of her sweater, just in case the newlyweds were blessed with children.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Gauge Swatch

My absolute least favorite part about knitting is the Gauge Swatch. I know it’s important on many projects, and it is knitting, which I enjoy, but it takes so much time and in the end, it’s just a little piece of fabric. The annoying part is when I pick the wrong size needle and have to start all over again with the Swatch. At this point, some of you are probably wondering “what is a swatch?” Well a swatch is a small representation of the knitted project. A swatch is usually knitted in the same pattern as the majority of the project. On most projects, there is a small paragraph that reads something like this. Gauge 30 stitches and 36 rows to 4 inches/10CM over the pattern. And there is usually, a sentence that says something like this “TAKE TIME TO CHECK YOUR GAUGE” And yes, the sentence is usually in caps, to show just how important this step is. A knitter, who is making something like a sweater will realize this and probably start the Gauge Swatch before she starts the actual project. This knitter will slave over this swatch; bind off the ends and measure to see if the swatch is the four inch square like the Gauge section shows. At this point, the knitter will either realize that the swatch is the right size, or that a different size of needles is needed. If the swatch is definitely the wrong size, the knitter can either be really optimistic and try washing the swatch as the garment will be washed and blocking it or the knitter can unravel the swatch and try a different size of needle for the swatch. After washing the swatch and measuring it again, the knitter might be very happy that the swatch is the perfect size, or it’s back to knitting another swatch with a different size of needles.

The swatch is actually really useful; it’s usually a good representative of your finished project. It helps knitters get to know their yarn and what it will do when you wash it and stretch it out (blocking). It’s a great way to find out the limits of your yarn. It is also nice to see how the yarn looks with the pattern of your project. Swatches are just a way to prepare for knitting. To be honest, I’ve made things without a swatch and they turned fine (probably just luck), and there were other times when I took the time to make a swatch, and the finished project was not the right size (I probably made an error in measuring or something). So, swatches aren’t a guarantee that the project will be perfect, but they are a small way to look into the future of your project. If you absolutely hate the thought of swatching, there are a couple of options. You could just knit things that don’t have to fit. Things like blankets and scarves don’t really need swatches. Or you could knit using the same yarn and needle size as the pattern calls for, and hope that you knit with the same tension as the designer of the pattern.

Good Luck and I hope you can find a way to have fun with Swatches, if you do, please let me know. And if you can't find anything else to do with your completed swatch, you could always use them as coasters.