First, thanks so much to everyone who commented and emailed, for all your sympathy and suggestions about my seamless alpaca debacle! I retreated from the sweater and resisted burning it in the grate. A large relative’s visit is looming on the weekend, and I might just do the lofty thing and give it away. It still is rather gorgeous looking, for all its misshapenness, but I think I’ll feel happier knowing it will keep *someone* warm, even if it isn’t the originally intended recipient. So instead, I knit on my Cobblestone for a bit, adding some waist shaping (can you spot my full-fashioned decreases?)
Second, after achieving this high-minded closure, I regrouped my ego and nerves, and went to various LYSs in search of the perfect (read affordable – have you seen the friggin’ prices on some of these????) wool/alpaca blend. I fantasised about buying ten skeins, knitting the swatch on the bus back and voila, hey presto, being done by Christmas. Alas, only one store in our area carries Berroco Ultra Alpaca (Thanks to all who recommended it!), and they had only three skeins of the one shade the spouse liked. I did try Nashua Creative Focus Worsted, but it was too scratchy around his neck, not ideal for a turtleneck. But when I realised my pullover-in-two-week fantasy was going the way of my dramatic-weightloss-in-two-weeks fantasy, I decided to wait and order it at leisure. (Talking of weight loss, my last post with those two words got pingbacks from strange sites – those that trawl blog posts for such popular key phrases, I guess. I’m probably getting a lot of disappointed visitors who expect to find diets but see alpaca yarn instead.)
Third, this epiphany was followed by another: the last thing I wanted to do was measure gauge and fret about size (talking of key phrases, ahem). Final papers were soon to arrive. Why not go for something relaxing and simpler? So I did. I knit him a pair of felted clogs with Cascade 220. He’s happy with them, even though they’re – you guessed it – a bit too large! I’m going to give them one more spin in the hot washer the next time I do laundry.
And finally, fourth:
This aran is knit with the same yarn as the Cobblestone above: a light worsted merino called La Paz, handpainted by Laura Macagno-Shang of Textiles a Mano. The sweater is five years old, and was my first major aran project after learning how to read charts and patterns. I picked up a Vogue Knitting pattern and sort of went with it, changing an ugly shawl collar to the V. It was great for my knitting confidence overall and I’ve worn it a lot.
Problem is, I only ever wear the sweater at home, because I don’t care for the aran pattern anymore, and I hate the way the cabled sleeves look puffed; I feel vaguely like an American footballer. While it’s very comfy, it is quite shapeless, the sleeves rather long, it’s too bulky under the arms and the finishing would now make me blush. It’s a shame, because I love the yarn, which has begun pilling only now, after years of heavy wear, and the subtle brown shades.
See the hole right at the waist in the central panel? That was what got me thinking – what if I were to unravel and reknit the yarn into a more fitting and interesting pattern? Any suggestions for what might look good in this yarn? A search on Ravelry for cardigans and pullovers is like setting off an avalanche and being drowned in patterns, so any specific suggestions are most welcome. Hope everyone’s holiday knitting is coming along well!
Here is my beautiful seamless hybrid (Zimmerman’s raglan + saddle-shoulder combo) sweater, nearly done. Am a few rows away from casting off the neck. It took fourteen months to make, on and off, with many hiccups and visits to the frog pond along the way, largely due to gauge issues with the alpaca yarn.
Nearly every other round of this sweater is knit twisted, on a size 3 needle. For the yoke, I knit three rounds plain, three twisted, and it made for a pretty variation.
If you have never tried this much twisted stockinette on small needles, I urge you to. You can then join me in contrasting the beauty of the zig-zag, firm fabric this produces with the incredible soreness your left index finger will feel with the constant jabbing of the needle as you twist the stitch. Someone suggested to me on Knittersreview that twisting every alternate round helps keep pure alpaca yarn from stretching too much – it was so difficult to get a decent, firm stockinette fabric with the Elann Pure Alpaca that I went for it. Through all the jabbing and frogging, I visualised a warm, soft, roomy sweater at the end: late, to be sure, but every inch the unique 100% alpaca turtleneck the spouse had requested.
So why the arrghhhhh, you ask? It is because it isn’t just the yarn, but the entire project that has stretched too much already. Just take a look.
The blue fleece sweater on top fits the spouse well. Spilling out from all directions under it is the alpaca sweater, several sizes too large in every dimension but length. It is wildly loose for him, and looks horrible. I realise this is a truly crappy photo, but trust me, it is nothing compared to how it fits him. I didn’t dare show you that picture.
It’s not the gauge, it’s me. I thought he wanted this sweater modelled on a different, older and much roomier one and did the maths all wrong. The arms are at least four inches too long, the body about six inches too roomy and the shoulders way too wide. And before you ask, yes, I did have him try it on after joining the yoke, but other than slightly long sleeves, it seemed okay. At least, I thought that after it was all properly decreased and saddled and necked, it was going to be. I should have realised something was not quite right when the saddle shoulder began puckering at the back:
Actually, this should be a whole rant in itself, because however ill-conceived the overall size, I religiously followed Zimmerman’s percentage system for this pattern. Why my saddle ended up looking like an ugly puffed sleeve instead of the neat lines on all the other hundreds of seamless hybrids on Ravelry is a mystery. But I pressed on regardless, hoping that a good steam block would do the trick. Alas, it has not. The horrible droop of the saddle shoulder just about matches my mood right now, far down in the deepest dumps. I am SO angry and upset about this, because so many things went wrong for what was a really special project. I lost my notes and proper measurements, picked the wrong sweater to measure by, forgot all my plans for it over a really hot summer break, suffered through an awful yarn and stitch combination, and my usual blind hope that it would all work out in the wash really deserted me this time. I can’t even begin to consider frogging the whole thing and starting over – the very idea of doing another twisted knit stitch is making me ill, even for the love of my life. So my options right now are:
1) Set fire to the whole project and watch the natural fibre burn while I sip some strong, gold liquid.
2) Frog to the armholes, reduce sleeve length, figure out a yoke and decrease formula that will ensure a better fit at the shoulders while still keeping the body and sleeves intact.
3) Grit my teeth, finish the project as it is, and give it to a larger relative; heck, it *is* the gifting season after all
4) Take spouse to yarn store, pick a worsted weight alpaca blend (explain pitfalls and stretch-and-gauge trauma of 100% alpaca on size 3 needles along the way) and knit him another seamless hybrid in two weeks.
5) Pray for twenty pounds of instant weight loss by Christmas, because if #2 and #4 are being considered as viable options by then, then this will be trivial to achieve in comparison.
To sum up: Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrgghhhhhhhhh! Any suggestions about which option will be easiest and most painless? Is there *any* chance that #2 might work? He so wanted a pure alpaca sweater, but I had the very devil of a time finding a 100% alpaca yarn that would fit my wallet and retain its shape as a large men’s pullover. Any suggestions for worsted blends that don’t cost the earth?
Remember my cartridge-rib-turned-twisted-stitch-turned-NIGHTMARE alpaca pullover? In a burst of virtue I picked it up again a few nights ago, determined to complete it before the weather got too hot. I have finished one sleeve, the body is done in the round to the armholes, and really, the other sleeve and the yoke should not take that long (yes, yes, I know the perils of saying that). I had knitted the sleeve in the round too, with size 3 metal dpns for the ribbing, and then bamboo circulars. I realised with irritation that one of my Susan Bates metal dpns is missing, so I have only 3 left. So I went to the store (my neighbourhood LYS) and bought another set, this time of Takumi bamboos (don’t know why I didn’t pick the metals again). I cast on, knit an inch or so and am worried that the Takumi 3s are somehow larger than the Bates 3s: (3.25 mm as opposed to 3 mm? am not sure) and are producing a larger fabric. The photo is lousy, sorry, but can you get an idea of what I’m talking about? I’m tempted to let it go, because it’s going to all stretch anyhow, and I’ll be transferring to takumi circulars in a few inches anyhow. Or should I use just one of the bamboo dpns and use the other 3 metal Bates for the ribbing?
I actually went to another store in the area to see if they had Bates DPNs in size 3. Would you believe it, they had all this gorgeous yarn, a fun knitting group that it might be nice to join sometime, lovely space to browse in and just far enough for me to make a brisk weekend walk out of the trip, and all sizes imaginable in needles but NO size 3s in Bates! I took that as a sign, and did the only dignified thing I could. I bought some sock yarn.
I haven’t bought any in a long time, plus there was this Trekking yarn that I’ve never tried (the grey stripey one, which is brighter looking in person), or the luscious blue Claudia Handpainted that totally took my mind off the fact that the store has no Koigu (wtf is up with that?). The lilac Louet gems in the middle, I’m seeing these gorgeous flowers all around me… there’s no way I could leave those skeins there.
It’s probably no use, this virtuous return to UFOs. All I seem to want to do is knit socks. I cast on for the Trekking, and am currently on the lookout for a good pattern that shows off variegated yarn. For all the lovely handdyed sock yarns on Etsy there are remarkably few patterns for them, no? I thought of Jaywalkers and others like it, but am still holding out for something else. Any suggestions?
Here’s where I am at. After a burst of energy with the sleeve, this 312-stitch round knitting with the body is taking so long! I think I’m slowly resigning myself to the fact that I will not complete this pullover in time (then again, I’m leaving for home in just over two weeks and can’t really complain that time seems to be flying!!). I am trying to do at least ten rounds a day, but even if I walk to campus and back knitting, I rarely make that target.
So a little voice inside me is urging me to make peace with my frenzied fingers and instead take up something else for a change. Like socks. Or a hat. Or some mitts. But I do so want to try finishing this as soon as possible. (aside: does ASAP, in abbreviated caps, sound more urgent than the full form as soon as possible even though they mean the same thing? it does seem like that to me.)
Ah well. Back to the grind. While I’m at it, may I say that Elann and Knitpicks really do need to think about making their skeins larger than 100 yards? I’m running through them so quickly, and I’m going to have a bowl of spaghetti to weave in on the inside of this pullover after I’m done.
Finally, the MIL received the shawl, with a native American silver pin/brooch that I sent with it, a lovely design of swirling snakes. All is well. She loved it, it’s the right size and weight, and am I relieved!
First off, thanks so much everyone for your kind comments on the Swallowtail shawl! It’s speeding away to Calcutta even as I type this, and I’m waiting to see what the MIL says.
The other day some friends and I were talking about the practice, among popular female Hindi film singers, of singing in such a high pitched scale that it made you want to go and hide somewhere. I don’t mind it that much; I think Lata Mangeshkar, who popularized this style, has one of the most beautiful voices ever. Some years back a scholar argued that this high, virginal voice in film music and its move away from more throaty, sensual voices associated with Muslim singers like Noor Jehan or Shamshad Begum came to represent the young, postcolonial Indian/Hindu nation’s anxieties and desires in the 1950s. But this argument, while not without some merit, also failed to explain the tremendous popularity of Lata’s sister Asha Bhosale, whose voice and songs were anything but virginal. Asha Bhosale is tremendously versatile, having recorded both serious natyasangeet, the light-classical Marathi form, innumerable rock-and-roll adaptations for hindi songs composed by her husband Rahul Dev Burman, and also an album with, of all people, Boy George (don’t ask.)
The conversation reminded me about being in the college band way back when, and the fights the girls and boys had over the scales to sing these popular numbers in: the boys would refuse to budge and sometimes the girls had to sing in a weird falsetto to match. I hated doing duets for this reason. For one show, though, I was delighted about one Asha and Mohammed Rafi number, which was doable and a treat to sing. Alas, we couldn’t perform it because the male singer got cold feet at the last minute and refused to come on stage. I remember being very mad. Boys.
The song, O Haseena Zulfon Wali (O Beautiful one with the lovely hair) was one of my favourites from a film I heartily recommend: Teesri Manzil (The third floor). Barring the heroine, Asha Parekh (about whom the less said the better), this film had everything going for it: Shammi Kapoor, crazy contortionist, romantic and comic hero, R.D.B.’s music and a whodunit storyline by Shakti Samanta that was totally, delightfully predictable. This song also features the lovely Helen, the most gorgeous "vamp" dancer in Hindi cinema. I love the sets, the costumes, the zany dance steps; Shammi Kapoor and Helen clearly had a great time cavorting through the song and didn’t mind poking fun at themselves.
How many swatches will it take to realise
that this alpaca yarn really sucks? (with apologies to dylan)
Thanks for all the suggestions, folks! As of now, there are three possibilities, as seen in this photo.
1) The bottom portion: cartridge rib in size 3. snug, alas not snug enough. Idea of enormous man’s sweater in this overall pattern not appealing, given looming deadline.
2) The left fork swatch, which looks like a bee stung the first one and it swelled up, is on size 5s with the yarn doubled. Will take a lot less time, fabric snug, but unattractive and stiff to the touch. Plus, will weigh sweater down, thus defeating the anti-stretch movement.
3) Right fork swatch, stockinette, but with a twist. Literally. Every knit stitch in it is twisted, making it slightly Hamletesque: it zigs a little, then zags a little. If you look carefully, one band in the middle makes it bias to the left. That was with both knit and purl rows twisted and it produces a really snug fabric, but I think too much zig without compensating zag will be problematic. Here’s a closer look:
Llinn on the Knittersreview forum gave me the twisted stitches idea, the logic being that the twist works to mitigate the loosely plied yarn, thereby shortening row gauge, and thus the stretch factor. I like how it looks, and am going with it. Unless something else goes wrong a week later, in which case you’ll hear about it then.
But instead of the usual “What I Learned While Making This” para at the end of a project, there is ample material right here at the beginning of this one.
1) Cheap 100% alpaca, esp. if loosely plied, will bring you gauge grief. Twisted stitches can help.
2) Swatching alpaca yarn is apparently nothing compared to blocking a garment made from it.
3) Meeting a recipient’s exact specs for a project is tough.
4) The online knitting community rocks.
Spud, isn’t your alpaca laceweight or fingering? Using it for lace or smaller garments might be a good idea, depending on how much it is.
Trying to finish this in a month and four days is going to be like my own little knitting olympics. Law & Order DVDs, here I come.
I kept asking myself this question as I knit up to 10 inches of a sleeve of the cartridge rib pullover. The gauge seemed not quite right, even though I was using size 5s, two sizes smaller than the recommended 7. Maybe it’s the pattern or the yarn or me, I don’t know, but it seemed rather too airy:
So much light should not be showing through the unstretched fabric, no? So I finally acknowledged, too many inches later, that it needed to go and frogged. I’m back to the size 3 wrist section, thinking I’ll go with size 3s the whole way. I can’t believe I’m knitting a whole turtleneck in size 3. That too an all-over patterned one. Which I persuaded him he needs, when he asked for stockinette. What is wrong with me?
More seriously, I wonder if it’s the alpaca yarn that somehow doesn’t quite stick together closely in such a pattern? I wonder if wool would behave better. I’m stuck with this oxblood now (actually I quite love it, loose fibres and all), and am also tightening the gauge so that there’s no stretch or pill issues later. But I *am* worried that at this finer gauge I will need to order more, and that I won’t be done by mid-December, as I need to. Still, as they say, ??? ?? ??? ??? ??????? ???? (roughly: better safe than sorry). Plus, henceforth I’m always beginning with a sleeve. Less pain that way.
I stumbled across this thread and this one on a knitting forum about a recent spat between two distributors over the cashmere content in some popular yarns. It’s not clear yet who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong; accusations are flying back and forth, but in the whole mess (and I’m really resisting the knitting puns and metaphors here), one thing really stood out: the amount of cashmere content that seems to be under scrutiny in yarns that (are claimed to?) have cashmere in them: between 5-10%!
That’s just laughable. True, the industry standards require a minimum of 3% so no rules are technically being broken, but talk about proportion, eh? The amount of mark-up that companies can claim just by that little content and the resultant "luxury" tag: it’s not for nothing that most of these yarns have "cash" mentioned in them. I find it hilarious everytime I see either the owner of the brand or the distributor insist, "there *is* cashmere in there"! Sure.
Anyway. I spent another weekend hurtling across the country by plane, this time for the large desi wedding annual South Asia conference in Madison, WI. Which was surprisingly subdued, actually. Saw lots of friends: sepoy, pdcs, pandit among others, and collected more entries for my Weird Things Academics Say and Do series. Daku, if you’re reading this, you were sorely missed!
And I managed to finally start my cartridge rib pullover. I began with the sleeve. I had some gauge issues. I was getting 6.5 spi on the pattern, but it also stretches easily, and slightly stretched the gauge was 5.75 spi. After some tortured maths, I settled for 6 spi, figuring the stretch would take care of the fit.
Am using Ann Budd’s generic pattern for saddle shoulders, but with lots of mods. Cast on 64 plus 2 selvedge stitches, and instead of her staggered increase, am doing an even increase every 6th row from the beginning. (Aside: when patterns say "every 4 rows" does that mean every 4th or 5th row after one increase? That always stumps me.)
I also did the first twenty rows on size 3s for greater tension at the wrists, and now am on size 5s. I cast on at the airport in Oakland, and this is where I was when I landed two days later. I might just finish this before December…
And finally, I’m at the point where I begin the nupps for the Shaped-triangle-turned-Swallowtail shawl. Seeing Lobstah’s gorgeous Flirty Ruffles shawl has inspired me to really finish this quickly. I switched to size 4 addis for the border, just to make it drapier, and 38 more rows to go. I have a feeling it’s not going to be large enough, as my MIL really wanted something to drape around well, but I am so sick of this laceweight. I’m going to finish it as it is, and if it isn’t suitable I’ll make another leaf lace or flower basket shawl in sportweight (and keep this one for myself!).
This Peruvian alpaca is *soft*! It sheds a bit, but am loving it. The colour is so rich and I think I like the fabric I’m getting on size 5s. I don’t know what the pilling situation is, though. Anybody know? If it tends to pill I might move down to size 4.
Remember my Shaped Triangle Shawl? I didn’t take a fresh picture because it is a large black blob right now not unlike the one taken two months ago. I got stuck at where the small cockroaches beetles that form the base of the pattern morph into more beautiful and complex things, like mountains and flowers and whatnot. (See this complexity in all its glory here. This part of the pattern is charted only half the way; the other half you have to make your own way backwards. Not surprisingly, I was unable to walk back properly by myself. I enlarged the pattern, photocopied it front-and-back and put the two sides back-to-back in a plastic sleeve to make it easier to read both ways (this is a *great* technique, btw, in theory) and even knit about ten rows before I realised that my beetles did not want to shape-shift. Mountains and flowers met the frogpond twice over. It’s to do with the thin black lace; the topography just doesn’t show up as nicely.
So what to do? It would be really nice if I could send the completed shawl to my MiL in a month for a special occasion, so I sat and figured that I’d just beetle it all the way through, and then attach some damned border. All she wanted was triangular black lace, not any particular landscape.
Then, Eureka!!! I saw Alison’s gorgeous Swallowtail shawl and recognized in it my beetles, and a totally lovely border with something called nupps (is nupps just polite for bobbles?). Some courageous determined arithmetic later, I think it can work. I have 12 beetle repeats to do and the border, and hopefully at the end of it, my Shaped Triangle will have metamorphosed into the Swallowtail Shawl. Fingers crossed.
I was making flying progress on the Leaf Lace shawl, actually hoping to have it done to wear to an event I have later next week. Of course, something had to happen to screw that up. My right wrist and thumb hurt like the devil. I’m not sure if it’s because of the knitting or typing and mouse-clicking. I ignored it for a few days but now it’s really getting in the way so I had to put the damn thing away.
So instead, I thought I’d fiddle around with a new project. The husband had asked for a stockinette alpaca turtleneck some time back (what is it with men and stockinette?) but I managed to get him to agree to some kind of ribbed pattern. He wanted a dull dull brown, but instead he’s getting this rich, dark red in Elann’s Peruvian pure alpaca:
It’s in the shade "Oxblood". I haven’t used this yarn before but boy does it feel soft. As usual, they say worsted and five stitches to the inch on size 6s, but I can see myself using 4s. It feels quite fine.
The pullover I was thinking of was this one:
This one is for a child and is a V-neck, but I’m going to adapt it to a turtleneck. I like the saddle-shoulder and the way it shows off the ribbing, and as I imagine it I think it will suit the turtleneck as well. The stitch pattern is called "Cartridge Rib" and it’s from Ann Budd’s Handy book of Sweater Patterns. I’ll probably do the cartridge rib all over and not do the 1×1 at the wrists as shown. It’s a simple 2-row repeat, with knit and slip stitch.
I’m determined not to start this one, even swatch it, until I’m done with one of the shawls or my BPT cardigan, but looks like this week there won’t be much progress on anything. I’m hoping to have this pullover done by December, though.