Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Big Gray Sweater


It's finished! I am ridiculously elated to be able to say that. I spent the better part of one day just looking at it and marveling that it was actually completed. (And that it turned out great, though I say it myself!) J loves it. He wouldn't take it off all of Friday, and on Saturday he even wore it while presenting at a conference! (It has officially proven itself in public.)


The most amazing thing about this project was a new technique I tried for installing a zipper. My knitting life will never be the same again! I read about it in Interweave Knits, and there's a video tutorial here.

It involves using a little tool called a knitpicker that looks like an ultra-tiny latch hook:


After marking my zipper tape (see the video), I used the knitpicker to pull loops of yarn up through the garment front (in one particular column of stitches) and then through the zipper itself, placing the loops on a knitting needle:


I then knit each stitch together with a picked-up loop from the body, and immediately cast off. (A little tricky to explain in words, but if you've ever attached a patch pocket as-you-knit, it's basically the same technique.) This is the resulting zipper facing (on the wrong side of the sweater):


I love how neat and finished it looks. I'm quite a finishing perfectionist, but I've never had much luck making zippers look good. Now, though? So long zipper-installation phobia! I'll probably start inserting zippers everywhere . . .

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Boy Sweater

I'm currently about halfway through a sweater project for my husband (a gray alpaca pullover version of the Cambridge Jacket. Scroll down on that page if you're interested.) {Ravelry link} It's not quite as fun to post progress photos of a large, gray piece of knitting, though, (or to knit it, really!) so I'll save that for when it's completed.

I did take a break while making a decision on the zipper details, and seized the opportunity to knit this:

It's from a pattern called Kinsale, and I finished it in three days! (It's knit top-down with minimal seaming, if you care about that kind of detail. I added the applied i-cord edging around the neck and widened the sleeves slightly.) I think it will be a handsome and practical sweater for a soon-to-be-born little guy. {Ravelry link}

There seems to be more "wow" factor with girl sweaters in general, but it's nice to alternate. I need to make something with lace or ruffles next. (After I finish the large gray project, that is--back to work on that one now!)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Lemonade from Lemons: Another Baby Gift

Just a quick post to show off my latest finished project. This cute little sweater is based on a Sirdar pattern purchased from Patternfish. (Have you heard of Patternfish? No? Check them out!)

I completed the body and edgings first, then started on the sleeves. This is not my usual order of business, but I couldn't wait to see how the ruffle would turn out. This was good, because I ran into some trouble with the sleeves fitting into the caps. I may have ripped the entire thing out in frustration if I didn't have a nearly completed sweater batting its eyes at me, waiting sweetly for its sleeves.

After a couple of days of research and thought, I ended up trying out an unusual technique of knitting the sleeves downward from the armholes. (I've done this several times with a square armhole, but it's much trickier with a set-in sleeve.) I followed the formula for "afterthought sleeves" in Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits, but I know a similar method is explained in Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top.

This worked great, except that it made a wider sleeve than intended in the pattern, which therefore required more yarn. Since I was working with a limited amount of yarn (cf. my "Yarn Out" Challenge), I decided to make short sleeves instead of long. To deal with the extra width, I decreased one-third of the stitches at the armband, resulting in a cute puffed look. (Yeah, I meant to do that all along.) Talk about lemonade from lemons! I may start doing this kind of sleeve on purpose for girls' spring and summer sweaters from now on.

Another "glass of lemonade" resulted when the buttonhole turned out to be too small. The size of button that would fit through it looked puny and insignificant in comparison with the rest of the sweater. I had the idea to make a snap closure instead, using the small button as the center of a sweet flower on top. Now that's more like it! Amazing how a project can turn out even better than the original when creativity and determination meet unexpected problems . . . . {Ravelry link}

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Progress Report

About a month has passed since I first decided to begin my 2011 "Yarn Out" Challenge. I feel it is time for a monthly progress report on my goals. Here goes!

Stash Goals
  • No yarn in. As you can see by my counter in the sidebar, I am doing great!
  • Catalog stash in Ravelry. Done! I LOVE being able to "shop my stash" from the computer. Glad I finally made the effort to do this!
  • Catalog patterns in Ravelry. Nearly done. I have entered all the books and leaflets that are linked in the Ravelry library. I didn't see a way to add single patterns that I own to my personal library, so I'm having to be a little more creative with this one and it's going to take some more time.
  • Keep a project queue on Ravelry. I have been doing this, and it works great for me to remember what I want to create.
  • Use up oddballs and leftovers. This will be a continuing goal. I am currently working on clothes for my daughter's 18" dolls.
Gift-giving Goals
  • Create a gift for each baby born in my local church this year. So far, so good! I've completed four, and have projects queued for the next three I know about. The trick will be to keep on top of the baby news!
  • Knit at least one sweater for my husband and each of my children. I am about halfway through a sweater for my husband--I'm planning for that project to take about two more weeks. (Largest one done first!) I have projects queued for two of my children, but have yet to decide on what to make for the other two.
  • Knit at least three new items for myself. I have the yarn and patterns all ready to go. The hard part on this one will be choosing to work on something for me once in a while!
  • Create at least three random gifts. I have a couple of ideas for this one, but have not decided on anything concrete. (I do know who one of the recipients will be for sure, but am still deciding on the perfect project.)
Articulating my goals and "reporting" to others about them through this blog has worked as a great motivator for me. I feel great about my progress so far!

Monday, February 07, 2011

My Gift-Giving Challenge

One of the great side benefits of my knitting hobby is the joy of giving lovingly handmade items to others. (Now, I'll admit that not everyone appreciates a hand-knit gift, but most people I've given items to have at least pretended to like them.) Some knitters find the most satisfaction in the process of knitting. I, however, knit because I love the product of knitting and what it represents--a unique, hand-crafted manifestation of my love for another person.

I have realized that this is the reason why much of the yarn that remains in my stash was purchased to make sweaters for myself. It's not quite as much fun to knit for me as it is to create gifts for others, so these projects often get sidelined or even forgotten. As I work toward my goal of working through my yarn stash, however, I will be revisiting these projects and giving some "gifts" to myself as well.

I have decided to set some actual goals for gift-giving (to myself and others) in order to help me along in my "Yarn Out" Challenge. Here they are:
  • Knit or crochet a gift for each baby born in my ward (local church group) during 2011.
  • Knit at least one new sweater for my husband and each of my children this year.
  • Knit at least three new items for myself this year.
  • Knit or crochet at least three "random" gifts for others during 2011.
Again, I reserve the right to re-evaluate my goals throughout the year, but I feel like this is a good place to start!