Fiber Filled

It has really been all Tour de Fleece all the time here and my posts have reflected that over the last week. While I am very excited about my progress & even more enthusiastic to share with you, I thought I would take today’s post to write about the knitting I’ve been doing. Believe it or not, there has been quite a bit of that happening, too.

First, I thought I would share a project I finished and left blocking before my South Dakota trip: my Kit Camisole. I am happy to report that when I unpinned it and tried it on I was pleased. I think I may have even teared up a bit.

20130707-143316.jpgFirst, let me say that the fabric has an irresistible drape. It is so soft & light. It is so comfortable. The perfect summer fabric really. Quince & Co really outdid themselves with this 100% organic Italian linen. Sparrow, I am in love.20130707-143323.jpgI adore the back detail — it adds just a little elegance to the design.kit on meAnd the fit is just what I wanted. The drape & ease gently flowing over me in the quintessential linen camisole.

The photo of me wearing my beautiful, perfect Kit Camisole… well, I love my husband and I think we are a fantastic team in pretty much all aspects of our life. When it comes to photographing me wearing knitwear though… we need to work on it. Between my inability to not make a weird face or stand up straight without looking like I am trying to thrust my bosom forward and his ability to lose patience instantly while sticking me in light that makes my entire head of hair look completely grey (it is not, but in early attempts of this photo it did and I almost died) — it is just not great. In any case, enjoy this photo — it may not be perfect, but it was hard-earned.

In addition to wearing my Kit Camisole, I have been knitting like a fiend on my daughter’s Wispy Cardi as evidenced here…20130707-142241.jpgAnd here…20130707-142253.jpgYes, there has been some beach time this week — two days spent on the shores of Lake Michigan to be exact. They were gorgeous summery days — the kids played & swam, the husband read, the dog fetched in the big water, we picnicked, and I enjoyed nice long block of time to knit.20130707-142350.jpgI remember my own Wispy Cardi feeling like it kind of took forever — I absolutely love it, but it took a long time to make. I have been pleasantly surprised by how quickly this is knitting up — I suppose cutting the bust measurement in half will half that effect. In any case, I am nearing the end of the ribbing around the shrug portion and will be binding off for the ‘cardi’ addition shortly. I am actually kind of excited that I will surely wrap it up in time for school to begin. The only question is whether or not the bigger size I went with will fit my girl or if she’ll have to wait a few months — either way, I am pretty sure she is going to love it.

It has been a very fiber-filled week, indeed. Knitting away at the beach, spinning away at home. At times like these, I am so very thankful for my supportive & understanding family who accept the constant click of my needles & whir of my wheel. Speaking of that whirring, it’s time I get back to my latest spin.

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Kit is Complete!

I am in a flurry of packing, but had to share that my beloved Kit Camisole is finished!20130615-160204.jpg

Details will come as soon as it dries, but let me just say that the finish line took its sweet time arriving today. It was a true ‘what should have taken an hour or two took more like four’ experience. I was rushing and just made some awesome mistakes – think twisting a strap as I joined it types of mistakes.  I decided that I just had to wrap it up today or it would have been hanging over me for the next week. I did try it on & the fit seems perfect…. I can’t wait to share (not to mention wear!)!

Tipping Point

I proved something to myself this week. The tipping point from feeling stalled to really starting to cruise on a sweater is not inconsequential. Two weeks ago I was starting over on my Kit Camisole thanks to sizing and gauge issues. Eight or nine days ago I had barely gotten beyond the linen stitch edge at the bottom and the ‘What was I thinking when I started this project?‘ internal interrogations began. Six days ago I literally thought I might not survive this project. Last night I joined what might be my final skein and started in on the linen stitch at the bust.20130608-081515.jpgI kind of can’t believe it.

So how did this happen? A large part was the playdate/sit & knit I went on with my daughter on Monday. It got me through the hardest middle part of this project &  f i n a l l y  let me hit my stride. Another key, is that with my kids’ school year ending I have had to switch my exercise routine from midday to evening. Now instead of winding down when I tuck my little ones in for the night, I have just gotten home from a workout and am completely wired. I end up awake for hours, clicking away late into the night. This last part is great for knitting progress, not so awesome when I have to wake up in the morning. I am hopeful my body will settle on a slightly earlier bedtime sooner than later, but for the time being I am pretty excited to have made such good progress on this project. I no longer have nightmares of finishing this beautiful linen camisole just in time for the first frost of fall. No, I will get some good wear out of it this summer. The fact that I can barely wait to do so further drives progress. What a great cycle to be stuck in!

I have opted to knit my Kit Camisole at a slightly tighter gauge, so I have had to make a couple minor modifications. Namely I had to add some length to the main body. I didn’t overthink this too much as the fit is meant to be quite loose. Once I completed the decreases I used the schematic to calculate how short I was on the overall body length. Knowing the linen stitch at the bust was to start 1.5″ short of the 17.5″ of total body length I was supposed to have, I just knit even until I was at about 16″ — in my case that was an extra 12rounds. I may throw in a little extra on the 1.5″ of linen stitch for good measure, but we’ll see what it looks like when I get there. I like longer, tunic-length shirts, so I would rather go a bit long than a bit short.

I have indeed been using my Heidi & Lana stitch markers.

20130608-090317.jpgI came across Heidi & Lana stitch markers last year while holiday shopping & along with giving them as gifts I have managed to get myself completely hooked on them. Not literally, because they are really & truly 100% snag-free, but… well, you know what I mean. They are pretty without getting in the way while I knit and come in perfect size ranges and they’re snag-free. I can’t really ask for anything else in a stitch marker!

I checked in at the Heidi & Lana Etsy Shop and there wasn’t a ton up there. I know the owner Margaret recently opened up a brick & mortar shop, so I’m not sure if she intends to keep up with the Etsy one or can still do custom orders — I sent an email asking, but it was pretty short notice for this post, so I’ll let you know when I hear back. In the meantime, if you find yourself in the Sebring, Ohio area go visit Heidi & Lana — it looks like a super cute shop & there are always lovely ideas posted up on their Facebook page. I wish I could visit!

Unfortunately the 9hour drive to Heidi & Lana is not on my agenda for this weekend, but attempting to finish up my Kit Camisole is. Did I mention I’ve already cast-on another project? Yeah, that happened in one of the darker moments of Kit knitting. It is the Midnight Shrug by Carol Feller & I am knitting it in Sweet Georgia Superwash DK in the Riptide colorway.

20130602-162025.jpgAfter a few bumps in the road to start (I’ll explain more later…), it is coming along just swimmingly. The yarn is absolutely dreamy & the pattern is turning out quite nicely. I was strong though and put it on hold now that I am moving forward so well on Kit. Sometimes it is so hard to be me, having to choose between two such lovely projects… It’s one burden I hope to bear for many years to come.

Here I Go Again…

Remember how yesterday I was very positive about the sizing of my Kit Camisole after trying it on? Remember how lovely it looked?

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Yep, I was pretty smitten.

Well, I ripped it out & started over. Six inches in — a big portion of that the very slow knitting of half-linen stitch — & I frogged it all. No one should be surprised by this, really, this is not really shocking if you know me. Is it disappointing? Yes. Will I be glad I did it though? No doubt. With this fresh in my mind I thought today would be a good day to talk about sizing,’failure’, and finding peace in little disappointments.

First of all, the big kahuna: sizing. To say it rather simply, getting the right size in your knitwear can be a challenge. Some garment pattern sizes are listed as ‘finished measurements,’ meaning the actual garment measurements when completed. Some sizes are listed ‘to fit bust (or chest, or waist, etc) measurement…’ meaning you are supposed to choose the size that is closest to your actual body measurement. Then you have to factor in ease — how much extra or less fabric you create in order to achieve a looser or more fitted look — which is sometimes addressed with good direction, sometimes not. Of course, all these measurements are absolutely at the mercy of gauge — if you don’t get the gauge right or at the very least understand how your gauge differs from the written pattern and make adjustments, your garment will not turn out as the pattern intends. Unless you are pretty darn lucky, ignoring the gauge issue will lead to disappointment and quite possibly some choice words at the final bind-off.

In the case of my Kit Camisole, where I ran into trouble was the double whammy of both size & gauge. First of all, I am currently measuring between a 37.5″ & 38″ at my bust — so my fear was that the 43″ would be enormous, but I was also worried that the 39″ would be too snug. Add in the fact that I have recently dropped about 10lbs and am working on dropping another 10, I went ahead with the size 39″ thinking everything would work out perfectly in the end.

Well, I tried it on yesterday and — as you know — I was hopeful as the fit wasn’t bad at all, but as I continued row by row & stitch by stitch and I knew my gauge was running a bit tight the sinking feeling in my stomach began to really grow. I was quite sure the fit was going to be ok, but tighter than I had envisioned. I also knew that if I ripped back, started over, and worked the 43″ at my slightly tighter gauge that I would be much happier. Working patterns at a different gauge is something I always advised against as a knitting instructor. It has always been my argument that unless you are fully comfortable making independent mods to your pattern, there are no shortage of wonderful patterns available that will work magically with your yarn if the gauge isn’t quite right with the pattern you are using. Why roll the dice? In this case, however, I opted to stick with a slightly tighter gauge because 1) I am certainly at the point where I am comfortable should I need to make any changes, especially with this simple pattern and 2) I also prefer the denser fabric as this is intended to be knit rather loosely & thus a bit more… ahem… revealing than I would like. A tighter gauge will help to make this a more stand-alone camisole rather than a layering one. When I really stopped and let myself consider the possible outcomes, I started re-winding the Sparrow and in a matter of minutes unwound the hours of work I had already put into this camisole. Slightly tighter gauge & size 43″ was what I needed to knit, so it shall be knit.

It’s a very common misconception among knitters that this is a failure or says something negative about me as a knitter. I watched a lot of students really disheartened by setbacks like this, their confidence taking a huge plunge if any ripping was required. Often it made them feel like they weren’t very capable when I knew the very opposite was true. I think the fact remains that even with knitting a full swatch, sometimes you will get into a project and it just won’t work according to plan. There are times you just won’t know for sure about the fabric and design until you are looking at it in your hands. In my experience, the strongest knitters, the ones who learn & grow the most are those that aren’t afraid to admit when a project isn’t quite right and take the time to correct the problem, however painful & time consuming the correction is. You simply learn so much in a re-knit and are generally so happy with the outcome because of it.

The truth of the matter is that even the knitters we all look up to make mistakes, they start over many times, and they deal with the same setbacks the ‘average knitter’ does. While it’s true, the more experience you have the more tools in your toolkit & the more options at your disposal to deal with the trouble which makes corrections easier. You also learn that a small bummer today will lead to a much happier end. Most of all, I’ve learned to have the patience to make sure each project is just right. The disappointment I had as I rewound my 2skeins of Sparrow yesterday was short-lived. Obviously it took me a while to finally decide to start over because I didn’t want to lose the precious time I used to work on those 6inches. In the end though, I am at peace with the fact that I know I made the right call. The yarn will be re-knit, the sizing will be right, and everything will be ok.

The beauty of knitting is that most things can be easily rewound and started again. Yarn is full of opportunities and on a large scale, it is very forgiving. We just have to be comfortable enough with our own needles, confident in our judgment, and humble enough to do what is right by our projects. This is what will ultimately lead us to create the knitted items we truly want to proudly wear. Correcting a mistake doesn’t mean we are unskilled, it means we are honest and ok with not always being perfect on the first try. No one — including me — is going to judge my work by the 6inches I pulled out. True proof of my abilities will be in the camisole I wear in (I hope!) a few weeks. I expect it’ll be lovely thanks to yesterday’s tough decision and all the tough decisions that are yet to pop up along the way. The challenge of knitting, the joy of knitting, the zen of knitting is in seeing opportunity & promise even in the face of setbacks and forging ahead anyways. Every project has to begin somewhere… sometimes it just has to start a couple times before we get it right.20130514-140537.jpg

Here I go again…

Tug of War

This last weekend was the first we’ve had that was truly spring-like. Warm & sunny all in the same day. Twice in a row. Needless to say it was incredible & we stayed very busy. On Saturday, the kids & I biked to the library for the first time this year & ate popsicles and played outside until they were exhausted. It was perfect!

Sunday is usually our family day, but this week my husband volunteered to cover part of a shift for a co-worker who had a make-up game to coach. We decided to each take a kid — my husband taking my daughter to work with him leaving me to hang with our son.  At my boy’s request, we started our day by taking our Moose to the dog park. It was very wet from all the rain we’ve had this spring, but wet shoes dry and labs sure do like the water! As soon as Moose saw open water he bounded into it with glee — it was so fun to watch the sheer joy of this pup on his first swim of the year.

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This isn’t the best photo, but you get the idea.

Less fun is the endearing way he is compelled to run back to us after each dive and shake off right next to us, but it is the lone curse of this dog — that I will be wet and filthy pretty much all summer long. He’s lucky he’s so cute & sweet!

20130429-135946.jpgReally, could you be upset with this face?

If the happy dog wasn’t enough, my son & I each managed to almost step on a snake at the park — one Common Garter snake & one Brown snake. My son is crazy for snakes, so these close encounters equaled major excitement for us.  Apparently the dog park had something for everyone this gorgeous Sunday morning!

After a stop for ice cream & a tour of the local pet store we arrived back home & my son opted to ride his scooter for a while. I wandered through my yard & gardens partly to make a mental to-do list for this spring, partly to see what perennials were popping up. I am always excited when my perennials begin sprouting for the year — many of them I have received as hand-me-downs & cuttings from friends that I have split & distributed throughout the yard over the years. In this way, it’s not just lovely plants waking up — like so many things in this life these plants remind me of special people & times in my life so I hold each of them very dear. I snapped some photos to share, of course.

20130428-183126.jpgHyacinth that my husband bought for me a couple anniversaries ago.

20130429-114729.jpgRhubarb that we planted when my daughter was a toddler.

20130429-114743.jpgThis lilac was one of the very first things we planted in our yard when we moved in. It has struggled — as do many things in our yard thanks to a giant black walnut tree on the property line (it isn’t ours — we love the shade, not so much the toxic roots & leaves).

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We have loads of gooseberry bushes which produce fruit prolifically. Mind the giant thorns though — my son kindly removed one from my leg before I noticed and promptly charged me $1 for the service. I happily paid as I surely would have been in a lot of pain shortly had he not caught it. Besides, he’s saving up for a pet tortoise… or snake… or a trip to Central America.

20130429-114827.jpgThese are daylilies and irises are from an dear friend who shared loads of plants with me when she remodeled her backyard.

20130429-114843.jpgAnd our honeysuckle vine that has overtaken an arbor that arches over our front walk. It blooms beautifully — sometimes twice — & the hummingbirds love it. It needs some pruning though, to be sure!

I was delighted to see lots tulips I transplanted coming up in their new locations as well as a sedum I split to multiple new spots last fall. I started a rather large-scale landscaping project with this plant last fall. It was originally just a lone potted sedum given to me as a house-warming gift and now it is about a dozen thriving plantings — hopefully more later this year. I can’t wait to finish this project, it’s going to look lovely, I just know it! I already took care of pruning back our plum and quince trees as well as our cherry bushes. I tidied up our daisy & tiger-lily bed (although they will probably need to be split, too). Mostly just the larger scale mulching project, switching over to summer-time bird feeders, and bringing out our over-the-deck-rail planters remain. I have some ideas for raspberry patch expansion & a mini-wildflower field, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself!

In the meantime when I’ve not been working in the gardens, I’ve been clicking away. I’ve finished some swatches for an upcoming class as well as my MerryKAL Chrimstas ball for April. I’ve also been cruising through the final leg of my Sixareen Cape. All this nice weather has made me think about a project I just barely started last month though… Bristol Ivy’s Kit Camisole in Quince & Co. Sparrow.

20130429-144429.jpgI love the timeless features of the design & so far I’ve been very impressed with Quince & Co’s linen. I haven’t used much linen in my day, but this one is quite lovely — soft and not prone to splitting.

 We are expecting more rain & cooler weather again the latter half of this week — it seems despite all the springing around us Mother Nature is still a bit torn between winter & summer — the tug-of-war we call spring. I am torn as well… quite torn, actually. In the time I’m not working in the garden should I finish up my cool weather knitting (I feel so close!) or spring into the warmer weather items so they are ready for summer? Or maybe just plug away at both? I think there will be a tug-of-war on my needles, too.