June 2008

Giving myself a gold star – I’m happy to report that I’ve made significant progress since my last post in getting into the spirit of collaboration with my knitting.  I have 6 whole friends on Ravelry now – 6! and counting.  People are so nice.  Which isn’t surprising, it’s just…nice.  Anyway, I’m out of my junior high funk, I think, and that can only be good.

So I got up this morning and felt groggy and lethargic – pretty much par for the course.  But I chose my Periwinkle Turtleneck from the closet, and suddenly things were looking up.  I whipped myself together and headed out to an appointment, which was a refreshing departure from the usual route to work.  Unfortunately, that’s where the fun stopped – or my car stopped, more like.  Was thisclose to making it to my appointment when she started making a weird rattly noise and said, “yeah, that’s enough for me today”, so I rolled slowly into the median.  Waited over an hour for freaking AAA to drop the ball multiple times getting a tow truck to me – all while I was stuck on the highway off-ramp to a major bridge in a major metro area – but what’s the rush?  Somebody eventually showed up to tow me, but by then my car was more in the mood to cooperate when I turned over the engine, and she and I beelined it for the shop without the help of Mr. Late-to-the-Party tow guy.  I think the poor car overheated.  It might be a teensy problem that I haven’t changed the oil or topped up any fluids for over 7,000 miles.  Oops.  What can I say?  I’d rather be doing other things, so I procrastinate.  I’ll pay for it now.

But the real pisser is that I don’t have my knitting with me.

I almost always throw my knitting in the car with me.  Just in case.  But today, in my rush, I left it by the nightstand, where I lovingly laid it down last night.  I can just see it there, all curled up and missing me.

I also left my computer charger and phone charger at home, which I pretty much never do.  I was too high on Periwinkle this morning to think straight.

My car may be dead, but they
can’t stop me from blogging.

So.  Now I’m in the coffee shop across from the garage, working on my limited battery life, hoping the fix will be cheap – like, “just topped up your radiator fluid, ma’am…what do you owe me?  Oh, you know what, this one’s on me – this fluid is really just tap water anyway”.

Back on Planet Earth – let’s focus on happy, real things.  I am truly loving my Airy Wrap-Around Sweater.  I know I posted earlier about losing my mojo with it very early on after cast-off, and it did take a while to push past that.  This is by no means a difficult knit (so far), but I humbly admit I had a few troubles lining up my yarn-overs in the first couple of rows, which resulted in a couple of frogged attempts of a start.  The lacy light-weight open-air stitches had me all confused, as pretty as they are.  I was struggling to figure out which stitch to yarn-over before based on counting stitches from the end.  Not a bad method, but a better method is just knowing what stitch you’re looking for as a trigger.  But Amy, you say, aren’t these stitches marked, as instructed in the pattern?  Yes, friend, yes they are.  But this didn’t help with my confusion.  I still couldn’t tell for sure, based on the marker still in the cast-on row, whether the marked stitch was this one or the one just to the right.

Once I did a few rows I realized that it was plain as day which stitch was The One before and after which to yarn over.  Hello!  It’s the stitch that’s actually a stitch.  Forget the marker; you’ll see the knit stitch pop out because it’s the one with big holes (from the yarn over below) on both sides.  Knit the “string-stitch” prior to the lone knit stitch, then yarn over, then knit the stitch, then yarn-over again, and knit the next string-stitch.  Continue knitting until the next hole.

I know this is elementary, and now it seems very easy just to do what the pattern says in plain knitting-English, but so it goes.  I’m learning.  I won’t be scared of yarn-overs in the future, simple as that.  The whole point of having a blog is admitting you’re not perfect and sharing your silly (or not-so) mistakes.  Right?  That and venting about bad days and squealing giddily about good ones.  And trying to find the version of a photo wearing your FO that hides the fat roll in creeping around your mid-section.  Maybe that last part was TMI, but there you go.

Here’s my Airy baby so far.  And yes, I did poach the color that Stefanie used on the model in the book (just like I did with my Periwinkle – I know, I know).  I actually do have the ability to be creative and think for myself, but I’m trying hard to branch out of what I’d pick (first thought is always black, and lately my go-to colors for everything have been blue and pink, so shades of purple have been my latest target).  Next up will be green, I think, but I digress.

I really do like this project, now that I’m cranking on it.  It’s soft and light and magical.  I keep laying it over my shoulders to see if I can picture yet how fabulous it will look and feel.  Along with that, I have visions of myself sashaying around in it, accepting compliments left and right – but again, that may be TMI.

More soon.  The shop just called to tell me that the thermostat wasn’t working and that it needed to be replaced ($139) before they could continue on with further diagnostics ($110 for that already).  Oh, and “ma’am, there was very little oil” in the car, so they’ll need to fill ‘er up.  Oops.

I’ve been so shy.  I don’t know why.  I’ve had this junior-high feeling lately:  I just want to be cool like the other kids, but there’s a lingering fear I won’t get picked for dodgeball.  You know the feeling I mean.

It’s time for me to put myself out there more and get to know other knitters – weirdly, it feels a bit like flinging myself into the dating pool.  Why is that?  Why have I been such a wimp about introducing myself to people online who are clearly very nice and non-scary?  Since when am I such a wuss?  Buck up!

One good really really great thing that will help here is Ravelry.  I’m in love with Ravelry.  First, from a personal project standpoint, it’s a lifesaver for unorganized me.  The more I use it, the more helpful it will be, and any time I can spare to roam on Ravelry increases the likelihood of me whipping myself into gear with archiving and labeling things in storage (instead of losing track of what I’ve managed to leave all over the house).  In terms of contributing, I need to do a better job of logging my stash and projects to share, and I can knock that out in a weekend if I settle down to do it. 

Then there’s the people part.  For the most part, I feel like I’m just scratching the surface there, and I want to come out of my little shell, say, “hello, world” and start making friends.  There are so many fabulous profiles to peruse, with knitters of all kinds who would probably be very happy to extend a hi-how-are-ya. 

Through Ravelry or otherwise, part of what I need to do is comment more on blogs I find really inspiring.  I don’t know why I don’t do this regularly.  I think in some respects it seems like I’m crashing the party with my newbie comments when an established group of blog-followers is in the process of commenting on a new post.  Pish posh!  The whole spirit of this community is welcoming and collaborative, which is a big part of why I’ve become so attached to my cherished network of delightful knitters (even if I’m still in the category of unheard blog-hoverer to most).

I must give props to a few ladies who haven’t known how much their impressive blogs have inspired me (because I’ve shyly kept my yapper shut):

  1. It never crossed my mind to have a blog – ever, on any subject – until earlier this year.  Although I was grateful for the wealth of knitting information that was out there to stumble upon, I just wouldn’t have pegged myself as ever having the desire (or ability, frankly) to throw another log on that fire.  Then, during a web search for a review of a Webs closeout yarn, I stumbled on Amanda‘s fantabulous blog at Fancie-Pants (love the Fancie-Pants nickname).  As I was reading through the relevant post I became hooked and ended up perusing her site that day for, well, a long time.  I read her post about the day she got her invitation to Ravelry, and I asked myself, “Huh? What’s Ravelry?” (never fear, I was on the waiting list by the end of the day).  What I learned:  in addition to being a very talented (and fast!) knitter who tweaks patterns confidently (sharing the juicy details and providing awesome photo documentation), she frequenly gives kudos to and examples of projects from other blogs she enjoys.  So, in addition to learning a lot of interesting things that Amanda shares about herself (including other crafting talents like sewing and jewelry-making), I’ve learned about other great bloggers from her as well.  There are a lot of nice blogs out there, but for whatever reason, Fancie-Pants won my heart that day with her friendly ways.  Her blog made me want to live nextdoor to her so I could bring over a bundt cake and introduce myself, then bring my yarn over and hang out.  While I was getting to know her virtually, a light bulb came on, and my life suddenly seemed incomplete without having a similar outlet to share the knitting love.  That’s it.  Sassy Does It was born.

    Hilarious story here
  3. Lickety Knit is such a fine, fine blog, and the twins-expecting Rachel is just wonderful.  I admire her ability to create an almost tangible circle of friends.  We can all relate with her self-deprecating humor, although her obvious skill and creativity have us all shouting, “Crazy talk! You’re fabulous!”.  Her extended family of handknits-appreciaters makes me wish I had my beloved kin closer geographically so that we could unwittingly turn heads when going out en masse with our Pointer-Sister versions of the perfect winter wooly hat.  In addition to her talent with creating people-sized knitty goodness, check this post out:  it pretty sums up the BFF-caliber fun Rachel is.  She’ll be an awesome mom!  Rachel, congratulations on the two tiny and lovely buns a-baking!  I know you’ll have even less time for blogging, but your fans humbly await the first pics of the double-bundle of joy.

  5. Cyn at Half-Assed Knit Blog is my hero.  She’s a designer who shares her ideas and free-spirit commentary on what she’s up to.  Not only is she very talented with impeccable taste (her yarn selections make me drool), she’s bloody great at making me laugh.  Cyn’s sassy twist on everything makes any topic a thoroughly enjoyable read.  On top of that, everything she models looks fantastic on her, and I end up inspired to be funky and adventurous and frankly, as cool as she is.  This is the first blog entry of hers I read; my favorite quote from which was, “Yes, I love me some nine foot scarves.”  That was when I bookmarked her.  Isn’t the scarf pictured here (called Serpentina) simply fab? I want to wrap myself up in it.  Check out her half-assed free patterns as well – ah ooga!  Love it – love the whole blog.

Anyhoo – I’m forging ahead.  I’m quite a boisterous bigmouth in person, so I’m just going to start in friend-making with a big virtual handshake.  Want to share!  Want to compliment!  Want to ask questions!  Want to connect.  This post is a way to kick my booty into gear and acknowledge that my hesitation is just silliness.  I’m going for it.  Taking that bull by the horns, because, you know, I’m not in junior high anymore.


You can find me on Ravelry – I’m sassydoesit – Amy to my friends.

Where my stitches at?  ;)

So this puppy’s done!  Why it took me so long, I don’t know, but it’s now raring to go.

The finished product!
from Fitted Knits

Overall, I’m very pleased with it.  I had to resort to an unorthodox work-around to fix a too-long giraffe neck, but it all worked out, and the upside is that now I’ve got a new technique in my bag to share.  Needless to say I could’ve prevented the neck problem if I’d tried on the turtleneck before moving on to the body, but of course I did not do this.  Oops.


I added on about 3″ of body length to cover the long torso (I try to avoid the inadvertent belly-shirt show; you can bet that doesn’t happen on purpose these days!).  Now it hits just where I want it to – comfortably long on its own, nice under a suit.

Front of vest

Back ribbing

Here’s the front view, next to a close-up of the back shaping.  The front and back are the same apart from the early ribbing that starts on the back, well above the waist.  The pattern calls for 1″ of ribbing one row in on each side, but since my back curves in (or butt sticks out, depending on how you look at it) more than the average girl, I did another inch with another row in on both sides.  This turned out nicely, with a bit of extra hug where I needed it.

One of the things I learned while making this sweater was actually the art of trying on the project along the way (although unfortunately I didn’t figure this out until past the turtleneck, but I digress).  Not rocket science – but I’d missed any clear suggestion on how to best accomplish this from any book or blog I’d read, so I discovered that transferring the stitches entirely to a length of scrap yarn is a great way to do this.  Stefanie Japel, the author of Fitted Knits, suggests holding the stitches (between steps in this pattern) on either a stitch holder or scrap yarn.  I’ve always used stitch holders since it seems cleaner and faster to me, but whether it is or not, using the scrap yarn does actually provide a nice opportunity to try on the garment.  The circumference of the neck/bust/waist won’t be constrained by the circular needle (or a mixture of the needle + other stitch holders, as I’d sloppily tried before).  It’s easy to move the stitches off and back on your needle, and it doesn’t take very long.  Use a small crochet hook and get down to business.  Note to self – take the time to try on at different stages.  It’s pretty much as important as knitting a swatch for gauge at the beginning, at least if you want whatever you’re making to fit you properly.

So what do you do when your FO is perfect except for the *teensy* problem of not being long enough from the cast-on edge (for a traditional bottom-up sweater), or, if knit from the top down, the neck is too long or otherwise requires adjustment. Well, I can tell you from previous experience that frogging from the cast-on edge is an entirely different ballgame than your usual oops-I-need-to-tear-back-10-rows-from-where-I’m-working frogging. While I’m at it, frogging = rapidly pulling out knitted stitches, backwards, tugging steadily on the yarn from the place where you’re currently working (removing stitches from left needle).  Apparently the term is so named from the sound “ribb-it, ribb-it” that comes with each rapid pull to unravel the stitches.

Usual frogging: well, if it happens as often for you as it does for me, you get to view it as some kind of cathartic experience, right? Right?? If I didn’t make myself see (or pretend to see) it as a fresh opportunity to get it right the second (or seventh) time, I’d lose my marbles.

Reverse frogging, i.e., unraveling from the cast-on edge: you’re welcome to try it for yourself, if you haven’t already, but attempting to frog work from the cast-on edge just doesn’t work. There’s certainly no “ribb-it” involved, because as much as they look like they might, the stitches don’t melt away like butter with a tug on the yarn as they do moving backwards from mid-bodice of your sweater. Not to say you can’t undo what’s been done, it just requires a little more patience.

In short, if you need to take out stitches from the cast-on edge, your choices are the following:

  1. Attempt the reverse frog: as already warned, this is a slow unraveling process, beginning from the slip knot that started out as the first stitch of the project. I’ve attempted this to unravel about an inch from the bottom of a sweater. Yes, it can be done, but this is likely to be the longest inch of your life – just so you know. It’s amazing how convoluted the route of that little piece of yarn seems in reverse. Unfortunately, even after all that work, it’s not a very clean operation to get your needle back in there to bind off at the length you’re after. When you start unraveling from the beginning, you’ll be tempted to pull and see what happens, and sometimes you’ll end up unraveling up into another row, rather than across. You’re likely to have trouble finding a “lifeline”, or one set of loops on the same row all the way around, from which to continue knitting or just to bind off.
  2. Cut to the chase: this sounds scary, and it is in concept, but it’s actually the cleanest way to do it that I’ve seen. The word cut does indeed mean cut – as in, “Look at me, I’m cutting into my knitting!”. Yes, I too had heart palpitations at this suggestion initially – sacrilege! – but I remembered my previous less-than-graceful attempt at a reverse frog, and decided the cutting method was worth a try. Here is my process, documented with pretty pictures, which worked very well for this project:

How to shorten from the cast-on edge
In this case, I’m removing 1 inch from my too-long turtleneck.

Just a wee bit too long

Step 1: Try on the garment to determine exact measurement of length to be removed.





Place marker at 1″
(Note: stitches still unblocked)

Step 2: Mark measurement with a stitch marker (I wouldn’t advise eye-balling this).






Step 3: Place scissors in position to cut one stitch, ideally on the side or back of garment.






Step 4: (breathe) Cut. (breathe) It’s OK. Everything’s going to be OK here.






Tip: use the other end of
the needle to help unravel
once the lifeline is established.

Step 5: With your needle tip at the ready, begin to unravel one of the loose ends, gently. You’ll see first one loop (just hanging out, looking for attention), then another emerge as you’re unraveling. Immediately slide these loops onto your needle. This is your “lifeline”.






Step 6: Continue sliding on the loops that free up as you unravel all the way around until the entire lifeline is on the needle.






Halfway around, you may want
to unravel from 2nd loose end

Ready to bind off at new length
(or add new color or design)

If you’re working with a circular needle (as pictured here), once you reach the halfway-around point, you may find it easier to slide the stiches to the opposite end of the needle and begin slipping lifeline stitches on to that end, as unraveled from the second loose end of the original cut. This is 100% optional, but you may find it easier since the remaining loose end will be shorter and therefore quicker to pull out and through the extraneous stitches. If you’re working with straight needles and a seamed garment with front & back sides, you’ll need to first un-seam and then perform this process on each side.

That’s it. Not too complicated, and I’ve documented and illustrated every step right here. The lifeline is a very clean way to jump back into the knitting when you find yourself in need of an alteration when you’re well past being able to consider the traditional frogging solution.

Finished! Corrected neck length after final bind-off

I should note that once I had my lifeline completely on the needle, I did not complete any further knitting, but went immediately into my bind-off final row.  As Annie points out in her “Tricks” post on www.modeknit.com (from which I gained the confidence to try the method she refers to), any kind of unraveling from the cast-on edge is going to result in a slight shift in alignment of about a half-stitch, since the loops that form your lifeline are not actually the same loops that you’d be using to stitch if you were knitting along in real-time. This shift is not distinguishable, practically speaking, if all you’re going to do is bind off (as I did – I can’t tell any difference from normal bind-off).

Where this shift might matter is if you wanted to add on from where you’d cut in (for instance, if you wanted to cut off 2 inches at the bottom of a sweater and add a stripe or ribbing in a different color, or perhaps re-knit those 2 inches with little “V” vents on the sides). In this case, you may be able to see this slight half-stitch shift in alignment at the point where you are joining in with new knitting, but it’s probably not too big of a deal – especially if you really want to make the change/addition you’re after.  Like, say, your 13-year-old step-daughter says she really would prefer the sweater with those little V vents on the sides (meaning she’d prefer not to wear it without them…now you know about my first attempted reverse frogging experience!). Ah, good times – if only I’d known about the “cut to the chase” method then.  This project was Squeezer’s Hoodie Sweatshirt from the Yarn Girl’s Guide to Simple Knits (in the book it’s called “Not Your Standard Issue Sweatshirt”) – highlights and photos of our FO coming soon to a blog near you.

The end of my 3rd and final skein

Wrapping up my diaglogue on my Periwinkle friend here, it took very nearly all 3 skeins of Cascade 220 (color 7810).  I had less than a yard left, but I could have harvested enough from the 1″ cut off of the turtleneck if I’d needed a bit more.  All in all this yielded a satisfying pretty-much-used-it-up feeling with respect to my $21 investment in this project.

As I’ve shared previously, this shade of “periwinkle” is a bit too purple for my definition of periwinkle, which is closer to the color of my blog banner at the top of this page.  Needs just a bit more blue in it, but not so much to spill over into cornflower (although that too, is a lovely color).  Ah, Crayola, thank you for instilling my opinions on these colors so early in the game, and for teaching me what to call them in my grown-up quest for the perfect yarn.

Hmmm.  Now I’m supposed to move on to my Airy Wrap-Around Sweater, but I’m not sure I’m feeling the love on that one just now, even though it’s been cast on and is beckoning to me from the top of the knitting crate next to my nightstand. 

Not sure what I’ll do, but I do know there are a bunch of anxious balls of yarn in storage that are trying to get my attention.  You can bet I’ll keep you posted on this exciting decision.