Why is it July already?  Not that there’s anything wrong with July – it’s all just happened so fast.

My sister and her girls are with me this week and I couldn’t be happier.  It’s heaven to be with them so I’ve taken time off to bask in it. My almost-three niece wants me to make her a sweater, so I’ve got toddler patterns on the brain.  She is waffling between “something purple” and “something red”, and “maybe…something…with short sleeves”.  Makes sense since it’s a touch warm outside, and who wants to be all bundled up for summer?  I picked up Adorable Knits for Tots by Zoë Mellor, without much research other than a quick leaf-through at Michael’s while we were picking up craft projects for the kids.  Jennifer at http://loopyknitter.wordpress.com pointed me in the right direction to find the errata (which DebbieKnitter went through quite a bit to find) – just in case I end up making something from this book.

My niece’s request for purple may be inspired by my continued sneaky attempts to work on my Airy Wrap-Around Sweater from Stefanie Japel’s Fitted Knits.  It’s coming along – it would be faster if I could tear myself away from the aforementioned toddler pattern search in the time I have free during nap time.  I like it – the floatiness of the lacy stitching is still a novel drapey feel for me while I’m knitting, so it’s fun.

Just about done with the back so I can move on to the sleeves, which I’m thinking about making a bit longer than 3/4 length per the pattern.  I lengthened the torso of the back by a couple of inches; instead of doing only 16 rows of stockinette repeat before starting the cabling, I added an extra 8 rows.

One of the other patterns I found on Ravelry last week that I’ve been dreaming about since is the Sheer Poncho by Amy Arifin, who has kindly included this beautiful pattern in the free designs section of her cool website.  I was searching for cowl neck patterns (I developed a hankering for one after seeing a funky pink-striped sweater on Alicia Keys in her “Teenage Love Affair” video…I know, how did I stumble into hip? An MTV indulgence is rare but it does happen!) and spotted a photo of Amy’s poncho. 

Then I saw the alternative ways to wear it and became enamored with the fabulousness.  What fun!  This one is headed for my queue.

I hear the stirrings of my youngest niece emerging from nap time…auntie to the rescue.  Back soon!


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 spend a lot of time on planes due to travel for work, but rarely am I overcome by the hustle-bustle of airport-hopping to the extent that I dread the need to strap myself into that seat.  I like a nice long plane journey.  There’s something about being trapped in that steel cylinder that makes me happy, and I’m pretty sure it’s to do with the fact that I can knit the entire time without interruption if I so choose.  Where else do you get that kind of sure-thing knit time?

Normally I stealthily avoid chatters on planes.  I prefer the window seat (so I don’t have to get up for someone else to go to the bathroom), and I try to board early, toss my carry-on overhead, buckle up, and whip out the knitting.  Wielding the knitting is very effective.  No offense to the fellow passengers that may end up seated in my vicinity, but I do try to avoid eye contact so I can stay focused on my happy place, the busy needles frolicking in front of me. 

Flight attendants like to ask what I’m knitting, and although it rips me from my revelry to answer the question, I can’t help myself from offering up my growing labor of love for a little touchy-feely.  It’s surprising how often the flight attendant will mention that someone else is knitting back in row 35, a blanket or baby booties or whatever.  Makes me want to raise up my needles in solidarity – you go, sister – before digging back in.  I’m hoping desparately that they don’t start letting us all use phones and the internet on planes…my excuse to knit will be harder to justify if I actually have work to do during that sacred time.

All that to say – we’re going to Phoenix for the weekend, where friends and family will bring on the good times.  Before the airport spits us out into the sauna this evening, it’s so comforting to know that I’ll have quality time with my Periwinkle honey – it’s been a while after a crazy couple of knit-less weeks, and frankly I can’t freakin’ wait.

Since, in my inability to churn out new rows to show off this week I have nothing new to show you, I thought I’d show off a couple of things my sister impressed me with during my last visit (which required a plane ride, which yielded much fun with the aforementioned honey).  For her birthday this year I sent her Amy Karol’s Bend the Rules Sewing, since she is an avid reader of Amy’s craft blog, angrychicken.  In past months she’s raved about Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing (and with good reason! if you haven’t seen it, you should check it out), so I went for the variation on a theme.

Hello, inspirational!  From Bend the Rules Sewing, Sis made the cutest little things – I went all squealy when I saw them.  The first item is a little pouch-wallet.  Very simple, yet surprsingly I-want-one with her funky choice of fabric.  She finds deals on swatches of fabric here and there and is a very patient shopper of Jo-Ann’s remnants and clearances (unlike me; I have very little ability to resist yummy things when I see them, and it’s very hard for me to peruse fabrics and yarns without buying something that is ridiculously NOT on sale).  Her one splurge was the button, which I love.

The second pattern is a cute little purse – again simple yet endearing.  She found 50-cent pillowcases at a second-hand shop (again I give her kudos for digging up the deals) and used two swatches for this.  The pre-loved cotton made the end result soft and familiar-feeling. 

I like the way one strap is longer than the other so that you can pull the long loop through the short one for a simple closure.  It’s not very big – 5″ x 7″, maybe, although obviously easy to size up – but it seems the perfect little accessory for a stroll on a sunny spring morning when you don’t want to heave the whole enchilada of your leather purse out with you. Tuck a $10er and your lip gloss in your little bag and meander down to the farmers’ market on Saturday morning, dangling your creation from your fingers, stopping for a yummy latte to enjoy along the way.  I want one!  She’s making a few more for a charity craft sale that she and a few other ladies are putting together, which I think is quite a cool thing.

Lordy, look at the time.  Gotta pack so I can catch my knitting-enabling machine.

Yikes, where does the time go?  Have been missing my imaginary friends here with the pesky business of life rearing its head every time I try to blog on.

Have been making nice progress on ye olde WIP, the Perfect Periwinkle Turtleneck Tube Vest.  Even though it’s slow going with all of the interruptions, it’s still making me happy because I like the way trusty Cascade 220 is knitting up on size 7 needles, even just in stockinette.  The gauge I used for my Sexy Summer Tank was a bit bigger, and although I didn’t dislike it that way, I’m finding the stitch definition more pleasing to the eye with my Periwinkle sweetheart.  Nice and substantial-feeling, you know?

I’m just beginning the “jump-start” ribbing on the back of the sweater, which I took a few minutes to make sure I was clear on before I started. I did a little poking around on one of the Fitted Knits KALs and confirmed this was on-purpose extra ribbing and not part of the errata (the list of which is unfortunately lengthy…although I can’t say that it makes me like the patterns any less). Since the back ribbing isn’t pictured in the book, I had to check.  And right-o, boss – the ribbing starts a bit earlier for the outer edges of the back in order to fit it nicely. Since I tend to be a bit on the “sway-back” side (Mom’s term: “your bottom isn’t too big honey, it’s just the sway-back that runs in the family”) with a strong arch in my lower back, I think I’ll add in an extra set of ribs after the first inch, and add an extra couple inches in length overall because I have a long torso.  Oh la la, the special needs.

As I was “fluffing” my little WIP so I could take its picture (in my poorly lit hotel room in Orlando, where I was traveling on business), my sweater struck a surprisingly full-bosomed pose, in foolish anticipation of the boobs that would never quite fill that gradiose space.  In doing a quick over-the-head try-on, it actually fits very nicely (even in my not-so-endowed-ness), which was a relief.

Speaking of trying on works-in-progress, does anyone have any tips on how to pull knitting-in-the-round over your head to try something on without stitches falling off of the circular needle? I tried transferring a healthy chunk of stitches over to a stitch holder and leaving the rest on the needle while I tried on, but the stitches on the ends of the needle still managed to slip off because the needle is just the right circumference for the intended diameter.  This just doesn’t include room for my clusmy maneuvers.  I could transfer to a longer needle to try on, but this seems a lot of trouble.  I wouldn’t want to use a longer needle to to knit the rest of the ribbing because it would stretch the diameter of the stitches unduly since the work is joined. Please, oh, please, toss me a comment if you’ve had more luck than I have with the trying-on of a top-down project.

[EDIT after original post:  I’ve got the trying-on thing under control now, guys – a little patience goes a long way.  Most of you already probably had this figured out.  I wrote about it here if you’re curious about my try-on ways and means.]

Squeezer’s Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug is also looking much better.  She’s ready to move the stockinette down each sleeve to the ribbing, and not a minute too soon, because I think she’d not-so-secretly had enough of the KFB and PFB increasing on the back.  I had fun with it, though: upon my foray into these increase-rows when frogging and re-stitching a few misaligned rows for her, I enjoyed the twirly feeling of that stitch.

I’m thinking ahead to my Airy Wrap-Around Lace Sweater, patiently waiting in my queue.  My family has a lake cottage in the Midwest and we’re headed there for Memorial Day to open up for the season.  I’m guessing it won’t be summer enough yet for the wrap-around number (without another sweater on underneath it), but you never know.  I doubt I’d polish it off in time even if I started now, but it’s good motivation.  I’d like to make another trip to the lake later in the summer when the sweater will be a perfect oh-is-it-a-little-chilly-this-evening?-I-just-happen-to-have-a-pretty-wrap-around-to-wear-to-dinner top.  I’ve never done anything remotely lacy so we’ll see how we go.

That’s it for now, homies.  I have so many other witty things to say, but alas, I have squeezed all the time I can squeeze with you for today.  My next blog will include stolen inspiration – I visited my sister and she’s been up to fabulous things with her sewing machine and a few choice cuts from Jo-Ann’s.  She’s the bomb, and I can’t wait for you to get to know her.

The other night I watched Karate Kid, for old times’ sake (and because it was free On Demand).  Not Part II or III – the original; not as if it were the weekend movie on TBS or something, but straight through and uninterrupted with proper movie-night focus.  I watched it with a my fiancé, a.k.a. Bidie-In, and his tween daughter, Squeezer (my step-daughter-to-be).  Neither of them had ever seen it.  I know, I know.  Bidie is Scottish, as in, grew up there, so let’s cut him some slack, because maybe this bit of pop culture didn’t make it across the pond.   Shocking, yes, that anyone could make it this far along in life without giving props to Mr. Miyagi, but it’s true.

Anyhoo, we remedied this.  Squeezer had been quoting lines from this movie for a while, but only because she was quoting me (“Wax on, wax off!  Daniel-san! Paint the fence!”).  I think the Squeeze had a hard time getting her head around the fact that people used to going around looking like this on purpose (like any classic, the movie does come off a *teensy* bit dated, what with the feathered hair and the 80s guitar riffs and all), but she did like it.  And, she can quote her movie lines with a bit more oomph behind them.

Oh, Ralph Macchio.  So scrawny, and so much older in 1984 than Danny LaRusso was supposed to be, but still so lovable.  Seing those lanky limbs again triggered the memory of my long-since forgotten pre-teen admiration.  It was like running my finger over an old scar.  I couldn’t actually feel the former sensation, but the recollection of having felt that way back in the day was fairly acute.  Only upon seeing the movie, you understand – it’s not like I walk around fantasizing about Ralph in the here and now.  I’m don’t even want the “where is he now?” lowdown – better to leave it alone.  In any case, I can’t deny that once upon a time I’d have given away my Walkman (AND my Like a Virgin cassette tape) to be Elizabeth Shue during the victory scene where she runs up onto the karate mat with a towel around her neck, spiral perm curls bouncing.  Who among us wouldn’t have, I ask you?

I know that Squeezer wasn’t too impressed with Daniel-san‘s feathered hair, but she did like the karate part (she’s now demonstrating her prowess at every opportunity). 

Squeezer is one in a million.  In addition to being ridiculously cute, she’s quite the little crafter.  If you upend a shoebox full of random craft items (bits of paper or fabric, pipe cleaners, sequins, googly-eyes, Mod Podge…you know the type), add some Tacky Glue or a needle and thread, Squeezie could put it all to good use in making something impressive in no time flat.  It’s amazing.   She doesn’t spend time planning it all out (like I do with everything, to the point of paralysis in getting started) – she just does it.

One day she snuggled up to me and asked me if I would teach her to knit.  Oh joy!  I was delighted.

She jumped right in.  Her first creations were posh canine duds for Lainey – her tiny chihuahua-terrier mix – each a wee sweater, and every one of them a hit.  I’ll post these gems when I can get my hands on the pics.  For the moment, allow me to share her WIP, her first article of clothing for herself.  She chose “Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug” from Fitted Knits.  She’s using Cascade 220 Superwash in lovely bright shades: rose pink and lime green (both very Squeezer shades).

Great progress so far, with only one little road bump on the back:  the KFB (knit 1 front and back) stitch has tripped her up a bit here and there in terms of lining up row upon row.  The pic below shows where she stopped (we’re off by a row starting at the spot where I poked in my gold stitch holder).  Very difficult to fix the boo-boo without frogging back to the row with the problem (although you can bet I tried).  Squeezer’s learned basic recovery of dropped stitches in stockinette, but this was a toughie, so I told her I’d make the problem go away.

We’ll give it a little love and report back later.

Silly me.  Now I’ve got Karate Kid on the brain.  Specifically (and annoyingly), I’ve got “You’re the Best (Around)” stuck in my head, with the evil mumble “sweep the leg” reverbing in the mix.  A fine mess I’ve gotten myself into!

So this is my current WIP (Work In Progress – I’m thinking I’ll go ahead and define the acronyms the first time I use them, since as a newbie I was lost). 

When I found Stefanie Japel’s Fitted Knits, her approach really clicked with me.  Smart!  Tweak your work to fit perfectly.  Not that you couldn’t mess around with it based on your own intuition and come up with a better fit, but this book makes you want to put significant thought into it ahead of time and get it right. Why wouldn’t you want to do this if you’re investing so much time (and money) in a project? 

Speaking of investing money, Stephanie established a lot of credibility with me by including reasonably-priced (yet still high-quality) yarn suggestions throughout the book.  If you’re feeling blingy you could always trade up to fancier fibers, but isn’t it nice to have a designer be down-to-earth enough to acknowledge her designs will work up nicely in a broad range of yarns?

I’m working on the Perfect Periwinkle Turtleneck Tube Vest (you’ll find an overview of the pattern and a nice write-up of the book here on Volkstricken). 

I like it.  The swooping line down the side from the neck down around the outside of the bodice has a very clean but sexy look.  Simple enough to wear under a suit jacket for work; kicky enough on its own to be a fun summer top.  I’m a big fan of turtlenecks.  I guess I just like the look. Even when it’s a sleeveless design (I have a few of these), it’s handy for layering – when it’s warm out, you’re cool enough with bare arms, but when the sun goes down a cardigan layer fits the bill.

This is the first top-down project I’ve done.  Very cool.  I like the idea of knitting it all in one piece.  I’ve gotten used to the idea of stitching seams (at first I didn’t realize that knitting almost always involved a bit of sewing) and I don’t have a problem with seams comfort-wise, but maybe I’ll get hooked.

I won’t lie to you – this pattern jumped out at me in large part because of the Periwinkle.  I’m a periwinkle freak.  I’m on a conquest to find the perfect shade, as I define it.  There’s a lot of controversy over what actually constitutes periwinkle.  I tend to consider Crayola the last word, but I haven’t actually gone back to check to see if my memory serves me correctly.  I’m kind of afraid to, since I’m very much enamored with the shade I have in mind (and I don’t know if I could allow my faith in Crayola to be tarnished over a misunderstanding here).

I have a suit jacket that I bought at Nordstrom years ago (gosh, that makes me sound really old) when I started my first verybusyandimportant job.  I have come to think of this jacket as the perfect shade of periwinkle, and will stop at nothing to find it in cozy lovely yarn.  I like to buy my yarn over the internet (which, by the way, it took me a long time to start doing), and sometimes I’m too impatient to get a colorcard, if one is even available, so after a lot of deliberation I usually just order it up and hope for the best.  I justify this because I know even if it’s even close I’ll like the color for some project or another.  Or maybe just for me to gaze at lovingly as a new entry to my blossoming stash.

I started with Baby Alpaca Brush in color 1620 (Baby Blue).  It looked a lot more periwinkle in one of the online pictures than it actually was, but what the heck – who doesn’t love baby blue?  (Note to self: if color is called Baby Blue, it might actually be baby blue).  I made a wonderfully soft sweater from the Yarn Girl’s Guide to Simple Knits and was very proud of my first true I’ve-cut-my-teeth-with-knitting genuine item of clothing.

Then I went with Morehouse Merino Farm’s bulky in Periwinkle.  Great yarn, really lovely.  I made a decadent sweater (Rowan’s Charity), but the color had a little too much purple to be my perfect periwinkle.

I’m not convinced yet that Cascade 220 can scratch my periwinkle itch – we’ll see.  I tried pretty darn hard to find a way to order a complete color card, and although there were a couple of recommendations I found online to track down the surprisingly obscure item, none of them seemed like it was any longer a viable option.  Weird.  After a while I cut myself off from looking; I was burning a lot of time (as I tend to do) in making a decision on what color to buy among the several candidates from Cascade that looked close.

After all that – for the Turtleneck Tube Vest project, I settled on Cascade 220 shade 7809 as suggested. It was called “periwinkle” by Fitted Knits, but I suspected would be on the purple-y side of my periwinkle. 7809 was labeled as “violet” or “light violet” by some vendors, and another called it “blue-violet”.    In any case it looked fantastic in the book (on the model anyway) so I just rolled the dice.

Indeed, it is on the purple side of periwinkle for me, but I really like it none the less.  I have to admit Cascade 220 is becoming a bit of a go-to yarn for me (I’m in good company).  I used the Superwash for the first time to make the Debbie Bliss Cable Baby Blanket in Cascade 220 color 836 (which was just the perfect not-too-pale but not-too-obnoxious pink I was looking for) and liked the texture and feel a lot for a new wool.  I also got into the Heathers collection with color 2449, which I used to make the quickie “weekend” tank top in my Yarn Girl’s book.  Good stuff, that Cascade.

Alas…the search for the perfect periwinkle continues, but I can’t say I’m not enjoying the journey.

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