Woo-hoo, off the needles!  As of two days ago, technically speaking, but I needed to seam and block before my über-high-fashion photo shoot.  Blocking didn’t change much in terms of the fit, which overall I’m happy with, but it did even out the stitches a bit.


Ta-da!

So – I like Airy.  She’s easy breezy to look at, yet surprisingly warm – thanks to the mohair – given that it’s a lacy summery top.  As for completing the look, I need to find/buy another white camisole or sleeveless tank.  Couldn’t find the one I know I have that’s hiding from me, so I went with a scoop tee for these shots.  I’m sure I’ll experiment with other undergarments for this, but to show you, I wanted to stick with basic white.

Pattern: Airy Wrap-Around Lace Sweater from Fitted Knits, designed by Stefanie Japel
Size:  The one in the middle of the five
Yarn: Almost 5 balls of Lane Cervinia Softer in shade #3331 (light lavender), 50/50 mohair/acrylic
Needles: size 11 circular
Time to knit: about six weeks of heavily-divided attention
Modifications: Longer torso and sleeves (2 added inches each), shorter tie-flaps (about 10 inches each)

As you’ll note from my Ravelry project notes, I used the yarn prescribed by Stefanie – Lane Cervinia Softer – down to the color (I know, I know, very unoriginal thinking, but what can I say – I liked what I saw in the photo).  Yarn-wise, the Italian blend gets a thumbs-up:  easy to work with, nice drape, nice feel (in spite of the acrylic component).  I’ve seen a few knitters question what to substitute if you’re not into sheddy mohair (I say no biggie with such a light color – I just won’t wear black on the bottom).  Tough to say, since I’m not an expert on all things lacy, but I wouldn’t be quick to approach a substitution on this one.  It seems critical not to end up too heavy on the weight.  Also, with a size 11 needle (which I did achieve gauge with as written in the pattern), you don’t want to go too lightweight with the fiber holding together the larger lace stitches – it’s not that they’re that complex, but it’s that you don’t want the fragile-looking stitching to actually become fra-gee-lay  (um, yeah…being a big movie-line-quoter, I almost always think – or say – “fra-GEE-lay” when I write or say “fragile” – I can’t help it.  It comes from A Christmas Story, when the dad won a “major prize” and gets all excited about the fantastically still-unknown, full-of-possibilities contents of the large wooden crate marked “FRAGILE” that arrives on his doorstep: “Look at that, it says fra-GEE-lay…must be Italian!”).


From the left: sleeve cabling,
tie-wrap end (spread out),
tie end curled up

Anyhoo, back to Airy.  In the way of putting this puppy on and actually wearing it (I know it’s not really difficult – just wrap the ties around and then – you guessed it – tie them), there are a few things you might want to think about in advance.  As I’ve already mentioned, I doubt you’ll want to make the ties as long as they are written to be in the pattern.  Luckily my waist circumference must be in the same ballpark as others who’ve come before me who have made this suggestion.  I stopped at 42″ on the first flap until I caught up the other flap to the same length, then ultimately found that I needed another 2″ or so (another 6 rows of stockinette following the lace stitch where I stopped), given that the decrease rows that form the pretty detail on the end of the ties would add probably another 6 inches.

You should think about how tight you’re going to wrap yourself up when you’re actually wearing it – and who among us wouldn’t be tempted to crank those ties pretty darn tight to cover up the bulge from that HUGE Mediterranean platter we devoured at lunch?  Also consider that the ties will stretch a bit more once you’ve pulled them taut (even after blocking) – and thank goodness for that, since we’re not going to be able to keep it up with that corset-like attempt we made up above there to hold in the gut.  Even in tying and re-tying the knot to get it to look right (yes, I too was shocked when I didn’t get it picture-perfect the first time), the ties took on another inch or so as the fibers settled into their designated places in the wrap. 

In a nutshell, proceed with caution unless you want to swear while ripping back inches of knitting.  You should be prepared to lose at least 6″ off the ties as written. 


Front of sweater
The tie on the right is in its
natural state – all curled up

Back of sweater
Sure the lower-back cabling
gets covered up…but isn’t
it fun to know it’s there?

The tie-wraps are hard to visualize until you’ve actually knitted them (or seen more detailed photos than the pattern book provides – like, say, these photos here!).  The dimensions diagram in the book doesn’t show the flaps, but they are in fact long extensions of the right and left front.  When I first read the pattern it seemed like they should be narrowing sooner than they do in order to actually become “ties”, but it ends up making sense – ultimately they curl in lengthwise toward the end of the flap, which makes them look skinnier.  Around the back it’s nice to have substantial flaps to wrap around so that the cabled bottom edge is nicely tucked under and less likely to end up unevenly hanging out below (or even partially above) the wrap-around part.  I actually tucked in the bottom edge of the back cable when I was wearing it so that it was nice and smooth across the whole back.  Others on the Fitted Knits KAL on Ravelry made other modifications or wore the ties slightly differently so that the cabling detail is more visible; some didn’t bother doing the cable detail on the back at all.  Different strokes.

The only modification I made other than to shorten the oft-mentioned ties was to lengthen the torso and sleeves (extra 2 inches each).  The added length in the torso required picking up another 4 stitches at the start each front flap.  I added 2 stitches to each end of the row throughout the knitting of the flaps; if I’d thought about it more I may have added the 4 stitches evenly in-between the lace stitches…but you know what?  It wouldn’t have made a difference.  Those little flappies start to roll up at the edges (by design) and the lacy yarn-overs just blend into the over ambience of the ties.  The extra four stitches meant I needed to add four more decrease rows at the tie-ends in order to land on the 21 stitches at bind-off; I divided the extra decreases evenly and did 2 in each set of the garter stitch repeat before the row of yarn-overs.  Easy peasy.

Even though I did try this on all along the way and it seemed the extra inches were needed (as I would usually expect), in the end I don’t think I needed to add any length.  The sleeves hit me a little lower than they do on the model in Fitted Knits, but so it goes.

Seaming the sleeves took about 2 minutes – very easy.  I saw someone dreading it on a Ravelry forum (“What?  Stefanie’s making me seam something?”) – but this tiny little lightweight, big-stitch inseam is about as simple as it gets where stitching seams is concerned.


Checking out my own bum

Thanks to Sissy B for the hand-me-up pair of khaki shorts for my rear-shot on the right.  I’ve been frightened of shorts for several years now – I like to say it’s because I’ve refined my sense of style: “Europeans don’t wear shorts, you know” – but mostly it’s because I’ve become frightened of my thighs.  My sis gifted these during her recent visit (and if I’m not mistaken, they were gifted to her at some point a while ago by Wee C, our youngest sis); she’s moved on to another style, so she shared the love.  These have been all the way up the sister food chain, and will now be gracing my booty, as long as I can rev up the courage to wear them.  Let’s face it:  in California people would wear these to work – say it with me, oy – so although I will never ever bend on that one, I could probably give them a spin in public.  I mean come on, the people at the grocery can handle these tree trunks.  My Airy Wrap will take my mind off my upper-leg-paranoia –  I’ll glide along feeling fabulous in mohair, just as I’d imagined the day I cast this on.

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Nearly done! Still to finish:
tie-wrap ends, arm seams

I’m super close to being done with my Airy Wrap-Around Sweater.  It’s getting very big and fluffy as the second wrap-around flap is rounding the bend.  I stopped shy of the 55″ recommended length for the right flap, pulling back the reins at about 42″ and running scrap yarn through to hold that length while I bring the left one up to speed.  My homies on the Fitted Knits KAL (Knit-ALong) on Ravelry as well as those on this one running independently had noted that the ties ended up being way too long for most of them as written, so I’ll be prepared for the modification.  Lordy, I hope they’re headed toward being way too long for me as written, too, or else me and my thick waist will have to go into hiding with Ben & Jerry for a while to wallow in our excessive girth.

The dimensions are a little off as I model it here – without the sleeves seamed and both sides of the wrap done it’s hard to get it to sit just right – but you get the idea.   Blocking this puppy is going to be very interesting – the combo of sticky wet mohair and lace stitching will be a new one for me.  If anything it’s a bit roomy for my taste at the moment, so we’ll see how we go in getting it to hug me just right (and avoid any accentuation of the aforementioned possbily thick-looking waist in the process). 

So here I am with a weekend day, left unexpectedly to my own devices.  Oh joy!  Oh blessed event!  What shall I do with this time?  So many things on my little list of Amy-time projects, but knitting seems to always win.  I want to finish Airy, but I may save that as a treat if I can manage to get a few other things accomplished (insert reality here):

  1. Finish this blog entry
  2. Go to the bank
  3. Go to the post office
  4. Clean up my messy house

Looks like I’ve got a few craftless hours ahead of me, but I guess it isn’t all fun and games.  However – I’ve still got some time left with you here on my blog, so I’m going to roll around in it and enjoy while I can.

A few things I’m been thankful for over the the last week or two:

  • Dancing with Sissy B – The abundant joy already inherent with a nearly 2-week visit from Sissy B and her wee girls was ceremoniously trumped with a mid-week 80s night at a bar up the street.  We arrived glammed up and ready to go, ordered up our little drinkies and proceeded to wait – the DJ was late, and wherever he was, he had our tunes with him.  We were getting a bit nervous that our soujourn’s wings had been clipped.  Alas, he eventually showed up – but we were none too pleased with the weak effort of his debut, starting with mixes of lesser-known not-so-crowd-pleasing minor 80s hits that just weren’t cutting the mustard.  Just as the mutinous crowd (read: my sister and me) was on the brink of highjacking Master Mix’s booth, he came through with “PYT” – and continued with a steady stream of sister-approved, shout-out-the-lyrics, jump-up-and-down old standbys.  Much hilarity ensued, with squeals of utter delight and DJ-directed declarations of, “I love it! I LOVE it!” and “Yes! YES!”.  Even though we initially cocked our eyebrows at his unorthodox mixes toward the end – Fergie and Metallica? – we had to admit he had a pretty cool sound going.  Bon Jovi took us over the edge with “Livin’ On A Prayer”, and we left with our voices hoarse and perma-smiles plastered on our faces.  We still got it, baby. 
  • Organic produce – OK, I’m still a relative newbie to all this business of “social awareness” and “healthy lifestyles” (think Chris Farley as the finger-quote guy on SNL’s Weekend Update), but I am getting a big-time eye opener lately.  It only took 34 years.  California has definitely gotten her hooks into me, as impervious as I was initially to her Mother Earth wiles.  I had no interest in even recycling when I moved here 5 years ago, and now I’m practically an evangelist of environmentalism and healthy living.  The story of how all this happened to the most reluctant of Midwestern girls I will save for another time.  Suffice it to say – on the food front, I’m a new woman (now that I’ve put down the Cool Whip – oh, sweet, gorgeous Cool Whip – and taken a look around).  I’m in love with farmer’s markets and everything in them.  Love the vendors, love the customers, love the samples, love the smiles.  Love the prices, too – I’ve come round to seeing why it’s worth all the crunchy hype.  I was never willing to spend a dime more on something organic – not only because I’m tight with my money at the grocery store in general, but also because I persisted in using the old adage, “Listen, there’s nothing wrong with chemicals – look at all the non-organic food I ate growing up, my mother too, and look how I turned out!”  To make matters worse, I studied chemical engineering, so I’ve gone around trumpeting the praises of using whatever modern means we have available to get things to be cheaper or lower in fat, sugar-free.  But – without anyone shoving this down my throat, which would have been a sure-fire way for me to be even more impermeable – I’ve seen the light.  First, I began to scrutinize (in following my sister’s lead) what kind of food was allowed to pass my nieces’ lips, not only in terms of nutritional value, but in terms of what was actually safest for them.  Even if I wasn’t sold on the “benefits” of organic food at all, latent doubt did give me pause enough to agree that organic baby foods would be better for the girls – “just in case”.  It took another year or two for this logic to seep further into my brain to its natural conclusion that I – yes, me myself – might want to think a little more about the origin of what I put in my body, chew up, and swallow.  No matter what I’ve eaten over the course of my first 30 years, why oh why would I put anything into my body that has even trace amounts of something I wouldn’t spoon in there on purpose?  Nagging suspicions began to accumulate, and finally I let myself actually read and absorb different viewpoints so that I could form my own objective opinion.  Nowadays I don’t need something to be proven a carcinogen to be wary of it.  If it needs help to grow out of the ground when 50 or 100 years ago it did so without any help, doesn’t it make you wonder?   Why douse it with something toxic?  It’s cheaper, you say, to grow food this way – ah, but we’re still paying for it, more so every day – just not at the grocery.  A lot of other people are making money off of moving truckloads of little veggies and fruits around (ask yourself why the U.S. exports 1.1 million pounds of potatoes annually and also imports 1.4 million pounds every year…hmmmmmm).  Although I’m determined to NOT to beat anyone over the head with this, I can’t help but list the discovery of all things organic on my list here, because it just is something I’ve very grateful for.  More later on what I’m learning, because I won’t be able to help myself – but in the mean time, if you’re curious – check out Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  She’s not shoving anything down anyone’s throat either, which is why I became enamored with her friendly, engaging, fact-based writing style.  Her husband and teenage daughter (now studying nutrition at Duke) also contribute and the collective effort makes this a surprising page-turner.
  • Oh, my knitting, of course – in a world full of stressors (does anyone else feel like their days can turn into a “Space Invaders”-esque challenge where nothing can be allowed to pass by you unaddressed, or else the whole world will blow up?), my humble stitch-laden needles are such a solace.  Cute little furry things they are right now, with lavender mohair all over them, surrounded by Airy’s billowy-ness.  Just a few minutes is all it takes and to start bringing my focus on all things calm and rational back into line.  More than a few minutes is always better, you understand – that’s why I surreptitiously slide as much time with my needle-friends each day as I can.  That and I’m a junkie – I’ve got an addictive habit to support here.

Speaking of a few minutes, I’ve dilly-dallied more than a few with the indulgent rants of my blogging, and now I must…I must…I must increase my bust…(Oh Margaret, where are you now?).  I mean, ahem – I must, I must, I must go do my housework.

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!

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.

Anyway.

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.

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.