Saturday, 31 December 2011

Sweaters Intimidate Me

My miss-givings about knitting a sweater are less about the technical construction (though the idea of having to do the maths and worry about fit do intimidate me) than the fear that after all that time and effort* it won't fit or, whether it fits or not, it won't be flattering. Add to that a lifetime's desire to be thinner and fear of getting rotund-er and knitting a sweater seems destine to be a source of regret.

One of my goals in life, not a New Year's Resolution, is to love myself for who I am rather than holding out for a better version of me, one more worthy of love. Assuming there is a static goal-line one can cross and believe that now, finally, now one is worthy of love and happiness and acceptance (both observational and personal experience inclines me to think there is not), even if such a prize were achievable, I personally respond very badly to such negative incentives. I get very stubborn when told I can't or shouldn't do things. I'm sure you're all shocked to hear I can be so contrary, but I really dig my heels in and become "[as biddable] as any mule in Christian-dome".

My weight has, without particular effort on my part, been stable these past six weeks. That's not a considerable length of time, but it does seem to indicate that this is a weight my body is comfortable with and thus a shape I'm willing to throw time and effort at. I always prefer to wear quality clothing and shapes that flatter, but it's hard to justify investing in a wardrobe rather when one doesn't know if one will continue to lose or start to regain**.

But even if my shape changes, I can't keep waiting for tomorrow. This is the year I start knitting sweaters and if they don't fit in a year or five years, well I'll knit more sweaters. And I'll be a better sweater knitter in a year and I'll keep this sweater for when I pass through this weight again***.

~ * ~

* the cost of the yarn, aside from the initial investment, doesn't bother me as a bad sweater could always be frogged and the yarn repurposed.

** for the curious I am neither at my lowest nor my heaviest, but after gaining 2lbs/1kilo for the last five months this six week platform seems significant.

*** I tend not to follow trends, preferring a 1940s aesthetic, so I'm not worried about styles becoming unfashionable.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

NYR: Pattern Selection

Having resolved to knit two sweaters (one for me, one for DH) and add to my sock repertoire, I have spent a fair amount of time reading my sock and sweater books, flipping through magazines, and, most of all, creating filter after filter in Ravelry. Patterns were matched to yarns, measurements and meterages were determined, yarns were selected and discarded based on price, reviews, colours and finally availability. This brings me to a tangent:

On the whole, having an online store reject attempts to add quantities of yarn not actually in possession of the shop is a good thing. It would, however, be better if stock quantities could be determined prior to trying to add them to my "basket". As opposed to manually adding each colour I like only to determine, time and again, they don't have the requisite quantities. In half a dozen colours, plus a few I didn't really like that much anyway. Had that effort resulted in purchasing yarn my irritation would have been tempered by the joyful anticipation of nice, affordable yarn. As it is, I'm just irritated.

But I have selected my patterns and my yarns: for my sweater I'm trying February Fitted Pullover by Amy Herzog. Even as a non-knitter of sweaters, her name had been increasingly familiar with very positive associations. She has a few designs that don't interest me, but when I read the descriptions I found they weren't knit with me in mind (sweaters for the bottom-heavy, rather than my very full hour-glass). It's a nice that she and I agree on styles both for and not for my figure. I ultimately decided against a sweater from Little Red in the City as they are none of them quite what I want for my first sweater. Ysolda's day will come.

For my DH I picked Terry's Pullover by Carol Fuller from Interweave Knit's Holiday Gifts 2009. I found it in my Ravelry filtering, recognized it as the one Socktopus just knit for her husband, and it was already high in my Ravelry queue - despite going through yesterday and significantly reducing the number of items in said queue. My husband has a generously sized nose and the shawl collar should allow easy clearance for pulling it on and off.

For both sweaters I ordered Jamieson & Smith's Shetland Aran, in a tealy-blue for me and a dark sage green for DH. I used their Shetland Supreme for my Sheep Heid Tam so it's a brand with which I am familiar and I like the idea of knitting with affordable wool from local(ish) sheep (given that my efforts for even more affordably priced Knit Picks yarn from the mothership were for naught). Now it's just the joyous anticipation of wool and the finishing the projects in progress so I can start my sweaters.

Except it's the Thursday night between Christmas and the New Year so there's a very real chance that J&S are closed for the holidays. Even if they are open, I don't think they can get my order put together, packed up, and ready to go out in time for Friday's last collection given that the Shetland Islands aren't exactly a renowned transportation hub. Saturday is Hogmanay, New Year's Eve, traditionally a bigger deal than Christmas*, and New Year's day falls on a Sunday which means the British bank holiday is observed on Tuesday - 2 January, Monday, is a Scottish bank holiday. So, assuming J&S is open tomorrow and they can process my order before final collection, the absolute earliest I can expect my happy parcel is Thursday the 5th. Did I mention we're leaving for our honeymoon on the 8th?

Fortunately, I have the yarn for my next sock project: Knot Socks by Nancy Bush from Sock Knitting Master Class (see, a pattern from one of my new books!) using some purple Araucania Ranco that I purchased for myself when getting the replacement yarn for to knit replacement Brainless socks for my DH who accidentally felted the first pair. The pattern is cuff-down with a cast-on (double start), heel turn (square), and toe (star) I've not tried before.

~ * ~

* Christmas was actually banned in Scotland for almost 400 years, until the 1950s, because it was considered a "papist" holiday. Presbyterians really don't like papists.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

New Year's Resolutions?

Tis the season for knitters to plan their yearly knitting and make resolutions such as "Knit things with yarn I already own and no buying new yarn" or "knit at least one thing each month" often selecting the patterns and yarn in advance. I neither have a significant stash, nor a problem with not feeling like I've knit enough, but I do have some specific skills I would like to acquire, namely sock techniques and (gulp!) sweater knitting.

Both socks and sweaters span a range of skill levels from "suitable for a competent beginner" to "seriously mad skills, yo!" and while I while I have some skills my repertoire of sock construction techniques is somewhat limited* and I have zero** sweater experience.

For Christmas, my DH gave me Ysolda Teague's Little Red in the City, a book about sweater modification (with seven patterns) and just today I picked up the digital copy of Ann Budd's Sock Knitting Master Class which covers a variety of sock construction techniques, both cuff-down and toe-up and a variety of cast-on, bind-off, heel, and toe methods. Add to this my Best of Knitter's Magazine's Guy Knits, and the form of my resolution becomes clear: Knit a sweater each for myself and my husband, and work my way through Sock Knitting Master Class.

My current method of knitting is to alternate between knitting for myself and my husband, so my master class goal is not so much to knit all 18 socks as, 365 days from now, being able to say "look at the new techniques I have tried". And two finished sweaters.

~ * ~

* one pair cuff-down socks, rounded heel, wedge toe, kitchener BO; several pairs toe-up, short row and Turkish CO, rounded heel, Judy's Surprisingly Stretchy BO

** I have knit three baby sweaters using different techniques but they're on a completely different scale and "shaping" isn't particularly important.

Friday, 2 December 2011

A Long-Overdue Post on Wool Socks

On the Friday when I got my glasses (did I post about that?) and my job, I also bought several pairs of wool socks and tights. I know, I know - this is a violation of the "only own hand-knit socks" movement that I'm not a part of, but I spent a month working on the Purple Socks and, alternating between a pair for my husband and a pair for myself means a drawer full of (only?) hand-knit socks is not in my immediate future but my need for warm footwear is ever-present. I cheated and bought socks and I am not sorry.

My quest was actually for wool tights as the four pairs (two black, one purple, one brown) of wool tights I purchased for the winter of 2009 are starting to give up the ghost. One pair of black tights got thrown out for having holes, the other pair has some alarmingly transparent patches, the purple ones are too big, and the brown ones are, well, brown. My husband conceded that wool tights are a necessity and two winters was good value for money and I went to purchase more.

I only managed to find wool tights at H&M and M&S (it must be an initialization thing) so I bought a black pair from H&M and a navy pair from M&S, both significantly wool and not "wool-like" or "met a wool fibre once" or "wool content is measured in single digits" which is what most retailers seems to mean with the word. I'm beginning to understand that the UK doesn't have advertising laws stipulating that the word wool refer to, you know, actual wool*.

While at H&M I also found two pairs of wool socks, each around 75% wool/25% nylon which is my preferred fibre for knitting socks (the nylon adds structural integrity, important for socks). One pair is a crew-length fair isle sock in cranberry and cream, with lots of loose ends inside for added warmth. The other is a knee-high cabled creation in cream. They're both warm and slightly itchy, which is pretty much how I feel about my hand-knit socks. Best of all they came in lots of sizes rather than the usual "one size fits some" of retail socks. For those of you who want nice wool knit socks but lack the skills or desire to knit your own, these are perfect.

In other news, I did finish my Purple Brainless with pictures possibly to follow and am knitting a replacement pair of the Husband's Brainless that the eponymous sock-wearer accidentally felted in the wash.

~ * "

*Tangentally, I'm not one to get bent out of shape if you use wool as a compound noun to describe another type of fleece ("angora wool" or "cashmere wool") out with that, wool means something and it means the fleece of a sheep.

There are workmen in my living room

Chris and I decided, after getting married last June, that we'd take the money people gave us and have a fireplace installed in the lounge. The house had one when he moved in but it wasn't very good and, after he bought it from his landlady, he had the fireplace removed. Fast-forward to having someone with whom to cuddle in front of a fire and a better fireplace seems the thing to have.

We did some research, picked a design, had a consultation and made a down-payment back in September and finally, finally, today they're starting. I said I wanted a fireplace before it started to snow and the weather seems to be cooperating. Yay?

Anyway, there are workmen in my living room and it's rather nosy (understatement) in the house today. Ginger Kitty is hiding under the duvet in our bedroom but Princess occasionally comes just far enough down the stairs to peer through the railing and see what's going on.

Speaking of Princess, she's poorly again. We ran out of the last bag of food and started a new one (a different flavour, turkey - we always switch when we finish a bag) and she ate fine Monday night but then on Tuesday she stopped eating. The brand we use switches kibble shape with flavour so I bought different food (chicken) for her in case it was the shape she didn't like but she wouldn't eat that either (though Ginger Kitty decided that whatever Princess had must be better than what he has* and refused to eat until we gave him the chicken stuff but now he won't eat until he's sure there's not something better he could have instead). We gave them some tuna because Princess hadn't eaten anything all day and got her to eat a small portion.

The next day I suggested we feed her some of the kitten food (also chicken) we still have as it's small kibble and easy to chew and she ate a little bit but then turned her nose up the rest of the day, even refusing to drink tuna water when offered. Chris was beside himself at this point, googling symptoms right and left - never a good idea - and I bought a bag of fish-flavoured kibble in case it was the flavour she was objecting too and she eat a few pieces but gave up on that as well.

Princess is not a large cat to start with - only 3.3kilos on the best of days - and she's never been a good eater but she wasn't acting like her normal finicky self. She'd get excited any time we walked near the food bowls and bark encouragingly if we stopped to fill them up but then she'd change her mind and scoot away and look like the saddest, hungriest kitty in the world. Normal, finicky Princess would be completely indifferent to food.

I held her with her mouth open while Chris looked for ulcers or tooth decay but we didn't see anything. She still wasn't eating though, so I took her to the vet. She meowed piteously when I put her in her carrying case and the whole taxi ride over but when the vet let her go and she'd decided she'd had enough of a cuddle with me she hopped back in and was mostly quiet on the ride home. Poor Princess. The vet found some inflammation around some of her back teeth but no fever (Princess really didn't like that part), no pained reactions to having her tummy poked and prodded, and no signs of dehydration. We're unaware of anything she may have eaten or licked to cause problems (eating parsley, the vet said, is odd but not harmful). The vet gave Princess a shot each of antibiotics and steroids, scheduled an appointment to get Princess' teeth cleaned on Monday**, and sent us home with a couple tins of "yummy" gentle gushy food and oral antibiotics. The antibiotics, of course, have to be administered with food. "Just squirt it on her food!" they helpfully kept advising me, somehow missing the point of why were were there.

Chris tried her on the new gushy food last night with some success until she realized that Ginger Kitty was nowhere to be seen and came upstairs to find him, locked in the bedroom with me. We tried her again later, with tuna for Ginger Kitty, and he went om-nom-nom-nom but she wouldn't eat and kept looking at his food. I snagged a chunk of tuna from Ginger Kitty's bowl and offered it to her, but Chris smeared it with her gushy food and she still wouldn't eat it. I took Ginger Kitty's entire bowl away from him** and gave it to Princess who promptly face planted. I gave the gushy-smeared tuna to Ginger Kitty and he stopped giving me Saddest Kitty in the World eyes and ate with gusto.

That's about where things stand now. Princess doesn't want to eat the gushy food (or any of the kibble) but will occasionally deign to a small portion of tuna and sooner or later Ginger Kitty eats anything we leave unguarded. The vet suggested giving her a little ice cream as a treat; we'll pick some up when we go out tonight and see if that helps at all.

~ * ~

* a position he maintains even when have the same food.

** her teeth are in good shape, but some animals react badly to even the slightest build-up of plaque. We'll see if that helps.

*** I love my mellow Ginger Kitty so much.