That Little Voice

There I was, plugging away at the hem ribbing of my stockinette sweater . I had just a few more rows to go before I’d switch over to larger needles and launch into miles and miles of stockinette, with some waist shaping in there to liven things up.

I’ve been working on this sweater for too long now. I decided that I’d really like to have this ready to wear for the coming sweater season, so I made it my social knitting project. Really, once I recalculated the sweater sleeves to fit my short arms (keeping the sleeve cap as written, for changing sleeve cap shaping is an excellent ticket to madness), it’s been a great take-along project. Both sleeves are done, and it’s time to work the body.

Capretta ribbing

Yarn: Knit Picks Capretta

Colorway: Celestial

I wish I had one of those bodies where I could just choose a sweater pattern and knit away. I can do that for accessories. I can sometimes do that for sweaters for others. For me? It’s always math, math, and more math. Having a cozy sit-down with Principles of Knitting, gauge swatches, a tape measure, and calculator is the price I pay for a well-fitting sweater.

So, I was knitting up the ribbing, considering the next phase of the sweater, when That Little Voice started poking at me:

            Is the sweater going to be too long?

I shifted in my chair. The photo of the model wearing the sweater showed it hitting right where I wanted it. The sweater would be fine, I told the Voice.

            What about the waist shaping? said the Voice gently. Is that going to fall at       your actual waist? Is it enough? Too much?

Hmph. Over-active Voice, I thought. I’m going to The Loopy Ewe’s Fall Fling later this week and will be taking Marly Bird’s Curvy Knits class. I had to take a lot of measurements to prepare for the class. I’ve just got measurements on the brain, that’s all, I thought to myself, as I kept ribbing.

I considered all the beautiful photos of the sweater in the pattern book. It fit the model perfectly, and I wanted and expected that my sweater would also fit me just as perfectly. That’s when the Voice became more insistent.

Remember how you recalculated the sleeves so they’d fit? You’re not just short in           the arms, you’re short other places, too. The sweater fits that model because she has measurements that fit the sweater. Your measurements differ in a number of places. Oh, the Voice added, and remember your row gauge is off slightly. You corrected for stitch gauge, but did you consider your row gauge?

At that, I sighed and set my knitting back in its bag. The Voice would not let me knit in peace until I’d sanity checked a few things.

I pulled out my notes. Hmm. At my row gauge, the sweater would be 27 1/2 inches long. On me, that’s sort of tunic-length, which wasn’t what I was going for. I went to try on a turtleneck that was similar to what I’m knitting. My ideal sweater length? Just 23 inches to cover this short bod. Oh boy. Now I definitely had to re-work the math. I placed pins on that turtleneck to indicate my waist, fullest part of my bust, and where I wanted the hem to lie, and got to work.

I’d nip in the waist a grand total of 2 inches and then increase to the bustline. It’s a good thing that I checked my measurements, because the given pattern had the bustline about the same as the high hip measurement, and my bustline is bigger than that. I pulled out Principles of Knitting and turned to the slope calculations section and figured out the decreases to the waistline and corresponding increases to the bustline.

With all those facts and figures done, I settled back into my chair. The Voice was finally quiet. Although it’s a huge pain to recalculate sweater patterns to fit me, it’s far more painful when I try on a new sweater — the moment of truth! — only to find out that it’s too small here, too large there. Better to listen to that Voice.

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Birthing a New Knitter

The good thing about going to the beach in August is that just about everyone else I work with, it seems, is also on vacation in August, so I don’t miss much. The bad thing about going on vacation in August is that right after I return, we plunge into back-to-school and the busiest time of the year at work, where the fiscal year ends September 30. It seems like one long sprint from vacation to Christmas. Ergo, my absence from the blog.

My extended family meets up at a beach every other year for a family reunion of sorts. We rent houses and condos in the same general area, set up our beach chairs together during the day, and have at least one big potluck dinner. When we arrived this year, one of my cousins wasted no time in asking me to teach her to knit.

Really? I was beyond excited. My family’s attitude about my knitting ranges from mild bemusement to an interest in the finished products, but not in the process itself. This was the first time I’ve had a relative express any interest at all in learning to knit.

The next day, rain set in, so my ever-dutiful husband and I set off in search of yarn. The yarn search turned out to be more of a challenge than I’d expected. One relatively nearby LYS had closed. A big box store had nothing but crappy yarn and needles. (Want a really efficient way to turn off a prospective knitter? Teach her how to knit with crap stuff.) I needed inexpensive but decent yarn and some decent, grabby, bamboo needles.

After a good bit of driving, I found both at an all-purpose craft store. I bought a skein of worsted wool and some bamboo circulars with DPNs to match, as I wasn’t sure whether she’d want to make a cowl or hat as a first project.

Katherine is an avid crocheter and, by happy coincidence, is left-handed, like I am. It didn’t take much to transfer what she already knew about crocheting to knitting using the continental method, and before long at all, she’d cast on stitches for a Triple Seed Stitch cowl  and was off and running:


The next thing I knew, Katherine was nearly inseparable from her knitting:


And the last time I checked, she’s still cranking away on the cowl.

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Airplane Knitting

I maintain a subspecies of travel knitting projects just for airplane travel. All of my travel knitting has to be relatively small and packable, and may vary in complexity. My airplane knitting projects tend to be small, simple, and knit on circular needles.

Lots of knitters knit happily away on socks on airplanes. They’re small and portable, for sure. I’m not much of a sock knitter, so I used to take mitten projects with me on the plane. That is, until I had a near-disaster with one of my DPNs.

I settled into my seat and pulled out my knitting, waiting for the flight to finish boarding. I was chugging away at the mitten when the plane took off, and in between switching needles, I dropped the working needle. It clattered several rows behind me, where a quick-reacting passenger fetched it and passed it forward. The look on the other passengers’ faces was somewhere between pity and reproach. I thanked them profusely and continued knitting, only from that point on, I worried constantly about dropping another needle.

I had no extra needles, and my other knitting projects were in my checked luggage. If I lost a needle, I’d have to re-work the mitten on three needles instead of four, and I didn’t want to find out how that might affect the overall appearance of the finished work.

As I knitted, I thought about the ideal airplane knitting project. Until the point of the almost-lost needle, I never gave much thought to travel knitting. Usually, I packed up whatever small project I had on hand. Sometimes, it was something fiddly that required a big chart, which required using the tray table and a whole lot of concentration. Sometimes, it involved slippery yarn on short, straight needles that enabled fast knitting, but also threatened to slide right off the needles when we hit even a little bit of turbulence. And sometimes, it was an otherwise well-behaved project on DPNs, and I’d just experienced how easily they could escape.

I decided that for my next airplane trip, I needed something knit on circular needles that didn’t require a complicated chart. Something where the pattern was either easily memorized or could be read from an easy, small chart or written pattern. Mostly, that’s translated into cowls or shawlettes.

For my most recent business trip, I took along a skein of hand-dyed alpaca I picked up at the Estes Park Wool Market, and knit it up into Safe Harbor.  Lovely drape, isn’t it?

Safe Harbor draped

This turned out to be ideal airplane knitting. The simple pattern knit up quickly, and I finished the project in the span of two plane trips.

Safe Harbor whole

Safe Harbor detail

I even had time to start a second plane project, this Simple Lace Cowl in Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere, colorway Black Parade:

Simple Lace started

We’re heading to the beach soon, so this will be tucked into my carry-on to work on during our flights.

I haven’t dismissed the thought of using DPNs on airplane projects altogether, though. I’ve got another pair of mittens to knit between now and Christmas, so I might just take them along on a future flight. If I do, though, I’ll pack an extra set of DPNs in my carry-on, just in case.


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