Monday, October 27, 2008

elizabeth zimmerman

well, i've gone and done it. i bought my first elizabeth zimmerman books. up until this point i had been able to resist the EZ hypnotism. i checked out my first EZ book from the library while i was still a pretty green knitter. the only book of hers my library carried was 'knitting without tears', so that's the one i got. *it wasn't until much later that i realized my small town library had no good knitting books, and that if i wanted to get my hands on them without buying, i'd have to get them on loan from other libraries*. i had heard that if you wanted to learn to knit, 'knitting without tears' was a most valuable resource, but when i opened the book, i discovered that i already knew most of the skills covered in the beginning of the book and i became impatient. like so many novice knitters, i was consumed with passing the "beginner" phase of knitting and moving on to bigger and better things. dissapointed, i returned the book to the library. maybe i didn't give it enough of a chance.

after my first few years of knitting, we finally got the internet and i quickly found and joined ravelry. i was amazed to find so many groups there devoted to everything EZ. but my breaking point was, of course, the baby surprise jacket. as soon as i saw it, i fell in love and i wanted more. after looking up where i could find the bsj pattern, i asked my library to find 'the opinionated knitter' for me.

i had no idea what the book was about when i requested it, but before the book was due back i had read it cover to cover. i knew i was addicted. i've always enjoyed reading patterns to get a feel for them, but most are written so complicated that unless you have the knitting in your hands, you'd never be able to visualize the process.

not only are most of EZ's patterns only one paragraph long, you can actually understand them! even with her longer patterns, like her myriad of sweaters, i was able to learn so much from! i've always wanted to knit an adult sweater but have been terrified to try. with her writing style and ability to simplify everything, she takes out the intimidation factor and makes the process easier to understand. i could ramble about her all day long, but the truth is, until you read one of her books for yourself, you'll never really understand the hype. you can read about an innovater all day long, but to understand them, you need to see it for yourself.

about half way through 'the opinionated knitter', i knew i wanted to own it. not only own it, i wanted to start my collection of elizabeth zimmerman books. as luck would have it, i got my knit picks newsletter shortly thereafter announcing their 40% sale on all in-stock books for the month of october!!! i never have such great luck! i am now the proud new owner of 'the opinionated knitter', 'the knitter's almanac' and 'knitting workshop'!! i had a hard time choosing which books to get, but i can always get them from the library and buy them later if i love them.

on a semi-related note- my son was finally accepted into a preschool *yes, this late* about three weeks ago, and this brought up a strange dillema for me. since i'm now driving him to school in the early morning hours i've realized how important it is to have a good pair of mittens!! and i have none!!! since i knew there were mitten patterns in 'the knitter's almanac' i decided to start swatching while i waited for my books to arrive in the mail. i wanted to use handspun yarn and since i didn't have any on hand i decided to do the unthinkable.... i frogged the yarn over cable socks!!

i never fell in love with the combination of the ultra-textured yarn over cable pattern and the short color repeats in the autumnal yarn; that stitch pattern would be much better suited with a solid or semi solid yarn. but i fell hard for the autumnal yarn! the roving was much more expensive then i ever pay (if i remember correctly it was around $40 for 8 ounces) but when i saw it, i knew i needed it! and i fell equally hard for the high twisted navajo-plied sock weight that it ended up as! so throughout the knitting of the yarn over cable socks, it had crossed my mind more than a few times that if i knit mittenswith it, i would be able to drool over the yarn every time i wore them!! it was decided.

by the time the books arrived, my gauge was measured and i was anxiously waiting to cast on!
i did a little math to revise the pattern as my yarn was slightly thinner than the pattern called for, but the pattern's so simple, i only had to change the number of stitches cast on, nothing else! after browsing through the many mitered mitten projects on ravelry, i noticed that a lot of people had used thumb gusset modification instead of the "afterthought" thumb that EZ did. some people call it the "sore thumb mod" describing the original as uncomfortable. so i decided to save myself any further frustration and go this way the first time- as opposed to going with the original (which calls for knitting the entire mitten and then cutting and unraveling stitches to pick up thumb stitches) and then finding out i didn't like it after all, which is what i would normally do!

so after a few *first tries* of knitting the mitten way too long- around half way to my elbow- i've just barely finished the thumb gusset on my first mitten and am hoping it all goes much faster from here on out!! especially since i'm reminded how urgent the situation is every morning while trying to drive and use fine motor skills!!

oh, yes, and i have started another new project that's taking the backseat until my mittens are done... updates to come soon!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

bambigi- Part 2

woohoo! swatching is over and actual garment knitting has begun on my gigi!! thank god, i don't think i could take much more of that swatching- i think my final count was around 15 knitted, washed and measured swatches! and don't tell anybody but.... i still didn't make gauge!! i was almost exact on the stitch gauge, but almost an inch off the row gauge. i wouldn't normally be okay with that but i read the pattern thoroughly and didn't see anything that called for a specific number of rows to be knit- it's mostly "continue until piece measures 5 inches*. but if i run into a problem, i'll just recalculate the length based on my gauge.

the cover up is knit from the bottom up and is made up of pretty simple shapes. the back is knit first, followed by the two fronts. i'm pretty happy with the knitting so far. it's very easy to separate the strands of the yarn while knitting it, but i swatched so much that i'm used to it! it still happens, but i pay more attention to make sure that it doesn't. my only other gripe with the yarn is that it has way too many knots in it! it's so annoying to find a knot in the yarn on something with such long rows that you have to rip out an entire row to take the knot out!

the 2x2 ribbing at the bottom of the cardigan is really nice in the bamboo yarn. even though the fabric is pretty open and drapey in stockinette stitch, the ribbing is a nice medium weight and still extremely stretchy!

some strange knitting phenomenon did happen above the ribbing though. i'm still at a loss, but i think it had more to do with the yarn than the knitting. there's an elevated band about an inch and half tall across the entire back.... and it looks king of ugly. not only does it look like an entirely different gauge than the rest of it, but the yarn looks kind of gnarly! like a cat chewed it up or something!! and i don't have any cats. i'm pretty mad about this and i contemplated ripping it out, but i was too far along when i noticed it, so i kept on going. my fingers are crossed that it comes out in the washing and blocking. but even if it doesn't, i'll still love it. after all, that's what makes a misfit knit!

unfortunately, this piece is creeping along at a snail's pace. the rows are so long and i had to go up a size since my measurements weren't included in the pattern- making the rows even longer!! oh well. my patience hasn't run out yet, so i'm just trying to stay positive. and since all the separate pieces are knit flat, i'm able to get more practice on my knitting backwards! when i started knitting i was doing the standard "knit one row, purl one row" but when i got to the stockinette portion, i got bored very quickly. so i decided i'd knit a few rows using the knitting backwards and if i saw any changes in my gauge i'd just them. i was quite shocked that my knitting only changed in one way- the over-all fabric was noticeably more even and smooth!! so i'll continue to use it for the rest of my pieces and probably for everything in the future.

on a completely different note- i'd like to announce that after an inexcusable amount of time i have a finished object to share- 2 swiffer cloths! isn't it pathetic how rare that is for me?!?! if only knitting was my full time job! these pictures were taken right after i finished knitting the second one, so there are still ends to be woven and buttons to sew on, but you get the idea!

i knit the cloth on the left first to test out the pattern. *which is why it was knit with left overs.... that didn't exactly match!*

if you'd like to knit one of these for yourself, i have made a few notes that will help you out! *for those of you who aren't interested in the pattern details, you probably won't enjoy reading this!!* you can find the pattern on this page, but be warned: the link for the stitch pattern on her blog is out of date!! the instructions i used can be found here (also note: this is a link to a pattern for a dish cloth, but you cast on the same number of stitches and follow the entire pattern for you swiffer cloth). once you've done 3 repeats of the textured slip stitch, refer back to green mountain mama's pattern and the directions are crystal clear from there!

and last but not least, i've been going through a painful spinning drought lately!! it's not like i don't have anything fiber to spin, it's just that i like to have a rough idea of what i'm going to spin before i start and once i start spinning, if the direction changes and the fiber wants to do something else, i'll let it, but i don't just randomly grab fiber and start spinning. but lately, i don't even have any "rough" ideas coming through! BUT, on it's way to my doorstep is a box of unknown fiber in an unknown quantity for commission spinning. so please please please send some creative vibes my way!! i'm imagining that it will happen something like this: *the box arrives and upon opening i am instantly struck with inspiration by all the beautiful fibers and colors and head straight to my wheel!!*. but how it plays out in my imagination is not how it usually happens in real life!