Shifting the sands

Published on Saturday May 6th, 2006

Ta-da, Hourglass sweater is done!

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I had to take advantage of our passage on the San Juan ferry Sealth for the photoshoot. I had finished the sweater on Sunday in Green Lake Park, while Mr. Garter did laps around the perimeter for his daily exercise. I was so tickled that, just as I’d bound off the neckline and was trying it on to make sure it wasn’t too Flashdance, a couple of girls came over and declared that they loved my sweater. They were even more excited when they realized I’d just finished making it. Is there anything more gratifying than public appreciation of your handknits? Anyway, once I’d woven in the ends and stitched up the little armpit holes that remained after I joined the sleeves and body, I didn’t take Hourglass off for five days. That’s partly because I’d been idiotic enough not to pack another sweater for a trip to the state of Washington, and partly because I’m really pleased with the way this one came out. I steam-blocked the hems and cuffs when I got home, so there’s no more of the funky hem flare I’m sporting in these pictures. And that’s all the blocking I did – nothing more was required. So, specs:

Hourglass sweater from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts

Brooks Farms Duet (wool/mohair) in a colorway I call Passionfruit, perhaps 800 yards?

US #7 Addi circs

I followed the directions for the medium size, although my gauge with the Duet was tighter than given for the Cash Iroha in the pattern. I just did a little basic math and figured out that knitting the medium size would give me the fit I wanted. I made no modifications except to add an extra decrease on the sleeves, to work provisional cast ons, and to cast off by picking up stitches ten rows below my bind-off row and knitting them together with my live stitches (leapfrogging the resulting stitches over and off as usual), which is the method I tend to use to finish rolled necklines. Et voila! It feels good to have this sweater finally finished, since I began it before I left New York. It’s been something of a transitional piece, if you will, and fortunately the northwest weather is never quite good enough to put your lighter wool sweaters away for the season.

What to tackle next? I’ve got a Conwy sock on the needles, but that’s pretty much it, and we all know I can’t be content with only one project. The smart move would be to dust off poor Rosalind, who has a completed back and half a left front, and who will be eminently suitable for debut if the weather continues summery. If I can figure out which box she’s in, I may take a stab at reacquainting myself with the pattern tomorrow. I also want to work on my drop spindle skills over the next few weeks. Mr. Garter will be jetting off to Texas again for his new brother-in-law’s graduation, and I’ll be home with the cat for a few days alone. Nothing entertains the cat like the drop spindle. He could watch that thing for hours. And you know an idle brain is the devil’s playground – must amuse the resident feline!

One thing is certain: there must be no more stashing. Not for months. I already have enough yarn to knit for years. I don’t generally believe in strict adherence to diets of any kind, but this time there is good reason to be frugal: we are thinking of buying a house. And not just any house: a really nice house. It’s in northeast Portland and it belongs to my aunt. It’s a perfect size, perfectly kept and renovated, in a perfect neighborhood…it’s so darn perfect we’re not sure we’re actually good enough to live in it. It has a window seat. It has nifty fish-and-swimming-people tiles in the bathroom, and a tub. It has a (small) second floor. (This is kind of a big deal in 1920s Portland housing. A lot of the houses we’ve seen appear to have an upstairs, but really only have an attic.) It has a beautiful kitchen with black and white tiles on the floor. It has a back yard with a magnolia and a peanut butter tree. (The leaves smell like peanut butter if you rub them between your fingers – really!) It has a fireplace, and a guest room, and a study, and big closets, and a garage, and a spanking new roof and windows and wiring. Can we afford it? Barely. But my aunt is offering a price we might never see again for all that perfection, and we can put together the necessary downpayment. The monthly mortgage is going to be a stretch, hence the need to be a lot less free with the plastic in yarn shops. I need my metalworking cousin to devise some sort of a chastity belt for my credit card – it’s way too loose with its favors in the presence of merino. I think we’ll have decided within the next two weeks whether to go for the house or not. Gulp. Send powers of reasoning, and maybe a stiff drink in case those fail.

Blame it on the rain

Published on Sunday April 9th, 2006

Computer trouble and incessantly grey skies have delayed this post, for which I apologize. But this is April in Portland – a flash of sun one moment, raining the next, and the heavens a dreary shade of porridge in between. Terrible photography weather. So my pictures of Hourglass progress aren’t of the quality I could wish. But I promised them, so here they are:

I’ll try to reshoot these in better light so the colors will be more accurate. My sweater is much less puce than it looks here. I’m calling this Brooks Farms colorway “passion fruit” and it’s quite warm and luminous, with shades of redbud, crimson, brandy and marmalade. As you can see, I’ve got some funky spiralling action on the body. Unfortunately, the stitch count I needed for the medium size was exactly right to produce terrible flashing. So I began alternating balls right away, but this was as much as I could do to mitigate the effect. The sleeves are more pleasing to my eye. But you know, I don’t need perfect stripes. What would be the point of knitting a sweater that looks like you bought it at Old Navy? My spirals are offbeat and organic, and sometimes it’s just best not to fight the yarn.

I’m almost done with the sleeves. Then Hourglass is going to take a short break while I use these needles to whip up my own personal take on the One Skein Wonder. Yes, you read that right. This self-avowed Shrug Hater is going to knit a garment without a front, against all her better instincts. Here’s the thing: the movers aren’t here yet, and they probably won’t arrive before Wednesday, when we leave for Mr. Garter’s sister’s wedding in Texas and my uncle’s in Kansas City. So what to wear? On a whim, I packed a single dress for the trip across the country. It’s a slinky brown cotton jersey number I’ve always wanted to go dancing in. And since I chose to spend my money on a pair of shoes I could wear to the weddings (I didn’t think my Puma sneakers would fit the bill) and some basic pants and shirts I got on mad sale at Anthropologie (I was going to cry if I had to put on the same two outfits one more time. I’ve been living in these clothes for six weeks.) – oh, and the 25%-off sale Knit Purl was having on Socks That Rock – I didn’t feel I could justify buying a new dress, too. So when I saw a skein of Cascade Sierra in exactly the same shade as my new shoes, I knew what I had to do to complete my outfit. Desperate times call for desperate measures, people. Fortunately, it’s slated to be 84 degrees in west Texas all week. I don’t have time to make anything more substantial. Let the speed knitting begin!

And hey, want to see the fabulous present my fabulous husband bought me?

Meet Domitilla. She’s a Bianchi Milano Centroventi. (Click the link for better pictures.) This is one sweet bicycle, my friends. She’s like the Mini Cooper of bikes. And she’s a snazzy custom model they made last year for the 120th anniversary – there are only a handful of them in the States, and she had to come all the way from Ohio. I haven’t had my own bicycle since I outgrew the one I had when I was twelve. After that I used my dad’s, and since I left home I just haven’t ridden one. But Portland is arguably the greatest bike town in the country, and since I don’t believe in driving the car unless it’s really necessary, this is how I’m getting around. (Don’t worry, I wear a bright red helmet when I’m actually going somewhere.) She obviously needed a classy and unusual Italian name, so I’m calling her after the little daughter of my favorite pro cyclist, Ivan Basso. I’ve already ridden her to the yarn store in the next town over. Now I just need some of those wicker paniers and an old-fashioned headlamp so I can ride around in a skirt and a handknit sweater with a silk scarf around my neck and look like a Rowan model.

Another pothole

Published on Monday March 20th, 2006

Thank you all for your kind wishes – I wish I had time for personal responses right now. The face is doing pretty well: the swelling is down a lot and it doesn’t hurt anymore, and the stitches are supposed to come out the day after tomorrow. I bought a hat with a large brim to keep the sun off it while I was standing along the marathon route yesterday.

As for the reduction in adventures, I hardly know what to write, but I have more bad news. The marathon went very well, and the athlete Mr. Garter was guiding recorded a personal best. Mr. Garter was able to run the whole thing despite his lack of training and he felt terrific afterward. But then last night he got clobbered with what we hope is food poisoning and not an especially virulent stomach flu that’s been going around L.A. The poor guy is feeling perfectly miserable, so we are holed up at his uncle’s place for an extra day instead of being halfway to San Francisco right now.

That means extra knitting time for me, though, so I’m casting on my Hourglass sweater sleeves. My plan is to grit my teeth against the unhappy memories of two socks on two circs and work them both at once. I want to be able to wear this sweater before the weather gets too warm. I also finished my lace leaf scarf at last – hurrah! It had its debut at the marathon yesterday, as L.A. is colder than you’d think. Our hotel room was an icebox and it was quite chilly outdoors before the sun was high enough to clear the downtown skyscrapers.

That’s all for now – send my poor husband your best wishes for a speedy return to health!