Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Mike Holmes Knitting Method

Ok, so maybe Mr. Holmes would rather not be associated with a blog post about knitting, but hey... he ain't here!

For those who don't know Mike Holmes (and I'm so sorry you don't) he's a fellow on tv who goes around homes and fixes problems created by certain less... salubrious... handymen that have left homeowners bereft and broke. His motto? Make it Right. He endorses tools that are good quality and reasonably priced with his "Holmes Approved" sticker. He even created a foundation that works to raise the profile of skilled trades and of good skilled tradesmen and women.

So what has this got to do with anything?

I've been spending a lot of time this week going back to old projects that I haven't been wearing to investigate why. Most of them are things that I made when I was first learning to knit, items that are full of mistakes and weirdness. They're still things I like, though, things that I spent weeks, or even months, working on. And it was about time to make them right.

Firstly, it was my Featherweight Cardigan that I made last summer. I wasn't especially happy with it, mostly because it wouldn't sit closed on me. It kept rolling open and fluttering off my shoulders. I thought I'd "fixed" it by sewing it shut across my bust and adding a few buttons, but I was constantly pulling it and fiddling with it to sit right, so it stretched and billowed.

I took the buttons off and opened it up again on Thursday, then washed it, laid it flat to dry for a day, then steamed it all over to make the edges sit flat. It's back to its original state, but I still want something to hold it flat over my front... like a shawl pin.

I hopped onto Etsy and found something that I think will work, and will work double-duty for all the shawls I've been making. It's a design by Nicholas and Felice called The Celtic Infinity Pin.

I'm hoping I don't hurt myself with it, but it looks reasonably blunt (this from a girl who once got a knitting needle jabbed into her thigh). I think it'll do the trick.

While I was washing the Featherweight, I pulled out another cardigan based on indigirl's Rosedale Cardigan, make with Patons Decor. It was made early in the knitting career when I really didn't understand variegated yarns, and thought that this yarn would give me the big banded stripes that the original pattern did. Well, it didn't, but it was still a pretty good cardigan. The only problem was that it also didn't sit right. It was stiff and the edges rolled.

I pulled it out of my basket and decided that I better do something with it, rather than letting it take up space in the closet. I've become much more bold with my blocking techniques and thought it was time to kill this yarn...

No blood involved, don't worry! "Killing" yarn usually refers to steaming acrylic yarns to make it relax and to add drape to the fabric. Patons Decor is a wool/acrylic blend. Wool also steams and relaxes nicely, so I wasn't afraid of ruining the yarn. I washed the cardigan, spun it in my washing machine, let it dry for a day, and then spent the next two days steaming it - first the left side, then the right, making sure the edges sat flat and the collar folded nicely.

It's perfect.

I may go ahead and put a zipper in it, but it sits so nicely that I might not bother. I also tacked the corners of the collar down, because it's just so short that it won't stay flat forever. I am very happy with it, especially with the way it now hangs. I wore it this morning under my coat to walk the doggy in the snow. It's so warm that I overheated!

Lastly, I pulled out my very first project.

I know - why didn't I just make a dishcloth? Why a huge cardigan?

Because I don't do things by halves, that's why.

There are plenty of things wrong with this thing. Firstly, it pills like crazy, because it's made from Bernat Satin and that's what that yarn does. You can't really tell unless you look closely at it. Secondly, the knit stitches are completely wrong. They're all knit through the back loop, which creates a twisted stitch that causes the fabric to bias to one side. That's what happens when you teach yourself to knit - you end up making big mistakes with no one to correct you. And well, someone did eventually tell me what I was doing, but by that time, I'd finished the body and was knitting the second sleeve. Ah well...

Anyway, the major repair I made to it was to add more buttons and buttonholes to it. That required some drastic measures that included a pair of scissors, some sewing, and a lot of swearing. I won't describe it - it was an ugly sight - but I managed to get it done in an hour and wore it out last night to a cafe where I met with another knitting friend. She was suitably impressed, which is a good thing, because I probably would've pouted if she wasn't!

This whole "make it right" attitude has been following me a lot in my work recently. I have no fear of ripping things out and starting over again anymore. Yeah, I may have lost time and effort in doing so, but in the end, if I don't do it, I'll end up with a useless finished object, and that seems more wasteful than starting over again. There has been so much in my life recently over which I have had no control. Why not take control of my knitting?

So, with this in mind, after a long and difficult couple of weeks of other things going on in my life, my Multnomah has been frogged completely. I was almost finished, but I was hating it. It just wasn't the pattern for this yarn. It was a painless and freeing process, and I felt really good after I re-balled the yarn.

So, thanks, Mr. Holmes. You've helped me out a lot this week.

And you didn't even have to lift a hammer!


ABCDawg said...

Congrats on the revisits and improvements! I think that first project of yours is awesome. I look forward to seeing you wear it. :)

Joanne said...

Adriene, thanks so much for your fun comments on my blog. I enjoy them all! As for your fix-its, I am impressed and all in favor of this sort of thing! I do it all the time because I find that after I wear something, I review how it looked/fit/felt and decide to redo it somehow. I think that learning process never ends so you can always think of something to do better... Right now I have a sweater I made last year sitting here, waiting for a zipper or something to make it right. (I tried the fancy pin approach, and it just didn't stay shut...) It's nice to see someone else doing exactly what I do to my knits over time!

YarnKettle said...

It must be knitting redo time because I too am feeling the need to go back and fix things so they are usable not just finished (and pretty). Good luck with the fixing!

AdrieneJ said...

@Dawg: I'm going to try to wear it on a warmer day. It didn't quite cut it in -30C weather!

@Joanne: I'm hoping the pin approach does work out in the end. I'm running out of ideas for that cardi. I may have to break out the double-sided tape!

@YarnKettle: My fixing is not as impressive as those socks are you working on!