Sunday, March 26, 2017

Confidence, Arrogance, and a Sweater

Do not let arrogance go to your head and despair to your heart; do not let compliments go to your head and criticisms to your heart; do not let success go to your head and failure to your heart.― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
I had a strange realization the other that I've been at this knitting thing for a while now. I had a Facebook memory pop up for me from eight years ago, and well... it was a photo of one of my first handknit sweaters. Eight years??? Haven't I only been at this for two or three? Am I not still a newbie? Granted, I learned to crochet when I was a little girl... we won't talk about how long ago that was. Still, it was a shock.

As an aside: I never quite understood why the gods of Facebook decided that the "memory" feature wasn't immediately available to all users. I was sorta jealous when I saw I didn't have that feature before, but now that I have it, it's not all that great. So far, I've been getting a lot of photos of my Rascal, and that just makes me feel so sad and lonely. I miss my little doggie boy so, so much. I don't like to talk about it that often, but it hurts as much now as it did when I first lost him.

Sigh. Memories are double-edged, I guess.

I finally finished my latest sweater project late last Sunday. I was sailing along with it on Saturday night, perfectly confident that I would be finished and have it in the water for blocking before I went to bed, except... well, you know... sometimes confidence is just arrogance in disguise.

This sweater is based on a Red Heart pattern by Lorna Miser called Big Comfy Sweater, which is probably the best name for a sweater pattern you could ever have. It actually was brought to my attention by someone who visited my YouTube channel to watch one of my help videos and who messaged me with some questions. I decided right then and there that I would make it, but with some modifications (because, of course, Adriene is not knitting if she is not modifying the pattern).

I decided to knit it at a tighter gauge, because I wasn't sure such a long sweater would hold up so well with the looser gauge suggested in the pattern. I also talked it over my with my friend Linette, and decided that the ribbing on the upper half of the sweater should start above my bust to be more flattering (more "what a nice sweater", instead of "hey, have you seen these boobs?"). The pattern is written for knitting the sweater in two pieces, front and back, and then it is seamed along the sides and shoulders. I decided I'd knit the ribbing at the bottom in two pieces, and then join them to knit the body of the sweater in the round.

The original pattern didn't add any waist shaping, but I got nervous as I worked on it that it was going to turn out to be a big, unflattering, unwearable sack. I kept on, though, and when I reached the armpits, I stuck a ruler along my arm and arbitrarily chose a length I thought would work. I worked out how many stitches I'd need and cast on accordingly, using a crochet provisional stitch (sorry, I didn't take any photos of that) so that I could knit to the top of each shoulder and then pick out the crochet holder and pick up the live stitches for the other side of each sleeve. The big finish was to do a three-needle bind off, effectively eliminating any need for seaming throughout the whole project. Clever me.

What do they say about "best laid plans?"

It all went upside-down when I decided that I didn't want boxy sleeves on my already-boxy sweater. I lay in bed one night and worked out how to taper each sleeve by working short rows that would make the sleeves more fitted. And it was a good idea... until I decided I'd ignore all the rules about how to knit short rows properly. You're supposed to wrap the stitches in such a manner that it would prevent holes, but all that malarkey always throws my stitch count out, so in my great wisdom, I decided that I, the great Adriene, would not be afflicted with holes my knitting as other mere mortals are.

Yeah... about that...

It was all looking great until I was ready to join the shoulders with the three-needle bind off. I started working my way across, but each time I reached the end of one of the short rows, I would knit the bind off and, wouldn't ya know it. A hole. Big ones.

I made this face:

Then, I sat back and did some thinking. I tried fiddling with the short rows, but that was just making everything worse. In the end, I sighed, pulled out my darning needles, and started seaming the shoulders using a Kitchener stitch. So much for avoiding the seams.

I still had to mess about with the short rows to try to hide the gaps. I think I did a pretty ok job, and other people will probably not even notice. Perhaps after I wear it for a while, I won't notice either.

Who am I kidding? I notice all the mistakes in my knitting.

But, once I finished it all up and tried it on, I was amazed. The shapeless, boxy sweater was lovely: very comfortable, and quite flattering. This tells me that, either I am actually box-shaped, or perhaps I don't need to try so hard to add shaping to my sweaters. Or maybe both.

I bought the yarn so long ago that I can't even remember what the fibre content is. I THINK it's merino (but it's a good chance it's Blue Faced Leicester). And I THINK it's superwash (but I'm not taking any chances). Whatever it is, it is SUPER DUPER soft and squishy and comfortable, not in the least bit itchy against my bare skin. Geez.... now I really wish I knew what it was, because then I'd get a few more skeins...

... because, of course I need more yarn:

It's a little bit rumpled in the photo above, because I'd broken my rule about wearing new knits prior to photographing them. I'd just come back from the supermarket when I decided to pop upstairs to get a few shots. It is, incidentally, a pretty good sweater to wear for shopping.

I am very happy with how the back turned out:

And the seams at the shoulders aren't really all that noticeable:

I suppose that part of the reason it is so flattering is that the ribbing at the bottom made a sort of natural flare at the bottom after I blocked it. I kept going over and giving the ribbing a stretch every so often as it dried to keep it from clinging to my hips:

The whole sweater took just under six skeins, which I think had roughly 240 yards in each skein. I still have four full skeins left, which means I get to have another go with making something with this lovely yarn.

The weather is turning for the better these days: rainy days here and there, interspersed by lovely, bright, sunny ones. I wore this sweater out for a walk yesterday with a shawl to keep the wind off my arms. I was perfectly comfortable.

These days, my thoughts are turning towards springtime knits: lacy cardigans and cotton tops. I decided that I'd finally try my hand at making Veronik Avery's Millay Jacket, which I have been admiring for a while now. And of course, I'm modifying it, because I don't have enough yarn for the original pattern, and I don't like the front, and I think I'm getting a larger gauge with my yarn and needles... does any of this sound familiar? I spent a few days just sitting and sketching and calculating. I think I've got a good handle on it now. After all, what could go wrong?

Heh, confidence or arrogance? I guess we'll find out. Happy Sunday!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Kitten Goalie

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
I was glad to see the weekend again this week. I spent all week feeling like a kitten trying to be a goalie in a soccer match... trying to catch all the stuff that was being thrown at me. I think I did ok. I don't think I let anything past, but I wasn't really keeping score or anything. I just know that I reached Friday night feeling tired and hungry and whiney. I ate lots of snacks and went to bed early. Kitten goalies need lots of sleep and lots of snacks.

I didn't have any huge plans this weekend: mostly just chores and cooking. I finally got around to making the hubby's birthday cake, one week late. It's a recipe I found years ago from a Sainsbury's recipe card back when we lived in Belfast. I lost the card somewhere during one of our moves, but I went searching online and found that someone saved it here. It doesn't photograph all that well, but it's made with orange juice, dried apricots, ground almonds and semolina, which makes a heavy, dense cake, and which is why it's cracked all over and has a split in the middle. It's so good, it can't even hold itself up:

The little holes all over the top are for the orange syrup to soak in. I poured it over last night, and so it's well-absorbed today. It's not the easiest cake to make: I cut the very tip of my thumb off while I was slicing the apricots, and I spent half an hour cleaning the burned sugar off the stove after the syrup overflowed. But the hubby loves this cake (so much so that I had to shout at him one time for stealing a slice before it was ready), and if a cake must be made, then it must be made.

Vancouver Island keeps getting hit with slushy snowstorms. I'm pretty sick of it all, as is everyone else. It would be different if we didn't have all these sunny, spring-like days in between to get our hopes up. It's different from when I lived on the prairies - winter is winter until winter is done being winter. And when it's done, it's done. And it's not slushy and wet and icy and dangerous.

This might be the whiney kitten goalie talking here.

Anyway, perhaps I won't be too late to wear this sweater that just keeps dragging on, much like the winter (heh). I'm very happy to say that I finished one side of it, and I took the stitches for the back and the other side of the sleeves off the holders last night. I know it looks really weird here, but that's because I've got holders on the shoulders because I intend to do a three-needle bind off when I'm done the other side. It sorta looks like a white monster with beady little eyes at the top... but really, I think it's turning out to be a nice sweater... eventually:

It's Daylight Savings Time this weekend, which is means we lost an hour last night, and which is adding a degree more annoyance for me. Really? One less hour for the weekend? I don't normally get that uptight about this whole time-change thing, but right now, I must protest. When can we leave this thing behind and let us just adjust to the seasons as Mother Nature intended: with nap times intact and sleep schedules unchanged? I must write a strongly worded letter about this one of these days, complete with commas and em dashes and words like "heretofore" and "indubitably." It will be a proper Victorian-style letter, after which I will fan myself with my hanky and sit back in my settee and catch my breath. Perhaps that will show them.

Or, I can just sit around and feel sorry for myself with the same face that our new office puppy has:

In the end, I'm grateful for the weekend, shortened as it is. One of my office mates is back from his holidays this week, so maybe I can hide behind him for a while and let him field some of the shots. It might take a bit of bribery. Good thing I made cake.

And, deep down, I know what is true: all these tough days are part of what will make me a better person than I was yesterday and the day before. I am as the Skin Horse says: a little loose in the joints and a little shabby, but perhaps one day, even if my hair gets all rubbed off in the process, I'll be able to stand up stronger and wiser... and perhaps a "real" kitten goalie. Now that's a dream worth waiting for.

Happy Sunday, all.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Mistakes, Bread, and Life

It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.
--Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Peak Performance"
It was the hubby's birthday this weekend. We decided a few weeks ago that we'd go to our favourite cabin for the weekend as a treat, and I'm very glad we did. Work life is so challenging these days that any chance to change scenery is welcome. I know it was really supposed to be his birthday treat, but I was so glad to have the chance to have a soak in this lovely tub. I was having a hard time letting go of an error I'd made this week, and as I lay in there soaking, I had a quiet word with myself:

I said, "I can tell you're going to be thinking a lot about this today. I won't stop you, but just keep in mind that thinking about it isn't going to change what happened, nor will it change the outcome... but if you want to think about it, you've got the space and permission to do so."

After that, I barely thought about it again for the rest of the weekend. Go figure.

We awoke to another skiff of snow. It was really only a liberal dusting, but I admit that I wasn't all that happy to see it. I think it might have been my fault: I was thinking about my current sweater project and wondering if I would finish it in time to make use of it this winter. I really must stop saying such things. Still, being at the cabin makes even the most unwelcome weather bearable:

The snow didn't last long. The sun came out as I was drinking my coffee, and by the time we were out and about, there was some serious melting going on. We decided to head out for a walk along the trail at the Kinsol Trestle, which is a nice, easy trail with some impressive scenery:

Since the hubby is fighting through the last stage of bronchitis and I was so wrung out with my work week, it was about the most physically demanding thing we did all weekend. The fresh air and exercise did wonders for us, as did the long afternoon nap and tea break we had before dinner. It was a struggle, but yet, somehow we persevered.

I did take along my knitting, which is so dull-looking that I really don't feel like taking photos of it right now. It's interesting the role that your hobbies take in your life. I happened to look back at an older blogpost of mine and reminisced about how I used to plan for projects, look for yarn to match the plan, and set up the queue in my Ravelry profile with all the detail of a travel agent booking a multi-stop, round-the-world holiday. Nowadays, I spend time daydreaming of things I might like to try and then go for a wander through my stash to make my daydreams become reality... mostly by winging it and hoping for the best.

I'm still not so sure that my current sweater project is going to work out. I have a bad feeling that I really have made it too big, but I'm trying not to be too concerned about it. It's not like anything I've ever made before: it's a simple sweater with no shaping, longer in length and with much more ease than anything else I've made previously. It's unfamiliar territory for me. Who knows? It might be just what I've been hoping to wear.

Or not. In which case, I will test my felting skills, I guess.

It's funny reaching this stage in my life, after all my years of being a high-achiever, a straight-A student, constantly making goals and working to the plan. Maybe I'm finally beginning to trust my skills. Or maybe I'm realizing that, sometimes, no matter how hard I try, some things won't work out how I want them to. And that's ok.

But at least my soda bread always works out perfectly. If I must yearn for perfection in some area of my life, at least I have that. Have a good week, everyone.