Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An old project, finally finished ... and a new one, too

I spent lots of hours this past weekend on finishing work – if I have to weave in one more yarn end anytime in the next week, I may actually run screaming into the streets! When will I learn to weave in some of those ends along the way, instead of saving all 8000 of them (there were 8000, weren’t there?) until the end? Or maybe learn to spit splice to eliminate some of the ends? Luckily, TCM was running a Paul Newman marathon, so I recorded several movies I’d never seen before. Watching Torn Curtain while I worked made all that weaving quite a bit less painful.

The end result of all those hours of sewing and weaving was two finished sweaters. First, an old project finally done. I started the Urban Aran Cardigan way back in March, and got most of it done within a month or two. But once the weather turned warm, I set is aside for something lighter weight. I picked it up again in September, and finished all of the knitting three or four weeks ago. I kept procrastinating on the finishing, though, because I was intimidated by the zipper.

Most of the sweaters I’ve knit have been pullovers. There have been a couple of button-front cardigans (the Tangled Yoke and Nantucket Jacket), but I never put a zipper into a handknit sweater before. And I was awfully nervous about it. I started obsessing about it almost from the day I first cast on. Should I hand sew it? That might not be strong enough. Machine sew it? All my hours of knitting could get mangled up in the sewing machine.

So I started searching the internet for zipper installation tutorials, and found some really helpful ones. In the end, I followed the instructions here, at Pickin’ and Throwin.’ For anyone about to tackle a zipper, I highly recommend using the Wash-A-Way Wonder Tape she recommends to help position the zipper. That tape made it easy to line up the two front pieces, press them down onto the tape, and then unzip before pinning into place. Then I hand-stitched the zipper, using a backstitch from the wrong side.

So here’s the finished product:
And here are the details:
Pattern: Urban Aran sweater, converted from pullover to cardigan following the example of Brooklyn Tweed.
Yarn: Elann Peruvian Highland Chunky in chestnut. The color of this yarn is gorgeous, much richer than you can see on your computer monitor. I bought 24 skeins (so long ago, I can’t remember how I calculated that amount), and I’ve got a lot left over.
Needles: sizes 10 and 10.5
Zipper: 2-way separating zipper, shortened to fit at the fabric store. The sweater is fairly long, so I wanted to be able to unzip it from the bottom when I sit down.

Now for finished project number 2. This one only took about 9 days from start to finish, because it’s knit in a very bulky yarn, and has no sleeves. Here’s the v-neck slipover from the cover of the new Debbie Bliss Knitting Magazine.

I fell in love with this sweater as soon as I saw it. A good friend of mine has been knitting Twinkle patterns lately using the super-bulky Twinkle Soft Chunky yarn, so I was inspired to try something in a heavier weight than I ordinarily use. I love the big cable up the front of this sweater, and the moss stitch shows up beautifully at this gauge. Now I just have to find a very lightweight top to put under it so that I can wear it here in Virginia without overheating.

The details:
Pattern: V-Neck Slipover from Debbie Bliss Knitting Magazine, fall/winter 2008-10-14
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Como in gray, 13 balls
Needles: size 13.
Gauge: The pattern calls a gauge of 3 stitches to the inch. I had to go down to a size 11 needle to get gauge, and thought the fabric was too stiff at that gauge. So I used the size 13s, and went down one pattern size to compensate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spinning in public for the first time

Well, I've done plenty of knitting in public -- when I first began knitting many years back, I used to take my projects onto the subway with me while commuting, and now I rarely go out without a knitting project, just in case I have some spare time. Now I've spun in public, too.

On October 4, I participated in the Art on the Avenue festival in Alexandria. I hadn't even heard of Art on the Avenue until I responded to a post on Ravelry looking for volunteers for a fiber arts demonstration. So I packed up my spinning wheel and a bag full of fiber, and headed out on Saturday morning. What fun! It was a gloriously beautiful fall day, sunny and warm without being hot. The demonstration included spinning on wheels and spindles, fiber carding, knitting, and weaving. In the beginning, I had some fairly quiet spinning time, just answering questions as I spun. But then I started letting the kids try the wheel, and we both had a really fun time. They were fascinated, and loved working the treadles (although some of them couldn’t reach them without help). And many of them were so excited when I offered to let them take home the yarn they’d help me spin – it was really sweet! It was tricky at first figuring out how to actually produce yarn with them, but eventually I got the knack of letting them treadle while I drafted the fiber.

Two hours flew past, and then we were finished. At the end, though, I found out that some of the other participants were members of a spinning group that meets twice a month – they invited me to join them, and I’m looking forward to spinning with them in calmer circumstances! And not only that, I got invited to another spinning demo the following weekend.

So this past Saturday, it was off to the Torpedo Factory Art Center for the annual Art Safari. This time I was prepared for the kids, and brought a basket of really soft blue faced Leicester fiber for them to spin with, and some pretty red and yellow wool. I also brought some drop spindles, to see if that would make it easier to work with them. Once we got going, there was barely a moment to catch my breath! We had spinning, and knitting, and carding, and weaving, just like the weekend before. This time, though, someone brought a drum carder to let the kids make up their own special, sparkly batts to spin. In the beginning, I focused on using spindles – I’d draft the wool while the kids kept the spindle spinning for me. Then for a while, we used the wheel – this group loved sitting and treadling as much as last week’s kids. It was especially fun when they had their own little handfuls of fiber to spin into a special yarn to take home.

I’ve only got one regret after these wonderful weekends – I forgot to bring a camera, so I haven’t got any photos! I guess I’ll have to learn to tuck a camera into my traveling spinner’s kit in the future.