Sunday, January 26, 2014

As My Boss Once Told Me, "Nice Try, but Not Even Close."

My sewing machine got pulled out today, and I ended up working on my 2014 County Fair quilt square. Remember my prototype?
Today I pulled out the "real" fabrics from the fair kit and my notes from last time and started again. This is what I got:
 I know...civil war era fabrics. I find them depressing too. But isn't the block beautiful?
 I was very careful with all the inset seams, and to keep me honest, here's the backside:
Honestly, my favourite part of the block is the pinwheel formed on the wrong side at the very center of the block.
It should impress the pants off the judges. This is how you not only handle eight seams coming together at one point, but how you make it stylish too.

But then I measured the final block and it's 12".

It's supposed to finish at 12" which means it should currently measure 12.5"

This makes me sad.

My prototype was alright, but apparently I made my seams a little too big this time around. (Or cut the pieces a little small. Or ???) Since I got it done a few months ahead of time, I have time to decide whether I'm going to submit it anyway and try my luck for a ribbon. (Not very satisfying as it will be rejected without mercy for not meeting the very clear size requirement, and won't be able to be used in the quilt whether they want to or not.) Or figure out some way to fix it, even though I don't have enough fabric to do it again.

Part of the idea of doing this block today was to get it "off the pile" and clean up one thing. But now it's back on the pile. :sigh:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Second Mitten Syndrome Just Doesn't Sound as Good

You've heard about Second Sock Syndrome, the affliction that drives people to make socks for amputees. I've never had much trouble with completing a second sock. I am beginning to realize that it may be because I like doing the toe and that's where my socks start.

This mitten, on the other hand?
It has been trying to answer the question of one hand clapping for quite some time.

I just can't seem to get the second one started. I'm starting to think it's because of this band:
where it all starts.

I'm making the mittens to match my Dwindling Cables Hat
and basing the pattern on the hugely popular Bellas mitts. I made two pair like this
a couple of years ago. (Ok, more like four years ago now that I see the original post.)

But for this pair, I made some changes. For one thing, I shortened the arm part by about half. I don't have any coats that would suit long mittens. And I decided to start with a band like the hat does. It worked out pretty well (it'll look better after blocking; trust me), but it was a pain to do. And so my lonely mitten waits for a mate.

Several evenings recently I've thought, "This is the night. Just start it. Once it's started, it will get easy. Go." But then I turn away. Leave the Harmony sock dpns on the table and pick up something else.

Once the band's done, however, the rest is more fun. The gauge is a lot looser so it is physically easier on my hands and the cables make it more interesting.

I've adapted the cable pattern from the hat to replace the one from the original pattern.
Besides being a little pointy at the top (and I think that may block out too), I think it worked out pretty well. Although that's one more thing that makes me reluctant to pick up this project again. I have to refer to two different directions as I go (the original pattern and my mods) and it's not convenient. On the good side, I think I made complete enough notes that it shouldn't be difficult to make the second one match. (Let's hope.)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Baby Things (and a Discourse on Charts)

I've got three babies due in the family this year and it has turned my crafty mind to little things. I'm thinking about bibs (with little elephants), a baby cocoon (for picture taking), and little dresses (so many little dresses!) But I only know the gender of one so far and no girls yet. (I don't like to make my baby things too "gendered," but even I'm not making a dress for a little boy!)

But we are expecting one boy (at least), so I thought I should start there. (Like test taking--start with what you know.) I found this darling little thing on Ravelry:
All the babies are due in spring and summer so no tiny hats, warm sweaters, or woolen booties. But if I make this cardi a little large and out of cotton, I think it will get some wear.

I happened to have a lovely blue cotton from a raveled sweater and I'll use the same cream I used for my lace tunic. I had a false start when I used the yarn doubled. This turned out to be too dense and would have run me out of yarn. It also hurt my hands to knit it, so I ripped out the couple inches of progress I had made and started with a single strand. It's much better this way.

The bottom of the sweater is done in garter. It's a lot of garter after just finishing some garter projects before Christmas, but it looks great so I'll like it (whether I want to or not).

One change I made to the pattern is to knit the back and front sections in one piece:
I also added some armhole shaping so the fit would be a little nicer. Oh, and obviously I skipped some of the stripes. They would have been a fun way to break up all.that.garter.stitch, but I thought it looked too cluttered.

I started the "fleurette" pattern on the top, but quickly ran into trouble.
Once past the armholes, I will work on the fronts and back
separately. Here the front sections are being worked on.
The pattern is written out row by row and not charted. As I worked, it wasn't lining up. I wasn't sure if the pattern was off, or I had messed things up while I was doing the armhole shaping and my stitch count was changing.
It just didn't look like the picture, but I couldn't work out what was going on. So it was time to rip it out, and make a swatch.
The first repeat (two blue stripes) doesn't look right,
but the second one (top blue stripes) seems to match
the picture in the pattern.
I did a much smaller swatch than I normally would because I was only interested in getting the pattern to work. I didn't have to use the swatch to measure for gauge or anything else. (I still should have made it at least one repeat bigger, but at that point I was going to work with what I had.)

Without a chart, you have no way to see how the stitches relate to each other. You just follow instructions stitch by stitch and hope there are no mistakes. But if you think there is a problem, there's nothing to guide you. Is the slip stitch on row 2 supposed to line up with the yarn over on row 1, or alternate with it? This pattern could have been interpreted either way.

The pattern also claims this stitch can be worked over a 4-stitch repeat plus 1. So 13 (4x3 + 1) would work, but 14 would not. I now think that part is wrong so when I adjusted my stitch count after the armhole shaping to work with the fleurette pattern, I didn't get the results I should have. I'm not going to worry about this part though, because now that I have the pattern worked out*, I can work it over however many stitches I need and just "fudge" the extra stitches on the side.

I read, learn, and memorize patterns according the way the stitches relate to each other. (See the pattern in the pattern, so to speak.) Of course I need to know what to do on a particular row, but it's more helpful to know that when I get to the three stitches I slipped on the previous row whether I should knit them on this row or (K1, Slip 1, K1), or whatever. The stitches of each row will take care of themselves if I know how to work each stitch from the previous row. This also gives you a way to double check yourself as you work a pattern. Much easier to discover mistakes before they become a huge problem.

Stepping off the soapbox, I'm looking forward to making good progress on the sweater again. For something so small, it feels like it is taking a long time. (Of course, garter stitch is famous for that so no surprise there.)

I've also realized about myself that I am a process knitter when it comes to making things for myself (love the process, the end result is not really the point of the exercise) and a product knitter when I knit for others (screw the process--let's get this puppy done)! Not exactly a flattering trait, I think, but it's helpful to know yourself. It also explains why this thing feels like it's taking a long time. And once I have the explanation, I can relax a little and try to enjoy this project too.

*In case you are working on this pattern, this how I interpreted the fleurette stitch:
On rows 2 & 6: The stitches you want to slip are the (K1, YO, K1) stitches from the row before
On rows 3 & 7: The stitch you want to slip is the center st of the (K1, YO, K1)
On rows 4 & 8: The stitch to slip is the same stitch as in the row before
Not quite as good as a full chart (sorry), but I hope that will help.

May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...