Very Manly Jacket!

Moooom...she's knitting in the car again!

(The beginnings of a sleeve.)

Yep. Been car knitting again. Can you guess on what? <insert manly background music> The beginnings of a Husband's Manly Jacket! [Pattern from Phildar Hommes Hiver 04/05. Click here to see it.] I'm using Phildar Pegase acrylic/wool blend in solid black and variegated black. My husband chose the pattern, and after I had KNIT THIS MUCH of the sleeve he decided to ask, "What yarn are you using?" and this is how our conversation went after that:

Me: "I'm using Pegase. The same yarn I used for the other sweaters I knit for you."

Manly Husband: "Isn't there a lot of acrylic in that yarn?"

Me: "Yes...there's wool in it, too."

Manly Husband: "But won't it pill?"

It's official! My husband is turning into Yarn Snob.

[Footnote: Pegase is one of the few high acrylic (70 percent acrylic *gasp!*, 30 percent wool) yarns I like. It's not scratchy or shiny. It knits up nicely, softens up after the first wash and holds up well in the washing machine. In short: It's a good yarn for Manly Husband projects that will get worn into the ground. End of free yarn plug.]

Anyway. I finished one sleeve and managed to cast on for the second yesterday while watching Madonna and Antonio Banderas in Evita*. And did your eagle eyes notice that I used the tubular cast-on for 2x2 ribbing on the sleeve? The tubular cast-on is, hands down, my favorite cast-on for ribbings. But I don't get the chance to use it as often as I'd like because some yarns just don't lend themselves to it very well. Pegase, in spite of its high acrylic content [looks pointedly at Manly Husband], is perfect for the tubular cast-on because its elasticity allows the cast-on edge to recover after being stretched. It knits up on 3.5mm-4mm needles, so I used the yarn over method described in Katharina's Buss' Big Book of Knitting instead of the stockinette stitch method in order to avoid a thick edge. The stockinette stitch tubular cast-on, described in Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook, is the one I usually use for 2x2 ribbing because it has less of a slant, but it thickens the cast-on edge so I tend to use it on finer-gauge yarns only.

In other knitting-related news, the STASH ENHANCEMENT continues! My friend Evelyn (a.k.a. "Chicago Evelyn") sent me a surprise package containing Crystal Palace Musique in beautiful shades of blue. [Runs madly around the room in circles from excitement.] It is gorgeous! Please, click here to see it and read about it.

*I had never seen this movie before. And I must admit: Madonna wasn't bad in it. As a matter of fact, she was pretty good in it. Which is rather unfortunate, as it encouraged her to continue to try her hand at acting. (Singing and dancing very good, acting usually very baaaaad. Sorry, Madonna fans!)

Ribbit! And how about those ends?

Manly Jacket sleeve progress, er...kinda:

This is after I stripped it of FORTY rows.

Sigh. I blame it on Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon in that weepy Stepmom, which showed on French television a couple of days ago. I didn't see it when it came out in the theaters, and it's a good thing I didn't because I would have bothered everyone else with my sobbing. Major tearjerker for a movie sap like me. And it's also the cause of my sorry error! I flubbed the number of rows over which my increases were supposed to be worked, and didn't even notice. Just kept on knitting in ignorant bliss while wiping tears out of the corners of my eyes [thanks a lot, Julia and Susan!]. Finally, right as I was about to start the armhole cap shaping, it occurred to me to count the stitches before decreasing. And it was all downhill from there. Suffice it to say: I had to rip out 40 rows. There was no way around it and YES there would have been a noticeable difference between the sleeves if I hadn't. [Grumble, grumble.]

[Knitting footnote: The other day Felicia noticed that I usually have long ends hanging from my knitted pieces, and she asked if I always join in new yarn at the beginning of rows. Yes! I always do. And if I run out mid-row (although I usually manage to avoid this), I'll frog back to the beginning of a row and join in a new yarn. I try to leave the ends about 12 inches long in case I need to use them for seaming, so I don't weave in any ends until seaming is complete. Even though I leave the ends long, I rarely run out of yarn because I always try to buy an extra skein than what is required. (Before I started doing this I'd run out of yarn sometimes. In that case, I'd "hide" the oddball by using it to knit all the finishing touches, like a neckband. My 2003 pretty cotton jacket and my 2002 "baa baa sheep" sweater both have neckbands that were knit using a skein in another dye lot, and one can't even tell.) End of incredibly long footnote.]

So now please let me distract you from my pitiful knitting karma with a photo of my latest stash addition, fresh from the mailbox:


I feel like grabbing a bullhorn and shouting out the window to passersby, "I got some chunky and furry yarns and I'm going to make a fabulous jacket so THERE!"

Just kidding. I won't use the bullhorn. But Ribbon Twist and Wool Tuft are so spiffy in person! As soon as I get those honkin' 12mm [!] needles I'll be a-swatching.

The yarn was sent to me in trade by Tiffany, with whom I've carried out my biggest yarn trade to date. (The yarn and book shown above is half the trade; there's more to come.) It started innocently enough: Miss Tiffany casually mentioned to me a few "swapable" items from her stash and I retaliated with a few of my own. Which, of course, resulted in a fun and frenzied shooting of stash show-and-tell messages. We even threw in some cookies to seal the deal. I love me a good swap!

We got front!

I did it! I survived Sleeve Island! Both gorilla arm sleeves of my husband's Manly Jacket have been completed, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't actually enjoy knitting them despite all that 2x2 ribbing. The sleeve cap is like working a knitted sculpture. Check it out:

Whoa, Nelly! That sure is a funky-lookin' sleeve cap.

It looks like a giant key. Seaming's gonna be a party, I can tell. Send a frozen margarita. Two, maybe.

After I finished the sleeves, I was tempted to start in on one of my own projects (Charlotte's Web! Ribbon Twist Jacket! Rowan Plaid Sweater!), but I decided to just start in on the right front piece of the jacket because it's cleverly constructed and looked like it would be entertaining:

I could use a little blocking.

And it was entertaining! The black piece is knit separately and placed on a stitch holder. Then the piece knit in the variegated yarn is worked until it is the same height as the piece in black ribbing. Afterwards the seams are joined. It sounds fiddly, but it isn't. I sewed the pieces together while they were on the needles because I was eager to see how it would look, and it only took a few minutes. No intarsia, and I got to use the tubular cast-on which probably would have looked weird if I had tried to do it in two separate yarns. Mattress stitch, I curtsy to you.

Now it's just straight mindless knitting which means I get to do other fun things at the same time. Most of what you see in the photo above was knit while reading The Last Juror by John Grisham. Light reading + Manly Jacket knitting = happy rabbit.

[BONUS: Tourist-like stuff! When I walked around Place Bellecour on Sunday, I discovered that a couple of fountains had been added to it. The last time I walked through Place Bellecour (just this spring, maybe early summer) I didn't see anything even remotely resembling a fountain, so it was a big surprise to see that a couple had been put in. Here's a photo of one of them. Neat, eh?

If Monty Hall were a knitter...

Yep. Still like to play with the camera.
(Just inside an entrance to Parc de la Tête d'Or.)
[Click to make big!]

On Saturdays and Sundays this area of the park is swarming. But if you walk through here on a weekday (on your way to the Musée d'Art Contemporain*, as was the case here) it's nice and quiet. Perfect picture opportunity. So there you go. [Don't mind me, I'm just a camera-happy tourist lady!]

As for my knitting, I've kicked into serious multi-project mode. So that means that it's time to play "Let's Click a Thumbnail". Go one:

fall2004_tweedgarn_back_thumb.jpg fall2004_manlyjacket_front3_thumb.jpg fall2004_ponchopull_sleeve2_thumb.jpg

1) I started another project. But with good reason! My son saw the Manly Jacket I'm knitting and the Pull Poncho I've recently started, and with the beginning of each project he's asked me (hopefully, I might add) if what I'm knitting is for him. [Awwwwwww!] There's going to come a day when Captain Destructo will think that wearing Mommy's hand-knit sweaters is beyond dorky, so I've got to take advantage of his yearning for knits while I can. To the rescue is a quick sweater: Pattern 19, the "child's tweed sweater", from Rebecca 24 using honkin' big 9mm needles and GGH Sierra. I'm not a big fan of bulky but this yarn is so fabulous I'd knit bulky more often if all bulky yarns were like this one. Very soft and creates an even fabric. I cast on for the back on Sunday evening and finished it while watching the Sunday night movie. (See, I told you it was quick!)

2) Manly Jacket: Two gorilla arm sleeves - check. One right front piece - check. Beginning of left front piece - check. [Scroll to the right to see it.] I started the left front piece yesterday evening, and completed the ribbing before I went to bed. Now it's all straight knitting until I reach the armhole shaping. Sounds monotonous, but this is my favorite kind of knitting because it means that I get to drink a kir royal before dinner and chat the husband's ears off without making mistakes.

3) Pull Poncho. Late Friday afternoon, while knitting with my friend Christelle [coucou, Christelle!], I finished one sleeve of the Pull Poncho and immediately cast on for the second. By the next morning I had finished the second sleeve. And now I see, my friends, why some knitters like big honkin' needles and bulky yarns. The knitting satisfaction one gets from completing something so quickly is so keen it's almost sinful. I think I'll ask Santa to put some 15mm needles in my stocking this year. And some more yarn with alpaaaaaaca.

*One can see the Musée d'Art Contemporain from the window of my apartment. It's in the long orange/glass building (La Cité Internationale de Lyon), partially hidden by the trees. Behind it is the lake seen in the photo of the park above. (And doesn't it look like we're having nice weather? Well, that photo was taken on Sunday. Today it's raining.)

Why, we're almost on our way to a finished Manly Jacket!

Calling Dr. Needles*, calling Dr. Needles...
Incidentally, that's my husband's neck, not mine.
(Before you go thinking that I grew an Adam's apple overnight.)
P.S. Why yes, there is a slideshow!

It looks like a finished Manly Jacket is in sight! The whole thing has been blocked, seamed, given a neckband, and is now ready for a zipper. And boy oh boy am I thankful it's almost over. Seaming this jacket was something else, let me tell you. Remember the amazingly funky-shaped sleeves with their key-like shoulder straps? The shoulder straps must be sewn to the shoulders of the front pieces and the back piece so that they match up perfectly, and then the sleeve caps need to be attached to the armholes in an identical manner so that the ribbing of both sleeves looks symmetrical. Just fudging it as you sew results in a strange lopsided shoulders look, and I know this because that's what I managed to achieve the first time 'round. As I don't want my husband wearing a jacket that gives him seemingly crooked shoulders, I ripped out and tried again. I hate pinning sleeves for sewing, so on my second try I used a contrast color yarn to mark groups of stitches on the sleeves, front pieces and back pieces, and then matched up these groups of stitches when sewing (which I did from the armholes up). Bingo! The seams came out smooth and even, and the ribbing on both sleeves matches up perfectly. Second time was the charm thanks to marking groups of stitches. And you know that I show all of this in a snapshot slideshow, right? It's a seaming party in pictures! (Please note the kir royal that has become a favored seaming tradition for yours truly. Salud!)

In other news, I've got some stash enhancements to share: Jackie sent me some fabulous Morehouse Merino, Janet sent me Stitch'n Bitch Nation, Carolyn sent me the latest Interweave Knits and Lisa sent me some Hello Kitty stitch markers. [Thank you, ladies!] Then I went off and bought myself some more yarn as a reward for successfully wrestling with the Manly Jacket seams. Check out what I got here!

*Dr. Needles is actually my own nickname. If I have to change needle sizes in a project soon, I'll "wear" my circular needles around my neck until the time comes to use them. Sometimes I forget I have the needles there, and will walk around the house wearing them like funky knitter's jewelry. Hee hee!

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate! Eat some pumpkin pie and turkey for me. Gobble, gobble.

Why, it's a finished Manly Jacket!

Look! A completed Manly Jacket!

This is the stand-still-like-a-mannequin shot.
[BONUS: Click here for the "Manly Man" shots!]
[And here's a closeup of the neckband.]

Snappy, eh? Knitting all that black ribbing of those gorilla-like sleeves is rewarded a hundredfold every time my husband pulls on the Manly Jacket because he's so happy with it. He's worn it to work, to graduate school, and - most recently - on Sunday when we visited the annual Christmas market near Perrache. Here's an action shot of the Manly Jacket at one of the stalls in the Christmas market:

(You gotta love a guy who doesn't mind carrying his son's snack box.)
[P.S. Don't miss the market slideshow!]

Visiting the Christmas market has become a tradition for us over the past few years. [BONUS: Snapshots of the family and the Manly Jacket at this year's Christmas market!] We always buy several Santons (handpainted pieces from Provence) to add to our manger scene, large doughy pretzels, a couple of ornaments for our Christmas tree, gourmet goodies to send to the family, and small treats for Captain Destructo (this year, a Santa hat with flashing lights and a Saint Nicholas cookie). We also treat ourselves to vin chaud d'Alsace, which comes close to blowing homemade spiked eggnog, one of my favorite holiday drinks, out of the water. People, there is nothing that'll put a spring in your step than some warm fruity wine at a Christmas market, believe me.

(This is where we buy our Santons every year.)

Project details: Manly Jacket, otherwise known as the "Gilet Zippé Bicolore", design 17 from Phildar's Homme Automne/Hiver 04-05. I made it in size M, using Pegase in Noir and Etain. Things I adapted to better fit Monsieur Le Hubby's frame: I lengthened the sleeves by 2 cm and shortened the torso by 5 cm. I also decided to double the length of the neckband, so that I could fold it inside and sew down using sewing thread. (The pattern does not call for this.) Not only does this hide the zipper if the jacket is worn open at the top, but it also provides added warmth when the jacket is zipped all the way up, which is the way my husband wears it on really cold days. All in all, both my husband and I give the Manly Jacket a thumb's up!