Pretty Cotton Jacket.

Look, Ma! I did a swatch!

In one of my previous jobs, a great part of what I did consisted of negotiating transactions. Now I do it with my knitting as a (somewhat lame) means of remaining focused on certain projects. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Regardless, it's made knitting more fun for me. Recent thing I negotiated with myself? If I finished the sleeves of my son's raglan sweater in a timely and satisfactory fashion, I could swatch for a new project and begin work on one of the pieces. I did finish both sleeves in a satisfactory fashion - but only after I frogged part of the second sleeve a total of three times for no reason other than my gauge looked shot. And it was just straight stockinette stitch, which was a little discouraging. But eventually I finished, which means that I got to do this:

Cream-colored cotton yarn in a worsted weight, bamboo 5mm circs, and one of the busiest pattern charts I've ever followed. The above swatch shows only a portion of the entire stitch pattern, so I'm sure I'll be knitting this pretty jacket through May. Happy Spring!

Queen of Procrastination.

Okay, okay. I know I had a date this weekend with these sweater pieces for some seaming, but I broke it. I did nothing knitting related all weekend long, and when I got the chance on Sunday evening to do something a little crafty the last thing I wanted to do was seam. Come on...if given the choice to seam [blah!] or cast on stitches for a pretty cotton jacket [rah!] which would you pick? Don't even say you'd rather seam because I'll box your ears, slappy.

Pardon me, my markers are showing.

Why, it's the beginnings of the back piece to my pretty cotton jacket! A few notes:

1) Some of those larger cables require the simultaneous use of two cable needles. Two! While it does look most impressive to see two cable needles on one's work while knitting, it's a big pain in the patootie to knit. So I figured out how to cross some of those stitches while using only one cable needle instead of two. The smaller cables are done without a cable needle at all (oh, how fancy!), as illustrated in Katharina Buss' Big Book of Knitting.

2) The back piece is a 28 row repeat, and while those 28 rows are very busy (including WS rows!), it's not as complicated as it looks. I memorized the chart and was knitting without it after working the first 14 rows. Lesson learned: Markers are your friends, even if a pattern (like this one) doesn't tell you where or how to place them and you're required to figure it out your own darn self.

Incessant knitting blab is goooooood.

Pardon me, my selvedges are showing.

Random notes from all over the place:

1) The weather hit the 70s today and all I could think of as I got my hair cut [perky, flippy, short 'do, thank you] was "Damn, this is fine weather we're having. Too bad my pretty cotton jacket isn't finished because I could be wearing it right now." But here's a shot of the back piece and just looking at it gives me good vibes. I love this jacket already. Should I buy myself a pair of pants to wear only with this jacket? I think so.

2) I may be the procrastinating kind, but I'm not the quitting kind, which means that the raglan sweater is nearly seamed. After attempting (and failing) to create a smooth join on that blasted curve of a raglan by sewing from the underarm up, I decided to - gasp! - turn my work upside down and sew it from the neck to the underarm. [Ooooh....such a little knitting rebel.] But, somehow, the change in perspective worked and the seam came out nice and smooth. Incidentally, Marrije asked what method of sewing I used for this sweater. I used mattress stitch to join the raglan sleeves to the body of the garment and to join the side seams, and I'll be using backstitch (while working on the WS) to join the sleeve seams because I'll be sewing the cast off edge to the cast on edge. Ladder stitch creates a somewhat flatter seam, but I'm not sure if it would be strong enough to join those two together. Backstitch would be, but I'm a bit concerned about the join coming out too thick using that method. Right now I'm leaning towards backstitch, but I may change my mind. I'm such a fickle lassie.

On an unrelated note, I'd like to give a whole lotta public thank you's to: Suzie Q for sending me Pop Tarts, Oreos and other goodies; to Alison for sending me bamboo circs size 8mm and some Cascade Fixation [socks, people!]; and to Carolyn for sending me some Captain Crunch cereal [!] and the latest Rebecca [I see a ribbed tank in my future]. Really, it is very hard for me to get homesick when I've got such kind and thoughtful buddies. Thank you!

It's spring. No, it's summer. Wait, it's still winter. No, it's spring...

Dear Weather People:

Whuddup with the freaky weather? First it's sunny, and then it's cloudy. Then it's cold, and then it's hot. Then it's windy, and then it's not. You know, I've got some short-sleeved and long-sleeved cotton tops to make here and your dipping that barometer all over the place is screwing me up in terms of planning. Make up your mind already, man!

Annoyed in Lyon,
fluffa! at

Enough with the weather, and on to knitting. Look - I've started the front of my pretty cotton jacket:

Oh, just finish me already.

Doesn't that look tiny? It's the right front piece, but I'd swear it was a sleeve. I just started it and boy, is it knitting fast. [Oh, worsted cotton and 4mm's, how I love thee.] The right end looks a bit tighter than the left end, but that's because the right end is a free edge, so I decided to do a chain selvedge on that end by slipping the first stitch knitwise and then purling it on the WS (the left end is just a stockinette stitch selvedge, because I'll be hiding it in a seam). I'll be doing a row of single crochet on the free edges of the front of the jacket and I think that a chain selvedge looks neater for doing crochet edgings.

In other cotton top news, I'm planning on joining Alison's tank girl knitalong by knitting this top from Rowan 27 using All Season's Cotton, and have narrowed my color choices for that yarn down to Iceberg, Ravish, and Cookie. No stripes, this time. Just a solid color. I want something neutral, yet not so neutral it's "blah", and any of those three colors seems to fit. Any opinions on those or other colors, and on the yarn itself (metal addi's or bamboo?), are welcome.

Send aspirin.

Ah, nothing like going to a playground packed full of screaming kids to get one's adrenaline pumping and a stress headache to end all stress headaches. Really, I have nothing against kids, but I don't like them when they're in groups of what seems like 2,000 and they're all yelling into my ear at about 150 decibels. So, I did a loser Mommy thing. I wimped out, left my husband to watch over my son while my son played, and sat in the car for ten minutes where I happily pulled some 5mm's out of my handbag and swatched some Rowan Calmer. (Think I was going to swatch at a crowded playground with a bunch of kids looking on? No, thank you.) And there is no air conditioning in the car! But I have one headache less and one swatch more.

As for my pretty cotton jacket, I had a slight episode of knitting madness when I decided to, oh, rip out all that I had done on the right front piece so I could start it over. Simply because I didn't like how my tension looked! (It's madness, I tell you.) As I was starting over anyway, I thought I'd just start the left front piece as well and do them both at the same time on the same circular needle. They're mirror images of each other and match the back, so doing them at the same time is just like doing the back piece split in half with two extra selvedges in the middle. I don't think I'm working faster but at least I can feel confident that these pieces will match up as my tension will be the same on both of them.

Don't you love my patriotic markers?

In other news, I'd like to give a public thank you to Robin S., who now has star status around here as she sent yours truly a glowing box of Girl Scout Thin Mints [!]. Really, cookies from home are just the motivation I need to get cracking with seaming Carolyn's sweater this weekend. And yes, I will eat them all my lonesome, greedy-gut self. Notify my dentist.

Becky Needlehands.

Dear Santa,

Can I have an extra pair of hands for Christmas? Yeah. And I want them with knitting needles already attached to them, like the way Edward Scissorhands has scissors attached to his hands. That way, I could leisurely knit all my current projects, but still be able to get started on knitting a tweed sweater for my kid using this GGH Sierra yarn Carolyn just sent me. But even though my friend sent me yarn, I think you should send me lots more yarn, too. You know, to go with those extra pair of knitting needle hands. And I also want a little robot named Rosie to seam all my knitted garments for me. I will leave cookies and a jug of spiked Mexican punch out for you.


Progress on the front pieces of my pretty cotton jacket as of yesterday morning:

Knit while watching The English Patient.

And I'm about to start the armhole shaping! Think I should start looking for some hooks and eyes already? That's what the pattern calls for to close the jacket in the front. I have the feeling that's not a very secure way to fasten a jacket knit in worsted cotton, so I'll be sure wear a pretty bra just in case I do an accidental peek-a-boo deal while wearing the jacket. (And it wouldn't be the first time, either. Oh, those wacky bustier days in the 80s!)

Hello. I'm a snail mail glutton.

Just a few more rows, and we're blockin'!

I'd really love to finish off the remaining 10 rows on both front pieces of my pretty cotton jacket, but I'm too busy getting some great surprises in the mail:

Nancie Wiseman's Book of Finishing Techniques and A Knitter's Template by Laura Militzer Bryant [thank you, Morgan!]. After leafing through The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques, I've decided that it is going to be the one I'll always carry around in my knitting bag because it is just chock-full of finishing happiness. If you want to try all the finishing techniques I blab about at this site - tubular cast-on, kitchener stitch bind-off, invisible increases, woven seams - you'll find them all nicely illustrated in this book. I also enjoyed looking through A Knitter's Template, and am glad to have it. Admittedly, half of the book is filled with patterns that will be dated in a short time, but the other half has some clear instructions and basic fashion background for knitters who would like to easily come up with their own knitting patterns.

But that's not all! I also received some All Season's Cotton in Ravish, Rowan 27 [!], and some vintage Bernat pattern books [!!]. There is no doubt that retro pattern books are my favorite thing to browse. I never make anything from them but I find them to be a neat source of history, and downright fun. On the back cover of one of the magazines is a photo of a man wearing a knit beanie with vertical stripes and a pompom at the tip of it, and a matching knit pullover that is cinched at the neck with a crochet cord that has two pompoms dangling from both ends of it. And! The beanie is perched at the very tip of his head in the manner favored by Chilly Willy the penguin. It's wonderfully horrific. People, from where I hail, one cannot wear a getup like that without attracting weird looks, laughs or both. Fashion is so fickle and I love the nostalgic side of it.

And what will I do with my All Season's Cotton? It is, in a word, gorgeous. All Season's Cotton has the same stitch gauge as Phildar's Aviso cotton, and both are 60% cotton and 40% acrylic. The only difference is that All Season's Cotton is more tightly spun and a bit lighter in weight. I was planning on using it to knit the "Pagan" tank in Rowan 27, but as soon as I had the yarn in my greedy little hands I nixed that idea. So! This morning I went off to the yarn store [like a shameless junkie, really I am] and bought some Aviso in a light green color so I can knit the Pagan tank using it. The All Season's Cotton will be used for the Smooch tank in Rowan's All Season's Cotton Collection, because as soon as I saw that tank I just had to knit it, too. I'll be setting aside my pretty cotton jacket for a while, because my Pagan tank kicks off this weekend, and my Smooch tank kicks off as soon as I am able to stop staring like a lovestruck fool at my skeins of All Season's Cotton and just knit them up, already.

Pretty cotton jacket, here I come!

Progress on my pretty cotton jacket: I've started one of the sleeves and it's really rolling along. This jacket is knit using Aviso, which is the same cotton yarn I used for the raglan sweater I just finished knitting for my husband, but the yarn for my jacket seems softer and easier to handle. It's a cream color, and while I'm no textiles expert, I have a feeling that it's more supple because it was treated with less dye and chemicals. Whatever the reason, I'm having fun knitting this sleeve because it uses a multitude of different stitches and that's why I decided to knit one sleeve after the other instead of both at the same time. No chance of getting bored with these sleeves; the pattern is just too busy. I'm not rushing, but I'd like to finish the jacket soon because the weather is getting dreary and I really, really want to wear it before it gets too cold. It's just too pretty to wait until spring.

Seaming, swatching, and how to make your own damn blocking board.

Why, it's a seaming party! [Breaks open a piņata.]

That's right. I'm finally blocking and seaming the pieces of my pretty cotton jacket. I do believe I won't have to wait until next spring to wear it! The weather has gone from rainy to sunny, with a bit of coolness in the morning. Definitely cotton jacket weather.

Things got a bit close for a while there, though. As I knit the second sleeve [check it out...doesn't that little piece at the top of the sleeve cap look funky?] I realized that I was coming perilously close to running out of yarn. So close, that I actually ripped out my swatches and started using the yarn from them. My, it's funny how one's Catholic upbringing makes a big appearance as one encounters the "I don't think I'll have enough yarn to finish this project" problem. I found myself praying to the yarn saints repeatedly as I knit that sleeve cap. Thankfully, I was left with the yarn pictured to the right of the sleeve. However, it does seem like a tiny bit for a neckband in 2/2 rib. Fervent praying to the yarn saints will take place as I knit the neckband.

Now that I'm in the process of blocking and seaming the pieces of the pretty cotton jacket, I am now entitled to start swatching for future projects. Behold the swatches I've just knit, washed and blocked, as they sit nicely on my "blocking board". Those are swatches of Bouton d'Or Balzane, Phildar Frimas and Phildar Coton Microfibres. Yarn that is just waiting to be knit into...something ;-)

As you can see, my "blocking board" is nothing fancy. I came up with it after I found the floor to be a dangerous place for knits when one has a toddler who likes to ride his trike all over the apartment. And this one works so much better. Here's how you can make your own damn blocking board, too:

1) Get an old folding card table salvaged from the in-laws.

2) Place in a spare room where there is no humidity.

3) Unfold a large cardboard box, and place flat on the table.

4) Place large sheet of plastic (I use plastic recycled from the clothes coverings provided by dry cleaners) on top of the cardboard.

5) Place easy-to-dry fabric on top of the cardboard. (I use a smooth white towel, which I discovered allows me to see if any of the yarn colors bleed when wet, but I might change to a plaid or checked pattern to make measuring easier.)

Voilā! D.I.Y. blocking board. I plan on getting a staple gun so I can really go to town with the crafty stuff. (Okay, I'm kidding. But a staple gun would be a fun thing to have.)

Why, it's a bobbly jacket!

Why, it's a bobbly jacket!
[Click me and I will give you another view.]

Finally! My pretty cotton jacket is finished! I've already worn it twice this week and I really like it. Knitting it was fun, too. Usually when I follow patterns I have to make modifications or rework them, but I didn't have to revise this pattern in any way and I didn't stumble upon any errors. There is a different chart for every size, and the shapings are calculated so as not to interrupt the pattern. The right and left front pieces are mirror images of each other, as are the left and right sleeves. And when I seamed the jacket, I saw just how nicely the pieces all fit together. Big thumbs up here, so there are lots of pictures today. Above are some "action" shots my husband took today at noon (we're having nice weather today and I was wearing the jacket when he came home for lunch), and here is an obligatory stand-still-like-a-mannequin shot taken yesterday afternoon. Of course, there are the customary whack dancing rabbit shots, taken with the spycam for no reason other than it's fun:

As one can see, I really am happy with this jacket! I think I'll get a good amount of wear out of it. I like it because it's a less casual alternative to my denim jacket and the bobbles at the sleeve cuffs create a neat little flare. Plus, I like how the front edges look with no visible closure. But! There were a few miniscule things I didn't really like about finishing this jacket:

1) Sewing on 12 hook-and-eye fasteners* to the fronts of the jacket is a long and tedious process that requires a glass of wine and good long movie on television.

2) Throwing the jacket in the cold rinse cycle in order to wet block it means that it's going to take, oh, about 50 hours for the jacket to dry.

*I was wary about using hook-and-eye fasteners, but I did it because I personally don't think that a zipper really goes with this jacket. However, I have no problem with the fasteners when I wear the jacket, and I didn't have any problems when I put it in the washing machine. Before putting the jacket in the washing machine I closed the fasteners and placed it in a pillowcase in order to keep the fasteners from getting caught on the jacket.