Goa Top.

Viva swatching.

I've just started a new pattern from Rebecca 23, and boy is this yarn chunky! I'm using size 6mm's and although I know there are much bigger sizes, I feel like I'm knitting with those huge sticks Lily Chin is holding on the cover of her book, The Urban Knitter. Still, I can see why people like knitting with chunky yarn. I did my swatch in about five minutes flat. Definitely quick knitting.

Speaking of my swatch, I'm grateful that I still insist on knitting one before starting any project. I tried out the swatch on 5.5mms and the gauge was small in comparison to the pattern's gauge. I would have had to knit an additional 20 rows if I had started this project using the 5.5mm's. In most cases width is more important than row gauge, but this particular pattern has a special cabled design that must be worked over exactly 106 rows, no more. Adding those extra 20 rows would have looked awful, and if I had just gone ahead with the 5.5mm's I wouldn't have noticed until the very end. Thankfully, the size 6mm needles worked out great on my little swatch. So viva swatching (even if it's a drag sometimes)!

I will master this pattern.

Until today this project and I were not getting along. I had started and restarted this piece about oh, twenty times (I'm not kidding) but no matter how much I'd concentrate on my tension, it would look shot. Friends, don't let Grandma tell you that uneven knitting looks like charming homespun, because it doesn't. It looks like crap. Clearly, my knitting style coupled with this yarn and stitch pattern were not a good mix. After countless times of ripping out, I wanted to cram my crinkly skeins of chunky yarn into a little padlocked box and kick the whole thing over a cliff with a flying pirouette.

But I didn't do that. I decided to not unravel my work but to set it aside and keep it as a reference while starting again with a new skein of yarn on another set of needles. It worked!

I discovered that after knitting each cable I would push the needle too far into the following purl stitch. This yarn is a bit stretchy, so that particular stitch would stretch out while tightening up stitches on either side of it. As a result, nearly each cable had holes after it, a problem I never had with previous cabled pieces I've knit. Also, there are segments of knit stitches on both edges of the right side of this work, followed by segments of purl stitches. On the right edge the last row of knit stitches were loose, but the left edge didn't have this problem. I discovered that when changing from a knit stitch to the purl stitch on that edge, I was knitting the purl stitches too loosely, and not tightening up because this particular yarn would glide too far down the needle.

So, I simply took care to keep the yarn close to the tips of the needles after knitting my cables, without knitting too tightly to avoid stretching the yarn. Also, I followed a tip in Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook on wrapping the yarn under purl stitches that are too loose, then untwisting them on the other side. End of too loose knit stitches on the right edge of the work. This pattern is now moving along nicely, and I knit with happy fervor. Montse, you may sound like a strict bitch of a schoolmarm in your book, but your techniques work.

Tra la la.

Random notes on my knitting:

1) It's raining over here, which means that my kid is wearing all the spring and summer sweaters I knit for him (including a cotton one from last year) ragged. He's gone into the bread shop wearing a different sweater every day this week, and on Saturday the women who work there commented that his sweaters were very nice and asked if I knit them. "Damn straight", I replied. Okay, I didn't say "damn". But I did tell them that I knit them. Because I like being a show-off like that.

2) Like I said, it's raining so my kid gets to wear his cotton sweaters, but I haven't been given the chance to wear my tube top yet. I need to hit the beach.

3) Did I mention it's raining? Outdoor excursions are limited so I'm knitting a bit more than usual. One whole side of my Rebecca pattern is finished and I'm a quarter through on the second (no pictures yet, as I've just reformatted my hard drive and need to reinstall my cam software). Also, I've been knitting the cables without using a cable needle and that makes knitting go so much faster. Which is good, as I went to the yarn store last weekend and bought Phildar's catalogs for winter 2002/2003, as well as a whole lotta yarn for a number of projects. Now the owner of the shop shouts, "Yay! Here comes the yarn-obsessed lady! Pull open the cash register!" when she sees me walk into the store. Just kidding. She doesn't shout that. But we know she's thinking it. I'm such a yarn fiend.

Cables are spiffy.

I'm halfway through the second side of this project, and if my knitting tension remains even I'll be wearing this top next week. I did have to rip out about ten rows last night because some stitches were too tight and others were too loose, but despite that little delay I'm moving along quite nicely.

By the way, I noticed that the cable design on this top pulls the fabric to give it natural shaping; the cables at the waist pull the sides in slightly, and the cables at the chest area pull it back out. That's pretty nifty.

Cold water does yarn good.

My grubby little fingers have unravelled this project so many times (why, I do believe it's the project I've most ripped out, ever! Let's eat many brownies to console ourselves) that a part of one of my skeins became stretched out and crinkled beyond words. It was impossible to work with - most of the stitches knitted from it were so loose I could have poked my fingers through them. So I frogged all the rows (yes, all twenty-two of them; let's eat some more brownies to console ourselves) I had knitted with the crinkly yarn and did them over with another skein. The ugly skein has been reconditioned via mega doses of cold water sprays and is now looking quite peppy. When it dries I'll be using it to knit up the neckline, which I'll be doing soon as I'm more than three-quarters through on the second side. [Does cowboy whoops to celebrate.]

Going starchy for blocking cables!

Woo hoo! I finished knitting both sides on Saturday! [Runs madly around the room in circles.] Sunday was a rainy day, so I took some time in the morning to shape and block it all. With a toddler and small dog running around the house, properly blocking a garment is hard. But! I got a brainstorm. I got our old, ugly-ass picnic table out of the hall closet, unfolded it in the spare room, and placed our winter bed comforter (folded in thirds) on top of it. I then covered it with the plastic covering used by the dry cleaner to cover our dry cleaning, and on top of that I put a thin towel. Then I placed both sides of my knitting on it and pinned them down with no trouble. Not only was I able to sit down while I did all that, the kid and dog can't get to it. I deserve a prize. The husband, too. He took care of the kid while I played with my knitting.

Although I don't usually pin garments to block, I decided to pin this one because of the excessive curling of the sides and slight pulling of the cable design. After carefully pinning it to measurements (without stretching), I liberally doused the whole thing with cold water sprays. After it was wet, I used my fingers to mold the cables even more, and to shape them so they all matched up perfectly. Then I got brave, picked up a can of the best starch I could find in the French market, stood back about two meters, and sprayed a tiny bit of starch on the cables. I did that once to some embroidery I placed on a sweater I knit for my brother's baby daughter, and it "set" the embroidery without making it stiff. Let's hope it works for this top as well, because although I want nice looking cables, I don't think I'd like walking around wearing a top that's as stiff as a cardboard cutout.

Knitting in the round, baby.

Good news is the garment has been successfully blocked! Starch does wonders on cables and I'm definitely going to use it in the future for this type of yarn and stitch pattern. Bad news is just as I started to seam the shoulder I spotted [gasp!] an error smirking at me - near the selvedge was a knit stitch that should have been purl. A couple of rows down and unnoticeable, although it would have showed if the shoulder seam had been viewed from the top. The rows were only thirteen stitches each so I undid them and corrected the error because I know that keeping it there would have bothered me endlessly. Argh.

Despite that little setback, I'm going to start knitting the neckline in the round! I've never knitted a neckline entirely in the round so this is going to be something new. Pray for me, friends.

He knits! Awwwwwww.....

Early this morning I placed my knitting on my work table and got up to go to the kitchen for a cup of coffee while I left my 22-month-old toddler sitting on his tricycle in the living room. He was engrossed in his little bike so I thought I could leave him alone for ten seconds. I heard him get off his bike and clunk around a bit, then he got eerily quiet. "What are you doing in there?" I called out. He didn't say anything. I stuck my head out of the kitchen and saw him sitting at the table with my knitting all bunched up in his hands. Apparently, he had tried to "knit", and twisted up my circular needles into a pretzel, while sticking the points of the needles into various parts of my work. Frankly, it was too much of an "awwww" moment for me to get upset over the fact that he ruined a few rows of knitting.

Speaking of which, I finished the top! The neckline (despite the damage done to it as mentioned above) came out nicely, save for the fact that I think I bound off the stitches a wee bit too tightly. I can pull the top over my head just fine, but when I try to pull it off it nearly yanks off my eyebrows. I may have to redo that last row a bit more loosely unless I want to walk around looking like I've gone a bit crazy with the tweezers. Also, the armholes look like crap to me. The pattern calls for them to be seamless, and despite neat selvedges they look unfinished. So I'll be crocheting a row of slip stitches around the armholes as soon as I finish blocking the shoulder seams. Yes, I had to block the shoulder seams. This yarn is so thick, the unblocked seams at the shoulders made me look like I was wearing shoulder pads. Just like a football player. Or Joan Crawford. You get the picture.

Finito!

My Rebecca top is finished! It's just a bit damp still, as I decided to wash it because it had been handled so much after seaming and knitting the neckline (in the round, I might add, which has to be one of the most "blah" things on the face of this planet...I found it cumbersome to be turning a whole garment while knitting on teensy 40 cm long circular needles!) that it was a bit stretched out. And it smelled kinda funny. What is it about certain cotton blends that make them reek after excessive handling, despite knitting with clean hands? Ick. Anyway, here's a sneak peek at the damp garment, and as soon as it dries I'll pull it on and parade up and down my neighborhood street with a big, flashing neon that reads, "Hey, people! I knitted this!" Okay, I'm kidding about the neon sign. But I'm looking forward to wearing the top this weekend as the type of weather we're currently having is perfect for it!