Fluffy Cardigan!

Down the Sleeve Hole.

Is this a sleeve cuff I see before me?

winter2005_kidmohair_sleeve.jpg
Soft, fluffy kid mohair. Oh, how I love thee!
Psst...see the tubular cast-on?
(I'm such a sucker for the tubular cast-on.)
[P.S. Here's another view of the fabric.]


Unbelievably enough, I have not been able to knit a single stitch for a few days. [Busy, busy b.] But! Last week was spent knitting the first pieces of this Fluffy Cardigan and you know what? THIS is one of the yarns I'd want to have with me if I were marooned on an island in the Arctic Sea. (If I were marooned on an island in the Caribbean, I'd want to have ten sweaters' worth of Calmer, a couple of bamboo circs and sunblock SPF 45, bay-bee.)

The cardigan is knit using two yarns held together: Phildar Sunset and Phildar Kid Mohair. I thought it would be a little slow on the needles due to the fluffiness of the yarn, but it's a smooth and soft knit. I cast on for one sleeve, thinking I'd complete that piece and then work on Salina, but before I knew it was casting off the sleeve cap. So I decided to jump down the Sleeve Hole and immediately cast on for the second sleeve, thinking I'd get bored with it once I got past the cuff. But nooooooo! Before you can say "Sleeve Happy Rabbit" I was binding off the cap on the second sleeve, too. I was on a roll, I tell you! And to prove it, here are both sleeves together, looking all weary and rumpled in their unblocked state. I just love its sparkly, heathery goodness.

But that's not all. Here's the extra bonus: I was able to use the tubular cast-on* for the ribbing at the sleeve cuffs! I usually save the tubular cast-on for fine-gauge items, but it happened to work for this particular yarn. I just love that invisible, rolled edge that the tubular cast-on creates and will never stop singing its praises on this site. When I saw it work for this fluffy wonder I actually had a little seizure of happiness. Clearly, I'm easily amused.

*Again, my favorite resources for tubular cast-on continue to be Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook and Katharina Buss's Big Book of Knitting. I use different techniques depending on yarn weight and type. For the ribbing on this particular project I'm using the yarn-over method described in Big Book of Knitting.

In other news, I have some snail mail surprises to share: My thoughtful pal Chelee and her son sent my Captain Destructo some Valentine candy! (The Captain was so excited to get a surprise in the mail with a note written especially to him. He insisted on writing back to Chelee's son right away and going with me to the post office.) And my other pal Heather sent a package containing some Paton's yarn in CHOCOLATE [drools madly], some Ironstone Mohair in a beautiful shade (Mountain Grass), and some - get ready for this - Almond Roca [drools even more]. Yarn and chocolate. My kinda combo.

And to end this entry with a surprise of my own, here's a sneaky peek of what's coming up later this week!

Salsa will get those needles clicking.

winter2005_kidmohair_back.jpg
I just love that wee sparkle.
[Expand this shot: Look at me, look at me now!]


Energized by some salsa mexicana*, corn tortilla chips, spicy olives and just a tiny glass of tequila last weekend, I got my needles clicking and completed the back piece of my fluffy Kid Mohair cardigan. It's so easy and straightforward; the only thing I did differently was (as always) short-row the shoulders and leave the shoulder stitches live for three-needle bind-off seaming later on.

Now all I've got to do is knit the two front pieces which I think will be fun because, thanks to the deep neckline, they've got neck shaping that starts only a few cms after the ribbing at the hem. I always get a kick from watching my rows get shorter and shorter as I decrease for neck shaping. Like I said before, I am easily amused.

Stash enhancement from abroad!

Sally from Knitting by the Bay in New Zealand [!] had some Noro Lily yarn in a gorgeous PINK sent over as a surprise. Oh Lily Yarn! How luxurious you are! There are six skeins and I'm swatching now to see what possible projects could use this yarn. I'm really into cardis right now, so maybe a cardi? One cannot have too many cardis.

I also received my first subscription issue of Interweave Knits, thanks to Miss Jenny from High Energy Knits. I immediately became intrigued with this delicate vintage cardigan with its fabulous front band edging and the wraparound cardigan with the mile-long sash on the cover.

*Now, it's time for: SALSA MEXICANA!


february_23_2005_salsa.jpg


(Come on. You didn't think I'd close this entry without sharing my own original recipe for salsa mexicana [or salsa botanera] straight from Me-ji-co, did you? After all, it's what gets my knitting needles clicking during some free weekend afternoons.)

RECIPE FOR SALSA MEXICANA!

Ingredients:
3 or 4 fresh round tomatos.
2 to 5 chiles serranos, or small green chile peppers.
1 white onion.
Fresh cilantro.
1 tsp sunflower or corn oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Recommendation: Don't substitute any of this unless you want to change the taste of the salsa. 1 tsp of sunflower or corn oil doesn't hurt, and use dried cilantro only if you can't get it fresh.

How to:
Peel tomatos. Here's how I do it: Put water to boil in a saucepan. When it boils, turn off heat. Add tomatos and leave them there for about 3 minutes. Remove tomatos. Let cool for a couple of seconds. Peel off skin. (If they haven't started to peel when taken out of the water, just poke with the tip of a knife and start peeling.) Chop tomatos. (This extra step is worth it. Don't use canned tomatos!)

Finely chop onion.

Rinse cilantro in cold water. Shake off excess water and gently pat dry with paper towel. Finely chop.

Wash peppers and dry carefully. In a small frying pan over medium heat, roast peppers for a few minutes. You can add a wee bit of vegetable oil if you want. (Crack open windows if you find yourself coughing from the smell of peppers roasting. Hehe.) Once roasted, chop peppers.

Note about peppers: I usually use about 4 to 5 chiles serranos, even more if I'm going to serve the salsa to family members who are used to eating spicy food, and I chop them finely. If you're not used to eating spicy, reduce to 1 or 2 peppers (don't chop too finely) and pop a TUMS the next day.

Mix all ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste, and one tsp of vegetable oil.

Serve as botana, or aperitif, with unsalted corn tortilla chips. All that vitamin A will get your needles clicking. Arriba!

The Naughty Sleeve Saga, Part Deux.

winter2005_salina_centerpullball.jpg
Look, just look at what she's done to me!
I have become a center-pull ball.


Take out a red marker and circle this day on your calendar, friends, because I decided to not procrastinate with my failed second sleeve of Salina and, instead of keeping said failed sleeve stuffed in a bag until next winter [yes, I was very tempted to stick that bad boy in the closet], I went ahead and just ripped out. Rip, rip, rip. Like the Phoenix from the ashes the sleeve will arise from the center-pull ball.

To further motivate myself I've gone ahead and started steam-blocking the other completed pieces of Salina, so my apartment smells like a barn right now. (Oh, the tweedy freshness of Rowan Felted Tweed!) Strangely enough, blocking made me feel like completion of Salina isn't so far away. The mind works in mysterious ways.

I'm doing other knitting, too. I decided to ROCK ON with the right front piece of the Kid Mohair cardigan and knit right through it over a couple of evenings. (I can't help using the phrase "rock on" because the sparkle in the fabric makes me want to do it. Sparkle in the knits = rock star.) And here's the right front piece looking all rumpled and in need of a session with the blocking board:


winter2005_kidmohair_front.jpg


Now that I've rocked the right front piece I will rock on with the left front piece and maybe even ROCK OUT with the seaming. [Insert loud guitar screech, big hair band from the 80s style.]

I've also got chocolate to motivate me. Hang onto your taste buds for this shot:


march_02_2005_evelyn2.jpg
They're SEE'S CANDIES.
[Heart beats faster.]


My pal Evelyn, a.k.a. Golden Goddess of Skinny Rabbit Universe, sent those over to me along with some peanut butter/chocolate chips [!] and a copy of IK. The batch of See's Candies has my favorites: Peanut clusters. Oh, See's peanut clusters! For you I will rip out five Salina sleeves. Six, maybe.

Rock on.

Looks like someone had herself a little seaming party.

winter2005_kidmohair_cardi.jpg
Oh, go on. Click, make big.


Why, it's a seamed Kid Mohair cardi! But before you go scrolling down the page in search of customary whack rabbit dance shots, you might want to cool your jets there. What's missing from this picture?

a) Ribbed bands for the neck edge.
b) Big ole button the size of a dinner plate.
c) Weave in ends.
d) All of the above.

If you checked (d) all of the above you get a gold star on your forehead*. The Kid Mohair cardi, despite it's seemingly put-together appearance at first glance, is definitely not finished. But it's already seamed, and that makes me happy because even though I like to take time and care when I seam my knits, it doesn't mean I fully enjoy doing it. (That's why seaming parties are a tradition chez Skinny Rabbit - a cocktail and chatter with Monsieur Le Hubby make seaming more fun, believe me.)

Seaming blab: I used the main yarn to join all seams. [Oh! How I was tempted to use embroidery floss for the mohair cardi! But not this time, thanks.] Shoulders were shaped via short rows, bound off, and joined using backstitch. (I had initially tried the three-needle bind-off but was not at all happy with how it looked in this yarn.) Everything else was joined using mattress stitch. I thought sewing would be difficult with the slightly lumpy mohair, but it was surprisingly easy and I'm pleased with how the seams look.

Now I just need to get cracking on the front bands. Sigh. The front bands are in dreaded 1x1 ribbing. But! They've got some short row shaping, which is always entertaining. I promise not to procrastinate so I can have some fun working those short rows. Plus, I'd love to get this cardi done so I can wear it to dinner at a new Mexican restaurant in Vieux Lyon. I hear that it's owned and operated by a family from Mexico City so I'm looking forward to taking a look at that menu. Arriba!

[Footnote: One of the best references I own for hiding short row wraps has got to be Vogue Knitting's Ultimate Knitting Book.]

*Kids in Mexico get gold star stickers on their foreheads as reward for good work in school. It's cute to see them walking around with a gold star that shows everyone that they did well in school that day. If I don't procrastinate on the front bands of the cardi I'll put a gold star on my forehead when I wear the cardi. (Okay, maybe not to the restaurant.)

The good, the bad and the ugly.

winter2005_kidmohair_cardi_blocking.jpg
Do you mind? I'm blocking here.


First, the good:

I finally finished my Kid Mohair cardi!

But here comes the bad:

I haven't been able to debut it. It is, as I type this, pinned like the bad boy that it is to my "blocking board".

Why isn't it ready for wear? Here's the ugly one endures when one finishes a Kid Mohair cardi:

Early Saturday morning, one discovers one has one's apartment all to oneself. Makes morning coffee and spends more time than necessary doing one thing: Sewing the blasted 1x1 rib front bands together at the back. First tries backstitch. Hmm...not bad. But! Anal-retentive self thinks: "I bet it would look even better if it were grafted". Tries grafting. Decides it makes the join [remember, this is Kid Mohair] look like a hairball a cat spit up. Oops! Rips out and tries grafting on knit one, purl one ribbing described in Vogue Knitting. Discovers that it looks like something a cat used to sharpen its claws. Painfully rips out again. Decides that backstitch was the way to go the first time and mentally kicks oneself in the butt for having ripped it out in the first place. Does the freaking backstitch. AGAIN.

After ripping out front band seam as described above, decides that fudging wouldn't be a good idea to sew the bands to the front neck edges. (Bands were knit at tighter gauge than cardi, so bands have more stitches than front neck edges.) Does math. Starts sewing. Puts cardi aside as family wakes up and interrupts work.

That evening, resumes sewing of front bands to cardi. Sews them successfully. Runs excitedly to mirror to try on cardi. Discovers that front bands flare out hideously. Shakes fist in air. Throws cardi in knitting bag. Feels that one is a lousy knitter and vows to run away and join the circus.

Early next morning, gives cardi another chance. Painfully rips out front bands. Changes stitch to stitch ratio when sewing in an attempt to fix the hideous flare. Tries on cardi again. Damn flare is still there. Realizes that Phildar technical editors were smoking crack when writing pattern. Puts cardi aside and decides to rip out - AGAIN - and shorten front bands even though crack-smoking pattern writers want them longer.

Next day, front bands are ripped out, shortened about 4 cm and then backstitched - one assumes - correctly. Starts sewing front bands again and about ten mins into the task discovers that a BONEHEAD MOMENT occurred: When joining bands at the back (for the third time, mind you) one of the bands was twisted around. Argh. Curses fly about like it's a party of sailors. Rips out backstitch, turns band correctly and resews. Sewing of front bands resumes and is completed. Runs to mirror to try on cardi and the chorus of Handel's Messiah thunders in the background as one discovers that the front bands look great. [Look, Ma! No flare!] Puts cardi aside.

Early next morning, ribbon ties are sewn to the inside for closure. Button gets sewn on. Runs to mirror to try on cardi. Screams in horror when seeing that front parts look strangely bunched-up when cardi is closed. Rips out button and tries sewing on again, this time carefully marking the place where it would look best. Sews on again. Runs to mirror. Improved, but not much. Throws cardi aside and swears to put it at the bottom of the dog's bed for causing such headaches.

Heads out, has hot chocolate and lemon pie in patisserie. In the middle of a bite of lemon pie, has a brief Einstein moment when the following flashes in one's mind like a neon sign: BLOCK THE DICKENS OUT OF THE FRONT PARTS, SLAPPY.

Returns home. Looks carefully at cardi. Realizes that front parts look bunched up when closed because the double decreases for neck shaping cause slightly wonky row tension. Pulls out blocking board, fills iron with water, pins the cardi down and gives the neck shaping a steaming it'll never forget. Tries on cardi one hour later and tap dances in front of the mirror. [Look, Ma! Nice fronts!]

Decides that the cardi needs refreshing after all that front band ripping. Throws it in gentle cycle and washes with special wool soap. Pulls cardi out of washing machine and mentally praises the yarn gods for making Kid Mohair because it washes like a dream. Places cardi on blocking board again, pins down the neck shaping again (just in case), and hopes for a Kid Mohair cardi debut this weekend. Has pre-celebration drink.

[Whew.]

Finished Kid Mohair cardi, bagels and a fresque.

Going layered*, bay-bee!

This is the stand-still-like-a-mannequin shot.
[Click here for the BIG "Look, Ma! No hands" shot.]
[Wanna see another view and closeups?]


Project details: Kid Mohair cardi, pattern 4 from Phildar's Kid Mohair pattern leaflet 2005. I knit the 34/36 size, and used less than 5 skeins of Kid Mohair in Amande and 3 skeins of Sunset in Azur. And because the knitting gods are being kind to me after the torturous finishing nightmare I had with this cardi, Saturday was IDEAL Kid Mohair cardi weather so I was able to give the cardi a proper debut! I was planning on wearing the cardi for dinner out, but with perfect daytime cardi weather, my impatient self just couldn't wait until the evening to wear it. I wore it out to lunch, for a visit downtown, grocery shopping and then for a manicure. And here's a photo of the cardi acting like a tourist at la fresque des Lyonnais during its debut (with a BONUS of a mural slideshow!):

Where's Rabbit?

[Zoom in on part of the middle of the fresque!]
[You knew I was going to include a slideshow too, right?]


["I Love Lyon" footnote: La fresque des Lyonnais is found on the corner of quai St-Antoine and rue de la Martinière in the first arrondissement. The mural is on all sides of the building, and the side shown in the photo above has images of luminaries from and around Lyon. The higher you go up the fresque, the further you go back in time. Lyon is a literal gallery of trompe l'oeil murals; another one I've shown previously is le mur des canuts where I debuted my Phil Ruban cardi. End of "I Love Lyon" footnote.]

Things I did when I knit the cardi: Lemme see...tubular cast-on for the hem and cuffs. Shoulders were joined using backstitch. Sleeve and side seams were joined using mattress stitch. Front bands were also sewn using mattress stitch. The buttonhole was easy; while sewing the front band to the neck a space was left open for the button. That's it! But being the anal-retentive perfectionist that I am, I didn't weave in the ends where the buttonhole was located. I got a crochet hook and used the ends to create a slip stitch finish around the free edges of the buttonhole. Oh! And the button. I am so enamored with that button. I ordered it at my local Phildar boutique as it's the one called for in the pattern. It's pearly and shiny and the right shade of green and almost wafer-like in its thinness. And that's the end of my long run-on sentence because it's time for customary whack dance rabbit shots, where I RAWKED OUT with my sparkly cardi that makes me wannabe a rock star:




*I had initially planned on wearing the cardi with high-waisted tweed pants and a tucked-in blouse. But while window shopping a few weeks ago I saw the layered look for spring all over the shop window displays in Lyon: These little-nothing tops and camisoles worn long under short feminine cardis. When I saw this lacy camisole, I just had to get it so I could wear it this way under my Kid Mohair cardi and with what my husband calls my "rock star" jeans. After years of wearing stuffy lawyer attire, it gives me a kick to knit this kind of stuff and wear it any way I please. I love me a good trend.