Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pretty little one that I adore...

Ta-da! As I promised in a recent post, I have knit something for myself, and WOW does it feel good! I present to you: My Cherie Amour! It fits like a dream, if I do say so myself! And it had the most pleasant side-effect of putting the Stevie Wonder song into my head for pretty much the entire month I was knitting it... good thing I love that tune!

And yes, it IS supposed to be that low-cut -- it's a layering piece. The under-layer, a white cami, is just really hard to see! (OK, I am pale.) Check out a full-length shot here, where thanks to a bit of sunshine it looks even more immodest, as you can't see the cami at all! I tried to adjust the colour in Photoshop Elements but apparently I am not as good at photo editing as I am at knitting, because I just could not figure out how to use the burn and dodge tools to fix this problem, even after reading the Help file. Oh well. One of these days I will sit down and really learn how to use the program, maybe even take a class.

Anyway, I digress. Although I made two small mistakes in the lace (I challenge you to find them!), this is by far the best sweater I have yet made in my life. The yarn is so deliciously soft… if you ever make anything out of Misti Alpaca Chunky, people will want to pet you! (The colour is Eggplant, if you're wondering.) I could not be happier with this sweater.

I bought the yarn at half-price from Cloth & Clay's closing sale in the spring (hmm... they really need to take down their web page), with the intention of making this very pattern by Ashley Adams Moncrief from the Fall 2007 Knitty. I started swatching for it just over a month ago, aiming to finish it in time for the K-W Knitters' Fair. Well, Last-Minute Lisa was still knitting and blocking on Friday night until bedtime, hurrying the blocking with my iron and hairdryer! I set my alarm early and hoped to finish the seaming Saturday morning before going to the Fair, but I didn’t leave myself enough time. So I brought the pieces with me, then after I had finished my volunteer gig, I sat myself down at a table in the lunch area, where I bound off and seamed the second sleeve and attached the sleeves to the bodice. I met some lovely knitters while doing so, including Divy, which made the tedious chore much more enjoyable. (Thanks for the company!) It took a LONG time (which cut into my shopping, which is probably just as well… it was a dangerous place for a credit card to be!) but it was worth being able to show it off to some of my friends who were there! (I even got a little cheer from some of the people nearby when I put it on and it fit so well!) JennyP and Stickyfingers/NonStopKnitter just missed seeing it... Sweet Pea needed to get home for her nap. I did get to show it off to Knitteopath (a.k.a. Julia, the friend who got me going on this with her "You're a saint" comment... Thanks hon!) and Etcgirl -- they were so encouraging! I also ran into GlennaC, who was wearing the most gorgeous lace shawl, and she was sweet enough to mention my accomplishment on her blog post about the Fair -- Thanks Glenna!! :)

The pattern is fairly well written – as others have noted before me, the neckline decrease section was a bit challenging/unclear, but I did manage to figure it out. Oh, and even with EZ's nice stretchy loose sewn bind-off, the armholes JUST fit my skinny arms – I definitely would have had trouble getting into this if my upper arms had been chunkier! The lace patterns were super easy to memorize, and with my beloved KnitPicks Options 6.5 mm needles (4.5 mm on the ribbing) and just over 6 skeins of yarn (maybe 675 yards including swatches), it was a FAST knit... very nearly instant gratification, as sweater-knitting goes! Ravelers who might still be interested after reading all my blathering here may check out Cherie's Ravelry page...

I made a couple of modifications to the pattern; I lengthened the sleeves by about 2 inches and omitted the sleeve ribbing, and I lengthened the skirt by 5 pattern repeats. (The designer must be rather petite, I guess. At 5'6" I would hardly call myself an Amazon. I did want the hem to fall lower than the original sweater, though, as I think this length is more flattering on me.) I was really glad I hadn’t bound off the first sleeve before blocking it (I just left it on the KnitPicks Options cable with cable ends) and measuring it on me, because I did end up having to knit it longer. And that way I knew exactly how long I needed to knit the second sleeve!

If I were to make this again, I would purchase DPNs to knit the sleeves in the round (I didn’t have any in the 6.5 mm size), especially since there is no sleeve cap, they’re just tubes once you seam them up. I tried magic looping, but it wasn’t for me, so I knit them flat. As I suspected, sewing that sleeve seam was a pain, which I could have avoided.

Careful swatching pays off if you substitute yarns as I did; the pattern called for 9 mm needles, and with the rate at which this alpaca relaxes and grows on wetting/blocking, I would have ended up with a potato sack had I cast on with that size of needles!

All in all, this sweater has been a great present to myself, even better than the fabulous Roving Spinners handspun by Linda Janssen, gorgeous buttons, Fleece Artist Trail Socks, and Noro Kureyon Sock yarn I bought! And it has inspired yet MORE knitting for me: on getting home, I immediately cast on a Sunday Market Shawl for myself using the irresistible handspun! Mmm, shiny...

P.S. That is a tomato plant growing behind me, climbing up the crab-apple tree. I am standing up in this picture; the thing is taller than I am. Hugest dang tomato plant I ever saw in my life. Now if some more of its miniature sweet yellow pear tomatoes would just ripen before frost... what a shame it would be to lose the bounty from such an astonishing monster!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Happy end of summer!

My tomatoes are taking their sweet time ripening, but while I was on vacation last week, I picked these beauties off our Dolgo and turned them into crab apple jelly. Aren't they gorgeous? I also went to the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market, where I picked up a bunch of wonderful produce, including a LOT of basil, which I promptly turned into pesto. I also found a new quilt for my bed, which will be the basis for some redecorating I plan to do (and blog about) later this fall.

It was a busy holiday week. We saw Tim & Margaret in St. Thomas (Derek helped Tim with some landscaping), dropped in on Sabina & Mitch in London, visited with Al and the recuperating Kristen in Welland, spent some quality time at the farm (which included working on a flowerbed), and also took a couple of days to just kick back, relax, and veg out here at home. My favourite vacation day was this past Sunday, when we went to Point Farms Provincial Park for a short hike and a lovely swim in Lake Huron, followed by dinner at Paddy O'Neil's in Goderich.

And, I got to knit -- as promised in a previous post, I cast on a sweater for myself last month, and it's coming along beautifully. It's Cherie Amour by Ashley Adams Moncrief, from the Fall 2007 Knitty. I love this pattern! (It's a good thing I like the Stevie Wonder song, because I keep hearing it in my head and humming it as I work on this.) I can hardly wait to wear it. I'm hoping to have it done in time for the K-W Knitters' Fair on September 13, where I will be volunteering. I'll devote a full post to it when it's done, but for those Ravelers who are curious, you can take a look at Cherie's Ravelry page here.

In other knitting news (which I've been meaning to share for a while), my Grape Tomato was on Knitting Daily TV!! You can see it here by scrolling down the page to section 102-5, "The Sweater, You Made It" (mine is the purple one at the bottom right). They saw my Tomato on Ravelry in the spring and asked whether they could use it (they apparently liked my mods), so of course I said yes and mailed it to them! (And yes, they did return it promptly when they were done with it.)

I should purchase the DVD of that Knitting Daily TV episode; I can't watch it since we turned off our satellite TV subscription in order to focus on watching DVDs and online TV instead. I've noticed that I seem to be more diligent and productive at home since we've made this change, too -- now I do the dishes pretty much every night (like a real grown-up) instead of letting them sit around for days so I can watch some more Mike Holmes or whatever. I hardly miss it. I'm listening to more music too.

Finally, as part of some recent blog design tinkering, I thought about sticking some widgets in the sidebar, but I decided instead that from time to time I'll devote a blog post to a brief snapshot of what else I am up to.
  • Reading: Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy (perfect bedtime reading)
  • Watching: Angel, Season 1 (BTW Lorne, we're finally done with Buffy, and we'll give your DVDs back when you visit at the end of the month -- and you can borrow Angel if you like.)
  • Listening to: Best of Howard Jones (Ah, the memories!)
  • Weight Watchers progress: 10 pounds lost so far (approximately halfway to my goal weight... my enthusiasm is flagging a bit though, so if you have any encouragement, I would welcome it!)
  • Eating: Fruit smoothies (I cut up and froze a bunch of gorgeous ripe peaches, and bought some frozen mixed berries -- whir them up with skim milk in the blender = YUM! Awesome for breakfast!)
  • Non-knitting WIP (work in progress): Refinishing the kitchen table (picture to be blogged when this is complete.)
  • On my mind: Passive-aggressiveness... I have a hard time directly asking for what I want sometimes. I am trying to weed out this insidiously bad habit I have of expecting people (especially Derek) to read my mind when I make a statement instead of a request. Does anyone else struggle with this problem? Any thoughts on conquering it?
How about you out there? What are you all up to?