It is accomplished

Where Oh Where have I been?

“It is accomplished” – a Death

On the 24th June last I got some devastating news. A dear friend of mine died suddenly while he was on his holidays in Lanzerote. I’ve been wondering about how to blog about this for ages. I wanted to be able to give you all a feeling of what this man was like and how much he meant to me. But words fail me. I don’t have the eloquence to convey his brilliance. 

He was a shining light snuffed out too soon and I’m still foundering in the dark. 

Once I realised that I’m never going to be able to give an adequate impression of him or what his loss has meant for me I realised I just have to blog-on regardless. 

Why Oh Why am I back?

“It is accomplished” – an FO!

It would have to be a biggie that would get me back to my blog again after such a hiatus, wouldn’t it? Yoouuu betcha! 

One happy customer!

“It is accomplished” – an Achievement!

The completion of this cardigan signifies the huge journey that I have made in my knitting knowledge and ability. A journey that started over three years ago. 

When I knit this cardigan the first time I spent two months knitting; slavishly following the Glenvar pattern as written. The pattern itself posed no challenge: knitting on-the-flat using cables, increases and decreases was very familiar to me. So I spiced things up by learning a few new techniques: 

  • As I came close towards the end of all the knitting I learned about spit-splicing from Lisa in TIK – very effective in the 100% wool Kilcarra I was using.
  • When I had all the pieces ready for sewing, I discovered, through the power of d’Interneh (Knitty’s coffeeshop mainly) a concept I had never come across before: blocking. I did this fastidiously, measuring out all the pieces according to the schematic and waited days for them to dry.
  • When it came to sewing-up all the pieces, I researched widely, bought “Knitting for Dummies” and became adept at invisible seams. I was very impressed with all my attention to detail: you couldn’t tell where the seams were and the sleeve caps melded beautifully in to the armholes.
  • Then when it came to the zip I bought “Domiknitrix – whip your knitting into shape” by Jennifer Stafford and followed her instructions to the letter. Steam it? Check. Pin it? Check. Fit it on again as a double-check? Ah… disaster.

The Behemoth of Epic Proportions

I learned the harsh reality that many a knitter learns only the hard-way: pieces knit to the correct dimensions does not guarantee a well-fitting garment. Later I learned why it is that so many patterns are written in pieces rather than maximizing the benefit of construction through knitting: editors of ladies magazines, where patterns were published, had more understanding of sewing-based construction for garments. Hence all the pieces were knit into the fabric shapes rather than the knit stitches being manipulated to mould the fabric.

Enter: Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara G Walker into my life and my knitting. Enter: radical new ideas such as knitting-from-the-top, calculating gauge, charting my own design, customizing my knit to fit. Oh! and with a few short-rows thrown-in – always with the short-rows! 

The subtle benefit of Short-rows

This project has tested me at every turn. I have documented before how much more it and my knitting conspired to teach me – whether I wanted to learn or not. Even at the very end, when all the knitting was done and all that was left was the zip, I was very nearly thwarted: the original zips went AWOL and a special trip into Dublin City Centre was made to buy a long-enough zip.

And I’m still learning. Even now, as DH is giving the cardigan its first outing in public tomorrow, I’m still thinking I might re-do the cast-off on the cuffs because I’ve just learned Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast-off  (JSSBO) from my latest Cat Bordhi book. However, Bootie (the Ever-wise) pointed out the more likely explanation is that – after three years – I’m not yet ready “to break-up with the cardigan”. 

But, let’s face it: The Behemoth has been vanquished. Debbie Bliss’s Glenvar pattern has been conquered. And what’s more: 

I did it MYYYYYYY Waaaaaaay!

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Sado-Maso-kNit-stick

Would ya take a look at this…?

Yup, I’m at it again! Only this time, I’ve got the colour purple juuuuust right. In fact, it was finding the correct colour purple, at the Knitting & Stitching show at the RDS, that started my down this road – yet again. They say, third time’s a charm. They also say that the definition of madness is to do the same thing repeatedly – in the same way – while expecting a different outcome.

Quick re-cap, shall we?

First there was the original pattern – Glenvar by Debbie Bliss which looks like this.

Glenvar by Debbie Bliss

Then we had what it became in my hands:

The Behemoth of Epic Proportions

Then we had the drive to Rip One / Knit One – and GlenvAaaargh!!! came into being.

Rip One

Knit One

Unfortunately this – by a quirk of gauge (a.k.a. a learning experience) – turned out to be of Petite proportions. You can see from the picture, as it lies alongside the left front of The Behemoth. I thought I had learned everything there was to learn with GlenvAaargh!!!.

But no!

Did you know that the gauge of knitted items, which have been sitting around and relaxing for a while, is markedly different from what you’ll produce with the same yarn and same needles after it’s been frogged? I do – now!

I was willing to overlook the fact that GlenvAaaargh!!! only fit DH – at a stretch. I even worked in an extra two inches along the button band. I did this very cleverly too: vertically, row-by-row, in pattern. Elizabeth would have been proud. She might even have apreciated my wish to overlook the small question of completely forgetting to create a neckline! At all costs, even to dignity itself, I was not willing to admit defeat.

That is, until I encountered the right colour purple. Very quickly – in the time it takes to whip out your wallet and buy 30 more balls of yarn – I decided to give it another go. I also decided that GlenvAaaargh!!! will be mine; afterall, it fits me! I decided that a different neckline – something more crew-neck – will be fine.  Most of all, I decided GlenvAaargh!!! will not be frogged – that much is certain.

And in the meantime, my new top-down version of Glenvar, using just the right colour purple, is progressing very nicely. As before, I’m using instrutions from the class I took at TIK on Knitting a Set-In Sleeve garment from the top-down. However, the hard lessons I learned while knitting GlenvAaargh have paid off:

  • I didn’t lose track of my short rows;
  • I didn’t forget the neckline;
  • I didn’t rush to complete the underarm increases
  • I worked out the pattern repeats so no fancy cabling is needed underarm.

I can’t believe how fast this is knitting up… er… down. The best thing about this method is that all the fun and interesting stuff happens at the beginning: first the short-row shapings for the sholders (try saying that quickly!); then increasing for the neck soon afterwards; and then – since I’m trying the version with the Simultaneous Set-in Sleeves – the increases for the sleeves start soon after that. None of these “events” take too long and there’s nice intervals of following the pattern straight for a while. I’m nearly at the point where I separate the sleeves from the body. At that point, all the hard work of figuring things out is over and it should be a straight-forward, enjoyable knit – all the way to the end.

Here I go again

So, am I’m a sucker for punishment or am I tenacious? If it fits DH, then all of the trials and tribulations – and all of my perseverence – has been worth it.

If it doesn’t… let’s just not go there!

Demented

Come all ye and gather to hear my sad tale:
Of the pattern that thwarts me and taunts me to fail;
Of the cables that twist and the ribs that won’t rip;
Of the short rows that sever’d my mental grip.

You may recall me banging on about mentioning my disasterous first attempt at knitting a cardigan for DH’s 40th Birthday (coughcough in August ’07cough). Oh yes, who could forget that epic: the two-months of knitting; the episodes of running short of wool; the frequent trips to buy yet more; the kilometers of yarn; the production of something big enough for a Sumo Wrestler? I dubbed it “The Behemoth” with all the affection that name inspires! 

Rawrh!

Rawrh!

This would be Bliss!

This would be Bliss!

The Back of Behemoth
The Back of Behemoth

Why is it, when I make mistakes, they can’t be small, intimate affairs? They have to be bombastic productions with stratospheric repercussions. They say you learn from your mistakes. Perhaps my subconscious feels the need to SHOUT LOUD to get my attention. Learning from your mistake would involve doing the same thing, the same way – only better, because of all you’ve learned. Right? Of course not. This knitter has to do the same thing a completely different way and learn a whole new set of mistakes.

 I was inspired by my knitting hero, Elizabeth Zimmermann, to give it another go. Barbara Walker helped point the way: down-wards! and Aileen gave me the knowledge. With that knowledge came courage. I charted, I calculated and I measured my swatch (i.e. The Behemoth – at least it was good for something). I cast-on – provisionally – and started my top-down version of Debbie Bliss’ Glenvar pattern. Mistake #1 of my whole new batch. I call my second attempt “GlenvAargh!!!”, with almost as much affection.

Learn from my mistakes (a.k.a. share the pain)

Follow that line!

Follow that line!

Mistake #1: You can’t knit up and down from a provisional cast-on in ribbing. At least, not without something “hookey” happening to the rib. I was aware of this but decided to lash on, regardless. The result is intriguing but I’m guessing no one’s going to notice.

Mistake #2: Short-row shaping (for the sholders) and cables is not a great combination; it may wreck your head! I got through it and was happy with the result, mainly because I survived it.

Mistake #3: This one is hard to explain – basically my calculations gave me 210sts around; the stitch pattern is based on 10sts; I planned to centre one repeat on the back and work the remaining 200 around. This meant the pattern repeat was not centred on the side seams. I decided this was fine and charted my way all around. According to my charts the front cables & ribs didn’t line up with the back. I didn’t realise that my charting was completely useless until I reached the underarms. Of course, the way the sholders were set up, the front and back cables and ribs have to line up. If I wanted to keep to the pattern I needed a stitch count of 200 or 220.

Mistake #4: My first response on realising Mistake #3 was to opt for a stitch count of 200 and I rushed at joining under the arm-holes. Only then did I realise the impact this would have on the length of the armholes. Similarly, a stitch count of 220 would make them too long. GlenvAargh!!! went on time-out for a long time while I stewed over the repercussions. I couldn’t bear the thought of ripping again.

The other day, a light went on. It was possibly inspired by fellow Knit-Knight (we meet in Swords, you see) Clare (a.k.a. Clarabel on Rav). She’s been knitting Mirage Pullover from More Big Girl Knits. I was very taken with how the lace pattern travels up the side seams and the underarm of the sleeves. I realised I could make a new chart for the side seams, based on 15 sts. Sigh of Relief: Aaaah!

So, I got out my graph paper, pencil, rubber and stuck my tongue into the corner of my mouth as I charted my new territory; focused me. Then I ripped back the two rows to unjoin the fronts and back; fearless me. Then I realised that I’d messed up in my increases for the armholes, previously, so I ripped back another inch; determined me. I used a smaller needle to pick up the stitches as a life-line before I ripped; clever me. Something a little odd happened as I was ripping the back. I figured it out as best I could and knit on; brave me.

Mistake #5 (yup, I’m not done learnin’ any time soon…) Pay more attention when something strange happens, even when you’re ripping. I’ve ripped out a short-row on the back and botched it up beyond all recognition. My short-rows are so good, even I can’t find them. All I know is the cable pattern is out of kilter – the first two repeats don’t need a cable twist for another two rows but the rest of the row is on the cable-twist row. GlenvAargh!!! is on time-out, for a third time, until I figure this one out.

Oh! and while I’m at it: Mistake #101 – you can’t frog ribbing from the bottom up (as the wise lady says – ask me how I know…) The Behemoth bites me even as I slay it.

The Behemoth

Reading The Knitter’s Almanac is such an inspiration! Really!! I actually want to unravel 1.68 kilometers (!!!) of yarn and start again – from scratch! And I’m excited to do it. I can’t wait…

How has this woman got under my skin and into my psyche so bad? Is it the way she talks to you? She has this no-nonsense tone that tells you “you can do it but only if you want to enough” Is it the way she makes you feel you’re back facing your favourite teacher, the one you always sought approval from, the one you tried to do better for. And she’s not going to tolerate you slacking off and messing! Get on with it or get out! And that’s enough exclamation marks from you, miss…

So here’s the plan Mrs EeeZee (easy! easy!) has helped me to concoct: I will do my own version of the Almanac and start with an Aran in January. But not just any Aran, oh-no! Only THE Aran, the one that broke my heart last August. It began life as 15 balls of Kilcarra in purple last May. Very quickly, I realised an error in my measuring – I used a favourite jumper of DH’s prior to purchase and then measured his chest prior to casting on – and a 16th ball had to purchased.

Seven balls travelled with us on holidays in Germany, where the back was almost entirely completed in two weeks. Then, of course, I realised that the balls of substitute yarn I was using had only 80m, whereas I had bought 16 of them thinking they had 88. 16 x 8 = 128, so I was a further 2 balls short. These were quickly purchased.

Then, starting to wise up, I did one of the sleeves before doing the second front, to better gauge whether or not yet more wool was needed. Sure enough, I was soon up to 20 balls of wool. Would you believe this 2oth ball ran out, just as I was completing the collar? Yup, you guessed it… yet another ball was needed just to sew it all up.

So two months of knitting, and 21 balls of 80m yarn (i.e. 1.68km) later, and already one week late for the 40th birthday present it was meant to be, I pinned in the zip and DH tried it on. When…

Dehn!

 Dehn!

DeyhNNnnn!!!

Disaster struck – it was a LOUSY fit…

 Note the “extra Ease” at the chest – we’re talking at least two sizes too big! And the not-so-great way it hangs on the back? Men have weird shapes, yes?

So, now that you have the back-story, cheer me on as I rip this back, take a shower with the hanks, ball them up and cast-on again. This time (ala EZ) I will cast-on based on my gauge (who needs a gauge hat when I’ve got a whole cardigan eh?) to give a good fit around the hip and proceed in-the-round, adding short rows to accommodate the strange way men are built in the back. Then, scariest of scaries, I will use steeks for the arms and for the zip. I think…

Yes, maybe I’m mad but I really can’t wait …

For January…