Monday, March 18, 2019

Time to Regroup

Sometimes everything rolls along smoothly, and other times there are nonstop bumps in the road. I’ve hit a bumpy stretch with my knitting.

I recently started knitting more tops but, as with most new things, there’s a learning curve involved. I’m learning to recognize which styles work well for my body type, which adjustments might be needed to fine-tune the fit, and which yarns will suit both the patterns and how I intend to wear the garments.

In 2014, I knit a pullover that fit well with minimal adjustments: Elphaba Pullover by Mary Annarella. Last month, I knit it again with different yarn. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a third version with yet another type of yarn. Each was knit in the same size and the gauge is consistent, but ...

Front view of three sweaters stacked on one another, showing that they progress from narrowest to widest.

The red is the original sweater, the lavender is last month’s attempt, and the gray striped version is my unfinished current project. Notice that they keep growing wider!

I don’t think the problem is with the pattern. The instructions are straightforward, and the math between the stitch counts and the schematic is sound. And I know it can turn out correctly because I’ve done it once already.

The red sweater, knit with 100% merino wool yarn, has been worn and laundered quite a bit over the years. It’s possible that it was larger when it first came off the needles and has shrunk over time.

The lavender sweater was knit with Plymouth Yarn Reserve Sport, which is a blend of 45% wool, 35% silk, and 20% rayon from bamboo. Based on how much the sweater has grown in the few times I’ve tried it on — yes, it’s longer now than it was when I posted about it — I think any bounce from the wool is being overpowered by the drape of the silk and bamboo.

The gray sweater was knit with an assortment of sock yarns. Many of the yarns are 100% wool, although some have a small amount of nylon. It’s the widest sweater of the three, but look at this photo:

Side view of the necklines of three sweaters, showing the variation in the depth of each neckline.

I didn’t even finish the neckline yet for the striped sweater — which would first uncurl the edge upward, then raise it by another 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) or so — and already it comes up higher than the other two necklines. But the armholes aren’t any shorter than those on the other two sweaters. Granted this sweater hasn’t been blocked yet, but something is definitely not right.

It might be another yarn issue. If so, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. I think it’s more likely that something about my knitting is affecting the result. Whatever it is, it’s pointing toward going down a size in my next attempt.

Yes, you read that correctly. As much as I’d like to unravel these two newest sweaters and move on to something simpler, I’m determined to get at least one wearable pullover out of this experience!

So if you need me, I’ll be over here bumping along as I undo weeks of knitting and begin again.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Reading About Making

It’s been a little longer than usual since I last posted. I’ve been giving myself permission not to write a post simply for the sake of staying on a schedule. While I’ve been busy with knitting and spinning, none of the projects are ready for an update.

But I have an update on books I've been reading.

I’m usually an avid reader and a frequent library user, but I’ve been struggling since we moved in 2017. My favorite way to choose my next book is to browse the new book shelves in the library. Over the years, I’ve come across some great books that I would never have noticed otherwise. The library system in our new home has been a disappointment in this and other ways.

Rather than focusing on the negative, I’m trying to get all that I can out of our library system this year. So far in 2019, I’ve read six books about making:

  • The Graphic Design Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters by Steven Heller and Gail Anderson. Each page in this book features a different idea for conveying messages through graphic design. None of the ideas were new to me, but it was a fun refresher.
  • The Typography Idea Book: Inspiration from 50 Masters by Gail Anderson and Steven Heller. In a similar format to the previous book, this book features ideas for using type. Again, there was nothing new here. This time, though, revisiting the ideas was more boring than fun. Maybe if I hadn’t read it on the heels of the previous book it would have been more appealing.
  • Designing for Newspapers and Magazines by N. E. Osselton. If you haven’t picked up on it already, by day I work in graphic design. This book caught my eye because it’s specific to the niche of designing for journalism. But it came out in 2003, which might as well be a million years ago when it comes to the publishing industry. While the actual layout information is good, some of the information on how to produce those layouts is sorely out of date.
  • Creative Pep Talk: Inspiration from 50 Artists by Andy J. Miller. I recently discovered the Creative Pep Talk podcast, so the title connected in my brain right away. Each spread has some text from a designer on the left and a piece of their artwork referencing the text on the right. While the range of design styles kept me interested, it quickly felt repetitive and I was disappointed by how many pieces were clearly recycled from previous projects. I’m all for working smarter, not harder, but in some cases the “inspirational” message was nothing more than an explanation of the original project or random rambling lacking in any semblance of “pep.”
  • Spin Control by Amy King. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I’m a spindler. This book is geared toward spinning on a wheel, so I found the information useful but not directly applicable to how I spin fiber. I think it could be a good resource for beginners.
  • Spinning in the Old Way: How (and Why) to Make Your Own Yarn with a High-Whorl Handspindle by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts. This book on spinning is more relevant to me as a spinner. None of the information was new to me, but I think it’s a solid reference book. The black and white line illustrations might be more confusing for beginners than a source with photos. The author is very opinionated about techniques that she likes and dislikes, which may not sit well with some readers.

I’m off to a good start with reading this year. I’ve learned about a couple of used book stores that I plan to visit soon, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to keep it up.

What books about making are on your reading list?

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Elphaba Revisited

In 2014, I knit the Elphaba Pullover by Mary Annarella in madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light. It has a classic design, and the pattern is easy to follow. I still wear the sweater quite a bit in cooler weather.

When I ripped out the Knit Diamond Pullover last month and was looking for a new pattern with which to use the yarn, the Elphaba Pullover quickly came to mind. The Mauve Mix colorway in Plymouth Yarn Reserve Sport would look quite different from the deep red Tart colorway used in my first version.

I had knit the 37-inch (94 cm) size for the first version. At the time, it allowed 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) of positive ease. My body has changed over the years, so the same size sweater now allows 1.5 inches of negative ease. Since I still like the fit of the first version, and the pattern is intended for negative ease anyway, I stayed with the 37-inch size.

I had added about three inches to the overall length and included one more waist decrease for the first sweater. This time, I added the same amount of length but kept the waist decreases as written in the pattern.

I achieved gauge on US-4 (3.5 mm) needles. And yet, when I finished the pullover and compared it to my original version, this one is noticeably larger by about four inches (10 cm) in both length and width.

Did my gauge change between the swatch and the project? Or was there still some kink in the unraveled yarn that loosened up after blocking? No, measurements of the blocked sweater are still showing the correct gauge.

Did the first sweater shrink over the years? That's entirely possible, and would make the new sweater seem overlarge in a comparison.

Does the Tosh Merino Light hang differently than the Reserve Sport? I think this is also possible. The first is made of 100% merino wool; the second is a blend of 45% wool, 35% silk, and 20% rayon from bamboo. The silk and rayon could very well be affecting the overall grip and elasticity of the yarn.

The good news is that the fit still works. I’m back to having a pullover with a little positive ease, as I initially had with the first version. And I rarely complain about extra length in my clothes.

And, hey, in a few years it might shrink or I might grow.