Thursday, September 27, 2007

A small problem.

As you may recall, I am knitting a sweater for a 7-14 year old Afghani child. That's a pretty big range, so I didn't worry about gauge or fitting or anything. I just picked out some yarn and a stitch pattern and cast on what seemed like "enough" stitches. I was wrong.

Here is the sweater body being modelled by my almost-four year old daughter. (It's a tube without armholes, so she can't put it on.) I don't care how skinny those Afghani kids are, this isn't going to work.

Now of course I noticed almost immediately that it was pretty small, but I kept on knitting while I wondered how small was too small, and by the time I worked that one out, I had gone too far to think of ripping it back. So then I had quite a while more to think about how I was going to deal with the problem.

First I thought I'd just make a little sweater and send it. But that seemed like giving up, and I thought of some cold 8 year old shivering in the brutal Afghani winter (cue Dr. Zhivago theme) and I just couldn't do it.

So I decided to slice it up the sides -- that's why I didn't bother with armholes -- and insert these:

Basically I'm making a square set-in sleeve by widening the body under the armholes instead of by decreasing the body width at the armholes.

There was one hitch:

Because I hadn't planned on cutting this sweater open, the end of round was not in a convenient place. (A convenient place is the middle of your cutting lines, so that you have solid fabric on each side.) So I sewed it one stitch over (after darning in the ends) and sewed it twice; it seems like it will hold well enough.

Here are the front and back, separated, and one of the side inserts. I'm sewing those in now. They're live at the top so I can make them longer or shorter as seems appropriate.

Looking at Charlotte, I wonder -- is that sweater too short? It's 13" (33 cm) which I thought was pretty good since my measurement chart gives armhole depth and armhole to waist both as 5 1/2" for a size 8. I picked size 8 because that has a cross-shoulder width that approximates the size of this sweater. So then I figured this would give me shoulder to natural waist plus a couple of inches of ribbing.

I could make it longer by adding a little at the shoulder but then the neck would dip down pretty far. It's already 3" deep because I wanted to make sure it would go over someone's head easily. Should I add a little at the shoulder? What do you think?

Oh, and while I've been knitting this sweater I've also been reading Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top Down. What a great book! I can't believe I've never read it before. I had no idea how much it covered. I can't wait to knit something -- anything, really -- from the top down. Except of course that I'm busy knitting from the body up and then cutting it into pieces.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Style or substance?

I'm not much of a charity knitter. I'm picky about what I knit and especially about what I knit with. If someone wants acrylic sweaters for babies, I'll send them a check, but I won't knit those sweaters! And I always have so many things I want to knit that squeezing in another project and meeting a deadline is hard.

But I have knitted (a little) for Dulaan and for Afghans for Afghans, because I was persuaded that handknit wool garments were really wanted and useful in those places. I particularly enjoy the little lecture on the Afghans for Afghans site about Why Wool is Best.

I had, however, pretty much forgotten about Afghans for Afghans until I read that they were moving the due date up this year, to October 12th which is pretty soon. So of course I decided I had to make a sweater.

I'm using some Icelandic wool that I bought in 1986, enough for two or three sweaters. I only made one, and the rest has been languishing all this time. I've moved it from Chicago to Vermont to Michigan to Minnesota to Oklahoma. (Yes, I am a packrat.) It's a sturdy wool -- some might even say a little harsh -- and the sweater I did make looks brand new. Surely this wool is suited for Afghanistan.

It was purple, teal, and white -- you could date it to 1986 even if you had no idea when it was from! I dyed the white red, orange, fuschia, and yellow. The yellow was supposed to be gold but instead is a screaming lemon, so I might not use it. But the rest are nice.

I'm using a pattern from Anna Zilboorg's book on Turkish stockings -- not even close to Afghanistan but I wanted something a little different. Of course, now that it's knitting up, it looks sort of like a Sanquhar check that wasn't alternated, if that makes any sense. What I mean is, it doesn't look all that unusual to me. But at least the pattern has a cool name: Well Buckets. Makes no sense to me, either.

We were asked to focus on 7-14 year old kids. Unfortunately this looks more like about a 5 year old at best. I'm going to make it long and hope there's a skinny Afghan kid who needs a new sweater.

So here's the thing: if I hadn't given knitting for Afghanis a thought until I saw it on someone else's blog, and I'm all excited about using up my ancient yarn, etc., etc., am I really being generous? Or am I just amusing myself in a trendy way? I am reminded of some very uncomfortable passages in Angela Thirkell's novels, about do-gooder Englishwomen selling Eastern European handicrafts to raise money for refugees. But I tell myself some kid is going to be warmer, right?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fuzzy worsted?

Take a look at this yarn:

It is Corriedale x Churro fleece, combed with English combs, and spun worsted. I am not all that great at worsted spinning but I was very careful to keep the twist from running up into the fiber.

It is fuzzy!

I didn't even think that was possible. As I spun I could see that the yarn was fuzzy, but somehow I thought that might change with plying and finishing. It didn't.

So this morning I sat down and re-read big chunks of Teal's book (yes, that's why the laundry isn't done and the packages aren't mailed or even, for that matter, packaged up) and it seems to me that I might need to make a roving out of my sliver, by inserting twist before spinning.

I tried that way back when I first started combing a million years ago but abandoned it almost right away, and really, I've never seen fuzzy worsted before. Has anyone else? Does anyone else go through an intermediate "roving-making" stage after combing and before a final spinning?

I'm hoping to make a sweater for myself out of this wool, this winter. Last winter I spun up some woolen yarn and knitted swatches out of it; they are fuzzy and lovely but I think they might pill up quickly. That's why I tried the worsted spinning -- to see if it would make a more durable yarn. I can't wait to knit up a swatch and compare it with last winter's (except that I can't find them right now). Maybe this wool just wants to be fuzzy?

Also, this is a low twist yarn. But I should be able to make a smooth low twist yarn, right?

Friday, September 07, 2007


I've finally finished a spinning project I've been working on for a couple of months: 5 batts of Abby Franquemont's superwash / alpaca / nylon sock blend in Tiger Lily. It has been a pure joy to spin, so I don't know why it has taken so long -- life just gets in the way sometimes, I guess.

The top skein is a three ply; the bottom one is Navajo plied, although not with any great attention to color changes, so there is some barber-poling. The first skein should give me a tweed fabric, the second one, a striped fabric.

Following some interesting posts of Abby's on twist I decided to spin a soft single and then ply it up harder, without worrying about a balanced yarn. Looking at it, I almost wish I had put a little more plying twist in. But first I'll knit it up and see what it's like to work with and how it wears.

I love this yarn & can't wait to start knitting with it. But I do have some decisions to make. I have about 375 yards of each yarn. I haven't figured wpi yet, but I think it's a little heavier than standard sock yarn. So maybe I have enough for two pairs of short socks. But maybe I don't.

I think the safest bet would be to make toe-up socks, and to plan for them to be knee-high. I need some longer socks for colder weather when my standard short socks just aren't enough. BUT the question is -- do I make one sock from each yarn? Or both feet from one yarn and both legs from another? Or mix & match? Maybe I will just start knitting one sock and see where it takes me.

Here are a couple of closeups. Don't the colors just make you want to sing? Part of me wants to use the yarn for something more "special" than socks but another part of me (my feet) wants cozy warm socks to cheer me up in the middle of winter. Not that we have winter here, but that's another story...

Isn't it interesting how some of the alpaca fibers aren't dyed? (At least I'm guessing that's what they are. Click for big if you can't see them. ) They make a little shaggy halo that might or might not affect the final socks; we'll have to see.

So the real question is: do I finish my current socks before casting on for these?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gotta knit!

It is September and I want to be knitting something Substantial. Enough with the socks already. I want a Garment.

So if I were to work a quick and probably inaccurate gauge swatch with some bulky handspun (last seen here) and cast on without any more planning than I can do while packing a lunch for a sideways, randomly striped vest, what do you suppose the odds are that it will turn out to be something I can wear and enjoy?

Just asking.