Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 14

It happened many times during these Olympics. A tremendous speed through the first part of the race, led to a slow down near the finish line. The announcers would scream
"Oh! No! The athlete is slowing down."

The same is true for me. Close to the end of the race, with the finish line in sight, but with sore muscles and mental fatigue, I am slowing down.

I am calling this change in pace, the 'I AMs' of my Olympic Knitting.

I am tired.
I am very tired.
I am sore. I hurt here

and here
and here.
As I heard the Russian Men's figure skater, Evengi Plushenko say during his post skate interview, "I need a massage."

But -
I am finished sleeve number one.
Hemming is all that's left to be done.

I am half finished sleeve number two.

I am going to win a gold medal.

I am convinced pretty sure about that.
"I need

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursdays Are For Knit Group And Survivor

Go Meaford Go! That was the rallying cry we heard coming up the stairs.
Doreen, our used-to-knit friend came waving the flag to cheer us on.

Not that anyone (beyond me and perhaps Bonnie) needed rallying.
Take a look.

One Olympic doll. Done. In a week.

Her Olympic top-down cardigan and matching hat. Done. But she had a near miss. Here is all the yarn she had left.
The yarn equivalent of three, one-hundredth of a second in downhill racing.

Her Olympic, pink, cabled, seed stitch cardigan. Done.


Perfect podium pose.
Five Olympic projects, done. Number six, mere minutes from the finish line.

The 'many tears' vest. Done.

Three pairs of fingerless mittens. Done.


Her two stranded, "knit-all- day-Sunday' hat. Done.

and I, need more time. Both of us still expect Gold. Three more days.

How about Survivor last week? Stephanie of the extraordinary eyebrows, gone.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 12

Day 12!! Four days remain. My needles quiver to think of it because I am stranded on sleeve island - still. Sleeve number one, that is. My calculations tell me that IF I can finish sleeve number one tonight, then I can finish number two by Saturday. that would leave Sunday to crochet the seven buttonholes. Deluded maybe, but I still think I can make the closing ceremonies deadline. Just.

This particular little sweater would look great with elbow-length sleeves. In fact, elbow-length sleeves would particularly suit the Green Sweater. The sweater is short, the sleeves would be short. Elbow-length sleeves would mean a sure finish. Sounds like a great design alteration, don't you think?

It was the question I asked myself last night about 9pm when I tried the sweater on. Yes that's right, I tried it on.

It fits!! It is a very unique sweater, unlike anything I have ever knit. The square, hemmed neckline. The set-in sleeves featuring decreases on the public side. The cropped length. It's lovely. I like it- a lot. And it fits. But the sleeves aren't done.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day ?? Who Can Remember?

Yesterday, when I posted that only two sleeves and seven crocheted buttonholes stand between me and a medal, I actually thought that do-able. After all, I'm knitting Elizabeth Zimmermann, the queen of do-able. But today, I think differently.

I started sleeve number one. Look at this grand accomplishment for yesterday's efforts.
What is that ? Two inches? If I'm lucky.

All of a sudden, I feel - as zieknits commented - the Norwegians breathing down my back. Have you seen their winter sweaters? Those people know how to knit.

Mind you, to start the sleeve, requires picking up stitches, marking off the underarm gusset, marking off the top, two, sleeve stitches, then decreasing at the marked stitches every other round. Those prickly details take time. Today, with the gusset down to the required eleven stitches,
only the sleeve top decreases remain. The knitting should go faster.

The pattern now tells me to try on the sweater to determine desired sleeve length. I am afraid to do that. The sweater looks so great, I fear the disappointment of a no-fit. I will mutter the mantra of every Olympian before I try it on. "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..."

Yet again, I say - "wish me luck."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Half Time

Whew! Coming around that last stretch of steek stitching on the weekend, almost proved disastrous. But I survived the steeking run and am here to tell you that steeking is all theory until the scissors come out. With scissors in hand, it's a whole new sport.

Marie from sel&poivre commented on Friday reminding me to put in a basting stitch. Basting stitches, done in a bright contrasting colour, are a great idea.
Without a basting stitch to guide you as you sew the two rows of tiny, loose machine stitches, it is very easy to slide out of the appointed track and stumble in the soft snow designated row of stitches and have a wonky, crooked row of machine stitches. Which could translate into a wonky, crooked cut. I had a total of five stitches to play with - two on either side of the basting stitch. I could go wonky for only two stitches, before cutting into the sweater itself. Thanks for the reminder, Marie.

With basting complete, I sewed and cut the first steek. The neckline.
It's square!!! Exactly as Elizabeth promised. Bless her heart.

I proceeded to cut all steeks because that is what the pattern said to do. " Secure and cut all steeks..." then, "fold the cut steeks to the inside of the sweater and stitch them down using the sweater wool (I did) or sewing thread."

This is where the near disaster happened. There were so, so many threads hanging loose. Sewing machine threads, basting threads and cut stitch yarn threads. What a mess! I panicked. Could the sweater be recovered? Patiently and slowly - do you know how 'not me' that is - I sewed down every hem. I knit the neckline, the neckline hem and sewed it down.

That done, this is what my sweater looks like.

With a close up of that neckline, because I can't believe it and I think it is so gorgeous. Excuse my immodesty.

While it might be tempting fate to say I can coast from here on in, two sleeves and seven crocheted buttonholes are all that stand between me and a gold medal.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 7. Geometry

Listen up, young knitters. It pays to pay attention in Geometry class. If I had paid attention, I might have an inkling about how I am supposed to turn my tube of knitting into a rectangular sweater with 90' angles.

Elizabeth Zimmermann obviously knew a thing or two about Geometry. She had me knit the Green Sweater in her favourite method - in the round to the shoulders. As I mentioned a few days ago, that creates a tube. But this particular sweater design is quite squarish. Square neckline,
square-ish sleeve insert
and square-ish overall shape.

How do I turn this

into this?
According to Elizabeth and the pattern, I do it with steeks. Steeks for the non-knitting readers are a few extra stitches of knitting, inserted so they can be cut. That's right. Cut. No the sweater doesn't come unravelled in front of your eyes. Knitting only unravels in the opposite way to which it was knit. In this case, I knit up, so the sweater would unravel
'down'. It will not unravel horizontally.

Still, who wants to test that theory? The common method of risk-aversive steekers is to sew a couple of rows of machine stitching on either side of where the cut will take place. Specifically, two rows of stitching with loose tension and tiny stitches. That is what I will do today.

One steek goes here.
From the top of the neckline where you see the needles still in the knitting, to the bottom of the neckline. The bottom is the funny looking pouch you see with the two green markers. When it is cut open, theory says it will fall away to create the square shape of the neckline. The markers are on either side of the 5 steek stitches as are the two markers in the needles. The cut will take place in the middle of those five stitches. Hope for me a steady hand.

Next I will cut the two sleeve steeks from sleeve pouch that you see below on the right, to the shoulder at the top.
That cut will create an open circle from which I can pick up stitches to knit the sleeves.

Lastly, I will cut from the bottom of the neckline all the way down to the bottom of the sweater.
With that cut, my tube becomes a cardigan .

I am virtually a steek newbie, having done only one other in my life. I had a pullover that wasn't seeing much wear and decided to steek and cut it to create a more-wearable cardigan. But neckline steeks and sleeves steeks are a first for me.

At this point it is all theory. By tonight, I will either have the beginnings of a rectangular sweater, or a nervous breakdown. But that's the stress of the Olympics, isn't it? Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursdays Are For Knit Group And Survivor

The excitement was palpable at knit group today as knitters knit their way to gold.

Sharon, who two weeks ago had never knit lace and spent days practising yarn overs and nights lying awake worrying about them, has half of her Branching Out scarf done.
She didn't even knit on it this afternoon, but took the time to start another project. A medal contender for sure.

Doreen, dressed for the Olympics,
is our first athletic knitting injury.

Despite the hand, look at what she has accomplished on her 'seed-stitch-always-gives-me-trouble' vest.

Nicki has committed to six!!! projects. All small, all stash busters. This one involves her first ever attempt at brioche stitch.

This one, her first ever ear flaps.
As simple as these seem, they both gave Nicki grief. She called one day this week to describe her troubles and soon we were both laughing hysterically at her mis-adventures. Who has more fun than knitters?

Gail is well along with her top-down sweater. And this after a weekend of gallivanting around Toronto with her sisters.

Lois has a start on her hat. She is using two yarns held together.
Her challenge is simply that of returning to knitting after many years of not picking up the needles. Imagine!

Wilma has both fronts and the back of the cabled, seed stitch sweater complete.

Well, it was complete, then she noticed a mis-crossed cable.

Can you see it?
She wasn't happy. She said it was a sweater of multiple rip backs.

I suggested she simply drop the four cable stitches down to the mis-cross and re-hook them up correctly. A first for her and for those looking over our shoulders as we started the process.

The local newspapers got wind responded to my call and came out to take our pictures today. Will the muggles place us on the front page? Wednesday is paper day, I'll let you know.

And tonight. Do I watch Survivor or the Olympics? Survivor will win, I think. Off to a good start, but I would have voted off lazy, manipulative Cirie.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 5

Day 5 was Phoney Seams day. Is that something that a dope test might catch? No, it is Elizabeth Zimmermann's way of making a knit-in-the-round sweater appear to have side seams. Making it appear to have been knit in pieces and sewn together.

The why of Phoney Seams escapes me. For a knitter who believed as strongly as Elizabeth did in knitting in the round, why bow to the pressure of the knitting world and make the work appear to have seams? Being 'phoney', they don't add the flat knitters argument for seams -stability.

Flat knitters believe side seams made the garment more stable. I believe flat knitters have been seduced by the industrial era. Prior to the industrial age, garments were knit in the round. With the industrial age, came the idea of piecing out the knitting. A cottage industry was born. Women all over Great Britain were knitting for wages. One knitter knit sleeves, another backs, another fronts. The garments were then pieced together. The birth of side seams.

In many of her books, but particularly in The Opinionated Knitter, Elizabeth speaks angrily about editors that took her knit-in-the-round designs and turned them into pieced knitting. So why she created the phoney seam, I don't know. Perhaps to trick them into leaving her designs alone.

Day 5 of the 2010 Olympics saw me, for the first time ever, creating a phoney seam. It isn't difficult, but I wonder if they are worth the effort. I will let you decide when you see the pictures.

Here is what I did.
*Knit to the underarm.
*Place 31 stitches on hold for the underarm gusset.
*Take the centre stitch of the gusset and drop it down to the hem fold line.
Despite the anticipated disaster of a dropped stitch, I can assure you that dropped stitches don't run like a marathoner to the bottom. They have to be greatly encouraged to do so. Especially if knit in wool.

*Once the stitch is at the bottom, take a crochet hook and hook the stitch back up by hooking first one bar of wool,

then two bars at once.

*Repeat all the way to the top and - in theory - this line of stitches will look 'different' than the others and appear to have been seamed.
The Green Sweater is knit with fine, one ply wool and perhaps that makes the phoney seam disappear into it's neighbours. Thicker yarn might be more revealing. Can you see the difference?

Except to follow in Elizabeth's footsteps, as I have resolved to do in 2010, I'm not sure I would bother with a phoney seam. But Olympic Knitting is all about stretching and reaching so I am glad to have done it. Once.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 4.

Exhausted as I am from Olympic training and 'performing', last night, needles in mid-stitch, I fell asleep. During prime Olympic- viewing- knitting time!!

You would have thought that Fred, sitting right beside me, would have realized the importance of every knitting minute and given me a shake. Instead, he let me sleep!! What kind of support is that?

Despite falling asleep way too early, I did manage to knit to the sleeve steek area. The steeks have now been created! S.J. commented to ask what the heck I meant by 'sleeve steeks'. I understand her confusion. I was certainly confused when I read the pattern. In the interest of spreading Olympic fever everywhere, here is my ' picture's worth a thousand words' explanation.

31 underarm stitches on hold. 5 steek stitches cast on.

And with words. EZ's Green Sweater is knit in the round. Often, knit-in-the-round sweaters will have the knitter knit in the round until the armholes, then separate front and back. EZ, however believes in knitting in the round for the entire sweater. Right up to the shoulders. That of course creates a tube. Perfect for restraining hysterical Olympic knitters, but for normal wear, one does need sleeves.

That is where the sleeve steeks come in . I knit in the round up to the armhole, then put 31 stitches on hold for the underarm portion of the sleeves. EZ then tells the knitter to continue knitting in the round to the shoulder. When ready to knit the sleeves, which in this case are knit top down, I need to be able to access those 31 underarm stitches.

But if the stitches have been 'islanded off' by continuing to knit in the round until the top of the shoulder, how the heck will I open up the armhole to pick up stitches for the top-down sleeves? By cutting the sweater, that's how.

Sweater cutting is the knitter's equivalent of bungee jumping. A net is required.The knitters net is extra stitches. Called a steek.

Here's how I did it.

*Knit to armholes.
*Put 31 stitches on hold for the first armhole.
*Cast on 5 extra stitches. These five stitches are my safety net. I will cut from the shoulder down to the 31 underarm, on-hold stitches - right down the middle of those five stitches. (Surely I can keep the scissors within a five stitch span.)
*Knit to other armhole and repeat.

Three more inches of knitting and I will be at the neckline. There is another bungee jump steek there.

Here it is. Lookin' good. I think I'm past the qualifying round. Tomorrow, phoney seams.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Games Began

6:30PM Friday night and I cast on my first stitch. In the bedroom, so as to be near the clock to provide picture proof that I did not jump the gun. Have a false start. Start too early.
It appears as if I am gripping the needles for all they're worth. And perhaps I was. It is the Olympics after all. Friday, I knit furiously for what seemed like forever and finally got to the fold line for the hem about the time my fingers gave out for the night. To put that another way, everything I knit Friday night will be turned under for the hem. Nothing I knit Friday night will be seen on the public side of the sweater. I was cursing the choice of a sweater with a hem.

By Sunday night I was pleased with my progress. With family visiting all weekend, there was not a minute to knit until late Sunday afternoon. I was certainly worried, but by Sunday night, progress was good.
Seven and a half inches from the hem, fold line. After two of the sixteen Olympic days, seven and a half inches isn't bad. The sleeve steeks start at eleven inches. At that point, I estimate to be one third done.

The knitting has been moving along smoothly. The yarn is nice, gauge is dead on and there have been no pattern problems. Of course, "join in the round and knit stockinet stitch for eleven inches" isn't too problematic. Creating four steeks might cause me grief.

Ingrid called Friday morning and joined our Olympic team. That makes ten knitters going for the gold. GO KNITTERS GO!!