Saturday, February 17, 2007

Craft: Yarn! All I really need is Yarn! Yarn! Yarn!

Ok, first and foremost, an update on the Engineer Sweater. It's so almost done, I can taste the finished-blocked-ness of it. I am about a third of the way done with the second sleeve--the final piece of this puzzle. I made the Engineer stand still for me while I pinned the pieces onto him and checked that it was all going to come together ok. He was antsy to get back to his analyses of drag coefficients and centers of gravity, but oh no, sir. I made him stand for a full thirty seconds while a gazed adoringly at how perfectly everything fit and made little cooing sounds while stroking that symmetrical sleeve.

I am impressed, slightly amazed
, and very relieved that it looks like it will fit. In what we'll just call "A Knitter's First-Sweater Mistake," I didn't think to double-check that my gauge was accurate until, oh, I'd knit the entire front piece and half the back. When I did, I realized that my gauge had mysteriously gone from perfect (at the time I knit my swatch) to much much less perfect (at the time when I gazed in horror at my ruler, counting and re-counting my stitches-per-inch). Just imagine--your perfect pattern-matching gauge is 10 stitches per inch, but your reality-sucks gauge is actually closer to 13 stitches per inch. It might not seem like a lot, but those little 3 extra stitches add up and...well, your sweater is going to be too small. It's a terrible, terrible thing to realize, my friends. Lucky for me, the Engineer tends toward the scrawny side and the smallest size in this pattern would probably have ended up being a bit large on him anyway. I did some measurements and enlisted some nearly-forgotten math skills and decided it would *probably* be ok. What's a gal to do but knit onwards?

Now, my energy for this project has been flagging and
I have to admit that tried (unsuccessfully) to persuade the Engineer that one-sleeved sweaters are sure to be all the rage this spring season. He wasn't buying it and is demanding the second sleeve. Fine. This sweater will be finished before the swan boats return to the duck pond at Boston Garden! You're all my witnesses.

Side projects are a necessary and healthy part of any long term project. I give you, the Nose Warmer. I'm knitting two of these handsome warmers for a friend of mine and his son. They knit up quickly and are a good refresher course on short-row shaping--the 'nose' is very similar to turning the heel on a sock. I just need to give these noses some whiskers and attach the head-ties, and they're ready to go warm some noses. For interested parties, the pattern is over at Knitty--click HERE.

A few weeks ago, I placed a big order for yarn from KnitPicks so I could price out the cost for making hats and scarves for Angelina over at Dustpan Ally. I am so excited to have discovered KnitPicks. I've wanted to sell my handknits ever since my family started politely insisting they had enough hats, scarves, gloves, uteruses, penguins, and other knit items to last them quite some time. (Luckily, I've made new friends since who are more than happy to volunteer for handknits. Whew!) But the biggest obstacle to selling handknits is that it's rilly not cost-effective. Yarn is expensive! To recoup both the cost of the yarn and a bit more for my labor, I'd be needing to sell, say, a basic hat for at least $30 to the retailer, and the retailer would then need to mark it up again to make their money. So we're looking at a $50 or $60 handknit ski hat. Loony bins. Who would buy that?

Enter Knitpicks. Their yarn is affordable, very good quality, and available in a lot of different colors, fibers, and weights. It's pretty uniform, so if you're looking for the subtle beauty of hand-dyed or the unique texture of hand-spun, you're not going to find it here. But the yarn is dependable and good. My hope is that I can have a good base of these low-cost goods and eventually have clientele who would want and be able to afford handknits with more luxury yarns. I also hope that if all goes well with selling hats and scarves at Dustpan Ally, craft fairs, and the like, I can also start knitting larger, uniquely designed patterns like sweaters and bags.

For this initial, reality-based trial, I ordered a bunch of skeins of Wool of the Andes--a 100% Peruvian wool. For kicks, I also ordered a few skeins of Andean Silk--a blend of alpaca, silk, and merino wool. It was a bit more expensive, but I was worried that the Wool of the Andes might be too scratchy when knit and wanted to test out a different blend. (Update: I think Wool of the Andes will work just fine. A bit rough, but not at all "grandma sweater" scratchy. No offense, grandmothers out there. But still, you know what I mean.) I chose several colors that I will love to knit with (it's important to love what you're knitting) and that also will blend well together if I want to do any patterns: black, moss green, burgundy, dark blue, and cloud blue. I'm also going to play around with felted flowers, so I got a few skeins in pink, yellow, and orange.

With the scarves, I want to try different stitch patterns and play around with mixing stripes of different colors. One idea to make it a bit more interesting is to weave a strip or two of ribbon down the length of the scarf to add detail and texture. The hats could also have some felted embellishments sewn along the length. I'd like the stocking caps to resemble flapper hats. The felted flowers would be added as removable brooches over the ear, and I'd like to weave ribbon through the brims on a few of the hats by knitting a button-hole eyelets about one inch from the bottom of the hat. I have a couple other ideas for making these otherwise ordinary handknits unique and exciting, but I'm going to wait to talk about them until they're more solid in my head. I'm also planning on selling these under the name "My Three Loves" so am brainstorming ways to combine these loves of mine into a nice little package. Cuz otherwise it would just be kinda confusing and would be better to just sell them under my name. Any thoughts?

And last but not least, just when I thought my week couldn't get any better, I get this lovely package from Angelina.
Months ago, I started coveting her canned goods after a particularly scrumptious post she wrote on canning pears in vanilla syrup. I begged and pleaded and made a nuisance of myself, but Angelina eventually took pity on me and agreed to an exchange of goods: A jar of gorgeous pears in exchange for a comfy scarf done in the style of my laptop cozy. Angelina, the yarn is gorgeous. I stroked it for a full fifteen minutes and daydreamed about what a beautiful scarf it will make. You'll all be happy to know that I've perfected my bubble-making technique since the laptop cozy, and think I've got it down to a science. A full-on felting like I did for the cozy might make this yarn too stiff for a scarf, so I'm going to experiment with some light felting to try and get a fabric that is still supple and scarf-able. Oh, boy I can't wait!

Also can't wait to break into these pears. They have held a place of honor on my counter since their arrival and it makes my mouth water just looking at them.
I have considered and discarded half a dozen different recipes, still looking for just the right one. My most recent thought and the one I think I will ultimately do is a pear tartlet for the Engineer and I. We're celebrating a faux-Valentine's day dinner sometime in the near future (a.k.a. an excuse to go to the fancy grocery store and buy fancy foods!), and I think a pear tartlet would go quite nicely. Or I could just eat them straight from the jar with a spoon while standing at the counter in my pyjamas. That sounds good too.

By the way, if you haven't already discovered it, please do stop by Angelina's store, Dustpan Ally, and check out all the wonderful things she's got going on over there. The actual, real-life store is in McMinnville, Oregon, but if you don't happen to be in the neighborhood, you can also order off the web at Angelina is an amazing and creative woman, and I could buy everything in her store in a heartbeat.


Angelina said...

Thank you for all the sweet things you've said and also for rooting for my store!

Those yarns you got look great! I'm so excited to see what you come up with!

As to the pears, you can make a great galette or tart with them as you mentioned, the flavor will shine in something simple like that. But be sure to eat one straight from the jar!

Maybe this early fall you will find yourself canning some pears too!

Dominique said...

Nose Warmers! Genius! And sooo adorable!