Thursday, March 16, 2017

Love at first sight

Do you believe in love at first sight? This question seemed to be of utmost importance to me and my friends when we were in high school. I remember one answer by a clever and prematurely wise guy who said: “I don’t believe in love at first sight, but I do believe in a new sight. When you look at someone for maybe a hundredth time and all of a sudden notice something that you’d never noticed before. And you fall in love with it.”
This, my friends, is the best definition of inspiration. At least from my point of view. I can go through my daily routine when all of a sudden my eye catches something unusual that I might have seen a hundred times but never noticed before and this new sight stirs something inside of me.  
For example, I had walked on the same road many times before I noticed these trees.

One day I looked at them and all I could see were cables, asymmetrical, lusty, sculptural cables… Immediately I had an idea of making something like this from tweed – white with grey and brown speckles. At home I went through my stash looking for the appropriate yarn and found 12 balls of Rowan Cashcotton DK that I bought many years ago in Edinburgh. My older daughter was studying at Edinburgh University then not so sure what to do with her life and where to go after finishing school. Obviously, it took her less time to make this important decision than me to choose a project for this yarn. It is not tweed, but still its color and structure give off a sort of organic, earthy vibe of growth and warmth. So it happened again – I looked at a very familiar object and saw it differently.
At the time I was making a sweater from an old Phildar magazine and kept looking at the magazine spread. Next to my chosen pattern was another sweater. At first I didn’t give it any attention – it seemed unusually ugly and overdesigned.
But after a while I looked at it again and imagined it in one color. Boom! It reminded me of the trees that I saw while walking. Or, maybe, the trees made me see this sweater differently. Anyway, I decided to try and make it.

I made some changes to the original pattern but not too many (besides the major change – making it in one color). All of them I described on my Ravelry page.J))). And since the yarn is smooth and silky, it is not too bulky. I made it longer and a little bit A-shaped, tunic-like.
My biggest worry was the sleeves. I was afraid that with all the cabling my arms would look huge and too muscular for my frame. So I picked stitches for the smallest size and changed the cable pattern a bit to preserve cables along the seam and raglan decreases.
I like the finished sweater very much. Even though it wasn’t a love at first sight, I definitely became very fond of this pattern.

 We didn’t have time to change clothes while photographing it so you have to believe me. It looks great with a skirt as well (with or without a belt). Kim Hargreaves would have approved:)))
While making this sweater I was watching Patriot (free streaming with Amazon Prime) and the main character was wearing a similar cabled sweater (made of dark green wool) in several episodes. Since I really enjoyed the show (and its soundtrack!), I decided to call this sweater Patriot.
As I said earlier, inspiration is everywhere. Sometimes you see it, sometimes you don’t. Here are some other examples of things that inspired me to start my next project:

I had 5 balls of Rowan Pure Wool 4ply in yellow that I used for Juno and my Blue Improvisation sweater. I’ve been thinking about a whole sweater in this color but, obviously, I didn’t have enough yarn for it. To solve this problem I decided to add another color: mostly white, but I also interspersed it with dark and light blue (because – why not, if you go color, you might go all the way, right?). I really, truly didn’t want any flowers, snowflakes, deer, or other traditional fair isle patterns and was looking for something geometrical instead. I found the right design in this book (I gave it to myself as a Christmas present, because I am worth it!!!).
It is easy to remember, blends colors well, and works for the asymmetrical part of my garment. Since – again, no surprise here – I picked an asymmetrical pattern from a Phildar magazine. This time the pattern is made in one color and I decided to reinvent it with added color work.

I am making it flat which slows the process down significantly. Fair isle is much easier when done in the round with only knit stitches. Yet, when knitting it flat (like in the old times, when I had no idea about doing it in the round) it gives you much more freedom with the shape and form of a garment. For me shape is essential and more important than the easiness and speed of the process. But I’d better explain it all later when I finish this crazy difficult asymmetrical thing.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Problems and solutions

-          -When will I see a refrigerator in our new kitchen?
-         - This is a problem that still has no solution.
(from conversations with my husband)
Knitting is inherently full of problems. There is always something that goes wrong even with the best patterns. Yet, years of knitting taught me that for every problem there is a solution, and if there is not, you can always unravel your work and start all over which could be also called a solution albeit on a radical side.
When the idea of the Blue improvisation sweater was born I imagined it like this.
Yes, I drew a sketch, like a real pro. Because it helped to visualize better how I wanted my sweater to look: with a cabled body and multicolored sleeves. Both techniques – fair isle and aran – are old and traditional, but combined in one garment – become more modern and, dare I say, extravagant. And almost everything went well. At least till I reached the neck line. It turned out to be a real pain in the neck.
I followed the original directions for the Iron Work Sweater and its neck line was too low and too wide for my liking (keep it in mind if you decide to use this pattern!). Problem # 1. Solution - I picked up stitches around the neckline with the leftover blue yarn and smaller needles and started working in the round in 1x1 rib (all knit stitches through the back loop) while gradually decreasing the number of stitches. I put all decreases around the seams so they would look as continuation of the blue seams on the sleeves. Unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of yarn left.

The last ball of Rowan Pure Wool 4Ply in Indigo in my possession was of a little bit different hue (how that could happen?!). That is why I couldn’t possibly have the turtleneck collar from my initial sketch. Problem # 2. Solution – I turned the collar, joined the last ball, and started increasing stitches mirroring the decreases (all the details are on my Ravelry page). There is a visible line at the place where a new ball was attached, yet, this line is inside the garment and no one knows about it besides me (and you).

Even though the sweater doesn’t look like on my initial sketch, I like it. The collar is stretchy and comfortable, it is much higher than it would have been if I followed the directions for the original pattern, and it looks right for this particular project.

The photographs were taken on Valentine’s day. We went boating – my husband and I, just the two of us. Funny, but for many years we didn’t even think of celebrating such silly things as wedding anniversary or Valentine’s day. Now, with kids gone, we are getting more and more sentimental. Or, maybe, we appreciate more our time together, or what is left of it.

Anyway, I was very pleased with this sweater. It feels soft and is weightless, fits me well and is warm enough. This whole experience – from the initial idea of a mixed techniques sweater till the final result – had a strange effect on me. It “freed” me from the directions’ constraints, so to speak, made me realize that I can do more than just follow directions. Something sort of snapped inside and released some creative potential that I never suspected to be there in the first place. Like a genie was freed from a bottle. And I started sketching, and looking for inspiration, and sketching again. That is how at the moment I got not one but two EXTREMELY challenging projects on my needles simultaneously.
One – a symphony of cables, big, luscious, and almost three-dimensional. Reminds me of succulents.

Two – another asymmetrical design, with a twist.

Both are not finished yet, and I am not sure how they will turn out. So I’d better write about them later, when they are done.
Meanwhile, I finished one little garment in between (it was my “to go” project that I could take to the knitting group with me). To make it I used Drops Recycled Cotton from my unraveled sweater. Why I unraveled it? I didn’t wear it, even once. Funny, because the wool version of the same pattern I wore so much it became almost unwearable.
I picked an old Adrienne Vittadini pattern that was made for a winter garment. I am a big fan of Adrienne Vittadini, I used to buy her books and yarn when she was in business. Many of her patterns are stylish, classy, and look surprisingly modern. I made a couple of them then – not everything worked well for me, but my experience with Vittadini certainly left me wanting more. This particular pattern was in my mental queue for the longest time. And I decided to try it in cotton with short sleeves – more practical for the life on a subtropical island.

What can I say? This t-shirt fits me like a glove, goes with everything, and will be worn a lot. And I like it. Yet, I didn’t get as much excitement from the process of making it, or from wearing it, as I did with my experimental blue sweater. No adrenaline rush, no jitters (Am I doing it right? Do I need to unravel and start over again?), no decisions to make. Just follow the pattern and enjoy the result. No fun at all.

Meanwhile my “blue” period is officially over and I don’t have a name for the new one. Maybe “green”??? 
Oh, and speaking of names. Now I got so much appreciation for people who find names for things. Like Sherwin-Williams paint colors. There are many colors at Sherwin-Williams, and every one of them has a name: “After the Rain”, “Blueblood”, “Hyperblue” – these are just few examples. I would love to meet a person who came up with these names. I confess, my imagination isn’t that wild. Actually, it stops working when it comes to naming a project. “Blue improvisation” is no better than “blue disaster”. How to deal with this problem? I need to find a precise spot somewhere between pretentious and bland. Or maybe the name is not that important? After all “What’s in the name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet”, right? Or, as a possible solution, just go to the Sherwin-Williams website and borrow a name there?