Saturday, August 28, 2010

what I knit on my summer vacation

After Erin and Ryan's wedding (thanks for the nice comments on my Tree of Life afghan, btw!), Jim and I headed to Lake Michigan for our first real vacation since starting grad school three years ago - yikes! We reeeeeeally needed it. We got to sit on the beach,


and we even got to spend the night on a boat!

Sunset from the Manitou

What did I do on the boat?


Aside from tasting some Michigan wines (very, very sweet) during the evening sail and watching the sunset and being generally blissed out on VACATION!!!, I started an Isabella tank in red Karabella Vintage Cotton. Every time a spring/summer sale rolls around at a yarn store, I go in all hopeful and leave all dejected because lightweight springy yarns tend not to come in my kind of colors - I don't do so well in pastels. So when I found this deep red cotton at my LYS I jumped on it. (I also bought a skein of pretty dark blue/brown/grey Madelinetosh so that I could see what you all are so excited about, as I've never knit with it before and my LYS just started carrying it!)

I'm liking it so far, thought I always find cotton so splitty and I don't know why I keep gravitating towards projects on tiny needles (the ToL afghan was a great break from that - size 8s seemed so luxurious!). We got back from our trip last Sunday and work was pretty hectic this week, but I got to spend some time sitting on the deck in the 75 degree weather today, knitting and savoring another Michigan summer staple.


So long summer, I hope we sent you off in style.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"happiness is only real when shared"

Why so little blog posting this summer?


Not for a lack of knitting.


Just a lack of knitting that wasn't intended as a surprise for someone who reads this blog.

Last May some friends from college got engaged. I met Erin back in sophomore year physics lab and we got through many homework sets, lectures, Society of Physics Students meetings, and crazy outreach projects together. At the end of junior year when she IM'ed me to tell me she had a crush on this boy in our circle of friends (omg squee!) I did my best to pitch in and help the flirting effort by deviously arranging SPS social events where they could oh-so-casually hang out. They started dating (yay!), Ryan left Michigan a year before us for grad school (boo...), but Erin rejoined him after graduation and hey coincidence, grad school brought me to the same town too (huzzah!).

So now we have friends + impending wedding + knitter, not to mention that Erin is a knitter herself. A knitted gift seems inevitable. But, you know, they set a date for August, and all I could think was afghan, and who really wants to think about a wool blanket in August, right? So la de da, months pass, I'm knitting other stuff. Sometime in April it occurs to me, as really obvious things tend to do, that a wedding is one day in a marriage. August is fleeting compared to what they're embarking on.

I start thinking about afghans again. I harness the power of Ravelry search engine and a secret livejournal poll and narrow the field down to our finalist: the Tree of Life Afghan by Nicky Epstein. I download the pattern, I buy ten skeins of Cascade 220, I get funny looks from the yarn store clerk when I ask if they have any more of my colorway as I was considering making the blanket bigger. (Long story. 4 is an unlucky number in Japan, where my grandma is from. The ToL afghan is full of 4s. Final conclusion: the ratio of stitches per repeat of the two main motifs doesn't support extending the blanket to 5 tree repeats, and neither Erin nor Ryan is Japanese, so. Bad luck averted.)

April 11th: I start knitting. I calculate that I need average about 3 rows per day in order to have a month left for the border and finishing, before their wedding on August 14th.
April-June: life events transpire. I do not average 3 rows per day. I finish some socks, though.
July-August: OMG BLANKET KNITTING! Wash helps.


August 5th, ish: I finish the body of the blanket! On to the border.


August 12: Jim and I drive to drives me to Michigan for the wedding. I knit a lot of border leaves on the drive. I get kinda nervous about how many more leaves I need to knit.
August 13: I knit more leaves. I start sewing the border on. I bridesmaid it up at the rehearsal dinner. I stay up past my bedtime working on the border. I almost make it all the way to the last corner before turning in.


August 14: We basically don't leave the hotel all morning because I'm knitting and seaming leaves. I finish weaving in ends at 12:40 PM, run out to eat a sandwich, run back to the hotel, make myself pretty, and make it to pre-ceremony photos by 2. Then Erin and Ryan get TOTES MARRIED YAY!


So that's the personal side to the blanket story. Now the technical side. I made a lot of mistakes on this project, but I'm still feeling good because 1) I fixed them ALL! so the end product is fine and 2) I fixed them ALL! so I now have a lot more practice fixing things! I misread didn't really read the instructions out of hubris, so I didn't realize that the first row of the chart was supposed to be a wrong side row...easily fixable, or more accurately ignored. Related to this mistake, I had 4-stitch-wide stockinette columns running between each set of trees in the first tree repeat which I didn't realize was a mistake until I had to start the next section. Hey, now I'm really great at ripping back selected columns and turning knits into purls! The second tree repeat was cursed by many, MANY mis-crossed cables. Again: valuable practice with my trusty crochet hook. Oh yeah, and after I wove in the first end? I went to trim the last bit off and totally cut off a neighboring end that still needed weaving in instead. I immediately called my knitting guru, AKA my mom, and she saved me and the blanket by reminding me that I could splice the prematurely cut strand back together. Despite a few typos in the chart and the fact that I still think it's weird to start a chart on a wrong side row, this is a great pattern and fun to knit, and as always I loved working with old reliable, Cascade 220 - many of my biggest/happiest projects have used this yarn.

Anyway. Congratulations, you crazy kids.

P.S. Title quote on this post comes from Chris McCandless via Jon Krakauer's Into The Wild.