Mint mint mint

“Mint” is one of those borderline onomatopoeia synesthetic words for me, where reading or saying the word instantly evokes the crisp freshness of mint itself. Similarly, when I look at mint greens, which are among my favorite colors, I feel like I can taste mint chocolate chip ice cream, toothpaste, or something similarly¬†creamy and refreshing.

I had this vision of a mint green pullover top, to wear with crisp white blouses and breezy skirts in those early months of spring where it’s not quite chiffon season, but I wish it were. I’m using a free pattern from Cascade Yarns (PDF link) by Vera Sanon, who designs brilliantly simple, usually seamless, highly wearable knits.

I’m working in Caron One Pound, which I’ve found turns into this beautiful, creamy soft fabric when washed and fluffed dry at a low temperature (you can read more on my love of manageable acrylics here).

I’ve got a good feeling about this one.

I speak lace

I love learning and speaking foreign languages. I am fluent in Spanish and Italian, and I’m working on French. I love picking up fundamentals of grammar in other languages, and I genuinely enjoy discovering the quirks and peculiarities of a given culture’s modifications to a base structure.

One of the things I love best about languages is the way they stick in some part of the brain, whether used or not, and come up to the surface as needed, Italian words and Spanish idioms rolling into conversation naturally and comfortably. I find that lace-knitting is its own language, and I love that I am becoming slowly, modestly fluent in lace.

I had started my Wakame Lace Tunic way back in early 2010, over the holidays when I needed to take my mind off of an emotional situation (that’s always the way with me – I bury my feelings in lace). I put it aside just after establishing the sleeves on the back, when I got too busy with my graduate thesis. I packed it up when I moved to Staten Island, and I only just took it out again the other day.

Luckily, I speak lace. I’d left myself all the information I needed with the amount of stitches on the needles, and I was able to read where I was at in the first sleeve repeat. With a quick perusal of the pattern, I came right back up to speed, and I’ve been just chattering away with this gorgeous tunic since then.

I’m enjoying it immensely, and like most lace projects, it’s a great comfort for me during another emotionally trying time (I’ll talk about that once it’s all settled). I can’t get past the cleverness in the construction of this garment, and I look forward to making more progress as I zip up toward the end of the back and get ready to start the front.

Knitting all the time

I think that being a knitter is similar to being an artist, or a scientist, or a chef, in that as you go about the day, you don’t really ever stop being what you are, yet it’s not the only thing that defines your existence. As I ride the ferry, I always notice the knit items people are wearing, examining their construction, the fit, the lace or cable pattern, and in the same way that I look at paintings as if I had a brush in my hand, I wonder how I would make this thing, what I might change about it, and so on.

But mentally knitting, obviously, isn’t the same thing as physically taking needles and yarn and producing something, which is why I’m so delighted to have stolen moments here and there to make progress on a bunch of projects, old and new.

First, look what’s off the needles and awaiting blocking…

This is my Upstairs shawl/wrap/scarf, with which I am utterly enamored. I will go on (and on) about this project in its own FO post, but I will say that the thought of blocking it and having raggedly, pointy, stretched-out edges broke me down, and I bought blocking wires. I look forward to seeing how they work out.

I stayed with my family in New Jersey through Hurricane Irene, and the several days we were without power gave me quite a head of steam on a project I haven’t mentioned before.

This is a summery laceweight shrug knit in seafoam stitch, and even though it will probably be a while (like, the next three seasons) before I get to wear it, I’m pretty enthused with what I think it will become.

I pretty much always have socks on the go (I will do a whole sock catch-up soon), but these had been abandoned a while ago in my knitting basket. I can’t really remember why, save for the tedium of working with bamboo needles, but once I started them back up again, I whipped through a heel and have been moving up the leg.

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I love this snowflake lace pattern, and I keep thinking about where else I might like to use it (probably a cardigan or shrug?) since it is that perfect blend of organic and geometric, deceptively simple, and really quite lovely when stretched and worn (saving that for the FO post, again, soon).

Now I didn’t knit this, but this is a spectacular alpaca hat my parents picked up for me during their vacation to Peru in August.

I am so smitten with its colors, style, and decadent, soft warmth that I’m actually willing the weather to get colder so I can wear it outside of my apartment. My father bought my mother an insanely gorgeous alpaca cardigan, which I have to remember to photograph the next time I visit.

Mmmm, alpaca….

And saving perhaps the best for last, I have finally started a new sweater for my mother, which is technically her Christmas gift from ohh… 2008? This is not her gift this year, but rather something I’m going to try to get done soon because I feel bad promising people knits and not following through (I’ve done this with both parents and my brother, so yeah, bad habit of mine).

You may recognize it as the Cable-Down Raglan, a pattern I’ve admired for a long, long while. And yes, I have the yarn (and now the skills) to make one for myself too.

I had started a different cabled sweater for my mom years ago, but the more FO photos I’ve seen on Ravelry, the less I think that sweater will be particularly flattering for her, and it would make us both feel terrible to spend all this time knitting some elaborate cabled sweater that she never wears it because it looks bad. I admitted that this hesitation was most of why I’d stalled out on her super-belated Christmas gift, and she was relieved that I didn’t plug ahead on a feckless project. When I showed her the Cable-Down Raglan and photos of women with similar shapes and how wonderful they looked in it, she became enthusiastic and encouraged me to go forward with this one instead.

True to form, she picked out another heathered purple yarn, and I must say, I’m pretty pleased with the way it’s coming along. I really hope she likes it!

So these are but a few of the projects keeping my hands busy lately. I often think that if I focused on just one project at a time, I could whip out the FOs left and right, and this may be a strategy I can employ once I get some of the long-hibernating WIPs out of my basket and off my needles. But in the meantime, we’re coming into autumn, or Knitter’s Paradise, and I’m happy to have my hands full of wool again.

FO – Katelyn Basic Sweater

It would probably be fair to call this a Learning Sweater. It started as a sweater I knit while doing the reading for a Contemporary Literature course, but it became a course in classic sweater construction for me.

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Pattern: Katelyn Basic (Ravelry link), free pattern by the Berroco Design Team
Size: Medium (39″ bust)
Yarn: Caron One Pound 10-ply worsted weight, color Forest Green, 100% acrylic; I used less than 1 skein, which was less than 453 grams/15.98 oz or 826 yards/755 meters. I will try to get a more accurate measure of yarn used in the future.
Needles: US size 8 (5.0 mm) and 10 (6.0 mm) 14″ aluminum straight needles and size 7 (4.5 mm) 16″ circular needle
Modifications: Added approximately 1.5″ length to body

Started: October 12, 2009*
Finished: January 17, 2010**

* I originally started this sweater in February 2007, as one of my first knitting projects, but I started over again in a smaller size after letting it hibernate for a few years.

**You’ll also note that the season in which I took the photos is completely different from the sweater’s completion date (I shot them in April) and of course, I am not blogging this sweater until September. I look a little different now than I did in April, but more to the point, yes, I am a massive procrastinator.

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At the time that I started this sweater, I anticipated it being my first sweater, but because I put it aside for so long, that honor went to a much less successful project (which I haven’t ever worn and still hesitate to call finished). So, while not my “official” first sweater, this is the first one that is finished to a degree where I could wear it. I started it at a time when I was obsessed with this color, in my pre-knit-blogging days.

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A sweater is easy to knit in pieces and seems to move quickly, section by section. Once I restarted in a smaller size, this sweater seemed to fly off the needles, but I dallied about for a while as I tried to determine the best way to seam it. I opted for a rather aggressive wetting-and-ironing approach which didn’t go quite so far as killing the acrylic (here I mean the actual term killing, not destroying) but gave many of its benefits, especially flattening the edges and creating a thinner, drapier fabric to seam.

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I used an excellent tutorial from Studio Knits for sewing the horizontal shoulder seams, and I’m pretty surprised and pleased with how they came out. Setting in the sleeves was nowhere near the nightmare my first few set-in sleeves were, for which I am very relieved.

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It was easy to pick up stitches for the neck band, which I knit on a size 7 circular needle. Once the upper portion was together, all that remained was sewing the side and sleeves seams, though this as a fairly massive exercise in patience and care. I had to keep reminding myself that if I’d taken all that time to knit the pieces, it would behoove me to sew them together neatly.

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The yarn became noticeably softer and fluffier after washing and drying it. I know that acrylic gets a bad rep for garments, but I really love the ease of being able to toss it in with my regular wash and have it come out softer after tumbling on low heat. Caron One Pound is certainly not the most luxurious yarn in the world, but it is super affordable and made a lovely sweater. I noticed that the parts I ironed more aggressively are floatier and lighter, with a thinner fabric that drapes a little more. I may go over some of the thicker areas to get that same effect all over.

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I’m really pleased that I finally finished this sweater, since I learned so much while knitting it. I now feel prepared to take on other, more complicated sweater designs, and I’m no longer afraid to use my nicer yarns, haunted by visions of wonky disastrous seams. I am toying with the idea of taking up a sweater a month challenge, but seeing how many years it took me to knit this one, I may not be up to that pace just yet.

Still, is there anything more satisfying than being able to say you knit your own sweater?

Wakame Lace Tunic progress

When last we checked in on the Wakame Lace Tunic, it was a scarf-like band of lace that was taking me forever to knit.

Since then, I’ve finished the bottom band and joined it with a three-needle bind-off, picked up stitches, and begun working the body in the round.

I’m happy with the way the lace looks (would be nice if I could photograph it in focus), and I enjoy knitting it in the round much more than I did knitting back and forth on straights. I’m sure a lot of it is to do with being able to read the lace better now, as well as having memorized the chart.

The three-needle bind-off doesn’t look as terrible as I thought it would. Actually when it’s stretched out (as it will be when it’s blocked), it looks pretty neat and clean. I’m learning a lot of new construction techniques with this project, so it’s quite interesting and enjoyable.

Since taking these photos I knit another body repeat and am getting close to where I would cast on for the sleeves. I’m looking forward to seeing how that works.

I want to have this tunic finished by the end of March (for a KAL, yes), and while I know it’s hypothetically possible, I don’t know if it’s likely. I guess the only thing to do is knit and see.