Welcoming in 2019!

A new year means new projects and new adventures. How is it shaping up so far? Over the Christmas holidays, we had a plumber install our new kitchen faucet since our old faucet was rusted. We’ve rearranged our family room and purchased a new sofa because our old sofa was just too soft. We’ve had it for 13 years so it’s time for an upgrade. Hubs installed motion sensor lights on our main floor, which has taken some time to get used to, but are super handy. Those are the home improvements we’ve carried into 2019.

In terms of projects, I finished my sheep mittens. They aren’t as warm as my owl mittens, but still pretty darn adorable! Duplicate stitch definitely takes a lot of patience, but it’s not difficult. I used duplicate stitch for the flower heads, leaves, bird, BAA, the little sheep on the thumb, and the pink on ewe. I ended up also adding yellow (through duplicate stitch) around my owl’s eyes on my owl mittens.

The knitting project I’ve brought into 2019 is an Aran pullover. What makes this an epic project is that I’ve decided to knit it from scratch, without a written pattern. Actually, that’s false. As it is an Aran sweater, patterns exist for the cables (I didn’t design any cables), but that’s where the pattern ends. I’m in charge of constructing the sweater to fit my body. I am following some guidelines provided in Janet Szabo’s 2006 tutorial. I’ve swatched and swatched (for days and weeks!) using different needle sizes and different cable patterns. Typically when you follow a pattern, the designer will tell you what his/her gauge is and you aim to get as close to it as possible in order to get the best fit. So what am I supposed to follow now? I struggled with gauge and finally decided to attain the gauge specified for the yarn I was looking to use. The first yarn I tried felt so luxurious – Amano Warmi – but the stitch definition wasn’t prominent enough, and it had too much drape. 

The centre piece is the start of my sweater. The surrounding pieces are all swatches. Photo taken Dec 23, 2018.

As you can see, I settled on Garnstudio Drops Nepal yarn, which has proven to be a wonderful yarn to work with. It’s soft and lofty and provides great stitch definition. The ‘trial’ ball of yarn I purchased was in light grey, although I had wanted to sample camel (out of stock). When I finally decided to knit up using Drops, I discovered this colour wasn’t available in any Toronto store, or at least the most I could find was 9 balls. I didn’t think that would be enough. I lucked out and found a yarn store in Port Credit that had 18 balls! Given I didn’t know how much I’d need, I bought them all. I’ve already gone through two of them from just swatching. The one great thing about knitting up many swatches is that you really get to know the patterns. You start to get into the rhythm and understand the stitches. And in my case, I figured out how to cable without a cable needle. As my knitting friend described, it’s so freeing to cable without a cable needle.

I’m using Lykke circular needles made out of driftwood in size 8 (5mm). I was hesitant to use the Lykkes because they are a longer needle (5″), which I’m not accustomed to for circular needles. Also, lately I’ve been knitting almost exclusively with stainless steel needles. And don’t get me started on the Lykke cords! They are super inflexible. Not my favourite. I will say that wood paired with this yarn is a nice combination. And since I’m knitting flat (on circulars), the 5″ tips are not problematic. After gauge swatching and measuring, this is what I came up with:

Rice Stitch
After wet-blocking, 4.25 sts and 6 rows per 1″

Braid Cable
23 sts and 20.5 rows per 10 cm

Diamond Cable
21 sts and 25.25 rows per 10 cm

Armed with this information, I started to cast on. In the photo above, you can see the start of the construction in the centre. A few days later, I was able to start the neckline shaping. I may have made the neckline a little too deep as I missed the part about saddles adding extra droop. I will deal with that later, if it becomes a real issue.

Neckline shaping complete. Photo taken Dec. 26, 2108.

I want to take a moment and mention that different designers use different symbols to chart their patterns. The style that I have found most visually intuitive is from Alice Starmore in her book Aran Knitting: New and Expanded Edition. This means that I’ve transcribed the cables I’m using into her charting symbols. This is the first time I’ve knit with a chart instead of written instructions, and I love it!

The next step is to add width the body, and to start the sleeves. The options for the sleeves are to knit flat and sew together, or knit in the round. Guess which option I chose? You betcha! I’m knitting in the round, baby! I felt the tutorial notes here were not as clear, or my brain was not working properly. I could not figure out how many stitches to pick up for the sleeves, so I picked up all the stitches (I had 95) That turned out to be absolutely WRONG. As I was knitting in round, it looked big, but I thought maybe it’ll somehow come together. It didn’t, because the circumference of my arm does not warrant 95 stitches and this was proven when I put on the sweater – the beauty of a top down construction. I didn’t bother taking a photo of this because it was stupid mistake, and it looked ridiculous. It’s simply too embarrassing to share a photo of the massive sleeve!

I should also mention that once I joined in the round, I had to switch out to my Chiaogoo needles. Technically, I should have swatched with these needles before using them, but meh! I love my Chiaogoo with the short and pointy tips, and a more pliable cord that moves with your work. They are definitely more slippery, so I’m hyper aware of tension (making sure I’m not knitting too loose).

Back to my sleeve blunder….you always have that split second of thinking that maybe it’s ok. But you know it’s totally not ok, so the next thought is “what now?” I frogged it without hesitation after estimating how many stitches to remove.

Ripping back the sleeve. Photo taken Dec. 31, 2018.

I went back to my Cascades sweater and my new estimate was 6 stitches off. I decided to use Cascades as my reference and I started the sleeve from the beginning. It’s fitting much better now.

Sleeve, take 2! Photo taken Jan. 3, 2019.

I’m headed back to work tomorrow, so progress will inevitably slow down. But I’m pleased with how things are turning out.

What else is new this year? The feature image of me and hubs making kimchi! We made our first batch of kimchi (from start to finish). It’s day two of the ferment period, but no activity yet. We’re concerned that the flavour is too onion-y. We followed the recipe as stated, but I feel like one whole onion was a typo. 

Houseplants! Check out some of the beauty that’s taking place in January! Photos are all taken today (Jan 3).

Chicago Hardy fig cuttings that were rooted in late fall are doing great!

 

Mother clivia is starting to bloom! There are actually 4-5 babies growing in the same pot, but when I noticed flower buds coming up, I didn’t want to repot.

 

Orchid is blooming!

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