Sunday, June 28, 2009

Busy busy

I've had company all this past week--first my aunt and uncle, then my dad--and not only have I not had time to blog, I've barely had time to knit. There's been work on more Mindless Socks, and I do have stories to tell (oh, how I have stories to tell) about the sweater, but mostly it's just been me and Swallowtail when I have a moment to spare.

So for now, more knitting, and regular blogging will resume when all the guests are gone and I have something to show.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Knitting quirks

This week I've mainly been wrestling with swatching, math, and other nasty unavoidables for a new sweater. I also started this, though:

It's the beginnings of a Swallowtail shawl (pdf link)--very popular among the lace knitting community. I decided it was finally time to knit one for myself. It's at about the eighth repeat and almost jumping off the DPNs . . . time to switch to circs. *sigh*

Which leads to my next thought. I was talking to the lovely Aspen yesterday--about knitting, of course. She mentioned using a center-pull ball for her current project as it helped her keep a more even tension. I hadn't ever thought about it before, but once I started, I began to wonder if that's why I prefer working from the outside of the ball. I knit rather oddly--basically Continental, but I throw the yarn rather than picking. As a result, I adjust all the tension with my fingers; the needles are barely involved. I like the amount of "give" you get from winding yarn straight off the ball--center-pull has too much resistance for me.

This preference for balled yarn pulled from the outside has led to trouble in the past. (Notoriously, I once dropped a ball in a lecture--it rolled under the seats all the way to the bottom of the sloped auditorium. My friends pretended they didn't know me as I scrambled to collect it afterwards.) But it's the way I do things, and our conversation about balls (*snicker*) and tension got me thinking.

I have all sorts of odd little quirks. In addition to the way I like my yarn, I hate metal needles and don't like circulars at all--hence the above angst about moving my Swallowtail to its new home.* I'm sure other knitters have their own foibles--what about you? What are your quirks?

*Note: I've never knit with expensive circs like Addis, though. I'm willing to be convinced.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sweater all done

My new cousin now has a new sweater. I blocked the finished pieces before seaming and knitting the collar, as is customary. It also ensures that, whatever the gauge, the fronts and sleeves will be the same size. They may not look like what they're supposed to, but they'll be even, dagnabit.

Pattern: "Baby's First Tattoo" by Delia Lam from Stitch 'n Bitch Nation, size 3 months, 3/3.25mm needles. Adorable pattern, but see here for why I don't recommend it.

Yarn: Dale of Norway Baby Ull, about 1.3 skeins 3507 (orange) and 0.5 skein 0090 (black). I love working with Baby Ull. It's affordable but knits up soft and puffy. Also, it's machine-washable and therefore practical for baby clothes.

A back shot because I'm always complaining about their absence in books:

And finally, a close-up of the swallow 'cos it's just so darn cute. Rather than embroider the design over the finished front as called for in the pattern, I knit it in.

I hope it fits!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Out and about

I was out taking pictures of my neighborhood recently. Since I've been remiss on the knitting front lately, I thought maybe instead you'd find some local photos an acceptable substitute?

My backyard, site of many a knitting photo shoot:

My house (I live on the top floor):

My commute:

You can't see it in the picture, but there's an incredibly scary staircase that leads up the hill at the end of the bridge.

The view off the bridge:

And from the other side:

Yes, this gorge is across the street from me. I can hear the falls roaring when it's quiet.

Now you see why I live where I do, eh?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A rant

I mentioned in my last post that I'm knitting a "Baby's First Tattoo" sweater (from Stitch 'n Bitch Nation).

Now, I'm not an inexperienced knitter. I don't need my hand held, particularly when it comes to the basics. But if I pay money for a pattern, I expect that pattern to be well-written, clear, thorough, and reasonably error-free. Free patterns are different. Frequently they're simply the designer's notes cleaned up a bit--in that case, I don't expect polish or even clarity. (You ought to look at MY design notes if you want obtuse.) Anyway, most of the time such patterns are easy to figure out, and I've always found the designers to be super-helpful if they're not.

But as I said before, if I pay for a pattern, I expect a little more. Particularly from a book. After all, books take months, even years, to put together. Someone has to test-knit the garments for the pictures, right? And I know there are technical editors whose very job it is to check accuracy.

And yet. The Stitch 'n Bitch books are particularly egregious offenders when it comes to poor editing and sloppy pattern-writing. Don't get me wrong; I like the books--they're fun to read and many of the patterns are cute and clever. This sweater, though, has me tearing out my hair.

I've finished the back and both fronts of the cardigan, and I definitely have complaints. First, there are a few errors. One is just grammar/typo type-stuff, irritating to the grammarian but of little account to the knitter. The other, however, is much more serious. There are no directions as to how to finish the fronts. If you do the decreases as written, you run into a problem for the last few stitches--it's logistically impossible to continue in the same way. So do you make up your own decreases and continue until you have only one stitch and bind that off? Or do you stop when you run into the logistical problem and bind off then? Or do you stop when you reach the suggested length for the piece, decreases be damned? I honestly have no idea--because the pattern doesn't say. (I ended up stopping the decreases and binding off when the length matched the back. We'll see how that goes.)

Which leads to my second problem--I hate lazy pattern writing. Yes, it may seem like overkill to write the directions out for each front when they're near-identical. But "near" is not the same as "exactly," and you know, the reason I plunked down my $15.95 plus tax is because I didn't want to figure these things out for myself. If I wanted to design my own baby sweater, I would. I don't want the people I'm paying to do it to cut corners.

I do understand there are occasionally legitimate reasons for not providing perfectly complete instructions. For example, for symmetrical lace pieces, it would probably increase pattern cost to print reverse charts, particularly if the work is big. But for a flippin' baby sweater (hint: baby = small), how hard can it be?

Finally, this is a problem I have with this series as a whole. They're putatively designed for beginners, and it's true many of the explanations (particularly in the first book) are wonderful. Yet the patterns sometimes assume that you know nothing and sometimes exclude details that would be of great help to the experienced knitter, let alone the novice. The inconsistency drives me nuts.

Okay, I lied, one more thing. And here this series is by far not the worst offender. Color pictures are expensive. Photography is expensive. But if you're going to have color photographs in your book already, why not put in a few very clear pictures of the garment from multiple angles? Yes, that baby is cute, but I bet his back is cute too, and I'd sure like to see how it looks. Please?

Anyway, while the sweater is shaping up to be adorable, I can't recommend it. Next time I'm going to make up my own.