Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I'll take that challenge!

I'm completely enamored of knitting up shop samples for my new LYS, Fringe. The owner set me up on another shop sample and challenged me to have it done in a week. This was last Thursday evening. I'm blocking it now. Hopefully it will be dry in time to take to the shop tomorrow.
The challenge was the Hourglass Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts in Knit One, Crochet Too's Paint Box. The book itself is divided into sections based on how long each knitted gift will take to make. It's a good thing this sweater was in the More-Than-Eight-Hour category, or I would have been really cranky. It should have been in the Way-The-Hell-Longer-Than-Eight-Hour category. I have worked obsessively on this since last Friday, and I just finished hemming it. Yes, hems.
Now, I thought I would be cranky about the hems. It's knit in the round, so there's no side seams to sew (except for a small underarm section). However, the entire thing is made with a hem on every single edge. So take a pattern with no finishing, and add more finishing to it than you would put on any sweater, ever. But like I said, I thought I would be cranky about this. It actually turned out so cute that I'm not the least bit mad, I actually kind of enjoyed it, and will definitely do it again. It's an unexpected look for a sweater that turns out looking really nice.
The part I was really cranky about was the yoke. The first few rounds where you attached the sleeves to the body were really tight to knit. I wound up using my smaller needle to sneak them over sometimes. After that, it went pretty well. The neckline worries me. It seems a bit floppy, and that's what I had read on lots of online reviews. I even knit a few extra rounds as some of the knitalongs had suggested, and it still seems floppy. Hopefully I can whip it into shape with blocking.
The yarn, as it turns out, had me alternately mesmerized and cursing. The colors are beautiful, and it's really great to watch the changes as you're knitting. For a large part of the pattern, it's the only change in miles of stockinette. However, it's single spun, which means it's fairly weak. I found that the yarn tore apart on me as I was knitting, pretty much any time I pulled back with a lot of tension. Now it is 100% wool, which means you can split splice it back together, and to join a new ball, but it was still a hassle to have to deal with. It will felt, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you want. It makes me a little nervous in a sweater. It will run a little bit too. When I was washing it, the blue seemed to leak in particular. Once I squeezed it out, I left it on a beige towel to dry (stupid, I know, but I have no other color) and it was okay. It was scratchy to work with, but I'm told after using a wool wash it softens up nicely. We'll see. I had a free sample of a wool wash called Eucalan, maybe that will do the trick.
That said, I really do think I'll make the pattern again. The miles of stockinette were really boring at times, but it's a great movie sweater. The fit is really flattering, even though I tried it on before blocking. I have some delicious malabrigo yarn that I plan to make it in for myself. Hey, I already bought the needles, right?
The jury is still out on the yarn. We'll have to see how well it softens up. For me, it was a bit too scratchy, but I think it would felt really well. It would make an awesome bag, I'm just not really sure I want to work with it again. I'm the kind of person that would sleep in cashmere sheets if it were at all affordable (and it isn't, especially after last month's credit card bill), so softness really matters to me. And if it's too bright for you, don't worry, this is the brightest colorway, a #19 that doesn't seem to be listed on the website. There are some nice muted blues and purples or pastels.
In summary:
Pattern: Hourglass Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, in the collection.
Needles: Size 7, 32" and 12" circulars, had to buy the 32"
Yarn: Knit One Crochet Too's Paint Box, about 9 skeins to make the second smallest size, regularly around $10 a skein. Damn. Good thing it's a shop sample.
Time: 5 1/2 days of obsessive knitting and finishing, and a rare wool wash and block from me. The blocking was totally worth it though, look at the difference in the two photos.

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