And the Winner of the Northern Lights Cardi Book Giveaway IS:
Hi, all! Thanks for your giveaway entries - I figure about 10 of us are knitting the NLC currently, and that about the same number intend to knit it in future, but it is too hard to keep track this way to be sure. I think I'll set up separate threads in the Ravelry group (nicky epstein kototw knitathon) for people to "sign in" when they start to knit each pattern, so that we can get a clearer idea of how many of us are doing each KAL (and maybe get the yarn companies excited, too!)
The winner of the giveaway for a signed copy of Nicky Epstein's Knitting on Top of the World is:
Here are some Northern Lights to celebrate!
Congratulations, Norma! I'm so glad you won! Norma is one of the very first Ravelry KOTOTW group members, and I've enjoyed getting to know her a bit and seeing her lovely knits (she is making Nicky's starburst scarf from a few Vogue Knittings ago - check it out!)
Norma, if you could send me your snail-mail address, I'll have a copy of Nicky's book on its way to you pronto!
And, before those of you who didn't win sigh in despair, here's another giveaway! I have 3 more signed copy of Nicky Epstein's KOTOTW to give away, people!
All you need to do to enter, is to email me at maryp55124ATyahooDOTcom (fill in the symbols for the bolded words - I understand that this might save me from some unwanted spam), and tell me up to three (3) of your favorite books!
Please send me your email entry no later than MIDNIGHT Eastern Standard Time, January 31, 2010! I'll assemble the list of our favorite books and share (so we can all cuddle up this winter with a cup of tea and a good read... when we're not knitting, that is!)
Progress on the Northern Lights Cardigan
Here is a great picture of Cai's NLC in progress:
Isn't it beautiful? The jewel-like colors are really gorgeous together. I'm looking forward to her sending in a picture of the final project!
As for my own NLC, I am ALMOST DONE! This sweater went much more quickly than I expected, probably because I had a lot more knitting time due to the holidays, but also because I find Fair Isle simply un-put-downable! I end up knitting just one more row, and then one more row, to see how each new color looks as it comes into play... until it is way past my bedtime.
I also FINALLY found some buttons that I think are perfect, at one of my favorite LYS's, Coldwater Collaborative in Excelsior, MN:
Pretty, huh! (I find it amusing that I hate to shop for clothes, shoes, pretty much anything you can buy at a mall, but will spend HOURS searching for the perfect yarn, or button, or ribbon...)
I am nearly done sewing on the Swarovski crystal beads:
So, now I just have to wait for the store to call when the buttons are ready to be picked up... WHEE!
Finishing Your Knitting - Tips and Techniques
I thought it might be helpful for those of you who are new-ish knitters, to talk about some of the techniques in this sweater. I'm basically a self-taught knitter, and learned by trial and error (LOTS of error!), and thought it might be helpful to hear how to avoid some of the problems I encountered early on in my knitting.
Please note, however, that I don't think there is ever any one right way to knit, or sew, or do any particular stitch -- every knitter develops his or her own unique methods, so if you have already figured out how to do this stuff your way, please don't feel I'm trying to impose or "preach". I find this one of the loveliest parts of knitting, actually -- you can't spend time with other knitters without picking up handy new ideas, information, and methods to enhance your own enjoyment of the art of knitting.
First Technique - Fair Isle
Fair Isle involves knitting (or purling) with two different colors along each row, leaving the yarn not in use trailing across the wrong side of the knitting. The hardest thing about Fair Isle, hands down, is learning to leave the yarn not in use loose enough, so that the resulting Fair Isle fabric is every bit as stretchy as it would be if you were simply doing stockinette stitch in just one color. You don't want the fair isle to "pucker"; it won't be as visually pleasing if it doesn't lie flat, PLUS if you pull the yarn too tightly, your fabric won't be elastic, and may not even be as wide as it needs to be to fit that particular part of your body!
If you are new to this technique, it is really worth practicing until you get a sense of just how loose to leave the unused strand of yarn lying across the wrong side of your knitting, as you pick it up to knit the next stitch in that color. I know I am a naturally tight knitter, and it took quite a while for me to loosen my "floats" (i.e., the unused lengths of yarn behind the active stitches) enough so that the fabric was flat and stretchy.
Here is a picture of the back of my Fair Isle yoke section:
Here's another tip: when you are working two different colors in one row, you don't have to twist the colors each time they change, like you would if you were switching colors at the edge of an intarsia motif, so as to avoid a hole. You can just keep one color of yarn on "top" and the other on the "bottom" as you knit along. This way, you can to avoid the laborious untwisting of both of your yarns once they get hopelessly tangled.
(I didn't actually realize that you didn't need to twist the colors on Fair Isle, for YEARS. Needless to say, I like this kind of color knitting a LOT better now than I did, back when I would have to stop mid-row to untwist the colors. :D)
One exception to this rule, is that you want to avoid having really long floats, mainly because it is so easy to have them catch on fingers or buttons, etc., and snag your lovely colorwork.
On this pattern (on most patterns, in fact), I limit my floats to three stitches. So, in those places on this pattern where there are five stitches in one color, I twisted the yarn after the third stitch to "trap" the float. You can see this on the very bottom row in the picture above - the white yarn is "trapped" every third stitch. However, this does mean that the yarns will spiral around each other as you knit, so you'll have to stop occasionally and untwist them.
On the front, you want your Fair Isle knitted fabric to lay flat and to be smooth. As you can see on the picture above with the crystals, the knitting isn't puckered up, so my yoke will be the right size to fit around my shoulders.
Digression - Finishing Sweaters Can Be FUN!!!
I am clearly in the minority of knitters, in that I truly enjoy the process of finishing a knitted project. Granted, weaving in thread ends on a multicolored sweater does get a bit tedious, but I truly find pleasure in seaming knitted pieces together, sewing up hems, and picking up stitches around armholes, necklines, and cardigan fronts until I get the edgings just right.
When I was really young and just starting to knit, an older friend of my mom's who taught me to tat mentioned that she had once enjoyed knitting, but gave it up, because no matter how nicely she knitted the individual pieces of a sweater, she couldn't seem to sew it all together without the end result looking somehow botched and crooked.
My sister and I were very tall, even as kids, and learned to sew to make clothes that would fit us (a skill that came in really handy when we moved to London and couldn't find clothes long enough for our gangly teenage legs and arms!) Maybe this sewing knowledge helps a bit, too, in realizing that you need to gather the top of a set-in sleeve to get it to fit right, for instance.
Anyway, I wish I could just sit down with knitters who loathe this finishing part of knitting, and share what little knowledge I have about putting the finishing touches on a knitted garment.
(For an example of true masters of the art of finishing knitted garments, check out the Rainey Sisters: the way they finish their sweaters is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. I just sigh with delight at their talents; I'm not as much of a perfectionist, by far, but have learned a lot by following their blog and seeing the thought and care they put into both altering and finishing their projects.)
Second Technique - Hemming
Hemming is one of those essential techniques for finishing sweaters; I tend to favor patterns with hemmed bottom edges, as I just find them more comfortable than the classic ribbed edging, which tends to ride up when sit down or stand up. Annoying.
The tricky part of hemming, is to make sure you sew loosely enough that you don't create a really noticeable ridge on the front of the knitting.
On this sweater, the hem is knitted on a needle one size smaller than the body, which is really smart (of course, considering Nicky is our fearless leader!)
Picture a circle - if you traced another circle just inside it, that inside circle would need to be a bit smaller to fit! So, for the bottom and sleeve hems of the NLC, the folded-up hem must form a slightly smaller circle in order to fit just right.
To sew the hem on this sweater, you just need to fold the hem inwards on the garter stitch row that forms the turning edge (created when you change needle sizes), and then gently tack the hem down onto the inside of the bottom edge.
I usually use a long-tail cast on, which leaves a long spiralled edge, as shown at the top of the hem, above. Rather than stitching onto this edge, I picked up the next row of "loops" inside this edge, leaving the spiral itself loose. I found that this also helped the hem edge to lay flat, and prevented the top of the hem edge from pushing outwards against the bottom of the sweater and making a visible ridge on the front.
Since there are an even number of stitches in the hem and the body of the sweater, you can make your stitching nice and even by picking up one hem stitch and sewing it to one stitch of the body in order. The needles in these pictures show where I opted to sew onto the wrong side of the sweater; one stitch into the left "leg" of a knit stitch, and the next stitch into the "bump" on top of a purl stitch:
Here are pictures of these stitches being picked up as the hem is being sewn on:
I picked up the "left leg" of the knit stitch; and then:
I picked up the "purl bump" of the next stitch. You can use the garter ridge directly above the hem edge to help make sure you are consistently sewing into stitches on the same row.
Third Technique - Picking Up Stitches for a Ribbed Edging
Ahh, picking up stitches. It is really important to let yourself experiment with this step, until you get the edging on a neckline, armhole, hem or button band exactly right. We've all seen homemade sweaters with necklines with ribbing so loose, it curls up and away from the neck instead of lying flat; or cardigans with button bands way too long, so that they "ruffle" and don't hold the edge of the cardigan firm and straight.
I use the "Pick up X stitches" number stated in the pattern as a rough guide only, not only because I usually have lengthened the knitted piece, but also because there is such a wide variation in individual knitter's gauges, you need to figure out what will work for your own knitting. What is important to me, is that the finished ribbed edging look just right - not puckery, not ruffly.
On this sweater, you are picking up stitches along three different stitch patterns along each front:
- the waffle stitch on the body;
- the Fair Isle yoke; and
- the edge of the neck ribbing.
However, each of these areas of the sweater has a slightly different row gauge or "rows per inch". The Fair Isle yoke has less rows per inch than the waffle stitch, because the "garter" or 2 knit rows of the waffle stitch aren't as tall as two rows of plain stockinette would be. The neck ribbing is knitted with smaller needles, so it has more rows per inch than the Fair Isle yoke as well.
So, it would make sense to pick up MORE stitches on the Fair Isle yoke edge, than it would on the waffle stitch or ribbed areas.
To demonstrate what happens if you just pick up the same number of stitches per row on each area, for my first attempt, I picked up 3 stitches for every 4 rows, all the way from the bottom to the top of the right front edge. This was the perfect number of stitches per row for the waffle stitch area:
Nice and flat, and firm.
BUT, it wasn't enough stitches for the Fair Isle yoke area:
See? It is all gathered and puckery. If I got bored and just left it this way, the sweater wouldn't look right, wouldn't hang right, and would fill me with woe every time I wore it. So it is WORTH it to give this edging stuff several tries - really!
Another thing to think about when putting a ribbed edge on a sweater, is the top and bottom edge. Ribbing naturally draws inwards, so you want to pick up more stitches on the very top and bottom inch or so of each piece, to decrease this drawing-in tendency, and to make sure you pick up your last stitch at the very topmost or bottommost edge:
I thought this bottom edge looked OK; it looks like a continuous line of knitting from the last stitch of the sweater edge, to the bottom-most rib stitch.
HOWEVER, the topmost edge of my ribbing didn't work out as well. See how drawn-in it is? I didn't pick up enough stitches here, and the effect is to make the edge look like it stops 1/4 inch short of the top edge of the neck.
So, I unravelled my first edging and started again. It would be nice not to have to do this, and less time-consuming. BUT you are going to wear this work of art hopefully for years, and you want the really noticeable bits, like the top edge right next to your face, to be perfect! You don't want to have them catch your eye in the mirror every time you wear the sweater and think, "Darn! I should have unravelled that and fixed it." Besides, it doesn't take very much time to knit 8 little ribbed rows - I have come to expect that it may take quite a few tries to get the edging just the way I want it to look.
For my second try, I picked up a stitch in every row at the top and bottom edge of the ribbing for about 1"; 3 stitches for every 4 rows on the rest waffle stitch area and the rest of the neck ribbing; and 1 stitch for EVERY row on the Fair Isle yoke area.
Here is what it looked like to pick up stitches in the Fair Isle area. You want to make sure you insert your needle along the same exact "column" or vertical row of stitches, so that the edging is perfectly even:
As you can see, picking up a stitch for every row of the Fair Isle area worked MUCH better:
The Fair Isle isn't all puckery and bunchy here.
Here is the almost-finished sweater:
Now I just have to finish sewing on the crystal beads, wait for the buttons, and then 'll model it for you!
In Other News:
I went to see a wonderful concert with my friend, Laurie, this past Friday night. The Minnesota Orchestra played the complete score of The Wizard of Oz, WHILE the movie was simultaneously being shown on a big screen behind the musicians. It was just phenomenal! The Harold Arlen score is just wonderful (think of all those lovely tunes, and the scary Evil Monkey music...). I am a huge fan of this movie, and the Orchestra Hall program invite suggested that audience members could come in costume, if they wished.
And, since I just happen to have a complete Dorothy costume, left over from my days at the kooky software company where we had Halloween costume contests, I decided to wear it! (Also, I told Laurie I was thinking about doing this, and she dared me, and well, I can't refuse a dare...) And finally, I'm 47 years old for goodness sake! This is likely the last time I will ever wear this costume. Sigh, my youth has flown, but my extroverted nature has not.
So, since I didn't want to have to change at the restaurant where we had dinner before the concert, I changed at work at the end of the day:
Note poor Dave, the attorney who has the office next to mine. There he is, doing actual work, while I'm cavorting about in a demented Dorothy costume. I couldn't find the Toto doll I had used 10 years ago, as my son is now 13 and has banished his stuffed animals, so I used a squeaky stuffed dachshund doggy play-toy instead.
When I walked into Lotus A Go-Go (Laurie's and my favorite pre-symphony restaurant as they serve vegetarian entrees for Laurie), the other customers were highly amused, to say the least.
And, not surprisingly considering that this is Minnesota, the land of the extremely introverted... (Minnesota joke: How do you know when a Minnesotan is an extrovert? Answer: When he talks to you, he's looking at your shoes instead of his own!), there were only three other people who decided to dress up for the concert. They also chose Dorothy costumes, but unlike me, they were all under the age of 7. Ahem.
Oh well. Laurie has seats right up in front, and the orchestra musicians got a big kick out of me walking by in Full Dorothy Regalia - I squeaked my little Toto toy for them. And a number of the tiny Dorothys evidently thought I was the real thing and asked for photo ops:
If you have a chance to attend a similar "movie night" by the orchestra or symphony in your city, I urge you to go. It was just thrilling to have the orchestra playing the music right in front of you, not to mention seeing this classic film on the big screen. It just caught the audience up entirely; I don't think there was a dry eye in the house when Dorothy told the Scarecrow that she thought she would miss him most of all (OK, OK, well, I couldn't tell actually, as I was crying myself - I'm such a sap.)
I've pondered your comments, and have decided to go with my instincts here. Instead of waiting until Feb. 1 to start the next project, I'm just going to keep knitting at my own pace. I think it would be neat if I could actually beat my 4-year deadline, but I'm not going to rush it. I can't let knitting take precedence over the rest of my life (for instance, tonight we need to go do some extra-credit math homework... YEE HAH!). And also, I need to earn a living. Teenage boys eat a lot of pizza, after all!
So, once I've stitched on all the crystal beads onto my NLC, I am going to start knitting the Project No. 2, the Copenhagen Royal Shawl!
Congratulations again, Norma!
And I hope lots of you enter the next giveaway! I'd love to know what your favorite books are!