Sunday, 27 September 2015

Third Time is the Charm

I have been worried about the afghan category for the Harrow Fair.  I have never knit an afghan.  I always say that making an afghan was just too big a knitting commitment.  Knitting an afghan is the equivalent of 4 large adult sweaters.  I figured the only way to get an afghan done in time was to start now. 

I had certain criteria:

  • It must be portable.  I did not want to haul around a blanket to my office or the dentist's.
  • Since the yarn was coming from my stash, it would have to be multiple colours.  I might buy sweater quantities of yarn, not afghan quantities.  I am not that crazy.
  • I had to like it, Actually, the hubby had to like it.  He was more likely to use it than me.
I went stash diving.  I had lots of Paton's Classic Wool, the result of yarn orgies over several years at the Listowel Tent Sale.  I also had a decent amount of Cascade 220.  I haunted Ravelry checking out the afghan patterns.  I finally settled on Log Cabin Afghan published in 60 Quick Baby Knits.

A baby afghan you ask?  Well, since the afghan is made up of square blocks knit separately and sewn together, I figure I could just make more and instead of 3x3 squares, I could have 4x5.  I would need 20 blocks.  Totally doable.

It took me a while to rework the quantities.  I gathered the yarns in the necessary quantities.  I set them up next to each other and made my choices.  I am not going to list each colour for you as each of the colours used is now discontinued.

 I thought the yellow would make a nice pop of colour in the centre.  The further I got the less I liked the yellow.   Back to the stash.  Royal purple was just the thing.  I had 3 balls and by my calculations I would only need 2 for the centres.

I was heading out to the Esssex 73's home game so grabbed the yarn and a new set of needles.  I cast on and knit through the game.  Essex won 3-1 defeating Blenheim.  I missed every goal.  I was either counting or ripping back.  The pattern just says cast on 17 stitches.  It does not say which cast on method to use.  As stitches need to be picked up on the cast on edge, different cast on's give different results when picking up stitches.

Also there were no instructions on how to pick up stitches on the sides.  I know several methods. Some require special treatment for the edge stitches.  Of course each method will also give different results in the finished look of the piece.  So while at the game, I was experimenting with different methods,  No matter which one I chose, it did not look quite like the photo in the book.  Eventually, I settled on the knitted cast on.  It creates a series of loose stitches at the bottom suitable for picking up stitches.

 Since the pattern was silent on what to do when picking up edge stitches, I assumed there would not be special edge treatments.  Therefore I am picking up the bumps on the garter edges.

 Finally, there are cast off edges as well.  There I am going into the stitches just below the cast off and knitting into that stitch.  This is as far as I got at the game.

I was home admiring my work.  I decided to put one square on top of the other so I could see how I liked the purple centre.

Looks good doesn't it?  The ones with sharp eyes for details will notice the problem immediately.  Got it?  No?  Well the upper square is smaller than the lower square.  In my rush to get to the hockey game, I thought I had taken a 4.5 mm needle.  What I had taken was a 4.00 mm needle. If I finished the square with the smaller needle, the whole square would be smaller than 12".  If I continued, the whole afghan would be too small for the category. There is a minimum size of 40 by 60 inches.

I cast on again with the correct needle size.  Here is my square blocking.

It is square.  Angle of the camera distorts the image.  See I can prove it.

I picked up a quilting square at Sewcraft in Essex.  I went in to see about a zipper for the Vespa Sweater and came out with a square instead.  It is 12 1/2 by 12 1/2".  The square knit up was 12 by 12 and came out of it bath 13 by 13.  I was able to smoosh it back to 12 1/2 by 12 1/2.  The quilting square is perfect and will make blocking these 20 squares easy.

I knit up a second and here you can get an idea of what the whole blanket will look like.

Hubby likes the purple.

Now for progress on the other items.  

The cowl looks the same but slightly longer.  No point in a picture that essentially looks the same as last time.  I have been hauling this project around with me and knitting on it when ever possible.

I started the shrug.

The Vespa Sweater is blocked.  I want to knit the collar on rather than knit it separately and then sew it on.  It is too hard to sew with the bulky yarn.  For the sleeve seam, I found a cream ball of Galway worsted in my stash.  It will work for the sleeves and side seams.  I don't have a matching green for sewing on the collar. Therefore any seaming will show on the collar and look tacky.

I thought it would be easier to sew in the zipper before attaching the front pieces to the rest of the sweater.  I measured the front.  61 cm. Headed to Fabricland for zipper and ribbon.  I thought a nice piece of ribbon sewn inside to hide the zipper edge would be a lovely attractive finish.  Picked up the zipper and ribbon and then got distracted in the store by the sale on flannelette.  I bought five pieces.

Got home to sew in the zipper.  I put the first half on.  The piece with the zipper would not lay flat.  Usually this is a result of stretching the knitted piece.  I had carefully laid out the front flat on a table, pinned the zipper in place careful not to stretch the front.  It was buckling.  Tore out the stitching and tried again.  Same thing.

Laid out the zipper under the second front and now the zipper is too long.  Compare the two fronts and the one with the zipper sewn in is longer than the other front.  Damn!  The first front was stretched. Now I need a second trip to Fabricland for a shorter zipper.

The zipper is not the only issue with the sweater.  This is how much green I had left after finishing the body.  The collar will be green as well.

That looks like a full ball but it is not.  It is less than 1/2 a ball.  Not nearly enough to knit the collar which has 102 rows in it.  Only one thing to do.  I called the Factory Outlet Store in Listowel.  I spoke to the lovely Tammy.  I explained that I had sent my husband to the store in August during the tent sale to buy me yarn for this sweater.  
Tammy says, "Oh, I remember him.  He was on a motorcycle".

Tammy checked and yes they had a ball of this colour in the same dyelot and it would go out UPS that day or the next.  I texted Hubby and told him he was famous.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Works in Progress - How many are enough?

This week I have been struggling with how many projects I should have on the go at any one time.  In order to complete my challenge to knit 42 Harrow Fair entries before the next fair, I pretty much have to knit in every spare minute.  That means that I need to knit where ever and when ever possible.  

To knit during webinars, while travelling etc. you have to have a project where you do not need to consult the pattern constantly.  The pattern has to be memorized and have portions that are mindless knitting.

The Vespa sweater quickly reached the point where I had to follow the chart to knit in the scooter.  This is not mindless knitting.  This requires laying out the pattern, using post-it notes to track what row I am on and constantly counting stitches.

Wednesday I had a webinar to watch.  I was faced with an hour of potential knitting time and nothing Harrow Fair related.  Early in the morning I wound this yarn.

And cast on Over & Over Infinity Loop during the webinar.  As there were 168 stitches to cast on using the cable cast on, a very slow cast on for me and I was taking notes from the webinar, the cast on took up the hour.  I did not count the stitches until the session was over.

Thursday morning I took the ferry to Pelee Island for a couple of days.  My husband works on the island and normally he is there the same days I am working in Windsor.  However this week he was there at the end of the week.  I was off Thursday and Friday so I joined him.  I still did not want to knit the scooter on the hour and a half ferry ride.  I suffer motion sickness and there would be too much looking at the pattern for my poor stomach.  The cowl was just the thing.  There are only 2 rows in the pattern and easily memorized.  However, it still requires concentration.

Before I show you progress on the cowl and tell you of my adventures on Pelee Island, let me tell you a story about this yarn.  I told you that my husband is a stash enhancer.  Here he is heading off on the ferry to Sandusky OH.

Look beyond the group in the foreground.  He was ultimately heading to Nova Scotia.  While on Cape Breton, he was having a smoke outside his hotel and another man started up a conversation.  I think it must have been a really strange conversation as the man said he was Anna Maria Tremonti's ex-husband and my husband asked him where he could find a yarn store.  The even stranger part was that the ex gave him directions to here.  The yarn chosen for me is Mineville Wool Project, a lovely 75% wool, 25% sheared angora blend.

Progress to date:

I love going to Pelee.  I had two days to hike, take photos, knit and sleep.  I had the perfect setup for knitting the scooter portion of the sweater.

And this is the view from the wall of windows on the left in the above photo.


Just a note on how I place the chart into the garment.  I added a line of thread to mark the bottom of the chart.  Then I added similar markers to mark the edges of the chart.  These are the two pink ones in the photo above.  Then additional random markers to mark the 10 stitch lines in the chart.  That way I don't have to count each and every stitch, just the ones that are to the left or right of the 10 stitch lines in the chart.  It makes placing the motif a lot easier.

By last night, the back is complete.  The sweater pieces still need a bath, blocking and assembly. There is then the collar still to complete.

While on Pelee Island, Reba and I ventured out to Fish Point, the southern most point on the island.  Middle Island is still further south in the Lake and is the southernmost point in Canada.

For the last while, I have been trying to take more interesting pictures of my finished items.  I like to take them out to Pelee Island for a photo shoot.  I discovered that I had not taken photos of a woven scarf so I used the hike to the point as an opportunity for photos.  Here are a sampling.

I also went to Vu-Shorgo because I heard that there were goats.  I like goats, almost as much as I like sheep and alpacas.  At Vu-Shorgo, I hit the jackpot.  This is Mustaque with one of his goats.  Each of the animals has a name and Mustaque told me each one but I could only hold so many in my head at once.

I think the names of the alpaca were Lisa and Elsie
This is a Jacob sheep and her name is is Latte.

There were chickens.  The chickens followed me around the farm like a flock of groupies.  I had trouble getting photos of them as a group as they were right at my feet and rubbing themselves against my ankles.  They were very friendly.

I also enjoyed the activities of the geese.

Ducks too.

You can read more about Vu-Shorgo here or on facebook here.

I purchased a hemp bag and local garlic before I left.

Now that you have been distracted by goats, it is time to come back to how many projects are enough.  I think I am going to say 3.  That way, there is a chance that there will always be a project at a stage where the project can travel with me for those moments were I can pick up the knitting during the day without the need for the pattern.

The third one I have chosen is Bridal Shrug by Iris Schreier.  I have chosen Zambezi, a 70% kid; 30% silk blend by Fleece Artist.  I purchased it last year at the Woodstock Fleece Festival from Grand River Yarns.  I have wound the yarn but not cast on yet.

While the title of the pattern includes "bridal", I just like laciness of the pattern.  No one is planning on getting married.  I think one of my nieces might like it when it is done. No pressure ladies.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Vespa Sweater

I have been wanting to make this sweater for years.  I acquired the pattern in a box of Mary Maxim patterns at an auction sale.

I have been looking for yarn ever since.  Mary Maxim still carries the Northland chunky yarn but it is now 75% acrylic and only 25% wool.  I wanted a 100% wool sweater.  I also wanted the scooter to be silver.

Recently I discovered that Patons carries a bulky yarn and had the colours I wanted.  The gauge is not the same but close.  So I have been doing the math, making the adjustments and swatching.

So here we are on the first project.  I consider that the yarn is from the stash.  After all the yarn was purchased  at least 2 weeks before the last Harrow Fair.

I swear each yarn has its own story.  I spent the spring and summer waiting for the 2015 Listowel tent sale so I could make the trip to the Spinrite factory outlet in Listowel, Ontario.  That way I could have the full line of the Patons Classic Wool Bulky available.  But life intervened.  I was busy at work, I had other commitments and just could not see having a full day available to go.  Listowel is a good 4 hours drive  one way from Essex.

At the same time my husband was moaning that he wanted to take a motorcycle day trip and wasn't it just too bad that the sale in Listowel was over.  I stared at him and said the sale starts on Monday.  I chose the colours I wanted for the sweater, estimated quantities and made my list.  On the Friday, he loaded up the bike with the T-bag, cords, and extra bags that clipped to the main T-bag.  He emptied the side bags, packed the map and my list and headed off.

Here is what you can fit on a motorcycle.

I manged to fit all this into the existing stash tubs so no need to spend Canadian Tire money on new bins.  The Vespa sweater yarn is on the right.

Here is the progress to yesterday evening.

Two sleeves and the start of the right front.  I don't like the motifs on the front of the sweater so I have simplified the design.  What I really want is this motif on the back.

This is a Vespa scooter.  I took my motorcycle test on one.  The pattern has the scooter in red.  I want it to be silver to match this one.

Yes that is me.  This is a 1973 Vespa Sprint with 150cc's of power.    It will do 60 mph downhill with a passenger on the back.  The extra weight keeps the back end from bouncing around.   When you are 16 a younger sister works just fine.  I am using the Imperial measurements since the scooter predate's Canada's adoption of the metric system.

Here is my stash enhancement device.

As I have been writing this I started to think about the history of the fair.  The Colchester South and Harrow Agricultural Society was founded in 1854.  This is the organization responsible for the Harrow Fair.   Since 2015 was the 161st Harrow Fair, this means that the first fair was held in 1855.

The first highway in Ontario - Kings Highway 18 (now Country road 20) joined the towns and villages along the Erie north shore and ran through Harrow.  I don't know if it was macadamized by 1855.  The highway had been established a number of years before.  Today it is the main street in Harrow.  Essex County was already established (1792).  In 1855 the underground railway was functioning. The California gold rush was still on.  Harrow was small, more of a crossroads really and was not established as a police village until 1878.  The village of Essex did not yet exist. Amherstburg and Sandwich were thriving communities.  Queen Victoria was on the throne.  Bytown was renamed Ottawa.  Canada as a country would not exist for another 12 years.  Windsor had been established as a village the year before.  1854 was the same year that the Great Western Railway established its Canadian terminal in Windsor setting the die for Windsor's future growth.  In 1855 most of the region's population lived along the shore or close to the lakes and the Detroit River.  Most of the interior of Essex County was forest and swampy.

The fair's goal was to provide education and some healthy competition to improve agricultural production.  It was more of an auction sale really than the fun and fantastic fair we know today in its 162nd year.

Back to working on the sweater.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

162nd Harrow Fair

For some reason I think that September is the start of the new year.  I don't make resolutions in January, I make them in September.  September for me is the start of new beginnings. Here it is September 2015 and I want to start something new.

For me that also means that I want to start a new challenge.  The 161st Harrow Fair has just ended and I looked at all the beautiful exhibits in the needle arts displays.

I was inspired.  There were also quilts but I am a Knitter so no photos of quilts today.  Of course there was way more entries than I have shown in the photos.  I just wanted to give you a taste of the scope of what the Harrow Fair offers for needle crafters.

My challenge:

There are 48 categories for knitting at the 2015 fair.  Some of these are for seniors 65+ years.  I have not got there yet.  Some are for beginners and some are for advanced.  Advanced and beginners does not relate to your skill or how long you have been knitting.  For the beginner categories it means that you can enter until you win in that category, then you become advanced.  At least it used to.  Now I understand that the exhibitor can choose whether he or she thinks of themselves as a beginner or an advanced knitter and enter either but cannot enter both the beginner and the advanced category.  

I am eligible to enter 42 of the 48 categories and my goal for the 2016 fair is to enter all 42 of the knitting categories plus the one or two new categories that are created each year.  I just hope that I don't spend too much effort on a category that disappears next year.

I think this is a crazy amount of knitting to achieve in a year.  I was telling this to one of the Needle Arts Directors how crazy I thought this was until she told me about T who comes every year with suitcases and laundry baskets full of entries.  She enters knitting, crocheting, sewing and maybe even a quilt or two and pretty much enters each and every category for Needle Arts.  T claims that she does not go out much.  I admire T and am envious of the time she can spend expressing her creativity.

I am not yet retired like T so I think 42 entries is a major challenge. Especially since I think the best I have done is maybe 14?  I only managed to put in 13 entries this year.  Mind you, I have probably given away close to 42 items over the past year as Christmas and birthday gifts.  So to any of my family reading this, don't expect the usual socks, hats etc for Christmas or your birthday for the upcoming year.  

The Rules

Harrow Fair

Must be clean, new and smoke-free;
Must be completed since the last fair; and
Must be at the fair by 9:00pm Wednesday August 31, 2016.

My Rules

Must be started since the last fair;
Must be something I can use, or give as a gift.
For the adult items, must fit me or a family member; and
Yarn must come from my stash whenever possible.

I have committed to myself and to you to blog at least once a week to update you on my progress.

For the next year we will discuss the progress of the entries.  Tell stories about the yarn and pattern choices.  There will be photos.  Most of all, I hope there will be lots of laughter but I also expect there will be some tears as well.

I hope you will join me on this crazy train.