Knitting Olympics

ETA: Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, I have discovered the fabulousness of a number of designers who are donating some of their pattern sales to various organizations supporting the human rights of LGBT people around the world. Bristol Ivy has a post that says everything I wanted to say below, only better. And she's got a list of the designers, so go check out their designs, get some new patterns for the Games and support


The Ravellenic Games begin today, and I am feeling remarkably blah about the whole thing. If you haven't heard of this event, it is a crafting challenge that coincides with the Olympics (both Winter and Summer). Crafters set themselves a goal project that can be started once the Opening Ceremonies begin, but has to be completed by the end of the Closing Ceremonies.

The first year that I participated in (what was then known as) The Knitting Olympics, I set out to knit my first lace shawl. It was incredibly exciting and fun, and a great challenge to take the headlong plunge in to lace that I'd been so leery of. I got maybe halfway through it over the course of the games, so no medal for me.

In 2010, I tried again (this time with vast quantities of Fair Isle), but again - no medal. And this year?

This year I have a lot of thoughts about the Olympics, but none of them are particularly happy. I am not happy about where they are being held for a number of reasons. I'm shocked by the fact that not only are these going to be the most expensive Olympic Games in history, but some of the venues aren't even finished. And I'm sad because the last Olympics were so wonderful (as they were held in London) that I guess I'm feeling a bit of a hangover from lack of Olympic spirit. Most importantly I am bitterly, bitterly disturbed and disappointed that a number of the athletes attending these games would be targeted and tormented and persecuted and potentially killed if they were honest about their lives and their identities. And while I think President Obama naming openly gay athletes to the delegation representing him at the Olympics is a nice gesture, it falls way below the level of protest that needs to happen.

So...I'm not doing a Ravellenic Games project. I have some absolutely fantastic "Mind the Gap" sportweight yarn from Trailing Clouds that might become a hat or some fingerless mitts (in the rainbow spirit of things).

Mind the Gap sport weight

I have a sweater's lot of handspun Portuguese Merino/Targhee that I have plans for but haven't done anything about. I have an Unravel sweater to finish. There are also upcoming design commissions that I have to do, so it's not like there's NOT going to be any knitting around, it just won't be Olympic knitting.

All this has left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, and absolutely zero excitement about watching the Olympics. No matter how amazing the event, and how much I love skiing and biathlon and a host of other winter sports, the fact that there is so much just plain wrong with the Sochi games is pretty much sabotaging my enthusiasm. It's really, really too bad.

Double whammy

So, there are a couple of big events coming up in the wooly world, and I'm trying to come up with a plan of attack/list of goals that will not result in me either A) spending copious nighttime hours spinning and/or knitting or B) having a nervous breakdown as I try to spin and knit and move house right in the middle of it all.

Up first is my favoritest wool-along ever, the Tour de Fleece. It combines spinning of the fiber variety with spinning of the cycling variety. Spinners set themselves a challenge, i.e. to spin four miles of laceweight cashemere on a Country Craftsman (!), and spend the duration of the Tour de France (30 June - 22 July) trying to meet that challenge. Last year, I spun up 2425 yds/51.3 oz of fiber. In 2012, I spun up 2420 yds/39.4 oz*. You can perhaps see the trend in the weights? So initially (that would be back in August of last year), I thought I'd aim for continuing that trend - could I spin up 60 oz in 3 weeks?

The second event is, of course, the Ravelympics. Knitters choose a challenging project, cast on during the Opening Ceremonies (27 July) and try to finish before the Closing Ceremonies (12 August). The first time I tried this was in 2006, when it was run by the Yarn Harlot from her blog, and called the Knitting Olympics. My challenge was Adamas, my first ever real lace project. Didn't manage to finish. The second time around (2008) it was the Summer Games, and somehow that didn't quite work for me (oh yeah, summertime in Houston = no knitting! Too damn hot!) In 2010, I boldly ventured into Ivy League Vest territory, and yet again managed to not finish within the allotted time.

Given that 1) we moving in July, and Himself and I are bailing out for a week to go chase some guys in spandex through the mountains, 2) I have a tendency to FAIL at the whole Knitting Olympics thingie anyway, 3) I will actually be going to Olympic events (hooray!) and 4) did I mention we're moving? By which I mean some lovely gents will come, pack up all our stuff, drive it three miles and unpack it, leaving us me to sort everything right again, it's safe to say that I will not be spinning 60 oz of anything. I also will not be knitting any lace shawls or steeked colorwork masterpieces. I do, however, have a plan.

To celebrate our three years in the UK/the Diamond Jubilee/London 2012/going to play in West Wales in October with cool knitting people, here are my combined Tour de Fleece/Ravelympics plans (which were actually first voiced in March...).
  1. Spin up my Gotland and organic Hebridean fleece goodies into approximately 1200 yds and 200 yds respectively of 2-ply fingering weight yarn. 
  2. Knit up said yarn into the Stasis Pullover. Which will then be my offering for Today's Sweater at P3.
That's it. Of course, since what I currently have is about 1.5 kilos of unwashed, unprocessed fleece, there is some serious prep work to be done. But I think this is challenging enough to be worth trying, but not so out of reach that I'm going to be sobbing into my knitting late some dark evening around 10th August.

Do you have goals for the Tour de Fleece or Ravelympics? What are they? Are you doing any prep beforehand? Or just jumping in on the first day, guns ablazing? Post a comment with your challenges for either or both events, and we'll see what everyone's coming up with. Good luck!

PS - between 15th-20 July, while I'm brutalizing myself in the Pyrenees, I will hopefully manage to do some spindling of some of the masses of Hello Yarn fiber I've got lying around, just so I can post something on the team thread. If I can make it through 4 oz, I'll be pleased. And if I finish off all the natural fleece, I'll start on a sweater lot of HYFC I've got lying around. But I'm making no promises on that score...

* I have only just noticed that I spun almost the exact same yardage both years. It's those damn laceweight singles from 2010 bumping up that statistic...

FO: She asked for it

You can blame this overly-picture-heavy post on Elica82, who left a disparaging comment on my previous post. So in her honor, I am going to take you through the ridiculous details of this project, and you'll have to read the whole thing to get to the money shot. Well, you don't have to clearly, but she'd better if she knows what's good for her.

The First Step: admitting you have a problem. And then proceeding to ignore what this says about you person/knitter and blithely cast on the Ivy League Vest, a work of art by Eunny Jang.

The Second Step: Start off with enthusiasm and precision. Discover the joys of two-color ribbing. Marvel at the fact that your OCD with regards to color choices has paid off, at least so far.

The Third Step: Continue slogging away, but cracks are beginning to show. Will I make it?

The Fourth Step: After a brief Eureka moment and much exhilaration, it becomes more and more clear that no, I will not make it.

The Fifth Step: Maybe? Maybe? Maybe? Nope. Still not going to make it.

The Sixth Step: Acceptance, moving on, and slicing my knitting open with a pair of scissors. Which still gives me the cold sweats even to think about. Here's the montage:


ILV body complete

Crocheted steeks (thanks to Wimbledon Sewing Machine Company, who charged me a whopping £1.30 for a crochet hook):


My demonstration to Devil as to the reasoning behind taking sharp metal blades to precious knitwear:


And here we go (some pix courtesy of my small Ansel Adams)!


Aaaaaaah!!! I can't watch!


Is it holding? I think it's holding...


All done.

Picking up for ribbing:


A more serious rundown of project and materials:

The Pattern: The pattern was, well...I'll be honest: this pattern and Interweave Knits' formatting were not a match made in heaven. I started off with the body chart and very quickly realized that I was going to go postal if I didn't do something to keep track of all the increasing and decreasing and steeking and shit that needed to happen. I solved the problem by copying the chart and writing all over it. I drew bright blue pen lines along the stitches vertically to show where the decreases and increases needed to happen, I made notations as to where steeks started, I wrote down and crossed off every neck decrease. The page is now completely illegible, and even that didn't save me from a few fuckups along the way. But I ended up being close enough to the correct stitch count at the end that I didn't have to do too much fancy hand waving to get it to all fit together. It's a complicated pattern, and not very clearly written, given the space constraints of the magazine. But it's not impossible either. Another option would be to rewrite the pattern with just the numbers you need for your size, and redo the charts so you've got the starting and stopping stitches on either side. But that seemed like too much work.

Speaking of sizes: I knit a chimeric monster of two sizes. For my bust measurement (40) I wanted the 37.75" size, since the pattern said each bust measurement would fit up to 5 inches larger with no problems. However, the 37.75" size had a hip measurement of 36.25 inches. Aka: far too small for my big ass childbearing lower half. So I knit the 41.75" size up to the waist decreases, then increased up to the number of stitches for the 37.75" size over the same number of rows as called for the increases for the 41.75" size, and then followed the directions for the 37.75" size. And damned if it didn't work!

My only other issue with the pattern was that it was very unclear as to which colors were the background and which were the pattern (important for the steeks and the side seam purl stitch). I noticed as I was working the ribbing that the colors fell in to two groups: marble heather, mist and fog versus iris heather, clematis heather and asphalt heather. So when I could, those were "background" colors and "pattern" colors respectively. I also decided that if I came to a steek or a purl seam, and using the designated color was going to mean weaving in a float (i.e. more then four stitches of the same color), then I'd throw in the other color to avoid having to manipulate yarn balls more then was absolutely necessary.

How I solved the issue of yarn balls getting all tangled up:

Yarn nest

After the lower ribbing, I stopped breaking off each yarn when I finished with it - most of the colors were used at least every five rows, so I just carried them up along the side. My rationale was that 1) that would use less yarn and 2) give me fewer ends to weave in at the end.

The Yarn: I used Knit Picks Palette in this project. It was my first time knitting with this yarn, and I really like it for colorwork. I think anyone who knits socks with it is kidding themselves as it is a very loosely plied 2-ply yarn with low twist, and I can't imagine it would wear well as socks. But the colors are lovely, and it has that very useful "stickiness" needed for Fair Isle and steeking. A bit easy to split the plies while knitting, but nothing too terrible or annoying. I used less then one ball of each color in this project, although it was a bit hairy towards the end to see if I'd run out of the iris heather - I'd used a lot of it in swatches. But no worries. The final damage was marble heather: 43 g, asphalt heather: 34 g, iris heather: 43 g, clematis heather: 41 g, mist: 28 g, fog: 32 g.

Other Details: Used US 3/3.25 mm needles for lower ribbing and body, US 2/2.75 mm needles for neck ribbing and armholes. In retrospect, I might have used US 2 needles for the lower ribbing too, as it tends to flare a bit (thankfully blocking took care of most of that). For the center neck decreases I used k2tog, p1 (center stitch), ssk to maintain the stripe of grey on either side of the center purl stitch. I liked that look better then the ssk/p1/k2tog that I originally tried. I whipstitched the crocheted edge of the steek down to keep it flat.

Neck decreases:

Neck decreases
Nice screw up there did I manage to do that?

Gauge: pre-blocking: 7-7.5 stitches/7 rows per inch. Post-blocking: 7 stitches/7.5 rows per inch. Not surprisingly, my stitches were waaaaay wonky before blocking (gotta love Fair Isle, hunh?), and the ribbing was curling quite a bit.

Preblocking stitches

But post-blocking, things smoothed out beautifully.

Post-blocking stitches

Blocked ribbing

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...The Money Shot(s):

Ivy League Vest

Ivy League Vest

I'm wearing it to work tomorrow. And quite possibly every day thereafter. Please bury me in this sweater. Or in Venezia, which has now moved it's way up my mental queue. Because I need more Fair Isle insanity, right? Maybe I can do it for London 2012.

I seem to have moved into a grey/purple phase, since yesterday I bought supplies for a big sewing project. Hmmm....

The next big project

(Was that enough photos for you Carmen?)

There's that damn singing again

But this time, it's the angels. I am sitting in my TV room, watching "Lambing Live" on BBC2*, and I just finished the ribbing on the Ivy League Vest. And then I tried it on.

It's perfect. I am stunned at how well it turned out. And hey, that gauge thing? Totally works.

Now I just have to weave in 452 ends, sew down some steeks and block that baby. Maybe I can wear it on Wednesday...

* All week, live lambing (if we're lucky) at 8:00 pm. And if nobody's lambing (like tonight), there are little vignettes about bottle feeding lambs and breeding and feeding. Even sheep ultrasounds. A fibertarian's dream program, even if they do discount interest in wool breeds**.
** BFL's are described as "soft" because they have to live in the barn, not out on the hills in the Yorkshire Dales. Pussies...


The list of useful knitting tools I have uncovered in the last 45 minutes of searching:

One pair of scissors,
A row counter,
Two tape measures,
Two darning needles (one gargantuan, one actual useful size),
Two wooden cable needles,
Four stitch holders of varying sizes,
One hundred gazillion stitch markers,
Three crochet hooks (sizes huge, huger and 5.50 mm),
More stitch markers,
One set of dpns (size 0),
and three dpns of unknown size in a lovely violet shade.

What I have not found:

One size 3.25 mm (or smaller) crochet hook so I can do my fraking steeks.

I do have a small crochet hook, but it's a size 1.00mm for placing beads. Two ply Palette will completely overwhelm it.

Tomorrow's mission, should I choose to accept it: Find.A.Damn.Crochet.Hook. Any suggestions?