Mistress of the universe (but only for today).

Isn’t it amazing how finishing something that’s been hanging over your head can make you feel like you’ve conquered Everest? If I didn’t think it was kind of sick to do this, I’d say that the longer you prolong the agony on the procrastination side of the task, the more satisfying it is to actually get rid of it. Why take out insects individually when you can bomb a whole colony at once? …Too revealing a metaphor? I had others, but they were all even worse. Occasionally I need those to wake up my students in the mornings.

I finished the buttons and sleeve seams last night during a screening of Saboteur, not to be confused with Sabotage. It was one of the few Hitch films we didn’t see in my magnificent all-Hitchcock film class in grad school, and I can see why. The 39 Steps gets the job done better on the wrong-man end, and North by Northwest is better for wrong-man, spy thriller, chase across America, and for having Cary Grant. Nevertheless, it was not a wasted evening. It’s always pleasant to spend time with Hitchcock, and it isn’t every day you get to see someone fall off the Statue of Liberty.

Aren’t they darling? They are non-identical, like the boys who will wear them, and that is just as it should be. I so wish I had more than about 1.5 skeins left of this yarn. I bought another green of the LL Shepherd Sport, but it is not this wonderful woodsy color; it’s much more bright green. Bah. This was perfect.

I put this on my project notes on Ravelry too, but the main things about BSJs are to establish a consistent way of doing the buttonholes (ask me how I know…) and write whatever schematic and/or notes work for you. I was working from the Opinionated Knitter pattern, the original that had been in the newsletter, and it helped me to set it up row-by-row so I could tell where I was by counting the number of stitches before the decreases or increases. I also decided in the process which row would have the inc-10 and which row would start the “work center 90 only,” so when I did the second jacket, I knew exactly where I was all the time. Seriously, if you’re going to do one of these, plan to do at least two, because it is so unimaginably easy the second time around, you wonder why it was so hard to understand the first time. Also: if you want to do it in one continuous strand, you need at least 300 yards on the skein (in sportweight). I had to do a join on each of them.

I say this honestly: it was a pleasure. I’m getting so much more done these days, and it makes me like knitting a lot more. So much of the rest of my life is all middle and no finish. From time to time, I need things that end.


Some other beginning’s end

I’ve been meaning to post, but something (thesis) has always had to take priority over writing, so forgive me for the quiet weeks. My thesis is very much in the home stretch, and my advisor spent two hours on the phone with me on Monday night. She approved the chapter on the Penhallow bedspread, thankfully, making only a few suggestions to improve its flow, and she really loved the parts of it that I found most interesting, so that’s always gratifying. “Interesting” is a strange animal in grad school. To a professional scholar, “interesting” means “could write at least twenty pages about it, if not a book, and in my wildest fantasies, redefine the entire field.” It is the holy grail of sentiments.

In my copious spare time, I’ve gone on with Via Diagonale, and have about four inches on it now. It’ll be a Christmas present for one of my sisters, and I think it’ll look really good on the one I have in mind. If you’ve hesitated about this pattern because you don’t like colorwork or haven’t done the slip-stitch technique, I urge you to give it a shot. I really don’t like colorwork, and this is as painless as it gets. You never carry the yarn more than one stitch, so there are no concerns about too-tight (or too-loose) floats, and you only work with one color at a time, so the patterning is uncomplicated. Better still, you work MC-MC-CC-CC all the way up, two rounds of each, and the second round of each color is just purl of the first. You don’t even have to pay attention to the pattern after you’ve set it with the first round. And as it’s a repeating pattern, it becomes very easy to read the knitting and tell when you’re off or when you need to k3 or k1 instead of the most common k2, sl1.

I also wanted to pass on an opportunity for those of you who may do some stitching on the side, or have an interest in supporting a large needlework exhibit coming up at Winterthur. They are currently showing the Plimoth Jacket until January, and this fall will mount a large exhibit with the jacket in it, called “With Cunning Needle: Four Centuries of Embroidery.” Tricia Wilson Nguyen of Thistle Threads put up a very informative blog post about the challenges and expense of mounting exhibitions, particularly textile exhibitions (which nearly always have to be temporary, to save the objects). She has designed a small project to support the exhibit, a tent-stitch tulip slip that can be made into a very pretty pincushion. You can get the kits here and the directions here. Or alternatively, donate without the kit purchase by going here.

How I Stopped Being Afraid of Gloves…and Why You Should Too

Okay, I’ve been knitting for thirty-plus years, and have long prided myself on being able to make anything I choose (though whether I choose to make anything is always a given). This philosophy, by the way, has carried me through my rejection of a number of other, often more lucrative, career choices. You do what it takes to get by.

Anyhow. Gloves. I’ve come to a time in my life, with the younglings and all, when gloves are more practical than mittens. Fingerless gloves are even more practical, but regular gloves are still useful, and warmer than having my fingers out in this teeth-cracking cold. But I always looked at all those fingers and thought, yeah, I’ll never pull that off. Though I get how to knit in the round on doublepoints, and have even done it many times, I just couldn’t picture how that would happen. And even if I could stand it, wouldn’t it be tedious, especially in sock yarn? Most things are tedious using sock yarn. I see fingering yarn and size-0 needles, and I admit it, my eyes glaze over. The chances of my finishing the things were somewhere between nil and nada.

I was wrong. It’s easy if you can already knit in the round on DPNs. Here’s how you can do it too.

1. You’ll need a set of six double-points, and having a full range of sizes on hand may save time. Knit Picks DPN sets are great for this. With gloves, you need to make row and stitch gauge. Otherwise, they’ll be too long. This tip courtesy of Becky Herrick. You wouldn’t think a quarter-millimeter matters. It does. Do a swatch. My pattern called for 2 mm needles and I finally landed on 3 mm needles. I knit tightly.

2. You’ll need large and small stitch holders, and/or needle point protectors because while you knit the fingers, you need to have the hand stitches on hold at the front and back. It’s easier to keep those stitches on 2 of the 6 DPNs and knit off of them as needed, and then use the other four DPNs to knit whichever finger. If you cover your points, you won’t be cursing the dropped stitches after you tried the gloves on. Short circs in the right size work also.

You can see the held stitches at the knuckle and the needles on the ring finger in progress.

3. Follow the pattern one step at a time. True of all knitting, but especially true when there are a lot of steps. These are just like mittens until you get to the knuckle, and then you knit the fingers from the pinky inward, doing the thumb last.

4. Take a lot of measurements to make sure they’ll fit. There’s less margin of error with gloves because the fingers have to fit individually. Measure each finger for length, measure the hand around at the knuckles, and measure the side of the hand between the wrist and pinky. Measure the fingers as you knit.

5. Don’t worry if at times, the project resembles a grumpy porcupine while you’re knitting the fingers. That’s normal. Try to keep the stitches reasonably snugged up at the joins, especially where you cast on for the between-fingers stitches, and just carry on until the finger stitches lift up and away from the hand. It will only take a few rows.

Held stitches at the palm and thumb with waste yarn.

6. Use as pointy needles as you can stand. I’m finding this helps a lot when knitting into the cast-on stitches on the insides of the fingers. The ring and middle fingers, particularly, are comprised of back-hand stitches, palm stitches, and cast-on stitches to connect them. Cast-on loop stitches can be hard to knit into on the first row. I tried with Brittany Birch, Inox, and KnitPicks Harmony Wood, and the last are the pointiest in the group.

That’s all there is to it. This is only knitting, after all. Now, go forth and knit gloves!