Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Guernseys Get Going!!

I must apologize to my loyal readers for another unseemly hiatus. I honestly did not intend for it to happen, but Spring is an especially busy season in academia, trying to wrap things up before graduation both in class and administratively, and at the end of a long day with not much time to spare, I have to admit that I would far rather relax with my knitting for a little while than crank up the blogging and imaging software. So here I find myself again with a rather alarming backlog of WIPs and finished projects, all crying out to be documented before it gets to be too late. Sigh. Just call me Sisyphus, OK? ;-)

But perhaps we can start with something relatively straightforward. I am extremely excited to report that the His & Hers project that began last summer, which I christened The Great Guernsey Adventure, has seen some genuine progress in recent weeks. I have been on a "yarn diet" since March 1st, with no new purchases allowed, in an attempt to focus on works in progress. It also helps that my Spring Term class on Roman gladiators has involved watching all the great Hollywood blockbuster films inspired by the Roman arena: Kirk Douglas for 3 1/2 hours last Monday, Russell Crowe for 2 1/2 hours on Thursday, and Charlton Heston for nearly 4 hours this coming Monday. All that epic drama offers a fabulous opportunity for knitting along.

So for starters I was finally able to finish the collar for my husband's Stornoway, which has been pending since the end of January. Those who have been following this project from the beginning will remember that I modified the original neckline by bringing the yoke pattern up a bit further and making a proper crew-neck rather than a mock turtle style. After picking up stitches around the neck (including front, back, and shoulder straps), I worked in k2p2 ribbing for 2 1/2", then folded the edge to the inside and carefully sewed it down. Here is what the finished collar looks like (as always, click for a closer look).

As a side note, with all the live stitches off the needles and only the sleeves still missing, it was possible for the intended recipient to try on his sweater for the first time. Not that I was really very nervous about it, having taken careful measurements beforehand and monitored my gauge throughout, but it still came as a relief to see that IT REALLY FITS!! Even without blocking...

I can hardly believe that it's just a matter of finishing the sleeves now. Reaching that milestone really fired me up to keep going and see this thing through to the end. But no sooner did I begin picking up stitches around the first armhole than I realized that the job would require a 24" circular needle, at least to start out. And for some reason my collection lacks the precise combination of needle size and cable length for this purpose, despite my best efforts to ensure that I had laid in all the necessary hardware in advance. I guess I just didn't quite foresee how wide the armhole would be. It will be easy enough to place an order with KnitPicks, but not until June 1st. That is my self-imposed deadline for knitting-related purchases (the "yarn diet" mentioned above). Which means that I had to suspend work on Stornoway for a little while.

I did not like to lay it aside, especially just when I had begun to move forward again after so long a pause. But the silver lining was that this meant I could turn my attention instead to my own Eriskay, which got off to a later start than his sweater still needs a LOT more work.

Wait a minute... Looking back over previous entries, I just realized that I never posted *anything* at all about actually launching Eriskay. Wow. That just goes to show what can happen when you fall behind and try to catch up, but then don't quite manage to fill in all the gaps. Alright, so I'd better be sure to tell the whole story now and not to leave out any of the important bits.

The first big hurdle was to figure out exactly how to do the Channel Island cast-on *left-handed*. I found several right-handed tutorials, both in print and on-line, and got some terrific help in addition from a fellow Southpaw on Ravelry, who had written down detailed lefty instructions at a workshop with no less an authority on all things guernsey than Beth Brown Reinsel herself. So after an inevitable but thankfully brief period of rather dizzying dyslexic confusion (left? right? up? down? clockwise? counterclockwise?), I was able to sort out the technique and then put it to good use, casting on 320 stitches for the bottom ribbing. Here's how it looked with the first few rounds complete. See the string of bumps along the bottom edge? That's the signature look of the Channel Island cast-on, which is uniquely well suited for k1p1 ribbing. Be sure to notice my little black bunny stitch marker (courtesy of WeeOnes), and of course feel free to click on the image for a closer look.

According to my project page on Ravelry, that was November 29th. Then came 2 3/4" of k1p1 ribbing around the circle of 320 stitches with 2.0 mm (US size 0) needles. Yikes!! I won't try to disguise the fact that this became quite a test of endurance. I found that I could not work on it for very long at a time without having my hands get tired and/or start to ache in odd places. So every so often I would knit a round or two and then put it away, and come back to it again later. Yet even though I knew that I was whittling away at the challenge and that the ribbing was expanding ever so slowly, nevertheless MONTHS went by without the goal getting any appreciably nearer.

Indeed only just this past week, with Stornoway unexpectedly on hold and all that raw, un-harnessed "guernsey energy" running through my veins, did I actually manage to (a) finish the @#^$!! ribbing and (b) start the body pattern. One difference between these His & Hers designs is that while Stornoway uses the same series of patterns throughout in a basically vertical or columnar arrangement set off by alternating cables, Eriskay has a simple, repetitive body pattern up to the armholes, which is then topped by an intricate paneled yoke including both cables and some feminine lacy touches.

The transition from the ribbing to the body pattern, which also involved moving up incrementally to a 2.25 mm (US size 1) circular needle, was like NIGHT and DAY in terms of ease, efficiency, and speed of progress. The process of working the ribbing lasted almost *6 months*, whereas I have now completed 35 rows of the body pattern in less than a week. I am utterly overjoyed with the results. Feel free, as always, to click on any of these photos and examine them more closely. But if you do so, I beg you to ignore the pale cat hairs. They just go with the territory around here. Hehehe.

This is of course the same traditional 5-ply guernsey yarn from Frangipani in the UK that I am also using for his Stornoway, although the gauge is slightly smaller (a difference of 0.25 mm in the needle circumference or one US size). It makes an amazing knitted fabric, sturdy and yet pliable, and with incredible stitch definition. The colorway is called "Damson," and I find it rich and deeply satisfying to gaze at. It reminds me of the evocative "wine-dark sea" from Homeric poetry, and I know that it will fit right into my winter wardrobe, because that is already heavily weighted toward the burgundy/plum end of the spectrum.

So that's how the guernseys are going, slowly but surely. Coming up next: a gallery of finished lace...

1 comment:

  1. so glad you got through that ribbing!!
    and that it is now just whizzing along! Yea You!