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Quality Time with my Singer Hobby Machine

yarnI was supposed to go to Chicago Monday. My friend became sick with flu, and that gave me a day with no appointments. I did my best to make the most of it.

I had started a funnel-neck pullover from the Sally Melville Color book (from The Knitting Experience series) a few days ago. I am pretty much a novice both at machine knitting and at sweaters. So I’m trying to combine the two, converting a handknit pattern to machine knit. It is a fairly simple pattern, plain stockinette, where the front is the same as the back and no “at the same time” instruction for a v-neck or whatever.

yarnBut somehow there are instructions for “funnel neck pullover” three different times in the book. She has four or five different possible gauges, and two possible stripe patterns, plus a solid. Somehow I picked the most complex of them all (not realizing there were other choices in the book). I picked one that has three different neck finishes, sleeves or none, and two different possible gauges. And a stripe pattern that is described in words rather than a chart, probably because the stripes are fairly random and very wide, and it would be hard to chart it without wasting a lot of page space.

Therefore, the pattern (which is lovely, absolutely lovely in several different variations througout the book) in the version I chose, has sort of plan A, plan B, plan C. It has to stop and tell you what color pattern to knit in, at the same time it is telling you how many stitches to decrease for the armhole or how many rows before the next decrease.

yarnSince I have knit only 2 adult sweaters, both from formulas rather than patterns (Sarah Peasley’s Knit to Fit sweater class really was wonderful), I’m not used to following this sort of thing. Yes, I’ve done a couple of tank tops and a baby dress from published patterns. But in all that time I’ve knit over 120 pairs of socks. I just plain understand socks better, you know? This is good for me, and I certainly can figure it out, but my brain is not used to this particular exercise yet.

I got stuck the first time through, I had the wrong number of rows and stitches. I found the mistake in one case, where I had to rip out 12 rows of machine knitting. In two other cases I was just counting wrong in my head, sifting through the pattern on the pages. Sunday I taught at Little Red Schoolhouse and Linda and I had a too-short chat about what might be wrong… then today I ran over to Rae’s before she closed for the night and she and I figured out the rest.

Finally, I got out a pencil and wrote in my book “Row 40” etc., wherever I could figure out what row I should be on. Knitting machines are good at counting for you (assuming you set the counter back if you have to rip out). I am happy to say I finished the back. And I’m now up to my armholes on the front. Woohoo!

The yarn I’m using is Arucania Nature Wool in a dark-to-medium teal with a lot of blue in it. It’s gorgeous knit up. The yarn is hand-dyed in vats, in Chile. There is no dye lot, so here I am with 5 skeins, all with different amounts of dark/light patterning. So I’m following the standard advice about handpainted yarns. I’m rotating two rows of one skein, two rows of another (and occasionally a third skein in there to use up some smaller bits and mix up the color even more).

The first skein I wound into a ball, was a tangled mess. The other skeins have not been any trouble, however. Not only was the first skein tangled, but my swift chose that exact moment to stop working properly. I’d tighten it, and it would turn a half turn before collapsing. It would not hold my yarn properly so I could ball up the skein.

In the end, the bit that holds the umbrella part open is just a wooden screw. The very tip of the screw presses against the dowel which is the center pole of the umbrella. Well, the dowel got really really slippery from all the use and abuse I give it. And the little tip of the screw was actually shiny (porous wood, but not porous any more). It just would slip no matter how much I tightened it. I got out some coarse sandpaper and roughed up both the dowel and the screw tip, and it’s working well again. Whew!

The sweater fabric looks very pretty, it reminds me of leopard spots in blue rather than brown. Although I must say that sometimes I fall in love with the back side of the fabric. Is there anyone else who often prefers the reverse/bumpy side of stockinette to the flat side? Especially when it’s a multicolored yarn?

I love how the colors blend so well together with “purl bumps” alternating on the back. In this case, the funnel neck would roll wrong if I wore it purl side out, but I did consider that for a short while.

I have an allergist appointment at the awful hour of 8am tomorrow. That means I can’t stay up till the wee hours finishing the sweater pieces. It could be SO fun to do just that!

But I tell you, I’ve had far too many short nights this last week. I always say you can’t buy passion, and this week I’ve been too into my work at night to go to sleep… until I can’t keep the eyes open any more. Now tonight after days of that, I’m dragging at 11:30pm! Usually I’m up until something more like 2am. Somehow lately I can not sleep past about 9:30am, regardless of when I go to sleep. Therefore, I need to start “hitting the feathers” earlier than I’ve been doing in the past.

Photos: 1) Yarn looking innocent in packaged hanks. 2) Yarn showing its mean side on the uncooperative swift. 3) My Singer hobby machine set up in the kitchen (a great excuse to not cook, as if I need one). Under the table is a drawer unit full of polymer clay, unhappy because I am ignoring it.

My house is usually much messier than this, so this is the closest you will get to a photo of my favorite knitting chair. I usually don’t handknit much at home, anyway… but if I do, it’s usually at my desk (piled first with papers and on top of that, yarn). I never was a Suzy Homemaker, but at least I’m good at making pretty things.

(Actually, when I’m lucky I knit on the couch, feet up sideways, propped with pillows and wrapped in my Ethiopian cotton blanket (gahbi)… and in the summer I knit in the hammock when at all possible, but summer is too short here!!!

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