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Tea and Knitting

It’s pouring buckets here today. I am taking this as a Sign From Above that this is what I am supposed to be doing today:

Still life of tea and knitting

Still life of tea and knitting

Thinking more about knitting philandering (knitting polygamy?)… Not only does it take longer to finish knitting a single project, there’s a serious risk that as newer and shinier projects come along, the project in question might find itself deeper and deeper in the work-in-progress basket, doomed to never be finished at all. So what’s a knitter to do? How do you stay motivated to actually finish that work-in-progress?

For me, the answer is usually to assign it a deadline. Like most aspects of my life, having a deadline forces me to resist the siren call of the next project and finish something by a certain date. For example, the Rhinebeck sweater. Yes, I wanted to wear it, but declaring it the sweater that I planned to wear at Rhinebeck meant that it had to be done by October 15th, come hell or high water. And so it was. In fact, that deadline worked so well that I’m thinking I need to make a Rhinebeck sweater every year. (And maybe a Maryland Sheep & Wool sweater as well!)

I’m using this approach right now on the Lanesplitter Skirt. I want to wear it to the Homespun Yarn Party at the end of the month, which gives me 25 days to knit 156 rows, or about 7 rows per day (to allow me enough time to knit the waistband and block the finished skirt). So far, so good.

I’m not a huge fan of knitting with Noro (I find it somewhat hard on my hands), but the colors are entrancing, so I want to keep going to see what the color morphs into next. This pattern is worked in a series of 4-rows (2 rows in one color, then two rows in the next), so getting to the end of the next 4-row repeat is a good milestone.

I also use my knitting as a reward. At the end of the day, when the kids are in bed, the dishes are done, and that last load of laundry is tumbling around in the dryer, I get to put my feet up and knit a few rows. To make it sweeter, I often have a DVD or a TV show on the DVR (like Downton Abbey; do I mention that often enough?) to look forward to while I knit.

Audiobooks are another great motivator for me. A single audiobook can provide ten or more hours of knitting time. And if it’s a well-paced book, I’m always eager to get back to it so I can find out what happens next.

What motivational tools do you use to help you finish big projects? Do you have special tips or tricks that I’ve missed?

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The Rhinebeck Sweater

2011, Rhinebeck Sweater, YokeI realized that I’ve never blogged about the Rhinebeck sweater. Hope Ramsay showed off her finished objects from her MDSW purchases (and they *are* gorgeous), so I feel honor-bound to do the same. I bought three skeins of Spirit Trail Fiberworks Minerva (50% merino, 50% bombyx silk) which became the Rhinebeck sweater, two skeins of Bugga! sock yarn that I haven’t used yet, and one skein of Miss Babs Northumbria BFL sock yarn that I’ll blog about later.

So… what about the Rhinebeck sweater? Well, in August, Carla Kempert found a bus trip to Rhinebeck. And when the stars aligned and I was able to join her… well, a self-respecting knitter can’t go to Rhinebeck in a store-bought sweater, now, can she? So in September, I cast on for a sweater from the Spirit Trail Fiberworks Minerva. To make it more challenging, I (who had only completed one sweater, not counting the two partially-knit sweaters which don’t fit properly and are waiting to be frogged and restarted) decided that this special yarn needed to be a special sweater. As in, one of my own design. Nothing like a challenge!

2011 Rhinebeck Sweater, FullWhen I last mentioned it, I had cast on for the sweater. I swatched and swatched, cast on, and finally finished the yoke. And then I decided that… it wasn’t working. It wasn’t horrible, but I knew I’d never have been happy with it. So I made some tweaks to the design and started over again. (At least I discovered the secret to painless frogging… don’t do it until you absolutely, positively need that yarn. I cast on for the second time with another skein, and by the time I needed the yarn from the first yoke, the second one was further along than the first and looked so much better that I didn’t mind losing all that work!)

By this point, I had about two weeks to Rhinebeck. I ordered buttons from a wonderful local yarn shop, but they didn’t come in. I got nervous and ordered more buttons. They weren’t as nice as the first ones, but they’d do in a pinch. So I knit, and I knit. At one point, I discovered I’d mis-crossed a cable some 30 rows (and two cable crossings and countless increases) back. I held my breath, dropped that whole cable section, fixed the cable cross, re-knit the section, fixed the tension issues and kept on knitting. I bound off and wove in the ends the night before I left for Pennsylvania, where I was meeting up with Carla and the bus. The buttons came in at the last possible second, so I stopped on the way up to PA and sewed them on the next day on the bus to Rhinebeck. (Let’s not discuss the part where I blocked it and it wouldn’t dry and wouldn’t dry and finally went for a nerve-wracking spin in the dryer twenty minutes before I had to head out the door to catch the bus!)

And I love it. I got a bunch of compliments on it at Rhinebeck (and a couple of requests for the pattern– talk about flattering!). There are some things I’ve learned since that would change the way I’d do things if I were to make it again, but I love this sweater and wear it proudly. I love the yarn, too– it got a little pilly at first, but cleaned up nicely with the sweater shaver. The silk makes it super soft and incredibly warm. I may actually not get as much wear out of it as I planned, simply because it’s so warm, it’s likely to be a winter-only sweater, rather than the three seasons I’d thought it would be. But it’s hard to get too upset about winter weather when I have this in my closet!

(Yes, I know I need pictures of the sweater actually on my body. Working on that…)

Sweater Weather!

Fall leavesIt’s fall!!   I really can’t put too many exclamation points on that one.  I love fall.  It is my favorite season.  For one thing, my husband and I are both October babies.  For another, I always associate fall with the start of a new school year, and I am geeky enough to admit I enjoyed school.  Fall also means the start of the football season.  I wasn’t a big football fan in high school, but at that point in my life, football was synonymous with marching band, and I loved being in our school’s marching band.  As an adult, I enjoy watching football on tv (although I still complain during college games when we have to listen to some blathering announcer instead of getting to watch the marching band!).  But what I really love is settling in to watch football on tv with a couple of skeins of yarn and some knitting needles in my lap!

And of course, the very best part of fall is that it’s finally sweater weather!  (Or at least it was, for a couple of days.  I wore a pair of hand-knit socks to our county fair this past weekend!  But the cooler weather will be back soon.)  I’ve got a bunch of projects in various stages.  So far, my plans for this fall knitting season are rather ambitious!

Spirit Trail Fiberworks MinervaFirst up is a cabled-yoke cardigan of my own design.  This sweater was inspired by this gorgeous yarn I purchased at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in May, Spirit Trail Fiberworks “Minerva” (a 50% Tussah Silk / 50% Merino blend) in the colorway “Storm Clouds.”

I am blaming this sweater on my MDSW partners in crime, Hope and Carla.  Hope, because she talked me into buying the yarn (admittedly, not a hard sell, as I couldn’t seem to put it down once I’d picked it up!), and Carla, because she found the bus trip we’re taking to Rhinebeck in October.  No self-respecting knitter can go to Rhinebeck in a store-bought sweater!

I’ve been knitting madly, but since I’m designing this one myself, there may have been a wrong turn or two (cough, the first version of the yoke, cough), and now I’ve got… urp… 22 days, 17 hours, and 20 minutes to finish it.  But who’s counting?

Guess I’d  better get back to my knitting!