I am almost done with my sweater! At this moment, it's sitting downstairs on a towel drying out, and it's taking way too long. I'm so close, but it's taking so long to dry and I want to wear it and say that I've finished it NOW! Funny how motivation kicks in only when you're at the stage where waiting is the only thing you can do.
Sewing in all the ends was a nightmare, although there was quite a bit of NCAA pre-tournament basketball action on TV to keep me going. I ended up crocheting the sleeves on, which, according to Aunt Michale, will be a stronger attachment than just sewing. Plus, I learned how to crochet, so that was a plus. Then I just used the mattress stitch to sew the sides together, soaked it, and blocked it. I still have to sew on the buttons, but once it dries and I do that, it'll be finished!
The Fair Isle technique of knitting is one that I have always wanted to learn how to do. There are so many beautiful patterns out there that use this kind of knitting, and I hope to someday be able to accomplish some kind of project using Fair Isle. However, some background information might be helpful, at least to me, and I also, being a history nerd, wanted to know how it came to be the respected tradition it is.
Fair Isle is part of the Shetland Islands, sold to Scotland in 1469 by Norway, and is the southernmost of that group of islands. The islands are known for Shetland sheep breed, which was the original wool used for Fair Isle knitting. Knitting as a trade was introduced as a way of getting food and other goods, and became popular in the rest of the Shetland Islands by 1910.
Originally, the term "Fair Isle" as a technique, referred to knitting with multiple colors, but never using more than two in the same row. This technique creates strands of yarn across the back of the piece, the strings you always manage to hook a toenail or fingernail on. But, the stranding makes a double layer of yarn, making for a warm and virutually weatherproof garment. The traditional Fair Isle pattern uses circular needles (no seams), and is usually symmetrical.
There are different theories surrounding how Fair Isle was spread into the modern world and how it evolved into the technique that it is today. One of those ideas is that visiting merchants brought their native textiles and weaving when they came to trade, and ended up creating a hybrid of the cultures. People living in the Shetland Islands were also known for travelling very far to find work, bringing back other patterns with them that were then incorporated into the already existing Fair Isle knitting. Each family had their own patterns that were handed down, and often evolved from the pattern being as little as two rows to as many as 30.
It's always interesting to me how knitting tells stories with patterns, and the Fair Isle knitting today is a technique that has survived to tell its story. Each family having its own patterns is similar to each clan or tribe having its own symbols that tell what they stand for, only knitting seems to have a much less violent connotation. Another cool thing about Fair Isle is that there are endless possibilities for making up a pattern, so we can add to that history ourselves. Plus, the double-stranding thing is nice to have when it's cold. I hope I can learn how to do this someday and attempt to make my own double-layered, two-color rowed project. And finish it.
Alright. It's been a while since my last post. But it hasn't been a while since I worked on my sweater. During the month that I missed posting, I finished my two sleeves and a frontband, including sewing the frontband to the sweater. I pinned on the buttons, which are very cute, I might add, and am working on the other frontband with the buttonholes. That could be interesting. Although, as my aunt pointed out, everything that I thought would be difficult about this project has been relatively easy for me. Except the part where I actually have to get up and do it.
My goal is to finish the sweater by Christmas, which I think is pretty reasonable, seeing as I only have a frontband and the collar to finish knitting. Then sewing those pieces on, along with the sleeves, and blocking it. Oh, and the loose ends. That could take until Valentine's Day. But at least it will look like a sweater.
I haven't really encountered any problems worth going into detail about. The sleeves were pretty straight forward, although I had a hard time trying to get them to be the exact same length. Let's just hope that one of my arms is slightly longer than the other. Grafting the shoulders together was definitely tricky, and took more than one try. I think in that situation, I was too focused on it looked perfect that I forgot to remember that perfect is not my goal. Those little imperfections will give the sweater character.
Well, I've got to go start on the next frontband. I included photos of all the pieces that I've finished, and the pieces put together to look passably like a sweater. I'm very excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel!!
This week, I decided to do something fun for my blog post. Well, something maybe a little bit more fun than just a history lesson or knitting accomplishment. I'm almost done with one sleeve, so that's exciting, but I thought this would be more fun to talk about.
Apparently, there was a giant oil spill in New Zealand recently, and the penguins, as well as other wildlife that live in the region, are suffering from the after-effects. A yarn store in New Zealand has started a worldwide effort to help through knitting, and it sounds really cool. Knitting sweaters for penguins is a new fad, and it has great benefits for the birds. Wearing the sweaters keep the penguins from trying to clean themselves with their beaks, which can cause poisoning from the oil. And, the sweaters keep them warm while they're waiting for their turn to be clean, just like any other sweater should.
For me, this is something that I'll definitely take part in after I finish my sweater, because I know that if I start another project, I may never finish my original. I already have too many unfinished projects that I need to finish at some point or another. But I encourage anyone who is interested to go to this link for more information, the pattern, and some really cute pictures: http://jezebel.com/5851711/the-worldwide-campaign-to-knit-sweaters-for-penguins-affected
Now that I've finished both front of my sweater, it looks like a sweater vest. I don't usually like sweater vests, so this is very motivating for me to start and finish the sleeves. However, I will say that this particular sweater vest is a nice-looking one, except that it's not sewn together yet. I'm very excited to finish all the pieces and start sewing it together, because that's when I think the project really starts to come together and look like the intended product.
To my surprise and pleasure, the two fronts look pretty much identical. I was slightly worried that one would turn out longer than the other, or the waistbands wouldn't match up, or that anything else that could go wrong would, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that not everything I make turns out lopsided. They match up pretty well, and if there are any slight differences, I should be able to fix them when I sew the whole thing together.
The rest of this project could get pretty interesting just about now, simply because of how gauge changes. Since I'm in the midst of applying for college and getting through senior year and doing everything else necessary to survive, my yarn tension may change a bit, and one of the sleeves could turn out quite a bit smaller than the other. But that would be a mistake that would probably make me laugh more than anything else, so if anything were to go wrong, I would want it to be that. Hopefully, though, I'll maintain my present level of sanity and keep the gauge close to where it is at the moment.