Sunday, February 08, 2009

Almost Done!

Yup, I'm almost done with my Albertville Olympic sweater. 98% of the knitting is done. The body and the sleeves. I spent yesterday with the pieces and did my machine sewing along my side seams so I could cut them open and insert my sleeves. Both sleeves have been sewn in and one of the facings was tacked down. Today's project is to tack down the facing on the other sleeve and then pick up the stitches for the neckband. Once that's knit and sewn down, then I can wash and block the sweater and it'll be ready for wearing.~

I'm really pleased with how well this sweater turned out. I always knew the colors would work. I just never expected it to work so well.... And I really apologize because you can't tell from this picture just how well they do work. (Refer to pics from last post.) Once the whole process is done and the sweater has been washed and blocked, I'll take it outside on a sunny day and do my hang-it-on-the-fence thing so you can really see how the colors blend.~

Maybe I'll even model it so we can find out how well it fits. I think it will all be fine, but you never know until all the work is done and you actually try to fit lumpy body into gorgeous sweater.~

Anyway, the reason I'm posting so close to the end is because I wanted everyone to see how much I like this sweater. Enough that I've already begun my next. It's easy enough to carry the knitting to work, but that's not a place where I can do the finishing things like steeking and sewing. For economical reasons that I'll get into a bit later, I decided to make this pattern again.~

As you can see, the base pattern is the same. But I'm changing the emphasis of the colors and I'm going to make a few other adjustments. Last spring while perusing my favorite local yarn store, I'd found some Araucania Nature Wool on a "discontinued" table. 6 skeins of this gorgeous kettle-dyed red (see the variation in the color?) and 2 skeins of a beautiful creamy white that would go with everything and anything. So I bought it all. 8 skeins for half price. Can't beat that. But what to do? I really didn't have enough to make a whole sweater... Well, I'm sure I could if I don't mind having a loose knit. But I like a fairly firm fabric. I live in Connecticut. We don't do mild winters where loose knitting is an option.~

So I held on, knowing that something would come along. And I fell in love with the Albertville Olympic pattern from above. So I thought, what if the red became the base color? You'd see that variation from the kettle-dyed process and now I'd just have to add accents. Well, the creamy white will be the main contrasting color (obviously). The red hints towards a brick red, not a bluish red. So I chose tangelo and chestnut from KnitPicks' Telemark, which is the yarn I used to knit the first Albertville sweater. It's very close in weight. A slight difference, but workable. So the color change will go from red being the main, to the orange to the brown in the center of the design, back to orange and back to red.~

The other thing I'm going to do to highlight this beautiful variation is eliminate the X's and O's from the center of the body and sleeves. What Dale calls their "main pattern" for the center section. This sweater will have that big pattern at the bottom, again at the top and then the border at the top of the shoulders and sleeves. No pattern connecting top to bottom. Just 5" or 6" of straight stockinette to showcase the beauty of the red variation. Again, it's something in my head. I'm pretty sure it will work. But you never know until you've got the whole thing done.~

If you look back at the first sweater, you'll see that the border at the top of the body and sleeves used red as a base. The pattern wanted me to repeat the light blue as a base for that border pattern, but there were two reasons I opted out. First is that the light blue was a heathered yarn. And the weight really varied from the rest of the Telemark yarns I'd bought. If you look closely at the first pattern at the bottom of the sweater, you can see that it pulls in slightly. Like an idiot, I wasn't paying attention as much as I should. I'm hoping I can block that out, at least enough so it's not as noticeable. So I didn't want the thickness to be a factor while knitting around the shoulders. Second is I didn't want to overwhelm the sweater with so much darn blue. I've got dark blue as the main contrast and then light blue in the center of the patterns. Let's not go for overkill. So I opted instead to use red in the border.~

I didn't know if it would work until I was done. And I think it worked perfectly. Just what I wanted and imagined.~

The reason I mention this is because I'm not sure I won't change out the borders on this new sweater also. If I follow the pattern, they should be chestnut background with cream making the X and O pattern. I might opt to use the orange. It depends. I certainly don't want orange to overwhelm because it's not a color I wear often. I want the sweater to be thought of as mainly red. The touches of orange bring out the brick undertone of the red and then the chestnut brown grounds the whole scheme into the earth tones. So this is all good. I want to keep that. But I'll see how I decide to do the border once I get there. I'll look at the overall design and choose the two colors that will bring the whole sweater together. I think the red did that in the rainbow-hued first sweater. We'll see what happens with the second one.~

Okay, economics. I'll be using a lot of stash this year. Not that I've ever had much. I have a lot of loose skeins here and there. Not a lot of any one particular color. But the point is that Mark is being furloughed for a week this month. Yes, he can collect unemployment for that week, but $300 doesn't even cover half of what he makes per week. After 30 years with a company, this news really bites. So I've signed up for overtime at my job to try and cover what we'll lose in his paycheck.~

The bad news is that this might not be the end of Mark's company cutting back. Some of the other divisions have cut salaries as much as 25%. That's something we definitely cannot afford. Course, it's not like we'll have a choice in the matter, but he's already had another job offer if this comes down the pike. He can make the same money doing something he really enjoys if the company comes along and tells him they're cutting his salary. So I've already told him that, if this comes to pass, he should "retire" from his job. Take his guaranteed pension, tell them to take their paycut and jam it, and go to work for this other guy. I'll pick up the rest of the benefits. I already cover our medical, so it's just adding dental and eye benefits. I can do that. I'll also look at what they offer for life insurance.~

But, before that happens, I have to see if we can refinance our mortgage while the salaries are good. Interest rates are at an all-time low and, regardless of the decline in house costs, we still have equity in our home. Even if we lost 20% of the value of our home (possibly upwards of 25%), we still have about $70K equity in the house. So I could refinance and get some bills paid down in preparation of what might happen in the future.~

In the meantime, I ordered Don Aslett's book like I said I was going to. That gives me a plan of action for this year. I still have fiber to spin and a few more sweaters to knit. Oh... remember I mentioned economics as the reason for using the Araucania? I'd already bought that yarn, so I can't add the $40 cost of that yarn. It was already in my stash. How much did I spend on new yarn to be able to knit my new red sweater? All of $16. Well.... okay, so I spoiled myself. Let's say $27 because I had it sent 3-day priority. And it's a good thing I did. I'd finished my last sleeve on the white and I'd cast on for the ribbing on the red. I was literally at the point of adding the first new color (orange) and wondering how I was going to make it through work without knitting to keep me occupied when the box arrived. Whew!!!! Talk about the nick of time for sanity.~

I'll have to plan my next sweater much better so I don't have to pay the extra for shipping. I still think I'm going to knit the Barcelona sweater (unless Dale releases their new olympic design for 2010... I've seen the pics and it's gorgeous!). I know this sounds like a terrible indulgence on my part, but there's more to the economics than initially believed. First is that I'd culled my sweater drawer and I have very few sweaters to wear. Second is that I prefer to invest in good sweaters. No cheap bargain basement that'll last a year and then they start to fall apart. So I'm going to pay a good $40-$60 for a sweater anyway. So why not purchase the yarn for the same price and knit my own? They'll certainly last many more years because they're good wool sweaters and, Lord knows, I'll wear them because I wouldn't knit something I don't love already. Lastly is that it keeps me sane at my job. People don't believe that I really and truly knit probably 35-38 hours per week at my job. I have very few interruptions and there's no way I could sit all day and do nothing. Knitting keeps me sane. It gives me something to look forward to when I arrive at the job in the morning. Without it, I'd dread the lost hours, thinking of everything I could be doing if I were anywhere else.~

I just regret that I can't frequent my local yarn stores for my yarn. I can't afford it. I wish I could. But when I can get my yarn for about $2.50 a skein at KnitPicks as opposed to $8-$10 per skein at an LYS, I have to save where I can.~

If anyone has other suggestions on how to be economical in these times without losing our knitting, I'd certainly love to hear about it.