brioch’ing away!

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Once I finished Tric, I decided I’d take a wee break from knitting myself sweaters. Mostly, I was undecided about what my next one should be, but also, since the beginning of 2019 I’ve knit myself 2 new cardigans and 2 new pullovers, so it’s not like I’m running low on sweaters or anything! I also am hoping to reknit two sweaters for M in larger sizes – the Elle Melle that is already on the needles, and the Stripes! cardigan that is still just in yarn form.

But anyway, back to things that aren’t sweaters! Remember how I got all excited about brioche stitch after casting on for Paris’s Brioche Scarf? Well, I have a couple of little swatches to share, and then I have an update on the scarf. First up, a swatch in which I play around with the idea of making a reversible cardigan:

It's reversible!

It’s reversible!

I knit this with some 1-ply Beaverslide sportweight; I’ve got a cone in “Woodsmoke” and a cone in “Lake Josephine” that have been hanging out in my stash for AGES. I’d hoped to possibly use them to make this cardigan that I’m dreaming of, but the yarn seems to have gotten damaged – there were SO many breaks in it as I was knitting, and…well, it has a lot of dried spit holding it together! Spit-splicing let me make the swatch, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to make that work for an entire sweater given how extensive the damage is on these cones, so I’m not sure what to do with them.

Just a swatch: Grey side

Grey Side

Just a swatch: Blue side

Blue Side

I cast on for these using the Two-Color Italian Cast-On, then did the bottom hem in double knitting; because double knitting is much narrower than brioche over the same number of stitches, I knit stitches together when transitioning from the double knitting to the brioche, but I kept 6 stitches at the edges in double knitting, as “button bands”. I definitely need to play around with ways of creating a non-ugly buttonhole in double-knit fabric, because the one I made in this little swatch was definitely ugly. I’ll keep experimenting, though I’m not sure what yarn I would want to use if I made an actual sweater this way. Something light, because brioche & double-knitting can get quite heavy in dense yarns. I’m open to suggestions!

The other swatch I have to share is this one, which I made this morning:

Just a swatch

I still have some of that bright green Cascade 220 Superwash left over after knitting Tric, and I thought I’d play around with an idea I had earlier this summer: I want to make “legwarmer”-type things that I can wear between my tights and my boots in the winter, so that a pop of color sticks out at the top, and so that my tights don’t get chewed to pieces by the insides of my boots. And what better way to add pops of color than to use up scraps of yarn I’ve used to make sweaters? Anyway, I did a folded hem in 1×1 ribbing – I’m thinking that for the actual legwarmers, it might be nice to stick bit of elastic inside that folded hem, and I’ll make the hem a bit taller, too – and then switched to brioche stitch, which is so delightfully squishy! I experimented with decreases (since I’ve never done them before in brioche, the first set came out a little wonky, but the second pair look nicer) and did the “bottom hem” in a 1×1 rib finished with a tubular bind-off. Obviously the actual legwarmers will be knit in the round, and much longer, but I think this swatch will give me enough information to make a pair that will fit me well. Note to self: I used size 3 dpns for this!

(Also, the shape of that swatch totally reminds me of the diaper cover I knit for M when she was a baby – how scrumptiously squishy would a diaper cover made in brioche stitch be??)

Squishy squishy brioche!

So, so squishy!!

And now, as promised, an update on the scarf. I made a LOT of progress on it yesterday during our Advisor Training meeting; I’ve been advising for several years now, so while it’s useful to get all of the reminders and kind of get my brain back into “being a professor” mode, there’s not a lot of new content, and my hands get twitchy without something to do if I’m going that long listening to stuff I mostly already know. When I started yesterday, I hadn’t quite finished the first pattern repeat, and now I’m over halfway through the second one!

Dark side of Paris's Brioche Scarf, so far

It’s getting bigger!!

I was really excited to find that 2-color brioche knitting has become so automatic for me that I can do it during a meeting while still paying enough attention during the meeting to participate when needed, and I’m also really thrilled that I’m getting good at “reading” my knitting now, and don’t need to use the line-by-line instructions to know what to do in order to switch from brioche to double-knitting when needed.

Here’s the light side:

Light side

Light Side

The light side has more contrast, and it’s pretty, but I think I like the dark side better:

Dark Side

Dark Side

Aren’t those deep blues and purples gorgeous?? I wonder if I’ll get bored of the scarf before it’s finished – that has definitely happened to me in the past with scarves, because they’re just so…long. But the stitch pattern is just so engaging on this that I think I’ll get through it. We’ll see!

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it’s finished!!

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I finished Tric earlier in the week, as I expected to, and was able to get it blocked and dry in time to take some photos tonight before the sun got too low in the sky! Here it is:

Finished Tric!

Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Tric, by Åsa Tricosa
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, repurposed from a baby blanket I never finished
Needles: Size 6s (for stockinette and twisted rib/lace), size 3s (for garter)
Time to knit: about 4 weeks

Here’s the lovely back triangle detail: Finished Tric (back view)

I deviated somewhat from the pattern – my “faux seam” stitch is reverse stockinette, rather than garter, and I also did the same thing down the center of the sleeve:

All done!

I didn’t do the triangle detail that’s called for on the sleeves, either, because (as mentioned in my previous post) I didn’t think I would like having bell-shaped sleeves. Loose flappy material around my wrists just really annoys me, even though I think the shape looks neat on others!

All finished with Tric!

I also haven’t added a button; the buttonhole blends into the twisted rib/lace collar, and I rather like how it looks as a completely open cardigan, but I haven’t totally decided yet whether I’ll keep it button-less or not.

Finished Tric!

I really love this bright green color, and I know it’s going to go with a lot of things in my wardrobe. I might even wear it with a dress tomorrow – no, it’s not actually all that cold here yet, but I have advisor training on campus, and the room they hold the training in is always FREEZING, so it’s best to come prepared with wool!

Very happy with this new sweater!

I learned so much from this project!

it’s nearly the end…

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…of both my Tric cardigan, and of my summer break. I literally just have a cuff to knit on Tric:

Almost done with the knitting!

I may even finish it this afternoon, and then I can weave in the ends and block it. I’ve really enjoyed knitting this sweater, and learned a lot from this new Ziggurat top-down construction technique from Åsa Tricosa, though as you might be able to tell from the photo, I didn’t actually follow the pattern for the sleeves. The pattern calls for knitting another triangle panel like the one at the back of the sweater, and for sort of bell-shaped sleeves. Knowing myself, bell-shaped sleeves would drive me absolutely batty; I just really don’t like sleeves that flap around. So I calculated my own decrease rate for the sleeve, and added a garter cuff (mirroring the garter at the hem of the body of the sweater):

So close!

As for my summer break: starting tomorrow, I’ll be working on campus just about every day. No more days at home, knitting while listening to podcasts and then practicing my violin for as long as I want to. There’s a lot of prep to do in order to be ready for Fall Semester, plus I’m involved in research projects and advising, and I need to be ready to teach my first mindfulness class, too…it’s all good stuff, but the transition is always a little tough. I’m reminding myself that there will still be time for knitting, and for practicing violin…there just won’t be as much. And there will be time for the things I didn’t do as much of this summer as I’d hoped, too: the embroidery, and the sewing. My husband helped me set up my sewing table with my new sewing machine last weekend, and I just need to get a power strip to plug it in and then I’ll be ready to sew! Just in time to not have much time, alas, but there’s no rush. Projects will keep. And all projects, big or small, get done one step at a time. I don’t have to stop learning new things just because summer is coming to a close, though I do need to be careful not to overload myself, because once the semester gets rolling, my schedule is really more than full-time.

Goodbye, summer break!

Good-bye, Summer!

Wish me luck finding balance this year?

I have a body!!

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A finished sweater body, that is:

I was being instructed in posing by M

Of course, I also have a human body! I tend to be the sort of person who lives “in her head”, which has been especially difficult this week, because I’m home with my daughter all day every day, and the creative/thinker/planner/writer part of my mind, the part I most identify with as “me”, is basically throwing a tantrum from the frustration of feeling trapped by the constant demands for attention from a child who both switches gears so quickly that I can never keep up or settle in, and yet is also utterly incapable of switching gears on any timeline than her own. (Oh, the joys of parenting a child who’s differently wired!) It’s getting rather noisy in this brain of mine, and I’ve not had much of an outlet this week! (It’s taken…a lot of time and stolen moments of typing on my phone to actually write a blog post! I started it on Monday!)

But as much as I tend to live in my head, I also cannot forget that I am a person with a body. My body does not let me forget it. And lately I’ve been missing my old body – the body I had before autoimmune connective tissue disease and before bringing M into the world (recovering from 4th degree tearing is no joke, y’all!). It’s not about appearances – I barely look different these days than I did in college, even after having a baby…I’m the same size/shape, just perhaps a bit “softer” in a few places. It’s about what I could do, and how it felt to do those things. How freely I could move, the kind of reckless abandon I could have, deciding on a whim that I’d run an extra 5 miles or run all 22 flights of stairs up to my dorm room because I felt good and why not? Just moving and playing hard without a care.

When I watch things like the World Cup, I miss my old body so much. When I say I used to be an athlete, I mean it. I won my age group by over half an hour in the first marathon I ran, when I was 19. The older women on the informal team I ran with, back in college, were convinced I’d run in the Olympic Marathon Trials. I never got to find out if I could run a qualifying time: I ran a 10k, and then a half-marathon, in times that suggested that I absolutely could go sub-2:48 (which was the qualifying time back then; I don’t know what it is now), but then my health started to fail and it was a few more years before I found out why. But in any case, that’s where I was: winning my age group in every long race I ran, qualifying for Boston by half an hour (and running it twice, once with my dad!), maybe on a path towards the Trials, that sort of thing. An athlete.

so, yeah. [365.283]

Knitter, athlete, person with a disability.

And now, more than a decade later, I’m still strong and still very capable despite the nerve damage and disc damage I incurred in those intervening years. Most people don’t notice that I have a slight limp (my left leg just doesn’t respond quite as quickly as my right). I *never* don’t notice it; it doesn’t usually register as pain, but there’s a difference in sensation, always, and I’m compensating for it a lot (which I first noticed when doing walking meditation). But what I really struggle with now is the certain knowledge that it would be very easy to badly damage my body, and the fear that results from that knowledge. It’s the memory of how bad, how literally disabling the pain can be, too. When I imagine myself running around after a ball like those World Cup players, or running cross country, or doing long jump or hurdles, all these things I used to be able to do, I literally feel an ache in my lower back, the L5-S1 area, and I feel the twinge in my left leg down my sciatic nerve, and the wonky left shoulder blade, and my scar tissue from childbirth, and I think, no, I can’t move that way anymore. I’m probably not wrong about that, but I do wonder what a healthy balance is, and how to tell the difference between taking appropriate caution with an already-damaged and easy-to-injure body and limiting myself due to fear.

Because I do feel limited, and I don’t know which limits are the sort that are possible to push against, and which are the true, hard ones against which fighting is unproductive. I’ve found that I’m much happier when I accept that there are real limits to what my body can do now and don’t keep thrashing against them – I did a lot of damage to myself, both physically and mentally, in the years before I reached that acceptance. “Acceptance” is the mindfulness concept that was hardest for me, but is almost certainly the most useful one to me. But getting there was a hard-won battle. Most people, when they hear about an athlete who has fallen ill or become injured, expect to hear a “redemption” story – there’s this pervasive idea that a “real” athlete will fight towards a comeback at any cost, and it’s the comeback story that’s celebrated. But sometimes there is no “comeback”. There won’t be one in my story, and that’s hard for people to accept…and it was hard for me to accept, too. But the reality is that I have pretty nasty damage in my spine, and my immune system attacks the places where normal wear-and-year happens, instead of healing those places, and that’s a chronic thing. And by fighting that reality, I only made myself sicker and more injured. It was only when I accepted reality for what it was, and decided that the only way to be a happy, healthy, whole person was to stop trying to be a runner, that I was able to stop the cycle of escalating illness.

I’d rather be healthy, even though it means never being a runner again. But it’s always going to be a push and pull, and watching sporting events really pulls me back towards missing what I had. And it breaks my heart a little bit that even in my imagination, I have the bad disc, I have the draggy left leg, I have the wonky shoulder blade, the pelvic floor pain. I can never escape it, even in imagination. And then it becomes a kind of psychological block, when I try to imagine activity that *might* be possible.

I’ve been swimming some this summer, and that’s a great form of non-impact exercise for me, though it seems like I get migraines more than half of the time after a swim, and I’m trying to sort out what’s triggering them – the smell of chlorine? The pressure of goggles? The way I breathe while swimming? I should probably see a neurologist, because that’s starting to become a psychological block, too! The Adaptive Motion Trainer (AMT) machines at the Y are a great way to get non-impact exercise; they allow more freedom of motion than an elliptical machine. And I do a lot of walking, too, though I have to be careful not to overdo it; if I do, I end up kind of dragging my left leg, and in the past, that’s resulted in knee damage.

at rhinebeck! [365x2.128]

A decade ago at Rhinebeck, with my trusty cane

 So that’s why I just can’t ever forget that I have a body. And of course, the recent spate of mass shootings has me thinking about how vulnerable we all are, how very fragile even the strongest body is when faced with tools designed to tear through us.

I’m thinking about how I have a body that is both that of an athlete and that of a person with invisible disabilities. And how while I would never wish the various traumas, injuries, and losses my body has experienced on any other person, it was the two things that most devastated my body – connective tissue disease and childbirth – that led to the most valuable transformation to my way of thinking: acceptance, and mindfulness practice more generally.

And yet even that is complicated. Because the other narrative we love in relation to disability, the one that’s not about the “comeback”, is to imagine that’s it’s actually a blessing, and this gets deployed in ways that can be shaming to those who talk about struggling, or ways that minimize the very real pain, trauma, and loss involved. I’m grateful for the way my mind was opened to acceptance and mindfulness more generally, but I also think there are ways to get there that don’t involve loss, and I don’t think we should ever expect people to feel grateful for loss, even if they’ve been able to learn and grow as a result of it, and are grateful for that learning and growth.

Finished Tric body, from the back

The triangle detail also highlights the part of my body that ended my running career

I’m thinking about bodies, too, because of the conversations about size-inclusivity in the knitting and sewing design worlds, and because I am the mother of a daughter who is already starting to hear harmful messages about bodies, especially women’s bodies, from the world around her, and even from friends her own age. She’s not even 8 years old! She, like me, seems to be growing into a body that’s lean and lanky and wiry…which is, according to most of the messaging we receive in our culture, the “best” kind of body to have. It’s so valued that even when I was at my very sickest in graduate school, and had dropped to under 100 pounds, I was getting compliments *from the nurses* when I was going in for various tests. That’s just completely messed up.

My photographer joins me

This kid. What messages is she getting about bodies?

So my daughter hears from me about taking good care of her body, and I’m careful to divorce talk about health (which we do) from value-laden talk about weight (which we don’t do), but I do wonder how much my counter-messaging will mean to her, coming from a body like mine. Will it sound like empty words?

It’s not that I’ve never been told awful things about my body. I mean, the messages I internalized about being flat-chested were truly damaging – I learned that if someone with my shape is sexually harassed, trying to tell someone about it will result in gaslighting…after all, how could I imagine that anyone would be interested in someone flat-chested like me? And shouldn’t I be grateful for the attention, since obviously girls with my shape don’t warrant it? It’s obvious to me now that those are just different flavors of sexual harassment, and that framing “harassment” in terms of “interest” is super problematic, but I really did internalize the idea that I wasn’t worthy even of harassment, and that I didn’t really “count” as a woman. BUT: I’m not ever going to need to worry about a knitting or sewing pattern not coming in my size – if anything, my size is often the default sample size, though I may need to adjust things like bust darts! I’m also not ever going to need to worry about my size rather than my health being the focus at a doctor’s office, or about being “policed” when I’m out enjoying a meal, and so on. It’s not that people don’t say cruel things about bodies like mine – we REALLY need to stop implying that women without a certain size of breasts or hips are not “real women”, for example – but nothing that is said to people with bodies the size and shape of mine holds a candle to what gets said to those in larger bodies, and whatever challenges I face because of the ways my body diverges from what’s expected of a woman’s body do not even compare to what women with larger bodies are faced with.

My photographer joins me

Goodness gracious, she’s getting tall!

I guess on this front I’m thinking about how I have a body that is simultaneously very privileged in my culture (being thin, white, and heck, I’m even blond) and also seen as unfeminine (because of the lack of curves), and how those things have shaped me. These days, I’m quite happy to have my not-very-curvy body, and it feels right to me; my body and my self-image basically agree, and that’s something I’m grateful for. But I also wonder about how I’ll cope with changes in my body that aren’t related to ability; what if someday the reason I’m missing my old body IS because of appearances? No matter what, my body won’t keep looking basically the same as it did in college; changes will surely come someday, if I live long enough, and I just hope I can face them with grace. I’m also thinking about what role my body, and the social position that bodies like mine occupy, might play in how my voice is heard, and who hears it. I especially think about this in relation to my daughter.

Anyway, these are all thoughts that have been banging around in my brain this summer! (And also, I finished a sweater body, yay!)

Finished Tric body!

(And actually, by the time I actually hit “Publish”, who knows how much MORE sweater I’ll have knit?!)

hello, August.

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Well, it’s August. Which means that my summer break is just about over. Next week, my daughter doesn’t have any day camp, so it’ll be just the two of us hanging out together all day, every day, and then after that, she’s got 3 weeks of day camp while I need to be back on campus most days for meetings and course prep. And then it’ll be Fall Semester. I love my job, so once the semester gets rolling, it’ll be a different sort of good, but the transition is always rough!

Every summer, I feel like I try to cram in SO MANY THINGS and it never quite works out the way I think it will. There’s only so much one person can do in a day, and especially if that person wants to do those things at the level that I want to do them. I’ve made great progress on the violin pieces I hoped to work on this summer (the Chaconne from Bach’s d-minor Partita being the main one). I finished a pair of mitts, a couple of cowls, my Farmhouse Cardigan and I’m pretty sure I’ll finish Tric before the end of the summer, too (and, as is obvious from most of the posts I linked to above, I’ve also been finding my voice even more here on this blog). I’ve also gotten back into swimming semi-regularly. But the embroidery? I’ve done a bit, but I’m still only halfway through the alphabet on the sampler I picked back up, and have only finished a couple of the Sashiko samples. I’ve not done all that much ukulele practice, either. I’ve started reading too many books to make good progress on any of them. I had grand plans of finishing a couple of sweaters for M, too…the new Elle Melle is 2/3rds finished, at least, but the new Stripes! hasn’t even been cast on! And my new sewing machine is still in the box, because I haven’t managed to clear space for it on my sewing table in the basement, which is still covered with junk from our move. Such is life, especially when you’ve got a hungry, hyperactive brain like mine.

But here’s my progress on Tric since my last post:

Tric Progress

I’ve knit about 4″ of the body, and am well into the waist-shaping and the increases for that great triangle detail in the center back:

Tric progress

The dress I’m wearing today, by the way, is one of the sleeveless dresses that I’m hoping to wear Tric with this fall. It’s got little flashes of bright yellowy green in the leaves of the flower print, so it’ll look great with this bright green sweater!

Tric progress

My teaching wardrobe is a little short on the mid-weight clothing that’s best in the early to middle part of Fall semester (and, if we’re lucky, towards the end of “Spring” semester, which really should be called “Winter” semester!). I think Tric’s going to be a nice transitional piece. Maybe it’ll ease this upcoming transition just a bit, too.

Past the sleeves!

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I’ve now completed the set-in sleeve shaping on Tric, and have separated the sleeve stitches from the body. I also moved it to a needle with a longer cable so that I can more easily try it on as I go. Looking good so far, I think!

I've separated the sleeves on Tric!

Sorry for the low light – it’s a rainy day!

I found the “Helpful Table” portion of the pattern incredibly, well, helpful! It lays out when to do each type of increase required for the sleeves, body, and neckline in a very intuitive (to me, at least!) way.

I've separated the sleeves on Tric!

(a great looking sweater, and a sticker for a great candidate in the background!)

I haven’t mentioned the yarn I’m using for this: it’s Cascade 220 Superwash, which I originally got 8 years ago, in order to make a blanket for my little munchkin, and then…never finished it. Longtime readers probably know I don’t normally knit with superwash wool, especially for something like a sweater for myself!  I don’t like superwash wool for sustainability reasons, and I also know that it tends to “grow” a bit more with blocking than a non-superwash wool. Plus, I just plain like wooly wools! I also don’t care for what I’ve learned about Cascade Yarns’ politics and business practices, and will likely not buy any more yarn from them, though I’ve got quite lot of it in my stash in various forms (mostly regular 220 and Eco Wool). But in any case, I am finding it quite pleasant to knit with, and it feels good against my skin, which is nice because I do plan on wearing this sweater not just over long sleeves in the winter, but also with my sleeveless dresses in the spring and fall.

From the back

The main point of interest in the body of the sweater is a central triangular panel in the back, which will expand outward from that central eyelet column. The stitch pattern in the triangular panel is the same as in the collar; it’s a textured rib pattern and I think it’s going to look lovely on this cardigan.

Set-in sleeve, created seamlessly from the top down in one go.

I really enjoyed creating the set-in sleeve cap; this method is basically a reversal of the bottom-up seamless set-in sleeves that I learned from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s books and used, for example, on M’s Peg+Cat sweater. (Speaking of which, I’d really like to make a me-sized version of that cardigan, perhaps with a few extra little details!)

So, that’s where I am with Tric!

Tric’ing right along, after a hiccup

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So, I ended up ripping out what I’d knit so far of Tric because I wasn’t happy with how the picked-up stitches were looking; the pattern calls for you to edge the right collar with slipped stitches and the left collar with garter stitch, and that just…looked weird, once I’d picked up the stitches. Perhaps Åsa’s method of picking up stitches is different from mine, but the logic behind the different edging wasn’t explained in the pattern, so I just ripped things out and did a garter stitch edge on BOTH sides of the collar, and was much, much happier with how things looked.

Tric looks funny on the needles!

Of course, the neckline is laying a little weird in this photo, but trust me, it looks nice in person.

Why yes, it does look a bit strange on the needles…in fact, my husband joked that it looked like I was knitting some weird sort of bra, and I can’t say he’s wrong about that!

My husband joked that it looked like I was knitting some sort of weird bra!

Not actually a bra! (And much bigger than I’d need, ha!)

It’s really neat to be creating something three-dimensional on a single needle like this, and the way that the sleeve caps and set-in sleeves are created, with a slipped-stitch “faux seam” edge, is really very cool.

Sleeve cap!

I think the fit is looking good so far, too!

Sleeve cap!

I don’t have a long enough circular needle to really try it on properly at the moment; sometime I’ll need to add an extension to the cord on this one and really get a sense of how it will sit, but I’m pretty optimistic about it!

Tric, so far

It’s kind of like a superhero cape at the moment :)

So far, I’m having a lot of fun knitting this, and am still learning a lot. I’m *loving* the “Helpful Chart” section of the pattern, which lays out the sleeve shaping, neck-shaping, and body-shaping directions in a really intuitive row-by-row way. What a brilliant idea! Still plenty more knitting to go before I finish the sleeve shaping, but I bet it won’t take me too long!