First things first: yes, I did finish the straps on Lelah in time to take it on vacation. They stretch a little more than intended and work much better when crossed in the back, but that's okay. I ended up not actually wearing it on vacation, but that's okay too. I just need to get a white ribbon to thread through the eyelets and I'll be pretty happy with it. I didn't bother blocking, but I don't think it really needs it.
Now, the more exciting news. I have started my next big project: a printed silk cardigan for Mom, as a birthday gift. It's a surprise, so shhhh. She knows I was thinking about knitting the sweater and even helped me pick out the yarn color, but she thinks I was looking at it for myself. She also doesn't know that I've started it or even bought the yarn yet.
I'm using Knitpicks Shine Sport in color Terra Cotta. Don't be fooled by the picture on the web site. The color name is accurate. It's actually rather dark, very much like real terra cotta. Maybe a little more orangey. But definitely not the pinky, salmon-y color that shows up on my screen on the online color card. Oh well. Mom'll still like this color, I think, and I think it'll look okay on her. Not as good as a salmony pink. But she does like orange, and this is sort of like a deep burnt orange color.
I love this yarn. This is the second time I've used it, and I still can't get over how nice and smooth and silky it is. Definitely the best cotton I've used, by far. But I am having a slight problem with it. I can't get gauge. I'm apparently not the only one, either. A lot of people on Ravelry made this sweater with Shine Sport and had trouble with gauge. But it's kind of ridiculous. The recommended yarn, Fiesta La Luz, is quite a bit lighter than the Shine Sport, in terms of yards per ounce, but it appears to be a slightly heavier yarn weight. (That sentence would not make any sense to non-knitters, I know.) La Luz is DK, as opposed to the Shine's sport weight, and the gauge is 23 sts/4" on 6s whereas Shine is 24 sts/4" on 3s-5s. So you would think they'd be close enough to make it work. You would be wrong.
This is where the lessons in gauge part comes in. The gauge called for in the pattern is 25 sts/4". I swatched on 5s. WAY too big. 25 stitches was more like 5 or 6 inches. I swatched on 3s. Very close. Until I washed the swatches and they grew. My 4-inch swatch became a 4.5-inch swatch. Non-knitters, I know, that doesn't seem like a big difference, but do a little math. The pattern calls for 6.25 stitches per inch. The smallest size, which is the size I need to make, asks me to cast on 113 stitches, for a finished piece (the back of the sweater, in case you were wondering) of just over 18". So then do the math for my knitting on 3s. 25 sts/4.5" is about 5.5 sts per inch. Again, it doesn't seem like a significant difference from the pattern's recommended gauge, until you figure out how much of a change that'll mean over the whole sweater. If I followed the pattern as written and cast on 113 stitches, my finished back piece would be 20.5". 2.5" too big. And the front would be that much bigger, too, for a total difference of 5".
That won't work. I don't want to give Mom a sweater that is 5" too big for her. That IS a significant difference.
(Okay, my actual gauge was more like 5.25 sts/in. I couldn't remember exactly how big my swatch was after washing, so I just guessed. The basic principles are the same.)
So it looks like I'm going to be doing lots of math. I figured out how many stitches I'd need for the correct measurement, figured out the stitch count for the repeat (repeat of 16 stitches + 1 + 2 for edge stitches) and ended up casting on 99 stitches. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping it fits. Most of the lengths are measured in inches, rather than row counts, so I shouldn't have a huge problem there. I'll just have to do some fiddling with the increases and decreases. And I'm hoping that changing the stitch count doesn't mess up the embossed diamonds pattern. The alternate sizes change the stitch count by 12 and 14 stitches, not a whole repeat, so it's a little confusing.
Oh, and did I mention that I'm using 3s (rather than the pattern's recommended 5s) to get this gauge? That's why I don't want to drop any more needle sizes. I have a feeling I'd have to go down to 1s or even smaller to meet gauge. I really do NOT want to knit an entire sweater in two months' time on needles that small. It'd be like knitting plate armor, anyway. The drape is already a little stiffer than I'd like. 5s were too loose, though, and rather than trying to find 4s I like and cast on even fewer stitches, I'll deal with the slight stiffness. I'm sure it'll work out just fine.
It is looking rather nice. I've already made one small modification, in addition to changing the stitch count. The pattern doesn't have any sort of border along the bottom edge. It's just pure stockinette from the bottom cast-on to the waist ribbing. Rather than combat the curling, I worked 3 rows of 1x1 rib at the bottom. It'll match the waist and neckline ribbing, and it should keep the bottom from curling upwards. I think 2 rows would've looked better, but I was afraid it wouldn't be enough to combat the curl and would just flip upward. So 3 rows it is.
Pictures to come later! I know, I wrote out this long post and now I'm not posting pictures. But I don't have the real camera handy and I want to show off how nice the yarn looks. So just pretend I've included pictures. (P.S. I'm 10 rows in on the back piece.)
Oh, and for my own personal reference ... I cast on yesterday, Aug. 9, 2009. My goal is to have the sweater completed before Mom's birthday on Oct. 27.
Wish me luck.