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DIY st brigid
If you're sick of hearing about knitting, or my sweater, skip this post. If you love it and want one of your own, this is the post for you.

The original St Brigid came from this book. No, actually, the original St Brigid (pronounced "breed") was a celtic goddess, or a catholic nun, depending on who you ask. Same difference. St Brigid's day is at the beginning of february, halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. Spring is coming, St Brigid travelled the land giving blessings to people who left cake out for her, and if it rained on St Brigid's day, you knew it would be a good summer for farming. Same deal if hedgehogs came out of their holes and were running around. (hmm, sound familiar?)

So, if the goddess/nun story is any indication, St Brigid adapts well. Here she is, in four forms: celtic fertility symbol, sainted nun, Alice Starmore creation, adapted sweater.

sheelagh-na-gigst brigid stained glassstarmore's St Brigidbeth's st brigid adaptation

What follows is detailed instructions on how to make the adapted St. Brigid.
You'll have to click here to read the rest. (Bonus pattern: fingerless mitts)

Team Beth wins gold!
It was a close race, but I finished it!

St Brigid, back

St Brigid, front

Everything was going smoothly until I had all the pieces seamed together and decided to try it on. It seems I had forgotten the First Rule of Sweater Design:

No matter what kind of neckline you think you are putting on your sweater, your first attempt will always look like Flashdance.

By some bizarre coincidence, the neckline was screwed up in exactly the right way that I could fix it by adding the braided collar called for in the original pattern. (I didn't add the ribbing on top of it - but that might be an option for later).

I'm really happy with this sweater. It came out to just the right width and length in the body (I really wasn't sure of that). The sleeves are kinda loose, but they don't bother me. I finished with a whole skein of yarn to spare, even after making the matching fingerless mitts that I mentioned :)

Pattern: "St Brigid" from Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore. The book is out of print, but TCPL has a copy.

Modifications: I only had a xerox of the cable charts to work from, so everything else I just made up. Mainly, I made the body a lot narrower and shorter than what I saw in the picture. No fringe, no moss stitch panels. My gauge is probably a lot looser than the original.

Yarn: Galway in a heathered forest green. I really like Galway - it's a plain worsted wool, similar to Patons Classic or Cascade 220, but to me it feels softer and smoother than either of those. And I love the heathered colors. It was perfect for this project. I used 6 100-gram balls, which is about 1200 yards for the sweater, and another 100 or so for the mitts.

Needles: straight bamboo #8's. I usually don't work with straight needles, but I have to admit that cable patterns are easiest to deal with when knitted flat. I can rest the end of the needle against my leg or the couch when I'm cabling, so the needle can't drop out of the stitches. I like bamboo for the same reason: it's too lightweight to slip easily out of the stitches. And of course I used a hooked cable needle. When I started this project I tried cabling without a needle, which is kind of fun, but I decided it wasn't worth the trouble. Using the needle slowed me down, but it was easier on my hands and had less of a chance of dropping stitches.

I'm not too crazy about the drop-shoulder flat seamed Aran construction, but I'm glad I tried it once. For one thing, I finally figured out how to mattress-stitch with an invisible seam. For another, I now have the proper respect for those seamless sweaters I've knitted :)
heading for the finish line
It took all night, but now I have two sleeves! These will go nicely with the front and back I already knitted.

both sleeves blocking

The strips at the top of the sleeve are for the saddle shoulder, which means that the center braid will run all the way up to the neckline. You can see another sweater that uses this technique here. That sweater ("Cromarty" from an Alice Starmore book that is actually still in print) has a larger pattern on the saddle, but it's the same idea.

And another shot of the sleeve pattern:
st brigid sleeve pattern
The World's Most Improvised Lathe
It's exceedingly far from the best lathe. Indeed, as lathes go, it's pretty far from being the superlative lathe in any laudable characteristic. It is, however, probably the world's most improvised lathe:

a piece of wood affixed to a drill by a nail to make a crude lathe

If you want to make one, here are the steps:
  1. Try to smooth out the rounded edge on the disk, get frustrated with abject failure.
  2. Use a compass (pictured in the upper right) to find the approximate center of the disk
  3. Locate a finishing nail (pictured in drill)
  4. Use the drill (pictured center) to drill a hole in the (approximate) center of the disk. The hole should be of slightly smaller diameter than the nail.
  5. Use a hammer (not pictured) to drive the finishing nail into the disk.
  6. Put finishing nail into drill chuck and tighten
  7. Hold sanding block (pictured center-bottom) firmly in left hand, rough-side facing up.
  8. Depress trigger on drill (located at joint of pistol grip and motor housing) fully, and hold it there.
  9. With the drill wirring away, hold the disk against the sanding block, attempting to keep the axis of the drill in the plane of the sanding block's surface (modding out all possible orientations by linear translations, of course)
  10. Occasionally move the disk around, as it will build up a lot of sawdust
  11. Hold the disk up against a light background and watch the silhouette of the disk to determine when enough material has been removed.
  12. When enough material has been removed, stop
  13. Pat yourself on the back for being so clever.
blocking, repairing, making good time
Remember what I said in the last post about blocking (summary: it's magic)? Well, check this out:

before and after blocking

That's the front and back of St. Brigid - the back (on the left) is being wet-blocked, and the front (on the right) is still dry. Looks like I will have no worries about the sweater coming out too small. (Did I mention I didn't do a gauge swatch?)

dropping back 15 rows to fix a cable OK, now remember what I said in the post before last about dropping back a few rows to fix a cable? Try FIFTEEN ROWS. No, really! Try it! Knit up a cabled swatch if you like, then drop out a bunch of stitches and prove to yourself you can pick them back up. If you can knit, you can figure it out. The only real challenge is resisting the urge to have a heart attack.

Progress: front and back done and currently blocking; first sleeve almost done. One more sleeve to go.

Yarn status: outlook is good for finishing the sweater with yarn left over. (I started with 7 skeins of Galway). If I have enough yarn and time, I'll do a pair of fingerless mitts as a victory lap, because I want to look as cool as this chick with mitts that match my sweater.

Distractions: designing my own celtic knotwork cable charts, since good non-copyrighted ones are scarce. Not that I have time to knit another knotwork sweater..
blocked lace scarf
Holy crap, this blocking thing actually works. It's like when wool makes a face, and it sticks that way. You knit up some lacework, get it wet, pin it out, and when it dries it looks a million times better.
feather-and-fan scarf, blocking

Look at that! The points on the end are still there even after I take the pins out. Unpossible.
detail of lace scarf blocking

If you're following along at home, this scarf is in the unbelievably easy feather-and-fan pattern (aka Old Shale). I took the pattern directly from this lace tutorial. The yarn is Dale of Norway's Tiur. My only regret is using small needles rather than going up a half-dozen sizes or so. That would have made the scarf bigger and more open.

To answer the obvious question: lace made of wool is supposed to be really warm. Seriously! That's what I heard!
olympic update
I've finished the front and back of St. Brigid, and I've started a sleeve.
in progress

Cabling knotwork isn't hard, but sometimes I find it tedious. Fortunately, there are plenty of exciting moments, like when I realized I'd cabled the wrong way about, oh, six rows ago:
fixing a cable

You can fix cables by dropping stitches down and crocheting them back up - you just have to remember to swap them when appropriate on the way back.

So, here is one more photo of the prettiest sweater in the world: st brigid close-up

(Same sweater, worse lighting. The yarn is Galway in a heathered forest green.) It's St. Brigid from Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting. That's a wonderful book that manages to be out of print while the author is still alive and the book sells for $300 used. What the heck?
changing horses in mid-stream
Take a look at these two partial sweaters.
St. Brigid and Miss Gansey

On the left, weighing in at 7,566 stitches and 532 cable crossings, is my interpretation of St Brigid. I started this sweater before the Olympics.

On the right, weighing in at 12,276 stitches, is my Olympic project, a gansey. I started it at the Knitting Etc cast-on party.

The gansey, I'm sad to say, hurts like hell. I can't work long hours on such tiny needles without my hands being sore the next day. I've tried different hand positions, but I am, officially, out of this event because of an injury. If I continued with this gansey, I would be setting myself up for failure. This is against the rules. So, I'm swapping these projects: St. Brigid will be my olympic sweater, and Miss Gansey will be a finish-on-my-own-time thing.

The original St. Brigid, which I'm adapting to my own nefarious ways, goes a little something like this.
Study of the day: low-fat diet doesn't do shit. Also, there's nothing wrong with carbs. Also also, we don't know squat about nutrition or its relationship to disease. Anybody surprised? Not me.

I can't help but agree with this Happy Feminist post on the fallacy that women shouldn't walk alone at night without a man to "protect" them. It's a really good read.
To links by Beth on 2006-02-09. 1 Comments
lunchtime hungry thoughts
Shakespeare's Sister has a post about the availability of groceries in low-income areas. Basically, there's not much to be had. The plot thickens if you also read this article from 2002 about malnutrition among prisoners, drug addicts, and the poor in Britain.

SS's post, following a Detroit News article, blames malnutrition on a scarcity of fresh healthy food at the stores in urban centers. The City Journal article, on the other hand, argues that the supermarkets that choose to move out of the cities are responding to lack of demand, because the real problem is that poor urban white and black kids (but not immigrants) just don't learn how to feed themselves. Of course, what these two articles seem to describe are two halves of a feedback cycle. (I don't buy the second author's idea that it's welfare's fault).
To food by Beth on 2006-02-07. 0 Comments
my new spinning wheel
Chris and I visited my family in Pittsburgh this weekend with two ulterior motives: to build a spinning wheel and to find a TV to watch the Superbowl on. (OK, so we probably could have found a TV even if we stayed in Ithaca).

My dad had figured out a flywheel before we got there, and the night we arrived he was putting on the treadle. Here I am testing it out. Watch it go! Hear it squeak!
testing the treadle

Have I mentioned that I only used a wheel once before? That was at Rock Day, when I had just acquired a drop spindle, and a friendly spinner let me give her Louet wheel a try. I couldn't work the treadle and draft the wool at the same time, so she turned the wheel slowly with her hands. So when the wheel was ready to try out on Sunday (just after the STEELERS WON THE SUPERBOWL WOOOO GO STEELERS) I decided to try it out with kite string instead of wool - if the wheel worked, it would twist and wind the kite string into a snarled mass. We sanded all the parts, added a few hooks, and tried it out:
spinning assembly with string on it

It worked! I held the string with one hand and braked the flyer with my other hand. We used a bobbin drive, since it seems to work for Louet. Whenever we came to a question about the design, we just asked ourselves, "What Would Louet Do?". Of course, we also worked in a few things that Louet would never do, like the thumbtacks, the twist-ties, the elastic waistband, the PVC pipe, and so on. At the end of the day, though (really, the wee hours of the next day) I was able to spin some yarn! For fun, I included some Pete fuzz along with the wool - you can see it as the white slubs.
the finished spinning wheelthe first yarn I made

The dog fur yarn came out just like I had read it would - soft, fuzzy, like angora. (Hey, Pete's good for something after all! :) The challenge was that it doesn't stick together very well, so it was hard to control. Next time I will definitely card it together with the wool. (Did I mention my carders finally arrived in the mail?)

For my next spinning adventures, I want to try some other unusual fibers. I was thinking of fluffing up some cotton balls to try spinning cotton, or even try spinning some of that polyester fluff I use for stuffed animals. If any spinners are reading this, I'm curious: what household objects have you tried turning into yarn? Did you have any success?
missions accomplished
The Stillers won the superbowl, and I spun some lumpy yarn on my brand new homemade spinning wheel (Thanks to Chris and especially Dad). It was a good night. Pictures tomorrow.
blogger, blogger, pants on fire
An article in the Cornell Daily Sun today has an interesting use of the word "blog". In the article, two scientists are trash-talking each other.

"Jackson's paper is not a scientific paper. It's a blog, basically just opinion and conjecture. And it's filled with factual mistakes," Fitzpatrick said.
To geekery by Beth on 2006-02-02. 0 Comments
cozy apples
Apples need to be well-dressed and protected? I never knew.
I'll be famous
mystery object I had a pattern accepted for the Spring 2006 Knitty! If you know me in real life, you might recognize it from the thumbnail here. If not, I won't spoil the surprise - wait and see!