Behold

I have finished the sweater!

Neckdown Wrap Sweater 

Neckdown Wrap Cardigan (#263) from Knitting Pure & Simple. Yarn used: Dream in Color Classy in color Good Luck Jade.

It seems like I’ve been working on this thing FOREVER. And I still need to block it (I think) in order to make the neck edging lay down completely flat.

Where do I start with explaining the challenges I had with this seemingly simple pattern?

I wanted to add waist shaping, but apparenly made this decision a bit late in the pattern. So, I ended up ripping back several inches in order to start at the right place (just after the underarm). Then I had to rip it back again when I realized I miscalculated when to start the increases again.

At this point, the “frog count” was 2.

After I finished the bottom garter stitch edging and cast off very loosely (using a loose cast off often used for lace: K1, slip stitch back to left needle, K2tog, repeat endlessly), I realized that the cast off was TOO lose. The bottom was sort of wavy. Hmmm…I’d fix that later.

Next, I picked up stitches for the first arm. Once I had finished all the decrease rounds, I tried it on. Hmmm…the arm seems kind of tight. I ripped it back.

The frog count is now 3.

My stitch gauge was spot on, so I decided to alter the decrease rounds a bit. Instead of knitting one round plain between the decrease round while do the initial decreases, I knit 2 rounds plain. I also decreased every 6th row, instead of every 5th row as called for in the pattern. The arm still seemed sort of tight at the top, but I was done with ripping on this sweater, so I just hoped it would feel a bit looser after wearing and/or blocking. If I made this again, I’d adjust the decreases again to be further apart, and I wouldn’t decrease as many stitches, either. 

I don’t have large upper arms, so this issue with the sleeve width stumps me. Anyone else have the same problem with this pattern?

I would have knit the sleeves about 1/2 inch longer if did this pattern again. Even though I tried it on, because the sleeves were so tight at the top of the arm it was hard to determine the best length very accurately.

After the sleeves, I made the i-cord ties. The pattern calls for very long i-cord ties. I made them the length called for, then I tried the sweaer on. They were way too long for my comfort, so I ripped them back several inches.

Now the frog count is 4.

Finally, I undid the bind off on the bottom, tinked back the garter stitch border, and re-knit it on the smaller needles (US 7). I bound off in my usual fashion: Lucy Neatby’s ingenious bind-off, which makes a decently stretchy bind-off for everything but toe-up socks.

Total frog count = 5

Is that bad for a hand-knit, custom fit sweater?

The fit is close and it accentuates my curves quite well, I think. However, I wish there was a bit more coverage on the back of the neck. Some short rows would have really helped there.

My final problem with this pattern was the yarn calculations. Even though the pattern said I only needed 1120 yards of yarn, I used a bit over 1250 yards on the sweater. I ordered a last minute skein from The Loopy Ewe so I could knit the i-cord in the same weight of yarn.

IF I had used my yarn extremely frugally (e.g. carefully left only the bare minimum length of tails needed to weave in ends) I may have been able to use only the original 1250 yards.

I guess that color name — Good Luck Jade — didn’t work it’s magic for me, eh?

But it looks great, doesn’t it? 🙂

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Urban nature

I often find it amazing how many “wilderness-type” animals you can find in the city. Yesterday morning I was standing at the kitchen sink and looking out the window when I noticed something in the alley. It was a bird — a small raptor — sitting in the alley with something in it’s talons. It took off after a moment with it’s quarry (I think it may have been a mouse or small rat) still clutched tightly. 

I didn’t have time to grab the camera, but I remembered it’s distinctive look. I consulted my Birds of Illinois book (conveniently located in a drawer on the other side of the kitchen) and I’m pretty sure it was a kestrel. I remember very clearly seeing those black lines on it’s head.

Luckily, this little raptor is not capable of catching a chicken!

After our warm interlude, yesterday’s weather was quite a shock. When I went to bed early Sunday morning (about 1 AM I think) it was 49 F outside. When I got up at 7 AM to tend to the chickens, it was 17 F. Not only was it bitingly cold and snowing lightly, but the wind gusts were terrible. I don’t know the official speed they were clocked at, but they left quite a mess for me to clean up in the backyard.

The plastic covering the Eglu and run was completely blown off, despite being weighted down by landscaping pavers. The run floor, which I had just refreshed the day before with a nice bed of dry leaves, was now covered with a thin layer of snow. The Eglu coop door mechanisms were a bit iced up (this is just the problem I try to prevent by covering it with plastic) but they did open. The chickens didn’t seem to mind the cold at all, they still eagerly ran to get their food.

Not only did I have to wrestle the run covering back in place in those amazing wind gusts (and add more bricks to weigh down the plastic), I also had to deal with the cold frame cover being blown off. One side was laying across the yard, even though the cover had been weighted down, too, with some small weights. I had to place a landscaping brick on top of the cold frame covers to keep them from being blown off again.

So, even though I had planned to just quickly tend to the chickens and then return to bed for more sleep, it didn’t work out that way. No wonder I was so tired last night that I passed out at 9 PM!

Warm interlude

Ah, what a lovely day. This is the first day in months that I haven’t felt anxiety and stress over my little birds. We sat down with an alderman’s staffer yesterday afternoon and talked about the approaches to making sure keeping chickens remains legal in Chicago. And it went very well! It’s so nice to feel like we have an ally on the “inside” who can help us figure out the proper channels.

While the skies today have been cloudy, the temps have been several degrees above freezing. The snow is melting, too. The hens observed me doing a bit of raking in their yard today. I was just trying to clean and tidy up a bit, but they realized that the ground was perhaps receptive to a bit of scratching. No surprise then that I noticed them scratching away an hour or so later. Chickens must scratch!

Tomorrow should be warmer still and if I can get outside to do some more chicken yard clean up before the rain starts, that would be ideal.

It’s only 4:20 PM and it is getting dark, but after today the daylight will slowly increase bit by bit. Happy Yule to all!

Snow birds

Between Saturday and Sunday morning we got about 5 inches of snow. I snapped the photo above on Sunday as I headed out to collect the eggs and give the girls a little treat (some squash "innards" from our dinner the night before).

The girls got their first taste of appreciable snow while we were out of town. They didn't seem to like it one bit. According to my housesitter, they basically stayed inside the run after that first snowfall. But I thought I could lure them out, and indeed I did.

Treats and food go a long way when training animals. My dogs respond very well to food treats and affection when I'm training them, and I figured chickens couldn't be much different. It only took a one visit with a handful of raisins, and the girls were out the run door and into the snow. I could see they didn't like how unsteady the snow made them. Little Selma actually flew a short distance over the snow so she didn't have to walk in it. Their feet aren't quite like snowshoes, you see, and so they sink into the powdery snow when they step on it. They don't like feeling so unbalanced.

When I head out to open their coop every morning and then back to shut it up in the evening, I compact the snow with my foot steps. So, they've found they can just follow my trail to get to the gate. Now they come up to the gate on their own when they hear me coming outside during the day.

I don't know if they can understand words like dogs can, but I was quite full of praise for them yesterday when I saw how they had trekked over to the gate all on their own. I thought they were quite brave and said so as I cooed over them and gave them their treat.

I know they're chickens, but they're precious to me nonetheless.

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Temporary reprieve

In the struggle to keep my hens legal there's now a temporary reprieve. After appealing every which way possible (calls to alderman, letters to alderman, letters to relevant city departments, etc.), the committee reported to the city council today that the issue be held in committee for further comment. So, we now have gotten some time to work our own proposal that could allow for responsible chicken keeping. More to come later. I'm just too tired now to write.

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And we’re off

The end of the "crazy time" has finally come. In less than an hour, we're heading out to O'Hare to catch our flight to California.

I've wrapped up or handed off projects at work. They can survive without me.

I'm forced to come to the conclusion that I've done all I can to save my chickens from being re-homed. Last week, I was contacted by a person familiar with the issue, implications, and the knowledge and desire to help. The struggle is in good hands, and I'm thankful for her help. Now it's time for me to let go and let the events run their course.

I hope that when I return from Esalen I am more relaxed, more open, and have a stronger relationship with my husband. I also hope that I won't have to say goodbye to my chickens.

Have a great week, all!

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