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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bodley's Cardigan: A Sheep-to-Sweater Adventure

The Madness Begins

What strange confluence of events has inspired me to spin and knit a sweater? So many things had to drop into place for this to work out, and somehow my alpacas have neatly lined up in a row so I can make the stereotypical House Cup Ravenclaw dream come true.

OWL Mistress at Last

Twelve topics, thirteen terms.  This spring/summer I knit my Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL (and if this makes absolutely no sense to you, I'm not sure this is the venue for explaining it). This was my very last OWL, and I have now earned all 12 badges available to House Cuppers.  I can totally go back and repeat OWLs if I want to--but now that I am among the elite few (really: only 15 people have achieved this milestone thus far), a goal I have aimed at for a long time now, nothing stands between me and the four-month long NEWT.  

Except fear.

But I put that fear aside.  Never mind that this means crafting during a break month.  Never mind that this means disciplining myself to finish something more rigorous than anything I've ever done.  On the first of August from the comfort of Birch Island, I proposed my NEWT in Muggle Studies and Potions (because it's a sweater, which is Muggle Studies, and it's preparing and spinning at least 1.5 pounds of fiber, Potions).

The Call of the Wool

But I hadn't been considering such a thing before late June.  In May I finally, finally! bought my beloved spinning wheel, Athena, who is a Kromski Fantasia wheel I've stained & painted bronze and blue.  I've been having lots of fun with her, and getting better at making mostly the consistency of yarn I want. Mostly.  

And then in June a rather amazing thing happened.  My mom's friend Lynn saw a picture of some of my spinning on Facebook and said to me, "You spin? I just got a big bag of alpaca for you; I was going to have it spun up... do you just want it raw?"

Well, of course I did!  I waited rather impatiently until mid-July when I got to go to Pennsylvania and find out just what a 'big bag' looks like--and just how 'raw' it was.

Turns out a 'big bag' is a tall kitchen trash bag full of brown and white alpaca wool.

"I don't know if there's enough for a sweater there," Lynn said.  

Friends, there is over 4 pounds of fiber in that bag.  That's enough to clothe Cleveland. Or at least, Oxford.  Because that's where I'm going for the inspiration for the sweater.

Just a Little Nibble

It's been just over a year since I read A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness's wonderful romance/adventure story of a forbidden love between a vampire and a witch.  The main characters meet in Oxford's Bodleyan Library, which used to be called Bodley's Library (and vampire Matthew, who's really, really old, still calls it that in a suave way that misses being quaint because he's hot).  So as I was reading and re-reading the first two books in the series (and book three... where are you, book three?  Hurry!) I was leafing through Ravelry when I spotted something in the Enabling Banner at the bottom of the Tower page I hang out in most.

It was luscious.  It was clever.  It was, dare I say, quite sexy.  It has fun and interesting construction I can't wait to try--I'm usually a sew-the-sweater-pieces-together kind of girl, but this one's a one-piece construction, with a clever and lovely sleeve that just looks, well.  Hot.  Really hot.  And so the name caught my eye and the design caught my eye, and I clicked the link and was transported to my friend Jennette Cross's designer page.

I should have known. 

Jennette has a gift, my friends.  Her clothing is well designed, and her patterns are written both cleverly and astutely.  A knitter can learn from her patterns: new techniques, tricks to make what you already know work just a teeny bit better.  She puts things in her patterns that don't have to be there, but that make the experience of following them rather magical.  I made a pair of her SB Demands Mitts last summer, and they're beautiful and comfortable and let me get work done in my office when it's really cold (which is October-April, FTR).  And I got to watch a friend making one of her shawls, and had a chance to read her lovely advice on blocking in the pattern, packed with full-color photos that walk you through the process.  These are touches that make an excellent pattern, and I don't just say this because Jennette is a friend (though she is!).  I say it because a good pattern is worth every single dollar you pay for it, and I paid several dollars for each of her patterns because they are completely and totally worth it.  I don't always pay for patterns, but I do pay, happily, when a designer is thorough and competent.  Nothing is more frustrating than a poorly written pattern, and Jennette never gives me those!

And so on...

I have my wool! I have my pattern!  I even have a wheel, and I know how to use it... but wait! there's more!

Join me tomorrow for adventures in wool preparation.  Because I'd never carded anything more than a few bits using cat flickers before... and in fact, the 2x3" cat flickers are all I had for hand cards.