photo finish—we have a winner

Posted on Posted in designing, food and garden, projects

before i start my very long post-holiday post, let’s pause to give a cheer for gina f., winner of knitting at home, by leanne prouse, published by sixth&spring books.
big thanks to sixth&spring for their generosity in supporting a giveaway to go with each book review—i know you all appreciate the fun.

and now for the christmas recap—did you all have a nice holiday??
we had a lovely, lovely weekend—this year i fully enjoyed our whole schedule of events. we’ve lived in ohio for quite a while now, but it’s taken me all these years to get used to being home alone on a big holiday. when we lived in NYC, we either traveled to our families close by or celebrated with a crowd of friends and other strays like us; i often did a lot of cooking for a lot of people, and ended the day tired, but happily content to have done it.

now we spend only part of the pre-christmas week with friends and the holiday is for us alone, since all of our friends have family nearby. i think we’ve finally hit our stride in making it a romantic day at home for just the two of us—we really enjoyed it this year, haha!

but before the big day, we had quite a weekend to navigate . . .

when i left off last, i had finished the body of david’s christmas sweater and was partway up the sleeve. i was also running very low on yarn and on time, about to run off to beckie’s to prepare our christmas eve dinner.

beckie, of course, knows just how to quell one’s anxieties—she provided an appropriate quantity of the right ingredients and a sharp knife for chopping and before i knew it, my heart had settled back to its normal rhythm.

i got to her house in the early afternoon and when we realized there wasn’t all that much to get ready, we made short work of prepping all the ingredients for a 5 pm cooking time. mark helped out wherever he was needed.

once we had the chopping out of the way, we settled at her kitchen table to swap gifts and knit (and eat cookies, haha)

beckie has been knitting hot waffles mitts and hats for her loved ones this year—it’s a favorite repeat project for her. she had some nice briar rose grandma’s blessing on hand and decided to cast on for set for mark’s mom

isn’t that pretty? it’s lighter weight than the pattern calls for, so she’ll use a smaller needle and knit one size up.

i finished my sleeve increases and got to the underarm by mid-afternoon, then started the sleeve cap. men’s sleeves are quite large though; it’s not as quick to accomplish all that as it is for my own skinny sleeves.

by the time i had put my knitting aside so we could start preparing the paella, i was feeling like i could get all the knitting done some time that night. phew.

as i was telling you in an earlier post, we tried a recipe by emeril green, which beckie saw him prepare on TV. one thing we learned is that next time, we’ll use a different recipe—this one had good flavor but called for WAY too much liquid (there must have been a typo in that recipe). for some strange reason, the amount did not set off a red flag for either of us, haha, even though we both know better. anyway, we ended up with a dish that was a lot more like gumbo . . . but as i said, it was delicious.

actually, for a while, things were looking completely normal—the water was cooking off at a decent pace and it seemed as though all would be well.

however, things got soggier just after this shot was taken—for some reason, at this point, the dish seemed to generate even more liquid, rather than reducing it. ah me.

beckicita cooked and cooked, but to no avail—it was just soupy.

we also had some yummy side dishes to support our efforts, including this chili dip from pete

an orange-and-olive salad, and some roasted stuffed peppers from our own kitchen.

once the neighbors arrived and the evening got underway, the fact that the paella was a little different became moot—it tasted great and everyone enjoyed it immensely, asking for leftovers to bring home.

zoë the dog was completely beside herself all day in anticipation of treats that fall from the sky.

david talked over electronics with asia (she’s in high school) and her mom andie while we put the finishing touches on dinner.

we really enjoyed putting this dish together and it’s a fantastic solution for the feast of seven fishes—low on hassle and high on tasty results. we will definitely do it again; next time, we’ll do our homework better and not allow what we see on TV to lull us into trusting just one recipe.

after supper, we made a big pot of coffee and put out desserts, then beckie organized and led a game of scattergories.

i sat in without officially playing, so that i could continue working on my sleeve cap

and by the time i went home, it was done, yay.
not done knitting quite yet, however—when we got back to our house, i still had to pick up the neck edge and add the neckband. and i’m happy to say that after all that i did have yarn left over.

two yards or so, maybe three??
i do not recommend trying this at home . . .

by that time it was 2am and i was pretty beat, so i laid the project aside to finish in the morning. it still needed blocking and seaming of the sleeves and armholes.
bright and early on christmas morning i rose and after a couple of strong cups of coffee, i set to work.

i needed to block the sleeves and body before putting them together at the armholes. normally, when the body is all in one piece, i opt for soaking and blocking it wet, but without time for that, i just pinned it out to the right width and shot it full of steam.

i definitely wanted to get the fabric blocked somehow, because it changes the hand and surface appearance so much.

it’s much more even and lovely after a good steaming or washing.

then it was on to seaming. the sleeves went in like a dream, thank goodness; i really didn’t have time to fuss with a finicky fit.

i had a pleasant surprise while sewing up the underarm seams—there turned out to be a really great textural design where the stitch pattern meets along the underside of the sleeve

it became especially prominent when i gave the seams a final press later on—it looks like an extra-fancy quill pen doesn’t it? i love that . . .

a few final touches with a lot of steam to tame those spots where the cables bump up against a seam—i like to use my hands and/or a cloth to mold the steamed fabric into shape (this also works well for sculpting large cables into submission for the most pleasing effects)

this process does not go all that quickly—i put in about five hours or so of finishing work that morning. and thank goodness david continued to snore away, taking the opportunity to sleep as late as he wanted.

finally around 3pm, the job was complete. there was even plenty of time to wrap and place it under the tree. it was close though . . .

i don’t think i’ve really explained anything about this design, but it does have a story—it’s a remake of an older design, the first sweater i ever knit for david. i’ve told about that sweater before, but i’ll tell it again quickly here.

for our first christmas, i could not think of a gift to buy him. suddenly, about ten days before the holiday, i had it—i could knit him a sweater; he LOVED all the handknits i had laying around, he’s want one for himself.

only problem was, i didn’t have the yarn or enough time to do it. so i sent off for the yarn, thinking i’d wrap it all up with a photo of the pattern and give it to him that way. i picked out a cranberry red donegal tweed that i was certain would look smashing on him. i just wished i had thought of it about four months earlier.

at the time, my favorite men’s sweater book was this old bucilla pamphlet

i’d knit several sweaters from it for my father, brothers, and previous SOs, all to good success. i decided to use instructions from it to design my own variation; i was totally pumped.

anyway, when david opened the box, there was a loooong silence, followed by a long look. the color drained from his face. i could not understand what was happening—wasn’t he thrilled to pieces??

he sorta croaked, “i don’t have to learn to knit, do i??”

i laughed so hard i fell off the sofa—talk about a complete misunderstanding and mixed signals, haha. suffice it to say that he was visibly relieved to learn that i’d be the one knitting the sweater.

it took some time of course—in those days i worked full time elsewhere and did not knit with as quite as much intensity as i do now. in a few months, i had a completed sweater, which he loved right away. he wore that thing almost constantly in cold weather for the next 13 years.

i think it’s safe to say that he loved it to death; he wore it til it hardly stayed up on his shoulders by itself.

i don’t know how, but he even wore a hole in the back of the neck. when i suggested it might be time to put it it out of its misery, he looked offended and said it was his lounging sweater (for a while at the end, he wore it only after he’d showered and changed from his work clothes to spend the rest of the night watching TV).

he finally retired it early last fall, when he began wearing the whitfield jacket as his lounging gear. he found another use for the old red sweater though

and ever since, it has held its place as a draft dodger at the foot of the upstairs porch door.

anyway, the new sweater is a recreation of the old red favorite, which had a looser, more casual fit and a classic textured fabric.

with a few small changes in styling and gauge, it worked out beautifully in this light brown BFL handspun yarn. david wore it all day yesterday, so i spent some time stalking him to get a few photos as he moved about the house.

it think he likes it—he’s wearing it again now and he gladly modeled it for my classes today. another year of christmas knitting put to bed—now it’s time to reorganize and think about the new year knitting and the pattern i have to catch up on. i have a few new things on the needles already, including a copy of david’s winter hat that so many of you requested the pattern for.

and with that, i’m going to finally end this post—time to head upstairs to relax and work on some actual knit projects. see you next time.

74 thoughts on “photo finish—we have a winner

  1. It’s marvelous! And it looks SO good on him – well done (if a big squeaky on the yarn there – my heart would have been in my mouth!). And I love the way his braid matches the cable down the back in that one shot – very nice 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing your life with all of us, Ann! That’s a grand sweater, and an even better story. You both seem to really enjoy your life, and it’s a wonderful thing. Happy new year!

  3. an alternative recipe suggestion for the night-of-fishes: Bouillabaisse, in Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook. My version is 1961. It has become our Christmas Eve tradition in recent years—-quick, easy, and delumptious!

    wonderful posting—thanks for your generous sharing of your special holiday weekend.

  4. From fleece to sweater…what a “real” ly beautiful gift of love, Anne. I love your story of the progression of David’s well-loved sweater – it reminds me of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit and the discussion about “what is real.” The sweater looks absolutely stunning on David. Might there be a pattern/your variation forthcoming?

  5. Zoe the dog is adorable — love those ears! Please pass along my adoration to her humans. I’m sure Zoe already knows how gorgeous she is, of course.

    The sweater is just stunning, too! I had a squeaker like that once years back on an alpaca sweater, and still remember the terror as the yarn got shorter and shorter and I wasn’t quite finished. Congrats on having just exactly enough, even if it’s not good for the ol’ blood pressure.

    And I may have to try your box of yarn misunderstanding on my husband. He needs a bit of sheer panic in his life now and then. 🙂

    Best of all, though? David’s gorgeous hair! I appreciate one good reason why you keep yours short — who would want to compete with that amazing hair? I hope he loves the new sweater as much as the old one, and that it’s many years before it, too, gets relegated to its second lifetime of draft-blocking!

  6. Oh, my! Love the story about David’s reaction to the original sweater gift. It is exactly the sort of thing my DH would think and he would be equally terrified/horrified. But it is those times, and things like the two sweaters that can be some of the sweetest memories. Wishing you many more wonderful Christmas seasons together.

  7. David’s sweater looks beautiful. And as for the paella, a lot of vegetables give off liquid when they cook. Where there mushrooms in it? I didn’t notice any in the pictures but mushrooms give off a lot liquid, especially if you cook them slowly over low heat. Recently I followed a recipe that called for an entire cup of cilantro – to serve four – and no garlic. It had some other oddities as well. The liquid in your recipe must have been a typo, even if you’d think a TV chef would have some kind of “tech editor.”

  8. Ann: You really must do a pattern for the “David Sweater”. My son-in-law, my grandson, and my BFFHusband would LOVE it! What a lovely holiday celebration! I wish you and David the Happiest of New Years!

  9. I think you out did yourself on David’s sweater. It is gorgeous. Pretty funny that the old one is still in use. Did you ever think to make it into a pillow?

  10. I wanted to add on this, but everything has been said: gorgeous man in a fabulous sweater…!!

  11. That’s a great story! David looks smashing in his new sweater. Just tell him he should braid his hair to match the rope cables so he coordinates. 🙂 I love how those arm seams came out–they couldn’t be more perfect if you’d planned them.

    My family was up at 9:00 and I thought that was late…lol. Are you sure you didn’t tell David he couldn’t get up until the sweater was under the tree? 😉

  12. I always enjoy your photos, stories and most of all – the knitting! Love the new sweater for David and the story of the old one. I wonder that you ever allowed the red one to become so tattered without repairing it. But I do love that he continued to wear it that way to lounge (much like a child with a tattered blanket!). Have you thought of repurposing the yarn to add to a new future project for him?

    Happy New Year!

  13. Hooray! David’s inscrutable as ever, but you can tell he loves the sweater–and what a sweet thing for you to do. (Probably also self-defense to ensure he’ll never wear the other one again, eh?)

  14. I love the sweater. Such a great fit, great texture and great pictures. Thank you for a great year of stories and pictures that you have shared! I love to check in! Happy New Year~

  15. I don’t know how I missed this post! Oh – I musta been in Mexico! Anne – the story of David’s first sweater is so hilarious. and I wanted to shout, “But now you DO know how to knit david!” hahaha And the new sweater is just so nice on him. You did a fabulous fabulous job. I can’t wait to see it on him in a couple days!

  16. Just wanted to say,I loved this story about the first sweater.
    And the replacement sweater is wonderful.
    Your husband does appreciate it.
    Such a great story.
    Also wanted to give my vote,to hoping there is a pattern of the new sweater that we may knit for our husbands.
    Cant say it enough.It is stunning.
    P.S Love your Blog.

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