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. Really lovely sweater! It sounds like you had a wonderful holiday!! Happy New Year to you and David!

  2. I think I have a copy of that old Bucilla book laying around here, too. David’s new sweater is gorgeous—isn’t it the best compliment when the giftee actually WEARS the stuff you knit for them and essentially loves it to DEATH? I made flannel quilts for my parents, which I started in September and finished two or three days before Christmas Eve. I was surprised—my dad burrowed under his with nothing but his head sticking out the minute he opened it and wouldn’t budge for the rest of the weekend. I think his plan is to stay under there until Spring.

    Happy New Year!

  3. Just perfect!

    I don’t think I have ever seen as well loved as the red one.

    The new is beautiful (or should I saw “handsome”), too.

    ; )

  4. The new sweater looks great! I’ve enjoyed your posts on this project. As for the red sweater… I’ve never seen a sweater loved/worn to death like that. David truly appreciates your knitting. Any chance you could salvedge some of it to make a hat or scarf for David?

  5. Those pictures of the red sweater make me smile and feel a bit teary eyed at the same time. The new version is absolutely gorgeous and so is the recipient I might add, so it’s a perfect match. You outdid yourself and it shows. All’s well that ends well… Happy New Year!

  6. What a beautiful sweater, and it looks perfect on the recipient. Your story about it (and the red one) made me laugh. For some reason I’m often waiting what is probably a liiiiittle bit too long to start knitting things for people, always thinking there’s plenty of time (including sometimes to order yarn). Because I’ve thought it out, it’s practically done in my mind. I’m a quick knitter but….Anyway, I’ve never actually wrapped up the yarn, but I’ve thought about it, and it never occurred to me that it might frighten the recipient!

    I’m about 20 repeats into Rivolo right now out of some silvery green “bugga”, very beautiful watery rivulets, and definitely a good travelling/visiting project!

  7. What a great story! The only time I gifted an unfinished knit, it sent the entire room into laughter … my mother in-law told a wonderful story about receiving an unfinished scarf decades ago, then casually opened her next gift to find a scarf still on the needles. The timing was perfect, and the look on her face hilarious. I hope you’ll consider making David’s sweater into a pattern; I’m enamored of those sleeve seams!

  8. the sweater came out great..love the shot of the under arm seam. and i can’t believe that’s all the yarn you had left!!

  9. I remember you telling about David’s reaction to opening the box of yarn for the red sweater, but hadn’t made the connection to the posts about the new sweater. It turned out fantastic, and it is always cute to see you turn the camera around on David 🙂 So glad to see that you managed to squeek through with the yarn quantity.

  10. Thanks for telling the backstory! The sweater looks great on David, what a perfect fit. I found myself wanting a picture of him putting some of those clean dishes into an upper cabinet so that we could admire those sleeve seams again!

  11. Oooooooh – the sweater looks wonderful, especially on David. Thanks to you both for sharing it with us.

    The red sweater story brought to mind an anecdote. A niece who usually received a knitted gift from her aunt, was surprised to receive one Christmas, a package containing yarn, needles and instructions. On the package was a note which read: “Scarf – some assembly required”.

  12. Gorgeous! Perfect! Happy New Year to you both. Salam wa sa’aadah Linda

    PS I’m so happy the yarn fairies were good to you.

  13. What a wonderful story of the well loved red sweater& the new one evoking it’s memory, finished with minutes to go & only a whisper of yarn left.

    My DH still has the 1st sweater I knit for him & older still is the apres ski sweater my mother knit for me in the early 70’s.

    Gifts made with thought & love in every stitch are more priceless than anything Mastercard can buy…

  14. What a gorgeous sweater! It fits — and suits — David so well. The pattern and textures are so classic and elegant.

  15. David’s jumper is just gorgeous. Congrats on holding your nerve to get it done – the left over yarn is impressive!! I love the ‘worn to death’ jumper too. It’s lovely to know that your handknits are so much appreciated!

  16. It’s beautiful! And thanks for mentioning Becki knitting Hot Waffles. I have my own leftover Grandma’s Blessing and now I know what to do with it.

  17. My is the first sweater well loved! I feel inspired to tackle a sweater for my DH! Perhaps when the stunning new sweater pattern comes out. Love all the details and the sleeve seam makes me so happy! I love the way designs come together and surprise us!

  18. The sweater is truly lovely . . . looks good on him! I’d love to knit one for hubby, but he’s a heat furnace . . .

  19. What a wonderful Christmas story, so full of love and care. The sweater is just perfect and fits so well. In ten year’s time it will look like the red one, for sure!

    I hope you get some time to relax and catch your breath this holiday.

  20. David is a lucky man! Thank you for sharing the sweater’s “back story.” And thanks for all your fabulous designs and one of the most interesting, thoughtful knitting blogs around. Have a very happy New Year!!!

  21. oooh david look divine in his new sweater! and i love the backstory.
    anne you are astonishing! and the food looks glorious as well.
    happy new year to both of you.

  22. My husband is already drooling over that sweater. I’ll have to keep my eye out for that pattern book… Or maybe some nice publisher would let you re-post it with your notes for us? (a girl can always dream…)

  23. Best wishes for the New Year, Anne. I so enjoy your blog–and the annual Christmas sweater drama 🙂 I really laughed when I read about the “lounging sweater.” Nice to see the old red one repurposed, though.

  24. Wow, the sweater is just gorgeous. Is this a pattern that you’ll be writing out? I’d love to make one for my husband. David’s one lucky guy, but I’m sure he knows that. Happy holidays!

  25. What a great story, and what a gorgeous sweater! David is one lucky guy to have someone knit him such beautiful sweaters. Sure hope you’ll be able to publish your version of this pattern. It’s one I’d put on my 2011 knitting list for sure!

  26. The sweater is beautiful! Since it looks completely different than those in the pamphlet–will you be writing it up for those of us who love it?

  27. Thank you so much for sharing the journey of the sweater! I felt like I was there in the race against time with you, and even felt a bit breathless for a moment or two. Your work is just beautiful.

  28. David’s sweater is simply beautiful, to see a sweater so well loved is such a happy feeling.
    I had a similar happening at Christmas, my grandson was wearing a well worn sweater I had made him over 10 yrs ago, he said he worn it so he could let me know he wanted another in Choclate brown, then he went on and with a list of colors.
    He was the kid in the family who always wore Gram’s sweaters.
    So, I guess, he thought he better keep me knitting.

    Have a very good Holiday Season

  29. As always, I love all the pictures, but the story and the pictures of David’s red sweater are priceless. I totally love how much he loved the sweater you made him. That’s a great story. Great job on the sweater, too.

  30. It looks like you had such a lovely Holiday! I’m so glad for you. There’s nothing like family and friends. I love the story of David’s sweater. He must be tickled pink. Handsome Man – Handsome Sweater!
    I also love the tour of the neighbors lights. We always try to take a drive on Christmas eve to see lights and the grandkids get so excited when we see someplace completely decked out. This year we turned off the computers and and gameboys and playstations and decided it was a perfect way to spend the holiday. We played Yahtzee and I knit – and taught my daughter to knit a little bit (and set her to work on a garter stitich scarf) and just enjoyed on another’s company. I love Christmas!

  31. David’s sweater is GORGEOUS! He looks so handsome wearing it…must be all that love in those stitches, eh?

  32. My mouth kept watering as I read your post and then my jaw dropped as I saw the beautiful new sweater. I love that David has repurposed the old one too. Happy New year!!

  33. Love this post. One, the sweater is so nice. I think this year I’ll finally attempt on for my husband. And, two, THANK YOU for the warning on the recipe. I’d been planning on using it for NYE, but now I’ll search out another. Best wishes for the new year. Cheers.

  34. I love how his braid falls between two cables on the back – it’s so artistic!

    If you write this one up, I’m buying it as soon as it’s published. If it doesn’t tickle my husband’s fancy, it *does* tickle mine 🙂

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