I spent most of the week practice-knitting with my wool-cotton on Aunt Mary's size-6 teflon-coated knitting needles, and I am now totally spoiled for them. Such lovely slipperiness! But I was not particularly enthralled by the project and wanted badly to get on to my sweater.
I ran out to Minocqua on Tuesday to the Knitting Nook where a lovely woman helped me choose some chunky baby alpaca yarn (believe it or not, the cheapest of all the yarns we looked at) and worked up some gauge swatches that evening. I had picked up Debbie Stoller's Stitch and Bitch on Sarah's recommendation and spent some time looking at it to figure out what tools I would need to buy and what techniques I would need to use to work the sweater, and I asked Mary some questions too.
D, K and I set out for home on Wednesday morning. Around lunchtime we drove into Escanaba, MI, and found a little shop called the Yarn Barn where I bought my size 13 circular needles, double-pointed needles, stitch holders and other doodads, along with some quilting material, vintage fabric and eyelet curtains. The lady there (who runs an antique shop side by side with the yarn store) had a magnificent rocking horse that was big enough for big five-year-old K to ride! I'm glad she didn't notice it. I tore myself away from the store and started casting on. And I knit.
Forty minutes later I realized that little twist in the fabric wasn't going to "work itself out." I ripped out, cast on, ripped out again. Got really good at casting on. I think it took me four or five tries before I got the stitches cast on and knit the first round without twisting them. Then the alpaca fur started flying thick and fast. I guess I've knitted up about six inches worth of sweater by now, which seems like a lot to me. The stitches aren't perfectly even, but there aren't any dropped ones, either. I think it will be a nice first project. (Okay, second. The first was an orange garter stitch scarf in Homespun yarn that I like a lot but that sheds all over my black pea coat.)
I only hope the darn thing fits. I measured myself, I checked the gauge, I checked it again, I bought yarn accordingly, I'm hoping for the best.
I've been looking at the sites you folks have recommended and there's so much to see! Thank you for all of your helpful suggestions! Now I have one other question for you:
Other than teflon needles (oh my heavens, they're wonderful!), what are your favorite tricks/techniques that help you knit a little faster?