Tuesday, January 31, 2006

banished to the stash drawer


A record number of comments yesterday, with sock advice and sock mourning. Thank you so much to everybody who commented. I got some great advice. Jessica's suggestion of steeking and adding a button was actually the first thing I thought of. I don't know whether I'll do that, but I guess great minds think alike. Also, Ariel's suggestion to turn the leg into the foot, and then add ribbing to the rest of the foot (which would be the leg) was inspired. It would involve tons of frogging, as the leg is way too long to be a foot, but it's still not a bad idea. And of course, all the comments with encouragement to finish the sock, or take what I have now and salvage it as some other type of object, were great.

I did take the advice to try to wet block the sock before giving up. Something I would have ordinarily thought of on my own, if I weren't in panic mode. I did that, and set it to dry overnight. Unfortunately, things were the same when I woke up this morning:

the sock is dead

So what am I going to do with it? Right now, I'm going to stuff it in the back of one of my stash drawers, and try to forget about it. I'll do something with it, eventually, but right now it just makes me too sad. The reason I was working on the socks now, and so quickly, is because I wanted to finish them for a sock contest at my LYS. But I'm not going to knit a second sock that won't go on my foot, which means I won't be submitting a pair of Komi socks for the contest. Instead, I think I'll submit my Go With The Flow socks:

Go With The Flow socks

I guess that would be a good submission because I actually cast on for the first of these socks at the very first Thursday night knitting group I attended there. They're not as spectacular, and not as likely to win as the Komi socks would have been, but they're really nice socks.

The Sweaters From Camp Knitalong doesn't start for two weeks. This means two more weeks of Ingeborg knitting! At some point, I'll actually knit my swatches for the SFCKAL, too. I'm close to needing to decide what to do about armhole steeks for Ingeborg. Even with C's offer of her sewing machine and sewing expertise, I'm again thinking of adding steek stitches to crochet. The decision probably won't be made until when I'm right up to the row where I need to decide whether or not to start those steek stitches. Should be fun!

EDIT: Oh, and I was happy to see all the quote guesses. That exact line comes from the Sondheim musical Into The Woods. Are those exact words also used in an English translation of the original Cinderella fairy tale? Obviously, it's from that story, but as the original is in German, I meant that exact quote to refer to Into The Woods. (Now I'm inspired to change the words to the "your fault" song, to blame someone for the sock fiasco. ;-)

Monday, January 30, 2006

"cut off a bit of the heel, and it will"

So I couldn't wait until the heel was done. I just had to try the sock on.

It won't fit. It would theoretically fit my leg and my foot just fine. The problem is, I have a heel. The leg of the sock won't stretch enough to allow my heel through. I can get my heel into the leg, but not very far. It just won't go.

What do I do? Do I finish the socks? On one hand, I put so much work into this one. It's really pretty, and it would be a shame not to finish it on. On the other hand, I already have small feet. This sock isn't going to fit anybody. And if I find someone who can get their heel into it, I have no doubt that the leg and foot will just be saggy and big. Plus, that someone would probably be a child, and I know no children.

I'm currently in shock/denial. These socks are just built to not have a lot of stretch to them. I don't think I could knit them so they'd fit properly and so it would be possible to get them onto my foot. I thought before that these would be mostly show socks, but now I know that's all they ever could be. Do they even count as socks if nobody can wear them? No wonder they're not on an actual foot in the book. (Okay, to be fair, none of the mittens or socks in the book are modeled.) Obviously, I'm transitioning into the anger phase of this knitting tragedy.

Any advice? I don't think blocking is the answer. If I can't physically stretch them over my heel, they will never go. I'm tempted to give up now, and concentrate on Ingeborg for the next week or two, until the SFCKAL begins.

(And if anybody knows where the quote in the post title comes from, that will do a little bit to cheer me up. :)

heel: 0, bowerbird: 1 (+ headache)

Even though it doesn't really look like it (to me), I knit a lot this weekend. First, I got to knit in the scrap yarn for the peasant heel:

Komi Sock 1 - where the heel will go

I knit and knit until I finished the pattern repeat that contains the heel, then knit and knit some more until I finished the next full pattern repeat. Everything was going great. Then I decided that even though I was all ready to go to bed, I just wanted to undo the scrap yarn row and pick up the stitches for the heel. "just." hah.

I didn't get any pictures of the fiasco. Though to be fair, it was only half a fiasco. Even though I thought I did the same thing on both sides of the opening to pick up the stitches, one side was picture perfect, while the other side was a complete mess, with all sorts of loopy things where there shouldn't have been loopy things, and other bizarre anomalies that it pains me to even think about. I stayed up another hour trying to figure out how to fix things, but then decided to head to bed for some restless sleep, leaving the sock in partial chaos. I managed to mostly fix things yesterday morning. I fudged things in a couple of places, but I think it actually looks fine. Next time, I'm threading a lifeline through the row right before and after the scrap yarn for the heel, so the chaos doesn't happen again. I can just rip it out, and have the empty stitches waiting for me, all safe and sound, without any guesswork. I hope.

I managed to also knit a bit on the heel itself yesterday. It's kind of fiddly because I currently have 8 needles and 4 skeins of yarn attached to the sock. I transferred the live stitches on the foot of the sock to size 00 DPNs, so I could use the 000 for the heel. I also have to knit the heel right side out. Well, it might be possible to knit it inside out, as I'd prefer, but that would mean turning the sock inside out with 8 needles and 4 skeins of yarn attached to it. It makes my head hurt just thinking of how I'd manage to pull that one off, so I decided to deal with the massively smaller headache of knitting it right side out.

I've knit 13 rows of the heel - 12 rows straight, and the first row of decreasing.

Komi Sock heel in process

Komi sock heel in progress - side

I really want to finish the heel today. That means I'll finally be able to try on the sock for real, and get an idea of how much further I have to knit for the foot. More tomorrow, if I get through the heel tonight.

Friday, January 27, 2006

how I knit inside out

I've received a few questions about how I'm doing this inside out knitting thing, so I thought I'd try to take a photo of it.

Obviously my needles aren't perfectly positioned to knit the next stitch, but sacrifices had to be made so I could hold up the sock with one hand while taking the photo with the other.

So when I knit inside out, which is what I do when doing stranded colorwork on DPNs, I do knit (not purl), and end up knitting on the far side of the circle/square. While I can't see the right side of the pattern as well as if I were knitting right side out, I can see enough of it. And it's always a nice surprise when I turn the work right side out after a day or two of knitting, to see the progress.

I find that this technique is incredibly helpful in keeping a decent tension between needles, even though it's still not perfect. I think I might have first heard the advice to do this on the KBTH email list, but I've read about it in many places. It's certainly not my own invention. It doesn't require anything different in terms of casting on, following the chart, or anything. You just flip the sock (or whatever) back right side out when you're done. If you're having a hard time wrapping your head around how it works, try it out with a plain sock or sleeve. Once you do it, it's crystal clear how simple it is.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

it's growing up so fast

the sock in its natural state:

Komi sock in its natural habitat
Inside out, and stiff enough to stand up all on its own.

I've been knitting it inside out, to help with the float tension when going from one needle to another. This is how I left it last night, before going to bed. (The ribbed cuff is inside. It always ends up popping inside because of the way I sometimes support the sock on my knee when knitting.)

official 2 pattern repeats (+ 1 row) photo:

Komi Sock, January 26

I tried it on yesterday, and it feels so good! I didn't try it on my leg, because I was afraid of snapping the DPNs while pulling it over my heel. But it feels great on my foot. I spot checked the gauge, and I seem to be right on target (11 stitches per inch), so I'm not too concerned about it fitting my leg. I did those checks right before I was about to knit the line in the pattern where I'll have to knit in scrap yarn for the peasant heel, just to make sure I didn't want to make the sock 1 repeat shorter. But as it seems to be on track, and progressing well, I'm going for the full leg lengths, which is 2 2/3 repeats.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I'm in love

Komi Sock - January 24

That's the sock at 23 rows of the first pattern repeat. (The repeats are 30 rows. So close!) And boy are those stitches tiny:

Komi Sock with Quarter for size comparison

Sydney asked where I got the pattern for the socks. The pattern is the "sock with peasant heel" from the book Knitting Marvelous Mittens, by Charlene Schurch.

Becki wants to know where I got my 000 needles. I got them at a JoAnn, I think. They're really cheap Susan Bates needles, the same as in this eBay auction. You can probably find better, which I plan on trying to do, too.

I don't know if I'm going to have the time to work on Ingeborg again for a long while. I think the socks may take up the rest of the time I have before the SFC knitalong starts. But related to Ingeborg, Chery asked about pilling with Naturespun sport. I haven't had any. The big test is my Nordic mittens, which have been used a lot, and are not pilling at all. They're at a slightly tighter gauge than Ingeborg, but I really don't think this yarn is prone to pilling, and I'm not concerned about getting pilling with Ingeborg.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ingeborg (2 repeats); Komi sock start

Thanks for all the nice Ingeborg comments! All those kind words made her swell up to two whole pattern repeats:

Ingeborg, January 22, 2006

Okay, enough anthropomorphizing of the wool products. Yup, it's at 2 pattern repeats. A total of 10" from the cuff fold.

Yesterday I temporarily set Ingeborg aside so I could start the Komi socks. (Remember this swatch?) I did some brief swatching with the actual yarn I'm using (Lanett 100% merino superwash - very similar to Dale Baby Ull), got about 10 stitches per inch on size 0 needles, and decided to just drop down to size 000 for the actual socks. They're supposed to be 11 stitches per inch, and I'd not complain if they were a tiny bit tighter. It took me an entire football game to do the 2x2 ribbed 1" cuff. (Okay, there was some ingestion of food during that time, too. But I was mostly knitting.) It's a nice sturdy cuff because of the tightness of the knit, and the few rows of colorwork I have look great. I'll have a picture tomorrow, when there's more to show. I'm so excited about these socks, even if the needles are going to kill my hands. I must search for sturdier and less slippery 000 DPNs, if such a thing exists.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ingeborg progress (steeks and surgery)

1. Sweaters From Camp knitalong stuff is all updated. The sidebar contains all of the participants who have notified me of their participation (24 people!), and I've edited the original information post with links to other posts with KAL information. If you see anything missing, please let me know, but I'm pretty sure it's all up to snuff. (And if you want to join, you're always welcome!)

2. Ingeborg is now at exactly 1.5 pattern repeats. I didn't think I'd get that far by today, but I was amazingly productive at the knitting group. I must be getting more comfortable with the pattern, because I think I knit about 1.5 more rows than I did at the group last week. Here she is:

Ingeborg - January 20

I might be having a change of heart on the steeking issues. This is because C. offered to help me with the sewing. She's quite an accomplished seamstress (used to make clothing for herself and her husband), and I would trust her with my Ingeborg. I'm not 100% sure yet, but I'm actually leaning that way. The thing is, I won't have to knit the Ingeborg sleeves until I'm done with my sweater for the SFCKAL. That sweater will give me a very good idea of what sleeve length works for me for drop sleeve sweaters. If I had a better idea of sleeve length, I could knit Ingeborg as designed - no steek stitches for the armholes, but just a sew and cut when the sleeves are done, separately from the body. Should I go for it?

Another thing that I've been thinking about in regard to Ingeborg is colorfastness. I woke up in a sweat, worrying about what will happen the first time I wash her. Will the black bleed all over the white? I didn't have any visible color bleeding in my Nordic Mittens, which use the same yarn (Brown Sheep Naturespun sport), but I didn't have anything near the black and white contrast I have here. I might investigate instructions on using vinegar to keep colors from running, as a treatment before I block Ingeborg. I don't want it to end up light grey on black.

3. I did my first minor Ingeborg surgery at the knitting group last night. Somehow, I messed up just one of the pattern repeats in one of the rows, so I knit an extra stitch in black near the beginning of the repeat, and knit one fewer stitch in white later on in the repeat. When I found the weird error (how did I do that without noticing?) on the next round, I dropped stitches and picked up floats where necessary. You wouldn't be able to see it, though. I'm very proud of the surgery. I'd have taken pictures, but I was without a camera at the time.

4. Sorry for the infrequent posts this week. Ingeborg is not a fast project, and I didn't want to post unless I had something to actually show off or say. I think I'm going to start on the Komi socks next week, after I finish the second pattern repeat on Ingeborg. But in general, most of the next several months will be dedicated to Ingeborg and Sweaters From Camp. This might mean updates only a couple of times a week. I'd rather have less frequent blog posts than really boring blog posts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ingeborg update; must-see links

I didn't finish the first pattern repeat on Ingeborg, but I took a photo, anyway. Soooo close!

Ingeborg - January 17

I think my favorite part, so far, is the steek. What lovely stripes! My excuse for not finishing the first pattern repeat is that the chart is tiny, even after I enlarged it. I eyeballed it yesterday to see how much was left, and completely misjudged.

To make up for my evil lies about finishing that repeat, I have some links for you:

Monday, January 16, 2006

SFCKAL info and tips (PWYC, yardage, cast on advice, new blogs)

(There will be a new Ingeborg photo tomorrow. I should have time today to finish the first 40 row pattern repeat, so it will be a milestone photo! Or a 5-inch-stone photo, if I want to be precise about these things. If you don't care about the Sweaters From Camp KAL, you might want to skip reading the rest of the post. But there is technique info. there that may be of general interest, including advice straight from Meg Swansen, so skip at your own risk. ;-)

1. I've mostly updated the participant and project list in the sidebar. I actually have a couple of new things to change/add already. But if you gave me your name/blog address/project choice before this past weekend, and don't see your name or updated info. there, please let me know. I'm getting updates via comments, direct email, and through the Yahoo group. I left things a bit longer than ideal between updates, and am afraid I missed something between all those channels of communication. If you haven't contacted me yet about joining, but are interested in doing so, please do! The easiest way for me to deal with this incoming information is if you directly email me at bowerbirdknits AT gmail DOT com.

2. Last week, I asked a question about the "purl when you can" or "PWYC" technique on the Knitting Beyond the Hebrides (or KBTH) email list. (A great mailing list for people interested in traditional arans, fair isle, lace, or modern variations thereof.) This technique is described in the techniques section of Sweaters From Camp. Basically, it's a technique that allows you to start the body of a garment without doing a hem or ribbing, yet avoiding the curling you'd ordinarily get if you did that. You do occasional purl stitches instead of knit stitches (when the color you're knitting into is the same as the color you're currently knitting with), which is enough to prevent the fabric from curling. This is the technique used for the bottom of the sweater I'm knitting, and I've been trying to decide whether I want to use it, or to add a hem or corrugated ribbing instead.

My question was about how long you need to do this to really prevent curling. It's not specified in the book, and while I assumed it wasn't for the entire garment, I wasn't sure how effective the technique is, and whether I'd have to do it for longer than I'd do ribbing. To my delight, Meg Swansen answered the questions! (Meg Swansen is the woman who put Sweaters From Camp together, and who originated the technique. How cool is that!) She said that she's been experimenting with making the PWYC section shorter. She's knit a jacket where she only used the technique for 4 rows, and found that sufficient, with blocking. Wow! She also mentioned that she purls either the background or motif stitches - whichever has fewer opportunities to PWYC. I think this is mentioned in the book, but I'm not sure.

So the basic lesson is that you really only need to do a minimal amount of purling to make this technique work. This is good because it sounds like it will slow down my knitting a bit, and also because the purls will change the fabric a bit. Not only will they add some texture, but they might change the gauge of the fabric a small amount. She uses a smaller needle for the rows in which she uses the technique because she purls looser than she knits. I also purl more loosely than I knit, so I'll probably do the same. It will depend on what happens when I swatch.

More advice from Meg is to use the German Twisted Cast On to help prevent curling, as well as to work a row of solid purl in the cast on color before jumping into the colorwork pattern. That purl row will also fight curling, and will prevent floats from the first row of the colorwork from dipping down below the hemline. I also advise trying out the German Twisted Cast On because it's slightly more elastic than the long tail cast on. There are instructions for it in the techniques section of Sweaters From Camp. I actually found it a bit difficult to figure out exactly what to do for this cast on the first few times I tried it. (It turned out I was doing it correctly, but just doubting that I was.) I found using the instructions in the book combined with looking at a few other online resources helped me be sure I was doing it correctly. It's barely more work than the long tail cast on, and is now my default cast on. Good stuff!

2. Since I'm on the topic of casting on, I must share some wonderful advice that Janine posted in her blog a little while ago. (I have a nagging feeling I've mentioned this before, but even if I did, it won't hurt to talk about it again.) Directly from the post I linked to, "for every 100 stitches you cast on using long-tail cast on at a standard Shetland jumperweight gauge you need 70" of yarn." Anything that makes casting on hundreds of stitches even a tiny bit less painful is wonderful. Thanks, Janine!

3. I realized this weekend that I don't think I've discussed the issue of yardage. I feel a bit bad about this, because it's really important. But hopefully any of you who have ordered your yarn have also noticed the notes on both the Schoolhouse Press and J&S websites that discuss the change in weight and yardage of the jumperweight yarn skeins. When Sweaters From Camp was published, J&S jumper weight came in 1 oz. skeins, that had about 150 yards. The yarn now comes in 25 gram skeins (a little less than an ounce), with about 130 yards. So make sure you're getting enough balls when you order. (My gut feeling is that you should mostly worry about buying extra if it's for a color that uses several balls, but not worry if the pattern only calls for one ball of a color. But I don't know this for sure.)

4. Related to the above, some time ago Janine mentioned that it may not be such a huge deal to use yarn from two different dye lots in a fair isle. She said that J&S dye lots don't differ much from each other, and that because of the use of many colors, differences may not be noticeable, anyway. I haven't tested this myself, but I do trust Janine. So if you're feeling strapped for cash, and aren't sure you should order extra in a color or two, you'll probably be safe not, and getting it later if necessary. Do keep in mind, though, that Schoolhouse Press will refund unused balls of yarn. Also, since they published the book, they might have a good idea about how much yarn you really need for the patterns in the book, and whether you'd need to order extra of a color or not.

5. I'm not going to do project updates yet, but some knitters have started swatching, and other fun stuff. So check out the blogs in the sidebar. A bunch of participants have very new blogs, created for this knitalong and/or other knitalongs. Some of these knitters are very accomplished and experienced knitters, even though they're new to blogging. So if you're looking for a few new blogs to read, you might find something good there.

As usual, I'm sure I've left out incredibly important information that I wanted to share. If there's anything you have a question about, please leave me a comment, send me an email, or post to the Yahoo group.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ingeborg process and musings about armhole steeks

Maybe I should have saved all that "she's alive" stuff for today, because today you can finally tell that it's actually Ingeborg.

Ingeborg January 13

Okay, I can tell that it's actually Ingeborg. Don't know about people who aren't as obsessed with the pattern.

I already have one thing to add to the "lessons learned" list for this project. I've found that weaving is just not going to work. There are a few rows in the pattern that have fairly long floats, so I weaved halfway through. Unfortunately, in this yarn, at this gauge, the weaves are not going to be invisible. At least, I can see them, and even feel them. All floats for me on this project, from now on.

In the problem column, my gauge is off, and I made one mistake in the pattern. But they're not big problems. My gauge is tighter than it was when I swatched, but my floats are loose enough that I'll be able to block it to the correct size without a problem. And I'm just going to duplicate stitch over that one blip I had in one of the first few rows. I tried to drop down and pick up the float to fix it, but there were all sorts of tension problems with the stitch when I did that, so I'll fix it later.

Something I've been thinking a lot about is steeks. As is typical of this style, there are no armhole steeks. The instructions tell you to knit the sleeves separately, mark off the armhole depth on the body when you're done with the sleeves, then machine stitch and cut right into the body. Right into the patterning. If I had and knew how to use a sewing machine, I'd probably do that. But I don't, and I don't. I've thought through all my options, and all their permutations, and I think the two options that make the most sense are to either hand sew the steeks (a technique that Eunny describes here), or to change the pattern so I knit steeks stitches there, then use the crochet method to secure before cutting. Right now I'm leaning toward the second option. If I used that method, I'd also probably do the traditional fair isle thing and pick up stitches around the armhole and knit the sleeves down to the cuff. This would allow me to really size things perfectly, which is something I fear would be difficult if I had finish the sleeves before cutting the armhole steeks, which would mean I couldn't try on the body until everything was knit.

That's all for today. I'm going to watch another 20 minutes of skating nationals before work. Look for SFCKAL stuff this weekend, here and on the Yahoo group. (I just took pictures of the patterns to upload there.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

She's Alive!

It's here! It's here! It's here!

My cone of yarn arrived yesterday afternoon. Ingeborg lives.

Ingeborg - January 12

Okay, I'm only up to the second row of real colorwork, but still. She's alive! She's alive!

I know I've been a sub-par blogger this week, but I've been waiting for the yarn to arrive, so I had something to blog about. And I have to admit, I'd rather spend my last few minutes of free time before work knitting a few more stitches on Ingeborg than writing the post I was planning. So that's what I'm going to do.

Coming up in the next few days:
  • musings on what to do about Ingeborg sleeve steeks
  • more 'Borg picturs (when there's something to actually show)
  • Sweaters From Camp Knitalong info, including some helpful tips, and updates to the participant and project list.
I'm off to knit in the short time I have before work. Happy Thursday!

Monday, January 09, 2006

SFCKAL stuff; Komi swatch; birthday trip to Harrisville

SFC Knitalong stuff
  • Thanks to Janine for mentioning the KAL on her blog! I've had quite a few hits from that post, and hopefully will get a few more KAL participants as a result.
  • I've updated the participants list in the sidebar, and added projects for a couple of people who decided what to knit over the weekend. (I'm really excited that Tipper is knitting Crichton. It's one of my favorite designs in the book, and on my long-term to-do list.)
  • If you sent me an email or a comment about participating but don't see your name in the participant list in the sidebar, please let me know. I have this nagging feeling that I overlooked an email somewhere, but can't find it. Also, there are one or two people who expressed possible interest, but didn't seem sure yet. They're not there. But if you're one of those people, please let me know if/when you decide for sure. I also had one anonymous person say they're participating, but only through Yahoo, since they don't have a blog. I'll also ask on Yahoo, but let me know your name, so I can add you to the list.
  • Anne bought her yarn, and has a picture of it on her blog. Of possible interest to some of you, there is also another picture of the Whirligig vest, which she may be knitting. It's a small picture, but it might give you a better idea of what the original colorway looks like.
  • I'm going to make a Yahoo group post today, to bring up some topics I've had questions about, and to answer a question or two. I think all the people who asked specific questions for me to answer are already part of the Yahoo group, but I thought I'd mention it here, just in case.
  • If you scroll down, I have a picture of some Harrisville jumper weight yarn. I forgot to mention in the main KAL post that this is another good choice for a substitute for J&S yarn, if you were looking for one. I think it's a bit cheaper than J&S bought in the U.S. I don't think it comes in as many colors, but it does have a fairly big color selection. It's really gorgeous stuff, and while it's not made from Shetland wool, the texture is a lot closer to J&S jumper weight than Knitpicks Palette is.
Non-Knitalong Stuff
I knit a mini swatch for the Komi socks this weekend. It was with a different yarn than I'll probably use, so it was more for working out the colorwork than gauge. Look at how pretty it is!
Komi Sock Swatch

I used Kroy instead of the fingering weight merino I'll most likely use. I had a heck of a time getting gauge. I'm supposed to bet getting 11 stitches per inch, and I was between 8 and 9 on this. I started out on size 1 needles, knowing that was too big, but not caring, since I wasn't actually swatching for gauge. I thought I'd get gauge with size 0 needles, so when I saw I was getting 8 SPI, I got worried. I didn't think I'd drop to 11 by just going down a needle size. I pulled out my set of cheapo metal DPNs that I got at a craft store a year ago. I went all the way down to the smallest ones, which I think are 000. My gauge hardly dropped. I really hope it's just the yarn. These might end up being slippers, otherwise. There are 88 stitches per round. At 11 stitches per inch, I get a reasonable size sock. At 8 or 9, I get a foot sack.

But on the positive, I'm really happy with how my colorwork looks. I was mostly curious about whether I should strand the lighter or the darker color on the bottom. I went with my gut, stranding the white below the blue, and it looks great. Actually, I was kind of surprised to see how incredibly uniform my stitches look. I wouldn't have been able to guess which color I was stranding on the bottom (and thus which should be slightly more dominant), if I hadn't known. Wow! Let's hope the merino treats me as well.

I also made a trip to Harrisville Designs this weekend. It's less than half an hour away, yet I still hadn't visited. A. asked me what I wanted to do on my birthday, and of course I chose the little outing to the yarn shop. Boy is Harrisville a cute little town! What there is of it, anyway. Teeny tiny. It's incredibly picturesque, especially with a new dusting of snow everywhere. I felt like I was in an artist's idealistic rendering of New England, in a museum diorama. The shop itself is amazing. Roomy, full of wonderful things, and staffed with attentive but non-annoying people. I drooled over various roving (I'm not a spinner, but I can still drool over the stuff), tried to figure out how the big looms work, looked through lots of books, and of course fondled my fair share of yarn. I wasn't planning to buy anything, but A. told me to pick something out. I chose two skeins of their jumper weight yarn, thinking I'd use them for socks. A. was about to pay when he asked if I was sure I didn't want 2 more. Twist my arm. So now I have four skeins, two in russet, and two in cream. Perfect for some colorwork socks or mittens. That project will probably wait a good while, as I have enough to knit at the moment. But boy is it gorgeous yarn. The photo hardly does it justice. The russet yarn is much richer in color, with gorgeous heathering.

Harrisville Yarn

Looking at the bookcase full of this stuff made me dizzy. The colors are fantastic. When I design my colorwork sweater later this year, I think I might have to go with Harrisville yarns. I'd be able to drive there, and actually pool skeins of yarn together to see what works well with what. A lot nicer than having to play guesswork with a color card.

Friday, January 06, 2006

SFCKAL - some links to pattern pictures

I still have lots of KAL business to take care of, but a couple of people have asked me about where they could see pictures of the patterns before they buy the book. Very good question! I have yet to find a place online that has that information, unfortunately. But I've done some searching for the specific patterns, and found pictures of some of them. This is only about 1/4 of what's in the book, but it's a start, right?

  • Whirligig Vest
    - I think this one looks nicer in the book. The person who knit this one subbed a color, so that might be the difference.
  • Dragonfly River Vest (Designed by Janine! I hadn't noticed that before. The vest is very nice, and the picture I linked makes me like it even more.
  • The Prince of Wales Vest - This is one of those projects that I don't think photographed well for the book. I wasn't a fan of it based on what I've seen in the book, but the colors in this photo are much nicer.
  • Celtic Knot Raglan
  • A few links for the Shirt Tail Hemmed Fair Isle. This is one of the more magnificent patterns in the book. The links took a while to load for me, so be patient if they're pokey. one, two, three
  • Alpine Sunset - this one is really small, but I thought it would be worth including it, anyway.
Then there are three patterns which you may have already seen pictures of:

I hope that's at least somewhat useful to those of you who may be wary of buying the book without having seen anything inside. It's only a small taste of what the patterns are like, and there are many wonderful ones that I couldn't find photos of. If any of you know of a place online that has pictures of projects not listed here, or that has better pictures of any of the above projects, please do share! More this weekend or Monday in terms of answering questions, and all that jazz. Happy weekend!

Nakiska; Knitalong stuff (down below)

The socks are no longer. (Where has my sock mojo gone?) The striping pattern was too busy for the cables, I didn't like the ribbed heel flap, the heel turning method was messy, and the whole project was just bothering me. Did I mention here that there were two breaks in the yarn, in less than 10 grams? Blech. So I frogged them. I was happy to find that there were no further breaks in the yarn, which is something, at least. I undid the (very loose) knots where the breaks were, and separated those bits out into two smaller balls. I think I'll just make some plain ribbed socks with the yarn, and see if I can get away without using those smaller bits formed by the breaks. The whole yarn saga (result of a trade almost gone bad, all the breaks, bad pattern match) bothers me so much that I'll leave it at that for now. On to better things.

One of those slightly better things is alpaca. I spent the past couple of evenings knitting with alpaca! My first time. Yum. I guess the one good thing about the almost-bad trade was that I got an apology ball of sportweight alpaca. I wasn't sure what to do with it. Only 120 yards? But I remembered about Nakiska, and all is well.


Pattern: Nakiska, by Amy Swenson
Yarn: Blue Sky Alpaca, sport

The stitch definition isn't what I had hoped. It's obviously better when less stretched, but that's not how it was meant to be worn. Plus, I bound off super loose, out of the fear that it would be too tight to get over my head, making it look really weird when I'm not wearing it. But it's warm and comfy, so I can't complain. The last time I wore a headband on a regular basis was junior high. For at least a year, I wore these ugly, cheap plastic headbands every single day. I don't really know why, but I remember at some point realizing that I had worn them every day, and would be embarrassed if I stopped and someone noticed. (Heaven forbid someone notice you in junior high! This is never a good thing.) So I didn't stop. I usually can't wear headbands well because my hair is so thick and frizzy. They can sit there, but usually don't do anything useful. My hair wins out. Nakiska stays in place. Yay!

Believe it or not, I have over half of the 50 gram skein leftover. I was originally thinking of making little wristwarmers with the full skein, but wasn't sure if I had enough. I guess I would have, but now I'm not sure if I'll have enough of the leftovers. Maybe I'll make another headband. Knitting with alpaca is so wonderful. I've been wary of using it because I know it doesn't have the memory that wool does. I think I'll eventually have to buy some for a nice hat and mitten set.

I'm not sure what to knit next. I just woke up to an email from Jean at Alpaca Fleece saying they finally got my black NSS from Brown Sheep, and are putting it in the mail today. I was hoping it would have arrived there a bit earlier, but at least I know it's on its way to me, for sure. (I trust Jean to get it in the mail to me, but I didn't quite trust BS to get it in the mail to them.) I'm guessing I won't get it until early next week, unless they spring for some fancy shipping. (I kind of hope they will, since I've been kept waiting so long. But the wait hasn't been their fault, so they don't owe me overnight shipping or anything.)

Adding to the complication of what to knit and when, my LYS owner just announced that she's doing quarterly contests. The theme for this quarter is socks. Knit socks with yarn bought from the store (or at least yarn that is available for purchase at the store), submit by the deadline, and have them judged by shop patrons. The winner gets a $25 store gift certificate. I think this means I'm pushing up the gorgeous blue and white Komi socks from the mitten book. I think the deadline is March 1. The store is having a 20% off sale next Wed - Sat, so that should spare me a bit. I'll still be spending close to $20, for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate. But I'll also be spending that money to knit some of the most gorgeous socks ever designed, so it will be worth it. I'm almost positive that I'm going to use fingering weight superwash merino. I forget the brand name, but it's almost identical to Dale Baby Ull, though with a little bit more yardage per skein. I took a peek at the color options at the knitting group last night, and there is a white and dark blue that look fabulous together, so I may have to go with the colorway in the book.

If any of you live in or near SW New Hampshire, I'll share that the LYS in question is The Knitting Knook. So if you're looking for a good sale, you know where and when to find it.

While I'm babbling on about that, the LYS owner mentioned that it sounds like the book (Knitting Marvelous Mittens) is going out of print! She's been carrying it in the store for a while, and was told this by the supplier when she just tried to re-order it. That sucks! She said she's never had trouble moving it off the shelf. It's such an amazing book, and this really bums me out. I'm happy I have my copy now. So if any of you were thinking of getting it, you might consider buying sooner rather than later. The book may soon become the victim of the same ebay price inflation syndrome as the OOP Starmore books. What a shame!

Some Knitalong stuff:
I have a lot of stuff to respond to, and don't have the time this morning to go through it all, and do a thorough job of it. It's something I'll take care over the weekend or Monday. So if you have a question lingering out there, don't worry. I haven't forgotten you, and all of the things I need to attend to are sitting in my gmail inbox, with little stars next to them.

I have had the time to update the sidebar with some of the participants. It's not a complete list, as I've had a couple more replies since I updated it. But it's complete as of when I had the time to do it yesterday afternoon. So if you're curious about who else is knitting along with us, check out some of the blogs on the right.

There have been several people who have commented or emailed with technical questions. I've tried to answer some of them, but I want to remind you that the Yahoo group is also a great place to bring up technical questions. When I have the chance to go through everything, I'll try to check and see if the question askers have joined, and maybe bring up some of the issues there, so the answers benefit everybody.

One last short note about the knitalong: I know there are a couple of participants who don't have blogs. That's perfectly fine. One thing I did want to say, though, is that there are still options for photo sharing for non-bloggers. You can get a free account at Flickr, to upload photos, if you still want to share photos when you have progress. If you don't want to do that, I'd be willing to host some photos on my Flickr account if they were emailed to me. And those people who are only participating through the Yahoo group should feel free to email me with text updates, if they wish, once the knitalong has started. I'll be happy to share your progress updates, even if you choose not to blog or to share photos.

My email address is now in the sidebar, but I'll repeat it here: bowerbirdknits AT gmail DOT com

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sweaters From Camp Knitalong - all the information you'll need (mostly)

This knitalong is for anybody who wants to knit a pattern from the book Sweaters From Camp. If you don't already know, Sweaters From Camp is a book published by Schoolhouse Press, and the designs within are the result of a design contest held for knitting camp participants. The book contains the contest guidelines, which give a lot of guidance for designing fair isle sweaters. It's a great resource, as well as a pattern book.

I've decided to set the official start date as Wednesday, February 15. That should give enough time for everybody to get the book, choose a pattern, and buy yarn. We won't all be knitting the same designs, anyway, so don't consider this date set in stone. If you can't resist, cast on earlier. And there's no pressure to start by February 15, or to even join the knitalong by then. But that's when I'll start doing official updates, and around when I hope most people will start knitting.

The format of the knitalong is one that I hope encourages personal blogging about the projects. Starting February 15, I will do weekly (Wednesday) updates on this blog, with links to your blogs.

I have also created a Yahoo group for the knitalong. Although it's hard to anticipate or control how things will evolve, my intention is not for that group to be the main venue for the knitalong. I'd think it will work better if people keep their actual knitting progress reports and pictures to their own blogs. The Yahoo group is meant to be a side group, for asking questions about technical aspects of the patterns, or about fair isle knitting in general. Hopefully it will be a good resource for people who are not as experienced with these types of projects. Joining the Yahoo group is not necessary, if you're not interested in that sort of thing. And of course, those of you who don't want to participate in the knitalong, but who may be interested in the discussions there, are free to join. Just think of it as a side forum to the actual knitalong.

So how do you join the knitalong? Send me an email! Simple as that. Tell me your name (or pseudonym, if you prefer), your blog address, and which project you'll be knitting, if you know that. If you haven't chosen a project, you can just send me your name and blog info now, and update me with the project later. I've already created a spot in the sidebar for a participants list, and will also have links to the knitalong posts I make. If you aren't sure yet about joining, that's okay. Email me if/when you decide. If you decide to join after the knitalong has officially started, that's fine. (I won't keep doing updates forever, but will certainly keep them up for many months, as long as there are a good number of participants still working on projects.) All emails can be sent to Bowerbirdknits AT Gmail DOT com (replacing the AT and DOT with the appropriate symbols, of course).

I've seen some discussions in various places on the internet about why people create and join knitalongs. My goal for this knitalong is pretty simple - I want to encourage people to knit patterns from the book, and to knit fair isle, in general. I've organized the knitalong so that it encourages personal blogging because I want to spread the wealth. I want people to be able to google these projects, and actually come up with hits!

Some technical stuff:
* You'll obviously have to acquire the book before you can start knitting any of the patterns. The book is not inexpensive ($39), but I personally think the cost is worth it, especially for people who may be fairly new to fair isle knitting. The technical section is excellent, and there are a wide variety of patterns inside. If you're balking at the cost, see if you can borrow the book from your local library. (Don't forget to explore interlibrary loan options, if your library doesn't own a copy.) I know the book can be purchased directly through Schoolhouse Press, the publisher. I've heard it's currently available from Elann.com, and I'm sure you can find plenty of other sources if you Google it. And of course, however you acquire it, please respect copyright laws.

* All of the patterns in the book are designed for Jamieson & Smith jumper weight shetland wool yarn. This is a fingering weight yarn that comes in gobs and gobs of colors, and is extremely well suited to this style of knitting. It can be purchased from several sources. I've bought a kit before from Schoolhouse Press (For this sweater), who will make a kit for any of the patterns in the book. It's simple, convenient, and it feels nice to buy from the small company that is responsible for the existence of the book. They're good folks. Another option is to buy straight from the source. While international shipping is a bit pricey, the prices directly from J&S are so cheap that it's still a bargain to buy from them, if you're planning on buying enough yarn for an entire sweater. I emailed them a few months ago to ask some questions about shipping, and they were very quick to respond to my email. If you're thinking of buying from them, I'm sure they'll be just as helpful in answering any questions you may have about shipping to wherever you may live.

* If you decide you don't want to use J&S yarns for your project, there are other options. Really, any fingering weight yarn would theoretically work in terms of gauge. (Gauge for most of the sweaters seems to be about 7-8 stitches per inch, which is pretty typical.) The biggest problem you'll run into is that of color. J&S really comes in an insanely large amount of colors, meaning there may be subtleties in the colorways used in the sweaters in the book that you just can't replicate with other yarns. Also, if you choose a yarn that isn't made from Shetland wool, it probably won't be as "sticky". This isn't a huge concern, but may affect how you choose to deal with steeks. I have actually decided to use a different yarn for my project. Partially for money concerns, and partially out of curiosity. I have put together a colorway for one of the sweaters using Palette yarn from Knitpicks. This has allowed me to buy enough yarn for an adult's sweater and a huge swatch for under $30. Be warned that the Palette palette is extremely limited, compared to the color choices for J&S yarns. This means that if you want to use this yarn, you should chose a sweater that already has a fairly simple colorway, or be prepared to create a new and simpler colorway for sweaters that have more complicated and subtle colorways in the book. I also advise ordering a color card, as the photos on their website may not be representative of the actual hues of the yarn. Color cards are cheap, and mine arrived within a week, at the peak of the holiday mailing season. It's worth the small expense and wait.

So that's the basic information. If there's anything important that you feel I've forgotten to address here, please send me an email or leave me a comment. And if you have specific questions about the projects or fair isle knitting, please comment here or join the Yahoo group and post there. I'll keep this info. post linked in the sidebar, so you can find it again. Other posts about the knitalong will either be linked there or in this post, so participants won't have to scroll through my whole blog for information. I'll surely post more about the knitalong between now and February 15, to answer questions, provide more info I may think of later, and perhaps to clarify issues that may come up in the Yahoo group. So check back in every once in a while, if you're craving more information.

By the way, if any of you artsy types (artsy with things other than yarn, that is) feel like creating a button for the knitalong, I wouldn't object at all. I don't know how to make those things, but it might be nice to have one. I'm not usually one for the flashy when it comes to blog stuff, but a KAL button would be kind of spiffy. But no pressure. I think we'd live without one, too. I'd also take advice on what I could make with the software on my Mac, or with software I could download for free, if such creatures exist.

Links to other SFCKAL information posts

  1. January 6 (1)
  2. January 6 (2) - links to some pictures
  3. January 9
  4. January 16 - purl when you can technique, advice for casting on, yardage, dye lots

Fluff Day

I have a bunch of filler fluff I've been saving up. I think the backlog is now big enough that I can do a fluff post.

1. I recently sat down and tried to figure out what I'm going to knit in 2006. I came up with a pretty specific list, which I think I was only able to do because so much of the first part of the year (probably close to half) is for projects I already know for sure I'm doing, and for which I (almost) have the yarn. I'll inevitably stray, but it was a good exercise in trying to figure out what, of my wish list, I'd realistically be able to knit in a year, and how much money that would cost. My list:
  • Ingeborg
  • Striped Pullover (SFC Knitalong)
  • sockapalooza 3 socks (I have something special planned, if the person I get matched with sounds like they may want them. And of course assuming I get my name in in time to participate.)
  • St. Brigid or The gorgeous cardigan being knit in the Crossed In Translation Knitalong.
  • Song of Hiawatha lace stole
  • Komi mittens for me, Komi mittens for A., and those gorgeous Komi socks
  • Autumn Color Cardigan (also from Sweaters From Camp)
It's going to be a great knitting year, even if I stray from that list. And of course, there will always be "simple" side projects (mostly socks), for when my brain can't take all that colorwork, cables, and lace. There are a ton of things I hoped to knit this year, but just won't get to. Maybe some of them will be subbed for things on this list, but this list is currently what I consider the cream of the crop of my wishlist.

2. I have a bunch of things I've had set to "keep new" in my Bloglines list for a little while.
  • Black Olive is knitting Elizabeth I! I've only seen a couple of others out there online, so I think this is very exciting. I love the color she chose. It's really bright, but I think it works.
  • Nanette just finished some gorgeous colorwork mittens, which she is giving away to charity. Go her! And they're knit with Naturespun, which of course makes them all the better. (Check out the rest of the blog. It's always full of colorwork goodness. One of the first I click on in Bloglines.)
  • Kniting Iris' ski stockings. Click and see, please!
  • Not something pretty to look at, but some good advice. The Feral Knitter shares how to calculate how much yarn you'll need when casting on for sweaters with jumper weight yarn. I find that I tend to overcalculate by an embarrassing amount when casting on a large number of stitches in such thin yarn, so I'll definitely use her heuristic the next time I need to do it.
That's the fluff. See you tomorrow, most likely with the big knitalong post.

Monday, January 02, 2006

First FO of the year (lace scarf)

I really need to get some blocking wires...

lace scarf blocking

... because T pins just aren't going to cut it for lace. I'll probably give this scarf as a gift in December '06, so I have time to get myself some blocking wires and re-block this scarf before then.

Here are some post-blocking photos. I was surprised at how well it held the size I blocked it to, despite the silk content. I guess there's enough wool to counteract the lack of memory in the silk.

lace scarf - done

lace scarf - post blocking closeup

pattern: I used a pattern from a Walker stitch treasury, and paired it with some garter edging. I believe the stitch pattern is Gothic Leaves, or something like that. I forget if I got it from the 2nd or 3rd treasury.
yarn: Blackberry Ridge wool and silk laceweight
needles: size 4

I blocked it by pinning it out first, then spraying it with water. I decided not to wet block because I've heard that silk is weak when wet, and didn't want to stress out the fabric by pulling it out to block when wet. When I re-block with wires, I'll probably wet block, but won't force it as big. I think I'd like it a bit less open. I believe it started out as 9" wide and 37" long, and ended up 12" wide and 44" or 45" long. It doesn't sound like much, compared to the blocking magic I've witnessed elsewhere, but I think it would look nicer at 10" or 11" wide.

When I finished the scarf, I had nothing on the needles. Well, I did if you count the Ingeborg hem, but since it's impossible for me to knit on it without the yarn that hasn't arrived yet, that hardly counts. (By the way, I got another email from the great people at Alpaca Fleece the other day. It sounds like one of the problems in getting the yarn was that Brown Sheep kept on sending them one skein instead of one cone. It sounds like they've finally straightened things out, and I may actually get the yarn soon. Celebrations are in order!)

I decided to cast on for some socks. Hopefully those will last until my 'Borg yarn arrives. The pattern is a Nancy Bush pattern, from a fairly recent issue of IK. I forget whether it's Cable and Rib or Rib and Cables, because they have a pattern with each of those names, from issues that aren't too far apart. I'm not up to the cables yet, but I just had to take this photo:

deceptively small sock

I call it "ribbing is magic." Believe it or not, I'm fairly certain the sock is going to fit just fine. I haven't tried it on yet, but I've stretched it to its limits, and it looks fine. I think I'm going to go for the cables, and see how it looks. If it's too much, I might just stay in the ribbing pattern for the entire sock. Lorna's Laces is so hard to predict. (By the way, I'm using the super bendy needles for these socks. They bother me a lot less than they did for the Jaywalkers. I think it's because there are only 15 stitches on each needle, without all of those increases and decreases which make the stitches a bit tighter. The pattern calls for 3 needles, not 4, but I'd rather knit with hot pokers.)

Lucia - thanks for the comment about Auracania wool and pilling. That's one of the yarns that's been on my to-try list for a while. Would you mind sharing what gauge you're getting pilling with? I actually prefer denser knits, so maybe it would suit my knitting, with less pilling.