Tuesday, February 27, 2007

wrong red; wriggly red

First of all, I want to let you know that I've updated the Sweaters From Camp "endings" post. It's a couple of posts below this one, or you can find it linked in the sidebar. I was pretty sick last week, which is my excuse for taking so long to update it. And it's still not done, as I want to go through and link not just participant blogs, but also posts with finished projects. That will come later, when I have the time and patience to devote to it.

Secondly, my face somewhat matches the hue of my Chalet sock. My Chalet socks. My former Chalet socks. Chalet sock bits. Unfinished, never to be finished Chalet socks.

I must partially rescind a complaint about a pattern error. One of the errors I alluded to is still an error, in my book. That is that the pattern is a multiple of 4 stitches, and the instructions for the p2k2 ribbing indicate that you should have 2 stitches left over at the end, which should be knit. In fact, your last 2 stitches per round will be knit in the ribbing section, but that's part of the p2k2 pattern, not in addition to it. A minor miswording in the pattern, and merely a silly frustration for most of us, but a potential source of great confusion for a newer knitter.

The error that I must rescind, kind of, relates to reading the charts. The twists in the chart are represented by diagonal lines that span rows. The chart key presents 2x2 blocks (4 stitches total), but does not specify whether you do the twist on the first or second row of the block of stitches affected by those symbols. I was interpreting it so that I did the twists in the first row of those blocks, but it became clear fairly quickly that one is meant to do the twists in the second row of the blocks. This affects setup rows and other types of twists, causing weirdness and conflicting instructions if you interpret the key incorrectly. I'm a bit embarrassed that it took me a couple of inches of knitting to figure this out, though I'm also a little disappointed that the pattern doesn't specify this extremely important detail of interpreting they key and reading the chart. Since knitters are generally used to reading charts from bottom to top, I think this is an important oversight. So long story short, it's not really an error, as much as a lack of complete instructions, leading the more stubborn among us to plow through, creating on-the-fly alterations, until we face reality and start over.

I did start over once I realized my error in interpreting the chart key. It wasn't a huge problem, but made reading the chart more difficult, and necessitated that on-the-fly tweaking, which was making things more complicated than I'd like. When I cast on again, I decided to make a small alteration to the pattern. Take a look:

Chalet sock - wrong wrong wrong

Chalet sock - alteration

The photo on the top shows the seam braid as written in the pattern. Well, kind of, as you can see that my original reading of the pattern resulted in me leaving out some twists. But that's not the point of these photos. Notice how the seam braid starts after the ribbing. I wasn't all that happy with how this looked, as it made the ribbing a purely functional detail that was just slapped on to the top of the sock to help it stay up. I preferred that the ribbing be incorporated more fully into the design, saw how the seam braid perfectly lines up with the knitting, and in my second try at the sock started that chart during the ribbing portion. (See the second photo.) I really like the look of that, and when I one day knit these socks for real, will definitely incorporate it into my interpretation of the socks.

I'm pretty sad that these socks are a former project, instead of a current one. In my last post, I mentioned the slight bluntness of my needles and the slight splittiness of the yarn. These were annoyances I was willing to overlook while I was still completely enthralled with this new technique, so excited about the patterning emerging from my fingertips that I was willing to ignore just about anything (including, obviously, chart reading deficiencies) to keep the beauty flowing. Unfortunately, I came to my senses, and realized that it was going to be too much of a trial to knit two entire socks in a slightly splitty yarn, with needles that aren't sharp enough. So I grudgingly pulled the needles out, and have resigned myself to waiting until I have the right materials before I knit these (or similar) socks in their entirety. But this was certainly a learning experience in more than one way, so I suppose the effort was worth it. And I'm keeping both of those little socklets intact, because I'm still not over their demise. They were so pretty. It's hard to let go.

Supremely frustrated with all of my knitting, I cast on for a colorwork hat. Which I can't show you yet, as I have yet to block it. But red socks were still in my system, so I pulled out Sensational Knitted Socks, found a stitch pattern I've been eyeing ever since I got the book, and cast on for some socks in cherry red Dale Baby Ull.

crustacean sock scan

The photo completely creeps me out. I love it. I'm calling them my crustacean socks, because the stitch pattern reminds me of little armies of crustaceans (or perhaps fossilized impressions of ancient crustaceans) marching up and down my leg. In bright red yarn. In an image that my scanner made supremely spooky. (The camera just wasn't cooperating, as I've found it extremely difficult to photograph red. Especially when jittery from coffee.) I adore my sock, I adore my scan of it, and am excited to get going and finish the pair, so I can walk around with creepy crawlies all over my legs and feet.


Friday, February 16, 2007


I've figured out that part of my knitting slump has been caused by a lack of proper tools. A lot of the yarn I want to work through in the near future is thicker (for me) stuff, mostly worsted weight scraps from other projects. I don't know if it's because I'm knitting more tightly than I used to, pursuing more detailed patterns, or if it's just that I'm getting pickier, but I've found that my blunt, sticky needles aren't what I want to work with anymore. I don't like those icky blunt plastic DPNs in sizes 6 and 7 that I bought for my very first sweater project. The idea of using Clover bamboo circular needles makes my spine crawl, as if someone scratched their fingernails on a chalkboard. I want my knitting to flow, not to be a sticky struggle. And with the tools I own for DK and worsted weight yarn, that's what my knitting would be. So until I can buy some sharper, smoother needles in sizes 5-8, I have no choice but to knit with skinny yarn on skinny needles. (And I'm sure you all know how much of a hardship this is for me. I'm pouting so fiercely it's turned into a huge grin of delight. Imagine that!)

I was thinking of swatching for Eunny's Bayerische Socks, because even though I don't have the yarn for a pair at the moment, I wanted to see if the patterning would work well in Harrisville yarn. (I want to use a sticky 100% wool, to avoid splittiness with those twisted stitches.) But my size 0 needles are flimsy, relatively dull bamboo needles, which I don't think are up to the task of swatching for those socks. Yet again, tool troubles.

I felt like throwing a frustrated tantrum that could put a two year old to shame, when I remembered that I got a copy of Folk Socks for my birthday, and had never really looked through it, as I was very busy with other projects at the time. I borrowed my library's copy of the book a year ago to knit the Mamluke socks, but had never really read through the rest of the book. I still haven't really read through the book properly (I want to sit down and swatch all of those heel and toe techniques), but paging through the patterns, I found something to soothe my troubled, whining soul. And I cast on:

Chalet sock Feb 16

These are the Chalet Socks, knit in Brown Sheep Naturespun Sport (yes, the same stuff I used for Elizabeth I and hat and mitten accents), on some cheap but satisfying aluminum size 1 DPNs, which I've never used before. The yarn is a little splitty, and the needles aren't as sharp as I'd like for this project, but it's working, and I'm enjoying it. I have my eyes on Am Kamin for my next sweater project, and I'm glad I've had a chance to try out this twisted knitting technique, to confirm that I'll enjoy knitting that sweater as much as I enjoy looking at it.

The project is young, but there have been some problems already. I don't see Folk Socks listed on IK's book errata page, which surprises me, as I've already found 2 pattern errors. One is confusing and misleading wording about the ribbing at the top, and another is a stitch cross in the wrong place on the chart, which led me to not doing it the first few repeats of that part of the pattern. It's not a huge deal, and I'm not ripping back to fix it (it's not in a noticeable spot), but I've made note of it so I can do it correctly for the remainder of the project. Does anybody know if there is an errata page for this book elsewhere? Or will someone point out to me that it's actually on that list, and that my ability to read is off frolicking somewhere with my missing patience?

Time for me to get back to my Red Beauty. For those of you wondering, a friend has shared a wonderful bread pudding recipe with me, so I can make the most of my stale challah. Forget turning lemons into lemonade. Right now, I'm all about turning blunt needles into compost and turning stale bread into... bread-ade?


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sweaters From Camp Knitalong - endings

update: Here is the list of participants, with links to their blogs. I'll update with direct links to finished project posts in the near future.

main information post (contains links to other posts with KAL information and tips)

Participant and Project List:

Anne - Whirligig Vest (done!), Shirt Tail Hemmed Fairisle

Becki - Snow Sky

Bobby - Afghanistan Rug Jacket

Donna H.

Donna W. - Pullover w/Vertical Stripes

Helen - Seaweed for Sheryl

Jayne - Snow Sky

Jessica - Faroe-Patterned Vest

June - Pullover w/Vertical Stripes

Junieann - Northwest Sunset Vest

Kilsharion - Celtic Circles/Rainbow Vest


Linda - Northwest Sunset Vest

Lola - Flyway Vest

Marian - Northwest Sunset Vest

Morgan - Shaded Vest

Nancy - Marching out of the Ark Vest


Natasja - Celtic Knot Raglan

Pat - Northwest Sunset vest

Rebekkah - Pullover w/Vertical Stripes

Shirley - Traditional Pullover (done!)

Sydney Shirt Tail Hemmed Fair Isle

Terri - Northwest Sunset Vest (done!)

Tipper - Crichton

TJ - Pullover w/Vetical Stripes

Join the SFCKAL Yahoo group


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

20 years too late

Crazy Stripes socks

Crazy Stripes socks

Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock
Crazy Stripes colorway
chevron pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks, by Charlene Schurch

Thanks for all of the comments on the sock preview last week. I wasn't that unhappy with it, and in fact decided to work on this project because it was the most appealing thing to me in the middle of my knitting blahs. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the yarn, and despite the colors not being exactly me, I love working with Lorna's Laces sock yarn.

In the end, I'm actually quite happy with the socks. I do think the chevron pattern was just the right thing to make the striping interesting to look at and to knit. I'd never wear this as a sweater, but they're just dandy as footwear. I'd have adored these colors in 1987, when bright, hot colors were all the rage, and I was a 10 year old little girl who couldn't get enough of hot pink and electric blue. 20 years too late, but I'll be happily wearing them on my feet today.

... But I still feel the need to counteract the acid colors of the socks. I baked this challah this past weekend:

challah - baked on Feb. 11, 2007

And see - it's hand-made and braided! That counts as on-topic in a knitting blog, in my book. Unfortunately, its appearance is its strong point. It was a little burned on the bottom, not sweet enough, and goes stale extremely quickly. But the texture was perfect, so I think next time I'm going to add a bunch of honey and take it out of the oven 5 minutes sooner. Then it should be nice and sweet, moist, and unburnt. Too bad I can't frog bread...

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

blinding inspiration

If you squint and turn your head 22 degrees to the left, it kind of looks like a wearable shade of purple. Right? RIGHT? (Please, just humor me.)

bright closeup

That's a sneak peek of the socks I'm currently working on. It's a shade of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in a colorway I believe is entitled "crazy stripes." ah-yup

The yarn was a gift, and I'm very grateful to have it, but still a bit undecided on the colors. I think I'm leaning toward liking the effect I'm getting with the chevron and rib pattern I chose from Sensational Knitted Socks, but time will tell. Alex wanted to know if I was really keeping the socks for myself. Sorry, dear. You'll have to live with looking at crazily striped feet every now and again. (More on what the socks remind me of later, when they're done. Can't use up all my material in one post.)

To counteract the frantic neon stripes, take a peek at this:

yarn from Anne

It turns out that one of my co-workers is also in the business of dyeing gorgeous yarns, for folks knitting traditional Scandinavian stockings. She found out that I knit, and generously gave me some samples. Wool is on the right, and silk on the left.

This stuff is incredibly thin. I haven't measured wraps per inch yet, but I'm pretty sure I'm dealing with cobweb, here. I don't think I'll be knitting stockings out of this. (Even my patience has its limits, and while I'm sure I'd eventually finish them, I'm not yet convinced that it's a project I want to take on.) However, I'm thinking that that silk could make a gorgeous lace shawl or scarf. And Anne doesn't just dye this yarn. She dyes it using natural dyes, some (or all?) of which are grown in her apparently quite expansive garden. So this isn't just pretty yarn; It's yarn with a local connection, which could be dyed by someone I actually know. This is yarn I could get excited about. I wonder if she has the materials to do a nice, deep red for me.

Of course, this is all fantasy at the moment. We haven't really discussed the details of this transaction all that much. There is the potential to barter some knit goods for yarn, as she doesn't knit. Or perhaps I'll just save up, and commission a scarf or shawl's worth of dyed silk this autumn. Pretty much all I know about natural dyes is from a couple of episodes of Cast On, but those have gotten me really excited about the colors. And there's also that whole "sense of place" thing, which was a theme on Cast On a series or two ago, and which has really stuck with me since. I tried to write a sense of place knitting essay, realized that I didn't have a close enough connection to my current hometown, and have been very mindful of such things ever since. Maybe I'll even try to design some lace patterns inspired by Keene, New Hampshire, and New England, for this locally dyed yarn.

I've been feeling kind of blah about knitting lately, and even though I'm sure I won't get to knitting anything but sample swatches with Anne's yarn for months, just thinking about the potential for crafty and personal growth is bringing back my artistic inspiration.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mittens for Alex

Alex's mittens

Cascade Eco Wool, my own pattern

I decided to create my own mitten pattern because I had trouble finding a basic pattern out there that was exactly what I wanted. I realized that, since I was fond of Charlene Schurch's basic mitten shaping/construction, I should take the mittens I just made as a starting point, and calculate all the specifics based on my gauge (in a much thicker yarn) and the hand size I wanted to knit for. Here is my pattern:

  • 100 grams of Cascade Eco Wool (This yarn comes in 250g / 478 yard skeins, and is what I consider a heavy worsted/aran weight. 100 grams of this yarn is about 190 yards.)

  • size 6 DPNs, or size needed to achieve gauge

  • 2 lengths of a smooth scrap yarn

  • 2 stitch markers

  • darning needle

5.5 stitches and 7 rows per inch, in stockinette

These mittens were designed to fit a hand that measures 8" in circumference. There is about 1" of ease, resulting in mittens that are about 9" around. If your hand is smaller or larger, or you want a looser or tighter fit for the mitten, play with gauge, stitch count, and row count. It's not that hard once you understand how the mitten is constructed. (Note: I designed these mittens to have about 1" of ease in length, as well. But because the length of the mitten when worn is slightly different then when measured flat, you'll want to try the mitten on as you go to determine the correct length.)

casting on / cuff
Using your preferred stretchy cast on (I prefer Twisted German -- link to pdf), cast on 44 stitches. Distribute over 4 DPNs, and join in the round without twisting. Knit 21 rounds of k2p2 ribbing.

lower hand / thumb gusset
The rest of the mitten is in plain stockinette. On the next (first stockinette) round, increase 6 stitches, for a total of 50 stitches. I did the increases as follows:

k7, inc, k7, inc, k8, inc, k7, inc, k7, inc, k7, inc, k1

Knit one plain round.

Gusset shaping starts on the next round. K24, place marker (pm), make 1 right (m1r), k1, make 1 left (m1l), pm, k25. (If you need instruction on how to make increases, try this site. Their strand increase 1 = my m1r, and their strand increase 2 = my m1l.)

Knit one plain round

Alternate increase and plain rounds 8 times more. For each increase round, create a stitch right after the first stitch marker and right before the second stitch marker, knitting all other stitches between the markers.

At the end of the gusset shaping, there should be 19 stitches between the stitch markers. Knit the next row, placing all 19 of these stitches on scrap yarn (and removing the stitch markers), and casting on one stitch in their place. There should now be 50 stitches on your needles, and 19 thumb stitches on the scrap yarn.

the rest of the hand
Knit around and around, with no increases or decreases, for 33 rows. (An easy way to make the hand longer and shorter is to alter the number of rows you knit in this section.)

decreases and finishing the hand
Knit the next round as follows: ssk, knit 20, k2tog, k1, ssk, knit 20, k2tog, k1

Continue in a similar manner every round, decreasing 4 stitches per round. (It may be helpful to mark the "seam" stitches between the paired decreases with stitch markers.) For example, the next round will be: ssk, knit 18, k2tog, k1, ssk, knit 18, k2tog, k1

When there are only 14 stitches left on the needles (6 from the mitten front, 6 from the mitten back, and the 2 seam stitches between the paired decreases), you are done knitting. Arrange the stitches so they are split between only 2 needles, 7 front and 7 back. Graft these stitches together using kitchener stitch.

Put the thumb stitches from the scrap yarn back on your needles as follows: 7 on the first DPN, 7 on the second DPN, and 5 on a third DPN. Pick up 2 stitches from the thumb "crotch", and put them on the third DPN, for a total of 7 on that needle. Knit one round, knitting the two picked up stitches through the back loop, to help tighten them up. Knit 10 more rounds plain.

Start thumb decreases: ssk, knit around to 3 stitches before the end of needle 3, k2tog, k1. Repeat this decrease row every round until there are only a total of 9 stitches left on the needles. (You'll have to shift some stitches around from needle 2 to needles 1 and 3.) Break the yarn, and using a tapestry needle, draw it through the 9 stitches, poke it down through the hole in the center at the top of the thumb, and pull tight until the hole is closed.

Weave in ends, and block as desired. You may need to close up holes at the thumb crotch when weaving in ends, depending on how successful you were at avoiding them when picking up stitches.

And when you're finished with the first mitten, cast on for the second one. Because the thumb grows out of the side of the mitten, there is no designated left or right mitten. This means that you can follow the same instructions for the other mitten.

If I were to knit these mittens again, I might do so on smaller needles, at a tighter gauge. These mittens, in this yarn, are acceptable at this gauge, but could be denser. I was concerned about not having enough yarn, when it turns out I only needed 2/3 of what I had. (The rest, though, will go into storage for any future repairs needed on the mittens, hat, or sweater.) If I were to knit these mittens for myself, in the same yarn, I'd simply go down a needle size or two to make them smaller. Alex has bigger hands than I do. See:

Alex's mitten, my hand

I'm still in simple knitting mode. Simple mittens, and now fairly simple socks. (A chevron/rib pattern, in yarn so bright I'm almost afraid to see what happens when I photograph it.) I have some slightly more complex projects I want to knit with yarn in my stash, but between needle issues and hand pain (not caused by knitting, but certainly affecting it), I'm finding it difficult to get started on anything complex. We'll see how I feel when the socks are done.

Labels: , ,