Thursday, March 29, 2007

objects of great promise

It was a great idea, then a troublesome idea, then a disappointingly bland idea. As I was knitting, I was quite unsure of it. One of those projects where the idea that you thought was brilliant might end up being a more complicated and less attractive variation on something that didn't need to be tinkered with. One of those projects where, in the midst of it, you're sure you'd be better off cutting it off the needles and throwing it to a pack of feral dogs. In the end, I'm fairly pleased at the results. No dogs involved. (I'm quickly learning this is the greatest mental pitfall in designing. Doubting oneself too much right before or right after doubting oneself too little. How does one learn to doubt themself just the right amount?)

faux brim hat

The construction is my own design, and the colorwork charts are adapted from Latvian Dreams. I used leftover worsted weight wools -- Elann Peruvian Highland Wool in purple, and Naturally Merino et Soie in grey.

I was originally inspired to design and knit a colorwork hat with a fold-up brim by a hat I've seen a woman wearing around Keene. (Do you ever find yourself with an urge to go up to someone and ask to examine their clothing? It's so hard to resist, but I want to avoid being known as the town knitting crazy, so I exercise a bit of willpower and leave people alone.) I'm fairly certain that the hat I was admiring is double knit, as the brim pattern is a negative of the pattern on the rest of the hat. It's also obviously machine knit at a very tight gauge, and I knew there was no way I was going to recreate it with the materials I had at hand.

I realized fairly early on that a fold-up colorwork brim wouldn't be easy to execute well. I was concerned with curling, as well as with a way to finish off the top edge of the brim in a neat and tidy manner. I considered an icord edge, but finally decided that it might be interesting to design a hat that looks like it has a colorwork brim, but doesn't really have one. I provisionally cast on the stitches for the hat, knit the brim pattern, and then knit a purl row before moving on to the patterning for the rest of the hat. I hoped this would give the illusion of the edge of a brim, but was unsure of whether the effect would work until the hat was done.

The rest of the hat construction is pretty basic. There is a turned hem, which I knit after the rest of the hat was completed, picking up stitches from the provisional cast on. I knit it in that order because I was frankly not sure how deep the faux brim would be, and wanted the turned hem to attach to the body of the hat where the faux brim ended. That way it added some extra bulk to where the faux brim was, as well as lining up well with some plain (non-colorwork) stitches at the brim transition, which made tacking down the hem a lot easier than it would have been in the midst of floats. Best of all, I didn't have to bind off any stitches. I simply used whip stitch to attach the live stitches at the end of the hem to a row of purl bumps on the inside of the hat. Super simple, and super stretchy. Take a peek:

faux brim hat hem, from the inside

I don't have a pattern written up for this hat. I eventually want to do it again, but perhaps in a tighter gauge (with sport or fingering weight yarn), and with different colorwork charts. I'm not completely satisfied with the charts I chose for the hat, and would prefer to use something I've designed on my own if I'm going to write up a pattern. Look for it in many months. Many, many months. (Oh, and if you're wondering, there will still be a pattern for that orange and white wavy hat. I've just been dealing with some logistical issues and decisions, which have delayed me. But it's coming. Eventually. Sooner than in many months, if that helps.)

Finishing that hat felt good, but not nearly as good as knitting these:

AC Cardigan swatches

Swatches for my Autumn Color Cardigan! The largest one, in the top left, is the winner. I started out with 2.75mm needles (bottom left swatch), which were just way too small. The 3mm needles were too small, also, so I channeled my inner Goldilocks and made things work out on the third try. 3.25mm needles it is. I'm going to have to block a bit for length, most likely, but not too much. I was having a lot of trouble getting anywhere near the row gauge I needed (8.5 rows per inch), but got pretty close with the 3.25mm needles, and don't want to go any larger, as that will be very bad for my stitch gauge. All in all, I'm satisfied. I won't have to redesign the sweater or block it to death to get something the right size.

I really love the fabric I got on the 2.75mm needles. I think that's what I'd be likely to use if I were designing my own sweater from scratch. In case you're wondering why the losing swatches are so small, it's because they're not done. They don't need to be done because it was pretty obvious from initial measurements that they weren't going to work. But one of the great things about the method I use for knitting fair isle swatches is that they never need to be done. I always knit on the right side, breaking the yarn at the end of the row, shifting the knitting back to the other end of the circular needles, and starting again for the next row. You can always add more rows to your swatch later, if you put it on scrap yarn instead of binding off. I don't purl back in fair isle sweaters, so I definitely don't want to purl back in my swatches. I know that there's an option to leave loops of yarn across the back, instead of breaking them off, but I don't like that method. With my method, I can tie the yarn ends together to keep the edges nice and tight. I also find that the looping method creates a lot of confusion and potential tangles for me, and don't think it would be as easy to block as the method I use. It means you need to be willing to sacrifice some yarn, but I also think it's worth keeping a couple of extra balls of yarn around just for this purpose.

By the way, those aren't the colors of the sweater. I just used some J&S I have sitting around for swatching purposes. The real sweater will be a lot more colorful:

Autumn Color Cardigan yarn

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

what I wear under my kilt

Schottishe Kilt Hose picot edge


I'm just a bit overly excited about my first picot hem. It's attached to a fledgling Schottishe Kilt Hose, from Nancy Bush's Folk Socks. The hem was a lot easier to tack down than I anticipated. I loosely cast on using a German Twisted cast-on, and found it very easy to pick up loops from that to knit together with hem stitches. I always thought that it would be a very fiddly and frustrating process, and while it definitely took some time, it was easy and straightforward. What a pleasant surprise. I see more picot in my future.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while (or who have read the archives) might have a good guess as to what the yarn is. Yup, it's my old standby Brown Sheep Naturespun sportweight, in a natural cream color. The same yarn I used in Ingeborg and the Komi hat and mittens. These socks, which are knee socks (my first!), should use up the majority of my Naturespun in this color. Of course, my Naturespun stash has so far tried to impersonate a bottomless pit. For all I know, I'll finish the kilt hose and find that I've actually gained a few yards of yarn. I don't know what they put in the water in Nebraska, but a small part of me fears that if I don't always have a project going in Naturespun, my house will soon turn into the set of Little Shop of Horrors. (<--- Rachel will agree that talking about musicals is all the rage in blogland as of late. I will follow her lead, call us trendsetters, and offer a meat pie of dubious origin to anyone who disagrees. Show tunes are the new Clapotis. please?)

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Monday, March 12, 2007

crab legs

Crustacean socks modeled

Crustacean Socks (using a stitch pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks) in Dale Baby Ull, knit on size 1 needles. I'm still completely enraptured by these socks, and by the stitch pattern. It's easier than it may look (I had it memorized before I finished the first pattern repeat), stretchy, and full of interesting texture. It's based on 5x3 ribbing, though as you can see, I opted to do a 2x1x2x3 ribbing at the top. I really like how that flows into the stitch pattern, and think it's probably clingier than 5x3 ribbing would be.

Speaking of crustaceans and crabs, you should listen to the latest episode of Quirks and Quarks (a wonderful CBC science show, also available as a podcast). There is a segment about how early humans got crabs from gorillas. Okay, different kind of crabs (I don't think lice are actually crustaceans), and Australopithecus, not Homo, and certainly not Homo Sapiens. But still, it's a pretty cool story that I happened to hear as I was knitting the socks. I couldn't help but share the crabs humor. Be a science geek with me! (It really is an interesting story, and not as gross as it sounds.)

In non-parasitic news, I just placed my order for yarn for the Autumn Color Cardigan. This involved placing a phone call to Scotland. If it weren't so expensive (and so confusing to figure out how to dial internationally), I'd want to randomly call people in the UK every day. Oh the accents! It also felt pretty special to be ordering Shetland yarn from someone on the island of Shetland. If I can't buy it locally, buying it from its actual local source, from someone with an accent like butter, is a good consolation. I can't wait to get started on this sweater. Let's see if I can hold out until April...

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

quirky hat for actual nomads

First off, shameless promotion. Hear me make a fool of myself on Quirky Nomads, in Quirky Quiz 7. You get to hear me babble on, lose touch with the English language, and try my hand at an Australian accent. All through a really cheap microphone, so sorry for the sound quality. (The sound quality of all the other players is great, so don't be scared away. I just wanted to reassure any potential listeners that, no, I don't talk in static in real life.) And in case anybody is wondering, the stuff about the silly string is not true.

Of course, in my fantasy world, everybody listens to Quirky Nomads, meaning that this announcement is completely unnecessary. But since I reluctantly acknowledge that my fantasy world is not in perfect sync with the real world, if you've never listened to Quirky Nomads before, do poke around the site and download gobs of episodes. For something completely different than the Quiz, listen to the episode Red Counter.

Oh, you expected actual knitting content? While I wasn't bantering with lovely, witty, funny women this past week, I was working on a new Dulaan hat. Here's a sneak peek:

Latvian Dreams hat

The colorwork is based on a chart from Latvian Dreams, and the construction is my own design. It's actually turning out to be very similar in design to the Komi hat. I had more complex design ideas at first, but as I worked through them realized that the best option was the simplest. I did a provisional cast on, which I'll pick up later for a turned hem. I wanted the hat to look like it has a fold up brim, with a different pattern than on the rest of the hat. To achieve that I knit a purl round after finishing the border pattern. I'm not sure if it will have the effect I want when the hat is done, but it was worth an experiment. Knitting that border as an actual fold-up brim would have been complicated because of curling issues, as well as because I was completely undecided on how I wanted to finish the top of the brim. As you can see, when undecided, I simply practice avoidance by eliminating the need for the decision. Clever, eh?

I think I'm going to finish off the hat similarly to the Komi hat, with a solid color top. We'll see what happens when I get there, though. This is a design in progress. And speaking of design, I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction to the Wavy hat, both here and on Flickr. I'm going to set aside some time (hopefully this coming week, but we'll see) to write up a pattern for it. The hat that I knit is small. I haven't measured the circumference, but it's definitely sized to fit a child, not an adult. Of course, by changing gauge, you could get an adult sized hat. But perhaps I'll add an adult version, with an extra pattern repeat in there. I'll have to sit down and do a bit of math, but I think that should work out.

Of course, I'm about 12 rows and a toe away from finishing the second crustacean sock. That's going to happen before pattern writing. I can't wait to make my feet crabby. (In a happy sort of way.)

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Monday, March 05, 2007

waves of color

Wavy Hat

I finally got around to washing and photographing the wavy hat, which I think I finished knitting about 2 weeks ago. It was just a fun little project with worsted leftovers, designed as I went along, with no attention paid to gauge. The yarn is Harrisville Highland (you might recognize the orange from my braid and bobbles hat), and the colorwork is based on a chart from Sensational Knitted Socks. (Pattern 2, on page 82, if you're really curious.) I cast on 96 stitches on size 6 16" circs, knit several plain rows for the roll brim, and then followed the chart until the hat was a good height. The chart is ridiculously easy, alternating 2 stitches of each color around and around. All that creates the wave effect is shifting the starting point on some of the rows. This, and many of the other basic colorwork charts in the book, would be a great starting point for anybody who has wanted to try stranded colorwork, and is looking for something easy as a first project.

The top of the hat took some tinkering:

Wavy Hat top

I wanted to do my standard 8 decrease swirl, and played around with a bunch of options before settling on a way to work the colorwork with the decreases. You can probably tell that I abandoned the wave chart for the top, in favor of keeping the color shifts in one direction. I think it worked out fairly well.

The hat will join my very tiny pile of garments for the Dulaan project, which is why I was able to completely ignore gauge. This hat will fit someone, and getting any specific size didn't really matter. I have a couple of interesting ideas for more colorwork hats, using up some more of my leftover worsted weight yarn. For these, I'm probably going to use charts in Joyce Williams' spectacular book Latvian Dreams. I have an urge to gush over the book in this post, but it would be disorganized gushing. I have plans to do a proper review of the book at some point, so I'll try to refrain from too much gushing right now. Needless to say, the book is spectacular, as a pattern book, a reference book, and as a collection of charts. I'm frankly overwhelmed at the choices for colorwork charts, and must sit down and force myself to choose just one or two to play with, or else I'll never get anything done.

Remember when I said, at the beginning of the year, that it might be a while before I do colorwork again? I guess I was wrong. I'm really excited by my hat design ideas, and have decided that my next sweater will be colorwork, too. I was wearing Vertical Stripes the other day, and realized that I really wanted to knit another one. Not another of the same sweater, but another fingering weight fair isle sweater with all-over patterning. I want to knit the Autumn Color Cardigan, which graces the cover of Sweaters From Camp. That sweater is the reason I bought the book in the first place, and it's long overdue that I actually get around to knitting it. I have some yarn money squirreled away, from earnings from my Stitch 'n Bitch calendar pattern, and from some commissioned knitting projects I've recently completed. It should be just about enough to pay for this project, though I'll have to kick in some extra to cover the expense of shipping from the UK. I had been planning to knit Am Kamin this spring, but the pull of fair isle is too great. I'm very excited. It will be my first time knitting set-in sleeves knit in the round and saddle shoulders, as well as my first colorwork project in which both the background and foreground colors are constantly shifting. A challenge, a learning experience, and the most gorgeous sweater I may ever knit.

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