Sunday, September 30, 2007


This is my lesson:

Cobblestone closeup

I... enjoy knitting large amounts of stockinette and garter stitch.

Or perhaps the lesson really lies in the dozens of hours I've spent spinning, as I'm convinced that that was what taught me true appreciation for simple, calming, repetitive tasks.

I've started knitting Cobblestone (Fall '07 IK, designed by Jared Flood) for Alex. I showed him a couple of options to start out with, with Elizabeth Zimmermann's Saddle Shoulder Aran Cardigan as choice number 1 from my perspective. He chose Cobblestone, he chose charcoal grey, and I started knitting. I'm much farther than that photo shows -- two 100 g. skeins (of Harrisville Highland) in, with over a foot of the body done. I knew that love would make knitting a "boring" sweater tolerable and even enjoyable, but it turns out that love is just the icing on the cake.

Have I discovered the yoga of knitting? Is it time to write a book? Or I could stop being all faux-new-agey about it, and just enjoy.

Besides embracing my inner stockinette, I've been finishing the project I've been working on for The Anticraft. I pains me so much to not be able to share anything about it yet. Well, except for this teaser photo, which is so much of a teaser that it may not even be worth it. But here goes, anyway:

Anticraft project teaser

This is such a fun project that I may need to write out the blog post about it now, even if I have to wait weeks to post it. Just to get it out of my system. Of course, I'd be better off writing up the pattern (and taking photos), so I don't find Zabet on my doorstep with a baseball bat in a couple of weeks, to teach me a lesson about tardiness.

(Okay, for real, what I have planned for this afternoon is laundry, spinning, and The Good Housekeeping Marriage Book. Shhhhh! I promise I'll get to that pattern writing tomorrow...)


Friday, September 21, 2007

conquering techniques; the perfect green; party in the corner

I figured it out!

I wasn't happy with the 2-circ technique of knitting in the round because I found that I'd get insanely tight stitches at the end of a needle. That pesky problem was caused by the yarn getting pulled too tightly around the cord of that circular as I started to knit on the next needle. It completely ruined the technique for me, and I was avoiding it until last week.

I ended up buying 2 3.25 mm circular needles last Saturday because I'm stupid. Or a klutz. Or perhaps both. This past Spring I spent part of my lunch hour going to a local fabric store that stocks some knitting supplies to pick up DPNs for the Autumn Color Cardigan sleeves. I knew they carried Inox needles, and I thought that the tips on them may be similar enough to the tips on the circ. I used for the sweater body that I wouldn't have gauge issues. (The tips on my Clover DPNs were way too blunt.) I brought the circ I'd used for the body to compare before I purchased. On my walk home from the store, with my new DPNs in hand, I lost the circ. It must have just dropped from my hands on my walk back to work, never to be seen again. The time is drawing near for me to attach the sleeves to the body and knit the yoke, and I needed to replace my needles.

So I sat with the sleeve in my lap, and 2 new circs next to me, and decided to try the 2 circ technique again. I don't mind DPNs, but it's rather annoying to have to shift stitches around every so often because of the imbalance caused by the increases on needles 1 and 4. It was a good move, because I figured out a solution to my problem:


Instead of pulling the needle I just finished so that the stitches sit on the cord, I found that I was able to just scootch the stitches down a bit, so the last stitches on the needle still sit on the actual needle. When I knit the first stitches on the next needle, the last stitches on that previous needle get tightened up around the needle instead of the cord. Perfection! It only works if you scoot those stitches down, so you have some flexibility in manipulating that old needle, so it's closer to parallel with the new needle. Otherwise you'd trade too-tight stitches with some serious laddering. I'm so excited that I found a way for this technique to work for me that I want to use it more often. I do like the rhythm of DPNs, but there are situations where 2 circs are better, I think. Stranded colorwork is one, and socks with large pattern repeats (especially lace and cables) is another.

AC cardigan sleeve 2 innards

I'm about 40 rows from the end of the second sleeve. (That's probably in the ballpark of 10 hours of knitting.) I was so ready to finish this sweater before casting on for any major new projects. The sleeve is getting a bit tedious, but I'm so close to the really interesting yoke shaping (set in sleeves in the round!), and wanted to get there as soon as possible. New techniques are to exciting! Unfortunately, I found myself really tensing up in the shoulders and neck as I was knitting a few days ago, and decided that shooting pains were a sign that I should put the sweater down. I didn't feel tense while knitting it, so I'm not sure what was going on. My current theory is that the frequent spit splicing (every 2-3 rounds) is the culprit, because I really dig in with the friction to make sure my yarn doesn't break at the joins as I'm working with it. Ah, well. This sweater wants to take forever to knit, and it will get its wish. A few hours a week, and it should be done before the winter's over, at any rate.

To soothe my painful shoulders I cast on for something relatively easy and relaxing.

Anniversary Socks

Nancy Bush's Anniversary Socks from Favorite Socks. I'm using one of the Skeins of Lisa Souza Merino Sock I bought and didn't use for my sock design. I am completely enchanted with this color (Sage), and tried to get as accurate a photo as I could. It was quite hard, because the camera wanted to capture it as grey. As you can see by my glowing pink fingers in that photo, some major adjusting had to take place to get the yarn to look right. It's still not quite perfect, as it's a touch lighter and maybe a tiny bit less blue in real life. If any of you know which color of Cascade 220 comes closest to this yarn, please let me know! I'm searching for a green very much like this (maybe a tiny bit lighter) for one of two sweaters I want to knit for myself this winter, and my LYS doesn't carry very many shades for me to check out in person.

This yarn is an absolute pleasure to work with. I swatched for my sock design with the pink, and felt that the yarn was too loose and floppy. The sage green feels a bit sturdier, though I'm not sure if it's a real difference or all in my head. Just look at how gorgeous this fabric is:

Anniversary Sock fabric

The color is completely washed out, but I still love the photo. And these socks are a great relaxation project. They're fairly simple, but interesting (and beautiful!) enough to keep me going. I was planning to just knit to the letter of the pattern, but I ended up making an alteration from the get-go. The first round of the pattern is purled, and I didn't like how my cast on edge looked with that. I cast on again (German Twisted), purled back, then joined in the round. That left me with the purl side of the cast on on the public side of the sock, which I think works a lot better. I actually taught myself how to do the long tail cast on purlwise (the way you probably learned is knitwise), so I could do a neater cast on for ribbing. (Part of my striving for absolute perfection in the sock pattern I submitted to Knitty.) I wanted to use German Twisted for this sock, for the extra bit of elasticity, but haven't yet figured out how to reverse it so it goes purlwise. I'm sure I can, but with all those extra twists, I was too lazy to work it out. Maybe I will before I cast on for the second sock.

Before I end this post I want to respond to a couple of comments from previous posts. Jamie asked for a clarification on my Scroll Lace Socks pattern. She wanted to know if there were "plain" rows every other row that I didn't chart out. The answer is no -- the chart is as written. There are yarnovers and decreases on every row. Compare those socks to Brenda Dayne's Brother Amos socks to see the difference that makes. The stitch pattern she used does have "plain" rows every other row, and while the patterned rows are not identical to the patterned rows in the Scroll Lace socks, they are similar. You get a much different effect with the plain rows than you do without them.

Pamela and I exchanged a few emails about the Montse Stanley book. She is totally right in pointing out that Ms. Stanley is quite opinionated. Another reason the book may be more suited to someone who isn't first learning, and who already has more opinions of their own, I suppose. While Pamela stands in the corner being all ashamed about being a slow English knitter, I'll stand in the other corner because Ms. Stanley doesn't approve of how seldom I use tubular cast ons and bind offs. We should be ashamed of ourselves! (But secretly, I've got brownies in the oven, fresh apple cider in the fridge, and am planning a party for knitters who don't knit exactly like Monse Stanley. It will be a blast! Join us! In addition to the above two offenses, you can also gain entry if you have knit yarnover buttonholes. I can hear the children screaming in horror already...)

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

No Banana!

The annoying, secret, new pattern knitting is almost over. I swear! The AntiCraft project is even more thrilling than I anticipated it would be, the sock design has been submitted to Knitty, and I'm about to rip out the only recent knitting you've seen a photo of. (The Monkeys were too busy. Bad Monkeys. No banana!)

I'll be back to the Autumn Color Cardigan soon, just in time for the real arrival of the season. We've had several days of rain that broke our recent heat wave. The rain stopped yesterday, and autumn arrived. The air was crisp and cool, plans for apple picking were made, and I took a walk around Robin Hood Pond. The trees are still mostly green, but every so often it's possible to find a beautiful red leaf that's ahead of schedule.

Autumnal Preparations

That's Shetland on the spindle, from the sampler pack Brenda sent this summer. And how happy am I that I had a friend to treat me with great wool as I was learning to spin! I recently discovered that the 8 oz. of Romney roving I bought at NHSW feels just icky to spin. I'm not experienced enough to know if I it's because I don't like carded wool, or if there is a problem with the preparation or quality of this roving. Whatever it is, if I hadn't had a pile of nice wool from an experienced spinner to start out with, I fear that I may have given up on spinning!

The wool in the photo above is more brown than it looks. The silvery bits were really picked up in the photograph, but in real life it's quite close to the color of my own hair, which is not yet silver. I've already finished spinning the singles for the grey wool from the sample pack.

Salt and Pepper Shetland Singles

There are 2 more colors of Shetland left after these (cream and very dark brown), and then I'll work on plying the singles and coming up with a pattern for them. I think it's got to be colorwork, and that a hat would be nice. I may be tempted to buy a small amount of a soft fiber to spin up yarn for a lining. Shetland isn't the softest stuff, and I figure that my first handspun Shetland will be a real wildcard when it comes to next-to-the-skin wearability. Plus, trying out a small bit of merino (or merino/silk!) on my drop spindle will surely be a character building experience. Maybe I'll try to find the brightest colored roving or top possible, for some fun secret contrast.

To get those grey Shetland singles on the niddy noddy, I had to skein up the yarn that was already on the niddle noddy. I knew I liked it before, but after it was skeined up I just fell in love.

The first yarn I've ever truly loved.

That's half of the Blue Faced Leicester, not yet set, but looking absolutely perfect in my eyes. It's been so long since I spun and plied it that I don't remember the weight and yardage. After I set it I'll get all the measurements again. I plied this batch using the hand plying method I found on Knitty. After trying a center pull ball (complete disaster) and Andean plying (numb digits and messiness), I think this is the plying method for me. I have a feeling that it works best with "old" singles, which is what the BFL was, having sat around for weeks. The Shetland will be old, with relatively little energy in the singles, by the time I ply it. I hope it works as well for that yarn as it did for my darling BFL.

I've been struggling with what to do about the book reviews I mentioned previously. I decided that I really didn't have strong opinions about either of the books I had originally been planning to review, and I feel that a review without strong opinions isn't much of a review at all. One of them may still merit a review, but for now I'll write a little about a book that I do feel strongly about.

I recently found a very cheap copy of Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook, a book I'd heard about but had never actually seen in a store before. This book is about as complete a technical guide as I can imagine. I prefer illustrations to photographs, and this book is full of amazingly detailed and clear drawings. Most of the photographs in the book are of finished garments, many of them historical or "vintage", that illustrate specific techniques. Check out the stockings on page 53 -- doesn't it make your jaw just drop!

What's amazing about this book is the variety of options it gives you for so many of the techniques. I'd have bought it just for the chapter on casting on and binding off, which contains techniques I'd never even heard of. Reading through the book made me want to take out a fresh skein of yarn and try out every technique described, including the ones I already knew how to do. The book will make me a better knitter and a better designer, and is cheap enough that I think every knitter should own a copy. The only potential problem with the book is that it uses non-US terminology, which may be confusing for knitters in the US who are first learning and have only see US terminology elsewhere. But even that isn't a huge hurdle, and shouldn't be a hurdle at all for anyone who's information savvy enough to be reading blog posts about knitting.

My other review is a product review, and not quite as glowing. I finally got the chart keeper from Knitpicks, after using the ratty old sheet of metal that I bought a couple of years ago at a yarn store. You know those metal chart holders -- the ones that are just a smidge too small for a standard 8.5 x 11" sheet of paper, leaving you with frayed edges? I foolishly didn't look at the product description for the chart keeper, and admit that my disappointment at its size is my fault. I just assumed that each half of it would be large enough to hold a standard piece of paper, making it a chart tool that would improve upon the one I already owned. Unfortunately, it's half that size. It does open up to a size that would fit an 8.5 x 11" sheet of paper, but that's not very useful because the middle, where it needs to fold, is obviously not backed by metal. (Plus, I'd rather not have to fold my charts.) I've found a few uses for it, but am truly astounded that they decided to make this item so small. Yes, it's more portable. But it's not going to work with most of the charts I'd want to use it for. I suppose it's not worth the expense of sending it back, but I really hope they come out with a larger version. Portability is meaningless if the item you're carrying around doesn't provide the functionality you need it for.

So as not to end the post on a downer (really, the thing is great, if you only ever use teeny charts!), here's a sneak peek at the sweater I'll likely be knitting after I finish my cardigan. It's what Alex requested, and the fall weather is putting me in a back to basics mood. It may also mean another trip to Harrisville to choose just the right color, which is always a good thing.

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