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February 27, 2006

Frustrated

There are photos, but they are inside a mysteriously unresponsive camera.

It's killing me, a little, since there's so much to see - a shawl, finished (though not, technically, for the Olympics, since it wasn't washed and dressed until this afternoon); a sock, finished (though the pattern needs a lot of tweaking, and I'm pretty sure I'll rip and reknit). Bah!

February 22, 2006

Teaser

We are so close, so near, so frustratingly, mouth-wateringly, finger-tinglingly within sight of the finish line. For weeks now, my brain has been bursting with ideas for things I'm itching to knit and techniques I want to try - princess shaping in a spring jacket with three-quarter sleeves, notched cuffs, and lapels in an allover brocade pattern...a split-neck pullover quilted with twisted stitches in knotwork patterns, shaped with decreases all in one row...a mesh-paneled, fitted hoodie with extra-long sleeves and wooden buttons for wearing over a bikini. I want to knit other things, other patterns, work out other little bits of math, doodle other sketches. I'm tired of taking progress photos that offer no noticable change, just as you are of seeing them - I think we're all ready for this project to be over.

On the other hand, I'm glad I did this - I do think I'll have a beautiful finished shawl at the end, one that I would never have had the patience to finish without my loudly-stated public commitment. Isn't that irony for you? The finished product, with its simple, small allover pattern, is much more to my taste than frilly lace constructed of many different stitches, but I didn't have nearly as much fun knitting it. This is symptomatic of a bigger issue - I tend to dress very simply, avoiding wild pattern or color, but knitting such dull stuff makes my eyes roll back in my head. What's a girl to do?

There will be interesting things to look at soon, I promise. Blocked shawls, and new sketches and project starts, and maybe even a finished pair of...


February 21, 2006

Subtle

I may have voiced before my general dislike for variegated, space-dyed, hand-painted, crazy yarns, particularly when they're used for anything other than plain stockinette. Remember the famous advice Coco Chanel gave once, about looking in the mirror before you leave and taking off one accessory? I suppose I feel the same way about knitting - lace and texture are good things, but it's a shame when they're hidden by a busy yarn that clamors for attention and takes away from the rightful focus. If you want color, do colorwork. There are patterns, of course, that successfully combine multicolored yarn and other elements (Lady Eleanor, say, or Annie Modesitt's Circular Cocoon jacket), but they do it very deliberately, capitalizing on the way the stitch uses yarn and with a careful eye for the impact of the worked-up colors. When I see people using variegated yarn without any real reason or thought behind it, obscuring an otherwise lovely piece of lace or a nice-looking cable, I alway cringe a little bit.

Which is why loving this came as such a suprise to me.

Because I like my colors either vividly solid or deliberately heathered, I tend to avoid anything marked as "handpainted" or "hand-dyed". It appears that I've been missing out all along - though this is ostensibly a solid color (and a beautiful one at that), it has tiny, barely noticable fluctuations in tone and depth here and there. I'm finding the effect to be quite subtle and very charming; together with the luster of the silk, it makes the thing seem to reflect light even when in shadow. It has unexpected depth, the examining of which is proving to be endlessly interesting - I hope it stays so for the 30% I have left to knit.

Mini-Argyle Stockings

I'm really happy with this final (crossing my fingers) iteration of the pattern - halfway through the decreases toward the ankle, they're still fun to knit. I'm thinking a solid pink heel and toe, and a sole with a narrow green stripe...and if at all possible, I want to squeeze a monogram into the gussets, and provide a letter chart with the pattern for custom socks. We'll see if the math works out - where'd I put my graph paper?

Your Knitting Style Sucks!

It all started innocently enough. Coleen, Laura, Sarah, Amie, Lauren, and I were sitting around two companionably jammed-together tables at Panera, knitting furiously and talking. Someone must have asked a question about something, and Rose jokingly responded with something to the effect of "No, that won't work - your knitting style sucks." I promptly doubled over laughing - knit nights in particular and the blog community as a whole tend to be so supportive, so encouraging, so cultivate-your-own-creativity, so there's-no-wrong-way-to-learn (which I love!), that the contrast was startingly, irresistably funny. Boy, can you imagine? "I knit English, because continental SUCKS!" "My shrug could kick your sweater's ass." "DPNs rool, Magic Loop droolz!"

It would be the start of the apocalypse!

Great ladies, great times - sorry if you couldn't make it last night, but we'll do another one the third Monday of next month, too. Looking forward to it already!

February 20, 2006

Speed

In a hurry to get out the door just now -

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Hope I see you tonight!

February 17, 2006

The Return

Argyle Socks

Not to worry - they're back!

As mini-argyle knee socks, with a solid heel and toe, and a striped sole and gusset, and a fake seam in the back for the decreases to run along.

The someday pattern will include a short version, too - but how great would the long ones be, to wear under boots?

Fire Flowers

I've hit 1000 stitches to the round, with 55% of the body left to knit. I've stopped worrying about finishing this on time - but man, am I tired of knitting the same bitty repeat endlessly. When I get to halfway, I'm going to put one corner on some string, pin it out, and indulge in some brief ogling to keep me going.

Sampler Stole KAL

Clickety for the official website of the Sampler Stole Knit-Along. Pay no mind to the unlovely template at the moment - something pretty will be up over the weekend. If you'd like to join, just email me with the subject "Sampler Stole KAL" and a link to your website if you've got one, and I'll set up author permissions for you. Participants will be able to log in to the Movable Type interface, upload photographs, and compose and edit their own posts (if you've been thinking about switching to MT but wondered what it was like, here's your chance). See you over there!

February 16, 2006

There was name-taking, oh yes.

Do you hear that sound? It's me, sighing in relief.

It's so much better. The difference is that between Grisham and Faulkner, ikura and osetra, Martinez and Clemens - obvious, ridiculous to argue, tragic to never realize. Incomparable.

The much-maligned Crystal Palace needle really isn't so bad - I have plenty of them in my needle drawer, and though I've fought with the join in the larger sizes, these teeny ones aren't a problem. The cord and the bamboo meet with an irritating little crack, but loose-tensioned stitches go over it without too much of a hassle. The biggest problem I've encountered with them is the eventual chipping and splintering that always happens to the tips - I have no qualms about taking sandpaper to bamboo needles, but it's awfully irritating to have to do it almost constantly.

I have a set of Inox Greys coming to me on Saturday, but I'd be happy knitting on these for the rest of the shawl. I had maybe almost gotten used to the slippery, blunt Addis, but going back to what I'm used to for lace - grippy, pointy wood - is so much more comfortable, it's sort of depressing to be confronted with my inability to evolve. I can knit while reading, without worrying that those slippery silk loops will jump off the needle tips; I don't dread k2togs anymore; one full round has gone from 15 minutes to less than ten.

A good thing, too, since there's, like, 62% to go.

Mini-Argyles

Where are they now?

This really needs to be the last time I rip and re-knit. I didn't love the very tight, stiff fabric I was making on US1 needles (great for a jacket...not so great for socks), so I've taken out a repeat and gone up to US2s. The yarn is starting to show some fatigue from being knit and ripped four times - I've never actually killed a yarn before, but I might be well on my way to my first murder. The good news is, on only 64 stitches, these ought to go by blazing-quick.

Columbia Knit Night

Clyde's is booked on Monday, so the plan is to meet at the Panera on Dobbin Road. 1) They're happy to accomodate us; 2) they have bright lighting; 3) free Wi-Fi abounds; 4) there will be sweet, sticky pastries within easy reach. All good things, right?

So, then:

Columbia Knit Night
Monday, 20 February
7:00-9:00pm
Panera Bread
6435 Dobbin Road
Columbia, MD 21045

Hope to see you there!

February 15, 2006

Everyone loves a meme

Fire Flowers looks the same as it did yesterday – I’ve worked a few rows, but we got so caught up in watching the alpine skiing events last night, I didn’t get much done. Have you seen the countdown ticker over at the Harlot’s blog? It’s sort of gruesomely fascinating to see the seconds slip by.

Sampler Stole-Along

I'm glad there's some interest! I'm going to set up a blog for it this week, with an official start date of March 1st. It'll definitely be a no-pressure, join-anytime kind of thing, so please do think about joining up!

Columbia Knit Night

Whoo hoo! I'm excited about meeting everyone next week. Coleen is checking out the possibility of taking over the back room at Clyde's (no fee or commitment to order dinner), but there are plenty of other places to meet if that doesn't pan out. I'm thinking 7:00pm, Monday, 2/20 - does that feel good to everyone?

InstaContent

Steph tagged me for a meme last week, and I’d forgotten to fill it out. So…

Instructions: Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place, then add your blog to the bottom slot:

treschicveronique
craptina
mebeth rambles
nakedieknits
see eunny knit

Then add 3 people to tag:

I hate tagging people for memes - so, if you're reading this, and would like to play along, consider yourself tagged.

What were you doing 9 years ago?
I was 13! I have no idea what I was doing - talking on the phone and obsessing over boys and crying over Titanic, probably.

What were you doing 6 years ago?
I was getting ready to graduate high school, still talking on the phone and still obsessing over boys, and laughing over Titanic

What were you doing 1 hour ago?
Working on a pitch, and doing some serious internal bitching over an editorial shake-up at the magazine I've worked most often for. All day, I've been regretting those beers last night.

Name 3 movies/tv shows you can't turn off if you stumble across them on TV
1. The Andy Griffith Show
2. Deadwood
3. The African Queen

3 things you want to improve upon this year:
1. my fitness level
2. my patience
3. my troublingly hermit-like tendencies

Name 3 things you can't live without (aside from knitting):
1. books
2. newspapers
3. heels

Name 3 things you could live without:
1. endlessly self-congratulatory, unintentionally self-parodying "news" outlets
2. the word "metrosexual"
3. pantyhose

Name 3 things you really like about yourself:
1. my attempts to be pretension-free
2. my skin
3. my ability to get ready to go out in five minutes flat.

How about you?

February 14, 2006

Yeah

This was the deck at sunset yesterday.

The mercury is hovering around 50 today, and will be reaching for 60 tomorrow - I think we may have had our fill of fire-tipped, snowy winter sunsets for the season.

Hmm. I know there's a segue lurking somewhere in here somewhere. Oh, yes - big thanks to Kat, Queen of Charming Appellations. Fire Flowers it shall be - so let it be written, so let it be done.

So, Fire Flowers and Leaves doesn't look much different from yesterday.

I moved to a 40" circular the moment I could, but it's already well scrunched on it. I'm at row 102, which means a little more than half the width is finished, but 75% remains to knit.

Gah!

Joining Non-Wool Yarns For Lace

Joining new balls of wool in lace can be a tricky issue - a double thickness of yarn, as for a Russian join or simply knitting with both strands, might be immediately visible in a fine openwork fabric, and hanging tails can be difficult to weave in truly invisibly. A carefully executed felted or spliced join is the best way to handle joins with a wool yarn, since it creates an invisible join the same thickness as the rest of the yarn. But how do you join balls of non-wool yarn?

The method that follows should work for any type of plied yarn, slippery though they may be. It basically amounts to wrapping two twisted cords around each other. Its main disadvantage is its slight awkwardness - an extra hand or heavy weight helps tremendously in anchoring the twisted strands.

First, tease out half the thickness of both ends to be joined for three or four inches, and break it off. The silk I'm using is a two-ply, so I've unraveled and broken off one ply in each tail about three inches back.

Take one end, pinch or otherwise anchor it where it goes to full thickness, and twist the half-thick tail very tightly, until it begins to kink on itself.

Pull it straight, never letting go of either end or letting it untwist, and lay the other tail (untwisted) over it at the halfway point.

Fold the twisted strand in half, trapping the other tail, and let go. The tightly twisted strand should naturally twist on itself in the other direction. Smooth out the twisted cord and even out any kinks.

Repeat for the untwisted, trapped end, and clip any hanging bits.

The finished join should be smooth, the same thickness as the working yarn, and more or less undetectable. Handy, yes?

Mini Argyle Socks

I ripped out and restarted the Mini Argyles last night:

So extremely, deliciously preppy. Remind me to change my name to Midge one of these days.

Sampler Stole-along

Thank you, Tia, for the brilliant suggestion of starting a Sampler Stole-Along!

Here it is again:

It's a pattern by Hazel Carter for A Gathering Of Lace, and in my opinion one of the most interesting projects in the book. Anyone up for a knitalong? Finished measurements are 20"x68", using cobwebweight on 2.75mm (US2) needles. Knit as a center panel capped by two borders picked up and knitted from invisible cast-on edges, and finished with an edgeing that may either be knitted seperately and sewn or knitted on horizontally, it looks like a great project for anyone who'd like to learn more about shawl construction or just enjoys gorgeous lace. It combines lace fabric (patterned on one row only) motifs - Lace Mesh, Birds-Eye, Four Flowers - as well as true lace (patterned every row) motifs - Shetland Bead, Lace Fan, Daisy/Ring.

It might not be an ideal project for someone to learn lace with, but it would be a great exercise in learning to read your knitting and understand how lace stitches work together and build on one another to construct a motif, row by row. It could be knit with laceweight or even fingering weight, eliminating repeats if necessary, for a heavier shawl or for anyone who doesn't like the idea of cobwebweight - anyone interested? I would love the company.

On First Lace, and On Spreading Wings

There were some really wonderful comments yesterday. I really do believe that knitting can be a lot more stimulating, a lot more enjoyable, a lot more thoughtful than rigid structure makes it - the comparison to training wheels was spot-on. I hate the idea of knitting one stitch or one motif or one row at a time, without considering the ones just formed and the ones to come - how much fun can that possibly be? Anyone can make a series of movements dictated by a chart, just as anyone can take dictation or anyone can follow a recipe. To each his own, but I think some context, some comprehension, is needed to make such things fulfilling.

Allyson - Happy early birthday! Some of the geometric, small-repeat patterns out there make really beautiful finished garments, and are perfect for getting used to the basic movements and feel of lace knitting. Something like the Leaf Lace Shawl or Flower Basket Shawl (both of which can be viewed on this page) - both really look best in fingering or sport weight, on US4-7 needles, and are fun, eminently accessible knits. Good luck! I'll try to put up a lace primer this week, with some thoughts on common pitfalls and ways to reduce the learning curve.

February 13, 2006

Growing

The shawl, she grows.

I've made it past Chart 1, and am in the second repeat of Chart 2 (out of seven total). I'm on row 89 or so, which means 18% of the body is complete, according to the spreadsheet provided by one of the lovely ladies over at the Yahoo! Frost Flowers & Leaves Group.

The problem? There are five and a half more repeats to do. I should have looked at the pattern a bit more closely before I began this project - the finished shawl is beautiful, sure, but everything past the center 50 rows or so is the same small easily-memorized frost flowers motif over and over. It is a very pretty lace stitch, but it's getting sort of boring to knit already.

Chart 3, the inner border, won't provide much relief - it's just the net columns from that motif over and over (and over again).

This will still be a challenge to finish on time just because of the volume of knitting there is to do, but it's not especially interesting to make. My new challenge? Finish this for the Olympics, and knit this wonderfully beautiful sampler stole from the same book:

by the end of February. That's what I like in lace - a little variety.

Thank you for all the suggestions on needles! I'm clearly asking the right people. I think I'm going to try to get my hands on both a Crystal Palace set and an Inox Grey set, and try them both out. I prefer wooden needles for the grab factor, but agree that breakage and splintering can be a big issue - are the Inox a powder-coated metal needle, or a slick polished type?

Some Technical Stuff:

Mary asked: Technical question: How do YOU join non-wool yarn (especially on lace)?

If I think it won't matter too much to have a double-thickness of yarn, I'll just knit seven or eight stitches with both strands and clip closely after blocking or do a Russian join. If I think it WILL matter, I'll take the time to do a little thing where I tease out and break off half the thickness of the yarn about three inches in on both ends, twist very tightly, fold the yarns around each other as in a Russian join, and let the ends twist back on themselves. It's difficult to describe in words - when I come to the end of the first ball of this shawl (pretty soon, I'm thinking), I'll show it as best as the supermacro setting will let me.

Meg asked for more details on my lace shortcuts - I'll be happy to show them once I get the right needles :)

And Kenny: It's Frost Flowers and Leaves, by Eugen Beugler for Meg Swansen's collection A Gathering Of Lace. Veddy veddy pretty.

I learned to knit continental, and have never really done anything else, except for two-handed colored knitting. Your last question really made me think - I guess I knit at a pretty good speed, but I also knit a LOT, like, 3 or so hours a day when you add up all the spare moments I snatch to work a row or two. I really think the single biggest factor in speed, whether in colorwork or lace or cables, is understanding exactly what you're doing with every stitch - making it a point to understand the way the motifs build on each other and the basic rhythm behind the pattern as a whole. For a simple example, this shawl grows in a very specific way, and each repeat of the motif has a certain relationship to the motifs above and below it. Once you have those relationships firmly in mind, and are able to read your knitting at a glance, you can knit almost anything on autopilot. Most colorwork (excluding large pictorial patterns like you see in the Dales) can be handled similarly - there's a certain rhythm to every row - and cable charts are generally very predictable. As soon as you free yourself from looking at the chart every few stitches and get rid of markers separating pattern repeats (I understand beginners doing it, but it kills the flow of the work and reduces the wonderful cleverness and elegance and economy of the best lace patterns, which should be appreciated and enjoyed, to nothing but an exercise in chart-following), you can make very quick progress. You can also put the knitting down and pick it back up without spending ten minutes looking for your place in the chart - and you can knit intricate stuff while talking or watching tv or whatever. It only takes a little extra work in paying attention to the pattern for the first few rows to make it happen - and it pays off, big time. Understanding why a YO belongs there, and what it sets up for ten rows up, and where this decrease meets with it, and what part of the petal or leaf or wave or whatever that forms, makes knitting faster, yes, but also a lot more interesting, which makes you knit more, which makes progress happen before you know it.

February 11, 2006

And we're off

This one's a swan from the start:

This pattern is a lot of fun to knit, very rhythmic and logical. The only thing I wonder about is the use of slanting decreases - a lot of times, a left-slanting double decrease is used where I would have used a centered dd. It doesn't exactly matter, of course, and it REALLY won't matter when the shawl is blocked, but I may make a swatch with a centered decrease, just to see.

I used Emily Ocker's famous method (certainly the sturdiest way to start a circular shawl, though I'm not 100% convinced of its attractiveness), which has been a bit of a struggle for me in the past. The weight and awkwardness of the metal DPNs I tried to begin on wasn't helping, either...so I used Magic Loop, and everything was fine.

Ahem. Did you guys hear a noise in here, or something?

The silk is really a pleasure to work with. It's comparable in weight to, say, Jaggerspun Zephyr at about 5,000 yards to the pound (a bit thicker than my 6,000 yds/pound lace yarn), but I'm using needles a smaller than the 3.5mm (US4) needles usually recommended for Zephyr. I like my lace to be quite solid in the stockinette portions - bigger needles makes for an airier shawl, but at the expense of pattern clarity, I think. Instead, I've got this working on 2.0mm (US0) needles, which produces crisp and defined lace with controllable YOs and an obvious difference between a knit stitch and an eyelet.

The only problem? I've not been able to find any bamboo or wooden US0 circulars. Addi Turbos are very nice, of course, but they're ill-suited to lace - blunt tips+slippery surface+glossy, springy, slippery yarn = molasses-slow knitting. With sandpaper-sharpened wooden needles, the extra movements associated with slipping stitches and such can be eliminated by leaving everything on the left needle and weaving the right needle through the backs and fronts of the stitches to be decreased to make them fall in the right slant when the yarn is pulled through. Slippery, blunt-tipped needles, combined with the inelasticity of the silk, makes this impossible, and I find myself needing to slip and pass over and knit through back loops and all that time-consuming jazz. I think this week will have to be dedicated to finding a perfectly pointy US0 needle - any suggestions?

Progress:

Right on track.

Mini-Argyle Socks

I'm glad you guys like the mini-argyles! I ditched the pink and white, and decided instead to go with a pink and green - they're looking really cute. The pattern is a very simple, very easy diced pattern - I think you can find a it in Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting and in plenty of other sources - but here's the one I charted:

Easy as pie.

Is there interest in a sock pattern set with an argyle theme? It would include the Almost-Argyle (one-color textured), the Mini-Argyle (two-color stranded) and maybe a Honest Arglye (traditional three-color intarsia, worked flat and seamed).

I have a hockey game to go to tonight (and pattern sizes to recheck because I'm a math moron - everyone patiently waiting, I'm so sorry!), so there is some serious knitting that needs to be done right now - not that I'm complaining.

February 09, 2006

Lovely and Amazing

Can you believe this?

It's probably pretty obvious that I'm not generally a luxury fiber sort of knitter. I'm more interested in knitting as an exercise in craftsmanship - the long tradition of using skill and wit and technique to magick up something beautiful from prosaic materials, from sticks and hair and dye. I like decent-quality yarns, sure, but they tend to be the unfancy, unseductive workhorses - basic wool, basic cotton, things that when combined in the right way with color or texture or shape have to work to transcend their ordinariness. Fancy needles, gadgets, super-premium yarn - I don't covet them too much (a good thing, in light of my perpetually empty wallet), and I know they're not always necessary to make nice things.

But this Frost Flowers Shawl-destined silk, from a custom dyer, finally has me understanding why people choose materials that are beautiful to begin with. I've never knitted with 100% silk before - it is richly heavy across the fingers, cool and dry to the touch, subtly lustrous and endlessly interesting just to look at and touch and listen to (the peculiar dry crunch it makes when the ball is squeezed - it makes me feel rich, just to hear it). 3,500 yards - unbelievable.

The color is poorly represented here; a better photographer than I am would be needed, I think, to bring out all the nuances. It's exactly what I'd hoped it would be - vivid and clear with an undertone of cool blue twilight, like the blush on an almost too ripe cherry, or a glass of wine held to the light. The luster of the silk makes the color shift from wine to crimson as it moves and as the observer moves around it - a large shawl made of this might appear to breathe as it flutters in the breeze or as the draped wearer walks by.

The dyer of this extraordinary yarn (her shop is launching soon, but I've promised not to reveal who she is till then) took a vauge expression of color from me - I was describing things, moods, seasons more than I was a color - and somehow translated it perfectly into tone and depth and mood and season and every other thing. This is very fine stuff, in the way that things used to be fine - tactile and heavy and beautiful, steeped in the skill of the maker.

Ordinary Stuff

One Almost Argyle sock is done. The pattern is...well...

underwhelming on the foot, no? It makes a very interesting, even pleasing pattern of lines and crosses and zigzags on the foot, but it doesn't really give the impression of argyle when it's stretched out. I think I still like it for what it is (all those little 1x1 twisted stitches are basically 1x1 rib, which makes it fit spectacularly - better than any other handknit sock I've made), but I'm just a wee little bit disappointed.

To get my argyle fix, I'm working now on a two-color sock, covered with a very simple mini-argyle diced pattern.

Ahh, that's better.

Knit Night

I'm so glad at the response this has gotten - I didn't know there were so many locals! I'm thinking we'll try for the first one the Monday after next (2/20) - time and place details to come!

February 08, 2006

Wednesday

Almost Argyle Socks

Finally, a decent picture that makes the pattern at least look coherent:

AhKnits asked:

I'm curious, did you try plain knit blocks and not like the way they looked, or did you just go straight for the vertical twisted stitches under the diagonal ones?

I did try a couple different versions - purl blocks and moss stitch blocks, purl blocks and double moss blocks, before settling on purl blocks and twisted stitch blocks, but I didn't try knit and purl. Knit stitch cables and traveling lines usually show up best on a non-knit stitch, hence the reverse stockinette background for most Aran sweaters. I would have really liked to make the purl and moss stitch blocks work, but I just couldn't figure out a way to make all four quadrants of the moss stitch blocks odd-numbered (1, 3, 5, 7 stitches wide). Trying to use moss stitch in such narrow spaces when each section couldn't be started AND ended with either a knit or purl stitch looked awfully lopsided and uneven.

I think I'm going to develop a 2-color version of these, too, using stranded knitting - plain purl blocks in a checkerboard pattern, with Fair Isle stranding used to easily put opposite-color traveling lines on each block. The idea of mixing texture AND color is very interesting to me; this would be a simple, quick way to try out some of my ideas.

Steekery

Jonathan asked:

When you stitch [the steek] down, I'm assuming you use the background color yarn and not a thread, right? Also, you are only tacking it down through the floats and not clear through to the other side of the fabric. I was thinking about doing a crossed stitch tacking but wasn't sure exactly how to attach it to the fabric.

I definitely use a strand of the predominant background color yarn, though if I were neatening a steek on a cardigan front, I'd use whatever blended best with the inside of the sweater. With a sharp tapestry needle, I catch only the floats on the reverse, trying to split the floats rather than looping all the way around them. Catching the whole float, I find, makes it pretty easy to distort stitches on the right side when the facing stretches and flexes during wear.

I have been having some really interesting email conversations with some of you guys over Norwegian steeks. Elka has got me on a quest to do some serious history reading - I think a development arc for the "Norgi" we know today that is similar to the birth of the commercial Fair Isle is probably pretty predictable. Scottish steeks only came about when the suddenly in-demand colored sweater needed to be produced quickly for sale; the (one-color) sweaters worn by real fishermen and farmers were knit seamlessly in the gansey style, not by cutting. I think the complexity of colorwork, both in Shetland and in Norway, is probably directly tied to commercial demand, much as complex cables and Aran motifs only developed after big fishing outfits and resulting tourism came to the isle. Fascinating stuff!

Ideas

Speaking of Norwegian knits, I was browsing through Starmore's Scandinavian Knitwear the other day, and came across this:

That sound you hear? Is my mind, boggling. Gears are turning...how much fun would it be to come up with a pattern for something like this?

Bellybuttons Are Not Mirrors

On blogging: I'm with you guys - what's there to gnash about, or even overdiscuss, really? It's just people knitting. Thanks for the kind words, though.

Calling Montgomery/Howard/Baltimore County Knitters, And Any Other Interested Parties

I've been talking for AGES about starting a local knit night, probably somewhere in or near Columbia, for people in the area. Monday nights would work well for me and one other person I've already talked to - anyone game for something like this? Any suggestions on venue?

Very Useful

via BoingBoing: House Of Tartan's interactive tartan weaver. You can choose colors, color order, stripe width, and they'll generate a pattern for you. It's meant to be turned into a woven fabric you order from them, but this is brilliant for experimenting with color order and stripe sequences. I've been playing with it all afternoon.

February 07, 2006

Trucking

020701.jpg

What do we think?

I'm ready to cautiously say that I like it. The pattern is really satisfying to knit - the traveling lines that outline the diamonds and make up the intersecting lines wrap all the away around the tube with no inturruption, thanks to a handy little movement of the end-of-round with each row. Then, too, I'm really happy with the directions of the cable crosses - they go one way within the plain purl blocks and the other within the twisted stitch blocks, with the bisecting lines always going over the lines that outline blocks. Lots of fun so far, but we won't know till it's on the foot.

Anja brought up an interesting point the other day:

I've been trying out several different patterns with travelling stitches lately (I'm using EZ's directions for doing them) and somehow all the stitches that are leaning to the left look awful. The ones that go to the right are nice and even. What can I do?

I wish I could say. The sweater I made for Jeff last summer had a large central lattice made up of twisted-stitch traveling lines, and I noticed, too, that the left-leaning lines were uneven and wonky, while the right-leaning lines lay flat and smooth. The right and left leaning lines on this sock look pretty much equally even, and I'm guessing that it's a function of 1) very tight gauge, so sloppy stitches are less noticable; 2) knitting in the round - there's no discord between purl and knit row gauge, and the stitches are twisted every round rather than every other, as they usually are in flat knitting; and 3) moving the line every row, rather than every other row, so the slope as seen as a continuous line rather than a stair-step. I might knit some experimental swatches flat and circular to figure out what's going on and how I can improve my own knitting, but for now, my best advice is to tighten up the left-leaning crosses as much as possible, to pay careful attention to purl row gauge, and to wet-block. The issues with Jeff's sweater mostly dissapeared after a thorough blocking.

Frost Flowers

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The preparation continues. I'm not usually one for schematics and progress charts, but just to get an idea of what I'm in for, there's a rough scale diagram of the shawl, with the first 6.25% (that is, 1/16th, or what I should have finished the first night) marked in blue overlay. 53 rows, knitted circularly - I'm starting to maybe regret this, a little.

Miscellany

There's been some chatter recently about the nature of knitblogs, the purpose they serve, whether they're exclusionary, etc. It's all a little too meta for my tastes, and I hate this stuff where people see an opportunity to publicly air grievances, but still act all coy by saying "a certain popular knitblog" or "a certain Midwestern knitblog" or whatever. There have also been some very good, thought-provoking posts across the community, better expressed and more fair than I could be, so I encourage you to read those. Me? I hate blog drama, I hate public catfights, I hate the self-congratulatory, Mean Girls "you're so great", "no, YOU'RE so great, but she's not that great" stuff that goes on occasionally. I blog because not taking advantage of this incredible, immediate way to exchange information would be unbearable to me - I learn more about knitting through the comments you guys leave and by visiting your blogs than in any other way, and I feel it's only right to contribute as much as I have to offer. I'd like to think that we all present ourselves the same ways we would in person in a coffee shop at a knit night - with strong opinions, yeah, but not with snipes or condescension or brattiness - and for the most part, I think we do.

February 06, 2006

The Difference

I'd noticed in comments and emails that there's some confusion over the difference between Norwegian-style and Fair Isle-style steeks. The Steek Series (now edited and re-organized for your coherent reading pleasure!) focused on Fair Isle steeks exclusively, though the principles of decreasing and placement are useful when working with Norwegian steeks, too.

I kept meaning to do a little piece on the difference, but kept putting it off - last night, I noticed that the steek series was getting fairly frequently referenced and linked-to (which rocks! Woot!), but occasionally in the wrong context. I'd really hate for anyone to try to follow it and have their project fail, so, without further ado - Scottish v Norwegian Steeks

While Fair Isle steeks use extra stitches cast on mid-row to form a bridge of waste stitches at armhole and neck, Norwegian-style sweaters knit in the round are formed as one continuous tube from ribbing to shoulder. The traditional drop-shoulder shape means no decreases are done at along the armscyes, and no stitches are held at the armpit. When the body is completed and the shoulder stitches bound off or held, it looks something like the diagram on the top left:


If the tube is flattened to put the side "seams" at the center, it would look like the diagram at top right. The center stitch is marked as the location of the armhole (thick dotted line).

A machine, set for a small stitch, is used to sew all around three sides of the center stitch (thin dotted line), taking care to completely surround the cutting line (bottom left). Finally, as at bottom right, the armhole is carefully cut open, keeping clear of the machine stitching on all sides.

The sleeves of a Norwegian sweater aren't picked up and worked from the body; rather, they're knitted seperately with a little extra length at the top and sewn in, with the extra length forming a facing to cover the machine stitching on the inside.

The main difference between Norwegian and Scottish steeks lies in that the body off the sweater itself is cut for Norwegian sweaters, while a flap of waste stitches seperates the cut edge and the body of the Fair Isle jumper. While Fair Isle steeks done in traditional Shetland wool need no reinforcement (the minimal fray doesn't matter, since the fray is well away from the knitting that matters), Norwegian steeks absolutely need machine sewing to create a sturdy edge.

It seems like an inelegant, sort of awkward system to me. I've voiced before my opinion on sewing machines and handknits - that is, they don't mix, period. To my mind, the wonderfully fluid, cushiony, drapey quality of handknit colored knitting is spoiled when the edges are squashed and stiffened by the one, two three lines of polyester-threaded machine sewing people put in to guard against fray. There's no reason why someone knitting Norwegian-patterned sweater couldn't put in some extra stitches at the armpit and use a hand-sewn or crocheted steek instead.

(I haven't discussed neck steeks in Norwegian sweaters because, frankly, I don't know how they were done traditionally. If the armholes are going to be steeked to allow circular knitting, of course you'd steek the necks to. But then, why do all the Norwegian sweater directions I've seen direct one to cast off center neck stitches and work flat, reattaching the yarn at the beginning of the knit row to maintain pattern continuity? In fact, I have my suspicions that the steek in drop-shouldered Norwegian knitting is a recent innovation borrowed/adapted from truly circular Fair Isle knitting, mostly because of its reliance on the sewing machine - anyone care to educate me? I love learning about this stuff).

Anyway. Look what I got!

Ironically, this picture sucks because the Ott Light is still in the box and not yet brightening my room with its "clear, accurate, comfortable" light, the one that'll let me see "with amazing clarity". It might have to perch on top of my printer because my desk is tiny and I don't see me suddenly becoming an organizational wonder anytime soon, but I'm glad to have it.

So-Called Argyle Socks

Thanks for all the nice comments! The pattern is a lot of fun to knit, though it grows pretty slowly.

Laura said:

The yarn is great -- do they make Baby Ull in that gorgeous red?

Which totally cracked me up - boy, do you guys have my number. Yes, I love Baby Ull (and it actually does come in a bunch of vivid, grown-up colors and not just insipid pastels), but I wanted something tightly spun, with a little more stitch definition for these. Which brings me to what Jess said:

What yarn are you using? It's got great stitch definition

It's Meilenweit Cotton, a cotton blend sock yarn from Lana Grossa. I bought it ages ago for the Austrian Knee Socks, but cannibalized them for this project. I might get back to those someday; we'll see.

For everyone who asked whether this is from a chart or my own - I did chart this out for myself, though I'm sure the idea's not very new. I started with plain purl blocks and moss stitch blocks, but the rhythm of the cable crosses meant that some blocks are odd-numbered and others even, which is very noticable in moss stitch. I like the twisted lines even better - and, to answer the topic Purly brought up, they pretty much act like 1x1 rib, drawing the sock in. I'm hoping this means a supportive, hugging fit, with no droop.

Yes, there will be a pattern. Yes, it will be free. It might wait until after the Olympics, but I'd be delighted to share this with you guys.

Speaking of patterns, the larger sizes for the Deep V Vest are on the way - very, very soon, I promise. I'm just double-checking the math now, and should have them up tomorrow night - thank you so much for your patience.

February 05, 2006

Taken

Now, then -

What does the pattern on these socks put you in mind of?

I'm a little bit obsessed with argyle lately, can you tell? I love the idea of argyle socks, love the graphic punch of them, love the morsel of nuttiness they can offer worn under a suit, but really don't love intarsia. I really, really, really don't love intarsia. Some people are brilliant at it, but I...I start to hate myself the second I start winding bobbins.

So, a simple, subtle, gotta-look-twice version, done entirely with twisted stitches and traveling lines. We'll see how it looks on the foot, but I'm liking it right now.

Thanks for all the comments, supportive and otherwise, on Frost Flowers. I'm nuts, yes, but I'm not going to be too hard on myself if I don't finish - this is just kind of a fun "what if"; just to see if I could. Hobbies should be fun, not sources of self-loathing, right? Right. Well, maybe. Well, probably. But it should at least be amusing to watch!

That said - I'm getting really excited. I've decided on a dark red, sort of a juicy, delicious raspberry cordial kind of color - deep and clear and thirst-quenching just to look at. The mystery dyer who did such a beautiful job with that steely blue wool/silk Grumperina's Leaf Lace Shawl is doing some silk for me - huzzah! I can't wait to have it in my hot little hands.

February 02, 2006

Pattern: Deep V Argyle Vest

**this will be stickied for a couple days - scroll down past this entry for 2/2/06's entry**

**UPDATE 2/1/06 - Automatic downloads through Payloadz have been set up. Click, purchase, download, print. Easy as pie.**

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Took long enough, didn't it? Hopefully, it's worth it - there a lot of information here, presented in a package I'm pretty proud of.

The Deep V Argyle Sweater Vest, perfect for mild-mannered supergirl alter-egos. Best accessorized with a healthy dash of irony, or a complete lack thereof.

Includes detailed, diagrammed instructions for crocheted steeks, full written instructions, and full-garment charts for each size. All the information needed to make this a successful first colorwork and/or steeking project is included here in exhaustive detail.

Bust sizes: 32" (34", 36", 38", 40", 42", 44", 46", 48", 50", 52", 54")

Finished bust measurements: 32" (34", 36", 38", 40", 42", 44", 46", 48", 50", 52", 54")

Finished length: 21.5" (22", 22.5", 23", 23.5", 24")

16 pages, 3.5MB. Adobe PDF compatible with Acrobat 5.0 and newer.

$5.25




I'm working on setting up an automatic download system, but patterns will be emailed individually for now. I promise to get it to you as quickly as humanly possible (within a few minutes, during East Coast business hours). ***IMPORTANT NOTE: The pattern is quite a large file, at 3.5MBs. Please make sure your mail client is able to receive files of that size, and your internet connection able to handle it. If you are unable to have the pattern delivered through email, you may wish to wait until automatic downloads are set up (in the next two days).

2/1/06 - Automatic downloads through Payloadz enabled.

Now - to get caught up with everything else!

Sample images from this pattern:

Pumped

So, this obscure Canadian blogger, whose name I can't seem to remember just this minute (Fiber Tart? Wool Strumpet? Something like that), has come up with a fun play-along-at-home game for knitters. You're to cast on for a project during the opening ceremonies of the Torino Olympics, and push yourself to finish before the games are over. It's a cute idea, but really, nobody reads her (what IS her name? Thread Trollop?), and I'm worried that no one will sign up and it'll never get off the ground. Too bad, because it seems like it would be fun.

Heh. Did I fool you? I'm talking, of course, about the inimitable Yarn Harlot, and the fearsmomely popular Knitting Olympics she's got going. I'm a bit late to the game, but I joined today - my goal will be to knit this lovely thing.

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This is Frost Flowers and Leaves, from Meg Swansens' collection A Gathering Of Lace. I wish a better picture, which included a good shot of the motifs, was available, but this will have to do - I searched for finished shawls, but my sorely lacking Google Blogsearch skills failed me. I just remembered - Tia finished a gorgeous one in July! You can really see the beautiful center pattern in her photo.

You know the drill - I'm going to downsize the Hee-YUGE piece with My Favorite Cobwebweight Lace Yarn (Merino Oro, of course) and smaller needles, maybe something like 2.25 or 2mms. I'm thinking a dusty rose color - or maybe, if I'm feeling nutty the day I buy it, a deep claret shade. Would be fun to wear with black pinstripes, yes?

I do anticipate this being a challenge. I'm guesstimating that it will take the same number of stitches as, say, the Fir Cone Square, which I finished in exactly 14 days, but the lace pattern is a lot more interesting for Frost Flowers. Where the Fir Cone had a center square with a simple, small, repetitive pattern that took all of three days to finish, this one looks to be a larger, more complex pattern from the start, which will be harder to memorize and impossible to knit on autopilot.

Insanity is totally underrated.

Right now, I'm knitting this:

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It doesn't look like much, now, but the chart I'm drawing as I knit goes on to great things. Well, maybe. I don't know yet. We'll see when there's a little more substance to judge.

More Deep V Pattern Notes

My continuing thanks to everyone who's purchased or is considering buying the pattern, and to everyone who's said nice things about it. A couple quick things:

  • There has been some demand for the pattern in larger sizes. I'm drawing the charts tonight for 44", 46", 48" and 50" busts, and they will be available as a seperate file included with any further purchases. If you've already bought and received your pattern, but you'd like the extra file, just let me know and I'll be happy to email you the download information. Please give me a day or so, though - I don't use any software to put these together; it's just me and my calculator and my graph paper (well, the graph paper is in PhotoShop, but still). Thanks for your patience.
  • Everyone who has purchased a pattern should, one way or another, have it in their hands by now. Please let me know if you don't, and I'll remedy the situation right away.

Thanks again!

February 01, 2006

FAQ

Wow. I'm amazed by the response I've already gotten - thank you so much!

On to some clarifications and question answers -

I paid you - now where's my pattern, huh? HUH??

First, thanks for your order! If it's been an hour or so and you still don't have the pattern, one of several things might be going on:

1) Are you checking the right box? Unless you send a seperate email directing otherwise, the pattern is sent to the email address you gave PayPal.

2) Are you using a free mail service, like Hotmail or Yahoo? Receipt of such a large file seems to be pretty hit-and-miss with these providers. If you have another email address, please send me a new message with the alternate email and the address you used to purchase. I will resend another pattern right away. If you do not have another address, please send me a message to that effect, and I'll direct you to a download link for one-time use.

3) Did you pay using an eCheck? Delivery will be held until the payment clears (within 4 business days, says PayPal). Please be patient - thanks!

You're always welcome to send me an email asking where your pattern is. I believe (crossing my fingers here) that I'm caught up with everything purchased through 30 minutes or so ago - please let me know through email if you bought before then but haven't yet received the file. One way or another, I'll get the pattern to you with speed and my apologies for the delay. Thanks for your patience.

It says you're unverified. Can I trust you?

I like to think so. I set up this PayPal merchant account only yesterday, and haven't yet had the time to go through their verification process. Rest assured that PayPal is secure - besides, you know where I live (on the internet, anyway). Feel free to publicly blast me if you feel you've been ripped off.

All this seems pretty disorganized and shady. What's up?

I'm still trying to iron out the wrinkles in the system. In the very near future, I'll be setting up a quick, painless auto download system for immediate delivery, as well as a new storefront area of the site with FAQs, erratum as it comes, and tech help. Please bear with me - I absolutely respect that you want to get what you pay for.

This pattern sucks/is overpriced/is hard to read/won't print properly/is confusing!

Leave a comment or send me an email to that effect - I'm always looking to improve, clarify, tweak, re-release, do better.



TO BUY

GRATIS