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June 30, 2006

Sneak Peek

In the elder days of Art
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part,
For the Gods see everywhere.

Longfellow must have, had to have, knit Fair Isle.

Patterns

There has been some curiosity, lately, as to if/when patterns will be published for the things you see in progress on the site. I think it's safe to say that one way or another, sooner or later, they'll all be available - some of them, like the sock patterns and some sweaters, will be self-published, some are magazine projects, and others will be saved for the book.

I promise, I'm not trying to be infuriatingly vague on purpose! It's just that things are so hectic, and I swear, knitting isn't the only thing going on in my life :) Someday, someday.

June 27, 2006

Seg? Way.

It's been a long few days.

Friends of ours were wed this weekend, and the days surrounding the wedding are a little hazy - a whirl of last-minute this and oh-God-don't-forget that, shopping and hair and tailors, cigars and blown circuits and enough Red Bull to sink the Spanish Armada. And then the long, slow convalescence - if there is any fundamental tenet of faith in my world, it's this: excess is generally to be frowned upon, but you can never have too much late-era Elvis, too much barbeque, or too much Moet.

You can. The next few days will bring moaning-till-noon regret.

Anyway, it was a beautiful wedding on a lush lawn lapped at by the high-tide Bay, ships in the distance and sailboats passing by. Low thunder far away, lightning striking along the horizon.

Oh, did I forget to mention it's been raining?

Yeah, it's a little wet around here. Mercifully, it held off during the ceremony, but the last 48 hours have seen nothing but steady, strong storms. Thunder in the morning. The Middle Patuxent foamed up and swallowed the bridge by Jeff's house, the water moving faster than the trees on the banks could stand up against. Flash flood warnings, washed-out back roads, spectacular in the sense that it has been quite a spectacle. I like a little rain, or even a lot of rain - but I miss blue sky. This kind of thing will make a girl sort of despondent.

Solution:

Koigu in the most delicious tealy blue, a little something to hang on to (side note: isn't it unfair that the solid Koigus don't get the "Painter's" designation? I can't imagine that this color wasn't the product of a painterly eye).

Which brings me to my next point: there hasn't been much knitting going on around here. The air is so full of moisture, it's like breathing through a sponge - even indoors, with heavyweight champion AC, the everything feels wet. It's just unpleasant to try to knit when your fingers are tacky and your bangs are everlastingly hanging, oily-feeling and frizzy, in the most inconvenient spot in front of your eyes. Maybe it's the general malaise, maybe it's just laziness, but I've abandoned my big in-the-round plans for the pink sweater and started knitting the top flat:

If anyone asks, it was a technical issue (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it). I like my seamless knits to have a little faux seam for structure and appearance - with most knits, I like a naturally-recessive purl column. In colorwork, it looks great - just a peek of background color in long lines. On a reverse-stockinette background, a purl stitch would be lost, of course - instead, I've been slipping one purled "seam" stitch with the yarn in front, which turns out to give a pretty fair imitation of gently-tensioned mattress sttich.

It looks good in the twisted-stitch section, not so great in the rib section:

And I'm sure that it would have looked terrible at the juncture of body and sleeve cap, where the vertical ribs of the body are met diagonally by the ribs of the sleeve. I couldn't think of another way to handle it, a way that would give a neat single stitch that recedes into the "join" but doesn't draw attention to itself, and was unwilling to do without. So there.

Does it feel like I've been knitting this thing forever? I'm ready to move on. If only this rain would stop!

June 21, 2006

Eine Kleine Sockmusik

Remember these?

Chuck's Cabled Socks - perfect for hearthside lounging, defense against cold floors, and for fending off the icy feet of significant others.

This pattern is packed with detailed technique information and tips for working, charts galore, and ridiculously detailed instructions.

One size, women's medium (8.5" leg circumference), with suggestions given for size alterations.

Yarn requirements: 2 50g balls fingering/sock weight yarn (180-200yds/50g) in background color; 2 50g balls in contrast color.

Skill group: This pattern is ideal for knitters already comfortable with two-color stranded knitting, both flat and in the round. Adventurous novices who are already comfortable with cables might be interested, too! You will need to be able to read and follow a chart and graft stitches to complete this project.

6 pages, 244KB. Adobe PDF compatible with Acrobat 5.0 and newer.

$3.95




At the rate I'm going, I guess I'll be caught up by...let's see...2015. Sigh.

Sample images from this pattern:

June 20, 2006

Creep

We're getting there.

Now all I need to do is join the sleeves to the body and finish knitting. That is, I need to work out the the armscye shaping, and the sleeve cap shaping, and, uh, figure out the whole set-in-sleeves-in-the-round thing.

I'm hoping it's a lot like knitting a seamless yoked sweater - hold underarm stitches for grafting, incorporate the sleeve stitches across, and then, to create the set-in sleeve, just make the appropriate decreases on either side of an imaginary seam line between body and sleeve cap. Right? Maybe. I hope so.

But anyway, I'm sort of delighted with the way this is coming together. This is a new experience for me - usually, I'm full of niggling doubts about this or that detail, or unhappy with the execution of something, or disgusted with the whole project before it's done - but this time around, everything just worked exactly the way I wanted it to, with a minimum of false starts and hair-rending and bitter, bitter tears. The rest of this post is going to sound horribly smug and self-satisfied, but I can't help it - this is the nicest kind of suprise.

I love my neat, prim little ribs along the sleeve increases:

And I love the sleeves themselves. Indeed, what dark heart beats in he who could not love sweet, elbow-skimming sleeves with a tiny little vent detail at the back of the arm?

The edgings here and at the neck slit were the one thing that gave me a little pause. I wanted something that would give a little structure to the edges, particularly along the neck - the neck is quite high, but deeply split, and I didn't want the corners to flop so much they allowed any more than a gentle curve framing a peek of skin. The usual non-curling work-as-you-go edges - moss and garter borders - were out because they didn't fit with the very clean look of the top portion. A hem, a la the sleeve vents on the Norwegian Jacket, would have been a good, sturdy solution - but I wanted to keep the knitting as fuss-free and simple as possible.

Grumperina and Anna to the rescue! I read Kathy's post on a clever little self-edging, and headed over to Anna's discussion of it for more information. What, ho! It's just a column of double-knit! Brilliantly simple, wonderfully appropriate for this project.

So, I've got a nice, tidy little tube of double-knit (or double-purled, I should say, for a reverse-stockinette tube) on either side of all my vents and slits, with a beginning and ending slipped knit stitch for a neat, clean selvedge.

It fits perfectly, almost invisibly with the body fabric, gives a nice bit of double-thickness structure to a seamless knit, and best of all - my numbers work perfectly within the stitch pattern. See how those facing knit stitches meet to form a new rib above the slit? See how the edges of the slit themselves continue into the reverse-stockinette background? Swoon.

Books

Thanks for all the good wishes! I'm very excited about both projects, and all the other things coming up - thanks again, and I'll be sure to keep everyone tuned.

June 16, 2006

Coming Clean

It's true that I don't put much of myself on this blog beyond the stuff on my needles. That's just a personal choice - my life is pretty boring, and I don't feel I could write about it in any way that would be as entertaining or amusing or compelling as what's out there already. But then, there's a lot to be said for the cameraderie of the knit blog universe, and I don't want to be That One Girl Who Never Shares But Only Listens And Smiles A Lot. So, here are the Cliff Notes:

  • I moved out at sixteen. I was a model student, a dutiful daughter, a good kid, and then a switch flipped all of a sudden and I turned into hell on wheels. I was stuck in a super high-pressure IB school, and it suddenly became as confining as a coffin - no reason, just because. I took an extra English credit over the summer, took all my AP tests, and got my HS and IB diplomas in the mail that August. There was a lot of adolescent self-righteousness then, the typical You Don't Understand Me and I'm Suffocating Here and Your Values Are Not My Values, and my parents finally let me go with fear in their hearts and grave expressions on their faces. Our relationship improved immediately.

  • I've worked in PR, in marketing, and as a technical writer since then. I've worked for tiny companies and contracted for huge ones, for startups and giant conglomerates. I lied about my age to get in the door for the first one, but it was never a problem after that.

  • I've had five apartments in seven years, all in the same 3-block radius around Dupont Circle in DC (except currently). I miss living in the city, desperately sometimes.

  • I've been freelancing for a couple years now. I wanted to write about food at first - the only thing I like more than knitting - but wasn't successful beyond a couple magazine pieces. It was the first real personal failure of my adult life, the first time I was told "No, that's not good enough", and hearing it over and over taught me more and was better for me than anything else that led up to it. Being broke was a new experience for me, too - not expecting a paycheck every week schooled me on a lot of things right quick.

  • I've found a little more success in writing about knitting. I've got some cool, increasingly steady magazine work - you'll see what I'm talking about in the next few months - and I've got two book projects in the works.

There, I said it - it's about time, huh? The first is a stitch dictionary with some interesting twists, out next fall from Quirk, and the second is a book of patterns and technique coming out in fall '08 from Interweave. It won't fit into that niche of blog-to-book - rather, it's a broader book of really exciting patterns, front-loaded with all the technique and history I love researching and writing about, a book that just happens to be written by a blogger. I'm delighted, absolutely thrilled, to be in business with them - they love Good Knitting as much as I do, and they'll produce exactly the kind of book I love, the sort of big, glossy, beautifully-designed and content-packed book I'd buy myself.

Thank you for reading this little corner of the Interweb, for all the support and encouragement every day. I never thought I would end up writing about knitting - I started this last summer only because I was going crazy with idleness - but this blog has become something comfortable, crowded with the thoughts and suggestions of inspiring and exciting and like-minded people, and that's precisely what encouraged me to go out and see what's what, the thing that spurred all this. It's been, and continues to be, a stretching exercise, forcing me to think and write and teach and learn every day - I hope you guys are enjoying the ride as much as I am.

June 15, 2006

Shocked

I'm ready to weep with astonishment and relief, it so nearly approaches what I had in my head:

That never happens. It was a fight, I'll tell you - plotting the shift from cable to rib over the curved point was squeezing blood from a particularly recalcitrant stone. Somehow, though all the crossings are going in their proper directions, and the right slope was maintained, and I ended with the right numer of stitches, and the ribs are distributed to create extra fullness in the places that need it most. It works, it's sweet-looking and well-behaved, it tap-dances along the line between function and form, and I'm enormously pleased with myself.

Now, if only I could remember what I did.

June 14, 2006

The Notebook

I have used, abused and junked a forest's worth of notebooks in the last few years. It is so helpful to keep a record of doodles and scratchings and experiments - if only for the usefulness of having a record of what doesn't work. Then, too, for a mind as depressingly disorganized as mine, having one book that houses everything - pattern notes, swatches, long-division scratch paper, grocery lists, business cards, aborted queries and ones to follow up on, invitations, agendas, receipts for filing, pop-up reminders to shower and eat - is easier than anything that requires maintenance and attention beyond grabbing a paperclip for that Very Important Phone Number-scribbled deposit slip.

I've tried lots of different systems before - bound books, spirals, the beautiful (and pricey) Circa system - but none has worked so well for me as the book I use now: 8.5"x11" squared paper (I favor a grid with 10 squares to the inch) cut in half, three-hole punched and slapped between two sheets of cardboard, with everything held together by 1.5" book clips. It expands to hold all my swatches (held with pronged metal bar fasteners) and extra bits and bobbles, allows for easy removal and replacement of loose sheets, and cost about $2.50 to put together. Perfect.

I've been thinking a lot lately about clever knits, wittily constructed, elegant in the mathematical sense of the word. Knits where adornment and structure exist in spite of each other, or at least without much thought for each other - cables or color just slapped onto a sweater without rhyme or reason - don't feel particularly satisfying to me just now; while the color and texture alone in, say, a Schweitzer or a Starmore are beautiful enough by themselves, a different kind of knitting appeals to me right now. I'm a huge admirer of Annie Modesitt, Norah Gaughan, Teva Durham, Kate Gilbert - women who really explore the ways stitches behave, capitalize on the way they twist or gather or use yarn, think up clean ways to make a detail happen, let the construction be its own ornament. Cleverness for its own sake isn't very clever at all, of course - but when beautiful, functional stuff comes out of it, it feels deeply, viscerally satiating to me. Twisted stitches that shape the waist, lace sleeves that mimic Italian cutwork, a giant ribbed cable that creates a bust cup, seamstress details of hem and vent bred with knitterly saddle shoulders and raglan seams - these are the things bouncing around in my brain.

June 13, 2006

Tidbits

I had a long post for today on how I go about planning a sweater, from doodle to swatch to FO - but it's closing on 4:30 all of a sudden, and there are a thousand things left to do yet that all seem to need doing right! This! Second! So, just for fun:

This is what I called a Dutch coronet - "Dutch" refers to the style of braid (strands cross under each other and make the braid stand out in relief, as opposed to a flat French braid), and "coronet" refers to it looking, well, like a small, tight crown. I've seen it called a crown braid, a Heidi braid, all kinds of things - in any case, done tightly on slightly damp hair, it's clean and neat and sturdy enough to last all day. I like it for sports because it keeps the hair out of my face, and leaves no tail to whip around into my eyes or tangle in equipment - helpful when being pulled around behind a boat at 30mph, or doing rescue diver drills 90 feet under.

Here's an excellent set of instructions on how to do it, though it's a lot more complicated than the way I go about it - I start above one ear, go across the top of my head and back around, taking in new hair from the outside edge only. I then tuck the tail under the outer edge of the braid and hide it with one or two carefully-placed pins. Voila - my crazy mane of unruly hair cowed into submission for a few hours.

Yarn for sale

I don't really have any stash to speak of, so I've never felt the need to do this before - but I know for a mortal certainty that I will never, ever use this yarn and would rather send it to someone who will. It's Dale Stork in a bright blue and a nice cream. I was planning on using it in a nautical-stripe type thing, but the color isn't particularly flattering to me - it seemed fresh and summery in the store, but each successive peek into the bag on the way home showed the color as brighter and brighter, and uglier and uglier against my skin. So:

6 balls Dale of Norway Stork
100% Egyptian Cotton
50 grams/180 meters per ball
28 sts/30 rows to 10 cm

4 balls color 35, dye lot 0060 (bright blue), 2 balls color 2, dye lot 0180 (cream)

$4.50 each (retail $5.00-$5.25)

If sold as a lot (my preference), I'll throw in USPS priority shipping free.

The blue is very bright - the color in the photo is (believe it or not) true on my monitor, but you might like to check out the color card at Yarndex. Or, click here: hex value #33CCFF is very close to this yarn, in all its Caribbean glory. It doesn't work for what I had planned, but it might work perfectly for you.

Email me to purchase. Paypal only, please.

Sold!

June 12, 2006

Bonnie

Yes indeed, that twisted-stitch sweater had its origins in a costume for 1967's Bonnie and Clyde. I happened across it again on cable - snap, snap, click went the synapses.

The idea of a sweater with integrated waist shaping was really appealing to me - I love knits that capitalize on stitch behavior to create shape or interest, where construction and adornment work together rather than in spite of each other.

From that jumping-off point - inserting cables into a plain fabric to give shape - I've gone through several iterations, to get here:

for more of a true 30's feel. Of course, the shape will be a lot softer in a knit than in a pieced and seamed gown, but the feeling is there - with very plain, elbow length sleeves and a deeply split boatneck thrown in to keep the thing fresh and up-to-date, not costumey. The tight waist area had to be started over:

Now I've got Saxon braids, twined into and around each other. The work is patterned on every round - tedious and rather slow to grow (8 stitches and 10.25 rows to the inch!) but the effect is very lovely and delicate, almost filigree-like.

June 10, 2006

Thanks for the nice comments. Thanks, too, for the nasty, sniping blog entries, sweetly condescending anonymous comments, and unbelievably vituperative emails from invalid addresses.

The disposable, over-casual aspects of our culture aren't appealing to me for a lot of reasons, most of them not related to aesthetics. On one of the shallower levels, I was going for outrageous hyperbole to make a point about why and how I knit - amusing content for my blog, I thought. The assumptions being made are sort of astonishing to me - I never said a word about brands, about demanding luxury, about what I myself actually wear or what I think of you because of what you're wearing. I was talking about my own self, and myself only, just thinking out loud about how I'd like to always be dressed, in a perfect world where I'm also not 15 minutes late, losing my keys, getting rejection letters, regretting that last beer, crashing on deadlines, setting the microwave on fire, falling flat on my face.

I thought it was pretty clear, myself, but I can see that I might have come across as strident - fair enough, since this blog provides no information about me other than that I like to knit. Not enough for context, and probably not enough for censure, either.

**I'm going to be a real ogre now, and ask all the wonderful people out there to hold off on supportive comments for this entry. I hate doing this kind of thing to begin with, and especially don't want to come across as fishing for compliments. Thanks.**

June 08, 2006

Graceful

I have decided to resign myself to being hopelessly fusty and old-fashioned in a lot of ways. I read Faulkner at the beach, not Dan Brown; I plait my hair into a Dutch coronet to keep it out of my way when wakeboarding; I really do think television will be the death of us all.

Clothes? It's depressing, really - I dislike showy cleavage, flip-flops, very bright colors, sloppiness, things cheaply made and cheaply worn, and at the same time despise ostentation in any form. The fact that camisoles are no longer underwear is mystifying to me, and I hate that dark jeans and heels are considered fine for going out. It's not an issue of personal taste - it's that I find all those things vulgar. Shades of your grandmother, eh? Find me another 23-year-old who uses the words common and indecent. It's sort of pathetic.

I don't care. I do love the clothes of the 40's and 50's, carefully made and worn with grace. You'll notice that I am conveniently skipping by issues of gender roles and socioeconomic status and trapped domesticity associated with nipped waists and exaggerated silhouettes - I'm just saying, on an aesthetic level, clean, decorous, ladylike clothes are very appealing to me. I'll take sharp, unmussed lines over crazy hemlines and "distressed" finishes and messy adorning frippery (there's another one - does anyone even say "frippery" but me?) any day.

Anyway, now that I've alienated everyone, here's what I've been working on, lately, in spare moments:

The blue is going to be a lacy pullover with short sleeves and a light shawl collar; the pink a cool cotton boatneck with elbow-length sleeves, nipped in at the waist with a few rows of cables.

The lace pullover is in Phildar Crochet Cotton on 3.25mm needles, knit flat and seamed - garments of allover lace beg for seams, I think, for stability - and the ribbed boatneck is of Brown Sheep Cotton Fine, on 2.75mm needles. I'm knitting the body circularly, and think I might knit the set-in sleeves in the round with it for a one-piece seamless sweater - I've never seen the Meg Swanson article that describes the technique, but I'm pretty sure I know how it's done. Both are shorter than I usually plan for sweaters, and both show the true waist - sweet, summery, vaguely vintage-y sweaters to aid in my silent crusade against cheek-revealing ruffled miniskirts and pajama bottoms and spaghetti straps.

Edit: In all this, I mean for myself. Obviously.

Re: the Norwegian Jacket - thanks for all the tips on handling the shoulder join. I need to think on it - I might end up re-knitting the sleeve to align the major elements at the same vertical point, as per the excellent advice so many of you offered (it's only a half-inch difference or so now, but it's awful to my eye). In response to another common point - I like the oatmeal. A lot. I think the disconnect here is that people are expecting to see your standard Norwegian sweater, in jacket form - with a band of pattern at hem and cuff and neckline, or maybe a lice pattern up to the ribcage, or patterning only on the yoke. The color pattern and historical garment were only a jumping-off point; now, I think it's a jacket that happens to be knitted. The very plain bottom is different and fresh and much needed, I think. It might be bad design - I can hear people saying it visually cuts in two, that it will emphasize the thickest part of the waist, that it's unflattering - but I like the way it looks on me.

Re: everything else - thanks for being patient, you guys, though updates have been sporadic and I'm ridiculously behind on promised columns and I haven't commented on anyone else's blog for ages. Things are crazy, yes, but they're exciting, too, and I can't wait to get into more detail about 'em.

June 01, 2006

Remiss

I know I'm behind - I owe emails and posts and comments and all kinds of other things to all kinds of people. I've been crashing on some work deadlines; tragically, when the choice is between blogging and, well, eating, my hand is forced to indulge the flesh first.

Anyway -

Slowly but surely, it's coming together. I'm quite pleased with it; the only thing I don't feel good about is the inability to match the pattern across sleeve cap and body. I don't sew, so I don't know how that kind of thing is generally handled, but I just don't see any way to get a large-scale pattern with a large, clear diagonal to match between a straight edge (armscye) and a bell-curved one (sleeve cap). Would it look better with a line of gold at the join, as at the base of the collar? Or should I just get over it already, so I can be done with this project, this albatross, this millstone?

A fun suprise later today - cross my heart, hope to die, needle in my eye, etc etc.

Edit: looking at the photo, I realize that I pinned the sleeve to the wrong side for the shoot. The slit should fall at the outside wrist, not inside - where is my brain lately?



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