January 09, 2006

Make it stop

I broke.

Yes, it's true - I ended up screeching into the Babies R Us parking lot, printing out the registry information, and picking out a gift, all thirty minutes before the shower. What have I become? I wrestled a heavily pregnant woman for a bluebird mobile. I cursed in front of a toddler. For God's sake, I USED THE STORE WRAPPING PAPER! Clearly, my soul is a blackened, shriveled twist of tissue.

I'll give her the sweater when the baby is born - the thrill of twenty women with spatula-slathered makeup and claws filed to points oohing and ahhing and secretly thinking that I'm cheap for not just buying the same thing from Baby Abercrombie and Fitch is just something I guess I'll have to go without. Thanks for the commiseration, though :)

I think that I perhaps didn't explain very clearly what the problem was. Tallguy says:

OMG!! What went wrong? There is no need to rip anything -- there is always a way to fix it.

Why didn't you like the steeks? Too much bulk you say? Then you did something not quite correct in that case. There should be no bulk at all! And heavens, no! You don't have to weave in all those ends! This needs more work; I'll have to get back to you on this.

Hmm. I don't think I did anything "wrong", exactly. There are several traditional variants on the steek, all of which form a bridge of waste stitches where holes should be so the knitting can later be cut. I suppose the major division lies between steeks where the waste stitches are kept as a strip of knitted fabric, and steeks where the waste stitches are dropped or unraveled. The nitty-gritty of cutting between or through stitches, how many stitches wide, stabilizing techniques, and "finishing" techniques don't really matter - I think those variables are usually determined more by preference and comfort and habit than anything else.

This first time around, I used the first technique - the steek people are most familiar with, with an alternate-stitch seeded pattern and a background color edge stitch on either side. Everything was fine until I went to pick up the sleeve stitches - to up the utility of the garment, I'd constructed the shoulders with about an inch of front/back overlap. The overlapping portions of the front and back tapered to a point, meaning that, when folded into position, the neck facings and shoulder facings of each side also overlapped. When the front and back of the shoulder were put together and joined, six layers of fabric came together.

To tell the truth, I didn't like the feeling of the facings, even at a single thickness around the armhole, for a baby garment - they just provide too much bulk for such a wee little sweater. For me, it's a proportion an adult's garment, a facing is unobtrusive, even pleasingly stable. In a baby garment, the facing seems too stiff for the delicacy of the piece.

So, the Baby Fair Isle v.1.2 employed the principle behind the wound steek. I think the usual wound steek - where the yarn is wrapped around the needle x times, dropped and wrapped anew the next row, creating a ladder as you work - is messy and sort of unwieldly. To keep things compact, I just knitted bridges of ten stitches with both colors carried together and dropped steek stitches rather than binding off.

I put the single shoulder stitches on safety pins, and cut my steeks.

Then, I just dropped each steek row to get a bush of 2" tails - two for every row.

I know it seems counterintuitive - for many people, a big attraction of the steek is the way it eliminates fussing with ends - but you're suppposed to weave in each and every tail with a wound steek. I braid mine instead - it's the same concept as a french braid, but incorporate new strands only on one side of the work and drop old strands as you go, keeping each part of the braid to four strands of yarn. Trim the ends close, and you have a narrow, flexible, delicate cord running down the selvedge - it even naturally turns back onto the wrong side of the work, just as a facing would, to cover picked-up stitches.

So, that was the problem and the solution. That, and the baby shower was at 1pm and I was writing at 3am. Oh, that we didn't need to sleep :)


Keridiana linked to another version of the Print O' The Wave stitch, and asked me what the difference is. I haven't knit a swatch, but reading the chart, it appears that the major difference is simply that each finger is a stitch wider and a pattern row taller. It's a very old pattern, with lots o' variants floating around (har har har!) - I charted mine using a couple different images I'd seen, and then downscaled it to work with the planned delicacy of the piece.

Constests and such - I'm always the last to know about anything :) Thanks for participating, and for the lovely things you've said. These things seem to be a lot of fun, and it IS kind of cool to have won - in absentia, no less. I think the best part is seeing my name up there with the other winners and nominees - really amazing bloggers, one and all. Thanks!

January 07, 2006

Absolut Dementia

Did you have a nice New Year's Eve/Day?

I did.

It was great to come back to all those sweet comments - warm and fuzzy-like, even for someone (like me) not prone to warmth-and-fuzziness. You guys are great.

I wish I had the underwater photos right now, but my version of Photoshop (silicon-dated to the late Neolithic age) doesn't support the ORF format we did scuba snaps with. Take my word (for now, anyway) that the diving was great.

On the surface, I knit and knit and knit and knit and knit (what's the past tense of "to knit", anyway? "I knitted"? "I knit"?).

I steeked at armholes and neck,

I did my neck shaping with decreases leaning towards the steeks to cleverly maintain pattern continuity,

I carefully unknotted all my ends:

and adjusted start-of-round tension to make the jog noticable only as an interruption of pattern before weaving tails.

I hand sewed the steeks because I didn't have access to a sewing machine (and because I think machine sewing and knit fabric don't mix, period), and sliced away

and then I picked up and knit the ribbed edging along the top edges of front and back.

I was immensely pleased with myself for working out the shoulder overlap just right....

until - thud. There was no way it would have worked; terrible planning on my part (suprise!). The steeks made the fabric six layers thick at the lapped portion of the shoulder - neck steek, armhole steek, and knitted fabric for both front and back, stacked and folded and crammed and wrestled with to be able to pick up sleeve stitches through all layers. Ugly, bulky, thick and awkward - ixnay.

Besides, once it was knitted up - and this is a thing I've found to be true with nearly all my so-called "designs", despite competently-laid plans and plenty of thought - the proportions just looked wrong. It needed to be shorter below the armhole and longer above, and narrower all around. I decided that simply splitting the work at the armhole and working back and forth would be the simplest solution.

This morning, on the way to the airport, I started knitting again.

I knit while waiting an unexpected hour for our delayed flight,

I knit during the safety brief,

I learned to purl with two-handed Fair Isle while the kid behind me rehearsed for her Riverdance audition on my seatback and prepped for the World's Screamiest Six-Year-Old competition.

Now I have a piece with a completed up to the armhole and all the way up the front. Unfortunately, the tension is all wonky on my purl rows - I really need to knit my Fair Isle circularly to keep things even until I have a little more practice. Maybe wound steeks, with the ends unraveled and woven on each round, are the answer?

This baby shower starts in ten hours. What to do, what to do?

December 31, 2005


Well, thar she be:

Stacks of patterns 1 a and 2 b, alternating the pattern gradient direction every other row. I'm liking it, I think.

Then, too, I've tweaked the colorbox to try and help the patterns read better. The rule of thumb, I suppose, is that FI motifs must be light on dark, or dark on light for the pattern to pop - I've cut out the lightest blue (background) yarn, and have added a very deep navy, making the background color transition fairly smooth within a very dark spectrum and making the pink pattern look a bit more coherent by contrast.

Heaps of thanks to everyone who weighed in on this and on the button question. I'm thinking that I'll go with the overlapping-shoulder style described by several of you (perfect, since I detest buttonhole math) - if the garmet were laid flat, would this be about right?

December 29, 2005


Re: Joe's party - you guys are great. Thanks to the people who nominated me, and to everyone who's just a fun little bit of frivolity, but it sure is nice to know that people are enjoying this corner of the in-ter-web.

Re: the cloche - the one I felted today was an unmitigated disaster, so much so that I didn't have the heart to take a photo of it tonight. I know exactly what I did wrong, though, and will get started on another one soon - it's awful hard to play Scott and Zelda without one.

Re: the baby Fair Isle - the paper planning is DONE.

The math works out perfectly, horizontally and vertically, repeat-wise and gauge-wise, shaping-wise and armscye-wise. I need some opinions, though, from all you insightful knitters, you:

Pattern 1

(a) (b)

Pattern 2

(a) (b)

These are the two border patterns I've decided on, and the color combinations I picture them in. I want to keep the continuity going by keeping the blues background and the pinks pattern, but I'm having a tough time deciding the gradient direction. Right now, I guess I'm leaning towards 1a and 2b, but I'd love to hear your advice.

By the way, the color accuracy here is pathetic - the true colors are more like this:

(that would be number 2b).

The other issue concerns my lack of comprehensive peanut-related experience. How do people wrestle their babies into clothes? I was thinking at first that I'd do this:

with buttonholes at the left shoulder and all along the left arm, but it occurs to me that this might be cooler-looking than it is functional. Pullovers, even cool split-neck pullovers, probably aren't ideal for months 0-6, right, or at least until the kid can hold her head up on her own, yes? Would one of these make more sense?

The only options that I can think of are to have closures at the side and up a raglan seam, or to just make a cardigan (not preferred). Those of you in the know - which of these would be LEAST likely to make you roll your eyes and think, "a cluelessly childless person conceived this"?

Pun not intended.

Okay, I lied, the pun was intended.

December 09, 2005


Baby Fair Isle colors:

We'll see how all this works out.

And don't think that I haven't been busy working on other things -

That's the first 17 repeats of the Print O' The Wave scarf, stretched for a little mid-morning preen. I love the fabric, I love the lacyness, I love the pattern - it is, however, a bit shorter than I expected. 20 inches for 17 repeats, when it should be at least 22"...there's some thinking that has to be done here. I've been obsessing over border and edging choices, like staring-at-the-ceiling-before-falling-asleep and dreaming-violent-dreams-involving-YOs-and-tatting-shuttles kind of obsessing, with the result of wishing that I'd just started with a plain garter stitch border and worked it straight.

Ah, well. The original plan has been slightly modified to include 20 or 25 repeats (depending on whether the length is livable), working the other half, grafting them so the waves flow away and down from the shoulders on either side, picking up the border and working it, and finally knitting on the edging. I'm thinking of a very simple frame of lace mesh for the border (is that the right way to describe it? You know, like where every other row is just "YO, k2tog, YO, k2tog" and it makes a fishnet kind of thing) and then a variant on English lace for the edging.

The thing is, I want the edging and the border to be unobtrusive (the better to showcase the center panel), but not so blunt and plain that they appear incongrous or - worst of all - clumsy and thoughtless. I'm worried, too, about the shape of the thing - am I knitting a scarf, which should be quite long, or a stole, which is wider and may possibly be okay being a bit shorter, or a little neckwarmer piece like the Fiddlesticks Whisper Scarves? Gah! Let the hand-wringing begin.

December 08, 2005


I'm overwhelmed by the number of sweet comments on the bag - thank you! A (spottily) illustrated guide to finishing a bag the way I did follows:

Instead of knitting the side panels straight, I decreased to make a sharply sloping piece - I picked up the directed number of stitches, and decreased one at either edge on the fifth row and every fourth row thereafter for 61 rows. I did knit a hem of five rows, and sewed it down.

After felting, I blocked the piece over a padded portfolio that happened to be just the right size and shape. The first time (pictured above), I didn't get everything perfectly, and ended up reblocking it later to straighten seams and pull out irregularities. For such a structured bag, it's worth it to get the shape exactly right.

I cut four pieces of heaviest-duty craft interfacing

and quickly whipstitched them into place.

Then, you need one of these things - a spring punch fitted with a 1/16" (00) tip - to make holes that run the entire length of a 72-inch leather strap.

I sourced the strap and the tools from Tandy Leather, a huge retailer with lots of stores as well as an enormous mail-order and internet operation. The troll-ish little man who sold me my wares tried to insist that I also purchase a groover, for marking the stitching line, as well as an overstitch wheel for marking the hole locations, but I (apparantly) commited leatherwork heresy and just eyeballed it for the short length I had to do.

The strap itself is just a 3/4" (that's the width of the buckle it takes; the actual strap is about an eighth of an inch narrower) strip of 6-ounce latigo leather. Punching the holes is really easy (and strangely satisfying), though it certainly takes time.

I sewed the two ends together to make one long loop, laid it out this way:

and put the bag on top, to get an idea of where the handles should begin and end, where the straps would turn the corners, and where the feet should go.

I psuedo-rolled the portions I'd marked off as handles:

Rolled handles are typically done with MUCH thinner hide, wrapped around a core of cotton piping or the like and sewn with a machine. I just saddle-stitched the two sides together, pulled as tightly as I could, and forced the center into a round shape. It would have been a lot easier with a clamp of some kind, but I rigged up a system with a pair of pliers and rags wrapped around my hands to protect them from the waxed linen thread. It worked tolerably well, even if I did look like some kind of deranged, leprous little match girl.

Here's the hardware I used:

Two-part magnetic clasps from JoAnn, and nickel 1/4" round spots from Tandy. Both are the simple-installation type with prongs that just need to be inserted into two tiny slits and bent over to secure.

I attached four spots for feet in the places I'd measured, and sewed the strap to the bag body using a simple backstitch. I basted in a guide of contrast thread, first, in the exact place I wanted the outside edge of the strap to run:

To sew through the interfacing without resorting to a pair of pliers, you really need a glover's needle, or some other kind of needle with a sharp, wide point. During strap installation, I tried to focus on the consistency of my stitches - I wanted to pull the thread tightly enough that it sunk into the leather a little, but not enough to pucker it or the felt. Even with concentration, I found that the bag was a little shorter along the sewing line - about 1/4" - than anywhere else. That was fine - just sturdier, as far as I was concerned - but I did make a point to sew in the same direction (bottom midpoint to top edge) for all eight seams (two for each strap), to keep any and all gathering going in the same direction rather than pulling in opposition.

This is the inside of the bag after it was done:

Now, I'd originally intended to add interfacing just once - the point was to give stiffness to the felt and to make it a little tougher for seaming - but I found that the felt kind of rippled and puckered where things had been pulled slightly out of joint by my imperfectly tensioned sewing. I cut out the interfacing on the wide panels, leaving only the strips where it was sewn into place, and added new, better fitting panels.

I made my closing flap, and put in my magnets:

The flap (not pictured) was made of a small piece felted along with the bag - fifteen stitches wide by thirty or so rows, worked with two stitches of moss stitch at either edge to prevent curling. I took a snip of lining fabric, wrapped it around a piece of interfacing cut to be just a little smaller than the felt, and installed the male magnet to it. Then, the piece was machine-sewn to the felt rectangle, and the whole thing backstitched to the back of the bag with more waxed linen.

Almost done now! I'd skipped the bottom facing, so I made a cardboard bottom insert with a piece of extra-heavy chipboard, cut just large enough that it would fit tightly into the bottom. I covered it with interfacing:

And stuck it in. It was amazing, how it seemed to square everything that was a little bit cockeyed, and made the whole thing seem straighter and more solid all at once.

I figured out the shape of my lining:

Cut all my pieces:

Made a zippered pocket with the help of this clever little tutorial, and whipstitched the completed lining to the bag. It's kind of a clumsy solution, but I didn't see any other way to do it. The thread sinks into the felt, and closely matches the lining fabric, so it's not too clumsy. The lining is a little bit too big in the bottom (enough to bunch a bit in the corners), but it fits absolutely perfectly at the top, so I'm happy.

Things I learned from this project:

  • I loathe pictoral intarsia. Blocks of color are fine - even argyle patterns can be fun - but I hate, despise, abhor this garbage about cutting a new length for three stupid stitches five over from a block of the same color; I dislike not being able to easily estimate how much thread you need; I detest the general sloppy and imprecise nature of it. I would never do a project like this that wasn't felted to hide gauge problems.
  • working with leather is probably a lot of fun...if you have the right tools. Then again, working with leather probably isn't ALL that much fun, judging from the staff at the store - hotboxing Bronco 120s inside a teeny, cramped, stuffy little storefront and laughing immoderately at the poor guy who sliced his hand up trying to follow their instructions
  • sewing is not for clumsy people; neither is ironing

It was worth it, though. I think.

Oh - I'd forgotten - I received my invitation for the shower that the Baby Fair Isle was meant for. I've learned a lot about Fair Isle since I stopped working on it, and the sloppy math of the original design kind of annoys me now - no big deal, right? I'll refine it, and be glad that there isn't much actual knitting involved. Except, uh, the shower's on the seventh of January, and I get back from a week of diving in Puerto Rico late on the sixth. Crap! Preemptive yarn-ing today, and hopefully I can get it done in the week after Christmas.

October 12, 2005


A Play In Two Acts

Cast of Characters

The Baby Fair Isle------A shower gift.
The Circular Shrug-----An experiment.
Dad's Gansey----------The martyr.
The Lace Scarf---------The lucky one.
Martha---------------The good girl.
The Rib and Cable Sock-A filler.
The Striped Sock-------A second filler.
The Sweater Jacket-----The vixen.
Eunny----------------------The narrator.

Act The First

(Lights come up)

Eunny: There are things I ought to be knitting. There's the shower gift for January, the one that started fine but looked all wonky and had to be restarted.

(enter The Baby Fair Isle)

There's sweet, lovely Martha, who I loved briefly and then chucked without a tear or a kind word.

(enter Martha, the Good Girl)

And there's Dad's gansey - the long-suffering sweater for my sainted father, the WIP who's patiently borne my indiscretions and my straying ways, the one I'll come back to, the only one that means anything to me.

(enter The Martyr)

Act The Second

(Lights come up, this time in lurid red)

Eunny: Then there are the temptations, the things I want to knit, the things I covet and dream about and creep out doors at midnight to rendezvous with in seedy bars and nightclubs. The ones for whom I duck into yarn stores, the ones for whom I buy presents of materials, the ones I lavish time and attention on - the bright moths that captivate and then disappear, having flown too close to the flame.

I'm going to rip out that shrug and start again. It gives me no grief, no pause - after all, it's just an experiment, right?

(enter The Shrug)

And the socks - who cares? I'll knit them when I feel like it. They're just socks, a dime a dozen, they don't mean anything.

(enter The Socks)

That lace scarf? I'm done with her. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. Already forgotten; she was beautiful, but she was shallow and cold.

(The Lace Scarf enters, but remains at far stage right)

I've moved on.

(enter the Sweater Jacket)

I give up. I've tried and tried to reign myself in, but I just can't seem to control my appetites. I embrace my profligacy; I welcome licentiousness. Monogamy is for suckers.

September 14, 2005

You're gonna reap just what you sow




At least my plain stockinette looks halfway decent (though sweet fancy Moses, I'd forgotten how boring it is).

September 12, 2005

We have seen the enemy...

The body knitting for the baby fair isle is done:

It's misshapen and awkward-looking, pre-cutting. Speaking of which, I always end up thinking that steeks are so pretty, it's almost a shame to cut them.

But, heartless bitch that I am, I'll slice away. The most beautiful thing about steeking, really, is that it'll take a good many of these ugly, fringey, mind-numbingly numerous hanging ends

and zap! Neutralize the threat they pose, turning them into nothing more than pinned-down, defeated and limply dangling threads waiting for their date with the executioner - scissors at point-blank range. Muahaha! (Now, where'd I leave my monocle?)

September 09, 2005

I can't believe my luck.

I can't believe my luck.

In the late 60s, Time-Life books published a series of volumes encompassing the "Foods of the World". I remember we had a set in our house when I was a little kid (bought used then, too) - I'd sit and read these things as though they were novels. My mom gave them away at some point in the last twenty years.

I picked up four of them today for 50 cents each at a used booksale. Coming to them now, I'm all the more appreciative - they're dated, certainly, but they're meticulously researched, written by people with genuine fondness for the region they document, and contain absolutely rock-solid recipes for classics. The Classic French book is written by Craig Claiborne; the Provincial France volume by M. K. Fischer and edited by Julia Child. The prose is warm and gently instructive and the tiniest bit sentimental; the photos appear in lavish oversaturatred color.

Plus, I don't know if I've ever come across a more thorough cassoulet recipe. Combined with Judy Rogers' method for duck confit from her Zuni Cafe book, it might become a juggernaut in my winter kitchen.

I'm loving the baby sweater:

The knitting is much smoother in real life. This thing is just whizzing on US2 dpns - I've set the armhole steeks and am about 2 rows into the armhole shaping:

We'll see how all this works out. I'm just kind of making it up as I go along.

Got a few licks in on Dad's sweater, too:

September 08, 2005

So Ronery

I have only one project officially on the needles. How did that happen? I diligently bought yarn I didn't need; ogled magazines; leered at kits and needles and shop samples until my eyeballs dried up and fell out of their sockets. And yet the fact remains that Martha, bravely, is holding down the fort all alone. Swift corrective action must be taken now, and stronger precautionary measures in the future.

My dad needs a sweater, and his birthday is coming up. I'm thinking a gansey-style with an allover basketweave yoke rather than a multi-pattern.

Maybe a shawl collar; maybe a turtleneck with toggle closures or something.

And hooray! I finally cast on for the baby sweater I've been dying to really get nitty-gritty with:

After a couple false starts, I think I've found a colorway I can live with. I particularly like the winey red and the bright pink, and the way they really brighten the whole thing. I'm partly making the pattern as I go along and partly following the half-assed chart I drew last month.

And I'm really feeling smug about this one-handed fair isle method I've devised for myself (though I know lots of ethnic color knitting is traditionally done with one hand, and I know there are plenty of better knitters than I am who've espoused this method). I'm tensioning the two colors together over the pinky, holding the pattern color over the index finger, and holding the background color over the middle finger. Since I'm a picker to begin with, this is really comfortable, and best of all, fast. The balls never get tangled, you get into an over-under rhythm very quickly, and weaving the carried yarn in on every single blessed stitch is so easy, so simple, so devoid of extraneous movement (just knit, alternately, from above and from below the strand you wish to carry, and it's automatically caught!), that I'm dangerously close to weeping tears of joy.

No little kiddie fingers are getting caught in THIS sucker. Gold, Jerry, gold!

August 22, 2005

Jessica at Rose-Kim Knits has

Jessica at Rose-Kim Knits has sweetly added me to the Martha-along list, even though I'm six months late to the party. I went yarn shopping today:

I'm going to use Dale Stork, a soft 100% cotton, for this in a muted navy color. This stuff seems pretty lush so far - it contains no acrylic or animal fiber, but it's bouncy and very soft and not at all "stringy". While I was out, I also got some beads that might look good:">

And swatched my little heart out:

I pitched the iridescent black seeds beads and went with the sea green ones in front - I love the way the green glass looks against the dark blue, the way it subtly brings out the green in the yarn and keeps it from looking like denim. Wearing something embellished in this way is a bit of a stretch for me, but I already adore this...I think it's the juxtaposition of the very square stitch pattern and the very dainty adornments. To take the theme a little further, I'm thinking that I'm going to alter the neckline and add some more shaping to turn this into a fitted jacket:

It's such a dense, firm fabric patterned in such a structural fashion; I think it would be fabulous as a nipped-waist jacket closed with a single hook-and-eye under the bust and finished with a wide lapel collar shaped with short rows. We'll see how all this works out - I really like this idea, though.

I also started playing with Baby Ull colors for the baby fair isle -

Unfortunately, the colors that looked so pretty together in the basket turned out looking like something a Fourth-of-July rodeo clown would wear when swatched. I'm going to look for a darker, wine-ier red, I think, a brighter pink, a darker gray for background, and a better blue (or eliminate the blue altogether).

In other news, I sucked it up and finished the main knitting of the aran cardigan - I didn't realize blogging would provide such an impetus to make measurable progress on things :)

I was so pleased with myself for managing the three-needle bindoff on the top of the hood so cleverly, getting the cable band to cross right in the middle and everything...

but totally failed to realize that the cable is crossed the wrong way - the only incorrect cable in this whole freaking sweater - until I looked at this photo more closely just now. Now I'm taking perverse pleasure in wondering whether I should rip and fix this.

I'm thinking not, because it's at the top of my head where no one will notice, and because I have this to deal with right now:

Seriously, a veritable runway of stitches to be picked up and knit. Worse than a runway, actually, because once I get to the vanishing point you see above, at the tip of the hood, I have to turn and come back to the other bottom front edge. Gah.