Wednesday, September 23, 2009

slinking back

Bad Beverlyanne. It's been three months since I last posted. In fact, I now have to go back and read that post, because I've forgotten what it was about.

Oh. It was about a stupid Clapotis that I shouldn't even have made. But the post before that was about the subject of today's posting, The Rosy Pinwheel. Yes, I changed its name from Devil's Pinwheel to Rosy in honor of my granddaughter, Rosie. And here it is in long view: And a delightful close up that shows its lovely lace border bring knitted:

Ok. It's not all that lovely, but as you can see from the top photo, it's almost a circle.

This blanket gave me no end of trouble, and I think it was because it was June and I was really, really sick of knitting. The same thing happened to me last summer - I barely knit and I didn't blog - but I thought that was because I moved my mother to a nursing home after she broke her arm in July and my daughter spent the month of August in the hospital. And gave birth at the end of her stay. I am grateful that nothing like that happened this summer (except for the birth), but I still didn't want to knit or blog.

Nanette of Knitting in Color, one of the most creative knitters around, made me feel better with this July post. In it she explains how she never feels like knitting in the summer, and she gave a number of truly inspiring examples of work that made me feel that, yes, I was still a knitter.

Getting back to the blanket, it turned out fine, but I had to buy more yarn to knit the edging. It must be the yarn, Dream in Color Classy, that lacked staying power. The lovely and gracious Helen of Chronic Knitting Syndrome, who has made some stunning pinwheels (this is my favorite), kindly gave me the pattern for the lace edging. The fact that it doesn't look like it should (straight rather than slanted) is my fault, but I like it anyway. She also explained how to knit it directly onto the edge, which I would never have figured out on my own. So Helen, thank you a million times.

Unfortunately the blanket was finished in the summer, so Rosie hasn't really needed it yet. Someday, I am sure that she will be glad to be covered by a nice, soft wool blanket.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

clap, clap, clap

Why oh why did I knit another Clapotis? This is my third. Do I need three shawl/scarves that don't work perfectly as either.

After much soul searching I find two major reason why I knit my third:

1) I was seduced by the yarn
2) I like a simple knit

#1, I tested a sample of Malabrigo Silky Merino and fell in love. Ever since I made my first Clapotis, using the decent but not wonderful Paton's Classic Wool, I've wanted a slinkier Clap. I thought it would be more scarf-like. It turns out that the slinky DK version is about as shawl-like as the worsted weight versions, but it does have a lighter, silkier feel. And the colorway, Stonechat, while it doesn't make you drool, is subtly beautiful and looks great with grey.

I made this one just as wide but shorter than the pattern suggests. I used 3 skeins of Silky Merino or 450 yards, about as much as a typical scarf. I bought 5 skeins and now have 2 left over to include in a future log cabin blanket or something.

#2 is a slightly embarrassing reason. After working straight out on a log cabin blanket, this Clapotis, and, currently, a Pinwheel Baby Blanket, to the neglect of other projects, I realize that I like to do plain garter stitch or stockinette best. I love a project that goes fast and requires little thought or attention. That goes for socks too, where the pattern isn't too complicated. Socks meet the goes fast requirement and most of the time, the little attention requirement.

I don't know if this is a phase or if I should forget about lace and cable knitting forever. I am well underway with a sweater I have long admired, the Apres Surf Hoodie by my latest design guru, Connie Chang Chinchio. Here is its Ravelry page. Now this isn't a difficult knit by any means, but you do have to keep track of which row you're on, and it doesn't go fast. So I have been neglecting this project shamefully, although I have no plan to abandon it. First I just have to knit dozens of garter stitch blankets or something.

The Clapotis, Log Cabin Blanket, and Pinwheel all share a special attribute. They are easy, simple, but very clever designs that produce striking and unusual objects. I would like to know about more like these. If you have any favorites along these lines, let me know.

Monday, June 15, 2009

the devil's pinwheel

Since my granddaughter Rosie has been spending more time at our house, I wanted to have a nice knitted blanket for her naps and sleepovers. The pinwheel was in the back of my mind. I perused Ravelry and decided that the Oat Couture short row pinwheel was the most refined. I especially liked the knit- in lace border. I actually went out and bought the pattern, an unusual action for me. Here is its scanned self:

The Ravelry pages showed lots of stellar examples of this blanket. I was particularly taken with this one , which convinced me that this was a project that uses variegated yarn to advantage.

I spent hours shopping on line, and narrowed down my choices. Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted was on my short list (the same yarn as in the afghan on Ravelry), but I thought it too pricey. Wanting instant gratification, I shopped locally (Mosaic Yarn Studio) and discovered that Dream in Color Classy, while not cheap, had more yardage than Lorna's Laces, so I could get four skeins rather than five to make up the 1,000 yards of worsted that the pattern calls for. See the yarn on the right. The colorway is called Ruby River.

I bought the four skeins, and here is where things started to go horribly wrong. First off, I found the yarn, machine washable merino, to be somewhat stiff in garter stitch. It wasn't scratchy, but at five stitches per inch, the correct gauge, it felt like a hot pad. Next, and worst, my yarn was disappearing at an alarming rate. To spare you the gory details, the upshot is that I frogged this project THREE times until I was at a gauge of four stitches per inch and had achieved an acceptable drape to the fabric.

I had knit up the first of the four skeins when a cold hand gripped my heart. By the size of the section I had knit, I would need just less than double the yarn I had purchased: that is 2,000 yards rather than the 1,000 specified in the pattern. WHAT? Even if I could get more of the colorway (doubtful), I didn't want to spend $150 on this project. And what is up with this pattern? Others on Ravelry did not seem to have this problem. But as a knitter, I usually need less yarn than specified, not twice as much. Mystery still unsolved.

My pinwheel failure was made all the more poignant when I read the blog of my fellow knitter Woolie of Wool Enough and Time. She made the most adorable short-row pinwheel cushion cover out of scraps. Kudos to Woolie, but grrrr.

My story is on its way to a happy ending though. I decided to make the yarn over pinwheel instead. After three or four failed attempts to start this project (five stitches on double pointed needles), I am on my way to producing a fine blanket for Rosie. This one is in stockinette, and I must say that the yarn seemed to smile at me as I released it from garter stitch. And I think I'll have a skein left over.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I recently finished my ninth and tenth pairs of socks. I feel like I should stop for a while, especially since I rarely wear socks in the summer. But I probably won't. I made this pair for Anne in her favorite color. I used the good ol' Schurch Double Moss stitch. Here is its Ravelry page.

This is the second time I've used Dream in Color sock yarn. Their variegated yarns are the best ever; never any jarring contrasts or pooling. The last batch I used was called Gaia. It has been renamed Smooshy, and I think it is a little thinner than before. I automatically took out the larger size 1 needle (2.50 mm), but I think the 2.25 might have been better. Or maybe not. These socks also seemed a little smaller than usual. Maybe the 2.25 needle with 72 stitches instead of 64?

I made the tenth pair for myself, because I REALLY needed some pink socks. Actually, I was seduced by the yarn I encountered at the Loopy yarn tasting described in the last post. I used the Zigzag pattern from the Vogue sock book. I couldn't look away because the socks were also shown in pink. Here is its Ravelry link.

A weird thing about this pattern was that the directions called for seven stitches to the inch for a size medium sock on 64 stitches. I think that would have made a large sock. So I followed the pattern, but at 8 stitches to the inch. Maybe the fact that the pattern used Gem sport weight instead of sock weight makes the difference, but I don't see how.

Another weird thing was the star toe. This toe is what the designer used, so I thought I'd try it. I noticed that some ravelry people thought that this toe was so ugly that they frogged and reknit it. I thought, how bad can a toe be? Well, it is not a pretty or pleasant toe, way too pointed, but it looks like a cute little pinwheel off the foot. I won't use it again.

Maizy by Crystal Palace is 82% corn fiber and 18% elastic nylon. The resulting sock fits well, is soft, and though it stretches out easily, it snaps back into shape really well when you take it off. One problem though. It feels like wearing plastic. Corn is a natural fiber, but like rayon, which is made from wood, it has a synthetic feel. The socks are pretty though.

Here is more pretty. It's that time of year - garden photos! No deer this year (so far). My hostas are standing up proud.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Do you want to see something horrible?
This is yarn I spun (spinned?) on this:

I took a four hour spinning class at Loopy, a great local yarn store in the Printer's Row area of Chicago. I wrote about Loopy last year when I went on a mini yarn crawl with my friend Linda.

The class was great. Meg, my teacher, made me the spindle pictured above and gave me tons of roving to practice on. She took me from rolling a stick along my knee to spindling to spinning and plying on a wheel. She also taught me how to card roving. She made the blue yarn that is plied with the yarn I made above. It's not her fault that the yarn is awful.

Now I realize that if I were to practice I could probably make better yarn, even on a spindle. But you know what? In my maturity I begin to see that you don't have to do everything in life. I didn't take to spinning that well. I especially disliked the wheel- spinning posture of leaning forward toward the wheel to feed the draft. I got out of the lessons what I wanted; I learned something about how yarn is made.

I am still fascinated with the process of wool and yarn-making though. I am looking at dyeing with natural dyes. I have a little patch in the back of my garden that would be perfect for growing dye plants. I also read a strange and amazing book called Lambs of God by an Australian, Merele Day, about an isolated group of three elderly nuns who organize their days and lives around sheep, fleece, yarn, and knitting. I have also been reading re-told fairy tales about spinning, featuring retellings of the Rumpelstiltskin story. Here is a link to a work blog I contribute to where I posted a review of several of these stories.

Now here is something else about Loopy. I went to their Spring yarn tasting. It was fun, but what an incredible marketing tool for them. If you or anyone you know has a yarn store, you must try this technique. As a result of trying out yarn, I bought $70 worth of yarn that I never would have bought otherwise. I am currently knitting with Maizy sock yarn, a soft yarn made out of corn (!) and my first Malabrigo, Silky Merino, pictured here. I am making my third Clapotis with it, to be a smaller, slinkier scarf than the two I already have.

Here is how the yarn tasting worked. They gave us lengths of 37 different yarns, listed in the order they gave them out on a 'menu'. I couldn't keep up with the knitting (I got there late), but I did identify three yarns I loved: the two mentioned above and Prima by Debbie Bliss. By comparing them with other yarns I was able to see that the Silky Merino and the Prima gave sharply defined, even stitches. Here is the swatch I made of some of the yarns:

Monday, May 11, 2009

a little progress

I haven't been working much on the Learn to Knit Afghan. I guess other projects have been more compelling lately. But I did sew the first column together and loved the results. Here is a photo.

Here is another view.

The panel is too long to photograph as one strip, so it is folded over.

At first, I was a little shocked by the color combination, but now I think it looks modern and fresh. I put it around my neck and sort of wished for a scarf like it. I am following Barbara Walker's outline for the order of the squares. Her design distributes the colors and color combinations well and makes a pattern with the diagonals. That is just the sort of thing I don't like to figure out for myself.

Here is the last square I finished.

I'm still working on the twisted stitch chapter. Currently I'm doing a bias stripe that is simple, but a little tiresome. I think I'll go and try to finish it tonight.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

here comes cookie

I've had Cookie A's long-awaited book for a couple of weeks now and have had a chance to go through it. It's called Sock Innovation, and it's a doozy. Here is a picture of the cover.

This is a manual of sock design at a pretty sophisticated level. Cookie explains in detail how to adapt flat-knit patterns for socks, how to alter patterns so they fit into the sock schematic, how to divide the pattern for the instep (design) and foot (plain knit), and includes a somewhat intimidating section on charting sock patterns. Along the way she gives clear instructions for several basic sock heels and toes. I especially like her description of the afterthought heel, and I plan to try it sometime. I also like that she shares my biases toward the top down sock and solid-colored sock yarn.

Cookie's sock ideas arise out of mathematics. If you think about it, all knitting has a large mathematical component. This is a source of satisfaction to someone like me who has a strong math-aversion. It suggests that I'm not as mathematically inept as I think. But Cookie is mathematically gifted. That she is a sock engineer is apparent in the way she presents her design ideas and in her designs themselves. The book contains 15 of Cookie's innovative sock designs, some of which are beautiful and a few of which look overly complex - overly engineered. That is a cavil. All in all this is one of the most valuable sock books I have seen.

In no way does this endorsement of Cookie A. indicate an abandonment of my beloved Charlene Schurch. On the contrary, Cookie's book affirms the value of Sensational Knitted Socks and More Sensational Knitted Socks. In a way, you can see Schurch's works as a simplified schematic of Cookie's ideas. Schurch has digested all the sophisticated engineering that Cookie provides and simplifies it into a series of charts and tables. Here is a page from Schurch as an example.

It's not readable here, but the chart at the top shows the number of stitches you would need at gauges running from 5 to 10 stitches per inch to get the sock circumference you need based on specific pattern repeats. Schurch limits herself to pattern repeats ranging from four to 12 stitches wide. She only presents patterns that have an even number of repeats so that dividing for foot and instep is easy. Cookie takes you beyond this basic step.

By getting familiar with Schurch's schemes I have been able to venture into simple sock design, so far limited to patterns from directories. But I have gained the confidence to adapt and manipulate patterns. Schurch has taught me the basics of sock design and lead me toward pattern innovation. I am unlikely to design or even knit a sock as complex as some of Cookie's designs, but I have a greater understanding and appreciation for what she does thanks to Charlene Schurch.

Another book is worth mentioning in the context of sock design. That is Vogue Knitting The Ultimate Sock Book.

This is a very easy to follow exposition of sock knitting basics venturing into design. It would be a perfect beginner sock book. It gives you a universal toe up and top down sock pattern to size and embellish as you wish. What I like best about it is the stitch directory, as a supplement to the stitches offered by in Schurch's books. It also offers an overview of historic and ethnic sock knitting traditions, and a selection of patterns, some of which are very pretty.