Saturday, December 27, 2008

Anne's nose

Anne here - I just have to chime in about the last post. I'm the model and my nose TOTALLY doesn't look that big in real life. It's the angle at which the photo was taken. Really.

Also, the headband (which I received for Christmas) is even cuter in real life and is nice and soft.

Friday, December 26, 2008

the weaver: a free pattern

My instinct that the Diagonal Weave pattern (from The Learn to Knit Afghan book) would make a good headband was correct. I combined the third yarn of the Knit Picks alpaca sampler, Andean Treasure, with RYC Cashsoft DK to make this:
Here it is being modeled as a headband and also as a neckwarmer:

Cute, eh? Excuse me for talking northern, but despite my bias against sporty, skiing type headbands, I can't seem to escape the far north. It's probably the colors and the breezy pattern that give it a Nordic look.

In this case, the dropped stitches of the Diagonal Weave pattern and the alternating yarns have given the headband needed stability, so it doesn't flop around on your head, but hugs it nicely. The fact that it is only 18 inches long probably helps too. The other headbands were 20 inches, so I have learned something about negative ease from this experimental yarn testing - that is you probably can't have too much, within reason.

Andean Treasure, the Knit Picks yarn sample that inspired this design, is listed as sport weight at 6 stitches to the inch. It is a very soft, heathery baby alpaca yarn in a medium blue called Summer Sky. This yarn paired nicely with RYC Cashsoft in DK weight. Cashsoft, merino wool and acrylic with a little cashmere content, is nearly as soft and can also be easily knit up at 6 stitches per inch.

Here is the pattern for the headband that I call The Weaver.

Color A: Knit Picks Andean Treasure (100% baby alpaca) in Summer Sky - 1 skein (110 yards)
Color B: RYC Cashsoft DK (57% merino, 33% acrylic, 10% cashmere) in Cream - 1 skein (142 yards)
One set straight needles, # 5

6 stitches per inch in stockinette

Pattern Stitch
Diagonal Weave from the Learn to Knit Afghan Book
Multiple of 4 plus 3
Row 1 (right side) - with color B, knit 2, *slip 1 stitch purlwise with the yarn held in back of the work, k3; repeat from *, end k1.
Row 2 - with color B, purl 4, * slip 1 stitch purlwise with the yarn held in front of the work, p 3; repeat from *, end p2.
Row 3 - with color A, k2, *drop slipped stitch off the needle, k2, pick up dropped stitch, place on left hand needle, and knit it; k1; repeat from *, end K1.
Row 4 - with A, purl.
Row 5 - with B, K6, *slip 1 with yarn in back, K3; repeat from *, end k1.
Row 6 - with B, p4, *slip 1 with yarn in front, p3; repeat from *, end p3.
Row 7 - with A, K4, *slip 2 with yarn in back, drop previous slipped stitch off the needle, slip the same 2 stitches back to the left hand needle, pick up dropped stitch, place on left hand needle, and knit it; K3; repeat from *, end K3.
Row 8 - with A, purl.

With A, cast on 103 stitches (plus 2 selvedge stitches if desired). Leave tail long enough to sew ends together later.
Knit 5 rows.
Purl 6th row, increasing 12 stitches evenly across row - 115 stitches (plus slevedge).
Work 4 repeats of the 8 rows of the Diagonal Weave pattern. Repeat rows 1-4. Work should measure approximately 5 inches from cast on row. (Or work to desired length.)
With A, Knit one row, decreasing 12 stitches evenly across row - 103 stitches (plus selvedge).
Knit 5 more rows and bind off, knitting all stitches
Using steam, block to measurements - approximately 5" x 18".
With right sides up, set both edges to be sewn next to each other. Weave together with Mattress stitch. Steam seam.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

more adventures with knit picks

Knit Picks got me again. I thought I got away, but they keep pulling me back. This time it was an alpaca sampler. They offered four skeins of alpaca or alpaca blends in two different colorways-cool or warm. I chose cool and got:

Suri Dream in Gloxinia (deep purple)
Andean Silk in Merryweather (light teal)
Elegance in Aegean (dark teal)
Andean Treasure in Summer Sky (medium blue)

Enchanted as I have been by the large swatches offered by the Learn to Knit Afghan squares, and feeling like a project, I decided to make a headband/neck warmer from each skein and compare results.

I made each one 5 inches deep because I don't like narrow headbands. They look athletic, and I don't need skiing gear. I chose headbands because I figured that I'd have enough yarn for them, and also because I have finally come to the realization that I despise hats. The night look cute, but they make my head too hot, even in the winter, and they never stay on properly. Each headband is 20 inches wide to fit an average-sized 22 inch head (although mine might be smaller than average). I knit them flat, back and forth, in keeping with my hatred of circular needles. So here are the results.I think I might like the top one best. It is from Suri Dream, a bulky weight blend of suri alpaca (74%), wool (22%) and a little nylon. It is like mohair in that it is fuzzy, but it's totally non-itchy. I knit it in a simple 2x2 rib, and it took about five minutes to finish. I used a 10 1/2 US needle, which produced a gauge of 3.2 stitches per inch. I cast on 64 stitches and used about half the skein. It clings well to my head. This yarn would make a nice bathrobe type sweater for around the house or a cozy blanket. And again, it would take no time to knit. (band on top, stockinette swatch on bottom below)

The Andean Silk version is the only one I've worn. The yarn is a worsted weight of 55% alpaca, 23% silk, and 22% merino. It produced a gauge of 5 stitches to the inch in basket weave pattern on # 7 needles. I cast on 99 stitches and used the entire skein of 96 yards (a little skimpy there if you ask me).

Everything about this product is my favorite: favorite color, favorite stitch pattern (next to moss stitch), favorite yarn - so soft and luxurious. BUT. The basket weave shows up well in this yarn, but it is almost flat compared to the wool version I did for the Learn to Knit afghan. It needed no blocking. That is a clue, I think, that the yarn is stretchy. When I wore it, it was uncomfortable, tending to creep downward toward my face. Remember, I like head gear that doesn't move. I think it will make a nice neck warmer. What would I knit with this yarn? I'm not sure. I would be afraid to make a sweater that needs to hold its shape. I guess a scarf or blanket that doesn't need firm stitch definition.

Above, the unblocked stockinette swatch is on top, unblocked headband on the bottom. After Suri Dream, all of these yarns were a dream to knit in stockinette. The stitches are remarkably even without blocking. I didn't block any but one of the headbands, and I am a fanatical blocker.

To be continued....

Thanks to Anne for the last delightful post.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Anne on Things my Mother Made Me

Hi all, Anne here. I finished the manly scarf I mentioned in my last post; it's all wrapped up with a matching hat (which came out...just okay. I hate circular knitting.) and waiting for my father-in-law to open it on Christmas. The project got me thinking about knitting gifts. I never never never knit anything for myself; I'm just about exclusively a gift knitter. Consequently, the vast majority of hand-knitted items in my house were made by my mother as gifts for me.

She hasn't made me a sweater since the disaster of the yellow sweater. It really did look bad on me and I really do detest yellow. However, that was nearly 20 years ago, so maybe I'd be ready for her to try another sweater for me (hint, hint, mother). Lack of sweaters aside, she's made me a few great things, several of which have been featured right here on this blog.

I was the lucky recipient of the squatty purse. I love love love it. I'm a total purse whore, and this one was a winner. It's actually very functional, as the felting made nice strong material. I've gotten lots of compliments on it. I also received the Absolute Friends scarf which I'm pretty sure was a project that bored her to tears. She had no say in the design process - I dictated the exact color and yarn texture that I desired - and there was absolutely no challenge in the execution of the scarf, as I'm pretty sure it's just garter stitch.

She also made me a pair of adorable slippers:

Please excuse my pudgy white legs. These slippers are so great - felted, and she even put some kind of glue on the bottoms to make them slip-resistant. These were obviously made with me in mind - I love mary janes, and teal is my favorite color. I love them even though I don't wear slippers very often. When I first got them, I wasn't sure how they were made; I thought they might have been knit on circulars, but how the heck does one get an oblong shape on circulars? (Is that even possible?) Then I realized that they must have seams, I think on the heel and toe, but the felting mashed everything together so well that the seams are imperceptible. Neat-o.

The one gift that she made me that I use the most is my afghan. It's made out of my favorite yarn, Wool-Ease, and is nice and soft and drapes nicely to the body, which I think is so important in an afghan. There's nothing worse than a stiff, non-drapey afghan. How does that happen? Is it the yarn's fault? Did the knitter knit too tightly or use too small of a needle? Stiff afghans are a real travesty; fortunately, this one is perfect. Here is my husband enjoying it; doesn't he look warm and cosy?

In my next post: sticking with the theme of mothers knitting for daughters, I'll show some of the things that I made for my little girl. If you're lucky, I might even post pictures of The Cutest Baby in the World (TM).

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Here are photos of two more slip stitch squares from the Learn to Knit Afghan. I think I have two more to go in this section.

This top square looks nice, but it is that type of slip stitch that I don't like in reality. It has strands of yarn laying across a differently-colored surface. I think that if this were in a garment the loose strands would catch on things. I know they would if I wore it because I'm kind of clumsy. I even worry about it being in a blanket. To me, this design is just not practical.

The bottom square doesn't photograph well at all. It looks like the surface is choked with fiber here, and it looks worse in the black and white photo in the book. In person however, this has a surprising appeal to me. It has a jaunty look, especially viewed at an angle. I think it would make a nice hat or headband.

As always, I learn from the Learn to Knit Afghan book. Someone else may have learned from it as well. You might not remember that I loved this particular mosaic square:

Now imagine my delight when I visited Popknits and saw this sweater: It's perfect. It even gets around the wavy buttonhole issue by using a zipper, which fits the style of the jacket perfectly. What a great use of a great stitch pattern! Here is the link for Popknits if you haven't seen it. It is a free knitting web-zine featuring original, vintage-inspired knitwear, which is just the kind I like best.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

stinky socks

A while back I foolishly ordered four manly colors of sock yarn from Knit Picks and started my first pair for Christmas knitting. Here is a previously posted progress photo: This is the Sailor's Rib from the second Charlene Schurch sock book. It is a four row repeat, which is a little much for me given that this is only my third pair of socks. It is also my first and last attempt at a toe first sock. This is due to hatred of the toe up method. It is knit on a size 2.25 mm needle at a gauge of 8 stitches per inch.

Anne had noted that it looked a little narrow for her father's (my husband's) foot. I scoffed at this, explaining that it was a rib and would stretch. But as I continued to knit, her observation began to trouble me. I finished the sock and encountered the dreaded toe up cast off which I had been warned of by Wool Enough, or as I like to think of her, Woolie. Woolie was right; it was a nightmare that had to be repeated three or four times before the cuff was stretchy enough to pull over the human foot.

I cast on for the second sock. I cast on 60 stitches, as I had for the first sock. Note the italics. I was knitting an 8 inch wide sock when I needed at least 9 inches. But it wasn't until I got to the heel of the second sock that this dawned on me. I had been looking at the wrong row of the Schurch chart. I really wanted a 72 stitch sock.

By now I was so disgusted that I was happy to frog the socks. This took all night due to the weird cast off (details of which I have blocked from memory) and the short row heel wraps. I don't know where I found the courage, but I choose a simpler rib (Garter Rib) and cast on again, correctly this time. Here is the result so far: But there is more. I saw a tip on Ravelry to knit both socks at once. The tipster said that every time she sits down to knit she works on the sock that has the least knitting on it. She says that both get done at roughly the same time. Great idea. I had subliminally noted that Abby of the Bitten by Knittin' blog does the same thing.

I had an extra set of 2.25mm needles. So I cast on for the second sock. But something was wrong. The sock on the Crystal Palace needles was bigger than the sock on the original Knit Picks needles. I did not photograph the uneven socks, but here are the needles. Crystal Palace is on the top, Knit picks Harmony on the bottom:

I have done my share of whining about Knit Picks, but the set of 6" sock needles they sell is fabulous. The set contains six each of six needle sizes ranging from 2.00 to 3.25mm. The needles are pretty, feel nice in your hand, grip the stitches, and are made of wood. The Crystal Palace needles feel flimsy and are made of bamboo. My Crystal Palace set had only four needles because one broke during a long-ago experiment with sock knitting. At the time, the broken needle did me in. (Because Knit Picks gives you six needles, I was able to fill in for the missing needle.)

For now, I'm slogging along on one sock at a time, but my order is in for a second set of Knit Picks sock needles. I guess these socks will be a Valentine's Day present.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

happy t'day, baby

Happy Thanksgiving. This will be a short post to show off a little finished object that took only two days to make. The front view is above. Here is the back view:

It's the Heartbreakingly Cute one piece baby Kimono from the first Mason Dixon Knitting book. I added little white squares for trim. There are about a million version of this little jacket on Ravelry.

This was made for the impending son of friend. The size given in the pattern is for newborn, but my gauge was slightly larger, making this appropriate for a plus-size newborn, which this boy looks like being. I used a bit over one skein of Lion Brand Cotton Ease in the color Lake, a muted medium/light blue. I also used a few yards of Cotton Ease in white. Both are stash yarns. I used a size 5 needle in garter stitch.

Next post - some sock drama. Please spare a thought on this day of thanks for the hostages and other victims of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

maggie, it worked!

Here is the more ambitious project I mentioned in my last post. I call it the Refined Cardigan:

It is made from RYC Cashsoft DK in cream and Rowan Felted Tweed in dark grey on a #5 U.S. needle at 6 stitches and 8 rows per inch. The Cashsoft is a thicker DK than the Felted Tweed, so its ribbed gauge exactly matched the stockinette gauge of the Felted Tweed. That was convenient. I had never used either of these yarns before. I especially like the Felted Tweed, but even though it has 190 yards to a ball, it doesn't go very far. I used an entire ball for the trim on this 40" (chest measurement) sweater.

I have had the idea for this sweater in my mind for a long time. Of course it didn't come out exactly how I imagined it. For one thing, I pictured a boxier shape, but I thought a little waist and hip shaping would be more flattering. And the neck is queer. I pictured a tie at the neck, but the neck shaping is off and I didn't have enough yarn to make a longer tie.

The worst problem is the button band. I opted out of button holes because buttons tend to distort the line of the opening. I put in snaps instead. But the line is still distorted. I don't know if this is a design flaw, a yarn flaw or what. I might sew up the opening altogether and make it a pullover, especially since it fits better without another layer underneath.

On the positive side, I like the ribbing I made for it, which I call the Refined Rib. I am a sucker for ribbed sweaters. I find them so easy to wear. And I like how the bands came out, especially in the color combination of cream and grey. I used a technique that is new to me for the sleeve bands and the ties. It is called a bias band and the idea came from Deborah Newton in an old Threads Magazine compilation called Hand Knitting Techniques. It is very simple to make and is good for applying around a curved edge. I didn't use it on the neck or lower edge though, because it makes too fat an edging. It looks better on the sleeve. Here is a close up of the lower and sleeve edgings:

The big news about this sweater though, is the knit in, TOP DOWN SLEEVE. It is never easy to fit a sleeve into an armscye without calculus, or is it analytic geometry? In either case, it is over my head. So by consulting my all time favorite book, Sweater Design in Plain English by the divine Maggie Righetti, I found a perfect formula for calculating a sleeve with a short row cap that is made by picking up stitches from the armscye. (An armscye, by the way is very easy to calculate.) This sleeve can be any width you want it to be and it fits perfectly.

Guess what, Maggie? It worked! Just like Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye I wanted to call her up and talk to her, but, sadly, I think she died in 2006.

This reminds me of another book I recently acquired, Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard, subtitled Unleash Your Inner Designer... Wendy also gives directions for knit in, top down sleeves, knit in the round (pp. 150 -151). She calls them afterthought sleeves. I am more used to Maggie Righetti by now, but this is a very good book with outstanding designs and packed with design techniques.

Thanks to Anne for her pleasant and entertaining contribution to this blog. Keep posting honey.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Introducing Anne!

This is not Beverlyanne writing, it’s her daughter, Anne. I’m the cause of the family crisis that kept her away for so long (A word of advice: try to avoid spending 28 days in the hospital if you possibly can. It sucks.) and the mother of the new granddaughter. I’m also a knitter and will be doing occasional guest appearances on this blog.

I’m the youngest of at least three generations of knitters in our family. I was taught to knit by my mother, so, like her and the aunt who taught her, I knit in a peculiar left-handed manner, throwing the yarn with my left hand even though I’m right-handed. I seriously have no idea how people can throw with the right hand; I tried it once and ended up dropping my needles on the floor.

Our shared odd knitting style is where the similarities between my mother and me as knitters begins and ends. There are a lot more differences; here are a few of them:

  • My mother is a total yarn snob; I am not. I have no problem with acrylics as long as they’re soft enough. I have no compunctions about buying mass-produced yarn at major chain retailers. My yarn choices are often influenced by what’s on sale. Right now, the project I have on the needles is being made with a Jo-Ann Fabrics house brand in a wool-nylon brand that I got on sale for a buck fifty a skein. I doubt my mother has ever bought a house brand.
  • I am a much lazier knitter than my mother is. I loathe making gauge swatches (why do the work of knitting one when you don’t end up with a useable product?), so I avoid projects that really require them whenever possible. I’ve never knitted a sweater for an adult because (A) It would take too long, and (B) I’m worried it won’t be flattering, and I will have spent all that time knitting something unusable.

I don’t like to spend more than a week or two on a project. Generally, I prefer scarves, hats, and baby items. Small projects are almost like instant gratification! I guess I’m just one of those members of the MTV generation with a short attention span. I’m trying to get past this to try more interesting and challenging patterns.

  • I don’t share her obsession with buying knitting books and magazines. I do love my trusty knitting stitch dictionary, but I think that’s the only book I really need. With websites like Ravelry and Knitty, I figure I can fill 90% of my pattern needs for free online. The rest of my patterns come from books from the public library. I am a librarian, and let me tell you: libraries buy tons of knitting books, and we’re eager to have you come and check them out.

So I’ll leave you with a picture of my current project. It’s a scarf, made in a super-simple 2x2 rib (I prefer patterns simple and mindless enough to be knitted while watching TV) in that Jo-Ann house yarn. I actually really like it, although I’m hoping that I can block it so the rib texture is less scrunched together than it is right now. It’s for my father-in-law; do you think it’s manly enough?

Monday, November 10, 2008

some squares

Thank you all for the kind wishes and welcome backs in response to the last post. You have inspired me to forge ahead --- with---the Learn to Knit Afghan!

Actually, I did these squares a few weeks ago when I started on the slip stitch section of the book. The front side of the Woven Tweed square is on the left, and the back side is on the right. I have used this stitch before for manly sweaters and scarves. It makes a firm, inelastic fabric something like woven cloth. I never noticed the wrong side before, though, until Barbara Walker called my attention to it. I was so impressed that I started playing around with design ideas for it, but nothing came of it.

This hexagon pattern is the first I have knit where the same stitches are slipped over more than two rows. The repeated slipping of the same stitches distorts the fabric in an interesting way. This square is blocked, but the unblocked version, which I didn't photograph, is even more striking. It makes a fluffy, dimensional fabric that would make a great scarf. This square is in my favorite color combination of azure and dark purple, which I never expected to like so much when I started the project.

Here is the last square of this post - not as appealing to me as the others. It looks nice in its photo, but note that some of the slipped stitches are wrapped twice and then dropped to form lines across the front of the square. In the photo on the right, I stuck a needle through the lines so you can see that they just lay across the fabric in a cheesy way. I don't like dropped stitch patterns. That is why it took me so long to make the Clapotis.

I am trying your patience with so much Barbara Walker. I do have a slightly ambitious finished object to show in the next post. Meanwhile, do you know about MetaPostModern Knitting? If you haven't seen it, click the link immediately. This is a stylish online knitting magazine with free patterns of clever knit designs the likes of which you won't see anywhere else. It is edited by Robin Dodge and produced by her group of knitting librarians who work in a Los Angeles school of fashion design. The fashion trend section of the magazine is the best imaginable exposition of design trends and how they get translated by designers, retailers, and potentially, knitters. If you have any interest in fashion design, this section is a must. After I leave here, I am going over to click their PayPal link.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

she's baack

Oh, I've been gone so long. A family crisis came along that knocked me over and out. Things are now happily resolved, and I'm grandmother to eight-week old Rose Katherine who was born five weeks pre-term on September 9. She is doing very well, as is her mother. I have continued to knit during this period, but less than usual, without the love.

What kept me going in knitting and in life was the Learn to Knit Afghan. I am so glad that I took up this project. Each square is a little escape with a payoff at the end: a tiny finished project. Another bonus is that each square is a big swatch, so I have experienced many pattern stitches that I would never have had the patience to practice on my own. I would never make an eight inch swatch, but you really get a sense of the stitch when you do.
I got through the mosaic section of the book; above is the seventh of eight mosaic squares, and below is the eighth.

Now I must say that I have mixed feelings about mosaic stitch. On the one hand you can get some very clever and complex results from the easy use of just one color at a time. On the other hand, it seems like cheating - it's too easy - and it can look a bit cheap. I know that Barbara Walker is the mosaic queen, but I wish she hadn't included so many mosaic stitches in her book, especially since she lays on slip stitch patterns pretty hard. The next section of her book is all slips. I know, I don't have to knit all of the squares, but I want to.

One reason why I have to respect the mosaic after all is this sweater design from Amy Singer's No Sheep For You. The sweater is designed by Kristi Porter:

Notice that the back of the sweater has a whole different set of mosaics:

Now I doubt that I'll knit this sweater, but I find it amazing and inspiring. The yarn is 100% silk and the mosaics give the slippery yarn body and stability. It is a great illustration of using mosaics that has stuck with me and will possibly lead to a future knitting adventure.

This is the one year anniversary of my blog, but it probably doesn't count since I missed two months. So it is only the ten month anniversary. After being away for so long I wasn't sure that I wanted to come back. But I have enjoyed posting this, so I hope to continue. For a while I've been thinking about doing some sewing, so I might also post about that if I do any. I have been cooling a little toward knitting. Part of it is, being product oriented, I don't really want any more knitted objects and I don't think other people want many either. But I'll still always have at least one project on the needles. Currently I have four, counting the Learn to Knit Afghan. That may be too many.

Monday, September 8, 2008

vintage olympic

The actual 2008 Olympic games were made meaningful for me by the Ravelry Olympics challenge. Just before the start of the games I happened into one of Chicago's most unusual yarn shops. Midwest Discount, a dark and cluttered place with old-fashioned wooden floors, carries what appear to be mill ends of yarn. They have a lot of acrylics and fewer natural fibers. They also have some of my favorites - vintage yarns.

This yarn named Olympic-Monterey called out to me. I like the soft green color and the vintagy label. The shop had nine skeins of this for $2.00 per skein. It is a stretchy fingering weight boucle with irregular lumps in it made of 95% wool and 5% nylon. Each skein has 130 yards, so I have a total of 1170 yards of this yarn.

So I owned some Olympic yarn in time for the Olympic games, but what is this yarn for? Was it meant for socks due to its nylon content? Here is a scanned swatch done on #2 needles.

I think it would make lumpy socks. The fabric is quite irregular as well as lumpy, with little holes all through it. I just keep wondering what it was meant for. If you have some ideas, please let me know. I am thinking scarf, shrug, or little vest. Any other thoughts?

Speaking of the Olympics, I once visited Olympia in Greece, the site of the original Olympic games. It is a beautiful lush, green spot with well-preserved and reconstructed ruins. There is a little pit there where the Olympic flame is still ignited to this day, I believe using sunlight. Below are the torch site and a view of the competitors' housing (in ruins).

To add to an already photo-heavy post, here are squares number 13 and 14 of the Learn to Knit Afghan:

Monday, September 1, 2008

i deserve a medal

Ok. I missed the deadline for Ravelympics. But I am pleased with how the child's sweater I made came out. It is for the afghans for Afghans youth campaign:I used a vintage yarn called Marina under the brand name Bouquet. It is an aran weight superwash wool in a rich blue that an observer has called a Ralph Lauren blue. On a #7 needle and made in the hefty brioche stitch, the resulting fabric is dense and warm to stand up to an Afghan winter. It says 'boy' to me and at 30" across should fit a 7 - 10 year old depending of course on the size of the child.

One thing I learned from Ravelry about this yarn is that it has only 85 yards per skein. I had over 9 skeins, but the skimpy yardage and the dense stitch explain why I feared running out of yarn after I started on the sleeves. I had a soft, heathery mystery yarn in a dark sand with subtle blue and orange touches, so I added a contrast stripe, saddles, and collar. It looks way better than I thought it would.

This is how much blue yarn I had left after using the blue for trim on the collar and for sewing the pieces together:

Would I have had enough blue without the intarsia stripe, etc? I think I would have run out near the end, certainly by the time I got to the collar.

The yarn is posing on top of The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd. I roughly followed the proportions for the Saddle Shoulder sweater - Child. This is the first sweater and second project I have made using Ann Budd's garment outlines. The first was mittens. These pattern books come in handy, but they are not perfect. For the sweater, my gauge did not match any of those given in the book. I made so many changes that I feel like I wrote the pattern. Also, the neck was too small. I don't know whether to blame the book or myself. But no matter. I ended up leaving the collar open on the side and adding a loop and button closure, a nice solution. The photo shows the back of the sweater.

Monday, August 25, 2008

no medal for me

The Olympic games have come and gone, and I have not finished the child's sweater I pledged to afghans for Afghans. I ran into technical difficulties, namely running out of yarn. So I had to do this:This is the sleeve. I took a contrasting yarn, a sort of heathery beige, and am making an intarsia stripe up the sleeve. I am not too pleased with this solution, but maybe the finished product won't look too bad. I had planned a saddle sleeve so the saddle will be in the contrast color as will the crew neck. The sweater might have a military look with the saddle mimicking an epaulet.

Here is a close up showing the stitch patterns:

I've had a hard time photographing the color of this sweater, which is a rich blue. This photo comes closest to the color, but it is a touch deeper in person.

This project represents two firsts for me. This is the first time I am making a sweater with a saddle shoulder. I am interested to see how it will look. I have the idea that it is a masculine style. I don't think it would look good on me anyway, because I have kind of broad shoulders. But I won't get to find out, because this sweater is sized to fit a chest measurement of about 28 inches.

It is also the first time I have used the brioche, a stitch pattern I have long been attracted to. This seemingly simple pattern is remarkably difficult to understand and execute, at least for me. I still don't know if I'm doing it right.

My trusty Mon Tricot stitch dictionary says to knit 1 and then knit 1 in the stitch below. This means that the stitch knit below is knit together with the stitch on the needle above it, making it a kind of double stitch. I don't know what's wrong, but my attempts to follow these directions end in mish-mosh.

The deranged stitches at the bottom of this scanned swatch show my pathetic attempt to follow the Mon Tricot instructions. So I was very lucky to find this brioche stitch tutorial in an English/Italian blog called Cloudy Crochet.

The pattern for this stitch is given as: *yarn over, slip 1, knit 2 together. But you can't take these instructions literally. As Pippa of Cloudy Crochet explains, yarn over in this case means lay the yarn across the needle next to the stitch as if to purl and slip that stitch together with the yarn. This creates a doubled criss-cross sort of stitch that becomes the knit 2 together on the next row. Pippa explains it very well, so if you want to learn this stitch, I strongly recommend her tutorial. The only thing I don't understand yet is why this stitch is considered a multiple of 3. I have it as a multiple of 2, but maybe I am doing something wrong.

Lucia, The Knitting Fiend also has a brioche stitch tutorial showing different types of brioche stitches, but I find Pippa's easier to understand. Lucia's is quite comprehensive though.

I am glad that, after years of trying, I have finally learned to do the brioche stitch, or at least a reasonable approximation of it. It makes a warm, cuddly fabric that will stand up to a cold Afghan winter. It would make great outerwear in our own centrally heated climate.

Monday, August 11, 2008

picking knit picks again

Because my hopes to knit Christmas presents for everyone at work were dashed by some one's request for a secret Santa exchange, I had to find myself an overly ambitious plan for this year's holidays. So I bought four dark colors of sock yarn from Knit Picks to make some manly socks for Christmas.
I am not sure if my posting about this here constitutes a commitment to actually knit four pairs of socks. I kind of hope not. But I have started the project and will have at least one pair of socks to give away. These are made from Knit Picks Essentials in a dark piney green, one of my husband's favorite colors. I was thinking brown for him, but the green was what he picked. The pattern is from good old reliable Charlene Schurch - the Fisherman's rib from the five-stitch section. The first pair of socks I made had a flap heel and were knitted from the top down. The second pair had a short-row heel (better) and were knitted from the top down. These, my third pair, have a short row heel and are knitted from the toe UP. The toe style is called easy toe.

Now the toe up sock starts out with the really fiddly bits. Toes are my least favorite part of sock knitting. The advantage of toe up then, is to get the toe part over with sooner. Other than that, which is not a huge advantage, I don't see any reason to make a toe up socks. The reason given for them is in case you fear running out of yarn, you can gauge that and make a shorter leg if you need to. I guess that's a good reason, but it doesn't apply here. Aesthetically, I don't much like the looks of a toe up sock in progress. It looks like a floppy fish.

In other knitting news, I have made what I think is my 13th Learn to Knit Afghan Square. It is called miniature mosaic, and is very pretty. The color on this photo is kind of off.
Breaking news - I join the Ravelympics without actually watching the Olympic games. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 4, 2008

the most beautiful yarn in the world

I have become fixated on this yarn. I have never before had a yarn so beautiful that I didn't even want to knit it. I have several similar photos of it that I keep looking at over and over, although the photos naturally do not show true. The colors are a little lighter and less reddish than they appear below.I can't explain it. I never thought of myself as an autumn person. The colors remind me of a stash afghan I made, Dr. Who, which I also love somewhat obsessively. The yarn is Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Sock Yarn made of alpaca, merino, silk, and nylon, so it's not just the color. I think the combination of alpaca and silk is the best- feeling yarn made.

I came across this yarn at a little local yarn shop in Evanston called Montoya Fiber Studio. The name makes it sound like all the yarns come from Spain or Latin American. Cathy Montoya indeed carries Manos and Malabrigo, but she has a wonderful selection of all kinds of yarn from all over. This is my new favorite shop. Even though there are great stores in Chicago, my current favorites are suburban, Montoya and Mosaic in DesPlaines. These stores are older than the city ones and have a more distinctive character. Montoya has a particularly warm and welcoming feeling.

Cathy showed off this yarn, in this colorway, by knitting it up into a lace scarf. It was stunning. I bought the pattern, which is by Ann Nordling, and will probably make it if I can ever bring myself to take needle to this exquisite yarn. Cathy chose to make a scarf because she says the yarn is too good for socks. I can see her point, but I don't know. They would be socks to go down in history. But the scarf makes the yarn more visible.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

meh, ew

Well I finished another baby object. Here is its picture: It is a free pattern from the Berroco e-newsletter, Knitbits, called Baby Picchu. It is a mini version of an adult design that is also published as a free pattern. (This site has a lot of nice free patterns.) I made this one from Lion Brand Cotton Ease (1.5 balls) and # 7 U.S. needles. It is fastened with an old clear glass button.

As to how I like it, I have to say 'meh.' I see that expression in some blogs and forums to mean indifference. I don't think I actually say meh. I think I'd say more like 'aeh', but I guess that is harder to put in writing. Getting back to the sweater, I have a feeling that it will be very cute on a baby. It is meant to go with a summery dress in the spring when the weather will be bright but chilly.

In further exploration of sounds, here is a 'ew':

It is a swatch in Knit Picks new handpainted sock yarn, Imagination, of merino, alpaca, and nylon in the colorway Damsel. It looks like raw meat, so I won't be making a baby sweater from it. I can possibly see wearing meat socks, but a meat baby sweater - no.

What is it with Knit Picks multis? Are they all yuck? Perhaps you will recall the bird doo Klaralund I made from Knit Picks Shimmer.

As it happened, I loved the feeling of this yarn (alpaca/silk) and the fit of the resulting sweater, so I was able to overlook the bird doo-ness of the colors. But come on - meat? Actually meat is a euphemism for what it really looks like.

Let me be clear on this. It's not me, it's Knit Picks. I never go around say things like "Ew, that looks like vomit." I never even think them. I am not easily disgusted. I like all animals including insects and reptiles, and I can tolerate gore in movies. But Knit Picks has the power to make me sick. I have some Shimmer in shades of brown that I am afraid to swatch.

On a more pleasant note, here is the latest Learn to Knit Afghan square, Diagonal chain: