Thursday, January 31, 2008

winter 2007 reviews: vogue knitting

Some cover, eh? It's Vogue Knitting magazine Winter 2007 issue, and if you couldn't guess, I have saved the best for last.

But first, the web site. Here, Vogue is not the best, but also not the worst. The site was unexplicably shut down for weeks and weeks recently. Now that it's back up, I can't see any improvement or even any change. The site is graphically clear (unlike Knitter's) and easy to use. It lacks a complete gallery of design like that of Interweave Knits, but, like IK, it offers both free and pay patterns. The free pattern section is not as extensive as the combined offerings of IK and Knitting Daily, but the pay patterns are better: juicy vintage designs from the 25 year history of VK magazine.

The site also offers a knitting stitch library and support for both technique and design. Although the latter offerings are few, they show an analytical approach that is unique to this publication. For example, both online and in its pages, VK offers a "sweater map" pointing out the construction features of a complex knitting design. Also online are some terrible podcasts (I'm not such a fan in general) and the charts and schematics missing from the magazine's pages. This last feature is a fault, requiring the knitter to have online acess in order to complete some of the designs.

As I'm on the subject of websites, this is a good place to note that Laura read the previous post on Knitter's magazine and pointed out that the publisher, XRX, was actually one of, if not the, first to use the Internet in conjunction with its magazine. They started one of the first knitting forums, Knit U in the late 90s. I had totally forgotten that and stand corrected. I still maintain that they have not kept their website very useful for readers.

Vogue Knitting begins its feature section with the usual product, book, website, and yarn reviews. VK is the only winter issue to note the passing of Mary Walker Phillips, author of Knitting Counterpanes and Creative Knitting. VK is also the only mag to pick up on rumors of the reissue of June Hemmons Hiatt's Principles of Knitting. They actually interview the author who confirms that she is revising the book. That is BIG news. Other features of interest and unique to VK are the profile of a local yarn shop (in this issue Why Knot Knit of Atlanta and North Carolina) and VK World, which looks at international developments.

This issue of VK has four major articles on technique. For comparison, IK has one, and Knitter's has none. VK features its usual offering from Meg Swanson, this time a great article on how to make her mother's (EZ) Pie Are Square shawl. Others are how to knit in a spiral by Nicky Epstein, sleeve length by Lily Chin, and an analysis of four types of lace patterns by Shirley Paden. I would say that this is dynamite content, all by masters (mistresses?) of knitting design and technique.

The Winter 2007 issue of Vogue Knitting contains 32 patterns plus an additional 8 as a special advertising feature published on the website. Of the 32 patterns in the magazine, 22 are sweaters, 8 are shawls/wraps, one is a hat, and one is a scarf in a matching set.

It is harder for me to review the VK patterns than those of the other mags, not that I like them all, but because the design standards of VK are higher, making all of the designs (with a few exceptions) credible. In contrast, IK is weaker in design crediblity because they run too many patterns that are awkward or unwearable in some way. Knitter's loses credibility through sheer wrongness. You might say that this last is a matter of opinion, but in some instances, I think the majority of knitters would agree.

Given the higher standard, I think the shawl section of this issue is the weakest, although props for featuring shawls in the first place. Most of the designs are uninspiring. There have been so many incredible shawl patterns all over lately, and I think IK actually tends to do them the best. Of the shawls, I would say that Nicky Epstein's spiral(#1) is the worst in that it's kind of clunky in a too chunky yarn. I like pinwheel shawl best (#4). It is similarily constructed to #1 out of individual motifs. It buttons, and is pleasantly atypical.
Of the sweaters, there are so many and so many interesting patterns that I don't know where to begin. Of the cabled sweaters, let me note that #10 has ridiculously belled 3/4 sleeves and that #9 is awkwardly long. But of the 5 cabled sweaters remaining, all have something to recommend them. Sweater-dress #11 is very distinctive. I couldn't wear it, but it sure is interesting.

The partially closed round yoke cardigan by Shiri Mor (#13) is not bad, but I myself am tired of round yoke cabled designs. They are all over. Two designs by Vladimir Teriokhin (#s 15 and 16, especially the latter) are sure fire winners, as are most of what comes from this new Norah Gaughan. The hooded outerwear tunic (#14 pictured below) is receiving some attention on the Ravely Vogue Knitters group.
Shirley Paden's two jacket designs (#s 17 and 18) are just my style - short, fitted, classic, but similar tailored cardis (#s 21 and 22) could appeal more to younger knitters. What is it with puffed sleeves though? There are two puffy sleeved designs in this issue (22 and 28). Is is because I wore this trend when it was around before that I can't get my head around it now? The two cover coats are very cute, although I could loose the color blocking on # 26. Finally, on the good side, I think I would actually make and wear the colorful and odd dress designed by Brandon Mably (#30), although I might lengthen the sleeve to 3/4.

It is very hard for me to nominate a best for this issue because I think so many of the designs are good. I am tempted to name the Brandon Mably dress above, but that would be an eccentric choice. The thing is that colorwork like this and like the Eunny Jang design in the Winter IK is starting to look fresh to me after years of variegated and novelty yarns. For a more popular choice of best design, I would probably choose #14, the photo above the Mably dress.

Worst designs? That's easy. See the two photos below. I think the chrocheted color-blocked coat is worse than the Twinkle tunic. The Twinkle design might look good on someone, but it's a little silly. I have never been partial to Twinkle.

I guess I knew going in that I liked VK the best of the big three knitting magazines, but this closer look clinches it. It seems so obvious that VK is of a higher quality than the others. Is this a valid conclusion? Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know. Meanwhile, here is my scorecard:

  • Best website - Interweave Knits
  • Best articles - Vogue Knitting
  • Best photography - Knitter's
  • Best Designs - Vogue Knitting
  • Most Patterns - Vogue Knitting (by a lot)

Monday, January 28, 2008

winter 2007 reviews: knitter's magazine

Up on the chopping block today is the Winter 07 issue of Knitter's Magazine. The key phrase is buried treasure.

If Interweave Knits makes good use of the Internet, Knitter's is not quite there yet. Their e mail newsletter is deeply buried in their website, and their printed "Online" column, in this issue at least, has no relation to the World Wide Web. A single editorial page called "The Knitting," advertises the magazine's web site and another, an Internet directory, is an ad for online knitting-related businesses disguised as editorial content.

The website itself is colorful if a bit jumbled looking. Here are a few good features - an index of the first 59 issues, a bunch of free patterns, and articles on knitting techniques, but you really have to dig to find them. The most prominent content is advertising for their generally excellent publications and for their expensive Stitches conferences. They must make a lot of money from these if placement is any indication. It's like they don't care much about the really useful features their website offers. Or are their readers not Internet friendly?
Last post I noted that the editorial content of Interweave Knits was thin. Well compared to Knitter's, Interweave should go on a diet. Apart from the features mentioned above, there is a smarmy article naming the knitter of the year (who actually does a lot for charity, but the writing and presentation stinks), unfocused reportage about trends as unveiled at an Italian knitwear show, and a major profile of the Berroco yarn company. None of this is helpful or even that interesting, and the Berroco article is dicey, although no Berroco ads appear in the magazine.

In keeping with the theme of buried treasure, however, there is one gem that appears in every issue of Knitter's magazine. That is a column by my idol, Perri Klass. Perri is a physician, family woman, knitter, novelist, and non-fiction writer. If she is as good at everything else as she is at writing, she scares me. She always finds meaning in knitting and its aspects. Her book, written with her mother, Every Mother is a Daughter, while not about knitting, was one of my favorite non-fiction audio-reads. I recommend it for reading while knitting. This issue's column is about Perri trying to work knitting into a novel she wrote.

The Winter 2007 issue of Knitter's contains 25 patterns. Of these 14 are for sweaters, 6 are for scarves (including 3 dickeys and 1 wrap), there are 2 each of hats and necklaces, and 1 jumper- dress. You can somewhat follow along with the reviews on line, but since there is no gallery, you can't see all of the patterns.

Of the 14 sweaters, 4 are for men. Now Knitters of late has published the absolute worst men's sweater patterns I have ever seen. Case in point:

Who would wear this? OK, granted, this is the worst of the bunch. It is called Prairie Patterns by Angela Juergens. But Media Man with its ridiculous zippers and pockets and Boxes and Bands with its loud stripes are almost as bad. Best of the bunch is the Kaffe derivative Meridian by Barry Klein which makes clever use of slip stitch patterning. But knit it for a woman. I don't see this on a man (although the model looks hot in it). In general, the men's patterns look like they were designed by a granny who is high on meth.

Speaking of granny, a few of the women's designs look like they are trying to be young and "kicky" but rendered by a designer whose taste has frozen in an earlier decade. To wit:

Is this the 80s? It is called Teal We Meet Again by Gitta Schrade. I'm not sure what decade it's trying to refer to, but whatever it is, I don't like it. It's pointless. A similarly faux youthful pattern is the fluffy confection Pointelle Pink, by Penny Ollman:
I can't help but wonder, are Knitter's patterns too old, even for a person of advanced years such as myself. That would seem to be the case looking at the patterns above and taking into account others from this issue such as the dull and baggy pullover Radiant Diamonds and the frumpy cardigan Honey Gold.

But while Knitter's has never run youthful designs, often their sweaters have been classic and ageless. The buried treasure in this issue are those women's sweater designs that do seem timeless to me. They include Kathy Zimmerman's Winter Wheat, a deliciously crunchy tweed in my favorite basket weave design. The sweater is too baggy and long to suit me, but would look good on someone else. Career Trends is a pin striped cardigan by Jean Frost who excels in jacket design. This jacket is not my favorite of hers, but it is credible. The best of the bunch:

This is Chased Silver by Sandi Rosner which makes subtle use of asymmetry in a two part design with an interesting under layer. Made longer, the over sweater would work on its own.

Getting into accessories, we again dip into the horrendous. The three dickeys in this issue, rendered in bulky yarn are unspeakable. The scarves are "novelties", one made of pastel stripes that is semi-wearable and one made of strings that is not. The treasure is a pair of lariats, necklaces combining beading and yarn. I don't know if I would make anything this fiddly, but they are very pretty:

Worst of Knitter's: Prairie Patterns and Teal We Meet Again (which also wins worst name).
Best: Chased Silver and Beaded Lariats.

Knitter's has been edited by Rick Mondragon since the Summer 2001 issue. Before that Rick was a designer (Winter 99), photo stylist (Winter 00), and assistant editor (Spring 01). He might have needed a longer apprenticeship. I am not saying that the mag as gone steadily down hill since Rick replaced Nancy J. Thomas as editor, but I am flirting with saying that. Knitter's still occasionally runs patterns that I want to knit, but they used to run a lot of them. Do you agree? Disagree? Weigh in with your comments.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

reviewing the winter issues: interweave knits

Today the obsessed knitter becomes the opinionated knitter. In reading the Knitters Review and Ravelry forums, I have become interested in people's varying opinions of the major knitting magazines, especially those that I read regularly - Interweave Knits, Knitter's, and Vogue Knitting. I have contributed to these forums a bit, but since this is my blog, and I can do whatever I want, I thought that I'd devote unfettered space to review the Winter 2007 issues of the big three. I will cover one mag in each of three posts, and will do a summary comparison at the end. I hope you find this a little juicy. Please weigh in with your comments; I really want to know what you think of these mags.

Of all the knitting magazines, Interweave Knits has made the best use of the Internet. They provide an e mail newsletter and a wealth of free patterns on their web site. Of all the mags, they are the most friendly to Ravelry as well, allowing unlimited use of their photos on the site.

They have always had the idea of value-added content. When they started out in the Fall of 1996 they offered a free snail mail subscribers' newsletter to be sent out between quarterly issues. While that did not last too long, the idea developed into an expanded website and, during this past year, into knitting Daily, the e newsletter.

I look forward to seeing this piece in my inbox, although I do have some quibbles with it. For one thing, some issues are no more than advertisements for Interweave Press publications. For another, the newsletter tends to promise more than it delivers. For example, its recent survey of what men want in a sweater yielded little information. I could have told you that most men want a dark, solid colored sweater without a survey. That said, I really like some of its features, especially the galleries showing the same sweater on different bodies.

In keeping with its Internet friendliness, Interweave Knits has forged relationships with two of the biggest names online, Amy Singer, editor of Knitty, and Clara Parkes of Knitters Review. Amy has a monthly Web Watch column in the "News and Views" section of the magazine, and Clara has contributed heavily to this issue. She reviews alpaca yarns, reviews sweater design books, and the alpaca section of her book (The Knitter's Book of Yarn) is excerpted. Both authors are well-liked and respected, and they provide good information.

Pam Allen, a well-respected knitwear designer has a major article in this issue on my particular bugbear, set in sleeves. To me, and to anyone else interested in designing her own sweaters, this is pure gold. Less valuable is Marilyn Roberts' interview with Kristin Nicholas plugging Kristin's new book, Kristin Knits. Kristin's career in knitting is not totally uninteresting, but not really useful to know about.

Overall, I would say the editorial side of this issue is a little thin. I like the fact that more than one article focused on the same thing (alpaca) and I love the design feature by Pam Allen. Beyond that, I don't care much about art knitting, knitting in art, or gansey history, which is well-covered elsewhere. These and the Nicholas interview lack liveliness.

The Winter 2007 issue of Interweave Knits contains 23 patterns and a link for 1 free online sweater pattern. I guess they want you to use the website. Of the 23 patterns, 17 are sweaters, 2 are gloves, and there is one each of socks, bag, skirt, and stole.

Here is a look at some of these patterns. I can't post all of the photos, but you can follow along even if you don't have the magazine by opening another window to the Interweave site (linked above), where all of the designs are pictured. I will also nominate the best and worst of the pattern designs. You can have a vote in the comments page, or nominate your own picks.

Pam Allen's cover sweater, "Refined Aran Jacket," would rate high with me, except the vee neckline is too deep. It looks stupid paired with a lacy cami. Why put on a wool sweater if your neck is going to be open? "Bonbon Pullover" by Mari Lynn Patrick is eye catching, but shaped like a sack. It would be unflattering to wear on almost any figure.

Unflattering is a key word for this issue. "Selva's Skirt" makes the model's butt and hips look huge. "Henley Perfected" on the next page is pretty, but the horizontal underbust line is poison for the busty. Take my word for it. The puffy sleeves of "Puffed Wheat Pullover" by the usually brilliant Kate Gilbert do no one's shoulders any good. Kathy Zimmerman's "Forest Forbes Pullover" is pretty at first glance, but who needs things sticking out all over her sweater? I also think that this piece would begin to look sugary sweet if you saw it in person.

"Forest Forbes" also has a funny neckline - too wide. Notice how the model's hair conveniently covers the neck. I don't think the proportions of a wide neck work well on this design, and apparently, neither did the photo stylist. Along with unflattering, funny parts are a theme here.
The "Bubble Cable Dolman" by Sarah Barbour has ginormous underarm wings. The photos blatantly attempt to hide these. Veronik Avery's "Colette Pullover" skews the pattern at the raglan seamlines. I love the shape of this sweater though, and will forgive Veronik. "The Citrus Yoke Pullover" has a neckline with too much fabric. It flops over in the middle. The photo tries to hide this, but I know because I saw this sweater modeled by different people on Knitting Daily. The only person it looked really good on was the designer. The "El Sol Pullver, " in addition to an unflattering bust line, has funny looking trim and an overly wide neck.

In the realm of accessories, the bag is great looking. But will it hold up? In the photo it looks like it is dying already. And the socks are just too busy. Way too much going on with the variegation and cabling together. Which brings me to my worst picks:

Tilting Cable Socks

Rosemary's Swing Jacket: shapeless and matronly.

Best of the bunch? Ta Dah!

Eunny Jang's "Ivy League Vest" a perfect fair isle update which keeps the best of the design, its patterning, and pairs it with a modern, body conscious shape. It is designed and sized to fit bust sizes from 28 to 47 inches. Anyone who knits this would be well-advised to use a gentle color scheme like Eunny's, and avoid bright, strong contrasts. Otherwise, the horizontal stripes could be unflattering.

Interweave Knits has the warmest and friendliest feeling of all the knitting magazines. It has evolved from folksy to almost sophisticated. As always, I like this magazine, but I rarely find things in it that I want to knit.

Monday, January 21, 2008

about the blogroll

I have to start off with a bit of knitting porn (ie: a photo of knitting) because this will be a rather photo free post. I want to talk about my blogroll over on the right, and how I chose the blogs to include there. But first, here is a photo of the Kimono Shawl in progress.

Not much progress you say, and you would be correct. But there is enough here to make me think that I'm liking it. When I started this shawl previously with the lace weight (Cascade Petite) alone, I was not liking it. Too whispy. Now it is a little stout. Can you see the glintiness of the shiny and matte yarn combined?

I am making the first sleeve of Bird Doo Klaralund. I knit the back and decided to make a sleeve before I knit the front to make sure that the horizontal seam would hit at the right place - above the bustline. The front that I made blocked out larger than I had planned, but that is ok. The alpaca/silk blend lacks elasticity, so I don't want body cling. To give you something else to look at, here is the sleeve in progress.

Now, on to the blogroll. I am trying to be selective in providing links to blogs that I think are really good. There are two rough categories of blogs: what I call Fug Fashion Blogs -- those that make fun of dress styles, especially celebrity dress, but also focus on fashion- and knitting blogs.

For either type, I do not link to blogs that do not post regularly, although there are exceptions to this rule. For knitting blogs, I favor blogs that focus on design and give you practical information about how to do things. I tend not to like blogs that cover a lot of different subjects, but rather stick to knitting. There are so many blogs out there, numbering in the multi millions, that I hope to highlight lesser known blogs that are worth reading.

Here is a rundown on the blogs I currently have up on the blogroll:


Go Fug yourself - Jessica and Heather post daily (except on weekends) photos of celebrities trying to look good. The Fuggers point out how they fail in this. I think they are really funny. This blog provides vicarious nastiness.

Project Rungay - extension of one of my secondary obsessions- Project Runway. Tom and Lorenzo are both hilarious and instructive as they critique the designs that parade down the runway on this show. They also provide gossipy little tidbits and previews of upcoming design challenges. I love them.

The Thoughtful Dresser - New to my blogroll, this blog features somewhat philosophical but entertaining observations about fashion. I like that it takes fashion seriously.


The Girl From Auntie - Jenna, who writes regularly and instructively for Knitty, posts infrequently. However, her website contains all kinds of good things: free patterns, tips and techniques, widgets, and l a link to her wonderful Knitty articles. An ultra educational blog.

Grumperina needs no introduction. She writes a lot about design and practical techniques, and I just can't resist her blog name.

Knitting Fiend - also posts infrequently - very infrequently. But like The Girl from Auntie Lucia has many knitting aids on her website. The primary focus of her blog seems to be educational.

Purlwise -Melinda of Purlwise posts regularly and links to variuos techniques. Her emphasis is on knitting technique.

Ruthless Knitting - Ruth (who else?) of Ruthless Knitting is majorly creative. Her blog focuses on design and links to her own original designs.

Slipped Stitch -UK knitter Alice Bell of Slipped Stitch is also a creative designer with links to her designs. In her day job, she is getting an advanced degree with a thesis on children's science writing, which is, to me, an interesting topic.

You Knit What? - Fugly knitting.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

folk shawls

The Yahoo Folk Shawls Group has chosen the Wool Peddler Shawl for its 2008 knit along. I made mine (pictured above) last Fall. I went on the Knitter's Review Forum shawls and scarves section to get recommendations for yarn to use since the yarn specified in the Folk Shawls book has been discontinued. I got confused because knitters suggested a variety of yarns ranging from dk to aran weight. I wanted to reproduce the shawl pictured (below) as closely as possible.

One of the Knitters Review correspondents suggested that I e mail the author, Cheryl Oberle, directly. I was very excited to get a reply recommending Berroco's Ultra Alpaca as a substitute. Following the pattern directions, I produced a deep red shawl that was a little smaller than the dimensions given in the pattern.

The Ultra Alpaca is very soft and cozy. It was a good suggestion; I would recommend using it. However, I wish my shawl had a little more body. The original yarn has a high mohair content, but the Knitters Review people recommended against a mohair blend. As I am partial to mohair and mohair blends, I am sorry that I listened to them, even though they meant totally well. I think there is a bit of prejudice against mohair out there in the knitting world. I am slightly tempted to knit this again, but that might fall into the category of 'will do if I live forever'. I have so many other projects in mind. And I prefer rectangular shawls to triangles, so do I really want another?

Another issue with this shawl is the blocking. Actually there are two issues. One is that the alpaca blend does not hold its shape firmly enough. The other is blocking wires. I don't have any. Thus the edges of the shawl are a little wavy. Before I wash it or block another shawl, I will get blocking wires or else use threads to hold the edges. Pins stuck directly onto the edge give poor results.

Last night I cast on for the Kimono Shawl:

Online, I bought what I thought was the specified yarn for this project: Henry's Attic Cascade Petite, a stocky lace weight of pure, shiny silk. It turns out that the yarn called for was Cascade, not Cascade Petite. I think Cascade must be closer to fingering weight or a little heavier. So in my recent stash enhancement excursion to Mosaic yarn studios I bought some Jagger Spun Zephyr, a lace weight silk and wool blend that is matte, not shiny. Putting the two together causes the yarn to be glinty, neither shiny nor matte. I guess that is ok.

As this is a shawl, I didn't worry too much about gauge, but just wanted to get in the neighborhood. So I am in the neighborhood with a #6 US needle rather than the #5 Cheryl used. For obvious reasons I like that this is not a teeny needle project. I am still working on the Bird Doo Klaralund which goes on #4 needles. Actually that is one #4 and one #3, #3 for the purl rows, a trick I recently picked up from the Interweave Knitting Daily newsletter for working on stockinette stitch. So I have enough slow paced work in hand without making the lace knit even slower.

This is a long introduction to what I really wanted to say today. That is, I love the Folk Shawls book. The projects that Cheryl presents are more or less practical. She doesn't direct you to use lace weight yarn to make a spider webby piece that you can't even feel that you are wearing. Her shawls seem like they would actually keep you warm, and most of them are in the repetitive geometric designs I like best rather than the Victorian style of going out from the center in an overall flowery design. That style is gorgeous to look at, but lost in the wearing. And, since I'm all about the product, many of her shawls are the rectangular shape that looks best on me.

Apart from the patterns, Folk Shawls includes a concise and valuable introduction that teaches lace knitting techniques such as how to cast on (all important in lace making) and gives tips like the one I am using to write each row on a separate index card and flip the cards to keep place in the pattern. I prefer words to charts.

There is also something subtly and indefinably beautiful about the book itself, especially the photos of the shawls as worn by the author. The picture of the Kimono Shawl (above) is especially toothsome to me. It has a physical and spiritual beauty at once. Pictured below is the shawl I want to make next after the Kimono. I also love the Bird's Nest Shawl. The one below is the Icelandic Feather and Fan Shawl, an earthy interpretation of a Victorian pattern knit in unspun wool.

Monday, January 14, 2008

stash enhancement

Well I had sex last week at a local yarn store (that is, stash enhancement excursion). The visit (and the sex) is unusual, because I so shop online for yarn. I know, I know. I do feel guilty because I really want local yarn stores (lys) to continue, and I do try to buy in person once in a while. But come on. How can you beat the price and selection of online shopping?

Anyway, I visited Mosaic Yarn Studio (in Des Plaines, IL, a Chicago suburb) to find some lace weight yarn for the Kimono Shawl by Cheryl Oberle in Folk Shawls (more about that later). I had some Cascade Petite, a shiny, silk, heavy lace weight, but I wanted a fingering weight. From the limited selection of lace weights that I saw at Mosaic, I was able to find this (Jagger Spun Zephyr, a silk/wool blend pictured with the Cascade Petite). I can use one strand of each: Then, I learned that the store owner is purging all Louisa Harding yarns from her shop, and I saw this - Louisa Harding Kimono Angora, an angora/wool/nylon DK for $2 a ball, normally $11.
Bring unable to resist a bargain like that, I piggishly bought all 13 balls. What will I do with it? I have no idea. It would be nice for a shawl, scarves, gloves or mittens, socks, hat, and I could make a lot of them with this haul. I don't see it as a sweater, even though there is enough. Please send me some ideas.

I felt lucky, so I bought some sock yarn for swatching a sweater idea:

The multi colored yarn is Tofutsies (wool/soysilk/cotton/chitin). I have always wanted to have a sweater made of shrimp.

The thing is that I have already have stash galore. This has accumulated over the last several months. I used to have a few balls of this and that, leftovers or vintage picked up at a thrift shop. I still do, some of it quite ancient, but somehow I have started to buy yarn in larger quantities either because it was a great buy or with project ideas in mind. I think this is because I have stopped buying so many books since I started working part time at a library. I have to spend money on something.

Here is what I currently have, not counting several where I have 5 or 6 balls. These are ones I have a lot of.

This is Colour Mart crunchy silk in a tweedy lilac shade. I have 3 small cones or about 1,900 (?) yards. It is called DK, but it seems light for DK. I was thinking shawl, but instead I might make a cable and lace type cardi, maybe Katherine Hepburn from Lace Style. Or else the Bird's Nest Shawl from Folk Shawls. The tangle is from the cat named Boo.

This next is 10 balls of Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Chunky in the color (or rather colour) Damp, a medium grey tweed with blue and green flecks. As you probably know, an E Bay store, Jannette's Rare Yarns, has been having a huge sale on this discontinued yet splendid yarn. I have already made a sweater from a different colorway of this. I think I want to make a Sarah Dallas moss stitch jacket from Rowan's Scottish tweed book.

I have 15 balls of Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere for a sweater. I have used this for a sweater before, and it is wonderful - soft as can be and machine washable and dryable. Its only drawback is its splittiness. It must have a hundred plies. This was also an online bargain at someting like $4 a ball. And finally, I have 14 balls of Knit Picks Merino DK. The color is Vanilla and the yarn is so plain vanilla that I feel uninspired by it. But this color looks good on me, and I know I will like it for a slightly dressy jacket-type cardigan with contrast trim: Will I ever get all this knitting done? Stay tuned to this blog.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

klaralund rationalized through space dyeing

Why oh why did I decide to knit the Klaralund, a design that will probably look horrible on me? And uses variegated yarn, which I generally don't like much? And uses variegated yarn in a color that looks like bird doo? (See previous post for more details.)

  • I thought the Klaralund would be a more interesting use of lace weight yarn than the Clapotis for which it was originally intended.
  • The Klaralund is a clever design and shape, reminiscent of the Einstein Coat. The vee neck, back and front, might be flattering.
  • I would rather have another Clap in shades of brown than the Grape Hyacynth colorway of the Knit Picks Shimmer. Even though purple and green is my favorite color combo, the shades of this grouping look like, I repeat, bird doo. So who cares what I do with it?
  • The yarn is wonderful to the touch. I want to have it wrapped around my body.
What stands out the most about this knitting venture however, are the words Space Dyed. I love retro looks, and I remember that in the 1970s space dyed sweaters were in fashion. This photo is of a current design (from a company called Stacia), but it has the look of the 70s style of sweater surface design. Using 2 strands of the lace weight Shimmer together breaks up the stripes into a similarly speckly space dyed look. As shown in the photo at the top of this post, it looks even more that way on the reverse stockinette (or wrong) side.

So this is essentially a design venture to see if the fabric recreates the space dyed look of sweaters from the seventies. It might lead to another sweater design, more retro in shape, using this type of yarn again. By the way, space dyed is still an operative term. Here is one definition; and here is another. It seems to mean yarn dyed in specified lengths of one color and then another and another, etc., repeating along the length of the skein.

There is another reason, unrelated to clothing or design, why I wanted to use this particular yarn at this particular time. Because I wanted to use this:

And this, my Christmas presents:
to make this:

Monday, January 7, 2008

process or product?

Like many knitters, I usually say that for me knitting is about the process rather than the product. But is that true? Lately I have come to think that this statement about the process being more important than the product is not entirely true for me, but really a way of apologizing in advance if the product of all those hours spent knitting should turn out badly. And many times it has turned out that way in spite of my effort to pick out the right yarn and pattern and knit it correctly.

Process does enter into it. Knitting is thought to be a meditative act because it centers you on the work in front of you enabling you to clear your mind of everything else. I have experienced that at times, but for me gardening works better as meditation. Although I do like to knit, I like to read more, so I combine reading with knitting by listening to audiobooks as I knit. That is why I knit so much - because I read so much. It is still a relaxing process though, knitting and reading away.

Almost as much as I like reading, I like clothes and fashion. And there lies the true excitement and glamour of knitting: hoping to make something wonderful that will look great and be an asset to the wardrobe. All of this is a way of apologizing in advance, because I have reason to fear that the project I cast on over the weekend will turn out badly.

It all started when I was browsing Ravelry to see how other knitters had used Knit Picks Shimmer, a variegated lace weight alpaca/silk blend. I had ordered some, and my idea was to use it for a lighter weight Clapotis that would not be so chunky as the worsted weight versions I had made and would lay better on the neck as a scarf. As I mentioned in my Clapotis post (linked above), I am not crazy about variegated yarn, mainly because of the chunky stripes it produces. The Clap is perfect for variegation because it breaks up the stripes diagonally. Somehow that looks more graceful to me.

I was looking at Shimmer products in Ravelry hoping to glean information about how knitters had used lace weight yarns for Clapotis. I came across an interesting project by a knitter using the name Flyingneedle who made Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton's Klaralund in Shimmer.

Here is Klaralund as she appears in Hamilton's Noro book Number Two using the yarn she specified: Noro Silk Garden, a worsted weight. See the chunky stripes. Flying needle's version, (linked above) which I can't seem to grab for this post, has daintier speckly stripes. In fact, the variegated pattern of Shimmer, as used for Klaralund reminds me of sweaters from my youth - more about that in the next post.

For now, suffice it to say that it is doubtful that Klarlund will look good on me. Notice how the model in the photo here seems to lack breasts. I have humonguous ones. As for Flying Needle, she seems to have breasts, but she is thin and elegant in shape to the extent that she should be a model. I am short and chunky, and while some clothes look passable on me because I am well-proportioned, I will never be anyone's clothes horse.

You might ask, if I am dubious about the material and nearly sure that the shape will not suit me, why am I making this sweater. I am not entirely sure, but I have some ideas, which I will explore in the next post.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

blue shoes and happiness scarf pattern

Happy New Year. As I promised in the last post, I have the Blue Shoes and Happiness scarf pattern ready. I re-knit the scarf ( I first designed and made it in the Spring of 2006) so I could remember how it went. This second version is slightly different from the first.

Blue Shoes and Happiness
Named after the book by Alexander McCall Smith. See December 31 post for details.

finished size: (before blocking) 8.5 x 54 inches with approximately 2 inch fringe.

materials: 400 yards Noro Cash Iroha in dark blue (color #7) (mc) ; a few yards in green (color #105) (cc); more for a longer scarf.

note 1: Each of my skeins yielded 123 yards (a European packaging). I used three and ran short on the fringe. The scarf also could have been longer.

note 2: Cash Iroha is a worsted weight blend of 40% silk, 30% lamb's wool, 20% cashmere, and 10% nylon. It is a luxurious yarn (see previous post), but the scarf would be equally fine, if not better, in a plain worsted weight wool such as Cascade 220, Patons Classic Merino, or Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted. I would try the latter if I knit this again for a thicker scarf.

needles: I used US #9/5.5 mm straight needles. Needles can be short length.
#9 circular needle for picking up stitches along the edge of the scarf.

pattern stitch:

Basket Stitch
Multiple of 6
Rows 1 and 7: knit (k) across. Rows 2 and 8: purl (p) across. Rows 3 and 5: *k1, p4, k1; repeat from asterisk. Rows 4 and 6: *p1, k4, p1; repeat. Rows 9 and 11: *p2, k2, p2; repeat. Rows 10 and 12: *k2, p2, k2; repeat.

Garter Stitch
Knit every row.

gauge: I got close to 5 stitches and 5 rows to the inch (actually 4.8 of each) in the basket pattern stitch. Of course gauge is not crucial here.

Body of scarf
With mc, loosely cast on 32 stitches.
On every row - slip 1st stitch purlwise; knit last stitch (this will be important in picking up stitches later for edging).
Work 6 rows of garter stitch; attach cc and work 2 rows of garter stitch; re-attach mc and work 2 rows garter stitch.

Continuing to slip 1st stitch and knit last stitch, work the 30 stitches in between in Basket Stitch. Continue for approximately 50 inches or for desired length of scarf. (Garter stitch borders take about 1.5 inches each.)

After final repeat of basket stitch work 2 rows garter stitch, attach cc and work 2 rows garter stitch, re-attach mc and work 6 rows garter stitch.

Bind off all stitches loosely.

1) The slipped stitch edge forms a chain along the entire length of the scarf. Using cc and circular needle, insert the needle through both strands of the chain stitch and pick up one stitch for each chain along one side of the scarf. You will be picking up one stitch for each 2 knitted rows. Knit back along this row of picked up stitches to create one garter ridge. Bind off loosely.

2) As above, pick up and knit stitches along the other side, using cc. Knit back the picked up row to form one garter ridge of cc. Attach MC and knit 4 rows in garter stitch. Re-attach cc and knit 2 rows in garter stitch. Bind off all stitches loosely.

3) (optional) pick up stitches along short edges (one stitch for each stitch in pattern and edgings) and create one garter ridge in cc. (I did this and am not sure I like it.)

4) Fringe: cut 4 17 cm strands of yarn for each fringe. Attach along the long side of the scarf that has the wider garter stitch edging (see photo). Trim fringe to 2 inches.

That's it! Let me know if anything is unclear. And please let me know if you knit this. I would love to see pictures. I think it would look good in red with white trim for Valentine's Day.