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.