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.