Monday, May 26, 2008


I'm on a finishing frenzy. It's the Kimono Shawl. I have finished 16 repeats of a 24-row pattern, and the shawl is nearly my height (63"). I figure to get to 20 repeats and be done with it. The pattern calls for 25 repeats, but maybe 20 will be enough. I have the drive to get this off my needles, and I'm on a tear. Here is progress to date:
Below is the shawl on March 27 and January 19 respectively. I do expect to find this shawl beautiful even if I did knit it myself. It has the hushed quality of its photo in Folk Shawls.

However, I don't expect to make any more shawls. Of course this is a lie. While I have gone off of shawls because they just don't look that good on me and I don't know anyone else who would wear one, I do have plans for more shawls. I have yarn for one or two more Clapotis. Maybe these don't count as shawls because they are a little scarfy. I also have yarn for a shawl I have long, long admired, a Shetland shawl knit in two right angles around a middle square. But this can be more like a blanket. I also have a warm spot for the Stonington shawl as created by Laura, The Scarlet Knitter, in her exact shade of pink. Luckily I don't have yarn for this. From now on, mostly, I'll confine lace knitting to scarves and sweaters.

In looking forward to the completion of Kimono though, I sensed an emerging question. Where would I block such a large garment? Where the cats couldn't lie on it. The sewing room is the only place I can easily keep the cats out of, but there is not a good surface there for pinning. To that end, I found a company that sells interlocking foam mats, Soft Tiles. They seem to have low prices. I ordered 24 1' tiles, which should be enough for the Kimono shawl and any other project.
I am happy. I am always happy when I can buy something.

I will close today with some garden shots. We had our 20 year old crab apple tree trimmed. The little pink-flowered shrub is Weigela florida 'Minuet', a charming 2.5 foot shrub with purple-ish leaves. It is also quite old in my garden, and a stellar performer.

Monday, May 19, 2008

interweave fug redux

I feel a little guilty for what I am about to do: trash talk Interweave Knits again. I can't help it. I'm critical and judgemental. I never intended to turn this blog into a rant, but when I see wrongness, I just have to point it out. Mind you, no evil enjoyment intended.

OK. The Summer 2008 issue came out. Eunny says it's all about color. Color is good, but does being colorful require that you spew color as if you ate paint:
Or perhaps this model is graduating from clown college. Some of the designs in this issue rival those of Knitters for cluelessness. They are LOUD, although I will say the IK designs tend to have better shapes.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I will say that I really like some of the designs from this issue, mainly the cover piece, the lace hoodie, and the plaid halter. The lace designs are nice in general. But this post isn't about the good.

Here (right) is another loud and bizarre design from the current issue: I include it because I recently came across a related design in a different publication, the book More Big Girl Knits by Jillian Moreno and Amy R. Singer. This book contains, in my opinion, a lot of outstanding designs that any one of any size would want to wear. Here is the Big Girl version below:
Not my favorite design from the book, but , you have to agree, much saner than the IK one.

I have to ask - What is Eunny thinking? She must be thinking of differentiating herself from her predecessors, making her mark, changing the style of IK. This is clear when you compare covers over the years.

Under its first editor, Marilyn Murphy, IK was a bit dour and frumpy: Under Melanie Falick it developed a crunchy granola warmth that I like the best. I think its style made it stand out from other knitting and fashion magazines even if I don't think its design standards were the best:

Today's IK? Trying to be slick.

And why did they inconveniently separate the garment photos from the pattern instructions? Is it more slick that way? And I miss the model who looks a little like a beautiful camel. You know who I mean. OK. I'm done ranting.

Monday, May 12, 2008

finished object alert

I have. Finished. An. Object. The reason I've amazed myself with this is that I am working on two endless projects: the small-gauge full skirt and the Kimono Shawl. The shawl is about half finished, the skirt maybe one forth to one third. Laura, the Scarlet Knitter has a rule of three though. She generally works on three projects at once.

When I read that, I realized that three is the perfect number and that I too usually work on three at once. One of the three projects has to be a smaller, finishable one, and, it recently came to me, should be portable. So I made a little blanket for a baby in little squares. Here it is being blocked:

Here is a close up:
Here is the Ravelry page. And here is how it looks in the original from Natural Knits for Babies and Moms by Louisa Harding:

I think the designer's yarn choice is brilliant. The faded colors of Green Mountain Spinnery Cotton Comfort (wool/cotton blend, dk weight) of similar intensity give it a mellow, vintage/organic look. However, I had leftovers: Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere (dk) leftover from the Bandersnatch sweater, and I used it ALL up. I love putting leftover yarn to good use. I also love this yarn. It is soft and warm like worn flannel pajamas.

I edged the blanket with Knit Picks Cotlin, a cotton/linen dk (see previous post), mitering rather than overlapping the garter stitch edging. The yarn is soft and knits up very well - a Knit Picks winner. The edging did not work perfectly as to pick ups along the row edges. The first time I followed the rule of three stitches per each four rows, and it was too many. For the second edge I reduced the stitches, and it was better, but still a little flaring. Both side blocked out well though. I could have made the border wider, but I came to the end of the yarn.

The squares, which measure 6.75 inches wide and 6.5 inches long, knit up in no time, but took a while to put together. The squares are butted together and whip stitched from the back into columns, leaving a ridge between them. The expert knitter who made the sample in Louisa Harding's book somehow avoided the ridge. I would like to know how to do that. The columns are mattress-stitched together with no ridge, but leaving a visible seam in my version. It could have been better, but it doesn't look bad in person.

I used Louisa Harding's charts for the star, heart, and plain square, but I designed my own cat and flower squares. These were fun and easy to chart. You can knit a picture of anything.

Monday, May 5, 2008

back to the future

I had a slightly weird knitting encounter the other day --with my past. I was going through old clothes in the basement closet and I found this garment:
I had knit this for my daughter approximately 19 years ago, when she was 12 years old. She might have worn it once. She hates yellow. Why did I knit her a yellow sweater? I like yellow, and thought she looked good in it, but so what? My opinion wouldn't make her wear it. She recently observed that she doesn't look good in light colors. I do. Was I really knitting myself a yellow sweater for the future? The style, from the Spring/Summer edition of Vogue Knitting, was meant to be oversized. I must have made this for her in size small, or possibly medium. It fits me well now, given the more fitted styles of today. The sleeves are too short, but that's ok - they are 3/4 or bracelet length. Perfect.

This sweater marks the last time I tried to make clothing for my daughter with the exception of her eighth grade graduation dress. When you're a teenager or a grown woman it just gets too complicated given body type and body image. It's hit or miss. That's why I make accessories for other adults, but am reluctant to make clothing. For myself, I can take a chance.

So I have a new sweater. I remember the pattern well. It was the cover sweater from that ancient issue:
I really liked this pattern. I made one for myself, properly oversized, in white. That sweater I have lost track of. I also made myself another sweater form that issue, one that I still have. It was designed by Annie Modesitt.

It's a pretty cotton cardigan covered with embroidered roses and crocheted buttons. But I think I improvised the buttons because I didn't know how to crochet then. The buttonholes are machine made and backed by grosgrain ribbon, a work of art. The spaces between the button don't gape as they do in hand-embroidered, unfaced button bands.

It's nice to be able to keep and use old things. I'm glad I have these sweaters, but both have problems. For one, the neckline on both is too wide. For the yellow sweater, I'll just have to let the straps show, maybe wear a cami. I certainly can't go braless, though I did with the white one twenty years ago (it was loose). I tried to correct the neckline on the cardi by gathering it with a knitted cord when I made it. It's magenta; you can see it hanging down in the photo.

The more serious problem, as it so often is, is yarn selection. I guess I didn't know the difference between worsted and dk in those days. Both sweaters are knit in Reynolds Saucy, a 100% cotton worsted weight yarn. I must have gotten gauge, but the sweaters, both meant to be knit in dk, are too heavy and bulky. Since then, I have learned to avoid 100% cotton yarns anyway; blends are lighter weight and more elastic.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

well done, knit picks

Knit Picks is skilled at advertising and marketing. For one, their catalog featuring real women in fabulous sweaters gathered from current pattern books is outstanding. The models look great, you can totally identify with them, and you get a realistic idea of how different styles look on different bodies. This approach works better for me than the Interweave Knits galleries on Knitting Daily. The styles in the Knit Picks catalog are more varied, as are the models in terms of age and size.

Recently, in a email, Knit Picks offered a sampler package of six of their summer yarns for around $20. That is six full skeins that you can play with and even use to make a one ball item with the accompanying patterns. The yarns come in 3 colorways: light, medium, and dark. In the photos, all looked irresistible. I opted for light, and this is what I got:
I was pleased. The package includes Comfy (pink), Shine Worsted (yellow), Main Line (sand - looks orange in photo above), Cotlin (green), Shine Sport (ivory), and Crayon (blue). I swatched four of them and now I know more about Knit Picks yarn than I did before.

Maine Line (sand) is a worsted weight blend of 75% Pima cotton and 25% Merino wool. I have always liked this combination because it looks and wears like cotton, but gains the elasticity of wool. In this case, the sample, knit on #8 (US) needles, was quite firm, lacked drape, and was less elastic than I had expected. But it knit up evenly and would be fine for a sturdy sweater. I'd like it for outerwear.

Crayon (blue) is one of Knit Picks' few novelty yarns. It is a light weight boucle of 100% cotton. It's perfect for children's blankets and toys. I don't see it as a garment for either children or adults.

Comfy (pink) is Knit Picks' newest. It is worsted weight but knits up light and thin. It is 75% Pima cotton and 25% acrylic. For the second time in recent memory I have fallen in love with a synthetic (blend). The first time was Berroco Comfort (all synthetic). This yarn is soft and caressing, and very summery. Perfect for a tank.

Shine Worsted has problems. This blend of 60/40 cotton/modal looks gorgeous in the skein. It has rich color and delicious sheen. It is the most edible-looking of these yarns. But I hate how it knit up on #7 needles. It's uneven and inelastic. I want to try it again on a smaller needle, but I doubt that I would use this yarn.

Because of this I didn't bother to try Shine sport. I'll keep it for stash. I am curious about Cotlin, a dk blend of cotton and linen, but I don't want to swatch it yet because I am saving it for trim on a current project.