Wednesday, September 23, 2009

slinking back

Bad Beverlyanne. It's been three months since I last posted. In fact, I now have to go back and read that post, because I've forgotten what it was about.

Oh. It was about a stupid Clapotis that I shouldn't even have made. But the post before that was about the subject of today's posting, The Rosy Pinwheel. Yes, I changed its name from Devil's Pinwheel to Rosy in honor of my granddaughter, Rosie. And here it is in long view: And a delightful close up that shows its lovely lace border bring knitted:

Ok. It's not all that lovely, but as you can see from the top photo, it's almost a circle.

This blanket gave me no end of trouble, and I think it was because it was June and I was really, really sick of knitting. The same thing happened to me last summer - I barely knit and I didn't blog - but I thought that was because I moved my mother to a nursing home after she broke her arm in July and my daughter spent the month of August in the hospital. And gave birth at the end of her stay. I am grateful that nothing like that happened this summer (except for the birth), but I still didn't want to knit or blog.

Nanette of Knitting in Color, one of the most creative knitters around, made me feel better with this July post. In it she explains how she never feels like knitting in the summer, and she gave a number of truly inspiring examples of work that made me feel that, yes, I was still a knitter.

Getting back to the blanket, it turned out fine, but I had to buy more yarn to knit the edging. It must be the yarn, Dream in Color Classy, that lacked staying power. The lovely and gracious Helen of Chronic Knitting Syndrome, who has made some stunning pinwheels (this is my favorite), kindly gave me the pattern for the lace edging. The fact that it doesn't look like it should (straight rather than slanted) is my fault, but I like it anyway. She also explained how to knit it directly onto the edge, which I would never have figured out on my own. So Helen, thank you a million times.

Unfortunately the blanket was finished in the summer, so Rosie hasn't really needed it yet. Someday, I am sure that she will be glad to be covered by a nice, soft wool blanket.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

clap, clap, clap

Why oh why did I knit another Clapotis? This is my third. Do I need three shawl/scarves that don't work perfectly as either.

After much soul searching I find two major reason why I knit my third:

1) I was seduced by the yarn
2) I like a simple knit

#1, I tested a sample of Malabrigo Silky Merino and fell in love. Ever since I made my first Clapotis, using the decent but not wonderful Paton's Classic Wool, I've wanted a slinkier Clap. I thought it would be more scarf-like. It turns out that the slinky DK version is about as shawl-like as the worsted weight versions, but it does have a lighter, silkier feel. And the colorway, Stonechat, while it doesn't make you drool, is subtly beautiful and looks great with grey.

I made this one just as wide but shorter than the pattern suggests. I used 3 skeins of Silky Merino or 450 yards, about as much as a typical scarf. I bought 5 skeins and now have 2 left over to include in a future log cabin blanket or something.

#2 is a slightly embarrassing reason. After working straight out on a log cabin blanket, this Clapotis, and, currently, a Pinwheel Baby Blanket, to the neglect of other projects, I realize that I like to do plain garter stitch or stockinette best. I love a project that goes fast and requires little thought or attention. That goes for socks too, where the pattern isn't too complicated. Socks meet the goes fast requirement and most of the time, the little attention requirement.

I don't know if this is a phase or if I should forget about lace and cable knitting forever. I am well underway with a sweater I have long admired, the Apres Surf Hoodie by my latest design guru, Connie Chang Chinchio. Here is its Ravelry page. Now this isn't a difficult knit by any means, but you do have to keep track of which row you're on, and it doesn't go fast. So I have been neglecting this project shamefully, although I have no plan to abandon it. First I just have to knit dozens of garter stitch blankets or something.

The Clapotis, Log Cabin Blanket, and Pinwheel all share a special attribute. They are easy, simple, but very clever designs that produce striking and unusual objects. I would like to know about more like these. If you have any favorites along these lines, let me know.

Monday, June 15, 2009

the devil's pinwheel

Since my granddaughter Rosie has been spending more time at our house, I wanted to have a nice knitted blanket for her naps and sleepovers. The pinwheel was in the back of my mind. I perused Ravelry and decided that the Oat Couture short row pinwheel was the most refined. I especially liked the knit- in lace border. I actually went out and bought the pattern, an unusual action for me. Here is its scanned self:

The Ravelry pages showed lots of stellar examples of this blanket. I was particularly taken with this one , which convinced me that this was a project that uses variegated yarn to advantage.

I spent hours shopping on line, and narrowed down my choices. Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted was on my short list (the same yarn as in the afghan on Ravelry), but I thought it too pricey. Wanting instant gratification, I shopped locally (Mosaic Yarn Studio) and discovered that Dream in Color Classy, while not cheap, had more yardage than Lorna's Laces, so I could get four skeins rather than five to make up the 1,000 yards of worsted that the pattern calls for. See the yarn on the right. The colorway is called Ruby River.

I bought the four skeins, and here is where things started to go horribly wrong. First off, I found the yarn, machine washable merino, to be somewhat stiff in garter stitch. It wasn't scratchy, but at five stitches per inch, the correct gauge, it felt like a hot pad. Next, and worst, my yarn was disappearing at an alarming rate. To spare you the gory details, the upshot is that I frogged this project THREE times until I was at a gauge of four stitches per inch and had achieved an acceptable drape to the fabric.

I had knit up the first of the four skeins when a cold hand gripped my heart. By the size of the section I had knit, I would need just less than double the yarn I had purchased: that is 2,000 yards rather than the 1,000 specified in the pattern. WHAT? Even if I could get more of the colorway (doubtful), I didn't want to spend $150 on this project. And what is up with this pattern? Others on Ravelry did not seem to have this problem. But as a knitter, I usually need less yarn than specified, not twice as much. Mystery still unsolved.

My pinwheel failure was made all the more poignant when I read the blog of my fellow knitter Woolie of Wool Enough and Time. She made the most adorable short-row pinwheel cushion cover out of scraps. Kudos to Woolie, but grrrr.

My story is on its way to a happy ending though. I decided to make the yarn over pinwheel instead. After three or four failed attempts to start this project (five stitches on double pointed needles), I am on my way to producing a fine blanket for Rosie. This one is in stockinette, and I must say that the yarn seemed to smile at me as I released it from garter stitch. And I think I'll have a skein left over.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I recently finished my ninth and tenth pairs of socks. I feel like I should stop for a while, especially since I rarely wear socks in the summer. But I probably won't. I made this pair for Anne in her favorite color. I used the good ol' Schurch Double Moss stitch. Here is its Ravelry page.

This is the second time I've used Dream in Color sock yarn. Their variegated yarns are the best ever; never any jarring contrasts or pooling. The last batch I used was called Gaia. It has been renamed Smooshy, and I think it is a little thinner than before. I automatically took out the larger size 1 needle (2.50 mm), but I think the 2.25 might have been better. Or maybe not. These socks also seemed a little smaller than usual. Maybe the 2.25 needle with 72 stitches instead of 64?

I made the tenth pair for myself, because I REALLY needed some pink socks. Actually, I was seduced by the yarn I encountered at the Loopy yarn tasting described in the last post. I used the Zigzag pattern from the Vogue sock book. I couldn't look away because the socks were also shown in pink. Here is its Ravelry link.

A weird thing about this pattern was that the directions called for seven stitches to the inch for a size medium sock on 64 stitches. I think that would have made a large sock. So I followed the pattern, but at 8 stitches to the inch. Maybe the fact that the pattern used Gem sport weight instead of sock weight makes the difference, but I don't see how.

Another weird thing was the star toe. This toe is what the designer used, so I thought I'd try it. I noticed that some ravelry people thought that this toe was so ugly that they frogged and reknit it. I thought, how bad can a toe be? Well, it is not a pretty or pleasant toe, way too pointed, but it looks like a cute little pinwheel off the foot. I won't use it again.

Maizy by Crystal Palace is 82% corn fiber and 18% elastic nylon. The resulting sock fits well, is soft, and though it stretches out easily, it snaps back into shape really well when you take it off. One problem though. It feels like wearing plastic. Corn is a natural fiber, but like rayon, which is made from wood, it has a synthetic feel. The socks are pretty though.

Here is more pretty. It's that time of year - garden photos! No deer this year (so far). My hostas are standing up proud.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Do you want to see something horrible?
This is yarn I spun (spinned?) on this:

I took a four hour spinning class at Loopy, a great local yarn store in the Printer's Row area of Chicago. I wrote about Loopy last year when I went on a mini yarn crawl with my friend Linda.

The class was great. Meg, my teacher, made me the spindle pictured above and gave me tons of roving to practice on. She took me from rolling a stick along my knee to spindling to spinning and plying on a wheel. She also taught me how to card roving. She made the blue yarn that is plied with the yarn I made above. It's not her fault that the yarn is awful.

Now I realize that if I were to practice I could probably make better yarn, even on a spindle. But you know what? In my maturity I begin to see that you don't have to do everything in life. I didn't take to spinning that well. I especially disliked the wheel- spinning posture of leaning forward toward the wheel to feed the draft. I got out of the lessons what I wanted; I learned something about how yarn is made.

I am still fascinated with the process of wool and yarn-making though. I am looking at dyeing with natural dyes. I have a little patch in the back of my garden that would be perfect for growing dye plants. I also read a strange and amazing book called Lambs of God by an Australian, Merele Day, about an isolated group of three elderly nuns who organize their days and lives around sheep, fleece, yarn, and knitting. I have also been reading re-told fairy tales about spinning, featuring retellings of the Rumpelstiltskin story. Here is a link to a work blog I contribute to where I posted a review of several of these stories.

Now here is something else about Loopy. I went to their Spring yarn tasting. It was fun, but what an incredible marketing tool for them. If you or anyone you know has a yarn store, you must try this technique. As a result of trying out yarn, I bought $70 worth of yarn that I never would have bought otherwise. I am currently knitting with Maizy sock yarn, a soft yarn made out of corn (!) and my first Malabrigo, Silky Merino, pictured here. I am making my third Clapotis with it, to be a smaller, slinkier scarf than the two I already have.

Here is how the yarn tasting worked. They gave us lengths of 37 different yarns, listed in the order they gave them out on a 'menu'. I couldn't keep up with the knitting (I got there late), but I did identify three yarns I loved: the two mentioned above and Prima by Debbie Bliss. By comparing them with other yarns I was able to see that the Silky Merino and the Prima gave sharply defined, even stitches. Here is the swatch I made of some of the yarns:

Monday, May 11, 2009

a little progress

I haven't been working much on the Learn to Knit Afghan. I guess other projects have been more compelling lately. But I did sew the first column together and loved the results. Here is a photo.

Here is another view.

The panel is too long to photograph as one strip, so it is folded over.

At first, I was a little shocked by the color combination, but now I think it looks modern and fresh. I put it around my neck and sort of wished for a scarf like it. I am following Barbara Walker's outline for the order of the squares. Her design distributes the colors and color combinations well and makes a pattern with the diagonals. That is just the sort of thing I don't like to figure out for myself.

Here is the last square I finished.

I'm still working on the twisted stitch chapter. Currently I'm doing a bias stripe that is simple, but a little tiresome. I think I'll go and try to finish it tonight.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

here comes cookie

I've had Cookie A's long-awaited book for a couple of weeks now and have had a chance to go through it. It's called Sock Innovation, and it's a doozy. Here is a picture of the cover.

This is a manual of sock design at a pretty sophisticated level. Cookie explains in detail how to adapt flat-knit patterns for socks, how to alter patterns so they fit into the sock schematic, how to divide the pattern for the instep (design) and foot (plain knit), and includes a somewhat intimidating section on charting sock patterns. Along the way she gives clear instructions for several basic sock heels and toes. I especially like her description of the afterthought heel, and I plan to try it sometime. I also like that she shares my biases toward the top down sock and solid-colored sock yarn.

Cookie's sock ideas arise out of mathematics. If you think about it, all knitting has a large mathematical component. This is a source of satisfaction to someone like me who has a strong math-aversion. It suggests that I'm not as mathematically inept as I think. But Cookie is mathematically gifted. That she is a sock engineer is apparent in the way she presents her design ideas and in her designs themselves. The book contains 15 of Cookie's innovative sock designs, some of which are beautiful and a few of which look overly complex - overly engineered. That is a cavil. All in all this is one of the most valuable sock books I have seen.

In no way does this endorsement of Cookie A. indicate an abandonment of my beloved Charlene Schurch. On the contrary, Cookie's book affirms the value of Sensational Knitted Socks and More Sensational Knitted Socks. In a way, you can see Schurch's works as a simplified schematic of Cookie's ideas. Schurch has digested all the sophisticated engineering that Cookie provides and simplifies it into a series of charts and tables. Here is a page from Schurch as an example.

It's not readable here, but the chart at the top shows the number of stitches you would need at gauges running from 5 to 10 stitches per inch to get the sock circumference you need based on specific pattern repeats. Schurch limits herself to pattern repeats ranging from four to 12 stitches wide. She only presents patterns that have an even number of repeats so that dividing for foot and instep is easy. Cookie takes you beyond this basic step.

By getting familiar with Schurch's schemes I have been able to venture into simple sock design, so far limited to patterns from directories. But I have gained the confidence to adapt and manipulate patterns. Schurch has taught me the basics of sock design and lead me toward pattern innovation. I am unlikely to design or even knit a sock as complex as some of Cookie's designs, but I have a greater understanding and appreciation for what she does thanks to Charlene Schurch.

Another book is worth mentioning in the context of sock design. That is Vogue Knitting The Ultimate Sock Book.

This is a very easy to follow exposition of sock knitting basics venturing into design. It would be a perfect beginner sock book. It gives you a universal toe up and top down sock pattern to size and embellish as you wish. What I like best about it is the stitch directory, as a supplement to the stitches offered by in Schurch's books. It also offers an overview of historic and ethnic sock knitting traditions, and a selection of patterns, some of which are very pretty.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I am in awe of myself! I designed another pair of socks. Sort of. Turns out that I designed a Charlene Schurch pattern - Stems - but not exactly. I'll explain.

I found a stitch pattern called Double Eyelet Rib in my Harmony stitch pattern book (old style, published in 1980s). My yarn (which I'll detail later) knit up at seven stitches to the inch. By the way, I take my sock gauges on stockinette rather than the stitch pattern because the gauge determines which stitch pattern I choose. I don't know if this is correct; it works for me. But I digress.

Seven stitches to the inch means that I want a stitch count of around 56 to go around an eight inch circumference for leg and foot. A seven stitch repeat going around the sock eight times is perfect. An even number of repeats makes it easy to divide for the instep and foot: subtract four repeats for the foot, which will be plain stockinette. That leaves four repeats for the instep - half and half.

Low and behold the pretty and dainty double eyelet rib was a seven stitch repeat and fulfilled my desire for a viney, leafy kind of lace to the fit the grape color of the yarn. Besides, I wanted to make a lace sock, never having knitted one before. This is a simple four row lace pattern. I translated the directions from flat knitting to knitting in the round and came up with this:

row 1 knit 5, purl 2, repeat
row 2 same as 1
row 3 knit 2 together, yo, knit 1, yo, slip 1, knit 1, pass sipped stitch over knit stitch, purl 2,
row 4 same as 1.

Note that the items bolded in the directions above are points of difference between Stems and the double eyelet pattern that I am now calling Raisins. Stems is a six stitch repeat rather than seven. Raisins has two purls between the eyelet holes rather than one. I think this is an improvement in that it makes the sock more ribby, so it stays up well. And then Raisins has a plain knit 1 between the yarn overs forming the eyelets rather than that a knit one though the back loop. I also like my version better here in that it's daintier, but that is a matter of taste. Here is a close up of Stems. I think it looks a bit horsier than Raisins, so as much as I adore Ms Schurch, I'm sticking with Raisins.

Here is a picture of Raisins off the foot showing how the ribs pull in. There is no need to block this pattern because the lace spreads out and shows itself when it is on the foot. By the way, both patterns look equally good upside down (pointing down) as right side up (pointing up). This is important because socks are viewed from various angles.
Stems can be found in the invaluable More Sensational Knitted Socks which I am linking to Amazon because the book is so great that you should consider buying it if you don't have it already. Schurch helped me by holding my hand through this book and her previous Sensational knitted Socks when I got into sock knitting last year at around this time.

But wait. There's more. After I made Raisins, not remembering yet about Stems, I couldn't believe that someone hadn't discovered this stitch pattern because it was so perfect. So I searched double eyelet rib on Ravelry and came up with this. Double Eyelet Rib socks is a free pattern from Wendy D. Johnson. It is an eight stitch repeat that substitutes a purl 1, knit 1, purl 1 for the purl 2 of my design. The eyelet part is more like Raisins, but rather than a sort of trough between the eyelets there is a raised line. It's nice, but I still like mine better.

So I remain self satisfied. Now for some more information about Raisins. I used Knit Picks Gloss because they said it was my last chance to purchase this yarn in the color Grape. I had to have it even though I have no purple in my wardrobe and don't even like it that much. The yarn is soft and shiny made of 70% merino and 30% silk. I like that it has silk because silk is a strong fiber and will make up for no nylon in the mix. The yarn is thicker than I'm used to. I got the seven stitch count on the size needle that usually gives me eight stitches to the inch - 2.25 mm.

Aside from the beauteous design, the big news here is a new (to me) toe: the round toe from (who else?) Charlene Schurch. Ms Schurch says it is a beautiful toe. Though I wouldn't go that far in describing it, it is pretty. This toe saves you doing the hated Kitchener stitch. But that is nothing to me because I like doing Kitchener.

Monday, April 13, 2009

here comes jilly

This post is a little tardy and not entirely enthusiastic. I finished Jilly at least a week ago and have already worn her. I designed this sweater based on a store-bought model that I really liked. I first knit this in 2007, using yarn that was too soft and drapey for the design. The current version is much better. The one from the store had a stitch gauge (even though it was machine made) of 4.5 stitches per inch, so my quest was for a yarn that looked good at this gauge. The first yarn I used (Cascade Pima Silk) magnified the irregularities that are inevitable in plain stockinette. The current yarn, my first foray into all synthetic, looks smoother. The yarn is Berroco Comfort, a 50-50 blend of acrylic and nylon meant to mimic cotton. And it does this very well. It is very soft, and has the body of cotton without the weight. I haven't washed it yet, but I assume it will machine wash and dry well.

The new Jilly came out pretty well and has color- matching Dilly socks. I corrected a fit problem with the sleeves thanks to Maggie Righetti's short row sleeve which is knit down directly from the armscye. The neckline is an area that I still need to master. The neck is OK, but a bit wider than I'd like. Because the design is so plain I tried to make design features of the waist decreases and side slits, which are self-faced. After wearing the sweater once, I think I am going to make the slits smaller.

So why the lack of enthusiasm? The sweater fits well, feels good, and has the simplicity I like. I essentially achieved what I set out to do in recreating my store-bought favorite. The problem is, this sweater is no longer my favorite. The original is about three years old now and maybe no longer in style. Right now I don't want a trim, short, tailored sweater. No matter though. It's certainly classic enough to wear, and I will. I'm hoping to post the pattern at some point.

Meanwhile, Elinor of Exercise Before Knitting, a fellow Midwesterner, has posted an amazing sleeve/armscye calculator on her blog. I still like Maggie Righetti, but you should definitely look at Elinor's chart. It produced a perfect sleeve for her latest sweater design.

Monday, March 30, 2009

dilly dilly and the lifestyle

How old do you have to be to remember the nursery song Lavender Blue? It goes "Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, lavender's green...." So I named these socks Dilly after the color and to rhyme with the matching sweater I'm making that I call Jilly. More about Jilly later. I'm on the last sleeve.

The pattern is Charlene Schurch's (aren't you tired of reading this illustrious name on my blog?) basketweave rib pattern, the usual eight stitch repeat done on 2.25 mm needles at a gauge of eight stitches per inch. With a seven inch leg, an eight inch circumference, and an eight and a half inch foot this pair took only about 325 yards of yarn. Here is the Ravelry page for this stitch pattern. From some angles this looks a little like bamboo, so I would like to do it in a slinky tan yarn with a slightly narrower repeat to look even more like bamboo.

When I started the Jilly sweater, it occurred to me that I had some leftover fingering weight yarn in the same color as the sweater yarn (Berroco Comfort - my first synthetic). It turned out to be an uncanny match, so I couldn't resist creating an ensemble of sweater and socks.

What makes these socks a little interesting though is that this type of yarn, which is sticky enough for color work, is not usually used as sock yarn. Sock yarn, which is often merino wool, tends to be softer than this shetland stuff. How did it work for socks, you ask? Very well I think. The socks are a little stiffer than I'm used to, but they don't scratch, they feel sturdy, and I think they will wear well. They are as comfortable to wear as my other wool socks. I would use this again for sock yarn, and that's just as well since I've acquired a whole bunch of the stuff. See previous post.

For me, a great revelation came with these socks. And that is the Lifestyle heel, invented by a woman named Priscilla Wild and promulgated by Charisa Martin Cairn in her knitting blog. (I am sending you to the current opening page of the blog so you can say a prayer or send a good thought to Adrienne, Charisa's 24 year old daughter who is battling melanoma.) Scroll down to No Swatch Toe Up Sock on the right.

This short row heel is the smoothest, least holey, unbulkyist, best heel I have ever knit. No backwards yarn overs or upside down wraps here. The heel is formed by simply slipping stitches, leaving them unworked, and knitting each together with the last active stitch on the needle after the turn. To make up for the knit two together and to close the gap, you make a new stitch. Even though this heel appears in a toe up sock pattern, remember short row heels are the same in either direction. Charisa also offers a video tutorial on this heel.

I've been calling this a sock pattern, but really, the reason Charisa calls this a Lifestyle heel is because it is part of what she calls a "sock lifestyle". Some people might call it a "recipe". I don't really like either name, but it is what I've been doing with Charlene Schurch for a while. You get your basic figures (leg length, circumference, etc.) and your favorite heel and toe, and you can insert any stitch pattern that fits the sock format. I just got Cookie A's new book that seems to elaborate on this idea.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

yarn alarm

I guess my last post provided the brakes I needed to stop knitting dishcloths. I have stopped for the moment, no thanks to my blogging friends who suggest that I can move on to hot pads and dish towels. Now though, I can't stop winding yarn.

It all started when my friend Linda decided to sell her loom and give up weaving. She had a little stash of weaving yarn that she doubtfully showed me. She didn't think that the flat, firm wool yarn used for weaving could be knit with. But I knew better. All you had to do was skein it (I used my swift for its opposite task), wash it, and it would fluff up into, in this case, heathery fingering weight yarn.

The tall cone of yarn at the extreme left is lace weight cotton, which I haven't yet contemplated using. But the rest is fingering weight wool (except for the grey which looks like dk or sport) imported from Scotland. This yarn reminds me strongly of Jamieson Spindrift, a commercial knitting wool meant for fair isle and stranded color work and emulating the colors of the now unavailable (except through her website) Alice Starmore yarns.

My mystery yarn is two plies, each ply a mixture of the same two colors. One color must be in larger quantity than the other, because each yarn has an overall color look: green (of a greyish variety), purple, and brown (or dark, dark red - you can't tell which, but I lean toward brown). The mix colors are green yellow, blue, and green blue respectively. Here is a close up of the yarns after washing and winding. They look lighter in the photo than they actually are.

I have 2,000 yard of each. What will I do with them? Well, I have leftovers of similar yarn from many years ago when I made faire isle sweaters. (No, I 'm not a pack rat, but I do know what to save and what to toss.) The purple (on the left) will be a good mixer with the colors I have, so I hope to plan a color work project even if it's only mittens or socks. The brown (center) will not mix as well, but I love it for a sweater on its own. The green could go either way.

In line with this acquisition, I decided to make a pair of socks from some left over Spindrift I had, partly to test this yarn for sock knitting. It did well. I'll save the details for the next post, because I discovered online a new technique for the short row heel.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

dishrag fever

To my shame, since my last dishrag posting, I have gone insane and have knit dishrags uncontrollably. I manged to stop at eight. Now sit back and relax while I insanely review dishrag results.

You will recall that this craze was started on its unfortunate course by (what else?) a Learn to Knit Afghan square called Twisted Columns featuring twisted stitches in two colors. I was pleased with the two dishcloths that resulted. The twisted columns stood up well to use, not becoming too raggy when wet, and I loved the dark brown and acid green color combination I used. By the way, all of these dish cloths were made with small quantities of worsted weight cotton yarn I had standing around for who knows what reason. The twisted columns are on the left.

Noticing that I had a very small quantity of colorful variegated cotton, I went on to make two garter stitch squares. They are OK, hardly worth mentioning, but hey, they're dishrags.
Hungry for more dishrag fodder, I turned to Ravelry and discovered Grandma's Favorite. This is one of those diagonal designs that I find endlessly fascinating, not being mathematically inclined enough to invent them for myself. You start with four stitches and increase with yarnovers at each edge until you reach the middle, 46 or 48 stitches. Then you decrease back to four stitches and bind off. You have made a square with a lacy little border. I made two, one out of a pretty but dated southwest style variegated colorway and one out of the leftover variegated pictured above and some of the acid green. That one made a solid with a colorful stripe placed off center. The southwest Grandma's Favorite is the top rag pictured below. Grandma's Favorite was the most fun to make, but it has the least body and turns too raggy when wet. Never mind because, hey, it's a dishrag.

This brings me to the dishcloth pictured above underneath Grandma's - that Queen of dishrags - the Ballband Dishcloth. Although touted by the Mason Dixon girls, I never thought it attractive enough or believed it to be good enough to bother with. Boy is my face red. It's great. It stays spongy when wet, and, because of it's functionality, it has started to look beautiful to me. at right is another version in my favorite solid blue and dark brown.

I do have a slight caveat regarding this dishcloth. It features slipped stitches, and as I have learned from working with Barbara Walker's Learn to Knit Afghan book, I don't like slipped stitches that lay across a lot of rows - four in this case. I think they're slovenly. So, prompted by a fellow Raveler, I slipped the stitches knitwise instead of purlwise as instructed. This twists the stitches so that they lay closer to the fabric underneath and are altogether tighter and neater.

Now that I have discovered the Ballband I can't promise that I won't knit more of them. But I'll try not to post about it again.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

shadow and sand

Isn't Shadow and Sand a romantic name? I named the a4A child's blanket I finished the other day after The House of Sand and Fog, the disappointing novel I listened to as I began this project. I wasn't disappointed in the blanket, though. Thanks to Ann and Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting for providing this easy and stress free knitting technique - log cabining. Here is the mid-January beginning of this blanket.

I used leftovers of worsted weight wool yarn on #7 U.S. needles. It's all garter stitch, and each stripe is built with picked-up stitches on the edge of a previous stripe. It grows out from the middle - no seaming. It's hard to estimate the amount of yarn this blanket took. Maybe 1,000 yards? The measurements are 42 x 39 inches. It should be perfectly square, but I guess variation in the gauges account for the difference.

I can't resist another view with cat Boo standing by:

How polite she is. She knows she isn't supposed to touch the blanket - when I am looking, that is. So she sits quietly awaiting her chance.

I can't figure out how to remove the formatting on the paragraph above. If you click it you will get a close up of Boo. Did she cause that?

Regarding Anne's recent sock post - thanks to her for the follow up. When I asked if David's socks fit, she said he hadn't worn them yet. I am glad to learn that they fit. They seemed so enormous off the foot. Remember, I have only experienced knitting for a man with a size 81/2 shoe. David wears a 12. I am not too concerned about the baby's sock not fitting though. I only made it to try a Cat Bhordi pattern and to not neglect a gift for baby as I was making a pair for each of her parents. I'm glad Raggedy can use them.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Anne makes some brief remarks about socks

Hi, it's Anne. As a knitter, I always wonder if people actually use and like the things I knit for them as gifts. Of course, this is the kind of thing you could wonder about any gift you give, but because I put so much more time and love into the gifts I make, I wonder a little more. And it's not the kind of thing you can ask about and expect to get an honest answer. Anyone with manners will say "Oh, I love it, I use it every day!" even if your craft has been stuffed in the back of their closet.

For example, I have made a cute and easy bib from Vogue Knitting on the Go: Baby Gifts for several people. Here's somebody else's raveled version; I didn't take pictures of mine. In retrospect, I don't know what I was thinking making these things. I doubt they were ever used - the recipients probably thought something handmade was too "special" to be used to soak up baby drool, and recent experience has told me that handwashing baby puke out of handknit items is a total pain. (Of course I used machine washable yarn for the bibs, but I'm not sure I mentioned that to my giftees.)

But socks are, in my opinion, a fabulous gift. Everybody needs them and can use them. After I dropped several very broad hints, my mother kindly made me the Red Devil socks mentioned last month. They are great, I've worn them several times and they seem to stand up well to machine washing. My husband has huge, crazy Sideshow Bob feet and the gigantic socks blogged about here fit him perfectly. He's a man and therefore doesn't really care about socks, but I think they're terrific.

So far we're two for two on socks as gifts. This brings us to the socks my mother made for Rosie. Sooo cute. However, I put them on the baby's feet at 10:00 am on Tuesday. The first sock was off by 10:06, and we had two naked feet by 10:09. Oh well, you can't win them all. And honestly, the wool is not machine washable, and I doubt I would have had the patience to handwash them very many times. I have put the socks on Raggedy Ann; she seems to like them and they stay on perfectly.

Monday, March 2, 2009

all about squares again

No, not just Learn to Knit Afghan squares, although my latest craze is strongly related. To backtrack, I currently have the ideal number of items on the needles - three, most started recently. One, I started to re knit a very basic sweater I designed and knit in 2007. I call it Jilly. The original prototype did not work out mainly due to wrong yarn choice. I used Cascade Pima Silk, a yarn that I only like when it is knit at 5 stitches to the inch. This sweater calls for 4.5, and I want 4.5 because, unusually for me, I want to see the grain of the knitting.

Two, I realized that I had some Jamieson's fingering weight yarn in the exact same color of the sweater (lilac), and I started a pair of Schurch socks. Three, I am nearing the end of the child's log cabin afghan I am making for afghans for Afghans. Hovering in the background is the silky wool skirt I have been working on forever. I have gotten to the part where I should reduce the width toward the upper hip/waist area, and am still contemplating how to do it.

With all that, I was seized yesterday by an urgent need for knitted dishcloths, so I spent an entire Sunday's worth of knitting doing this:
No, not cleaning the sink, but rather cleaning the sink with the very spiffy cloths I made based on yet another Learn to Knit Afghan pattern, called twisted columns. Here is closer view:
As I have remarked many times, I have been inspired by the Learn to Knit Afghan, and have thought of projects using the stitch patterns of many of the squares. I have been particularly inspired by the twisted stitch patterns, the section I am working on now.I love to make twisted stitches and I love the dimensionality of the patterns Here is the latest. This one was not as much fun to knit due to its complexity, but it was just made for a soft baby blanket:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Imagine my delight. I designed a pair of socks. My idea to make socks out of a zig zag pattern (called Wave) from the Learn to Knit Afghan book worked out. Here they are. I call them Mimus after the excellent young adult book I listened to as I knit. The character Mimus is a court jester. Does that not fit the oh-so-entertaining zigs and zags of the design?

I changed the pattern for knitting in the round and for stitch count. I used 2.25 mm needles at a gauge of 8 stitches per inch, which seems to be my standard. I cast on (from the top down) 64 stitches to make a sock with an 8" circumference. The yarn was the inexpensive Fortissima Socka by Schoeller-Stahl in 75% superwash wool and 25% acrylic, and it is scratchy. I don't recommend this yarn (though it might wear well), and will probably make these socks again in something more luxurious. After all, that is a major appeal of sock knitting: luxury made affordable.

Here is the pattern for Mimus. I figured out how you can keep the same stitch count and change the gauge to make different sizes. The stitch pattern is fairly elastic. It is also relaxing to knit.

Materials: Approximately 400 yards fingering weight yarn
Double pointed knitting needles to achieve the following gauges depending on desired finished sock circumference:

9 stitches per inch = 7 inch circumference
8.5 spi = 7.5" circumference
8 spi = 8" circ
7.5 spi = 8.5" circ
7 spi = 9" circ
6.5 spi = 9.5 circ
Stitch patterns:
Seed Stitch: round 1 - *knit 1, purl 1, rep *; round 2 and subsequent rounds - knit the purls and purl the knits as they present themselves

Left Twist: With right hand needle at back of work, knit through the back loop of second stitch in row, then knit through the back loops of both first and second stitch and drop both stitches from needle.

Right Twist: With needle at front of work, knit through the front loops of next two stitches, then through the front loop of first stitch only; drop both stitches from needle.

Cast on 64 stitches and divide evenly among 4 double pointed needles, 16 stitches per needle. (Or use whatever your favored sock needles might be and divide stitches accordingly.)

Join and knit 6 rounds for rolled edging at cuff.
Add 5 rounds seed stitch for elasticity.

Begin pattern
round 1 (and all following odd numbered rounds): Knit
round 2: *knit 3, left twist, purl 3; repeat from *
round 4: *knit 3, purl 1, left twist, purl 2; rep*
round 6: *knit 3, purl 2, left twist, purl 1; rep*
round 8: *knit 3, purl 3, left twist
round 10: *knit 3, purl 4, knit 1; rep*
round 12: *knit 3, purl 3, right twist; rep*
round 14: *knit 3, purl 2, right twist, purl 1; rep*
round 16: *knit 3, purl 1, right twist, purl 2; rep*
round 18: *knit 3, right twist, purl 3; rep*
round 20: *knit 4, purl 4; rep*

Work pattern for 6 (6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5) inches from cast on edge (this leg length is based on Priscilla Roberts-Gibson's magic number: circumference minus one inch.)

Continue working rounds, but divide stitches, half for instep, and half for sole. Continue pattern on instep half, and knit all rounds on sole half. Work 12 more rounds.

Shape heel on half the stitches (32), using your preferred method. I used the Priscilla Roberts Gibson short row heel with yarnovers. Directions for this heel are available in a feature from the Interweave Knits Fall 2000 issue. The article is also available online. I am providing a link to an html version that is incomplete. If you click on the link on the top of the html document, you will get to the full article in Adobe Acrobat format. I'm not sure how to link to the Acrobat document itself. You can also access this by searching Priscilla's Dream Socks. This article has a lot of interesting and useful sock-knitting information.

After heel is complete go back to working in rounds on all 64 stitches. Continue in pattern on instep stitches and in stockinette (all knit) on sole stitches. When foot portion is 6 (6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5) inches long, measured from flat part of heel (which hits at lower portion of shaping line), begin toe shaping.

I use Charlene Schurch's simple toe, which is as follows:
Round 1, Needle 1: knit 1, slip next 2 stitches and knit them together through the back loops from the right hand needle (ssk), knit to end of needle.
Round 1, Needle 2: knit to 3 stitches from end of needle, knit 2 together, knit last stitch.
Round 1, Needle 3: as needle 1.
Round 1, Needle 4: as needle 2.
Round 2: knit all stitches

Repeat these 2 rounds until there are 32 stitches left (8 on each needle). Then just repeat Round 1 until there are 16 stitches left (4 per needle). Place these stitches on 2 needles, 8 stitches on each, and close the toe with Kitchener Stitch.

Here is the original inspiration for this design:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

are socks boring? part 2

No they're not. They're just limited, but the flip side of that is they provide a small canvas for creativity, like the the social world of a Jane Austen novel. In fact, however, it may be true that the socks I make have been boring. That is partly because I am a relative beginner at sock knitting, but mostly because conservative socks are more wearable, especially for my sock recipients who like things simple. To wit - I call these Red Devil to jazz them up (and in honor of the audio book, The Devil in the White City).

Raveled here, they are made with two skeins of Lana Grossa Meilenweit 50 Seta/Cashmere, a merino, silk, acrylic, and cashmere blend, and very soft with it. They are Schurch socks, of course, the Embossed Stitch from More Sensational Knitted Socks knit at eight stitches per inch on 2.25 mm needles (5 dps) on 64 stitches for a circumference of eight inches.

Now for a startling change of pace:

Meet the Bordhi Baby Boot, raveled here. This is the first sock suggested in Cat Bordhi's New Pathways for Sock Knitters. Bordhi calls the structure Sky architecture. It is made top down with an pyramid-shaped expansion over the instep and a simple short row heel that I want to try again. It wasn't until I made the second sock that I sort of understood how to make it. But only sort of. I somewhat fault her directions here. It is, however, elegantly simple.

Bordhi presents eight unusual sock structures, or architectures, in her book, and some of them are very beautiful. I want to try them all, but most are toe up, so I have to get with her cast ons and, especially, bind offs. The Baby Boot is made with a fraction of a skein of Louisa Harding Kimono Angora, a dk weight, on # 3 double pointed needles. I have an embarrassing amount of this yarn which is good for nothing but baby wear.

I can hardly contain my excitement over the socks I am currently making. I did manage to adapt the Learn to Knit Afghan zig-zaggy pattern to socks in the round. So far, I love the results, and feel that the finished sock will warrant a pattern posting. But we'll see about that when they're done.

Meanwhile please visit my work blog called Sounds - Music at Niles PL. I don't work on it much , but I couldn't resist rating the Season 8 American Idol performances. I put up a big American Idol display at the library to help generate interest in our CD collection. If you are an AI fan, let me know if my ratings match yours.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Here is a quick post to show off a couple of things - especially baby Rosie, as promised. Here she is posing in her Interworld suit (Raveled here):

By the way, shortly after she was photographed in her Anouk pinafore she threw up on it.

Next are the last few Learn to Knit Afghan squares I made. This first one is quite interesting. It is a slip stitch pattern knit on double pointed needles. It looks quite intricate because, with two sided needles it is possible to change colors every row. Usually, each color is used for two rows because the yarn has to purl back from left to right after finishing a knit row. I think this was a clever invention. It looks more like stranded knitting than the other slip stitch patterns.

That was the last slip stitch pattern in the book. I really like the next section so far. It is twisted stitches, where you get easy crossed stitch effects without the cable needle. I love this pattern and would like to adapt it for socks if at all possible. The next one makes a cushy fabric. The lines running down it are twisted stitches standing out in relief because, well, because they are twisted. It would make a great dish cloth except it pulls in before blocking. I could make it a little wider.