Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What makes me happy?

Joceyln, the Knitting linguist, nominated me as one of the many blogs that made her happy, part of the thing going around about nominating blogs that improve your day. The rules of the nomination are these: “Give the award to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel happy.... Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so they can pass it on. Beware you may get the award several times. " so .... what makes me happy, its hard, so hard to choose just 10 but here is my short list, all listed in random order - and Joceyln - you should be on my list but I'm not sure thats allowed, so I've listed A&C daily instead even if its not a blog.
  1. Cogknition, where I find nice blend of educational in practice theory and knitting, from a knitter who also has a life, and some times it gets in the way.
  2. Kathleen's blog, where she posts the most amazing vintage paper dolls and colour work mittens, e-v-e-r-y week, how does she do that, why did they dress like that?
  3. Debs mostly sock blog, oh that woman is clever - I bet most of you have knit or wanted to knit her many different socks as seen on knitty.
  4. Ysolda's blog, because she designs pretty pretty cardigans that I just want to knit and wear, and her Elijah is pretty cute (he is the elephant).
  5. Desi-knitter, where just like me and many other knitters, she juggles knitting choices, successes, yarn selection and academic life, and shares the fab results, and shares also when its not to pretty, I love honesty.
  6. Lene from Dances with wool, who knits amazing socks (check out her banner) and shows off pure simple beauty in finished knits where is it really cold and you need warm knits, she also details her design process.
  7. Jane, well Jane who is calm, and knits and designs socks, and has a beautiful aesthetic and spins, it was the images of singles and plied yarn on a wooden spool that tempted me so strongly into spinning, and check out her tag line about which way the knitting can go ...
  8. and this is not a knitting blog, its totally work related, but this is another Kathleen who thinks like I do, its so nice to see you are not alone, and she has such a great collection of useful tutorials and advice and just plain intelligent opinionated posts.
  9. Practical Polly, because you gotta smile and laugh and feel happier about the world when some one like Kirsty turns Wonderwomans costume into a wearable hand knit sweater don't you?
  10. Arts and Letters Daily, which makes me think, laugh, cry, wonder, and informs me and worries me and mostly makes the world more understandable.
so, with the hardest bit of the blog post to write done its onwards to the knitting stuff(I'll leave comments on the blogs next week - I promise - part of the feel good bit of this nomination is to share the praise).

... Well sock one is done, and sock two just begun, and the sock fits well, very well. Now I know the process by which these socks are built, well the knitting will be less blind. I did have to transfer them to a circ and try them on once the heel was formed. I'm a big footed girl at times living in a small footprint world. Have any of you with size 8.5's feet tried buying shoes in asia? Don't even ask - the assistants fall about laughing while you wish the earth would open up right there and then, or the shoe rack just fall and bury you. There was only 62 stitches on the needle, so I needed to put my mind at rest with a quick check that they fit and then I was able to confidently knit on to the toe. They did and I did.

And - I've been haunting the on line New Zealand equivalent of a boot sale-yard sale-garage sale-rummage sale-white elephant stall, Trademe. The spinning section needs to be seen to be believed, once you get past the people selling overly colorful fiber and new stuff, amongst whats left are the proverbial one-jaded fiber junkies cast offs is another spinners treasure. Look what I found, an older style Ashford spinning chair of beech wood, to match my wheel, all for $NZ20 +$NZ10 shipping. And sad to say thats not all, - I won't be posting this weekend, Bear and I are off on a road trip to adopt a second double drive castle wheel I won at auction, we will have to think of a name .....

So are spinning wheels tools or stash ?
Please do excuse me, but my new/old chair was only unpacked today when I got home, and I would love to stay and chat, but I really need to sit and spin and play with my new chair ....

Friday, January 25, 2008

Turning a new corner

Today, I've turned the heel and photos to show, I added a fake seam to the possum merinos sleeve, so a video showing that, and I didn't swatch, but I did sample twining vs stranding, so some technique show and tell, and I'll update on the vest quest. I've also had my nose in a book for much of the last few days, this arrived and the colour work chapters are amazing. Plus, blogs that make knitters happy, I've been nominated (thanks Joclyn), and there are so many great knit-blogs out there its made me think, I'll post my own list mid week, but its not easy to choose.

First, the CB Bartholomews Tantalizing sock heel went well, I blindly flowed the instructions and though unconventional, the heel is very nicely formed. I knew about the under heel from the photos in the book, but it still seemed a surprise to have knit a slip stitch panel under the heel. In hindsight that seems like a fine idea, cushioning and hole protection. And look! All the slip stitched ribs lined up, how magic is that?

Toby's first sleeve is done and as a treat/reward I laddered the under seam and added one of Elizabeth Zimmermans fake seams, first came the ladder.

Then, picking up the loops and re-knitting them one and two at a time.

And the video, just in case this is new info.

Then, I got to wondering about the twined knitting, mostly because I cast on and knit the cuff of sleeve two last night , but got the count wrong. The second cuff was a full 4 stitches short, and surprisingly smaller. So I frogged, but the twined section was not so easy to frog, Bear was called to help and we eventually got there. I began to wonder just how different twined knitting looked from stranded knitting, so cast on a tester to see. Mostly I couldn't face reworking the cuff so late at night. Robin Hansen is very clear in the introduction to the English translation of Twined knitting, that stranding is not twined knitting, and is not a substitute, and the two look vastly different, so I experimented.

What fun, first I knit a section stranded, then a chain divider and a section twined, then another chain, double this time, and a stocking stitch section.

First on show is the twined sample, followed by stranded, twined has the yarns continually twisting around each other in a clockwise rotation every stitch. The fabric is flatter and far more vertical in appearance than the stranded. I do have to say in the photo the vertical twists are much more prominent than in the swatch.

Stranded has the yarns remaining above and below and not twisting. This fabric is fuller, thicker and more like regular knitting. The difference is quite marked, or at least I think so.

Lastly is a view of the back of the knitting, with stranded below and twined above, the very different appearance makes it easy to identify from the back. Interestingly the 1x1 stranded seems as non-roll as the twined, so that is another easy option instead of twining, but not authentic so needs a new name.

Opps, I nearly forgot the vest update, and yes I could knit all of them, I know many of you like the corset, but I'm not sure I'd wear it, oh I'd really enjoy knitting it and it is still lovely but not on the list. I really enjoy the selection phase, and I'm not finished looking. I'll let you know.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Is that a sock you are knitting or ....?

So today, there is the puzzle of the curious shaped new sock, and the sleeve grows, and another swatch, but I'm not sure, which brings me to some vest discussions.

Cat Bordhi's sock design is intriguing, Bartholomew's Tantalizing sock is just that, tantalizing. I've knit socks top down and toe up, and with a variety of heel shaping s and toe forms, but this one has me guessing where it goes next. Oh - I know it starts at the top and widens for the ankle and heel, then will continue to close around the toe, but the exact way the shaping is working is a surprise. Having said that, I can see the shapes needed for a sock to fit emerge as I knit, the sock narrows in below the calf muscle, and is widening over the instep, even the Linen stitch is shaping the sock, shortening the front and curving it around into a leg and foot shape. I am having to pay attention - but I if I knit more of these, the shaping would have meaning and be easier to track. I'm up to the heel shaping, so the next post should have a heel on show.

A sleeve grows, surprisingly fast, only an inch and a half to go, and then onto sleeve 2. I plan to use the fake seam to mark the mid under-sleeve line just to match the body section. But do I have enough yarn? I am knitting a finished size chest of 34", and bought 3 skeins of 420m each, so a total of 1260m. Marnie Kelly (the yarn designer) suggested 2 skeins would be enough for a child's sweater, but I played safe and got three. I know I like a firmer gauge than most knitters, so 3 seemed safe. Now with skein number 2 nearly finished and only a body and a sleeve already knit, I am wondering if I can get a yoke and a 2nd sleeve out of one and tad skeins. If I need to I will buy more, and if the same batch is not available, I can knit the yoke in the darker colour, a muddy brown, my contingency plan.

....and yet more swatching, the knitters study group ongoing project for the year is to knit a vest, to be finished for display in October. I'm dithering over which vest to knit, I can't see myself in a loose boxy number, a granny vest, and I don't feel like knitting a cabled or garter one, so I'm a bit undecided. I do want to knit something that some one will wear, preferably me. A vest in Vintage Knits appeals, so I've swatched a little of the red possum merino silk for it, a little 1x1 rib, a little 4x1 rib and a little moss stitch in the round with a i-cord bind off. I wouldn't knit it in red, not sure if it is my limited vision or the predominantly dark Dunedin winter wardrobe but I can't get past the dark blue grey in the photo. I think I like - but I'm still looking, so maybe I don't like enough. The swatch was way off gauge, so I'd have to do the math and resize, which could be the challenge required for the project. Btw : the red is deeper and much nicer than the photos shows, apparently my new wizzy camera is no better at capturing deep delicious reds than the old one.

As for other options, there are two, first a deep V argyle, steeked, a real treasure from Eunny Jang, or this little number which is calling me, but not because I want to wear it, because I think it would be challenge to knit. Some one, please talk me out of that, please? Or perhaps in grey and without the word Corset above it would loose its boudoir and overtly corset connotations. Small note : the AM corset is knit to a gauge of 4.5 sts per inch, which is much larger than I enjoy working, while Eunny's vest is at 6sts per inch.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Just knitting, and frogging and knitting around ....

Yes, there has been some knitting, some frogging and then some more catch-up knitting, twice, so an update on the Toby's Possum merino sweater, and I've started, frogged, and started again Cat Bordhi's Barthomomews Tantalizing socks. Then there is new yarn, some bought and some spun.

First the Possum Merino, I still can't get over how nice this yarn is, despite finding 4 knots/joins in the first skein as I knit. The dessert lands of interesting knitting, the stocking stitch torso is now finished, and I spent some enjoyable time putting in the EZ fake seam down each side seam line. I love how this looks, subtle yet surprisingly effective, the sweater just folds along those fake seam lines. I also liked how the fake seam looks with the chain decorated hem.

So after 'seaming' and putting the torso aside, I cast on for a sleeve, worked the same hem, with a band of chain stitches, an inch of twined knitting and a second band of chain stitches. Then I set about increasing 4 stitches every 5th round until the sleeve was just over 33% of K, 64 stitches. I had Toby slip his arm into it this morning and it was very wide, far to wide, so I frogged back past the last 2 increases and am reworking the sleeve at 56 stitches. I think I deliberately sized the sleeve up to avoid the to tight sleeve of the last sweater. Gauge is 6.75 spi, so adding an extra 8 stitches, well it added 1.2 extra inches. On a skinny 8 year old, that was to much extra sleeve, I do have to be more careful with the rounding up. So for now its just knitting round and round until we get to 15.5 or 16 inches - little children grow and I'm not sure how much extra to put in to the length to accommodate next winters growth.

And my sock knitting, well it is interesting, not quite like the old Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times', but in an 'keeps me on my toes' way. Before you begin to knit CB's socks, there are two practice socks (one of which I dutifully knit, the other I didn't), a gauge swatch to knit, measuring (round your foot, along your foot, other parts of your foot ....), calculating (5-6 pages of instructions to get 6 numbers), and then you knit paying close attention to the instructions because these are not socks like we have knit before. Some where between the swatch and the measuring and the book my sock was working out enormous, huge, to big, so I rechecked everything and found my gauge had shifted to the looser side, and the ease in the size I knit was generous.

and so here is my second attempt, knitting both a size smaller and on smaller needles. I'm paying very close attention to the instructions, having just discovered that the increase rate for this sock is every 3 rows, not every 2nd as on most socks. That little mis-expectation resulted in frogging back 5 rows. Still enough of the negative, the positive: wonderfully coloured yarn, which works up magically in the linen slip stitch pattern. Now I have started the sock shaping proper - its very exiting. Oh does that tell you the depths of my sad life? When a new sock shaping is an exiting new event? No thats not sad, thats the sign of an avid knitter at play.

So one of my LYS's has their big sale this month, the kind where they rearrange the shop to make way for huge boxes of yarn shipped in specially for the sale. As part of that they had Opal sock yarn for half price, I resisted all yarn on the first visit (you have to go, just to see what they have, just in case...), but when M from knit night pointed out that Sock-Opal in a rather nice blue was less than half price .... well I called in Friday morning to see if they had any left, and they did, so enough for a pair of socks came home. Much of the sale yarn was thick, chunky and not me.

And what I think of as my 'spinning-homework', or rather my practice for my spinning home work. I was invited a week ago to visit an experienced spinner who advised me to practice spinning loftier and thicker singles. Oh that was hard, while my fine spinning seemed great, my bulky spinning, that was a different story. Rather than 'ruin' the practice roving she gave me, I dug out the grey corridale that came with the wheel, and some other x-breed 29 micron fiber and spun it as thick as I could. but it is not very thick at all, spinning thick and consistent is much much harder than it looks. Still I did see some improvement in consistency and so have made a start on the bag of homework fiber. The workshop is on the 9th, so plenty of time.

I'm back to work tomorrow, after 5 weeks off, so there will be less knitting, and more writing and work type things. I do wonder how many hours it will take to work thru my email in box at work. I have made a deliberate move not to 'work' during my break, which means the emails have not been attended to at all. Lets hope I get the box cleared by lunchtime?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Quick update - re latest video.

Bother, there is a problem with the Twined Chain video, it seems to hitch up and stop at the 8 second mark, but I found if you just drag the slider on a little and it will resume play. I've uploaded it twice - but the problem still exists (I'm blaming Blogger - it plays just fine at home) and on u-tube) so here is a link to the u-tube post, if I can't get it working ......

sorry about that, if any one has a nice fix please do tell.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Swatching swatching, but what will I knit?

I did this last year, knit 'lots-a-little-things' because I couldn't decide what to knit. I'm not sure if that is the time of the year, with my holiday drawing to a close, or the end of large projects and the lull that follows - but I'm in that 'what do I do next' space, yes I am. Still there is knit stuff to show and tell today, a video of that cute little chain decoration, two lots of swatches, the sweater grows, ...... oh, oh, oh, a finished object, and new camera. How could I forget things like that?

Video - more twined knitting, this time how to make what the official authors call 'crook' stitches, but what I think of as little chains. Knitting chains is a lot like knitting double layer fabric, except you want the purls to be on show not hidden, and you want the two yarns to cross over and twist together, so the layers are stuck together. Theresa Vinson Stenersen has a good intro to Twined knitting on Knitty, and there was a little on Knitting with color way back in 2004. Let me know if you find or know of other online resources. The video has instructions for the 2nd row - right at the end,
Note added 18 Jan 2008 The video seems to hitch up at the 8 second mark, just drag the slider on a little and it will resume play. I've uploaded it twice, and re-edited as a quick-time movie again - but the problem still exists (I'm blaming blogger - it plays just fine at home and on u-tube).

Blue merino, do you remember that I was spinning up some 22 micron merino fiber, well it is now all spun, into a 3 ply, at about 19-20 wpi, and totals 750m. I spent some time yesterday dying it blue, and plan to knit a shrug for Poppy and embroider it with colourful daisies using left over yarn from the Ccatta hat. It is to match some cute shoes she is about to grow into. Thats the plan - lets see if it happens or if I get distracted. Now I can make a start on my 'spinning home-work', and spin much thicker and lighter stuff.

Finished sock alert, my 'not' merino lace socks are finished, and with only a little yarn left over. Not merino, because I didn't knit them with merino yarn obviously. With the lace involving lots of k2tog and ssk, the socks have a thickness and warmth that is very nice, but seems entirely inappropriate when we are in the midst of a very summer patch of weather. I washed and dried these on my home made sock blockers, and it has opened up the lace and now the socks present very professionally. I like the effect, very much. These were knit on 2 circs, two at a time, which seemed slow during but it was nice to finish both together. 2 Circs is a great way to knit lace, but I do like my wood or bamboo dpns - for now I think I will swing between the methods depending on what I'm knitting.

Swatch for new project, this is planning for a new sock, in great yarn. Bambewe fingering, Zen String Hopi, from Austin Texas (thanks Suzanne!). This yarn has Merino, Bamboo and nylon and feels like silk but should wear like iron with both bamboo and nylon. My gauge swatch is in the round with sections of both stocking stitch and slip stitch patterning - I love the little v patterning with the slip stitch rows, I've never really felt the appeal for stripy sock yarns - but with slip stitches, a whole new appreciation has opened up for me. This is for Cat Bordhi's Bartholomews Tantalising socks, for me. I am thinking sock swatches should become little jewelery or stitch marker gift bags, perhaps?

Usually my sock projects are take out knitting and my sweaters are at-home concentrate knitting, but this time I think there will have to be more focus on the knitting these socks that my current sweater project. For xtra Brownie points, I hand wound the yarn into the ball using my new home made re-appropriated nostepinne. I recognised the shape of my $1-$2-$3 shop cheap and cheerful pizza dough rolling pin was tapered enough to be a good Nostepinne. Yesterday I sanded it smooth and cut a little yarn notch in one end. We do have 3 other rolling pins - so will still get home made pizza, don't worry. I was so exited about the re-appropriation I wound all my little sock left overs into neat balls awaiting making into fish. FYI - winding using a hand operated winder is much much faster.

And I've spent a night swatching, yes I too have been lured into the We call them pirates craze, except I haven't. I've had this hat on my to knit list since last June (Winter for us in NZ), for Toby. With my not merino lace socks finished, I pulled out my 4 ply fingering bone and black alpaca in stash and worked a swatch - but - I think the moment might have passed, both for the knitting of and the wearing of. I'd rather knit socks right now, or something else. Still the hat and yarn will keep for another day, or year or pattern.

The possum merino sweater grows, I'm stuck in the stocking stitch wastelands of a mid torso, but given Toby is only 8, and skinny, I should be onto sleeves in a week or so. Depending of course on how tantalizing and how much pull Bartholomew's socks really have....

New camera, we are still in the process of applying for insurance. We will get it but they need the documentation that the old camera can't be repaired. Given Minolta's are no longer imported into NZ, so there is no agent, its a given repairs are not possible - but we need an official report. However I plunged and bought a new Panasonic DMC-FZ8 in silver. The Panasonic has the same bright lens specs as the Minolta (f 1:2.8-3.3) and a fab Leica lens, so I'm happy. I 'should' have bought a digital SLR Nikon to take advantage of the 20+ Nikon lenses Bear has for his F5, that would have been the sensible buy, but I didn't want to have to ask to borrow a lens, I wanted my camera to be my camera, just call me independent.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Untwisting the twined knitting yarns

So .... when you twine-knit the yarns get twisted, very twisted. And there is a very good reason that twined knitting is done from a single center pull ball, even though you need two yarns. I have even read that to knit twined in two colours wind the first colour onto a center pull ball knot on the second colour and wind it onto the same ball. There is a reason for that - it makes life easier if you do that. Today - I've got that video showing how to easily untwist the yarns when twined knitting, a new project report, a 99.99999% finished report on the Garter ribbed sweater for Bear, and some new stash.

First more Twined knitting info*. Last post I showed twined knitting and promised to show how to easily untwist the yarns. Because the two yarns are always being twisted the same way around each other to achieve the flat twined even appearance, they end up twisted, every stitch. So in a glove or mitten thats twisted around each other 50 or more times a round. For my sweater - thats 230 stitches, so 230 twists per round. To make untwisting easy - those clever knitting ancestors of ours decided to knit from the inside and the outside of a single ball of yarn. So if you secure the yarn around the ball, with two half hitch knots around a dpn (or the ball itself if you are very clever - I'm not), it is easy to pick the ball of yarn up and let it untwist all by its self .... see? Knitting Linguist pointed out the similarity between Twined knitting and the twisted braid edges used on Latvian mittens. In twined knitting usually only a single colour is used, and the emphasis seems to be on the textural effects achieved with twisting the two yarns, rather than colour work. There are a whole lot more effects possible than this simple example here - and I will explore them in time. Diantee asked if it was thicker than ribbing, its about the same, maybe slightly thinner, with less stretch, and not quite the same amount of pulling in perhaps.

And a close up shot of my pair of half hitch knots securing the yarn to the dpn.

I am making good progress on The Possum Merino sweater for Toby. This yarn has a high proportion of Possum, 50%, which makes it higher than many similar yarns I've seen available, they seem to range from 20-40% Possum fur. And its really Opossum, from the New Zealand wild opossum. An exotic animal imported from Australia and now out of control, spreading disease, wreaking native forests, and the habitat of native birds and lizards, and 'gifting' TB to a range of expensive farm animals like deer and cattle. It is not Possum fur from the US - apparently that would not be soft at all. I've finished the hem and well onto the body, easy knitting now I am on the stocking stitch sections. This is being knit on 3.75mm needles, to fit a tall lanky 8 yo boy.

And the garter ribbed sweater really is 99.9999999% finished. Chris ordered these rope knot clasps from Camilla Valley Farm. I've just got to sew them on (tonight), and its all done.

And last Thursday 3 of us 'knit nighters' drove down to the Milton Woolen Mill 'again' to see what they had. Best thing about a factory shop is the ever changing mass of stuff in stock depending on production. The other two knitters had not been before, which was fun to watch. P brought a shopping list of what she wanted to knit this year, and made off with a good haul of yarn averaging $2 a ball. M investigated the luxury end of the cones stock - with a view to the perfect luxury sock yarn. Me - well it was the 3rd trip in as many months so I was very selective - only two cones went in my bag. Both yarns bloom beautifully when washed and look like string on the cone.

The first a grey/green/blue with hints of pink, a 1kg (2 lb) cone for $NZ8.50. Enough for an entire sweater for an adult male, or two small children, or myself and a child. This was on the sale table - unlabeled, so a mystery purchase, but far to good to leave behind. At knit night the consensus was after washing a small test skein that is it super soft and the spinners in the room pronounced it 'from a down type breed of sheep'. I learn new things every day.

The second cone is a luxury blend of 40% Opposum, 50% Merino and 10% silk. This was half price and a very good buy. I love the colour and the hint of a sheen in the washed sample of this yarn. I know before nylon was added to sock yarn silk was recommended. We three knitters all wondered if 10% silk would make for a good sock yarn, and if silk was as good as nylon. If we are going to hand knit, we want them to last. If not - then it will make a beautifully soft scarf or shawl yarn.

I've still got the video of the chain surface twined knitting stitch to post - next time perhaps? And really need to do an update on the not merino lace socks which are still growing slowly.
Take care

* Edited Jan 2009 to clarify that this post about untwisting is about Twinned or Two ended or Tvåändsstickning knitting not about the more common method of stranded colour work. In this style of knitting the yarns are deliberately twisted together in the same direction producing a fabric that is stable, thick, durable and has a unique flat appearance. The tradition goes back hundreds of years and there is quite a following online.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Non-roll stocking stitch edge?

I think I have it, the non-roll stocking stitch edge. Well its not stocking stitch but it looks pretty much like stocking stitch, and it doesn't roll - it is twined knitting. This edge is the start of a new project, so today - I'm talking most about twined knitting, I've got a new video showing how to knit the middle section of this non-roll hem, and a little intro about a new project in a new yarn.

First the non roll edge, this is a twined knitting hem on a swatch for a new project. I've had the book Twined Knitting : A Swedish Folkcraft Technique for a while now. Ever since I borrowed a copy from a friend I've been absolutely fascinated by the textured look of twined knitting, so much so I had to obtain my own copy. Nearly all the patterns in the book are for items entirely in twined knitting - which I wasn't ready to attempt. Recently I borrowed The Complete Book of Traditional Scandinavian Knitting from the local library. Sheila McGregor has a few little illustrations of cardigans and jackets where twined knitting was used for hems and for bands to decorate otherwise plain garments. I thought this would be a great little subtle feature for my next sweater so set about swatching.

Wow - not only is it is a nice little subtle hem, it doesn't roll up! In a way the non-roll-stocking stitch edge is elusive in knitting, almost a mythical quest for those adverse to ribbing. Oh we have the faced hem in all its forms, plain, purled turning row, and picot, and we have rib, and garter and moss stitched edges - but for me this twined hem is a new favourite and I can see many many sweaters and cardigans with this edge in my knit future. On the swatch edge above, I have used a three strand cast on, two complete row sets of a chain effect (crook stitches) and a center panel of twined knitting. Below I have posted a video showing how I knit the twined knitting section. You can see the twisted yarns on the 'wrong' side of the swatch. Can't you just see this hem on all those items which can't be 'fussy', boys and mens things?

So Twined knitting, what is it? Simply - it has been described as colour work without the colours, each stitch is knitted alternately from ends yarn from the same ball. Importantly after each stitch the yarns are twisted around each other, producing a thick, firm, slightly elastic fabric. Most importantly for me - the result is stable enough not to curl, and simple enough to be used on plainer sweaters. In this video - I knit with the yarns in my right hand, because to knit twined knitting you need to be able to twist the yarns over and over each other. I have not worked out a way to do that with knitting continental (yet). I do have a video of the chain effect to post soon, and plan on of the 3 yarn cast on. The only catch is that with all the twisting - the two yarns do get seriously twisted around each other - but there is a neat solution. Secure the yarns around the ball with a half hitch and let the ball dangle and untwist - as easy as that.

And the new project? Well I want to knit the baby alpaca I have in stash into something for me - but still don't quite know what to knit with it, so ... I've cast on a simple sweater for Toby. The yarn is Touch Yarns Merino Possum and is heavenly soft. This could be the softest yarn I have ever felt. I've done the swatch, washed and measured the swatch, done the math, and cast on the hem. I've completed the hem and am now working on the body section - but more about that next time. Today I visited a spinner - who gave me a few pointers, and some home work hone my technique. She was rightly concerned that I was developing an ability to spin only fine dense yarns. I'm so glad to have a little guidance, so over the next few weeks I will finish up the merino and work on my spinning practice as instructed.

Yesterday my faithful Minolta Dimage Z1 fell from the coffee table onto the carpet floor and broke. The photos and video in this post were thankfully made before that - but with the blog, I feel some urgency to replace the camera soon. We have good insurance, but it all takes time to sort. A long winded way of saying - please bear with me while I find and learn how best to use a new camera.

Take care

Sunday, January 06, 2008

"Before, during, and after" or "you'd never know"

First - thanks for the comments, I guess I was calm about this, the sweater wasn't going to be worn as short as it was so something had to happen. I went for the cut and extend fix rather than the add on the bottom fix. What didn't show up in the photos was the tapered shape of the body of the sweater, adding a band to the bottom would have made it longer in the wrong place. This sweater needed length around the chest where it was wider.

I did have a clear back up plan if the adding an extension section at chest level didn't work. That plan was to pick up and knit a few rows of garter stitch as a kind of separation band, and then knit a stocking stitch body down, replacing the lower body section entirely.

The fix for Bears sweater was surprisingly quick, I had estimated it would take 3 days or so, but in less than 24 hours it was cut apart, extended and put back together.
Here is how it went: first I snipped and unraveled a single row of stitches just below the front placket opening. Because the yarn was sticky - I didn't thread them on a needle, or safety line as they were freed, I just left them hanging around.

I continued all around the jersey until the top and bottom were separate entities. Notice that with a little ribbing, the top would make a cute short empire waisted shrug - design idea for latter perhaps? I put the live stitches from the body back on 5mm needles and knitted an extra 10 cm on to the body. I put the live stitches on the yoke onto a 2mm circular needle - just to hold them. I know the sweater looks long here, but Bear is one of those humans with short legs and a long torso. He buys extra tall shirts and I shorten his jeans - it all evens out.

Next day, working at the dining room table, I grafted the two sets of live stitches together. I made sure the underarm increases lined up before I started. I put both sets of stitches on 2mm circular needles to make it easy to thread a needle through them while they were on the needle. Grafting the whole sweater took more than an hour, but less than two hours. I attempted to work the kitchener in pattern, two knit and one purl - but I just kept confusing myself. So to keep thing simple and achievable, the KISS principle, I grafted all stitches as if they were knit stitches. The only tricky bit was making sure the knitted ribs lined up correctly, by the end I had one extra stitch - as you always do, but I fudged it in just fine.

After the join was grafted, it wasn't invisible, I warned Bear it might look like a fold line after it was blocked. This was always intended to be "a weekend, evening, at home warm outdoor sort of work jersey", so I think we were both prepared to live with that for now. You can see the 'rough' knit section of added length quite clearly - it was quite interesting to feel the different textures of the washed and unwashed yarns. Washed was much softer, floppier, unwashed had a more pronounced rib effect and felt harsher.

Here is the finished lengthened sweater after a quick block wash, and air dry in the back yard. Wet blocked at 2pm, dry at 5pm, gotta love warm summer days for blocking knitwear.

Look - you would never know! I promise more formal Finished object photos and details when the clasps arrive.

Stella - off to plan a new project :-)

Friday, January 04, 2008

finished - officially but ...... and then there is the nice surprise

Today - I've got good news which resulted in a bit of a disappointment, then a nice surprise. So lets start with the surprise. In December I signed up for the post Christmas gift exchange on Knitters Review. My exchange partner was the lovely Rena, aka Highdesertrose, who sent me this amazing stash enhancement with two sorts of sock yarn, and accessories. Tea, biscuits, Libris stickers, and needle huggers in the shape of cute little sweaters.

Rena also sent me new sock needles by Lanternmoon, which are just exquisite. It was so nice to get the package today, a prefect day for it as by mid afternoon I needed a bit of a lift. I only hope that the package I sent was as delightful for Rena as this was for me.

.... and yes the project monotony ... ops monogamy (little Freudian slip there) worked and the garter ribbed sweater is finished - sort of. I had a day or two of mild panic when I asked Bear to try it on after knit night on Thursday and it was tight, firm and far to small. I checked the maths and it was all correct, but the sweater was small and tight. Remembering that the swatch bloomed magnificently when washed, I pinned my hopes on that same bloom to solve the fit problem with this sweater.

Fast forward to today, I finished up the saddle neck shaping, and cast off. Even though I was planning to pick up and knit a collar, I cast off the neck edge to give stability and stop it stretching later when in use.

I'm always impressed by the simple yet effective shaping EZ came up with for this sweater, I do like the way the back neck is raised by reversing the saddle decrease lines. Here is a peek before the collar was added.

Today was wash and block day, and yes - Bears sweater grew sideways as it relaxed by a full 10 cm(4")! The sweater now fits sideways - what a relief - but it is much to short. No - it didn't forsake length for width - it is the same length I knitted it to, but more about that later.

First lets just enjoy the saddle shaped shoulders which do fit well, and the steek, my first in 'sticky yarn', but my forth steek or thereabouts. All my previous steeks have been in merino or superwash. This sticky yarn made the steek even more secure, but just in case, I worked two rows of machine stitching before cutting.

After cutting the steek edge was very stable. That is one bonus of using sticky yarn.

I picked up 3 in 4 stitches around the steek, on needles one size smaller (so 4mm not 5mm), and one stitch for every cast off stitch around the neck, and garter knit four rows. Then I cast off along the steeked edges and continued the garter around to make a small collar. I cast off the top edge of the collar with a 3 stitch i-cord cast off. Finally I catch stitched/ herringbone stitched the cut steek edge down. This probably wasn't needed, as the steek seemed stable, but should tame any little fluffy cut ends that emerge after the next wash.

So after all that, I have a finished sweater that is 6-10 cm (3-4" to short). How did that happen you ask? Well I asked also. Turns out EZ sweater shaping has quite a high arm hole, with a short distance from shoulder to under arm. I based the measurements for this knit on a commercial sweater that Bear wears a lot, and measured from arm hole to hem. We have all read or heard that advice - measure a sweater that fits well and use those measurements to shape your hand knit sweaters so they will fit properly.

Bad move, bad bad move. The measured sweater has a much longer yoke, from arm hole to shoulder - a full 6cm (3") longer. Bother! It never occurred to me to check the overall length of the sweater, and without knowing how much shorter EZ yoke was I couldn't have allowed for this earlier. I hang my head in shame - I should know better. I do now.

I have a few history of fisherman's sweater books around the house, and did try to convince Bear that it was traditional to wear sweaters short - but Bear wasn't buying that argument in any way, shape or form. He was very polite about it, pointed out it wasn't pre 1900 Europe but 2008 NZ. He did retreat to the lounge with one of my library books for a closer look, but didn't change his mind, so the sweater needs to be longer to be worn by Bear. Besides -he has ordered pewter clasps for it and they will be here soon.

So I think it best to split the sweater just below the under arm and knit an extension bit and graft it back together. 3-4 days knitting max. My other solution is to cut, pick up and knit down a stocking stitch lower section that is longer - boring and probably more knitting. I can't knit down in the the garter rib, the sweater was knit bottom up and and the rib wouldn't match if I added a section knit top down, so it would have to be plain stst. All I can say is it must be love (of Bear or knitting or both?) to contemplate this kind of fix. My third solution is to gift this to a similar girthed but shorter Bear (don't know any - do you?), and knit a new one for my Bear - but I want to knit pretty things - so that option is a very last resort.

If any of you have any other suggestions - please do say, although I plan on cutting and picking up tonight - just to get it out of the way. Do return soon for the predictable horrific pictures of this newly knit sweater cut apart at its very middle.

Stella (the apparently ditsy blond knitter)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

monogamous knitting

Oh how I would have liked to title this one something else, but no - right now I am just knitting one thing, the garter ribbed cardigan for Bear, so Project Monogamy is where I am at. Spinning doesn't count, right? We are just talking about the knitting here today, with a small spinning update, and a mini book review and update section

It should be boring, but because I am knitting only this progress seems quick. Not only that - but because it is quick, well, it changes, there I was knitting the second sleeve, then quick smart, I was slotting both sleeves into place with the body. One inch of knitting latter and the yoke decreases started leaning towards the body, a mere 10 rounds latter and the decreases switched and started eating up the sleeve stitches. It just keeps changing, and yet it stays the same, one row K2P1, next row K, repeat many many times. If I get really bored, I have the not merino lace socks to retreat to, and I could graft the underarms before I finish knitting.

I'm using EZ's saddle shoulder shaping, and I do like the way she calls the decreases 'eating' up the stitches, they really do get eaten. The shaping is detailed in the Knitting Workshop, in the 7 seamless sweater shapings chapter. I have used this shaping before, for my PB Cabled Zippie cardigan.

The Saddle shoulder provides a nice balance between KITR (Knit-In-The-Round) and the formality and flattering fit that comes from having arm hole seams. At the knit-to-fit workshop, raglans were described as giving the body a 'frown', something that stuck. It was suggested raglans suggested more shoulder slope than most people had, so tended to make people appear more slouched or round than they actually were. Further it was claimed raglan lines drew the eye down away from the face, much like frown lines draw the eye down the face, and smiles are said to draw the eye up to the eye. It was even suggested that the raglan line mimicked a frown or sad face and that it wasn't flattering. I know that Raglans can emphasize a large bust, right now I'm rambling - because Bear most definitely doesn't have a large bust or a small one, and this sweater is for him. But Bear is rounded, so the vertical lines of this sweater shaping are selected to flatter and correct for his roundness.

Here is a closer look at the shaping, This will probably be a jersey with a neck opening closed with pewter clasps rather than a cardigan. We are keeping out options open right now. I could also steek the front open and put in a zip.

Right now my only allowed fiber distraction is spinning more merino, white, 2 out of 3 bobbins filled, nearly ready to 3 ply. I got a few new books this past week, PGR Spinning in the old way, and N & J Fournier's In sheeps clothing : a hand spinners guide to wool. And Knitting School: A complete course, an English translation of an Italian technique book (Thanks Suzanne for telling me about this one). This one has rather special hand drawn illustrations in great detail of all the steps of the various techniques covered. Spinning the old way is about using the High Whorl Spindle, and I finally mastered how to use it by rolling it down my thigh - PGR claims using a high whorl spindle is as efficient for production spinning as a wheel. I'm not sure about that but she explains her nomadic life and non-material attitude as reasons for preferring the spindle to the wheel. In Sheeps clothing, is a little over my head for now, but in time, as I learn to relate breeds to fleece/fiber and yarn characteristics, it should prove useful.

So now I am just waiting for Knitting for Anarchists, Knit to fit, Vogue Knitting The Ultimate Sock Book, and The Art of Fair Isle Knitting: History, Technique, Color & Patterns, which I sucumed to only this morning. In a thread on Ravelry - it was said to have a good section on various ways to hold the yarn for colour work. Somthing I am interested in. I'm also waiting for the rest of my christmas presents, Kelly is bring me a knitpicks package and some more addi turbos back for me from the states. But she won't be here until next month.