Thursday, January 30, 2014

Frog announcement

Ok, I am at peace, I've come to terms with the need, my knitting and I are in agreement, there will be frogging, lace weight frogging. I am a metric person, raised in a metric country, all my life distances have been in kilometers, weights in grams and kilograms, measurements in centimeters or meters. In my life I have learned about the imperial units, I understand inches, yards, ounces and pounds. I love the Winnie the Pooh rhyme about Tigger, what ever he weighs in pounds, shillings and ounces, he always seems bigger because of his bounces. Even as a small child I got the silliness of mixing currency and weights -and I loved it.

At times it seems like I've spent my life converting between imperial and metric, my mum and grandmas cookbooks are in ounces, my new cookbooks in metric, online recipes are mixed depending on the country of origin. My dad describes things in inches, but uses millimeters when doing mechanic things. The text books we use and that I collect for patternmaking can be either metric or imperial. I joke with my students who come across the brilliant imperial drafting in Helen Joseph Armstrong's patternmaking for fashion design that a good pattern maker needs to be bilingual in terms of measurement. You see we teach using Winifred Aldrich texts and they are all in metric, but I need to take the year threes beyond what Winnifred covers into how to develope designs beyond what she shows. For most of the students who have only workd with metric measurements having to death with 3/16th or 5/8th of an inch seems way more complex than they want to deal with.

And then I go and measure the length from the side and use metric centimeters instead of inches ... What should be 9.5 inches is in fact more like 9.5 cm. Not only that but I've now knit 7cm of 1x1 rib in cobweb lace weight, so there will be frogging ... Serrious frogging, slow and careful frogging, resigned frogging. I've spent the day wondering if a really wide band of ribbing would work ... but eventually decided that I liked the original design and so will frog.

Motto of the day : check what units the designer is using, before you undertake the next step in the pattern.

Na Stella

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Grey & gray

I've started new things, both grey or gray depending on your English or American language leanings. First up is the start to finish baby blanket, and second I've finally committed to knitting Featherweight by Hannah Fettig. I say finally as this has been in my queue for years, I am not alone, Featherweight is listed as a a project by 5982 Ravelers (as of Feb 2014) and is in 8222 Ravelers queues!

First things first, the blanket, I wasn't entirely sure what pattern to use, I had some requirements, center out, seamless, and that would suit outdoor use. I often see the MTB (mother to be) out walking, especially in the cooler months - so assume this baby will be in need of a thick warm blanket when out and about. I spent a session (or two, or four, or more) on ravelry searching for a pattern that would work with my Handspun. Eventually I found Quadrature for Korrigan, which surprisingly was already in my queue. I should learn to use my queue as a starting point when looking for a new project.

So I have started, using 5 mm needles and like with any center out project initial progress is blindingly fast and then slows progressively. I'm not sure if I will need to spin more yarn, but have a third bobbin to ply ... So will do that this weekend -- a knitters version of being prepared.


The other new project is Featherweight, knit in Filatura di crosa centrolavaggi, a lace weight merino two ply. It's fine, with 1400 m in 100g so maybe more correctly called cobweb. I thought I had documented all my stored stash in my ravelry stash - but found when I went to link to this yarn it was not listed - even though I was holding it in my hand and knew about it. That leaves me wondering what else I have stashed that I have not added. Perhaps there is something Psychological and denial like going on there, perhaps I'm just forgetful and disorganized.

I want to wear this, I've been browsing over the thousands of Featherweight projects listed on Ravelry and being inspired. There are some who have knit this seven or eight times - and given the Love that clearly exists for this pattern I wonder if my other skein of this yarn ( in ruby) might also become a featherweight.

All that said - I am usually a process knitter, knitting for the love of knitting and working out details, learning new things and fine tuning my skills. Featherweight offers none of that, it is a basic raglan, in plain stocking stitch, with a little rib. Some knitters have polished and customized the pattern with waist shaping, adding lace to the back or over the entire cardigan,and switching out the single ribbed bands for lace or cable work, workd it in a gradient or in stripes, or lengthened some or all of the garment, or even shapped the front bands to pull the cardigan in much like a shrug. All those tweaks are tempting - but I will admit I find knitting with cobweb tedious. Each stitch must be meticulously made, it is all too easy to knit into the loop below, or to split a stitch or knit two together. The yarn is so fine I can't (yet?) knit by feel - I must look. At each stitch. Every time. All the time. And yet I am continuing to knit, I love the promise of a lovely light and soft grey cardigan that will work with my dresses.

I am even considering knitting the 3/4 sleeves, something I usually don't even consider. I am tall and seemed to spend much of my shield hood with half mast sleeves and trousers, things still fit around but my limbs shot out the ends - I grew to hate things that were to short. I have a tendency to counter that outgrown-my-clothes feeling by making things with extended exaggerated long sleeves. My thinking is this yarn is soft merino, and while super wash will pill and fluff and wear. Bracelet length sleeves, which is another name for 3/4 or thereabouts will provide more durability, there will be less rubbing on desks and tables - besides then I can wear my jewellery without worry about snagging.

I begin to see the reasons behind the popularity of Featherweight - the design and finished garment ticks so many boxes, and could easily become a wardrobe essential in our modern world where we live indoors much of the time. There may be more Featherweights in my future - I have already begun to think of the other skein as a second one, and I have at least two or three sweater batches of fingering yarn which would knit up to the same gauge. Oh help - I am growing up, maturing and moving to product knitting -in don't know if i should worry or of this is just a stage?

Then again - it's just knitting, and it keeps me sane, and distracts me from more dangerous pursuits.

Na Stella


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Some things are quick, others slow

Despite the lack of blog posts there has been lots and lots of fiber play around here. A week or so ago I finished washing all the raw fleece, and since then have been flicking to remove all remaining vm (vegetable matter) carding, and recarding. This has been good, boring but good, and now I have a much better handle on the carding process. At the same time I've been working on a one-skein project, a new ballet cardigan for younger cub.

All set up


Most days I set up the carder across one end of the dining room table, and laid out the washed fleece, the tools and set to work. I watched a lot of online history documentaries, mostly BBC reinactment ones, Green Valley Farm, Tudor Monestory Farm, Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, and WWII Farm as I worked, while time consumer carding isn't intellectually demanding. It was good, even though I was working at a hobby, a pleasure pursuit, I did feel a connection as I worked at processing local fleece into a usable product and watched as the historians and archeologists did the same on screen with crops, building, textiles and food.

On a good day, a full day starting when Bear left for work at eight am and working through till five pm I was able to trim the bleached tips from the locks, flick, card, strip into smaller batts, thin those out and reccard nearly 200 g of fiber. There was one sad mistake of a day when 160g went from table to bin after I realised what seemed like a great idea to firmly hold a brush in place just above where the small drum met the larger drum - resulted in tons of neps and tangles - that I didn't discover until I split the batt to reccard it. I attempted to remove the neps and such - but there were to many and there were to deeply seated within the batts. Many days I did much less than 100g. I'm in total awe of those who do this for a living, or for supplemental income. I know that to earn money at this one would have a dedicated space, and much larger equipment ... processing fiber takes a goodly amount of time, processing it to a high standard takes even more.

With my newly improved drum carding skills I took a break from carding the dark natural fiber and worked on some merino and perendale combed top that I had dyed some time ago, some that I was not happy with. Two passes through the drum carder and the fiber was much improved, no longer blockly chunks of colour,more of a tweedy blend that was visually nicer.

I've also been spinning th carded dark natural -

And now have three bobbins full and ready to ply. I've been watching and re-watching The Gentle Art of Plying with Judith Mackenzie, which my Apple TV lists as GAP - that threw me for a while, I went back and forth from computer to tv trying to work out why I couldn't find the video I owned. And because Judith says its a good idea I've been rewinding the bobbins in preparation for plying, later today I plan to try plying her way, with my hands maybe more in control of the twist and plies as the strands come together. The past two yarns I've plied have had much more twist, as suggested by Judith MacK, and I've liked them more. So for now I'm happy to trust her suggestions, and after putting so much time I to cleaning and preparing the fleece -MIT seems right to put as much time into this part of the process.

When I've not been processing fiber ready to spin, I've been knitting. Just after New Years I cast on a wee shrug style top, that was to be knit from one skein. Summer days by Elena Nodel. I didn't do a gauge swatch, this cardigan is knit in a mistake rib which is very elastic, and for a growing girl, so I tempted fate by just knitting with the recommended needles. I very nearly made it, I had this much yarn left and three rows of rib left to work.

The major problem was the yarn was a second, a limited edition and I had no more and no way to get more. I did however have an emergency plan, plan B.

There was a simillar, not exact but simillar if you half closed your eyes and didn't look to hard colour in my Christmas cub box from Vintage Purls. Sugar Plum Fairy, is a lighter and more even purple - but has some shading that is simillar to the original yarn.

I knit the pattern pretty much as written, but did work the front bands and neckbands as a continuous section, with metered increases at the center front neck corners. Even though the plan B yarn wasn't exactly the same -it provided a rather interesting glowing edge to the cardigan. Bear described it as nice, but not really noticeable. The heart buttons are shell, and were from a sock yarn club.

I lined the front bands with ribbon, as in a close fitted cardigan the bands often gape open between the buttons. Now little cub is a slight wee thing - and the last thing she needs is to look like her bust is bursting out of her cardigan. On the button hole side I stabilized the ribbon where the button hole was to go with fabric glue and then cut the button holes to match those I knitted, I stitched the ribbon to the bands along the edges and also along the button holes.

The glowing edges show up more clearly further away, and even though this was made as a ballet cardigan - I suspect it will see use outside the ballet classroom.

I love the neat fit, and the way the shoulders and sleeves are formed (contiguous pattern shaping at work here) little cub loves the puff sleeves, I'd happily knit another, but maybe longer in the body and having two skeins of sock yarn on hand.

Well . .. I'm back off to card more fiber, and ply ...once that is done I will have more interesting things to blog about.

Na Stella


Monday, January 06, 2014

About those socks ...

Today's post is a review of the Fish Lips Kiss Heel (FLK), a pattern sold on Ravelry for $1 (USD). I knit a pair of socks using the instructions in the FLK pattern for Bear, and he has worn them, the socks have been washed, and worn again - this review comprises my thoughts having knit them and his having worn them.

You may have seen the hype, the buzz, the chat about this pattern. The FLK heel is marketed on being a new and different approach to not only working the heel, but to fitting a hand knit sock. I will discuss that aspect first, as the fit is determined before the heel is turned, then I will talk about the heel, and make some comments on the pattern and support.

The author presents a method where the sock is customized to the foot it is knit for, and provides a system that is based on a tracing of the foot. The method is explained in great detail, even to instructions of how to trace the foot, what pen to use, and how to stand, and what makes a good tracing to work from. There is a little bit of math, nothing scary, simple addition and division, based in measurements that come from the foot tracing. Then you cast on ...and knit. The pattern is full of promises about further updates, which will include a toe that is simillar to the heel, but for now uses a straightworward and simple toe with increases each end of the sole and topside. The number is stitches you need to fit is determined by slipping the toe over a cut out of the foot tracing ... And you stop increasing at a recognizable point, the work the sock straight until you reach a line determined by your earlier calculation. All this is very simple - but seems to take forever to explain in the pattern. I love the way EZ wrote patterns, a longer version that explained the reasoning and the maths, and a 'short and pithy' version that just explained quickly how to work the item, and feel that a simillar approach would be great for the FLK heel.

As for turning the heel, this is a rather simple and straightworward method, based on short rows and worked with twin stitches instead of wraps, japanese short rows, yarn overs, any other method I have seen or workd. The twin stitches are clearly explained and easy to work, the method for the heel is methodical, so much so that after working one heel it is pretty easy to work the second without the pattern being to hand. I like this method of short rowing and think it may become my method of choice, the turns are firm and there is no bulk or weird distorted stitches. The author writes that the short rows melt into the fabric - and they do. The author provides further advice about working the heel for a patterned sock, so that the heel retains its fit as designed. I suspect this is a visual trick of the method, adjusting where the pattern starts above the heel so the sock looks like it fits, and it's not a bad trick to use and know a about to easily improve how a sock fits.

I did nothing special to work these short row other than follow the pattern instructions and love the way they feel to work, and the way they work and look.

I am surprised at the fit of these socks, I usually knit bear a 68 or 72 stitch sock and yet using the instructions for FLK this sock only needed 60 stitches. The method relies on negative ease to hug the foot, and heel method provides enough depth for the sock to be easily worn without resort to a gusset - I'm impressed!

I told Bear the socks were ’different' and that I was knitting using a new pattern for the heel - and asked for his comments. He said they fit fine, amongst the best he has, and that there is no problem at all with the fit or sizing, the heel sits nicely. He stopped short of waxing lyrical, but clearly found the socks ok, maybe better than ok.

The next stage is to knit a pair for me, up until now I haven't found short row heels to my liking, prefering the snug fit of a slip stitched flap and gusset heel. I have narrow heels and maybe the pull in a classic slip stitch provides feels right - but I'm prepared to see how this pattern feels on my feet. Following that I want to knit a pair for my brother or dad - some one I can trace the foot of and test the method without them being around.

The pattern is only a dollar, and for the twin stitch instructions is worth that price to learn a new short row method. At fifteen pages the purchased pattern is long, and is mix of explanation, justification, sales and marketing, and promises along with the details of the method - I'm having mixed feeling about that. I do like knowing the thinking behind the method, but can't help feeling the presentation is clouded by all of that being mixed together. The pattern has a good following on ravelry, and it's on group where the designer and those who have knit several and have experience are on hand to trouble shoot. Within that group there is a lot of positive encouragement, if a first sock isn't quite right a communal cry of `well it's a small problem, and the heel is so quick and easy you will be able to rip back and rework with these changes in no time'. They are right, the heel is quick and easy, and as the sock fits with fewer stitches than usual - knitting speeds by. And much of the advice seems to correct novices who have overthought the method and added length or stitches or a gusset even - assuming that as those things are needed when they knit socks usually - they must also add them to the FLK heel sock. Not so it seems, knit the sock as instructed and all will be well the forum posts suggest. The author is clearly generous in her pricing, and is clear that she is keen to see people find and like her heel, she is also protective - any posts that she considers to contain copyrighted details are edited with a note explaining such. I did have one question, posted it on the forum and thought I worded the question to avoid giving away details of the method or pattern - but apparently not, my post was edited, and details removed, as well as my question being quickly and politely answered. I'm cool with that, copyright is copyright, and the sock method is someone's IP.

Should you buy the pattern and try it, maybe, I bought the pattern and knit a pair to see if the heel was worth the hype - and I am left thinking maybe it is. The pattern, the fit, the heel all surprise me in how well it works - almost in opposition to much I thought I knew about knitting short row heel socks. I am aware that several knitters of socks have bought the pattern but find the length and presentation (wordiness ) more than they want to deal with, and have set it aside without knitting it.

What do you think? Have you knit some, bought the pattern, or even visited the forum to see what it's all about?


Na Stella