Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sunset Knitting

This fall, I chose to participate in Karen Templer's Fringe Association knit-a-long for a Cowichan-inspired vest.  Karen selects a few people to participate in these projects, then interviews them regarding their experience.  Since she's done two of these interviews so far, I'm using her basic questions for a "mock interview".  Not that I'm so famous.  I'm just happy to be inspired by Karen and the others in the knit-a-long.

Your choice of yarn was unusual.  Tell us about the yarn and the resulting fabric weight and character.

Last year, the shop manager of our local wool mill brought five hanks of wool to the Taos Wool Festival for me.  I had asked her to bring any remaining hanks matching some I had bought earlier, hoping what she had left would give me enough for a sweater.  I didn't expect her to also bring me something new, but she insisted I'd like it, saying "It's CVM." as her explanation.  It turned out to be a bulky yarn, so I had just let it sit, not having a project for it.  This knit-a-long offered an opportunity to use the yarn, combining it with some other bulky yarn I had left over from other projects.  It wasn't the best choice for this project, since it was a plied yarn and a single would have produced a smoother fabric in the stranded portions.  That was the only drawback, though. The weight was good, thick enough to not have to double-strand and the CVM (California Variegated Mutant) wool is soft to the touch and a pleasure to knit and wear.  Additionally, since the mill produces a semi-worsted yarn, it has a nice rustic feel that, along with the natural color, is suited to the project.  In the end, the unexpected yarn was a lucky acquisition.  I'm so happy with the CVM wool that I went back to the mill and purchased some in a lighter weight for a sweater.

You also chose a different pattern than the one suggested.  What aspects of  your pattern choice appealed to you?  Are you happy with your choice?

The primary reason I chose the pattern I did, which is another pattern by the same company, was the gauge.  I wanted a smaller gauge so that I wouldn't have to double strand the yarn.  The semi-worsted bulky yarn is heavy, with less than 100 yards per 100 grams.  I was afraid that double stranding it would yield a vest that was heavier than I'd want to wear.  As it is, the finished vest weighs nearly 600 grams, as heavy as most of my hand-knit sweaters.  A secondary reason was that the pattern had a couple of smaller motifs that I liked, leaves and snowflakes.  Now that I've seen finished projects with the large motif, I am a bit envious.  I love how graphic and stylish those vests are.

What is the source of your motif designs?

Two of the motifs are provided in the pattern.  The only motif I changed was the largest one.  I replaced the squirrel with two motifs I found in other patterns.  One is a graphic that reminds me of snow-covered roofs.  The other is one of mountains that I modified to include a sunset, as an homage to the reputation of these New Mexican mountains.  Though we have squirrels in the mountains here, they are more famous for their sunsets.

How did you handle the floats?

Again, I was lucky.  Several years ago, I took a class in stranded knitting.  It turned out that it was based on the Philosopher's Wool techniques.  I've been using their method ever since and am fairly well practiced in it.  For this project, I used a combination of weaving and floats, not weaving every other stitch, but not having any floats longer than 3 stitches.  I also kept the floats in mind as I charted the motifs and avoided long floats as much as I could without changing the character of the design.

Did you make any other mods to the pattern?

I added a few stitches to make it larger.  The gauge ran smaller than I anticipated and the bulky fabric needs more ease than I anticipated.  I wish I'd added a few more stitches or been more consistent about using a larger needle for the stranded portions.  For more details on my modifications, see my Ravelry page for this project.

What would you have done differently, now that you are watching the other projects being completed?

As I mentioned, I'd rather have used a single spun yarn.  I'm curious about the collar on the suggested pattern, although I do like how the ribbed collar came out.  I'd like to try the garter stitch collar so I could compare them.  Also, I'd like to try the knit-in garter stitch button band, even if it is harder to switch from stranding to a single color.  I'm holding off deciding until I see all the projects finished and evaluated, but I could be up for knitting another vest sometime.

I've really enjoyed this project and watching the others progress.  Thanks, Karen, you are an inspiration!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Knitting Heavy, Knitting Light

There's no end to the puns I can make with the subject of this post.  I'll pass on that temptation, though, to discuss my latest revelation, which came upon me while browsing Ravelry.  I saw a project page in which the knitter had posted the total weight of her sweater, as though proud of it.  I had never thought of checking the weight of a finished sweater, but now I got my little scale out and began.

I started with the ones I have on hand.  As a disclaimer, I don't mean these to be a fashion show.  Some of the sweaters are nearly 10 years old and none are what I consider a total success.  Hopefully, as I study the information here, I can plan to knit sweaters that are more of a success.

The links to my Ravelry project page for each of these are listed below.  They are in the same order as the photos of each sweater, going from left to right of each row and starting at the top row.

Straight Sleeved Cardi, 240 g., the lightest, less than half a pound.
Raveling Leaves, 244 g., or a mere half of a pound.
Eyelet Lace Pullover, 272 g. or .6 lbs.
Marli Pulli, 318 grams, or .7 lbs.
Effervescence, 366 g., or .8 lbs.
Heart Attack, 366 g., or .8 lbs.
Purple Cabana, 370 g., or .8 lbs.
Bianca's Jacket, 384 g., or .85 lbs.
Darker Rib Cardi, 388 g., or .86 lb.

Of course, it is obvious that the sweaters in the group above are mostly shorter, sleeveless, or knit with something other than wool or alpaca.  There's a couple of exceptions, but those are knit with lace weight yarn held double.  The three in the middle row are the most comfortable of these.  Since they land in the mid-range of the lighter sweaters, weight-wise, I am tempted to say that these sweaters, those between 300 and 400 grams in weight, are the most comfortable weight in this group.  The ones on the top are a little too light--I'd just as soon wear a t-shirt as one of those.  The ones in the bottom row are really too heavy for their construction, being either sleeveless or cropped.

Again, links are below, same order

Argyle Star, 396 g., or .87 lbs.
Green Jeans, 442 g., or about a pound.
Ripple Cardi, 448 g., or about a pound.
Definitely Me, 460 g., or about a pound.
Educational, 466 grams, about a pound.
Bubble Pullover, 498 g., or 1.1 lbs.
PostGrad, 506 g., or 1.1 lbs.
Kitty, 646 g., or 1.4 lbs.
Pocket Cardi, 674 g., or 1.5 lbs.

Those in the top row, right at or a little over 400 grams in weight are fine.  As we go to the bottom of this group, however, we hit a problem.  That last sweater, though light for one that is heavily cabled and reaches to mid-thigh, is heavy enough to cause problems.  It sags; it slips; it's so huge I don't wear it much.  In fact, except for the first four, the weight of these sweaters has an effect on the fit and comfort.  Can I conclude that I prefer sweaters under 500 grams in weight?  Maybe.  Exploring this idea further, I have this one:

Southwest Mitered Jacket, 730 g., or 1.6 lbs.  That's a heavy sweater!  It's worsted-weight wool, garter stitch and oversize.  Still, I wear it when it is cold in the house and we don't want to turn up the heat.  I have one other sweater that may be even heavier.  It is cabled worsted weight wool.  I'll check the weight when I get it out of storage this fall.  As might be guessed, I don't wear it often.

Now to my present knitting.  The problem that began my thinking about sweater weight is my current project.  I may be knitting a sweater that weighs over 900 grams--more than 2 pounds!  It's cabled, alpaca and cormo wool, and half of the alpaca fiber is Suri alpaca.  Also oversize.  Heavy stuff.  Here's the link if you want to watch this potential disaster: Brigid/Erin

After this project, and a couple of more heavy sweaters, I will have rid my stash of old heavy yarn.  When I make my next sweater yarn purchase, I will consider total weight along with the usual other criteria.  I'm eager to try some of the newer yarns that claim to be both warm and light.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Simply Useful Knitting

There's all of summer stretching before me.  Based on recent history, you can bet my plans don't included blogging.  My report for the year thus far can be summed in one word: simplicity.

I've found that I will get more wear out of the simpler knits.  Too bad, because complex and colorful certainly make for more entertaining knitting to me.  In spite of planning to be more practical in my choices of pattern and color, I've still snuck in some excitement.  To the rather plain cardigan above, I added a scarf that can be buttoned on.  The concept came from the pattern, Definitely Susan.  The actual pattern I used was Post Grad.  I'm currently knitting Definitely Susan. It's another plain raglan.  The excitement comes as I replace the lace patterned scarf in the pattern with a two-color chevron scarf, from the now-classic book, Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. 

Last month, I finished the pullover in the photo above, Lilian.  In monochromatic Zara, with a few cables, it meets my requirement for simplicity.  At the same time, the modern styling, with dolman sleeves and loose-fitting body, along with the unusual construction, provided knitting excitement.

I've balanced the blandness of my sweater projects by attempting to knit up my variegated sock yarn. It seems that variegated yarn has finally declined in popularity. Self-striping and semi-solid yarns are currently the rage. The socks shown above are those I've knit so far this year. If I can keep up the pace, I'll have significantly reduced my stash of out-of-fashion sock yarn while increasing my sock wardrobe.

Finally, I produced a largish swatch for a future sweater project. The shawl above, in the Camilla pattern, uses a stitch pattern in its edging that I plan to use in a cardigan. The inspiration for the sweater will be the Viften pattern, but I will update it somehow.  All the sock projects can be found in my Ravelry projects.  For the sweater details, follow the highlighted links in the text.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Knitting, 2014 and 2015

After reading tons of blog entries that appeared today, I'm feeling a bit left out.  Everyone is posting their retrospective of all the garments they knit in 2014 and their resolutions for 2015.  I find it all fascinating, but must join in, at least a little.  To make it quick, I'm combining both retro and pro "spectives" in one:

Although I produced over 20 finished knitted items in 2014, these are the four that I'm really using. Admittedly, at least half of the 20 items (pairs of items) were socks. I'm not counting socks in the "really using" category. I can always use another pair of socks, simply because they wear out quickly.

These are the useful things I've knit in 2014: a sweater, two cowls and an afghan. They also represent my resolve for 2015--knit useful things!

With that thought, I'm grateful for all your support in the past year and looking forward to another year of knitting.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Maximix Knee Socks

My latest pattern is available through the link below as well as on Ravelry.com. Maximix Knee Socks offer a means of combating two problems that beset knitters in the Winter, cold feet and pattern boredom. I've tested the benefits of knee socks in the cold and feel confident in the statement that where wool socks are good at preventing cold feet, knee-length wool socks are even better. I'd have knitted more knee socks but for one problem--they take a long time to knit. I developed this pattern to overcome that problem.  Using heavier-weight sock yarn, sport-weight yarns, and even dk-weight yarn makes these socks warmer and quicker to knit.  The changing patterns keep the knitting interesting.

Maximix knee socks use heavier yarns knit at a larger gauge than regular socks. Since thick socks don't fit well in most shoes, the heaviest yarn is reserved for the leg of the sock. To keep the foot warm and snug, there's a bit of stranded knitting between the toe and the short-row heel. Contrasting colors add interest and make it possible to use bits of leftover yarn. I'm so pleased with the comfort and warmth of these socks that I just knit a second pair.

While I knit the second pair, I checked the pattern and tried out a few modifications. The final result is my best version of this pattern, which I hope experienced knitters will find both practical and fun in its approach to knee socks. I'm making it available for just $1 USD. Click the link below to purchase the pattern.

This is the launch of a process I'm calling proven pricing. I'll let the pattern prove itself by being purchased, knit, corrected and improved before I increase the price. Please contact me through Ravelry or by posting a comment here if you have questions or problems with the pattern. Be sure to include a way I can contact you if you do comment.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Knitting Long Socks

Here on the cusp of Winter (at least in the US), I'm working on socks that will help keep my feet and legs warm.  I've discovered that when it comes to maximizing warmth, longer is better. I think that if my leg is warm, my foot stays warmer.  I'm able to explore this theory now that I have a small stash of knee socks.  I've written about these, publishing a pattern addendum for knee socks and designing ones that knit up quicker than standard sock weight.
In the past week, I've tested the theory, comparing knee socks to regular-length socks for warmth.  I'm convinced the knee socks keep my feet warmer.  In fact, the 100% alpaca knee socks made my feet so warm I had to take them off. Hot feet on a cold day, that was a novel sensation.  Since this theory has proven true, I'm glad now that my latest sock project turned out to be as long as it did.

I've been working on this sock for months, primarily because I was only knitting it when I was waiting, here and there, this summer. It was complicated for a travel knit, but the complexity meant the time I spent waiting passed quickly. I was really relieved when I got to the cuff, only to find that knitting the cuff took me almost as long as knitting the foot and leg. It's welted, meaning you knit a few rows then double the knitting over to make the welt.  I explain the historical references that inspired these socks in my project notes. (Find these references, the patterns used and yarn details on my project page here.)

There's proof of the authenticity of this sock. It's authentic, old-style argyle (I could type "Argyll" and be truly authentic.), knit flat and seamed. I did knit the toe in the round after seaming. The complexity and the slowness of this project explains why I've not started the second sock of this pair.  Instead, I'm working on socks that knit up much quicker.  Knee socks, of course, in sport-weight yarn.  They're the second pair that I linked above. I hope to publish a short pattern for these long socks soon.  I'm checking the pattern now, and have knit the feet.  The legs will take longer and are just ribbing.  No need to check the writing of "Knit six inches of ribbing."

I am still having problems posting photos in Blogger. To satisfy my need to share, I've joined Instagram.  Find me as Susan Luni or "at" knotingale.  If you are on Instagram, let me know.  It's filled, as is what's left of knitting blogs, with designers and yarn shops looking to sell patterns and yarn. While I enjoy the information on the new products, I'd like to find a few more knitters to follow.  I love to see photos of  knitting projects.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Knitting the NM Throw; yarn etymology

One of the side benefits of my knitting is the way projects evoke memories. Of course, my current project usually evokes an immediate memory if I pick it up to work on it after a break of a day or two--a precise memory of the time and place that I last touched my knitting comes back to me. There's another time and place memory attached to some of the things I knit, the time and place where I bought the yarn. Regarding yarn shops and fiber festivals, my New Mexico throw evokes multiple memories.

Most of the yarn can be considered New Mexican, at least to the extent that I purchased the yarn from mills located in New Mexico. The two main yarn sources are The Natural Twist and Tapetes de Lana.

I first bought the Natural Twist yarn a couple of years ago at the Estes Park Wool Market. While it was a Colorado venue, the yarn was purely New Mexican. I was thrilled with the dyes Ruth Baldwin used in her Enchantment Series and purchased hanks of Mi Casa, Dixon, Chamisa and Ancient Red, planning to make stranded pillow covers. Luckily (for my current project), I lost interest in pillow covers. However, it wasn't until I began knitting afghans last winter that I thought of using Ruth's yarn in a throw.

Last year, while organizing my yarn storage, I realized that I had quite a bit of leftover worsted weight yarn. Naturally, I decided to knit it up--I never throw out yarn! I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of my oldest wool, plant-dyed churro from the now-closed La Lana Wools in Taos, produced a great garter-stitch fabric. I had purchased an exorbitant amount of churro yarn years ago, planning to crochet an afghan. I cranked out over 60 little squares before I lost interest.(Again with the project abandonment--that's not usually my deal.) I used about 50 of the squares in a pillow cover and a rug. Even after knitting the center of the rug with the churro I hadn't crocheted into squares, I had yarn left. That's when I put the leftover yarn, the leftover squares and other leftover worsted weight wool together and made a lap blanket, thereby stumbling upon the discovery that the churro knits up nicely in garter stitch. If the churro yarn was, as I had long suspected, produced by the Mora Valley Spinning Mill, I concluded that their other yarn might make a nice afghan as well.

I was seriously considering knitting this blanket when I found The Natural Twist booth at the Salida Fiber Festival last year. I bought a few more hanks of the yarn whose colors are named for the Land of Enchantment and reflect the tones of adobe and the desert.

While at the festival, I was happy to find the Mora Valley Spinning Mill booth. I had paid a visit to their shop, Tapetes de Lana, earlier in the year, buying much of the yarn I used in this project there--the shop offers yarn at a 40 percent discount.

Last year's fiber fest allowed me to finish off the demands of this project preparation, at least as much as I thought was needed. I took my purchases back home and put them in a bag with the pattern book. Then I dug through my yarn stash to see if I had any other bulky weight yarn that might fit the color scheme. That's when I chose the gray yarn. I had purchased it several years ago in Gunnison, Co.

Back then, there was a small yarn shop in Gunnison. The owner, who named the shop Passion for Yarn and Beads, had a small but varied stock of yarn. Amongst it was a locally hand-spun natural yarn that some of the local knitters had used for Aran sweaters. It was far too itchy for me to wear, but I couldn't resist buying a couple of hanks for my stash. This rustic yarn worked quite well with the yarn from the Mora Valley mill. (I don't think this shop is open now. The last time I visited, it was only open a couple of days a week or by appointment. The owner had taken a full-time job.)

The last bit of yarn I used is neither rustic nor hand-spun, but it is memorable. I purchased it one day when I was taking a class upstairs at Serendipity Yarn and Gifts in Buena Vista, Co. The shop manager, who was nearby attempting to bring order to the crowded shelves, commented that there was too much yarn in the inventory. "Everything on the floor is half-price.", she stated, sparking pandemonium among the shoppers. We took an immediate class break to shop. Things really got even crazier when the manager started knocking yarn off the shelves and onto the floor. Downstairs, she poked a bin of Arucania, setting off a yarn avalanche. I sat down by it and ended up selecting more than enough Arucania for a knee-length sweater. The leftovers are in my NM throw. Not New Mexican, but certainly associated with a very nice memory.

Just think, as you knit your current project, whatever it may be, wherever you got the yarn, you are not just knitting a scarf, shawl, sweater or sock. You are knitting a memory.
See my previous post for more on my New Mexico throw.