Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Wet Fiber Fest

Months ago, I thought I'd check out the annual fiber festival at a nearby town. We had planned it as a final detour of our last business trip. For all of last week, we drove around the flatlands, bearing heat, dust, and high winds. After spending days in the car and dumpy motels, I was looking forward to a little fun in the mountains, maybe a dip in the hot springs, a walk by the river, and, of course, fondling yarn, sheep and alpacas.
In case you're still confused, I'll confirm the news. That is the sign we saw the day we arrived. Yes, it was snowing. On May 23rd, in Pagosa Springs. Who would have guessed? The last time I was there, it was hot and sunny, and the river was full of frolicking bathers. Of course, I've been there when it was cold, but it was still nice, and I enjoyed walking along the river and checking out the steam coming up through the vents in the snow-covered grass. I was hoping for something between those two extremes, and I tried to ignore the weather forecasts. Surely it wouldn't snow much, I thought.
I was wrong. It was very pretty snow, and it was warm enough that it didn't stick (much). However, it certainly discouraged any touristy activities. We ate lunch, drove around a little. (Driving around to sightsee doesn't hold many charms after you've spent several days in the car.) It was fun to see snow after being in the heat all week.

Nonetheless, I feared it did not bode well for the festival, even though there were two large tents set up in the park. I've done set-up for events before, and I hated to see the vendors setting up in such wet weather. And wet it was. The next morning, I quickly learned that while one of the tents was relatively dry, the other was sitting on a large puddle of ice-cold water. The puddle was about 2" deep in spots and it wasn't going anywhere. The vendors weren't happy about it, and were concerned about their yarn and fiber getting and staying wet. I heard one say she was going to have to "dry out all this yarn when I get home." Her booth was the largest, with a beautiful variety of hand-dyed yarn, fiber and knitted samples. I felt for her.
However, the vendors remained cheerful, friendly, and, most important--they had yarn. K didn't follow my instructions when I said, "This won't take long, pick me up in 45 minutes." I was glad, since 45 minutes saw me just completing a cursory tour of the booths. I took another half hour or so deciding what to buy. In the end, it wasn't much, but I'm very happy with it. A pretty hand-dyed hank of sock yarn, enough for a pair, very reasonably priced, and a hank of super-fine alpaca. I'll tell you more about the alpaca in the next post. For now, I'll just tease you by saying, "It's better than caashmare, dahlink."

I stuck my purchases in a waterproof bag, and hopped in the car for the ride home. It had stopped snowing, but was still cloudy. I enjoyed the beautiful views from Wolf Creek Pass, especially those of fully-leafed aspens surrounded by snow-covered evergreens, an uncommon pairing. There was no snow at home, and it was clearing off, even on the continental divide. Of course, all the traveling time meant a lot of knitting time for me. I think I've committed to the top in Alchemy bamboo, and I finished a Koigu sock. I'll post knitting photos soon, to make up for last week's silence.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cabana Tee, handknit

I've finished the Cabana Tee, and I can't say enough good things about the pattern and the yarn. The pattern can be found in the latest Knitscene, the Winter 07/Spring 08 issue. It's simple, easy, and flattering. (Fits my goals.) Although it called for Four Seasons cotton, I used Berocco Touche for the bodice, teaming it with Berocco Soft Twist that I recycled from another top. The Touche color is Lemon Meringue, and the Soft Twist is deep purple. I used a size 6 circular needle, and knit it in the round from the top down, the easy way. It took me about a month, but could probably be done in a couple of weeks if it hadn't had to share my attention with a couple of other knitting projects.

As far as modification, I only made one. I added minimal waist shaping, placing a double decrease at each side twice, then a double increase an inch or so lower. That bit of a decrease provides a little dip in the waist. I did change the sizing to 36", but that wasn't difficult enough to consider it a modification.

The rest of the shaping is due to the drape of the fabric. Both yarns have rayon content, and the Soft Twist is heavy enough to pull the bodice down. Together they make a comfortable, soft summer top. The little cap sleeves are great. I hope they will make the sweater wearable most of the summer. (The mountain summer, that is. No matter what the cut of a sweater, I find worsted weight hand knits too hot for most summer days above 80 degrees.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stork's Nest Scarf, knitted

I had fun on my recent trip. Some of the fun involved knitting. I was able to complete a short version of the Stork's Nest Scarf by Nancy Bush. The pattern can be found in the January 2008 issue of Piecework magazine. (ETA: That issue is now out of print, but the same pattern was re-published in Knitting Traditions, an Interweave special issue.)

I used the recommended yarn, Jojoland 2-ply, a 100% cashmere yarn and size 4 wooden straights. I say "wooden" because I switched between Clovers and Brittanys for this project.

That's enough knitting talk for now. I'll finish this up with a couple of photos from my New York trip. I lucked upon a decent angle shot of the Empire state building. The sun was behind it, but was shielded by clouds. It distracted me from people/shop watching, which was really the activity I enjoyed the most during our brief visit.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Short row heels

I like short-row heels, and learned that Priscilla Gibson Roberts is credited with the short row heel with yarn overs. That's the only short-row heel I've done. I'd like to try one with wraps, and I found that Wendy Johnson had a Knitty article about the short-row heel with wraps, but I only found one about short-row toes for toe-up socks. The Cosmic Pluto blog has a tutorial on the WJ heel. There are other tutorials available on the PGR short-row heel. I still need to understand what Japanese short rows, and learn if they work for heels.

Then I looked at patterns. First, I found one simple sock pattern with a short-row heel--make that two short-row heel patterns--and the Blue Blog pattern for ankle socks from one skein of Koigu.
IETA: I've since found another type of short-row heel, the Sherman. Here's a couple of links to it: Sherman short-row heel; Another Sherman

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Oblique Cardigan, praise + problems

Once I checked Ravelry and learned that the Oblique cardigan often ended up larger than expected, I thought I'd better knit a sleeve, a sleeve/swatch. I'm glad I did.

My first observation is that I like the cushiness of the twisted ribbing, especially in the Ultra Alpaca. The 50 stitches produce a cuff about 7.5 inches wide, which should be perfect.

My second observation is that the yarn overs of the right-leaning lace pattern were not lining up correctly.
A google for errata and a check of the Ravelry forums for discussions of lace problems produced nothing of help. I checked the charts I made of the stitch patterns, and they were fine. Since I had cut and paste (in Excel) from them to make a chart of the sleeve, that couldn't have been the problem.

I knew I had to rip out what I had knit, but I tried a private message to the person on Ravelry who had posted the most recent Oblique fo. (That's Tina/Auragone, and she produced a magnificent yellow-green sweater, using the same yarn. The second link is the Ravelry one, so you'll need to be signed in to see it.)

Within a day, I had reassurances from Tina that the stitch pattern is correct as written, so I gritted my teeth and went through my charts, block by block. I finally realized that I had transposed the yarn over and the k2tog on row 5 when I set up my sleeve chart. What a relief. I am much indebted to Tina. Her response helped me zero in on the problem and solve it.
I only needed to rip out a few rows before tooling along to finish the sleeve.

I like the patterns, they are simple to knit and produce a lovely result.

It has taken me nearly two weeks to knit this sleeve, but the sole reason is that I consider it a long-term project. This is my project for the Grey's Anatomy KAL, a loosely-organized KAL that revolves around knitting while watching the tv show. Since the show only happens once a week, I knit this project on Thursday nights.

Like many of the characters on the show, I cheat and knit it other times. Not too often, probably no more often than the characters cheat. :D

I expect to finish the sweater by September at the soonest. For now, I'm glad to have mastered the stitch patterns, and relieved to have the sleeve/swatch done. It is too, too long , and I shall have to rip and reknit it to the proper length. I have recalculated my gauge and will adjust the proper sizing for the fronts and the back. All of this will save yarn. I hope I don't have to buy that extra hank that others have reported needing.

The next problem I have to resolve is illustrated in the last photo. I have always had problems with loose stitches when switching from knit to purl. This looseness is often visible in the single column of textured lace stitches. I'll probably play around with some twisting the second yarn over to tighten things up.

However, I am considering eliminating the reverse stockinette here. The knitting would go much faster without that change from knit to purl and back for those middle three stitches. I think it might look nicer, too.

Actually, the textured lace pattern was the first problem I had. The instructions for the sleeves allowed 3 stitches in which to knit a stitch pattern which is provided in the instructions as a repeat of 6 stitches plus 3. I suppose if I had knit the back first I would have gained an understanding of the stitch pattern and its hidden 3-stitch repeat. Since I started with the sleeve, I had to puzzle it out by studying the charts I made. Thank goodness I didn't mess up that chart.

A final note on the charts: there aren't any charts in the pattern, and myself and others have written up their own. I was going to provide mine here, but I am not sure I should. The pattern is free, but it isn't mine. I'm not sure I should publish charts based on it. As it is, I can't brag on my charts. I don't bother with symbols, I just type out the written instructions (k, k2tog, yo, etc.) in blocks.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Socks for Veronik

Socks for Veronik, Interweave Knits, Holiday 2007; Baruffa Aerobic yarn, size 2 needles. Started April 7, finished the last day of April at 3:33 p.m.
I used size 1 needles to knit the heel flap and turn the heel. I had to knit 4 extra garter ridges to make the flap as long as the pattern instructed, but that just meant that I could pick up a stitch on each garter ridge when I knit the gusset. Working on them a little each day, it took me about three weeks to finish.

And a whoo-hoo to the finishing. I have yet to enjoy sock knitting, but I think I could get addicted. While putting away my bits of leftover yarn and my dpns, I pulled out my little stash of Koigu KPPPM. I was very tempted to cast on for a pair of Monkey socks.

That I considered it at all surprised me, since finishing these socks was such a relief. I thought I'd want a break from socks. Instead, my subconscious betrayed my true feelings--I dreamed I knit a Monkey sock last night--and I felt guilty for doing it.

Seeing these photos gives me a clue as to why I might be sock-obsessed. Despite the fiddliness, the doubt (Why am I wasting time and money knitting something I can buy for a few dollars?), and my overall dislike of wearing socks, except in really cold weather, I like the product. Gee, they're pretty.

I will take a little break, in order to give more consideration to the pattern, sizing, and heel type. After that, I'll probably be reaching for the Koigu in a few days.

I may gift these. I'll have to see if the recipient I have in mind favors lacy wool socks that must be hand washed.
If not, I'll keep them. I'll just wear them with different shoes. These are a little tight for wool socks. They did well enough for the photo, and they do expose the controversial element of this pattern, the toe decrease.

The designer continued the p3tog from the central lace pattern down the toe as a decrease.

I saw that some knitters on Ravelry had omitted this and just knit a standard toe with all the decreases on the sides. They thought continuing the lace decrease would just look like an odd seam on the toe.

I like it. I'm not sure that non-knitters will get it--that the lace is continued, but I doubt these socks will be worn much with the toes exposed. While it is a 'fancy' pair of socks, it is still a pair of wool socks. They are warm, and don't make sense with sandals.

I think they'd look very nice with a clunky pair of Mary Janes, or whatever clunky shoe is currently in style.

Now that I've finished these, I'll concentrate on my sweaters for a couple of days. The Cabana Tee is moving right along. I have decided to add waist shaping, and tried out a double decrease instead of two mirrored decreases, a technique I just learned for knitting in the round. In another day or two I'll know how the decreases look with matching double increases.

I'm halfway through the first sleeve of Oblique. I've had adventures with the pattern, and will tell them in the next post.