Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gathered Hat

Both the Gathered Scarf and the matching hat are complete. I will probably block the scarf, since I wouldn't mind if it was a bit wider. A bit shorter wouldn't be a bad thing--I had enough yarn (over three balls) to knit 50 stockinette panels, making the scarf over 70" long. I hesitate to block the hat, as it fits perfectly now. I've written out some instructions below, in case anyone wants to knit one. I'll apologize in advance for the amateur pattern-writing. Just let me know in the comments or in an e-mail if anything needs clarification.

Gathered Hat

To loosely fit head sizes 21" - 22"

Materials: Cascade Indulgence, dk weight yarn, 70% alpaca/30% angora; 123 yds/50 g., 2 balls Needles: size 7 24" circular, size 4 24" circular, size 7 and 4 dpns
Gauge: 4 stitches/inch in garter, lightly stretched (Note: The recommended yarn has little elasticity, so the gauge is quite loose even on size 4 needles.)
To start: Cast on 176 stitches with size 7 needles, join to work in the round. Place marker for end of round.
kfb--knit into the front and back of the same stitch (an increase)
k2tog--knit two stitches together (a decrease)
Knit 6 rows, **with smaller needles, k2tog around. 88 stitches remain.
Round 2: Purl
Round 3: Knit
Round 4: Purl
Round 5: Knit
Round 6: Purl--3 garter ribs

With larger needles, kfb around, increasing to 176 stitches.

Knit 5 rounds.**

Repeat from ** to ** for 4 repeats, changing the first rowof the 4th repeat of stockinette to kfb twice, k1 around, reducing the number of stitches to 144. The next round of k2tog reduces this to 72.

After the next garter repeat, reduce to the stitch count again on first row of the next stockinette repeat by *kfb 8 times, k1* repeating around. After 5 more rows of stockinette, you will k2tog around to start a garter repeat which will have 64 stitches.

After this garter repeat, you are ready to start decreasing for the crown. Place markers every 8 stitches; you will k2tog before each marker for a decrease round. Continue pattern, alternating decrease rounds with plain rounds, but you will alter the pattern by not increasing and decreasing when you change from stockinette to garter and back.
You should end with stockinette, knitting only 3 rows, the last being a decrease row which reduces the stitch count to 8. Tie off and weave in ends. It's a hat!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fitted Knitted Socks

The Waving Lace socks have flowed along. I'm knitting them in a pretty purple colorway of Cat Mountain sock yarn. This is a very fine merino yarn of a purple hue that my camera fights capturing. I came closest to winning the color war in the second photo--it is pretty true to life.
My goal for these socks was to knit them to fit. Up 'til now, I've been knitting at a looser gauge with thicker yarn, yielding socks about 8" around. My skinny feet need something smaller, somewhere between 6 and 7 1/2 inches. These are around 6 1/2". With the stretchy lace pattern, they have a decent, but not snug, fit for the leg, but were of course tight over the ankle. I compensated by putting in a longer heel flap.
Even with the tighter gauge, I was still concerned that it might not be snug enough in the toes. I changed from size 1 needles to size 0 after the gusset. Then, to make double darn sure I had complete control of the fit, I changed the lace pattern to a plain k5, p2 rib.
I think the transition just below the ankle frames my foot well and isn't abrupt. I was glad to get rid of the lace, because stretching out the waving lace pattern over my foot emphasizes the diamond shape of the repeats, making my foot look very broad. For this sock, I knit the first repeat after the cuff in size 0s. When I saw it was a little tight, I went back to 1s. As a result, the cuff flares a little, but still fits well enough. The slip-stitch heel actually fits better in this yarn. It's cushy, but not too bulky.

Still not satisfied that the fit was tight enough, I decreased the p2 to p1 a couple of inches after the last diamond. This was overkill--the sock is tight, but wearable. I left the p2 in the second sock. If I like it much better, I will consider reknitting the foot of the first sock. I have plenty of sock yarn. With such tiny socks, I might get two pair out of this big ball of yarn.
This in-progress photo is a close up of the transition from lace to rib. I changed the yarn over increases to m1, placing them between the purls until I had 6 knit stitches and the coordinating decreases had moved the opposing purls together. On this second sock, I put the m1s to the right of each earlier increase. This looks better than the first one, where I placed them in the middle. However, it doesn't make enough of a difference to demand a redo of the foot of the first sock. I don't think...

Except for that crazy pooling on the instep. I didn't notice it knitting them but the camera caught it. Eh, it's just socks. Socks that fit quite well.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Over dyeing variegated cotton yarn

Here it is, one Clapotis, knit a couple of years ago, worn once and discarded, now revived and much more presentable. It is knit in Classic Elite Imagine, a cotton and rayon blend yarn, space-dyed to a searing combination of coral and yellow.

I got atrocious pools of the bright coral. I tried to counteract it somewhat by tying off bits of yarn or by changing skeins every other row, but it was too much for my rather meager knitting skills. I'd only been knitting about a year when I knit this. I remember how much trouble I had knitting through the back loop and keeping track of my repeats. None of that bothered me in the slightest when I knit my second Clapotis a year later.

Now, like my knitting skills, my first Clapotis is making progress. Sorta...

At least it's not orange anymore. I rinsed it well, and blocked and dried it quickly, so it is not stiff or unevenly dyed. Nope, those blotches you see are solely due to the variegation in the yarn. I'm sure I could have reduced the variation by bleaching it prior to dyeing, as I did Latoya. Seriously, I never considered bleach. I originally planned to tie-dye it, protecting strips of the rectangular wrap by putting rubber bands around it. I wanted it to be orange, yellow, and brown--in variegated stripes! I also hoped that the rayon wouldn't dye, so it would stand out as flecks of the original color. Thankfully, reason prevailed, and I went for the safe, simple, plain overdye.

It came out burgundy and greenish brown. The rayon that is plied with the cotton did take the dye, but it is still shiny and reflects the light, just in a less obvious manner. The drape is perfect.

I realize that the colors vary from one photo to another. The photos are actually a true reflection of how it appears in different light. In low light, it looks more dull greenish brown; in sunlight, the red is more visible, highlighting the burgundy tones.

In all the time that I've spent thinking about dyeing this Clapotis, I never thought it would come out quite like this. Now I have to decide if I want to wear it. Whether I do or not, the dyeing experiment was interesting and educational for me. I hope you enjoyed it.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Once Orange Now Brown

The orange Latoya is now brown:

While it isn't the deep brown of the swatch, I still think it is an improvement. The dyeing had some other effects on the fabric. It might be a little more stretched out, but not so much I can't wear it. It is definitely stiffer. The fabric now has a harsh, rough feel. I think this is due to residual dye that dried on the yarn. There's some differences in the color where some areas are darker than others. I think it is due to the excess dye either drifting to certain areas as the fabric dried or to uneven drying.

I saw a similar effect on my bamboo tee. At the time, I didn't know what caused the color change. Now I realize that the excess dye that bled into the water when I wet the tee to block it must have been the problem. I should have rinsed out all the excess dye before leaving the tee to dry.

I thought I had rinsed Latoya enough. It was rinsed, then machine washed twice. The water looked clear in the last rinse cycle. All I can do now is to wash it again, and use some fabric softener. If it softens up a bit, I think I will be quite happy with my now brown sweater. I'm sure I could have gotten a darker, softer, brown if dyeing this sweater had been my main objective. Since it wasn't, I put the sweater into the dye bath after I thought my Clapotis was as dark as it was going to get.

The Clapotis is a different cotton blend yarn, dyed in slightly hotter water for a longer period of time. Still, I am amazed at the difference in the color between it and Latoya.

I'll have more on the Clapotis and a modeled shot for you next.

Don't worry, I'm still knitting, too. I'll probably have something finished to show next week.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dyeing Cotton-Ease, Imagine

I spent Saturday morning dyeing my knitting. I had been planning this experiment for a couple of years and had kept a couple of my less successful knitting projects hidden away, waiting to be transformed, color-wise. I fell victim to the Cotton-Ease buying frenzy of 2005 and purchased some awful colors of this popular cotton yarn. The one I liked the least was pumpkin.

Even though I didn't like it, I knitted it into a sweater. Bleaching the swatch gave me some hopes that the color could be improved. I wore it a few times, hoping it would lighten in the wash. Finally, I put it away. Yesterday, I decided that if I'm not going to wear it, I may as well experiment with it. To prep it for the dyeing, I soaked it in a strong bleach solution. You can see the sweater immersed in a white plastic 5-gallon bucket here, with the swatch floating on top.

I should have done this the day before so that any bleach remaining after rinsing would dry. Since I didn't, I held off putting the sweater in the dye bath until I saw that the other item I wanted to dye had taken the color well. I rinsed the sweater after I bleached it, but I was concerned that the residual bleach might counteract the dye.

My dye bath prep was rudimentary. I simply put 3 gallons of the hottest water I had (about 125 degrees, straight out of my hot water tap) into the bucket, added a cup of salt, per the directions, and a bottle of Rit dye. (By the way, K just repaired the hot water heater and set it to the highest recommended setting to make sure it was working. That's why I know how hot it is. Since we will turn it down soon, the time was right for dyeing this weekend.)

I sat the bucket in the sun and stirred it for an hour. I'm sure I could have gotten a better result if I had set the dyebath over heat or put it in the washer. However, it worked well enough and spared my washer from being filled with dark brown dye. You can see the Cotton-Ease swatch on the top in the photo above. It was thoroughly bleached before (you can see that in my earlier post about the sweater, which I linked above). After a thorough rinse, I put it in first. The shade of brown you see above was after about 20 minutes of stirring. What's under it is my Clapotis, knit in Classic Elite Imagine. I'm going to post a separate entry about it later.

Here's the swatch after rinsing and drying:

It came out a bit darker than the sweater I dyed later. Most likely, the swatch took the dye better because it was more bleached to begin with, and it went in first when the water was hottest and before any dye was exhausted by the other articles.
Although it looks plain brown from a normal viewpoint, if I look closely, I can see variation in the fabric. I assume the lighter patches have more acrylic content. (Clicking on the photos gives you a larger view.)

I'm satisfied now that Cotton-Ease can be dyed. However, I'm less satisfied with the results I got on my sweater. Dyeing a garment presented me with another problem--I didn't get an even tone all over the sweater. It's still drying, so I will post the results later when I can get a modeled shot.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Elk baby and Monkey socks

On the way to Westscliffe last week, we found three elk cows grazing in a field by the road. When we turned around to go back for picture-taking, we saw an elk calf in the ditch. He was spooked and trying to get to the cows, who were moving away now that they had seen our car. He ran back and forth along the fence, looking for a way over it. Finally he stopped and bleated plaintively, even trying to climb the fence.

At that, one of the cows stopped and looked back. I thought she would run to him. Instead, she just started calling in that high-pitched elk voice, which made the calf all the more frantic in his efforts to find a way across the fence. We backed up and left them at that point. I could see that if he ran far enough down in our direction, he could crawl under the fence. Or mama could just jump over and take him back across the road. Either way, she would be much more likely to come to him if we weren't there.
Of course, I was knitting in the car when I wasn't taking pictures of elk. I finished my Monkey socks.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Knit socks with negative ease

 A recently knit sock taught me a lesson. This is the first of what I imagine to be many sock lessons for me. After all, I've knit only three pairs of socks, never taken a class, and hardly studied much sock knitting other than to just follow the patterns as written.

I was certainly following the pattern as written in this case. It said to cast on 64 stitches. It said to knit 8 spi. It said this would produce a sock 8" in diameter. It was right. Then it said the small square toe would take up 1.5", so I started the toe 1.5" from the end of my foot. This sock should fit my foot perfectly.

I thought that was what I needed for my 8" foot; a sock with zero ease, just like most of my sweaters. I just didn't know that socks are supposed to be knit with negative ease. In fact, I was so focused on knitting a sock with zero ease that I used larger needles for the twisted ribbing and the first repeat of the lace pattern to accomodate my lower calf, which is slightly larger than 8".
The socks fit well enough; the second photo is the of the finished and blocked sock. It looks ok, but the lace pattern has so much elasticity that I can bunch it up, and it stays bunched up, as you can see in the next photo. The sock was loose.
A little looking around taught me that it might be advisable to knit socks, especially lace socks, with 10-20% negative ease. A tighter-fitting sock will be less likely to slide around on your foot, and will be more comfortable and longer-wearing. Such knowledge is useful, but what did it mean for this sock? I could have frogged the whole thing and reknit it on fewer stitches. However, that would mean either altering the lace pattern and omitting stitches in each of the four repeats or using only three repeats of the pattern. I don't think I'd like the appearance of the sock if I used those options. I could knit it on smaller needles to reduce the gauge of the fabric and thereby reduce the size of the sock. However, I don't like the dense fabric that would produce. Instead, I just ripped back and took out a repeat.
What I've got now is a shorter sock. It fits better. Maybe not as well as a sock with negative ease, but still better than it did before I frogged it.

Now that I know about negative ease, I know that for a gauge of 8 spi, I need a pattern that will fit in 50-60 stitches. I've also learned that my foot decreases a full inch in circumference after the knuckle, if that's what you call the joint between the ball of my foot and my toes. That tells me I don't need a square-toed sock. I need a toe that tapers, and it should taper rapidly; lots of decreases right at the start.

I've skated by this fitting problem because the last pair of socks I knit was a slip-stitch pattern that tightened up enough to give a little negative ease. The pair before that was a little loose, but I gave those away to someone with a larger foot. The first pair is really loose, but they are so ugly I'll only wear them around the house.

Truth is, I've got skinny feet. I think I need skinnier sock yarn if I'm going to knit standard 64-stitch socks. On the brighter side, I can probably knit a 55-stitch sock and maybe finish it faster.

Monday, July 7, 2008

#02 Deer and Sideways Cardigan

There is a small herd of mule deer in the town where I live. Most times, they are unobtrusive. In fact, their appearances, while a nearly daily occurrence, are still rare enough to attract attention, especially from out-of-towners. I have taken many fuzzy photos of these deer--I can never get quite close enough. However, this year has been a little different, deer-wise.

For one thing, the hard, cold, snowy winter and the late spring kept the deer in town and made them ravenous. After jumping our fence all winter to eat the dried-up fruit under our crabapple tree, they greeted spring with glee, clipping my sprouting flower bed repeatedly and forcing me to postpone planting new flowers.
Last week, I decided the time had come to go to the greenhouse and buy plants. I bought lupine, daisies, and the lavender I'd been dreaming of since last fall. I planted them went to bed, happy with the day's work. Then the next morning, we looked out and saw this deer. That's right, inside our fenced yard. (You will recognize the little spruce tree from my shot of my latest sweater; that's how close she is.)
A deer, in our fenced yard, in daylight! K thought she might be sick, and kept telling me not to disturb her. When I left for my morning walk, the deer was still in the yard, but she had gotten up to have a long, cool drink from the birdbath and to munch a few of last year's crabapples. "Deer breakfast", I thought. I had checked to make sure my newly-planted flowers were intact before I left, but as I walked, fear hit me. I became increasingly concerned about the flowers, then about the deer, until the urge to "Go check on the deer." overwhelmed me. I curtailed my walk and headed back home, deciding to approach from the back alley to see if I could sneak up on the deer that way.
As I turned to walk down the alley, I came face to face with the deer. She had two tiny fawns beside her. I reversed immediately, then cut around the block to the house, got my camera, then rushed over to the alley, expecting she would still be there. How fast could she move with the fawns in tow?
She was just turning the corner onto the street when I got this one photo. I thought I could get another by paralleling her course a block away. Even though I jogged along for three blocks, trying to outdistance her and cut around in front, I never caught up. When I last saw her, she was trotting, with the fawns running full tilt to keep up. They were lagging behind a bit, but not too much. She wasn't running from me, but just trying to get out of town and away from all the people and cars. I figured she would go out to the hills and we wouldn't see her until the fawns lost their spots.
Then, the next morning she was back, absolutely the same deer, identifable by the notches in her right ear, in our yard, this time on the grass. K took a brief walk outside and immediately saw the fawns lying in the high weeds of the vacant lot outside our fence.

I didn't know I was running a maternity ward. It is a little hard to puzzle out. I suppose it was fawn nap-time. While she could hide the fawns in the foot-high weeds, she had to jump inside the fence to take a relatively safe rest. I noticed she kept cocking her ears in the direction of the fawns. Soon after we saw her (and she saw us), she was gone.

On the knitting front, I've lost steam on my Sideways Cardigan from the Summer '08 issue of Vogue Knitting. Swatching told me that size 7 needles with the Pakucho cotton would produce too small a gauge, so I used size 8. I wanted to make the medium/large size, but I knew I wouldn't have enough yarn. Now that I'm knitting the small on size 8s, I see that my gauge is now too large. The back measures the same as the medium size. I suppose it will fit ok. I just hope I don't run out of yarn. All I've done is the lower back. I'm not very motivated to start the upper back. I think I'll finish the two lower fronts before tackling the upper openwork for the shoulders. That's where most people have had problems. I'd hate to labor through that and then run out of yarn. This way, if I don't have enough of the sage color for the entire sweater, I'll knit the shoulders out of a contrasting or complementary color. I bought all 8 colors of Pakucho, so I'll have plenty of color combinations to choose among.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Another quilt show

I enjoyed attending my second quilt show this past weekend. Truthfully, my enthusiasm for the quilts is fading. I was more interested in getting bargains in the member's shop and silent auction than I was in viewing the quilts. There were some nice ones, though. I thought this star quilt photographed well, as did the one below it.

There were hundreds of beautiful quilts. Some of the best quilts didn't make these photos, due to lack of light and an odd breeze that kept them moving. The show was indoors, but still, there was a breeze. If you like quilts, you should click the photos for a larger image.

The third photo is of is the winner from the annual competition. The wall-hanging-sized entries were fascinating, since the challenge this year was to learn three new quilting techniques and use them in the entry. Each entry explained which techniques they used--most of which were new to me. The one that struck me as the most imaginative used small rectangles of fabric with different variations of the same design printed on them. The rectangles were hooked together with washers.

If you want to see more quilts, here are last year's and one I attended in another state. I find it worthwhile to attend quilt shows. Besides the goodies (I got a nice potholder and won a basket of great hair products, including a manicure, at the silent auction), I enjoy looking at any type of fiber arts.

Even though I don't quilt or weave, I am often fascinated by a blog entry on spinning, or dyeing, or any other technique I haven't tried. I'll read about them all with interest, but I haven't been seriously tempted to try anything else--yet.

It is still all about the knitting here.