Sunday, October 26, 2008

Smilla neckwrap to knit

I was going to name this First Snow, but then I realized Smilla is better. After all, I fumbled my way through the concept when I joined the "Smidge Along" group on Ravelry last year. Combining Smidge with the thought of the first snow of the fall, that light, crusty layer of wet white that coats everything, Smilla (as in Smilla's Sense of Snow) immediately came to mind.

The pattern below produces a neckwrap that is knit in the round, laid flat, and buttoned at the bottom. The stitch I used is the first half of the stitch pattern Stacey used for her "My So-Called Scarf." There's an excellent tutorial for this stitch pattern on the Mason-Dixon Knitting blog. However, I hope that you will find my version of the stitch fairly simple and won't need the tutorial.

Smilla Neckwrap
Materials: Karabella Margrite Bulky, (80% Extrafine Merino Wool, 20% Cashmere) 50 g. (1.75 0z.), 71 meters (77 yards), about 1.5 balls per neckwrap.
Circular needle, size 15 (10 mm), 16" long. Substitutes: dpns, two circulars, a long circular for magic loop or any other means of knitting in the round. A smaller size needle can be substituted, but you might need to cast on more stitches. (I used size 15 because that is what I had in a short circular.)
Finished measurements: 4.5" wide x 24" long
Stitch Glossary
SKYOP - Slip one stitch knitwise, knit the next stitch, pass the yarn over the top of the needle and, using the left needle, pass the slipped stitch over both the knitted stitch and the yarn over.
Gauge: 7 SKYOP, 16 rows, in pattern/4 inches (or 14 stitches, 16 rows if you prefer to count a plain knit row)
Instructions: Cast on an odd number of stitches, using a provisional cast on. I cast on 31 stitches for the gray Smilla, and 29 for the brown one. Both worked well. For a provisional cast on, I use a crochet cast on and pick up stitches through the bumps on the back of the crochet chain, but any cast on that can be removed to leave you with loose stitches for a 3-needle bind-off will do.
Round 1: K1, SKYOP around.
Round 2: Knit all stitches.
Round 3: SKYOP until one stitch remains, K1.
Round 4: Knit all stitches.
Note: It is important that you start round 3 with a K1 and that you keep the same stitch count. The pair of stitches that you passed a stitch over on round 1 should be split in round 3. This is what makes the stitches spiral around. If you lose a stitch (which is easy to do if you forget a yarn over) or start every round with a knit stitch, the SKYOP stitches will stack on top of each other, leaving gaps between them.
Repeat Rounds 1-4 until neckwrap is desired length. I suggest 23 to 26", depending on the size neck you'd like to wrap. Add buttonholes as desired when the wrap is two inches shorter than desired length. See buttonhole note below. After making buttonholes (or not), continue in pattern until the piece is the desired length, ending with Round 1 or 3. Divide the stitches equally on two needles and, using a third needle, bind off with a three needle bind off. (You will have one extra stitch; just bind it off by knitting it together with another stitch.) Remove the provisional cast on, place the stitches on two needles and bind off with a three needle bind off.
Buttonholes: For this gray version, I made buttonholes by binding off one stitch and casting on one in the same place on the following row, placing four of these bound-off stitches evenly around the neckwarmer. I then matched up two of the stitches on the front and back to make two buttonholes. However, since the stitch gauge is very large, these buttonholes were too big. I crocheted around them to tighten them up--hand sewing around them in buttonhole stitch would work as well.
The smaller buttons I have for the brown version will button through the stitches, since they are knit at such a loose gauge. No buttonhole is needed. Check your buttons before you get within 2" of the end to see if you need buttonholes.
(Edited to clarify the alternating stitches and needle requirements.)
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bare, Exposed, knits

I thought I would surely have photos of snow to show you today. Instead, it is bright and sunny, and the snow remains on the distant peaks. I'm wrong again. However, it doesn't seem to be anything I should complain about.

The mountain aspens are bare, exposing their silver shapes to the sun. We stopped at just the right spot on a drive over Marshall Pass this past weekend. A little further and we would have missed spotting this hornet's nest:

I've never seen one in-real-life before. It was huge, but there was no sign of life to it, just a few bits of loose fiber and leaves that fluttered in the breeze.

Speaking of loose fiber, all the bloggers are posting their Rhinebeck purchases now. Many of them bought Socks that Rock yarn. Thinking that maybe some of them might consider knitting what they bought (stashed Socks that Rock outnumber knitted up Socks that Rock 2 to 1 on Ravelry), I've got a couple of socks links:

Gorgeous top down version of Fleegle's toe-up heel

Drunken Bees Socks--see what they really look like and read how hard they are

Excellent version of a linen stitch scarf on Ravelry.

Up here, I'm continuing the Christmas gift knitting. I'll have a little neckwrap pattern next up.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Winter soon; knit now

In my last post, I lamented about missing the peak of fall color. It was easy to see where all the pretty leaves had gone--all I had to do was look down. I've since discovered a fascination for the subtle differences in these fallen beauties, some red, some silvery-green, some tinged with brown, and many mottled combinations of these colors. I've spent some time just sorting through the bounty of fallen leaves, admiring the variations.

Then, when I look up, I can see the first snowfall has coated the peaks with white. They make a nice backdrop for The Castles which stand above the aspens west of Ohio Creek.

This week, the weather has been outstanding. I wake each morning to clear, blue skies and walk in the cool, still air, listening to the geese honk as they come in for a landing on the nearby pastures. I'm determined to walk every day, because I know that my days of walking outdoors are soon to end. As soon as next week, we may get snow here. Not just snow to look up at, but snow right at our doorstep. I'm not much for walking in snow. I'd much rather curl up in front of the fire and knit.

With the imminent change in the weather on my mind, I've been keeping track of patterns and mentally organizing my stash of yarn.

One pattern that really grabbed me was this excellent reinterpretation of last year's popular pidge-style neckwarmer: Brioche neckwarmer

I was so taken with it, once I figured out how I'd like my version, I cast on and finished it in just three days. I used Brooks Farm Solana on size 5 needles (two sizes smaller than what works for stockinette in this yarn, making it narrower and slightly more tightly knit. The lucky combination of my stashed Solana and brioche stitch produced a lofty, squishy, bury-your-fingers softness better than anything else I've knit. This yarn and stitch pattern are so happy together, they're permanently married, convenant marriage style--no breakups for this duo.

For me, however, the garter stitch edging tenten used just didn't work. Mine looked messy, and I wanted something neater. I considered alternatives, but my edge-less swatch looked nice enough. After much dithering about it, considering adding an applied i-cord edging in gray after I've finished, or using some other type of selvedge stitch, I just knit it plain, sans edging. I also reduced the cast on from 30 stitches to 20, casting on in k1, p1, knitting for 24 or so inches, adding two buttonholes a couple of inches from the end, and then switching back to k1, p1 before casting off. I found the Brioche Stitch website most helpful for these decisions.

Waiting patiently behind this neckwrap and yet another I've started is the beginning of another towel, a guest towel this time. I've got a nice edging from one of Nicky Epstein's Knitting on, or over or something books, lots of cotton yarns and a couple of ideas. I may be able to concoct another simple pattern to post, along with the pattern for yet another neckwrap I have in progress.

If you'd like to see a finished photo of the alpaca cowl, or details on the neck things, check here on the Ravelry project I created for them.

On our recent drive, K noticed that the aspen leaves hung up in the little evergreens, making them look as though they were decorated for Christmas. I know the holiday is not far off, so I'm knitting small gifts now, hoping to get everything I have planned done early this year. While looking for patterns, I found this cute seasonally-inspired scarf pattern--Christmas Garland Scarf . I haven't yet found an excuse to make one, but it is a cute idea.

I'm gathering up my knitting and heading out for more long drives in the beautiful weather this weekend. I'll be curled up in front of the fire soon enough.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ohio Creek to Keebler Pass

One of the best fall drives in Colorado lies between Gunnison and Crested Butte. It's the Ohio Creek road to Ohio Pass. The road turns to dirt after a few miles of wandering between large homes and ranches, but remains very drivable. We enjoyed a beautiful drive up to the pass and over to Crested Butte last week.

We were lucky to have perfect weather; unlucky to have missed the peak of the yellow leaves. Obligations and bad guesses made us miss the best of the Colorado fall. Last year, the leaves didn't turn until October. This year, they turned a couple of weeks earlier.

Never mind, there were still plenty clinging to the trees.

After we got to Ohio Pass, we turned left on the main road to Crested Butte. Keebler Pass is just around the next bend. The old cemetery there is worth a visit; I blogged about it last year. It looks the same, but this time I noticed some graves from more recent years, a seeming contradiction to the statement on a large memorial that the cemetery was abandoned in the 1880's.

In keeping with the fall colors, my knitting projects are in Autumnal hues. I've finished the pair of burgundy socks and a simple cowl in alpaca about the hue of the plant in the foreground in this third photo.

(I hope you enjoy these scenes. Sometimes I feel like the proverbial camera nut who comes back from vacay and forces picture viewing on friends and family. I'm encouraged by postitive comments I have gotten, so I keep posting scenic photos. As always, my photos can be viewed in a larger size by clicking on them.)

These two projects are both destined to be Christmas gifts. I've got several more gifts planned. Notably, in the last photo, an orange cowl is in the conceptual stage.

That is, I've bought the yarn. It's Jil Eaton Minnow Merino, a luscious single of incomparable softness and loft. It claims to knit to a standard 18 sts/4", so I shouldn't have too much trouble finding a pattern.

I knit the simple cowl first as a test, following the pattern for the Pashmina Cowl in Knitted Gifts. It is a Pash-paca version, using the 2 hanks of Blue Sky Alpaca sportweight I bought on sale at the Aspen Yarn Studio. This yarn is as soft as cashmere, but has a little more character. Loosely plied, it looks a little bumpy when knit. I started out on a size 3 circular, but have switched to size 4, hoping for more drape. I cast on only 100 stitches instead of the 130 called for, since this yarn knits at a larger gauge than the pattern yarn. The larger gauge means it used less yardage, so two hanks were enough.

I consider this a "test" cowl because I'm not sure how popular cowls are in the non-knitting universe. I see cowls everywhere on knit blogs and on Ravelry, but I've never seen anyone wearing one, either on the street or in the movies or on tv. Are they really going to be as popular as it seems? Lots of knitters are making them, but who's wearing them? I will just have to wait and see what the trends are this winter. In the meantime, I'll finish this one and block it. If I like it, I'll make another. If not, I'll stick to neckwarmers or short scarves.

Either way I've got several patterns possibilities all lined up and will share the links with you in my next post.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Saturday Sky over Ohio Creek

It's Saturday; here's to the sky--

I took this quick shot through the sunroof on a recent trip. It seemed perfect for a Saturday Sky post, even though I don't usually do those. We finally got done with the work that has engulfed my life and my knitting time for the past few weeks. I think I'll take the weekend off.

This photo was taken on Ohio Creek Road between Gunnison and Crested Butte, on the way to Keebler Pass. The leaves are almost gone, nearly taking the fall color with them. Thank goodness we caught a little of it before it was too late. I'll be blogging fall color next week!

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Knitting socks for tender feet

I was so proud of one of my early pair of socks that I brought them with me while visiting friends this summer. Our host was very interested in them, so much so that I told him he could try them on. It was quite funny, seeing him put them on, pink toes and heels, brown and green yarn and all. He explained that he has very short feet for a man and that his socks always wrinkle up under his feet, making them quite uncomfortable. I didn't really believe him, but we compared, and his foot is the same size as mine. (I wear a women's size 7 1/2 shoe.)

Naturally, I immediately jumped on the idea of knitting him a pair of socks. Then, he commented that he found my hand-knit socks unconfortable because he could "feel the bumps on the bottom." He admitted he has very sensitive soles. I was more than a little concerned then than I would not be able to knit a pair of wool socks that he would find totally comfortable. Nonetheless, I have taken on the challenge.

First, I consulted Ravelry, and was rewarded with helpful advice, offered in this thread on the Sock Knitters Anonymous discussion board. I planned at the outset to purl the soles of the socks, putting the smoother stockinette side against his sensitive soles. Commonly known as a "Princess Sole", this technique is a bit more troublesome, but makes a more comfortable sock.
I knit this sock from the top down, and planned to use a slip-stitch pattern to make it similar to the socks my friend had tried and liked. However, the Wildfoote yarn I chose is too splitty to work well with any stitch more complicated than plain knits and purls. The pattern I originally selected began with a k3, p1 cuff. When I decided against doing the slipstitch, I simply continued the cuff pattern on down the leg. About halfway through the leg, I realized that although the k3, p1 ribbing was smooth on the outside but produced a "bumpy" inside. I was afraid that the single k1 rib would rub against my friend's leg and irritate his sensitive skin.
After all, a person with tiny little feet and such sensitive soles must have tender skin on his leg, too.
When I began the heel flap, I turned the sock inside out, placing the smoother k3 side of the knitting to the inside. Now I can't decide if I should call these Socks for the Tenderfoot or Inside-out Socks.
About a half-inch before the heel, I added an additional purl stitch to the pattern, making a k1, p1 section across the instep to allow more stretch there. Once I knit the heel, I continued this k1, p1 for another half-inch before switching to plain stockinette for the foot.
You can get a better view of the pattern I used for the heel and the Princess Sole here. It continues the slip stitches for the heel under the arch of the foot, then purls the sole. I'm sorry I can't model this sock for you. It is a bit too short to fit properly. I was so eager to see if the Wildfoote yarn softened up after washing that I knit the toe too soon. The Wildfoote does soften a bit, but it doesn't grow much after washing and blocking. Once I get a better fitting second sock knit, I will rip out the toe of this one and reknit it to match. You'll see modeled photos then.
Of course, such a plain knit sock is not that interesting or inventive. I've provided these details here in case you have a tenderfoot that needs socks.