Tuesday, September 23, 2008

knit Gridded Towel pattern

I've finished the second Gridded Towel, using Pakucho cotton in Vicuna (beige) as the main color with a variegated kitchen cotton (Peaches & Creme, potpourri) as the contrasting color. I'll explain how I did it so you can make your own.

This is a very simple towel pattern that requires at a minimum two colors of yarn. I use primarily kitchen-grade cotton yarn, such as Peaches & Creme, Sugar 'n Cream, or Pakucho cotton. You'll need 2 balls of about 85 yards each for the main color and almost two balls of the contrast color. You can mix different brands of yarn as long as they are the same weight. These yarns all knit to about 20 stitches/4" in stockinette. I use a size 7 needle. I prefer either Bryspun, Balene, or wooden needles--anything that is more flexible than metal will be easier on your hands.

Cast on 87 stitches. This will produce a towel about 16" wide if your gauge is similar. It will shrink with use, especially if you machine wash and tumble dry your towel as I do, and will soon be only 15" wide.

Using a long-tail cast-on and the main color, knit three rows so that the beginning has two garter ridges. You're going to alternate garter and stockinette, changing colors every two rows so that you have three stockinette panels for the border. Here it is in pattern speak:

A=main color
B=contrast color

Border Pattern:

Rows 1-3: knit all stitches with A

Row 4: knit all stitches with B

Row 5: purl all stitches with B

Rows 6-7: knit all stitches with A

Repeat Rows 4-7 twice more. Begin gridded stitch, maintaining 10 stitches on either side in the border pattern.


Gridded Stitch:

Row 1: *slip 1, knit 2*, repeat to border, ending with slip 1, using B

Row 2: *slip 1, purl 2*, repeat to border, ending with slip 1, using B

Row 3 & 4: knit all stitches with A


Confused? Here it is, the same pattern, less speak, more numbers:


Gridded Stitch:

Row 1: With B, k10, *sl1, k2* 22 times, sl1, k10.

Row 2: p10, *sl1, p2* 22 times, sl1, p10.

Row 3 & 4: With A, k across.

Knit the center section until the towel is about 20 inches long, then work the border pattern again for three stockinette panels, ending with three rows of knit stitches in A and binding off on the wrong side so that it looks like the beginning border. This will give you a towel about 22" long. (Mine took 38 gridded stockinette panels, plus the 3 beginning stockinette panels and the 3 ending ones to reach 22".)

That's all you need to do to have a simple and effective, soft and nubbly kitchen towel for hand-drying, plate-wiping or waving around. (Ever have a smoky kitchen because you burned the toast? Just wave a damp towel around to dispel the smoke quickly.) This towel does the trick, and it looks good as well. It even looks ok on the back side.


For variation, try substituting any slip-stitch pattern in the middle section, as long as you can change colors every two rows. If you want a less colorful towel, use a solid color yarn for the contrast color, or change the contrast colors in a repeating pattern, as I did in the first version.


For the first towel, I changed colors in the stockinette panels as follows:


4 white panels

5 cream panels

6 yellow panels

7 caramel panels

6 white panels

5 cream panels

4 yellow panels

3 caramel panels

4 white panels


Using this sequence of colors will guarantee that you end with three stockinette panels for the border and the ends of your towel will match. It also gives you the 38 gridded panels you need to produce a 22" long towel.

Done! Yay! Wave your towel around to clear the air as you imagine more variations.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Am I a sock knitter?

I've finished my sixth pair of socks, using the Leyburn sock pattern and Fannie's Fingering Weight yarn by Farmhouse Yarns. These were my first toe-up socks. As a result of my unfamilarity with the method, they are not as technically correct or as well-fitted as some of the others. Nonetheless, they are a pretty pair of socks. Both the yarn and the pattern are great, and together you've got a winner.

I've swatched for my seventh pair of socks, but am unhappy with the result. My sock knitting is momentarily on hold, and I'm taking this moment to evaluate.

When I started this blog last year, I wrote often about knitting socks--but I never published what I wrote. It was, I was sure, offensive. I'm putting some of those old thoughts in here, unedited, and I'm worried that even in that context they are still offensive. If you do take offense, I hope you can look past the offense and see how my thinking has evolved as I became familar with sock knitting.

Up until this year, I had never knit a sock, even though I started out by knitting slippers, many years ago. The slippers were basically knitted squares, sewn together. I have a dim memory of reading a pattern for socks and not understanding the phrase "turn the heel". I immediately lost interest in knitting socks and stuck to knitting squares.

Turn the clock ahead a couple of decades, and you could find me reading knitting blogs and starting my own. At that time, I wrote the following:

Ok, I think every blog can have one. Here's my disclaimer: No socks were knit in the production of this blog.

Now, I understand socks. I have bought sock yarn. I have discussed taking sock knitting classes. I have even bought wool socks. To be technically correct, they were called mohair socks. I mean, can you imagine something more itchy? Well, maybe mohair underwear. But I thought mohair socks would be itchy, and I was wrong. So I completely understand that there is very pretty, very soft, altogether lovely, sock yarn out there to be bought. And that hand knit wool socks are scrumptious to wear. I will probably knit socks someday. I would likely enjoy a sock knitting class.

Since I wrote that, I have reviewed it several times, usually when I considered knitting a pair of socks. I did not publish it because I didn't want to offend my fellow knitters, especially since almost every knit blogger I read knits socks. I didn't know if a sock knitter would find my disinterest in sock knitting offensive, I just assumed she or he would.

Soon, something I read dispelled my doubts about knitters taking offense.

One of the more famous knit bloggers posted an entry about sweater knitters, making generalized statements about them. Offended by its tone and especially by the comments, I wrote the following:

However, I feel the gauntlet has been thrown down. Suddenly, to my complete astonishment, sweater knitting is disparged by sock knitters. Some even feel the need to defend scarf knitting. Bag knitting is praised. Ya know, what the heck is wrong with knitting whatever you want? Of course, the answer is nothing. Nothing whatsoever. The problem is not what you knit, it is how you present what you knit. That speaks. It is not the knitting of socks that bothers me.

My beef is the blogging of socks.

There is incessant, constant, repetitive, redundant, blogging about sock knitting in the knitting blog world. If you don't believe me, just Google it, or use whatever search tool you prefer. Search for "hand knit ...." or "knit ...." and change the last word. Check the "total results." "Hand knit scarf" vs. "hand knit sweater" vs. "hand knit hat" vs. "hand knit mittens", whatever you use, "hand knit socks" outnumbers them all. In most cases, 2 to 1.

To be understanding, I realize that the blog world demands FOs. And that socks are pretty quickly knit, in most cases. They are the perfect blog fodder.

Just not here.

I'm not excited to read about sock knitting. I admit, next year, or whenever I get addicted to sock knitting, I will seek out sock knitters blogs and avidly wait for the next post about socks. I will eagerly take pictures of my nearly-completed sock and post it on my blog. I will buy tons of sock yarn and dozens of sock knitting books.

Just not now.


It is obvious to me upon re-reading this excerpt, that I took a good deal of offense at the comments about sweater knitters. After all, I was knitting a lot of sweaters by then, and I was personally appalled that another knitter would make negative comments about "sweater knitters". I was angry, and also frustrated that I saw so many blog entries about socks that I couldn't understand. I finally decided not to publish it because I knew it would just add to the dissension between sweater-knitters and sock-knitters. Now it is part of my story, and the points I made actually then are actually turning back on me, as you will see.

Back to my chronicle of socks...

I had made unwise yarn purchases. I had bought a lot of variegated yarn, and some of it was sock yarn. I also had a good bit of fingering weight yarn that was a little too itchy for shawls or scarves. There was nothing to do with the yarn but to knit socks. Once I realized that most sock patterns tell you how to turn a heel, rather than just saying "turn the heel", like that long-ago pattern, it was easy.

I actually thought I might just knit a few socks and not put them on the blog. Then I chose a lace sock pattern for my second pair. Those socks took a long time to knit, so I caved and posted them.

Shortly afterwards, I wrote the following:

Except that I put up one pair of finished socks and got 12 comments telling me how beautiful they were. I just put up a lace cashmere scarf and then a sweater, and got one then two comments.

Hmmmm. You can see how that was a relevation to me. Since then, I have decided to blog about socks. I've been posting socks whenever I finish them, along with my other FOs. Now I'm going a step further and reviving some of my old thoughts about socks, and blogging about sock knitting.

 I don't have any new thoughts about sock knitting. I've done it, I like the finished product, I've learned a good bit. I'm a little like someone at the beginning of a relationship. I'm dating sock knitting. I haven't committed yet. Only time will tell if sock-knitting and I will live happily ever after together or if we will go our separate ways.

I still have my doubts. It takes a lot to knit a sock: fairly expensive yarn, hours of knitting, tiny little cumbersome needles. (I know how to knit on dpns, on magic loop and on two circulars. I find all three methods of knitting small circles more cumbersome than knitting a large circle on one circular needle or knitting a rectangle on straight needles.) I'll reserve judgement as to the worth of sock knitting until I see how the 5 pairs of socks I have knit for this winter wear.

I do have a new attitude toward blogging about socks. I like to read about socks. I enjoy seeing someone else's hand-knit socks. I'm interested in the patterns and the variations. I've bought books on sock knitting, not many, just three, but I like the ones I've bought. I'm looking forward to learning more about sock knitting.

I'm sure that this story I'm trying to tell is like a parable. There's a moral here somewhere. I thought sock-knitting was a waste of time. I didn't care to see hand-knit socks. I held a poor opinion of the people who knit them.

All that has changed, simply because I tried it. Now I understand. I walked that mile in hand-knit socks and my eyes have been opened. I've learned because I've tried something new, and I've gained understanding with that learning.


 ETA:  Since I wrote this, all of these socks have worn out.  I've knitted new ones to replace them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Llama farm visit

Our local knitting guild was treated to a tour of a llama farm. This was a special treat, since the llamas were incredibly tame. They gave "kisses", which is to say that they gently nuzzle your face, to see how you smell. They are even more familar with their owner, adding a gentle (I hope it was) chin nip to the nuzzle. Her back scratches are welcomed and enjoyed to an extreme when the right spot is scratched.

My only other contacts with llamas has been as guards for alpacas. I've heard stories of their ferocity in defending the flock, so I was surprised to see how gentle these animals can be.

These llamas enjoy their days in a meadow which is graced by a view of the mountains.

Of course, it is not so bucolic as it seems. Life can be hard for llamas and the farmer, who have to cope with coyotes and poison weeds. Then there's the winter here, which can be intensely cold and snowy. The llamas have barns and hay to help them through.

Interesting llama lore: These llamas are sheared standing up; it's just the owner's preference. She puts them in a squeeze chute and shears them with scissors. She used to use hand shears, but found it too difficult to find some place to sharpen them.

Male llamas have sharp, curved "fighting" teeth that have to be cut or clipped off. The squeeze chute helps here, too, although we were assured that there are no nerves in these teeth and the llamas don't feel it when they are removed.

There's alpacas, too. Lots of them.

These alpacas were sheared by the shearer this year. That meant they were stretched out flat and tied while being sheared. This didn't sit too well with the farmer and her gentle approach to her animals, but it was effective.

The result is seen in these bags and bags of fleece, all of which has to be sorted and picked clean before it is boxed and sent off to be processed.



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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Blocking Cherry Blossom Shawl

Blocking the shawl was quite a pleasant task. It didn't take much more than an hour. After soaking it, I laid it out on a queen-size bed and began by placing pins in each of the 128 points of the edging. I pinned down a few points on one side, then a few points immediately opposite those. A little rearranging got the shawl into a rough circle measuring 44" in diameter.

Placing more pins around, I worked to make the shawl as circular as possible. This task was hampered by the construction of the shawl. The lack of increases in the outer band of the body places a lot of stress in the last few repeats. Until I got the shawl stretched out as much as possible, there was a good bit of slack in the center. The center has frequent increases, allowing it to lay very flat. In fact, before blocking, the center was obviously larger than the outer edge, giving the shawl a bowl shape. In spite of this, I was able to get the shawl to flatten out, since the lace pattern in the outer body has a lot of horizontal stretch. I would still prefer an increase row somewhere about the 8th repeat of the twelve repeats of Chart C. A little more fabric there would make the shawl easier to block.

Once everything was flattened out, I was able to position the exact center of the shawl 22" from one pin and pin the center down. Now all I had to do was to work around, placing pins in all the points exactly 22" from that center pin. As I did this, I came to one point that "slipped". Oops! "What the heck was that?", I wondered. Rather than try to figure out what was wrong, I pinned down a couple of loose stitches and worked my way on around. I didn't have time to worry about it. I needed the wool to be wet so it would stretch as much as possible. The shawl was drying, in spite of my placing a damp cloth over the areas I hadn't pinned yet.

After it was thoroughly dry, I left it pinned as long as I could. Finally, worry about those loose stitches drove me to unpin the messed-up point. Imediately, a stitch began to run down the border, around the shawl. I pinned it down. I mean, I stabbed that running stitch as quick as I could. It was fairly simple then to pick it back up with a crochet hook.

There was a matching loose loop above the stitch. As near as I can figure, I dropped a stitch in the border about 20 repeats from the end. I was tired of knitting the border, and was rushing a bit. I never noticed the dropped stitch because the border changes stitch counts every right side row. I just assumed I was on the wrong row (since I had given up on clicking a row counter every 9 or 10 stitches, I had no way of verifying the row number). I knit the same two rows twice, producing an increase to balance that dropped stitch. The yarn was sticky enough to hang up the dropped stitch in the other stitches. I didn't see it. It didn't run until the blocking put tension on it.

Thank goodness I caught it and was able to bring it back up to the point. Then the only way I knew to fix it was to sew it in place. Since then, I used some of the left over yarn and my smallest crochet hook to chain around the point, successfully camouflauging the error. This dropped stitch and the ladders in the middle of the shawl from the dpns are the only two problems I had with the largest, laciest thing I've ever knit. The ladders stretched out horizontally, but they are still noticeable. (They are visible in the photos above--just click on them to see a larger version.) I've thought of sewing beads over that area, but I don't want to add too much extra weight.

I figure that if I use it as a tablecloth, I will put a vase in the center to cover the ladders. If I wear it, I will fold the shawl over to cover them. Maybe as I learn more about knitting, I'll figure out a way to fix them.
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cherry Blossom Harmony

Brrr, that wind feels cold. I think I'll put on my shawl.

You see, I finished the Cherry Blossom Shawl last week. It took five days to finish the border, which was not my favorite part. I much preferred knitting the body, cruising through the long, endless rounds of knitting with no purls. The lace repeat for each row was easy to memorize, and was followed by a plain knit row. That made for over 750 stitches (in the outer body chart, fewer in the inner ones, of course) I could knit without consulting the chart. My use of frequent stitch markers helped me to knit the entire body without any mistakes. However, the border was knit back and forth over six rows of 7 to 9 stitches each. I memorized the border chart (eventually), but lack of concentration meant confusion about which row I was on (it just wasn't practical to use a row counter for such short rows). I made mistakes that had to be tinked back out. Towards the end, I made a mistake that nearly did in the border. I'll tell you about that in my next post, when I critique the pattern and talk about the blocking.

The blocking was the same lace blocking miracle you've heard of elsewhere. It is worth all the knitting just to have the mind-changing experience of seeing a 32" springy, cushy mass of knitting evolve into a 42" circle of air and color. The shawl still has a cushy feel and retains enough body to hold the pattern and points., but now it drapes and floats in the wind.

I was pleasantly surprised at the size. I expected that knitting a lighter-than-lacweight yarn on needles several sizes smaller than recommended would produce a smaller shawl. It did, but only a couple of inches smaller than the pattern size. Considering that it took only 875 yards of Jojoland Harmony yarn, at a cost of $9, this shawl is quite a bargain. It is quite versatile--it works as a cloth for my small table,

and fits me as well.

Does my pose look strange? I was pretending to pick crabapples from our tree. (That's a farce--they're not really edible, even after cooking, so I leave them for the deer.) I had the full shot posted, but this cropped one focuses more on the shawl, which is really my focus here. Look down at the bottom edge and you will see the transition from the rosy-peach to aqua-blue. That color change, which evolves slowly around the border, was the reason I hesitated to knit the border in the same yarn as the body. I thought the color changes in the yarn would produce stripes. Instead, as I finished up the body, I realized that the short repeats would stretch the colors out more. The border started out aqua and changed ever so slowly to purple and finally to rose. The final bit was peach trying to change to gold. Before it got there, I had to join it to the aqua beginning, making one little bump in the smooth color changes.

I'll explain this and other bumps in the shawl knitting next post. For now, I'll just enjoy gazing at the shawl, and finish this with the stitch counts. I'm putting this at the end so that those that find the numbers too boring, or too daunting, can skip it.


A Cherry Blossom Shawl has a total of 54,528 stitches; 440 in Chart A, 9,800 in Chart B, 36,864 in Chart C, and a mere 7,424 in the chart for the border. I took 20 days to knit the body of the shawl, knitting on it for two to three hours each day, and another 5 days to knit the border (with an hour or two of knitting each day).

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First gridded towel

Our Labor Day weekend trip across Independence Pass to Aspen was blessed by perfect weather. We stopped briefly at Twin Lakes, just west of Granite on Hwy 82. This was our first drive across the pass this summer. We thought we'd better fit one in before the pass closes with the first snows of the fall.
Of course, I fit in a trip to The Yarn Gallery, which was having a bit of a sale. I indulged in Blue Sky Alpacas yarn, both alpaca (just a couple of hanks that were on sale) and cotton (more on that in a bit). The lady there treated me to a demonstration of an excellent ball winder by Nancy's Knit Knacks. I had seen it on line, but now that I've seen it in operation, I want one.

My gridded kitchen towel is complete, with a satisfying stripe sequence that begins with the lightest color, progresses with ever wider bands of darkening colors, then reverses the sequence and ends with the lightest color. This project did make the trip to Aspen, when it was finished and the ends were woven in. You see it here resting appropriately on a rack of clean dishes, as well as overturned to show its vunerable underbelly. I'll cut those ends off after I wash and block it. The back looks nice enough, and is much softer than the nubbly front.


With this off my needles, I finally started the yoke for my Sideways Cardigan. I hope to have both it and the shawl finished soon.
Once it is done, I'll cast on another gridded towel, and plan out more. I've gotten a request for kitchen towels and hand towels for Christmas gifts. That's what prompted my visit to The Yarn Gallery. I knew the shop had Blue Sky cotton and thought their soft cotton in gorgeous colors would make more luxurious towels, more appropriate for guests. You'll be seeing them sometime between now and December.

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