Monday, January 26, 2009

Mitten knittin'--ah, schmitten!

After finishing the red heels and toes for my boot socks, I was taken with the idea to knit a pair of mittens with the remaining red Kashmira yarn. The red seems to work well with the goosebumps yarn that feels great to the touch but was too prickly for neckwear. I immediately consulted the Fall issue of Vogue Knitting (the one with the mittens on the cover, of course) and picked the Potpourri Mittens (Seen here if you scroll down--the last pair, the light blue ones).

The swatch came out ok, front and back.

Part of my urge to knit these mittens comes from a recent snafu. I wanted to take a fair isle class at my lys this month, but missed the first class. I thought a little practice might be good for developing my ability to fair isle. Although I'm pleased enough with this little swatch, I can see that the gauge is too large for the Potpourri mittens. Nonetheless, I started the cuff, hoping it might tighten up in the goosebump yarn, which is a lighter worsted weight.

I should keep trying. Swatching for mittens provides a little relief from boredom on these gray winter days.

You might note that the red in this last photo looks less bright than the red sock toe in my last post. I've edited to improve the color accuracy (and to be a little arty). However, since I'm getting a lot of variation between my laptop monitor and my desktop monitor, I can only imagine how it might appear on others.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Knitting it right with Noro

I'm knitting socks with Noro sock yarn for the first time -- Silk Garden sock to be exact. Following my New Year's not-so-resolved resolutions to knit it right or frog, I've made a couple of runs at a sock:

On the left, we have sock no. 1, with a fairly light (sport or lighter) weight Baruffa Aerobic in lavender for the toe. I decided on using a contrasting color for the toes and heels since I feared the yardage in a SG sock skein will not be enough for a pair. I increased up to 54 stitches and started ribbing in the Noro after the toe. Kept waiting for the ribbing to tighten.... it's just a little loose. Although the lavender does match some part of the skein, it just doesn't look too hot with the brown. It's not a bad sock, but not the best it can be. Rather than committing to ripping it out, I just started another.

On the right, sock no. 2, I bought some heavier red yarn (about a dk or light worsted weight) for the toe and changed to a cable pattern for the foot, increasing only to 50 stitches. Certainly, this is a better fit.

I've felt confident enough with it that I've continued. After I worked out how it would all fit together above the ankle and was happy with it (a few hours after I took the above photo), I ripped out the Noro from the lavender toe. I confess I did save the toe, running scrap yarn through the live stitches--never know when it might come in handy. If nothing else, it will totally confuse anyone who comes across it in my yarn basket.

I hope you appreciate that I exposed my bare ankles to temps around 30 degrees to get these photos. Thank goodness it was sunny, a fairly rare event this winter. I was rewarded for my photo efforts when I uploaded these to Picasa. An update popped up and, for once, I let it install. Whohoo! They fixed the one thing I needed, adding an adjustable bar on the "sharpen" option. I was so excited, I tried to e-mail the Google guys to thank them. Since I never saw a good place to send my effusive gratitude, I'm mentioning it here. Surely someone with the company that owns Google alerts will see this. If nothing else, I've given them some free promotion. Picasa is now my photo editor of choice--it does everything I need it to and more.

With that, I'll devote the rest of this post to pretty photos and yarn and pattern details.

The red yarn is a new-to-me find at ol' JoAnn's. It's Kashmira, a 100% wool yarn from Turkey. Part of their Sensations line, it states right up front, "Felt-able". Then it warns that anything but careful handwashing will make it felt. It will interesting to see how it wears in these socks. I'm not too concerned about it, though. This is a light worsted/sport weight yarn, knit densely on size 2s. The fabric is firm but squishy and should last a while. At 284 yards for less than five dollars, I'm considering ordering a bunch of it. They have green!

I worked the foot in the cable pattern from Rattlesnake Creek Socks, using only one repeat for the 24-stitch instep. (If you aren't on Ravelry, you can use this pdf link for the pattern. I think there is an error in the pattern--it appears a row is missing in the chart. There are 4 plain rows rather than 5 before the second cable. I knit row 13 twice to correct this.)

I added a stitch on each side after the toe so that the repeat begins and ends with p2, then added another purl stitch on each side before the heel, using the six purl stitches with the 24 sole stitches for a 30-stitch PG-R short-row heel. I never can find good instructions for her heel on line, so I usually refer to one of her patterns (like this one) for the heel instructions.

I always pick up a couple of stitches on each side of the heel when I knit the first full round afterwards. Those, plus the six extra I already had, let me put a k3, p2 divider between the two repeats of the Rattlesnake pattern on the leg. I really wanted to put a little cable in it. I thought a cable running up each side of the sock would look cute, but reason prevailed.

The Rattlesnake patterns warns that all those cables will steal the elasticity from any sock. It suggests that you knit the leg on larger needles to save the fit. Since Silk Garden sock yarn is not elastic at all, and since I'd already gone up to size 2 1/2 needles after the heel without the fit getting much looser, I decided I needed to leave the k3 cable-less. After finishing the repeat I was on plus another full repeat, I have changed to size 3 needles for a plain 2x2 ribbed cuff.

The Silk Garden sock knits easily on the size 3 needles. The smaller sizes were difficult, due to the frequent changes in the texture and thickness of the yarn. It's a trial to knit with, but it does produce a nice depth of color and texture. I think they'll wash up into nice boot socks.

That is, I hope I'll get a boot-length sock from the yarn I have, but I want them both close to the same length. The funny thing is how I divided the skein of Silk Garden. I've read lots about the problems with this yarn, the thick, the thin, the vm, the knots. I had no idea what I'd find when I started winding the yarn onto my hand to find the beginning of the next color repeat. I wound through the brown, the rust, the green, the blue, the purple, and the lavender and figured I was nearing the end. I could tell the outside of the skein was the same brown as the start, and lavender was the last color before the brown. I had read that there are abrupt changes at the knots. I finished winding the lavender and found my first knot. It looks like it is in the middle of the skein. On the other side of the knot is some brown. I have faith in the simple logic of this. I cut it at the knot, hoping that on either side is a full color repeat and that each side is about half the skein. If not, I'll fudge it somehow.

I've put the first sock aside for a while and started the toe of the second. I'm using the easy toe--knit a tiny rectangle, about 1" x 1/2" with a provisional cast on; pull out the cast on and put the live stitches on dpns, picking up a couple of stitches on each side, then just increase on the sides every other row until you have 48 stitches. The instructions for this toe are in Schurch's Sensational Socks book.

I was more careful on this toe to make my M1s match--K1, M1R, knit across the toe, M1L, K1, repeating it on the other side. I think it makes the toe not so pointy, but it is still a tight toe. After this, I realize I much prefer the feel of decreases to increases. I definitely favor cuff-down over toe-up.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Only a towel

Completed, in all its brightness, it does a lot for a plain white refrigerator door. I hope my neighbor likes it. Surely she will be able to find it when she needs a towel.
I've managed a couple of dishcloths to go with the towel. They still need a wash to flatten them out. I was shocked at the results of machine washing and drying the towel. It shrank 3" in both directions, going from an overly large 18" x 24" to a perfect towel size of 15" x 21". I suppose garter stitch shrinks more than stockinette. I can't imagine how small the dishcloths might become, especially since I knit them on size 7 needles. I should have used something much larger so that they would be loosely knit, but I was simply too lazy to get a larger needle out.

Here's a look at the back after the ends were trimmed off.

It's not too bad, for a dishtowel. However, I'm not sure that I would be satisfied with this method for a wrap knit with pricey yarn. Even though the fuzziness of the mohair would obscure the bi-color ridges and the pickup stitches somewhat, it would still look untidy.
I know this is not much to show for a couple of weeks' knitting. I can definitely report that I have followed my New Year's resolutions: I've changed my focus, taken on new challenges, ripped out mistakes, and discarded that which displeases me, all the while considering others. I haven't produced much knitting, but I have had fun.

Dish towel based on Modern Quilt Wrap pattern (free from Interweave), using dishcloth cotton and size 7 needles. I'd like to knit this again using the muted greens, browns and off-whites of Pakucho cotton.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Knitting Knock-offs

To all who have patiently waited...

I've got another picture-filled post. I have cleaned out my stash of draft blog entries, consolidating them into yesterday's list of not-so-resolved resolutions. Whilst doing so, I was using a stash of dishcloth cotton to knit up a knock-off of the Modern Quilt Wrap. With a clean slate and a clear mind, I can start off the new year with one of my favorite activities--sharing photos of my knitting.

My knock-off is not a wrap, but a large-ish dish towel, one that will open your eyes when you stumble into the kitchen for that first cup of coffee. I would not advise you to look at the back until after breakfast--

Not a pretty sight. I don't know if those mid-ridge color changes and picked-up stitches will look any better after I trim off the dangling ends. I won't do that until after I wash and dry this baby. I find that a cold-water wash with lots of fabric softener in the rinse cycle not only fattens up a towel, it feathers out those ends so that they won't try to wiggle out. I'll have to put this one in the dryer right away. It is likely that the navy blue will bleed onto the lighter colors if I just let it dry flat.

I followed the pattern exactly. It is very clear, quite easy, and provides lots of interest through all the color changes. I did substitute a couple of colors, using brown instead of orange (I find the Sugar 'n Cream orange a little too garish) and dark green instead of rose (I'm not much for pink, but I would have used coral if I'd had it handy). What with the greenish-gray Pakucho cotton subbing for the gray, this towel is a little heavy with greens. That's just fine. I love my greens.

As soon as I finish the last block, I'm going to knit a few simple dishcloths to accompany this New Year's gift. I've got a neighbor who has been hinting for such a gift for a while. I'm glad I had some extra time during the holidays to make it for her.

Another holiday project is done. I saw a cowl (they call it a neckwarmer) at Banana Republic last month. There were long scarves and the neckwarmers, ribbed knit in a cashmere blend. It was too simple to copy the design. I just happened to have some bulky cashmere blend yarn in my stash. Teamed with some alpaca I had left over from my Sienna cardigan, it makes a fair match to my grey beret, and is just the thing to wear with my blue coat.

Here's a clear photo of my cowl. I started with an inch of 1x1 rib in Alpaca with a Twist's Highlander, then switched to 2x2 rib in Karabella Margrite Bulky. After the cowl (80 stitches knit in the round) was 8" long, I changed back to the Highlander, maintaining the 2x2 rib for a couple of inches before switching back to 1x1.

The cashmere and alpaca blends are very soft. Even my sensitive neck can't complain of an itch from them. I had about a ball and a half of the Karabella and a full ball of the Highlander. I used all the Karabella, but not nearly all the Highlander. Actually, it would only take a little more yarn than what I had to knit the ribbed scarf. Cowls take more yarn than you'd think.

Just look at this last photo, which I copied from the Banana Republic website, to see how similar it is to the Banana Republic inspiration. Another successful knockoff.

If you're quick, you might be able to view the Banana Republic neckwarmer on their website. It is on sale and won't be up long, I'm sure.

If you missed it, now you've got my little recipe to follow to knit your own.