Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Knit slowly, knit fast

At a time when the daylight hours are waning, my perception of my current knitting project reflects my perception of the turning of the seasons. Each day, our sun is slowly dwindling away. The unfortunate clouds aggravate this process, emphasizing that sunlight is at a premium. The change is subtle, but persistent. Eventually, over the course of what seems a long time, the days shorten and the clouds clump up. The rare bright spot of sun is the only reminder that things have changed.

**Quick, the sun is out, get the camera and take a photo of the knitting!**

A few nights ago, I finished the first set of braids on this hat after days of purling in the round, a movement that seems so wrong, deliberately twisting two yarns around and around, then reversing the twist on the next round. Once I finished the first set of braids, I worked the little band of stockinette, knitting six rounds. I knit and watched a movie for what seemed a few minutes. When I looked at my counter to click it for the next round, I was startled to see that it read "6". Eep. I knit 6 rounds without noticing. What a shock, especially since I had looked forward to this knitting as I struggled through the six rounds of braids during the past three days. (OK, 9 rounds, counting the k1, p1 rounds that begin each braid.)

Because I have lived it before, I know that the lengthening of the days will repeat this time shortening experience. Once the sun begins to return, I will not notice it. The days lengthen steadily, but the process, taken for granted, is accelerated for me. In a month or so, I will look up in the late afternoon and think, "Hmph, the sun is still up. When did that happen?" It's like knitting stockinette in the round. I do it, but I'm oblivious to the process.

What would life be like if I lived it as though I were braiding? It would seem longer, but punishingly cruel. I'd struggle through each moment and yearn for the time when I'd be free of the tasks I'd undertaken. It is preferable, I think, to suddenly be struck by a change that happened gradually. At least my awakening is a sign that I was enjoying the time as it passed so quickly and that I found the going easy.

I enjoy the seasons as they pass, but don't want them linger too long. I'm happy that the Solstice is almost here.

The hat I'm knitting is from a relatively obscure pattern. Here's the link to the pattern on Ravelry for those who want a preview of the FO. I'll probably blog it again once I finish it, since I consider it a small milestone.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cast off, year's end

I've cast off a couple of important knits. First, a sweater-

This sweater, the Equinox Yoke pullover from the Fall 2006 issue of Interweave Knits, is important to me not only because it represents the culmination of years spent admiring the design and yet more years spent accumulating the appropriate colors of Misti Alpaca worsted (aka baby alpaca), but also because it is a milestone for me in pattern modification. Having finished it, I feel like the poor woman on the soup commercial, vainly exclaming "It fits!" to an unconcerned listener. Alas, it doesn't have the impact of the original, which plainly didn't fit the model. That sweater was slouchy, slumpy and oh-so boho. It had style and impact. No wonder it was the cover shot. Unfortunately, it was also, as verified by many of the projects on Ravelry, unwearable, at least if you wanted to lift your arms.

Thanks to the collective wisdom of the more than one hundred Ravelry projects for this sweater, I re-engineered the fit and the form, largely relying on Elizabeth Zimmerman's percentage system for yoke sweaters. The result is a shorter yoke that brings the armscyes up where they belong, as evidenced below.

Again, I exclaim: It fits! Yet one more benefit of this knit is that I found another old gem of a pattern right next to it in the magazine and am now happily knitting Evelyn Clark's Swallowtail Shawl, in Carmen, a wonderful cashmere from Saffron Dyeworks. I had begun another project in this yarn months ago, only to rip it out once I realized that a mere 400 yards is not nearly enough for a shawl. Now, I see that this pattern relys on just about that amount. Maybe I will have enough. If not, I have the leftover alpaca from my second Mathematix to fill in. Either way, I hope to have it finished for Christmas, along with a Christmas-themed dishtowel.

Another Christmas knit has been delivered and approved.

I won't really brag on these, except to say that I'm enormously happy that they are done. Knitting the inner sock that lines them, then struggling through the intarsia circles, adding heels, then sewing the sock top onto the soles altogether wore out my enthusiasm for this project. I have another pair of soles to make myself some slippers, but I can't face them (not a referral to the construction).

Instead, I'm back to working on those holiday-inspired projects. I hope I finish them before Santa arrives. I hear the bells jingling--I'd better get to knitting!

Related Links:

My Equinox on Ravelry

For the skeptics, the Ravelry page for those slippers. Mine really is the only project!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Double knit sock heels done

When I knit the second sock in the pair with double-knit heels, I knew I was facing an intricate and time-consuming heel. Once I had slogged through the plain leg, however, I was happy to concentrate on the heel, improving it with a couple of simple mods, using a smaller needle to tighten up the stitches and cutting out the too-dark blue bit in the striped yarn. It was all to the good.

I am happy enough with this double knit heel that I can recommend it. ETA:  I have written the pattern for double-knit heels

Once I saw that these sock heels lasted longer, I knit another pair. Now the pattern is refined and published. Check out the details on my pattern announcement or on Ravelry.

Or purchase it here:
Once these engrossing socks were completed, I should have turned my attention to my other knitting projects. Unfortunately for them, I decided I needed quick satisfaction, in the form of a dishcloth.

This is the second garter stitch dishcloth with edging I've completed. I find them so useful and gratifying that I'm turning my old lacy ones into dust rags. Though I was quite tempted to start another, I resisted the lure of the easy knit and turned to one that is just the opposite. On request, I'm attempting a pattern that no one else on Ravelry has tried. Or, perhaps they have tried, failed and not bothered to post about it. While that strategy is looking more appealing to me, I haven't given up yet.

These are or rather, they will be once they are finished, boot-type slippers, complete with suede soles. They are made by first knitting a toe-up sock, using a heel flap and short row construction that was a struggle for me. Since I couldn't produce a sock that fit by following the directions, I had to rip it out and modify the heel by shortening the heel flap. The sock is the liner. It is covered by an outer layer that is knit flat. The spots are intarsia. After the leg is complete, the foot is knit with no shaping for the heel and minimal shaping for the toe. It fits as well as the fabric stretches.

Rather than trust the pattern (me?), I tried adding a heel flap to the outer layer. This modification complicated the project even more and didn't improve the fit. I am considering a slightly different approach on the second slipper, but that would mean that I'd have to rip out the first one and knit it to match. There's enough that I don't like in this project--socks knit flat, heel flaps in a toe-up sock, intarsia--that the thought knitting it a third time is discouraging. The one bright spot is that the boot seems to fit if I wear it over a thick sock. Since the person who started all this, by talking me into the project and helping me pick the yarn for it, has larger calves than I do, it is possible that these may fit her without further modifications.

I'm much more satisfied with another project, my Equinox sweater. I've finished both sleeves and begun the body.

I am really happy with the look of the turned hem. Now I have several inches of plain stockinette to knit, as long as the yarn holds out. To compensate for the boredom of a plain stockinette sweater, I have started my chevron sock--the cuff-down version.

The colors here are a little washed out.

It is very pretty and very much fun in real life. However, I haven't worked on it in a couple of days, mostly because I can't decide if I want to stick with the green yarn or go back to the blue at this point.

My original post about Chevron Socks can be found with this link.

Here's my Ravelry project page for the socks with double-knit heels.

and, the one for my other dishcloth.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mathematix shawl, knit again

These two shawls are enough to give a gal double vision. The optical illusion created by the slip stitch chevrons coupled with the slight difference in color intensity makes the first one look like a shadow of the second.

Now that I've knit two near-identical shawls, I'm ready to answer the obvious question ("Why?") along with the less obvious ones. As I knit the second one, following my Mathematix pattern, I was checking the pattern, looking for errors and possible modifications. I started with an easy mod by choosing to knit the eyelet section with a single strand of lace weight Alpaca 1 by Isager Strik.

As soon as I saw that some of the projects on Ravelry are knit in fingering-weight yarn, producing a lighter, more delicate shawl, I was envious. I reasoned that since lighter looked nicer, maybe lightest would look nicest.

The result is a lace section that sharply contrasts with the heavier slip stitch portion. Visually, it almost disappears. The blue Alpaca 1 is doubled stranded in the rest of the shawl so that it matches the weight of The Sheep Shop's Wensleydale Longwool, a fingering weight, woolier yarn quite different from the dk-weight silk and alpaca blend I used for the original.

It is crispier, with just enough drape to curve nicely around the neck. The itchiness is a little different in feel, but both shawls are itchy to my sensitive neck. However, I enjoy a little scratchiness on a cool day and find both shawls comfortable and nicely warming. The main difference between the two is the actual weight of the shawls. The dk version is heavier, drapes more and tends to slip and slide around. The wool/alpaca version is lighter, stiffer and stays put. Neither is bad, just different. I like the feel of the silk and alpaca version as much as I enjoy the lightweight warmth of the woollier one. I'll admit that I find the original more attractive. It has a wonderful sheen and color. However, I'm fond of the second one because it helped me work through several questions about the pattern. Thanks to the second shawl and the Knitty editors, the errata was incorporated into the pattern.

Even though I started this in a hurry, using what I could find in my stash to get right to checking the pattern, I slowed my pace after the first repeat of the chart. Since I was basically through checking the pattern, I began re-thinking the design as I knit, intrigued by the changes I saw other knitters make as they knit this shawl. Another point of view can certainly open doors, as well as raising questions.

The biggest puzzle for me in the slip stitch portion was how to include new stitches into the pattern. Originally, I didn't see a lot of options there. Since other knitters have gotten into the pattern, I realize there are options even when following the 24-stitch repeat, mostly in determining when to slip stitches--right next to the yarn over, one stitch over from the yarn over, or only when two stitches can be slipped together at least one stitch away from the yarn over. Although I handled them a little differently in this shawl, trying to move the new stitches into the pattern more quickly by slipping a single stitch one stitch away from the yarn over, I'm not sure that I don't like my more conservative approach in the first shawl better. My intention there was to only slip stitches if I had a pair to slip. The result was fewer of those "eyes" you see at the center of the shawl in the first photo here, and longer stripes at the edges and center.

Actually, if you look closely at either of the shawls, you will see I wasn't totally consistent in my decisions. I mention that only to show that this shawl will have a dramatic impact even if it isn't totally perfect.

Once I was finished with the repeats of the main pattern, I moved on to the transition rows, which are designed to allow the pattern to flow into the vertical stripes of the border. I was pretty happy that the movement of the pattern is obvious.

However, as I knit through it again, I saw that I might be able to improve it. I think moving the slipped stitches over in rows 3 and 4 would produce a more consistent line of vertical contrast. It would mean moving the stitches that form the cross in the center of the A shape to the sides of the A, leaving a vertical line at the center and connecting the short verticals into the A. I'm not completely sold on that approach. As I said, it is a question of design.

Another niggling detail has to do with the border.

I first knit the turn of the border around the point of the triangle with just 16 rows. Then I ripped it out. It was very obvious that it requires a minimum of the 20 rows I specified to allow it to lay flat. In fact, once I had knit it correctly, I ripped back again. I squeezed in a few more rows off the point to make sure this wool, which had plenty of elasticity, would turn the corner well.

As I knit the shawl, the elasticity of the longwool convinced me that it would never be as big as the original. Happily, I was wrong. They are the exact same size.

Mathematix shawl pattern is published in

My Ravelry page for this shawl project

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cotton knit square

Between two sweater projects I needed a break, something quick to knit that would offer encouragement. Happily, I saw a need to fill. What's funny is that it was an odd need. I decided a bit of cotton knit in the round, square-fashioned would do the trick.

As I knit, I saw it differently. In a way, these photos are a study of the type of inspiration offered by seeing things in a new way. I failed to photograph the first time I saw it differently, just after I finished the fair-isle portion. I had knit that portion so tightly that it fit exactly over a small square box. Had I stopped increasing, it would have made a nice box-cozy. I considered ripping it out until I realized that I needed it to be a bit box-shaped.

Of course, blocking flattened it a bit, enough so that I could fold it in half.

It looks a bit like a shawl in the photo above, as long as you don't know that it is only about 25" across at the top. Playing with it a bit, I realized it would make a nice hanging towel.

A bit larger, with a loop at the top... The increases work well as seams and allow it to fold and hang nicely. In the end, I'm happy that it is perfect for the purpose I had in mind all along.

It is a dust cover for my gong fu tea set. There's a lot focus on washing the set as part of the ceremony to remove dust. Now it won't be very dusty to begin.

Project details: Leftover organic worsted and dk-weight cottons, begun at the center and knit in the round on size 6 needles. Squared by increasing with kfb's at the corners on every other round. Pattern is completely made up as it progressed, but was intended to convey a zen-like serenity of color and design.

[Reposted due to software failure. The first post had no photos! I shouldn't have ignored that error message. Now I'm going to fix another error and rip out a few rows of knitting.]

Monday, October 24, 2011

Montreal, Mouline, more

It's hard to believe that I'm still blogging about my trip to Montreal. I was there a month ago. This post covers the important part, though--the yarn!

While my companion was occupied with the conference, I took the metro to Mouline, a relatively large yarn shop in an interesting neighborhood. Lovely place, nice people, great conversation, tons of gorgeous yarn--what more could I want? There is more, but first the yarn, Canadian yarn:
Even the dull-colored hank on the upper right is exciting because it is BFL (bluefaced leicester) sock from sweetgeorgia yarns;
Next to it are three hanks of Mirasol Hacho, a sport weight merino I found in the sale bin;
The rest is Tanis blue label fingering weight, blame indecision. I was shopping for a colorway to complement the Noro I had for a shawl. Now I have three to choose among. I also have three
hanks of Tanis in the shadow colorway, enough for a sweater. At Mouline, more means less--the Tanis is discounted when you buy two or more.

Now the more: the metro was easy to navigate and staffed with helpful people. The cars weren't crowded but were filled with courteous riders who gave up their seats readily. That is, nothing like the London metro, though they do lack the infamous "mind the gap" warnings that make riding the London metro fun. The real fun comes after the ride when you find one of Montreal's markets in an old church two blocks down. The market was mind-blowing, filled with so many food choices that it must be easy to be healthy and well-fed in Montreal.

It's also interesting to reside in Montreal. Recognize this famous set of condos?

No, it isn't the Olympic village. That's here, but I didn't see it. This is Habitat 67, an original design meant to be a low-cost community of stacked single-family homes. The stacking makes them condo-like while preserving the privacy of the individual units since shared walls are limited. Each unit has a garden, but many of them, like the original concept, have been altered by the residents. Many have shielded their gardens from the weather. They've also "bid up" the cost of the units far beyond the original price, responding to the popularity of the location.

Enough travelogue, on to popular knitting! I have found a little success with my next sweater.

This is the first sleeve of my equinox pullover. It's the cover design from the Fall 2006 issue of Interweave Knits. My, that's an old issue! Still, I could knit several sweaters from it. This is the fourth one from this wonderful magazine. I am using a yarn which appears to be the twin of the recommended one, substituting Misti Alpaca baby alpaca royal for Classic Elite's Inca Alpaca. I've used a turned hem and shortened the pattern a bit, resizing it to better fit my skinny arm.

In spite of the yarn substitution, I kept the colors pretty close to the original. The biggest change was to use the salmon pink instead of burgundy. While it isn't an ideal choice, it does look good with the green next to it.

Before I tackled another sweater project, I needed a break. Last week I started this.

I'm binding off now, and won't say what it is for until I'm done. I doubt that anyone can guess.



Habitat 67

Equinox project page

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Trellis and Vine pullover, blocking effects

Here's a bunch of photos of my latest FO. Besides being braggadocious, these photos are educational, a study in both the effects of blocking and yarn substitution. I've long admired this pattern. The Trellis and Vine pullover calls for a dk weight alpaca. That alone was enough to make me consider knitting the pattern when it was published in the Fall 2009 issue of Interweave Knits, since I like alpaca so much.

However, alpaca is really warm. I already had yarn for an alpaca pullover. I doubted I would need two. For those reasons, I decided against knitting it in alpaca and put the issue aside--until I saw the designer's second version, in a merino, cashmere and microfiber blend. I never forgot it, and looked it up repeatedly on Ravelry during the past two years.

Each time I looked at the Ravelry projects for this sweater, I thought about possible modifications. I knew I wanted to use a yarn with more drape, but also worried that several of the projects reported problems with the lace at the bottom of the sweater. After reading through them, I still wanted to knit the pattern, even if I did have to work through some modifications. I thought about it, forgot it, looked it up, over and over again. Finally, I decided it might work for a batch of silk and linen yarn I had found on sale last year.

The 8 hanks of Tahki Sierra had silk for drape, linen for crisp cables, and just the right yardage.

This sweater is knit from the top down. After I worked through the yoke, dealing with the same bit of confusion reported by others in the lace section with careful reading and lots of stitch markers, I floundered. The first thing that bothered me was ending the cute cables at the raglan sleeves. I couldn't do it. I wanted to work them into a design for the body. I first concocted a cable of my own, recklessly throwing the lace pattern into the cable below the waist. I reasoned that it would blend with the lace at the hips. Altogether, it was too much--the hips were too big and used too much yarn.

Reassessing the problem, I realized that if it was big before blocking, it would be worse after. This wasn't an elastic wool. It was silk and linen. They both grow when blocked. I ripped all the way back to the yoke, shortening it by a full repeat. The unblocked sweater was all up in my armpits whenever I tried it on, but I continued to hope that blocking would bring it down.

Next, I found a real cable chart, modified it a bit, and used it at the sides.

I knit the sleeves first, working and reworking the shaping to narrow them. Thankfully, that left four full hanks for the body. After knitting a couple of repeats of the body, I found an error in the cable. Since I wasn't totally happy with my modified cable, I ripped back to the sleeve division again. I modified the cable pattern to mirror the two cables and continued them all the way down the sides, moving the shaping from the pattern's princess lines to the edges of the cable section. Since I could never work out a happy combination of the wider cable and the lace, I left off the lace edging, leaving a simpler design.

I knit the body to the recommended length, 16 inches from the bottom of the sleeve, a little over 23 inches total. I knit the sleeves until all of the one hank I had allotted for each was gone, but they were the recommended length of 18 inches, which usually works for me.

They hang down over my hands in this photo.

That's the effect of blocking silk and linen. The overall length is now 26 inches. Before blocking, the neck was higher and the yoke was shorter. The sleeves were the right length if they weren't rolled up. (The pattern requires a rolled edge.) The photo below shows the yoke of the sweater just off the needles on the top and the blocked yoke on the bottom.

Blocking, which in this case means soaking for a few minutes and drying flat without pinning, made the neck wider and the lace portion open up. The lace ended just at my shoulders before. Now it extends about a inch down my arms. Lace usually blocks out larger, but the yarn content increased this effect. The larger yoke slid the sweater down my body, making the armholes fit better and lengthening the sleeves and the body. Additionally, the entire sweater grew lengthwise.

The sleeves are down in this photo. In the first two photos, they are rolled up per the pattern specs.

I like the look. However, they are too long for practical wear. I'll see how the sweater changes after a few wears and washes before I decide if I want to rip the sleeves back a bit, roll them up and sew them down, hem them, or what.

Here's a final comparison, pre-blocking on the left. If blocking hadn't altered the fit, I wouldn't have wanted to wear this sweater. All that negative ease makes it too form-fitting for me. No comfort here--it didn't feel comfortable and I wasn't comfortable with the appearance.

After blocking, though, it has just the right slouch for me. The measurements were right at zero ease on the blocking board. Since there's a little ease now, I think it loosened up a little as it dried. It's much softer now, too, and that makes it very nice to wear. I just need to remember as I knit my next sweater that it will look much different after it is blocked.

I recently read another blogger's remarks about blocking sweaters as she knits them to test the fit. The link to her how-to post is below, along with the sweater links.

Inspirational Trellis and Vine on Ravelry
Even better, in Carol Feller's blog

How to block a sweater in progress

My Ravelry project page for T&V.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Gong Fu Tea was new to me

Our coffee maker malfunctioned this morning, spilling coffee and grounds all over itself. Even though it made a horrible mess, I didn't mind. I finally had an excuse to use the Gong Fu tea set that I purchased in Montreal. It's a pretty little set.

Although I am no master of the Chinese tea ceremony, I liked the tea I made. After I got it going, I spent more time watching tea-making videos on the Internet than I did making tea. No serenity for me this morning. However, I did learn a bit more about Chinese tea ceremonies and Yixing teapots.

My first experience with gourmet tea preparation was at Ming Tao Xuen, a charming tea salon just across the street from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal.

Besides the tea and vegetarian items, we also enjoyed watching the weddings taking place across the street. This shop has a website where you can buy teapots, tea sets and tea. However, if you enjoy Chinese tea but are not familiar with Gong Fu tea preparation, I recommend going to a Chinese tea shop and trying it. Our waiter demonstrated the ceremony and answered all our questions. I don't know, as I have been to other tea shops and not seen the tea prepared in this way, but I assume that a Chinese tea shop will show you how it is done. I found it fascinating. Properly done, the ceremony is beautiful, graceful, and calming.

You'd think with all the knitting I do, I wouldn't be seeking serenity. Now that my Mathematix pattern is up, though, I've had to answer questions and check charts. Since I hate to find that I have made errors or let errors slip by me, my serenity is in short supply. I'm knitting a second version now and double-checking everything I can.

I had to pull yarn from my stash for this one and ended up choosing a color combination very similar to the original. I guess that was a safe approach, but I prefer to think it just proves how much I like these colors. The blue is a lace-weight alpaca that I'm double stranding for the slip stitch portion. The brown, or taupe, is a natural Wensleydale longwool from the Sheep Shop. It's fingering weight and is heathered with bits of blue in it. The alpaca has bits of brown it it. I love them together and can't wait to see what blocking will do. I am halfway through the slip stitch portion, so even with pauses to write charts and post about problems and questions, I'm sure I'll finish it by the end of this month. I don't need another shawl just the same as the first one, but it will make a nice sample.


Ming Tao Xuen tea salon

Tea Scholar demonstrates Gong Fu tea ceremony (video)

There are so many videos, websites, etc., on Yixing teapots, one that shows how fine tea pots ring like bells, one that shows master potters making tiny teapots by hand, and dozens of them showing different ways to make tea. Since I know so little about it, I'll stop with just these two that best illustrate the point of this post.

Ravelry project page for my second version of my Mathematix shawl pattern.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Socks, heeled with a twist

I enjoyed a trip to Montreal last weekend, meeting a friend who was attending a conference there. The effort I saw put into food preparation was impressive. Even the fast-food stalls in a food court were preparing everything from fresh ingredients, sometimes in rather unusual ways. I had a piece of quiche that was bigger than my head and surprised myself by eating it all! Good food, for sure. The shopping was interesting, a bit different than the usual I see here in the states. The best thing, though, was just tramping around, talking and seeing the sights.

It is a fairly attractive city with all the usual attractions. I even found some Missoni items (the real thing, not Target). They reminded me that I need to start another Missoni Sock. Not that I've more or less cleared my sock projects away, I might be able to manage a new one. Before I left, I worked through some sock projects that had been lingering. One pair had lingered for months.

While editing on the toe-up version of my Daylong sock pattern, I knit two sock feet in one week. They helped me work out the numbers, but then, there they were. They needed legs. The legs took longer, three months, in fact. I would knit a bit, then put them aside for something more interesting. Since I was determined to knit them as long as I could, I began to think I would never finish them. Even though the Fannie's Fingering Weight I used is a delicious yarn, I was relieved when it finally ran out. About half way through the leg, I increased from 56 to 80 stitches, then continued in 2 x 2 ribbing, ending with my first pair of knee socks. Although knitting such long legs was way too boring to be fun, I might do it again if I like wearing them.

One practical project deserves another. Just today, I finished a pair of socks requested by a friend. She picked the yarn from my stash, declaring it the perfect choice since it contains all the colors she usually wears. (Excuse me--colors? These are not colors. These are shades of gray.) I had bought the yarn, King Cole Zig Zag, in Cambridge along with a plain off-white skein, planning to combine them into striped socks that would disguise any pooling. Once my friend picked the Zig Zag, I had to go with just it, pooling be damned.

Luckily, her slim ankles only needed 60 stitches--the pooling was minimal. However, once I hit the heel and beyond, pooling abounded. I'll just tell her the pooling is good, that it is what the yarn was designed to do. Since the socks have the super-comfy Princess sole of my Daylong pattern and will match all her clothes, I'm sure she will like them.

Once I finished those two pairs, I was free to cast on a sock to take to Montreal. I wanted to knit a replacement for a pair of socks I had given away. I had knit a pair in a great colorway of Paton's Kroy with contrasting heels a couple of years ago. After I gave them away, I missed them so much that I bought more Kroy to knit another pair. Of course, they had to have contrasting heels. That's when I got a little carried away.

I decided to try a double-knit heel flap. I haven't seen it anywhere else. I thought it might be a sensible way to knit a durable heel. Having completed the first one, I can say that it is not. A double-knit heel has a very loose gauge, the opposite of what one wants for heels. While I can't recommend double-knitting for heels, I can recommend it for entertainment. I was so thoroughly engrossed in the heel that my flight from Montreal to home seemed to only last a few minutes. I don't know when I'll knit the second sock. (Actually, this one isn't finished yet. That explains the dangling yarn ends, doesn't it?) Whenever I do, I know it will be entertaining. Also, it will take hours!

Ravelry project links:

Knee High Daylong Socks

Gray Daylong Socks

Original Kroy Socks

Missoni Sock

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mathematix Shawl, story and notes

For my regular readers who probably haven't noticed yet, I have an announcement--I'm published! I'm very pleased that a pattern I wrote was accepted for publication in Knitty. It is a shawl pattern that I developed after my trip to Cambridge this past spring. Below is a photo I took of it last Memorial Day weekend.

I'm so grateful to Emily for being such an excellent model. I had to provide photos for my submission to Knitty and was lucky to find someone to model in the short time frame. I had been trying to knit a shawl from this yarn for a while. I knit a smaller shawl with it in December, but ripped it out. It didn't show off the yarn very well and was really too small to wear. The yarn deserved a better effort. After I came back from Cambridge, I started swatching.

Once I'd put those two patterns together, I was off and knitting. I thought if I finished knitting it before Memorial Day, I would be able to get some photos of it on a trip we had planned for the weekend. Since writing the pattern was taking up some of my knitting time, I was never sure that I would meet both deadlines--shawl finished and blocked by the holiday and pattern submitted by June 1. Now that it is all done and published, my concern is that anyone who has questions or problems has a place to look for answers. I am truly concerned. This is not a simple pattern.

That's why I'm posting this entry to my blog. I plan to add to it as needed to address any questions, make suggestions, or provide any other information about the pattern.

Unfortunately, there were errors in the original Knitty pattern. Corrections were posted November 12, 2011. As a matter of housekeeping, the errata was:

Under DIRECTIONS, Section 1, there should be a row 4 following row 3. It should read:

Row 4: [WS] Purl.

Under Section 2, omit the second sentence regarding starting the first repeat on row 3 of the chart. Start with row 1.

The Left Side charts are wrong. Until I can develop a correct set of charts, the shawl can be knit by working from the Right Side charts, simply reversing them for the second half. To do this, follow the Slip Stitch Pattern -- Right Side chart from right to left, work the center stitch in stockinette, then follow the same row of the chart from left to right.

The wrong side rows of the main color stripe in the border are purled. I mistakenly specified the fourth one, row 8 in the pattern, to be knit. Although this was simply a mistake I made in indicating the wrong row numbers in the "repeat row.." language, I am now a little curious as to how it would look if all the wrong side rows in the border were knit instead of purled. It would be something to try if you like garter stitch.

Also, when starting the border pattern, I began with row 3, letting the cast on stitches count as the first two rows. I'm less sure I like this now that I'm looking at it again. It works, making the colors in the border line up with the shawl colors. However, if you are inclined to finesse a pattern, you might look at handling it differently. My way, the first stripe of CC in the border is missing one row. It is possible to work the beginning and ending stripes of the border with 5 rows, although you would have to cast on an additional stitch.

Other questions have arisen that I consider design issues. For these questions , there is not necessarily one correct approach. In these areas the shawl can be knit according to the preferences of the knitter.

The first question has to do with the number of stitches on the needles at the start of the slip stitch pattern. There's not enough stitches to complete the two repeats on either side of the center stitch. As I knit it, the center two repeats are 1 stitch short. That didn't bother me because I knew I was adding a stitch on either side of the center stitch. The repeat would be complete on the next right side row. I was much more concerned that the blue decreases in the first section flow into the blue slipped stitches of the slip stitch portion.

Even though being 1 stitch short didn't stop me, I'm afraid that it might look strange to another knitter. The unusual stitch count might seem to be an error. It is not. The pattern does provide for the shorter repeats, since they are included in the charts. To further reinforce this, I'm providing below the language I used when I drafted the pattern, before the charts covered the center repeats:

With MC, begin slip st pattern [Chart B], aligning pattern so that MC sts slipped on previous rows are knit on the first row of Chart B. The repeat before the center st will be 1 st short. Following this repeat, the center pattern is: yo, k1, yo [k4 sl2], resuming row 1 of the slip stitch pattern. Worked properly, the slipped sts will all be CC. All wrong side rows in Charts B and C are purled, slipping the stitches slipped on the previous row purlwise with yarn in front [wyif].

I have made my remark about the center repeat bold. Actually, the chart is a much better explanation, but I have included this earlier version here just in case it offers a little more clarity. Often I find that what I write as I am knitting a pattern makes the most sense. At least, it does reflect my thinking when I was the closest to it.

All that being said, I think it should be possible to add another stitch to each side of the shawl in the transition row and start with complete repeats. I would like to make that change when I knit the shawl again to see if it can be done easily without changing the flow of the pattern.

Another question was raised about the edge stitches in Section 2, the Slip Stitch Pattern section. As I added a stitch, I worked it in stockinette on the following row. I didn't include it in the pattern of slipped stitches until I had added several stitches at the edge. As a result, there are stripes of stockinette on the edges that are 1 to 3 stitches wide. At the center, the new stitches in stockinette meet with the new ones on the other side of the center stitch to form a different pattern. It does not matter how the new stitches are worked into the pattern, as long as the pattern meets properly at each repeat. The edges and center can be worked to suit the knitter.

The one suggestion I have is to make the point that the new repeats at the right edge and to the left of the center stitch are worked in from the left edge. You have to count backwards from the left edge of the 24 stitch repeat to determine how to knit the new stitches.

Here's another suggestion regarding the slip stitch section. The pattern pulls in a great deal. Even though I added some stitches and blocked it hard, that section is still proportionally smaller than the other two. The shawl fits well as a kerchief. If I were to knit this as a larger shawl, I'd try increasing on both the right side and the wrong side rows, at least on the ends, in the slip stitch section. That would make the tails longer. Of course, it would add a lot more stitches and a few more repeats, as well as expanding the edging and requiring more yarn.

Please let me know if you have any other questions regarding this pattern. I'll be happy to address them here as well as on Ravelry. For those who haven't seen it yet, the pattern link is: Mathematix. If you like it, please click on this Ravelry link, Mathematix Shawl, and give it a fave!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cables recrossed, a third way

After thinking about the two ways to correct a mis-crossed cable that I covered in my last post, I realized I wasn't happy with either of them. There had to be another way. After turning it over in my mind, I decided that the problem with duplicate stitching over the cable is that the duplicate stitch, being sewed through all layers of the fabric, looks too compressed and lacks the dimension of a normal cable crossing. I wanted something that looked more like knitting. At first I thought of i-cord, but assumed that an i-cord sewed over the cable would be too thick.

Then I realized that I could simply pick up two stitches out of the cable, knit them and graft them to the other side of the crossing. In the photo above, I've picked up the stitches, knit one row and purled one row. They are ready to graft to the stitches above the cable crossing. I did this over all three mis-crossed cables. (I only made this mistake on the first piece I knit, the back. Thank goodness!) I found it easier to use dpns two sizes smaller than I used to knit the sweater, since that eliminated the need to tighten the stitches after I grafted them.

There! All done. I can't easily pick out the cables I fixed, even though I know where they are.

To make it easier to see the stitching, I left this photo a little lighter, and perhaps a little greener, than it should be. The color of this sweater is hard to pin down. Sometimes it is more green, sometimes it is more blue, depending on the light. It reminds me of the Morning Glory pool in Yellowstone.
However the color change in it is permanent. It used to be more blue, but early visitors threw so much trash in it that the color changed to the green you see here. I would say it is too bad, but really, I like green better than blue.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Re-crossing Cables

Quickly, calmly, like the tetons reflected in a lake

I'm going to show how I can reverse those cables I crossed the wrong way. As far as I know, there are two ways to do it. Luckily, my old swatch for the sweater has two repeats in it. They are knit with two different sizes of needles, of course, (that was the point at the time) but the difference in gauge doesn't matter. Here's the correct swatch, with both cables crossed to the left.

To change the direction, I duplicate stitched over the bottom cable, the one in the middle below the seed stitch portion. I thought it looked ok, but could see that it now has three layers of knitting rather than two. I can see that this cable crossing looks thicker than normal. On the plus side, I found it very difficult to remove the duplicate stitching when I decided I needed a do-over for practice. I'm hoping that means this method would result in a durable fix.

For the top cable, I cut the top stitches and moved them to underneath. This was very scary, since I had two tiny short ends to secure. The result is flawless from the right side. It really looks like a correctly crossed cable. However, from the wrong side, it doesn't look so nice. First, there's the two ends, which I knotted together, sticking out. Second, there's a bit of sewing to secure the loops of the stitches I cut and to close the hole. I'm worried the hole might reopen with wear.

I'm not aware of any other methods of correcting the problem, short of reknitting the sweater. Unless I find a better way, I'll probably use duplicate stitch.

To sunset this issue, here's a photo I took in Wyoming en route to Yellowstone.

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