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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