Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Four color knitting

Last month, the discovery that my latest project required knitting with four colors in the same round made me shut the pattern book. The book, opened after I used three colors on a couple of rounds in my Equinox, had previously only been opened a few times a year, allowing me to admire the pattern photo. Oh, how I loved this design. I studied it for years, admiring its silvery gray, the darling snowflakes, those chunky braids. With enough of the recommended yarn in the almost-right colors, it looked simple, just a stranded hat, knit in the round. It lulled me into thinking it was no big deal. That is, until the discovery of the four-colors-at-the-same-time exercise. Just one more color, but certainly enough for me, at least at this point. Three colors on most of the rounds, four colors on about half, and floats that stretched over 20 stitches jerked me awake.

Awakened, I opened the book and cast on. I'm glad I did.

The top and bottom of the design have four-color rounds, the same as in the middle. They aren't visible here because I used a navy blue there. Once I saw the contrast wasn't great enough, I searched my Kroy stash for a lighter color. I finally settled on the aqua cut out a scrap of Kroy FX, but only had enough for the middle diamonds. The pattern notes indicate that the diamonds should be done with intarsia, but I stranded them. Intarsia? In the round? I'm not sure if the instructions hinted at intarsia or if the reference to twisting the yarns at color changes to avoid holes was provided to explain how to handle the long floats. Either way, there were a couple of vague or questionable points in the pattern instructions. If I knit it again, I'd change a couple of things.

I'd shape the hem with decreases to fit the ear flaps, making it possible to continue knitting a lining up to the crown, possibly throughout the hat. A full lining would eliminate that dent caused by sewing the lining to the flap. However, a lining would also tighten the fit. Since I wanted the hat to be a bit larger than the 20" specified in the pattern, I wasn't worried when I saw that my gauge would put the hat between 21 to 22 inches. However, the row gauge is off as well, making the hat too long. Even at the pattern-specified 8.5", it would not be a snug fit. Now, at over 9", it is slouchy, as is the current fashion, but not in a fashionable way. The stranded fabric is a little stiff to drape nicely. One solution to this problem would be to decrease more often at the crown.

A flatter crown would make the hat more of a pillbox and less of a stocking-cap style. Then there is that tassel. The pattern calls for 14" long strands, braided. However, that means there are raw edges at each end of the braid. Once I finished braiding it, I couldn't figure out how to fasten it neatly to the hat. I just opened the top of the hat, stuck in the braid and tightened the hat back around it. Maybe I was supposed to fold the strands over and have a much shorter braid, about 4" long? It doesn't appear to be that short in the pattern photo. As I did it, the braid is not securely fastened enough to stand up to heavy wear. I'm not going to change the attachment just yet, though. This hat won't see heavy wear for a while. I'll keep it on display.

With its four-color rounds, long floats, miles of braiding and finishing details, this is a new milestone for me. Here's the hat on Ravelry.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Casting off 2011

Through the wonders of technology, I've encapsulated the old year, settling on one photo for each of the months of 2011. I tried to avoid the difficulty of choosing just one photo out of a set by using the first one that "popped" out at me, provided I hadn't blogged it already. The only exception is the one shot of knitting, the mittens for February. It was published here before. But then, I had to have a little knitting in the slide show.

The last few months of the year are represented by only one photo, of food, because the celebratory nature of the photo typifies that season for me. There's not much to photograph outside, all is gray and dim. Inside, there is a lot of knitting and eating. It was a good year for knitting, finishing with a couple of very fine projects. That is, fine materials. I can't claim much skill in production since I used two well-written, often-knit patterns.

I used two hanks of Koigu kppm for these Double Heelix socks. (Yes, my jeans are really that raggedy--it is the weekend!) This great pattern was generously provided in Knitty last year by Jeny Staiman. Since Jeny used Koigu as one of the colors in the sample socks, I was inspired to finally use the almost-green hank I'd been holding since I impulsively ordered a Charlotte's Web shawl kit in 2005. This is some of the oldest yarn I own. The other 4 hanks that came in the kit have been used here and there, but this one was too pretty to use in bits. The pattern lets it go in a hunk, top or bottom, starting off in the spiral heel.

I used the largest heel in the pattern to maximize the spirals, then turned them opposite ways for a mirroring effect. The gray is Koigu, too, just some I had bought for contrast heels and toes. I was lucky to have it, since it sets off the green so nicely. All in all, these are nice socks. I've gotten a lot of compliments on them as I've carried them around, knitting on them here and there through the holidays. Since the heels require concentration, I knit each one at home, then took the heel on the road to add the mostly-stockinette feet and legs. Done that way, the pattern makes a good travel project. The difficulty of the heel is balanced by the simplicity of the sock. As I said, it is a great pattern.

The project below was knit only at home. It didn't travel well because it is all lace, wonderfully soft cashmere lace.

As I mentioned in my last post, I found that Evelyn Clark's Swallowtail shawl requires only 400 yards of yarn. I actually had several yards of the fingering-weight Carmen (Saffron Dyeworks) left over. I was sorry about that, in fact. I wanted to use every bit of the fabulous cashmere. Knitting with it was so luxurious, I hated to see the project end. However, with only 300-some yards to knit in a few fairly simple lace patterns, it ended rather quickly. I finished it in less than two weeks, even though I devoted very little at-home time to it.

And that method, devoting very little time at home, is the way I treated the rest of my projects so far this year. I'm on a bit of a knitting break, but not because I want one. I've got lots of ideas spinning around in my head. Once I get the decks cleared, I expect 2012 to be as fun to knit my way through as 2011. When I get the head-spinning events sorted out, I'll show my knitting plans.
Carmen yarn (that's my colorway!)
Ravely projects, socks and shawl.