Sunday, October 20, 2013

Resurfacing my knitting

Glub, glub, splash, GASP! 

That's the sound of my head coming above water.  Finally.  Now that all the excitement and hard work is over, I find myself--in a different state.  Literally. We have moved.  Since our last move inspired me to start this blog, I am waiting to see what this one will inspire.  While I wait, I knit and take photos.

A different house requires, for me, new dishtowels.  I had some fingering weight cotton and linen blend yarn on hand that would look good in the kitchen.  Actually, these neutral colors would look good in any kitchen.  Colors--good;  stitch pattern--not sure; but I puzzled it out in the first towel.
I started with two strands held together, but soon decided that was only necessary for the edge of the towel.  Next, I tried the slip-stitch pattern that had worked well for the dishcloth. 

After a few repeats, I switched to something simpler, my Gridded Towel pattern. (See the link in the sidebar of this blog.) Not simple enough.  I wanted something that showed off the nubby yarn.

Plain stockinette does display the yarn, but it makes a slinky dishtowel in this lightweight yarn. 

The yarn shop owner who sold me the white yarn told me that she bought it for a tank top pattern.  She's right, this would make a nice summer top, not a practical dishtowel. 

But now that it is a dishtowel, it needs friends.  Friends that come quick and easy.  Garter stitch to the rescue.
This one is almost done now.  After it is blocked, there'll be another photo shoot of it and the third one I just started.  I think I'm onto something here with these fingering-weight towels.

Now I'll shift to something else I'm on to, or at least into--my new home.  Right after we moved in, we enjoyed the first snow of the season, about 5 inches!

It was pretty, especially with the contrast of the golden aspen.  However, it is all melted now.  I'll have to settle for the view a couple of blocks down.

At least there is snow on top of the mountains. 

For the curious, I did start to write a post about my move, but never got back to it once I got too busy with house selling/buying.  There were several reasons we decided to leave Colorado.  Once I get it all sorted out in my head, I'll explain.  For now, it is easier to write about knitting.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fuzzy Knitting

Everything is a bit fuzzy today.  Driving through time zones throws me off.  Either that, or the way-too-good wine I brought back has a way-too-lingering effect.  Ah, well, it is Sunday, and time to relax and recoup by sorting through photos.

A bit of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay, I think, illustrates the grandeur of the scenery.  There's a "tea house" on the island, belonging to the mansion that sits back of this bay.  Vikingsholm was closed for the season, though it is open now.  It was a windy Sunday when we were there...

However, it was nice to see the water in its proverbial blue.  On a cloudy day, the lake is gray. 

I took my newly finished stripe study on the trip and wore it frequently.  A good thing, too.  I spent so much time recalculating and reknitting those stripes.  After knitting all 12 stripes, I decided the shawl was too one-sided.  I ripped out all the stripes to make the short side a bit wider and the shawl easier to wear.  All my numbers and more photos are on my Ravelry project page.

Liking the pinstripes on the reverse.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Knitting with laceweight yarn

A few years back, like most inexperienced knitters, I preferred thicker yarn and larger needles.  Now that I have practiced the craft, I have no problem knitting with laceweight yarn.  I don't prefer it, but I can do it.  That's why I ordered a lot of laceweight when I first saw a sweater pattern that recommended it. 

It was the Tissue Cardigan, by Deborah Newton, in the Spring 2010 issue of Interweave Knits, simultaneously with a sale on the recommended yarn, Misti Alpaca Lace, that sparked my impulse to buy laceweight--a lot of it.  By the time my buying frenzy was done, I had a lot of yarn and pattern ideas on hand.

I'm about halfway through this laceweight-sweater-and-shawl knitting phase now, progressing from heavier, lace-like yarns to very thin ones and from small shawls to complete sweaters.  I can handle knitting with the stuff and see some advantages.

First is versatility.  Laceweight yarns can be combined to produce a combination of colors or fibers that knits like a fingering weight yarn. 
Second is comfort.  A lighter yarn produces a lighter garment.  Depending on fiber content, it can be as warm as a heavier weight garment.
Third is economy.  More yardage per ball of yarn, more stitches per row, more time to knit. 

Basically, I am spending less on yarn because it lasts longer.  Since I have a lot of sweaters, shawls and accessories and don't really need more, I want projects that fill up knitting time.  I have lots of knitting time, as proven by my latest project:

It is a square shawl, literally two triangular shawls worth of knitting time.  The pattern is Vixen, by Tori Gurbisz, available online from Ravelry or Knitpicks.  Though I used two laceweight yarns held together (the darker Misti Alpaca left over from my last sweater and some Malabrigo Lace), I think it would be nice in a single strand of laceweight yarn. 

One advantage to using a lighter yarn is the result when the shawl is folded in half. 

Folding produces a triangular shawl, making this two shawls in one, one that is destined to see a lot of use in the cool Colorado summer mornings and evenings.

A final note:  I loved the colors in the Malabrigo but hated the pooling.   Double stranding it with the brown alpaca subdued it just enough.  In case others just might have a difficult variegated yarn to tame :), they should see my project page for construction details.  I did make some changes to adapt the pattern to the lighter weight yarn.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Knitting without patterns

A year ago, I almost posted that I would knit the entire year in patterns of my own devising.  While a pledge to abandon following patterns written by others seemed like a good way to improve my skills, I quickly realized its limitations.  Not only would I limit my resources, I would set a bad example.  After all, I like knitters to use my patterns and wouldn't want to imply that there are any negatives to following patterns.  In truth, I rarely knit without following a pattern.  Although I might modify a pattern so much that it doesn't resemble the original, I usually find a pre-written patterns excellent starting points for both basic design and inspiration.

Today I have two newly completed projects that I would consider very nearly my own--but not completely.

I began this cardigan with color inspiration from one pattern, cast-on numbers from another, followed shaping tips from a knitting manual and finished with details of my own devising.  I engaged in a little experimentation along the way and a lot of swatching beforehand.  I chose the Bell-Sleeved Cardi pattern from Glam Knits by Stephanie Japel as a starting point simply because the gauge, and thus the cast-on numbers, matched my swatches.  I also liked the raglan shaping and wide neckline in this pattern.  Although I modified the neckline with a two-color ribbing, a tubular cast-on and back neck shaping, I then followed the pattern until I divided for the sleeves. 
There, inspired originally by a sweater sold by Anthropologie, the Hulda Striped Pullover from Northern Knits and various ombre-style patterns for color, I began the wide stripes and ended with ribbing and a two-color tubular bind-off.  Since this Misti Alpaca lace yarn is thread-thin, I double-knit the left button band to give the buttons a good backing.  For the right side, I used a i-cord, leaving openings for button holes. 
Altogether, it is a simple, practical sweater, lightweight and warm.  Here's some Ravelry links for more info:  my project page, Hulda, ombre patterns, and, risking copying complaints, the inspiring  Fading Stitch pullover itself since the image isn't available at Anthropologie anymore.
 While not quite as time-consuming as a lace-weight cardigan, my other project was a rather demanding for its type.  During our unusually cold winter, it became obvious that knee socks are a good thing.  If so, why not stranded knee socks?
  These began toe-up, following no particular pattern, followed a small portion of a fair isle sweater chart I adapted to fit the stitch count, incorporated some corrugated ribbing after the ankle and finished with a good bit of 2x2 ribbing.  Four rounds of plain stockinette in the red Posh cashmere at the top made a little cuff.  The yarn is mostly Colinette Jitterbug, with the blue the heavier weight.  Using it last produced some natural shaping, as did changing needle sizes. The stranding is done with a dk-weight merino in lavender, so light that it looks white.
I like the stranding in the foot.  It is warm and padded under the sole.  However, I was afraid to add any above the ankle--my stranding was quite tight before blocking.  I will need to increase the stitch count for charts in the leg of socks, or I won't be able to get them over my high arches.  I also need to remember that this red Posh yarn bleeds a lot.  I thought it would ruin the colors when I blocked the socks.  Thankfully, as with most things, it all washed out in the end.
There's another photo of the socks in my Ravelry project.  And, I am planning a more detailed explanation of these and other knee socks.  I will post a link here when I finish it.

Knee Socks, info and links to pattern

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Handknit beaded lace shawl for next year

The lightness of the fabric is apparent in this photo.  The pairing of the possum/merino blend yarn (Zelana Kia Ora Rimu fingering weight) with beads is perfect.  The piece can use a little extra weight.  The yarn is expensive in the U.S.  If one could find a bargain price, either here, or in its native (possum-loaded) country, it would be worth buying for the novelty alone. 

When I found the pattern in last Winter's Vogue Knitting, I decided it would be both a fun knit and a reasonable match for the hat I'd knit from an earlier issue of VK.

The hat pattern, from the Fall 2009 issue, is by a different designer but uses the same yarn.  My version mixed two patterns from this issue to make the knitting a bit more interesting.  Details on it and the shawl are logged on my Ravelry project pages, Possum Shawl and Merger hat. 

There's a year between these two projects, and likely another one to go before I wear them somewhere together.  That's knitting--it makes you plan ahead!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Framing hand-knitted wedding veil

A couple of years ago, I knitted a wedding or bridal veil. I posted about it at the time, and provided photos of it in the wedding. However, as much as my memory dims with time, I hardly expect a casual blog reader to remember it well. I'll begin with a refresher, a photo of the finished veil worn by the bride.

To add to the background information, I have included links to the earlier posts and to my Ravelry project page after the next photo. They will answer most questions about the intricacies of knitting a wedding veil.  If, however, you can imagine the effort and anxiety that went into the knitting of this veil, you won't be surprised to hear that after it was completed, worn, and being packed away, K said to me: "You should frame it."

I passed his suggestion on to the bride once she began showing me the wedding photos. I envisioned using the veil as a background for a photo or two. Since she liked the suggestion, I decided the first step would be to bring the veil to her so that she could take it and some photos to a frame shop.  The distance between us and the question of whether it was wise to trust the veil to shipping led me to postpone this step until last July when I brought the veil to her.  We took it to a frame shop and selected the mat and frame. Then we went through the wedding photos and picked out several likely ones to include in the piece. The end result is below, followed by an explanation of why it took six months to achieve it.

I like it well enough, but it has diverged from my original vision, altered by the input of  the bride and groom, the frame shop, and the veil itself.  First, the couple wanted to include several small photos instead of a few larger ones.  Second, the employees of the frame shop simply refused to frame it as I originally imagined.  Finally, the the shape of the veil didn't adapt to the rectangle of the frame.  These incidents combined in a complex process that ended with the veil being much more the object of attention than the photos.

It is what they wanted--the veil, preserved as an art object and a memento of their wedding.  It is a lot bigger and more complicated than I thought it would be, as was the entire project.  What follows is a detailed account of the problems I encountered.  I hope they will help someone else who might consider taking on the task of framing knitting that wasn't knit to be framed.

For those who are just interested in the veil, click here: my original post and my Ravelry project page.

Once I had delivered the veil and spent an hour and a half in the frame shop discussing the process with the framer, I returned home and left it to them.  Pessimist that I am, I really wasn't surprised to hear that weeks later, nothing had been accomplished.  My experience with frame shops has taught me that the framing always takes longer than I think it should.  Often, I suspect that no work is done on anything I've left to be framed at various shops until I call and insist that they complete it.  Then, it appears that whoever is responsible drops their other projects and takes an hour or two to complete mine.  It is usually done the next day after I call, whether they have had it ordered for days, weeks or months.  This one was no different.  After the bride complained, the shop produced this:

Upon seeing this cell phone photo, my first question was about all the excess mat visible around the veil. I was told it was going to be trimmed. Since I could see that the veil was unevenly placed, I assumed that it would be stretched out in a less casual fashion and opened up similar to the way I had laid it out when I visited the shop a couple of months before.  What a bad assumption that was.  I was ignoring the fact that my original visit was so long ago that the framer could not remember anything I said. At least, that is the most generous explanation I can give for the next photo I received.

This is where things took a turn from bad to worse. The bride knew it looked wrong, but she didn't know enough about knitting to be sure it was wrong. She paid for it, then told me she didn't like it, couldn't get it in her car, and had left it at the shop. I agreed that it didn't look right but that I needed to see it to figure out what was wrong with it, other than the odd shape. Since I wouldn't be in the area for several weeks, I called the frame shop and told them to hold it until I could see it. Although I was hoping that I would like it better when I saw it, I came prepared, packing my blocking wires, board and pins. I was afraid I'd have to reblock the veil to restore its original shape. When I arrived at the shop, fingers crossed, ready to be stunned by loveliness, it only took me 5 seconds to see the problem. The darn thing was wrong side out!

The veil was placed sideways on the rectangular mat and folded over to fit, exposing the wrong side of the knitting.  At this point, I realized I was working with a framer who knew very little about knitting, one who couldn't tell the purl side from the knit side.  The bride knew it "looked strange" but the framer didn't see the problem.  I told her that even though it was arranged in an attractive fashion, I couldn't leave it as it was.  I explained that the knit side must be the most visible side and that they would have to take it apart and reframe it.

I offered to take the veil and reblock it to fit the mat and cover more of the blank area.  They agreed to this, but cautioned me that any additional work would incur additional charges since the bride had accepted it as it was.  The veil was sewn to the mat, and had to be cut away.  I had to leave it at the shop and return several days later for it.  When I picked it up, it was sandwiched between two 32" x 40" foam-core boards.  I took a couple of days to wet block the veil, trying to stretch it out to to the dimensions of the foam-core boards.  It was close, but didn't quite cover the 32" vertically.  Horizontally, it was wider than 40". 

 Once I had it pinned to one of the foam-core boards, I took it back to the shop and transferred it to the mat.  It was a better fit, but still did not come near to covering the larger mat vertically.  Since the veil was now wider than the mat, I asked the framers to fold the excess on each side to the back.  They refused.  Either it was physically impossible in some way or they were worried about damaging the fabric, I'm not sure which.  Also, they insisted that nothing touch the edges of the mat, explaining that they needed at least a half-inch of bare mat on which to place the spacers that would elevate the glass above the mat, leaving an air space above the photos and the veil.  Since it had been difficult to convince them that they did not need to leave three inches of mat exposed on all four sides, I took the half-inch as a victory.  I left the veil there with instructions to place it evenly on the mat and call me when they had it ready.

Several days and many phone calls later, they called me to approve the position of the veil on the mat before it was sewn back down.  When I arrived at the shop, I saw the veil was on the mat unevenly with a lot of mat exposed at the top and bottom.  I tried to adjust it, but eventually became so frustrated with the process that I gave up. 

It was at that point that I asked the framer to trim the mat board.  It was 8-10" too long vertically, one reason that the size of the frame was too large for the bride's car.  Reluctantly, he trimmed 6" off, making it the same size as the foam-core boards.  His reluctance had two sources:  first, once smaller, it couldn't be made larger if I changed my mind, and second, making it smaller would force him to trim the frame.  The shop owner told me trimming the frame was not a problem, but the employee that actually had to trim it didn't agree. 

Once the mat was trimmed, I took the mat and both foam core boards back to pin the veil in place on the mat.  I reasoned that the only way to get the veil centered was to place it directly on the mat myself.  That was when I realized the mat board would not hold the pins.  They slipped out.  Worse yet, the mat board was flexible and bent easily.  I had to place one foam core board underneath to support it.  Then I placed the veil on the mat and secured it by putting the second foam-core board on top and taping all three boards together across the edges, making a sandwich that held the veil in place.

I transported the sandwich to the shop and told them to sew the veil onto the mat as it was.  I won't go into the time this took, since I expected the framer to sew it immediately.  I didn't want to risk the veil being put aside where it would slip out of place.  It took weeks for our schedules to mesh.  Even once we were both there, the sewing didn't happen immediately.  In the end, it took a couple of weeks.

The project was finally completed in late November, costing only a little more than originally quoted.  At one point, they had lowered the price by 10 percent as a concession to the time it was taking to complete it.  The additional cost was a little over this 10 percent discount. In spite of the time it took and the struggle I had with the project, I can't say the price wasn't fair.

The one lesson I can take away from this experience is that these framers don't understand knitting.  And, to be fair, I don't understand framing.  Actually, they used the recommended method for framing lace.  The fault was in the way they applied this method to this project.  Besides not being able to tell which side should be exposed, they didn't use enough stitches when they sewed the veil to the mat.  You can see the way the veil has stretched away from the few points of stitching at the top.  It will likely stretch more over time as the piece hangs.  Also, not every point at the bottom edge of the veil was stitched down, even though we suggested it. As a result, the points stand up away from the mat the way they fell when the piece was turned upside down for the frame to be hammered together.

Is there another way to fix the veil in place?  If the entire piece was smaller and the veil the background, it would be laid across the mat and wrapped around to the back.  The wrapping would have held it in place.  Failing that, I can only recommended a lot of stitches or some sort of glue. 

And, now, you know (not that should have been any doubt) that I am a very picky person.  I'll bet this pickiness somehow enhances my enjoyment of knitting.