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