Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy 2008 to all!

A very happy New Year to all of you! Here's to a wonderful 2008 filled with peace and a resolution to the many conflicts plaguing the world.

Once again, thank you for all the comments you left on the last few posts. I have one of them that I want to address.
Rima says:
"I wonder how long it will take knitters using the current trendy crop of expensive merino yarns to find out how badly those yarns can pill when knit too loosely. What a waste.

I used to have faith that the yarns companies knew their products, but over the past couple of years have come to agree with you."

Rima, I hope you are right in that the yarn companies are doing this out of ignorance. I think it is being done deliberately so that knitters are tempted into thinking that the project will be completed quicker and therefore they buy the yarn to begin the project. I also think knitters buy into the delusion because they want to complete things more quickly. Sadly, they don't realize that the few days/weeks of time they save knitting will be lost in the years of wear they won't have. Maybe it is a result of the societal values we have: to acquire quickly and to discard quickly. We buy on impulse and toss indiscriminately when we are tired of things without regard to the resources, effort and time it takes to create and eventually to dispose of each item.
I took this photo last week of my next project but it is almost done already. Talk about instant gratification. I made the bag on the right last summer out of Lopi and Lopi look-alikes. But as you can see, the bottom of the bag is sadly defective. It is concave as I made mistakes on the mitering calculations. But it received a lot of interest at the LYS and made me realize that a felted bag is a great way to learn fair-isle. It is quick to knit (especially in Lopi), you don't have to weave in ends and mistakes vanish in the felting. So I proposed a FI felted bag class and needed to create a sample. I picked two patterns out of Sheila McGregor's Fair Isle book (after looking through Ann Feitelson, Alice Starmore and Sarah Don) and the bag is almost done after a day and a half of knitting. I just have to find the right handles for it (or decide what I want to knit as a handle) and then do the appropriate finishing. I did it right this time. I bought my bag bottom reinforcement and then made the bag to match and I plan on doing the same with the handles. The yarns on the left are the colors in the bag. The main color is the olive (top right-hand 4 balls) and the others are the contrast. I did the patterning in the olive as I wanted a brighter bag and changed the background colors from the green (bottom) to the blue, then the magenta and used the gold as the center accent of the motif before reversing the colors. It looks nice and bright but I'm not sure the FI pattern stands out the way it does in the first bag. Time will tell once it is felted.

I know Alice Starmore's Book of Fair-Isle Knitting is out-of-print and hard to find but it has one lovely section in it missing from the others I looked at. It shows one how to adjust the width of a motif to suit one's needs. I have often done this (along with adjusting the height) but it is nice to see it described. McGregor's book is one of the best and most accessible references for traditional motifs to design one's own. Many of the same designs are in Starmore's book and organized the same way. Feitelson has the best discussion on the use of color. But both McGregor and Don have traditional FI garments pictured and I fell in love with some of the paneled ganseys in McGregor's book.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A color story

Thank you to all those who sent me compliments on the ESW, both via the blog and privately.

Yesterday I finished the quilt my mother started. I had picked it up from the lady who quilted it on Saturday and finally found the time to trim the batting and backing and hem the edging. Here is a photo of the completed quilt on my father's bed. As you can see, it fits the bed perfectly as an accent. It is a twin sized quilt on a queen-sized bed, as a point of reference.This photo shows the quilt folded over to show the backing. It is a burgundy color with a dappled/marbled effect. This post is about the color of the backing. At the quilt store, I went through about a dozen colors. My first thought was that with all the colors in the quilt, almost any color would work. We , the quilt store owner and I, knew that the backing needed to be folded over to create the binding so the backing color was very important. We started with black and navy (both solid and these mottled/marbled fabrics). Both of them dulled the colors. We then moved on to browns - from taupe to a deep chocolate. Same effect. We tried greens - deep natural greens. Same problem. We tried other blues. No luck. We started to have more luck as we moved into purples/violets, teal, burgundy and rust. The secondary colors enhanced the colors in the quilt. The rust and the burgundy were the finalists and I felt the burgundy made the whole effect much richer than the rust did. So that won out. The entire experience was a great lesson in color theory and practice.
My original plan was to press out the seam allowance on the last set of blocks and then attach a binding as usual. However, when I went to press out the seam allowance, I found that in a large number of cases, the seam allowance was caught in the seams attaching the blocks to each other. Since they were hand-pieced around a paper template, it was easy to catch the allowance in the stitches. That plan, therefore, went out the window. I decided to leave the seam allowance folded down and fold over the backing to create a binding. I trimmed the batting to an inch and the backing to 1.5" beyond the quilt edge. Then I folded over the backing and doubled up the batting and hemmed the backing onto the squares overlapping by 1/16". I am pretty sure our eyes can't see that missing 1/16" on the last set of squares around the perimeter. But I leave that to you to judge from the closeup of the binding below.
I folded over the batting because it creates a nice rolled, corded edge. One thing that happens with batting, especially on the edge, is that it gets compressed over time. I'm hoping that this corded edge will stay plump and fluffy. This is a closeup of the quilting. The quilter did a great job of the quilting although it is a very simple meander to keep the focus on the colors and patterns.It is a relief to me to finish this because I've felt that it was something my mother entrusted to me to finish. I wanted to do justice to the work she put into it and initially I felt that meant finishing it by hand. Once I came to terms with the fact that she would have wanted it used, rather than sitting mouldering in my closet, it was a task that needed to be completed. I have never hired someone to sew something and finding the right person was a bit of a challenge. I was lucky in that I found two wonderful people. Kathie who owns the Quilt Basket, and Debbie Brown, the quilter, both took a personal interest in the quilt and gave me sound advice. I am very grateful to both of them for their assistance.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

ESW photos

I have been delinquent. I spent all of last week, and into Christmas Day, finishing up the ESW. So I didn't blog at all.

First, I crocheted around the edge, then I tried the crab stitch. What a disaster! I had too many crochet sts and the edge was all ruffly and wavy. The crab st looked awful in the fuzzy yarn. That took me about 3 evenings worth of work! I decided I really needed to fix it so I spent the next two days ripping out the crochet and re-doing it. I am so glad I did. It looks so much better and supports my philosophy that it is almost always worth redoing if you are unhappy with the result. Over the weekend, I fringed it. I wore it a few times before I washed it. The fringe is very long and another friend (Carol) had knotted her fringe in a decorative manner. So I spent a few hours on Christmas Day knotting the fringe in the same way. And ta-da!And this is a close-up of the edge that I re-did. Doesn't it look nice? I just did two rounds of US single crochet/UK double crochet as called for in the pattern and based on recommendations from crocheting friends. It doesn't really keep the edges from rolling but it is quite a bit more stable than the knitted edge and I think will be more durable.I have been living in the wrap for the past few days. I wear it under my jacket when I go out and wrapped around me in the house. It is snuggly and warm and everything I could have hoped for. I think I'm in love. It is a long time since I loved a knit so much.

I also have a bunch more stuff to blog about so I'll make up for my silence with more frequent posts over the next week.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Finishing the ESW

The finishing instructions ask one to do a couple of rows of US single crochet, UK double crochet around the entire wrap before adding the fringe. I was in two minds about doing this but I decided to do so because the combination of colors used in this crocheted edge was one of my favorites in the wrap.

Then a friend (Hi Gail, if you are reading) said she was thinking of crab stitch (reverse single crochet) rather than the single crochet. I poked around the Web yesterday and found pictures and instructions and liked it. So that's what I'm going to do.

I found I didn't have the right hook size. I am not a crocheter. My crochet skills are an adjunct to my knitting and that means I don't necessarily have the same variety of tools I have for knitting. I didn't want to buy yet another hook to crochet the edge so I had the choice of a H hook or an E hook. The size that matched the needles was G or a 4 mm hook. I thought using the H (larger) and crocheting tightly would work but it didn't. I am a loose knitter and a looser crocheter and getting the larger hook into the sts was an issue. I moved to the smaller (E) hook and am crocheting it loosely and it is working better.

I have 3 sides done (2 short and 1 long) with the foundation row of single crochet. Once I complete that, I'll work the crab st all the way around and then add the fringe. The fringe is the exciting part because the colors are so fabulous!

Any thoughts or comments on tying the fringe vs just knotting it and leaving it as is?

Monday, December 17, 2007

The ESW is done!

Pics to follow when I have added the fringe.

I knitted up the extra 54 rows in the 3rd repeat and measured. It was 150 cms or so and when I tried it on, it was the perfect size for wrapping around my neck a couple of ways. I don't want this to be a shawl, but a long scarf that I can wear as a stole indoors or wrap around my head and neck when it is too cold outside. It works as all three at this size. So I bound it off.

Next step is to do a couple of rows of crochet on the short edges to provide a place to anchor the fringe and then add the fringe. The pattern calls for crochet all the way around but I like the rolling at the long edges. It is wide enough that the rolling doesn't make it too narrow. So, like some of my friends who have made this, I am going to only crochet along the short edges.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

ESW update

I finished the second repeat last night. That is 372 rows. I measured it this morning and 372 rows only give me 129 cms. The pattern says knit till it is 148 cms. I also, very hopefully, wrapped it around myself wondering if 129 cms would be fine. Sadly, it isn't. According to the gauge I'm getting, I need to knit 54 more rows to get to 148 cms. I thought I could get away with 40 or so more. Fortunately, I'm not worried about running out of yarn. I had more than the 2 balls of Majestic (# 589) called for because I had some leftover from another shawl. If I had had only two, I'd be worried about running out of that color. It is a grayed out mauve and it is used a lot and blends beautifully with the other colors.

So on to more knitting on it. Did I mention I really want to wear it?

I also listened to and discarded the Socks in the City podcast. The content is fine, the length is fine. The delivery is driving me nuts. She uses a lot of 'umm', there are some mouthy breathing sounds, and the volume varies. I have to say that I am a very picky listener. I spend a lot of time on teleconferences and pauses in an of themselves don't bother me. But when people do the 'umm' and 'aaah' thing in between words in a sentence, it annoys me. Early in my career, I took a class on effective presentations. We were videotaped and critiqued and some common mistakes were pointed out. Jangling change or keys in one's pocket, not making eye contact with the audience, reading out verbatim from your slides, speaking in a monotone, and inserting sounds when one pauses to collect one's thoughts, were pointed out as things that irritate listeners. Since then, I have done hundreds of presentations to audiences ranging from a few folks to hundreds. While I don't consider myself to be perfect or even really, really good (some of the best are the motivational speakers, or management consultants, or probably ministers and other religious personalities), I strive to avoid the common pitfalls and it isn't that hard to cure oneself of the habit of saying 'umm' as one thinks. It just takes some work. I can understand a guest or interviewee making those mistakes but the podcaster his- or herself should not do this. They have plenty of time to practice avoidance.

I am on to Stash and Burn. I've only listened to half of one episode so I'm not making any judgment yet.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More on the Earth Stripe Wrap and gauge

Laura had two comments that I wanted to address. Thank you Laura!

First, the concept of a tighter gauge. This is one of my pet peeves. I think that we are getting too sloppy in our knitting. Knitted fabric is inherently elastic and knitting at a loose gauge for the yarn just makes it more elastic and floppy. I tend to knit most things at a much tighter gauge and when I haven't, I've regretted it. Two recent examples come to mind. You can see from the dates that these are from 2004 and 2005 respectively.This was knit in a cotton and nylon blend called Reynolds Madrigal which I picked up years ago on clearance. I am very happy with the way the sweater looks and feels but it fits horribly. The fabric is too sloppy with no body. The reason I knit it at the ball band gauge is that I was afraid I'd run out of yarn. I made a mistake in my calculations and I had plenty but I was nervous as I had multiple colors and needed to combine them to have sufficient yarn for the entire sweater. I doubt I'll wear it much. I'll keep it as a teaching tool but it looks awful when worn. This is knit in Plymouth Galway, a lovely yarn. I love it. I love the color, I love the way it fits. But again, I had bought the yarn on clearance many moons ago and I created the sweater at a gauge to fit the amount of yarn I had. I didn't make a mistake in this case and I have about half a ball left. The gauge is 5 spi which is perfect for a worsted, right? Wrong! At 5 spi, the yarn is pilling terribly. It would have been better at 5.5 spi or even 6 spi. I will wear this till it is too threadbare to wear any more. So that's my rant on gauge and why I now knit things far more tightly than I should for sweaters and socks and hats .

Lace is a different animal. I knit lace much looser than most people. I like lace to be ethereal. I like the stockinette parts to be gauzy. So shawls and scarves are knit looser than most people would recommend.

On the Earth Stripe Wrap, Laura asked if the yarn was doubled. Yes, it is but not in the way you'd think. There are two colors held throughout and the colors change frequently. Sometimes one color changes and sometimes both. The combinations are not ones I'd consider without thinking a lot about it - hot pink and brown, or teal and mauve, for example. But the resulting effect is striking and will go with anything in my closet. I'm up to row 105 on the second repeat.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Tale of two WIPs

I found the camera. It was hiding in plain sight but out of the case and I was looking for the case. Oh well. So I present visuals to complement last week's text. I have been knitting up a storm on the Earth Stripe Wrap so I have not been blogging or doing much else. I am up to row 70 on the second repeat. Each repeat is 186 rows. I present it with two different backgrounds, to give you an idea of the colors. They are amazing in the way they blend and contrast with each other. Plus the entire wrap is cushy and cozy. I am knitting it like a mad person because I want to wear it. Every day when I leave work and come out into the dark cold night, I dream of being bundled up in it.
This is the wrap on a light background with a bit more natural light. It is about 22" wide and is currently 63 cm long. I am supposed to knit till it is 148 cm long. I still think that is going to be about 410 rows or 2.25 repeats. I have a way to go. I am knitting about 35 rows every evening but I need to start by 7 pm and knit all evening. I am able to do that some evenings and not on others. This is the other WIP that I knit on when I can't knit on the ESW. It is the bottom ribbing of a man's vest. You can see the Tapestry yarn in the background. This is very mindless knitting, unlike the ESW and so far it is pretty portable. So I carry it around and knit it when I have a few minutes or am brain dead.
Here's a view of the swatch showing the broken rib pattern I'm planning to use. In the swatch, the stripes are wider but they will be narrower in the vest as there are many more sts.

Last but not least, a podcast review. I listened to a few episode of She-Knits podcast. I was extremely underwhelmed and started thinking about advertising on podcasts. I contrast Ready, Set, Knit! with She-Knits as illustrations. Both have commercial undertones. Ready, Set, Knit talks about what is going on at Webs - the closeouts, book signings, etc. But there is also stuff that is not about the store and tidbits of knitting info in the knit-along section. Instructions on short rows, doing a sloped set of bind-offs on a shoulder, etc. There is no hiding that it is commercial. No apologies. Sharon of She-Knits, by contrast, states repeatedly that she is not plugging her Etsy shops but she mentions them, the patterns she has for sale, the blogs that she has to support and market her products, etc. all through the podcasts. There is no instructional stuff. Also, she rambles a lot and there were a lot of clicks and odd pauses due to the editing. She is not a professional and I can tolerate a lot of technical malfunctions but I found those very distracting. I am not comparing the delivery of the Webs podcast with the She-Knits podcast because that would not be fair. Just the content and the overt commercialism vs. the implicit commercialism. I prefer the over commercialism . I didn't listen to all 14 episodes I had on the ipod. I gave up after 4. I am now listening to Socks in the City and will review that next time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


I was holding off so I could post photos of my Earth Stripe Wrap (ESW) but the camera seems to be hiding. But I felt guilty about not posting so here's a text only post.

I am up to row 154 which is about 25% of the way on the ESW. I am estimating about 415 rows total. It is quite amazing to see how the colors blend. I can't even imagine putting some of the colors together but it works, and works well. I can't wait to finish it because it is now cold and I could use a warm, snuggly wrap. And it is warm and snuggly. But not mindless. Even though it is all stockinette, the colors change so frequently that it is not very portable or mindless.

I also started a vest for my husband. It will be pretty mindless. It is in Rowan Tapestry in the Antique colorway in a broken rib pattern - 2 rows/rounds of k2, p2 rib followed by 2 rows/rnds of stockinette. This is the same pattern as is used in the much-knitted Blueberry Waffle socks, and is a favorite pattern of mine. The Tapestry splits a great deal but the color knits up beautifully. I am also knitting it at a much tighter gauge than recommended on the ball band.

Which brings me to a rant about loose gauges: Loose gauges are the reason so many sweaters lose their shape and look old before their time. A loose gauge is quicker to knit, which is why many yarn manufacturers have loose ball band gauges. Rowan Tapestry for example is a DK weight yarn and the ball band recommends a 5.5 sts/in gauge. So far so good. However, it is also a very loosely spun yarn so, at that gauge, it doesn't wear very well. I've seen a bunch of comments on Ravelry about how quickly it pills and I suspect this is because people have been knitting it that gauge. I am making mine at a 6.5 sts/in gauge and I like the fabric. I washed and dried my swatch and I like the way it feels and looks.

I swatched for this and cast on over the weekend and I shouldn't really do math in my head. I cast on 304 sts instead of the 272 I needed. Then I twisted the join despite checking and rechecking. However, I remembered that Elizabeth Zimmerman said that you can untwist at the end of the first round s0 I did and all is well.

I hope to have pictures of both items-in-progress soon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Confession time

I have two confessions to make today.

The first: I lied. I put up the poll in good conscience and was going to abide by the results. However, over the weekend, I ran out of things to knit and the Earth Stripe seemed a simpler knit than the Wild Apple so I started it. It was going to be my mindless knit and I fully intended to start the Wild Apple this week. But the Earth Stripe wrap is far from a mindless knit. Yes, it is all stockinette.. On the other hand, the colors change so often that one is always weaving in an end or two and trying to decide if one should leave the color to be picked up a row or three or four later. And it is tricksy. Some of the colors change after odd numbers of rows so even though the same color is used a few rows later, it has to be cut and joined as it will be used starting from the other end. Therefore, I am going to have to finish it before I start the Wild Apple. I apologize for putting you through a poll that I won't be using. Mea culpa

Second: I promised I'd leave a comment on your blog if you commented about my blog etiquette post. But I find I am unable to find your blog in some cases! I left a comment on the post to this effect but I need to make my cluelessness public.

I really like knitting the Earth Stripe Wrap, though. The yarn is gorgeous (of course) and the colors are amazing in the way they combine. Kaffe Fassett has done a wonderful job in mixing the most unlikely colors together and in some cases having interesting effects by using extremely contrasting colors in sequence. Of course, the fact that two colors are held together at all times helps and many of the colors used in the wrap blend with many other colors - chartreuse or mauve as two examples. However, I keep envisioning it completed and wrapped around me and I want to knit it all the time till it is done. Going to work, or sleep seems like a waste of time!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Podcast review and blog etiquette

I have been listening to Ready, Set, Knit. Like the Knitpicks podcast, it is authored by the owner of an online yarn store. Unlike the Knitpicks podcast, it also appears to be a regular radio show and the yarn store also has a brick and mortar presence. Ready, Set, Knit is created by the owners of Webs. It is very professionally produced and has three major segments. The first discusses new yarns and closeouts at the store, the second is an interview with mention of upcoming events at the store and the third is a knit-along with tips and techniques. It is informative but definitely feels like an infomercial. However, I still enjoyed it as the owners banter with each other and with the interviewee and the knit-along leader. Each is almost exactly 30 mins long and the content is delivered crisply as befits a radio show.

I also happened on a thread on Ravelry which intrigued me. It has to do with blog etiquette. The gist of it is that when someone leaves a comment on your blog, you should leave a comment on their blog. I understand the rationale behind this - to increase traffic to one's blog. But the principle of it bothers me. It is a self-escalating because where do you draw the line? I leave a comment on your blog, you leave a comment on my blog and then I leave a comment on your blog, etc. Where does it end? It is like gift-giving at Christmas where I give you a token gift and then you feel obliged to give me something. Next year, I buy you something a bit more expensive but this time you are prepared and you buy me something. This is how Christmas became commercial - in my humble opinion. However, I am wondering if I have committed a social gaffe in not reciprocating to those of you who have left comments here. Speak up and tell me (in an email if you don't want to leave a comment) if I didn't follow through on something you expected. I promise that I will at least leave a comment after this one instance. What is the proper etiquette in this case?Lastly, here's a photo of my completed Peacock socks.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ta da!

Here it is. This is one way to wear it but you could also pin one front on the opposing shoulder. I am very happy with the drape and the fabric.

I also finished the Opal Peacock socks this weekend. Now I have to find a new mindless project. I am tired of socks. I may switch to knitting caps with the leftovers and send them off to some charity that will take kids' caps. If I start at the crown and knit to the brim, I can knit till I'm out of yarn.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The absence and presence of color

This is a just a photo essay to compensate for the extra words lately. It is also a contrast between lack of color and a sensory overload of color. Given that we are in the darker part of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, color is very attractive and hence my choice of projects.

The wrap all blocked and drying. Close-up of the st pattern on the wrapWild Apple Bohus yarns. The body color is on the top right and the others are the yoke colors. This is from my project 'bag' for the Wild Apple which has been ready to go for a while. I have the chart and the pattern copied and put into sheet protectors. The needles are also ready to go as I have a special bag with the needles from the last Bohus.
A close-up of the yoke of the Wild Apple. This is a postcard that came with the pattern kit.
The chart for the Wild Apple .Materials for Earth Stripe Wrap organized - I made a color card for the colors. You can see the photo of the wrap on the cover of the Rowan magazine. This one is also ready to go with the needle pulled out of the needle storage and the pattern copied and put into a sheet protector.
Yarns for the Earth Stripe Wrap

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It is complete!

I bound off the large black wrap last evening, wove in ends today, and it is soaking in a warm bath, as I write this, preparatory to being blocked. Pictures in my next post. I am so excited because it turned out well and it is complete. I love working with color and the black was getting to me and my eyes. Since I can't show you the next swatch I'm going to be knitting, I thought I'd show you the yarn. The colors excite me. These are all colors of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in a few colorways. I have recently (in the past couple of years) been fascinated by what happens when you combine colors of hand-painted yarn in a pattern. If you pick colors that don't blend, you get one sort of effect but if you pick colors that blend, you get a different kind of pattern that doesn't look as if it is made with different yarns. You don't get any pooling or striping. I did this with the socks that were published in Big Girl Knits. This first picture shows the fabric achieved by combining River and Irving Park. You need to scroll down on the linked page to see the two colorways. While the blue of River stands out, the violet blends with the violet in Irving Park.
The next picture shows Irving Park by itself so you can see the difference. Irving Park is also represented in the two right-most skeins in the top photo. Since then, I've been experimenting with blending more than two colorways. These are good ways to use up that single skein of hand-painted yarn or leftovers from other projects.
I listened to PassioKnits and purl diving over the past couple of days. Passioknits is about knitting, a single voice and the content was fine. Length was also in my preferred 20-30 min range. It didn't grab my attention. however. Purl diving was a whole 'nother story. They are short little episodes - 8-20 mins each. The first one I listened to grabbed me immediately with the choice of music - The Ride of the Valkyries and Led Zeppelin's the Immigrant Song covered by Ann Wilson. Katharine Matthews also has very clear enunciation that avoids monotony and makes it very easy to listen to what she is saying. I really enjoyed listening to the 4 episodes that filled my 2 mile walk yesterday.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Blogging as a way of life

I don't think I am cut out for blogging. I see so many other blogs where people post regularly with lovely pictures and knitted items and, while I can always think of things to write about, I am not all that diligent about taking pictures or scouring the Internet so I can put things on my blog.

So that is my pathetic excuse for not writing a second blog entry during the week. I had good intentions but didn't. My week was not that bad in terms of time - busy but not overly busy. However, I spent my free time knitting rather than blogging. And I spent it knitting something that I can't post about. Maybe in the future, you will see it.

Which brings me to this blog entry's topic - am I cut out for blogging?

I am very unlike most knitters I come across on the Internet and like most knitters I know in my local area. I knit. I knit a lot. But I don't knit more than one thing at a time, maybe two. I knit almost every day but I don't knit long enough to finish or start things frequently. Therefore, I don't have a lot of new pattern starts, progress on various fronts, or new yarn coming in to generate content. I knit one thing for a few months and then move on to another thing. I get a lot of knitting done but most of it isn't interesting on a weekly basis. And then, to add to the sad story, a number of the items I knit I can't talk about. If I am knitting for a book, or a yarn company, or a submission that I hope will be picked up by someone, I can't blog about it. That is what I was knitting this week. A submission for a new book by Interweave that will come out in 2009. How boring is that? I can't talk about it now, or next year when I'm (she says hopefully) knitting it. I can talk about it in 2 years, if at all. Because if Interweave doesn't pick up the idea, I hope to sell it to someone else.

This week, besides the above-mentioned unmentionable, I am furiously knitting away on the shawl collar of the wrap. I spent a good bit of time yesterday with the daylight lamp and the magnifier picking up the sts. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT knit a row with scrap yarn when you want to keep two large sets of sts live on black yarn. I had to pick up the sts one at a time with two needles under the magnifying glass to avoid losing them. I've only done this with smaller numbers of sts in sock yarn or worsted weight yarn that wasn't black or a dark color. I should have put each set of sts on its own scrap yarn holder instead of knitting a row joining them with the scrap yarn. Lesson learned.

The good news is that I'm done with that task and am now happily ribbing the shawl collar so that you may have a photo of a blocking wrap by the time the week is over!

The technical part of our program has to do with shawl collar construction. I have all the band sts on my needle, from the bottom of the left front band to the bottom of the right front band. I marked the place where I started short rowing for the V-neck - i.e. where the V neck shaping begins on the fronts. I also marked the spots where I transitioned from the front neck to the back neck on each side.

I started by knitting about one third of the way from the back/front neck transition marker to the beginning of shaping marker on one side, and moving the back/front neck marker on that side to that spot. This is the beginning of the shawl collar shaping. I then turned and went to the corresponding place on the other side and moved that back/front neck transition marker there to set up the beginning of the shawl collar on the other side.

I am shaping the shawl collar by knitting gradually increasing short rows from one marker to the other till I get to the markers that tell me I'm at the bottom of my V-neck. After that I will knit all the way around to create the front bands. My short rows started by increasing 1 st at a time on each side for about one quarter of the rows, 2 sts for another quarter and 3 sts for the last half. I am hoping that this will give me roughly 1/3 of the short rows at 1 st, another third at 2 sts and the last third at 3 sts to create a gradual curve. I haven't done the math to see if it actually works out that way and I leave that as an exercise for all of you dear readers (if I have any at this point).

I had 40 sts for the short row shawl collar shaping on each side. I knit 10 rows of 1 st increments, 10 rows of 2 st increments and 20 rows of 3 sts increments (it is actually 21 sts as I stole a st from the band to make it come out even).

1x1 rib is boring but given it is a lot fewer sts than I was dealing with in the body of the wrap, it is going reasonably fast. I am listening to podcasts now as I knit so you will get a podcast review or two also in this entry. I realize this is a long entry that is going all over the place but that is what happens when I don't post for a few days.

I love Lixieknits It! They are short - 20-25 mins each. She has three or four segments - a blog watch, wool news and then an assortment of various things like what she's knitting or a review of the Ally Pally show at Alexandra Palace. I'm seeing a pattern here. I like international podcasts and I like ones that have some sort of knitting news or information in them.

In the same vein, I didn't like KnitWit: Rantings of a Rabid Knitter, not because there is anything wrong with the podcast but it doesn't contain the aforementioned content. She tells short stories. The part I liked is that these are short - 8-15 mins each. But I'm not looking for stories or essays when I'm knitting so the content doesn't match my mood.

I also listen to podcasts when I walk or run but I can't listen to knitting podcasts when I do that. I need to listen to podcasts that are motivational so I listen to fitness and health related podcasts. If I listen to knitting ones, I want to stop working out and knit.

Over and out!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Unpicking is hard

That is the finished large black thing sans collar. The white line down the middle is the scrap yarn that I have to undo to pick up the sts for the front bands and collar. I tried unpicking them in the car on Saturday and it didn't really work. I need two circular needles, one for each set of sts and I have to get them on the needles at the same time. I had only one and that was tough. So I gave up.

I should have done more this weekend but it turned out to be exceptionally busy. We went bookcase shopping on Saturday which pretty much ate up most of the day. Yesterday I spent an incredible amount of time entering my original designs into Ravelry. Since I've been designing since 2001 and only do 1 or 2 designs a year (except for the first year when I did 4), it takes time to dig out the details and enter them. I had to go through my magazines and books and find the ones that had the designs. I only have a couple left.

I was also busy with other personal non-knitting stuff. So no knitting although I could have used something really boring and mindless. Unpicking the scrap yarn out of the wrap didn't qualify. Since the yarn is black, I have to pay attention to make sure I have all the sts. I need to sit down with the daylight lamp and two smaller circulars and just do it. This evening also disappeared somewhere. Maybe mañana!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A busy week

I haven't posted in a week mainly because I was waiting for my new bag. I thought I'd photograph it after it arrived Monday and post an entry. But I didn't get around to taking pictures till this morning and somehow blogging about it without pictures seemed like a waste. So here it is! It is a lovely silk brocade - not very durable but pretty. It is also very practical.
This is the bag with the front flap open. As you can see there are two pockets for gadgets. I have my PDA and my cell phone there. There is a zippered pocket on the front flap also where I keep papers. There are two pen clips, one on each side of the gadget pockets. You can see the unused one as a black tab on the left of the PDA. Unfortunately, the flap is secured by velcro, which I don't like very much. Those two black circles on the flap are two grommeted holes so one can thread one's headphone cord through one of them with a music player or cell phone in the gadget pockets. Very well thought out.

Just below the strap is a nice D-ring for keys. I used to clip my keys to the zipper pull on my last bag. I didn't find that too practical as one has to pay attention during the clip/un-clip process. This is better. Also the bag is padded in the back and flexible so it is very comfortable to wear across the body.
Another practical thing is a reinforced band just below the D-ring. You can see it without anything on it in the first picture and with my ipod clipped to it in the second. It is a good place to clip your cell phone or ipod for quick access. I haven't used this yet and I think I wouldn't put my ipod there but I could see putting my cell phone there if I was expecting a call.
I also read a very moving book about knitting this week and how it helped people get through emotional crises in their lives. The book is "The Knitting Circle" by Ann Hood. I tend to get really involved in the books I read and I found myself in tears at various places in the book. I am not usually someone who reads books about knitting and I rarely read fiction that isn't a mystery. I found this on the new book shelf at the library and borrowed it on a whim. I really enjoyed it.

I was also focused on completing the large black wrap. I am pleased to announce that the body is done. I need to pick up and knit the shawl collar and then I'll be done. It has some heft to it but it is a good size. I hope the recipient likes it. I am getting psyched about finishing it as I want to start my Bohus.

Other than that, I was busy because math tutoring has started so Wed night was devoted to that. I had teleconferences for work on two other days which only left me Monday and Friday as knitting days.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Not a good knitting week

I meant to post on Thursday night but I didn't. I didn't do much of anything in the evenings this week. I am supposed to be over the jet-lag, because you make up an hour a day or so they say, and I've been back for more than a week now. But while I'm sleeping till 6 am each morning, I'm going to bed at 8:30 or 9 pm. That does not leave much time for knitting or anything else. I stayed up on Halloween to hand out candy but that is pretty much it.

Anyway, I do have pictures. These are the socks I finished while I was traveling. The orange and black ones on the left are the Schmetterling or Butterfly colorway, just in time for Halloween. The ones on the right are the Frog or Frosch colorway. I also have one sock done in the Peacock colorway and am past the heel on the second. These are all knit toe up so there is only the leg and cuff to do. I find that there is a distinct difference between my yarn preference s for knitting socks and for wearing them. Sock I love knitting are not necessarily the ones I love wearing. For example, I really didn't like knitting the Frog socks. Too boring. But I know they will get a lot of use because the colors are ones that match a lot of my outfits. Ditto on the Peacock. But the Butterfly was a fun knit because the colors change so often. I will probably wear them too but not as often as the others. The other fiberly thing I did was to get a quilt ready for quilting. My mother had hand-pieced a quilt together from sewing scraps. It is like looking through a memory book because I can identify clothing I had made for myself. I started that quilt one summer as a teenager and my mother continued it and worked on it till she died a few years ago. I had put it aside thinking I wanted to finish it by hand but I realized a few months ago that this is not likely in the near term. I found a local quilter who will quilt it for me and then I need to do the hand sewing on the edging.My mother had paper pieced it so there were little card templates on the inside of the edges. The first step was to remove these and the basting that held them together. I couldn't steam open the seam allowance on the edges as the hand sewing had caught them in many cases. I would have to open up the seams and re-do them. So I am going to turn the backing under and hand sew it to the pieces on the front to finish. The next step was to baste the seam allowance in place so that it would stay under during the quilting. I picked out a lovely rusty marbled fabric for the backing/binding and a wool batting.The quilt top consists of 2x2" squares, alternating plain and printed fabrics. The prints are mostly clothing I made and wore. The plain ones are my mother's cholis. Looking at this close-up, the brown with white polka dots; the black stripes with the red and white flowers; the purple with the white geometric design; the really bright swirls of pink, green , brown and turquoise; and the yellow with the purple pin dots and flowers are all shirts I made for myself. The mauve and white gingham near the bottom is the base for a dresser set I embroidered in counted cross-stitch. It really brings back my teenage years. My color preferences don't appear to have changed much.

I ran today. I've been good about exercising this past week after being really spotty for months. I listened to two episodes of Lime and Violet while walking/running and they are just too long for me. Each was an hour and something and I find that splitting them over multiple days just doesn't work. But the good news is that I think I'm getting the mind over body thing. I find that I can run for short intervals but once I get to 3-4 mins I just get bored and stop. Today I ran for 5 mins at a stretch, but the real victory was that I wasn't checking the watch every few seconds. I was able to veg out and run. This is going to be the key to my actually running for 30 mins at a stretch, because you can't run for that long while looking at your watch every few seconds. While walking, I veg out but running for some reason never allowed me to do that even when I am not out of breath. But I love the way I feel after running even for a short time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Unexpected Treasure

I promised you a cool vintage knitting gadget last week and here it is. I was visiting my mother's aunt, one of the people who guided my early knitting adventures. She suddenly produced this and asked me if I knew what it was. Of course I did! Apparently, my mother's high school/college classmate (who also happened to be present) had found it in her late sister's posessions and had given it to my great-aunt because she knew my great-aunt knits.

It is a yarn holder. See the hole in the top? The yarn comes out of that hole. You can wear the loop around your wrist and wander around knitting as you go. There is a delicate flower and leaf pattern embossed into the top.

It is easier to see its purpose from this photo.

The top unscrews to reveal the cavity where you put the yarn. I think the hole in the bottom is so one can stick the needles into the yarn ball when not knitting.

It is difficult to see but the notches around the edges of the bottom hole are graduated. Each is marked with a UK needle size. So you always have a needle gauge with you when you carry this cute little yarn holder. The entire thing is made of Bakelite so I think it is pretty indestructable.

The size is not very big. I couldn't get my 100 gm ball of Opal sock yarn into it.

My great-aunt asked me if I wanted it. She had tried to use it but it only works for center-pull balls and she didn't know how to wind one. If you try to use it with a non-center-pull ball, the yarn gets stuck as there isn't enough clearance for the ball to rotate in the holder. Not being one to refuse cool things, I promptly said 'yes' and am now the proud owner of this yarn holder.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Armenian Knitting

A treat was waiting for me when I got home. Some of you may remember Elsa Schiaparelli's famous bow sweater. I didn't remember that I had seen it decades ago till I saw the photo of it.
Joyce Williams and Meg Swansen of Schoolhouse Press were contacted as part of an exhibit of her work a few years ago. They were intrigued by the technique which was called Armenian Knitting even though no real evidence exists of it originating in Armenia. The current working hypothesis is that Elsa had a knitter from Armenia who executed her designs using this technique. Like stranded knitting, it is worked with two colors all the time. It is not intarsia, which is what one first considers when seeing these designs. Instead, the design is worked by stranding, working each st in the appropriate color. The novel part of the technique is in the large single color sections. The unused color is carried throughout the fabric, woven in periodically with the working color, so that it peeks out and gives a tweedy effect to the right side.

Schoolhouse Press has published a new book on the subject. The front and back covers feature a child's vest with a flower on it by Meg and Joyce's stunning Lily jacket.

This is the back of the jacket.

All the designs are done in J&S Shetland jumper-weight. As with anything from Meg and Joyce, the book also includes innovative garment shaping and use of techniques.
The front of the jacket continues the Lily design. The inside shows the unused color that is 'trapped' . You can see the color changes that form the lily stem and flower.

Joyce is also the designer behind the Olive Branch sweater (front above and back below).
Joyce's whimsical vision extends to this Knit-Purl sweater. The front features a magnified image of a knit fabric, the back has the same image of a purl fabric. Great for knitting teachers!

Additionally, she combines the two into a garter stitch underarm section (seen at left). All you ever need to know about the structure of a knitted fabric is on this sweater.

The remaining designs are Meg's. There are two butterfly sweaters. The Monarch one (below) is what caught my attention. I love the asymmetry and the colors. Black and red is my favorite color combination.
Meg couldn't resist adding the date of knitting on the sleeve. As she said, it is very hard not to create a design with the contrast color when you are carrying it along.

All the designs are charted. The charts are large, but easy to read, creating the details that make these designs so engaging.

I also fell in love with the Cossack vest. This is a photo of the vest that I took at Camp this year. Last, but not least, there are patterns for three hats, two of which you can see in the photo above.