Friday, August 31, 2007

Theme of the week

I think I will organize things with a theme of the week based on what is on my mind. This coming week's theme is designing and finishing a lace stole. I just completed a stole for a class. Let's start at the very beginning: I was asked to teach a lace class at my LYS this fall. Great! I love lace. Then the owner came over with the yarn (#34 of 48 - look in the lower right for the numbers) and I fell in love with it. It is a gorgeous color - the color of my favorite beverage - coffee! I look at the label and it is coffee-dyed! But something about the yarn made me think cables, not lace. So I decide to combine them. The yarn is a merino/cashmere single. Absolutely luscious in look and feel.

The next step is to look for a pattern. I scoured my very large library of knitting stitch dictionaries. These represent possibilities. For some knitters, their stash represents possibilities. For me, it is the books and the ideas contained in them that represent possibilities. In this case, I wanted patterns that were relatively simple because it was for a beginning lace class. So patterns with repeated rows are good. Also patterns with some plain rows. And the patterns have to look cohesive together.

The next step was to think about construction. This is iterative with the process of finding the stitch patterns. My past experience with lace classes is that people don't finish their projects. I've done little lace sachets, scarves and a shawl. This stole class is going to be similar to the shawl class. Multiple sessions, walking students through each step of the process and then having them do the rest of the work at home. In the shawl class, this worked very well BUT, the edging tripped everyone up. Who wants to knit endless repeats of edging when the teacher isn't there with the whip cracking? So no edging. Which implies the stole needs to be self-edged. I had been pondering an up-and-down center with sideways knitted sides for a while and so that is what I decided to do. I didn't like the idea of cables going horizontally so the cables had to be in the center section.

What does this mean vis a vis the stitch patterns. Well, the side stitch pattern's stitch repeat count must divide evenly into the center stitch pattern's row repeat count. You'll see later that I blew this but for now, I had the math I needed. Back to the books with this decision in mind.

I found what I was looking for and I started swatching. The patterns are in two different books - both Japanese stitch dictionaries. This is the way I swatch. I knit with different needles (usually 3 sizes) so I can compare fabrics and decide which gauge to use. In this case, I used US 8, 9 and 10. The little tags indicate needle size for future reference. The first repeat of the cable/lace pattern at the bottom left is the size 8. The repeat above that is the size 9. The top two repeats on the left and the sideways knit pattern are on size 10s. You can see that the swatch is misshapen because of this.

The swatch was washed and blocked (w/o the tags of course!). Next comes a big decision. How wide do I make the center section. There are 3 possibilities: center and sides equal in size, center larger than sides and center narrower than sides. I was leaning towards the latter because the first was too symmetric and offended my sense of asymmetry. But luckily I was at Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp so it was easy. I walked around and polled people. Bridget Rorem, who designed Ingrid's Bridal Knot Shawl in A Gathering of Lace, had a really good rationale for her recommendation. Making a narrower center section would make the wearer's body look larger as the back would be divided by the sections. That made a lot of sense so I decided on a 3' center with 1.5' side panels giving me approximately a 6' shawl that would be approximately 22" wide. I measured the swatch and calculated the st count based on the size 10 needle fabric. I had to make sure that I had a half repeat at the end to mirror the beginning. Now I could cast on. I did and knitted a few inches. But I found the fabric too floppy. So I ripped carefully and started over with size 9 needles.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Knito, ergo sum

I have very mixed emotions about blogging. Blogging is a one-many relationship rather than a many-many relationship like a community. In a community, anyone can talk to anyone else and have different relationships within the community. It is a network. Blogging, on the other hand, is a relationship between the blogger and the readers of the blog and all other relationships go through the blogger.

But, there are many times when I want to write about my knitting and share my point of view with others and lists are limited to words. When I post my point of view to most lists, I can almost imagine the confused looks from most members. Having the ability to provide visuals is becoming more important and that is why I am blogging.

So what is this blog about?
Mostly it is about me. जया. That is my name in Sanskrit and it is the feminine form of victorious. Many years ago, I was christened the Queen of a project I was working on by a friend and colleague. So the tsarina comes from queen and my philosophy is 'I knit, therefore I am'. For the Latin scholars out there, cringing at my grammar, I apologize in advance. I have never studied Latin. I made this up and if you want to correct me, I would love to get the correct phrase.

I will mostly blog about knitting, but I reserve the right to write about whatever is on my mind. Right now, that is mostly trying to get more hours in the day. I am extremely busy at work, I have books in my queue that I need to read, there are chives growing in my walkway that I need to kill, and I have to prepare for two classes next week. I have to finish editing a pattern for a project in an upcoming Interweave Knits book and finish a stole that is the sample for a class I'm teaching this fall. I don't want to do any of these things. I want to sleep and knit something mindless.

Oh well... some day I will