Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Paen to Perfection

I took two of Jean Wong's classes at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat. The first was on Tailored Knitting the Japanese Way and the second was Fine Finishing Techniques. The latter's material is covered in Jean's DVD which I show below. I am in the process of putting Elizabeth Zimmerman/Meg Swansen's Knitting Glossary DVD on my Ipod and will do the same with this one so I have the techniques at hand when I need them. Knitting with Jean is a two disc set. I believe in supporting entrepreneurs so I bought her DVD.
In the tailored knitting class, we took each other's measurements and then drafted full size pullover patterns for ourselves. This is very similar to the sewing pattern drafting I did in India when I was learning to sew my own clothes. There are some differences. Knitting is more forgiving and elastic so the allocated ease is different. We also did not have to put in seam allowances - they are added in as selvedge stitches. We didn't have to add darts although we discussed adding them via short rows. Here is my front and sleeve patterns - a bit creased from travel but intact. We drafted them on centimetre graph paper.One of the key differences is in the treatment of the curves. Obviously, the curves in the side seam are just increase and decrease rates which are calculated as usual. However the curves of the neck, armhole and sleeve cap are not regular. So we drew a grid customized to our stitch and row gauge using a gauge ruler provided by Jean. The ruler is the fanned out set of strips (there are two of them) in the linked photo. Then we drew in a set of steps (since knitting can't form a smooth curve) to be not less than the area under the curve we were modelling. You can see my grids for the front neck, armhole and sleeve cap in the photo below. I will show you the swatch in a later post about my acquisitions at Madrona. I am violating one of Jean's teachings by using this pattern for a cardigan rather than a pullover. But somehow the yarn is telling me it needs to be a cardigan and not a pullover. I have to obey the yarn!
Jean also taught us how to slip stitch a set-in sleeve into an armhole using a crochet hook. This used to be my preferred way to sew a seam even though I'm leaning towards mattress stitch these days.

The finishing class involved lots of bind offs for 1x1 and 2x2 rib. The Japanese attention to detail uses different numbers of knit sts at the beginning and end of ribbing based on its application. We covered binding all these off in a tubular fashion. We also learned the Japanese short row method that I've used for a good many years now for socks mostly. Jean's preferred shoulder seam is not exactly a 3 needle BO but similar. We also learned how to join in a new ball of yarn in the middle of a row invisibly by duplicate stitching the tails in. Many of these techniques are not new to me but there were little things that were different in almost all of them. The class appealed to my love of technique. I am a technique junkie, always trying something new and sometimes finding a new favorite. I hate to knock something till I've tried it so I keep trying lots of things. My favorites also change over time as I get bored easily.

I want to say hi to Ann who I met online many years ago but met in person at Madrona. I also want to thank mehitabel for her solicitous comment after my last post. I had a drippy nose - due to allergies or a cold - but no other symptoms. I think the Nyquil/Dayquil combo I was taking to keep from getting stuffed up caused most of the exhaustion. But the nasal issues caused sinus headaches and coughs and nausea from the post-nasal drip so I was not very comfortable.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Back at last

I have been silent because I've been travelling and not well. There is nothing worse than being ill while on the road.

I had good intentions. I took my camera to Madrona to record the event and blog about it but I didn't. I lost my memory card and so that plan came to naught. Then I was going to blog text posts but caught a cold or had a bad allergy after I left Madrona and went to the Bay area on a business trip. It was all I could do to keep up with work for the first couple of days and just wanted to stay in bed. But staying in bed in a hotel room is not exactly like staying in bed at home so I didn't.

After that, I got better with drugs but I was still exhausted and falling into bed after dinner without even thinking about blogging.

I came home early this am (12:15 am to be exact) and will now set about recording my doings over the past couple of weeks. There is a lot of exciting stuff to talk about but each deserves its own time in the spotlight so I won't rush it.

I am glad to be home.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I am one lucky gal!

I had two more acquisitions in the mail this week. I am tickled to death about both of them.This is from my friend Bettina. I mailed her a pair of socks that didn't fit me and looked as if they would fit her. I asked for some unusual (to me) yarns in exchange. She overwhelmed me by what she sent. The pink and lavender yarn on the left is a merino/cashmere sock yarn from Posh yarn in the UK. The other two are cashmere yarns from Hipknits, also in the UK. The center is a sock yarn and the one on the right is laceweight. I love the colors and the yarns are to die for.
Next comes another luscious yarn. I have always drooled over the Swan, ever since I acquired Poems of Color. It is finally available from Solveig Gustafsson at the original Bohus gauge. I really wanted the black version but it wasn't available. Solveig has also done a beige version but I didn't really like that. The white one would not look good on me at all. After some discussion, she agreed to substitute a pale grey for the white main color. So here's my Swan kit with the original pattern. in Swedish. The main color is true in the photo above but the yoke colors are better in the photo below.
I have been knitting away on my Wild Apple. It always starts slowly but then you build up a rhythm of how to work the colors and it gets more and more exciting as the colors build up to create the gorgeous yoke. Mine is just getting to the wild part. So far it has been varying shades of greens but I just did the first row of the apples and now I will be adding the vibrant colors that makes this yoke stand out.

Monday, February 4, 2008


I'm past the neck band on the Wild Apple and have started the color work. I had forgotten how absorbing it is and how much fun. Here's a picture of the cast on. I am using 2 circs here as I didn't have a longer circ in the 2mm size I needed. I wanted to pass on a tip on how to avoid the dreaded twist while joining. This also helps with casting on large numbers of stitches. Place a coil-less pin (as I have) or a bobby pin or a paper-clip or something like that every so often. In this case I have put pins every 20 sts. You can easily count how many sts you have cast on. Also, when it comes time to join, you just have to make sure that all the pins or clips are oriented the same way with respect to the needle -either facing out or facing in. The weight of the pins also helps keep the cast on edge on the same side of the needle so it is less likely to twist.I now also have a 32" 2mm circular needle. I got my order of needles from KnitPicks. Here you can see the Harmony circular interchangeable set and the extra cords I bought. I bought the longer cords (40", 47" and 60") so that I can knit larger shawls with both this set and my Options set. I also got a few fixed circulars (you can see a couple below) as well as the ones I need for the Bohus sweaters - the 2mm, the 2.25 mm and the 2.5 mm. I have some of these but the length is shorter. I don't like using them because the joins are not nice, or I don't like them because I can't do magic loop as I get closer to the ends of the sleeves. I have realized I don't like doing color work with dpns and I want to put some color on the sleeves of the Wild Apple. So I need to either use 2 circs (also not a favorite for color work) or use 1 long circ. I didn't have the 1 long circ, hence the acquisition. I also went to NYC this weekend and acquired some very fine kenbo silk from Habu textiles. This cone represents 2 oz or about 1800 yds. It is a lovely eggplant color. True, traditional eggplant color. Here's some of the yarn stretched out next to a 2.25 mm needle. It is very much like sewing thread. I want to make a fine shawl out of a doily pattern. It should be interesting. The good news about something like this is that it is a relatively inexpensive experiment. It is also a good vacation project as one only needs this small cone to finish the entire project.
More pics of the Wild Apple later as the more interesting colors develop. Right now it is a blue that is not very photogenic.