Saturday, December 26, 2009

My silence explained

I'm sorry for the silence over the past couple of weeks. I was traveling - visiting my daughter in South America. I had a wonderful time. Not much fiber related news though. I picked up this book which is fascinating. It includes the history of weaving, techniques and designs - including the meaning of some of the traditional ones.
Here are some photos of traditional designs.Lovely photos of the people weaving and preparing the fiber. I did see women spinning on a drop spindle, dyeing, weaving and preparing fiber in traditional ways.I also got a lot of knitting done. I finished the Faroese shawl from the Faroese shawl book. I blocked it yesterday and am wearing it right now. It is made from sock yarns so it is machine washable.
Here is a closeup of the fabric. The two Mini Mochi yarns are soft and fuzzy and the Socks that Rock on the top and the border is more textured and tightly spun. Overall it is nice and wearable. I can tie it behind my back in the traditional Faroese style if I wish.
This is an overview of the entire shawl as it was drying. It is very bright and colorful for these gray winter days. I call it Land and Sea as it reminds me of the ocean, the undergrowth and then mountains and trees in the background.
I started knitting another small shawl out of sock yarn on my trip but it is only about 2/3 done. I'll post pics of it next time.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The straight-away

Thank you for all the lovely comments on the shawl. Your support and admiration have kept me going. The chocolate espresso bread is straight out of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. You can get some recipes from an article published in Mother Earth News and from the authors' blog posts. It is a tad too long in the instructions for me to repeat it here.

Here is a view of what the shawl will look like when it is done. Of course it isn't blocked yet so you can see puckers on one side and it is stretched out on the other side. The edging is not grafted yet and the neck edging needs to be done but these are tiny efforts compared to what has been completed.
To celebrate, and because I needed a break with easy knitting, I decided to start a new shawl. This is loosely based on Ingili from Føroysk Bindingarmynstur / Faroese Knitting Patterns aka Bundanaurriklaedid. I am not doing a lace pattern, unlike the original, and my gauge is not as fine as the one pictured in Judy Gibson's site (at the link). I am just doing a simple st pattern of 3 rows knit and 1 row purl. A closeup shows the ridges.
The sts are all crowded on the needle so it is not easy to see in the bigger picture. But each 2 rows are smaller than the previous 2 so it will get easier as I go on. I started with a provisional CO as I'll come back and figure out how to finish the bottom edge after I complete the shawl.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Endless Edging

I am trying to see how best to photograph bread. This is in natural light by the window. Still not great. A chocolate espresso bread that is perfect for breakfast: chocolate and caffeine and not sweet at all. I made part of it into cupcakes to take to work. It will be a perfect morsel when I need a pick-me-up.
The 48 repeats of edging are coming along. I took it to a dinner last Sat and no one could figure out what I was knitting! I had to promise to come back and show it to them after it was finished. Now, if the dinner had been last night they would have understood. Here's a photo of the current state of the shawl. The neck is a bit small due to the length of the cable but otherwise it is pretty accurate as to what it is going to look like. I am pleased with it but the edging is endless. sigh

I have two tips for knitting on edging today:
  1. If you find you are off by a shawl st or so in attaching the edging and you haven't accidentally forgotten to knit a st onto the edging, you can skip attaching on one row or attach two sts at once to make it come out even. It won't be noticeable.
  2. Count, count, count: if you find you are a st short, you can make a st in the appropriate spot as long as you do it quickly. Either pick up a running thread to make a yarnover after the fact if you are missing one or just make a st, if you decreased one too many. The trick is to do it in the correct spot in the repeat. The sooner you do it after the mistake, the less likely it is to be noticeable and you could escape having to rip even a row or two.
Fudging is your friend.
I got a surprise in the mail the other day! My exercise buddy sent me a gift. 2 skeins of pretty sock yarn, some h ighlighter tape in my favorite purple and a sachet of Eucalan. lsn't the sock yarn lovely?

I met a German 20-something yesterday and learned that her grandmother sends her hand-knit socks. I showed off my Regia socks and she said she had the same yarn made into socks. How neat is that? One can never have too much sock yarn or too many hand-knit socks.

I also swatched for the Faroese shawl that I'll be working on soon. This is the pattern I am going to do - not garter st but just a purl row thrown in every 3 knit rows. The Mini Mochi is soft but splitty. I think it is going to be a cuddly shawl.
Back to edging...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bread, yarn and lace

First the lace: I am really happy with the way the lace edging is turning out on the shawl. It is hard to see how nice it is in the unblocked stage so I hope you get an idea of it.

I chose to leave it as it turned out. The second row of the pattern is on the right side. I also didn't do a chain st as I joined. I did a k2tog on the wrong side, turned, and then slipped the st with the yarn in the back. This creates an edge that looks about the same on both sides.

Thank you for the encouragement and the condolences on the long binding off/edging process and the help in deciding which side to make the right side.
Here is a close-up of the lace border. See how nicely it echoes the triangles in the edge of the shawl?
This view is from a little further out. I am a little less than a quarter of the way done. There will be 48 repeats of the edging in total and I have completed 10. They go pretty fast but I get tired of doing it so I don't do more than 2-3 at a time. There is no rush. It will get done.

Now the bread part. I baked a loaf from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. I tested recipes for this book and this is the basic recipe for lean french bread. Except that during the testing, I discovered I could add sourdough starter to it and also mix up the flours. So this is mostly whole wheat flour with a bit of rye and a little less than 1/3 bread flour. I added a cup of mixed dried berries/cherries - mostly cranberries but I used up some dried blueberries and tart cherries - and a cup of walnuts to the dough. It makes a pretty loaf when cut.
My loaf shaping skills are getting better but they aren't great yet. This is acceptable, not ugly but not beautiful. You can see the loaf got a lot of spring in the oven - those cuts were closed when I put it in.
I am preparing to knit my first bottom up Faroese shawl. This is the lot of yarn that I put together for it. I am going to start with a provisional CO at the bottom, knit up with the blue Mini Mochi yarn (the balls) first, then the green and finally the Socks that Rock (the skein) if I need it. The rest of the Socks That Rock will go into a lace edging at the bottom that I'll add on later. Isn't it amazing how well these go together given I bought the Mini Mochi yarns at one time and the Socks That Rock at another?

Yes, I plan ahead but that is the way I am. I plan out projects in my head (imagi-knitting) long before I actually start to knit them. I usually only knit one project at a time and I guess this is how I get variety in my knitting!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

768 sts - oh my!

What do 768 sts look like? A big mess, that is what. Here they are. All 129 rounds of Stor Rund Dug. The sts are crowded on the needle and I can't spread them out enough to show you what it looks like.

But the real question today is whether there is a right or a wrong side to this garter st based edging. I have done half a repeat so far. Here's one side...Here's the other with a bit of the shawl pattern showing...I can't distinguish any real differences between them. I think I'll stick to the way it is coming out for now, but I'd love to hear if you can see a difference or have a preference.

Here is the chart I created for the edging. It is an old classic called Cockleshell. I wanted something that echoed the triangle shapes in the shawl. You can see them right above the edging. It also had to be a multiple of 8 so the triangles would fit exactly into the shapes in the edging.

And a photo of it in the Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker. It is the lower one.

This is the edging I am going to do at the neckline. Remember, this is a donut shaped circular shawl with a hole in the middle for my neck. So this edging, from Knitting Lace by Barbara Abbey, is going at the neckline. It is much narrower but has some similar elements to the one on the bottom.
That is what it looks like in the book.
Sorry for the really bad photos. It got dark so I had to use the flash. In some cases, that washed out the photo so I went back to no-flash.

I hope there will be better pictures next week.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Two weeks

I am sorry I didn't post last week. I was away and had the most amazing Sunday. More on that later. I am going to try and give you two weeks worth of reading though!

I felt confident enough to truly experiment on a bread recipe the week before last. Until now, I have been experimenting with adding different flours or ingredients but not really trying to make up my own recipe. But I was desperate. I had sourdough starter to feed and that means that I had to find something to do with the excess starter. I decided to combine it with the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes recipe to see if I could come up with a sourdough version of the wet-dough method. They have one on their blog so I used that as a base but didn't add any commercial yeast because I had a lot of starter. The recipe in the book doesn't have any weights, just volume measures and the recipe on the blog starts with some old dough based on their recipe, not real sourdough starter. So I improvised.

The dough was very wet when I took it out in 24 hours to bake. So wet that I couldn't do anything with it. I should have used Jim Lahey's 'bake in a pot' method. But I baked it on a stone free form like a ciabatta and that is exactly how it turned out. The only problem is that there isn't enough salt so the bread tastes flat. It is also a little wet on the inside because the crust turned almost black before the inside cooked fully. I think I should have used a lower oven temperature. Next time...
I love the large irregular holes. I am going to toast it today and put a garlic parmesan spread on it to eat with ravioli for dinner.

While I was away, my pre-ordered bread books arrived. I had also bought one a few weeks ago so I have lots to play with. Clockwise from the top: Peter Reinhart's new Artisan Breads Every Day, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François's new Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice and Jim Lahey's new My Bread. I tested recipes for Peter Reinhart's Artisan Bread Every Day so I can recommend the book without looking at it. My name is listed in the long list of testers in the back. The others need some reading and baking before I can review them.
Now, on to my Sunday last week. I went to Berkeley to visit friends, taking a day off from a long and tiring business trip. I was in downtown San Francisco without a car, so I took the BART for the first time. We spent the day knitting and spinning and eating with a short trip to the Edible Schoolyard. The garden made me nostalgic for next year's CSA season. Food included a lovely crustless quiche, a fruit compote with home-grown fruit, home-made scones with home-made fig jam and a lovely buckle from Sweet Adeline's. Unfortunately, the day ended all too soon.

My friend Therese gave me this gorgeous green roving to play with on my wheel.
During the rest of the week, I walked a lot on the Embarcadero and ate at Greens restaurant, visited the Ferry Building and made a quick dinner trip to Chinatown's R&G Lounge. Other that that, it was all work, work, work.

I got back last night. As always, I overestimated how much knitting I could get done on a trip and took along a new project when I didn't even get to finish the Stor Rund Dug shawl. However, my friends helped me pick out a different edging that I'm more comfortable with. More on that later.

Today, I took a tip from Janine, and made a ditty bag for my spinning oil. I took the foot of a sock where the heel had worn out. I had already used the leg for another project. I finished off the cut edge with a rolled stockinette edging and added a cord and a cord stop. Voila! a spinning oil bag to hang on my wheel.
So that is a a non-knitting report on 2 weeks. I have made some progress on the shawl and I hope to be done with the body soon. It is fun knitting but when each round has 48 repeats, it takes a while to get through each one. Another 10 or 15 rounds are left.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rhinebeck 2009

and a little knitting...

First the knitting: I've been making a lot of progress on the Stor Rund Dug shawl. It suits my mood - a little complex but not too complex, light, and wonderful tactile experiences. The silk/wool is heavenly in the hands. I am on the last set of pattern rounds but I have 48 repeats of each section so it is not a rapid knit. Each round takes appreciable minutes to complete.
I have been having fun looking through my lace pattern books for an edging. Currently, I have decided on the Alpine edging from the second Walker treasury. It is also in Sharon Miller's Heirloom knitting. It seems to complement the triangles in the body of the shawl. Let's see if I change my mind by the time I finish the remaining pattern rounds.

Now on to Rhinebeck. I am sorry I didn't post last week but it was such a grey day on Sunday and I was tired from all the Rhinebeck excitement on Saturday. I wasn't sure the colors of the items I bought would show up correctly in the photographs. So I waited and couldn't find a time during the week to take the photos. But today is a nice sunny day and so here they are.
This is an electric blue roving from Gale's Art. I think this will perk up a winter's day beautifully.
This lovely mix of reds, a little blue and some tawny shades is from Stony Mountain Fibers. I think it is called Mohave Sunset. I love the colors and waited in the most amazingly slow line to buy it . I was only the 3rd person in line but the guy doing the checking out was such a slow mover that it took forever. I think that is a demonstration of my love for the roving.
Lastly, some mauve roving from a Verb for Keeping Warm. Mauve is one of my favorite colors and I haven't found too many that I didn't like. Do you see a pattern here? Roving, roving, roving and no yarn so far. That would make sense if I actually was spinning. I bought some spinning oil and I plan to start again but the knitting is attracting me so much right now that I don't feel like spinning.

I bought this the day before Rhinebeck from the Woolen Rabbit. She wasn't a vendor at Rhinebeck but had some leftover yarn in her car as she was on her way back from another fiber festival. This happened to come home with me. It is a luscious merino, cashmere, nylon mixture that I think will become a shawl. Lastly, see what arrived in the mail! I had preordered this Shetland combed top from Schoolhouse Press when I was at Camp. I had forgotten all about it. I have one more color coming. This is the top that made me want to learn to spin. It is absolutely gorgeous and the colors have so much depth. They are all natural shades.

I think there will be more knitting before there is spinning but I see a lot of spinning in my future this winter.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Scarf angst

I finished the scarf in 4 days of actual knitting. It is a pretty easy pattern even though I had to stop and fix a few errors here and there. But I didn't enjoy knitting it. Scarves do that to me. I get bored knitting straight up and down for such a long time with no increases or decreases and the rows are so short!

I also don't like wearing scarves - I don't like things around my neck. So generally, I knit them for others or for classes - like this one. I am pleased with how it turned out though.

There it is, all blocked and hanging! I didn't pin it. I just washed it and patted it out to dry. You can see the slight waves in the sides but I think this adds to the charm.

A close-up that is not fuzzy! You can see the beads and how they bring out the green in the yarn. The yarn is lovely. It is very soft and quite durable. I am lazy about breaking the yarn and stringing beads. So I strung 4 tubes at first. Then the remaining 6 tubes after that. I had to move the beads down slowly at first and faster after there were fewer of them.

I used a Russian join when I had to break and join the yarn after the first set of beads ran out. This eliminates any weaving in of ends at the join and is also invisible. It is the only join I ever use in lace.
This last photo was to show the ends and the right and wrong sides. There are just a few rows of garter st at the ends. I think the scarf will curl as there are only 4 sts in garter st at each side. We'll have to see. I've dropped it off at the yarn store to use as a sample for the class so I won't have a chance to check that out for a while.

One other tip: I was 8 beads short for the last repeat. I wasn't going to go out and buy another tube of beads for the lack of 8 beads. I adjusted the beads in the last repeat so that I was able to divide up the shortage among the rows with the least amount of impact. If you look carefully, you may be able to see the difference between the first repeat on the left and the last repeat on the right. Or maybe not!

I am back to knitting the Stor Rund Dug shawl and I am really enjoying it. The yarn is light and silky and the lace is so engaging that it is fun to knit!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lace beginnings

Thank you for the lovely compliments on the gansey. I am very pleased with it. There is a grace and subtlety about those old gansey patterns as well as the connection to our knitting foremothers that creates an instant bond with ganseys. Plus, they are incredibly practical garments and so easy to knit. But I was tired of texture. I am like a butterfly in my focus, I flit, I float, I lack commitment to any style of knitting. I wanted something light and airy after the weight and solidity of the gansey. I had thought about doing a Bohus and that is still on the schedule but I am taking a lace vacation.

I started two projects this week, very unusual for me. They are not quite in order here. The second project was the Undulating Waves scarf by Laura Nelkin. I am knitting it in the called-for yarn - Heather - which is a superwash merino, silk and nylon blend. It would make a good sock yarn. Unlike many of the projects on Ravelry, that use coordinating beads and therefore create a more subtle effect, I went for splashy. I am very pleased with the result because the lime green beads bring out the green in the colorway. For some reason, this photo is out of focus but it shows the pattern and colors rather well. It is a reasonably engaging knit. The pattern is easily memorized but keeps one's interest. I did 7.5 out of 19 repeats yesterday.
Here is a photo of the entire length I finished. I think I'm going to do a gentle block to keep the texture and curl in the scarf.
I needed to get beads mid-week, so I started this last weekend and am at rnd 50 or so out of 129. Of course the rounds get larger and larger as one goes along. It is Stor Rund Dug from Yarnover. Instead of making a circular shawl, I started with a magic cast-on putting half the sts on a cable instead of knitting up around them. I decided to skip the initial set of yarnover decreases where one doubles the sts every round or so. I cast on 96 sts which I thought was sufficient to go over one's head on a US size 7 needle. But to hedge my bet, I also knit back and forth for the first few rounds to create a small placket which I can sew up or finish if I need the extra width.
The cable is visible at the bottom of the knitted piece. I'm hoping the end result will be like a Mananita by Meg Swansen. You can see it on the cover of the Knitting Lace DVD on Schoohouse Press's home page. That way the lace is all visible, the shawl stays on one's shoulders and leaves the hands free to do whatever.

Better photos to come in the weeks ahead as the projects get bigger. Have you noticed a similarity (beyond lace) to these two projects?

The countdown to Rhinebeck has begun. It is 2 weeks away. The excitement around here this weekend is the opening of Walkway over the Hudson. It used to be a railroad bridge but has been converted into a pedestrian walkway with incredible views of the Hudson river. You can see a live feed of the opening ceremonies here. I haven't gone to walk it yet because I'm waiting for the crowds to thin. But I will be there soon. I went part-way on the old bridge before it came down and the views are spectacular!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gansey Saga, Finis

The gansey is done. Today, I thought I would spend some time describing some of the design details that one has to consider when creating one's own designs. First of all, the bottom border. The pattern of the sweater should flow from the bottom border. I tend to vacillate between ribbing and carrying elements of the design into the border. In this case, I opted for the latter but I still planned the ribbing so it would line up with the pattern elements.

The ribbing matches the vertical lines in the pattern elements so that a vertical knit line doesn't flow from a purl st in the border. To do this, I had to put 2 purls next to each other below the garter ladder.
Another element to think about is what happens at the neckline. The front neckline is especially critical because it is right in front of a viewer's eyes. The pattern must end appropriately at the neckline: Either a full or a half pattern repeat can work depending on the pattern. In this case, I could have succeeded with a half diamond but not a quarter or a three-quarter diamond. As you can see, I was able to end with a full pattern repeat at the front neck.
At the back neck, I was off by 1 row. I could have done one more row but I decided not to as it looked OK. The back neck isn't as critical as the front neck but an obvious fraction of a pattern that doesn't look complete can be quite noticeable.

Also watch out for the pattern at the neck shaping. I was able to hide a couple of decreases in a cable cross which allowed me to cross the cable almost all the way to the end so it didn't suddenly become a stockinette column. Some amount of fudging is sometimes necessary. Aesthetics are more important than being true to the pattern!

I also lucked out at the armholes. I hadn't planned it and was planning to wing it when I got there. I could have converted part of the pattern into a stockinette section but I found that my diamonds turned into waves as half of them vanished into the armhole but the other half remained. That worked out very well but is also something to think about as you design.

I put the design on the sleeve right at the point where the diamonds would fit exactly into the sleeve width. I could have put it lower down also as there are multiple places where the math works out. But I decided to put it at the first place where the sleeve width was an exact multiple of the diamond pattern center. I then backed up to the beginning of the motif and calculated where I would have to start it to place the center at the correct round.

I also think about the types of decreases/increases I want to use. I tend to prefer fully fashioned decreases/increases - where they are placed a little inside the seam and pointing into the seam rather than parallel to it. In this sweater I used fully fashioned decreases at the armholes and sleeve seams but ran them parallel to the shaping at the neckline. It is knitter's choice but decide which one you like and stick with it.
Finally, the back of the completed sweater. I gave you a lot of frontal angles while I was knitting it so I thought I'd end with the back.

I hope you have as much fun as I did designing and knitting a historical gansey design. The yarn is wonderful - it is Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran. I love the hand and the stitch definition but it is a heavy sweater. It was difficult doing the neckband with the entire weight of the sweater on the needles.

I had 19 balls of the yarn and I ended with 2 partial balls - one of which was used for the swatch and the other for the neckband. I was pleased with that.

Next up is lace. I cast on for Stor Rund Dug in Joslyn Fiber Farm's Shine yesterday. I am also planning a Schaefer Undulating Waves Scarf which is for a class I'll be teaching. More on those in the weeks to come.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gansey Saga, The End is in Sight

I don't have any photos to post this week but I wanted to share the fact that the gansey is almost done. I just bound off the second sleeve. All I have left to do is the neck band and weaving in of a few ends.

I have been playing with my wheel. I went to a spinning guild meeting on Friday where I learned to spin a bit. I came home and played. I don't have anything exciting to show. I wanted to finish the gansey so I put it aside and continued knitting.

My fall classes start on Saturday and I have to work on the class materials. My next couple of projects will be for class. A shawl and potentially a scarf. After that it is time to Bohus again.

Photos of a finished gansey are forthcoming!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gansey Saga, Part IV

Before I start, I owe Bridget an apology. I accidentally called the spider a Shetland spider when it is a Bridget spider. It bears no resemblance whatever to a Shetland spider except that they are both lace. The Shetland one is an insect with 6 legs, not a true arachnid with 8 legs. Mea culpa, Bridget!

Now, onto the gansey. I have been knitting as much as I can all week between playing with spinning. I am at the cuff of the first sleeve. This is taking a long time. I was sure I'd be done with the sleeve by this time.
That is an overview of the sweater as it stands. I repeated the diamond lattice in a band on the sleeve just for some variety in knitting. Plus I love that kind of gansey design. The original sweater had the body designs repeated on the sleeves as far as I can tell from the photo. The author of the book sketched the sleeves as having the diamond lattice all over on the sleeve but I thought that looked too busy. So I modified it to just have the band which is very common in ganseys.
There's a close-up of the band. I accidentally used 2 more sts in the diamond on the sleeve but I don't think it is noticeable. I counted the sts in the panel on the body while conveniently forgetting that the panel has 2 plain knit sts that set off the diamond. Oh well.
Another look at the armhole and sleeve. It is not a traditional gansey in that I've done a set-in sleeve rather than the usual drop sleeve. However, I did pick up the sts and knit the sleeve downward so it is traditional in that sense.

Next week I hope to have it done! I am in a lace knitting mood so this sweater is now starting to pall. The design thinking is over and now it is just a matter of executing and that is the uninteresting part.