Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thinking, and planning

Every quarter has its week. The one where everything is just crazy and there's no way around a whole lot of extra hours and stress. The "crunch" week.

Last week was the crunch week, and some of it is spilling over into this week as well. I've been working many nights, and am just too tired to feel like doing anything on the other nights. So, not much knitting to show.

Fortunately, I did manage to finish the mitts in time for the farmers' market, where they were very well received. It turns out that the city is now charging $350 for a permit if farmers want to bring their space heaters, so a little extra warmth was much appreciated.

Finishing that project, of course, left me casting about for something else to work on. Aside from re-starting a sock that's been languishing for months, I haven't really done anything this week. But I've been thinking.

I've actually been thinking for some time now, but I didn't want to talk about it too soon. Remember this yarn?

No? Well, that's probably because I bought it this spring and never got around to doing anything with it. It's been calling. It has even begun to creep.

This yarn is destined for a sweater, but it's taken me a long time to decide on a pattern. I wanted a colorwork pattern, but I didn't want strong horizontal stripes. Traditional fairisle wasn't quite what I had in mind, and I really like the colorwork motif in the damask Kauni sweaters. I didn't come up with an overall tiling that would work with solid colors as well as the Kauni does with the damask, but I'm thinking a good vertical pattern will balance out the color changes nicely.

Inverting the foreground and background colors between the flower and vines stripes makes the vertical pattern really stand out, and I think it does nice things for the value balance. Inverting the whole pattern is also interesting:

It's kind of hard to tell which you like better in black and white, so I played around a bit with colors, too. I offset the color changes for the foreground and background by half a repeat to keep the change more subtle than it would be if I changed both at the same time.

And again, inverting foreground and background makes all the difference.

Having the light colors constant across a flower is nice because they don't look chopped in half (Compare with last image).

I think this is my favorite. Most of the weight is in the flower pattern, which is good because it establishes the color change rhythm. I also like the first pattern. I'll probably have to do some swatching to really know which I like best.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering how I did this graphing. You see, I have a husband that programs computers as a hobby. He is always asking if he can program something for me. (I don't understand this tendency, but I can definitely see the benefits of it!) He's been working on this little project for a while now, and we are getting close to working charting software.

I wanted to wait until Branden had had a chance to test the hard parts of the code before saying anything, because I didn't want him to have the pressure of a bunch of excited knitters before it was working. Coding is a long process with lots of stops and starts, and it's nice to be over the big stops before having people (besides your wife...) turning blue from holding their breath about it being done. It's getting close, but it's not quite there yet. (Please, keep breathing!)

Apparently the fairisle was pretty easy to implement, but getting lace charts (!!) working has been a lot harder, and has broken a lot of the code for the fairisle. We've been doing a lot of debugging (i.e. he sends me the file, I break it, he fixes it), and it seems like this will turn into a pretty usable program. We still have a lot of kinks to iron out, especially in terms of speed, but it is coming, and it's a pretty neat little program. If we can turn it into something that the average person could put up with using (harder than you'd think with computers...they have all kinds of idiosyncrasies that crop up in the most annoying ways), he will release it for general use. Yay for computer geeks!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

So close...

...and yet so far.

I've been working on the farmers' mitts this week, and was hoping to have them done in time to give them out tomorrow.

I made a purple pair with cables:

And another with ribs:

A rose pair with checks:

And an orange pair with seed stitch palm grips:

I kept making mistakes on the orange pair, and had to rip back 3 or 4 times in the second mitt to make a matching pair. So, I was super-careful to make both mitts the same when I made the last pair of rosy ones, with smocked hexagons:

And I did manage to make them exactly. the. same.

Too bad human hands aren't exactly the same. That whole mirror image thing can really get you sometimes...

I thought I had only to knit a thumb, weave in ends and call it done, but instead I'm off to knit another mitt in rose with smocking, so that there will actually be a pair rather than two identical singles.

Fortunately, it's supposed to be warm tomorrow, so I don't think the farmer will miss her mitts too much if it takes another week to deliver them.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weaving-Knitting Tutorial

Ok, so here's the tutorial, as promised. But first, the disclaimer:

As I said yesterday, this is just my rendition of the method. It's sort of like when I decided to make socks; I picked up my needles and "invented" a short row heel based on how it looked like it should be done, having never actually seen anyone do it or read instructions on how to go about it. I didn't know all the fancy tricks with wraps and turns, but managed to produce a pretty good replica. In this case, I found a couple of pictures on the internet, and just went from there with what seemed logical. Susanna is teaching all kinds of classes in the Seattle area this winter and spring, and I'm hoping to catch up with her one of these days to learn the fancy tricks. I suggest you do, too, if you ever have the chance. Or, you could get your hands on that Piece work magazine article. Until then, here's how I'm weaving-knitting:

First, get your yarn in order. For each color stripe, you need one strand. I wanted mine to be plenty long, so I wrapped them all around a dowel, in the order that I'd need them.

Then, put a tack in one end of the dowel and tie some scrap yarn around it.

Stick another tack in the other end. Tie a loop in the scrap yarn, and pull it over the second tack.

Now, your strings can be dangled without the dowel rolling away and unwinding all of the yarn.

Begin your cuff. When you're ready to start the weaving bit, pick up the first color and knit 2 stitches. Repeat for each color, until they're all attached.

Knit around in the base color until 1 stitch before the first color stitch in the previous row. (You want the color pattern to shift one stitch to the right to create the diamond shape.)

This is the only tricky part, and it will only be tricky the first time you try it. Turn the knitting once to untwist the color strands (or, dangle the dowel, if you prefer to untwist the yarn that way). Your base yarn (white, in my case) is probably now beneath the color strands, and we need it on top.

Grab the base yarn, and pull it around the needles so that it lays on top of the color strands.

It should now look like this:

Now, pick up your first color strand from underneath the base strand.

Knit two.

Drop yarn, pick up second color, knit two again.

Repeat for each color, making sure to keep the base color on top, and effectively wrapping the color strands around it when you knit. (See how it's like weaving?)

I also inserted a couple of stitches of base color in the center to help with stability. I don't think it's absolutely necessary, but we'll talk more about that in a minute. When you get to the center of the design, you'll need to mirror your color pattern, so knit up to and including the first color stitch from the previous row before switching back to your color strands. This effectively shifts the second half of the color pattern over one stitch to the left, and makes the mirrored diamond shape.

When you get to the end of the color segment, the float of your base yarn will now be held down by all the color strands that you wrapped around it as you knit.

All of the examples I've seen have the colors offset by one stitch in each row. I think that this is to keep from having an awkward join between the base yarn and the color strands. You never wrap the strands in this technique like you would in intarsia, so a straight border might not be very stable. As you work the pattern, you'll see that the yarn pulls itself tight when you pick it up in the next row to work again. It ends up sort of zigzagging up the back, because you always start knitting with a strand 3 stitches before the place where you dropped it in the last row. (This is another thing that I think will make perfect sense with needles in your hands, but sounds like gobbledy-gook when written.)

In a few rows, you'll have this:

The only problem I ran into occurred when I brought the two blue color segments together in the first repeat (you'll note I skipped that in the second repeat). Why? Because it did this:

I read somewhere that you're supposed to knit through the back loop for stitches leaning in one direction (don't remember which). This might solve the problem, but I haven't tried it yet. The problem doesn't arise as long as you keep a couple of stitches of base color in the middle of the pattern. I think just one would do it, and I'm sure there's a way around the issue.

And, look at that reverse side! See what I mean about zig zagging?

Isn't that fun?

It was super easy to keep tension with this method, and it makes a really nice, cushy fabric through the color pattern section.

Of course, like Tsarina, I am fascinated by the things you could do with this base idea. I don't think I'm up to change-ringing patterns just yet (though I'm sorely tempted), but my sketch pad is filling up with all kinds of cable-inspired designs that I think should work.

Now, if I can just get around that little problem with the hole...

For the moment, I've frogged and re-started the practice project, and am heading for a pair of mitts, once the farmers' mitts are done. I think this moves really fast, once you get the hang of it. I've found that keeping a tiny bit of tension on the color strands helps speed up the process of picking them up to knit, so I just lay the dowel across my ankles while I knit to keep those strands straight.

So, there it is. Delightfully simple, isn't it?


So, I've been fascinated by the idea of weaving-knitting lately (knitting that takes ideas and techniques from weaving). This all started when I couldn't make it to TKGA in Portland this fall. I was looking at the course list, trying to decide if it would be worth 6 hrs of driving (round trip) to make it down there for one day.

In the course listing, was a class that offered to teach weaving-knitting. Now, what could that be?

I've done weaving stitch before, which is a slipped stitch method that makes a fabric very much like woven cloth. I really like the texture, though I haven't used it much. But, a whole class on weaving techniques? Hmmm...

Unfortunately, it wasn't on a day that I could make. So, I tried to forget about it.

Ever noticed how trying to forget about something is guaranteed to make you obsessed with it?

Well. I did some searching, and didn't find a whole lot. But I did find the Yarn Harlot's post about the Mitts of Rovaniemi, and some posts by Tsarina about her mitts, and subsequent change-ringing sweater (gasp!).

Apparently, the Mitts pattern has been written up in the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Piecework magazine, but they're all sold out and I couldn't find a copy.

But it didn't look very hard. In fact, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what they were doing. So, here's my rendition weaving-knitting:

My favorite part about it is how perfectly simple it is. It just makes sense. What more could you want from a technique than making both sense and a beautiful pattern?

We took advantage of some sun yesterday afternoon to take pictures for a tutorial on my reverse-engineered version of the process. I was planning to post them tonight, but I think it's going to take a little longer than I am up for right now. But it is coming, should you be interested.

Rainbow Sunday

If I was good and walked away from yarn once, that counts, right? Even if my helpful husband (cough *yarn pusher* cough) brought me back today to buy some?

We have had several discussions this week about how it's his birthday, not mine, and we should be buying him presents, not me. And besides, I just knit a whole sweater in fingering weight alpaca, and it would be crazy to go start another. And then he says something like "but you'll like it" or "you'll knit it eventually." If all couples could have such "arguments", huh?

It's hard enough to pretend that the booth doesn't exist in the corner of the farmers' market. But then, when dragged right up to it two weeks in a row by someone eager to buy me yarn, I don't feel that I am fully responsible for what happens.

This booth can sneak up on you. It starts out looking like a hat display, but what's that off to the side?

Yup, it's a whole wall of beautifully hand-dyed open skein alpaca. (And mohair, but I appear to be completely immune to mohair...)

Now, I can usually resist skeins of yarn. But open hanks of yarn? Just hanging loose and looking for petting like that? And alpaca?

We all know where this is heading. I consider it fortunate that we only ended up with one sweaters' worth...

But isn't it beautiful?

Beautiful enough that I will even commit to knitting another sweater in fingering weight alpaca. Someday. Probably not right away, but someday. And, until then, I have a rainbow waiting in my stash, and a husband who is very pleased with himself. (How could you resist that, on his birthday weekend?)

We established long ago that Branden is always right, but that I always make more sense. This continues to hold true, apparently. He is right; I do like it, and I will knit it eventually. And waiting to buy until I am ready to knit would have made more sense. So there you have it.

The lady that sells this yarn is super-friendly and very happy to let you stay and pet as long as you want, whether or not you buy. If you're ever in the Seattle area on a Sunday, check out her booth at the Ballard Market. Or, if you can't drop by for yarn petting in person, there's always her online shop. You know...if you happen to be looking for some alpaca...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A quilted flower

One of my fun projects this weekend was making a pretty flower for my office wall:

Quilting is so nice for getting instant results. This took about 2 hours, start to finish, not including the hand quilting. It actually took almost as long to pick out the fabrics as it did to make the quilt!

The background is machine pieced, and the flower and pot are appliqued on with an iron, using handy-dandy fusible interfacing. Now I just have to quilt and mount, and I will have wall art to bring some color to my office.

Sorry for the horrible picture, but we've entered the dark months here, and sun has been hard to come by.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Quick and painless

What to do after a long project with tiny stitches? How about some mitts in chunky yarn?

I've been meaning to make some mitts for the farmers that we buy from every week at the farmer's market. It gets cold out there in the drizzle at this time of year, and they're good enough to stand around outside all day every Sunday to sell us food.

So, I thought that some mitts would be a quick and practical way to say "thank you."

It also doesn't hurt with the stash busting, and it's been nice having some instant gratification projects. The mitts can't be too long, so that they don't get in the way of working, so they're super fast little projects.

At a mitt a night (or one and a half) it shouldn't take long to get to quota!

Just funny

What to do when the neighbors won't let you have a real sheep...

Too bad this one probably doesn't make much wool.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Too much to post!

Ever have too many things to post about? It's almost worse than too few...it's harder to get started, and easier to put off posting until you're ready to sit down and really just write for a while.

Don't worry. I'll refrain from a 1000-word post.

First off, title of Sharpest Eyes goes to Ellen, who correctly identified the offset in my sweaters' colorwork. I can't believe it's off. It's one thing when I know I forgot to count and it's my own darned fault, but I counted this out 4 times. From different directions. I drew diagrams. And I still mis-centered it. No idea how.

But are 5-10 stitches worth redoing a couple thousand? Probably not. I wove in the ends this morning. If I can live with a bias, I can live with a pattern not being centered. I just wish I knew how it had happened.

This has been a busy weekend. A "domestic" weekend, even.

That's actually a bit of an inside joke for me. I took a Dependable Strengths seminar a few months ago, all about identifying your strengths and selling your talents. The first day of the seminar was on a Friday, and the second day was the following Monday. We came back into the classroom on Monday morning, and I was chatting with the woman next to me about our weekends. I said mine had been great; I'd gotten some gardening done, worked on my knitting (I forget what the current project was), done some cleaning and some cooking...

She gave a suspiciously brief little laugh, and said it sounded like I'd had a very "domestic" weekend, as if domestic was the nicest word she could think to use.

At first, this annoyed me a bit. After all, weren't we in a class to discuss our strengths and accentuate the positive? We had discussed on Friday that one of my biggest strengths is an utter inability to be non-productive. Even if it means that I risk being "domestic."

Then, it amused me. I mean really. I am one of the last people that you would ever call domestic. Suzie homemaker I am not, and if you have any doubts about that, you can ask my husband what proportion of the household chores are his (darned straight it's half and half). And she'd just finished telling me that her weekend was "relaxing"; spent watching movies.

So, when I am having a delightfully productive and homey sort of weekend, it will forever be a "domestic" weekend in my mind. (Don't forget the air quotes...they're very important!).

Such weekends provide lots of blog fodder though, and I'm sure I'm already approaching my 1000 words. So, what have I done this weekend?

- Gone stash diving and come up with a million things to knit that are neither socks nor sweaters.

- Picked up a couple more balls of Cascade 220 for my next colorwork sweater. I think I have a pattern designed, too.

- Discovered that there is a woman at our farmer's market that sells absolutely gorgeous hanks of hand-dyed, fingering weight alpaca for a reasonable price (!!)

- Been sorely tempted, and walked away (I might have said something about next week...)

- Made the front of a quilted wallhanging for my new office (I'll show it to you later)

- Pieced most of a lap quilt I'm working on.

- Begun the fall Washing of the Sweaters

- Figured out how to knit the Mitts of Rovaniemi. I've been toying with the idea for a while, and decided to sit down and just figure it out. It's delightfully simple. I see more colorwork in my future.

- Made a tomato sauce (yes, for an Italian, this is a day-long accomplishment worth writing about)

-Made chili (yay for weeknight dinners!)

I think that's about it for now. I have a few hours left, though. Not a bad "domestic" weekend, I must say.

Oh, and because I promised,

Even though I had to take the sweater off to take the picture. See how much I care?

P.S. (684 words, if anyone was counting.)

P.P.S. That last line didn't count. Neither does this one.

Friday, October 10, 2008


At least I think it is. There's an error, but I think I'm ok with it. Can you see what it is? (I know, the sweater is dark...I promise, you can see the problem!)

It took me a two tryings-on and a few minutes in front of the mirror wondering why the sweater looked a little off to find it. I'm interested to see if anyone can see it, or if it's just me.

This sweater isn't exactly what I'd planned for the yarn to become, but it took on a life of its own while I was knitting, and who am I to argue? I think I like it much better this way than as the open-front cardigan I'd planned.

I've been wondering since the swatch if there was a tiny, tiny bias in the yarn. I played with it for a few days trying to decide, but couldn't really measure any leaning. I noticed it again in the sleeves, and decided that I wouldn't chance steeking and having a crooked front opening. I tend to like pull over sweaters better anyway, but I was a little afraid that the alpaca would be too warm.

But really? A sweater that's too warm? I've never encountered such a thing. I have been known to go for weeks in the winter without wearing a coat if my sweater's enough (even in Boston), so a warm sweater has never been something to avoid. Isn't that what they're for, anyway?

I do have to say, though, that alpaca is warm. This fingering weight sweater is about as warm as my favorite worsted weight wool.

Did I mention my house is cold? Well, it is. I could just turn on the heat, but that would be giving in way too early. It's only October 10th! So, it's blankets and tea and handwarmers, and sweaters.

I am so excited that this one is done! I had to stay up last night and finish. I just couldn't go to bed with the last few inches unfinished. I wore it all day today, despite the fact that I haven't woven in all the ends yet (I was writing from home, so none of my labmates needed to wonder about the trailing threads). I wanted to give myself some time to decide whether to pull back and fix the mistake, or whether I should just leave it (the bias issue is not the mistake). I don't think it bothers me. And I love the sweater.

I can see the bias a tiny bit in the colorwork; only about a quarter or half an inch of lean for every six inches of knitting, but it's there. The neck decreases seem to accentuate it a little bit.

I think I love it anyway.

I've been too busy wearing the sweater to actually take a picture of the floats. It's cold in here, and I'm not taking off my warmest layer, even for the blog. I will try to remember to post construction details next time.

So of course, this means that I now need to seriously consider the "what next?" question. I've been knitting on this for so long that I forgot it might really end someday...