Tuesday, May 6, 2014

OK, I got wild and crazy and ...

started another Gyre in skinny Shibui Cima.  Cima is kind of a heavy lace weight, if that makes sense.  Last thing I made out of it was Cladonia #2 on a U.S. 7 needle and it's one of my favorite shawls ever.  So I grabbed some out of stash in color UV and cast on.

I test blocked it still on the needle and look:

That's the needle at the bottom -- Gyre is worked top-down.  So the part at the very top is the neckline.  I used a #5 needle for the first 15 or so rows before sizing up to a #6 needle.  After all, I'd made that shawl on a #7 needle successfully.  When the pattern says to size up to the larger needle, I'll go to the #7.  And will make a larger size than medium, though I don't know how much larger yet.  Gotta get there first (all Gyre sizes start out with exactly the same number of stitches and increases).

This is what the neckline bit of Gyre looks like in the prescribed yarn weight:

Lacey but not as lacey as Cima.  Cima version's eyelets and ribbing up close:

The downside of this will be that I'll be knitting lots of extra rows to get the length, though not zillions more.  I have three skeins in stash and another three on hold at the store, though five will probably be enough.  I've been wearing both Maya and Sol Degrade versions of the sweater and think a floaty version would be fun to wear as well.  I love floaty garments.  Maybe because I wore a lot of power suits in my previous career.  Remind me to tell you sometime, though, about how different the businesspeople I interviewed reacted to Lisa in a power suit vs. Lisa dressed in a sweater and skirt -- different better for the sweater outfit.  Clothing is theater, you know?

I must be easily entertained or something because I'm having a great time playing with this pattern and yarn combination.

Class starts tomorrow, Weds. 5/7,  at 7pm at String Theory if you want to join us at yarn play.
And yes, that's a double entendre.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Just what I've always wanted: a shawl with sleeves.

How many times has a shawl fallen off my shoulders and landed in the dust?  This happened literally last Thursday when I got out of the car to open the gate at MB's farm in South Carolina.  It was dry and warm there.  While MB and I are hugging in greeting, her husband looked over the gate at a pile of blue.  "What's that?"  Didn't even occur to me it was my silk and cashmere shawl.  Not to worry, it survived just fine.  But really, wouldn't it be wonderful to have a shawl with sleeves?

Meet Gyre.  This is another of those patterns that you can't tell from the pattern pictures what it's really going to look like.  Never fear, I've made it twice now -- yup, shawl with sleeves. This is just so much fun to wear.

First I made it in Maya, a DK which is exactly the gauge called for.  We had some black at the store, so black it is, made short for short me:

Janet stood still for me long enough to shoot a picture.  Here's the back:
This is a wonderfully comfortable cardigan. But can you tell from these photos how shawl-like Gyre is?

To quote Monty Python, "wait for it..."

Meet my second Gyre, modeled by Susan, knitted in Lang Sol de Grade:

Wear it straight:
Wear it draped:
Or both!
I'm thinking of making it in fingering weight next.  You know, like a shawl.  Maybe bead the eyelets:
And yes, those are dropped stitches.  You all know how I love to drop stitches on purpose. 

After trying on Gyre, would it surprise you that people want a class for Gyre?  There are a few tricky bits to this sweater, including making sure those dropped stitches don't get carried away.  Fit, though, is no big deal.  Because it's a -- repeat after me -- shawl with sleeves.

Class begins on Wednesday May 7 at 7pm, then meets Wednesdays May 14, June 11 and June 25.  Call the store if you want to sign up; there are a few slots open.
Materials:  Pattern in Spring 2014 Interweave Knits (you can buy a digital download at
                  1000-1300 yards DK or light worsted weight, such as Maya or Rowan Softknit Cotton,      
                  with sizes 7 circ and 8 long circ needles
                  at least 1000 yards of Aran weight, such as Sol de Grade, with sizes 8 and 9 circs
                  get wild and crazy and make it in fingering weight.  Like a shawl.

See ya.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On needles

I've been thinking about needles lately.
I hear "I like bamboo" or "only metal ones for me" all the time.
That's fine. 
But the needle we choose is as important as the yarn.  The two go hand-in-hand, needle-in-stitch hundreds or thousands of times. (Btw, counting all your stitches? That way lies insanity.)

If you're working on plied wool yarn, you can use just about any needle you fancy.

But if you're working on unplied wool or anything plant fiber such as cotton or linen, or bug fiber such as silk, what the needle is made of is crucial.  Plied mercerized cotton (like Cascade Ultra Pima) begs for a slower needle finish, such as bamboo. 

The stitch pattern is also a determinant: if you're working lace, a sharp point is pretty much a necessity.  If you're working lace in silk yarn, a sharp point on a slower needle finish is better.

I just finished a mammoth project out of Noro Taiyo, an aran-weight unplied combo of cotton, silk and a touch of wool.  The piece has modular bits, lace bits, a ruffle, slip stitch, and yards of pick-up-and-knit.  The project started out on my favorite plastic needles (used to be Bryspun, now called Pearl) which have great points but I was having to haul the stitches across the needle.  Too much heavy lifting. 
Then I tried acrylics (my second favorite, from Knitter's Pride).  Same thing. 
Next, ChiaoGoo Red metal.  A little better. 
Finally, I pulled out a 25-year-old Addi Turbo (same as now; company never changed the basic Turbo except for the cable color) and bingo, I was on a roll.  These are still the slickest needles out there.  Not my "favorite," because metal obviously has no give and is harder on my hands.  And they're expensive.  But hey, they never wear out.

Now I'm inventing a sweater using a discontinued yarn from Noro called Chirimen.  It's basically Noro Taiyo in DKish weight.  ChiaoGoo Reds are working so far for this one because of the sharp point. 
Good:  The Reds are one step down from Addi Turbos when it comes to slick finish, a much sharper point, and half the price. 
Better: the right tool for the job.
Best: a knitted fabric I like.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Context is everything

You know when someone tells you something and you think, "Has [he or she -- choose one] been paying attention?"  You wonder whether [he or she -- choose one] has just tuned in.  And then just assumed other [usually incorrect] stuff?  Those times when you stand there thinking to yourself, "Really?" 

That's what happens when you don't swatch for a knitting project.  You're that out-of-touch person. You just jump right in, casting on and merrily knit along. Then maybe you don't like what's happening on your needles. 

So swatch.  Play with your yarn.  Try different needle sizes for a particular stitch pattern.  Or different stitch patterns with a particular yarn.  Block your swatch.  Blocking mimics what's going to happen to your knit fabric when it's worn.  You know, in real life.

Don't assume.

Get some context.

And go read this RIGHT NOW.  Yes, you have time.  Just like you have time to make a swatch or two. 

Context is everything.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On gauge, or making the pattern you want out of the yarn of your dreams

Just finished knitting Kara out of sport-weight yarn.  It's such a relaxing knit, with a straightforward lace repeat and one-piece construction. 
The pattern specifies a gauge of 22 sts wide and 32 rows = 4"on #6 U.S. needle.  I nailed it.

Gauge swatch, lightly blocked: 
Looks pretty much like the version Janet made.  Mine is one size larger than her store sample.

When it was over I kind of missed working on Kara so I've been playing with yarns for a summer-weight version.

OK, I could just find another sport-weight yarn.  But where's the challenge in that?  I went stash-diving and found some standard-weight worsted cotton (don't ask, it's so old the manufacturer stopped making it years ago) just to see what the lace pattern would look like in worsted.  Since it's heavier and I wanted it lacey, I tried a #8 needle.  See for yourself:
The swatch measures 4.75" wide (stitches) by 4.5" (rows).  After I did the math (want to know how?  Leave a comment), it turns out that using pattern instructions for Kara two sizes smaller would get me the same size as the sport-weight version. Bigger yarn (worsted) makes wider fabric, requiring fewer stitches and rows to create the same size.

Then I thought, hey, I'd really like a lightweight sweater.  Having made this out of Cozette (one of my favorite sweaters):
and therefore having some left over to use for a gauge swatch:
Cozette is fingering weight.  Tried it on a #6 needle but didn't like the fabric so tried again on a #5 needle.  Success!  Unlike the sport-weight version, I blocked this lace tightly, opening all the yarnover holes wide.  And guess what?  Gauge swatch measures 4" by 4".  We have a winner!

The moral of this story is that with a bit of patience you can match pattern and yarn.
And that you can make Kara out of fingering or sport or worsted.

Want to know about substituting yarn? 
Take this class at String Theory: 
Substituting Yarn
Unravel the mystery of which yarns work for which projects. I explain the connection between gauge, fiber, needle size and your tension, and how to make the combination work for you, using our yarn as examples.
Learn to: select the perfect yarn no matter what the pattern calls for, make a proper swatch
Materials: pencil and paper
Cost: $25
Sunday Afternoon 4:00 – 6:00 Feb 16

Want me to help you make Kara in the yarn of your dreams? 
Take this class at String Theory:
Learn: if you’ve never knitted a lace pattern, this one’s a  perfect place to begin.  The pattern is a straightforward repeat. I'll insist that you learn to read charts because it really is easier once you get the hang of it.  Also learn cable cast-on and seaming lace.
Materials: yarn — model used sport-weight Cody, 32″ circular needle in size U.S. 6 or what you need to get gauge, 32″ in one size smaller for ribbing, tapestry needle, lots of stitch markers, row counter.
Please buy your pattern on Ravelry and bring copy to your first class.
Cost: $60(materials not included)
Wednesday Evenings 7:00 – 8:30 Mar 5, Mar 12, Apr 2, Apr 23


Monday, January 13, 2014

The Slip Stitch Rules

When you're making a decrease that requires a slip stitch, such as SSK or k1sl1psso (knit 1, slip 1, pass slipped stitch over knitted stitch), always slip stitches as if to knit.

If you're working a slip-stitch pattern or a stitch pattern with wrap-and-turn, slip stitches as if to purl.

Not a decrease? Always slip stitches as if to purl unless the pattern designer specifically tells you otherwise.

Why?  Because when you slip stitches as if to knit, you're twisting the stitch:  changing its orientation from right leg forward on the needle to left leg forward.  This tightens the stitch.  Makes sense in a decrease.

When slipping stitches as if to purl, you're maintaining the right-leg forward orientation of the stitch on the needle.  This doesn't tighten the stitch.

Someone asked me recently if this is written anywhere.  If so, I've never run across it.  It's one of those little mysteries of knitting that you just pick up.  Or by reading this blog.

Today's tidbit.