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.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A new knitting year

Happy New Year!

I had a severe case of finish-itis for the last month or two, pulling UFOs out of bags and getting them done.  The oldest one (I think) was this sweater, started at least three years ago:

The back and 1.5 fronts were done; just needed a .5 front and a couple of sleeves.  And miles of icord finishing.  Now it's waiting for buttons.  One day I'll decide to wear it and, zoom, those buttons will go on. 

Then there was the three-color Carson shawl out of Sophie's Toes sock yarn:

Also finished my first Viajante poncho/shawl/thingie, but no photo yet.

And under the heading of almost-finished is Phiaro out of a skein of Handmaiden Rumple and Art Yarns ensemble light:
I've made Phiaro twice before and gifted both.  Keeping this one. 

You know what comes after finish-itis, right?  Yep, start-itis.  Started another Viajante yesterday out of some stash yarn that sparkles:

And Midnight Ocean out of some gradient yarn originally bought for this.  Love the yarn, got bored with the pattern, thus the switch to Midnight Ocean.  Right now it looks like this:

And I'm thinking seriously of creating a sock yarn blanket out of this plus a few other colors of same (Janet says more is on its way):
 (If you're in the area, see you this Saturday afternoon for the KAL.)

It never ceases to amaze and please me that we can start with nothing but an idea and come up with items to love and cuddle us.  I love my stash.  It's my paintbox. My palette.  Augmented by my LYS.

All best to all of you.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Artistic urges

As you all may have gathered, I love playing with color.  So on a whim a week or so ago I asked Janet if she wanted Ilga Leja's Morocco scarf for the store.  She enthusiastically picked a couple of colors of Schoppel-Wolle Gradient.

Her color choices ended up with this:

 And now there's a class with four people in it so far, beginning on Nov. 18.

I'll be making the shawl version of Morocco out of a couple of skeins of Kauni EQ left over from designing my Lightning Shawl a few years ago:

But first I need a new sweater made from Spud & Chloe Sweater.  The one I made last year
is getting worn yet again on a near-daily basis. This is THE most comfortable yarn, half & half wool/cotton.
So this one is in the works:

Sometimes you just have to follow your artistic urge.  Oh and then wear your trophies.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Wedding Shawl in action

Rachel is beautiful on a daily basis.  She glowed at her wedding.  Shawl = my small contribution:

Cladonia a.k.a. The Wedding Shawl (longer than pattern, extra lace repeat, added beads, blocked  fro a sheer fabric).  One and a bit of a second ball of Classic Elite Silky Lace in color Wedding White.