Friday, April 29, 2011

Fit for a queen

... and now that the wedding part of the Royal Wedding is complete, I'm just popping in as promised with a photo of my mystery-shawl-in-progress:

I absolutely love the way this is looking.  I know some people knit tons of shawls for the sheer joy of lace and the beautiful end product, but I find it hard to wear lace, what with not having a remotely elegant lifestyle and all.  Even if the rest of this shawl turns out to be very lacy indeed I think I'll be able to pull it off anywhere because of these heavier stitches at the start.

I'll tell you one thing though:

I will be buying a much longer circular needle at the Knitter's Frolic tomorrow.  The stitches are already bursting off this 24" one.

It's not too late to join in - two more clues are coming, the first of which won't be published till tomorrow, possibly at the very moment I might be buying another skein of shawl-friendly yarn, heh.  

... and now back to the TV for Balcony Watch.  And some serious propping up of eyelids because my goodness, I am not a morning person let alone a 5am in the morning person.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pink pink pink and some green

I finished spinning the first half of the fiber I've been working on (not frequently enough, it would seem) since December, and also plying it:

I'm happy about one thing I'll tell you in a minute, but unhappy with the inconsistent size and twist, both resulting from my having overdrafted it.

This is especially sad for me given that the colours are so luscious.  I'd really like to make something with this yarn! but I'm not going to replicate these mistakes in the second half if I can help it, so I'll have to think of something that can cope with consistent yarn in one place, and inconsistent in another.  H'mmmm.

The thing I'm happy about:

I managed to keep some of the self-striping effect this time.  I love the barber pole effect of just randomly attaching fiber as I spin, but as you can see I didn't lose that here either, so I got to learn something new while getting my comfy familiar look at the very same time.

(of course this means I also have to factor in fraternal striping to whatever I make with it, which tends to make me crazy, so I've got even fewer options.  It's going to end up being a small scarf, isn't it... oh well, there are worse things!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yarn shortage

It is ironic considering the subject of yesterday's post that well before bedtime I discovered another sweater-in-progress with insufficient yarn: the purple baby sweater.

(Brief pause for primal scream.)

After my last missive about the progress of this sweater, in which I bragged about having a whole sleeve plus a cuff done, I took a closer look... and not just at how loose and ill-formed the stitches were. Mostly instead at how it would likely fit an 18-month-old.  Faced with these two clues I'd chosen too big a needle size, I frogged it all and started over.  Many more hours of knitting have brought me here:

Note the smaller needles positioned in the international symbol for 'surrender.'

That little ball at the top of the picture marks the remains of the yarn used for the entire original sleeve; I'm still not quite at the point of starting the sleeve cap, so clearly I'm going to need more yarn for this sleeve, and as much again for the second.  Judging by the number of stitches and inches noted in the pattern, the body will take up quite a bit of yarn too, so I got out my scales.  It looks like I should just make it through all those pieces if I don't also knit the yoke that pulls it all together and keeps it on the baby's shoulders.

(Brief pause to suppress a second primal scream.)

I can still pull off this sweater if I do contrast stripes along the waist of the front and back pieces (hurrah for starting the sleeves first) and echo it up in the yoke, but - the purple yarn being a wildly luxurious blend of merino and seacell - what colour? in what yarn?  I haven't yet had the courage to rummage through the actual stash to find the answer to these very interesting questions.

But I'm pretty sure it's not going to be the white, 100% acrylic, baby yarn.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Distracted? me?

Having recorded the last of my current knitting-in-progress (I do not count spinning) at Ravelry the other day, I have had to face the fact that I am working on seven different things and am frantic to start an eighth (but more on that later.)  Some people refer to this as 'startitis' but I know that's not my problem, as I'm actively pursuing all of them (except one, and more on that sooner.) 

There is an article by Jonthan Franzen in the April 18th issue of The New Yorker - on the subject of going to the still-uninhabited island thought to be the setting for Robinson Crusoe and while there rereading Robinson Crusoe, which seems like the sort of length to which I could see some of us going to see a rare breed of sheep or learn a near-extinct needlecraft technique - that I suspect offers a better explanation. Franzen likens distraction to drug or alcohol use, in that the more you use it, the more you need to use it to get the same effect as you did at first. 

If that theory is correct, then I have what Sherlock Holmes might have called an Eight Project Problem.  But I think really what I have is a Mariner Problem (making it a Seven Project Problem, the thing from which I am trying to be distracted being the eighth). 

I'm about to hit the first sleeve, you see, and owing to the way this sweater is constructed I have to decide whether I'm making full-length sleeves and risking not having enough yarn for the back, or going with three-quarter and hoping that will give me enough for the back.  Or whether I should just frog it altogether, buy new yarn and start again, and use this yarn for the other project I'm frantic to start (for which I have a little more of this yarn than I would need.)

Such an enormous degree of decision-making is beyond me at the moment so I'm knitting everything else.  Seriously, I'm spending a little time every day with everything on that project list depending on where I am and what else I'm doing at the same time.

Of course this is not an ideal solution, which I guess is typical of the things the subconscious comes up with.  But on the upside I am making tiny amounts of progress all the time on several other things I will enjoy using, perhaps even as much as I will love wearing my Mariner. 

I even got a little farther along with the stripey project:

and last night was able to confirm that I do, in fact, have enough yarn to make it the very size I had in mind.

Thank goodness!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The lure of the mystery knitalong

I have been obsessed with shawl knitting all weekend, and it's all hert's fault for suggesting I join her in Liz Abinante's Roxanne mystery shawl knitalong.  Good timing for stressed-out me though - when you're knitting something without pictures to see how it's meant to come out, and several new-to-you stitches are combined in different sections, you really have to focus. Be in the moment, as it were.

Admittedly an awful lot of the early moments involved deciding which yarn to use.  Since I decided spontaneously to participate I decided too to just use the first yarn I put my hand on that also had the right yardage.  That paired me with this blue farmspun wool given me by a friend who'd bought it on holiday and never knit with it:

The photograph isn't out of focus - it's the yarn.  It's a bit thick and thin, has a bit of a halo, and its heathery colours blend or stand out a lot like the ones in an Impressionist painting you view from afar and then near.  Not so fab for showing off a lace pattern.

Also, I had to fight the yarn for every stitch. It's so tightly spun that in spite of being wool it has absolutely no give, which is less than ideal for patterns that involve picking up between stitches or knitting into the front and back of a stitch.  In considering whether to reject this attempt I considered what on earth it would be good for instead; socks probably, if it weren't just so scratchy.  Maybe weaving?

It was the realization that shawls starting out from the neck go on for miles once you get about halfway through that made me set the blue-green start aside and dig out some alpaca in a nice soothing colour I hoped would reveal the lace a little better.

Having already worked through the thrill of starting something new, I realized much more quickly that the halo on the alpaca was going to obscure the shawl stitches even more effectively.  Also: not so much more give in alpaca than in overspun wool, and


am I seriously going to wear this colour next to my face?

Back to the drawing board.

Everybody else seems to be using sock yarn, of which I have a lot.  Sadly only one skein offers sufficient yardage: this club colourway of Super Bambou from Biscotte et Cie, a blend of wool with bamboo and nylon.  I adore this colour and was hoarding it for socks.  Also I'm not 100% sure this particular shade is the very best green to be wrapping around my neck.   I was however 100% sure I didn't want to wait to get to a yarn store to get started on this knitalong.

Because (and here is the real lure of the mystery knitalong):

A shawl is a big project.  I can talk myself out of knitting a shawl in no time just looking at how big.  But a shawl with instructions released in installments seems manageable.  By the time each row is so long you're starting to spend 10+ minutes on each one, you're invested.

I'm invested almost to the end of Clue #2 (10 rows to go) but in case you want to join in I'll wait till Clue #3 is released to post a spoiler picture.  Or if you're thinking about joining in, are a Raveler, and want to see how the shawl looks before committing, check out this photo thread.

(lure, lure, lure, heh.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

My arm hurts

I have been spinning with the spindle again:

It doesn't take long at all when you're working with fiber you pre-drafted months ago.  Also misleading: the notion that I can pick up with spindling where I left off.  I am so out of practice and the yarn is coming out terribly uneven.  I really need to sit down with my spinning video and my wheel and figure this out.

But not today because I am making Easter cakelets and being preoccupied with lace.

(unless I get a quiet hour or two this afternoon, which is just possible. Just.  But worth taking advantage of if it keeps me away from the cakelets.)

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

One-armed purple baby sweater

It's going to have two arms eventually.  See?

I have so many projects on the go (and another I'm on the brink of falling in to, owing to my friend hert having pointed out of the start of a compellingly yummy mystery shawl knitalong) it's quite surprising to me I've still found time to reach for any one of them in particular.  Of course, they all use fantastic yarn, and the purple baby sweater is no different (Thalassa from Biscotte & Cie - scroll down at the link and e-mail the shop if you're wondering about more stock.)

I am so relaxed knitting this that my stitches seem to be getting a bit sloppy and uneven.

Elizabeth Zimmermann wrote that she used to think old timey knitters worked more evenly than she did because their stuff looked so good decades after completion, until she noticed that everything evens up after a few washings. I hope that's also true for objects made without the exclusive use of wool, but you know what?  I can always reknit this sleeve if the other one comes out looking a lot better.  It's not like it would be a hardship.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The start of something

Some things that have been conspiring against me:

A discussion in a Twisted Fiber Art fan group of what to knit this summer

The nearly-there progress of Sock Sweater to the point where I must start alternating between two cakes of yarn, rendering it less portable and mindless

The awareness that I haven't done a free pattern in about two months

A desire to buy a lot more Twisted Fiber Art yarn for socks in spite of the two skeins still in my stash

High levels of the sort of stress that breeds escapism

and the idea for this item.

Instead of napping on Sunday, or staring blankly at the TV or getting something important done so as to avoid having to do it later when I might be even less inclined, I spent about three hours working out and typing up the math for this little project.  It doesn't look like much right now, does it?

Well, stay tuned, heh. 
(okay - it may go on not looking like much, but it might still be interesting to find that out, right?)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Velcro is not my friend

One of my happiest possessions is this ordinary-looking black messenger bag I use constantly:

It is waterproof, roomy, full of hidden pockets to keep vital travel items separate, it has a huge reflective strip for safety at night, and its strap is both comfortably wide and adjustable.  But on the inside of the flap it also has:

Velcro closures.

You can see there the remains of this strip's previous meals.  Some other woolly things that have been caught in the teeth of the Velcro closures, when carrying the bag open so as to knit from a pouch that is tucked inside (aka every time I use the bag):

Yesterday one of the closures grabbed a bright red strip of fingering-weight Twisted Fiber Art preciousness and I watched the stack of straws come tumbling down from the weight of this last one.  I came home, dug out my seam ripper, and did what I should have done before the outside corners of the bag started to fray and get unsightly:

I removed the Velcro.


And promptly remembered all the felted wool I could have chosen from, to cut into tiny rectangles and feed to the teeth so as to retain the Velcro for times when I actually need the bag to stay shut.

But I'm trying not to think about that.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Something else to spin

March and April have been a grueling pair of months, worse even than January and February, so much so that lately I've been remembering with much wistfulness the comparative peace just before Christmas last year when I ended most days watching end-of-war episodes of Foyle's War on PBS and drafting out club roving from Twisted Fiber Art (colourway: Quirky.)

Over the weekend when I was tidying up some accumulated crafty refuse, I found my bag of spinning-in-progress and looked inside:

Then, putting something else away, I found two undrafted pieces and panicked: surely I tore the original skein into four, the better to ply two balls of it?  I distinctly remember deciding to spin this with its stripes intact, and drafted accordingly. 

Where was the fourth?  I stopped cleaning.

Whew. It was in my Viola bag, the better to be carted around... I think I thought January was going to be a breeze after all the frenzy of gift knitting.  (This piece was only partially drafted when I found it but, erm, I decided to put the cleaning on hold.)

I couldn't help noticing while finishing it off that it will match my green cardi perfectly.  How, do you think, can I stretch this 100g of yarn out into a full scarf?  With big needles and lace, I suppose, but h'mmmmm all the same.  Maybe a better plan is fingerless gloves that stretch up my arm, covering the parts the two-short sleeves have missed?

Questions aside it was all very timely, finding the Quirky.  Because look what I found during Friday's round of Helping Mum Pack:

8 episdoes, just over an hour and a half each.  I think April might possibly finish a lot more bearably than it started, don't you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

A baby sweater

When I mentioned - oh dear, is it two weeks ago already or just one? - that I was hunting for a baby sweater pattern for some luscious new yarn, Kate suggested I check out Grumperina's blog for ideas.  Well, it turned out my favourite of Grumperina's baby sweaters was from a vintage pattern.

Of which I have rather a lot, myself.

Why didn't I think of that before?  As time permitted, I went through the (many) booklets of baby-centric ones and narrowed it down to these two Patons Beehive options, the only ones that meet my need for gender neutrality on the question of button bands.

This one is a bit sneaky; the body and sleeves are worked first (flat, sadly, with front and back body parts worked separately), then joined for the yoke, which is the only place where buttonholes are present.  So in theory, I could knit the majority of it, then set it aside till after the baby is born and do the yoke and button sourcing when I know whether my friend had a boy or a girl. 

This one uses a pom-pom closure, thereby avoiding buttons entirely.  Plus: super cute.  But... it's actually written for two colours, is in a 3-month size (which is practically newborn by todays' birthweight standards), and that pompom on string closure kinda spells safety risk to paranoid me.

So I went for door #1 (six months' size, yay!) and started with a sleeve, for no particular reason:

It's knitting up so soft and smooth.  I think the mum of this baby will really enjoy the feel of it under her hands when she's cuddling her newest bundle.  And I will enjoy it now, having finished the secret pattern project on time last night. (it's soooo yummy.)

Have a great weekend - see you on Monday!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Books are good

My collection of knitting books has grown at an alarming rate over the past two years, mostly in the reference area but with a good few sock and handspun pattern collections thrown in.  I refer to all of them often, but it's the Sock Sweater that really justifies the volume of volumes.

I am using three to figure out this pattern as I go.

The first is Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Without Tears, with its famous percentage system for calculating the number of stitches and inches you need for any given shape or size of sweater. Not to mention how to hook up the arms for a yoked sweater worked in the round.

For a couple of minutes I thought maybe I'd be spared working out those specifics because I got perfect gauge (amazing!) with a very lovely yoked men's sweater in Kathleen Taylor's Fearless Fair Isle Knitting.  Alas, the size I wanted fell between two of the sizes given, and as I have only about a third of the variety of colour shown there my version of the charted patterns would have looked a lot less striking.  I'll still benefit from the technique used to decrease stitches neatly along the length of the yoke though.  And I've already benefited from the yardage specifications; figuring out how much to buy for my sweater was a breeze.

It's pretty obvious where Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting comes in. The charts!  Yes, I could work these out myself, and I probably will do so in a few places as I try to work in all my colours to their fullest extent (because otherwise I won't have enough yarn for the entire sweater), but the huge variety of colour patterns in this book are going to be a lifesaver.

At the moment I don't have to think about many of these details, as I'm still on the lower part of the body and about halfway through the first skein. But my baby-sized knitting project is fast growing out of its walking around stage and becoming lap knitting, so I'll have to do something drastic soon, like cast on a sleeve.  And the sleeves, my friends, will be patterned. 

Just as well the knitting roster is set to clear up a little bit today with the last of the Secret Pattern Project, yes?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The secret pattern project

Usually I can slide secret projects under the radar here because when in my right mind I aim for quick knits, and can apply in short bursts whatever self-control is at my command to stand decoratively in front of the curtain whistling and knitting away at something entirely different.

Right now though, in spite of all the alluring potential around me of which silk hankies are far from the least,


I can think about is


There is a scene in Despicable Me in which an impossibly cute poppet points at a stuffed animal of her desire and says "it's so squishy I'm gonna die!" (okay, squishy might not have been the word; I was distracted every time by the cartoony goodness of the moment.) This captures how I feel about the secret pattern project.

Also, even though it does involve a stitch with repeats that you repeat and repeat in the way that stitches with repeats are often repeated until you really do think you're gonna die,

and even though I had the extra exposure time of coming up with said stitch and doing all the swatching,

I'm not even remotely bored yet. 

And in spite of it not being boring, which to me equals keeping my eyes firmly on the needles because it's so complicated, it's been a while since I couldn't watch TV and knit it at the same time. I even watched a silent film the other night.  I've hit autopilot on something that isn't even stocking stitch.

A long while ago now Trish and I went to hear a knitting designer talk about her work and she said she never knits her designs twice, which struck me to the core at the time.  Now I get it - a pattern can be super exciting the first time you make it such that you want to do it again, but if you've spent the 'again' time up front working out the pattern's kinks and exploring every possible avenue, there's not much left by the time the sample is done.  When I knit my own designs again, it's because I have a need for that particular thing.

But this one?  I still just want to keep knitting it.

Another weird thing that has occurred to me is how fast I'm knitting it.  It's not due for another six weeks and I want to be all done but the blocking by the end of tomorrow.  You know how sometimes when you're running out of yarn and you knit faster so it will last longer?  I'm knitting faster because I can't wait to see how it looks blocked.

It is probably mean of me to tell you all of that knowing you won't get to see it for months and months, but I couldn't help myself. Just like I'm not going to be able to help planting myself on the sofa for every scrap minute I have today.  Toodles!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I have mawata and I'm not afraid to use it

My mawata, aka silk hankies, from Helena's shop arrived last Friday, looking compact and adorable:

and being a little daunting.

As in, when I unrolled the stack to take more pictures, they kept catching on my hands, which was a big clue that playing with silk hankies is going to be very different from the rest of my knitting adventures.

Clearly research was in order.

I found a website describing with pictures how to work from a cap (which is pretty much just a different shape from a hanky, but follows the same principle), a more detailed blog post with - okay, seriously gorgeous and colourful - pictures of drafting a hanky from the centre outward, and another blog post with a description of how to draft a hanky from the corners so as to avoid having the silk hurt or even cut your fingers.  Yep, it's that strong.

I also found a YouTube video of the process, the hanky portion of which begins around the 3:35 mark...

... and a lot of other sites as well.  The upshot is, the silk is very catchy for everybody and not just me; the most sensible suggestions included exfoliating with sugar and olive oil, wearing surgical gloves, or throwing caution to the wind.

** Reality Check **
Whoever has the willpower to moisturize before playing with silk hankies has my admiration, and ditto anybody who can put the texture of a surgical glove above that of silk. I just let the stuff catch, and a good thing too as I found out while drafting one hanky too close to the remaining stack that the silk will also catch on itself.  How annoying would that be, if I'd put all those barriers up between me and the silk only to have to detangle anyway?

And now on to what I'm actually going to do with these.  Ha!  there was method in the madness of knitting fingerless gloves when I was supposed to be doing the Secret Pattern - I want to make a pair with the silk, and I wanted to be sure I understood the pattern before the hankies arrived because I can guarantee I will mess up the drafting and anything else that's required.

My particular stack of hankies included a few that are straight pink, a few more that have a deep rose in the middle, and quite a lot that are pink on one half and green on the other. I decided to use the pink for cuffs and drafted it first (Friday night, too late for pictures)... and then I knit a cuff because did I mention I have little to no self control?

I think even that terrible nighttime picture up there shows some of the glistenings of the silk. The hankies look fuzzy, but when you draw out the fibers they positively gleam.  It's quite amazing.

The deep pink might come at the end as a border if I run out of silk...

... and I'm thinking the bulk of the hand will be the pink and green.  I read that you can get more of a blended colour effect by drafting from the corners rather than from the middle so I tried both, and found that while the corner trick does make it less hurty on the hand, the center trick didn't hurt my hands much at all. Also I got the same colour result either way.  This probably means I'm doing something wrong, but I'm okay with that.

How addictive this stuff is: just taking it outside to photograph, I couldn't stop myself from doing a little more drafting.

It's so easy to do - and sadly, to overdo.  But why complain?  It's not every day you get to work with fiber and a project that are both completely irresistible.

(at least, it'd better not be every day, because I do have a deadline... luckily, the Secret Pattern uses yarn that's equally irresistible.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Handwarmers: complete

I finished these Churchmouse handwarmers last week but it took me till yesterday to interest somebody in the notion of photographing my hands, go figure.

This pattern is so well written.  It's a pleasure to knit up something so straightforward, and the lusciousness of the yarn and its colouring doesn't hurt either.  Even though I was supposed to be doing so many other things I just couldn't stop.

Of course being me I still managed to mess up the thumb in the exact same way all three times, in spite of ripping it out and repeating it a few times each time, but by cleverly leaving a long tail at castoff and weaving my way down to the problem area, I was able to duplicate stitch the offending hole shut such that you'd never know (if I hadn't just written it here.)

Last time, I downloaded the Churchmouse pattern I wanted and printed it out on foldable paper to cart around with me.  This time I bought it from a yarn shop, and it came on quite heavy, slightly glossy, legal sized card stock. Not so portable but golly, that oversized card with its soothing white spaces and lovely, lovely photographs really added to the aesthetic delight of the experience. If I buy another pattern I don't know which format I'll choose.

The pattern calls for five ridges at the wrist, which is just long enough to turn my current, unattractive wristwatch into an even more unattractive lump.  So I've put these aside to the gift pile, and will knit a new pair for myself with perhaps just two ridges. And then I think I'll go shopping for a new, very flat, watch.  Can't have purely practical accessories interfering with the luxurious ones, can we?

Hopefully I won't have too many more super distracting wristwarmers slowing down the projects with deadlines this week but, you know. It's not looking good. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Coming for a walk?

One thing I love about spring is that, given enough sun and not so much wind, I can get back to knitting outside.  Lately I've been on public transit at least one day a week - which involves at least an hour in each direction spent either riding the bus or subway, or waiting to be - so that is a lot of portable knitting time.

About that much, in two days, if you want to get picky.

The great thing about the Sock Sweater (a thing I understand drives most people loopy) is that there are about 14" of straight knitting before I get anywhere interesting.  I am working about 4000 stitches at a stretch before I even need to think about what I put the markers in for.

All that straight knitting on one tidy circular needle means this sweater is totally walkable. On breathless arrival at the bus stop I can pull it out of my bag, the yarn feeding from a gap in the opening, and commence knitting, pause briefly to board the bus and find a seat, and keep on going through the shift to the subway and on to my final destination because - have you noticed? - you almost never get transit straight to the door of the place you want to be.  Coming home I invariably catch the short turn bus and have to walk the last five minutes to my door, which doesn't bother me when I can knit all the way.

I'm going to enjoy it while I can because all that transit time is turning this body piece into lap knitting, unless I can fashion some sort of not totally geeky loop that shifts the weight to the strap of my bag.  Still, there are always the sleeves.  And how great is it to get even this much of the boring knitting out of the way while in situations that would be deadly dull without it?

The other potentially crazymakingness of this sweater was the cast on.  It's made of sock yarn, so there are a zillion stitches, and I can tear my hair out over 100 of them with simpler projects when I misjudge the length I need at the start (yet I still love the longtail cast on.)  TECHknitter to the rescue! with her very clever solution to the problem.

This is how it looks when it's done - two extra strands to work in at the end, and I don't grudge them a bit.

Have a great weekend, whether you're knitting inside or out, walking or snugged up on the sofa! and I'll see you on Monday with something I can hardly wait to show you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How the lace turned out

I dressed up my latest toe-up-pattern-testing socks with the lace stitch from my Winter Garden Hat.  I love that stitch - it's easy to memorize, it shifts once in the repeat to keep my interest up, and so much happens every other row that I'm always satisfied with how it looks.

I'm especially pleased with the impact of all that action on stripey yarn.

These socks still aren't perfect: the lace stitch draws in the fabric a lot, and while that worked okay over the foot where half the fabric is stockinette, the legs are a bit snug.  I can get them on (with a little attention) and once on, they're quite comfortable, but they certainly aren't going to do any falling down.  Another time, I'd make the socks a bit wider, or add a few more stitches to the leg.

Meanwhile though, yum.  And how cute is the wavy little stockinette panel on the sides?

I've been in my boots for so long now, I forgot how cute all my Vesper socks look in a pair of Mary Janes, even scuffed ones that need some love and polish.

These stripes say Fall to me, but my feet are saying Bring on the Spring!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Increasingly: which way's best to add a stitch?

Since working on the fingerless gloves and the thumb gusset for which one must increase from time to time, I have been pondering - again - which increase technique I really like best.

The one voted least likely to leave a hole is the raised increase, whereby you lift the loop of the stitch below the stitch you want to work (or, in the case of a left-leaning increase, below the one you've just worked) and knit into that.  Yep, you can have symmetrical versions of this technique and, as I say, it doesn't leave a hole.  That's why I use it for toe-up socks, even though it drives me crazy that the left and right versions of it look a little different as you work the heel gusset:

H'mmm.  Okay, evidently what looks terrible while you're knitting disappears after a couple of washes. 

There is one other downside to the raised increase, though (apart from the obvious point of requiring at least one knit stitch between increase rows or rounds): you can't get both a left- and right-leaning increase out of one stitch, as you can when you put a yarn over on either side of a stitch, or a 'make 1' increase. 

The fingerless glove pattern starts its gusset from one knit stitch, and therefore uses 'make 1', whereby you lift the bar that runs between two stitches and work into that.  I didn't know until I knit Clockwork that there are left and right leaning versions of this increase as well - how clever! - which as it happens are used in the glove pattern.

In the straight garter stitch of Clockwork it didn't show, but I don't love the way it looks here with its zigzaggy line, even though I've been able to manage not leaving a hole underneath each new stitch.

So when I started reknitting the frogged glove yesterday (cough cough) I used the raised increase once I'd got past that first solitary gusset stitch:

I think it could be even better in another pair, maybe by working the increases one stitch in from the edge? but I like the smooth line.

(and today I am totally getting back to the Secret Pattern full time. More or less.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

At long last: yarn!

You'd think I'd never seen yarn before. But I bet you get a little rush every time you see something new and gorgeous, right?

I was so preoccupied with the dentist on Friday - for nothing, because: no cavities! - I forgot it was April 1, aka Biscotte Club Mystery Parcel Opening Day.  Around noon I got an e-mail with this month's pattern in it and went zinging over to the cubby where I have been keeping said parcels.  Look what was inside:

Please note gratuitous shot of my newly snow-free garden.

This colour is not true on the screen but rather a vivid Eastery purple.  Still, you get the sheen here, right? It's from the seacell that's blended with superwash merino.  As it happens the accompanying pattern is for some very pretty handwarmers (!!) but this yarn is also perfect for baby things.

As it also happens, a friend of mine is having a baby, and I've been really wanting to make her a little baby cardi.  I like to do this for people's not-first babies; this is her third, and so often by the third people are like Yeah, whatever on the superspecial baby gift front.  Also, she has two boys now and while statistically she is most likely to have another, it might be a girl, and purple is a pretty fun colour for either one.  At least I thought so, but in fact I spoke to her yesterday and she agreed with me, so we're a go.

Not a go: the pattern. I have only about 330 yards and while I could supplement that, I'd also like to do so exclusively on the borders, and even then just in a pinch.  And I want to knit it now, not in September
when we find out whether it's a little brother or a baby sister.  You'd be amazed how many baby sweater patterns have either a ton of yarn-sucking garter or gender-specific buttonhole bands you knit during the whole and not when the bulk of it is done, or both.  Like, all of them, as far as I can tell.  H'mmmmm.

Any suggestions?

In other yarny news, guess what arrived after about 24 days on the road?

la la la la la Twisted Club Roving la la

and now I want to spin yarn.

...and knit a baby sweater, and fingerless gloves, and Mystery Pattern, and my two sweaters.

Good thing it's another rainy day, isn't it?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Escapist knitting: handwarmer edition

There were huge numbers of boring and complicated things I had to do yesterday, so naturally I sat down with my Churchmouse recipe for handwarmers and the luscious silk wool blend yarn I got at Stitch a few weeks ago.

My goal: just get the first one cast on and started a bit.  I didn't take long figuring out that I needed to go down four needle sizes to get gauge, what with being such a relaxed person and all, heh. And then I made my way along a few rounds.

I didn't mean to do the whole cuff, honestly, but the pattern calls for about two thirds the number of stitches you'd find in a sock and it's just so fast.  And then I wanted to see how the variegation looked.

When I saw how it looked, and liked it, I resisted the urge to find out how it looked over a larger area and made tea while surveying the list of Things To Do.  Then I went back to the knitting just to see how the thumb gusset came out (with little breaks to get through the laundry.)

The thumb castoff is very interesting and results in a lovely neat edge which is difficult to rip back when you realize you've done it too tightly.  I know because I reknit it twice after the first time, wondering throughout whether going down four needle sizes was really the right plan.

At about four I panicked and put the knitting down so I could at least clear the kitchen counters again - do you find that just a week of comings and goings leaves you with serious landscaping made up of junk mail, urgent mail, magazine mail and discarded gloves, hats and scarves?  Because I do and I hadn't cleared the counters in nearly a month.  It was ugly and well worth putting knitting down for (eventually.)

That needle thing kept bothering me though, all through supper, in spite of all the stuff I still hadn't finished.  So I snuck back to the knitting and made my way through another few inches to see how the palm came out.

It's very soft and very beautiful and I would like to be wearing a pair of them now (well, maybe not right now as it's raining, but tomorrow when it's enough above freezing not to want gloves and enough below shorts weather to need something.) It's also pretty darned snug.  So I...

well, yes.  I ripped it all out and repacked the yarn in its bag with needles two sizes up.  I think that will work out fine.

Unless I cast them on again before I get the rest of my chores done.