Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Vass Variation -- The Yarn

It will certainly be colourful....

FO - Cashmere Hat

For when the kitten hat is too casual. Or when I'm seeing my mother.

Naturally, I modified the original pattern to work it in the round. Seaming is boring.

The scarf is the Rockstar, from Knitty.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Variations on a Noro Sweater - part 2

So I carefully chose 10 different colours of Noro Kureyon last night to begin the Variation on the Joan Vass 20th Anniversary Issue of Vogue Knitting sweater. (Hereinafter referred to as the Vass Variation.)

After a discussion with Erin about the success of her graft on the Teva Durham Lace Leaf pullover, I've decided that I'll do the grafting on the back rather than on the sleeves.

I was all keen to cast on, but was stunned to discover I don't own the right needle. Can you believe that I don't own an 80 cm long 4.5mm circular needle? Not even in metal. I'm shocked, I really am. I have a couple of 40 cm ones, used for hats and various other portable projects. And 80cm long 4mm and 5mm... but no 4.5. And I call myself a serious knitter?!

I think this is actually the knitting PTB telling me to finish the damn houndstooth felted bag before I start something else.

I've got less than 10 inches to go, which at my current rate works out to about 7 hours of TV. And we have this week's Prison Break, Lost and at least a couple of Daily Shows and Colbert Reports all stacked up on the PVR waiting to be knitted to. Now, to find the time to sit down.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Messing with a design

I own a copy of the Fall 2002 Vogue Knitting Anniversary issue. It's got some good stuff in it, but there was one particular design that caught my interest at the time.. an outrageously striped textured pullover knit in one piece from the front bottom edge, with integral sleeves, up and over and down the back to the back bottom edge. The only assembly is sewing up the slide/sleeve seams. It's designed by Joan Vass, in Noro Kureyon.

The designer used three different colourways of the Kureyon to vary the stripes. I loved it even before I'd even knit a single stitch with a Noro yarn. It's a clever design, in that the integral sleeves ensure that the striping isn't too insane or clashing.

But the sizing bothered me. It's a one-size-fits-many, with a 49 1/2" bust measurement. I'm fairly petite, and I figured it would just drown me. I briefly toyed with the idea of downsizing it, but I got distracted.

But then I was at the Sheep a couple of weeks ago, and Denny was carrying around her latest project. She had only a couple of inches knit, but I instantly knew what it was... that Noro sweater. I was still worried about the size, though.

And then I saw her wearing it at the shop. I demanded she strip so I could try it on. It's really wide, but the short length keeps it fairly flattering.

So I'm back to thinking about it again. I do need to downsize it somewhat -- probably 5 or so inches in the bust measurement. And I want to make another modification. I want to work it in the round.

Denny used 8 or 9 different colourways -- each ball in the project a different one. But that means that where the sides are seamed you've got a potentially jarring clash of colours at worst, and at best, stripes that don't line up. That's easy to solve, just knit it in the round up to the armholes. But then what?

What do I do about the sleeves? I want to preserve the direction of the knitting, so that the striping stays relatively under control. If I knit the sleeves the usual way, I'll end up with sleeve stripes that run perpendicular to the body stripes at the armhole seam. I could knit the sleeves separately in the same direction as the body and then seam them onto the body, but I've still got the issue that where the sleeves are seamed to the body there will be stripes mixing and possibly clashing. And trying to match up the stripes of the Kureyon seems like a nightmare proposition.

And so I considered how I could do the sleeves in situ as designed, but somehow joining them to the circular body section... .

Thanks to Rogue, a solution has occured to me: grafting. I can work the body in one piece circularly to the armholes, work up to the top of both the front and back separately with the sleeves as designed then graft them together at the top. Or, to eliminate the grafting work on the sleeves, I could actually work right over the top to the bottom of the sleeve back and do the grafting midway down the back.

Am I out of my mind? I'm much better at grafting than I used to be, and I'm certainly not afraid of it anymore. But it's a lot of stitches to graft.... If I do it at the neck opening, there are 110 on either side to graft, albeit in a garter stripe pattern that's probably a good place to disguise a potentially messy graft. Or, if I do it at after the sleeves are done, there are only 109 stitches to deal with, but they're in a pattern stitch, which will likely be fiddlier. (Actually, because of my mods to the pattern to downsize it, it's only 85 stitches. But still.)

And then there's the issue of trying to make the colours work at the graft point. Obviously, there's going to be some clashy-ness when I start a new ball, but will it stand out too much at the graft point? I have to assume not. If I graft at the shoulder seams, I think any clashing will be less disturbing than if I do it mid-back.

This is probably all moot, as I'm planning to follow Denny's lead and use as many different colourways as I need balls, so there's going to be insane collisions of colours regardless.


Friday, November 18, 2005

The Kidsilk Scarf

This is the first year since... oh, I don't know... 1980-something that I haven't had a black winter coat. I've got a closet full of colourful and interesting scarves. Which are now redundant.

I decided to try Rowan's legendary Kidsilk Haze for a scarf.

They call it CrackSilk Haze for a reason. Yes, the finished product is addictive. But I thought I was going to crack during the knitting process.

The yarn is very fine, hairy, and sticky. It's impossible to undo if you make a mistake, and it's very easy to drop a stitch if you're not paying attention. Argh.

I started by casting on 60 stitches on a 4mm circular needle. (I like using circulars for straight knitting because I can't lose a needle.) I worked a few inches in garter stitch. I wasn't thrilled with the results. It wasn't very interesting and was wider than I wanted. So I tried to rip it back. After fighting for a bit, getting tangled and snagging and breaking the yarn, I abandoned it. (I hate abandoning yarn. And this stuff isn't cheap.)

I started again. I cast on 50 stitches -- using the knitted cast on because I couldn't bear the thought of running out of yarn midway through a long tailed cast on and having to rip it back. Please note that this is the only time in the last 10 or so years that I've used that cast-on. I hate it. It's ugly and slow.

I decided to work in biased garter stitch. It was slow, it was painstaking, it was difficult. This is yarn that's very easy to make mistakes with, and yet is impossible to undo. Working on it required good light, and a serene atmosphere. Part of the problem was the choice of colour -- a lighter colour would have been easier to work with, I'm sure.

But yes, they're right, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the result. It's light and warm and chic and just the thing for my new coat.

And I bow my head in respect to people who knit lace shawls with this stuff. You are better knitters than I.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Kitten Hat - FOUND!

Anyone who knows me knows I've been extremely distressed of late. I couldn't find my beloved kitten hat. It's cold out, and my ears need covering. I ripped apart the closet last weekend, and went through all my coat pockets twice and yet I couldn't find it.

I was sad, and whiny.

Good news! Hubby found it today. He went digging, and found it in the one coat I didn't check. A coat I didn't check because I didn't think I wore it last year, but hey... at least it's found. (I suspect that the cat in whose likeness this was made may have had something to do with this.)

Yay! Kitten hat!

Made out of Classic Elite Waterspun. Lovely stuff.

My mother hates this hat.

Original pattern.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

More Felting and Sins to Be Covered

I've been fighting on and off for over a year with a stranded 2 colour felted bag project. It's a black and white houndstooth design, and the original intention was to create a roll-shaped bag. The idea comes from a book of Paton's felted bag patterns published last fall.... the houndstooth design comes from one pattern, and the shape comes from another.

The roll bag pattern calls for a large rectangle to be knit and felted, and then cut into pieces for sewing up. I might just seam up the sides and felt it as a big open bucket bag. We'll see.

I tend to work on it in spurts. It took about three months to get the first couple of inches done, until I got my hands on a copy of Debbie New's Unexpected Knitting with her helpful diagrams for two handed stranding. I picked up speed, and made some great progress early in the year. I abandoned it over the summer, and I picked it up again last night for the first time in months.

Thanks to Debbie New and Brandon Mably, I'm feeling more confident than I used to about stranded knitting, but I'm still no Fair Isle wunderkind. Before I felt the thing, I intend to pour myself a stiff drink and measure my tension. I'm interested to see how far off I actually am....

Weaving as I go, merrily, merrily. (Dear god. Showing off the back of my knitting in public. Grannie would be shocked.)

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Knitting for home

A felted bag idea for Lorena, trimmed in a novelty yarn. Stay tuned for pictures! The question is do I apply the novelty yarn trim before or after felting? I think the result will be more predictable if I do it afterwards.

Streetcar knitting

A cashmere hat from a Handmaiden kit because it was 3 degrees this morning.

  • That vintage poncho thingy. It sat for a while but it's underway again. This is the back. It's basically two rectangles attached at the shoulders with a hood, and buttons on the side near the waist. It's really just a showcase for this rather lovely variegated wool from Fleece Artist. Sadly, it was in the "delete bin" of a nearby yarn store, and doesn't seem to be in production any more.

I'm off on a roadtrip this weekend with a couple of my girl pals and am looking forward to some serious knitting in the car. I hope to finish the hat and get some good work done on the poncho.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Missed Meme Question - Casting On

I missed a question from the Meme... What knitting technique do you feel is the most valuable?

The long-tailed cast on, no debate.

This is an oft-discussed topic in my knitting classes. I won't let anyone leave my classes without learning it, and insist any sock or mitten projects in my classes start with this cast on.

Why? Three main reasons.

1. The long tailed cast on looks good in an unobtrusive sort of way. It disappears into ribbing, provides a plain edge for stocking stitch. It's nice.

A lot of the beginning knitters I meet use the the knitted cast on. Truth be told, the knitted cast on is ugly. I do teach this one in my beginning classes, I admit, but then we all used training wheels the first few times we rode a bicycle.

2. The long tailed cast on is stretchy. The knitted cast on, and its close cousin the cable cast on, don't stretch. Nothing worse than a pair of mittens that won't go over your hand.

3. It's quick.

I use the long-tailed cast on 99% of the time.

The trick is in estimating how much yarn you'll need in the long tail. Tip #1: keep the tail of the yarn (that is, the bit with the end rather than leading to the ball) close to you. The yarn close to you gets used up more slowly than the yarn away from you. Tip #2: an inch per stitch will do.

But yes, you often run out of yarn before you've cast on enough stitches. Happens to everyone, all the time. And so you need to be able to easily and happily undo the whole thing and start again. It took me three goes to get a long enough tail to cast on for my cashmere hat. It was made worse by the fact that the pattern suggested using the yarn doubled for the cast on. For 112 stitches.

The last time I used another cast on that I can remember was for the dreaded Kidsilk Haze scarf. That yarn is so damned sticky that I knew I couldn't reliably undo it if I ran out of tail during the cast-on. Come February, I'm going to love that scarf, but our relationship had a rocky start. (It's a story for another day.)

But other than that, I'm a long-tailed cast on girl.

Practicing Continental

I'm working on a felted bag in the round, and the knitting is fairly tedious.

So it occurs to me that if felting really does hide a multitude of sins, this would be the ideal time to practice knitting continental. I've always been able to fake my way through a knit stitch in continental, but not a purl. But the time I'm done this bag, I should be an expert at the knit stitch, and fairly fast.

Let's see how it goes.

And then I'll have to do the same project again on the wrong side to practice a continental purl.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Tagged for a Meme

(I think this means I've officially joined the sisterhood of "real" knit bloggers. Thanks yarntart!)

What is your all-time favorite yarn to knit with?
I'm a Noro girl. No question. Now if only they made a sock yarn.

Your favorite needles?
Short bamboo 2.5mm dpns for sock knitting on the streetcar.

The worst thing you've ever knit?
The ribwarmer. Twice. About ten years apart. In both cases, immediately upon finishing it, I frogged it. The construction fascinates me, and I do love a good fitted vest. But it looks awful on me (ribwarmers should be worn only by women with a modest bustline). The second one was done with the Noro Sarubia that ended up becoming Clapotis.

Your most favorite knit pattern?
Rogue rules. But you know that if you've read any of this blog.

Best knit book or magazine?
Loving Loop-D-Loop right now. Also Knitting for Anarchists.

Your favourite knit blogs?
the aforementioned yarntart

Your favorite knit-along?
Never actually participated in a knit-along, but I've knit both Rogue and Clapotis and have read up on the various knit-alongs before I launched into them.

Your favorite knitwear designer?
Jenna Wilson inspires me no end. Debbie Bliss does lovely, lovely things in a simple and timeless ways. Teva Durham challenges me in a way no one else does.

Clapotis - Done. But what the heck am I going to do with it?

In all its glory. It's big. But then I did use a heavier weight yarn than called for.

It's lovely, too.

But a question... where and when does one wear such a shawl?

Ok, I understand the application of the light wrap over a summer dress to protect you from a breeze.

And I developed a new appreciation of the pashmina (albeit acrylic) while travelling around the UK in June. But a pashmina is fine and light, and can be worn as a scarf, or can form an impromptu lining for a raincoat, and can even be used to dry one's hands in a pinch.

But this thing is thick and fairly heavy. It's too long and dangly to wear as part of an outfit. It's too chunky for a scarf. And I wouldn't dare wipe my hands on it.

I have, however, really been enjoying wearing it over my pyjamas as I sit on the couch and watch the Daily Show. So maybe I've just upgraded my blankie. Flannel be damned... my blankie is silk and mohair.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

On dropping stitches...

The knitting of the Clapotis is finished. It was pretty quick. It's the unravelling that's taking all the time.

It's funny. So many knitters live in abject fear of a dropped stitch. (Except those brave souls who cable without a cable needle.)

After having dropped stitches willy-nilly on the Clapotis -- as instructed, of course -- I can tell you that a dropped stitch may not be so inclined to drop as you might expect. It's actually taking upwards of 10 minutes (yes, I timed it), to unravel a stitch all the way down. It's likely due to the nature of the yarn, a slightly fuzzy and slubby silk and mohair mix, but even so, these stitches aren't inclined to go very far on their own.

A useful lesson.

I think I'll use this as an exercise in my next Project workshop. I do teach students how to pick up a stitch with a crochet hook, but having them get a sense of how a stitch behaves as it is unravelling is a very good idea.