Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Xmas Sock Idea

So far...

Subtle yet festive, I think.

Red heels and toes, but I'll leave the rest pretty simple.

Lizardy Progress

3 squares done! 21 to go!

I've decided that to describe this as an afghan undersells it. It's an art piece.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Back to First Principles/When Does It Become My Own?

Sometimes, you have to go back to the start. I worked on a sock last night, nothing too fancy. It came together, and I like it. Knitter's block dealt with, I think.

On a different note, this raises in my mind a question about how far one has to stray from a published design before it counts as original.

The source project is the Holly Leaf Socks from the Vogue Knitting On the Go Socks book. I posted about this before. Two goes and it was awful on both. They're magnificent, but really not up my alley from a construction perspective.

As I said, I should have known -- knitted flat, with copious intarsia. A total disaster the first time around, and a medium range disaster even in the modified version.

So, back to my revised plan... much simpler, much more manageable. A narrow edging at the top in bright red, the leg in a nice festive green mock cabled rib, and I'm planning the heel and toe in red. I'll probably stick with a single colour of green, rather than the 2-colour foot I was considering -- because really, what's the point of working the damn thing flat and then having to seam it.

But then at what stage is this so far from the source that it's an original design? The yarn is different, the number of stitches is different, the needles are different, there's no intarsia at all, they're worked in the round rather than flat... what is the same is the edging and the basic colours and the mock cable rib stitch.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Post-knitum depression?

I've been on a knitting rampage of late -- four new designs (including a full hat, mitt and scarf set), the Highland Shawl, and I've got three Lizard Ridge squares done. All excellent stuff.

And in the last few days, I've hit a wall. I've been working on and off for over a year on a feather & fan shawl in some stash yarn. I picked it up yesterday for some roadtrip knitting, and ended up ripping a significant portion of it out -- too many mistakes. Then even the reworked section was causing me problems. And I picked up again a twice-abandoned mock-cabled and colourwork sock project, and I'm really not having much success with that.

And Lorena gave me some Rowan Romance to swatch with for a specific design she has in mind, and it's just not coming together for me.

Am I all creative-d out? I've been doing some seriously interesting and challenging stuff over the last two or three months, and I think I'm exhausted. Right now even the easy things seem hard.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Lizard Ridge Continues

Look! Look! Isn't this cool?

I have my mother participating in the hunt for additional colourways. I have 19 now, and I'm willing to move heaven and earth to ensure I get 24 so that each block is different.

I'm having a heck of a time explaining this to people who aren't knitters, though.

"There's this yarn, and it's naturally stripy. And then you do this pattern so that it makes more stripes, and they're bubbly now but it will flatten out so it's wavy." The price of knitting in public, I suppose. All I know is that I get asked about this more than anything else I've knitted.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Applied Tedium

Working on the last piece of the Highland Shawl, the outer edging.

After I worked the inner border, I put the stitches on hold, to have an edging applied to them. All 186 x 2 + 2 of them. That's 372 stitches in total.

It's a few. But that's ok, I'm not afraid of a few stitches -- see my post about ruffles.

And then there's this little edging you apply. It's pretty simple, an 8 row thing you attach to the inner border every WS row. Easy-peasy. It varies from 5 stitches to 9 so it's not like it's a lot of knitting.

So 372 sts divided by 4 is 93. 93 repeats of the edging pattern.

That's ok, 8 rows. Easy. But here's the problem... the repeat is oddly difficult and time-consuming considering how small it is.

R1: Sl1, k2, yo, k2.
R2: k2, p1, k2, attach to last stitch of shawl (I'm using a k2tog).
R3: Sl1, k3, yo, k2.
R4: k2, p1, k3, attach to shawl.
R5: Sl1, k2, yo twice, k2tog, yo, k2.
R6: K2, p1, k2, p1, k2, attach to shawl.
R7: Sl1, k8.
R8: Cast off 4, k3, attach to shawl.

I'm finding two problems with this: it moves so quickly that I forget where I am -- "I can't already be casting off, I just did that." And I keep mixing up the position of the yo in R3. It's just not sticking in my head for some reason. So I have to keep looking at the pattern.

This means that a repeat takes about 4 minutes.

4 minutes times 93 is 372 minutes. Which is 6.2 hours.

And I have to be careful about how I hold the needles, because the shawl is heavy, and all that turning means I'm at risk for stitches slipping off the needles.

It's both horribly fiddly and horrifically dull at the same time. Whee!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What does this say about my state of mind?

Lorena asks me for a hat design and I come up with this.


This is known as the Silly Hat. Because it is.

It's also a very very quick and easy knit with bulky weight yarn (11 sts/4 inches on 8mm needles), worked flat so it's accessible to even the newest knitter. It's sized for kids and adults, and uses hardly any yarn at all - betweeen 75 and 150 yds, depending on the size.

Available on Patternfish and Ravelry for $3.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wither Chunky?

Have been asked by a reader (hello! so glad you like my designs!) what I mean when I say "chunky". As in my hat, and the Sheep Wrap.

I mean something like 16 sts/20 rows to 10cm/4 inches in st st with 6mm needles, or a

Lizard Ridge Fever

I have Lizard Ridge fever.

I've loved Noro Kureyon since the first time I saw it, just over two years ago.

I've used it for a sweater (the Vass Variation) and a couple of scarves, and I've evangelized it relentlessly. My mother is knitting a cardigan with it, Nicola made a scarf with it, and I try to force it on my students every chance I get.

The colourways fascinate me -- in a Kaffe- Fassett-more-is-less sort of way -- and I've noodled on the idea of a design that uses as many of them as possible. My Vass Variation started down that road in a timid sort of way....

Thanks to the Fall Knitty, I found what I was looking for. Lizard Ridge!

It's genius... an afghan of 24 blocks, each just less than a ball of Kureyon. 24 blocks means 24 different colourways! I actually don't know how many they make in total, but I've already got 10 and I know there's more I haven't bought yet. I'm hoping I don't have to repeat a single one.

I've never actually made an afghan before. I love the idea that each block is in itself a portable project, ideal for my commute.

Like the designer, I was thinking that I'd take it slowly, one block at a time, between bigger projects, or as I find a new colourway.

Phooey to that! The knitting is addictive; I'm loving the anticipation of what colour comes next, and how they combine. I got one block done entirely between some TV yesterday and a couple of subway trips.

Oh yeah, and the "just less than a ball" means that I'm going to have 24 bits of leftovers... I sense a scarf or something! Might be an excuse to actually learn how to crochet.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Oddly Productive

We've just had four solid weeks of dedicated home time. We've been nursing our sick dog (about which you know, and I will say no more on this topic).

During that time, we watched a lot of TV and I got a lot of knitting and designing done.

I got two designs completed - both of which are fairly out of character for me. MMJ says that my ruffled cardi is the Anti-Kate sweater. I never wear pink and wouldn't be caught dead in anything in the least ruffly.

And then I produced this pinky-purply kids' sweater with big shiny buttons. Again, not really me.

But you know, I rather like them both.

Let's see what the next few weeks produce, as my emotional state shifts again.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Best Dog in the World

Goodbye, sweetie. We'll love you and miss you always.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Discouraging or Honest?

There's a knitter out there somewhere who thinks I'm a horrible person.

I was in Sheep last Sunday, having just finished my sock class, and I was approached by a woman who needed some help. I'm a reasonably helpful sort, so I waded in.

She was asking about different types of yarns; she was looking for a dark coloured mohair or similar. I pointed her to some lovely chunky weight mohair yarns. As we chatted, details emerged. She's a new knitter. She doesn't yet know how to purl. And she's working on her first scarf.

She had brought her needles -- her only set -- to the store with her. I think she thought I might have needed to check them for safety purposes.

I started gently redirecting her to smoother yarns; yarns easier to work with.

"Oh no, no. I need something to go with the mohair I've got."

After some pointing and questioning, I learn that she's already got 2 balls of Kidsilk Haze. In dark purple. To make a scarf. I remind you that she's a new knitter who doesn't yet know how to purl.

So here's the thing about Kidsilk Haze. I've said it before, you might recall. The results are unquestionably magnificent. It's lightweight and warm and cobwebby and mohairy and delicous.

It is also -- bar none -- the most difficult yarn I've ever worked with. I told the customer this. I even said "you might think I'm horrible, but... ". I made a scarf last fall in Kidsilk Haze and it nearly killed me. A garter stitch scarf, mind you. The stuff is incredibly sticky, gets tangled like some horrible tangly thing, and is impossible to rip out. (Although I suppose that actually is a good thing if you drop a stitch...)

"But it's so nice... " "Oh yes, absolutely, no question. It's lovely. But don't use it."

We went on like this for a few minutes. I repeated to her that I was a seriously experienced knitter and even I would think twice about working with it.

I left her there, puzzling. I have no idea what she ultimately did. I may have frightened her off for life -- but the Kidsilk Haze would have have the same effect.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ruffles: Amy Did Warn Me

I'm quite proud of this, my latest design.

For some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted a ruffled border. I'd seen it used very effectively in other designs.

Well, yeah, the effect is amazing, but dear god it's a serious investment of time and yarn.

Using the sleeve edging as an example, here's how you make a ruffle.

There were 34 sts in the cast on edge of the sleeve. Sleeve has been seamed, so you're working in the round. With RS facing, and appropriate dpns, pick up 34 stitches in the selvedge edge of the sleeve. Yes, that's right, one for one. Knit 1 round even. Next round: kfb in every stitch -- doubling the number of stitches on your needles. Work another even round, knitting all those 68 stitches. Work another round of kfbs -- doubling again the number of stitches. Knit another even round. Cast off. You start with 34 sts, and end up with 136 stitches.

Which doesn't sound too bad. And then you start working the border of the body opening. In one piece. 76 sts for the lower back, 20 for the back neck, and 85 on each side. That's 266 sts. You then double that, and double it again, for 1064 sts. No wonder it took me 5 episodes of Rome on DVD and almost a full ball of yarn to finish the edging!

I think it was worth it, though... what d'ya think?

Pattern available from Ravelry and Patternfish.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


When I'm teaching sock knitting, I often tell a story about my grandmother, the Hilda after whom this blog is named.

Hilda was an expert knitter, all through her life. She told me a story once -- a story I didn't really appreciate at the time -- that when she was a girl she'd earn a penny by turning the heel of a sock for less-skilled knitters.

I finished up a two-part sock class today, and as he was leaving R. apologetically pressed a coin into my hand.

He couldn't find an English coin, he said, so this would have to do.

A Sacagawea dollar coin.

R. -- thank you. You're a terrific knitter, and a gentleman, and I will keep the coin in my knitting kit with me always. (It's there, in the tin with the safety pins and stitch markers.)

Hilda would be smiling, I'm quite sure.