Monday, August 20, 2007


I was at a Church of Craft get together in New York this evening.

(Great group of people, indulging in a variety of crafts -- some fibre (fiber!) related, some not. Let's just say that tarantulas are significantly less frightening when they're needle felted, with beaded legs, in hot pink.)

I wasn't the only sock knitter. Kim was working two at once on magic loop in some very nice Fiesta yarn. We compared techniques, and she idly asked if I'd ever knit socks toe-up.

Err.... No.

I have never knit socks from the toe up. I've used a variety of heel turns, tried a few different toe shapings, done all sorts of different things for the leg -- but I am absolutely 100% committed to top-down sock knitting. Heterosocksual, if you will.

Perhaps it's time.... Living in New York is all about trying new things, after all.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Jitterbug Sock

What a great sock yarn. Jitterbug is terrific to work with, both for socks and other designs. Love the "short burst" colouring.

Am just about finished a sock I started months and months ago... somehow less inspired to knit wool socks when it's 80+ degrees F/30+ degrees C and the sort of humidity that makes the newspaper slighty soggy.

I can barely imagine needing to wear such foot coverings, but I have from a reliable authority that I will, eventually.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Further on the Pattern Stitch - Sometimes, You Just Have to Chart

Mum's completed the front and back. Looks terrific. She said that she was able to get a hang of the pattern stitch without much difficulty. Once she saw what it doing, it's easy to figure out what you need to do on the next row.

That's the most elegant defense of the chart I've ever heard.

But then it was time for the sleeves.

Of course, you're increasing 1 stitch either end every 4 rows. Yeah, ok. A standard technique.

There's a 5 stitch border at either side, written out as (get this!)
Row 1: K1 (edge stitch) k4, work row 1 of pattern, k4, k1 (edge stitch).
Row 2: K1, p4, work row 2 of pattern, p4, k1.

(Which in itself could be improved.)

But then you have to start increasing stitches and fold them into the patterning. My Mum is a terrifically good knitter. But after 3 attempts she gave up trying to figure out how to fold the increases into the pattern stitch. Again, I think part of the problem is that the pattern is "moving" on the WS as well as the RS rows. Typically, if you increase on the RS, you have an even, predictable WS row that gives you a chance to smoothly incorporate the increased stitches into the pattern stitch -- allows you, in essence, to figure out where they go. Not with this one.

Could you figure it out? Yeah, absolutely. Do you want to? Probably not. Recall that ultimately, this is something we do for fun.

So I charted it. All 116 rows. All the way across. Starting at 48 stitches, increasing up to 104. It may have taken some time...

And the knitting now? Easy as pie!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Lesson in Pattern Writing - Charts vs. Written Instructions

I've always been pretty relaxed when it comes to the charts vs. written instructions debate. I'm pretty comfortable with either, and although I like the visual preview that you get in a chart, I don't have any problems working with written instructions.

However, I finally found a pattern that stumped me, that required me to chart out a written design.

It's a design my Mum is working on, a great textured sweater for my brother. It's a bit rough and organic looking, worked in what I'd called an off-set rib. The basis of the pattern is a k4 p2 ribbing, but after 8 rows even it shifts over stitch by stitch for 8 rows and then repeats the k4 p2 rib in a different position, and then shifts back to the original position. It's 32 rows in total, on 6x+2 sts.

The pattern stitch is written out on the pattern sheet, row by row, and it's an absolute nightmare to read and interpret. Before she started working it, I helped my Mum make some size modifications, and I spent a fair bit of time looking at the pattern overall and the pattern stitch instructions. It was still a total surprise when I saw it knitted up.

Part of the problem is that the pattern writer has taken a couple of shortcuts that make it harder to read. It makes sense that for the "base" k4 p2 sections, the RS and WS rows are written out once, and then the knitter is instructed to repeat them 3 times. Yup, easy to figure out. No problem.

But then you're working the section where the rib is moved over by 1 stitch each row. My first issues is that the rib is "moved" on both the RS and WS rows. This makes it harder to predict what you need to do. It much easier for a knitter if the WS row is simply a repeat of the patterning on the RS row. Way less chance of error. And then because you're moving over a full 8 stitches over 8 rows on a 6 stitch repeat, two of the rows are repeated.

Let me write it out for you.

Rows 1-8 are 4 repeats of:
RS: p2 [k4, p2]
WS: k2 [p4, k2]

Easy! Then it gets frustrating.

Row 9: k1, *[p2, k4]; repeat from * to last st, p1.
Row 10: *[p4, k2]; repeat from * to last 2 sts, p2.
Row 11: k3, p2, *[k4, p2]; repeat from * to last 3 sts, k3.
Row 12: p2, *[k2, p4]; repeat from * to end of row.
Row 13: p1, *[k3, p2] to last st, k1
Rows 14 to 16: Repeat rows 8 to 10.
Row 17: As row 11.


There are two ways to make this better.
1. How about Rows 14-17: Repeat rows 8 to 11? Much simpler.
2. Or spell the damn thing out. You can see how it's not easy to figure out what the pattern stitch will produce... I honestly think that in this case, the shortcut of "repeat rows x-z" makes it worse, because you can't in advance see the pattern stitch emerging.

(And that's just the first 17 rows. There's another 15 to go.)

And my other complaint? The picture on the front of the pattern is taken from a fair distance, and the sweater is worked in a tweedy yarn.

This breaks two critical rules:
1. Make sure that the pattern stitch in clear in the pictures. That is, take the picture close enough that you can see it.
2. And make sure the pattern stitch is clear in the pictures. That is, how about a single colour yarn? What insanity possessed the knitter to work the sample in a tweedy yarn anyway?

Still, it will be lovely once it's done!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Back in the Saddle

It's amazing how changing your routine (ok, changing your life) can mess with your priorities. I've barely picked up my knitting needles over the past four weeks, as I've been moving and changing jobs and settling into a new apartment and getting used to a new city and travelling on business... it's been busy.

Last night, for the first time in weeks, we watched episodes of the Daily Show and I worked on my Jitterbug sock. It felt good. Felt like home.

(Well, ok, I wasn't entirely craft-free in the last month... I did finish a cross-stitch that I'd started about five years ago. Somehow the change in my routine demanded a change in craft.)