Saturday, May 24, 2008

Knitting on the Cote D'Azur

Really, no comment or description is needed.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Air Travel

This question comes up pretty often in my knitting classes... usually around the time that I mention that socks are ideal travel knitting.

Yes, travel. As in planes.

I've never had a problem with plastic, bamboo and wood needles either going through security or on the plane. No one has ever stopped me. I have successfully traveled with a circular metal needle, too, but I went prepared to have it confiscated -- it was a lace project, and a lifeline had been threaded so it didn't matter if I had to remove it from the knitting. No problem, and it went back and forth to New York with me a couple of times.

The trick seems to be to not ask. You say the word needle to the poor security guard and he/she is more likely to think of something medical than craft-related. So I just put 'em in my carry-on bag and send 'em through the x-ray machine.

This worked again for this most recent trip.

But I did encounter a new resistance. I was asked by the flight attendant to put the needles away for landing.

I suppose I could have hurt myself with them in a landing incident... should I take away from this that knitting in the car is dangerous, too?

Hey, we all gotta take risks....

Monday, May 19, 2008

Decisions, Decisions: Travel Knitting

As anyone who has spoken to me in the last month knows, I'm going on vacation tomorrow. (Sorry if I've been boring you!)

A few days in Cannes, avoiding the film festival, and then a few days in London. There's some work planned, for both the day job and the knitting, but also lots of sitting around drinking strong coffee and relaxing.

And for that, I need relaxing knitting.

Oh, what to take... decisions, decisions. God forbid I should run out of things to knit while on a four hour layover at Heathrow....

I have one and half socks to finish for an assignment, but those will be done fairly quickly.

I have already shipped the Scurvy Shawl ahead with Norman, since it's on a metal needle and I'm taking only carry on, and I'd hate to lose my favourite Addi Turbo. 95% of the time, metal needles are fine on planes, but I'm not risking this one. I'm desperate to finish -- it's been fun, but a tough slog. I'd had been contemplating making it larger, but the challenging nature of the graph is making the calculations hard -- and anyway, she says, madly rationalizing, it's ok that it might be a bit small. I'm using much finer yarn than the original pattern calls for -- laceweight rather than sport. It's looking like it will be about 50 cm/20 inches long after blocking, and therefore have a span of about 100 cm/40 ins. This is pretty damn small for a shawl, but I'm going to treat it as a scarf. And it's going to be so outrageous that I wouldn't want it too big. It's bright orange and lime green after all.

19 rows of about 400 sts left. Which should take most of the first leg of the vacation. (I was averaging about 15 minutes a row, so that's 5-ish hours.)

And then what?

Well, naturally, I'm going to take some sock yarn, since I'll have the needles with me anyway. I can get two pairs out of 3 50g balls.

Both of the black and white mix yarns -- a twist and a tweedy mix -- were bargain bin finds. (Note both the price and the sophisticated label on the ball on the right...) If I use the plain black for the top rib, the heel and the toe, a 50gm ball is enough for a pair.

So that's about 5-6 hours of lace knitting (allowing extra time for fixing of mistakes and lifeline feeding and such).

And then two pairs of socks at about 12-15 hours a pair. Another 24-20 hours.

But I'd hate to run out.

So then there's this... the yarn from the abandoned Lace Wings project....

laceweight doesn't take up much room in my bag... and anyway, I'll have the right needle with me, and the pattern sheets take up no room at all... what the heck...

The design I have in mind is Cheryl Oberle's North Sea Shawl from Folk Shawls. Of course, because I can never leave well enough alone, it's a different yarn -- lace weight rather than the DK she calls for. And I'll be working it narrower and shorter because I don't have enough yarn. So again, more of a scarf than a shawl.

So yeah, four and a half pairs of socks, and one and a quarter shawls. That should be enough for 10 days, no?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thank You, Mr. Postman - Harmony DPNs

The KnitPicks Harmony DPNs arrived!

Woo hoo!

They're lovely -- very pretty to look at. They're smooth but I wouldn't call them slippery.

They seem very hard, which is good. I've been bending my bamboo DPNs...

It doesn't look that extreme, but you can certainly feel the bend as you work with it.

The points perhaps aren't quite as sharp as I'd like, but they are a hair sharper than the bamboo points, and I do think that their hardness will help a lot. I'm only working a plain sock with them right now, so will get you know as soon I start into a fancy stitch sock.

I only ordered three sets: 2.0mm, 2.25mm and 2.5mm. I have a beautiful set of Lantern Moon rosewood 2.75mm DPNs, so I didn't need any more in that size. And I very rarely use anything so big as 3mm for socks. Am working with the 2.25mm set right now.

And perhaps the best thing of all: they come in sets of 6. Although I'm not in the habit of losing DPNs, I have been known to sit on them.... Anyone have any idea about their breakability compared to bamboo?

The gorgeous sock yarn in the picture above? Sorry, can't say a lot... it's classified TOP SECRET... I'll let you know about it when I'm allowed to. I have to say that the yarn is absolutely fabulous, though... it's a blend of wool, the obligatory nylon, and possibly some other delicious things which might or might not include silk and alpaca. I'm going to have a hard time mailing these off to their proper home when the time comes, I fear.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yet Another One: This Time In Qiviut

Yet another One Skein Luxury Kerchief. This one is in Cottage Craft qiviut, which I picked up at the Frolic.

It's actually a blend -- 50% merino, 50% qiviut. Qiviut is, for those who were wondering, the softest, loveliest fibre in the world. It's the undercoat of the musk ox. Really. More from Wikipedia. One of the things I love about the yarn is that it's undyed -- that's the actual colour. And it doesn't shrink or felt, which means it makes a terrific sock yarn. And oh look, they've got one for sale! I didn't actually need to know that...

But in the meantime, I had 150m or so of a fingering weight, and so I worked another kerchief.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sandra's Mini Sock!

As anyone who has taken my sock class -- or read my article on Knitty -- I start off sock knitters with my "training sock". It's a simple pattern that allows a new sock knitter to learn all the techniques to create a sock, in a reasonable amount of time.

To give you a sense of scale:

It's worked on larger needles and worsted weight yarn, so you can see your stitches more easily, and you can make fast progress. (I find that "real" teeny tiny sock yarn and needles can be a little intimidating for new sock knitters.)

I love seeing the training socks that result, it's fun for me, and confidence building for my students.

Sandra, who attended a recent class, was feeling so good after completing her training sock that she decided to try her hand at working with "real" sock yarn and needles.

She worked my training sock again, in a self-striping yarn she had in her stash.

The result was wonderful!

She put a long loop on it -- she suggested it would make an excellent Christmas tree decoration.

I had a better thought... if you see a red car driving around Toronto with a jaunty blue sock hanging over the rear-view mirror, you'll know that's me!

Thanks for a wonderful gift, Sandra!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Reader Mail: To Jackie, who asked about sock needles

Jackie asked whether to order the 6" or 8" length DPNs.

For a knitter who's new to working on DPNs, I definitely recommend the longer ones. You're significantly less likely to drop a stitch from longer needles.

(Some may disagree. It's true that longer needles are slightly more cumbersome to handle, but I find that the benefits outweigh the negative.)

In Case You Were Wondering

I did order the Harmony DPNs. They've shipped, can't wait for them to arrive.

I'm working on some new sock designs -- yeah, huge shock -- and I'm looking forward to some nice pointy needles. This new design is all cables and twisted stitches, and the points on my DPNs are just not holding up.

Not only are the bamboo points not very... well, pointy... but they're shredding a bit. They're getting rough. I don't have any complaints -- they've stood up well to a lot of use, and they're certainly still great for ordinary knitting. But I'm looking forward to trying the new ones out for cables.

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Sighting: A Meditation on Yarn Choices

I was teaching a class recently.

The shop was open, and shoppers were about -- cruising the yarns, checking out the books, generally being knitterly. An older woman wandered in, clearly looking for a new project. She went straight for the books and pattern leaflets. She sat near me, and as I am wont to do, I checked out her hand-knitted garments.

She had on a twinset, with lace insets. Lace on the front of the shell (couldn't tell if it had sleeves), and then matching lace panels down both of the cardigan fronts.

It was knitted in a fine, fine yarn, and she'd clearly taken a lot of time and care in its creation.

But I could tell even from a distance that she'd knitted it in acrylic. (Two clues: the yarn had a certain sheen to it, and it was also in a colour of peach that only seems to occur in acrylic "baby yarns".)

Ok, I'm a yarn snob. I've talked about this before. I probably spend far too much on yarn for a project. Certainly, I'm lucky enough to be able to afford good yarn. It's quite possible that this particular knitter didn't have a lot of money to spend a "boutique" yarn.

She clearly loves the craft, is proud of her skills, and enjoyed knitting her twinset.

But I have to wonder about how much more this knitter would have enjoyed her project if she'd worked with good yarn -- a yarn that felt good to work with.

I say this in my classes a lot: if you're going to spend that much time with the yarn running through your fingers, you should like how it feels. This to me is even more important than what it's made of, or where it comes from. And acrylic simply doesn't feel good.

I chatted with this knitter very briefly. She commented that knitting was undergoing a resurgence. Absolutely!

Knitting fell very much out of favour in the 1970s and 1980s. I don't believe that it's a coincidence that this is exactly the time when man-made yarns became so common, when they started to replace natural fibers as the most common knitting products available. When acrylic was the best you could hope for.

Knitting is back because the pleasure of the craft is back. We're lucky. The selection of yarn available today is broader than it has ever been.

There are so many more choices than the 100% acrylic yarns of the past 30-40 years. And many of them are affordable. Fabulous cottons, great wools, and all sorts of interesting new fibres like cotton and bamboo and soy.

Oh that I could have taken her hand and lead her to feel some of these new products, this unknown knitter...