Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Instant Gratification Hat & Wristwarmers

It happens to everyone in this climate. Eventually, no matter how much you enjoy winter sports and hot drinks and snuggling up by the fire, you get tired of winter.

For me, it's that I get tired of all the gear required to simply step outside.

2 pairs of socks. Parka. Boots. Scarf. Gloves if it's above about -5 degrees, big mitts if it's colder than that. And of course, a hat. And if it's really cold, the hood snaps on the parka, and goes on over the hat.

But I've been wearing the same parka with the same hat and mitts since the middle of December, and I'm bored with them.

Being a knitter, of course, I have an easy way to solve this problem...

Introducing the Instant Gratification Hat & Wristwarmers.

Worked in Noro Silk Garden Chunky... they knit up like the wind, the colours are wonderful and just perfect for cheering up my black parka.. The yarn is 45% silk/45% mohair/10% lambswool blend, making it much softer than many of the Noro yarns, and very warm and insulating.

In particular, I love how the colour lengths are just long enough to make perfect stripes, and how the wristwarmers don't match each other, but they do both match the hat.

The pattern is for sale on my Ravelry store and at Patternfish.

DKC Workshops this Weekend: A Few Spots Still Available

I'm teaching two workshops at the DKC Winter Workshop this weekend at Metro Hall in Toronto.

I'm teaching Pattern Reading 11am-1pm on Saturday and Entrelac 10am-1pm on Sunday.

There are a couple of spots still available in both sessions. See the DKC flyer for more information.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Carry that Weight

I've finally invested in a digital scale. It's been on my wish list for a while, and it was J. that pushed me over the edge. She brought her scale to class recently, and we had a wild time weighing socks and leftover yarn.

Back when I worked in an actual office for the day job (rather than at home as I do now), I used to sneak socks and balls of yarn into the mailroom, to weigh them on the postage scale. It's a simple problem, really. When I've finished knitting a pair of socks, there's invariably yarn left over. And often, a fair bit. The question is how much yarn -- and would it be enough for another pair of socks?

So I found myself this rather attractive and shiny digital scale. Super accurate! Reads in increments of a gram up to 5kg!

I can now definitively answer the question. I can weigh the socks, and the leftover yarn. Look at this one - it's 25gm. As is its mate. Which means that I've got just about 50gm left of the 100gm skein -- just enough for another pair.

And for those partial skeins that aren't quite enough for a full pair -- well, I've got lots of leftovers. How about contrasting colour heels and toes? Stripes?

Once upon a time I estimated how many pairs of socks-to-be I had in my stash... More than 20, if truth be told. That was just for full skeins. Now that I can accurately weigh and measure the partial balls, that number has gone up significantly... I see a whole range of striped and multi-coloured leftover-using-up sock designs on the horizon... Recession-friendly stash-diving sock knitting -- there's a thought!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Looking For Errata

Wow. In one of my classes, I'm helping someone with a sweater project. It's from a popular book, and one of the great features of this particular design is that it's easily and cleverly custom-fit. The body is constructed in panels - the central panels are the same for all sizes, and customization is done through the use of variable width side panels.

All it needs is a couple of measurements and a bit of arithmetic.

My students know about my secret past as a mathematician, so anything like this gets handed off to me. I'm happy to do it, it helps my students, and it teaches me more about garment construction.

I spent a few minutes looking at the calculations and the pattern, and couldn't for the life of me figure it out. And then I Googled for errata.

Yeah. It turns out that through what must have been a terrible typesetting mistake, all of the minus signs in the formulas had been changed to division symbols. All of them. About 15, in total. No wonder my numbers weren't working.

So: VERY IMPORTANT NOTE to self, and everyone else: before you start any pattern, Google for errata. If I'd gone with the calculations as printed in the book, the sweater would have been significantly too small.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reader Mail: To Becca, who asked about Kureyon Sock

I promised a while ago that I'd be giving the Kureyon socks a good wear test. I've been wearing them a couple of times a week since I finished them in December, and the results so far are good.

I hand wash them and let them air dry - which is how I can wear them that often without running the washing machine.

They're softening up somewhat, and felting a little tiny bit -- it's just sort of filling out the fabric a bit, making it a bit denser. No signs of shrinking, and no visible wear or pilling or thinning.

Will keep wearing them at the same rate, and will report back in another month or so.

I've been told that the felting effect is more pronounced if you machine wash them, but again, no reports of much shrinkage.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Notes on a Project: February Lady Sweater

The February Lady Sweater. Done. Yes, as predicted, I picked up speed once the yoke was complete.

I used exactly 3 skeins of Dream in Color Classy in "Spring Tickle". I like the yarn very much - the colours are great, it's got a nice hand, and it washes very well. It also doesn't feel so soft that it will be wildly pilly.

As to the garment itself: it's interesting.

In this context, the raglan shape isn't an issue because it's supposed to be worn open, so I was able to choose a size that fits me around my smaller shoulders and not worry about the fact that it doesn't really close over my somewhat disproportionate bust... (It's not that I'm huge-busted, but let's just say that I've got more of a 1950s figure than a 21st century figure. A good old-fashioned hourglass.)

Although buttons haven't yet been added (Denny, over to you!), I would only really be able to comfortably button the top one. But again, it works for this style.

Other knitters have expressed concern about the final set of decreases. Unlike most top-down raglans, where all decreases are done at the sleeve seams, there is a final set worked as yarn-overs near the bottom of the yoke. You can see them clearly in the back view.

I am unconvinced. I think it looks sorta weird. Lots of knitters have worked them as m1 increases rather than yarnovers, so they're not visible.

I agree with this modification.

But even if the increase was invisible rather than visible, the big concern for me is the increases on the sleeves. You get a nice a-line with the increases on the body sections - again, good for accommodating the bust -- but you just don't need them on the sleeves. With the increases, the sleeves are poochy.... there is simply too much fabric around the upper arm. (Y'know, poochy. Like poofy, but less so.)

The 3/4 sleeves are good. I don't know whether it was motivated by the need to save yarn, or whether it was a design decision, but it works.

As mentioned, this isn't for me - despite the fact that I love the colour. It's a sample for a class I'm teaching. I really wasn't sure I'd like the finished object. I like it more than I thought I would, I'll be honest. It fits pretty well, and is suprisingly flattering.

I might even do one for myself... with a few modifications, of course.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Much Better

It looks like a sweater, for one.

And it really is going much faster now...

This are definite pros to a top-down raglan like this: once the long haul of the yoke is done, you pick up speed considerably. And it's great to be able to try the sweater on as you go to determine length. And the lack of seaming is a definite plus.

As to the cons: let's see the thing on and then we'll talk.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

February Lady Sweater: Hmmm....

The project I should be focusing on is the February Lady Sweater. I'm working it for a class I'm teaching in, oddly enough, February.

This is the third EZ design I've worked in the past year or so. (I know, it's not strictly an EZ design, but since it was inspired by her, and adheres pretty closely to her style, for this discussion I consider it part of her oeuvre.)

I've avoided her designs in the past because she relies heavily on the raglan, and my size and shape aren't flattered by the raglan.

I also discovered, in the process of working the Baby Surprise Jacket, that her use of garter stitch does not thrill me. There are large areas of garter stitch, but it's not entirely brainless because there are increases to work be worked and counted. Love how it looks, no question, but I find that it's neither interesting enough to engage my attention, nor boring enough to be an entirely autopilot project. A straight square of garter stitch I could work while asleep, but having to keep track of increases really slows me down.

And because I'm not a raglan knitter, I'm not used to the effort that goes into working the yoke. By the time the increases are done, you've got a heck of a lot of stitches on the needle (more than 250 for even the smallest size), and because garter stitch compresses vertically, you've got a lot of rows per inch. It's felt like it's taken forever.

But I've just divided off for the sleeves, and started into the lace pattern, and I think I'm going to pick up some serious speed.

The yarn is Dream in Color Classy in Spring Tickle. Very nice yarn, great to work with.

This is destined to be a shop sample, but I'm dying to try it on. Based on some feedback about the Karaoke, I've decided it's not right for the Must Have Cardi, a bit too slubby and fuzzy. I need a really crisp yarn to really show off the cables. But it might be kind of wonderful for my own February Lady Sweater.

It's nice to have the luxury of trying something on before I make it for myself. I can really examine and tweak the style and fit. Assuming I can stand to work another raglan garter yoke in the short term...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Update: Gauge Got

Ok, so I've got gauge with the Karoke. Next question - how pilly is it? I'm going to spend some time today playing with the swatch to see how it responds to wear.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Taste of My Own Medicine: Swatching

It's been a while since I've working something from someone else's pattern... It's been all about my own designs (or lace) for months. I'm pretty cavalier about gauge for lace, as long as I like how the fabric looks -- since fit doesn't matter for a rectangle. And when it's my own design, I just measure the gauge I'm working at, and let everyone else match that.

And I've got an actual pattern-based project in mind. (Well, two. One for a knit-along class, and the other just for plain old me.)

And damn it, I had to swatch.

I've been eyeing the Must-Have Cardi for ages, since the Harlot finished hers. I do love a good traditional design, and I like the modern (i.e. tailored) fit of this particular version very much. And it comes in a decent small size (34" bust finished) to fit my little frame.

I've had some SWTC Karaoke sitting in my stash for ages and ages -- got it in a swap. Although I've read mixed reviews on Ravelry, I'm going to give it a go. I rather like the slightly slubby nature of the yarn, I think it will add texture to the cables.

The good news is that I'm getting gauge before washing. And while the swatch dries, I will finish up a sock I'm working on.

Of course, there is the matter of the other project for the knit-along (to be named later), and a gansey sock design I'm cooking, and a Fair Isle sock design, and a wacky cabled sock.... and another design commission for the spring... So I'm not honestly sure how quickly I'll make progress with this, but it's a design I definitely do want to work.

Friday, January 09, 2009

On Learning Something New

As a teacher, I try not to be too prescriptive about knitting. There are lots of different ways of doing things - casting on, holding your needles, holding your yarn, increasing, and so forth. And in my opinion, if the thing looks good and doesn't fall apart, then whatever technique you used to make it is good.

I will recommend a technique if the difference if visible or structural. Finishing, for example. I'm a big proponent of mattress stitch over backstitch for seaming, because it looks so much better.

I used to be fairly relaxed about casting on, but I'm starting to get more insistent. I'm a long-tailed cast on snob. There are situations in which other cast ons work better, but for most situations, the long-tailed cast on is terrific. It's quick, creates a very attractive and stable low-profile edge, and the first row of stitches are easy to work. And, big bonus for sock knitters, it's stretchy.

I'm getting tired of watching knitters struggle with the backwards loop cast on -- incredibly quick and easy, yes, but it makes a very unstable edge, and the first row is a real challenge to knit. And the knitted cast on -- which I've been known to teach myself -- has some serious weaknesses, too. The stitches are easier to work, but it's slow and the edge is fairly loopy. And to make it reasonably loose, you have to cast on over two needles, which makes it very loopy. I'm really not happy with how it looks.

I used to only teach the long-tailed cast on in my sock and mitten knitting classes, but if time permits, I tend to give a quick tutorial in all my classes. A lot of students admit to me that they tried to learn it from books or vidoes, but weren't able to get the hang of it. I'm happy to admit I had the same problem -- couldn't figure it out for the life of me from books, and it was only when Kirsten showed it to me years ago that I really got it. (Thanks, Kirsten, BTW! You have no idea how much you improved my knitting.)

It is a bit tricky, no question, and it often takes a bit of practice, but the students get it. And for the most part, they see the advantages immediately and tell me that they'll keep using it. And I go home feeling faintly smug that I've shown more knitters the one true path.

This week, I had an interesting conversation. C. attended a class of mine years ago on mitten knitting, and I had shown her the long tailed cast on. She started the project in this week's class with a knitted cast on. I asked her about the long-tailed method. She told me she thought it was "weird" and was happy with the method she'd been using all along.

Weird, I get. No argument with that. But happy with the knitted cast on? I was taken aback.

But it's much better, I said. It's faster and looks nicer.

Faster for me, sure. C. said that she found it cumbersome. She's not wrong, I had to admit.

And looks better? Actually fairly subjective. She likes the edge, particularly how it looks in ribbing.

C. had made a genuine effort to learn something new, and had decided it wasn't for her. And me, I learnt something new - that just because I think it's better for me and my knitting doesn't mean it actually is for everyone.

I'm going to keep teaching it, and explaining why think it's best, but I think I'll be more careful about feeling smug...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Now Available: The Spider Hat

Number two in a continuing series of hats inspired by some of the wonderful cable patterns in the Barbara Walker Treasuries...

buy now at Ravelry and Patternfish. Also available for purchase at The Purple Purl.

Thanks to Adam for being a good sport and modeling the hat.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Circular Shawl - Finished!

The "Opening Night" circular shawl that I started on Election night is done. Wasn't that much knitting, it's just that I got distracted...

It's a big circle - and I mean big, the diameter is 33 inches (84 cm) - worked in segments, with two armholes created by casting off two of the segments on one round, and then immediately casting back on again over them on the following round.

It's one of those "why didn't I think of this myself" designs... very simple, and elegantly clever.

It wears rather like a vest, and also forms a high collar which handily mitigates the requirement for a scarf under my coat.

It was a reasonably quick knit, except for the last few rounds which took forever, and used up startling amounts of yarn, as is always the way with a shawl.

I used about 1 and a quarter of the giant Eco Wool + skeins, about 500 yds of yarn in total.

I'm very pleased with it -- it turned out exactly the way I wanted it to, and looks even better than I imagined it would. It was very simple to work - a nice palate cleanser between more challenging projects.

Speaking of which... I think I've figured out a design for the sparkly sock yarn...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Entrelac Scarf

Because you can always use more Noro projects.

The pattern calls for 3 balls of Noro Silk Garden or Kureyon. It's like this yarn was made for the Entrelac technique - the long lengths of colour work out brilliantly. I recommend the Silk Garden since it drapes nicely and (newsflash!) stands up very well to a delicate machine wash. You could use Taiyo, too. Any Noro yarn, really.

In addition to a variation for a wider shawl verison, the pattern includes detailed notes to help you to learn how to work Entrelac - and once you get going, it's easy and fun. Suitable for knitters who are confident with increasing and decreasing.

Pattern available on Patternfish and Ravelry.