Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is It Even a Hand Spindle?

This is how little I know about spinning... an eagle-eyed reader commented that she's seen a spindle like mine in a machine in a spinning museum in Barrington, Nova Scotia. It may not even be a hand spindle - it may only be for machine use. I must confess, I was confused by the lack of little hooky thing...

(It was given to me by a friend who can't actually remember where she got it from, hence the possible confusion... )

Really terrific picture and story of the museum at this link.

Anyway, Denny will help me figure it all out, I'm sure.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Clearly, someone thinks I was good this year.

A few great books from Santa this year...

Alice Starmore's seminal book on Fair Isle knitting. If only so I can help Mum with her sweater... It's been out of print for a long time, very glad to see it back. This will be widly relevant in the very near future - I have a couple of colourwork designs cooking - one for socks, naturally, the other a garment.

Another fab obscure book on lace knitting, Gladys Amedro's "Shetland Lace".

The rather absurd and marvelous "Knitted Cakes". Next year's Christmas cake may well be knitted...

And of course, every girl needs a sheep spotting guide.... "Know Your Sheep" by Jack Byard.

This is particularly useful since Denny tells me that 2010 is the year I learn to spin. She is insisting.

I've acquired a spindle... here we go....

I may not yet know how to use the damn thing, but at least I know what a Bluefaced Leicester looks like.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blame It On The Eggnog

Have been frantically working on the Festive Socks, between glasses of eggnog and hunks of boozy fruitcake. About halfway done the second....

the clock is ticking... desperately want to be able to wear them for Christmas.

Am very pleased with them. I've made the stripes match, but have chosen to add a bit of fun by making the heels different. My thought was that since there is so much going on with the yarn, I wanted to keep the overall effect pretty clean.

All well and good but for one key detail....

I managed to mess up the ribbing.

One is k1 p1, the other is k2 p2.

Ah well, blame it on the eggnog. And cake. And Black Oak Nutcracker. And Great Lakes Brewery's Winter Ale.

(I'm surprised that I'm doing this well with them, truth be told...)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Twist Collective/Errata/The Internet as a Knitting Tool

In a comment on my previous post, Julia of Twist Collective mentioned that they guarantee all their patterns. A brilliant idea!

Another comment made the wise point that a knitter should always search for Errata before beginning a project. This is one of the reasons I love the Internet. Google the name of the pattern and the magic work "errata" or "updates". Mistakes do happen - if they've been found, chances are they have been published online.

And this is why Ravelry is such a wonderful tool. First of all, it provides an easy way for designers to deliver an updated version of a pattern if a correction needs to be made. More importantly, however, the knitters themselves are an amazing source of information. Between the various forums and discussion groups, and each knitter's project notes, there is a wealth of information to be found on patterns.

This is particularly relevant when a pattern isn't wrong, but a knitter is just have difficulty with it. Whether it's simply a technique that's new to a particular knitter, or whether it's something that's not explained in sufficient detail, or perhaps just poorly or oddly written, the collective wisdom of the Ravelry community is an amazing tool.

In addition, you can often find the actual designer on Ravelry, and ask a direct question.

Patternfish, also, allows a designer to issue an updated version of a pattern to all purchasers. Knitty highlights pattern changes and fixes in pink.

Mistakes do happen - it's all about making it easy for knitters to find the fixes.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Technical Editing/Request To Designers/Minor Rant Of The Day

As a teacher, an editor, and a knitter, I see an awful lot of knitting patterns.

One of my most popular classes is the Project Class. It's a multi-week session that allows knitters to work on a project that is a personal challenge. I get all sorts of great projects in the class - new knitters who have knit a few scarves and are ready to progress to a hat; experienced knitters who want to learn a new skill like lace; and adventurous knitters who want to learn how to wrangle a pattern.

Knitters bring patterns from all sorts of sources - from published books and booklets, from magazines, and of course, all sorts of online patterns, freebie and otherwise. And I have to read through every one of them.

There are lots and lots of online sources for patterns - a thousand and one blogs, including mine, and all those self-published patterns in Ravelry and Etsy.

The problem is that many of them aren't good.

A student brought a hat pattern recently to one of my classes. She'd bought it on etsy, and I was shocked at the poor quality. Sure, the instructions were right, but it was missing key information: gauge and sizing. This disappoints me enormously. As designers, we're doing knitters a disservice if we're not providing patterns that are correct, complete and easy to follow.

Mistakes do happen, absolutely. Typos, incorrect numbers, editing slips. I've suffered from that myself more than once. (True confession: there was a minor mistake in the Vampire Sock pattern when it went live. We caught it pretty quickly, and fixed it, but it was there.)

But not providing sizing or gauge information is a major oversight. That would be bad in a free pattern, but it's absolutely unforgivable in a pattern that is sold.

I'm a little more forgiving of self-published freebie patterns - one of my students worked an absolutely stunning lace shrug from a pattern on a blog. It was a struggle - the pattern wasn't very well written, and there were a few pieces of information missing, but it was a freebie, and the author wasn't claiming that it was perfect, nor did she charge money for it.

In my opinion, any pattern - free or otherwise - needs to be complete and correct. Designers - please please please have someone proofread your pattern. And if there is a mistake, publish errata online. Please.

Incorrect patterns frustrate knitters. And frustrated knitters give up.

And if knitters give up, there are fewer of them out there knitting and buying patterns and yarn, and fewer designers can earn money, and fewer yarn companies can survive.

If people ask me about good sources for free patterns, I point them in the direction of Knitty (of course) and Berroco. I know that in both cases, the patterns go through technical editors - and therefore, they are going to be complete, accurate and well-written. It depresses me that I have to tell people to shy away from indie designers, but unless it's someone whose patterns I know and trust, I can't guarantee that the knitter is going to have a good time.

And after all, this is a hobby. It should be a good time.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

KAGY/No Felting

Love it! Mavenknits suggests we form an alliance - Knitters Allied Against Growing Yarn. Can I be a charter member?

Also - because the damn thing is superwash it won't shrink or felt.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Gauge Mess/Festive Socks

(If you think you're likely to receive a hand-knitted Christmas gift from me, please stop reading now. You know who you are.)

If you're still reading, please be entertained by this picture of the very silly sparkle-tastic festive spectacular socks I'm knitting from the North Pole yarn.

I absolutely love this - they're awful and tacky in precisely the right way.

Ok, back to the more pressing topic...

Am knitting a second Morgan hat as a Christmas gift for someone special. I chose a different yarn this time - Mission Fall's 1824. I matched the stitch gauge without a problem (working on slightly smaller needles than I would normally for this yarn) - and yes, of course, I swatched. And I even checked the gauge several times as I was working, as is my wont. And all was good.

But about three quarters of the way through, the little voice in my head started to speak up.

I've worked with this yarn before, for my Rogue sweater. And I recall, very clearly, that the damn thing grew after the first wash. In fact, I recall (only now, of course), swearing off that yarn for things that would need frequent washing and/or a good fit.)

I carefully measured my gauge again. Unblocked, it was a little tight on stitch gauge - which is absolutely fine - but I was already over a little bit on row gauge. Not a lot, but just enough to make me worry.

So I took it off the needles, and very gently blocked it.

It's a good inch and a half too long and too wide - and it looks like a dinner plate.

I briefly considered undoing it a bit, and altering the pattern and generally reengineering it. It wouldn't have been too hard, but I worry that the damn thing would have kept growing.

So, back to the start. (Hey, you! I bet you're still reading - all I can say is that I hope you like it!) I found some Cascade 220 hiding in the stash, so will be using that.

And the Mission Falls yarn? Well, a couple of friends are expecting, and the yarn is washable. Moss green baby blanket, anyone? Doesn't matter if a baby blanket gets bigger, after all!