Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Top-Down Conversion Tutorial Part Three: The Body

When last we met, dear readers, you had a back and two front pieces.

The back looks like this:

The fronts look like this:

At this stage, you should seam the shoulders together. (This step is saved if you start the fronts by picking up stitches, of course.)

You'll have something that looks like this...

And from here, it's easy.

If you're working an open vest, just work back and forth on the united stitches; if you're working a closed vest, work in rounds.

It will look like this, and you'll be able to try it on, and add waist shaping as required...

And I'm clearly on a roll with this method, because I've made another one.

This was a leftovers vest, using up some Cascade 220 from a design project. I wanted the vest fitted so that it would be a good layer under a jacket - and frankly, because I didn't have that much yarn. It's the length it is because I ran out of the white! Precisely the advantage of working top-down! There's fairly extreme bust/waist shaping, to keep it fitted and snug.

If you're working top-down and are truly worried about running of yarn, then I recommend working the neck and armhole edgings before you continue with the body.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Roasted Carrot Sock Pattern Available Online: Updated

The pattern is now available for purchase at the Etsy shop of Viola Fibers...

If you haven't yet had the chance to try Viola Fibers yarns, I suggest you do. They are seriously wonderful.

Also available at Patternfish and Ravelry.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Catching Up/Book Giveaway Update/Knitting for Preemies Links

Dear Readers... You might know that I have been dividing my blogging energy of late.

Are you also reading the KnittyBlog? I post there at least once a week. I write the weekly What's What Wednesday Round-up. It's a round up of events, cool things going on in the knitterly world, and fun stuff we've found online.

I also write on other topics. This week I wrote about the KNIT CamBRIDGE project. If you haven't read about it, I recommend you do. You will be moved and amazed. I was.

And it's taken a while, sorry, but we have landed on a winner for the book of patterns for clothes for premature babies. Janice H - please email me at kate at wisehildaknits dot com with your postal address and I'll send it to you.

Now, that having been said, lots of knitters told me about their efforts to knit for preemies and neo-natal wards at their local hospitals. I hate to leave knitters without patterns, so I recommend they visit this site. There's a great roundup of patterns for the tiniest babies there, with links to tips on making suitable clothes, and information on sizing and growth charts. A very valuable resource.

Thanks to all of you who give love and warmth in the form of knitted stitches.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Sock Design: River Run

A few months ago, Three Irish Girls invited me to create an exclusive design for their yarn... they shipped me a skein of the loveliest, freshest light blue... I took one look at it, and it was obvious what it wanted to be... it was a clear, fresh mountain stream, cascading over rocks.

And so was born River Run...

Another pair using one of my signature details - differing left and right socks. If you're one of those knitters who suffers from Second Sock Syndrome, this should help keep you interested. A keen eye will notice that I was having fun with the ribbing, too...

The pattern is available for purchase from their website, here.

I love their yarn - great semi-solid colourways, and a lovely soft hand with that all-important nylon for long wear. Even if you're not up for River Run, they have lots of other great designs, and lovely yarn.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Top-Down Conversion Tutorial Part Two: Upper Fronts

Alright, back to the pattern.

You've got the upper back worked at this point, and it looks roughly like this...
The next pieces to be worked are the upper fronts. There are two ways this can be done: you can start them as separate pieces or you can pick up the starting stitches along the cast-on edge at the top of the back.

It's a little simpler to do them as separate pieces, so I'll discuss that.

The front shoulders match the back shoulders - that is, the cast-on steps. The first step is 5 sts, the second is 6, and you need to end up with 11 sts.

For the left front: Cast on 5 sts, purl to end (RS). Cast on 6 sts, purl to end (RS), then knit across all 11 sts. RS is now facing and we've got our full 11 shoulder stitches. We know that we don't need to do anything about the armholes until the piece is 5 inches long, so we just need to worry about the neck shaping.

Going from the bottom up, the neckline shaping starts 3.5 inches up from the start of the armhole shaping. And it takes place over 8 rows: the initial cast off, and then 3 reps of a decrease every RS row.

Work first 14 (15, 16, 17) stitches. Attach second ball of yarn and cast off centre 14 stitches. Work to end. Continuing in pattern, decrease 1 stitch at neck edge next 3 (3, 4, 4) right side rows. 11 (12, 12, 13) stitches remain on each side.

So if I'm going from the top down, I need to finish the neckline shaping 3.5 inches from the end of the armhole shaping. And remember that I finish the armhole shaping 6 inches from the top - see the earlier post for this - so I need to finish the neckline shaping 2.5 inches from the start. (That is, 6 inches minus 3.5 inches.)

What's my row gauge? 4 rows per inch, and 2.5 inches is 10 rows, and I've got 8 rows of neckline shaping, so I need to start the neckline shaping 2 rows down from the end of the shoulder shaping. I've just finished the shoulder shaping, so I work 2 rows even, and then start neckline shaping.

To do the neckline shaping, I need to increase 1 st at neck edge on the following 3 RS rows. Easy. Do make sure you work the final WS row, so you're in the right place for the next step.

And then I'm done the left front. Those stitches go on hold, and you can cut the yarn.

For the right front, it's the same, but with shapings reversed... The cast on goes as follows: Cast on 5 sts, knit to end (WS). Cast on 6 sts, knit to end (WS). RS is now facing and we've got our full 11 shoulder stitches. Again, work those two even rows, and then start the neckline shaping: increase 1 sts at neck edge on the following 3 RS rows, and work the WS row to make sure you're in the right spot.

So now you've got two pieces ready to be joined... With the yarn that is attached to the right front piece, purl across those sts, cast on 14, and then purl across the left front stitches. Knit all sts back for the WS. You can now continue even on these joined sts until it's 5 inches long, just as you did for the back. And work the armhole shaping just as for the back.

Next up: joining the body.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Top-Down Conversion Tutorial Part One: Upper Back

As I've blogged recently, I've been reworking an old design... the initial idea, progress report one, progress report two, progress report three.

It's done, and I'm very pleased with it.

I love how the exaggerated cowl contrasts with the very fitted body, and I adore the classic oatmealy texture of the yarn, which was screaming out for a cable.

As I mentioned, it's reworking of a vest I knitted years ago.

But this time, I wanted to knit it from the top down. As I've said before, working top-down has some excellent advantages: you can adjust the length and the body fit as you go, and you can manage yarn usage if you're worried you might run out.

And for a vest it's easy-peasy! Here's the original pattern:

Plaid Cable Vest
Ladies XS, S, M, L

Bust: 34 (36, 28, 40) inches/86 (92, 96, 101) cm
Length: 19 (20, 21, 22) inches/48 (50, 53, 56) cm

3 (3, 4, 4) x 100 gm Rowan Plaid – Sample is in colour 160
1 pair 8 mm needles
1 cable needle
2 stitch markers

11 sts and 16 rows over 4 inches/10 cm square in stocking stitch using 8mm needles.

C6B: slip 3 stitches to cable needle and hold in back; knit 3; knit 3 from cable needle

Directions are for smallest size with larger sizes in parentheses.

Using 8mm needles, cast on 48 (52, 56, 60) stitches.

Row 1 (RS): knit 31 (33, 35, 37), place marker, knit 6, place second marker, knit to end. The markers indicate the position of the cable.
Row 2: knit 11 (13, 15, 17), purl 6, knit to end.
Row 3: knit.
Row 4: as row 2.

From here, you’ll work the body of the vest in reverse stocking stitch – purl on right side rows, knit on wrong side – while working the cable in stocking stitch.

Row 5 (RS): purl to first marker, knit 6, purl to end.
Row 6: knit to first marker, purl 6, knit to end.
Row 7: purl to first marker, C6B, purl to end.
Row 8: knit to first marker, purl 6, knit to end.
Row 9: purl to first marker, knit 6, purl to end.
Row 10: knit to first marker, purl 6, knit to end.
Row 11: purl to first marker, knit 6, purl to end.
Row 12: knit to first marker, purl 6, knit to end.
Row 13: purl to first marker, knit 6, purl to end.

These 8 rows establish cable pattern.
Repeat cable pattern until piece measures 4 (4 ¼, 4 ¼, 4 ½) inches/10 (11, 11, 12) cm from cast on, ending with a WS row.

Continuing in cable pattern, p2tog at beginning and end of next 2 right side rows.
44 (48, 52, 56) stitches.

Continue even in cable pattern until piece measures 8 (8 ½, 8 ½, 9) inches/
20 (22, 22, 24) cm from cast on. Increase 1 stitch at beginning and end of next 2 right side rows. 48 (52, 56, 60) stitches.

Shape Armholes:
Continue even in cable pattern until piece measures 12 (12 ½, 13, 13 ½) inches/
30 (32, 33, 35) cm, ending with a WS row.

Cast off 2 (2, 3, 3) stitches at beginning of next two rows.
Cast off 1 stitch at beginning of next 2 (4, 4, 6) rows. 42 (44, 46, 48) stitches.*

Work even until armhole measures 6 (6 ½, 7, 7½) inches/15 (16, 18, 19) cm, ending with a WS row.

Shape shoulders:
Cast off 6 (6, 6, 7) stitches at beginning next two rows.
Cast off 5 (6, 6, 6) stitches at beginning next two rows.
Cast off remaining 20 (20, 22, 22) stitches.

Work as for back until *.
Work even until armhole measures 3 ½ (3 ¾, 4, 4 ¼) inches/9 (9.5, 10, 11) cm, ending with a WS row.

Work first 14 (15, 16, 17) stitches. Attach second ball of yarn and cast off centre 14 stitches. Work to end.

You’ll work both sides of the front at the same time from here. Tip: don’t put your needles down unless you’ve worked a row on both sides – it’s too easy to lose track of where you are.

Continuing in pattern, decrease 1 stitch at neck edge next 3 (3, 4, 4) right side rows. 11 (12, 12, 13) stitches remain on each side.

Work even until armhole measures 6 (6 ¾, 7 ¼, 7¾) inches/16 (17, 19. 20) cm, ending with a WS row.

Cast off 6 (6, 6, 7) stitches at armhole edge, work to end.
Cast off remaining 5 (6, 6, 6) stitches.

Cowl neck:
Block pieces to desired measurements. Sew left shoulder seam.

With right side facing, pick up 22 (22, 24, 24) stitches along back, 12 (14, 16, 18) along left front, 14 stitches along front, and 12 (14, 16, 18) along right front. 60 (65, 70, 74) stitches total.

First row (wrong side facing), purl all stitches through back loop. Work in stocking stitch for 8 inches. Note that the purl side of the cowl is the inside, so that it matches the body of the vest when folded over.

Cast off loosely.

Sew right shoulder and cowl seam, reversing seam for cowl, as the inside of the cowl is visible when folded over.

Armhole edging:
With right side facing, pick up 48 (52, 56, 60) stitches around armhole. Cast off knitwise, working stitches through the back loop.

Work both sides alike.

Sew side seams.

Obviously, the cowl instructions and edgings remain the same, no worries about that. For the sake of this tutorial I'm going to ignore the cable for the time being. The vest is worked in reverse stocking stitch, so the right side is the purl side.

Let's focus on the back, and work with the numbers for the smallest size. We start at the top of the back neck.
The back neck and shoulders are shaped: you have 42 sts, then cast off in five steps: 6 twice, 5 twice, and then the remaining 20.

So to work from the top, I cast on 20, and then cast on in steps: 5 stitches twice then 6 stitches twice, giving me 42 stitches.

In detail it goes like this:
Cast on 20 sts. Purl 1 row (RS). Cast on 5 sts, purl to end. Cast on 5 sts, knit to end. Cast on 6 sts, purl to end. Cast on 6 sts, knit to end. 42 sts total.

Then you work even in reverse stocking stitch for a while on those 42 sts, until you need to do armhole shaping.

We need to work out how far to work. The pattern tells me that the armhole should be 6 inches long before the shoulder shaping. And I know that I work 4 rows of armhole shaping for the smallest size - that initial cast-off over two rows, and then 1 repeat of a two-row pattern. And at my row gauge, 4 rows is an inch. And so therefore I need my armhole to be 5 inches long measured from the final cast-on step. So I work even for 5 inches.

And armhole shaping in reverse is easy and fun. In the original, it goes like this:
Cast off 2 (2, 3, 3) stitches at beginning of next two rows.
Cast off 1 stitch at beginning of next 2 (4, 4, 6) rows.

So I cast on 1 st at the start of the next 2 rows, and then cast on 2 sts at the start of the following 2 rows. And I have 48 sts, as required.

And then these stitches go on a holder.

Next up: converting the upper fronts.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Kitchener Waterloo Knitter's Fair This Weekend; Carrot Socks!

I'm very excited about this weekend - Saturday is the Kitchener Waterloo Knitter's Fair. It's the unofficial kickoff of the 2010/2011 knitting season.

Lots of vendors I know and love will be there.

I'll be there in person at the Canadian Knitters' Guild/A Needle Pulling Thread booth - drop by to say hello!

I've got a few new designs appearing there, too.

There's the Roasted Carrot socks, an exclusive for my friend
Emily's Viola Fibre.

And there's the Rocker Chick sock series at Van Der Rock Yarns.

After my recent stash purge/inventory/shaming exercise, I'm going to try to limit the amount of yarn I buy... and focus instead on books! Looking forward to coming home with lots of books!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

New Pattern: The Heirloom Baby Bonnet

A couple of months ago a knitter came to me with a moth-eaten baby bonnet, and a story:

In Linda's own words....

The yellow baby bonnet with ears was given to me by the sister of my lovely neighbour (Miyo Hamasaki). It was one item of MANY baby and toddler things that she had put into a very large box to give away to a mother with girls. She had two school-age daughters herself and she was not planning on having more children.

This give-away box contained clothes, shoes, toys, and books, all in pristine condition. As a young mother with not too much money this treasure-filled box was very welcome. We were able to use all of the things she gave us over time. The yellow bonnet is the one thing that I kept all these years, 28 years to be exact! Both my daughters wore it. A picture of my youngest daughter, Andrea is seen wearing it when she was about 18 months.

When it became too small for my girls to wear, I put it away to keep. Unfortunately, moths got to it (as you can plainly see) and it became unwearable.

My older daughter, Nicole is expecting in November, a mere two months away and I wanted to knit a bonnet with ears to replace the little yellow one that they use to like to wear. I looked and looked for a pattern but could not find one that was anywhere as cute as this one and this is where Kate came in.

A call to Lettuce Knit was all I needed to do. Kate was willing and very able to to decipher the pattern and create one for me so that I could produce one for my grandchild coming in November. I am thrilled as you can imagine and it will be and remain a treasured family pattern.

We recreated the bonnet in Road to China Light, a luscious blend of alpaca, silk, cashmere and camel. A special bonnet deserves a special yarn!

(Modeled very graciously by sleepy Nora.)

The pattern is available for sale for $5 at Lettuce Knit, and through Patternfish and Ravelry.

It uses less than 100m of a sport/DK weight yarn, so even if your yarn budget does not stretch to the Road to China, there's likely something in your stash that works very well. The bonnet fits a range of sizes - 3 to 6 months for an average size baby, and older for a petite little one like Andrea, in the photo above.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

De-Stash Part One: Books. Free for the Taking

I've got duplicate copies of two knitting booklets. These are free for the taking. If you're in Toronto, I'll happily leave them for you for pickup at any of my usual haunts; if you're elsewhere in Canada, I'll mail them. If you're outside Canada, I suggest an exchange: I'll mail you the booklet, you mail me a local chocolate treat.

Both of these books are important to my knitting development, in different ways.

Paton's Bazaar booklet, circa 1970-something.

I remember with absolute clarity, this was the earliest pattern book I used. It's full of small things - "ideal for sale at bazaars and fundraisers!" - also ideal for a 12 year old with little patience. Dolls and doll clothes, baby booties, bags, and the inevitable tea cosies.

Also golf club cosies, a nice pair of cabled mittens - and my first successful projects: the finger puppets.

Although the styling seems a bit dated, many of the 50 knit and crochet patterns are classics.

The second book, Early Arrivals, is 12 or so years old. It was in print for a long time, but doesn't look like it is any more. It contains four different baby sets, all sized for preemies up to newborns, two in DK, two in fingering.

This book was important to me because it marks the first time I was forced to knit in public.

A couple close to me was expecting triplets, which were definitely expected to be born very small. The expectant grandmother, W., a knitter and all around lovely woman, had just started into three full sets of bonnets, sweaters and booties, when she broke her shoulder.

I offered to step into the breach and finish them for her. By the time she got the works-in-progress to me, it was pretty close to the shower date. If memory serves, she'd got one of the sweaters done, but I had three sets of booties, three bonnets, and two sweaters to knit, and very little time to do it. It was fiddly and slow work, on small needles, the bodies worked in garter stitch with a lacy edging. I had no choice: if I was going to finish the work for the shower, I needed to find as much time to knit as I could.

At the time, I was working a rather uninteresting corporate job at a rather uninteresting company, and I'd not been there long enough to really get to know anyone there. Knitting was significantly less popular among the younger set then, and I was still very much an "at home" knitter. No choice - I had to knit in public if I was going to make the deadline. So I packed up the project bag, carted it to work, and spent a week knitting through my lunchbreaks in the cafeteria. I got the projects done on time, and they were very well received. I was very happy to be part of a special gift for the triplets on behalf of their grandmother, and just as happy to discover that I could get a lot of knitting done at lunchtime, even if my co-workers did find it somewhat disturbing!

I later used the book to knit a baby gift for my then-boss, using the newborn size. He and his wife are Irish, so of course they got the cabled cardigan!

In particular, I'd like to give the Early Arrivals Booklet to someone who needs it: someone who needs to knit for tiny babies. Do you have a set of twins or triplets in your future? Do you knit for the neonatal ICU at your local hospital? Leave a comment or email me at kate at wisehildaknits dot com and tell me why you need it.

For the Bazaar book, leave me a comment or send me an email telling me you want it. If there's sufficient demand, I may need to draw a number from a hat.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Tidying Up

We have a friend coming to stay for a couple of nights, and our spare bedroom is also the study and yarn storage (dumping?) room. We've been mostly keeping the door shut to keep little dog mouths off the yarn, so the stash management policy of late been very much a case of "throw it in and shut the door".

So I tidied up. I dragged out all of the plastic containers, and went through them all: three big bins, two smaller fileboxes, and then a few bags and smaller boxes.

(That's Dexter in the bottom left of the picture, looking on, incredulous.)

I've been utterly ruthless, and cleared out a lot of ends and bits and pieces and stuff I'll plain never use.

I'm not - and have never really been - a stasher of sweater yarn, so there was only five sweater quantities. (Not judging here, I just happen to not like buying large quantifies of yarn without a specific project in mind.) And of those, only one was something I'd actually bought - and even that was bought with a specific project in mind.

My Must-Have Cardigan. I feel about this sweater the way I feel about the music of the Kaiser Chiefs: I don't care if it's fashionable, I still like it.

You'll see how much progress I've made since I bought the yarn, oh, two years ago.

There's a sweater quantity of leftovers from another project for which I bought far too much yarn, although it's Cascade Eco Wool+, so 1.5 skeins is actually a sweater quantity. And I've got three others that were all gifts/destashes sent in my direction.

The rest, in all those boxes, was leftovers, sock yarn and lace yarn. Gulp. So it's not that I'm extraordinarily self-disciplined when it comes to yarn shopping. God no. I have a serious sock yarn problem.

Post clear-out, I have more than 40 pairs' worth of sock yarn. I won't tell you how many pairs' worth got cleared out.

Post cleanout, I've got one big box full of sock yarn

one big box half full with the sweater quantities

and one big box half full of laceweight.

The first file box is holding what I've classified as "bits and pieces" - some crochet cotton, and any leftovers that are enough to actually make something with - mostly hat quantities of stuff.

In that collection there is the big bag of the leftovers from my Lizard Ridge. Although it's tiny balls, I cannot bring myself to throw this away - I think it needs to be a crocheted lap blanket, or something.

The smallest box will hold scraps that I'll use for teaching and demos, and the other filebox will hold WIPs - to keep them away from the dog. That way, we can safely open the study door again.

In addition to clearing out and sorting, I've written an inventory. It will be useful in the future, if only to remind me that there are certain types of yarn I need never buy again.

I have found a few goodies that looking for homes. I'll put together a post on that in the next day or so.