Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rubbing Elbows

I get to go to a knitting group here in town and sometimes I get to see Joan Schrouder. It's so cool! She's so knowledgeable I'm almost intimidated.. except that she's so nice it's pretty hard to stay that way!

I've been working on The Knot for over a month now, and bringing my progress to Monday nights. After bringing in my cut version, and explaining it all to Joan, she immediately stated that I ought to write Janet Szabo (the original designer) to let her see what I'd done.

Me? Write Janet Szabo? I don't know what it is that makes contacting a published author so daunting. Maybe because there's a small part of me that would love to get published as well.. to end up famous and popular. Woo. I also know that published persons are just like the rest of us.. only.. published.. and therefor more well known. And more spammed. My brain debated this and decided that Janet would probably like getting a nice mail from someone not trying to sell her anything and really just saying "thank you" for a gorgeous design.

So after directing her to my blog in a short email, I went on to visit Janet's and.. it's funny! It's funny like I'm not funny. I'm too mathy, I think. At least now. Maybe a couple of years of blogging will loosen me up. (Here's hoping!)

Anyway, a couple of posts down I ran into a fun little MeMe, and had to jump in and do it myself.

Turns out.. I'm an Argyle Sweater.

You Are an Argyle Sweater

You are contemplative, brainy, and serious.
You don't take much lightly - life is too important for that.

You are a very determined person. You don't let anything stand in your way.
You think out your actions and act deliberately. You don't waste time, money, or resources.

Just Too Many Stitches

Sometimes you get a good idea. You run with it, work on it, love it, and notice that maybe, even though it's a good idea, it's not quite right. So you tinker, modify, adjust, (curse quietly), frog, rework, evaluate, (mutter under your breath)... Maybe now it's to the point you wanted in the beginning. But maybe it's not.

"The Knot" isn't there. I dragged it with me to my Monday Knitting Night, and got to show it to.. one person. It is Christmas week, after all. I should have anticipated it. But Monday night is so very important to me that I'd almost skip out on family to go. Okay, I DO skip out on family to go.. but it's my family and my husband can handle it one night a week!

Spread out on the table, still on the blocking wires to hold it, it was all too clear that The Knot still wants to be more circular than square. There is more fabric at the center of each edge of the square than there ought to be in order to lay flat. I could still work around this. I could work more rows and expand at the corners until things are straight. I could do a few short-rows to compensate for the wider-at-the-middle-than-the-corners problem. I could also realize that after all this work I still have no idea how to put it in the back of my sweater... a back that I suddenly have realize is not square, itself.

Back when this was a design where "square" was the name of the game it was logical to stick a square in the middle of the back. As I searched through many, many cardigan patterns, I opted for raglan shaping at the arms and shoulders rather than Kate Gilbert's "innovative" shaping in the original "Cardigan for Arwen". Yet, despite these changes, in my head the back was still square. Last night I realized that.. um.. there are now ARMHOLES. Armholes! These won't be square! I'll have to figure out how to graft in The Knot not AND decrease for armholes!

I just can't do it. I could sit down and figure it out mathematically, but my intuition tells me it doesn't fit. I'm pretty logically minded, and most likely correct in my estimates. My raglan-shaping will "eat in" to the already knit square (that still doesn't lay flat). My ruler agrees.

I'm afraid I must give up on The Knot. I've found a lovely alternative. I had continued my search as The Knot became harder and harder to work. I happened across Continuous Cables. Lots of great material here! Lots of information on how to work, and design, circular, swirling, twisting cables knit on a background of plain old reverse-stockinette. There's even a pretty knot that I think would do well on the back of my sweater, as-is.

I still love The Knot. I'm thinking I'll get some pretty, paler wool that will show off its delicate curves and knit it once again to cover a pillow. That way I can enjoy it often and remember all the things it taught me. And maybe, in the future when I've learned a few more tricks of the trade, I'll figure out how to put it in the back of a very lovely cardigan that I designed, myself.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Are you a Pusher?

Are you a pusher? Whenever I forget, or get in a hurry, all of a sudden I'm a terrible pusher. I gleefully shove the needle back through the stitches. As an English-style knitter, this lets me maintain better control of both needles as I "throw" the yarn around and greatly improves my speed. When I was learning on Clover bamboo needles, this wasn't a great tragedy. But last year a generous family member gifted me the Knit Picks Nickle-plated Options Circular Knitting Needle Set (complete with binder, before it was switched over to the clear pouch). I cannot express how much I LOVE these needles. This leads to the problem ...

I have a couple of Addi Turbos, and at the time I thought they were the bomb. I even have a really nifty little set by Plymouth Yarns (the Bamboo Sister Set). Interchangables.. how cool is that?!

These needles were more than adequate. Addis in particular have a beautifully smooth join and hat-knitting zipped by on them. The longer circulars served me well knitting my first baby blanket. Then a new kind of knitting came into my life... lace, and with it laceweight yarn.

I really wanted to produce some of that amazing lace that I saw in magazines and books. I picked out a project and bought a bunch of laceweight yarn, but before leaping off the deep end, I thought I'd make something small. Something easy. Something that wouldn't frighten me off of this very thin, very insubstantial yarn..
Airy Scarf
Enter the Airy Scarf. It looked simple enough. I pulled out appropriate Addis, my new lace-weight yarn, and went to town... and HATED IT. Ugh. The yarn was terrible to work with.. so hard to get it to move around the way I wanted it to. Something as simple as a knit-two-together was impossibly difficult. I forced myself to finish the scarf and in disgust wrote off lace knitting altogether.

Christmas arrived, and with it the deliciously pointy Options needles and all of a sudden, lace knitting seemed possible again. I worked out some swatches and everything just clicked! The narrow tips picked up that tiny yarn wonderfully and didn't just push it around the needles like my other sets. I jumped into the Sugarplum Shrug (Interweave Knits, Holiday Gifts 2007) with great abandon (once figuring out that it didn't actually call for lace-weight yarn! But that's another story).

But where does this all add up? Pushing. My Options may be fabulous for manipulating stitches.. no need to balk at k3tog or more. But the tip of my finger when I stop thinking and start knitting like crazy.. the poor thing suffers. Today I am on a self-enforced knitting break to allow a small split to heal before it becomes worse. It is absolutely no good to punch a hole in your own fingertip, and I refuse to bleed for my craft. At least, not on purpose!

So, to anyone that I showed the handy "trick" of pushing that needle back through the stitches, I'm sorry! Quit now and save your fingers, or enjoy the gentler points of many of the lovely needles out there. Just be careful, or you too might be taking a few breaks from your knitting.. to heal!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Knotted Up

Square Knot
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Here's the progress so far. I think the knot is a success, but I'm not entirely certain. I had to block it fairly hard and I'm not sure how that will do once added to the back of the cardigan.

The only problem is that I seem to be stalled. I don't want to pick back up the knitting and figure out more. Instead, I've detoured to other projects, and I'm looking ahead in my queue.

I think I just need to buckle down and get started again. Hopefully I can change this inertia to forward momentum!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Quick Sweater Ornaments

Sweater Ornaments
These quick ornaments are knit in the round from the bottom up. There is raglan shaping at the shoulders, but this could be ignored and the piece knit square. Charts are included for the designs on the front.

Size 1 (2.25mm) DPNs
About 10 grams of fingering weight yarn (approximately 30 yards)
Colored scraps of yarn or embroidery floss
A small bit of wire or paper clips to twist into hangers

Gauge is not critical, but can be somewhere around 7-8 sts per inch.

SSK - slip, slip, knit
k2tog - knit two together
BO - bind off (sugg. "lace bind off": start with one knit stitch then *knit 1, slip stitches back to right needle, k2tog * repeat until all stitches are bound off, cut and pull yarn through last stitch)

Stocking Sweater
Cable-cast on 32 stitches
Join in the round being careful not to twist the stitches
Purl one round
Work stockinette stitch until the piece measures 2 inches

(Work divides here, with 16 stitches for the front, and 16 stitches for the back)
Front and Back chest:
Use the following instructions for front, and then repeat for back stitches:
Row 1: slip first stitch, knit to end
Row 2: slip first stitch, purl to end
Row 3: slip first stitch, SSK, knit 10, k2tog, k1
Row 4: slip first stitch, purl to end
Repeat rows 1-4 one more time
Next row (row 9), BO all stitches (or purl 3, BO 10, purl 3)

Seam (or graft) 3 stitches on each side for the shoulder.

Both sleeves:
Pick up and knit 10 stitches around the armscye, starting at the armpit.
Short row a "shoulder cap" for shaping.
Starting at the armpit:
Row 1: Knit 6 stitches, turn
Row 2: slip 1, purl 1, turn
Row 3: slip 1, knit 2, turn
Row 4: slip 1, purl 3, turn
Row 5: slip 1, knit 4, turn
Row 6: slip 1, purl 5, turn
Row 7: slip 1, knit 6, turn
Row 8: slip 1, purl 7, turn
Row 9: slip 1, knit 8
You are now back at the armpit.
Knit all 10 stitches in the round for 1.5 inches or to desired length.
BO all stitches.

Weave in ends.

Use following charts and duplicate stitch to add decoration.
(Star and "ornaments" can be added with embroidery thread)

Candy Cane



Happy FO's

Sweater Ornaments
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I took a break from the sweater. I've knit (and frogged) the knot for the back several times now. After pinning the most recent version out on blocking wires while I tried to decide if it's what I wanted, or not, I ended up taking a several day break from any knitting at all.

This is pretty major for me. I like to be working on something. Even better, I like to be completing something new to share and enjoy. I decided I had to finish something.. anything.. and FAST.

Digging through my stash yielded just too many nuggets of left over sock yarn. I figured some Christmas ornaments were in order, especially since my good friend mailed me a pattern for a sweater-ornament out of sock yarn. Ironically, I didn't even look at the pattern. I just cast on stitches and went for it.

These are made bottom-up. I decreased just a little for a raglan-look. There's not much done for the neck (IE: nothing), but it's not like they're actually going to go ON anything except a tree or wall. I considered intarsia/fair isle for decoration, but ended up adding the embellishments after the fact with duplicate stitch, which was much easier.

Overdye ornament
It is also an experiment in over-dying. The green sweater started out its life purple. Unfortunately I just couldn't love it. I loved the purple in the skein. I haven't really liked it for anything knit up. After glaring at it for quite a while, I ripped out the candy-cane and tossed the sweater in a cup of water with a tiny bit of Wilton's green food coloring and a glug of white vinegar. This whole thing went in my microwave until it boiled and then sat to cool. What came out was GORGEOUS green. The candy-cane, reworked, just pops on the beautiful color. You can check out the original, and overdyed colors.

Overdyed Yarn
I then went on to skein up about 25 grams more of the yarn and tried it again. This time the color didn't penetrate, but I think I rather like the new skein. It makes me think of Spring crocus, or violets, and I may make some baby socks with it!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Like steeking ... but not.

Cut Knot
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I got out my scissors. It wasn't easy. I've labored over this knot, and while it may not have been true love with the project so far, it still was a lot of work. It's yarn... I could unravel it and use it for something else. I could test knit a lot of other projects with this same yarn!

But.. I couldn't stand the thought of knitting it AGAIN just to test. Another version that might or might not work. My sewing scissors are very sharp and even sound dangerous (shkk, shkk, shkk). I held them poised over the even stitches. Snip! Snip! Four times I cut through my knitting and in the end, I had a piece that was flat and even. Stretched evenly and carefully there wasn't even much of a gap.

And then a new idea revealed itself... because now I had a new pattern. I could, if I wanted, make this into the knot it was before, expanded at the four corners. Or, I could leave a gap where I'd cut the crossing. I could turn this pretty knot into a lovely and elegant equal-armed cross! It would be even easier than extending the arms across my wider gap.

Oh, the dilemma!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Test knitting

6-point knot
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Some days you can't see where your ideas are going to take you, or how long it's going to take to get there. When I originally decided to make a sweater for myself, I figured I'd have it done in time to wear for Christmas.

Over two weeks ago, I cast on and knit swatches to make "A Cardigan for Arwen" by Kate Gilbert (Interweave Knits, Winter 2006). I started to work the back and very quickly came to the conclusion that a big, plain, square back was going to be very boring to knit. It really needed something to match the beautiful cabling that graces the front. As I purled a row for turning the hem under, I centered the same cabling that goes up the front so that it would run right up my spine. Unfortunately, after a few repeats I could see my gauge wasn't quite what I'd planned it to be--probably because that cable was pulling things in quite a bit.

I began tossing different ideas around. I considered mitering that lovely cable and doing a square of it. But as long as I was going that far, why not find something even more striking, or design a knot and center it in the back of the sweater? I could short-row something much like the washcloths I do regularly, but that would create a cable that is longer on the outer edge than the inner one. Maybe someone had something out there already that I could just incorporate. Ravelry to the rescue!

My online search yielded the "Hilton of Cadbol" Flower Pillow by Janet Sazbo ("Twists and Turns", Winter 2003). The challenge here was how to adapt a circular motif to fit a square panel. I could knit the panel with a circular hole, or make the motif square. That shouldn't be too hard, right? Subtract two repeats.. maybe add in a few stitches. It'll square right up! Right.

4-point knot
To get it straight in my head, I borrowed a project picture and edited it so that I only had four repeats of the motif. It still seemed work-able. But when I started knitting the pattern, I just couldn't figure out how to add or subtract stitches to give myself the shape I wanted.
First try
I cast on a number more than my needed stitches and decreased at the four corners for a few rows to start off the shape and was off and running. By the time I ran out of yarn, I knew I was in trouble.. the project was already buckling into a volcanic shape. Even stretched hard, it didn't look like it was going to lay out flat even after blocking.

Second try
I took a few pictures to remind myself where I'd gone wrong, and started over again. This time I worked the pattern from the center out, revising things as I went along. That sure sounds easy, doesn't it? I spent almost an entire week trying to chart, rechart, reverse, sketch out, and generally re-work the pattern to knit from the center out. I hoped that this would give me more freedom to add stitches as I went along. My husband started to look concerned with the amount of effort I was putting into it. My friends weren't so delicate. (I distinctly heard "crazy", and "OCD" tossed around!)

I wish I could say what exactly clicked in the end, but I don't have a clue. Suddenly I had about ten lines of workable pattern and I started knitting. I also dug out a yarn I liked quite a bit more than the acrylic/wool blend of my first go-around and at least was able to enjoy the knitting a bit more. It's really hard to linger over a difficult problem when you don't particularly want to touch the yarn.

I still couldn't puzzle out where to increase stitch counts. As a stop-gap I went up two needle sizes about half-way through with the hope that shifting my gauge larger would deal with the buckling.

Finished 4-point
No such luck! I have a lumpy, bumpy knot. It is quite pretty and I'm pleased with it so far, but it sure isn't going to work as the back of a sweater.

At least I can finally see where to insert stitches! It's a relief to feel like you're headed in the right direction. I was going to save this and make it into a little pillow for my daughter's dolls, but now I'm considering taking scissors to it along the lines where I want to add stitches and see if that will let it lay flat. It makes me think of cutting slices of bologna so it won't curl up when fried (for pretty much exactly the same reasons).

Only.. now I'm hungry.