> To Knit is Divine: August 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006

Size matters

As I've mentioned before, reading knitting blogs has opened up so many new knitting horizons for me. Most of my past knitting was done with worsted weight or thicker yarns, and generally acrylic. I especially loved doing cables - in the mid-nineties I made a boxy, drop-sleeved, heavily cabled tunic-length sweater out of chunky weight cotton. I loved making it - all those textury cables - but it was the most unflattering garment I've ever worn, not to mention the heaviest. Every time I wore it it felt like I was putting on a suit of armour. I never used thin yarns and small needles - it just seemed that everything would just take too long to make.

But all that has changed. It started with socks. It seemed everyone in blogworld was hooked on socks. But still, I couldn't imagine using such fine yarn. So the first pair I made were with worsted-weight acrylic. They were hideous. Absolutely hideous. But it taught me the structure of knitted socks, so I broked down and bought some sock yarn. Fingering weight sock yarn. And 2mm bamboo needles. At first it felt awkward. I felt like I was going to snap a needle with every stitch. But soon, magic happened. My fingers began to fly. I found myself knitting much faster on smaller needle. I started producing socks like a madwoman. Since February I've made 8 pairs of socks and have two more pairs on the needles.

I started off with top-down socks using various (free) patterns. Then I discovered Wendy's generic toe-up socks. That's all I've used since. I started carrying a sock-in-progress in my bag at all times. I started knitting socks on the bus on my way to work. Waiting in line somewhere? Out comes the sock. At the doctor's office? Out comes the sock. I will likely follow patterns again, but plain, stockinette toe-up socks (I normally do the figure-eight cast-on) with short-row heels are perfect for mindless knitting. I started coveting all of the beautiful sock yarns I would see on people's blogs - Socks that Rock, Opal, Lorna's Laces, the list goes on. I want to try them all.

And then, I needed to go smaller. Laceweight started to call me. I've now made two projects using laceweight, and I'm completely hooked. I love knitting with it. It feels so nice and soft. And it's so beautiful. And economical. For $10-$15 I can be knitting for weeks. And I swear, I knit faster with smaller yarns and needles. And I love executing lace patterns. All those yos and decreases that paint such a pretty picture.

Now that I've finished the two shawls I had on the go, I've gone back to the cabled worsted-weight wool sweater I started for my partner through the winter.



But cables no longer hold the same thrill that they used to. I'd rather be knitting lace. The yarn and needles just seem so..... big and clunky. But I promised to get this sweater finished before the weather turns cold. And I'm travelling in a couple of weeks - lace makes good plane projects... cabled sweaters, not so much.

Of course, I still have socks on the needles - I think that will be a constant for a while.

The transformative magic of blocking lace

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is what happens to lace when you block it.

Weird manta ray-shaped object:

















Triangle with scalloped edges:


Again... Manta ray:


Triangle:



Weird blobby textures:



Beautiful
lacy goodness:


Again... blobby:


Lacy:



One thing is for sure - I either need to start making smaller shawls, or I'm going to need to buy a bigger bed.

This was the first lace-weight project I ever started. I began it in mid-June, but then got sidetracked by the Mystery Stole KAL, which become the first lace-weight project I ever finished. But once that was done, I came back to this triangular shawl and finished it up.

This one started with the idea that I wanted to try lace-weight yarn. I had made a shawl using DK weight, but I wanted something even lighter. So I bought some Knitpicks Shadow in the Campfire colourway and then set about to figure out what to do with it. I had no clue how much I would need, so I bought 5 skeins (I have since discovered that that is way more than I need for a shawl, so I foresee a second shawl or stole from this yarn in my future.

Next, I started looking at shawl patterns. I really liked the Aran Weight Victorian Lace Shawl, which is a free pattern from Elann.com



But the pattern is written for aran-weight yarn, and I wanted to use lace-weight. So I decided to use the stitch patterns from this pattern, but to wing it the rest of the way. I started with the first stitch pattern, but I didn't like the look of it. The pattern says that the stitch pattern was English Mesh Lace, based on Barbara Walker's First Treasury. Since I have the Barbara Walker book, I looked it up, and found that there was a slight difference in one line of the pattern. I l
iked the look of the picture of the book better than what I had, so I ripped it out and re-did it. I was much happier with how it looked.

Because of the way the pattern is written, I couldn't use it to figure out when to switch stitch patterns. The pattern tells you to switch after so many skeins of yarn (and to go up a needle size with each skein - not quite sure why). But since I'm knitting at a totally different gauge, using much finer yarn, these instructions were kind of useless for me. So I just knit until it looked about right, then switched to the second and then the third stitch patterns.

On the third one, the pattern uses a Mini Vine Lace, which is a 7-stitch repeat. Again, since my yarn was thinner, I opted to go for the traditional Vine Lace pattern, which is a 9-stitch repeat (again out of the Barbara Walker book)

Since I was new at knitting laceweight shawls, I didn't really have much of a concept of how much bigger it would get on blocking (I still don't, because I forgot to measure it before blocking!), so I wasn't sure when to stop knitting to get the size I wanted. I knew I didn't want a skimpy shawl, but somet
hing that would cover my arms, as I tend to wear a shawl when I'm wearing something short-sleeved or sleeveless and my arms get chilly. I wanted it big. So I kept knitting... and knitting... and knitting. Finally, I declared it done (totally arbitrary, mind you)

So here it is, finished. It covers my arms, as I wanted. I'll try to get a picture of it on me later, but here it is modelled on some gym equipment. It looks better on me :-)



In retrospect, I would have preferred more of the first two patterns, and a bit less of the third one. But all-in-all, not bad for a first improvised lace-weight triangular shawl.

I'm not sure what to call it. It was inspired by the Aran Weight Victorian Lace Shawl, but since I changed pretty much everything, it sort of became my own pattern, I guess.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

My first swap

When I first started reading blogs, I was intrigued by swaps. Here were strangers, connected only by a love of knitting, creating treasures and sending each other wonderful packages full of delightful goodies, hand-picked with that person in mind. There seemed to be such a warm community spirit around these swaps.

Now that I have my own blog, I've decided to join my very first swap. I've signed up for the International Scarf Exchange - should be fun!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Crease? What crease?

Remember the crease that resulted from folding the stole in half before blocking it? Well, a few pins



And a little steam



Equals no more crease

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Scheherazade Unveiled (Continued)

As promised, here are some more photos



The doubled-over blocking worked fine, except for leaving a crease in the centre, as you can see in this next picture. I will pin out the centre part and steam the crease out. That should work fine.













Of course, what would "fashion shots" be without a couple of the stole being worn. Canada's next top model I ain't :-)





Don't all fashion shoots come complete with a half a dog and a frisbee?

And to close, some close up detail. Mmmmm.



Pattern: Scheherazade (aka Mystery Stole 2), soon available for purchase from Pink Lemon Twist
Yarn: KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud, Moss Colourway - 3 skeins
Needles: Knitpicks Classic Circular, 3.25mm (US 3)

In other yarn news, I stopped by Wool-Tyme today, as they are having a warehouse sale. I didn't buy anything in the sale, but I did pick up some Manos del Uruguay, colour 105 today. I blame Dave.






But I'm not casting on anything until my Knitpicks Options set arrives. I know, I have a big box full of needles, but I find lately that I can't stand knitting on straight needles anymore. I can knit for hours on bamboo or nickle-plated circular needles or dpns, but anything else makes my hands ache.

Scheherazade Unveiled

Well, here it is. I pretty much suck at the fashion shots, but I hope these show how beautiful this stole is.





I have more pictures, but after loading up these two, Blogger decided to conk out and not let me upload any pictures. So I'll continue this post later, when Blogger decides to cooperate.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blocking problems

I finished knitting Scheherazade (aka Mystery Stole 2) sometime last week, but I've been suffering from blocking anxiety ever since. I've never blocked anything this big before. My first issue was where to block it. I played around with a few ideas, and then decided the only viable option was to use the bed. So I needed to do it early morning to give it time to dry before bedtime. I'm on vacation this week and have had the intention of tackling it every morning, but I've been sleeping in and by the time I get around to it, the morning is half gone.

But this morning I was up bright and early, so I decided that I there was no point in having knitted it if I wasn't going to block it, so I had to put my fears aside and tackle it. I started with a nice cool soak.



Then I stripped the bed and put a spare blanket on it. After squeezing the stole in a towel to get rid of the excess water, I spread it out on the bed and started to pin it out, with the help of the cotton yarn I had strung through the straight edges.

And that's when the problems really began. The stole, once wet and stretched out a bit, is longer than my bed. I tried going corner to corner, but it is still longer (and of course, I forgot to take pictures at this stage!) What to do, what to do?

I'm not sure how well this is going to work, but I ended up folding the stole in half and blocking it that way.




It's 20" wide and 84" long!

I have been doing some other knitting as well. I have one finished sock. I'll model them once I have the other one finished.



I've also been working some more on the shawl that I was working on before I got sidetracked by the stole. But alas, I was knitting away and the cord separated from the needle



But of course this didn't happen at the end of a row like the picture shows. Oh no. Couldn't be that easy. No, it happened in the middle of a row (while I was sitting in the doctor's office waiting room, no less) and I had to perform emergency knitting life-saving techniques. I managed to get all the stitches back on the needle and mark the section so that on the return pass I could check all my yarnovers and make sure I wasn't missing any. Fortunately, it's a fairly simple repetitive pattern, so it wasn't too difficult to do.

I'll need to try crazy-gluing the needle back together. Meanwhile, now that Scheherazade is finished, I've switched over to the needles I was using for that to finish the shawl. I'm not sure when to stop knitting it. It's a triangular shawl, using some stitch patterns from Barbara Walker. I'm not yet a good judge of how big to make something so that it blocks to the size you want. I think I'm almost there, but I'd rather it be a bit too big than a bit too small, so I'm keeping going. I'll stop soon though.

I'm also working on a baby sweater that I think is going to be adorable. No pictures yet though.

And I've been practicing knitting English style without letting go of the right needle. I want to do some Fair Isle knitting, which I've always avoided because every time I try to work with two colours, I get annoyed at how slow I am. I'd like to be able to do it with one strand in each hand, but I'm so slow at English style, that it drives me nuts. The reason I'm slow is because I let go of the needle with every stitch. I don't need to do that with Continental, so it goes much faster. Therefore, I've been practicing knitting English with just using my finger to throw the stitch. It's awkward, but getting a bit smoother. I know it will come with practice.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lovely Lorna's Laces

Lots of little odds and ends today. I'm writing this before I leave for work, so I'll see how much I have time for. Anything I don't get to will have to wait for another day. Wednesday is the only day I have time in the mornings - a couple of months ago I started exercising in the mornings before work, except for Wednesdays which is my weekly rest day. I'm loving exercising, but I must say I'm also loving my Wednesday mornings :-)

So, onto the knitting content. First off - I received this in the mail on Monday:



Isn't it lovely! It's Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Tuscany colourway. Yummy! I received this from Norma as a prize for her mnemonic contest. It was fun receiving yarn in the mail that I hadn't purchased. I'm looking forward to turning these into a lovely pair of socks - but there are a couple of pairs ahead of it in the queue, so meanwhile I'll just admire it!

I'm nearing the end of the Mystery Stole - then name of which is no longer a mystery. It's called Scheherazade. I'm have finished the border on one end, and am now on the second. Here's a picture of it at the end of Clue 5, before doing the last few rows and starting the border.




The sides will be straight when I block it. For the pictures I just pinned it out roughly. I've never blocked something this big before. I worry that I won't be able to keep the sides straight just using pins. I've read about using co
tton string to block, so I'm going to have to do a bit of research into that and try it out. I think that would work best. Any advice would be most welcome!

I did finish another Garterlac dishcloth:



Time's up. Off to work I go. Ta-ta.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Swifty Goodness

This week my new swift finally arrived. And it's fabulous. I set it up immediately and wound a ball of laceweight in minutes. But I forgot to take pictures. Bad blogger. So I dug out another skein that I'm not yet ready to use, but wound for demonstration purposes.

So....


1 skein of Socks that Rock (Falcon's Eye colourway)


















+
1 Swift and Ball Winder


= 1 perfectly wound centre-pull cake of yarn, ready to become a pair of socks



So let me tell you more about the swift. I bought it from Knitting Notions and all in all, it was a wonderful online shopping experience. I bought the handcrafted Oak Yarn Swift and a ball winder.

In my last incarnation as a knitter, I didn't even know that swifts existed. Yarn was always bought from a store, in a ball, usually with the name Patons or something similar. But in the past year or so, since I've discovered blogs, my eyes have been opened to how many wonderful yarns there are out there. I've dabbled with Socks that Rock and wonderful cotton/lycra yarn from Greenwood Fibreworks... I discovered the nice-quality, inexpensive yarns from Knitpicks... and there are many more that I plan to try. But then I discovered that many of these yarns come in skeins, not balls. The first skeins I bought were Knitpicks Wool of the Andes Natural, which is worsted weight. I just layed out the skein and started to hand-wind into a centre-pull ball. It worked okay - I had a few tangles, but not too bad. The next yarn I tryed doing that with was laceweight, and it's then that I discovered the need for a swift. What a mess! It took me hours to untangle the blob of yarn I ended up with. So then I used the back of two chairs as a swift. It was a bit better, but very long and labourious. I found that the two juice bottles (as in last week's post) worked even better, but still, winding 440 yards of laceweight yarn by hand is very time consuming.

So I decided I needed a swift and ball winder. I looked at the various swift options and thought that I would prefer the table top option over the clamp-to-a-table, umbrella type swift. It just seemed easier to set up and use. I also like the idea of using something that is handcrafted and buying it directly from the craftsman. I searched online and found a few sources for the type of swift I wanted. I chose Knitting Notions because they also sold ball-winders (not handcrafted, obviously), so I could buy both at the same time (gotta love one-stop shopping!). I checked out their eBay feedback and was satisfied.

Within a few hours of ordering, I had a notification from the US Postal Service that my package had been shipped. Although it took weeks for it to arrive, I know that it is the fault of the postal service, and not the fault of the vendor (I've been really annoyed lately at the postal service, both in the US and in Canada - but I'll save that rant for later).

When my swift finally arrived, I was delighted. It was expertly packaged, so it arrived in perfect condition. It is beautiful, and the craftsmanship is exquisite. It is easy to put together and take apart, it rotates smoothly and so very easy to operate. At some point I'll probably replace the ball winder with a higher end model, but the swift I'll use forever, I'm sure. And I've had some lovely email correspondence with Catherine at Knitting Notions. So if you're in the market for a swift, I highly recommend this style and this seller.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Love that Garterlac

I took a break today from the stole to whip up a new dishcloth, using the Garterlac pattern. I know, it's not the same one I showed the start of yesterday - that one is still at the same state it was when I took a picture. I decided that it needed to be more colourful. I was at Walmart today and I picked up a few balls of Bernat Handicrafter cotton. It made a nice dishcloth, but is sure is hard on the hands. My hands are really achy after just one dishcloth.



I know a lot of people use Sugar and Cream for dishcloths, but I've never seen any around here. Walmart and Michael's both carry the Handicrafter; Yarn Forward carries Bernat Cottontots, which is nice but it only comes in pastels - and I can only handle so much pastel.

I really like the pattern - it's easy but fun. I usually make dishcloths using Grandma's Favourite Dishcloth Pattern, which is really simple. I've taught a lot of people to knit using this pattern.

I also balled up a skein of yarn for the stole. This is Knitpicks Alpaca Cloud in the Moss colourway. I ordered a swift and ball winder a couple of weeks ago, but it still hasn't arrived, so I used my old standby makeshift swift.




It does the trick, but it takes a while to wind by hand. I hope my swift arrives this week. I ordered it on July 20 and it was shipped the same day via USPS Global Airmail Parcel Post which, according to their website, takes 4 to 10 days depending on where in the world it is being sent. Apparently the capital of Canada is farther away than Outer Mongolia, because it has already been longer than that. The Track and Confirm feature showed no information until a couple of days ago, when I'm finally told that my package left Miami Airport on August 3. So it took 2 weeks to get it from Tennessee to Miami. Hmmmm.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I won a contest!

Earlier this week Norma had a contest to help her daughter Abigail come up with a mnemonic to help her studying for the LSAT. There were over a hundred entries, and she picked mine as one of the winners. I'm way more excited than I should be over this! There were prizes offered, but I couldn't decide so I told Norma to surprise me!

Just in case you think ALL I do is knit - I do sometimes go play with our dog, Macha. Here's proof:



I know, it doesn't look much like playing - looks more like just laying there looking pretty. But she is 10, after all. The play comes in small spurts, with lots of resting in between. But she does love to fetch sticks in the water to cool off:



She's part border collie, which really shows when she's stalking something about to be thrown (frisbee, stick, whatever).

But of course, I have also been knitting. I've made great progress on the Mystery Stole. I've finished both sides of Clue 4 and have started on Clue 5. As both ends are on the same needle, it's not easy to stretch it out to show the whole pattern, but here it is:



The pattern is lovely - with some really nice detail:



I stil don't have any great photos of the stole though. I'm going to have to recruit my sweetie to help me by holding it while I take the pictures.

I've also started a new garterlac dishcloth.




I love making and using handknit dishcloths. They're quick, easy and a great way to play around with stitch patterns and techniques. Plus, they just work so darn well. I just hope mine doesn't end up being as mouthy as Trek's