30 January 2004
Beware of yellow snow!
OK, I know this is not in the best of taste, but I couldn't resist. We all got a little silly yesterday evening. I swear, this is FOOD COLORING!
Happy Winter, everybody.
29 January 2004
Compare and contrast
Winter Sunset is moving along again, but in the meantime I cast on for a scarf for my mother-in-law's birthday in April. I got the idea from Theresa's blog. And BTW, she is currently conducting a "Norwegian Knitting Patterns Lesson," specifically for people who are interested in Garnstudio's patterns.
Back to the scarf. I'm using Lang's Opal Color, which is 58% nylon and 42% viscose (isn't that rayon? I think so). It could not be more different from Shetland 2-ply jumper-weight wool (here or hier, NAYY), although it is approximately just as thick. Here they are --
The Shetland wool has been described by many people as "sticky" or "like Velcro," which I can certainly substantiate. You drop stitches, and they just sit there, patiently waiting to be noticed and picked up, kind of like an aging terrier. The Lang yarn is more like a fey and playful Siamese cat. Drop a stitch here, and it immediately romps many rows down. It is slippery and limp, but the colors are glowing and gorgeous.
I saw a pullover knit up with this yarn at my favorite LYS ("Leinenfein" in Heiligenhaus -- ancestral home of John Steinbeck's family) and the colors stayed in my mind. They're just perfect for my MIL. The shopowner certainly warned me about the yarn. It's not impossible to work with, not even aversive, but I do admire anyone knitting a whole pullover out of it. After swatching with a fairly large round needle, I reached two conclusions: This is one instance where straight needles would be better, and large needles do not suit this yarn, as they would for lace in other yarns (like the Wave-Along-Shawl, which most people have been doing in wool). I'm now using US5 straights, and it's going great. Oh, yeah, a picture!
Übrigens....die multitalentierte Susan hat auch einen Fair-Isle-Tick, und war so nett, einen Workshop anzubieten. Ein neuer WIP in dieser Richtung wird auch bald beim kleinen Sockhaus zu sehen sein. Und Bagatell, Theresas Blog, kann ich euch uneingeschränkt empfehlen. Sie schreibt auch viel für Knitty.
24 January 2004
Everything under control
Here's proof that I'm still knitting the sweater. After the initial rush of being all the way up to the sleeve steeks, the rest has seemed to go as slow as molasses. This is probably just the wall that everyone hits at some point on every major project. In my defense, I've also been doing sock knitting and Other Life Stuff.
BTW, the arrow is pointing to a tiny maple tree. I plucked it from the backyard, where it was growing in the lawn. I know its parent, a fine maple-next-door that has beautiful yellow leaves in the fall. The prevailing winds blow them all into our yard, but at least they're easier to rake than birch leaves. This little guy is my experiment in DIY bonsai. However, I digress.
In case anyone's interested, this is how I'm holding my yarn. I did most of the sweater, up to about the steeks, with one yarn in each hand, as in Fair Isle 101. I finally found a way to hold both yarns in the left hand, keep them from tangling, and maintain tension. It's hard to see, but the light yarn (main color) is being held in a 'normal Continental' fashion -- over the index finger, under the next two, back over the little finger. The dark yarn is threaded a little differently -- over the index AND second finger, under the ring finger, and back up over the little finger. My hand anchors both yarns loosely against the sweater body, and the dark yarn tends to stay a bit to the right of the light yarn, so that no tangling ensues.
Onward! Sometime soon I'm going to describe a yarn that is the exact opposite of Jamieson's Spindrift.
One more thing. My son, who's 9, had a friend over today. He saw me knitting and didn't say anything, but had a very respectful look in his eyes. Of course that was great in itself, but as they were going upstairs I heard my son telling him, "My mom knit me TWO PAIRS of socks!"
23 January 2004
God has the best FO's.
21 January 2004
Here's Anna's purse. With a zipper instead of a button. She took possession of it right away. Back to Winter Sunset.
18 January 2004
...is the spice of life.
Stopping at the stationery store (!) to pick up some favors for my daughter's birthday party, I saw a couple of baskets of oddballs of yarn. In the middle of dreary old January, these little babies just said "Let's party! At your house!!" They really did. Hey, I'm only human. They came home with me and they're on their way to becoming a purse. Making it up as I go along. There's going to be a purled diamond in the center, but the light doesn't show it off. Anna's got a whole bag of buttons. We'll find something flashy and jazzy.
15 January 2004
Here she is, in all her glory. As in the directions, one stitch is on a safety pin. After that I cast on 10 sts for the steek. It wasn't in the directions, but I cast on in alternating colors, since I will be doing a stripe pattern for the steek anyway (already visible here), and this also saved me a long float.
Using stitch markers for every pattern repeat has been a godsend. One thing you have to remember are those three little words in the directions, "Continue in Pattern." This means, once you get to the steek, since you have Stitch #1 of the pattern on a safety pin, you continue with Stitch #2 after the steek stitches!!! Keeps you on your toes. Guess how I know.
Still not satisfied with my tension. I have now switched to holding both yarns in my left hand. It is (still) slower, and I haven't been able to figure out how to hold the yarns so that tension is maintained on floats of more than 3 sts AND the yarn doesn't tangle. Still, it seems promising enough to stick with it.
Don't know why, but for the last few days I've been goofing up on my counting and having to tink. A lot. It is getting very, very, very old and I wish I'd finally straighten up and knit right again! For some reason an old Jimmy Durante song has been going through my head, "Tinka Tinka Do". OK, so the title is a little different. But humming it along in my head makes me feel marginally better.
8 January 2004
What is the Holy Grail of colorwork? Finishing, you say? No, no, no. I -will- finish this project, and you'll finish yours, too. No, what everyone really strives for is for the work to turn out flat, with no puckers.
And how proceedeth I? Hmm.
Hard to say. Here's a closeup:
I've done a lot of obsessing about this. Not to mention tugging and pulling and trying to remember to keep my floats loose. Which I swear I am! Sometimes I look at the work and it looks beautifully flat, especially the rows closest to the needles. Then that area strikes me as puckered a few rows on. Will blocking help?? Dunno yet.
My newest strategy in this endeavor is to try a trick I've read several places: turning the knitting inside out. You can see this on the top picture. I'm still knitting (not purling) and going in the same direction, but doing it this way is supposed to keep the yarn stretched a bit more. I actually wanted to try this a bit earlier on, but because my brain is kind of spatially challenged, I simply couldn't figure it out at first. Will this help? Dunno yet.
Change of topic: I've been playing fast and loose with the term "Fair Isle," using it to mean any complex colorwork with fine yarn. Of course there are other types of colorwork done with much thicker yarn, and of course a lot of new designs are only related in spirit to the traditional Scottish patterns, and they're probably not technically FI. This is not an area I feel like being a purist about.
It might have been easier to start with a less complicated design using heavier yarn, but I'm a person who likes fiddly projects. Take this cross-stitch picture. The motif is 8" square, and it took me three years to finish. (Don't ask me how long it'll be until it gets framed. Guess I'm kind of paranoid about someone screwing this up.)
And speaking of quests, it is beginning to aggravate me no end that many Starmore books are out of print. Pacific Coast Highway was going for $200 - $350 on eBay and Alibris yesterday. Now, I've never been officially involved in the world of business. I've lived way too long in the Ivory Tower (which was a big mistake and an entirely other story), but I have a very strong impression that the original publisher is missing out on a lot of money by not reissuing a few books. It has become natural to gather information about every imaginable kind of hobby on the internet. Knitters are certainly no exception. In this way, people are exposed to designs, for example Alice Starmore's, that they might never have encountered otherwise. Blog-based knitalongs and knit lists provide virtual substitutes for local expertise that one might not have, either. That has certainly been true in my case. This all boils down to a lot of potential customers, dontcha think?!?
And so what if the original yarns aren't being made??? It means some extra work for the customer, pulling together substitutes, but the information is out there, and serious knitters who would do a Starmore would probably go the extra mile. *Sigh* Not that anyone asked me.
6 January 2004
So you think you want to try Fair Isle?
Maybe you've seen some FI work on the Web or at your LYS or wherever, and it just grabbed you. Your humble self said, "Oh, I could never do that!" Your sassy self said, "Betcha I could."
What kinds of things should you consider before getting started? Here is a fairly random collection of things that have occurred to me recently as I've gotten going on this project.
First, I'm a great believer in doing something you love. If you've found a Starmore pattern that calls for 27 colors that you find yourself losing sleep over, go for it, baby! Even if you've never done a FI stitch in your life. Why? Because knitting is done one stitch at a time, even by the "experts." You can handle that, too.
That said, there is something to be said for maybe getting your toes wet to see if you enjoy the technique. If you've always worked with worsted or chunky yarns and midsize needles and never done socks, FI will be different. FI work is done with fine, 2-ply Shetland wool on fairly small needles (3.25mm or 3.5mm).
Buy a couple of skeins of the type of yarn called for in a FI pattern (two different colors), check out the directions for holding yarn at Fair Isle 101, cast on in the round, and start playing -- er, swatching. Try different patterns. Make up your own or try something from a chart you already have or can borrow. KBTH has some great ones here. You'll probably find that you pick up the technique pretty quickly, which is encouraging. Maybe you'll find that you absolutely HATE it, either the knitting or the feel of the yarn. That's OK too.
How to decide on a pattern? There are a number of things to consider. Maybe you've seen something gorgeous on the Internet in someone's FO gallery, but the pattern and/or yarn isn't readily available. If you love a challenge and have lots of disposable income this isn't necessarily the end of the story -- where there's a will, there's a way. On the other hand, your LYS or a good online shop can provide you with both yarn and pattern for an attractive alternative.
I suppose the number of colors could be another consideration, especially if you're not sure about working with charts and keeping everything straight. My Winter Sunset cardi has a total of only five colors, but that's not the primary reason I chose it. I just love how it looks, and am sure I'll wear it a lot (those were the more important criteria for me).
What else? Finishing within one's lifetime is a pretty good goal ;) With complicated colorwork, you might enjoy starting with a vest rather than pullover or cardi. There are some beautiful children's patterns out there, too, but remember, kids grow so fast that they may be able to wear the garment for a shorter time than it took you to knit it! Wendy suggests starting with a hat. Many traditional "Nordic-type" sweaters have colorwork across the chest and shoulders with large areas of stockinette. Scarves or pillow covers, which could be good first projects for cabling or intarsia, aren't a good idea because they're not (generally) knit in the round. In any case, if you get hooked, you can always do more.
That's about it for today. Time to go knit some more! I'm not all that far from starting the sleeve steeks, which essentially means that I've got about half the body done. Woohoo!
3 January 2004
Well, having survived the festivities, it's time to roll up my sleeves and get knitting. Or talking about knitting, anyway.
First thing is to describe the construction of my sweater. This information is for people who have never in their lives done any fair isle or Scandinavian-style knitting. We all started somewhere, right?
This is going to be a cardigan, but it is not knitted in the usual back/two fronts/sew all parts together manner. Instead, it will be knitted entirely in the round. Indeed, at one point it will resemble more of a giant's ski cap than a sweater! The secret is in something called "steeking", a technique which involves knitting in the round, then cutting open the knitting at the front, neck, and armholes, then picking up stitches to attach sleeves and make the button band.
Whoa, you say, CUT knitting?! That would normally be a recipe for raveling, but in this case the type of wool used and/or a couple of safety measures ensure that this will not happen. Actually, knitting in the round is probably the only way to knit with two or more colors and stay sane.
The chipmunk stripe to the left of center in this picture is where the front band steek is on my sweater. Those are ten extra stitches, knit in a striped pattern for ease of knowing where to cut later. They will not be visible on the finished product.
Last but not least for today, here are some links that have been extremely helpful and informative to me on this venture.
|Knitting Beyond the Hebrides||An awesome source of inspiration and knowledge.|
|WendyKnits||Wendy's blog is --- indescribable. An institution. A great place to learn, as she's very generous with information and advice.|
|Fair Isle 101||Anne Featonby is a good source for various Fair Isle yarns and books. But her "Fair Isle 101" has been particularly useful in showing me how to hold my yarn and needles so they don't get twisted.|
|Steek techniques from "Sweaters From Camp"||Schoolhouse Press have a number of good books, and this page is a web freebie with good pics illustrating one type of steeking procedure.|
|Norwegian steeking technique||A great Knitty article illustrating another way to steek.|
|Steeking a front band||Steeks upon steeks! A method for simplifying the front band, from the inimitable Wendy.|
|Tips und Tricks via "Das Kleine Sockhaus"||This one's in German. Hoffentlich seid manche von euch Deutsche!!|
|Garnstudio||A Scandinavian purveyor of fine yarns and millions of free patterns. In Danish, Swedish, and/or Norwegian. A few are sooooo gorgeous, I fully intend to translate the directions and knit them. The yarn is not readily available in Germany, but where there's a will.....|
|Das Strickforum||Last but not least! I can't say enough about this online business. Very helpful, friendly and prompt. Ich kann diesen Online-Laden nicht genug loben -- super Service, extrem freundlich und hilfsbereit.|
31 December 2003
I ordered the kit for the Winter Sunset cardigan out of a Jamieson's book in early November.
Let's get started with a little trip to the frog pond. Why are all these froggies gathered round this beautiful (if I do say so myself) piece of fair isle?
Somewhat of a side note, but you'll notice this is knit in the round. Instead of the usual ribbing at the bottom, the pattern calls for a checkerboard pattern. To avoid the rolling of stockinette, this is knit in garter stitch. When knitting straight, you'd achieve garter stitch by knitting every row, but in the round, you have to purl alternate rows. Since fair isle work is also called stranded knitting, we have here.....Stranded Purls! If this isn't a name begging for a blog, I don't know what is. Since I also feel somewhat isolated here in Germany sometimes, that's another point of fit.
Anyway -- knitting in the round is what got me into trouble. I really really thought I had gotten my stitches straight before joining into the round, but I didn't, and the further I knitted, the more apparent it was that I was knitting a Moebius strip.
Now, I consider my figure to be Picasso-esque anyway -- in his cubist phase -- but this just will not work, even on me. So there wasn't ever really any choice, I had to rip. Fortunately, there was excellent advice from Theresa in Knitty, which I immediately applied and started again, this time correctly.
As of mid-December, I had made quite a bit of progress
As I write this, it's the 31st of December, and I'm this far now!
I am going to post several links that have been extremely helpful in this venture, but right now I have to get started on our New Year's Eve ("Silvester") fondue. Happy New Year, everyone!