Wednesday, January 31, 2007

swatch til you're crosseyed

That's how I'm feeling right now.

It's too cold to go out if I can help it, so the last two days have been spent adding to the pile o' swatches. Funny how often something that looks good in your head, or even on paper, doesn't always work out right when translated into actual yarn. Well, there's something a little head-clearing about ripping out six inches of work. The pile would have been bigger if I hadn't done so much ripping.

The company I want to submit the design proposal to has specified yarn that is easily available from the large craft/hobby/fabric stores. So I picked acrylic yarns from three different makers. All of the labels say 22 sts + 4 inches. Not surprisingly they are all slightly different thicknesses, not to mention different textures. Well, they are all essentially smooth yarns, but one is a sort of fluffy smooth, one mid-range, and one downright slick. Which is to say that the "recommended gauge" on yarn labels is more of a broad suggestion based on a chart somewhere, than something any real person sat down and figured out with needles in hand. So there were the initial plain stockinette gauge swatches, not necessarily to try to match the labels with 100% accuracy, but to find what works for me.

Then I started playing around with motifs. The general idea here is to come up with three baby blankets with coordinating sweaters and hats, using lace/eyelet stitches. I have sketches for concepts. Swatching is one way to decide that certain concepts aren't workable. It is also a good way to get ideas to replace those unworkables. It's like making sketches before slapping paint on a full sized canvas. At least one of the sets is going to be quite different from my original scrawl.

But darn, it's a slow process.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What's Up?

On Sunday morning I drove up to Madison for brunch with my lovely daughter. She's working two jobs these days, so we fit it in before she had to head out to the bookstore. Her company is always a treat. After we ate, we headed over to Jo Ann's Fabrics where I picked up

a pile o' baby yarn, which led to Monday's work on

the beginning of a pile o' swatches (displayed against the Kerry Blue shawl which has reverted pretty much to it's pre-blocking dimensions).

No, I haven't got anyone near and dear expecting. I'm going to try to work on some design proposals.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

"Be aware...that your freshly blocked piece of lace may change considerably after has sat around, or been worn or hung for a while. The degree of change depends on the elasticity and resiliency of the yarn as well as the type of pattern worked." - Susanna E. Lewis, Knitting Lace: A Workshop with Patterns and Projects

A question on the Knitters Review forum sent me in search of this book. As it is out of print, and selling on the Internet at prices ranging from $100 to $500, I turned to the library. And as so often happens, the library came through for me. I'm going to have a hard time returning it.
In the first half of the book Lewis charts out all 90 patterns from a 15 ft long (!) lace sampler in the Brooklyn museum. But this isn't why I want it. Some of the patterns are familiar from other sources. Some are not all that visually interesting. I'll make photo copies of a few, including one I've modified to incorporate at the center of the Gypsy Girl shawl (which is slowly growing).
At the end of the book she gives some garment patterns of her own design, and these aren't why I want the book, either. To be honest, I'm not all that crazy about any of them.
What I want is the center section, which is Lewis's step by step analysis of how knitted lace is structured, how motifs can be built and arranged and how technique chosen affect the final appearance and behavior of the patterns produced. It's not that I didn't already know some of what she has to say. It's not that I couldn't learn much of the rest from other writers or by trial and error.
But it's a really good reference, well presented and I would like to have it where I could put my hands on it anytime, pick it up for bedtime reading. And even more I would just like to know that I have this work of solid scholarship on my bookshelf.
There is a rumor that Schoolhouse Press is trying to reissue this book. That would be lovely, but I'm not holding my breath. I've never paid $100 for a book in my life, and I'm not going to do it for this one. But I'll keep my fingers crossed, and if I get a second chance at acquiring it for a reasonable price (I foolishly passed it by when it was first published), I'll grab it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wallpaper for Kmkat

She asked everyone to share, so here's mine.

What? You're not surprised?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I thought I was going to use that for yarn, but....

There is actually a book for sale titled "Never Too Old to Knit: Beautiful Basics for Baby Boomers." Well, get out of the way. There's going to be a stampede of Fifty-Something women trying to get their hands on if. "Oh thank God! You mean I'm not too doddering to learn a basic handcraft? At my age? Oh I have to get a copy right now!"

Who is doing the marketing on this one? I envision a twenty-something editor (beg the goddess not a woman) who thinks like this:
1) Hip young women buy knitting books 2) Baby Boomers are not hip young women 3) therefore Baby Boomers will not buy knitting books unless we put it right in the title that they really aren't too f*****g old. I won't even try to list the ways this logic and this title are wrong.

Well, now that I've got that off my chest, I did a swatch with the grey alpaca for the Tiger scarf. It's lovely yarn, but the pattern didn't show off well. So I picked some yarn from the stash. This is an older version of Paton's Kroy, from back in the day when it had a full 85% wool and was a touch more loosely twisted than the current version.

The color on my monitor looks a bit dark. In real life it's a very pretty dark lavender or light bluish-purple heather.

I think I will take it with me to the Yarns Ewe-nited group tonight. It is not conversational knitting, but these women are mostly natural fiber handspinners and I just can't bring myself to show up with my acrylic garter stitch. Besides, once supper is over it's OK to work and not talk. The one's who aren't spinning tend to bring complicated knitting, too. They understand.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mother of All Romance Novels

Whoo Hoo! Jane Eyre on PBS last night. I'm loving it. Of course, every filming of a favorite book has to bear comparison with one's own mental images. In this one some of the childhood scenes were a little more visually lurid than Yorkshire grim. But that's minor. And there is definitely chemistry between Jane and Mr. Rochester.....

But on to knitting. I'm so excited that Mmario modified the Progressive for a square shawl, and it came out just beautifully. With his permission, I'm sharing his picture.

Now he's working on a circular version. I can hardly wait.


Christine asked if there is a way to modify the Tiger, Tiger to be done without grafting. Well, yes and no, I guess. The Tiger Eye pattern is highly directional, and I wanted both ends to match, hence the grafting. As Calamintha mentioned, it's possible to start in the middle with a provisional cast on and worked outwards, but in this case that would have changed the "flow" of the pattern. A real challenge would be to try to work the Tiger Eye from top to bottom so I could do that. My mind boggles a little at the thought of attempting it, but it would be a good design exercise.


While I was down at the Argyle Fiber Mill picking up some nice alpaca yarn for a scarf, Elizabeth mentioned that she is interested in carrying knitting patterns by local/regional designers. If you are a Wisconsin, or even upper Midwest designer with patterns in hard copy format you might want to contact her.


Also want to mention that on his blog, Mmario has a really nifty summary of various ways to shape shawls (and there are a lot).

And now that I'm on useful bits of information -

Marie has shared her technique for working cables without a cable needle. You have to scroll down a bit, but that will give you a chance to see her really pretty dayflower washcloth.

Fleegle has a different take on a provisional cast on. It looks rather brilliant to me, but I haven't actually tried it yet (on my "to do very soon" list)


That's all for now. I have to go wind some alpaca.

Preliminary Evaluation

I've blocked the Tiger, Tiger Stole by dampening and patting to shape. (I think of this as "rough blocking") just to get an overall view. Now it's time to evaluate.

Overall, I like it just fine and will either happily wear it or give it as a gift. (Mother's Day is coming up). But I would like to do it again with a little tweaking. Still want to shorten the plainer section between the Tiger Eye sections on each side (maybe 1-2 fewer repeats). Possibly lengthen the plainer section at the very center.

Visually, I like the straight lengthwise sides, but only four stitches of garter based edge may not be enough to control the curl (haven't actually picked it up yet to see - it's still slightly damp).

I would like to try a single panel as a scarf. I may head down to the Argyle Fiber Mill to see if they have any fingering to sport weight alpaca. Also, when thinking of writing up the pattern, I want to try it in a yarn whose yardage I actually know. (This was stash yarn from a kit marked only "100% wool - lace weight).

In terms of execution: my gauge loosened up noticeably on the second side, the grafting isn't perfect. Just things for me to notice and work on.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

things learned the hard way about grafting lace

Put lifelines in on the final row of each piece to be grafted.

I guess that's just one thing, but it should be said at least twice. I started grafting the two pieces of the Tiger, Tiger stole together on Friday. It should have been pretty straightforward. I planned ahead so that the grafted stitches would be a plain row, in knit. Somehow, I got off by a stitch about 2/3's of the way through.

Picking out grafting on lace is not fun. I had a "walk away from the knitting" moment. It was not pretty.

I did finish yesterday. Oh, there was another thing learned. It's harder to match tension nicely on lace than it is on a sock toe.

That's all. No picture. We are hoping for the magic of blocking.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Can't walk and chew gum..

Well, actually, I can manage that. But I am, shall we say, easily distracted. I can't drive and talk at the same time, not in traffic I can't. I can't do homework and watch TV (or I couldn't when homework was still an issue). And I can't engage in conversation and knit, not anything tricky at any rate, say anything that requires keeping track of what row I am on.

And yet, I do regularly put myself in situations that require talking and knitting more or less at the same time. (Why call it a knitting group if I'm not knitting?) And this leads to the need for, let's not call it "mindless" knitting, the need for "conversational" knitting.

Stockinette is fine (especially in the round). Ribbing is not bad. Garter stitch is ideal. In other words, I need jobs that would be monumentally boring if done for long periods in silence. So after all these years I still almost always have something in garter on the needles.

This is for the Snuggles Project, and will go to the Green County Humane Society when it is finished.

I am probably not going to post pictures of my progress. (Boring knitting, remember?) But every Thursday night, for who knows how many weeks, it will be there - slowly, quietly growing while I try to catch up on at least some of the news that doesn't appear in the local paper.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Happpy Camper

Thanks for leaving all the comments on the last post, I'm happy dancing.

I'm so glad the pictures of the cast on were helpful! One of these days I'll get a camera that can actually take close ups in focus *G*

Don't anyone worry about "Gypsy Girl" hitting the stands too soon. For one thing it is getting wider and wider, which of course means each row takes longer and longer...and any theoretical ripping back for mistakes (who me?) or design changes will become a bigger and bigger undertaking. For another, I'm not sure how I'll get a printable chart. I think may end up needing one of those "whole d**n triangle on one sheet" layouts..... (right now everything's being done with paper and pencil.) But I'll figure something out eventually.

Christine, be impressed, but not too impressed. There's a lot of scribbling and erasing going on in those ten or so rows of charting ahead of the actual knitted rows, and I do have a sort of generalized idea and rough sketch of what I think I'm aiming for.....

And Elizabeth, thanks for the Literary Knit-erary contribution. I hadn't even thought about children's lit, but now am remembering "The Mitten"- specifically the edition illustrated by Jan Brett. (Is she a knitter? Her "Annie and the Wild Animals" has some of the best illustrations of hand knits)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Gypsy Rover came over the hill
And down to the valley so shady.
He whistled and he sang
'Til the green woods rang,
And he won the heart of a lady.

That song runs through my head every time I pick up the the fuchsia lace, and so, of course, the name of the shawl will be Gypsy Girl. It's going very smoothly and pleasantly, albeit slowly, so far. I have some ideas in my head about where it is headed, and I'm charting as I go - staying about 10 rows ahead on the chart.

Of course, those rows keep getting wider. Would an intelligent knitter put in a lifeline about now?

New (to me) Trick. When I need a provisional cast on I usually crochet a chain with waste yarn, then pick up stitches through the bumps at the back of the chain. I've always found the picking up part a bit of a pain. So I was pleased to find directions, at the back of Victorian Lace Today, for working the chain directly onto the needle. I think I have seen this described somewhere as a Japanese cast on. At any rate, I had never done it before.

It starts with a slip knot on a crochet hook.

The working yarn goes in back of the needle.

Crochet hook goes over the needle and catches working yarn.

Pull yarn through the loop that is on the crochet hook.

Bring the working yarn under the needle tip to the back and repeat.
Keep going until you have one less stitch than desired total on the needle. Slip the loop on the crochet hook onto the needle.

Drop the waste yarn, pick up the working yarn and start knitting. When you want those provisional stitches, unzip the waste yarn like a regular crochet chain.

Of course, this can also work as a non-provisional cast on (say you want a cast on to perfectly match a bound off edge). Just start from the beginning with your working yarn.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A good gift

The love of language is the love of truth, and this brings one into conflict with authority, since power employs deceit and is so fond if it--Rexroth said: "The accepted official version of most anything is most likely false...all authority is based on fraud."--but the love of language is a fundamental connection to our fellows and is the basis of true civility. -Garrison Keillor, Good Poems

This book was another favorite Christmas gift. For one thing, the introduction is one of the most sensible discussions of poetry I have read in a long time. For the other, it has a lot of good poems, and most of them are new to me. I would like to copy out many of them here. I also genuinely respect the concept of copyright. So go buy the book. Or check it out of the library.

When the weather is at zero, you can't beat the spot behind the basement door. But he's missing a lovely day.

view from back door - no kittie prints

The second half of "Tiger, Tiger" is almost complete. Then the grafting.... I've done plenty of sock toes, so I'm hoping it won't be a big deal (though the way this project has seemed to be jinxed, who knows). I still haven't decided whether to add an edging - think I'll block it before I make up my mind.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Fine Yarn

Very, very fine.

How could I resist a product description that said
"It uses new technological skill. The yarn will not take any dust."? This is 100% wool. I have no idea what the new technological skill might be. It is very soft and smoothly, evenly twisted. It reminds me a bit of Lacy Lamb, but finer. I got 35-36 Wraps per Inch. Swatching with a single strand gave me pretty results. AND IT ABOUT DROVE ME CRAZY. I don't think I'm ready for gossamer yet.

So I started over using two strands, and it is much more pleasant knitting. I can see what I am doing. I can get a grip on the yarn. The stitches don't drift up in a way that fools me into knitting into the stitch below. Thinking ahead to wearing the finished object, I also like the bit heavier drape.

So, do I want something that will fit through a wedding ring? Or do I want something that I can enjoy knitting and finish in the foreseeable future? This time around, I'm opting for the latter.

Edited to add: Elizabeth has just declared this National Blog De-Lurking Week. So if you're reading this, give me a shout out.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sunshine on My Shoulder Makes Me Happy

We had at least three sunny days in a row, and even though they were cold I felt warm at heart. Gosh darn it, even driving home from a tooth extraction I felt happy, because the sunlight was slanting higher over the fields. (OK, the fact that half my skull was numb helped, too).

Another thing that makes me happy is getting comments. Thanks to all who have contributed.

Calamintha made me think, I have some other family things (a couple of pieces of jewelry, a handkerchief with an edging tatted by a grandmother I hardly knew, a chest and some boxes my father made) that I should somehow document, or my daughter may never know where they came from. It is harder with my own productions. Sweaters and hats could get a label. But a lace scarf? Like Cala, I just have to resign myself to hoping that something may survive and be appreciated, even if anonymously.

To the gang from the Blogger's Paradise Blogalong I've loved reading all your entries. (but Knitbert, we're still waiting.....)

To Jr. Goddess, it might be considered justifiable homicide.

I'm still plodding away on the Tiger, Tiger Stole, only because I force myself to work on it about every other day. Thanks CatBookMom for the commiseration. Maybe it is the yarn that is jinxed.

Jaylene, the Cats in Sinks are a hoot!

One last thought. The good folks at "afghans for Afghans" have forwarded a Call for Seeds for the People of Afghanistan. I've posted the basic info here, What a lovely way to send some hope and beauty to a place where it is badly needed.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I have a (very) few pieces of old lace knitting that I treasure. I am aquisitive enough that I just like having them, but more than that I value the unknown hands that made them. So much knitting is, when you come down to it, ephemeral. And yet, so much care has gone into its creation. It is important to me that I can value this work with a fairly just appretiation of the
skill and patience and care that went into its creation.

The doilies came from my mother-in-law's family. I wish I knew just who had made them. Her mother crocheted, but as far as I know did not knit. Marge knit, but not lace.

Both doilies are garter based lace in ecru crochet cotton. The center of round one was worked flat in wedges, with short row shaping in the center section only. The gauge is 12 sts/inch in garter st. The seam joinng the cast on and bound off edges is extremely neat.
The other doily is of heavier thread at 9 sts/inch. The border was worked separately and sewn on with a whip stitch. Interestingly the same eyelet motif used in the center also used on the circular doily.

I honestly don't know where the linen handkerchief came from, possibly also my mother-in-law. The edging is white cotton that literally is as fine as sewing thread. This is also garter based, a very simple sawtooth pattern that looks as though it was pressed rather than blocked. It has a nice, rather frothy effect.
I found the stockings many years ago in a shop in Amador City, CA. I have no idea of their age or where they originally came from. The are adult sized: 9 1/2" from toe to heel, 19" from the top to the bottom of the foot. The gauge is 12-13 sts/inch in the stockinette portions. There is calf shaping in pattern (a sort of feather and fan rib). The heel is a standard "Dutch" heel.
What I find most endearing is that there are several very neat darns. (On can be seen in the photo above). Someone made these. Someone wore these. Someone took care to mend them. In honor of that someone/those someones I treasure them.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sunday Drive to Madison

Mr. Scrump and I took a field trip.

First stop, Lakeside Fibers. Wow! I hadn't been there in quite a while. There are a couple of yarn sources that are more in the line of my regular routes. The last time I was in it was nice, but it's gotten even better. The back room used to be mostly the weaving supplies, now the knitting yarns have expanded into half of it, and the other half is a lovely, light filled coffee shop that takes advantage of the glorious view over the lake. (And for the first time in my life I actually saw a man knitting. I know there are lots of you out there, guys, I just haven't seen you in person before). The yarn selection is mouth watering, definitely some high end stuff here, but the atmosphere was relaxed. I loved it. But I resisted temptation, for now.

Next stop, St. Vinnie's Dig & Save. The Dig & Save feels a little like dumpster diving (it's clean, but textiles are tossed into bins about 4 feet deep, so you really do have to dig). It also has the best deals in town. I came away with a wool cardigan in a bulky handpaint looking 100% wool for $1.89.

I grabbed it thinking it has good felting potential, but as it is soft, lightweight and warm I'm wearing it. There's a little bit of pilling. Otherwise, it's like new.
On to lunch and then Barnes & Noble. This isn't my first choice for a bookstore, but Mr. S. had gift cards from students. I'm glad to say that their selection of knitting books was humongeous, much larger than the last time I checked. I was tempted by "Sensational Knitted Socks" (C. Schurch), but again resisted. I don't need another sock book (repeat three times), even thought this one does look really good.
I did pick up the current Piecework magazine (Knitting Special: New Take on Old Techniques). My first reaction is that it really makes me miss the old Threads magazine, from it's glory days before it limited itself to sewing. Piecework feels thin in comparison. Mostly I miss having good illustrations/photos of the working techniques. I liked the choice of topics, there are some very good photographs. There just wasn't much depth. And the "Knitting Spools" piece was pretty much fluff. On the other hand, the article about Marta Stina Abrahmsdotter was very interesting. So with reservations, it's a keeper.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Knitting Meets Car Talk

The "Car Talk" guys, Click and Clack (aka Tam and Ray Magliozzi) also have a syndicated Q & A that appears in our local paper. Today the question was this:

"Is it safe to a seat with an air bag?..."

Hmmm, something new for me to worry about. The guys say it probably isn't. Inflating air bag could ram those needles right through you. Then Tom goes on to say:

"I would be nice if someone made knitting needles out of some sort of firm rubber, with perhaps a short, hardened point. That way, they'd bend in an accident, rather than spear somebody...."

I love it! Tom the car guy has a new marketing idea for knitting needles. Maybe the folks who brought us the light-up variety can get working on this. I'm heading for their website with follow up questions: would working with circulars qualify as safe? How short is "short"? Are sock needles short enough to be safe? Wonder how many knitters they'll hear from....

Friday, January 05, 2007

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

This has nothing to do with knitting, but....

Sounds Of Silence

I'm Sounds Of Silence!

Which Simon and Garfunkel album are you?
I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved that album when it first came out.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Grit Teeth and Rip

I finally got back to the Tiger Tiger Stole, and thought I was waltzing along nicely, when I glanced down and saw this

Down toward the bottom. Three holes where only two holes should be.

Why is it that some projects flow smoothly, while others are just one roadblock after another? Were the stars out of line when I started? Do I unconsciously not care, because I really want to be getting on to something else? It isn't the difficulty of the pattern - this section is extremely simple.

Well, I'll take it as an opportunity to practice self-discipline and build character. I'll do it, but I won't like it. I hate ripping out.

Heading for NOLA

Not me (though I wish). This afghan.

A while back I contacted the folks at Warm Up America to say I would be willing to help assemble blankets. Their happy response was "How many do you want?" I settled on two for starters and they quickly sent a big box of crocheted blocks, plus yarn to sew them with. They left it up to me to decide where I wanted the blankets to go, and to deliver them.
It was somewhat challenging to fit these pieces, made by different hands, together neatly. But I also liked the idea that I was picking up the care that went into each of those blocks, and adding my own little bit to it.
When I put together the first blanket I used crochet chain for joining. The seams came out a little bulky for my taste. But it was colorful and sturdy, and I hope it warmed someone's heart as well as their body. (It went out a couple of months back, and I didn't think to take a picture.)
I finally finished this one using whip stitch, and I like the results better. Today it's going out to the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Sadly, there is still a need in that wonderful city. Even more sadly, many residents feel that they have been forgotten. So as much as anything, this is my way of saying "Someone cares."
I've got more blocks to start on now....
Edited to add: This does not count as "resolution knitting" because 1) it's an organization I was already involved with, 2) it didn't use stash, 3) wasn't done in 2007 and 3) I didn't actually knit anything-just sewed and worked crochet border.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Now this looks interesting

"Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting"

Makes me wish I could be in New York in February to see the whole exhibit.

Got a mention in "The New Yorker", no less.

And So It Begins,

the new year, that is.

New Year's Day was sunny (an amazing mood lifter) and began auspiciously with a first visit to friends who have recently moved to Madison. We got to see the house, which is charming, and more importantly, their grown children and beautiful new granddaughter. Marty made one of his specialties, split pea soup, which isn't quite Hoppin' John, but I figure it's close enough thematically (legumes & pork) to qualify for New Year's good luck. The ham came from a pig naturally raised not a mile from our house by someone I know. Not good luck for the pig, but a good break from the corporate food distribution system.

I don't usually make resolutions, but this year I'm setting a goal of completing four projects for organizations mentioned in Knitting for Peace that I haven't already contributed to. (Anything I knit for groups I have given to in the past will be gravy.) With a further goal of making said projects with material from the stash.

Today, the second and also sunny day of the year, I swatched some more on the Latvian project.

No, I didn't do all of that today. Just several rounds. The first swatch (yellow and white) was done on size 1 needles. It was a little too loose for my taste. It would be OK for a sweater, but I think mittens will be warmer if a little tighter. So the second swatch is on 0's. I think I'll felt the first one and turn it into a catnip toy.

While doing the scalloped bit at the beginning I discovered that it is really hard for me to knit tightly while working a pattern with yarn overs, especially on the first few rounds. This is going to take some concentration, and probably practice, before I launch into the actual item. I may switch to raised increases to tighten it up.

72 stitches gave a good size for a mitten. What I really want is fingerless mitts, which should fit more closely. I could use fewer stitches, but 72 is such a good number for fitting in patterns: multiples of 2,3,4,6, 8, 9 & 12. Will have to think on this for a bit....

Socks would also be an option, and they would be beautifully warm. But 1) the Palette yarn is not tightly twisted and has no nylon, so I don't know how well they would wear and 2) it's not machine washable.

Finally, I have put the pattern for the Progressive Shawl up on eBay. I'll setting up a link here for the pdf down-loadable version soon.