Friday, March 30, 2007

What I Have Been Doing

For the last week and a half, I have pretty much dropped everything droppable to work on preparing swatches and sketches for a design proposal with an April 6 deadline. The process has involved:

- some flipping through magazines, catalogs and websites to try to get a feel for what's current in the way of garment silhouettes. (I know the classics. I'm not always up on the trends.)

- doodling several pages of "concept" sketches, with somewhat general notions of possible pattern stitches, construction and finishing methods; taking skill level needed into account (this particular proposal is for beginner-intermediate level projects); also taking into account that these will need to be graded for several sizes (how long are the pattern repeats?), also taking into account the question of how difficult will it be to write comprehensible instructions.

- swatching and ripping and swatching and ripping to develop pattern stitch combinations/edge treatments/construction and to check their finished appearance and behavior. (Discard some ideas along the way-try different ones).

- washing and blocking final versions of swatches for presentation.

- preparing finished sketches with notes about style, construction, yarn used and possible substitute yarns.

I ended up with five pattern possibilities. I would have liked to have had more, but these need to go in the mail by Monday (from here, even Priority Mail can take up to three days), and I still have one finished sketch to go, a cover letter/formal proposal to compose, copies to make of everything. So between an appointment with the accountant today, a social engagement tonight, work at the library tomorrow.... All I can say is, it's a good thing the weather has been rather cold and damp. Not too much temptation to go out and wander in the yard, even though I know the weeds are going to town.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Good News

Denise from Quebec emailed me to say:

"I recently phoned the toll-free number at Taunton Press and was told by a customer service representative that Taunton was in the process of negotiating a reprint of Knitting Lace with Susanna Lewis.

After that, a woman on a lace knitting list I subscribe to, said she was a friend of Ms. Lewis and that Ms. Lewis was having her book reprinted."

So there is hope, hooray!

I saw a report, unconfirmed and possibly erroneous, the the Harmony Guides are going to go out of print, or maybe they will stay in print but not be distributed in the U.S. At any rate, that was enough to nudge me into ordering one I don't have. At least I hope it is one I don't have. I picked up the second volume years ago. Since then the series has been re-issued, and what I own looks like what is currently the third volume. So I ordered something that looks like what I don't have, even though it is listed as the second volume. We will see...


As you can see from the picture up top, the pussy willows are out. Of course, most of the pussys are about 9 feet from the ground, so I couldn't get a picture with more than one branch. I have always loved pussy willows. This one grows in our yard, but when I was a child (and it was safe for young children to roam unsupervised for hours with a friend), I used to go down by the lake, among the reeds and cattails, and find them and delight in bringing home such treasure.

The crocus are at their peak. There are clumps of yellow and white, as well as more purple, scattered around the yard. They may not last more than another day or two, with such warm weather (high 70's). But the daffodils are starting to form flower buds, and the tulips have their leaves up. The hot weather won't last. Spring is such a tease. My neighbor, who is pushing 80, says that her father always said "The frogs have to freeze back three times before it's spring."
I heard the frogs - loudly - singing the other night. So just a couple more freezes to go.

Plodding Along

Gypsy Girl shawl in progress

That heading sounds as if this were tedious or boring, which it is not. But it is painstaking, especially as the arrangement of the motifs in the center section keeps changing. And I am trying to "read" the knitting carefully as I go, because at the width I've reached I don't even want to think about ripping back. So it takes a lot of concentration. Which means I have to be in the right mood, and have a clear block of time with no possibility of interruption before I pick it up. Question to self: can I have it done by June 1?


The latest issue of "Creative Knitting magazine arrived the other day. It's probably unsophisticated to admit this, but I kind of like the publication. It seems to be aimed at beginning to intermediate knitters with the intention of bringing them along in their skills/techniques, and I think it does a pretty good job of this.
There are always lots of projects that I wouldn't dream of knitting (though I have to say this often holds true for "Knitter's" and IK as well). But this month's cover sweater ain't bad.

And I fairly often come across a stitch pattern or detail that gives me ideas.

The photos don't qualify as "eye candy", but they usually give you a very clear idea of the garment construction.

There are always good schematics. Though I do wish they would chart their lace patterns more often.

There is generally an article introducing the basics of a technique (this month it's Kitchner Stitch)

One feature that I wish the "big guns" would copy: The last page of each issue is made up of thumbnail photos of all the projects in the issue, keyed with page numbers. Boy, does this make looking for something in back issues easy.
I still haven't decided what to do with my ball of nice grey alpaca from the Argyle Fiber Mill. Maybe a hat? Maybe with a lace pattern on the crown? I stopped by the Mill yesterday, and they have expanded the color range on the alpaca to include a very pretty cream, camel, brown range. Tempting.

Monday, March 19, 2007

My excuse for not writing much lately

Last week was busier than some. Wednesday I spent most of the day with Mom in Madison, taking her in for some medical tests, than going to lunch and taking her shopping. A little of the week was spent on Women's Club follow up. But mostly I have spent almost every free moment in the yard.

I have lots and lots of spring bulb starting to come up. But they have been trying to push their way through a mat of last year's fallen leaves, sticks, and weeds. So I have been clearing away, pulling, and cutting back the remaining perennial stalks that block the view. This is always one of the most gratifying tasks of the garden year. It's like greeting old friends and a new birth at the same time. (I'm not so fond of the dandelions springing forth, but at least they are fairly easy to pull while they are still small and the ground is muddy and soft.)

The little patch of crocus above is the first to bloom. But the daffodils and tulips won't be too far behind. I'm about half way through the clearance project. The old hips and knees are stiffer than they used to be. So far, I have a blood blister on my thumb and a largish splinter. I can hardly wait to get outside again.

Updated to add: I just spotted the first robin in the yard. I was a good girl and made myself finish the latest entry on the Slip Stitch project. Now I am so out the door...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cultivating Virtue

It is said that patience is a virtue. The Mr. S. scarf is giving me the opportunity to work on that aspect of my character.

Firstly, because it has given me a number of occasions to pick back rows. Let's face it, the pattern stitch is repetitive enough that the mind tends to wander just a bit. At the same time, it requires enough attention that a wandering mind can produce a row out of place. Fortunately, it is easy enough to "read" that I've not had to pick back more than 3 rows, and mostly I caught the goofs at one row or less.

Secondly, because as I got closer and closer to the end of the yarn, it was verrrry tempting to say "What the heck, that's long enough," and bind it off then and there. But I persisted until I had only this much yarn left.

And I hope I am a better person for it. (In truth, I probably could have squeaked out one more repeat, ah well....)

Now for a trip through the washer and dryer.....

Monday, March 12, 2007

in Just -

spring when the world is mud-

(from e.e. cummings)

No knitting today. It's fifty-five degrees, and I only have a few hours between work at the library and Women's Club meeting. I'm going to spend them in the yard.

Of course, wise Wisconsinites know that we could still have another blizzard before the end of March. But who cares? The daffodils shoots are arising.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Here's an attempt to capture the color of the neckwarmer/scarf a little more accurately.

It's basic double moss stitch (with a two stitch garter border at the sides, not shown on the little chart).

The safety pin is to remind me whether I'm on a right side or wrong side row. In one of those "aha" moments that probably only seem brilliant to the subject thereof, I realized that even through this is a four row pattern, I don't need to count rows. Once the pattern is set up on the first row, all I need to know is whether I'm working on the RS or the WS.

RS rows: knit the purls and purl the knits.

WS rows: knit the knits and purl the purls.

(knitting the first and last 2 sts of every row for the border)
So just in case I'm not the last person in the world to figure this out: that's my tip for the day.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

not about knitting

Normally I wouldn't stoop to mention Ann Coulter. But Andrew Sullivan's analysis/respone is so on-target that I'm posting the link: "Faggot"

Initial Colourmart Evaluation

Calamintha commented: So many people seem to really like working with it but some of the things that I have heard vis a vis yarn weights and how they correspond to US weights is confusing.

I can understand why there is some confusion. The yarn samples on the card seemed lighter weight than the classifications indicated, as did the hank I purchased. In addition, while the Ebay listing for this hank called it DK (as did the tag that came with it), the listing description stated "This yarn is a 2 ply, 2/7NM, and will knit similarly to the 4ply weight yarns..." Since the 4 ply weight on their chart and on the sample card are two classifications smaller than DK, this was a little perplexing to start with, but I figured "What the heck, what are swatches for?"

So somewhat randomly, I grabbed a needle and knit this at about 4.8 - 5 stitches per inch.

It is way too loose, but I thought I would wash it and see what happened before swatching again at a tighter gauge. After hand washing, I couldn't see any change or evidence of "bloom." So I put it through the washer and dryer per the sellers instructions.

These photos are much too dark. The color is a lovely deep jade/bottle green.

What a difference! It did "bloom" and also became much softer. The gauge also changed to about 5.6 stitches per inch. Of course, what is going on here is like a light felting, (in strict sense, this is "fulling"). The fabric is nice and drapey, which will be good for a neckwarmer, and it has retained its stitch definition pretty well.

As is common with felting, the fabric seems to have condensed more lenghtwise than widthwise, but I didn't take measurements, so I can't verify that.

Since I was at it, I knit up the 100% silk DK sample. I worked this at 6 Sts/inch, which is a sport rather than a DK gauge, and I don't think I would like it any looser. My swatch seems to have a bit of bias, but that may be me rather than the yarn. As I recall, I've had this happen before with inelasic yarns

I also knit the DK cashmere sample. The lower section is about 5.75 sts/inch. The top is 5 sts/inch and it looks good at that gauge after hand washing. Depending on my purposes, I might or might not give this yarn the machine wash treatment. If I were planning to, I might go up a needle size.

So my very initial conclusions are, 1) some of these yarns run on what I consider to be the light side for the categories given, and 2) if you plan to go for the "bloom" it is absolutely essential to measure both stitch and row gauge from a swatch that has been washed in the same way that the finished garment will be treated. (Note to Self: Yes I'm talking to you, and this time I really mean it!)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Mail Call

Here's what came in the mail today

The hank on the left is 250 yds of cashmere from ColourMartUK, in a weight I would class as falling between sport and DK. This isn't a lot of yardage, but I'm hoping to squeak out a neckwarmer for Mr. S. I confess to mixed feelings about using cashmere after reading Kmkat's post on Dec. 18. But wool and alpaca cause the poor guy to break out in furious itching. He can't even wear wool blends, not even Merino. And, have I mentioned?, its cold here in the winter. So I'm compromising.

All the rest in the photo is the set of yarn samples I requested at the same time, and I am blown away by the fact that they are actually long enough to knit swatches! I don't know how long the hank at the lower right is, but it weighs .9 oz. There would probably be enough in the little laceweight samples at the top of the page to make a small bookmark each, although I'm not likely to spend time making floppy bookmarks.

These all come with the spinning oil still in them, as the supplier is careful to note, but the hand is not unpleasant to me. With the lace and cobweb weights I could see having the oil as being an advantage while working, because it might give alittle more weight and "heft" to the yarn.

The supplier also states that the yarns bloom noticeably after washing (though I expect not the 100% silk laceweight), and I assume the generous samples are meant to encourage potential buyers to swatch and wash. At any rate, I'm thrilled to have samples long enough to test run, instead of just little snips to show the color.


In other news, I have started in on the slip stitch tutorial. I decided to give it it's very own blog, just to keep the postings together and so I can fake the dates to make it run in order from top to bottom. I'll be adding a link in the sidebar on this page, but in the meantime the first, extremely basic lesson is here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Full of Beans

Chili beans, that is. Some of the men at the Lutheran Church are going to Baton Rouge next week to work on a Habitat for Humanity project, and they had a Chili Dinner fundraiser today to help with their expenses for the trip. Besides the fact that this is a project we were eager to support, it was a good meal and a nice chance to see people. One of the joys of small town life is that wherever you go you are almost sure to see someone you know. Of course, there can also be times when this is a drawback......

When we got home, Mr S went out the the workshop to help his nephew make a (wooden) Viking sword and shield for a class project, and I settled in for another few rows of Gypsy Girl. I should mention that in this part of the country "dinner" can be served mid-day, so when we got back I still had the afternoon ahead of me. On the other hand, a "lunch" can take place in the early evening.

I just weighed the remaining yarn, and I have used about half of what I started with. I suppose that means I'm about half way finished.

Messed around a little with the "crochet fork" (No Calamintha, it's not dangerous). Somehow, I thought this would be a quick process, but so far it is not. However, I found a very good hairpin lace tutorial online, and if you would like to see what the whole maneuver looks like, check here. Quite frankly, I haven't decided whether the results are worth the effort.

BTW, thanks Cala for the Wilkie Collins reference; makes me wonder what the "fancy jacket" looked like. And for some odd reason it reminded me that Mrs. Ramsay in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse knits socks to be sent to the lighthouse keeper's son.

kmkat, it's funny, but Mr S often says he likes Baxter because he is the most "dog like" cat we have ever had, meaning that he is less aloof and more inclined to seek out our company. We like to tell ourselves it's affection rather than mere heat seeking behavior.

Thanks for the tutorial idea, Elizabeth. The Morrison sweater is looking great. Every time I check on it I end up with A.A. Milne's ditty running through my head:

James James Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree
Took great care of his mother
Though he was only three.
(quoting from memory here, it's been years since I actually read it)

Yarn Thrower, your origami gift box is very elegant, as are the growing fingerless mitts. (Will there be a pattern written when they are done?)

I'm off to rustle up some, supper. As far as I know, that particular meal only happens sometime after 4:00 pm.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Still Snowing

Between drizzle, sleet, freezing rain and, yes, more snow, the local schools have been closed the last two days. So Mr S has been puttering around the house, a nice benefit for me was that part of his puttering included making baked Ziti for supper last night.

I'm pretty excited that Leisure Arts has used some of my sock patterns in their new I Can't Believe I'm Knitting Socks book; and my copies arrived yesterday. I didn't write the book (just provided patterns), so I can say without too much prejudice that it's a very good introduction to sock knitting, with lots of photographs and illustrations (including a good step by step section on grafting/Kitchner stitch).

What else? I competed about another inch of the Gypsy Girl shawl, but not enough to make posting another picture worthwhile at this point. I like the way the center pattern is developing. I've used two basic motifs, but I'm doing some slight variations in the way I'm combining them. This keeps things interesting (challenging) in the working, and will provide a little "variety within unity" visually (at least that's the goal).

Still slipping stitches. I worked on these last night when my fried Lu came for our weekly knitting session. The bottom one was just to show her how stitches can be slipped over one, two or three rows (right to left in the picture), the top one was to show her how this can result in a color pattern.

I'm trying to decide on a format for the alleged "tutorial". Separate blog posts feel like they would be too disjointed and/or intrusive. Maybe a second blog just for this project. There's my geocities site, but I haven't gotten the hang of working with it to come up with a decent looking page. I'm trying to analyze why I feel stuck on this, and it has more to do with the computer than with the knitting....

Oh well, when all else fails, post a cat picture

Making good use of a Snow Day