Monday, March 29, 2010

Walk Before You Run

I decided that it would be a good idea to just practice the double knitting basic motions until my fingers got used to it and it becomes, if not automatic, at least moderately smooth - and to do this for now with a larger yarn - and to do it without any very complicated color pattern. I also realized that if I knit in the round I wouldn't have to mentally reverse foreground and background colors every other row for any minimal color patterns I do use.

And I thought that it would be nice to have some sort of finished object at the end, instead of just a long strip of swatch.

Hence the double knit swatch hat. It may or may not end up being pretty when it's done, but it sure as heck is going to be be warm.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Like Bright Socks

They are cheerful, especially in the winter. And I think I like these,

but they are getting pretty close to even my limit for eye-popping-ness. I may go for solid red heels and toes.

That's stash yarn: "Sock It To Me" from Elann. They don't carry that colorway any more. Must not have been a huge seller.

Since you asked...

Kmkat wondered about the sharpness of the Hiya Hiya needles compared to Knit Picks Options. I haven't yet had a chance to compare them side by side, but based on the catalog pictures, I'm guessing the Knit Picks are a bit sharper.

I also should mention that the needle tips are relatively short (about 3 1/2 "). This is not a problem for me, but might be for some depending on how you hold your needles.

Betsy asked for a "down the road a ways" review. Good idea. Remind me if I forget.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Self Indulgences

One on impulse, the other after some thought.

The impulse buy was that cute little tin with a hinged lid at the upper right. I was in The Sow's Ear yesterday, and they had a small basket full of these in different designs. It could hold stitch markers, tapestry needles, even a little folding embroidery scissors. I don't really need it for this purpose, but it was only $1.99, and so cute.

I thought longer before ordering the larger indulgence. It's a Hiya Hiya convertible circular needle set. These had been calling to me for a while, but I'd put off ordering because I already have a set of Denises and a Boye Needlemaster. I like my Denise set a lot, but 1) the needle sizes don't go any smaller than US #5, and 2) the cable lengths don't go down 16". I'd like the Needlemaster just fine if it weren' for the really, really stiff cables (and I think the shortest one is longer than 16" though I would have to go check for sure).

So I went back and forth in my mind for several months, then finally splurged. I was a little hesitant to order these without every having actually handled a set, but so far I am very happy with them. The super thin cables (like heavy fishing line) are lightweight and flexible. The needle sizes range from 2 - 8, with a very slick finish. The joins seem extremely smooth. The tips are not stiletto sharp, but aren't bad. I haven't given them a a real heavy workout yet, but so far I haven't had a problem with the connections loosening up in use.

I rarely use a needle larger than a size 8, so the size range is sufficient on the upper end.* If anything, I wish they could go down to 0, but that would be smaller than the connector. I would like to have some stoppers for the ends of the cables, so I hope the Hiya Hiya folks come out with those. I might like to have connectors to join two cables together, though as the longest one is 40", that really might not ever be necessary. A person can cram quite a lot of stitches onto 40"

I didn't find a lot of sources for this set online, but the wonderful Little Knits has them. The only problem with shopping there is the temptation to stock up on sale yarn at the same time. Aside from a ball of Opal (kinda bright color, but 70% off) I resisted.

*According to the Hiya Hiya website, larger needle tips are available, but it looks as though they require a different set of cables, presumably because the connector size is different.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

I've Been Just a Bit Obsessed

with the whole double knitting thing lately. So I've been practicing and trying things out.

Now this is a fairly seriously ugly swatch. First there's the color. But I'm not going to use up yarn I actually like on a practice, so the orange goes here. And then there's the fact that I'm not exactly smooth with the technique yet - getting better, but there's still a lot of tension wonkyness. Still, the exercise led to some interesting possibilities.

You can't tell from this picture, of course, but see those little horizontal stripes by the red arrow? On the other side, they are vertical stripes. How cool is that? Now I don't know where or why this might be useful in a design, but it could happen....

And then, that little eyelet motif by the blue arrow? Flip the piece over and you'll just see solid stockinette, and both layers were knit at the same time! Of course, one could knit an eyelet strip and a stockinette strip, and seam them together, and end up with much the same effect. But where's the fun in that?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Yay! Gayle is Coming to Town.

This is a plug for my friend Gayle Roehm, expert on working with Japanese knitting patterns. She's coming to Madison in April, and I'm very excited to be able to see her. I'm also excited that you will be able to see her, too (at least if you are within driving distance).

She will be teaching three different classes at The Sow's Ear on April 10 & 11, and will be the featured speaker at the Madison Knitter's Guild on the 12th.

Japanese designs feature some of the most innovative stitch patterns I have seen, the garments can be spectacular, and you don't have to read Japanese to use them as they are entirely charted. You may need a little help to get the hang of the charting system, and that's what Gayle can (and will) provide.

My Mind is Officially Boggled

and I think I have a new knitting hero.

Alasdair Post-Quinn has designed a three-color double knit hat with a different design on each side! I don't want to rip off his pictures, but you can see it here. The pattern is for sale on Ravelry.

I had to buy it. I doubt I will ever knit it, but 1) I thought his brilliance should be rewarded and 2) I wanted to see how the heck he would chart something like that.

I have learned the cast on he uses, thanks to his helpful You Tube video. He also this good one on the basic technique.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Littler Heart

Practice makes better, if not perfect. (Who knows, with more practice it may be even closer to perfect.

The smaller double knitting sample came out better, and was less hair raising to work.

You may wonder "Why are there cords coming off one corner?"

Well, Mr S asked me to make him "something colorful" to tie to his backpack when he goes on his trip this summer (to help him spot it among all the other dark luggage on the rack). I figured this would be appropriate.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sometime Last Week

under cover of cold rain and fog, Spring snuck in. Today the sun came out with high wisps of cloud in a true blue sky and the first of the crocus are blooming in the yard.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Doubling Down

Warning, if you are not a knitting technique geek, you might as well skip this post. I'm still attempting to conquer two color double knitting.

I decided the most sensible thing to do would be to start with the first learning project in the book*. This is supposed to be a coaster or a hot pad, depending on gauge. My results actually fall somewhere between those two items in size, but that is the least of my concerns at this point.

Why do I keep thinking that, just because I grasp the concept perfectly well, my fingers will cooperate?

I worked the first third carrying two yarns at a time per the directions. The concept isn't that hard. With both yarns at the back, knit the first stitch in the color you want to show on the front side. Bring both yarns to the front and purl the next stitch in the other color. Repeat across.

It doesn't help that the borders are worked with only one color, meaning that you have to remember to twist the yarns - like intarsia - where the two-yarn center meets single-yarn edge. My yarns were twisting so thoroughly in the center section that you might expect this to happen automatically. You would be wrong.

After painfully working my way through the bottom section of the heart, I realized that it would be entirely possible to achieve the same results working with just one yarn at a time. First work color A slipping the stitches to be worked in B. Don't turn, just slide back so the stitches are in position to pick up color B and start knitting. (Fortunately I was working on a circular needle, so I could do this.) Then work color B, slipping the stitches that have just been worked in Color A. Then turn the work and proceed in the same fashion for the second row of the chart. Of course, this means making two passes to work one row. Oddly, it didn't seem any slower than fumbling with two yarns at a time. I did still keep forgetting to twist when I got to the border, but my tension was smoother. I think this approach has promise.

In either case, one has to remember that the "main color" and "contrast color" (or "pattern" and "background" colors) switch every time the work is turned. In my experience so far, sometimes one actually does remember this and sometimes one doesn't. Sometimes one reverses the colors part way through a row. Sometimes one is a little confused as to where in the chart one is.

I made a chart for a smaller piece, without the single color borders. I have an idea how to lock the layers together at the side edges that is a bit crude but should be effective enough. My jaw is set. My will is determined. Onward!

* the book is Double Knitting: Reversible Two-Color Designs by M'Lou Baber. Her garments are works of art.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Just Noodling

Sometimes, when I've finished one project and I'm casting about in my mind for a new one, I like to just swatch stitch patterns. This one is from a series of "translations" of patterns from The Art of Knitting, 1897 done by Cindy Moore. They can be found at her Fitter Knitter website.

This one is almost but not quite symmetrical in the eyelet arrangement. To my eye, there's a nice little swing or lilt to it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dear Karen,

Thank you for dropping off the book for me to borrow. I'm sorry to say that the cat ate it.

Well, not all of it. Just several pages, and some goodish bits of the cover. The book was in the dining room, Mr S. was in the kitchen. He heard strange noises and rushed to investigate; but, alas, the damage was done.

The cat's motive is unknown. Up to the time of this incident he had not been known to have attacked a book, only paper bags, and tissue paper, and the shredded toilet paper rolls. Maybe the toilet paper rolls should have been a tip off. Perhaps it is time for a closer examination of the book shelves and magazine rack. Unfortunately, he (the cat) appears to be unrepentant and has failed to respond to questioning.

I have ordered a replacement copy. It should be here by the end of the month.

Most Sincerely Yours,


Sunday, March 07, 2010

A Fun Evening

We went to Madison yesterday for dinner with some old friends. Barb and Marty used to live just down the street, and we miss them a lot, so it was a real treat to get together. Added bonus, we got to see their beautiful granddaughter. Extra special treat for me, said granddaughter's Mom is a fairly new, very enthusiastic and adventurous knitter, so we got to happily compare notes and talk shop. It is so gratifying to find a new sister knitter.


Note to Kate (hi Kate!), I was really pleasantly surprised by the blocking results and think it's worth trying. Before I did it, I went to the Ravelry forums, did a search on "killing acrylic" and read through the discussions, which provided helpful information. Key information: there is no turning back. That is, once the fiber is heat set you can't return it to it's original condition. So experiment on a swatch, start with lower heat and less steam and work your way up.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Well Golly!

Steam blocking a/k/a "killing" acrylic really does work.

I took Elizabeth's very good advice and practiced on a swatch first, then moved to the real thing. It was still slightly unnerving, hovering a steaming iron over the piece, If the iron had actually touched the fabric it would have been melty goo and a ruined project. I worked a section at a time, standing at the ironing board, smoothing out a section and lightly steaming it, then pinning a bit more stretched and giving it some good hearty shots.

It grew considerably in size. I don't know how much (if any) of that was actual stretching of the fiber and how much was just the lace opening up.

It was an interesting experiment.
Now, as for what I might do for the third shawl of the year, I haven't a clue.

All But the Button

The name tag bag is essentially done. I still need something for that loop to fasten on to. Nothing in the button collection seems right. Maybe I'll knit a sort of bobble-ish thing.

In use it looks rather like a demented sporran, but cheerfully demented.


A little more New Orleans

(clicking on the pictures will make them bigger)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Back Again

We had a wonderful trip to New Orleans.

Saturday was cool and rainy off and on.

We took the streetcar out to the art museum in City Park. When we came out again the sun had emerged.

Unfortunately, the St Charles streetcar line was having difficulties, so we never made it out to the Garden District. But that's OK. Just means we will need to take another trip down there.

That night we went to Donna's for jazz. Bad picture, but great music. The trumpeter on the left is Leroy Jones. The trombonist is Katja Toivola (splits her time between Helsinki and New Orleans). At one point they were joined on stage by a couple of young players from Japan.

Sunday was sunny and warm. There was a big marathon taking place.

Our main "event" for Sunday was jazz brunch in the Courtyard of the Two Sisters, then more strolling in the French Quarter: more street musicians out than on our last trip - some of them very good. Both Mr S and I thought the coffee at Cafe du Monde was weaker, or had less chicory than we remembered. There were more local artisans at the French Market (though still plenty of imported schlock). The renovation of the farmer's market was done and very nice.
Up early on Monday for the trip back to "real life".