Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Nice Saturday

Well, to honest, the morning was a bit challenging. This past week the library system migrated to a new platform, and while the basics seem easy to pick up I'm still not entirely fluent with the new one (and there appear to be a few kinks to be worked out). So I was a bit frazzled by the end of my shift.

But it was the Last Saturday of the month, and after work I headed to Madison to join up with the regulars at Victor Allen's. I hadn't been able to make it in months, and it felt really good to get together again. On the way home I stopped off at the Sow's Ear. I had a credit on my loyalty card and it was burning a hole in my pocket/knitting bag. I thought maybe some Kauni, because both Jen and Elizabeth had been using it for entrelac projects that were so pretty. But when I got to the store they had some new Opal colors I couldn't resist.

I don't need more sock yarn, but these were too attractive to pass up. And all my recent projects have been from the stash. Plus that credit paid for half. And I was good and passed over a couple more colors that were almost as appealing to me.

For knitting with the group I brought a simple project (good thing, because for some reason I kept dropping needles and yarn balls and diving under the table to retrieve them. Trying to follow a chart or keep much track of my place in a pattern would have been too much). At home, though, I have started in on, what else?, another pair of mittens.

This is again an Estonian pattern (cat's paw). Since I'm working in heavier yarn (Cascade 220), it has fewer repeats than the sample in the book.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sorry, another cat picture

I just have a sick thing for cats in handknits

And your point is....?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All Done But the Weaving In

The flower mittens have their flaws, tension issues mostly, and they are a little loose: but they are cheerful and bright, and should be warm enough. If they were all wool, I might try to shrink them a bit. Alas, they are Wool-Ease, mostly acrylic. Still, I like them, flaws and all. I'll wear them and think about Spring while shovelling snow.

I'm Honestly Not Sure What to Make of This

For Real? Not For Real? Why does the cat stay in the tree? Why doesn't the man take the cat out of the tree?

If it is for real, there is something goofily endearing about his whole enterprise.
ETA: after a bit more research, it appears to be very real indeed. From the Wisconsin State Journal.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Some Thumb Thoughts from Tracy

TracyKM left a comment that I thought was worth repeating

"I used to knit the thumbs first, but found that they were always too short since it was too easy to fiddle with the mitt to make the thumb 'fit' when trying it on, LOL.

I always make gusset style thumbs, it just seems more logical to me. Lately, I've started adding more length between the cuff and starting the increases, and also adding short rows IN the gusset to give more length to it. The mitts are feeling great, no riding up of the cuff when I use my thumbs, no sliding up of the mitts, they seem more anchored on my hands."

I think the short row idea is rather brilliant. Thanks Tracy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Mitten Knittin'

I've started another pair, in worsted weight this time, using another motif from Estonian Mittens Around the World. The sample in the book has a red background, with the pattern stitches all in white, and very handsome it is. But since the motif looks like a little flower, I thought I would try green for the foliage and blues for the blossoms.

The book sample has one more vertical repeat, though no more horizontal repeats. They must be knit at a tighter gauge and also somewhat more closely fitted around the hand. The notes only mention that they are made of "rather thick" yarn and are 56 stitches around.

I was proud of myself for managing to get the pattern centered, because it is has seven horizontal repeats of the motif. Harder to center an odd number than an even one. At the top I used mitered double decreases (sl 2 tog kwise, k1, pssso), which give a similar effect to the genuine Estonian type, but are easier for me to do.

Now to knit the second one. And then the thumbs, which this time I will attempt in pattern.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

RE: Thumb Placement

Yarn Thrower (aka Laura) asked if I had any wisdom on helping with the fit of a peasant thumb; that is, a thumb worked without a gusset and placed on the palm of the hand.

I'm not sure I have wisdom, but here is what I did. I worked the thumb on 1/6 of the total number of stitches. If my total didn't divide equally by 6, I probably would have rounded up, rather than down. Since this is a 60 st mitten I set aside 10 stitches, placing the opening two stitches in from the side of the hand. This placement seemed to work, as I'm not getting any noticeable torquing of the mitten on my hand. I'm not sure if it would be wise to place it three stitches in with a finer yarn and only one with a thicker yarn. Haven't quite thought that through.

When I went to pick up stitches for the back of the thumb, I picked up one extra at each end, so I worked the thumb on a total of 22 stitches. One thumb fits fairly snugly. The other feels a bit loose. I obviously didn't maintain a consistent gauge : - (
But overall, both are comfortable enough.

One thing that will drive me crazy is wearing a mitten with a thumb that is too short (or glove fingers, too, for that matter). So I kind of overcompensate. If anything, the thumbs on these mittens are about two rounds too long. I just guesstimated by trying on as I worked the first thumb and making a note of how many rounds I had before starting the decreases.

The "gauntlet" style cuff happened because the grey yarn is thicker than the mottled red, and because I didn't work the ribbed part on fewer stitches or a smaller needle. I meant to do that... yeah... that's the ticket.

The Second Book

about Estonian mittens that I ordered is Estonian Mittens Around the World, by Aino Praakli.

This one is in both Estonian and English, and contains over 150 mittens knit from historic examples. For each mitten there is a photo and graph of the pattern used on the hand, along with notes about the provenance of the original. Some include working notes (how many stitches to cast on, how many increases between cuff and hand.) There are a few charts for some of the cuffs (lacy chevron, diagonal rib) as well as directions for "woven" (entrelac) cuff.

Again, this is a wonderfully rich design resource. I started marking pages of patterns I wanted to try, and finally gave up because I was marking almost every page. So I just cast on.

The mitten in progress uses one of the more simple hand patterns (not the page shown open in the book), with a "fishbone" cuff pattern taken from a different mitten altogether.

You may wonder why I worked the thumb before finishing the hand. Well, as I got toward the top of the hand, I realized that I was knitting more tightly than I had on my gauge swatch. I was afraid that the thumb opening would be too tight, so I knit the thumb to be able to try it on before proceeding. I also knit it in only one yarn, so that it would have a bit more stretch and wouldn't require quite as much ease as it would have if it had been done in stranded knitting. (Fortunately, it fits.)

I also used the thumb to practice the top decreases. I found the directions in this book hard to understand, so I used Nancy Bush's instructions for a "one wick decrease." I think this is the same as Praakli's "one stitch decrease", or at least very, very similar.

More Beauty

From NPR via Andrew Sullivan

The Water Sculptures of Shinichi Maruyama

The artist's web page is here.

Water Sculpture from Shinichi Maruyama on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

As I Mentioned Last Time

The Estonian Mitten books arrived, and I'm thrilled with them. The one that first caught my eye and sent me searching was this: The Glove and Mitten Patterns of Kihnu Roosi.

The bulk of the book consists of very clear photographs and charts, and it would be worth having for these alone. But Nancy Bush has published a translation of the text, and included it as a supplement to the book. The translation certainly adds to the richness of the experience as the text has background on the author, Roosi from Kinhu, who collected and charted the patterns; her (sometimes brief) comments on the individual mittens/gloves and on the specific motifs used in each; as well as some technical information on the actual knitting. This is definitely not a "learn to knit a mitten" book, and Nancy's own Folk Knitting in Estonia will be a very helpful resource.

All of the mittens and gloves in this book come from one specific area and conform to a certain type: hand in black and white (or dark blue and white), with a white cuff that has touches of other colors on the mittens - sometimes just a narrow band of stranded colorwork, sometimes including braids or what appears to be very narrow corrugated ribbing. Some of the white areas include fancy ribbing, openwork or knit/purl textures. Gloves have colorful entrelac cuffs. The author says very little about the cuffs beyond the fact that they are worked in finer yarn on smaller needles - but the photos are clear enough to work out much of what is going on.

I think that one of the things that initially grabbed my attention about these patterns is an affinity of some of the hand motifs with some of the earlier Selbu mittens I have seen pictured in other books. I think this is a matter of the fine gauge, the use of natural black and white, and the frequent appearance of the motif we often call the "Selbu Star", Norwegians call a "Rose" and in this book is called a "Poppy". There are very definite differences: Selbu mittens have a thumb gusset and the Estonian ones do not, Selbu mittens use different patterns on the palm and the back of the hand with a dividing line between them while on the Kihnu mittens the pattern motifs are carried all the way around the hand.

It is unlikely that I will ever try to knit an exact duplicate of any of the mittens or gloves in the book, but it is a wonderful design resource as well as providing fascinating background on this segment of Estonia's very rich knitting tradition.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Vest is as Done as it is Going to Be

I finished off the neckline with applied I-Cord. This was another "new to me" technique, and it came out a bit lumpy. But so be it. The wool softened up with a good wash in fairly warm water (lots of spinning oil came out). It's still Shetland, not Merino, and I wouldn't want to wear it next to my skin. But over a turtleneck it will do just fine and be both lightweight and warm.

My new Estonian mitten books arrived, and I'm off to pore over them. Lots of eye candy. More on those later.

Friday, January 07, 2011

That Buttonhole Band was Really Bugging Me,

almost as much because I couldn't figure out why my placement calculations were off as because of the looks of it. Then the light bulb went on. In the two row buttonholes I've used in the past, you knit and bind off stitches of the row you are on when you start the button hole. But for the one row version, you slip and bind off - in other words, you are actually binding off stitches of the row below the working row. D'oh! So I am unknitting one more time.

Meanwhile, I did a sort of cheat fix on something else that was bothering me.

I was not happy with the way I started the motif on the back. The travelling stitches did not come together in a nice point. Now, I was not going to rip out the whole upper back and re-knit that. But it occurred to me that the travelling stitches bear a strong resemblance to an embroidered chain stitch. So that's what I tried.

I think it's an improvement.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Getting back on the Horse that Threw You

The reason I needed to rip back that buttonhole band is that between the binding off and the casting on and the slipping and the wrapping and the passing stitches over; I ending up with the wrong stitch count (and the placement of one hole a stitch off, to boot). I thought that I could fudge it with some decreases/increases on the return row. If I had been working in garter I probably could have gotten away with it. But seed stitch is deceptively simple. Disturb it's perfect regularity and it screams "mistake".

So today I took a deep breath, slowly picked back, and re-did the button band. I'm thinking I should have done those holes one row later. Sigh! I'm going to have to think about this.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sometimes You Have to Walk Away From the Knitting

One row buttonholes worked on a seed stitch ground with hairy, splitty, stick-to-itself yarn with poor stitch definition are a son of a freaking female dog to pick back. That is all.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Vestward Ho!

I've finished one armband and started the other. Now I'm pondering what to do for the button bands. Maybe seed stitch with applied I-cord around the edge and continuing around the neckline. That should be a challenge. Guess I had better try to find some buttons, too.

Yesterday was very bright, but with the sun still low in the sky. It made wonderful branch shadows on the wall.


So I was scrolling down Andrew Sullivan's "Daily Dish" blog checking out the post headings, and came to the "view from your window" feature. Just about scrolled on by when something clicked. "That view looks awfully familiar.... ?...!...OMG! That's my picture!"

This was actually taken back around Thanksgiving, when the weather was warm enough to have the window open. Today, it looks much the same, but there are a few lingering snow piles between the sidewalk and the street.

No personal glory involved- pictures are identified only by place and time - but I feel like I just won the lottery.

ETA: "View from My Window" pics are submitted by readers. This was about my third try.


I found the book I was looking for at Nancy Bush's The Wooly West.

I already own Nancy's wonderful Folk Knitting in Estonia, which is what really sparked my interest. It has lots of good patterns, so I don't really need another mitten book. But my acquisitive little soul just wants More Charts!, More Authentic Patterns! - not necessarily to use, mind you, just to have them. So I'm ordering the book, plus a second one that she carries.

By happy coincidence, the Rick Steve's show last night featured Tallinn, Estonia. The medieval city is absolutely charming.

OK, have to hurry up and finish the vest so I can start in on mittens.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The New Year has come in with Bright Sunshine-

a good thing. It is cold again, after a few warmer, foggy days that took away most of the snow, and more importantly, most of the ice dams from the roof. Though hardly perceptible, the days are growing longer and I hold on to that knowledge with hope.

The presents have been sorted out and put away. The tree is down. New calendars are up. Here comes the new year.