Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Loose Ends

I'm making good progress on the Peach Vine. I've almost finished the body. There's just the Shower Stitch flounce at the high hip left to do. Here's the last picture of it, taken after I did the bust darts and neck trim.

Whenever I'm knitting, I think about technique and ways to vary or improve the way I knit. One of my meditations on the Peach Vine has been the treatment of loose ends.

When I first started knitting, I dutifully wove in all my loose ends with a yarn needle. For some projects, this meant tedious hours spent weaving in ends. I wove them through the purl bumps or along knit ridges, not knowing about excruciatingly correct duplicate stitch that some folks recommend.

When I learned that I could weave my ends in as I went, I was thrilled. For thinner yarns, I just work two strands together for 6-8 stitches. With anything above sport weight, however, I weave the new strand around the old while I work 6 stitches with the old and then weave the old around the new while I work 6 stitches with the new.

One of the problems with working in washable cotton yarns is the tendency for tag ends to work their way to the right side of the fabric (this never happens with wool). I pull them back to the wrong side with a crochet hook, but it's tiresome.

As I was weaving in a new section of yarn, I thought, "Maybe I should wait to trim the tag ends until after I wash the sweater. Maybe they'd behave better if they'd already had the chance to stretch and shrink before I snipped them."

While I'm at it, I might as well make sure to trim them long enough.

Meanwhile, the two sides of the front of the Peach Vine grew together.

Growing a sweater from the top down is magic. I really like the section where the yoke and sleeves have their basic form but are still one big circle.

It's a little anticlimactic once the sleeves have been separated from the body. The body seems to go very quickly in comparison to the yoke. Aside from short rows and waist shaping, there's little to slow me down.

For the bust short rows on the Peach Vine (I keep typing Peace Vine; maybe I ought to change the name of the sweater?), I decided to do half of them with decreasing short rows and then use increasing short rows for the other half. This makes a nice shape for the bosom, but it makes a sharper short row line than other types of double darts.

I like double darts for the busty; they give room to hide the short row turn-arounds in purl bumps or pattern stitches or the fuzziness of the yarn. This yarn is smooth and light-colored, and shows everything. There's no hiding.

This yarn shrinks in the wash, so the short row turn-arounds should smooth out some.

Just the body trim now and the sleeves. I'm hoping to finish this so I can wear it on Sunday.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Peaches on the Vine

My Summer Peach Vine pullover is coming together.

I like to knit sweaters from the top down. I started with raglans, branched out into round yokes and yokes picked up from shoulder straps and eventually started knitting sweaters with set-in sleeves from the top.

For the Peach Vine, I used Garment Designer to do the initial math. The shaping instructions that it produces don't seem to harmonize with the way I knit sweaters. After it gives me the chart, I need to interpret it in knitting: simplifying certain shaping elements, changing others to short rows, and making sure that shaping elements that need to fall on a right or wrong row do so.

I haven't decided whether this is less work than doing all the math myself.

I start by knitting the first few inches of the back, doing the shoulder shaping with short rows.

Next, I pick up along the shoulders and knit the first few inches of the front. Again, the shoulder shaping is done with short rows, and the neck shaping with increases along the front edge.

When the back and fronts are long enough, I pick up along the edges for the sleeve caps.

I use size 0 circular needles to pick up the stitches along the edges.

The whole yoke is now knit in one piece.

Neck shaping (in this case, a deep scoop neck) continues. Meanwhile, the sleeves are knit in Traveling Vine. At this point, the sleeves increase steadily and the front and back are worked even.

Watching the topology of the sweater evolve is fascinating.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thoughts While Swatching

If you want to knit outside the lines, you need to swatch a lot. I swatch to get to know new yarns. I swatch to try out different stitch patterns. I swatch to play with new techniques. I swatch because I'm bored. I swatch because I have nothing better to knit. I swatch because the yarn is there.

Here is the yarn that was in my swatch basket a couple of days ago:

There are three balls of Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn, two different colors of Peace Fleece worsted, and a luscious ball of Artful Yarns Serenade (pima cotton/angora) in shades of pink, blue, and lavender. Inexplicably missing is the peach-colored Cascade Sierra and Great Adirondack Yarn Company Silky Sock that I've actually been swatching.

I often swatch most of a skein of a yarn while I'm trying to decide what to do with it. I started swatching the Cascade Sierra in Daisy Stitch on size 7 needles (bottom of swatch), switched to stockinette, went down a needle size, worked two different kinds of lace (Spade Pattern, and Traveling Vine), switched to stockinette again, and then worked some Shower Stitch (top of swatch).

After I decided I had enough information, I bound off and took the raw gauge measurements I might need. At that point, I was visualizing a scoop-necked pullover with bell-shaped short sleeves of Shower Stitch and a curved hem with Shower Stitch along the lower edge. After laundering, I'm leaning towards the Traveling Vine for sleeves and trim.

Today, I've got to measure myself (I'm shrinking) and try to get Garment Designer to cooperate in doing the numbers for me. With a little luck (or, perhaps, a touch of impatience and the oomph to work out the shoulders), I'll cast on later today.

I'm still trying to get Nona's impossible 8 stitches per inch for the Sidewinders. To this end, I took the finest sock yarn I own (Great Adirondack's Silky Sock in Bahama Mama) and worked it on 000 needles.

Here's a picture of me working on size 000 needles. Unreal, eh? I can handle working on small needles, but this is a bit beyond my comfort zone.

(Morgayn tells me that I'd be able to handle it if I'd just wear my glasses. Which is probably true, but it makes me seasick to wear my reading glasses for more than 30 minutes.)

And here's the point where I gave up trying to make gauge with size 000 needles:

6.53 stitches to the inch. Blast! What do people knit on to get 8 stitches to the inch?

I used to be a tight knitter. My recent experience with sock gauges, however, has convinced me that I've become all loosy goosy. I tend to need to work socks on needles two sizes smaller than recommended in order to get a reasonable sock fabric.

I'm wondering whether my cure for rowing out is the culprit here. Back when I was a straight continental knitter, I rowed out terribly. Wrapping those purl stitches, in addition to being slow and tedious, makes the purls much looser than the knits. When I switched to ECU (Eastern Continental Uncrossed) aka combined knitting, my purls tightened up and my rowing out was less obvious.

It was still obvious enough for my dear friend Anne to notice, however, and I read somewhere that perfectly even rows are the mark of a master knitter. So, without worrying too much about it, I set out to see if I could adjust my tension to avoid rowing out.

I've heard lots of folks suggest the need to work purl rows with a tighter tension, but that made my fingers ache. Finally, I ran across the bright idea of working knit rows with a looser tension and that, combined with a slightly firmer tension on purl rows, does the trick. Unless I forget and work knit rows with normal tension.

So now I'm a loose (if fast and relaxed knitter who has no trouble working p3-tog-tbls because the stitches are, in fact, loose enough to handle the maneuvre) knitter who can't get 8 stitches per inch to save her life.

Humility is endless.

Knee-High by the 4th of July

But it's not corn, it's SOCKS!

This is (drumroll) the first pair of socks that I've knit that actually fit my foot. Every other pair I've made has turned out too big. I've made socks that I can wear to bed on cold winter nights (a lovely tan pair that came up to my knees) and socks that I can wear over other socks (a crazily colored pair), but this is the first pair that I can wear as plain old, on-the-feet-under-the-shoes socks.

They're toe-up, which is an intriguing and satisfying way to knit a sock. And they're long enough to wear with dresses.

The cuffs were done on size 000 needles. I think I knit them more by feel than sight, since I'm not sure I can actually see the points on the needles.

Matisse modeled them for me. She calls them cozy. I told her I'm willing to share them, but that they have to live in my sock drawer, not hers.

I can't tell whether she agreed to that or whether she is simply biding her time.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Knitting for a Moving Target

My son Malcolm outgrows his sweaters almost faster than I can knit them. Fortunately, he wears his sweaters constantly, even when other people are comfortable in shirt sleeves.

I knit him a teal cotton sweater with cables a year ago last spring. It's a saddle-shoulder sweater with a Raveled Braid cable down the arms and a Countertwisted Oval cable down the front.

I think this is one of the most beautiful things I've ever knit. The cables look like they were carved out of the fabric, like a fancy Chinese rug.

He's already outgrown it and handed it down to his younger brother.

Last summer, I knit him a plaid sweater in greens, black, and bright blue. The plaid is a 6-row slip-stitch pattern that doesn't sound like it would make a plaid, but the stitches rearrange themselves neatly into little squares. Barbara Walker calls it "dice check," and it can knit up like a gingham (in blue, light blue, and white; red, pink, and white) or like a plaid.

This is Malcolm's dress sweater. He wears it to piano recitals and other occasions when he needs to look snazzy.

It's getting a bit short, but I think he can keep wearing it for a while.

Malcolm's unicorn and bohus sweaters are getting a bit short. He can probably wear the unicorn sweater for another year, but the bohus sweater needs to be replaced. I decided to knit him a textured sweater with Spanish Tile Cable down the front.

I originally knit the neck in, but it was too bulky, so I ripped it out and re-knit it.

Here's the Spanish Tile Cable up close:

I decided to use several different stitch patterns for the arms. This kept me amused while going around and around and around.

And here is an arm so you can see the different stitch patterns:

And here's Malcolm wearing the sweater with a re-worked neck.

There's plenty of room, so it should fit him for a while. I also have quite a bit of the yarn left over, so I can lengthen this sweater a couple of times if need be.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Zip It Up!

I've done more sewing than knitting the past few days. I sewed the zipper into the little Rugby Stripe sweater I knit for little Isak.

I've decided that this little sweater is much too big for a newborn, so I'm giving it to my friend Kenza for her son Tarak. If it doesn't fit Tarak or he refuses to wear it (having his own 2-year-old sense of style), Kenza will pass it on to a child on her visit to Morocco. I'd love to see Tarak wear it, but it would be equally cool to think that one of my sweaters is halfway around the world.

I also sewed my own personal label into the sweater. I have two types, with care instructions. This sweater has a machine wash delicate/tumble dry low label. The labels for wool items say to hand wash in cold water and lay flat to dry.

I also sewed the zipper into Morgayn's zippered sweatshirt. Here's the sweater, inside out, with the front basted together and the zipper taped into place:

And here's Morgayn wearing the finished sweater:

Here's a 3/4 view:

And here's one that shows the cable that runs from the neck all the way down the sleeve and the waist ribbing that gives this sweater its shape. The ribbing is the only shaping in the body of the sweater; no short row bust darts, no side increases and decreases.

And here's the back view:

Meanwhile, I'm down to a pair of toe-up socks on the needles. I was trying to get gauge for Nona's Sidewinders, but failed, so I decided to knit a pair of knee socks toe-up instead. I've gotten to the shaping for the calves.

I bought some Cherry Hill sock yarn earlier this week. Such yummy colors.