Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sock It to Me, Baby

If I have an interesting radio show or some cool music to listen to, I can really get in the groove with Kitchener stitch.

I married a man named "Graft," so I ought to be able to swing it.

After knitting the Sidewinders, there were two long and two short grafts to finish them off. Nona used straight stockinette grafts, which I found restful after working grafts in 2x2 ribbing for my Smokestack Lightning scarf.

The resulting socks fit pretty well:

It seems a bit insane to make socks in a way that requires two seams per sock, though. And one that doesn't let you easily tailor your sock length to the amount of yarn you have.

The Sidewinders look better on the foot than off:

The increases don't quite match the decreases.

But the socks themselves match rather uncannily for socks knit of space-dyed yarn:

Definitely a pair.

I like the vertical stripes and the crazy, knit-sideways snakeskin look of the Sidewinders. They are cleverly designed and fun to make, and they fit well.

It was kind of a relief this morning, however, to cast on for a simple pair of toe-up socks. The friendly short-rowed toe snuggled up, and the Cherry Tree Hill yarn just glided through my fingers.

Sometimes a single stitch seems to contain the entire universe. Time opens out, and there's only this stitch, right here, under my fingers. Other times, the knitting seems to stretch away into eternity, rolling through my fingers like fire, stitch after stitch as if they were forming themselves.

Knitting, I am convinced, distorts both time and space to conform to its own reality. Like a foot in a sock.

Flipping Out

Sewing is NOT my favorite part of knitting. One of the reasons I knit things in one piece from the top down is so I don't have to spend a lot of time sewing when I'm done knitting.

In any case involving a zipper, however, there's sewing to be done. As zippers are the handiest things for the fronts of cardigans and jackets, however, I'm doomed to sewing.

To do a zipper correctly, you have to do a lot of sewing.

On this little sweater, there was also the issue of the flipping garter stitch border.

Here you can see the border flipping on the unsewn side and behaving on the sewn side:

And here's a close-up of the misbehaving side:

Contrasted with a close-up of the side with ribbon applied:

And the right side, behaving beautifully:

After all of the sewing for the zipper and the flipping border, I was no longer sure whether the sweater qualified as cute. Or even nice. It was just an endless collection of stitches, knotted sewing thread, and bits to be eyed critically. Is the color of the zipper really close enough to the color of the ribbon and the color of the yarn? Did I do the zipper well enough or should I rip it out and do it again? Is plaid anachronistic for a baby?

The new parents, however, were touched at the sight of a handknit sweater for their beautiful new baby boy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cuter than Cute

It's all over except the sewing.

The sleeves, knit one at a time, went quickly. Babies' arms are so short that even an avid sleeve-hater like yours truly doesn't have time to get bored. Zip, zip, an hour and a half's worth of knitting, and voila! a sleeve.

I agonized over the hood design. Should it be round or pointy? Should it continue the basic check pattern or break out into something else? I finally decided that babies are so cute in little pointy elf hoods that there really wasn't another option.

The hood zipped right along, too. As I was peacefully grafting the top together with yellow yarn, an idea hit me over the head with a mallet.

"You could knit this sweater from the top down," it whispered seductively, "from the tip-top of the head. Just use invisible cast-on and knit both sides."

The idea charmed and stunned me. Of course I could. Good thing there's another baby welcoming next month; I have a perfect excuse for knitting another darling little baby sweater.

After the hood was grafted, I picked up around the hood and added garter stitch trim to match the body and sleeves.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I Frogged It My Way

When I first learned to knit, I decided to knit for pleasure. I would never, I vowed to myself, make the mistake of planning to knit sweaters for my entire family for Christmas. I would not knit fancy christening shawls and bridal veils on a short schedule. Bottom line: I would not knit things on a deadline.

What good is a resolution if you can't twist it out of shape? I have found myself feverishly finishing the last pair of mittens for a Christmas stocking on December 23rd. I have woven in ends for my mother's Christmas scarf in the car on the way to her house.

I knit things my way. I seldom knit from someone else's pattern, preferring to do the design and the math myself. I dream and swatch and plan and calculate slopes and curves. Knitting doesn't always work by the numbers, however, and quite often the garment does not come out quite the way the swatches and math suggest.

I do a lot of ripping out and re-doing. It's part of my process, fussing with shoulders and borders and short rows until I have a design that works.

All of this reworking has led me to do Just-in-Time Design. To avoid having to do a lot more work than necessary, I design one section of a garment at a time. I tinker with the design while I'm knitting, and then base the next section of the garment on real measurements and numbers from the garment in my hand.

Since I knit from the top down, this means figuring the yoke first. Once I get the yoke knitted to my satisfaction, I do the numbers for the body.

With the Racing Plaid sweater, my bent resolution combined with Just-in-Time Design to light a fire under my fingers.

The first disaster struck yesterday as I was just getting into the body. As I was juggling three balls of different-colored yarn on my lap, one escaped and landed right in my tea cup. The ball was soaked, and the darjeeling a dead loss.

Fortunately, the yarn was dark green and the tea very light.

I blotted the yarn several times with a thick towel and set it in the sun to dry. As I knit, I pulled the middle of the ball out to finish drying as I knit. Sanity was restored.

As I was minding my own business, knitting the body of the Racing Plaid sweater, I was thinking about borders. How was I going to finish the bottom of the sweater? Ribbing, maybe a fancy multi-color ribbing? A crocheted border of some sort? A snug hem to go around the zipper?

As I knit on, I realized that a crocheted border would not make the edge behave. The combination of yarn and stitch pattern led to very curly edges, and a thin line of crochet wouldn't have enough oomph to tame it.

I don't like a snug ribbing for baby sweaters. Diapers make a baby's butt bigger than his stomach, and a baby sweater can't be too snug at the hips.

Getting closer to the edge, the border came to me: a garter stitch border, made of single-row stripes of each of the three colors in the design. The garter bumps would echo the plaid pattern, and a garter stitch edge would have the strength to tame the edge.

I knit it and it was beautiful. A nice, tailored finish for the almost-woven look of the sweater.

Then I cast it off. The border flipped up, thumbed its nose at me, and said, "Ha ha! You're going to have to rip me out, because I'm never going to behave myself otherwise."

The flipping border struck fear in my heart. There are combinations of yarn and stitch patterns that defy all attempts to put a smooth, flat border on them. I've ripped and re-knit borders as many as five times before giving up and putting a hem in a garment.

I calmed myself. This yarn is not a tightly-twisted bouncy single, but a soft untwisted merino Superwash. The slip-stitch pattern is dense (bad for flipping) and curly (ditto), but the flipping itself wasn't too bad. A single rip, a moderate round of decreases on the border stitches, and another go round should tame it. The zipper would help keep the front in line. And, given my time constraints, I could always resort to a strip of twill ribbon around the bottom to counteract any remaining flip-out tendencies.

Knit softly and carry a roll of twill ribbon.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Racing Plaid

First, a week-old snapshot of my half-finished Sidewinders. I now have just 12 rows to knit on the second sock, plus the grafting.

The socks will have to wait, however, because I have only a week to finish a little sweater for a new baby.

I decided that I wanted to knit a green plaid sweater. The last plaid sweater I knit was a raglan, and the shaping was a little odd in the slip-stitch plaid pattern. I thought about the possibility of adding some plain color stripes to the plaid pattern and knitting the sweater with a round yoke.

I started swatching sections of plaid with different kinds of stripes:

From the right, I tried a 2-row dark green stripe, a 2-row yellow stripe, and a 3-row medium green stripe. Totally blah.

Then I tried single-row stripes of first medium green, then yellow, then dark green, and then medium green again. Aha. Now that pattern has legs on it.

Immediately, I saw that I could surround 2.5 repeats of the basic plaid pattern with the single-row stripes and get something that sang. I could start with a block of yellow-dark green-yellow-dark green-yellow, add a dark green and then a yellow stripe, and follow with a block of dark green-yellow-dark green-yellow-dark green and a yellow and then dark green stripe. They alternate, and are framed by mirrored alternate color stripes.

I decided to call this new pattern Racing Plaid. Here's a chart of my Racing Plaid pattern.

It was time to cast on and knit the yoke:

And then time to move onto the body:

I'm really like how this is going. I hope I have time to add a hood when I'm done.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Summer Potpourri

Something old:

Remus John's Dragon Hat and Mittens

I knit these according to Remus John's specifications winter before last. I charted the dragons from a heraldic pattern. The hat has dragons marching all the way around, plain old ordinary every day fairisle. The dragons on the mittens face the thumbs and were knit using my unvented slip-stitch technique for intarsia in the round. Every other round, I slipped across the blue portions and knit a row of the dragon backwards.

Something new:

Finished Peach Vine Pullover

The Peach Vine is finished (except for the label and a good washing). I wore it to The Tempest on Sunday; it's always good for a new sweater to get an airing or two, and the weather cooperated.

Something borrowed:

Half-finished Sidewinders

And two of them are blue!

The Sidewinders are interesting to knit, and very cleverly shaped, but I'm not wild about the spacing of decreases. Putting them right next to one another like that is probably going to make them a bit gap-toothed as the decreases pull away from one another. Leaving a stitch between them would probably look neater.

I didn't agree with the choice of make-ones, either, so I did it my way.

The Sidewinders are zipping along, so I'm hoping that the yarn arrives for a baby sweater I'm hoping to knit. I'm thinking of plaid. The yarn is Knitpicks washable wool in two shades of green and one of pale yellow.

If that fails, there's more sock yarn in my stash.