Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tick Tock

Progress on the Clock Vest is slow . . . very slow. I knit on it every morning for an hour while I sip tea. And how much is accomplished during this hour? Two rows. One half hour per row of 212 stitches. Actually it's more like 40 minutes for the front row where all the stitch twisting happens, and then 20 minutes to do the reverse.

This is the process (and I would very much like to know if there is a better way):

1. Knit 19 stitches
2. Turn to Chart A, find correct row, analyze, *memorize and knit, repeat from * as needed
3. Knit 14 stitches.
4. Repeat Step #2 minus the page flipping and analysis.
5. Knit 25-35 (varies by row) stitches.
6. Turn to Chart C, find correct row, analyze, *memorize and knit, repeat from * as needed
7. Repeat Step #5
8. Turn to Chart B, find correct row, analyze, *memorize and knit, repeat from * as needed
9. Knit 14 stitches.
10. Repeat Step #8 minus the page flipping and analysis.
11. Knit 19 stitches

I persevere. And it is getting easier and faster. Not a lot, but I have hopes of raising my production to 4 rows per day. How many total rows? And if we divide by 4, how many days will it take to finish? Nope. Not going there. Too scary.

So far the fit is looking good. I spread the stitches across two circs and had a little try on session. It is neither obscenely large nor obscenely small, just about right.

This is the back pattern, which spreads out and grabs more stockinette stitches as you knit upwards. At this point I usually begin chanting -- "a purl behind a knit, a knit in front of a purl, purl five, a knit in front of a knit . . ." On some of the easier rows I can get through the whole thing without having to look back at the chart.

And these little twisties are on the right front and under the right arm. Each front pattern mirrors the other, and each repeats on the side. You would think after working the pattern once on the front I would remember it a mere 14 stitches further along. Apparently not. I have to check the chart all over again.

In the goodnews/badnews department: GOOD = the side panels go away once one reaches the armholes; BAD = there is a chart D that merges with chart C at some point to cover the entire back.

But it is a beautiful vest. Well worth the effort. And when it is finished I will be a far more adept knitter of traveling twisted stitches.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Close Encounter With SSS

I have never before had any difficulties with Second Sock Syndrome. I like knitting the first sock of a pair, because there is generally some designing involved. I may have to adapt the pattern to fit the intended feet or perhaps simplify it to better suit a handpainted yarn, or I may be creating my own pattern from scratch. And, of course, I get to decide how I want to handle the heel and the toe. Toes are especially fun; there are so many variations. And then the second sock is just cruising. I do exactly what I did with the first sock (And I do take notes while knitting the first – how many rows from here to there, how many pattern repeats, where to increase or decrease, etc.). The second sock is perfect for TV knitting, no need to stop and deal with design issues.

But this time – with the Aslan Kneesocks – I had a terrible time finishing that second sock. It was so darn long. And I had already surfaced so many problems while creating the first sock that I wanted to forge ahead and start a new pair with a different design. But what use is one sock?

I decided that I would not allow myself to cast on the new pair (Ribby Kneesocks) until I had completed the Aslan pair. I could noodle with the new design on paper, do some calculations, even swatch a bit (although NOT with the actual yarn), but no knitting. That worked. I spent every spare moment knitting on the second sock. Voila! Two kneesocks!

And the reward? Yep! The Ribby Kneesocks are underway. I'm using Brown Sheep Wildfoote, with handpainted "Brown Sugar" for the cuff, heel, and toe, and solid "Dark Carmel" for the body of the sock.

Still on the cuff in this pic. The design feels good so far. I'll start with K2P2, use the Georgia O'Keefe approach for the calf shaping, decrease down to K1P1 at the ankle, and possibly go down a needle size for the ankle and foot as well.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Oh Dear, Oh Deer!

Here's the scene – a quiet winter day, the rain is over for now, but clouds still cluster on the hilltops. No cruise ships in port, no tourists, not a soul around. And I am alone, walking slowly along this road into town, intending to check my mail at the post office. Suddenly I hear rustling in the brush uphill to my right. Before I can even think of reaching for my camera, three deer bound across the road directly in front of me and dive down the hill to the left.

I grab the camera, switch it on and point it at the deer as they scramble down this slope. They're too fast for me.

Aha! Gotcha! They stopped for a snack. The forest fire we had in May took out a lot of the greenery in the interior of the island that the deer feed on in wintertime. So we are seeing more and more of them close to town. After some further grazing and a bit of mutual back scratching, these three flicked their tails and took the shortcut downhill toward the grocery store. Wonder if I'll meet them there?

Now, if you want to read more about animals on the move, check out Getting Stitched on the Farm. Lots of sheep charging along those Massachusetts country roads. Really, really funny.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Girlie Side

Having almost completed the Aslan Knee Socks, I have begun to design the next pair. This time I wanted to avoid using a wide stockinette panel to handle the increases and decreases. Instead, this pair – which I have dubbed the "Ribby Kneesocks" -- would be a kneesock version of the classic K2P2 rib. I simply had to figure out a way to handle the increases/decreases for the calf and then the decreases down to the ankle.

For the calf I envisioned a K2 that increased to K4, then split apart in the middle to make room for a P2, which grew to a P4, and gave birth to a K2 in the middle, for a total increase of 8 stitches. These would then be decreased away in the same manner. So I swatched it.

The swatch didn't turn out as I expected. The final K2 in the middle looks like a little lost worm. Perhaps the final increase could go from P4 to P6, I thought, leaving a more open area in the middle. Less offensive than the worm, but not wonderful. I was knitting along, debating the merits of these two approaches when I happened to lay the swatch on the table wrong side up.

Oh. I'll be hornswoggled. Much better. The increases and decreases look a little ragged, because they were executed on the other side, but . . . I like this shape. It has a sort of Georgia O'Keefe flavor - - more, well, more . . . feminine.

So, the heck with the worm. I think I'll go for the girlie side.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

An Outing for the Traveling Sock

The traveling sock has been much neglected. Second of the pair, it was cast on in August and knit upon for several hours while in transit to and from the Santa Monica Fiber Festival. Since then it has languished in its little pouch in my backpack.

On Thursday, it got lucky. Sort of.

Sock and I ventured down to the Laundromat, and it was knitted on for over an hour while the clothes washed and dried. Not terribly scenic, but better than the inside of the pouch. Or so it said.

Encouraged by Thursday's progress, I took Sock with me for a walk along the harbor the next day. We found a sunny bench sheltered from the wind, knit, and enjoyed the view. More progress was made – almost down to the heel. We're both excited.

The first sock was completed long ago. It graciously posed for this photo to remind me of its beauty and to encourage me to finish sock #2. The pattern is "Stems" from "More Sensational Knitted Socks" and the yarn is Sock! from Lisa Souza in the Spanish Moss colorway.

I did a six-gore toe, which I really like with this pattern.

The ribbing is K1P1, which lines up nicely with the five-stitch lacy stems that are separated by one purl stitch. But I wish that I had twisted the K1's. I think it would have given the top a better definition and emphasized the way the ribbing flows into the leg pattern.

Soon, the traveling sock will join its twin, and they will socialize with all the other pairs in the sock drawer. And I will cast on another traveling sock.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Okay, It's Finished. But What Is It?

It's a bookmark, of course. A little lacy bookmark.

And why is this such a notable accomplishment? Simple. It is the first—and so far the only—object that I have created from my own handspun yarn.

This tiny project is only 9" long by 3" wide; it used 10-12 yards of yarn, all that I had. The pattern is called Cabled Lace Bookmark—the August 8 entry from Knitting Pattern-a-Day Calendar, 2007. Cast on 19 stitches, knit for 28 rows, and you're done. Takes about a half hour--an hour if you're feeling leisurely.

I spun the yarn from two fibers mooshed together. I had a bit of white BFL left over from my first laughable spindling effort and some red Corriedale that remained from my second, slightly less laughable attempt. I spread out the two pieces of fiber, drafted them together, spun it all up, and two-plied it. The yarn is variously solid red, mostly white, or tweedy red/white. I loved it. Still do.

Nowadays I am spinning greater quantities of yarn and can reliably produce a two-ply fingering weight. But I have yet to knit anything else from my own handspun.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Spicy Yarn

My first attempt at natural dyeing – dyeing of any sort, actually – resulted in this skein of fingering/sport yarn (the blue bits are the skein ties).

I handspun the yarn (on two separate spindles) from Columbia/Dorset top purchased from Paradise Fibers, then plied the two singles (on yet another spindle) to make a four-ounce skein.

The rest was simple. Instead of plopping the skein into water for a 30-minute simmer bath, I mixed one ounce of tumeric with a gallon of water, simmered it for 30 minutes, then added the yarn for another 30-minute simmer. I let the dye bath cool a bit, rinsed the yarn in warm, then cool water until the water ran clear, then hung it to dry.

It was easy as could be, and I love the color – a most intriguing shade of golden honey brown with a hint of orange.

If you put it next to something red or yellow, the yarn looks quite orange.

But if you put it next to something that is truly orange – an orange, for instance – it looks golden brown.

I'm on the hunt now for other grocery store items that are equally easy to use for dyeing. So far, the leading contenders appear to be Kool-Aid, or similar store brand drink mixes, and food coloring. There is a wealth of information available on the Internet from people who have done this sort of dyeing and much, much more. Lanaset/Sabraset is a name that pops up often in discussions of simple dyeing processes. More research is clearly needed.

I can feel myself being sucked into the vortex of a new hobby. First knitting, then spinning, then . . . . aaiieeeeeeee . . .

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I Shall Wear Purple

Actually this sweater isn't purple. The color is called "lupine" and it's a very blue hue of purple. But close enough to count as part of the when I grow old collection.

I knit the sweater about two years ago after a long hiatus. Not a break from knitting, just from sweaters. I'd been knitting socks instead. Although I love making sweaters, I absolutely hate sewing them up. Side seams, sleeve seams – ick, ick, ick. Then I stumbled upon two possibilities that would eliminate the seams: 1) knitting in the round with steeks (very scary), or 2) top-down construction.

Top-down sounded interesting so I thought I'd give it a whirl. I found the guidelines for measuring, etc. here and followed them to the letter. What I learned? I need to adjust the percentage distribution at the top for my own body type and fit preference. In order to make the body of the sweater as big around as I wanted it to be, I ended up with sleeves that were a bit too large at the top. I did gradual decreases on the sleeves, so they fit well between the elbow and the wrist, but there's a good bit of extra fabric between the armhole and the elbow.

I'm happy with the sweater though. It has the casual, knock-around look I was aiming for and the color is perfect. The yarn is Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece (80% cotton, 20% merino wool) which I bought on sale as "seconds." Its flaw was that the skeins were unevenly dyed – exactly right for the "faded jeans" look I wanted.

Add a red hat, and I'll be good to go.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Clock Has Started on the Clock Vest

I had been wanting to start another vest for about a month, ever since the yarn arrived, but kept putting it off in order to finish other projects. The pattern is called "Clock Vest" and it's from Cheryl Oberle's "Folk Vests." When finished it should look like this --

In a weak moment – wide awake in the middle of the night – I surrendered to temptation and cast on. This is what the vest looks like right now –

I'm on row 11 and I've already contrived to make a major mistake, which required the tinking of an entire row (212 stitches). The error? I mistook a 2/1 purl cross for a 2/2 purl cross. Lesson learned. One should review an extremely complicated pattern before launching into the knitting.

The clock vest pattern has five charts. Each chart includes 1/1, 2/1, and 2/2 crosses, which may be variously left or right, knit or purl – 12 possibilities in all. To add to the challenge, the charts are small, two or three to a page, and purls are indicated by shading. Enlarging the charts makes the lines easier to read, but messes with the shading.

The yarn used in the pattern is Schoolhouse Press Quebecoise. And that's what I'm using. It's quite an interesting yarn. Something between a DK and worsted weight, rather hairy and sticky (in a good way), and lightly two-plied.

The whole process feels odd. Knitting exactly to the pattern without a single modification and using exactly the yarn called for by the pattern – I'm not sure I've ever done that before.