Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Helix Socks

This pattern from the "Knitting Pattern A Day Calendar 2007" caught my eye because it looked like a fun approach to making stripes. I never reviewed the pattern in any detail, just noted that it instructs you to divide the work into three sections and knit each separately with a different color, dropping and picking up each color as you work around the circle. It has been magneted to my refrigerator for months.

It took some time to come up with adequate quantities of leftover yarn in colors that coordinated nicely. Here they are. Only one is an actual solid (the mustard yellow); another is a variegated in cream and gold, and the last is a semi-solid in light/medium brown. I decided that K5,P3 would display the colors to their best advantage and cast on. But there were problems. Two problems – one immediately obvious and one that I should have noticed long ago.

The first problem drove me nuts for a day or two. I blame the instructions (doesn't one always?). They say to divide the sock into three roughly equal sections (for the three colors), knit with Color A until you encounter Color B, knit with color B until you encounter color C, and knit with color C until you return to Color A. This is, in fact, what you do. But after the first round, the poor knitter is left staring glumly at TWO sections and wondering what happened.

Extensive experimenting with varying quantities of colors led to the development of WoolEnough's Theory of Helix Socks, which states:

Number of Sections = Number of Colors – 1

Try it yourself. Lay out three DPN's as if to knit in the round and park a bit of yarn at each intersection. Then move the yarn around the needles as though you were knitting with it. All goes smoothly until you get to the end of the first round. There you are at the beginning of needle #1, but there is no yarn, because you left it at the end of that needle. Oops.

The division into two sections works well, though, for doing a solid heel. I began knitting the sock in the middle of the stitches designated for the heel, which resulted in one section for the heel and one for the instep. (It would have worked as well to start in the middle of the instep stitches.) When I was ready to start the heel flap I just turned and began purling back with the color I wanted to use.

Which brings us to Problem Number 2.

The front of the pattern card contains only the technique for striping the leg and a teaser of a picture that shows a vertically striped heel flap. When I flipped the card over to get the directions for the rest of the sock, this is what I saw. Little accident at the printer's, I would guess. I checked Ravelry to see if anyone else had knit this pattern, but found only one person, who has had it "in progress" short of the heel flap for quite a while. Hmmmmm.

Here's where I am right now on the first sock. I'm running very low on brown yarn, so the toe will probably be in two colors. In spite of the initial difficulties, I really like this way of using up leftovers. And there are endless opportunities to mix solids and self-striping and multi-color yarns. Next time I'd like to figure out how to get those vertical stripes on the heel flap. I have a few ideas.

Monday, May 19, 2008

More Lace

I had so much fun knitting the lace pattern for the BiColor Clementine Shawlette that I selected another lace shawl pattern and ordered the yarn even before I had finished the Clementine.

This is the pattern pic from Interweave Knits Winter 2006. The design is the "Arctic Diamonds Stole" by Donna Druchunas. There is a laceweight version in Donna's "Arctic Lace" book, but this one is intended for fingering, specifically Louet Gems Pearl, one of my favorite yarns. It's a nice normal fingering – not too skinny, not too fat – and comes in a huge variety of rich and subtle colors.

And this is the yarn. The name of the color is Burgundy, but it's actually somewhere between a light Burgundy (or Merlot) and a really dark raspberry.

This is the swatch. Isn't it cute? I actually knit a proper swatch for this project and washed it and blocked it. And I'm very glad I did. To match the final stole size of 22" wide by 60" long, this swatch needed to be 5" wide by 6" long. No problem pinning it to that size. But after it was fully dried and released from the pins, things happened. The swatch held its width well, but the length gradually shortened to 5.25" (over about 24 hours). Pretty sneaky, huh? Not a problem, though. I have an extra skein of yarn in case I need to knit an extra repeat. Or I could block the length to 66" to allow for the subsequent shrinkage.

It's exciting to have another lace project on the needles. For continuing inspiration I have pinned the swatch to the sheer curtain that covers the hallway window, where it can remind me daily of what I should be doing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

BiColor Shawlette is Finished!

This may be my fastest knit ever. Even faster than a pair of socks, this two-color Clementine Shawlette (Interweave Knits, Spring 2007) took barely two weeks, and I was knitting on other things as well during that time.

The shawl is in two colors because I only had one skein of each color and I never intended to actually knit the whole thing. But I'm glad I did. It's perfect for summer, light and decorative – adds some glitz to the old t-shirt.

I even like the bicolor effect. Since the shawl is knit in two pieces, there's not a prayer of hiding the join at the back (graft however deviously one may). Might as well take advantage of that design feature and do something different. I'm not sure wildly contrasting colors would look good (although they might), but I could definitely see it in vivid blue and purple. Or a pinky purple joined to a bluey purple.

The little ties are perfect for holding the shawl together. They do limit the ways that you can wear it, but for a piece this small there aren't many possibilities anyway.

The Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool made for a most intriguing knit. As much as it looks like fingering, it knit up on U.S. #5 needles just like a DK. And although it felt like string while knitting, it washed and blocked into an amazingly light and soft fabric. And it stretched a lot (as I had been warned). Not a problem for this shawl; it fact I wanted it to stretch.

For more adventures with this yarn visit Prime Time Knitter, who has just completed a sweater in Silky Wool and Obsessed With Knitting, who is making a skirt out of it (A skirt! Are you impressed? I am).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

To Mark the Day

A year ago today a forest fire started that took out ten percent of this tiny island. At one point it threatened the town. Most of the residents fled. (If you want to see the scary pictures, just Google "Catalina fire.")

Two days later, the island was empty of all but firefighters (lots!), residents supporting the firefighters, and those of us too stubborn to leave. Oh, and the wildlife.

These pelicans are enjoying a beach that is generally too cluttered with humanity for their comfort. The constant whup-whup-whup of helicopters ferrying water from the ocean to drop on the fire didn't seem to bother them at all.

Winter rains and winds have swept away the black ash that covered the town. And gorgeous flowers have bloomed this spring in the burn areas. But one doesn't quite forget.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Accidental Shawlette

I originally titled this post "Fun and Games With Silky Wool," but the fun and games took an unexpected direction, so . . . .

It begins with these two skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, which my wonderful daughter picked up for me at Let's Knit Yarn Shop in Gardena. They have a huge selection of colors (should you be passing through Gardena and need some Silky Wool).

A 65/35 wool/silk blend, this yarn is billed as a DK, although each 50-gram skein contains about 200 yards. Maybe a cross between heavy fingering and a lite DK? Since the projects I was considering it for involved both lace and/or cabling, I wanted to swatch something that would give a good idea of how the yarn behaved in both situations. The latest edition of Vogue Knitting had a "Medallion Top" that looked perfect. I began swatching, but gave up after five rows. This is what I produced –

Why did I give up? Well it was the row with the instruction to "purl in the back loop of the second yarnover" that did me in. To a proficient lace knitter, this sort of thing might be all in a day's work. What it brought to mind for me was those "Joy of Sex" books from the 70's. (You put that there and I'll put this here . . . and . . . oh, wait . . . that won't work.)

In search of something easier, I found this "Clementine Shawlette" in the Spring 2007 issue of Interweave Knits. Not only is it an easy stitch pattern, but those little tie things at the ends are the perfect swatch. I cast on the requisite 21 stitches and began knitting. After completing the little tie dingus, I still didn't have a good feel for the yarn, so I continued knitting. Do you see where this is going?

Yep. I finished the entire ball of yarn, which produced exactly half of a shawlette. That's okay, because this is one of those patterns where you knit two pieces and graft them together at the back. Here we see FirstHalf in a fetching pale puke green next to the tan/beige ball that will be SecondHalf. It's going to be a BiColor Clementine Shawlette.

I still don't know what I think of the yarn. As many on Ravelry have commented, it does have a lot of "stuff" in it. It doesn't actually feel like either wool or silk, more like a nice lightweight cotton. Once the knitting and the consequent rain of small bits is over, the resulting fabric looks good and has a pleasant nubby feel. The plan is to finish the shawlette, wash and block it, and then see how it looks and wears. And, of course, I am now eager to experiment with other wool/silk blends.