Friday, November 28, 2008

A Singular Shawl Shape

The Colorblock Shawl is ALMOST finished. It came off the needles last night and was pinned to the blocking blanket this morning. Considering the cool, damp weather we've been having, it may have to spend a few days there to finish drying.

I thought I was being ever so cautious about the bindoff, constantly weighing the remaining yarn to make sure there was enough. And there was. Just. Apparently the knit lace bindoff needs 2-3 times as much yarn as a full row of pattern knitting. Good to know for future endeavors.

This is the best picture of the colors, which are extremely elusive. They appear to prefer flash photography. Even so, the middle color is a much deeper olive green in real life. The shape of the shawl is, uh, different; not a triangle, circle, half-circle, or anything squarish, it most resembles a traditional Danish Tie Shawl . The Danish shawls have two increases at each end and one on either side of the center. So the ends grow much faster than the middle and elongate into pieces that can be wrapped around and tied in back. This pattern accomplishes a similar effect by increasing at the ends on every right side row, but in the middle bits only on every other right side row.

If this shawl blocks large enough I may try to turn it into a tie shawl, perhaps with the addition of some i-cord at each end. Although it isn't lace (which could be expected to stretch a lot), the plain garter stitch is nevertheless knit of 100% alpaca. And we all know how alpaca loves to stretch, don't we? Not so good for sweaters, but great for shawls. The center back, which was 18" deep at bindoff, blocked to 26". If it holds that length and the rest remains comparably large, it may indeed become a tie shawl. And if not, it will still be a nice cozy everyday shawl.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recycling Yarn

About two years ago I made this sweater. My first attempt at a top-down raglan, it is knit from Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, which is 80/20 cotton/wool. It was a tad large, and the sleeves especially were too big. But it was okay . . . wearable (although the cat was not impressed). And I loved the color. Labeled "Lupine," it's a blueish, grayish purple that photographs as blue unless it is in direct, bright sunlight.

A year rolled by, and the sweater and I were happy together. But then . . . then I lost weight. Not intentionally; I guess it was all the outdoor activity, now that I am no longer a desk jockey. And the sweater stretched (don’t forget the yarn is 80% cotton). Since I had no particular need for a purple v-neck dress, I frogged it (and rinsed the yarn, dried it, and skeined it, of course, like a good little knitter).

I searched Ravelry to see what sweaters other knitters had made with Cotton Fleece and found this lovely pattern called "Dovetail" which is written for 100% cotton yarn. It's from the Spring 2008 issue of Interweave Knits, so it was right near the top of the magazine pile. The fact that the model has her hair draped across the neckline raises some suspicions in that area, but I'm planning/hoping to change it anyway, so no big deal. I'd like to create a V-neck that follows the line of the slanting rib.

So far, so good. The measurements look about right, and I'm almost up to the armhole decreases. I'm knitting the front first in case I totally mess up the neckline. If I can't make that part work, I may change to a different pattern. I've also removed the little rope cable that runs down the side. It looks nice on the larger sizes, but too crowded for my narrower frame.

This is definitely not a mindless knit. In addition to the outward twists of the ribbing, almost every row has decreases/increases (waistline shaping and then the armholes). The sleeves should be restful, though. They can be mostly knit in the round on DPN's in straight stockinette (working on the reverse) with only a few increases to keep track of. But first the neckline must be conquered!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Swallowtail Saga

The Swallowtail Shawl is finished at last. It took far longer than it should have, not because the pattern was difficult, but because I had limited amounts of yarn and needed to stop and strategize from time to time.

The final few rows were the worst part. I had completed rows 1-16 of the Peaked Edging and thought I was home free. A little binding off and all would be over. Hah! Hubris, and all that. When I turned to the pattern to see what sort of bindoff was suggested I found that there were two more rows to be knit. Ack! And the first of those rows increased the number of stitches from 259 to 325. And I had little yarn left. Double ack!

Here's what happened – I knit only one of the extra rows, began the bindoff, and ran out of yarn. So then I tinked the bindoff, the increase row, and row 16, knit the increase row in place of row 16, began a second bindoff, discovered halfway through that I was using the wrong bindoff technique (because of the row I had eliminated), and tinked the bindoff again. Finally I embarked on a purled lace bindoff which looked great. Ran out of yarn when almost done. Tore knitting bag apart and turned up a 2-gram squib of yarn. Attached the blessed squib and finished the bindoff. At the end, about two feet of yarn remained.

The three bindoffs took almost a week. Not so much for the knitting (and the tinking) as for the emotional recovery between efforts. And there was a stressful incident during bindoff #2 where one of my Knitpicks Harmony points detached from the cable and allowed some stitches to escape. To my surprise and delight, I had no trouble recovering them. The boundoff shawl looked amazingly shawlish, quite different from the lumpish mass on my needles. Unblocked it measured 45" across and 22" down the back.

Blocking with my lovely new blocking wires was very easy. Next time, though, I think I'll get some of those plastic squares to use as a blocking surface. The old wool blanket I lay over the rug is fine, but it clings to the knitting a bit and impedes that final stage where one gently encourages the beloved object to stretch just another inch or two. The shawl was happy at 60" x 30", but I persuaded it to go for 62" x 33".

I don't have any glamour pix because my photographer is suffering from a nasty cold. Perhaps when she recovers. But here is Swallowtail reclining gracefully upon the bed in all its glory.

At the beginning I wasn't sure how the three different colors would work out, but now that I've gone through the whole process I realize how different each of the three lace sections are. A different color for each one looks fine.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mindless Morning Knitting

Since I retired from the wonderful world of work, I no longer jump in the shower every morning, throw on clothes, and dash off to an hour-long freeway commute. Instead I mosey out to the kitchen, fix myself a mug of tea, and take it back to bed with me. There I sip, knit on something tremendously simple, and wake up ever so slowly. On gray -- or otherwise slothful -- mornings there may be a second mug.

It's critical that the morning knitting be very, very simple. No cables, no lace, nothing with any sort of chart at all. In a semi-somnolent state, I'm capable of major errors. It's no fun to spend as much time tinking as knitting. And at the end of the day, after all that effort – zero progress.

My current morning project is a shawl. Not a lace shawl, just a shawl. The pattern is called Weaver's Wool Mini Shawl and it's plain garter stitch with regular yarnovers in a four-row sequence to provide the necessary increases to the four sections. I'm not sure how to describe the shape. Definitely not a classic triangle, rectangle, square, or circle. Someone on Ravelry alluded to "Faroese" in speaking of this shawl; perhaps that's the shape.

I'm using 100% alpaca yarn, a delight to the hands. Since there wasn't enough of any one color, it's going to be a colorblock shawl – blue, olive green, and rust. And not only will this project help reduce my own stash, it will also de-stash my neighbor, who hardly needed any persuasion at all to donate two of the three colors.

The shawl will be completed when it looks big enough or when I run out of yarn, whichever comes first. It's that sort of pattern. Restful.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blue Ribbons

Sharon was kind enough to award a blue ribbon to my blog. Thanks, Sharon!

Now it's time to pass the compliment on to a few of my fellow bloggers, and I find it difficult to choose. I read blogs in order to learn from fiber fanatics who are more experienced and/or more adept than I; from my point of view they're all wonderful. Some I hope to emulate one day. Others, I can never hope to; I just sit back and enjoy. Anyway, here's a few that I find especially appealing.

First we have my fellow Catalina knitblogger – Message in a Bottle. She has a unique slant on island life and has created some extremely clever teddies for the Mother Bear Project. There's an original sock pattern in the works too.

And all the way across the continent in Florida lives Delighted Hands (I love her quote. Check it out.) She knits, spins, cards, quilts, sews, assists with home renovations . . . Have I forgotten anything?

Prime Time Knitter has completed the Bee Fields Shawl. Need I say more? She can tackle -- and complete to perfection -- pretty much anything.

So, pay a visit to these folks. I think they're fun and interesting. Perhaps you will too.