Monday, December 31, 2007

Never Without Ripping

I prefer to think of elements of my stash as ripening, rather than ageing (the notion of growing older has long since lost its glamour; in fact, I'm not utterly delighted with the concept as it applies to myself) and a handspun two-ply which actually turned out the colour I intended to dye it had screamed to the front of the ME!ME!ME! queue, demanding to be knit into a cardigan. Or jacket.  A garment for the upper half to be worn over other garments, but not a shawl because I turn into my worst whine (Am I there yet? Am I there yet?) when I attempt shawls or scarves, and probably (though I will not test this) ruanas and other wraps, not to mention afghans.

At the same time, the siren call of this (but with long sleeves) was strong in my heart.

I'm not always as bright as I like to think I am; alternately I have a short memory; alternately I am learned in the ways of self-delusion, because I actually did learn earlier this year that cardigans with cut-away bottoms make me look shorter and wider and squattier than I am, which isn't my most favourite look.  Nevertheless, I started knitting:
A little wiggly at the edges, start again:
Much better.


Yeah, it's going to make me look like a cabled storage bin. Dammit.  I guess I could turn it upside-down and use it for the yoke of a raglan sweater, but I really wanted a cardigan.
I surfed and sketched and paged through the not insubstantial collection of books and magazines and sketches, and eventually decided on something approximating this.

Not as cropped, but still asymmetric, and it's looking good so far:
The colour on my monitor is pretty close to The Real Deal, and while the yarn isn't as sleek (or as drapey) as that called for in the pattern, I think it will still work.  My gauge is way different, and I'm not a big fan of knitting separate pieces and then sewing them together when the seams serve no useful purpose, and their sleeve shaping (or lack of it) isn't that conducive to upper arms with even a small amount of musculature, but I'll knit the set-in sleeves top-down anyway, so that's mostly moot.

The yarn is a wool (merino x border leicester from Cindy Genteman, I think her business is called Loom With A View, and she has lovely and interesting fleeces) and silk blend which is a two-ply only because as singles, it was thinner than I wanted, and I had enough fiber for two sweaters.  I'm pretty sure I saw a picture of the other sweater (which was indeed made form singles yarn) on someone else's blog (it was in the SOAR gallery), and I don't have a photo, but it's based on a Norah Gaughan (I think she's a genius, I just adore her sense of clever design) sweater from her lovely Knitting Nature book.

The interesting thing to me about the two-ply versus the singles yarns is that they're so very different.  The fiber blend, due both to the wool breed as well as the smallish amount of silk, is naturally lustrous, but the singles glows with a sensuous smoothness, whereas this two-ply seems to highlight each ply in an almost rustic way.  It's not uneven, it's not bumpy, but it seems rather textured, and it's another reminder of why I prefer three-ply yarns, especially when the fiber isn't super-crimpy and lofty.  A merino or polwarth or polypay or cormo (you get the gist; there are other highly crimped fleeces I could name.  Truly) two-ply spun with a similar amount of twist to the same grist would fill out the cross-section better than this fiber, and result in a rounder yarn than this.

What I've been really busy with is wracking my brains to develop designs for the next crop of classes at my local bead store.  Yesterday was the deadline, so now those artfully photographed partially finished pieces will have to be finished For Real, as the samples will be in a display case in the store along with everyone else's, and ideally should look minimally attractive, not to mention complete. 

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I may still be in sweater limbo (I've done a project's worth of rippage, but I think I have a plan. This wouldn't be the first time you've heard that, but I am the eternal optimist and ultimate gadfly when it comes to knitting projects.  It's just that I have more ideas than time and hands), but now I know that if I take this:
I can get this:
Even though I was in the middle of this:
Can you say "Short Attention Spa-" hey! Shiny things!

I've done bead crochet, and I can do bead crochet, and I do love the finished product as the ropes are wonderfully supple, but man is it slow.  

First there's the whole figuring out the stringing order if you want a pattern. Miles and miles of it.  

Then if you - gasp! - make a stringing error, you only ever discover it after three painstaking inches and fifteen painstaking hours, and the only way to correct it is to break the beads that make the pattern wrong without shredding the thread on which they sit.  No big deal if they're seed beads, but one might be less sanguine about it if they were crystals (some are expensive) or pearls (I have no idea how you'd break them without shredding the thread) or even a gemstone.  

OK, I lied, you could conceivably end off the bead crochet, cut the thread, remove the offending beads, and rejoin and start again, but I'm against joins (in knitting or beading) if they're avoidable, because they're certainly one of (a) a weak spot, (b) a stiffening or fat spot where the extra thread tails add bulk, or (c) a source of irregularity and untidiness just because it's often hard to join neatly.  Some techniques just don't lend themselves well to joins.

When I do bead crochet, I have a hard time getting optimal tension, which also makes it slow. Too loose, and the beads pop into the centre of the tube, where you can't see them, and what's the point of that.  Too tight, and the crochet hook, which is already smaller than these eyes like, finds it awfully difficult to find spaces in which to poke, let alone pull through a loop. 

I've made about three bead crocheted things, and one was even a long lariat, and I even like it, but every time I think about starting another bead crochet project, I find something else I'd rather do.  I bet the same would happen if I tried to work from home.

Kumihimo with beads has few of these issues.

While I admit to having made ONE SINGLE kumihimo rope which actually has two colours in a spiral which you can't see since they're so similar but which I've convinced myself all the same adds interest, depth, richness and complexity to the overall colour, I do have access to a book which shows patterning in colour as well as texture, so while the words "expert" and "kumihimo" could not be used in the same sentence when talking about me, I do have a little information.  

The best part? The patterning is achieved by varying a thread, or in the case of beads, a strand of beads.  This means that if I use Czech seeds, which conveniently may be purchased in hanks which means that the beads are already strung, it's a simple matter to transfer the beads onto the thread to be used in the kumihimo rope.  Change the colour to change the patterning; change the size to change the texture.  Of a strand.

How awesome is that?

True, I suspect the complex patterning that can be achieved in bead crochet may be awkward if not impossible in kumihimo, but if I decide that I absolutely have to have a supple beaded rope in ocelot spots, I can either bite the bullet and do bead crochet, or get a grip and find something I'd rather have instead.

Oh and the other best part? It's fast.  I made twenty-seven inches of rope, including McGuyvering weights and bobbins (I gave away all my knitting bobbins; I prefer intarsia without), stringing, undoing, reading the instructions properly this time, and starting again with a clue, in about six hours.  I think that's pretty fast.  It would have taken me a few weeks to do this in bead crochet, and I don't know of any off-loom beadweaving technique that can produce such a fabulously supple rope.

Can you tell I'm pleased with myself?

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Gifts

Sometimes on a Wednesday night I go to the local yarn store (there is more than one in this city; I only ever go to this one) with knitting and food for an evening of, well, knitting and eating. The crowd is variable - a few weeks ago there were only three of us, but it's generally somewhere under a dozen.

Conversation is generally rather interesting. Last time someone mentioned the commercials for medications which address the male inability to perform, and after laughing about one woman who was WAITING for her husband to need them so that she could substitute Sucrets, the nurse on hand explained how hospital ERs treat The Boner That Won't Die. Not pretty. It involves a large-bore needle. We all congratulated ourselves on our internal genitalia.

Later I watched two of the women exchange gifts, such a vicarious pleasure for me. As Barb carefully unwrapped her first gift, unrolling the green tissue paper from a soft bundle, a pair of handknitted black socks (with little thread butterflies still attached to the toes; in case alteration was required), she started laughing and handed Kay a matching soft bundle: a pair of black-marled blue-green socks.

Kay and Barb spend time together. They knit together, but not these socks. Each had to casually ascertain the other's preferred cuff and foot length (Kay has smaller feet than Barb) while congratulating themselves on their subtlety and tact and fabulous ability to keep such a delicious secret. Each tried on a sock; each proclaimed it perfect, Kay grabbing the black socks back so that she could properly finish them.

I don't think either of them needed to sell anything in order to give, but the perfection of the symmetry put me in mind of The Gift of the Magi.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sweater Limbo

Denny, you were right: a shawl collar worked really well here.
Yes, once again, my photography skills leave something to be desired, though I really don't have quite as much trouble with the small close-ups (beaded stuff), probably because I've had more practice.  And I've forgotten how to set the self-timer, which is why there's no picture of me in it.  The sweater.  Which fits well enough that I'll happily wear it tomorrow.

The sleeves aren't as tapered on as I'd thought (they don't scream "I'M FROM ANOTHER DECADE ermm MILLENNIUM") and I could have made the body longer (but I always feel that way.  I'm always impatient to start the armholes), but there's nothing seriously wrong with it, considering I barely measured or calculated anything, and pretty much made it up as I went along.

In the past I've had bad luck with shawl collars, in that they tend to prefer to be stand-up collars, not being much into the folding thing, so I was slightly concerned here.  The yarn in this instance wasn't especially independent in that it didn't have its own ideas about just how it would cross its ankles or fold its arms, allowing me to dictate posture.  I also think that the shawl collars in my past may have been too narrow, so I determined not to make that mistake again.  As the collar joins at centre back (let's see you graft moss stitch invisibly; the textured yarn helps to disguise the join but makes stitching sticky) and it looked as though the outer edge of the collar wasn't going to be long enough when it came time to sew it closed, I short-rowed until I was tired of it, adding an extra triangle (think godet) to widen the back of the collar, and then joined.

The collar is both wide enough (no cold drafts down the back of my neck) and long enough at its outside edge that I expect it to behave all day without excessive need for adjustment constantly.  At least, I hope so.

And now for some yarn pron.  Yarn porn.  Either way.  Amy quickly remedied the mind-boggling issue of my not owning any artisan sock yarn, which she managed to find in my favourite colour: sludge.


And now, the conundrum.

I have a pair of socks on the needles.  Well, one sock, the second of two, which doesn't even have a cuff.

I have two lots of delicious handpainted merino sock yarn.

It makes me uncomfortable to have more than one pair of socks in progress (but not to have multiple sweaters in progress.  That, somehow, is my state of being).

I have a great idea for a Rorschach sweater in reds, oranges and corals and all I need to do is to wind the yarn into balls.  I have enough yarn (I weighed it) and I'm pretty certain I have a good enough idea of the gauge to start a sleeve.

I have the pentagons and chevrons sweater about which I waxed lyrical a few weeks ago, but today it's not wanting me to reach for it.

There are ingredients and a plan for a Yum Sweater (very fine-gauge yarns of luxury fibers in natural colours, from way back when I only used to spin thin) which will comprise octagons and squares and requires absolutely no swatching whatsoever, because it's one of those knit until it's big enough deals.  Hmmm, that's almost appealing.

I have handspun vests which would get a lot more wear (than none) if only I'd add sleeves to them, but I'm not in the mood.

I think the reason I'm in project limbo is that today at work, instead of trying to figure out what events are fired on mouse clicks, and where they are processed, I realised that the sweater I was wearing was very, very long, so long that if I had great legs it would look awesome as a dress, and then I flashed to Kathryn Alexander's skirts, and started sketching ideas for a dress, none of which was perfect, though one did come quite close.  I may not have enough suitable yarn for a dress though, which pretty much means I'm back in Sweater Limbo.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Got Luckier

After SOAR 2006, Nancy and I agreed on a trade, and I made this
and she made this
which is a close-up of this
which even though it's a lousy photo, you should be able to tell is a stunningly gorgeous hand-dyed handwoven silk scarf.  I'm a lucky girl.
And then this week in the mail, this (once again, my photography skills are lacking)
which is a pair of yummy merino sock blanks dyed to match my scarf. From memory.  While there are times when I'm able to wax lyrical about very little of substance for far too many words in far too long a paragraph, apparently when I'm in need of eloquent heartfelt thanks, words fail me.
I need to hurry up with the other socks, the knitting of frequency of which has been relegated to Almost Never  since it's too dark and too cold to knit in the car when I'm at long stop-lights to and from work.  I don't spend hours in waiting rooms, which would otherwise be a choice Knitting Occasion, and my home knitting is at the exciting bit, so the other socks are stalled.
See? Racing towards the finish.
No, it's not wider at the bottom, and the cables are definitely not off-centre, but apparently I wasn't too careful with the laying-on-the-desk-to-take-pictures step.  That dark streak? Errrmmm, well, that must be the result of not stirring quite often enough when I was dying the yarn (I'm guessing I was doing seventeen other things at the same time). Interesting how the width of the body corresponded so well to the length of the hank: 2 metres.  My dad made that niddy-noddy back when he was able.  He doesn't do much anymore, he doesn't even talk.  Actually, realistically, the person who was my father has long gone, leaving his wreck of a body to an ever-ebbing fragment of a consciousness.  He also made my swift, and a really nice mahogany nostepinde.  And the desk that's now in my daughter's room, and a host of toys, some with moving parts: cams and gears and handles and wheels and whatnot. I made him my first ever socks.


Back to the Blue Streak.

I just love doing raglans, and fortunately (Kate told me, it absolutely must be so) I'm one of those who is able to wear a raglan and not look dreadful.  I'm so taken with the weird pacing of knitting a raglan sweater, it surprises me every time. Somewhat.

I tend to start with the sleeves because I don't swatch much, and they serve well.  I suppose I don't have terribly long arms (I don't have terribly long anything since I'm not the tallest person in the world, certainly not as tall as Juno - did you see the picture of her folded into a seat that I would have been sprawling on?) so the sleeves don't take all that long, and make me thrill for the body, which starts off slowly - those first two or three inches take weeks! - and suddenly, magically, is long enough.  Binding off those underarm stitches fakes me out every time, because I'm also adding all those sleeve stitches - well, not all, because some of them are doing duty as underarm stitches, but still, a lot, but those bound-off stitches make me feel as though I'm about to fly to the finish NOW.

The first few rows of the Everything are painful, awful, tedious, and epic.  Then I notice that it's no longer awkward to knit around the sleeve part, it isn't tugging anymore.  But still progress is invisible.  The armhole remains perpetually an inch and a half deep.  I consider creative shaping involving many more decreases as I continue with four every other round.  I start thinking about the neck, certain it's too soon.  I'm impatient so I start it anyway.  Turns out I should have started it two inches ago.  I reconsider my neck design, and suddenly, there it is.

This weekend, most likely: the armhole is still an inch and a half deep, but I can anticipate, can't I?