Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Knitter Knits

Here's the thing...when knitting a stockinette sweater at 7.25 spi, there's this big chunk of time where you just, well, knit. I can't tell you much about the progress on the October sweater because I'm knitting...and knitting...and knitting. The body is done. One sleeve is half done. I suppose I could show you another picture of the body just hanging on the needles, but it isn't all that exciting.

On a good note, however, I confirmed that knitting down from a provisional cast on works just great. I had a bit of dread getting in the way of my knitting. I was worried that my plain stockinette sweater might show the line where I started knitting down. So I swatched. And it works. There. Done.

More Almanac News

I'm already scoping out the projects for November and December. November is Mocassin Socks--a sock with a replaceable sole. I could use any number of sock yarns in my stash, but instead I opted to order some Quebecoise from Schoolhouse Press in a lovely deep gray and some contrasting red.

December is the "hurry up" sweater. This sweater must be knit at 2.5 spi (quite a contrast to my current sweater). The pattern is designed for the lovely Sheepsdown. Have you looked outside lately? It is 95-degrees outside right now. I can't imagine it ever being cold enough for me to wear a sweater made of sheepsdown!!! So I ordered 7 skeins in Gray and Cream. I'll stripe the sweater. I may never wear it, but I'll know what it is supposed to look like.

I'm also scoping out using a mohair lace--like Kid Silk Haze--and making a tunic. I may do both. Some of my knit buds are planning on knitting the sweater too. I can make the bulky one in November to figure out the pattern and the lace one in December--and help my friends that need it.


Despite the apparent lack of finishing, I do have some finished stuff to show you.
First: Lady Eleanor is finally done, off the needles, blocked and fringed. One thing one must remember: Noro Silk Garden (and Silk Garden Lite) is MUCH softer once it is washed. This thing is warm and soft and long.

Pattern: Lady Eleanor from Scarf Style
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden Lite
And I've been doing some spinning. In case you ever wondered what the difference is between "unfinished" yarn and yarn that has been soaked, thwacked and otherwise properly finished, here's a before and after shot--unfortunately in different light.
Blue Moon Fiber Arts Sheep to Shoe kit in Fire on the Mountain.
Superwash Merino, 3 ply. I ended up with well over 500 yards from the 8+ ounces. I haven't done the calcs, but I have lots of yarn here.
OK, that should catch you up. I think I'll go back to working on the sleeves.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sweater Part 3: Evaluating Fit

Evaluating Fit
Pop quiz time, folks!
Assume you've cast on a sweater. You have knowingly skimped on your gauge swatch. After knitting about 4 inches at what-you-think-is 7 stitches per inch, you discover, to your dismay, that your lovely sweater is sized appropriately to fit your pre-teen neice.
Do you:
a) Progress happily onward--making a gift for your neice.
b) Sit on the floor with a bottle of wine until the pain stops.
c) Stomp around the house, scaring the dogs, knocking over boxes of fiber and finally tossing said sweater into trash still on the Addi Turbos and swear off sweaters forever (wait--go grab those Addi's out of the trash first.)
d) Progress happily onward--pretending you didn't know you are actually getting 7.5spi. Maybe the yard gnomes will magically make the problem go away?
e) Schedule lipo and breast reduction surgery (wait now, that's an interesting idea!)
Any one of the above options is probably appropriate. I, of course, took a slightly more mature approach. I channelled Tim Gunn and said: Make it work.

After I finished my waist decreases, I decided to check if this sweater will fit. Rather than slipping it onto waist yarn, I grabbed several of my US1 needles. (It's a long story, but I have at least 6 circular needles in US#1.) I just spread the stitches between all these needles. My first clue that there might be a problem was the length measurement. My waist decreases should have covered 4 inches. I've only finished a bit more than 3 inches.

After a bit of steam blocking, I see the cause of the trouble. I'm not getting 7 spi. I'm getting closer to 7.25. My sweater is only about 34 to 35" wide. I know I like negative ease, but that's skin tight for me. But the fabric? Oh yeah--this is going to be gorgeous. Tiny, but gorgeous. It may be worth making that surgical appointment.

Make it work.

Wait--this isn't even a problem. What would be the right number for a 37" sweater? 268. I currently have 256 stitches. Is there a way I can add 12 stitches without ripping everything out?

Here's what I'm going to do. My original plan was to knit 5 increase rows from the waist to the bustline over 4.5". What if I change that to 8 increase rows over, say 5"? Since I get 4 more stitches per increase row, there's my extra 12 stitches! No problem?
Well, no problem except that my hips are not smaller than my bust--they are pretty equal. But again, this really isn't a problem since I started this sweater with a provisional cast on. When I'm done with the body of the sweater and ready to add my hem, I'll just knit down and add 3 increase rows at the bottom. Worst case? I'll add some lovely lace edging that flares out.

This does mean that my sweater will have much more waist shaping than I'd intended, but that's fine.

For those of you snickering, stop it. This will work. It will. I said stop that snickering already!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

October Sweater: Part Two--Building a Waist

How's your sweater going? Mine has had some ups and downs. Or maybe I should say ins and outs?

Before we talk about the ins and outs of waist shaping, let's recap.

We're knitting the October sweater from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac. I'm using JojoLand Melody Superwash in color MS11 that I picked up at a local yarn store.

I guesstimated my gauge at about 7 stitches per inch on US#1. I measured a favorite sweater at 37" around with moderate waist shaping. 7 x 37 = 259. I know I like a bit of negative ease and I wanted a "better" number, so I chose to cast on 256 stitches.

For lots of reasons, I decided to cast on provisionally and plan to knit down when I decide on the hem treatment. I had some Koigu KPPM left over from socks. I cast on using the Koigu, knit two garter ridges flat, then joined in the round and knit two more rows. Why the garter ridges flat? Simple--the last couple of times I've twisted my joins. Since these first rows are going to be taken out later, it doesn't matter and saves me from myself.

I knit about an inch, then started my waist decreases. Now that we're caught up, let's talk about waist decreases.

Shaping a Waist
Styles come and go, but the style now is to show off our feminine physique with waist shaping. For this sweater, I'm opting for some very slight shaping, so I'll do all my adjustments at the sides of the sweater. If I wanted extreme shaping--where the sweater actually hugged my curves--I'd do decreases at four points around the sweater.

We can get all technical about how to calculate the decreases, or we can do it very simply. The easiest way: measure a sweater you like. There, done. The more precise way? Take the measurements on your body.

My favorite sweater has a defined waist over about 9"--it goes in for 4.5" and then goes out for 4.5". Looking at my own body, I'll tweak those numbers slightly--I'll go in from hip to waist for 4" and out from waist to bust for 5", with a bit of a flat space in between.

But how much? I want the smallest part of my sweater to be 3" smaller than my hip/bust. If we trust my gauge at 7 spi, I need to take out 21 stitches. The number has to be even, so let's pick 20. Since each decrease row removes 4 stitches, that means I need 5 decrease rows evenly spaced over 4".

A quick check of my knitting shows I'm getting about 8 rows to the inch--but since I've only knit 1", this isn't very precise. That means 4 inches is about 32 rows. 32 divided by 5 = 6.4. Since I'd rather err on the side of decreasing too slowly (and I don't trust my gauge), I'm going to knit a decrease row, followed by 6 rows plain, and repeat for 5 decrease rows.

Talking about Decreases

I place markers to delineate 3 stitches at each side "seam" of the sweater. I have 125 stitches front and back, and 3 stitches between markers at each side. See, I told you 256 was a pretty number.

My decreases are placed on either side of these markers. Ahh...but which decreases! You know, I never remember. I understand that k2tog is a right-slanting decrease and ssk is a left-slanting decrease, but I never remember why I'd want left or right slanting. I looked it up. Use a right slanting decrease on the left side of the front. I swear I'm spatially challenged--is that my left or your left?

But this is an EZ sweater. Pick a method, use it consistently. If it is technically wrong, we'll consider it a design element. This is a sweater with lovely varigating yarn--who'll notice?

So here's my decrease plan:

Decrease row: knit 3 stitches to first marker, SM (slip marker), k2tog, knit 123 stitches (two stitches before next marker), ssk, SM, knit 3, SM, k2tog, knit 123, ssk

*Knit a decrease row
Knit 6 rows.
Repeat from * 4 more times (total of 5 decrease rows knit).
Knit 6 more rows plain (to lengthen the waist). Then begin increase section.

OMG!!! Have you been reading TechKnitter's latest stuff about left leaning decreases? Fascinating reading and I played around with one of her decreases. It didn't work for me as well as my normal SSK, but that's knitting for you!

I'm finished with my waist decreases and ready to evaluate the fit of my sweater, but let's do that another day, shall we? This post is already a bit lengthy.

Want some spinning pron to distract you?

From this:
To this. Yummmm....Blue Moon Fiber Arts Sheep to Shoe Kit in Fire in the Mountain

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Let's Knit a Sweater

I'm not going to apologize for not blogging. I is what I is. Like many knit-bloggers, I've been sucked in by Ravelry and my blog suffers.

Before I go too far, let me just thank you for your comments on my FiFi. I wish I liked it better! I think I need to overdye it a different color for me to really like it. If you looked at the current state of my stash, you'd probably suggest Orange. Everything I buy seems to be orange.

I did, by the way, lengthen FiFi considerably. Lots and lots. Probably 4" longer. Since it is knit from the top down, it was easy to just keep knitting. I had to by the yarn in a bag of 10, so I had lots of yarn available.

Just for some project pron, here's what I recently finished:

AutumnRose-Headless with Green Lace
Pattern: Autumn Rose
Source: Simply Shetland 4
Yarn: Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift--exactly as specified in pattern
Size: 37"
Ease: 1" of negative ease
Needle: US 2 for most, US 0 and 1 where specified.
Gauge: 30 stitches over 4"
Modifications: Modified the colors used in the neckline ribbing to provide a more interesting gradient. The pattern says to use a larger needle size for the sleeves. I missed that and didn't do it.
Started: September 2007 (early)
Finished: September 2007 (late) Total time was about 3 weeks.
Techniques used:
Color knitting with 2 hands, stranded not woven.
Spit splicing at the color changes when I remembered.
Used a german twisted cast-on for the corrugated ribbing using two strands of yarn and a US 4 needle.
There's more pictures of this in my flickr stuff.

Here's what's on the needles:

Pattern: Lady Eleanor
Source: Scarf Style
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden Lite--I'll look up the color code before I'm done
Size: it will be around 23" x 72" without fringe
Needle: US 7 (I think, I need to double check)
Since my yarn is so much lighter than that called for and I'm using a much smaller needle, I started with 8 triangles rather than 7. I'll also do several more rows of rectangles to get the correct length.

Pattern: Bartholomew's Tantalizing Socks
Source: Cat Bordhi's new sock book!
Yarn: Handspun Merino Tencel from Abby Franquemont in the color Autumn Harvest
Size: Pretty darn small. I wear a size 5.5 shoe
Needle: US 1 or 0--another one to double check
This has been a weird and interesting story--I'll have to show you my sock surgery in another post. I knit the first sock, started on the second, and decided I hated the first sock and that it was too small. After finishing the second, I loved it, so I went back and cut up the first sock. I should finish this one today.

An Almanac Sweater Journal

I have an idea, let's knit a sweater together. The sweater I'm going to knit is the October sweater from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac. There are two versions of this sweater: top-down and bottom-up. While I'd like to do a top-down sweater, I don't really see the point for this sweater. Let's just do the bottom up. In typical EZ style, we're really going to design our own sweater.

The basic style of this sweater is a bottom-up raglan golf shirt. EZ shows it with short sleeves. I'm going to do 3/4 sleeves if I have enough yarn. If not, I can change my mind later. There's a nice golf-shirt style placket at the neckline and a typical collar. I suppose I could knit some fancy stitch pattern, but no. This is going to be a simple stockinette sweater suitable for my southern California life.

To start the sweater, we need to do 3 things before we start knitting:
· Choose our yarn
· Decide on needle size
· Sketch out a schematic with measurements.

Choosing the yarn
Here's two simple truths I've learned in knitting sweaters. First, bulky yarn knits up much faster than thin yarns. Second, I look like crap in bulky sweaters and never wear them. This is a sporty golf shirt. I'm going to opt for a fairly light yarn and face the reality that this means lots of mindless stockinette.

I really wanted to use handspun for the rest of my Almanac projects. I spun up some lovely pastel romney and plied it with corriedale. The result is a 800 yards of gorgeous light worsted weight yarn. No way is that 800 yards going to be enough. Off it goes to the stash.

My second option is to pick something from my stash. How about some Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool? That would be nice. Or I could use the Rowan yarns I picked for an abandoned project and do something with stripes?

Ahh, but one of my favorite local yarn stores is having an anniversary celebration sale. Everything in the store is on sale. Off we go to the yarn store. Oooh, shiny! In a moment of impetuous abandon, I pick up 1300 yards of JoJoLand Melody. I later realize that's not enough yarn, go back, buy more. More, more, more! I'm still a bit worried that I may not have enough yarn, so I'm going to plan for that contingency as I knit.

Decide on needle size

Let's face a harsh reality, shall we? Gauge swatches are (as Harlot says) filthy little liars. I have no illusions about my ability to knit a perfect gauge swatch, calculate how many fractions of a stitch there are, etc. I just want to get a rough idea about what needle produces a reasonable fabric. Since I know swatches aren't sweaters, I also realize that the fabric I create in a swatch may be slightly different than the sweater. OK, I can live with that.

I also know, from past experience, that my circular knitting gauge is really close to my flat knitting gauge. Not that this makes any difference because gauge swatches are still filthy little liars. The "right" thing to do is to cast on something about the size of a hat, knit a bare minimum of 4 inches, but better yet, just knit the whole hat, wash it, block it, and then carefully measure in at least 3 different locations around the hat.

My usual technique is to make an educated guess, cast on for the sleeves and go for it. My sleeve becomes my swatch. If my educated guess is pure fiction, than it isn't a big issue to frog 4" of sleeve and start again. This is no more effort than knitting a swatch and it gets me started on my sweater. I'm not going to do that this time because I'm not sure how long I'm going to make my sleeves. I may end up with only enough yarn for short sleeves.

I look at the ball band. It recommends a gauge of 7 to 8 stitches per inch and US 1 to 3 needles. If this were handspun, I'd look at one of those charts that correlate wraps per inch and needle size. Let's aim for 7 stitches to the inch. I cast on 28 stitches (4 inches x 7 stitches per inch) on US 3 needles. I knit a couple of rows in garter, flat. Then I start stockinette. After about an inch, I grab my favorite measuring tool: an index card. This one is 4" x 6". I lay the card over my knitting and instantly see I'm nowhere near 4", probably closer to 6". I knit a row of garter using new needles (US 1) and continue on my happy way. After about another inch, I see that I'm much closer to my 4" and the fabric looks pretty good. I continue on for another inch and see that the fabric is something I can live with and my swatch is indeed 4" wide. I should probably continue on for another couple of inches, bind off, block and see if I still like the fabric.

I’d love to show you a picture of my swatch but I ripped it out. You may all point and laugh if this sweater ends up small enough to fit my dog or big enough to cover my car. I'm taking a risk here, but an educated risk. A wool sweater is easily blocked if I’m off by an inch or so.

Before we all panic that I’m knitting a sweater on US 1, let’s be smart. I wanted a gauge of 7 stitches per inch. If I got that gauge with US3 needles, I wouldn’t be having these palpitations. However, I’d still be knitting the same number of stitches, wouldn’t I? If you want to have a fit, have a fit about 7 stitches per inch, not the size of the needle.

Sketch out a schematic with measurements
I started by taking some measurements of a sweater I know I like.

Here's a rough sketch of my sweater. I used a CAD program to draw this because I use CAD programs all the time. A sketch on the back of a napkin would suffice. The key thing is to get the width and length measurements on paper so I don't cheat later. (I'm famous for deciding that I really like sweaters that are 10" from hem to armhole after several weeks of knitting mindless stockinette.) I took the measurements from a favorite sweater or two. I've added just a little bit of shaping--ever so slight. EZ's original pattern was straight and straight would be fine. I just want to break up my knitting with some detail to focus on. I've discovered that I look good in straight sweaters with negative ease at the bust. The sweater stretches over the bust and then snugs in a bit below to fit loosely around the waist--giving an illusion of shaping without actually clinging to my waist. So don’t hesitate to omit the shaping.

Since I know I want a 37" sweater and I'm knitting 7 stitches to the inch, I'll need 259 stitches. I'm only going in 2" at the waist, so I'll decrease down to 245 stitches. I don't really have to worry about that right now, so let's just move on and talk about the decreases when we're ready.

Casting On
As you know, I'm not sure I have enough yarn. I can entertain lots of creative options. I can add stripes. I can make the sleeves shorter. I can decide to make the whole sweater shorter. But the sweater will look pretty funky if I decide to add stripes only in the yoke because I ran out of yarn. I'm going to cast on in the middle and work my way up. If I start running short of yarn, I can use a contrasting yarn at the hem of the sweater, echo the contrast at the sleeves and the collar. Casting on in the middle is really easy--use a provisional cast on. This also gives me some time to think about what fancy hem treatment I want to use. I'll start at the upper hip level just before the decreases start.

I know of at least 3 ways to do a provisional cast on. EZ uses a very, very fast cast on. The only downside is I'm not EZ. When I do this cast on, I sometimes get some loose stitches when I go back and start knitting the other way. I really don't want a loose line of stitches accentuating my ample hip line. So I'm not going to use that.

Another way is to start with a crochet chain. I've used that before and it works. I still risk the line of loose stiches, but I could probably make it work.

My third way is the slowest and least efficient, but it is very neat and tidy. I just cast on with some scrap yarn, knit 3 or 4 rows, then start knitting with my real yarn. Later on, I carefully pick up the stiches and just cut out the scrap yarn. Since neatness is important to me, I'm going to use this technique. I want to make sure to use some slick yarn for this of a similar weight. I happen to have some Rowan Cotton Glace left over from an earlier project. It is a bit heavier that my Melody. I think I'll dig around and find some leftover sock yarn. I’ll just to a backward loop cast on—it is going to be removed later anyway.

I'm going to wrap this up, go cast on my 259 stitches and knit for 1". When I get to that point, I'll come back and we can talk about waist shaping.

Risk Assessment
As any good project manager knows, you need to know where the risks are and mitigate the risks. My risks, or nagging concerns, are:

Gauge: Always gauge. I’ll be sure to take the sweater off the needles and measure it frequently—both with a ruler and by trying it on.

Yarn Choice: This is a really fine yarn. I’m concerned that the resultant fabric will be too light and thin for a practical sweater. I’m also concerned because the neckline of my sweater is steeked. This is a superwash wool. I think I can mitigate this risk by using a sewing machine to reinforce the steek, but I need to know up front that this may not be the right yarn for my design and be prepared to abandon ship if I see problems once I start knitting.

I'm going away now to finish the socks and then cast on this sweater. I'll come back soon. Thanks again for all the great comments!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sock Sillies

Aren't these fun! MaryLynn, my blogless sister-in-law, was going on about how much she wants mismatched socks. So I made these. For me. Yes, MaryLynn, for ME.

I bought a small sampler pack of hand-dyed romney when I went to the Santa Monica Fiber fest. I whipped out the spinning into a 3-ply worsted and knit these up loosely based on a Kathryn Alexander pattern from the Spin-Off book Socks!. I took that same sock template from my June post and just did a toe-up sock and played with the colors. The leg is, of course, entrelac. It is a bit baggy because I blocked the socks over something larger that my significant calves.

The knitting took me about 4 evenings. I had so much fun I didn't want to put them down.
On a less silly note, here's the Solstice Slip socks from the Blue Moon Fiber Art's Rockin' Sock Club 2007.
These socks feel great on the feet. I'm not a big fan of the short row heel, but I have to admit it is growing on me. I love the way the garter feels.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Finished Object: Fifi

Fifi Finished4
Originally uploaded by K2Karen
Matilda is an easy companion. She never worries whether she looks fat. She doesn't have to put on makeup or fix her hair before photo shoots. My DH adds that she doesn't require new shoes on a weekly basis.

This is FiFi, from French Girl Knits in Rowan Calmer. Ahh, it feels good to finally get something done.

I've been knitting very steadily lately and seemed to have recovered from my Startitis infection. Finished my Solstice Slip socks. Almost done with an amazing pair of socks from some homespun that don't match and include entrelac. I'll show you those later. For now, you get Fifi.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Oooohh, Shiny!

One of the things I don't like about Ravelry--it encourages startitis. I read about some fun project and want to start it now. I read about some yarn on sale and click, click, click--my new yarn is on the way.

I have, however, been making some progress--albeit on shiny distractions. Here's what's on my needles at the moment:

Solstice Slip The First

Solstice Slip, Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Lightweight in Firebird. A Sock Club selection.
One down, one to go. Fun sock, btw. This one fits so nicely and I really enjoyed knitting it.

Fifi in Progress

Fifi from FrenchGirl in Rowan Calmer. I'm having trouble capturing this color. It is much prettier than this. It is a soft lavender. I'm about 80% done with this one. I've decided I'm going to knit one tank top/shell a month. This is my August entry.

But this is the one that is completely messing up all my other goals and blogging and sleeping and eating:

Autumn Rose In Progress

Autumn Rose by Eunny Jang from the book Simply Shetland 4. I bought the kit from Two Swans and I simply can't stop knitting on this one. Aren't the colors great? (Someone will probably roll their eyes at my less-than-perfect fair isle knitting, but I'm having fun and I don't care!)

You will all excuse me, won't you? I have a Saving Grace to watch and a second sleeve to knit.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What a Pal!

What a Pal!

My sockapalooza pal is the greatest. Wanna see? (Warning: Corgi picture heavy post--did I tell you I got a new camera?)

Sockapalooza Box First, a great box--with my favorite color peaking out: lime green.

And then...a really cool row counter she made herself:

Sockapalooza Row Counter2

And some fun gifties--including chocolate!

Sockapalooza Gifts

Do you see what I see? It didn't take the corgis long to find that some of the gifties were for adorable puppies!

Dancer--always the good dog--assumed that she wasn't supposed to steal them. So she tried to pretend they didn't exist by looking away.

Sockapalooza Dancer Being Tricked

Tango, of course, tried to steal them: Sockapalooza for Tango

And then insisted they belonged to him and only him: Sockapalooza- Mine!

After we became obedient corgis, we all got one rawhide chew to enjoy.

Sockapalooza- Where's Mine? Sockapalooza for Dancer Sockapalooza Tango Chew

Of course, there were also SOCKS!!! Aren't they gorgeous? Don't you love how they match the skirt I was already wearing? And they fit perfectly.

Sockapalooza Socks


Sockapalooza Rib

Julie's the greatest, don't you think? The corgis want to know when the next swap starts. They're ready.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sockapalooza 4

Darling daughter is having one of those days. Just now, she lost her cell phone. She sent me down to the Tai Kwon Do studio to see if she left it there. After much bowing, I still didn't have a phone. Guess where it was? On the bathroom floor. Earlier today, she went to get her nails done, but didn't have enough money. Oh, Mom?

But today was a good day. I got a great e-mail first thing this morning. My sockapalooza pal said my package was mailed today! All through this process of putting together a package for my sock pal, I never thought about the fact that someone was making something for me. I know, I know, that's the whole point, but I just didn't think about it. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to think that someone out there was knitting something special just for me.

While I was out taking number one daughter her money, I dropped my sockapalooza package off at the UPS Store. What a great place! Those folks are so organized and friendly. I actually like taking my shipping there.

Oh yeah, here's a picture of the complete package. I hope the socks fit. Do you think she'll like it?

Sockapalooza 4 Gift Box

(Socks; 1 skein colinette jitterbug; a monkey backpack thingy; a monkey pencil pouch; the sockapalooza commememorative project bag; and an Ella Fitzgerald CD to listen to while knitting)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Today is a sad day for me. There are times in life when you face your mortality. This is one of those days. You know that time is passing by and something dearly cherished is gone.

Today is the last day of the 2007 Tour de France. Another year has passed. I must wait another year, and be another year older, to enjoy the tour again.

I'm not a big sports fan, but every year I eagerly anticipate the start of the penultimate bike race. Tivo is set up to record the longest broadcast every day. I don't get to watch it each and every day, so I scream "LA LA LA LA LA" if anyone starts to talk about what happened on a stage I haven't watched yet. And then, when I do get to watch, I curl up on the couch with both corgis and any kind of knitting I want to do. And I sit. And watch. Sometimes for 6 hours at a time. Pure joy.

This year, I elected to forego some knitting time to spin and joined Tour de Fleece. I set two spinning goals. Well, really three. First, to make a dent in my large fiber stash that had been sitting idle for months. Second, to spin every day. Third, to finally learn how to do chained singles (commonly called Navajo plying). I prefer a 3-ply yarn for knitting and I'm still trying to figure out how to best use the lovely hand painted fibers out there. Chained singles may or may not be the best way, but before I can decide, I have to know how.

I didn't really participate. I had the best of intentions to spin every day, but I got a late start because I was stuck in Chicago after attending Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp. And then I skipped a couple of days to just knit on my Pi Shawl. But I rallyed at the end--just like Contador.

Here's the results:

Souza3PlyClose First we have some 3-ply BFL from dyed fiber purchased from Lisa Souza. I love these colors.

TulipSkein This is my first attempt at chain plying. I'm actually very pleased with this skein, although the photo looks a bit messy. This is Tulip from Spunky Eclectic's fiber club. Lovely fiber. When I showed it to the folks at the yarn store, they tried to figure out where I bought it. Even though they know I'm learning to spin, they didn't recognize it as my imperfect handspun. Always a good sign that I'm making progress!

To show a bit more process...here's another entry from the fiber club, Forecast.

First, the predrafted puffs:

ForecastPuffs2 then the singles: ForecastSingles which leads to this:ForecastChainedDime

Forecast is a merino. I ended up with a bit over 250 yards from the 4 ounces. I'm getting much smoother with my navajo plying! Unlike many beginning spinners, I tend to underspin. My singles aren't particularly consistent, but I'm ok with that. I love the results and I'll enjoy knitting this. Just don't ask me what I'm going to knit. Socks would be the obvious choice, but I've got some other ideas in mind. I'm imagining a cardigan. A cardigan made with 4 or 5 different hand-dyed yarns pulled together with a single neutral anchor yarn, maybe black or taupe.

I think I'm getting a bit cocky with my spinning since my yarn is all turning out about the same weight. I think I could actually spin enough consistent yarn to make a sweater. And since it is close to 90 degrees, my thoughts obviously turn to wool sweaters (!?!)

During the tour, a new fiber arrived. Wanna see it?


Celebration--the latest arrival from the Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club. This is shetland and I learned something very important about my knitting self. I love Shetland. I love knitting with Shetland. I love spinning Shetland. I'm about 1/4 of the way through the bobbin and it is going to be gorgeous. I instantly went back to Amy and ordered her Shetland sampler. (Umm...I guess ordering more fiber negates any progress I made in using up my fiber stash!)

You know, maybe I shouldn't think of the end of the Tour as sad. Maybe this new Shetland fiber is a sign. I should celebrate the passing of time. As time passes, I gain new skills and more wisdom. Yes, I get a few more gray hairs and lots more wrinkles. But each day is a new adventure and there is much yarn to knit before I'm done.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Structure is a GOOD Thing!

I went to school in southern California in the 60's and 70's. It was an era of experimentation and freedom. Being an intellectually gifted child, I was put in all those programs parents brag about these days. In these programs, the educators prided themselves on encouraging intellectual curiosity. Their approach was to avoid too much structure, let the child find their own way. They succeeded. I'm really good at research and creative pursuits. But I have an abnormal aversion to structure. I become a rebellious 3-year-old when anyone tries to enforce structure. Hmmm....

DH asked me the other day to do my laundry on Tuesdays so it doesn't get in the way of his laundry on Thursdays. Huh? You mean you do your laundry on a specific day of the week? How strange! I do my laundry when the spirit moves me--or I run out of clothes. (See, no structure.)

Lack of structure, however, doesn't lend itself to getting crap done. So, in the interest of actually doing something, we're going to set some goals and add some structure to this blog thing.

First: the goals. I'm going to blog 3 days a week for the month of August. There. Goal set.

Second: To add a bit of structure and alliteration, I'm going to use the following framework.

Technology Tuesday: On Tuesdays, I'll write about techniques, tools, or technology I use or have recently discovered in my knitting. Since I've only been knitting a few years, I suspect my discoveries may be old hat to experienced knitters, but it will be fun for me to look back on my blog entries and see my progress as a knitter. And really, this blog is for me anyway!

Thoughtful Thursday: On Thursday, I'll think about goals and planning and why I knit. This will be the day I'll go through my current WIP and decide which will continue and which will be set aside. I'll set up my goals for the next week. It could be a thoughtful meandering about ideas, it could be a straightforward report on progress. We'll talk about inspiration. We'll dream about stuff.

Spinning Saturday: On Saturday (or Sunday), let's look at spinning, and more specifically spinning something I actually want to knit with. This may be a simple post on what I've spun during the week. I'm a really new spinner, so this would be a great time to have some pics of what I'm spinning and what I learned, techniques that are or aren't working for me. I'm very interested in how to take advantage of beautiful hand-dyed rovings and we'll probably be exploring how color works in knitting.

Originally, I planned for each post to include progress reports and stash acquisition reports, but I think not. Instead, I think that fiber stash acquisition will be reported on Spinning Saturday. Tool acquisition will be on Technology Tuesday. Yarn for specific projects will be on Thoughtful Thursday--since that's the day we'll be talking about what projects are progressing and plans for future projects. Work In Process progress reports will almost always be included in the Thursday post, but if something momentous has happened, I'll include it in any day I want to. (Uh oh, that rebellious nature is sneaking out.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Na Craga--Done!

Impatient Na Craga
Originally uploaded by K2Karen
A finished UFO! The seaming I was so afraid of was trivial. The neck sucked. This alpaca just made the neck droop. In the spirit of Joyce Williams, I decided to make it work. I could have ripped it out and knit it tighter, but I decided to put a bit of elastic around the edge. It made a ruffle, but you know, I kind of like the ruffle.

I still have enough yarn to re-do the neck, but I think I'll just let this be. For a second sweater, it's not too bad.

OMG! I finally have a great excuse to upgrade my plain old 20gb iPod to a fancy, 80GB video iPod. The excuse? Knitting of course.

Oh sure, the 80GB gives me more space for the podcasts I love. But the video? What do I care about video? Just 2 word: Elizabeth Zimmermann. As we speak, I'm transferring my copy of the EZ Knitting Glossary onto my video iPod. Whenever I want to remember how to do a German twisted cast on, all I have to do is whip out my trusty iPod and watch Elizabeth or Meg show me how. This is a wonderful use of technology.

Now I'm a die-hard Zimmermaniac. During my week at camp, I learned something very important. Whenever I think I'm being clever with some technique, I'm not. EZ already tried it and discarded it for a better way. There's very little not on that glossary that I need to have in my toolbox. Cabling without a cable needle? Meg's got it covered. Kichener? It's there too. And I don't have to carry along any little books. Just my iPod. Of course, there are other technique DVDs out there: Lucy Neatby? Maybe the videos from KnittingHelp.com?

I'm loving this idea. I bet you are too. I'm sure someone out there is more skilled than I at working with DVD's and video transfer, but here's how I'm doing it.

First off, I'm using Handbrake on Windows XP. This is an open-source tool, so it is free for you to use. Once you install it, there is a nice link to a step-by-step document on converting your DVD's to your iPod. I don't think I need to duplicate it for you here. However, I do have a couple of tips specific to this project.

BitRate: The preset bit rate for iPod (1.33) sets the bit rate at 1000. At this bit rate, the whole Glossary video comes in at about 1.1 gigabyte. I lowered the bitrate to 512 to reduce the file size to about 650 megabytes (or 0.6 gigabytes). When I watched the two videos on my fancy big computer monitor, I could see some small differences in the quality. However, I doubt I'll notice it on the iPod. Knitter's choice.

Chapters: At first, I just encoded the whole video into one big file. Hmmm....not so useful when you want to see one technique for casting off. When I see it on my television, I can "pick" the chapter to go to. I don't see how I can do that on my iPod. So....always the clever girl...I used Handbrake to put each chapter in a separate file. There are about 75 chapters on the video. Right now, my naming convention is a bit stupid: EZChapter3, EZChapter65, etc. Once I get done encoding all the chapters, I'll go back and give them meaningful names: CablingWithoutNeedle, GermanTwistedCastOn, etc. I'll set up a playlist on my iPod for the EZ GLOSSARY and then have all the different techniques. Or I may group them as she does on the video: a playlist for Aran Techniques for example.

Time: This stuff takes forever to do. Hours and hours. The whole video took about 4 hours to process on my dual processor computer. So...set it up before you go to bed (I used the cool feature to Queue up each chapter, then selected Encode Queue) and then press go. In the morning, it should be all ready for you.

Battery: Video ipods really suck up battery life. I don't want to find myself stuck at the SnB without my handy reference. I have a thing in my car that charges my iPod, but I don't see myself running out to the car to figure out how to do channel island cast on. When I was stuck at the Chicago airport, I picked up a little iPod battery pack that lets me run my iPod on a AA battery. A single AA battery ran my plain old non-video iPod for about 2 hours. I have a stack of rechargeable AA lithium batteries from my original digital camera. We'll have to experiment and see how well these rechargeables work with the video iPod. There's lots of other power options, but this one was particularly small and lightweight--perfect for travelling or for my knitting bag.

Headphones: I bet you can use your video iPod without headphones to see a technique, but you'll probably want to listen too. And someone in the room will want to borrow your video. I promise that's going to happen. Since I don't think I want to share my ear buds (yuck!), I'm going to toss a cheap pair of headphones into my knitting bag--you know those free ones that came in the package with your first portable tape player?

Too much technology for you? Maybe. But you'll be green with envy when you see me at the SnB with all my techniques on video.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Still Life with Zimmermann

Nothing kills creativity faster than too much choice. Nothing inspires creativity more than constraints. If you only knit socks, you find sock options everywhere. If you only knit lace, you are free to play and experiment. Limiting yourself to cotton, silk, or a specific color can be very freeing.

Every now and then, I like to think up ways to inspire creativity by limiting my choice. One of my favorite ideas is to limit my knitting to one book, or one designer, and then going wild with choices of color, interpretation, and fibers.

If I limited myself to only knitting from Elizabeth Zimmermann's books or publications, could I even call it a constraint? There are so many choices. As I gear up to head out to Knitting Camp in Wisconsin, I think I'll go through my EZ book & pattern stash and make a list. If I had unlimited time and materials, what items would I most want to knit?

Let's start with the books. First up, Knitting Without Tears. I'd knit:

  • The Seamless Yoke Sweater using the Fair Isle yoke pattern from the book. (I've made a couple of these using other yoke patterns, but I find this one quite appealing.)
  • The Tomten Jacket, but I might make it with chunky yarn for me rather than for a child. (Explored again in Knitting Workshop and more updated notes are included in The Opinionated Knitter)
  • The Prime Rib hat--Meg goes into more detail about this hat in Opinionated Knitter on Page 30

EZ also introduces some alternative shoulder shapings, but those are explored more thoroughly in Knitting Workshop.

Next up, the Knitter's Almanac.

  • The Aran Sweater. Yup, the cardigan. This is also called the Fishtrap Aran--however, I like the one in Opinionated Knitter better.

  • Everyone wants to make the February Sweater. I'll add it, but it isn't high on my list.

  • I do, however, want to make the double knitted blanket. But either as a dog blanket or a larger afghan out of something wonderful.

  • The Difficult Sweater from March. I love the twisted, stained glass-like pattern

  • The Pi Shawl--the simple version. (This may be my next project using some Silk/Alpaca from Lisa Souza). This is also discussed in Knitting Workshop.

  • Pi Shawl--the more complicated version.

Next on the list of books is Knitting Workshop.

  • The Seamless Yoke Sweater again, but this time with the Hawser yoke pattern. There is a great photograph in this book of variations of the seamless yoke that I particularly like. My favorites include the Aspen, Medusa, but those will get added to the list when I review my stash of Wool Gatherings or Spun Out issues.

  • The Shaded Aspen-Leaf sweater, but I want it as a cardigan.

  • A Raglan Cardigan. Something simple out of a luxurious chunky, kettle-dyed merino like Malabrigo. I want striking buttons on this one.

  • A Saddle Shoulder sweater.

  • Like everyone else, my favorite is probably the seamless hybrid. I see this in a great, tweedy yarn.

  • A Set-In Sleeve Sweater with a V-neck out of a smooth yarn, maybe even a silk/merino blend.

  • The Rorschach Sweater

  • The Epaulet Jacket

  • Maybe, just maybe, a rib warmer. I like the way they look on, so I should probably try one.

  • The Stonington Shetland Shawl. Maybe in some handspun lace.

  • Hand to Hand Aran

We move now to "Knitting Around", first published in 1989. I have no problem skipping the sock patterns. While they may be beautiful and interesting, I already have my hands full with great sock patterns. I've already made one of the fair-isle yoke sweaters from this book, so I'll skip that one.

  • Fair Isle, circular yoke sweater with the henley neck.

  • The garter stitch moebius. I'd rather play with Cat Bohrdi's version, but I'll make this one once out of some luxurious handspun just because it sounds easy and fun.

  • Moebius Jacket. This one has always appealed to me. Shoot! There was some Noro Iro yarn I saw last night. There was only 5 skeins. I couldn't figure out how I could do anything interesting with just 5 skeins. I wonder if I could make this vest from it?

  • Bog Jacket. This one seems very flattering when you include the waist shaping

  • A Three & One Fair Isle cardigan in sage green, olive green, cream, pale lavendar--better instructions are in Opinionated Knitter.

  • Pi Are Square shawl.

  • Norwegian Pullover with all the lovely lice--but probably as a cardigan.

  • Hooded Aran Coat--just the thing a girl needs in southern California. Great pictures and some notes from Meg in Opinionated Knitter

And on to my favorite picture book, Opinionated Knitter, which is really the collection of her newsletters.

  • Scandinavian Ski Sweater--but not right away. It is too warm here to really enjoy this sweater.

  • Classic Brooks Sweater--I think this is just the saddle shoulder, but the photographs in this book are lovely.

  • Norwegian Sweater again, but with a different stranded pattern that I particularly like. It could look very modern with the right color combinations.

  • Circular Aran as shown in Page 38 in a soft cream wool with bobbles down the center front. I love how this sweater has great vertical lines.

  • Some of the hats look fun, but hats don't get worn much around here.

  • The Aran Cardigan as shown on page 68--this is very similar to the fishtrap, but V-necked. This is my favorite.

  • I could probably include the "kangaroo pouch" sweater for a simple boat neck ribbed sweater like the one on page 100.

  • Adult Suprise Jacket. I'm almost done with this one. I might do it again and make some changes using a nice bulky yarn.

I haven't even gotten to my issues of Spun Out and the variations in Meg's books. If I made one a month--an ambitious goal--it would take me 3 years to finish. I'm thinking that's not going to happen. I may actually have to, uh, prioritize. But it is nice to dream.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Token for Forgiveness: Socks for You

Bad bad bad blogger. Bad blogger. I'm not going to offer you any lame excuses for WHY I haven't been blogging. I'm just a bad blogger. But I have gifts to redeem myself. Several of you have asked for a PDF of my chart for the widdershin heel. One lovely reader even created a PDF file of my post for me. Do you have any idea how challenging it is to find a way to "host" pdfs for the blogger impaired? Rather than just give you the chart, I give you this, dear readers. Here's the short form of my basic sock pattern for you to use as you see fit (as long as it isn't to sell). It includes:

- My widdershin chart

- A table of foot lengths based on shoe sizes

- A gauge guesstimater to give you a starting point on how far to increase your toe.

It doesn't tell you which increase to use where. (I tend to use the e-loop everywhere except in the heel flap. I use M1 there. I don't know why.) It isn't particularly detailed. But it is short and you can print it and play with it.

K2Karen's Basic Sock Pattern

Sorry, this is in RTF. If someone wants to convert it to PDF for me (hint, hint), I'll be glad to change it. Here's the pdf of the original post and just the chart:

Original "Widdershin Revisited" post with chart

We'll consider this an experiment in file hosting. If it works, great. If not, I'll keep searching for a better way to host documents. If you hate the service, let me know and I'll see if I can find a better way. If you're a talented blogger and want to offer tips, I'll listen :) I'm also experimenting with Google Docs and Spreadsheets--could be an interesting tool.

(PS: The socks in the photograph were created from this basic pattern: I just used a lace pattern from an old sock pattern instead of stockinette. The possibilities are ENDLESS!!!)

OTN: A Kauni Cardigan (which I should be steeking) and some butterfly socks for my sockapalooza pal.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lost my Knitting Mojo

I haven't fallen off the earth, I've just been a bit preoccupied. My baby boy pup and I travelled to the Corgi Nationals in northern California. For weeks in advance, we trained for our one goal: to NOT look like a goober. I'm not entirely sure we achieved that goal, but the look on his face says it all. We had a good time.

What surprised me most about this trip is that I had no interest in knitting. I did finish one of the Grasshopper Socks from the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Club KAL. It doesn't fit. It is loose and sloppy and I don't love it. I think that was the last time I saw my knitting mojo. I had tons of knitting with me--even the lovely Bohus socks. Oh, wait, I did finish one of the Bohus socks on the trip too. (more pics later on that).

So how to get the knitting mojo back?

Make a list. I made a mutha list of all the unfinished projects and projects I really want to work on. Then I ranked them. (Yes, I am a bit obssessive.) I ranked based on how much was left to do, difficulty, desire, etc. I agreed with myself that I'd work on just one project: the one with the highest rating.

Here's the results:

Noro Silk Garden Lite, Color #2028
No major pattern modifications, except that I knitted the body in the round rather than 2 parts. After casting on and knitting half the body, I found out that the errata noted that the number of stitches in the pattern was wrong. Instead of ripping, I just increased at just above the waist. Fits the important parts better that way :)
Nothing like a finished object to restore the knitting mojo. Next on the list: Bohus Socks--I can't wait to show you.
Oh, by the way, someday I'm going to learn how to reply to your comments, but I don't really know how yet. So if I don't reply, don't think me rude, just technically challenged.

Friday, March 30, 2007

UFO: Second Sweater - Na Craga

Originally uploaded by K2Karen.
Did I ever mention that I'm an ambitious knitter? This is my second sweater. Alice Starmore's Na Craga from Aran Knitting. It is knitted from an absolutely lovely alpaca in a soft green. (Picture doesn't really capture the color)

No gauge issues with this sweater. It should fit me nicely. Apparently I have a weakness for alpaca. Silly me. Alpaca is way too warm for this climate. However this sweater will fit loose, so I think I'll be able to wear it on cold evenings.

So why, you may ask, haven't I finished it? I ask myself this too. The best answer I can come up with is fear of failure. I really like how this sweater turned out. While it sits here, in pieces, I can pat myself on the back. If, however, I put it together and my finishing skills suck, I'll have to say I ruined a really lovely sweater.

OK, it doesn't make much sense, but that's why it isn't done.

UFO Inventory: First Sweater

Originally uploaded by K2Karen.
I've spent the past week organizing my fiber life. All the fiber into boxes. All the yarn into boxes or given away. Future projects put in clear plastic boxes with labels, combining the yarn & patterns, any swatches done, etc.

Great cathartic experience.

One other thing I did was box up all the UFO's, label them, and photograph them. One of my goals this year was to eliminate these UFO's from my life.

My SIL was amazed that I had so many UFOs. I was amazed I had so few. I've been feeling like I never finish anything. She always sees me finishing most things I start. Hmmm...who is right? Maybe both of us.

To start off this series, I show you my first sweater. This is a sweater from the Yarn Girls book. It is the first sweater I ever attemped. I have two sleeves, the back and the front done. So, why is it a UFO?

Can you guess?

Gauge issues maybe?

While the body of the sweater will fit over my body, the high neck is too tight. I think I can make this a design element by not sewing part of the neck.

But there's another issue. This sweater is from a wonderfully soft bulky alpaca. Knit in a firm gauge. I live in southern California. Unless I want to see how many pounds I can lose by sweating, I'll never be able to wear this sweater.

Oh, I'll finish it. Eventually. And put it in a drawer as a reminder of my first sweater.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Here's some stuff I'm working on: