Thursday, 25 March 2010

baa ram ewe

The Bergamot research goes on. Not being able to find a ball of the Rowan Purelife Organic Wool at my local yarn haunt (Weaving Works), I consulted the Rowan colour cards and chose instead a ball of the Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds Bluefaced Leicester in the 781 brown shade as the closest approximation of weight and texture.

It is, indeed, much finer than the yarns that I had been testing out, even than the Zara which is also a dk weight yarn. So far I have only swatched for the shell pattern but will continue with a few rows of the bobbles and some plain treble (UK terminology) fabric to get the best idea of what I am looking for. I will not actually be making Bergamot in in either of the Purelife yarns because frankly, I find the Rowan products to be mighty overpriced. Really lovely but still overpriced.

Fortunately, I went on an excursion to Little Knits in West Seattle last week and saw that they have Jo Sharp Classic DK wool on clearance for $3.99 a ball. It looks similar to the Purelife yarns in weight and texture so I'm going to swatch up with the Mulberry that I bought. I don't think that I've ever taken so much trouble over choosing a yarn in my life!

A quick word on Little Knits - they do online ordering too and they have some amazing deals on end-of-line colours and stock. If you are longing to try something expensive and are not too picky about the colour available to you, have a look there for a bargain. If you can, go in in person - the proprieter is just lovely.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

anarchy in the ssk

I got a book! It's actually one that I have previously partly read and I remember it being so inspiring that when I had the chance to buy a copy second hand I grabbed it. Zilboorg gives excellent descriptions of the act of making stitches, of pulling the loops through the loops and states that if you are achieving the stitch that you want, you are doing it correctly, no matter what anyone else says. Love it!

Friday, 19 March 2010

taste testing

I've been swatching away for Bergamot with a few different yarns but still don't have much of an idea of how to proceed. From left to right is Cascade 220 in colourway Galaxy, Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece in colourway Peridot, Filatura di Crosa Zara in colourway 1523 and some teal recycled J Crew (same as I have used for Wallingford and Woolsthorpe), all done on a 4mm or 4.25mm crochet hook (G).

There are all sorts of pros and cons: the Zara and Cascade 220 Galaxy are too dark and the pattern gets lost so that wasn't such a great idea for a swatch; the Cotton Fleece gives great stitch definition; the recycled yarn has no twist in it and doesn't show the pattern very well but I do like the colour; as do I like the Cotton Fleece Peridot but both yarns are heavier than the 8ply (dk) that the pattern calls for, etc etc.

Thing is, I still don't know quite what I want from this - something heavy and woolly for the winter? something fresh and green for the spring? With regard to differing yarn weights and gauges, I feel far more confident about modifying a pattern in crochet than in knitting, so I could change it around a bit, perhaps use a 10ply (worsted) yarn, a larger hook and cut some repeats out of the pattern. Or I could go for the finer version of the Cotton Fleece (Cotton Fine) and use a smaller hook and more repeats.

But then there's the pattern itself - the row of bobbles right across the middle and the lack of shaping and the fact that the model has no visible bust to speak of ... so I get to thinking about ways to change it - make it slimmer, give it some shaping, decrease the bulk of the bobbles and the proliferation of ideas overwhelms me. And as I have said before - making a pattern work is actually really difficult and a fine balance of elements. Once you start to muck around with that it creates a lot of work to get the balance right again. The recycled yarn version is an attempt to make the jacket just as it is (and in the smallest size) to see what it is like but given that crochet takes up so much more yardage than knitting and the yarn is recycled from a size small sweater, there isn't going to be enough of it.

Anyway, I do think that I'll go for either green or purple and by the way, isn't Periwinkle from Rowan 41 pretty?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

childhood remade

If only it were that simple!

The Vital Statistics
Childhood Remake Sweater by Anna and Heidi Pickles, available free!
The free pattern is only for the one-year size but three- and four-year sizes are avaialble in their shop, but umm, buyer beware as I will detail below.
The pattern is written for a dk-weight yarn held double and a dk-weight handspun yarn held double. I used a worsted weight - Pingouin Fleur de Laine, colourway 6 - which gave me the desired gauge (17sts per 10cm) and some recycled yarn from a J Crew aran-style knit.
Needles: 4.5mm for the ribbing and cuffs, 5mm for the body and sleeves.
Start to finish:
3 March to 15 March 2010, a quick knit.
Stash/recycle content: 100 per cent - hooray! I received the Fleur de Laine at a stash swap and the recycled J Crew was purchased at Ballard Goodwill and already in the cupboard.
This pattern is available for free and I feel a bit uncertain about criticising something that has been made freely available. Nevertheless, there are some problems with the pattern that someone considering making it may like to be aware of in advance before they invest their time and yarn. I have also taken the time to let the company know about my concerns, so this is not just idle griping!

So, the pattern is not very well written and the construction of the garment is poorly thought out. The sweater is a T-shape with no fashioning and the sleeves and body are knit all in one. It is similar in this sense to a number of baby kimono patterns which are knit in one piece (such as this Lion Brand one). The pattern here calls for the body to be knit in the round and to then divide for the front and back, then kitchener stitch together 50 stitches for each arm (eek!). I didn't do this: I knit it flat (just because I felt like it) and did a three-needle bind off on the top of the sleeves - it's absolutely invisible. I also chose a provisional cast on for the sleeves and so did a three-needle bind off there too. But, why not just knit it flat, all in one piece and seam only the sides and sleeves? A lot less work than grafting two sleeves.

My other issue was with the front placket which is knit in the solid main colour, contrasting with the yoke and sleeves. The pattern calls for this to be knit using the intarsia method, which I did, which I shouldn't have. This was the first time I had ever done intarsia colour work, so pushing my boundaries a bit here. But I didn't even need to - I think that it would make far more sense to leave eight stitches live at the centre front and to simply knit the placket and then seam it to the yoke. The method in the pattern is also very difficult to work in combination with garter stitch stripes, I ended up working with three threads at one point, two of which were the same colour ... Didn't go too badly for a first attempt but was of course much better by the end.

There are also a couple of omissions in the pattern, namely what to do with the 10 stitches that you cast on for where the placket overlaps (not sure why 10 anyway). I actually just picked up eight sts from the back of the placket and knitted on those.

Verdict: This is indeed a very cute pattern but I'm not sure that I like the balance of the stocking stitch body and garter stitch yoke/sleeves in the finished product. I'm not sure what the pattern for the larger sizes is like but I would not have been happy if I had paid for this one (and I didn't so that's fine) - I don't think that the construction is very well thought out and is needlessly more complex than it should be. There may be some Norwegian knitting tradition significance to knitting it in the round but my recommendations would certainly be to knit it flat in one piece and knit the placket separately. I do like my finished product though and am looking forward to seeing my little boy in it next winter.

thank you

Thank you dear readers for your supportive words about the veil and for all the other comments that you leave. I am rarely a commenter on blogs so am in no position to exhort others to comment on mine; however, that said - please do leave a comment some time as it is lovely to know that someone is out there, reading.

The marker problem on the veil - Lynn in Tucson, it is alas every marker (thirteen of them) on every fourth row. Now that I am using split stitch markers I should indeed be able to move them all before I start knitting the row obviating the need to do it as I go (thereby interrupting the flow of the knitting which is half the point of doing it, to be in the flow). Thank you Leonie for the suggestion! I might also try Rachel's suggestion of using a length of unwaxed dental floss as a running stitch marker - I knew there was a reason I had some of that in the cupboard. My dentist will be pleased to know that I have found a use for it - I'm visiting him this afternoon ...

Saturday, 13 March 2010

vale veil?

Am I going to make it on this one? That is, am I going to make it at all? It's over a month ago that I said I was going to review my progress on the A Knitted Veil in Peruvian Wool (it's officially called A Knitted Veil in Pyrenees Wool but I'm using an alpaca blend, so ...)

There are all sorts of things holding me back on this one. To begin with, I've made a real mess of my photocopied pattern with notes scribbled everywhere; well, not notes actually but various calculations as to how far through it I am and how much there actually is to go. I need to make another copy and start with a clean slate - task for tomorrow.

Why the intentness on how far through it I am? Well, I'm always intent on that and because now that I have finished the decorative border there are just miles and miles of four-row lace pattern repeat. How many miles? About 135 rows worth.

And this particular lace pattern bothers me because on the third row there is a k2tog that crosses over the six-stitch repeat boundary. Huh? The lace is a six-stitch repeat, that is, you knit the same six stitches all the way across the row. To keep this all in line I have placed a marker every six stitches. However, on the third row of the pattern the six-stitch repeat is offset by one stitch, requiring me to k2tog across the marker. A pain because it necessitates taking out the marker and repositioning it thirteen times on every fourth row. I'm trying it with split ring markers but it's excruciating knitting and I don't know whether I can face another 16 miles of it (ok, 135 rows). Complication of course is that I love it. The lace is beautiful, the yarn produces a great fabric and I so want to try a knitted on edging.

A possible fix is to simply take out the markers but that would require that I trust myself to read the lace and know where I'm up to. Hmmmm? Might be worth a try but I'll put in a lifeline first.

sucked in

As soon as I saw this shawl - In the Pink by IzzyKnits - I knew that I had to cast on for it straight away. I love the construction - not a triangle, not a rectangle but this wonderful arcing curving shape. However, I did realise that I was in no position to knit it right now so I decided to just allow myself a portion of it, that wonderful central spiral.

And yes, it's as wonderful as I thought it would be.

Vital Statistics
In the Pink by IzzyKnits (available free!) - yes, the same one that I had a go at a couple of weeks ago with a different yarn.
Size: I knit only the central whirl and did the
larger 62-row version.
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock (80 per cent wool, 20 per cent nylon) in colourway Manzanita. It's beautiful to work with and I love every shade of the subtle shifts in the colour (unlike some variegated yarns that I could mention).
Needles: 3.5mm which produced a lovely fabric. Probably looser than I would usually knit but that's a good thing because I often find things coming out too bulky.
Start to finish: 1 March 2010 to 11 March 2010. I tell you, it was mesmerising.
Stash/recycle content: Yes, this yarn came from stash! I have two skeins but that will unfortunately not be enough so I will have to buy more. Later.
Comments: Lovely to knit, lovely yarn to knit with, lovely colours - love love love.

I am committed to getting at least one of my other lace pieces done (Faux Prussian Stole, Knitted Veil - I have not forgotten you) but this will be next.

Friday, 12 March 2010

s[no]w show

A couple of days ago, snow finally fell in Seattle. It didn't actually hit the ground but never mind that. Then that same evening there was an incredible hail downpour, evidence of which was still on the ground the next morning.

Monday, 8 March 2010

one stitch forward

And one stitch back, or thereabouts, on the destashing front.

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Icelandic Jacket by Leslie Stanfield from Adorable Crochet for Babies and Toddlers. Now all too often whenever a book proclaims itself to be 'adorable' or 'stylish' it is anything but. This is, thankfully, not one of those occasions. This pattern at least from the book is adorable.
I chose this pattern in order to use up the Jo Sharp Soho Summer DK Cotton that I have had since the dawn of knitting time. The pattern necessitated me purchasing three additional colours, which turned out to be four more balls. While I have seen some Jo Sharp wools here in the US, I found that this particular cotton was quite hard to come by and ended up purchasing it on ebay and from others on Ravelry. Hence four more balls of the stuff because the Calico was a two-ball deal. So I used:
  • 4.4 skeins in Cloudless (light blue)
  • 0.6 skeins in Putty (light brown)
  • 0.3 skeins in Calico (white)
  • 0.3 skeins in Freesia (yellow/green)
From the five balls that I started with, I am left with not quite four balls remaining (and an adorable jacket).
The pattern is written for only one size (6 months) but with a bit of crochet know-how I think that it could quite easily be re-sized. I see on Ravelry that someone has made an adult version.
3.0 mm for edging, 3.5 mm (E) for body, 4.0 mm (G)
for foundation chain.
Start to finish:
16 February to 1 March 2010 - crochet is fast.
Recycle/stash content: Well, I really did try but as far as making a dent in the stash, I only reduced it by one ball.

Comments: This is a great pattern, I just love it. I made it from cotton instead of wool so that will have changed how structured it is. I can't wait to make another one from wool to see the difference. I also crocheted the lower fronts and back all in one piece (the pattern calls to divide below the yoke and have side seams but I didn't think this necessary). I also think that all but one of the underarm gusset increase rows (being the one with four increases at the edges) could be worked in a single row.

The sleeves could also be crocheted in the round but I didn't do this as it would have made the fabric of the sleeves slightly different from that of the rest of the garment (when you work crochet back and forth you see back and front of the stitch on alternating rows; when you work in the round you see only the front of the stitch every row).

Only one other hint - when placing the top-most button hole, place it just below the neckline because you then crochet three more rows. If you place it any lower, it will be too low once those rows are done. I bought my metal buttons from The Weaving Works; next time I might try wooden as the book suggests. Oh and one more, I always like to use a slightly larger hook to make my foundation chain to ensure that it is loose enough.

Verdict: If I were to make as many of these as I would like to, we may just have to move to Iceland. I'm extremely happy with the result and it really is adorable.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

worsted case scenario

I've alluded to this before but will now come out and say it - I'm a gauge snob. Yes, anything that knits at less than 22 stitches to 10 centimetres is, well, a stitch (or several) below the mark in my book. But boy, does it knit up quickly and is hence perfect for baby gear!

I only just recently discovered the 'friend activity' tab on Ravelry and have been regularly peeking at what other people are liking, planning and knitting. I have thereby also greatly increased the number of items that I am liking, planning and yes, even knitting.

Anyway, that is how I found the super-cute Childhood Remake Sweater from a Norwegian outfit called Pickles and I pretty much just had to cast on straight away. Two days later and I have almost finished the front and front sleeves (I'm knitting it flat instead of in the round because, well, I just wanted to) - great to knit! The yarn that I am using is all from stash - Pingouin Fleur de Laine (Ravelry link) in a baby blue that I got at a stash swap (thanks Melissa!) and some yarn recycled from a J Crew sweater which I substituted for the handspun that the pattern calls for. I don't have any handspun and I thought that this oatmeal-coloured yarn unravelled from an Aran style sweater was rustic enough.

Monday, 1 March 2010


Sometimes there's a a pattern that just sucks you in, sends you into a spin and you have to try it out. Such was my experience with this amazing pattern, In the Pink by IzzyKnits.

So I tried it out with my Casbah, wondering whether the pooling tendency would be broken up by the eyelets. Which it was, very nicely. Except now I am completely decided about this yarn - the variegation is not working for me. Three gently used skeins of Handmaiden Fine Yarns Casbah in shade Vintage for sale or trade on Ravelry.

february book roundup

I read three books this past month!
  • After the Armistice Ball by Catriona McPherson - I love detective fiction. This one is set amongst the upper class of Scotland, post-WWI. Good characters, well written, intricate story with just enough nuanceIt's the first in a series of five or six - hooray.
  • Salvation on Sand Mountain: snake handling and redemption in Southern Appalachia by Dennis Covington - I heard about this book on NPR and having previously read The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (which was the first I had encountered I think about the notion of snake handling) my curiosity was sparked. This book disappointed me though; the strength and nature of the author's spiritual revelation and apparent redemption was not conveyed to me.
  • Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris - guilty reading pleasure: mediocre writing about sex with vampires in rural Louisiana.