Saturday, March 31, 2007

Size Matters

I'm still wrestling with the Japanese patterns, although it seems to be coming together quite well. Since all the patterns are charted and all the symbols on those charts are standardised, it's pretty straight-forward once you know what each symbol means. There are a few "special" symbols that are not included (because they are quite unusual/complicated, or both) and these are explained in "words". You can perhaps imagine the contortions I got into with "Slip one stitch to cable needle and leave at back of work, SSK,YO,P1 stitch from CN" and with the three variations of this same manoeuvre requiring the knitter to leave one (or two) stitches at the back (or front) and YO and single decrease (right leaning, left leaning, knit or purl). I have decided not to stress too much about all this and have reached a conclusion which suits me - looks like the picture, has the correct stitch count, is fairly simple to accomplish. So if it's not exactly as the designer intended? Well, we won't know, will we?

My problems at the moment are not to do with the actual stitch patterns but with gauge and thus yarn choices. The cardie thingie (technical term) I really want to knit uses a 100% wool yarn. The yardage is given as 80m/40g (which seems an odd put-up to me so I've "translated" it to 100m/50g). The needles used are 4mm and 5mm (but, as we know, the "loose woman" here will probably be looking at 3mm-ish). The gauge is 23sts/24rows to 10cm in pattern.

I've swatched using some 100% wool from Texere. The yardage given is 112m/50g, so it's a bit too skinny (technical term) but I just wanted to have a bash at the pattern stitch.

It's nowhere near the right size and when I increased the needle size the fabric became far too "floppy" (technical, very technical). This is obviously the wrong yarn for the job. Looking at the photograph of the yarn it looks quite lofty. So if anyone has any suggestions for a yarn I might try, please, do tell.

Here's a close up of the little cable and lace panel:

Tired of trying to bend the yarn to my will (and failing dismally), I turned my attention to something I feel much more comfortable with - a shawl.

This is from the Japanese book, too. Yarn called for is 145m/50g and is a mixture of wool, silk and some other squiggle that I don't understand but it must be a metallic element because the picture of the yarn shows a bit of sparkle in there. I don't really do "bling" so I started it with some Zephyr left over from the "Great Cosmos". This at least has the merit of being wool/silk. Of course, it's nowhere near as thick as the original yarn but we know that shawls don't have to fit and we also know that though I worry constantly about a shawl turning out to be too small, after blocking it very often turns out to be fit for draping Blackpool Tower.

Here's a slightly dodgy picture of the beginning. It looks much more purple in real life - this is what it looked like in the picture when I bought it and this is what I thought it was going to look like when it arrived. It's called "Iris" so I was imagining a deep blue. It's purple. There is no getting away from it. You know that poem? "When I grow old I shall wear purple"? That's me.

Then I started to worry that it would be too small and I'd run out of yarn (I've got nearly 4oz and we know how far Zephyr goes but nevertheless...) So I rooted through the stash and found some pearlised cotton that I'd completely forgotten about. I started again:

As I said, "Size Matters" You can see the pattern much more clearly here and I'm not sure I don't even prefer it. I'm still worrying that I'll run out of yarn. This yarn is so ancient that the yardage isn't given on the ball band but I've got seven balls. I don't know how I'll go on if I do run out. Do they even make this yarn anymore?

Just for a change we have the Saturday Back Field picture actually appearing on a Saturday. I got this about an hour ago, since then the sky clouded over, there was a very heavy shower, the sky cleared and now it's looking much as it did. Got to love England for the "four seasons in one day" roller coaster that is the weather.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Turning Japanese

I think I'm turning Japanese (I really think so). Regular readers of my blog will know that Kate would rather read about it than actually do it. Imagine her frustration, then, when she is presented with a knitting book that she simply cannot read. However, in another way this is a great liberation. There is nothing to do but "just START, Kate."

Of course, I haven't "just started" quite yet. Partly through my usual procrastination, partly through there being other projects on the needles; projects I would really like to finish in order to give me a good run at the Japanese patterns. I have been doing more research on Japanese knitting patterns. I joined the "Mountain Ash" Yahoo group. Not that I'm knitting Mountain Ash (I haven't even got the pattern) but there is some very useful information in the files section. I think it's worth joining the group just to have that info. I have also become aware of the "Crossed in Translation" KAL. Again, not that I'm knitting that cardi but there are some useful leads to follow. I found some general notes on reading Japanese patterns here, and a more detailed discussion of reading Japanese charts here. These are written from the point of view of a machine knitter but nevertheless contain valuable information.

As soon as I finish the Romance Shawl, I'll start on the Japanese one. I thought that moment would come fairly soon - I was working the very last row of the light border when I discovered a dropped stitch (it's those pesky double decreases), which had run down a few rows. All efforts to repair the damage (as I managed so triumphantly on the WRS) failed and I was obliged to rip out the whole border. I have not taken a picture as I did not wish to be reminded of the devastation. It's "only" fifteen rows (but there are about 500 stitches on the needle...)

Then there is the "Anne" cardigan. Whoever decided that it would be a good idea to knit a cardigan in one piece from the bottom up and incorporate vertical stripes needs their head testing. I am beginning to suspect that this person has not actually knitted this garment. There are three colours, there are twelve stripes, there are twelve "balls" of yarn hanging off the knitting.

Here is the original chaos, when I thought that keeping the yarns in a box at my feet would work:

Obviously not. I then thought about using the knitters' secret weapon, the clothes peg, to pin each skein-ette to the bottom of the cardi. That was so not a good idea that there isn't even a picture of it - far too heavy, far too unwieldy, just plain hopeless.

Finally I have reached a workable alternative. The skeins are arranged on cloth, in the correct order. The cloth is turned at the end of every row.

It works. It just means that I have to sit at the dining table to work on it, so it's not terribly relaxing. It's a real shame because the yarn is beautiful and just knits up like a dream.

I am so not enjoying this project, simply because of the design, that I seriously considered re-writing the pattern to start at the front edge and be worked sideways around the body (effectively in horizontal stripes), knitting on the bottom border afterwards. It wouldn't be that hard and would make the knitting so much more enjoyable. However, because I'm knitting this as a commission, and because the recipient is out of the country and thus unavailable for consultation, I've decided I'd better stick to the pattern as written. I should think a Japanese cardi will be a piece of cake after this little delight.

Saturday Back field:

The weather forecast threatened snow, and though there were a few flakes, it came to nothing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Let's Knit"

I blame it all on Fleegle's Blog. There it was that I first became aware of this delightful pattern book (in this post if you want to read a nice comparison between the new "Lace Style"book and "Elegance Knit", a book in the "Let's Knit" series).

I couldn't resist. I tracked it down, I ordered it, it arrived today. There is just one small drawback - it's in Japanese. Not such a drawback for the Japanese speakers amongst you but I bit of a hurdle for me.

The main reason I bought this book was for this pattern:

Lovely. I really like the way the edging is an integral part of the whole design, rather than being something tacked on at the end because we have to finish this thing somehow.

The pattern itself gave me a bit of pause:

Maybe I should start with something I'm a little bit more familiar with? Like a shawl:

The pattern for this does look a little bit less intimidating:

I'm sorry to say the words "Oh yes, this looks easy." came out of my mouth. As any one of you who has invoked the wrath of the knitting Goddess will know, this is a prelude to cursing, swearing, loud yelling, ripping out and possibly sending the thing flying across the room. We shall see.

I am not attempting this with no help whatsoever. There is a page to help with the Basics of Japanese Knitting and more information about how to read Japanese Charts here.

If there does happen to be a Japanese speaker reading this blog, please consider yourself on stand-by for when I come shrieking for help with half of the hair torn out of my head. Please?

Let's Knit? Let's give it a try and see how we get on.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Do I really want to do this?

I thought it was about time I got on to the "Anne" cardigan - with the lovely yarn from Shilasdair I was writing about the other day. There are four colours. One colour is used for the bottom band and the button bands (worked in moss stitch, one of my favourite stitches, NOT). The other three colours are used to make vertical stripes on the body of the cardigan (it appears the sleeves are plain, though as I noted before, the pattern is very sketchy and doesn't actually mention this). The garment is worked in one piece to the armholes and then divided for front and back. The upshot of this is that there will be twelve (yes, that's twelve) balls of yarn hanging off the work most of the time. Something I'm not really looking forward to.

However, I have said I will do it, so I will do it. Of course, we had to start by winding the yarn into "balls". I have a swift and there was a ball-winder somewhere in my past but who knows what black hole the thing went down, so normally, I put the hank on the swift and wind the yarn into a ball, trying to keep the whole thing as loose as possible. This time I couldn't bear the thought of twelve balls of yarn rolling round the place while I tried to wrestle them into some semblance of order. I cast about for a better method and came upon Jackie Fee's explanation of the Japanese yarn cocoon in her excellent book "The Sweater Workshop". It wasn't long before I had one of these:

A nice, soft yarn cocoon that's going to stay where I put it. Another eleven followed, all of which look very similar to the first. I searched about for more info on the yarn cocoon technique and came upon this blog where there is a video of the technique (if you scroll down and get past all the spelling stuff).

Here's a shot of the very start of the cardi:

Looking like exactly what it is - nine rows of moss stitch. Stand by for cat's cradle as the weeks progress.

I really can't help myself, can I? I just popped in to Shipston Needlecraft on Saturday because I happened to have used only one of the two skeins of Appleton's wool I got for the dark border of the Romance Shawl and I was pretty sure that I could get a credit for it. It just so happens that they have a sale on knitting kits at the moment. It just so happens that there is a kit I have been looking at and wondering at the price tag of £89 - wondering if someone was pulling someone else's leg. It just so happens that the self-same kit is now reduced to £15.75. It just so happens that with my credit of £2.25 the kit is now only £13.50. It just so happens that I am weak-willed and a sucker for a bargain. It just so happens that this is now cluttering up the living room:

not worth £89 but actually a net saving of money. I have been a good girl. (I think if I keep saying this long enough I will come to believe it.)

Back field?

At least you can see it now (last week it was under water).
As someone remarked, "Aren't the greens green?"

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Lookee here

Still thinking about how to use the variegated lace yarn, I have been cheered by Ginny, who left a comment about this very thing. She called my attention to "Tricotomania", and the interesting discussion of knitting lace with variegated yarn to be found therein. This knitter is using some variegated yarn to knit the "Concert in the Park" shawl (available from Blackberry Ridge). She has some pictures of the beginning of the shawl and others of the finished article. As Ginny says this yarn appears to work very well with this pattern. None of the things I've tried with this yarn has been a square shawl from the centre out, so this may be something to bear in mind for the future.

However, I do not know how much time there will be for messing about with lace and variegated yarn in the near future, for yesterday this arrived:

"This" is yummy yarn - 20% Cashmere; 40% Angora; 40% Lambswool - you can imagine how that feels - from Shilasdair. It came to me via London, to be made into a cardigan with vertical stripes, at the request of a non-knitting lady, who had my telephone number from the woman at Burford Needlecraft.

There is a pattern with a "sketch" to show the finished article and very sketchy it is, too. The pattern is not on Shilasdair's web site so I cannot show you what I am aiming at (even if I knew myself).

The decision on the border of the Romance Shawl has been taken. At the suggestion of Jane in my LYS I plumped for Appleton's Crewel Wool in a sort of raspberry shade for the dark border and I am going to leave the body of the shawl in the original white. I took several photographs of the shawl but the colour bore no relation to the reality in any of them, so I thought it was pointless to post them. I searched high and low to find a representation of the colour (946, if anyone is remotely interested) but failed. Can't say I'm really surprised given my difficulty in getting a decent representation of the colour. I'll try to get some more pictures later.

If you wish to see one of our raw materials in the flesh (so to speak), do not miss the new BBC cartoon "Shaun the Sheep" - he is hilarious.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Saturday again

Slowly on the mend. Still not back at work, though. The quack told me to stay at home and rest for "at least a month" because "you have been quite ill, you know." Thus, I have plenty of time to knit.

The scrawl is done:

All the details are in the Finished Objects blog (link in the sidebar).

Great fun to wear, simplicity itself to knit. Good fun all round really.

Ene's scarf has been photographed on the bod by #1 daughter, again all the info on the FO blog.

Casting around for something else to do, I took up the lace weight Artisan Merino and started the Shetland Triangle from "Scarf Style":

It looks like nothing on this earth. I really want to use this yarn. I can't see how one could knit anything but lace with it but all the patterns I have tried do it no favours whatsoever. I bought four skeins of it to make the Mystery Shawl. I used only a very small amount and now find myself with two and a bit skeins clouting round the house, staring at me from the knitting basket hanging thingie (technical term) and whispering "Knit me, knit me." My only trouble is what to knit with it. Any and all suggestions gratefully received. There has been quite a bit of discussion on one or other of the lace lists I belong to (and I belong to so many I can't pin down exactly which one) about the use of variegated yarn for lace. The general consensus seems to be you either like it, or you don't. I'm starting to think I am in the second camp and I really wish I wasn't.

It doesn't look any better in a close-up:

I've ripped it out.

Work continues on the Romance Shawl. I'm almost to the point where I have to decide what to do about the double border. Do I use some yarn from the Stash (possibly the blasted variegated stuff above); do I dye some of the same yarn I'm using for the body of the shawl and leave the body white; do I dye the body one colour and the same yarn for the border another colour; do I leave the whole lot in the knitting basket and think about something else? It's all such hard work.

In order to put off the moment of truth I've taken the coward's way out and started another shawl. (Someone in the comments once accused me of being "shawl obsessed" - at the time I denied it vehemently, now, I'm not so sure.) This is to be a shawl of my own devising. A square shawl knitted in the round from the centre out and incorporating stitch patterns based on Sea and Shore. I think it's going to be called "She Sells Sea Shells" or "4S" for short. I'm busy trying to learn how to use Excel to chart lace and have joined (yet another) group to help with this. It is slow work but progress is being made. There are no pictures yet because I want to unveil the whole thing with a flourish at the end. Watch this space.

Saturday back field:

is a bit of a cheat this week. I took a picture but you really couldn't see the river (Stour, in case anyone has a burning desire to know) and how it was just about to take over the whole field. I sent #1 daughter out with the camera to get this shot from just up the road. You get the idea.

Kat was asking what blocking was. I could go on at great length but other people have done that far better than I ever could. I refer you to the Knitting Beyond the Hebrides Lace Symposium. Specifically the section on blocking. She speaks of using a cotton thread through the points - I use fishing line. (You can imagine the chap's face in the fishing tackle shop as I tried to explain what I wanted to do with said fishing line.) She also talks about how nice it would be to have a sheet marked off in squares to aid with the blocking. Though she has never managed to find one - I have. It's an Indian cotton bedspread that 'im indoors brought back from India with his own hands. Long before he met me (and I've known him over twenty years). He must have had a premonition about a knitter in his future. It works a treat.