Sunday, March 08, 2009

Cotton really is the Devil's work

Some one asked me to finish a denim jumper for her husband. (In fact, it's the same woman with the Soay sheep.) She's done the back and part of the front. I managed to match her gauge - though I had to drop three needle sizes (as you all know, I am the original loose woman). I'd forgotten just how fearful cotton is to work with - stiff, unforgiving of any slight irregularity in tension, and the ends just won't stay hidden. Anyway, it's done:

The pattern is from Rowan Denim and is called "Boatman", designed by Kim Hargreaves (according to Ravelry - I can't actually find any credits). If she was responsible for the making up instructions, she should be ashamed. They are dreadful. "Use a back stitch for all main knitting seams and an edge to edge stitch for all ribs unless otherwise stated." I don't think so. I used ladder stitch and here you can('t) see it:

I also used short row shaping on the shoulders and did a three needle bind off on the right side:

This is the armhole shaping (which, strangely, was written K3 tog - a right slanting decrease - at the beginning of the row and K3 tog tbl - a left slanting decrease - at the end). Needless to say, I did SSSK at the beginning of the row and K3 tog at the end, so at least the decreases are slanting in the right direction.

Anyway, I'm not going to be knitting any more cotton for a very long time.

Have you heard of the UK Ravelry Day? Only of interest if you are actually in the UK of course. Well, Jo (who's idea it was in the first place) has asked me to teach a lace knitting class. "Oh, yes," I said blithely "No problem". Then I found out who else was going to be there - Meg Swansen, Beth Brown Reinsel, Jared Flood (aka Brooklyn Tweed) amongst others. Crikey! Am I up to the job?

Now I'm starting to panic that no-one will sign up or that I'll forget how to knit or that I'll break my thumb before the day or that I'll dry up totally. I don't know what's wrong with me - I've read stories to 250 kids all in one room together; I've taught engineers, lawyers, airline pilots, journalists, police officers (not the knitting police officers) and all sorts. What is proving to be more difficult is actually narrowing down what I'm going to teach and what I'm going to leave out. Once you get me started on lace knitting I could go on for days (but I promise not to).

Here are the raw materials lurking in the back field, enough to calm anyone down:

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Resting on my laurels?

You may think I've been resting on my laurels but I assure you I've been doing no such thing. Someone asked me if I would knit "something " for her and she gave me a tiny photocopy of a waistcoat thingie (technical term). That's the trouble with being a knitter - non-knitters think you can work miracles. Remember that old joke? "My mother made me a homosexual." "If I buy the wool, will she make me one, too?" - I felt a bit like that knitter.

Considering that's all I had to go off, I think I did a good job. Here's the front:

and a close-up of the cable:

The collar presented certain difficulties. It looked very Elizabethan (the first one, not the present one) - standing up, a little ruff-like. The yarn I was using (Rowan Pure Wool Aran) was fairly sturdy before it was washed but after washing it turned a little "floppy" (tt). I had to work the collar double to make it stand up as it was supposed to do:

So I picked up and knitted stitches around the neckline and then worked double the length required. I then picked up the corresponding stitch from the base of the collar and worked that stitch together with the next stitch on my left needle. When I had two stitches on the right needle, I cast off in the normal way. Sometimes when I do this I work a purl row on the right side when the collar is the correct length and before I start working the "inside" of the collar. This acts as a fold line and makes the collar crisper. I didn't do that in this case because I wanted the collar to be softer and more rounded at the top.

The cast off edge of the armhole band also presented problems. I cast off three times and it just didn't look right. I tried a backstitch cast off - thread about three times the length of the edge to be cast off into a blunt pointed tapestry needle; put the needle into the first two stitches purlwise; pull yarn through but do not drop the stitches; put the needle into the first stitch knitwise; drop the stitch off the knitting needle; pull the yarn through and repeat. It looked like a dog's breakfast. I tried an Italian sewn cast off. It looked dreadful. I tried a sort of kitchener cast off using this marvelous explanation. This is a link to a post on Ravelry and I apologize if you are not able to access it but I have never really understood quite what I was doing with the Kitchener Stitch and now I do. In spite of the fact that I now know all there is to know about grafting - that didn't look good either. Eventually, I used a modified version of the two row cast off - first row in single rib and pull the knits over the purls as in a normal cast off; second row, slip each stitch purlwise onto left needle and pull the previous one over - no yarn used up. I don't think this looks too bad:

If anyone can suggest a better cast off for a 2x1 rib I am all ears.

There are twelve buttons:

and that's eight of them.

No sooner was that off the needles when I had a call from someone else. This lady has her own Soay sheep; she has her own Soay yarn and she wants me to knit it into a little "something" for her and her husband. Details of this will have to wait for another day but things are progressing.

Oh, and look what reappeared in my back field:

Better than a mean old horse anyday, wouldn't you say?