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Month: March 2014

Two at a Time… Sleeves!

Two at a Time… Sleeves!

I’m making sleeves for my Alison Pullover.  After all the work on the body of a sweater, the sleeves seem like they should fly by, but I swear they take almost as long as the sweater body.  One thing that slows me down a bit is using the two at a time Magic Loop method.  I learned how to do this from this excellent post on Jimmy Beans Wool.  You have to keep going back and forth between two balls of yarn and readjust the sleeves on the cable.  The first couple of rows are hard as the knitting doesn’t have a lot of weight and you have to be very careful as you pick up each sleeve that you don’t turn them into mobius strips.  After a while, the rhythm starts to flow, but there’s no getting around all that shifting on the needles and dropping and picking up a new yarn every twenty-some stitches.   The good thing is, though, you finish both sleeves at the same time!

While I’m talking about sleeves, here’s my homemade hook on stitch counter.  It is a stitch counter that is supposed to go over the end of a knitting needle, only  I took an endpin (used to make dangle earrings) and beaded it so that the stitch counter fit between two largish beads.  I twisted the end into a loop and attached it to a removable stitch marker.  I keep moving it up the side of the first sleeve every time I do the increases so I don’t forget to change the count.
Personal Design Challenges

Personal Design Challenges

I initially started designing lace shawls by taking Miriam Felton’s amazing Lace Shawl Design Class on Craftsy.  I’m now working my way through several personal shawl design challenges to develop my skills:

  1. Bottom up construction- DONE- Spring Chill
  2. Top down construction- DONE- Vefr
  3. Rectangular reversible- current project
  4. Center panel triangular
  5. Crescent shaped 
  6. Rectangular with arms and symmetrical ends (inspired by this)
  7. Cowl that also works as a poncho/shrug (inspired by this)
  8. Shawl that alternates knit and crochet (inspired by this)
Emergency Knitting

Emergency Knitting

It’s a joke among my friends that I have “emergency knitting.”  Some people keep jumper cables and first aid kits in their cars, I keep a knitting project.  (I keep those other things, too, and snacks for the kids, and spare shopping bags….)

My emergency knitting is a ball of Dishie or Sugar N Cream, a pair of size seven cheap bamboo knitting needles, and directions for a simple dishcloth pattern (which I have memorized by now so I’m branching out to some other simple patterns).  I don’t care if it gets sand in it at the beach, or dirt on it in the woods, or food spilled on it at the park– it’s going to be a dishcloth and will see worse!

See that extra yarn over in the middle?  The ladle doesn’t care!

This is what I pick up when I’m stuck somewhere without my knitting or my current project is too precious or picky to take with me into the wild outdoors.  Just important enough to do, but not important enough to worry if it gets lost or if I mess up a bit due to inattention.  A dishcloth with an extra yarnover will still do the dishes just as well!

Reading a Top Down Triangular Shawl Chart

Reading a Top Down Triangular Shawl Chart

I got an email today about the Vefr Shawl that said:

I downloaded the Vefr Shawl pattern thru Ravelry.  My question is … if you perform the set up row, which is cast on 5 stitches and proceed thru Chart A, how do you end with 71 stitches?  What am I missing?

Here was my response with added pictures:

If you look at Chart A (below), you’ll notice there is a yellow outline around the charted wedge and another yellow section to the left of the chart where you repeat the yellow outlined area.  These two wedges are the two halves of the shawl on either side of the middle spine that runs down your back.  So after casting on five stitches, in the first row of the chart you knit 2 (these become the right top border edge), yarn over (the first stitch of the right hand wedge), knit 1 (the center spine stitch), yarn over (the first stitch of the left hand wedge which is shown as a yellow area on the chart), and then knit 2 (these become the left top border edge).  You’ve used up all the five cast on stitches and are ready for row 2 of the chart, which is a wrong side row.  On this row, starting on the left hand side of the chart, you will knit 2 (top border edge), perl 3 (one for the left hand wedge, one for the center spine, one for the right hand wedge), and knit 2 (other top border edge).  Now you have seven stitches because the yarn overs have added two new stitches to the stitches on your needles.  The first time I did this is was sort of magic!

On ever row you are working two wedges, the one shown and the one that is only indicated by the yellow block. Starting on row 3, you add 4 stitches in each right side row by adding yarn overs on either side of both the right and left hand side wedges.  Eventually after ten rows or so, you’ll be able to slide your work down your circular needles and pull on that center stitch and see the shape of the shawl emerge with the top border edge stitches going straight across your work and the stitches on the circulars forming a V shape with the center stitch at the point.  By the end of Chart A, you will have 71 stitches on your needles!

If you could draw the chart with all the “no stitch” areas taken out and oriented more the way the real stitches will flow, it might look something like this:

Of course, knit stitches are more rectangular than square and so your shawl becomes more of a triangle.  Do you see how I have those first five stitches more as an arc?  All those yarn overs push the knitting out so that it forms the nice triangle shape we expect of a shawl.  But those first five stitches do leave a little gap at the top, which is why in the finishing instructions to this shawl, I’ve suggested you use the cast on tail to sew together the first and fifth stitch to close that gap before weaving it in.
I have you place markers around the center stitch in row 1 so that you can use that as a reminder to repeat the wedge when you hit the center marker.

KnitPicks has some excellent tutorials for reading charts, including a video about reading charts and a short written tutorial that discusses those no stitch spaces.

Ode to Swatching

Ode to Swatching

When I first started knitting, every stitch was so slow and ponderous, and making a swatch seemed like wasted time I could be using starting the project (which was going to take me forever anyway).  I’d make tiny swatches to guess and check and hope for the best, or no swatch at all and check my gauge as I went.
Designing shawls had made me love swatching.  It doesn’t hurt that after several years of knitting, I’m a lot faster.  Now I can whip out a good sized swatch in 20-40 minutes in fingering yarn.  Swatching is like doodling.  I’ve read other people say that but I never understood it until I started swatching in the context of design.  Swatching to match an existing pattern seems like work, swatching to answer a “what if….?” question is just fun.
I’ve started keeping the swatches with my notes or charts in a binder.  These are some of the swatches from my Spring Chill Shawl.  The ones on the right are me trying to figure out how close I should space the floral motif at the bottom of the shawl.  On the left are patterns I tested out for the project. 
Here’s one from the Vefr Shawl that didn’t get used in the final design, but I really like it and want to use it eventually.

So now I’m wondering, are all those people who love swatching designers?
Reversible Knitting

Reversible Knitting

For my next shawl, I’ve given myself two constraints.  I have a skein of silk yarn that has subtle color changes in it.  I’m trying to work up a design that is reversible and that has horizontal lines to it so that the color changes in the yarn move with the design, not across it.  Originally, I had hoped to incorporate a fish motif, but the yarn striping has obscured my attempts so far.  Patterns with attractive reverse sides are few and far between, so i keep swatching to find the reverse not as attractive as I had hoped.  I’ve ripped out several swatches in this precious yarn to redo them again as I’ve been afraid I’ll use up the skein swatching otherwise!

Vefr Shawl Uploaded to Ravelry

Vefr Shawl Uploaded to Ravelry

I finished the pattern to the Vefr Shawl and uploaded it to Ravelry today.

I finished this one more quickly that the Spring Chill Shawl, in about five weeks.  It’s very motivating to see what the finished pattern will look like.

 My favorite detail is the beaded border.  I’m still a little worried that my directions won’t be clear enough for knitters who often don’t crochet, but hopefully it will be enough!