Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It's not a hat

For all those people who have seen me knitting lace in the round;

For all those who think knitting on a circular needle is weird;

For all those who have asked me, "Is it a hat?";

For all those who think my pile of lace is a baby blanket;

For all those who have asked, "How long does it take to make that?";

For all those who tell me, "That's beautiful, what is it?" ...

I say to you:

It's knitting, not crochet.
It's about as weird as brushing your teeth.
It's not a hat.
It's not a blanket; it's a shawl.
It takes as long as it takes.
Thank you. I like it, too. It's lace.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Spring Blossoms and Stash

I must be ready for warmer weather. The Spring Blossoms Shawl by Eugen Buegler has been on my project list since I picked up the pattern at Stitches West last year. That project list never seems to get any shorter.

I dug into my stash and found this gorgeous violet/purple/periwinkle laceweight merino from Inspirations Yarn. Margaret hand-dyed this especially for me in her "Espresso" laceweight. I think the subtly blended colors are just perfect, and they are not so disparate that they detract from the lacework. I hope Mr. Buegler would approve. The yarn is very soft, and the shawl will be amethystly cozy. My birthday is in February, and I've always had a fondness for all things purple. My birthstone is amethyst, and my favorite color is violet.

Since I've started organizing my stash on
Ravelry, I've begun to make some real decisions about what yarns to use for projects. Thus far, I've used Ravelry mainly for organization and reading about other knitters and projects. The socializing part of Ravelry is great, but it just adds another "thing to do" to my list of groups and forums.

Digging into my stash was particularly therapeutic and delightful. In recent years, I've earned some yarns by knitting samples for designers, and other yarns I've found by chance while visiting a yarn shop or a knitting show or conference. I gave up the idea of just buying yarn for specific projects long ago.

Now, my stash is my yarn shop. It's not as big as some knitters' stashes, but certainly respectable as far as stashes go. I've already photographed about 40 different yarns for my Stash organization project on Ravelry. This may be about half of my stash, but I won't know until it's all categorized and labeled. Do not judge me, lest ye be judged.

Ravelry's Stash tool allows a member to post a photograph and all the details about the yarn, including quantity, color, content, weight, gauge, etc. You can make notes about a potential project or anything else pertinent. In many cases, the yarn is already listed in Ravelry's database, so entering a yarn description is simple -- just modify the sample information to fit your specifications. If the yarn is not in Ravelry's database, you are given the option to add yours as the first example.

The entire Stash is then downloadable to Excel for data manipulation and sorting by color, fiber content, manufacturer, etc. This is a great tool for planning projects. Sometimes, I remember a color or type of yarn in my stash, but then I don't know how much I have or even where it is located. My overtaxed brain can use all the help it can get.

Ravelry's Stash tool has opened my eyes to my own stash. I have new appreciation for the yarns I've collected, and now I can see them all in one place. (Okay, two places. I did have to upload all the photos to flickr, the prefered photo host for Ravelry.)

Springtime Jacket

Springtime, you ask? With all of the wild, woolly weather we've been having lately, a little springtime might be in order.

This is the Springtime Jacket by Melissa Leapman (modified with cables and applied I-cord trim). It was a freebie pattern that came in the mail with an advertisement to subscribe to Knit 'N Style magazine. It's also in their April 2007 issue.

I liked the simple lines and that it was all moss stitch. The texture makes it feel a little more substantial than plain stockinette. The longer length and the bell sleeves seemed right for me. I actually started this a few months ago, but other deadlines took precedence, and I just finished it during our most recent wet and stormy weekend when the power was out.

As usual, I decided to modify the design a bit. See that wavy cable? It wasn't in the pattern, and I added it after I made the two fronts and the back. I knit it separately in one long strip, using short rows to turn the corners at the neck, and then I sewed it on with a whip stitch making a slight ridge where it meets up with the body. The wave cable panel is a slightly wider version of Barbara Walker's. I added two sts on each side of the cable, making a nice ridge along the outer edges, for a total width of 12 sts. It goes like this (cn = cable needle):

Multiple of 12 sts
Row 1 (WS and all odd rows) -- p2, k2, p4, k2, p2
Row 2 -- k2, p2, (sl2 to cn, hold to back, k2, k2 from cn), p2, k2
Row 4, 6, 8 -- k2, p2, k4, p2, k2
Row 10 -- k2, p2, (sl2 to cn, hold to front, k2, k2 from cn), p2, k2
Row 12, 14, 16 -- k2, p2, k4, p2, k2

Shortening Sleeves

The yarn is Cascade Dolce, a luscious, soft wool, alpaca and silk blend. It knits up beautifully, with a pretty drape. BUT it doesn't have as much memory as 100% wool, so the sleeves hung a bit too long.

To remedy this, after I blocked the pieces and basted them together, I measured the length of sleeve I wanted and then pinned where I wanted to cut off the cuff. Yes, I said CUT off the cuff. I had done this before in stockinette, but not in moss stitch which is a little bit trickier. This seems like a drastic and scary thing to do, but it's a great way to shorten or lengthen sleeves on a finished garment. I suggest experimenting on a swatch before doing it on your beautiful sweater.

First, I opened the sleeve seam about four inches. Then I counted up 11 rows from the bottom of the cuff to where I was going to cut and marked the row with a safety pin on both the left and right sides of the piece. This has to be precise, or you'll end up cutting threads on two different rows.

Then I snipped the yarn on each end of the row. I gently pulled it apart a couple of stitches at a time, careful not to let the stitches start to ladder. Once I had a good five inches or so of the snipped yarn to hold onto, I wrapped it around my fingers a couple of times and slowly but firmly pulled the snipped yarn (one row) completely out.

This is where it gets tricky in moss stitch. After the row is pulled out and the bottom of the cuff is separated from the sleeve, the live stitches are ready to be picked up. In this case, with moss stitch, the stitches twist every which way making it harder to pick them up in a straight line. With stockinette, this is much easier, as the stitches all stay lined up like little soldiers.

Basically, I just put each live stitch onto a circular needle, making sure not to skip any. I wanted a somewhat firmer edge at the bottom of the sleeve as well as the bottom of the sweater itself. I chose to add an attached I-cord as a finishing touch.

The attached I-cord is easy to do, especially when you have live stitches on a circular needle. For the sleeve, that's just what I had. For the body, I had to pick up stitches all around the bottom.

The other thing to be aware of is the bias stretch. With moss stitch, the knitted fabric will naturally stretch "on the bias" or diagonally. The pieces will look completely misshapen and weird until you block them. The cable trim and the applied I-cord help to keep the jacket in shape.

This was an easy sweater to make. I'd recommend using wool. Alpaca is lovely and soft, but it will droop, especially with the extra weight of bell sleeves. Also, if you make this one, don't forget to check the errata. I sent in a correction to the shoulder shaping, and they posted it on the Knit 'N Style corrections page.
For convenience, here's the edit I sent them:

Shape Shoulders
BO 4 sts each armhole edge 3 times, then BO 3 (4, 4, 5, 6) sts each neck edge once.

(By the way, does it bug anyone else that the only apostrophe used in "Knit 'N Style" is before the "N"? I mean, if an apostrophe is a substitute for missing letters, shouldn't there be one after the "N," too? I digress ... )