Sunday, July 25, 2010

It All Started With a Necklace...

...that was inexpensive but striking. I love turquoise - both in jewelry and as a color. And I like to wear it to punch up my summer wardrobe. Hence, the starting point for my most recent knitting project.

I decided a turquoise-colored summer cardigan in cotton yarn was just what my summer wardrobe lacked. Then I saw this and thought the color and design could be a winning combination.

I've been pretty happy with the finished product and have received lots of compliments. In terms of wearing it -- I like that it matches my necklace perfectly and it is just the right weight and warmth for air-conditioned offices. It's versatile and can be dressed up or down.

In terms of knitting it, my feelings were mostly positive. The lace patterns were easy to learn and fun to do. The sweater knit up quickly and I actually didn't mind all the sewing up at the end. However, I seemed to suffer from Can't-Seem-to-Count-the-Same-Number of Stitches-Twice Syndrome during the knitting of it. Hence, the left side is nearly an inch smaller in every dimension as compared to the right side. This is not that noticeable when its being worn, but does mean that I am wearing this more as a shrug than a cardigan (i.e., without buttons so far). I take full responsibility for this error, but a warning if you plan to knit this up: The number of stitches is increased and decreased a few times as you work your way up each piece, so it helps to pay attention. Apparently I didn't.

Also, the design of this sweater seems to be most appropriate for a small-busted person with a short-waist. I have neither of these attributes and thus I don't think I do the original design full justice.

Design: Short Sleeve Cardigan (#19) VogueKnitting International Spring/Summer 2007 by Shiri Mor
Yarn: Tahki Stacy Charles, Inc. Cotton Classic (100% mercerized cotton) in 3786 (Bright Turquoise)
Amount: 5 1/2 skiens
Size: 38
Modifications: Lengthened body before armhole shaping by 1" and added 3 rows to sleeves
Duration: 6/28/10 - 7/17/10

Final thoughts: Firstly, I bought some great buttons on Etsy but am still deciding about whether to sew them on or not. Secondly, I ordered twice as much yarn as was needed so I'm halfway through knitting a matching tank top. Pictures will be posted when complete.

Happy Knitting!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Brief, Illustrated History of my Life in Knitting - Part I

Given my recent obsession with all things Knitting (with a capital "K"), one would think that I'd always been a knitting fool. However, this is not the case. As with a large majority of knitters, my grandmother taught me to knit the summer I was six. She gave me a pair of big (size 12) plastic knitting needles with red tips and a skein of yarn and showed me the basics: how to cast on (from a loop over my thumb), how to knit and purl, and importantly, how to pick up dropped stitches. I remember that getting a consistent tension was my biggest challenge. I assiduously knit a scarf on our way home by train (I don't remember the details of that trip - why the train?), and I was thoroughly engrossed in the process of knitting all the way home. I ended up with a scarf that waved in and out at the sides due to my very inconsistent tension. And then I stopped. I don't think I knit another thing until I was 18. I can't really say why I didn't knit after that except that my mother didn't care that much for knitting (although she knew how) and much preferred to sew. So, during my school years I sewed quite a bit in an attempt to keep up with the latest fashions.

I wasn't inspired to knit again until my senior year in high school. See my blog entry my-original-knitting-inspiration. It was at about this same time that I saw this picture in American Home Crafts magazine (Spring Summer 1977) and became completely enamored of this look.

The photograph captured a fantasy of what, at 18, I hoped to be: An elegant, sophisticated woman of the world with a great sense of style. In those days I somehow thought that if I knit this sweater I would also magically appear to have great cheekbones like the model's (Margareta Stupakoff, a former Miss Universe). But, I digress.

I went out and purchased the chunky chenille yarn in a dusty rose colorway and a pair of knitting needles and set to work. I did not bother to get gauge and simply followed the directions. I knit the whole thing in simple stockinette stitch and sewed it together with crocheted seams. It did fit me apart from the fact that the sleeves were much too long, despite the fact that they were supposed to be folded up. Also, it turned out that the chenille yarn was quite drapey and the cowl-necked collar never stood up the way it does in the photo. It would flop down in a very inelegant manner, no matter how I folded it. The final insult, however, was the terrible smell of the yarn. It literally had an acrid, dusty odor (as its name "dusty rose" might suggest) and the chenille wasn't all that soft on my skin. I concluded that the chenille yarn must have been manufactured from some offensive plastic and chemicals. So, for all of these reasons the sweater wasn't a big success and after carting it around from place to place in my 20's, and never wearing it, I finally gave it away to Goodwill.

My next two projects were sweaters for boyfriends, and although neither of those relationships lasted (thus providing two instances to support the myth of the "boyfriend sweater curse" from my own life), what did last was my memory that I fearlessly dove into knitting sweaters that involved cables and bobbles and loved every minute of it. I was proud of both of those sweaters and I imagine they are still out there somewhere in the world, hopefully keeping someone warm.

At that point I decided to knit something for myself again and chose this vest:

It was begun in 1983 during a period of time when I was working to save money for college. It then sat around in suspended animation until 1995 when I completed graduate school and in a burst of activity finally finished it. It fit me fine, but I learned two things upon its completion. One, I loathed intarsia and, two, I no longer found an argyle vest to be all that stylish. So, I promptly gave it away.

That was the sum total of my knitting from 1978-1995: three sweaters and a vest. Not very impressive. But, although my output wasn't very high, my level of satisfaction with the process was always quite high. After 1995, my output steadily increased.

To be continued in Part II.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Three Finished Objects: From good to not-so-good

Well, my plan worked. I've been focusing on my WIPs and knitting and knitting and I was able to cross three projects off of my list.

The one I like the best is the Selbu Modern Hat. I guess 1,237 Ravelers can't be wrong! The pattern was clearly written, short, and easy to follow. And, best of all, it resulted in a very pretty hat...just in time for spring the winter wear closet.

And the inside of the hat is almost as pretty as the outside.

My next project did not turn out as well. The backstory is that I've been reading Alice Starmore's book about Fair Isle knitting to increase my knowledge and gain some inspiration. She writes about how she uses the things she sees around her to provide a jumping off point for her beautiful designs. Based on this idea, I took a napkin holder from Mexico (of all things) and used it to create a pattern.

My execution of this design was less than pleasing to me. The flowers look like fiery blue suns and the V-shapes look like elongated blue hearts. Hmmm.

So, I filled in with a tried and true Dale of Norway rose pattern. After I had made about 1/3 of this I decided to turn it into a cosmetics bag based on the one found on page 90 of Holiday Knits by Sara Lucas and Allison Isaacs.

I especially like that it is fully lined.

One of my sisters has a fetish-like obsession for cosmetics bags. She must have hundreds of them ...which has never stopped her from obtaining more. So, I thought it would make the perfect Mother's Day present after I fill it up with little heart-shaped soaps and a packet of lavender bath beads.

Finally, my last project is a completely original design for which the new slang word "meh" is a perfect description of my feelings for it. I don't think it's going to ever get a mate, but it did send me back to the drawing board with a better idea...

... to be blogged about at a later date.

Happy Knitting!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April is "Working on WiPs" Month

I have far too many works in progress (WiPs). Before Ravelry I never worked on more than one knitting project at a time. I didn't have a stash of yarn either. For most of my life my approach to knitting was to become inspired to knit a particular project, buy the necessary pattern and yarn for the project. Knit the project until it was complete. If I lost momentum, I simply laid the project aside and came back to it whenever the spirit moved me. When the project was done I would come up with a way to use up any extra yarn I might have had leftover. This usually meant knitting a coordinating scarf. And it might have been months or even years before I became inspired to knit something else and then the process would repeat itself in much the same way.

The Internet, Ravelry, and knitting blogs have changed all that. I wander in and out of Ravelry on a regular basis and feel like a kid in a candy store. The yarn! The patterns! The finished objects (FOs)! The knitting books! They all call out to me and it's hard to resist their siren's call. I have now reached SABLE (stash acquisition beyond life expectancy), have shelves of knitting books, and worst of all, far too many WiPs. In fact, the number of WiPs is making me feel stressed out and uncomfortable. It's just not my style to have all of these projects hanging about and it's making it hard for me to concentrate on any one project. So, I've declared April the month for winnowing them down. Don't get me wrong, I will never finish them all by April 30th, I would simply like to cross several off of the list. So, without further ado here they are:

1. My version of the ever-popular Selbu Modern hat. I think I stand a chance of finishing this soon.

2. My version of a cosmetics bag adapted from the one in Knitted Gifts. (It's not a Poetry in Stitches project, I'm just using the handy bag Hifa yarn used to send out with their kits inside.)

3. A Dale of Norway sweater, Narvik, that I'm making for my beloved brother. Can I just say that he's a very big guy (6'4") and the 19 inches of lice requires a fair bit of patience?

4. A baby blanket for no particular baby. I was swept away by the colors of the Cascade Superwash yarns that are now available and I thought they'd be pretty in a baby blanket. So far I have about 1/3 of a blanket.

5. My "Chanel" socks. They actually have nothing to do with Chanel the designer other than the fact that I was reading her biography when I started them and I'm using the colors black and white. (The gorgeous blanket under my leg was knit by my wonderful grandmother on the occasion of my marriage.)

And that's about half of the list. You can see how far I've strayed from the days of old when I was a monogamous knitter. Now I'm playing the field with whatever project catches my eye. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just different for me and a little bit overwhelming. So, I'm going to see if I can whip these WiPs into shape...or rather into completion.

Happy Knitting!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Experiments in Mosaic Knitting

Although there has been radio silence on this blog recently the knitting has continued apace.

Lately I've become interested in mosaic knitting, a technique I believe was invented by Barbara Walker and was written up in her book, Mosaic Knitting. The fabric is created by knitting with one color at a time for two consecutive rows, (the first row is knit and the second can be purled to create a textured look), and then changing to the second color which is also knit and then purled for two consecutive rows. Stitches are slipped in a pattern in order to create the desired design. It is different from stranded knitting in that you are never carrying two yarns at once. To my eye the results are graphic and striking.

Because I am also continuing in my sock craze, I have been experimenting with mosaic knitting as applied to socks. So before starting my latest pair of socks I worked up a sampler to decide upon a design.

Before knitting the sampler I was convinced that this yarn, Classic Elite Alpaca Sox in Carousel, would be gorgeous in the flower pattern with a grey background. However, as you can see it just laid there with no pop at all. I then tried white which did allow the flower design to come to the fore but the color combination just seemed boring to me. The pattern was also much too "fiddly" for me to tolerate for the duration of two socks.

I then decided to try out a mosaic pattern used by Charlene Schurch in her Sensational Knitted Socks: Caesar's Check. It's a very striking pattern and works well with the mosaic knitting technique. Here it is paired with black.

As an aside, I feel compelled to mention that that rhythm of this pattern, Caesar's Check, is in sevens. There are seven stitches in each section and seven rows to complete each part of the pattern. I followed this through by knitting seven repeats of the pattern so there would be continuity. This kind of pattern rhythm is something I've noticed that occurs in knitting. It isn't visible to the naked eye per se, but is a notable part of the experience in creating the fabric.

And, without further delay, here are the socks themselves:

Please excuse the blindingly white winter skin! Also, the wide black area near the toe on the right sock was done intentionally to widen the sock at that point. I thought it would be an interesting touch, but once the sock was done it just looked like a mistake.

Overall, I am satisfied with the results. The mosaic (garter stitch) legs of the socks are soft, flexible and comfortable. The feet fit me perfectly and I like the vertical stripes (as opposed to the horizontal stripes called for in the pattern).


Completed: March 27, 2010
Yarns: Classic Elite Alpaca Sox in Carousel and Malabrigo in Black
Pattern: Caesar's Check by Charlene Schurch in Sensational Knitted Socks

I've already  moved on to more experimentation with mosaics in black and white. Working as a professional in an urban area on the East Coast means wearing lots of black. So, I've been attempting to come up with a sock design in black and white that could pass muster in an office setting. Here's what I have so far.

Not sure how well this works. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Colorplay with Ingrid's Blues

Not long ago I fell in love with the colorway, Ingrid's Blues, from Claudia Hand Painted yarns, so I purchased four skeins from a fellow Raveler. The yarn made the trip from Minnesota to Boston twice (which is another story) and when I finally got it in my hot little hands I decided to make the basket check socks featured on the cover of Little Box of Socks by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott. Here they are:

(The sock on the left has not yet been washed & blocked so the color is brighter.)

And here's a close-up up the bird's eye slip-stitch heel.
And, a comparison of the skein and the knitted fabrics.

My reaction to the final product was only tepid as the colors seemed muddy to my eye. So, for a little fun, I decided to do some swatching to see if I could come up with a color combination that enhanced the colorway once it was knitted up. Here's what I have so far (shown during a rare moment of sunlight).

In the picture below it is combined with Gold Dynasty cashmere yarn from Zen Yarn Garden. The bottom is plain gold, the next section shows the two yarns held together, next is a section of alternating rows of gold and Ingrid's Blues, and finally, a section of just Ingrid's Blues alone. To me, the addition of the gold causes Ingrid's Blues to lose its essential color qualities that make it so appealing in the skein.

I also tried adding a brown, Autumn Leaves from Destination Yarn. I like the brown by itself, but combined with Ingrid's Blues it makes the colorway even less eye-catching.

I also tried adding Baby Ull in Lagoon and that seemed to really pop the colorway! You can see the alternating rows on the bottom and then the two-tone lattice stitch as described in Margaret Radcliffe's Essential Guide to Color Knitting (a really useful resource).

Maybe it's just because blue happens to be my favorite color that I like this particular color combination, but I do think I like it better than Ingrid's Blues alone. What do you think?

I'm not sure if I can bring myself to frog the socks and make them again with the Lagoon -- I'm not much of a frogger. I might make a second pair of the socks using these two yarns, but more than likely I will be moving on to other projects that are calling my name!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Watching Knitwear in the Movies

You know you're a knitting geek when all you can do during a gripping, white knuckle film about four mountain climbers whose lives hang in the balance is to...look at the knitwear. As in, a climber is hanging from a single rope 3,000 feet up and may fall to his death at any moment and I'm thinking "Wow, his gray handknit knee socks are really nice!"

Okay, I'm exaggerating. The film was "North Face" and it is a German (2008) film set in pre-war Germany before the 1936 Olympics when there was (among other things) a national frenzy for climbers to scale the vertical North face of the Eiger. The movie is very well done and it subtly examines many of the relevant social issues of the time while documenting (somewhat loosely) a particular climb that took place in July, 1936.

But, whoever did the costumes for the movie selected several vintage handknits for the actors. Of particular mention, the lead actress wears a beautiful aqua pullover with lovely cables down the front and back and later wears a gray scarf all done in seed stitch. The actors who play the climbers wear the aformentioned gray knee socks with very nice cabling. They also wear handknit headbands and mittens, but those items are more run-of-the-mill. It was a little distracting to focus so much on the clothing, but it actually added to my enjoyment of the film.

Is it just me or do you do this too? :-)