Entries tagged with “Knitting”.

The final countdown is on…we leave for the show on Thursday. I have quite a pile of fiber (about 150 braids) waiting patiently in boxes, a basket full of sample skeins and sweaters spun from hand dyed and spun yarn, and today I have one more sweater to add to the pile:

The striped shawl sweater (which really needs a better name) is done. I finally finished the zipper this afternoon, and now it just needs its second and final blocking.

I am mostly happy with how it came out. I like the design itself even more than I thought I would, but it came out a little bit too tight around the waist and hips because of a couple of extra decreases that would have been better left out. I tried it on after blocking for the steek and it seemed to fit just fine, but wearing it around the house today I can tell it’s still a little tight. Between that and the way this construction stretches, it tends to ride up just a touch. You can see that a little bit in the back.

There’s a tiny bit of a crease at the point of the triangle, and a bit of bunching under the arms. Both of those go away with a little bit of tugging, though, so I’m hoping that it will relax out with the second blocking. An extra inch would take care of both. Or, I could always just wear it open.

I very much like having the power of steeking in my toolbox. This is my second steeked sweater in a row now, and the first where I picked up stitches and knit a button band (the purple stripe around the zipper is picked up and knit). I’d show you close ups, but my camera ran out of battery and refused to take any more pictures, so that will have to wait for another day.

I wanted to try a crochet steek on this sweater, but found out that that method shouldn’t be used close to the end of a row. Since all of my color changes happened in that front band, I decided to stick with a machine-reinforced steek instead. I ended up using two rows of machine stitching, and then just folding it over and tacking it down. There’s a piece of grosgrain ribbon attached to the zipper inside to help protect the raw edge, and it looks very secure to me. I’m already working away on the next sweater design, and I suspect that it may also have a steek. I have quite a few pullover sweaters now, and am really looking forward to having these new cardigans in my wardrobe. (Bright lights has been getting a ton of use, now that the weather is starting to warm up a bit.)

I’m happy to have the striped shawl sweater finished in time, because I think it will make a fun sample for the show booth. It’s a good example of what you can do to mix different handpainted colors into a wearable garment. The sweater is one of the lightest I’ve made, weighing in at 1 lb, 1 oz. It took 5 braids of fiber because I needed just a little more purple to finish the body.

Linda and Walden have been knitting away at their test knits for the shawl version of this design. You should go take a peek; it’s really interesting to see how the different yarns and colors highlight the geometry of the increases. I can’t wait to see how the final versions come out!

I also finished spinning up a sample of the new Rambouillet for the booth.

I ended up with about 470 yards of 2-ply fingering weight. Somehow I am still having trouble breaking through that fingering-to-laceweight barrier. I’m not sure whether to blame it on the wheel or on myself, but my best attempts at a fine yarn have all been coming out in this range, even using the smallest whorl on the lace flyer. It’s just difficult to get enough twist into the yarn to keep it fine. Some sections of these skeins are in the heavy laceweight range, though, so I think there may be some hope of figuring out how to go finer yet.

This color isn’t one that I would usually gravitate toward on its own, but I am itching to use it. The words “leaves of grass” are all I can think when I look at those skeins, and I’m thinking it will turn into something lacy with a wheat-ear theme. Time will tell, though. The Rambouillet spins like a dream and puffs up into a beautifully fluffy yarn, and I have a feeling that it will bloom even more after it’s bath. It’s upstairs drying right now, so we’ll know soon!

I am yet again building up a list of small things going on behind the scenes that never quite make it to the blog. I think it is time for a catch up post.

Item the first:

I joined a new spinning group last month, and they have monthly workshops. I wasn’t terribly excited about the January meeting, because I’ve never been at all interested in needle felting. But I’ve found that one of the best things about being part of a group is trying things you wouldn’t otherwise do, so I went anyway. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The poke-poke-poking went a lot faster than I had thought it would, and in the right frame of mind it’s even kind of relaxing. And, I really like the results:

I doubt that I’m going to convert instantly to a needle-felting junkie, but it was just the right thing for my recover-from-interview  days last week. So, I started a flower.

The nice thing about needle felting is that it finally gives me something to do with all the bits and pieces that I pull of of my fiber when I’m braiding it for the shop. There are always a few little pulls here and there, and the ends usually get a little felted, so I end up with a small handful of fiber from almost every colorway I make. I’ve been putting them aside as too good to throw out, and now I have quite a fun palette.

Moral of this story: Never assume that you are immune to any fiber craft, no matter how improbable it seems. (At least not if you’re me.)

Item the second:

The striped shawl sweater is now behaving beautifully. There were an awful lot of big bumps getting onto this road, but now that I’m on it I think it’s going to be much smoother. The points in the front are falling exactly where I expected them to:

And the back is also laying nicely now.

I’m not quite to the arm split yet, but if we get there without any more bumps in the road, then I think we’re home free.

Item the third:

I also finished spinning up the first “extra” skein of yarn for the main body of this project. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, considering that I’d dyed the two batches of wool over 2 years apart.

The ball in the middle is the old skein. The two on the sides are the new. I think that’s a pretty good match, don’t you?

I’m hesitant to attribute that to anything other than dumb luck, but I am pretty thrilled that I managed to get more of the same colorway after all this time.

Item the fourth:

Since I have now fully accepted that the striped shawl sweater is in fact going to be a sweater and not a shawl, that means that I have no good excuse not to just finish the shawl and be done with it. I sat down with my stitch dictionaries, and almost immediately stumbled across the perfect edging in Knitted Lace of Estonia. I spent days and days looking for border patterns last time I was working on this shawl, and this time it just fell into my hands. I’m taking that as a sign.

Unfortunately, each row takes about 45 minutes to knit, so it’s not exactly flying off the needles. Still, it’s making progress, and it should be ready to bind off soon. Yay for finished objects!

Item the fifth:

I was in need of a project that felt like it was going somewhere, so I whipped up a little instant gratification last weekend. I had just finished spinning up my sample of the Rambouillet top, with the aim of making a hat for Branden. It really doesn’t take long to knit a hat in worsted yarn, especially when it’s just a simple, simple hat with a little short row shaping.

I was hoping for a modeled shot, but that’s why it hasn’t been blogged yet, and I bet you can imagine what a hat looks like on a head. I tried taking photos in the mirror, but it’s amazing how hard it is to take a picture of your own head.

I love how the colors came out on this one. They’re a tad bit greyer than they look in the photo, but I love those stripes. I ended up with about 220 yards of yarn, and the hat took almost precisely half. There should be enough left for a pair of handwarmers, too.

Item the sixth:

I have finished the first sleeve of the lace ribs sweater. I have no idea why this is taking me so long, besides the fact that I just don’t love knitting pieces flat. I usually do everything in the round, but the lace needs seams to keep its structure, and so it must be knit flat. Somehow, this is just never the project that I pick up first.

The good news is that the charts and instructions are almost done, so as long as the sleeve is actually the right size and shape after blocking, I should be almost done with the pattern.

The last item isn’t really an item, so much as it is something on my “must-catch-up” list. If I don’t get this fiber wrangled soon, it’s going to eat my office.

That is something like 48 braids worth of fiber. Those bankers boxes you see in the background? Also fiber, stuffed full to bursting. The stuff on the floor is waiting for photos and Etsy posting. Branden’s robotics team shipped their robot on Tuesday, so hopefully it will be a little easier to find time to take photos soon. (It’s kind of hard to find daylight picture time when he’s gone 4 days a week from morning until after I’m in bed, and at least half of the day on Saturday.)

Yellows and browns are next, but I’m holding off until after this batch is done. I don’t want to get swallowed up by the stash!

We’re almost all the way to a full rainbow now. I can’t wait to put them all together and see the full spectrum. And then, when the semisolids are done, I get to go back to the variegated colorways. So. many. ideas!

This has been a busy week, but today I finally managed to sit down and draw up some new sketches for the striped shawl sweater. I’m in need of some mindless knitting, and there will be lots and lots of that once this design is actually on the right tracks (I think this time will be the charm). Since you are all so good at humoring me in my process posts, I thought I’d share the changes that I’m making.

(Incidentally, if you’re hoping for a pattern, you’ll note that the last sketch is really all you need. This whole design is all about putting double increase lines in the right place; after that, it’s just guessing how many stitches to cast on. I do plan to write this up as a pattern eventually, but who knows how long that will take…if a “recipe” is all you need, here it is.)

This is the sketch of the original verison:

You can see that there are two different kinds of increase rows that define the main lines of my pentagon. If you squint, I think you can see them here (look for the yo lines, which are the ones with dots in the drawing above. The point of the shawl back is made up of yos).

As we saw before, this led to too many stitches in the back panel, and I’ve decided that this is best fixed by changing the position of the shoulder line (shown in red on the photo, and in blue on the drawings):

By rotating that shoulder line onto my double lifted increases (the line with the slashes), I got this:

I’ll keep that increase line as the top of the shoulder and sleeve, which means that there will be more fabric to deal with in the front. It also means that those front yos fall naturally into position for the zigzag style.

…which means that I just have to add decreases at the edge of the front panel to balance the increases that I’m adding from the yo column. (You can see that the fabric is folded over in the photo above to look like two separate front panels.)

This is also the part where I need to decide what to do about the neck. As you can see in the back shot above, rotating that shoulder line makes the back of the neck very high; it’s several inches above where it would normally be.

That’s not necessarily something that I mind, since I’m always cold and usually want something to cover the back of my neck anyway. But I’m thinking that I will probably eliminate the first full stripe repeat, and make my cast on sit at the beginning of that second purple row. That will be a more “normal” fit to the neck, and I think it will help with the fit in the front. You can see that the fabric is sitting a little funny at the front shoulders in the zigzag picture, and I think that cutting out that extra back neck will take care of that.

I’m also planning to eliminate the knit-on garter stitch edging, and instead plan to pick up and knit stitches to finish the collar. That gives me a lot more choice later to decide what I want the final collar to look like.

The last question is whether to keep that small triangle at the neck edge of the front panels. I really like how it wraps the stripes around and brings them vertical again, but I’m not sure how much of that will be preserved with the structural changes in the neck shaping. If I leave out that last set of lifted double increases, then that triangle will be eliminated, and I’ll have a v-neck opening something like this:

That would make a pretty deep v-neck, and the two front panels would probably meet right around the bra strap. Both Branden and Ellen suggested some kind of flap or lapel front, and this seems like the best option if I’m going to incorporate something like that. I’d probably use a solid purple to match the hemline, and just pick up stitches to add it on at the end. It would add another diagonal line to the front panel, and it might also cover up some of the zigzag look near the neck. It would decrease some of the busyness of the design by adding a solid area in the front panel, as Jocelyn (I think?) had suggested earlier.

I’ve been planning this as a zippered cardigan, so I want something that can be either open or closed, but I don’t think that a solid v would take too much away from the zigzags, especially if it came up into a high solid collar.

Making this change would mean that I’d lose those vertical stripes that I like so much, but I think that might actually be better considering how busy this design has become already. With all of those changes, I think the final sweater will look something like this (though the v-neck will probably end up a little deeper, and the shoulders will probably be a little more like a raglan and a little less like a set-in sleeve):

I think I like it.

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  ~Albert Einstein

After realizing that my latest “fix” has still not fixed the striped sweater, I finally sat down today to figure out what is really going on. I’ve been tweaking one thing after another, but clearly there’s something bigger going on that just isn’t working. Whenever I get to this point, it’s time to stop and reevaluate to see what I’m missing. Part of the problem is that I didn’t start this project expecting it to be a sweater, and so I hadn’t gone through all the design thinking that I’d usually do before casting on. So this afternoon, I sat down and looked at it very hard.

And I realized that it’s not a hexagon. It looks like a hexagon, doesn’t it?

But it isn’t. Those angles are not 60 degrees. In fact, they’re much closer to 72 degrees, a fact which quickly explained all the problems I’ve been having.

Instead of splitting my fabric right down the middle, the shoulder line I’m using puts 3/5 of the fabric in the back panel. I had used a different shoulder line in the first picture:

You can see that the first one has the increase line right along the top of the shoulder, but I’d moved it into a more traditional Raglan position in the later versions.

The Raglan line gave me a better fit on the neck, and would have been the perfect solution if I were working with a hexagon, since the stitches would have been evenly divided between front and back.

But I’m not working with a hexagon.

I’m going to have to pull back the latest fix anyway, but tonight I tried it on to check that changing the shoulder line is the right thing to do.

It is. The trouble is, moving the shoulder line puts all those extra stitches in the front, so now I need to figure out what to do with them there.

I’ll definitely have to cut a bunch of them out, but the question is: which ones?

I can take some stitches out of the shoulder area to preserve the pentagon shape and make Raglan shaping in the front. This is very close to what I was expecting with the previous design. The Raglan is a pretty safe option; horizontal stripes aren’t my favorite thing ever, but it’s a classic design and I know I won’t feel too obtrusive wearing it.

Or, I could take the stitches out of the front panel. I like the stripes going up over the shoulders in this one, but I’m not sure I like the front placket. Something in it feels very Pride and Prejudice to me (not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s not quite where I was expecting this design to go).  Still, I think this one has the potential to grow on me.

The last option is the one that has me most intrigued, but it also has the most potential to go wrong.

This is just another way of taking increases out of the front panel. I think the zig zag effect is interesting, but I’m not sure about adding two more “arrows” to this design in potentially attention-grabbing places. I’d continue the stripes down to mid-waist to match the back, which I think would reduce the arrow effect, but I really don’t know how I feel about this one. My first thought was that I absolutely didn’t like it (clown ruff, anyone?), the second thought was that maybe it wasn’t so bad, and now it’s kind of refusing to step aside.

I like the look of it better when the front is open, and it does do a good job of highlighting the geometry.

Branden is strongly in favor of the zig zags, followed by the front placket, leaving the Raglan in last place. Raglan is low on my list, too, except that I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’ll wear it. The other two are still fighting it out in my mind.