Thursday, September 18, 2014


I've been on an Elizabeth Zimmermann kick lately.  Well, always, really.  I like her approach to designing and knitting.

The latest is Cully's Epaulet Jacket from Knitting Workshop.  I used the pattern in the expanded edition, since my original edition is so old that it doesn't contain the pattern.  I used handspun at its own idiosyncratic gauge and re-figured the numbers to work for me.

I really like how it turned out.  Thick-and-thin, fuzzy, bulky black yarn totally works for this pattern.  The I-cord trim is very nice, too.  It is handspun as well, from some old Beast roving that I had dyed in shades of green many years ago.  The black yarn is from an Icelandic sheep.  I spindle-spun the yarn from roving (cloud batts, actually) that included both thog and thel.

This pattern is interesting in that it gives numbers for a bunch of different sizes, but doesn't seem to have the totally generic, customizable pattern directions that many of Zimmermann's other patterns seem to have.  No matter.  A trace of percentages and modularity is apparent in the pattern.  It was pretty easy to re-figure the necessary numbers.

The sweater seems like a top-down, garter-stitch variation of some of EZ's hybrid-ish, saddle-shoulder-ish, Brooks-ish sweaters.

Epaulet Jacket

The garment looks good on most people who have tried it on so far.

I would make another one right away except that there are many other sweater designs of hers I'd like to knit.  Someday I'll make another.  It was great fun to knit and I love how it looks and fits.

Another EZ sweater I've knit fairly recently is her Icelandic Overblouse from Knit One Knit All.  That one seems closely related to her Nalgar sweater.  It is knit in two pieces (one front and one back), in garter stitch, then seamed.

Since I knit this sweater is some pencil roving of a totally different gauge from the yarn the pattern actually calls for, re-calculating of the numbers was necessary.

I like how the sweater turned out.  It is lightweight but fairly warm, at least for situations where there is no wind, such as indoors.

Icelandic Overblouse

It is not as universally flattering as the Epaulet Jacket is.  Part of that might be the yarn choice, I suspect.  I'm glad I knit it, but at the moment I do not feel any need to knit it again.

The next EZ sweater I want to knit will probably also be from Knit One Knit All.  Unless, of course, it is not.

Over the years, I've made several percentage sweaters.  I've made the baby bog jacket, the tomten, the ribwarmer, the February baby sweater.  No baby surprise jackets yet, but no doubt some kind of surprise jacket is in my future.  I've made hats and mittens and socks and shawls and many other things.  A very small selection is shown in the photos below.

Vertical Brimmed Hat from Knit One Knit All

February Square Shawl (or baby blanket) from Knitter's Almanac

Horizontal Brimmed Hat from Knit One Knit All

Pi Shawl from Knitter's Almanac

One thing I haven't done yet, though, is steeks.  I'm not afraid of cutting my yarn.  I simply don't want to.

Elizabeth Zimmermann is one of the biggest influences on my knitting career.  Back when most knitting instruction was on the order of "follow my directions exactly and too bad for you if it doesn't work out", she explained theory well enough to free me to design my own things, at my own gauge, to fit any body shape or size that I desired.

The most recent project I started is yet another EZ design.  I'm doing a Pi Are Square shawl (from Knitting Around) from handspun.  A friend of mine was wearing one at a recent knitting group gathering.  I had not yet seen one in person, so had been dubious.  However, the shawl turns out to be quite attractive and very wearable.  It hangs nicely in the front without slipping off.  The back is long enough yet shorter than a triangle shawl, which means that there is no point to hang below my butt and get in the way of everything.  So I went home, rummaged through the stash, and cast on.  So far, so good.

I'll probably sneak in a few more projects while the shawl is going on.  Maybe another Maltese Fisherman's hat or another Horizontal Brimmed Hat.  Or some slippers.  Or another shawl, or a vest.  Or I can start the next sweater from another batch of handspun.  So many possibilities!  Thank you, Elizabeth Zimmermann.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fun with Squares

In January, I posted a photo of a small square doily.  It was the smallest doily in a three-piece set.

Since then, I have knitted the other two doilies in the set.

The largest one is 72 rounds.  The medium one is 62 rounds.  And the small one is 42 rounds.  They all start out the same.  But as you can see, each successive size up develops the motifs a little bit more.

I've seen this set in an old Beyer magazine.  But I knit it from the charts and description in Burda Alles aus Garn Kunststricken Folge 2, also known as Burda 305.

The photos are obviously not to the same scale.  The biggest one really is quite a bit larger than the smallest, with the medium one definitely between the two in size!

Burda 305/12A

Burda 305/12B

Burda 305/12C

I enjoy knitting sets.  Why?  I'm not sure.  I don't think it's because I actually want a set of anything.  I think it's because I liked knitting one of the patterns, and thus enjoy knitting something that is similar without being exactly the same.  It's much the same fun to knit.  It's interesting to see variations on the same motifs, to see how the designer re-arranges or builds on the elements to make something new.

Some designers, such as Engeln and Kinzel, do this deliberately.  They design nested sets.  One starts with an inner motif.  Then one can cast off, or keep going to another layer of motifs.  And so on, up to quite large pieces.  Sometimes outer layers are the same motif as an inner layer, but with more repeats per round.

Another trick I've seen is to merely increase the number of pattern repeats.  So you might have a square, a hexagon, an octagon, an oval, etc.  Sometimes a few stitches are added or subtracted to make it work out better.  Sometimes it's almost exactly the same.  Those are also fun sets to make.

The three piece set above is slightly different.  Each is a standalone doily, not merely an inner layer of a larger doily.  Instead, it builds by making each motif bigger.  So, the small doily has 3 ladder-stitch columns in the inner diamonds and 6 columns in the outer fans.  The medium doily has 5 columns in the inner diamonds and 9 columns in the outer fans.  The large doily has 7 columns in the inner diamonds and 11 columns in the outer fans.  Therefore, it takes more rounds to grow and/or shrink the motifs.

I imagine one could build on these theme to make even larger squares.  Well, until the stitch counts per round get too distorted.  These squares have rounds with way more stitches per round than strictly seems necessary.  I also wonder about building a larger square by adding another layer or two of those inner diamonds.  These squares have two layers of diamonds.  What if one repeated that idea and made three or four layers?  The number of outer fans per side would of course increase to match.

I have no plans to experiment any time soon, though.  Time for the next doily!  What shall it be?  As usual, there are so many beautiful candidates.  I will flip through my pattern collection to see what catches my fancy.  Some quick 40-rounders?  A larger 100+ round doily?  Something in between or something much larger?  Take a break from doilies and knit more hats, socks, mittens, sweaters, etc.?  Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, February 23, 2014


In my last post, I wrote that I was in the mood for something with a lot of symmetry and no knit-seven-togethers.

This Marianne Kinzel pattern was perfect.  Highly symmetric, and no complicated maneuvers.  It was a lot of fun to knit.

This is the Marigold pattern.  It is in one of those old ANP publications.  The Marigold pattern is a cheval set.  The larger doily (pictured above) can be blocked as an oval or a circle.  This is the smaller doily:

It was so cute that I knitted a second one.  So now I have a complete cheval set, similar to what is shown on the cover of the pattern.

Mind you, I do not live the cheval set lifestyle.  But what the heck.  It was fun.

Now I want to re-knit the larger doily, in thicker yarn, to use as a little floor mat or throw rug.

I have knit the smaller Marigold doily before, in some thread that was leftover from some other doily.  It's a quick knit.  But now I have a full cheval set in matching thread.  One 50g ball of #20 cotton thread was sufficient for all three doilies, with some left over.

I'd love to see all of Marianne Kinzel's patterns republished.  The First and Second Books of Modern Lace Knitting are fantastic.  But then there are these other designs that didn't make it into the books.  They deserve to be published again for the current generation of doily knitters.  I assume that either it's not sufficiently profitable, or there's some issue with copyright that is preventing this, at least for now.

Do I have anything erudite to add about the Marigold patterns?  Not really.  As usual with a Kinzel pattern, there are no errors.  The pattern is given in both chart and written form.  There are more stitches per round than are strictly necessary, but that just makes the final diameter larger and enables it to be blocked into either a round or an oval shape.  Kinzel is her usual picky self about how to cast-off, specifying different numbers of chains between single-crochet groups, depending on whether one is at the scallop or between scallops.  I like the care she takes with every aspect of her designs.

One minor point of interest:  Kinzel uses just one symbol for the double-decrease.  It's the standard slip one, knit two together, pass slipped stitch over.  That is a left-leaning double-decrease.  For the larger doily, I changed some to knit three together, a right-leaning decrease.  And the vertical lines between sections were changed to a vertical double decrease, slip two (as if to knit, together), knit one, pass slipped stitch over.  Does it make a difference?  I'm not sure, especially with the vertical double decrease.  But it entertained me, and that's what doily knitting is all about.

I don't use the vertical double decrease in the small diamond patterned ground stitch area.  I've tried that, and I much prefer the SK2P double decrease.  In that area, I want to emphasize the diagonal lines rather than the vertical lines.

What's next?  Well, it's already finished -- Burda 418/33.  It's an attributed Herbert Niebling pattern, one of his symmetric, more geometric designs.  But that might be the topic of the next post.  There will be photos.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lily of the Valley

A lily of the valley by any other name would still have as many knit-seven-togethers.

OK, that's not quite what Shakespeare wrote.  And probably not anything Herbert Niebling was known to mutter while designing another of his doilies with lily of the valley motifs.

This is Convallaria.  And it's also Maiglockchenflor.  And maybe other names, too, but those are the names of the pattern in the two sources I have for it.  Both of those names translate to lily of the valley, more or less.

It is a fairly complex doily for its size.  There are all of the flowers -- seventy-two k7-tog maneuvers, along with some associated k4-tog, k3-tog, SK2P, and related fun.  There are the lovely asymmetric leaves.  There's all the hexagonal mesh, with all of the double yarnovers and decreases.  There's the characteristic Niebling trait of starting and ending pattern repeats with yarnovers, with nary a mention in the pattern that this could be an issue at the beginning and end of the round.  And there are many, many stitches per round.

It was fun to knit.

Here's a close-up that shows most of one pattern repeat.  There isn't a lot of symmetry in this pattern.  There are three leaves per pattern repeat.  Each one is different.  Same with the flower stalks -- three flower stalks, each one different.  The hexagonal mesh develops differently in each of the spaces between flowers and leaves.

But the results are beautiful.

If you knit the pattern, be careful how you transition from the tops of the flowers to the round that is only hexagonal mesh.  Both the chart and the written version of the pattern had an issue that meant that the hexagonal mesh wouldn't line up properly for the entire pattern repeat.  I had to do a bit of cussing and improvisation at that point.  But all went well enough.

I don't know if there is an in-print source of the Convallaria version of the pattern, which is charted.  I don't know if there are other chart sources or other names for this pattern.  The written version of the pattern, Maiglockchenflor, is in print, in Gloria Penning's Old World Treasures.  You can buy Old World Treasures from Gloria Penning or from any reputable dealer who carries books on lace and doilies.  There are several unattributed Niebling patterns in Old World Treasures as well as many pretty designs by Lillie Meitler.

I wrote about this doily several years ago, as being on my list of doilies I wanted to do someday.  I hadn't remembered that!  Now I can check that off the list.  I don't think I'll knit this again, but I'm glad that I did finally knit it, all seventy-two knit-seven-togethers and all.

Next up, I think, will be something with a lot of symmetry and no knit-seven-togethers.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Back to my roots (doilies!)

It's been a while since I've finished a doily.  A while since I've posted doily pics.  My life has been a bit unsettled for a few years and doilies simply weren't happening.

Things are settling down.  I'm delighted to say that I am again knitting doilies!  Here are the pics and the general report to the blog.

First up was finishing the Azalea doily, which had been languishing for years waiting for me to get it off the needles.  I knit the full centre piece, the largest size in Marianne Kinzel's pattern.  I must admit that this was incredibly, dreadfully boring to knit.  However, as is always true with Kinzel's designs, the results are quite lovely.

Next up were a few small doilies to get my fingers and brain used to them again.  One of them was actually done before the Azalea doily.  It was an impulse doily, a quick little pattern that took about an hour or two.  There's nothing terribly special about it except that it was the one I cast on when I was in the mood for a doily fix.

The other two are from Kunststricken Folge 2, one of the Burda lace knitting specials.  They are both small since I was using a small ball of thread and was paranoid about running out in the last round before the crochet cast-off.  They are both small doilies in multi-piece sets.  I like them well enough to consider doing larger doilies in the sets, especially for the square pattern.

The square one seems Niebling-esque to me.  I like doing his geometric patterns with skeleton-like leaves (petals?  feathers?).  This pattern has that same feel to it, with the flowing ladder stitch motifs that grow and swirl and then are replaced with new ones.

The circular one is OK.  The larger doilies in the set are a lot more interesting.  This one is too small to really develop the motifs that are prominent in the other doilies.

The final doily for this post is a genuine Herbert Niebling pattern.  It's not attributed, but honestly, how could it be anything else?  It has asymmetric leaves, a nodding flower on a curving stem, wrap stitches, hexagonal mesh, and multiple rounds that begin and end with yarnovers.  I found it in an old book about many different types of lacemaking.  This pattern was in the knitted lace section, unattributed, as a Viennese lace cloth.  The pattern was written only, no charts, with UK terminology.

When I looked through other patterns online and in my collection, I decided that this doily is a standalone version of the inner motif of the Helene doily (from Zauberhafte Strickspitzen).

The inner part grows quickly.  The outer part has a fairly stable stitch count.  I was worried it might not block flat, but luckily it blocked out just fine.  The hexagonal mesh that surrounds the stem, flower, and outer leaf seems rather clumsily done.  I don't know if that is in the original charts, wherever they might have been published, or if it was added to fix stitch-count issues when the pattern was written out and proofread.

I am inordinately pleased with myself.  I am happy to be knitting doilies again.  I have the next several patterns picked out, I think -- another smallish Niebling, a couple of Engelns, maybe a non-boring Kinzel or two...

I will try to stay away from patterns that don't excite me.  I give myself permission to abandon anything that isn't fun to knit.  And of course all bets are off if and when real life intrudes again.

Happy knitting to all!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A few words on needle size, gauge, and all those other things

I was asked in a comment about needle size for patterns, and in particular, for the ribbed mitten pattern I posted about a month ago.

The simple answer is that for a yarn (or yarn combo) that knits up to a gauge of about 3 st/in, a needle size of 9-11 (5.5 mm to 8 mm) is the usual recommendation.

The longer answer is that it depends.

I am a very loose knitter, especially compare to the standard charts of recommended needle sizes.  So a size that works for me won't work for everyone else.  Thus I hesitate to recommend a needle size when I write out my patterns.

Also, I don't usually specify a yarn.  I might use handspun, or some ancient stuff from the leftovers bin, or something where the ball band was lost years ago.  I might strand two or more yarns together.  And so on.  I do try to give a general gauge and/or a finished item size that you might want to keep in mind.  Where possible, I try to work in measurements (knit until item is X inches long) rather than gauge (work X rows).  I also try to give a sense of how accurate your gauge needs to be.

Most of my patterns are more in the nature of concepts and methods, basic generic plans that work for a range of yarns and that can easily be customized to be larger or smaller based on gauge and personal preference.

For myself, I usually try out a chosen yarn with a likely-looking needle.  If I like the fabric, it's good to go.  I do a rough gauge check, a few simple calculations, and then cast on.

For small items, the item itself is the full gauge swatch.  Evaluate after an inch or two.  Do you still like the fabric?  Does the item fit?  If yes, keep going.  If not, you haven't lost much time, and you've learned something that will make the next attempt better.

For small items, small differences in gauge do not matter much.  For large items, they matter a lot.  For larger items, say a sweater, I might start with a sleeve instead of the body.  Or I'll go top-down.  That way, I can evaluate fairly quickly and make adjustments if necessary without always having to unravel and start over.

I don't know if that helps any.

If you are a new knitter, try the ribbed mittens (or the wristers) with a yarn or yarn combo that falls in the chunky/bulky range and a #10.5 needle.  If you don't have a #10.5 needle, try a #11 or a #9.  Evaluate after an inch or two and change needle size if you don't like how it looks or fit.  With 24 stitches per round, this goes fast.  You're not losing a lot of time if your first attempt isn't working out.

If you are a somewhat more experienced knitter, eyeball the yarn or yarn combo and pick a likely-looking needle size to start out with.

My approach to gauge and swatching is somewhat more relaxed than some people's approach.  Sometimes one really does need to be excruciatingly careful about making gauge swatches, washing them, and then evaluating before committing to the actual project. Sometimes one can be more cavalier, casting on and then seeing what happens, knowing that minor variations aren't going to change the outcome all that much.  With experience, one learns which approach is best suited to which projects and yarns.  Even then, mistakes sometimes get made.  Which, of course, is how one gains experience.  What's that old saying?  "Good judgment comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgment."  Live and learn.  And have fun knitting your way to wisdom.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Very Vintage Bias Ribbed Hat

A long time ago, back before there was much in the way of the internet, let alone a rich online knitting community, I came across an interesting hat in the shop of an alpaca ranch.  The owner told me that it was an old pattern.  She graciously shared it with me.  I scribbled the directions as fast as I could while she described how the hat was made.  I ended up with a quickly drawn schematic on a torn scrap of paper, with two or three sentences to clarify small details.

Eventually, I shared the pattern in private e-mails with friends.  Somehow, my pattern description ended up on the internet, or at least on one of the knitting-related mailing lists that were in their heyday over a decade ago.

Here it is again, preserved for posterity.  Well, posterity by internet standards, whatever that might mean.

This is a vintage pattern.  I do not know its origins, only that it was considered an old pattern at least twenty years ago.  I've formalized the schematic from my quick sketch of long ago so that it looks prettier for the blog.

I re-knit it quickly to get some photos and also to make sure that the directions were adequate.  Yep.  They're adequate.  I didn't pay much attention to details and variations.  I'll discuss a few ideas after the basics.

Classic Bias Ribbed Hat

One of the nice things about this pattern is that gauge does not matter as long as you get a fabric you like.

Here is the schematic:

That's all you need, really.

Here is the pattern in words:

Cast on 3 stitches.  You'll be working in a k2p2 rib, so always stay in pattern.

Start by increasing 1 stitch at the beginning of each row.

When the sides are 12" long (the already knitted sides, not the side of active stitches on your needle), you'll be alternating increase rows with decrease rows.  On one side, you'll continue to increase one stitch at the beginning of the row.  On the other side, you'll decrease one stitch at the beginning of the row.

When the long side (the side with only increases) is 22" long, stop doing any increases.  Instead, decrease one stitch at the beginning of every row.

When you are down to 3 stitches, cast off.

Sew the short ends together.  Gather one of the long sides to close the top of the hat.  Hide the ends.  That's all there is to it.

You can wear it with the brim up or down.  If your finishing is relatively neat, it is quite reversible.

I used worsted-weight alpaca for the hat in the photos above.  It can be done in any yarn and any gauge, of course.

I didn't pay any attention to selvages or increase/decrease methods.  I increased/decreased in the first stitch of each row.  It looks OK.  I'm sure one could play around with different methods if desired.  Although I left the edges plain, I could have added a row of crocheting to the bottom of the hat, or otherwise decorated it up a bit.

If you want to make this hat seamless, the easiest way I know is to cast on the full number of stitches using a provisional cast-on.  Increase at one side and decrease at the other until the hat goes around your head (22").  Then graft the end to the beginning.  The advantage of this is that it is seamless.  The disadvantage is that you need to know your gauge and also need to know how deep you want the hat.  You also need to know how to do provisional cast-ons and grafting in pattern, both of which are quite common now, but which were considered somewhat more esoteric several decades ago.

Enjoy this vintage pattern!  If anyone knows more about its history, please feel free to add some details in the comments.