Monday, December 24, 2007

Snowflakes and Cameras

Our household needs another camera. This post should have gone out over a week ago, except that I was waiting to get my hands on the camera and then transfer the photos over to the 'puter.

Not only do I need ready access to a camera, it would be nice if I could develop some skill in using it. Oh, well. That's another task for another time. I can see some improvement from when I started this blog. I suppose there is no Secret Photography Genius waiting to be unleashed here.

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Here at the Doily Underground, we do more than knit doilies. Sure, you all know that I knit other things. However, knitting is not the only thing I do. I spin. I dye. I braid. I weave (mostly narrow wares). Etc.

I also crochet. At this time of year, I crochet snowflakes. I have a serious weakness for crocheted snowflakes. Over the years, I've made dozens of them. I usually give them away, of course. Most people seem to think that they're rather cute, and not a sign that the maker is seriously unbalanced.

Scattered among this post are a few of the ones that are still around the house. I don't know if they'll stay here or if I'll pass them along to the next unsuspecting soul in need of a holiday gift.

My doily knitting habit provides the raw material for the snowflakes. I crochet them from the remnants of the threads I use for knitting doilies. The snowflakes don't take much thread.

I get the patterns from various sources. Some are off the internet. Some are from various publications one can find in the needlework stores, things from Dover or Leisure Arts and the like. One of my favorites is a German crochet magazine with a Christmas theme. Someone kindly gave that to me a few years ago. I try to restrain my buying habits, because how many snowflake patterns can one household absorb? (Let's not get into my knitted doily pattern collection.) I probably have a few hundred different snowflake patterns scattered among the various booklets, magazines, and internet print-outs.

Snowflakes are quick to crochet. They rarely take more than an hour per flake. The ones I do are usually less than 6 or 7 rounds. They're excellent stress relief. It's fun to have something to show for such a small amount of work.

After I've done a pile of them, it's time to get them ready for gift-giving. I prepare a blocking board, usually cardboard but sometimes styrofoam. I put plastic wrap on it so the snowflakes don't stick.

I prepare a blocking solution of Elmer's glue (or any white glue) heavily diluted with water. It doesn't need to be very gloopy. Then, I dump all the snowflakes in the solution until they're soggy.

I remove a snowflake, squeeze out most of the liquid, and carefully pin it out on the blocking board. I pin the points and anything else that needs pinning. I can manually stretch out some of the other parts of the snowflake if necessary.

After all the snowflakes are pinned out, I let them dry. (Big surprise, right?) After they're dry, I unpin them. I add a hook to a suitable point. The hook is often something simple like an opened-up paper clip. Then I give them away, except for the ones that hang around the house for a while.

I used to care passionately about realism in my snowflakes. They had to have exactly 6 points or they weren't worth making. Now I now longer care. They have to be fun to make. That's all.

What else do I crochet? Lace, of course. I like doilies, mostly the smaller ones. I don't like crocheted doilies as much as knitted doilies, but they're still fun to make when I'm in the mood. I include the amazing multi-motif crocheted tablecloth patterns in the doily category. I also have a weakness for lace edgings. In the yarn category, I find that crochet is good for afghans, cloths in general, some household items such as rugs or bags, and toys. I tend to prefer the elasticity of knitting for clothing items.

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A project report: Since my last post, all I've done is part of a sock.

It's another toe-up sock with a short-row heel. The yarn is a patterned yarn from Regia. It's very cheerful -- narrow stripes of red, blue, green, aqua, and black, separated by narrow bands of gray and white checks. It's very easy to count the rounds on this one!

I should probably do an afterthought heel to keep the color pattern looking good. Since these socks are for me, and since the sock-knitting is for stress relief, I'm not going to bother with that detail. I'd rather knit the sock in one piece, with only the beginning and ending yarn to darn in. A friend of mine was impressed at my ability to turn one long piece of string into such a complicated shape. I smile when I think about that. It is part of the magic of knitting.

I've also thought about doing a toe-up sock in the way that top-down mittens are made. I'd make the toe and foot from one end of the yarn ball. I'd make the heel from the other. I'd join the heel in as I got there, similar to the way that the thumb of a top-down mitten is joined to the hand. Maybe I'll do that for some future sock project. Or maybe not.

Since the photo was taken, I've done another few inches. I'm happily going 'round and 'round. I won't have to decide on the leg length for a while longer.

This morning, I managed to do another several rounds on my Icelandic yarn sweater. That had been waiting until I had time to ball up some skeins of yarn. I finally had the time to wind a few more balls, and thus I can continue for a while. This is the sweater of simple stockinette with a staghorn cable going up the middle of the front. I still haven't decided what the top part is going to be like. It might be a square-set drop-shoulder. It might be another raglan.

I'll try to take a photo of the sweater when I've done enough for it to look interesting.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Generic Ribbed Hat (pattern, sort of)

Hats. I've been thinking about hats.

I won't bore you with all my musings just yet. However, I will note that they are excellent projects for using up small quantities of stash yarns, especially when you're not sure if you have quite enough for a pair (of socks, mittens, wristers, etc.). Hats make good travel knitting. They are fun to knit for quick gifts. And they are a classic for many of the charity-knitting projects out there.

Given that, I thought I'd share one of my standard no-pattern hats that I've been making lately. Some of them are photographed here.

I started making these hats because I had all these small skeins of handspun yarn in my stash. Many were dyeing experiments, or small quantities of variegated roving that had somehow made a home in my fiber stash. The handspun yarn batches were all roughly 2 ounces, give or take a bit. All were variegated, though most of the variegation was fairly subtle.

Hey, I like dyeing and spinning that kind of stuff. Only later do I wonder what to do with all the one-bobbin's worth of variegated yarn skeins that I end up with.

Anyway, I ended up knitting a bunch of hats. Since I wasn't in the mood for extensive planning and swatching, I made them simple.

Yes, this is a very basic ribbed hat. It requires no real swatching, just some vague idea of what your gauge might end up being. It's very elastic, and thus will fit a variety of head sizes. It's long enough to have a folded-up brim, which I find essential in a winter hat. The length of the brim doesn't really matter -- it depends entirely on how much yarn you end up using, plus the head size and preference of the wearer.

Given the flexibility of the pattern, it's a good one for charity knitting, and for stockpiling in case you unexpectedly need a hat for a gift or for a guest.


Generic Ribbed Hat

If you already have a good ribbed hat pattern, you probably won't be interested in this. If you don't, here's the way to do it. You don't need a pattern, just a basic template or recipe.

Pick some yarn. You'll need roughly 2 ounces. A little more is fine, a little less will work, too. Pick any kind of yarn you want -- solid, variegated, thick-and-thin, whatever. Feel free to strand two or more kinds of yarn together. I tend to do that for my thinner handspun, since I wanted these hats to be fairly quick knits. You can also change yarns every now and then if you like doing that sort of thing.

I have found that a single 50g ball of yarn may or may not be enough. It depends on the yardage, which of course depends on the yarn thickness. You may end up with a rather short hat.

Pick an appropriate circular needle. Have a rough idea of what your gauge is going to be. I usually go for worsted weight, more or less -- anything from Aran to DK weight, usually working up at 4.5 stitches per inch (for the Aran weight) to 5.5 stitches per inch (for the DK weight).

Cast on about 20" worth of stitches, rounded to a multiple of 4. Calculate this by using your gauge estimate; it may be anywhere from about 80 to 120 stitches unless you're working with fingering weight or finer yarn. When I cast on, I don't fret if I end up casting on a few more or less as long as I have a multiple of 4. Hats can vary in size from about 18" to 22", depending on the head size of the recipient. Anyway, these hats are stretchy.

Join the cast-on and start ribbing -- *k2, p2*, ad infinitum.

As the hat grows longer, you can measure your actual gauge and thus confirm that the hat will fit. If you're using 2 strands or variegated or textured yarn, you can decide if you like the fabric. If you don't like the fabric or you think the hat will be too small or too big, unravel and start over. It was a gauge swatch, no big deal. You should also confirm that you're making a tube. It's annoying to accidentally put a twist into your knitting, but definitely better to realize your mistake sooner rather than later.

Eventually, you will be near the end of your yarn, or perhaps your patience. It's time to decrease the top of the hat and finish it.

I do different kinds of decrease patterns, depending on how long the hat is and how much yarn I have left. If I'm low on yarn and the hat is fairly small, I do very few decrease rounds, as few as two or three. If the hat is longer and I have more yarn, I might stretch it out over 6-10 rounds.

The fastest decrease is to do a round of *k2tog, p2tog*, followed by a round of *ssk*, and then rounds of *k2tog* until you're down to 12 or fewer stitches. This will make a very gathered-looking top, but it fits well.

If you have a bit more yarn, do a round of *k2tog, p2tog*, followed by a round of *k1, p1*, then a round of *ssk*, then a plain round of knitting, then *k2tog* until you're down to the last few stitches. You can separate some or all of the *k2tog* rounds by a round of plain knitting if you prefer.

The longest method is to do a round of *k2, p2tog*, followed by a round (or rounds) of *k2, p1*. Then, do a round of *k2tog, p1* (or *ssk, p1*), followed by a round (or rounds) of *k1, p1*. Then, do a round of *ssk*, followed by a round or two of plain knitting. Finally, do rounds of *k2tog*, separated by plain rounds or not as you wish, until you're down to those last few stitches.

To finish off, run the yarn end through those last few stitches, pull snug, and hide all ends.

If you're the kind of person who likes pompoms or I-cord or tassels, by all means go ahead and add them to your hat.

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This isn't the only kind of generic hat I knit. I tend to use these kinds of mental templates for basic hat structures, plugging in various kinds of stitch or color patterns as the mood strikes. I tend to do that with most other knitted items, too. I suspect that many knitters are similar in their approach to basic hats, mittens, scarves, sweaters, socks, etc.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The End of the Endless Scarf and other tall tales



First, here is a photo of the completed socks that I mentioned in my last post. As you may be able to tell, they look remarkably like socks. They function like socks. I am pleased.

I don't make all that many socks at the finer gauges. I like making and wearing thicker socks. These 8+ stitch per inch socks are lovely, but not as warm as the 5 stitch per inch quickies. I don't usually wear socks with regular street shoes, so thinness is not usually an issue. It is fun to make the finer gauge socks as well as the larger-gauge ones. I'm going to make a few more pairs, interspersed with some of the thicker socks.



I finished the diagonal garter stitch scarf. That's a photo of it above, in all its variegated clown-barf colored glory. Autumn-colored sounds better than clown-barf, but the phrase, once introduced, has a certain unforgettable vividness.

I'm not sure of the exact finished dimensions, but it's something like 6 feet long by 6 inches wide, give or take a bit. I used about 400 yards of this worsted-weight yarn. Since it was all garter stitch, and since I re-knit half of it, it seemed to take quite a bit longer than necessary. I'm glad it's done. I'm tired of doing diagonal garter stitch for now.

I used the following diagonal garter stitch scarf pattern variation, mentioned way back when I first wrote about this project.

Cast on 3 stitches.

Increase row: knit the first stitch, knit in front and back of the next stitch, knit to end of row.

Repeat the increase row until the scarf is wide enough (measured along the selvedge edge).

Decrease row: knit 1, knit 2 together, knit to end of row.

Alternate an increase row with a decrease row until the scarf is long enough, or you're just about out of yarn or patience.

Then, do decrease rows until you're back down to 3 stitches.

Cast off. Hide ends. Admire. Swear off garter stitch for a while.





Here is a close-up of the scarf, showing the stitch pattern and how it interacts with the variegated yarn. You can also see the ever-so-lovely selvedge. I knit the first stitch of every row. Big deal. It's a good choice for garter stitch, though.

I do like the way diagonal garter stitch looks with this variegated yarn. It almost looks like tapestry or needlepoint or something. Or maybe clown barf.

The scarf is a good length and width for wrapping around my neck and face. It is warm and soft. We're expecting snow tonight and tomorrow. The scarf may well get its first workout this week.

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Now I am all out of travel projects. Yikes! What shall I cast on for my next travel project? It should be something that's on a circular needle, even if it's knit back and forth. It should have shortish rows or be totally circular, so I can put it down with very little notice. It should be relatively mindless.

Another shawl? Even the flat-knit ones can start out as travel projects, though they become house projects after they get large enough. I already have several circular-knit ones -- the usual pi shawls, spiral shawls, square shawls, doily shawls, etc., that any long-time knitter ends up having around the house. I could always use more, I suppose.

A hat? Another scarf? A plain sweater? (As opposed to the one with the cable up the front, which requires keeping track of where I am in the cable pattern.) A moebius thing?

The moebius thing has me thinking and plotting, since the moebius I've been wearing lately proved to have a few flaws when worn during a hike this past weekend. The weather was cold and foggy, with snow and some wind. The snow and ice encrusted on the outside of the moebius got my chin rather wet and cold whenever the wind blew. Given the temperatures and the wind chill factor, this was less than pleasant. Clearly, the design needs a bit of work. It's pretty reasonable for shoveling snow, and for hiking in less windy and/or snowy weather. I need something that will also work in yuckier weather.

One possibility is simply to make it a bit smaller in diameter. If it's a bit more snug, it won't blow around as much in the wind. Another possibility is to make a simple tube rather than a moebius. Those often go by the name of smoke ring or neck gaiter or wimple. It would keep my neck warm, yet I could pull it over my ears and lower face if necessary.

I'm doing research now -- online searches, checking out books, asking friends. Then it will be time to experiment and decide what works best for me. Perhaps I'll need several, depending on weather conditions and the social occasion.

In addition to the above, I've been working on my current socks, another toe-up pair at a relatively fine gauge. The sweater is coming along slowly, and ditto for the doilies. I've been in the mood for mittens and hats, so no doubt I'll soon be casting on for either a hat or mittens or both.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Pair of Socks

No photos yet, but sock # 2 is done. I have achieved sockitude.

The stripes on the two socks started out at slightly different spots on the toe. By the time I reached the top, they were at the exact same spot. I wonder why? I don't think my gauge could have shifted enough to make up the difference. As far as I can tell, the two socks are the same, both in the number of rounds and in the actual measurements. Are the repeat lengths in Opal sock yarn exact or approximate?

I have enough of this yarn left to make at least one more sock. OK. My chances of ever getting this dyelot again are close to nil.

I probably have enough to make some wristwarmers. Or, I could strand it with another yarn to make another pair of socks or some mittens or a hat. It's enough for a small bag, though I don't know what I'd do with such a thing. Most probably, it will go in the oddball bin. I'll use it eventually.

It was hard not to cast on immediately for the next pair of socks. Tomorrow. Or maybe later today. Chances are they will be toe-up, too. Dunno if I'll choose one of the patterned yarns or not.

I'll have to wear this pair for a while before I decide whether I like this style of short-rowed heels.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ecce Sock!



I'm not sure if there's a Latin word for sock. The free online translator websites didn't seem to think so.

Sock #1 is complete as of a few days ago. It went fast. Sock #2 is nearly to the heel. It should be done in a few days.

The yarn is an old ball of Opal from my stash. As you can tell, the main color is gold/mustard, and there are occasional narrow stripes of yellow, red, and blue.

This is a toe-up sock with a short-row heel. I did Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' short-row version, with yarnovers instead of wraps. It's OK, though it seems more fiddly to me than the wrap or no-wrap versions. The two sides of the heel don't quite match; one set of decreases is slightly looser than the other. We'll see if I can improve on that in the second sock.

It seems like half the knitters I know are knitting socks right now. I wonder why? Is it the cold weather, the hibernating instincts of late fall? Is there some kind of Group Think going on? I know that a lot of knitters usually have socks on the needles at all times. However, those of us who knit them in fits and starts suddenly are knitting them again. New sock knitters are joining the Great Sock Knitting Conspiracy.

Not that there's anything wrong with this, of course. The world needs more hand-knit socks and more knitters who know how to make them.

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Fleegle wrote (in comments to the last post):

That's really a blue doily...don't know if I care for it. It looks a bit boring to knit. 5000 stitches for a doily round? Or is that the total number of stitches you have left?

The 5000 stitches is the approximate number for the rest of the Azalea doily, 12 rounds of knitting. Those are rounds 51-62. The doily has close to twice the usual number of stitches per round. They're tedious stitches, too. The design is economical, using only a few maneuvers to create its beauty. Most of the stitches are stockinette.

The blue doily is indeed blue! Actually, it was rather fun to knit. Only the outer rounds were a bit tedious, when I was at over 400 stitches per round. That's the section where those outer fan motifs are developed.

For most of the doily, you are doing something interesting every few stitches. Each little section of motif is small and easily memorized. There are remarkably few stretches of plain knit stitches, never more than 5 in a row. The rest consists of yarnovers, decreases, increases, twisted knit stitches, and so on. There are sections of double yarnovers in most rounds and plenty of k5togs scattered throughout the doily.

I'm not really up on art terms, but I like the aesthetics of this design. A lot of Niebling's patterns are flowing. They may or may not have a lot of symmetry. This one is very restrained and highly symmetrical. I like that. It has a different, more restricted kind of energy flow compared to the more swirly designs. However, this can look boring if your preferences are for the more open and lively doily styles.

I finally got around to fixing the dropped stitches in my Lyra. Talk about fiddly--I hate doing that. On to round 157 tomorrow. Can't wait to finish it so I can start Aldelaida. Or Lotus. Or something!

Congratulations on fixing the dropped stitches in Lyra! It's always a relief to be able to recover like that. For me, that's usually mixed with the self-annoyance that the time/effort was needed in the first place! I don't mind the simple errors that are easy to fix. Major fixes are stressful and frustrating.

Adelaida and Lotus are pretty patterns. Are you going to do them as doilies? As shawls? When a doily gets to a certain size, I usually consider whether it would work well as a shawl. With all the work it will take, I want the result to be large and readily displayed. Since I don't live a doily lifestyle, shawls tend to get way more public exposure than a large cloth would.

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It's almost December. Already! I'm not ready.

However, tomorrow is National Pie Day here in the US. Perhaps I should celebrate. National Cookie Day is December 4. I also have my eye on Eggnog Day (Dec. 24) and Chocolate Day (Dec. 28).

Happy Pie Day Eve to all!

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Doily Shot and Various Ramblings


The above doily is Burda 085/15. It's from Folge 1, an early Burda lace-knitting special. The pattern is probably a Niebling design. Most of the patterns in this collection are Nieblings. The magazine starts out by celebrating Burda's purchase of the rights to many of Niebling's patterns.

The reason the doily in this photo looks blue is because it is blue. I'm pretty sure I used #20 Coats Opera thread, light blue in color. I'm not a huge fan of Coats Opera for doilies. It's nice to knit with and shiny in appearance. However, the cotton is fairly soft. Doilies made from Coats Opera seem a bit limp and lose their blocking fairly quickly. I have some in my stash I've slowly been using up. I don't know if I'll buy more after it's gone. It works well for a lot of other kinds of lace even though it's less than perfect for doily knitting.

This was a fun doily to knit. It has a lot of the Niebling touches, such as multiple decreases and berry/leaf/flower motifs that hang from stalks. Those outer motifs, the fan of feathers or open leaves or whatever they are, are also a common Niebling touch. I liked the way the pattern grew. It has a recursive aspect that appeals to me.

The pattern's structure is interesting. It is seemingly simpler than some of Niebling's designs. Each motif is in its own triangular wedge. The lines of each wedge are straight. The structural increases and the decorative touches all occur within each wedge.

Many of Niebling's most admired patterns don't separate the motifs so stringently. Each pattern repeat swirls into the next. The structural increases can occur anywhere, and rarely follow a straight line or even a simple increase pattern. There are no lines or obvious breaks between the pattern repeats.

Is this an earlier pattern of his? A way to experiment with some new decorative motifs without having to worry about uniting them into a flowing design? Or is it a design preference, a deliberate choice to use this motif in this particular way? It is by no means the only Niebling design with isolated motifs separated into distinct panels.

The doo-dad on the stalk motif is interesting, too. Are these leaves? Flowers or flower buds? Some kind of fruit? I don't know. Each one is relatively long and narrow, with a double decrease in the center keeping it the same width until it's attached to the stalk motif.

I have seen a similar motif in a Russian-language Niebling pattern that goes by the name of "birch catkins". (I've seen the birch catkin pattern somewhere else, too, but can't remember where offhand.) The birch catkin pattern looks very much like the famous "snowdrop flower" pattern that's been published in Burda and elsewhere. It consists of catkins (similar to the snowdrops) on stalks, all on a hex mesh background. The motifs seem to swirl and flow in a typical Niebling manner, no rigid separation like we see in the 085/15 pattern.

This pattern is also related to a group of other patterns, most around 72 rounds, that have berries or flowers on stalks. A few of them go by the name of Thistle. Most of the patterns don't have the motifs strictly separated into panels the way this one does. Of course, now that I've drifted onto this subject, I can't find any links to photos to share with y'all. Rats. Maybe next time.

Ramblings on Various In-Process Projects

I don't want to leave my poor blog neglected. Therefore, in addition to the above doily photo, I shall post a bit about current progress on various projects. I don't usually post that kind of stuff to mailing lists because it's too boring. I actually do like having a record of what I was working on, the issues I was considering, and so on. So here is this week's progress report...

The sweater I posted about last week is still teetering between a staghorn cable on the front and Something Else. The cable is fine. I like working it and I like the way it looks. However, I might simply want to knit plain stockinette for a while. I'm not sure if the cable detracts from the beauty of the yarn and thus the overall sweater fabric. I've been doing a couple of cable repeats while I dither.

If I ditch the cable, my next decision point will come at the underarm area. Then I can decide if I want to do a gansey or drop-shoulder style, and if so, if I should pattern the chest area or not. I'd pattern the shoulder/neck area for sure if it's a gansey. If I don't decide to do a gansey, then what? I can still add a color pattern to the yoke. Or I could do another EZ-style sweater, choosing something different from last time. I've also been toying with the idea of a V-neck sweater for this yarn. Anyway, there are plenty of things to contemplate as the yarn slides through my fingers and the sweater goes 'round and 'round.

My diagonal garter stitch scarf is nearing the end. This is good. I am getting very tired of doing diagonal garter stitch. The scarf is roughly 5 feet long with maybe another foot to go, give or take a bit. I still like the way the scarf looks. It's an effective way to use this particular variegated yarn. I think the colors are cheerful, but a certain person who shall remain nameless implied that it looked like clown barf. Hmmph.

The Marianne Kinzel Azalea doily is sitting. I have finished the third iteration of the leaf pattern. I am trying to decide if I have the fortitude to do the fourth and final iteration. I am thinking seriously of casting off now. There are only 12 rounds to do for the full-size doily, but it turns out to be something like 5000 incredibly tedious stitches. I can think of more interesting ways to spend 5000 stitches of my knitting life.

The Frosted Ferns doily is sitting. I think it's waiting for me to get the Azalea off the needles. I'm not inspired.

I did start a new project this weekend. It's a generic 64-stitch toe-up sock. I think I was inspired by the sight of all my other handknit socks. We've had cold weather lately. It's time for my first sock-washing session of the season. The sight of all those socks, ready to wash, always fills me with a sense of satisfaction. One can never have too many socks, so it's time to start another pair.

Yes, I always do have some sock yarn in my stash; why do you ask? Sock yarn is no different from any other household staple such as flour or soap.

I'm trying Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' short-row heel for this sock. It's the one where you use yarnovers instead of wraps (or neither) as you work your way down and up. The yarnovers get knit or purled together with neighboring stitches as the sock heel grows. One ends up doing k3tog's and sssp's as each heel stitch is joined together with two yarnovers. I'm not sure if I like it or not, but I will reserve judgment. It seems rather fiddly. I'm not sure the results will justify the efforts.

After all the doilies I've been doing, a 64-stitch sock seems to go quite quickly. I'm more than half done with the first sock already.

My spinning wheel project is going slowly. I'm almost done with another bobbin of singles and thus will soon be plying several hundred yards. Every time I sit down to spin, a cat promptly comes over to sit on my lap. I don't mind that too much, except that the cat will occasionally, and quite surreptitiously (he thinks), lean over to grab the roving and take a small nibble. This does not lead to harmony, tranquility, and good yarn.

What else can I bore everyone with? I don't have other fiber projects that I feel like writing about. I'm thinking about posting a generic k2p2 ribbed hat pattern, but that will be at some future unspecified time.

I have been doing some hiking. With every snowfall, I've been retreating to lower elevations. It's interesting to see some areas in late fall that looked so much different in spring or summer. The world seems monochromatic, a million shades of gray and brown. And yet those shades are so beautiful -- purplish grays, rosy browns, sage greens, the russet-tinged gold of dried grass, the pale blue glitter of ice crystals. It makes me want to drag out the paints or bring along my camera. Hiking always makes me think and reflect as my body moves along the trail. With winter hiking, there's enough beauty for appreciation and reflection without the distractions of summer's gaudy riot of colors and sights.

I like winter hiking. When the snow gets deep enough, I like snowshoeing, too. Skiing is OK but requires too much interfacing with the equipment, rather like biking. It's a different kind of experience.

There's something very satisfying about wearing proper clothing while out in the cold. Of course, I especially enjoy those items I made myself. Which, of course, is part of why I do it, both the making stuff and the wearing while hiking.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The New Project Dance

Two steps forward, one step back.

I have trouble following actual patterns. (Doilies excepted, for some unknown reason.) This means that I usually end up designing my own stuff. I choose the yarn, some likely needles, do some swatching, and so on. I have a few ideas about what I'm trying to do. I take the info from the swatches and draw up a bunch of different ideas.

Eventually, I narrow the possibilities down to what I think I really want to do. And then I cast on. After a few inches, I evaluate. Do I like it enough to continue? If so, then I commit to the project and keep going. If not, then I rip and go on to Plan B.

I did a lot of ripping and re-doing this week. I have several possible sweaters planned out on paper, using different batches of yarn. The swatches seem reasonable. However, when I started the actual project, I changed my mind after a few hours of knitting.

As I wrote recently, ganseys have been on my mind lately. I'm pretty sure this next sweater will have a gansey-style shaping. It will be knit in the round. At the armholes, I'll split the front and back and work them separately. I'll do something at the shoulders before knitting back and front together. Then, I'll pick up the sleeves and work them downwards.

Easy enough. But what embellishment shall I add to the sweater? What about borders?

The gray yarn I used for my last sweater does not show knit-purl patterns all that well. I liked the idea of doing a gansey with horizontal bands of reverse stockinette and basket stitch motifs, until I tried swatching it and realized that it wouldn't show up clearly enough. Vertical patterns do show up nicely. I came up with something I like -- columns of simple 2x2 rope cables, crossed every 4 rounds, separated by a couple of columns of ribbing. But then I started to dither. Perhaps I want to save the gray yarn for a round-yoke color-stranded sweater.

Now I remember why it's so hard to get started on sweaters for myself. Oh, well. I have two sweater concepts all sketched out and ready to go.

So, on to the next potential batch of yarn. This is about 1200 yards of bulky 2-ply Icelandic yarn. I love this yarn. It was spindle-spun from cloud batts that didn't draft very easily (which is why a friend gave the fiber to me). The yarn is thick and thin. It's wonderfully fluffy, since it was from a double-coated animal. It's mostly white, with a small percentage of reddish brown and black fibers. It has an interesting luster, a sheen almost like fresh cream.

I have another big batch of these cloud batts in black with a few white fibers. It's not as nice as the white batch. It's even harder to draft. The fiber isn't as soft. It's not all that fun to spin in comparison with the white. I've been slowly spinning it for years and still have a ways to go. It's ending up a lot more uneven than the white yarn.

I had initially thought I'd do a black and white color stranded sweater from the Icelandic. But instead, I think I'll knit a mostly-white sweater and use any remainders with the black yarn.

My first attempt had a crochet cast-on, a rolled hem followed by a couple of rounds of ribbing, and then stockinette with a wide staghorn cable panel in the middle of the front.

Bleh. I think I need to loosen up a bit on the gauge and I didn't like the bottom border.

I'm now on my second attempt. I've gone up in needle size, I did a plain old long-tail cast-on, and I'm doing a k1p1 rib for a couple of inches. I like it so far. Soon I'll need to make more decisions.

I still like the staghorn cable. It's a 20-stitch panel, with 16 stitches used for the cable and 2 purl stitches on each side to outline it.

Round 1, 3, and 5: p2, k16, p2
Round 2: p2, k4, 2x2 Z cable, 2x2 S cable, k4, p2
Round 4: p2, k2, Z cable, k4, S cable, k2, p2
Round 6: p2, Z cable, k8, S cable, p2

The Staghorn Cable is in Barbara Walker's First Treasury, in case I added some odd typos. She has it in V upward and V downward configurations, depending on which way you're knitting and which cable you prefer. I've used the V downward configuration before in a top-down Aran-style sweater.

The yarn is great fun to knit with. It's soft under my fingers. I like the slight hairiness of the outer coat of the fleece, which is where the color variations are. I like the fluffiness of the inner coat. I like the way the looser gauge allows both of these characteristics to be expressed. This is going to be a very cozy sweater once I figure out what kind of embellishment to add so I can get it done.

Option 1: Use the idea of a stockinette sweater with a staghorn cable pattern going up the middle of the front.

Option 2: Something else...

It's the Something Else that always gets to me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Some Eastern Mediterranean Socks

Deborah added a clarification about the quote I used from Knitting in the Old Way:

It could have been either of us by philosophy, that's for sure, but those words are Priscilla's. Most of the book is Priscilla; I just contributed enough over the three years we were working on the expanded version that Priscilla said, "Your name should go on the cover, too." So there it is.

We both have Japanese-influenced aesthetic and practical ideas.

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Marie asked if the sweater was slightly A-line.

It is not A-line, at least not deliberately. It does have a slight flare in the photo. That could be due to the way I posed the sweater. Or, it could be because of the seed stitch border. The border is slightly wider than the rest of the sweater because I wasn't in the mood to change needle size or use fewer stitches.

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The sweater is indeed warm and cozy. I've worn it already. We've had some very cool weather this week.

I'll probably start another sweater soon, whether or not I start another shawl. I am mulling two or three options.

Option 1 is a round-yoke sweater with color patterns.

Option 2 is an Aran-style sweater from some white yarn I have. I'm attracted to a stitch pattern in a Kathy Zimmerman design that appeared in Knitters magazine several years ago. It has vertical columns of a fish- or trellis-like cable pattern on a seed stitch ground. Of course, I'd merely steal the stitch pattern concept and use it with my own gauge and shaping ideas. I might not even use that exact same cable; I might well replace it with an OXO cable.

Option 3 is a gansey-type sweater. I've been looking through Rae Compton's book on ganseys. There are a couple of sweaters in there that really appeal to me. One is the Campbeltown sweater that she gives a pattern for. It consists of columns of simple rope cables separated by ribbing (note a theme?). The yoke and sleeve tops are in basket stitch, which is Compton's name for moss stitch. There are some similar sweaters shown elsewhere in the book, from Robin Hood Bay and somewhere else I can't remember.

An aside: I wish someone would republish this wonderful book, along with Compton's other ethnic knitting book.

There are other ideas simmering in my brain, but the above three are the ones I'm most attracted to right now.

I might have to actually do some swatching to see how well different patterns show up in the yarns I'd like to use for a sweater. Oh, yeah, and get an approximate gauge, too. I tend to use the sleeves as my gauge swatches, since they are usually more accurate. I mostly do swatching to find a needle/fabric/stitch combo I like.

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As most of y'all probably already know, Priscilla Gibson-Roberts published a book on Ethnic Socks and Stockings. It features socks from eastern Europe, western Asia, and the Mediterranean area.

Reading Knitting in the Old Way reminded me of this, and I dragged out some old eastern Mediterranean socks to photograph and share. I don't know exactly where these came from or how old they are. They are most likely from either the early 1970's or the late 1950's, given how they came into my possession. They are probably from somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean region, though I don't know which country or ethnic group/tribe they might be characteristic of.




The photo above shows the top/front side of the socks. As you can tell, they mostly feature simple stranded-color patterns. The foot shows some very small areas that use a third or fourth color. I didn't turn them inside-out to check out what kind of stranding or intarsia-in-the-round methods were used.

The red dye is not colorfast, alas, as I discovered when they got wet once. The white areas are really white, not pink. The other colors are black, red, purple, green, and orange.

The colorwork and stitch evenness are not all that expert in their execution. I don't care; I like them anyway.



The above photo shows the bottom of the socks. You can see the pattern on the soles. The heel (an afterthought heel) is done in black and white. The bottom part of the heel (foot bottom) uses a different pattern from the top (back of heel). You'll see that detail in the small photo to the left, wherever it happens to turn up. The bottom part, shown above, consists of diagonal stripes of black and white. The other side has vertical columns of black and white which also contain single stitches of the opposite color.

These socks were knit from the toe up. The heel stitches are knit downwards, from the foot/leg to the point of the heel.


To the left is a photo of the back side of the sock. You can see the heel pattern on this side of the sock. You can also see the bands of color patterns that make up the sock in slightly better focus than the first photo shows.

These color bands only use two colors per round. I like the way the patterns are simple yet effective. Green, purple, and orange turn out to work well together. The use of a different color in the middle round of the pattern motif ends up making the pattern look more complex than it is.

There are vertical bars at the edge of the pattern bands for the purple/orange spider-like patterns. Front and back look the same -- two spiders with a bar on each side. The diamond motifs continue all the way around.

To the right is a close-up photo of one of the diamond motif bands. What this really shows is the yarn and the general knitting technique. I'm pretty sure the colored yarn is wool. It is scratchy and coarse. The white yarn does not seem to be the same. It could be cotton, but I don't know enough about the possibilities and how to distinguish between them.

The socks show distinct vertical lines that were probably where the knitter transitioned between dpn's. Some areas of stranding aren't all that clear and distinct.

I can't remember the exact gauge on these socks. It's something like 6 stitches per inch.

The photo to the left shows the top of the sock. It's in the black wool yarn. I think it's a couple of rounds of purl stitches followed by a loose cast-off. The yarn ends are left to float free. They are united in a loose overhand knot on one sock, but separate on the other.

I took some other photos, but I won't upload them right now. They show various parts of the sock in slightly more detail.


I love these kinds of ethnic socks and other ethnic knitting. I wish I had more. I appreciate Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' efforts in documenting some of the techniques and patterns used, both in Ethnic Socks and Stockings and the occasional articles in the various knitting magazines. She's not the only one who has done that, of course. Betsy Harrell's Anatolian Knitting and Anna Zilboorg's Fancy Feet are other good compendiums. One can find bits and pieces in other sources, such as occasional blurry photos in books on folk arts of various regions.

There are blogs with great photos, too. One of these days I'll go searching and compile a set of links. For example, Marcy shows ethnic knitting, including the wonderful NATO Latvian mitten collection. Joy is currently living in northern India, and sometimes includes photos of people wearing various handknits. And so on.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Plain Gray Sweater is Finished!

An interesting quote

I came across this in the expanded edition of Knitting in the Old Way, by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts and Deborah Robson. I'm not sure which of the authors is responsible for the following words. It's on the bottom of page 95.

"We can secure more reliable satisfaction by having a few possessions that satisfy our souls, instead of many disposable items that briefly assuage fleeting desires."

The first part of the paragraph is worthwhile, too:

"Hand knitting was taken for granted until 'progress' did away with the need for its regular practice. But the cost to humanity in the loss of these skills and the ability to employ them has exceeded the value of the theoretically higher standard of living. We need to work with our hands, creating objects that are unique and also enduring."

I think that applies to many, many things, not just knitting.

Speaking of soul satisfaction, here is:

The Plain Gray Sweater



Isn't it beautiful?

The borders are seed stitch. I wanted a sweater that would hang instead of cling. Blocking did indeed take care of the flipping bottom band.

The pattern is Elizabeth Zimmermann's percentage sweater with a raglan sleeve style, taken pretty much directly from Knitting Without Tears. I made the sleeves a bit bigger around, in accordance with modern tastes.

As usual, my favorite project is the one I just finished.

Here is a close-up of the knitted fabric. It's not as sharp as I would like. (My photography skills are improving, but there's a long way to go before I call myself proficient.)

You can see the bits of texture in the yarn. However, you can also see that the knitted fabric is far more even than a glimpse at the yarn would lead you to expect. The transitions between different balls of yarn are not at all visible.

The yarn color is closer to the top photo than the close-up photo. It's a medium gray color, somewhat heathery due to variations in the roving.

I took a photo of the seed stitch sleeve cuff. However, between my so-so photographic ability and the fuzziness of the yarn, it's hard to make out any interesting details.

I need to remember that the yarn is too fuzzy to show textural patterns clearly. Do not make a gansey with subtle knit-purl patterns, for example. Even seed stitch or moss stitch wouldn't look all that great. A big honking cable might work. Ribs might work if they're simple. Color patterns would show up well as long as the blocks of color are fairly large.

Today is probably going to be a doily-knitting and yarn-spinning day. I'll be doing some mental planning for my next big project. I'd like to finish one more of my in-progress projects before casting on for something new. But you never know.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cutting the Cord


A few more thoughts about the (yo, sl 1, k2, psso) stitch pattern:

This stitch pattern is used in some of the shawls in the Icelandic shawl book, Three-Cornered and Long Shawls, by Sigridur Halldórsdóttir (translation by Marilyn van Keppel).

In Beyer/Burda charting, and also in the Icelandic book, the (sl 1, k2, psso) maneuver uses a chart symbol that looks a lot like an H or an N with a squiggle instead of the horizontal or slanted crossbar. It will be similar in other chart styles that borrow from the Beyer/Burda conventions.

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Fleegle indicated a preference for knitted tutus over knitted ponchos. Well, you're in luck!

I was idly flipping through Handknit Holidays (edited by Melanie Falick), and came across the poncho/skirt pattern by Carrie Brenner (on p.112). The description says, "This versatile piece had its beginnings as a poncho... until the model wearing it pulled it down over her hips. At that moment, it was transformed into a playful skirt."

So, you can have it all! Knit those poncho-like doilies to your heart's content, but wear them as tutus instead.

If you do this, we want pictures.

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I have finished the knitting on my sweater!!!! (How many exclamation points can I use before the punctuation police smack my fingers?)

I need to cut the yarn (always difficult), graft the underarms, hide the yarn ends, and block it.

The sweater fits. It's nicely oversized. It's beautiful in a rustic sort of way.

This is the kind of sweater I thought I'd never knit, because who would ever knit a plain gray sweater? Well, I did. It takes exactly as much time and yarn as a non-gray sweater, and less time than a patterned sweater.

I am bouncing around happily. A sweater! For me! And it fits! And it's done before winter! And I made it out of my very own handspun! And there's enough left for another sweater! And now I can start the next sweater with confidence!

But first I have to cut the yarn. That for me is the point of commitment. Snip! For some reason, it can be a psychological difficult moment. Do I really like the item? Am I willing to inflict damage on my preciousssss handspun?

Yes.

(exit stage right, scissors in hand...)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Continuing the themes from my last post...

My sweater is very close to finished. Now all I need is some knitting time. That's been in short supply this month.

The comments I got from my last post have inspired this post. Thank you!

Elizabeth wrote:

yarnover, slip 1, k2, pass slipped stitch over
Ok, this I've not run across (obviously I don't knit many doilies). You're slipping 1, knitting two, then passing the slipped stitch over the two knitted stitches, leaving a yo and two stitches on the needles? Hmmmm.

Yes, you slip a stitch then pass it over a couple of knit stitches. In this case, it's a 3-to-2 decrease. The yarnover adds a stitch, keeping the total stitch count constant. You are indeed left with the yarnover and the two stitches on the needle. The slipped stitch puts a horizontal to slightly diagonal line across the base of the two stitches, a loose wrap stitch effect. You can slip that stitch either as if to knit or as if to purl, depending on what you like.

I've included a close-up of how this pattern looks in my Mommes Lysedug doily/shawl. It's hard to see the details, unfortunately. Blame my poor photography skills! It's a very attractive and sturdy-looking motif. When I first started the Mommes Lysedug pattern, I thought it was a typo.

It's not a very common stitch pattern. Most doilies do not use anything so complicated! Many doilies only use yarnovers, knits, twisted knits, k2tog, SKP, and SK2P. I'm not sure if Christine Duchrow ever used this stitch pattern again. Herbert Niebling used it occasionally; it's one of his characteristic stitch patterns. I don't know about any other doily designers.

You'll also find this pattern in Shetland Knitting, where it's often called Mrs. Hunter's stitch pattern. It's in Sharon Miller's Heirloom Knitting, on page 70. That version calls for slipping a stitch, knitting 3 stitches, then passing the slipped stitch over. The motifs are stacked vertically rather than offset diagonally.

Barbara Walker put Mrs. Hunter's stitch into one of her pattern treasuries, probably the first volume.

I vaguely recall someone on the knitlist, many years ago, who used Mrs. Hunter's pattern as part of a hap shawl she knit. It would make a good hap shawl pattern. I'd actually try to use it in a center-out square, so that it would automatically look like the offset/diagonal version that is in the Mommes Lysedug pattern. I could start the square with one pattern, add a wide band of Mrs. Hunter's stitch, then transition to something else. Would I finish with an outward-knit border or a sideways-knit border? How would this look if I changed colors, too?

Fleegle wrote:

I have been mentally toying with the idea of knitting half-circles and 3/4 circles instead of the entire round thing...then I run into the purling concept and sort of wimp out.

Another gray sweater! You clearly have more patience than I do. I can't remember the last time I knitted anything gray.

I go for a cabled vest...if you have enough yarn, you can then proceed on to the sleeves.


In reverse order:

Cabled vest... Although it would be fun to knit, I would never wear it. I'm not a vest person. If I'm cold enough to put on a sweater, then I need something that will keep my arms warm. I've tried vests in the past. I end up uncomfortably warm in the areas under my vest and uncomfortably cold in the areas not covered.

This batch of gray yarn is rather fuzzy. I'm not sure if there's enough stitch definition for complicated cables. I do have a different batch of yarn that would be perfect for a cabled sweater, with sufficient yarn to knit the entire sweater. Some day...

I probably will do a cabled vest someday, simply because it would be fun to do. I'll use a different batch of yarn that will show the cables well. I have no idea what I'll do with it when it's finished, though. In the past, I gave my knitted vests to a family member who loved them. That person is no longer alive.

However, I do like your idea of doing a vest, then adding sleeves if there's enough yarn.

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Gray sweater... It helps that I spun the yarn myself. I love knitting with my handspun. The yarn is heathery rather than being a flat gray. It also has some thicker and thinner areas to give a bit of texture to the sweater. I love the way the yarn feels as it runs under my fingers.

Anyway, the sweater is dead plain, an almost by-the-book Elizabeth Zimmermann percentage sweater, raglan variation. I'm not sure if it matters that I'm using gray rather than another color. A plain gray sweater isn't the most exciting thing in the universe, but it's been fun to knit. I don't have to pay attention most of the time. I go round and round and round, letting my mind wander on to other topics. There are few decision points or areas where I have to plan and think and count.

The goal was to knit a sweater for myself. I'd started several over the years that never got finished. I decided that the Keep It Simple option was my best bet for getting something done. If I used boring yarn, then I wouldn't care as much if it wasn't perfect. I don't have to get every detail right. I just want something that I can wear when the weather is cold. I don't even have to wear it in public.

Sometimes I have to psych myself out. This was one of those times.


The next sweater from this gray yarn will be different. Period. One option is to add stranded color patterns to the yoke, sleeves, and bottom band area. If I do that, I'll probably do a round yoke. I'd start in the middle of the sweater (and sleeves), knit upward. Then, I'd pick up the stitches and knit downward to finish. Or, I'd do it totally top-down.

The other possibility I'm considering is a gansey-style sweater. Yes, it would be plain gray (unless I added some color anyway). But the shape would be different. It would be close to fleegle's idea of a vest, with sleeves added if there's enough yarn. Any stitch patterns would have to be very simple, since there wouldn't be a lot of stitch definition.

A third possibility is to make the next sweater from a different batch of yarn, thus avoiding an overdose of gray.

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Half-circles and 3/4 circles... Yep, I go through a lot of the same mental contortions. The endless purling can get to me.

There are other issues, especially if you're adapting a doily pattern.

The biggest issue is that a lot of doily patterns do not have an easy break between pattern repeats. The break may occur in the middle of a motif. It is usually not a straight line. You'd have to do some re-charting to get something attractive.

One option is to make a poncho-type shawl. Skip the innermost motif. Cast on at the point where there are enough stitches to go over your head. Knit the rest of the doily. You can add or subtract a pattern repeat or two if you want something a bit fuller or less full.

Another option is to knit the doily or other pattern in the round, and then slash it after you're done. Knit as many pattern repeats as you'd like. Start in the middle or skip the innermost motif as above. When you're done, baste the area you think ought to be cut, and then go for it. Pick up edge stitches and put on a suitable border.

Personally, I don't like slashing my knitting. Consider the above to be theoretical advice. I've never tried it.

I do like the circle, square, and other polygonal shapes because they are knit circularly. The intermediate rounds are usually plain knit, making for a restful interlude. The disadvantage is that they take twice as much yarn as the half-circle or triangle would take. Also, one usually needs to fold part of it over, like a collar, to wear it over the shoulder.

However, a square is a very useful shape. Having a square shawl automatically turns you into a hoopy frood who knows where his/her towel is. A circle is merely a square with the corners lopped off. Or something.

Triangles are useful shapes for shawls, but not as useful for other purposes. A lot of patterns can be turned into garter stitch. Other times, it really does make more sense to purl the wrong-side rows. It's not horrible, really!

I find that a stockinette-based shawl will end up being larger than a garter-based shawl, for example. There's probably not as much difference if you're using fine yarn and a loose gauge. For shawls with thicker yarns, the difference is very obvious.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mommes Lysedug


The above photo is a close-up of the Mommes Lysedug doily pattern, does as a lap blanket or small circular shawl. The pattern is available here at Nurhanne's yarnover website. It is a design by Christine Duchrow. The basic motif and charts can be found in Volume III of the Lacis compilation of her work.

I did take a photo of the shawl on my bed. As you can tell, it is not a great photo. I was standing at an angle, the bed is not flat, and so on. The shawl/doily/blanket really is circular, I promise!

I knit this shawl from sport-weight yarn, Jaggerspun 3/8 Heather, to be exact. It was a lot of fun. I only had the text version of the pattern at the time I knit it. It was accurate and easy to follow. I think I found one very minor error which also turned out to be in the Duchrow charts for the pattern.

Since this is a Duchrow pattern, there are quirks that strike the modern doily knitter as being a bit odd. In particular, there's a section where there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason for the decrease directions in the motifs. I never did get that straightened out to my satisfaction. I ended up knitting it as directed, and it worked out well enough.

Duchrow's doily designs were mostly intended to be knit with very fine thread. Decrease directions don't really matter when the thread is fine enough. A lot of her designs are a bit arbitrary about decrease directions as a result. I change decrease directions as needed according to my moods. It's not all that important most of the time. I try to stay consistent within a pattern, but don't worry too much beyond that.

This doily upsizes quite well. The 110-round pattern ended up giving me a doily close to 4 feet in diameter. It is a warm lap blanket and a small but quite adequate shawl. It drapes down to my elbow level, and it can be pinned in the front so that it stays on without effort.

As a lap blanket, it is quite successful. It works especially well for cuddling small children who are napping or who do not feel well. It would work as a baby blanket for similar reasons. (I won't get into the whole issue of whether eyelets are dangerous for babies.)

I've included two photos of the shawl on a local 10-yr-old. I've shown the back view and the side view. Two cats are in the photo for scale.

The shawl took about 8 ounces of yarn, almost exactly. I had 2 yards left (out of 740 yards) when I finished. I modified the crochet cast-off to use less yarn, which did indeed turn out to be necessary.

I used this for several years before I ever got around to blocking it.

More thoughts:

I like Jaggerspun Heather. I should buy more and use it for shawls or sweaters or lap afghans. It comes in a couple of different weights, not just sport weight.

Circular shawls are not the most practical shawl shape in existence. However, they work well enough. Since they are fun to knit, I put up with the impracticality.

This is a good size pattern for small shawls or lap blankets. Even with a short attention span, I can get it done before I get bored. Duchrow has plenty of other patterns that are similar in size and complexity.

Christine Duchrow uses an interesting stitch pattern in this doily. It's a (yarnover, slip 1, k2, pass slipped stitch over). It's offset on each pattern round. You can see it in the top photo, the closeup. It's quite decorative and fun to do. I've seen similar patterns under the name of Mrs. Hunter's pattern and a couple of other variants. It's a fairly uncommon stitch pattern for doilies, especially the ones I've seen from this time period. Herbert Niebling sometimes uses it, too.

Although the basic motifs for this doily are in the Lacis compilation, this exact pattern is not. Apparently, Duchrow's patterns were published in several different variations as well as several different languages. (The original for this was in Danish.) One version of a particular pattern pamphlet might contain slightly different doilies from another version. That intrigues me. Why was this done? What does it say about the European doily publishing business during the time these were being printed and sold? One of Duchrow's designing strengths was her ability to use a small set of motifs to create a variety of different but related doilies. How many more variations exist besides the ones in the Lacis book plus these other few that I'm aware of?

I'm sure I had more thoughts, but they seem to have abandoned me for the moment.

Sweater Progress

My plain gray sweater is almost finished. Getting past the decision point did turn out to get me past my knitting block. It's gone quickly since then. I hope I got the raglan yoke calculations right on my first try. If not, I'll have to rip and re-do some of it.

My yarn paranoia stood me in good stead. I'll probably have enough yarn left over to do another entire sweater. It will be somewhat different, since it would be rather silly to knit two identical play gray sweaters.

Should I do a fancy cabled vest? Although it's enticing, I don't wear vests.

Therefore, I'll probably do another sweater. Do I have enough yarn to add a cable panel? It's iffy. (yarn paranoia...) I could do some kind of stitch pattern. Or, most likely, I'd add some stranded color patterns at the neck, cuff, and bottom edges.

Should I do another gray sweater immediately? Or should I do a sweater out of some different yarn?

One of the fun things about getting towards the end of one project is dreaming about the next.

Mary Walker Phillips

Rest in peace.

Her book on Creative Knitting contained many interesting and influential ideas, even if the wall hangings look a bit dated for modern tastes. Her descriptions of eastern, western, and combined knitting techniques are quite informative. Her book on Knitting Counterpanes is one of the definitive books on this style of knitting and the patterns typically used for them.

She wrote other books on knitting, and she also wrote about macrame and knotting. She was an accomplished weaver and artist. According to Wikipedia, she was born on November 23, 1923. She died on Saturday, November 3, 2007.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Gratuitous Doily Shot


It's been a while since I posted a doily picture.

This doily is Lavori 11/04. It's from Mani di Fata's Lavori Artistici a Calza #11, often referred to as Lavori 11. It is still available from several reputable lace vendors. All previous Lavori lace-knitting publications are long out of print and available only on the secondhand market. None have been published since this one.

The magazine shows this doily in three different thread weights. It looks good in all of them. I believe I did mine in Omega #10. Omega is a crochet cotton thread from Mexico. It's sold in 30gram balls. The cotton has a cabled construction and is nice to work with. I probably found this in an ethnic grocery store. It is sometimes carried in craft and needlework stores.

This is a fairly small doily, maybe 60 rounds at most. I made it several years ago. It was a lot of fun to do. I like the results. It's a good doily for less experienced doily knitters as well as those who are looking for a quick and relaxing knit that yields an attractive result.

I have no idea who the designer is. There are many wonderful designs by people whose names we do not know. I think that's sad. I've love to find out more about the people who created these beautiful designs.

Lavori 11 is a fun magazine. I've knit a fair number of things from it and have plans to knit many more. It's a good source for doily patterns for those who are looking for a variety of sizes and styles. The text is in Italian. The patterns are clearly charted and straightforward to knit from. Some are unattributed Nieblings and Engelns.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

More on the Lacy Cables Shawl


Here is a close-up of one of the cables in the shawl. The shawl is folded in half, which is why the open areas to either side look like they have another layer or two of fabric underneath.

My other photos of the shawl did not turn out well enough for my tastes. The camera needs new batteries, so I will try again some other time. How many times can I inflict photos of this shawl on everybody before the boredom becomes terminal? I'll stop after I get a good photo that displays the shawl to advantage.

Soo asked:

"I really like the lacy cable shawl - is that your design or is there a pattern somewhere??"

It's not my design. It's by Gayle Roehm. The Lacy Cables shawl was published on the back page of the Fall 2001 issue of Knitters Magazine. It's issue 64, with the Cable Ready theme. Here is a link to a vendor on the XRX website who sells a yarn pack for the pattern. It shows the photo that appears in the magazine. You can see that the shawl looks somewhat different in white!

Here are more photos I've found of the shawl.

Gayle Roehm designed the well-known Sleeves in your Pi sweater/shawl/shrug thing. Her designs have appeared in many publications. She is a very talented designer.

The shawl is easy if you are looking for a lace shawl project that is relaxing to knit, easy to follow, and able to be put down and picked up without trouble.

I like the pattern's concept of columns of fagoting that get cabled every now and then.

Elizabeth commented:

"Your comments about its wearability are interesting, as my initial reaction when you gave its dimensions were pretty much in line with your original posted thoughts on the question. If I were making it I would tend to start with the idea of widening it, so your later comments are good to know."

It would be quite easy to make the pattern wider. Each additional pattern repeat requires another 28 stitches. That is the only adjustment, aside from total yarn requirements, of course.

If you feel like knitting this but don't think it would be useful, do it in cotton and call it a table runner. Or a curtain or wall-hanging.

I am wearing the shawl right now. When I drape it over my neck, it looks and feels like the front of a tabard-style vest. It stays on all by itself without slipping. I have no idea if I look ridiculous.

It's not the most practical thing I've ever knit. However, it's more useful than I feared it might be. I definitely like it. It's pretty, it's comfortable, and I made it myself out of my very own handspun. Part of me has never grown beyond the child who was thrilled to be able to make things with my own hands.

Speaking of practical, I finally am making progress on the stalled sweater. Whew. Even with the maximum number of stitches per round (just above the sleeve/body join), it has fewer stitches per round than many doilies. If I can knit a complex doily, surely I can manage a decidedly non-complex sweater, right?

I'd share a photo of the sweater, but that's when the camera batteries went dead. Maybe next time. I'm sure you can imagine what it looks like -- a heathery gray thing mostly recognizable as a sweater, consisting of two sleeves, a lower body, and lots of stitch holders.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lacy Cables Shawl is finished!

Everyone else seems to be posting in honor of Halloween. I'll join the crowd.




My Lacy Cables shawl is finished, finally. I started it back in late September. It's the Lacy Cables Shawl, design by Gayle Roehm, published in the Fall 2001 issue of Knitters magazine (issue 64, Cable Ready theme).

The above photo is of the wet shawl slowly drying on a towel on my bathroom floor. I'm not doing too much blocking. The photo shows the columns of lace fagoting and the way that the cable sections cause the columns to undulate. You can see the unevenness of my spinning and a bit of the yarn variegation. Since the shawl is still wet, the colors are darker and less variegated than they will be once dry.

I did indeed end up doing 10.75 repeats instead of the 11.75 in the original pattern. It's a good length for me. I have several yards left from the ball of yarn I was knitting from, along with two more skeins that didn't get used at all. My estimate on yardage is around 650-700 yards used, and about 3-4 ounces.


Before blocking, the shawl was about 1 foot wide and not quite 5 feet long. I haven't measured it too closely now that it is blocking, but it looks to be a few inches wider and several inches longer.

Here is a photo of a section of the unblocked shawl. The variegation shows up a bit better in this shot. The undulation shows up clearly, but you can see that the columns of fagoting look a bit uneven.

Somewhere on the right will be a close-up photo, showing a bit more detail on the cables and the lace. Blogger's preview thingy is not all that reliable, so I'm not totally sure where the photo is going to end up. We shall see!


Things I learned from this project:

1. I do not have to fear knitting with my handspun singles. It works just fine. I did not have any problems with biasing or with the yarn drifting apart or anything like that. Some sections of the yarn were thinner or thicker than others. This too was not a problem. Even though some sections of yarn looked frighteningly thin, they had sufficient strength. That actually was not a big concern, since I knew all the yarn could withstand the weight of a spindle and the tugging it took to wind onto a niddy-noddy and then get hand-wound into a ball.

2. This kind of quietly variegated yarn looks just fine with lace. A very open pattern with strong vertical lines, as above, shows up beautifully. The cables were more problematic. They have a solid fabric. The colors were just dark enough and just variegated enough to obscure the cabling more than I liked. The kind of yarn I used (singles, probably Ashland Bay) and the loose gauge (lace-like) may have contributed to this. If I ever knit this again, I should use a yarn that is a fairly solid, pale color.

3. This particular cable and lace pattern was genuinely easy to knit. I didn't have to pay attention all that often. There was an easy rhythm to the pattern. I could pick it up, do a set of 8 or 10 rows at a time, and put it down. I could make steady progress without getting bored or lost in the pattern.

4. In my last post about this shawl, I wrote that it seemed to be quite a useless item. I've changed my mind. I tried on the unblocked shawl and was pleasantly surprised. It is both wide enough and long enough to look good and be comfortable to wear. It seems a bit odd not to have a lot of fabric across my back (as with a larger shawl). I can't see my backside, so it's not a major concern. The ends hang nicely and attractively across my front. All I'd have to do is add a pretty shawl pin to secure them together and I'd be set to go. I'll try to get a photo of the shawl being worn at some point in the future.


My next shawl will not be rectangular.

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Here's a photo of the diagonal garter stitch scarf, still in progress. I'll probably get a fair amount done on that one tonight. We're going to Suburbia for trick-or-treating with some friends.

I still like this scarf and how well the simple stitch pattern works with the colorful variegated yarn. The scarf will probably be about 6' long when finished, give or take a bit. That's a good length for cold winter days.



We're having our traditional Halloween weather today, as usual. It's not all that terrible, really -- light snow and freezing rain, low clouds, and temps just a bit below freezing. Yum. Hey, the roads are warm enough to not be icy. I'm not going to complain!

My next priority will be the sweater. I won't start a new big project until it is finished. I'm not going to make any promises about the small stuff, though. I do want to finish at least one of the in-progress doilies before starting any other doilies. That still leaves me plenty of room for fun -- socks, hats, mitts, bags, and so on.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Shetland Hap Shawls (a mini-review)

My weekend was fun and busy and involved no fiber activities whatsoever unless you count the bighorn sheep we saw.

So, I thought I'd inflict a mini book review on everyone. I wrote this for a mailing list a while back, thus the slightly disjointed tone.

Shetland Hap Shawls

Shetland Hap Shawls is by Sharon Miller, who has also written the book Heirloom Knitting. Heirloom Knitting is about fancy Shetland lace shawls. Shetland Hap Shawls is about the everyday warm shawls. These were ubiquitous. Far more of these plain shawls were made and sold than the fancier lace shawls. Since they weren't considered special, few of them survive compared to the elaborate fine lace shawls.

As far as I know, the book is not available for sale in the US. You can see it and buy it from Sharon Miller's website, here. As of now, they offer free shipping with purchase. Yes, even to the US. I received my autographed copy about a week after I ordered it.

The book is interesting. It's thin, but the pages are densely packed. There are some typos and other small mistakes I've found so far, but nothing terrible. The one known chart error (which appears in a few different places in the book) is listed in an included errata slip.

The book is mostly history, an exploration of the ethnic form in the context of the knitting and clothing of the era. There's not too much in the way of formal patterns, probably because the Hap Shawl is a fairly simple item.

The Shetland Hap shawl is usually a square shawl, designed for warmth. The center is usually a garter-stitch square, either knit from one end to the other, or on the diagonal. Sometimes it may be patterned, but that info is only in the text. The center is surrounded by a wide border, which is usually a garter-stitch feather-and-fan. The outermost part may be plain but is more often a scalloped lace edging.

Sometimes the shawl is a single color, anything from natural sheep colors through bright dyed colors such as red. Often, the feather-and-fan section is striped, either in dyed colors or natural sheep colors.

There are also triangular half-hap shawls, and hap scarves (which are long strips of f&f or one of the chevron-ish lace patterns).

Since these were considered everyday items, very few of them survive. Much of the information in the book comes from old photographs and artwork, including old tourist postcards.

The construction methods are the traditional Shetland shawl construction methods. Method A is the outside-to-inside method, where the edging and borders are knit inward, then a central square is knit, and everything is sewn together. Method B is the inside-to-outside method, where the center square is knit, the borders picked up and knit outward, then an edging applied. One can either do the borders in the round, or knit them back-and-forth with a seam or two to close the corners. Shawls of both construction methods can be discerned from old photographs and drawings.

Elizabeth Zimmermann's Stonington Shawl (from XRX Best of Knitters Shawls and Scarves) is very similar to these shawls, except that hers features a plain border while the Shetland hap shawls usually use feather-and-fan. The f&f borders on the Shetland hap shawls are usually quite a bit deeper than the one EZ uses in her Stonington shawl.

This f&f is totally garter-stitch based. The patterning may occur on every 4th or 6th or 8th row. I don't know how I'd want to do it in the round. The idea of purling every other round doesn't sound restful for my knitting temperament. I could try one of the flat-knitting-in-the-round techniques. I could knit it flat and seam one or more of the corners. I could turn it into a mostly stockinette-based f&f, purling every 4th round instead of every other round. I could use the EZ Stonington shawl method, but that would only work for plain-colored f&f borders.

Sharon Miller gives the details of the two basic methods, with a couple of small variations. She provides charts of several f&f variations and some of the lace edgings that were often used. There are discussions on blocking, yarn choice, seaming methods, etc. The rest of the book consists of charts showing various striping sequences, lots of old photographs and drawings, a discussion of Scottish costume history, details from the old Shetland knitting-for-sale systems, and other ethnographic details.

I can think of many variations on the basic theme of a hap shawl, even though only the traditional kind is shown. I do like ethnic-knitting books, and this one is quite pure. Miller is very careful about distinguishing between fact and speculation, between genuine old patterns and more modern adaptations.

One of my kids' books is about a family in England during WWII. One of the drawings in it is of a knitting grandmother wearing a shawl with striped f&f borders. I've wanted to knit a shawl like that for years. I could have done it before, but would have had to wing it on the details, since a cute drawing is not the same as a photograph or detailed schematic. Thanks to this book, I now know more about the history and construction of these shawls.

Summary: the brand-new knitting stuff is a bit scant but sufficient, and the wealth of historical information is very inspirational. There is very little overlap with Sharon Miller's Heirloom Knitting book.

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Needless to say, I've been wanting to cast on for a Shetland hap shawl ever since I got the book. I think it will be a great way to use the smallish quantities of dyed handspun that are lying around in my stash. A Shetland hap shawl is definitely in my shawl to-do list.

The baskets pictured in the book quite fascinate me, especially the ones used by the women gathering peat. I worry that basket-weaving may be in my future...