Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weekend Photos

The above photo is what I've been seeing from my driveway these past few days.

The small photo to the left shows one of the trees with its mix of yellow and green leaves. The small photo to the right is a close-up of the leaves. I love the way the leaf margins and veins are golden while the interior is still green. In a day or two, the leaf margins will go brown. Some leaves never do this. They just turn yellow. Or they turn in a more splotchy manner.

I live in a rural area, obviously. It's very peaceful most of the time. Most of the trees you see in the top photo are evergreens, with Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine predominating. At this altitude, the aspen groves are the most conspicuous deciduous tree.

I don't know if it's my ISP or blogger, but it took several tries to get these photos uploaded. Is it a Sunday night thing? An end-of-the-month thing?

My attempts to take decent photos of fiber and fiber-ish objects did not fare as well as the above driveway photos. This is something I'll need to work on. I'm sure that taking the photos outdoors would help, but it was too windy today.

The yarn from the Hyrna Herborgar shawl continues to look like an out-of-focus brown blob. I suspect I'm going to give up on that little photography project.

Here is a photo of the Lacy Cables shawl from yesterday, totally unblocked, of course. The photo is not as well-focused as I'd like. You can see that progress has been made. The undulations created by the cabling are very obvious. My yarn's variegation is subtle but pleasant, I think. It looks better in reality than in a poorly done photograph. I've done about 5 pattern repeats so far. The original pattern calls for almost 12 repeats. I might do that. If I have enough yarn, I might do a few more repeats and make the shawl a bit longer. We shall see.

What else should I share today? I took photos of dyed strips of roving and of pretty yarn spun from previously dyed roving. I'll save that for some future post. I have some shots of pretty yarn dyed by others yet spun by me, along with some natural-colored yarn in pretty colors grown by the animals themselves.

This blog post has enough photos already. I don't want to overwhelm the people with slower internet connections. Yarn photos can wait until I'm in the mood to babble about spinning and dyeing.


We had cool and frosty weather this morning. I got to wear my wristers for the first time this fall. Wristers are also known as fingerless mitts, wrist warmers, and pulse warmers. I enjoy knitting quick and easy wristers from combinations of yarn remnants. They make good gifts. They're fun to wear. They're fun to make. They provide a good opportunity to experiment with color and texture combinations.

These wristers are not great in the wind or if you already have cold hands, but they work very well if your hands are still non-frigid and you're out of the wind. They're also more effective when the air is a bit nippy rather than wicked cold.

I'm going to share the pattern I use for these Rapid Wristers (or should that be Wrapid Wristers?), but not until later this week. Until then, here's a rather dim photo of a few pairs of wristers I happen to have lying about the house, along with a very out-of-focus shot of a wrister on someone's hand. I'll have better photos by the time I write it up, I hope.

As usual, I will give a basic pattern with a few rambling digressions in the middle, and then add a few variations and ideas that seem related. I might even add the mitten pattern that builds on this. Someday I may give some patterns or recipes for more complex wristers. However, these are the ones I've been happiest with in the past few years. The ratio of effort to results is very much in its favor.


Ugh. The preview option in the blogger new-post window does not look much like the final version of the post. Edit, publish, edit, rearrange, wave arms in rude gesture and try again.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Weekend Roundup

I love the tracker thingy at the USP website. After I mail-order something, I can watch in fascination and increasing anticipation as the item slowly makes its way towards me.

I live out in the boonies. There are several different scenarios for how a UPS item reaches me.

1. The wonderful UPS people deliver it to my doorstep. This is my favorite, obviously.

2. The semi-wonderful UPS people deliver it to my mailbox. My mailbox is a few miles away, on a paved rural highway.

3. The UPS people keep it in their truck for a day or two until they get around to delivering it. They're allowed to do that kind of stuff in rural areas, apparently.

4. The silly UPS people decide that I don't exist, and put the item into limbo in some storage warehouse until I can track it down and convince them that I really do exist and my address really is valid.

Yesterday, they chose option 2. I wanted that package. So, I headed out after dark to get it.

Getting toys in the mail is so much fun.

What was in it? Nothing too major, really. A few books, on lace knitting and on braiding. A #00 (1.75mm) circular needle, which is a beast that hasn't existed until recently. The braiding books and the circular needle were the most exciting.

I might do a few book reviews later. For now, I want to read the books and think about them while I form some opinions. First impressions are important, but not always complete.


A commenter on the Hyrna Herborgar post asked about the handspun I used.

She wrote:

"Wow, that's handspun?? That is lovely. You must spin a VERY even thread.

"I have the book but haven't knit from it yet. I did see that a lot of people are enjoying knitting the Hyrna. Maybe me too?"

Thank you for commenting, Lynda! You are my very first commenter, and I appreciate it.

Yes, it's really handspun. Yes, it's fairly even. It's not perfect, but plying and knitting hide a lot of imperfections.

I've been spinning for many years. Experience helps. I'm not sure how many miles of yarn I've spun, but it's a lot.

However, the single thing that makes the biggest difference in how even a particular yarn turns out is fiber preparation. A smooth, VM-free, nep-free, easy-drafting roving makes it easy to achieve a smooth, even yarn. Compacted, VM- and nep-filled, hard-to-draft roving makes it easy to achieve a lumpy, bumpy yarn. I like both styles of yarn.

In general, I don't bother to fight the roving. I usually spin for fun and relaxation rather than for a specific project. The easy-drafting rovings are a lot more fun to spin than crummy roving. One of the ways I've acquired experience over the years is by spinning both.

Sometimes when I dye things, I get a bit too enthusiastic with the admiration during the dyeing process. The roving can get a bit compacted (that's a euphemism for "half-felted"). Or, if roving sits in my stash, it can sometimes start to felt itself from variations in temperature and humidity. Grab bag rovings and clean-the-carder rovings (or batts) are also likely to vary in spinnability. I spin them all. Why not? Life's too short to spin utter junk, of course. But if you're having fun and like the resulting yarn, you don't have to always spin a perfectly even yarn from perfect roving.

I know that many spinners have already figured out all of the above (or have their own philosophies tempered by experience), but I thought I'd blather about it anyway.

And yes, you should knit the Hyrna Herborgar shawl. It would be a good way to dive into the wonderful world of knitting from foreign-language sources. The shawl is not very big. The chart is easy to follow. And the result looks very impressive for the amount of effort it takes. You don't want all the other lemmings to laugh at you for your excellent self-control, do you? Follow the herd! Knitting the Hyrna Herborgar shawl is much better than diving off the nearest cliff.


After I'd been knitting for a while, I decided that my diagonal garter stitch scarf was going to end up being too long. So, I'm on the second incarnation of it. Same yarn, same needles, same basic pattern.

It's wider now. I hope my calculations about final length will be about right.

I got tired of the backwards loop increase, and I got tired of having to pay attention at the beginning and end of every other row.

So, this version is the Really Mindless Diagonal Scarf variation. There's an increase row: k1, kfb, k to end (kfb is the "knit in front and back of stitch"increase). There's a decrease row: k1, k2tog, k to end. I cast on 3 stitches, as before. I then did increase rows until the scarf was wide enough, I'm now alternating increase and decrease rows until the scarf is long enough, and then I'll do decrease rows until it's done.

I find this more satisfying as a travel project now. I'll try to take a photo this weekend to share. However, it's going to look a lot like the first one except for a slight variation in width. I still like the way diagonal garter stitch looks with this particular variegated yarn.


I am continuing to make progress on my Lacy Cables stole/shawl. I'm close to 1/3 done, I think. I'm on the second ball of yarn. It too needs another in-progress photo. I think it looks better and better the more I do of it. The underlying stitch patterning becomes more dominant as the shawl gets bigger. It's going to look great after blocking.

I am not making much progress on my poor sweater. I'm still working on the last sleeve. However, I'm pretty sure I'm going to do a raglan yoke with a plain crew neck after sleeves and body are united.

One of the lace mailing lists is starting a KAL this weekend, of the Herbert Niebling Frosted Ferns doily pattern, which I have mentioned in some earlier posts. That will be by next doily project. My stash of #30 cotton is getting low. Either I find something when I run errands today, or I use a deep red thread for the doily.

The pattern is about 115-120 rounds. There are 6 pattern repeats per round. I'm pretty sure that one 50g ball of #30 cotton will be sufficient. I don't think one 50g ball of #20 cotton would be sufficient. If I were to knit it as a shawl, I'd probably want 900-1000 yards of sport-weight yarn. I like this pattern better as a cloth than as clothing, so I'll knit it as a doily instead of a shawl. It should keep me entertained for the next month or two.

Our cooler weather has me wanting to cast on another project or two -- maybe another hat, or some mittens, or more socks. We shall see. In the meantime, I am working on the above, interspersed with spinning. My new braid books may inspire me to drag out the maru-dai and/or braiding disk to share with everyone.


Note to self: take photos of all items mentioned above!

How hard can it be to take a photo of a ball of yarn, after all? It doesn't move, unlike cats and squirrels. So far, though, all attempts to get a clear, in-focus photo have failed. This blog is meant to be a learning experience. I will master the art of taking photos of inanimate objects one of these days.

If my driveway photos turn out well, I'll share those, too. The aspens have decided that fall is here and thus it's time to turn yellow and drop all their leaves. Carol Lee claims that the yellow aspen leaves of fall give the best yellows from aspens (for natural dyeing). I keep meaning to test that claim. Somehow I don't think this will be the year I do it, but you never know. In any case, my driveway vista is especially pretty this week.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fun with String

So. I was jonesing for a doily fix. I reached into my doily thread stash (very small, just one shopping bag) and pulled out some thread. LBH #40 tatting cotton? Where the heck did that come from? I have no memory of acquiring this.

But it looked interesting. 20 grams, about 250 yards, a cordonnet-style cotton, off-white.

Now that the thread was chosen, I needed to select a suitable pattern. It couldn't be too big, because I only had 20 grams.

A few minutes of inspecting the pattern stash (which takes up far more space than the thread stash), and I decided on this lovely doily in an old MEZ pamphlet. There are three related doilies in MEZ 7105: a square, a small circle, and a larger circle. I decide on the larger circle. It has 12 pattern repeats and is about 62 rounds. It's cute. I think it's quite possibly a Niebling pattern, because it has a few of his typical touches and it was in a MEZ pamphlet and the small square is in one of the Burda lace-knitting specials. In other words, a lot of speculation leads me to the conclusion, but it is not entirely unreasonable.

The above doily is the result. It's MEZ 7105-C. It was fun to knit. I write that a lot. However, not all doilies are fun to knit. Some are beautiful even though they are tedious at times. It's a bit of a bonus when the doily is fun to knit as well as giving lovely results.

This was the first time in a while that I'd used a fairly fine cordonnet thread. I hadn't remembered how much I enjoyed working with it. A typical cordonnet thread used for doily knitting (and other lace) is often referred to as a "tightly twisted 6-ply." It actually has a cabled construction. The thread is made of 3 plies of cotton. Each of the three plies is a 2-ply cotton, plied in the opposite direction from the final ply direction. The resulting thread is very crisp and provides good stitch definition. It is also a tactile pleasure to use.

Interestingly, I don't think I can tell the difference in the final, blocked doily. It looks great, of course. It's different from softly-twisted 2-ply cottons. However, I'm not sure it's all that much different from a tightly-twisted 3-ply cotton such as DMC Cebelia.

There was enough thread left over to do another doily. I chose Marianne Kinzel's Marigold pattern (from ANP 5). I only had enough thread for the smaller Marigold doily, 34 rounds and 6 pattern repeats. It's a cute little doily, though I could stand to block it better when I get a chance. I'll have to do the larger Marigold doily one of these days.

I enjoyed working with the LBH tatting thread. I might have to track down more. I sure wonder how it got into my stash. As far as I know, no local store carries it. Oh, well. I have to rely on mail order for most of my fiber perversions. The local places mostly cater to the conventional knitting crowd.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hyrna Herborgar aka the Lemming shawl from the Icelandic shawl book

This is a terrible photo of the lovely Hyrna Herborgar shawl from the Icelandic shawl book, Three-Cornered and Long Shawls, by Sigridur Halldórsdóttir (translation by Marilyn van Keppel). The Hyrna Herborgar shawl is one of the most popular shawls in the book. Lots and lots of people have made it -- here are a few more. (I could have kept going for quite a while...) I feel rather like a lemming, following the crowd, except that it really is a fun shawl and how could I resist?

I will upload a better photo if and when I manage to take one. The shawl turned out rather larger than I had expected, and thus it's hard to get the whole thing in one shot without too much distortion.

Here's a close-up of the center. It shows most of the relevant details. I've tried to take a photo of the yarn, but have so far failed quite miserably. It's brown. It's slightly fuzzy yet appealingly shiny. It's fairly fine. You can use your imagination from there.

This shawl was tremendously fun to knit. It doesn't take much yarn, though the amount given in the book seems a bit low. It's quick to knit. I finished it in only a few weeks of casual knitting, interspersed with several other projects. The lace patterning is easy yet interesting and effective. It's stockinette based, which requires purling back on the wrong-side rows. The lace ladders, diamonds, and fans are popular lace motifs that show up in a lot of other knitted lace designs.

The pattern chart is easy to follow if you've done much knitting from non-English-language lace-knitting charts. The pattern translation is competent and complete. Marilyn van Keppel gives you all the relevant information about each pattern and the general knitting notes.

As most who knit it find out, the Hyrna Herborgar shawl often requires more yarn than the pattern claims. I found this out the hard way, when my first attempt reached the halfway point in the yarn before the halfway point in the shawl. OK, on to Plan B with a different batch of yarn... My second and final version ended up using somewhere between 500 and 600 yards. Most people say that the shawl is fairly small, but mine ending up blocking a lot larger than I expected. I am small, but the point is still below my butt.
The best part about this shawl, for me, was using my own handspun for it.  Every time I knit with my handspun, I fall in love with my handspun all over again.  It's sappy, but I can't help it.  The stuff I used was some kind of mystery wool roving bought from a friend, maybe 4 ounces of shiny brown wool.  I had about 600-650 yards of two-ply.  It wasn't the most perfect yarn in the world, but it was mine.

It's so satisfying to have a project come together like that. The yarn was perfect for the project, and the project was fun to knit.

This shawl is very doily-like in its sensibilities. If you like knitting doilies, you'd probably enjoy knitting this shawl. If you like knitting this shawl, you may very well enjoy knitting doilies. At the very least, you'd probably enjoy converting appropriate doily patterns into shawl patterns.

This shawl ended up needing more blocking than I usually give lace shawls. Pinning it out really opened up the lace and hugely increased the size of the shawl. It ended up being larger than even my largest doily-blocking board. I put a bunch of cardboard boxes and pieces next to each other to get the entire thing pinned out. I didn't even block it all that hard, not compared to most cotton doilies.

Size Variations

For many people, the Hyrna Herborgar shawl does end up being a bit too small. While I was knitting it, I noticed several places where the shawl size could be increased. You could also use these ideas as starting points for totally different shawls using different kinds of patterns.

The shawl has three levels of motifs. The inner level is a series of feather-like motifs, formed by columns of a lace ladder stitch. The middle level is a background pattern of lace diamonds. The outer level consists of fans made from motifs that resemble the feather motifs. The fans are separated by diamond motifs that decrease with every row.

The first place where you can increase the size of the shawl is in the feather motif area. The shawl uses a fairly simple increase pattern that can continue indefinitely. It transitions quite easily to the middle diamond motif section with no further work. I can imagine a shawl that is nothing but feather motifs, or perhaps feathers that end at different levels instead of all on the same row.

The second place where you can increase the size of the shawl is in the diamond section. Again, the increase pattern is very simple and straightforward. The main thing about this particular shawl is that you need to stop the increasing at a point where you have the right multiple of diamonds to accommodate the outer fans. In this shawl, you need five diamonds between each fan. (And, for those of you who have the pattern, notice the slight kludge that occurs at the center of the final two rows.)

The diamond pattern by itself would make a wonderful shawl, either as a simple triangle or a half-square triangle or as a square. There's at least one like that in the Icelandic book. It's the cover pattern, a half-square triangle with color stripes and an outward-knit border to finish. I'd probably add a sideways-knit lace edging to finish instead of or in addition to an outward knit border.

The final place where one can increase the size of the shawl is in the outer fan motifs. There are two ways one can do this. The first way is to simply add more fan motifs. Continue increasing the diamond-lace section until there are 5 more diamonds per side for every fan motif you want to add (plus one more motif for the fan itself). The second way is to make the fan motifs deeper. Instead of having 5 diamonds between each fan motif, you can have 7 or 9. You'll have to make sure you have enough diamonds, of course. At some point, you may have stitch count issues if you make the fans too deep. But I think 7 or 9 should work.


Here is the semi-obligatory shot of the shawl being modeled on a semi-willing subject. I'll upload something better when I can find a more willing subject and get a nicer photo.

Would I make this shawl again? Sure! Would I make others from the Icelandic lace book? Yes! I don't actually know what my next project from this book would be, though. There is the group doing the knit-along with the Thórdís shawl pattern from Piecework. That shawl is also in Three-Cornered and Long Shawls. I like other patterns from the book better. Since I have several other shawls I'd like to do first, I won't worry about it.

One of these days I'll do a brief book review of Three Cornered and Long Shawls. Summary: if you like shawls and if you like ethnic knitting patterns, you'll like this book.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Meet the WIPS: The Shawl

This is another of my in-progress projects. It's a shawl. To be specific, it's the Lacy Cables Shawl from the inside back cover of the Fall 2001 issue of Knitters magazine (Issue 64, Cable Ready theme). The designer is the talented Gayle Roehm. I've been eyeing it ever since the issue came out. I finally matched yarn to pattern, ambition to energy, and cast on.

I usually have a shawl or two on the needles. I'm not sure why. In their own way, they are as addictive as doilies. Some are lacy, some are plain. Many are designed as stash-busters to use up yarn that didn't work for some other project.

XRX has its little "this is easy" logo on the pattern. They are correct. There's just enough interest to keep me going, without me ever really having to stop and think. The shawl is a rectangle. The lace pattern is a series of fagoted columns with occasional cables that cause the lace columns to undulate. Garter stitch borders frame the lacy cables and keep the shawl from curling.

Although this may seem complex at first glance, there is a soothing regularity to the stitch pattern that makes it easy to memorize, easy to keep track of, and easy to break up into small chunks of knitting.

I am using handspun for the project. I'm not totally sure what it is. Mostly wool, for sure, but I don't know much more than that. The color and style look like an Ashland Bay offering. It came in a grab bag a long time ago. I spun it up on my drop spindle a few years ago, getting well over 1000 yards from the 5-6 ounce blob of roving.

The yarn is variegated, mostly in shades of light browns and grays with a bit of yellow and cream every now and then. Most of the variegation is fairly subtle. I'm using it as a singles yarn rather than plying it.

I was a bit nervous about using singles, especially for an openwork pattern like this. I have heard the tales of biasing fabrics, breaking or drifting-apart yarn, and so on. However, so far, I am very pleased with how well the yarn is doing in this pattern. There are no problems with biasing. The yarn seems to be holding together well. I am deliberately working rather loosely, since I want a very open-looking shawl. It will be lightly blocked after I'm finished.

One concern I had with this particular yarn for this particular project is the vareigation. Would it obscure the lace? The cables? So far, the lace columns look just fine. The cables are somewhat obscured, both from the darker color and the variegation. It's OK enough. I like the undulation and am willing to put up with the cables to achieve it even if the cables aren't as well-defined as I'd like.

The first ball of yarn has been my prototype/swatch. Would I like the pattern? Would the knitting have a good rhythm to it so I wouldn't be too bored or driven nuts? Would the yarn work well with the cables and lace? Would I have enough to make a decent-sized shawl? So far, the answer to all of those questions is yes.

I have at least 3 or 4 shawls on my to-do list. A few are doily patterns that will work well as shawls if done in an appropriate yarn. Most are actual shawl patterns and/or ideas I'd like to play around with. I'll no doubt post about all this sometime in the future. You'll get to see and read about previous shawl projects, too.


We had our first real frost last night, more or less on schedule. Fall is definitely here. I even needed to wear a scarf on a walk this morning. I used one of my moebius scarves. It's long enough and wide enough to go around my neck and then drape over my head and ears for extra warmth. One of the best things about cooler weather is the opportunity to wear my knitting.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Meet the WIPS: The Sweater

This is a photo of my big project. It's a sweater. What you see here is most of a sleeve, a skein of yarn, and a wound ball of yarn.

It's been years since I've knit a sweater for myself. I've knit sweaters for others, but not myself. All my old hand-knit sweaters have gone to that great cedar chest in the sky. Even my store-bought sweaters are kind of ratty these days.

For the past year or two, I kept resolving to make myself a sweater. I kept getting distracted by doilies, shawls, and other non-sweater items.

But finally, about a month ago, I started.

Since it's been so long since I've done anything like this for myself, I'm keeping it simple. The sweater is going to be a plain Elizabeth Zimmermann percentage sweater. I had initially wanted to knit it top-down. However, I am paranoid about running out of yarn and decided that bottom-up would keep my options open if necessary.

(Hey, run out of yarn just once and you're paranoid for life.)

The yarn is handspun. It's actually the first batch of yarn I ever spun on a wheel. Before that, I only spun on a drop spindle. The roving was a fairly compacted, not very high quality Romney wool that I picked up somewhere or other. The wheel belonged to a friend who kindly loaned it to me over the winter so I could see if I wanted to buy myself a spinning wheel. So, all that long winter, I slowly spun up the big batch of roving on the borrowed wheel.

The yarn is inconsistent, fuzzy, inexpertly plied, and I love it anyway. It's a 2-ply, semi-longdraw kind of yarn, running approximately 100 yards per ounce, give or take a bit. I've known for a long time that it was going to be a sweater, and hopefully for me.

I've knit most of one sleeve and the body, and am more than halfway done with the second sleeve. I'll need to figure out exactly how long I want everything before I unite sleeves and body. And then I'll have to make a decision about what kind of yoke I want. Do I want a round yoke? Raglan? Saddle shoulder or hybrid? Crew neck or V-neck? Do I want to add color or stitch patterns to the yoke? (I keep reminding myself to Keep It Simple! Make a decision already!)

I call this the Ugly Gray Sweater because I simply want to get the freaking thing done. It's been so long since I've done a sweater for myself. I am so indecisive and easily distracted. I hope that it's more likely to get finished if I don't have very high expectations. If it fits and is warm, I will be happy with it.

I don't really think it's ugly, though it is rather plain. The cuffs and borders are seed stitch. The rest is plain old stockinette (so far). I am glad to see that my spinning was consistent from skein to skein. The transitions between skeins of yarn are imperceptible. Within each skein, there are variations in thickness. The fuzziness of the yarn hides a lot of imperfections.

The bottom of the sweater body is flipping up. Booger. It's my own damn fault. I knew that it could be an issue because I didn't change needle size or the number of stitches. I am hoping that blocking will take care of the problem. It has done so in the past for similar problems. If not, then I'll have to re-do the bottom. No big deal.

The knitting process is very enjoyable. I always love knitting with my handspun. I like the way the sweater fabric looks and feels. It makes good travel knitting when I'm not in the middle of shaping maneuvers. I'm pretty sure I'll have enough yarn to finish the sweater without having to improvise. My goal is to get it done before the cold weather really hits. It would help if I'd make a decision about what to do for the yoke. I'm stalling on that second sleeve as I dither.

After this gets done, I'll try to start another sweater for myself. I think I need more than one sweater in my wardrobe. The next one will probably be top-down. Unless my yarn paranoia overtakes me yet again.

Oh, and I did buy myself a wheel after the borrowed wheel went back home. I still use drop spindles, but it's nice to have a wheel for the big batches of roving and for the times when I want to sit and meditate while turning fluff into string.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Meet the WIPs: The Traveling Project (plus a scarf pattern)

Not everything I do is a doily or even lace.

The photo on the left is my current traveling project. It's a scarf. It's perfect for boring meetings and waiting in traffic and long phone calls and so on.

I'm using some yarn from the stash. As you may be able to tell from the photo, it's a variegated yarn with short color repeats. I've tried using it in several other projects, but was never quite satisfied with how it was turning out. I think I like the way this looks so far.

The scarf is about two feet long now. After I use one skein of the yarn, I'll have a better idea about the final length. If I think it's going to be too long or too short, I'll unravel and start over, making it wider or narrower as needed. Hey, it's travel knitting -- so what if I get to knit part of it twice? It will be even better the next time.

After almost all the yarn is used up, the scarf will be done.

The pattern? It's a plain old diagonal garter stitch.

Diagonal Garter Stitch Scarf

Pick some suitable yarn. You'll want a few hundred yards, depending on your preferred scarf size (length and width) and on the yarn you're using. This particular scarf is going to be close to 400 yards long and made from a DK to worsted weight yarn, because that's what I've got. There's no need to use variegated yarn, of course.

Pick a needle size to match the yarn. It's a scarf; who cares about the gauge? You will want a suitable fabric, though, not too stiff and not too sleazy. (Sounds like what you'd look for in a date, right?)

Cast on 3 stitches.

First row: Increase at the beginning and end of the row, knitting all the stitches between.
Second row: Knit.

The increase can be any type, as long as you are consistent. I'm using a "make 1" increase done by the backwards loop method, one stitch in from the edge.

So, my pattern row goes something like: knit 1, make 1, knit to last stitch, make 1, knit 1.

In retrospect, I probably should have increased in the very first and very last stitches, by doing a (knit in front and back of stitch). My way looks nice, but requires a smidgen of thinking, not good if you're looking for pure mindless travel knitting. On the other hand, it's much easier to correct occasional stitch count problems when you're not working with the edge stitches.


Increase at the beginning and end of the pattern row until you think the scarf is wide enough. The width is the edge measurement of your knitting. End with a plain row. You may end up with 27 stitches; you may have 47. It doesn't matter as long as you like it.

Now, you're going to increase at the beginning of the pattern row and decrease at the end of it. The plain rows will remain the same: knit. In my scarf, I am doing a k2tog one stitch before the end.

First row: increase at beginning of row, knit across, decrease at end of row.
Second row: knit

You will soon notice that a long rectangle is starting to form, with the garter stitch forming diagonal ridges when compared to the rectangle. The corner of the rectangle formed where you changed from increasing to decreasing.

Every now and then, do a stitch count to make sure you're not losing or adding the occasional stitch. It's easy enough to do, alas. If you do have a problem, take care of it discreetly. No one will notice if your scarf has a slight problem with stitch counts every now and then.

When the scarf is long enough, or you're almost out of yarn or patience, it's time to finish off.

First row: decrease at beginning of row, knit across, decrease at end of row.
Second row: knit across.

When you're down to 3 stitches, cast off.

If you want to change the dimensions of the scarf a bit, block it. Get it wet and lay it out on a towel. You can pull it a bit longer and narrower, or shorter and wider. Not much, but a bit. Let the scarf dry in its new dimensions.

Variations and comments

There are similar patterns all over the net and in books.

Increase and decrease variations

One variation is the simple one I mentioned earlier: use a different increase or decrease than the one I chose.

You can use yarnovers for a lacy look. If you do that, you'll need to decrease two stitches at the decrease side of the scarf. k2tog, yo, k2tog is traditional, but you can choose something like yo, k3tog instead (or k3tog, yo).

Another easy variation: Put the increases and decreases in a different spot in your scarf, at the edges or two stitches in from the end or whatever makes you happy.


This leads to a third idea: have a border of one stitch, and use something else in the middle.

In other words, have a 3 to 5 stitch border all around, done in garter stitch or seed stitch or something like that. After you do the border, do the increase, then switch to something totally different such as stockinette. Then do the other border with its decrease.

Selvedge stitches

I didn't discuss what to do with your edge stitch at all. Do whatever you want, as long as you're consistent. It's another area where playing around can have interesting effects. I knitted all of my edge stitches.

Width variations

Maybe you want to change the width every now and then. If so, it can be done by changing increases to decreases (or vice versa), or omitting the increase or decrease you'd normally do. I have no idea what this might look like, but it could be interesting. Stair-step scarf, anyone?

Stitch patterns and stripes

Of course one can do this scarf in some totally different stitch pattern such as seed stitch or ribbing or moss or a lace stitch or cables. Or different colored stripes. Or both.

For some of the stitch patterns, it looks good to have a rectangle. It makes the scarf seem more inscrutable. For other patterns, I personally think it looks better to have the scarf be a parallelogram.

Parallelogram scarf

The parallelogram variation is dead simple. You skip the portions of the pattern where you increase and decrease at both ends. Instead, you cast on enough stitches for the whole width of the scarf. Increase at one end while decreasing at the other. Cast off when finished.

Really mindless diagonal scarf

Another variation, which might lend itself better to pure mindless knitting, is to do something at the beginning of every single row. For this variation, you either increase or decrease at the beginning of the row (depending which side of the scarf you're on), and then knit all the way to the end.

There are times when no-brainer knitting is what I need. I like good travel knitting projects that fulfill this requirement. A perfect no-brainer project is something that needs about 2 seconds of attention every now and then, with little or no counting or attention needed at any other time. I'll no doubt introduce a few more of my stress-relief, stash-busting, no-brainer projects and patterns in the future.

The hat variation

I've seen versions of this used to make hats. You can use the rectangular method or the parallelogram variation. You can use any pattern stitch you'd like, though I've mostly seen garter, seed stitch, and a k2p2 rib used for it.

Cast on the stitches, wide enough to form the hat plus its brim. Knit a length until it's long enough to go around your head. Cast off. Sew the cast-on to the cast-off edge. You can, of course, use a provisional cast-on and graft the beginning to the end. If you do that, use the parallelogram variation. You can also use a three-needle bind-off if it's compatible with your stitch pattern.

After the beginning is sewn to the end, gather one of the edges to form the top of the hat. You can add a pompom or tassel if you think that sort of thing looks good. Then fold up the other edge as a brim. Hat is completed.

The other relatives

Many of you will have recognized the scarf's close relatives: the diagonal dishcloth pattern and the simple triangle scarf/shawl. The classic diagonal dishcloth is so well known that I'll probably never discuss it. Someday I will go into the simple triangle shawl, another of my no-brainer staples. There are patterns for both all over the net and in plenty of books and magazines in case you want a plain pattern with no digressions and/or you don't want to wait for my long, digression-filled version.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


This is the Adonis doily. I did it before I did the one you see in my previous post. It is another pattern that is almost certainly a Herbert Niebling design.

The Adonis doily pattern is pretty much identical to the Adonieroschen patten from Gloria Penning's Old World Treasures booklet. The only difference is that Adonis calls for 6 pattern repeats, while Adonieroschen calls for 8. Since I have a short attention span, I prefer the 6 PR version. Some of the outer rounds have a lot of stitches per pattern repeat!

You can see a photo of the Adonieroschen version of the pattern at Michael Kaprelian's website. The direct link to the photo is:

The pattern is very straightforward to knit. The inner flower is slightly fiddly. The texture of the inner flower is made up of alternating twisted knits and purls (*k-tbl, p*). I continued that pattern on the intermediate rounds. I think it really defines those petals nicely.

One ball of DMC Cebelia #20 cotton thread was sufficient for two doilies in the 70-80-round range. I could probably manage one more small doily from the same ball of thread, maybe up to 40 rounds or so. But I'll probably throw the remnants into my stash instead. I use the remnants for small crocheted items such as snowflakes. Or I use them for weaving and braiding.

I like the patterns in Old World Treasures. Lille Meitler is the featured designer. Her designs are quite pleasant. The booklet includes about a half dozen patterns by an unknown designer. I think the unknown designer is Herbert Niebling. Except for Elfreida, which is pretty clearly by Meitler, the unattributed patterns feature many of his typical design flourishes.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Doily Affair

The camera went traveling with another family member yesterday, so no photos of the blocking process this time. The above photo is what my doily looks like after blocking. The color is off; the actual doily is ecru.

I'm pleased with it. I'm almost always pleased with my latest doily.

I didn't do the second round of crocheting. I like it just fine with one round. I didn't block it quite in the same way as the pattern showed, either. I didn't pull the little outer fans into the high, sharp triangles. I like the softer, more circular fans.

There are a couple of interesting things about this doily that I thought I'd mention.

The first thing is about the innermost motif, the flower. Notice the slight asymmetry in the petals? That's because the petals are outlined with crossed stitches. They cross in one direction only. So one side looks smoother and more natural than the other. It's possible that the pattern can be changed to make the two halves symmetric. However, it didn't really work with the way the pattern was charted.

The second thing is the background stitch in the middle part of the doily, surrounding the leaves. There are a lot of double decreases in this section. I did them the Japanese way, using the centered double decrease (slip 2 together as if to knit, knit 1, pass the 2 stitches over). I think the vertical lines are a little too prominent. I'm going to go back to using the traditional (slip 1, k2tog, psso) or k3tog double decrease for this particular pattern stitch.

I enjoyed this doily so much that I'm very likely to do more in the same style in the future.

What doily will be next? Dunno. A mailing list is gearing up for a KAL based on another Niebling pattern. It's called Frosted Ferns in this online text-only version of the pattern. I have it in a charted form in another source, where it's called Eiche (oak). It looks like little acorns amidst oak leaves, all on a hex-mesh lace background. So, that one might well be next if I don't get seduced by something else before then.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Casting On

I keep telling everyone that my next doily is going to be the Maiglockenflor doily from Gloria Penning's Old World Treasures booklet.

I keep getting distracted by other patterns. In case you don't have Old World Treasures, the photo on the left is not Maiglockenflor.

It's a routine by now. Dithering is part of the process. I look through my patterns, trying to decide what to knit next. I come up with a couple of candidates and make working copies of the charts. I decide what I'm going to knit, and perhaps which one will be next after that.

And then, just before I begin, some other pattern catches my eye. How have I never noticed it before? It's so cute! And here's some thread in a suitable color, about the right amount for the doily.

Grab the needles. Cast on. And I'm off, on some totally unplanned adventure.

I had planned to pause here a moment for a dissertation on doily cast-ons. However, I'm probably the only person who is reading this blog at the moment. I'll wait until some future doily post. If you, my imaginary reader(s), are here now and really care, you can no doubt find some great stuff in the archives of any mailing list that deals with lace knitting.

Anyway. Back to my current adventure.

As you can tell from the photo at the top of this post, it's a smaller version of the doily on the cover of the blue Japanese doily book that Lacis just reprinted (Knitted Lace Designs of the Modern Mode, Bk 1, by Kazuko Ichida). The doily has no name as far as I can tell. I feel fairly comfortable in attributing this pattern to Herbert Niebling and/or his design house. It has a leaf motif that shows up in many of his patterns. The inner flower is also typical of his style, with crossed stitches outlining the petals.

The doily is circular, with 8 pattern repeats per round. It has 72 rounds plus a couple of rounds of crocheting to finish off. The knitting is very soothing and easy. The stitch count is not tediously excessive. It runs fairly close to the standard 4 stitches/round. The only tricky part is all the crossed stitches in the early rounds of the pattern. They were finished while the doily was still on the dpn's. The rest of the pattern uses only basic maneuvers -- knit, twisted knit, yarnover, right-leaning decrease, left-leaning decrease, and double decrease. The intermediate rounds are plain knitting, no twisted knits or double yarnovers or anything like that.

The charting style is Burda/Beyer, which I find very easy to knit from. The text is in German. It's the standard doily construction, no deep understanding necessary.

I had planned that this doily would last me for at least a week. I'm trying very hard to get a sweater knitted for myself before the weather turns too cold. This doily was supposed to be for odd intervals when I was in the mood.

This doily is so quick and fun that it has distracted me from my other projects. I've finished the knitting and will do the cast-off in the next session. It's taken me only a few days.

The cast-off consists of two rounds of crocheting. The first round is pretty standard -- group some stitches into a single crochet, and chain a loop between each group. The second round calls for putting a single crochet into two loops, and chaining some stitches between. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to do the second round of crocheting.

This doily will be a good test of my ability to maintain a blog. I want to take before, during, and after photos of the blocking. Will it happen? We shall see!

Even though I'm distracted, I am making progress on my other projects. I do my self-assigned quota on the sweater, then go do some more doily knitting. I'm also keeping up with my self-assigned quota on my shawl between bouts of doily progress.

I am no longer claiming that Maiglockenflor will be my next doily project. Someday I'll fall madly in lust with it while preparing to cast on a different project. Then it will be on the needles and started before I know it. But for now, I do not think that it will be the next project. I'm not even going to jinx myself by making any plans at all.

I do like my other projects. The shawl is fun. The sweater will be useful. The scarf is pretty. I'll introduce them more fully in later posts.

Second Thoughts

OK, I guess I will give something of an introduction.

Why blog?

It finally seemed like the right time to do it. I have more free time than I've had in years, and my internet connection is finally a bit faster than slow-dialup. If the connection goes down or my free time vanishes, I expect that the blog will go dormant for a while.

I wanted a place to share photos and to talk about projects I'm working on. It's too boring to do that on most lists.

I wanted a place where I could re-post old patterns, essays, and project notes. Some of what I'll be sharing is many years old.

I wanted a place where I could write about any of my interests, not just the ones that conform to the standards of a mailing list. Some lists are more flexible than others, but there are still limits.

I want to improve my writing ability and I want to learn how to manage a blog, html and all.

Why call this The Doily Underground?

The Doily Underground is my term for the informal network of people who love to knit doilies. We keep the old patterns alive this way, by knitting them and discussing them and buying any new doily publications that show up.

I love knitting doilies. They are very addictive. I'm not sure why. There's a rhythm to doily knitting that I find very soothing and compelling. When I am under stress, I like to do something that involves concentration but no thinking. Following a complex doily chart provides exactly that combination.

I usually have a doily on the needles. Some are large, some are small. Some are done in fine thread as doilies, while others are done with yarn to use as shawls.

There are other people who knit doilies, many of whom are far more ambitious and accomplished than I am. I will add some links to this blog one of these days. Good eye candy is only a click away. Or it will be.

The best doily patterns were first published decades ago. The Golden Age of doily designing seems to have been the early to mid twentieth century, from about 1920 to 1960-ish. The best-known designers all seem to have trained in central Europe, in areas that are part of Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Switzerland. (I am still trying to learn about the history of lace knitting, so don't assume I'm totally correct here!) The patterns have been published and republished in many countries and in many languages. They are still being republished today.

Most patterns are charted. This is good. I can pick up a book written in, say, Japanese and still knit the doily patterns it contains. However, there is no one standard charting style. Dealing with different chart styles in different languages is part of the joy for me.

This blog will feature a lot of doilies and a lot of posts about doilies.

What is a doily? A decorative cloth, I suppose. They tend towards being lacy. They can be any size. Some are knit flat. Some are short-rowed. The ones I like best are knit circularly (though they may have a flat-knit section or two).

What else will be in the blog?

Whatever else I want to include, of course! In addition to knitting doilies, I knit a lot of other things. They'll be in here. I also spin, dye, and do other textile crafts. They'll be in here, too.

I'm not sure how much of my life outside of fiber-fun will be in here. We shall see. I think it's semi-obligatory to include cat photos, recipes, interesting nature photographs, and the like. I'd include gardening except that it is not very compatible with the climate I currently live in.

What am I working on now?

That will be in the next post(s).

However, I usually have a doily on the needles. If I've just finished one, I'll be in the dithering phase for the next. This morning, I'm nearing the end of my current doily. It was meant to last a bit longer, but I couldn't stay away from it. It's too cute and fun.

In addition to a doily, I usually have a small project or two around that can be used as travel knitting. For now, it's a scarf. More on that later. I'm also in the middle of a lace shawl and a sweater. A few other things are in the planning or dreaming stages.

I have a couple of small projects on my drop spindles and a larger project on my wheel.

Everything else is either dormant or I don't feel like mentioning it yet.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The First Post

Is this where I'm supposed to give a brief introduction and my objectives for this blog?

The heck with that.

Here's a doily photo instead.

This is the Coronet doily. The pattern is in Marianne Kinzel's First Book of Modern Lace Knitting, published by Dover and available from many fine vendors. It's the cover photo on my edition.

The pattern is given in both written and charted form. It is error free. I've knit it several times.

Doily knitting is very addictive.