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.


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.


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...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Last Friday in October

And here we are, at the last weekend of the month. October went quickly.

This weekend is the big Halloween party weekend. Some interesting logistics have been required. We are busy tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night, and all day Sunday, sometimes with different people going in different directions at the same time. Not all of the events are Halloween events.

Usually, we get dreadful weather for Halloween, the party weekend, or both. I'm not sure what will happen this year. We might get some snow tonight and tomorrow, but nothing major (in theory). So far, Wednesday night looks pretty good.

Here is a picture of some pretty yarn. In my last post, I wrote about the virtues of spot-dyeing. The above photo is an example.

I call it "sherbet yarn" because the colors of the roving looked a lot like orange and lime sherbet. A friend and I used cheerful spring-like shades of yellow, green, and orange. We left plenty of white. I don't remember what kind of roving we used, but I suspect it's generic Brown Sheep white roving.

We used our usual method for this kind of stuff. We mixed up dyestocks. We soaked the roving in a mixture of water and vinegar, then gently squeezed out most of the liquid. We placed the roving on a piece of plastic wrap. Then, we dribbled dye all over the roving. We rolled the plastic wrap over the roving, then steamed it for a half hour or so. We use a large canning kettle for steaming, with a steamer basket or rack set above some steaming water.

The dyed roving made us smile. I spun it up and self-plied it, and you can see the results.

As usual, I don't have all that much of the yarn, maybe 200-250 yards and 2 ounces of each. I have no idea what I'll do with it. For now, I take it out when I'm in the mood to look at something cheerful.

I think that warm shades of yellow and green are under-rated, too.


I am almost done with the Lacy Cables shawl that I started in September. I am ready to be done with it. I decided to make it one repeat shorter than the initial pattern calls for. That's actually one of the variations recommended in the pattern. My reason? I don't want to have to ball up another skein of the yarn. I'm pretty sure I can finish with the ball of yarn I'm using now. If I am mistaken, then I'll go ahead and add that last repeat.

I'm hoping to have photos of the unblocked and blocked shawl by next week.

It's been a fun pattern to knit. I like the combination of lace and cables. I like the way the cables cause the columns of lace to undulate. The rhythm of the pattern made for pleasant knitting. I like my handspun yarn, and I like the way it interacts with the stitch patterns.

I am somewhat dubious about the utility of the shawl. What will I do with a lacy rectangular item that is about 1 foot wide by 5 feet long? It's not really a scarf. It's not really a shawl. I suppose it's closest to a stole. But I do not live the stole-wearing lifestyle.

Some of that is my own fault -- I chose a darker colored, variegated yarn. It may be a bit too informal for the pattern. If I make it again, I'd probably choose a more formal-looking yarn, something that's white or a solid color. And yet, I do like the way the yarn looks with the pattern.

I'll have about 450-500 yards of yarn left, and I'll have used about 650-700 yards. This means that I'll have yet another small batch of yarn in the stash, not quite enough for a major project.

My current plans for the leftovers are to self-ply them and then use them in a stranded-color pattern such as a hat or mittens. But who knows what I'll really end up doing.

I'm having fun dreaming of the next shawl. There are several possibilities. The most likely one is a doily pattern adaptation. I've seen a few different versions of the doily, shown on the right. It's composed of 2 or more square motifs that are joined and then edged with more lace. This particular photo shows a 1x2, but I've seen 2x2 and 2x3. It's pretty in all its incarnations. Yes, it's probably a Niebling design.

I'm going to take a single motif and do only 2 pattern repeats, to end up with a half-square triangle shawl. I thought about doing it as a square. However, I only have about 1000 yards of yarn in the batch I'm thinking of using. A half-square triangle is more likely to fit with that quantity. It'll end up being about 130-140 rows of knitting. That's a bit bigger than the Hyrna Herborgar shawl.

I'll add a narrow garter stitch border for the top edge. It's possible that the half-square adaptation won't look very good. In that case, it's on to Plan B. I'll gather enough yarn to do one full square someday, but won't worry about it for now.

I think this design looks great as a half-square triangle, as a square, and as a multi-motif rectangle. I could do it as a doily, but I think it would look good upsized to a shawl.

There are a few other candidates for The Next Shawl, any of which could be my Plan B if necessary. One is another doily, a circular pattern that is about 120 rounds and has flowers and leaves on a hex-mesh background. The same batch of 1000 yards of yarn would work well for it. Another possibility is a diamond-motif idea I've been wanting to play with. I'm also interested in doing another shawl from the Icelandic lace book, or a Shetland hap shawl using small batches of handspun for color stripes, plus several more ideas.

The yarn is from Robin and Russ Handweavers, a long-ago purchase. It's white, some kind of blend. I can't remember if it's wool/silk or silk/mohair, but something like that.

Although I dream and make plans about my next project, I am often seduced by some totally different pattern without any warning. So don't be too suprised if this shawl idea never gets mentioned again, and I start rambling about some totally different project next time.


My other projects are progressing. The scarf is past the halfway point. It's good for productive fidgeting in public. I do like the way it looks. It should be a warm and attractive bit of neckwear when it's finished. It has satisfied any garter stitch cravings I might have unknowingly been suffering from. I'm ready to be done with it.

The Azalea doily is slowly chugging along, too. I'm finding it quite tedious to knit. I'm in the third set of petals. Will I bug out after this set is done, or will I find the fortitude to go all the way to the fourth set of petals and round 62? I probably will get to round 62, but it will take a while. Snooze city. I'm definitely not going to do this pattern as a lap afghan. I bet it will be lovely, though. Kinzel's patterns usually are.

The other stuff is still progressing, but I don't feel like writing about any of them.

I am finding it somewhat stressful to have so many projects going on at once. Usually, I have one main project and one smaller project, with occasional quickies in the middle. I might actually finish my sweater before starting another shawl in order to relieve this mild anxiety.

As you may be able to tell, I'm also suffering from a multi- mid-project malaise. I'm sure that will dissipate once I finish something.

I am thinking about doing some braiding and kumihimo posts. I'll need to be organized, though. I want to take a series of photos of the braiding process. We shall see.

(It took a couple of tries to get Blogger to upload my photos. I wonder what's going on?)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Spot-Dyed Chevron Lace Scarf (with a pattern)

It's been a busy week, too busy to post anything here. I won't bore everyone with the details. We did get our first substantial snowfall, about a foot of it. I was too busy trying to drive in it to be able to revel in all its lovely wool-wearing potential.

Not much of interest is occurring in my fiber-ish projects. Things are progressing. I have no photos of the in-progress stuff, nor would they be of much interest if I did have any.

So, I'll share the saga of a previous project, complete with a pattern and a chart.

Chevron Lace Scarf

The above photo is a scarf I made a few years ago. It's seen a fair amount of use, since it is warm, soft, and more attractive in real life than in the photo. The photo makes the scarf look more blue than it really is.

A friend of mine sent me a couple of ounces of merino roving. It was spot-dyed, to use her terminology. At the end of a fun dyeing session, she'd dripped the last few dye leftovers on this blob of roving. The roving ended up being a mix of various shades of purple, pink, and aqua, with much of it still being white.

I spun it on my spindle and then self-plied it for a variegated 2-ply yarn. I like the way it turned out. It has semi-long stretches of each color, with the variegation providing even more shading. I don't remember the exact yardage or how much it weighed, but I think I had about 2 ounces and roughly two hundred yards of roughly sport-weight yarn.

I didn't have very much yarn, and it was variegated. What to make with it?

I decided on a scarf, using some kind of scalloped pattern. A non-scalloped pattern would have looked too stripey, in my opinion. I like lace, so lace it was. As long as the increases were offset from the decreases, I'd get scalloping.

I could have chosen something like Feather and Fan. But I decided on this chevron lace pattern instead. It's easy, with little counting involved. There's only one pattern row, followed by a plain return row.

It turned out well, in my opinion. The stretches of each color interact well with the pattern. I like the way the different colors transition into each other, and I like the randomness of the striping. Since I didn't have tons of yarn, it's a rather small scarf. It is still adequate for my needs.

What did I learn from this project? A few things:

White is an under-appreciated color, especially in a variegated mix. I have to keep reminding myself of that whenever I haul out the dyepots.

Merino is soft against my neck. It spins differently from some of the other kinds of wool I had been spinning at the time. Its fibers are relatively short. It feels cottony, for lack of a better word. It has a very matte luster. It really sproings up when the yarn twist is set.

Scalloped lace patterns really do work quite nicely with variegated yarn, depending on the length of the variegation.

This was a very good travel project. It's hard to get lost in a pattern with only one simple pattern row! It would be a good beginner lace project, too.

I probably did learn more than that, but those are the things I remember.

The Written Pattern

You can choose any yarn you like. It doesn't have to be variegated. This particular pattern does happen to work well with variegated yarns as long as the length of each color is long enough to form stripes instead of spots. I don't know how it would work with very short color lengths; you'll have to try it and see for yourself

If you'd like to change yarns every now and then, this pattern would work very well with stripes of different colors and/or textures.

Choose a needle size that goes with your yarn. You should probably do some informal swatching to figure out what kind of fabric you like. You also want to see how many repeats of the stitch pattern you want. I was very conscious of my limited quantity of yarn, so I made a narrow and not very long scarf. Yours can be as wide and as long as you wish.

You will be knitting back and forth, i.e., flat knitting. I use circular needles for everything. You can, of course, use straight needles.

Cast on a multiple of 10 stitches, plus 3. I used 43 stitches for my scarf.

For all rows, slip the first stitch of the row as if to purl, with the yarn in front. Knit the last stitch of the row through the back loop.

Knit 2 rows.

Then start the chevron lace pattern. It's a 2-row pattern. The chart is below, if you'd rather work from a chart than from text.

Row 1: slip 1 stitch as if to purl with yarn in front, k2tog, *k3, yo, k1, yo, k3, S2KP2*, ending with k3, yo k1, yo, k3, SSK, k-tbl.

Row 2: purl (except for the edge stitches, as described above)

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until the scarf is long enough or you're almost out of yarn, finishing with row 2. Purl two more rows. Bind off purl-wise on the right side.

Block it. It doesn't need too much. The edges have a slight tendency to curl, since I didn't bother with a garter stitch border on the sides. Get your scarf thoroughly damp and lay it out flat to dry, gently manipulating it to get the lace pattern and the edges to look right.

My abbreviations:

k is knit. p is purl. yo is yarnover. k2tog is knit 2 together. SSK is the left-leaning decrease -- slip two stitches knitwise, one at a time, then stick them back on the left needle and knit them together through the back loops. If you prefer another left-leaning decrease, go ahead and substitute it. S2KP2 is a double decrease -- slip 2 stitches knitwise (together), then k1, then pass the 2 slipped stitches over. You can substitute a different double decrease if you'd rather. k-tbl is knit through the back loop, i.e. a twisted knit stitch. The stuff between the *'s is to be repeated as many times as needed.


If you are feeling ambitious, you can change the lace pattern a bit. Instead of k3's, do k2's or k5's or whatever. Big whoop, right? There are a bunch of other possible changes, but then you start transitioning into other well-known lace patterns with their own well-known names. Heck, even the chevron lace name is only one of several names this stitch pattern is known by.

You can do this as a garter-stitch lace if you like that texture better. Knit all the wrong-side rows instead of purling them. Or knit an occasional wrong-side row instead of purling, similar to some of the standard feather-and-fan variations.

You can do more rows of garter stitch before starting the lace. You can add a garter stitch border if you'd like. Or add rows with eyelets before and after. Or use your imagination!

If you make it wider and choose the yarn appropriately, you can call it a wrap or a rectangular shawl or even an afghan.

The Pattern Chart

Here is the chart for the lace pattern. I didn't show the 2 garter stitch rows at the ends, of course.

I seem to have charted it as if it was a circular pattern instead of a flat pattern, not that it really matters. Just remember that row 2 is a wrong-side row, and thus you'll purl the stitches instead of knitting them (so they look like knit stitches from the front). You'll also go from left to right on the chart, whereas row 1 (the right-side row) goes from right to left.

I also see that I didn't define the double-decrease symbol. It's the one at the left end of the 10-stitch pattern repeat in row 1. I did them as a vertical double decrease (slip 2 knitwise at the same time, knit 1, pass the slipped stitches over). It will look fine if you'd rather substitute some other double decrease.

This is my first time trying to upload a chart to this blog. It was more of a hassle than I expected! I'll have to work on that...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Boring Progress

Well, it's not really boring to do, only boring to read and write about. I don't even have any photos of the in-progress stuff to share.

I had promised photos of the Azalea doily-ghan. I lied. It was too barf-tastic in the thrift-store yarn. I quit in horror. Maybe it's time to give up and donate the yarn to some other thrift store. However, that's a rather cruel thing to do to the next unsuspecting purchaser. I'll toss it back into the depths of the closet, where it can help insulate the house this winter.

After abandoning the Azalea doily-ghan, I idly grabbed some perle cotton weaving thread and re-started the pattern as an actual doily. My poor Frosted Ferns KAL doily sits neglected.

The Azalea doily is coming along quite well. The cotton is too soft for my tastes, but works well in this particular pattern. The color is somewhere between champagne and a light pumpkin tone. It's pleasing enough.

The pattern is interesting. There's very little actual lacework in it, if you define lacework as fabric with yarnovers. A few yarnovers do occur on every 10th round or so. Most of the doily is solid stockinette with a few increases and decreases. It's a very easy pattern to remember and follow.

The pattern's movement is created by the lines of decreases that separate one leaf/petal from its neighbor. The new petals grow by doing a (k,p,k) into the center stitch of the petal. This does create a somewhat open texture in the middle of the petal, and it also causes the stitches of the petal to bias in a pleasing manner. The neighboring motif is a petal, created in the previous set of rounds, that is shrinking by means of decreases at the edges. The motifs swirl and flow, creating harmonious patterns as the light interacts with the stitches.

As usual with a Kinzel pattern, there are zillions of stitches per round, and it's rather tedious to knit in spots. I use the general rule that a doily needs to have approximately 4 stitches per round. So, by round 36, I should have 144 or so stitches. This pattern has about twice that number of stitches at that point. It works anyway, for various reasons I won't go into right now, but it makes the rounds slow-going.

I expect that when I block the doily, it will be a lot bigger than one might expect. All those stitches take up a certain amount of space. If you squish them horizontally, you will end up squeezing them vertically. I am using a fairly loose tension, to help the stitch distortion occur while still getting the pattern to lie flat.

The Azalea pattern still seems to meet a lot of my criteria for a decent afghan pattern. If I were to try it as an afghan, I'd do it as a square, with only 4 pattern repeats per round. It could be an interesting open-square shawl if worked flat. The pattern motif runs from corner to corner. It would be very easy to adapt it to flat knitting by adding a narrow border.

I do like the way that the doily grows by iterating the same pattern motif, adding more of the motifs as the item grows. Kinzel has a lot of patterns that do this, especially her square patterns. It's also a common concept for a lot of modern shawl patterns.


The Frosted Ferns doily is at a point where new motifs are starting. I need to pay attention for the next few rounds. For some reason, I'm having a tough time with it. It doesn't help that my cat likes to sit on my lap and "help". He butts his head onto my hand. Several stitches fly off the needle and promptly run as many rounds down as they can. Since I'm at this point of new motifs, it can be very hard to figure out how to repair the dropped stitches. The first time, I simply started over. Now, I've done enough rounds that I'd prefer not to have to do that. It takes me a while to do the repairs, and then I'm frustrated and not in the mood to knit on it any more. Send it to its room (actually a small pencil box that serves as my Emergency Doily Knitting Kit) -- it's grounded for poor behavior!


My lacy cables shawl is roughly 2/3 to 3/4 done unless I decide to make it longer. It's looking like Gayle Roehm's estimate of 750-ish yards of yarn is about right. I might use as much as 800 yards or as little as 700. I'll have a few hundred yards of yarn left. I suppose it will join my stash of small batches, and I'll wonder what to do with it every time I see it. I do have a few ideas, though, starting with doing another few repeats of the shawl stitch pattern.

I do wonder what the heck I'm going to do with the shawl. It's a fairly formal-looking pattern. I don't really live a lifestyle that requires formal-looking stoles. Also, the yarn I'm using is not formal-looking. It's variegated, and it's in shades of brown and gray. I do like the way it looks. So, what does one do with a long and lacy rectangular item like this? I guess I'll find out. It will no doubt join the rest of the shawls in the pile, brought out to wear around the house for the pleasure of wearing it, but rarely getting any public exposure.

It is fun to knit. That is the real reason I'm doing it. Some items I make are practical. A lot are done for the sheer pleasure of the doing.


Speaking of practical, I am procrastinating on my sweater. I need to make sure the two sleeves are the same length, and that the sleeves and body are the approximate correct dimensions for me. Then I'll unite them and knit the yoke. I suspect that the sweater will go a lot faster when that occurs.


Let's see; what else can I bore everyone with?

The scarf is doing well. I like the wider version. I'm about at the halfway point. The mindless style of increasing and decreasing is working well for me. (Mindless style: either increase or decrease one stitch near the beginning of the row, and then knit to the end.)

Spinning continues in fits and starts, depending on my mood. It's mostly boring-looking yarn, so I won't bother to take photos. The cats like to "help" with the spinning. One will wake up from a nap elsewhere in the house to come and sit on my lap while I'm on the wheel. He occasionally has to take a swipe at the roving or the drafting yarn. I have to stay alert to make sure that the yarn stays unchewed and that no cats get hurt by the wheel.

They are fascinated by my spindles, too.


I am dreaming of new projects. There are yarn blobs I want to spin, shawls and other items I want to knit.

The shawl is the current project likely to finish first. That means I'll allow myself to start another large shapeless shawl-like item. There are two doily-shawl conversion projects I have yarn for, another one I need to order yarn for, plus this doily-ghan concept rattling around in my brain, plus a couple of other shawl ideas. I will share the photos of the shawl candidates when they are closer to getting cast on.

Oddly, I don't really have a must-knit doily candidate. The ones I want to knit are big enough that I'd rather do them as shawls or afghans. That could change at any time, of course. I'm easily seduced. Witness the Azalea doily.

Sweaters -- I want to finish this sweater so that I can wear it this winter. I also have my eye on the leftover yarn I'll undoubtedly have. That nice neutral gray will be useful. It would be nice to add another few sweaters to my winter wardrobe. I even have some yarn in sufficient quantities that would work. The next one will be top-down. Should I do cables? Stranded color-work? Another plain sweater?

There are several small items I want to play around with. They might get started sooner, or they might wait until my scarf is done. Wristers, mittens, socks, scarves, hats, bags... We had our first snow this weekend. Those warm knitted items are starting to be used. We can always use more.

I need to set up the marudai or a braiding disk and make a few braids, possibly for knotting purposes. I've been reading a couple of weaving blogs, and am feeling vaguely inspired to drag out the inkle loom or set up a card-weaving project. I haven't dyed anything in a while, and would love to get out the colors to play with. Looking at previously dyed roving and yarn always makes me want to do more.

And so on. I won't bore everyone further by listing all the ideas and plans I have.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Tale of Three Doilies

And they're all pink. How odd. I guess it's not really all that odd. I made the doily above from a brand new ball of DMC Cebelia #20. There was enough thread left over to make a few more small doilies.

The first doily, in all its poorly-blocked glory, is a Herbert Niebling pattern. It's roughly 82 rounds. I don't think it has a name. It certainly didn't in the pattern source I was using! The flowers look a bit like tulips, so I often refer to it casually as the tulip-like doily. The flowers look more like campanulas or penstemons, some kind of bell-like flower. In any case, they were very interesting to do. The stamens near the top of the flowers are defined by a wrap stitch. That's the first time I've encountered a wrap stitch in a Niebling pattern! I have since done others.

The pattern is not attributed to Niebling, but it contains a lot of his characteristic quirks. The hex mesh background, the floral motif, the way the different stitch patterns are used for textural contrast... Who else would have designed it? (That's an honest question, by the way. I'm always interested in learning more about other doily designers and their design styles.)

As usual with Niebling patterns, it was a fun knit. There were a few rounds that didn't flow as well as they could have. Most of it was very nicely put together. It's not the best knitting or blocking I've ever done, alas. The blocking can be fixed, but I'm stuck with the uneven knitting. Oh, well.

The second doily I knit, from the leftover pink thread, is Kinzel's Coronet doily, from the First Book of Modern Lace Knitting.

If you've gone through the archives for this blog, you'll see an off-white Coronet in my first post. I like the pattern, so I've knit it more than once. The Coronet pattern is a typical small Kinzel pattern, very elegant and restrained and with a whole lot of stitches. It has 46 rounds.

After this doily was finished, I still had thread left over.

So, I knitted up a quickie pattern by Erich Engeln. This one is the descriptively-named #9F. It has 42 rounds.

OK, it's not a descriptive name. Engeln patterns usually do not have names. Those of us who own the pamphlets call them by their pamphlet name. This is from pamphlet #9, and it's pattern F in the pamphlet. It's small but cute, perfect for the amount of thread I had left.

There was thread left over after this one, too, but I decided that enough was enough. It's in my crocheted-snowflake stash. After that, it will go into the weaving/braiding stash.

Anyway, one rather interesting thing about all the above doilies is that they all use the same hexagonal mesh lace pattern as a background lace stitch.

What's really interesting is that each designer uses a different method to increase in pattern.

Niebling uses many different kinds of increase methods, depending on the pattern. Some are clunkier than others. This one is both elegant and simple. The edges of the hex mesh, where it butts up against the tulip-like flowers, start and end with double yarnovers. This sets it up perfectly for the next round. It's all hex mesh -- either \OO/ or O/\O. It starts with one double yarnover and goes from there.

Kinzel's is almost as elegant. It has a kludge or two at the beginning. It starts with a single yarnover and works its way up to a (yo, k3, yo). The next round, which is the real start of the hex mesh, is slightly asymmetric in order to get to an even number of stitches.

Kinzel uses (yox2, k1) at the edge of each hex mesh section. (It finishes with a k1, yox2.) The middle part is all \OO/. The double yarnovers plus a single knit stitch allow the hex mesh section to grow effortlessly. But it is different from Niebling's version. And the first couple of rounds are not as seamless as Niebling's beginnings.

The Engeln pattern uses yet another method. The first round is a single yarnover. Then, he goes immediately to an even number of stitches by doing (yo, kp in stitch, yo). His way of increasing in hex mesh varies. The ones used for the patterns in this pamphlet are similar. The increases at the sides will be single yarnovers. The following round twists the yarnover (yo, k-tbl, yo). After that, he'll use single knit stitches at the edges instead of decreases to keep the pattern flowing until there are enough stitches for the full \OO/ pattern repeat. And by then, he's starting to develop the next set of increases.

I know that what I really should do is scan all three charts, and excerpt the small areas that demonstrate the differences. However, each pattern uses a totally different chart style! It's hard to follow unless you're already familiar with those charting styles. Someday I'll try to chart up the three different chart sections to show you the three different methods these designers used to increase their sections of hex mesh lace.

So, can these kinds of differences be used to identify the designers of unattributed patterns? Yes, I believe so. It's not definitive, but it's one more bit of evidence that allows us to infer the designer's identity.

Someday, I may design my own complex lace patterns. Should I choose to use the hexagonal mesh stitch pattern, looking at the way other designers do it will help me to develop my own style.

These are the kinds of things that fascinate my doily-obsessed mind. The doilies were fun to knit, too.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Last week sometime I mentioned my current House Pattern for wristers. It's an easy pattern, and as a result, is an excellent template for playing with yarns. It's also a good pattern for cranking out quick gifts or for quickly outfitting a cold-handed friend or family member.

On the right, you can see a photo of a few of the wristers. They are simple tubes with a big buttonhole slit for the thumb. So what if they're simple? They're functional, warm, and fun to make. The ribbing makes them elastic enough to fit a variety of hand sizes.

Last weekend, I was out hiking in cool weather. Not really cold, but in the 40's and rather windy. By the end of the day, clouds had rolled in, and the occasional raindrop or snow-blob was added to the mix.

I wore my wristers. They kept my hands quite toasty, which helped keep the rest of me toasty. I brought along several pairs, and doled them out to other members of the hiking party.

We also wore other hand-knitted wool items such as hats. For the cool but not cold weather we were in, the items worked very well. I'll probably share the current House Pattern(s) for hats one of these days. It turns out that hats are a good way to use up a 2-ounce blob of variegated dyed roving that turns into a 2-ounce batch of variegated yarn. Variegated dyeing and variegated yarns are so much fun, but dang, they're hard to use effectively.

Wrapid Wristers

My current no-brainer pattern for wristers. Wristers are also known as fingerless mitts, wristwarmers, pulsewarmers, and probably by a few other names.

Gauge: about 3.5-3.75 stitches per inch. Don't worry about getting too exact. Anything between, say, 3-4 stitches per inch ought to work.

Don't worry about a gauge swatch. The actual item is your gauge swatch. Knit a few inches and put it on to see if you like the fit and fabric. If yes, continue. If not, adjust the yarn, needle size, and/or pattern and try again.

Yarn: This is the fun part. You need a yarn or combination of yarns to get the above gauge. It will end up being about bulky weight. You'll need about 80-90 yards, give or take a bit. I must confess that I don't really pay attention when I use combinations of leftovers. However, I can make a pair of wristers from one generous skein of bulky yarn. A skimpy skein will necessitate short wristers.

I usually choose at least two different yarns. Go ahead and play! Choose thick and thin yarns, either one or both of the strands. Choose variegated yarns. Choose a mixture of yarns. Experiment with color and texture and composition. Play with your leftovers.

Some examples of yarn combos I've chosen:

(a) two variegated thick and thin yarns. One was a 2-ply in shades of blue. The other was a singles yarn in bright colors.

(b) one strand of brown alpaca, one strand of a variegated thick-and-thin wool/mohair/silk yarn in shades of green (for the camo-loving family member)

(c) one strand of brown alpaca, one strand of variegated wool in shades of orange and purple (this was an oddball of beige yarn that I unevenly overdyed orange, then overdyed purple. It is actually quite pretty.)

(d) one strand of gray wool/mohair, one strand of blue wool (simple yet effective)

My next pair is probably going to be one strand of bulky black 2-ply wool, one strand of a thin boucle mostly-mohair pink/purple variegated yarn.

I could do stripes, but I usually let the variegated yarn do the work for me.

Needles: A set of dpn's that will give you the gauge you need. If you'd rather use the 2-circulars or the magic-loop circular method, go for it!


Cast on 24 stitches. Join. Do a k1, p1 rib for 5.5". (Rib pattern: *knit 1, purl 1* ad infinitum)

On the next round, cast off 3 stitches. It can be any 3 stitches in a row. Sometimes I choose a p-k-p sequence, and sometimes I choose a k-p-k sequence. I usually choose 3 stitches somewhere in the middle of the round, but it really doesn't matter.

On the following round, cast on 3 stitches over the gap.

Continue to knit (in the k1p1 rib pattern) for 2 more inches. Then, cast off in pattern.

Make the second wrister if you want one for your other hand.

That's it!

The circumference is about 6-7" (since it's elastic ribbing, I don't usually measure this). The part below the thumb is 5.5", the part above the thumb is 2", and the total length ends up being around 8".

Variations and Comments

If your yarn is finer or thicker, or you want a wrister that is bigger or smaller, you can easily add or subtract stitches from the pattern. Instead of 24 stitches, use 22 or 28 or 30 or whatever. Make sure it's an even number, though, to maintain the k1p1 rib. Make the thumb opening about an inch, but use an odd number of stitches. So, for example, if your gauge is 4-5 stitches per inch, and you're using 32-ish stitches for the wristers, make the thumb opening 5 stitches wide.

I've tried making these top-down instead of bottom-up. However, I like the way the cast-on fits at the wrist, and I like the way the cast-off snugs up the top.

You can easily make these a bit shorter or longer to fit the preferences of the wrister-wearer.

If you hide the ends well, the wristers are reversible.

Mitten variation

This pattern is a good basis for mittens, too. Put the thumb stitches on a yarn holder instead of casting them off. Continue the k1p1 rib on the hand until it's almost long enough (5-6" after the thumb), then decrease (2 rounds of SSK will get you down to 6 stitches). Pick up the thumb stitches plus one on each side (8 total), knit (k1p1 rib, of course) until the thumb is long enough, then decrease (one round of SSK is enough). I'll give a more formal pattern for this some other time.


I do make finer and more complicated wristers. Those are fun, too, and often better for cold weather or more formal occasions. However, I like the quickness and simplicity of this pattern. I like its versatility and its potential for playing with yarn combos. It's a good use for oddballs and yarn remnants, especially the weirder yarns.

Give them a try!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Not in Focus

Today is being one of those days. You know, where you want to get certain things done but just can't stay in focus. I flit from project to project.

A general observation: Spinning very slippery laceweight alpaca feels very different from spinning somewhat grabby thick-and-thin Aran-weight Icelandic wool. Like duh, right? The other spinning project is a spongy, sproingy, short-staple wool which is a fairly fine single and will end up being a jumper-weight 2-ply.


I spent a few minutes rummaging through the stash looking for a doilyghan-suitable pile of yarn. And I found something! It's an old thrift store purchase, a single-ply worsted-weight wool/viscose mix in an off-white.

Some people get lucky with their thrift store finds. I usually don't. The worst was that cone of dusty wool yarn. Two weeks later, it became obvious that it was infested with moths. That turned out to be an expensive purchase. Usually, I find overpriced oddballs and odd-smelling partial balls of Knit-Cro-Sheen in ugly variegated colors, or mis-matched and incomplete sets of dpn's. I don't bother buying those.

The wool/viscose yarn was one of my better buys. But that's not saying much. It was bagged up in the thrift store, so I couldn't inspect it as closely as I wanted. When I got it home, I saw that all the wool was balled up. That's OK. Except that all the balls are two-stranded. Well, I guess I can live with that, because it would be a pain to separate them back into individual yarn strands.

I used the yarn to knit an Elizabeth Zimmermann Ribwarmer vest. In the middle of the project, it also became apparent that I was dealing with at least two different dyelots. Ugh. I finished the ribwarmer because I wanted the experience of doing it. I've never worn it in public -- it needs a dip in a dye bath at the very least. If I were being realistic (and someday I will be), it really needs to be returned to its primal yarn state.

The ribwarmer pattern is a lot of fun and deserves to be knit again in a decent yarn someday.

Anyway, there's still plenty of this thrift store wool/viscose left. I think it will get turned into a doilyghan experiment. I am rationalizing to myself that different dyelots won't look quite as awful when they're concentric circles of varying widths. If I dye it afterwards, it will still look good.

If I were feeling very virtuous, I'd skein the yarn and dye it before I knit with it. I am not feeling virtuous. I'd love to get this yarn out of my stash and made into something I'm willing to live with.

I'm going to do Marianne Kinzel's Azalea pattern. I'll let y'all know how it goes. With photos. Even if it's barfomatic.

The next time I'm near a decent yarn store, I clearly need to add a few basics to my yarn stash. Or the next time I place a mail-order with an internet fiber company. What I'd really like to use for a doilyghan is something like Jaggerspun's 3/8 heather yarn. Brown Sheep's wool/mohair single ply yarn is another possibility. I also need some laceweight yarn for a planned doily-to-shawl conversion project.


As usual, rummaging through my stash leads me to rediscover all kinds of interesting things. I've used most of the large batches of stuff. Most of what's left are smaller batches, impulse purchases and oddballs and leftovers.

I enjoy knitting socks, mittens, hats, etc., from these small quantities. I'll often use two strands. It makes for faster knitting, it makes a small quantity of yarn go a bit farther, and it's a great way to experiment with color/texture/etc. mixing.

The unspun fiber is equally inspiring. I have several large batches and a lot of smaller batches, including a lot of stuff I've dyed with friends. Note to self: spin more, and spin faster!


My lacy cables shawl continues to grow. I am still enjoying it. Soon I'll get to the obsessed stage. When that happens, everything else gets dropped and I work exclusively and obsessively on that one project until it's finished. I'm looking forward to that. There are several projects I'd like to drop into the "shawl" slot.

Scarf, sweater, and doily all continue to progress in fits and starts. The scarf and sweater are perfect for no-focus knitting. Pick it up, knit a few minutes, put it down, go do something else. The doily takes more commitment, since I hate putting it down in the middle of a round.

It's a cute doily so far. I like the way Niebling developed the leaf motifs on this pattern. He uses 4 yarnovers in the middle of the leaf to represent the midrib of the leaf. Two are structural; they cause the leaf to grow in width. The other two are decorative. They are balanced by decreases at the edge of the leaf. The leaf edges are nicely defined by the decrease lines. Having the yarnovers offset from the decreases causes the stitches to bias, another deliberate and decorative effect.

When the leaf is wide enough, two of the yarnovers drop out. The appearance of the leaf doesn't change much now that the yarnovers are balanced by the decreases. Finally, all the yarnovers stop, and the decreases then reduce the leaf stitches to the center tip. There are extra decreases along the sides of the leaf every now and then. They make little serrated points, which is Niebling's way of trying to make the leaf resemble an actual oak leaf.


I think I'm going back to play in the stash and flit from project to project. Maybe I'll cast on for the Azalea lap blanket. Maybe I'll see if one of my medium-sized batches of yarn is suitable for a proper Elizabeth Zimmermann Ribwarmer. Maybe I'll get bored with that and write up my wrister pattern. Or take photos of the Mommes Lysedug that I did as a small shawl and lap blanket.

It's one of those days. Not in focus.

Monday, October 8, 2007

More thoughts on doily-shawl-afghan conversions

How to estimate how big a particular pattern will be with the yarn or thread you're using

Z's Momma asked in a comment to my previous post:

"I was wondering how large of a lap blanket can be made with a doily pattern using sport weight yarn."

You can make a lap blanket as large as you wish, depending on how much yarn and patience you possess.

The size of the lap blanket will depend on the size of the pattern and upon your blocked row gauge. It's very straightforward to estimate the final size.

Question 1: What is your row gauge? You can start with the approximate row gauge in stockinette. Remember that you may well be using a looser gauge than usual. You may well have some idea about how much blocking you'll do, anywhere from none at all to stretched very tightly or somewhere in between.

Question 2: How big is the pattern you're thinking about (number of rounds)? Take that number and double it, to get the number of rounds from the edge to the middle to the other edge. This is your diameter.

Answer: The diameter divided by your row gauge will give you an approximation for the final size of your lap blanket.

Conversely, to figure out what size pattern you need, take your row gauge and multiply it by the size you want to determine how many rounds you need to knit (edge to edge, not center to edge). Divide that by 2 to get the number of rounds in the pattern.

Example: for sport-weight yarn, let's use 7 rows per inch for the blocked row gauge.

If you have a pattern that is 105 rounds, its diameter is 210 rounds. The size of your lap blanket will be 210/7 = 30".

If you want your lap blanket to be 40" in diameter, it needs to be 7 x 40 = 280 rounds in diameter, or 280/2 = 140 rounds. You need a pattern that has approximately 140 rounds, give or take a bit.

After you've started knitting, you can refine the estimate a bit. After you've done, say, 30 or 40 rounds, measure it. Then extrapolate to the total number of rounds. Or measure your actual row gauge somewhere in the middle of those 30-40 rounds and extrapolate to the total number of rounds. Check again when you're farther along.

You can change your yarn (or your needle size) and thus your gauge if you want to use a specific pattern and want to end up at a certain approximate size. Make sure you like the fabric you're getting. If it's too solid or too open, it would be better to try a different approach.

There are ways to increase the size of your pattern if it's not big enough. They are easiest if you choose a pattern that doesn't finish in a flourish of scallops or fans. You can add another set of motifs, you can add an edging (either outwards-knit or sideways-knit), you can add a few rounds of crocheting, etc.

If a pattern is too large, you can often find intermediate points where you can stop knitting and still end up with something lovely. Some designers do this deliberately, creating a series of patterns that build on each other.

The other easy way to make sure the lap blanket is about the size you wish is to choose a general recipe instead of a specific pattern. In other words, choose a pattern or template that is infinitely expandable. The Hemlock Ring blanket is partly in this category. It starts with the center motif. But the feather and fan can be stopped whenever you think it's enough. It can be expanded for quite a while, too, though eventually you run into the dreaded f&f cupping problem

Someday I'll blog about some nice patterns that are near-infinitely expandable. I'm sure many of you are familiar with some of them through the writings of Elizabeth Zimmermann -- the pi shawl, spiral shawls, the square baby shawl, and other good templates for your creativity.

Intro to the long and boring part of this post

One nice thing about having a blog is that I can post whatever I've been thinking about lately, following digressions to wherever they may lead me. The last post got me thinking about the whole issue of converting doily patterns to shawls, afghans, and other items that are not made with fine, smooth threads. I did some abstract thinking, but then got distracted by a particular pattern. So, this post will be some mix of the abstract and specific. It's not the last post on the subject, since the topic is still rattling around in my skull. This is an interim set of thoughts, subject to modification.

A few thoughts on doily shapes

Doilies come in a lot of different shapes. Which ones do you like? What do you think is a good shape for a shawl, a lap blanket or afghan, a baby blanket, a rug, etc.?

Circles are common. They make reasonable shawls, excellent area rugs, and pretty good lap blankets (and baby blankets). Some can be blocked into polygons (octagons, for example) instead of being perfectly circular.

Polygons are also common. Some can be blocked into circles. Some are very definitely octagons or hexagons or some other shape.

Then there are squares, a common polygon. Some of these can be turned into triangles by only working one or two repeats (flat knitting instead of circular).

You can put several squares (or hexagons or other shapes) together to form a multi-motif pattern. There are a lot of multi-motif patterns out there already. The multi-motif patterns can be any final shape you choose, depending on how you arrange the motifs. Needless to say, you can choose to do only one motif of a multi-motif pattern as a stand-alone doily.

Some patterns are rectangular or oval. Some of these are done in one piece, using various methods to achieve a rectangle or oval. Some ovals start with a central motif, then have wings added to the sides to make it oval.

Have I missed any of the common shapes? Triangles are not very common in doily patterns. They are great for shawls, though.


I already mentioned the variation where you can take one or two pattern repeats from a square and work them flat to make a triangular shawl. It depends on the pattern, but a lot of squares' charts go from corner to corner and thus are easy to adapt. (The Hyrna Herborgar shawl feels very much like a half-square triangle adaptation; it wouldn't be all that hard to turn it into a square. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it turns out that there is a square doily pattern out there that the Hyrna Herborgar designer used as the basis for the shawl.) You can knit the entire square as a flat pattern, too.

You can often (but not always) do something similar to circular and polygonal patterns. If the pattern repeat lines are straight, you can easily knit it flat. You can choose the same number of pattern repeats as the original pattern has, or you can choose to do more or fewer. A narrow border of garter or seed stitch will help keep the shawl from curling. If the edge of the pattern repeat is more variable or is in the middle of something important, it's harder to adapt.

Another thing you can do is to omit the central portion of a pattern. You can continue in the round, ending up with a poncho-like garment, or you can knit flat, ending up with a cape-like garment. Meg Swansen's Mananita pattern is like this. I've done that pattern and will share the photos at some point. There are also some other wonderful shawls out there that use this idea.

Marianne Kinzel's Azalea pattern

I was idly flipping through patterns, thinking about afghan possibilities. I tried to limit myself to patterns that were easily available, so that I could blog about them without having to frustrate the casual doily knitter. I'd already mentioned the Mommes Lysedug pattern and the Egleblad pattern as being good possibilities (see previous post for links to the patterns).

Marianne Kinzel's Azalea doily, from the First Book of Modern Lace Knitting, jumped out at me. The photo is at the right, hopefully around this point if the blogger preview thingy is not lying to me.

It has a lot of elements that would make it a good pattern to use for a lap blanket, an area rug, a shawl, a baby blanket, a facecloth, you name it.

Good points: It's a relatively solid fabric. It would look good in a variegated yarn with long color repeats, or a variegated yarn with relatively subtle color changes. It would look good if you choose to change yarn colors every now and then. It would look good at many scales, from very fine thread to very thick yarn.

Bad points: It's boring to knit. I've tried to knit it twice. The first time, I ran out of thread at a crucial point and unraveled it in frustration. The second time, I simply got bored and then was distracted by a different pattern. However, maybe it would be more fun in yarn than in thread. Also, my definition of boring is not the same as anyone else's.

However, there are some cool things about this pattern that make it ideal for shawls, lap blankets, and other variations.

It's expandable. Each of the doilies shown in the photo is exactly the same as the one smaller, except that it has one more leaf/petal motif per side.

Obviously, one can keep going, making the pattern larger and larger by adding more motifs. The pattern chart and instructions are already set up to do this. The largest version in the original pattern is only 62 rounds. That's a good size for an area rug or for a small lap afghan made with thick yarn. But it's a bit small for other purposes.

Each additional level of leaf/petal motifs adds 12 rounds to the doily. So, even if 62 rounds is too small for your purposes, 74 or 86 or 98 or 110 might be about right.

Each additional set of 12 rounds also adds 14 stitches per pattern repeat. That may eventually become an issue, leading to ruffling due to too many stitches per round. But I don't think it would be a problem for another few sets of leaves. You'll need to block it well in order to get the thing to lie flat. You'll find that you'll get a bit of extra diameter out of the pattern as the stitches get squished horizontally and thus grow vertically.

Given the large number of stitches per round, you could cut this pattern down to 5 or possibly even 4 pattern repeats and still do OK. Do you like it as a pentagon? A square? Those could be increased to a much larger size without having to worry about too many stitches.

You could turn this into a flat-knit shawl. Do you like it as a hexagon? A pentagon? A square? A triangle (made from one or two pattern repeats)? A half-hexagon hexagon? An overlapping octagon (more than circular works fine for a flat shawl)? You could omit the center motif and start with enough stitches for the second or third level of leaves.

The pattern ends with a relatively flat edge. You can add something beyond that to make a more interesting finish. You could finish the half-leaves while putting little fans or plain stockinette between each leaf. You could transition to a totally different lace pattern. You could add a sideways-knit lace edging to finish off.

If you google terms such as kinzel and azalea, you'll see a few versions of this pattern, some done as shawls. Here's Rosemarie Buchanan's shawl, done flat as a cape-style pattern. Here's Schmeebot's shawl, with its interesting technique for finishing those last leaf motifs.

I am very tempted to try this pattern as a shawl or lap blanket. I don't know if I have a reasonable batch of yarn in my stash, though. I could go shopping for suitable yarn, of course. I'd probably do it as a circular-knit hexagon, just like the pattern, and continue for another few levels of leaf/petal motifs.

By tomorrow or next week, I will no doubt be entranced with a totally different idea.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Egleblad (a Christine Duchrow classic)

This is the famous Egleblad doily. You can find the English translation on Nurhanne's site here. Egleblad means something like oak leaf, which is probably a reference to the leaf-like motifs in the outer rounds.

The doilies on that portion of Nurhanne's site are actually designs by Christine Duchrow, a talented early doily designer. Her works are in the public domain. The Egleblad doily is the first pattern in pamphlet 64 in Volume III of the Lacis compilation of her patterns. Volume III has the most doilies, in case you were wondering.

I knit this doily years ago. (It needs re-blocking after being stuffed in a drawer for so long.) I don't know exactly what I used, but I'd guess #10 cotton and 2mm needles. If I were to do it again, I'd use finer thread or larger needles to get a more open fabric.

Actually, that's not true at all. Because I am thinking of doing it again, but as a lap afghan.

I did the Mommes Lysedug pattern as a small shawl or lap afghan around the same time as I did the Egleblad as a traditional doily. It turned out great. It took about 748 yards of sport-weight wool yarn. This was good, because I only had 750 yards of yarn available. Someday I'll get a decent photo of it to share with everyone.

Anyway, there's been a lot of recent chatter on the various mailing lists about Jared's (aka brooklyntweed's) lovely adaptation of the Hemlock Ring doily into a lap afghan. There's even a KAL mailing list devoted to it. It reminds me yet again how satisfying the proper doily pattern can be when it's upsized. Facecloth, shawl, lap afghan, area rug... If you like to knit doilies, you'll look for any excuse to knit them, right?

No offense to those who love feather and fan, but it's not my first choice when something more interesting is available. I do have a couple of f&f patterns on my tentative to-do list, but they keep getting bumped by other projects. The Hemlock Ring doily, whether small or large, is not one of them.

So, what would make a good doily pattern to do as a lap afghan? I like the relative solidity of Jared's Hemlock Ring blanket. An open lace pattern is not as snuggly and is prone to snagging.

I don't want anything too enormous. This is a lap afghan, not a kingsize bedspread. Given a row gauge of roughly 5-7 rows/rounds per inch, I'm probably looking for something in the 75-150 round range, preferably at the lower end. I can add edgings or another motif or something to smaller patterns if necessary.

The pattern has to look nice and show up well when knit in a thicker yarn. It's not as critical as a shawl, where I'd prefer not to look like I'm wearing a tablecloth. However, the decorative elements of the pattern have to look good at the gauge I'd be using.

The Egleblad would work.

So would a lot of other patterns. Clearly, I'll have to go through my pattern collection and my yarn stash to identify some good candidates. This is such a hardship. The things I do for my addiction.

However, I am a good little lemming and find the prospect of a warm doily/blanket project for fall to be very enticing. Will it happen? We shall see. I'd like to finish one of my other projects before I start anything new.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Well-Tempered Drop Spindle

I've been in the mood to spin on my spindle lately. The above is the result. It's the contents of a Snohomish Custom Carding Mill grab bag bought long ago at a fiber fair of some sort. I love these little grab bags. They consist of 6-12 blobs of roving, all somewhat different. There's usually some wool, a bit of mohair and alpaca, and a bunch of interesting blends. The colors are fun. The quality is high. The roving is well blended, drafts very evenly, and has very little VM.

This particular bag had 13 blobs of roving. It tended heavily to blues and purples, obviously. I've been grabbing a bit of roving and spinning at odd moments. Each blob got self-plied into a 2-ply yarn. I have about 30-50 yards of each 2-ply yarn. Dunno what I'll do with them. I have an idea about a hat that these might be used for.

Here's a photo of my favorite kind of spindle. My cats have helpfully moved into the photo to give a sense of scale (and to see if the spindle is secretly a cat toy).

Yes, it's a CD spindle. I love CD spindles. I've been spinning on them for close to a decade.

Why do I like them so much? Two main reasons: balance and momentum. It's a very well-balanced type of spindle. Slight adjustments to the CD whorl can fix any little problems.

The momentum is awesome. One quick whirl down my leg, and the spindle will spin for as long as I need. I reach down and stop it when I've drafted as much length as I can, and it's still spinning. It spins wicked fast, too. Even a finger-twirl will give me enough of a fast spin to draft out a meter or more of fiber into yarn.

Another reason I like the CD spindle is because it seems like the epitome of a modern ethnic tool, something quickly made from materials easily found in one's local environment. Dowels, grommets, screw-eye hooks, and spare AOL CDs are a lot easier to find than traditional ethnic materials such as sticks, carved gourds, big beads, and shaped wood.

True, these are not works of beauty compared to many of the gorgeous and useful spindles one can buy from deserving vendors. However, the incredible functionality of this tool makes it a very worthwhile piece of spinning equipment.

I have several CD spindles. They're easy to crank out. I have a few tucked away with various larger spinning projects. Some are used for traveling (the whorl comes off the spindle for portability). Some hang out with the other spinning tools, ready and waiting to be used for the next spindle project.

A lot of the CD spindle directions I see online and in print look like they make clunky and heavy spindles compared to mine, or maybe it's a difference in spinning preferences. Mine are made from dowels that are about 1/4" to 5/16" in diameter. They are roughly 14" long, give or take a bit. I use two CDs. The balance seems best when the CDs are a few inches below the hook.

Over the years, I've broken any number of whorls. Luckily, my environment provides many replacements. The shafts are getting very smooth, some combination of spinning oils and the polish developed through long use.

In general, if I have a few ounces of roving, I'll use the spindle. If I have more than that, I'll use the wheel. There are exceptions, of course. Also, I spun exclusively on a spindle for many years before I bought a wheel.

Here are some samples of yarn I've spun on my spindles. I'm tempted to call them Yarn Porn.

This first one is finer than it looks. It's Targhee, from Mountain Colors, in the Northern Lights colorway. I bought it and spun it years ago. I have about 2400 yards of yarn. I can't remember if I have 4 ounces or 8 ounces of yarn, but either way, it's relatively fine.

When I decided it was time to spin the roving, I stripped it lengthwise into 16 long and skinny lengths of roving. Each was spun separately. This way, the color lengths were fairly short and each skein had a similar sequence of colors. I wanted to maximize the variegation. I loved spinning it. I love the bright colors.

It's in singles form right now. Some day I'll decide what to do with it... Ply with another yarn? Self-ply into a 2-ply? Navajo 3-ply? Use as a singles? Until I decide, it will sit in my stash. I take it out to admire every now and then.

I have another 8 ounce batch of roving from these folks in the Sagebrush colorway. I'll probably do that one on the wheel. I probably will spin from the one long piece of roving. That way, I'll have long color repeats instead of short ones. I might very well 2-ply it, though I never know for sure until the inspiration strikes.

The yarn on the right is llama. I won it as a door prize at some fiber show many years ago. I only had an ounce or two on a small cone. It was another fun thing to spin. I ended up with over 700 yards of genuinely laceweight yarn. It seems like a shame to ply it. It's enough for a small shawl. The last bits of roving were darker than the first bits, something which was not at all visible when I first started to spin it. I wonder if that's why it was donated as a door prize, but that's a rather uncharitable thought.

I had another photo or two to share, but they're not as well-focused as the above two are. I'll re-shoot the photos and inflict them on everyone in the next Yarn Porn session.

Here are some applicants for my next spindle project -- several blobs of dyed roving. Every now and then I get together with friends and we have a dye day. We take a real Mad Scientist approach to dyeing and end up with beautiful results. Even the un-beautiful results are interesting, and look much better after a dip into a different dyepot. The photo below shows some of the results of our last dye day. The yarn is a light gray Romney. Some of these might be spun on the wheel, though they're about the right size for a good spindle project.

Yeah, we did a lot of red and purple that day. It looks good with the light gray roving. I wasn't sure that yellow shades would work as well. I also like the greens, blues, and the bright orange. Although it's hard to tell from the photo, one of the blobs is a beautiful deep teal. I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks as a yarn. Ditto for all the others.

And now it's time to publish. I have a doily to knit! Not to mention all the other fun fiber projects, plus all the non-fiber obligations.

We shall see if blogger puts the photos in the same place where they appear in my preview. If not, I'll be doing some editing and rearranging.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Short Discourse on Needle Sizes

Old patterns and incomprehensible needle/thread sizes

Marie asked about some of the needle sizes listed on old patterns. In particular, she wrote, "I've never heard of size 14 knitting needles."

One of the interesting things about old doily patterns are the needle sizes and threads they call for. They often do not correspond to modern American sizes or the modern millimeter size standards.

Here is a chart listing old English, American, and millimeter equivalents.

In general, for the old English sizes, the English size plus the American size will equal 14. So, subtract the English size from 14 to get the American size. Size 14 knitting needles will be an modern American size #0, or a 2mm needle.

This isn't fool-proof, but it gets you in the right area. The English sizing system will show up in patterns published in the UK, from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. The old US dpn sizing system is similar to the old UK system, but not exactly. (Please don't run away screaming!) Marianne Kinzel says that the UK 14 is equivalent to a US 13 steel dpn, and that the UK 13 is a US 12 in dpn's and either a 1 or 2 in US circular sizes (I can't remember offhand, though there may not be an exact equivalent US circular size).

This Wikipedia article lists Japanese sizes as well as the US/UK/metric sizes.

Some old foreign-language patterns use needle sizes that I haven't figured out at all. What is a 2/0, for example? Is it 2mm? #00? Something totally different? What if the only needle size given is "a set of brass needles"? If the thread recommended is something like "fine crochet thread", that doesn't really give any further hints.

For some of the old German needle sizes, Catherine Kehr posted the following to a mailing list: "Ages ago I asked someone about the N/0 sizing, they said it was an old wire gauge system, that 0/0 would be .5mm and 8/0 would be around 2.5mm." She was interested in getting more information about it, so don't assume any of us know what we're talking about!

I should look through some of my older stuff in French, Italian, and Spanish to see how they approach matters. The publisher and the age of the publication all seem to have an effect on what terminology is used for needle size.

Since the title of this post is "a short discourse..." I will not continue further. It's an interesting topic, though. I'll look through my pattern collection and report on the results. It will be a limited sample set, though. I don't have a lot of really old doily patterns (pre-WWI), and I don't have a lot of old, foreign-language, non-doily patterns. I haven't been able to find anything online or in the library that includes a detailed history of knitting needle sizes in different countries and different eras.

How to deal with old patterns' needle and thread sizes

The way I deal with it is: I ignore them.

Some threads available today are pretty much the same as the ones called for in old patterns. Some aren't. Also, sometimes I'm not in the mood to do a large doily in thread thinner than sewing thread. Maybe I want to turn a pattern into a shawl, or I'd rather use a particular thread that isn't the same as a pattern. Or I don't know what thread is meant by the description.

The other big factor is personal. How tight or loose do you knit? How gauzy or solid do you like your lace to be? Those have such a huge influence on how you match the thread and needle size.

It can vary, too. In fine thread, maybe you want a very gauzy piece. If you were to do the same pattern as a shawl or an area rug, you might want a much firmer fabric, with the holes correspondingly smaller to minimize snagging.

So. What do you do? You experiment.

When I first started out knitting doilies, I picked a small 24-round pattern. I knit it several times. First, I used the same thread but changed needle sizes. Then, I did something similar with different thread sizes. After a while, you start understanding what needle size you need to use to get the kind of lace fabric you like with different thread weights.

As I continued knitting, I gained yet more experience. Sometimes I thought a doily was too tight or too gauzy, and would use that information the next time. Sometimes I would deliberately try something different, and thus would learn something I hadn't previously known.

Now that I have plenty of experience, I have a pretty good idea about which needle/thread combos I like and don't like. I still experiment and still continue to learn.

One really great thing about lace knitting is that it tends to look wonderful at a whole lot of different gauges and fabric densities.

If you've never done it before

If you are totally new to doily knitting, you can try using the pattern's recommendations (if you can figure them out). Or, you can ask others for recommendations. This only works if your knitting style is similar to the style of the people giving the recommendations.

In general, you want to choose a needle that is a few sizes larger than what you would use for stockinette. Most knitters already knit with yarn, so that makes it easy to select an appropriate needle size for the first round of swatching. If you don't knit with thread, though, it can be harder to make that initial choice.

I am a very loose knitter, so my usual choices are too small for most people.

I looked at the thread and needle choices different people mentioned for the BlätterspitzenKAL. Thread sizes ranged from #10 to #80. (No one chose to do it in thick yarn for use as an area rug.) Needle sizes ranged from 1.5mm to about 3mm. The larger threads tended to use the larger needles, but it wasn't perfectly consistent. So that might give you a place to start.

If you're using #10 crochet thread, try a 2mm needle if you're a very loose knitter, anything from 2.5mm to 3.5mm if you're a more average or a tight knitter. For #20 thread, the range I see is 2mm to 2.75mm. For #30, 2mm to 2.5mm were the sizes mentioned, though I've used 1.5mm with good results. Even the #80 thread was worked with 2mm, to give a very open fabric.

Until recently, no one made #00 (1.75mm) circular needles. So, you won't see that choice mentioned very often. Now that a few manufacturers make them, you'll start to see them being used.

You can, of course, do a rough block on your doily when it's only partway done. You can evaluate your needle/thread combo to see if you like the contrast between the open and solid parts of the lace. If you like it, keep going. If you don't like it, adjust your needle size accordingly. You can either rip and re-do, or change needle sizes at that point and keep going. Use your judgment to decide which to do.

Some people deliberately change needle sizes as they knit the doily. Some will do the center in smaller needles, then shift upward about 1/4 of the way through the doily. Some will change needle sizes at potential problem areas, where the motifs arrangements shift dramatically. Others systematically go up several times, looking for that "more-than-circular" effect popularized in the XRX Knitters Best of Shawls and Scarves book.

Potential complications

Some old patterns do not have a regular increase pattern. The number of stitches per round can vary quite wildly. This can create binding issues when you block the item. Some of us have speculated that the very fine threads and loose gauges of the past helped to compensate for this problem.

Other patterns have zillions of stitches per round, way more than seems necessary. Again, getting the finished item to block flat can be a problem. My speculation on this issue is that it's a way to get loose, gauzy fabrics to look more solid in areas where they're supposed to be solid. It's probably more of an issue with the modern preferences for thicker threads and more solid fabrics. There are a couple of other possibilities for why some patterns have so freaking many stitches per round, but I won't go into my other speculations for now.

A third potential complication is if you're knitting a shawl. When I use a thicker yarn, I tend to want a more substantial fabric. I want the holes to be smaller in comparison to the rest of the pattern, and I want the solid areas to look relatively solid. I like drapy fabrics, but I don't want to put a huge amount of effort into something that will snag on the first wearing. So I tend to choose a relatively smaller needle for the lace than I would if it were done in thread. This can exacerbate potential binding issues. So, when I knit a shawl, I try to minimize potential difficulties by choosing patterns that I think will work well. I'll probably babble on about that topic in some future blog post.

Is everyone asleep now?

Here's a photo of that first doily pattern I knit. It's the Rose Petal coaster pattern in the Coats Dazzling Doilies to Knit booklet, which goes in and out of print. The doily is something like 24 rounds. The patterns are given in text only, but no one has ever reported any errors. There are roughly 8-10 patterns in the booklet, ranging from 24 to 130-ish rounds.

I don't remember when I knit this particular version of the doily. I don't know what thread and needle size I used, though my guess would be either #10 or #20 thread and 2mm needles. It's a cute little thing, very quick and easy. It's a good pattern for a beginning doily knitter.

At some point, I'll do my standard discourse on good choices for beginning doily knitters. But not today.

Monday, October 1, 2007

First Monday in October

October 1. Yikes, the year is zooming by!

However, we did manage to make it all the way to October before turning on the heat for the winter. We're probably going to have to give in tonight. Passive solar doesn't work on cloudy, windy, chilly days. Another cold front is due to arrive tonight. Warm shawls and cuddly cats only go so far.


This doily was called Blätterspitzen in the issue of Lena magazine in which it appeared. (There's an umlaut over the a -- blatterspitzen -- in case it decides not to show up for some reason.) I have it in a couple of other formats, though it does not have a name in those versions. The Lena magazine even credited it to Herbert Niebling. I had wondered about that. The doily contains several stitch patterns and motifs that Niebling often used, but in a format that wasn't definitively his. I didn't know if it came from his design house or if it was a pastiche, created by someone who wanted to design something in a similar style. It's good to see a definitive credit.

Every version of the doily I've seen is slightly different. Maybe the center is a little different, maybe a chart symbol was interpreted differently, maybe the cast-off was different. The photos that accompany the patterns are sometimes different from the charts! I find this fascinating. Is there some Ur-Blätterspitzen in some old, obscure, very out-of-print source, and all of the more modern republications re-interpret it? Or were several slightly different versions of the pattern sold to different publications, and the newer versions simply republish from the original source they have rights to?

My version is different from the published version, too. The original pattern (all versions) finished with several rounds of stockinette stitch. I decided to quit at the last non-stockinette pattern round. If I had planned ahead, I could have done it more gracefully, but I like it well enough the way it is. Another minor difference is my use of directional double decreases instead of only using the one called for in the chart. (Someday I'll blog about context-based stitch variants for chart symbols.)

The Blätterspitzen doily was a summer KAL project on one of the lace mailing lists. That was a fine excuse for me to do it. If you look around, you can find photos of this doily in a lot of blogs and websites. After Lena published it (in the 09/06 issue, I believe), a lot of people knit it. One of the KAL people is putting together a blog to record the KAL and display pretty pictures. Once it's up and running, I'll share the URL for it.

I like seeing how different people have approached the pattern. It looks great with the stockinette framing. Different people used different materials and gauges, blocked it differently, and so on. One person didn't like one of the motifs and substituted a totally different one. Her version is lovely, too. No one chose to use thick yarn or twine and do it as an area rug, alas. I think it would work well for that.

Blätterspitzen means something like leaf tips or leaf lace. There are a lot of doilies with similar names. It's hard to come up with a good, unique, descriptive name for a doily. Some doilies have several names, while others have none.

My photo is somewhat out of focus. Drat! What I like best about it is the differing textures of the different motifs, and the way that the shapes combine and seem to intersect each other.

It was fun to knit. If you've never knit Niebling patterns before, you'll find it educational. The doily is almost like a series of mini-lessons on Niebling techniques. It's not a good doily for a beginner, though any determined knitter could accomplish it. It's a nice challenge and a good learning experience for the intermediate doily knitter. An experienced doily knitter will enjoy encountering familiar motifs in an unfamiliar arrangement. Fun and excitement start very soon after the cast-on.

Now I get to cast on for the list's fall KAL, the Frosted Ferns doily. It's another Niebling pattern, larger than Blätterspitzen. I'll cast on sometime this week.

In a somewhat related rant, I am finding it more and more difficult to acquire good doily-knitting threads from local sources. Even places that carried them a few years ago no longer have anything finer than #10, if they carry them at all. Soon I'm going to have to do an internet order to replenish my stock of certain thread sizes. This is too bad. I like being able to fondle the stuff in person, admiring the colors as I make my selection. I like being able to patronize a local store. Oh, well. Doily-knitting is an odd little perversion. Perhaps the local population isn't quite enough to support the market. I could probably find a decent source if I were willing to go 50-100 miles from home. However, at some point, the costs of sales tax and gas prices and driving time each way versus shipping costs and one-click shopping from home make it an impractical choice.

I'm going to use DMC Cebelia #30 cotton thread for this doily. My stash choices are light blue, dark red, and ecru. I'll probably choose ecru. The brighter colors I have don't seem quite right for a doily with leaf and acorn motifs. I think one 50g ball of #30 should work. It's between 550 and 600 yards. I don't feel comfortable with #20, which is somewhere between 400 and 500 yards. If I were to do this as a shawl (it's big enough for a small shawl!), I'd want 800-1000 yards of sportweight yarn.

I'll blog my progress here as well as on the mailing list where the KAL is taking place. I don't usually take part in KAL's, but I make an occasional exception for doilies.