23 April 2008

Spring!

Since I posted a picture of my house in winter, I thought I'd post another of it in springtime. This picture was taken a couple weeks ago on 8 April, so today that pink dogwood in front is a lot more green and a lot less pink.

Springtime is my favorite time of year in Atlanta. It creeps in around early March, although I've seen crocus or hardy daffodiles in bloom here in late February. In mid-March there's a week of bradford pear whiteness. Then the cherry trees bloom for about ten days. Azaleas run about three or four weeks, as varieties bloom at different times. Dogwoods also last much of April. In my neighborhood this week, I've seen tulips and iris. And I took a hike around Kennesaw Mountain last Friday and saw several different types of wildflowers. I do not, however, know the names of any of the stuff I saw. Today's high was around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so we are at the beginning of the warm weather. As we head into May, summer will take hold. More about that when the time is right -- and we're out cooking steak and eggs on the sidewalks.

Note to photographers and art geeks -- that line of young pine trees on the right creates a bit of forced perspective. The tree closest to the viewer really is taller than the ones closer to the house.

16 April 2008

More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater: Labyrinth

The last sweater in this series is another inspiration from the brilliant mind of Debbie New. For the labyrinth sweater, I stayed fairly close to her pattern. Of course, I used different yarn (Cascade 220 and Schaefer Miss Priss in the Margaret Sanger colorway). That pretty orchid purple (color 8901) is the cast-on edge. The marigold yellow (color 7825) is the cast-off edge. The cast-on started in the straight area in the lower left of the back. It took about 4 hours to cast-on -- many, many stitches and many, many stitch markers in two colors. And much double- and triple-checking. And do not, do not, DO NOT, twist the cast-on before you join it. No need to ask me how I know this.

Once the cast-on is done, then the fun begins. I think I only knit about 9 or 10 rows total. Granted, all the rows were very, very long. Each colored marker represents either a double-increase or a double-decrease. So, you knit a few stitches, work the appropriate increase or decrease, work a few more stitches, work more increases or decrease, all the way around. I had all these stitches crammed onto a single 60-inch Addi Turbo, and I probably should have had a second 60-inch needle for a total of 10 feet. Know that if you try to knit an adult-sized jacket you'll need many, many inches of circular needle. (I can't help wondering if I could convince Knit Picks to sell me cables in 10-foot, 20-foot and 30-foot lengths?) I changed yarn twice -- from orchid to Margaret Sanger and then from Margaret Sanger to marigold. Debbie New actually makes her labyrinths in Fair Isle patterns, but I was looking for an excuse to play with the Miss Priss and it was a nice short-cut way to have color interest without Fair Isle.

After the last row, the magic begins. If you have put all your double-increases and double-decreases in the correct places, you'll have a nice long strip that turns in about itself to create a solid form. If not, you'll have a hole and the garment won't come together into the correct shape. Now you just have lots and lots of seams. I believe I used a cable cast-on, so I seamed the orchid cast-on edges by weaving matching yarn in a figure-eight or double-running stitch sort of way. The marigold stitches were still live. I was able to seam those with three-needle bind-offs. I worked all the seams so that they fell to the front of the work. This is one technique where I think the raised lines of the seams add interest to the pattern.

If you don't want to risk twisting the cast-on edge, you could knit this sweater back-and-forth. I'd pick a spot where two plain areas meet, and cast-on one extra stitch in both the beginning and ending block. This area could be seamed as invisibly as possible during finishing. Of course, if you are doing miles and miles of Fair Isle a la Debbie New, you'll probably want to be knitting in an unbroken circle. Knitting back-and-forth also might put you in the awkward position of having to work double-increases and double-decreases from the wrong side of the work.

The last bit of finishing is the cuffs and bands. The pattern is based on the slip-stitch edging on the "Dream Coat" in Patricia Werner Dazzling Knits (Woodinville WA: Martingale & Company 2004) pp. 52-61. Of course, mine are reversibly double-knit.

14 April 2008

More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater: Ouroborus

The last two sweaters I'm posting in this series both come from Debbie New's wonderful book Unexpected Knitting (Pittsville, WI: Schoolhouse Press 2003). This is knitting for PhDs. And do not try to read the whole thing at once. Read one chapter. Give it time to digest. Then read another. Do be nice to your brain.
The same sweater, above and below. The magic of double-knitting!
I decided that I wanted to try the ouroborus sweater. Ms. New works hers from the center outwards, using double-increases. As tidy double-increases are not as easy to work as tidy double-decreases, I did the math to work mine in the other direction.

The yarn is Takhi Cotton Classic left over from a flamingo-patterned sweater that I made for ZooAtlanta's 2004 Beastly Feast. The fair isle heart pattern is of my own devising. And, silly me, I couldn't decided whether I wanted white hearts on pink or pink hearts on white, so I compromised and double-knit the whole thing. It is reversible. Even the corrugated ribbing is reversible.

In this case, I had a long provisional cast-on followed by the knitting with appropriate decreases. There is a Kitchener graft across the back (in pattern) and another across the tops of the sleeves, much like in a Baby Surprise Jacket. The provisional cast-on was unpicked, and cuffs and bands were added at the end. I did a funky decrease at the corner of the collar to make it turn. I'm not completely happy with the result, but post it here for others to consider and improve.

For about three years, this was my one UFO. I got stuck after the Kitchener graft across the back and just couldn't face the rest. But when the Atlanta Knitting Guild had Barbara Walker and Lily Chin as guests, and the local shops hosted Cat Bordhi, I just had to finish this so I could show it off. I even put it in the South Cobb Arts Alliance member show last year. I call it the Uninterrupted Flamingo Ouroborus. Proof that a reversible ouroborus sweater can be done!

13 April 2008

More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater: Baby Surprise

This is the classic pattern by Elizabeth Zimmermann. The cast-on edge is at the cuffs and across the back. Double-decreases lead to arm shaping on the back side of the sleeves. Then double-increases lead to shaping on the front of the jacket. There is a little bit of neck shaping by casting-on and off stitches. Extra rows are worked at the back for length across the diaper-clad tush. Buttons and button bands are at the end. The last step is one seam -- the top across the shoulders and sleeves. And the whole thing is in garter stitch.

If you haven't knit one yet -- why not? This is one of the classic, top 10 patterns of all time. This is my second baby surprise jacket. Last year I knit both a baby surprise jacket and an EZ surplice baby jacket (see Vogue Knitting, spring/summer 2007, pp. 28 & 30) for a friend who was expecting twin boys. For this second time around, I used a provisional cast-on so that I would have live stitches for the i-cord edging and seam at the end. The color choices are to help me see the construction and to use up leftover yarn. The bright blue line between the sleeves and the body of the jacket (it extends across the back) is the row of work after the sleeve double-decreases and before the body double-increases. The plain rows to add length are a block of white near the bottom of the sweater and bordered on both sides by fuzzy yarn. There is another blue line that separates the body portion from the bottom & button band.

Do notice that this is a great project for using up leftover and stash yarn. I think it looks better in multi-colored stripes than all plain. I used:
royal blue = Lion Brand Microspun 100% microfiber acrylic, color 910-109
yellow = Red Heart Kids 100% acrylic, color 2230
fuzzy = Yarn Bee Italic 50% acrylic, 50% polymide, colorway 002 Florentine
light cream = Red Heart TLC Amore, 80% acrylic, 20% nylon, color 3105
For those of you wondering what this stuff (horrors!) was doing in my stash, it was left over from another project that was meant to be outdoors for an entire month. Thus, the choice of indestructible acrylic to weather the elements. You can also see why I had to knit it up and get it out before it started to breed or something.

10 April 2008

More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater: Modular

I do a fair bit of my own designing, so I'm particular about whose patterns I knit. This pattern is called the "Bamboo Kimono" and it comes from Two Sticks and a String by Kerry Ferguson. The copyright is 1999 from Fiber Studio Press. I happened upon it in one of the not-quite-local yarn shops. This is one of the few pattern books -- rather than technique books -- I've bought and it has lots of beautiful designs. At some point, I'd also like to knit the "Puzzlemaker Jacket." And a note about the sizing in this book -- most of these patterns are for bigger people. I dropped down several needle sizes to change the gauge so that the Bamboo Kimono would fit me. Ms. Ferguson's original is a 52-inch chest -- about 20 inches more than what I need.

As with Judy's Grandmother's Baby Sweater, the Bamboo Kimono was originally designed to be knit all in the same color. Once again, I acquired a supply of Knit One Crochet Too Paintbox color #08 Painted Desert. The sweater was cast-on at the bottom. The back is one rectangle with an interesting and fun chevron purl pattern. Paintbox has long color changes but not that long. I knit this lower panel with three different balls of yarn which all started at about the same point in the colorway. I knit one-third of the way across, twisted yarns as for intarsia, then knit the middle third with the next ball, twisted yarns again, and knit the last third with the final ball. Intarsia technique is not difficult and well worth learning if you like to work in color-changing yarns. (The intarsia twist is near the center of the detail at left.)

The upper part of the jacket is modular construction, primarily in garter stitch. I worked the modules from one cuff to the other, joining as I went. I also added length to both sleeves. Close attention to the color changes was necessary with a yarn like this. I wanted the colors to flow logically. This particular color of Paintbox wet-splices quite well and that was a big help, enabling me to manipulate the order of the colorway.

I finished off all the raw edges with a two-stitch k1, p applied i-cord worked from the wrong side. The effect is similar to reverse single crochet (crab stitch). I'm not quite sure what inspired (possessed?) me to try this, as I don't recall coming across it anywhere. The motion of the yarn from front to back for the change from knit to purl and back again helps to form the overcast edge.

08 April 2008

More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater: Origami Cardigan

This pretty lace cardigan is my own design for my niece, Bailie Jayne. It took three skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport in the Happy Valley colorway. If you look very closely, you can see that one skein was from a different dye lot. The shop in Pennsylvania where I found this yarn sold it primarily as sock yarn, to the point that the skeins were tied together in pairs and most of their inventory was two skeins total of each colorway. I didn't realize I was going to need three skeins until later and, knowing that I had bought the last, had to settle for finding a skein of a different dye lot in a shop local to me in Georgia. Most of the colors were identical, but the green was visibly different. And I used a skein of the matching angora for trim, just because I wanted an excuse to play with angora.

The sweater was knit in blocks in just the right width to cause the yarn to flash. I cast-on at the bottom and worked the first skein, back and forth, in feather & fan stitch. The wavy cable at the edge(see the sleeve photos) made up the difference in left over stitches from what was required for a pattern repeat. It also acted as a good selvage later for the buttons. I worked waste yarn (as for a pocket or "thumb trick") one-quarter of the way in on each side just before starting the second skein. That skein was worked to the top with stitches left live. So at this point, I had a feather & fan rectangle with waste yarn "darts." I took out the waste yarn. This enabled me to fold the bottom rectangle inward to form the bottom of the cardigan. (See simple diagrams.)


The top remained flat to form the back of the sleeves and the upper back of the cardigan. I was then able to pick up stitches across the bottom of the sleeves and to work each half of the front of the cardigan separately. The shaping around the neck was a real pain in order to maintain the flashing. There were lots of little ends to weave in. And the tops of the sleeves were grafted together (see right picture). A little angora i-cord edging was added all around at the end, including hidden buttonholes. Voila!

06 April 2008

More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater: Cuff to Cuff

The pattern for this adorable baby sweater comes from Suzan Mischer et al Greetings from Knit Cafe. In fact, I bought the book simply for this one pattern, "Judy's Grandmother's Baby Sweater" by Judy Spector, pp. 60-63. Proof of the quality of the pattern -- Ms. Spector includes the cable cast-on and the slipped selvedge stitch in her instructions so that the ties look very nice indeed. I knit this simply for the pleasure of knitting it, using some stash yarn orphaned from a larger project. I have no clue whose baby will eventually wear this reversible sweater.

It is a charming example of a sweater that is knit cuff to cuff in a combination of honeycomb and garter stitches. In this case, it is cast on at the end of one of the ties, worked sideways with appropriate increases or decreases, and cast off at the end of the other tie. I used waste yarn to leave openings for the sleeves, which were added after the body was finished. The pattern called for seaming the sleeves by picking up stitches and working a 3-needle bind-off, but I knit them in the round. I did, however, slip the beginning stitch of the round every-other row to create a false seam across the top of the sweater. This also worked well because the honeycomb stitch did not lend itself to being knit in the round as readily as I would have liked.

The pattern in the book was worked in a single-colored yarn. I substituted Knit One, Crochet Too Paintbox in color #13 Blackberry. It is meant to be a competitor to Noro Kureyon, but in quieter colors for those for find the Noro colorways leaning towards garish. I've managed to squirrel away quite a bit of this stuff in my stash. It looks better knit up than on the ball, so it tends to be overlooked in the shops. And some colors of Paintbox will wet-splice and felt well. So if you don't live in the Atlanta area, try this yarn. If you do, please just ignore this paragraph, or leave some Paintbox for me.

04 April 2008

More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater: Gansey

This Valentine-themed gansey is my own design. My resources were Beth Brown-Reinsel's Knitting Ganseys from 1993 and the Barbara Walker Treasuries. Ms. Reinsel's book is very well-written with all the information that might be needed about how to construct a gansey. She also has some wonderfully classic sample patterns, including some children's patterns for those who would like to try a gansey but are not quite ready to go after an adult-sized challenged. I should add that I took Ms. Reinsel's Swedish Cast-Ons class in March of 2007 and can recommend her as an instructor. (Her blog is here.)

Like the yoke and Aran sweaters, it was knit in the round beginning at the bottom. At the underarms, the work was divided into front and back and continued flat (with neck shaping) on separate needles and with separate balls of yarn to the top.
In order to make the saddle shoulders, I provisionally cast-on stitches to bridge the shoulder/neck gap, put those two groups of stitches on a needle along with the live front and back neck stitches, and knit the collar upwards. At this point, I had a front and back that were joined only with a collar and without shoulders. The provisional cast-ons were removed and the shoulder saddles were knit downwards from the collar. Since the shoulders were perpendicular to the still-live front and back stitches, I was able to simply work the last stitch in each row together with a body stitch. This is similar to joining a lace edging to a shawl, but done on both selvedges of the knitting-in-progress instead of just one.

Once the saddle was completed, the rest of the sleeve was picked up and worked downward in the round towards the cuff. Hence, the shoulder cable traveled all the way down the arm. Also, I was able to try on the sweater and knit to the correct length. And I should add here that I was tempted not to work the sleeves at all. This sweater is knit to my measurements with no ease, and it was very flattering even without sleeves. But I get cold easily and couldn't imagine wearing a sleeveless sweater. (Note that the lack of ease is why it looks a little stretched in the photos on the mannequin. The mannequin form I'm using is about a size 36B. I'm a size 32A.)

For those who enjoy knitting tales, this particular sweater was my first experience in running out of yarn. I had purchased 12 balls of Debbie Bliss Cotton Silk Aran discontinued on sale from Herrschner's. This would have been enough if I hadn't worked all the cuffs double-length and folded to make a hem. I discovered my predicament when I was on the sleeves. Fortunately, I had incorporated a purl welt near the cuff into the design. When I found more of this yarn at a local shop (in a different dye lot and not on sale), I was able to join it in at the purl ridge. The change in texture disguises the change in dye lot.