28 October 2010

More Lace in Spokane

The other shop we visited in Spokane was A Grand Yarn. This one is also a little tricky to find, as the shopping center sits perpendicular rather than parallel to the main road. You need to look for the dark brown buildings with the very slanted roofs. A Grand Yarn is just a few doors in from the road. The shop had lots of lovely samples and a fine selection of books as well as yarns. This is just the sort of good friendly local yarn shop every knitter ought to have close to her home. We chatted with both Mary, the outgoing owner, and Libby and Nancy, the incoming owners. All these ladies are clearly devoted to their knitting customers.

I purchased a few spare stitch holders and a copy of Myra Wood's Crazy Lace. The beautiful color and cleverly-styled photographs will lure you into adding this book to your shelf. This is definitely a book for the free-spirited knitter. If you are somebody who doesn't like lace because it involves too much following of rules, then you will like Myra's approach. In the first part of the book, she talks about the basics of lace such as how the increases and decreases compensate for each other and how the choice of yarn or needle can affect the work. I like page 39 where she shows the sizes of a plain stockinette swatch, a knitted lace swatch (patterning on right-side rows only), and a lace knitting swatch (patterning on both right-side and wrong-side rows). She also includes a good explanation of how to do a crochet cast-on and a crochet bind-off. The second part of the book gives a nice series of basic recipes for knitting geometric shapes. The third part covers a variety of ways to work edges, including how to add ruffles or ruching.

The book doesn't really have any patterns for making lace shawls, although there are plenty of photographs to inspire. Myra does show the advantages to using charts, including how to tweak a chart to make a lace pattern a slightly different stitch multiple. And her charts are in a large easy-on-the-eyes size. She does include several charts of lace patterns of various widths at the end of the book, but doesn't show them knitted up. You'd need to work a sampler yourself. Then again, perhaps getting you to get out your own needles and try things yourself is the point. If you were a novice trying to learn lace, I think I'd start with a different book or a simple follow-the-directions pattern just to get used to the concept. And if you got seriously into this approach, I think you'd want a lace stitch dictionary to supplement what Myra gives you at the back. Her approach is very freeing and I think will help those who are afraid of lace to see that it isn't all that difficult. It should provide a good starting point for someone who wants to design her own lace project. Also, I suspect that this book is probably a very helpful companion to her workshops.

27 October 2010

Beginning Lyra

During the summer, I decided to take Elizabeth Zimmermann's advice about travel knitting. She suggested a nice shawl, as it is light, easy to transport, and gives hours upon hours of knitting pleasure. For our trip out west, Lyra seemed like the perfect choice. I had purchased the yarn and pattern from the Yarn Place during a moment of unexplained weakness on the last day of STITCHES South 2010.

Now one of the things I really need to learn -- and by learn I mean totally take to heart -- is the idea that you ought to cast on such projects before you leave home. I've made this mistake the last two years in a row for Dragon*Con as well, spending four days of sitting and listening sans knitting. (I believe one year I got my Dragon*Con project cast on too early. I liked it too much and finished the whole thing in a week.) Because the trip west involved flying, I was greatly limited in what I could pack. Part of why I'll schlep the day and a half drive to Pennsylvania to see my family is that, if I drive, I can have my car full of my stuff. How did Auntie Mame ever limit herself to only 18 steamer trunks? After all, how can I be expected to enjoy myself without the large knitting bag with the full sets of needles, two more project bags stuffed full, the most recent issues of the major knitting and spinning magazines, the spinning wheel and the lazy kate? For flying, I was forced to pack lightly: the pattern, the ball of yarn, minimal needles and notions.

I'm a big fan of magic loop. I'm a big fan of circular needles. I'm a big fan of metal needles. But for some reason, I could not get that tight little center of Lyra to cast on nicely. And I hadn't brought my Blue Sky alpacas wooden needles in their pretty little metal boxes. Hissy fit. Was I going to be able to last a week of visiting my in-laws without any knitting? How badly do I love my Cuddly Hubby? Fortunately the drive back from Glacier National Park took us through Spokane. This is fortunate indeed because Kathleen Cubley had a nice article in the summer issue of Spin Off magazine about fiber shopping in the Spokane - Coeur d'Alene area. I opened up the magazine, pulled out my navigating device (Thanks, Mom!) and entered some addresses.

Our first stop was Paradise Fibers. Kathleen is correct that the easiest way to find the place is to look for the adult bookstore. When you find it, follow the parking lot along the right side of the building, as you face it. You'll find as you head back that the parking opens up and there is the front entrance to Paradise.

You definitely cannot judge a yarn store by the neighborhood or the outside of the building. Inside there were lots and lots of knitting and spinning goodies to be had. Travis and Sarah are super nice people. They even recognized me from STITCHES South. I guess they have a very good memory for faces or maybe for really dreadful blond "Alice" wigs. There was an entire wall of knitting needles of assorted types and brands. I resisted the yarns, mostly because I'm trying to de-stash at least a little bit. And there was a whole room of roving and batts. I had to think mighty hard to resist a beautiful green striated roving. They also had sparkly blending fibers in a wide assortment of colors. I may have to make a trip to Paradise Fibers a future requirement for any sojourns to visit my husband's family.

I may have resisted the roving. I did not, however, resist the Kollage square double-pointed needles or the Lantern Moon silk box or the needle tubes. After all, I was specifically looking for something to help me with Lyra. And I didn't want to duplicate what I already had at home. Plus, Mark & Susie at Kollage are the life of the party, so I'm happy to support them.

I did manage to get Lyra started. I think I had two or three false starts. I'd cast on, knit a few rows, scowl at the misshapen center, pull it apart and try again. But I did eventually get it going. And it provided me with a divine focus when needed. KateyJ said something to me about knitters who knit simple things to check out versus knitters who knit complex things to check in. Lyra definitely falls into the complex category. And yet, in some ways I find myself checking out because it is so complicated. I've tried yoga once or twice -- thank goodness there is no video evidence. I am so bad at yoga that I have to concentrate completely on what I am doing. I can't be thinking about a messy house with a dozen things to mend or a long list of errands or what stupid social blunder I made an hour ago or how far behind I am on my knitting and blogging and writing. Attempting to do yoga requires all my concentration. And knitting Lyra does, in fact, require my undivided attention. I think for very bright people, sometimes that's what you need. You need to check in completely to something in order to check out of your daily bothers. I wonder if this was part of the appeal to Scenter, who worked several very beautiful and very complicated lace projects.

I'll finish here with a quick review of the needles. They rock! Kollage generally markets them as easier on your hands. Carson Demers did pass a set around in his "Ergonomics for Knitters" class, but he said that the beneficial effect would be mostly in the larger not smaller sizes. For the record, I'm knitting a pleasantly springy thread-like yarn on size 2.25 mm needles. What I've noticed is that the square shape prevents the stitch from clinging to the entire surface of the needle. My initial reaction at about 36 rounds into Lyra is that the square shape makes it easier to work all those k2tog, ssk, and centered double decrease manipulations. And I am pleased that Kollage makes these in the metric sizes. I find that the 0.25 mm difference in size is significant on very small needles. I liked the needles so much, that I decided to buy the firm cable circular needles so that I could finish Lyra without changing to my usual needles. If you are a lace knitter, I encourage you to try these and see what you think.

08 October 2010

Devil in the Details

I haven't gotten nearly as much knitting done lately as I would like. I did, however, finally manage to finish this swatch for an upcoming class. I've been surprised when I teach by how many knitters only know one or two ways to increase. There are so very many, and they each have their own best application. So I've created this swatch which demonstrates 42 different mirrored double-increases in stockinette. I did not include any examples here of hiding the increase behind a cable or traveling stitch, as that would open up another whole area of exploration. I also haven't included on this swatch increasing by knitting with more than one strand at a time, such as using the tail or using the other yarn when doing double knitting or Fair Isle stranded knitting. And I didn't include casting on in the middle of a row, such as with an e-loop, crochet cast-on, knitted-on cast-on, or cable cast-on.

Some of these are quite decorative. I've used yarn overs, knitting directly into the stitch below, knitting into the purl bump of the stitch below, making a new stitch with the running thread between two stitches, and working multiple stitches into the same stitch by knitting & purling, knitting & yarn overs, or twisting stitches. This line of exploration is getting into the technical minutiae of knitting. It can be quite fascinating to see how something does or doesn't behave as you expect.

At some point, I really ought to do the same swatch in garter stitch to see how these change with the stitch pattern.