20 December 2012

The Soothing Happy Home

While the holiday season can sometimes become an over-hyped Ferengi carnival of "buy, buy, buy," there are also plenty of people who remind us to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Conversation with people you care about. Good food -- especially the food items you can only get during the holidays. Sipping hot chocolate, ideally while watching the snow fall and knowing you have no place else to be anytime soon. The laughter of playing games. Making something beautiful carefully with your own hands.

In my house, simple pleasures can often mean being entertained by feline antics. Observe:
Vincent likes to sit in the front window and watch the leaves falls. It is a simple pleasure, and watching him watch the leaves makes me smile.

Happy pets make a happy home. (A happy Cuddly Hubby is key, too.)

And just because it seems appropriate:
Brûlée, the criminal mastermind, in full-up gargoyle mode. Copernicus would be proud of the lording. Sophia would approve of the disdain. (Red and black fabric from Ghana circa 1977.)
Vincent enjoying life. Some days it really is this simple -- when life gives you sunshine, sit and soak it up!

And as tonight is the darkest night of the year (solstice is at 6:12 AM EST tomorrow morning), it is good to remember that the light does return. May you always find the light, and may your own light always be a beacon to others, especially those you love.

08 December 2012

A Selvedge

I usually like to incorporate some sort of selvedge treatment on any edge that isn't hidden in a seam allowance. Some knitting stitches will curl or they are loose or they just don't play well at the edges. For the Albedo Shawl, I used a 2-stitch i-cord that was knit as you work rather than applied at the end. But because I was using lace patterns, I did encounter some concerns about row gauge.

Most knitters worry very little about row gauge. After all, most of the time we are concerned with how wide our work will be. How tall or short it becomes is pretty easy to control in most projects by just knitting more or fewer rows. But if you are combining different stitches across the same row, then row gauge can be an issue. If you have a stitch pattern that is short in the same row with a stitch pattern that is tall, then your fabric will not want to lie flat and will be prone to puckering. This can be a fascinating textural design element, but it can also just be a frumpy mess!

My concern in this circumstance is that the i-cord would be too short. So I added a yarn over in between the two i-cord knit stitches. Every row I dropped the yarn over and replaced it with a new one, but I never worked it. So I never turned it into a stitch. Its sole purpose was to put extra yarn in the i-cord so that those stitches would grow to the same height as the lace stitches.

The downside is that these stitches are a little long and gangly. If you don't like the look, you could instead work two rounds of i-cord at the edges. That would give you more rows, which means the height of the stitches could be less. Either way, be sure your row gauges are compatible!

07 December 2012

Casting Off-On

My design process is such that I sometimes come up with what I want visually before I figure out whether or not it can be knit. In the Albedo Shawl, I decided I wanted a horizontal line that would divide the border pattern at each end from the swath of plaited basket stitch in the center. What I came up with is casting off-on.

The principle is that binding off will create a horizontal line of chain stitch. Of course, if you bind off, then you don't have any live stitches on the needle. So one way to accomplish my goal would be to bind off and then knit up new stitches to replace the ones I just eliminated. But why eliminate them if you know you want them right back? So I decided to cast them back on as I bound them off. In this way, I avoided the hassle of knitting up stitches.

As you'll see in the videos, the technique is a little fiddly. You need to slip stitches back and forth between left needle and right needle in order to have them in the correct location for binding off. Basically, cast on a new stitch by making a yarn over.
Work the stitch to be bound off in pattern.
Slip that stitch from the right needle to the left needle.
Cast on another new stitch with a yarn over.
Slip the first stitch on the left needle back over to the right needle.
Work the stitch on the left needle in pattern.
Pass one stitch over another (bind off one) on the right needle.
You'll continue slipping a stitch back and forth between needles so as to place yarn overs on the right needle and out of the way of the binding off.
At the end of the row there will be one spare stitch that didn't get bound off. At the earliest opportunity, eliminate that stitch by working it together with a stitch in the selvedge.

On the wrong side, I worked the casting off-on in pattern with the plaited basket stitch. I crossed each pair of stitches first, then I bound them off-on. Again, it is fiddly. But on the other hand, you only have to manage it for one row.

06 December 2012

Plaited Basket Stitch

The plaited basket stitch involves crossing stitches -- i.e. cabling 1 over 1 -- on both the right side and wrong side rows. You are not going to want to use a cable needle for this. But you will find that working this on the needles is not as hard as you might expect. It does require some flexibility in the wrists. On the plus side, once you learn how to work this, you should be able to easily pick up on how to work a Norwegian purl. And while the videos show you how to work it for this particular stitch pattern, you should be able to adapt this information to other situations that call for crossing a single stitch over another.

1st video: How to work plaited basket stitch from the right side.

2nd video: How to work plaited basket stitch from the wrong side.

05 December 2012

Albedo Shawl

A new pattern! And a bonus chance to win yarn! Glee!

Back in June I posted about some swatches I had knitted for the summer TNNA show. One of the swatches was done in Crystal Palace Moonshine, a lovely yarn with color, shimmer, and just a little halo. In late August, I got an e-mail asking if I would be willing to make a project using this yarn. I had hoped to get it cast on during Dragon*Con, but that just didn't happen. I even tried to work on it some during the convention, but the muses refused to help me. (I'm sure they were just too busy inspiring all the serious Cosplayers.) But I did get the project worked out and cast on in September. And in about a month, I knit up this lovely shawl.

The name? Albedo is the reflectivity of a surface. Astronomers use the albedo of a planet, moon, or asteroid to make guesses about its composition. A shiny, icy surface is much more reflective than an ashen or rocky surface. Since the Moonshine yarn is glimmers and shines, it seemed like a good fit.

I like to think this would be a great accessory for a black tie occasion, such as a prom or a wedding. But it would also be nice for cocktail parties, New Year's Eve parties, or fancy outings to attend Broadway plays or opera performances. The yarn has a little swing and bounce, which I think gives the whole project a slightly sexy, sassy quality.
Of course, I've also tried to give the project some interest in the knitting. There is a little bit of linen stitch and i-cord at the selvedges to make the edges lie flat. I've used some lace trellis running both right and left to make the chevrons at each end. The plaited basket stitch in the middle incorporates an interesting maneuver. And, of course, I ended up making something up when I decided I wanted a horizontal line to separate the plaited basket stitch middle from the border patterns at each end. As always, there are videos (posting over the next three days) to walk you through anything in the pattern that isn't common procedure.

Bonus! I have enough yarn to make another shawl. The pattern is now for sale as a Ravelry download for $3.00. You can follow this link. On the first day of the new year, I will randomly pick a name from those who have purchased the pattern on Ravelry during these last four weeks of 2012. If you win, I will send you a private message on Ravelry asking for your postal information so I can ship a padded envelope full of yarn to you. If you would like to win 5 skeins of Moonshine so you can knit yourself a sexy shimmery shawl, you know what to do!

13 November 2012


While you may not hear much about it for awhile, there is a new knit and crochet entity gestating. A group of passionate volunteers will be working behind the scenes to carefully plan and build and connect all the pieces into place. This new entity is The Center for Knit and Crochet: Preserving and promoting art, craft and scholarship.
Vintage gloves from the collection of the Knitting & Crochet Guild (United Kingdom).
Brought to the symposium by Angharad Thomas, Textiles Archivist.
More pictures of vintage objects can be found on the Atlanta Knitting Guild blog.

On Thursday morning, I flew up to Milwaukee and took the bus over to Madison, Wisconsin in order to attend the knit and crochet heritage museum symposium. Karen Kendrick-Hands has done an amazing job of nurturing the idea that knit and crochet textiles should at least enjoy the same respect as quilted and woven textiles. To that end, Karen and others, including Margaret Peterson, organized a symposium. The gathering brought together about 50 people, including two from outside the United States, who all have passion and interest and want to see a museum happen. A special thank-you goes out to the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Yarn Group of TNNA, both of whom lent significant support to the symposium.

The symposium consisted of several presentations. On Thursday evening, Dr. Susan Strawn helped the group consider how the image of knitting has changed over time. I had no idea that knitting during World War I was important and that the size of your knitting bag was seen as a measure of your patriotism! Perri Klass, author of Two Sweaters for My Father, happened to drop in for the lecture. She was in town for a pediatric conference and someone had told her about the symposium.

On Saturday morning, attendees enjoyed several presentations that covered basic museum principles -- how to start a museum, pitfalls to avoid, cataloging a collection, and culminating in a panel discussion of why our knit and crochet heritage matters. Speakers on the panel discussion included Karen Kendrick-Hands, Jack Blumenthal, Dr. Susan Strawn, Melissa Leventon, and Trisha Malcolm.
Wall of post-it notes used to organize the ideas of 50 people.
In the afternoon, we had a facilitated session to begin to develop ideas around the museum. What are our hopes and wishes? What are our concerns and issues? We were able to generate a lot of ideas and then organize those ideas into categories. On Sunday morning, we continued our group discussion. We spent time discussing the name for this new institution. We might or might not add "International" in front of it. There were good reasons both for and against the word "international." And while we didn't craft a full mission statement, we did craft a tag line that can serve as a starting point. We also established a provisional board whose job will be to draft articles of incorporation and file for 501(c)(3) status.

In the afternoon, many people attended the Wisconsin Book Festival where we had the opportunity to purchase books and then have them autographed. I schlepped my copy of Principles of Knitting all the way to Madison to have June Hemmons Hiatt autograph it. I also purchased Beverly Gordon's Textiles: The Whole Story. Dr. Gordon is a delightful lady and I look forward to expanding my understanding of textile history.

So, what happens next? There is still a lot of information to consider. While the board moves forward with the nuts and bolts of establishing an entity, there will be many people behind the scenes working on other aspects. The CKC will want to start small and grow in a sustainable manner. Some of the issues are very basic: How will we communicate within our group? How will we all stay informed? How often? Will we need to meet in person again? When? Many issues are practical: How will objects be cataloged? What terms should be used to describe knit and crochet objects? What resources will the museum need to develop to support scholarship? What will the museum be able to do while it is small? Should it make permanent acquisitions? If yes, when and what criteria? While those issues are being considered and plans are being made, the Center for Knit and Crochet will be gestating. Like any expectant parents, we have many hopes and dreams for the new museum, as we wait for a "birth" in 2013.

11 October 2012

Huck Lace Many Ways

I mentioned I needed to clean up the house for book club. One of the things that needed to be cleaned up was the loom. I'd had my Ashford 24-inch/60cm 4-shaft loom sitting on a card table in the living room since January. I purchased the Plus 4 upgrade kit in February, and that big box had also been loitering in the living room.

In January at Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild, I took the Extreme Warp Makeover class with weaving superstar Robyn Spady. Suzi Gough, who is a past-president of CHG and the current president of SEFAA, had encouraged me to take the class. Truth is, I was in a little over my head, but in a good way. Over three days, Robyn had us weave at least fifteen different structures all on the same threading. For someone who was still learning weavish, this was a big shove up the learning curve. Lots and lots of new terms to understand. And I admit, I understand double-faced and double-weave fabrics, but I sure don't yet understand overshot.

The class was also a little challenging because I am using a table loom. Most looms in the United States lift shafts. So if you move a lever or press a treadle, the shaft associated with it goes up. Robyn's pattern drafts (and most in the US are this way) were written with that convention. On my loom, the shafts drop down. So for me, I would be moving (dropping) shafts 1 & 3 when other people were moving (lifting) shafts 2 & 4. But I got used to it, mostly. I think there is one pattern I wove upside down (pattern side facing the floor). And I enjoyed the class enough that I came home and wove all the way through the workbook.

Even though I was in over my head, it was a great class. Robyn covered lots of different types of weave structures. Her handout is a spiral-bound book that is worthy of space on my bookshelf. And because some people were weaving on a huck lace threading while others were weaving an overshot or a rosepath twill threading, it was a great way to see how diverse any of these three basic threadings can be. It was also great for a new weaver like me to see what other people do as they weave. How do they tension selvedge threads? How do they use boat shuttles and bobbins? What color choices do they make? I'm sorry I didn't get to watch experienced weavers warp their looms, because I am so not good at that.

Here is what I wove:
Echo Fashion
Deflected Weft
Deflected Weft, Corduroy, Rib, & Double Face
Summer & Winter Fashion
Crackle Fashion
Alternative Swivel
Monk's Belt
On Opposites (both patterns)
Shadow Fashion
Waffle Fashion
Some things I did learn for next time:
I didn't need nearly the width of warp I used. I could have woven a narrower strip. Of course, in weaving this only really changes the time it takes to warp the loom, not the time it takes to weave. It isn't significantly different in time to weave something 2-yards whether it is 12 inches wide or 24 inches wide.
For learning warp structures, it might be helpful to warp the loom with different colored threads. The huck lace threading, for example is:
4 4 4
 3 3
      2 2
     1 1 1
For learning, having all the threads on shafts 3&4 in two shades of one color and all the threads on shafts 1&2 in two shades of a different color would have made it easier for me to see in the final fabric what my treadling had been. Of course, that also would have made warping the loom way more difficult. See previous comment about how I stink at dressing a loom.

So if I finished the class right away, why was the loom sitting in the living room?

I had put a gracious plenty of warp on my loom. The idea was that after I took the class, I'd spend some time experimenting with what I had learned. Since there is always loom waste, it is more economical both with time and materials to warp once. But I had much more warp than I anticipated. And I got busy with other things (South Carolina Knit Inn, then meeting the Governor, STITCHES South, and all the rest). By the time I got back to it, I had let the loom sit for months; and it took me some time just to come back up to speed on how to read the pattern drafts and how to think through what I was doing at the loom. But with the local Mensa book special interest group meeting at my house this week, I needed to create space in the living room. So motivation found me.

More Polychrome Lace
Polychrome Lace
Polychrome Tabby & Not Quite Tabby
I started off with noticing that shafts 1&4 and 2&3 will almost but not quite produce tabby. So I wove a little of that to see what that fabric looked like. Then I wove some tabby, playing with different colors in the weft to see how color and number of picks would change the look of the fabric. Then I went back to the basic huck lace treadlings and played around with those and color.

But I still had more warp.
So then I decided to weave a dish towel. After all, I did have sort of a wide warp! (In the image above, the towel was woven left to right.) And I had only been weaving samplers. I ought to weave a project! I pulled out my pocket Weaver's Guide, looked up hemstitching, advanced my warp, and got started. And I just made up the pattern. It is mostly huck lace but with bands of what I think is monk's belt. At the end of the towel, I even repeated the hemstitching. And I was a good little munchkin and wrote down the pattern. (It is on my Ravelry page.)

But I still had more warp.

So then I decided to try a double-weave structure, which is one Robyn didn't have us do, probably because you will get very weird results. In this case, I treated shafts 3&4 as the top layer and shafts 1&2 as the bottom layer. I knew I would get gaps 5-thread wide. I don't have pictures of that fabric. It did come out as basically a bag. The warp collapsed into the gaps in interesting ways. But I just wasn't happy with it -- partly because I made some mistakes -- so I frogged it and have put those warp threads away. I may try to weave a bag with them later, but using a different threading. But at least I finally wove all the way to the end of the warp! I even found the "sweet spot" on the loom and had only about 10 inches of warp waste.

Once I had a naked loom again, I was able to get out the Plus 4 kit and update my loom. So I now have an 8-shaft table loom rather than a 4-shaft. And after all that, I folded it all up and put it away in the studio. But I'll be eager to get the loom back out again.

10 October 2012

Yarn Crawling Copenhagen/København

Cuddly Hubby spent a couple days in meetings -- this was, after all, a business trip. I love, love, love the train system in Copenhagen. If I think too much about it, it will make me either sad or angry that a city like Atlanta, which is full of railroad tracks, does not have a train system like a European city. We did not need a rental car at all. While Cuddly Hubby was in meetings in Roskilde, I took the train in to Copenhagen and went yarn shop crawling. I used the same technique I had used for Portland, Oregon -- generate a map using the yarn finding function on Ravelry. (Previous post on how to make a yarn store map here.)

I ended up visiting three yarns shops. There was a fourth for which I had an address but there did not seem to be a yarn shop on that street.
The first shop was Sommerfuglen, at Vandkunsten 3. I started at København Central Station, which is across the street from Tivoli Gardens. A good way to do it as a tourist would be to exit the station on the side towards Tivoli Gardens, turn right, walk down to the corner and cross towards Tivoli Gardens as you walk along Tietgensgade. You'll pass between Tivoli Gardens and Ny Carlberg Glyptotek. At Hans Christian Andersens Boulevard, follow Stormgade as it jogs to the left to eventually border the Nationalmuseet on the northwest. Alternatively, you can follow Ny Vestergade forward toward Christianborg Slot. In this case, Ny Vestergade borders the Nationalmuseet to the southeast. In either case, you'll end up at Fredericksholmes Kanal with Christianborg Slot on the other side of the canal. Turn left and follow Fredericksholmes Kanal northwest. Vankunsten is only about a block off the canal, just past the Albanian Embassy. You'll turn left and Sommerfuglen will be there.

Because this was the first shop I visited, and because I didn't know what I would encounter elsewhere, I did a lot of looking but not any buying. The yarn selection was wonderful, the shop had fabulous books, plenty of samples, and kits by Hanne Falkenberg. In retrospect, I probably should have purchased one of the kits, but I can get them here in the United States. If you were looking for a knitterly remembrance of Copenhagen, a Hanne Falkenberg kit might be just the gift. Sommerfuglen is definitely worth your attention. Plus, it is close to several tourist attractions and the awesome restaurants on Gammel Strand. If you have a tourist map, put a little star north of Nationalmuseet and west of Christianborg Slot and you'll be ready to stop by when you wander into the neighborhood.

The next place I tried to find was 123knit on Ny Adelgade. I did find Ny Adelgade (it is off Kongen Nytorv up near Nyhavn), but I could not find a yarn shop on that street. Bummer. Plus, that was the point where the battery in my Garmin died. Now I was by myself, in the rain, with only paper maps and my own wits to guide me.

I eventually navigated up to Fiolstræde, which is in the Latin Quarter. The center of Copenhagen is only about a kilometer across, so even walking from Sommerfuglen up to Uldstedet i City is not bad. If you decide to do so, head northwest up Rådhusstræde. You'll cross the Strøget at the open squares of Nytorv and Gammeltorv. Turn at either the next right (Skindergade) or the second right (Dyrkøb). Dyrkøb borders Vor Frue Kirke to the southeast, and the church is an obvious landmark. If you walk one block easterly, either of these streets will intersect Fiolstræde.

Just behind Vor Frue Kirke, at the corner of Krystalgade and Fiolstræde is Strikkeboden. This little yarn shop is small but stuffed full to the brim. I did look around and almost bought something. But, you know how some yarn shops just don't have friendly energy? Well, this shop just didn't have that friendly feel on the particular day I was there. Maybe kindness was lost in translation?

By this point, my wandering was beginning to bother my knees. I tend to think, "Oh, I did this sort of walking about all the time in college. I can do this, no problem." I forget that college was during the Reagan and Clinton administrations. My knees are not that young, nor that experienced in spite of the time spent on the exercise bike last spring. Phooey! So I headed up Fiolstræde because the Nørreport train station is at the end of it. And then I came across it!
Uldstedet i City!
This shop's doorstep lies below grade level. But do not let its lowly architectural position discourage you. This turned out to be a wonderfully helpful shop. There was a nice selection of yarn and helpful clerks. It was truly an oasis for me at that point in the day. My one goal in yarn shopping was to find yarn to convert my Bohus cuffs into gloves. I had the cuffs with me and was able to find some Isager laceweight alpaca that will probably work. (I may have to hold two strands together.) The ladies also pointed me in the proper direction for the train, which was just a few meters away at the end of the street.

My plan for the evening was to sit and knit, find dinner in Roskilde, and ice my knees -- not necessarily in that order. But when I got to the hotel room, Cuddly Hubby was already back early from his meeting. This would have been a good thing, except that he had left his laptop in the taxi. His coworkers -- who were heading back to Copenhagen for the night because they were all flying home to the United States -- had noticed before they left the taxi. However, this meant his laptop was with his boss in Copenhagen. "But I just came from Copenhagen!" was about all I could blurt out. In the end, we did tromp back to Copenhagen. The Cuddly Hubby's boss hadn't yet had dinner and did seem to want some company. So we ended up at Krogs Fiskerestaurant. I was going to order something light, but both men wanted the six-course meal. So I ordered it as well. It was a great evening of wonderful conversation and incredible food! Cuddly Hubby and I didn't end up back in our hotel room until about 1 AM. It was so worth it for the food and yarn. And by that time, I was exhausted and fell asleep with the ice packs draped across my knees.

09 October 2012

Catching Up: Denmark

I know it has been awhile since I've update the blog. Can I just say the last couple months have been busy? Here is what has been happening since the beginning of August:
  • My first international trip -- 8 days in Denmark!
  • Crystal Palace Moonshine yarn to be made up into a project.
  • Dragon*Con.
  • Vincent (shaggy black cat ball of love) sick with pancreatitis.
  • Georgia Alpaca FiberFest at Callaway Gardens.
  • Me meeting some nasty virus and being sick for more than a week.
  • Me cleaning house so book club will fit in my living room on Friday.
I don't know how much of this I'll write up in the next few days, but I do know I need to catch up.

Visiting the Little Mermaid
First things first -- Denmark!

At the beginning of the summer, Cuddly Hubby came home and said there was a chance he would be taking a business trip overseas to Denmark in the summer of 2013 and would I like to go along? Sure! And then about a month later he came home and said that instead of the trip being in about 12 months it would be in about 6 weeks. Ack!

This was my first international trip. There were lots of details -- airline tickets, several different hotel reservations, cat sitter, finance (informing the bank that Danish transactions would be legitimate), new luggage, guidebooks, itinerary planning, downloading maps for the GPS. I don't know how people who travel a lot do it. We were in Denmark for eight days -- three of those in Roskilde and the remainder in Copenhagen. Things I observed:
  • You don't understand what is American about America until you travel abroad. Especially if your return flight brings you in through Newark, New Jersey.
  • It is amazing how thoroughly trashed the inside of an airplane can be after an 8-hour overnight flight. I don't know how flight attendants deal with it.
  • Trains are an efficient means of transportation! Trains are awesome!
  • You don't understand the concept of walkable communities until you travel somewhere that was settled hundreds of years before automobiles.
  • There is something about a landscape that has been settled and tamed for hundreds of years. I can't quite say what it is that is different, but somehow you feel the wildness is gone.
  • Satellite GPS systems do not like narrow urban European streets with five-story tall buildings on each side.
  • Compared to Europe, Americans are prudes! No wonder the pilgrims left -- I'm not sure whether they were glad to leave or whether their neighbors were glad to see them go, but I'm sure they were misfits.
  • No wonder the Danes have a high standard of living. They eat a huge breakfast each morning, and there are ice cream places everywhere. With a big breakfast to greet you each day and a stop for ice cream each afternoon, you have already laid the groundwork for a good day.
  • I could not find drinking fountains in Denmark.
  • Denmark has a great tradition of building with brick.
  • In Denmark, it is okay to exhibit a common pit viper (or other animal) in an open air exhibit. If you are unwise enough to stick your hand in there, then you deserve the consequences.
  • Reindeer antlers look much larger in person than in pictures.
Qiviut on the hoof at København Zoo.
I wasn't able to speak the language, but I could read some of it because I know some basic German. A lot of the Danish sounds are not the same as German or English, but the letters are the same. Lots of people in Denmark, especially the young, speak some English. And English is used as a second language for communication with people who don't speak Danish. Many of the signs in tourist locations were in Danish and English. So finding our way around wasn't too bad.

We did eat several excellent meals, including one incredible meal provided by my Cuddy Hubby's boss. Eating well in the European way really does take up all evening. So the pace of life is different from America, where you might eat dinner from 7 to 8:30 PM and then be off to another activity. If you show up at a good restaurant in Denmark at 7:30 PM for dinner, you will be there until at least 10 PM.

One note about money. We were told we could just use our ATM cards to get money, and that worked fine. Credit cards were another matter. At least in Denmark, credit cards either have a chip or a PIN. Some merchants could process our cards for signature, but some couldn't. This kept me from shopping much. Debit cards worked fine. If we had known this, we would have shifted money from savings to checking and used the debit cards. I know now that you can set up a PIN for a credit card. So if you are going to travel overseas, contact your credit card company so you are ready.

Tomorrow: Yarn Crawling Copenhagen

29 August 2012

Bootkicked Tutorial #5: Joined Picot

In the pattern I wrote "jp" for "joined picot." This maneuver combines both the picot and the joined ssk, so please be sure to watch both of those videos first and work those techniques a few times so you feel familiar and confident.

This maneuver appears in only one row of the pattern. If you like, you can just work a regular joined ssk instead, but I noticed the missing picot in the selvedge. Basically, you'll set-up the two stitches to be joined, work most of the picot, then finish the join, then finish the picot. By the time you get to this row of the pattern you will have knit many picots and made many joins, so this really shouldn't give you a lot of trouble.

28 August 2012

Bootkicked Tutorial #4: Joined SSK

In the pattern I wrote "jssk" for "joined ssk." You'll need to rearrange some stitches so you can work a left-leaning decrease that will join the triangular and square sections of the scarf as you knit. The joined ssk is worked at the beginning of certain wrong-side rows.

For those of you who are very clever and know how to combination knit, you can reverse-wrap the last stitch of the right-side row. When you turn, that stitch will already be turned and facing east, so all you will have to do is slip the other stitch over. This will save you a wee bit of time and effort.

27 August 2012

Bootkicked Tutorial #3: Fill Hole

In the pattern, I simply wrote "fh" for "fill hole." You'll make the holes on the right-side rows, then fill them in on the wrong-side rows. Notice that this technique could be used for different-sized holes. The ones in Bootkicked involve binding off five stitches. Whatever size you use, be sure to bind off an odd number of stitches on the make hole element because the fill hole element is (knit, yarn over) repeated as many times as you need, ending with knit. So the fill hole will always be an odd number of stitches.

26 August 2012

Bootkicked Tutorial #2: Make Hole

In the pattern, I simply wrote "mh" for "make hole." There are other ways to make holes, but I particularly liked this version from Lucy Neatby.

If you want to try this technique to make other sizes of holes, be aware you should bind off an odd number of stitches. It is easy to bind off any number you like, but when restoring the stitches on the following row, it will be easier if you are restoring an odd number rather than an even number. This is because you restore the stitches by working some variation of (k yo k) or (k yo k yo k) or (k yo k yo k yo k) into the large hole. While you could work (k yo) or (k yo k yo) or (k yo k yo k yo), I suspect ending with a knit stitch rather than a yarn over will be tidier.

25 August 2012

Bootkicked Tutorial #1: Picot

Bootkicked is an intermediate level scarf. You'll be doing three or four things at once:
  1. shaping (triangles or squares)
  2. pattern (half-drop holes separated by three ridges of garter stitch)
  3. edging (picots)
  4. joining motifs as you go
None of these things are difficult, per se. But all of them are probably a little more interesting than your usual knitting. So over the next few days I'll be posting five short videos to show you clearly the odd little steps to this strange little dance.

First up: Picot Edging

Be aware that in the pattern, I simply wrote "mp" for "make picot." There are a lot of different ways to make a picot, and you can do what I did or something you like better or you can just delete the picots entirely. Picots are made by casting on stitches and then binding them off immediately. In Bootkicked, you'll always be casting on and binding off three stitches, but you can do more or fewer to make your picots longer/larger or shorter/smaller. You could even vary the number of stitches in your picots to produce a very raggedy edge.

24 August 2012

Bootkicked, the Bad Noro

Back in the autumn of 2008, I came up with a scarf pattern I named Bootkicked.
It all started with a bad, bad skein of yarn. I am not the person who purchased the bad skein. No, that was Woofgang Pug. She fell in with a bad skein of Noro Silk Garden Sock Yarn. Remember when we were all smitten by Noro Sock? The colors were lovely, and it knit up in the mysterious long gradual color changes we adore in Noro. Except this skein. Woofgang Pug started with a toe-up sock. The toe was green, then the foot was black. And there was an intriguing midnight blue that was supposed to be in there. Woofgang Pug kept knitting, but the yarn stopped changing. She was nearly to the heel turn, but still, the yarn was black. Where was the blue?

You've probably guessed this was a "norotorious" skein. Yes, we all love the beautiful colors of Noro yarn. But we also hate the way Noro all too often has knots or joins with breaks in the colors. This was one of those bad skeins. This is also a yarn that is not springy like most sock yarns. It was early October and we were at a knitting gathering to welcome Benjamin Levisay and Rick Mondragon at Whit Robbins' home. (This was during the run-up to the very first STITCHES South.) Woofgang Pug talked about how she had just fallen head over heels for Opal sock yarn and how she was regretting her relationship with Noro. And finally we all came to the consensus that life is too short to knit with yarn you hate. So we had an intervention, and the bad Noro came home with me. (At Christmastime, Rare Purls in Duluth helped me secretly send a skein of Opal Harry Potter Dumbledore to Woofgang Pug. She gave one, she got one better.)

I thought about this skein that had treated a friend so shabbily. And I knew lots of people were not knitting this yarn into socks. So I designed a scarf that would make the skein look as if it had been flogged. Bad skein. No more being mean to knitters. To summarize Nancy Sinatra: These boots were made for walking and they're going to walk all over you.

My inspiration came from a couple Lucy Neatby patterns I had purchased that summer. The Spindrift Scarf uses holes to create a very open and lacy fabric. It would be a great pattern for a skein of yarn that is a little short, as all those slits cause the fabric to open and cover more area. The Sea Lettuce Scarf uses picots to create an intriguing ragged edge. Combining those elements created a finished fabric that looked flogged and distressed. There were also lots and lots of people working short-row scarves with alternating triangles. I wondered what would happen if you "made a mistake" and knit straight between the triangles? It turns out the resulting shape hangs with a slight ruffle that is quite feminine and pleasing.

By the way, the skein did get back at me. This bad boy was short! I ended up running out near the end and swapped with archamanda on Ravelry to get what I needed to finish. Yes, he was a bad skein indeed -- inconsistent colors and only 90g instead of 100g.

After I finished the scarf I found an afternoon and went up on Kennesaw Mountain to take pictures. I had planned to send the pattern to Knitty. But then after I took many, many photographs, I checked Knitty's submission rules and discovered the requirement you had to have pictures of the item being worn. Eventually the Cuddly Hubby and I found a day to take pictures. But the whole thing just sort of fell by the wayside. Sometimes a project gets snake bit, and this one got snake bit on the back end.
In the intervening nearly four years, I've come back to this project off and on. I wrote out the pattern. I cast on with a different yarn -- leftover Crystal Palace Mini Mochi (another norotorious yarn, but at least it wet-splices) from the Curlique Shawl. I messed up and put it in time out. Life went on. This summer, I finally picked Bootkicked #2 up off the piano. (Yes, time-out knitting sits on my piano.) It was time to finish. I ripped back my mistake. I pulled out my notes. I reprinted my directions. I rediscovered what I had done. And off I went, confidently. I even recorded five videos of how to work particular maneuvers in this scarf. And so, I now offer Bootkicked as my very first for sale self-published Ravelry download.

Edited 12 January 2014 to add:
Thank you to Brenda Morison for finding a couple mistakes in version 1.0. If you purchased the pattern on Ravelry, you should be able to download version 1.1. If you purchased a paper pattern -- perhaps at Georgia Alpaca Fiber Fest 2012 -- then here are the errata:
Beginning Triangle:
Row 63: mp, inc, k1, (mh, k2) 4 times, k1. 17 sts total — 2 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 2 sts.
Rows 73 - 78 (same as 65-70): mp, k32. 33 sts total.
Row 79: mp, k1, (mh, k2) 3 times, mh, k1. 17 sts total — 2 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 2 sts.

Edited 24 January 2016 to add:
Yeah, that gremlin on Row 63 refused to go. Thankfully, Tronya on Ravelry noticed it.
Try these instead:
Beginning Triangle:
Row 63: mp, inc, (mh, k2) 3 times, mh, k1. 17 sts total — 2 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 2 sts.
Joined Triangle:
Row 63: mp, inc, (mh, k2) 3 times, mh, k1. 17 sts on left needle — 2 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 3 sts + yo + 2 sts, 1 st on right needle.

Upcoming: the video tutorials.

18 July 2012

Double Knit Sachets

It is almost time again for Christmas in July at The Whole Nine Yarns. I've missed the last couple years because I've been out of town during the event. The challenge is always to come up with a quick gift knit. Since I've been doing quite a bit of double knitting lately (see the soap sack), some double knit sachets seemed like a good idea.
The yarn is Classic Elite Soft Linen, which is a linen, wool, alpaca blend. The linen gives it crispness and structure, while the animal fiber gives it softness.

I came up with two different double-knit patterns. In the first, you start with Judy's Magic Cast-on, double knit the sachet, and bind off using purlwise grafting. The edges are rounded.
Since some people are not going to like the cast-on and the bind-off, I designed a second pattern with a crocheted cast-on and a three-needle bind-off. The difference is that a line of chain stitch goes all the way around the sachet. The edge is squarer and sharper.
It is this second pattern that will be available at Christmas in July, which is Sunday 22 July from 11 AM - 4 PM at The Whole Nine Yarns in downtown Woodstock. For $5 (to cover printing costs), you leave with a folder full of patterns for making knit or crocheted gifts. Most of the regular instructors will be in the shop that day to demonstrate the various techniques used in their patterns. And there will be several special guests as well! Sometime after Christmas in July, I'll post these patterns on Ravelry as a booklet download.

One final note, I stuffed one sachet with lavender and the other with cat nip. The cat nip version was very popular with the used knitter's cats!

10 July 2012

Pink Slime

You'll recall I used this burst of intense summer weather to dye some fiber. During the Independence Day holiday and following weekend, I spun that fiber up into yarn. I'm trying to decide whether or not this yarn can be labeled as "successful." I was aiming for a peachy-pink color that would emulate the traits of dewy European fairy-princess flesh -- pale, pink, soft, with a gentle glow.
Pink Slime/Gore/Road Kill hand spun, hand dyed, hand carded mohair
Yes, it really is this color, which is why I photographed it outdoors.
A couple things happened along the way. Firstly, the core fibers I dyed with pink lemonade Kool-Aid had quite a bit of brown kemp. The brown didn't show much in the rolags, but it did show when spun into the core singles. I didn't take a picture, but the core singles were noticeably both pink and brown, rather than just pink.

Also, the core singles required a lot of twist. Mohair is slippery! Duh! When spinning 100% mohair, it keeps drafting even when you think it should be done. I spun on a fairly high ratio and put in lots of twist. Otherwise I could tug on the yarn and it would draft.

Let me state right here it is not Jacey Bogg's fault that I am a poor corespinner. I took a two-day workshop with her back in April. It was very good and I learned a lot and if you want to improve your spinning skills, you will pounce with the enthusiasm of a cheetah chasing a gazelle if a similar opportunity is available to you. I also purchased her video Sit and Spin! and I've watched it repeatedly. And I own her book Spin Art and I've read it cover to cover. So I thoroughly recommend her. I think I take readily to knitting because it is intellectual. But I think spinning is much more physical. So much of spinning is feeling it in your hands. My hands just aren't that sensitive, so I just don't take to spinning with the same natural ease I feel for knitting. So this is not at all the teacher's fault.

Corespinning consists of a core (often a singles) and a layer of fiber wrapped perpendicularly around the core. It looks easy to do and I am pretty sure it is easy (for other people) to do. When you make a singles-based corespun yarn, it will by definition have some overtwist. A singles yarn, by definition, can not be balanced. But Jacey pointed out that if you corespun around a plied yarn, you should be able to have a balanced corespun yarn. So I decided to try that.

I encountered a couple of issues. You'll need one hand to hold the core plies as they come together. And you'll need a second hand to hold the cloud of fibers to be spun around the core. Depending on how you are used to holding singles during plying, you may need to hold your singles differently from your usual method.

I am also learning more and more that part of the secret to successful spinning is proper fiber preparation. My outer layer of pale yellow and pale pink fibers had been carded together by hand. They had become a little compacted, and midway through the spinning I ended up carding them again to open them up. For corespinning, you want your outer fibers to be a very loose cloud. The fibers should be sticking out like little feelers desperate to catch something.

Here's what I know now about corespinning as you ply.
To encourage the outer fibers to catch and wind on, hold the cloud at the back and let the front of the cloud brush against the plying core.
Keep the cloud against the core as you "draft" the core plies. If the core plies don't slip in your hand, then they don't turn. If they don't turn, the cloud doesn't catch and wind on. And if you move the cloud off the plies as you "draft," then the cloud fibers don't catch. You have to keep the cloud against the core as the plies twist together. (I have a lot of trouble with that part, as I tend to lift the cloud off the plies as I "draft!")
Try to keep the cloud perpendicular to the plying. If you start to draft it, you end up with a peculiar three-ply yarn instead of a corespun 2-ply. (I ended up with quite a bit of that!)
If your core and your cloud are the same color, it is hard to tell how much cloud is being spun.

The yarn was very compacted on the bobbin. It was also not balanced. So I balanced it using my trindle. As you can see from the picture, the yarn did begin to bloom.
More balanced and blooming on left, tighter on bobbin at right.
It looks pinker and prettier indoors than outdoors in full-spectrum light.

Because I really don't trust the fluff to stay put -- a little of it did come off during balancing -- I decided to shock the yarn during finishing in the hopes of fulling it slightly. I skeined the yarn and subjected it to my usual regimen of five minutes in the steamer to set the twist. I then moved it directly from the hot steam sauna into a bath of filtered ice water. It fluffed right up like an upset porcupine!

The final yarn is about 100 yards of wildly uneven, wiry pink mohair coated in a deceptively soft-looking but prickly layer of pink mist. And here's the rub: is it just me, or does this look like the color of mammalian innards? I just look at it and think pink slime or pink gore or road kill. Does anybody out there want to knit a road-killed armadillo or opossum? If doctors can bury their mistakes and architects can plant ivy, I suppose fiber artists can apply more Kool-Aid and call it art yarn?

03 July 2012

When Life Gives You 100°F Weather . . .

 . . . dye fiber!

I don't wander into politics too much on this blog, but it needs to be said that at this point, the arguments against the existence of global climate change are cold comfort. (There is, however, plenty to discuss about possible causes and what our responses should be.)

After that non-winter, I don't think there was a lot of surprise that summer came in with the fiery heat of a woman scorned. And I am giving a lot of thanks for all those lovely mature shady oak trees in my yard, thank you very much Atlanta developer who didn't denude my neighborhood in the 1970s. Still, there had to be something useful to do with all this heat. I've been thinking for awhile about dyeing some fiber, and had recently read this old Knitty article by Kristi Porter. She mentioned that you could dye yarn in the same way as making sun tea. So that's what I did.

Yellow and pink mohair, blended with hand cards.
My inspiration is a batt I suspect of being a wool and mohair blend. It contains both pale pink and pale yellow fibers. I hand carded the batt to blend the fibers into a gently glowing peachy mass of optical blending. If I had a drum carder, I'd probably run this through it a couple times to make an even better blend. I have some books about knitting dolls and I was thinking that a fancy hand-knit doll might be a fun, creative knit. This fiber might make lovely Caucasian skin. I want to core spin this batt. But I need a core.

At our May North Georgia Knitting Guild meeting, Lynne brought mohair from a friend who has goats that needed to be clipped. Several of us left the meeting with bags of free raw mohair. I put mine in a mesh bag and gave it a wash and rinse in the sink. I think I used Johnson's baby shampoo. Then I used wide-toothed pet combs to process the fiber. The longest locks were fairly easy to process, as I could hold one end and comb out the kemp and shorter fibers. Shorter locks were harder. I ended up with a small pile of silky, long white locks that are first rate -- glowing and glossy and worthy of the elves of Lothlórien. I ended up with a much larger pile of shorter, second rate fiber. The seconds include some fine, nice white fiber but also some brownish kemp. One of the nice things about this fiber is that the good stuff is mostly one color and the bad stuff is mostly a different color. With the correct equipment I could probably separate the two, but I haven't the correct equipment. There is also a small pile of long locks that are both white and brown. And there was a huge pile of waste. Since I'm looking for a core, the softness of the material is not a high priority. I'll save the two small piles of long, fine fiber for other projects. The waste went to the trash or the compost pit.

Second-rate mohair, fluffed but undyed.
The pink color at top is reflected light from the antique roll top desk.
While I ought to be able to just spin a core and cover it up, I'm not that certain of my core spinning skills. I decided dyeing the core pink might help. That way, even if the core shows through the peachy-colored fibers, the yarn will still look good. I soaked the 49g of mohair in water with two lemons' worth of strained juice added. I shouldn't need to add juice, but I wanted to be sure the whole mixture was plenty acidic. After an hour or two, I drained off a little of the water and took the bowl of fiber and lemon water outside. I mixed up a packet of pink lemonade Kool-Aid in a fairly intense half-cup mixture. I then poured the dye into the bowl. I swished it around a bit, and then placed a piece of clear plexiglass on top. Then I went inside while everything baked in the sun.

After an hour or two I checked the mixture. The dye didn't take evenly -- probably because I didn't swish the mixture around enough. It also wasn't as dark as I wanted, so I mixed up a second packet of pink lemonade Kool-Aid. This time I pulled the fiber out of the water, added the dye, stirred it, and then put the fiber back in. I put the plexiglass back in place and went back into the air-conditioned house.

When I checked in another hour, the water was clear. All the dye had soaked into the fiber! I tilted the bowl and let the water run down the driveway. I left the fiber sitting outside in the bowl for the rest of the afternoon so that it could dry. Then I brought it indoors. Later, I put the fiber in a mesh bag, gave it a soak in the sink to rinse, and hung it up to dry in the guest bathroom.

Pink lemonade mohair, after dyeing. Not a natural strawberry blonde.
A few days later after it was dry, I needed to process it again. For one thing, the fibers had begun to felt. Ack! I used the wide-toothed pet comb to open up all the fiber again. The dye penetration was a little uneven, again, probably because the fiber was packing down as it tried to felt and also because I didn't stir the mixture. I used my hand cards and in under two hours was able to card all the fiber into nice little rolags. I did roll them to be parallel with the fibers rather than perpendicular, as I want a semi-worsted rather than a semi-woolen yarn for my core.

Pink lemonade mohair, processed into roses of rolags, ready to spin!
After all that, I'm ready to spin this pink mohair into a two-ply core. And I won't be shy about playing with Kool-Aid in the sun. It was fun!

30 June 2012

Always the Classic

My knit-night friend Ginny will be a first-time grandmother later this summer. It has been delightful to see the enthusiasm with which she is greeting this event. And the little one will be a girl, which just opens so many wonderful knitterly possibilities!

I was grateful when Ginny remarked one evening that she was going to knit a Baby Surprise Jacket. She had a nice queue built up of items for this baby. (I keep wondering if anyone has ordered a large cedar chest to accommodate this bounty.) So when I stepped in and asked if I could buy the yarn and it knit it for her, she agreed!

In conversations about classic knitting patterns, the Baby Surprise Jacket comes up again and again. And, yes, I know I've written about it here before. So let me just show you what I did this time.
The yarn is Ella Rae Seasons, which is a rather new yarn. It is chain plied, so it has nice elasticity. The size is heavy worsted. And it has long color changes, similar to Noro. While I didn't try to wet-splice this yarn, I did quite of bit of Russian joining. The chain ply structure took a Russian join easily. While I liked the yarn, I have to admit that of the two skeins I used, both had knots. One skein had two knots. And, of course, the colors are discontinuous at the knots. Disappointing.
Since I had extra yarn leftover, I decided to make a headband. The flower is out of Nicky Epstein's Knitted Flowers book. It is an interesting little flower, as you work a row of yarn overs to create holes, then run a thread through the holes to tighten and form two sets of petals. I put the spare button in the center of the flower. (There were six of these flower-shaped shell buttons in the shop and, while I could have purchased only five, it seemed impractical to leave one orphaned.) For the headband, I used Jeny's Stretchy Slipknot Cast-on, worked in garter stitch, and then used a sewn match for the cast-on. That garter stitch band is super stretchy and ready for anything!

27 June 2012

Busy Enough

I find myself finally letting my life drop out of 5th gear overdrive and down into 3rd gear -- getting things done, but not being quite so crazy. Over the last couple weeks I've driven up and back to Columbus, Ohio for Knitters Connection; visited dear friends in Kentucky; toured the Cincinnati Zoo; dealt with my Yahoo! e-mail account getting hacked by a virus; cleaned my house; hosted a game night and a Pathfinder game; combed and prepared several ounces of raw mohair; ran a knitting guild meeting; oiled the patio furniture; baked a batch of scones; and taken cats to the vet.

I had a wonderful time at Knitters Connection. A huge thank you to everyone who took a class with me! I had one crash and burn moment in the Unventions class, but by the end, I also heard several gasps of awesome delight. I was also very pleased by how several people in that class were experimenting and coming up with their own unventions by the end of class. And I was totally shocked to see 14 people in the brioche class. I'll be updating my handout and making more swatches for that class. I'm happy with how that class has evolved from a make a scarf class to an examination of both methods of brioche -- knit below as well as yarn over and slip. I hope students from that class will find they can recognize and work any brioche they encounter.

Just before I left for Ohio I also signed the contract for Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair in October. I'll be teaching When to Combine (combination knitting), Practical Double Knitting, Missing Link (brioche), Oops! Now What Do I Do (mistake fixing), More Than One Way to Skin a Sweater, and Daring Double Cables (true double-knit cables).
Circular intarsia soap sack. Compare to double-knit version here.
double-knit on left, intarsia on right
I've accomplished very little knitting lately. I did, however, finally take some time to watch Anne Berk's Inside Intarsia dvd. I believe I purchased it at STITCHES South 2011, so it had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. I purchased it specifically because I wanted to learn how to do circular intarsia. I've done it before in Karen's anime sweater, but I thought Anne might have come up with a better way. My motivation was that I had just completed the double-knit soap sack and I noticed that the links in double knitting are not the same as the links in intarsia. I decided to explore this further by knitting the soap sack again in circular intarsia.

An "easy" way to think about circular intarsia is to think about closing boxes. Really. Lots of people know the trick to closing boxes that you want to open again later, such as storage boxes for holiday decorations. You overlap the four flaps so that each flap is underneath one flap but on top of another flap. They stay reasonably closed without layers of tape accumulation. The trick is always getting that last flap into place. In circular intarsia you have a similar problem. Each link involves an overlap, but the first and the last aren't where you need them to be. You have to think ahead and move the last strand into place, then work around. Anne Berk's video was somewhat helpful, although I found that the camera didn't always give me the angle I needed to see exactly what she was doing. Probably the most useful statement she made was that you knit around until you can't make links anymore, then you turn and purl back until you can't make links anymore.

Here are a few photographs to help explain how to work intarsia in the round. Surprisingly, it really isn't as difficult as you might imagine!

Here I've cast on ten stitches in each of three shade of brown. I've arranged them on double-pointed needles, and I've worked a few rounds of circular intarsia. Since the stockinette fabric curls, this photograph mostly shows the wrong side of the work.

Notice that each strand is at a different corner of the work. This is how everything looks at the beginning and end of each round.

To begin the round, I've moved the copper yarn across its row and around the dark brown. I haven't knit the copper yarn. That will be the last knitting of the round. But I have put the copper yarn in the proper location to form a link with the dark brown yarn. Notice that the copper yarn wraps from right side to wrong side around the dark brown. When I do this, I think about where I want the copper yarn to be when I work it later. I'm placing it along that path, I'm just not working it yet.

Next I knit. I started with the dark brown and knit across. When I reached the light brown, I worked the normal intarsia link. In the picture, you can see the dark brown strand carried toward the upper left across my finger. Notice the new color -- light beige -- comes around behind and to the right of the old. Also, notice how that new color is going to trap not one but two strands of the old color.

 I continued to knit the round with the light beige. At the end of the beige section, I reached the copper section.

Remember the copper yarn was already trapped by the dark brown at the beginning of the round. I wrapped the beige from right side to wrong side and ducked it through the copper loop I formed at the beginning of the round. This forms the exact same type of link as the one I made with the dark brown and the beige. Then I just knit across that final copper section and pulled the leftover loop yarn all the way through after the last stitch of the round. For the wrong side, you'd be purling instead of knitting, but the basic idea is the same -- trap the final yarn with the first, work around, link the next to last yarn with the loop formed by the final yarn, finish working across with the final yarn, and evaporate the excess loop.