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.

11 June 2012

Swatches

The TNNA show is coming up later this month. Because I'm now teaching and designing (and being a guild president), I sometimes get to see several sides of the same event. For example, at STITCHES South I've seen the Market being set-up and taken down because I've been involved a little with the guild booth. While I won't be attending TNNA, one of the behind-the-scenes things that becomes an in-front-of-the-scenes thing is the Great Wall of Yarn. This is a chance for the yarn companies to show off their new offerings and get some creative ideas into the minds of the shop owners who are attending the show.

Barry Klein from Trendsetter asked the STITCHES teachers if we would be willing to make swatches. This is a great chance for us to play with new yarns -- some barely on the market. And it is also a chance to show the various yarn companies what we can do. I volunteered to make four swatches. So here is what I did.
First up is Moonshine from Crystal Palace Yarns. Shiny! Sparkly. And it has a glimmer that reminds me of frosted lipsticks or creme eyeshadow. Right away I was thinking this is a yarn for a nighttime shawl, especially since the 73% nylon will mean lots of drape. The yarn does have a strand of kid mohair to give it a little halo. The silver metallic occurs in pops, so it looks somewhat like random beads. I swatched this yarn in many different patterns before settling on this version of the Matting Stitch from p.177 of the Potter Craft 400 Knitting Stitches dictionary. I picked this because it involves lots of knit stitches and purl stitches just did not look that great in this yarn. I adjusted the stitch pattern on the right side knit rows so that the stitches weave in and out. In the original, the pattern leans in long diagonals to the upper right. I also used an i-cord cast-on, i-cord selvedge, and i-cord cast-off (which was then grafted closed) to add i-cord all around. This would be a nice yarn for a stockinette-based shawl pattern.
For the second swatch I decided to knit a Tetra in an alternative stitch pattern. The yarn is TY-DY Socks Skinny Stripes from Knit One Crochet Too. The square was knit from the center out with double-increases, then folded over and grafted closed. I tried the trick of changing from knits to purls based on the color changes in the yarn. This is just random welts of reverse-stockinette across the stockinette. This is a thin yarn -- thin enough that I used a US 1/ 2.25 mm needle. Since this is sock yarn, the final fabric has lots of elasticity. While it would take awhile to knit a large garment with this, it would be lovely for a project where you want fine-gauge knitting. The self-stripe is designed for socks, so if you wanted to use it in something other than hand wear or footwear, you'd probably want to work in modules or columns to prevent the stripe from breaking up too badly.
The third swatch was the biggest challenge. First off, the yarn itself is kinda-sorta listed in Ravelry. Yes, there is a Bergere de France Cosmos yarn in the Ravelry database, but it is listed as discontinued and has a different composition, appearance, and grist than this yarn. This yarn is not currently listed on Bergere de France's website, either. So, I picked the Cosmos that's in Ravelry and I'll change the links later if the opportunity appears. The yarn is a challenge because it is a bouclé with both a gray and a white component held together with a thin white binder thread. The two colors and texture mean that stitch patterns will disappear with this yarn. No sense knitting cables or knit-purl patterns. I didn't want to just knit a plain swatch of stockinette or garter. My solution was to knit some bands of garter, stockinette, and a simple eyelet (yo, k2tog) and to work diagonally across the swatch. I cast on one stitch, increased at both ends every row, then decreased at both ends every row. This is the classic shaping for a dishcloth. But at least it lent a little interest to the project. And I am sure this yarn would be awesome as trim on a hat, mittens, or jacket/coat. Or maybe use it for the trim on the top of a Christmas stocking?

Update: This new version of Cosmos is now listed in Ravelry as Bergere de France Cosmos-2012.
My final swatch is very much the opposite. This is Rowan Baby Merino Silk Dk. The wool and the silk take the dye just a little differently, so the color isn't flat. This is a great yarn for knitting cables and texture patterns. I fiddled a bit with knitting ribbles or double-knitting, but I was running out of time and these swatches need to get into the mail. So I opted for pattern 111 from 1000 Knitting Patterns Book by Nihon Vogue. This is a nice tome of Japanese stitch patterns, 700 in knitting and 300 in crochet. And as the book just arrived last week shipped from Japan itself, I was happy to justify my purchase! The pattern is an interesting adaptation of argyle. And while the fabric isn't quite 100% reversible -- the traveling cables don't pop as well on the background of purls -- the back is nice enough that you might call this a double-faced fabric. The reverse side certainly isn't ugly. This is basically a very nice sock yarn and would be lovely for fine-gauge sweaters and shawls, too.

It was a very interesting challenge for me to try to show these very different yarns off to their best advantages. I hope I've succeeded!

05 June 2012

Simple Double-Knitting

My reputation for bizarre knitting being what it is, I've been asked by both North Georgia Knitting Guild and Atlanta Knitting Guild to teach a little bit about how to double knit. For NGKG, I'll be teaching a mini-workshop at our Beat the Heat Retreat on Saturday 21 July. AKG was planning on having a program on double-knitting later in the summer, and originally it was going to be during a month when I couldn't attend. But that changed. So on Thursday night, I'll be presenting a program on double-knitting to AKG. This works out fine, as I got my act together and knocked out the project and handout for NGKG.
The NGKG VP of Workshops, Mary, asked me to come up with a knitted soap sack as our double-knitting project. This is a really easy project for double knitting. And it doesn't take a lot of yarn. I used about 12 yards each of two colors of Lily Sugar 'n' Cream, which is a basic kitchen cotton. This would be an easy project to kit up for a guild. The yardage for Lily Sugar 'n' Cream varies based on solid or ombre, but you should be able to get 6-8 mini-skeins (12-15 yards) out of one skein. Each person will need two different colors. So if you buy four skeins -- which is about $10 worth of yarn -- you should be able to make up at least a dozen kits.

The project requires casting on (Judy's Magic Cast-on preferred), working in double-knitting, grafting hem closed (to make casing), and cords. There are a bunch of different ways to make the cords. You could even make the soap sack as a workshop, and then make kumihimo cords as a second workshop.

By the way, I'm purposefully not showing you the plain white side. I experimented with combination knitting on this. Interestingly, my purls ended up my tighter than my knits, so that I got very significant rowing out, and it was much more pronounced on the plain side. The plain yarn also seemed to be every so slightly thicker, so perhaps that contributed to the problem.

If you'd like to try this pattern yourself, you can download it from Ravelry.