20 August 2015

Why Tubular

I recently acquired a free skein of yarn and pattern. I could have tossed it in the stash, but I figured a one-skein hat pattern could be knit up almost as fast as I could put it away. And, really, I am trying to keep the stash at a manageable size. As it was, I cast-on one day and finished the hat the next.


The pattern is Oh Yum, Bubblegum Slouchy Hat by Eleanor Swogger and the yarn is Kraemer Yarns Perfection Tapas in color 9038 Elderberry. By the way, they do have an adorable commercial featuring a car sweater on YouTube.

I'll probably toss the hat in the guild charity pile. I don't typically wear hats all that much. Plus, I have a cloak with hood that I plan to wear a lot whenever the cool weather returns to Atlanta (probably not until October). At this point in the year, we've had 95°F weather for so long I don't remember when it wasn't summer. (I do love that summer is five months long in Atlanta.)


I did want ya'all to notice I used a tubular cast-on for the 1×1 ribbing. In this case, I used a crochet chain cast-on with waste yarn to cast on half the needed number of stitches. With project yarn I knit across the waste yarn. Then I worked k1 off the needle, p1 in the purl bump on the wrong side (similar to making a tuck stitch) to get into 1×1 ribbing. That also doubled the number of stitches so I could reach what was called for in the pattern. This edge is equivalent to a bind-off of Kitchener grafting over 1×1 ribbing. The edge is also stretchy and in pattern. In fact, it hardly looks like a cast-on at all, as the ribbing seems to simply spring into existence. While these details are not absolutely necessary, it was good to get in some practice. I should be able to reproduce these couture details on a project that calls out for this level of attention, such as a sweater. This technique would also be worth trying on top-down socks.

16 August 2015

Gadget

I believe I am not the only knitter who likes gadgets. There's something charming and appealing about a trinket that makes a task just a bit easier. I am not only a fan of fiber arts, but I am also a big fan of board games and all things geek. Earlier in the summer I attended Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. Not quite Dragon*Con — what is? — but still very nice. The vendor hall was very, very large. And mixed in amongst that merchant horde was CritSuccess.

CritSuccess is a company that makes dice rings. What are dice rings? Dice rings are spinner rings with the spinning part marked off in numbered increments. They can be used in place of regular dice. In fact, one of the advantages of dice rings is they can be manufactured to any number set you desire. Do you need a seven-sider so you can roll days of the week? No problem! Do you need weighted numbers -- a set where some numbers are more likely to come up than others? Again no problem -- some numbers get a larger space than others. And unlike dice, which need space for rolling, a dice ring can be "rolled" right on your finger, without needing any clear space on the crowded table. And since you never let go of it, it is not likely to end up down between the sofa cushions, under a chair, or lost at the bottom of the bowl of Cheetos.


It is not, however, the dice rings that I found appealing. CritSuccess also makes counter rings. What is a counter ring? It is a dice ring that clicks rather than spinning freely. Gamers use them to keep track of game variables, such as hit points or victory points. If you are a knitter or crocheter, you can use these to keep track of rows or rounds, as you would with any other counting device. These rings currently come in black, gold, cobalt blue, and rainbow. As you can see, I recently took my rainbow counter ring out for a test drive on a hat project. Stylish and functional! Good for knitting, and ready for gaming at a moment's notice.

13 August 2015

How We Feel About Fiber

There's a reason I consider Vincent a top-ranked knitter's or spinner's cat. It is not just because he loves crafts. He can put into body language what humans instead put into words.




Yes, Vincent, you can haz fleece.

04 August 2015

Off Topic -- Marketing?


Sometimes I think I might need a Twitter account just for these sorts of tidbits.

An envelope arrived in our mail, marked as an "invitation" from Harry & David. This is, of course, the retailer known for glorious baskets of perfect fruit (at a price point reflecting the time and care needed to attain that level of perfection), typically given during the end-of-year holidays. I've sometimes wondered what Harry & David does during the off-season between January and September. 

Apparently, they attempt to sell sand to the Saudis . . . or in this case, peaches to people who live in Georgia.

--------experience-------
THE FIRST PEACHES
OF THE SEASON

I already have. In fact, I regular patronize two different local farmers' markets, plus I live a mile from three groceries stores and a new Sprouts Market opened in Smyrna. We've had peaches for over a month already. Why would I want to ship in peaches from three time zones away when I can buy directly from the orchard hand-picked tree-ripened peaches grown within an hour's drive of my house?

If any of my readers work for Harry & David, I am deeply curious to hear whether this direct-mail campaign is effective in the Southeast.

Maybe next year they can try to sell me something that doesn't grow here. Tree-ripened first-picked mangoes, anyone?

03 August 2015

Symmetrical Yarn Over Net Pattern

It has been a busy summer with lots of travel. While I usually don't mind travel, I've done enough at this point that I think I get one victory point for every day in August in which I do not move my car. I am ecstatic to be sleeping in my own bed, working on my own projects, and having time to share my most recent discoveries.

One of these discoveries is an interesting maneuver and stitch pattern. It started when I saw my mother wearing a commercial sweater with this pattern:


Non-knitters probably don't notice anything about it, but knitters may notice the pattern is symmetrical. Not a big deal, you might think. Think again!

There are a number of ways to make a fabric with holes on the half drop. Most of them are not 100% satisfying. In the examples below, odd-numbered rows are always right side.

Swatch #1:
Multiple of 2 stitches.
Row 1: alternate yo, k2tog.
Row 2: p all.
Row 3. alternate k2tog, yo.
Row 4. p all.
Repeat these 4 rows for pattern.
This does produce a mesh. If you look closely at Swatch #1, you'll notice the zig-zags of yarn alternate thick and thin. It is possible to make a mesh similar to this in which the decreases stack to create horizontal lines moving across the fabric. In either case, the fabric has thick and thin areas — thin corresponding to yarn overs and thick corresponding to decreases.
You may think the solution is to use a centered double decrease (ddec) — a 3-into-1 decrease such as slip 2 together knitwise, knit 1, pass the 2 slipped stitches over.

Swatch #2:
Multiple of 3 stitches.
Row 1: yo, (alternate ddec, double yo), end with ddec, cast-on 1 {replaces a yo}.
Row 2: p2, (alternate [k1, p1] in double yo, p1), end with p1 in single yo.
Row 3: k all.
Row 4: p all.
Row 5: k1, yo, (alternate ddec, double yo), end with k2tog.
Row 6: p1, (alternate [k1, p1] in double yo, p1), end with p1 in single yo, p1.
Row 7: k all.
Row 8: p all.
Repeat these 8 rows for pattern.
Here the problem is that the 3-into-1 decrease means you've lost 2 stitches not 1. To keep your stitch count constant, you'll need two yarn overs for every centered double-decrease — yo, ddec, yo. When you line these up next to each other, it mean you have to work double yarn overs — yo, ddec, yo, yo, ddec, yo. On the wrong side row, you have to make two stitches from the double yarn over, usually by knitting and purling into the giant hole. The combination of knit and purl in the yarn over will create a bump near the top of the hole, slightly disrupting its shape.

Furthermore, it is hard to stack a yarn over directly above a centered double decrease. If you look closely at Swatch #2, you'll notice the subtle asymmetry in the pattern, as that central wale must go either left or right to go around the hole directly above it. Another way of thinking about it; since there are two stitches coming out of the hole but the decrease is over three stitches, the double decrease can not be centered on top of the double yarn over. Would a promising alternative be to substitute ssk and k2tog for the ddec, so as to allow the wales to split and travel around the hole? Swatches #3 and #4 seem to be moving closer to a solution. There are two choices.

Swatch #3
Multiple of 4 stitches.
Row 1: yo, (k2tog, ssk, double yo) across, end with k2tog, ssk, cast-on 1 {replaces a yo}.
Row 2: p1, (p2, [k1, p1] in double yo) across, end with p2, p1 in single yo.
Row 3: k all.
Row 4: p all.
Row 5: ssk, (double yo, k2tog, ssk) across, end double yo, k2tog.
Row 6: p1, ([k1, p1] in double yo, p2) across, end [k1, p1] in double yo, p1.
Row 7: k all.
Row 8: p all.
Repeat these 8 rows for pattern.

Swatch #4
Multiple of 4 stitches.
Row 1: yo, (ssk, k2tog, double yo) across, end with ssk, k2tog, cast-on 1 {replaces a yo}.
Row 2: p1, (p2, [k1, p1] in double yo) across, end with p2, p1 in single yo.
Row 3: k all.
Row 4: p all.
Row 5: k2tog, (double yo, ssk, k2tog) across, end double yo, ssk.
Row 6: p1, ([k1, p1] in double yo, p2) across, end [k1, p1] in double yo, p1.
Row 7: k all.
Row 8: p all.
Repeat these 8 rows for pattern.
In either case, the 4-into-2 paired decrease allows the wales to snake around the holes. The double yarn over problem is still not solved, as you can still see a slight asymmetry along the top of the double yarn overs. After looking at these, it becomes even clearer why the swatch at top is exceptional. I set out to replicate it and, after a few tries, here is what I discovered.

The key to the flat, symmetrical swatch is the decrease is not 3-into-1 or 4-into-2 but rather 3-into-2. This seems wrong until you actually knit it. The 3-into-2 decrease means you've lost 1 stitch not 2. Thus, the double yarn over problem does not occur. The trick is in devising a symmetrical 3-into-2 decrease. Fortunately, I had for reference my mother's commercial sweater with just such a decrease!

Swatch A
Over a multiple of 3 stitches.
Row 1: (alternate 3→2, yo) across, end with 3→2.
Row 2: p all. (Should be one stitch fewer than cast on.)
Row 3: k all.
Row 4: p all.
Row 5: k1, (alternate yo, 3→2) across, end with yo, k1. (Stitch count restored.)
Row 6: p all.
Row 7: k all.
Row 8: p all.
Repeat these 8 rows for pattern.
Version A:
Special maneuver: 3 into 2 decrease: 3→2.
Theory: Work a k2tog and an SSK over 3 stitches rather than 4. The central stitch of the group of 3 is involved in both maneuvers and lies on top of the group.
Practice:
Work a k2tog but do not drop the old stitches off the left needle.
Drop the back stitch of the pair off the left needle but not the top stitch.
SSK the two stitches on the left needle. (One stitch is the held stitch from the k2tog and the other stitch is the 3rd stitch of the original group of three.)

Swatch B
Over a multiple of 3 stitches.
Row 1: (alternate 3→2 version B, yo) across, end with 3→2.
Row 2: p all. (Should be one stitch fewer than cast on.)
Row 3: k all.
Row 4: p all.
Row 5: k1, (alternate yo, 3→2 version B) across, end with yo, k1. (Stitch count restored.)
Row 6: p all.
Row 7: k all.
Row 8: p all.
Repeat these 8 rows for pattern.
Version B:
Special maneuver: 3 into 2 decrease trough: 3⇾2
Theory: Work an SSK and a k2tog over 3 stitches rather than 4. The central stitch of the group of 3 is involved in both maneuvers and lies behind the group.
Practice:
Work an SSK but do not drop the old stitches off the left needle.
Drop the top stitch of the pair off the left needle but not the back stitch.
Reorient the back stitch by slipping and returning.
K2tog the two stitches on the left needle. (One stitch is the held stitch from the ssk and the other stitch is the 3rd stitch of the original group of three.)
For version B, use this alternative 3 into 2 decrease on Rows 1 & 5.

After working Swatches A and B, I decided to try more open variations by leaving out two of the three plain rows. I must admit I am very pleased with the results!

More mesh-like version of Swatch A.
Work rows 1, 2, 5, & 6 of Version A (central stitch on top).
More mesh-like version of Swatch B.
Work rows 1, 2, 5, & 6 of Version B (central stitch beneath).
The video shows both versions of how to work the 3-into-2 decrease. Enjoy!