Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Knitting Tree

When I returned from my recent travels, the Christmas tree was gone from the living room (at last!). In its place was a new, very minimalist tree. Quite a large piece of tree, with branches, in a smooth, pale wood, bolted to a stand and with bright lights attached. Bright light is the one thing our living room is very short of, and that's why I don't usually knit in there. When I saw the Knitting Tree I immediately recognised it for what it was and sat under it to knit Perugino.

A knitting tree! I am delighted. I am thinking about knitting a bit of foliage for it. Thank you Sven xxx

Monday, May 28, 2007

Other people's jumpers

Check out this sweater in shades of chocolate and raspberry, by Jared over at Brooklyn Tweed. He's a photographer as well as a knitter and his knits are always mouthwatering colours. I love this colourway and I want to make something similar.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Future Plans: Kim Hargreaves

Lately, I've had enough work and enough knitting projects on the go to keep me completely satisfied. I didn't regret not going yarn shopping on the last US trip; I just didn't need or want anything else on my plate. I've worked assiduously on my two big WIPs the last few weeks. I didn't crave anything new. This weekend, though, while I'm at my desk at home working, I've found myself returning again and again to a sweater that has caught my attention before. It's on the website of the Rowan designer Kim Hargreaves, from her Spring-Summer collection 'Shades of Pale'. You really must go and look at the collection here.

The sweater I'm mainly interested in is called Pure, and it looks like this.

The yarn is RYC Bamboo Soft, 100% bamboo (handwash only, grr), knits to 24sts x 30 rows. The neutral, charcoaly colour you see here is called Gypsum, and that's exactly the shade I want to make it in. I love the simplicity of this shape, the long sleeves and the wide boat neck. The neckline draws attention to the wearer's collar-bone & away from the midsection, while the long skirt is good if, like me, you're a bit apple-shaped and don't look so hot in cropped numbers. Pure looks like a versatile garment, it would look great with jeans or something smarter for work. It's my idea of a really wearable sweater.

Something about this number also spoke to me. This is 'Sheer':

As you can see, it's a long tunic with a deep scoop neck. I like a lot of the same things about it as I do the Pure sweater: simple shape, long sleeves, flattering neckline, etc. It's a reversible garment, too, so you can have a more demure neckline with a scooped back if you want. Again, the yarn is RYC Bamboo Soft. I wouldn't do it in that pale colour, though. And that much knitting in grey-black might be a bit overwhelming too. Of the shades that Bamboo Soft comes in, I do like this one, called Pompadour:

There's no doubt that Pure would look great in this shade, but then I definitely want to make Pure in Gypsum, and do I really want two versions of Pure? Probably not. An alternative would be to make Sheer in Pompadour. I really like Sheer but it needs to be made in the right colour. It's a big garment with a lot of unbroken, plain knitting. I don't want to end up looking like a cloud (so not white) or like I'm wearing some sort of funeral tent (so not black). So what about Pompadour. Is it the right shade for Sheer? Whaddya think?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A new kind of heel

One of the things I love about knitting is that you learn something new on every project, no matter how small. Here are the stripy cotton Fortissima socks I'm working on at the moment (the perfect travelling sock for humid weather).


I knit the leg and as I watched the stripes emerge, I thought about the copy of Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks, Warm Feet sitting on my bookshelf. Ms Neatby's book is full of great patterns for variegated yarns, including some very sexy sock heels where the stripes in the yarn are used to create a bulls-eye effect. I found a heel pattern in her book that I liked the look of, and tried to follow the instructions. The heel is not as difficult as I thought, but still quite tricky. It's in garter stitch and is basically a lot of short rows, with lots of 'wrap and turn'.

I usually like a heel flap & I've only attempted a heel like this once before, when I knit some toe-up socks from Charlene Schurch's immortal Sensational Knitted Socks. It was difficult. I kept losing count of where I was up to, and I definitely wasn't sure what to do with all the wraps. I'm still not sure I'm knitting them correctly. Anyway, I tried the heel from Lucy Neatby's instructions first, and screwed it up. Then I ripped it all back and consulted Charlene Schurch. Then I had another go, and I succeeded in producing a decent-looking short-row, garter stitch heel, even though I didn't end up with the bulls-eye effect I first envisaged. It is still a pretty nice heel. Next pair of stripy socks I do, I'll go back to Lucy's instructions and see if I can interpret them properly. Here's the heel that finally emerged from my efforts. It used 36 of 60 sts (leaving 24 sts as the instep).

That looks OK, doesn't it. We'll go for the bulls-eye effect next time.

In other news, Perugino is making healthy progress. It will be spectacular when it's blocked and I can't wait to see it. In the meantime, it's keeping its real beauty hidden, as this pretty but crumpled river of fabric flows from the needles:
Soon.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Let's fix this pattern: Nautical Button Sweater

After I finished playing with my Moonglow swatch, I returned to my Perugino throw and put a few inches on it. It was pleased. It is a bit awkward to knit because it's large and needs thick needles, but it grows quickly. Photos soon.

After I'd knit enough Perugino to need a change, I looked around for my Priorities List and realised I had better crack on with that Nautical Button Sweater, now I've started it.

It might be a pain because I have to recalculate the pattern, but I'll give it my best shot and record my experiments here.

Materials:
  • Two sleeves, knit to size 1. The sleeves are cast off, but I'm prepared to frog the messy raglan 'decreases' so I could recalculate the length of the raglan slope, the number & spacing of decreases, and finished length of sleeve, from the point where you cast off 3 stitches at each end to start the decrease.
  • One pattern, untrustworthy.
  • Needles: 2.75mm for the smaller size, 3.25mm for the larger.

Objective:

  • Design & knit matching back & front pieces to fit both self & existing sleeves.

Method:

  • Check gauge of knitted sleeves. 20 sts x 10cm in beige, 19 sts in blue.
  • Check finished measurements of sleeves.
  • I cast on 46 sts for ribbing. Cuff width at cream ribbing: a comfortable 23cm.
  • At armpit start of raglan, I had 52 sts in blue yarn OTN. Width of sleeve at armpit: 27.5cm.
  • Length of ribbed cuff: 3.5cm.
  • Length of sleeve between cuff & raglan: 41.5cm
  • Length of raglan, perpendicular to top: 16cm
  • Design back
  • Calculate number of stitches for bust. Fullest width across back/front chest is to be 46cm. Most of bust is in blue yarn, so 19sts to 10cm, ie 87sts ideally.
  • Ribbing is one stitch *wider* than the main knitting at its widest point. Pattern is k2, p2 rib and needs to begin and end with k2 on the RS. That means the total number of stitches to cast on needs to be divisible by 2, but not 4. Settle on 86sts (that's 21 sets of k2p2 rib, and finish with a k2).
  • The main knitting will therefore be 85sts wide.
  • Note that pattern shows fullest width pattern across hips is the same as the bust width, so use 85 sts here too.
  • Pattern graph for back/front piece shows all waists as 5cm narrower than bust/hips. This would give an all-around waist measurement as 10cm or 4" narrower than the bust. In my case, that would be 32" around, or 81cm around. The narrow waist of each back/front piece shoud therefore measure about 41cm for comfort, and that's equivalent to 77 stitches. For the waist shaping, then, I'll have to reduce 85sts to 77, and that sounds like 4 rows of decreases, one at each end of the row.
  • Design raglan shaping. Hmm, that part can wait. I notice from the pattern graph that the raglan top of the back/front is supposed to be 16cm high, same as the sleeves. Makes sense so far.
  • Decide on a total back length, neck to cuff. Lengthwise, I think size 1 in the pattern graph looks OK. 52cm in all. 16cm is neck to armpit & bust (the raglan bit). From there we have 36cm in length down to the bottom cuff, so let's place the waist exactly at the halfway mark, 18cm in, like the pattern graph suggests.
  • Work out how much to cast on by adjusting the pattern instructions to get to 85sts:
  • Using smaller needles, and beige, CO 86 sts. Do 3.5cm of ribbing, change to larger needles, decrease one st on the knit row to get to 85sts. Purl one row & change to blue.
  • Place decreases from hip to waist. We want to knit stripes and work in decreases as we go, identifying four decrease rows between hip and waist. We want to knit 14.5cm of fabric after the ribbing to get to the waist. Time to check the row gauge. On striped fabric, it averages at 29rows to 10cm. So, to knit 14.5cm of fabric is going to take about 42 rows of knitting (and we've already done two, in beige).
  • Try a decrease row every 9 rows in after the ribbing. Row 9 (dc to 83sts); Row 18 (dc to 81sts); Row 27 (dc to 79sts); Row 36 (dc to 77sts); knit to row 42: the waist (increases begin on the waist row).
  • Place increases from waist to bust. We want to knit in stripes again and increase as we go, identifying four increase rows to get the stitch count back up to 85. This time, we have 18cm of fabric in which to get there. That's going to take about 52 rows of knitting. The waist row is the first increase row.
  • Row 1: waist row: inc 1 sts each edge (79sts).
  • Row 13: inc to 81sts. Row 26: inc to 83sts. Row 39: inc to 85sts. Knit to row 52 & prepare to cast off for the raglan.

OK, that's all for now. I can think some more about the raglan shaping when I get there. I think that's enough for now to let me get started on making the back.

Sorry for such a boring post! It's useful for me to have these instructions to myself available online. Hopefully this will soon generate some new knitting for me to show you.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Squishy Surprise: Patons Moonglow

I've been away travelling the last three weeks: no photos to show you (I didn't think you'd appreciate shots of huge motorways, chain hotels & office blocks). I am sure Indianapolis, Detroit & Tampa are all great places if you have time to take a look around or do anything that's not work, but this time work was all I did and it doesn't photograph that well. Still, as you've seen, I made some progress on those sweater sleeves which I took to play with in my various hotel rooms.

So, I arrive home and as well as a bunch of bills, there's an unexpected squishy parcel, and we all know what that means. I assumed it was somethiing I'd ordered ages ago from Angel Yarns and forgotten about, but no! Thrillingly, it was yarn and a nice letter from Knit Today magazine, informing me that I was one of 30 winners of some new Patons Moonglow yarn, having entered a competition a couple of months ago. Eight balls: enough to make a shrug.


Moonglow is 83% acrylic, 15% wool, 2% polyester, which I guess means it's machine-washable! Recommended needle size 6.5mm. Here's a little swatch (I'm supposed to be at the supermarket, but I couldn't resist):


I'm by no means committed to making this shrug. If I were to make it, I'd have some fastening other than the tassels, which I don't like. Maybe a cord with beads, maybe some sort of button band or a brooch. I can think of things I could do to give it bit more personality but still, am I going to wear it? Maybe not, and that's fine. We're only swatching. I've started to realise that swatching is not a chore, it is a completely legitimate way to have fun with yarn, despite other WIPs waiting, because if it's a swatch, it's not properly Cast On and therefore Doesn't Count as taking time away from those needy WIPs.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Do Phildar designers write their patterns on acid?

Crikey, the last couple of weeks have been very slow on the knitting front. Regular readers will have guessed that work has taken over. I now know what it's like to work 14- and 15-hour days on a regular basis, and I can no longer remember what it's like to have a weekend at home. So, taking this into account, it is a small miracle that we now have a second sleeve for the Phildar Nautical Button Sweater. Behold.

Eventually, this will be a really nice sweater. However, I'm glad it's not the first I've ever knitted as the Phildar pattern is very strange. Maybe the fact that the pattern was written in French and then translated by Phildar into English is part of the problem. However, the language barrier should not affect their ability to count, should it?!

Just for the record, then, here are some of my doubts about this pattern.

1. Shaping at the top of the sleeves

As you see from the photo above, this sweater has raglan sleeves. If you look closely, you might be able to see that the slope of the raglan sleeve kind of 'squares off' for a few centimetres right at the top. The slope turns into a piece with straight edges, 16sts wide and about 6 rows deep. The way Phildar writes the instructions, it sounds like once you have decreased down to 16sts, you're done. And the graph of the sleeve shown in the pattern gives the same impression, as though there's a perfectly smooth slope produced by the decreasing, and then cast off. Having had a lot of gauge issues with this project, I went to the trouble of writing down every line of the decrease instructions, and comparing that against the required vertical gauge (28rows to 10cm). What I found is, when you get to 16sts, you still need to knit *at least* 6 more rows and possibly up to 8 (that is, about 2.5cm more) to reach the required length of 16cm from the start of the raglan shaping to the cast-off. I am suspicious. I think that when I come to sew up, I'll find the straight-edge bit shouldn't be there, and that the sleeve is about 2.5cm too long. I am prepared to frog the top when the time comes.


2. "On each edge cast off 1 st"

Can they be serious? Now, I am not the world's most experienced sweater-knitter so I have been taking Phildar's word for it so far, but I suspect that yet more frogging of the raglan bit may ensue. Someone tell me if I'm wrong, but *surely*, if you want a nice, smooth line on your raglan sleeve, you need to reduce the number of stitches by *decreasing* (eg, k2tog) at each end of the row, preferably one stitch in from the edge. Not by *casting off* a stitch at the outer edge of the row. Look at the lumpy, jagged edge this is producing:

It's like the Rocky Mountains. The sides of these raglan bits need to be stitched to some beige-coloured strips and the whole thing is going to be very visible when the garment is on. Here's a close-up of the pattern model, if you've forgotten what we're aiming for:

Look how smooth and tidy those raglan edges are. Am I really going to be able to convert my Rocky Mountain cast-offs into that? I have serious doubts. I might end up frogging the whole of the raglan bit of the sleeve and doing it again, using k2tog decreases instead of cast-offs. Cast-off just can't be right, can it? I am about to start knitting the back of this sweater and I am so bothered by this that I might just override Phildar's instructions and start doing decreases instead of cast-offs, except where it's blindingly obvious that a cast-off is needed. I am normally cautious about thinking that 'I know better' (many a knitting disaster lies down that road) but on this occasion I just can't believe I'm going to get anything tidy out of the current mess.


3. Converting inches into centimetres shouldn't be hard!

I had a go at starting the back of this sweater last night and it is already frogged. Stupid Phildar. OK, they might not be the best at translating between English and French words but they should be able to use a tape measure. Check this out: my sleeves are Size 1 in the pattern (that is, 34-36" bust). I'm 36" and I don't want this sweater baggy, hence choosing Size 1. The sleeves seem like they're going to be fine for width (there's a bit of Rocky Mountain shaping in the sleeve seams too, thanks Phildar, but I'm not going to worry too much about that now, I'll see if I can disguise it when I sew up). So the sleeves are basically OK for size if you ignore the above problems. So, when I came to start making the back of the sweater, I naturally chose Size 1. After knitting for a while, completing the ribbing and a couple of blue stripes, I realised this back was going to come out tiny. Size of a small child. I wondered if I had put on a ton of weight without noticing, so out came the tape measure and - I still have a 36" bust. Back to the pattern to check. The pattern graph informs me that a Size 1 sweater back should measure 41cm across, which is at least consistent with the number of stitches they tell you cast on, if you don't mind a bit of stretching. But 41cm can't be right! Who are they kidding? If anyone from Phildar is reading this, and I might insist they do, here is the Maths for Dummies.

A 36" circumference is roughly equivalent to 92cm. So the back of the sweater, being half the circumference, should equal 46cm, not 41.

And, for the record, if you were to make a front and back measuring 41cm across, that would be 82cm in total, which is equivalent to a 32" bust.

I am not pleased. If Phildar can get their measurements wrong by a whopping four inches around the bust, then I no longer have any faith in them, or this pattern. I feel like I'm going to have to make it up as I go along, and I sense more trouble ahead. Grr.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

PNB Sweater: First Sleeve

Admire this, if you will.

It is the first sleeve of my forthcoming Phildar Nautical Button Sweater.

You may be thinking there's plenty wrong with this. Clearly, the tension is a tad inconsistent. Not all the stripes are exactly the same width. However, I must tell you that the very existence of this sleeve is something of a triumph, given the amount of measuring, ripping back and re-knitting it entailed. I am proud to say that it measures exactly 26cm wide, 57.5cm in length not counting the rib, and 16cm in length from the start of the raglan decreases.

The bloody sleeve, it was a nightmare actually. I worked my way up and down every size of needle in my collection. It turns out I can get the required horizontal gauge of 17.5sts to 10cm on just about any size needle there is (how? I wish I knew), but as for achieving the correct vertical gauge of 28 rows to 10cm - well, that was a very protracted process of trial and error.

I eventually concluded that I'm going to knit this sweater on 3.25mm needles for the main body and 2.75mm for the ribbing (that's 0.25mm smaller than the pattern recommends). I need to tell you that knitting heavy, aran-weight cotton on 3.25mm needles is really hard work. My wrists ache. Surely 4.5-6mm needles would have been more predictable for aran-weight yarn? I can't believe Phildar designed a pattern that makes you force thick, heavy cotton through such disproportionately small needles. If you are wondering, yes, the fabric is dense and even a bit stiff. But sod it, the sleeve is, at last, exactly the dimensions specified in the pattern so I am just going to go with it and see what happens.

I know one thing, I need to rest my wrists before I attempt the next piece. It might be back to socks for a little while for me.