Monthly Archives: August 2011

On not getting gauge (and being OK with it)

Yesterday I met up for lunch with Austen, and was ready to cast on for Gwendolyn at the same time. (Because, you know, I didn’t have enough to knit already.) Austen has already been zipping along on hers for a few weeks, aiming to be done before she goes off on a trip in mid-September. Mine will not be done by mid-September, but I promised all the same wayyyy back in March or so, that if she wanted to knit that sweater then I would too, in a sort of two-person knitalong. And fall’s coming soon, and one can never have too many nice knitted sweaters (I’m knitting mine as a cardigan), so I was game.

I swatched up for it last week, with some trusty Cascade 220 I bought in Kingston at Wool-Tyme back in June (I can never resist Cascade 220 when it’s on sale), and was surprised to discover I was very close to pattern gauge at 19.5 sts/4 ins on 4.5mm needles over stockinette, where the pattern requests 20 on 5.0mm. Then, I washed and blocked it. (Because I intend to wash and block the sweater.)

Aug29-Swatch1

Post-washing, my gauge changed to 18 sts/4 ins. I would have been disappointed except for the fact that I have always always always since the beginning of time gotten 18 sts/4 ins on Cascade 220 on 4.5mm. It’s important to make sure, though, just in case, because for all I know that changed since the last time I checked. So you would think this would be the point where normally a person would have to make a decision about what needle size to re-swatch with to get closer to pattern gauge, but actually, I’m good to go. I like the stockinette fabric I’m getting with that needle, and to go down any more snug would probably mean the cabled fabric will wear like iron and stand on its own, so I’ll stay here.

As it turns out, sticking with 18 sts/4 ins and making a size smaller than what I would have made at pattern gauge, will get me the size that I actually want in the end. (I even did the math on that. It all checks out. Take THAT, gauge! You are not the boss of me!) And it also so happens that Austen had the same experience and is proceeding with the exact same plan, and so far that’s turning out well for her.

I’ve cast on with the first sleeve – just in case of problems, it’s a lot easier to rip out a sleeve than to rip out and re-start the whole body – and lickety split I’ve got little sleeves for my portable transit knitting.

What fall knits are you hoping to cast on for soon?

Happy knitting until next time!

16 Comments

Filed under swatching, sweaters

Just one more row

Like other specialized techniques in knitting, I know stranded colour-work often gets a reputation. It looks so impressive as a finished result that, if you’ve never done it before, it’s easy to hesitate. And I get that, I mean, it does take a bit of concentration to get into it, and if you’re only used to knitting with one colour at a time, knitting with two colours at once can be a little daunting.

But if you ask me, this isn’t the true challenge of stranded colour-work. Once you figure out how it goes and get a bit of practice at it, you’re all good to go and can start using it on projects as big as blankets or as small as mittens. You can go as fine as laceweight and knit yourself some Sanqhar gloves, or go chunky on a Cowichan style cardigan. No no, the real challenge isn’t learning how to do it.

The real challenge is figuring out how to put it down.

Aug25-Longbottom2

I’m so sorry, Other Sweater That Is So Close to Being Finished. And Pair of Socks and Yarns Waiting Ever So Patiently To Be Swatched, I owe you an apology as well. Dearest Yarn Purchased At Sock Summit, well, I’m very sure I meant all those sweet things I said to you about all the good times we were about to have with each other. I’m going to get to you all really really soon.

I just have to knit a few more rows on this colour-work cardigan and then I’ll TOTALLY be right with you.

Really.

…Well okay. Probably.

(Relatedly: progress on the Longbottom cardigan is going well. More on the rest soon enough! Happy knitting today.)

25 Comments

Filed under colour-work, design, fair isle

Highness

I’ve been visiting Edmonton this weekend, spending some time with relatives and also taking in the Fringe festival (both plays and the street fair – lots of fun), and even a visit to the local drop-in knitting at River City Yarns. It’s been a diverting weekend, but also with very little online connection time. And I’ve been meaning to introduce my other recent sock pattern to you, and thankfully this morning I managed to score a whole minute or two at the local Safeway’s Starbucks, so, huzzah! Blog posting time.

Back in the spring, the folks at Lorna’s Laces were so kind enough to send me a skein of their new sock yarn, ‘Solemate,’ to work on a pattern for it. It is a 100% lovely yarn to work with – same fine fingering weight as their tried and true Shepherd Sock, same beautiful colours as their other lines, and with one exceptional twist. It’s not just a merino/nylon sock yarn, but a merino/nylon/Outlast sock yarn! Apparently Outlast is the same fibre used for things like astronaut clothing. It regulates body temperature as you wear it. Well, all I can say is I would be happy to work with this again, and i’m pretty sure it’s going to make some lovely socks. Even the wound-up skein sort of felt cool to the touch on a hot day.

May30-Highness3

This beautiful pale colourway is called “Buckingham Fountain,” one of their new 2011 colourways. Based on that name, and the fact that the Royal Wedding was still fresh in my memory, I kept thinking, “royal, royal, royal…” and this sock was the result. The pattern is called Highness, and has the right kind of regal, delicate aesthetic I was going for. All the fancy work is in the front, down the instep of the sock…

May30-Highness2

…with a relatively simple and stable pattern repeating down the back of the leg, for balance. This does feature a few more twisted stitches and small cables, as is my wont (it’s just so hard to put down the twisted stitches, I think they’re hardwired into my brain now), although actually in a more modest fashion than in some of my previous designs. I think the motif comes together sort of like a royal crest hanging outside the palace gates – or so I was thinking as I designed it.

May30-Highness6

The pattern is available in my Ravelry store for $6, and also on Patternfish. I hope you enjoy it! I can tell that Solemate is going to be one of the new yarns to look out for (I may have to stash up a couple more skeins), and I look forward to working with it again. This is certainly a time for more sock knitting on the horizon, as fall creeps closer. I mean seriously, how did it get to be August 22nd? That’s almost a month since Sock Summit started! I’m not sure i’m ready for summer to be over.

Happy knitting until next time!

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Filed under design, finished object: socks

My multiple comparative gauge swatches bring all the boys to the yard

One of my projects this week has been getting design plans off the ground for the inspired-by-Neville fair isle cardigan, and it’s been great fun to map out. (Fair warning: if you’re looking for an exact copy of his Deathly Hallows sweater, this won’t be it. I will be leaning a bit closer to a true Shetland style sweater, and so won’t be including the pockets and hoodie, and will be varying the border and peerie patterns just a bit. But still, I can promise you it’s going to be awesome, I can feel it.)

I was happily swatching it up earlier in the week, getting a sense of the patterns and colour combinations – because as it turns out, even when you are using black, cream, and five shades of grey, you really do have to spend a bit of time getting it right. (I sort of think this is half the fun, but don’t tell anyone.)

Aug18-LongbottomSwatches

So anyhow, I had it nicely planned out and I liked the fabric I was getting at 8 sts to the inch. Then, I did a quick bit of math and realized that since this is going to be a men’s cardigan, therefore even the smallest size was going to have a cast-on number of nearly 300 sts.

Then, I cast on a new swatch, at 7.5 sts to the inch, and it turns out that fabric is still totally awesome and will save everybody a few dozen stitches at the cast-on. I’m thinking of you, dear knitters. It was totally worth it. Start practicing up your colour-work for fall, kids! (I can’t understand why the back-to-school television ads don’t lead with that, tsk.)

Stay tuned until next time, when I’ll have another sock pattern to formally introduce you to. I’ll be coming to you from Edmonton for the weekend, where I will sadly not be running the half marathon that was to be the purpose of the trip (SOB), but I shall have a friendly visit with relatives all the same.

Keep on knititng!

21 Comments

Filed under colour-work, design, fair isle, swatching

Colour toolboxes

Thank you all so much for the lovely feedback on my Firefly socks in my last post – it is always so reassuring to have knitter-geek solidarity. It’s been a sock-a-riffic summer so far, and still with a bit more summer time to go!

Another one of my ongoing projects this summer has been to spend time thinking about colour. I’m planning some colour-work designs in the fall and winter ahead, and in addition to sharpening my fair isle skills have been pondering colour theory and ways to practice colour knowledge in a compatible fashion with knitting. As much as has been written on colour theory, most of it assumes your medium is something mix-able, like paint or pastels, and I’ve been thinking about how to work through various ideas and colour brainstorming in yarn form. It’s also been neat to think through more ways of teaching this kind of thing, should future such opportunities come up.

Aug14-Crayons1

One suggestion I got from another instructor at the Haliburton Arts School in July (herself a painter) was to go and get the full 96 pack of Crayola crayons – it has a wider variety of hues than your average box of pencil crayons, and at a much friendlier price than most formal art supplies. It makes for easy graphing or colour-testing to check out colour combinations, when you want options for, say, magenta and periwinkle instead of just pink and blue. And the boxes still come with sharpeners inside! Ah, childhood memories.

Aug14-Crayons2

I do love that they wrap the crayons with the spectrum in mind – you can tell at a glance which colours belong to the blues or the violets, right when you’ve picked them up. I also find it interesting that the number of reds and violets, as well as blues and greens, far out-number the other shades. I suppose these must be the shades that kids reach for most often?

But then, there is still the question of the yarns themselves.

Aug15-PaletteColours

Inspired by a photo circulating on Pinterest which displayed embroidery floss on clothes-pin bobbins, I decided to create my own yarn “paintbox” with my colour-work yarn (here, Knit Picks Palette). I have so many colours to choose from if I were to start making selections for a design that it gets unwieldy to pull out all the yarn at once (those two big tubs are starting to get heavy…and overstuffed…oh yes, let’s definitely get some of that yarn into garment form!), but this way I can have them all in a box at a glance, and sort all the shades according to their hue.

It is the awesomest. If I want to look at, say, all the blue-greens, there they are! I think pretty soon my (smaller) Cascade 220 stash is going to get the same treatment.

Aug15-Palette2

Ah, colour. So much fun, so little time.

28 Comments

Filed under colour-work, design, fair isle, knitting knowledge, stash

Socks for big damn heroes

Ladies and gentlemen, I promised a full update when my new sock patterns were up for online consumption, and I’m pleased to finally do so!

Hi, I’m a geek. Have we met? I mean, sure I love artsy things, and inspiration can and does come from everywhere. But sometimes, my friends, that inspiration is television. I like television. I like other things, too, but you know, I like television. And I like talking about it. I never understand it when people watch a show every week and then don’t feel the urge to go blather about it (or via email, since, as established, I’m a geek) with a friend the next day. Working with said inspiration is also pretty easy when you are working with yarn dyed by friends who share said television geekery. Last winter I did some mitten patterns with Kim’s yarn, inspired by her Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer themed colourways, and this summer I’ve been at work on a few sock patterns which are all named for Firefly characters. (It took me a while to come around on Firefly, and why I should care to go watch a show that only lasted one season. Then I got the DVDs and discovered why. It’s awesome.)

The mittens and gloves came in a set of 3 (one for each weight of Merino/cashmere/nylon yarn), so somehow it seemed natural that the Firefly socks should also come in a set of 3. (one for each…kind of sock yarn? Sure!) So then I had to pick three characters to work with, and it turned out that was the easy part. I present to you, officially launched online, three Firefly-inspired sock patterns – all worked for 2 sizes, all designed with Indigodragonfly Yarns in mind. (If substituting, work with a yarn that will allow you to obtain the same gauge.) Each are available for individual sale on Patternfish and Ravelry, for $6. If you’re purchasing on Ravelry, you can get all 3 as a collection, for the price of 2. (Links below).

July25-Mal2

These are called “O Captain My Captain”, for Captain Malcolm Reynolds, and are worked in the most practical of sock yarns – superwash merino 2-ply. I love this yarn, it’s the same one I worked with for my “Staked” sock pattern last fall, and is very versatile. I envisioned these socks as being the ones as potentially for either men or women, so I wanted to keep the lines simple but still with a bit of excitement to them – much like Mal himself. But as noble as Mal is, he’s also a little bit broken and twisted, so that’s exactly what these cables do. There are instructions on how to “place” the cable breaks, and that placement is entirely up to you. You could break the same cable in the same place all the way down the foot, or alternate around the leg.

July25-Mal1

On Ravelry | On Patternfish

These are worked from the cuff down at a stockinette gauge of 8 sts/inch, on 2.5mm needles, and socks to fit up to a size 12 women’s or size 10 men’s foot should be fine with one 375 yds/100g skein of the Merino sock.

July25-Kaylee1

Next up is “Kaywinnit”, for Kaylee, who is most at home in the ship’s engine room but still longs for girlish frills and pink ruffles. So, I wanted a sock that would be relatively simple, but still with a bit of frills. I hope to have accomplished that with these, where there is a chevron/garter “ruffle” at the top of the cuff.

July25-Kaylee2

On Ravelry | On Patternfish

These are also cuff-down, and once you’re past the cuff it’s pretty smooth sailing with a knit-and-purl textured pattern down the rest of the foot, and if you’re lucky to snag some of the Shiny Sock (includes silver) while it’s still going, you can also look forward to a few sparkles! This sock yarn behaves a little more like sport-weight, so even on 2.5mm needles this pattern assumes a stockinette gauge of 7 sts/inch. If substituting yarns, look for something a little heavier than your usual sock yarn.

Finally, for the fanciest lady on the Firefly ship, these are called “Companion.” Plain socks wouldn’t do for Inara, I mean, have you seen the number of silk gowns she has to parade around in? No no, even just cables wouldn’t do. This gal needs some beads as well. So, after a few years of wanting to play with beads, I finally broke them out for Inara – this is my first beaded sock design.

July25-Inara4b

If you’re not inclined towards beads, they are easily omitted from this sock – and you’ll still have a few twisted cables to keep your interest – as they are placed with a crochet hook and not pre-strung. You’ll also need to pay attention to your “stopping place” with the beads, i.e. don’t go right to the toe. Stop placing the beads once you reach the point when your shoe is going to come into the picture. I have to say, though, I really like the elegance and extra bit of sparkle they add.

On Ravelry | On Patternfish

These are also worked cuff-down, and are the most advanced of this little collection, involving twisted-stitch cables as well as the bead placement. But if you’ve got experience with that sort of thing, you’ll find yourself getting into a rhythm pretty easily. They also assume a stockinette gauge of 8 sts/inch, and are worked using Indigodragonfly Merino/cashmere/nylon sock.

July25-Inara3

My goal with this little set of socks was to come up with a set of patterns that was not only consistent with the Firefly character aesthetics, but which also used a variety of techniques for a variety of skill levels or interests. Each pattern does something a little bit differently than the other. I hope you’ll find one (or two?) in there that sparks your interest!

These days, my needles are full of projects and ideas, so with any luck this fall will have more designs coming your way. Socks are for all occasion, but sweaters and other accessories are just the ticket for cool weather, so those are in the plans for sure.

I’ve also got to find something new for a regular not-designed-by-me project, so that’s something I’ll put my mind to in the next few days. Until next time, happy knitting!

18 Comments

Filed under design, fandom, socks

The spoils

As challenging as it is to fly west and suddenly find yourself awake and alert at 4am and later prying your eyes open with toothpicks so as to stay up long enough to take advantage of the nice company with your fellow knitter roommates who travelled only within their time zone to get to Sock Summit (lucky Vancouver people), I always find heading east to be a lot harder. The last few days I’ve spent the mornings and evenings in a sort of zombie like state, thus leaving the precious afternoon hours for anything involving actual brain work. (Other than regular knitting I’ve found other playing-with-yarn-on-little-brain-power activities to do, though, more on that later.)

For the first time in a while, though, I didn’t actually have all that much yarn to unpack and put away. My happy little bit of Sock Summit yarn looks like this, minus one skein of Socks That Rock lightweight and some very generous birthday skeins my friends gifted me with.

Aug10-SSyarn

I went looking for slightly heavier skeins this time, opting mostly for Socks That Rock mediumweight and a couple of sport-weight skeins. My STR mediumweight socks I did last winter turned out to be one of my favourites on the cold nights, and I want more sport-weight ribbed socks. Cozy comforts shall be mine!

I also saved back a bit of cash for non-yarn purchases, including my first actual mug from the Jennie the Potter booth. I missed her special Sock Summit ones, but I rather like the sheep on this one. And the mug works and everything, I tested it this morning with a latte, once I remembered how to work the machine and, you know, operate my neural cortex.

Aug10-Mug

But there’s another reason I didn’t bring home as much yarn. And that reason looks like this.

Aug10-Needles

I don’t know what happened. I spent all weekend saying that I didn’t need Signature needles, that my Addis and Knit Picks ones, and my old standby plastic-coated metal DPNs work just FINE, thank you. I didn’t need no stinking fancy Signature needles.

Then my roommates all chipped in together and bought me a set as a birthday present. And I tried them out. Then I went to the Signature booth and bought two more pairs. I regret nothing.

What’s the most fun knitting purchase you’ve made this summer? Even if it’s not at Sock Summit, there’s nothing like having new toys to play with!

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