Category Archives: cables

In which I am the boss of my own knitting

After a brief glorious couple of days over the holidays of “knitting whatever the hell I want, please and thank you very much,” then a bit more after rounding up a few deadline projects, I’ve been able to go back to the beautiful Gwendolyn sweater I’ve had going on since, well, for far too long. I love the colour, the pattern is gorgeous, Fiona Ellis is a skilled and trustworthy designer, and let’s face it, I would love a new knitted cardi in my closet. This is all of the good.

This weekend as I pulled it out for a few more spells of working away on the back piece, I was starting to admire the cable repeats now that I could see them unfolding and they were starting to feel fluid. (I don’t know about you, but I eventually tend to get to a point with cables where the chart meshes with my brain and I only need to glance at it every so often. I love it when that happens.)

Jan9-GwendolynBack

But you know, the more I looked at the unfolding work for the back piece, the more I started to doubt my choice of size. The more I worked away, the more it just seemed like it was coming out too small. I tugged at it every so often. “You swatched for this,” my brain argued. “You did the calculations based on your gauge, and it’ll all be fine. It relaxes a bit after washing.” I kept on knitting, and tugged at it a bit more every few rows. “You can block the snot out of it,” my brain reasoned next. “It’ll be fine, you can make it fit even if it does turn out too small.”

I knitted for a bit more, and then when I pulled it out this morning for another look, I realized that I had two choices: Keep knitting, and possibly develop a constant eye twitch worrying until the very last minute about whether it will fit me like I want, or, I could rip it out and start the back over again in the next size up. I thought about it for about five point three seconds, and, well…

I went with door number two.

Jan9-GwendolynRestart

This is, of course, flying in direct defiance of the extremely rational and gauge-swatch-based decision I made a few months ago back when I started this sweater (dear God this is taking me forever, I need to step on it), at which point I reasoned that since my stockinette gauge was looser than the pattern, that I could knit a smaller size that I needed to, and get the size that I wanted. And it’s a well-reasoned argument to be sure, but neglects the fact that I swatched in stockinette and the entire back piece is completely composed of cables, not stockinette. My gut made the final call. Swatch vs. gut – who will win?

Well truthfully, I’m not sure, but I’ve had to keep so much of my brain free for so many other knitting decisions lately, that I’m willing to give it a break on this one and err on the side of possibly too big, than possibly too small. TAKE THAT, KNITTING. I am the boss of you, and I shall take the consequences.

And um, maybe stock up on chocolate. (You never know.)

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Filed under cables, fearless knitting, swatching

Neglected but not forgotten

As a Christmas Day and Boxing Day treat I gifted myself with some time to knit on whatever I wanted, and went back to pick up my poor neglected Gwendolyn cardigan. I started this back in September and had almost gotten both sleeves finished before getting side-tracked with other things, and I miss it. I love the teal blue and the fun cables, and also, I want the finished sweater.

Anyway, some time between the post-brunch food coma and the pre-dinner snacking food coma, I looked down at the second sleeve as I was merrily progressing on the sleeve cap, and realized that something wasn’t quite right. I had, as it turns out, missed not one but two cable twists in a row, on the same cable. So I isolated the exact 5 stitches in question, ripped them down to the point where the first twist should have been…

Dec27-GwendolynSleeve

…and then immediately went and cast on for the back. I’ll get to the cable fix later. Maybe my 2012 self would enjoy that. My 2011 self will continue in cabley denial for a bit and whirr along with the body. La la la. (FYI, if you’re wondering how exactly a person does that, Steph has an awesome photo tutorial on two ways to fix a mis-crossed cable. It works, it really really does.)

Dec27-Gwendolyn

I hope you’re all keeping well and that you have some nice gifts and treats to keep you company! I’ll be back next post with my last wee designs to ring out 2011 with, and will be pleased to show them off to you. Happy knitting in the final days of the year.

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Filed under cables, fearless knitting

Edgewater Cardigan

I can’t tell you how happy I am that it is finally cold enough to not only wear hand-knits, but to enjoy wearing hand-knits. I admit I am not at all the sort of person who rejoices over +17C temperatures in November. I’m a knitter, darn it, and I like being able to snuggle down into the yarny results of my labours. With that said, I’m pleased to have been wearing this sweater the last week – the sweater which I am happy to show off to you today as a new design. It’s what I wore on the Saturday at Rhinebeck this year and it’s a cozy cardigan for sure. Edgewater is available on Patternfish and my Ravelry store, and debuts at a slight sale price for the month of November.

Edgewater2b

This is a sweater that I designed as I went along, starting with some deliciously soft wool (Manos Maxima – very similar to Malabrigo Worsted), and a wide looping cable running up along the sleeves. By the time I got to the body I had the rest of it figured out – the cables repeat up the back, and are joined by some tinier cable twists up alongside the edge of the button-band. I also threw on some pockets, which I think may well be my favourite detail of the whole thing. I like having that little extra spot to hide things I’m carrying with me – or even just to slide in my iPod while sitting at the cafe.

EdgewaterPocket

The sweater is worked from the bottom-up, and the sleeves and body are joined in one piece for raglan shaping at the yoke. There is shaping at the waist, and a slight shawl collar for just a touch more comfort – however, in the instructions I note that a plain button-band could easily be worked and the shawl collar omitted. Because this is worked on a field of ‘reverse stockinette’ – i.e. the purl side of the stockinette shows on the Right Side of the work – all of the decreases on the body are worked on the Wrong Side, or the knit side. I’d much rather ask you to do k2tog and ssk than p2tog and ssp. Those ssp decreases can be fiddly, and I have no shame in admitting I like to avoid them if I can.

EdgewaterSleeve

I am extremely grateful to Melissa Jaarsma, who took the beautiful modelled shots you see here, while we were at Rhinebeck. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, and she went snap-snap-snap and before you knew it we had these lovely pictures you see here. I think this might be the most I’ve ever liked myself in photos. I also owe a note of thanks to Jaya Purswani for the technical editing on this pattern. Thank you, ladies, for your helpful work!

Nov21-Edgewater2

I’ll offer one last note on the yarn selection for this pattern, for any eager would-be knitters! Manos Maxima (and Malabrigo Worsted, the nearest substitute for this) are wonderfully soft and a joy to work with. They are single-spun ultra-fine merino that is pretty much like knitting with kittens. However, when a yarn gives so much in comfort and softness, it tends to neglect sturdiness and hard wearing. So, feel free to choose accordingly and go with a plied yarn or hardier wool, if that would serve you better! This is worked at a pattern gauge of 18 sts/4 ins, so a variety of worsted or Aran yarns would be suitable.

DSC_3478

And if you are a sweater knitter or no, I wish you a happy Monday (that’s also known as Happy Castle Day, if you’re me), with possibly a refreshing beverage also. I’ll catch up with you again later in the week, with more knitting to be done.
Happy knitting!

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Filed under cables, design, finished object: sweater, sweaters

And then you get a sweater

Between late January and early April I worked on the Dusseldorf Aran, as a brightly coloured respite from the winter and a “someone else’s pattern” respite from my own design work. I enjoyed it. I would have liked to have finished it a bit sooner, and gotten some winter wear out of it this past season, but I’m pleased enough that it will be waiting for me in my closet come October.

May8-Dusseldorf4

It’s a lovely pattern (Fiona Ellis, for Interweave Knits Winter 2009), and the pleated sleeves are completely fun. Granted, they are also a bit less practical, and this won’t be a sweater to wear while, say, washing dishes in the sink, but it’ll be a nice warm and dressy sweater all the same. The yarn is Ultra Alpaca from Berocco, in a stubbornly bright magenta shade that I found at Stitch in Jordan Station, Niagara, last year. I brought the pattern and materials with me to the Vogue Knitting Live event just to use as a reference for a sweater class with Anne Hanson, and then back in my hotel room later on I thought, “you know, I actually want that sweater. I will cast on right now!” So I did. I made a few modifications – lengthening the torso by about an inch and a half or so, lowering the neckline slightly, and adjusting to a smaller size than normal to account for my slightly looser gauge than what the pattern called for. It worked out well.

May8-Dusseldorf5

I hear a lot from knitters who consider sweaters to be in the “wow that’s hard, one day I’ll do that” category. And I get it – a sweater is a commitment. This is more time and yarn than many other kinds of projects. But it’s all incremental. Casting on – check your gauge, check your measurements and size. Choose where you’re going to modify the pattern, if you have to. (Hint: your body may not be the same body as the one in the pattern schematic.) Then move on to the hem, then the decreases, and before you know it you’ve finished the body and are moving onto the sleeves.

Then the finishing looms, but then you do it and when you’ve sewn up the seams and woven in any ends, then you have a sweater. I often think the reason I procrastinate the most on the finishing stage (seriously, it could be a single skein shawl with only 2 ends to weave in, and I’ll leave it for a week until I get around to sewing them in), is because then the project isn’t a project any more, it’s a garment and I don’t get to knit it any more. Which is odd since I actually really love getting to move on and choose the next project, but I suppose it’s some weird way that my subconscious says “hey, you LIKE the knitting part, remember? Let’s make it last longer!”

May8-Dusseldorf2

Anyway, I like sweaters. Socks and other accessories have colonized so much of my knitting in the last year or two that sweaters often get left aside, and I would like to knit more of them. Really, they are the best example of knitted satisfaction – in a sea of commercially-made sweaters that don’t fit you exactly right and aren’t made in the materials you prefer or the colours you might choose for yourself, the knitted sweater is the best example I can think of, of knitters wielding their power to make their closet more satisfying. Heck, I bet Tim Gunn just wishes he had a shelf full of handknit sweaters. It sometimes takes a sweater or two to get there – like anything else in knitting, the first results are often less than perfect. But it doesn’t mean you can’t get there with a little effort.

So if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go have a visit with my stash and ponder more sweaters. Who cares that summer is around the corner? Happy Monday!

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Filed under cables, finished object: sweater, sweaters

It’s both, damnit

Last Saturday during my Toronto day, I met up with Austen for lunch and knitting time, and among other things the conversation drifted towards that ubiquitous question of being a process knitter or a product knitter. She came down firmly on the side of product knitting, for herself – she wants the finished thing, to wear and use and immediately integrate into her wardrobe. I agreed that I have product knitter tendencies, though often in a very different way. I always want to be able to wear the finished thing, but mostly I want to just finish the thing; I like having it done and knowing that it is complete, successful, and something to check off my list as done before being able to move onto something else. (Side note: maybe what I really love isn’t the Finished Product feeling, but the Being Able To Start A New Project feeling? Hmm.)

But at the same time, I can’t shrug off the process. I love knitting, and I especially love knitting that isn’t boring. I need to reach for something that’s going to engage my mind in some way, even if it’s a repeating 2-row pattern or a ribbed sock that makes me stop and work heels and toes every so often. I like knitting that asks a little something of me.

I mean, why else would I not only design a pattern with stabby twisty tiny cables for Kim’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer yarn, but then go on to knit the pattern not once, not twice, but three times? That’s definitely process and product working together. I love working the cables, but darn it all I want to show them off, too.

April15-Staked3b

It’s true. I did one as a test sample, one as the real sample, and then this third pair here as a variation. In the pattern instructions I let people know that one way to modify the sock is to omit the swooshy diagonal across the instep, and simply continue the leg cable chart all the way down the front of the foot. It produces a more classic look and is possible a bit more versatile for both men and women looking for some cabled sock action. So I decided to actually go ahead and do that myself, and snagged another skein of Kim’s Merino Sock (you can’t have just one), and cast on. This deep purple is lovingly named ‘Edward Discovers Wood Chippers Make Excellent Juicers.’

April15-Staked4d

Same delicious stake-through-the-heart cables as in the original pattern, just more of them to love. And they are toasty and comfy to wear. I’m glad I finally got around to sewing up the toes on these babies, because spring’s the perfect time to show off new socks – no longer buried under boots, but still cool enough to need the layer.

As luck and timing would have it, the pattern is now available not just to Indigodragonfly club members (I did this pattern for the October 2010 installment), but in the form of a kit. (The pattern will be available individually through wide release in my Ravelry and Patternfish stores, as of June 15th.)

No matter what you’re knitting on this weekend, I hope you enjoy both product and process! Happy Friday.

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Filed under cables, design, finished object: socks

Piecing together

On Saturday I had a blissful escape day into Toronto, to do some big city shopping and knitterly mingling. It was so great I’m planning a repeat this coming weekend, and made even more appealing by the fact that outside temperatures are showing actual warmth. (That whole plan to knit mittens and dare spring to come seems to be working).

Apr7-DusseldorfAran

So, naturally, now that spring is coming, I’m finishing a sweater. I’ve been working on the Dusseldorf Aran (pattern by Fiona Ellis) off and on for about two and a half months now, mixed in with all the other miscellaney of knitting and regular life, and it’s been a lovely colour of Ultra Alpaca and the cables are great. The pieces are finished now, and it’s just the blocking and finishing left to do. I’ve been hemming and hawing a bit over whether or not the pleated sleeve cuffs (in progress, below), will be practical in my wardrobe (I imagine this will not be a sweater conducive to, say, washing dishes in the sink), and I see on Ravelry that other knitters have modified their Dusseldorfs to be simple straight tapering sleeves as is more traditional. But the thing is, the pleats are actually sort of fun. You knit, of course, way more fabric than you think you need on a sleeve cuff, plan in some fold lines (thanks, Fiona, for the awesome instructions), and then the pleating row comes along and you fold it all up with DPNs and do a lot of working 3 sts into one, and then you have a pleated cuff. That’s pretty great, man.

Apr3-DusseldorfSleeves

I’d gotten up to finishing the body and the first sleeve last week, but was dragging my feet on starting the second sleeve, as one does. Still, I took it as an alternate project with me for transiting into the city (sleeves are eminently portable, as Elizabeth Zimmerman always said) last Saturday.

Therefore, if I’d actually been working on the sleeve while I was sitting knitting away at the random Starbucks I chose to start out my Toronto day last Saturday, it would have been much more perfect when I ended up running into Fiona Ellis herself.

Apr2-FionaEllis

True story. She and her husband (who is just lovely and whose name, I am embarrassed to say, I have now forgotten, I keep wanting to say John but I’m sure that’s not going to be right), were out for Saturday coffee and we ended up chatting for a short while, about knitting and technique and design and all sorts of things. That was pretty darned neat, to say the least. I will, needless to say, now expect to have impromptu coffee chats with notorious knitters on every trip into Toronto, so if the city can get on that for this coming Saturday, that’d be great.

(Oh, and Fiona said blocking makes the pleats even more awesome. Can’t wait.)

Happy knitting!

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Filed under cables, knitting in public, sweaters

On the subject of things that are challenging

 

Mar11-Staked3

In the mean time, I’ve been spending a bit of thought and energy going back to the whole technique of cabling without a cable needle. It’s a favourite technique of mine, knitting-wise, and one that I use and encourage a great deal through my designs. (Hint: I am probably not stopping with the cables in the designs, any time soon.) And I directly point out how this works in this blog post from the fall, with a step-by-step set of photos demonstrating a left-leaning and right-leaning cable.

I don’t think everyone needs to know how to do this, in the same way that I don’t think that any kind of technique is required knowledge for knitting. We are all capable people and we do things as we please, and there is rarely only one single way of accomplishing something in knitting world. But I do think that being able to do this greatly increases your chances of working cables efficiently and quickly, if you don’t have to reach for the cable needle every single time, especially if you are working a pattern that asks you to work several cable twists over a row, every other row. (Um, not that I would know anything about that. Heh. ::coughcough::) And this is one way of working cables that I like a lot.

There are a few basic steps to this that have to do with what cables are and how they are constructed, that may help you to wrap your head around this technique in case you are still struggling with it.

1. All cables or cable twists involve 2 things:
a) the addition of a twist or directional turn in the knitting, that moves one or more stitches in one direction, in the foreground of the work, over top of one or more stitches that move in the opposite direction, in the background of the work.

b) working the stitches in some combination of knitted and purl stitches. In the cases where all stitches are knitted, this is usually referred to as a cable, i.e. C4L is a cable twist leaning to the left over 4 sts, where all sts are knitted. T4L is a cable twist leaning to the left, involving knitted stitches leaning to the left over a background of purl sts.

Some examples of cable notations that all lean to the right might be like so:

Left Cables and Twists

And similarly, all of the following lean to the left:

Right Cables and Twists

In other words, the action of making the twist to the left or to the right is always the same, regardless of how many total sts are being worked. What may differ, however, is whether or not all the sts are worked as knits, or some as knits and some as purls. So…

2. This also means that, although I am working all of these in English style and not Continental (i.e. ‘throwing’ the yarn with the right hand instead of ‘picking’ with the left), you can work the twist like this regardless of whether you are an English or Continental knitter. Just do the twist in the required direction, then work the sts.

3. When you’re working this technique without a cable needle, the only thing that really matters is that you are working these steps in 1a and 1b in sequence: First you make the twist, then you work the sts according to the pattern.

So, all you need to ask yourself when working a cable is: Is this leaning to the left or to the right? And then; Which ones do I knit (or knit through the back loop – ktbl – as the case may be, as here), and which do I purl?

I decided to add to this whole cabling tutorial experience with a video demonstration, because as helpful as photos are, it’s easier for some people to simply see this live in 3D action. So I’ve taken the liberty of doing just that, and as it turns out I like to blather about this so much that I had to divide it up into 3 segments. Part 1 (above) involves some general explanation of the cables and twists (as I do some of here in this post), and also demonstrates a right-leaning cable.

Part 2 (below) adds to the demo by showing several right-leaning and left-leaning cables and twists. All of these are over 2 sts, but the technique would be the same for cables over 4 or 6 sts. After about 8 sts I jump back to the cable needle, it’s just easier that way. (Spoiler alert, in this clip you also see me fixing a couple of boo-boos as I go, re-knitting an unknitted stitch and so forth, from the RH needle. Knitting in front of a camera is tricky, yo.) I also refer to the need for a bit of relaxation while working this technique, to avoid a death grip and hand/arm strain.

And then, in Part 3 (below), I put this all together and just plain work a full needle’s worth of stitches including several cable twists to the left and to the right.

All of this asks you to be comfortable with having some sts that are temporarily live (off a needle). This can sometimes be a bit terrifying if you’re new to it, but it also happens pretty quickly. The worst that could happen is that you drop a stitch in the process, and heck, if you do that, all you have to do is go and remember your Knitting 101 and remember how to pick it up again. (See that? See how I calmly breezed past that? Lalalala you can too.)

Finally, because I know people might ask – I’m demonstrating all of this on a pair of Staked socks, and the pattern will be available from Indigodragonfly Yarns as a kit in mid-April, and as a wide release pattern from me in June. (I’ll be sure to let you know when that all happens.) Also, the knitting back in the background is one of Jennie Gee’s, happily snatched from the Knitty City booth at the Vogue Knitting Live event in NYC. I love her stuff.

Anyhoozle, there you have it. More endorsement for cabling without a cable needle. (And, um, probably not my last). Stay tuned until next time, when I may actually have more cabled knitting progress to report. Those sleeves on the Dusseldorf Aran aren’t going to knit themselves.

Happy knitting!

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Filed under cables, demo, design, fearless knitting, tutorial