Category Archives: fair isle

The Reckoning

Dear Elspeth,

I know that you’re probably very busy doing things like your “job” or important things in the “real world” or that you might even have “other knitting” to do besides work on Autumn Rose. Still, I am compelled to point out that I am knitting on Autumn Rose and so far, you are not, and here I was given to understand that were both in on this together. Fair Isle solidarity and all that jazz.

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Now, I feel that I’ve been pretty patient up until now. After zipping through most of the body I gave myself a bit of a break, allowed myself to be distracted by Cat Bordhi, even went off to a conference and did some “real world” stuff of my own.

But I’m back at the Autumn Rose knitting now, and have now reached the point where the sleeves join the body for work in the round, which puts me in the enviable position of knitting rounds which are only ever going to get shorter from here on out. And at great risk to my own knitting karma, I feel the need to point out that I am currently LEAVING YOU IN THE DUST. My wooly, stranded colourwork dust.

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At this point my only recourse is to keep knitting, knowing that at this rate I may well finish before you even start, and either a) take up heavy drinking in order to assuage my guilt, or b) dance around the house clutching my knitting calling “neener neener neener” in my best sing-songy voice. And both of those options are pretty much giving free reign to the knitting goddess to come strike me down with a sweater that doesn’t fit, or cause me to run out of a crucial colour an inch before the end, or plague me with horrible Knitter’s Elbow, or some other such retaliation.

C’mon, Elspeth. Lonely fair-isle knitting is soooo lonely. You know you wanna.

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Four months later

Back in January, as I embarked on the busiest and arguably my most stressful semester thus far, I started a pair of Sanquhar gloves. Because naturally, when you have lots of stress, the best response is to add a comparable amount of stress to your knitting. As it happens, I got about 75% through them in January but then set them aside for more portable projects, and they sat long enough by the wayside that I became worried they would enter the eternally despondent land of Unfinished Objects, never again to return to the friendly grove of Works in Progress.

Thankfully, this was not their fate. I picked them up again last week and finished the rest of the second glove, and lo, they are beautiful.

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Pattern: Sanquhar Gloves, instructions by Tata & Tatao, largely composed of a set of charts and a few English translations from Japanese. (You have got to love the modern knitting world wherein a centuries-old traditional Scottish knitted garment is re-interpreted through pattern instructions in Japanese, then re-fashioned into English translation.
Yarn: A Touch of Twist light fingering weight (270yds per 50g), in dark purple and pale teal, purchased at Rhinebeck 2008.
Needles: 2.0mm steel DPNs.

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The pattern actually directs you to use laceweight and 1.5mm needles – and don’t get me wrong I’d still love to try that – but this would have resulted in gloves too small for my own hands, and in any case I was looking for an excuse to use this bit of my Rhinebeck purchases. (I still have 2 balls of the same yarn remaining, in a pale purple and dark red. Hmmm). Overall it worked quite well, though somewhere between January and May I must have had a gauge shift, because the fingers on the 2nd glove turned out slightly bigger than the first. Happily, this is not very noticeable when they are worn, and in general the pair fit, well, like a glove. (Ho ho ho, I kill me).

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This is, to say the least, an adventurous pattern. One of the main challenges is that because the instructions are English translations from Japanese, they are relatively sparse. However, the charts are quite clear, and the Sanquhar knitting format leaves little room for maneuverability, which is good for interpretation – the ‘blocks’ format of the motif are all the same size and as long as you can keep this consistent, and work at a gauge that will produce a glove of the correct size for you, the pattern will work. Although this is my first time knitting colourwork at such a tiny gauge, once you get the hang of it it is easy to develop a sort of rhythm to it, as is often the case with stranded colourwork.

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The only thing I didn’t quite do properly were the finger gussets – I fully admit that I pretty well fudged those. I would like to try another pair of these sometime in order to give it my 100% and do better. But you know? These still kick ass. I’ll take ‘em. The overall result is an incredibly intricate, light yet warm pair of gloves that nobody else on Earth has. I am actually debating whether to put them into regular Winter rotation come November – they are gorgeous and I would love to show them off, but on the other hand I don’t think I would recover if I lost one, or both.

Thankfully I have the summer to ponder that. Onwards, yes? Yes.

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Filed under accessories, fair isle, fearless knitting, finished object: accessories

Just one more row

I can stop any time I want.

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Maybe.

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Change of pace

The last few days have been pretty slow around these parts, involving a fair amount of knitting, sitting, DVDs (X-Files renaissance ahoy), and the occasional excursion into the outside world for provisions or moderate socialization. Now that the term is ending I can actually have a proper few days of leisurely sloth, before returning to attempts to Think Thoughts or Write Things.

Knowing I’d have a few hours-long chunks of time for knitting, I brought Autumn Rose with me this week to the cat-sitting, in order to give it a solid start. I’d hoped by now to be past the first full repeat of the main motif, but still I think it’s taking shape quite well.

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This is a slight variation on the last swatch I did – I wanted the garnet heather (dark red) more prominent and I think this is going to work quite well. The combination has a very rich look overall and I’m pleased with the balance of bright and muted tones. Now…to just keep on knitting. These are long rows and lots of colours, and I’ll be adding 2-3 inches of length to the body before I’m done, so I’m expecting this to keep me busy for the next little while.

On the cat-sitting front, things are going rather well at cat pace. Boy do these cats have me marked. As soon as food hour approaches Greedo wraps himself around my ankles and moans at me, hoping for that ever elusive morsel of wet food (I have strong willpower though, and the opposable thumbs necessary to open cans, so hah). And as soon as I look like I might be sitting down and creating a lap, Somerset hovers in wait. (She has overwhelming powers of extreme cuteness, though, so there my willpower fails.)

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I have also learned that Greedo is not deterred by competition from laptops.

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Tomorrow their regular humans will be back, though, so I’ll have to go back to non-cat-hair-covered knitting. How will I manage?

Happy Wednesday, folks!

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Filed under cats, fair isle, sweaters

Trusting the Process

Swatching is a bit part of knitting (and getting knitting right), and as such is a constant and necessary task. In fact, if I were to make my list of Times When Swatching Is Necessary, Nay, Imperative, I’d start with:

1. When you’re knitting with a yarn or stitch pattern that is new to you and you need to know how it behaves on your needles, particularly for gauge purposes.

Still, I continue to be more convinced than ever that swatching for gauge is almost beside the point. To wit:

2. When you really want to start the project but you don’t want/need to actually start the project yet. (See Sublist: Dealing with Startitis).

But most importantly for this week in my knitting life:

3. When you are knitting a stranded colourwork project in no fewer than 11 shades and stubbornly refuse to go with the pattern’s prescribed combination.

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This is all a roundabout way of saying I am swatching for Autumn Rose, and it’s all going wonderfully indecisively. For the last year I’ve been saying to myself I was going to start this sweater. I even flirted with the idea of making it for Rhinebeck last year, but the Cabled Swing Cardigan turned out so nicely and besides…there was the indecision.

I have more Knit Picks Palette fingering weight than one person reasonably needs, I could easily make three Autumn Roses in all different combinations, but deciding on a colour scheme has been what’s held me back the most. I started swatching for this project back sometime in late 2008, but knew there would need to be more swatches to come. (And yep, I’ve seen the other 3 suggested schemes put out by Knit Picks in the fall of 2008. Did I mention my stubbornness?)

So that brings us to this week, when I saw Elspeth queued up Autumn Rose on her Ravelry, I summarily harassed her about it, she threw down the gauntlet by stating this was going to be her 2009 Rhinebeck Sweater #1 (because yes, she makes more than one Rhinebeck sweater), and some sort of switch flipped in my brain and I knew I had to get back on this. Because Elspeth is a teeny tiny little person who also knits like the wind, and the thought of watching her zip through the (potential) sweater of my dreams while my yarn gathered more dust was just too much to handle.

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And so I am back to the swatching. I spent more hours than I would care to admit yesterday working on the swatches. It is true that there may have been some avoidance of the grading (oh god don’t make me face another stack of exams…aghldhlhglddlhgkl), but mostly I just want to decide on a frakking colour scheme already.

I’m close, I’m getting very close. I’m using, from the Palette arsenal, a collection of purples, reds, and greens, in what, in my head at least, calls up images of a beautiful art deco garden or stained glass window. It pains me to admit that there is going to need to be at least one more swatch before I can finally nail down a scheme. I think the final decision will be some combination of the two swatches above, but slightly more like the second of the two (also pictured here below). The lipstick pink in the bottom of the first swatch is right out, and the third will incorporate some further fine-tuning of the cross-hatching panel colours and the outer shades of the ‘rose’, and use the duller green in the top half of the second instead of the paler shade used in the bottom.

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And if you’ve followed me this far, allow me to pause for a moment and just say how much I love the brightness of the middle section. I could stare at it all day. It makes me think of sun shining through windows, which is not only attractive in a colourwork pattern but also very appropriate for something to knit in the spring. My term is inching towards being finished and I can just about see the respite at the end.

Respite which will, hopefully, be composed of knitting and not just swatching. And I bet that Elspeth already has her colours decided, Drat.

Onwards, yes? Yes.

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Filed under fair isle, swatching, sweaters

Now I can be in 2009

It gives me a great deal of reassurance to know that Kelly is still obsessively knitting Christmas gnomes, because I only just finished the last of my Christmas gift-knitting. Le-voila, a finished pair of Cat Mittens, the first FO of 2009 and the second-last thing I cast on in 2008:

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Pattern: Cat Mittens (scroll down)
Yarn: Drops Alpaca in black and pale blue
Needles: 2.75mm Clover bamboo DPNs
Modifications: None.

Notes: The concept itself is brilliant, and it should come as no surprise these are headed towards P, aka Miss Beatrice the Cat’s mummy. You’ve got to be a cat lover to love these, and I think they will be well-receved.

This pattern is extremely well charted, so all you really have to do is cast on the required sts and then follow it along. I think one of the reasons I dragged my heels on finishing this is because of the need to follow the chart, though – it wasn’t something I could just memorize and take with me in my head, and that’s something I’ve gotten used to doing. But it is quite clearly written, and if you’ve gotten the hang of basic stranded colour-work, you should be fine. Just 2 colours needed, and you could probably grab some solid colour sock yarn sitting around and make these up nicely.

My only real concern with this pattern is that there is no explicit gauge measurement listed. The designer does tell you the anticipated mitten circumference for a certain needle size, but a stitch/row gauge would be helpful. After finishing these I found them running on the small side (bad for me but fine for the intended recipient, her hands are smaller), and after perusing Ravelry I found the same thing was true for many others who had done the pattern. So, if I were to do these again I would definitely go up a needle size and use a slightly squishier, floofy sock yarn like Dream in Color or STR. I see many on Ravelry have used Shi Bui Sock which seems about right. Or perhaps even a DK or sport-weight for extra sturdiness. The Drops Alpaca worked all right for this size but I think is ultimately too thin for anything larger, given how fiddly parts of the mitten are.

I’ve got about 22g of each colour left now, so perhaps there will be some alpaca Endpaper Mitts or similar in my future. In any case I’m just glad to have these done so I can move on to something new! I have just been itching to cast on a sweater after doing nothing but mitts and socks and bitty things for the last month and a half.

Finally, on the crazy update – the Sanqhuar gloves are still awesome, and Glove #1 is completely finished. I love it. Finishing it has given me renewed momentum and I have cast on for #2 immediately.

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Bring on the cold. Knitters can take it.

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Filed under accessories, fair isle, fearless knitting, finished object: accessories

I fight crazy with more crazy

So, it’s January, and the first Monday of January, and it’s back to the real world and I am unsurprisingly going back kicking and screaming. The holidays always go by so fast. To add special agony to the lack-of-holidays, I am entering into a semester of the highest teaching load I’ve ever had, and I fully expect to be experiencing moments of full-on whacko.

I think when your brain is going off in a zillion different directions, and you’re looking to your knitting for a distraction, a plain stockinette sock will not do. The knitting needs to be equal to the crazy. I fight life crazy with knitting crazy. In this case, with a stranded colour-work pair of gloves knitted at 12 sts to the inch.

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The pattern is the Sanquhar gloves from here (in the tradition of Scottish Sanquhar knitting, described here), and is more of a collection of charts and basic instructions than a full pattern. Let me tell you, this is the kind of project that rewards skill, intuition, and endurance. I am loving every. single. stitch. Elspeth and I have even been having talk of a Knitalong. Care to join?

It should put things into perspective when I say that my execution of the pattern “only” uses light fingering weight (and not laceweight) and is “only” at a gauge of 12 sts to the inch. As written, these instructions call for a gauge of 14 sts to the inch, but that would be less likely to fit my hand. And because these gloves have been knitted for centuries with the same traditional patterns and the little blocks and motifs within, the easiest way to change the size of these gloves without completely changing the motifs, is to change your gauge and needle size. So at “only” 12 sts to the inch on 2.0 mm needles, these are more likely to fit me than the original instructions.

Also – and I think this is the most hysterical part – even if I wanted to go to a tighter gauge of 13 or 14 sts to the inch, I would need to go down to 1.75 or 1.5mm needles (that’s size 00 or 000 for you ‘Murricans), and (get this) when I went out locally to find such tiny needles in person, they didn’t exist. Not all needle manufacturers make them. (I later went to the internets – said needles are now being sent to me from Elann. I must have them).

The yarn is a very light fingering weight in grabby heathery wool from my Rhinebeck 2008 purchases, procured from the A Touch of Twist booth. I started in on some Daina mittens with it the week I returned, but then discovered that the yarn was too light for those. At 270 yds per 50g, it’s not quite the laceweight that the Sanqhuar pattern asks for, but it’s darned close and a fine substitute at a slightly looser gauge.

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I’m loving them. I sort of want to bite them just to sink my teeth into the knitting because that’s how great it feels to hold this up and look at it and know that I can knit crazy shit like this and it is beautiful. Of course, it is entirely possible that I’ll get to the fingers, make a horrible mistake and have to re-do, but even if I do I think I’ll be OK with that. I had to rip back and re-split for the thumb gusset twice, and I’m still loving this. Today I’m working from home and I keep wanting to slip away from my desk just to look at the glove in progress.

And sometimes, that’s what you need from your knitting.
May your knitting be close by today!

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The Season of Stuff

‘Tis the season, right? For knitting things…and buying a few things…

I’ve always been a bit hesitant about sock clubs. On the one hand, there is the excitement and mystery of getting an unknown package in the mail; on the other hand, there is the element of risk. A trade-off between getting exactly what you want and the element of surprise. Well, at the end of October Robyn was advertising her ‘ultimate’ sock club kit for November as a more-than-usual sock club kit, and the idea of getting a whackload of stuff in the mail was enticing enough.

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Lo and behold, this is what arrived. It is indeed a whackload of stuff! All in all I think I call it a win, although I haven’t yet examined the patterns (these are all on the CD, interestingly enough). 3 skeins of yarn, 5 patterns, DPNs, 3 pairs of stitch markers, assorted treats…A fun pack to be sure. 2 of the 3 skeins of yarn are colour combinations I can use pretty easily…sadly the 3rd is too candy-electric for me so I might end up trading that one away. On the plus side, I like the tape measure and trinkets, and the tote bag is lovely and sturdy.

On the minus side, all of the DPNs are short 5-inch ones, which is a size I never use. I’ve stuck with sets of 4 7-inch straights my entire sock knitting life thus far and, well, it’s hard to change. I’ve tried the short ones in sets of 5 before but they’re just not for me. These might be for trading away also. My only other concern is that while the yarn is beautifully dyed I hadn’t expected all 3 skeins to come from the same dyer. Some variety there would shake things up a bit – after all, if you try one skein and the texture doesn’t suit you, it would be refreshing to have something different to turn to next.

So, there we have my latest foray into sock clubs. I do like the 1-month shot, I might try it again in a bit when I need some more mystery in my life. I look forward to contemplating these new stashlet additions.

And in other news…I’m swatching again. Just about on schedule given that this is about exactly what I was doing a year ago.

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I’m looking forward to see how these colours blend…and will be sure to report further as events unfold. And now, back to Wednesday! May your knitting be close by.

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Finished but not Forgotten

Back in February when we were on our eleventy-billionth (numbers are approximate) snowfall of the season, I clung to bright and colourful knits. Casting on for something Fair Isle was just good prescriptive knitting at the time, never mind fun. But the Venezia pullover ended up taking top priority and so Glowing got pushed to the side, not to be finished until the end of April. I’ll have to wait until next fall and winter to take full advantage of this FO.

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Pattern: ‘Glowing’, by Fiona Ellis in Inspired Fair Isle Knits
Yarn: Mission Falls 1824 Wool, MC ‘Raspberry’, and several other CC colours. All yarn is to specification from the book, with the exception of the pale green shade – I substituted in the slightly cooler ‘Thyme’ shade instead of the ‘Pistachio’ which is a little more in the bright yellow area of green. I like the overall effect.
Needles: 5.5mm for the fair isle sections, 4.5mm for the plain stockinette.
Mods: I had to up-size the needles on the fair isle to get closer to gauge, and actually I think in the end I still came out sliiiiiiightly more snug on gauge than the pattern. The final product does fit, though, and I’m happy with that.

The major modification that I made was to add an extra row between the raglan decreases for several of the decreases, to add a bit more room in the shoulders. My row gauge was a bit too snug on the stockinette and I needed to make sure my arms and shoulders would still fit. This worked out well.

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I’m pretty much in love with Mission Falls 1824 wool, after this project. There will be more sweaters with this in the future. It feels glorious to knit with, and the colours are so rich. I put it through the washer and dryer (YAY superwash), and you’d never know. Not a pill in sight. It is, however, a yarn that rewards swatching – stockinette does grow a little bit after it is washed and dried. I admit I was pretty much banking on this happening because my pre-wash gauge was more tight than it needed to be. (But the stranded sections did need to be closer to pattern gauge to start – colourwork does not stretch as much as plain stockinette).

The stranded sections really fly by on this, and are the most fun to work on. Usually I don’t mind stockinette because it’s mindless, but it was a long push to get the yoke finished once the body and sleeves were all done. I was glad to get to the hood – which is actually a decently functional hood, it covers my head when pulled up, and doesn’t come loose like the decorative hoods on so many other knits. Of course, that could also just be because I have a lot of curly hair to stuff under there…

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I must thank Steph for taking the photographs, and letting me finally put this FO up for the record. Since a hooded wool pullover isn’t quite what I need for summer, though, this will be taking up residence as a shop sample at the Purple Purl, until I can reclaim it again for the winter.

Have a great Tuesday!

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Yarn saves

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the crazy 4.75 years I’ve been working on this stinking miserable anxiety-inducing PhD, it’s that knitting has helped me out a lot. It gives me a sense of accomplishment at times when almost nothing else seems to, and that’s sure as heck worth something.

And then there are some times when the knitting part doesn’t seem to even be necessary, and I go directly to the yarn itself. Mmm.

Yesterday when I was in Toronto I marched right on down to Lettuce Knit at lunch hour to see what Socks that Rock was left from their delivery last week. It’s been a long week, tiring and stressful along with the renewed efforts of the cold that I thought I’d gotten rid of last week (I hadn’t), and despite the fact that I know I’ll be in New York next week, and I know full well I’ll be visiting new and bountiful yarn stores, I wanted yarn NOW. I walked out with a few skeins, including this one:

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It’s so pretty I love it to pieces. It makes me think of impressionist paintings and tropical lagoons and everything that PhD turmoil is not. I don’t even know for sure what sock pattern I’ll make with it yet. In fact, I may just carry it around with me like a security blanket for the next week. That’s OK, right?

Also, I’d like to thank the weather report for looking like this:

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I can deal with the rain. Sure, the rain isn’t ideal, but check out those temperatures. We haven’t had this many consecutive above-freezing days in I don’t know how long. Bring on the snow-melting.

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Also, bring on the Venezia. She’s gettin’ there. Two sleeve-cap tops, cutting, seaming, and v-neck edging is all that remains. (Um. I sure hope it fits properly when it’s finished. That would sure suck if it didn’t.)

What are your spring knitting ambitions, my friends? Distract me with your colourful plans. ;)

Onwards!

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