April 2008

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I got this yarn in the mail a couple days ago, but I haven’t had time to write about it yet:

It’s from Brooklyn Handspun, and it’s called Instant Gratification in the “Kinda Camo” colourway.

I am so happy with it. I have started swatching it, and it works up so smooth and my cables show up very well. It is very soft too.

I am planning to make some gloves with it — I make gloves as other knitters seem to make socks and always seem to have another pair in me. The only thing I would observe about that is that it makes sense to have large numbers of socks, but a little less sense to have large numbers of gloves (for most people, single socks and gloves make even less sense, but that doesn’t mean that knitters don’t make those too).

It must be strange of me to wind my balls of yarn by hand when I have a yarn winder, but somehow I think they just come out so pretty that way.

I have just finished reading Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years – Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber; it was wonderful and transported me through time to see the work all those women did making things to make their lives a little more beautiful. It appears to be out of print, but I was able to order a copy from ABE Books without difficulty.

I loved the descriptions of making linen and wool, and I have come up with the brilliant idea of growing flax in the backyard.

Sure, it may not look like much now, but I will dig it and plant my flax and grow it and ret it and spin it. I anticipate that the flax I grow will not be good for “clothing,” but I can always knit a table cloth or a rug or something from it.

I need to dig the garden soon as the weeds are already growing. You see, last year I let it go “fallow” so there may be a bit of a battle to get this started, but I think it is a wonderful, if somewhat eccentric, idea. I have looked up the Flax Council of Canada’s website and they advise the farmers to plant it in the middle of May, and I plan to do the same.

I’ll keep you posted.

More travels

This weekend we drove from Vancouver to Saskatoon. This is not really knitting related, but here are some pictures from west to east:

Outside Lake Louise Alberta

Prairie from my window

Prairie road

And now for a horse of a different colour . . .

I have never managed to grow orchids very well before. They usually died and certainly never bloomed, but now my orchid has bloomed, not the flowers that come on it from the store, but real live blooms that grew in my own house.

my orchid in bloom

Download pattern here: Minimalist funnel neck

This sweater solves my knitting Catch-22: I don’t buy sweaters because this depletes perfectly legitimate yarn resources, and I don’t knit anything ordinary, because why would I want to spend that much time on something that is not fabulous? This means that I never have a plain black cardigan or pullover. This funnel neck pullover solves this paradox, by being a wardrobe basic, while incorporating great yarn and sufficient knitting interest to keep mine.

This sweater is close fitting and an exercise in three dimensional knitting. The whole sweater is knit in one piece from the neck down. I confess one of my parameters was that I wanted a project I could work on without looking, and after the yoke shaping this can be done. The final product is something I would make in more colours and with differing length sleeves and textures, but I am already onto my next eccentric project.

Minimalist funnel neck

Difficulty

intermediate

Size

Finished bust 32 [36, 40, 44]inches (80 [90, 100, 110]cm), shown in size 36 inches (90cm)

Materials

4 (4, 5, 6) skeins Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Aran (100% wool; 175 yd [160m] per 100g), colour#415 Maze

set of US 9 (5.5mm) double-point needles

16″ (40cm) US 9 (5.5mm) circular needle

29″ (74cm) US 9 (5.5 mm) circular needle

Two kinds of stitch markers

Tapestry needle

Gauge

15 sts and 20 rows = 4″ (10cm) in k1, p1 rib, slightly stretched

minimalist funnel neck - back Minimalist funnel neck

I just finished my latest creation. I took it with me on my last trip and worked on it on the plane, and I perfectly gaged how big it could be before I would run out of yarn.

This is all I have left:

Surely that is a thing of beauty.

Download pattern here: Josephine.

Originally published in Magknits, March 2008

This sweater has much to recommend it: it is warm and cosy and a fast enough knit to be ready before it gets too warm to need it. The cowl can be worn buttoned or open as an oversized collar. There is a minimum of actual direction in this pattern, with most sizing being placed anywhere along the row you like – like many things this pattern shows that random numbers can create great results.

Of course human beings do not make good random number generators as we dislike to see the same number appear consecutively, but for the purposes of this design that is fine, because humans are the beings who will look at your sweater most, and most other humans have the same biases as you.

Difficulty

Easy

Size

33 inch / 84cm (37 inch / 94cm, 41 inch / 104cm, 45 inch / 114cm, 49 inch / 125)

Materials

6 (6, 7, 8, 8) skeins Rowan Big Wool (100% wool, 87 yd [80 m] per 100g); colour: tremble #35

US 17 [12 mm] circular needle, 16 inches (40cm) long

US 17 [12 mm] straight needles

OR

US 17 [12 mm] circular needle, 24-32″ (60-80 cm) long

Stitch markers

Tapestry needle

7 1.75-inch [44 mm] buttons

Gauge

7.5 sts and 10 rows = 4″ [10 cm] in stockinette

I was away this week in Washington DC, and the cherry blossoms were in bloom, just as they should be. I walked around the mall and here is proof that I was actually there:

The Washington Monument

The weather was beautiful. I walked so far trying to see everything.

Now I am back in Saskatchewan, and this morning I woke up to this:

Snow in April

Hmmm, but I got some wonderful yarn at Stitch DC, which makes up for it all.

Habu and hemp for knitting yarn

The black is some wonderfully textural linen from Habu; the grey is silk and stainless steel from Habu; the blue is hemp for knitting from Lanaknits.

I was so excited; I haven’t found Habu yarns at any of the yarn stores I have been to in Canada. I have so many ideas about what to do with it all.

I will keep you posted and wait for the snow to melt.

I have finally finished Lyra’s red sweater coat from the Golden Compass!

Here are some preliminary pictures:

lyras-coat-completed1.jpg

lyras-coat-completed2.jpg

The sleeves grew quite a bit in the wash, so keep that in mind. They started as a bit short, but now they are to my knuckles, but what can you do?

It’s very fun, and I am looking forward to wearing it.

I will post some better and more posed pictures in a few days, maybe I’ll even get it together to put on makeup.

Here is the first PDF of the patterns I published in Magknits of the last few years:

Kaleidoscope

If you are interested in the yarn I used, please see Princess Farms’ website.

Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope

If you like the pattern and want to see more, consider making a donation:

Or check out my patterns for sale.

Perhaps you already know, but Magknits is no more. I am so sad. I loved Magknits — it was published every month and had the latest publication deadlines of any knitting publication I have found so far.

If anyone wants to find any of the patterns in the next few days or weeks, you can do a search in Google and look at the cache for the patterns. The patterns are there, but the pictures are gone, but do it as quickly or they will be gone too.

I will be reposting pdfs of my patterns on my blog in the next few days, so please check back.

lyrascoat-buttons1.jpg

Sometimes you don’t have those perfect buttons to complete the project you are working on and sometimes you don’t want to go out to get any, or you live in Saskatchewan and today is Sunday and nowhere likely to sell buttons is open. Or maybe, just maybe you are aesthetically opposed to spending money on this project, but you still have yarn left over — then you can crochet yourself buttons.

I started with cotton yarn in a colour that coordinates with my project. an appropriately sized crochet hook, something to stuff the buttons, and a tapestry needle:

lyrascoat-buttons2.jpg

I started with the loops for button holes:

Loop the yarn twice around something that will give you the approximate length you want — I used the palm of my hand and bring a loop of yarn from the back and then loop around the hook and pull through, this will start your crochet. This is a little difficult to explain, just try it until it makes sense.

lyrascoat-buttons3.jpg

Next, work single crochet, bringing the hook to the back of the yarn circle to bind it.

lyrascoat-buttons4.jpg

Continue until the end of the loop and make sure the stitches aren’t twisted. Cut the yarn leaving about a 4″[10cm] tail. Put the tail on the tapestry needle, thread through the first crochet stitch to secure it, and draw through some stitches to secure the end

lyrascoat-buttons5.jpg

For the buttons themselves, wrap the yarn two times around your little finger.

lyrascoat-buttons6.jpg

Put your hook to the back of the loop and wrap the yarn around it and pull back to the front, wrap the yarn around the hook and pull through first loop.

lyrascoat-buttons7.jpg

Now crochet about 6 single crochet stitches onto the loop.

lyrascoat-buttons9.jpg

Pull the loose thread from the yarn you wrapped around your finger to pull tight and close the hole in the middle. Do a slip stitch in the first single crochet to complete the circle. Chain one, work a single crochet stitch in the next stitch and two in the following one. Continue working one single crochet and two single crochets in each stitch for about two rounds or until you think your button is almost big enough. Switch to working one single crochet in each stitch for one round.

lyrascoat-buttons11.jpg

Slip hook through next stitch from the previous round and wrap yarn, pull through, repeat for next stitch, wrap yarn around hook and pull through the three loops on the hook. Single crochet in next stitch. Repeat the previous two stitches until the hole starts to close.

lyrascoat-buttons12.jpg

Take a small amount of stuffing about the size of your button when compressed

lyrascoat-buttons13.jpg

and stuff it in your button.

lyrascoat-buttons14.jpg

Continue working as established until the hole is almost closed. Cut the yarn, leaving about a 6 inch[15cm] tail. Using your tapestry needle, darn the hole closed and stitch through several stitches to secure the end. Draw through the button and cut the thread.

lyrascoat-buttons15.jpg

Here is one of my finished buttons:

lyrascoat-buttons16.jpg

Here is what the button and loop look like on my project (Lyra’s coat, instructions are available here). I made five altogether as I was originally going to make four, but since living in China I am superstitious about the number four and try to avoid it.

lyrascoat-buttons17.jpg

As we previously discussed there is a small problem with the placement of the pockets on my coat, so here are instructions to show the way I have dealt with this little problem.

This is what they are like now:

Lyra’s Coat with botched Pockets

lyras-coat-botched-pockets2.jpg

I cut half the threads that make the coat at one side, slightly staggered, so the join won’t show too badly and unwind the cast on edge:

lyras-coat-botched-pockets3.jpg

Then I cut the other half at the other side and unwound those too:

lyras-coat-botched-pockets4.jpg

Finally, I will put the yarn on a tapestry needle and graft the two sides together:lyras-coat-botched-pockets5.jpg

lyras-coat-botched-pockets6.jpg

The unevenness will go out after I “block” it — actually this will be more of a “wash.”

I am almost done Lyra’s coat. I tried it on today and I only have a few more inches. Actually, the whole thing is so heavy that it grows and I think I should stop sooner than I intuitively think I should.

The pockets are a fiasco. The coat has grown from when I made them and they are no longer anywhere near my hands. I could do Elizabeth Zimmerman’s method of cutting the yarn and taking out the stitches to make holes for the pockets, but the coat is so heavy I think I would have to reinforce them in some way and I just don’t think it will work well, so the pockets will be nixed for my sweater.

I think I will be posting a technique of how to undo pocket holes in the next few days, so you can all look forward to that. Just remember if you are caught up with me in knitting this that I said you should make pockets where you want them, so if you placed yours as badly as I did, it is not my fault.

I have a couple pictures of me knitting the coat:

Lyra’s coat in progress

Lyra’s coat in progress - 2

It is enormous and overflows my lap. I wish it would be done now. Just a few more inches.

I just wish I had a bathtub to wash it in — it will overflow the kitchen sink as well, and it is musty!

I love algebra

Please don’t stop reading — I really do. Algebra is the only thing that allows me to design knitting the way I want to.

I suppose you can cast on for a scarf or other simple garment and just start knitting, especially if you listen to Debbie New and follow some of her swatchless knitting techniques, but that is not the way I want to work most of the time. I want to knit things that mold to and follow the ins and outs of the human body (maybe also the dog body, I may make a doggy sweater in the not too distant future). I also want my knitting to be convincingly three dimensional.

Don’t tell me only crochet can do that; it will get my hackles up. Just imagine your reaction if I said that all knitters can crochet, but not all crocheters can knit, and you will get some idea of the force of my feelings on this subject. You just can’t get there without math, unless you are a freeform whiz, which I am afraid I cannot claim to be.

I generally start with a gauge swatch and work out my gauge in stitches and rows to 4 inches[10cm]. I then get out the measuring tape and start measuring everything. At this point I don’t think you can measure too many parts of your body to get an idea of how everything will fit together. Then I multiply the number of inches by the gauge per inch. This gives me an idea of how many stitches should be in each part. Then you need to start working out how many stitches difference there are between each section and how much distance there is for the pattern to increase or decrease enough.

Now there needs to be some understanding of how many stitches are needed to make complete repeats of any patterns you are including and to make the increases and decreases work out.

I follow the instructions I remember from grade 11 physics – assign variables to all the values you need to know and write down all the values you do know and just start deriving variables until you get all the variables you need.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here is my spreadsheet with my calculations for Josephine:

josephinesizingchart2.jpg

I confess I knit from a spreadsheet and write everything out in a way others can understand it only later. I use formulated cells in Excel in all my calculations too, because I love algebra, not arithmetic.

I have gotten back to working on Lyra’s coat again today. I was having a little break from it, partly because I have hardly had a complete minute at home, and partly because I would need a duffel bag to carry the great damn thing around with me.

I was thinking about all the yarn I am using up, it is so nice to use all this that would probably otherwise never get used. It makes me think about my sister who once had an unworn wedding dress from an old store that was closing. My mother made me give it away when my sister wasn’t there because she felt it was unlucky, and surely she was right. There must be something unlucky about something that is made only for a special event and to represent a wonderful life to come that is never used for that purpose, but instead sits in a basement for years in a garment bag.

Yarn must be like that — it wants to be something, having it sit in a basement or closet for so many years it becomes musty must be wrong. Like the letters that never got delivered in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal and made all the people who worked in the post office lose their minds because the energy of the undelivered letters built up and overcame them. Yarn must be like that, it wants to be worn and exist and go outside. I am doing what I can for the yarn in my life — what are doing about the yarn in yours?

I have just finished a project from my stash, and I plan to make the pattern available here in the next few weeks, but I thought I might give you a sneak peek at what was coming:

Gwen

I still need to block it and photograph it properly, so you can get a better idea of what it really looks like.

And just because I love yarn closeups:

gwen-2.jpg

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