Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where have I been?

It's been a long time. I have not felt the inspiration to blog as I should even though I have been knitting up a storm. Blame it on nothing. But today I put my Twitter feed up on my blog, so at least there will be new content.

Knitting up a storm: Designed and knit a pair of socks last week, knit two hats yesterday and today, finished off several other hats that needed additional decoration, started another sock today - same design, new yarn, hand-dyed, new recipient.

I think I may be coming back from my depression. That's what this has been about - the non-participation I mean. I have other ideas to kickstart myself too. You'll be hearing from me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Anarchist Knitter Me!

I have a confession. I have considered entrelac one of my least favourite looks in knitting. I have seen some bad entrelac - a sweater in pale blue and white that made the woman wearing it look a lot like the Michelin man. It somehow seemed to be a technique that was more interesting in the theoretical sense than in real life.

But recently I have been guilty of actually knitting entrelac myself. And why? Because I feel that I need to learn more about knitting - to become a better knitter and to add to my knowledge of how knitting works. I have been discovering a few things and have recently been inspired by Anna Zilboorg's Knitting for Anarchists. I told a friend that and he looked at me as if I had two heads - and immediately told me that I was no anarchist - to him I was a rule bound knitter who thought there was a right way and a wrong way to knit, and perhaps even that I thought that my knitting was the "right way".

(I have included a link to the Amazon entry for Zilboorg's book because if you scroll down far enough you will find several reviews that give you a better understanding of the book's premises. One of the reviews is actually by Cat Bordhi.)

I admit it, I am certainly a rule follower, I like to follow a pattern, even though I have certainly done without. And I think I have been breaking out of that rule-bound shell. If you look back at my recent blog you can see my Elizabeth Zimmerman Seamless Hybrid Shirt Yoke sweater, which gave me a lot of unease, but which I feel I completed very successfully, even though I needed a little hand holding by a few fellow knitters to get through it.

But that wasn't the first time I had knit an EZ sweater. I don't have pictures, but in fact, about 20 years ago, I knit an EZ ski sweater in the round, using two colours, steeks and my own blocked out designs. So I certainly had a sense of adventure back then. I have also thrown myself into knitting lace, from a pattern, yes, but bravely, learning the ins and outs of the pattern as I went.

But let me get back to Entrelac. That friend I mentioned earlier has knit several entrelac pieces recently, including a sweater from a book called Out of Africa which he adapted as he went. The sweater is redeemed as well by the fact that it was knit in very fine yarn, so there is none of that puffiness that a larger yarn makes almost inevitable.

So I decided that I was not afraid to knit entrelac and that I would find a project to do. And since I have been knitting socks, and reading about knitting anarchy, I searched around and found the perfect project, the Entrelac Socks, designed by Vickie Starbuck, in Socks, Socks, Socks, edited by Elaine Rowley. The socks are done in the round, they are toe-up, they are entrelac - what more could I want. And I took my anarchist lessons to heart and taught myself how to purl backwards so that I could do the socks without constantly switching from one side to the other.

I was also inspired by the Yarn Harlot. A few weeks ago she posted a blog entry about the Toronto Pride Parade, and shared some of her yarn recommendations for Pride. And I happened to have a ball of Rainbow dyed sock yarn from Lorna's Laces which has been in my stash about two years. Time to do something with it. So here's your first look.

I have already finished sock number one. But there was I a little problem - sock number two would be a challenge since the yarn for it had already been knit into a hat. That hat was Half Dome from Knitty.Com. And I posted a picture of it on my blog way back in 2006. Here it is.

And here it is next to its friend the sock.

So obviously there was a dilemma here. But easily solved. I would rip the hat back, because to be honest I was never going to wear that hat, and nobody I knew was going to wear it either. And that gave me another challenge - what to do with yarn that has been a hat for two years. Boy, is it crinkly when it is frogged.

However, still acting as anarchically as possible for me, I remembered reading about how to get the crinkles out of knitting, so I first wound the yarn into a hank over the back of one of my chairs, then ran a nice sink of hot water, and after tying off the hank, I hurled it into the water and swished it around for a minute or so - and to my delighted surprise, it seemed that the crinkles came out instantly. I took the hank out, squeezed it to get out some of the water (someone suggested maybe I didn't need to be as vigourous with the drying as I had described in an email), and then laid it on a towel to dry. A day later, that yarn was ready for knitting and I was happy because I could really consider that I could wear my Rainbow Entrelac socks at our upcoming Gay Pride Parade here in Vancouver.

So here I am, working on my anarchist skills, and knitting up a storm with some wild Rainbow socks. For those of you who like to get up close and personal, here is another look at my sock as it was growing under my needles. I'm working on sock two and it will certainly be finished in time for the parade. Look for me on the street - look down to see my socks, worn with Pride and a sense of accomplishment.

OMG - I just discovered that our friend The Yarn Harlot has knit the same entrelac socks, but her experience was somewhat interesting. Just for the record, I followed the instructions (such an anarchist) and had none of the problems that the Yarn Harlot had first, but which she apologizes for misunderstanding.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Victoria Fibre Fest 2008

There's nothing like spending a weekend with yarn. This past weekend, June 21 - 22) was therefore a real treat. With my step-daughter Holli, I travelled over to Vancouver Island on the Spirit of Vancouver Island, one of the newer ferries in the BC Ferries fleet, where we did a little knitting after gorging ourselves on the Pacific Spirit buffet. We arrived in plenty of time so after getting ourselves settled in our accomodation, we made a fast trip to Bee Hive Wool Shop to check out the possible merchandise.

I couldn't resist some lovely Fleece Artist yarns which were a steal at $11.00 for 100 grams of lovely coloured Merino 2/6 sock yarn - one in green tones and one in brown/pink tones, which will look lovely on my feet.

I couldn't spend much more though because I needed to save some money for the Knit Out on Sunday, or maybe just Saturday when I was free. Holli and I enjoyed poking around though because I was looking for ideas for a sweater I'm planning to knit once the one on the needles is done. I found some good candidates, so I'll be looking again in Vancouver when I'm ready.

On Saturday I had some time to spend before I met up with a couple of knitting folks from the GLBT knitting list, so I poked around on Government Street where I saw this shop.

Sweaters by First Nations Canadians have been part of the knitting heritage of BC for a long time.

Finally the hour came and I walked into the QV Cafe and immediately spotted Chris. No, I'd never met him before, but the yarn on the table was a big clue, as was his big smile in greeting. Chris and his partner Jeff are travelling in the Pacific Northwest and we've been planning this meetup since I've known about his plans. It was great to finally meet him and a short while later my pleasure was doubled when Allie arrived with her partner Haley. Allie lives in Victoria, while Chris travelled all the way from Vermont.

(Back: Chris, Jeff. Front: Haley, Allie)

We had a great visit - we talked knitting, we knit a few stitches and Chris vamped with my Hanging Garden Stole which I had brought to show off.

Of course we had to head to Beehive again so that Chris and Allie could check out the sales. Allie got some lovely yarns, Chris added to his collection and I bought two more skeins of yarn, Hand Maiden Casbah - which I have knit with before and at the time swore I would never knit with anything less! I am so looking forward to new socks with these two yarns - they are so delicious on the needles and underfoot.

After our SEXpedition, Chris and Jeff insisted that we visit Butchart Gardens together. It's a gorgeous place, an old quarry that has been transformed into a Garden of Eden starting about 100 years ago. Chris and Jeff were very impressive with their knowledge of the plants we saw in the garden - they have an extensive garden back in Vermont.

Saturday night saw Holli and I attending the special presentation by Sivia Harding, the special guest of the Fibre Fest. Sivia talked about her journey from artist in oils to artist in yarn.

What's amazing is that Sivia has only been knitting eight years. When one sees her work, it's almost impossible to believe that eight years ago she borrowed a video from the Vancouver Public Library and taught herself how to knit. That simple act must have been an amazing cartharsis, to produce the beautiful work she is creating today.

For the Fibre Fest, Sivia was asked to create a special piece - which she had unveiled the night before at a dinner and fashion show. The work is exquisite, and the piece on display was raffled off. Someone is a very lucky person. Sivia's shawl is called Harbour Lights and evokes images of lighthouses and ocean spray.

Of course there was an audience of knitters in attendance. Here's a few of the folk who travelled from Vancouver to see the show.

Sunday morning dawned bright and early. My stepdaughter Holli Yeoh had a booth at the Knit Out in Saxe Point Park, so we had to get out to the site to set up her new tent. We did a great job, but it took a lot of work to get the booth ready for the first customer. We were still organizing kits when they arrived. There was a good number of booths at the Knit Out, with lots of opportunity to buy yarns, admire knitting and visit with the folk who came to mingle and buy. I had some great conversations and enjoyed meeting lots of fibre fixated people.

I'd spent money on Friday and Saturday, so I was a little reluctant to spend even more, but I found some great yarn by Rabbitch of Rabbitworks

which I couldn't leave behind. After all, any yarn named Coffee Bean must have been dyed especially for me.

One yarn which I left at the Knit Out, but which I coveted greatly, was a hank of the most beautiful, natural silver grey, yak and silk blend, lace-weight yarn. I couldn't convince myself that it should be in my stash without an idea to use it, but now of course, I rue the fact that I left it behind. But I know where the vendor lives, and since it's very near where my brother lives in Kamloops, I have the feeling that the next time I visit him, I will be doing a little shopping.

Of course no Fibre Fest could be complete without a little fibre on the hoof. I wish I'd been fast enough to take a picture of the sheep we saw cropping a lawn on our way back from Butchart Gardens. But at least someone knew that we needed to see fibre in its most natural state so they brought a couple of lovely, graceful, miniature llamas to hang out with us for awhile.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A tale of some yarn and some sweaters

Just a week ago I was writing about my Seamless Hybrid Sweater from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Without Tears. The sweater was finished more than two weeks ago, and I really love it. It fits beautifully and looks really good on. I think I've finally found the sweater that is the best compliment to a man's shape and build. Not that all my sweaters will be made that way from now on. I do feel the need for variety. So I've already started a new project and it's well under way. It's another EZ, and I'm as usual, having a little trepidation as it grows.

And here it is.

This sweater comes with a history - and I don't mean the design, I mean the yarn. It started last year when I first found the yarn on sale at Urban Yarns here in Vancouver. It was Rowan's DK Tweed, 100% Pure New Wool, in 50 g hanks, which is no longer on their list of available yarns. I gathered it all up to buy since the price was great and was ready to pay when I got the news that the yarn had already been spoken for, just not removed from the shelves quickly enough. I was a little distressed, but instead of crying and going home I asked if I could leave my name and number in case the original purchaser changed his (yes, his - what were the odds?) mind. And darned if I didn't receive a call the next day that the yarn was mine after all. I rushed over the next morning on my way out of town, (holding up my husband who really wanted to be on the highway at 8:00 am, not 10:30 am which was what happened.

And at the shop I got the news that there was more of the same yarn available and did I want it too? Well, I didn't want to end up with not quite enough of a discontinued yarn so of course I bought it - the price was right, did I mention that? And then I took it with me to fondle in the car on the way to Naramata on Lake Okanagan in BC wine country. But it took awhile for me to start knitting the yarn.

Yes, this yarn started its knitting life as another sweater entirely. I had decided that I would design my own sweater and that the tweedy yarn would look good with a cable. So I found a plaited cable chart in one of the standard knitting books and set out. I swatched, and I measured, and I cast on. And I knit. I knit the piece until it was about half way up the armholes when I decided that it was going to be too small. The cables pulled the sweater in and it was not going to look right. So I frogged the entire piece and spend an afternoon swatching again, to work out the correct size.

Now, you'll think I wasn't using all my brain cells when I decided that I could cast on fewer stitches and have a wider sweater, but that's what my swatching was telling, and I have been taught to believe in swatching. Of course you know this is not going to work out, but did I? Oh no, I knit one full piece for the back and then half of the front before I realized that this sweater was not going to fit me either. I'm blaming this on the frogging - the yarn must have stretched when it was knit up the first time, and looked much wider for a time. But then the yarn relaxed back into its original dimensions and became the narrowest sweater imaginable. That cable didn't help a bit either.

So I frogged both pieces this time, and left myself with two huge balls or yarn, because I had spit-spliced the whole thing and I wasn't going to take that apart. And then I set the yarn aside again to rest, and get back it's original size again, perhaps. I wasn't about to swatch the yarn too soon.

That all happened over last fall and this spring after my trip to India. (Read about that, with no knitting content, here). And then I started reading EZ's Knitting Without Tears and begat the Seamless Hybrid (described earlier in this blog). But I wanted to get this yarn back on my needles with a sweater I could love. I looked at several different books. all my books with men's patterns, books from the library, and then found a pattern I admired in the Green Mountain Spinnery (GMS)book - knit in the round, very plain, set-in sleeves. I could do that, and wouldn't have to worry about cables pulling my sweater in to make it looked stuffed if I was wearing it.

I did a swatch (it seems to be working), I cast on the requisite number of stitches on my circular needles, and I began to knit. And I really had intended to knit the sweater in GMS, but in the back of my head there was a nagging thought that I could do something else. And then I remembered the Kangaroo Pouch sweater in EZ. It's a set-in sleeve design knit in EZ style with circular needles, but another kind of innovation - a sleeve that knits from a steek, and is shaped by making a sock-heel like construction. And I thought, why not! Why not, indeed.

Here you see the odd construction which explains EZ's naming it the Kangaroo Pouch sweater.

You knit until you have the length you want in the body of the sweater and then you do something quite odd. You remove a number of stitches from the knitting path (the pouches - 30 stitches on each side in my case), hold them on some waste yarn, and rejoin the sweater with a few cast-on stitches over this space, so now you are knitting on 60 fewer stitches and there are odd gaping holes where the arm holes will be. And you just keep knitting around until you reach the armhole depth you desire, and shape for the back neck, before joining the shoulders. It's then that you get brave and prepare the steeks for cutting, cut away, then pick up stitches to begin knitting the sleeves, at the same time reincorporating those leftover stitches which have been waiting so patiently back on their yarn.

That's as far as I've gotten. I have about three inches of the planned nine inches of my sleeve depth done, and I will continue knitting around. I have checked out some steeking methods and have decided to use the wonderful tutorial offered by Eunny Jang on her blog. Eunny is the editor of Interweave Knits and a very talented knitter. I think I'll trust her.

There's lots of work left on this sweater. I'll be blogging more when I get to the cutting and adding the sleeves. So stay tuned. But one more part of the sweater saga I've left out. When I started looking at the yarn, before I began this sweater, I discovered something shocking. Something I had not noticed before - how could I have missed it? There are two dye lots in my stash and it's obvious that I had been blithely knitting along in the old sweater without noticing. I'm compensating for the problem in this sweater. You may have noticed the two balls of yarn in the first picture. I took the advice of a friend and decided to knit alternate rows with each ball of yarn to blend the colours as I go. And it's working. Just one little thing - when I reach the sleeves, because of the construction, I will have to use one ball at a time until I finish turning the shoulder cap, so I'm crossing my fingers that no one will notice, or if they do, they will kindly think that it's a design element. And that's what I'll tell them if they ask!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Swan Lake

Last fall at Three Bags Full I saw and fell in love with the Swan Lake stole by Melanie Gibbons of Pink Lemon Twist. My Hanging Garden stole was a great knitting experience so I knew I wanted to knit lace again. And I had a hank of wonderful lace weight yarn, Baruffa Cashwool, which I had purchased at Close Knit in Portland when I was there for the Knit Camp West event our knit list celebrated. If you are a Ravelry member, you can see the yarn in my stash at knitknigel.

While I was visiting Three Bags Full, I met Christa Giles who just happened to have the pattern unknit. So she gave it to me. That made me happy. And I was ready to knit.

A little background about this stole. It was the third in Melanie's series of Mystery Stoles which are knit from clues provided weekly via the Internet. Now I had the whole thing at hand so didn't have to wait for each week's post before I could go on. But of course I had to follow the pattern which was broken into weeks anyway. I began by printing out the charts for the shawl and then started knitting.

The stole is knit beginning from a point so the knitting certainly zooms along at the beginning. From three stitches to 98 stitches happens fairly quickly. I discovered after knitting the first week's chart that the charts for subsequent weeks didn't fit on one sheet, so I had to attach them so I could knit a complete row. I used Scotch Tape.

The stole is also knit with beads and unlike the beading on the Hanging Garden, after the very first one, the beads are inserted using a crochet hook. I loved learning this technique. When you arrive at a place where a bead needs to be inserted the first thing you do is ready the crochet hook by threading a bead on it. Then you slip the stitch off the left hand needle using the crochet hook, slide the bead down the hook and off onto the stitch itself, then pop the stitch back on the left hand needle and it's ready to be knit. Simple and worth the trouble.

I found quickly that if I wanted to knit this stole without disaster, I had to find a method to tell me where I was in the pattern. At the end I found I was knitting sitting at my dining room table, with a heavy metal ruler marking the line of the chart I was knitting. That worked really well, although my back complained some. I also found that I couldn't knit many rows in a sitting - I needed a break after a couple of rows so I could maintain my sanity.

One of the amazing things was that I made very few mistakes - a good thing, since tinking the work was challenging. I even got brave enough to fix a few of my errors by going down to the row below where I'd made it. I certainly had much more success in keeping the errors to a minimum and as far as I'm concerned, every stitch in the stole is where it is supposed to be, because I fixed any errors I found.

As I mentioned, I began this stole in early November, 2007. On November 13 I left for a four month trip to India. So my stole sat at home waiting patiently for me to come back. I arrived home on March 5 and it took me more than a week to get back to knitting it. But I finally got it out and began to knit again. It didn't take me long to get back into the swing of things, so I was moving along really well, very soon.

I needed to get the stole done. I had plans to take it to the West Coast Knitting Guild meeting at the beginning of April to unveil it, and then deliver it to its proper recipient, my very good friend Midge King who lives in Kamloops, BC, Canada.

The stole was a great success at the guild meeting, and then it was off to Kamloops to give it to Midge. Being the kind of guy who likes an audience, I waited to give it to her when she had her sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew-in-law and her great nephew over for dinner. It felt so good to give the stole its new home. The stole was really a pleasure to knit, I loved the challenge, I loved seeing what was coming next, I loved placing the beads, and I loved giving it away.

I can't leave without showing off a picture of the stole as it was being blocked. The blocking did make a difference, of course. But being down on my hands and knees using every single blocking pin I owned was a labour of love. My back is not as young as it once. I also want you to see the beads I used, so there are two pictures here. The picture with the beads is before the stole was blocked. It also gives a nice idea of the detailing in the point of the stole.

I will leave you with a final photo. Midge is a crossword aficionado and in this photo she is comfortably wrapped up while she searches for a word. I am imagining her this coming winter using the stole as she relaxes at home, or maybe at the theatre some times. She just has to make sure she keeps it away from her cat.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Seamless Hybrid

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Seamless Hybrid sweater has always intrigued me. I have known about it for years, but recently I have been thinking about finally knitting it. I borrowed the book from my stepdaugher, Holli Yeoh, and after reading the pattern went out and bought the yarn at Three Bags Full here in Vancouver. I chose "The Heathers" by Cascade 220 in purple, and added an accent in orange using Rowan Pure Wool DK. The needles were 4.5 mm Addi Turbos for lace - I love those needles.

I started with excitement and trepidation and surprised myself by finishing it in six days. The colours look great together. The orange was an inspired choice, picked out by Christa Giles at the shop - the bonus was that it was on a half price sale. I used 4.5 mm needles, Addi Turbos for lace knitting which I love. I do think that I could have used smaller needles, which may certainly have taken me longer, but might give a tighter looking stitch.

I also need to express my thanks to the members of my Gay and Lesbian Knit List, who did a little cyber hand-holding while I was knitting the sweater. I had a little panic attack about beginning the shoulder - EZ's instructions are a little vague - it's a challenge to knit a sweater when the instructions are somewhat cavalierly written in a "oh, you'll figure it out" style. But that's EZ, and in fact, if I had trusted her, I would have had no problem - things do unfold as they should. But I trusted my friends in Cyber space and they were right, things worked out.

I love working in the round. Grafting the shoulder was fun, since I did my best to make the stitches match where the slipped stitches appear on the edges. I also enjoyed the challenge of making the underarm grafts look smooth - not so easy on the triangle. Now that I've taken a few pictures I realize that I need to work on the graft on the shoulder back - there's a visible line where I didn't take the care I should have to ensure the stitches were blended perfectly. I'm going to have to tug and pull on that area to make all the stitches look the same. Seems to be working for me so far, but I haven't seen it on since doing that so can't say for sure.

One flaw - I should have paid attention to EZ and did the bottom band in 10% fewer stitches. When I did the swatches, it appeared that the accent yarn was about 10% less, so I thought it would work. Wrong. The bottom flares out a bit. I did it right on the sleeves and the neck.

The neck was another challenge. When I picked up the stitches I had 120 which was way too many. I solved the problem by decreasing on the first row to 80 stitches which really improved the look. I was glad I did the plain hemmed neck rather than a rib as others seem to have done. It just makes the sweater that much more of a complete work of art. I sewed the neck by stitching down the live stitches as I slipped them off the needles. It looks a little loose, but I wanted to make sure it was not pulling in any way.

Now that I've completed this sweater, I want to do another one. While wandering through my own stash on Ravlery, I noticed that I have a whole bag of yarn in Gedifra Tweed. Bet that would look good in this sweater too. Hmmm, wonder if I have enough yarn. I'm also imagining doing the sweater in a fingering weight yarn - but for a child, not an adult. I'm not quite a masochist. I'll have to think about that - and maybe measure my grandson for size.

Friday, September 21, 2007

More socks

I've been very busy knitting socks. Since the most recent post about socks, I've finished at least five pairs. I bought Cat Bordhi's new book, New Pathways for Knitters and the first sock I had to do was Coriolis. I knit it in a beautiful yellow-green yarn from Nature's Palette and while it dyed my fingers green, it looks beautiful and I love the way the spiral curls up the leg. For the next Coriolis I knit I will add a couple of plain rows before knitting the purl row for turning so that there isn't that little pook-out where the spiral ends.

The other sock, on my right foot, is Ambrosia by Anne Budd, published on Knitting Daily a while ago. I enjoyed knitting the cables and even got brave enough to do them without using a cable needle. I just dropped the stitches that needed moving, knit the appropriate stitches then picked the hanging stitches up with the needle and continued merrily along. I did have a problem with the socks though. The cable pulled the socks in so much that when I finished the heel I couldnt' get the socks on. After some consultation, I ripped the socks back to below the heel, and added many more stitches to make the instep bigger. It worked, although the socks are still a little tight around the instep. I need to wear them a bit to make them stretch.

I've also knit two pairs of socks using the Canadian dyeing company Hand Maiden - a delight to knit because it is so soft. I love the feel of the yarn, with it's blend of Merino, Cashmere, and nylon, and the socks are great. Both the socks are from New Pathways again - this time Upstream and Riverbed whose only difference is where the increases are - on the top for the first, and the bottom for the second. Upstream is the purple one, Riverbed the brown one. Riverbed was made for my husband and after I gave them to him to try on I told him he couldn't really wear them till after they were introduced at the next West Coast Knitters Guild meeting a couple of weeks from now. He was very dutiful and gave them back to me, even though I know he wanted to wear them. Shame on me.

Here's another pair I finished at least a month ago. I bought the yarn in Victoria, BC when I was there for the Fibre Fest. The yarn is Jitterbug. Too bad they are now a little too small for me, since I washed them. I love the colours.