Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Continental and -1 Needles

I've now read through the first three sweater recipes in Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmerman for the Canary Knits Knitting Book Read-a-long.  Unlike the first time I read this book,  I totally get them.

I'm on a DIY-type high because of this, which has prompted me to order some sale Wool of the Andes that I hope will look good as the main color for my own Seamless Yoke Sweater (pattern #2).  The contrast color will be Gynx Yarn's merino Aran in the Totoro 2 color way.  I'll finally, finally be using it!  I may chart out my own Totoro but I have found plenty on Ravelry.  I shouldn't have been surprised to find that there are tons of Totoro yoke sweaters there, or that many were made using Elizabeth's recipe.  I'm hoping mine will turn out something like this.

Though I'm completely intrigued by the idea of knitting a sweater in three uninterrupted tubes and using steeks to cut holes in the body tube in which to attach the sleeves, the second recipe for the yoke sweater is the one that's calling my name.  I've been wanting to knit that kind of sweater for a long time, and her breakdown of the math makes it so easy.  I may even try continental style knitting when I do it, for fun.

As I read about Elizabeth's knitting style, I couldn't help but wonder if it would solve my gauge problems.  What you're seeing here is my second try at Riverine.  My gauge is out of control.  I'm fixing to have to invent the - 1 sized needle.  I felt like I was knitting so tightly the first time around, but when I reach the armholes, I realized I'd loosened my tension and was one stitch off per inch.  So the 32" instructions I used, knowing my sizing issues, in order to get more of a 34", actually turned out to produce a 36".  It took a whole episode of Longmire to rip out.  I didn't even know what was going on I was so annoyed.

There was no other way around re-knitting this, so I worked like crazy the next two days and am close to the armholes.  This is .5" off per inch, but I knit the 30"... on size 0 needles.  I have no where to go from here.  If it doesn't fit, my daughter can throw it in the bottom of her closet.

So would switching to continental knitting help me with this?  In Knitting Without Tears, she talks about her change from English knitting to the taboo continental.  In English style she'd put the needle through, throw the yarn over it, then pull the new stitch through.  For continental she began running the yarn over her left forefinger in the correct position to simply hook the needle around the yarn while sliding it through the stitch.  There is some economy of movement there.  I realize two movements instead of three doesn't sound like much, but after thousands of stitches it might make a difference on the joints, not to mention speed.  In fact, she claimed to be a moderately paced knitter clocking no more than 51 stitches a minute.  This is the point in the book where I realized I'm actually a slow knitter.  I knit about 34 stitches per minute.  Maybe continental knitting would help me mow through my queue faster.

I thought I would give it a try since I did pick with my left hand once when doing two-handed fair isle.   I also thought the change in yarn position might give me more even tension than right-handed throwing.  It was like writing left-handed.  Of course, it was a 1x1 rib row, and purling is evil enough in the knitting style I'm familiar with.

I will say that it did tighten things up a lot.  The knitting was so tight that I went back to knitting English for the remainder of the project.  Continental also seemed easier on my left wrist.  I don't usually suffer from wrist strain, unless I try pull ups, push-ups, weeding, and knitting all in the same day.  But how likely is that to happen?   It's just that knitting with 0s can be hard on anyone.

Another theory behind my floppy stitches could be the needle type and sizes I use.  I've been partial to Addi Turbo's in a 24" length, the length EZ preferred, saying the extra inches on longer needles just got in her way.  However, I notice when using them in small needle sizes, the stitches seem to knit so quickly they fall from left to right needle before I can do that little split second adjustment for tension with my right hand.  That could be due to the metal, the tiny needle size, or the fact that the stitches for a 34" top don't spread out fully on 24" length needles to automatically adjust the tension.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, and flickr)

I don't know if that even makes sense.  But I can say that I have less trouble with keeping gauge on wooden needles.  I don't know.  No one else seems to have this problem.  Anyway, I've been adding some wooden circulars to my collection, so I'll be experimenting through the Summer Sweater Knitalong.

Hey, when you knitters talk about knitting continental style do you ever think of this?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Now that I'm famous...

Did you see it!?!  For a few beautiful days I was the center of the universe... the knitting universe of Ravelry that is.  Well, the Oud Tank I knit was, anyway.  At this point, non-knitters are saying, "You're what was on what?"

Here's how it happened.  I was in a gloomy mood one evening last week, running through one of my out loud mental lists of all the stuff I had to do that I didn't want to do, when I glanced down at a ravelry message that said I was on the front page of Ravelry's blog.  My husband suddenly snapped to attention as my, "... and then I have to..." turned into, "Ooooh,  looky!  Front page!"

My list of gripes ended and all was right in the world again as I clicked all of the links to other summer knit pretties, much to his relief.

That was as close to ruling the world as I will ever get, so I may as well issue some edicts before that post requires too much scrolling down to be seen.

Under my reign:

Pinterest and Facebook will allow no crossover, particularly quotes and recipes.

Speaking of Pinterest: no more ripped t-shirt tutorials. Ever.

As for Facebook:  Moms are no longer allowed to tag their daughters' photos with nicknames like "KayKay" and "TayTay".  This is especially important when you mentally can hear their southern accents as you read it.  Go ahead, say it out loud:  "You go, TayTay!  Light up that runway!" or "I can't believe my little PeyPey is 16!" or or "Here's MayMay coughing up soup."  You get the idea.  Why does this bother me so?

Oh, and no more superhero reboots.  Sorry, but I can't let that happen.

Okay, those just spilled out of me.  Hmmm, let me be more craft focused:

I declare the next two weeks are officially PomPom Knitting weeks in my home, wherein I will knit two patterns from the magazine I enjoy so much and my family will let me.  Isn't it crazy that I have not knit one yet?

To aid me in this endeavor, Amazon will issue free Kindle versions of books I have already bought as a service to forty-somethings who need larger print and hands-free reading for knitting.   (I finished Game of Thrones and now I wait, certain I will forget every character but the Stark kids before the next installment comes out.  Sigh.)

Knit Picks will run their super sale on City Tweed again, only this time they won't sell out in a matter of minutes and I'll get a big sweater's worth.

Time will stop so I can finish a few things on my queue before all of the fall pattern releases lure me off course.

Oh yeah, and it will be really cold here for a real amount of time this fall/ winter, so I can wear what I make for the Summer Sweater Knitalong.

The end.  That wasn't much to ask, was it?  I didn't require world peace or anything, just small, common sense requests.

So, the swatch and Berroco Weekend DK yarn above is for Riverine by Andi Satterlund from Pom Pom Quarterly Issue 5 Summer 2013.  That's the issue with the camping theme :)  I'm cuh-razy about that color combo.

Not from Pom Pom, but perfect for knitting when I sit outside with my grandfather is another Fire Opal Tee, by Allyson Dykhuizen, below.  It looks complicated but, other than cable rows, is stockinette.  I'm making this one is with smaller needles than last time, for a more fitted top and will be cropped.  I'm loving the blackberry colored Comfy Fingrering yarn.

 (on my ravelry, kollabora, flickr, and instagram)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Aquae Tank

These are my Aquae Tanks.  The pattern, by Hilary Smith Callis, is the perfect summer tank.  The straps are wide enough to hide other straps, I can used worsted to knit it up quick, and stripes!!  I did find the speediness of it made for good modifying as I went.

My mods-  I used worsted Goshen (instead of DK) in purple haze and winter lake, with size 1 needles.  This makes Aquae a very good stashbuster.  Think of how much worsted cotton you might have squirreled away somewhere.  If it doesn't seem the most durable yarn for a top, it does only take a few days to make so...

For this summer tank I felt the need for ease, so I did no waist shaping.

In the spirit of ease, I carried my unused yarn colors down, along the inside of the work, twisting them together every other row.  I detest weaving in ends, so this left me with very few.  Since it hangs a little loose, these twisted strands don't affect the silhouette.

I'm liking a more cropped sweater lately, so I stopped knitting the body after 12 stripes, then did 20 rows of 2x2 ribbing.  It is 19.5 inches long.

I did try the ribbed neckline, but I know how I am- that I'd never get the tension right in my bind off to keep it from sagging or flipping outward, so I went with an I-cord bind off, like some others did on Ravelry.  I used the same method for the armholes.  I always finish my I-cord bind offs by using Kitchener stitch to join the last 3 remaining stitches on the needle with three that I pick up from the beginning of the bind off.  I'm not sure if that's the right way or not, but it looks best to me.

I love the resulting top.  I don't have to think about a thing when wearing it. It hides other straps pretty well, is easy care yarn, and the generous amount of ribbing holds its shape well.

Everything worked so well on this top that I decided to make another with all of my Oud Tank leftovers.  I knew I might run short so I planned to go very cropped with this.  Think beach tank.  As I mentioned in my last post, I ran even shorter of yarn and had to get creative, i.e. more relaxed about the final product.  I did the same mods as far as shaping, carrying my yarn along the inside.

I also cropped this slightly higher.  I stopped the body after 11 stripes and finished with only 10 rounds of 2x2 rib.  The final length was about 18 inches.

The neckline and armholes were left raw because that's the breaks, and it is just a beach t-shirt.  I find they don't look tacky at all, just not quite as polished as the first version of this tank.

You can find my previous post on these tanks here.

(more on ravelry here and here, kollabora, flickr, and instagram)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I Have Sticks, Yarn, and Slightly Below-Average Intelligence

"Really all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence."

".. what's the sense in planning ahead, unless you have to?"

"...contrary to superstition, a dropped stitch does not immediately zoom down to the bottom of your work like a run in a stocking.  At the most it will slither down one or two rows, and cling there, moaning piteously, and waiting to be picked up..."

Those are a few quotes I've enjoyed from Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Without Tears.  I'm so enjoying the Knitting Classics Read-A-Long in the Canary Knits Ravelry group.  I'm only through the first chapter (which is like a third of the book) and I've learned much.

I first started this book when I was a fairly new knitter.  I don't know if I'd even knitted a sweater at that point, so I was not super confident.  I approached Elizabeth's methods like a pupil would their Sensei's.  It was "Whatever you say, Master."  There was an aura of mysticism about her inventive techniques.  How she would split wool if she had to to get the right weight, or how she would introduce a pattern to a border to hide a color change.  I couldn't imagine a time where all of those cast-offs and button holes would even read as logical to me, much less a time where I'd try them.

I was a little afraid of my knitting then- afraid to alter a design to work better for me and afraid I would make a mistake.  If I did screw up, I was afraid to rip back or compensate in some other way.  I'd just rip back completely and start over.  Those various stitch combinations hanging from the needle were some mysterious alchemy that might instantly disappear if I blinked my eyes wrong... or sneezed.  It was like holding the Shroud of Turin, or something.   I only read about halfway through Knitting Without Tears and then abandoned the book to go try some of the things I was reading.  But like any good friend, she waited for me.

Today, as I read this book, I realize I am now familiar with many of these techniques.  Some of them I learned without knowing Elizabeth was the one who invented them.  I'm still gleaning all that I can from her thoughts on knitting, but my perspective is closer to that of a peer these days.  I get some of her jokes and share opinions that I might not have when I first began.  Her style feels so familiar.

I'm also not afraid to try crazy things like snipping stitches to add pockets or buttonholes if I want to. I don't know if I'll ever do it, but it's nice to know I can if I feel like it.  I suppose it's just years of experience that brings me to a place in my knitting where I don't rip back to fix a mistake if I don't feel like it, or where I'll change the design up to compensate for a yarn shortage, rather than ordering more yarn.   These are all strategies she discusses and encourages timid knitters to try "to prove to you that you are the absolute boss of your knitting."

I gotta say, I'm not feeling too boss in the rest of my life, so it's nice to rule somewhere.  So here's me being boss:   the Aquae tank top by Hilary Smith Callis.

I began the tank and decided I didn't want waist shaping.  Then, I decided I'd like it to be cropped.  Then, I decided to make the ribbing 1x1, which I later changed to 2x2 and doubled the number of rounds in ribbing.  I tried the ribbed neckline and armholes, but decided to follow another knitter's lead and do I-Cord bind off (I think Elizabeth would approve, as she invented it.) for all of those edgings.  The result was a sweater that felt completely my own.  It only took a few days, so I thought, "Why not use the leftovers from my Oud tank and make another in navy and off-white?"

(They are on Ravelry here and here, and on Flickr, here.)

Things didn't pan out.  I ran short of the navy, then the white.  Did I panic?  Did I place a midnight yarn order?  Did I rip it back to re-knit with some extra color I didn't really like?  Nope.  I just let it be a truly cropped top, with the recommended amount of ribbing.  I didn't even bother with edgings for the arms and necks, just left it raw like on a t-shirt.  And it's really okay with me.  It will serve just fine for our insanely hot summers and it looks a whole lot better than ripped t-shirt tutorials on Pinterest.  Elizabeth might just be proud of me.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

It Only Took 13 Years...

Thirteen years ago, while staying in a cabin outside of San Antonio, I collected native air plants (ball moss, I believe) from a trail to bring home and hang from my ceiling.   As we packed to leave, my husband saw what appeared to be "grass and junk" in the trunk and threw them out.

Nine years later... I did the same thing while camping in Kerrville.  This time, I hid them under my seat in the truck so they'd make it home with me.
He found them as soon as we got home, possessed with the urge to clean our vehicle like never before, and threw them away.

A couple of weeks ago... I finally ordered some air plants.  As soon as I received them, I soaked and hung them.  They are still in my possession.

These ceramic pods from Mudpuppy are so much cooler than the string I was going to tie around the moss all of those years ago.  I ordered bulbosa Belize plants for them at Air Plant Supply Co.  They  add such a cool vibe to a room.  I can see a trio of brightly  colored pods hanging in my kitchen one day.

I also ordered a bunch of smaller tillandsia ionantha from CTS Air Plants.  I put a couple in a shell I found on Sea Rim beach when I was a teenager.  

The rest went into a dish my daughter gave me.
They don't take much care- just an occasional misting with orchid fertilizer added.

I'm always looking for ways to bring some more green indoors, but our house is small and there are no available, cat-proof surfaces left for potted plants.  Hanging air plants or setting them in stitch marker dishes that are already laying around is an easy way to include them.

I'd thought I'd attach them to driftwood like my friend, Jennifer, did with a cedar root.  But I have yet to find the right piece of driftwood, so I went with the hanging pods instead.  It was similar to how I envisioned hanging that ball moss anyway.

(my flickr)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Oud Tank

This is the Oud Tank by Sarah Hurwitz of Knit York City.  Can you see why I love it?  It's so cute- all vintagey with that lace pointed collar.  It was cute enough for me to brave the seaming.

I should have ironed it again after knitting the edging for the armholes and hem.  That's why they look a little rolled here; but this was the only time this week I'd get pictures taken, so I grabbed my camera and ran to the backyard.  These little photo sessions are getting more and more hurried these days.

I liked that there was a balance of interest, with the lace, and ease, with the stockinette.  I could take the pieces with me to visit my grandparents and, except for the lace, easily knit through a conversation.  It was while knitting this that I learned one of the residents of the retirement home refers to me as "The Knitter"  since he can't remember my name.

I knit this with Valley Yarns Goshen in navy (7 skeins) and natural (2 skeins).  It's the same yarn I used for the Just Campy top that I wore constantly last summer.  I used size 0 circular needles, one being long enough to magic loop the sleeve edgings.

I love the side panels and collar.  The color combo makes me think of old family photographs.

I knit this as directed, but I do think my lace panels came out a bit shorter than the body.  It doesn't make a big difference, just deeper armholes, so I went ahead and seamed it.  If you make this top, though, I'd suggested comparing the final length of your side panels with the body before binding the panels off.  You can always adjust things.

Speaking of finishing:  It sounded daunting at first- five pieces to sew together!  But it wasn't bad at all.  I don't see any other way to do this look without seams.  They were completely worth it.  The most important thing was to steam block the pieces with the iron.  It took care of all the crazy curling.  As I seamed the side panels, things lined up easily.  Starting at the bottom of the panels insured they'd finish up at the same place on each side.

Sewing in the collar:  I used locking stitch markers to secure the collar to the body in several places I thought they would meet up around the neckline.  As I joined with a crochet slip stitch, the easiest seam possible, I had to adjust here and there.  In the end, I had made my collar a bit too long, so I pulled out the cast on edge that had yet to be joined to the neckline.  I worked it back a few rows then knit two rows of stockinette and bound off for the perfect length.  I could, then, finish attaching it to the neckline.  

Because there's so much positive ease, I didn't worry about weaving my ends in very far.  I did just a bit, then tied knots and clipped them.  No one's going to see the reverse side, right?

I'm satisfied with the length, but wouldn't this look great a little cropped?  And ironed?
Here we see my sad little garden.  I have very little growing this year.  It's mostly herbs, chives, and a couple of tomato plants.  I think I'm going to make a move toward semi- permanent native plants I enjoy looking at instead of trying for food, at least during this busy time in my life.  I need to be able to sit on my patio in the evenings and relax in as much plant life as possible.  I also would love the view of the tank farm blocked by that trellis.

Sarah has another pattern out right now in the Summer issue of Pom Pom that I love.  I still want to make a Crash Sweater like the sample knit in Unplanned Peacock Studios yarn.

Other posts about the Oud tank if you're interested:planningbeginning, and all the pieces.
You can also see  more on RavelryKollabora, and Flickr.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hawt Galveston Sands

Riding the ferry to Galveston is a major nostalgia trigger for me.  I remember taking it to visit my older sister one summer after my mother passed away.  I didn't realize how much I craved a little getaway, and staying with her in Galveston was exactly the retreat I needed.  I can so clearly recall how it was barely light outside and I stood at the front of the boat, letting sea spray hit my face.

There were also many, many summer trips to the coast in high school with either my brother or groups of kids, listening to loud music, with the windows down, the whole way.

Later I came with my own kids.  They were always excited to see dolphins keeping pace with the ferry, to play on the beach, or walk the seawall.

It's a peaceful herald of summer.

The last time we were in Galveston with just our daughter was about 17 years ago, before my son was born, below.

I remember getting this low light photo developed and cherishing it because it was such a good day.

We had such a good time "swimming" Tuesday.  Everyone lays in the shallows, talking and getting pushed around by the waves, being silly.  Every time I realize I'm laughing these days, I feel such gratitude for the moment.

So, it was a good, overcast day at the beach, complete with lunch at Mosquito Cafe, a long run through the sand, some stunt kite flying, and lots of lazing about.

Hawt Sands is my third or fourth pattern to knit from Teresa Gregorio.  Every one has been a much-worn knit.  The thing that drew me to this design was the hood, the seahorse (of course), and imagining the seed stitch border in hempathy.

I'm a little out of my depth with hemp and intarsia, so there were a few challenges to getting this knit the way I wanted.  If I'd done this in a wool blend or cotton, it would've been such a snap.  But hemp felt all wrong in my hands. Knitting with it was like writing with my left hand, all jerky and weird.  But after all of that stockinette, I did get a feel for it.

For this top, I used Elsebeth Lavold's Hempathy in beach white (8 skeins) and blue pine (1 skein) with size 0 needles.  I knit it to be fitted with the expectation of the hemp blooming and relaxing with washing.  Thankfully, it relaxed to just the right amount.

Keep in mind that I knit my top longer than the pattern sample, plus the hemp stretches.  That's why I still needed more hempathy when I finished up the 6th ball in beach white.  I think I found two of the last balls of this color in existence at Abundant Yarn and was relieved to find that they looked the same as my other dye lot when dry.  When wet, you can see a color variation, but it looks like intentional color blocking, so I don't really care.

I modified this be longer and to have fewer decreases because I wanted it a bit loose at the waist.  I don't feel like the difference between my hip and waist measurements is as much as the average person's.

Here are the mods.  They appear lengthy, but it's just that changing the amount of decreases changed everything else.  I'm typing these out for me, should I want to knit another one some time:

Hem- I cast on for the second size and increased the amount of seed stitch hem by half an inch.

Decreases- My row count was off so I spread out the first set of waist decreases by two rows more.  I didn't do the last two decreases either.  Because I was spreading my decreases out, I started my color work charts after three decreases.

Colorwork- I had more stitches on my needles than called for, so I just centered my color work for the front.  By the time I did the back, I realized I could have just added some "waves" to keep the color work almost continuous across the front and back, but I just didn't have the heart to redo that much knitting to satisfy the anal perfectionist in my head.  I'm getting better at tuning her out.  I did, however, knit more waves across the back.  To balance things out between front and back, I added some waves to the front in duplicate stitch.  It was a compromise with the nitpicker.

I used a combination of fair isle and intarsia for the color work.  I used intarsia for the top and the bottom of the seahorse and carried the fair isle I was using for the waves across his middle section. By the time I got to the back, I had figured out that the hemp required a much easier tension for color work than I was used to.  To knit that way felt loose and sloppy but it turned out a lot better than the front when washed and blocked.  For the front, I had long strands of the blue yarn hanging from the inside, so I used the slack to loosen the color work up some.  It turned out okay, but not as nice as it could've been.  Next time I will know better.

Increases- For the bust increases I increased as directed but did one less increase.  Keep in mind that I had done less decreases, so I still had plenty of room there.

Sleeves/ shoulders- After casting on for sleeves, I had 119 sts, so I knit 3 extra stitches before working the left front placket, and made sure I had the same number to the right of it.  I also had 3 extra stitches to graft together for each shoulder.

Hood- When picking up stitches for the hood, I found that I needed to pick up an extra stitch at each shoulder gap to keep it from being "holey" there.  I knit the first one with the stitch before by slipping the a previously held stitch to my right needle, picking up one from the gap, then slipping both back to the left needle to knit together.  I then picked up another stitch from the gap and knit it with the following held stitch.  I did the same on the other side.

I really don't know that these mods were necessary, but I knew I'd never regret making a coverup a little loose.  I would, however, be bummed if it was tight.  Things need to be free and flowy in the Texas heat.

Honestly, it wasn't hot at all that day on the beach.  It was overcast and perfect, except for the crazy amount of seaweed.

Previous posts on this knit: swatching, getting the hang of colorwork, and halfway there.

All said, I love my coverup!  I'm so pleased I tried hemp and it came out okay.  I have a few more of Teresa's knits lined up for this summer or fall:  Drift's Ridge in lilac and grey in a wool/silk blend, because I've hi-jacked the purple bandwagon, and Ontario Skies, because I can wear it all year.  Teresa also has a podcast that has quickly became one of my favorites.  Listening to her voice and "podcast presence", you'd never guess that she hasn't been doing this for a long time.  There's always some interesting aspect of life or crafting to consider.  I'm even clearing out my closet, somewhat, after listening to her Wardrobe Architect series.

Knitters and would-be- knitters, Teresa is hosting a Knitting Read-a-long in her Ravelry group, where we'll read some of the knitting classics together.  The first book is one I'm ashamed to say I've had since way back in my early knitting years, and still haven't read in it's entirety: Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmerman.  It's funny and smart, but I guess I need a little push to hold off on my knitting long enough to read about knitting.  There's still plenty of time to join in and order the book.

This was a good day.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, flickr)