Still tooling to deadlines at work, even over the holiday weekend. Which leaves less time for blogging than I prefer. But I can report some project progress.
First, on the perpetual ribbed leaf sweater. Done with the back and front, I now have two sleeves on the needles. As always, I’m knitting them side by side so that the shaping on both is dead uniform. If you look closely you’ll see two things happening with the markers. One is that because this is a wide and easily confused repeat, I’ve got one small silver jump ring marking off each repeat, even though I’ve long since memorized the stitch design. Even so, mistakes can creep in. This helps me keep oriented, and allows me to proof my knitting one repeat at a time. The second is that red marker at the beginning of my row. That’s a counting marker.
My pattern says “Increase one stitch at both sleeve edges every 4th row, 24 times.” I’ve chosen to make that increase on a reverse side row (all purls) because it’s less confusing than trying to do it on the texture pattern side. It really doesn’t make a difference in this pattern, so long as the placement is consistent. I’ve got enough of a headache remembering to do it every fourth row (that’s every other purl row), so keeping track of exactly how many times I’ve done an increase row can become a headache, especially because I only get to knit in short spurts. Pencil and paper would get away from me. Instead, I placed a marker immediately before the last stitch on my purl side row the very first time I did one of the increases. When I began my pattern-side row it was sitting there one stitch in from the edge. On every subsequent increase row I did a make one, one stitch in from the edge. That meant that the new stitch happened between the red counting marker and the edge of the work. After that first row, it’s pretty much automatic because the increase point moves further and further away from the static counting marker as the piece grows. I’ve got six sitting between the red marker and the edge now. That’s six increase rows completed. I’ll continue until I’ve got 24 stitches between the red marker and the edge. Problem solved, so long as I don’t forget to increase at both ends of each increase row, on both sleeves.
The other project I’m working is a more mindless piece. We like to play PS2 games as a family after homework and dinner – the exploration/quest type rather than straight shoot-em-ups or race games. That’s excellent sit and knit time, but because all eyes are needed to spot clues or treasures, not optimal for exacting texture knitting. So that’s when I do socks, hats or other easy pieces. This weekend’s fit the bill quite nicely – Dovetail Design’s Rainbow Hat and Scarf. My LYS kitted the pattern up with Frog Tree Alpaca sport weight – the recommended yarn for the project. I’ve finished the hat and am on the first orange stripe of the scarf.
Modeled here by a slightly deranged looking Older Daughter, the hat is a very simple project to knit, but a rather fussy one to finish. It’s knit sideways. Each color is introduced leaving a very long dangling tail, and ended in the same way. There is no shaping, just welts formed by alternating bands of stockinette and reverse stockinette to make a wide rectangle. After the rectangle is finished, the cast on row is joined to the cast-off row. The dangling strands are knotted two by two, then all are twisted and gathered to make a very big single top-knot, forming the closed end of the hat. Finally, using a crochet hook the dangling ends are dealt with, turning them into the crocheted chains that make up the mass of tentacles tassel at the top.
While the basic idea is ultra simple and very easy to knit, there are a couple of refinements that enhance the hat that aren’t covered in the basic pattern. First, the logic of the pattern dictates that some kind of long-tail cast-on be used so that the starting tail is on the same side as end-off tail. but that isn’t called out. In spite of that logic, I used a half-hitch cast-on, deliberately leaving a super long tail. I then used that tail (now on the side of the work opposite that of the zillion dangling long ends) to graft the final row of purple live stitches to the cast-on row of the red. When I was done I treated the dangling end of the grafting yarn just like the other tassel strands. The resulting seam is totally invisible, without much bulk. Second, just tying the tails into a very tightly twisted knot doesn’t close up the hole adequately. Some of the strips stick out like gaping pockets. Others are pleated back inside the hat. I took another strand of yarn and took some carefully placed tacking stitches across the hat just beneath my dense knot, fastening down the tops of the stripes and making the closed end more uniform in appearance. Third, the pattern directs the user to make a slip knot in each strand close to the origin point of the dangling ends near the hat’s closing topknot, and work each one in a crochet chain for as many stitches as possible, ending off the final bit neatly by weaving it back into the crocheted chain. Well and good, but it’s very difficult to work that slip knot in closely. I ended up starting in the center, grabbing a strand and drawing it over one of the others close by in order to make that first foundation loop. After that, I sort of scrummed around, catching the first loop of each new strand somewhere in the mounting foundation created by previous squiggles. It worked out well. The tassel is nice and dense at its base and I skipped the “nurse the slip knot into position” annoyance.
My final criticism is one of yarn choice. I really liked working with the Frog Tree. It’s soft, without the stabbing guard hairs present on many coarser alpaca yarns. The colors are radiant, especially for alpaca which seems to be offered in bright colors less often than other fibers. So far I’ve found some knots in my seven 50-gram balls (one of each color), and some bits where the spinning is a bit uneven, tending to two-inch clumps where the yarn is quite noticeably thicker. But not so many of either that cutting them out was a major problem. So the yarn is fine. But in my opinion this hat should not be made from a sport or even a DK. If you click on the picture above and look closer, you’ll see that the stitches are very leggy, and the fabric is no where near as tightly made as is optimal for a sport or DK weight yarn. The recommended gauge is 4 stitches per inch. The best I could achieve with the Frog Tree was 4.25 (I added a few stitches to the hat to compensate). But I am disappointed in the open, loopy texture. If I were to do this hat again, I’d use a worsted, or heavy worsted (5-4.75 stitches per inch native gauge). Or possibly even one of the most airy and open of the Aran weight yarns (4.5 stitches per inch). I do think that a true 4 stitch per inch yarn would make a hat that’s too heavy.