It’s true I haven’t knit in a while. But I did do nine pairs of socks for the holidays this year, some of which are shown below. And while I was at it, I dropped hints to Younger Offspring, who was enthused by the thought of a new pullover.
I first knit this classic Penny Straker unisex design decades ago. It was probably the third sweater I made and was a present for one of my sisters. This is the cover photo from the original leaflet. Note the armhole depth (we’ll get back to that later).
It was the early 1980s – long before blogging, so I don’t have pictures or notes detailing my first attempt, but it was a happy success. I’m pretty sure I used Germantown worsted, in a deep burgundy and a lighter, coordinating plum. I do remember that it was super thick and stiff because of the Eye of Partridge stitch uses a lot of slip stitches, making a double-thick fabric. In fact that stitch often used as a self-reinforcing treatment for sock heels, to make them both cushier and more wear-resistant.
My sister’s sweater ended up being a great outdoor activity wearable – perfect for someone engaged in winter exercise like cross country skiing, and too warm for indoor wear. But as we were flipping through some possibilities it was the one that caught Younger Offspring’s eye. So I downloaded a copy of the revised pattern from the Straker website (it’s now offered in an extended size range) and off we went to Webs, making a small detour out in western Massachusetts on the official Deposit-Child-Back-At-Home-Away-From-Home trip to Troy, New York.
At Webs I found a candidate yarn that came in the desired black and screaming chartreuse colors – Euro Baby Babe 100. It’s a butter-soft acrylic/polyamide (nylon) blend, and at 356 yards for 100g, a great value.
But it’s not a true worsted. It’s a DK. That means that instead of the standard 5 stitches per inch (spi) in stockinette, it works better at 5.5 spi in stockinette.
Although the pattern is clearly written for a heavier yarn, but I took a risk and bought the Babe anyway. I swatched until I found a needle combo and gauge that I liked. In this case, 6 spi/8 rows per inch (rpi) on US #7s (4.5mm) in Eye of Partridge instead of the pattern’s specified 5 spi/7 rpi on US #8s (5mm).
I’ve done the math for Younger Offspring’s chosen size (a swim-in-it oversize fit), and have cast on the revised number of stitches, plus two more – I always add selvedge stitches for easy seaming. I will work my new number until I am close to the specified length for the below-arm torso, then I will figure out the raglan shaping, taking notes so I can match the row count on the sleeves. I know that these Straker patterns were all written with very tight armholes by modern standards. It was the style back then. So there is room for me to err on the up side. If I need a few more rows to accommodate the raglan shaping than the original used, that will be ok. The armhole will end up a smidge larger, and that won’t be bad at all.
So to finish this already over-long, stitching-free post, here’s three evening’s worth of progress on the back. The drape is fluid, and the yarn is super soft and luxurious, uncommon in an acrylic. The color contrast reminds me of fireflies on a dark night. With luck this one should knit up quickly into a bundle of fun.
Where have I been? What have I been up to?
Long time readers here know when posts go few and far between, I’m very busy. But what’s up?
Several things, in fact.
The basement rehab project continues, after a month delay to ensure all asbestos was properly removed. The team is now up to rebuilding the walls, and roughing in the fixtures for the half bath:
At left is what will be our pantry/storage alcove. Eventually the freezer now in the furnace room will go here, along with freestanding shelving. In the center is what will become a tiny but fully functional half-bath. And at right is the view down the length of what was the basement bonus room and my office and needlework library, but will become our TV room/exercise area. That heavy brick bit is the foundation for the two fireplaces above. It was awkwardly paneled in before, and the alcove next to it was one of those oh-so-common tacky 1960s-era home bars. I had repurposed the bar shelving as my library. Sadly the partially and strangely painted brick will be much easier to repaint than it would be to strip, so we’ll probably be doing that, but we won’t be enclosing it.
I find myself knitting less and stitching more lately, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up knitting entirely. I started a new pair of “briefcase socks” even though I am no longer going to work or carrying a briefcase. But they are handy to have to work on between other projects, and for relaxing on the beach when it’s too windy to haul out the stitching:
Standard toe-up construction but a bit less fine than my usual socks. This pair is only 80 stitches around on US 00s. I’m using a standard wool/nylon sock yarn using a set of 5 DPNs. The toe is the maligned figure-8 toe (fiddly but I prefer it) followed by a dead plain stockinette foot. I find a low-texture foot more comfortable in the shoe than one with patterning, so I don’t begin the fancy part until after the short-rowed heel is finished. Toe up works out fine for me because if I did that fancy ankle part first I’d never slog through the ultra-boring foot. All of my free sock patterns use this style of construction and are very easy to adapt to two-circs, but feel free to swap in any other toe you favor.
I’ve been working on T2CM – combing through and readying it for final pub. No ETA yet, but I’ve done a ton on it, removing both written and drafted typos, correcting bits to coincide with research developments, and the like.
And in stitching… Well… RUN FOR THE HILLS! IT’S COMING!!
It’s driving me nuts that I can’t do more than tease. But soon…
Back story: I fell in with a crowd of Enablers who egged me on to design a massive band sampler for a free communal stitch-along. It’s not a historical piece. not by a long shot. Instead it’s a celebration of fandoms and nerdy/geeky culture in general – done in an inclusive spirit, to unite many communities in our common joy. The project will premiere in the sponsoring Facebook group, and be echoed here on two-week delay. We’ll be posting advance info on suggested supplies by the end of June/beginning of July, and the component strips will be released periodically starting in early/mid August. And who knows. I couldn’t cover EVERY fandom in one project. If folk find fun in this project there may be crowd calls for inspiration to do follow-ons, so even if I’ve not included your particular darling in the first set, future stand-alone strips or even whole projects may happen, too.
Long time readers here know that I knit and crochet as well as embroider. These things tend to happen in phases, and I rotate among my hobbies, going from one to the other to keep fresh.
As I was going through the endless piles of cruft in my basement I found this.
It’s a tiny sock, full figured, worked with the same figure-8 cast on and short row heel that I use on my normal size socks, but knit on blunted hat pins using the reinforcement yarn that comes with some brands of sock yarn. I’ve done a couple of other teeny socks over the years, but this is one, from 1996 or so was one of the first. And it has a story behind it.
At the time I was working for Bay Networks. It made the high capacity routers and other networking equipment that large companies and even service providers needed to connect to the Internet. I was a proposal specialist, and worked side by side with engineers and sales teams to respond to opportunities. Bay decided that in order to write about the equipment I had to take the same training classes as the sales engineers, although I was not expected to sit for the qualifying exam to get the exiting service certification. So I sat in several training classes, auditing them and absorbing what I could. They were multi day sessions, and I have to admit my mind would wander as the class did exercises in provisioning or “speeds and feeds” – info with which I needed to be vaguely familiar, but I would never be called upon to calculate.
Outside the classrooms was a lobby. I could see it through the glass door. On the wall opposite me was an enormous mounted swordfish. One of Bay’s founders had a serious fishing mania, and many of the common areas were decorated with his trophies. An Evil Idea came to mind.
I went home and that night knit up the tiny sock. I rolled up a bit of one of my business cards and stuck it into the ankle, so the sock looked like it was on the leg of a tiny person. Then I snuck into the lobby early the next morning, and put the sock into the fish’s open mouth, posed to look like the fish had just swallowed a victim. And I told no one about it.
The next few days of class were enlivened by watching the fish and the people who passed by. Several noticed and fell out laughing. A couple dragged their buddies over to see the thing. After the class was over I left the sock there, and so it remained.
Flash forward five years. I am leaving Bay quite unceremoniously after it was acquired by Nortel. I swung by the fish lobby to retrieve the sock. Other employees saw me reaching for it and told me not to touch it because it was a fixture of anonymous company folklore and affection. I told them to look at the scrap of paper inside. It being my card and my name, they had to admit that I had the right of first possession.
The sock and I left Bay forever. Given Nortel’s steep subsequent plunge into obscurity and acquisition, they might have been right about its talismanic virtue.
What have I been doing of late? Well, being lucky, I can work from home, so that’s been taking up most time, especially with major deadlines in the past week. In the time that’s left over, I have to stay busy, and not as a sacrifice to the “cult of productivity.” Mostly because unless my hands are occupied, my thoughts wander to dark places.
I have subdued a reluctant sewing machine and run up some face masks for my family:
I’ve been knitting a pair of socks from a gorgeous ball of yarn I had put away as being “too good for socks.” Well, I deserve nice things, too.
I’ve done some casual research, and found another rendition of The Old Castle design, dated to 1590-1610. I added it to my round-up of the designs in that family.
And I’ve embarked on a new stitching project. It’s a curious one that has no short explanation behind it, and in a way – it’s the ultimate FanGirl project.
As I’ve mentioned before, The Resident Male (pictured above) writes prime SF/fantasy. He is currently working on the second book in his Blair and Terendurr series. One of the delights of living with an author is that you get to read the output long before it escapes into the wide, wide world. And if you are really lucky, parts are read out loud to you as they are completed.
One of the stories in the forthcoming second book features a rather unusual band of confederates. I can’t go into more detail because I don’t want to post spoilers. But they have a motto in an other-worldly language, “Lucus Orthai Ta,” which translates roughly to “Life’ll kill ya.” I thought it would be fitting as his #1 fan to make a present for my author: an embroidery of this phrase, framed with The Dance border I posted here last week.
I started by combing through my usual haunt for unusual alphabets, Ramzi’s Patternmaker Charts collection of near 100 year old Alexandre, Sajou and other pattern booklets and leporellos, The one I picked is the third one on this page. They don’t get much more baroque or difficult to read than that set of squiggles. Perfect for an alien language.
And so I present the start – working out from the center and in cross stitch for the lettering, on 44 count almost-evenweave linen in “art silk,” it will take me a while to get to my skeleton army in double running stitch. But I will…
As for the story, you are just going to have to wait for him to complete the second book. It will be worth the wait!
It’s doldrums here at String Central. Younger Daughter is back to university. Others are back to work. I fill my time with nosing around for grant and proposal contract assignments, and my various projects.
First, my sanity project – the doodled decoration on the pre-finished napkins I bought on sale from Wayfair, using the cotton four-ply embroidery floss I picked up when we visited Sajou in Paris (stitching with three plies). I can show a modicum of progress. I’m just picking out random designs from my books and doing them rather informally, with a different design along a single edge of each of eight napkins. The first of my mismatched set is complete. The second in process.
The linen is soft and once washed, a bit mushy. That makes count work a bit more troublesome than it otherwise would be, especially on so coarse a ground. But it’s still rather quick work. The first napkin with the interlace took three evenings (about half shown). The in process photo shows only one evening’s worth of work.
On to knitting. I finished a pair of socks, packed up and sent to the recipient before I remembered to take a photo. They were my “briefcase project” – the thing I always have with me to work on while I wait on telephone hold, on line at the post office, or for appointments. Since I ALWAYS have a pair on the needles, the next pair is already cast on and sitting it its bag, itself waiting for me to be waiting. This pair however is special. Younger Daughter picked out this yarn with the proviso that I knit something for myself with it. I comply.
And my project of long suffering guilt. I promised these Octopus Mittens to my niece late last winter. It was inadvertently destroyed, then was re-started with new yarn, and is now sitting next to my project chair, chiding me that it is being neglected. I plead laziness, lack of inspiration, and frustration with stranding using two strands of DK, knit at sock yarn gauge for warmth.
I MUST finish these. I promised.
How do you flog yourself back into working on a sidelined project? All suggestions gratefully accepted.
Oh, And if you know of anyone looking for a project manager/writer/editor specializing in high tech grants and proposals – send them my way, please.
I continue to produce samples for the Chanterelle pattern. This one is in a narrow self-striper – the kind of sock yarn that when knit up, makes socks with stripes of two or at most three rounds.
And for reference, what the ball looked like before it was consumed:
This scarf is another oddity. It has the same gauge and width as all of the others. The Steinback Aktiv Effekt yarn is marked as being 421 meters (460 yards) – comparable to the others.
I was only able to knit up nine full trumpet sections, plus the beginning and end section. I did have a bit of yarn left over, but only enough for about a third of a trumpet. So based on what I’ve seen so far, here’s the scarf length to yardage result. As you can see, it doesn’t quite make sense.
Number of Full Trumpet Segments and Length
Narrow stripes with one faux Fair Isle inclusion
|Schoeller + Stahl
Fortissima Colori Socka Color
Combo of narrow red and white stripes with one medium length blue/white stripe
Opal 4 fach
Half medium, half narrow stripes. One faux Fair Isle inclusion
|Gradient with two independently shading plies||459 yards
|Gradient with two independently shading plies||459 yards
The saving grace of the pattern is that the trumpet segment and the final section are identical until one is half-way through the trumpet sequence. At that point the knitter can look at the remaining yarn and decide on whether or not to risk finishing out the last trumpet and then going on to the final segment (which would require about 36 yards remaining), or punting and just finishing off the segment at hand according to the instructions for the final section.
I didn’t expect this. I’ve finished the Chanterelle knit from the Schoeller and Stahl’s Fortisimma Socka Color, # 1776, “Stars and Stripes.” In the ball it looked like it would present as medium width stripes, narrower than the ones in the ocean-wave blue sample scarf, but not particularly special in any way. In my standard socks, I would guess that each stripe would be about three or four rounds, with the blue areas about four or five rounds.
In the directional world of this pattern, look what happened!
In a serendipity I seldom achieve, the directionality of the Chanterelle pattern, coupled with the narrow width sections make a flags-in-the breeze effect. And see that little butterfly at the right, containing about 18 inches of yarn? That’s ALL I had left. A squeaker, for sure.
Although I can’t bring myself to sport this, I have the perfect family to give this to – friends with a son in international competitions. It will be the perfect thing for them to wear as they cheer him on.
Now on to yet another. My goal is to show off a wide variety of self-stripers and variegateds, so folks can gauge what their own yarn might look like. Digging down into the stash, I come up with another Nancy-Gift Yarn (it was a very generous gift). This is Steinbach Wolle Aktiv Effect sock yarn, and as you can see from the 100g skein promises to have narrow stripes – probably manifesting as only two rounds each in a standard sock.
As always, you can find the Chanterelle pattern for free at the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page.
And in other news, because there can always be other news, I’ve been asked to do a quickie set of fingerless mittens, from the leftover screaming yellow shawl yarn. I’ll be casting on for that over the weekend.
Well, this pattern has wound my curiosity up around itself. The basic design of the Chanterelle scarf is quite simple, but it can look quite different depending on the yarn chosen. I have written it for any 100g ball of fingering/sock weight yarn, and finding out what the various yarns end up looking like when knit up – that’s turning out to be tons of fun.
So let’s start.
So far I’ve used two different Schoppel Zauberball Crazy colors: the autumn/purples mix of the original, plus a lilac/cream/navy mix. The pix below the scarves are photos of the SAME color numbers of Zauberball as the ones I knit from. There is considerable variation between balls of the stuff, but you can get an idea of how the original yarn looked, none the less.
The ends look different because for some reason although the balls were marked with identical yardage, the one on the left was significantly shorter, and yielded only ten trumpet sections, while the shades-of-purple one yielded 11. Go figure… In any case, it’s nice that regardless of how many full sections are knit, the ends still complement the piece.
Here’s the third try. This one is a stash-aged Opal yarn, whose label with its color number has long since gone the way of all things.
You can see that the color runs are pretty wide, and unlike the happy chaos of Zauberball Crazy, the repeat is very predictable. Variation happens because the yardage required to produce one trumpet isn’t in synch with that of the yarn’s printed repeat, so the colors wander up and down the trumpet motifs, and the faux Fair Isle spot manifests differently each time it pops up, shaped mostly by the width of the section where it appears.
I’m now trying for Chanterelle #4. This one is from another stash-aged yarn – another ball that was a gift from the generous Nancys. It’s Schoeller and Stahl’s Fortisimma Socka Color, # 1776 – a red, white, and blue mix. This one looks to have small to medium width stripes.
We’ll see how these stripes manifest. I’ve obviously not gotten this out of my system yet, so I’m sure I’ll be doing some more Chanterelles. Luckily they are a quick and mindless knit, and can be done while watching subtitled movies and shows on TV.
If you want to do up a Chanterelle and would like me to post it, you can find the free pattern under the Scarves section of the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page. I’d be grateful for pix of the skein and pix of the finished product, as done above. That will help others decide whether or not this design would work for their beautiful but problematic yarns, too.
UPDATE: THE DOWNLOADABLE PDF PATTERN FOR CHANTERELLE HAS BEEN ADDED TO MY KNITTING PATTERNS PAGE, AT THE TAB ABOVE.
A bit more mindless knitting this week past. I have two balls of Zauberball Crazy, a wildly variegated (and expensive) fingering weight yarn. Both balls had minor damages to them, and I wanted to work them up quickly. But I didn’t want to make socks. This stuff’s colors are so over the top that I wanted to make something that would be seen. Scarves are ideal. I’ve done several before using Wingspan and its variants, or other designs calculated to display the gradients to their best effect. But I wanted to do something different. I cast on for a couple of designs I found on Ravelry, but wasn’t particularly pleased.
What to do….
Ah. Thinking back, my most popular pattern of all time is Kureopatora’s Snake. That was written for a DK weight variegated, and was the result of happy experiment. It’s basically Entrelac, but slimmed down to just the two edge triangles, and worked over a large number of stitches. The result is a graceful interlock of trumpet shapes, with the trumpet’s spread accentuated by working a purl into (not just slipping) the K2tog join stitch at the end of each partial row before the turn.
Why not make that one up in fingering weight, and publish the pattern adaptations that make it work?
So I present the first of the two test pieces. I’ll be starting the second tonight:
First off, I’ve renamed the thing. Now that it’s independent of the original yarn, I re-dub this one “Chanterelle.” Yes, there are ends (the initial cast-on, bind off, plus a couple of damages). A personal quirk – I don’t darn in the ends until I am ready to give my knit gift to the recipient. This will sit un-darned until then.
I will be writing up the full design again under the new name, but for now, start with the Kureopatora’s Snake pattern, available for free at the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page.
A FINGERING-WEIGHT VARIATION OF KUREOPATORA’S SNAKE
Grab your ball of fingering weight variegated yarn. ONE ball of Zauberball Crazy made this scarf, with only about 3 yards of yarn left over. It’s about 5 inches wide (a bit under 8 cm), and 66 inches long (a bit under 168 cm). Gauge is pretty much unimportant. I recommend a MUCH looser gauge than one would use for socks. I used a US #5 needle (3.5mm) for this project.
Follow the Kureopatora pattern as written for the initial section, but instead of stopping when you have 30 stitches on the needle, keep going until you have 46.
Work the entire scarf as-written, until you have completed ten full trumpet sections (not counting the partial trumpet done to initiate the project).
Follow the directions for the final finishing section, EXCEPT that instead of working the final section as normal until there are 15 stitches on each needle, keep going until you have 23 stitches on each needle. Then on every row that begins on the edge of the scarf after that, work a SSK instead of the increase you have been doing throughout the prior sections.
DO NOT STRETCH-BLOCK this piece. If you feel it’s lumpy, moisten it and pat it flat, but do not use wires or pins to stretch it out. You want to preserve those graceful curves.
And here’s another finish!
This was a super quick project, barely a week from cast-on to final block. Even though I still have a couple of ends to tuck in, I consider it done.
Younger Daughter bespoke this, having noted the popularity of screaming yellow this Fall season, and a similar trend towards heavier, highly textured knits.
This shoulder/mini shawl is done in machine washable Merino sport weight, from Gems. I used the May Day Shawl pattern by Zabeth Loisel-Weiner, available for free on Ravelry. It took about 2.3 skeins of the yellow. I consider it a very simple project – the instructions and charts were spot on, and very clear. Lots of “bang-for-the-buck” here in terms of visual complexity vs. effort invested. If you are looking for a first serious lacy knitting project, this is not a bad place to start.
That being said, I have to say I detest knitting bobbles and nupps. These are bobbles. I tamed them somewhat by knitting backwards – that is learning to work the back-again bit of each bobble working off of my right hand needle, so I didn’t have to flip the work over to purl back in the middle of each little bump. If you haven’t tried this yet, it’s well worth the learning curve investment for little back-and-forth scraps like bobbles and Entrelac.
A quick word on blocking if I may. Lacy knitting needs to be blocked to within an inch of its life – as tightly as you can. Here’s the before photo, and the mid-block photo:
If you count the 2×2-inch squares of the checked sheet I block on, you can see that pinned out (right), the thing is almost twice as big as it was before pinning (left).
How do I block? I admit I’m not the most precise or assiduous, but I do try, at least a bit to keep things neat and square. The black and white sheet, although an eye-popping Peter Max background is very helpful in estimating and meeting target measurements, and keeping 90-degree angles true. I bought it at a discount/close-out store years ago when shopping for inexpensive bedding for the girls to take to summer camp. I knew that if the sheets survived, they would be perfect for this use. (Plaids, Tattersall checks, and ginghams would also work).
I dampened the knitting, and spread my sheet over an area rug to provide anchorage for my pins. Then I threaded blocking wires across the top of the piece, slipping them into every edge “purl bump.” Then I inserted additional wires along the join line between the edging and the center triangle. I pinned the top wire down first, spreading the work along its length, then stretched the piece down the spine, pinning the pointed junction of the two side wires. Then I pinned the side wires out as far as I could manage, making sure to keep the angles (as measures vs. the checks) true. I had to jockey and adjust them a few times, but eventually I was satisfied. Then and only then did I place a single pin at each of the edging’s points. If I had started with the edging points, the center triangle would have been deformed. Using the wires keep the piece from developing internal “scallops” corresponding to the pins placed in the edging.
No lie – it is tedious. But it’s worth it.
Now on to other things.
I say goodbye to this tiny little embroidered scrap. It’s the finest gauge I ever worked – over 38 stitches per inch on 80-ish or so count muslin, using standard black sewing thread:
It started out as an experiment, to see if I could do a coif at that gauge. Soon after I got started it met with an accident, and was never finished. That was about 35 years ago, easily. Why goodbye? I’ve mailed it off to become part of A Larger Project. The East Kingdom doll project was on display at the 50th anniversary, and still lives. About the only thing people remember me for is that I embroidered, so I am sending this snippet to the curators/creators to be a prop for the doll that represents me. Maybe they’ll make a tiny flat frame for it. That would be sweet. Pix if I get some, I promise.
And finally, another start. I have two balls of precious multi-color yarn – rather pricey Schoppel Zauberball Crazy fingering weight. I adore just looking at them. But it was time to put at least one to good use. So I began casting around for something fun to do with the very long repeat. I’ve tried a lot of the popular projects that use Zauberball. And I didn’t feel like working on some of the others. But then I remembered that I HAD a design of my own. I did up Kureopatora’s Snake in that yarn – a DK weight variegated with a long repeat. It has always been the most popular original pattern on any of my websites. So why not try it with a smaller gauge yarn and explore the possibilities?
Here I am. Following the pattern as written, with three exceptions:
- Using the Zauberball Crazy fingering weight instead of the Noro Kureopatora DK.
- Using size 5 US (3.75mm) instead of 6 US (4.0mm) to make the thing more airy
- Working across 40 stitches instead of the 30 specified.
You can see that both the color progression and shaping are beginning to present themselves. I think that if I had a chance to rename this now established pattern, I’d call it Chanterelle, instead. More on this one as it grows…