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…
I wish I weren’t but it’s been so, and for a while.
Sadly this means that not much substantive is getting done on any of my main projects. I feel quite badly about this because I promised a pair of Octopodes Mittens to a niece. Thanks to the ungentle hands of the Philistines at TSA, during my trip to Florida, my on-the-needles project was unceremoniously dumped out into my checked baggage, the needles were pulled out of the work (and one was lost); the magnet board I was using was bent, the magnetic strip that marked my place is missing, and they broke the yarn to remove and lose the Strickfingerhut knitting thimble thingy I use to make stranding easier. So progress has been stalled while I replace the needles, Strickfingerhut, and magnet board.
Here is the barely-begun first mitten prior to TSA’s pillaging:
Back to Square One on that project.
In the mean time, my mindless “briefcase project” socks march on. These require little to no thought, and are done in stolen hours while waiting on line at the post office, in large group meetings at work, and the like. The ankle patterns are improvised on the fly. Since January, I’ve done 3.75 pairs – all toe-up, quick knits on 76 stitches around, (US #00s – big as logs…)
Starting with the blue pair with red accents, yarns used were blue striped Cascade Heritage 150 Prints, with Kroy Sock toes/heels/ribbing; orange Cascade Heritage 150; Plymouth Neon Now (it really does glow under UV light); and Berroco Comfort sock, in pastels – which is an acrylic/nylon blend with no wool in it at all. The last one is an experiment, we’ll see how it feels to wear, and how well it holds up in regular sock rotation.
Now that I have the requisite replacement materials, it’s back to the Octopodes Mittens. Winter 2018 may be almost over, but I have a feeling the niece will appreciate them in 2019.
A couple starts and finishes here at String Central.
First – a scarf for Elder Daughter. She favors autumn colors, and the last scarf I made her about five years ago was due for a replacement. I had a ball of Zauberball Crazy in my stash, that was way too nice to waste on socks that won’t be seen. Something that demonstrative is better out in the open rather than hidden away in shoes. But she wanted a strip-style classic scarf, not an abbreviated shawl or wing-shaped piece, so one ball of fingering weight yarn wasn’t going to be enough unless the chosen stitch was very lacy. But it’s hard to make the color gradations pop in a lace design…
The most obvious thing to do is to eke out the fancy multicolor yarn using a solid – either a component color of the multi, or something contrasting. So I went stash-diving. And I came up with another problematic yarn that fits the mission envelope. Lister Lavenda fingering weight 100% wool, circa the late ‘60s.
How do I come by such a superannuated yarn? Easy. I stole it from my mom.
To be fair, “stole” is a bit of exaggeration. She let me have it, from her own stash. My mom has been a prolific and talented knitter as long as I can remember. She tried many times to teach me when I was a kid, but I didn’t actually pick up needles until after I was out of my own. BUT I did crochet quite a bit as a kid and teen. Mom let me stash dive on occasion. This particular mustard color wool was part of a vest project she began for my dad, long, long ago. I’m not sure why it was never completed, but mom had a huge bag of the stuff, well over a dozen little one-ounce pull skeins. I adopted them and have used them slowly over the years. Pretty much any gold/mustard yellow accent in anything I’ve knit from fingering weight has been mom’s Lavenda.
The yarn itself is quite nice, a bouncy, spongy 100% wool,, but fragile. It fulls if you so much as look at it with damp, warm eyes. It rubs through in socks all too quickly, even when reinforced. So scarves and hats are the best use. I had four skeins left, a bit over 100g, all told. About the same amount as the one Zauberball.
I used a free pattern on Ravelry, Christy Kamm’s ZickZack Scarf. I used 3.0mm needles (about a US 2.5), and did the recommended eight repeats of the 12-stitch garter stitch pattern. swapping the multicolor and mustard yarns every other row (each garter stripe). Every row was the same – as such it was the perfect totally mindless piece to work in the evenings, even while watching subtitled movies.
Here are the front and back:
Note that they are close, and both are pleasing, but they are not identical. Nor could they be. Garter stitch produces identical TEXTURES on front and back, but when you change colors, the appearance of the row is different front to back. If I had knit 3 rows of multi, then 3 rows of solid, the two sides would look more alike, BUT I’d end up having a lot of long floats up or ends to work in because my other-color yarn would always be on the wrong edge of the work when I went looking for it to change.
And the finished piece:
Lessons learned: If I had to do it all over again, I’d only do six or seven repeats across, to make the thing just a bit narrower, but longer. The recipient loves it, but I prefer narrower scarves. Also, the design benefits from not being worked loosely. If you attempt this one and are a loose knitter, go down a needle size or two for best effect. All in all though, I’m quite happy with the piece, and offer thanks to pattern source Christy for thinking of adapting this traditional heavy-knit blanket zig-zag to a light weight scarf.
And the other start – Bumblebee Socks for Younger Daughter
This project also started off with the yarn. Long time pal Wendy has embarked on a yarn dyeing venture. She brews and experiments, and when she’s accumulated enough inventory, offers it up on line or at knitting festivals, via Facebook or her Etsy page, under the “Strings N’’Strands” imprint. As such it’s sporadically available but worth waiting for.
Last month she posted that she’d just finished dyeing a black/yellow combo, and posted pix. It sang to me:
Younger Daughter has a thing for bees. She adores them, and advocates for bee-preservation causes. This yarn would be perfect for a pair of socks for her.
So, a new conundrum. How to use a variegated to best advantage in socks? Not every hand-dyed variegated works out well in-project. Sometimes the colors flash in an inopportune way. Sometimes they don’t flash at all, and end up muddy. And how to work in the bee theme….
After some experimentation, here’s the end result:
Entrelac! The little entrelac segments are like a scrum of fuzzy, striped bumblebees. And the periodicity Wendy dyed in worked out perfectly, making a nice, even self-stripe on my toe-up foot.
For the record, this is improvised as I go. I’ve knit several entrelac projects at this point, both in the round and flat, so I’m pretty comfortable with the base concept. It does tend to be less stretchy than flat stockinette, so some fudging of count was required, but it all worked out.
This particular pair of toe-up socks uses a Figure-8 toe, and short-rowed heel. I am knitting on five relatively large US 0 needles (four in the work, one in hand) – on 72 stitches around (18 stitches per needle). I worked my standard no-think sock until I was two rounds past the heel, then broke into entrelac on 6-stitch groups. Although the math works out perfectly to have six entrelac pattern units , doing so makes a tight ankle (see above), so I fudged my start-up triangles to end up with 7. That’s working out quite nicely, to make a comfortable, not quite slouchy sock.
I’ll continue on this ankle part until the sock, when folded in half along the heel diagonal that part is equal to the length of the foot, then I’ll do 20 rounds of K2P2 rib to finish.
Thanks Wendy! Your yarn made this project, and will go on to make Younger Daughter buzz with joy.