Category Archives: Crazy Raglan


This post originally appeared on 26 June 2004.


You know what I like about knitting? Among others, two things in particular:

  1. 99.9% of all mistakes can be dealt with without losing anything except time
  2. You never stop learning

Knitting is a very forgiving pursuit. Woodworkers can’t un-cut a mis-measured plank. Cooks can’t get the extra egg back into the shell. Sewers and tailors can’t return their fabric to the bolt once it’s been snipped. But knitters can grab and end, yank and reduce the most recalcitrant problem back to its larval state, ready to be knitted again. That suits me, as many of my projects proceed one step forward, two steps back.

I’m a slash-and-burn knitter (swidden knitter). By that I mean that I try to expand my mental knitting territory on almost every project. I’m always hungering for new challenges, new techniques, or trying to figure out easier/less error-prone ways of doing things. So far I haven’t run out of challenges, as even the simplest thing can end up being a roadblock. I’ve got knitting pals that always say nice things about the projects I finish, but probably don’t realize that like an untrained rat in a maze, I spent considerable time scurrying up and back dead ends. But learning flows from making mistakes, having the patience to figure out what went wrong in the first place, and the fortitude to correct them.

I have a hard time understanding all the people who post that they tried something and gave up, some even tossing the project out in disgust. True, I’ll lager the most egregious away for a while or even rip back particularly spectacular failures and re-use the yarn for something else, but I can’t imagine getting so disgusted that I would throw away the whole mess.

Case in point – my sorry excuse for what was supposed to be a mindless busy-work project, filling in extra post-exhaustion hours and (perhaps) lasting long enough to take me through a blissfully non-thinking week of vacation. I could make all sorts of excuses for what’s happened so far, but why bother. Here are the facts:

  1. I mis-measured my gauge – not once, but twice
  2. I mis-measured my kid’s circumference, and settled on making the wrong size
  3. I entered the above bogus data into Sweater Wizard, then mis-read the resulting print-out, and cast on too few stitches.
  4. I didn’t bother to confirm measurements until I was at least 7 inches into the thing. Twice.

The result? Another opportunity to reclaim and re-use yarn. I should be on target now. I’ve confirmed my gauge, recalculated The Smallest One’s size, and re-drafted the pattern (thank goodness for Sweater Wizard). Given that I was going to have to rip back anyway, I took the opportunity to do what I mentioned yesterday – using two balls of yarn to knit the front and back, doing it with an intarsia-style join at the center front. This makes the stripes even wider, as the span of stitches traveled by each strand is even smaller than before. I’m getting nice, wide sock-type stripes now, with a “seam” up the center front (apologies for the lousy pix, my camera is out of batteries so I had to improvise with another):


At the very least, this continues yesterday’s visual lesson on using variegated yarns. The narrower the span of stitches covered, the wider the stripes will end up being. How to know if your yarn will stripe or make that stippled effect? Look at the length of each color section. The longer it is, the more likely it will be to stripe. How to estimate on the fly? In general, a row consumes roughly 3 to 4 times its length in yarn. That’s a very rough estimate. If the color sections are at least three times the width of your piece to be knit you’ll end up with a one-row stripe. That stripe might not begin at the commencement of each row, and may end up being a wider puddled “bounce-back” section on a side, but it will take at least that much length of any one color to have any hope of visual striping.

More length? Easy. Wider stripes, and the possibility of knitting up larger garments that sport them. (Custom dyers take note – LONG repeats made by looping up double length skeins before applying color may be cumbersome to produce, but I bet they’d sell quite well compared to skeins with shorter color runs.)

Less length? A mottled, speckled or streaked appearance, with the predominant color overwhelming the others when seen from far away. Some yarns with shorter color runs can be a challenge to use. I’m not particularly fond of yarns with color sections that are an inch wide or less. In a fingering weight yarn that’s a run of about four to six stitches (depending on needle size). In a worsted, about two stitches. In a bulky/superbulky – that’s only one stitch (or fewer!).

One of the things that drove me to play with entrelac for the Tee I’m also working on right now was the short length of the color runs. Colors lasted for about three to five inches before changing. I didn’t like the blotchy, streaky effect that gave. Working in entrelac though on tiny 5-stitch squares allows the colors to bounce back and forth forming mini-stripes on each block. It’s tedious, but gives a more painterly effect.

I think if I ever wrote a book on knitting the name might be The Lazy Knitter: How to Avoid Mistakes In The First Place. Either that or Chest of Knitting HorrorsTM: How To Get Out and Stay Out. So it’s back to the fertile field of making mistakes, both for my own edification and to provide vicarious amusement for those who read this blog.


Another post from the missing month. This originally appeared on 25 June 2004

Back to knitting.

Having successfully restarted my younger daughter’s raglan in Regia 6-ply Crazy Color, I can now report a modicum of progress:


It’s interesting to compare this pattern of striping with the one I was getting back when I was working in the round:


Same yarn, different width. If I had the strength I might even begin again, using the same strategy I employed for my Typeset Tee. That would make even wider stripes, but I’m too lazy to begin this no-think fill-in project for a third time.

The Play’s the Thing

How did I manage to knit off six inches each of the back and front in one night? I was at an audition.

I’ve mentioned before that The Resident Male was in a production of King Lear back in March (he played Kent). He has just tried out for a small role in a staging of Macbeth. But I didn’t go with him. My older daughter is caught up by the whole thing. At 13, she went to try out for one of the boy’s roles – Fleance (2 lines) or even MacDuff’s son (about a dozen lines) . She dutifully prepared her audition piece – Quince’s prologue to the miniplay in Midsummer Night’s Dream in Act 5, and read for the part. I told her that she’d be the youngest person there by a dozen years or more, but she was undaunted. She even made her way through the infamous tongue twister

Whereat with blade,
with bloody, blameful blade,
he bravely broached his boiling bloody breast.

Something I can’t see myself managing. I was tickled that she did so well. I have no idea if she got the part. Callbacks are on July 1st, but whether or not she’ll be cast she did us all proud.

The Latest Buzz

House nonsense goes apace. Yesterday’s big setback was the discovery of a huge colony of bees nesting in the floor below the sleeping porch. They get in through an old drainage pipe that sticks out through the stucco. The electricians working on wiring that part of the house were less than delighted to find the things. I was even less amused.

Under Massachusetts law the only available option besides letting them bee is to hire a licensed beekeeper to relocate the colony (not that I’d want to poison the little buggers). The hive must be removed after the bees are moved, as its contents would decay over time and cause even more problems. We’re trying to get a fix on how long the bees have been there. The longer they’ve been hoarding honey, the larger the removal cost, extent of the demolition required to get at the hive, and subsequent repair costs will be.

The only consolation is that the beekeepers will test the honey for edibility. If it’s uncontaminated (highly likely), we get to keep it. If there’s any quantity, I intend to have mead brewed from it so we may at the least, drink to both our and the bees’ new homes. Needless to say, things like this are not covered by insurance.


This was the entry that I was hunting for when I discovered my missing month. It describes crocheting onto a needle to start a provisional cast-on instead of just making a crocheted chain and picking up stitches along the back ridge of bumps. This was originally posted on 22 June 2004.


Enough boring everyone with rehab junk. You came here to read about knitting, and not to visit This Old House.

I’ve ripped out the entire mindless knitting raglan and started again. This time I’m doing it in the flat, and working both pieces side by side. Because I hate seaming ribbing I’ve decided to add it later in the round, after I’ve sewn the sweater body, so I’ve started out with a provisional cast-on. I favor the crochet chain method of provisional cast-on, but I detest fiddling with the crocheted chain, picking up the bumps along the chain’s back. Instead I crochet my chain directly onto my knitting needle. Here’s how:

First I pick a nice smooth cotton string-type yarn, and a crochet needle a size or two larger than I’d use with it for a crochet project. In this case, I raided the Baby Georgia I was using for the filet knitting project, and grabbed a Bates F size crochet hook (more on hook sizing another day).

To start, I chain up about five stitches, just to have a stable spot to begin and an end to hold as I do so. Then I take my knitting needle and hold it like this:


Holding the yarn in the back of the knitting needle, I reach up across the front of the knitting needle to grab the strand and form my crochet stitch. This lays a loop around the knitting needle itself, with the leading leg of the loop correctly oriented. After the stitch is formed, I use my left forefinger to flick the yarn around to the back of the knitting needle again:


Once the yarn is in the back of the needle, I’m ready to crochet on my next stitch.

I usually crochet on several more stitches than I need, just to be sure I have enough, and end off with five or six plain chains as insurance. Once the stitches are on the needle, I can switch to my knitting yarn and begin my first row of knitting. If I have more stitches cast on the needle than I need, I just slip off the excess. They become normal crochet chain stitches and sit quietly until the end of the project. No worries.

When it’s time to awaken the provisional stitches and begin knitting in the other direction, I find the last chain stitch I did (tie a knot in the dangling end if you think you might not remember which is which), carefully unpick that last stitch, then pull the strand to zip out the crochet stitch by stitch. As each knit loop is freed, I slip it onto a waiting needle.

Here’s my newly re-started raglan. Note that I’m knitting the back and the front at the same time. That way I am guaranteed that they match row for row and decrease placement for decrease placement.


I’ve done something here with the crocheted provisional cast-on that helps me keep life straight when working two pieces side by side. I’ve crocheted all of the stitches I need for both back and front in one long strand. First, following the procedure above, I made enough stitches for the back. Then I crocheted about ten free stitches without making loops on the needle. After that I made the stitches for the front, ending with a few extra chains. Using a different ball of yarn for each piece, I knit across first the front and then the back. The little bar of crochet anchors my two pieces together in the center and helps me remember which direction I’m going so that I don’t get to the half-way mark, then head back across the same piece instead of working the other one. (As the work gets longer I’ll safety pin the two pieces together closer to the top for the same reason.)

How did I manage to take the photos above? Not by growing extra arms, that’s for sure. So far all of the “hands working” shots on this blog have been taken by Alex, my 8th grade daughter. She may not knit, but she handles a mean digital camera.

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Another lost entry that didn’t transfer correctly from the old site. This one originally appeared on 21 June 2004.


Well, my mindless knitting has suffered the intrusion of some thinking. Looking at my 9-inch deep yoke I’ve decided to pull it all out and start again:


(That’s my toe holding down the edge, clad in a Regia 6-Ply Crazy Color sock.) Why rip back? Two reasons. First, I don’t like the one-row color stripe widths that the larger circumference piece sports. While I realize that stripes won’t be as deep as the ones on my socks, I like the upper part of the yoke better, where the shorter rows and bounce reflections off the neck hole made the stripes wider. Second, I don’t like the way the mini-cable on the raglan “seam” is coming out. I had started this piece on one circ, then moved to two. For some reason, when I moved to two the width of the framing purl stitches decreased considerably. While this tighter look is better, it does leave the upper part looking sloppy by comparison. So having knit up around 2.25 skeins, it’s back to ripping for me.

I think I’ll begin again, also doing a raglan, but I won’t get caught up in the idea of matching stripes across the raglan seam (near impossible with this yarn unless you knit in the round). It will be boring as heck, and seamed to boot, but I think the stripes will work out better on shorter width pieces of knitting.

Sigh. At least house stuff is going well. Here’s another couple details – the window from the living room, looking out on the porch, and the fireplace from the wall facing it. The same window is also on the dining room wall.



I’m pretty sure that the inside fireboxes of both fireplaces have been rebuilt. To my untrained eye, the plain brickwork surrounds are a bit incongruous, especially with the red tile hearth, but they appear to be original. Also through the window you can see another of my nuisances. The pressboard hutch so generously left by the former owners. The house contains a few pieces of abandoned furniture for which I now have to arrange charitable donation. Grrr.

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Another AWOL post. I’ve got another week or so of these to post, so I’m going to have to finish catching up tomorrow. This one originally appeared on 20 June 2004.

I’m delighted to report that my time crawling through crawl spaces is about at an end. I’ve finished clearing out the old insulation, and can now turn my attention to ridding the house of picturesque but destructive ivy. (Stucco doesn’t like ivy.) Dust masks are still the order of the day, but working standing up and outdoors has a lot to recommend it. Also, the kids can help, at least for the parts of this task that do not require ladders.

I’m afraid I still haven’t had much time to knit. I’ve been busy measuring, then doing dimensioned layouts of the house in Visio. We’re using them to help plan where our stuff goes, and for the electrician, so he knows where to place services. Here’s the result for the two front rooms and three-season porch.


Going back from this point, beneath the dining room is the kitchen, beneath the living room is the den, followed by a back bedroom we will be using as an office. A long hallway with stairs up extends from the center opening.

Before you ask, there’s no particular price break on not running phone, cable and network to all rooms at the same time as we trench the plaster walls to upgrade the regular electrical wiring. Even though we have only one TV and are not planning on having more than one, we’ll have the flexibility to move it around should we so desire. Another consideration – should we have to sell, having the house fully wired is a value point. As far as the furniture, painting, and decorating go right now we’re concentrating on getting the major infrastructure things done. Cosmetics and aesthetics will have to wait their turn, and our jumbled mix of yard sale finds, first apartment stuff, and one or two decent pieces will have to do for the foreseeable future.

Actual Knitting

With all this crawling around and drafting, I’ve had very little time or energy for think-work or involved knitting. I’ve fallen back into the project I had set aside for vacation relaxation. I’m doing a quick raglan pullover in Regia 6-Ply (6-Fadig) Crazy Color for The Smallest One. Nothing fancy – just a top-down stockinette piece with a two-stitch cable detail on the raglan seams. I’m about six inches into the thing so far. I’d take a picture, but all you’d see is a jumble of red, blue, yellow and green stripes jammed onto a circular needle. My only regret is that if I’m using up this project to unwind after a day of house nonsense, I’ll have to find something else mindless to knit while I stare off at the sea.

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Sigh. Still no monitor. Perhaps today. At least today I’ve got Internet connectivity. Yesterday I experienced several hours of intermittent service interruptions (that’s why there was no Monday edition of String).

In the mean time, I’ve managed to get one of the other machines in this house to accept input from my bargain-basement digital camera. It’s blurry, but you get the idea:

I finished the Crazy Raglan. Now it’s lurid and not my best effort, but it’s to the exact specifications of the target Small One, and she loves it. Perhaps this explains why:

She’s got one of these. It’s been her favorite toy since she was only a couple of months old. Her Squeaky is now much less pristine than this catalog shot, and (mercifully) no longer plays a music box rendition of “Born Free.”? She?picked out the self striping yarn because she wanted a “Squeaky Sweater,” and now she’s got one. But I?think you have to be six to truly appreciate such things.

In terms of technical?performance and lessons learned – there were several. First, going back to mid-summer, there were all sorts of things to be experienced?managing the repeat and?width of the area being knit so as to best manipulate the striping. Second, I used?Sweater Wizard software to devise the basic raglan shape. I really like having that shortcut available to me, but I have to say that for kids sizes at least,?the templates do?run a bit small.I added both copious width/ease and length to make a custom fit on my string-bean kidlet, and it still turned out to be snug.

I’m not entirely pleased with the raglan angle. I should have made the armholes deeper. That would have changed the angles and made the sweater a bit more proportional. I also bowed to kid-preference and made a very shallow V-neck instead of a crew or deeper V, trimming it with a very narrow band of ribbing. She likes it, but I don’t – again the proportions are a bit off. Finally, I did a slip stitch selvedge edge on all pieces. I’ve done that before on raglans and had no problems, but they were solid color raglans, sewn with yarn of the same color. The mattress stitch seaming in the space dyed yarn – especially on the raglan seams – was VERY evident. I ended up taking it out and redoing it as pierced double running stitch to tighten up those shoulder seams and make them gap less. I also selectively cut bits of the darkest green to use for my redone seams. That helped a bit, too.

One thing I did do right was to use provisional cast-ons for the body and sleeves. I also knit both back and front at the same time, and both sleeves at the same time. After I sewed the seams, I went back and picked up the bottom edge stitches at body hem and cuffs, and knit the ribbing in the round. I did the body ribbing first, and liked the contrast between the narrow one-row stripes in it, and the wider stripes in the body. When I did the cuff and neckline ribbing I used two balls of yarn starting at two different points in the color cycle to ensure that they matched the waist ribbing.

So I post an equivocal success. The target audience was pleased, but I’m not enirely so.

Why “By and For?” in the title?? Because those little hand-mitt wristlets The Small One is wearing are a knitting product entirely of her own manufacture. They’re lumpen, odd little superbulky yarn paw-warmers but she’s very, very proud of them. Here’s the pattern. Such as it is:

Morgan’s Paw Warmers

Will fit a small child, age 6-10.

Small quantity of?leftover superbulky yarn. I can’t say what we used. I bought it years ago for holiday present ties. My guess is that it’s 100% acrylic.

US #10.5 straight single pointed needles. Tapestry needle for sewing up.

Gauge – roughly 2 stitches = 1 inch in garter stitch.

Cast on 16 stitches. Knit in garter stitch until piece measures about 6 inches long. Bind off four stitches, and knit across remainder of row. Knit next row, casting on four stitches at the end. On the next row, (K3, K2tog), repeat across the row, ending K1. Knit three more rows on the remaining 13 stitches. Bind off. Sew side seam, taking care to leave the thumb slit open.


Still no monitor, so I’m still photo-challenged here at String. Progress is being made on several fronts, in spite of the joyous accumulation of frozen precipitation that continues unabated.

First, I’m on to the sleeves of Crazy Raglan. I am knitting them flat, both sleeves at the same time, each from a single ball of the Regia Crazy. I had started the sweater body the same way, but being wider, I didn’t like the way the self-striper was manifesting itself. Those I did from two balls each, with an Intarsia-style join down the center front and back. I think the sleeves being narrower might look better done straight across. But as with the body, if I don’t like the way they look after a couple of inches, I’ll rip back and start again.

I’ve also completed a couple of pairs of socks that were sitting half-done in various small briefcase project bags. One is from a Lana Grossa Melienweit self striper, and is yet another standard toe-up, with a very ordinary ankle based on Old Shale. The other is a pair of kids’ toe-ups made from leftovers of several projects. One or both of these pairs will end up being donated to a charity auction.

I’m also finishing up my Cursed Socks. I’m well?past the heel of Sock #2. Unfortunately, I’ve misplaced my two Strickfingerhuts, and working without one is slowing me down. They’re in a knitting bag. Somewhere…

I’ve still got several UFOs in queue. But while I like to start off the year finishing up some of?the previous?year’s stalled efforts, it’s also fun to think on some new things. One idea I’m toying with is for a toy. Although I’m not a fan of Muppet-pelt furry novelty yarns, my kids adore them. They’ve asked if it’s possible to work up some patterns for stuffed pillows or floppy bed toys. But they don’t want licensed characters or recognizable creatures of any sort. They want fuzzy "Alien Pets" of their own devising. They’re scribbling madly away at their sketch pads even as I type this, adding extra limbs and/or tentacles, wings, and multiple eyes. We’ll see what develops…

And finally, I’m still working on the write-up for the lacy scarf. Yes, I know it’s taking a while, but I want to be sure that it’s as error free as I can make it.


It’s the last day of the year, and like everyone else I should be looking back over the year past, and ahead to the year future.

Lessons Learned for 2004

First and foremost – blogging is fun and (I hope) less of an imposition on people than is?writing interminable posts to the knitting-related mailing lists. At least the audience here is self-selected. Plus I’ve never kept a knitting-specific journal before. I find myself going back and looking up what I’ve written before to see how or why I did something in a specific way. Who knew?

I learned a lot this year about the periodicity and use of variegated or hand/dyed yarns. Although the projects on which I employed them aren’t completed yet (Crazy Raglan, Entre deux Lacs Tee, and Birds Eye Shawl), I did spend lots of time figuring out how to get the color effects I wanted given the color cycle repeat lengths. This remains a fascinating topic for me, and as each skein of hand-dyed offers up new challenges, won’t be an area that becomes boring any time soon.

Filet crochet. I’ve done piddly little things in crochet before. Even blankets count as "piddly little" because they are generally very simple in motif and technique. Snowflake ornaments, a table-topper round cloth of simple design, several blouse yokes in the ’70s, a couple of ill-conceived faux Aran style kids’ sweaters, but nothing as complex as the filet dragon curtain. It turned out to be an even bigger project than I thought, and consumed the better part of five months. Lessons learned include the fact that no two companies’ crochet hooks are the same size (even if so marked); the effect that near imperceptible differences in hook size can make on gauge; how to do a near-invisible join on adjacent strips of filet crochet; and how well the old graphed patterns for Lacis and other Renaissance needle arts can look in filet.

Along the way to the filet crochet project I learned that none of the methods of filet knitting I tried worked particularly well, nor were they fine enough in gauge to handle the complexity of the dragon graph. I’m not through with this subject yet. I did do some experiments in alternate techniques that were less cumbersome than the methods I had read about. I’ll probably revisit this in the future.

Entrelac is much faster if you can force your fingers to knit backwards. I’m still no speed demon at left-to-right knitting, but I’m faster at it than I am at knitting and flipping at the end of each mini-row. Especially when those rows are only six stitches across.

I also learned (via my Suede Tee) that novelty yarns can bring a world of interest to a simple, well-drafted pattern, but at the same time can be a *(#@ to knit. Side note:? I am also not that pleased on how the Suede is wearing. The microfibers do tend to be grabby, and catch on even the slightest roughness.

I learned several methods of knitting a lace edging directly onto a piece, rather than making it as a strip and sewing it on later. The most fiddly but most satisfying came via the Forest Path Stole. I used it again on my Spring Lightning Scarf:

Under "miscellaneous," I learned a nifty I-cord trick that applies a band of cord to both sides of a strip of knitting (apologies for the blurry photo):

I also used?a highly trendy but extremely boring to knit kiddie poncho to experiment with double width I-cord treatments to help tame edge curl in large stockinette pieces.

And finally, I learned an important lesson about something to avoid in the future. If any of you have ever looked at a loosely plied yarn like the Paternayan’s normally sold for needlepoint, and thought about how nice only one or two of those plies might be for lace knitting – take heed. Spare yourself. The yarn for the Larger Kid’s simple drop-stitch rectangle poncho took longer to de-ply than it did to knit up. For this one, I still bear the scars…

Next year?

Who knows. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll have noted that I’m more of a whimsy knitter than a planner. Projects leap up and seize my interest. Sometimes that interest wanders before I finish, but I (almost always) go back and work to completion. Eventually.

I’m finishing up a couple more unanticipated last minute gifts right now – more socks, and a pair of quickie Coronet hats from Knitty (one hat = one evening). Then it’s back to the Birds Eye shawl and the Crazy Raglan. While I don’t as a rule knit to deadline, the Raglan is for The Small One, and the one thing certain about 6-year olds is that they’re a moving target growthwise. The shawl is a present that I really should finish by the summer. Unless another killer project like the dragon curtain ambushes and drags me off first…


I’m here but I’m not. Cut off from Real Communications, I’ve stored a couple of advance-dated posts. If you see this it’s because I’m running on autopilot, and have not had time to revisit these pages and do a proper write-up. In the mean time, here’s entertainment.

Crazy Raglan

That’s proceeding apace, too. I’ve now done about eleven inches of both the front and back. It’s hard to see because of the stockinette curl, but each is about 15 inches wide, making a total garment circumference of 30 inches, give or take. I like the wide stripes and the sort of strange seam down the front. Not for me, mind you, but for a six-year old it’s playful and fun:

Now, here’s something to which I wasn’t paying attention. When I do my Intarsia twist where the two yarn strands meet at the center front, I must be twisting in opposite directions on the knit and purl side. Instead of a little "barber pole" twist down the center, I’ve produced what looks like a column of purls, seen sideways:

My "seam" looks good from the front, and isn’t spreading or distending oddly when stretched, but it is definately different. Not less satisfactory or wrong – just different. Anyone have any feedback/experience with this?non-standard Intarsia join??

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