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…
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’ve been to keep the trivia of life from occluding my flow of knit-related entries, or from letting daily happenings stomp all over my posts. That’s about to get somewhat more difficult.
Please don’t be surprised if I miss the odd day (or week) between now and August. For example, in the next six weeks we close on a new house,I ammarshalling an army of contractors to rewire, repair the plumbing, and do the floors and (possibly) roof. I personally have toremove all of the old fiberglass insulation improperly installed in the attic, rip down several massive ivy vines invading the stucco and pack all our stuff, supervise the move to the new place, clean the old place,and unpack. During this period the kids end school, the little one begins day camp, the big one gets hauled to horse camp. Also during this period we take our annual week out in North Truro on Cape Cod.
Why a vacation in the midst of the chaos? It’s paid for (we have to reserve it in January); and it’s at a place that gives ‘dibs’ on next year’s rooms to this year’s occupants. I first stayed there when I was a teen, and have been going back ever since we relocated to this area. It’s ona quiet, (mostly) unchanged part of the Outer Cape just south of Provincetown, right on a bay side beach. About all that’s different in this particular place since the ’70s is that the curtainsof the efficiencywere replaced sometime between ’74 and ’95.No phones, no computers. Just books, sandy children, knitting, and paella cooked on the grill.We may come back early, or I may ziphome a couple of times if my presence is needed, but we AREgoing.
Which place is it? I won’t tell you. I want it to remain undiscovered, but if you know that area if I say we’re about a quarter mile from Day’s Cottages in a hotel that straddles Rt. 6A, you’ll have a very good idea of where I’ll be.
(We are NOT staying in Day’s Cottages.)
KNITTING PROGRESS – LACY SCARF, PILLOW, ENTRE DEUX LACS TEE, CRAZY RAGLAN
Good news on the Lacy Scarf! Aftera minor failure of the on-line ordering system (graciously rectified by the ownerafter aphone call)I finally got the skein of the Greenwood Hill Farm 2-ply laceweight I need to finish the scarf. I spent last night ripping back about a quarter of the finished edging and the last diamond panel of the center. My plan is to extend the center section by about six inches, reknit the diamond panel, then finish the edging all the way around. This should take a couple nights of work. I am not sure whether or not the thing will require blocking. We’ll see.
The fulled pillow is stalled. I just haven’t had a moment either to make a pillow insert to the exact dimension needed, or to run to the crafts store to see if I can improvise a solution with off-the-shelf stuff. It sits here on my desk, buttons in a baggie, just waiting.
Entre Deux Lacs Tee is moving along. I’ve finished two of the ten strips needed, and am about a third of the way through the next one. The bowling ball sized lump of yarn seems barely diminished, which is a good thing.
I haven’t mentioned the Crazy Raglan yet. I did end up going back to the clearance sale at Wild & Woolly in Lexington after the weekend. I came home with a bag of Regia 6-ply Crazy Color. It’s a DK-weight machine washable wool, in a somewhat self-striping combo of red, blue, yellow, white and turquoise. I’ll use it to make a top-down raglan style pullover for the small one, probably worked at sport gauge because I like this yarn better knit slightly tighter. The pattern is something I whipped up using Sweater Wizard, customized a bit after the original output. I’ll be casting on for this one prior to heading off on vacation. A plain stockinette small piece in washable yarn sounds like relaxing vacation knitting to me,as I’m not at all sure I’d like to get my entrelac project’s boucle hand-dyed wool full of sunblock and sand.
A NAME GENERATOR MORE TO MY LIKING
I see tons ofpeople posting name games, quizzes and other web toys on their blogs. Some are cute. This one isn’t. (I miss Brunching Shuttlecocks.)
A retrograde forwards-and-back type progress continues to be made on my tee. I’ve decided that I want to use a series of vertical strips, joined with something other than entrelac (more experimentation needed). I’ll bury increases and decreases in the join areas to give the garment a bit more shape. Here’s how I envision placement of the strips. Don’t worry. I’ll fill in the missing parts, like the bulk of the arms and add some kind of neck and bottom edge treatment. Possibly I-cord, possibly ribbing, depending on how I feel.
And here’s the first completed strip:
To answer the people who have written to ask why I’m not doing a knit-along or other shared project, I’d have to say I’ve always been a lone wolf knitter. Sometimes I do things inspired by others, but very rarely do I jump in when everyone else is doing them. There was a good five year lag time between the time I read the first Dale Lillehammer feeding frenzy on line, and the time I decided to knit one. I can’t say why this is. Perhaps there are always more things I want to try than I have time to try them so new ideas need to get in queue before they’re addressed.
Today is my birthday. Or rather it’s the day on which I celebrate the anniversary of my 21st birthday. I have no plans in particular, other than taking advantage of the day off to get as much as possible done in preparation for our upcoming move. We’re also suffering birthday cake exhaustion in the house, as both of my kids had birthdays last week. But if you’re itching to pony up good wishes, I would ask you to share that good will with the rest of the on-lineknitting world instead of with me.Consider adding a yarn reviewto the yarn review collection at wiseNeedle. The easiest way to do this is to look up your yarn by name on the search page, then click on the "review this yarn" link.
And for the few of you who may not have heard about this yet (and in honor of the US holiday of Memorial Day), I point out that the Red Cross is currently selling commemorative WWII knitting kits. This offering is paired with an on-line museum exhibit, and a historical article. Their assistance toservice people. and for civilians caught in both man-made and natural disasters deservesrecognition and support.
Yes, I know I’m stuck in a rut reporting on this, but between schooling my unruly fingers into a new way of knitting and tackling a design (on the fly) in a technique that’s new to me, I’ve got a high fascination quotient here. I lead off with some advice I’ve received.
Mary-Helen wrote to share some experiences she’s had designing and knitting entrelac projects, and gave me permission to share her hints here. She advises that being produced on the bias,entrelac piecesdo hang quite differently from items knit in vertical orientation. For starters, entrelac can be loose-fitting and blousy. (I found this out the hard way when I over-calculated my starting width). She suggests that since I said I wanted a closer but not tight fit, that I plan on not being overly generous in adding garment ease. She says that she’s achieved a pleasing fit in some entrelac pieces by working the back of the garment in stockinette. Doing both would help avoid the maternity-smock/boxy-baggy effect. She says that with careful planning, I might not need to do any waist shaping, as the piece will fit well enough on its own.
Mary-Helen alsonoted that I’ve not mentioned any ribbing. She suggests addingeither ribbing or a garter stitch bandlater to help tame the bottom edge. (She observed that many entrelac piecesdo blouse out over the ribbing, in the puffy-body look popular in the 1980s.)
She went on to discuss square-formation. She said that adding cable details to eachsquare helps hers draw in a bit, avoiding the puffy mushroom-field look that some entrelacs have. Finally, she mentioned that the February archives of Witty Knitter contain some detailed musings on entrelac design.
Thank you, M-H! I hope I haven’t misinterpreted your notes too badly.
As you can see, I’m just about to begin the second course of teeny rectangles. You also get to see some of my collection of fancy stitch markers:
It looks like it will take about an hour to do one course of the rectangles, as I completed this one while watching Enterprise last night. I’ll keep going plain for a couple more courses. Then if necessary, I’ll think about nipping in a bit at the waist by doing a few rectangles per row on five stitches instead of six. I’ll probably work those decreases on rectangles at the edge and at the points at which the waist nips happen in princess-style seaming.
Right now I’ve got little or no ease. If I don’t like the effect in about six more inches, I think I’ll retool and begin again – taking all this good advice close to heart. Perhaps I’ll begin again on a different stitch count.Perhaps I’ll investigaterunning vertical panels of entrelac, withsmall columns of stockinette in between (I could bury the shaping in the stockinette columns.)
Good thing I don’t mind ripping back on a think-piece.
Thank you to everyone who wrote with hints on how to tame the entrelac beast!
I mentioned wanting to introduce shaping into my garment, and Jaya (of extensive modular knitting experience) suggested I plan on changing the size of the entrelac blocks in those areas. She says she uses either extra decreases or increases to alter the size of individual modules as required and then restores them to their original shape after the need for the width alteration has passed. (You can see some of Jaya’s killer work in her picture album). She also suggested I look at Annabelle Dawson’s entrelac sock pattern because that uses entrelac diamonds of different sizes to change the diameter of the total piece.
Debbi sent in some thoughts about yardage consumption. She said that the entrelac front of Oat Couture’s Tuxedo Vest used less yardage than she would have expected, so I shouldn’t worry about not having enough yarn. Just in case, I’ll do the front of my project first. I can always do plain stockinette for the back.
As to what that thing will be, I’m not sure yet, but I didn’t let that stop me from casting on. I did the math on my gauge swatch, and cast on 138 stitches. I’m working the short-row method for the foundation row of triangles, as per Carol Wyche’s Untangling Entrelac article(great resource!).
I’ll do a couple of courses then begin to think about trimming out a small bit of bulk to make a nip-in at the waist. Not much, but enough to avoid an overly boxy sillhouette. I haven’t decided on much for the upper body. I’m thinking square neckline. I’ve got an Elizabethan shape, so they work well on me, plus it should be easier to do a square neckline than a Vee in entrelac. We’ll see how much yarn I end up having left over for sleeves. I’m open to anything from "just barely" to three-quarters. Which brings me to my big learning experience of the day:
Backwards We Will Be Knitting
The most commonly repeated hint I ran across was that given the back-and-forth nature of entrelac, lifewould beless cumbersome if one learned to knit backwards – from left to right. That way the little entrelac gobbets could be done without the need to flip the work over. Given the fact that I’ll be doing LOTS of 6-stitch wide gobbets, I thought I’d play with it.
Since the whole idea of knitting backwards is to minimize all interruptions in the flow of stitch formation, I decided I didn’t want to switch the hands in which I was holding my yarn. That means I’d be going forward in my usual Continental style, but heading back doing some left-handed variant on English/throwing style.
Now, I’m a Continental knitter to the bone. I’ve done contrasting colors in using throwing, mostly back before I learned to hold both colors in the same handwhile stranding. I’ve also taught others to do it, and in a pinch can demonstrate most techniques in it for people who have problems seeing what I do and translating it to their way. But it’s not my method of choice, and certainly far from a habit that’s become hard-wired for me (I knit Continental exclusively when I dream about knitting. What? you don’t dream about knitting? Hmmm….) At this point, I have to think hard to knit properly using throwing.
I killed most of yesterday playing with different ways of wrapping the yarn and forming the stitches. First forwards, then backwards – sometimes both at once on two different sets of needles so I could see where I was going wrong. I will say that if you want to experiment with this, there are two knitting basics of which youmust be aware. First, make sure you’refamiliar with the difference between stitches mounted on the needle with their leading legs in front, and stitches mounted with their leading legs behind:
The leg in front orientation is the most common. It’s the expected orientationagainst which 99.999% of knitting patterns are written. There are exceptions of course. People who knit Eastern Uncrossed like my mom alternate orientations between knit and purl rows, but they knit into the back of their stitches when working stockinette so that they avoid making twisted stitches. The second thing to recognize is whether or not the way you are forming a stitch will produce a normal U-shaped stitch, or a twisted one. (The twisted ones look like toddlers-in-trainingpostponing the inevitable.)
Recognize these knitting basics and experiment with different ways of wrapping the yarn and making stitches so you know what combo of stitch entry and yarn looping produces each effect. That will make it easier to figure out what’s happening when you try toknit backwards. It took quite a few passes before I was able to produce normal untwisted/leading-leg-forward stitches.
What I ended up doing was keeping my yarn in the left hand, exactly as I usually hold it. I took my left hand needle tip and put it into the stitch to be knit, from front to back, as if I were knitting through the back of the stitch (pretty much what my Mom does when she makes a knit stitch, but from left to right instead of right to left). Then I used my yarn-holding index finger to wrap my yarn down over the left-hand needle tip. I then used the right-hand needle to lift the old stitch over the newly made loop, dropping it off the end of the needle. Voila! One backwards-knit knit stitch.I apologize for not having pix, but I’m alone right now and without growing several new appendages, I can’t photograph and knit at the same time.
Needless to say I’m kitten-clumsy on this, and have nothing like the speed with which I can knit in the normal orientation. But after working across my entire short-rowed set of edge triangles, it doesn’t feel as abjectly alien as it did last night.
I’ve been playing around with the multicolor yarn I mentioned yesterday. It’s Mountain Colors Wool Crepein a symphony of vivid blues, accented with greens and a smidgen of purple. The yarn review page shows a manufacturer’s gauge of 2 stitches per inch. Apparently that was for multiple strands used at the same time. The review posted shows 4 stitches = 1 inch for double strands, but I intend to use it single stranded.
The yarn is a very stretchy wool crepe – almost a boucle in texture. That means it can be worked over a wide range of gauges. Right now I’mswatching atabout 6 stitches/8 rows= 1 inch on 4mm (US #6). The fabric is very light and bouncy, and the bumpy texture of the yarn makes it more opaque than I originally thought I’d see working on this needle size.
Although the texture of the yarn is interesting, it’s the color that captured me. Color sections are medium sized- about 6 to 10 inches, and the colors are especially intense. Using this over long rows would mull the colors together because each would last for an inch or so over one row and then change. While the result would be pleasing, it’s not what I want to do. I also don’t want to do a big flash piece because the color sections aren’tlong enough to do that easily. I want puddles of these blues, and to achieve a moreMonet’spond lookthana Jackson Pollok effect.
With a repeat so short, I’d need to make little tiny sections to let the colors accumulate into puddles (reference bad grammar French pun for this project’s code name). Entrelac appears to be good for this. I’ve never been a big fan of it – mostly because I find the large diamonds or squares on most entrelac pieces to be clunky looking, but I did have fun with the Forest Path Stole. That was subtle, with the entrelac technique skewing the scraps of lace and introducing lots of movement into the design. So I started playing around with plain stockinette entrelac. After several swatch attempts at various patch sizes, I think I’ve found the effect I was looking for – a six-stitch block, each block being about 1 inch wide:
The entrelac tilework effect is rather muted, but the colors are puddling nicely. I’ll continue with this swatch for another couple of courses, then see how it blocks out. One thing I’m thinking of doing is to dispense with the M1 increases in favor of plain old YOs. That might add a touch more of an openwork feel without compromising the color-puddle effect.
Once I’ve gotten a look and feel I like, I’ll think about garment shapes. I’ve got only 1450 yards. I suspect that entrelac takes more yardage than plain stockinette just because EVERYTHING fun takes more yardage than plain stockinette. As a result, I’m looking at a short-sleeved three-season top. I’ve decided I like the fit of shaped tops better than flat knit rectangles, but that presents a problem with the entrelac technique, which is better suited for producing unshaped yardage. I’ll continue noodling over that problem…