You can always tell when Life overtakes Discretionary Time here. Blog entries dry up. Lack of time means less knitting. Less knitting means that I’ve got no interesting things to write about. The past couple of weeks have been dense-pack. The next few bode to be that, plus havoc. Apologies for the silence.
In the mean time, while I haven’t had time to be very productive, I have been able to dip into the stash of to-be-finished projects, polishing off a couple of pairs of socks, and blocking and seaming up my ribbed leaves sweater.
To recap since I started the project about a year ago, this one was done from a commercial pattern by Sarah James. I used Jaeger Matchmaker yarn, with excellent effect. The yarn was soft and lofty, especially for a machine washable wool. I suspect that given the structure and twist of the yarn it will resist pilling a bit better than other more softly spun Merino wools. Matchmaker was a perfect choice both for this project, and for any highly textured project requiring a DK or heavy sport yarn with good stitch definition. I’d use this stuff again in a heartbeat.
I found no flaws in the pattern at all, and my finished sweater ended up being 51 inches across – just a smidge wider I believe than the suggested final measurement, but close enough not to matter for fit. I elaborated on the pattern in a couple of very minor ways – adding both tubular cast-ons, and matching tubular cast offs. I enjoyed this one immensely, although I have to caution that if you’re not a fan of left and right twist (1×1 cables) you’ll hate this with a passion, because the entire texture design is formed by twists over the whole surface.
And proof positive that I’m done – the traditional String or Nothing blurry and indistinct photo, showing very little beyond a finished object in silhouette:
And a slightly better detail shot showing the stitch texture pattern:
And one showing a nice mattress stitch seam in the texture pattern, done on the increase area of the arm, where the sleeve widens from cuff to shoulder:
If you want a full blow-by-blow recap of this one, it’s indexed at the right as “Project – Ribbed Leaf Pullover.”
I’d like to announce some small improvements at wiseNeedle. We’ve added to the search capability in response to user requests.
First, we’ve added a simplified search page to the on-line yarn review collection in addition to the previously existing search capability (which I’ll refer to from now on as the advanced search page). Apparently many people were confused by the number of fields, and tried entering data in all of them every time they searched. This led to a large number of false negative results and some complaints that the page was too difficult to use.
The yarn search link (available in several places on the site) will now take you to this form:
You can type in as much or as little info as you like – yarn name, the first few letters of the maker’s name, some keywords (this searches the fiber and comments fields). You can still get to the old search page by clicking on the “advanced” link in the corner of the new search page.
In addition, should you wish to shortcut the entire process, we’ve added a Google site search box to every page of wiseNeedle, including the front. It appears in the gray bar just under the top banner. Typing a yarn name into that box will bring up every mention of it anywhere on the site – in its original review, in comments tagged to another yarn, on the question/answer board, or even in the commentary here on String.
The simple search page will be most useful to people who want to quickly look up stats or reviews of a known yarn by entering its name or maker; or who are looking for some info likely to be contained in previous comments. The Advanced search page will be of more use to people who are looking for substitutes, or who wish to search on fiber type, yarn weight, an approximate date of the review, or any of the value, suitability, or quality aggregate scores.
We’ve also activated an additional link on the Recently Entered Yarns and Recently Entered Reviews pages. Previously you could retrieve the detail page for each yarn by clicking on the yarn names listed on them. You can now also click on the maker/distributor field to call up all yarns under the listed label. (For the record, the label with the most entries in the collection is Katia, with 142 different yarns.)
In my own knitting, I am finishing up the dropped leaf pullover. I’ve ended collar, using a tubular cast-off. I tried the standard issue one shown on My Fashionable Life, but I didn’t like doing it. Instead I followed June Oshiro’s method, described at TwoSheep. By slipping the available stitches of the ribbing onto two needles (one holding just the knits, and the other just the purls), the cast-off can be treated like any other exercise in simple grafting. The two needle method let me make short work of finishing my collar. I’m now up to sewing the dropped shoulder sleeves onto the body, prior ending off the interior ends and doing the last two finishing seams from bottom hem to cuff.
The Kureopatora scarf I noodled up last winter appears to have taken on a life of its own. It gathered a small bit of interest here in the US around the time I posted the pattern, but no big splash. Then over the summer and fall knitters in Japan found the thing and made it a real knit-fad. A rainbow of finished snakes began crawling through blogs over there. The range of different Noro-type long repeat dyed yarns there is spectacular, and I’ve been delighted to see the color and texture ranges people have used to make their own snake scarves. Now the pattern appears to have been discovered in Germany and the Netherlands. Blogs and discussion boards there are beginning to post pix of finished pieces, and I’m getting lots of referral hits from them.
If you’ve discovered this blog by looking for the Kureopatora’s Snake scarf pattern, welcome! I’m having lots of fun via this vicarious visiting. For the record, the top non-US, non-spider sources of wiseNeedle visitors Canada, China, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, the Ukraine, Spain, Australia, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden. Many of those visitors are hopping over to the International Glossary of Knitting Terms. Others come mostly for the yarn reviews and patterns both here on the blog and on wiseNeedle proper. Predictably, non-US visitors to the String or Nothing blog site are predominantly from English as a first language countries, although Japan, France, and Germany are also well represented. For the record, my own blog reading travels often find me on French, German and Japanese pages. I can eke out meaning from written French, but to read other two I have to rely on machine translation, which can be almost as incomprehensible to me as the original.
Ribbed Leaf Pullover
I’m up to the collar of my pullover. I feel rather foolish because last night I missed an excellent opportunity for a photo-illustrated blog piece – neatly picking up stitches around a neck edge. In this case, I followed the stitch count suggestions of the pattern exactly, even though the total count looked a bit low. But I ended up being quite pleased with the result. The neck area on this sweater is a bit large, and needs to be pulled in by the deep ribbing around the collar. While I might rip back, reducing the three rows of purl welting to only two, I like the way the collar is shaping up. This shot is also the best I’ve taken so far of the all-over texture.
My guess is that if deadlines and after-hours assignments allow, I’ll finish up the collar tonight. I’d like to do a tubular cast-off to match my tubular cast-on edges, but I haven’t found one yet that I really like. That should lead to lots of fiddling around and possibly even some interesting blog fodder for a change.
I’m up to finishing the big gray ribbed leaf pullover now. In the best of all worlds, I would have blocked it first. Yes, I know this is heresy, but I’m short on blocking space right now (the aftermath of a minor basement flood in last week’s mega-rain), and the texture pattern is relatively well behaved. I have only minor curling, so I thought I’d finish out the collar first. Then if I were to be feeling less lazy and more accepting of playing with moisture, I’d block out the piece before setting the sleeves.
In the mean time, here’s one of the shoulders:
I know the pix are blurry, but I’m hoping you can make out that I’ve managed to match the design elements on either side of the seam. My ribbed leaf texture has a distinct center line for each repeat. Also the front and back ended on the same row of the texture pattern, making direct matching a bit easier. Each piece was bound off at the shoulder. I then butted the two shoulders up against each other and did a stitch-for-stitch-style seam into the stitch immediately under the bound-off edge. The two edges ended up being turned back like selvages. They are however useful, providing seam stability and resistance to stretch. Grafting the two shoulders together as live stitches without the reinforcement of the shoulder seam could lead to distortion of the shoulder region, as the weight of the garment pulled it down. Plus, as a modified dropped shoulder piece, the weight of the sleeve would also tend to distort that area.
Now, why don’t I use three-needle bind-off? Bulk. I find that treatment effective, but heavier than my chosen seaming method. The same goes for back stitch.
Tonight I pick up stitches around the neck edge and begin working the collar.
In other knitting news, I finished the rainbow scarf that matches the rainbow hat. Again, quick and easy to knit, but a bit fiddly to finish. As in the hat, the ends are left super long, then crocheted in chain stitch to make tendril-like fringes. Additional lengths of yarn are cut and added to the opposite end of the scarf to make fringes on it, too. I had one skein of Frog Tree in each color, and had ample yarn left over after making both pieces.
All in all a good project for autopilot knitting. Switching colors meant that progress was easy to see, the bright colors made me happy, the yarn was soft and easy to knit quickly, and the recipient is delighted. My next piece of autopilot knitting is another Klein Bottle hat – yet another special request. This one in conservative Navy blue, with a touch of yellow here and there. I am using a yarn that’s new to me – Garnstudio Drops Camelia Superwash Sport. It’s a very smooth true sport weight, quite soft and with a good hand-feel for a superwash. I’ll probably cannibalize my bright yellow Frog Tree leftovers to do the yellow highlights. What they will be, I haven’t a clue.
And the “gotta make something” bug here isn’t limited to adults. Smaller daughter is in the midst of bead lizard mania right now. I’ve got more geckos in the house today than can be found on a warm Florida lanai at sunset.
I had started this post back when I was up to the shoulders of my ribbed leaf pullover, but life intervened and it languished. Also, the diagrams ended up taking more time than I thought they would. For the record, I write these entries mostly in the half-hour I steal in the morning after breakfast, while my kids are getting dressed for school. Some of the longer and more illustrated ones can take a couple of days to pull together. Yet another reason why my blogging rate has fallen back since leaving the world of consulting for full-time employment.
For the record, I’m now just a couple of rows away from completing the sleeves of the ribbed leaf pullover. I’ll use the piece to do some assembly and finishing posts later this week and next.
Some deadlines have passed, others remain. I did have an hour or so of knitting time last night, which I used to excellent effect, both for some much needed relaxation, and to advance my leaf pullover. I am now finishing up the front, at the point where the centermost stitches are set aside and the shoulders are completed.
Now this stage of production is one that has inspired a huge number of wiseNeedle advice board questions. The directions to join in a second ball of yarn and knit both shoulders at the same time tend to confuse people who are new to knitting. Here’s the basic concept. My postulated directions say something like
Work across 25 in pattern, place center 20 on holder, attach second ball of yarn and work remaining stitches; continue in pattern and commencing on the next wrong-side row, working both sides at the same time, decreasing 3 stitches at each neck edge 2 times, then 1 stitch at neck edge three times. Continue until piece measures 20 inches from bottom and bind off.
Here you see a basic sweater front (or back), knit in green yarn bearing a big R in the center so we can keep track of the right (read public) side. You see all 70 stitches on one needle, ready to commence a right side row.
At this point, I’ve followed the direction to “Work across 25 in pattern, place center 20 on holder”. Note that the stitches on my right hand needle have been completed.
Now I’m beginning the part that confuses many beginners, “attach second ball of yarn and work remaining stitches.” It’s not difficult. We’re going to do the left and right shoulders simultaneously, mirroring all shaping so that they are symmetrical. The stitches on the holder form the bottom of the neck opening. Sometimes the pattern specifies that they be bound off, other times it asks that they be placed on a holder so that they can be used “live” to form the collar. In either case, they are now parked and won’t be touched again until the pattern revisits collar production and finishing.
Take another ball of the same yarn and starting with the stitches on the far side of the stitch holder, finish out the row. Leave enough tail at the neck edge for easy finishing later. This next diagram shows the work after I’ve completed the “work remaining stitches” bit. I’ve finished my right side row.
The diagram below shows the work flipped over to work back across the wrong side (the non-public side). I’ve got my two balls of yarn set up, one for each shoulder area, and I’ve indicated the spots where the decreases should happen.
We’re up to continue in pattern, working both sides at the same time, decreasing 3 stitches at each neck edge 2 times.” The pattern is now directing the shaping of the neckline. When a pattern calls for decreasing more than one stitch at an edge I usually bind off at the beginning of a row. Yes, that makes a stepwise decrease, but as you’ll see I minimize the jaggedness a bit. The only exception to this is if I’m working in a giant superbulky (3 stitches to the inch or fewer). In a yarn that big, the steps can be quite noticeable. But back to 99.99% of all knitting.
To accomplish my first set of bind offs I have to remember to work my rows in pairs beginning on a wrong-side row- two rows each with stitches bound off at the beginning yields symmetrical decreases at the right and left edge of the work. In the diagram above, I am poised to begin my initial shoulder decrease. I have worked back across the first bunch of shoulder stitches, ending at the neck edge. No bind-offs yet. But as I begin the second set of shoulder stitches I bind off the first three, then continue across the row. Then I flip the work over to begin my right-side row, work across the shoulder side I just decreased, and perform a similar decrease on the other shoulder
At the end of my second decrease row (in this case, a public side row) I finally have symmetrical decreases on either side of my neck edge, formed by binding off stitches at the commencement of two successive rows. My bind offs are a bit jagged and step like, but that can be diminished somewhat by slipping rather than working the first stitch bound off prior to ending it off.
I am ready to go on to the next direction in my instructions. It says to decrease “1 stitch at neck edge three times”. It doesn’t say to do this by binding off. I could do it that way, and many patterns say so. But I don’t like the jaggies formed by binding off. If I’ve got only one stitch to get rid of, I’ll use plain old K2tog and SSK decreases. Depending on the pattern, I might work them in the edgemost stitches, or in the next-to-edgemost stitches, allowing them to form some sort of decorative detail. Also unlike the bind-off style decrease, there’s no logical reason to separate these between two successive rows. I generally work them on the same row. Most of the time that’s a right-side (public side) row, but in my current project – a piece with heavy texture patterning – it’s easier to do them on the plain purl worked wrong side, using P2tog and P2tog through the back of the loop so as to produce the same effect on the public side as K2tog and SSK. In any case, I place them on either side of the neck edge, creating the curve that is the foundation for whatever collar treatment is specified by the pattern in hand.
An aside: It’s interesting to note that older patterns more commonly suggested completion of one shoulder and then the other rather than knitting them in parallel. Most often those pattens gave directions for the first shoulder, and then said something like “repeat for second shoulder, reversing shaping as necessary.” (A direction that caused me to blink in wide-eyed terror while knitting my very first sweater.) There’s no reason why patterns written in that style can’t be worked in the “at the same time” method. I prefer the two-together method because it’s how I idiot-proof my own knitting to ensure that my shoulders end up being exact cognates of each other. But not everyone likes working this way.
Reasons to stick with the older method might include the unavailability of a second ball (if for example you are working off one immense cone of yarn and don’t want to break it to create a second ball); or the need to concentrate on one set of shaping directions at a time. So long as the you take care to make sure that row counts are the same and that placement of the decreases is a parallel as possible, working one shoulder at a time is a perfectly legitimate way to go. There’s no shame in working the one at a time method, it’s just a matter of mental wiring and personal comfort.
Still tooling to deadlines at work, even over the holiday weekend. Which leaves less time for blogging than I prefer. But I can report some project progress.
First, on the perpetual ribbed leaf sweater. Done with the back and front, I now have two sleeves on the needles. As always, I’m knitting them side by side so that the shaping on both is dead uniform. If you look closely you’ll see two things happening with the markers. One is that because this is a wide and easily confused repeat, I’ve got one small silver jump ring marking off each repeat, even though I’ve long since memorized the stitch design. Even so, mistakes can creep in. This helps me keep oriented, and allows me to proof my knitting one repeat at a time. The second is that red marker at the beginning of my row. That’s a counting marker.
My pattern says “Increase one stitch at both sleeve edges every 4th row, 24 times.” I’ve chosen to make that increase on a reverse side row (all purls) because it’s less confusing than trying to do it on the texture pattern side. It really doesn’t make a difference in this pattern, so long as the placement is consistent. I’ve got enough of a headache remembering to do it every fourth row (that’s every other purl row), so keeping track of exactly how many times I’ve done an increase row can become a headache, especially because I only get to knit in short spurts. Pencil and paper would get away from me. Instead, I placed a marker immediately before the last stitch on my purl side row the very first time I did one of the increases. When I began my pattern-side row it was sitting there one stitch in from the edge. On every subsequent increase row I did a make one, one stitch in from the edge. That meant that the new stitch happened between the red counting marker and the edge of the work. After that first row, it’s pretty much automatic because the increase point moves further and further away from the static counting marker as the piece grows. I’ve got six sitting between the red marker and the edge now. That’s six increase rows completed. I’ll continue until I’ve got 24 stitches between the red marker and the edge. Problem solved, so long as I don’t forget to increase at both ends of each increase row, on both sleeves.
The other project I’m working is a more mindless piece. We like to play PS2 games as a family after homework and dinner – the exploration/quest type rather than straight shoot-em-ups or race games. That’s excellent sit and knit time, but because all eyes are needed to spot clues or treasures, not optimal for exacting texture knitting. So that’s when I do socks, hats or other easy pieces. This weekend’s fit the bill quite nicely – Dovetail Design’s Rainbow Hat and Scarf. My LYS kitted the pattern up with Frog Tree Alpaca sport weight – the recommended yarn for the project. I’ve finished the hat and am on the first orange stripe of the scarf.
Modeled here by a slightly deranged looking Older Daughter, the hat is a very simple project to knit, but a rather fussy one to finish. It’s knit sideways. Each color is introduced leaving a very long dangling tail, and ended in the same way. There is no shaping, just welts formed by alternating bands of stockinette and reverse stockinette to make a wide rectangle. After the rectangle is finished, the cast on row is joined to the cast-off row. The dangling strands are knotted two by two, then all are twisted and gathered to make a very big single top-knot, forming the closed end of the hat. Finally, using a crochet hook the dangling ends are dealt with, turning them into the crocheted chains that make up the mass of tentacles tassel at the top.
While the basic idea is ultra simple and very easy to knit, there are a couple of refinements that enhance the hat that aren’t covered in the basic pattern. First, the logic of the pattern dictates that some kind of long-tail cast-on be used so that the starting tail is on the same side as end-off tail. but that isn’t called out. In spite of that logic, I used a half-hitch cast-on, deliberately leaving a super long tail. I then used that tail (now on the side of the work opposite that of the zillion dangling long ends) to graft the final row of purple live stitches to the cast-on row of the red. When I was done I treated the dangling end of the grafting yarn just like the other tassel strands. The resulting seam is totally invisible, without much bulk. Second, just tying the tails into a very tightly twisted knot doesn’t close up the hole adequately. Some of the strips stick out like gaping pockets. Others are pleated back inside the hat. I took another strand of yarn and took some carefully placed tacking stitches across the hat just beneath my dense knot, fastening down the tops of the stripes and making the closed end more uniform in appearance. Third, the pattern directs the user to make a slip knot in each strand close to the origin point of the dangling ends near the hat’s closing topknot, and work each one in a crochet chain for as many stitches as possible, ending off the final bit neatly by weaving it back into the crocheted chain. Well and good, but it’s very difficult to work that slip knot in closely. I ended up starting in the center, grabbing a strand and drawing it over one of the others close by in order to make that first foundation loop. After that, I sort of scrummed around, catching the first loop of each new strand somewhere in the mounting foundation created by previous squiggles. It worked out well. The tassel is nice and dense at its base and I skipped the “nurse the slip knot into position” annoyance.
My final criticism is one of yarn choice. I really liked working with the Frog Tree. It’s soft, without the stabbing guard hairs present on many coarser alpaca yarns. The colors are radiant, especially for alpaca which seems to be offered in bright colors less often than other fibers. So far I’ve found some knots in my seven 50-gram balls (one of each color), and some bits where the spinning is a bit uneven, tending to two-inch clumps where the yarn is quite noticeably thicker. But not so many of either that cutting them out was a major problem. So the yarn is fine. But in my opinion this hat should not be made from a sport or even a DK. If you click on the picture above and look closer, you’ll see that the stitches are very leggy, and the fabric is no where near as tightly made as is optimal for a sport or DK weight yarn. The recommended gauge is 4 stitches per inch. The best I could achieve with the Frog Tree was 4.25 (I added a few stitches to the hat to compensate). But I am disappointed in the open, loopy texture. If I were to do this hat again, I’d use a worsted, or heavy worsted (5-4.75 stitches per inch native gauge). Or possibly even one of the most airy and open of the Aran weight yarns (4.5 stitches per inch). I do think that a true 4 stitch per inch yarn would make a hat that’s too heavy.
A quiet weekend here at String. Work made some inroads into it, but I had enough time to catch up on some much-needed household maintenance, and even to shovel out a little bit of family-spoiling. To that end, I baked homemade bread, and made flour/salt dough for Younger Daughter to play with. Older Daughter wasn’t interested, but appreciated that Younger Daughter was otherwise occupied for most of the weekend. And both ate the bread.
The immediate inspiration for the bread adventure was Rose Levy Birnbaum’s Real Baking blog. In particular – her recipe for Baby Hot Pot Bread. I’ve made bread before, but I’ve always been very disappointed in the result. To date my breads have been cakey and crumbly, with none of the crunchy crust or stretchy, chewy goodness/hole-filled interior that I like. I got the closest with various Challah recipes. Although good they weren’t what I was looking for.
Rosie’s bread looked too good and too easy not to try. I admit I mercilessly slaughtered her recipe. I did all sorts of things that should have totally sabotaged it. I doubled the recipe because my in-house bread vultures would scarf down one tiny loaf in one meal. Not a good thing to do because in baking ingredient proportions don’t always scale. I substituted a half a cup of whole wheat flour for some of the flour in the recipe because I had it in the house and wanted to use it up. Again not an ideal practice as different flours have different properties. And for that matter, I didn’t use the flour specified. I used King Arthur all purpose, which again is what I had in the house. I didn’t have a Silpat baker’s mat, but I did have a flexible plastic cutting board that served the same purpose, and I only had one cast-iron Dutch oven, so I used a Le Creuset 5.5 quart lidded pot for the second loaf.
But none of these were my biggest challenge. That was the ambient temperature of my house. It’s far too cool here for optimal rising. The usual solution for this is to put the rising dough in the oven with just the oven light turned on. My oven light doesn’t heat the oven enough. I investigated all sorts of alternatives – even writing to Rose for advice. Since I didn’t have the time or resources to build a proofing box, I ended up doing a combo of things, depending on the time of day and what heat resources were available. I turned the oven on very low and put the bowl on top of the stove, covered with a towel. Later I moved it next one of our hot water radiators, again tented with towels. My last resort would have been putting it (well wrapped against dust) on top of our furnace in the basement. To make up for the borderline temperatures, I ended up letting the thing sit for longer than suggested. My first rise lasted more like 24 hours than 18. The second rise was also temperature-challenged. It went very slowly. I don’t think my loaves ever achieved their potential full volume.
My warmth seeking machinations, the wrong combo of flours, messing with the rise times and other aberrations did not leave me with a high level of confidence when I dumped my two misshapen mini-loaves into their respective pots for final baking. But the recipe is a robust one, able to survive even me. My loaves were perhaps a bit more dense than optimal, but lovely. A very firm, crisp crust; a stretchy, strongly flavored interior, full of holes; no scorching (I was afraid of this given the heat of the pots). And no baking stone full of corn meal, flour, or other burnt crumbs to clean up.
I present the less photogenic of my two efforts. We ate the prettier loaf last night. The sliver of the heel off the narrowest part of my poorly formed bread is just enough to barely make out the airy holes.
The play dough we made was of the uncooked flour and salt variety: About 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, .25 cup of cooking oil, and about 1 cup of water (we started with 3/4 of a cup but found we needed more). We didn’t bother to color it, knowing that the final product would be baked along with the bread and painted when cool. Here are some of the results. Smaller Daughter saw this entry in the Craft magazine blog, and went on to make her much larger Ninja Valentine statue:
Knitting? I did some of that, too. My Sarah James Ribbed Leaf Sweater back is long complete, and the front is finished to about three inches above the bottom of the armholes.
Rather than give you yet another poorly photographed misshapen object to contemplate, I mark my progress using a visual of the sweater pattern’s own illustration, with a convenient line of demarcation.
Now it’s back to work. The forecast this week is “heavy deadlines, with the possibility of a mid-week blizzard.” February is such a joy.
June over at Twosheep recently wrote about a tubular cast on. That sent me off looking up various ones. June recommends the one from Montse Stanley’s Readers’ Digest Knitters’ Handbook, although she notes that doing it in stockinette is not as stretchy as doing a ribbed tubular cast-on. She gives links to a couple of nicely photographed instructions at My Fashionable Life, and Little Purl of the Orient. I don’t have that particular Stanley book on my shelf, but I use an entirely different tubular cast on than the one described at those sites and in the book.
I learned an at once more fiddly and simpler method for a ribbed tubular cast-on during the second sweater I ever knit – Penny Straker’s Eye of the Partridge unisex raglan. Straker’s pattern format included a side bar with helpful advice or bonus illustrations of techniques and tricks. This one included instructions for the cast-on I did Partridge as a gift for one of my sisters. I knit it in Germantown worsted (very much like Cascade 220), in an dusty antique rose and a deeper, almost blood rose for the darker complementing color. It’s long gone now otherwise I’d put a photo here instead of the sample photo from the pattern, shamelessly lifted from a web-based retailer (the pattern itself is still available, and also comes in a kids’ version).
Straker’s method calls for using a provisional cast-on, and casting on half of the stitches called for in the pattern. If for example, the pattern asks for 100 stitches, I cast on 50. Then I knit in plain stockinette for four to ten rows (usually 6). At the completion of the last row, I unzip my provisional cast-on, and place all the newly freed stitches along the bottom edge onto a second needle. I often use a needle one size smaller than I used for the stockinette piece to make this easier.
I now have a long, skinny snake of knitting, suspended like a hammock between two active needles. I hold the needles so that the strip is folded in half, with the purl side on the inside. Then I take a third needle and alternately knit one stitch off the needle closer to me:
and purl one stitch from the needle that’s further away:
(Pictures courtesy of Younger Daughter, already at 8 as good a photographer as her mother will ever be)
When I’m done, I have a nice, neat, stretchy tubular edge in K1, P1 rib that can be made wide enough to accommodate a drawstring. I use this routinely for almost all of my hem edges – even for circular knitting. I’ve made the small divot at the join into a design feature on some pieces where I’ve started my cast-on at the neckline. On others, I’ve used the dangling tail to snick it up and make the starting point invisible.
In this case, I broke into twisted rib the row immediately following the cast-on row. How’s the leaf sweater coming? The front of it is starring in the cast-on photos, above. Here’s the back – blurry and hard to see, but proof that I’m done with it. Also proof that yes – a texture pattern that’s mostly stockinette will also curl.
For the record, here’s a bit of detail in which you can barely make out the texture pattern and the armhole decrease area (click on this for a close-up):
And because I’m still sniffing around for a small project to run in parallel with my leaf sweater, plus I’m having fun with my ancient Unger Britania– I’ll take another lead from June. It’s mittens next. The shape of a traditional Norwegian mitten looks pretty simple, yet with ample scope for fun. Hello Yarn offers a PDF of a blank mitten graph. I think I’ll take that idea and run with it – redrafting the template for a smaller gauge, and using some of the historical graphed charts from my book on embroidery. If nothing else, I’ll enjoy the doodle time.
As promised, here’s my knitting progress. First, the leaf pullover:
As you can barely see, I’m now well past the underarm narrowing, about half-way from that point to the beginning of the neckline. It’s still very slow going because of all the 1×1 twists, but I’m very pleased with the effect, in spite of the thing being a bit off gauge and an inch too wide (I like loose fitting sweaters in mid-winter). Although I’m mired in holiday gift knitting right now I’m making a point of NOT putting this down in its entirety. I want to avoid what I now (thanks to blogging) see as a familiar pattern – the sidelining of my October/November project due to gifts leading to its eventual consignment to my Chest of Knitting Horrors ™.
And in gift knitting, here is a mostly done sock worked in a combo of black Cascade Fixation and raspberry Elann Sock it To Me Collection Esprit. Both yarns are 98.3% cotton, 1.7% elastic. Both are marked with the same yardage (186 yards stretched or 100 yards relaxed), and same gauge 25st and 40 rows = 4 inches or 10 cm. Fixation also carries a crochet gauge of 29 double crochets and 12 rows = 4 inches or 10 cm. As far as I can tell, they look like exactly the same yarn. While the yarn review collection reports Fixation as a worsted based on its initially reported gauge, current labeling moves it down to the sport yarn realm in line with Esprit’s labeling. I say neither is spot on, and would call both yarns DKs.
My own gauge using 3mm needles at a reasonable sock gauge is 6.5 stitches and 12 rows = 1 inch. The fabric is markedly stretchy, even more so than a comparable weight wool yarn knit at the same tight gauge. Now I know many people who have reason to avoid wool socks swear by this stuff, but I’m less enchanted. I selected it because I am knitting socks for someone who is both wool sensitive and diabetic, who requested very stretchy cotton socks with a specific wide ankle measurement in comparison to the foot area. I am working my standard toe-up sock on a foot circumference of 48 stitches, moving up to 52 stitches just prior to the short rowed heel, and then 54 stitches immediately after. I add another four stitches at the uppermost black stripe for an ankle part stitch count of 60 stitches. Based on progress so far I predict I’ll use one ball of raspberry on each sock, plus most of one ball of black between the two. I bought 4 raspberry and two black, so I’ll have enough left over to make another pair, should I so desire.
But I’m not sure I so desire. Although this sock is suitably uber-stretchy, and the cotton yarn is relatively lofty, I don’t like the feel of cotton socks for myself. I find them cold and hard compared to wool, and walking in them feels like walking in a massage sandal studded with thousands of little pebbles. But I don’t have problems with wool. If you do, this yarn is an acceptable substitute, although at its weight you’re going to end up with nice, thick hiking socks, not fingering weight socks that are wearable in a wider range of shoes.
I was also disappointed in the color of the raspberry bought via the Web from Elann. Standard cautions on buying based on color displayed on a computer monitor apply. Remember – no color monitor displays true color fidelity, and lighting conditions at the photographer’s end can add complications (to demonstrate this, call up different photos of the same color card at multiple retailers’ websites, and/or view the exact same color card photo on different monitors). On line the stuff looked much deeper, almost wine in hue (which was the color requested by the recipient). In person the raspberry is closer to an unexciting mauve. Color fidelity is another reason I vastly prefer to buy yarn in person rather than by mail order. Color cards help, but since I have so many excellent local yarn source options, and am always looking for new yarns rather than repeaters, I do not buy by mail often enough to invest in them.
My next bit of gift knitting will be a wool foraging cap for a historical re-enactor friend. It’s mid to late 1700s or so in target, and will be based on Voyageur’s Caps and Liberty Caps. I’ll take notes as I create that hat in case the thing catches on with his re-enactor regiment. Second cotton sock will probably take me through Thursday or Friday, so I won’t be beginning his hat until later this week.
I got a note yesterday from someone who commiserated at the slow going doing a piece so full of left twist and right twist 1×1 cables, and who wanted to know if there were other ways to do them.
There are several ways to go about it. Some are documented in B. Walker’s stitch treasuries, others elsewhere. The first and most obvious is to do a plain old 1×1 cable, slipping the stitch that needs to go in back onto a cable needle or spare DPN, working the one that needs to land on top, then returning the slipped stitch to the active needle and working it, too. Nice and neat, but time consuming.
Some people have a knack for working these small cable crossings without using a cable needle or other aid to hold any stitches. This works best in a nice, cooperative and slightly sticky wool, but with practice can be employed in most other materials, too. Famous Wendy is especially good at it, and has a nice tutorial on no-needle cables on her website. Although it is employed there for a 3×3 cable, the same principle holds for a simple 1×1 twist. Grumperina also has an illustrated no-cable-needle tutorial. Her method is slightly different and works well, too.
But being a klutz and prone to dropping stitches, I prefer some of the other less adventurous methods. My irrational preference here is sort of like people who prefer to keep their fingers on the keyboard while using a word processing program, disdaining use of the mouse in favor of key command sequences.
Here are a couple of other ways to make 1×1 twists. B. Walker advocates the second method described below for each (the ones I attempted to illustrate). As with most cases in which there are several ways to accomplish the same thing, experimentation is always a good idea. Different methods will give different gauges and depending on the materials used, may have an effect on fabric drape and loft. If you’ve got a pattern that’s heavily dependent on LT and RT, take a moment to play with the various ways to accomplish them when you are swatching. You may find that one of the many ways to produce them works best for your project in hand.
Left Twist (LT) Methods – Rightmost stitch ends up on top
- Identify your two-stitch unit. Skip the first stitch and knit into the back of the second, then knit the skipped stitch through the back of the loop and slide the entire unit off your needle.
- Identify your two-stitch unit. Skip the first stitch and knit into the back of the second, then knit BOTH stitches together through the back of the loop and slide the entire unit off your needle
Right Twist Methods – Leftmost stitch ends up on top
- Identify your two-stitch unit. Skip the first stitch and knit into the front of the second, then knit the skipped stitch and slide the entire unit off your needle.
- Identify your two-stitch unit. Knit both stitches together, but do not remove them from the left needle. Knit the first stitch again, and slide the entire unit off your needle.