Tag Archives: knitting

YARN WEIGHTS – YET ANOTHER RANT

Although I’ve mostly been stitching of late, and my old yarn review/knitters’ advice board/pattern website WiseNeedle that lasted for 13 years is but a distant memory, I have not given up knitting. I keep a sock project or two going at all times, and consult for my mom as her remote “knitting lady.” The patterns from WiseNeedle can all be found here, as can some of my advice, hints, and rants from the past, although the WiseNeedle question-answer board is gone. But of late I’ve seen quite a few complaints on knitting forums about yarn weights – confusion, botched projects, and misapprehension. I chime in and try to help.

First of all, the universal yarn weight system introduced by the Craft Yarn Council around 2004 continues to sow havoc. It’s misguided, untrustworthy, and has destroyed many knitters hopes and aspirations. To recap, this was the system that divided all yarns into numbered groups, initially 6, now expanded to 8:

The yarns within these groups are not instantly substitutable for each other because the definitions are overly broad. Here’s a breakdown:

Group 0Group 1Group 2Group 3Group 4Group 5Group 6Group 7
Type of
Yarns in
Category
Fingering,
10 count
crochet thread
Sock,
Fingering,
Baby
Sport,
Baby
DK,
Light
Worsted
Worsted,
Afghan,
Aran
Chunky,
Craft,
Rug
Bulky,
Roving
Jumbo,
Roving
Knit Gauge
Range* in
Stockinette
Stitch to 4 inches
33-40 sts27-32 sts23-26 sts21-24 sts16-20 sts12-15 sts6-11 sts6 sts and fewer
Recommended
Needle in
Metric Size
Range
1.5-2.25
mm
2.25-3.25
mm
3.25-3.75 mm3.75-4.5
mm
4.5-5.5
mm
5.5-8
mm
8-12.75 mm
12.75 mm and larger
Recommended
Needle U.S.
Size Range
000-11-33-55-77-99-1111-1717 and larger
Crochet Gauge
Ranges in
Single Crochet
to 4 inch
32-42 double crochets21-32 sts16-20 sts12-17 sts11-14 sts8-11 sts5-9 sts6 sts and fewer
Recommended
Hook in Metric
Size Range
Steel 1.6-1.4mm;
Regular hook 2.25mm
2.25-3.5
mm
3.5-4.5
mm
4.5-5.5
mm
5.5-6.5
mm
6.5-9
mm
9-15 mm15 mm and larger
Recommended
Hook U.S.
Size Range
Steel 6,7,8; Regular hook B-1B-1
to
E-4
E-4
to
7
7
to
I-9
I-?9
to
K-10 1⁄2
K-10 1⁄2 to
M-13
M-13
to Q
Q and larger

(source: Craft Yarn Council’s http://www.yarnstandards.com/weight-system.html)

To be fair, there are all sorts of caveats on this chart at the original site that include “Guidelines only,” “…always follow the gauge in your pattern,” and more. Even so, it’s wildly misleading.

The core of it (Groups 1-6) were created at the time that the industry thought that busy women had less time to knit and appreciated projects that finished up quickly. To compensate the “gauge creep” move was led by big craft yarn makers. Yarns that were formerly labeled Aran or Light Bulky were rebranded as Worsted, with the idea that fewer stitches per inch would make the projects zip along, This was especially evident among makers of mass market acrylics, and the heritage of that movement is seen in the groupings above. In fact it’s hard today to find a true worsted weight Worsted because most yarns labeled “Worsted” knit up to Aran gauge.

Now in a reversal because fiber of all types is getting more expensive, many makers are “slimming down” their yarns to keep project price points more attractive – less fiber = lower per skein price; and thinner yarns are now creeping into designations formerly reserved for heavier ones. This has resulted in a new round of confusion, once again long loved patterns no longer produce the same results as they did with yarn of prior years.

Regardless of yarn size fluctuations the basic flaw of this chart, however footnoted and expanded, remains. The yarn categories cover wide ranges of gauges, and are unsuitable as type descriptors or as guides for determining suitability for interchange.

Now. What is more useful?

Easy. The ancient Ply System.

Now note this as absolutely nothing to do with the actual number of plies a yarn contains. You can have a fat single, or a multi-ply extremely fine yarn. The ply system is based on comparison of the strand thickness of the yarn being described to a canonical batch of yarns that can be made by combining one or more strands of a mythical standard thickness yarn. That system has far more specificity to the standard gauges on yarn labels, and along with those gauges plus yarn fiber and loft (how airy or tightly twisted/dense the yarn is), is far more likely to result in good substitution choices. It also is a good guide for what happens when you double your yarn. In fact, the popular yarn weight “Double Knitting” (DK) refers to a yarn that is twice what used to be called “Knitting.” Knitting was the equivalent of today’s fingering or sock yarns. Two strands of fingering are still roughly the equivalent of today’s DK.

Ply System NumberTraditional NameStandard Knitting Gauge over Stockinette
(4 inches/10 cm)
Comments Typical Examples
(off the top of my head)
1Cobweb No consistent close knit gauge – used with variety of larger needles to maximize airy look. Jamieson & Smith 1ply Cobweb
2Lace  No consistent close knit gauge – used with variety of larger needles to maximize airy look. Lopi Einband; Rowan Fine Lace; Jamieson & Smith 2ply Lace Weight
3Light Fingering/Baby32-36“Baby” on the label is now near meaningless because in modern use it designates yarns in pastel colors and easy care fibers, regardless of gauge. Brown Sheep Wildfoote; Peter Pan 3 Ply Baby; Red Heart Its a Wrap;
4Fingering/Sock28-32 Cascade Heritage Sock; Regia sock yarns; Opal sock yarns; Lang sock yarns
5Gansey26-28 Frangipani 5 Ply; Upton Guernsey Wool;
6 Sport 24-26 KnitPicks High Desert Sport; Herrschners 2 Ply; Lion Dotted Line
7   Not used 
8Double Knitting22 Rowan Felted Tweed DK; Berroco Comfort DK; Wendy Supreme DK;
Lion Ice Cream;
Herrshners Baby Yarn
9   Not used 
10Worsted20 Cascade 220; Plymouth Encore; Germantown Worsted; Plymouth Pima Rino; Sirdar Country Classic Worsted
11   Not used 
12Aran/Triple Knitting18 KnitPicks Muse. Herrschners Worsted 8; Red Heart Roly Poly; Lion Crayola; Caron Simply Soft; Tahki Donegal Tweed
13   Not used 
14Bulky/12-16 Plymouth Encore Chunky; Cascade 128; Lamb’s Pride Bulky; Lion Re-Tweed
15   Not used 
16Super Bulky8-12  Malabrigo Rasta; Plymouth Encore Mega

Now again – caveats on density, fiber choice, and construction. Some examples:

  • When worked, a tightly plied and twisted yarn will have a different drape than a fat single ply yarn, even if the fiber composition is the same.
  • A 90% wool/10% acrylic blend will have a different feel than a 10% wool/90% acrylic blend. For best equivalency try to match fiber composition/mix proportions.
  • And a cotton yarn and a wool yarn of equal weight will behave differently – enough differently to generally not sub one for the other without taking the extra mass and lack of elasticity of the cotton when compared to wool of equivalent size.
  • In a delightful bit of industry internal obfuscation the term “worsted” in addition to being a yarn weight category also is used to describe a style of spinning. But not everything that’s labeled Worsted conforms to that specification.
  • Some yarns can be knit down or up in gauge. For example a lofty 100% wool Aran with a “native gauge” of 18 st = 4 inches/10cm might also be able to be knit at worsted gauge 20 stitches = 4 inches/10cm. The drape will be different but it may be satisfactory for some purposes. Note that NOT ALL YARN can be manipulated this way, and lumping many adjacent weights into broad and misleading groups is just asking for trouble.

To sum up, please people, look beyond the CYC Yarn Group designation. Look at gauge, fiber, and density. And take guidance from these older systems. They were created by people who knew their wool and fiber, and there still is a lot of wisdom in them.

MUDDLING THROUGH MIDWINTER

It’s doldrums here at String Central.  Younger Daughter is back to university.  Others are back to work.  I fill my time with nosing around for grant and proposal contract assignments, and my various projects.

First, my sanity project – the doodled decoration on the pre-finished napkins I bought on sale from Wayfair, using the cotton four-ply embroidery floss I picked up when we visited Sajou in Paris (stitching with three plies).  I can show a modicum of progress.  I’m just picking out random designs from my books and doing them rather informally, with a different design along a single edge of each of eight napkins.  The first of my mismatched set is complete.  The second in process.

The linen is soft and once washed, a bit mushy.  That makes count work a bit more troublesome than it otherwise would be, especially on so coarse a ground.  But it’s still rather quick work.  The first napkin with the interlace took three evenings (about half shown).  The in process photo shows only one evening’s worth of work.

20190122_220251

20190123_160344

On to knitting.  I finished a pair of socks, packed up and sent to the recipient before I remembered to take a photo.  They were my “briefcase project” – the thing I always have with me to work on while I wait on telephone hold, on line at the post office, or for appointments.  Since I ALWAYS  have a pair on the needles, the next pair is already cast on and sitting it its bag, itself waiting for me to be waiting.  This pair however is special.  Younger Daughter picked out this yarn with the proviso that I knit something for myself with it.  I comply.

20190123_155810

And my project of long suffering guilt.  I promised these Octopus Mittens to my niece late last winter.  It was inadvertently destroyed, then was re-started with new yarn, and is now sitting next to my project chair, chiding me that it is being neglected.  I plead laziness, lack of inspiration, and frustration with stranding using two strands of DK, knit at sock yarn gauge for warmth.

20190123_155641

I MUST finish these.  I promised.

How do you flog yourself back into working on a sidelined project?  All suggestions gratefully accepted.

Oh,  And if you know of anyone looking for a project manager/writer/editor specializing in high tech grants and proposals – send them my way, please.

ANOMALOUS MUSHROOM

I continue to produce samples for the Chanterelle pattern.   This one is in a narrow self-striper – the kind of sock yarn that when knit up, makes socks with stripes of two or at most three rounds.

chant-7

And for reference, what the ball looked like before it was consumed:

Chant-6a

This scarf is another oddity.  It has the same gauge and width as all of the others.  The Steinback Aktiv Effekt yarn is marked as being 421 meters (460 yards) – comparable to  the others.

BUT.

I was only able to knit up nine full trumpet sections, plus the beginning and end section.  I did have a bit of yarn left over, but only enough for about a third of a trumpet.  So based on what I’ve seen so far, here’s the scarf length to yardage result.  As you can see, it doesn’t quite make sense.

Maker/Yarn

Description

Labeled length

Number of Full Trumpet Segments and Length

Steinback Wolle
Aktiv Effekt
Self-striper
Narrow stripes with one faux Fair Isle inclusion
460 yards
421 meters

9 segments
54 inches
137.1 cm
(about 12 yards left over)

Schoeller + Stahl
Fortissima Colori Socka Color
Self-striper
Combo of narrow red and white stripes with one medium length blue/white stripe
459.3 yards
420 meters

10 segments
62 inches
157.5 cm
(less than a foot left over)

Zwerger Garn
Opal 4 fach
Self-striper
Half medium, half narrow stripes.  One faux Fair Isle inclusion
465 yards
425.2 meters

10 segments
62 inches
157.5 cm
(about 8 yards left over)

Schoppel-Wolle
Zauberball Crazy
Gradient with two independently shading plies 459 yards
419.7 meters

11 segments
70  inches
178 cm
(about two feet left over)

Schoppel-Wolle
Zauberball Crazy
Gradient with two independently shading plies 459 yards
419.7 meters

10 segments
62 inches
157.5 cm
(about 18 inches left over)

The saving grace of the pattern is that the trumpet segment and the final section are identical until one is half-way through the trumpet sequence.  At that point the knitter can look at the remaining yarn and decide on whether or not to risk finishing out the last trumpet and then going on to the final segment (which would require about 36 yards remaining), or punting and just finishing off the segment at hand according to the instructions for the final section.

 

MORE CHANTERELLES

Well, this pattern has wound my curiosity up around itself.  The basic design of the Chanterelle scarf is quite simple, but it can look quite different depending on the yarn chosen.  I have written it for any 100g ball of fingering/sock weight yarn, and finding out what the various yarns end up looking like when knit up – that’s turning out to be tons of fun.

So let’s start.

So far I’ve used two different Schoppel Zauberball Crazy colors: the autumn/purples mix of the original, plus a lilac/cream/navy mix. The pix below the scarves are photos of the SAME color numbers of Zauberball as the ones I knit from.  There is considerable variation between balls of the stuff, but you can get an idea of how the original yarn looked, none the less.

 

 

The ends look different because for some reason although the balls were marked with identical yardage, the one on the left was significantly shorter, and yielded only ten trumpet sections, while the shades-of-purple one yielded 11.  Go figure…  In any case, it’s nice that regardless of how many full sections are knit, the ends still complement the piece.

Here’s the third try.  This one is a stash-aged Opal yarn, whose label with its color number has long since gone the way of all things.

chant-2

op1

You can see that the color runs are pretty wide, and unlike the happy chaos of Zauberball Crazy, the repeat is very predictable.  Variation happens because the yardage required to produce one trumpet isn’t in synch with that of the yarn’s printed repeat,  so the colors wander up and down the trumpet motifs, and the faux Fair Isle spot manifests differently each time it pops up, shaped mostly by the width of the section where it appears.

I’m now trying for Chanterelle #4.  This one is from another stash-aged yarn – another ball that was a gift from the generous Nancys.  It’s Schoeller and Stahl’s Fortisimma Socka Color, # 1776 – a red, white, and blue mix. This one looks to have small to medium width stripes.

chant-4

We’ll see how these stripes manifest.  I’ve obviously not gotten this out of my system yet, so I’m sure I’ll be doing some more Chanterelles.  Luckily they are a quick and mindless knit, and can be done while watching subtitled movies and shows on TV.

If you want to do up a Chanterelle and would like me to post it, you can find the free pattern under the Scarves section of the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page.  I’d be grateful for pix of the skein and pix of the finished product, as done above.  That will help others decide whether or not this design would work for their beautiful but problematic yarns, too.

SCREAMING TO ANOTHER FINISH

And here’s another finish!

This was a super quick project, barely a week from cast-on to final block.  Even though I still have a couple of ends to tuck in, I consider it done.

20180904_144142.jpg

Younger Daughter bespoke this, having noted the popularity of screaming yellow this Fall season, and a similar trend towards heavier, highly textured knits.

This shoulder/mini shawl is done in machine washable Merino sport weight, from Gems.  I used the May Day Shawl pattern by Zabeth Loisel-Weiner, available for free on Ravelry.  It took about 2.3 skeins of the yellow.  I consider it a very simple project – the instructions and charts were spot on, and very clear.  Lots of “bang-for-the-buck” here in terms of visual complexity vs. effort invested.  If you are looking for a first serious lacy knitting project, this is not a bad place to start.

That being said, I have to say I detest knitting bobbles and nupps.  These are bobbles.  I tamed them somewhat by knitting backwards – that is learning to work the back-again bit of each bobble working off of my right hand needle, so I didn’t have to flip the work over to purl back in the middle of each little bump.  If you haven’t tried this yet, it’s well worth the learning curve investment for little back-and-forth scraps like bobbles and Entrelac.

A quick word on blocking if I may.  Lacy knitting needs to be blocked to within an inch of its life – as tightly as you can.  Here’s the before photo, and the mid-block photo:

 

If you count the 2×2-inch squares of the checked sheet I block on, you can see that pinned out (right), the thing is almost twice as big as it was before pinning (left).

How do I block?  I admit I’m not the most precise or assiduous, but I do try, at least a bit to keep things neat and square.  The black and white sheet, although an eye-popping Peter Max background is very helpful in estimating and meeting target measurements, and keeping 90-degree angles true.   I bought it at a discount/close-out store years ago when shopping for inexpensive bedding for the girls to take to summer camp.  I knew that if the sheets survived, they would be perfect for this use.  (Plaids, Tattersall checks, and ginghams would also work).

I dampened the knitting, and spread my sheet over an area rug to provide anchorage for my pins.  Then I threaded blocking wires across the top of the piece, slipping them into every edge “purl bump.”  Then I inserted additional wires along the join line between the edging and the center triangle.  I pinned the top wire down first, spreading the work along its length, then stretched the piece down the spine, pinning the pointed junction of the two side wires.  Then I pinned the side wires out as far as I could manage, making sure to keep the angles (as measures vs. the checks) true.  I had to jockey and adjust them a few times, but eventually I was satisfied.  Then and only then did I place a single pin at each of the edging’s points.  If I had started with the edging points, the center triangle would have been deformed.  Using the wires keep the piece from developing internal “scallops” corresponding to the pins placed in the edging.

No lie – it is tedious.  But it’s worth it.

20180903_113152.jpg

Now on to other things.

I say goodbye to this tiny little embroidered scrap.  It’s the finest gauge I ever worked – over 38 stitches per inch on 80-ish or so count muslin, using standard black sewing thread:

 

It started out as an experiment, to see if I could do a coif at that gauge.  Soon after I got started it met with an accident, and was never finished.  That was about 35 years ago, easily.  Why goodbye?  I’ve mailed it off to become part of A Larger Project.  The East Kingdom doll project was on display at the 50th anniversary, and still lives.  About the only thing people remember me for is that I embroidered, so I am sending this snippet to the curators/creators to be a prop for the doll that represents me.  Maybe they’ll make a tiny flat frame for it.  That would be sweet.  Pix if I get some, I promise.

And finally, another start.  I have two balls of precious multi-color yarn – rather pricey Schoppel Zauberball Crazy fingering weight.  I adore just looking at them.  But it was time to put at least one to good use.  So I began casting around for something fun to do with the very long repeat.  I’ve tried a lot of the popular projects that use Zauberball.  And I didn’t feel like working on some of the others.  But then I remembered that I HAD a design of my own.  I did up Kureopatora’s Snake in that yarn – a DK weight variegated with a long repeat.  It has always been the most popular original pattern on any of my websites.  So why not try it with a smaller gauge yarn and explore the possibilities?

Here I am.  Following the pattern as written, with three exceptions:

  1. Using the Zauberball Crazy fingering weight instead of the Noro Kureopatora DK.
  2. Using size 5 US (3.75mm) instead of 6 US (4.0mm) to make the thing more airy
  3. Working across 40 stitches instead of the 30 specified.

20180904_154453.jpg

You can see that both the color progression and shaping are beginning to present themselves.  I think that if I had a chance to rename this now established pattern, I’d call it Chanterelle, instead.  More on this one as it grows…

 

 

BUSY BUSY BUSY

I wish I weren’t but it’s been so, and for a while.

Sadly this means that not much substantive is getting done on any of my main projects.  I feel quite badly about this because I promised a pair of Octopodes Mittens to a niece.  Thanks to the ungentle hands of the Philistines at TSA, during my trip to Florida, my on-the-needles project was unceremoniously dumped out into my checked baggage, the needles were pulled out of the work (and one was lost); the magnet board I was using was bent, the magnetic strip that marked my place is missing, and they broke the yarn to remove and lose the Strickfingerhut knitting thimble thingy I use to make stranding easier.   So progress has been stalled while I replace the needles, Strickfingerhut, and magnet board.

Here is the barely-begun first mitten prior to TSA’s pillaging:

E80DE046-1E8F-44E7-85A1-0A9AFAC842B5_medium2 (1)

Back to Square One on that project.

In the mean time, my mindless “briefcase project” socks march on.  These require little to no thought, and are done in stolen hours while waiting on line at the post office, in large group meetings at work, and the like.  The ankle patterns are improvised on the fly. Since January, I’ve done 3.75 pairs – all toe-up, quick knits on 76 stitches around, (US #00s – big as logs…)

Starting with the blue pair with red accents, yarns used were blue striped Cascade Heritage 150 Prints, with Kroy Sock toes/heels/ribbing; orange Cascade Heritage 150;  Plymouth Neon Now (it really does glow under UV light); and Berroco Comfort sock, in pastels – which is an acrylic/nylon blend with no wool in it at all.  The last one is an experiment, we’ll see how it feels to wear, and how well it holds up in regular sock rotation.

20180409_094755.jpg

Now that I have the requisite replacement materials, it’s back to the Octopodes Mittens.  Winter 2018 may be almost over, but I have a feeling the niece will appreciate them in 2019.

WHERE DID JANUARY GO?

Here I am, resurfacing after a very hectic holiday season, and a flu-filled January.  But I haven’t been idle.  I can report on several bits of progress.

First, the annual holiday cookie bake – ten kinds, plus.  They are all long since eaten, but since I list the kinds each year (and often look back in succeeding years to remember the ones we liked best), here we go

Top row:  Chocolate crinkles (aka Earthquakes); Sugar Cookie Stars; Gingersnap/Lemon Sandwiches
Middle Row:  Raspberry Rugalach; Classic Tollhouse; Peanut Butter Suns; Coconut Macaroon, Chocolate Dipped; Buffalo Bourbon Balls
Mezzanine Row:  Both are fudge rolled around a whole roasted hazelnut
Bottom Row:  Sugar Stars with Lemon Filling (I had extra buttercream); Mexican Wedding Cakes; Hazelnut/Ganache Sandwiches (aka Oysters).

25627196_10155090880951892_2380566955185184834_o

The next accomplishment was a set of six mythical beasties crocheted placemats, which had their debut when family came to dinner for New Years Eve.

25550174_10155081931326892_7974601795076318281_n

As I described before, the designs are all from Dupeyron’s Le Filet Ancien au Point de Reprise VI, itself an on-line offering in the Antique Pattern Library’s filet crochet section.  I used a large cone of unmercerized cotton cordage, roughly worsted weight, that I bought aeons ago at the old Classic Elite Mill Ends Store, when it was in its original location, in the mill building itself.  I ended up having to unravel some experimental swatches I had knit with the stuff before, in order to have enough.  I still have one piece of the set unfinished – a small center runner to go with the mats.  I’ll pick that up again in the warmer months.  Note that the patterns for these beasties are from a matching set of squares – 35 units x 35 units.  Filet crochet with this stuff, at this gauge, using this hook, by my hand is NOT square, but the resulting rectangles are perfectly useful.  More on this project is here.

I also finished the Bee Socks, but younger daughter took them back with her to school, so no pix of both done at the same time. However, they are both complete.

22688002_10154937804386892_5814061380743841088_n_medium2

Moving closer to the present, it was freezing here in Massachusetts in January.  Although one could argue that knitting a cozy, warm, oversize sweater in the Fall would have been better timing, the weather did inspire me to knock one out in January.

cable-2_medium2

I’m quite pleased with this one, although in real life it reads more as maroon than blue-purple.  I used Melissa Leapman’s Men’s Cables and Ribs Pullover, and knit it up using most of two stashed bags of Debbie Bliss Glen. It’s a very soft merino/acrylic blend ragg single, with a soft spin.  It’s luscious stuff, but it is extremely splitty and difficult to handle, which is probably why it ended up at my late, lamented, local yarn shop’s remainder sale.  The striping effect was a surprise, but I like it.

The only thing I did to adapt the pattern was to stop knitting the sleeves after I accomplished the bulk of the increases.  At that point I sewed the front and back together, and finished out the turtleneck.  Then I tried it on.  I knew that the drop shoulders would be VERY wide, and being a men’s pattern, the sleeves – if knit to the original specifications – would be way too long.  So with the unfinished thing on, bib style, I measured the length of the run from the edge of the drop shoulder to my desired cuff termination point.  Then I completed the sleeves to that dimension for a perfect fit.

And now we are caught up to the newest project:  Octopodes for Niece Frankie – a bespoken project by special request, just started yesterday:

E80DE046-1E8F-44E7-85A1-0A9AFAC842B5_medium2 (1)

The pattern is Octopus Mittens by Emily Peters.  I’m using Cascade Heritage 150, a fingering/sport weight yarn, but doubled to get the DK thickness recommended in the pattern.  And you can see, I’m using my Strickfingerhut knitting thimble/yarn guide thingy to assist with the stranding.

So far I’ve gone down a needle size from the pattern’s recommendations.  I may end up ripping back and going down another size.  We’ll see.  For the record, the solid yellow bit at the bottom is turned up and sewn in, to make a double-thick cuff.  Had I read ahead in the pattern, I would have used a provisional cast-on, then grafted the section later on.  At least I had the foresight to use a half-hitch cast-on, to allow for maximum stretch.

And a final note.  Younger Daughter is an octopus-fiend.  I suspect she will see this post, and wild with desire, demand her own pair of Octopus Mittens.  In her own colors, of course.

STARTS AND FINISHES

A couple starts and finishes here at String Central.

First – a scarf for Elder Daughter.  She favors autumn colors, and the last scarf I made her about five years ago was due for a replacement.  I had a ball of Zauberball Crazy in my stash, that was way too nice to waste on socks that won’t be seen.  Something that demonstrative is better out in the open rather than hidden away in shoes.  But she wanted a strip-style classic scarf, not an abbreviated shawl or wing-shaped piece, so one ball of fingering weight yarn wasn’t going to be enough unless the chosen stitch was very lacy.  But it’s hard to make the color gradations pop in a lace design…

The most obvious thing to do is to eke out the fancy multicolor yarn using a solid – either a component color of the multi, or something contrasting.  So I went stash-diving.  And I came up with another problematic yarn that fits the mission envelope.  Lister Lavenda fingering weight 100% wool, circa the late ‘60s.

20170928_105043_medium2

How do I come by such a superannuated yarn?  Easy.  I stole it from my mom.

To be fair, “stole” is a bit of exaggeration.  She let me have it, from her own stash.  My mom has been a prolific and talented knitter as long as I can remember.  She tried many times to teach me when I was a kid, but I didn’t actually pick up needles until after I was out of my own.  BUT I did crochet quite a bit as a kid and teen.  Mom let me stash dive on occasion.  This particular mustard color wool was part of a vest project she began for my dad, long, long ago.  I’m not sure why it was never completed, but mom had a huge bag of the stuff, well over a dozen little one-ounce pull skeins.  I adopted them and have used them slowly over the years.  Pretty much any gold/mustard yellow accent in anything I’ve knit from fingering weight has been mom’s Lavenda.

The yarn itself is quite nice, a bouncy, spongy 100% wool,, but fragile.  It fulls if you so much as look at it with damp, warm eyes.  It rubs through in socks all too quickly, even when reinforced.  So scarves and hats are the best use.  I had four skeins left, a bit over 100g, all told.  About the same amount as the one Zauberball.

I used a free pattern on Ravelry, Christy Kamm’s ZickZack Scarf.  I used 3.0mm needles (about a US 2.5), and did the recommended eight repeats of the 12-stitch garter stitch pattern. swapping the multicolor and mustard yarns every other row (each garter stripe).  Every row was the same – as such it was the perfect totally mindless piece to work in the evenings, even while watching subtitled movies.

Here are the front and back:

zauberscarf-front zauberscarf-back

Note that they are close, and both are pleasing, but they are not identical.  Nor could they be.  Garter stitch produces identical TEXTURES on front and back, but when you change colors, the appearance of the row is different front to back.  If I had knit 3 rows of multi, then 3 rows of solid, the two sides would look more alike, BUT I’d end up having a lot of long floats up or ends to work in because my other-color yarn would always be on the wrong edge of the work when I went looking for it to change.

And the finished piece:

zauberscarf-finished

Lessons learned:  If I had to do it all over again, I’d only do six or seven repeats across, to make the thing just a bit narrower, but longer.  The recipient loves it, but I prefer narrower scarves.  Also, the design benefits from not being worked loosely.  If you attempt this one and are a loose knitter, go down a needle size or two for best effect.  All in all though, I’m quite happy with the piece, and offer thanks to pattern source Christy for thinking of adapting this traditional heavy-knit blanket zig-zag to a light weight scarf.

And the other start – Bumblebee Socks for Younger Daughter

This project also started off with the yarn.  Long time pal Wendy has embarked on a yarn dyeing venture.  She brews and experiments, and when she’s accumulated enough inventory, offers it up on line or at knitting festivals, via Facebook or her Etsy page, under the “Strings N’’Strands” imprint. As such it’s sporadically available but worth waiting for.

Last month she posted that she’d just finished dyeing a black/yellow combo, and posted pix.  It sang to me:

bee-yarn

Younger Daughter has a thing for bees.  She adores them, and advocates for bee-preservation causes.  This yarn would be perfect for a pair of socks for her. 

So, a new conundrum.  How to use a variegated to best advantage in socks?  Not every hand-dyed variegated works out well in-project.  Sometimes the colors flash in an inopportune way.   Sometimes they don’t flash at all, and end up muddy.  And how to work in the bee theme….

After some experimentation, here’s the end result:

bee-sox-1

Entrelac!  The little entrelac segments are like a scrum of fuzzy, striped bumblebees.  And the periodicity Wendy dyed in worked out perfectly, making a nice, even self-stripe on my toe-up foot.

For the record, this is improvised as I go.  I’ve knit several entrelac projects at this point, both in the round and flat, so I’m pretty comfortable with the base concept.  It does tend to be less stretchy than flat stockinette, so some fudging of count was required, but it all worked out.

This particular pair of toe-up socks uses a Figure-8 toe, and short-rowed heel.  I am knitting on five relatively large US 0 needles (four in the work, one in hand) – on 72 stitches around (18 stitches per needle).  I worked my standard no-think sock until I was two rounds past the heel, then broke into entrelac on 6-stitch groups.  Although the math works out perfectly to have six entrelac pattern units , doing so makes a tight ankle (see above), so I fudged my start-up triangles to end up with 7.  That’s working out quite nicely, to make a comfortable, not quite slouchy sock.

I’ll continue on this ankle part until the sock, when folded in half along the heel diagonal that part is equal to the length of the foot, then I’ll do 20 rounds of K2P2 rib to finish. 

Thanks Wendy!  Your yarn made this project, and will go on to make Younger Daughter buzz with joy.

EARTH TO STRING, COME IN STRING

Ok, I know it’s been a while.  Where have I been?

Working on several projects, two of them in major Stealth Mode.

Stealth Project #1 is a baby blanket.  That much I can say.  I can also say that the recipients are family, and they have specifically requested cotton and pink.  I’ve done something original, an improvised pattern, and it’s done.  But I won’t post pix here because family does visit this page and I want the finished object to be at least a bit of a surprise.

Stealth Project #2 is for my Stealth Apprentice.  She’s starting up an Etsy business, hand-dyeing silk embroidery thread using researched historical dye recipes.  She’s busy perfecting her products, and I’m her Beta-Tester-in-Chief.  I won’t show the sampler where her products are being play-tested against standard DMC cotton floss, but eventually we will break Stealth Mode and post details and links.

Project #3 is a volunteer effort. I’m one of many people in the Arlington Knitting Brigade, a town Council for the Arts project that is working to do a yarn-bombing installation on the public bike path that bisects the town, for display in September.  The group provided acrylic yarn in orange, light turquoise, white, and fuscia, with permission to eke out that lot with stash colors, in order to make a piece that’s 2×5 feet – knit, crocheted, in macramé, weaving, whatever.  I’m woefully behind, but getting there. As you can see I’ve chosen a rather chaotic mix of crochet and knitting. Younger Daughter says that the thing has a look that reminds her of the classic kids’ game Candy Land:

2017-08-16_16.50.02_medium2

I am going to have both aggressive blocking and a TON of ends to finish!

For the record, my  piece goes at the very top of one of the trees, far from eyes that can see the questionable bits.

Project #4 is yet another pair of socks, the latest in my constant stream of briefcase projects.  I carry a pair of socks on the needles with me just about everywhere I go, working on it in stolen moments while waiting for appointments, getting the car inspected, waiting for a movie to start, or standing on lines at post offices or ticket counters.

More-Sox

This pair is in Plymouth Neon Now, worked toe-up with a short rowed heel, on US 00 (1.75mm) needles.  It’s 76 stitches around (19 stitches on each of four needles), with an improvised texture pattern on the cuff.  The feet are totally plain – I find that is the most comfortable inside my shoes.  I started this pair in mid July, and finished last week while waiting at the optometrist.  Needless to say, I immediately cast on for the next pair.

TOO BUSY TO BLOG

As ever, things have been very hectic here at String Central.  Holidays, work obligations, family – you know the standard round of excuses.  But that doesn’t mean that progress is not being made.

In no particular order, I present a subset of the accomplishments since the last post:

The Red Licorice pullover – finished.  Amended slightly to meet the recipient’s specifications.  Pix on this one are belated, since I gave it to the wearer who scuttled off with it before took photos of my own.  I’ll go back and update this post when the pix come in, but I’ve held back publishing this long enough.

Six Pussyhats for the upcoming marches.

hats2

The now standard run of ten types of holiday cookies:

cookies-2017

If you must know, clockwise from the top, they are coconut macaroons dipped in dark chocolate; chocolate chips; chocolate crinkles (aka Earthquakes); peanut butter, stamped with suns; hazelnut spritz with chocolate ganache filling (aka Oysters); raspberry jam filled vanilla wafers; Mexican wedding cakes; lemon cut-outs; bourbon/cocoa balls; and iced spice spritz cookies.  In the center is homemade fudge, with and without hazelnuts.  I also did two panfortes.  Recipes for any/all available on request

And of course there were latkes (this year done in goose fat):

latkes-2 

And of course over the three-holiday-week there were the donor goose; some heavenly fish quenelles (think gossamer gefilte fish and you would not be far wrong); a fantastic cassoulet made with duck confit we put up back in the summer; leek and potato soup; a home-made paté/terrine type loaf; our own sourdough bread; and an amazing spread of cheeses.  Most of the heavy lifting cooking was done by The Resident Male.

cheeses

We’re still eating the cheeses – there was so much that was (and still is) SO good.  Thanks again to Cheese Gifters, Kim and Mike; and a shout-out to the Cheese Makers, Jonathan and Nina at Bobolink Dairy. If you love well-crafted, delicious cheese and have not tried theirs, you are missing out.

Along the way, I also started a couple more projects.  First – curtains for the library.  I’ve been threatening to do it for years, and have the linen and trim on hand, the trim being one of the embroidered things I treated myself to in India:

 curtains-01

I’ve done all the calculations, pre-washed the linen, and ironed out the first panel of four.  I’ve also obtained and pre-shrunk the lining. Next is to calculate placement of the trim and stitch it on to the first panel, prior to doing final assembly and hemming.  I intend to use rings to hang the panels, from black iron or iron-look rods.  Those will either be clip- or pin-type, so tabs are not needed.  Parking these mysterious secret sauce numbers here for future reference (90, 10, 3).

And having finished the sweater and hats, I embark on another knitting project – Sandra’s Shawl, pattern by Sandra Oakeshott.  This one features lots and lots of nupps – little multi-stitch bobbles.  I am not a fan of making them, so instead of the nupps, I’m using beads.  I’m using some really intense variegated green Zauberball Lace yarn (pix shamelessly borrowed from unrelated retail website):

1832b8ce-8b10-00ff-c9e3-c785b720bb36-v2-96x96

And the beads are silver tone.  As you can see, I’m already well into this one, past the unadorned center and out into the infinity rows where the beaded fun happens:

20170113_065415 20170113_065431

I can say that the pattern is well-crafted and easy to follow.  I suggest putting markers at the beginning and end of the pattern repeat, to segregate out the edges in which the design is a bit perturbed by the increases required for shawl shaping.  Some may wish to use markers between each pattern repeat, but I found it wasn’t necessary for me – the thing is easy to proof visually as one knits. And I most heartily recommend the use of beads rather than the fiddly nupps.  Apologies to the designer, of course for using a non-traditional/alternative interpretation of her excellent pattern.