Monday, May 29, 2006

Sucking less at: the engineering of knitting

I've been knitting Rogue in my copious free time. Kitty's been helping.

No, I mean really helping.

I did, however, finish off the torso and hood, just in time for the weather to hit 90 degrees. I think the sporty, sleeveless hoodie look will be a big hit this summer.

It's not that visible in this picture, but I tweaked the sizing of the torso a bit to add more shaping; it fits great! I did, however, use Claudia's hem mod, which I'm not such a big fan of. At least in the Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran (which I desperately want in a DK-weight for another project), the smaller hem rolls, so I'll have to rip it out and replace it. I was a bit worried that the colour (quartz) would be too dark for all the pretty cabling to really show up, but it looks great (and will look better after blocking).

This pattern has been great. The only part that's tripped me up is joining the top of the hood. The pattern gives you the option of using a three-needle bind-off or grafting the cabled sections together. If you look at the blog entries of people who previously knit Rogue, they claim that their grafting is perfect, and that you can't see the join. I (and Elizabeth Zimmerman) are here to tell you that that's impossible, as far as I can tell. No matter what you do in grafting, your stitches will join a half-stitch off. The only way to avoid that, according to page 30, is to use a three-needle bind-off: "you cannnot weave the tops of two pieces together; the pattern will be a half-stitch off." In this case, I disagree with EZ on the solution. While the grafting cannot be perfect, it is better-looking than an "honest seam". The grafting here will improve with blocking, but look carefully at the boundries between knit and purl stitches to see that the cables cannot meet perfectly.

For the sake of posterity, and for people like me who don't own a knitting reference book, to graft in purl one changes the "knit purl; purl knit" chant to "purl knit; knit purl." To extend this to grafting a knit/purl pattern or to graft ribbing (even though it will be a half-stitch off if you're grafting the tops of two pieces of knitting), one uses the appropriate chant pieces whenever touching a stitch. Thus, if you're dealing with a knit stitch and then a purl stitch on the needles, you use the right-hand-side of the knit chant and the left-hand-side of the purl chant, obtaining "knit knit; purl purl." (To go from purl to knit, one uses "purl purl; knit knit." This is only experiementally verified. If anyone knows a better way to do this, I'd certainly appreciate hearing about it!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sucking less at: swatching

Today's post is about how swatching saved me from a big waste of time, and how I'm somewhat cranky about that. First things first, though: 7:30pm, Te Cafe on Murray, be there or be knitting squares.

Last night I swatched for a new sweater I've been envisoning (yes, I know I haven't finished the last two yet, but I was indulging myself), shaped with sculptural cables. This swatch is in blue Silky Tweed. It's a nice, soft, drapey yarn that doesn't seem too delicate and cables easily. The problem? Insufficient stitch definition.

I may use the yarn in a pre-written pattern, but first I'm trying to get a little inspiriation. Any suggestions for a lightweight blue tweedy spring-summer-fall sweater? I think my crankiness might need to take a trip to my LYS. If Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran (in Opal) came in a DK weight, I'd be all over it for the cable-y sweater I plan, but my half-baked plans have been foiled.

I do finish some things, at least. To wit, two completed mittens. The wrinkles in them are not tension problems in my stranded knitting, but wrinkles from my using them as little mitten hand-puppets. Yes, I'm easily amused. Anyway, I think they turned out just fine. Now all I need to do is retstrain myself from giving them to everyone I know, and buy some more #1/#2 needles, so I can make them in sizes other than "freakishly tiny". I don't think anyone other than me and my mother would appreciate them in that form.

Kitty has been trying to help dry my wet wool. Considering that one of the reasons I wash it is to remove some of the cat hair, this is somewhat counterproductive. I've tried to explain this to him, but he's playing dumb.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No second mitten syndrome here!

I continued work on the second mitten at day 2 of my fiance's graduation. This one was still deathly boring, but enlivened by a robotic bagpiper and a goody bag of small toys.

Still, the mittens marched on. After I finished the second mitten

I played around with them until it became abundantly clear that they're not particularly useful without thumbs.

So say hello to Mr. Thumb!

And just to show you that my brand-new stranded knitting hasn't been too terribly uneven, here is the inside of the mitten, woven-in ends and all. I do think that on my next pair (of course there'll be a next pair -- I have yarn, but I'm waiting on Amazon for a book of patterns) I'll use something more sturdy as a cuff; garter stitch is already getting stretched out from all the tugging on it.

Please excuse the general crappiness of my photos and the colour tinting that I've had for a while. Photoshop is being recalcitrant. I don't really want to run The Gimp on a Mac, but I'm running out of options that don't involve reprogramming with a sledgehammer.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Apparently I knit the "weird way"

I looked around for some pictures of stranded knitting that I could link to to show you how I do it, in my rather uneducated way. I simply cannot find any that look even close; the two-fisted method seems to be the most popular in the english-speaking world. I swear, I tried to learn English-style knitting so I could try the two-fisted style, but I failed for now.'s stranded knitting video does show an all-Continental (left-handed) stranded knitting style, but it's different than what I used, so I'll post pictures for anyone (like Jess) who can't wrap their fingers/brain around the two-handed stranded knitting method. Note that you can click on the pictures to see bigger/clearer versions.

  • This is how I hold the yarn: Continental-style, with both strands coming over the same finger. Note that I have the yarns twisted a bit up near my finger. That's not an accident; I found that it helped me when I started knitting.'s video shows the strands on different fingers. My hands are simply not big enough to hold a strand of yarn above my knitting with any finger other than the index finger.

  • If I want to make a stitch in grey (my main colour), I select the yarn as follows: I put my needle over the grey yarn and under the purple yarn, then make a stitch. This is where the little twist I put into the yarn helps: the yarns behave more as a cohesive entity (especially with this grabby Nordic yarn), so I can just put my needle into the little void between the two yarns. Try this out for yourself, as I'm trying to describe a subtle feel to the yarn created by the twist. Obviously, it may work better for you without the twist.

    Then, I continue the stitch as a normal Continential-style stitch, by bringing the yarn I've selected through the loop on the left-hand needle.

  • If I want to make a stitch in purple (my contrast colour), I select the yarn as follows: I put my needle over both yarns, pick up the purple strand, and finish the stitch as usual. Here again I found the little twist helpful, as it makes the purple yarn "stand up" vertically above the grey near my finger. At the point where it "stands up", I can just easily grab the purple without touching the grey yarn.

I hope this helps someone out. Using this technique, I found stranded knitting to be rather intuitive and easy (note that until I worked out my tension, I did a lot of dropping and picking up of the yarn strands before I hit my stride). Actually, even with the chart reading, I believe that I (Chialea) knit faster with two strands than Krista does normally. If you haven't tried out Continental-style knitting yet, I'd reccomend it; try's Continental knitting tutorial.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A new form of patience

Last night, I went here:

No, that's not me being hooded, that's my fiance. He's now formally graduated! Granted, he's been working in CA for almost nine months, so this isn't quite the event that one would expect as an undergrad. (Yes, my dear MIL, I took pictures. I am, in fact, one of the few people in the audience who got any decent pictures, because my camera has a big sensor.) I'm just happy that I've developed a new form of patience.

If you can't see what I'm doing through the murk, that's because I couldn't either. I think a sock may be in order for the next such event. Granted, the next such event I'll be at will be my own hooding, so I'm planning on building a sock-concealing pocket into the crappy plastic robes.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sucking less at: learning new things

I decided a while ago I should learn how to knit stranded colourwork. I didn't think much of it until the Yarn Harlot came along with her obsessive mitten love. I wasn't sure I was ready to buy a whole book, so I took note when Wendy knit kit mittens. That's what I needed, right? A kit where someone else has done some of the thinking, leaving me to concentrate on the new technique*. I still have a rather poor sense of my own limitations, so I ordered the most intricate kit on the smallest needles at Nordic Fiber Arts: Frostrosen.

Well, one mitten down, in the unmarked "extra freakishly tiny" size in grey (403) and purple (496). Sizing on this mitten kit is determined by one's choice of needles; I used 2mm INOX. I figured it was almost certainly impossible to knit an adult mitten kit any smaller than my hands, which worked out perfectly.

Unlike Grumperina, another continental knitter, I found it intuitive (even easy) to knit with both yarns in my left hand. When I wanted to knit a grey stitch, I grabbed the grey yarn with with the needle from the bottom. When I wanted to knit a purple stitch, I grabbed the purple yarn with the needle from the top. By maintaining consistent directions, the yarn didn't wrap around itself while I was knitting.

The mitten obsession is firmly implanted (my fiance even said that he could use a pair of mittens). I think I might need the canonical obsessive intricate mitten book and an enhancement to my fingering-weight yarn stash. The more I knit, the smaller my needles seem to get!

* A note for anyone who might order these kits: they're not exactly heavy on directions. They're basically a chart for the cuff, one for the mitten, and one for the thumb. If you tend to get confused with implicit directions, make sure you have someone to ask.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Stash enchancements, not a lot of knitting

I think we can all pretty much see that the knitter who sucks around here is NOT Lea, right? She's technically skilled, an awesome designer, and unlike some people who cowrite this blog, she finishes things.

All I have finished in the last two weeks is one lonely pair of socks (Norton modeling) in ArtYarns supermerino for a dear friend :

And I have been working hard on stash enhancement, so now I'm on a yarn diet.
From left to right :

SoySilk Phoenix from Pittsburgh Knit and Bead (going out of business sale). Also bought lots of single color sock yarn there to make UNC blue and white socks (alumna spirit) and Northwestern purple socks so I have some school spirit this fall. I'm going to use the SoySilk to make a version of the XBack Ribbon Tank once Lea uses her mad math skillz to tweak the pattern for me.

NatureSpun in a pretty purple, for the Hourglass Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, and black-n-gold sock yarn, both from a neat little yarn store downtown, Ewe Can Knit. No website, but they're on Wood St. about 1/2 block south of Forbes. Good prices on everything, plus greeting cards - one stop shopping for mother's day!

IncaAlpaca, from YarnsEtc in lovely Carrboro, NC (I was on a roadtrip to see friends and my mother). I'm going to use this super-soft alpaca for a cute cowl, something like this, to help block out the Chicago wind! (Can you tell I'm preparing to freeze to death next year?). Also at YarnsEtc I bought some Trekking XXL and some Cascade Fixation, both in the category of "sock yarns I haven't tried yet."

And finally some hand-painted merino sock yarn from my mother's LYS, The Peace of Yarn. It was like pulling teeth to get my mother to pick out some yarn for socks, but she finally chose this southern-produced yumminess, dyed by the ladies at Liisu Yarns (beautiful colors, reasonable prices!).

And finally, some great deals from Webs forced me to buy enough Cascade 220 for a hooded tunic pattern I picked up a while ago, and enough Debbie Bliss Merino Aran for a long sleeved version of Tempting. Now I have enough yarn for 4 sweaters, 14 pairs of socks, and assorted other small things - so it's time for a purchasing hiatus. Check back for knitting progress - yeah, right.

Sucking less at: knitting more

Don't forget -- tonight Krista and I will be down at Te Cafe on Murray at 7:30pm. Come on out and knit; we'd love to see you!

Another opportunity for getting out and knitting more landed in my email a few days ago. We've all seen the mighty power of the knitter in public to surprise and fascinate (one guy tried to talk me into going to Turkey with him, where he says alpaca is so cheap it's almost free). What sort of pointy power will we generate by all knitting in public together? June 10th is World-wide Knit in Public Day (Pittsburgh local meetup info). (How do people start these things? Seriously, I'm going to declare my own holiday someday. It will almost certainly involve cheese.) I'm not really sure what the goal of this day is, but it's a good way to get out and see what other knitters are doing. After all, inspiration is necessary to Suck Less.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sucking less at: finishing

My goodness, I've finished something I started (well, the first sock, anyway). Technically, I finished this last week, but the rain kept any of the stuff I washed/blocked from drying for days. I fear the weather here.

In any case, I've finished the first Koigu sock in my short stints on the bus. When I get my other DPNs back from a certain busy someone I haven't seen in a few weeks, I can start the next one. Still, finishing something's rather important to using it. I know there are a lot of "process" knitbloggers around, who primarily care about the process. I come from California, and I have so few articles of warm clothing I'm still freezing here in Pittsburgh. Right now, I certainly appreciate the product!

And now for the denouement: who wins the sock yarn?

The prize goes to Trek, who guessed the length almost exactly. Congratulations, Trek! Send me an email with your address and colour preferences if you have any, and I'll send you 100g of sock yarn from my stash to repeat the experiment.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I'm not a failure yet

I am a little worried that The Internet tells me I'm heading down the wrong path, though. (We all know The Internet is authoritative, right?) The Internet is also a cruel mistress. I mean, if it was going to tell me something like this, perhaps it should have done it before I nearly finished a PhD in computer science.

You Should Get a PhD in Liberal Arts (like political science, literature, or philosophy)

You're a great thinker and a true philosopher.

You'd make a talented professor or writer.

There you have it, The Internet has spoken. Obviously I must begin a campaign to convince The Internet that I'm doing OK. Sure, having a certain company actually follow through on their job offer might help, but I think I must do something more. I will inagurate a (short-lived, probably) Campaign to Suck Less (at knitting). Feel free to follow along on your own projects: learn new techniques, finish old projects, learn something about style, or anything else that would make your knitting Suck Less. (Note that I'm not suggesting anyone's knitting sucks. I'm just easily amused.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Knitting the Geek, Part 2

Today at my LYS I got to fondle the new book Knitting Nature. Now here is a woman who managed to get paid for knitting some rather geeky stuff (for pictures, see Grumperina's review). Some of this is even wearable, like the Pentagon Pullover that Grumperina is knitting. I have to admit, I have my own plans for the Pentagon Pullover, but I fear they are going to involve either: (a) getting someone to do a custom dye job or (b) freaking out both my fiance and the cat by trying to figure out how to do this custom dye job myself. Something to note about knitting nature: this is not a book with patterns for small people. I am somewhat too small for most of the patterns in this book, and I don't think of myself as a particularly small person. However, this is easily fixable by knitting the patterns in DK-weight rather than a heavy worsted.

The point being, this is geek knitting. She uses forms from nature to make bits of all sorts of garments. Many of these garments expose random bits of skin, and don't really conform to the forms from nature that make bodies differnt from tubes. Still, how can you resist cable patterns that look like liquid in a funnel or mittens that look like spreading chemical reactions?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wrappy: the home stretch

I have achieved sleeves! As my fiance is in town, I had him take some reasonable pictures of wrappy. (The sleeves still need to be blocked, sewn on, and hemmed; the body is missing its trimming.)

It's not perfect, but I don't think it's coming out half bad. The wrinkles over the hips are due to my blocking a very 3D object on a very 2D surface (I plan to fix this with duct tape, believe it or not). The front can be worn multiple ways; I still don't know if I like it this way better, or whether I should put ties on it. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reminder: Te Cafe meetup tomorrow

Don't forget -- stitch and bitch tomorrow (Thursday) night at 7:30pm at Te Cafe on Murray. (If a Certain Company is going to be cranky about the stitch and bitch reference, they can mentally substitute "knit and stab people in the eyeballs".) We'd love to see you there! Who knows what I'll bring: the purple Koigu socks (I'm into the calf shaping), Rogue (I've finished the torso), or wrappy's sleeves (dear goodness, please be done already).

Turning the knitting crank

I'm sorry I haven't had much knitting content lately. Let me assure you that it's not for lack of knitting. To wit:

I'm now into the sleeve caps on wrappy's sleeves. Those sleeves are somewhere around 20,000 stitches of nearly-pure boredom. I also wish they fit a little more closely in the upper arm, but it's not enough to be noticeable, just enough to make me change them next time. I need to finish the sleeves and add an edging (the woman who first taught me to knit, a wonderful knitter, assures me that applied i-cord will almost certainly keep the sweater from rolling). Then I think I'm done. If anyone wants a copy of the pattern (works for any gauge), they can easily adapt it for ties as well as for a pin.

I have to admit that I have been a bit distracted in the last few days. My fiance came to town. To make up for it, I'm including a picture of the cutest little llama ever. I've wanted this little guy (on sale in one of my favorite Pittsburgh restaurants) for four years now. Sometimes I think my fiance really enjoys being gainfully employed so he can get me presents. :)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Some days, the mail is magic

Look what I found in the mail today!

Now, I'd think these socks were the result of extensive stalking, but the wonderful knitter who sent me these socks claims that this isn't so. Sure, she was busy buying a house and packing, but let's look at the evidence:

  • Yarn: Socks that Rock in Spinel. That is precisely the colourway that I've been lusting after, in the yarn that I've been dying to try. (Yes, I think I'll need to add some to my stash. It has different colours, without overwhelming a textured pattern.)
  • Pattern: Denmark, from Knitting on the Road. I have this book and love this pattern. (I can now vouch for the fact that it makes a comfy pair of socks.)

i think this is pretty definitive. Either she's been stalking me or happens to know my friend who lives near her. It's either that, or she's psychic from a very long way away. In any case, thank you so much, sock pal!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Just a reminder that we'll meet at the Te Cafe tomorrow night at 7:30 for knitting and tea. We all had a great time last week, and we hope to see you tomorrow!

Knitting news? Me? I started making a pinwheel baby blanket, but I didn't really like it. And it was too much knitting for a project that made me go "meh." I am knitting on two pairs of socks and a little on Branching Out, and swatching some Soy Silk for a variation of the Ribbon Xback. Lea and I went to Pittsburgh Knit and Bead today and accidentally bought a bunch of yarn at 20% off. Oops.

Oh, and I got the really nice DPN case and stitch markers that I ordered from our friend Melissa. Check out her Etsy shop - she does fabulous work! I'll post pictures tomorrow.

Sweater pins

A quick note -- I just bought this pin. If you ever see any pins like these (with pieces on the top and the bottom of the pin), they're great for sweaters. I promise to show you what I have in mind for this one once it shows up. If you see any pins like this, please let me know!

Chialea goes crackmonkey for Delphine

I don't know where I've been that I've missed out on Delphine Wilson, as some people whose blogs I read have gone gaga over her work in the past. Perhaps it's like my mom says, and things work out for a reason. (As a cryptographer, I believe in randomness. I think that and professional paranoia are cardinal characteristics of people in my profession.) In any case, I've been knitting the sleeves for wrappy. Somehow, knitting both sleeves at once on size 3 needles is a recipie for boredom. After this sweater I have Rogue to finish up, but that goes quite fast on size 8 needles. After Rogue, I have my Mystery Swatch project, but I'm knitting that from a pattern (and I had to order some needles). So, being bored, I started fantasizing about a new project. Something "body-conscious" (because I have an unfortunate tendancy to look pregnant unless something is done to accomodate my curviness), striking, an elegant kind of edgy, and something that covers my bra straps. I started looking for patterns everywhere. I haven't found anything. (Please, if anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear them, because I'm feeling a bit abandoned by the world of patterns.)

I started thinking about a raglan colourwork sweater knit in the round. I've never knit colourwork, but from what I understand of the principles, it should be completely possible. In fact, it should be as easy as slapping a bunch of shaping and a colour pattern onto a good old EZ design. Still, I wasn't sure this was what I was craving.

Then Delphine Wilson came along and knocked me flat on my ass. I wish I could just go buy a sweater of hers, but I can't. (From the look of the sweaters, I might have proportionality problems with them anyway.) The sculptural look of her sweaters is really quite something. I think that I'd like to make something inspired by one of the following two designs:

Raglan with twisted sleeves. (Perhaps I'll leave out the twist on the sleeves, depending on how it looks. I certainly want to knit the back differently than the version made by Knit Anon (see her Jan 7th entry), as I have some different ideas. I'd probably knit this in tone-on-tone green tweed, like 403/408 Silkroad DK Tweed.

Intertwining ram's horn cables. I love the sculptural quality of the cables that turn into ribbing and vice versa. I'm not including a picture of the sleeves; while they're interesting, the holes in them are impractical. I've blocked out something for the sleeves that echos the design on the body, without competing with it. I would need to change the shoulder/sleeve assembly. If you look closely, there's a pucker in the sleeve right next to her bust. I get this all the time -- it's an indication that there's insufficient fabric in the bust. I'd need to learn how to add short-row shaping, and how to cable over it, which would be interesting. Also, I'm not sure that the model can raise her arms over her head. It is also abundantly obvious that she is not wearing a bra. As I'd like to do so, I need to pull in the shoulders to cover the straps (I'd also like to wear a shirt under it, but one thing at a time.) Finding a yarn for this sweater shouldn't be hard... perhaps even a cotton that likes cables would be nice.

So please, here is my plea for your comments. Am I crazed by a combination of too much grading and too little sleep? Do designs based on either of these sweaters look like a good idea for me? (You've seen pictures of my sweater-wearing bits, so you know what I'm dealing with.) Are there patterns out there that I would like, that I could tweak the sizing of to fit well? Do you have approximately DK-weight yarn suggestions for either of these sweaters?