Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hourglass Aran construction plan

In response to some questions on Ravelry (eightoclock, have you lost your mind?), I put together the following badly Photoshopped picture to show how the side panels are meant to fit with the body panels to give me a completed sweater (and a svelte waist).

After doing this I finished knitting the swatch of the side panel motif, and it does look nice like that with the vertical symmetry. I'll probably do that for real.

Then I went to the gym:

The design process requires flexibility, you know.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hourglass Aran progress

Oh, I am so slow, but the whole front is done now. I couldn't get the colors right, so finally just made today's pictures black and white. Here's the front, and the start of the back, which shows the completed neckline shape and also the ribbing I chose. They are baby cables, basically k2p2 ribbing with a tiny k-over-k cable cross every fourth row. It doesn't really pull in any more than my cables, which are close to k2p2 anyway, so I don't think it'll contract unflatteringly.

And here's the fun part, a swatch for the side panel, which I've been thinking and thinking about today. This is my second attempt and at least it's shaped correctly so far, but it's still too wide... I need less reverse stockinette on either side of most of the cable design.

As I said on Ravelry if not here, the side panels are why it's an *hourglass* Aran. They provide waist shaping and the chance to do some freeform cable design, all at the same time. :) And they are insurance, too... if I have the size wrong, I should be able to adjust by reknitting just the side panels and not the whole body.

The bad news (and this is bad news for my sleeve caps, too) is that doing closed cables and controlling the shaping of a piece at the same time is kind of hard. When the cables first begin, they don't really affect the width of the piece at all and you can basically ignore the new stitches, as though the cables were floating on top. Sadly, as the cables spread out they do inevitably change the stitch gauge from the initial stockinette gauge to the "gauge over lots of cables". Worse yet, as this piece starts to taper in, some of the decreases come from the edges and some come from cables melding together. I'm starting to have a lot of thoughts about things that affect gauge, and I'm coming to the conclusion that stitch count matters, but so does the number of knit-to-purl transitions across the fabric, and so do cable crosses.

I haven't finished the bottom half of this yet, partly because I haven't decided whether to just do the top half in reverse (with a couple of small adjustments) or whether to make a different pattern. I'll probably just do the top half in reverse, considering that this rather pretty bit will otherwise only be visible when I raise my arms! And I'd probably look weird, wandering around the city with my arms over my head.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Beyond the lace-only stereotype

People are always taking backlit pictures of their lace shawls, but I was holding my sweater up to a window lately and noticed that cables have their own beauty when seen the same way.

Progress is slow. I took a vacation last week and thought I would knit a lot, but I ended up reading instead: Anathem by Neal Stephenson, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Touched by a Harlot!

The Hourglass Aran had a brush with fame tonight:

Yes, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee actually touched it, offered to hold it up even, but I had already gotten this super-cute picture so I declined the kind offer.

I've never seen the St James Episcopal Church so packed with people as it was for Stephanie's talk. (Must you really point out that I'd never been in the St James Episcopal Church before at all?) I got to meet metak again, which was nice, and it's hardly her fault I have a lousy memory for faces, but failed to find Vicki in the crowd. And... it was fun. I have been somewhat lukewarm about the Yarn Harlot at times, but I REALLY enjoyed seeing/hearing her in person. The downtime and the laughs were valuable, and frankly? It turns out she has an incredibly great voice. I could have listened for hours.

Here is some better detail of the Hourglass Aran in progress -- actually, it's a photoshopped version of the swatch, which has now been entirely unravelled and redone.

As might be obvious, or not, this is a V-neck sweater front, worked from the top down. That means that when I'm knitting it, it's held upside down. (Duh.) At the Yarn Harlot festivities tonight, two, yes two different people asked if I was knitting a baby jumper.

Apparently the two halves of the V-neck look like pudgy little baby legs.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I've been spending my knitting-time on design lately, and design is a slow beast to ride. I love it -- designing and creating is what I do, in general -- but it also involves more ripping out and less visible progress than I sometimes like.

It, or maybe the giant CONE of wool I'm designing bits of Aran goodness with, have also pushed me toward nonmonogamy. Here is what I've done with the two skeins of Noro Transitions I bought:

Sleeves, in a simple lace pattern lifted from part of an Interweave Knits pattern somewhere. (Note the small wad of zombie-flesh-colored yarn I removed from both skeins just before the sleeve caps.) I like these sleeves, but they do seem to lack something. What is it? Oh yes, a body. These sleeves were meant to be a shrug. Damn. So I've bought some gray chunky cashmerino to deal with that, but the sleeves hibernate while I get on with my real obsession lately...

What is it? It's a swatch, but it's a swatch of the one thing I started knitting for... a custom-designed Aran. You're looking at [a swatch of] the right side of the front, where I've tested the way my cables grow out of the neckline.

Things I know about the design so far:
  • It will be done top-down, FLAK style, starting with narrow plaits acting as mini-saddles.
  • It will have set-in sleeves, also top-down but probably just sewn in rather than done with short rows.
  • From outside to center, the cables are
  • The V-neck really will have a simple rolled-under edge, since that puts the emphasis on how the cables grow out of it.

I'm happy to leave some of the design for later in the project. I have ideas for the sleeves and the side panels that I'm hoping will be good, though. This sweater may or may not be a tour de force, but it will be a tour de as much force as I have. This is the thing I've wanted to be working on since pretty much the day I picked up needles.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Celtic Spiral Cable... Scarf Pattern

I've charted out a cable, inspired to do so after looking at a sweater called Durrow and wishing its cables had just a bit more continuity. It's a transcription into cabling of a pattern on page 33 of Celtic Art: the Methods of Construction by George Bain, which I've had since I was a kid. (There are others in the book I'd like to try charting as well, but not until I see what's in the new Melissa Leapman book on closed cables that comes out next month.)

Here's the chart:

And here's the knitting:

It's a large repeat, but I'm happy with the way it knits up. For people looking closely: the top repeat in the photo is a perfect reflection of the chart, the lower repeat is not. Also, though I know it's a bit of a beast with a lot going on, it *is* well-behaved in that cables only move, cross, are formed or decreased on the right-hand sides. The over/under weave is regular as well.

I want this to become my first contribution to Ravelry, but they're not quite ready to handle stitch patterns as separate entities. So here is the (ahem!) pattern for a Celtic Spiral Cable Scarf:

  • Using any yarn and any needles that will provide good cable definition, cast on 31 stitches (17 for the cable, 4 more for a 2-stitch rev st st border, and 5 stitches of garter stitch on each side).
  • Work 10 rows of garter stitch.
  • Working a 7-stitch border on each side as described, work 6 cable repeats.
  • Work 10 more rows of garter stitch and cast off.

I think this cable, along with its mirror image, and maybe a horseshoe cable in between them, could also make a great sweater front. :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

FO: Chinese lace pullover

Pattern: Chinese Lace Pullover by Angela Hahn
Yarn: Eden Madil 100% bamboo
Size: Small, with adjustments to the shoulders
Needles: Size 4 Knitpicks
Construction: in the round where possible, bottom-up, but I sewed the raglan seams as directed by the pattern.
Here, the sweater and I are wondering whether anything can be better than knitting AND coffee together.
Then we went back to the yarn's origins at Mind's Eye Yarns in Porter Square. The ribbing on this sweater really lends itself to weird pixellation at some .jpg settings -- weird! But here we are. (It was fun to pose here, because I knew anyone looking out the windows would know exactly what we were doing and why.)
We went in to see Lucy and her new yarns, which may have been a bad idea. Yarn fumes!! (That hank of yarn around my neck has a really high cashmere content, just so you understand.)
Lucy really does have some lovely new yarns. Way down in the bottom right corner you can see some of the bamboo the sweater was made from, but all the newer stuff is for fall/winter.
Then, home for closeups. The place where I found the pattern least clear was probably the directions on the body/sleeve increase area. Here is how I did it: lifted increases one stitch away from the edge of the expanding region. I did lifted increases because this yarn was incredibly unforgiving, and it was the least visible least disruptive increase I could find, and I did them near the edge instead of always at the center so that the whole section would appear mostly vertical instead of all flaring out from a central line. One last minor detail: after the armpit bindoffs I had 3 stitches left from this new rib on either side. I kept it that way as I did decreases, ending up with 2 visible stitches on each side of the raglan seam -- a minor variation from the pattern which calls for 1 on each side.
A closeup of the lace, where I didn't deviate from the pattern at all:

But what about those shoulder adjustments? Sorry, I couldn't get a good shot of them. Basically, to kinda-fit my square shoulders I had to add both width and height, so I have a few increases and a few short rows. I decreased away the increases after the short rows. I hid all the short row turns in the purl parts of the ribbing, which was a good idea, but I did the wrap-and-turn method, which left pretty visible wraps on the surface. Maybe if I hadn't done the wraps and left little holes instead, it might have gone better with the pattern... it does have lace, after all. But the wraps are a very minor flaw in a sweater I'm otherwise happy with, so meh. :)

Finishing: did I mention this yarn is unforgiving? It also frays like an 18-ply mofo. So, I dipped the end of each end in a thin solution of fabric glue and water a day before weaving them in, to stop the fray. It may have been overkill, but I'll sleep better at night.

And the future? Bamboo stretches, you know. I'm actually counting on it to grow a bit. I'll try to post a follow-up picture in a few months when I've been wearing it for a while.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fables of the construction

Ever seen this pair of fingerless mitts before? Yes, here is yet another one of the 6783 instantiations of Fetchings that people will admit to on Ravelry. I'm sure there are twice as many in the wild. Still, my mother likes these. I knit them up in 3 days for her birthday, and felt very competent doing them. :)

And, here is one of those pictures only a knitter can love. It's blurry on purpose -- I'm trying to get you excited about the NEXT post. And yes, that is a ball of yarn on my head. ;)

In between my monotonous chants of "never making a raglan again, never making a raglan again" I've been having a bit of fun with scraps. I finally learned the long-tail cast-on and an invisible caston for 1x1 rib, and have come up with a simple lace pattern to use with the Noro Transitions yarn that flew into my mailbox after I heard about it. This crazy-ass yarn changes fiber throughout the skein, always a wool blend but transitioning also between silk, cashmere, angora, alpaca, kid mohair and camel. I had to have it.

Also in the mail to me right now: Knitter's Guide to Stitch Design by Annie Maloney.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A torso and two wrists

"...that's all we could find of her, Sergeant. In pieces. I haven't seen a case this nasty since '73!"

Here's the completed body of my Chinese Lace Pullover. I did it according to pattern (with the TINY modification of doing my decreases one stitch in from where the instructions called for).

And here's the lace part of the sleeves, all done:

Innocent-looking, huh? Looks like I'm doing them two at once on Magic Loop, huh? Actually, the bamboo yarn was so slippery that the only way I could cast on in the round was plastic DPNs, and after a few rows of that the only way I could bear to keep going was Magic Loop. Each sleeve has seven repeats of the lace panel, so I kept 4 on one side of the loop and 3 on the other; it seemed to work fine that way. Now that I've gotten to the plain ribbing, I've transferred to a longer needle for continuing them both at the same time.

The sleeves are not going to go according to pattern. For one thing, since raglans don't generally fit well on my square shoulders, I'm going to add some short-row shaping; for another thing, the pattern calls for the upper arm on these babies to be HUGE, 14" for the small size. Investigation shows it's because each sleeve is expected to have as many increases as each side of the body does.

No wai!!!

So it's time for some mods. I know the pattern is cleverly written so that the body ribbing lines up with the arm ribbing along the raglan seams, and I want to preserve that, so I'm busy doing the math for a smaller-but-still-clever sleeve. I think I have a plan. :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A meme and a KnitPicks order

I got tagged with a meme by Vicki! My zillionth meme, but the first one on this knitting blog. It feels nice, like I'm starting to have an actual identity as a knitter.

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?

In June of 1998 I was... hmmm, I was in New Mexico, interning at Los Alamos National Lab, just getting going on my last stint of work for my thesis. I was making a quilt for my ex-boyfriend's wedding, and that was kind of fun; and I had just turned 21 and had just gotten a kitten who has been my constant companion ever since. The stint hadn't yet devolved into the mess it was destined to become in the fall.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today?
Get a unit test working, go to ashtanga yoga, put sock yarn in an envelope to be mailed off to someone who's knitting small elephants for charity, fill out a reimbursement form for the class I took last spring, make this blog post. (Update: that was yesterday. I got 3 done out of 5.)

3) Snacks I enjoy:

Peanuts with a swig of orange juice. Cheese and Triscuits. Oatmeal cookies. Protein bars. The decadent cherry-apricot scones I sometimes get at our local bookstore cafe. Almonds with chocolate covered raisins.

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

Pay off my mortgage; no, wait, I'd buy a nearby place with in-unit laundry so I don't have to deal with spiders just to have clean clothes. Figure out some deal where I could drop to part-time at work but keep working, or maybe go work for for free. I'd make sure my parents were set up right; I'd get an ocicat; and then I'd make my financial advisor a very happy man.

All of that's just with the first couple million though. A billion? I have no experience even thinking in those terms, but that would probably be enough to be a real player in the world of microfinance.

5) Places I have lived:

Kalispell, Montana
Los Alamos, NM
Boston, MA
Cambridge, MA
Somerville, MA

6) Jobs I have had:

Babysitter, bookstore stocker, Burger King worker bee, cafeteria server, mechanical engineering intern, software engineer, software engineer, software engineer.

7) Bloggers I am tagging who I will enjoy getting to know better: Lea and Krista, because they should post occasionally. :)

To keep this vaguely knitting-related, I got two books in the mail this week. One was Melissa Leapman's Cables Untangled, which taught me my preferred way of cabling without a cable needle a long time ago when I bought it for someone else, and the second was Cables: Volume 1, The Basics by Janet Szabo. What's that? Obsessed, you say? Nah, I am just making mental progress on an Aran sweater design and couldn't stand to go further without getting these two. I'm well beyond thinking I'll only make myself one Aran sweater, but the first one is special (right?) and I want to make sure I have lots of stitches to choose from.

If you have a Ravelry account, the cable I've chosen for the central panel can be seen here. It's from Annie Maloney's Cable Knitting Handbook, and I think it may be the perfect cable.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Worms, bird shit, and lace -- pick three

My social life seems to be getting more knitterly. Last week I actually taught a friend to knit (my first time), and my mother sent me this very lovely silk yarn... with a small crocheted worm in it. "I told you it was coccoon-colored", she said. Awwww!

For those who don't know, yesterday was also WWKIP Day (worldwide Knit in Public Day) 2008. I went to Copley Square and got to see quite a lot of interesting things... how drop spindles work, what Handmaiden Seasilk feels like, and what laceweight merino is like. I even got to see six inches worth of a Morrigan, which I recognized instantly and with some squealing. Other people were equally happy to pet the 100% Madil Eden bamboo I was rocking. The only bad part was that I did get splattered all across the shoulders by a pigeon. Yes. Gross but true. The good parts of the bad part were twofold though: I had a spare tank top with me, and... the nasty bird didn't get my knitting. :D

I said I'd be doing the Chinese Lace Pullover next, and so I am. The yarn I'm using is eighteen ply... eighteen ply!... and it's very easy to split it in a 17-to-1 kind of way, resulting in an annoying little thready loop. However, this lace is many times easier to work in the round rather than back and forth, so I'm experiencing much less splitting with the real project than I did with my swatch. (Notice there is no picture of my swatch.) Here is the progress so far:

The lace on the body piece is complete, and about 3 rows of the ribbing above the lace. The fabric is starting to have a lovely heft and drape to it; the lace, which seemed limp and formless while I was working on it, seems much nicer now that I'm not.

Monday, May 26, 2008

FO: Hild is done!

Pattern: Hild, from Elsebeth Lavold's Second Viking Knits Collection. In the end, I customized it, so be warned: if you knit it from the pattern you won't get the waist shaping or the wrist motifs.

Since it is my first sweater, I had to take bunches of "FO" pictures:

neck-back.jpg neck-back.jpg sleeve-motif.jpg two-cats.jpg waist-shaping.jpg

And here are some closeups just for the knitting blog.

The arm seaming was a bit dicey; I think the sleeve I knit first is also the sleeve I seamed first, so one side is way more beginnerish than the other. This is the one that came out more as I meant it to, though if I had it to do again I'd devote more stitches to the edging / central rib. And I probably wouldn't slip the edge stitches either; I didn't see until too late how that would limit my options with the actual seaming.

And here's how I brought the cables up into the neckline on the front, giving the stitches a few rows to migrate into the 2x2 design. I like the final effect and would definitely do it again... less nervously next time. :)

I've cast on for the next thing, the Chinese Lace Pullover in shiny red bamboo. It's going to be a very, very different project. Lea is knitting it too, so maybe there will be more multi-author action on this blog in the next little bit. :)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Things come together; the center can hold

An exciting weekend for Hild!

Yesterday I split the front piece for the neck, and obsessively stayed up late finishing the front; between the cable pattern, shaping on the neck edges, shaping on the outer edges, and dealing with two balls of yarn, I was afraid that if I stopped I'd never get back into the right head-space.

I used Grumperina's stretchy bind-off on the front of the neck, fearing that a regular one would leave the neck too tight to fit over my head. I don't know if that really would have been a problem, but this neck-hole fits over my head easily, so I'm going to call it a success.

And to seam the shoulders I used a crochet slip stitch... I had already not left all my stitches live for the 3-needle bindoff, and as the Yarn Harlot taught me, crochet creates a nice stable line. Yay for hooking!

Of course I had to immediately pick up stitches for the neck (I did that mostly with a crochet hook too). And then I had to knit just one row to get the stitches back OFF the stupid DPNs, which didn't work well with the yarn at all, and onto circs. I may have to do one more row yet tonight... some challenges still remain, as I'm carrying some cablework into the neck stitches just enough to get gracefully from the stitches as they were to an even 2x2 pattern. Need to get to the mindless part by Tuesday so that I can work on the neck in lecture! What is it on? Oh yes, NP completeness... I won't want to be cabling through that.

Happy Hild says:

"I'm starting to feel like a real sweater!"

In the meantime these Francie socks make me grudgingly admit I might make socks again someday.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I declare a thumb cozy.

I knit something for someone else! It's a thumb cozy, with attached I-cord bracelet to keep the end of the cozy down. Why would I knit a thumb cozy? One of my friends has a friend with a hurt/bandaged thumb, and let's just say it was either that or do my homework.

Un-pattern: cast on 3 stitches. Work in 1x1 rib, increasing 1 on each side on the RS, until the working edge is almost wide enough to go around the base of the thumb. Cast on ~3 more stitches, divide over 3 needles and work in the round until just past the tip of the thumb. Finally, k2g all the way around. Cut the yarn, thread it through all live stitches and through the center. Realize that a cute little wrist-cord would hold down the bottom corner. Curse self for not working in the other direction. Splice the end from your cast-on back onto the ball. Look up how to make i-cord. Make 2-stitch i-cord for a while; sew it back on itself to make a loop.

I'm amused to discover that I could get certified -- and pinned -- as a master hand knitter through a mail-order course. I checked it out on; it's for real, all right. It does not tempt me though. I would probably have fun doing the swatches, but I don't want to make an argyle sock or a vest.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Airplane trips to the rescue

Thanks mostly to a couple of cross-country nonstop flights in the last week, the back of Hild is done. Here's a picture of it (2 rows before completion, but when the evening light was starting to fail and I couldn't wait any longer to pull out the camera):

And here's a closer shot of the cables.

Part of me is kind of sad, thinking of having to make all those cables AGAIN before it's all over, but this is going to be by far the prettiest thing I've ever made with my hands. I can't wait to wear it.

By the way, those mismatched sleeve caps? The longer one is the one that fits. The short one has been frogged.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I can has sinusoid? No, I can not has.

This is what Sweater Wizard 3.0 does to your sleeve cap design when you change the chest size from 30" (see the sleeve cap on the left) to 34" (see the sleeve cap on the right).

I understand why there are more stitches bound off in that initial bindoff row, I do. The number matches the bindoffs done in the body pieces. It makes sense. Why the second one is so much taller, though, I don't know, and neither one of them is a very nice sinusoid (as I complained about last time; but actually, the first one is better in that regard).

I'm sure this sweater will wind up looking okay -- I'll finish the front so that I can see which sleeve cap better matches the armscye, and redo one or the other -- but I can tell already that I'll probably crunch all my own numbers for this next time around.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More Hild progress

I think it's more than half done, yo!

And this doesn't even count the tiny line of progress on the sweater back, which I started so that I'd have something mindless to knit during 1.5 hr lectures. (In the class I'm taking, I'm much better off trying to listen and understand than I would be trying to take notes). I've quickly gotten past the ugly-worm stage that so depressed me on the sweater front; six rows is just enough for the ribbing to start looking like ribbing. At home I plan to finish up that second sleeve cap and then get back to the front (no pun intended), which is not mindless at all anymore because it's all cables, all the time.

Knitting is really my first experience with natural fibers, with the exception of a black wool coat that, as a yuppie Cambridge citizen, I am required to own. I have to admit, what I'm not loving about natural fibers so far is the little bits of nature you get for free with the fibers. The little bits of straw (or whatever it is) in the Silky Wool I'm knitting with are annoying, and they're not nearly as bad as the things I got in a merino-blend sweater I ordered from L.L Bean lately. I can only call them micro-tumbleweeds, and their diameter is so close to the yarn ply diameter that I've near-destroyed the yarn in a few places trying to get them out. Out they must come, though, if the garment is going to be wearable.