Saturday, September 19, 2009

Oak leaf family tr..... nevermind.

This is a bit of a confessional post: I have backed down from a sweater project, for the first time on record.

I want to make a heavily modified Oak Leaf Family Tree pullover, which centers around this amazing acorn-and-leaf cable... I've chosen some coordinating cables, I have the yarn and needles, but I don't want to do it right now. I have too much other stuff on my plate. I am, however, happy to say I've figured out my leaf technique, thanks to this swatch.

That swatch is using a different method every time a small stem branches off of the large stem, and it plays with acorn spacing and acorn decrease methods too. And leaf increases. The winners are:
  • The acorn should be 3 purls away from the main stem, not just two as the pattern has it (see the top right acorn). The extra stem movement is easily added by a single 1-over-1 cable cross on the wrong side.
  • Speaking of cable crosses, 1-over-1 cable crosses are (for me) a cleaner way of moving the little stems than increasing on one side and decreasing on the other.
  • The acorn should be closed off with a k5tog rather than a centered decrease, but it has to be tight (see the lower left acorn).
  • The best way (that I found) to introduce a new knit stitch into a 2-stitch stem as a small stem branches away is to increase an extra purl stitch a couple of stitches away from the stem, then use a 1-over-1 cable cross to move one original stem stitch away to form the new smaller stem; as the extra purl stitch crosses underneath, it turns into a knit stitch. Everything stays tight, and continuity is maintained between the small stem and the larger one (see the topmost branching).
  • My favorite double increase for the middle of the leaf is k1, leave stitch on needle, k1 into stitch below, k1 into the first stitch again. This leaves a "vein" in the middle (see the left upper leaf).

I'll want these notes, probably next winter. I've decided that since I'm using the same yarn I used for the Hourglass Aran, I'd be wise to wait and see how that wears during its first season. There may be things I'll want to adjust for as I prepare to make this next fancy cabled sweater.

In the meantime I'm enjoying knitting up someone else's cleverness, as well as designing a simple (but small-gauge) anniversary sweater for my husband.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Swirled Pentagons: mission accomplished

I finished this sweater weeks ago, but only now has it been cool enough to put it on for five minutes and ask my husband to take a photograph. As you can see, it fits but is in need of blocking:

I have nothing to say about the completion of this sweater except this: oh my god, so much stockinette, never again! never never never!

My modifications:
  • Like others (including grumperina), I got the right gauge and size on the pentagons by knitting them with size SIX needles instead of size NINES. While there is nothing in the errata about this, I am convinced there is in fact a mistake.
  • I made the ribbing on the body 2.5” long to match the cuffs.
  • I also made the whole body about 2” longer than the pattern called for.

The arms are a little tight -- not so tight that I won't wear the sweater, but tight enough that I can't wear a long sleeved layer underneath. I like it, but a bit less than I was hoping I would; I liked the way the pentagons came down over the shoulders of the model in Knitting Nature and was sad when I found out that sweater was way too big for her. Nonetheless, this fits and is shiny and nice. The best part is the back of the yoke, so I'll be sure to wear my hair braided with this so that people can see it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Seven and a half little coolie hats

It took a lot of swatching to get going on my latest project. Along the way I made a little coolie hat for the stuffed bookworm given to me by my good friend Bree:

It took me a long time, and I did a fair bit of trigonometry regarding pentagons, before I figured out that the coolie hat would block flat with no problems. Then I went on a business trip, knitted LOTS of little coolie hats and got them wet and smashed them:

Yes, it's the Swirled Pentagon Pullover from Knitting Nature, a sweater I've liked since the day I started knitting. In comparison to the Overdose Aran, it seems deliciously simple and likely to go very, very fast. I also adore my yarn, which is Valley Yarns Colrain in majestic blue. It's shiny, which brings out all the wild swirling these ribbed pentagons have to offer, and was used by both my favorite instantiations of the pattern on Ravelry.

I loved these pentagons, people. LOVED. Perhaps the most delicious part was picking them up from each other; the directions specified using a long-tail cast-on, then picking up stitches using alternately the working yarn and the tail when it came time to pick up stitches. Something about this fiddly process had me utterly charmed, maybe the neat twist made by the two yarns on the back, or the way the pentagons so cleanly line up knits with knits and purls with purls.

One peculiar thing about these is that I eventually got gauge on them using size 6 needles, making me wonder how the directions (which call for size 9s) could possibly be right. I think that number may be upside-down. The great Grumperina had the exact same suspicion a while ago, but the errata are silent on this matter, so this will have to remain a mystery. All that matters is that she fixed hers and I fixed mine. I'm hoping to get away without altering the sleeves and body very much.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The very last Hourglass Aran post

This is it... at long last, the FO pictures. :D

I'm certainly glad that my in-house knitting critic approves.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

All over except the final photo shoot.

O HAI INTERNETZ. Guess what is finished? My ridiculously complicated Hourglass Aran. These final pictures of the construction were taken this morning, before washing it; I knew how much this yarn changes when the oil from the spinning comes out of it, and wanted crisp pictures. After the photoshoot I washed it in the bathtub, where it fluffed and softened mightily... so once it dries you can expect one more blog post with pictures of it actually ON me.

Nice detail #1 is how the sleeve underarm area has a gusset, which continues a line between st st and reverse st st that starts on the body where the side panels meet the front and back panels. Maybe nobody will ever see this or know about it except me, but it makes me kind of happy.

I twisted the central cable in opposite directions on the two sleeves.

And, lastly, a shot the shoulder from above, which shows the braided mini-saddles and also the beginning of the closed cabling on the sleeves. I'm very happy with this; it turned out as planned. At one point I wanted to do a different and more organic transition between the saddle and the sleeve cables, but that will have to wait for another sweater. :)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

It's hard to get luckier...

I am always confused by knitting sleeves... they just go ON and ON and ON until suddenly they stop. So for most of this sleeve, I was sure the pattern could not end gracefully and I'd have to just run it straight into the ribbing; but in the end, it could. Check out how lucky I got:

So, I win. One more sleeve. :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hourglass Aran sleeve design

After some tribulation, sleeve #1 is long enough to show you.

The central cable is a (slight) adaptation of No. 46 from Annie Maloney's Cable Knitter's Handbook, the next cable out is my own, and the texture stitch is... um, I can't find which book it came from anymore. It's probably called "little honeycomb", and if you like doing 1-over-1 cable crosses this stitch is for you. :)

I made my life unintentionally difficult by wanting to do a shallow set-in sleeve from the top down. The faster I could increase stitches, the shallower the set-in... but it turns out that there's a limit to how quickly a person can do increases, and it's hard to even hit that limit gracefully. In the end, I begged for help on Ravelry, and this is the wisdom I came away with:

To increase 1 stitch on each side on every row, just do a yarnover for the increase -- you need that extra yarn in the fabric so that the edge (diagonal) stitches can be longer than the other stitches. Twist each yo on the next row to close the hole.

You can see in the upper right of this closeup that I got it working pretty well.

You can also see that I did a gusset rather than do the texture stitch all the way across. Decreases actually continue at the same rate after the gusset; it's just a visual feature more than a shaping one. I could have done without the fake seam, with a bit more planning, but joining in the round left me with a one-row jog in the pattern from one side to the other.

Finally, here's what the sleeve will eventually look like from the front when being worn:

Yeah, the cap wound up a bit trapezoidal, but I think it won't show much.

I already know it will be annoying to set these into the sweater body. I'm thinking of trying to do it using backstitch and a dressmaker's technique, explained here on Ravelry by Annie herself. But first things first: I need to finish the forearm, figure out how to gracefully end the central cable (which I'd like to close off) and do the cuff. To say nothing of the dog the second sleeve.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A new technique for starting closed cables

Ever since I started knitting cables, I've been looking for a flatter way to start closed cables for those cases where a rounded beginning is desired. Now, I'm happy to present a new technique whose beginning is both flat and full. One right-side row, you haven't started your cable; the next right-side row, you have two 2-stitch cables that are already separated by four purl stitches.

Here's what it looks like, along with an initial try at a matching decrease.
Before blocking, a circle:

After blocking, it's actually a bit wider than it is tall:

How is that possible? The core of the new technique: it relies on short rows to create the bulk at the bsse of the cable, rather than relying only on added stitches. It should probably be called the Bobble Method, because that’s what I was thinking of when the idea was born.


On a wrong-side row (on which you’re working knit stitches):
  • Purl into the front and back of 2 consecutive stitches.

  • TURN THE WORK. Knit those four stitches.

  • TURN THE WORK. Purl those four stitches, then continue knitting to the end of the row.

On the next row, a right-side row, perform two cable crosses when you get to within 2 stitches of the lump of knit stitches:
  • Cross the first two knits over the two preceding purl stitches

  • Cross the other two knits over the two following purl stitches

Pros and Cons

What’s good about this method (and by good I only mean it satisfied my goals), is that it doesn’t depend on crazy increases: it adds bulk directly to the very base of the cable via a couple of extra short rows, and adds only 2 new stitches. As a result, it disturbs the underlying fabric less than a technique that depends on making 4 new stitches. In addition, the 4 stitches in the new pattern are well established before they're pulled hard apart, so that no hole is created when that happens.

Caveat: this is probably best for making cables that do quickly separate to place 4 purl stitches between the new knit columns, since there is a gap naturally formed on either side of the initial short rows that is hidden by (and helps to accommodate) the 2-knit-over-2-purl crosses that move the cables apart from one another.

Caveat #2: it's hard to chart. :P

Why I had to invent it now

I needed something new for the Hourglass Aran I'm designing: a sweeping, luxurious entry into a cable of Annie Maloney's, to go on the sleeve cap and lead the eye downward. (If you like the cable, it's an adaptation of No. 46 from her Cable Knitter's Handbook, a book I highly recommend to any cable enthusiast.)

My thanks to TECHknitter over at TECHknitting, who had nothing to do with this technique, but who first got me thinking in terms of "how can I put more yarn in this particular spot?". I hope this is helpful to those of you out there designing this style of cable.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Hourglass Vest

Have you been wondering whether my crazy sweater-construction idea with the shaped cable panels was going to work at all? Yeah, me too. :)

It works...

Here's a side view (impossible to take this one without distorting the fabric of the front and back rather a lot):

Here I am looking smug, perhaps because instead of a handful of pieces I suddenly have a functional Aran vest. Or perhaps because it was windy out and I was squinting.

If you look at the sides, you can see I got bitten a little by the rows of plain reverse stockinette stitch on the side panels, which have a larger gauge than the cabling and caused the ribbing there to actually pull in. Though that's annoying, I think it'll block right out when I wash this and is not worth fixing in the knitting, at this point.

Now, onto the next huge challenge -- sleeves. I left a generous armscye in this sweater body, which make it very comfortable as a vest (I'm still wearing it as I type this!) but now need to be accommodated.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Justa Scarf

With my sweater design coming along pretty well, I decided I was up to trying a scarf. :D Here is Ralph, sitting pretty in 100% chunky baby alpaca.

31 stitches across, 50 inches long, 2 skeins of Baby Chunky Alpaca Paints from Mind's Eye Yarns. I think this stuff could make a process knitter out of anyone. I think I was drooling the entire time I knitted it up. Not my usual style at all, but considering that I lost my old scarf, I had no choice but to give in. ;)

The Justa Scarf is just a scarf; I cast on 31 stitches and knitted 1x1 rib until I ran out of yarn. The only chances I got for that knitterly extra touch were the ends. Both are done nicely with special techniques for 1x1 ribbing:

I was having a little too much fun reinventing the Kitchener stitch from first principles, and managed a sort of purl Kitchener first:

Though I picked it out in order to do a normal graft, I do think it's kind of a cool edge, both decorative and with all the stretch of regular grafting. I might keep it in mind for some other time.

Friday, January 02, 2009

OMG applied I-cord

The sweater's neck is done, and applying I-cord to bound-off edges is my new favorite technique. I wish I had a before-and-after picture of the back of the neck -- it really went from ragged to gorgeous in about 30 minutes. Not only was the technique pretty easy (I did it based on instructions in The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques) but it matches the rolled edging on the sides of the V-neck perfectly.

There's slight unevenness on both right and left sides where the I-cord meets the rolled edging, but I'm not going to stress about that. After I wash this and the yarn fulls, I don't think it will matter.