Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Hanami Stole

Hurrah! The Hanami Stole is finished! I persevered through those last boring rows and blocked it yesterday. I think it's very pretty and if you haven't checked out Pink Lemon Twist yet you really should.

I think I chose the wrong yarn for the project. Lana Borgesesia Cashwool is a lovely yarn and I'd use it for other projects, but this one needs a heavier laceweight. (Who knew there were different weights of laceweights!?) My finished stole is 15.5 inches wide rather than the 19 the pattern targets. The length of the stole is fine just shy of 70 inches. I added 4 extra 32 row repeats to make sure it would be long enough. (The pattern helpfully advises which charts to repeat in order to make the stole longer and maintain the balance of the basket weave and blossom sections.)

I used 2.75mm needles (pattern was 3.25 or 3.5 I think).
Finished measurements:
14.5 x 55ish inches pre blocking
15.5 x 68ish inches post blocking

Having said all of that about the yarn, was a pleasure to knit with and blocked beautifully- so I'd use the yarn again - just not for this!

I blocked the stole using my new blocking wires. They are a huge improvement over pins and easier than using beading wire. The big advantage they have over beading wire or thread is that the blocking wires are great for really stretching the piece. I'm not convinced that advantage is worth the cost of the blocking wires - so I'll reserve judgement for now.

I'm still obsessed with knitting lace and have a few more projects lined up! Some yarn and a pattern arrived for one yesterday that I'm tempted to begin - but I want to make some amendments to the pattern so I'll have to give it a bit more 'thinking time' before I cast on. In the meantime I'm working on an aran weight shawl and of course a pair of socks!

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Knitting Surgery

The Hanami is finished (hoorah!) and blocking now. More on that in my next post when it's released from the pins...

Before I could block I had to perform a little surgery on a couple of mistakes I'd made in the knitting. As someone who HATES ripping back when I find a mistake more than 2 rows back my first thought is: can I fix this with a bit of post knitting darning? (Actually, my first thought is - can I get a way with this?? And after debating with myself that no I can't live with it - I move on to the fixing options.)

The first of the Hanami examples occurred in the basket weave half of the stole. I still don't entirely know what happened - but I suddenly notice a big (bigger than expected) hole in the pattern about 15 rows back. Sigh. No amount of stretching or blocking was going to fix the problem. So before blocking I threaded a darning needle and carefully tried to create a bit more structure to minimise the hole.

The second happened in the very boring final repeat. I felt it was the knitting gods smiting me for mocking how dull the knitting was. Somehow I managed to drop about 5 stitches from the needles and they dropped about 4 rows. Grrrrrrr..... I picked them up and thought all was fine, but about 4 rows later I noticed that I had somehow converted what should have been two blossoms to one. And as this section wasn't the random part - it was pretty obvious. More darning needle surgery.

Do other knitters do this? Or is it considered a cop out? I don't know. One of the benefits/drawbacks of being a self taught make it up as you go along knitter is that you don't know if what you are doing is amateur or genius! You live in happy ignorance of whether your latest bit of work is the sign of a true craftsman or of clumsy hands!?

Monday, 28 May 2007

Knitting to Snooze By....

What makes some knitting boring? (And this is not a question to non-knitters who find all knitting boring.)(Fools.) But why is it that some knitting keeps us going and seems to fly by, while other bits just induces yawns and we have to be tied to the chair to make any progress.

I was thinking about this yesterday and today as I'm approaching the end of the Hanami Stole. The first half of this project flew by. I couldn't stop knitting. I loved the pattern - a 16 stitch 32 row repeat. It made sense and looked great. WooHoo!!

And then I began the second half of this asymmetrical stole. The stole moves from the structure of the basket weave pattern (yeah!) to the random falling blossom pattern (yawn!). The overall effect of the second half of the pattern isn't a yawn - it's quite striking. The blossoms begin to appear one or two at a time, and then gradually more and more appear per row until the final chart which is blossom-mania.

I guess part of what makes this part of the stole boring (for me) is that there aren't any visible milestones, each row alone adds very little, even 20 rows adds takes the whole thing to get the 'ah!' moment. I just need constant proof of my cleverness I guess -- waiting until the end to see the whole effect is not enough for my instant gratification self.

I don't think the boring bits take longer to knit -- it just feels like it. During the first half of the pattern I had to force myself to take breaks. I would knit for an hour and think it had been 5 minutes. For the blossom pattern I have to convince myself to do every row. And they seem to take forever. Although I'm sure they take no longer than the basket weave rows. (Probably quicker.)

But I will not give up. 32 rows left of the most tedious bit (row 1 *knit 2 tog, yo* repeat forever, row 2 purl, row 3 *yo, slip 1, k1 psso* repeat forever, row 4 purl) (just typing that out sapped my will to knit). Anyway - I will soldier on and should have Hanami ready for blocking tomorrow or Wednesday.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Hanami Stole is Underway! (and the greatest invention ever) (sort of)

This weekend I finally cast on for the Hanami Stole . It is such a lovely pattern, and I really like the asymmetrical design. (Actually all of her designs look great - the site Pink Lemon Twist is a great place to visit and be inspired.)(And to prove that point - a quick review of the front page of her blog yielded yet another sock pattern I've got try. It's this pattern from Cookie (she may be the same person who designed the Monkey socks I did last week.)). (When I finally do confess just how much I've acquired knitting wise in the last month I expect that sock pattern will be on the list.)

Right, anyway, back to the stole. I'm knitting it in Lane Borgesesia laceweight cashwool (which I think is fondly referred to as Loony Boony on the knitting forum). It's a lovely pale pink colour (which you can't really tell from the picture - but it is!) and I like working with it. It does however come as a skein of a whopping 1300 yards of knitting loveliness....

Which leads nicely to my nomination (this week) of the greatest invention ever.... the yarn swift, followed closely by the yarn winder. Wahey! 1300 yards wound in a lightning 10 minutes. No fuss no muss. From skein to a lovely little usable ball (or whatever that shape is called) of yarn.
The cast on includes 47 beads, I've used Austrian crystal 6mm beads. The pattern recommends adding the beads with a method involving a crochet hook -- but I didn't have a small enough hook so I modified things a little and just thread the beads onto the yarn putting them into place during the cast on.

I had to move down 2 needle sizes though to get the pattern definition I think works best so I'm knitting on 2.75mm rather than 3.25mm. The finished stole won't be quite as wide as the pattern, but I'll add a few repeats to keep most of the length.

All of that got me to wondering (as someone new to knitting with laceweight yarn) if perhaps I'm being too conservative, and knitting it more loosely on the larger needles would look fine once blocked. I do wish patterns talked a bit more about the before and after of knitting with such fine yarn.....
The pattern is well written, the charts are very clear and I've only come across one small error on the number of beads required - by my calculation it should be 47 but the pattern says 44. I'm enjoying knitting the stole so far and expect it will keep my interest to the end.

Sock Update

The Monkeys are finished. (Finished meaning all knit up - but still not grafted.) (So not finished.)(But very close.) I really liked knitting them.I was due to start Bayerische next but there seems to be some sort of worldwide shortage of the colour I ordered for them so I'm still waiting for the yarn... In the meantime I've cast on these Regia self patterning socks. Apologies to all at Regia - but lord I think these are unattractive! Fun to knit though. I'm just sad enough to be entertained by the changing colours and the I find myself thinking "I'll just knit to the next stripe.." so they are speeding along.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Sarcelle Shawl - Ta Dah!

Yesterday morning I finished the Sarcelle Shawl and began my first adventure in blocking. I was VERY concerned about the blocking as the shawl is knit on the bias so isn't rectangular as it is being knit. It has to be coaxed into a rectangular shape through the magic of blocking. Which I wasn't entirely sure I believed in.

At first I tried to block the shawl just by pinning the wet shawl onto my yoga mat (thanks to a knitting forum tip) - and that was frustrating and after about 25 minutes of tugging and pulling I gave up. Taking advantage of my new status as a member of the internet knitting community I did a bit of a blog trawl and discovered many people recommended blocking wires (which I didn't have) or fishing wire (which I also didn't have). But I did have some beading wire and I thought that was close enough to fishing wire. (Well, actually I don't really know what fishing wire is - but how far from beading wire can it be? A wire is pretty much a wire.)

Anyway, attempt number two began with me threading the beading wire along the perimiter of the shawl. I then pinned the shawl to the mat using the wires to coax the shape I wanted and to keep the edges straight. So much easier!! Although I think the whole experience has convinced me that blocking wires would be a good investment if I intend to make much more lace which needs blocking.

Having said that, the finished result isn't a perfect rectangle and I think I will block it again before I give it to CC.

The shawl was knit on 2.75 mm needles in Kid Silk Haze - just over 4 balls.

Pre blocked it was 62 x 14 inches

Post blocking it was 69 x 18 inches

Using Kid Silk Haze I found the needle choice important (critical). I tried 2 sets of needles before I settled on some gorgeous Colonial rosewood needles which made the process so much easier.

The pattern was very clear and easy to read. The main 6 row repeat pattern is easily memorised but the shawl kept me interested to the end as there are enough milestones to make me feel I was making progress.

If I were to make the shawl again the only thing I would change would be the decrease edge. (As the shawl is knit on the bias, in the 'even' section on side is increased alternate rows, while the other is decreased.) Purling the last 2 stitches together made that edge much more rigid than the other (which was increased by knitting 2 in second last stitch).

In other news.... My sock knitting continues. Inspired by the Sockathon I've completed a pair of Opal Rainforest Chameleon socks and I am approaching the toe of my first Monkey. Monkey is a pattern I'm really enjoying and expect I'll make a few more pairs over the coming months. The final pair will be Bayerische - a masterpiece of a sock I think!

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Socks and a Tale of Friendship

When I discovered the world of knitting on the web a few weeks ago I was struck by the number of references to knitting socks. Socks? Yep - people were knitting socks. Lots of them. And there was a whole industry in special yarns just for socks.

I scoffed. I mocked. Why on earth would anyone knit socks? I've been knitting since I was 5 and apart from specialty Christmas stockings for Santa to stuff with goodies I've never even considered knitting a sock. I mean - they are pretty readily available and pretty cheap. Weirdos. That's what I decided the sock knitters were.

But somehow, as I read more blogs and message boards the idea didn't seem quite so ridiculous. (This either demonstrates my flexible nature or my follow the pack mentality - you decide.) I started to see the advantage of the portable sock as a project. The simple sock as back up knitting for those moments when you feel like doing a stitch or two, but don't have time to settle into a knitting sess.

And the yarn did look cool. So colourful! Colours I'd NEVER in a million years consider in a sweater or cardigan seemed sensible for socks.

So I bought some sock yarn. And cast on my first pair. (Double pointed birch needles - 5 inch.)(If I was going to knit socks I wasn't going for any of this two circulars or magic loop business.)(Traditional. Socks demand traditional.)

Anyway, I cast on my first pair and loved the fine yarn on the small needles. Knitting on 4 needles has always made me feel like a 'real' knitter. It just looks like what a real knitter would be doing. (And non-knitters NEVER believe that it isn't any harder than 'regular' knitting so it inspires awe in all who watch.)

So I was converted. Socks were fun to knit. But would anyone wear them? (I doubt I will.)(I'm not much of a sock wearer.) Blogs and message boards were full of people crushed under the demands of their friends and family for hand knit socks. Me - well, when I mentioned hand knit socks to anyone and how I was knitting lots of socks which hadn't yet been claimed by any feet I got non-commital nods of sympathy and a quick change of topic. Somehow I seemed to be living in a sock black hole where NO ONE wanted hand knit socks.

This was a problem as my new found sock interest meant I had managed to accumulate in 2 weeks more than 8 balls of sock yarn, -- with another 5 on order.


But luckily, as so often happens in my life, my best friend CC stepped in to save the day. There we were in Starbucks, gossiping, sorting out the world, me knitting on another sock doomed to languish in my yarn basket forever for lack of willing feet... when she said "what are you making?" "A sock," I replied. And then she said those magic words "I'd love some wool socks."

Not only that she has 4 children! Each with 2 feet who also all want socks! WooHoo!

That is why she's my best friend. (Well, not really, but it's the number one reason this week.)

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Progress Report

Sarcelle Shawl is going well - and due to my obsessive knitting at the moment I'm over halfway! Well, according to the pattern I'm over halfway -- but I've decided to make it a bit longer than the pattern so by my modified reckoning I'm halfway as I've decided to do 11 or 12 of the 36 row repeats in the 'even' section rather than the specified 9.

It's looking lovely and I'm now in love with the Kid Silk Haze yarn. The rosewood needles and a bit of experience mean I'm much more comfortable with it. I'll happily use it again. It knits up like a cloud and feels really special. The fuzziness is soft and doesn't overpower the lace pattern - just softens it a little around the edges.

In the background I'm working on a pair of socks. (I will explain more of the sock thing in another post soon.) They are in Opal Rainforest 'Chameleon' yarn. It's lovely to work with. I'm slightly annoyed about a fault(?) in the yarn - which means the striping in the socks is different. In sock one, the 5th stripe from the top is much smaller than all of the others.... It's more striking in the photo than in real life and I haven't decided for sure how much (or not) it annoys me....

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Sarcelle Stole

I'm making pretty good progress on the Sarcelle Stole. This isn't the best picture for showing it off but it gives the basic idea. I'm quite pleased so far.

And I'm even more pleased that I've discovered these rosewood knitting needles! They are a giant leap from the bamboo needles I was using (and an entirely separate experience from the nasty circular needles I started on). I really can't believe what a difference they make. I'm so in love with them that I've ordered a second pair - just in case something untoward should happen to thse ones!! (I bought them from Purlescence - a lovely supply of special knitting luxuries!)

The pattern is satisfying to knit - largely repetitive (so soothing) but with just enough milestone moments to keep me interested. The basic pattern is a 6 row repeat which is pretty quickly memorised. Row 5 requires some casting on (14 sets of 4 stitches) which I found annoying to begin with but I've gotten used to it -- and it's a money row -- it tidies up all those (deliberately) dropped stitches into a nice heart-ish pattern. There is no 'rest' row - so you do need to pay attention even on the purl rows - but it's not tooooo taxing.

Discovering this internet knitting universe has proven to be an expensive adventure!! On the weekend I'll post the treats (or some of them) I've acquired in the last couple of weeks.