Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Joining, part 2, the Laziest Knitter way

I've been experimenting with different color join techniques while making Milano.
Since the body is worked in the round it seemed logical to try the jogless jog.  I must be doing it wrong because the bottom two stripes jogged:
Jogs where it should be jogless.  So I issued a cease-and-desist order on this join for Milano after two tries.  OK, so I'll go back and perform a little finishing magic (think: duplicate stitch) in the finishing.  Which is why you want to leave a slightly longer tail when working with multiple colors -- you just never know when you'll need a little yarn to work with.

See that top join in the above photo, the narrow black stripe?  All I did was cross the yarns the same way you do in intarsia (Knit Fix p. 45).  That's all I did on the first sleeve as well, below,
where the joins are right at the same place as M1 increases.  Call it the intarsia join.  I like it. It's easy and solves the problem.  The second sleeve is enjoying the same technique.

And if this wasn't such fine stretchy yarn, I could be weaving in the tails at the same time as the join, a true Laziest Knitter method I love and use 99% of the time (Knit Fix p. 47 box).  But in Cobasi -- cotton, bamboo, silk, lycra -- weaving in tails this way distorts the stockinette stitch. 

Today is cleaning day at Castle LK, as honorary daughter Emily refers to our house.  DH added several features making the place a cinch to clean; I chose easy-clean bathroom fixtures, etc., plus my decorating mantra is "minimalist."
Ten colors for a slip-stich scarf?  Check.
Ten bits and pieces decorating a table?  Nope.
Making me also perhaps the laziest housecleaner.


10 colors

It's hard to believe that I found 10 colors of fingering weight in my stash (including two colors of 70 merino/ 30 camel that date to the 1990s).  But here's the first complete color repeat of Soumak in all its glory:

BTW, after DH heard me repeatedly mention Soumak, he asked for the spelling and looked up the word.  According to Wikipedia, Soumak is a style of high-color and high-texture rug weaving.  Which makes Soumak the perfect name for this scarf/ stole, thanks to the magic of slip stitch.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Shawl wall & cat TV

My latest shawl wall display:

Do you recognize the designs? Hints:  one is from last summer, one is from last month, and one is from, oh, about five years ago.  Taught classes on two of the three, one at String Theory.

And Oz watching as men with lots of trucks put in two new concrete driveways across the street,

 providing hours of cat TV.

Back to joins, etc., tomorrow.  Plus a photo of Soumak:  I want to finish one complete 130-row pattern repeat before showing it off to you.  Oh, my, but Soumak will be beautiful hanging on the wall once done.  That is if I ever take it off moi.  Once done.  Sometimes process and product knitting come together.  Great fun.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Multicolor extravaganzas

Here's my studio table as of a few camera clicks ago:
Upper left corner is the body of Milano awaiting four more rows to finish the remaining shoulder --
that's two colors and therefore two color joins.

In the center,
the beginning of Soumak.  That's three colors so far out of ten (lined up on the right in the first pic) and two color joins at the side so far.

You may recall from a previous post that this is also in progress:  Blocks of Color scarf.

If like me you're drawn to multicolor extravaganzas (see pp. 95 and 100 in Knit Fix for earlier but not earliest multicolor projects) you get really good at joining yarn.  (Unless you're working in gradient yarns like Noro, which just require joining new balls of yarn. Not surprisingly, LK loves gradient yarns.)

Noticing a trend here?  Yeah -- joining yarns.  I've decided to do a little photography as I work on Milano and Soumak to show you a few Lazy Knitter ways to join.  One will be the Russian join (no, I don't know why it's called that -- leave a comment if you can explain or even dream up a good story) which requires really sharp sewing needles with long eyes that can be threaded with yarn.  My preference is for darning needles or something called chenille needles.  I've lost so many of these down the sides of my knitting chair and one sofa that the needles now have a new, more secure home:

This darling little needle box is sewn and quilted.  It belonged to my mother-in-law, who besides being a doctor long before women doctors were commonplace was talented with a needle -- knitting, quilting, embroidery.  Imagine how wonderful to have had her sew up a wound with those precise stitches.

Oh, and this is also on my studio table:
It's time to harvest the dried-down lavender flowers, which are right outside the studio door.  See the red secateurs and stainless bowl for details. 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Portable knitting

I always like to have a knitting project in my purse.  I've been thinking about this today because I need purse knitting tomorrow while commuting to downtown Chicago for a visit to the Art Institute.  Trains = knitting time.

There are certain requirements to make knitting a moveable feast:

1.  No beading.  I love to bead but not away from my studio table.  I drop beads.  I drop stitches that I'm beading.  I am not a picture of grace when it comes to beading.  Unlike two friends who are so good at beaded knitting that they work beaded shawls on planes, in cars and at baseball games.  This leaves me in awe.  Me?  I'd drop the beading hook down into the bleachers, never to be seen again.

2. No more than two colors of yarn.  Otherwise I'm juggling colors.  Then there's the fear of losing a skein along the way.  Again, this is something I'm talented at.  Hansel and Gretel left a trail of breadcrumbs; I leave a trail of dropped skeins and dpns (just in the last few days -- I'm nothing if not consistent).

3.  The stitch pattern has to be something I can work with only occasional references to the directions.

4.  No dragging along a huge piece of knitting.  When I went to visit MB in South Carolina in June, left at home were two sweaters (Old Town, Lea & Lola) that had progressed beyond the portable stage.

Everything I'm working on right now is either advanced, huge or beaded. 

True, though it sounds like an excuse to start another project, doesn't it? 

Since picking up this pattern at Stitches Midwest last weekend (all I bought, proving once again that Janet spoils me/us when it comes to finding interesting yarns that you really, really want to knit with), I started the entrelac back panel out of Noro Taiyo just because it's so eminently portable.  Really.  I may drop beads but I can entrelac (didn't know it was a verb, did you?  It is now) pretty much anywhere.  This partially explains the numerous skeins of gradient yarn (Noro, Zauberball, Jojoland but mostly Noro) in my stash.  Entrelac just begs to be worked in gradient or self-striping yarn.

What are your requirements for portable knitting?

Oh -- forgot one. Nothing in white. 
Years ago a friend said that when she grew up she wanted to be able to wear white. 
Not there yet.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Simple Technique on a Tuesday

Three projects, all knit in the round, all using the same technique for joining in the round:

 Be Sweet Bamboo Blocks of Color tube scarf in seven colors of, yep, Be Sweet Bamboo;

Phiaro scarf/shawl in Handmaiden Rumple (shown) and Artyarns Ensemble Light;

Milano out of nine colors of HiKoo Cobasi.

All knit in the round, all begun using the same Laziest Knitter move:
When you cast on to join in the round, cast on one extra stitch.
Join and work to one stitch before the end of the first round.
Then knit that last stitch together with the first stitch of the second round, keeping in stitch pattern.
That's it.  Voila, the ugly gap at the beginning of the join is closed.

Now can someone explain to me how it happens that I have not one but three projects on my needles right now that are all basically knitting in the round?


Friday, August 2, 2013

Reverse EZ Moment, Part Two: I Knit for Miles and Miles

I knit for miles and miles... with apologies to The Who. 
Lately, that's my biggest complaint about knitting sweaters in one piece, row after row of 300+ stitches.
But I digress.

Both Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara G. Walker (see yesterday's post for context) were early proponents of creating garments in once piece or as close to that as possible.  EZ's designs might be knit hem-to-collar or any which way -- her Baby Surprise Jacket is a wonder.  Walker's book Knitting From the Top Down is the basis for every top-down pattern you've seen.  

 A really popular design these days knits the body in one piece before or after adding sleeves.  Sometimes the sleeves are seamed, sometimes not. 

Four of the sweaters I've knit or am knitting since early spring are some version of one-piece designs. I'm loving all of them.  I even designed a top-down knit-to-fit seamless sweater, the Venus cardigan.

So here's my reverse EZ moment:  knitting sweaters without seams has its drawbacks. 
Some seamless knitting pros and cons:

-Look, Mom, no seams
-If knit from the top down, you can try on the sweater as you knit and alter fit as you knit
-If you understand the idea of neck shaping and shoulder/ underarm shaping (arm scythe, anyone?) then you can make necklines and sleeves easily
-Creates a particularly drape-y look
-Allows opportunities for miles of zen knitting
-Yes, you can create faux seams, but why?  I've never understood this notion.

-If knit from the bottom up,  pretty hard to try on or even hold the sweater up to yourself to see if it might fit.  Yes, you can put those hundreds of stitches on waste yarn or a really long circular needle and slip it over your head.  Not an easy feat, though.  Mostly you have to trust the measurements. You have to make sure you're exactly on gauge or you'll knit for miles without realizing this sweater will not fit.
-That drapey look is fine if you're using fingering or sport or even  DK yarn.  In heavier yarns it can begin to look lumpy/frumpy.  
-Way too much knitting for miles and miles -- no sense of actually finishing something, like, say, a back or a front.
Imagine your favorite jacket without seams. 
Seams add structure to a sweater.  Seams help a garment hang properly, especially shoulder and side seams. 
Seams break up all that knitting for miles and miles into easily-handled chunks. 

I'm ready for a few seams.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Reverse Elizabeth Zimmermann Moment, Part One: Knitters Are Artists

I'm having a reverse Elizabeth Zimmermann moment.

But first, a little context:
Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara G. Walker modernized hand-knitting.  They are the reason we can do what we do.  Walker either researched and published or invented and published hundreds of stitch patterns.  Most of those wonderfully inventive stitch patterns that you find in knitting designs these days are sourced from one of Walker's Stitch Treasuries.

Zimmermann, or "EZ," released knitters from blindly following how publishers had always seen fit to put out patterns.
She challenged the notion that knitters should always make sweaters in the same pieces as tailored (hand-sewn) jackets: front or fronts (cardigan or pullover), back and sleeves all knit separately then sewn together.  Why not knit in one piece and avoid seaming?

Oh, and while she was at it, she 1) started her own design business, 2) started her own yarn business, 3) was the Julia Child of knitting on public television, and 4) started her own publishing business.  (The latter is Schoolhouse Press, going strong under the leadership of Meg Swansen, EZ's daughter  (you've read her stuff in Vogue Knitting magazine).  Though EZ was English, having emigrated to the U.S. with her husband in 1937, she defied English convention to knit Continental style.  Oh, and she loved garter stitch.  She invented that latest craze as well.

Before sitting down to draft this post, I grabbed five EZ books from my collection.  My favorite is a compilation of her newsletters from 1958-1968 titled The Opinionated Knitter.  And back in the day when I was coming back to knitting as an adult, it was EZ's Knitting Without Tears that started me off.  I bought a second copy of Knitting Without Tears after loaning my original out and never seeing it again. Did I need it anymore?  No -- EZ would have been proud.  It's on my shelf out of respect and sheer sentimentality.

You just can't write or understand knitting in the modern era without knowing what EZ and Walker did.  The amazing work they did for a craft which was at that point not particularly respected.  They took it seriously.  Even before the fiber mills started coming up with the magic yarn we work with in the 21st century, it was EZ and Walker who brought knitting out of the house and into the 20th century.  They regarded knitting as an art.  Not just sweaters or hats or mittens or blankets made by loving hands at home but as works of art.

That means we knitters are artists.

And artists break rules, even ones made by grande dames.

That's what I'm going to talk about in Part Two.  And I have to tell you it's taking some courage on my part.

See you tomorrow.