Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays

It's a new shawl wall.
And you thought shawls were only for wearing!

Happy Holidays from LK.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Plan B

Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser and Jesse Stone detective novels, writes somewhere that you should always have a Plan B.

Plan B:
Dotted Rays by Stephen West.

Plan A:  Pueblo Stole.  This is as far as I got before it dawned on me two years later that it was destined to remain a UFO:

That's all I could knit, maybe a third of the stole.
But here's the thing:  it is the most beautiful yarn.  If you haven't tried Carol Sunday's yarn, you must. I couldn't let it sit there in stash for another year.  Plan B took a week to knit.  And I have all of this yarn left:
There will be a Plan B version 2. Could be another year.  But the pressure is off.  Good yarn put to good use, you know?


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Right Tool for the Right Job

One of DH's favorite lines from Zap Comix is "Mr. Natural says, 'The right tool for the right job.'"

While blocking Glacier Sweep yesterday, I thought, the right tool: too true.  Glacier Sweep is a REALLY big half-circle shawl with an i-cord edge (more on i-cord edges in the next post).  The only way to block it was with the right blocking wires.  So on Sunday I invested in these:

Janet had them in the store, though it took Lynette to find them for me.  On the front counter.  From my point of view behind the counter and computer screen, completely invisible.  Anyway, worth every penny.

I own a set of straight blocking wires bought sometime in the 1990's.  But if you want to block a curved edge, you need these wires.  They worked perfectly.  I threaded the longest wires through the curved i-cord, then pulled the wired edge and pinned it so the stockinette stitch contrasted strongly against the garter stitch curved stripes.

This is a vast set of blocking wires.  Really long ones and really short ones both.  Will work for straight edges, too, like the top of the shawl.  Have a feeling that my old blocking wires aren't going to be used quite as much...

The right tool for the right job.  Worth the investment.  And it's not like tools wear out.

Get some blocking mats.  Mine are from Knit Picks but you can get the same thing for less in weird colors at Home Depot or other hardware stores:

I didn't want weird-colored mats but only because I tend to photograph projects while blocking (see Oct. 7, 2013 blog post, "Blocking the Wedding Shawl").

In any case, I cover my studio table with the mats to the size I want.  Pins stick in the mats.  The mats have a raised grid that holds the shawl, etc., in place enough to wire and pin it without chasing it around the table.  Yes, your bed will work, too, as a blocking surface.  Me, I prefer to sleep in the bed and allow a shawl to dry overnight. 

These are the needles I use for joining yarn, burying yarn ends and the occasional fiber repair job:
This particular set I found in String Theory's notions drawer; they're made by Lacis and are called something like ribbon needles. 
Each needle has a long eye and a sharp point.  Different from tapestry needles, which have curved and blunt points.  Those of you who do needlepoint know these sharp needles by another name.  Also, sometimes they're called darning needles.  To do really blind finishing, especially on multicolor or lace or anything with a pattern to it, you need sharp needles to hide yarn ends.  Not to mention to conduct a Russian join easily.

What other tools do you absolutely need?
1.  Row counters that live on your knitting needle:
Use the top one in the photo for knitting flat/ back & forth.
Hang the bottom one from your needle when working after joining in the round.  That way it functions as an end-of-round marker as well.

2. Invest in some good stitch markers.  My preference is metal ones, since they slide across the needles without grabbing.  Again, yes, you can use bits of yarn for stitch markers.  But the small investment makes your knitting time so much easier and more enjoyable.

(Optional, though not in our house.) Cat, to oversee everything you do:


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Taking charge of self-striping yarn

If you've met me or watched me knit for any length of time, you know how much I love self-striping yarn, especially gradient yarn.  There's a difference:  gradient flows smoothly from one color to the next, sometimes along the value scale.  Self-striping?  Think sock yarn.  Both are great fun.

But you want a particular color or value to hit at the right spot in your garment, right?    E.g., in a shawl, to create a picture using color.

Here's my latest gradient project:
Pattern:  Cladonia using solid black noil silk fingering alternating with SMC Tahiti.  Both are light fingering weight yarns -- meaning alternating yarns in the shawl body will show both yarn colors equally.

But back to taking charge of color.  I wanted the lightest gray at the neck, so started with that.  Then I wanted a wide white stripe just before the lace edging, which happened to come off the skein and land in the right place.  But I didn't want any more white in the edging.  That required cutting the gradient at the right color and splicing the same color when it began to occur again in the skein.  This is why you buy more gradient yarn than the pattern actually needs, so you can pick and choose.

For all of you who are wincing at the thought of cutting and splicing in lace:
Yes, just a Russian join (right below the green pencil point).  Click on photo to enlarge.

Same in the picot edge:
Border join after burying ends, shown just to the left of needle point:
Picot after burying ends.  Can you tell which of the three picots in the photo has the join?

Sometimes I enjoy the sheer randomness of color in self-striping or gradient yarns.  Just let the colors end up where they want to.  And then there're the times when I have a picture in mind of what I'd want a project to look like.  

For the record, I love this shawl.  Wearing it tonight.


P.S. more in the next few days on choosing the right tools for the right job.  As in, just what is that long-eye sharp needle in the second-to-last photo and why do I have a small collection of them?

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Time out from multicolor knitting for a bit of texture:
Suke-Suke Cowl by Olgajazzy (Ravelry pattern).  This designer invents stitch patterns you don't see elsewhere.  Suke-Suke has pleats and dropped stitches. 
Here's what it looks like before the drops:
And it's reversible.  Other side, after drops:
Artemis modeling:

The vivid green color looks accurate in the photos.  It's called Granny Smith Apple, in Feederbrook Common Ground.  
Come cold weather, Emily will wear this cowl. 

Now MA insists I finish my novel so she can find out what happens.  When someone else starts referring to fictional characters you've invented as real people, well, it's time to go to work. 


Saturday, August 2, 2014

In which Artemis models in the garden

It's a beautiful afternoon here in LK land.  After various chores, some involving actual physical effort, Artemis joined us outside for her first modeling gig in the garden:
Our garden is a little strange because it's designed for the bees.  One of which tried to chase me away as I photographed.  She and I had a little chat along the lines of "I'll be out of your way as fast as I can" from me while she buzzed around my hair.  Apparently there was some communication because she retired to that useful stand of bee balm on the left in the photo and got back to her own work, leaving me to mine.

Anyway, here's what I really wanted to show you on Artemis:

 This is a pattern called Spokes.  I saw it on Ravelry and immediately went stash-diving to see what I could experiment with. As you may have gathered, I'm addicted to modular knitting and to combining yarns and colors.
           You start at the neck, which allows you to see if your yarn combo is working:
I could tell immediately that yarns and pattern were getting along famously.  When I got to the odd short-row design in the center back I thought, what the hey and went along with it.  My policy is always to let designers have their way if the idea potentially makes sense.  Well, this one worked big time.  Spokes hangs perfectly.  It's the shawl I've been looking for almost as long as I'd searched for Artemis.  OK, maybe not that long.  But this one keeps your shoulders and neck warm.  That short-row action in the center back does the trick.  Brilliant.
I used Madelinetosh Merino Light in a gray-green called Celadon for the garter spokes and some Noro Silk Garden Sock for the gradient.

Then yesterday while working my Friday afternoon shift at ST I ran across a new Madelinetosh Merino Light color called Optic and fell in love.  I've combined it with an ancient skein of Misti Alpaca Sock in a color I don't think is made anymore:

Click on the photo to get the whole positive/negative effect.
This, folks, is why we keep stash.  You run across some yarn that's really gorgeous.  Then at some point two yarns or a yarn+pattern will suddenly work and you can't stop knitting.  Started this second Spokes last night. 

More photographs to come in the next few days.  Artemis and I (and the bees) have been busy.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

MA's Gyre

MA just finished her version of Gyre.  It's the same yarn and size as mine, but she completed the whole pattern length.  Here it is modeled by her granddaughter:

This is Gyre, exactly as written. Gorgeous.  Now compare length to mine in same yarn:

Wow.  What a difference.
Love them both.
Thanks MA for letting me photograph your trophy.


Monday, July 28, 2014


Meet Artemis:

Artemis and I have been searching for each other for, oh, let's say 15 years.  When I brought her home from the lovely store in Geneva where I found her, my husband said, wow, you've been wanting one of those forever. 

I immediately put Artemis to work in my studio, which she seems to enjoy:
Here's she's modeling the back of the entrelac cardigan I've been inventing out of Noro Taiyo sock yarn.  If you look very very closely at the right side you can see the arm scythe.  In which there will be a sleeve.  Eventually.  Artemis doesn't have arms but we'll work something out, I'm sure.

One of you faithful readers pointed out yesterday that I'd stalled out months ago here on Gyre and that I had some catching up to do. 

OK.  I'm on it.  As you can see.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

OK, I got wild and crazy and ...

started another Gyre in skinny Shibui Cima.  Cima is kind of a heavy lace weight, if that makes sense.  Last thing I made out of it was Cladonia #2 on a U.S. 7 needle and it's one of my favorite shawls ever.  So I grabbed some out of stash in color UV and cast on.

I test blocked it still on the needle and look:

That's the needle at the bottom -- Gyre is worked top-down.  So the part at the very top is the neckline.  I used a #5 needle for the first 15 or so rows before sizing up to a #6 needle.  After all, I'd made that shawl on a #7 needle successfully.  When the pattern says to size up to the larger needle, I'll go to the #7.  And will make a larger size than medium, though I don't know how much larger yet.  Gotta get there first (all Gyre sizes start out with exactly the same number of stitches and increases).

This is what the neckline bit of Gyre looks like in the prescribed yarn weight:

Lacey but not as lacey as Cima.  Cima version's eyelets and ribbing up close:

The downside of this will be that I'll be knitting lots of extra rows to get the length, though not zillions more.  I have three skeins in stash and another three on hold at the store, though five will probably be enough.  I've been wearing both Maya and Sol Degrade versions of the sweater and think a floaty version would be fun to wear as well.  I love floaty garments.  Maybe because I wore a lot of power suits in my previous career.  Remind me to tell you sometime, though, about how different the businesspeople I interviewed reacted to Lisa in a power suit vs. Lisa dressed in a sweater and skirt -- different better for the sweater outfit.  Clothing is theater, you know?

I must be easily entertained or something because I'm having a great time playing with this pattern and yarn combination.

Class starts tomorrow, Weds. 5/7,  at 7pm at String Theory if you want to join us at yarn play.
And yes, that's a double entendre.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Just what I've always wanted: a shawl with sleeves.

How many times has a shawl fallen off my shoulders and landed in the dust?  This happened literally last Thursday when I got out of the car to open the gate at MB's farm in South Carolina.  It was dry and warm there.  While MB and I are hugging in greeting, her husband looked over the gate at a pile of blue.  "What's that?"  Didn't even occur to me it was my silk and cashmere shawl.  Not to worry, it survived just fine.  But really, wouldn't it be wonderful to have a shawl with sleeves?

Meet Gyre.  This is another of those patterns that you can't tell from the pattern pictures what it's really going to look like.  Never fear, I've made it twice now -- yup, shawl with sleeves. This is just so much fun to wear.

First I made it in Maya, a DK which is exactly the gauge called for.  We had some black at the store, so black it is, made short for short me:

Janet stood still for me long enough to shoot a picture.  Here's the back:
This is a wonderfully comfortable cardigan. But can you tell from these photos how shawl-like Gyre is?

To quote Monty Python, "wait for it..."

Meet my second Gyre, modeled by Susan, knitted in Lang Sol de Grade:

Wear it straight:
Wear it draped:
Or both!
I'm thinking of making it in fingering weight next.  You know, like a shawl.  Maybe bead the eyelets:
And yes, those are dropped stitches.  You all know how I love to drop stitches on purpose. 

After trying on Gyre, would it surprise you that people want a class for Gyre?  There are a few tricky bits to this sweater, including making sure those dropped stitches don't get carried away.  Fit, though, is no big deal.  Because it's a -- repeat after me -- shawl with sleeves.

Class begins on Wednesday May 7 at 7pm, then meets Wednesdays May 14, June 11 and June 25.  Call the store if you want to sign up; there are a few slots open.
Materials:  Pattern in Spring 2014 Interweave Knits (you can buy a digital download at
                  1000-1300 yards DK or light worsted weight, such as Maya or Rowan Softknit Cotton,      
                  with sizes 7 circ and 8 long circ needles
                  at least 1000 yards of Aran weight, such as Sol de Grade, with sizes 8 and 9 circs
                  get wild and crazy and make it in fingering weight.  Like a shawl.

See ya.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On needles

I've been thinking about needles lately.
I hear "I like bamboo" or "only metal ones for me" all the time.
That's fine. 
But the needle we choose is as important as the yarn.  The two go hand-in-hand, needle-in-stitch hundreds or thousands of times. (Btw, counting all your stitches? That way lies insanity.)

If you're working on plied wool yarn, you can use just about any needle you fancy.

But if you're working on unplied wool or anything plant fiber such as cotton or linen, or bug fiber such as silk, what the needle is made of is crucial.  Plied mercerized cotton (like Cascade Ultra Pima) begs for a slower needle finish, such as bamboo. 

The stitch pattern is also a determinant: if you're working lace, a sharp point is pretty much a necessity.  If you're working lace in silk yarn, a sharp point on a slower needle finish is better.

I just finished a mammoth project out of Noro Taiyo, an aran-weight unplied combo of cotton, silk and a touch of wool.  The piece has modular bits, lace bits, a ruffle, slip stitch, and yards of pick-up-and-knit.  The project started out on my favorite plastic needles (used to be Bryspun, now called Pearl) which have great points but I was having to haul the stitches across the needle.  Too much heavy lifting. 
Then I tried acrylics (my second favorite, from Knitter's Pride).  Same thing. 
Next, ChiaoGoo Red metal.  A little better. 
Finally, I pulled out a 25-year-old Addi Turbo (same as now; company never changed the basic Turbo except for the cable color) and bingo, I was on a roll.  These are still the slickest needles out there.  Not my "favorite," because metal obviously has no give and is harder on my hands.  And they're expensive.  But hey, they never wear out.

Now I'm inventing a sweater using a discontinued yarn from Noro called Chirimen.  It's basically Noro Taiyo in DKish weight.  ChiaoGoo Reds are working so far for this one because of the sharp point. 
Good:  The Reds are one step down from Addi Turbos when it comes to slick finish, a much sharper point, and half the price. 
Better: the right tool for the job.
Best: a knitted fabric I like.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Context is everything

You know when someone tells you something and you think, "Has [he or she -- choose one] been paying attention?"  You wonder whether [he or she -- choose one] has just tuned in.  And then just assumed other [usually incorrect] stuff?  Those times when you stand there thinking to yourself, "Really?" 

That's what happens when you don't swatch for a knitting project.  You're that out-of-touch person. You just jump right in, casting on and merrily knit along. Then maybe you don't like what's happening on your needles. 

So swatch.  Play with your yarn.  Try different needle sizes for a particular stitch pattern.  Or different stitch patterns with a particular yarn.  Block your swatch.  Blocking mimics what's going to happen to your knit fabric when it's worn.  You know, in real life.

Don't assume.

Get some context.

And go read this RIGHT NOW.  Yes, you have time.  Just like you have time to make a swatch or two. 

Context is everything.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On gauge, or making the pattern you want out of the yarn of your dreams

Just finished knitting Kara out of sport-weight yarn.  It's such a relaxing knit, with a straightforward lace repeat and one-piece construction. 
The pattern specifies a gauge of 22 sts wide and 32 rows = 4"on #6 U.S. needle.  I nailed it.

Gauge swatch, lightly blocked: 
Looks pretty much like the version Janet made.  Mine is one size larger than her store sample.

When it was over I kind of missed working on Kara so I've been playing with yarns for a summer-weight version.

OK, I could just find another sport-weight yarn.  But where's the challenge in that?  I went stash-diving and found some standard-weight worsted cotton (don't ask, it's so old the manufacturer stopped making it years ago) just to see what the lace pattern would look like in worsted.  Since it's heavier and I wanted it lacey, I tried a #8 needle.  See for yourself:
The swatch measures 4.75" wide (stitches) by 4.5" (rows).  After I did the math (want to know how?  Leave a comment), it turns out that using pattern instructions for Kara two sizes smaller would get me the same size as the sport-weight version. Bigger yarn (worsted) makes wider fabric, requiring fewer stitches and rows to create the same size.

Then I thought, hey, I'd really like a lightweight sweater.  Having made this out of Cozette (one of my favorite sweaters):
and therefore having some left over to use for a gauge swatch:
Cozette is fingering weight.  Tried it on a #6 needle but didn't like the fabric so tried again on a #5 needle.  Success!  Unlike the sport-weight version, I blocked this lace tightly, opening all the yarnover holes wide.  And guess what?  Gauge swatch measures 4" by 4".  We have a winner!

The moral of this story is that with a bit of patience you can match pattern and yarn.
And that you can make Kara out of fingering or sport or worsted.

Want to know about substituting yarn? 
Take this class at String Theory: 
Substituting Yarn
Unravel the mystery of which yarns work for which projects. I explain the connection between gauge, fiber, needle size and your tension, and how to make the combination work for you, using our yarn as examples.
Learn to: select the perfect yarn no matter what the pattern calls for, make a proper swatch
Materials: pencil and paper
Cost: $25
Sunday Afternoon 4:00 – 6:00 Feb 16

Want me to help you make Kara in the yarn of your dreams? 
Take this class at String Theory:
Learn: if you’ve never knitted a lace pattern, this one’s a  perfect place to begin.  The pattern is a straightforward repeat. I'll insist that you learn to read charts because it really is easier once you get the hang of it.  Also learn cable cast-on and seaming lace.
Materials: yarn — model used sport-weight Cody, 32″ circular needle in size U.S. 6 or what you need to get gauge, 32″ in one size smaller for ribbing, tapestry needle, lots of stitch markers, row counter.
Please buy your pattern on Ravelry and bring copy to your first class.
Cost: $60(materials not included)
Wednesday Evenings 7:00 – 8:30 Mar 5, Mar 12, Apr 2, Apr 23


Monday, January 13, 2014

The Slip Stitch Rules

When you're making a decrease that requires a slip stitch, such as SSK or k1sl1psso (knit 1, slip 1, pass slipped stitch over knitted stitch), always slip stitches as if to knit.

If you're working a slip-stitch pattern or a stitch pattern with wrap-and-turn, slip stitches as if to purl.

Not a decrease? Always slip stitches as if to purl unless the pattern designer specifically tells you otherwise.

Why?  Because when you slip stitches as if to knit, you're twisting the stitch:  changing its orientation from right leg forward on the needle to left leg forward.  This tightens the stitch.  Makes sense in a decrease.

When slipping stitches as if to purl, you're maintaining the right-leg forward orientation of the stitch on the needle.  This doesn't tighten the stitch.

Someone asked me recently if this is written anywhere.  If so, I've never run across it.  It's one of those little mysteries of knitting that you just pick up.  Or by reading this blog.

Today's tidbit.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A new knitting year

Happy New Year!

I had a severe case of finish-itis for the last month or two, pulling UFOs out of bags and getting them done.  The oldest one (I think) was this sweater, started at least three years ago:

The back and 1.5 fronts were done; just needed a .5 front and a couple of sleeves.  And miles of icord finishing.  Now it's waiting for buttons.  One day I'll decide to wear it and, zoom, those buttons will go on. 

Then there was the three-color Carson shawl out of Sophie's Toes sock yarn:

Also finished my first Viajante poncho/shawl/thingie, but no photo yet.

And under the heading of almost-finished is Phiaro out of a skein of Handmaiden Rumple and Art Yarns ensemble light:
I've made Phiaro twice before and gifted both.  Keeping this one. 

You know what comes after finish-itis, right?  Yep, start-itis.  Started another Viajante yesterday out of some stash yarn that sparkles:

And Midnight Ocean out of some gradient yarn originally bought for this.  Love the yarn, got bored with the pattern, thus the switch to Midnight Ocean.  Right now it looks like this:

And I'm thinking seriously of creating a sock yarn blanket out of this plus a few other colors of same (Janet says more is on its way):
 (If you're in the area, see you this Saturday afternoon for the KAL.)

It never ceases to amaze and please me that we can start with nothing but an idea and come up with items to love and cuddle us.  I love my stash.  It's my paintbox. My palette.  Augmented by my LYS.

All best to all of you.