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?