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Shipwreck

I’m happy to announce my first professionally published pattern– a lace-and-beads circular shawl called Shipwreck. I am thrilled down to my toes to be published in Knitty, and especially to be featured on the cover!

I’m especially happy to be in an issue with so many gorgeous and fantastic patterns– when the Year Without Patterns is over, I’m particularly excited to knit the Aeolian Shawl, Reverie, Decimal and Absinthe.

Thank you to everyone for your kind comments– those of you enjoying the photography should know all the photos were taken by my husband with a Nikon D40, mostly at Emerald Isle in North Carolina.

MIA

Apologetic haiku:

Work became too much
I had to let something drop
Sadly, it was this

I come bearing photographs, though not of knitting. What I’ve been doing instead:

Covering Things in Chocolate


Wrestling with Snow (I suppose that IS a hand-knitted scarf…)


Surprise coming soon!

Christmas Knitting

Do you do it?

We decorated the tree today, frosting it with the snow nobody gets down here in the south.

christmas2008_2

And putting more snow in random places, just because.

christmas2008_1

My feelings about Christmas knitting are somewhat mixed. On the one hand, guilt-free yarn purchases! Tons of fun for me! Hand-made gifts full of love! But on the other hand, deadline stress, overly-ambitious projects flopping at the last minute, under appreciated gifts and fitting issues.

I don’t particularly have a solution. This Christmas, my parents will be receiving hand-knitted socks; my mother really loves her socks, so no problem there. My dad is a new sock-recipient, so I’m stacking the deck in my favor by knitting the socks in black (the color of his work socks) with a very staid garter rib pattern. The main appeal will be that the socks are wool, and should feel lovely when shoveling the driveway. If those go over well, I might try a gently variegated gray next year, or perhaps a navy blue with cables. It’s exciting! Well, for me, anyway.

Other than these two people, however, I’m not planning to make any hand-made gifts this year. I do bring along my yearly hat stash for my friends and family to pick over as they choose, in addition to actual, formal gift-giving. Since I’m not emotionally attached to any of the hats I give away, I won’t get upset if I never, ever see them worn, or discover them trampled and dirty on the floor in somebody’s mud room.

In general, I think my rubric for gift knitting is similar to everybody else’s:

  1. Only knit something if you can be fairly confident the recipient wants it.

  2. If the recipient is ungracious or doesn’t use the item, don’t knit for them again.
  3. Knitted gifts should probably not be surprises.
  4. Don’t take “requests.”

Numbers three and four may seem mutually contradictory, but I think they actually work together very well. A gift should be something you choose to give to another person, not something somebody else asks you to buy or make for them. Once you’ve decided on a gift idea, it’s probably a good idea to check with your giftee, but we aren’t obligated, as knitters, to clothe the world through Christmas gifts. The best Christmas knitting is a union of my pleasures, passions and gifts in craft with my recipient’s tastes and desires. I find that rarely, if ever, does a gift “request” take into account my own crafting abilities or preferences. And why should it? The person asking is almost always not a knitter, and can’t particularly distinguish the features of a project that would make it cripplingly hard, or alternatively, mind-numbingly easy. Projects in either category, I find, never get done; they become albatrosses around our necks, making us feel guilty when we ought to be relaxing with some needles and yarn.

My response when somebody makes a gift request to me is to smile and say “Oh, I didn’t know you needed/wanted something like that! I’ll definitely keep that in mind.” If inspiration strikes, I go to the needles– if not, I can usually find a similar item in stores to satisfy the person’s desire. Ultimately, knitting is my hobby. I intend to enjoy it, even during the holidays.

One of the problem projects I mentioned last post was particularly disappointing to me, because I loved the yarn, I love berets, I was excited about my idea for the pattern, yet when all the pieces were put together… yikes. I’m calling it the Ridiculous Rasta Hat (or the Bob Marley Beret– what do you think?).

It all started so innocently, with two skeins of Plymouth Boku (95% wool, 5% silk), purchased at Yarns Etc… on a whim.

plymouthboku

See, I really like purple, green and gold. And I adore tweedy yarns, though because tweed yarns tend to be pricier, you won’t see them much here. So a tweedy yarn in purple, green and gold seemed tailor-made for my fantasies. I bought two skeins and dreamed about a hat for a while.

Finally, last week, I decided to go for it! I cast on for a beret. I’ve been trying to engineer a good-looking, nicely shaped beret pattern for almost as long as I’ve been knitting. The first few tries were disaster– I increased too much, too fast, and was left with a crumpled acrylic monstrosity that looked more like a shower cap than a beret. My next try ended up as a skullcap, go figure. But now…

Shape-wise, third time was the charm!

RRB_2

That looks pretty beret-like to me. (Size 6 dpns, then size 6 circs, in seed stitch.) But…

Well, that color’s looking pretty stripey. And is that… rose, in the middle of the gold sections?

Uh oh. Despite being attractively shaped:

RRB_3

And fitting perfectly:

RRB_4

It’s just not good. We’re definitely in Rasta territory:

RRB_1

My elegant purple, green and gold beret has become a four-colored, striped, clown-like monstrosity. I was hoping for a gentle, sophisticated gradation of colors, and instead I got stripes.

How could I have avoided this problem?

Well, with two balls, I could have alternated drawing from each ball as I knit. This would have at least made the stripes thicker. I could also have cut out the rose-tinged sections of the gold color and knit only with the colors I liked. I had enough yarn to do this.

I could also have checked online before I bought the yarn and seen a swatch of it knitted up in that colorway (#4). I would have seen the striping AND the hidden rose, and I could have prepared.

What do I plan to do with the hat?

I’m really not sure. The yarn has a great rustic feel that I like, and it fits me quite well. On the other hand… rasta stripes.

I might give it away when I travel home to the Frozen North for Christmas. I’m sure someone I know has a personal aesthetic that embraces brightly colored stripes.

Or I might overdye it. If I were very careful and mixed a dye color that was about the same as the shade of green in the hat, I might be able to overdye the gold and rose without reducing the green and purple all that much. In a perfect world, I’d end up with a purely green and purple hat, with colors muted enough that the striping isn’t obvious. In an imperfect world, there’s a large risk of ending up with a solid brown mess.

Or I might frog it and try one of the techniques I listed above to improve things. I’m not inclined to do that, however– this yarn doesn’t frog well. Also, I’m enough of a process knitter that, having figured out how to knit a good beret, I don’t feel any particular need to do so again.

I have been having a bit of a knitting funk. It’s been about five or six months since I started the Year Without Patterns, and I think about two weeks ago I hit a wall. Suddenly, nothing I cast on for was working– the natural hazard of going without a pattern is that stitch patterns will sometimes fight with the shapes of knitted objects, proportions don’t always look the way they should, etc. Normally when I hit a wall like that, I comfort myself by knitting something from a pattern, where I can be reasonably confident that what I want is what I’ll get.

GMS_1

Since I’m going pattern-free, however, that wasn’t an option. Instead, I turned in desperation to the simplest project I know: a scarf. In one color, because I didn’t trust myself with anything more complex. A short scarf, because this close to the holidays my attention span isn’t what it ought to be. A stash-busting scarf, because this close to the holidays my wallet isn’t what it ought to be, either. A fisherman’s rib scarf, because I love the look and feel of fisherman’s rib stitch.

Thus, out of necessity, the Gentleman’s Motorcyling Scarf was born. Fisherman’s rib creates a simple, eye-pleasing fabric in a unisex pattern that is plush, squishy and firm. The shortness of the scarf means it is best worn fisherman style, with the ends lying flat against the chest under a coat or jacket. The structure of the rib means the scarf won’t curl, but will lie flat against the back of the neck, protecting you from wayward drafts. And if the scarf gets loose while you’re riding the highway, the shortness of the ends means it’ll blow away rather than wrap around and blind you.

The fringe are purely for fun.

After the set-up row, fisherman’s rib requires only one pattern row to create, so this scarf would be a perfect mindless knitting project.

Gentleman’s Motorcyling Scarf

On Ravelry

Dimensions

45″ by 8″ unstretched, without fringe. Fringe adds 6″ to total length.

Materials

1 set of size 9 straight, circular or double-pointed needles.
1 crochet hook for fringe.
1 pair of scissors for fringe.
1 tapestry needle to weave in ends
Approximately 500 yards of worsted-weight yarn. (Version pictured here was done in 100% Bernat acrylic, from stash.)

GMS_3

Instructions

Cast on 28 stitches loosely.

Set-up row: sl 1st st purlwise, *p1, k1* across, end k1.

Pattern row: sl 1 st purlwise, *p1, k1 below (K-B) by knitting into stitch in the row BELOW the knit stitch currently on the left-hand needle, slip unworked knit stitch off left-hand needle* across, end k1.

Work pattern row until scarf is approximately 45″ long or as long as desired. Cast off loosely as for k1, p1 rib.

Note: If the written instructions aren’t clear, you can see a video of how to do a K-B here, just click the link and scroll down to k-b.

GMS_4

Fringe
Take the leftover yarn and wrap it around a flat object that is approximately 3″ in length– a cut piece of cardboard from a cereal box would be just fine. Each wrap will make one strand of fringe, so wrap until you feel you have enough. I used 80 strands of fringe, 40 for each end.

After you’ve wrapped enough, take the scissors and cut across all the strands of the wrapped yarn. You will end up with 80 6″ strands of yarn.

I made tassel-style fringe, using 4 strands of yarn for each tassel. Separate out the first four strands of yarn (or however many you want) and take one of the ends of the scarf. Now insert the crochet hook through the scarf near the bottom where you’d like the fringe to go. Fold the four strands of yarn in half together, making a loop on one end. Use the crochet hook to pull the loop through the scarf, so that you have a loop of fringe on one side of the scarf, and the ends of the fringe on the other side. Then run the ends of the fringe through the loop and pull tight to secure your tassel. Repeat this 10 times per side, evenly spaced, to create your fringe.

Finishing

Weave in ends, block (making sure fringe is lying flat), and enjoy.

GMS_5

No-Purl No-Curl Edging

As I mentioned in my last post about the Jade Wrap, I’m doing something a little weird with the edges.

They appear to be stockinette, but they’re not curling– even though the wrap hasn’t been blocked.

I wanted to have non-textured edges on this shawl because I’m going for a very flat, smooth look. It has always frustrated me when I’m working on a piece of stockinette lace and I have to add a garter-stitch border; it seems so inconsistent with everything else. For this project, I had a brainwave, which I will now explain to you.

First, a close-up of the right side edge:

And the wrong-side edge:

The edges are actually formed using double-knitting, a technique most often used to create blankets with one side done in one color and one done in the other, as in Knitty’s Hoover Blanket. Double knitting results in both sides looking like they were worked in stockinette (or any other pre-determined pattern). You can also switch the colors as you work double-knitting to create two copies of a colorwork pattern, with one side’s colors the reverse of the other side’s, as in the popular Tapestry Cowl. Double knitting can also be used to make a bag with no seams using only straight needles, but that may be a post for another day.

In this case, I only double-knitted on the edges, working the rest of the wrap in the regular way. Here’s what I did:

For each edge, I picked up twice as many stitches as I wanted the final border to have. In other words, if I wanted to end up with a four-stitch-wide border, I’d pick up eight stitches. If I wanted a really wide border, I might have picked up only half the stitches and then increased in the next row to bring up my stitch count, to avoid pulling in on the edging.

Once I had my eight stitches, I worked them like so:

Row 1 (RS): Slip the first stitch with yarn in FRONT (so a bar of yarn goes in front of the stitch), k1, sl1 yf, k1, sl 1 yf, k1, sl1 yf, k1. Now I’m at the end of the first row, with eight stitches worked.

Then I turned the work as usual.

Row 2 (WS): *sl 1 yf, k1* four times. You may note that on this second row, I’m knitting the stitches I slipped in Row 1, and slipping the stitches I knitted.

Repeating these two rows whenever I get to the last eight edge stitches on each side eventually results in the border you see here. The slipped stitches recede to the back of the work, while the knitted stitches press close together in the front of the work and are elongated slightly relative to the regular stockinette. The effect is of a dual-sided stockinette border that is four stitches wide, with no seaming.

The jury is still out on whether this edge will be sufficiently elastic, or whether it will eventually start to pull on the edge of the wrap and have to be frogged. I think it will be all right, because while I am working each edge stitch once for every two rows knitted in pattern, the edge stitches are worked rather loosely (because every other stitch is slipped with yarn in front, leaving a little slack) and they should stretch enough to keep from constraining the stockinette body of the wrap.

Progress has been made. I picked up stitches all along the twelve beaded leaves, and began working upward in the English Diamond Quilting Pattern, p. 102 in Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns.

Here is progress, folded in half:

As an aside, I own all four of Walker’s treasuries and enjoy them very much, particularly the first three. The photographs of the stitch patterns, however, are incredibly awful– small, black and white and poorly lit. For this reason, you should run, not walk, to the Walker Treasury Project, a communal blog where knitters work up swatches of the Walker stitch patterns and take better photos of them. Absolutely a fantastic, well-documented resource.

I’m about 6″ into the quilting. I plan to quilt for at least 12″ total, if not 18″ or 24″– it depends on how things look. I want the quilting to have a significant presence in the overall balance of motifs. Since I’m working this wrap in fingering-weight yarn on size 4 needles, it’s not exactly ripping by, but it goes fairly well. I like the flow from the quilting to the leaves, which you can see here:


I am hoping the icky edge from the picked-up stitches will smooth out in blocking.

I chose the quilting pattern after an enormous amount of Sturm und Drang. I wanted a twisted, intertwining pattern that was one-stitch wide, to match the stems of the knitted leaves. My hope was to give the effect of a thicket or the inside branches of a tree, all tangled together and culminating in the leaves. Cabling seemed too heavy, but the quilting floats above the stockinette background in a lovely airy way like branches buoyed on a breeze. It’s a more poetic (read: loose) interpretation of a thicket or tree branches than the cabling would have been, but I think in some cases it’s better to mimic an object less precisely when trying to evoke it.

The plan, after I feel I’ve quilted sufficiently, is to move to some kind of round and plump wave-like stitch, again with beads– a motif somewhat like the one on Grumperina’s Tretta hat, only with less reverse-stockinette.

Why am I avoiding reverse-stockinette? Because I’m knitting fingering weight yarn on size 4 needles, my stitches are actually fairly loose. This looks good in stockinette, but in my experience, purl stitches look terrible when they’re worked loosely. They always seem sloppy to me, at least in my own projects. As a result, a priority for this project is maintaining a mostly-stockinette surface on the right side of the work.

A gently curving wrap flowing from leaves to a thicket to the ocean and back again– can anybody name the book I’m using for inspiration? I have a specific scene in mind that’s driving my design here.

A final interesting feature: The more advertent among you may have already noticed that my wrap appears to have stockinette borders that don’t curl.

Any guesses as to how I did that? I’ll give more info on the process and the brainwave that led to it next post.

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