30 June 2006

Kitty, kitty, pickups and more

In a mere two days of knitting the linen mohair look alike popoki shawl has grown from 6 pattern motifs to 10 and it is narrowing in on the recommended 11.

Its rayon ribbon counter part, knitting up at a rather different gauge went out to 16 motifs before I did the icord bind off along the hypotenuse and picked up stitches for the trapezoids.
Speaking of picking up stitches, this photo shows why the rayon ribbon version has been on timeout for almost 2 years -- the pick up line just looks horrible to me. I think I can still live with the known mistakes I made in the body of the rayon ribbon shawl but the pick up line is just not something that I can ignore and live with.

In the linen, with the hypotenuse measuring 36 inches without the trapezoids or any blocking, I really don't think that going all the way out to 15 or 16 repeats is going to work for me unless I grow a couple, 10 inches taller.

Joan's original design had 5 cats in each trapezoid and they were all facing in the same direction. In my redesign, there were 6 cats in each trapezoid with each group of 2 cats facing each other (which is to say I reversed the cat motif). For the linen I'm considering staying with the original 5 cat per trapezoid but either have the cats seem to be moving from or toward the centre back or have groups of 2 facing each other with one odd cat out on each of the two trapezoids.

I found most of my design notes for the shawl (two years old next month) except for the details of how I reversed/combined the wave edging and shark's tooth stitch pattern that I used instead of Joan's picot hem and edging. The photo shows the swatch as worked in silver rayon ribbon with the same gauge as my original black.

It seems to me that it involved some increasing, short rows and a single cat paw motif at the very bottom of the centre back .

And just to throw a spanner and add a bit of cheek to the exercise I'm thinking about doing 13 pattern motifs in the body taking it out to 190 stitches.

I'll have to either make a decision soon, start swatching the edging solution or shift gears to an entirely different project for holiday long weekend knitting.

In a San Diego news knitters can use, it seems that the WhistleStop now has AC for all our knitting a drinking pleasure of a Summer Sunday.

27 June 2006

It's hard to believe it's not mohair

Last week I finally cast on for the sweater body to match up with the pentagon sleeves. I'm doing what I can only refer to as optimistic knitting which is to say that I'm not knitting for the size I am today but the size I plan to be as the weight loss plan progresses.

On Sunday I had this nagging feeling that my compromise stitch count was a bit small even for a smaller
walkaboutknitter and when the tape measure confirmed that, I cast on for the elann Linus popoki shawl.

I've just joined the 2nd skein and I'm at seven repeats of the cats paw motif. It looks for all the world as if I am working not with linen but with mohair.

This is not a feels good to knit with yarn but I know that over time it will soften so I'm moving forward. I am not however giving into the temptation to buy more until I see just how much it does soften up.

Today I played medical courier because Scripps Memorial La Jolla and Scripps Mercy Memorial don't share resources. So I left work early and bopped over to La Jolla. In a major luck out, there actually was a parking space right by the building and I was in and out in less than 15 minutes so I didn't even have to pay for parking -- yeah.

In a kick myself moment, I realise that I could have swung by UTC and had my battery checked out at the Sears there but instead I rambled on to downtown La Jolla and popped in at Knitting In La Jolla where I classically enabled and other knitter, enjoyed visiting with Suzanne and gave into a couple bits of temptation.

So what caught my eye and demanded to be brought home? Buttons and yarn. The buttons are made by a local knitter who I've not (I don't believe) met but she's yet another of our San Diego been published knitters and her husband has started making and selling buttons through Knitting in La Jolla.

Mostly he works in wood but these are actually corian -- as in counter tops and I loved the teal green colour and just had to scoop these up.
The photo doesn't really do the colour justice so they'll have to find a project where they can really shine.

The really big ones he makes are great for felted bags and such they are really fun and not outrageously priced as far as buttons go. So look for buttons by Bob DeCuir.

Then there's the yarn. I do not like knitting with angora. It gets literally right up your nose but angora blended with cotton was just too interesting to not warrant a second look. The cotton has tamed the angora and the angora has softened up the already lovely Peruvian cotton so enough for two shells found their way into my cart.

It's called Arcadia and it is 80% Pima cotton and 20% angora with 154 yard in a 50 gr ball it was hard to resist so I didn't.

Here's where the pentagon sleeve's sweater body had progressed to before I realised it was just going to be a few inches too small for even a back to preferred weight walkaboutknitter. I really like the oblique ribbing but I'm dreading the frogging.

19 June 2006

All wired up -- the shoe edition

When I was still active on the Knitlist, sometimes I would start my infrequent but long winded messages to the list with a mea culpa for not posting in so long. So same as it ever was.

I've work deadlines this week but trying to squeeze in a bit more blogging before the only writing I'm doing is about databases, C++, XML etc.

I've been looking at the queue of photos and such that have been waiting to make the jump from web page to blog and trying to decide which will jump first. Recently I asked for prototypes of mini-pointe shoes to come home and found myself digging into my wire stash. When I combine that activity with the blistering my toes have insisted on making a serial event the obvious choice was shoes and wire.

When I first got interested in knitting with wire I thought that it would be perfect for lace. It isn't. Lucy Neatby's knitted wire earrings gave me and others the false impression that wire and lace knitting were a good mix. In fact, the only way Lucy could get that level of control was to knit everything at the very tips of the needles and for me at least, that's just way too much like work for far too little pay off.
Knitting with wire is not for control freaks unless you want to either be quite obsessive or learn to let go and let the material do what it will. Me? I'm pretty much a let the thing be what it will be kind of person so once I figured out that knitting with wire was not going to go the way I'd thought I made adjustments and let the material guide my course.

Anyhow, I got interested in knitting with wire back in 1998 or thereabouts mostly because of the Lucy's knitted earrings. And when the Stitches West 1999 brochure included a Nancie Wiseman class on knitting with wire I was even more interested. Unfortunately, a lot of other people were also interested and even knowing Nancie didn't get me into the class that year.

Just before Stitches West 2000, Ornament magazine had an article on Arlene Fisch's wire knitting and the San Diego Historical Society had an exhibit of her work. As is my want, I consciously avoided both the article and the exhibit until after I had taken the class and found my own feel for working with wire. I did go to the exhibit afterward and I could tell that her work, while fabulous was much more the work of a metalworker mimicking textiles making the the forms less organic than my efforts.

It was in that class that I discovered just how frustrated some people were with the wire not doing what they wanted it to. I confess that I a lot of the knitted wire stuff I've seen doesn't do anything for me but I still like working with wire and different types of wires.

Unless you have a strong tolerance for sounds that are like nails on a chalkboard, use wooden needles when knitting with wire. Yes, the wire will tend to discolour the needles bit but no more than working with yarn with a fast dye. You also need to take the time to block as you go which is to say, coax the wire away from the needle as you knit. If you don't you will really struggle to get the needle into the stitches.

The first major experiment was a pointe shoe knit on 28 gauge copper wire on 3mm needles for the 2000 Dance As Ever Great Knitter's Auction and Raffle.

It took me three weeks to design and test the shoe but only three hours to knit.

I was so taken with the work that I actually ended up in a bidding war for the silly thing and still think that if Leigh hadn't directed people elsewhere I would have lost the war and not had it come home to me.
In a later auction I went a bit mad and did the same basic design but with 32 gauge wire, size 11 red beads and 2.5 mm needles. It actually took longer to thread the beads than it did to knit the piece. Indeed, it had started as a birthday present for Leigh but took so long that it ended up being an auction piece instead.

It wasn't a terribly successful auction piece when the time factor was considered. Still, as things turned out, it did become a birthday present so even though it didn't do as well at auction as its sibling it all came right in the end. The photos that Mary LoSardo took for the actual auction are much better than the ones I took, and since she kindly emailed them to me, I'll take the liberty using them here.

The prototype for this shoe was knit with 32 gauge wire without the beads. It was so fine that I felt it needed to be reinforced with thread or something . At that gauge, copper wire, tends to get a bit brittle and crimps up very easily -- if it crimps on itself it tends to break so crimping is something to be avoided. This shoe is only 4" long from heel to toe where the original gold copper wire is 6"

I'm not exactly sure when I got the mad idea to work with kynar wire. I suspect that I was casting about looking for wire that came in a lot of colours and didn't have the problem of losing colour from the knitting that the clad copper wire can have.

I know I'd already experimented with plain floral wire, fabric coated floral wire and a few other types of wire before the kynar stuff got my attention. I also remember that my original swatch of the stuff had me thinking that it would hold a shape more reliably than the copper (I was thinking about a blue wire knitted dreidel) and might even actually be good for actually doing lace with wire because the stitches formed look more like knitting and less like just a grid. The wire dreidel notion was a bust but I did combine some green kynar to 3mm needles and, following the same recipe as the original gold copper wire shoe produced this pointe shoe. It is 7" from heel to toe and it is wider than its siblings even with the same number of stitches.

18 June 2006

Comparative knitting 1-0-whatever or adventures in yfs

Birthday popoki has not been putting her best face forward for photos so she'll have to make her blog debut another time and while both the sleeves and the blooming bikini top projects are coming along smoothly they are also in the some future blog entry queue.

In the picking and throwing clans of knitting I am a confirmed thrower which is to say that I don't knit continental. Within the throwing clan, I am bit promiscuous about how I throw my yarn about.

I am perfectly comfortable mixing up no less than seven different ways to combine knits and purls -- three of the seven form uncrossed/twisted fabric and four formed twisted stitches. All of them have their place and all of them other than the dominant Western uncrossed require some adjustment for translating the instructions written for that dominant throwing style.

My first knitting teacher for some reason or another taught me to knit Eastern Uncrossed and years later when I took knitting back up, several kind souls "corrected" how I formed my knit stitch but they didn't notice my peculiar method of forming the purl stitch. Thus, when I actually knit stocking stitch flat, I was knitting a type of plaited knitting. In my case it is the sort described not by Mary Thomas but by Barbara Abbey.

My next throwing experience had me discovering combined knitting where I could combine the new to me way of throwing my yarn with my quirky way of forming a purl stitch and still get an untwisted fabric.

Eventually I found myself comfortable and familiar with Western uncrossed which is often described as the "normal" way to knit. It is the most mainstream throwing clan, with most of the knitting instructions geared toward those who belong, and to some degree that's what bugs me about it in that, at least in the US, instructions tend to assume that everyone does knit this way and further they often use the same words for different knitting maneuvers and that is particular sticking point for me.

Reasonable minds can differ on these issues and much of the perspective is formed by the individual's experience. So when I get on my hobby horse about saying YO as a generic term that describes at least three different maneuvers it is because of my own and my knitting students' experiences and when, for example, Ste. Joan of Schrouder disagrees with me it is because her experience is different and we can respect that and engage in dialogue.

Different thing entirely IMO when people just tell me that I'm wrong and that a YO is a YO is a YO or that my preference for yf/yrn/yon as more precise terms is somehow meaningless when doing XYZ knitting. I find that especially galling when XYZ knitting is one of the ones in bag of tricks and I know that those terms are totally legit.

I've had this exchange over the years on various lists and mostly learned to just not bother to even try to get dialogue on this issue whether it be to exchange info on whether YO or yf/yrn/yon is more confusing or exactly how a properly (for the style of knitting being produced) formed decorative increase is formed.

This past week, I tried again with mixed results. My initial complaint about imprecise language was based on a poster on a list being stymied by the term yf rather than YO in a pattern stitch instruction. The mixed result was that for a change I got a fairly detailed discussion of how at least one continental knitter worked this knitting instruction K4, yf, sl1, k1, psso, k3 and whether they retained the original 9 stitches or not. I also got Ste. Joan reiterating her mileage (experience) differs from mine and the dreaded "it's just different" with no 'splanation.

So my test engineer side came out and here's the result from 6 out of my 7 different throwing styles. The slip to knit versus the slip to purl is all about how the helpful continental knitter documented her experiments where interestingly enough the slip to knit versus slip to purl resulted in a stitch number difference that I didn't see in any of the 6 throwing forms I tried.

Western Uncrossed:

Close up here:

Western Crossed:

Close up here:

Eastern Uncrossed:

Close up here:

Eastern Crossed:

Close up here:

Combination Knitting

Close up here

Western Crossed:

Close up here:

Eastern Crossed:

Close up here:

Plaitted (Mary Thomas)

Close up here:

16 June 2006

Not so sweet sixteen

Did I give into the allure of the elann Linus? Oh yeah. I've justified the shift from the rayon that must be frogged to the linen that has yet to be cast on in several ways. To begin with Maka Hupo (aka my boy cat who died earlier this year), was cool, easy going and fluffy -- a bit like the linen. His surviving littermate sister Kali'ko'opo (she who turned 16 today) is much more like the rayon -- sleek, beautiful, evil and prone to snagging.

So Maka's gone and he deserves a mourning shawl in his honour. Kali's being her own strange self so her rayon homage can wait.

Then there's the lifestyle change bribery trick. In the Spring of last year I was within 15 pounds of my preferred weight. Then life (and death) intervened and I fell into a routine/rut with the end result of my being within 5 pounds of my heaviest ever and that's just a few ticks away from an BMI that spells obesity and the companion complication of type 2 diabetes. I do not need that I do not want that and I will not have that. I've already lost two people to that disease and I don't plan to join them by allowing my weight to define my fate.

So my strategy is to combine increasing healthy activities, decreasing the unhealthy activities and "banking" the money I'd been spending on products inconsistent with my weight loss goals and using that fund to fund yarn purchases and the like. Only a couple, three days into the process I'm already seeing some very minor improvements but minor improvements are really all it takes to stay on the right path.

Based on my swatch with the elann sample, I may be working on a US 4 or alternating between a US and 4 to make the lace motifs a bit less loose-y-goose-y and I'm on the fence about how I want to work the increase and/or selvedge stitches.

Next entry I hope to have a flattering picture of the birthday popoki, a bit more on the pentagon sleeves (one of which got frogged due to a serious gauge change), and maybe something on the progress of the blooming bikini top project. I'm also working on a posting about knitting with wire that expands on my wire pointe shoe projects.

06 June 2006

Swatches, shawls & sinuses

Having a bad allergy day gives me the opportunity to actually blog today. So, of course, the first time I tried to log on to blogger, it wasn't having it. Now it seems to be semi-stable but I'll be copying to the clipboard just in case.

Like many a knitter, I have stash seduction delivered to my mailbox once a month courtesy of the folks at elann and the samples subscription. I've actually been pretty good about not giving into the allure of elann but this month, a sample got me to swatch.

One of my long languishing projects is the Polynesian popoki shawl. The shawl is my adaptation of Joan Shrouder's Kilimanjaro Kat shawl done as a triangle rather than a square, in black rayon ribbon rather than either of the K1C2 yarns ad on 3.75 mm needles and with a totally different final edging -- essentially the same shawl but totally different.

The rayon ribbon is evil stuff. Not only does it snag on everything it plays escape artist every chance it gets. But the stuff is gorgeous and has a great hand.
My biggest problem with the shawl besides getting over confident and omitting lifelines came about when I compared how the picked up stitches on it looked compared to Swarmy. It was not a good comparison and knowing that frogging all the way back was the next step it has been in timeout for rather a long time now.

I'm not actually convinced that this material will ever yield an attractive line of picked up stitches so I've been considering alternative fibres for the project. That's when the elann's linen arrived.

It became available at 9am this morning and I still haven't made up my mind. It is described as Aran weight with 17 st/4 inches with a 4.5 mm needle. Well, my swatch is 21 st/3.5 inches on a 3.75 mm needle and I could probably go down a needle size to tighten up the lace.

The stuff is sort of fuzzy so I wonder about shedding. Still haven't made up my mind.