25 July 2006

Kats, cosies and more

For the record, it is hot and humid in San Diego and I do not like hot and humid. About the only thing I can think to knit with in this weather that wouldn't be uncomfortable is wire but I'm staying out of the wire stash and staying hopeful for cooler days ahead.

Yesterday I took the Kat/Popoki shawl out for walkabout knitting. The walkabout knit it involves draping it over my left forearm. Well, the weather, sweat and its tendency to shed a bit, had my arm looking a bit like I was turning to a werewolf.

I ended my knitting with row 46, a stitch count and a decision point. Not sure whether being in a pub or being a year away from my original "solution" about how to work the two edgings had a bigger influence in my decision to play with numbers but not stitches but it was probably a good choice since I already have a "judicious use of sewing thread" involved in this project and I don't fancy another oops.

Anyhow, this is how the kats/popokis are cavorting around my trapezoids and how the reversing the kat motifs has worked out. In the original, all the kats were oriented as the little guy to the right of the photo.
I considered having all my kats marching away from the centre back but then decided to have them alternate between having faces or tails together. I'm pretty happy with the result although I'm grateful that this garter based and that the yarn is black because I couldn't guarantee that every stitch is oriented as it should be -- another reason to love garter based lace.

Cosies and cats go together and some knitters are cosy crazy. One of my first designs was tea cosy that looked like a cottage. I gave it to some friends of mine who decided it was too nice to use -- pish. I had several people urge me to publish the design and some even offered to test knit it. In at least one case, I sent the instructions and the test knitting never happened -- double pish.

Anyhow, I'm less cosy crazed than I am addicted to kitschy knitting publications which is why I just happen to own Patons Bazaar 178 with all its glorious weird projects. Gods only know what attracted me to this little gem but I've yet to knit a thing from it. Here's a glimpse of the 50 gifts to knit and crochet this puppy has to offer.

I had taken some of the unwound skeins of the two dye lots for the pentagon project with me thinking that I'd wind some new centre pull balls to start round three of the body of that sweater but procrastination, socialising and people watching got in the way. The good news for me is that winding a centre pull ball is a good walkabout activity so that's lkely to jump to the front of the queue.

Turns out that Stephanie who tends bar also happens to be a newish knitter. While it's a bit odd that she and I haven't discussed knitting before, now that we have I hope to connect her up with some other local knitters. Who knows? Maybe we'll even get pick up game of knitting Hillcrest up and vibrant again.

21 July 2006

Down to the dye lot

Last Sunday the body of the pentagon sleeves project had about five more inches to knit before I attached the sleeves and decided how I was going to finish them. All seemed to be well except for the weird tendency the knitting had of finding something, anything, along the knitting/walking way to stain it and require a quick soap and water rescue.

It was during one of those clean ups that I noticed a very subtle difference in the colour and it nagged me enough to start looking closely at all the hanks I had.

The hanks with a label still attached had the same dye lot but the two that had no labels and the sleeves appeared to me to be just a tad lighter and greener than the others.

Elann to the rescue. I checked my shopping history and it revealed that of the 18 hanks I had purchase seven were of one dye lot and 11 of another.

So the task became finding and accounting for all the yarn and developing a plan to successfully complete the sweater without yet another redo. The picture below shows the different dye lots, the ribbing (from the original
too-few-stitches version of the sweater body), with one of the sleeves and a bit of purple cloth for contrast.

Since the sleeves are worked centre out in the round, the alternating yarns is not a good option. I had tried that as just a save snipping and save yarn in the first too-few-stitches rendition of the body of the sweater and it wasn't pretty.

I want the body to be mostly very plain and the design emphasis to be on the sleeves and while this isn't the for design version of the garment/pattern, I think that blending the two dye lots in the body and leaving the sleeves one dye lot will not compromise the design.

So the sleeves will remain the dye lot they are and the body will have to be some sort of blend because while the difference in the dye lots is subtle when seen in small amounts it can look a bit like colour block gone bad when two large unmatched dye lots combine in a garment.

The sleeves are of the same dye lot and each required one 185 yard hank and change. I have one centre pull ball and two unwound (and rather tangled hanks) of that same dye lot. So I have three complete hanks of the dye lot used for the sleeves and two fairly generous partial hanks.

By my calculation, two hanks in the body equals eight inches of height and with a total height of 25 inches or so I should need a bit more than six hanks to complete the body. That will only take three and change of the second dye lot and three and change of the sleeve dye lot.

Based on the yardage I have, if I decide that I want the sleeve pentagons to match orientation, I will have to frog and reknit a sleeve.

And yes, I have frogged back all of the second round sweater body. It was almost 12 inches of knitting but it had to be done. I'm leaning toward working round three of the body flat and crocheting the seams to give the cotton more structure.

Kat/Popoki is going well although there has been a judicious use of sewing thread incident in the project. Currently at row 27 of the trapezoids.

14 July 2006

All the marbles and charming men

The internet has been very, very good to me. Back when I was active on the Knitlist I got to meet quite a few really great people who also happened to have this weird habit of creating things with sticks and string.

In July of 1998 I met Helen when she was on a Southern California sojourn. Helen was here when Señor Frog came into being. She was even part of the pour through the marbles crowd that gave him his sparkling eyes.

Here's what I wrote to the Knitlist on 18 July 1998:

During the fibre fondling road trip, I didn't have too much occasion to knit (aside from during the Brazil/Netherlands interlude). Afterward, I had rather more than I bargained for as the blowing hot and cold A/C that had plagued the troupe during the trek turned rather more serious as the trusty van began to overheat at a rather alarming rate. Suffice to say that spouse and I spent rather more time than we had planned admiring the view from a service station while waiting for the rad and engine to conform to a more drive friendly temp. Fortunately, I had my knitting.

The green guys in the current Knitter's mag had caught my eye. The instructions said cotton, single colour, fibre fill, wiggle eyes, smallish size. My brain said, neon twine, day-glo green, beanbag, multi-coloured underbelly, bulbous eyelids, marbles for eyes and larger format.

I cast on and soon I was under the spell of Señor Frog. When only his upper body & legs were complete, he had already charmed a co-worker and fellow knitter whose advice I sought as to whether the underbelly should be yellow, gold, or safety orange.

I gently suggested that if she said intarsia I would have to hurt her severely even though we both knew it was the clear choice. The clear choice which I abandoned in favour of a striped underbelly.

Knitting right along, by Thursday he had eyelids, a striped yellow and gold underbelly (wrong side showing for maximum variegation effect) and was waiting for eyes and stuffing -- that was solved in a pre-dinner shopping expedition where small, white navy beans and a tin of 250 marbles were secured. By the much celebrated 11 July San Diego knit-together, he was complete but for eyes having already enchanted all and sundry who had made his acquaintance. Marbles were sorted and discussed and debated but the two that spoke to me on Sunday are now glued in place and working their magic on still more unsuspecting victims of his charms.

In his travels he has left a trail of admiring and brokenhearted men and women in his wake. Common refrain among those who had met him was a hopeful "Heather, um, er, ah, do you know who you're giving this one to?" Others, including lys workers who should be immune, have attempted to kidnap him. He is not without enemies, spouse, who initially was quite fond of Señor Frog has tired of hearing him admired and has been heard to mumble "Frog not careful, he have ack-see-dent." As a precautionary measure Señor Frog currently spends his days on my computer monitor at work and his nights under lock and key -- a safer plan for both the unsuspecting world and Señor Frog.

In September of 1998, I spent a week rambling around England visiting family, old friends and making new friends. It was not totally a solo trip as I was accompanied for most of it by Señor Frog who was just as wildly popular in England as he had been in the United States. Spouse had suggested that perhaps for
Señor Frog's well being that the frog stay in the UK.

As things turned out, after acquiring even more admirers, he took up residence with then bachelor Euan Bayliss in Leeds.

Since I started blogging Helen and I have reconnected in cyberspace and Euan and I have been occasional correspondents as well.

Recently Euan emailed me with the news that
Señor Frog had somehow managed to lose an eye and was looking rather sad as a result.

I immediately dug about and found (yes, I am a packrat) all these years later all the marbles that we'd poured over for just the right two.

Unfortunately, my only photos of my old Latin love do not do his enchanting eyes justice so I've asked Euan for a more current snap and suggested that a pirate styled eye patch might be just the thing to take
Señor Frog from sad to sexy until an eye transplant can be arranged.

And on a charming men note,
Señor Frog will, for me, always be on the charming side of the charming, smooth and slick scale and one of these days I really will revisit that redesign and once again welcome a Sexy Latin Amphibian into my home.

Off to walkabout knit and perhaps meet a charming man or two -- who knows? I've seven more inches of stocking stitch until the pentagon sleeve project's sweater body is ready to attach the sleeves. I've just started with the 3rd centre pull ball.

10 July 2006

Porcupines and popokis

I am the porcupine. In one of those life's just weird that way moments, my family has a history of various and sundry types of anemia. I have never had any of those forms (knock wood) but for some strange reason doctors have insisted on drawing blood just to check. I find this to be about sensible as leeches but that's another story.

What always made this futile exercise in screening even more special is that I have very, very small veins. S
ometimes they are brave little veins that give up blood without a hitch or a twitch. But other times they are very needle phobic and will twitch and hide at the slightest provocation (and needles are more than slight provocation). Not something that I can control but something that comes up from time to time. When the veins are not co-operating it can take a long time to get any blood out of me and when I've been fasting that tends to make me pass out -- yup, I'm lab worker's dream.

I don't get subjected to this madness as often as I used because these days I just don't mention the whole family history thing thus keeping more of my blood circulating in me rather than in labs. But there's always the annual physical and the inevitable blood sugar, cholesterol etc. and that was today -- three vials of blood required, five veins tapped -- one super slow (danger of blood clotting in the tube rendering it useless) and three not giving up anything finally the pull from the veins in the hand. At least she didn't have to resort to the between the knuckles joy but still.

I look like I have needle tracks -- especially amusing since with my veins I'd be a highly unsuccessful intravenous drug abuser.

Onto popokis, the shawls. I picked up stitches on the linen version. I did not pick up as many as suggested so got more of a yarnover, grid look dividing the body and the trapezoids. I'm happy with the resuling look.

Because I picked up fewer stitches I also I ended up doing a few extra increase rows to come up to the required number for the first pattern row. I like the extra garter rows before the pattern motifs begin and I think they work well with the grid or yarnover look that my pick method created.

I made a decision about how I want to orient the kat motifs and will need to rechart two of the original charts for the new orientation. Even after I get them charted that makes the shawl a bad walkabout project and a not very good sit on your lap in the heat project either.

The body for the pentagon sleeves is in the stocking stitch forever mode. I've only just rejoined the 2nd centre pull ball that I wound on the 4th and I'm only about seven inches into what will be about 18 to 20 before I attach the sleeves.

I frogged the original rayon popoki shawl in order to test my theory that picking up stitches with this yarn was problematic due to its nature and not the knitter's skill.

Sadly, it looks like my theory is correct. Picking up through the yarn overs highly distorted the yarn over stitches.
The drape of the fabric is wonderful (that's that evil seductive rayon thing) so I'm still wanting to make the shawl happen but it may be quite the construction/technique challenge.

I don't believe that they can be brought back into shape.

The worst case scenario I see for this is needing to knit each section of the item separately and then sewing them together. I do not like that solution one little bit.

Increasing the centre with bar increases rather than leading YOs might give a stable enough edge to pick up from.

I've pretty much ruled out provisional cast on unless you kept the crochet chain in place to provide stability.

I've also entertained the idea of some funky double knit construct that would give me two sets of stitches moving away from each other. In my fuzzy thinking that would mean the body triangle would be knit more or less as if you were doing increasing short rows to fill/form the valley.

And no, I'm not seeing this written up for publication any time soon but I am seeing swatching, playing and note taking.

09 July 2006

Ooops to oooh

One of my favourite things about knitting, like life itself, is how a mistake or at least a detour from the original path can turn into something rather wonderful.

When I wrote the polygon seminar, I knit all of the samples based on my written instructions. Along the way I knit a few not quite as the instructions were written. I'd love to say that I do that by design so that I can know what the common mistakes are but the fact of the matter is that I can be just as distracted as the average bear and from time to time what I write and what I actually knit do not match.

Anyhow, while trying to knit the swirl triangle swatch shown below, I managed to miss the double rather than single yarn over at the start of each needle which resulted in a not so flat swirl triangle.
But the not so flat swirl triangle reminded me of a lily and I made a mental note to revisit that mistake after finishing the other class samples and seminar materials.

At the time I was still doing a lot of work with Habu Textiles' pine paper yarn (which I still love) and at least one early "looks like a lily to me mistakes" was done with the yarn. I'm not quite sure whether the image at right was the do a single rather than double yarn over mistake or a single yarn over plus a rest row variation but it got me thinking and I did a few short rows to test my impressions before binding off and putting it aside for future exploration.

In the Spring of 2005, I started really playing with designing knitted flowers and when I finished the lily revisit in June of 2005 and showed the picture below to some friends many were convinced it was a real lily rather than a knitted paper lily.

I knit the stem out of size 10 cotton, used plain 18 gauge floral wire to reinforce/support the flower and then wrapped the stem with coiled 22 gauge copper wire. I love the result but I'm didn't think that this was a reasonable solution for either publication or workshops.

While I really love the pine paper yarn, I also know that I am in the minority. The put up of it means that even though I have knit full size shoes, miniature shoes, lace balls, lazy lace, and more in the three years or so since I first encountered the stuff, I've still got a lot of yardage left over.

When I dropped round the DMC booth at TNNA in Spring 2006 I was actually in search of something that would be a good substitute for the no-longer-made-as-best-I-can-tell tatting thread that I used in my
knitted skull experiment. I was handed a ball of 100% cotton Senso with the suggestion that it might be a good substitute.

I haven't revisited my knitted skull project yet but I had some miniature feather and fan ballet slippers that also had originally been created in pine paper and were also in search of a more mass market available material. I liked the result so much that I decided to try a lily.

Since I only had white to play with and no one locally seemed to stock the stuff (so much for mass market available), my first white Senso lily had a stem knitted out of size 10 Baroque cotton like the original pine paper lily. Unlike the original lily and other flower experiments, I had moved onto fabric coated 18 gauge wire. The stem didn't need reinforcement but it was still kind of thin/wimpy compared to what I now know (thanks to a quick botany lesson in the park courtesy of Judy Gibson) is a bract or spathe and what I erroneously referred to as a stamen is a
spadix or flower spike.

Excited by the results I had from the white lily, I asked LYS to special order some colours for me and also placed a mail order purchase for others. While waiting, I did the icord stem for the 1st Goth lily in some sickly green size 10 crochet cotton -- and I could have continued down that path but I liked the combination of black and poison green.

I was not so crazy about poison green and white or gold and that's when I remembered that I had some Wildflower DK in a good stem green. Since I had used yellow Wildflower DK for one of my daffodils, I knew that it would work up to about the right gauge. To be honest, I think the green is a bit too bright for the gilded lily -- I'd prefer something a bit more brown/woodsy or maybe deep forest green but available yarns in proper gauge is a big limitation on design choices.

I finished off the 2nd Goth and white lilies with just a week to spare for the Knitty submission deadline. I considered photographing all six of them in a way that would obscure the stems, but I didn't want to be locked into that as my only option.

My photography efforts were hampered by my procrastinating nature (read income tax filing), my work schedule, not having an available model, and being a bit discouraged by yet another IK thanks but no thanks response to a design.

Still, I got some shots, drew some diagrams, put the materials together, battled a sluggish computer system and sent it all off into the great cyber submission zone.

Not having a model was one of the biggest problems I had for an extremities issue. One of the original ideas was to have ribbon, hands, maybe a bouquet. . . but my hands are not exactly the ideal and even if they were a second set of hands to hold the camera was missing.

06 July 2006

Shawl Swatches and more

don't particularly like picking up stitches so that may colour my view, but picking up stitches is not a good walkabout knitting activity.

Before I went walkabout with neighbour Ann
on the 4th, I did pin the shawl out and take a few snaps of it and also of the swatches for the edge treatments.

First up, the shawl's body so far.

When I had 162 stitches on the needle, it occurred to me (duh) that I had done six garter ridges rather than five between lace motif rows. With that number of stitches the mistake becomes a design decision and not a mistake. I take the shawl out to 13 motif repeats. Yes that's right, black cat and the number 13 just for fun. I did four more garter ridges before doing an icord bind off. The unblocked hypotenuse of the shawl measures 52 inches. I calculate that the kat trapezoids will add about another 10 inches and the edgings another 6 or so. We'll see how well my estimates pan out in the weeks to come.

The original shawl design had a picot hem treatment following the kat trapezoids. I decided to expand on the Polynesian theme of my shawl by combining the wave edging & shark's tooth edging (Barbara Walker's 2nd Treasury). Both of the edgings have faggoting. When I swatched these last year I included the faggoting at the top of the shark's tooth but I think I'm going to eliminate it to create a more unified look to the edging.

Here's a close up of the rug warp swatches of the shark's tooth with and without the faggoting.

Rug warp swatch of the wave edging and the combination. I think that the natural undulation that the wave edging has will make the shark's tooth even more effective and mimic cat's claws.