Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I Like to Knit

Ok, so that sounds like a statement of the very obvious. But I have become aware of the fact in new ways recently.

First, I present my "Lacy Underthing," an undershirt with lace details knit in a brown alpaca yarn:
Progress is being made at a satisfactory rate, and besides thinking it will be a little looser than originally planned, I think it will fit well enough. (Although I'm slightly concerned by the comment a fellow knitter said about alpaca not holding its shape like wool does. We'll see!) But it occurred to me at some point that there's a reason they make lacy underthings in white. (Besides the whole virginal thing.) You can see the lace in white. In this brown, it's going to be a very nearly indiscernible detail. But I still want to knit it. I simply like the process of knitting it.

Detail of neck crossover. (Picture is overexposed so you
can see a little of the lace!)
Let me say as an aside that one rookie mistake is to knit something in black yarn completely unaware that it will make the cables/lace/texture you're working so hard on completely undetectable. (I'd show you a picture of my black cabled cropped sweater from the 80s, but what's the point--you'd just see a black blob!)

This is not a case of that. I want to knit this, I know the dark brown colour doesn't highlight the lace, and really I don't even really care if the lace is clearly discernible for all to see. And that is not at all to say that I don't care how it looks, because believe me, I am still fixing mistakes whenever they occur.

Detail of vertical "stripe" pattern on back and lower front.
It just really struck me that I could be knitting this blind and never get to see how it looks and I would still want to knit it just to be knitting it. The whole world could be blind and I would enjoy knitting it. That's what I mean when I say I like to knit.
The other project that proved to me that I like to knit are these socks I've been working on. I've been doing them two-at-a-time (TAAT) and although 48 stitches worked for previous socks, it turned out to be too narrow for this pair.

Although the evidence was there fairly early on, since I could actually fit my foot into the sock, I kept going. Knitting...I like to knit. I don't like to stop and think and evaluate and measure. Just knit, knit, knit. And that is what I did until I was done the heel:
See? It fits! Well, sort of...
My foot is in the sock on the left. Can you see how much
the stitches are pulling side to side? Way too much
stretch for a comfortable fit.
When I finally stopped knitting long enough to consider how it was fitting I had to admit it kind of pinched...a lot. Part of the problem was that I wanted to see how the heel would come out. (Isn't that silly? I knew I would have to rip it out, but I still wanted to finish the heel first.) So when the heel was done, I tried the sock on again and had to admit--too small! Why was I going on? Because I like to knit. Sometimes to the denial that I would do better to get something useful out of it.

So I ripped it out. This should be a good thing--this means I get more knitting! (Ripping out means great value for your dollar because you get to knit the same yarn several times. Ha ha.) (BTW, I don't suggest making that joke to a knitter who is currently ripping out a project. It's not so funny then. If you go ahead with the joke because you are full of bravado, then please wear eye protection. Knitters always have pointed sticks handy, and I'd hate for you to be the blind person who couldn't see my brown lace.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lace Coat Progress

I've made good progress on the Vogue Lace Coat. Here is a shot of the skirt from a couple weeks ago:
Last time I wrote about it, the bottom band and ruffle were done, but I still had to pick up stitches all along the length and start knitting the skirt up from there.

In these pictures, I'm in the middle of the fifth repeat of the pattern. The pattern called for six repeats, but I went ahead and did seven. (Since I bought an extra skein of the yarn, I can do this without fear!)

It was looking a little short--even though I know it will block longer--and I am taller than average. If I were to err, I would rather do it on the long side. I still don't expect it to be past my knees. (We'll see.)

From there I had to do the waistband, which is the same lace pattern as the bottom band (minus the ruffle). You leave the skirt stitches live on the needle, cast on the stitches for the waistband, and then make your way across, knitting one stitch from the skirt together with one from the band on every other row.

When I cast on the stitches for the waistband I did the same trick as before and did a provisional cast on:

Later I can take out the waste string and either cast off the stitches to the tension of my liking, or use the stitches live to knit the narrow button band that comes later.

Similarly, I did not cast off the stitches at the end of the waistband, but put them onto a stitch holder:
They are patiently waiting for me to decide whether to cast them off or use them live for the band. (Obviously I will do the same on each side, but I'm not sure which way to go yet.)

Up next are the sleeves, and I've been taking a little break from lace charts before I do that. One day I almost started them, but when I realized I first have to wind another skein of the yarn (875 yards!) it was enough to deter me. The sleeve lace pattern is not charted but written up in row-by-row instructions (which I hate), so I'm also deciding whether it's worth making my own chart again. (I know, I know, it is. But I don't feel like it yet.)

So there you have it. I feel like I am making good progress and will certainly have it done in time for Squam in June. Most likely, I will have it done to wear for the first nice spring weather. What a lovely thought.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Question Answered?

Someone commented on my last post that they couldn't visualize the short row shoulder shaping that I referenced. I'm not going to do a full tutorial, but I thought posting this sketch might help: (This is how I conceptualize it.)
This is the garment shown "right side up." The direction of knitting is
from top to bottom, so this would be upside down of what it would
look like coming off your needles.
The drawing shows shaping for a garment with 75 total stitches, 3 "steps" in the shoulder shaping (of 7, 8, and 8 stitches respectively) and 29 center stitches for the neck.

Follow the line from the top left--this is the cast on of 75 stitches, across the full width of the piece. Then you turn the work and knit until you reach the far side of the neck stitches (7+8+8+29). Then you turn the work and knit across the neck stitches and one shoulder step (29+8). Then turn the work and knit to the far side of the neck plus one shoulder step on that side (8+29+8).

Keep turning the work (short rows), knitting across one additional shoulder step on each side. By the time you knit across all 75 stitches, you can see in the drawing that you have built up a lot more rows in the center than on the edges. This is what gives the sloped shoulder shaping.

Hope that helps a little!

Monday, February 4, 2013

New Project

While I'm making good progress on the Lace Coat during my "at home" knitting, I have a lot of time away from home to knit with as well. One project I had been taking along is the second bias scarf I was working on for myself. It is now blocked and waiting for pictures to be taken. For a few days I worked on my Mock Monkey Socks, finishing the first one and getting the second one past the heel.

But then it occurred to me that I could be working on better things. (Plus it wasn't taking all that long to do the second sock so I would need a new project soon anyway.)

I had a long weekend with plenty of time at home to figure out something new. I've had this alpaca lace or fingering weight yarn since last April when I picked it up at Red Purl's last "Green Sale":
I had in mind to make a tank or camisole out of it, mostly to wear as an additional warm layer in the winter rather than as a summer top. I've been perusing patterns on Ravelry for a while, but when it finally came down to it, I picked one I hadn't seen before, Cotton Bam Boo Little Shell Top by Tonia Barry:

Things I like about it: real shoulders (not spaghetti straps), a deep V neck so it won't show no matter what I wear over it, and enough lace to make it pretty and interesting, but not too much.

The pattern is written bottom up, but I will be turning that around. For one thing, I'm starting to prefer it. For another, I probably won't have enough yarn to make it as long as I want. (That is, long enough to stay tucked in securely.) But at least working top-down, I can make it as long as possible. If I really run short, I'll have to add something different to the bottom, but I'll worry about that when I get there.

I printed the pattern, did some figuring and wrote out a bunch of notes. The first day I got the back started and the shoulder shaping done. It's the usual "cast off 7 sts the beginning of the next two rows, then cast off 8 sts the beginning of the next four rows..." (That's if you're working bottom up.)

One way to convert this is to cast on the number of stitches for the back neck and then cast on the right number of stitches at the beginning of all those rows. But casting on is kind of messy and your shoulder seam ends up with "steps" instead of a smooth line.

Another way to do it is to cast on the total number of stitches you're going to need. Then to work short rows from the center out to add the shoulder shaping. This is what I chose, and it's the same method I used on the Snowflake sweater. Worked great again.

By the third day I had this (it helped that I had to work on this during the Superbowl since I couldn't be looking at a lace pattern):
and tonight I actually finished this part of it. The back is now completed down to the underarm. The next time I have time to sit down, do some figuring, and write out a bunch of notes, I will convert the pattern for the front to top down. (Yes, this means I'm back to the socks for travel knitting right now--oh, the irony.)

The yarn is soft as alpaca should be, and I'm counting on it being warm, but I also have to say that it is "hairy." I'm hoping it will still be comfortable against my skin. I'm pretty tolerant so I think I'll be ok.

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