knit process

Finito: Blackberry Citron Shawlette

Last week, I told you about casting on for a shawl. It’s the Citron shawlette, a free non-lace pattern on Knitty.

After many hours and many episodes of CSI, it’s done.

You do a garter tab cast-on (new to me), that starts with three stitches and increases to nine right away.

About one-third done.

In each section there are plain rows followed by an increase row, then more plain rows, then another increase row, then a brutal increase row, then plain rows, then a brutal decrease row, then more plain rows. Then you start all over with a new section that’s got umpteen more stitches in it.

Fresh off the needles.

Until you have 540 stitches that you knit 11 times to create the bottom ruffle. I didn’t track my time on this until the end when I was sure that each row of the ruffle took an hour to knit, but really took “only” 16 minutes. Sheesh.

After blocking.

The thing isn’t designed to be all that big, and some Ravellers (much hardier than I), added more sections, and therefore more stitches, to make it bigger. I don’t like to do math, but I do like to exaggerate, so they probably eventually had 1,000 stitches on the needles for the ruffle (times 11).

Overlit selfie.

I have other things to do, so I bound off as soon as the pattern said I could.

I got to wear my little Blackberry Citron for about five minutes before my friend Angela offered me $1,000 for it.

To Ponder: The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it. |-David W. Orr-|


Adios #23 Sleeveless Top

After three false starts and 35 hours of working round after round after ever-lovin’ round of stockinette on the sleeveless top that led me to discover a wine glass that holds an entire bottle of Pinot Noir—the top that was about 90% done and around which I had created an entire outfit to wear to my volunteer shift at the library—it took only nine minutes to frog the whole thing straight onto my ball winder.

Like it never existed.

Here’s what I would like to say happened: I’m on a strict yarn diet and cannot bring any more yarn into my house for any reason (not even if WEBS has a two-month-long anniversary sale, which they did, and I resisted, but just barely), but I’m working on a new design that requires yarn I don’t have in my stash (I know, I can’t believe it either), so I made the sacrifice and reclaimed the yarn so I wouldn’t have to buy more.

Here’s what really happened: With 1/4 of the yoke to go, I ran out of yarn.

I didn’t even take a picture of how far I’d gotten, because why take a picture of something that’s 90% finished on Thursday when I can take a picture of it 100% finished on Friday?

I also expunged the project record from Ravelry. There’s a “Frogged” status you can use, but what’s the point? As a mocking reminder of my inability to calculate yardage?

For me, if it’s not a WIP or an FO, it’s gone.


p.s. Not only do I still listen to CDs, I have a cassette player.

p.p.s. I love that one of the South African national news sites has a section devoted to Horses.


Finito: Hat for a Trip to Iceland

No, no, not for me. I teach yoga for a living, which is incompatible with discretionary funds. Plus, I don’t like to fly, and it’s my understanding that you can’t get to Iceland by motor coach.

One of my yoga students, Q we’ll call her, is traveling to Iceland in July and she asked me to knit her a warm hat with earflaps. I figured she would want it to be yellow because that’s one of her favorite colors (or so I assume from the predominance of yellow t-shirts she wears to class).

Yellow looks great on Q, but when I wear it, anyone brave enough to make eye contact with me asks if they should call an ambulance. Ergo, I have very little yellow yarn in my stash, so I was happy when she asked for a black hat. (I love black.) But then not so happy, and fairly surprised, when my Ravelry stash records showed that I have even less black yarn in my stash than I do yellow.

My choice of yarn colors warrants its own post that will, of course, include a rhyming ode to brown.

I don’t like to knit earflap hats for no other reason than they require casting on twice, turning two pieces into three by casting on twice more, and weaving in more than two ends. (It’s like a cardigan with all those pieces.) But I like Q, and she deserves my best.

After I dragged my feet for a couple of weeks (doing my best didn’t mean I wouldn’t procrastinate), I remembered that I’ve been wanting to make Elizabeth Zimmermann‘s Maltese Fisherman’s Hat since forever, but never did because, hola, it’s an earflap hat. But now I finally had a good reason to.

The pattern calls for bulky yarn—well, it doesn’t actually call for it because EZ rarely told you what yarn weight to use (or needle size for that matter), only the gauge you should get—which meant that the hat would knit up fast despite the multiple pieces. I have some bulky black yarn, but it was propping open the door to Narnia in my stash closet, so I used some worsted weight that was easy to get to. (No, you can’t substitute worsted for bulky, but held double, it’s close enough.)

The yarn I used is my beloved Bernat Lana, a 100% merino wool that is so soft and so saturated and so lovely to work with and to wear that it has, of course, been discontinued. I bought it years ago from online closeout seller Smiley’s Yarns, and had I known how much I was going to love it, I would have bought every skein they had for sale.

The hat has a pointy crown, which I didn’t like and didn’t think Q would either (and doubt even Maltese fishermen are crazy about), but it would be easy to de-pixiefy.

Points are for debates, not hats.

I cast on and started reading the pattern*, realized that EZ uses short rows to shape the earflaps in a single piece, once again felt in awe of her mad knitting skillz, congratulated myself on my luck foresight in choosing this now easy hat pattern, changed the spread and rate of the crown decreases to produce a rounded crown, and wove in two ends. Four hours later**, I had this:

The last of the Lana, bound for Iceland.

I blocked it*** overnight, then presented it to Q in class the next day as an early birthday present. She loved it.

*Never do this. Always read the pattern all the way through before casting on.

**After I had to rip back because my gauge was off and the brim was too shallow, but it would have been a four-hour knit had that not happened.

***Always do this. Blocking your handknits will get you into heaven.

Knit WIP: Stormy Cables > Yoke Broke

So even though I’m in the midst of designing the most awesome cabled sweater, I’ve been knitting along on my Stormy Cables, in the evenings, when my brain isn’t at peak perfermance. Sort of like feeding the little grey cells a main diet of Shakespeare to keep them strong and limber, then treating them to a delightful snack of Ogden Nash.

I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to follow the pattern and make it a V-neck, even though I love the center cable that’s maintained up the center on both sides of the decreases for the sleeves and neck.

Skinny mannequin model.

That detail is designed to emphasize the mammaries, which I do not need or desire.

I also just don’t like V-neck sweaters. Not sure why. Maybe the preppiness rubs the nap of my boho style sense the wrong way.

I think I’ve mentioned that I’m a supremely lazy knitter, so I’m all about minimizing finishing (which is why I decided to knit this sweater in the round). A V-neck requires joining a second skein of yarn, then knitting both sides at the same time. More yarn joins mean more ends to weave in. And because I’m knitting this in one piece, I would have to change to knitting the yoke back and forth. Ugh on multiple levels.

So, the neckline will be ballet or funnel depending on how soon I run out of yarn, and I’ll still have some nice cables running along the raglan seams.

Neckline TBD.

I didn’t shoot a man while robbing his castle, but I did run into a great big hassle with the raglan decreases. Specifically, decreasing into a cable.


Can you see how the cables are elongated near the raglan seam?

How about now?

(Remember that this is evening snack knitting, so I’m paying more attention to what’s going on in Cicely, Alaska than to what’s on the needles.)

I’m not sure if I can live with it, but I don’t think I could bear to start over with the yoke. It’s only a few rows, but it represents quite a few hours and a lot of wrist pain. I know how to fix it—maintain the cable crossings when possible, but cross two stitches over one stitch instead of two over two, but, man, that’s a lot of cables to frog and redo.

To distract us from that dilemma, here’s a poem.

I tried to write like Ogden Nash
But very soon began to crash
Were I the Bard
I’d be in charge
Of spending words like cash

The Russians Used a Pencil

There’s a story that goes:

When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 million developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300C*. When confronted with the same problem, the Russians used a pencil.

Even though this anecdote isn’t true (partly because of the problem of graphite dust in the space capsule), it points to the elegance and obviousness of using something pedstrian rather than a bloated Rube Goldberg-type solution.

Rube Goldberg could have worked for NASA.

I practice voluntary simplicity, which is how I can fund my life by teaching yoga so I can stay home all day designing knitwear. I don’t have an iPhone or an iPad or any other iThingamabob (and its associated costs), so I don’t use any apps.

I do, however, know of several knitting apps—knitCompanionVogue Knitting iPhone App, JKnitBeeCount, etc. that enable you do such things as count rows, view charts, store patterns, take notes, keep track of yarn stash and needles, and advise you on the best snack to eat while knitting a lace snood. They’re mostly designed for usage on-the-go, but I knit and design at home. Plus, I’ve been knitting long enough to know how much yarn I need for a sweater, so I don’t need to consult an app if I stumble upon a sale at my LYS. And except for counting rows and viewing charts, I use Ravelry (free) for all the other stuff.

When it first came out, this Sirka™ counter made all the knit blog rounds.

Tracks three different counts AT THE SAME TIME (all caps theirs).

I appreciate the thought that went into its design, and I love that it’s analog, but it comes with a manual and video tutorials, which makes it twice-removed from obvious and pedestrian. Plus, it’s $20.49 + $2.49 shipping, so almost $23.00** for a dedicated device to do something that can be accomplished thusly:

Tracks as many counts as I need AT THE SAME TIME (all caps mine).

That’s Clover’s clicky analog Kacha-Kacha row counter [which isn’t absolutely necessary, but it speeds up my knitting (until I can learn to make tick marks with a pencil held between my toes)], some graph paper from a custom cabinet maker that I got for cheap at a thrift store, and a pencil. [Yes, it’s a mechanical pencil. (Graphite dust in my space capsule and all that.) And apparently, I like things that click.] Plus, I can use all three items for other things, like counting the number of times my redneck neighbor’s Doberman barks in the middle of the night and writing a note to them to please teach him that white-tail deer are not a threat to his safety.

When I use charts, which is often because I love cables and stranded colorwork, I make copies of them and pin them to a Lo-Ran Magnetic Board set against a music stand.

Pedestrianism at its best.

With this setup, I see the entire chart and can easily flip among multiple versions of a chart I’m testing for a new design. Can you do that with an app?

I’m not anti-technology. I own a computer and a netbook; my car has electric windows; I have a flip phone; my house has central heating and air conditioning; and I would save my Cuisinart in a fire. But I want technology to make my life simpler***, which is why when it comes to my knitting, I’ll always используйте карандаш.

 *Astronaut or not, if I’m in a 300C-degree environment, I’m not going to care if my pen works.

**With the right sale, I could buy a sweater’s worth of yarn for $23.

***I acknowledge that technology does enhance other people’s lives. My friend Angie uses an app on her iPhone to track her rows, because with two dogs, three kids, five cats, and a ferret, a Kacha-Kacha counter would get kachewed, kaclicked, or kahidden, and she’d never finish anything.

Knit WIP: Stormy Cables > The Body

I finally finished the body on my Stormy Cables pullover. (If you need to catch up, see my posts on The Plan and The Sleeves.) I’ve been working on this everywhere—at home in the evenings, at the library during my volunteer shift (several patrons are monitoring my progress), while I waited for an oil change. I even got in a couple of rounds between sessions at a yoga workshop.

The body length is 15″ for all sizes of this sweater (remember, the book is called Runway Knits, so the designs have skinny robo-models in mind). I would prefer a longer sweater, but I don’t want to run out of yarn, especially since the yarn I’m using is discontinued. If I don’t like the final fit, I can lose a little bit of weight.

You’re looking at 1,346 cables.

I had hoped to finish the sweater before Texas became a frying pan, but that isn’t going to happen. Normally, something like the fact that I can’t wear it until next Christmas would have me setting this aside for a while (especially since I have Yoke Sydrome, which is a cousin of Second Sleeve Syndrome), but I am so in love with it that I must finish.

What I did to change this flat pattern to knitting in the round:

  • I’m knitting size M/38, so I doubled the number of stitches and cast on 268 (using the Chinese Waitress Cast-on, also called a double-chain cast-on when you do it with a crochet hook), keeping the selvedge stitches because a) they figure into the increases, and b) I don’t want to bother with refiguring stitch counts when I get to the yoke because c) the flow of the cables for the raglan decreases depends on specific stitch counts.
  • I made my increases next to the first and last cable columns rather than one stitch in from the “side seams” for a neater side. After all three rounds of increases, I had a total of 280 stitches.
  • After the second round of increases, I had eight purl stitches at each side, so I started another cable on the center four. (You might be wondering why I would add yet more cables to this, but when you’re knitting 44 cables every fourth round, two more isn’t such a burden.) These new cables presented a slight pain to the knitting: I had to either remove and replace the side markers during the making of every cross, or relocate them. I chose relocation, moving the markers back two (purl) stitches to temporarily change the side seams.

    Knitting this in the round allowed me to add this center side cable.

    The body took 29.75 hours, and I am now 66% done. Onto the yoke.

Knit WIP: Stormy Cables > The Sleeves

I’ve been putting in some good time on my Stormy Cables sweater, and have finished both sleeves. I’m working my plan, and knit them in the round.

These sleeves make me very happy.

I’m knitting size M, and I used my favorite Chinese Waitress Cast-on to cast on 60 stitches as the pattern specified. I like double-pointed needles for small-diameter knitting in the round, and I used my beloved Prym/Inox brand. I didn’t subtract any stitches for selvedge because a) I didn’t want to refigure stitch counts later in the pattern, and b) in a DK weight yarn, two extra stitches aren’t going to matter.

For the 4-st cable pattern, I knit rows 2 and 4 instead of purling them, and the stiches between are always purled. I’m cabling without a cable needle (so I don’t lose my sanity every four rounds). And as Knitting Empress of my house, I made the decision to switch from a right-cross cable to a left-cross cable, because I can more quickly insert my needle into stitches at the back of my work to make the position swap.

I tried to do all the sleeve increases one stitch in from the beginning and end of the round so I didn’t have two increases in a row, which produces a hole, but I also tried to maintain the cable stitch ribbing, so a couple of times I had to do a double increase. If the little hole bothers me, and it probably will, I’ll sew it closed later.

Whether knitting for pleasure or designing an item, I document my knitting time on every project. (Yep, I’m awesome.) The first sleeve took 10.75 hours, the second took 9 hours, so almost 20 hours. Not bad for two sleeves with a combined total of 495,200 cable crossings.

When tracking my progress on a sweater, I split it into thirds: sleeves, body, yoke, so I’m one-third of the way there.

Onward to the body.

Knit WIP: Stormy Cables > The Plan

I’ve had some Knit Picks Merino Style in the Storm colorway in my stash for at least a century, saving it for something special. And yesterday, I finally found a project worthy of the yarn.

It’s Berta Karapetyan’s Ultraviolet V-Neck.

Ultraviolet V-Neck

This model looks exacty like a lifeless mannequin throughout the entire book.

From her book, Runway Knits.

Terrible cover.

I’m calling it Stormy Cables, and I’m knitting size M/38.

With all my design work, some of it on deadline for Knitscene and Interweave Knits (I love writing that), I need another knitting project like I need more yarn (ha!). But I wanted a mindless project to work on at the end of the day. Now, some of you might not consider this heavily cabled (every 4th row) sweater mindless, but if you can knit ribbing and you can cable without a cable needle and you can count to four, it’s almost as mindless as stockinette.

This sweater also has interesting shaping details, and I like to knit projects that teach me something about design.

Of course, I want to knit this in the round instead of flat, as specified in the pattern, so I’ll have to make some adjustments, which I’ll make up as I go along.

I’ll start with the sleeves, like I do for every sweater I knit. (Sleeves are my gauge swatch.) I’ll knit them to the armpit, then set them aside.

For the body, I’ll cast on the number of stitches for both the front and the back, and knit it to the armpit, working any shaping for both sides at the same time.

My plan is to join the sleeves to the body and knit the yoke, doing all the raglan shaping at the same time. At some point, I’ll have to start knitting back and forth when I split for the V-neck, but I might later decide to make it a crew or mock-turtle neck so I don’t have to knit back and forth. (It messes up my gauge.) Plus, I don’t like V-neck sweaters.

If it’s not possible to work the yoke in the round, then I’ll knit the sleeve caps flat according to the pattern. I’ll also split the front and back and work all the yoke shaping flat according to the pattern. I did this with my #14 Cabled Turleneck and it turned out fine.

On the schematic, there’s a sort of spaghetti strap thing that I’ll have to incorporate. Not sure how I’ll do it, but I’ll figure it out when I get there.