Leaving Vancouver (But Not for Long)

BFL 003

I mean Vancouver, the linen stitch wrap pattern by Samantha Roshak in this case. My first of two, wisely or foolishly started at about the same time, is on the blocking board. The other is about a quarter done. (Another 3 months to go, in other words!)

It’s a lovely knit, in process and in product – as long as you are not too goal oriented. The Blue Moon Fiber Arts Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) Sport yarn is soft and ever so slightly fuzzy, light and warm at the same time. Except in my choice of colors (to suit the recipients), I actually deviated little from the pattern.

The pattern is worked in rows the long way, starting with a tubular cast on founded on Judy’s Magic Cast On. Brilliant! Nothing to change there. But I did decide to start at the edge opposite the recommended starting place, for absolutely no reason other than that it would get me to the “interesting” part, the contrasting stripe, toward the beginning of my project rather than at the end. It just seemed more fun that way, and it would let me fully evaluate my color choices earlier in the process, in case I didn’t like them.

The other change I made was to work a truly matching tubular bind off at the other edge, whereas the pattern instructs you to work in 1×1 rib for a few rows before grafting off the stitches. I assume this was simply for ease of working, but since either way I would need to work the stitches onto two separate needles, and either way I would need to Kitchener a bazillion and a half stitches, it seemed hardly any additional work to divide the stitches onto two needles after only one row of ribbing and work a couple of stockinette rounds before grafting off.

I think the most important thing I DIDN’T change was the recommended needle size. This is one project where swatching and blocking the swatch (or in my case at least imagining I did) will pay off, because it changes dramatically. My project just off the needles measured 24″ x 58″. Blocked it came in at 20″ x 84″, the length of my blocking board and pretty much what it was supposed to end up at. To accomplish this, once I made sure that my stitch gauge would stretch the correct amount on blocking, I judged my progress by the number of rows worked rather than measuring. 17 rows (yes, 17 rows!) = 1 inch of blocked width.

I may turn my attention to other things for awhile before I return to the second Vancouver, but I will return, no fear!

BFL 005

Heels and Shoulders Above the Rest

I recently made the observation – not particularly earth-shaking – that the shape of the human shoulder is somewhat similar to the shape of the heel.  A bit round yet knobby, a bit protruding, both serving the function of joining parts of the body at roughly a right angle.  Human experience being what it is, I doubt I am the first to notice this, but I am not aware of much discussion in the knitting literature which gives the shoulder the same sort of attention to precise fit and shaping as is given to sock heels (other than, perhaps, the Faroese shawl, which incorporates distinctive shaping in the shoulder area).

Sleeves, yes.  Sleeves get a lot of attention.  Sleeve caps.  Sleeve style and shaping.  Sewn-in sleeves vs. knitted in sleeves. Top down vs. bottom up.  The discussion always gets around to problems with fit in the various styles of sleeve shaping.  Occasionally I will see an offhand mention of the possibility of using increases, decreases or short rows to refine the shape in the shoulder, without specifics.  (If anyone reading this knows of resources that do discuss this, please point them out to me.)

It is not an accident that a classic set-in sleeve has the best fit.  It is the only one that takes into account the curve of the shoulder.  When the sleeve cap is eased into the armscye, it creates a shoulder-shaped bulge where needed.  Other sleeve styles – raglan, dolman, dropped shoulder, etc. – let an essentially flat piece of fabric droop as needed over the shoulder, leaving excess folds to pile up below.

I am what sweater knitters seem to like to call “curvy”, the excess poundage being a legacy of years spent taking care of everyone but myself.  (No comments about that please. I’ll deal with my issues in my own time.)  With ample upper arms hanging alongside a generous bust, the last thing I need is extra folds of fabric in the vicinity of my armpit adding even more heaviness to my appearance.  But I would like to be free to incorporate the style lines and ease of knitting of the raglan or dropped shoulder sleeve without reproach.  I don’t have an answer yet but a vision is forming, and it seems to pivot around the recognition of the similarities of the shoulder to the heel.  What if, regardless of the sleeve type, a three-dimensional approximation of the shoulder itself were made part of the design as well?


Pinstripe Mittens

I am working on my third pair of Pinstripe Mittens.

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Those who know me know it’s rare for me to do the same thing twice, so I must like these! That’s a combination of the pattern, which is a neat design, and the yarn.  I got these three kits at Stitches East in October. The yarn is called Bertha from Dirty Water Dyeworks and it is rich and luxurious. Strangers on the bus have come over to ask if they could look closer.

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Those who know me also know it’s rare for me to approach any pattern without deciding to change something somewhere. I’m a technique junkie!  I collect different ways of doing things with yarn and needles the way some people collect Hummel figurines or postage stamps. It’s no good to collect them if I don’t get to display them, so I am always on the lookout for opportunities.

My tweaks to the Pinstripe Mittens are relatively minor, and one of them uses a technique developed by Lucy Neatby herself so it seems very appropriate to apply it to her mitten design.

  1. Instead of casting on 144 (the number of total front and back stitches), I cast on 72 using the Old Norwegian Sock Cast on, which is pretty and elastic and I love using it on sock and mitten edges. (Your own favorite cast on would also work.) Then I worked one row around as K1 YO, bringing me to the total needed.  On the next round, in double knitting following the pattern, the knit stitches became the stitches to be knit for the front, and the yarn overs were the stitches to be purled for the back.  Smooth!
  2. On the casing, I used Lucy’s Threading technique for Double Knitting for the first and last rounds, instead of using rounds of knitting and purling in the main color as the way of closing off the top and the bottom of the casing. Note that this results in a contrasting stripe that is wider than the original pattern on one side, because all the rows of the casing are worked in contrast, whereas the pattern had the first and last rows in the main color on the right side. I also worked one more row in contrast than the pattern specified to create a casing of the right width before threading the top closed. I love this technique, and the quilted look it gives to the casing.
  3. Cording. Nope. Not a fan. I put a loop of 1/4″ elastic through the casings, slipping it through the shank of a big attractive button before sewing the loop closed. (Oh, Windsor Button, what are we going to do without you!) The button can be pushed through from one side to another if the wearer wants to put the reverse side out from time to time.

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Tips for Efficient Double Knitting

I’m certainly no Lucy Neatby, but here is my first attempt at seeing if I can make and post a video tutorial. I hope I’ll improve my production quality as I go on, but at least if you REALLY want to learn how to double knit faster – as I so desperately did and found nothing – this might just do the trick.

By the way, the featured work in progress is from a Lucy Neatby pattern – Pinstripe Mittens.


The Banded Expanded Heel Turn – Part 4


Wedge 2 is the reverse of Wedge 1. Start working in rows again.

Knit to the first increase marker you come to. Turn, slip and purl back to the opposite increase marker. Turn.

Now you will work longer and longer short rows, each time working two stitches beyond the previous turning point.  On each row, you will need to work each slipped stitch together with the stitch below it as you come to it. This means that you will need to do a purlside “Thanks, Ma!” stitch on the purl rows as follows:

When you come to a slipped stitch, slip it temporarily (purlwise) onto the right hand needle. Use the left needle tip to raise the lower stitch up onto the right needle, with its right leg forward. (Again, in a normal stitch mount.) Place both of these stitches back on the left needle, still mounted normally, and purl them together.

When Wedge 2 is about half an inch deep at the back of the heel, you can begin decreasing the extra stitches away. This is another perfect fit opportunity. If your leg circumference is larger or smaller than your foot circumference, you can decrease more or fewer stitches than you originally increased, to arrive at just the size you need.

  • If you decide to decrease off the same number of stitches, you should try to start decreasing about the same distance from the band as the increases stopped.  If in doubt, wait to start decreasing.
  • If you will be decreasing off fewer stitches, you can wait until Wedge 2 is deeper.
  • If you want to decrease more, don’t start decreasing before you have worked at least half an inch, but continue decreasing for longer, until you have the right number of stitches.  If you still have more stitches to decrease once you begin working in rounds, you can also decide to decrease in a more gradual fashion, say every third round or every fourth round, for a gentler curve. It’s entirely your decision!

So, continue working short rows that grow 2 stitches longer, decreasing one stitch before and after the marked-off center heel stitches on each right side row.  Whenever you have the right total number of stitches, stop decreasing. Whenever you reach the point where you turn from the wrong side to the right side at the place where you marked the start of the instep stitches, begin working in rounds again.

Work an inch or so of plain stockinette rounds if you are working toe-up, before beginning your leg and cuff pattern. Finish sock as desired.

If you are knitting top-down, continue in stockinette to complete the foot and toe as desired.

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