Monthly Archives: August 2007

vintage licorice twist shrug

A few days ago, I showed the vintage yarn my mom helped me choose when I was five. I have since found my sister’s equivalent yarn with some of the tags attached! The yarn is made by Briggs and Little Woolen Mills and is a 2 ply, no 2/8. I’m not entirely sure what the last bit means but each skein is 113 grams and I have the bits and pieces of 4 of them.

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At least, there were once 4 skeins and I think I have all the pieces. My mom actually started the sweater when I was eight (3 years after we got the yarn and pattern) but she forgot a buttonhole partway up the 2nd front, couldn’t face ripping it, and put it away. It was very away since I suddenly grew. I tried to make a generic pullover in high school, worked on it for a few months, and gave it up. It’s just as well since I was making a pattern with serious positive ease and never would have had enough yarn for a vest let alone a sweater with sleeves.

I’ve been looking for the right project for this yarn since I started knitting again. First I thought a hat since I make a lot of hats but it’s very thick and very scratchy yarn so I nixed that idea and kept thinking. Then I thought I could make a felted bag but I’ve never felted nor fulled anything and this yarn was always meant for a garment. Finally, I was inspired by all the shrugs and boleros I saw online including the beautiful Briar Rose by Ysolda and I figured it would be enough yarn for a shrug.

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I didn’t use any of the available patterns because my gauge was slightly looser (I really hated this yarn when I tried to use smaller needles) on size 10 (6 mm) needles and I wanted something that met in the middle like a cardigan. I used Barbara G. Walker’s Knitting from the Top to learn about raglan construction – the best part was finding out there is a ratio of sleeve stitches to back stitches. It makes perfect sense that when knitting from the neck down, each arm/shoulder section will have 1/3 the number of stitches as the back or front but I’m not sure I would have figured that out on my own. Let’s just say it helped immensely to have a good reference book when I wanted to pull my hair out doing math. I have an engineering degree but between making measurements of my body and never having quite all the numbers I needed and not knowing exactly how I could shape the garment for the fit I wanted, it was enough to make me wish for some easy integrals. Maybe I should have taken more geometry! I don’t believe I ever learned about 3-D geometry, just flat things which might be why I had a hard time converting measurements of my body into garment measurements. I’ve finished the sleeves including the edging in Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted which I picked up thinking I was certainly going to run out of yarn (now I might make it…especially since I already bought extra).

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I did a really simple cable pattern on the cuffs to spice it up a bit and because cables show up really well in the Lamb’s Pride. It was a K4, P2 ribbing, then in the K4 section, I crossed 2 stitches in the front every 4th round. I love how it looks and I even managed to calculate the correct number of stitches for the Lamb’s Pride since it knits up to a slightly looser gauge.

I wanted to finish it by this weekend but I’m going away and it’s way too hot in Blacksburg VA to bring it with me so I might have to start some socks or a lace scarf to work on there.

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cabled sweater – part 2

Swatching has commenced on my cabled Jaeger Trinity sweater. The cotton/silk blend is super soft but a little bit irregular – it took a few rows to get even stitches and I might even go down a needle size to get gauge and improve the fabric – I’m a bit worried about the finished sweater stretching out of shape. Are there any tricks to knitting well-fitting garments from plant fibers? I think plant fiber tricks would work well with the cotton/silk blend also.

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I do love the cables – I’ve been using the ‘sans cable needle’ method I learned from Grumperina’s tutorial. I found a picture of the first cabling I ever did – I was in college, my entire dorm was making garter stitch scarves, and I picked out the most complicated cable I could find in my sister’s Reader’s Digest book and commenced knitting my ‘scarf’. Like with many things I’d started knitting, I quickly realized the edges were going to roll, I didn’t have enough yarn to finish, and I was bored especially since I was making it just to counteract the vast quantities of garter stitch in my dorm. So I folded it up into a bag, crocheted it all together, and never got around to lining it – the fabric is so floppy I’d really like the security of a zipper.

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The color is truer in the left picture of the entire bag but I wanted to show the cable detail as well. I remember manipulating those stitches with a slippery dpn I called ‘cable needle’. Those were the days before I bought knitting needles and vast quantities of yarn – I would just raid my mother’s single ziplock bag of knitting supplies and pick from the 1 or 2 available 14″ straight needles and her 1 set of dpns. I think she must have bought the needles around the same time she bought yarn to make me a sweater – I’m just finally using that yarn now to make the ‘vintage licorice twist shrug’. I was going to make a sweater but as you might imagine, I’m a bit larger now than when I was five and there just isn’t that much yarn since it’s a heavy worsted weight.

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Skeins aren’t scary – how I handwind a ball

I first encountered skeined yarn when I was about 6 and I was helping my mom wind it up so she could make me a sweater. Let’s just say I still have that yarn – probably in the original balls and it is finally becoming a shrug of sorts. I used to succumb to temptation and unwind the entire skein at once into a tidy pile on the floor or couch – then without pausing I could wind the entire ball. Except, the tidy pile on the floor never remains tidy! Either the dog walks in, a child walks in, my husband moves the yarn to sit on the couch, or the yarn is just so happy to be free that it tangles itself when I take my eyes off it for an instant to work on the ball.

I don’t have a swift or a ballwinder. They would certainly make winding balls faster but whenever I see the price of a swift or ballwinder, I think about how much yarn I could get instead. Once I spent an hour winding 50 grams (440 yards) of laceweight into a ball but I was watching tv in the dark so I couldn’t have been knitting anyway. 50 grams of worsted weight usually takes me about 15-20 minutes to ball up. Normally I watch tv or chat when I’m winding balls and think about the project I’m going to make with the yarn.

To wind a skein into a ball, find a comfortable place to sit with knees up (couch or bed for me) and settle down for a few minutes. (Some people use the back of a chair but I like adjusting my knees to the perfect size for the skein – I also find it tricky to keep the strands from either sliding down on the chair or slipping off the top). Once I’ve started unwinding the skein and wrapping the free yarn into a ball, I don’t like to move until all the yarn is secured in the ball.

1) Take the skein out of the package and unroll it without tangling the strands – it should resemble a large donut. Place the skein over the knees – adjust knees so the skein isn’t stretched and isn’t loose. The skein will be tied in at least two places. Untie the scrap yarn holding the skein together. One of the ties should also be attached to the two ends of the skein. Pick the end that is on the ‘outside’ of the skein so that the yarn unwraps easily from the skein.

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2) Carefully disentangle 2-5 wraps of yarn from the skein – it is okay to pile these in your lap or nearby because this is a short enough piece of yarn that it doesn’t usually tangle. If it does tangle, it’s maybe 3 yards of yarn so it’s easy to disentangle. Find the end and start the ball.

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3) Holding the ball in one hand, use the other hand to pull 2-5 more wraps off the skein and lay the yarn down next to you. Wrap the loose yarn onto the ball. Repeat 3 until there is no more yarn on the skein.

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I have wrapped a lot of badly behaved balls of yarn. I’ve learned a few things since I was 6.

1) Don’t yank on the yarn when wrapping the ball – loose is better. I gently lay each strand of yarn on the ball as I’m wrapping.

2) Only wrap 6-10 strands in the same place – make sure it is the ‘equator’ of the ball so it stays on well. Turn the ball as necessary so the ‘equator’ moves around and the ball grows evenly. I tried to make an illustration showing the order of wrapping and illustrating the directional changes. First I wrapped the red section, then the blue section, then the peach, then the green. I generally try and wrap in 6 different directions before ‘repeating’ – the repeating though is always shifted slightly so that the new yarn is wrapping in the ‘valleys’ left by the old yarn.

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3) when changing directions, I place my thumb on the yarn and make sure I wrap over any places the yarn loosens so the ball can’t fall apart from the inside. The arrow is pointing to my thumb where I’m holding the yarn in place. I start wrapping with 2 and then 3 and 4 are supposed to wrap over the loose yarn where my thumb was and make everything snug.

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How do you wind yarn? I can’t be the only person without a swift and ballwinder can I?

28 Aug 07 edit: And the very same week that I wrote about ball-winding, Kelley Petkun of Knitpicks talked about ballwinding (including swifts and winders) in her podcast

new jaeger trinity sweater

I think it’s happening again, I think I’m falling in love with a sweater pattern. I’m not sure how making a sweater for myself will integrate with my holiday knitting plans but maybe I’ll knit quickly. Making my first sweater took 12 months and I was monogamous with knitting projects then. That sweater was really my re-entry into knitting and reminded me how hooked I was on fiber arts. After the sweater I made some socks and hats and scarves because the thought of taking another year to make a single item seemed wasteful. I think I knit more quickly now 🙂

It started when I looked through my slim pile of knitting magazines and found the Jaeger handknit booklet (JB15) with designs by Martin Storey that I used to make my first sweater. Then I read that Jaeger yarns were being discontinued and were therefore 1) probably on sale and 2) not going to be around later. I thought that for my second sweater, it might be nice to use the pattern recommended yarn and gauge. I found the perfect sweater – it’s a pullover so gaping at the button band won’t be a problem, and it has beautifully intricate cables that are probably a bit advanced for me but I look forward to the challenge – I’m going to try and skip the cable needle on this one.

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I just adore the celtic knot appearance of the cables next to the simple stockinette of the rest of the sweater.

I eventually found yarn on sale online and bought an entire 10 x 50gram pack which should be enough for my pullover and a tank – too bad I’m not making a cardigan twinset 😉 I’ve seen a few complaints about the Jaeger Trinity yarn stretching out with wear and not shrinking back to it’s original shape. It’s 40% silk, 35% cotton, and 25% polyamide. I think I might make a large gauge swatch – maybe to practice the cable pattern and wash it a few times before measuring. My guess is that I should make the sweater with slight negative ease (5-10%?) so that when it stretches it isn’t too large.

I bought the ‘water’ colorway – it’s a pale grey with a slight hint of blue. I think the cables will show up nicely. I didn’t want to make a white cable sweater because when I wear white, it’s a magnet for tomato and chocolate stains. The pattern is called “Salt Lake” and I think I might modify it to knit in the round. I don’t mind seaming but I don’t know why I’d make two separate pieces for the back and front when I could make it seamless on my 26″ circular needles and try it on as I go. Then I won’t have as much finishing work either! I could even make the sleeves on double points or 16″ circulars although I think I only have 6″ double points in the correct size and that might be more of a challenge than avoiding a seam is worth.

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The yarn almost feels like a suede to me but my fingers are rough from mountain biking and gardening and dishes. Has anyone knit with this Jaeger Trinity before – how does it hold up?

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I decided entrelac might be cool for a christmas gift scarf but I had no idea how it worked. In my google searches, I found mention of a Eunny Jang editorial in a past issue of Interweave Knits which I don’t have and my library doesn’t have so I kept hunting and I eventually found directions I could follow from the Vogue Stitchionary Volume 1. I made my first one from dishcloth cotton since it was nearby in my study and would make my practice swatch into something useful. I ended up not switching to a contrasting color because I didn’t feel like untangling balls of yarn. I did find that knitting backwards was very helpful because turning 10 times to knit 10 stitches was annoying me.

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all finished – honeymoon socks part iii

I just found the podcast ‘stash and burn‘ and I’ve listened to the first 10 or so episodes. Listening to Nicole and Jenny is definitely motivating me to work on my own stash – especially the part I bought in the last 2 months. The yarn for these socks has been around for a year and a half and wound in balls for over a year so I’m glad I finally got it into a project!

The honeymoon socks are all finished! It was about 2 weeks including the substantial cuff and heel reknits; I was pretty lucky in that I only made 3 cuffs and 3 heels for 2 socks. I started both socks at the orange stripe so they match 🙂 I didn’t think it would be as easy as starting with the same color but the Lana Grossa stripes are very consistent. I used the afterthought Turkish Heel described in Lucy Neatby’s Warm Socks Cool Feet. To make the heels match, I made sure to set in the waste yarn for the heel in the middle of a maroon stripe (it was the right length for my foot) and then I used maroon yarn to start the heel later. I think using the same, solid color helps disguise the afterthought part of the heel and it made it tons easier to weave in ends and close up the gap in the corners of the heel.

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This is my third pair of socks and the first that fits snugly. It is also the first time I finished both socks as fast as possible – I previously went 6 months or so working on first sock and a week or two working on the second. I still can’t believe I finished these in the heat of summer – I blame the stripes for always convincing me to knit a little more.

I finished these Thursday evening and it was dark so as soon as I woke up Friday morning, I went outside to take these shots. It was already 75 degrees or so when I tugged the socks on 😉 I would have loved to wear them all day but that will have to wait until fall when the leaves match the socks.

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yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit Fantasy color 4730
needles: size 0 (2mm) bamboo dpns, 6″
gauge: 8 stitches, 12 rows per inch. my foot measures 8.5 inches. I multiplied my gauge by my foot circumference (8*8.5 = 68 stitches) but I wanted the sock to fit snugly so I subtracted about 10% of the stitches, rounded down, and made a 60 stitch sock. It fits great – I like the 10% negative ease rule of thumb. I should modify that to say the foot fits great, and I got a little carried away with making my ribbing tight. The cuff is a bit tight right above the heel (I should have ripped it out more) but I can put the socks on and I figure they’ll stretch a bit.

the details: Figure 8 cast on 24 stitches, increase at the sides (4 stitches every other round) until 60 stitches total. Knit in the round until length is 1.5 inches shorter than foot. Place waste yarn for heel stitches on 36 stitches centered in the middle of the foot. Knit the cuff in 2×2 rib from ~1″ after the heel until yarn is almost gone, finish the heels, be happy!

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I am *almost* finished with the honeymoon bicycle tour socks. I will never wear them on my honeymoon (it is finished) and I would never wear them on a bicycle tour (synthetics rule!) but I started them as a small, pretty mindless project for my honeymoon that I could carry on the bike.

I just realized that the stash yarn I chose was one I’d bought at Adirondack Yarns with Mr. T during my first trip to the Adirondacks. I’ve been back a few times since, even gone to the yarn store but I didn’t buy anything. Until two days before our wedding. We were having a quiet cup of coffee in the coffeeshop adjoining the yarn store when I was making the gauge swatch for my socks. I realized that the sturdy 2.75mm knitpicks sock needles I’d brought were not giving me an appropriate sock gauge with this yarn….Hmmm. I need needles to make something with stash yarn and I can buy things on vacation, right?…At least I was in a knitting shop and not in some isolated bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere at the top of the steepest, most evilest hill ever. Lucky for me, they had some lovely 6″ bamboo dpns in size 0 (2mm) which figured had to be the right size if it was the smallest they made 😉

I’m glad I didn’t poke myself in the eye or snap a few on the trip. Every day when I finished knitting, I carefully wound the needles inside the sock which I protected inside the folded pattern to go in my purse. Then I’d carefully zip the purse without getting yarn stuck in the zipper (at least most days I wouldn’t get yarn stuck in the zipper) and shove my purse into the top of the side bag. Somehow two sets of bike clothes and two sets of regular clothes didn’t take up that much room but all the energy drink powder and bars and med kit and shampoo and hairbrush and asthma medicine filled my bag pretty well. So the purse (with the knitting) got shoved into the top of the bag but the needles never broke.  And one sock is finished (after some substantial reknitting) and the other will be finished when I get a chance to reknit the pathetically small heel. I think I was trying to make my socks ‘good’ by making them tight so I yanked on the yarn at every opportunity – big surprise they didn’t fit over my heel. I have to say though that I like having the ribbing tight enough to stay on my leg. Anyway, pictures soon when they’re both done.