Friday, July 29, 2011

Durrow Part One: Swatching.

In May, I was able to go to Toronto and see my favorite band, Rammstein. While I was there, I stayed with the lovely Leslie. Leslie used to work at a yarn store, and has a stash to match. She said "leave empty space in your bag!", which I interpreted as leaving a pocket open in my backpack.

I came home with five sweater quantities.

The first of these sweater quantities I'm working with is putting a dent into the 30 balls of Filtes King Kim, a 55/45 cotton/acrylic blend. It's a worsted weight chainette.

The pattern I'm working on is Durrow, which calls for a gauge of 18 stitches by 28 rows to 4"x4". When I swatched it up on size 8s, it was a full 6" for 18 stitches. Being rather unpleased with this, I grabbed the nearest set of likely-looking circulars- size 5s. And wouldn't you know, it worked.

I'm about 14" into the back of the sweater now- what? I knit fast! - and I'm really quite pleased with the yarn. I was worried about the crispness and weight. It's really quite crisp, the 4x2 rib has nice elasticity, and given that someone on Ravelry made Quadrat with it, I think the sleeve cables will show up nicely.

I have enough yarn left after this to do two sweaters for me, one in the black and one in a medium green. Hey Teach and Que Sera have come up as options. Do you have any thoughts?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So, how do you start projects?

My friend Spencer, a.k.a. Kinpatsu, and I are doing a thing I've jokingly called "Twin Topic Thursdays" where we write on a topic we arbitrarily pick somewhere around Tuesday when we realize we should probably get our Thursday posts marinating. This week, we're thinking about starting.

How do you start out with a project? Do you pick the yarn or the pattern first? How do you match pattern to yarn? How do you decide what needles to use?

As with all things, the answer to this is much longer than it initially appears. I really have no set project protocol, but I do have a few things I think about.

My yarn-buying process should be pretty evident from my stashdown list - if I'm buying without a plan, go for the one spectacular skein. This results in a fantastic selection of sock, glove, hat, and shawl yarn. My garment stash, however, is so small as to be essentially non-existent. The only reason I bought the one sweater quantity was because it was huge alpaca skeins on sale for $5 each. At just more expensive than another skein of boring sock yarn, I had to bite. Have I mentioned my usual LYS stocks rather uninspiring sock yarn?

When working from stash, I generally go straight to Ravelry's advanced search. I set the variables for yarn type and yardage, maybe what sort of project I think it wants to be, then I go to town. I'll search through Ravelry until I find the perfect project. Then, I turn to the needles.

Most of the time I don't think too much about my needle choice. Size 1 bamboo DPNs for socks (although I would love to try rosewood!). Steel or aluminum for colorwork. Everything else, I'm not too picky, although lace on large needles requires sharper points.

If I'm starting with a pattern, my first stop for yarn is most often Knitpicks or Webs. Knitpicks Stroll is a favorite because I like complex socks. Valley Yarns Northampton makes super-cushy arans. Someday using fancy yarn for all of my projects will be affordable, but until then, I'll just keep buying pretties because I want them then picking projects to go with.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

WIP Wednesday: Mona

Mona, by Cookie A. Knit in Dream In Color Starry, colorway Poma-Grenade.

The color is much truer in this picture than it is on the Loopy Ewe site. These socks are not burgundy - they are rich, dark red. John got it for me as a Christmas present with only a little pointing towards the DiC page on The Loopy Ewe.

The pattern is nicely intuitive and has many of Cookie A's ingenious little details. The ribbing flows neatly into the pattern, which flows neatly into the ribbed heel. Unlike my last Cookie A sock (Clandestine), I was able to memorize the pattern after the first repeat.

So far, I am pleased with the stretch of the fabric.

The yarn itself is not as springy as I would expect out of 98% merino. I really doubt the 2% silver would make it less elastic, but perhaps the spinning process required to bind up the silver threads mandates a tighter yarn. I've had good results with Dream In Color Classy, so I will likely try Dream In Color Smooshy in the near future to see if the inelastic property is unique to Starry.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jaxy Blogs-A-Long

So I got roped into this Come-Blog-A-Long thing by my friend Spencer over at Kinpatsu Knits. If you haven’t encountered it previously, the concept is to work your way through a knitting project over the course of a year and blog about it as you go.

The originators of the challenge chose a book to knit through. I don’t know about you, but my stash is not remotely organized enough to knit through any of the books I have without spending a lot of money. As I see it, my options are “awesome arbitrary challenge on the Internet!” or...

That picture of the pretty, pretty 2011 Ford Fiesta SE in Blue Flame with heated seats! has talked me out of many a yarn binge. I’ve stashed away about 60-70% of what I need to put down on it to feel financially comfortable with the payments. I’m not sure if I’m buying or leasing yet, although I’m leaning towards buying. Downside, more money. Upside, I get to keep it and I don’t have to freak out about mileage - important since I’ll probably be spending a year in SE Washington during this car’s lifetime, and there aren’t any bus lines to isolated scientific laboratories on nuclear reservations. If you have any more thoughts about it, advice is appreciated.

Getting back to the blog-a-long, I’ve decided that I’m going to emphasize the BLOG part of it and instead make my goal to religiously blog about my projects. To keep this from being too much of a hassle for me, I’m making a list projects from the combination of my stashdown goal list and my Christmas knitting list that I 100% guarantee I will write about. The general theme is “projects with stories” - some of the projects tell stories about who they’re for, some of them tell stories about my experiences, and some of them really lend themselves well to ranting about technique.

In no particular order, the Blog-A-Long List:

1. Double Heelix. This new pattern from Knitty features a new heel cast-on, and I’m really excited to start. I’m also going to use up some truly obnoxious yarn from my stash, because there is nothing better than combining obnoxious yarn with spirals.

2. Chunky Cable Knit Braided Pillow. This pillow looks lovely but will probably be boring to knit. However, it’s got a great story behind it that I can’t wait to share.

3. Socks With Clocks. I made up a very simple pattern for an attractive, unisex, quick-to-knit pair of socks several years ago, and it’s continued bothering me that I never wrote it up. I’m making a pair for my dad for Christmas so I can write up the pattern, and will share it as a Christmas knitting present when it’s done.

4. Generic Norwegian Hat and Mittens. I love stranded colorwork. Stranded colorwork makes really pretty pieces that are very, very warm. I’m going to have to design a pattern for these, so I’ll talk about how to design a colorwork pattern that requires minimal float-wrangling. I’ll also show off my favorite stupid human trick, two-handed stranded knitting, and why I do it.

5. A fleet of Knitted Companion Cubes. I’m making three for Christmas this year. Not only is this pattern cute and geeky, it’ll also test my nerve... it involves gasp STEEKS. In all seriousness, it seems like a low-stress way to try steeks, clocking in at about a pair of mittens of knitting per cube.

6. Durrow. Although the pattern is only somewhat interesting, the yarn came from an interesting person, and the sweater is going to the most beloved person in my life, my partner John. He is also super-skinny, sporting a 34" chest, and I think the 40" chest of the smallest size will look comically large on him, so I'll be able to give my thoughts on resizing patterns.

7. Annis. Even if I think that it’s getting a little overdone, I’m still really interested in trying out Susanna IC’s weird shawl-shape. I’m also going to substitute beads for nupps, which I hope is as striking as I’m envisioning.

8. Stricken. This is one gorgeous pair of socks. I’m also going to be using Wollmeise 80/20 Twin, so hopefully I’ll be able to confirm its legendary stitch definition.

9. Aeolian. I’m knitting the large version in laceweight grey silk with tiny hematite beads, making this an official Epic Project. It only seems appropriate that I should write about it.

10. Honeycomb Vest. The longer I stay in academia, the more I like sweatervests. This might be a good opportunity to interject some academic humor.

11. Girl Friday. I have had terrible luck with worsted-weight sweaters. Namely, I’ve never made one that fits me. The two I tried making for myself ended up living with my mom and my friend Sarah. The one I made for John, however, turned out perfect and makes him look like a model for a ski lodge advertisement. I want to look like I’m supposed to be in a fashionable advertisement too! (Kindly ignore that I’m making myself a shawl-collar cardigan in marled alpaca and I made him a traditional cream-colored wool aran.)

12. Windsbraut - Steife Brise. A small lesson in how yarn tastes change over time, and just how hard it is to get a good-looking project out of long-repeat yarn. Being able to knit my first Monika Eckert is just a bonus!

Finally, I’ll be instituting an on-going feature:


What happens to yarn scraps? They hide under boxes, in desk drawers, behind books, waiting... biding their time... for someday, they shall rise again! As new projects! I maintain a box of fingering weight scraps and a box of worsted weight scraps, and I’m going to whip out a project on scraps every once in a while to keep the zombie yarn balls appeased.

So, stick around, pour yourself a mug of tea, and hopefully I’ll have something fascinating up for you to read soon!