Sunday, February 3, 2008

Revelations in Gauging

With some time between projects, I decided it was time to make a gauge swatch for my own upcoming version of Elizabeth Zimmerman's "Very Warm Hat" pattern (from her book, Knitting Around).

How I hate these gauge swatches. I consider myself a slow knitter, and here I am knitting something that I will rip once done, using up my precious new yarn, possibly splitting it, making it all crimply looking,

Of course, EZ recommends to start a hat as a gauge swatch, or you could buy more yarn and leave the swatch as part of permanent records. I decided instead of making a swatch library I would use ravely and make a note in my yarn stash every time I determined a new gauge. Sometimes I simply know I'll be short on yarn and there's no point in keeping it.

(on a side note, I believe an exception must always be made for sweaters. Buy more, make a big swatch, cast off, measure, wash, measure, block, measure, throw it around the apartment, measure, wash again, measure, block, measure, have supper, measure, etc.Should you absolutely need the yarn then you can unravel it months later.)

But today I finally decided to test something I've wanted to do for a while. I'm a relatively tight knitter, and I have doubted my gauge would significantly be altered whether I was making it in the round or just plain back and forth. I know I've read everywhere that it makes a difference, but I had to see it for myself.

So I did one of each this morning. No small task considering how I absolutely despise swatching. But I have learned a lot to make my life easier from now on,

First, it makes a difference. With fingering yarn, I got 30 stitches in the round and 28 stitches on the flat gauge, which is consistent with the body of literature out there on this subject.

But doing a gauge in the round takes twice as long, and how awful that is. (Of course, you could work on a dpn, slide your work across it, and carry a long strand in the back to continue knitting and producing stockinette, but what if you have misplaced your dpns in a certain size? :)

It made me realize however, that on small projects, this effect is negligible. Perhaps that is why my LYS sometimes would give me needles and yarn and say in confidence I could start my sock without a gauge swatch, as long as you know you're close, the difference really doesn't matter. (IF the item is stretchy and can accommodate a certain margin of error.)

I wouldn't use this logic on a sweater or perhaps anything wider than a hat.

Doing some math (maybe improperly, but the point is valid), here's how much of a variation you'd have had you not made the proper swatch.

Sock: Had I made a sock with a 2 stitch error in my gauge I would have had a sock whose leg with would be 6.5 inches instead of 7 inches.
Mitten: Almost about the same. Had I made a mitten with a 2 stitch error in my gauge I would have had a mitten that is 7.5 inches instead of 8.
Hat: A hat of a width of 18" would instead be 16.8 inches.
Sweater: A 42" waist sweater would only be 39"

Potentially disastrous for the sweater, but I think if you know your knitting in the round gauge will be slightly smaller than a flat gauge you could estimate for it. I don't think a 2 inch difference for a hat or .5 inch difference for a sock or mitten would make it unwearable if you're allowing a decent ease to begin with... could end up proving myself wrong with experience!

Better yet, just chuck up and make that gauge in the round (or sliding on a dpn) and knit on with confidence... Make yourself a drink (or many) to help you get through it...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Shadow Knitting with Legos

[This post has been inspired by the start of my third shadow knitting project, the Counterpoint scarf.]

So yes that is right, I am going to illustrate a knitting concept with Legos.

If you are new to shadow, or illusion knitting and can't get your head around the idea, let's have a look at recreating the effect with legos.

The basics: If you were just knitting an empty (non-charted background) in a shadow pattern, you would be using two colors, say white and black, and changing between these colors every second row.

For one of the colors, say white, you'd knit the first row and purl the second, creating a tiny strip of stockinette. For the second color, in this case black, you would knit the first row and knit the second, creating a strip of garter.

We know that stockinette creates a much flatter fabric than garter, so the black strips would look raised compared to white. Here's what it would look in lego form (1 row of lego blocks equals either 2 rows of white in stockinette or 2 rows of black in garter)

Now, looking at this lego formation from above, we would simply see a striped pattern. Looking at it from an angle, the white disappears and you get a sea of black:

Hope you can now see how to throw in a design in there. Here is a simple diamond: In an area we want to see white, we first knit a black section in stockinette so that it is lowered, and the corresponding section in the next white strip is knit in garter so that it is now raised:

Once again, from above you just see stripes, but looking at the stitches horizontally, a diamond appears:

Hope this makes it a bit more visual: You may now be able to see why some shadow knitting patterns simply provide the chart and then say that each row on the chart actually represents 4 rows of knitting. You need four rows to properly lower and raise your foreground and background colors.

Legos - they're not just for kids :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Revenge of the Ladders

I’m a couple of days into my heart to heart socks and I’m getting completely disheartened with how they are turning out.

First for some reason there is numerous mistakes in my 2x2 ribs on both socks, which is extremely difficult to get wrong. Should I stop watching tv while working on the socks? There’s a gaping hole in one of the ribs and I can’t understand how it formed. I guess that hole can be darned in but the mistakes in the cuff are too far down for me to bother attempting to repair them.

Finally I have two beautiful ladders running down the side of each sock. All the more saddening is that I chose to do them on 2 circs to precisely avoid this problem. True if I had used dpns I ran the risk of having 3 or 4 ladders, but on my previous projects, even if ladders occurred they weren’t that noticeable. Oddly enough the ladders are on the left side of each sock only, what I’m doing differently there I can’t really imagine.

I’m going to try various techniques to remove them on my future rows. I’ve already been drawing the yarn very tight between needles, so tight that my muscles ached, but that apparently is not working. There may be some more strategies to try.

As for the already existing ladders, I believe Elizabeth Zimmerman recommended using a crochet hook to run a column of stitches up the ladder and placing the extra stitch on the needle and do a k2tog on the next row. I don’t want to mess up the project further but since I won’t like these enormous ladders anyway, I’m going to bravely spend tonight trying to repair the ladders and the hole in the cuffs before continuing on my project.

Probably it’s something that should be advocated more frequently – if there’s something you don’t like about a project and there’s something you can do about it, why not try to fix it immediately. If it works, you can continue on much more happily. If it doesn’t, well, chuck it up to experience, there’ll always be the next project that is waiting to get done just right

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Heart 2 Heart Socks, two at a time

Now that I have an ungodly amount of circular needles, I can try out the different combinations of ways to knit socks - using 2 circs, using magic loop, how about 2 socks on 2 circs or using magic loop?

I decided to first try 2 socks on 2 circs - using the Heart 2 Heart pattern found in Socks, Socks, Socks. The cast on for both socks left such a tangled mess I had to abandon it, and in a moment of crisis decide if I was being to ambitious for wanting to do both at once, and that I should first try 1 at a time on 2 circs first and then move on to two, or perhaps just stick with conventional dpns and try another time.

But that doesn't sound like being boss of your knitting, so I decided for a compromise. I did 3 rows of each separately and then transferred them to the circs. This eliminated the difficulty for me when starting, with yarns all over the place. (it would be good to weave in the tail immediately if anyone attempts this - it leaves only two yarns that can get tangled).

Of course, soon I'll have to attach different colors and I'll be in the same yarn mess as I was before.

How I feel about knitting with 2 circs, well, it does seem to take immensely longer to make any sort of progress, but I guess that's to be expected. I would think the advantage of making 2 identical pairs of anything to offset any of the negatives with dealing with the cables. Yes, people don't like dpns because they have to deal with 4 or 5 needles, but dealing with 4 circs waving around in the air and wrapping up in all the yarn tails around can be just as frustrating.

Maybe magic loop may have a bit of an edge as it cuts down the needle count even further. At this moment I just cannot see in my head how you'd pick up all the gusset stitches with 1 circular.

I'm so used to dpns I never really had a problem with them, but now having 3 different ways to do things can add a small bit of variety when making drawerfuls of socks. Unless there's a lot of color work and yarn switching though, it will now be very hard to convince me it is better to do some separately.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I love Knitpicks!

My first order for a bunch of cable needles finally arrived yesterday, and I had to wait a whole day for it to be available for pickup.

What makes it more frustrating is that, for once in my life, I was actually home during the day the mailman came, but I left just 45 minutes shy of when he rang my doorbell. Argh!

I bought only a couple, I heard from some people that they are rather pointy. I have a set of phildar sock dpns which are so sharp you could skewer meat with them. So I had to resist the urge to go on a circular shopping spree until they arrived.

As soon as I had one in my hands though, I placed a huge order immediately for the rest of my set. They're wonderful, not pointy like the phildar ones and if it wasn't for Ravelry, I would have thought my only option would be addi turbos...would have to take a loan to get my set going :) The knitpicks nickel plated circulars are 4 times cheaper and feel almost the same, maybe blind I wouldn't even be able to tell the difference.

Can't wait for the next batch, as I am missing the size to start my first sweater.

I would like to try them immediately, but I'm almost finished making second pair of manly mitts for someone I see very rarely, and I just found out she's passing by Saturday. Seeing as only one thumb remains, I want to finish it, weave in all the ends, and put it on the blocking board so that I can dry and make a nice presentation and surprise her on Saturday. That is priority 1 now. All other concerns (eating, sleeping, going to work) are secondary.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

In memory of a scarf

I was listening to one of Knitpicks founder Kelly Petkun's podcasts in which she discussed frogging the projects that are languishing in our cupboards, and the liberating feeling they impart on the knitter.

Well I like the scarf and thought it looked really good on me, but it had its negative points - it was mind numbing to work on, and the stranded vertical stripes were thicker than the horizontal stripes. It didn't look weird but felt off in my hands..

The simpleness of the pattern was intentional. I had chosen it for that reason while I was in the middle of last year's move, and with so much going on and living in someone else's house, I needed some easy knitting solace. But its been tucked away ever since I stepped into my new home.

This particular podcast's message rang home with me, why do we refuse to take these things apart and reuse the yarn? I know it represents a lot of work, but if you look on it with dread and the thought of continuing bores your mind away, then maybe its time to let it go gently into the night.

I've had my share of unfinished projects, but for different reasons. One was attacked by a maniacal cat. Another I might need to frog soon as well since I have ran out of yarn and can't find any replacement in its dye lot.

But this was the first time a project failed because it didn't interest me/was too simple.

Of course, the fact that I looked at these two yarn colors and immediately realized that it would make great material for the counterpoint scarf on my ravelry queue perhaps provided additional incentives :)

Jumping on the bandwagon

After months of procrastination, I finally decided to blog about my knitting adventures. I'm already one year into it, and I must say that when I started, I didn't expect to be where I am today,

Have a stash? Oh no, that is just for obsessed crazy knitters. Now I'm at two drawers full of yarn (which is pretty tame by stash standards)

Make a sweater? Expensive, disappointing, unfashionable, nope never will do... yet now I'm just a couple of weeks away from casting on for my first.

Learn crochet? nope, that's taking things too far. And for the past two months I had been doing nothing but crochet.

So I will try to incorporate something different in my projects whenever I can, so I'm just not making the same thing over and over again, even if insignificant.

In my queue, I have some fairly straightforward socks which will require some duplicate stitching, a first. I've got a shadow scarf lined up - not my first but I think I'll do my first crochet border on a scarf. Gloves are also on the list, a pair for my mom and some fingerless gloves for me (ok, nothing special about starting short when doing fingers, but I really want a pair of fingerless gloves).

And my sweater - a little sensation of nervousness coarses through me when I think of of what I am about to start. This morning I had to rip apart a simple scarf twice due to inattention and just plain confusion.

Of course I know that for every failed project there's one that turns out beautifully and there's nothing like the feeling of knowing that I made that.