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05 July 2013 @ 11:52 am
I've taken a pause from the Masters swatches because I'm not sure how (or whether) I want to weave in the ends and block the swatches I've completed, and I can't get the swatches I haven't completed yet to come out properly. Instead, I'm spinning for Tour de Fleece again. After a self-inflicted wound on my first project (how did I not notice my singles for a two-ply yarn were totally different WPI until I was halfway through plying?) I'm working on some silk hankies.

They're marvelous creatures. They're silk! Shiny! Takes dye like whoa, so brilliant colors! But... I have more thoughts and feelings about them than I might have posted last time I thought about sharing my thoughts and feelings about spinning silk hankies.

Drafting them is...best described in language unsuitable for a family blog. And I think I figured it out. Seriously - each individual silk fiber is smooth and shiny and not grippy and if you're spinning silk top it's the easiest thing in the world to just watch your fiber supply totally fall apart on you because you nudged it just a tiny bit too far, right? BUT: compare to the Mythbusters demonstration where they interleaved two telephone books and it took TANKS to pull them apart; individually a sheet of paper is fairly low-friction, but you make it up in volume. Individually, a silk fiber is a slippery bugger, but if you put a two-foot-long fiber along another two-foot-long fiber and then maybe tangle them up a bit... nothing wants to go anywhere. My method for drafting them involves "clench fists around fiber supply tighter than you thought possible, pull until it goes." It's a fiber technique *and* a strength workout! So now my right thumb is abraded from the fiber and there's a scratched-up area on my palm from before I decided I needed to clip my fingernails - but I hope I don't build up a callus there, because that would just give the fiber one more spot to snag on...

To some extent, my approach to spinning involves getting the yarn I get - but with, say, wool, I know that I could change that if I really, truly wanted to. With silk hankies? Nuh-uh. There's going to be noil - there's no way a human being could straighten out the fibers in the margin of the hankies. There's going to be that spot where you accidentally over-drafted and ended up with just four or five strands in the working fiber and ended up with something you could barely see that still miraculously managed to hold your spindle up and you were too amazed to break it off and work more fiber in. There's going to be that spot that was just a little lumpy and is it really worthwhile to totaly, absolutely, 100% untwist to a totally neutral point not just the couple inches on either side but maybe a foot towards the spindle in order to abrade your thumb just a little bit more trying to even out the drafting? Maybe if I were better at handling them - this is only really my third time out - I'd be better at getting a perfectly even draft out of every last hankie, but for now, that's a pipe dream. So I'm going to spin the yarn I get, and hope that relaxes me enough that I can deal with getting the yarn I got instead of the yarn I wanted out of the other fiber.

(Whoa, need a new TdF icon, yes? I'm not riding with Lantern Rouge this year... Go Team Dizzy!)
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
31 January 2013 @ 04:24 pm
Dear Mrs. Righetti,

You had me from "Chapter 1: You Can Always Tell What's Wrong With The Garment By The Way The Model Is Posed, or, Slender Five Foot Ten Inch Models Look Good In Anything."

You sealed the deal with "Chapter 16: Buttonholes Are Bastards!"

Your book is not the most technical of the knitting references I've auditioned in the past month, but it is possibly the most fun. Certainly it is the only one I would recommend based solely on the chapter titles. Thanks for being you.


(In all seriousness, the thing you hear most often about "Knitting In Plain English" and its companion books is that either you love Maggie Righetti's authorial voice or you hate it, and that will make or break the books for you. Unlike Principles of Knitting, Readers Digest Handbook, or Vogue Knitting, this is a book I would hand to beginning knitters with the expectation that they could use the book to teach themselves to knit - if they didn't throw it across the room first.)
Current Mood: amusedamused
29 January 2013 @ 07:15 pm
Four of the swatches I'm going to need to submit are supposed to be done with the same yarn and same size needles, basically as a set - and it struck me that these four swatches would be a pretty good diagnostic.

Seed stitch. Nice and even. When I hold it up to the light there's only one "hole" that seems bigger than the others, maybe two. Given that this is my first shot at the seed stitch swatch, and most people seem to have more trouble with it than with any of the others, that's probably a pretty good sign. The catch is: I seem to have cast on too loosely. There's visible gaps between the cast-on row stitches, and the purl bumps that were made from those stitches are a little lumpy.

Stockinette stitch, back side of swatch. The big problem here - if you look at the edge of the swatch that's towards the top of the photos, there's these vertical lines running through it. Oddly, these go away as you get towards the other end of the swatch - there must be something funny about how I tension my yarn near the beginning of the row? Also, my 1x1 ribbing could probably be a little less sloppy, but if you knit your ribbing on the same needles as your stockinette stitch it will always look sloppy by comparison. All things considered this may be perfectly cromulent 1x1 ribbing.

Garter stitch. My garter stitch is awesome. It is all purls rather than all knits but I don't think that will make a difference. What is not awesome is the 2x2 ribbing at the bottom of the swatch / right of the screen: the second stitch of each pair is really loose. Advice on fixing this varies from "Try Combination knitting" to "Yank just a bit as you switch from knit to purl" to some techniques from TechKnitter that seem to involve running that stitch down and laddering it back up with a crochet hook.

Horseshoe cable. Just a big mess - I don't think those holes are supposed to be there, nor the vertical lines down the middle of each cable. I was using a really skinny cable needle and I wonder if that threw me off - I should see if I can find a standard DPN a couple sizes smaller than the needles I'm knitting with. Also, same problems with rowing out at one end of the stockinette stitch and loose stitches at the knit-to-purl transition, but even worse.

So. That's where I am. Let's see where I can get to...

...also, I've started writing the research paper. I have several paragraphs on Putting Thy Knits Into Storage For Ye Summer. I got distracted researching moth repellents - the good news is that there are, indeed, some proven ones, but the bad news is that they're also human repellents. The ultimate takeaway might be "If you like lavender and/or cedar, go ahead, won't hurt anything, your knits will come out of storage smelling like something other than musty sheep, but they're not miracle cures."
Current Mood: intimidatedintimidated
16 January 2013 @ 07:11 am
The first attempt at the basic stockinette stitch swatch is pinned to a towel, drying, right now. For my own reference: before blocking, gauge was 16 st/3", 21 rows/3". So at least pre-blocking I'm tighter than ball band gauge (20/26) - and this is already one size needle larger. Jeez. But the idea is to see how much it relaxes when blocked.

I still see rowing-out in the swatch, but it's way less obvious than the ones I knitted Continental style.

I've started on seed stitch. It looks okay except that my cast-on was a little uneven, meaning a couple of the purl bumps generated from it are baggy. That would be considered a serious flaw. But at least pre-blocking, the overall texture looks pretty good.
09 January 2013 @ 11:57 am
So far I've gotten to look through and evaluate two big comprehensive knitting reference books from the library, in the name of picking one or the other to buy: the Reader's Digest Knitter's Handbook (1993 edition) by Montse Stanley, and Principles of Knitting (2012 edition) by June Hemmons Hiatt. I'm not 100% thrilled with either one.

Big problem with the Reader's Digest book: I don't always grok Stanley's diagrams. I looked at her descriptions of some kinds of increases and wasn't 100% sure what she was talking about, or how the diagram related to the text that referred to it.

Big problem with Principles of Knitting: Hiatt has decided that a lot of terminology commonly used by knitters is insufficiently precise (e.g. the term "front" can mean several different things when you're knitting a sweater) and so wrote the book using her own - admittedly precise! - terminology. I looked at her descriptions of some kinds of increases and wasn't 100% sure what she was talking about until I did a lot of cross-referencing. (This was another reason I'd dismissed Katharina Buss's book - it may be from lousy translation, since I think it was originally written in German, but things in the book weren't called what "everyone" calls them...) Possibly another big problem: the "big" problem. It's huge - nearly 700 slightly-oversized pages. Serious blunt force trauma potential. Do not drop on your toes. Also not something that can easily be tucked into your knitting bag. (eBook edition, anyone?)

The books are definitely aimed at different audiences - Stanley seems to aim more for the Ordinary Average Knitter, while Principles of Knitting could be used as a textbook for a college-level course in textiles. If I had to buy one of them today, it would probably be Principles - I'd rather have idiosyncratic terminology than unclear diagrams, and she also talks about around-the-neck tensioning as a thing rather than just mentioning that people do it that way in some parts of the world. Also, as noted by a Raveler - most of the stuff I'd be looking for in the Reader's Digest book can be found elsewhere, especially if I don't limit myself to dead-tree books, but there is nothing nearly as encyclopedic as Principles of Knitting.

I know there's a newer edition of Montse Stanley's book - I'm ordering it through Interlibrary Loan, in case the updated edition. (I love ILL. ILL is amazing.) Also, it turns out that the Ann Arbor library has a copy of the Vogue Knitting Ultimate Knitter's Handbook - just not on the shelf right now. It seems like a lot of these knitting references are in high demand, so I won't be able to continually renew any of the books...I'll just have to keep putting requests in, if I need to hang on to one for a while.
07 January 2013 @ 04:47 pm
My research this weekend involved looking for possible cures for "rowing out" - that thing where flat-knitted stockinette stitch has visible / raised horizontal lines in it resulting from purls and knits being slightly different sizes. The Masters graders consider it a major flaw, even though most people do it to some extent, and no, it won't go away when you block the FO...

TechKnitter was no help. "The only 100% foolproof solution is to avoid stockinette stitch. Knit garter stitch or in the round, or substitute a near-stockinette stitch pattern like broken rib." Not useful when I must generate a rectangle of stockinette stitch.

Also commonly recommended: knit with different-sized needles. Great for stockinette stitch, maybe not so great for ribbing or moss stitch.

A lot of people recommended switching to "combined knitting". Tried it before. Didn't like it.

But then it dawned on me: I took that class in Portuguese-style knitting (I know some people object to the name, since the technique didn't originate in Portugal, but that's what the biggest advocate I know of calls it) where the yarn is tensioned around the neck or a hooked pin. The pin I bought with the class is missing, but I can't misplace my neck. (Daughter might be able to. Sometimes I worry about her.) I didn't remember how to do the knit stitch, but Knitting Daily TV has a video up...

So far: my stockinette stitch is very, very even. There are occasional loose stitches instead of entire loose rows, and that's probably not too bad when you consider I've spent a whole four hours knitting with this technique and one of those hours was several years ago. 1x1 ribbing is easy, because it's a matter of moving the yarn from above the needle to below the needle instead of from the back of the work to the front of the work, and you don't have to adjust your grip on the needles at all. I think increases, decreases, cables, and lace will be worked the same as I'm used to since the stitches end up mounted on the needle the same way. My biggest problem is that I need to learn to let yarn slip through my right fingers rather than moving the work closer to me. All in all, I might be on to something here...

...and here I thought I'd been joking about having to learn to knit all over again. Word to the wise - never joke where the fates can hear you...
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
03 January 2013 @ 07:32 pm
Hubby was so impressed by the results of a fairly gentle blocking (soak, lay flat on towel, pin, let dry) on my yarn test swatches from this weekend that he wants me to try the same thing with a 12" wide, 8' long scarf I knitted him a couple years ago. (Not a Dr. Who - a Linux penguin illusion scarf. It's only 2/3 as much knitting.)

I have to agree that the scarf is kind of curly, but the idea of working on something that big is a little daunting.
Current Mood: intimidatedintimidated
28 December 2012 @ 04:30 pm
(Actually this is Step 4 in the suggested plan of action...)

Acquire sheet protectors: Done!

Print out instructions for insertion into sheet protectors: Done!

Acquire mass quantity of pins for blocking: Done!

Check out Montse Stanley's book from library: Done-ish. It's the 1993 edition instead of the 1999. Knitting hasn't changed that much, has it?

Place June Hiatt's book on hold at the library: Done! I should get a copy to look at next month sometime. (and as long as it took her to revise the book, maybe knitting has changed that much...)

Realize that I picked up another highly recommended but hard to find knitting reference from a remaindered book table for $5, and might have given it away to the used bookstore because I figured if it was on the remaindered book table for $5, it wasn't too terribly good, because I can't find it anywhere in the house: D'oh!ne. Hopefully it ended up in a box other than the knitting-book box when I moved and is still waiting to be unpacked.

Realize that the library's copy of said hard-to-find book went walkabout: Also D'oh!ne. (All the best hard-to-find knitting books seem to vanish from the library shelves [see also: just about every book by Alice Starmore before the reprints started coming out]. Hopefully this will not happen to both of the library's two copies of Principles of Knitting before my hold comes up. I'm optimistic, since a) it no longer counts as hard-to-find, and b) I'm first hold in the queue.)

(Said hard-to-find knitting book is, for what it's worth, Katherina Buss's "Big Book of Knitting". If you can pick up a copy from a remaindered book table for $5, it is worth more than you paid for it. Also, "queue" is fun to type.)

Receive "Finishing School" and "Cast On, Bind Off" as Christmas gifts from relatives who didn't know I was doing the certification: Done, and a happily useful surprise.

Looking ahead to the Cable-Of-Your-Choosing Swatch, I went through the pages of my Vogue Stitch-A-Day calendar from a couple years ago and sorted them into category. I think the "Basic Braid" cable will meet the requirements. If not, there are many other stitch dictionaries out there; the trick will be finding a cable pattern skinny enough to fit two horizontal repeats plus borders into 24-32 stitches.

Next up: "Select Yarn". Since the swatches will all be judged on blocking, wool would seem to be the best choice. I've got some Patons Classic Wool in stash to play with. I might also stop by the LYS tomorrow to see what they recommend for a Real Simple Plain Ol' Not Heathered Or Tweeded Or Remotely Fuzzy Worsted Weight Wool.
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
28 December 2012 @ 04:17 pm
For Christmas, I was given a set of TKGA Master Knitter Level 1 Certification Instructions. (By my request. I've been meaning to do it for years, but could never bring myself to actually sign up for it. I hope none of my family members would have been so mean as to sign me up for it without advance authorization.)

Whew. It looks intense. It almost looks like I will need to forget I know how to knit and start over as though I were a clueless newbie - I know I have several of the problems they've mentioned they will explicitly look for in the sample swatches (rowing out/reverse side gutters in stockinette stitch, distorted stitches in cables, uneven knit stitches in 2x2 ribbing, uneven selvedge stitches...).

The end result of the process will be that I put 16 swatches, a mitten, and a research paper into a box and mail it off, get them all back with a letter informing me that I'm grossly incompetent and need to do it again, lather, rinse, repeat, hopefully with fewer swatches needing reknitting every time, until either I'm a Certified Level 1 Knitter or I decide I'm happy with my current level of incompetence. Getting there, on the other hand, will be a learning process, and I felt as though I should journal it in some way, in more depth than Ravelry or Facebook would make possible. And then I remembered this online journal that I hadn't touched in years...

So...here goes the (re)start of the journal, and the start of the Masters process for me. Wish me luck, and please sacrifice to the yarn gods on my behalf if you're so inclined. I think I'm going to need all the juju I can get my hands on...
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic
16 September 2010 @ 12:23 pm
I'm kind of following the Houseworks Organized Christmas Plan - although on a kind of sped-up schedule, because we're planning to sell our house and would therefore like to have it "company-ready" before mid-November. Last week the decluttering assignment was "the craft room", which has really needed a good going-through for years. I've turned up some interesting stuff...
What I found, and what I did with it.Collapse )
The sad thing is, this only gets me to "mostly done" - there's a couple chairs that have just been shoved into the corner that I need to figure out what to do with, and they're in the way of really finishing the project. Most of what's left seems to be sewing-related - the mending basket (yikes!), a couple small totes of fabric, a lot of stray pattern pieces.
Current Mood: busybusy