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I have been meaning to try a few new techniques for a while and yesterday I did! Yes, instead of working on any of the multitude of active projects, or even mending the sweater in my knitting basket with a hole, I tried two new things.
New technique #1: broomstick lace
I tried a few crochet stitches for the gathering part and a few different numbers of loops being gathered. I can see how this could work, and I think I could start working with it now. It would probably be a scarf or shawl, but I can see the logic of it.
I have some nice alpaca/silk lace weight that would be just the ticket.
I used this nice tutorial from the January issue of Yarn Forward for instructions:
As someone who likes learning things from written instructions, I appreciated this article for its comprehensibleness.
New technique #2: hairpin lace
The other new thing was hairpin lace:
This one was harder to get my mind around. There is something about the twisting the hook around to the back part that did not immediately make sense to me from the still pictures, but after a few fits and starts I made a base strip.
I used this tutorial from the Spring 2006 issue of Interweave Crochet:
Though it made my head hurt a little, the instructions were comprehensible enough for me to figure out, so no complains there — and I think the technique is more difficult to conceptualize than the other, but don’t the Stitch Diva designs make it all seem worth it? The instructions were much better than the ones that came on the back of the package the frame came in — go figure.
For this I definately need to work a pattern or two from someone else. I just don’t quite get the logic of it yet, but there are lots of beautiful patterns in the world that people would be happy to give or sell me. I was considering this one.
I am completely smitten with freeform lace crochet (see this book).
I was hesitant, as I am not really that good at crochet, but I don’t need to know what any of the names of the stitches for this, so I am fine.
(I swear the same stitches have different names in different places, and they don’t all define everything, but don’t listen to me I am just bitter)
The other exciting thing is that I am not sure I could come up with a better combination of yarn and technique than Noro kureyon sock yarn and this, and just look at it:
I am liking this so much; it is much more fun than counting and reading patterns.
I think I may like to stay in this newly discovered crafty country for a while and see where the randomness takes me.
I was quite smitten with the colour and texture and wanted to see how it would spin up and how it was put together. I also commissioned some red batts, about which more later.
I spun up the fibre by pulling off strips as Jess Rollar suggested in her guest post on her guest post here, and I spun it up thick and thin, which approximately filled three bobbins (I have learned not to fill the bobbins completely as the yarn is thicker when plied and you end up with even short lengths than you would otherwise).
I then checked out the yarn I bought from Jess to see what she did with hers, and it appears she plied it with sewing thread, which I thought would likely be just the ticket for me too.
This is what I ended up with:
I think these kind of batts would be good for a beginning spinner as you don’t need to do anything fancy to make something unusual and there is no reason to ruin the texture by trying to spin something smooth. The fibre is also sticky and is not as prone to breaking if your yarn gets too thin.
I was absolutely incorrigible last night and sat in the bookstore and actually read Start Spinning by Maggie Casey cover to cover. I did not set off the alarm when I left the store, but I should have. It really is a great book, and I recommend it to anyone learning to spin as it had all sorts of things I didn’t know yet (that isn’t actually that difficult at this stage).
For example I figured out why the tension didn’t work initially on spinning wheel: from the instructions it wasn’t clear which way the tension should be set up, and I was using both Scotch tension and double drive tension at once. Now I am just using the Scotch tension and it works fine. I plan to try the double drive tension with my next skein.
Maggie explained about setting the tension and why it matters and what it means to be able to spin a balanced yarn, so got up this morning and tried to do what she said for setting twist. I didn’t do the whole process for the plied yarn as it didn’t seem like it needed it (I said I read it, I didn’t say I would obey it), so I soaked it in hot water with Eucalan. I did the whole deal for the single ply as it was weirdly overspun and a little willful — I decided that a good dunk in scalding water with dish soap was just the thing it needed:
(Please don’t take those as the whole instructions — read the book instead)
I then squeezed out the water with a towel and hung it on my airer:
The one at back is actually balanced, and I made it before I knew what that meant. The one at front is weighted and still twisty, but I think I want to do some sculptural crochet with it, so at least it won’t be a twisty sweater.
Okay, so I was a little disheartened about the whole Christmas present sweater fiasco. I was so demoralized about having to undo the stitching and unraveling the sleeve caps (again) that I kept procrastinating on fixing the problem. Then my mother came to visit, and she suggested just pinning the extra fabric, stitching it, the trimming it, and finishing the edges.
Now I have read about this kind of thing, and I know you can cut your knitting in this way, but I was never sufficiently frustrated to try it before (you see, I am used to my projects turning out).
The whole exercise has been a success and here is a little tutorial in case it ever happens to you:
Here is what the shoulders looked like before:
They were in fact worse than they appear in the photo if you can credit it.
The next step was putting the sweater on inside out and pinning it where the seam should be:
After this I basted the shoulder where it seemed like it should be, I did a few iterations of trying on and fixing the seam:
After I was happy with the seam placement, I sewed another line of stitching about three quarters of a centimetre from the first one and trimmed it:
Eek, my knitting is cut. This is something I never wanted to happen:
But in the end it was all worth it, as now it is actually wearable:
So that is the last of my Christmas presents for 2007, yeah!
Please don’t stop reading — I really do. Algebra is the only thing that allows me to design knitting the way I want to.
I suppose you can cast on for a scarf or other simple garment and just start knitting, especially if you listen to Debbie New and follow some of her swatchless knitting techniques, but that is not the way I want to work most of the time. I want to knit things that mold to and follow the ins and outs of the human body (maybe also the dog body, I may make a doggy sweater in the not too distant future). I also want my knitting to be convincingly three dimensional.
Don’t tell me only crochet can do that; it will get my hackles up. Just imagine your reaction if I said that all knitters can crochet, but not all crocheters can knit, and you will get some idea of the force of my feelings on this subject. You just can’t get there without math, unless you are a freeform whiz, which I am afraid I cannot claim to be.
I generally start with a gauge swatch and work out my gauge in stitches and rows to 4 inches[10cm]. I then get out the measuring tape and start measuring everything. At this point I don’t think you can measure too many parts of your body to get an idea of how everything will fit together. Then I multiply the number of inches by the gauge per inch. This gives me an idea of how many stitches should be in each part. Then you need to start working out how many stitches difference there are between each section and how much distance there is for the pattern to increase or decrease enough.
Now there needs to be some understanding of how many stitches are needed to make complete repeats of any patterns you are including and to make the increases and decreases work out.
I follow the instructions I remember from grade 11 physics – assign variables to all the values you need to know and write down all the values you do know and just start deriving variables until you get all the variables you need.
To give you an idea of what I mean, here is my spreadsheet with my calculations for Josephine:
I confess I knit from a spreadsheet and write everything out in a way others can understand it only later. I use formulated cells in Excel in all my calculations too, because I love algebra, not arithmetic.
Of course you could just knit gloves on double pointed needles. Life would be more simple if everyone did things the same way, but not everyone likes dpn, and sometimes you want to try something different, just because you can.
These gloves are knit on straight needles in double knitting, so there are no seams either. They require the same amount of making up that gloves on dpn: just weave in ends.
11 inches [28cm] long (with cuff, without cuff 8 inches [20cm])
8 inches [20cm] around palm
Filatura Di Crosa New Malizioso [100% wool; 55yd/50m per 50g skein]; color: 4; 2 skeins
1 set US #9/5.5mm straight needles
10 sts / 15 rows over 4 inches [10cm]
I want to knit everything on straight needles — absolutely everything.
I knit gloves on straight needles, see here and here. I also knit sweaters on straight needles, see here and the new issue of Magknits coming out in March. I also knit hats on straight needles, but that is a little less extraordinary, see here and here.
I partly dislike circulars and partly it just seems fun to do it that way.
I am so excited about my next pattern, which I will be posting this weekend if all goes well. I have a new (though perhaps unvented as opposed invented) way of making gloves on two needles, so I hope you will check back.
Here is a sneak preview.
Gloves on two needles never look like anything special when you are knitting them, then the metamorphose into something right.
I have come up with another method for swatchless knitting.
Debbie New has a few in her book Unexpected Knitting. They include knitting on the bias and adding stitches each side, like knitted dishcloths. At this point, I should say that I am only talking in a theoretical way at this point as I have never knit anything as practical as a dishcloth. This way you knit a piece with a right angle and then when your sides are as long as the shortest side, you start decreasing at the same rate, if you want it to be rectangular, you continue increasing on one side and decrease on the other.
She calls her other method log cabin knitting, and she casts on a few stitches knit a few rows, binds off, and picks up more stitches off one of the sides, knits a few rows, binds off, repeats. This can make a square or I suppose whatever rectangular shape you want, like a log cabin quilt.
I imagine Debbie New as the most fun person in the whole world to have in a knitting group.
Her ideas are great, but I have formulated another way, though it really only works when you design your own patterns.
My method was inspired by Norah Gaughan’s Roundabout Leaf Tank from Knitting Nature. In it, you start with a strip of knitting and knit long enough to go around your hips then you start knitting it together with the beginning of the strip in a spiral making up the body of the sweater.
What I figured, was that you could just cast on some stitches and start knitting without making a swatch, because you could measure your gauge from your first piece and work out your pattern for the whole garment. Then you cast on enough to make the other side of the front or back or enough to do the whole rest of whatever you are are knitting and at the end of your first row, start knitting your new piece together with your first piece.
The stitch I use to knit the two pieces together is as follows: work in pattern to last stitch of RS row, slip 1 with yarn in back, pick up and knit 1 stitch from the first row of other piece, pass slipped stitch over, turn, slip 1 stitch with yarn in front, knit to end. This stitch works when picking up from the left edge of the right side of knitting; I have figured out how to do it on the left edge of the wrong side, but it is more convoluted.
If you would like to knit a design I knit this way, please see my Morse code vest.
Now that you think you have enough yarn and know your gauge, and I hope you did a good size swatch to judge texture and colour as well as gauge. We need to decide how you want to construct the coat. I am sure the original was constructed quite simply: worked in garter stitch in one piece to the arm holes then the sleeves worked separately and sewn on at the end. This is easy enough to do, and if you decide to do it this way, I would suggest a good technical design book, such as the Vogue knitting: the ultimate knitting book, I love this book, and I really wish I had my own, but instead I monopolize the library’s copy.
If you go this way, then my advice is likely of little use to you. Other writers have made it all quite clear in other places. I however would like to suggest a slightly different way . . .
Please bear with me here, what I would suggest is constructing the coat in one piece from the top. This has several things to recommend it: most importantly you won’t run out of yarn before you finish the second half of the last sleeve. Perhaps it is just my bias, and there are ways to measure how much yarn you need: e.g. work a square of a set size, such as one foot square, weigh it on a good scale and divide it to get the weight per square inch and multiply it by the number of square inches you have worked out your sweater will be, but I never do this, and working from the top means you can just continue until you are happy with it or you run out of yarn.
I would cast on for the little mandarin collar, then cast off and pick up the number of stitches to start the yoke, you could have a random increase of stitches and have a round yoke, make raglan shaping or work out a different shape and increase for the sleeve it in a line where the sleeve seam would be. I haven’t worked out exactly how this last option would work, but I think it could and it would minimize the difference between the shape of your sweater and the original.