Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Seams the Neatby Way & A New Project

Nobody likes seaming, do they? But I did almost enjoy using mattress stitch for the sides of Tangerine Alef - I did as Lucy Neatby said on her DVD. I carefully examined the edge stitch, making sure I had a full stitch, and I carefully went under every bar. Ahh! Pause for big sigh of satisfaction. Beautiful seams, really, truly, honestly beautiful seams, even in tangerine acrylic.

Have nothing to do with those books that tell you to do mattress stitch every few bars - do it Lucy's way. One stitch per bar gives a perfect result, and it doesn't take very much longer at all.

The next job is sewing on the button bands - as yet I don't have a DVD by Lucy Neatby to help me through the process. I got out an instruction book, but the rinky-dink diagram for overcasting made my head ache, so I didn't do any more seaming. I made a swatch for my next project instead - Norah Gaughn's wonderful U-necked Turbulence sweater.
The test yarn is Paton's Laguna- pure cotton double knit. I'm not sure of the vintage. It was a charity shop special @ £1.99 for 10 balls. I suspect the yardage might be a bit mingy, so I'm going to do the back, then the front, then divide what's left in half for what might be rather short sleeves. The real garment is going to be knit in some delicious dark purple Jaeger that I got in a sale - the extra fine merino has been discontinued now, but handling it is like stroking kittens (as the wonderful Yarn Harlot would say). What I do know now (thanks to Lucy) is that it is a single ply yarn, and it will bias, which might cause problems.
Even without potential bias trouble, I know better than to launch into even a simple looking pattern in the 'real' yarn. There are so many, many ways I can mess up a jumper - and the merino is fragile. It doesn't like being messed with (I'll tell you sometime how I discovered this, the hard way, naturally), so, on with the test garment.
I'm knitting it on 3 mm needles. This gives a slightly small gauge - but it's a style that will look OK with some negative ease, my knitting tends to expand, and cotton stretches, so I think it will work out OK.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Sleeve Frustration

The good news is that I finished both sleeves.

The bad news is that they don't match. The tension on the second sleeve is bigger, so it's bigger all over, and floppy looking

The good news is that the second one is neater than the first one, which is what I set out to achieve.

I am not going to frog and reknit- not a test garment. Not orange acrylic. But oh wiffle and spot! How annoying!!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Dream On!

I took this book back to the library today - it does have some glorious knitting in it, but I won't be buying it for about ten years, because that's how long it will take me to get good enough to be able to use it. The garments are beautifully constructed, and the patterns are a joy BUT the styles are, well, let's just say they do nothing for a short round person like me! I'd love to be able to take the fabulous knitting elements from this book (wonderful trims and details: you should see how the patterns match up under the arms! Perfection) but use them in flattering and fashionable styles - those knitted French-style jackets I'm always hankering after, for example. It's beyond my skills at the moment.

I've finished one sleeve and up to the arm of the second sleeve of Alef. The knitting is vile! It's so hard to knit on the very tips of four needles and keep it all even! The stocking stitch is knit on size 5 mm. I bought a 30 cm Addi, and it's maybe a bit too chunky for knitting such a small tube. It seems awkward to knit with, somehow, in a way the smaller 30 cm needles didn't. I tried hard to make the second sleeve neater, but with such a tiny improvement that it is depressing! It all adds up though. Keep knitting!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

It's From a Sheep All Right!

I spent last night playing with the new cream yarn - still knitting various samples to see what it will do. I think that by holding three strands together, it will make a pretty good double knit - the row tension isn't quite right, but maybe I could get my head around the math and compensate for it - it will only be test garments after all.

Then I wondered about using 9 or 10 strands together. I have a couple of cute jacket patterns for very thick wool and 8 MM needles (and yes, I know what you are thinking, but they really are cute jackets - which takes some designing skill, right?)

The swatch survived hand washing OK, and the house filled with the redolent smell of a sheep on a wet hillside proving that it is indeed real wool. Next I threw it in the washing machine and it came out improved - softer, fluffier and neater. I've read that coned wool softens as it's washed.

Anyway, if I want to sew up my Tangerine Nightmare this weekend, I'll have to leave the new yarn for now and get on with the sleeve - it takes me at least three good knitting sessions to do a sleeve, and there's no saying I'll actually get them, life being what it is!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Awful Alef

Here's a photo that both depresses and cheers me up. Depresses because it's so unutterably awful - (look at my face! Did you ever see such a thoroughly fed-up knitter?). The good side is that looking at the above mess, there is no doubt that I'm improving! There's at least twenty things wrong with that Alef. It's the first one I made after a break of 20 years or so. I had to give up knitting because I needed two pairs of glasses, one for watching TV and one for knitting - impossible, and I'm not really a radio person so I gave up knitting. Then I got wonderful varifocal lenses. It's over £300 for the lenses (not the frames, that's extra!) but oh, is it worth it. It's like having eyes again! I can read maps, look at labels in shops, well, I won't go on, there are many convenient uses for eyes. And then, in February 2006, I suddenly remembered how much I like to knit. So, I went to the local yarn store, bought the current Rowan book and some yarn and launched in - with the above result.
I don't think I ever was a very good knitter - 80s garments had a lot of slack in them! I also knit a lot of ethnic type jumpers, which again don't call for a lot of technique. I used a lot of colours as well, which hid a multitude of sins. I must dig out some old photos - everyone I knew got one of my jumpers. It never occur ed to me to wonder how much they appreciated them! Old sweaters had a second life because they'd go to the local hippies. I went away to Japan for five years and when I came back I saw a couple of my jumpers still walking around the street or drinking beer in the pub.
I spent all night knitting tension squares, so Tangerine Nightmare took a holiday last night. I will do the grafting and sew it up this weekend, because we're at home. It would be nice to finish the last sleeve (still at 6 rows) this week.
I think the big cones are 2-ply anyway. I tried knitting with various needles and numbers of strands last night, but although 2 strands held together gives the right number of stitches for 4-ply, and 3 strands held together gives the right number of stitches for double knit, the row tension seems off, there's always too many rows - I wonder if that's because of the two strands? I think I've noticed this before with trying to get tension with my various bargain cones. Vintage Vogue books have glorious garments in 2-ply and 3-ply yarn, but where would I ever get the time?

If I don't have time to knit with 2-ply, and I can't get the tension for double knit and 4-ply patterns, does this mean I should stop stashing cones? Probably, but I don't think I can! Not when I see all that yarn for so little money!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Could You Have Resisted These Cones?

Honestly? When they cost only three pounds? We were away this weekend so I knitted about six rows, and bought enough yarn to keep me busy for about six years! Why do knitters need a stash? Thank goodness for the Internet - at least I know I'm not the only hoarder around.

The cream cone weighs 1500g, and it burns brightly, leaving a residue that crumbles when you rub it, so I think it may be wool. The pink/beige cone weights 760g and feels much softer. It too burns, but when the flame goes out, it leaves a sticky lump behind that won't crumble, so I think it may be artificial.

It's so thin! I do have patterns for Shetland 2-ply garments and vintage 3-ply garments (I love 50s styles) or it might work if I knit with two strands held together - to get double knitting - that would be the best option because there's lots of practice garments I want to make. I'd need more time to knit than I have now (six rows over a weekend!) to embark on anything in fine yarn. And then, what if it didn't fit after all that effort?

I couldn't get into Blogger on Friday because all my settings changed after I unwisely let the computer install the updates it's been asking for for weeks. I couldn't find anything, nothing worked...Bah! I hadn't taken a picture anyway, because I haven't figured out how to do real good close ups that demonstrate what you want to show, but I would have said how poor the knitting on the first sleeve for the Tangerine Nightmare was.

If you want to knit beautifully, Lucy Neatby has you form the stitches at the very tips of the needles, so that when you have two needles in one stitch, it's only the tapered ends that go in, adding up to no more than one needle at any one time, so the stitch never gets stretched. She demonstrated the way I used to knit, cramming the whole needle in at any old angle next to the other needle, so there are two needles rammed into a single stitch and called it stitch abuse!

I knit her way for the body of the garment, and it is a huge improvement - my tension stays much more even as well, and that has to be a bonus. But, when it came to four needles and a circular for the sleeve, I must have gotten excited and forgotten her rules (and no purl to bother about either!) How messy it looked, even with mohair hiding many sins. I'm not frogging. No way, not tangerine acrylic mohair, but I am going to knit the second sleeve beautifully. Watch this space!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Stash Grows!

Couldn't resist this cotton glace from the hospice shop, even though two of the balls had been used. It was only £1.50 for 4 balls, and Rowan is such lovely quality that it should be worth the washing and rewinding. Four balls probably isn't enough for an item, but it's the right colourway for my ongoing Poppies project.

I have lots of failed attempts at Poppies, that I'll photograph one day - but basically I've come up with the idea of a French-style jacket (you know who I mean even if we're not supposed to use the brand name) in Kafee Fassett's good old Persian Poppies pattern. I love Kafee's fabrics, but his designs don't suit me. I disovered this by spending nearly a year knitting the Turkish Carnation jacket - it looked wonderful spread out on the bed or on a chair, but it turned me into a hippie garden gnome. I'd say you need to be a minimum of six foot high to wear any of Kafee's designs, so, I'm using Jean Frost's basic jacket - at least that's the idea.

I had about four goes at it before I gave up. I had lots of trouble with tension (this is before I discovered Lucy Neatby) and also, my matchy-matchy me didn't like the range of colours that I started with. Some people liked the mad peasant look of throwing every colour of the rainbow in, but I want more colours that are closer in tone. I haven't bought any new colours for ages, so today's cotton was a welcome find.

The buttons are real shell (60p worth) There are two small, four medium and four large. The large ones are not right for Tangerine Dream - too bright. I chose the brown buttons you can see on yesterday's picture before the lacy bits went on, and now I'm not so sure about them. There isn't anything else suitable in my stash, and even if it gets finished, I'm not sure the Tangerine Dream warrants a trip to Duttons for Buttons for special matching!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Lace Trim Ready to Graft, Captain

So there's a purl strip and a knit strip nearly ready to graft. I think it needs one more repeat on the knit strip so that it fits properly. I'm going to wait until the weekend to do the grafting. I need daylight and time to concentrate.
I found that by using a lace book, the trim knitted up real quick. The system I've ended up with at this point is to use the labels template in Word. On each label I write the number of the row, the stitches to knit, and the number of stitches there should be at the end of the row. I did use a row counter with the print out at first, but it's quicker to use a small coin and just push it along as each row is finished. It acts as a place marker as well.
Sleeves, next. I think I'll knit them in the round, because there's going to be quite enough sewing up to do as it is.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Good Enough

This is a sweater I made for a friend's little boy. I'd never knitted with cotton before, and I made it before even knowing about Lucy Neatby's DVD on intarsia so I'm sure it would be neater if I bought the DVD and made it, but for whatever reason it turned out OK. Lots of mistakes and faults if you look closely, but overall, perhaps because of Louisa Harding's great pattern or Rowan's lovely cotton yarn, it turned out good enough.

And so, finally, have the collar/lapel/button bands on my tangerine practice Alef. At last I can move on. I've been struggling with them and re-knitting them for so long I was surprised to have reached this point!

Last night I started the lace trim for the bottom edge of the garment. It's going to be another challenge. In the finished original, I didn't like the fact that the left side looks different from the right at the front - the edges are quite different and my matchy-matchy streak just hates that. I emailed Rowan for help, and wonderful Rowan, they replied. I'm not exactly doing what they said, but they gave me the idea: knit one bit of the lace trim in purl and one bit in lace, then graft the two edges together. That way the lace band will have two similar edges at the opening.

Lucy Neatby shows a great way to graft: knit extra rows in slippy contrast fabric, then you can join the graft with your sewing needle by following the path of the waste yarn. I can't wait to try it!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Little Things Make a Big Difference

No wonder knitting is so hard. I suddenly wondered if the lapel would look better if I left the last stitch on the other side of the lapel loose. It didn't work, but look how much bigger that side is? It flips more as well.

Made a pair that are loose on the increase side only. I actually assembled all the lace in the right order and knitted up a button band, only to find that I'd made a mess of the band this time. First I did the knitting too loose, then I messed up the number of rows (the pattern instructions are for a two-row buttonhole and this is a one-row buttonhole) so that I tried to do Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn cast off on the wrong side AND on top of that I started doing the cast off wrong. And then I found little holes on each side of the buttonhole. I can't be wrapping the yarn properly. Got out a pair of scissors and hacked it all back. One day, I'll get the hang of it!

But I am starting to think that I might have to make yet another test before I approach the Classic Kid yarn with any confidence.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Late Night Knitting

Sore, aren't they?
  1. One set of lace strips must have been assembled upside down. They can't both be right, seeing as they are different! The left one is even different on the same lapel. It had been a long day, that's all I can say.
  2. The lapels are different sizes - that's because I used a different technique for each one. The larger lapel was knitted on the same size needles, but working loose at the edges, the smaller one, was knitted changing to big needles at the edge. It's not loose enough. It flips horribly, so that needs reknitting.
  3. The bands look different - that's because I used the Elizabeth Zimmerman sewn cast off on the one that looks smaller. It looks neater, and I like it better, but I was kind of forgetting that the two sides should match.
  4. I forgot to do the chain edge on the left-hand side - I think the bottom edge will look better and the top edges will sew better if there are no garter stitch bumps in the way.
  5. The good news is that the buttonholes went OK, eventually!

I'm going to make an instruction sheet and start again from scratch. Hopefully they'll be done by Friday.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Alef Collar Version 35

Well, that's what it feels like. As well as all the attempts I've had at the garment, I used up a whole ball of pink acrylic trying to make a lapel that wouldn't flip up - the room was covered with little pink tongues of knitting. I wish now I'd photographed them all.

Then I emailed Rowan for advice - and good for them, they replied. Rowan suggested doing the increase by knitting into the front and the back of a stitch, and doing it two stitches from the edge. This worked better than anything I had been doing, but it still wasn't right. The lapel still wanted to flip up. Rowan also suggested adding a stitch to hold it in place - but there must be a way to get the knitting to lie flat.

Of course, Lucy Neatby knows - she draws a diagram to show how the edge stitches get stretched and 'unhappy' when you shape them. She also drops in that it's something to do with isosceles triangles, but anyway, what you have to do is 'be kind' to the edge stitches, because increasing along the bottom of the lapel means they have to stretch further - that's why they go tight. I made one lapel by using a bigger needle at the edge, which was fiddly and still a bit tight, so the second one I kept the same needle and tried to knit with loose yarn on the last 6 stitches and that seemed to help.

Now to learn Lucy's buttonhole for the other side.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Would You Spend One Whole Hour Blocking Tangerine Acrylic?

No, I thought not. But I am learning to how to block more than trying to improve artificial yarn - I find the measuring and getting it square very hard - left to myself I produce parallelograms. luckily Andy was around this morning and he helped me again - he might have to go through it ten times, but I'll get it eventually.

It's come out exactly the right size, which is a bit of a mystery because when I did my tension square I got 1 stitch and 1 row too many, but decided I didn't care. In the past, my Alefs have turned out too large, so I'm obviously doing something wrong.
I've already knitted up the shoulders - I did it Lucy Neatby's way. If like me, you struggle to knit off shoulders, use a double-pointed needle to do the three-needle bind off and you can do it in two easy stages - first knit the two shoulders together, then go back and bind off the row of stitches. It's so perfect, so easy, so Lucy.

Friday, 5 September 2008

No Time To Knit

Yesterday I never got to pick up my needles. What a shame! At lunch time I sat in my comfy chair for five blissful minutes, watching the blue-tits on the bird feeder (I think the rain is making them grumpy; they seemed to be arguing!) and wished I could spend a quiet afternoon knitting and looking out of the window. Then, as I put on my office clothes, jumped into my very own car and drove independently to work, I reflected on all those women who longed to get out of the house and play in the world. Ironic, isn't it?

Modern life is way, way, better. I'd never wish to go back. Knitting to support the family must have been absolutely gruesome! As Mark Twain says, 'Work is anything a body HAS to do,' but all kudos to those clever knitters like the Yarn Harlot and Eunny Jang who make a living from knitting.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

How I Stopped Abusing my Stitches

Like any criminal, I didn't realise that what I was doing was wrong. Not until Lucy Neatby held up a piece of knitting and viciously thrust a whole needle into one stitch to demonstrate how this irretrievably stretched and damaged the stitch. 'It hurts,' she said severely. 'Don't do it!'

Fellow knitters - I have seen the light! I am saved!

I put away my wip (Alef in lovely Rowan yarn) bought £2 worth of Tangerine mohair from the charity shop and launched into knitting the new way. It was like learning to knit all over again. Needles clattered to the floor on a regular basis as I tried to work only at the tips of the needles. It seemed impossible for about a week, but finally, I'm getting the hang of it. And yes, my knitting looks neater. The stitches are more regular and best of all, I no longer hurt my knitting.

I finished the back of the Tangerine Nightmare (whatever happened to Tangerine Dream? Does anyone remember that band?) last night and began the second front. I forgot to change one needle after finishing the garter rib, so there's a tight spot on the bottom 5 rows of stocking stitch. I'm not frogging and reknitting acrylic yarn so it will have to do!

I have been getting out both needles, when I need to change sizes, and putting the second one on top of the row counter so that when I finish the first row and go to change the counter I think: What's this needle doing here? Oh, yes. I'm supposed to be changing sizes from ribbing needles to stocking stitch needles (you can tell I go college, right) Thing is, it sounds so simple but it does work! Because I didn't do it last night, and so I ended up with 5 tight rows because I didn't notice the difference between one fat needle with a red end marked '5' and a thinner needle with a black end marked '4'.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The Royal We

The Royal Wool Winder and me, that is. We are now a perfect partnership. It's a truly wonderful gismo from Japan that winds up your yarn into a soft, perfectly tensioned cone that sits neatly on the floor.

I have Lucy Neatby to thank for my new wool winder as well. This vintage Royal was sitting on a shelf at my local charity shop in a box marked 'sold as seen. £1' . I peeped into the box, but I had no idea what it was or how you used it. So I left it on the shelf. A few days later I reached the bit in Lucy's DVD where she shows you how to use a niddy noddy, a swift and a BALL WINDER!! Oh my gosh, so that's what they are! I managed to detour back to the shop on the way to work the next day and it was still there. What a delight!

There were no instructions, and anything with a Krypton factor does my head in, but Andy figured it out and helped me set it up. What a great gadget. The little ball it makes sits quietly on the floor, calmly unravelling from the centre. No more stopping to tug and pull at the ball because the yarn's gone tight. No more stopping to untangle the yarn from around a chair leg. And perhaps most importantly, no more yarn bouncing around the floor getting grubby. The way an ordinary ball runs around the floor when you knit was bothering me. After all, would you buy a new jumper and rub it over the floor? Problem solved! Last night I wound all the yarn for the Tangerine Nightmare.
It makes me wonder how many other wonderful things I leave on the shelf because I don't know what they are or how to use them. Thank goodness for gurus like Lucy.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

You Spent How Much?

I'm too embarrassed to tell you how much exactly, but to put it into proportion, it was more than my disposable income for the month. That means that instead of petrol, lunch, going out or buying anything at all, I bought Lucy Neatby DVDs instead. I had to have them. All. Now!

I ordered Knitting Essentials One, to see if Lucy was any good, and within the first few minutes I was blown away. I was casting on wrong. Casting on!! How basic is that? I was doing the cable cast on wrong. I was doing the long-tail cast on wrong. No wonder I was struggling to produce good results. I was doing EVERYTHING wrong. So I made my Internet yarn store happy by sending off for Knitting Essentials Two, Finesse Your Knitting One, and Knitting Gems One, Two, Three and Four. Yes, all at once. That's a lot of knitting instruction, but I need to know how to knit.

Lucy Neatby has a pleasant, calm voice and the DVDs show her hands working against a black background and give you a knitter's eye view. No fuss, no mess, no tricks. They are wonderful if you want to learn how to knit. But for me, it was traumatic viewing first time around.
  • Lucy sets the tone by demonstrating the right way to deal with the last piece of yarn and then by demonstrating the way I do it and saying: 'Now promise me you'll never do this again!'
  • Lucy raises the embarrassing topic of stitch abuse. Oh no! I am a stitch abuser! No wonder my poor knitting looked so ragged.
  • Lucy mentions the 'unpleasantness' that results from certain knitting habits. You'll have guessed by now that those habits were all mine.
  • Lucy mentions the 'junk' that hangs from knitting like mine and promises that 'you'll feel so much better' if you tidy it up her way.
  • Lucy explains why the type of yarn I've just bought is so difficult to work with.
  • Lucy demonstrates her way of doing mattress stitch, and then mine, saying, 'you'll see that the result isn't quite so neat if you do it this way.'

You can see that she has a dry sense of humour. It softens the pain of realising just how wrong you can go when learning to knit from diagrams. There's nothing like seeing the yarn actually move over the needles to help you understand how the stitches should be formed. From now on, I do it Lucy's way. It will be interesting to see how the Tangerine Nightmare turns out. But if it's a disaster, it won't be Lucy's fault. It'll be mine!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Tangerine Nightmare

This is the fourth time I've tried to knit Alef by Leah Sutton (Rowan Magazine 40). I have to succeed, because I bought the lovely Rowan Classic Kid yarn in cream. And the buttons. Do you know how much Rowan yarn costs? Exactly. I'll learn to knit or, well, there is no or. I'm going to learn to knit! Here's how I got to the frame of mind where knitting with Spanish tangerine acrylic yarn seems like a sensible thing to do.

  1. Feb 2006. I buy yarn, and the magazine, oh, and the buttons (you could buy a winter coat in Primark for what those buttons cost) and set off knitting. I sew it all up. I try it on. I burst into tears. Frog entire thing.

  2. I carry on knitting. Nothing works. I don't know why. I read blogs. I buy books. How hard can this knitting be?

  3. Feb 2007. I must be able to knit by now. I reknit a practice Alef in brown acrylic yarn. I sew it all up. I try it on. This time I don't burst into tears because I was kind of expecting trouble. My DH gets to carry the soft pile of disastrous knitting to the rubbish bin in the yard outside. It looks horribly like a pet going to the vet. I wave it goodbye.

  4. I carry on knitting. I read more blogs. I buy more books. I knit miles of practice knitting. Surely I can knit by now?

  5. September 2007. I make another practice Alef in peach acrylic yarn. I've learnt a lot. I get cocky. I make all kinds of alterations. I sew it up. I heave a deep sigh. Realise that I am now so hardened that I can throw my own rejects into the bin. I think this counts as knitting progress.

  6. I carry on knitting. I discover Lucy Neatby. I spend all my money on her DVDs. I find the tangerine yarn. I must be able to knit by now....

  7. I'll let you know how it goes