Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Patons Diploma Gold Aran Review

What do I think of knitting with Patons Diploma Gold Aran? Well, yes and no and mainly no. It is perfect for this project - for one thing, it belongs to the pattern, so I don't have to struggle with substitution maths and all that jazz. It also promises to wash like a dream, in a machine, and even tumble dry if you like. This is perfect for the recipient. Hand washing would be too much for m-i-l, so it has to be machine washable. The yarn is made from 55% wool, 25% acrylic and 20% nylon. There are 164M/180 yards per 100g ball, and it was just over £4 per ball.

My feeling is that the reason I'm not keen on Patons Diploma Aran Gold is that it has been treated to within an inch of its life in order to be so durable, so it's got none of the features that make wool so lovely to knit with. It is flat, dead, almost like cotton to handle. Having said that, I have enjoyed knitting with springy acrylics such as the first shrug was made from, so it's not so much the fibre it's made from as the treatment to toughen it that's probably caused the problem. The other thing I don't like is how splitty it is! Because there is no spring in the yarn, and all the fibres of each ply of the three are perfectly smooth, if you do split a stitch then it goes into a horrid fluff which will not mend. As soon as you drop a stitch or fumble, the yarn splits. Once split, it's messy for ever. Not good for a hamfisted knitter like me.

The yarn comes in four colours, so I'm told, I haven't seen the others, but you can get it in dark blue, cherry, cream and the one above, neutral. In the photo in the magazine, it looked to be a kind of yellow wheat neutral, but when it arrived it looked more like the photo above, a kind of pink stone neutral. I hope m-i-l likes the colour.

Because I needed a machine washable garment, and it went with the pattern, then Diploma Gold is good for this project, but I wouldn't buy it again. If the recipient could manage hand washing, then I'd get some natural Aran from a small farm in the isles, which I saw on the Internet. If it had to be tough, I'd get Robin or something like that - Aldi have huge balls of Aran sometimes as well.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Cabling on a Train

Now I think I'm entitled to say I can cable without a needle. I had to go to Preston for a training course today - that's 1 hour and 10 minutes knitting each way. Should I take a needle? No, let's pack a crotchet hook and see what happens. You know what? I didn't drop a single stitch. I can now officially cable without a needle.

What's made the difference is holding the stitch. With yarn this smooth, the stitches just weren't staying in place, they unravelled pretty much every time. What I do now is pull them off the needle, hold them in my fingers, work the other stitches and pop them back on the needle. It felt awkward at first, because I had to work the other stitches with my hands in an odd position, but it's coming easily now and it's wonderful - quicker than using a needle, not so frustrating as leaving the stitch to drop.

I finally worked up courage to put a tape measure over the back - it's a bit bigger than 42". I'm knitting the 42" size and, although the pattern doesn't give you a schematic (which I hate! Why not tell me exactly how many inches that piece should measure?) I think the bit extra will be the ease so I'm hoping it will fit.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Unravel and Fix

This is the back of the jacket. I cast on, three times, and kept going wrong. Finally got going once I realised that what had confused me is the fact that I'm used to working the Aran patterns on the front of the garment and simply knitting or purling all the stitches as they present themselves on the back of the garment. This baby has blackberry stitch panels, which you work on the back of the garment. Very tricky! I'd change to do a panel, then carry on working cables or whatever on the wrong side. What a mess! I've mostly got the hang of it now, though.

See the lovely ladder? That's the most I've ever unravelled, but I'd made a mistake far too many inches down to even think of going back and frogging it. Several of the panels had 4 purl stitches separating them. You decrease in three places over the first 10" or so, in order for the back to nip in towards the waist. Good idea. But, two of the panels are moss stitch, and when it got down to the last two purl stitches, I got confused and took them into the moss stitch. Holding my breath, I unravelled down and redid it properly - it worked lovely! Rather to my surprise!

Mistakes in blackberry stitch on the other hand are a nightmare and not recoverable. Well, not by me, anyway! I've made a couple, but after trying to fix the first one and realising it couldn't be done, I've simply left them. (They can't be done because you knit three stitches into one stitch, which is a lot of twisting and arranging, then on the next row, knit all those three stitches together. Which is a lot more twisting and arranging. To undo one stitch then, instantly involves you in a tangle of six stitches. Live with it, or undo the lot!)

Cabling without a needle is not going any better! I have developed the habit now, which is quicker than stopping to pick up a needle, of holding the stitches with my fingers in a certain position depending on the cable twist. Pulling one purl stitch behind two knit stitches has a different tension to twisting two knit stitches over two knit stitches. One or two twists seem to work OK, because working the next stitch doesn't automatically pull the yarn out of the loop, but most of them come undone, at once, unless I hold them tight. This yarn is particularly smooth, which doesn't help. But I think if I were going to get the hang of it, I would have mastered it by now. I will stick with my hybrid method though, because it's quicker.

I have finally finished my degree - which was keeping me too busy to post about knitting. HURRAY! As a treat, I sent off for Elizabeth Zimmerman's knitting workshop.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Sleeve Progress

When I started the second sleeve, I found the instructions for the line up the centre of the sleeve. It was me being thick, as usual. Sigh. I am still cabling without a needle, but it isn't going any better as yet. I will not give up. If other people can do it, then I can do it. It just takes me longer, that's all.

I frogged my first attempt at the raglan sleeve - I thought the right side of the cable looked sore where it hit the raglan. I made the cables twist the other way on that side, so they kind of slide into the raglan edging rather than hitting it in a lump. At this moment, I think it looks better, but I hope I haven't made trouble for myself further along the line.

Protocosy is a big success. The recipient does not want a 'proper' version in sexy Rowan yarn. He likes Protocosy exactly as it is. Basking in unusual glow of knitting with a successful outcome.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Duttons for Buttons

Would you believe that we went all the way to Ilkely for a button? For one, single, solitary button?

Of course, there's other shopping, tea at Betty's and a walk on the moors, but yes, basically. I went to Ilkely for a button.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Country Casuals and no Cable Needle

Some of the twists are going OK without a needle now - but some of them I'm still finding hard. There is one where you put a purl stitch behind the work - so I can't hold it down with a finger, and that one escapes occasionally, and then there's a row where you cable four, that's two in front, knit two, then knit the two off the needle, or from the space in front of the work. That one is hard as well. I think it must be the way the yarn runs to make the next stitch that makes the difference. Anyway, I'm determined to continue practising. I've just about reached the point where it is probably quicker (not tested this theory, mind you) to work without a needle and spend ages catching the occasional escapee, than it is to stop at every twist and reach for the needle.

This is going to be a long, slow knit.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Aran Yarn Arrived!

I don't have a teapot, so here's a picture of the tea cosy draped around a lamp.
The new yarn came quickly! It looks stone, rather than wheat-coloured in reality, but m-i-l has cool colouring so it'll look fine. nice big exciting parcel, but packed by a smoker, alas!

I struggled to begin the pattern, despite doing a test swatch and writing out the instructions before I started, I kept coming out two stitches wrong. I hunted on the Internet for 'People's Friend Country Casuals Patons Diploma Aran Errata' and all variations upon, but couldn't find any notes at all. The mail order chappie said (in a fruity Essex accent) that he'd sold at least 50 packs of the yarn since that pattern came out (People's Friend issue 7250 dated January 17 2009)but I guess they are all non-blogging knitters. Expert, non-blogging knitters, so they knew what to do!

Eventually I realised that the two missing stitches were the ones that should be a line of two knits running down in between the cable pattern. Once I'd added them (although I still can't find the bit in the pattern that tells you to do that) everything made sense and I was off.

I'm trying to cable without a needle, and mostly managing it now - although the crotchet hook has to stay close for the escape attempts. It's harder on Diploma Aran because it's a very smooth yarn. The vintage Aran was fuzzy and the stitches clung to one another, making me think I was getting the hang of it - I wasn't!

Because one can't email small knitted objects, I'm sending my test or prototype teapot cosy (now known as PROTOCOSY) to friend in the post.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Heave Ho!

I started trying to frog Cloud 3 and gave up after half an hour. I couldn't undo the seams so I cut off the buttons and put the whole thing in the bin.

Then I threw away my third attempt at the Aran shrug - the one made by knitting together four strands from a cone of 2-ply wool. It looked rubbish. I won't do that again. (One strand with another yarn can look OK, though.)

I would have thrown away the garter stitch jacket I made such a mess off as well, being in a kind of bury your mistakes mood, but we are decorating so I couldn't get into the cupboard.

Then I got out the yarn I'm collecting for a Ralph Lauren ski sweater. I keep picking up odds and ends of brown and orange yarn, and I still don't have enough! I pulled back my first attempt. I'd done a back and a sleeve which were wrong in so MANY ways. I did these before my Lucy Neatby DVD's arrived, and I can see that I'm improving. I threw away all the small lengths of yarn. I did keep the brown background colour. I can wash the wrinkles out of it if I need it to finish the garment.

Ended up with two piles of yarn and realised that they fell into warm and cool colours. The reason I don't have enough for one jumper is that I only like the cools together and the warms together. They don't look right mixed. Put it all away. Will carry on collecting odd balls. One day I'll have enough!

Then I finished a tea cosy in mistake rib. The teapot lives 30 miles away, so it's a test item in an odd ball of brown tweed. Mistake rib is lovely. It would make a good man's sweater.