Thursday, 28 May 2009

A Shrug with no Sleeves

The Debbie Bliss Shrug is going well. Too well. I'm waiting for disaster! If I have a worry, it's that it will be too big. The opening for the armholes seems rather large.

I did short-rows for the shoulders and my first attempt was a disaster. Ended up cutting it out with tangles of wool everywhere. Then I did what I should have done in the first place - got Lucy Neatby's DVD off the shelf and reviewed how to do it. Easy! Two beautiful, neat shoulders in no time at all. I won't even try to explain how to do it - but if you knit garments with shoulders, it is so worth learning how. There are plenty of books that show you and some good tutorials on the Internet, but I didn't get it until I actually saw it on a DVD.

And the refresher on Japanese short rows came in useful because the trim has short rows at the neck, and they were no trouble at all. There's nearly 400 stitches in that edging, but it went easily enough. The pattern says to do it in two pieces, but I think that's so you have an edge to count to and don't get confused doing the neck shaping. I cast on all the stitches and put markers at the bottom, telling myself that nothing in between the markers existed. That worked fine, and was worth it because then there's two less seams to bother about.

This is a lovely pattern. I like the shaping very much. Being small and roundish, anything that drapes or is chunky makes me look like a teapot. Shaping is so much more flattering. Even if the armscye is wrong on this one, I'll definitely make another. It's the kind of garment that will go perfectly with a summer dress.

We are going to see m-i-l this weekend, so I'll try the dreaded jacket on her and decide whether to knit it up a size smaller or send off for another ball of yarn.

Monday, 25 May 2009

How is Your Knitting Going?

The picture says it all! Actually, some of it is unravelling from the Ralph Lauren ski sweater, so it's not all from this project. I'm going to wet the yarn and hang it out to smooth and then rewind it because I'll need it for the sleeves of the shrug.

First I messed up the short rows and the shoulders - it's ages since I'd done them and I had forgotten how to do it. Finally I got it all neat and finished. DOH! the shaping was back to front - the shoulders had Japanese warrior wings sticking up the wrong way. Luckily I decided to try it for size before ripping. I'd measured the front from the wrong place - crystal clear once I had the bits in front of me but easy to miss from the pattern. I had measured both edges from the cast on to the armhole. I can hear the exasperated voice of many a boss, parent, and teacher shouting at me: 'Surely a moment's thought would have told you that the fronts are little curves and won't measure the same as the back?' Sadly, no. That moment's thought never seems to come to me. So I undid the front to where the armhole should have begun and started again. Good job it's a tiny project.

I am moving towards having a good idea about yarn. I'm tired of second hand yarn, but still don't feel confident about buying the fashion yarn - it's often around £90 for a garment and I'd feel awful if I messed it up. I don't like cheap new market or mill yarn, so what about sheep yarn? Straight from the farm big hanks of natural wool? I started researching. Some places put it into little balls with labels and charge accordingly, but it does seem possible. While I was hunting through various 'made on the farm' websites, I came across the wool festival in Cockermouth in Cumbria. Instantly begged Andy to take me there. We can go camping. It will be much better than trying to shop on the Internet. I can stroke the wool and see who's nice to deal with. It's not until the end of June, but I don't need any new yarn until then, because I'll be re knitting m-i-l's Jacket.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Debbie Bliss Shrug

Maybe something small might work out? I saw this pattern on the cover of a Debbie Bliss knitting book and nearly bought it, but there was nothing else that I'd make in the book, so economy and reason prevailed and I didn't buy it. What a treat to find the pattern for free on the Internet. You should always download things like this when you see them, I can't find it anymore. That doesn't mean it isn't there, of course, only that I can' t find it. So, instead of printing out an A3 size copy I got out the magnifying glass and wrote out the instructions in my knitting notebook.

This is what I'd call a bolero rather than a shrug, because it has shaping and set in sleeves - which is what I wanted. I've already made two mistakes, but I think they have cancelled each other out. The print is tiny, that's my excuse, but I read from the finished sizes rather than the 'to fit' column, so I'm actually knitting the size 38. I didn't do a tension square, reasoning that the item was so small that I could use the real thing as a swatch. I thought the fabric looked a bit open and floppy using the specified needle size, so I went down to 3.5 mm - which also meant I could use my lovely wooden needles. The tension is a little too small - but as I'm making a size bigger than I need, fingers crossed it all balances out.

It is, of course, a test garment. I had some brown wool double knit that I was going to use for the Ralph Lauren ski sweater but I need it now! If it works, then I want to make a either a cream or a green one for my new Rohan walking dress.

It's a quick knit. I did the back and began the front in two sessions.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Mary Quant Crotchet Dress Pattern

I don't suppose I shall ever be thin enough to wear a crotchet dress - but just in case I ever need one, I had to buy this pattern!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

You Could See This Coming, Couldn't You?

We bought a late deal to Cyprus and went away for a week. I spent a couple of hours running around looking for holiday knitting but nothing was ready and in the end I took the jacket with me, and I'm glad I did, because it was cool enough to knit in the evening and the second front is about done. BUT, I'm not happy with it. I'm not happy with the standard of the whole item.
1. I don't like all the dropped stitches on the sleeves where I was learning to cable without a needle.
2. Or the wobbles in the first six inches of blackberry stitch on the back where I was getting used to the pattern.
3. Or the messy decreasing on the back in blackberry stitch.
4. Or the misshapen decreasing on the front panels. I found the bit in the pattern where it tells you how to decrease nicely on my third attempt - I'd left out one of the plain panels that then decrease to nothing. Then I had to undo the right one to make it match the wrong one.
5. Then I found that I hadn't decreased the armhole correctly on the original front.
6. And then I found I didn't have enough yarn - probably because I've wasted so much on false starts and frogging.
7. And finally, a bit of light, I frogged my second start at the right front and wet the yarn to get the kinks out, and it handled beautifully. Soft and much nicer to knit with. So there was the ray of light - I can frog the whole thing and re knit it.

I'll leave it as is for now - will try on m-i-l to see how the size is - if it's correctly knit, I'll buy another ball of yarn. Even if the dye lot is not the same, I think if I knit the collar and cuffs from the new ball it should look OK - trims are often a different colour. And if it's too big, then I'll have enough yarn after all.

When I re knit it, I'm going to make the bottom as one piece, then put all the sleeves etc on one needle and make the raglans as one. That way, even if I make an error, at least it will match!

All that knitting!! Oh well. At least I now know that on no account much I launch into a new garment with the real wool. Test items first or suffer!

Monday, 11 May 2009

1969 Vogue

We went to the farmer's market at Settle on Sunday and then for a walk in the Yorkshire Dales - a bluebell wood even. How gorgeous is that? The charity shop is open as well, and being a country town, it has a knitting and craft section - sometimes it's a tangle of disappointing acrylic, but today I got a Vogue Knitting, an ounce of brown Rowan wool for my ski sweater and 5 brass buttons for 60p.

The right front of the Country Casuals jacket is finished. I was wondering what to do about blocking. It's lumpy enough to need it! But there's no schemata. In the end I got it wet, then laid it out on the blocking board. I nearly died - it spread to double the size. I kind of patted and scrunched it back to about where I thought it should be, and it stayed there. The wool went incredibly soft and stretchy when it was wet. Because I had no idea what size it should be, I didn't pin it. The wool stayed softer even when it was dry. I did the sleeves this morning.

Last night I began the left front (taking care to make sure it is a LEFT front). I am refining my technique. For this piece, I am making myself use continental knitting for the tricky bits as well. I've been doing continental (or picking) for the easy bits, then stopping and switching to English (or throwing) for the blackberry stitch and the cabling. I could get even faster if I could do continental all the way along. I think that by the top of the jacket I'll be comfortable with blackberry. It is fiddly, but after only a couple of inches I'm getting more comfortable with working it without switching hands. Holding the cable stitches and crossing them while keeping the yarn in my left hand is harder, much harder and so far I'm dropping stitches and splitting them again. However, I'll stick at it.

Funny, isn't it? I guess most people would see me knitting in my chair and think 'how dull' or 'how peaceful' depending on their worldview of knitting. They'd have no idea of the titanic struggles that are taking place!

In many ways I wish I'd made a test garment first - I'm not satisfied with the standard of this jacket. But, it was an experiment I would have to make at some point: what happens if I buy the pattern and the yarn and just knit it? I think the answer this time is going to be a finished, wearable garment, but one that's just too badly knit to please me. I need more practice, so that's more knitting from the stash (how I yearn for expensive yarn!) and more knitting from the DVD lessons. Maybe I need to make a pile of hets?

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Edging Error

Can you spot the mistake? I didn't see the first one until I'd gone too far past it to even think about frogging back. Then I cursed myself for the next 12". Then I did it again. What is it about knitting?

The mistakes are adding up at an alarming rate - but I'm not going back! It will be interesting to see if they kind of blend in to the finished item. Or if I'll curse it to Wolverhampton and back for evermore. The mistake, of course, is that the blackberry stitch panel is the centre join of the jacket and acts as the front band. So why, in the name of all that's wonderful, am I joining in yarn on that edge?

Also, I couldn't understand the pattern again. You decrease at the waistline. On the back, you knit in 4 extra panels and decrease those panels. Makes sense to me. If you look at the photo, you can see two panels running up the front that decrease. But they ask you to decrease 3 times. 2 panels. Three decreases. That's more decreases than extra panels. But I thought it would look so naff! I couldn't bear to do it. Have done one extra decrease on the two decreasing panels, and cast off 2 extra under arm. Looking at the picture now, I think maybe I should have done as the pattern said and decreased into the moss stitch. It probably would have blended in OK. Well, of course it would. Too late now. No going back. I've marked the decreases, anyway, so that I can match the other front.

Also, I see that I've got the moss stitch twisted here and there. Must be careful to consistently knit into back of knit stitches on right side - this is because I'm doing combination knitting - purling the Lucy Neatby way to keep my tension in order. Also (it goes on and on, doesn't it, this catalogue of errors?) I was absorbed in the TV last night (Six Degrees of Separation - fascinating maths models) and worked one row plain. I may live to regret this, but I didn't frog - I just moved two stitches on the next row.

Andy likes Durrow, so we'll look for some yarn for it.

Talking of yarn, I had a look on Ravelry for patterns that use Rowan's Classic Kid. (Alef, the cardigan I can't make continues to trouble me - as does the pile of frogged yarn and the three expensive buttons.) I also saw a new Alef. The knitter had omitted the triangle on the collar that I had so much trouble with, and it looked OK. I doubt if anyone would ever look at it and say, that collar's shy a triangle! So, I could make a simple shrug from a Kim Hargreaves book and use the buttons elsewhere, or I could knit Alef again, omitting the triangle. I hate to be beaten! There was also a finished Alef with triangle on collar so I emailed the knitter to ask for advice.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Finished the Back - Twice

Have you ever tried to decrease in Blackberry stitch? It's all my own fault, as usual. The pattern warns you to be careful! What you are supposed to do is to make sure that if you cast off three, then you cast on three to keep the stitch count even. If you don't have room to complete the pattern, then you knit reverse stocking stitch. Why didn't I read those instructions BEFORE I merrily knit the whole back? I thought I'd finished, held the back next to the arms to check the length and found they were all wrong. I had to frog back to the point where the Blackberry stitch is taken into the raglan. It's the right size now, but it's still a still a mess. I can see a lumpy bit right down the bottom of the back where I got the dreaded Blackberry stitch wrong, and the blackberries are in different places where they have been taken into the raglan.

I wish, wish, wish that I'd knit all the pieces and then knit the raglans on one needle, but I've never done that before and I funked it rather.

I am so off this garment! I don't like the yarn. I don't like my tatty knitting and I wish I'd never started it - or at least that this was a test and not supposed to be the real one. I get depressed because I have a vision of how beautiful knitting can be, and I get stuck on these horrid scruffy failures. I'd like to make another one in beautiful natural yarn. The second time around I'd know all the things I didn't know when I charged into this one, and it would be nicely knit - in theory. Oh well. I don't want one of these for myself. I wouldn't wear a jacket that only had one button. I'm sure it would flap open and be cold, so it will stay a theory.

It is however, my very first textured garment! I started the front last night. I'm actually impressed with how quickly it's knitting up. When I made my first attempt at Aran knitting, I spent about six weeks making a four inch tension square and decided it was far too slow to try for real.

I have seen a wonderful man's sweater: Durrow by Jodie Green. If DH likes it, then I'll make him one in natural yarn.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Workshop

My DVD arrived safely. I've been watching it over the last week - mostly when I should be doing something else. Just as I should now, come to think of it! Anyway, I'm pleased with it and glad I bought it. It's on odd little programme though. Because it is billed as a TV series, I was kind of expecting something glossy and edited - this is very, very, very homemade. If Elizabeth drops a needle, we hear it clatter to the floor. If Elizabeth forgets what she is saying, she stares at the screen until a little voice off camera reminds her of what she should be doing and saying. If the phone rings, they don't re shoot. A cat wanders into shot. 'Good heavens! A cet!' says EZ. This is disconcerting at first - but the nice thing about it is that we see Elizabeth get her sums wrong, lose her crotchet hook and tangle her yarn. Even knitting goddesses goof off!

I knew EZ was born in the UK, but I was also expecting an American, so it was a surprise to find that she was of the British genus 'posh, brain-the-size-of-the-universe and slightly batty'. Think two fat ladies and the kind of people you meet at pony club camp and guides. Think Lady Bracknell and head teachers. Think piercing cut-glass accent. 'We're going to make a het,' she announces. 'Pay attention.'

The het is the only garment you get clear instructions for - you need the book for the other garments, and that's not easy to find in the UK. I might have a better look sometime. I must be able to find one. Anyway, I still think the DVD is worth it, because having got used to the low production values and over the shock of the persona, it's easy to see why this DVD still sells. The content is knitting gold.

I think the main difference is in the approach. It is not a how-to exactly, I think only beginners who are very confident and good at numbers and picking up motor skills could start knitting with only this DVD. It's more a case of how to approach how to knit - a whole step back into philosophy. There are six hours of TV and lots of the iconic garments are shown. She talks about the percentage system and encourages you to set about figuring out your own knitting, while showing you lots of examples of inspiring knits. I'm very pleased with it, but not being that accomplished with working out my own numbers, I've already ordered my next DVD, Meg Swanson's Lupine Cardigan, which talks you through the entire garment.

I do think the instructional DVDs are worth it. How much is the yarn for one garment? How bitter is failure? If I could afford it, I'd have them all now!