Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Time Out on Mrs Hill's Jacket

I've got a photo somewhere but I don't even want to look at it again. Blackberry stitch! Oh, how I hate blackberry stitch. The problem is that it's not recoverable - once you've knitted past the mistake, it's impossible to got back and undo it - unlike moss stitch or cables which can be rectified quite a long way past the error.

I'd made a bad error and it was too ugly to live with. Threw it in a corner until Mrs Hill came to visit. Tried it on. I think I've over corrected. The initial couple of inches look OK on her and fit, but then I'm not happy with the 6" I knit on the smaller needles. It looks a bit small and also the change looks naff, somehow. I'll pull it back to the first 4" and start again.

But not this week!

I am so fed up with trying to make things fit. Suddenly decided that I needed to knit something easy. A shawl say. The only trouble is that I think shawls, no matter how beautiful, make a house look messy and a person look stupid. The only thing I've seen that I like is the Swan Lake stole, which began life as a mystery stole. It's a kind of asymmetrical wrap. It also looks too hard to make for what I want now. And then I suddenly remembered how cold our circular tent floor is. How wonderful a circular knitted shawl would be as a carpet.

Spent an hour or so on Ravelry and decided on Jared Flood's Girasole. It's designed for thick wool and several hundred people said it was an easy and enjoyable knit. It was great fun buying the pattern - by using Pay pal and Ravelry, it was mine in moments. Brooklyn Tweed says that you are welcome to contact him if you have problems, which is nice. I think it's great to be able to deal directly with the designer. He gets to keep all the profit, and I don't have to buy a book of patterns that I'll never make. There are also several links to tutorials in the pattern as well. Very modern and interconnected.

I began in green 4-ply (the tent is green and grey). I soon went wrong! The knitting was easy up to Chart C, where the leaves start. I got horribly tangled up trying to make those leaves, mostly because I hadn't realised that a row of spirals starts inside one of the leaves. The whole shawl also looked a bit small. Frogged two days knitting. Then hunted in the stash. I've probably got enough double knit in various shades of grey to make a full Girasole with. Got started again, this time I found the circular cast on (Tech knitter's disappearing loop) much easier to do, and I placed markers for Chart C. I knit 2 rows before remembering that I should have been knitting a plain row between each row of lace work. When will I learn that it's quicker to check the pattern than to undo 3 rows of lace knitting? But other than that, it's going OK. Not perfect, but OK.

I'm finding that I make a lot of errors in the lace when I don't understand what is happening. I'm trying hard to 'read' the pattern. Not just saying, SSK, but saying 'Now the edge of the leaf moves left with a SSK.' That helps. I am also counting the number of stitches in each repeat between the markers on the knit row as well as the lace row, which is a bit of a drag but does mean that I'm catching any errors where they can be redone. So far so good! And I have the blissful knowledge that even if my Girasole (known as the gray camping blankie) turns out SEVERAL FEET larger or smaller than I expect, it really doesn't matter at all.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Mrs Hill's Jacket

Mrs Hill is coming for tea in a week's time, so I thought I'd restart her jacket and maybe get enough done to try it against her for size. I cast on the whole thing, thinking the best way to get the rows lined up was to have it one one needle. It took two attempts, and a load of markers, but I finally it all on correctly.

I misread the pattern on attempt one. The first set of moss stitch you repeat 3 times, the last set 3 times, but the centre set is repeat 6 times, and I misread that. I guess I was thinking, yes, yes, repeat 3 times I know this bit. I need to train my brain to read patterns slowly and fresh each time, not charge ahead thinking, yes, yes, I know that bit.

Anyway, I'm glad I redid it because I added two refinements. I cast on two fewer stitches, so that the moss stitch would line up perfectly into one panel under the arms, and I decided to use the old-fashioned purl because last time I had problems with consistency. The blackberry stitch is far too hard to work using the combination purl stitch. By old-fashioned purl I mean the yarn goes over the top of the needle. It has much further to travel if it does this. The knit stitch faces the correct way on the next row, but the stitch is slack. By combination purl, I mean the yarn goes under the needle as the purl is worked. The yarn has far less distance to travel, so the stitch is tight. The knit stitch faces the wrong way on the next row, so you have to knit into the back of it. Perfect for stocking stitch. Too tight for blackberry stitch, and disastrous if you change between the methods while doing moss stitch!

So, to keep things consistent, I used old-fashioned purl the entire way, and I'm so glad I did. I wasn't happy with the last jacket for many reasons. On top of technical errors, I also felt it had a kind of defeated look. I can't describe it, but it wasn't a pretty fabric. This time it is. The combination purl stitch was too tight for textured knitting. Making a looser purl stitch has made it all look yummy and textured. Also consistent. Wonderful.

BUT my tension is way off! Last time it was pretty near perfect, this time, despite using a size smaller needles, it is 3 rows and a couple of stitches too big. Sat brooding over it, tapping a pencil and thinking. I stopped to check on row 30, just after the first decrease and to give me enough length to measure the 28 rows to 10 cm desired tension. What, knit a new tension square because I'd changed needle size and washed the yarn? Do I look like a sensible knitter? Oh, no, not me. I knit on for several hours and completed 125 stitches x 30 rows of time-consuming textured knitting and THEN decided I'd measure it.

Anyway, enough beating up. Decided to try to solve it with a change of needle size. I have to bear in mind that I'm knitting the size 32 to 34" and Mrs Hill requested a size 42. (The first attempt was a good 10 to 12" too big, hence the drastic down scaling.) I measured the work and it is very, very, big. In fact I nearly screamed and pulled it all back until I realised I was measuring the hips which are then decreased to give the chest measurement. And this gave me an idea. At the point where I've done the first increase, I've changed from 4mm needles to 3.5 mm needles. I now knit 35 rows, and at the next decrease I can check my tension again and either scream and pull it all out, or change down another size, or leave it all as it is.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Swatch Fun

I did some swatches for the cardigan that I want to knit for Andy out of the Rowan book. The British Breed yarn knits up very nicely. I like it. The recommended size 4 mm swatch was a breath too big - and the first given size is 40" chest. Andy's only a 38". (The do seem big sizes!) So I tried 3.75, which gives perfect tension, but is a touch stiffer. There's a lovely quality about the 4 mm swatch - soft and cuddly. They give 6.25 of an inch ease for each garment, which is generous, so I'm not sure which swatch to go for.

Andy has chosen a soft tan colour, sienna for the main body, mustard for the trim and a line of chocolate for the dark line at the wrist and hem. I need to finish my bolero before I send off for new yarn though. Oh, and wash the swatch - I suspect it is fragile. The band says wash in 'very cool' water. The one thing my wonderful washing machine doesn't do is a cold hand wash - only 30' which is too hot for pure wool.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Shade Card Fun

British Breeds at Halifax sent their shade card today. It took a while to come, but it looks most encouraging. The prices are reasonable - about a half to a third of 'posh' yarn prices - so I could make a test garment in this yarn, which would be nice and wearable, and if I love the garment make a 'real' one in the fashion yarn. By serendipity the ball turned up at the charity shop. It was interesting to find the shade (oatmeal Blue-faced Leicester double knitting) and compare the ball to the tiny sample. The colour is true enough to make me feel confident about ordering and the ball feels soft. Let's see how a swatch washes, that's the real test.

The sleeve of the Debbie Bliss green shrug grew an inch or so last night. Knitting the sleeve in the round is staring to look better. I've almost broken my bad habit of shoving the needle into the work before settling the yarn in my hand when knitting in the round on 5 needles. Once you start looking at things like this, it's easy to see that yes, it would stretch the yarn and make one more untidy unevenness in a piece of knitting, but until I watched Lucy Neatby's DVD, I was oblivious to the fact!

I also worked carefully on the tips of the needles and the stitches have shrunk slightly. They look a fraction neater and are the desired 22 stitches to the cm instead of 21 stitches to the cm. I am enjoying the bamboo needles, but the tips are just that fraction blunt. Next sweater I make on different size needles, I'll try some of the famous Knit picks. I'm almost looking forward to knitting Mrs Hill's cabled jacket a second time because it will be a chance to use my new Knit pick needles.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Knit Free Weekend

Not a stitch did I knit this weekend. Very unusual! On Friday I went shopping and did some cooking for our visit to the Lake District - it was half past nine by the time I sat down and I was bushed! Also full of antibiotics and stress about a sinus or tooth infection, which doesn't help.

Saturday morning we set off to the Lakes and I FORGOT MY KNITTING!!! How bad is that? I didn't realise until we got there, because I get car sick. I know Americans often knit in the car, but I doubt if many people knit on windy British roads anyway, not to mention the tiny front seats in a Nissan Micra! Anyway, my car window broke when we got to Arnside, ready for a walk, so I said I'll knit while I wait for the breakdown people to come - no knitting! Not that it mattered. The breakdown people told me to drive to a garage.

In the evening, there was an hour or so when we all sat around chatting and I would have been knitting. Instead I lay flat and put my head in Andy's lap. Quite nice really, but I still missed my knitting. I also read a book over the weekend, but that doesn't feel as social - I can't look at the scenery or join in the conversation the same when buried in an old science fiction novel.

The red angora was 50p for 3 balls, and is joining the pile that will one day be Kaffee Fassets poppies jacket - although I have been thinking that maybe I make life too hard for myself. I could start with a waistcoat (no sleeves!) especially now Lucy Neatby's DVD will help me make neat button bands. I can make a jacket after I master the basics. How sensible would that be?

Friday, 10 July 2009

Green Shrug Progress

Well, if the brown shrug hadn't looked OK and then turned out so big, I'd be worrying now that the green one was too small! I finished the front and it looks tiny! Checked my tension, and gosh, golly, gee - it's spot on.

I changed the way I make the decreases and it looks much better. First I re seat the loops on the needle so they are facing the usual way, then I do an ordinary K2tog. The decrease leans the other way and looks perfect.

The only trouble with keeping a row count is this - I don't always know whether I've counted the row or not. When I got to where I thought I should be at the end of the front, it looked slightly smaller than it should be to me. Then I decided to trust the counter. I knit the shoulders together with the 3-needle bind off and smoothed out the two pieces, and hey presto: they look the same size again. With a fabric so stretchy as knitting, rows have got to be a better bet than a tape measure. Providing, that is, I really did remember to count all my rows.

Next came the sleeve. I cast on using Tech knitter's 3-trick cast on, but it didn't look tidy enough in fine merino. The second time I used her way of joining knitting in the round, but I only cast on to one needle, and that was fine. I also put two more stitches than the pattern said because I had 4 purls next to one another. Wrinkles brow. Thinks. Ah-ha! If you use one stitch from each side when you sew it up, that loses two stitches and so your 2x2 ribbing looks perfect after seaming. Something to look out for when converting patterns into the round.

I knit a few inches stocking stitch before it was time for bed. I'm trying to break a bad habit when knitting with 5 needles. When you change from one needle to another, Lucy warns you not to put your needle into the stitch before you rearrange the yarn, and she's right. If you do that, and of course I do, the weight of changing everything around stretches that first stitch and contributes to the dreaded ladder effect. It's not so hard to do (except when there's something interesting on TV and I forget what I'm supposed to be doing and go back to my bad old ways), it just takes a little practice.

I'm also trying to swap the needles around without letting go of the working yarn. This is because when Andy timed my knitting, it took ages to resettle the yarn in my left hand to knit continental. I always want to knit faster, so this seems like a little trick that seems worth practicing.

Last thing before I went to bed I checked my tension on the sleeve in progress. It has slipped to 21 stitches per 10 cm, probably because I was thinking about all the stuff above. Next time I knit I'll try to keep it down to 22 again. It is a good plan to check - if nothing else you find out the mistakes now and not after the thing is all sewn up.

I had another look at the arm scye calculator. I'm missing something. A vital point? Some kind of paradigm shift? I just don't get it at the moment.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Row Control

This isn't proper blocking, it's just pinned out while I look at it - and because it's a bit odd I'll identify it as the back of my Debbie Bliss shrug.

I did the armhole shaping at the end of the row this time - I don't like the raised bump effect you get from doing it the recommended two rows in. The left side, SSK decrease, looks fine. The right side is horrid. I think it's the combination knitting thing again. My stitches are seated with the legs at the back of the needle, so I knit through the backs of the loops to make the stitch turn the right way round, but it makes a messy edge decrease. I think I might need to slip them onto the left needle to turn them the right way around, then do a K2tog. I'll try that on the sleeves. I sewed another bit of knitting to it with mattress stitch and the lumpy edge didn't show, so I'm not undoing it.

Keeping track of every row is interesting. For one thing, if I didn't know I'd gone two rows wrong under the arm pits, I would have knitted two more rows at the shoulder to get to the expected length, then there's an extra row because I short rowed the shoulder, so that is a potential error of 1 CM on each side of the shoulder which is 2 CM overall - quite enough to spoil the fit of a garment. Will definitely concentrate on row control for a while! To this end, I knitted in a red thread at the armhole and another one at the start of the shoulder shaping, to help me see where I am.

In keeping with my new policy of trying to check at all stages, I measured the back and had a think about it. There is no schematic, but it is fairly close to the predicted measurements. My tension is fair - OK on stitches and slightly small (29.5 rather than 30 rows to 10 CM) on rows. Good enough to carry on. The back looks a bit small to me, but I know it is close to what it should be and I know that when I knitted one a size larger it was too big, so I'll make a front next and see how it all adds up.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

How's your Knitting Getting on?

Clench teeth together and force smile: 'Well, it's not, actually. I've just undone a whole cabled jacket.'

Oh well. The next one will be good.

I have also thrown away the brown shrug. I was going to redo it, but I got out the knitting basket and uncovered chaos. There were bits of about 6 different versions in there, all tangled up with tiny balls left over from the frogging and it looked so depressing that I suddenly thought: it's charity shop yarn. You had your thirty bobs'worth of fun out of it. Put it in the bin!!

I hadn't kept good enough notes, either. What a mess! I'd scribbled over the old calculations and I hadn't kept a row count. How could I possibly say that the pattern was wrong when I had no idea what I had done? Debbie Bliss is the Queen Mother of British knitting, after all. It's almost certainly my mistake!

So, I started again. And fell prey to wishful thinking. I weighed some brown bits of back and front and definitely two whole sleeves, and what I estimated might be the equivalent of a whole shrug came to 300g. That's 6 balls, I mused, and I've got 5 balls of a pretty brown-pink wool. I'll use that, maybe do shorter sleeves or something. Of course, half way up the back I realised that it simply wasn't going to stretch. And what about the rib edging? Knitting is so character building. You cannot hide from sloppy thinking!

So I started again. This time I'm using some dark green Jaeger Extra-fine Merino that I bought in a sale at Cucumber Patch. It's already been frogged - a failed attempt at Cloud, but I'm sure I can make a shrug with it.

I am keeping track of EVERY ROW! I have got to the point where I'm pretty much on top of stitch control now. I am usually spot on. My use of technique is better overall - invisible increases and such like. Good. I knit on the tips of the needles and am beginning to control the overall tension, also good. What's left? Well, rows, that's what, and very interesting they are too.

This is a metric pattern, and I know there are 3 rows to a centimetre. (The yarn states on the ball band that it should be 22 stitches and 30 rows, just as the pattern calls for.). That means that if I write out the instructions row by row, the back shaping, for example, takes up 30 rows, which I know will be 10 cm. Then the pattern tells you to knit until work measures 13 cm, finishing on a purl row. That means that I should have knit 9 more rows. But for some reason I said 3 rows to the cm and I need 3 more cm so 3 times 3 is 6. (I have been studying maths for 6 months now but nothing seems to stop my dyslexic brain from doing stuff like this!) Anyway, I knit 6 more rows and measured it. At the time, it seemed to be making the expected 13 cm. Later that evening, it seemed a bit too short - which it will be if I only knit 37 rows (one extra to end on a purl row and also to knit in a red marker thread). Each time I measure the work, that's how it turns out. Sometimes it seems shorter and sometimes it seems longer.

Instead of getting frustrated, I started to ponder on the stretchy quality of knitting. I have read before, and am now truly understanding, that a row count has got to be more accurate than a tape measure because the knitting can be any shape at any time. Maybe the trick is to get as close to the correct tension as you can (a minefield! but let's pretend I got that bit cracked) and then count the rows. The inaccuracy in this back of this shrug is the same shape as a stitch, by the way. It is taller and narrower than it should be. If I smooth it gently wider, then it becomes less tall as it adjusts. I don't know what this means at this point, but I'm working on understanding it.

I am also going to alter the order I knit in - back first and check for size. Then a front and check again. Then the other front and check again. Then ONE sleeve and check again. If that sleeve sews in nicely and seems to fit, then and only then will I knit the other sleeve and check again. Then, and only then, if all seems well, knit the edging.

And the sleeves, will I have problems with the sleeves? I don't know. Some people on Ravelry managed to knit them OK, so maybe the problem is not with the pattern but with the knitter. I'll do one and check, and if there are problems then I'll have the row count so I can try to figure out the armscye calculations again. But maybe it will all turn out just fine. (Thinks, but maybe it won't!)

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Goodbye, Rubbish Knitting

I hate being a bad knitter, I really do! Look at all that work, and it's all got to go! Last night I got out m-i-l's jacket and took a long hard look at it.

First, my tension seems to be fairly close but, the fabric is very soft and stretchy, so I've decided to use a half size smaller needle to give it more body. Luckily my new Knit Picks needle is the right size and has lovely sharp tips.

Second, the blackberry stitch is a nightmare! It looks messy where I start it, it looks messy when it transits into the cable pattern and it looks vile where I decreased. After some thought I decided to put two bands of garter stitch and the beginning and the ends of the cuff, and to be very, very careful when I decrease.

I will keep a row count for each piece while I knit up to the sleeves - then it will all be on one needle for the raglans and that will keep it the same size.

The moss stitch is twisted here and there - be consistent. I'll decide what I'm doing (knit into front or back of stitch) in the first panel, write it down and stick with it. The reason for confusion here is, I think, that I'm doing what some people call combined knitting, purling with the yarn under the needle, which prevents rowing out, but twists the stitch on the needle so you have to knit into the back of it.

No yarn joins at the front edges of the garment - that ought to be a no-brainer, but I obviously need telling!!

Now, sizes. Knitting the 40-42" size gave me a garment with a 48" chest. There is no schematic, so I don't know what it should have been. (Could maths tell me that? Probably. There are 295 stitches at the point under the arms where I measured. The tension is 19 stitches to 10 cm so, er, what do I do next? If I divide 295 by 19, that tells me how many blocks of 10 cm fabric I should have (I hate metric! No I don't. I hate the fact there are two measuring systems in knitting). I get 15.5. So, multiply that by 10 and I get a garment that measures 155 cm around. Well that's clearly a rubbish answer. I give up on the math.)

So, starting again, without math because I can't do it, I'm saying the thing is too big. A good 10" too big, so, you know what, I'm going to knit the smallest size, because Mrs Hill has lost weight, not to mention being far too small to wear a garment scaled to fit 42" bust.

Hm, do we have a clue here as to why my sizing goes so horribly wrong so horribly often? Every Friday morning I go for maths lessons, but so far it hasn't improved my ability to figure out knitting patterns.

I should be able to work it out! Will think about it while I'm frogging.

Yarn Doesn't Grow on Trees, You Know!

But it almost does at £4 for 8.5 balls of vintage cream mohair. It's 90% mohair and 10% artificial fibres, and it's going to make me another test Alef. I put it out on the rosemary bush to air - although it doesn't really need it, since reading about a blogger who put soap in her stash to make it smell fresh, I've started to collect bargain soap bars from TK Max and today I suddenly thought herbs might be nice as well.

Alef has been on my mind. I still have all that lovely Rowan Classic Kid upstairs in a box, along with 3 wickedly expensive buttons and they are not going to be wasted!

I've found a lace trim to try that seems fairly simple and has plain edges - and my new Lucy Neat y DVD (Finesse your Knitting 2) tells you how to make lovely button bands. So, I could use a new lace trim, because I just can't like the other one, abandon the troublesome collar with its flippy edges and knit plain button bands instead. But that's a lot of modifications to make for lovely, but fragile yarn that's already been ripped fifteen times, so, I was happy to find exactly the right yarn for another test Alef.

Snow Goose Rib Warmer - Finished

And what's more it fits! Time for that modest but triumphant jig that Elizabeth Zimmerman recommends on finishing an item.

Not that I'm happy with it - oh no! I think the yarn probably isn't suitable. It is very smooth and so it shows off every jog and imperfection, and there are plenty of those. I will make a couple more test garments before I buy some 'real' yarn, but I know what to buy for the rib warmer now - ethnic. Natural yarn, or tweed, not smooth and processed. I think selecting the right yarn is a huge part of turning out a successful garment.

Before buying expensive yarn, I want to work on consistency. My tension was fairly even over the whole garment. That's good. The short row holes don't look very neat, and I realise that is because sometimes I work into the front of a stitch and sometimes into the back. I might start writing down what I do and then sticking to it. Same for the I-Cord border. I didn't always go into the same part of the stitch to pick up (and of course the edges weren't always finished the same way, thus making consistent picking up impossible) and then when I knit into the first stitch, sometimes I went into the back and sometimes into the front, same with the slipped stitch. I-Cord is made by casting on two stitches, then putting them back onto the needle that holds the picked up stitched. You knit one, slip one, then knit one picked up stitch. That means there are eight combinations of going into the front or the back of each stitch. You can bet that I used all of them at random - but that is going to change!!

I was pleased with how I got the I-Cord around the corners without it puckering - I knit to the corner, knit two extra stitches on the I-Cord side without attaching them, knit as usual, attaching the I-Cord, then knit two extra stitches again. This is a tip Meg Swanson gives you on the DVD for going around the shoulders, but it works well on the corners as well. Unfortunately I didn't discover this until I'd set off, so the first corner didn't have the refinement, giving another slight irregularity to the garment.

I'm also going to keep track of rows. Is the front the same as the back? I don't know. Did I do all the increase and decreases at the same points? I don't know! More irregularity.

I do know that to fit me I need to knit four more ridges than the pattern suggests.

It shows progress, anyway, so I am pleased with it.

It's the Snow Goose Rib Warmer because the yarn (£1.45 from charity shop) is vintage wool from Halifax and the brand is Snow Goose Aran. 5 mm needles for the body and 4 mm needles for the trim.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Shropshire Swatch

This yarn came from a nice lady called Pippa. It's from her own Shropshire sheep. I want to start knitting with natural yarn, but I'm afraid this isn't the one for me. I emailed the farm and Pippa sent a sample straight away, but I couldn't get gauge. This is supposed to be double knitting, but although the number of stitches to an inch is right, it has too many rows by far. The yarn looked quite thick so I tried a tiny Aran swatch with the left over yarn, and the rows were bob on, but the stitches were too few. So, I can't use it for double knit patterns or for Aran.

Also, I have to say that I wasn't keen on the texture. it is quite fuzzy and dense, almost felted. Andy picked up my swatch and said: 'Did you wash this in hot water?'

What a shame. I wanted this to work!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Lovely New Knitting Book

This is such a nice book that Andy bought it for me and pointed out a couple of items he wouldn't mind having. How's that for enthusiasm from a non-knitting partner?

My knitting causes him pain, a lot of the time. Firstly there's stuff all over the place, secondly being entangled in yarn is a good excuse not to get up and make a cup of tea or hunt for the remote and thirdly, he suffers when I fail!

Sometimes I think he minds my terrible results more than I do! I try to look at my knitting in the same way as doing a jigsaw or something like that - you enjoy the pastime and then you break up the results. I don't entirely fool myself, of course. I want to be a good knitter. And I want to knit Andy some gorgeous sweaters out of this book. It is cheaper on Amazon, by the way, but without the fun of a trip to a yarn store and having it bought as a present. Oh, hang on, that's much, much cheaper, come to think of it.

Talking about breaking up the results, I have to frog that whole Aran jacket I made for m-i-l. It's too hot to re knit just yet, but I will pull back the yarn and rewind it ready for Autumn.