Sunday, November 11, 2012

I've a new website!

It's been a while since I posted anything on my blog, but that's because I've been busy...finishing up my Master Hand Knitter certification (I'm official!), and planning a new website where I can organize my videos, my patterns, tutorials, and more.

You can find me at  I hope you'll join me there!

(This old blog will stay here indefinitely, for those of you with some attachment to the archives.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Level III is in the mail

I set a goal when I ordered my Master Hand Knitting Level III materials to finish by my 50th birthday, which was about 10 days ago.  I missed the deadline by a couple of days, but I did manage to get it in the mail on March 31, one week after my birthday, and 6 months after I passed Level II.

I had some help.

Katy cat proofread my report on traditional knitting styles*
I'm sure I made some bonehead mistakes, I always do, but for the most part, I'm happy with my swatches and my projects.

I had to design, knit and write the patterns for a sweater and a hat. One had to be an Aran design (heavily cabled) and one a Fair Isle (stranded color).

I made the sweater for Michael.

He kept holding his right hand up against his body.
Studying the ground

I told him to stop doing that, it looked like he had polio.

Gotta love a man who laughs at your jokes

So he contemplated the universe, like any good male model.

And the hat was just an experiment, modeled by Nina.

I expect it will be June some time, at the earliest, before I hear back.  I did get an email from the TKGA office today telling me that the package had been received and sent off to the committee.

*Today was Katy cat's last day on Earth, one month short of his 20th birthday.  He was a good cat, and a great proofreader.  He will be sorely missed.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Short Row Shoulder Shaping Class

I rescheduled my Short Row Shoulder Shaping Class from this past weekend to next Sunday, March 18 at 1 pm at Needlework Unlimited.  If you missed out on signing up for this class, now's the time!

Some sweater patterns have you cast off all the stitches for the shoulder at one time.  Others have you cast off in a "stair step" fashion.  The advantage of the straight bind off is that whether you bind off and seam separately or use the 3-needle bind off (which binds off and seams at the same time), the seam is neat and flat on the inside of the garment.  The disadvantage is that human shoulders aren't straight across, so fabric can bunch under the arm, or the hem can hang lower at the sides.

The advantage of the stair step bind off is that it provides shaping (shorter at the outer shoulders, longer at the neck) that matches the slope of the human shoulder.  The disadvantage is having to seam that stair step edge, which leaves a lumpy inner seam.

Short row shoulder shaping allows you to provide the shaping you need, while maintaining all of the sts on the needle.  This then allows you to seam straight across all the sts or use the 3-needle bind off, giving a smooth finish on the inside of the seam.

This two-hour class will teach you how to do short row shaping, how to convert a pattern with straight across or stair step shaping to one with short row shaping, and will discuss when short rows might not work for your pattern.

The short row technique used in the class will be the German Short Row technique, although the standard wrap & turn method will also be discussed.  German Short Rows give the same result as Japanese Short Rows, but is far less fiddly.  No pins, no wraps, easy peasy!

I hope to see you Sunday!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ugly Christmas Sweater

Yesterday I decided I needed a Christmas gift for a family we know, so I thought an ornament might be a good idea. 

As I searched through the Ravelry pattern database looking for something to inspire me, it occurred to me that an Ugly Christmas Sweater would make a fantastic ornament. 

I was right.

I'm not publishing an official pattern, but I am happy to share the charts and the general process for anyone who wants to make their own Ugly Christmas Sweater ornament.

I used Knit Picks Palette but any fingering weight yarn would work (I bought the original complete set of 30 balls when it first came out, so I had all the colors on hand),  I used size 2 needles, which gave me a gauge of 7.5 sts/in. The final measurements are about 3" across the sweater body (not including sleeves) and 3.75" in length.

Click on the image to embiggen.
Gray boxes indicate "no stitch," which means CO 22 sts, then inc 1 st in Row 4. At the top, they show where the neck bind off occurs and additional rows are worked for each shoulder.

Black dots represent purl sts (i.e. first 2 rows are k1p1 ribbing)
Single squares of color (like for eyes or buttons or nose) indicate French Knot. 

I knit the front and the back, using the intarsia technique, although I did strand the white across the back of the tree trunk and the star, since they were so small.  Later, I added French Knots for the snowman's eyes and buttons, as well as the reindeer's eyes and nose.  I knit in the reindeer's head, but used duplicate stitch to add the antlers.

I left the shoulder sts live for the front and back and joined using a 3-needle bind off.  I picked up the sts for the sleeves and knit down to the cuff.  For the sleeve with the snowflakes, I knit it all in green and embroidered them on later.  The snowman's arms were embroidered using outline stitch.

For the tree, I had some stretchy silver beading thread  that I used to string the "lights" and the tinsel was silver metallic embroidery floss, which was a real pain in the rear to work with.  Oh, and I added some fringe to the snowman's scarf with short lengths of the green yarn and I embroidered a carrot nose, too.

I did all the embellishing and wove in ends before doing the seaming.

I seamed using mattress stitch (just a 1/2 st each side for the sleeves, but a full stitch each side for the body).

I didn't bother picking up sts and knitting a ribbed neck, although I originally planned to.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mother!

Today is my mother's 74th birthday, and I'm hoping that the package I mailed out to her on Saturday hits her doorstep today.

This fall I've been knitting a lot of things of my own design. Some have been relatively mindless knits, and can hardly be called "designs," like the plain stockinette socks I made for my daughter and her boyfriend (no, they aren't matching pairs, although the socks within each pair match, because I'm one of Those Knitters).

I'm back to working on Michael's Aran sweater that is part of my Level III work for the Master Hand knitting program.

I've done a lot of swatching of stranded designs for the Fair Isle hat (also for the MHK program), and have finally come up with a set of stitch patterns Sophia likes that I will turn into a hat, possibly over winter break.

I designed a shawlette pattern that I quite like (still not sick of it after knitting it three times) and it is currently with test knitters.

There was a cabled earflap hat of someone else's design that I completely re-engineered.

The package my mother will receive today (I hope!) was one of the few items I knit this fall that was not of my own design or heavily modified.

 My mother had back surgery in September and has been recovering well.  The pain meds have dampened her appetite and she still isn't very mobile, so she's been complaining about being cold.  Back pain means that it's a big deal for her to put on clothes and take them off, so I wanted to make her a shawl that would be easy for her to put around her shoulders if she needed some extra warmth and would stay put, even when she got up and moved around. This is especially important, because a couple of weeks ago she fell and broke a vertebra above the ones that were plated and pinned and screwed together in September.  She's going to be encased in what she describes as an "Iron Man suit" for the next month.

The pattern is Fundamentally Faroese, by Cheryl Oberle, and is knit bottom-up. What I like about Faroese shawls is that they are structured so that they stay on the shoulders.  When blocked and finished, the upper edge curves where it will lie across the shoulders.  The day after I finished it, I wore it all day, including while teaching, just to make sure I didn't need a shawl pin.  It stayed on my shoulders, no problem, never once slipping off.

The yarn is a handpainted, 2-ply DK from Rovings and is 70% Polwarth wool and 30% mohair.  I got this yarn from a Canadian vendor at Yarn Over a few years ago.  It has a gorgeous sheen and a wonderful halo. 

If this shawl wasn't intended for my mother, I don't think I'd have the strength to give it away.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Designing a Hat

I've finished my Level III swatches and I'm moving on to other parts.  I designed the Aran sweater this past summer and knit the back, without knowing for sure what the requirements were. I had a fairly good idea of what they were, plus I've knit several Aran sweaters, but I put it aside to rest after finishing the back, just in case there was a problem. 

I've been doing research on the two traditional knitting styles I'll write about for one of my reports, and since one of those is an Aran sweater, I thought I would let the sweater marinate a little longer while I dig into the history and traditions of the Aran sweater.

Meanwhile, I've been pondering my Fair Isle hat design.  Originally, I intended to knit a tam, but I do like to make projects for the MHK program that can be used later, if at all possible, so when Sophia mentioned she would like a hat with ear flaps, I reconsidered my hat style choice.

In my mind I could see a Chullu-esqe hat, with earflaps that were double-sided, to be warmer and to lie flat. (Either knit in the round, or double knit, although with double knitting I would have to contend with a difference in gauge and also, I kind of hate my selvedges in double knitting.)  I want the transition from main body of hat down to the flap to be continuous, and I don't want to have to sew anything.  I wasn't sure what to do about the hat cuff: ribbed, or hemmed, or straight stockinette with applied i-cord around the edges of the cuff and earflaps...

First, though, I needed some measurements.  That's not what I did first, but it is what I needed to do first.  No, first what I did was to wing it. 

I searched around online and found that ear flaps are not centered at the 1/4 and 3/4 points of the round (assuming the round begins at the back of the head).  They are actually set further back, so that one flap sits entirely within the first 1/4 of the round and the other entirely within the last 1/4 of the round.  Someone mentioned that the midpoint of one ear flap, running around the back of the head to the other flap midpoint was about 1/3 of the circumference. 

Knowing Sophia's head size, I calculated the flap positions and decided a 3 1/2" flap would be good.  I "knew" that my gauge on size 5 needles using worsted weight yarn would be 5.5 sts/in, so I calculated stitch counts, and cast on. 

After several problems with third grade arithmetic in which I decided that 37+37+56=110 (Hint: it does not), which was followed by deciding that the ear flaps needed to be moved even further back (Hint: they did not), I took the incredible step of actually measuring Sophia's head to find out where her actual ears were situated on her actual head, and then to take a second measurement in which I determined the correct ear flap width would actually be better at 3" and THEN I measured my stitch gauge and discovered I was knitting a bit looser than I anticipated, which meant that in addition to placing the too-large earflaps too far back on the hat, the hat was too big.

You can see now how it is that I am this close to becoming a master knitter!

Here's my revised plan for ear flap placement and stitch counts.
Circled numbers on right indicate stitch counts
While struggling with arithmetic, I did manage to come up with a good idea for how to work the ear flaps into the hemmed edge.

It occurred to me I could use a trick I thought of a few years ago, when making mittens with peasant thumbs.  There are a couple of techniques typically used in that scenario.  One is to knit the stitches where the thumb will be with waste yarn, return the waste yarn knit sts back to the left needle, then knit them again with the main yarn.  Later, the stitches above and below the waste yarn can be put on dpns, the waste yarn can be removed and the thumb can be worked in the round, using those live sts.

Another technique is to bind off the stitches where the thumb will occur, and then on the next round, cast on that same number, basically creating a button hole.  Stitches are picked up around the hole and the thumb is knit.  This creates an edge inside the thumb where the cast on and bind off sts were, but having the hole there as the mitten is knit allows the mitten to be tried on, so that you can be sure of how it is fitting and when to do the top decreases.

A third technique is a hybrid, which is to place the sts on waste yarn (threading waste yarn through the sts, rather than knitting them with waste yarn), and then casting on over these stitches on the same round.  When picking up sts later, you have a ridge only along the cast on edge.

My method, I think, gives the best of both worlds: it provides the thumb hole, so the mitten can be tried on as it's knit, but it leaves no edge inside the thumb when stitches are picked up.

It goes like this: slip the stitches onto waste yarn, and leave an extra long tail at the end of the held sts where the working yarn is hanging.  Now cast on with the LT cast on, using the waste yarn tail as the thumb yarn and the working yarn for the index finger yarn.  This creates a provisional cast on edge.  When it's time to put the stitches back on needles, the cast on edge has to be picked out, but you're left with live stitches.

So that's my idea for the hemmed hat as well.  On the purled turning round, when I get to the stitches where the ear flap will be, I put the number of stitches the ear flap will span on waste yarn, and then I cast on that number of sts, using the waste yarn tail and the working yarn, then I continue purling the round until I get to the next ear flap location.

Waste yarn holds sts resting on thumb and is used to cast on new sts.

Round is complete. That hole will become the live sts needed to knit the earflaps top down.
Hem is fused.  Earflap holes are ready.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Master Knitting - Level III Begins

I sent my re-submits for Level II a few days after I had received my initial review from the committee, and on Saturday, Oct. 1, I received notification that I had passed Level II.  Yay!

In her email to me, the co-chair who reviewed my work said the following:
I said in my letter that it was truly a pleasure to review your work.  And, I want you to know that I mean that.  Yours was by far one of the best Level 2 submissions I have seen as a Co-Chair.  The quality of your knitting, the quality of your written work, and your commitment to the program is outstanding.  You are “oh so close” to being a Master Knitter!
I'm still glowing from the praise!

I promptly ordered my Level III materials, but it took a few days to receive them.  I dove right in and have already knit quite a few of the 19 swatches and answered many of the questions.

Having just come off Level II, I'm very conscious of how to write the swatch instructions and the importance of writing them while I knit them!  For me, the hardest thing about writing the instructions is not being allowed to use photos or videos for steps that are particularly fiddly, tricky, or unusual.  The Twisted German cast on and the closed circular cast on are not easy to explain with just words!

My goal is to submit my binder by March 24, which is my 50th birthday.  I'm confident I can do it!