Sunday, March 30, 2008

Plainest of the plain

Plain socks
Yarn: Patons Diploma Gold 4-ply, 2 entire skeins, from the sewing shop in Woking centre
Needles: 2.0mm and 1.5mm dpns
Pattern: Just plain stockinette socks

Notes: I'm knitting down my sock yarn stash, and The Limey was overdue for a new pair of socks. These are 76 st (knit at 36 sts to 10 cm) plain stockinette socks. The ribbing at the cuff was done on the smaller needles. Done toe-up with a figure 8 cast on and sewn bind-off.

The heel is a slightly modified Fleegle heel.

I'd tried this heel once before, and found that increasing for the gusset up to the the numbers she recommends made the sock too long. Obviously, I either knit at a looser row gauge than she does, or I'm starting the gusset too late. At any rate, I had The Limey here to try on the sock-in-progress and realized I didn't need that large a gusset anyway, so I stopped when the gusset was at 10 stitches fewer than recommended. It fits perfectly. And it goes so well with his favourite footwear.

Next up: the ubiquitous Pomatomus socks for me.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Thanks to everyone for the comments on the Synergy Cardigan. I love it too and it's nice when other people agree with you!

Thanks especially to those who liked it enough to ask for a pattern, but unfortunately I don't think I'll be writing one up. Two reasons: 1) I'd have to figure out how I actually did the puffy sleeves, and then grade it for all the sizes, which I'm too lazy at the moment to do; and 2) I'm not sure I can legally use that cable pattern. Hana Jason deserves all the kudos she's been given for that ingenious design. I don't know who, if anyone, owns the copyright to that cable and chart, and I would be uncomfortable stepping on any knitter's toes.

With that said, if you own a copy of the Winter '07/'08 Interweave Knits, you can easily insert that cable into a plain cardigan pattern. If you want the puffy sleeves, find a cardigan pattern with the sleeves you want and insert the cable into that. I do have my notes on this pattern in my knitting notebook, so if you're stuck on something, I'm happy to help a fellow knitter out.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I'm on a roll!

Another FO! These were the most productive couple months of knitting ever. Even when I wasn't working last year, I didn't manage so many non-accessory FOs in so little time. I'm not sure how I do it.

I had no WIP photos of this because it honestly took almost no time to knit.

Aleita Shell
Yarn: 3 balls of Rowan Calmer
Needles: 3.5mm and 4.0mm Addi Turbo circulars
Pattern: Aleita Shell, by Bonne Marie Burns for Interweave Knits Spring '08

Notes: I think this simple classic pattern got lost amongst the fluttery pastel butterflies of the IK Spring issue. It didn't help that this clean-lined pattern got knit up in a non-colour for the sample. I didn't even notice it the first time I flipped through the magazine. When I finally did notice it, a bit of mental arithmetic showed me that it would be the perfect project for those three balls of Rowan Calmer I'd bought, knit up, and frogged ages ago.

It's a great pattern. But I made a load of modifications:
  1. I made it shorter. There are two reasons for this- I am short in height and short in yarn. However, I may have overdone it a bit here. It could be a teensy bit longer.
  2. I made one fewer set of waist decreases and, correspondingly, one fewer set of bust increases. The reason for this is that my waist/bust ratio is higher than average. In other words, I have no waist.
  3. I don't know what all that neck band knitting and sewing was about, so I just skipped it. In fact, due to my being somewhat short on yarn and not knowing what the heck those neckband instructions were on about, I improvised a scooped back neck. It looks good and fits me pretty well.

Also, I either found a mistake in the pattern, or I am incapable of reading directions. I figure there's a 50/50 chance of it being either. To get nice even edges, the pattern has you slip the first stitch of every row. I've used this trick before and it's great; works beautifully. However, this pattern has three stitches at each edge knit in ribbing and it asks you to slip the first stitch purlwise with yarn in back. This works fine when I'm slipping the first stitch on the right side rows, but on the wrong side rows, slipping with yarn in back means the edge has a row of purl bumps instead of the nice knit V's:

You see how on the bottom edge, there is a nice row of elongated V's? That's how your nice slipped stitch edge is supposed to look. Then see on the top edge, instead of this, there is a series of bumps? Still neat, and kinda interesting in itself, but not matching the other edge. Unfortunately, I noticed this only after knitting about 2/3 of the bodice and couldn't be arsed ripping back. I did start slipping my stitches with yarn in front on the wrong side rows, which gave me nice V's, so starting a few inches from the shoulder, the two edges match.

So, if you're knitting this top:
on RIGHT side rows, slip first stitch purlwise with yarn in back;
on WRONG side rows, slip first stitch purlwise with yarn in front.

But, anyway, I'm pretty pleased with this top and hope I will be able to wear it lots. Not soon, though, because apparently they are predicting snow this weekend. The first weekend of spring! Snow!

Using up my Calmer in this top means I have knit up almost all the sweater-sized lots of yarn I have in my stash. (Except for the cursed alpaca. I'm not counting that, though.) Now I have to work down my sock yarn stash. I've promised myself one pair of socks for The Limey and one pair of socks for me before I'm allowed to even think about visiting a yarn shop.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Last winter hurrah

The Limey and I always loved going to the Dublin Botanic Gardens, so naturally we looked up the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew when we moved over here. Of course, it's not free (you guys have it so good in Dublin!), so today we went and bought a year's membership. We're at the tail end of the -supposedly- last storm of the winter this year, and it was freezing. I'm glad I was wearing my new sweater.

Stormy Cowlette Pullover
Yarn: Noro Cash Iroha in a cranberry-ish colour, 7 skeins bought at the January sales at Loop
Needles: 3.5mm and 4.0mm circulars, used as straights
Pattern: my own

Notes: I wanted a new version of a comfy, comfy old sweater that has gotten a bit too ratty to wear in public. This was knit back and forth and seamed because the Cash Iroha is a single loosely-spun yarn and I just wasn't sure about biasing. My swatch showed some biasing, so I thought I'd rather be safe than sorry. Also, I worried about the sweater stretching (I think I've heard of some Hourglass sweaters growing), so I like the insurance of the seams.

For once I had bought enough yarn (although it was close!) so I have full length sleeves. The cowl neck was picked up and knit in the round. I knit it on the larger needles to get a drapier fabric and put in lines of yarnovers just for a little bit of relief from the endless stockinette.

I'm really pleased with this sweater. I finished seaming it up on Monday and have worn it three times since. The only thing I worry about is that this loosely spun yarn may be pilly. Anyone heard anything about Cash Iroha and pilling?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

WIP spotted!

I realized I have been very bad about documenting my works-in-progress. I don't take much pictures because I'm just not convinced that looking at huge stockinette swatches (basically) is all that interesting. So then I don't blog about them because without pictures, I kinda feel like, Eh-what's the point.

But the other night, I thought I would rectify this, and so, behold: knitting in progress.

I'm working on a plain stockinette pullover, with a wide, drapey turtleneck. It's basically a replacement for my favourite warm-and-comfortable sloppy cowl neck/hood sweater I got secondhand from my sister. The original is now a mass of pills held together by acrylic fuzz, so I thought I'd just knit myself another.

I didn't use the hood on the original very much, so I'm not knitting one. I've replaced it with a wide turtleneck. The whole thing is stockinette, with ribbed edges. The only bit of interest is in the diagonal lines of yarnovers I've put in the cowl/turtleneck.

I *think* it will be wide and drapey enough, but really I can't tell until it's worn for the first time. It's blocking now, so I should be able to seam it all together in a couple of days. Just in time for the last winter storm here in the UK. I hope I get a good couple of weeks of wear out of it before it gets too warm. Oh, who am I kidding? It's England; it'll be sweater weather for months yet.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Inspiration on loan

Although there is lots to complain about in Woking, I must say its library is quite good. I'm always finding interesting knitting books whenever I go. Last time, I picked up some unusual choices for me.

I'm normally not that big on colourwork. Most of my knitting is single-coloured, and my Silk Garden scoop neck gave me a few minutes of nervous twitching before I accepted it. So this was a suprise:

I know some of Alice Starmore's books are rare and out-of-print. I don't know if this one is, so I don't know if it's worth crazy amounts of money. I'm going to return it, I promise! I've flipped through some of her books before, and I've looked through her website. I understand she has a genius eye for colour. I know her colourwork design is inspired. I know her use of traditional motifs and design is extraordinary.


I would never wear any of her designs. It seems like she puts her energy into the colour and motifs and therefore her sweaters are squares with tubes for sleeves. Long, boxy, shapeless things, they are merely canvasses for the design. They make the models look bad! In this book, even those designs where she has used set-in sleeves have that voluminous, bunched look of drop-shouldered sleeves.

I think this is why Eunny Jang's fair isle designs are so popular. She's got a good eye for colour and motif, but her sweaters have actual shape! They're flattering to wear as well as interesting to knit.

Still, the Starmore book is great for colour inspiration. There are also a few lovely cables that I may adopt for other uses.

The next book is of colourwork:

There is a general recipe for knitting Turkish socks, but the bulk of this book is made up of charts for traditional Turkish stranded colourwork motifs. I'm not that excited about the traditional shape of the Turkish socks, but some of those colourwork designs are gorgeous. I will definitely be using some of those charts for future projects- maybe in hats or for the legs of "normal" socks. They're a natural for mittens, too, of course. In fact, I swear I've seen those motifs, or very similar ones, in some of the current crop of popular stranded colourwork mitten patterns out there.

I bought some great plain red wool gloves in Iceland a couple of years ago, and lost them this winter. (They're on a train in Guildford somewhere, I'm certain!) Instead of buying a new pair, I thought I'd knit myself some. So this book came up just at the right time:

But I should have looked through it more carefully before taking it out. Everything is knit flat! The hats and gloves are seamed! It makes no sense to me to seam gloves- that's just silly. Each finger has a seam! Who wants seams right on your hands, where you're so likely to feel them and be annoyed? I think hats and gloves would be the natural place to have people start knitting in the round. Hats, especially, would not be too fiddly a first in-the-round project. So it looks like I won't be knitting my new gloves from this book.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I must be looking particularly Asian lately...

I've had a blissful few months without this particular annoyance, so I've lost some of my patience about it. In the last few weeks, I've had a lot of "No, where are you really from"-type exchanges.

The vast majority of people who ask me where I'm from do so because, obviously, I don't sound like I'm from these parts. When I say "California" or "San Francisco", they usually say one of two things: Oh, I visited and loved it! or Oh, I've always wanted to visit! And we continue with our lovely conversation, where I generally tell them they should go back, or they should try to visit as soon as possible.

There are, however, a certain percentage of people, here and at home, who will ask me where I'm from not because of how I sound, but because of how I look. The "No, but where are you really from" question is annoying, not least because I get tired of being asked it all the time, but there are lots of other reasons I hate this question.

First, it implies that I can't really be from California. Which, fuck you: my whole family is there; my mother is buried there; my grandparents are buried there. I'm Californian, and American, so you can stick that where the sun don't shine. Second, it shows that you don't really care to actually find out anything about me- you just want to check off the box in some list you have in your head. Listen: the fact that I'm from San Francisco tells you way more about me than the fairly irrelevant factoid you're needling for. If you were actually interested about me as a person, you would work with that.

I know that many people ask this out of genuine friendliness and curiosity. But, okay, how often do white people get asked that by random people at bus stops? Not as often as I get this question, I'm willing to bet. Does this mean that because you're white, your family and background are inherently less interesting? Well, if that's true, I'm offended on behalf of the white people I know. I mean, when people ask The Limey where he's from, and he says Stoke, that's the end of the conversation. (Or they say, Oh, where is that exactly? Or, I'm sorry.) But is his family's story any less interesting than mine?

The last few of these exchanges have involved people addressing me with the few words they happen to know of some Asian language, generally greeting me with "Ni hao". Once, I was going to say something, but the person was a well-dressed missionary, and I thought it was prudent not to attempt any conversation with them at all, so I just walked on. Another time, I responded with a smile and, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Mandarin Chinese." To which the reply was a surprised, "Well, that's a first!" How is that a first? The last time I checked, 5 billion people on this earth don't speak Mandarin, asshat. So is this really the first time you've come across a non-Chinese speaker? Even amongst us slanty-eyed Orientals, hundreds upon hundreds of millions don't speak Mandarin. It's something this guy should get used to.

I'm thinking of getting some good stock response printed up on business cards. I can just hand them out. Let me know if you have any good comebacks.

Okay, rant over.