Monday, October 27, 2008


Back from Crete (schmoozing is tiring work!) where I had only a few minutes a day to check the internet, so it was great to come back to find that Jody has put up the Knotions Winter '08 preview. And hey, lookit this:

Remember that terrible wait for yarn? Well, it was because I had to quite hastily knit the Tailored Tweed Dress up. If I do say so myself, it was worth the wait. It knit up beautifully and is exactly how I envisioned the dress looking.

The Winter issue of Knotions comes out on Nov. 3. I'll be stalking the site.

(Oh, and before I alarm those who may know me: No, I have not magically turned into a hot Frenchwoman. I roped Audrey, our esteemed Lab Manager, into modelling the dress. Damn those perfectly-proportioned Frenchwomen!)

(Also, Ravelry says there are three projects for this pattern already. How?)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This is a pictureless post from Crete...

...because I forgot to bring (among other things):

1. a camera;

2. beach/pool-appropriate footwear;

3. my mp3 player (though, usefully, I remembered its charger); and

4. contact lens case (though I remembered its flight paranoia-compliant solution in <100ml container).

Friday, October 17, 2008

US vs Rest of World

I've just sent in my ballot for the presidential election. For the effect this will have on the election, I may as well have just put £1.80 directly into the post box. This is because:

1) I vote in California, which will go blue; and
2) they don't even count mail-in ballots unless the vote is really close, which it won't be, because see 1).

But I felt I should do my civic responsibility. Before I sent the ballot in, I brought it into work so people could see what it was like. The universal reaction was, "There are more than two choices?!" Ha. The other two things people can't understand are: the electoral college (fair enough; that bewilders lots of Americans, I think) and the fact that we vote for the actual person, not the party. That required a bit of explanation, which I'm uncertain cleared anything up.

But, really, it's amazing how interested people are in the US election. All the major news outlets have journalists over in the US covering it. TV channels here showed all the debates. Everyone is really informed about what's happening and at work, we've spent several lunch hours discussing it.

On the one hand, I think it's cool that people are plugged into what's happening in the world and interested in it. On the other hand, I hate that this feeds into the American egotism of "Of course they have to know what's going on here, 'cause we're that important." On the third hand, more than one Briton has told me (especially after Palin was announced as McCain's VP pick), It sucks that we can't vote in your elections, but at least we can be entertained by them.

As a comparison, I consider myself fairly well-informed, and when I was still in the US, don't at all remember seeing or hearing much about British politics, or, indeed, any international politics. Oh, we'd get wind of new leaders (if they lead "important" enough countries) after election or appointment, but we sure as hell didn't hear much about them otherwise. I don't even remember news of Tony Blair and Nu Labour coming in, in the '90s, and that was fairly major.

That concludes my political analysis. Either way, I'm going to be staying up late on the 4th, and drinking. Lots.


The last couple of weeks of knitting have been disappointing. I guess it was around time that stuff started *not* working out.

First, I've had an idea for a design for a while now, and finally got the yarn to start swatching. It's fairly pricey yarn, so I'm definitely not knitting the damn thing unless someone else buys the yarn! But, three tries later, I think I'm going to have to admit it's not going to work. Either the concept is a no-go, or I just don't have the skill to execute it at this point. Pah. It may work if I buy another ball of the yarn, but I kinda oppose, on principle, spending £15 ($30!) to make a swatch.

Second, I wanted to make The Limey some socks, for Socktoberfest. The yarn is some really squishy Shelridge Farm Soft Touch Ultra I got from Socktopus at Iknit Day. Because of all this, I wanted to make some extra nice ones, instead of the usual plain or ribbed socks I normally knit for him. So instead of my personal recipe for his socks, I decided to try an actual pattern. Again, after two tries, with two different pattersn, I think I'll have to give up and go back to my plain sock recipe.

Third, I finished the Flared Lace Smoke Ring.

Flared Lace Smoke Ring
Yarn: Jaggerspun Zephyr Wool-Silk, in Admiral, bought from KCG Trading, much less than the 2 oz in the skein (the above picture shows a pretty true colour)
Needles: 3.0mm lace Addis
Pattern: Flared Lace Smoke Ring, from HeartStrings FiberArts

Notes: Well. I am not in love with this. It's no fault of the pattern, though, which is simple and well-written. Lots of charts, can't go wrong, really. No, it's bad yarn choice. This laceweight is really not fuzzy enough to give the resulting knit enough body and shape. It is very drapey. So it just kinda folds and sits at the base of my neck.

It doesn't even really show the "flared" bit very well. I wanted a smoke ring that stood up arond the neck better, had more body- one that looks more like the picture in the pattern, basically. I think I may make another one in a thicker, fuzzier yarn. But I won't make it long enough to wear over my head, as intended by the designer. Because, let's face it: it makes me look like an eejit.

Plus, it's not like it keeps your head warm because, hello!, really open lace!

So, yeah, I'll do this again in a more appropriate yarn. I may also do what Eunny and Jesh did, and change the double yarn-overs to single ones.

I will allow this smoke ring to live until I come across a pattern more appropriate for this drapey yarn. It's scarf season, after all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I must be ill

Work is sending me to a conference next week.

In Crete.

Normally, I would be all over something like this, but I really don't want to go.

It's been getting colder and darker earlier. For other people, this means it's the perfect time to go off to a Mediterranean island, but it makes me really want to just hunker down and ensconce myself at home. I want to wrap myself up in the furry blanket The Limey's grandmother gave us and drink hot chocolate. I don't want to have to do the work of travelling.

Well, it doesn't matter, I guess, 'cause I'm going.

(Got that passport just in time, no?)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Short row bind-offs

Wherever possible, I knit using short row bind-offs in place of stair-step bind-offs. Mainly that means armhole shaping, back neck shaping, and front neckline shaping. Although a really simple concept, it's much wordier when writing out a pattern than the traditional stair-step "BO x sts at the beg of the next y rows," so I really had a fight with myself about whether it was worth it to include in patterns, or just do the usual and let people figure it out on their own. In the end, I thought, Well, one of the reasons I like knitting from patterns is to learn new things, so I write my patterns including the short row bind-offs.

I'm glad now, because I've had some good feedback saying people like it, or at the very least, that it's interesting and was good to learn. So, if you never knit one of my patterns, and have never come across it otherwise, I've written a little tutorial on it here. (Although I haven't read or heard of it, I'm sure someone has done it before, and has probably written about it somewhere.)

I'll use the smallest size of the Mongkok Cardigan for my example. Normally, the armscye for the back would be done with stair-step bind-offs, and would look, to my mind, like this:

The instructions would say, roughly, "Work until piece measures 35.5cm/14 inches. Start armscye shaping: BO 4 sts at the beg of the next two rows. BO 3 sts at the beg of the two rows after that. BO 1 st at the beg of the next two rows after that. Cont in st st until piece measures x cm/y inches." Let's say your work measured the correct length after a wrong side row, so you start your armscye shaping on a right side row by binding off 4 sts.

I would show you a picture of what the stair-step bind-off looks like knitted up, but I honestly don't even have a picture of any I've done.

Short-row shaping and bind-off would make your knitting look more like this:

To do this, you'd replace the the bind-offs with short rows. Now, we'd said your piece measured the correct length after a wrong side row, and you would normally start your stair-step bind-offs on the right side row. Instead, for the short row BO, you'd purl that last wrong side row until you have the last 4 sts left, then wrap and turn. What you're faced with now is a right side row, with 4 sts at the front that you haven't knit- that's equivalent to your binding off those 4 sts. Now knit until you get to the last 4 sts, then wrap and turn. What you've done is the equivalent of the first set of bind-offs- the "BO 4 sts at the beg of the next two rows" set of instructions.

You're now at the beginning of a wrong side row again, and you'd do the equivalent of the next set of bind-offs by purling to the last 7 sts (the original 4 + the next 3), wrap and turn. Knit to the last 7 sts (the original 4 + the next 3), wrap and turn. You've just done the equivalent of the second set of bind-offs- the "BO 3 sts at the beg of the next two rows after that" set of instructions. Now, you're faced with 7 sts at the sides of your work which haven't been worked- the equivalent of binding off 4 sts, then another 3.

The next set of short rows would have you purl to the last 8 sts (4+3+1), wrap and turn, knit to the last 8 sts (4+3+1), wrap and turn.

You've now finished the short row portion of the short row bind-offs; next you'll do the bind-off portion. You're ready to start a wrong side row. On this row, purl all the way to the end, picking up and purling the wraps together with their stitches. On the next, right side, row, bind off the first 8 sts (these are your short row sts) and knit all the way to the end, picking up and knitting the wraps with their stitches. On the next, wrong side, row, bind off the first 8 sts (again, your short row sts) and finish the row as the pattern says. You're now finished with the short row bind-offs and can follow the rest of the pattern.

Basically, wherever it says to "BO x sts," you work to the last x sts, wrap and turn. At the end, you pick up and knit all the wraps before you bind off all at once.

In summary:
Where traditional stair-step bind-offs say: BO x sts at the beg of the next two rows; then BO y sts at the beg of the two rows after that; BO z sts at the beg of the two rows after that; etc.

Use the short row bind-offs as follows: work to last x sts, w+t, work to last x sts, w+t; work to last x+y sts, w+t, work to last x+y sts, w+t; work to last x+y+z sts, w+t, work to last x+y+z sts, w+t; etc until all stair steps are done. Work to end, picking up and working wraps with their sts, BO x+y+z sts, work to end, picking up and working wraps with their sts, BO x+y+z sts.

So you've now bound off the same number of stitches as you would for a stair-step bind-off, but all at once, so the resulting line is smooth and un-jagged, like this (on my swatch for the cardigan):

For me, this makes it much, much easier to seam in the sleeves later on. Note, also, at the top, I've use the same method for the neckline bind-off, which is where this method comes in really useful. Because you have one smooth bind-off line, you can leave that edge as is- it's automatically beautifully, simply, finished. There's no need to go back with a crochet hook and neaten up the stair-steps. So, for sleeveless tops, such as my Draped Lace Shell, when you're done, you're done- no need to finish off the rough edges at the armholes, because there are no rough edges!

Using short rows to shape shoulders is well-known. (I love Nona's tutorial for this.) But if you have a back neckline that's U-shaped, the short row bind-off method can also be used for it. In fact, anything U or half-U shaped, like scoop necks, and the front necklines of cardigans, as I showed above. The back necklines of both the Mongkok Cardigan and the Draped Lace Shell is done with short rows, as is the scoop neck of the Horseshoes Cardigan:

The exercise of how to do a short row bind off for a scoop neck, front or back, is left to the reader. Hint: think of it this way:

Please let me know if none of this made any sense.