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Archive for October, 2008

Back in April, I knit up a sweater using the Lite Lopi pattern from The Best of DSCN1171Interweave Knits. I wanted a deeper yoke than the pattern called for, so I added some colorwork and did the decreases as called for in the pattern. Somehow, I wound up with too much yoke/too large an arm, but not enough decreasing. I bound off, blocked it into wearability, and headed off to Boston with my husband for a long weekend. After we got home, I folded up the sweater and stuck it in the closet to rest until I felt like fixing it.

Now that the weather is turning cool again, I thought that it would be nice to have a more functional sweater. So I pulled the sweater out of the closet, dug out the pattern, and started thinking about what was wrong with it.

I looked up the pattern on Ravelry, a knitter’s networking site, to see if any other knitters had my problem. Not too many other knitters seem to have done this one – only 32 projects came up on the Ravelry search. (By comparison, more popular patterns have been entered hundreds or even thousands of times.) Looking at the photos of other Lite Lopi sweaters, I decided that I really didn’t like the shaping or proportions.

DSCN0381 I did, however, still like the colorwork, and especially liked how my color choices turned out. So, I decided to keep the colorwork charts and instruction, and scrap the rest of the pattern. Instead, I pulled out the Elizabeth Zimmerman percentage system. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this sweater “pattern,” nicknamed EPS, this is really a set of mathematical formulas for generating a sweater pattern. I didn’t even really do any math for this sweater. I measured a few other sweaters and blouses that fit me well, figured out where I wanted the yoke to start, and ripped out the previous yoke, back to the join at the armpits.

I started the colorwork again as stated in the pattern, knit for 1/2 the depth of the yoke, did the first set of decreases, and realized that I was out of colorwork charts. So, I started the charts over again, improvising some color changes and at one point totally making something up because I realized that I had made a mistake, and was tired of ripping things out. So far, so good.

Garments that are constructed with identical fronts and backs – such as the Lite DSCN0384Lopi pattern – tend to feel like the are always pulling back; this is because human bodies are not symmetrical from front to back. The EPS solution to this is to add some short row shaping. I started thinking about this as I got close to completing the yoke. I looked at the EPS directions for the shaping… and discovered that I was supposed to insert half of the short rows before starting  the yoke. At this point I uttered a few words that I will not repeat on this family-friendly blog.

Not wanting to rip back again, I picked a plain knit row and threw in a short row along the back. About an inch later, feeling adventurous, I found a not-too-complex colorwork row and added another short row. I tried on the sweater. Still looked good. So I finished the yoke, added another short row while knitting the collar, and bound off.

And, it looks nice! I’m not totally sure about the rolled collar; I might yet rip it out and do something different. But, at this point I am much, much happier with the sweater than I was 3 days ago. Yippie!

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Texture

In the spring 2008 issue of Interweave Knits, there was a pattern called “Cobweb Lace Stole.” At the time, I thought that it looked a little ho-hum. The suggested yarn, which the sample piece had been worked up in, was Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Shetland Lace, which looks to be a bit “crunchy” and uneven, unlike most of the smooth, drapey lace yarns on the market. The sample also did not seem to have been blocked well, and the photographs in the magazine were dark and did not show much detail.

Then a few weeks ago, I saw a photo of the same stole, worked up in a different yarn, blocked more normally and photographed well. Suddenly, it started to look like a neat project.

I decided after finishing the cashmere scarf last week that I wanted to knit another scarf. I’ve also been wanting to test out a laceweight singles yarn. So, I bought a skein of Malabrigo laceweight, broke out my calculator, and started DSCN0348crunching some numbers. I cast on a mere 95 stitches and started knitting away.

This was when I discovered that this pattern has some really cool stitches.  Amazing. Why didn’t the original magazine photos show these stitches? They totally change the appeal of the project, from “ho hum, another lace stole, I’ve seem a million of these already” to “Awesome! I must knit this!”

The pattern starts with two sets of knitting that look like bells or foxglove flowers. The thought of having those foxgloves poking out of the neck of my nice winter coat was the reason I thought that this pattern would look particularly nice as a scarf. DSCN03401 DSCN0343

Next these is some neat dropped-stitch work, followed by sets or wrapped stitches set off by a neat dropped stitch-brioche stitch combination that twists the long thread from the dropped stitch channels.

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Then after a transition panel, the lace settles into an allover motif for the body of the shawl. This is a place where the singles laceweight looks particularly nice, because of how its heightened texture works with the decrease lines.

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The texture from this yarn really stands out when compared to the other lace project I’m working on, the Shetland Shawl from A Gathering of Lace. The exact same motif looks totally different in Lacey Lamb, which is cobweb-weight cable-spun.

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Whereas I chose the Malabrigo to stand out with its puffy textures and fluffy hand, the Lacey Lamb is meant to fade into the backround and allow the lace motifs and overall design to take center stage.

I particularly like this little “bird’s eye” motif with its floating rings of decreases stitches:

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The Shetland shawl is coming along slow but steady. In another 20 rows, I’ll be done with the center panel and ready to pick up stitches for the borders. This is the last time I’ll get to spread it out and really look at the last – after this I’ll be working in the round and unable to look at more than a few inches at a time.

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Cashmere scarf

Most new knitters seem to knit a scarf for their first or second projects. I skipped that part. Now, one year and eleven months after learning how to knit, I’ve finally done a scarf. Yippie! I think I might have to make a few more. It’s a nice way to explore the land of Expensive and Exotic Fibers.

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I picked up a skein of JoJoLand Cashmere lace weight yarn while at the Stitches Midwest convention back in August. I thought that good cashmere might not DSCN0334itch so much as that cashmere sweater I bought from Land’s End a few years back does. Of course, I was wrong.

Why is it that I can wear the roughest, scratchiest wool for hours and be OK, but after five minutes with a nice, soft, fluffy cashmere scarf around my neck I want to tear my skin off?

Fortunately, pretty cashmere scarves make nice gifts. This one goes in the mail today, to someone in a slightly colder climate. I always enjoy thinking about all of the things I’ve made and DSCN0331sent off, keeping my northern friends and family warm. I’ve thought about making a few more to send away, although after reading about the ecological problems related to cashmere goat herding in China, I think that I’ll either find some sustainably-raised cashmere, or another nice soft fluffy fiber altogether. Alpaca and silk comes to mind…

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Bathtime!


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Bathtime for Ned ends with warm towels and cuddles. Why doesn’t anyone bring me warm towels while I’m in the bath?!

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Today after the warm towels and cuddling, we played hide-and-seek, interspersed with tasty mealworms. Ah, the life of a hedgehog…

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Cashmere and quills

A while ago, I posted photos of two large projects I’m working on: a Shetland shawl, and a traditional Fair Isle sweater for my husband. I’ve worked quite a few hours on both projects, with the net effect that they look exactly the same. Such is the way with large projects.

Neither project is very portable. The Fair Isle sweater lives in its own box, because any time I work on it, I need 10 differently colored balls of yarn. The box doesn’t fit so well on my bicycle! The shawl is quite complex. Working on complex lace while chatting with friends isn’t such a good idea, unless my end of the conversation is to consist solely of 4-letter words. So, the shawl stays at home.

DSCN0289 To break up the tedium and give myself something to do while I’m out and about, I’ve cast on two smaller projects. I’ve wanted to knit some mittens for myself for quite a while, so I cast on the Anemoi mittens with some yarn left over from an ill-fated project. The designer, Eunny Jang, has some lovely stranded colorwork patterns; this will be third design of hers that I’ve knit up.

Wanting an easy project that I could work on without any concentration, I also broke out the skein of cashmere laceweight that I picked up while at Stitches Midwest in August. A single skein of cashmere yarn begs for a pattern that will use up every last inch creamy softness, so I’m working on the Stork’s Nest Scarf, from a recent issue of Piecework magazine. (This was the July/August DSCN0293issue that also has the lovely Estonian lace shawl and all of the cute pincushions!) It is working up nicely enough… except that cashmere makes me itch.

Other people seem to do well with cashmere. It feels wonderful on my fingers. So why does it feel so itchy next to my skin? I have a nice cashmere sweater that I wear in the winter, but after a few hours my skin just crawls. Well, I suppose that a cashmere scarf will make a nice gift. Don’t worry; I’ve already got a recipient in mind!

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I’ve had many, many requests for more photos of Ned the Hedgehog. I’ve also been fielding quite a few questions about hedgehogs in general and Ned in particular!DSCN0302

Ned is currently 13 weeks old. He weighs about 1/2 lb (250 grams) and is about  6″ long, just a bit shorter than my hand. I’ve included a photo of him in my hands, for scale. He has long skinny legs and toes. His quills are quite sharp! However, the fur on his belly is deliciously soft.

Speaking of quills: Hedgehogs shed and regrow several sets of quills while they are DSCN0299growing. This is apparently an itchy and irritating process. We gave Ned a bath with some Aveeno oatmeal wash last night to help sooth his skin. Look at all the quills that fell out! We estimate that he lost about 50 quills yesterday evening. I try to collect them as they come out, but we also tend to find more in the carpet with our bare feet. This is more startling than painful.

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Ned has a house that my husband built for him. He likes to play with jingle bells (like the kind cats play with) by picking them up with his teeth and shaking them around to make them jingle. He also loves to run on his wheel. He generally starts running as soon as my husband and I go upstairs at night.

During the day, Ned likes to hide in his “hedgie bag” and also in the PVC tube that connects the two sides of his house. I frequently coax him into his bag and then plop him in my lap for an afternoon or evening of knitting. He likes sitting in my warm lap and usually starts purring. It is very peaceful, knitting with a purring hedgehog in my lap.

Lots of friends have been asking me questions about hedgehogs in general, such as what they eat, how long they live, and where they are from.  Hedgehog Central and Hedgehog Valley both have lots of information on pet hedgehogs and can probably answer your questions better than I would.

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