Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Extinction of the Dinosaurs

You might ask what this topic has to do with knitting. My answer would have to be absolutely nothing.

I’m still loving the Fish Coat, especially since it’s providing my most favorite kind of knitting. I can put my brain completely in park and just follow the pattern. The rhythm of the double knit stitches has gotten into my muscle memory so only the crazy fish color changes provide even the mildest challenge.

So since I’m a monogamous knitter attacking only this one project, what do I write to you about?

Obviously the extinction of the dinosaurs.

But not just any dinosaurs. These happy party-goers:
Unfortunately this rare species is about to experience a total loss of habitat. They’ve conga-lined around an unused bedroom in my house for more than twenty years beyond the end of their symbiotic relationship with the small human that used to occupy that room. I’ve enjoyed their light-hearted presence, but now the progress superhighway is coming through their neighborhood. I’ve decided I want to use their jungle as my office instead of using the jungle that’s evolved on my oldest, most beat-up sofa.

What’s at the root of this habitat destruction? In the real world it would be greed. In my world it’s a frantic grab at a last shred of sanity. My theory, however weak, is that I might be ok if I can find just one small facet of my life that I can control, even a little. The only opportunity I see is this small room. I’m going to control the heck out of it. Poor dinosaurs.

But let me try to wrap this up with a little knitting talk. The other knitting activity I’m flirting with is of course next project thoughts. With the Fish Coat moving along more quickly than expected I’ll be needing a new project before October, (I hope). I’d like to do another PaintKnits TM project with double knit, so right now I’m toying with ideas for a scarf. I really want to work the silhouette idea in a way that truly hits you in the face. A scarf might be a nice, simple vehicle for that. But I still need a motif and I’m having a terrible time getting these silly “terrible lizards” out of my head. I may be forced to do a dancing dinosaur scarf! I suppose it would be unique.

Oh and here’s a gratuitous Fish Coat WIP picture for those who actually come here for knitting talk and pictures:

More knitting next time...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In Deep with Double Knitting

Let me start by saying thank you to Susan for finding a full picture of the Love and Loss sculpture picture on the internet. Nice to see that it is as I remembered it.

With so much time passing since my last post there had to be something happening in my knitting world. Here’s what I’ve got:

The Escaping Squares Vest is finished! I actually finished it late at night while hanging out with Susan from WormSoup at the BMFA Sock Camp. I wore it to the “Stump Tina” event, thinking she might not guess the discontinued Rolling Stone colorway, but of course she tagged it almost as quickly as I could stand up. (She’s scary amazing when it comes to color.) Here are two pictures of the back showing it in its double-knit, reversible glory. (You’ll get pictures of the front when the thing finally gets blocked! I guess I exagerated slightly about it being "finished".)

Escaping Squares was a PaintKnits TM experiment to see how pooling would react to double knitting. It’s kind of a preparation to see if I could create superimposed images over pooling. Most colorwork will distort pooling by radically changing gage for the dormant color, as in Fair Isle floats. That makes a silhouette effect nearly impossible to achieve.  Double knitting keeps the stitches flowing at gage regardless of which color’s visible.

I’m calling the experiment a success even though my ability to hold gage in this new knitting method wasn’t that great for controlled pooling. A careful look shows the bands of color continuing through the squares. I'm happy... plus I've got a new use for PaintKnits!

I’ve also started a new project. Double knit technology has completely seduced me so now I’m knitting M’Lou Baber’s “Oceans to Cross” coat. My plan is to knit it exactly to pattern, which is pretty bizarre for me, but I’ve buffered that by choosing wildly different colors. I don’t wear blue and white particularly well so I’ve substituted black and a blonde brown. I see gold colored fish over deep water or black fish over a shallow pond bottom.

Did you know that it’s considered good luck to have at least one black koi in a koi pond?  I'll have a school of them on my coat!

The yarn came from Delly’s Delights Farm and is 100% alpaca. I purchased it at Rhinebeck last year for this particular project. That was after some serious searching. With the insane variety of yarns out there it’s amazing how hard it can be to find exactly what you want.  Of course it doesn't help when you *know* in detail exactly what you want.

Anyways, I’m loving the yarn, and here’s how the Fish Coat looks so far.

I did come across a double-knit problem which led me to believe that I may not completely understand all of the book’s instructions for the first rows. I’d be interested to hear if anyone’s got some insight. According to the pattern and the book instructions you cast on a slew of stitches which all get knit-purl doubled in the next row, then in the row beyond that the end stitches each become selvage. So your doubling process gives you (K P) (K P) (K P). You turn and are looking at (K selvage) (P K) (P K) (P selvage). Your selvage gets a K stitch, and then the first paired stitch is a P. Of course on my first pass I messed up and had double knit pairs with the P’s in front!

I frogged and tried again just putting K’s on the P’s and vice versa in that first double knit row. That left me with opposing color dots in my edge. Yuck! I frogged again and for lack of a better idea cast on an extra selvage stitch and didn’t double those two end stitches. My doubled row then looked like (K selvage) (K P) (K P) (K P)… (K P) (K selvage). Flip that and knit the selvage stitches and all’s well. So it worked, but I’m left wondering what I missed. That’s definitely not the recommendation in the book. Any ideas?

I’m also sweating how to tuck ends. The final tail can be buried between the front and back fabric, but how do you get to the inside of the fabric to anchor the ends? With Escaping squares I was able to divide front and back between two needles and tuck ends as I went. The color areas were large enough. That’s been really tough with the Fish Coat. Can anyone offer me suggestions?

PaintKnits hasn't been completely dormant while all of this is going on.  I've tested it on a Mac computer and found that it works.  Yay!  And I'm incorporating some suggestions and improvements that came out of doing two new long distance installations.  A little more clean-up and I should be out looking for beta users...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Love and Loss

That’s the name of a sculpture by Roy McMakin in the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. When I visited the park after the RSC Camp two years ago I thought it was interesting, but it wasn’t nearly one of my favorites. Recently it’s been in my mind a lot of the time. I guess I get it now.

Last post I mentioned that my Dad had been struggling with a string of medical problems which all started in October with a ruptured Achilles tendon resulting from taking the antibiotic cipro. On top of the rehab difficulties from the tendon, he fought back several infections picked up in the hospital and rehab center. We, the family, were forced to face somewhat unexpectedly that he wasn’t going to win the last battle. Dad passed away on February 7.

I won’t bore you with a long testimonial about how great he was, but I miss him terribly. He was not a knitter, but he loved the socks I made for him. Plus he was a computer savvy blogger, another hobby shared. I’ll have to stop there or I won’t be able to stop.

Anyways, the last few months of my life transitioned from being overwhelmed with a schedule that included lots of hospital and rehab center visits, to making final arrangements, and now to the unbelievable work of getting his finances settled with Mom. Not to whine and complain, but I add this to my normal overload of a full-time, high stress job and the on-going battle to survive Multiple Myeloma. It hasn't been fun and the exhaustion and frustration often prevents me from being the person I want to be. (Isn’t it ugly and predictable how that always seems to be the case?)

So my progress on PaintKnits and my knitting have both taken a hit. I’ve done most of the knitting on the Escaping Squares vest but can’t seem to buckle down and do the finishing work.

On the bright side, I have signed up for the first session of this year's RSC Camp this year and will stay in the area as a tourist after the camp is over. Of course right now even the travel arrangements seem to add more stress than anticipation. I expect all of that to melt away when I get off the plane in SEATAC and meet up with my knitting mentor, Susan from WormSoup. Let’s hope.

Just so this post is not completely without pictures, let me throw in a couple of shots of the Escaping Squares vest. (It's double knit so both sides of the fabrid are presentable.) As you might remember, this is a PaintKnits TM project. The pooling started out matching my PaintKnits computer model, but didn’t hold. My ability to stay on gage in this, my first double knit project, wasn’t that great. Fortunately I made provisions in the pattern for that kind of problem, so the vest is still interesting and attractive.

I also wanted to find a picture of the Love and Loss sculpture, but searched the web without luck. The few pictures I found just show the neon “&” that hovers above the benches that are sculpted from the intertwined words. We want love to have no connection with loss, but there’s that inescapable neon “&” reminding us.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Usually I wait until I’ve got some knitting progress before posting, but there’s no actual news of that kind right now. I do have some interesting things to talk about though.

Important items first: Thank you to Suzanne and both Susan’s who left me such encouraging comments about PaintKnits TM!

Also important: I had a new question from Stephanie on the Mermaid Fingerless Gloves Part 1 post. She wanted to know how to do the gusset on the left glove. (I went through the detailed steps for the right glove only.) I’m not sure where you’re stuck, Stephanie, so I’ll note a few points that change and maybe it will get you through. Comment on this posting if you’re still stuck. (A return email address will get you a quicker answer if you’re in a hurry. I’m pretty sure there’s a way to show it just to me on a comment.)

The first thing that changes would be where to start the gusset. I’d suggest placing the started glove on your left hand with the knot at the middle underside of your wrist. You should then be able to identify which pattern group needs to become the gusset. In that block you’re once again going to omit all of the tog stitches just like for the right glove. That means you’ll need to replace all of the increasing stitches with the closest stitch type in a single stitch version.

Here’s another change. On row thirteen add the M1 following the eleven mirrored K tbl ribs instead of before. I’d suggest putting it before the existing purl stitch for perfect symmetry.

Those are the only differences I can see so I think that should cover it. Send some detail on where you run into trouble if I haven’t clarified it for you.


Now on to my knittingless knitting news. Let’s start with excuses. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been consumed with working on the PaintKnits website. The possibilities are really exciting and the more I do the more I think of that I want to do. Of course that all makes the thing more expensive, so once again I’m focused on doing as much as I can myself in a feeble attempt to keep the cost down. I have to admit though that my motivations could be more pure. I’m really just having fun.

I did spend some time on the double knit vest pattern. As you might remember I’m locked into a vertical dimension in order to get the pooling I want, (20.35 inches). In addition I expect the fabric to be fairly stiff with the double knitting in heavyweight sock yarn, so the dimension around must be just right. Too large will hang around me like a weird shell and too tight will just pull on the buttons or not close at all.

I pulled a bunch of vests out of my closet to judge the best fit in the length I’m using. I want to pick a circumference that will look right in that length. Currently I’m in trouble because the length is shorter than I was imagining so I have to decide whether to add a bottom border and if so, how long. So here are some vests of widely different fabric and styling:

First vest, my own design. Love the yarn, hate the vest shaping. I should frog it from the bottom and knit it back in a new stitch. Anyways it’s 21.5 inches and probably about the same stiffness as I expect from the double knitting.

Second vest, also my own design. It’s extremely flattering and one of my favorite garments, handknit or not. The length in the back is 20.4 inches, but it doesn’t work nearly as well with the front points rolled under. Also it’s very soft, flowy, and tight. Not what I expect from the double knit fabric.
Third vest, not my own work product. It’s a Woolrich garment but has stiffness and styling close to what I imagined for my double knit vest project. This one’s 22.8 inches.
Fourth vest, Shy Sheep Vest by Shelridge Farms. The long length is flattering, but works because the fabric is the softest and flowiest of the bunch. Fit is a little loose, but again it works because the soft fabric finds one’s figure. (I’ve actually knit this project twice. My mom liked it and wanted one too.) Note that it’s a shadow knit pattern of scattered sheep which you can only see from a side view.
Based on the above I’m thinking that I’ll match the design to the Woolrich circumference, (38 inches), and length. My PaintKnits pattern is at 38.34 inches and the row height is .15 inches from the PaintKnits gage info, so I’ll need to delete two rows from the width. (It’s knit from side to side.)

The length will need to be extended by about 2.5 inches. I’ll now need to decide whether to use the contrasting color, matching color, or color patterning for a bottom border. It's going to be hard to like the added edging when I’m so happy with the pattern as I’ve sketched it. That just means more sketching to be done. Oh well.


That’s a lot of mental work for me at the moment. I’m facing a group of personal challenges which have me a little overwhelmed. My cancer metrics aren’t looking so great so I’m totally stressing over the possibility of adding a new chemo on top of what I'm taking now. My dad’s in the hospital with a ruptured Achilles tendon. My job took this past Saturday from me for a trip to NYC for the AES conference, (well worth it though). And I’m frantically trying to pull myself together for the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival this coming week. It's just too much.

Still I’m looking forward to the Fest. I always do. 363 days a year actually. As usual I’ll be hanging out with my knitting mentor, Susan from WormSoup. We’re signed up for a Lily Chin class on diagonally knit pattern elements. You could guess that the topic intrigues me if you’ve looked closely at the Rhythm of Surf cardigan. By the way, the second vest, my favorite in the pictures above, was the result of a class I took with Lily some years ago about finding design inspiration. I’m very excited to be able to take a class with her again.

So I apologize for a total lack of loops through loops. And I’ll warn you now that the next post has a really good chance of being filled with Fest pictures instead loops!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Swatch Success

With my blocking activities caught up I’ve jumped back on my double knit vest, the one I’m designing to show off controlled pooling. (I’ve got to come up with a good name for this project!) At last report I had laid out a pattern in PaintKnits TM that really showed off the yarn colors in pooling plaid. (See the screen dump in my post from August 9, 2009.) The more difficult task was to swatch double knitting in a consistent gage.

Well I started feeling more comfortable about the gage so it was time to move to the next step… confirming the stitch count for the pooling effect. This next swatch would also confirm that I was on gage for both colors, since I still had doubts.

I decided to swatch just the stitch count for the panel under the armhole. This project will be knit from side to side, so that part of the knitting is the narrowest area. The PaintKnits layout called for 40 stitch pairs in this area, so my swatch would be 40 stitch pairs. I didn’t add color changes because the main point of the swatch was to confirm the pooling. (Actually any excuse would do to avoid that confusion!)

Here’s the bright side of the swatch, (BMFA STR Heavyweight, Rolling Stone colorway on US#7s):

And the dark side, (BMFA STR Heavyweight, Rook-y colorway):
I love the color pooling. It shows up on both sides, although it’s very subtle on the dark side of the fabric. The diagonal bands have roughly the same angle on both sides indicating that my gage is reasonably close on both sides. Amazing!

Once I'd knit some distance on the swatch I needed to use it to confirm my computer model in PaintKnits. Easy enough. I built a simple pattern of 40 stitches across. Next I needed to figure out where in the skein loop I’d actually started knitting. Here’s my model for the skein colors:
Here’s a close up of the yarn’s entry point to the swatch:
Looking closely at where the yarn enters the swatch you can see that the actual knitting starts with the pink, right after the khaki color. In the model the pink starts at 10 inches, so that was my estimate for the start point in the color loop. (The screen dump above shows 17 inches. That was the number I changed to 10.)

Next I painted the pattern in PaintKnits. Here’s the result:
I shouldn’t be surprised, but it still feels like magic to me when the knit fabric matches the computer model so closely! The blue bands in my swatch are preparing to bounce off the edges of the swatch exactly as shown. Green forms a wide diagonal band. All of the colors are where they should be.

Now I’m ready to finalize my pattern. I’m way too lazy to chart the whole thing, so I’m thinking that maybe I’ll dimension it in stitch and row counts. I have to make some decisions about the button bands as well since those are in line to be cast on / cast off regions. This design work still stands between me and actual knitting, but I’m very happy with my new swatch and my progress.

Of course anyone who’s checked Ravelry to see if I’ve finally posted the Rhythm of Surf Cardigan may have some other things to say about my progress…

Monday, August 31, 2009

Block Party

No loops-through-loops action this week. Just a weekend long “block party”. Four projects finally got blocked, at least one which had been waiting for more than a year.

First arrival at the party was Surf. Yes, I know I said this project would be done last weekend, but it turns out that I had some good reasons to jump back into the waves. For starters I’d forgotten to crochet the edging around the cuffs. Oops. The second discovery was that the back edge didn’t really block flat, observed when I picked the cardigan up from the blocking towel. So I tied the button bands together with spare yarn and flipped the cardigan face down on the towel. I shaped it without pins and then the offending seams were steamed.

Now I have an excuse to show you the back of the sweater laid out flat! It’s my favorite part. Check this out:

The buttons went on after blocking to avoid thermal shocking the glass. Of course I have to show them to you. The picture’s below. I’d stashed these lovelies quite a while ago. They were a Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Fest purchase that I put aside for just the right project. The creator is called Moving Mud and consistently has one of my favorite booths. I was thrilled to pieces to see how perfectly they matched the Surf Cardigan. Plus here’s a nice symmetry… Anyone who’s stood in the ocean surf on sand has felt “moving mud”.
I won’t bore your with going into yet more detail about this project. The details are in other places on the blog. Feel free to comment with questions, but beware that I could type about this adventure for pages and pages!

One point worth noting... I’m going to try to post a project on Ravelry for the first time next weekend and this project will be my guinea pig. I’ve decided to give it a fancier name. If you search for it there look for “Rhythm of Surf”. Seems more elegant than my lazy nickname based solely on the yarn colorway name, (Fiesta Boomerang Surf.)

Looking back to the first picture you’ll see a single sock lurking in the corner. This is finally the completion of an experiment that I mentioned in a post in January ‘08. I wanted to see if these top-down Rocking Sock Club Summer Sock cuffs could be blocked after the foot was knit. The big trick was to turn the socks inside out. Then the cuff was steam blocked without pins and wires. I steamed, shaped by hand, and then steamed again. It worked out fine and the set matched. Here’s a finished cuff close up.
The next arrival at the party was this Cashmere Koigu scarf, also knit over a year ago. (Cashmere Koigu is available exclusively from String in New York City.) You can check it out as a WIP on my posting on December 14, ‘07. I’ve actually worn this scarf for two winters in its tightly rolled form, almost like a 1.5 inch diameter boa. The yarn’s feel and color were irresistible.
This muscular length of rope fought me all through the blocking process. (Seems there’s a trouble-maker at every party!) The only way to lay the scarf out flat enough to pin it was to switch to a wet block approach. Hours after blocking it still seemed springy when I tugged on it, so I steam blocked it as well. Here’s a shot of the neatly folded, well behaved results:

Fashionably late at the block party was this amazing lace scarf, the diva of the group. The pattern is “Hydrangea” from Fiber Trends and the yarn is called “Dawn”, a 50% merino / 50% silk blend, from Naturally New Zealand yarns. I ordered both from the Yarn Barn in Kansas. (Their catalogue was just irresistible.) This celebrity is shy of paparazzi so this picture is not that good.
Hydrangea was knit sometime in the window of silence that happened while I was recovering from my stem cell transplant, so I don’t think there are any other blog posts about it. I did enjoy knitting it, and it was certainly the project I needed at that time.

You can breathe a sigh of relief. I have no other projects queued for blocking. Next posting will have to be good old fashioned, loops-through-loops knitting.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hot Hot Hot

After spending so much time in the windowless cave I call an office I usually like to spend my weekends outside. It doesn’t matter much what task I turn my hand to as long as it’s under the sky instead of a roof. But for the last two weekends it’s just been too crazy hot.

So last weekend I finally finished up with the crocheted edge on my Surf cardigan. It was tough to stay indoors in the AC, but every time I stuck my nose outside it nearly melted off my face. (Some will say, “It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity.” Well we’ve got that too! I’m fortunate to have the AC, but nothing beats getting outside.) This weekend I’ve blocked Surf and plan to put on the fancy handmade glass buttons I’ve selected for it… indoor tasks all.

It will truly be amazing to be done with this project. The creative effort goes back to before I started working on PaintKnits TM. I originally wrote the software specifically to create something truly different with this Fiesta Boomerang yarn in the colorway Surf. Things have dragged badly in all of my knitting projects thanks to the chemo drugs. I was actually getting close to wondering if I’d ever finish anything. Now this one will be finished for me to wear to Rhinebeck in October.

I’m even making some progress on my double knit vest, although I’ve discovered yet another challenge in the technique. Once I started incorporating color changes into my swatch I realized that it’s extremely difficult to keep track of whether a stitch is paired with the one before it or after it. Yikes! Turns out that that’s really important to the color work. This poor swatch is turning into quite a mess! Here are my latest mistakes.

I’m having trouble accepting that the dark side can be right while the light side is wrong. Each block, dark and light, should have four stitches. See how the middle block has switched to five light and three dark in the top photo, but in the bottom photo all’s well? Double knitting is definitely very freaky!

My only idea for dealing with this trouble is to populate the knitting with a ton of stitch markers so that I’m never far from figuring out whether a stitch is even or odd. I’ll try it on my next swatch. I’m pretty close to being ready to knit a swatch in my pooling stitch count to confirm that the gage matches my PaintKnits model. Let’s hope I can do a better job on this next swatch. That’ll clear the way for casting on the actual project.

Beyond the swatching I’ve continued sketching color patterns and think I’ve finally got one that I like. It has large color areas that will show off pooling, no diagonals to conflict with the pooling, and enough color area size variation that I hope it won’t be mistaken for intarsia or Fair Isle. In my rough sketch it actually has sort of a Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass feel too it, (IMHO). I still have to work out stitch counts and shaping details to match up with the pooling I want, but suddenly the project is starting to feel real.

There’s even been progress on PaintKnits LLC. This weekend I finished the last LLC activities having to do with New York State. There are still a bunch of not so fun things that have to be taken care of, but the creative parts of this effort are coming back to the top. I’m thinking about a logo and also about what I want the website to be like. I’ve even started learning some html for fun at the W3Schools website. (Some may question my idea of fun, but I really have no trouble admitting that I’m a geek at heart.)

Overall that’s an amazing amount of progress for me. And look! I’ve even managed to blog about it!