Friday, December 14, 2007

Messin' with Multi's

For anyone who was worried about me, no, the Stash didn't get me. It's still ruling my existence, but I continue to work, eat, sleep, and even knit at times. I guess I'm just happy it doesn't demand access to the TV remote.

I've actually been struggling with lining up my next project. An exercise that should be one of the most fun parts of knitting took on something of a dark overtone this time around. Even though my multiple myeloma is in remission, it's pretty hard to forget. This time I looked at all of the projects I want to knit and tried not to think about whether I'll really have a chance to do the ones I put aside. So I ended up not feeling much like communicating about the whole experience.

I'm glad to be back. Playing with Fire's finished and waiting to be blocked. My next projects are on the needles. The big project waiting beyond those is on paper and in my computer. All of these projects have a common theme, (predictable given the composition of my stash), and that's that they all use multi color yarn. Unfortunately none of the concepts I'm playing with right now are Fair Isle, but I'm enjoying them just the same.

The project that's getting lots of attention at the moment is a Lace Leaf Scarf. Even though the pattern's source is Vogue Knitting, the source of my inspiration is this posting by Grumperina about a beloved gift from a friend. I never gave the scarf a second look in Vogue because they showed it knit with a very open gage. The pictures that Grumperina posted show a wonderful ripply effect and leaves that have much more body. Very cozy and inviting, at least to me. By strange coincidence, this same stitch pattern showed up at about the same time on Yarn Harlot as a pair of socks called "Embossed Leaf". (See Stephanie's Dec. 7 posting.) When you're hot, you're hot!

Yarn for the Lace Leaf Scarf is a Cashmere Koigu sold only at String in NYC, shades of red closing in on black in spots. It's not as soft as I'd usually expect from Cashmere, but somehow it has an extra cushiness that's unusual and appealing to both touch and eye. This yarn's really been talking to me, wanting to cuddle around my neck while I drive to work and Christmas shop. I'm sure I've stretched its patience by taking so long to find just the right pattern. (I've had it for some months now from a city trip with Susan.) I didn't buy enough to do the full lacy length called for in VK, but by knitting it on smaller needles, (US#3 instead of US#5), I've decreased the width. Estimating by the weight that went into one pattern round, I'm only going to be a few inches short in spite of having only two skeins instead of three.

The Cashmere Koigu skeins are the two on the right. Their current competitors for my attention are Blue Moon's RSC Raven in color Lenore, then two by Hand Maiden, Sea Silk in Sangria, and Mini Maiden in Amethyst. (Loopy's pictures of the Sea Silk don't show the precious-metal sheen of this amazing stuff.)
I'm very happy with the way this scarf is turning out and also with the loops-through-loops experience. I can't wait to wear the finished scarf, but once again don't want to finish!
I also mentioned that Playing with Fire is waiting to be blocked. That will probably happen this weekend along with blocking of the first cuff of the Summer RSC sock. The exciting finish of the Fire project is all tied up in the strange behavior of the insanely varied multi yarn. Blue Moon's Fire on the Mountain color has a dark band across the middle of the skein with rainbow colors all around it. In the collar of my sweater the dark band hit three times so that each round alternated the forward and return colors in the skein loop. This was the resulting effect.Isn't that wild?! Even the lighting bolt effect is perfect for a project named "Playing with Fire"! I just enjoyed everything about this silly project. Hope blocking goes well. Also hope I don't double in weight over Christmas so that I end up looking totally dumpy in it!!

Speaking of crazy pooling effects, I've begun the analysis of my amazing Fiesta Boomerang Surf yarn. It's been a while since I raved about how much I love this yarn. Right now I'll just say that while the rest of my stash has been banished to the floor of the Knit Pit, Surf continues to enjoy a privileged and reserved location on the sofa with me. Yes, all nine skeins. Even a swatch of this stuff reduces me to tears with its beauty. I wonder if I should buy enough to decorate my house…

As a token of my great love for Surf I've set up my PaintKnits program to analyze how the multi will behave. I will settle for nothing less than perfection on this project, (even though I'm sure this yarn could never be ugly in any form). Here are some of the fun poolings I've come up with based on pattern width and the start point in the color banding. These could be button bands or borders.
Check out these lovely patterns.
And this one's worth setting up a design around just to see if it really happens!

I'm deep into sketching my design for this sweater and can't wait to feel that Fiesta slipping through my fingers. We'll just have to see if I can exercise enough discipline to finish up the C & G cardigan first. (Not likely at all! Notice I don't even mention all those ends that need tucking on Pyramids!)

These are all fun and wonderful things to think about, (except for tucking those ends). Maybe I'll be smarter this time about lining projects up ready to go before I run out. Or maybe more time spent swimming in Surf is what my spirit needs. The future will tell.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Out of Control

There was no question that this time the beast was playing to win. The tamer circled it warily. Muscular ripples of color covered its form, the epitome of brute power. Its size alone was enough to cause a rush of panic in spite of the tamer's years of experience. This time was different.

The tamer desperately fought the urge to give in to the seductive and hypnotic beauty of the monster. Focus had to be maintained. Containment must be achieved. There was no longer an option to attempt a loving approach. No possibility that the tamer could run her hands gently over the creature, shaping its performance into grace and art as she had done so often before. The time for that was past. This being had grown huge, a giant mass which allowed no entrance to its enclosure, ferocious in its ability to destroy even the psyche of its cohabitants.

Battle engaged. The tamer grabbed frantically at the exposed fringes of the beast bare-handedly ripping away at its bulk. It did not flinch. Frantic effort was rewarded with no discernable change in the size and strength of the behemoth. No response at all. Lunging desperately toward its heart the tamer finally felt despair. This creature had no soul. Mitosis occurred before her very eyes. With no apparent reduction of its massive power the beast divided, surrounding her with walls of brain-ripping color, every shade and hue she'd ever loved.

Consciousness was slipping away. A final thought flickered in the tamer's mind before she succumbed. "I think I feel qiviut under my left elbow. Forgot I had that." Then it was over.


Ok. I'm having some stash trouble. Yes, it's pretty serious. Not quite ready to dial 911, but getting close. I realized the other day that I don't play DVDs any more because I can't get to the TV. My original stash-control plan just isn't working… I was just going to knit really, really fast.

Here's just one stash location. I refuse to photograph all of the stash outposts. (Those two dark wood cubes are completely stuffed.)
I've broken down and bought 6 huge, (41 quart) under-bed boxes, giving up on my resolve to add no new stash locations beyond the large cedar chest (below) and two Pottery Barn coffee table cubes (above) that I lined with cedar. I'm now facing the terror that even those six new boxes may not contain my stash. This is not a good situation.

Here's my last hope for containment. Hope those boxes are bigger than they look stacked! (That is the packed cedar chest by the way.)
I'll update on this activity as I proceed. Unless of course the stash wins…

In other, happier news, my friend and knitting mentor Susan has been chosen as a finalist in DishRag Tag. Congratulations! (I can't wait to talk about this at work!) Check out the finalists and vote here. Voting is only being held to the end of today, so hurry!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Playing with Fire

Some weeks ago I described my "Big Knitting Problem", basically that I like to knit Fair Isle projects and like to buy multi-colored yarn. Playing with Fire is a sweater design I created as an attempt to merge these two opposing inclinations. The project has turned out to be such fun that I decided its story deserved to be told.

The inspiration was a finished knit displayed in a wonderful yarn shop in NYC called String. This gorgeous sweater set was knit from a single shaded Koigu color, but two skeins were slip-stitched together so that the second skein produced a subtle pattern of dots across the fabric. I drooled a puddle on the store floor.

As I tried to mentally prepare for my stem cell transplant this past May one distraction was to set up a cheerful, easy project that I could work on in the hospital. I expected to have two weeks to knit til my fingers bled. I quickly decided that I wanted to experiment with a Fair Isle design that combined a multi with itself. With hardly any conscious manipulation my mouse clicked me over to the Blue Moon Fiber Arts website. Really, does anyone else have such an amazing selection of colors? I agonized over which multi I would go with, but in the end it was no contest. I was drawn to the vibrant colors of Fire on the Mountain. I ordered a huge pile, (10 skeins), in Heavyweight.

Then the tragedy. The yarn wasn't in stock, at least not in the truckload quantity that I'd ordered. It would have to be dyed. There was no way to get it in time for my hospital stay. I was disappointed, but picked up the next project on my list, the Comings & Goings Cardigan. That was a nice big gage and had some Fair Isle. I was content to wait. Sometimes it's just nice to be looking forward to getting a package.

It all worked out in the end. I was not up to knitting during my hospital stay anyways. I had the yarn delivered to my parents' house, where I was to spend a week recuperating before resuming a life filled with endlessly grueling homeowner tasks. It was a fun change of pace to share the dramatic box opening, releasing a rainbow of color into my parents' living room.

I swatched, (yes, really I swatched!), the dot pattern from String, one skein as a background, the other skein jumping in for a single stitch every third stitch on each fourth row. What was subtle and exciting in the shaded reds of Strings' sample garment completely disappeared in the mad colors of Fire on the Mountain. It wasn't going to work. I was in uncharted territory.

How could I best combine two busy skeins so that the viewer would see right away that there were two overlaid color motifs? The frantic color changes would only support larger areas so that each skein could exert its identity even while shifting shades. I decided on vertical stripes, but felt some sadness for the simplicity of the idea. That's how the stripes ended up with varying widths.

Originally my stripes alternated descending and ascending number sequences like this: 5 1 4 2 3 3 2 4 1 5, but the 2 3 3 2 area got very murky with the skeins each losing their identity. The winning swatch ended up being 5 1 4 2 3 2 4 1 5 1, presenting distinct pattern areas of wide stripes separated by a one stitch boundary, plus a 2 3 2 stripe that acts as its own unified design element. This arrangement had the added benefit that one skein would be used faster than the other, guarantying that the two skeins would shift colors at different rates across the fabric.

I was finally ready to forge ahead. The project even had a name now. All of my swatching led me to call it "Playing with Fire". (Note to self: Take pictures of failed swatches and project approaches... So much more interesting than describing them!) Here's the winning combination:

The sweater construction was selected for simplicity, a drop shoulder design whose boxy outline would allow the vertical stripes maximum free roam. I don't mind purling in Fair Isle so even though I briefly considered steeks, that idea was quickly rejected. (Steeks terrify me.) I measured my favorite bulky sweaters and chose dimensions to result in a slightly oversize fit without going as far as a complete frump out.
You can see from the picture that Playing with Fire is still a work in process. This is the first project that I've ever actually dreaded finishing. It's so much fun to work on! I realize that sometimes while I'm knitting I have this manic smile on my face as I watch the insane colors combine and recombine themselves. The wool is soft to the hand, but no-nonsense as far as workability. It even supports several cycles of ripping without fluffing out. I'm hoping that the ripples in the 2 3 2 stripes will block out, but like the effect enough to happily accept it if they don't.

For those interested in the technical details, I'm knitting on a single US#7 long circular for the whole thing, magic looping the sleeves. Gage is around 6 sts per inch, and that's giving me a fabric that's a little on the tight side. I'm using the Knitpicks Options needles. Here's Susan's favorite view... the inside!
I am very close to finishing the C & G Cardigan, but I think Playing with Fire's going to breeze past it. There's no doubt in my mind that I'll be able to wear it to the Rocking Sock Club Camp this coming April and collect all of the compliments that I expect on my lunatic creation, (per the theory presented in my previous post). I suspect that if I'd chosen a more restrained color the completed sweater would have more dignity, but I like this design specifically because regardless of color selection, it will always proudly announce itself as a hand knit.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Compliment Conundrum

Isn't it the greatest feeling to pull on a hand-knit that you're really proud of? You look in the mirror and say to yourself, "Wow, this really works!" There's a whole day ahead where everyone you know and don't know will admire your handiwork and smother you with compliments. You're psyched to get out into the world, even if your destination is your normal daily employment.

And then no one notices. Not a soul. It's surreal. Everyone complimented you on the ill-fitting beginner's project that you wore two days ago. What's going on?!

I've been thinking about this because I'm working on a somewhat strange sweater project. It makes me happy, but it's definitely not a statement of high fashion… or any other kind of fashion! It's my Playing with Fire Sweater. This garment is just painfully bright and cheerful, kind of like one of those morning people that most days you just want to avoid. As I was working on it last night it occurred to me that I can probably expect a lot of compliments on it. Then I had to think about what triggered that idea.

Here's my theory: Once a completed knit object achieves a certain level of quality, very few people will take notice and say something nice. I suspect that the garment actually goes beyond what most folks think a hand knit can look like. Sometimes they take for granted that it's store-bought. Sometimes they just don't notice it at all.

Of course if it doesn't fit, or the collar's a little funny, or the color selection is outside of mainstream, or the button band puckers, the anomaly catches the eye. The viewer is then likely to think, "What's up with that?" Their brain crunches away and "bing", they categorize the oddity as hand made. Next they recognize that you've probably attempted something that might be just a little beyond your capabilities. "This person's really trying to be creative. Good for them!", they might think. They may even hear suggestive frogs in the distance and not understand why…

That's when you'll suddenly hear, "Did you knit that? How nice!" Without any intent to boast I can say that I've experienced this comment often. It's because I've got plenty of projects that have "issues" that I like to wear anyways. It's fun and I'm not so proud. I freely admit that I've reached the point where I always wonder what I've done wrong when I hear those words from a stranger. Sadly cynical I suppose.

The project below netted me a compliment in the elevator at my lawyer's office. Honestly it looks much better on the floor than it does on me. Don't know that I could ever lose enough weight to really wear it without being hospitalized.
I consider the Dale sweater below to be the best I've done, (so far). Unsolicited compliment count: zero.
I used to be shocked when my knitting mentor Susan would tell me she wore her latest stunning creation and no one said anything. Her work always fits perfectly, is completely tasteful, perfectly executed, and often involves challenge outside the normal scope of a knitting project. I can only theorize that people can't imagine these works came off of knitting needles! (I've seen many of them in process and still have trouble believing it sometimes!) For myself, I hear those words much more often, but almost never when I'm wearing one of my few truly good projects.

Until recently that is. My latest effort has been the retraining of my co-workers. If you're suffering from the same lack of recognition you might want to try this as well. I make them listen to me talk about knitting at every possible opportunity. That way they always ask if I knit what I'm wearing. Last week I was asked if I knit a velour printed jacket! (Now that would be a trick!) Anyways, I'm very satisfied with this state of things. I'll never know for sure if anyone's really impressed with any of my projects, but I'll always have an excuse to talk about them!

The last part of the experiment is to see if all this knitting talk causes me to lose respect at work, or causes people to run the other way when they see me down the hall. I'll let you know as the experiment continues. Especially since if I keep this up I may end up with lots of unemployed time for talking and no one else to talk to!

So that's a whole lot of text without much detail on my beloved Playing with Fire Sweater. I'll save the fun knitting technology for next time. Just brace yourself for a project that's almost too joyful to tolerate!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mermaid Fingerless Gloves, Postscript

It's finally time to wrap up this project and move on to new things. My sister's Mermaid Gloves are done and I have no plans to knit another pair, in spite of the various requests. There are too many other fun and fascinating patterns out there. Time is just too precious.

Before I leave the topic there are a few things that I learned on the second pair that really deserve mentioning along with my three part instructions, (August and October '07). Jo's pair was knit on US#1 needles, (the big US#1 if you like the accuracy of the metric world.), instead of on #0's. They were also knit from a lighter weight yarn, ShibuiKnits, rather than Socks that Rock Medium. I intentionally knit very tight for a minimized gage. The result was a glove that was shorter in length, but much more comfortable and wearable. My first pair feels a tiny bit bulky across the palm.

With the smaller gage I was afraid that the pattern would look excessively stretched when worn, but it really doesn't. I'm not sure what makes this pair more stretchy. It could be gage or yarn weight or some other yarn parameter that I can't name. Whatever it was, it worked out great. I'd recommend that if you're going to use Socks that Rock yarn, try the light weight instead of the medium. You might want to consider ShibuiKnits since that worked so well for me.

Look at the wonderful pooling I got from ShibuiKnits Midnight color! Here's palm down:And of course the thumb gusset that I'm so happy with... Here's palm up:

It was interesting that I got so used to doing the backwards Ktbl that it took some concentration to go back to the normal one. Some of that comes from doing two left gloves in a row, (mine second and Jo's first), but it also indicates to me that the stitch is really not that bad.

Overall, I'm very happy with the mirrored approach and still absolutely thrilled with my easy, organic thumb gusset. The slight difference in texture in the mirrored stitches is easily made up for by the symmetry in the final product and the opportunity to create this thumb gusset that grows out of the scale pattern. (That's my opinion obviously, and I expect that there are plenty of knitters and wearers that will disagree!)

Note to Monica (Passionknit): Glad to hear you're planned to knit your next pair mirrored! I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of the whole experience.

If there's anyone out there who really wants to take this project to the next level, they might be able to eliminate the slight texture difference in the mirrored stitch by spinning their own yarn, "S" twist for one glove and "Z" twist for the other. Go for it! I'd love for someone to confirm the yarn twist theory!

So that's all I have to say on the Mermaids. Now if I can just figure out how to hook all this info up with my new Ravelry account…

Note to Susan (WormSoup): Here's my active project list… Comings & Goings Cardigan, Playing with Fire Sweater, and Pyramids Sweater. The list is getting shorter again. Maybe the insanity has passed and I'm working my way back to being a "Serial Knitter". We'll see. I'd love to clear the sofa somewhat to make ready for a brand new project.

What's on your active list? Any Rhinebeck projects on needles yet?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sheep, Rabbits, Goats, Llamas, Alpacas…

I'm referring to Rhinebeck of course. Before I pick up on all of the projects screaming for my attention, I have to pay homage to that most amazing of events, the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival. I took lots of pictures, and realized after the fact that most of these were taken of the critters, not the vendors or shopping areas. Hey, when I'm shopping nothing else intrudes on my focus, not even the need to photograph!
The Featured Sheep this year was the Bluefaced Leicester, but each year I pick my own favorite breed. (In an alternate life I'll have a flock of these beauties, so it's critical that I make a careful selection!) For two years now the miniature breeds have been getting most of my attention. Here's a lovely little Cheviot sheep.

Shetland sheep are another favorite, especially after working on Pyramids, a Ron Schweitzer Fair Isle design. I was surprised and thrilled to see Yarns International at the Fest this year. These folks are purveyors of Shetland wool and patterns and work closely with Ron Schweitzer, the artist of so many amazing Fair Isle designs in natural and dyed Shetland colors. Among the outrageous samples displayed in the booth was this one by Jennifer Lindsay, (photo from book).

Check out that gorgeous and unique collar! I drooled puddles over the knit-up sample and then almost trampled my fellow shoppers after being told that the pattern was in Barbara Albright's book, "The Natural Knitter". I bought the book, specifically because I couldn’t resist this sweater, but I am already enjoying the rest of the content. I learned for example that goat tails stick up and sheep tails hang down... Crucial trivia at a Wool Fest!

Getting back to the sheep however, here's a collection of Shetland sheep that I really wanted to take home. Check out all the amazing range of colors!
Shopping was wonderful. For me the height of joy is sitting on the floor of a yarn store or booth with my friend Susan from WormSoup. This trip we found ourselves on the floor in the booth of The Needle Lady from Charlottesville, VA, looking at Hanne Falkenburg and Vivian Hoxbro kits. I regained consciousness from my yarn trance with a kit in my lap that I'd been lusting after for three years. It was obviously fate. Yes, I bought it.

By the way, for all of you who are considering various kit purchases, I heard from the proprietors of Mostly Merino, from Putney VT, that they'd noticed that the average time for someone to break down and buy a kit that they've been considering is about three years. So even though you think you're being strong, unless you've gone past three years, that kit you've been resisting is probably in your future. Go ahead and buy it now! Get a head start!

Another booth where a surprising amount of money left my wallet was Golding RingSpindles. Tom and Diane Golding were showing a black walnut ball winder that crossed over from knitting accessory to furniture to art. I wanted this thing badly! I was good. I resisted. I stuck with my plan to buy a nice plastic ball winder, around $40, as recommended by Susan. My self-discipline was founded on the decision that I had to be sure I would use it before making a bigger investment. But next year look out…

The surprise purchase at the Golding booth was a "Learn to Spin" drop spindle kit. At lunch on Sunday Susan and I were joined by a group of avid spinners who convinced us that with a drop spindle by Tom Golding we'd master spinning in no time. They should have gotten a commission. We bee-lined back to the Golding booth and both purchased the kits. By dumb luck I fell in love with the spindle that was included in the kit. "Tsunami". Susan upgraded to a spindle that certainly crosses into the art world. I'm hoping she'll post a picture of it on WormSoup. (Hint, hint.)
Susan and I also managed to come away with Socks that Rock sock yarn. Honestly I have to say that that's really trophy shopping. You can buy this yarn from Blue Moon Fiber Arts Inc. on line, but there's something about getting a few skeins at the Fest in person that just makes you feel a rush of superiority and victory. It even makes standing on one of the longest non-food lines in the Fest worthwhile. Near the end of the show we saw that there were only a few skeins left. Last year there were none, so I'm guessing The Fold probably brought an extra truckload.
In addition to the shopping, we were excited to discover that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee would be speaking as part of the book signing, new this year. I think it's been over two years since I've laughed so hard. Really good for the soul. I was bummed to realize that the one thing I forgot to bring was my Yarn Harlot book, "The Secret Life of a Knitter", but hopefully another opportunity will present itself to get that treasured possession signed.

Stephanie once again accomplished the amazing feat of helping us all be proud to be knitters while at the same time poking fun at our obsessions. Members of "CHOKE" beware! (Cultural Humiliation Of Knitters Everywhere - a secret, but widespread organization.) Apologies to Stephanie for this poor picture. After this early shot I was laughing too hard to take another!
There was much, much more, but I'll wrap up here with a picture from another favorite Fest moment. I touched noses with this friendly wool-bearing beast. It was a brief moment of communion with the creatures that bring us so much joy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Into the Knitting Community

There's an interesting thing about blogging and I guess writing in general. It's not always easy to accomplish what you intend. I've posted everything I discovered about the Mermaid gloves, especially the left glove, and found that my description of all of the difficulties and solutions could actually be intimidating instead of empowering. Monica's comment on my previous post was an eye opener! Looking back, maybe some projects are better attacked without knowledge of all the roadblocks that knitters will otherwise pig-headedly solve along the way. I'm still hoping that sharing my experience will be helpful to some who knit those gloves, but now see that it won't work for everyone.

One thing I have accomplished is the joy of communicating about a project that I found really fascinating. Follow-on correspondence with Monica opened my eyes to some other approaches for solving problems like the color change in the mirrored glove. It never occurred to me to knit both gloves in the same direction! Check out this gorgeous pair, (link referred by Monica):

The exchange of ideas has really been fun and enlightening, and that's why I originally decided to blog. Thanks so much Monica!

And Susan from WormSoup likes my sketches! No accounting for taste they say. I had really planned to do something nicer, but just wanted to get that posting out fearing that someone was actually knitting up the gloves and might want it. As long as the standards don't get too much higher, there may be more sketches in me. Thanks for the compliment!

I've been distracted from posting for a bit by the impending Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. I attended with Susan (of WS) again this year, and as always we had the time of our lives. Those two days have been the best days of my year for quite a few years running now.

I'll have more about that happy experience in my next post. Today I think I need to take a look at some of the projects that are lurking around my sofa, demanding that I hold back from attacking my new Wool Fest projects. Maybe it will help me keep from running in thirty directions at once!

Unfortunately my project status going into the Fest was not what I had hoped. Comings & Goings Cardigan couldn't be finished. I've actually completed all of the finishing work except for the collar and I-cord along the front opening and around the neck, but I can't decide whether that will be a button band or not. Oh well. At least the impending Fest motivated me to get on with sewing the sleeves and tucking ends. Here's where that project stopped. (The gloves were thrown in for scale.)

I have good news on my sister's Mermaid Gloves. I was hearing the call of the frogs, (ribit, ribit, rip it…), thinking that with the gage going small Jo would not like the length. Over the previous weekend she tried on the in-progress left glove and was not only happy with the length, she also really liked the ShibuiKnits Midnight color! Amazing! What a relief! And I won't have to knit the thing over again! So excellent! Not much progress since, but here's what they look like right now. (Susan - By the way the last photos weren't on the beach. I just wish they were! This photo shows the glove posing on Pyramids.)
For relaxing evening knitting I brought my brainless buddy, Playing with Fire to Rhinebeck. This sweater hasn't seen much action as I've pounded through the left Mermaid Glove and the C & G Cardigan. I was thinking that it would be nice to get back to that project, but the evenings were mostly dedicated to collapse from exhaustion.

Lastly, my knitting fashion statement for the Fest… (Seeing everyone wearing their knit creations is a key part of this event!) Well this year I didn't really have a chance to show off anything. I put on my favorite old Bunny Sweater from way back, but that was way too warm. I was down to a t-shirt within 40 minutes. Here's the Bunny Sweater in case you think you might have seen me early Saturday. (The background is my wonderful Bunny Quilt from the Saint James Piecemakers.)
It was fun to see the determined few who were wearing lovely winter sweaters in the 72 degree weather, and also those who bravely fell back on draping a spectacular shawl over any warm weather clothes they'd packed regardless of color coordination. As always, the knitting skill on display was exciting and motivating.

So next year I should have Pyramids, C & G, and Playing with Fire to choose from, plus of course whatever creations come to me along the way! It would be awesome to have my Fiesta Surf Sweater done. Oh, the possibilities!

360 days to go!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mermaid Fingerless Gloves, Part 3 - Sinister Left Mitt

Here at last is the final installation of my Mermaid Glove notes! Knitting my sister's gloves helped me nail down my best solutions for the problems presented by the mirrored monster. I suspect there are even better ways to solve these issues, but for those who just want to get the job done I've set down my method.

Before I dig in on these instructions let me tell you what the two biggest issues are:

1) The stitch pattern looks very different if reversed because a Ktbl has a natural direction to it.

2) Pattern rows don't naturally flow one to the next when knit in the opposite direction.

A little background on Issue #1: As I started the left glove the first time, it occurred to me that the Ktbl twist direction might be a problem. I looked really closely at Steph's photos on Craftoholic and thought that they looked like normal Ktbl's in spite of being knit in the mirrored pattern. I started my own left glove using a normal Ktbl and after one pattern block of 22 rows I was horrified. A normal Ktbl stitch recedes slightly on its left side, so that the scales of the right glove have a feeling of depth. The ridges all slope toward the center of the scale. With this feature reversed the pattern looked totally different. The scales came out flat and lifeless.

When I put the gloves on this effect was alleviated, but that wasn't good enough for me. I wanted a total right/left match, so I had to figure out how to make a mirrored K tbl. When I started over with my new, mirrored Ktbl stitch, I still saw some difference between the two gloves. I was mystified until Susan from WormSoup pointed out that the twist in the yarn itself also changes the appearance of a stitch! In the final product my left and right glove almost look like they're slightly different shades of purple, but that's probably something only their maker would notice.
The point of all that text was to tell you that you may want to swatch before you make any rash decisions on whether or not to use the mirrored stitch. It's really not difficult once you get going, but not everyone will care enough about the subtleties of texture to make it worthwhile. I also suspect that the stitch may come off one person's hand differently than another's, so the normal version might even look ok on both gloves for you.

In addition to the issue of learning this strange stitch, there can also be trouble with gage. You're trying to make matching gloves in two different stitches, so don't take for granted that gage will cooperate. My right glove is slightly longer than my left, but fortunately it's not noticeable when they're on my hands.
Issue #2 concerning the pattern rows… Well that's just strange. I spent some time staring at the chart with a big glass of red wine, but never saw the logic of why this pattern behaves so bizarrely when reversed. (Not sure that the red wine helped much there.) I've taken careful notes of what I did to deal with that however, and they're listed below as well.

So here goes…

Part 3 - Mermaid Gloves, Sinister Left Mitt

Let's start with how to make a mirrored Ktbl stitch. I really did find these pretty easy once I got the hang of it. To make this work the stitch that's waiting to be knit must be facing toward the right instead left. Insert the right needle into the loop from the left by going behind the left, (front), leg of the loop. Catch the strand of yarn by sweeping the left needle underneath it from the left. Pull the yarn through the loop. You should have a new, right-facing loop on the right needle. Notice that even though the new stitch is not yet twisted, the one below it is. I've added some rough sketches so that my words will have a chance at making sense.
Caution: Check your gage! With the new stitch the left glove may very well knit up at a different gage from the right. (I sound like such a knitting author! Who ever really checks gage?! Then again, how many of us frog while regretting that??? Choose your poison…)

Onward to the actual glove. (All references to "Ktbl" actually mean the mirrored Ktbl.):

After cast on start the 1Ktbl x 1P rib on a Ktbl instead of a purl. Doesn't make that much difference, but if you're a perfectionist like me you'll appreciate the hint. Knit the rib to length per Part 1 of my instructions.

When you reach the beginning of the chart start at the left edge and read from left to right. Notice that on rows 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22 the previous row's yarn overs must be reversed to face right before they are knit. Those are the rows where a Ktbl is knit onto a yarn over, and as I mentioned above mirrored Ktbl stitches must start out facing right in order to work. (I found that this made it very difficult to tog the yarn over with a Ktbl in rows 1 and 12, but for me it was worth it.)

Here's the first rub with the reversed chart. After row 11 the reversed chart tries to put two yarn overs together. Ignore the first yarn over in row 12. Past this row the stitches on each needle will resume beginning and ending with left-most and right-most chart stitches respectively, like a normal pattern.

After row 12 you'll see that a new scale is growing at the beginning of each needle. This scale is actually knit to the previous needle's stitch pattern, meaning that as the pattern progresses the very first scale in a round is actually knit to the previous row's pattern. Nothing to worry about, but do remember that detail when checking your work!

Once you've knit the 22nd round that entire first scale will really belong to the previous row. You'll still need to work that scale before you can start again with the row 1 pattern. Before (or as you knit) row 1 move one scale's worth of stitches from the left needle to the right at each break between needles. This makes your start point for the round shift over one scale, (12 stitches), for each vertical pattern group, or three scales all together before you start the thumb gusset. I could not find any more elegant way to deal with this crazy pattern.

Thumb gusset: The thumb gusset is worked the same way as it is for the right glove, by omitting all of the Ktbl tog's in a pattern block. The trick becomes selecting the best pattern block for creating the gusset. I'd recommend the sixth, (last), block. With the shifting stitches, your initial cast on knot will have moved 180 degrees around the glove. Putting the gusset in the sixth block keeps that starting knot symmetrical with the right glove and slightly to the underside of the piece.

There's one last potential pitfall. At this point your cast on knot has moved, your gusset's in a new place, and basically all frames of reference have gone out the window. Be very careful when re-establishing the beginning of the round before starting the fingers! My recommendation is to use the 1 x 1 rib to bring you to the vertical pattern edge next to what will be the pinky finger and reposition the work on the needles as required for that start point. It's a really good idea to put the glove on and make sure the thumb gusset is next to the opposite vertical pattern edge, and also that it's on the correct side of that edge! Knit one full row of rib per Part 2 of my instructions.

From here on the project should actually be fairly straightforward to mirror. Use the table of stitches from Part 2, but be sure to remember to mirror it.

The last step is to leave me a comment on FurrPurls with a web reference that will let me see your finished product!! (And, of course a heads up on any errata that you notice along the way.)


Whew! Glad that's done. The Mermaids really are lovely, but I'm so, so ready to be working on something new. That absolutely huge pile of Fiesta wool's been calling to me incessantly! And there might just be some newly arrived wool calling too…

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pooling Mermaids

Looks like I've got a use for my PaintKnits program already! Jo's Mermaid Fingerless Gloves are pooling. We're not talking puddles. We're talking giant Olympic sized pools. All of those projects where I was dying to have the colors pool, but they refused. Now I'm looking for stripes and I end up with a total swim meet!! The photo above was edited to show front and back next to each other. (I only wish that I were that far along with the second glove!) I really do like the pooling shades, but they're not what I expected or discussed with Jo. If you've been following along you know that my determination to produce gloves that she'll love is making me a little bit batty.

Of course I'm also having a little issue with gage, (as always). The ShibuiKnits wool looked a tad fatter than the Blue Moon Fibers medium, plus my first pair of Mermaids was just a little tighter than I'd like. To compensate I moved to a US #1 and kept the knitting real tight. (Su at WormSoup: This was a big US #1, not the small. I wanted to use a small, but couldn't find one in my collection. Long live metric!)

The result has been pretty strange. The gloves are coming out slightly smaller than my first pair but are much more stretchy and comfortable. Weird. I'm sure Su will explain it to me. (The pressure's on, my expert friend! :-) )

At this point I think the key to this whole adventure is to have the second glove pool similarly to the first, so I'm going to see if I can take some control of these multi's. I've set up the Mermaid gloves in PaintKnits to simulate what's happening now, and plan to check the next skein to see if it's going to do the same thing.

The hardest part of this exercise is re-establishing the skein as it was looped for dying. Unfortunately ShibuiKnits is one of those wools where the wool is re-skeined after dying so that it's not as simple as untwisting the thing. In addition the shadings are subtle in strand form, showing up strongly only as they're knit. Here's what I came up with:
The loop at the bottom of this picture shows the re-established skein. It's looped into a horseshoe so that both ends are on the right. Once I figured out where the loop ends were I tied a loose knot at each end so that it would be easy to handle for measuring.

Now here's my simulated glove modelled on the skein that's currently in work. The program opens the circular knit and lays it flat so that the image shows the pattern all the way around. I'll admit that I'm surprised at how close this is to my results with the yarn! I'm one happy programmer!
I have two skeins left for this project. My next step will be to pick the skein which best matches the first one, especially in dyed loop length. That should (theoretically) give me similar pooling, all else staying the same.

Of course while I'm working on all of this my Comings & Goings cardigan is languishing for its finishing work. If I don't hustle it won't be ready for me to wear to the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival, and that will be a huge disappointment. I'll have no new FO to show off! Very upsetting… but not upsetting enough to motivate me into tucking ends and sewing sleeves!!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Knitting Geek

It was bound to get out eventually so I finally added it to my profile. Yes, I admit it. I'm an engineer. Mechanical by training. And I really like being a mechanical engineer. So that of course means that there's no escaping the fact that I'm a geek.

If you really love knitting you find that it interacts with all of the other important aspects of your life, whether it's wrapping itself around your loved ones or distilling inspiration from the other hobbies that excite you. In my case, my most recent knitting adventure has been to write a computer program to simulate the way a multi-colored yarn will flow onto a particular stitch pattern. (Geek!) I'm working on an Excel spreadsheet that takes information about a skein of multi, some pattern details, some gage information, and then paints a view of how the colors will lay out on the knitting.

Now that I'm doing it I'm sure I'm not the first. This is just the kind of tool that someone would need to create a self-patterning sock wool, but as far as I know, there's nothing on the market like it. (That's probably because no one would actually pay for it.) But it sure is fun to play with! My spreadsheet works, so now I'm writing in some features that will make it easy and fast to use. I'd like it to be able to paint-knit an entire sock, but that may be a dream.

This whole thing came from running my brain on "My Big Knitting Problem", mentioned in my last posting. I have purchased a big pile of Fiesta Boomerang in the color "Surf", but am really having trouble planning a project for it. My "Playing with Fire" sweater fair isle stitches a multi with itself, but that just didn't seem right for my Surf Sweater. I love the colors so much that I want to actually paint the sweater with them. It became obvious that I needed a tool to help me design.

Anyways, when I finish this program I will gladly share it with any other knitting "control freaks" who just have to know how a multi will act on a given group of stitches. There are plenty of knitters who live for the surprise and spontaneity of multi yarns, alternately cursing and raving about pooling and striping. I intend to bend these colors to my will. (Evil laughter echoes in the background…)

After such fiendish thoughts we need to take a happy sheep break, so here's some original art I purchased this weekend at the Long Island Apple Festival. The artist, Judy Lambros, belongs to the Peconic Ruggers Guild which apparently is open to new members. It all sounds wonderful, but too much for me right now. If anyone out there wants more info just leave me a comment that I can reply to. Getting back to the story of my sister's gloves: This past weekend I introduced Jo to ShibuiKnits "Midnight" wool, hoping like crazy that she'd love it for her Mermaid Fingerless Gloves. Oh well. Another dream shattered. She waffled between that and the Wollmeise "Gewitterhimmel" and didn't seem thrilled to pieces with either. I have been hugely leaning toward the ShibuiKnits, so I suppose I somewhat convinced her to go with that one. Mostly I was concerned that I might not have enough of the Wollmeise, and Germany's a long way off if I run out!

Anyways it's a done deal. I even started knitting this next pair of Mermaid Gloves last night. The ShibuiKnits is very pleasant to work with and I am liking the color more and more as I knit it up. Of course now I'm worrying because the shadings are pooling. I like that a lot, but will Jo? And will the right and left pool similarly? The stress never ends!!
I've dug in on the left glove first so that I can write up Mermaids Part 3 as soon as possible. The extra wait has been worth it. The creative break triggered an inspiration for solving one of the rotten problems with this mirrored thing. Soon, soon…

Friday, September 21, 2007

My Big Knitting Problem

What a wonderful weekend I just had!! Could anything be better than spending a couple of days staying over with your best knitting buddy and mentor?! Thanks to a wonderfully understanding boss I was able to take some hours off from work Friday and all of Monday to journey the 300+ miles that separates me from Su of WormSoup and her family.

We had a decadent weekend with lots of knitting, but actually both exercised an amazing restraint with respect to yarn purchases. Only one shop was visited (Finger Lakes Fibers in Watkins Glen), and Su got out with only 3 skeins. I on the other hand bonded with a skein of red Cascade 220 which insisted that, although it liked me a lot, would not leave the store without eight of it's buddies in red, black, and white. Basically enough for yet another sweater project.

The surprising news is that Red and his pals are all solid color yarns! In general I can't resist multi's. My stash overflows with every color of the rainbow, all inextricably combined by amazing artists into skeins of brain bending beauty. How could this be bad?

Here's my problem. I love to knit Fair Isle. Two colors, one on each hand. One single color each coming from two separate skeins. The kind of knitting project that is generally done in all solid colors. My stash and my project preference are completely at odds with each other! I've already tried one technique to resolve this situation, and that is to plan projects where a multi is Fair Isle'd with black. Notice I say "plan". Not one project has yet come to pass, but I sure have a lot of black yarn in my stash!

Right now I have a couple of ideas fermenting that might help my fabulous multi's find projects in spite of my love of Fair Isle. We'll see if they make it to reality and get some exposure here on FurrPurls.

Meanwhile the suspense builds in the saga of Jo and the Mermaid Gloves. She'll get to see the ShibuiKnits "Midnight" this weekend. (The following photo shows the earlier candidates plus three skeins of ShibuiKnits "Midnight", and also another new acquisition from the Loopy Ewe, Zen String Bambewe in "Sakura" pink. I wish the interesting sheen of that last showed up better in my picture.) Fingers and toes are crossed that "Midnight" will win her heart, getting me going again on Part 3 of my Mermaid Fingerless Glove instructions. I plan to start knitting these without waiting to finish the Comings & Goings cardigan although I'd dearly love to boot that project off my sofa! It's getting so close.

And the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival is getting close too! (October 20 and 21 in Rhinebeck NY). That upcoming event provided the strength to resist even larger wool purchases this past weekend, in spite of the excellent selection at Finger Lakes Fibers. Have to save up to buy as much yarn as we each can carry! Can't wait!

One last note… Congratulations to Su on her invitation to join Ravelry! By happy coincidence the invite actually arrived while I was visiting. I'm looking forward to hearing more about that adventure. There are still 14664 people ahead of me on the list, but I'm moving up!

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Looks like I jinxed myself by announcing that the wool selection for my sister's Mermaid Fingerless Gloves was all settled!

Maybe I'm expecting too much from a non-knitter. When I showed my sister the Wollmeise in Gewitterhimmel I expected "ooohs" and "aaahs", stroking and cuddling of the skein, a sudden inability to put it down. You know. The reaction you see from knitters all the time. She approved it and said it's "closer to what I wanted", but I didn't get that wool-lust response that we're all familiar with. So today I bought still more yarn for this project.

Did I need to? Was it an excuse? I really don't know. The Mermaid Gloves are beautiful, but they weren't the most fun project I've ever knit. It's not one of those stitch patterns where the slightest screw up is obvious in the next row. This pattern giggles away quietly at your expense while a fatal flaw gets buried rows and rows deep. All I'm saying is that if I'm to knit these again they need to be loved. Loving the yarn is a really good start.

I found this new candidate yarn when I was doing a quick cruise through Loopy Ewe's "What's New" list. Coincidently they just posted some new colors of Fiesta Boomerang. (At this point I need a lighted case where I can display all the skeins of this incredible wool that I've already bought. Is there any bonus for collecting every color?) Since I obviously had to buy this new potential yarn for Jo's gloves, I obviously had to expand my collection of Boomerang.

Now I'm waiting to see how this next yarn comes in. It's ShibuiKnits in the color Midnight. I've never played with ShibuiKnits before. Will it match the photo? Will it not? Will Jo finally ooh and aah over yarn? Maybe this wool will be the yarn of her dreams… But is it possible that some people don't dream about yarn? Scary thought.

While all of this procurement drama goes on in the background, here's Comings and Goings coming along nicely. I've even dug in on tucking all those ends visible from the inside-out sleeve.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Color Confusion

There may be a few knitters out there holding their breath to see what I found so terribly difficult about the left-hand Mermaid Glove, (design originated by Steph at Craftoholic). I truly promise that I will spill the details soon. I don't want to scare anyone, but I will tell you that I started to write it down and realized that I couldn't describe what I did! I actually need to make a couple of sketches. So hang in there, I really am working on it!

In the meantime color confusion has shuffled my knitting queue again. Well in this case it's resolution of confusion. Wollmeise in the color Gewitterhimmel has been officially approved for my sister's pair of Mermaid gloves, so those have jumped to the top of the list. I thought I would be ready to start them weeks ago using Cherry Tree Hill in Moody Blues, but when the wool arrived it was nothing like the picture. My sister vetoed and I went back to searching for just the right color.
These past few weeks have seen more than their share of inaccurate color communication. The picture above shows the two yarns I just mentioned all the way over to the right. If these guys looked like their website pictures, they'd be indistinguishable from each other! The other three had also kept their true colors hidden.

Named from the left, the three additional Wollmeise skeins are Veilchen, Poison Nr 5, and Krauterbeet. Su from WormSoup did the actual ordering to get these wonderful skeins all the way from Germany. When she posted their picture before shipping mine over to me, my heart sank. Lots of blues and greens, but none of the purples that have been calling to me lately. (See her picture on WormSoup.) Fortunately this was just another technical tease. When I opened the box here at home the purples had gotten back into the Krauterbeet and Veilchen. I still don't think they look much like the website pictures, but they look so much better in person! The Poison Nr 5 was also a very nice surprise, but not so well disguised.

Now I have to ask a question… Do you see the purple in Veilchen and Krauterbeet in my picture?! It's gone again, isn't it?! But the purple shows up in the sleeve of Comings and Goings in the background. What is this amazing dye that's been discovered by Wollmeise? If I painted myself in this particular shade of purple would I disappear from pictures? I can just imagine all the movie stars that will be walking around painted purple!

But getting back to knitting, the only conclusion I can draw from this experience is that buying yarn online is an adventure best taken on by the flexible and open minded!

A few more words on the Wollmeise, although please note that I haven't tried it out yet. If you're considering going through the extra effort to get your hands on this popular sock yarn, I'd say go for it, especially if you like knitting socks with very fine yarn. It's definitely a smaller gage than the Blue Moon Fibers fine sock yarn, probably closest to Lorna's Lace. And of course be prepared to be happily shocked by the brilliant hues.

It's interesting that both Lorna's Lace and Wollmeise offer exceptional color combinations, but they definitely represent the outlook of two completely different artists. Unfortunately, you'll probably have to meet the Wollmeise in person to understand. Certainly if you favor purple!

I'll probably be digging in on that Gewitterhimmel soon. I'm thinking that I'll knit the left glove first to make sure the instructions I've promised are accurate and truly represent the best ways to solve the various left glove design issues. (The first little monster was such a pain that I still can't believe I can't find some easier solutions!) But for the moment this next pair of Mermaids will have to wait while my fingers enjoy a bulky yarn break working on Comings and Goings.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Happy, Happy News!

I started this blog to share my knitting, but when you get news like this it's impossible to keep quiet about it. There are many "threads" to any life. Knitting is a happy, luxurious cashmere thread for me, but there's a knotty ugly strand which I also have to deal with. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in June of '06.

It's been a really rough road and included a stem cell transplant (SCT) this past May. When you go through an SCT you don't really know what it did for you until you go through testing 100 days later. Those results often show that the patient has to go through a second "tandem" transplant in order to get the disease under control. I was told that since my cancer didn't respond to treatments before the SCT and since my metrics were pretty nasty going in that I should really expect to need a tandem transplant.

So when I went to St. Vincents' Comprehensive Cancer Center in NYC this past Friday I was braced for the worst. I was working really hard to be tough and brave about facing the whole miserable experience again. Some events are scary just because they're a mystery. SCT holds little mystery for me now, but instead inspires well-earned dread.

That's the background for this joyful post. The good news is that my metrics are now wonderful! I've achieved "Complete Remission". The data was so good that I won't even have to go on maintenance chemo! "Hallelujah!" doesn't even begin to cover it!!

The truth about multiple myeloma is that currently there is no cure. Even though I have remission now, I've been assured that it will be back. Maybe sooner, maybe later. All sufferers hope to fight it long enough for a cure to be found… or at least until the next great drug comes along to knock it back. I've added a button to FurrPurls that will take you to the website for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation if you care to make a donation to fight this cancer, or even if you're just looking for more information. My friends and family have asked what organization they should give to and this is the one my doctors suggest. So instead of trying to remember the MMRF contact info, I've created another excuse to send people to my blog! (The truth comes out… I just want lots of visitors!)

My thanks for getting me to this joyous state go to the caring folks at St. Vincent's Comprehensive Cancer Center and St. Vincent's Hospital, especially Dr. Jagannath, Dr. Mazumder, the St. Vincent's transplant nurses, and most especially to Dr. Vesole who was in charge of my care during the SCT. I'm so fortunate to live close enough to NYC to access their remarkable expertise. And thanks also go out to all of the friends, family, even acquaintances who worried and prayed for me. And of course "Thanks be to God!"

Anyways, thank you also for sharing my happy, but non-knitting news. Tune in next week, (or much sooner), when we return to our regularly scheduled knitting programming…

Friday, August 31, 2007

Mermaid Fingerless Gloves, Part 2 - Fingers

I’m just finishing up the fingers of the left glove, so this is a good time for me to report my methods. Notes really don't cut it when you've truly forgotten what you've done!

What I've set down in "Part 2" below is probably not the best way to do glove fingers, but it came out fine for me. My reference was "Selbuvotter" by Terri Shea. This is a book of stunning Fair Isle mittens and gloves that originated with Norwegian settlers to the Pacific Northwest. The book documents a small part of the collection of textiles at Seattle's Nordic Heritage Museum. (Note to Su at WormSoup: You guessed it… I definitely want to go there!!) The basic approach calls for casting on stitches between the fingers to get the appropriate stitch quantity for each finger. Middle finger gets more stitches and pinky gets less, etc.

To figure out what stitch counts I needed for each finger I actually wrapped the glove cuff around that finger and counted. Since all of this was to be done in 1 x 1 rib, each finger had to have an even stitch count. I added my own rule that increased stitches had to be equal where one finger faced its neighbor. The result is spelled out in my instructions below.


Part 2 - Mermaid Gloves, Fingers and Thumb
(See August 24, 2007 for Part 1)

This picks up after all of the fish scale patterning is complete, plus one row of rib per Part 1.

All of the fingers are knit in 1 K tbl x 1 purl rib.

First the planning. My map for transitioning the ring of stitches around the hand into fingers looks like this:

.....................Pinky...... Ring .....Middle..... Pointy
Sts from Top
of hand: ..........8........... 9........... 10.......... 9

Cast On
Stitches: ..............1..1........ 2..2.........1..1

Sts from Bottom
of hand: ..........9........... 8............ 9.......... 10

The map is read like this: Start with the Pinky. From the top side stitches keep 8 on your working needles and place the rest on a holder. From the bottom side stitches keep 9 on your working needles and put the rest on a holder. (I use extra circular needles as holders, but I suspect any holder will be annoying and get in the way. The circs certainly did!)

Knit around the finger to the point where you need to cross from top to bottom. Use a simple twisted loop cast on, (Vogue Knitting calls it a "single cast on"), to create 1 stitch between top and bottom. Keep the yarn tight as you continue knitting the bottom stitches and keep an eye on that rib. If you've got adjacent K tbls or purls, something's wrong.

Cast off when you're happy with the finger length. (You might want to write down how many rows you've got. I didn't, then later regretted it.)

For the Ring finger move 9 top side and 8 bottom side stitches to your working needles. As you cross bottom to top next to the Pinky, pick up 1 stitch. Make sure you pick it up through the cast on loop to keep the seam tight. On the side by the Middle finger cast on 2 stitches.

I'm pretty sure you can see where I'm going with this, so you can take it from here for the remaining fingers.

Now for the thumb. The thumb is also mostly knit in the 1 x 1 rib.

I had a mild design quandary at this point. I already had the stitch count I wanted, but when I pulled the active stitches together to close the thumb the fabric was too tight. The answer was to pick up 3 stitches above the thumb hole to relax the opening, bringing the count up to 26. When knitting the next row these three are stitched Ktbl P P so that you have P Ktbl P P Ktbl P P Ktbl. The bold stitches are the ones you picked up. On the next row P tog the two sets of double P stitches, bringing your stitch count to 24 and cleaning up your 1 x 1 rib. Cast off at the length that satisfies you, (and jot down that row count!).

Tuck all your ends and get ready to start again on the left glove. You may think all's smooth from this point, but I warn you that the true adventure begins here! More in Part 3.

This freaky picture is my left hand with the thumb pointing left and fingers pointing right. It's supposed to show the area of P P Ktlb P P in the thumb rib. You can sort of see it, right?

I know that Su at WormSoup has a much better approach to glove fingers and I'm looking forward to reading those details! I really am happy with this thumb anyways, and very happy overall with the finished gloves.

Next up for my travel project could end up being either a sleeve for the Comings and Goings cardigan, or maybe the new RSC socks. Don't know. Don't know. Here are some of the projects and wools that are vying for attention:

The dark blue skein is Wollmeise, color: Gewitterhimmel, (love that name!!). It has potential to be my sister's Mermaid Gloves, if it meets her approval for color. The big ball of wool is Fiesta Boomerang, color: Surf. I feel deep seated passion for this yarn and have purchased enough for a cardigan. A king size bedspread was tempting but seemed a bit excessive. (Note that the color looks a little weird in this picture.) The ball of multi surrounded by balls of solids is the newest RSC yarn, and those solids belong to the Comings and Goings Cardigan. There are two small balls of left-over wool that seem to want to be something together, maybe short fingerless gloves.

The shamelessly bright thing is my "brainless buddy", officially called Playing with Fire, but it earned its nickname by being so friendly to brainless loops-through-loops knitting. The background of this picture shows all of the recent purchases that threaten to push me off the sofa onto the floor. Have to clear the Knit Nest this weekend I think!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mermaid Fingerless Gloves, Part 1 - Easy Gusset

Mermaid Gloves; Slip Knot through Gusset

Sometimes knitting is more fun when it's not a mystery to be solved. This post is for all the knitters seduced by the Mermaid Gloves who are wishing for a simple loops-through-loops fiber experience.

I've jotted down the details of how I made the Mermaid Gloves, and will be presenting the info in several parts. My mission is not to create a stand-alone pattern, but to eliminate the mysteries that I had to work through along the way. If you're going to print your reference material and wander away from the computer, make sure you print the Pomatomus Socks pattern. I will try to incorporate enough of Steph's clues from the Craftoholic site so that you don't need to carry those pages as well, (although those pictures really do offer a high "drool" factor).

My biggest mystery was the gusset. These instructions will walk you through the gusset design that I came up with, (shown in the pictures here and previous). It doesn't match the one that Steph used, but I'm thrilled with it and hope you will be too!

Part 1 - The Right Glove from Cast On to the Base of the Fingers

My supplies:
Blue Moon Fiber Arts, Socks That Rock Medium weight yarn in Tanzanite
One set of KnitPicks #0 circular needles, 32", (I used the Magic Loop technique)
Print out of the Pomatomus Sock pattern

Gage: The charted stitch pattern measures 1 inch wide by 2 1/8 inch tall for my gloves. They're knitted to be a little tight for me in order to get a cozy fit around my hand.

Start out following the Pomatomus sock pattern; Ribbed cuff, then six horizontal pattern repeats around, stacked three high. Keep an eye out for the stitch that migrates between needles after each row 22, otherwise you'll be wondering why things don't line up on the next row 1.

As in Steph's notes, the gusset is made in the fourth vertical pattern group. I built my gusset in the fourth horizontal pattern repeat, first on the second needle. (That positions the slight unevenness associated with the cast-on knot on the underside of the arm.) Here's the complicated part… In that pattern block omit all of the "tog" stitches, instead knitting the two stitches that would have been tog'd to match the previous row's stitches. K tbl the Ktbl'd stitches and purl the purled stitches.

Work this way throughout that whole pattern block, (through row 22), with one other minor change. On row 13 add a stitch, (M1), located such that it precedes 11 K tbl ribs waiting on the left needle. I suggest adding this stitch after the normal purl between the ribs just because it seems easier than adding it before. Purl this extra stitch in every following row so that there are two purl stitches next to each other and then 11 K tbl ribs. This gives definition to the fish scale on the top of the hand.

After finishing row 22, put the extra 23 stitches on a holder starting with the double purl. Join the remaining stitches back into a round on the next row 1. Knit one more pattern repeat with all six pattern blocks normal per the chart.

Knit one row of 1 x 1 K tlb purl rib all the way around.

Now you're ready for fingers and thumb. But that's enough for me for now!

This picture's actually the left glove but I mirrored it to make it a clear reference:

Pretty easy, huh? Wish coming up with that gusset was as easy as knitting it! The design inspiration came after figuring out from the Craftoholic pictures and other gusset approaches that I wanted to increase 22 stitches over 22 rows. Normally these would be increased one each before and after the gusset on every other row. I figured I'd ditch the togs and see what happened knowing that I'd end up with the same count of extra stitches. I was thrilled, although I did rip back to add that M1 on row 13.

I'll report the details of how I did the fingers and thumb soon. The thumb still took an additional trick to give it the look I wanted. As for the fingers, I'm sure what I did was not the best approach, but it worked out fine in the end.

Currently I'm slogging through the left glove. It's been a significant and surprising bundle of challenges. There will be more on that too once I've blurted out all my secrets from the right glove.

Happy Knitting!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Dangerous Project

Every knitter who sees even a picture of the Mermaid Fingerless Gloves feels they must knit them. It turns out that the Mermaid Gloves can also trigger a loss of control when it comes to stash building. My sister requested a pair following brief exposure to those bewitching pictures, and the excuse to shop has inundated my Knit Nest in sock wool. Worst of all, I still don't have a yarn that is just right for my sister's pair.

Of course the logic along the way seemed perfectly solid… Buying three skeins to make up for the one, out-of-stock favorite. Buying additional skeins rather than making any really hard decisions. Placing another multi-skein order when the favorite is suddenly re-stocked. And of course we all know what happens once you get close to free shipping! The Loopy Ewe website is truly a scary and wonderful place.

Anyways, here's my take on the yarns that have recently added themselves to my Knit Nest environment:

Fiesta Boomerang. Wendy Knits wasn't kidding about this stuff being soft. It's amazing. Plus the artist who selects the colors has a happy talent for creating striking combinations that really do invoke memories of stunning landscapes. The strands have a really interesting twist too, something like a thin and thick ply twisted together, giving it a really unusual look, almost un-fiber-like. It's slightly heavy for a sock but I can't wait to try it. (Colors: Australia, Madrid, and Poppies. Australia's at the back right of the photo. Poppies and Madrid are in the middle on the left.)

Lorna's Laces also have champion color combinations and a wide variety to choose from at the Loopy Ewe. The yarn itself is the least soft of this recent batch and the twist is not as tight and springy as the others. Anyways, I know it has knit up nicely for other people, so I'm hoping it will play nice with me. (Color: Purple Club, Lakeview. Middle four skeins on the right.)

Cherry Tree Hill looks like it will give me a nice stitch definition with its tight, hard twist and its no-nonsense lack of fluff, plus it has the softness you'd expect of Merino. Unfortunately the color we selected was very different from the picture on the website. I like it anyways, but my sister didn't so there's serious danger that my stash expansion is not over. (Color: Moody Blues. Front right.)

Claudia Hand Painted Yarns wins the prize for eye-popping intensity. The photo above doesn't do it justice. The rich, deep, cool magenta is absolutely paralyzing. Stranding is also springy and fluff free. I'll have to pick a truly lovely stitch for this wool because once your eye hits it, it's really hard to look away. On top of all that, only the Fiesta beats it for softness. (Color: Crushed Velvet. Front left.)

The Knittery skein was unusual in that it carries a confident fluff, exuding inviting softness. I might not pick a fancy stitch with it but my feet are already wishing to take refuge in this yarn. The soothing garden colors match well with the wool's foot-friendly appearance. (Color Holiday. Back left.)

Overall, the award for the yarn calling to me most loudly goes to the Fiesta trio. Can't keep my hands off them!

So my stash is pushing me off the sofa. It's not my fault. All the blame goes to the Mermaid Gloves. Definitely a dangerous project in ways that I'm only beginning to understand!

Speaking of the gloves, I really will post instructions for how I did my pair. Here's a sneak preview of the right glove while I work on making sense of my notes. Check out my "organic" thumb gusset!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Meet My Projects

Announcing a breakthrough in my blog skills! I've added a "hit counter" so that I'll know whether I'm basking in the insanity of talking to myself or whether others have graced my site with their attention. After screening several potential suppliers I settled on Statcounter. They're the only ones who did not insist on posting ads for other businesses on my site. Easy instructions got me set up without a hitch. Two thumbs up and I haven't even tried to view the stats yet! (Let's see, 6 hits and I'm thinking 5 of those are me!)

Knitting News -
Well maybe this is more of a baseline than news. Here's a picture of my "Knit Nest" carried over from WormSoup. The current projects are:
Pyramids, a Shetland kit by Ron Schweitzer
Comings and Goings, a Cardigan kit from Mostly Merino
Playing with Fire, an original design in Blue Moon Fiber Arts' "Fire on the Mountain" color
Mermaid Fingerless Gloves, by Craftoholic based on Knitty's Pomatomus socks

This is an unusual situation for me since I've always been a "serial knitter", holding fast to the discipline of finishing a project before allowing myself the joy of starting the next one. That all went out the window this summer. No idea why.

The Mermaid Gloves are getting the most attention and giving me the most grief. Like so many other knitters, I knew the minute I saw them that I had to make them. For me that moment came fairly recently when I visited Ravelry for the first time. From there various Google searches got me back to their original creator, Craftoholic, and to the Pomatomus socks that inspired them. I selected my wool and was ready to go.

Then I hit the big bump in the road. The thumb gusset. Didn't look like rocket science, but I surely would love to have had instructions. This stitch pattern waves around resulting in borders that squiggle drunkenly and don't look real friendly to a boring old gusset of paired increases. Yikes! I searched all over and found many super-competent knitters happily bragging about their finished Mermaid gloves, pretending the project was a no-brainer. Could this be a conspiracy to make some of us doubt our knitting design skills? A secret club of gusset makers?

Forced into a corner I got creative. I've figured out a thumb gusset that really does make me extremely happy. It's different from the original in that it grows very organically from the stitch pattern. Best of all, it was easy! I will put together directions and post them for all gusset-challenged people like myself. Hopefully other stymied knitters will find it a blessing. Maybe someone will even share the secret of how the originals could have been done! (Yes, I'm still wondering.) More on this next post.

By the way, don't take the mirrored left hand glove for granted. Just when you think you're out of the woods…