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!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Double Knitting – Fun and Frustration

Right now the fun is mostly on the virtual side and the frustration is with reality. Isn’t that so often the case?

I’m knitting a 50 stitch-pair swatch, currently with no color pattern, in order to learn the double knitting technique and get my gage consistent and solid. There are really four stitch motions, right hand knit and purl, and left hand knit and purl. The book that I’m using to learn is Double Knitting, Reversible Two-Color Designs by M’Lou Baber. Aside from liking the clear instructions, I’m also finding that the lovely and unusual designs are inspiring me to learn. I really want to be knitting one of those patterns!

So I swatch away. Originally my left and right hand each wanted to have their own unique tensions, with the right hand knitting up much looser. I worked at that until it was just the right hand purl stitches torturing me. Now I’m finally getting pretty close to even tension throughout. Of course pretty close probably won’t cut it for the ambitious project I’ve got in mind.

Here’s my swatch. (Vanity kept me from photographing the multiple swatches that came before this one! Please don’t think that I learned this technique in these few stitches.) The yarns are Blue Moon Fiber Arts heavyweight Socks That Rock in Rolling Stone and Rook-y colorways. My needle size is US#7.

It may be hard to see in these pictures but the dark side becomes less ridgy as the swatch progresses. Those ridges are the right hand purl rows.

That brings us to the virtual and totally fun side…

I’m planning a double knit vest using PaintKnits TM to take control of the way the multiple colors in the yarns flow onto the fabric. As I mentioned in my previous post, the concept is to have controlled pooling across an arbitrary two-yarn color pattern. I picked a near black Raven to contrast with a multi, and hope to see Raven silhouettes with pooling in the foreground against a pooled background color when I’m done. The critical factors are 1) the selection of two yarns with the same loop length, (easy… two STR heavyweights) 2) nearly dead-on consistent gage (yikes!), and 3) planning the design around stitch counts that will give me the color effects I’m looking for.

After I’d characterized one of my early swatches for yarn usage I dug in on some PaintKnits analysis. I scanned through a bunch of widths searching for those that would give me the most blatant pooling. Here’s a highlight of what I came up with:
The first and third widths I thought were ok. I really liked the second and last.

Now I needed to plan a vest using rectangular areas that would show off this pooling. At first I was stymied by the sizing. The pooling I wanted would only show up on fabric widths that simply would not go together in a vest that would fit me. Not in panels and not going around the body. The project wanted either too much width or too little.

Finally the answer came to me… I needed to knit the vest from side to side to get the flexibility on length! (Ok, so I also considered gaining a whole lot of weight, but that seemed to be a bad idea somehow.) Here’s a very rough first pass at what the pooling might do on the vest: I’m calling this a rough pass because my gage is still all over the map. To make this work I’ve got to get that under control. Then I’ll re-measure my yarn usage, tune up my computer model, and re-do the computer modeling as needed to plan the vest.

I suppose I’m still a long way off, but those colors on the computer screen sure are exciting. And that’s without any superimposed pattern from the Raven yarn yet. I’m psyched! Now if only my reality would match my virtual world of computer models! Maybe soon…

Sunday, July 19, 2009

PaintKnits LLC is Born!

It really exists! PaintKnits LLC is a real business as of May 29. I decided in the interest of controlling costs that I would do the LLC work myself instead of getting a lawyer or accountant to do it. Total cost to do the LLC myself so far is roughly a third of what the lawyer quoted. Mostly it’s been easy, but with my energy kind of low, it taken up a significant bit of my free, conscious time. Still it’s very, very exciting.

The big expense and scariest step will be getting a website set up, but with everything else falling into place I’m starting to think I might be able to share my color control software before the end of this year. Wouldn’t that be outrageous?!

That’s my big news. I’m sorry there are no pictures to go with it.

My new knitting project, which unfortunately is moving along ever so slowly, is to learn double knitting. I want to learn it holding a yarn in each hand, but I’m not getting enough tension from my right hand, so the technique needs a lot of work. (Any suggestions?)

The brilliant idea that led me to try this new skill is the idea that I should be able to get pooling going in both colors so that shaded silhouettes show up in the knit fabric. Pretty exciting possibility, isn’t it? No results yet, so no pictures there either.

Anyways, I guess this is where I admit that I was nudged into posting because of a new question that came up on the Mermaid Fingerless Gloves.

“Anonymous” asked me about my reference to a “migrating stitch”. Wow. It’s been a long time since I knit these, but I read through the pattern carefully and that brought back some memories. Go back to the Pomatomus sock pattern by Cookie A, (linked in the post that has your question). In the section labeled “Leg” she’s got some text that gets applied after row 22. It starts with “Rearrange stitches as follows:” If you go through those steps you’ll realize that you’ve migrated a stitch in order to keep the pattern flowing correctly. Please let me know how you make out.

Now a suggestion... I’m happy to answer questions, but posting answers is really a pain. When you send me a comment there’s a setting that allows you to show your email address so that only I can see it. I guaranty you’ll get a much quicker answer if I can email you!

That’s all for now. Next time some pictures!

Sunday, April 5, 2009


It does fly, doesn’t it? The last time I posted I was just back from Rockin’ Sock Camp ‘08. It’s a year later and I’m feeling hugely jealous of the knitters who went this year. Obviously I’m not one of them. I hope I’ll hear from some of the people I met last year and missed seeing at this event, but I also hope they’ll lie to me and tell me it just wasn’t as good. (Fat chance!!!)

Looking back, the year gone by has really been a mixed bag. I put a huge effort into getting my knitting program translated into Open Office software and adding the features that I knew it needed to make me happy. That even pushed aside most of my actual knitting.

It was all coming together last September when my world caved in. Only a year and a half after my stem cell transplant the cancer was back in force. My annual bone marrow biopsy revealed that the multiple myeloma had taken back a third of my bone marrow.

Time. Thought I’d have more before having to deal with the chemo drugs again. I’d actually hoped there might even be as much as five years. And of course there was the huge stress of wondering whether this next chemo drug was going to work at all. Good news there... It’s working great. It did a better job of knocking down my numbers close to normal than the stem cell transplant did. What a relief!

Unfortunately this particular chemo has an insidious side effect not mentioned in any of the literature. It didn’t make my hair fall out. It didn’t make me anemic, (well not too badly anyways). It didn’t even make me nauseous. It just drained away every ounce of the motivation and focus that normally powers my life. I was able to keep my job mostly on track, but outside of work I became a true zombie, staring blankly at the TV or the insides of my eyelids and not remembering what I saw or might have been thinking. Knitting stopped. Programming stopped. Yarn purchasing stopped. (Yes, even that!)

I grasped one last straw before slipping into the chasm completely. I called Tina from Blue Moon Fiber Arts to see if she was still interested in PaintKnits TM. Her answer was “yes” and she was kind enough to talk me through the steps I should consider in getting the thing available to my fellow knitters. I sketched out a plan and immediately became a bullet from the movie “The Matrix”, screaming along at bullet speeds while my target moved away infinitely faster. It’s the passage of time. It’s just freaky.

Pulling myself together to get to Camp didn’t happen, and finishing up PaintKnits didn’t look like it was going to happen either. I went back to my doctors and begged and grovelled and whined for dosage reduction on the chemo. Amazingly my numbers cooperated and all of a sudden one evening in February I realized I was knitting again. Next I was finishing up PaintKnits and even had gotten a license agreement set up. I set my sights on sending Tina a copy before camp. I guessed she’d be too busy to deal with it but I wasn’t going to let the cancer win. That was my mission and I was gonna make it happen!

So Tina, on the long shot that you’re reading this, I apologize again about the timing. It was just one of those weird little battles that cancer sets you to fighting. We celebrate smalll victories in my world. I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you when the dust settles in your world.

Now let’s talk some knitting!!

As I mentioned, my knitting’s picked up again and I’ve made some really good progress on my beloved Surf cardigan. I’ll flatter myself that some of you might remember that I started writing PaintKnits because I fell madly in love with a particular yarn, Fiesta Boomerang in the colorway Surf. (No one remembers? Oh well.) I refused to knit a splotchy, random sweater out of this amazing fiber. My goal was control. I needed an analysis tool that would allow me to bend the play of colors to my will. Hence PaintKnits.

This project isn’t finished yet, but here’s the back as planned in PaintKnits TM

And this is the back of the cardigan. The center panel is done as intarsia, so the back is knit in one piece from three skeins. I've added a purl motiffe to help the center panel stand out.And here the analysis for the sleeve center panel...

The sleeve was also created using intarsia, same technique as the back. The shaped sides were designed in PaintKnits TM to minimize pooling while otherwise looking random.
I’m so excited about the look! Next I want to do something with STR yarn and the ideas are making my head want to explode. If only there were more time…