Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Now this is interesting ...

Have you read Claudia's comment on my last post about the uneven stitches when knitting back and forth? (Thanks a lot for the advice, Claudia!) Reading that, I discovered something very interesting. In summer last year when I was knitting my Cabled Vest, I learned about Annie Modesitt's combined knitting (you can read about it here). Since then, from time to time, when I have to knit extensive stocking stitch, I would purl using the combined knitting way ... since I think I would get a better tension and more even stitches.

So, the unevenness you saw in the last post is actually the result of my purling that way. I suddenly got the idea of doing an experiment:

I hope the picture here can show you clearly the result. Underneath the red line, I purled in the combined knitting way. Above the red line, I purled my normal way. To me, it is very obvious that my stitches are a lot more even when I purled in my normal way!

This is indeed very puzzling ... as in the case of Cabled Vest, I found my stitches much more even using the combined knitting method.

There are two differences between these two cases, though:
1) Last time, I used sport weight yarn while the yarn now is bulky weight.
2) For the Cabled Vest, the right side is the reverse stocking stitch with the cables while the stocking stitch is the right side for Lace Leaf Pullover.

Isn't this interesting? So it seems there is no fixed rule what is the best. Next time, I should be smarter to observe the stitches early to decide how to knit. Does the "rowing out" bother me? It does a little bit ... but not so much that I feel I need to rip out everything and do it all over again. I always think that a little imperfection, as long as it doesn't develop into catastrophe or tragedy, can sometimes make life more interesting.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

So, it seems to work! (Edited)

First of all, today is the first day of the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese calendar (how many 'the's have I used? hahaha ... ), I'd like to wish you all a wonderful Dog year ahead.

Then, there is good news and bad news. Good news first. About the Lace Leaf Pullover, I've come to the stage of fitting the sleeve into the upper body. The re-calculation of stitches to fit my gauge works! In fact, I don't know whether it is the pattern, or that I measured my own gauge very correctly this time, the finished measurements of this project have been the most accurate I have done so far. Every bit is as predicted. And the raglan fits very well:

I think I'll write about this when I write the FO post. But as you can see, my stitches are not that even there just under the leaves. That happened when I am knitting back and forth. Now I get to understand the beauty of knitting in the round! I think blocking would be able to ease out the unevenness. I just finished one sleeve to see if the shoulder and raglan fit.

Now the bad news. I am short of yarn for exactly one sleeve cap (6" raglan)! I have been contemplating the possibilities of various solutions:

1) Shortening the length of the sleeves by at least 1" ... which might, or might not, save enough yarns to finish the project. Besides, for a bulky pullover like this one, it feels right and better to have the sleeves extending into the hands.

2) Making the other sleeve obviously shorter ... and tell everybody that this is a Teva Durham design, so it's got to be a bit funky. But I'm not sure if I would love wearing the pullover when it's done.

3) Looking for an extra ball of Kool Wool in Eggplant dye lot 0100. As some of you may know, this yarn is already discontinued. Smiley's is out of the colour Eggplant. Perhaps the only place I would get lucky is eBay.

If you were me, what would you do?

**As of 5:50 p.m. today, I found a seller carrying the yarn in the SAME dyelot! Quite a good start for the Year of the Dog, I have to say! ;) And a huge thank you to all of you who were so enthusiastic in offering your suggestion, well wishes and help. I think Lace Leaf will make its debut very soon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Teva Durham

I love Teva Durham's designs. I think her designs are very cool ... and I think wearing them would make one look cool. Want proof? Go see Ann's husband ... of course, most probably he himself is a cool person, regardless of what sweater he is wearing ... but he is the proof that a perfectly normal, healthy-looking person can also look cool in Teva Durham's designs.

I have always wanted to make the Lace Leaf Pullover. Julia has made a beautiful variegated version. But there is one BIG problem for me ... the gauge for that sweater is 10 sts per 4". 8 out of 10 times, even when I am using the yarn specified for a pattern, my gauge would be tighter. To get the gauge, I may have to use polar weight yarn and huge needles ... both of which are not exactly to my liking. Or, I should start doing some math. Which I did. I worked on the easier part first, that is, the lower body:

I recalculated the number of stitches I need and re-wrote the lace leaf chart (so that the pattern wouldn't get too minute in my smaller gauge). So far so good. I would need the row gauge as well for the upper body ... and I figured I would get that when finishing the lower body. If you've seen the pattern, you'd know that the upper body is a bit different from ordinary sweater structrue. I am not sure if I can get that figured out. But even if I can't, lori (you have to stroll down a bit to see) showed me it would still be great to knit it in ordinary sweater pattern.

Oh, BTW, I am using Lion Brand Kool Wool in gorgeous Eggplant which I snapped from Smiley's. If I can get away with the 12 balls I got, the sweater would only cost me $15!

Friday, January 20, 2006

First pair of the year

I discovered that sometimes one has to grow to like a pattern. My progress with the first Cherry Tree Blossom sock has been crawling mainly because the pattern didn't show itself very obviously at the beginning. I have even thought of switching to another pattern! To add to that, it was difficult to memorize. But when I finished the first one, I love the sock. This motivated me to get the second one done. It is not easy to capture the lace pattern on camera ... this is the best I can do:

The grafting of the second sock went fast as well. But I think that's it for me with cuff-down short-row toe ... keeping the grafting tension even is such a pain! Yet, I really really love short-row heels ... they fit so much better. I can wear this pair of socks in my leather shoes and feel comfortable:

I am getting tired of seeing my socks against the same background, aka the floor or the wall of my apartment. So, how about Market Street of San Francisco for a change?

Pattern and Modifications: Cherry Tree Blossom Socks designed by Tall Gal Knits for Inspirations Yarn
I used Twisted German Cast On for the cuff (72 stitches). I think I much prefer this method to Tubular Cast On mainly because 1) the Twisted German Cast On is similar to Long Tail Cast On, my usual method; 2) there is no need for a provisional cast on using scrap yarn.
The heel in the original pattern is called "V-Heel". I did try doing that first and I decided that I didn't like it at all. So, I switched to double wrapping short-row heels (36 stitches - 12/12/12). I am still in the process of finding the right proportions that make the socks most comfortable for me. The proportions I used with this pair feel good.
The pattern called for Classic Toe. But I would like to try short-row toes (36 stitches - 12/12/12) to see if I'd like it ... and the conclusion is known to you already. :)

Yarn: Inspirations Yarn Cappuccino (60% Superwash Merino, 25% Mohair, 15% Nylon) in the cool colourway
I love love love this yarn ... smooth and soft and warm. Debi told me that its composition is exactly the same as Bearfoot sock yarn. And I learned from Kathy that Bearfoot is extremely splitty. Well, to tell you the truth, Cappuccino does tend to be a bit splitty ... but not "extremely" in my standard (I am knitting with Patons Kroy 4 ply now ... and that is splitty!)
Besides, I also love love love the colourway. There are very subtle colour changes throughout the skein ... but definitely no pooling.

Gauge and Needles:
I know I have been acting strangely concerning the use of needles for this pair of socks. I used DPNs US1 for the cuff and then changed to US2 for the lace leg part! But it turned out that the leg part is not too loose and the cuffs are stretchy enough. Then I switched back to US1 for the foot part ... using US2 was too loose.
The gauge with US1 in stockinette stitch is 10 st per 1".

Start Date: 01-01-2006
Finish Date: 01-18-2006
I am starting to record these data for my knitting. Why? Don't really know ...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Where to hide the ugliness?

If you are a regular of Claudia's blog, you'll know her favourite sock pattern: picot-edged cuff, short row heel, short row toe. I have no problem understanding the first two, but short row toe? from the cuff down? How? I'd really like to know, but since it is not an emergency, I just sort of shove the question aside.

Then Kathy, aka grumperina, enlightened me on this. I started to understand why I couldn't see the "how" myself at the first place: I don't like grafting! So, it was being mentally blocked away. :) This perhaps will explain to you why I don't like grafting (and please just ignore the ladder!):

It is usually okay when I just have to graft, say, less than 10 stitches. When it goes beyond this number, things will become, literally, ugly. This is the first sock I completed ... which means I still have the chance to do better with the second sock. Knowing my own weakness, of course I would not be as bold as Kathy by grafting on the instep side of the sock:

Ugliness had better be hidden. Where can you find a better place to hide than by stepping on it?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I love colours!

Have I told you that I suck big time reading lace chart? I think I have. For the 2 and a half lace projects (or 3? I'm not sure if Ella is a lace project.), I knitted from the written instructions almost entirely. I did try the charts with Ella, but that just didn't work. So, though not being a person big with new year resolutions, I do wish I can improve on this aspect in 2006.

To improve, I need something to work on. Remember this? I went through Clue 1 (1-36 rows) without too much difficulty. But when it came to Clue 2 (37-78 rows), the number of stitches per row was starting to get big. I quickly gave up after I messed up in the first 10 rows. Then, there were other projects occupying my time. The Mystery Shawl 2 is a good chance for me to work on my lace chart reading as that's almost the only info I got from the clues.

So, I frogged the first attempt and started afresh. But when I came to Clue 2, I ran into almost the same problem - as the charts are getting more complicated, the squares and the symbols are getting smaller. I just got dizzy looking at them! But I thought there must be a way to get over this. Yes, there is. The solution suddenly occurred to me while I was ripping:

Colours! I need to keep things simple. So, orange for the yo and k tog clusters and green for clusters of 5 knit stitches. The green clusters are the most important as I wouldn't get disoriented counting how many stitches I have to knit between the yo/k tog clusters.

The result? It did help me enormously. From time to time, I still missed a yo or miscounted the stitches. But I have completed Clue 2 (78 rows) already and am moving into Clue 3 (79-116 rows).

Like Husband likes to say, there is always a solution to any problem. ;)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Would you fake it or make it real? (Really long post)

I like Kim Hargreaves's designs and have made 2 of them. My experience is that they are in general well-written except ... there is always something missing. Little things. Like instructions for the armhole bands in Faye. Or what to do with the pocket linings in Bomber. If you are a savvy sewer, I think you won't find it difficult. But for me, I don't even know how to operate a sewing machine (despite the fact thay my mother was a seamstress!), so it is understandable that I have waited until the last moment to tackle this. Even though, I have to say, I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about how to do it. At some point, I think I considered not doing anything, just let the pockets be dummy ones. Yet, it is always nice to have pockets, even really small ones, in a jacket for petty things like keychain, a packet of tissue paper or coins. So, with the zipper installed, I started working on making the pockets real.

After measuring the size of the pocket lining, I cut out the fabrics, with about 3/4" around for the hems:

Yeah, you see it right ... I used orange fabrics for the milky white jacket! Husband was not really impressed with my choice, but hey, I have the fabrics right at home ready for use ... and isn't it a pleasant surprise to find autumn leaves inside your jacket pockets? To make the seaming of the hems easier, I steam-ironed the positions.

The hems are important here because the edges of cut fabrics would fray. I don't know the name of the stitch method I used, but you can see how I seamed the hems in Picture 1. When I was done with all four sides, I positioned the fabrics to the pocket lining, with the wrong side facing me (Picture 2). Then I started joining them together. I hate when the pockets of my jackets break ... so I used double sewing thread and just wrapped around the edges of the 2 parts in very closely-packed stitches (Picture 3). You can see a close up of the stitched edge of the pocket here:

Inside the circle, you can see I used a crochet cotton thread to attach the 2 loose corners of the pockets to the jacket. I learned this from one of my store-bought jackets.

So, dear friends, I have finally done all the finishing for Bomber. And I have to tell you that the result is surprising good. The size is right and it fits well.

See, rare outdoor shots! A storm is coming here tonight but the weather was extremely warm during the day. So, I made use of the beautiful sunlight to bring you these pictures. The colour appears to be whiter in the pictures. In real life, the jacket is more milky white.

Pattern and Modifications: Bomber designed by Kim Hargreaves from Denim People
I made the M size. I didn't have the nerves to do any modifications on this pattern. Actually, I was not even sure it would turn out right because of the uncertainty of washing (even though I did swatch). But there are 2 features of the design that I like very much.

The first one is the armhole shaping. Instead of just decreasing on both ends, which would interrupt the ribbing pattern, KH's design keeps the outermost rib continue and decreased on the second and third ribs:

I think this is a very intelligent design detail.

The second one is the collar shaping:

Yarn: Naturelle 8/8 cotton yarn in cone (74% Recycled Cotton; 24% Acrylic; 2% Unknown Fibres) Col: 700 Milk
When I ordered this from Elann, there was only one colour left. I read on some knitting blogs that there were lots of other colours. Too bad I was late and this boat has sailed already! This yarn makes some very good between-seasons garments.

Gauge and Needles:
Before washing: 20 st x 28 rows = 10cm x 10.5cm using US5
After washing, the measurements became 10cm x 9cm

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Customizing zipper length

Both my parents were related to fabrics before they retired. My father was a machine knitter (no, he didn't knit for pleasure, if you ask; and he used huge industrial knitting machine which he had to operate standing.) and my mother was a seamstress of tailor-made trousers. I always think if I had more younger siblings and if I were not good with my studies, I would have picked up my mother's skills and become a seamstress myself. I didn't, but I had been around fabrics-related tools and stuff enough to know a thing or two. Like customizing the length of a zipper. Actually, I was so sure I could do it myself that the idea of ordering a customized length zipper didn't even cross my mind. I just chose the length longer but closest to what I need. Then I discovered I had a problem last night.

What happened was I ordered a molded plastic zipper. What's wrong with that? With plastic zipper teeth, they are extremely difficult to detach from the zipper without breaking. What is more important is the top stoppers, which I need to reattach to a new position. I thought I was doomed when I suddenly caught sight of an old handbag which I am not using anymore. It has been hanging around for ages and I always think I would throw it away next time I do spring cleaning. I felt so grateful to my being a packrat at that point ... I need the zipper from that old bag:

Sure you can buy these top stoppers, but you have to order at least 25! So, you need a little tool called long nose plier to get them out of the old zipper. Remember you have to be really gentle in handling these metal stoppers, otherwise, you would break them. Then, mark the desired length on your new zipper and pluck the teeth out of the way using the plier (having strong arms certainly helps here!), making space for the top stoppers, which you gently fasten them to position:

When both sides of the zippers are adjusted to the desired new length, you just cut along the dotted lines and you have a customized length zipper:

So lesson learned this time: Don't throw away old zippers, especially metal ones.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Here comes the zipper(s)

The second zipper arrived last Friday but I didn't get to work on the installation until today. Sometimes I find that before putting my hand on the actual work, mentally preparing myself for the task is even more important. Since I don't have a sewing machine, I need to hand sew it. I remember Bonne Marie has talked about this, so I googled her site for zipper ... voila! She has a complete pictorial tutorial here.

Going through that tutorial several times (you can see how nervous I was about this!), I started working on my jacket. First, with the jacket wrong side out, I basted the front edges:

and then secured the zipper's right side to the wrong side of the edges with pins:

Then I unzipped the zipper to make sure it was correctly positioned:

Everything seemed to be okay. So, it was now time to start the sewing ... but no! I only have some really crappy nylon threads ... I'm not sure if they are good enough. Bonne Marie mentioned something called "buttonhole twist thread". I don't know what exactly that is, but from what I saw on the web, it should be something a bit thicker than my crappy threads. ::sigh:: It seems the installation has to stop here and wait for a trip to the craft shop.

Note about the zipper: Last time I mentioned the shop sent me a wrong zipper. I have to apologize to them because they DIDN'T send me the wrong zipper, it was me who couldn't separate it!!!!! But I swear I did spend almost half an hour trying to do so to no avail. When the same situation happened with the second zipper, I started to suspect it was my problem. Then, not really knowing how, both were separated! So, I think it is only fair for me to pay for the second zipper.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


First FO of 2006! Ella has finished her blocking process. I am very happy with my decision to switch from the Wavy Lace Shawl to Ella. The pattern can really bring out the beauty of variegated yarn, see:

Besides, though the pattern is really really long due to the V-shape construction, it can be knitted up very fast. I am quite sure I would still be stuck with the knitting of the Wavy Lace Shawl if I hadn't switched ... and not feeling the love!

I'd love to have a picture showing me wearing the shawl, however, those taken were not very good in showing how it looks. Therefore, you have to put up with a model-less outdoor shot:

This is the first shawl I made for myself. The V-shape makes it rest on the shoulders securely. It is much more convenient that wearing a sweater because there are no bulky sleeves ... therefore very good for keeping warm at home while I can knit, read, write, use the computer freely. I can also use it as a lapghan. I also like the way Wendy wore it in the pattern.

Pattern and Modifications: Ella designed by Wendy Wonnacott from Fall 2005 Knitty
This is a very well-written and easy-to-follow pattern. Once you finish with the increasing section 2, the knitting becomes very fast and you'll find that you can finish in no time! Though I printed out all the charts for the 9 sections, I actually just followed the written instructions for the whole knitting process. I think perhaps I should really practice more with knitting from charts.

Yarns: Araucania Nature Wool (100% Wool) Col: 24
The yarn is not luxurious super soft wool, but it softened significantly after washing and it is not itchy. I have a feeling that it would make quite hard-wearing fabrics. One more plus to the yarn ... it is very warm! I don't think I would use it for sweater as I don't really like variegated-coloured sweaters, but for shawls or scarves, this would be an economical but nice choice. I used 3 skeins for Ella and still have 3 remaining. I am looking for ideas to use them up. Maybe a hat.

Measurements, Gauge and Needles: The gauge stated on the label is 18 stitches to 4" using US 5-7. But I haven't swatched to get the gauge (do I really have to?). Here are the measurements of my shawl:

Not quite the same as in the pattern. The needles I used are US8.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Year's Knitting News

Hello everyone! I hope all of you have a good start in the new year in all aspects! I can't believe that today is already the fourth day into 2006! It seems "Time flies" is not only a tired old cliche after all!

As I've told you before, I started a new pair of socks on New Year's Day. It is a sock kit I got from Inspirations Yarn together with the Mystery Kit #4 called Cherry Blossom Socks. Though I'd like to use tubular cast on for the cuff, I couldn't figure out how to make k2p2 from that ... and somehow I really wanted to have k2p2 cuffs this time, therefore, I learned to do German Twist cast on. I used one needle for the cast on first, and discovered that it would be too tight, so I used 2. I love it! Using two needles and cast on loosely, you'll get a very neat but stretchy cuff ... beautiful. However, I went very slowly with this sock because I still couldn't figure out the logic behind the pattern. Usually if I am able to do that, I can go faster becasue I don't always have to refer to the pattern. If you go to Inspirations Yarn's page, you can see the pattern quite clearly. However, I think mine is not so clear:

I think maybe it would be better with blocking ... but honestly, except for the pair I knitted for my father, I never bother to block my socks. I just wear them and then wash ... that's it. The above picture shows the pattern better, but if you click on it, you can see the real colour of the yarn ... isn't it lovely?

Actually, I finished my first project this year yesterday. Yes, it's Ella. Since it still needs a bath and some blocking, you won't see it until after a few days, I think. Though we have a little break of sunshine today, the forecast is seeing more rain and showers coming ... so drying the shawl may take long.

For the Christmas just passed, I wanted to make something special for a knitter friend. While browsing the web for ideas, I came across this. After much fumbling with the toothpicks, beads, scrap yarns, pin and glue, I managed to make a knitter's brooch:

It was not very well made, but I think it is pretty cute ... and I am happy to say that the friend likes it. Wanna see a close up? ::Click::