Friday, May 26, 2006

Thank you, Theresa

If you use the long-tail cast on method, you know the intense frustration of casting on 90% (or 80% or 70% or all but one) of your stitches and running out of "tail." Rip it out and start again. Aaaaaargh!!! Try doing it with a pattern that begins with "cast on 501 stitches." After 3 attempts, I finally gave up and joined another ball of yarn for the last 40 stitches... it still remains to be seen whether it will show when the sweater is finished.

Then one day recently I discovered a solution while browsing the Techniques section of An article by Theresa Vinson Stenersen on "Casting On" says:
Another good way to avoid this problem is by using two balls of yarn -- or both ends of the same ball of yarn -- joined at the slip knot. Just cast on one extra stitch and unknot the slip knot when you're finished casting on.
Why didn't I ever think of that??? It seems so obvious when somebody points it out! I don't even know why I was reading the article, since I have done a long-tail cast on since my grandmother first taught me how to knit, but I will never do it another way if I have to cast on more than about 30 stitches. Thank you, Theresa.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Two projects off the needles

Yesterday I finished my opera shawl. (I call it that because most of it was knitted while sitting in a wonderful 10-week "Opera Without Tears" course.) Yesterday was the last day of the class, and the shawl seemed long enough. Plus, the room was cold, so there was an extra incentive to bind off and throw it over my shoulders. There is enough yarn left to make some fringe -- I just haven't decided yet whether it needs it or not.

This week was a good one for finishing things. I also finished my second lace scarf
from Elizabeth Lovick's Shetland Lace Workshop, this one the Horseshoe pattern. Just like the first one, this one metamorphosed after blocking from a blob of alpaca spaghetti to a beautiful scarf:

Next project: Summer Braids Cardigan from Cabin Fever. I cast on yesterday and knit a few rows in light blue cotton. Then UPS arrived with some scrumptious light green superfine alpaca I had ordered. The cotton looks nice for a summer sweater, but the alpaca is soft and luscious and it even knits up in the right gauge. What to do???

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A tale of three swatches

Last week I started the Cotton Chenille Baby Cardigan for Gaia. It just wasn't knitting up the way I had envisioned. My original swatch knitted up exactly to gauge... 4 sts = 1" on size 6 needles. But the fabric was far too loose. Even the multicolor bauble trim looked funny. So I did another swatch on size 4 needles, and another on size 2's. After washing them it was clear that the cotton wasn't going to shrink enough to tighten up the fabric very much. So off to the frog pond with the back, which was almost finished. (At least baby sweaters aren't that big... it is much more painful to frog the back of an adult sweater!)

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I'm going with the size 2 needles, though it isn't easy knitting the heavy chenille yarn on such tiny needles. While I was at it, I'm redoing the multicolor trim -- instead of baubles a plain garter stitch. Much easier on the fingers with this yarn, and I think it looks better. It's beginning to look like I knit the way I cook... the pattern is like a recipe, just a set of suggestions rather than commandments.

It was a busy week at the frog pond. While there I had to rip a whole 16-or-so rows of the sleeve of my Hanne Falkenberg Lastrada. It was my own stupid fault -- I read the chart wrong and knit two rows of the wrong color, and it was a long time before I noticed. The good news... they were sleeve rows with 70-something stitches, and not body rows, with 400-something stitches, or I might have thrown myself right into the pond!

Friday, May 05, 2006

My first Shetland Lace project

After seeing many photos of beautiful Shetland Lace shawls knitted by Maureen Taylor I decided a few weeks ago to give it a try. I started with Elizabeth Lovick's Shetland Lace Workshop (at Maureen's suggestion) and a skein of leftover blue Superfine Alpaca. (I won't even discuss the number of time I had to frog it before I discovered that the yarn was less likely to slip off bamboo needles.) It sure didn't look like much on the needles!

Everyone says not to give up hope... that once blocked, lace will take on its shape and the design will come through. I didn't' really believe it, but here are the results:

This is an extremely simple pattern (New Shell) ... I have already cast on for the next one (Horseshoe), which looks exponentially more difficult. Eventually I hope to be able to do a shawl, but that's like anticipating calculus when you're still in kindergarten!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

OTN: Hanne Falkenberg Lastrada

When I first saw Lastrada I loved it, all the more so because it was available in large sizes. I couldn't wait until the kit arrived from Kangaroo in England, and when I opened it up, my first reaction was disappointment. The colors of the yarn didn't look at all like the colors on the screen. They were much more muted and earthy than the colors on my monitor - or, for that matter, the colors on the photo that came with the kit. What I thought would be blue (maybe because it was called "blueberry" ) was actually gray, and what I thought would be a light camel-ish is a very dark brownish yellow. But the colors seem to work together, so I plunged ahead.

My second moment of horror came when the instructions started with "Cast on 501 stitches." 501??? It wasn't a misprint - the sweater is made in two pieces, with the front, sleeve, and half the back on each part. You cast on the stitches across the bottom (front and half the back) plus the stitches that form the vertical front edge. The design is brilliant... but at no time could I visualize how this was going to fit together! Only after I got to the first sleeve and was struggling to figure out the directions was I able to try it on and see that it was going to work.

I'm still not sure I am doing the sleeve correctly. But I knit on, in the hopes that, like the main part, it will all come together at the end. Let's hope the frog pond is not in my travel plans.