February 2007 Archives

The ugliest yarn I've ever loved


For my birthday, among other things, my mother got me a gift certificate to Chameleon Colorworks. I combined it with a store credit I earned from some Spindlicity designs and decided to get the Luxury Fiber of the Month.

Janel was gracious enough to give me some advice before starting. The fiber would need to be spun into a yarn with a lot of twist, using the long draw method, and the finished yarn would need to be plied. Twist and ply are not a problem. I have lots of teeny tiny whorls and I always ply my yarn, but this long draw thing would require some practice.

I worked the last bobbin of my heather yarn using the long draw method. With careful pre-drafting and a little patience, I got the technique down fairly well. I won't be writing any books on the method, but I think I was able to make a passable yarn with the technique.

My first sample was Gray Yak. This stuff is SOFT. My long draw method, though, sucked yak knobs, when I tried it with this fiber. Pre-drafting seemed necessary, but hard to do because of the very short staple length and my inability to get a nicely pre-drafted fiber resulted in lots of thick and thin spots.

The finished fiber is just about 100 yards of some of the ugliest most "designery" yarn I've spun since I started spinning. The yarn itself averages around 10 WPI.

But, my god, even where it's overspun, this fiber is soft unlike anything I've ever spun before. If I were a yak, I'd touch myself all day. Wait, I didn't mean that to sound as dirty as it did. While I wouldn't consider this first luxury yarn a screaming success, I'm still excited to get my next fiber and try to improve on the method.

I'd actually really like to try spinning some of these fibers with a supported spindle of some sort. I feel like I'd be able to hone the technique better, but for now, that's just not in the budget.

If anyone else would like to offer any advice for next month, I always appreciate it, just comment away.

Casting on Lily


This entry has also been posted at the Create Along.

I've cast on and begun knitting Lily. As with almost everything I design, I start off with a provisional cast-on.

Working the waistband last gives me a chance to see how the proportions of the piece really fit me and find the best way to accent the look. The only time this can be a poor choice for me is when I want to work a knitted hem. In this case, with the lace, a knitted hem is probably not going to work, since it will show through the holes in the design, so I can feel comfortable proceeding with the provisional cast on.

I worked the bottom of the piece separately until I had worked enough rows to complete 2 repeats. Then I joined the two and am working them in the round. This will create little vents at the base of the piece.

While I originally planned to knit the sleeves separately and sew them in, I'm considering doing the garment entirely seamlessly so that I can be sure the motifs will align perfectly at the raglan. I've also decided that 3/4 length sleeves may suit the length of the garment better. While my sketch was originally for a tunic length piece, I really don't ever wear tunics, so I've shortened it to be about 5" below the waist. I should point out that I'm VERY long waisted so this may actually look a little more cropped on me than it would on other people of the same height.



Not too very long ago, Ms Janice (whose sweet dog, Ivan, recently passed, so send your hugs her way, if you can,) linked to this Etsy shop. I saw the most beautiful hand painted merino roving in her shop and I knew it had to be mine. I'm such a sucker for those nearly solid rovings.

I decided I really wanted to put my lazy kate to work and make a 3-ply that wasn't a Navajo ply. My scale has been on the fritz lately and my backup scale is somewhere in the deepest reaches of the city of boxes, we call our garage. The only thing to do was to wing it and hope for the best.

When all three bobbins were filled, it was clear that they all had a different amount of yarn on them. I plied all three until the first bobbin was empty.

I'm sure this is pretty common practice among other folks, but in case someone hasn't thought to do this, here's a technique I like that works as well for 2-plies as it does for 3. I decided to take the fuller bobbin and wind it into a bracelet for the Andean plying method. If I were working a 2-ply, I'd just take the only bobbin that had yarn left on it and wind it into a bracelet.

Once the bracelet was complete (note that I didn't cut any of the singles) I overlapped the the end tail of the bracelet, with the end of the tail from the first empty bobbin. I can now make my three ply from the one full bobbin and the two ends of the bracelet.

It's a bit fiddly, but it gets the job done.

I was either going to end up with a little extra bracelet or a little extra bobbin. I had hopped for the latter. It would have meant I could have finished the batch with a Navajo ply, maintaining a three ply through the entire skein (albeit with three different methods).

However, I had just a very small amount of bracelet left and it hardly seemed worth the effort to get it to a place where I'd only be feeding off the singles again, so I proceeded with a 2-ply to the end.

I ended up with about 3 yards of 2-ply, and almost 350 yards of 3-ply. Arguably, no waste, though the three yards of 2-ply are darn near useless.

The end product is pretty nice. There are definitely thicker areas and thinner areas, and over and under spun sections, but that's pretty much par for the course with my skill level.

The end product is about a worsted weight, with tons of sproing and softness. I'm toying with the idea of making some sort of felted bag, but maybe a scarf would get more use. Only time will tell.

Tutorial - Using Excel to design colorwork


This entry has also been posted at the Create Along

Today, my intrepid reader, I hope to offer you some tips on using Microsoft Excel for designing colorwork. This will be a long and picture heavy post, so I hope you'll bear with me. Later, I will do a tutorial on designing stitch pattern charts in Excel. I am currently using Excel X for the Mac. I will do my best to provide instructions that can be used cross-platform and with older versions of the software, but your results may still vary. I've enlarged the cursors throughout, to make the actions more obvious and most of the images can be enlarged by clicking on them. Still, if you hit a snag, just drop me a comment or email and I'll try to help you out.

Many moons ago I bought a cute fair isle sweater. It was inexpensive but very cute, fit well was exceedingly warm. Unfortunately, she found her way into the wash and was never the same.

Sweater I bought and subsequently sent through the wash

Having escaped the drier, the sweater still fits but the fair isle portion pulls in and causes a weird a-line shape to the piece that is no longer flattering. I've been thinking I would like to reknit it, someday, using the same pattern, but perhaps some different colors. Excel can be a fun way to play with this idea.

Swatching and sketching Lily


This entry has also been posted at the Create Along.

I love Calmer to pieces. It is the same yarn I used for my Deciduous pattern, so swatching would not be so much about determining gauge and best needle choice (though it never hurts to double check.) Instead, this would be a matter of deciding how different stitches would look in the yarn.

Like Julia, the process of coming to a design is fluid for me. I may start with a stitch I like, or a yarn, or even a color. The process of starting is usually a mix of sketching, looking through "inspiration" images I have around, and swatching. In this case, I decided I wanted to do something with a stitch pattern that could easily be split in two, to diverge around the armsceye. The pattern would run up the sides of the garment and would pick up again along with the sleeve cap, so that it would look, basically, continuous.

I finally decided that the Lily of the Valley stitch pattern, in one of my Barbara Walker books would work just fine.

I charted three different versions of the lace. It's a simple enough pattern that, at this stage, a chart is sufficient to see how the lace will be effected by the changes. I've highlighted the stitches that changed from iteration to iteration. I first split the double decrease into paired decreases, but I didn't want to have to seam the sleeve into the armsceye, through the double decrease. Since there is already a column of purl stitches on the outside, I thought that maybe two purls in the center would look nice. Finally, I removed the extra knit stitches on either side of the center decreases, because I didn't want the motif to get too wide.

The results is that up the sides of the garment, where the motif is intact, the purl stitches would close up, leaving what looked like a seam, along the armsceye, it would leave me a place to seam.

On to the swatching.

First I decided to knit the newly charted lace. Then I split the lace, knit that for a couple repeats and played around with the swatch to see how the lace would look as it curved around an edge. I was happy with the results, bound them off, but did not cut the yarn.

I cast on a new swatch, keeping the original swatch attached, with a locking stitch marker in the last stitch, to keep the piece from unraveling.

This second swatch was specifically to determine gauge and to play around with the decreases. I had to decide if my full fashioned decreases would happen by working the outermost purl stitch with one adjacent knit stitch or whether I'd work the decreases right after the purl columns, utilizing two knit stitches. I decided that I didn't want any glaring indicating that I had worked a decrease so I chose the former option. When stretched out, the knit decreases looked better, but I wanted this piece to have a slim fit but not so tight that the purl stitches would actually show, so the stealth decrease won out.

After knitting everything, I washed and blocked my swatches, still keeping them attached to the ball and to each other.

I have more than enough yarn to complete the project, but I still never like to cut yarn just for a swatch. Sometimes, you just have to cut. For instance, if you are going to work in Rowan Denim, you will really need to send your yarn through the wash to check the gauge and you can't do that if it's attached to 30 grams of unknit yarn. However, if you are just going to hand wash your piece and you don't expect the yarn to change drastically in the process, leaving it attached should not be a problem, and if you find yourself a little short for yarn near the end of the project, you can cannibalized your swatch for the extra needed yardage.

All while I'm swatching, I'm thinking about how I want to knit the piece. In fact, there's really no point during the designing and knitting of a piece that I won't diverge down another path if the mood suits me. However, in the interest of trying to document the whole process, this is the current state of my grand scheme.

This is how I envision the final piece. It'll be a pull over with a boat neck and shaping at the waist. The sleeves will be raglan style to allow the lace to angle gently. I figured a set in sleeve would require the lace to diverge too severely and wouldn't look good. And of course, the piece will be named, "Lily."

Now that I have my gauge and my vision, I can begin to plot out the actual pattern.

I like to set up a grid to the same scale as my gauge in Adobe Illustrator, and graph out every stitch. This, obviously, is the body. The piece will be identical in back and in front. I'll start plotting the sleeves later, but for now, this gives me enough info to start knitting.

"Gauge" is not a four letter word


This post has also been added to the Create Along blog.

Whether your are designing your own knitwear, or knitting someone else's pattern, a gauge swatch can be invaluable. This is not to say that you cannot design and knit without swatching first. For as long as there has been knitting, there have been people who picked up yarn and needles and simply jumped forth, feet first, into their projects.
That said, there are some distinctly useful reasons to consider knitting, washing and blocking a swatch of any yarn you plan to knit with, and if you love knitting (and I think you do) you can make this a fun aspect of the project.

When I think of designing I think of it like building with Legos. Each block can be a different size, so that 10 –1 inch wide blocks stacked next to each other will be an entirely different length than 10 - half inch blocks in the same arrangement. If you are planning to make your Barbie a fort, replete with moat and dragon, you'll need to make sure you build it large enough for her and her cavalcade of cannons (to keep the riff-raff out, of course.)

These blocks have different gauges.

Saying that her walls need to be 20 blocks wide doesn't mean anything if you have 4 different sizes of blocks to choose from. Pick the blocks that are too small, and Barbie just isn't going to fit inside. Pick blocks that are too large and you might find it no longer fits on the dining room table (where we all play with our Legos and Barbies!) Gauge tells you how big your building blocks are and gives you the Rosetta Stone to knowing where to go next with a pattern, whether it's your own or someone else's.

Once you know you have X number of stitches and Y number of rows per inch, you can easily determine how to decrease evenly from your hips to your waist, then back out for your chest, even if your measurements are wildly different than the average. Without those numbers, you might find yourself decreasing too quickly or not quickly enough and that either means a trip to the frog pond (rip-it, rip-it, rip-it) or an ill fitting garment.

Furthermore, knitting a gauge swatch gives you a chance to get to know your yarn; how it commingles with your needle choice, and gives you a chance to try the stitch pattern and see if it suits your taste. I can't tell you how many times I've realized that my needles were poorly matched to my yarn, occasionally with disastrous results (think rough wooden needles snagging smooth microfiber.)

Best to leave those discoveries to the swatch stage before you've begun knitting rows of 200 stitches.

Finally, as designers, you are not limited to the gauge and needles specified on the ball band. Your yarn may knit up with too much drape, or not enough, when knit at the specified gauge, but go up or down a few needle sizes and the fabric may be just what you hoped. Use your gauge swatch as a chance to find that perfect match between the two.

I could stand up on this soapbox all day, extolling the virtues and joys of knitting gauge swatches, as these are just the a few highlights, but I don't want to scare you all off yet.

My next post will show my theory in action! Stay tuned for my adventures in swatching.

PS. Go team CALMER!

The Create Along


Today is not just auspicious for being my 32nd birthday. Today is the day that Julia and I are kicking off a Create Along.

I'll be parallel posting, both here and there, along with my normal blogging. We sincerely hope that anyone with a love for, or interest in designing knitwear, will join us. To join, send an email to createalong (at) gmail dot com, with the subject line, "JOIN."

I'll be making my first post tomorrow, but Julia has a great one up there right now.



I have overcome one of my previously mentioned afflictions, or at least have suppressed it long enough to complete the Silky Wool piece.
The lighting in the "model" shots is a little cruddy, but I'm happy to say that shooting myself in front of a dark brown wall appears to make me look slightly less fish-belly white. Not a bad trade off.

I'm modeling here with a pair of dark brown cargo pants, which, oddly enough, suit the top. I'm thinking the top needs some sort of lacy cami underneath, in order to be truly practical, but as a garment, am happy with the end product.

Pattern Notes
Design: My own
Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool
Method: Knit with crochet
Will I write up this pattern? I'm thinking not. It's a rather involved pattern and I can't fathom having the time to size it and write up the whole thing. Who knows, maybe someday.

Some bits and details:

The sleeve has a button to keep the pleat from flaring too much. It made a huge difference in the finished appearance. The Silky Wool is so light and able to hold it's shape that the sleeves tended to fly out a bit too much for my taste. An alternative solution would have been to start the pleat halfway down the sleeve, but I like how the button pulls the design together.
The sleeves were knit in the round, from the top down, using Barbara Walker's method, though I had to make some serious modifications to the technique in order to leave the opening for the pleat. In fact, saying it was knit in the round is really a misnomer since the sleeve was worked back and forth with short rows, leaving a wide opening where the pleat went.
The inset was worked by picking up the stitches from the top of the armsceye and working down, then the edges of the inset and the edges of the sleeve, were seamed via crochet.

Here you can see the princess shaping. I have about a 10" difference between my waist and my chest, and hips. When I've knit a piece to correctly match my dimensions, by only decreasing at the side seams, the garment has tended to fit oddly with a funny little peplum effect at the sides and too much excess fabric at my lower back. These princess seams allowed me to distribute the shaping over more points and where they are most needed. I removed the side seams altogether, working it all in one piece. I faked the seams up the princess line by working a slipped stitch, every other row, where the seam would be. The project could just as easily have been worked in separate pieces which would have made the piece easier to block, but it would have probably made the seams less apparent because mattress stitch tends to be so invisible. I really wanted the "seams" to be a design feature.

The buttons are just from my local craft store, nothing fancy shmancy, though I like them. They are metal, maybe pewter, and have a relatively ornate engraved design. I thought for a while about what sort of button would best set off the piece and while I thought wood would be a nice color compliment, it seemed too rustic for the design, while shell or pearl was too dressy. The metal seamed to blend more with the look of the piece, so that they complimented while not overpowering the piece. Even better, the holes in the button were big enough to accommodate a small Chibi. This meant there was no need to find matching embroidery floss or thread to finish the piece. Life is good.

So that's that, another FO.



Second Sock Syndrome (SSS)
I finished the first of Leo's two socks and it looks and fits great.

No, he doesn't have itty bitty feet, the gusset just pulls the sock in a bit and makes it look shorter, I swear.

The heel is really unusual and attractive. This is the bottom of the sock and you can see the paired decreases that form a delicate ridge along the bottom. It isn't bulky at all, it just has a nice little visual detail.

I've cast on for the second, but it's moving slowly. 9" of ribbing in the round is just not my idea of big excitement, especially now that I'm not working under any deadlines and the world is my knitting oyster.

Sewing Buttons Syndrome (SBS)
I've discovered that while I like buttons, I dislike, with great zeal, sewing them on. I find it tedious, boring and prone to fault. It's sad really. When you are at the point that you should be sewing buttons, your piece is all but done. What could be so bad about sewing buttons on?

For about a week, the Silky Wool piece has been at this point, give or take.

The buttons aren't far enough apart, I'm currently taking them out to sew them back in....again.

Oh and remember all that talk about having juuuust enough yarn to knit the body of the piece? Well, I did some stash organizing and clean up this weekend. Guess what I found? My original giant swatches and the ball form which I knit, equaling a whole additional ball of the main color.

In my defense, much of our lives still sits in boxes because we:
A) Sold most of our furniture
B) Don't plan to buy furniture until we buy a house
C) Don't have anywhere to put stuff in the interim.

While this is, by no means, the way I hoped to start things in Portland, it does keep us motivated to pay off what remains of our credit card debt and start house shopping. Woohoo, and way to go off on a tangent.

5 Weird things about me


Patty has tagged me for the 5 Weird Things meme, going around.

The rules are:

  • Someone Tags you

  • You post 5 things about yourself that you haven't already mentioned on your blog

  • You tag 5 people about whom you'd like to know more I open the meme to all of you who are interested in playing. Consider yourself tagged.

Here's the thing, I feel like I pretty much tell you guys everything I'd be comfortable telling you. It's always good to keep a little mystery in the relationship, right? So I figured, if I think I've revealed all my weird, maybe there are things I just haven't noticed are weird about myself. So I asked Leo and my mom to come up with some things they think are weird about me. I've weeded out things I've mentioned here before. I know it's supposed to be 5 things, but since I got these from two different people, I'm rounding up to 6 total, 3 from each.


  • I like my chocolate frozen. Well, if not frozen, definitely refrigerated. While I'm aware that all chocolate authorities, insist that chocolate, like cheese and red wine, should be served at room temperature, I find it highly distasteful to have my chocolate melting on my fingers. I refrigerate most of my chocolate and freeze certain varieties. Oh and I prefer dark, thanks for asking.

  • Leo's never seen me wear a mini skirt.
  • I think I've mentioned that I'm not really a skirt person, though I own a few, but it's true, the only ones I have are at least knee length.
  • I have more gray hair than Leo does, despite the fact that he's 9 years older.
  • I started finding gray hairs in my late teens and I've been getting more salt and less pepper, since then. It hasn't really started bothering me yet. What can I say?


  • Was a "polar bear" (i.e, dove into the cold morning water) at summer
    camp but now puts on her woolies when the temps drop to 60.
    Actually, I bundle up right around 70 degrees. What's your point?

  • First word was "mine!" yet grew up to be very generous. I was obviously referring to chocolate, about which I've never been generous.

  • Looks delicate and fragile but can lift large pieces of furniture. Hmm, well, I'm not sure if the current state of my caboose could be described as "delicate" but I've always been able to hold my own when it comes time to lug boxes into moving vans.

Another great day at the beach


You may all be getting sick of Cannon Beach pictures, but we never get sick of going, and, of course, it's Panda's most favorite place, being so full of water, sand and fetch. What's so great is that the beach is clean, there are hardly any crowds and there seems to be minimal rip current to pull our cutie pup under the waves.

We are continuing our quest south down the beach, this time starting from haystack rock. You can see all the pictures from the beach, by going to this page.

Beach going is one part sight seeing to two parts fetch.

A stick carved by some sort of wood loving creepy crawly.


The mist rising up around Haystack rock. This time the tide was too high to reach the rock without aid of some sort of kayak or large burly man to carry you.


Seagulls walking along the beach.

Fetch and resting with the squirrel until someone throws it again.

It's all very tiring yet satisfying work, as I'm sure you can imagine. However, there are risks. Getting to this tree stump was far easier than getting away.

There was no water near that thing when he climbed up. We weren't sure if he'd make it home or if we'd just have to leave him there.
He planned, though, since he had the car keys, we decided to wait out the flood.

Pickled ginger


I finished spinning up my peach colored fiber and the result reminds me of the pickled ginger served with sushi.

I'm simply unable to get a picture that really shows the depth of the color and the subtle sheen the viscose gives it.

It's not quite as pink as the picture above and not quite as yellow as the picture below. It's somewhere in between.

About the Yarn
Fiber: Merino/Viscose blend
From: Chameleon Colorworks
Colorway: Unnamed
WPI: About 28
Ply: 2-ply
Yardage: About 475

This batch isn't as evenly spun as I usually get but I think it will still knit up well enough. The color is absolutely delicious and very subtly variegated. I love how the viscose ads an almost iridescent quality. Despite being a bit over spun in spots, it's still quite soft to the touch.

« January 2007 | Main Index | Archives | March 2007 »

Share this page

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2007 is the previous archive.

March 2007 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

August 2016

  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31      

Find Me Here

  • rss
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • flickr
  • goodreads
  • google
  • linkedin
  • pinterest
  • ravelry
  • youtube

Featured Patterns