August 29, 2006

THEY'RE HERE!

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Did I say that these would arrive "imminently" in my last post? The copies of Simply Shetland 3 arrived yesterday -- even sooner than I expected! I'm working on uploading the specs for the various projects in the book . . . so check it out now, and check back again later, to see the great designs using your favorite Shetland yarns and mine for the knitting season ahead.

Posted by Karen at 11:56 AM | Comments (2)

August 25, 2006

NOTE TO SELF

Note to self: The next time you're driving home from the candy store, and the brand-new box of peanut brittle is sitting there in the front passenger seat crying out to be opened, and when you're stopped at the next red light and the shrink-wrapped package defies your fingers so you reach up to your keychain hanging in the ignition switch where amongst the keys hangs your mini Swiss army knife, and you open up the knife blade so you can cut open the shrink wrap so that you can finally open the peanut brittle and sample it -- and you arrive at home and pull the keys out of the ignition and go jamming them into your pocket, but they won't fit --

the next time that happens, before you jam them even harder trying to fit them into your pocket -- would you look to see whether the blade is still open on that Swiss army knife?

It was an experiment in paying attention. And it is so interesting, the way the mind works. It took perhaps 30 seconds for my brain to stop reading the signal that my thumb was sending as key, and to recognize that signal as knife blade. Sharp knife blade.

Yes, folks, it's my right hand, again. The same hand that only recently recovered from the puncture wounds inflicted by Mr. Nippy. Now there's a cut perhaps an inch wide across the base of my thumb. And my first thought, at seeing the blood, was: Oh, I better be careful not to get that on my knitting! Not that I had any knitting in the car or in the garage at the time. How the mind works.

Somebody else who has an ongoing experiment in paying attention is Rhonda. If you visit her blog, you'll see that she's in the final stages of finishing a Sally Melville Knitting Bag Jacket. I encourage you to take a look through her blog's archives and see how the cardigan progressed.

Knitting-wise, I'm continuing to plug away at swatches, etcetera, for Level II, and gathering up my courage for yet another go at the argyle sock.

Meanwhile, for relaxation, I've been keepig Anne virtual company by knitting on Sandness:

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Can't say enough how this is my favorite kind of knitting: size US 3 needles, fine yarn, knitting around and around and around, enjoying the play of colors. Sandness is now about 13 inches long; at 15-1/2 inches, it will be ready for the armhole steeks.

In Two Swans Yarns news: I spoke with Unicorn Books day before yesterday, and Simply Shetland 3 is just in! The woman I was speaking with said she'd just come back from lunch, and "there were pallets of them in the parking lot." (What a vision that brings to mind!) So I'll be receiving my shipment of these books imminently -- perhaps even next week. Here's my favorite sweater design from Simply Shetland 3:

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Alcea Pullover, designed by Beatrice Smith.

I've gotten listed on the website the yarns I got in from Rowan for fall -- new colors in Kidsilk Haze, Kidsilk Night, Wool Cotton, Kid Classic, Felted Tweed, and more. Hope you'll check 'em out!

Posted by Karen at 10:26 AM | Comments (6)

August 22, 2006

MORE ABOUT PICKING UP STITCHES

I received many comments and e-mails about the experimentation I did in picking up for the armholes on my vest. Because there is so much interest, I thought I should add the following notes:

When picking up between stitches the Feitelson way, you are picking up underneath both a running thread and a float. In the case of my vest, the running thread is always Lilac because I knitted the edge stitches in Lilac, and the float is White. If you were to fold back the ribbings and look at the pickup, here and there the white float is noticeable. Just a tiny fraction of White shows, less than a purl blip (if you are familiar with that term), if you go to the trouble of looking really closely; this won't show at all when the garment is worn. I don't think it looks bad.

However, if you were to pick up in one leg of the edge stitch, as Starmore would have you do, you are always picking up in the main color. (In the case of my vest, always picking up in Lilac.) Never ever would any of the float color show. For this reason, the Starmore pickup is prettier.

My conclusion was that picking up between the stitches adds stability to ribbing. (Because you are picking up under both a running thread and a float, rather than in just half a stitch, the ribbing is more strongly secured to the garment.) And, as I mentioned before, picking up between the stitches results in a ribbing that lies flatter and was much less prone to gap. And, for me, those factors far outweighed the prettiness of the Starmore pickup.

There's probably someone out there who is smart enough to work the new yarn for the ribbing under only the running threads, avoiding the floats. That person is smarter than I.

While experimenting with these different pickups, I kept remembering Catherine Lowe and the workshop I took with her in April. You'll recall that we picked up stitches morning, noon, and night in that workshop. Two things Catherine Lowe said kept coming back to me:

First, I kept hearing, in my mind's ear, her saying the word 'stability.' In four days of workshop, Catherine Lowe probably used the word 'stability' a hundred and fifty times. Stability was obviously something she values.

And second, she told this little story about how you'll be going along, merrily picking up three stitches out of every four, and you'll come to a place where you should pick up, but that spot is a little gappy or stretched out. And you'll think to yourself, I'll pick up in there, and by putting this new yarn in that little hole, it will help to fill it in. Actually, it will have the opposite effect. It's counter-intuitive, but true: Pick up in that little hole, and you'll stretch out that hole even more, and make it even more noticeable. Catherine Lowe said that you are better off picking up on either side of that stretched-out spot -- even if that means that you have to cheat on your pick-up ratio -- and that will help to close it up. So that's exactly what I did on my vest -- and it worked most excellently well.

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Vest, front view. Mugsy wasn't so sure about getting his picture taken. The fence is in need of paint -- a project that we've been working on, this summer.

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Vest, side view. One of the things I'm most proud of about this project is the jogless jog at the left side, where the rounds started and ended, and which you can see in this photo, under my left arm. Notice how the stars and diamonds are all continuous; you cannot tell where the rounds started or ended.

Yarn: Jamieson's Double Knitting, colors Lilac, White, Hyacinth.
Needles: Sizes US 4, US 8.
Pattern: My own design, using a stitch pattern from The Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting.

Posted by Karen at 12:54 PM | Comments (5)

August 15, 2006

PROBLEM CHILD

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This is my problem child, Nippy -- so named because we adopted him from a shelter when Jennie was 5, and she thought that was the cutest name for a cat. He's camera-shy, and so has not appeared on this blog before. He's been losing weight; I even realize, looking at this photo, that his collar hangs on him. A recent trip to the vet to update his vaccinations revealed that he's lost a pound a half since last November, when he last visited the vet to have his teeth cleaned, and had routine blood tests for kidney function, etc., which came back normal. I'd attributed his weight loss and concomitant lack of energy to old age -- Nippy is 14, getting up there in years, for a cat.

So at this most recent trip to the vet, she wanted to run blood and urine tests on him. The urine test revealed an infection that the vet didn't identify, but she put him on a course of antibiotics. The antibiotic is in liquid form, and I squirt into his mouth with a syringe, and medicating him has not been a problem. When the blood tests came back, the vet diagnosed Nippy with an overactive thyroid, and prescribed thyroid medication. This is a tiny pill. Tiny. The first time I tried to give it to him, prying his mouth open and sticking the pill as far back on his tongue as I could manage, he clamped his jaws down on my finger as hard as he could.

My finger throbbed horribly, and the next morning was red and swollen. So I went to the doctor. And I wound up on a course of antibiotics, myself. The good news was that, even though it was my right index finger, I was still able to knit while waiting at the doctor's office and the pharmacy.

Nippy, despite his name, has not been a biter. I suppose I asked for it -- I did have my finger in his mouth, after all.

Subsequently, we've been grinding up the thyroid pills and giving it to him in his canned food. I'm ordering the prescription compounded as a chewable tablet, which will be even easier to give him.

Nippy has been thriving on all of this attention.

Some of the other members of the family would like equal time on the blog:

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This is Cappuccino, a purebred Snowshoe, who came all the way from Mexico, New York, to live with us. He's quite the handsome fellow. That low chain fence marks the perimeter of the horse riding arena in our backyard. Cappy likes to walk along under the chain, and scratch his back on it. Clever, eh? And Lady is doing what Lady does best: Herding Cappy.

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Some days I think we should get a sheep so that Lady can herd it and have a real job.

I imagine you're thinking that I'm putting up all of these animal photos because I don't have any knitting progress to show you. Au contraire!

Rebecca and I got together for coffee on Saturday, and to discuss Master Knitting. (She's just started Level I.) I was just in the beginning rounds of the ribbing for the V-neck on my vest, at that time.

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Rebecca with the famous purple sweater, the seams on which were looking really good! My vest is that pile at the right, in this photo. Allegra came to Starbucks with me, but chose to sit at her own table and read a book and pretend that she didn't know us.

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I laid out the vest for blocking on Sunday evening. The vest has been it's own kind of problem child, but the good news is: It fits! I still have to stitch down my steeks on the inside, and to weave in some ends.

Posted by Karen at 11:07 AM | Comments (5)

August 09, 2006

TRUST THE EXPERTS, PART TWO

In preparation for a weekend's worth of QKT (quality knitting time), I cut the steeks on my vest one week ago. A warning about the graphic photo ahead: Best avert your eyes, if the sight of shears slicing through perfectly good knitting will give you the willies.

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The gaping hole:

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And then, we were off for a weekend of camping:

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I found a great little spot on the beach where I could knit and be out of the way of the direct sun. (We had glorious 80-degree weather.) The driftwood makes a natural seat, and a natural footrest. There's a knob on the log on which I could hang my tote bag with the ball of yarn inside the bag, feeding out to my hands.

We had a bonfire on the beach in the evening, and the girls went a little tribal on us:

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Notice the nearly-full moon in the background. Scott was not happy that they sooted their faces. He'd better remain tactful, though, or the next thing that will happen is that they'll be voting him off the island.

Now, we come to our next chapter of Trust the Experts, and the subject is picking up stitches. Ann Feitelson writes in The Art of Fair Isle Knitting that one should pick up and knit stitches between the main knitting and the edge stitch of the steek; she argues that picking up on the edge stich itself will distort the edge stitch. Alice Starmore, on the other hand, in her book Alice Starmore's Fair Isle Knitting, writes that one should pick up on the edge stitch itself, picking up and knitting on the leg of the "V" that is nearest to the main knitting; she makes no argument in favor of this, other than to say that this is the way it is done. And who's gonna argue with Alice Starmore? (That's a rhetorical question.)

Oh, what a quandary I was in, faced with these two different methods from two different experts. The Buddhists say, "Of the two judges, trust the principal one." That means, don't follow popular opinion or the voice of authority, but do what you know in your heart to be true.

I decided to test out each method -- Feitelson's on the left armhole, and Starmore's on the right:

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Stitches picked up and knitted according to Feitelson's method of picking up between the last stitch of the main knitting and the edge stitch.

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Stitched picked up and knitted according to Stamore's method of picking up in the inside edge of the edge stitch.

This is the major way in which working on the Master Knitter program has changed me as a knitter. For half a day, my vest had these two armhole ribbings picked up in these different ways, while I looked them over, patted and petted them, and decided which I liked better. In the past, I would have made the ribbings following one method or the other -- in truth, probably would have knitted one ribbing following one method, then changed my mind and ripped it out, and then knitted following the other method, been unsure of whether that was "right" or not, and perhaps even ripped them out and re-knitted them again the other way. Prior to doing this program, I would never have had a vest that was half-and-half -- not even for half a day.

But now, working on the program, I feel open to this sort of experimentation. Having the two different ways of picking up stitches side by side like that, I decided that Iiked Feitelson's method better. It seems to lie flatter and to make a crisper edge. (The Starmore method can distort the edge stitches a bit, and I think you can see from the photo that a few of the picked-up stitches had gaposis problems. Not the kind of thing I want to submit to TKGA's Master Knitting Committee for their review.)

Here's the vest in its present state, the right armhole ribbing having been ripped and reknitted following the Feitelson method:

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I really thought I would have gotten the ribbing at the V-neckline knitted, if not over the weekend, at least by this time. But I've come to accept the fact that I am not a fast knitter. And I am patting myself on the back for having enough discipline to focus on completing Level II of the Master Knitter program, despite the many other projects I'd love to start right now, despite the many other projects that are currently languishing on the needles.

That neckline ribbing is just going to have to wait. I'm not having a lot of time to knit right now, because new products are beginning to arrive for fall:

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Rowan 40, and new fall yarns. From top to bottom, the yarns are: new Kidsilk Haze shade Violetta; a new yarn called Tapestry in several colors; Kidsilk Night, the sparkly version of Kidsilk Haze; 4ply Soft in the new shade Sooty. Tapestry is a modern blend of 70% wool, 30% soybean protein fiber; it is dyed so that it produces this really cool, ombred effect. Rowan 40 has more going for it, from the perspective of traditional knitting, than other recent Rowan issues. In Rowan 40, you'll find more sweaters that incorporate Fair Isle stitch patterns or classic cabling; very appealing. The garments are more wearable than in other recent issues -- and Rowan has made the effort to extend the sizing of the garments.

I'm working on listing the new items on the Two Swans site, so my knitting time is relegated to late evenings, now. If you want to see a faster knitter than I in action, check out my dear friend Anne's blog for her progress on socks, a KSH wrap, and the Sandness sweater.

Posted by Karen at 03:02 PM | Comments (7)