Here's a pretty flower for you. Even the weeds in my yard have a certain charm, at this early-summer time of year. A ray of sunlight was peeking between the leaves and showing this delicate little flower in its own "spotlight," just for us!
The big knitting news this week: I'm so pleased to have finished (drumroll...
The Edwardian Lace Coat - Project 18
This was definitely one of my favorite knitting experiences in the entire Knitting On Top of the World journey so far. The cashmere/silk Kashmir yarn was beyond heavenly to work with, soft and lustrous. The lace patterns were all fun, and kept my interest going (lots of nights of staying up too late because I just had to start the next one!) And because it was on pretty big needles, the lace was really easy to do! This project made me yearn to make a lacy shawl (although I confess, I like to knit with fingering yarn more than laceweight - my eyes are getting old, I guess.)
Sorry for the rather lame photo - my son wasn't home last weekend, and the dachshunds don't have opposable thumbs. And after a day of hot summer weather and yardwork, I'm not feeling quite "elegant" enough to do it justice. I'll bring it to work the next cool day and see if someone can snap a photo of me wearing it.
Next Up - World Class Wee Sweaters!
I finished a major project at work last Wednesday, and am hoping to rev up my knitting pace a bit, as the last few coat-sized sweaters all took more than a month to do! I'm still a bit ahead of pace, as the Edwardian Lace Coat was No. 18; at one project per month, I had until the end of June to accomplish that one. But I'd like to see if I can do the entire book in less than 4 years, and am now aiming closer to 3. It helps that the upcoming projects are smaller, although I'm counting all 3 World Class Wee Sweaters as a single project (to make an even 48, one per month for 4 years).
So far, I've finished the Mini Classic Aran:
As Nicky says, along with the Liten Olaf sweater, these four sweaters incorporate many classic knitting techniques, but are small enough to give you a chance to master them without investing hours and hours in full-size pieces. As the sweaters encompass Aran, Fair Isle, and Argyle techniques, as well as some stylistic finishing techniques, by the time you are finished, you've covered a really wide range of knitting and design elements.
The Mini Classic Aran features textured stitches (seed stitch, ribbing) as well as twisted stitches (2-stitch twists and 4-stitch cables), as well as raglan shaping, and a turtleneck.
I wanted to be able to wear it as a hat without worrying about which way to sew the seams in the ribbing on the bottom part, so I knitted the bottom ribbing in a circle, and then split the front and the back, knitting them each separately.
This was a pretty easy knit, considering my recent practice with cables on the Celtic Hooded Coat. With the center twist-stitch panel, and the smaller twist-stitch cables on either side, I feel like a real pro at twist stitches! These are just like making a cable, but because they involve only two stitches you can sort of avoid having to use a cable needle by just working the second stitch on the left-hand needle before the right. I usually "pinch" the base of the stitches so that I can slide this second stitch off, and not accidentally unravel the first stitch.
The Foxy Little Argyle was definitely more of a challenge. I had to think a bit about which technique to use, to produce the different colored diamonds - Fair Isle, or Intarsia.
Intarsia, where you have different shapes in the knitting, seemed to be the right choice at first, but then I realized I would need to use a separate ball or strand of yarn for each vertical column of white between the colored diamonds to make it work. Why?
Well, intarsia works, because as you come to the edge of a motif, you twist the two different colored yarns together, so that they link like people walking with their elbows intertwined:
Fair Isle, on the other hand, usually only has two colors per row, and you don't need to twist or to "lock elbows" as both yarns run the entire length of each row (see black and red diagram at the bottom, below).
But here's the challenge. you can't "combine" Fair Isle and Intarsia very successfully. If I were to use one ball of white yarn and separate strands for each diamond, carrying the white yarn in floats behind the diamonds, there wouldn't be any "elbow" of white with which to lock the edge of the diamond to the edge of the white background. In effect, the stitches end up just sliding along that white float, almost like the rings on a shower curtain rod (see drawing at top, below):
And, further complicating matters, since there are two different diamond colors per row, each row of the Foxy Little Argyle front would have 3 strands to, were I to carry each color all the way across. And the background I chose was white, which would mean the darker-colored floats would likely show through...
And since the Foxy Little Argyle has 4 rows of colored diamonds with white ones in between and on the edges; that would be nine separate strands or balls of yarn hanging off my needle and driving me nuts.
For an answer, I turned to Sally Melville's The Knitting Experience Book 3: Color to check what she recommends in these situations, and learned that you can in fact get intarsia motifs to work with a background thread running behind, if you twist the two yarns with every stitch. This sounded crazy, but I decided to try it.
When knitting the sleeves (which have just one square, so intarsia worked, with a separate ball of background yarn for each side of the diamond), I measured how much yarn it took to knit a single diamond. Then, I cut strands for each colored diamond. A good trick Nicky taught me is to just let yarn strands hang loose when doing intarsia knitting - any type of bobbin or holder will be like a little "weight" and swing around and tangle with the other bobbins, but if you just let the yarn strands hang long you can untangle them much more easily by just pulling each length of yarn through any tangle periodically, or combing the strands with your fingers to detangle them.
So this is what the back looked like:
Another important trick when doing intarsia knitting, is to "anticipate" where the first colored stitch needs to be in the row below, and then catch the colored yarn behind the background yarn under where that stitch will be. In these diamonds, as they increased in width, I would twist the motif yarn with the background yarn after the first white stitch at the edge of each motif. This makes that edge stitch lie much more smoothly when you knit (or purl) it on the following row. I don't know why, but it is true. And if you forget (which I did a lot while knitting this, as I was watching Ghost Hunters and getting distracted and scaring the bejesus out of myself the whole time), it is worth going backwards and fixing it.
This makes your intarsia (or in this case, sort of hybrid Intarsia/Fair Isle) patterning look more smooth and even on the front:
I guess the diamonds are upside down in this picture, but you can see that the edge stitches line up pretty nicely without any "tug" from being skewed by yarn pulling at the diagonal from the row below.
I did the white contrast stitches with fair isle, since I was dragging the white yarn behind the colored diamonds anyway, but I did the blue contrast stitches across the white diamonds in duplicate stitch after the knitting was done:
And I seamed the edges together with mattress (?) stitch, where you pick up the little "ladder steps" between vertical rows of stitches, first from the ladder just inside the edge stitch on the front, and then from the ladder just inside the edge stitch on the back, working upwards rung by rung, alternating each side.
This sweater had a double band of ribbing on the bottom. I decided to knit both bands in the round, and then combined them by knitting them together, kind of like when you do a 3-needle bindoff, but without binding off.
Because I am not coordinated to actually knit stitches off of two needles at the same time, I actually slip alternating stitches onto a new needle, and then when I'm done, I do a whole row of "k2 tog". This just makes it easier for me to make sure I don't inadvertently drop any stitches when trying to control 3 needle tips, instead of just two:
I was really hoping to get this one done this weekend, but alas, there was a house to clean, etc, and pie to bake:
But next week, I will tell you all about it, as this was my first encounter with the DREADED STEEK!!!
I fought the battle bravely and learned a lot, but still have to clean up the battlefield - loads of thread ends to weave in (sigh.)
Then I need to make leaves and flowers for the neck edge. (I made one flower so far, but lost it in my commuting this week- darn!)
May your week be a bit less tangled.
P.S. Next week - More KOTOTW Books to give away!!!! (THANK YOU, SOHO PUBLISHING!!!)