Friday, July 24, 2009

Hand job...

Manual work, non-automatic...when talking about a machine, you expect the machine does all the work, right? Well, yes the machine does the knitting, but how the stitches come out, in this case, largely depends on a fair amount of hand manipulation by the operator.
Don’t know if I mentioned this before, but there are times when a careful eye may notice a link in some of my designs. I have something I like in one way in a certain design and I find myself incorporating it in another way into another design - sometimes I think I work it to death, but I feel compelled to keep using it to get it out of my system.
I told you about ‘Spots in dots’ and how I came up with this mesh knitting thing that made ‘square’ holes - it is every other needle, but there are actually 3 sts on every 4th needle instead of 2 sts on every other needle. I liked the way it raised the column of stitches and it seemed to help hold the fabric more flat, instead of curling around like stockinette does. So, it seemed natural to incorporate EON with 3 sts on every 4th needle into my mid gauge project for No 50. You may also have noticed I don’t often take the easy way out. Why not add an extra little detail to keep raising that bar?
Planning out ‘Midway’ (yes, it’s another hoodie! - the popularity of this item does not seem to be diminishing), I just happened to have this wonderful wool/alpaca blend hand knitting yarn, slightly heavier than regular DK weight - I think anyway - in a perfect olive-y shade - I think anyway - and like, to back me up, the girls at the photoshoot were just loving this little cardy - both Alex and Shanley WANTED it - Alex even said it made her want to learn to knit!! Shanley began imagining where she would wear it and it turned out to be just about everywhere, from camp to partying. I knew we had a winner even though they didn’t realize the intricacy of the manually transferred lace pattern.
Admission - I knit this on the metal bed SK860 because I wanted the ribs to be 2X2 and with the ribber on that machine, it is totally easy, but I think I finally figured out just why I love the plastic bed LK150 so much. Hand transfers are so much easier on the LK150 because there are no sinker posts to get caught up on. The sinker posts on the metal bed - especially when the ribber is attached and therefore the knit bed is angled - make the transfer moves more exaggerated than with the channels dividing the needles on the plastic bed. If I were to make this again, I’d knit the ribs on the ribber, transfer them up to the main bed, take them off on waste yarn and rehang the pieces on the LK and thoroughly enjoy the hand work!!!
Here’s our cover garment for No 50 - ta-da!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Geezer Chic...

What on earth is a ‘geezer’ cardigan? Well, I guess the idea behind it - I’d heard young people were going to Value Village and the Sally Ann, searching out old men’s cardigans to wear. And I thought, well, everyone’s heard of the boyfriend sweater - never sure what it really was other than maybe, kind of like a sweater a young girl might borrow from her boyfriend and not want to give back because she found it comfy for schlepping around... who knows? So, I figured, okay, take the design elements of the old guy’s cardigan and turn it into a fashion statement.
Well, I’d like patch pockets, a vee neck, buttoned front, of course - otherwise it wouldn’t be a cardigan, duh? I also thought - longer than we’ve seen for a while and slightly A-line, instead of fitted.
The yarn I chose is simply gorgeous - Jaggerspun zephyr wool/silk 2/18 which I used doubled, making similar to a 4 ply fingering weight in stockinette - the sheen and drape to this yarn is awesome. The hems are deep, full needle rib, left open at the sides. I did the same depth on the cuff and when I tried it on, after seaming the sides and underarm, I liked the cuff left open as well! The front band is knit in one piece vertically, circular, with vertical slit buttonholes. Getting it all together, the final touch was finding the big black leather buttons, just like the old style you used to see on Grandpa’s sweater!
I wasn’t too sure about using this name, but at the photo shoot, when I gave it to Shanley to put on, and told her I was thinking of calling it ‘Geezer Classic’ or ‘Geezer Chic’, she said ‘oh, it has to be ‘Geezer Chic’! Here’s Shanley! Look for this in No 50!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Needles to say...

You may have wondered about the title of my blog or maybe not...I’m going to tell you anyway. Back in the early 90’s there was a lovely magazine called ‘Machine Knit America’ and I was a fairly regular contributor for most of the 6 years of their duration. Many of the experiences I had with them shaped some of my quirks for K’words - more on that another time!
In Vol 2 No 1 (July 1992), I had a design they called ‘Canadian Cooler’ - totally dumb name, considering the jacket was made with DK wool, nothing cool about it and, in the previous issue, I had a 2 piece threadlace outfit they had named ‘Strawberry Cooler’. I’m sure you may see some of my motivation for the names of the designs in K’words!
They had certain ways of wanting things said and done in their magazine, which is their right, of course and I had to follow their format. Anyway, it was such a popular design that I re-knit it, made a few changes and published it as a single pattern pamphlett in 1995. I had made the jacket many times, having done several hands-on workshops with that pattern, both locally and nationally.
January 1996, I received a letter from a lady in Florida - really just copies of 2 previous letters, reprinted from her computer files, that she wrote to the editor of MKA. The first was dated October, 1993. In it, she explains she made the ‘Canadian Cooler’ and although happy with her finished product, she found the experience to be ‘very hard, frostrating and time consuming to make something and it does not go together very well. I sure hope, that this Lady proofs her Knitting.’ Her letter was so full of errors, it was hard to tell if they were typos, spelling mistakes or just how she talked. She outlined her troubles and, using her own brand of abbreviations and words, told how she fixed the glaring problems in the pattern. Another of her comments ‘Everything was fine until I got to the Nick band. 70 stitches? Even a very thin person would not fit this. I made it 120.’ ( I still have my original notes, using 140 sts, but somehow MKA changed it to 70 sts.) Marie continued to tell of the changes she made to the pattern, and ended with ‘It is very hard and time consuming to make it look nice. Well, needles to say, with my next garment I was smarter...I do hope, this writing does not get too long and booring. I also hope, that you will respond to my letter.’

January 18, 1996, Marie again writes to the editor of MKA, saying she never received a reply to her earlier letter. She had recently attended a seminar in Tampa where a demonstrator had a ‘folder of the very same "‘Canadian Cooler" and when I looked, I found, that there been a lot of improvments in the Pattern, some been my suggestions. Needles to say, I felt very hurt about this. Nobody ever contacted me in any way, and yet, some of my suggestions been used. Again I would like to say "it would be nice, if you would answer your mail. I am sure you get a lot of mail, but in all this time, surely you could had found a couple of minutes to answer. Afterall, I do buy your magazine or at least I did in the past.’

By the time I got to the end of her second letter, I was laughing so hard, I could barely hold the pages and I kept saying, ‘needles to say...I just love that - one day I’ll use it!!’
Anyway, I did send her a hand written note (I kept a copy of it too)
Jan 26/96
Dear Marie, I was very concerned, upon reading your letters, that you have had such an experience. It was never brought to my attention there was any problem with the ‘Canadian Cooler’ pattern in MKA. I must say you seem to be a very determined knitter to have overcome all of the problems. Keep up the good work! I am sending you a complimentary copy of the slip cable jacket as my way of apologizing for the situation. Sincerely, Mary Anne

I never received an answer.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The same but different...

Where do the ideas and designs come from? Sometimes they are as simple as needing something to wear with something I already have. Or, in the case of ‘Flouncing Around’, I was given a beautiful handmade beaded necklace - Heather gave it to me last fall after an intensive hands-on workshop in Indiana - she said her Mom crocheted it just for me - it was after my admitted green crisis and I think they were hoping to divert my attention to other colours. It has four strands of beads, in ivory, plum and cranberry, that spiral - beats me how it was made, but it is very pretty and I was totally honoured to receive it. I just happened to have some wool crepe deluxe in black cherry that was perfect for it. Also, in the back of my head was a vague idea of a fitted cardigan with an asymmetrical ruffle. So, I started knitting....basic waist length fitted shape; wide, low vee; button front; elbow length sleeve. I ended up with a flounced peplum of sideways shortrows that looked cute and I added it to the sleeve and decided that was enough for one design. The plain neckline is the prefect frame for my necklace! Thank you, Heather’s Mom! And it goes perfectly with my fairisle skirt from ‘Sassy Skirts’.
That first idea of ruffles on one side of the vee was still in my head, so I re-knit the same basic block using another colour of Velveen, changed the hemline and sleeve by using a 1X1 rib with a really neat chained edging and picot knot (new technique), did a double ruffle (with two more brand new edges!!) on one side only, used my skin print buttons, well-aged and I just love it! I called it ‘Wild Side’. If you think it’s trashy, keep it to yourself, I don’t want to know!
These are two more of the designs in No 50 - I really like this idea - taking a basic block and changing it up with plenty of options - or just try it plain - you’ll see more of this in the future, I’m already working on things for No 51!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Spots in Dots...

I have felt rather bad, almost like I’ve been dissing the brother machine unnecessarily after that thread lace thing - I felt that I should give it another chance. Lace knitting is one of my favourite looks and I love coming up with something that looks crochet-like. I had this idea in mind to make a mesh-like canvas and then have random spots or squares or whatever, similar to filet-crochet without the picture thing. I began swatching on the brother - it was really easy, once I came up with my mesh fabric, to simply push back some needles after passing the lace carriage, to de-select some of the mesh and get a spot of knit stitches here and there. After looking at the results, I went to Designaknit and made a large swatch of the mesh and then used the ‘eraser’ to make spots similar to my swatch, so it would be automatic. Back to the brother and knit 2 swatches at differing stitch sizes to find the optimum. Turned out tighter was better, because of the openness of the stitch pattern.
Now, to knit lace on the brother, it means at least 4 passes of the lace carriage and then knit 2 rows with the main carriage; the yarn stays threaded up in the main carriage. Not really a big deal, once you get into the rhythm, but as I was swatching, I kept dreaming of my Silver Reed, with which I can simply knit plain lace as quickly as stockinette. I couldn’t resist. I re-designed the stitch pattern for the Silver Reed and made a swatch. Hummm...interesting! What I thought was plain lace really wasn’t and the swatch did look better from the brother than the plain lace on the Silver Reed. Might look the same to the casual observer, but the holes stay more square on the brother swatch. To get exactly the same thing on the Silver Reed, I would need to knit it as fashion lace: take out the yarn, change the cam to fashion lace, pass 2 rows, re-thread the carriage, change the cam back to stockinette, K2R and repeat throughout. The re-threading of the carriage can be tricky and if not careful, you can easily dump everything. I decided to stick with the brother.
Cast on 80-0-81 needles. Now, I forgot to say, with this mesh knitting, I found that I liked the edges to have at least 2 plain stitches for seaming, so, while knitting this, on two of the rows of the lace carriage, I need to be watching the end needles and push back any that are selected on the 2nd needle from each side. I have already programmed my shape file into the box, but it’s a fairly simple body, just straight to the underarm. I knit a couple of rows and I realize the pattern has not advanced like it should. Reset to the proper row, pass the lace carriage and I get this error message, something like ‘No 48 error, carriage has not passed row tripper’. Sigh. Go find the manual to see what the answer is - there isn’t one that applies to the lace carriage. I changed the sponge bar, thinking maybe the lace carriage is sitting lower than the regular carriage or something. Try again, no difference. It’s after 5pm, so I won’t find any tech support anywhere right then, so I manually clicked the row tripper after passing the lace carriage and it worked, advancing the pattern to the next row. So feature this - pass lace carriage, check end needles, click row tripper, lace, watch end needles, push one back, click row tripper, lace, end needles, row tripper, lace, end needles, row tripper, knit 2 rows! I’ve got a mantra going - lace ends trip, lace ends trip, lace ends trip, lace ends trip, knit 2 rows. I’m concentrating so hard on keeping all this straight, I’ve got about 40 rows done and the box is indicating that I should be decreasing stitches. The darn thing thinks I’m at the underarm already!! I realize my tripping the row counter is racking up garment rows which the lace carriage does not usually do. Fortunately, I do have a manual row counter on this machine that I use faithfully, as well as the one in the box and I have charted out my shape on graph paper, so can follow that. I manage to complete the garment - somewhere around the middle of the front, the row tripper decides to get back in the game so I never did find out what went wrong, but my finished garment is beautiful and just what I had imagined!!! See KNITWORDS No 50, coming soon!! The yarn is CannelĂ© from Yeoman Yarns and the edging is from ‘Band Practise’, perfect with the filet-knit!
My working title for this was Testing, 1, 2, 3... but you never would have known what that meant!!
PS - yesterday, I went back to the brother. I wanted to make one of those shopping bags (Take an Old Bag Shopping - KW No 44 and see previous blogs) for a gift and, still high on my success with ‘Spots in Dots’, remembering I had thought doing the bag on the brother might be quicker because of being able to use the lace carriage for the transfers to every other needle....NOT!! (for me anyway!)