Finally

I started knitting my Lissajous Socks in July of 2011. They were the For Yarn’s Sake knitalong that month. After the knitalong ended I only really worked on them for one hour a week–For Yarn’s Sake Sock Hour. (Pro Tip: the hour before the open knit chat is sock hour, if you come to sock hour you can get a really good seat for knit chat.) Well, after a year plus of one hour sessions, they are done!

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What’s that you say? The last time I showed them to you they were white? Oh yeah. I may have dyed them. You see, they got dirty. While in progress, they fell out of my bag at Red Robin one night while we were having dinner after knit chat. I didn’t notice, and when I retrieved them from the restaurant a week later, they had clearly been left on the floor for a long time and were soaked with nasty mop water. In the picture below you can see the dirty parts on the outside compared to the part of the sock in the middle of the picture where I had joined a fresh clean ball.
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After about two straight days of washing they were cleaner, but still discolored. Enter the magic that is Jacquard dye. I pulled out my little pot of “Lilac” and after half an hour, I had this:
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Dying is seriously magical because you put the dye in the water, and the water turns a very dark version of whatever color you are using. Then you put the yarn or fabric in and the dye gets sucked up into it. The water goes back to being clear once all the dye has been sucked up. It’s pretty cool. And look, you can’t tell they were ever dirty.
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The pattern will make you extremely comfortable with twisted stitches and 1×1 cables. Also, the cable pattern is only charted, so if you have problems reading charts you might want to brush up on your skills before attempting this one.
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These are one of my biggest knitting accomplishments. I would definitely rate this as harder than most of the sweaters I’ve made. Finish anything big lately?
On the reading front, I have dropped everything to start The Casual Vacancy. Yes, I am a sheep.
Go check out other people finished projects that Tami has rounded up.

I hate it.

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Doesn’t look too bad from the back right?  I mean, you can tell there’s something a little bit weird about the neckline, but it could just be the way I’m standing, a trick of the light, something non-fatal to the awesomeness of the sweater right?  Wrong.
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What the hell sweater!  How can that be your neckline.  What are you from the 80s?  You think it’s cool to be all off-the-shoulder?  Well it’s not the 80s and that’s not cool!  You’re a #$%^*@! sweater.  You should cover me and keep me warm.  Now I know that I altered you heavily, but really all I did was shape the lower body–under the armpits–to bring it around so it can close in the front.  I love this sweater from the armpits down.  The neckline is unacceptable.
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Now that I’m finished with this sweater I realize why the neckline is so dumbass.  Because the back is one giant rectangle.  It is in no way shaped to account for the shoulders.  SHOULDERS!  Everyone has them.  It’s dumbass not to account for them.  The sweater needs a yoke.  It is impossible to give this sweater a yoke if you knit the back as written.  I would have to take the sweater all the way back to a giant pile of yarn and completely write my own pattern to create something I wanted to wear.  Le Sigh.
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I always forget that even if some pictures look OK, you have to keep in mind that mostly people are posing for pictures and maybe they’re trying really hard to hide the dumbass aspects.  Well with the above photos I have done my best to show you exactly what sucks about this sweater.
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The leaves on the sleeves are cute, but they can’t really compensate for the lameness.  I love the yarn, but I don’t think I can stand to frog the whole sweater just to get the yarn back.  Anyone want an ugly sweater?

The right tools

It’s extremely important to have the right tools when knitting.  I don’t mean that you have to go out and buy the fanciest of everything.  A paper clip makes a great cable needle, stitch mater, or stitch holder if you’re being thrifty (or if you’re like me and have purchased about 1,000 of each but can’t seem to find one when you need it.)  However, there are some tools that you really need to invest in.  My must have tools are: A good tape measure (cheap ones stretch out over time and suddenly the 10 inches for the armhole of your sweater is much deeper than it should be); bent-tipped darning needles (they make seaming SO MUCH EASIER, seriously you will wonder how you ever survived before); and good needles.

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My Pear Drop Shawl with my Size 4 32″Signature needles.  Having good needles is making this project so much more enjoyable.

Good needles are probably the most important. The needles you use can make a project the most miserable experience ever if you get the wrong ones.  For example, if you’re knitting with a fiber that is really “grabby” like mohair and you are using bamboo needles you are probably going to want to stab your eyes out.  The fiber, by its nature wants to stick to things and bamboo needles are “rougher” than others meaning there will be a lot of friction between you yarn and needles and you will be pulling against this friction with every stitch.  Conversely, if you’re using 100% silk or bamboo or some other very “slippery” fiber you will probably love bamboo needles because the bamboo will “grab” the slippery fiber and keep it from slipping right off your needles.  (I have a silk-rayon shawl that I started on metal needles but it kept sliding right off the needles if I picked them up vertically.  After loosing all my stitches twice because of this, I wised up and switched to wooden needles and haven’t had the problem since.)

Aside from choosing the right type of needle for your fiber, you should think about the type of project you will be working on.  For example, cables put a lot of tension on your wrists to make because you have to leverage the stitches around one another.  Also, because they are twisted, cable stitches are tighter and harder to get your knitting needles into than “normal” stitches.  If you are a tight knitter to begin with, you might find that you break wooden needles when knitting cables.  On the other hand, if you aren’t too tight of a knitter, you might prefer wooden needles because they have a bit more give (the needle is literally more flexible) than metal needles and therefore the needle absorbes some of the tension from the twisted stitches and keeps it from transferring to you wrists.  I prefer acrylic tip needles for cables because the acrylic is flexible like wood, but the needle point is often sharper than wooden-pointed needles making it easier to “dig” the needle into the tight cale stitches.

The last thing that is very important to consider is the sharpness of the needle tip.  Sharp tips are absolutely essential for lace knitting.  When you knit lace, you are manipulating tiny tiny yarn in lots of ways.  Often there are many increases and decreases every round.  It can be nearly impossible to get a blunt needle to “k5tog tbl”  With a sharp needle you have half a chance of actually enjoying the nupp-making experience.  Blunt needles also have their place.  If you are having problems because you a knitting with a yarn that is “splitty”–i.e. you keep knitting through the plies of the yarn rather than around the yarn strand–try working with a blunter needle.  A sharp needle can slice right through the plies and actually makes it more likely you will split your stitches if you are knitting fast.  A blunt needle can’t penetrate the plies and is more likely to slip around the yarn strand like it is supposed to.

Some people think it’s a bit excessive when I mention that I have 4 complete interchangeable needle sets, (as well as many other non-interchangeable needles) but I like to think that I just have the right tools to execute my craft in the best way possible.  I don’t just need “a size 6 needle.”  I need a size six needle that is: wood, metal, acrylic, sharp, blunt, long, short, etc.

Do you have a huge knitting needle collection?  Only a few?  An interchangeable set?  Two?  Four?  Do you only buy needles when you decide to do a project that calls for them?  Are there sizes you don’t own?  Sizes you own more than 6 of?  I’m curious.

Now what?

I’ve been working on my Dahlia Cardigan every week at Knit Chat for quite a while (Since September) and now I’m not sure where to go.  I’ve known all along that I don’t care for front of the cardigan as written so the plan has always been to change it.

The cardigan is constructed in a strange way.  First, you knit a lace medallion in the round.

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Then you knit two long strips that border the top and bottom of the medallion.  The strips are knit out from the center, so that you have live stitches on the left and right sides.
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As written, after knitting the strips, you take the left and right side stitches all onto one needle and knit flat for a long time creating the draped rectangular fronts.  The sleeves are done as afterthought sleeves.  Meaning that as you knit, you put waste yarn in where the sleeve opening will be and later pull the waste yarn out and knit the sleeves from the live stitches.
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Because I wanted to be able to try it on as a worked the fronts, I put the sides on waste yarn and knit the sleeves on first.  That way I would know how the fronts hang.
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Now I’ve got both sleeves done (and the seams across the back have been sewn since the picture was taken) so it’s time to get serious and decide what to do about the fronts.  Since it’s knit sideways I can’t just steal the front of another cardigan that I like.  I’m thinking some combination of strategic short rows and decreases can get me to a more traditional cardigan look.  I think I’m just going to “try stuff” and see what happens.

New Pretties

Hi! Remember how I blogged every single day in January and siad how it was challenging but fun and I wanted to blog more often if not every day… well turns out if I don’t have some sort of deadline or mental challenge kicking me in the butt every day, I can get a bit… let’s say “distracted.”  Partially, it’s just that my knitting has been really boring.  All I’ve really done is finished these:

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I’ve showed them to you several times at various in-progress stages and until I finished them I was basically putting in 10-15 rows a night and not working on anything else (damn school taking all my knitting time.)  I didn’t really want to show you a picture every day of my next 10 rows.
These are Winter Twilight Mitts by Laura Rintala which is a free download through Interweave’s Knitting Daily.  They are supposed to look like trees (that have lost their leaves) in twilight, but I have had several people tell me that they can’t see the trees.  The lighter color is the trees and the darker color is the night sky as seen through the trees.  I think the problem is that some people are looking for the trees in the negative space.
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I had a bit of a problem because the pattern assumes that you will use a very dark color for the trees (like black) and a sunset type color for the background (like reddish-purple.)  Because of this, the cart for the pattern charts the trees in black and the background in white.  Since I was using a light color for my trees and a darker color for my background I had some trouble reading the chart and inverting the color associations in my head.  Something to keep in mind if you want to make a version with light trees.
The yarn I used is Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light.  I used this yarn for the first time on my shawl from the Westknits Shawl Club Sharktooth.  I loved it and ran out and bought some for these mittens so that I would have a chance to knit with it again.  The lighter color is Antique Lace and the darker color is Clematis.  The colors are so deep and the yarn is so soft.  And it’s a single-ply and I love working with single-ply yarn.  It’s jockeying neck and neck with String Theory Caper Sock for the title of “Melanie’s Favorite Yarn.”

Surgery

Earlier this month I showed you the little boo boo I made on my Dahlia Cardigan.  Basically, I attached on of the back panels 180 degrees from how I should have.

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Today was the day I decided to fix it.  To create the back strips you use a provisional cast on at the center and knit out in both directions.  To fix my boo boo, I started by unpicking one of the ends from the center so that I had two sets of live stitches.
I rotated the sides until there was no longer a mobius in the middle of my back.  Then I kitchner-ed the live stitches back together.
All in all, it took about an hour.  Not as much lost time as if I had to frog back to my original incorrect join.  I completed the right sleeve today and have just started the left.  Currently my fronts are on holders because I don’t like the original shaping of the front and I’m brainstorming how to fix it.  Suggestions?

Well Crap!

I’ve been working on my Dahlia Cardigan at knit chat for quite a while.   Here’s what I’ve got so far:

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See the giant huge completely obvious problem?  This cardigan is constructed by first knitting the lace back in the round.  Then, because the lace doesn’t cover your whole back, you knit two strips to go on top and bottom of the lace to fill out the length of the back.  These strips are seamed to the top and bottom of the lace (as you can see, I haven’t sewn the seams yet.)  Then you put live stitches from the side on one long needle and knit the sides of the sweater out horizontally.  The sleeves are put in as afterthoughts, just like you would an afterthought heel.  Here’s the top back of the sweater:
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No problem there, just need to sew the seem.  Here’s the bottom back of the sweater.
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Yeah.  Oops.  Turns out, when I attached the strip that borders the bottom of the lace, I twisted it 180 degrees.  I made it a mobius.  Since my back is not a mobius, this is definitely a problem.  I can’t think of any solution other than ripping the side back to wear I attached the strip.  Hundreds of stitches and the set up for the afterthought sleeve all in vain.
Because I don’t want to deal with this obvious problem, I’m knitting the sleeve on the “good” side of the sweater.  Clearly I will have to do something about this eventually, but for now I’m just kicking myself and moving along like nothing is wrong.

Darn Socks

Sometimes, if there are tasks I don’t want to do, I justify not doing them by telling myself that it will take absolutely forever and I just can’t waste all that time at the moment.  I use this with doing the laundry, vacuuming, cooking for myself, and other tasks that aren’t my favorite.

As it turns out, it does not take hours upon hours to vacuum my 600 square foot apartment.  It takes about 15 minutes… at most.  And yet, every time I look at the floor and think “I should vacuum” my next thought is something like “but I have to do X in two hours so clearly there’s no time to vacuum right now.”  When I finally suck it up and do the vacuuming I’m amazed that this time it went so quickly.

I also do this with mending.  I will spend hours and hours at the sewing machine making something happily.  However, if whatever it is later gets a hole that will take seconds to sew up, it can sit in the pile for months before I steel myself to the arduous one minute task.  This is why it took me over a year to darn my socks.  A pair of socks I knit many years ago was wearing thin.  As you can see, there were patches on the heel and balls of the feet that were so thin that one more wearing would result in holes.

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Thin spot on the heel
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Thin spot on the ball of the foot
I’m ashamed to admit that I let these socks sit for about 2.5 years needing darning without doing anything about it.  I told myself it would take forever to fix.  That it would be hard.  That it would be boring.  That it wouldn’t work.  That the socks wouldn’t be as comfortable afterward.  Excuses excuses excuses.  Then came this Christmas when my mom picked a random assortment of things from my Knit Picks wish list (interesting the things non-knitters choose, very random) one of which was a darning egg.
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Today, I decided to suck it up and devote as much time as it took to fixing my socks.  I found the yarn I had originally used for the socks (why yes I did keep the leftover yarn for more than three years, why do you ask?)  Then I got a tapestry needle and used some of the extra yarn to reinforce the weak stitches by tracing over them with the new yarn.
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The darning egg slips inside the sock and gives you something to pull the fabric tight over so that you can see the stitches and trace them more easily.  Between the two socks, there were five weak spots that needed fixing.  It took me about 90 minutes to do the darning from beginning to end.  Not quite the all day task I’d been building it up in my head to be.
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As you can see, the socks (which have been washed many many times) are slightly faded compared to the new yarn, but I’m not too worried about the balls of my feet and the backs of my heels being beautiful.  I am very excited to increased my winter wool sock collection by a whole pair of socks for less than two hours of work.  Since these socks have been out of my wardrobe for over two years it feels like I have a brand new pair.  Hopefully the next time I wear out a pair of socks I will remember how quick and easy the fix is and fix them right away, but if my vacuuming habits are any indication I may not have permanently learned my lesson…