Wednesday, October 31, 2007

halloween parade

In honor of the song that titles this post, my mother offered to pose with her birthday hat next to my Strange Light poster. I was not super happy with the hat (made up the pattern, used Wool in the Woods Cyclone) but she claimed to not mind it. I thought the matching mittens were better. One cool thing about the hat was that doing a simple decrease on the knit rows of in-the-round garter stitch made a star-like shape appear on the top. Well, sort of...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

geeky but useful...

So I told EW about a blog I just came across and her enthusiasm suggested that others might enjoy as well. Beware, it has some great explanations but it's easy to get lost in way too much information. Don't start reading unless you're prepared to lose some time to it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mitten Tutorial

You've been asking for months for tutorial on knitting thumbs. Well, I'm finally getting around to it. I'm not sure how helpful this will be, but for those of you who actually understand instructions, I'm sure it will be great. For me, I had to sit there with my mom telling me what to do at every phase before I got it on my own.
These instructions (for the most part) come from the Knitter's Companion.
  1. Cast on loosely 27 or so stitches. This will seem ridiculously small. It's not. I use an 8 needle or so. Mittens need to withstand a lot of stretch, so better to make them seem small. The only key is that the cast on needs to be able to fit over the wearer's hand.
  2. Knit a tube until you're ready to get to where you want the thumb to go. You can knit straight (no purls!) and get stockinette stitch since you're in the round. You can try things like cuffs and the like (The pictures I'm going to give you have a cuff. If you want a cuff, just do knit a row purl a row and you'll get a garter stitch cuff.)
  3. When you are ready to put in the thumb knit until you are at the beginning of a row. (The way I tell is where the tail is from my cast on. You want the thumb to be on top of the tail.
  4. To make the space for the thumb, you need some contrasting yarn that is relatively similar in thickness. Cut your self a piece that's plenty long. To make the space where the thumb will go, do the following:
    • Knit the first four stitches on the row with the scrap yarn instead of your real yarn.
    • Make sure both of the tails of the scrap yarn are on the inside of the mitten.
    • Once you've knit those four stitches, put them back on the original needle where they came from.
    • Return to your regular yarn and knit until you get to the top of the mitten (this means that you knit those four scrap yarn stitches again with regular yarn on this row). This is the easy part. We'll come back to the part where you have to pick up those stitches momentarily.
  5. Continue knitting until you're at the top. When you are about an inch from where you want the top to be, begin decreasing. This is my decrease pattern. It assumes starting with 27 stitches.
    • Position your stitches so that you have 9 stitches on each needle. Knit 2 together then knit one for the entire row. After you're done you should have 6 stitches on each needle instead of 9.
    • Knit a row of of 18 total stitches (six on each needle).
    • Knit two together and knit one so that your six stitches on each needle become 4 each.
    • Knit a row of 12 total stitches.
    • At this point, I like to rearrange the stitches, but that's a matter of preference. Take your total of 12 stitches on 3 needles and put them on two so that you have six on two needles. Then knit two together and knit one so that your six on each needle becomes four.
    • Knit one row of 8 stitches.
  6. Bind off using the Kitchner Stitch. The idea is to bind off in a way that looks like a continuation of stockinette. I'm not very good at this part, but here are the instructions anyway. What follows is verbatim (almost) from Knitter's Companion.
    • Place the stitches onto two needles (four on each) and break the working yarn, leaving a tail that is about 10 inches long. Thread the tail onto a tapestry needle. Hold the two knitting needles together in the left hand, with working yarn/tail on the right side and the inside portions of the mitten facing togther.
    • Use the tapestry needle to draw the working yarn through the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl, and leave it on the needle. Draw the yarn through the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit and leave it on the needle. Then continue as follows:
      1. Draw the working yarn through the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit, and slip it off the needle.
      2. Draw the yarn through the second stitch on the front needle as if to purl, but leave the stitch on the needle.
      3. Draw the yarn through the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl, and slip it off.
      4. Draw the yarn through the second stitch on the back needle as if to knit, and leave the stitch on the needle.
      5. Repeat steps 1-4 until all the stitches are joined. When you're done bring your tail inside the mitten and tuck it away (meaning, sew in the end).
  7. Now it's time to talk about the thumb. This part is kind of tricky. Basically you should have the body of a mitten with 4 stitches made from the scrap yarn.
    • You want to pick up the 4 stitches on the bottom of those stitches, the 4 stitches on the top and two on each side. (I used to do only 1 one on each side, but this way makes for fewer holes). I think the pictures are more descriptive, but the basic idea is to put your needle through the left side of the stitches immediately above and below the scrap row.
    • Use your remaining two needles to pick up two stitches on each side. You want to pick up the side closest to where the thumb will be (the inside of the stitch).
    • Now that you have your 12 stitches on needles, take a tapestry needle and pull out the scrap yarn.
  8. Once you have gotten rid of the scrap, you need to rearrange those 12 stitches onto three needles and continue to knit until you've got a thumb (depending on how big your hand is, about 2 inches). The decrease pattern on the thumb should be to get down to six. Go from 12 to 9 (Knit two together, knit, knit for each needle). Knit row of 9. Go from 9 to 6 (Knit two together, knit). Knit the row of six then do the kitchner stitch as described above.
These instructions make it sound much more complicated than it is, but honestly it's not. The nice thing about mittens is even if you don't do it exactly right, they will still fit. Almost like a scarf, but a whole heck of a lot more fun. And they're not as bulky to carry around with you if you want a project for the bus. That's the end of my mitten infomercial. I'll add in pictures soon.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Concentric DONE!

I finished my concentric squares!

Lap blanket and reading, a perfect combination.

I'm actually really pleased with how this turned out. There's one section that throws off the true concentricity, but on the whole, it is square-like, which I wasn't sure if I'd achieve when I started out.

My thoughts on picking up stitches, if anyone's interested:
-Don't worry about how many stitches you pick up. I had an idea of how many stitches I'd need with the new yarn, and if I picked up too many or two few, it an easy problem to fix that didn't seem to affect the knit of the lap blanket.
-Don't worry about exactly which stitches you pick up. There are probably some "classic, good knitting" thoughts on this subject, but I just talked to Hannah a bit and then started with the picking. So I wasn't sure if there was a good side or a good angle or anything like that for picking up stitches, and of course once I developed a method for one edge, it would be different on an edge that wasn't knit in the same direction. However, despite all these inconsistencies and uncertainties on my part, the knitting turned out just fine! I find comfort in this fact.

I'd love to hear more thoughts or suggestions in the comments!

I have some more thoughts about weaving in and whether I'd recommend concentric squares to anyone, but maybe I'll save that for a future post. (Or maybe I'll get real creative and start a new project!)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cable Tutorial

If you've never attempted a cable knit, I think understanding the concept before you embark on your project is helpful. Hannah talked me through the cable concept one night on a pool run this past summer, so when I finally cracked open my Celebrity Scarves 2 book to start my own, the pattern actually made sense (more or less - it helped that Hannah was sitting next to me when I started knitting).

The information in this tutorial is based on the scarf that I am currently knitting, as that seemed the best way to detail everything, but the concept is obviously universal.
For my current project, rows 1/3/7 are basic knit and rows 2/4/6/8 are purl. Each row is 24 stitches.
The fifth row is the cable row. Here is how it works:
Knit the first 6 stitches.

Slide the next 6 stitches onto the cable needle and hold in back. The "cable needle" doesn't actually have to be anything special - I am using a dp needle of the same size as the needles I am using to knit the scarf.

Knit the next 6 stitches (stitches 13-18 on the main needle). The cable needle should remain in back.

You will now have 12 stitches knit for this row, 6 remaining on the cable needle, and 6 remaining on the other needle.

Now you want to knit the 6 stitches that are on the cable needle.
When you are done with this step, you won't need your cable needle again until you reach your next cable row.

Last, but certainly not least, you knit the final 6 stitches.

Repeat those 8 rows, and the cable pattern emerges!

I believe (Hannah please correct me if I am wrong) that some cable patterns will call for the cable needle to be held in front, instead of the back, but I'm sure it's all spelled out in the pattern.

Since I last posted about this scarf, I've come a long way. Not far enough to call the scarf done for Jill's birthday tomorrow, but close enough that I can probably convince her that I won't extend her birthday too long. I don't have too much length to add to the scarf, but I need to add the icord edging. The scarf actually did a lot of twisting in on itself, so I'm hoping the edging will minimize that (I also some heavy books to hold down the edges so they would drive me a little less crazy).

Monday, October 15, 2007

to frog or not to frog...

Along with voting on what to do with the leftover (very cute) fabric from KZ's chairs, please also vote on the following question: What do I do with my ugly knitting? Do I rip it out? Or do I try to dart it so that it fits me? Or do I do something else with it? I've heard pretty widely varied responses in person, so I thought I'd try to collect ideas a little more systematically.

Here's the ugly knitting:
Here's one suggested way to dart it:

Thanks for any and all suggestions!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Renegade Topic

Greetings from Manhattan!

For one night only, I have taken over zwick's blogging duties. Although she has taken a break from the knitting scene, I think this forum is a good one to share her most recent artistic endeavor.

I have the pleasure of staying at zwick's very cute new NYC apartment, which has been even cuter since the day she put down HEB's staple gun and finished re-covering these IKEA chairs. She purchased the fabric at Purl Patchwork. The leftover fabric will be transformed into pillows or placements. Maybe in the comments section you can voice your opinion on the matter. Admittedly, the lighting in this photo is not ideal, but it is what it is (and a poorly lit glimpse of these chairs can only inspire you to come see them in person). Cute chairs, zwick!

non-virtual knitting circle

After the craziness of the DB concert, relaxing and knitting together really hit the spot. But we missed you, EW. (Thanks to Maura for documenting.)

Monday, October 8, 2007

more (sort of) concentric squares

via email, from Keren: elizabeth's blanket reminded me that i want to learn how to do that striped square thing you were working on last year. I think your intention was to make it into a belt if you know what I'm talking about. Can you teach me how to do that?

I do, actually, remember what she's talking about and remember how it became yet another thing I started making for myself that I never finished. But the squares she mentions, which are mitered squares, are a neat little trick that I thought everyone on the blog would appreciate. (Except for maybe Samir, since I don't know if you can crochet them.)

The basic idea behind the technique is that you cast on a certain number of stitches and then continue decreasing in the middle so that the cast-on edge is pulled to create two sides of a square. Here's how you'd do a sample square:
Cast on 25 stitches loosely.
Row 1: Knit 24, purl 1
Row 2: Slip 1 stitch as if to knit (just move the stitch onto the right needle without actually knitting it), knit 10, slip 1 stitch, knit 2 together, pass the slipped stitch over the last knit stitch, knit 10, purl 1.
Knit 2 together:

Pass slipped stitch over:

Row 3: Knit to the last stitch, purl 1
Row 4: As row 2 except knit 9
Row 5 (and all future odd rows until row 23): As row 3
Row 6: As row 2 except knit 8
Row 8: As row 2 except knit 7
Row 10: As row 2 except knit 6
Row 12: As row 2 except knit 5
Row 14: As row 2 except knit 4
Row 16: As row 2 except knit 3
Row 18: As row 2 except knit 2
Row 20: As row 2 except knit 1
Row 22: As row 2 except knit 0
Row 23: Slip 1 stitch, knit 1, purl 1
Row 24: Slip 1 stitch, knit 2 together, pass slipped stitch over. You will only have one stitch left. Cut the yarn and pull the tail through this stitch but do not pull very tight.

To attach the squares to each other, you use the last stitch on the first square as your first stitch, you pick up 11 stitches along the top edge of square, pick up the corner stitch and then cast on 12 stitches. You should probably use the cable cast on, which is decribed in S'n'B. You then have 25 stitches cast on and are ready to start again. (You can also pick up stitches on other sides of the square if you want to make something other than a long strip of squares.)

You can do a variety of striped patterns: for example, to do a 2 color stripe, you'd alternate between colors every 2 rows. (You can just pull the yarn along the side rather than cutting and restarting it to limit the number of times that you have to weave in ends.) When doing so, I suggest knitting the first row after picking up and casting on in Color A and then switching to Color B for rows 2 and 3, then back to A for 4 and 5, etc., etc. For more ideas about mitered squares, see Vivian Høxbro's Domino Knitting. I'm happy to loan it out if anyone is interested.

Here are some abbreviations Keren should no longer be afraid to see in patterns, because if she's tried out this square, she's done them all:
k 1 = knit 1
p 1 = purl 1
sl 1 = slip 1 stitch
sl 1 kwise = slip 1 stitch as if to knit
k2tog = knit 2 together
psso = pass slipped stitch over
CO = cast on
BO = bind off