Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fifteen Years Later...

Because I have nothing else to do today, such as get dressed, finish packing, help daughter do same, and drive to Atlanta, I'm going to talk a bit about my new knitting project.

Cathedral Mittens

I've wanted to do Lizbeth Upitis's Cathedral Mittens for fifteen years. I've been making projects out of the book Homespun Handknit for at least that long, and the Cathedral Mittens were one of the ones that had to wait a while. Thanks to Maggie Righetti's Dumb Baby Bonnet, Stupid Baby Sweater, and Baby Booties, I did have a good basic skill set, but the Cathedral Mittens were completely out of my league. Furthermore, I didn't even have access to needles small enough to knit at twelve stitches to the inch, and if I had I didn't have access to good enough yarn, either. So the mittens waited.

As the years passed, I got better at knitting, and from time to time I'd look at the Cathedral Mittens and think, "Yeah, I could probably do those now." But there was always something else to do before tackling such a finely knitted project that would be only for myself. I had, apparently, a lot of selfless knitting to get through first. And I still hadn't found any yarn that said, "Hey, remember the Cathedral Mittens? Use me!" For one thing, I really wanted to do the mittens in the actual colors from the original pattern--which I rarely do--and finding a fine yarn in just the right shades of gold, purple, blue, orange, and red that also came in black proved harder than it might seem.

A few months ago, though, events converged. I'd added 000 and 0 size needles to my tools some time ago, and had knitted a couple of projects at twelve and ten stitches to the inch, so I knew I had the dogged bloody-mindedness required. Not to mention the insanity of the 160-fish fish blanket. Then I spotted some Garnstudio Drops Alpaca black, gold, and other cathedral-esque colors, and my brain finally dredged up "Cathedral Mittens!"

The picture above is my gauge swatch, knitted first on 000 needles, then 0s. The 000s gave me a gauge of about fourteen to the inch, so I switched to 0s. The gauge was a little closer, thirteen stitches per inch, and the "windows" opened up a lot more. 0s it was. I didn't want to go any bigger on the needle size because I wanted the stitches to remain fairly dense, and the Drops Alpaca isn't as tight, I suspect, as the original yarn.

According to the math of the original pattern, the gloves are about seven inches around. I need about eight and a quarter inches. The gauge is calculated based on the stitch pattern for the hand, which calls for slip stitches that compress the work a lot more than normal stranding. The cuff is worked with stranded knitting, and there's a big, big difference in the gauge. The mittens will be the correct size around the palm--well, theoretically--but the cuffs are huge. Seriously, they're going to be something like ten-plus inches

Now, it's possible that these mittens are supposed to have huge, gauntlet-esque cuffs, but it's difficult to tell from the pictures. The cuffs do look bigger, but I'm not sure they're that much bigger. Or that I want them that much bigger, even if that's how they're supposed to be. It's also possible that I'm the loosest stranded knitter on the planet and most normal humans wouldn't have such a huge difference in gauges. I've considered dropping down a couple of needle sizes for the cuffs, but I'll probably have to knit the whole cuff and some of the hand before I know for sure if I want to rip it all out and go with smaller needles.

I'm also waiting to make a decision about the thumb. The pattern uses a gore-less thumb, which is understandable given the colorwork, but I'm not horribly fond of them. To change it would require a lot of work, and I'm not sure it would turn out looking anything but a mess. But, as I said, I've got some knitting to go before I get there.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sensational Socks!

Sensational Koigu Socks

Pattern: Based on the "Pine and Neon" Four-Stitch Reticulated Patterns socks from Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch.
Yarn: 3 skeins Koigu KPPPM/KPM (100% wool). 2 skeins KPM 7160 (Purple), 1 skein KPPPM 841 (Greens and Black)
Needles: 2.5mm (US 1)
Gauge: 19 sts x 21 rows = 2 inches over stranded stockinette
Knitting Time and Date Completed: 4 weeks, completed 08/27/07
Notes: There were two things that I'd wanted to do for a long time: Try Koigu, and knit some patterned socks. This project from Sensational Knitted Socks was just the thing to satisfy both desires. I love purple and green, and the moment I spotted these two colors I knew what I wanted to do with them. This was my first experience with Koigu, and I understand now why people rave about it. It's lovely to knit with, soft and springy, and even the solids in plain stockinette create all manner of interesting textures. It was a joy to work with, and I was sorry to reach the end of the project.

Sensational Koigu Socks

As always with any technique I've not tried before, these were a learning experience. I'd done stranded work, so the knitting part wasn't difficult. But I'd never done colorwork with a variegated yarn before and I made a basic mistake when I picked my colors, namely that the variegated yarn contained some colors that were as dark as the main solid. This meant that part of the pattern would be lost when the contrast yarn matched the solid yarn. I considered choosing another color, but I really liked the way the green and purple looked together and decided that I could live with some pattern blurring. It turned out to a be a good decision. Yes, some of the pattern fades into the background, and it's not an effect that everyone would find pleasing, but I love the two yarns together so much that I find that I don't really care.

Sensational Koigu Socks

The second learning experience involved the heel turning. Because of the colorwork, the entire sock is knitted with two strands of yarn, with the exception of the heel turning and the toe. I didn't really think about it while I was turning the heel, but once I started on the foot I realized that the bottom of the heel, knitted with only one color and one strand, was a very different thickness and texture than the rest of the sock. Since this isn't an area that typically wears out on my socks, I decided I wouldn't worry about it, but when I got to the toe I simply dropped the contrast yarn and picked up a second strand of the solid, working the toe by alternating the two yarns as in two-end/tvaandstickning. I was very pleased with the result. Although it's still a solid color, the toes match the rest of the sock in texture and thickness.

Sensational Koigu Socks

Speaking of toes, I also ran into a bit of a toe problem with the first sock. In the pictures, you can see the first sock as I originally finished it, worked with decreases every other round. For every other sock I've ever made, decreasing every other round has made a perfect toe. For some reason, though, my row gauge was considerably larger than I'm used to, and by the time the toe was more than long enough, I still had about twice as many stitches as I wanted. I went ahead and finished it, figuring I could knit the second sock while I was considering whether or not to alter the toe. I decided rather quickly that I didn't like the wide toe, so for the second sock I decreased every round. It came out perfect, so I cut the tip off the first toe, ripped it back, and re-knitted it the same way as the second.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kiawah Beach Pictures

I have returned!

Well, okay, I returned last Sunday. But I returned with a horrible cough and sinus infection, and it's only been in the last couple of days that I've felt like uploading and organizing the mass of pictures I took on vacation. I'm composing a more detailed post, but I think it will be more efficient to begin with the pictorial highlights.

To that end, I've made a set on Flickr. It's big, with 129 pictures, and most of them have comments about the trip. If this does not deter you, and you'd like to experience the full chronicle of our Kiawah holiday in pictures (well, not really the full because I took a little over 500 pictures and only uploaded 129), go here:

Kiawah Beach Trip 2007 Photo Set on Flickr

For those wishing a less comprehensive photo tour, visit the quickie ten-picture tour below.

Kiawah-Day One at the Beach

.5 seconds after we reached the beach.

Kiawah-Day One at the Beach

The beach later in the afternoon, not quite low tide. This was taken just before it started to rain. You can see a fishing boat on the far right. For some reason, we only saw the fishing boats the first couple of days. It was very sunny for the rest of our trip (well, except for the last day, when it rained all day), but this is otherwise a very typical scene from our little cluster of rented chairs and umbrellas. The tide has, I'd guess, about fifty more yards before it hits the low point of the day, usually around 4 or 4:30. I wish I'd consulted tide charts while I was there.

Kiawah--Day Three

A picture from our third day at the beach. Boo and my mom are playing in the sand.

Kiawah--Day Three

Another picture from day three. We have one very tired little girl. This is also, by the way, not long after I was stung by a jellyfish, so I'm a bit pooped myself. It wasn't a very severe sting, but it hurt like crazy for a couple of hours. Needless to say, I was glad to relax and get some knitting done. And also very glad that it was me and not Boo.

Kiawah--Day Four

My brother-in-law.

Kiawah--Day Four

My sister in her preferred beach posture.

Kiawah 2007--Day Five

On Day Five, we built Kitty Castle.

Kiawah 2007--Day Five

It's not a trip to the beach unless you get buried in the sand.

Kiawah 2007--Day Five

Our next to last day, we biked along the beach after supper.

Kiawah 2007--Day Five

Bye-bye, beach. See you next year!