Monday, July 26, 2010

Chelsea skirt

I had never had the slightest desire to knit a skirt, but that all changed when I saw this one.  Meet the Chelsea skirt.  Here's my version.

This skirt is from a book called New England Knits, which just came out and has been getting a lot of hype since before its release.  When I first looked at the pictures from this book that had been posted on ravelry, few of the patterns jumped out at me, but some of them have been growing on me since.  This skirt really caught my eye, however, and was available as a free download from interweave before the book release (as it still is now.)

The bulk of this skirt is done in a simple herringbone pattern that is easy to do and not at all annoying.  For some reason, I came into this thinking that herringbone patterns must be annoying to do, but that was not the case here.  It was the second project that I was working on at that time that made heavy use of the pick-up type increases, the ones where you knit into the stitch below.  (The other project is Poplar and Elm, which is still in the works.)  You start at the bottom and use smaller and smaller needles, switching to ribbing at the top.  The top ribbing is also done holding elastic thread along with the yarn.  Then there are button bands and that little strip of lace at the bottom.

Perhaps I should talk about my feelings about tweeds.  I have complicated feelings about tweeds.  Sometimes, I see them and they just call to me.  But I rarely have a good time using them.  I find that the neps make it difficult for the yarn to slide against itself so my tight knitting habits require me to use an unusual amount of force.  Also, I often dislike tweed colorways.  Either the neps seem to cover all the colors of the rainbow with no sensitivity, as in Valley Yarns Williamstown, or they are flat and unimaginative, as in Knit Picks City Tweed.  The City Tweed uses the same neutral neps for each colorway, no matter what the main color is.  The colorways I really enjoy are those for which the color of the neps seems to have been carefully and artistically considered.  Blackstone Tweed, which I used for this skirt, seems to have this property.  This colorway (Concord) was mainly a very dark purple, with neps in navy, pink, and light purple.  I loved this almost as much as the Queensland Kathmandu DK I used for Riding to Avalon, which was off-white with neps in white, pink, and maroon.  Lovely.  But yeah, I have complicated feelings about tweeds.  And I hate seaming with them!  They always break.  Fortunately, this skirt didn't require any seaming.

For the lacy bit at the bottom, I used some leftovers of Yarn Chef Mulligatawny that I used a long time ago for the Wine and Roses mitts.  I had to block the main part of the skirt, knit most of the lace, block that, see how long it was compared to the edge of the skirt, and then knit and block the last bit.  Because of that, I was able to take this excellent picture in which you can see the blocked end and the unblocked end:

Blocking works, people!  At least it does when you're using non-washable wool.

Then I sewed the edging on.  Oh, I guess that was a seam.  Well, I did it with thread, so it doesn't count.

Then there were the lovely buttons and the thing was done... but the top is nowhere near tight enough.  As you can see, the bottom part of the skirt fits me nicely, but slightly small needles, ribbing, and elastic thread were not nearly enough to keep the skirt on me at the top.  Right now, I can't wear this thing unless I buy some suspenders.  I don't really know what happened.  Maybe I was supposed to pull the elastic thread tight as I knit with it?  That would be weird though.  I'm thinking of taking the leftover elastic thread and sewing it around inside top of the skirt.  Do people think that would work?  I am open to suggestions!

One more picture for good measure.


Hello!  I am back from a vacation to Kentucky, followed by a Flaming Lips concert that was my anniversary present, followed by our first anniversary, followed by Snowflake's first day of work at a new job.  Very exciting!  I will now tell you about a pair of mittens that I knit during this time.

Meet the Fiddlehead mittens.  These babies have been in my queue for a long time.  When I realized how much of the Classic Elite Fresco I had left over after I made the Enid Cardigan, I looked for a pattern to use up the scraps and this is what I found. About a year later, I finally got around to making them.

The instructions start with an I-cord cast on, which sounds like a brilliant idea.  You cast on stitches and make a lovely I-cord at the same time.  However, I knew from my Luminen sweater that, at least when I do the I-cord cast on, it looks like crap.  (Whoops, is that another sweater I knit and forgot to blog about?  Bad blogger!)  The stitches are way looser than the I-cord... it's a disaster.  So instead, I used a slight variation on the cast-on for the Yellow Harvest mittens.  I knit a 4-stitch I-cord for n-1 rows, where n was the number I intended to cast on.  (I should have gone for n rows, but I'll just know that for next time.)  Then, being very careful not to twist the I-cord at all, I used the cast-on tail to graft it into a ring.  Then, using the live yarn which I had not broken, I picked up n stitches from the I-cord ring.  Not only did it produce an absolutely lovely cast on edge, it also avoided the ubiquitous problem that the cast on always feels weak for the first few rows.  This was strong and structural right from the start, and a perfect start to knitting in the round.

From there, things went pretty simply.  More simply than usual, actually, because I didn't worry about long floats.  When there were long floats, I simply kept them long, and did not worry that my fingers would snag since I planned to knit a lining.  And so I did!

For the lining, I used the seventh and final color from the Enid cardigan, a lovely reddish purple.  I picked up stitches from the inside of the I-cord and proceeded.  If I have one regret about these mittens, it is that I think the lining is too big.  It is done on fewer stitches, which helps a little, but if I were to do this again, I would have used a fingering weight for the lining (this time, I used sport weight for the whole thing,) and also gone down a needle size or two.  The decreases in the lining are more round, which makes them shorter than the pointed outside mittens.  I think that was a good idea on the part of the designer.

Oh, and did I mention how much I love this yarn?  This is pretty much the best yarn ever.  It is so soft and addictive to knit with.  It feels like butter in your hands.  The Enid cardigan has developed a crazy halo, but I don't even care.  I love the feel of this yarn.  Oh, and I didn't use it up.  Each of the contrast colors on the outside mittens used less than 10 grams, and I still have a hank and a half of the brown left over.  Only the purple I used for the lining is almost gone.  So I guess I'll have to figure out something else to do with the remnants of this lovely yarn.  For now, it's in my "Will trade or sell" section of my stash.

Now, if it were only cold enough to wear wool/alpaca/angora lined stranded mittens, then we'd be in business.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

trying to be a better blogger - Moonfleet

So it occurs to me that this blog would be more readable if my posts were on a single topic, like maybe a single project.  And I would be a better blogger if I managed to post every time I finished something.  So let's try this for awhile.  (That paragraph is going to be embarrassing four months from now when I haven't gotten around to posting anything... oh well.)

My most recent FO is Moonfleet!  Moonfleet was one of those mystery KALs that I love so much.  This one was a KAL run by The Unique Sheep, and the pattern was for a laceweight stole in Eos, their 50/50 merino/tussah silk blend, with beads by Earthfaire.

I got this yarn in plenty of time to start the stole when the first clue came out, but I didn't.  My excuse was that I wasn't done with Evenstar, and its beads were taking up the bead bowl I use, but I'm not sure what my real reason was.  I guess I'm a fairly monogamous knitter at heart, and I wasn't having startitis or anything, so I just didn't cast on.  The yarn, however, was lovely.

I chose the Casual Friday colorway, dyed with the Unique Sheep's gradiance method: that's one hank of yarn divided up into four little hanks, each one a little different in color.  Mine was a particularly subtle color selection, going from sky blue to a light greyish purple.  You can definitely tell in person, but it's even a little hard to see the color change in pictures.  Speaking of which...

The left end is the blue end and the right end is the purple end.  The bottom end is my dog.

The beads, chosen by someone at Earthfaire, were perfect and gorgeous.  There are size 8 seed beads in a color called Metallic Navy Iris.  They were mainly a very shiny navy blue, but did vary from bead to bead... some more purple, some more green, some more blue.  I loved them because they were all a lot darker than the yarn, and so they were easy to see against the knitting.  There are also magatamas (drop beads) at the points on the ends, these were in the color Gunmetal.

I finally started the shawl on Midsummer's Eve, just before clue 7 came out.  Mostly, the knitting went very well, but there were a few setbacks.  I think the worst part was when I noticed that I had forgotten a bead, nearly two repeats down.  Now, I'm a bit neurotic, so I decided I needed to rip and re-knit.  I dropped something like 11 stitches down an entire repeat before I noticed that I was one repeat off from where the error was.  (Actually, first I tried dropping less than 11 stitches, but I soon found that dropping an entire vertical and horizontal repeat was easier to pick up again.)  So then I reknit that repeat, moved to the next one, dropped those 11 stitches down one repeat, and then just dropped the center stitch down another repeat.  I put the bead there, re-knit what I had dropped, and moved on.  Yay!

Um, and that particular variety of neurotic may have happened again later in the stole.  At least I know what I want and I'm not afraid to go for it.

Other than that, things went swimmingly and I was caught up in time for number 9, the final clue.  Then I finished that one and blocked a couple days later.  Weirdly, I felt that this didn't need extensive blocking, despite being lace.  The holes just seemed to open up when I lay the (soaked) thing out.  I did pin out the points on the border.  I think it worked very nicely.  My theory is that the beads were heavy and held down the fabric wherever I put it.

And that was it!  All done!

All in all, it was a fun knit.  I liked the yarn ok, although even 50% silk makes me like a yarn less.  I am tickled to death that it's tussah silk, and I think that this stole may be destined for my vegan friend, just so that she can appreciate that no silkworms, or buggies of any other sort, died for it.  (I know, the stole is not vegan, but she has particular reasons for being vegan that she tries not to lose sight of, and I think she'll like it.)

I really liked this, but I think I might not be signing up for the next Unique Sheep KAL.  I may have just made a large, irresponsible yarn purchase from Quince & Co., and I'm feeling somewhat guilty.

Oh, and if anyone's wondering, Evenstar is dry now and has been given away to a dear friend who, I believe, will make good use of it.

How about one last Moonfleet pic for the road?