fiber arts

working notes on feather & fan project

I probably shouldn’t stay on here long, but I wanted to note down some things that I found while working the feather and fan pattern. Prior to this entry, I believe I only mentioned this pattern in regard to a swatch I’d made. Things have become more interesting since then.

Initially I cast on a threefold pattern repeat using base 3 (3[3(k2tog)+6(YO, K)+3(k2tog)] for pattern row; that is, using base “x” and a “y”-fold pattern repeat, y[x(K2tog)+2x(YO, k)+x(K2tog)]) on 3.25mm needles. What I found most…surprisingly with that was that I cast on way too tightly, so the bottom edge of my swatch curled upwards. I was also holding the yarn way too tightly, to the point that on my first try, I couldn’t even fit the tip of the needle into two stitches at once. This leads me to believe that, in general, I’ve been holding the yarn too taut — it works for garter stitch, but I want to graduate from rectangles sometime.

The first attempt was not at all workable, so I ripped it out and cast on again over two needles at once. Unfortunately, though holding the needles together worked, I snugged the cast-on loops up against each other, and this made the cast-on for my second attempt considerably narrower than the gauge the yarn wanted to rest at.

For my first three attempts, I was using Bamboo & Ewe, a wool/nylon/rayon sock yarn — this was only because I didn’t want to break into a new skein of Nature Spun Fingering Weight (I have a limited dye lot of this wool, and I’m currently using it in a project). As I was working the pattern, its logic started to make more sense to me, so I resolved to try it out using base 4 and/or base 5.

So I eventually bound off the first Bamboo & Ewe swatch, too tightly, though it was pretty doomed anyway (I think I just wanted to see what would happen), and cast on a fourfold pattern repeat using base 4 to a 32″ 3.25mm circular needle (4[4(K2tog)+8(YO, k)+4(K2tog)] for pattern row).

I got an Addi Turbo for this, and I think I may be spoiled…it cost about $17, but it’s really smooth, especially when the stitches aren’t worked too tight. The only complaint I may have about it is that I got the brass-needle version (I have not used metal needles before to recent memory), which works really well for trying to straighten out the nylon portion under warm water — I can’t imagine that working well with bamboo.

However, when I really have been working with these for a long time and sweat and oil begins to build up on my hands, trying to hold on to the last few stitches on the left needle can be a little slippery. Bamboo needles get kind of “seasoned” — they get glossy and more polished with use, but they’re also prone to dents if you’re working too tightly. The Addi brass needles are already at a mirror finish, and they feel much more durable than the bamboo — I feel more like the yarn will give if I’m working at too high a tension, not the needles.

S suggested using beeswax on my fingertips to help with the needles slipping out of the stitches. For my part, I have been trying to ply the needle between my fingers at a lower area instead of at the tip, and pushing the cord against my body to bump the needle back up when it starts slipping. What I can say is not to try and hold the tip of the needle when things start slipping…it will make things worse, especially if your fingers are oily or sweaty.

Anyhow. I was using the (self-striping) Bamboo & Ewe to practice with, but I don’t have enough of that dye lot to really make a scarf or shawl with, unless I’m okay with a skimpy narrow scarf…and for what that cost me (around $7 a ball), I might as well go to a local yarn store. I mean, seriously, you don’t get that much per ball (240m), so I’m looking at at least $28 there, and if I’m spending that kind of money, I have a lot more options than the upscale yarn at the craft store.

For this project, in my naivete, I bought two hanks of pink laceweight Misti Alpaca (100% baby alpaca wool). I tried casting on with this material the other night, and found that I was again casting on way too tightly, even though I was practicing on 3.25mm needles and attempting to hold the yarn more loosely. I could cast on (I was using the long-tail method throughout all of these attempts, which may be contributing to this), but I couldn’t get my needle through the first loop. It was kind of like trying to thread a needle with a sledgehammer.

This stuff is two-ply; S said that it’s the type of material wedding-ring shawls are made out of. Luckily, I bought two hanks, though; so it is feasible to hold two strands as one and cast on that way (which I tried the other night and ripped out very quickly to avoid kinking the yarn); I do have 400m of each. When I do this, though, my gauge is slightly wider than it was with the Bamboo & Ewe.

I’m not certain how wide to make it if I want it to be a headscarf…or how far 400m will last me at given multiples. I do think I’ll be doing 4-6 repeats of base 4, but I’ve got to look at my other scarves to see how wide they are (as, for example, I already know that I can put one of my silk scarves over my hair, so I just have to compare widths to see how wide this one needs to be if I want to do that).

I’m not sure if I should take my current project off of my 5mm needles and see what this looks like knitted with them…there are a lot of yarn-overs in this pattern, and I don’t want gigantic holes in the scarf. At the same time, it’s looking pretty dense when knitted at 3.25mm. I suppose I could try 4mm…there are some needles here at that size.

I’m wondering if doing a knitted-on cast on will help things where gauge is concerned. I suppose I could try it, if the long-tail cast on is giving me problems (even though it’s supposed to have a lot of give and spring?).

Oh! — one more thing. When I cast on with the double-stranded Misti Alpaca — I found that I really have to be consistent with my tension, because anything that is a little looser or a little tighter will show by row 6, and it isn’t pretty.

Ah, I guess I was on here too long, anyway. :) Hee. I haven’t been online for a while, so I suppose that’s just what happens…