fiber arts, occupational hazards

Butterfly 10 + 4mm circulars

So I went to a LYS and found that the pattern I’d been practicing — the Cloverleaf Cable one — is really advanced for the amount of time I’ve been knitting. The pattern includes an SSK, and undoing an SSK was messing me up. I found out that when undertaking a project with a new stitch, you have to know both how to knit it, and how to unknit it. Since I barely know how to do an SSK anyway…well, you can see my problem.

I did find a thread on Ravelry that can be searched under “tinking SSK” which gives a lot of different methods for undoing an SSK without damaging the work more than necessary. But I think that for now I’m probably not going to do the Cloverleaf Cable.

I did find a Diagonal Lace stitch pattern (no SSKs) which I want to use with the Misti Alpaca laceweight, held double. This note still needs to be marked on my pattern sheet, though. This last time of attempting something with that yarn, though — I learned that with the Diagonal Stitch pattern, I need to put in a lifeline every pattern repeat (every 6 rows). Undoing a pattern which includes YOs and SKPs is…well, I can say that I messed up the pattern more by trying to undo my work than it was messed up to begin with. If I’d had a lifeline, I would have been able to just rip back one and a half rows, given that the yarn didn’t tangle itself into a knot instead of ripping back. And this yarn really does like to knot instead of coming undone, unlike the Butterfly.

Right now I have some new yarn — Butterfly 10; mercerized cotton, DK weight. Plus a set of flexible plastic 4mm circulars which I used a hair dryer to straighten (much easier than using tap water, even though I warped one section of the cable). I was told by the LYS person that they would be easier on my wrists than metal or bamboo circulars, which she said could cause RSI (though this might not be an issue unless you’re knitting a *lot*).

The only thing I can say about them so far is that I need to keep my tension looser than I did in order for the loops to move over the join between needle and cable smoothly; plus the feel in one’s hands (and the scraping between the points in the method of knitting I’m using, which polishes bamboo points but may wear on these) takes some getting used to. I do, however, like the concave taper on the points. I can look up the brand if anyone’s interested.

I also picked up a pattern for a cable scarf and charted out the pattern last night so I could see how it worked. I think if I add on one more cable and one more in-between panel, it should be workable in the smaller yarn. It’s easy to see now why so many of the scarves in LYSs are narrow and long — it’s easier to undo because there are less stitches to drop or tink.

I really have no idea why the Butterfly is so much easier to unravel than the Misti Alpaca, except it’s larger and so it’s more difficult for a tiny strand to get caught and cause the unraveling to stop. Plus it’s mercerized, so it’s kind of shiny and smooth.

The Misti Alpaca which I broke off — I’d been using it for samples, which is how I know it works well held double for the Diagonal Lace pattern. But it really does wear when it’s ripped back, plus it knots; so now I have a bunch of fuzzy, tiny waste yarn. I’m going to use it for lifelines, as I did when trying to see if the Butterfly 10 looked good in the Diagonal Lace pattern (it doesn’t).

But the Butterfly 10 — it cost me $4 a hank. I’d hate to use it for dishcloths — it’s soft and shiny enough to be garment material. Of course there is that issue with cotton absorbing pesticides while growing which I heard about in my Fibers class, so the poison can’t be washed away…but really, most of my clothes are cotton, so I’m not entirely certain I should be overly concerned about the yarn in specific.

There is one LYS store within driving distance which sources locally-grown, organic cotton. I’ll have to check that out.

fiber arts

frogged F&F; practicing cloverleaf cable

As I noted over on Ravelry, I’ve frogged what I began of the Feather & Fan pattern.  It was just too repetitive and I was getting bored, not to mention that the scallops ended up looking like the bottom of the ghosts from Pac-Man.  This is probably because I was clustering the YOs and K2togs into groups of eight instead of six…

Anyway.  It’s undone.  I wasn’t able to save all of the yarn, though — for some reason when I was undoing it, a couple of times the yarn wanted to thread through a knot or accumulated matted fluff, and at one point I just broke it off out of frustration instead of cutting the knot.  So I have most of two hanks of Misti Alpaca and one doubled strand of the beginnings of each of those hanks.  That doubled strand, though — I wound it around my feet to get it organized somehow, and I could twist it into a mini-hank, which let me know about how much I had used.

I’ve started to work on a pattern with that yarn, which name I can’t remember — it had something to do with cloverleafs and cables.  Right now I’m just practicing, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be using the Misti Alpaca Laceweight for this.  Holding two strands together just complicates things when I’m trying to tink back through an SSK and rework it.

I can see now that if I slipped the stitch knitwise to begin with and then have to undo this, I should also slip knitwise when working backwards…I think.  My major problem is trying to tink back through these areas and then rework the decrease…because I’m using a solid-colored yarn, it’s very difficult to see which stitches are from which row, and for some reason I keep ending up with an extra stitch on my needle while messing around with the SSK.

I believe this is either because:  1) I’m being doofy and when tinking, I’m picking up the stitch below the stitch I wish to work out of habit, when I should just be slipping the stitch on the needle; or 2) I’m somehow otherwise picking up a stitch below the row being worked when I’m attempting to tink back through an SSK.  Basically the mess looks like an out-of-place YO on top of the left needle.

I’m hoping to go out tomorrow and get about 400m of a fingering-weight yarn that changes color, to make a stole with the cloverleaf cable pattern.  It isn’t ideal, the colorchange portion of this — it’ll likely take attention away from the stitch pattern.  But it will be easier to see where I’m messing up.  Last time I was out, I found a blue-gray color scheme that was actually very beautiful, but that was a laceweight as well.  It is easier to work with the thicker yarns…

fiber arts

garter stitch and feather & fan

I started working on the garter-stitch scarf again because I thought it looked lonely, sitting there on the table in my bedroom, getting dusty. ;) I guess it’s good for when you want something that you aren’t going to mess up on. Plus it’s nice to feel the larger bamboo needles in my hands again, as versus the brass US size 3s.

Drawback: as mentioned before, I realized when starting work on the feather & fan lace, that I was working the garter-stitch scarf at way too high a tension. So I relaxed it — because if nothing else, this project is good for grounding me in some basics — particularly the knit stitch and yarn tension. I might as well learn how not to knit wrong, after all. So right now the scarf is an inch wider than when I began. (>_<) It's also less dense, and softer.

I'm not sure how much longer this skein of Bernat Sox is going to hold out. (The scarf ends when the skein ends — even though with the heathering going on, I might be able to get away with a different dye lot of the same yarn.) Right now I have enough length on the scarf to wrap it around my neck once, but I'd have to pin it if I wanted it to stay on. I do have a skirt pin left over from when I had to get a pin for my first-ever project, where I ran out of yarn. (It was gifted — supposed to be made into a poncho, but even with two skeins, there wasn't enough yarn. It's likely that this is because the yarn was bulky, so it was easy to underestimate how much would be needed.)

I wonder who pins skirts…

Anyway…I wasn't working the feather & fan because I kind of needed to de-stress, and lacework isn't all the time conducive to that, when you're a beginner. I kind of feel like the laceweight yarn is wasted, being held double. I wanted something that would be long and wide and lacy, and I'm getting something that isn't much wider than a scarf (feather & fan seems to shrink widthwise as the waves form) and for which I've only got 400m of length to work with. Plus, the cast-on edge is "elastic", meaning that it wants to shrink, meaning that the scalloped edge of the lace is basically curling upward.

But what is there, is pretty. And it's possible that the edge will be OK, if it's blocked. I just wonder if I should rip out and restart with one strand. It would be more difficult that way though, certainly.

The reason I'm using a double stranded technique is that I am really not aware of how much extra yarn I'll have to put into each loop with the laceweight stuff, just to be able to get the needle into the stitch in the next pass. (With two strands, the thickness of the yarns held together pushes outwards and creates more space in and between each stitch.) And this pattern has multiple K2togs right next to each other. The K2togs…require a certain amount of play in the tension, because you need to get the needle into two stitches at once.

I suppose when I put it like that, it's easier to see why I'm doing what I'm doing, and to forgive myself for not being more skilled than I am.

Of course, I could also just be having bad memories of bees invading the house and getting trapped and killed (*snif*) that I associate with the feather & fan project…

Poor bees. I didn't want to kill you, bees! *snif*

fiber arts

feather & fan official cast-on

Well, the cast-on actually occurred last night. Long tail with double-stranded laceweight yarn over a 3.25mm circular needle. Right now I’m just getting to the point where the knitting is starting to undulate over my needles.

I found out what a dropped stitch in lace looks like, today. We had bees coming down the chimney, and in my anxiety to try and deal with them I dropped my knitting and ran to get the Windex. When I dropped my needles, one of the stitches slipped off and I think ripped down one or two rows. I eventually had to tink back a quarter of a row to the row below, to where things were starting to have some kind of order, and then recognize that when I had a long loop below a working loop, this meant that I had dropped a stitch.

I ran and got my 3.25mm crochet hook and did what I saw on a knitting help website — I went under the loop I’d had on my needle and hooked the long loose yarn, threaded it through the mistaken loop, and put it back onto my needle in the proper direction.

I actually had to do it twice; the first time I did it from front to back, which was the correct direction for a knit stitch, but I realized on the way to get wasp and hornet repellent/poison (it is not fun killing bees) that I’d done this backwards; the row below the pattern row being worked was a purl row. So then I had to drop the stitch again and almost lose it and then put it back on the hook again.

Hopefully I won’t have to run after bees (EDIT: yellow jackets…) again anytime soon.

fiber arts

more working notes on feather & fan

Alright. So it’s been a night. I attempted a knitted-on cast on over 4mm needles last night with the Bamboo & Ewe (after a terrible first try with mercerized cotton). The knitted-on cast on seems to work a lot better than the long-tail cast on, to the point where I want to try this cast-on method with a single strand of the laceweight yarn on my 3.25mm circular needles. The 4mm needles left large holes, even without yarn-overs, which doesn’t mesh well with my aesthetics.

I wanted to try and see what working the double-stranded version over at least 3.5mm needles would look like — if it would be considerably less dense. It seems, though, that this would imply my buying a 3.5mm straight needle set to see if the lace even looked good, and then a 3.5mm circular in order to knit the final product, and that’s running at least $20. I think that later tonight I’m going to try what I mentioned in the first paragraph and see if it is at all workable.

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…

fiber arts

correction — and quilting!

I mentioned earlier that I thought the Brown Sheep yarn I’m using was supposed to resist felting. I don’t think it is. I went and checked the ball band when I broke into this new ball of yarn and it says, “mothproofed”, not “superwash”. I guess I confused one for the other.

And now I’m wondering how this is going to look after it’s washed…oh, well…I’ll see eventually.

And yeah, over the weekend I started on a quilt-piecing project. This has been pretty nice so far even though I know I don’t know how far in to start stitching or end stitching…right now my stitches are running over into the seam allowances…

I’m doing the sewing in this project by hand with quilting thread and size 10 needles. There’s something about sewing by hand that I like, that I don’t get when I sew by machine. So far I’ve done six seams — I stopped on the weekend after the sun went down.

I should really go now, but I should note to myself that I’m thinking of saving for a rotary cutting mat, should I continue to find the quilting fulfilling…

fiber arts

Feather and Fan

The other day I needed something to do and so I cast on for a sample of Feather & Fan stitch, as favorited on Ravelry. It was incredibly easy. So off I went to look for someplace to verify my instincts on what the repeats would be to widen it, and found this post.

I really like what this person has done with the pattern. Apparently it’s done on 4 mm circular needles with fingering weight yarn. When I was working my sample it was on 3.25 mm needles and leftover sock yarn. I really don’t like that sock yarn (who wears acrylic socks?!?!), but it was an interesting experience. Now I want to cast on a laceweight yarn on circulars for my next project ^_^; especially given that it’ll be warm sooner than later and I could use a light shawl…Irish Moss Stitch can wait just a little bit, I have some time before it gets very cold again.

fiber arts

garter-stitch scarf and update on Wool-Eater blanket

I noted over on Ravelry that I’ve started a new project. This is an extremely easy project, a scarf which is basically garter stitch all the way through (knit all stitches, repeat). To mix it up a little, I’m using two yarns held together as one, for the first time.

This has been pretty simple, though I’ve had to check and make sure I was not throwing the yarn backwards once or twice — after a while, my brain starts thinking counter-clockwise is clockwise. I’ve also not dropped any stitches so far, which is amazing — and probably due to the fact that I’m not ever using the purl stitch, so there’s no chance of my forgetting to move the yarn behind or in front of the tips of the needles. For this project, I’m using a Bernat acrylic self-striping sock yarn (Bernat Sox, mentioned below) and a Brown Sheep fingering-weight wool yarn (I think this is technically a light-fingering weight yarn: it has 3 plies instead of 4, and was in the lace section of the LYS where I bought it).

I should mention here that I really, really see why many knitters like to use natural-fiber yarns more than acrylics or other synthetics. The wool in the Brown Sheep yarn is much warmer (and lighter, and less dense, and probably more fire-retardant) than the acrylic, and aesthetically, it’s just so much nicer to know that you’re working with a natural (“real”) fiber instead of what’s essentially plastic in the form of a fiber. I mean, microscopically, I’m sure the scales and structure of wool help to insulate much better (after all, they’ve evolved for this!) than something which is microscopically smooth.

Acrylic is great if you need really big quantities, because natural fibers are so much more expensive that a handcrafted wool blanket or similar huge project, like a cloak, would be prohibitively expensive. But I’m really having a lot better feeling about what I’m doing right now, working with the wool, than working with 100% acrylic.

Of course, the scarf I’m working on is half acrylic, half wool because of the twin yarns. I’ve made something with the acrylic before, and it does soften up in the wash. But since my Convertible Cowl (Lion Brand Homespun, acrylic) and filet-crochet (Bernat Sox, acrylic) experiments, I’m really hoping that acrylic isn’t generally a poor insulator. But I think I was told in my Fibers class that it is — in which case the wool might be able to contribute warmth that the acrylic wouldn’t otherwise have.

Hopefully, the acrylic can at least help to keep the scarf from felting and shrinking too much. Technically, the Brown Sheep yarn is supposed to resist felting, but that’s no guarantee. The most I can do is wash it in cold water and possibly by hand. But to be honest it’s probably going in on the Extra Delicate cycle, unless I can find a clean bucket to wash my wools in (and then squish them).

I also understand now why some people dislike the “pooling” of color that can happen with self-striping yarns. I’ve run into this, though I don’t know why it pools in some areas and isn’t …what’s the word… there isn’t a pattern to the pooling. The Brown Sheep yarn though is a solid color, which is getting kind of heathered in with the other, so it’s helping to break up what would otherwise likely be an annoying geometric color pattern.

The only technical problems I’ve run into so far are the twisting of the yarns together in my hand, and what happens when one yarn lies directly on top of the other on the needles. Hopefully, though, the latter will get worked out in the wash…and the former I may be able to mitigate by being careful about how I wrap the yarn around the needle.

I know, this wouldn’t happen if I were using the European Pic method. But I’m not, because I want this first project to be a success, and I’m still clumsy at European Pic. Plus, I may work at a different gauge with that technique than with the American method, so I can’t even with good conscience practice with both on the same piece.

I also restarted work on Winter’s Dust (the 100% acrylic crochet blanket) today, which went surprisingly quickly…but with that project, it really is all about chipping in small amounts of work at frequent intervals. As the project gets bigger, it seems that the work slows down, though it doesn’t; the amount of work that gets done is just proportionally smaller when compared to the whole. I probably could have at least gotten into the fourth round of diamonds if I put the same effort I worked today, into starting a new motif.

It’ll likely be some time before I’m finished with either one of these projects, but I already know that I want to do something with Irish Moss Stitch and a jewel-tone wool for a later project. I’m thinking stole. ;) I do already have a woven wool stole, I think I just love it so much that I’d like to make another. :) Six months until Fall kicks back up? ;D

And then I did find an alpaca-blend yarn recently that felt just wonderful, but I saw no price for it, so I didn’t chance it. It was almost like angora, that one.

I’m not sure how much yarn this scarf I’m knitting now is going to eat up. I’m about to break into a new skein of Brown Sheep…and let me tell you, it gets eaten up faster with knitting than with crochet. I can always get a new set of colors to pair with the self-striping Bamboo and Ewe sock yarn, if I use too much of the Brown Sheep on this project (I had not been planning to continue this current project past a sample, until I saw how well it was turning out). The thing is I only bought one ball each of turquoise stripe and purple stripe Bamboo and Ewe last time…so there isn’t a big color lot in my reserves, there.

But maybe I can practice with them and then maybe branch out into some more vivid blues or something.

fiber arts

correction to what I said before about tinking

I’m writing this now because I wrote something which I later realized was wrong.  It’s been nagging me, so I’m going to post a correction and leave a trackback to the post in question.

The troublesome quote:

“That gave me practice with individually undoing loops — which wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Just thread the tip of the left needle into the space where the yarn comes out, then when the stitch is slipped, pull the extra loop out. Not hard…”

When I was attempting to tink (knit backwards/undo loops) very early on, I would place the tip of the left knitting needle into the loop under the working stitch, from the direction that the yarn came from.  I realized later after having done this very often that this was randomly messing up the slope of my loops.  The loops are supposed to be right-leaning in American and Continental Pic versions of (at least) right-handed knitting.  That is to say that if you hold up your work and pull down on the fabric slightly, the leg facing your body should be to the right of the leg farther from you.

If the stitches are left-leaning (near leg on the left), this makes them twisted, and can mess up the flexibility and tension and pattern of your fabric.  If you search “tinking” (which term I didn’t know until running a couple of searches), you should be able to find videos on how to undo stitches.

From what I saw, to tink (if you’re right-handed), you put the left needle tip in the loop below the working stitch from front to back (near to far) and right to left.  Then once that stitch is secured on the left needle, you pull out the upper loop.  This should preserve the proper slope (if you wanted your stitches untwisted, at least), which doesn’t differ at all between knitting and purling, if you’re using either American or Continental Pic methods.

I know, it was complicated to me, too.