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

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…

beading, fiber arts

knitting and unused beads :o

So I’m getting more into knitting, now!

It isn’t as hard as it was before.  I haven’t made anything to wear yet — I’m in the process of making a series of swatches with different stitch patterns.  :D  In cheap yarn.  But I guess that is what cheap yarn is good for.  ;)

I did go to the store and got a new tiny pair of scissors (I lost the old ones) and some tags to label my swatches with.  ^_^  I’m proud of myself.  Even though I haven’t made any clothing yet, I’m still learning, and that’s the part that I think my brain craves.

While I was out getting the embroidery scissors (which I want to make a leather pouch for so I can take them places with me) I did also check out a number of different natural-fiber-based yarns.  I’ve been to a number of different yarn stores recently, enough to know that it’s entirely possible to overspend on yarn and then not have enough for a project.

I’ve learned from the bead stores — get a project in mind before buying materials for it.  In December I spent over $100 on beads.  That’s really too much.  And I haven’t been beading since New Year’s; the beads are literally just sitting on my desk getting dusty.

I really should get back into that.  But I’ve had other priorities.  At the least, I should put them away if I’m not going to play with them.  Bracelet v. 2.0 has been put on hiatus because the restringing showed me that I’d need some 4mm bicone crystals in a color I don’t have.  (This is the bracelet where I’m replacing the Alexandrite 6mm Swarovskis with Montana Blue 6mm Swarovskis.)  The project on indefinite pause on my desk is something that I’m trying to assemble out of a range of greens and soft violets, though I was interrupted in that by a friend’s arrival, and haven’t been back to it since.

I did note though…I have some smooth peridot lentils which are much more glittery than the glass beads I have.  Their refractive index must be higher than that of glass.  Possibly higher than that of lead crystal…

And while I’m at it I should note that I now have violet-opal and periwinkle (and pale green!) “Baby Bells” for a necklace that I can make in a modified Biva chain…which could be cool.  “Baby Bell” is just what my local bead store calls a very tiny Czech pressed glass flower bead; it’s kind of shaped like a bell.  They’re quite inexpensive.

Next time I do a Biva chain though…I want to increase the number of leaves on it.  But, I’m not entirely sure how I’d do this and still keep the leaves attached to each other.  I could have them at right angles to each other…but no, that won’t work…as I have to attach the flowers, too, and I can’t anchor those if the flowers aren’t beaded.  Free-floating leaves?  If I make many, maybe I could pull it off.  I wonder what it would look like if I attached the stems to each other at the bases…kind of spiralling around?