Monthly Archives: April 2012

There has been knitting…

I’ve been absent lately, not because I haven’t been knitting, but because I’ve become totally consumed with a community project. The City Council where I live seems to think that it’d be a good idea to bulldoze our only downtown playground (which is also used by the local elementary school) and build a parking garage.

Yes, there’s been a lot of Joni Mitchell played and sung around here lately…

I love this playground. I’ve been taking my kids here for almost ten years. The neighboring elementary school is one of the oldest in the nation and is about to get a $27 million renovation. It’s going to be a first-class facility that will draw families to our downtown area. Tearing down the school’s playground and hiding the school behind a towering parking garage is hardly the way to show that education is important to our community. So first I got upset. Then I got mad. Then I went to work, mobilizing all the moms I know in this area. And getting them to mobilize all the moms they know, and so on. There’s a lot of money on the line, which always makes for a contentious debate, but angry moms are ferocious. And we’re not giving up or going away.

I have been knitting, though, in between council meetings and planning sessions. I went to a baby shower yesterday, and I knit the expectant mom an adorable little hat that looks like an upside flower plunked down on a baby’s head. I used some seriously scrumptious yarn (Sublime cashmere merino silk aran) in a gorgeous pinky-mauve color. It turned out great, but you’ll have to take my word for it, since I completely failed to take a picture before I gave it to her. Sigh.

Bad blogger, I know.

The green sweater is still in time-out. I’m still debating frogging it completely and turning it into a February Lady Sweater instead. I frogged my first swatch and started to swatch in the gull wing lace pattern. Before I can get serious about this project, I need to work out the math for the rounded scoop neckline and the raglan shaping, which is a bit tricky with the lace pattern. Nothing like a challenge…

The red FLS is definitely on its way to the frog pond. I’m thinking I need a niddy-noddy, though, so I can frog, skein, and soak the yarn so I can use it again for another project. Skeining yarn by hand is a royal pain.

The baby sweater is coming along nicely (it’s been a great project to tote around with me); more on that just as soon as I dig out my camera.

And I pulled out a vest that I started designing last year. It has a circular yoke with a lace pattern, cap sleeves and then a little lace detail down the front and around the hem. It’s worked in Knit Picks City Tweed, in the marsh colorway. (I originally purchased this yarn for a cabled sweater, but then I decided that the cables didn’t pop in the tweed as much as I wanted. But the yarn was so squishy and soft that I had to use it for something, so I sketched out this design.) I’m not sure why I put this down (might’ve been the Rhinebeck sweater or maybe holiday knitting), but I really liked the design, and it’s definitely something I’d wear a lot, so I’m putting that back in the knitting rotation. (It’s the Tweed Vest in the sidebar.) Pictures to come…

So what’s on your needles?


Knitting crossroads

Hi, blog! Surprise, I’m not dead!

I’ve lost almost three weeks here, due to one member of my family or another being sick (including me, over Easter, such fun). So not much knitting or anything else crafty happening around here, just lots and lots of ibuprofen being administered, and more television than I or my kids have ever watched in our lives. (Including the Titanic mini-series done by the Julian Fellowes, who also created Downton Abbey. It was good, but I was bummed that the real people were more props to the fictional characters. I was still crying at the end, though which is kind of dumb; what did I expect, a happy ending this time?!)

I did get a little bit of work in on the green sweater, but all that managed to do was to bring me to a knitting crossroads of sorts. To be quite honest: I’m not thrilled with how it’s turning out. I have limited yarn, which led me to make some design compromises that I’m regretting  a bit now (such as the deep v-neckline that isn’t as flattering as I’d hoped). And the raglan shape isn’t working out the way I thought it would.

Disclaimer: I don’t actually own any raglans, which is perhaps a clue to me that they are not well-suited to my figure. I have broad shoulders, slender arms, and a small bust, so I need more space in the shoulders than my other dimensions would indicate. I thought if I increased the raglan lines and then worked straight (rather than trying to stagger the raglan increases so they would go the entire length of the yoke), I’d get a little more ease in the shoulders. But I ended up with a strange pucker in the fabric where the raglan lines end that makes the fabric bulge out a bit there.

I got to the end of the first skein of yarn (after dividing for the sleeves and completing the below-bust shaping) and decided the best way to see if the yoke was going to work out was to block it. So I pulled it off the needles, put it on waste yarn (stitch markers and all) and gave it a nice soak. (While I was at it, I frogged my initial swatch and soaked the yarn to smooth it out so I could re-knit it.)

Blocking identified another serious problem:  My row gauge is way off. My swatch’s row gauge after blocking was about 6.75 rows/inch. The actual sweater is measuring 6 rows/inch. Big difference. My yoke is thus about 8 rows too long, and my below-bust shaping starts 10 rows (almost 2″) below the bottom of my bust. Ugh.

So, what to do? I could frog back to the end of the raglan shaping and reknit, dividing for the sleeves earlier and increasing the rate of neckline increases (giving more of a sweetheart neckline than a v-neck). Or I could do something else entirely.

February Lady SweaterThis sweater is a February Lady Sweater that I started some three years ago in Dream in Color classy (using the In Vino Veritas colorway). I followed it more or less as written, but wasn’t happy with the way the raglan yoke fit me (surprise), so I’ve never finished it. I also didn’t know back then that 1) superwash yarn grows a lot, 2) lace grows even more, 3) blocking a swatch is a good idea, and 4) what the term “negative ease” meant. (Go ahead and laugh, I’m laughing too!) It’s a bit loose on me now, so it’s a safe bet that if this thing ever hits water, it’s going to be too huge for me  to wear. It’s been on my “To Frog and Redo” list for a while now. I’d like to give it a scoop neck (like Amy Herzog’s February Fitted Pullover version), some waist shaping, and 3/4 length tapered sleeves.

So here’s the thing: I’ve got 1000 yards of the DiC yarn, which would be more than enough to knit my mostly-stockinette cardigan the way I want to. And the February Lady Sweater, because it’s mostly lace, uses a lot less yarn. (The 35-inch bust, which is the size I’d choose, uses 750 yards. I have 800 yards of the green yarn.)

What should I do? Should I frog the green sweater back to the end of the raglan shaping and re-knit it, or should I frog it completely and turn it into a February Lady Sweater, then frog the FLS and turn that into my twisted lace cardigan?

Anyone? Bueller? 🙂

FO Friday: The Haruni Shawl

Haruni Shawl 


Haruni by Emily Ross


Sundara Sock Yarn in Lunar Landing (1 skein, 370 yards)


Signature Needle Arts circular needle, US size 7 (4.5mm)

Susan Bates Crochet Hook, US size 9 (1.25mm) for beads

Boye Crochet Hook, US D (3.25mm) for fringe

Other Materials:

Miyuki Japanese Seed Beads (6/0 round) in Heavy Metals Mix, 2-20g tubes


Lots. I knit the body plain (similar to the body of the Ishbel shawl). I used my yarn scale and Excel to calculate how many petals I could get out of the single skein of yarn I had. I added extra clusters of petals at either end to maximize my yarn use. (And I ended up with only 3g of yarn when all was said and done). I added beads along the stem and the edges of each petal, using the crochet hook method.

The crochet bind-off was new to me. A little slow to execute, but again, well worth the effort. It might have looked a little bit better with a slightly smaller hook. I’m very glad I learned how to crochet before I tackled this!

Time to complete:

Less than a year. 🙂 I cast on for this in May of 2011, right after MDSW. I finished the plain portion in a week or so, and then it sat through the summer and into the winter, while I bought beads and figured out what size to make. The dark yarn and the beads made this project slow going.

The verdict:

Love, love, love it! This may be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made.

Techniques: Provisional Crochet Cast-On

The Scalloped Lace Baby Cardigan starts with a provisional crochet cast-on. You cast on four stitches and work a number of garter ridges. Then you knit the four stitches, turn the work clockwise 90°, pick up one stitch in each garter “ditch,” and then turn the work again, unzip the provisional cast-on and knit the four “held” stitches. This gives you a seamless 4-stitch garter edging that goes up one side of the cardigan, around the back of the neck, and down the other side.

There are loads of ways to cast on that will give you live stitches going in two opposite directions. When I am going to be working the cast-on stitches right away (as you would in the toe of a sock or the bottom of a bag), I like Judy Becker’s Magic Cast-On (I like Jeny Staiman’s interpretation best), as it puts all the stitches on a needle or circular cable.  But if I’m going to work in one direction for a while and then come back to other half of the stitches, I prefer to put the unused stitches on waste yarn using a provisional crochet cast-on.

A lot of knitting references will have you crochet a chain first, then pick up stitches in the chain. I find it far easier to cast the stitches directly onto my knitting needle. I’ve put together a simple tutorial to demonstrate this technique. I hope you find it helpful!


  • The yarn you plan to use for your project
  • A knitting needle in the appropriate gauge for your yarn
  • Some smooth cotton yarn for your provisional cast-on. The gauge of this yarn should be no larger than the yarn you plan to use for your project. (It can be smaller; I have a skein of a fingering-weight mercerized cotton yarn that I use for provisional cast-ons and for putting garments on waste yarn.)
  • A crochet hook in a gauge close to that of your cotton yarn. (Gauge is not critical for the hook, but it should be large enough to hook the cotton yarn without splitting the plies.)

Step 1: Using your cotton yarn, form a slipknot and place it over your crochet hook.

Provisional crochet cast-on, step 1 

Step 2: Hold your crochet hook in your right hand and your knitting needle in your left hand, with the working yarn held behind your knitting needle.

Provisional crochet cast-on, step 2

Step 3: Reach the crochet hook across the knitting needle and hook the working yarn.

Provisional crochet cast-on, step 3

Step 4: Pull the working yarn through the loop on the crochet hook. Tug the working yarn until the loop around the knitting needle is snug (the loop around the crochet hook should have enough slack to make it easy to pull the next loop through). You have now cast on one stitch.

Provisional crochet cast-on, step 4

Step 5: Move the working yarn behind the knitting needle. Hold the crochet hook in front of the knitting needle and reach across the needle to hook the working yarn again.

Provisional crochet cast-on, step 5

Step 6: Pull the working yarn through the loop on the crochet hook. Two stitches now cast on.

Provisional crochet cast-on, step 6

Step 7: Continue in this way until you have cast on as many stitches as you need. (Tip: cast on a few extra stitches. If you accidentally drop a loop while knitting the first row, you can simply skip that loop and move on to the next. Any extra provisionally cast-on stitches can simply be dropped at the end.) 

Provisional crochet cast-on, step 7

Step 8: Once you are done casting on stitches, chain a few extra at the end by simply pulling the working yarn through the loop on the crochet hook without wrapping it around the knitting needle. Place a safety-pin or a locking stitch marker in the last loop. This will mark the end you will “unzip” from. You are done with the provisional cotton yarn at this point, so if you were working from a ball, you can cut the yarn, leaving a 6-inch tail or so to prevent your loop from unraveling by accident. (I keep several short lengths of cotton yarn in my knitting bag for this purpose or for putting stitches on waste yarn.)

Provisional crochet cast-on, step 8

Step 9: Hold the working yarn for your project behind your knitting needle with the crochet loops.

Provisional crochet cast-on, step 9

Step 10: Knit the first stitch as you would normally, then continue across the needle.

Provisional crochet cast-on, step 10

Step 11: When you have knit all the stitches that you need, you can slip the extra provisional loops from your needle. (They will not unravel and will form a simple crochet chain.)

Provisional crochet cast-on, step 11

Continue knitting normally. Your chained stitches will be held in place until you are ready to knit with them. When you need to free them, begin from the end with the stitch marker. Pull each loop out one at a time, placing each stitch on a free needle.

I hope you found this tutorial useful!

In which there was much less knitting

Easter Eggs

But I was suddenly overcome with the urge to dye yarn.

Happy Easter (if you celebrate it). Happy spring (if you’re in the northern hemisphere). And if neither of those apply… Happy knitting!!

WIP Wednesday: The Plague Edition

Our house has the plague again. Yes, we have apparently angered the gods this year. I’ve managed to avoid it so far, but I’m not holding my breath. The little people in the house are dropping like flies. I am totally bummed, because it’s spring break this week & the weather has been gorgeous here. I’d envisioned lots of picnics and walks and bike rides. But I suppose the silver lining is that endless hours of G-rated television and DVDs equals plenty of knitting time for me.

A tale of two cardigans...

A tale of two cardigans...

On the needles:

The Scalloped Lace Baby Sweater (salmon-pink). I knit a gauge swatch & worked out my pattern repeat to design a simple top-down raglan baby sweater. (I used Elizabeth Zimmerman’s EPS calculations for most of the stitch counts.) I’ve cast on and I’m about halfway through the yoke (baby sweaters go so quick!). This is going to be my portable project for the foreseeable future. It needs to be finished by June, so it will probably get pushed aside in favor of…

The Twisted Lace Cardigan (impossible-to-photograph dark green). I knit up a huge gauge swatch, testing out both plain stockinette gauge and several lace patterns that I had charted out. As expected, the gauge for the superwash yarn relaxed a lot after a Eucalan bath, so I tweaked the lace pattern a bit to accomodate the larger gauge, then worked out stitch counts and shaping calculations for the rest of the sweater. This yoke is larger than the baby sweater, so it’s much slower going! Ideally, I’d like to get this one done by MDSW, which is the first weekend in May, but since that’s only about 30 days from now… well, we’ll see.

The good news is that the weather has been lovely this week, so I should be able to take some better pictures of my Haruni shawl to share with you. Stay tuned!

What’s on your needles?

Tuesday is Tools Day: I ♥ Charts!

I’ve already talked about how I use my yarn scale and a spreadsheet to maximize my yarn usage or check to make sure I’ll have enough yarn to finish a project. I use a spreadsheet for most of my knitting calculations (figuring out stitch counts, increases, decreases, etc.). I also find spreadsheets really, really handy for making knitting charts.

Charts are one of those things that knitters either love or despise. Everyone’s brain works differently, so I suppose it depends on how your particular wiring is connected. We already know that my wiring is seriously geeky, so it should come as no surprise that I adore charts with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. I love the fact that they take up less space than pages of written directions. I love that I can see how the different rows in my pattern correspond to each other. I love that I knit faster and with fewer errors if I know that the YO in row 11 should be directly above the k2tog in row 9.

I vastly prefer patterns with charts. I won’t even go near lace without a chart, so if a pattern doesn’t have a chart and I absolutely, positively must knit that pattern, I’ll create my own chart to use for that project.

One of the things that I love about charts is that they make it easier to substitute your own stitches if you desire. I was looking at a sitch pattern the other day that called for “slip 1, knit 1, psso.” This makes a left-leaning decrease. If I’d rather work that decrease as ssk, I can just substitute ssk for that symbol. With the written directions, I’d have to stop and translate it each time. Similarly, if you wanted to place a bead on a shawl instead of working a nupp or a bobble, you could just change what that symbol means to you and use the chart as written.

You can create basic charts in any spreadsheet program—or even just plain old graph paper— by making your rows and columns into small squares. (If you want to get really fancy—and this can be helpful for color work—you can adjust the size of your rows and columns to correspond to your row and stitch gauge.) You can use simple characters (/ for k2tog, \ for ssk, O for a yo, – for a purl stitch, | or a blank square for a knit stitch, etc.) or you can get fancy and use a knitting font. There are a couple out there, but I use this one by Aire River Design. It’s got most of the symbols that I need and use frequently, and best of all, it’s free.

Charts & swatchingI had a lace idea in mind for the green sweater, so I trolled around in my stitch libraries, looking for something that I could adapt to meet the design in my head. I found one in Vogue Knitting Stitchionary 5: Lace Knitting that gave me a good start. (I have several stitch libraries that I use frequently; the VK books include charts for all their stitch patterns, which makes them some of my most-used stitch references.) I made some changes to the shape and the size, added a section on the left, then mirrored it on the right. Then I decided to turn the pattern on its side and resize it to use on the sleeve. I stayed up far too late last night, but when I was done, I had several charts ready to go for my cardigan.

Tell me, do you like charts? Or do you prefer written out instructions?

I am clearly insane

This weekend I cast on for not one, but TWO new sweaters. (See how this goes? I finish—kinda—two items, and I cast on two more. This could be why my WIP pile never gets any smaller…)

The first is a baby sweater, which will be a quick knit, so it almost doesn’t count. Right?  For this cardigan I’m using the pretty Ty-Dy Cotton I mentioned last week. I did a bit of swatching and worked out a lace pattern that I think will look lovely at the bottom of the sweater. I love top-down seamless sweaters for babies, because they’re quick to knit and they’re fun and easy to experiment with, since you can see right away if your pattern is going to work or not. And seamless knitting projects mean that when the knitting is done, all I have to is weave in my ends, sew on the buttons, and it’s ready to gift.

The second is a sweater for me. I should finish something that’s already on the needles, or work on the purple one I started designing for the class I took with Shirley Paden. But the yarn I bought at HYP, a dark green worsted-weight superwash from Neighborhood Fiber Company, kept calling to me. I was envisioning something with some lace (to stretch my limited yarn a little bit further), a deep v-neck, and 3/4 sleeves. I pulled out some stitch libraries and poked around until I found a stitch pattern that I liked. And then (of course), I had to modify it a bit (more on that later).

I know I should resist the green sweater, but the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival is coming, and I had such success knitting a Rhinebeck Sweater last fall that an MDSW sweater sounds like a better idea than it probably should. (Yes, I know that designing and knitting a whole sweater in 35 days isn’t exactly a sane decision. I refer you back to the title of this post!)

Of course, if I do get the green sweater done, it will guarantee that the weather for MDSW will be sunny and 90°F in the shade!