a chill in the air

This past week we got an early taste of winter weather. The temperatures dropped into the 30s and 40s and it rained and rained and rained. Stuck in the house I was left to knit (how wonderful).  I curled up with an afghan and spent my weekend on the sofa.

With winter around the corner I thought that it was probably a good idea to plan my marathon holiday knitting. I went through my stash, assigned projects to the yarn, photographed the yarn with the pattern, bagged it, and added the whole mess to Ravelry. I am so excited, lots of new projects to start. Here some of the photos:

Solomons Socks
my own design

Fingerless Gloves

Cabled Gloves
michele rose orne

Sculptured Lace Scarf
Kenny Chua

Herringbone Scarf
my own design

Retro Rib Socks
evelyn a. clark

Felted Slippers

Embossed Leaves 
mona schmidt

Fountain Lace Short-Sleeve Sweater
madeline weston

I was really excited to get a jump on the Fountain Lace Short-Sleeve Sweater. The yarn that I am using is a little bit thicker than what the pattern calls for. In order to adjust my gauge I had to do the rib on size 0 needles. Using size 0 needles with inflexible cotton is not very fun. After breaking a set I loosened my tension a bit. The rib was successfully completed however the number of increases called for in the setup row was incorrect. So after ripping that row I decided to use my new Adobe Illustrator skills to create a chart. It worked like a charm. In 4 short inches I will be able to start the armholes for the back. There is one thing I will change the next time I knit this. It will be knit in one piece in the round. The purling is going way slower than the knitting.  


fiber in the fall

October in Virginia is one of the prettiest times of year. The leaves start to turn golden yellows, pumpkin oranges, and deep crimsons while the air becomes crisp and cool. You couldn't ask for a better backdrop for the Fall Fiber Festival held at Montpelier plantation, the former home of James Madison and the Duponts.  This beautiful plantation in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains is also where my husband L. and I were married.

While fiber festivals are fun for knitters, they are especially enjoyed by spinners. The multitude of fiber breeds and colors makes me feel like a kid in a candy store and the fact that I can actually touch before I buy doesn't hurt either. 

My favorite fiber

This year L. and I met up with some friends from knit night. We started the morning with a delicious breakfast at Eileen's Bakery in Fredericksburg before the hour of car knitting it took to get to Montpelier. My friend R., a new spinner (who just purchased a beautiful wheel), could not wait to get her hands on some new fodder for her Rose.

The Montpelier fiber festival is tamer than Maryland Sheep and Wool. There are fewer vendors and no country fair style animal judging. The relaxed atmosphere of  the festival made for a nice morning of perusing stalls and fondling fiber. After a small snack of kettle corn and sparkling lemonade L. and I checked out the dogs. I really enjoyed the shepherding dog trials (something that I did not see at MD S&W). It's amazing how the dogs have the sheep on lockdown. 

I left the fair with two new fiber editions to my growing collection- cloud-like bunny angora and a super soft combed merino top dyed in reds and purples. I've never spun with angora, but I'm looking forward to the experience. I think I will use the merino to spin up lace weight for a shawl.


a weekend with Cookie A.

Two weekends ago I was lucky enough to attend the Weekend with Cookie A. knitting retreat in Solomons, MD. I arrived early Saturday morning and parked along the bay. Getting out of the car I was struck by the island’s beauty-- the sun glistened on the water as seagulls perched on a nearby pier. The location for a peaceful weekend of knitting couldn’t have been better.

The view from our "classroom"

Intuitive Chart Reading
The retreat started with a class on intuitive chart reading. Cookie loves charts, and after her explanation of how easy they are to read, I do too! When I knit Jared Flood’s Green Autumn Mittens I remember how long it took having to go back and forth between the chart and the key. I wish I knew then what I know now- with a basic understanding of how and why charts are written I can save time because I no longer have to flip back to the key. Check it out:

Basic Chart Symbols

These are the symbols you will most often see on charts.

Flat vs. All-Purpose Charts
Avoid flat knitting charts; all-purpose charts are the way to go (see the gansey examples below). All purpose charts will give you directions for both the RS and the WS, but will always show you what the RS should look like. Remember when you are reading all-purpose charts for flat knitting you start from the right and move to the left. Row two starts on the left and moves to the right. If you are knitting in the round you always start on the right hand side.

Flat Knitting Chart

All Purpose Knitting Chart

Understanding Cable Symbols
A cable symbol can be broken down into two parts- the stitches that are put on the cable needle (left side of the symbol) and those that are knit first (right side of the symbol). The other thing to look for is the direction of the cable- left or right. Cookie taught us a saying to help you remember- “I LEFT you out FRONT, but I will be RIGHT BACK.” If the cable symbol leans to the left then you put the cable needle to the front. If the cable symbol leans to the right then you put the cable needle to the back. You can also combine symbols within a cable so that you can purl or knit through the back loop.

Traveling Stitches
The second class I took was Traveling Stitches. This class taught you how to take a vertical pattern and make it lean at an angle using cabling or paired increases and decreases. This class was pretty tough. If you are interested in how this works I’d suggest purchasing Cookie’s book, Sock Innovation. A good understanding of intuitive chart reading will be a huge help in learning this skill.

Resizing Stitch Patterns and Creating the Perfect Rib
The third class I took was about resizing stitch patterns and creating the perfect rib.  You can resize any stitch pattern, but be sure to keep these points in mind.
1.     If you add stitches to make a pattern wider it won’t flow the way it did before  (your diagonal lines will be off). If you widen something that has diagonal elements you also have to make it taller relative to the pattern repeats (increase both sts and rows).
2.     If you add rows to in make the pattern longer it won’t flow correctly (the diagonal pattern will look like it is sitting inside the diagonal pattern below it). If you lengthen something that has diagonal elements you also have to make it wider relative to the pattern repeats (increase both sts and rows).
3.     The easiest way to see what you are working with is to use colored pencils to color in the various sts on the chart. Once you outline the different stitch areas you can replace the sts with anything.

Notice how the rib flows into the sock pattern

When creating a rib for a knit garment it will look a thousand times better if you make sure that your rib pattern flows into the garment. To do this, work backwards from the garment pattern into the rib. You may need to increase or decrease stitches from your ribbing to your garment. To do this, the last row of ribbing (the row that flows into your garment) should be the set up row. Determine the best place to increase or decrease a stitch (usually directly next to a cable or in the background of a design).

Top Down Sock Design
My final class of the weekend was Top Down Sock Design. I myself prefer toe up socks, not because of the kitchener stitch, but because I find that when using two circulars on top down socks my stitch joins aren’t tight enough. I think if I was still using dpns to make socks top down wouldn’t be such a big deal. Maybe I should start on the dpns and then move to circulars. Regardless, Cookie prefers top down because of the design benefits (fold the sock at different places to figure out where you want your heel and top of foot) and because you can make sure the sock isn’t too tight to fit over your heel.

Things to keep in mind when sock designing:
1.     If you want row repeats to match up when using multiple stitch patterns in a sock, choose patterns whose rows have the least common multiple (the smallest number- not zero- that is a multiple of both numbers). For example, if one pattern is a 12-row repeat and another pattern is a 10-row repeat they won’t line up again until row 60.
2.     For colorwork, chevron, and bias-stitch socks always add more stitches because the sock will have less elasticity.
3.     Be sure to factor your “suckage” for cables (usually a 50% stitch loss, so a 4-st cable has the same width as 2 sts). You can always stagger your cables to correct the suckage.
4.     Check the sizing of your sock after one full repeat. If it is too big pinch to see how many stitches you need to eliminate.
5.     If your heel flap is narrower than 50% of the total sts then you need to make the flap longer and vice versa.

During this class we got a chance to design a pair of socks. I’m excited about my honey-combed socks with a bobbled cable running straight up the back of the leg. The pattern is finished and the knitting has begun! I will post them when I have them knit up.

Me and Cookie A.

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