Round Peg In a Square Hole-crafts

Monday, May 07, 2007

Fair-ly Hooked

Hello, my name is Bridget, and I'm a Fair Isle addict.

(Hi, Bridget)

We knew in advance that the 6th Sock Madness pattern was going to involve Fair Isle. This caused some trepidation on the part of some of the players, but I wasn't all that worried, as I had done color work before. But, it turns out that what I had done before was intarsia and this was to be Fair Isle and the two are VERY different, at least for me.

Basically, in intarsia you are doing blocks of color, and each block (roughly) has it's own ball or bobbin of yarn. Where colors meet, you twist the old and new color yarns together, to connect the two portions of knitting. It is harder to do in the round than flat, so isn't used in sock knitting all that much. Fair Isle, on the other hand, has the colors mixed on every row (say, 2 sts of color A, 3 of color B, 1 of A, 2 of B, etc.) so you carry both yarns continuously, making strings of yarn or "floats" across the back of the work with the yarn not currently in use. (As I child, I hated Fair Isle sweaters and socks, because I was always catching those floats on my fingers or toes or a button or something when I was trying to put it on.)

So, the pattern came out on Friday, and I immediately decided that the yarns I had planned to use wouldn't really work, as they didn't have enough contrast, so I decided to use some (eye-searing) lime green and pink (left over from Death by Socks) to do my Mad Fair Isle Batik socks and cast on for them immediately. (This, despite not having finished the Round 4 socks, nor even started the Round 5 socks! That should have tipped me off right then.)

As a "thrower" (I hold the yarn in my right hand and drop the needles to "throw" the yarn around the working needle to make a stitch) who can, though not as fast, knit "continental" (holding the yarn in one's left hand and "picking" it with the working needle), I was intrigued by the other Sock Madness folks discussion of doing Fair Isle by holding one yarn each way, and I did try to do this, but it just wasn't working for me. So, I went back to my standard intarsia technique, dropping each yarn to pick up the next one. But, somewhere along the line, I evolved a double-throwing technique, where I hold one color between my thumb and index finger and the other between my index and middle fingers and use a twist of the wrist to present the proper color at stitch-making-time. And, outside of a worry about getting an RPI, it has been fantastic! I can keep my tension pretty even, and go at a much greater speed than anticipated; I just never want to stop, which made me late to bed last night, up early this morning and STILL late for my workout, all because I had to do "just one more row". Amazing! Addictive after just one hit!

The other thing that I have found is that this would be a good pattern to knit both socks at once, alternating one row on each sock; this is because, once you get the pattern for a row in your head, it doesn't take nearly so long to do the following repeats. Unfortunately, I prefer double-pointed needles to two circulars or Magic Loop, which means that to do both at once, I would have to buy a second set of size 0 needles (I know the pattern says size 2, but I almost invariably need a needle two sizes smaller to get gauge). Since I had already decided that I couldn't afford a new set, even though I broke one of the 5 needles in my current set, buying a second set just to speed things up doesn't look to be in the cards. Ah, well.

In any case, I am thrilled with my new skill, and already plotting what else I can make with it. Hmmm, graph paper, yarn, needles, mumble-mumble mumble.....Be with you in a minute!

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Projects Update

Despite my recent trip and illness, I have managed to get some work done.

First, I haven't made any progress on the table cloth, but at least I took some pics:

The pattern; close-up There's one of these designs in each corner of the table cloth.

Current progress; close-ups 1 and 2

And, if you're really interested, I posted pics (1, 2, 3) of the back of the work, too.

I've also made some real progress on the Lobster-Pretzel scarf; edging.

(Sorry for the out of focus pics.) Why lobsters? Why pretzels? Why together? Hard to explain. Old friend, old jokes. But I do like the way it's coming out. It's interesting, though; I've always heard that knitted stitches aren't square, so you need special graph paper to make charted designs. Turns out that in this, as in so much else, I'm odd: my lobster, taken off someone's Flickr site and run through this (totally cool and free!) program, is oddly squashed. Looks like I would have been better off w/ standard graph paper, after all. (Too late, I remembered that I've done a lot of designs in the past involving color work that I charted out on regular graph paper, and never noticed any distortion. Weird.)

The other important thing about this scarf is that it represents a turning point for me as a designer. I had almost finished one lobster, using a pretzel-esque (boy! I didn't think when I got up this morning that I would be using a word like that!) trim that I got from one of Nicky Epstein's edging books, and I realized the trim just wasn't pretzel-y enough. Add to that, the fact that I couldn't do math (hey! I was getting sick!) and had not centered the design and I was unhappy enough to just frog the whole thing and start again. In the past, I would have let it lay, despite my tendencies to perfectionism, but being willing to do this, I think, means that I'm starting to understand the whole knitting design thang in a way I hadn't before. (Still wasn't willing to frog again, so I could re-chart the lobster, but hey! It's progress!) I'm now about 2/5 done with the second lobster, and hope to finish it this weekend. After that, it'll just be knitting from both ends towards the middle, making textured sections for the rest of the scarf, with maybe some more simple colorwork (like stripes) included, if there's enough of the black left. Will keep you posted.

Next, we have Sock Madness. Metal 00 needles not withstanding, I have finally finished my first Mad Weave. You know, the Round 4 socks. When Round 6 starts today. Sigh. Really hoped I could keep up, but it was not to be. Still, I will have all the patterns, and have already bought all the yarn, so they should all get finished. Eventually.

What else? Have not made much progress on the tea cozies. Finished the one in circular brioche stitch, but it came out way too small, plus I mis-read the start of the pattern, so I think I will just pitch that one (or maybe give it to my daughter; might fit her other toy tea pot) as there isn't enough yarn to worry about frogging it. Next time, I'll try the two-color brioche, as I think it will make it a little more interesting. And, sigh, I was actually supposed to have given out the first tea cozy, to Kate at her party last weekend. But the party was cancelled and I forgot to take the present (tea cozy and socks) to the dinner that replaced it. Aren't I a little young for senility to be setting in?

Other than that, I made a little progress on Sam's self-striping socks to match a pair I made for me, am almost finished with the re-do of this tea cozy in reversed colors (with pattern corrections), and have realized that I probably have enough left-over brown and associated color yarns to do a poncho for Sam. (Realized that we had bought her new clothes in brown and orange, but she had no jacket/sweater/wrap to go with them. Figure I can do up a quick poncho in stripes of brown, tan, and white. I even have about half a skein of a varigated brown. Cool! Stash rules!)

Got one more project that I haven't decided if I'm going to try to sell to, so can't blog about it or show pics. Will probably decide that selling it would be too much work, but am not there yet. (Plus, I hate keeping secrets!) Interestingly, I dreamt that I had tested the one thing that will have to work to make the project successful, and, in the dream, it worked. Here's hoping!

However, what I REALLY need to be working on is getting something to wear at the tea party that we're throwing at BayCon over Memorial Day weekend. (Eeep! Con starts 3 weeks from today!) This year's theme is the movie Bladerunner, which means Hispanic-Asian fusion futuristic retro-40s. (Got all that?) Fortunately, I probably only need period shoes, as I'll be wearing a lab coat over the rest. With luck, I'll be able to shop online. Wish me luck!

Oh! I forgot to mention that Yarn Monkey has announce a new Sock War for this summer! Ye-haw!

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