Sunday, April 30, 2006


These terns were having fun flying around squawking at the flags for Opening Day. (Aunt C., they were on the small side relative to the other terns I've seen lately. What kind are they?)

Ripping HH. Since I'm using grabby yarn and I needed to rip quite a few pattern repeats, I ran a circular needle through every 6th stitch in the destination purl row. The stitch in the k3tog stitch was easiest to catch. I ripped quickly back to that row, then slipped the live stitches onto another needle. The ripped yarn is a bit fuzzy and a few spots drifted slightly, but it's okay. I wouldn't rip this stuff twice, though!

I made a mistake and knit the center bit of row 72 instead of the center bit of 102, and since the yarn wasn't stable enough for a second rip, I laddered and dropped the extra yo, then worked a k4tog. I usually leave one mistake in each piece and I do wish this one weren't in such an obvious spot, but it's yet another much-needed lesson in humility. At least it's symmetrical!

I had hoped to have a finished HH photo, but I have a few rows to knit yet. Soon.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Here is HH before ripping. The 3 pattern repeats I added to section A increased each side by 36 stitches, thus one fan per side. The math in this pattern is glorious. In order to do the additional 6 pattern repeats I had planned for section B I would have needed yarn for 7000 more stitches (half a ball), so riiiip. *Next* time I knit HH I'll use yarn that doesn't sand my hands smooth and I'll know exactly what yardage I need in order to knit a much larger size. By the way, the color on my screen appears true this time, a lovely deep amethyst. And here's the current mindless project, Alfred's size 13EEE socks in Trekking. I bought two balls so I'll definitely have enough yarn.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Quick note

I've added a link in the sidebar to the Newborn Crawling Bootees post. You can use any bind-off you like; the reason I graft the sole seam is I like the elasticity that allows the bootees to stretch and grow with baby. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Still in blob phase, but I have made enough progress on HH that she's too heavy to knit while walking, so I knit another pair of bootees while running errands yesterday. These are a wonderful icebreaker on a bus in the city. I met some very nice knitters yesterday and wished my Spanish were better.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Grading Hyrna

I asked my daughter last night how large is too large for a shawl, and she laughed and said, "When I step on the ends or when it wraps around me three times!" I'm over 5'10" and she is rapidly passing me by -- feet and arms are already bigger -- so I figure I can keep knitting for a while. The classic maximum is the wingspan of the recipient, a bit over six feet in this household. The classic minimum is just above the elbows when the arms are hanging, relaxed. A shrug can be 2/3rds the distance from the top of the shoulder to the bend in the elbow, but it has to have enough drape either from fabric density or shoulder shaping to hang well.

The easiest way to make Hyrna larger is to use a heavier grist of yarn and larger needles. However, there is a structural reason lace is traditionally knit from very fine yarn: all those decreases are lumpy! There is also a key visual reason: to maximize the visual contrast of the positive-negative space in a lace pattern, one needs to be able to see at least a few repeats of the pattern in one glance. Most people have a comfortable focal area of 8" for this form of vision at, oh, a few feet away. From across a room (ten to twelve feet), you should still be able to see the general form of the stitch patterns and how they work together, thus the yarnovers need to be large enough to hold their own against any solid/stockinette portions of the lace.

I pondered making section A the breadth of DD's shoulders, section B down to her elbows, and the fans hanging below that, but she's growing so fast I've learned simply to make everything BIG and not use her dimensions as a guide.

The Icelandic laceweight I'm using is definitely the maximum grist for a singles that I would use for knitting lace, especially something like HH with all her double yarnovers. At 225 m per 50 g, the grist is about 2234 ypp. As I wrote before, it's really uneven so that is an average number. It appears to be worsted spun from what I would call semi-worsted preparation, sort of a shoddy combing? There's a bit of VM and enough short bits that Alden would give me that look and send me back to the combs to start over... The thin parts have just a bit too much twist and the thick parts have a tad too little but the staples are mostly long and forgiving. There is, since it is a singles, a bit of bias which works well with the way the decreases are knit. Even after washing the fabric is stiff and dense -- before washing I feared the shawl would be more appropriate as an architectural display, but my daughter grabbed the washed sample and said she liked it. Those early years on the homestead in Montana taught her the value of wool. She knows the difference between Sharlea and Lincoln, but adores all wool.

Another standard method for enlarging a shawl is to add repeats within a section. Hyrna is well-suited to this because the transition from section A (double yo's) to section B (bead lace) is 1:1. If you've ever done unit origami you'll really appreciate this pattern. I cannot tell you how many months of my life I've spent tweaking lace patterns to design a fluid visual transition between two seemingly compatible stitch patterns!

Hyrna begins with a cast-on and a handful of set-up rows that segue neatly into the body of section A, where the only change in stitch pattern repeats is the addition of two units per side per repeat. Lovely, tidy math, and VERY quick to knit. The end of section A introduces the fan motif in the center and terminates the double-yo pattern. I added three stitch pattern repeats *before* the fan motif, for an additional twelve units. As I posted, this enlarged version of section A took just under 225 m of yarn.

Section B is a classic 4-row pattern with expansion in the center and at the edges. More tidy math. I really like the proportions of the original shawl and will see how it looks as I go. The only restrictions are the chance of running out of yarn (slight -- I have two balls at >14k st each, and I have the entire pattern written out plus row stitch counts tabulated so I can see when I'm getting into the risky area) and the need for a correct array to set up section C's fans. Back to it!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Hyrna Herborgar KAL

Claudia and I are knitting the Hyrna Herborgar from Halldorsdottir's Three-Cornered and Long Shawls. It is an interesting book, containing a large number of thoroughly wearable and attractive shawls plus a few exquisite pieces. The photography is beautiful, and the hand-written charts are logical and the only ones I can actually see now. The patterns themselves are a bit terse, but they contain all the information you need and the latest translation is very handy.

I modified the Litla shawl I knit from this book, but I doubt I'll change the Hyrna in any way other than grading the size. We'll see how large it is when I finish the double-yo section. I like the proportions as is, but have heard it's on the small side. It is knitting up very quickly because Halldorsdottir is a knitting genius. Her use of twisted knit stitches is wickedly smart. I've been humming contentedly and smiling. The only change I've made in the pattern so far is to do a provisional cast-on so the final darning of the cast-on stitches is tidy. I rarely ever knit a pattern totally as writ, but this one is a gem.

Update: I added three repeats of the first section since it was definitely too small. I'll add a bit to the second section to make the math work. I have three balls of yarn and the photo above is the sum of ball number one (over 14,000 stitches on a 3.5 mm needle). Sorry the color isn't true -- it's actually a dark amethyst.

Claudia spun and dyed her yarn and I cheated and bought the recommended
Icelandic laceweight singles from Meg S. I've spun enough Icelandic to know it's not my favorite fleece, and the way my vision is now I would have a tough time separating the tog and thel. Plus, I was curious to see the traditional yarn.

I hate to say it, but I really do NOT like this yarn. I spin a better Icelandic singles with my eyes closed. The grist is very uneven, the staple is strong but of widely varying lengths -- the yarn drops litter in your lap as you knit. It is rough enough that all the rough spots on my hands have been worn smooth. It has an unholy fondness for itself; I have never seen a yarn with this much grab. I am being very careful not to let it tangle with itself! The dye color is glorious, but the scouring was too harsh, and the yarn is beyond scratchy. However, it also has a decent number of tpi (twists per inch) for the intended use, and the character of the yarn is going to make the shawl hold its shape perfectly when blocked. It does soften some with washing, but retains most of its rigidity.

What would I substitute? My own Icelandic would be better, which isn't saying much lately. I have just the right grist in a handspun linen singles, but not enough yardage. Coopworth would work and the luster would be a nice addition, plus it would be strong enough and have a similar drape. I don't think the soft halo of the Icelandic is necessary or even preferable for this pattern. Coopworth would also be ideal since the shawl requires a hard blocking to stretch the space between the columns of k2tog and ssk that outline the double-yo's in the first section.

Cassie's latest blog post about designing lace is yet another good one. I started to answer in comments and it got a bit ong, so I'm putting it here instead. If you haven't read Eunny's series about lace, go there first.

There's always an interesting interplay between designing on paper and designing on the needles. I prefer the latter, but will often sketch an idea to knit later. I usually write a pattern longhand, knit a bit, write what I've knit, alter it, knit some more, chart it, make a few changes, knit the changes, write it, and then start over with whichever version made the most sense visually, structurally, and in terms of knit-ability. At each stage I'll thumb through my stitch books and see if what I'm making has already been published, and I'll try a few different kinds and grists of yarn. Taking photos in progress can help me see the ratio of positive to negative space.

One of the things I enjoy most about designing is the tangential discoveries. In my recent fussing with various chevrons and arrow patterns for DD's pi, I made a mistake and ended up with a very attractive variation of BW's dainty chevron. It has a lot of k5togs which are a bother, but it looks good, and with the correct needle and yarn the k5togs are quick.

And yes, the laser surgery went pretty well, though I'm utterly exhausted from the adrenal surge. Cross your dpns that this will decrease the macular degeneration in the radiation burn.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Cut and run

There comes a time when it's best just to finish off and snip that thread. Nothing short of a full frogging was going to fix this little shrug, and nobody who has ever done it before will rip Kid Silk Haze. I started it a few years ago when we were living in Texas and I had minimal vision and enough pain killers in my system to make my brain feel as if it were residing elsewhere. I have a vague memory of trying to knit the lace in 104-degree weather and setting it aside because sweat and mohair don't mix. I pulled it out of a forgotten bin a few weeks ago and have been looking at it, trying to decide the best way to salvage the poor thing. I didn't have enough yarn left to replace the collar thingy, nor enough to add an edging to the bottom, so just did a few rows and laddered down to fix some obvious mistakes, then crocheted a smooth edge. Gave it a light blocking and declared it done.

People talk about "mind-knitting," daydreaming about lace or cables. Some bloggers do wonderful series of swatches, measuring and studying. There are knitters who actually plan and sketch their ideas before picking up needles. Then there are those of us who cast on and go... This was definitely one of those winging it projects, mostly because at the time I couldn't read a chart, let alone see to count the stitches.

This project is a failure in that it doesn't fit a normal human body because the shoulder increases are too far forward. The collar is inside out and too full in the center back, and when I picked up I stretched the main section way too much. The motif in the collar comes close to what I used in the shoulders, but not close enough to meld correctly. I needed another ball of yarn to give it a bit more length, a front border, and add the way cool edging I had stored in my brain.

However, my daughter will happily wear it anyway, and if I think of it as a draft swatch, it has potential. With a few changes (like counting the stitches), the motif in the shoulders and center back could be pretty, especially if carried into a slightly different collar shape and the same bottom edging I still have stored in my brain. Now that I can sort of see to sketch, I will make some notes and someday a much better version of the the misfit will appear on DD's shoulders, perhaps when she's old enough to wear a strapless gown and actually needs a lace shrug?

Friday, April 07, 2006


Last night after finishing the worst of the tax stuff I celebrated by casting on a possibility for my accountant. It's black Baby Silk, 80% alpaca/20% silk. I used an old cable scarf (the tan one in the photo --Elizabeth, what did I call that scarf pattern?) as a model.

Long-tail cast on 54 with a 3.5 mm, then knit with a 3.25 mm, slipped edge stitch with a partner stitch to roll for each selvage. Increased 4 in the first row, within the 4 cables on the back, to decrease cable splay. Changed the pattern to be k6p6 with the cabling slightly staggered and on both sides because I don't care for the railroad track look on the reverse of the tan scarf. Yes, the size 16 yarn needle hanging from the swatch is my cable needle for this project; pinching two or three tiny, slippery, invisible black alpaca stitches is tricky, thus the needle. I move it up the scarf after completing a few inches since I prefer not to have it dangling from a long tail.

As I expected, the fabric is a bit too stiff. I don't want to go up a needle size because this yarn doesn't full and the stitches begin to distort when larger. I will rip and space the crossings further apart. I do like the positive/negative space effect from the contrast between the matte purl and the shiny knit columns, and I like the juxtaposition of the cable crosses against the figured shape of the reverse. It has nice cush in the hand. Off to the pond...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Still at it

Nothing interesting to report. Still chipping away at taxes, but making headway. Not my favorite exercise! Luckily, I like my accountant and she'll do the hard parts. I've only been knitting in between tasks, in waiting rooms, etc. The latest batch of bootees is done and ready to ship. Definitely a good use for leftover Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn. This is Tuscany, IIRC.

I knit half a shank of Alfred's socks (prototype, so might have to rip) at the eye doctor on Monday. I'm scheduled for a little laser "procedure" next Wednesday so these are a good project to knit until my brain can make sense of the new eye format. I'm undecided about Trekking. Does it full much? My gauge on 1's seems awfully loose and I know I was a nervous wreck when I was knitting so expected it to be too tight.

I'm into the next level on the Anniversary Pi and finding it a bit fussy. It's still raining here so the FLAK is on hold. Sooner or later the rain will stop and I can wash the yarn and have a hope of getting it dry...

Has anyone out there modified a couch so it's easier to remove dpns that have fallen under the arms and back? I'm seriously considering removing some of the muslin down there and installing a tray to catch the runaways.