The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Flattery will get you everywhere February 16, 2011

Filed under: Knitting Projects — Cailyn @ 12:08 am
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As someone who can, at best, be described as “fashion challenged,” I feel it is my duty to pass along this link:


Fit to Flatter


This is a series of 10 truly excellent posts by Amy Herzog.  You can view them on her blog by clicking on the title of each post or you can buy the series as a PDF.  The series starts out with a great analysis of body shapes and clothes that flatter them.  Then it talks, in detail, about each design element and how to spot them in knitted sweaters.  And finally, it walks through designing your own sweater or modifying one you love to flatter you.


I read through these and found out that I look best in sweaters with a strong horizontal element at the top and three-quarter sleeves.  Which is great, because I love three-quarter sleeves.  The horizontal element could be a wide neckline, a colorwork yolk, or raglan shaping.  It works, too- I bought some shirts that fit my new rules, and they look great on me!


Because of this, I have changed my mind on the February Lady Sweater, which is fine, since I never started it anyway.  But I still have all that lovely merino/tencel yarn for it.  Right now I’m crushing on the Maple Grove cardigan pretty hard.  Wide neckline, raglan shaping, cropped short- it fits all my new rules.  Plus it looks pretty fun to knit; I love the sleeves.  It was a shock to see it’s not on Ravelry though.  I’ve come to rely on Ravelry when I look at a pattern to see what other people have done with it or how it looks on them.  Not having that extra info makes me feel blind.  Did I really live this way all the time before the internet?!  So quickly I get used to technology, sigh.


Bat, Bat, and Batt February 7, 2011

Filed under: Knitting Projects,spinning — Cailyn @ 4:26 pm
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This is a bat.



This is a bat.




And this is a batt.




A Hanks in the Hood batt, to be exact.  The beauty above is half merino and half bamboo.  The shiny light blue fibers are the bamboo; the greenish fibers are the merino. 

Batts are made by putting fibers through a drum carder.  The process is similar to hand carding but is less time-consuming because of the large surface area of the drum.  Carders can blend fibers or colors together or allow them to be layered. 


Batts can be intimidating.  When unfolded, a batt is a big (seriously big!) rectangle of combed fibers, completely unlike the wrist-thick snakes of roving or top that are so common.  There are lots of different ways to spin batts- for example, you can pick a corner and start spinning, or strip it into roving and spin it that way. 


Usually I buy strips of top and spin them worsted.  I really value stitch definition in my yarns, so I didn’t think I would ever want to spin woolen which is softer but lacks definition.  But I started to get interested after I bought a Russian spindle.  It’s physically impossible to use a worsted short draw on a supported spindle like that!  (Ask me how I know.)  Having searched all over Russia (story coming later) and finally getting a spindle, I really wanted to use it.  And to do that, I needed a carded fiber, ideally one in the form of rolags.  I would have liked to make my own (I have plenty of “experimenting merino”) but I don’t have any hand cards and those things are expensive!


Wait, what was I talking about?  Oh right, batts.  I took the plunge and bought a batt when I realized that I could make a batt into rolags and spin them with a woolen long draw.  Ironically, I didn’t use the batt on my Russian spindle.  I decided to use the batt to spin and knit Lowell’s grandmother a birthday hat.  (Not a party hat, just a hat given to her on her birthday.)  This sounds like a lovely idea, right?  Especially since I had never used rolags, never spun with a long backwards draw, only had two weeks to spin then ply and then knit the hat, and I was travelling for one of those weeks.


But I did it!  I spun half the batt, which was the same as the one above in every aspect except color, on my Cascade Mt. Baker spindle.  The spindle broke just as I finished the first ply, so I had to spin the second single on my Matchless.  Don’t worry, a little wood glue has fixed the spindle right as rain, plus I got two more spindles for Christmas.  I was shocked- I loved spinning long draw.  I loved the little rolags, even though I had to join a new one every few minutes.  Do you know something- spinning woolen is fast.  I mean, seriously fast.  I ate up rolags like they were chocolate truffles.  I was done spinning and then plying the 4 oz batt in just over a week, even including spindle malfunction and travelling.  I even got the two singles to match up in length with only a five inch difference!  I swear, this was a magic batt!


113_5365   113_5364


The yarn was beautiful.  It was soft and squishy, the drape was lovely, the bamboo made little shiny highlights, it was warm.  I was in love with this yarn and so was everyone else who touched it.  It was so nice that I’m kind of afraid to spin the other batt- what if it doesn’t come out as well?  Now, to be fair, the making of this yarn was not entirely without trouble.  I rolled the batt into rolags with the merino on the outside and the bamboo on the inside.  Often what would happen when I spun them is that the merino would pull off from the outside, leaving me at the end with a core of pure bamboo which was slippery and hard to spin long draw.  It also ruined the look I was going for, which was a mostly blended merino/bamboo yarn.  But, I still love how it turned out and, in retrospect, if I hadn’t been so stressed to finish in time, the bamboo wasn’t so bad.


Next post, I’ll show you how I made the batt into rolags as I prepare that blue batt up there to turn into a hopefully luscious yarn.


Oh, and here’s the finished product:




A simple beanie style hat with a garter brim and a wavy, lacy pattern.


IMAG0302  IMAG0305


In the one on the right, you can really see the long runs of bamboo, even though the color is all off.


Grandmother's 80th Birthday 2010-12-03 129

The happy recipient!


Java January 16, 2011

Filed under: patterns — Cailyn @ 9:53 pm
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I can’t tell you how happy I am.  After many tries, I finally made it into Knitty with my socks, Java!



I hinted at these socks back in March of 2010.  They were designed during one of my “ribbing periods.”  That’s a (short) length of time where I am obsessed with ribbing.  I think that it’s the bee’s knees.  I think that ribbing is misunderstood.  I think that it will change the face of knitting as we know it.  This usually passes when I remember that, in general, I don’t enjoy actually knitting ribbing.  But, often after a complicated project, I crave the predictability of a ribbed pattern.  Lucky for these socks, the ribbing period coincided with a desire to design men’s socks.  I thought to myself, “What’s more classic than a ribbed dress sock?”


Java Socks 01  IMG_2351


Then the other, bitter part of me said (in a voice like Tim Gunn), “Classic means it’s been done to death.”

With that less-than-helpful advice in my head, I tried to find a balance between interesting and “classic.”  When I was first dating Lowell, he described his criteria for clothes to me.  He told me that colors and bold patterns mattered less than the close-up textures- the small details that weren’t obvious from a distance.  I thought about that idea while I worked on these socks.  I wanted to stick with the spirit of a plain dress sock but to play around with the details.  So these socks have a little caffeinated wiggle every other rib.  From a distance the wiggles look like regular k2 ribs, but the texture is great up close.  Fun to knit, too.  And the gusset isn’t just patterned- the decreases aren’t normal either.  Also, I kept the pattern going down the toes because, well, why not?  Plain toes are no fun!




Java Socks in NC 2010-11-28 014 (1024x768)  Java Socks in NC 2010-11-28 036 (1024x768)


I had plenty of fun knitting Java, which is good, because I knit it twice!  Which I suppose is really four times, since there are two socks in each pair.  The men’s pair is made with String Theory Blue Stocking.  I loved working with that yarn.  It has great stitch definition (always a priority for me) and is still soft and lofty.  They’re modeled by Lowell in our kitchen, who was a really good sport about the photo shoot.  The women’s pair is made with Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock which is always a great sock yarn.  The women’s size is modeled by my sister Katie and taken at 3 Cups in Chapel Hill, NC.  They were really nice to let us photograph there (and they only gave us a few funny looks).  Good coffee, too!


Java Socks in NC 2010-11-28 003 (800x1024)


I am over the moon about this.  I think Java is a great pattern and I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I did.


Java Socks in NC 2010-11-28 012 (1024x768)  Java Socks in NC 2010-11-28 017 (1024x768) 


Java Socks 05  IMG_2366


If you’ve just hopped over from Knitty and haven’t been here before, welcome!  Check out the blue menu (top right) for illustrated lists of projects, tutorials, and patterns; the green sidebars have tags and archives, etc.  Enjoy!


Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go drool over the rest of this issue!


Don’t be a Heel January 13, 2011

Filed under: Knitting Projects — Cailyn @ 5:02 pm
Tags: ,

Since I’m trying to catch up on my knitting projects and I don’t want to bore the non-spinners with a second spinning post in a row, here’s some of my favorite links about sock heels!


A Heel and Toe for Every Purpose (pdf)  An overview of some commonly used heels and toes.  I particularly like the “round/French heel” and use that in almost all my sock patterns.


Eclectic Sock Heel – A combination flap and short row heel.  Fun to knit and it looks really cool!  I used this heel on one of my first patterns, the Grand Teton socks.


Toe-Up Gusseted Heel – This toe-up heel places the flap along the bottom of the foot and the gusset decreases move up the ankle.  I used this heel on my first sock pattern, the Shenandoah socks, although it’s hard to tell in black.


Toe-Up Heel Flap – A toe-up gusseted heel with the “flap” on the back of the heel and a “gusset” made with increases on the foot.  Widdershins uses this type of heel.


Short Row Heel – A slightly different way to do a short row heel with no wraps.  Just found this one- I have to try it next time I do a short row heel!


Lunaria December 7, 2010

Filed under: patterns — Cailyn @ 10:23 pm
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I love designing, but sometimes I get stuck in an item rut.  You know, sock after sock pattern or just too many mittens in a row.  I love it when people give me ideas of items to design, especially if it’s a type of item that I’ve never made before, like leg warmers or a shawl.  Last Thanksgiving, my aunt was admiring my Snowflake Gloves and Wintergreen Gloves, which I had given to my sister.  My aunt said that she loved fingerless gloves for walking the dog but what she really needed was a hooded scarf, maybe with pockets to put the gloves in.  I jumped at the idea- a matching pair of fingerless gloves and a hooded scarf.


And it only took me one year to complete!


I finished the design for the gloves fairly quickly; per request, the colors were rich purples and cheery pinks.  The actual execution of the design took a lot longer.  Deadlines kept popping up and the gloves got pushed aside time and again.  I got one finished but then didn’t finish the second until two months later!  The scarf design went slower.  I wanted the same color work pattern from the gloves, but I detest knitting back and forth with two yarns.  I knew I’d never get it done if I did it that way.  On the other hand, I didn’t want to knit the entire scarf in fingering yarn in the round- that could take forever!  I eventually settled on working the color work in the round for the pockets and keeping the rest of the scarf in a solid color with a cushy stitch pattern.  What resulted is a hooded, pocketed scarf with no sewing or flat stranded knitting required.  So, exactly one year after I took on the glove and scarf project, I finished and presented them to my (very patient) aunt.  She loved them!


Lunaria is now up for sale at Knit Picks as a combined pattern set.  Both use seven colors of Palette yarn.  The scarf is worked with a double strand of yarn throughout, so it works up faster.




The hooded scarf has two color work pockets and a dense slip stitch rib pattern for the main body. The slip stitch pattern is completely reversible, as are the pockets. The whole scarf, including the pockets, is worked with the yarn held doubled. The two halves of the scarf are made, then the hood is cast on between them and the whole hood is worked together with the scarf halves to the end. A three-needle bind off neatly avoids having to sew the hood together.




The gloves are worked with a single strand.  They feature a long ribbed cuff, accented with a few stripes, and a traditional side thumb gusset, increased every third row.


110_5279   000_0098


The pair of projects is named after the flower the Annual Honesty , or Lunaria annua, which has four petals ranging from white to deep purple when in bloom. The seeds are papery, translucent sliver discs in the winter, giving it its other common name in America, “Silver Dollars.”





The Universal Language November 16, 2010

Filed under: Knitting Projects,Musings — Cailyn @ 3:29 pm
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Ok, my marathon of knitting that I referred to before is mostly over.  But it paid off, because I’ll soon have another pattern up on Knit Picks!  More details on that when it’s published.


You may be wondering why I haven’t written anything about my big trip to Russia.  Did something really embarrassing happen there?  Did we unleash an ancient evil sleeping in Lake Baikal and have to trick the demons into matryoshka doll traps, then swear never to tell anyone what had happened lest someone try to free the demons to gain ultimate power? 


No, not really.


I’ve been thinking about writing a “personal story” for one of the fiber publications about my trip.  I haven’t completely decided what will go into that essay or even if I will try to publish it, but I didn’t want it to look like I had just cribbed the essay from a blog post.  So I haven’t written anything about the trip here yet.  I think I can at least narrow down what won’t be in the essay at all- I started an outline of the knitting/fiber parts of the trip and realized that there was just too much there for a short essay.  You’ll hear all about it sooner or later, just that some parts may be much later.


As you may know, if you’ve followed this blog for a while, I am a stitch dictionary addict.  All it takes is one motif that I haven’t seen to make me buy the whole book.  It might be a sickness, really.  I have books in English, French, German, Japanese, and now: Russian.


When we set out for Russia, I wanted to bring home two souvenirs: a Russian knitting book and a spindle (that story will be later).  All I needed was a good bookstore to find a knitting book, I knew.  I was sure that I could find the craft section of the store and from there find the knitting subsection.  I was right, although it took until almost the end of the trip to get to a big bookstore that wasn’t just Pushkin’s fairy tales or tourist guidebooks.  In St. Petersburg, we went to Dom Knigi, or House of Books, which is located in the old Singer Sewing Machine Company building; you can see the old Singer logo on top.  This place was great- I felt just as comfortable there, despite the different language and alphabet, as I do in any bookstore in the US.  Bookstores and libraries are my second home; I could have spent hours there.




Dom Knigi has three floors.  I did a quick walkthrough of each floor, through the Russian teen-fiction and the self-help books and the multi-language souvenir section.  I didn’t see a craft section and honestly, I got a little worried despite my confidence about bookstores.  Maybe there wasn’t a craft section- But then I found it, tucked between the travel and cooking shelves.  The end cap with pictures of embroidery and crochet was a dead give-away.  I started by pulling books off the shelf at random (I put them back!) to find the knitting section.  It started after sewing and ended at crochet; sound familiar?  I have to apologize for not having a picture of the shelf in question… I was determined to find the perfect book before I had to meet Lowell at the entrance (I also had to find the bathroom in that time!)


“But, Cailyn!” I hear you interrupting.  “Can you even read Russian knitting patterns?”


Don’t interrupt!  I’m getting to that part.


I have rules about foreign language books.  1, it can’t be just a book of sweater or hat patterns; those require actual reading.  That usually knocks out most of the books on the shelf.  It also can’t be a “learn to knit” book, which takes care of another ten books or so.  2, it has to have charts.  Bam, there goes half of the remaining books.  I couldn’t actually read the spines of the books, so I had to pull each book off the shelf and look through it to see what it was.  There were some interesting sweaters (think 1980’s) and lots of “learn to knit” books.  I found some books with some charts but mostly patterns (and not very stylish ones at that).  But finally, I found my book. 




It’s a small, thick book, about 5” by 8” but 2” thick.  I have no idea what the title is, but it’s full of knit/purl, lace, cable, and colorwork stitches.  There are a few full-fledged patterns at the back, but mostly it’s a stitch dictionary.  And I don’t even need to read Cyrillic to enjoy this book.


Behold, the wonder of The Chart! (You can behold it bigger if you click on the thumbnail.)

SCN_0003   SCN_0004


It’s pretty obvious which stitches are knit, purl, a yarn over, or a decrease.  There are a few symbols that I haven’t deciphered yet in the slip stitch section, but a little trial and error will fix that.  You can bet that my next few patterns will incorporate something from this book.  I mean, look at those cute little elephants!


Next time you’re in a foreign country, I highly recommend stopping by a bookstore and acquiring yourself a stitch dictionary!  Just make sure it has charts.




Short and Sweet November 4, 2010

Filed under: Knitting Projects,Musings — Cailyn @ 2:11 pm
Tags: , ,

If you get the Knit Picks catalog, something might have caught your eye in the last one.


KnitPicks catalog


Yup, that’s Sitka in the corner, being featured as a Palette pattern.


knitpicks catalog 2


Pretty cool.  I’m very happy with the way that the Independent Designer’s Program (or IDP) has been going.  Right now, I’m knitting my fingers to the bone on a project for them.  It really should have been done months ago, but it kept being pushed aside for deadlier deadlines.  I’m so close to being done (minus the weaving in ends and actually photographing it, of course.)  Yes, it’s the project I mentioned in my last post, going under the pseudonym Blurple to protect the innocent.  It’s much bigger now than it was then, especially considering that the eight inches that got done at the rally had to be ripped out completely.


I also got a Twitter account today, not that I’m procrastinating or anything.  It’s not that I don’t want to go back to the 12 inches I have left to knit and 40,052 ends to weave in, hopefully by the end of the night.  No, I just thought that it was time.  To procrastinate—I mean, to join the Tweety-craze.  Remember, I’m not procrastinating.


I think it’s pretty good that I’ve made it this far in my knitting marathon without going insane.  At least, the voices in my head tell me I haven’t gone insane. 


Though they are telling me that my spinning wheel looks lonely.