The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Grr. Argh. October 20, 2009

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 4:12 pm
Tags: , , ,

The gods are toying with me.

 

I spent a goodly chunk of time churning out gauge swatches for my Central Park Hoodie.  Four large swatches later and it looked like size 10 needles were the way to go.  My yarn and needles came yesterday and in a strange fit of rationality, I decided to swatch again, just to be sure.  I even washed and blocked the swatch.  Guess what?

 

I’m now one stitch too short.  I have 16 sts for 4 inches instead of 17.  ARGH!  Forget it.  I’m just going to use my circulars and forget the idea of knitting this lever-style.  I can’t knit another swatch.  Well, really it’s more likely that I can’t wait to get more needles. I have all the circs that I need…

 

To take the bad taste of swatch out of my mouth, I’m going to show you the yarn that I got at Knit Purl last week.

 

My mom came out and visited last week.  We drove down to Portland for a day and spent some time in the Japanese Garden, which was beautiful and very peaceful.  That’s my mom on the bridge.

IMG_1284

 

Then we went back into the city and went to Josephine’s Dry Goods and Knit Purl.  Knit Purl is a great store.  Lots of yarn and variety and even some roving!  They had a whole wall of Koigu sock yarn (which I don’t like as much, but I know lots of people love!)  My mom was really nice and bought me a Japanese stitch pattern book, and these yarns:

 

Some sock yarn from Happiest Girl! Dyeworks, 75% superwash/25% nylon.  The yarn isn’t very soft (washing will probably take care of that), but I am completely in love with the saturated teal next to the deep black.  It looks fabulous in natural lighting.

102_4737

 

Sheep Shop Yarn (Sheep #3), a sport-weighty merino/silk blend.  Deliciously soft and it has that dangerous sparkle to it that makes it hard to put down.

102_4732

 

Last but not least, a yarn that my mom picked out that is to die for.  ShibuiKnits Baby Alpaca DK, in a very royal blue.  So very, very soft!

102_4730 

 

Favorite color? I don’t have a favorite color.  Clearly I love all colors equally and nothing you can say will convince me that I love blue more than yellow.  It’s obviously not true.

 

Once upon a time October 8, 2009

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 3:58 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Once upon a time there was a knitter.  She lived in a pleasant land with a slight nip in the air.  This got the knitter to thinking.  She really needed a light jacket to keep out the chill but not be too warm.  Her husband had just gotten a very nice leather jacket to fit that niche for himself.  The knitter wanted something nice too.  She searched high and low for a suitable jacket but none of the shops had what she wanted.  The knitter was very sad, thinking that her old ratty fleece jacket that she didn’t like was going to have to last one more year.

 

Then a good fairy appeared and bonked the knitter on the head with a very sharp wand (the part of the fairy in tonight’s performance will be played by a cabinet door.)  The fairy reminded the knitter that she had yarn, needles, and more than a little intelligence to make her own jacket.

 

The knitter thought that the fairy was very smart.  The knitter carefully ignored the unworn vest in her closet.  She didn’t like vests and never had.  No amount of “science” could convince her that vests can keep your arms warm by keeping your core warm.  Nope, she vehemently denied ever having thought that she would wear such a thing.  She had no idea why she would have knit that in the first place.

 

Having conveniently forgotten about the vest, she had also forgotten about the things she learned while knitting it.  Like the fact that she dislikes knitting things flat.  That she hates seaming.  And that the witchcraft of attaching sleeves was vaguely terrifying.  She also worked very hard not to remember the seamless cardigan that she had started earlier in the year.  She was pretty sure that the cardigan had been lost at sea, even though it had never been to sea.  It was tragic, really, she’d never quite gotten over the loss.

 

Maybe it was the bonk on the head, but the knitter thought that she could probably finish the knitted jacket before the weather turned too cold to wear it.  It wouldn’t take her that long to knit a worsted-weight jacket, especially if she shoved aside all the other things she was working on, including her spinning, and ignored the fact that Christmas (and a December 1st deadline for publications) was in two and a half months.

 

The knitter happily repressed any and all logical objections from her aforementioned intelligence and went and bought the pattern for the Central Park Hoodie.  Then she bought some Wool of the Andes, because she thinks that it’s generally nicer against the skin than Cascade 220.  She decided against superwash since a jacket needs less washing than a sweater or socks.  She is even thinking about knitting this using lever knitting, hoping that this will make things faster, even though her lever knitting still isn’t faster than her regular knitting.  This, of course, will require new needles.

 

And they all lived happily ever after.

 

Learning New Things September 24, 2009

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 3:36 pm
Tags: , ,

I love learning new techniques.  One of the things I like so much about knitting is the number of techniques to learn.  Like entrelac, Norwegian purling, Portuguese knitting, colorwork… every time I worry that I’ve learned it all, something new pops up!  The story of how I stumbled on this new technique is long and boring, but I will tell it to you anyway.  I’m just that kind of person.

 

I was poking around on Abby Franquemont’s YouTube channel for some spinning videos about a week ago.  One of the videos there was this one of the Yarn Harlot knitting and explaining a bit about her technique, particularly how it’s better for preventing repetitive stress injury.

I watched the video and marveled at her speed.  “Isn’t that cool?” I thought.  Then I didn’t think much about it for a while.

 

A week went by, and I saw on the Harlot’s blog that she had finished another pair of socks.  Now, this woman is always traveling, teaching, writing, and has teenagers at home.  How is it that she can churn out multiple projects in the time it takes me to finish one (not one project, one sock)?  It dawned on me.  She is using that other knitting technique.  I watched the video again and paid attention to the name.  Irish cottage knitting or production knitting.  Also known as lever or armpit knitting.

 

Well, that set off a full-blown Google search for anything and everything that I could learn about Irish cottage knitting.  This is the technique that the Harlot teaches in her class about knitting efficiency.  I missed out on that class at the Sock Summit (it sold out fast!!) so I’ve tried to piece it together online.  There isn’t actually a ton of info about it out there.  It’s a bit of heritage knitting; not taught much anymore unless you are taught by someone who knits that way.  I mean, I have seven thousand books on knitting and I’ve never seen it really mentioned before!  There’s a brief description in the Art of Fair Isle Knitting and the History of Handknitting, but no pictures or instructions.

 

So, I believe that I have indeed recreated this technique.  I’ve been practicing so much that I’m almost as fast cottage knitting as my regular knitting!  Hopefully after some more practice, I will reach actual speed-knitting speed.  This is the technique that the world’s fastest knitters use!  It would be very nice to be able to churn out more projects… I have so many ideas for designs but I’m limited by the speed of my knitting.

 

So, we’ve got the above video.  Then there’s this one, which has a slow motion section and an analysis of the way Stephanie holds her needles.  Then there’s some good info on the Ravelry group about cottage knitting.  Once I’m sure that what I’ve come up with is indeed cottage knitting and really is faster, I’ll post up a tutorial about the technique!

 

And because I came across some other fun stuff in my YouTube searching, here are two other videos that I enjoyed (the first is very similar to the speech she gave at Third Place Books last October):

 

 

And this one is just plain funny whether you’re a knitter or not.  And especially if you’ve visited Denver.

 

ARrrgh May 21, 2009

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 9:45 am
Tags: ,

   I’ve been knitting for three years now (well, knitting seriously) and I’d never broken a needle or even chipped one in that time.  And now I’ve broken two in short succession!  This time it’s not so crushing, since I broke a Size 1 needle and I have tons of those. But seriously, knitting gods?!  I had to break another needle?

 

000_0060  

 

This time I’m not even sure I know how it happened.  I had taken my knitting on some errands with Lowell.  When we got home, I had my hands full of goodies and my knitting bag slung over my shoulder. I took off my shoes and came through the door.  I slammed my foot into something sharp, which led to some jumping around, yelping, and dumping of goodies onto the floor.  I figured that I had stepped on a small stick or something on the welcome mat.  I put away the goodies and went back to look at the mat so that Lowell wouldn’t step on it too. 

 

I found some shard of something that looked suspiciously like a Harmony needle.  But that couldn’t be- my knitting was carefully stowed in my knitting bag!  I check my knitting, and there was a shattered needle hanging out of the bag.

 

000_0063

 

I still don’t know how it happened.  How did my knitting jump out of my bag?  How did it get to the floor without my noticing and postition itself just right to get stepped on?  It must have wanted to be broken!  Do I have suicidal needles?  I thought needles like to be used.  Why would my favorite pair of needles jump to certain doom?  I don’t understand.  Clearly this wasn’t my fault.  I had everything put away nicely.  This needle wanted to be broken.  I feel terrible for its twin on the other end of the cable.  What must it be thinking?  Abandoned by its sibling and now useless to me.  That’s a terrible burden for a tiny needle.

 

Maybe I need a needle whisperer.  Or could this be a case of the rare needle flu?  I should go quarantine the other circulars; hopefully they’re not already infected!

 

[expletive deleted] May 1, 2009

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 9:44 pm
Tags: ,

102_4429 

I know when I’m licked.

 

This is the hazard of placing your project down anywhere near your feet.  Normally, this would be cause for some cursing, a brief memorial service, and then a transfer of the project to DPNs while I wait for a new Harmony circ.  Like most of my life recently, this is has not happened under normal circumstances.  There was a lot of cursing.  I have at least 3 pairs of size 1 circulars.  And at least 4 sets of size 1 DPNs.  I have slightly fewer combinations of size 0s and just enough size 2s to cover this sort of occurrence. But turn me ’round and call me Nancy if this sad horrific accident didn’t happen to my only pair of size 1.5 circulars!

 

See, I tried to start some socks using Shibui Knits on size 1s.  They were very dense and had very little give.  Then I tried them on size 2s, which ended up too loose and sloppy for my tastes.  So I went and grabbed Baby Bear’s needles and darn if size 1.5s (2.5mm instead of 2.25; often they’re just referred to as size 1s) weren’t just right.  Everything was going smoothly, including a very fast stockinette section that was very enjoyable.

 

Then I had to frog.  About 30 rounds.  And then I had a tangled mass of yarn to lug around as I dragged the project around to various engagements.  And now this.

 

102_4430

 

I’m beginning to think that this sock doesn’t want to have cables on it.  It’s very picky, as this is the second attempt I’ve made at using this yarn.

 

I haven’t posted in a while, because really there hasn’t been a lot of knitting this week.  I fell off my bike (I got clipless pedals and everyone has to fall once with them.  I was smart and managed to fall on the grass.) and tweaked an old injury that hurts when I knit.  And there’s been a lot of spring cleaning.  And every time I sat down to post, I got writer’s block.  I’ve been dealing with some depression and anxiety lately.  I don’t want to go into too much since this is a crafting blog and not a inner-psychosis blog.  But it’s been keeping me from really enjoying writing like I usually do, so I feel like I should mention it.  I’ve been trying very hard to lose weight for a while.  No one’s sure right now why, since I’m following every instruction I’ve been given, I’m not making any progress.  The current theory is some sort of rare syndrome.  It’s very frustrating to have made all these changes in my life and to be popping supplements and pills left and right and to not know what’s wrong with me.  It will all be resolved; as Lowell says I can’t outrun the laws of science forever.  But right now it’s hard and stressful.  There’s a lot to keep track of.  On the plus side, I have found a lot of new foods that are incredibly delicious.  And the clipless pedals are not as scary as I thought they would be.

 

Guess I’ll go put the Shibui Knits in the corner and see if it ever comes around and tells me what it’s supposed to be.  Luckily, I have other socks to work on.  I took pictures for a tutorial today, so hopefully the next post will actually be something useful!

 

Knitting Down Memory Lane November 27, 2008

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 1:51 pm
Tags: ,

I hope everyone has a happy and delicious Thanksgiving!  Lowell and I headed back to Virginia for Thanksgiving with my family.  The only good thing about the plane flight was the uninterrupted, pure knitting time.  The bad part was that I was in the middle seat (we take turns in the middle and previous flight I got the window) and I’m kind of obsessive about not impacting the person next to me, unless it’s Lowell.  I developed an interesting twitch after sitting hunched over for 4 hours trying to knit a sock.  It’s okay, though, because the sock is lovely.  Can’t show it to you, though, because if it continues to be lovely, it’s going to be submitted to Knitty.

 

Last night, I went digging through the family room to see if I could find any of my old knitting.  I dug through tons of stuffed animals, searching for any of the doll blankets that I had made.  All I got was a lot of sneezes.  I was worried that all of the old knitting had gotten lost or disintegrated, although I’m not sure Red Heart Super Saver biodegrades.  I settled on finding my old needles and was happy to find that there were still some scraps of knitting on the needles!

 

It was really fun going through my old knitting things.  My mom gave me all her old knitting/crochet needles when I learned to knit around 9 or 10.  The needles were all kept in this great tube with a little latch at the top.  The center of the lid had a hole in it, which at the time confused me but I assumed it was to allow taller needles to fit in the tube (you could let them stick out the top).  Now I know that the hole is for the yarn, like these new containers, but I remember puzzling over it for a long time.

 

img_2367

 

Another thing that confused me was the DPNs.  I didn’t know why some of the needles were very short and didn’t have stoppers at the end.  And, what really confused me, was why in the world were there four of them?  I thought that you were supposed to pair them up and keep the others as spares!  I would tie pairs of needles together with scraps of yarn so that all the pairs were together.  I divided the DPNs up into pairs and tied them together.  Not all of the needles had matches, which bugged me to no end.  (Look at those DPNs… the one in the middle is the world’s longest DPN, I swear!)  I remember being very amused at the little needle protectors, although I didn’t know that’s what they were.  They’re very squishy rubber and they only cover the very tips of the needles.  The rest of the cover just flops around.

 

img_2371

 

I had one pair of needles that was bought just for me and those were always my favorites.  I tended towards the plastic needles over the aluminum ones, because I didn’t like how cold and hard the needles were in my hands.  I always chose color over material, though.  If I wanted to knit with blue needles, then I’d pick up some aluminum ones.  Now, I can’t stand plastic needles and only somewhat tolerate aluminum.  Ah, how things change.

 

img_2370

 

On to the knitting.  When I relearned knitting a few years ago, I kept knitting into the back of the stitch.  It felt more natural.  Well, that’s apparently because I was knitting all my stitches twisted as a kid.

 

img_2354

 

These pictures are awful, but I don’t have a lightbox or more importantly a tripod.  Look at that lovely cast on edge there, cast on with the backwards loop method.  All garter stitch, all twisted.  In a nice pastel purple Red Heart acrylic. Still on the needle, even!

 

img_2360

This piece is interesting.  It appears that I accidentally did some short rows.  One of the reasons that I quit knitting as a kid was because I could only stop at the end of a row, which was inconvenient.  If I put the needles down mid-row, I had no idea which needle had been in my right hand.  Here, I obviously picked up the knitting mid-row and continued working, having no idea (or maybe just a sneaking suspicion) that I was knitting the wrong direction!

 

img_2369

 

I don’t remember ever learning how to purl.  But this piece proves that I must have because here, in all it’s twisted glory, is a tiny swatch of stockinette.  This might have been near the end of my knitting as a kid, because the cast on is much nicer, but the piece is smaller.  Towards the end, I was knitting smaller pieces and sewing them together into small “blankets”.

 

Going back to my knitter roots was a lot of fun.  Because of the long gap between knitting crazes (almost 15 years!) these swatches almost seem like they belong to someone else.  It was amazing how many memories came back when I opened the tube of needles.  I wish I could find some of my finished “blankets,” but these little pieces are enough.

 

Harmony Needle Review October 13, 2008

Filed under: Reviews — Cailyn @ 4:13 pm
Tags: ,

Recently, I ordered some Harmony DPNs and circs from Knit Picks.  I know that many people think these needles are beautiful, but I thought they really weren’t my style.  I like the simple, classic look of bamboo or birch needles.  The multi-colored Harmony needles didn’t look as good to me.  My friend Kady had some though and when I saw them in person, I really liked them.  I’m still not over the moon about the colors, but I don’t really notice them as I knit.  And the smaller needles that I use for socks are mostly one color anyway.  I thought I’d put my thoughts about the needles into an easy to read review format for anyone else who’s still on the fence about them.

 

 

Harmony Wood Needles

At a Glance

  • The Good: Smooth surface; stitches slide quickly across needles without being too slippery.  Sharp tips.  Strong, durable material.  Lightweight.  Small sizes come in 6″ length, larger sizes in 8″.  Comparably priced to other wood needles.  Flexible cable in multiple lengths for Magic Loop or circular knitting.
  • The Bad: Multi-color look can be off-putting.  Can feel more like plastic than wood.  Can feel sticky when too warm.  Only available through Knit Picks.

 

The Review

The Harmony needles are made of laminated birch.  As far as I can tell, laminated birch is mostly used for flooring and furniture, meaning that it’s strong and long-lasting.  Knit Picks says that this material allows them to make the points sharper on smaller sizes without sacrificing strength.  As I said above, the colors of the Harmony needles kept me from buying them for a long time, but I don’t really notice the colors anymore.  And, really, they’re usually covered in stitches of pretty yarn.

100_3891 

Harmony DPNs are divided into two sizes, 6″ and 8″.  Sizes 0 (2mm) -3 (3.25mm) are 6″ and sizes over 3  are 8″.  The ones in the pictures are size 1 (2.25mm).  Sizes are not written on the needles as is often the case with bamboo needles, but the writing/impression usually wears off my needles anyway.  I’d love some 5″ DPNs in the smaller sizes, which are my favorite for socks and glove fingers, but the 6″ is close enough.  The small sizes cost $6.79 for 6 needles, instead of the normal 5, and the large sizes range from $6.99-$9.99 for the normal 5 needles.  Of course, you can only order Harmony needles through Knit Picks whereas other wood needles you can buy through any supplier.  The Harmonies are slightly cheaper than bamboo needles from my favorite yarn shops.

 

Wooden needles are so light that gauging the difference in weight between brands is nearly impossible without a well-calibrated scale.  The Harmony needles feel as light as my Takumis or KAs.  Knit Picks advertises these needles as “unusually durable” and I believe them.  These needles are strong and sharp.  Sometimes when executing a tricky knitting move, I worry about my bamboo needles breaking, although it’s never happened.  I haven’t worried about the Harmonies- they just feel more stable.

 

The surface of the Harmony needles is as smooth as can be.  They aren’t as slippery as metal needles, but slicker than normal wood needles.  They slide through stitches like butter, especially when I was knitting with Essential.  They still retain a nice gentle “grip,” though, so stitches don’t fall off needles.  I don’t know if it’s the material, the way the wood is cut, or the finishing technique, but these needles seem incapable of splintering.  I’ve had that happen at the tip of some of my bamboo needles, but these are incredibly smooth.  So smooth that they initially feel like plastic when I pick them up.  Once they warm up they have a more wood-like feel to them.  However, when my hands get really warm, the needles feel kind of sticky.  The stitches don’t slide very well which isn’t as much of a problem with bamboo needles (although knitting with any needles when things get too warm can be annoying).

 

100_3900    100_3898

 

The best part of these needles is the tip.  The Harmony needles, even in small sizes, are just as sharp as metal needles.  They’re great for lace and cables.  K2togs and even k3togs are a breeze.  I used my KA bamboo circs to knit my Danube socks and had trouble with the blunt points trying to do the twisted stitches.  The Harmonies knit up a swatch of twisted stitches like a dream.  I cannot stress how great the points on these needles are.  (Show in the first picture, from top to bottom: KA, Takumi, Harmony; shown in the second picture, from top to bottom: KA, Harmony, Takumi.)

100_3902

A quick word about the fixed and interchangeable Harmony needles.  The interchangeable needles are pretty much the same as the DPNs, just with a smooth join to connect to a cable.  The fixed circulars use the same cable as the interchangeable needles, even for the smaller sizes.  Unlike other wooden circ manufacturers, Knit Picks offers their fixed circular Harmony needles in lengths up to 47″ for sizes under 3.  In other words, Harmony fixed circulars are long enough for the Magic Loop.  Their cable is very flexible; I’d say it’s comparable to the Addi Turbo cable.  The join is very smooth.  I’ve been knitting my socks with 2 Harmony circs and they’ve been great, although I miss the swivel join of the KAs.

100_3889

Conclusion
The Harmony needles are a great value, especially for sock knitters who get 6 DPNs instead of 5.  The needles are slick, smooth and lightweight.  They still retain the slight grip of a wooden needle, but are faster than most.  The needles can feel sticky if the knitter’s hands are too warm, though, and sometimes the needles feel more like plastic than wood.  The circulars have a flexible cable available in a wide range of lengths.  The overwhelming advantage of these needles is their sharp point, which makes knitting lace and twisted stitches as easy as can be.  If metal needles are too slick for you and wooden needles are too dull, these are the right needles for you!