Sunday, June 28, 2009

Getting It Right

Carrying on with yesterday’s theme, there are times when matching up the perfect pattern to your variegated yarn seems effortless. I’ve had several recent successes.


It helped that I used the same yarn as the pattern called for, only in a different colourway. I had tried this yarn with several other patterns in the past, with no luck.


This was one of those times when I saw the pattern and instantly knew which yarn I’d use. They turned out exactly as I had envisioned.

Copper Penny Socks.

Another pattern from Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarns (have I told you how much I love this book?). I wasn’t sure at first which pattern this yarn wanted to be but as soon as I cast on 63 stitches on a 2 mm needle I knew at the very least that I had found the right combination of needle and stitch count. When the beautiful striping continued as I began to work the lace pattern the deal was clinched.

One of the potential trouble zones of socks made from hand-dyed yarns is the heel. When you work a traditional heel flap and gusset you disrupt the flow of the yarn, first by working back and forth to create the heel flap, and then by knitting a greater number of stitches around the gusset. Sometimes pooling occurs in this area and even when you have returned to the original number of stitches after working the gusset decreases the yarn does not always behave in the same way that it did on the leg. While I did not encounter any problems when working the heel flap and gusset on Conwy, I was unhappy with the pooling and pattern disruption that did occur on the Copper Penny Socks.

I often find that substituting a short-row heel for a traditional heel flap and gusset is a satisfactory solution to these problems but even so, the colour distribution on the foot will not always match that on the leg after the heel is worked. I never thought of simply knitting the heel with yarn from the other end of the ball until I heard Gigi speak about it on the Knitmore Girls podcast. What a concept! When I reached the heel I joined in the new yarn, worked a short row heel, then carried on with the original strand for the rest of the sock, without disrupting the colour flow at all. Depending on the sock, an afterthought or a forethought heel may be more visually pleasing (ie. If you want a bull’s-eye effect) but I prefer not to deal with provisional cast-ons, grafting, or cutting my knitting if I can help it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Size Matters

If you have followed my blog for any length of time you will know that I am a huge fan of hand-dyed sock yarns. However, I am not such a huge fan of pooling and flashing so I am very particular about pairing up the right pattern with the right yarn. If the yarn isn’t behaving I won’t hesitate to frog what I’ve done and try again. Sometimes it requires multiple attempts to get it right, switching needle sizes, varying stitch counts, or trying two or three different patterns before I’m satisfied.

Here is a perfect example of how gauge and stitch count can make the same yarn behave in different ways.

This is my first attempt at the Rib Fantastic Socks (Ravelry link).

Because Handmaiden Casbah tends to be on the heavy side of fingering weight I chose to knit the 60-stitch version on 2.25 mm needles. Note how certain colours cluster together and spiral down the sock. Now, while I don’t mind striping I am not too crazy about spiraling so I thought I’d give it another go. I picked up the second cake of yarn and cast on again.

This time I changed everything: needle size, stitch count, pattern. I cast on 63 stitches for the Braided Gem Socks (Ravelry link) on 2 mm needles. The results (not pictured here—I didn’t know that it was going to turn into a blog post) were somewhat better. The greater number of stitches meant that the colours were not stacking up on themselves quite so much but I quickly concluded that while I want to knit this pattern one day, this was not the time or yarn for it.

Well, they say three times is a charm. Now, having experimented with smaller needles and a higher stitch counts, I knew that a) the yarn did not feel like cardboard when knit at a tighter gauge and b) the colours were more evenly distributed when knit over a larger number of stitches. I decided to try Rib Fantastic once again, this time casting on the 66-stitch version on 2 mm needles. Voila!

No flashing. No pooling. No spiraling.

The moral of this story? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. If your variegated yarn does not initially appear to be compatible with your pattern of choice, try tweaking your needle size or stitch count or both. Sometimes, of course, no amount of experimentation will yield the desired results and then it’s time to consider a different design entirely. I believe that for every skein of hand-painted yarn there is a pattern out there that will show it off to its best advantage; sometime it just takes a while to find it. I have several skeins of my own that are patiently waiting in the stash, dreaming of the day they meet Mr. Right.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Cause for Celebration

Warning! Embrace the Lace Spoiler Alert.

Mmm, the smell of chocolate is wafting through the house.

Why would I even think of turning on the oven on a day that promises to reach 33 degrees Celsius (about 96 degrees Farenheit)? Because it’s my son’s birthday and he deserves cake. Happy 22nd, Matt!

There was yet another cause for celebration this morning. My second Embrace the Lace shipment arrived. This time the theme is “Charity” (with a particular focus on Autism Speaks) and the colour is blue-green. The package contained some beautiful cashmere laceweight hand-dyed by Mama Llama to knit the “Heart to Heart Beaded Scarf” by Sivia Harding, along with a Gabrielle Lace Keeper knitting pouch from Julip Bags and various other goodies.

My fingers are itching to cast on but there a few other things to take care of today first. I’ll just have to settle for the occasional pet or admiring glance until then. While I was very satisfied with the first kit, the project was more suited to Jessica than me so after knitting one pattern repeat just for the experience, I passed it along to her to finish and wear. This time, however, the pleasure will be all mine!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Remember this?

It now looks like this.

But no worries. With the addition of a few more balls of yarn it will soon be making an encore appearance as this.

The Washington Square Vest is not the only victim. I recently pulled everything out of my knitting chest and took a good, hard look at all the things I have on the go. Some, I had to admit, were never going to get finished for one reason or another so to the frog pond they went. It was actually a very liberating feeling to turn the ball winder and watch the knitting come undone, stitch by stitch. No longer is there a feeling of, “Oh, I really should finish ________.” Instead, I now look at the long-buried treasures I’ve unearthed and think, “I can’t wait to work on ________ again.”

And that’s what knitting should be all about.