Friday, 29 June 2007

A stitch in time

I know, I'm all about the puns today. I tell myself it's because I'm English.

Or a Sun reader.

Regrettable puns are in the blood, as much as two sugars and milk for a cuppa. My Italian friends gag at the thought of milk in tea, so when I'm around them, I take a squeeze of lemon and a teaspoon of sugar. Healthier?



Speaking of healthy, please ignore the keyboard. I know that it seems I'm growing cultures, spores for the destruction of mankind, trying to take over the world ala Pinky and The Brain but that's my stepson's doing, not mine. You try telling males to be tidy, not to eat around the PC. See if they'll listen.

I hear germs shore up the immune system. Honest. Haven't had a cold in ages. Healthy as an ox.

I did promise you that I'd speak of increases, and other such things. The thing with the raglan topdowns, is, you start with with a certain number of stitches, which accomodates the circumference of your neck, and the tops of your shoulders. You then increase every other row until the stitch markers meet under your arm pits. As a result of this, your stitch increases are very important, and they should not be messy.

Madam Zimmerman speaks of the M1 increase, but you find that modern patterns for topdowns ask for the yb&f (yarn back and forward) increases, because they form a ridge (note the line descending from the stitch marker) and are rather decorative.

I've never come across this increase in a pattern before, so I had to search. Essentially, you knit until you get to the first stitch before the marker. You then knit into the next stitch on the needle, but don't drop the stitch off the left needle.

Then, you knit into the back leg of the same stitch, inserting the right needle under it from front to back (rather like doing a 'purling' motion underneath the knit stitch) and you should have an extra stitch. Knit normally into the stitch where the marker is, and continue knitting until you have to increase again.

This picture shows you knitting 'the back leg' (thank you Debbie Stoller) for the same stitch. It's rather like an awkward purl stitch, hence the forward part, I reckon.

Voila! You should have an extra stitch! If done correctly, you should have a ridge forming like the first two pictures seen above. It's imperative that you have the stitch markers in the correct place so that there's a neat angle coming down the shoulders.

Or else it looks a mess.

Like mine does. But that's fine, because you shouldn't be staring at my breasts anyway.

I tell myself.
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Purple reign

As promised, my progress of the top down raglan. Now, I'd classify myself as an intermediate knitter (as said before), and have made jumpers but all have been done in 'piece' knitting. According to Elizabeth Zimmerman, topdown knitting is an exercise in thrift, because it doesn't waste unnecessary yarn, unlike say, piece knitting with the sides hanging down and the 4 stitches or so lost to seaming.

So, since I have only 795 yards of this particular yarn, I think top down knitting is the best way of going about things. I'm working from a rough pattern from cosmicpluto knits. As per her instructions, I direct you to her pattern/blog, but can't distribute her instructions here.

Fair enough.

I'm not really following her pattern to a T however, since this sort of knitting is supposed to be 'unventing' - i.e. - you're doing what you feel like.
With these pictures, I'm just showing you the increases of the sleeves. The stitch markers (that red thing at my armpit) should meet under my arms. Once they do so, it's all good in the hood, as I can focus on the body and probably offload 100 stitches or so to boot.

The neck and borders are done in moss stitch. As much as I like garter stitch, I think it looks better on smaller needles (like 3.00-4.00mm) and holds better on said needles. Garter stitch tends to stretch and flop about on larger needles, I find.

The yarn used is Begere de France magic. Its recommended weight is for 5.5 mm needles, but I'm going a size down (5.00mm) to give the top more structure. I'm using knit picks circular options with a 32" cord. I was attracted to the yarn due to its depth of colour.

You find that in the UK, the cheaper UK yarns tend to be either in natural colours (like biscuit, stone, white, natural) or in candy bright colours. Since I'm not a fan of either, I despaired finding a cheap workhouse yarn in a colour I could live with, why, much less even love.

The Begere de France yarn is helpful, because it comes in darker colours, and is relatively cheap (under £2, so I should be able to make a short sleeved jumper for around £16- and it's what I wish for. Weee!)

If you've been observant, you'll notice that the borders for this incarnation of the top down is moss st, while the first was ribbing. As much as I loved the ribbing, I thought it didn't provide enough contrast with the stocking stitch as it were, and I didn't really want the reverse stocking stitch this time around.

With the colour being so dark, it's the textures that need to work with the yarn, hence the stocking stitch body with the moss stitch edging.
The yarn is 50 superwash wool and fifty percent acyrlic. On first knit, against the shoulders it does feel a bit rough, and should soften up on washing (if the swatch is anything to go by). It does feel substantial on the shoulders, even with its capelet imitation (as it's doing on my shoulders right now). My only grouse with the yarn is the fact that it's not spun tightly at all, so it splits. You can't really crank up the speed as one would like to.

Sadness, all around.

For the next post, I'll tell you about the increases.
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Thursday, 28 June 2007

I'ma be your black Kate Moss tonight

Apologies to Kayne West's new ditty Stronger. It's a really good song, West took Daft Punk's song and slowed it down to a quarter of its speed. It works, although the video isn't worth the six million dollar price tag.

So, we all know about Rowan's studio books right? They come out every two to three months, and the designs are supposed to be cutting edge. Normally, they have some designs that I can wear from time to time, it seems that for this book, I need to have the panache and the bone deep fashionista attitude of La Moss, because she makes any mess look good.

For your viewing pleasure, let me give you a butchers.

Holy batwing, batman! This is just... wrong. Kidsilk haze, no shaping, fine gauge, so in addition to it being awkward it's going to take you ages to knit. Let's move on.

Alright, I like this top. It's rather Phildarish - the stocking stitch square top with big buttons. It's done in Rowan double knit cotton. I must say, I've never knitted with this yarn, although the colour ways are good. Next.
Westcoat? Vest? It's cute, but I don't know if it's worth spending all that money and time to knit. It is cute, yeah. With its cinched motion under the breasts, giving your modest breast cup size some va va voom. I can't hate, I love small breasts, they work with fashion better.

Well, this is a granddad top. I do like the twisted cables at the bottom. It's a nice design feature. I should steal it and run. I can't say I like anything else about the top, but still. Sweet.

I'm actually still knitting my topdown. The increases are messy, but it's purple, I'll be wearing it in my house to cover my shoulders, and no one will be the wiser. I'll take a picture of my knit and post tomorrow, musing about the topdown process and my reactions to it so far.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Who you're gonna call? Stashbuststers!

Remember the yarn I was bitching about? It's the brown sheep cotton fleece in 'raging purple'. It's more blue in the screen than it is in real life. If it were actually like that in RL, I'd have been pleasantly surprised. It's more of a lavendar in reality than a periwinkle as it is in the photo. The other yarn is an eggplant colour, and this is the purple that I truly love. Not many yarn companies seem to be able to do that deep, light absorbing purple though, pity.
The last time we left our erstwhile heroine, she was all a twitter over the Phildar patterns and wondering what to knit next. Well, things have happened since then. I've sent off the french pattern to be translated (and hope to get it in the next two weeks), and I'm going away for a short holiday and might pick up some yarn. So, erm, as a result of this, I have to stashbust. I do like the blue sky alpaca yarn's cropped cardigan, but I cannot justify buying another pattern right now, so I'm trying to do a copy. A bootleg, so to speak. *cough*
I've never attempted a topdown raglan before. I guess it's because my circular needles (before I got the knitpicks options) were rubbish: very stiff plastic cords, rough surfaces... yeah, Pony circulars are the rubbish. I'm actually using Bergere de France Magic yarn which is 50% yarn and acrylic. The yarn is a lovely colour, like an egg plant, but it's very splitty and you cannot knit by touch alone. The yarn is heavier than aran weight (takes a 5.5mm needle), but I'm using a 5mm needle because I want this cardigan to have a bit of structure.

From what I've seen of this cardi, it seems to be a top down raglan - with no button holes, so I'm going to imitate. The neck and sides seem to be ribbed, and the sleeves are in stocking stitch for the first three inches, then ribbed to the end. The bottom eight inches seem to be in 1x1 ribbing as well.

If I find that I need closures, I'll get a toggle or some hooks.

Due to this being one piece, it's going to be back and forth in stocking stitch for a while to come. That's okay though, after the madness that was Loll, this suits me down to the ground. Also, I want to know what it feels like to knit seamlessly. Will I abandon piece knitting for knitting in the round?

I'll try and detail as much of this process as I can before I go away. I don't think I'll be carrying my knitting with me, because the Med is blistering this time of year.

Update: I'm not really comfortable with the kb&f increases, it looks a bit messy because I don't know what I'm doing. If it looks really bad, I'll rip back, and do an M1 increase. If it's good enough for Elizabeth Zimmerman, right?

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Voulez vous trichot avec moi?

Yes. Well, never did French as a foreign language in school. Lived in the West Indies, Spanish was the first language of choice. If you got an 80 per cent and over, you were allowed to do French or German. I got 60's. Don't hate. Anyways, thought you'd like to see more Phildar patterns (for those on my list, visitors to my blog who tend to know more English and American patterns). This magazine is out of print. It's Autumn 2005, I think.

The genius with Phildar designs is that they don't try too hard to dazzle. They don't need the purl bands across breast or belly, nor do they need the rivers of lace nor the intrusive lines of cables oddly distorting one's form. The designers aren't slaves to the 'knitting tubes' in the round approach either, nor do they need the fine fine yarns like some designers.
The grandpa cardi is the first thing I'm going to knit! I'm trading patterns for these ones, because the book is out of print. Unfortunately, Phildar didn't start offering their catalogues in English until '06, so I'm just going to have whip out my french/english dictionary and bust a move. My stepson did French in high school, and he's gamely offered to 'give it the old college try' as it were.
Don't you love the neckline of this top? I find the Phildar patterns aren't afraid to open the necklines. The English tend to give it a sort of a 'school marm' treatment, as if showing clavicle is the surest way to being a Scarlett woman. I find the American designers like their 'V' necks, but there's nothing wrong with showing the flesh, because even if you have to wear a top underneath, it's still interesting, and attractive. Sunblock like woah, however, is needed. This is the pattern that set off the yearn for the Phildar magazines. I remember this blogger called Skinny Rabbit knitting this baby, and I wanted it so badly. But although I read her blog, I wasn't a commenter, and you had to (and still have to, I believe) comment like mad. But how many times do you need to hear that "You got mad skillz with the needles, yo." (She does). So, it's eluded me... until now.
Normally, I'm not a fan of turtlenecks, because I have a chest. Not Dolly Parton boobs but I have a chest. I'm on a quest to reduce weight, because I'm feeling sluggish. Off, damned winter weight! Normally, in turtle necks, my boobs look ponderous because of that wide expanse of yarn/cloth without anything to break it up (see? Another reason to love Phildar? They understand the aesthetics of 'the chest'). The yarn is cunning because it's not a solid, more of a dapply feel, so there's the colour broken up already. Then, the sleeves are shortened, so there are layers, so you're not seeing expanse of yarn in another direction. It allows you to do layers and create interest. Then, the crowning touch - the detail of the pom poms to the left. It creates asymmetry, drawing your eyes to the left of the breasts and breaking up the expanse of cloth.
Man, by my descriptions, one would think that I'm a clothes horse. I wish! I'm too poor for that, which is why I knit. I'm also too lazy for that. Dressing well takes a bit of thought for me. I'm not like my stepdaughter who shimmies into anything and it works for her. But she's relatively tall (5'8"), so her limbs are elongated and pretty damned perfect. Or even like Kate Moss - she just throws anything on and it's haute fashion. Too bad that Kate couldn't have brought her magic to the Topshop franchise, because her stuff is cheap!

Right. Off to college. To finish my last assignment.

Law and ethics.

Big whoop.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Time to have a little whine and a moan

Why can't yarn houses sell a good, solid purple?! Whyyyyyyyy?!!!

I don't have my camera to hand, (unfortunately), so I can't show you the purples that I've ordered from online, and compare how they actually look in the skien.

Online, the purples are either very deep (like Phildar's purple in their bamboo yarn) or very bright (like Brown Sheep's Fleece Yarn for 'raging purple'.

Only, when I get my yarn it's the blandest mid tint of purple that I've ever seen.

Can anyone give recs for a good and deep purple/eggplant/auberginey yarn? I'm too dark to be wearing midtint purple.

Thank ye. Preferably in 4ply or dk.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Let me call you sweetheart, I'm in love with you.

So, in John Lewis scoping for yarn the other day (as you do), when Helen, knitting svengali, asks me if I can knit something for charity. "It won't take long," she says. "Just half an hour, tops." I'm like, "OK, what do you wish me to knit?"
"Caps," she said. "With pom poms."
Well, it would be churlish to say no to knitting caps for charity, no? So, I consented. Imagine my surprise when I was told it would be for bottle tops, for a drink company called Innocent.
I had seen the the knitted caps on the bottles before, some time last year, but I thought nothing of it. It seems that for every bottle sold with a cap on, 50p goes to Age Concern, a UK charity. They buy blankets, pay heating and what not for the elderly.

According to the directions of the booklet, you cast on 28 st in a dk/worsted weight yarn. Knit 12 rows, then k2 to get 14 rows and k2 again to get seven rows. You then break the yarn about 25 cms long, thread it through the live sts on knitting needle, tighten then sew the side. After that you make a pom pom and sew it on the hat. I have my two guys from orange posing beside the hat.

This is the booklet with the instructions. You have beginner, intermediate and advanced patterns. I did the beginners, because I wanted to see if I could do continental knitting without having a cow. My pink cap is done in continental knit while my green and white cap is done in english (the knitting that I usually do). It seems that I knit tightly in continental. I'm assuming because I haven't really gotten a handle on my tension yet. I'm still trying to make my thread 'flow'. The sheep posing in the spun yarn cap (I swapped with a lovely woman from craftster, and she sent me a delightful sample of her spun yarn. I'm sure she'd get a kick out of it being used for charity) is called Purlo, she's a gift from my Spanish friend.

The 'stool' that Purlo is sitting on is my Garnier face cream.
If you can, please go to the Innocent drinks site and try and do a little hat with a pom pom for charity. Every little helps!
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Tuesday, 12 June 2007

There's so such thing as a free knitting pattern. At least, not anymore.

So, this morning I stumbled upon an interesting discussion about the new issue of Knitty (have a butcher's here and people were complaining about how the designs were a bit of a miss, and have been for a couple of seasons now. Blah, blah, blah.

I must admit that's aesthetic has shifted a bit. It's mostly socks and baby clothing and since I'm entranced by neither, I haven't really been hanging around the site much. I also think that there isn't as much sleekness to the designs as there used to be before, they now seem to be a bit... lacking.

To be honest, it's a trend that's been happening for the past year. The submissions to magknits and knitty are slipping in quantity (and quality? Subjective point that), and it's not the moderators' fault, it's just the designers of note putting a price tag on their talent, and a mere $75 US or whatever the one off fee for submitting designs isn't enough for them anymore.

There was a time, you used to be able to get good, solid knitting designs on the web.

For free.

But with the onslaught of paypal, etsy, craft magazines approaching web designers of note for book deals and patterns for their magazines (Glampyre, Knit and Tonic and My Fashionable Life for starters), internet knitting designers are now becoming their own brands and representatives. To be fair, designing clothing patterns are labour intensive; in terms of measurements, figuring out technicalities, and keeping an eye of an overall aesthetic that will please the potential buyer. Then it's the whole thing of modelling, etc. etc.

So as a sort of 'gesture' the feted knitting designer might throw out a pattern for a pair of socks, a hat or something for babies. Since none of the options suit people like me (hate knitting socks, don't wear hats, won't have children), I'm in a quandary.

Right now, there's an embarrassment of riches re: knitting patterns (and keep an eye on the crochet, it's getting there quickly. If craft interest were stocks, I'd buy into crochet and beading now). People have money and they are willing to spend it on patterns that actually *work* when you're done. No-one wants boxy or unstylish anymore, and are willing to put money towards good knitting designs. That is buyer's demand, people.

My complaint (and it's my journal and I can complain) is that the patterns are a false economy. Say, a pattern goes for $6 (£3). If you want to buy 6 patterns from the designer, you're looking at $36 (£18) which could buy you a knitting book with at least twice that amount of designs. It's a bit expensive when you look at it that way, which is why I'm dying for knit and tonic's and my fashionable life's books to come out. If I'm going to spend $36 on knitting patterns, might as well they come in a book, with pretty pictures and printed instructions instead of a PDF download, no?

Also, with all the designs on the internet (all paypal'd and PDF to boot) is that you can't really trade patterns anymore. There used to be a time that one could trade a pattern, see how a designer worked for her and then keep an eye out if another pattern cropped up. If they liked what they got for free, they'd be willing to buy the pattern at a cost and another designer was born.

Now? Ixnay on the pattern swaps, and you have to buy patterns from the designer on faith, and hope that your effort following her directions doesn't suck. I've actually done that. Paid for a pattern only to find that it's not as brilliant as its made out to be. No space for buyer's remorse, here. NO returns. I can't get a refund because it's akin to returning used earrings and underwear to a store (this does not affect your statutory rights as a customer).

Fair enough.

It's only $6.00, right?

BUT in internet circles its frowned upon if I offer the pattern(s) for a trade, to the point of being suspended (or at best, harshly spoken to) by various craft sites which is unfair. I'm stuck with a sucky pattern for me that might be another person's brilliant fit. * Now that is unfair.

So, to sum up (finally), as long as there's money in them knitting designs, there won't be so much good 'free' knitting designs online. It's happened to internet programmes (remember when Abode was free? Napster was viable? I do), and the rest of it. Remember when everyone was glad that certain prestigious magazines were trawling the internet to 'pick up' new designers and the rest? How y'all were elated that 'the man' finally recognised these people's skills and change the face of knitting?

Well, we now have to pay for it.

Basically, the gambit has been so successful, in terms of potential designers using the hits off their websites to get themselves publishing deals. I can't hate, if I had the talent and the drive, I'd do so too.

So, what do you think? I wish this were set out like a live journal account so that we could have discussion, but its not.

Anyway, out to buy lunch. See ya.

*Now, I'm not really speaking as someone who expects free patterns as my due. So far this year, I've spent almost $100 US on various pattern books (Loop d Loop Crochet and Knit, Knit 2 Together, Gaughn's Knitting nature, subscribtion to IK, the odd purchase of Vogue Knitting and Knit 1's, Rowan Pattern Books, Phildar, etc.) so I understand and appreciate designers having to make a living like everyone else.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Because my eyes are bigger than my stomach

Love this cabled pattern - don't you love this cabled pattern? Of course you love this cable pattern. Balderash, I refuse to believe you if you said you didn't. It's actually done in bamboo.

A question: why's bamboo yarn so expensive though? Can someone tell me? If it's readily available, recycleable and gentle for the earth, why the heck has it got to be so expensive? Like, you know the drill: one ball costs €3,30 (£2.30) you think, that's great, right? But the yardage is questionable, and it takes about 12 balls to do a long sleeved top. As it is, if I used the recommended yarn, this top would set me back €75 or £53! After my tussles with Rowan Calmer, I don't think that I'll ever make that sort of investment in a yarn again. The kicker is, I usually knit to a small size (I'm a size 10/12 UK about a europe 38/40 or a US 6/8) with a 34" bust - and yet, I have to pause when it comes to the recommended yarn.


Damn. But the pattern is cute, with its wide sleeves and A line shape, you could wear a long sleeved shirt underneath if it got too cold. The top would be skimming enough to forgive the bulk of your long sleeved T, hide the excesses of the biscuit tin and would just be really cool in the wardrobe. Although I think the blue is fine, my wardrobe doesn't support that sort of blue. I'm too orangey-brown for this kind of blue. On the other hand, you don't want to do such a dark colour to obscure all the cable work. Decisions, decisions.

Probably a dark grey? Hmmm.

Here's the thing: with the bamboo yarn it gives the top the drape that it has despite all the cabling without it being too heavy or bulky. If you did it in cotton, it would stretch, if you did it in wool, with its elasticity depending on the yarn, the cables would be akin to having the snugness of a fist so you might not get the drape that makes it attractive in the first place.

I could see a cotton/elastacine mix working for this, like a lana grossa point (the yarn that Durnham uses in Loop d Loop due to its stretchability) and probably Calmer. But to be point, on the latter yarn, I'd only buy Calmer again if it were on sale. It's a good yarn, and I'm in love with it, but the price is crazy.

I like the sleeveless top here, with the ribbed neck and waist edging. I love the sweep and scoop of this pink blouse. I'm not a fan of the crew neck or the little tiny 'V' knitted vests, because of the shirts I wear. I have four skiens of Merino yarn that's crying for this project. I'd do two: one in brown and green to wear over my shirts in winter and fall.
So. Details.

Had to order this magazine for these patterns. They are from Phildar spring 2. Although the shipping is a b*tch, I can't get Phildar magazines in my parts of the UK. Vogue, Rebecca, and the ubquitous Rowan, yes. But Phildar, no. I hear that they tend to micromanage their image, so not just any one can carry their products.

When I visited Paris all those years ago, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and quantity of the yarn shops. My French was horrible, and it seemed that the people there weren't too happy to see my pounds sterling either. So I bought a magazine as a keepsake for my sojurn in Paris. I was told that next time I travel to France I should try smaller towns. My experience should be better. We'll see.

What makes Phildar patterns so fab is their sensibilities - very streamlined, very neat. The clothes are designed to waltz into your wardrobe and give it substance as well as style.

Whereas American designers tend to be on the extremes : either the rather very simple stocking stitch in the round tops ala the chicks at Zeyphr designs or eyewateringly complicated ala Norah Gaughn. British knitting designers tend to be surprisingly conservative and sweet - even the people at Weardowney - and can be on this side of boring.

But I digress - with Phildar, the designs seem to be neat and relatively foolproof - once you get over the hurdle of pattern issues (I know that the patterns can be hard to grapple with)- no -one has ever really gotten a Phildar pattern wrong once they've finished it. I love this Khaki jacket -it's done in cotton, three quarter sleeves and very cool.

I'd love to do it in a military green (like a dark jungle green) just so that it can go with my wardrobe. It's simple, elegant and seems fun to knit. I don't have to think, you know? Just doing it while watching TV and the rest of it.
So, what do you think? Answers on a postcard.

Right now, it's getting too warm to knit, so I'm actually buying crochet hooks.

The crochet renaissance seems to be American led, and as a result, the hook sizes the designers like seem to range from 3.25mm to 6.omm.

This is interesting for me since I'm used to the 1.00-1.65mm hooks. Like I said, when I was a child I crocheted.

Back in the day, we'd crochet doilies for coffee tables - one big one as well as two little baby ones. My mum was an exceptional crocheter. She'd do doilies as a sideline with flounced edges and ancora thread. The ones that were the precursor to space dyed, you know what I mean. Like, you'd have blue stripes then white, none of the fading or pooling that we mourn over, but just solids of colour. Mum would also startch these doilies - like really strong starch so that the arch and flare of the flounces would stay up, just so.

I've never really thought of crochet as wearable art - all those holes!- due to my youth. I know crochet as curtain materials, something for towel edges and little flowers for hats and bags.

So, full disclosure. I'm girding my loins to crochet that orange coat from Teva Durham's book. Yes, I know it's advanced, and that I'll cry tears before I'm done. But it will be something, no? I've ordered (and gotten) one skien of blue apalaca organic cotton to knit with. I fear that this jacket may be a bit too heavy, so if I'm not too taken with the sample of the organic cotton, I think I'm going to go lighter. The jacket isn't really for layers anyway, no? It's more clothing as art, and you'd wear it on a lovely summer's day.

Stick with me kids, it's gonna be an adventure.