Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Pirate's Life...for somebody else

Considering that I squeal like an adolescent girl everytime a bit of seaweed brushes my leg, and that on the only occasion I was invited out on a friend's sailboat I was told to sit quietly in the middle and for heaven's sake not touch anything, I'm going to venture a guess that I would not make a very successful pirate. I doubt that many successful pirates are very accomplished at knitting however, which is why I feel pretty good about my new hat:

The fabulous Melody sent me the yarn and the pattern for the We Call them Pirates hat during the last knittyboard SP exchange. Thankya, Melody! It's hard to tell with the stitches all smooshed up on the needles, but the pattern is neat as hell and not nearly as complicated as you might believe. The wool is by Dale of Norway, and it makes the hat doubly neat because it's treated with teflon to create a water resistant yarn. The resulting fabric is a bit rough, so the pattern tells you to start with a provisional cast on, knit the hat, and then unzip the cast on and knit a liner out of soft yarn. Sure, no problem, except guess who cast on for a black hat using black scrap yarn? Yup, that's going to be fun to pick out. I bet it gives me an authentically piratey squint.

Who cares; knitting crosslegged on the floor while my legs go numb from arse to toe has already given me a delightfully piratey swagger.

Hey Mike! What do ya think of my hat?
He likes it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Orange Yarn Challenge

Have you ever had yarn that just wanted to be, well, yarn? Me neither, until I bought a bunch of S. Charles Merino Cable for a sweater. If you've never encountered this particular yarn before, I can tell you that Cable is a good description-- six strands of three ply merino, plied together( so that's 18 ply I guess) to make a very springy, textured, bulky weight yarn. It's fabulous, but it absolutely did not work with the pattern I chose. Nor did it with the pattern after that. No joking, I knit and ripped about two sweaters' worth of stitches to get to the one I'm writing about now. So, I set out to write my own pattern specifically for this yarn, and that's how I accidentally began the Great Orange Yarn Challenge (G.O.Y.C) . Coincidentally, "goyk! " is exactly the sound a pair of circular needles make when thrown onto a pergo floor when you're working with freakin' unknittable yarn.

The merino has a lot going for it--it's very bouncy and stretchy, it works beautifully in textured patterns and cables, and it is just the right shade of orange--not so dark that it's dingy, not so bright that it makes you look for all the oddly dressed people piling out of the tiny car. Plus, it's merino, so I don't need to tell you that it's soft. And considering the fact that I frogged it umpty million times, I can personally attest to its durability.

But whoo boy, are there limitations. It's bulky weight, so any garment knit out of it has the potential to add in places where most of us would like to subtract. Not only that, but it adds weight in a more literal sense as well-- this yarn gets ungodly heavy. I swear it gains weight as you knit with it. Not only does that make for a sweater that is uncomfortably heavy to wear, it creates all sorts of potential design problems-- sagging necklines, droopy hems, stretched out sleeves. Considering that they use more yarn that plain stockinette and therefore add more weight, cables would be right out in my sweater. I still wanted to have some texture, so after much swatching and gnashing of teeth, I found this wrapped rib pattern:

It's a lot like columns of little cables, only with no actual cabling, and very little added weight or bulk. The pattern is pretty mindless to work as well, which is good because I had very little mind left by the time I chose it.

After all the loose, flowy, and sort of shapeless garments of the past two seasons, I wanted a shape that looked tailored and smart, not to mention one that would be as flattering as bulky weight yarn can be on a person of normal proportions. What I came up with won't win any awards for ingenuity, but it was a bit of a personal victory for me. I give you The Sweater That Would Not Be Knit:

I still think it adds a bit too much at the hips, but no one will ever know, because I have mastered the art of squinching your arms in close to make yourself look thinner in photographs.

A very satisfied, albeit blurry, knitter. Who thinks its about time to make something small, like a hat.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Haus of Rhombus

Blogged or not, life moves on. Rows are knit, ripped, and knit again with the exact same mistakes in them. Double pointed needles disappear into the ether at critical moments. Significant others continue to leave their dirty drawers in the hallway outside the bathroom. The blog cries out for attention.

The biggest news around here (in terms of sheer size, anyway) is that my Noro blanket is now long enough to cover our full size bed. Of course, it is barely wide enough to warm the tops of my feet, but I have only been working a few squares every day. I'm really excited by the idea of undertaking a project that will take a long time, perhaps even a few years, to complete. Singly, each square represents about twenty or so minutes of my time. Knit together, they form a chain that stretches ahead much farther than I can see right now. What will I be like when it's finally done, and how will I look back on who I am now? Finished, it will be a record of my life (well, a portion of it at least) like no sweater or shawl or pair of socks could ever be.

Philosophical questions aside, it's just a neat fricken blanket.

A lot of people have asked me for the pattern, which I've adapted from Shelly Kang's sock yarn blanket. Go there for her blankie tutorial, which will tell you all about joining blocks, adding an edging, and coming to terms with all the ends. As for the squares themselves, here's the basic recipe I've been using. Depending on your gauge, it will give you a block that is about 3 1/2 " square (although as you can see in the pictures, the way stitches are slipped and later picked up, the blocks are really more rhomboid--a little wider than they are tall).

Yarn: Noro Silk Garden
Needles: US size 8 or whatever you like
Gauge: Not important. You're looking for a fabric that is dense enough to hold its shape but that still drapes well.

Cast on 19 stitches. All slip stitches are slipped Pwise wyif.

Row 1 (WS) and all WS rows: Sl 1, knit to the last stitch, Ktbl

Row 2: Sl1, K7, Sl 2-K1-PSSO, K7, Ktbl

Row4: Sl1, K6, Sl 2-K1-PSSO, K6, Ktbl

Row 6: Sl1, K5, Sl2-K1-PSSO, K5, Ktbl

Row 8: Sl, K4, Sl2-K1-PSSO, K4, Ktbl

Row 10: Sl1, K3, Sl2-K1-PSSO, K3, Ktbl

Row 12: Sl1, K2, Sl2-K1-PSSO, K2, Ktbl

Row 14: Sl1, K1, Sl2-K1-PSSO, K1, Ktbl

Row 16: Sl1, Sl2-K1-PSSO, Ktbl

Row 18: Sl2-K1-PSSO. Break yarn and secure last stitch.

That's pretty much it. Shelly Kang has an illustrated explaination of how you join squares together if you want more detail, but it's actually very easy. With the right side facing, pick up and knit all the slipped stitches along the left edge of one square (9 sts), pick up and knit one stitch between that square and a second square, then pick up and knit all the slipped stitches on the right side of the second square(9 sts picked up--19 sts total). Then just work the same directions for a basic block.

I was hoping to parade out some actual FOs today, but Mike is at work and Gabby is not very handy with a camera, so sadly they must wait til next time. Whenever that might be.