Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Designing II

Gee, it's hard to get time to make these posts. Sorry...

The next step in my design process for the Bendigo Cotton sweater was to draw a proposed picture of the final design. Here is my drawing:

(Please excuse the clarity of these scans - the drawings were done on tracing paper, because it was the only thing I could find at the time). I'm not a great artist - particularly to scale - but you get the general idea: cardigan with moss stitch button band, moss stitch panels at the bottom edges (2 in front, 2 in back & 2 at each side) narrowing to 2 stitches then increasing again to 4 stitches for the duration. The decreasing/increasing will cause the sweater to be fitted. The sleeves are set-in with another moss stitch panel at the wrist.

The next step was to figure out the math. Whenever my children say they won't need to do certain math in real life, I tell them that I use it all the time with my knitting. Here is my calculation page:

My gauges that I got from my swatches are listed on the left. My measurements are at the top (center to right). Then the remainder of the info is calculations and the beginning of the instructions. The instructions will be completed as work commences. The plan for the body of the sweater is to knit it in one piece. The moss stitch panel and subsequent 2 stitch vertical row of moss stitch at the underarms will produce a seam-like juncture in the knitting.

So, normally, next I would start knitting. However, I have decided that while I like the idea of the design, I'm uncertain about doing it in cotton. With the wider width at the bottom, I think this sweater needs to be long - at least hip length if not a few inches longer. But, because this sweater is to be made out of 100& cotton, I'm worried about stretching. As you know, cotton grows over time. I think it would be better to make this sweater out of a blend of cotton and lycra or out of wool.

That means, it's back to the drawing board... But, I have an idea...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Designing I

I've been working on designing a sweater, and I thought I'd give you some insight on how my mind works through a design challenge. In this instance, the designing started with a specific yarn - one I have in my stash, Bendigo Cotton. Bendigo Woollen Mills is located in Australia, and I bought this yarn from them directly (which as far as I know is the only way you can buy it if you live in the United States - unless you go there). They make beautiful, relatively inexpensive, yarn. I've had the cotton in my stash for at least 6 or 7 years - maybe longer.

Anyway, I knew that I needed a summer cardigan for those chilly moments in theaters, office buildings, etc. So I started playing around with swatches. My first thought was that I wanted it to be a simple stockinette stitch garment. So that was my first swatch (on the right in the above photo). Then I started thinking about how to accomodate my hips that are larger than my bust. I've been working on my 7-year afghan for a long time (at least 7 years, but probably longer) using a modular pattern in which you cast on 15 sts, then by using decreases at the center you form a diamond-shaped piece. This creates a curved edge, and I thought it would be interesting to use a similar technique at several spots at the bottom edge of the cardigan, thereby being able to cast on enough stitches to accomodate my ample hips (which my OB/GYN says are "good for childbearing") and then decreasing to the waist. I didn't want to use stockinette for that so I decided to try it in moss stitch. Hence my 2nd swatch (on the left). I didn't get as much curve along the cast on edge, which I decided I could live with, but I wasn't sure I liked the way the decreases turned out. So I tried the panel in reverse stockinette (the middle swatch) - but I really didn't like the decreases in that.

After that, I decided that I had sufficiently swatched, and that I could start to figure out more details... I'll get into that next time.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Recently Completed

Here's a little item I recently finished. I think it's called an Urban Legend scarf. I first started noticing this type of scarf about 6 months ago and was intrigued by how it corkscrewed, so I asked some women who were selling their creations at a craft sale. They said they had gotten the pattern at Needlework Unlimited in Minneapolis. (Now, I won't go on a tirade here regarding copyright laws -- I just hope that they had the permission of the author of the pattern to sell items made from that pattern!) So, I happened to be at Needlework Unlimited one day, and I picked up the pattern brochure, which had several scarf designs in it. Well, I had to wait in line to check out, and while I was waiting (and waiting) I looked at the pattern and realized that I could memorize it, it was so simple. So I put the pattern back & went on my merry way. (O.K., probably not the most ethical thing I've ever done - I think I'll have to go back & buy that pattern booklet to assuage my guilt!)

Anyway, the pattern was a pain in the butt to make (no, I won't divulge the pattern's secret), because I cast on too many stitches on too small needles the first time around, so I had to rip it out (which is not easy with mohair). So when I started over I used much larger needles and cast on less stitches. This time, I ran out of yarn when I was trying to cast off! Ugh! This was very expensive yarn (in the $25+ range for one skein) - hand-dyed mohair with a second strand of rayon, also hand-dyed. After several attempts, what I ended up doing for the cast off row was separating the yarn into it's individual strands and casting off most of the way with one strand at a time; however, I still didn't have enough yarn, so in the middle of the row I had to use another mohair I had in my stash to supplement. And, actually, I probably could have gotten away with just using the stash mohair for the whole row, but that's o.k. I'm happy with it. Of course, it's now in storage until next winter, but that's o.k., too!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Two Washington State Yarn Stores

Yippee! I finally got the photos developed. Next time, I'll make sure that I take my digital camera with me, so I can download photos on the fly rather than having to wait to finish the film.

Anyway, here's my report on the two yarn stores I briefly visited last week in Washington State. The first one, The Twisted Ewe, is located in Port Townsend, Washington, about 1 1/2 hours outside of Seattle. Apparently their website isn't up and working today, because I'm having no luck accessing it, but for future reference their web address is This is a cute, albeit small yarn store. The yarn selection is not vast, but there were some interesting yarns that I had not seen in other stores (sorry, forgot to write the names down). The store is under new ownership - I was there just a day or two after the change. The new owners are a husband and wife team. I spoke to the husband (wish I had written his name down); the wife was on a buying trip. They plan to expand the offerings of the store to include needlepoint. I'll definitely make a follow-up trip later this year to see how things are progressing. Here are some photos:

The other store I visited was Tricoter in Seattle. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was what I call 'The Wall of Color.' Actually, it was 1 1/2 walls, but it was all of these wonderful yarns arranged solely by color. The effect was wonderful, but I found later that it was really hard to find specific yarns in different colorways unless you knew what you were looking for. I wish I had taken a photo of the wall(s)... I do have a slight gripe as well, in that one of the women working in the shop came up to me to see if I needed help, and when I explained I was just looking, she said something along the lines of, "Did you know that we can help you make sweaters that fit?" I found it somewhat condescending, particularly when I said that I felt comfortable doing that myself, and she continued to talk about it. There must be a better way to let people know about that service than to assume people don't know how to make a sweater fit... Otherwise, the employees (owners?) were quite willing to let me take photos for this blog, so here they are:

Sunday, April 09, 2006

New Photo of Me

Well, I still don't have my photographs developed yet. Maybe tomorrow!

In the meantime, I've decided to try to get a photo of me at the top of my blog. Unfortunately with Blogger, in order to put a photo in that portion of the blog, the photo has to come from somewhere on the web already. For some reason, I can't get a URL off of my in order to post it on the blog. So, I'm going to post the photo here first, then get the URL from this post. Strange, eh?

This photo was taken at Disney World in October 2004.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Beginning

Jeez, no photos yet! So, instead of pictures of things I'm working on or essays on my design process, I'm going to tell the story of how I began knitting. First, here's the setup. My mother taught me the basics of knitting when I was probably 11 or 12. We lived on a ranch in Colorado, and it was a wonderful life - horses, cows, sheep (when the coyotes left them alone), pigs, chickens, and lots of dogs. There was only one problem - my stepfather who also happened to be a wife-beater and believed strongly in the "spare the rod, spoil the child" theory of child rearing. But I digress... Anyway, my mom taught me how to do the knit stitch and possibly the purl stitch, but that's about it. I wish I could say that I took to it like a fish to water, but it was more like a cat to water. Nonetheless, it must have had some impact, right?

In 1983, I took off for England in June for a study abroad program at the University of Cambridge. We had a month long course, followed by a 6-week break, then back to school with two more 6-week breaks at Christmas and Easter. During the first break my friend Sarah Craven (who happens to now be the head of the UN Population Fund) and I did the whole Eurorail and hostel tour of Western Europe. We had exciting adventures - my passport case & lots of money were stolen in a laundromat in Paris; a man on our train to Bern, Switzerland gave us some chocolate, then came back later to tell us it was poisoned; we were flashed by a pervert in Bern; we accidentally went to the red-light district in Amsterdam instead of the youth hostel; etc. Anyway, you get the picture.

During our trip, we spent a few days in Interlachen, Switzerland at a youth hostel. One day one of the other patrons pulled out her knitting. She was in her early twenties (or late teens), and she knit all the time. I was really intrigued. I thought to myself, "I know how to knit." HA! But somehow that thought stuck with me until we got back to Cambridge. As soon as I was settled in again there, I found a local yarn store where I bought some yarn and a small, paperback Patons how-to book (which I'm proud to say I still have). I didn't ask for any help at the yarn store. I just went back to the house that I was sharing and re-taught myself.

I got bored really quickly with the scarf I was intending to knit. Then one day at the local book store, I saw this fantastic book of knitting patterns. It was called "Knitting in Vogue" (this would have been British Vogue by the way, not American Vogue which to my knowledge has never carried knitting patterns). A very young Andie McDowell graced the front cover. It was filled with a lot of "Then & Now" patterns - patterns that had been published previously and were now redone in current yarns, etc. I picked out a pattern called "Moss-Stitch Woolly Tunic." O.K. I was probably crazy to pick out a pattern in moss-stitch, but I must say that except for a small mistake in the patterning on the top left side of the front, it turned out pretty well.

And the rest is history... I haven't stopped knitting since. And, I think I've made at least 3 sweaters from that book.

Years later, I learned that I was wrapping my yarn the wrong way on all of my purl stitches, so the stitches became twisted on the purl rows. This is not a problem if you untwist them on the next row (as some people do), but I didn't know to do that. But, you know what, I don't care - and I still wear some of those early sweaters.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

No Photos Yet

Well, I haven't gotten my photos developed yet from my quick trip to Washington State, so you'll have to wait a while yet for my info on the yarn stores I visited.

I started the Sunrise Circle Jacket today. I'm using Jo Sharp Silk Road Aran in a dark blue tweed. I think this will be a fun sweater to knit. Of course, I'm not perfectly on gauge, and because the sweater fronts are constructed in a semi-circular rather than a horizontal manner, I'm just hoping that I've picked the right size to do. I think my sweater will end up slightly larger than the size I've chosen to knit, but that should be o.k. I'll post some photos of my progess as I move through the sweater.

I've also been thinking about how to make this blog more interesting. These are some of my ideas:
1) Design a sweater for the Bendigo cotton and post photos and drawings and caculations to give you an idea of my own design process;
2) Tell you my story of how I came to knit;
3) Describe "whapping" (I bet you're intrigued, but you're going to have to wait on that one) ;
4) Explain the one little trick that I know that will save much pain and anguish when doing cable patterns or other patterns that repeat every x rows (and who I learned it from);
5) Review the blogs that I've been listening to;
6) Tell about my local guild - and why I haven't been going much lately;
7) Photos and review of the upcoming Minnesota Knitter's Guild one day workshop, the Yarnover.

More tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I can't believe I haven't posted anything in over a week! I haven't been knitting much either, but I have been thinking alot about knitting. I'm still not sure what to knit on next. I've been fiddling with my Bendigo Woolen Mills cotton that I've had in my stash for years, but I've come to the conclusion that in order to use it I will have to design something, and unfortunately, I just don't feel I have the time right now to do that. As for the Bamboo yarn, I'm still undecided about whether to continue with the sweater I started or to make a simple t-shirt (side-to-side with a little waist shaping) instead. And, finally, I arrived home yesterday from Washington state to find a box of yarn from Webs. This is the yarn that I plan to use for the Sunrise Circle Jacket from the Interweave Knits website. Here's a picture of the sweater:

So, I need to decide soon which sweater to knit. Of course, I have my 5 year afghan to finish (see it at my website), plus a pair of socks on the needles, and a scarf that just needs binding off.

As mentioned above, I just returned from Washington state - a quick trip to drop my oldest son off at Gray Wolf Ranch. I was lucky enough to have some time to visit a couple of yarn stores. I'll tell you all about them tomorrow...