By JC | March 5, 2015
Check out the latest addition to my knitting bookshelves:
It’s Knitting Fresh Brioche by Nancy Marchant, and it’s fabulous.
The book is all about two-color brioche rib. You’d think that kind of narrow focus would be dull – after all, Nancy’s previous book, Knitting Brioche, covered all kinds of brioche fabrics – but no, Nancy makes it clear there’s plenty to explore: oodles of amazing stitch patterns, all formed of increases and decreases on a backdrop of two-color brioche rib, and a dozen stunning patterns for scarves and wraps.
Of course, the book also contains all the technical how-to info you’d need, from casting on and fixing goofs to binding off. My favorite tips are those for creating neat, tidy selvedges – something that I’ve always found tricky with two-color brioche worked flat. Nancy’s approach is to work the selvedge stitches in stockinette when working light color (LC) rows, and to slip them with yarn held to the dark side (DS) when working dark color (DC) rows. Doing so means that the DC yarn gets caught by the LC selvedge stitches… perfect!
That said… I’ve never been one for following instructions exactly. With a little swatching, I discovered I could work chain selvedges on the LC rows, while still slipping those stitches on DC rows. It’s a little fiddly, since the selvedge stitches are essentially only being worked once every four rows. But it’s giving me selvedges that I like, which is what counts, right?
By JC | February 26, 2015
Let’s say you want to design a shawl composed of lace wedges. You have a lace pattern in mind, and you want each wedge to grow by two stitches on each right-side row. How do you get that lace pattern to fit into that wedge shape?
In Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls, Martha Waterman suggests making the wedge bigger until you have enough stitches available to work another repeat of the pattern.
But doing so leaves blank areas that I find… unsatisfying.
Another option is adding in yo/dec pairs – rather than full pattern repeats – when enough stitches become available. You hear this advice frequently because, frankly, it’s relatively easy to do. But for some stitch patterns, that doesn’t make much of a difference.
I like going a step further. I relish the challenge of filling in those blank areas as much as possible, while still maintaining the character of the stitch pattern.
This was actually a big topic of discussion during the Wedge Shawl Design class that I taught at Stitches West last weekend. We worked through a few examples as a group, and everyone had a chance to play with the stitch pattern of their choice. Many lovely wedges were created. (Alas, I didn’t get photographic proof, as I never remember to bring a camera to class.)
Still, it bothers me that I can’t quite articulate exactly how to design lace wedges without blank areas. I haven’t figured out a foolproof method that works for all kinds of lace patterns, just tips and tricks that work for some patterns. But I’ll tell you what: I’ll keep fiddling around with lace wedges, and if I make any great discoveries, I’ll let you know. Okay?
By JC | February 1, 2015
Yesterday, while scoping out the knitting shelves at a local bookstore, I found a gently used copy of Martha Waterman’s Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls. Since I’m in the middle of updating my Wedge Shawl Design class, I had to get it.
The book has a lot going for it: history, design advice, a nice selection of stitch patterns, a section on caring for your shawls, and more. But right now, I’m smitten with this quote from the “Shaping Shawls” section:
In addition to triangular, shawls can be square, rectangular, circular, or half-circular. You can think of all these shapes as composed of triangles.
Why, yes. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve been having fun these last few days, imagining all the ways that triangles can be combined into other shapes (and how best to arrange a class on the subject!). And Waterman’s book has given me a couple more ideas.
Want to take the class? It’s already sold out at Stitches West, but there’s still space available at Stitches South. And I get to teach it again in August at Jackson Hole Knits, a new retreat in (where else?) Jackson Hole, WY. Whoo hoo! This ought to be fun; I’ve never been to Wyoming before.
By JC | January 19, 2015
And we have a winner in the Curls give-away! Jules O, I’ll contact you via email shortly. Everybody else: Thanks for playing! And thanks for the lovely comments on Hunter’s Curls and our collaboration!
By JC | January 15, 2015
So, as I was saying, I knit one of Hunter’s Curls a few weeks back. Now, one of the (many!) awesome things about Curls is that you can use just about any yarn, in any weight. The idea is that you choose your needle size to get a fabric whose drape you like, then you keep on knitting until the Curl is the size you want.
Assuming, of course, you have enough yarn.
I started out with a hankering for Pavonated, and two skeins of Malabrigo Finito. I love Pavonated’s stitch pattern – both sides of the fabric offer deep, inviting texture; each side is unique. Combined with the Finito on 3.5mm needles, the fabric was just luscious.
But two skeins of Finito only amount to 400 yards. When the yarn supply threatened to run out, I bound off… only to discover that my Curl wasn’t as generously-sized as I’d hoped for. And with its relatively modest size, I couldn’t quite figure out how I’d wear it. Nothing I tried seemed to click.
What to do? Getting another skein of yarn in the same dyelot wasn’t likely. Aggressive blocking would destroy the stitch pattern’s wonderful texture. My choices seemed to be (a) live with a smallish Curl, or (b) find another use for the Finito and re-start the Curl in another yarn.
Yeah. So I chose not to choose; I put the Curl into an extended time-out.
Until yesterday. I chose to accept the Curl’s small size, and set out to block it. And, ironically, it grew. Dramatically. The fabric simply relaxed far more than I expected, even with the gentlest possible blocking. (Serves me right for not test-blocking a swatch, I guess.) I’ve lost some of the deep texture, but my possibly-too-small Curl is now Just Right.
Update: Hunter has graciously offered to give the winner of the Curls give-away a copy of the electronic version of the book. So you get the physical book, and the ebook with links to the patterns’ stitch maps. Win-win! But remember: you have to comment on yesterday’s post to be entered to win.
By JC | January 14, 2015
Guess what I have?
It’s a copy of Curls: Versatile, Wearable Wraps to Knit at Any Gauge. Whee! So many pretty patterns.
For months now, I’ve had sneak peeks of the book-in-progress as Hunter and I collaborated on stitch maps for the electronic version of the book. I’ve even been knitting my own Curl.
Truthfully? I finished the knitting weeks ago. (Ah, the advantages of early sneak peeks!) But it’s been languishing since then, unblocked and unworn. More on that story in another blog post.
Back to the book… even with all those sneak peeks, even with a Curl practically done, I’m still thrilled that Hunter chose to share a physical copy of the book with me. There’s just something special about sitting down with a paper book, slowing flipping the pages, savoring every photo. Don’t you agree?
Actually, Hunter gave me TWO copies of the book. Want one? Comment on this blog post, and I’ll choose a lucky winner at random next Monday, the 19th. Use your real email address when you comment so I can contact you, okay? (I won’t use the email addresses for any other purpose, I promise!)
By JC | January 12, 2015
Remember that swatching I did a few weeks back? For the stole with a bend in it? Well, over the weekend I finished the stole.
From the back, it looks like your typical triangle shawl:
From the front, it looks more like a ruana:
As I’d hoped, the stole sits securely on the wearer’s shoulders, making it very easy to wear. Hmm. I may need to make more stoles in this shape, just for that reason.
By JC | December 30, 2014
Yesterday, in the Stitch-Maps.com news article announcing the availability of symbols for Estonian gathers, I mentioned that stitch maps are awesome for seeing which stitches to knit loosely on the previous row, to make the gathers easier to work.
I fear that I may not have made that point strongly enough.
In knitting the sample for Quatrefoil, I completely screwed up the first row with gathers. You see, Quatrefoil has “7-to-5 gathers,” places where you knit 7 stitches together, yarn over, knit those same 7 stitches together again, yarn over, and – yup, you guessed it – knit those 7 stitches together yet again, for a total of 5 new stitches. When you get right down to it, it’s kind of a nutty thing to do. I mean, seriously? Have you ever tried k7tog in fine laceweight yarn? Despite using pointy needles with long tapers, I could barely get both needle tips through all 7 stitches. After much struggling and gnashing of teeth, I completed a couple gathers… only to discover that I’d dropped a couple stitches in the process, and they were busy unraveling. sigh
But I learned from my mistakes. You know how nupps are enjoyable only if you work the 5 (or more) stitches of the increase loosely enough so that you can purl all of them together easily on the following row? Yeah, gathers are like that too. But here’s the thing: which stitches do you need to work loosely? It’s pretty clear when you follow the stitch map:
Here you can see which stitches of rows 6 and 20 need to be worked loosely: the ones that had been worked as “ssk, k2, yo, ssk, k1, k2tog” on the previous row, five stitches away from the nupps.
Once I clued in, working the gathers became tolerable, even – dare I say? – pleasant. But that should be obvious. Had the gathers remained a teeth-gnashing experience, I would’ve never bothered finishing the sample.
By JC | December 5, 2014
Yesterday I spent an obscene amount of time swatching, not to choose yarn, or needle size, or stitch pattern, but get this: to figure out how to shape some lace in the most attractive way possible.
Why? For some time now, I’ve wanted to knit up a couple more samples for my Wedge Shawl Design class. Sure, I have samples of lace “wedges” knit into triangular shawls, and even Faroese and circular shawls.
But at the least I’d like a sample of a stole with a bend in it, a bit of shaping for visual interest and (hopefully!) to help the stole sit on the wearer’s shoulders.
Of course I started by drawing up a stitch map. Well, okay, a few stitch maps. When I thought I had something that would work, I started swatching.
Yeah, it worked. New repeats of the pattern appear along a center “spine,” creating a bend. But that plain k1 spine? Boring!
Back to drawing board – literally. After sketching out some new stitch maps in pencil, I swatched a variation without a center spine.
Meh. Too… diffuse. Too many yarn overs creating too much mesh in the middle. Or something. Just not my cup of tea, I guess.
Ah, but what if we used a single repeat of the pattern as the spine?
Bingo! I like this.
The key in all these experiments was defining the wedge, the tiny bit of lace that could grow from a single stitch into a new pattern repeat.
Jeez, do I love playing with stitch maps.
Ooh, I just had an idea for a shawl with lace patterning like this and Hitchhiker-like shaping. Off to swatch some more…
By JC | October 8, 2014
Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. Stitch-Maps.com had been up and running for a few months before I started making use of stitch maps in the classes that I teach – notably, Lace Basics. And it wasn’t until this morning that I realized that, now that Stitch-Maps.com supports cable crosses, I could map one of my favorite stitch patterns: Rosebuds.
Rosebuds first appeared in Charts Made Simple, as an example in the “Counting stitches” chapter. It showcases symbols that stand for multiple stitches, even though they’re just one chart square wide,
These “squeeze a bunch of stitches in one square” symbols certainly made for a prettier chart than if “no stitch” symbols had been used instead.
But the whole point of stitch maps is to get rid of the chart grid, right?
I like how the stitch map shows the undulation in the twisted-stitch column. And even if the rosebuds distort the edges of the stitch map a bit (hey, that’s what you get when you try to represent a three-dimensional pouf in two dimensions), I find the stitch map clear and straightforward.
But then again, I may be a bit biased.