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Archive for April, 2014

I had a Dr. Frankenstein moment this weekend after much swatching, ripping, researching decreases, swatching and more ripping. When it all came together late Sunday night, despite all the distractions the fates threw at me, I knew the deep satisfaction and amazement Dr. Frankenstein felt when he screamed “It’s alive! The Monster is alive!” (I don’t actually remember if these were his exact words but they were mine, replete with hair standing out on end and a crazed look in my eyes.)

I morphed into the mad scientist mode when faced with having to shape and turn the seed stitch hood of the baby carrier while maintaining the seed stitch pattern. Decreasing and maintaining the seed stitch pattern seemed to be diametrically opposed goals. Lots of swatching. Lots of ripping. Lots of angst.

Adding to the anxiety, the decreases had to be directional, left leaning and right leaning, to get the hood shape. My basic idea was to turn the hood the way the heel of a sock is turned. But a sock heel is knit in stocking stitch, which easily lends itself to the simple p2tog and ssk decreases. These decreases stand out like a glaring mistake in seed stitch.

After researching, more swatching, more ripping I came up with 2 unorthodox decreases that worked in nicely with the seed stitch pattern on a very tiny swatch. The big test was to see if they worked correctly shaping both sides of the 67 stitch hood down to 23 stitches.

At this point, my hair looked like I had come through a tornado and I had a persistent tic in my left eye. Anyone with any sense would have taken one look at me and stayed far away. But I live with a human and a dog, neither of which can read the nuanced signs of someone who is coming apart. That’s why I stood in the middle of the living room and announced that I was now sitting down to work on the hood and I couldn’t be disturbed. I paused for a moment to let my left eye tic away for added emphasis.

It wasn’t long, maybe the second or third row, before the math and numbers show The Skipper decided to watch threw off my internal counting of rows and stitches. On the 5th row, Yarn Rascal sat in front of me dangling Mr. Dragon from his mouth as a warning that if I didn’t pay him attention Mr. Dragon was going to be toast. At about the fourteenth row I started to hear a strange noise. Sometimes it sounded like a raccoon had gotten into the wall, other times it sounded faintly like a gurgling stream. Without pausing my knitting I asked The Skipper about the noise. The man who can hear a flea cough in the next county said, “What noise?”

The tic in my eye became more pronounced and I was beginning to get pain in my jaw from clenching it, as I increased my knitting speed and repeatedly asked these two questions of The Skipper: What is that noise? and Where is the dog? The tension built as I continued knitting, the stacked decreases needed little adjustments here and there as they began shaping the hood, the noise continued on and off, Yarn Rascal was MIA, and The Skipper now began discussion about the math and numbers show.

Upon the completion of the last row, I jumped out of the chair, held the carrier up, saw a hood had formed without ruining the seed stitch pattern and yelled, “It’s alive! The baby carrier lives!”

hood baby carrier 2

hood baby carrier 1

PS: Mr. Dragon needs his arm sewn back on. The noise I heard was really two different noises. One was Yarn Rascal. He excavated the tile in the upstairs bathroom again. The second noise was the washing machine draining the water onto the floor. As for the math and numbers program it was something to do with the cosmos. The Skipper yammered on about it while mopping up the wet floor.

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For some knitters, the number of stitches picked up along the edge of a knitted garment is a mystery number. How do designers come up with this number? Really, it is simple.

The two rules for picking up stitches are:
1) If it is a bound off edge every stitch is picked up.
2) If it is a selvedge edge pick up 3 out of every 4 stitches.

Neck edges are usually bound off edges. The total number of stitches bound off to form the back and front of the neck is the total number to pick up. If each front edge has 20 bound off stitches, pick up 20 stitches on each edge. Same for the number of stitches in the back.

Selvedge edges usually become button bands of some sort. The rule here is to pick up about 3 out of every 4 stitches. Three out of every 4 prevents the bands from becoming wavy. The same number of stitches picked up on one side must be picked up on the other side. Do a test count before picking up band stitches just to make sure the number on one side can be duplicated on the other.

Another thing to watch out for when picking up band stitches is the effect the amount of stitches picked up has on the overall length of the garment. Is it shortening the length by drawing it up? If so, adjust the 3 out of every 4 rule by picking up 4 out of 5 or 4 out of 4 every so often. The more stitches picked up the greater the chance the band will become wavy and not lie flat. This can be countered by picking up less stitches.

Picking up the right amount of stitches isn’t really as hard as it seems. Knitted garments can be quite forgiving. As with anything in life, practice helps.

Have a good weekend.

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My knitting mojo is on the wane. I’ve been here before and I know that the best way to handle it, for me, is to continue to knit through it.

Between all the things going on that are not knitting related and my work on two big knitting projects and seeing them through to completion without a break in between I’ve come up a bit short in the enthusiasm area.

One of the big knitting projects is the baby carrier which I have tentatively named North River Baby Carrier.

North River Baby Carrier and my ever present assistant.

North River Baby Carrier and my ever present assistant.

(An aside here. No knitting, photographing of knitting, handling of yarn, is done without the presence and assistance of Yarn Rascal. I’ve come to accept that anything to do with yarn will take me twice as long with his help.)

I have some design issues with the carrier. The issues have to do with this particular grouping of stitch patterns vs. the construction techniques. Notice I’ve literally cut the sleeve out of the armhole on the right. I didn’t like the way it fit before I sewed it in and instead of stopping, like a sane person would do, I went ahead and sewed it in then fretted about whether blocking would iron out the problem. It has been my experience that blocking solves some problems but will not correct a sleeve that simply needs refitting. But, I went ahead and wove in the sleeve ends anyway.

I have a phobia about woven in ends. The entire time I weave in an end I am 100% sure it will come undone, the whole project will unravel, the work will be for nought. Think about it: a knitted garment held together by a woven thread. How precarious. Because it seems like such an uncertain way to hold a garment together, I have done more research on weaving in knitted ends than a doctoral candidate conducts on a doctoral thesis. As of this date, I have never had an object unravel from a woven end. My phobia, although baseless, rules.

To undo a part of a garment after weaving its ends is an exquisite form of knitting torture. In this instance, I had to take scissors to the sleeve to get most of it off because I couldn’t get the ends undone. I still have about an inch (2.5 cm) yet to separate from the armhole, but that will have to be carefully removed by hand, strand by strand. And that is where I am. Sorting and picking threads one by one. My knitting mojo receding with each chopped strand I tease out.

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Knit Night

A peaceful evening of knitting hasn’t been had around here for about 1 year. Hmm…1 year, ah! The arrival of Yarn Rascal. Taking up needles and yarn is Yarn Rascal’s cue to engage in destructive play, whereby he methodically tears apart his favorite toy of the moment while staring straight at me. After all, why bother doing the crime if Mother isn’t watching?

An evening of knitting means I keep one eye on Yarn Rascal and one eye on my knitting. It also means positioning yarn, project, and equipment so it can be quickly and easily put aside to make a mad dash attempt to rescue the toy before the coup d’etat. It is everything but relaxing.

I scour pet stores and online pet shops for soft toys that are specially constructed for the destructive soft toy loving dog. When I find them and if they have a shape I think he will like, I buy them. Yarn Rascal has cost me more in toys than a really good bad yarn binge.

Last night he pulled out Mr. Dragon. He loves, loves, loves, Mr. Dragon so I knew the toy had to be saved. At first, I put the knitting down buying time for Mr. Dragon’s life and me. Yarn Rascal countered by laying his chin on the toy. We stared at each other for a bit. I reminded him how much he loved Mr. Dragon and why Mr. Dragon did not deserve to be turned into a rag.

When I thought the crucial moment had passed and the crisis averted the idea of picking up needles and yarn briefly flitted through my mind. At the same moment, Yarn Rascal began wagging his tail in that way he has that means he’s up to no good and the rescue of Mr. Dragon was fully engaged.

I jumped from the chair, pulling an upper back muscle I didn’t know I had until the exquisite pain made my breath catch, and crashed to the floor, right arm extended, hand open but just missed grabbing Mr. Dragon. I stayed on the floor frozen by upper back pain. Yarn Rascal, tail madly wagging with delight, had Mr. Dragon dangling from his mouth just out of my reach.

During the time it took me to get to my knees and then stand, Yarn Rascal had commenced chewing Mr. Dragon’s wing in hopes of separating it from the body before I became mobile again. I am happy to say he failed. Another lunge by me, another stab of pain from the muscle, another successful feint by Yarn Rascal and chasing the dog through out the house to get his toy away from him was top of the agenda for the evening. The time flew by.

At the bitter end, Yarn Rascal was so tired he finally collapsed on the floor panting, dropping Mr. Dragon. I retrieved the toy, still intact, and hobbled to the antique secretary’s desk where I put Mr. Dragon inside for safe keeping.

The rest of the night I sat in the chair. Yarn Rascal was asleep at my feet, a small heating pad was on my aching back muscle, and an ice bag was on my right knee. I didn’t even flirt with the idea of yarn and needles.

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Is it only me, or have other knitters been driven to the edge where sanity crosses over into insanity by Seed Stitch? There must be extant clips from diaries, journal entries, knitting notes, documenting the row by row erosion of reason that occurs when working the Seed Stitch Pattern, especially when it is broken up into separate panels one of which is divided 9″ (23 cm) into the pattern ceasing the knitting in the round and changing it to knitting flat in rows.

When prestigious knitting oeuvres describe the Seed Stitch Pattern their tone drips with condescension over its simplicity. Only a complete fool could screw it up. Two stitches: a knit and a purl make up the pattern. Whether I care or not about technical matters the knitting books drive home the point that technically this is a k1, p1 rib broken on every row. The unwritten point here: it’s the simplest of ribbings and if the knitter messes it up, then the knitter best look to finger painting as a hobby. The thing to keep in mind is all knit stitches are purled, all purled stitches are knit. Simple. Do the opposite of what the stitch is that’s on the needle.

When I have to keep straight the 108 to 144 sts on my needles, 40 to 60 of which are separated into Seed Stitch panels of 13 sts or more and the knitting is in the round and there’s a braid whose stitches, rows, and crosses need to also be kept straight and I am not following any directions I am making it up as I go and writing it down, something is going to give.

Accounting for each and every Seed Stitch on each and every row, through divisions and decreases is a little like counting grains of sand on a beach. The mind, and rightfully so, takes a hike. It comprehends the insanity inherent in the task and says, “Let me know when you come to your senses and I’ll be back.” After accounting for every seed stitch on the body of the baby carrier along with the stitches, crosses and rows on the braids, my mind said, “Adios” when I began the first sleeve.

I had 43 stitches on my double pointed needles (the sleeve is worked in the round) and I only had to work 11 rows of seed stitch. Forty-three measly stitches. After finishing the 11 rows I looked at my work, because now came the tricky part, and I realized that whatever it was that I had on my dpns was not the seed st pattern. The feeling was the exact same feeling of horror I experienced the first and last time I ever went fishing as a kid. The excitement over catching a fish quickly transformed when what I pulled up was a rather large eel, not a fish. In my panic, I threw pole and the still hooked eel right into the water and ran back to the car. Of course my father retrieved the pole and set loose the eel. But that was it for me and fishing.

They say good, soothing things about finger painting. I understand that it is used with success by mental health specialists in helping patients. Some paper, non-toxic paint pots…how simple. Only a fool could screw it up.

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Say the word gauge to knitters and after a laugh and an eye roll, they will talk about stitches. Listen politely. Ask what about row gauge and after a strange look they will say, that doesn’t matter. This is the crux of the issue with my baby carrier design. If the knitter wants to duplicate my results, row gauge is paramount or the braid design will not finish off nicely at the shoulders and neck line. How does a designer get the knitter to be as cognizant of row gauge as stitch gauge in a pattern?

I could stress the importance of row gauge and provide a brief explanation supporting it in the Pattern Notes section. But really, how many of us actually pay attention to what’s written there? In the rush to start the project this section is brushed aside or skimmed over at best.

I could put a blaze orange box with the words WARNING! Know Your Row Gauge! on it. This would be novel. I haven’t seen anything like it in knit or crochet patterns to date. It would probably stop them for a second, but then they would brush this aside too.

The only way I can figure to get knitters to pay attention to row gauge in this pattern is to give the length measurements in number of rows and make centimeters and inches secondary. The written directions are row centric. Neckline decreases begin after a specific number of rows are knit. The decreases take place on specific rows. They cease on a specific row. Dividing the front opening as well as dividing for each armhole opening begins on a specific row and finishes on a specific row. In short, I am hamstringing the knitters. Saying this takes place now, this stops now.

I’ve never written a pattern in such a manner before. But it is crucial they begin and end shaping on certain rows for the braid to fit nicely at the neck and shoulders.

While the body of the piece is finished, I am knitting up one of the sleeves tonight. I still need to decided whether the sleeve will be all seed stitch–my eyes cross and twitch at the thought–or whether I will center the braid on the sleeve to break up the seed stitch. Right now I can’t quite imagine the sleeve without the braid.

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Finally Spring is here. How do I know this? My allergies are in full bloom even though the land is not. My allergies and I will not part again until the first snowfall. All life is give and take.

Yesterday marked one year since we got Yarn Rascal. We celebrated by watching the video of picking him up and bringing him home. He was a true Rascal from the start. What a difference he has made in my life. I was at the point of giving up and stopping my cancer treatment when he came into my life. Today I am totally grateful for being alive. Yarn Rascal has brought joy and laughter back into my life. My radiation / cancer doctors say he saved my life. He did. I am so grateful for him. I am his rescue.

In case I didn’t think my allergies were bad enough, I spent the day hunting through my parent’s basement and in the attic for the guitar I had when I was 16. I knew it was an insane mission before I embarked on it. Once I get something in my mind, I’m a little like Yarn Rascal when he has something he shouldn’t have in his mouth: hard to deter. Even the allergy medication couldn’t save me from the itchy watery eyes, sneezing, scratchy throat, etc. The sneezing increased but I didn’t find the guitar. The fact is, I could get lost in the basement and attic. They are pretty big spaces. I hardly covered any space during the 7 hours of searching. So I will be heading back for more. But oh the things I did find! Lots of memories, lots of stories. Remembering and retelling takes time.

It’s weird like that for me. With The Skipper, he has photos galore and he goes through them to remember and retell. Photos don’t work like that for me. Objects bring it all back. I can’t get beyond the pain looking at photos. I remember my grandparents and great-grandparents through things of theirs I have and cherish. All the dogs I ever had, I’ve always saved their favorite toy. When I touch the toy and hold it, I remember and it is good. Even my late husband, his softballs and bat bring me comfort.

Today, I may search again for the guitar or I may get out my art gear and draw. I want to sketch the hellebore that survived the winter and is now in bloom. I find the structure of the flowers and plant interesting. It lends itself wonderfully to being sketched. It may be one of only a handful of perennials that will come back from winter’s onslaught. A number appear not to have survived. Others, just barely holding on.

This post has been a bit of a ramble. But then that is where I am, at the moment. A little here and a little there.

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