After I looked at the picture of my scribbled adjustments in Saturday's post, I thought that I might have intimidated a few of you. Please be assured, it's not beyond anyone to adjust and customize a pattern:
See, that doesn't look too difficult now. After I determined that my preliminary adjustments were correct, I recopied them onto a clean sheet. Ah, now they make sense!
I'm not even sure if I can make heads or tails out of it:
This is my line-by-line alterations to Baccarat Player to accommodate my smaller-gauge yarn. It's certainly not as complicated as it looks, all that writing in the margins represents my stream-of-consciousness calculations. I make a lot of mistakes when I alter patterns, and I find that it's best to write out every step. That way, when I go back to double check, it's easier to spot my errors.
Before I write one more thing, did you all hear Allison on Open Source last night? Way to go! If your blog comments were anything like your spoken comments, it must have been one heck of an interesting show. I, unfortunately, was on the train (knitting!) as the broadcast happened. Does anyone know if I can listen to an archived recording online?
When I was searching for a link to Karabella's Vintage Cotton, I discovered this piece on Knitter's Review:
"I'm not generally fond of cottons, but this one has
me hooked. It's a mercerized cotton, which means the fiber has been
treated with warm concentrated soda lye. The result is a more silky
texture that is particularly good for sheer summer knits.
In the case of Vintage Cotton, the appeal goes far beyond the mercerized fiber. Karabella has taken four strands of cotton and plied each with a finer thread of cotton before plying everything together.
This technique produces a pearly, textured look while maintaining perfect smoothness and consistency. It also makes the yarn extra strong and durable."
So, soda ash gives mercerized cotton. Go figure! I'm not even sure that I know what "soda lye" is. Who figures this stuff out? What bright light sat down and started to treat cotton fiber with soda lye? It was probably an accidental discovery. Was someone looking to dye the fibers and noticed that the soda ash changed the cotton's texture?
Not quite. Thanks to the magic of Google, I just discovered that mercerized cotton was an attempt to imitate silk! I'm not sure how much the Vintage Cotton reminds me of silk, but I like it all the same.
Yes, that month in winter when the weather wasn't quite so hot. If you were in New York last February you saw these:
Such images dwell in my thoughts and resurface in other areas. If you're in Boston this August, and you see me knitting, you'll see this:
Okay, the color of the Karabella Vintage Cotton is not identical (except when the swatch was wet, and then the match was perfect), but when I choose to break out of my cool-color rut, what's my pick? Orange ("saffron" if we're to believe Christo) a color with which I was bombarded no more than six months ago. Coincidence? You decide.
The more that I think knitting patterns are simply a guide.
They are a guide to get you about where you want to be with a garment. No pattern can anticipate every knitter's shape. Sooner or later you'll need to tweak something to get that perfect look.
It's not that difficult. Don't be fooled, it's not something you can do while you're watching TV, cooking dinner, and trying to check your email. (Trust me). You can't do it on the train either (again, just trust me on this). Adjusting patterns requires attention to detail, checking and double checking, and a thoughtful approach, but it's not rocket science.
Lately a few people have asked me how I alter patterns. I wish that I could sum up the how in one post, but I can't share them all here. I can, however, give you a few resources to get started.
1. Pick up a good reference book. You know, there are loads of good knitting reference books. Tons and tons! My favorites: Vogue Knitting and Sweater Design in Plain English. That's just me. Who cares which books I like? Spend an hour or so at your local bookstore or LYS browsing. You might find one or two titles that appeal to you. Buy them.
Don't forget to actually use the books you buy to expand your knitting knowledge. I'm not a read-a-reference-book-from-cover-to-cover kind of knitter. I tend to grab my books for a specific technique, or to read how another knitter might approach the problem. The customized short-row bust shaping in my last tank came straight from the pages of SDiPE.
2. Take a class. Do you live in the Boston area? We're spoiled for choice when we want to improve our knitting skills. There are lots of knitting shops that offer great technical expertise. About a year ago I took the Knitting Math series at Circles. It's been non-stop alterations ever since! Sure, the first few times were mind bending. After that, I became much more comfortable knowing when and how to alter knitting patterns.
Some patterns, however, are still beyond my adjusting skills. Most Rowan patterns are so convoluted to me that I wouldn't attempt to change one of them very much--I would just look for another pattern.
3. Join a knitting group and read blogs. Don't expect any member of a knitting group or any blogger to give you 1-on-1 technical support all throughout your project, but advice and tips from other knitters can be an invaluable resource.
Thus concludes my little soapbox moment. Please return to your needles.
Here's my ribbon tank, with the V-neck ribbon tied in a bow.
I like it. It's definitely a wear-to-the-beach kind of tank, which is a good thing because that's where I am right now.
Yes, and isn't it fun?
As some of you might have suspected, I couldn't wait too long to begin scheming and planning for Baccarat Player. The first task was to settle on a yarn. Luckily, Circles is on my way home from work. I buzzed by last week to pick Allison's brain about appropriate yarn substitutions for the Artyarns Baccarat. I have nothing against the yarn. Subway Knitter is, however, taking some time off from using ribbon yarns, and lately she's on a natural-fiber kick. These circumstances call for yarn substitution.
What to use instead? Allison had a few suggestions, and I eagerly observed her thought process. It goes to show that a little while spent in the knowledgeable hands of your LYS can be time well spent. Allison pointed to a few details in the pattern which I had missed and which, if I knit the pattern as written, would not work well for me.
The first question Allison asked: what type of fabric does Baccarat produce at the pattern's gauge? Good question. Grabbing a skein of the South West Trading Company's Oasis, a yarn with a similar gauge as Baccarat, Allison knit a little swatch. Knit at the pattern's gauge the fabric was much too loose and lacy for the look that I sought. You would need a loose and lacy fabric in order to get this type of yarn to drape into a cowl. I hadn't thought about that. Allison, of course, knew this instinctively.
Okay, back to the drawing board. How about knitting everything but the cowl in SWTC's Phoenix, and changing to the Oasis for the cowl? It was an interesting idea, but neither of us was confident that the yarn transition would look seamless.
We knew that idea wouldn't work for me. How about changing the pattern's gauge to accommodate a thinner yarn? The drape would be there, and the fabric would be dense enough to cover my midsection sufficiently. Allison drew my attention to the Karabella Vintage Cotton, a yarn that I have never failed to fondle every time I have visited the shop. We might be on our way to a solution!
I fell in love with colorway 300; unfortunately Allison had only five balls in stock. Not to fear! It was time to break out of my cool-color rut anyway. I quickly found colorway 330, a sherbet-y terracotta that will work well with blues and browns.
Yes, I think that we're on to something here.
Just in time for a mini-vacation, Shapely II is hanging out on the blocking board.
I wish that I knew how to completely avoid stretched stitches when I knit a V-neck. It's quite noticeable on these pieces. I scrunched both sides together for blocking purposes, but believe me, the stretch is there. I need to figure out a way to pull both sides closer, or at least cover up the splay.
How about some ribbon?
I'll tie it in a bow.
That might be cute!
What would I do without Windsor Button?
Probably, I would make do with buttons that would be far less cute than these.
They're green lady bugs! So, that means Daisy is complete. I'm very happy with the results, and I hope that the soon-to-be parents are as well. Don't you think that I need a hat, or something, to go with the sweater, since I did not knit the hood?
Yes, I thought so too.
Another thing to love about baby knits, the seaming is done in about an hour. Witness:
Okay, granted, it's hard to convey time in a still photo. Isn't it cute? I love this sweater! I was thinking that I'd do the collar in a different yarn, perhaps a green. Now that it's seamed, I can see that a different yarn would look distractingly strange.
I finished the front of the tank.
Okay, this confirms my suspicions. The Shapely Tank Top is my very favorite tank-top pattern! It's proportions are wonderful, excellent BSC, a good armhole shape, and it's very easy to plan for modifications. Here, as you might know, I added to and changed the position of the shortrow shaping to accommodate my bust. I also changed the straight neckline to a v-neck on both sides. I incorporated the same edging that I used for the v-neck of my Spring Breeze Top as I knit both the neck and armholes.
From now on, no matter what tank I knit, I'll use the Shapely as a foundation, for sizing and shaping, and modify any pattern to those dimensions.
Surprisingly, this Tahki Capri doesn't suffer from the same problem that I have had with other ribbon yarns. Mainly, it's not so difficult to keep it from twisting. I'm not sure if that's a property of the fiber (cotton), the way that the ribbon is manufactured (itself a knitted tube), or the center-pull ball. When I knit, I made sure to keep the ball stationary so that the yarn couldn't twist itself. Still, more than once I had to stop and let the yarn unwind.
I find color inspiration everywhere:
Let's file this one away, shall we?
Have you seen the Yarndex? Probably I am the last one in Blogland to discover it. What a great way to preview yarns and colorcards before trekking down to your LYS and bothering them about it. I can make a few preliminary selections, and then visit my LYS to touch and buy. Fantastic!
I see socks getting dragged all over the place. Why just the sock? Why not, say, the tank top?
Never one to discriminate, I'm taking my tank along as I travel through Boston.
Next stop, Chinatown:
Chinatown is a hip-hop-happening place, and it's difficult to find an angle that wasn't somehow obscured by trucks and cars. I don't know much about the history of this gateway, sorry to say, so I can't tell you anything about it.
This is knitting up quickly, even when I take pains to avoid twisting the ribbon yarn. I'm already at the middle of the waist, even though I cast on only yesterday morning.
The GGH Scarlett!
It was a tough call between the Euroflax Linen, the Debbie Bliss Cathay, and the GGH Scarlett. All of these yarns are great, and now I want to knit a project with each :-). In the end, I was quite taken by the slight sheen of the GGH mercerized cotton, and happier with the smaller gauge. The sheen gives the swatch a more refined look, and the smaller gauge has a nice drape (not that the Cathay is the least bit stiff). This yarn will be perfect for this project.
Also, and this is quite honestly a whim, I want a plant fiber for this knit. The cotton it is! Next stop will be one of my LYSs to examine color cards and plan the perfect knit!
Now, on to the math....
It is a busy time for my blocking board.
It'll be a finishing frenzy pretty soon. Decisions must be made (How will I address the fastener issue for On The Moon? Which buttons are best for Daisy?) and swatches evaluated (Which yarn is best for this project?) Time to get my knitting back on track!
Wait a sec....
After washing, drying, and measuring my swatch's gauge I began to do the math to adjust Baccarat to accommodate a larger stitch and row gauge.
After finishing all the calculations, I sat down to cast on. Then it hit me.
When knit at this gauge in stockinette, Tahki Capri has absolutely no drape. Why this realization is so recent to me is a mystery. The yarn is soft, but it's still a rather bulky fabric. Although I can get Baccarat to work with this yarn, I cannot get this yarn to work with the shaping and style of Baccarat.
So, I pulled out my pattern binder, and turned to a pattern that I know will work: the Shapely Tank Top, by Joan McGowan-Michael. I knit this last summer and the result has become one of my wardrobe staples.
Of course, I'm not going to knit the pattern as written. No, no, no! First, I'm adjusting for both stitch and row gauge. Then, I'll change the neckline and collar: a v-neck for both the front and back. Finally, since I know more about shortrow shaping now than I did last year, I'll position the shortrows differently at the bust to accommodate my measurements (thank you Maggie Righetti!).
This Takhi Capri, a large-gauge cotton ribbon which I picked up from Julia's stash. As Kathy so wisely commented last weekend, I need a quick, simple (but lovely) project to help me refocus my knitting.
What's it going to be? I cannot pass up the coincidence of Baccarat's appearance on the pattern scene just as I was having thoughts about the exact same thing! I'll need to adjust for gauge, and probably modify the back to account so that I will not run out of yarn. Otherwise, I think that this soft ribbon will work well.
This is very exciting! Don't you think so, George? George!? George? Oh, well, it's no use :-).
Perhaps inspired by Mrs. Bookish's delve into color knitting last week, I decided that intarsia should be part of the Subway Knitter's bucket o' skills.
Those are Southwest Trading Company's Bamboo and Classic Elite's Pima Tencel, purchased at Circles while on a knitting outing with Paula. Both of these yarns are so soft that you want to jump in a pile of them and roll around for a while. Okay, maybe that's just me. Take my word for it: very, very soft.
The setting: Knitsmiths
Not so great. The frustration level? It's high! Wendy, you are so right. This intarsia business totally bites right now. So, let's consider this a wobbly first attempt. I'm putting down my needles and doing something else. I will master intarsia, just not this very minute.
With that, I officially declare the swatch experiments done! Let's see what I like best like after washing and blocking.
They gave me little excuse not to knit last week. When the project is as cute as can be, the combination leads to some fast knitting:
Here's Daisy, all knit and ready for a blocking. I enjoyed the pattern. Throughout I made two major alterations. First, I adjusted the pattern for a different gauge (4.25sts/1 in) and used the SSK/sl 1, k 1, psso decrease pair throughout, instead of the K2Tog decrease that the pattern specifies.
Here's a closeup of the yarn, ala Cara:
Except that Cara's photo would be bright, and bursting with color. I love the blue, green, and pink flecks combined with the khaki. It's perfect for a mystery baby.
Stephanie suggests the consumption of chocolate once the knitting is finished. Well, since I'm not making this with a hood, I'm now off to do just that before I block and seam. This week is going to be a blocking and finishing par-tay. Stay tuned!
Apparently lots of us Typepadders are knitbloggers. As part of Typepad's recent update, we received our very own "Special Interest" blog template:
So, is anyone planning on changing? I'm not.
Could it be the weather?
My knitting has been unfocused since I put the needles down on Madeleine. It's not that I'm without inspiration, it's that I'm in need of direction. Perhaps it's time to make some excitement of my own.
After getting scooped on the whole cowl-neck idea (and, really, that Baccarat Player tank is a beauty--I couldn't have done better) I retrenched. I have ideas, I have yarns to try, but at the moment, I seem to lack for sketching ability.
Those are just little doodles, which I made while talking on the phone. Unlike Grumperina, whose sketches make me think that she moonlights as a fashion designer. This neuroscience business of hers is one big coverup.
My version of Daisy is growing very quickly:
Once the raglan shaping begins, the end is in sight. Hmm, I'm beginning to see the appeal of baby knits. In addition to being so gosh-darn cute you want to eat them, they're gosh-darn quick. I couldn't believe how fast I finished most of the body. July began as a rather scattered month for me, knitting wise. I need to regain control! Before I consider other projects, I need to get this one finished.
Well, after one swatch it became clear to me that my cowl-neck idea doesn't work too well. My idea may not work too well, but Michelle Sorensen's design for a very similar cowl-neck tank works very well, indeed. It looks wonderful! I'm seriously considering it for the Tahki Capri which I picked up from Julia. Thanks to all of you who pointed out the MagKnits surprise to me.
Guess what this means? She designed it so now I don't have to. Thanks Michelle!
Here's why I think that my idea for a shallower cowl wasn't getting off of the ground: in a sewn garment one has more control over the placement of folds and gathers. As a result, the creator can plan where and how they fall. Finally, no matter what the yarn, most woven fabrics have more drape than a knitted one.
Just ignore the shadow of my head in that photo.
What I quickly discovered was that the extra fabric on top of my swatch only wanted to splay out in a giant gap and not gently scrunch and fold. Sure, I could reposition the folds and creases every ten minutes, but how sustainable is that? "Not very!" should be your answer.
In studying the design of the Union Square Pullover from the latest IK, I noticed that the fold in the middle is, essentially, a giant thumb gusset in the middle of the neckline. It works perfectly in that design, but it's not exactly the look I have in mind (and if it were, I would just knit the darn thing and call it a day).
[By the way, there's a new Union Square Pullover KAL. I'm so excited about this. Before committing to knit that pullover myself, I want to see one finished in real life (or at least outside of a magazine shoot).]
All is not lost! I gave myself an opportunity to buy some great new (to me, at least) yarns to swatch and try--something I almost never do. Plus, Subway Knitter has another idea up her sleeve. Now that I've been scooped on this one, it can be full speed ahead with the other!
You all remember Madeleine, don't you? If you don't, I'm refering to the fabulous, hot-of-the-needles tank that I showed you last week.
Well, there was a slight problem. Within a couple of wearings, it became obvious that Madeleine's armholes were stretching badly. I was no longer 100 percent happy with the garment. Something had to be done. I would show you a picture, but it would be too revealing. Imagine my bra peaking out from under my arm. Yuck!
A quick measure revealed that the armholes had stretched by two inches. Two inches! No wonder I thought that they had become too loose--they were too loose.
Now, this was a scary prospect. The pictures below make everything look as if this fix was a walk in the park. While it was not extremely difficult, I could have ruined the entire thing right then and there. That was scary. Plus, no matter what, it's a little bit disappointing to return to a finished project. I did it because this knit is too nice to be anything less than 100 percent perfect.
To minimize any risk, I spent a long time planning. I knew that I had to shorten the armhole by two inches. At the same time, I had to accomodate both the collar and neck shaping in any reduction. That meant that I needed to rip back two inches PLUS the height of the collar and neck shaping.
To detemine the actual neck and collar heights I studied the pattern. Next, I planned my fix with pencil and paper. Then, I went to bed. If I still agreed with my plan the next morning, I would go for it. Over morning coffee I studied what I had writted the previous evening. It still made sense. So, on a sunny Saturday morning, I parked myself in a chair. The mission? To restore Madeleine to wearability.
One rule: no scissors. I didn't want a dropped blade slicing through my hard work. I picked and unraveled. First I removed the collar edging. Then, I undid the shoulder seams. Finally, I unraveled the front armholes.
This was half planning and half fudging. To make the front easier, I unraveled down to the collar bindoff row. I discovered that I could eliminate two inches by changing the collar decreases to every row (instead of every other) and beginning the shoulder shaping immediately after the collar decrease rows. On the back, I simply unraveled down to the same height as the front, then began the neck and shoulder shaping. Here is the front, with one side done:
I repeated the fix on the back. Once the knitting was finished, I seamed one side, picked up stitches and knit the collar band. By this point, the fix was all manual labor. Four hours after I started, I was done. The results: not too shabby, I don't think.
And here's all the extra yarn I pulled out.
Readers of other blogs might be under the impression that I recently spent some time in NYC. It's true. Remember those travel plans that I mentioned a while back? I had a long weekend in the Big Apple.
A long weekend, but not a lot of knitting time after Friday afternoon. Fine by me! It was too hot to play with sticks and string.
Despite the limited time, I managed to knit and to seam On The Moon. After seaming, it became clear to me that, despite the pattern's instructions, this thing needed a good blocking.
Blocking will give me time to decide how to address the handle and the fasteners. I bought some buttons at The Point but I'm not convinced that the handle/button loop closure will be safe for a clutzy girl like myself. The safest thing would be to use this purse like a clutch, so that nothing will fall out of the pockets.
Ah, the Fourth of July. It's easily my favorite holiday. There's nothing to do but kick back outside, barbecue, and maybe catch some fireworks later. Hope that everyone who is celebrating is having a great day.
Meanwhile, back to the knitting....
A Good Yarn did not disappoint. I was able to scope out a few sample balls for my latest design experiment:
I was going to label the photo, but three of the four yarn labels are visible anyway. What's what:
Euroflax Linen: 100 percent linen, 6sts/1 in on 3.25-3.5mm (US 3-5)
Rowan 4 Ply Soft: 100 percent wool, 7sts/1 in on 3.25mm (US 3)
GGH Scarlett: 100 percent cotton, 5.5sts/1 in on 3.504.5 (approx US 5)
Debbie Bliss Cathay: 50 percent cotton, 35 percent viscose microfiber, 15 percent silk, 5.5sts/1 in on 3.75mm (US 5)
The really unexpected buys were the Rowan 4 Ply and the GGH Scarlett. I'm very excited by the Euroflax and the GGH, less so by the Cathay and the 4 Ply. For some reason the Euroflax and the GGH seem more unusual to me, and I'm in the mood for some unusual fibers.
AGY does not sock and bamboo--another possibility for this project. But I know a place that does....
In case you haven't noticed this for yourself, Subway Knitter is, indeed, in between projects. I thought that I'd take advantage of this situation and slip in a small project that (gasp!) is for someone else.
Oh yeah, you read all about knitters who knit constantly for other people. Certainly I am glad to knit for anyone who asks me. That's the catch: someone must ask. And it doesn't end there. Then that person has the responsibility to find a pleasing pattern and some yarn. There's no way that I will ever burden anyone with a despised knitted item that the recipient feels compelled to keep for ever and ever and ever just because it was hand knit by yours truly. Nope! Nosiree! That's not my style.
Then what, exactly, is my style? How about a quick baby sweater for some neighbors who are expecting their first child sometime in August?
The pattern is the Daisy Sweater from none other than Stephanie. The yarn is part of my take from the Knitsmiths' swap this spring. A quick, light project with stash yarn. This is perfect summer knitting.
The Phoenix Soy Silk wasn't the only thing that I picked up at Circles.
Allison and I were talking about linen and tencel yarns. She's getting some Pima Tencel stuff any day now (it might have arrived already) and she's considering Euroflax Linen. I have not knit with either fiber, but I'm curious.
Allison, being the oh-so-generous knitter that she is, set me up with a leftover ball of some GGH Safari. Now I can swatch with a linen yarn, just to see if I like knitting with the fiber.
Can I just encourage one and all to offer yarn leftovers to other knitters for swatching purposes? It's like Secret Pal, but with a purpose and without all the secrecy. Your yarn leftovers get put to a good use. Another knitter saves money by trying a new yarn before committing to a project. Good knitting karma abounds. About a month ago I read about a similar exchange between Grumperina and Karma, and I immediately knew that this was a wonderful idea.
I'll let those of you who have more experience with this book gush about it for me.
I am so pleased to get this volume into my knitting library at last. I hope that it makes me a better designer, more thoughtful about the patterns from which I knit, and altogether more understanding of the knitting process.
Indeed, it might come in handy as I continue to explore the ideas developed from yesterday's post. Thank you everyone for indulging my curiosity by leaving helpful comments. A few of you indulged me further by exchanging private emails to flesh out ideas and concepts. Thank you, thank you!
I can't write much more abou the project now (not because I'm sworn to secrecy or anything, but because there isn't anything more to write at the moment). I will say that I'm off to one of my LYSs later this morning for some serious yarn scoping. I'm thinking that some plant fibers are in my future. Nona? How's the linen Tivoli going?