Monday, September 26, 2011

Blocking (yet another) Aeolian

I wasn't expecting to knit another full-sized Aeolian, let alone another in the same colour as my very first one... but then I found myself participating in an impromptu craft exchange. So, at the end of a few weeks of knitting (and what feels like several million nupps) I found myself with Aeolian No. 4 off the needles and needing blocking.

As I haven't actually seen any instructions online on how to block an Aeolian for maximum symmetry and minimum effort (I have no doubt that such instructions are actually out there, but I haven't gone looking for them), and as the recipient of this shawl is not a knitter and was interested in the process, I created a little photo record of the exercise.

The main point to note -- which I neglected to take into account when blocking my own first Aeolian -- is that this shawl doesn't have a single straight edge in it and even the central spine actually curves in the third dimension. As a result, the shawl will actually refuse to lie completely flat, and if one tries to block it as though it could lie flat, there will be distortion in the edge motif with some of the flowers being cramped and others over-stretched. After mishandling the blocking of my first shawl (which I'm planning to soak and re-block correctly as soon as I can find the time), I blocked my subsequent models by folding them over along the central spine. As a result, the shawl looks like nothing remotely resembling a wearable shape while it's pinned out, but once it's dry and unpinned, it has its proper, lovely, wing-like shape, drapes beautifully over the shoulders when worn, and tends to stay in place without needing shawl pins because the long edge curves gently forward on both sides rather than being a straight line.

Anyway, here goes.


Bath time:

(I was planning to soak it for half an hour or so, just to make sure the yarn was well saturated. I then got distracted by the Internet and it stayed in the water for a whole hour. I don't think it minded.)

Ready to be pulled into shape after being rolled up in a towel and gently squeezed to get most of the excess moisture out:

Getting started:
I do this freehand, because there's no point working with a straight edge when the piece I'm blocking has no straight edges, so the first pins that go in are subject to a lot of repositioning and tweaking as the work progresses. The long edge of the shawl is on the left in this shot (look at the unpinned section and you can see it's two thicknesses of fabric on top of each other). The right edge is the central spine. I put a played-out guitar string -- carbon fibre or nylon, NOT metal-wound! -- down the spine to make blocking easier and require fewer pins at that edge.

Here it is at this stage from a different angle:

More of the final shape roughed out in this next shot. You can also see the yarn tails, which one does not weave in before blocking unless one's actually trying to make a mess of the finishing:
The shape of the long side isn't right yet and will be fixed down the line. The central points of a few of the flowers have been pinned out just to see whether the dimensions are basically right and nothing's been overstretched during blocking so far.

Getting started on the detail of the flowers now:

There are about twice or three times as many pins in the long side now, to prevent involuntary scalloping as the tension on the edges increases:

Mostly done now (shape of long side still needs some cleaning up):

And here, after much crawling around on the floor, it's all done at last and ready to dry overnight under the watchful eye of Leppy the plush leopard, who promised to make sure nobody interfered with the pins while the shawl dried:

Fast-forward to today. Leppy was as good as his word, and once the pins were removed, the piece looked like this:

...and after being unfolded and laid out to show off its full size, it looked like this:

Here's a detail of the stitch patterns:

And here, because it's a sunny day and I had a photographer available, are a few modelled action shots.

Back view:

Front(ish) view. Because of the shape of the shawl, it stays on amazingly well if you just flip each end over the opposite shoulder. Unless you're being quite active and moving around and bending/straightening up a lot, it'll pretty much stay put without needing a shawl pin to keep it in place:

And here it is spread out in all its glory:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Spirals & Nupps beret

Late last winter, just about barely in time to be able to wear it before the weather turned too warm for hats, I knitted this:

There has been a request on Ravelry for a pattern. Unfortunately, I can't provide one. I made up the hat as I went along, and it didn't all turn out quite as I'd intended as the ribbing band proved to be much too loose when it was done and I persuaded the hat to fit properly by folding the band up and sewing it down on the inside of the hat. To put out anything resembling a coherent pattern, I'd have to re-knit the thing and adjust the stitch counts to come up with a band that actually fits, and I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future.

What I can do, though, is provide a chart of the stitch pattern for people to use with their own favourite basic beret recipe, and here it is for your enjoyment:

For those who haven't done nupps before, the k1 (yo k1) 4x is all worked into the same stitch, giving you nine stitches on the right needle all growing out of one foundation stitch. In the next row, you knit all nine together again. This can be difficult if you're a tight knitter. One solution is to knit, say, the first three nupp stitches together in one go, then slip the resultant stitch back to the left needle and pass the remaining nupp stitches over (either all in one go, in groups, or individually) before slipping the same stitch back to the right needle. Alternatively, you can reduce the number of loops that make up the nupp by doing k1 (yo k1) 3x, giving you a seven-stitch nupp.

Work the decreases on the crown of the beret in every second row. Decrease one stitch per horizontal pattern repeat, purling together two of the purl stitches in the first decrease row and knitting together the two knit stitches adjacent to the nupp in the second decrease row.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Owl stitch markers!

I've been waiting for some wirework supplies to arrive. They turned up in dribs and drabs, and when the crucial parts turned up today, I couldn't resist getting the pliers out immediately and whipping up a few owl-themed stitch markers:

Sterling silver bead caps, end pins, and soldered jump rings. The beads are strawberry quartz.

I'm so chuffed with these little fellows, I can't wait to get a project on the needles that calls for lots of markers!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Very Small Gloves

A friend sent me a photo of some seriously tiny mittens. That was all it took to get me wondering whether it was possible to make really small fully-fingered gloves. In my mind's eye it seemed feasible, so I just had to give it a try.

I made a single prototype last night in which the dimensions seemed about right, so today I got started on a proper pair. After about two-and-a-half hours' of total knitting time, I have this to show for my trouble:

Each glove is 4.5cm long and 2.2cm wide across the hand, not including the thumb. There is actually a proper thumb gusset, and the cuffs are k1p1 ribbing.

The pair is rather larger than the mittens that inspired them, which are all of 12mm wide, but given the constraint of having to have enough stitches across the hand to make up four fingers, and given that the smallest needles I currently own are 1.5mm, I doubt I could have made them any smaller.

I'm tempted to scout around for some 1mm needles, though, and to have another go with laceweight yarn.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Aeolian reloaded

Well, I did say I was going to make another. I only had one skein of Malabrigo sockyarn in Violeta Africana to use for this one, so I stuck to the pattern as written for the shoulderette shawl. I did toy with the idea of adding two extra Yucca repeats, but balked at the last minute (or rather, I actually knitted them and then pulled them back) because I didn't know how that would affect yarn use further down the line.

Here is the result, with gorgeously glamorous Toho seed beads purchased from

The amoeboid mass that came off the needles

The Stuck Pig Effect (for more on which see below)

During blocking, on a beach towel lest the yarn stain the carpet

Gothy glamour...

Detail of the Yucca and Agave patterns...

...and a detail of the edge

In the event, I needn't have worried about running out of yarn with the extra Yucca repeats, as I still have 23g left over. But the shawl came out a decent size anyway; it measures 110cm from tip to tip along the top edge, and 48cm from top centre to the bottom. Quite adequate for a shoulderette.

I love the way it looks; the colour is so lush and the beads add an extra touch of glamour. Unfortunately, the yarn doesn't seem to be at all colourfast. The colour actually came off on my hands while I was knitting, and the picture of the shawl soaking in water actually makes the bleeding look less serious than it was. In real life the water was much more purple than the camera chose to see, and the shawl didn't stop shedding colour even after many rinses. I've never had this problem with Malabrigo yarn before, not even with their black laceweight and certainly not with their Dusty Olive laceweight, which is pretty dark as well. But after this experience I'm going to think twice before taking a risk on their darker shades again. It certainly doesn't seem safe to try to wear this shawl over light-coloured clothing; I'd be afraid that it would stain anything that isn't black.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Septifoil beret

These days, when I'm not furiously knitting lace, I'm into hats. And what is it about hats that I seem to end up making them up as I go along rather than sensibly following a pattern? Recently it was a beret with cables starting at the edge and tapering upwards and inwards towards the point. Last week I hit on the idea that it might be fun to walk around with a seven-petal flower on the back of my head.

So here it is. My own improvised Septifoil Beret. Seven petals, hat shaping courtesy of the lacy yarnovers that create the flower, reverse stocking stitch between the petals for extra definition, and a band of simple k1, p1 ribbing... but lengthwise. The band is knitted on like a lace edging for extra firmness and to eliminate the need for kitchenering off all the way around the hat; I started it with a provisional cast-on and then did a three-needle bindoff once I'd got all the way around the brim.

Here be pictures.

The yarn is Schachenmayr nomotta 100% Alpaca (50g=100m), of which I had a couple of balls lying around from a previous project and which I knitted up with 4mm needles. I used up slightly over 1.5 balls for this beret.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Aeolian shawl: Done!

All blocked now, and the ends woven in. Here are a few pictures.

The finished product:

I omitted the beads, but placed groups of three little five-stitch nupplets in the stocking stitch sections of the Agave and Edge Setup charts where it called for three beads in a triangular array. I'm very pleased with the way this turned out; they looked pretty indistinct while I was working them but stand out just enough now that the shawl has been blocked. I would definitely do this again.

And here's the closest thing I could get to an overall shot while it was still pinned out. It came out so big that it's difficult to fit it all in the frame! (It measures about 95cm from the long side to the tip. I did two extra repeats of the Yucca chart because it seemed to be a little on the small side after I'd done the number the pattern calls for. In the event, I needn't have bothered. Though I do like the size that I ended up with.)

I have one bone to pick with the pattern. When you print it out in greyscale, the chart symbols for "P on RS, K on WS" looks identical to the symbol for "place bead". As a result, I worked purl stitches in knit rows on the central spines of the Yucca motifs for fourteen repeats until I referred to the charts onscreen for some reason and discovered my mistake! Luckily it looks all right anyway, but it's still a surprise I could have done without.

Regardless of this nitpick, I love this pattern so much that I'm planning to make another, smaller version. This time I'm going to do the beads, too.