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.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Not exactly instant gratification...

Is it a pile of discarded styrofoam packaging material...

...or a stranded jellyfish washed up on some nameless beach?


It's an object lesson in the importance of blocking lace! (Also about a kilometre's worth of yarn.)

(Aeolian shawl, just off the needles. Blocking will happen the minute I can find the time.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Psyched out by lace

So I finally managed to finish this triangular scarf. It took far longer than it should have, but not because of the fine yarn or the 2mm needles. The reason it took so long is that I left it lying around untouched for about a month with only a centimetre and a half of the border left to knit (because the fact that I'd have to improvise to finish with a full pattern repeat rather than half a one psyched me out) and then dithered for another week before plucking up the courage to graft the ends of the edging together (because the fact that the end had more stitches than the beginning psyched me out).

After all that angsting I grabbed the piece a couple of evenings ago and just did the thing. Picked up two stitches instead of one from the end row pretty much at random, in two places, to make the stitch counts even out. And the result is such that even though I know where the graft is, I can't for the life of me see it.

So much for being scared of one's knitting. :)

Note for future reference: The edging is "Cyprus" from Victorian Lace Today, but I stumbled across a different way of attaching it that doesn't leave a horrid little bumpy ridge on the wrong side of the piece. What I did was to slip the last stitch with yarn in front on each wrong side row, then knit that stitch together with a stitch from the edge of the centre panel at the start of the right side row. This is pretty much the exact reverse of what the book says to do when attaching the edging, but it makes for a beautifully smooth join that looks just as good on the wrong side as on the right side.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Image credits...

...and a Big Feathery Owlhug™ for the inordinately talented Paul Middleton, who took time out from looking after his beautiful wife and his adorable baby daughter to create a banner for the Yarn Owl's blog.

Bear, thank you again. It's a lucky Owl that has friends like you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I had 30g of shredded brazilwood and a few spare balls of white merino. Here's what happened to them:

Boiled up the brazilwood for 15 minutes, left to stand overnight, strained off the liquid into the dyepot, added more water and boiled up again, strained off and added to the dyepot. Added 10g alum (pre-dissolved in a little hot water), simmered two 50g skeins of merino in the dyebath for an hour. Result: salmon pink.

What was left in the dyepot was pretty pale, so I boiled up the brazilwood chips in about half a litre of water five more times to produce a new dyebath and added alum and yarn as before. Result: apricot.

And here are the two shades together:

Logwood, second exhaust bath

After the first dyebath and the exhaust bath produced such pretty shades of mulberry and lilac, I couldn't resist tossing a couple of extra skeins into what was left of the dye afterwards. Here is the result:

pale lilac

And here are all three shades in a row:

three degrees of logwood

My next logwood project will be to dye enough yarn for a sweater.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More chromatic craziness

Along with the pre-dyed skein of merino that had been lying around for a year, I also decided to experiment on some fresh yarn this year once the egg dyeing was done. In an attempt to do it right this time, I attempted to mordant four skeins of superwash merino in a solution of 10% alum and 5% tartaric acid (by weight of fibre), because that was what I'd read on the omniscient Internet. I heated it all up and let it simmer for an hour or so, let it sit to cool, and then did the dyeing thing.

One of these skeins was destined for the turmeric dyebath and behaved as expected. The three that went into the logwood bath... not so much.

This is what came out of the purple logwood brew:

It was a rather nice shade of khaki, actually, but how this colour could happen is beyond me. Also, it didn't seem to be significantly more colourfast than last year's unmordanted skein.

At this point I began questioning the wisdom of combining alum and tartaric acid for the mordanting. Alum is a base and tartaric acid is, well, an acid, and surely the two would react as they did in my high school science lessons, by forming a salt and water, leaving precious little active ingredient to work its mordanting magic on the yarn? I decided to try re-mordanting my dyed skeins in just alum to see whether that would help with the colourfastness. In they went again, with 10% alum by yarn weight, to simmer for an hour.

Ten minutes into the process those khaki skeins had dyed the water a shade of magenta so deep I could barely see the yarn, and the yarn itself now looked like this:

Deep mulberry. Definitely the sort of thing I'd been hoping to achieve all along from the logwood infusion, but how that medium shade of khaki could turn into a shade of purple so rich and dark just from simmering in alum, without as much as a molecule of extra dye being added, is pretty mystifying. (Not that I'm complaining.) But this time the alum seems to have done its work, because after I'd simmered this stuff for an hour and left it to cool a little -- I was too impatient to wait for more than an hour before taking it out -- the water ran off clear after just a few rinses.

What was left in the dyebath -- and note, again, that the only colour in this so-called dyebath was what had bled out of the khaki skeins during re-mordanting-- was still so luscious a hue that I decided to try putting another skein in. I added extra alum as this skein hadn't been previously mordanted, and duly simmered again.

The result is a very nice shade of lilac:

and the skein behaved similarly to the dark purple ones during rinsing, which seems to suggest that doing the mordanting and dyeing in a single operation will work rather well with logwood.

Oh dear. Now I want to dye enough to make a whole sweater!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

To dye for

I use natural dyes for my Easter eggs each year. Turmeric for yellow, brazilwood for red, and logwood for a deep blue-purple. The results are invariably so good that, last year, I couldn't resist the temptation to toss a skein of merino yarn in the logwood dyebath after the eggs were done, just to see what would happen.

What happened was this:

No idea how the same potful of dye that made indigo eggs could produce golden-brown yarn. It also bled like crazy because it was a spur-of-the-moment thing and I didn't mordant the yarn beforehand. I let it sit, not knowing what to do with 50g of yarn that wasn't anywhere near colourfast.

This year, when egg dyeing time came around, I remembered this skein and gave it another rinse or thirty to see whether the bleeding would ever taper off. It didn't... but thirty rinses and a soak in wool wash later, the colour had turned to a perfect chocolate brown:

It was still bleeding as much as ever, but the colour running off had changed to magenta rather than reddish.

I then decided to try mordanting it after the fact, just to see what would happen, and duly simmered it for an hour in enough water to cover the skein and 10% alum per weight of wool.

I now have this:

Yup, that really is black. I have no idea how it could come about that an originally golden brown skein could turn to chocolate brown and then actual black, all without the addition of so much as a molecule of extra dye. There must be something weird in the water hereabouts.

And speaking of water, when I rinsed the skein after mordanting, it ran off absolutely clear.

Oh, and I also did a skein of turmeric-dyed yarn this year, just for the fun of it:

Took a lot of rinsing and a soak in wool wash to stop it from smelling like an Indian restaurant after it came out of the dye, but the colour came up gorgeous.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cashmere sweater

Despite broken circs and several annoying knots in the yarn -- another of my pet peeves, that: yarn manufacturers sneakily knotting together their usually expensive yarn in mid-ball -- I finally managed to finish this sweater, and here it is:

I loosely followed Pamela Costello's Incredible Custom-Fit Raglan, but I changed some of the calculations as I don't like the neck shape in the original pattern and I don't see the point of making the front wider than the back. Here are my changes:

Back stitches = total neck stitches x 0.39
Sleeve stitches = total neck stitches x 0.075

Yarn: 2/20NM soft spun cashmere, held double (works out slightly thinner than standard sockyarn)
Needles: 2.5mm circs
Gauge: 20sts/6cm = 3.33

I used only the four stitch markers at the raglans and didn't bother with the other ones. Began with a provisional cast-on over 64 back stitches and 17 stitches on each sleeve. Did the raglan increases in the regular way until the left and right front sections each had 17 sts, then increased as follows to create a rounded neck shape:

Row 1: incr 2 on either side (= 20 sts)
Row 3: incr 2 on either side (= 23 sts)
Row 5: incr 2 on either side (= 26 sts)
Row 7: incr 2 on either side (= 29 sts)
Row 9: incr 4 on either side (= 34 sts)
Row 11: incr 4 on either side (= 39 sts)
Row 13: incr 4 on either side (= 44 sts)
Row 15: incr 6 at start of row, work to end, join to round

Raglan increases then continued until the raglan measured 25cm, at which point there were 170 sts on the front and back and 122 on each sleeve.

Waist shaping: began in 3rd rd after dividing for sleeves. Kept one marker at each side and decreased 1 st on each side of marker every 3rd round for 33 rds. Worked straight until waist level, then increased again. (Did fewer hip increases and spaced them further apart, every 4 rds I think, but I see now that I wasn't taking notes as I went so I can't reconstruct this exactly. Oopsie.)

For the waistband I changed to 2mm needles, worked 10 rds ribbing, then kitchenered off.

Sleeves: Decreased every 10 rds, starting in rd 11, until 86 sts remained, then continued straight for 24 more rds. For cuffs: using 2mm needles, decreased by 1 st every 6sts (72 sts remaining), worked 10 rds ribbing, then kitchenered off.

Neckband: With 2mm needles, picked up 74 sts evenly from the front and the 98 held back and sleeve stitches from the provisional cast-on (= 172 sts). Decreased evenly to 146sts (1 for every 6 on back and sleeves, slightly less round the front), worked 10 rds ribbing, kitchenered off.

I'm very pleased with the result. But for my next sweater, I think some heavier yarn and thicker needles would make a refreshing change!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nitpick :(

I'm really starting to be seriously annoyed with those wooden Knitpicks circs. Not only are their colours something of a hindrance to knitting in darker yarns (I tried them with fine black silk and quickly gave up because the yarn was simply not visible against the dark shafts of the needles) but it also seems as though your average set won't outlast the knitting of a sweater. At least not in the hands of the Yarn Owl... and those hands are not the roughest ones around.

My pre-Christmas knitting project was a top-down raglan sweater in Malabrigo sockyarn, knitted on 3mm circs. Yes, wooden Knitpicks. In the case of this particular set, it would seem that the different coloured layers of wood aren't all equally hard, because well before the sweater was finished the light-coloured layer on the one tip had visibly worn down while its adjacent, and darker, layer had not, resulting in a knife-edge projection that was painfully sharp to the touch, snagged on the yarn at every stitch, and left scratches on the other needle.

I fixed that for the time being by smoothing the tip down with a glass nail file and then polishing it with Micromesh. This morning's mishap, though, will be less easy to repair.

The current project is another top-down raglan, this time in black cashmere that's slightly finer than sockyarn and hence being worked on 2.5mm circs. I'm most of the way down the body at this point and there has been no sign of tip erosion so far (there are also no layers of pale wood forming the tips of this set), but earlier today the right needle just snapped in two in my hand about 5cm down from the tip. (And no, I had not tightened my fist on it; I was just knitting normally.) I ended up having to disentangle the equivalent of a shattered toothpick from my cashmere yarn and hunting for another needle to retrieve my dropped stitches.

The needle was almost new. I might have used it for a couple of pairs of socks before this sweater, but not much more than that. The 3mm one with the eroded tip was fresh out of the original wrapper when I started the sockyarn sweater, so on balance I am not impressed. Last autumn I bought quite a large number of wooden Knitpicks in all the sizes I use regularly, and even not so regularly. Now I wish I'd gone for the metal ones... because if these two are an example of the life expectancy of the wooden ones, the investment was not a particularly wise one.