My current work in progress:

Summit by Sloane Rosenthal, knit from Rowan SoftYak DK in shade 254 Canopy.

Archives for January 2006

If I’m a Process Knitter, Why Am I So Driven?

Oh well. No one ever accused me of being consistent.

Monday was a federal holiday, and I had plans to spend a chunk of time spinning. Never got around to it. I couldn’t drag myself away from the knitting, though I really did want to spin.

Truth be told, I also spent a fair chunk of time rearranging the furniture in my living room.

Rearranging your living room furniture while your cat is asleep in the bedroom, thereby freaking her out when she strolls, unsuspecting, into the living room? Priceless.

Actually, Lucy did not freak out. She was a tad taken aback when she saw the changes (it is fun to watch a cat do a doubletake!), but she has far more aplomb than to let such things bother her. She likes the new arrangement, wherein the sofa table is actually behind the sofa (imagine that), so she can take a stroll back there.


Only problem is, the table is now sandwiched between sofa and wall, so its fun twisty legs aren’t visible.

I love the twisty legs. Oh well, I know they’re there.


And now you do too. Thrilling, no?

I seem to have gotten off on a tangent.

Anyhow, I need to figure a way to fit more spinning time into my days. Perhaps get up an hour earlier? Definitely not! I think my best solution is to institute The Spinning Hour (not to be confused with The Witching Hour).

We’ll see how that goes.

So, here’s the knitting away from which I could not drag myself.


I finished the bottom border. I do so love colorwork on tiny needles, even if it does take freaking forever to make progress.

As Vanessa pointed out, I’m using my beloved Holz & Stein ebony circular (in size 2.5mm) for this project.

My pattern repeats are 24 stitches each, so I’ve placed a marker every 24 stitches. The first marker of the round is white, the marker at the midpoint is black, and the rest are red.

I just like knowing where I am. ๐Ÿ™‚

Are You Knitting a Hanne Falkenberg Design?

If so, this email I got from Becky might interest you:
. . . I started a Hanne Falkenberg knitalong at Your Mermaid was one of many that I have admired in blogland and I was thrilled to receive the purple mermaid kit for Christmas and can’t wait to get started.

Becky sent me this information along with her photos for my Kitty Bed Gallery. You might want to check the gallery out if you haven’t lately. There are a lot of very cute new photos there.

Even Lucy thinks so.


Fits and Starts

Thanks for all your kind comments on the Halcyon Aran! To answer a few questions . . .

Suzanne asked:
I am curious about how you decide when you will backstitch your seams versus use mattress stich to sew your seams. I noticed that you use each technique at different times.

You are correct, ma’am!

One reason I backstitched here instead of mattress-stitching: I wanted a strong, firm seam at the shoulder straps, and I feel that backstitching is the stronger of the two.

I backstitched the side seams as well, because the seams are done on reverse stockinette stitch, and I don’t think my mattress stitch looks good on reverse stockinette.

I’m very pleased with the backstitch results.

Jes asked:
Are you worried about how the sweater will wear if the yarn pulled apart so easily? Does it make a strong fabric?

Although you can pull the yarn apart very easily, it knit up beautifully in cables. With all the twists and turns and tugging, I didn’t have a single problem with the yarn. I think this sweater will wear very well.

Jes added:
Re: the vm in yarns, I’ve noticed a lot in Noro as well. This isn’t a yarn that I’ve used, but I noticed a lot of straw on the balls at the LYS, and heard some complaints about it too. Does it seem like they have a lot in their yarn too? Does any of it seem to come out with washing? I think this would drive me nutty(er).

I’ve noticed it in Noro Kureyon, but not a whole lot — when I’ve knitted with Kureyon, I’ve always managed to pick out any bits of straw while knitting.

Non-Wool Yarns for Arans

Thank you all for your great suggestions about non-wool yarns for Arans. I mentioned Rowan Calmer, but totally forgot about Rowan All Seasons Cotton, which a number of you mentioned. Doh!

There were lots of other great suggestions — visit yesterday’s comments to see them all.

I was particularly delighted to read this comment from Meg:
Jaeger has a new dk coming out this spring called Roma, which is a cotton blend with a little lycra built in. I had the opportunity to swatch it before ordering it for the store, and it is simply marvelous! Great stitch definition and feels like you’re knitting with wool.

I can’t wait to see and try out this yarn — it sounds perfect for me!

New Work in Progress

Contrary to what I reported last week, I’m not using the yarn I pictured for my current project. I started with it, but it wasn’t quite right for this project, so ripped it out and started over.

The yarn:


Louet Sales Gems Pearl merino fingering yarn in black and cream.

The project:


A Nordic-inspired pullover of my own design. I’m just beginning the bottom border! Eight stitches to the inch on size 2.5mm needles. Ahhhhh! I’m calling it “Rose.”

The beautiful variegated yarn I’m not using? I’ve got another idea for that!

Lucy’s not telling.


What Goes Down Can Also Go Up

Starsong commented:
You mention it’s easy to downsize Aran sweaters – easy for you, maybe – but how about upsizing them? I have trouble finding even men’s sweater patterns big enough to fit me, let alone something for very Rubinesque ladies like me. Any tips?

Do the opposite of what I suggested for downsizing: add some spacer stitches in-between the cable motifs, and on either side of the sweater.

Penny asked:
OK, here’s my problem. (Blush) I can’t wear wool. I can knit with it but feel terminally scratchy, shivery, and unbearable wearing it, even over a t-shirt. So, I knit with cotton, often Rowan calmer, 1824, or whatever’s interesting online or at my LYS. Can you imagine making an Aran out of cotton? Any alternative suggestions?

Rowan Calmer works very well for cabled designs. You could definitely use that — great stitch definition.

If you wanna make cables from cotton, I’d say in general to go for a cotton blend — a yarn that has something added that will give it some elasticity.

Anyone else have any specific suggestions of yarns for Penny?

Ulli asked:
Since you mentioned Peace Fleece I have a question/comment. I purchased some for a sweater for DH. It has a considerable amount of dirt/dry grass/stuff in it–what the Peace Fleece folks call ‘veg’ and talk like it’s perfectly normal and acceptable. I pick it out as I knit–slowing the process and making it less than fun. I see so many comments about how folks love Peace Fleece, but I’m not so enchanted. Did yours have ‘veg’ and if so what did you do about it if anything?

I last used Peace Fleece in the late 1990s — I think I made that St. Enda in 1998. I don’t remember there being a lot of vm in the Peace Fleece, but it was quite a while (and many sweaters ago) so I can’t say for sure.

However, the Harrisville Flax & Wool that I used for the Halcyon Aran has the most vm I’ve ever seen in a yarn, bar none. What did I do? I picked a lot of it out as I was knitting.

Bits of straw in yarn don’t bother me in the least. If they are soft, I’ll leave them in the yarn. But a lot of the stuff in this yarn was like tiny hard twigs — stuff that would definitely poke you while you were wearing the sweater, so I pulled all the hard bits out as I knitted.

I noticed earlier this week at my lunchtime knitting group that after knitting with this yarn for half an hour, there were little bits of straw and dust all over the table in front of me.

Don’t get me wrong — I really like this yarn. I don’t mind fishing out bits of straw while I knit and I never have. On their website, Harrisville describes it thusly:

A single ply yarn with a loft spun twist that is warm and wonderfully lightweight.

But a word of warning — it’s easy to break the yarn. Well, not so much break, as pull apart. I accidentally did that once during the knitting of this sweater. Not while executing a cable twist, but by pulling on the yarn from the ball when I hadn’t realized I’d sat on it. It didn’t take much pressure to make the yarn just come apart.

Because of this, it occurred to me that this yarn would be totally unsuitable for sewing the garment together. Repeatedly pulling on it with a tapestry needle? Yeah, not so much. So I’m using a much finer wool to sew it together — Rauma Finullgarn. I’m using black — the yarn for the sweater is a very dark green, so that none of the green yarns I had laying around seemed dark enough.


Here’s the saddle, sewn very firmly with the Finullgarn in backstitch:


And here’s the finished sweater.


And the ubiquitous sweater-in-the-mirror shot:


And, of course, the ubiquitous Miss Lucy!


Whoring For Comments: It’s a Good Thing

Because I get to “meet” so many people who in the past have been lurkers!

And it is, after all, National De-Lurking Week.

The 22,000th comment was left by Dene. Woo-hoo!

Dene wins this:


Four skeins of KnitPicks laceweight “Shimmer” in a pretty blue.

Some Aran Questions

There was a question in the comments (though I now can’t find it, of course, so I don’t know who asked it) about how easy it is to size down arans.

It can be pretty easy. Look at my Halcyon Aran in its uncompleted state:


(Please excuse the large furry ass in the photo.)

All the cable patterns are pretty close together, flanking the center large cable. The different sizes are achieved by the number of “plain” stitches on either side of the front and back, and of course on the sleeves.

I’ve made other arans that have more plain stitches in-between the cable motifs, and the number of plain stitches between each motif varied for the different sizes.

For pretty much every aran I’ve made, the cables themselves do not vary in the different sizes, only the “spacer” stitches. (I know I’ve seen at least one that had varying cables, but can’t put my finger on it now).

Lorraine asked:
I’m doing Mariah from Knitty in Elann’s Sierra Aran, and cabling without a cable needle is just killing me with this yarn! I have had no trouble doing it with 100% wools, but the 20% alpaca content makes the yarn just a bit too slippery. Since you’ve made the most incredible cabled sweaters I’ve ever seen, I was wondering if you have any advice on cabling without a cable needle when using slippery yarns.

Are you using metal or wood needles? I highly recommend using wood needles with slippery yarns — the wood “grabs” a little and keeps the yarn in place better.

If you are still having too much trouble with slippage, you might wanna go ahead and use that cable needle. It might make things go faster in the long run!

Denise asked:
My question has to do with yarn – how do you know if a yarn will be good for knitting an aran sweater with? Do you have any favorite brands? Yarn choices are always the hardest for me.

You, of course, want a yarn that has good stitch definition. Nothing nubby or loopy or too fuzzy. And you want a mostly solid color. Heathered yarn is great, but variegated yarn will obsure your cables.

That reminds me of an encounter I had in a lys eons ago. I was buying yarn for an aran and had selected a nice heathered blue. As it happened, the author of a knitting book was in the shop that day, signing copies of her book (which was the reason I went to the shop in the first place). I had met her when she was doing research for her book and she actually remembered me. We were chatting a bit and she asked me what I was going to do with the yarn I had selected. I told her it was for a Starmore aran and she said to me “Why on earth would you buy that plain yarn when you could knit it out of something like this?” And she picked up a skein of a wildly variegated blue/purple yarn.

I was surprised that it wouldn’t occur to her that the yarn was totally inappropriate for an aran.

Anyhow . . . favorite yarns?

I’ve made a number of Starmore Arans that called for Scottish Heather out of Brown Sheep Naturespun Worsted. I love this yarn — cheap, huge palette of colors, and it’s worn very well over the years.

For Starmore Arans that called for Bainin I would substitute Bovidae Farm’s fisherman weight wool — lovely stuff and a great aran yarn! Bovidae Farm sadly does not have a website, but a Google search on their name will get you their contact info.

I used Peace Fleece for one of the Starmore St. Endas that I knitted. Very nice.

And I love the Virtualyarns 3-ply Hebridean that I knitted my last Inishmore from. Love, love, love.

Mary in Maine asked:
Now that you are getting through the sleeves for Halcyon, what will your next project be?? I don’t want to sound demanding (I’ll apologize up front), but when will we see Torino? The Olympic Games begin next month!!

Yup, nearing the finish line on this aran — it’ll be done by early next week, methinks. Sorry — Torino is not next. Torino is in stash and I’ve no immediate plans to knit it.

Next will be one of my own designs that I’m working out. At 8 sts/inch. Here’s the yarn:


Meow, baby!

Kat asked:
Does Lucy ever try to undo your projects? She seems to be the truly perfect cat.

Lucy is, of course, perfect in every way.

Seriously, though, she is very good about leaving my knitting alone — apart from lying on it now and then.

Her worst habit, I think, is her fondness for chewing on plastic bags. She will hunt them out and start chewing on a corner. Over the holidays I gave her a large piece of bubble wrap to play with and she was in kitty heaven!

Lucy did look like SuperCat wearing her little sleeve cape yesterday. But I don’t think I’ll be knitting her a special SuperCat cape any time in the near future.

But here’s her deepest secret revealed:


She likes to dress up and pretend she’s a bride!

ISO: A Gansey or Aran for a Petite Miss

Pam asked:
The person-I-most-enjoy-knitting-for, my 17-year-old daughter, recently asked me to make “one of those white textured sweaters.” Aran or gansey, I thought, I can do that. But as we looked at pictures together, primarily in Alice Starmore books, she — who’s a slim 5′ 3-1/2″ — kept saying that the sweaters were beautiful but too wide and boxey for her.

I ask you, as one of the Queens of Textured Sweater Knitting, if there are any patterns you’d suggest for the petite but not child-sized?

For ganseys, check out this site. They have a pdf version of their catalog you can download, and it looks as though the sizing starts at a 36″ chest measurement.

Beth Brown-Reinsel has a number of beautiful gansey patterns, many that start at 34″. You can’t order from her site, but she lists there many retail outlets that carry her patterns.

As for arans . . .

You might check eBay for vintage knitting patterns. I know Bernat did several pattern booklets of aran designs in the 60s and 70s, and they were sized smaller than the oversized designs you see today. And the ones I’ve seen are pretty classic — they don’t look dated. Check out this one on eBay — it’s one of my old favorites.

Does anyone else have any suggestions for Pam? Please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments.

Speaking of Comments . . .

There were a lot of interesting comments on yesterday’s entry. I do think we can all agree to disagree about process and the disposition of the things we knit. Bottom line as I see it: We are all entitled to do what we like with what we knit. And no one has the right to impose his/her idea of what we should do onto us and pass judgment on us should we not adhere to his/her idea.

I have decided to become the ultimate process knitter. Every night, Penelope-like, I shall unravel what I have knitted during the day.

(Just kidding.)

Speaking of Comments, Part Deux

I’ve just noticed that I’m approaching 22,000 total comments on this blog. If I were not so lame, I would have noticed the 20,000th comment, but alas, it slipped past me. I shall be monitoring the comments closely, and will send a fiber prize to the 22,000th commenter (unless the 22,000th comment is spam, of course). So comment away!

Oh Yeah — Knitting Progress


Hey Lucy, nice sleevage!


And Now For Something Completely Different

LizzyB asked:
On another note, do you ever get frustrated with Lucy’s “help” when you do your make up? I have been having 2 kitties help me lately as opposed to the one I was used to, and it’s more challenging than just one! Just curious of course and kitty help is always appreciated, if not welcome Lucy. Honest! ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh yeah, this is a topic I know something about!

Here’s a snippet from a post I wrote almost exactly two years ago:

I have a lovely antique dressing table that was my grandmother’s, and every morning I sit down at this table, where I have positioned my 5x magnifying mirror, to attempt to apply make-up.

Note to women over 40: 5x (or higher) magnifying mirrors are depressing.

Lucy waits for this moment. As soon as I sit down, she jumps up on the table and immediately turns into a purring, quivering mass of affection. She stretches, she twirls, she butts her head against my hand. Imagine, if you will, attempting to apply eyeliner when suddenly a big furry ass is thrust into your face. The sudden impact of a kitty head against the hand holding the eyeliner. The mirror falling over from another kitty head-butt. I used to use liquid eyeliner. Ha! Not any more, after stabbing myself in the eye with it. I switched to pencil liner, but abandoned that after the first stab.

Now it’s simply eyeshadow applied with my pinky. Mascara? I’m a coward. I apply that standing up.

Update: I’ve gone back to using eyeliner. I now apply eye make-up, standing up, in the bathroom.

Lucy Sez:


“Why doesn’t Momma want my help in applying make-up?”