My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Archives for June 2006

Weather Report From Sleeve Island

Hot and humid, chance of thunderstorms.

But we are careening down the first sleeve towards the cuff. Sleeve the First will be completed this weekend, barring any atrocities. And Sleeve the Second ought to be well underway.


Because Tuesday is Independence Day, I had the foresight to take Monday off from work. Four-day weekend. Woot!

In the photo above, my sleeve is still on the 40cm needle, but it won’t be long before I will have to switch to the 30cm needle.

Jon asked in the comments the other day how I can stand knitting with the 30cm needle. I almost can’t stand it. But I find I do a better job with the 30cm circular needle than dpns for fair isle. And I usually can manage to knit the cuffs with the circular too. It’s just not very pleasant.


In the comments, Susanne asked:
I have been slightly “afraid” of the fairisles with the “stripes” going across my rather ample self. But there are minimal patterns that don’t have some sort of dominant stripe effect?

Hmmmm, most of the fair isles I’ve seen are pretty “stripey” — but some are more monochrome than others. I’ve also seen some lovely fair isles with a vertical rather than horizontal striping pattern — I know there’s at least a couple in Alice Starmore’s Tudor Roses — Henry VIII being one of those.

On another subject . . .

Well, gosh and golly, I do seem to have a lot of sock yarn, don’t I? Yesterday was the first time since I started acquiring the new sock yarn stash that I actually put it all together in one place. It was a bit . . . alarming. Maybe I should slow down a bit.

It just sort of happened, you know? I was on a quest to sample as many different sock yarns as possible. Represented in yesterday’s photo are Lorna’s Laces, Opal, Cherry Tree Hill, Fleece Artist, Lisa Souza, Claudia Handpainted, Socks That Rock, Interlacements Tiny Toes, Schaefer Anne, Sock Hop, Great Adirondacks, Woolarina Handpainted, Dave Daniel’s Cabin Cove . . .

And I’m sure I’m forgetting some.

Lucy is exhausted from striking seductive poses all week for the benefit of my blog. She would bid you a happy weekend — if she were awake.


I particularly like the paw over the nose.


I Can See Clearly Now, The Rain Is Gone

It stopped raining. Alert the media.

It’s been sunny and nice (though still relentlessly humid) all day.


While we have scattered thunderstorms predicted tonight, they are not supposed to be anything compared to what we’ve had over the past few days.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh . . .

Yes, I Tie the Ends Together

No, it is not heresy.

In her Art of Fair Isle Knitting, Ann Feitelson mentions that “Shetlanders break off the old color and do no more than knot the new color to the old one with a square knot leaving an end 1/4 to one inch long.” (page 68) She goes on to explain that the strength of the square know combined with the slight felting of the yarn that occurs when washed make this strong.

And it is one hell of a lot faster than weaving in the billion ends.

So there.


Catspaw mentioned in the comments:
A gazillion years ago at the very first Stitches event, I took a class with Arlene Mintzer who taught us to braid the ends. It’s secure, kinda fun, and gives you a little bit of yarn should you need it for repair. If you’re the daring sort (I’m not) you can pull the braids to the right side for embellishment, though I wouldn’t do it on a fair isle. Of course, I have very long hair so braiding is more agreeable to me than knotting. Just another string to your bow, so to speak.

I actually saw a colorwork vest that Arlene Mintzer made, where she had braided the ends together on the inside, at a class she was teaching at a TKGA convention in the 1980s. It was very pretty, but I don’t think I’d have the patience for it!



Lucy thanks you all for the comments about yesterday’s photo.

She will allow us to pet and rub her tummy — she is very cuddly and welcomes all attention of this sort. She says no, she is not available for parties.

Surprisingly, she is completely oblivious of thunderstorms. I think she’s happy as long as she’s at home with at least one of her humans. She’s the first cat I’ve ever known who wasn’t upset by storms.

But she is terrified of the vacuum cleaner. Go figure.


Sock Yarn

Remember how I gave away all my sock yarn last March? I’ve acquired some since then.


A Tale of Two Needles

It was the best of needles, it was the worst of needles.

We are now on the sleeve knitting portion of our programme.


I picked up the stitches for the sleeve using a 60cm (24″) needle — the armhole was large enough to comfortably accomodate the 60cm needle and I used that to knit the first couple of inches. After that, the sleeve decreases necessitated me switching to a 40cm (16″) needle. Which is where I am now.

At some point, this needle will be too long to use. I will then switch to my trusty little 30cm (12″) Addi Turbo. The 60cm and 40cm needles are ebony, and the 30cm needle is metal, but that’s all I’ve got — my alternative is to knit on dpns, and I prefer to do fair isle on a circular. This is my standard operating procedure for fair isles — the change in needle makes no perceptible change in my knitting.

I tried doing a sleeve on two circulars once and loathed it. For me, it really interrupts the continuity and flow of my knitting. I have not tried the magic loop technique and don’t plan to, because I’m happy with the way I do it now. I firmly maintain that magic looping one’s circulars is hard on the needles anyhow and will weaken the join more quickly.

Just my opinion.

Now, about those ends . . .

I have no steek in which to abandon the ends, so I can’t just leave them flapping in the breeze. I used to weave them in. But for the past few years, I’ve tied ends together in a square knot and trimmed them. This works great for me — they stay put nicely and don’t get in the way.


On to some questions . . .

Laura the Yarn Thrower asked:
If you are picking up the sleeves from the armhole edge, won’t the little “v” parts of the stitches be upside down as compared to those on the front? Generally this would not matter, but in Fair Isle color work, in which the “v” really is distinct and isolated, is that a concern?

Yes, the stitches are upside-down. Does it matter? Not to me. Your mileage may vary.

Marta asked:
What?! You’re knitting the sleeves down from the steek? Don’t you usually knit the sleeves separately?

For traditional Fair Isles the sleeves are knitted from stitches picked up from the armhole down to the cuff. For Dale of Norway sweaters the sleeves are knitted separately and sewn in.

Suzanne asked:
I was wondering what happens to all of the yarn ends when you trim them. I would expect to still see some little ends, but your edge looked so smooth, I couldn’t see any remnants of them. Could you explain how far down you trim them and then what you do with them when you are picking up your stitches?

See? That’s the beauty of shetland wool. Hairy and sticky. I trimmed the ends to the edge of the steek, and it makes a nice uniform edge. I didn’t do anything with them when picking up the stitches. As you pick up stitches, the steek just obediently folds itself down to the inside of your work.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We got even more rain last night, and there is more coming down now — 1-2 inches more predicted. Fun! Up to this point, the Washington DC metropolitan area has gotten 10.27 inches of rain since last Thursday.

The thought of it makes Lucy nuts.


Dude, Where’s My Ark?

Um, yeah. We have been getting some rain. The rain has caused all sorts of transportation hijinks. Mudslide on the Beltway! Constitution Avenue under water! Subway station flooded! I did, however, make it to work with minimal problems. And back home again, which is far more important.

The sky this afternoon:


And then it started raining again.


Some of you expressed confusion in the comments over how (and why) I steeked the band so I could knit it in the round. Okay. This is a v-neck cardi, so you start picking up stitches at the bottom edge of the right side of the front, go up around the neck, and down the other side. You end up with 350+ stitches for the band on your needle. The pattern directs you to work these stitches back and forth — it’s one long row after all. Something I loathe worse than corrugated ribbing? Corrugated ribbing on the wrong side.

So I started out by casting five stitches onto a needle, placing a marker, then I picked up all the stitches for the band, going up the right side, around the neck, and down the left side. When I got to the bottom edge of the left front, I placed a marker and cast on five stitches. Those ten stitches (the five at the beginning and the five at the end) made up the steek. I joined the work, and merrily knit in the round. Well, not merrily because it is, after all, corrugated ribbing. But you know what I mean.

Still confused? Here is a highly technical drawing showing you what I did.


The shaded-in area is the steek.

So, when I finished the knitting and cast off (on Sunday morning), I cut the steek down the center, trimmed it, and carefully sewed it down on the wrong side.

While I was at it, I sewed buttons on the front band (I made buttonholes in one side of the front band, of course), and buttoned Mara up.


L-B, do you recognize these buttons? You gave them to me as a birthday gift ages ago. ๐Ÿ™‚


And on Sunday afternoon, I cut open one armhole steek and started a sleeve. Ta-da!


I do like the little collapsible scissors for cutting steeks. I find that they are sharp enough for steek cutting, and pretty much all knitting-related cutting.

Here’s the sleeve steek from the inside:


And the seam on the outside, showing where I picked up the sleeve stitches:


In answer to some comments questions, no I did not machine stitch the steeks — no finishing at all. Because this is made from shetland wool, which is sticky and hairy, it does not unravel. (You cut through the knitting vertically. If one were to cut horizontally, well, yeah, that would unravel.) After I finished knitting the band, I steamed the band and the steeks well. The steaming on the wrong side of the garment helps the cut steeks to felt a little, further ensuring that they are not going anywhere.

A number of you express disbelief that the cut knitting does not ravel. It does not. If you knit it at the proper gauge from the proper yarn, it does exactly what it is supposed to. So please do not be afraid of steeks. I’ve done fair isle steeks many, many times, and never had one go awry.

By the way, Dave, no that was not the Seinfeld puffy shirt I was wearing in yesterday’s blog entry. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ooh, almost forgot — I did finish a sock on Friday:


Socks That Rock in the Falcon’s Eye colorway. The leg is done in a fern lace pattern.



A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

Warning: Picture heavy post ahead! Worth about 14,000 words, I’d say.

Mara front:


Mara back:


Mara back neck steek:


Mara from the inside:


Starting the steek cutting:






And more:


It’s cut!


Now, to trim the ends off the steek:


Steek droppings!


The cut edge from the inside:


After this, I picked up the stitches for the band. Being a sneaky sort, I steeked the bottom of the front band so I could knit it in the round.


Lucy relaxing:


Big thanks to the KOARC for taking the steek cutting photos! And for picking up the steek droppings. ๐Ÿ˜‰