Archives for posts with tag: knitpicks

I was interested to see today that Knit Picks is continuing their expansion into the cult classic yarns market with a knockoff of Rowan Kidsilk Haze called Aloft. $6.99 for a 25 g skein–about half the price of Kidsilk Crack. I wonder how it compares with Elann’s longtime contender, Silken Kydd? Or Artfibers Tsuki? Or Shibui Silk Cloud? (oops–edited table to add Lion Brand Silk Mohair, which I’d forgotten)

All pre-packaged yarns weigh 25g Rowan Kidsilk Haze Elann Silken Kydd Knit Picks Aloft Artfibers Tsuki Shibui Silk Cloud LB Silk Mohair
Mohair/silk ratio 70/30 70/30 75/25 60/40 60/40 70/30
Yardage 229 yds 232 yds 246 yds n/a, sold by the yard 330 yds 231 yds
Super kid mohair specified in fiber content? Y Y N Y Y Y
Suggested gauge 18-24 sts/4” 18-24 sts/4” Not specified 22 sts/4” 20 sts/4” 17 sts/4”
Suggested needles US 3-8 US 2-6 Not specified US 6 US 7 US 8
Colors 31 currently listed 7 currently in stock 15 currently listed 19 currently listed 13 currently listed 6 currently listed
Price $14.95 $6.50 $6.99 n/a, sold by the yard $17.00 $8.00
Price per yard 6.5 cents 2.8 cents 2.8 cents 4 cents undyed, 5 cents dyed 5.2 cents 3.5 cents


  • KSH has the best color selection but is also crazy expensive (in case you hadn’t noticed).
  • Tsuki has a more limited color range, but is also the only one that offers hand-dyed multicolors
  • Tsuki and Silk Cloud have the highest silk content, Aloft has the lowest
  • Silk Cloud is sold in the highest-yardage putup
  • I don’t think the suggested gauge or needles are significant–I’m sure these are all interchangeable
  • I’m not sure if the lack of “super kid” designation on Aloft was intentional. Maybe it’s scratchier than the others?
  • Silken Kydd is the cheapest per skein
  • However, Silken Kydd and Aloft are the same price per yard
  • Knit Picks offers free shipping for orders over $50, and shipping is pretty darn cheap even when you have to pay for it, so once you factor that in, it’s probably the cheapest choice by far… on the other hand, Shibui and KSH are sold through retailers instead of direct to consumer, so you have a better chance of finding random sales or discount codes than with the other yarns
  • Silk Cloud seems the most expensive but is actually quite a bit cheaper than KSH once you look at the yardage

EDIT: Feb 22, KP confirmed that Aloft also uses super kid mohair!

Here are some projects I’ve made with

Honestly, though, I couldn’t tell you the difference between any of them unless I had them side by side.

I haven’t yet had the pleasure of a whole project with Silk Cloud, Lion Brand Silk Mohair, or, obviously, Aloft.

Next I hope Knit Picks comes out with a knockoff of Rowan Calmer!

Edited for full, FCC-compliant disclosure: after I wrote this post, the folks at Knit Picks kindly sent me 3 skeins of green Aloft yarn for free! (I didn’t know they were going to do that when I wrote it.)

I have a new hat pattern up! I present: Lumi.

red lumi hat, modeled

This one has been in the works for a while. I knit the first version a bit more than a year ago. In the last year, I submitted it to Knitty, got rejected, had it test knit by the ever-helpful test knitter extraordinaire Deb, reknit it myself, pondered what to do with it for a while… and, because the timing and my plans for it worked out, finally decided to submit it to the new Knit Picks Independent Designer Partnership.

It’s an interesting program, mutually beneficial to smaller-scale independent designers and Knit Picks. All patterns are sold for $1.99, which is a low price, but the designer gets 100% of the proceeds, presumably higher volume via the exposure from KP, an advance on pattern sales, and is free to sell the pattern on their own site as well. The only caveat is that the pattern must be knit up in a Knit Picks yarn. So I thought I would give it a try and see how it goes.

(report on its success to date: the pattern, an instant download in both places, has been up on KP and in Ravelry for a day and so far, I’ve sold a few copies via Ravelry, none via KP… I noticed the patterns are added to the IDP section with the best-sellers on the front page by default, which biases browsing pattern-buyers towards the patterns that are already established and popular, so I guess it will take a bit of time for anything to start coming through.)

Anyway, they liked the pattern, and so I had to reknit it in a Knit Picks yarn. They gave me a choice of yarns and colors, and I hemmed and hawed between Gloss Heavy Worsted (wool-silk) and Andean Silk (alpaca-silk-wool), and finally decided to go with the latter, in a nice bright red color, Cranberry. It’s soft, and has a beautiful sheen from the silk. I knit it on size 6 needles, which keeps the fabric fairly tight and helps give the scallops better stitch definition.

The pattern includes charts and written directions for 3 sizes: Child’s (20″ circumference), Women’s Small (21″, which I’m modeling), and Women’s Large (24″). It’s easy, and a quick knit–you’ll need to know how to knit, purl, YO, k2tog, ssk, and knit through the back loop.

As for the name: as the pattern blurb mentions, “I knit up the first version of this hat in the dead of winter, while making my way through Bill Willingham’s Fables comic book series, which follows the adventures of various characters from fairy tales and folklore living in exile in the middle of New York City. Since the Snowdrift stitch pattern at the lower edge of the hat was adapted from the traditional Frost Flowers lace pattern, I decided to name the hat Lumi, after Willingham’s Snow Queen character, whose given name is the Finnish word for snow.”

The red Andean Silk hat is beautiful, but I admit that in the end, my favorite photos of the hat were the ones I had taken of the previous version, knit up in white:

I also liked this picture a lot. It was a good concept, but it’s a terrible picture for showing off the hat details. Just pretend you’re looking at a Rowan magazine or Scarf Style or something. Details? Who needs details when you’ve got art?

So there you go. Lumi! If you decide to knit one up, you can get the pattern via Knit Picks or buy now from Ravelry. If you head over to Knit Picks to browse the IDP patterns, make sure to check out Through the Loops‘s gorgeous Andrea’s Shawl, and Stephannie Tallent’s various sock patterns hilariously co-modeled by a blue-eyed Siamese cat embracing the bestockinged foot and gazing up at the camera.

…because I got about halfway up the foot of my sock last night, decided tonight that I’d try it on, and realized it probably wasn’t a good idea to have lace on the SOLE of the sock as well as the instep. Frogging again. Bah.

A few new fun yarn things on the internet I looked at to cheer myself up:

The new Twist Collective is up! I’m especially fond of (read: absolutely crazy about) Sylvi, Heroine, and Broderie. And are Elli‘s Lotus Leaf mittens not an absolute work of art? I love the bright red against the semi-solid blue. I have to keep reminding myself that about 10 lbs of nearly-done sweater coat are waiting for me in the other room, whispering “buuuutton baaaaands…. buuuutton baaaaaands… kniiiiit meeeee…”

Knitpicks has a new website design!

And so does WEBS!

Planning for the winter holidays is kicking my butt. Rahul and I and my family are going to Asia around Christmas/New Year’s and have spent an ungodly amount of money and I don’t even have all my plane tickets yet. (We’re taking ELEVEN flights! It goes a little something like this: Madison-Chicago, Chicago-San Francisco, SF-Hong Kong, HK-Phnom Penh, PP-Siem Reap, SR-PP, PP-Hanoi, Hanoi-HK, HK-SF, SF-Denver, Denver-Madison.) I’ll get to see Angkor Wat, which is one of those places, like Petra, that I’ve always wanted to see, so it’s worth those extra 4 flights within Asia… but just barely. It’s just about a month and a half away, and I still need to get my visas and vaccinations and buy my plane tickets and book our hotels. Despite all the money and planning stress, I have faith that it will be an awesome vacation, and it will be a really nice getaway from the Wisconsin snow.

As if that weren’t enough stress, we’re also currently looking for housing for next fall. The search starts early around here. Some people randomly came up to my door today and said the property management company had said they could just “come by and took a look around.” I was pretty ungracious about this, but since I was actually showered and dressed, I let them in to take a quick look, and then called the property management company and gave them a piece of my mind about it.

I would be happy to stay where we are, but we’re pretty sure we can find someplace decent with cheaper rent, so we’re trying to find someplace new. The funny thing about this all is that we’re paying $200 a month less than what we paid for our crappo apartment in Berkeley 5+ years ago (the one with plywood doors and a Swamp Thing carpet and a nice view on Sunday mornings straight into the dump truck that would come take all the dog and cat corpses away from the vet hospital across the street). That was a bargain apartment, too, because it had been handed from tenant to tenant and so it had been rent-controlled for years.

I have two new finished objects to show you, both made from Knit Picks Cotlin yarn in Moroccan Red, an inexpensive DK weight cotton-linen blend. I blogged about it before here, when I made a Bainbridge Scarf with it for my friend Jeanne.

Now that I’ve used it a bit more, some further thoughts: the color of this yarn is lovely and bright, and the yarn is pretty soft and drapey as far as I can tell. The two things I disliked about it were the occasional long, pokey fibers I would have to pull out of the yarn, presumably bits of flax, and its tendency to shed red fuzz as I was knitting with it (mentioned in my last post). It made me feel sneezy, and if I washed my hands after knitting with it for a while, little red fuzz pills would rub off my palms. These skeins seemed less fuzzy than the one I knit before–maybe it’s the effect of aging the yarn a bit.

I was undecided before, but I’ve decided I like it after all and I would use it again, especially since they’ve added a bunch of new colors that are right up my alley. Of the old ones, only this red and the natural linen color really appealed to me. Maybe Nightfall. But I wasn’t crazy about the sherbet colors like coral and turquoise. I love all the new ones, though–Coffee, Glacier, and Kohlrabi are all beautiful.

The Cotlin yarn for these two new FOs and the Bainbridge scarf is all from the same batch. I got it from chemgrrl, who bought too much for her super-adorable Cherry sweater. I was curious about it, so she gave me the skein I made into the Bainbridge scarf, and then she swapped me the sweater quantity, plus some mohair, for some Elann Den-m-nit
I had so she could make a jacket or something for her small niece.

I had it lined up for a lobster for a friend’s baby, but I’ll have to find a different red yarn for that, because the Cotlin is now all used up!

First up, Rusted Root! (Wow, it’s been ages since I’ve done a proper FO post)

Pattern: Rusted Root, from Zephyr Style, given to me as a Random Act of Kindness by knottygnome
Size made: Small (for 32-35″ bust), although my gauge wound up being off and the sweater measured about 34″ before blocking when it should have been 32″. Not that the pattern tells you this, of course.
Yarn used: Knit Picks Cotlin, Moroccan Red, approximately 4.5 skeins
Needles used: US size 7/4.5 mm Denises for most of the sweater; US size 3/3.25 mm for the ribbing on the sleeves
Date started: May 5, 2008
Date finished: May 11, 2008
Mods: More tedious details about size and yarn usage can be found on the Ravelry page. I started with the neckline ribbing (since you pick up the same number of stitches as you cast on, in the same ratio, without short rows or any such things going on, I see no particular reason to pick up the neckline later) and worked 5 rows instead of 3, using the larger needles instead of going down a size. I did paired M1 increases around the raglan seam lines (lift from back and knit through front loop, k2, lift from front and knit through back loop).

I totally reworked the waist shaping, and then my gauge was off and I was unable to finish my reworked shaping scheme anyway–after I’d worked only 3 sets of hip increases out of my desired 5, the sweater was long enough and I decided to stop.

I also put in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s phoney seams on the sides before starting the ribbing.

I knit the neck and hip ribbing (about 9 rows) on size 7 needles, since I didn’t want them to draw in particularly, then knit the sleeve ribbing for 5 rows on size 3’s (I used k1fb to increase one on each sleeve to make the k2, p1 ribbing pattern work properly).

I used a sewn bindoff for the sleeves to make them stretchy, and a suspended bindoff in rib for the hip (since I hate sewing with that long, long tail over long distances… I really should have used the sewn bindoff at the hip, too; it could definitely be stretchier, but it’s not terrible as is, either.)

I hope to have more photos later. It’s unblocked and hot off the needles in this photo (so it’s all uneven and lumpy, and it’s being worn over a clearly unsuitable tunic top instead of a camisole).

The thing is, I committed a Cardinal Sin of knitting with this sweater. I didn’t knit or wash my swatch the way I would wash my finished garment–I knit a flat swatch instead of one in the round (hence the aforementioned gauge issues), then hand-washed and laid it flat instead of machine-washing and drying. Then I finished the sweater and threw it in the washer and dryer. We’ll see what happens! Hopefully I can still wear the sweater afterwards. It seems silly to have to hand-wash and flat dry what is essentially a t-shirt, so if it’s not easy care, I guess I might as well find out now instead of after it’s a cherished essential piece in my wardrobe and I accidentally toss it in the hamper. Anyway, I did read up on it beforehand and people have said it tightens up a bit and takes very well to machine washing. Not sure about drying. If it’s a disaster, I surely will have notes on it in the near future–it’s in the dryer as I type this. Wish me luck!

While I think the finished top is really cute, I did find the pattern kind of weird and annoying to work with at certain points, for a few minor reasons. Believe me, I totally understand the headaches of trying to sort these things out when drafting a pattern, and I don’t think I could do any better (people who live in glass houses shouldn’t point fingers at other people’s pattern-writing abilities!) but nonetheless, should you be in the market for Zephyr Style patterns and wondering about how they’re written, let me tell you what my gripes with this were:

  • No schematics in the pattern. This is the biggest annoyance. I couldn’t decide if I should make the XS or the S (since both cover a 32” bust)–seems like the S gives a 32” actual bust size, meaning negative ease if you’re on the larger end of the range. I wasn’t sure if the sleeves would actually fit over my biceps (thankfully, they did)–I had an issue with the sleeves being too tight on my Green Gable and had to redo my bind-offs on that top before I could actually wear it. There is also no information about the intended or modeled ease.
  • No stitches put on hold/cast on at the underarm. Just a note, not a gripe (yet). I’ve just seen the put 8%-of-underarm-stitches-on-hold thing in numerous patterns, though I’m not sure what type of functional difference it makes in the fit. I’ll see how it fits when it’s done and washed.
  • Asymmetrical waist shaping decreases. OK, actually, there’s nothing wrong with this, but I kind of like symmetrical ssk/k2tog shaping on either side of a seam instead of using just k2tog on one side of the seam.
  • Very sparse with the stitch counts. I’m pretty sure I got it right, but it would have been very helpful to see a detailed breakdown of stitch counts in the puff sleeve increase/decrease sections in particular so I could easily double-check my work and see if everything was OK. I’m not personally bothered by the lack of information about the increase rounds, as I’m capable of figuring out the number of increases per increase round from looking at the directions, but a beginner might have issues.
  • The lace is not charted out, and sl1-k1-psso is written as 3 separate steps (separated by commas) which confuses me since the 3 steps consume 2 stitches and result in 1 stitch. I prefer seeing it written using hyphens/dashes. In any case, I rewrote it using ssk.
  • The lace also calls for you to read your knitting on every other round, knitting into the knit stitches and YOs and purling into the purls. I don’t mind this, but again, if you’re a beginner, it might be easier to have it specified as “Row 10: K7, p2, k6” etc.
  • As someone’s notes somewhere on the internet point out (I can’t find them now, of course), the poof in the sleeves tends to vanish for many people, probably because of the tiered increases–i.e. XS and S have the same number of increases for the puffed sleeves, meaning the XS sleeves will be puffier than the S in proportion to the rest of the sweater, and the same deal for M/L, XL/XXL. We’ll see how mine come out. I don’t have my heart set on it either way.
  • Not a lot of information about the techniques they use. M1 is specified as Make One, but there are at least 4 different actual increases that could mean. The instructions for knitting the sleeves on two circulars are very sparse (they tell you to divide the stitches onto two circulars and knit in the round, but I can see this potentially causing issues for a beginner who wasn’t familiar with the technique). No cast-on is specified, even though they specify that you should use the backwards loop cast-on in their FAQ because apparently a lot of people were having issues with their necklines or underarm seams binding because the cast-on wasn’t stretchy enough.

It’s been ages since I made Green Gable, but I remember having some of the same issues with that top as well.

Anyway–I’m excited about wearing it, so thank you again for the pattern, knottygnome! I desperately hope it fits when it comes out of the dryer.

I had a bit of the yarn left over, about half a skein, so I cast on for a dishcloth.

Pattern: Yvonne’s Double Flower Cloth
Yarn used: Knit Picks Cotlin, Moroccan Red, approximately 1 skein
Needles used: A set of 5 US size 8/5 mm bamboo DPNs (sort of annoying–they kept falling out of the stitches. Two circs or magic loop would be easier to deal with)
Date started: May 12, 2008
Date finished: May 13, 2008

Mods: I was trying to use up the half-skein of yarn left over from my Rusted Root–I ran out of yarn at row 31 and had to rummage around to find the other half-skein of yarn left over from the Bainbridge Scarf so I could finish the cloth. I had some left over, so I knit a little garter stitch loop to use for hanging the cloth up to dry (just cast on 3 sts, knit every row for maybe 2 inches, folded it over, picked up stitches from the base of the loop and knit them together with the live stitches) and used the rest of the yarn to single-crochet around the outer border of the washcloth. Also, I used a lighter weight yarn and larger needles than recommended.
Notes: I don’t know the last time I spent so little time on a project and wound up with something so pretty and functional! Again, this photo is before washing and drying the cloth, so the knitting isn’t terribly even-looking. I think this is a great pattern, though–very easy to follow and fast to knit, with beautiful results.

I’ve finally published the pattern for Prickle, just a week under the wire for Malabrigo March. I thought I’d have enough time to do another scarf pattern, too, but it’s just not going to happen in the next week. No time!

You can see the extended pattern description and lots of pictures on the pattern page. The pattern is $4 and can be purchased through Ravelry downloads (preferred) or through Payloadz, if you don’t have a Ravelry account.

Here’s my test knitter Deb’s version, with the lace edging, knit in one skein of Malabrigo merino worsted in Fucsia (sic; I’m spelling it the way Malabrigo does on their site). That scenic waterfront vista, if you can believe it, is the scene outside her LYS in British Columbia, and sometimes they see orcas in the harbor. We need more orcas in Indiana, if you ask me.

The short version of the description is this: Prickle is a moebius cowl in a reversible Porcupine Lace stitch, designed to use less than 100 g/220 yards of worsted-weight yarn, and finished with a sideways knit-on edging. Two edging variations are provided: a plain garter stitch edging, or a frilly, scalloped lace edging (as shown above).

It’s been interesting to me to see the differences in the same pattern in different yarns. I knit the two pattern variations in three different yarns: Malabrigo Merino Worsted in Red Mahogany, Noro Silk Garden in color 269 (with a stripe of white Plymouth Baby Alpaca Brush), and Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Lavender Mix.

Each yarn has its pros and cons, and plays certain features of the pattern up or down by its color and nature:

I think Silk Garden is the attention-grabbing yarn of the bunch. I’d like to see how this pattern comes out in a brighter colorway. The stripes really play up the bands of stockinette and reverse stockinette lace and the gentle, undulating waves of the Porcupine Stitch pattern. I took it off and threw it on the floor near the hamper the other night, and the next day paused to admire the way the creamy, natural colors looked against the beige carpet. Even framed by dirty socks and piles of books, it’s striking, sculptural.

I really designed the pattern for Malabrigo, and the feel of this yarn is the most soft and luxurious of the three versions. My everyday scarf is partly knit from Northampton, a workhorse wool, which, while not scratchy, is not really a sensual pleasure to wear. When I wear the Malabrigo Prickle, I am constantly surprised and distracted by the sheer delicious softness of the yarn when I turn my head and my cheek or neck brushes against the cowl. This is the Calgon of yarns. Malabrigo, take me away!

The interesting thing about Malabrigo is that it has more body and more memory than the other yarns. (I guess that’s something you can reasonably expect from a merino wool as opposed to a silk and mohair or alpaca blend.) It was the only one of the three versions that didn’t feel right when pulled up over my hair like a hood or wimple–not enough drape, not enough stretch.

I think the semi-solid colorway of Red Mahogany gives it a really pretty, organic look when combined with the stitch patterns–like shelf fungus, if that doesn’t sound too gross. The shapes of the individual lace repeats are obscured by this colorway, but Malabrigo (like other hand-dyed or kettle-dyed yarns) looks really nice in garter and reverse stockinette stitch–the lace alternates between stockinette-based and reverse stockinette-based bands, and the edging is garter stitch.

The Ultra Alpaca is the plainest (the only one of the trifecta that nobody has favorited on Ravelry) but its worsted spin and plied construction give it wonderful stitch definition for lace, and the colors are great. I’m really impressed with it. I’m not going to double-post the overhead picture from yesterday, but it’s one of my favorites; taken in bright sunlight on a white backdrop, you can really see the intricate, dimensional curves of the stitches and the interesting shadows they cast. Aside from porcupine paws, the spiky stockinette parts remind me of flowers, or maybe agave plants.

So that’s that. I keep wanting to cast on more of these to see what happens in different yarns (I was thisclose to making one more in Patons SWS in Natural Earth) but I’m going to have to put this pattern down for a bit and work on something else.

Brief joke interlude: (from Mental Floss’s finalists for Best Pun in the World):Q: What do you get after playing the lute for 10 hours straight?

A: Minstrel cramps.

Kalani alerted me to the fact that Knit Picks has posted a bunch of new yarns. The ones I’m most excited about (but go look at the page for yourself–there are plenty of others):

  • New colors of Cotlin: Glacier, Kohlrabi, and Coffee are my favorites
  • Gloss lace yarn. The photos seem a little flash-heavy, but I think Cypress seems like a really pretty color.
  • Comfy, a cotton/acrylic blend. I’m really curious to see how light and stretchy this is. When they say it has “elasticity,” is it stretchy along the lines of Rowan Calmer, or more like Lion Brand Cotton-Ease? I love the muted colors.
  • New colors of Gloss Sock. These are beautiful–Cosmos in particular looks wonderfully moody and smoky
  • New colors of Shine Sport. I’ve been looking unsuccessfully for appropriate yarn for the Somewhat Cowl for approximately forever. Could Shine Sport in Fedora be the holy grail? I’m not going to bet on it, but there’s a possibility. I am so thrilled with all these new dark-chocolate browns and murky purples in KP yarns.

The Earth and Sky Brioche scarf has been done for a while now, since my trip to San Diego, but it went straight from the needles to my neck and is only now being Eucalan’d and wet-blocked. I thought I’d share pictures of it. It’s already one of my most-loved and most-worn handknits.

Pattern: Two-color brioche scarf pattern found at Run and Not Grow Weary

Yarn used: 1 skein Plymouth Boku in colorway 7 (mixed blues), approximately 1/4 skein Valley Yarns Northampton in “Chestnut Heather,” and approximately 1/2 skein Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in “Chocolate”

Needles used: US size 10/6.00 mm

Started: November 13, 2007

Finished: November 18, 2007

Size: 4″ x 59″, pre-blocking

Mods: Cast on 20 stitches instead of 15

Notes: I am so pleased with this scarf. I think it’s a strong contender as the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made, entirely due to the amazing colors in the Boku combined with the rich, dark chocolate browns of the contrasting yarns. Because of the way the pattern looks–it has an appearance of vertical brown stripes on one side with a receding blue background between them, and vertical blue stripes with receding brown on the other–it looks best when messy, folded, and crumpled, so you can see both sides of the scarf, and so that the contrasting color glows through where the brioche ribs are stretched or folded apart. Every time I see this scarf thrown off and lying in a heap on a chair or the bed, I feel like I’ve caught a glimpse of some rare rainforest butterfly, like Morpho Eugenia, resting for a minute.

In motion…

At rest.

However, I don’t know if everyone really agrees with me. I didn’t get any compliments on this scarf while out and about in New York, even when I wore it into knitting shops, where normally people are zealously eager to locate and compliment any knitted items on your body, whether you made them or not. (Maybe people in New York are too cool for that?) I feel like that’s a sign that this scarf is not really as great as all that, but I love it anyway. I don’t feel like the pictures have entirely captured its beauty, but perhaps I am always going to feel that way about it, like the mother of a mule-faced child.

I described it as chocqua when I first cast on, but that’s not really accurate. The blue ranges from aqua to cobalt, cornflower, violet, lapis lazuli, and turquoise, but unfortunately, that range of colors doesn’t easily lend itself to a snappy portmanteau.

I used the leftover Northampton from my two recent hats (Northampton is on sale at WEBS right now, by the way, $3.69 a skein for 247 yards!) until I ran out, then striped in a slightly lighter shade of brown, Wool of the Andes in “Chocolate.” You can see the stripes in the middle of this picture:

When I was arranging the scarf around my neck for the photos, I realized that the brioche stitch had resulted in some severe biasing. I am very curious about why this might be, since the stitch structure doesn’t seem like it should inherently lean in one direction or the other–you’re doing the same thing on both sides, just with different colors, so it seems like it should self-correct any bias–but it’s really pronounced, as you can see in the picture below. Those pointy scarf ends started out rectangular! I asked about it on Ravelry, and hopefully someone will have some insight.

Anyway, I finished You Bastard and cast on for a new project.

Installment the Third of my stash enhancement begins with these two skeins of bright red Nashua Cilantro, a smooth, matte, stretchy aran-weight cotton/poly blend picked up from the sale bin at Uncommon Threads ($5 a skein):

I’m making Elizabeth Zimmermann’s February Baby Sweater from Knitter’s Almanac for my cousin’s baby. They’re adopting her from China and bringing her home this Christmas. She’s a little less than a year old and is apparently very tiny. I am planning to knit the body first and adjust for short sleeves if I start to run out of yarn. Also, since she’s a toddler, I’m going to put some pearl snaps on to close the sweater, instead of buttons. This is probably overkill, but I worry.

Los Altos has two yarn shops right around the corner from one another: Full Thread Ahead and Uncommon Threads. Apparently, they only have one brand in common. The vibe at the two stores is very different; Full Thread Ahead seems like it caters to a younger crowd, with lots of unusual brands and fibers and handpainted yarns (SWTC, Curious Creek Fibers, Interlacements…) I liked the vibe in there, but actually found it sort of hard to find something in my price range that I was crazy about. I eventually found their cache of repackaged Southwest Trading Company Optimum mill ends (it’s called Jewels, and they have both DK and worsted weight) and bought a couple of skeins for a Drifting Pleats scarf:

Uncommon Threads seems much older and stodgier. I felt like I had to whisper in the store, and stand up straight. But their selection of yarns was much more appealing to me–lots of traditional stuff like Rowan, Classic Elite, and various Shetland yarns. And a big wall of Koigu! Along with the aforementioned Cilantro, I got a skein of beautiful semi-solid Classic Elite Waterlily for a new pair of fingerless mitts, or maybe a hat.

classic elite waterlily

So that’s that. Time to try and get a few more rows done on this baby sweater. I’m kind of concerned that the skein I’m knitting from is already looking alarmingly skimpy, and I’m not even done with the garter yoke yet.

P.S. Today it snowed a tiny bit. The first snow of the year, as far as I know! I guess I shouldn’t be too excited. There’s plenty more where that came from…

It sank in on Thursday that three friends of mine were having a joint birthday party on Saturday evening and we had nothing to give them. Instead of running out and purchasing some novelty talking hamsters or somesuch, I had this bright idea that I was going to knit three presents in three days.

So without further ado, here’s how I spent my knitting time in the 72 hours from Thursday night to Saturday night:

Thursday night: Cast on for Giftblitz ’07 Gift #1: Steve’s Lopi Hat. Knit stockinette in the round all through knit night, then went home and knit for a few more hours while reading in bed. Finished around midnight and went to sleep.

Pattern: the Garter-Brim variation of Kim’s Hat from Last Minute Knitted Gifts
Size: Women’s; 3.5 sts/inch/5 rows/inch, approx 23″ around, 9.5″ deep.
Yarn used: Reynolds Lopi in Earth Red, approximately 1 skein
Needles used: Size 9 Denises, 16″
Started: 10/11/07
Finished: 10/11/07, for a total of about 5-6 hrs knitting
Mods: My gauge was off, so the women’s size made a large, roomy hat. I knit garter stitch for about 2″, then knit to about 7″ before starting crown decreases. I left out two of the plain knit rounds between decrease rounds, and k2tog’d all around the last round so I had 10 sts left when I drew the top closed.
Notes: I think the Kim’s Hat pattern as written might make an excessively deep hat for most people. If/when I make it again, I’ll be careful about how long I make it before beginning crown decreases.
Verdict: Despite Steve’s man-sized cabeza, I think the hat was still a bit too big for him, but he seemed to like it. This yarn is rather itchy, but I am very fond of the colors–the way they go from deeply saturated, almost shining deep red to a pale, almost silvery pink.

Friday: At lunchtime, I cast on for a Bainbridge Scarf for Jeanne, using the partial red Knitpicks Cotlin skein Leigh gave me to try out, and white kitchen cotton for edgings. I knit for a while, then picked it up again after work while watching seasons 2 and 3 of Firefly and finished around 10 PM Friday night–total knitting time probably 5 hours.

Pattern: Bainbridge Scarf
Size: Finished dimensions ended up being about 5″ by 26″, with 7″ ties.
Yarn used: Knitpicks Cotlin in Moroccan Red, perhaps 3/4 of a skein, Lily Sugar ‘n’ Cream in white, much less than 1 skein
Needles used: Size 6 Denises, 16″
Started: 10/12/07
Finished: 10/12/07
Mods: I cast on only 130 sts to compensate for the differing gauge with the slightly larger needles, and knit about 4-5 rows of white yarn at the beginning and end of the piece to create a contrast color edging.
Notes: This is such a cute pattern! I want to make one of these for myself, perhaps using one skein of some cuddly and expensive solid-colored yarn. I would probably make the circumference a bit smaller, though the extra folded-over length seems like it would be good for tucking into the neck of a jacket. I am kind of undecided about the Cotlin. It seemed nice to knit with at first, but all this red fuzz came off the yarn and got all over my hands and my face and made me sneeze. I thought perhaps it was cat hair on the yarn, until I rubbed my hands together and giant red lintballs stuck together with sweat came off my palms.
Verdict: It looked very cute on Jeanne! I sort of wished in retrospect I’d chosen a different contrast color. Red and white has too many other meanings attached to it. I started out thinking of Dr. Seuss, then, as I was knitting, my thoughts progressed to IU’s school colors, cream and crimson, then, when I was about 3/4 of the way through, the words “Santa Claus” slowly, horrifyingly, made their way into my mind, and it was a great effort to try and see the cute and modern color combination I had envisioned originally.

Friday night: After finishing Jeanne’s scarf, I cast on for a basketweave neckwarmer for Charlie. That was it for knitting that evening, since I headed out for some drinks after that, but it was a productive day anyway.

Saturday: I finished Charlie’s neckwarmer in the afternoon, after this cool encounter at the farmer’s market. I stopped by to fondle the handspun bulky yarn at the Schacht Fleece Farm stall, and as I was talking to the woman there she said she had read my blog! They looked up their farm name the other day and of course, since I’d blogged about the open house farm visit (as did Elliphantom and chemgrrl) my site came up.

Pattern: My own. In a fit of creativity, I’m calling it the Giftblitz Basketweave Neckwarmer (click for pattern instructions).
Size: One size fits all!
Yarn used: Knitpicks Cadena in Mist Gray, approximately 1/2 skein (~55 yards)
Needles used: Size 11 Denises
Started: 10/12/07
Finished: 10/13/07, probably about 3-4 hours of knitting
Notes: A super-quick, easy, and thrifty gift. The Cadena is squishy and nice, but I think many people would find it a bit itchy against the neck. I didn’t have time to block it; I bet some Eucalan would help tame the itchies.
Verdict: I think this was the most popular gift I gave. Rahul requested one too, once they saw that it could be pulled up around the face for biking in the cold in addition to pushed down around the neck to keep it warm, and Charlie’s girlfriend Carol immediately stole it and wore it for the rest of the evening like a headband, Calorimetry-style.

Off-topic notes on Firefly, since I was watching it while knitting. I love Buffy, and started getting into Joss Whedon’s other work only after I ran out of Buffy episodes to watch. I think Angel and Firefly are definitely inferior to Buffy, but I grew to enjoy them both–Angel came first, as a natural progression. I watched the whole series over this last summer. (The puppet episode was one of my favorite of the series. Brilliant!)

I watched Serenity at some point, probably when I found the DVD at the library, and found it disjointed and hard to follow. It seemed really obvious to me that it was a continuation of a TV series rather than a movie that could stand well on its own. I think I’d really like to go back and re-watch it, though, after finishing the rest of Firefly.

I was totally underwhelmed when I watched Disc 1 of Firefly–completely bored throughout the pilot, and thinking the whole way through of how baffling Whedon fanboys/girls were, to build up a cult following around this show. I thought grimly, though, of how terrible Buffy Season 1 was compared to, say, Season 5, and soldiered on through the rest of the disc. By Disc 2, I was finding myself really liking the characters, settings, and stories, though the forced affectation of “gorram” still makes my skin crawl.

Some of my favorite scenes so far include the “Too much hair!” sequence, Kaylee’s throwaway line, “He makes everyone cry, he’s like a monster!” and the scene between Mal and Inara at the end of “Our Mrs. Reynolds.” And by the time “Out of Gas” rolled around, it was deeply heart-warming and satisfying to see everyone’s backstories.

The Chinese is abysmal. I think the only intelligible word I’ve heard so far out of anyone’s mouth is “go-se,” which I am thinking is probably “dog shit.” I can’t figure out anything else they’re saying. It’s not just that I don’t know the words they’re using; I have no idea what syllables and tones they’re trying to produce. Just a minor complaint. I appreciate the integration of Chinese into this space western. I was going to say into a sci-fi movie in general, but then I started thinking of Blade Runner (look at that insane metal suitcase box set!) and Naboo and decided that Exotic Asian is already totally an old motif in futuristic sci-fi. Let’s see some more Exotic South American or Exotic East African or something.

I’m done with the left Selbuvotter mitten! I’m currently trying to block it into submission–I steam-ironed it after finishing the main knitting, just to see how it looked, and found that steam does amazing, wonderful things for stranded colorwork. It was so flat and beautiful! Now the ends are woven in, and it’s soaking in Eucalan.

I’ll definitely have to break into my second skein of cream-colored Telemark, but I’m hoping the black skein lasts through the rest of the second mitten.
Problems thus far:

  • I somehow missed two sets of palm decreases and had to sharply decrease towards the top of the palm. The messed-up area with its little jog is kind of visible on the palm side of the band. Also, I somehow missed the instructions to ssk/k2tog in MC in the beginning of the book, and just did it in whatever chart color presented itself. I didn’t realize the decrease lines would visually align themselves with the side bands rather than the This led to some sort of ugly bits where the black seems accidental.
  • I can’t ever seem to get the tension right in the area between needles, so the side bands are all weirdly puckery.
  • Screwed up a few sts on the palm and duplicate-stitched over them.
  • Also screwed up a bit in the palm pattern on the thumb, but it’s the inside of the thumb, and it looks more or less right, so I’m not fixing it.
  • Nota bene: There’s a tiny error in the chart: the left-hand band chart is missing two black sts, 4 rows down from the top. It’s obvious which ones they are, but beware.

Other Notes
As far as fit, they’re perhaps an inch too long in the fingers, but pretty much perfect in the thumb, with just a tiny bit of extra length. The book warns that mittens may shrink lengthwise during use, so this should be just fine. I gave my other pair of Nordic mittens* to my mom when she was visiting. They were pretty, but the thumb was too high or the fingers were too short, due to gauge issues, and so they were never totally comfortable to wear, though the fabric was nice, cushy and nearly waterproof from working aran weight yarn on size 3 needles.

Terri Shea writes of these mittens: “The palm pattern, reminiscent of the quilting pattern Double Irish Chain, is complex and unless the knitter memorizes the rhythm of each row, it will be difficult to knit.”

I didn’t find it difficult at all when following the chart, but when it came time to extend the pattern to the palm, where motifs were cut off midway, I got kind of confused.

So here is how I’ll remember the sequence for the second mitten. The main motif is white diamonds staggered by a half-drop (and can also be seen as a sea of tiny CC crosses arranged in a diamond-shaped grid). For each set, the rows consist of the following, moved left or right as appropriate to maintain the white diamond rows of 1 MC, 3 MC, 5 MC, 3 MC, 1 MC, all centered atop one another:

1) *K1 MC, k3 CC* across

2) *k3 MC, k1 CC, k1 MC, k1 CC, k1 MC, K1 CC* across

3) *k5 MC, k3 CC* across

4) rep Row 2

Begin again with Row 1, which serves to put the 1-stitch MC point on the first set of diamonds, and also to put the 1-st foundation in place for the next set of diamonds offset by a half-drop.

Thumb: Apparently I didn’t pick up enough sts, so I have 13 sts on the palm (12 picked up plus 1 picked up from edge) rather than 14–but in any case: I defined the end of the round as just after the palm sts.

Rather than knitting the charted thumb, which didn’t appeal to me, I continued the vertical stripes from the gusset on the outside of the thumb, and the palm pattern on the inside of the thumb.

Work 19 rows, then decrease as follows:
Rd 1: k1 CC, ssk MC, work to last 3 sts, k2tog MC, k1 CC. ssk CC, patt across palm sts to last 2 sts, k2tog CC. 11 sts palm, 13 sts gusset.
Rd 2: k3 in pattern, ssk MC, k3 in pattern, k2tog mc, knit in pattern to end of needle. ssk CC, patt to last 2 sts, k2tog CC. 9 sts palm, 11 sts gusset, 1×1 stripes on gusset now.
Rd 3: ssk CC, patt to last 2 sts of side, k2tog CC. ssk CC, patt to last 2 sts, k2tog CC. 7 sts palm, 9 sts gusset.
Rd 4: ssk CC, k1 MC, sl1-k2tog-psso CC, k1 MC, k2tog CC. ssk MC, patt to last 2 sts, k2tog MC. 5 sts each side
Rd 5: ssk CC, k1 CC, k2tog CC, ssk CC, k1 CC, k2tog CC. Cut yarn and draw through these 6 sts.

I really like the looks of the wrong side of colorwork (and I consistently carried
the CC, black, ahead, by picking it up with my left hand first, under the MC, and holding it there Continental-style while throwing the MC with my right hand, so it’s all proper and pretty). However, I kind of ruined it with my woven-in ends. I just weave them up and down under the floats of the opposite color, which is functional, but then they spoil the look of the lovely horizontal floats.

I’m calling this mitten “Black Lilies” because it’s catchier than NHM #7, and because of this introduction to the pattern:

“The main pattern is a stylized lily, according to Annemor Sundbø, and symbolizes purity and the Virgin Mary.” (Sort of the opposite of the black dahlia, then.)

“Lilies arranged in a rosette pattern as seen here were often used in woven tapestries in the county Trondelag, where Selbu is situated.”

Here’s a nice picture of some real black lilies.

Also, I’ve concluded that the world needs a review of the book Knitknit, which I have out on loan from the library, because someone online was asking about project pictures and I could not find my favorites anywhere. There are some really nice photos in the book. Stay tuned! I’ll try to get a review up before I have to return the book to the library.

* The other pair of Nordic mittens:

Patons SWS in Natural Plum and Natural Navy. Look at that corrugated ribbing… such a pain in the ass, but so beautiful. (Better than the rest of the mitten–the color values were too similar, so the pattern didn’t stand out well in most places. I’ve learned my lesson.) The pattern was the North Star Mittens from Robin Hansen’s Knit Mittens! and it was full of errata. You can find my grouchy review on the product page.

See the thumb problem I was talking about? Contrary to what you might believe from looking at these mittens, my thumb does not branch off from my hand midway up my index finger, nor does it end at the same place as my pinky. Of course, it’s knitted fabric, so it stretched… somewhat. But not really enough.