Expecto frogged

It went so well. The cuff was more or less fun to do, even if it had cables and ribbing. The set up for Back Ladder Jacquard technique went very well thanks to this instruction video by Sockmatician:

On the last BLJ stitch, at the far right, I forgot to bring the CC yarn to the back again but that’s something I remedied the next row. No need to tink back.

Then I did the colour work and it went great with the BLJ technique. So stretchy!

I knitted all day yesterday, on and off. But in the afternoon I found out the dragon was four stitches too far to the left:

This would bring troubles later on as there are no spare stitches left nor right of the pattern. Increasing and decreasing some until that point would be ugly. Frogging a day’s work was the only option.

As I did so I found I had brought the wrong purple with me to the cabin. This one is more dull, muted. Not the brighter, bluer one that I used in the Check Box sock:

Not sure you can see it on the photo but in real life it’s quite disappointing. Seeing as this Expecto sock is supposed to be the companion of that Checkbox sock I stopped it altogether.

For a brief moment I thought about combining this purple with one of the other yarns I brought with me:

The purple would look great with either the lilac or the green. I can imagine those dragons vividly! But they both have socks attached to the ball that I want to knit first. And using any of these colours would mean that I’d have to knit a pair of dragon socks instead of one.

And then I’d still have to knit a partner to the single Checkbox sock. And the pattern Expecto Draconum by Elisabeth White will be a really good companion for it, when knit in the right purple and according to pattern.

So no knitting dragons this weekend. I’m going to try and draw some more dragons instead.

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designing my Miffy Nijntje pullover

Dutch designer Dick Bruna gave birth to Miffy in 1955:

Her dress, with the icon 5 petal daisies, is a solid part of my identity. It is the reason why I love daisies in all shapes but especially ox eye daisies (madeliefjes).

To answer the call for stranded knitting I’ve started a pullover. Top down, round yoke. At the top will be her iconic white collar and white button. The flowers will be at the bottom and on the sleeves. Not all over.

However I still want an all over stranded sweater so I will  put a contrasting stitch in ever 5th or 6th stitch. Bit of a strawberry vibe going on:

For colours I have chosen green. Shetland type yarn, from an independant spinner in Estonia, from Wool & Yarn.

I’ve already got this yarn in a project and that light green is BRIGHT:

My Dandelion cuffs. So the main colour will be the dark green, with the light green as the contrast colour.

For the hearts of the flowers I have yellow. It is mushroom dyed yarn and it’s about as bright as the commercial yellow in these cuffs.

Dick Bruna has a clear black outline around his coloured shapes. I won’t have that. But if in the end I do not like the result I may cover some stitches with black and see if that improves things.

In the mean time I have rescaled Bruna’s drawing so I know how big the flowers and the collar are on a full scale person. They are big enough to be in intarsia! But I want the double thick fabric of stranded knitting so I won’t do intarsia.

But I won’t be carrying the white all around the collar either, when it’s only visible at the front and I’m already carrying light and dark green. I’m not good with 3 colour stranding. So here’s what I did:


I just broke the yarn and left the ends loose.

Shetland type yarns forgive this treatment readily. The loose ends will just grab onto the back of the fabric and felt somewhat together. There is a lot of good in natural yarn that has not received the super wash treatment.

The pattern does not exist. I just cast on a number of stitches that would fit over my head, based on the gauge of my mushroom vest. My head if 56 cm at its widest and gauge is 26 st/10cm, needles 2,25 mm.

After a few rows of all k stitches (for a rolled hem) I did one row of purl, to counter the rolling. This turned out not to be not enough and the neckline still rolls terrible. Perhaps there’s a solution once the sweater is well on its way.

For now I increase about 4 stitches every row, to get a round, flat pancake that can lie across my shoulders. I increase every 6th row or something and then I increase 24 stitches in one go. This messes up the white bits a bit and also where to put the light green stitches but this is a carefree knit so I just look at the knitting and think up and implement a solution.

Inserting light green every row gives me too much of the bright stuff. So I’ve gone to one row stranded, one row not stranded. As you can see on the inside this doesn’t give me a sturdy, warm stranded fabric… but I have decided appearance is more important in this case. I really do not want too many light green dots. (I even contemplated using the same dark green as the contrast colour but that would be too weird, stranded knitting with the same colour.)

dyeing with mushrooms Day 1

Today we dyed with Pagemantel (Cortinarius semisanguineus). All colours like meekrap/ madder (Rubia tinctorum). Salmon and coral colours. Workshop at De Schapekop in the province of South Holland.

Our instructor, Chiel Noordeloos, was wearing his pullover all dyed with mushrooms:

I brought my spencer:
pics by DeSchapekop

It is not so pretty on the inside:

But very functional and sewn over with the machine 3 or 4 times, just to make sure things stay were they should stay.

We were well taken care for during the day. De Schapekop has a fun felted pincushion:

And a handy tea cosy for anyone who is not afraid to cut into a fraying wool fabric:
This makes me want to make things.

Tomorrow day 2, with all the yellows and iron greens that were used in my spencer.

take a deep breath

I finished the strip to widen the mushroom dyed vest that I knit too narrow. But the strip is too narrow to sew first and steek second.

So I steeked it without securing the stitches!

Too small to fit the sewing machine:

I rubbed the 2ply Shetland type yarn a bit before cutting, to make the stitches grab onto each other. And then I cut!

Not moving the cut fabric too much I then put it under the sewing machine to secure the edge:

I started with a straight stitch, as you would normally do for a steek, but after a few centimeters/inches I decided to go with a zig zag, which can be used instead of a locking machine in sewing. It secures fraying edges:

After the zig zag I added a straight stitch:

Back side. Almost all strands are caught. Now I can handle this knitted fabric a bit without worrying it will fall apart.

I added a proper steek in the middle of my strip, sewing first, cutting second. With this I made my one wide strip into two strips, one for each side seam. Now it’s time to attach them to the sideseams of my vest (which were also steeked):

Attaching with a straight stitch:

Making sure all the strands are caught by the stitch. There are still a few loose ones:

After that a zigzag to lock the fraying edge. And done:

Not particular beautiful but acceptable and functional:

And so much better then before:

Now I can wear this vest and breathe.

Now add neckband and sleeve band and lower band before Thursday.

Mushroom steek repaired

The end result:

the two vertical needles indicate the part I frogged and rebuilt. Everything between those needles has been frogged, down to the acorn marker that marks the centre of the steek.

This is where I started:

The steek is positioned 10 stitched too much on the right. And I forgot to do the decreases in the first couple of rows above the marker.

Here’s everything frogged and the marker positioned at the stitch that has to be the new middle of the steek. Steek will be 8 st wide total, 4 st to each side of the marker. Decreases will be 2 stitches away from the steek.

Having determined what goes where I now have to sort out which yarn goes in which row and in what colour sequence. That spaghetti is daunting…

Figuring out which two colours belonged to which row was best done from the Wrong Side of the work. For the first six rows I parked them and marked them. The red pin on the bottom left holds the two yarn for the first row. One yarn I found at the edge of the frogged work, the other I found by “walking” along that row until I found a dangling colour:

I then took the first two colours, tried to read the colour pattern of the existing row, and knitted the live stitches in that pattern, except the stitch with the marker on on top of which I cast on 8 stitches.

Having knit from right to left I met the existing knitting on the left and found out I had knitted way and way tighter than the existing gauge. There was still length  of yarns left but no more stitches needed:

I don’t know what went wrong. Gauge for sure, I’m nervous doing this and yanking the yarn. I also do not remember whit what colours I casted on those extra 8 stitches the first time around. I probably used more green then yellow then, seeing as I now have more green than yellow left.

I undid the row and knitted it again, trying to have a looser gauge and trying to use equal amounts of colour for the 8 cast on stitches. It didn’t work. I tried again. I tried loosening every stitch after I knit the whole row, to make the yarn more equally distributed. Didn’t work.

Then I gave up. Then I decided to knit the right half of the row from the right side and the left half from the left side. The extra yarn would end up in the middle (of the steek) and that would be alright because eventually this is where the steek will be cut so these extra ends won’t matter. I am at peace with my gauge for now being tighter than the rest of the vest. It’s only a detail.

Here’s how that first row looks after this approach (not all steek stitches have been cast on yet):

That’s ok. That’ll do.

So that’s how I worked it. Pick the two yarns appropriate for the row. Figure out the stitch pattern for that row. Work one half from the left. Work the other half from the right. Remember to do a decrease every third row. Leave extra length in the middle of the steek and be cool with that.

Here I am half way. Not trying to panic over looks and the yarn spaghetti:

Still so much yarn spaghetti!

Don’t panic. Just keep working, one row at the time.

Eventually I reached the top. The spaghetti sorted itself out, two strands at a time. The middle looks weird and messy but it is correct technically. If I pull on the loose parts the neighbouring stitches will tighten and it will look better.

The sides of the steek look good too. Patterns continue. There are decreases. I think I’m alright.

It took 5 hours, over the course of a couple of days.

Preparing to show off chopped mushrooms.

Tomorrow is the knitters’ festival in one of the tiniest an oldest cities in the country: Nieuwpoort. (yes, it means “new port” and it was a new port on the river Lek (“which means “leak” (we have no fantasy when it comes to naming places))).

The festival is organized by The Schapekop, the LYS where I did the workshop dyeing with mushrooms back in February:

I was so going to knit a stranded vest with the yarn and bring it to the festival tomorrow and be all glorious and marvelous!

But of course I spend weeks fiddling with the chart and never getting it exactly right so there’s no vest to show. I do have one wristwarmer though:

The colours are beautiful and exactly as I want them for a cool, February-kind of vest I have in mind. It’s a good swatch telling me about gauge, colours and contrast. Especially that last one needs a lot more chart fiddling in StitchFiddle.com!

The past two weeks I felt bad about bragging about a vest to the people who organized the workshop and then knowing I’ll show up tomorrow with nothing or just that one meager wristwarmer… Yes I felt so bad that I contemplated not going at all and spare myself the embarrassment. Which is ridiculous!

In fact, so ridiculous that I snapped right out of it and casted on for a stranded vest in totally different colours last Tuesday. Look at these colours!

So happy 🙂 So sunny 🙂

They are all dyed with mushrooms, apart from the blue which is a commercial colour and the white.

This vest and these colours I don’t need to get precisely right. It’s just bands and bands of motives, some borrowed and some made up as I go along. There’s a little bit of teeth gnashing when I get my contrasts imperfect but I give myself a pass for that. Overall I’m just knitting happy colours, straight under the radar of my perfectionism, and I’m just making metres and I already have something nice to show tomorrow.

Just now I had to stop knitting for a bit and learn about shaping and steeks. It seems you cannot just knit a tube and then cut holes in it for arms and head. Or can you?
I don’t know, I’ve never done a stranded, shaped garment nor have I ever intentionally steeked.

For this vest I did a provisional cast on (to bypass the ribbing at the bottom because I didn’t have much time to get to the good part and I don’t know yet which colours I’ll have left for the borders). Then I knitted a tube that fits my stomach.

At the level where my bossom starts I now have to decide whether to increase (how would that go in a chart?) or to insert a steek (cast on about 8 stitched which will be cut later on). Also there needs to given some consideration to arm holes I guess. I don’t know yet if they need decreases and a steek, I’ll be reading the pattern Great Horn-Rimmed by Mary Scott Huff for that:

pic by Mary Scott Huff  pic by Interweave Knits

I’m using various patterns. The stranded Ivy League Vest by Eunny Jang for looks and the Great Horn-Rimmed by Mary Scott Huff for shaping and steeking. That last vest is free, from Knitty, and I understand what it says 🙂

Ooh, setting up for a steek is easier than I thought. Just park one stitch, cast on 8 new ones using both yarns and knit those eight in stripes. Decreasing for the front panels occurs on the side of this steek-flap.

I’ve started the set up right away. Pretty soon I’ll add two at the sides too, for the arm holes. Must not forget to add shaping.

After I have completed the toppart I’ll undo the provisional cast on and knit down wards. My tube is not that high yet and there’s room to add waist decreases right at the bottom.

So that’s the plan! Now I have two nice things to show the mushroom guy tomorrow so he knows his first workshop ever was very much appreciated.

Charting snowdrops for the mushroom dyed vest (spencer)

I want to have my stranded spencer on the way for the wool fair on 19 and 20 May in Nieuwport. I’d love to show the tutor then some results of his dyeing workshop.

I’ve determined I need to cast on about 250 stitches, on needles 2,5 mm, aiming for a gauge of 30 st/10 cm. I need to redo the math before I cast on but it’s good enough to start charting in Stitchfiddle.

My inspiration for the bottom of the spencer is one of the mitten kits from Riihivilla, mushroom dyer expert in Finland. The pattern is Snowdrop Mittens by Jouni Riihelä and Leena Riihelä, only available with the kit.
 pic by Riihivilla

I’m also looking at the free Snowdrop chart by Sandra Jäger which was nicely modified by Tribpot in her Snowdrop Square.

But both are not the snowdrops that are my favourites. These designs have their snowdrops open and well in bloom:
 wiki

The ones on the cuff of the mittens even look to be a double hybrid:
 wiki

This is how I love my snowdrops:
Untitled pic by me

A closed, white drop, like a little bell, with a little green hat and blueish slender leafs. I should be able to chart these. Even though I don’t have a dark green in my palette of mushroom dyed yarns.

I’ve set some other parameters for the spencer: Jugendstil feel instead of Fair Isle. (Fair Isle has small ribbons of repetitive patterns). No diamond shapes but rather flowing lines. But not too large/high.

Eeek, I’m still nervous to start serious charting so I wasted some precious time making this collage to get in the mood:
snow drop collage art nouveau

Not sorry I wasted time. It has beautiful pictures and lines!
And, after all, humans are eye-loving animals. (That’s crooked language, it sounds like we love to have them for dinner. Should it be “visual creature”? “Sight addicts”? Don’t know. We love patterns and colours and seeing things.)(In that vein: I love how cats learn to tolerate our adoring gazes. To them, staring is rude and threatening. But nearly all pets learn that their humans are eye-addicts and they allow us to stare at them and adore them. I love when life serendips like that.)(What? Should totally be a word.)

The collage has some embroidered snowdrops and those translate well onto knitting charting paper. As long as you modify them a bit because a knitted stitch is not square.

Eventually I did get to work. Here’s my work in progress:

Each row only has two colours. Where there are 3 colours on the chart, that one stitch will be slipped from the previous row, thusly stretching it a bit up to the current row. It’s not an extra stitch or third colour in that row.

Sooo. Wasted some more hours writing this post. Did you notice my detours or was I stealthily enough to still claim efficiency?

Yeah, I thought so too.

Alright, I’ll do some more charting now. Those leafs don’t look very “Art Nouveau” to me and I need something “curly” on the top to make the transition to the next thing above. Which will be….ermm….??

Sock Madness: Mod Madness

The new pattern for the Sock Madness is Mod Madness by Copper Blade Designs. It’s been out for 3 days and many, many people have already completed a pair. (!!) Or at least one sock.

This is where I am:

I’ve knitted flat out for days now but I’ve only just turned the heel…

(on the screen an amazing sock in solids! She did the toe wrong though, colour stripes should flow from foot into toe, and she’s asking the mods if she should redo the toe or whether this is an honest mistake and do the next one right. Socks look great in solids eh?)

This is how they will look in the end:
 pattern pics

This one is taller than the one on the screen, in red and navy. That one meets minimum requirements. I’m doing a taller sock though, because I’d love for these to be wintersocks.

One of the things slowing me down is proper stranding technique. Usually I have one strand on the left hand (continental technique) and one on the right (English throwing technique). In the cuff however we have to alternate knit and purl stitches and it takes way too long to do that with the throwing technique.

So I’m teaching myself continental with both yarns over the left index finger. Just pick the one you need for this stitch.

This is how youtube says I should hold the yarns. Finger raised for tension and easy picking:

However, I knit Continental Combined, meaning I have a quick way of purling and picking. I run my yarn on the very tip of my finger, using my finger as a working surface. It makes for very speedy knitting, with minimum hand movements.

But with two yarns… they are too close together:

For the cuff I’ve learned to strand the yarns differently to keep them well apart on my working surface. That the tension got very different between the two was no issue.

(Gardening fingers. It’s lovely in the cabin this weekend! I’m rooting though the earth, getting rid of the long roots of Spiraea Douglasii, a.k.a. Hardhock. Such a nasty plant! Our lot is covered with it. I can manage to dig it out in the dry forest ground but in the wet, lumped together soil of the meadow and draining ditches it’s undoable. This year I’m happy if I get it out of the forest. Next year the grassland… perhaps rent a small digger and sift through all the soil.)
 Grrrr.
I can weed for about half an hour, then it’s back inside and rest and knit. All the birds are out and singing while I dig with my hands through the earth. Sun is shining. Not a bad way to spend some time 🙂

Also: gauge issues. I started the cuff at 1.75 mm because it was ribbing and I can do my colour work very loose. But it was too tight so I went up to 2 mm. Looked better. But still a bit too tight. Went up to 2,25 mm. Cuff fitted comfortably over my foot. But once the leg portion started the knitting looked way too loose.

So here  you see part of my leg, switching half way from 2,25 mm back to 2 mm:

The knitting on top looks much better now. (This picture is read bottom to top, just like knitting charts.)

Now that I’ve done the heel and am being passed by knitters left and right I’m tensioning up. Might have to go back to 2,25 mm.

I’m still knitting continental combined with two strands over left index finger. The knitting is now smooth and regular. But I’m still so slow! I knit like a child, giving attention to every stitch. I tried going back to one strand left, one strand right but I feel that’s slower now than this new technique.

As others have unlocked speed in this skill, this may be the sock that puts me out of the competition. Might just as well be, my body is starting to ache. Shoulder, hands, fingers. I’m not doing this right. So I guess I’ll be slowing down now. Taking more breaks. Remember to drop my shoulders when knitting.

Luckily I’ve been put on the right team, we are the slower knitters and in my team not too many people have already finished a sock. I can still make it… if I hurry. Which I shouldn’t. Won’t. Probably.

My sock does turn out lovely though. The grey is blueish, it’s Grey Hare by Dutch Wool Diva. The white is just regular Drops Fabel. A bit more fuzzy thread than the Diva. Should have brought one of the smoother yarns. But the combination is beautiful!

Here’s a picture from last week, when I was trying to learn stranded with two yarns on the left:

I knitted my finger to the project, took the wrong end of the strand to work with. Knitting ain’t easy.

doing the free style colourwork in de Petal Lace cardi

This is the pattern I made, freehand, for my Lace Petals Cardigan:

made with free charting program Stitchfiddle.com

Now I’m knitting stranded. Working with DK goes fast and there are only 107 stitches. Still it’s not as easy as I thought. Because the pattern has no repeat I have to look at the screen all the time and count count count. And I’m working to and fro instead of in the round. Doing stranded knitting on the WS (Wrong Side) is somehow more difficult than doing it from the RS.

The yellow accents I will embroider upon the knitting. Just like Tilly Trout showed me. Right now I’m seriously doubting if the grey has enough contrast from the green. But there’s always doubt when I knit so I’m knitting on.

In the mean time I’m waiting for the new pattern for the Sock Madness to drop. I also have two other socks on the go, one which I’m going to frog and start over in new, happier colours.

And I’m knitting on my sport weight cardigans, both Pumpkin Ale and Old Towns cardi. These finer yarns make my muscles ache so it’s good to work with thicker yarn at the moment. This is DK, handdyed by Wolop. Can’t wait to add the yellow accents.