Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fair Isle Stockings



When I first got the inquiry about Fair Isle Christmas stockings, I was thrilled. I knew this was something I could do on my knitting machine and I thought the SK155 would be perfect so I could use a more substantial yarn that would be easier to find. The client liked the idea of a washable wool for a more traditional look, and a plain cuff.  I did some yarn research and thought yarn from www.knitca.com would work. I knew about Cascade 220 Superwash, but assumed it was too expensive for this sort of item. I headed over to Wool on William and discovered that the "white" was very creamy, the yarn seemed kind of thinner than I wanted, and she didn't have enough of any of the colours I was considering. Rowan Superwash Worsted caught my eye as I was about to leave--in colours for the other stockings I  was going to make. I forgot to look for  a blue and a green for these two stockings!

I was able to find the "ivory" (I asked the client if that would be okay, instead of bright white because bright white is exceptionally hard to find in 100% wool) at Knit Kabin, and she did have some blue that was great, but I thought the green might be a bit light. And since I had to go back to Wool on William, I decided to wait on the blue and green (also, the client hadn't sent the money transfer for the deposit yet despite saying she would several times). I went back to WoW and forgot to look at blue and green! So I had to head back to the Knit Kabin and got the two colours there. I had hoped that by doing the two orders in the same yarn, I would prevent having to make trips to several different stores. Four trips! But it's okay because I discovered how great these two stores are!! I ended up with 129 (Apple) for the green and I think 143 (Electric) for the blue.

Once I had the ivory I started the design process. I started with Marg Coe's Christmas stocking  . I didn't know if I wanted the fold over cuff because I would be duplicate stitching the names on. The inside would be hidden, but it would be a little more fiddly doing the stitching. And it uses more yarn LOL. Once I got going with planning out the pattern sequence, I looked at the size and realized the original size discussed for the green and burgundy ones was kind of long and I should widen it to balance it out. However, the pattern was written for 60st, and I was using a 12st punchcard. If I added any stitches less than 12, the pattern would not meet at the seam. So I shortened the design a little and loosened the tension to T3. Depsite doing all this paper work and planning, the end result was quite a bit different, as once it was knitted some things just did not work well together.

 This was my first time punching a punch card. To make it more interesting, I was using a 24 st card for a 12st machine, which means you have to punch every other column. I highlighted the empty columns in yellow and marked my different designs in different colours. When using a punch card, the row that is showing in the device is not the row that is being knitted, so you have to be prepared ahead of time, which is why I used different colours, and then used them along the side to show the different patterns.   You can see how the blue section of numbers does not line up with the blue snowflake.  It didn't take me as long as I thought it would to punch the card, but the kids said it was too noisey. However, I assume a 24 st card would take twice as long!

The first go round, I knit it as I had punched the card. I was not happy. I casted on with ivory and then remembered I was going to do the ribbing in blue to set it apart from the name banner. So I switched to blue after the circular cast on. I did not like how it went from the banner to the snowflake with no separation. And I really did not like how bunched up the patterns were, especially the section between the snowflakes! I had left one ivory row between the snowflake and the next section and instantly realized that my blue yarn was then on the wrong side for the next row. More tails to weave in.
I decided after the heel to take it off and check it all out. I planned a few more plain rows and tried again, this time determined it was the finished item.  I'm not 100% happy still though. I used two plain rows between each of the elements, but I feel this (obviously) separates them equally, and I wanted the little pattern above and below the zig zag to appear more "attached" to the zig zags. Since I don't want it any shorter, I need to do three plain rows around the snowflakes. Which means the blue yarn is at the wrong edge. Which means keeping my thoughts clear so I can take the carriage off and reset the pattern, etc. It was hard enough to remember to lock the punch card, and turn the cam to stockinette, (and other the other ones, make sure ivory was in feeder 1).

 As much as I loved it, I realized a few things. I wasn't loving the blue cuff. There was an error in the punch card (you can see it in the section below the heel), and the foot was supposed to have decreases to taper it down. I decided to set this one aside and start on the other multicoloured ones, as she had been first with her deposit and should get hers first.

 I got more of the design kinks worked out in the other stockings, including changes to the cuff and name banner. I knit the green one first. The left side is what you see when working at the knitting machine. So it's hard to tell if there's mistakes in the pattern. When I took it off the machine, I instantly saw the error--way up at the top!  OMG.  When I had been knitting these, I kept forgetting to transfer all the stitches to the main bed after the ribbing and several times had kept going with ribbing. I was pleased I had remembered this time, but in my excitement, I forgot the two rows in ivory before the first snowflake.


So yes, I re-knit it. Annoying, but that's the way it goes. I had all the usual troubles too, especially with the blue one, because I was re-using the yarn from the original test stocking and I had to cut the blue between sections. Again, I hand knit the toes. I think next time I will do the heels at T2 since they seem a bit saggy with out the structure of Fair Isle.

The yarn says to lay flat to dry, but I didn't. After their bath, although they felt so soft, I could tell that they would need heat to tighten the wool up again. It really grew when wet. There is no way I could have knit it tight enough on the SK155 to account for the growing. Drying in the dryer is a little nerve wracking. I had to check frequently and I was just so paranoid they would shrink too much. Once they were shrunk back to original size, they needed a lot of trimming of the resulting fuzz. I used my nails, and tiny scissors to trim the coloured fuzz so the designs stood out again. After washing, the Fair Isle gauge was 19 1/2st and 21 rows to 4" which is close to the label gauge of 20st/4".  I'm wondering if I can use this yarn on my standard gauge. It felt more like a DK, and I would love to have the versatility of 24 st designs--though I think the stocking should still be around 60st, so that would mean I would have to go up to 72st. Too much work. LOL.

These weighed 120gr each, which is right on track with what the Modern Vintage ones weighed. I have 64gr of green left, which means I used 36gr of contrast and 84gr of ivory. So, really, the Rowan Superwash Worsted is fairly cost effective--more so if making multiples of the same colours. Although I have 64gr of green left and that technically means I used 36gr, in actuality, the stocking probably has a bit less. Could I alter something to get it down to 33gr? LOL. I might as well just start building a stock of this yarn. It'll make nice mittens too. I have quite a bit of the ivory left and I thought it might be nice to dye, but there's more return on time by doing more of these stockings.

Yarn In:    8023gr
Yarn Out:   240gr + 8489gr= 8729gr
Balance:  706gr more USED than bought
Costs:   $351.86 /366 days = $0.96/day

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Now What? And the Evils of Ravelry

I just finished up two large Christmas orders and I knew I was spending some time at the rink this afternoon so I needed something to knit. But what?! LOL! Then I remembered I have a pair of socks that have been on the go for way too long. I do have one other Christmas present for a  family member that I've been working on, but it's gotten buried and I'm not excited by it. And then, there's the mitts that need mending, the tipless glove I need to knit to replace one my son's (who borrowed them from his dad). Oh, and what about the Christmas tree skirt I've been working on for maybe 15 years?

Of course, I just went to Ravelry (home now from the rink, where I pathetically did a few rows on the socks). I see this shawl on the main page with  very interesting lace inserts.  Ooohh. That's pretty. I look at the details. The designer says she's created a new technique--short rows in lace (that is charted). Mmmm. I'm pretty certain I've done short rows in lace, perhaps when I did a baby bonnet. The pattern isn't complicated--it looks like you're just increasing (by knitting another stitch that was held, in pattern instead of in garter stitch). Or, maybe it's working the other way, knitting fewer stitches in lace each row to create the insert shape.

I wondered what some other ones looked like. Multi-coloured shawls are so vogue right now, but my stash wouldn't really support any, so I've hesitated. But maybe with this design I could mix yarns.

It's interesting how incredibly different each project looked. A few had pictures that were of the shawl laid out totally flat. To me, the lace created a sort of alien face in the shawl. Sorry. Now you're going back to look and you'll see that alien face and you'll never be able to unsee it.

So...how can I knit this, with yarns I have, and not get an alien face. Mmmm.

MUST wait till after Christmas!! I've got so much to do though as I've been ignoring Christmas for our family while focusing on everyone else's Christmas LOL!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Modern Vintage

I got a request for custom Christmas stockings this fall, the inspiration photo was a simple Fair Isle snowflakes with zigzags. We started working out the details (one blue, one green), and then I got another request for a similar, but more complex Fair Isle design with more colours--three bright greens and three burgundy shades, I think.

I told her I could do it with one green and one burgundy because it would take too long to find a yarn line with that many shades (and both women liked the idea of a superwash wool rather than acrylic). She got her deposit in first, so I started on those first.

My first thought for yarn was http://www.knitca.com/yarn/superwash but when I checked it out at a local store, Wool on William (forever known as WoW now), the colours weren't right, there wasn't enough, etc. I wanted to do both orders with the same yarn so I didn't have to re-work the design. There was some Rowan Superwash Worsted, in a bright green and burgundy that were perfect...but she didn't have any white, or the blue and green for the other order. And....Rowan had been bought by Sirdar and there was currently issues and nothing could be ordered! She suggested I contact Knit Kabin as she also sells Rowan.

I was a little disappointed. I started looking up options. Cascade 220 Superwash comes in an incredible range of colours, but where could I get it local? Both Rowan and Cascade got very mixed reviews on Ravelry. What to do?! I contacted Knit Kabin, and indeed she had the "white" which is a little closer to ivory. She also had some greens and blues (I had forgotten to look for them for the other order). I set up a time and headed out to the countryside at the edge of this megatropolis.

I got 3 balls of the ivory, but I still hadn't gotten the deposit for the blue and green stockings, so that was all.  I had to go back to WoW for the bright green and burgundy. Then, a day or so later, I got the deposit, so I had to go back to Knit Kabin for the blue and green. So much for being able to make fewer trips to the yarn store by making them both in the same yarn!

I started with Marg Coe's Christmas stocking pattern. I used T3 and 62stitches on the SK155.  After swatching, I did go with my own row counts. Originally, these were going to be 20" from cuff to bottom of heel, but that looked way too long on my sample. I mean, some people like long and skinny, but it just wasn't doing it for me. They ended up being about 16"-18". I forgot to measure after washing! I used one of the standard Fair Isle cards that comes with the SK155 (the first 11 rows), and I punched the snowflake, and the thin zig zag band.

I also decided to taper the foot a little, and do the toes hand knit, with decreases, rather than the short row toe, which just didn't seem to lay right. I was disappointed that even though the long floats were only 5 stitches, it  was rather loopy in places inside. I sewed these down. I had to reknit one foot, and tried hooking up the floats as I went, and I would definitely do that again.

When I went to duplicate stitch the names, I realized that Jackson was a smidge too long. I suggested to the client that I don't centre it, but start on the left so the ON would wrap on the right. She asked if the letters could be smaller. I didn't want to do that because really, when duplicate stitching, that's pretty difficult. Only a couple letters could be narrower. Then I started stitching. For some reason, the top/bottom spacing was wrong. I counted rows...I had done 14 rows of ivory on two of them (and planned the letters to be 8sts high) and only 12 rows on the third. I decided the shorter one would be for Jackson, and I did the letters 7sts high so they would have more white around them. By shrinking them a row, the narrower letters looked in proportion now. Whew.

I washed them in the sink with Soak.  After reading the reviews on Ravelry, I was almost in a panic fearing they would bleed. No bleeding!! I rolled them in towels, but it was obvious they would need some help in the dryer. The yarn grew a lot while wet and I knew it would not shrink back down just by air drying. They were very limp, but  much softer.  I put them in the dryer with a towel, on low/gentle, and checked frequently. They "felted". Or is it "fulled". They shrank back to their pre-wash size, approximately, but the yarn bloomed like crazy. They feel much more substantial!

However....the yarn fuzzed. Not pilled, but all the loose fibers netted together giving a slightly hazy look to the pattern. So I sat for an evening, with a sharp pair of little scissors, and trimmed the fuzz from the patterned areas. They're still not as pristine as before the wash, but I never want to hand off an order unwashed, and then have the client wash them and not know what to do when things like this growing and fuzzing happen. Why let them be the surprised ones?

I have plenty of the green and burgundy left--I bought two balls of each, and I have a ball and 27-34gr left of each, so basically, I can knit 4 from one ball of the contrast colours. That's pretty good value. I'm not sure how much white was used as I had the test stocking, then a test in the Fair Isle, and now have part balls. In total, the three weighed 361gr, which is 120.3gr each. That means  I used 22gr of green and 24gr of burgundy, so that means 74gr of white. It would be nice to make single colour ones exactly 100gr, instead of 120gr, but that's kind of boring LOL. I did lose some yarn when I had to re-do sections and didn't want to re-use small amounts of the yarn.

Now to finish the blue and green ones!

Yarn In:    8023gr
Yarn Out:   361gr +8128gr = 8489gr
Balance:  466gr more USED than bought
Costs:   $351.86 /348 days = $1.01/day

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Yes, Another Mermaid Blanket!

It's crazy how popular these still are this Christmas! And how everyone wants pink and purple just like the pictures of the ones I've already done. I don't mind too much, but I would love to see this pattern done in other colours now!

After I took this photo, I did steam it, so it grew just a little and relaxed. I love the tail on this one. I wrote it all down, so I think I can stop experimenting now. Which means....I probably wont' get more requests for this blanket LOL. It came in a big lighter than the last one, I think because I didn't add the extra rows at the top--I didn't know just how big the child was, just that they ordered a "small".

Yarn In:    8023gr
Yarn Out:  378gr + 7750gr = 8128gr
Balance:  105gr more USED than bought
Costs:   $351.86 /341 days = $1.03/day

Thursday, December 01, 2016