Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lesson Learned and Learned Again....

How many times to do we need to relearn lessons? Apparently, over and over again, at least for me. I have been looking forward to knitting the Longfellow by Corrina Ferguson for a while. I was so ready to start knitting another lace project, that I dove in head first. Had I read the completed project comments in Ravelry, I would have delayed that dive a bit. For those of us in the tight knitters club, the cast on for this shawl is way too tight. This proved to be true for me in that I snapped the yarn in the cast on edge when blocking the shawl. So I had to pick out the bind off and transfer the live stitches to needles.

The issue with the start of this shawl is that a number of stitches are cast on with a larger needle, using the long-tailed cast on and then with a smaller needle, you do a KYOK into each cast on stitch. This technique creates a nice effect, but isn't very stretchy. Casting on with a larger needle doesn't insure stretchiness.

I picked out the cast on stitches, maintaining enough yarn to weave in, using my 40-inch 000 needle to pickup the stitches. The stitches on my needle are the stitches from the first row. I then bound off these stitches with the elastic bind off and a US 7 needle. The elastic bind off is quite simple. You *knit the first 2 stitches together through the back loop. Slip the stitch back to the source needle, purl-wise.* Repeat from * to * until complete. Don't pull tight!!!

I would like to knit this pattern again -- with a smooth yarn so that I can rip out the cast on and starting section if necessary. I have a couple of ideas that might work:

  • The simplest solution is to cast on the full 3 times the cast on number of stitches. While this is the easiest, it doesn't maintain the designer's intent.
  • Use a cast on with more stretch than the long-tailed cast on. If there is enough stretch in the cast on I can maintain the designers intent.
  • Consciously leave space between the cast on stitches. Don't tighten up the spacing. This would also maintain the designer's intent.

    Details of this project can be found at Fireside. The end results are quite lovely.

    Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

    Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits. Pattern is copyright by Corrina Ferguson

  • Monday, October 28, 2013

    Sock Yarn Test Drive - American B.R.A.N.D.

    I received a skein of American B.R.A.N.D. by HiKoo to test drive. This is a fingering weight yarn, 80% wool and 20% nylon. The yarn is made from the wool of the Rambouiller sheep, raised in the U.S. and dyed with natural dyes. Natural dyes limit the colors available.

    The dye sources and colors are:


    Gall Nuts  Cochineal
    Pomegranate  Indigo
    Cutch  Rhubarb Root
    Walnut  Fustic Wood
    Madder RootWeld Flowers

    I took the skein home and put it on the swift. I had some problems winding, so I had to do a hand wind. I don't know if this is characteristic of the yarn, just something to note. However, the most notable thing that occurred when winding the ball was what it did to my hands. My hands were filthy. It didn't look like color crocking, but I'm not familiar enough with Rhubarb Root as a natural dye to know if it was the cause. I washed my hands and the color / dirt washed away.

    The yarn is a 4-ply yarn with a nice twist. I wanted a ribbed based pattern for stretch and to be able to see the stitch definition.

    I decided to knit the Cookie A Elm sock pattern to test this yarn. This pattern looked like it would had some good stretch so I wouldn't have to do any sizing. (famous last words! More on this later.)

    After knitting halfway through the leg I've seen only slight crocking and no more dirt transfer to my hands. The crocking is so light that it had to be pointed out to me, probably a result of the color. The American Volcanoes colorway does crock and was seen on another yarn tester. Dirt transfer has not been seen by other yarn testers, so I'm assuming it was an aberration with this skein or dye transfer to this skein from other skeins, which transferred to my hands.

    The yarn itself is slightly rough in the hand, feeling somewhat like cotton. The yarn isn't very splitty. I can split the best of them, especially when doing M1R & M1Lp stitches and i did split it when making these stitches, but not to excess. I'm a tight knitter, so the more plies, the more likely I am to split a yarn. Overall, this one is performing pretty well, although once it "untwists" all bets are off. Luckily this didn't happen too often and it didn't happen when I ripped back my heel turn twice!

    The only other oddity I found while knitting was a piece of vegetal matter plied into the yarn.

    I completed the first sock and soaked the sock in cold water for 10 minutes before blocking. Quite a bit of color leached into the water in that time. I find that this happens with many yarns I use, although in this case the color of the water was not the color of the yarn. The water is brown. A little investigation online showed that rhubarb root gives a pale yellow to a bronze yellow color, so maybe brown water water isn't too far from the expected.


    Would I knit with this yarn again? Yes. I like the yarn and can cope with the crocking & dye leaching, but given the limited colors, it might be difficult to match yarn and project. Hopefully we will see more colors in the future.

    Pattern Issues

    I knit the leg on a US 1.5 (2.50 mm) as is typical for me, but with only 60 stiches and a fixed row repeat, the leg is stretched to its max. It does seem to fit my husband though, so on I go. I want a finished object that I can block to see how the yarn feels after blocking.

    Upon further examination, I can knit this sock again, starting with row 11 of chart B. The result would be a shorter sock that would fit me.

    Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

    Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits. Color card photo, copyright HiKoo by Skacel. Pattern copyright Cookie A

    Monday, October 21, 2013

    Knitting Up an Achilles Heal Sock

    Yes, its "heal"... Its intentional, its the pattern name.

    If you like interesting construction and want a sock that shows off a lovely multicolored yarn, then this sock is for you. We are all enamoured with those lovely multicolored sock yarns. Unfortunately, those yarns do not work well with most sock patterns, since they obscure the pattern. The Achilles Heal Sock pattern was designed to work well with these yarns. This sock was selected as the October-November Green Planet Yarn Sock Club sock.

    I chose to knit this sock with a lovely skein of HandMaiden Casbah Sock in colorway Renaissance(I think - the skeins never come labeled). Casbah Sock is 80% merino, 10% cashmere and 10% nylon, one of my favorite combinations for socks. The yarn is soft and feels great on the feet.

    The first issue that I had to resolve was the size of the sock circumference. This sock has a chevron pattern. The angling of the stitches effectively reduces the number of stitches. In other words, even though the sock has 64 stitches, its more like having a 56-60 stitch circumference.

    On the plus side, the extra long ribbed cuff was designed to provide the necessary stretch as the sock moves up the calf.

    I came up with two schemes to increase the sock circumerence:

    For a 68 stitch sock, repeat the following:
    Round 1: K1, M1R, K5, K2tog, P1, SSK, K5, M1L, K1
    Round 2: K8, P1, K8

    For a 72 stitch sock, repeat the following:
    Round 1: K1, M1R, K6, K2tog, SSK, K6, M1L, K1
    Round 2: K all stitches

    I chose to go with the 68 stitch sock and follow the pattern needle size of US 1.5 (2.5 mm).

    I cast on 68 stitches using Tilly Buddy's Very Stretchy Cast On. I knit 31 rows using 1x1 twisted rib for the cuff. I prefer twisted rib since it forms a tighter, more consistent rib. I knit 31 rows instead of 35 rows to reduce the cuff height by about 1/2"
    I continued the leg using my 68 stitch pattern. I knit 24 rows instead of the specified 20 rows. I added the 1/2" i removed from the cuff to the leg. This colorway is working well, so far.
    The pattern call for 31 rows knitting the flat version of the pattern. This section is the instep portion of the gusset. I continued with my 68 stitch pattern, except that Row 2 is now: P8, K1, P8. You can see that chevron stripes have expanded a little, since I'm knitting half the number of stitches.
    The back of the sock...
    The next section of the pattern uses a provisional cast on to reconnect the instep to the sole of the sock. I used a crochet provisional cast on and some scrap sock yarn to cast on 32 stitches. At this point, the pattern calls for working the foot and finishing the toe. I completed the non-pattern round (where the foot left off) and knit 10 rounds to create a stable band from which to work. On the 9th round (a pattern round), I changed the pattern to reduce two stitches from the pattern as follows: K1, M1R, K5, CDD, SSK, K5, M1L, K1. My instep stitch count is now consistent with the pattern's stitch count. The stable band enables me to move to the heel of the sock. I find fitting a sock without the heel to be a guessing game. If you have a longer foot, you can work more rows in the band to stabilize it further.

    Carefully pull out the provisional cast on and thread the stitches on a needle. I use one of my favorite tools for this, a 40" 000 needle. Using a needle that is thinner than the one which created the stitches allows me to thread the needle through the stitches without pulling. Once all of the stitches are on the 000 needle, I transfer them to the needle I'll use for knitting.

    The gusset/heel setup round is started at the heel. Since I split my skein into 2 balls, I didn't break the yarn from my toe. I pulled out the second ball and attached it at the start of the heel. The heel is started by decreasing the extra purl out: K1, M1R, K5, CDD, SSK, K5, M1L, K1. The pattern calls for a pickup and knit of 31 stitches (I'll knit them tbl). Since the gusset instep had 31 rows, I must pickup a stitch at each row -- a difficult pickup for a tight knitter. I made use of one of my sharp, US 0 (2.0 mm) double points as a tool to pickup the stitches through the tight edge. There are 31 stitches on the left side of the gusset and 31 stitches on the right side of the gusset. There are now have 4 needles in a single sock!

    Round 1 places markers and resets start of round. The remaining round's decreases are knit based on the marker positions within the heel. The rounds have almost twice as many stitches now. The pooling has changed dramatically. A total of 26 rounds were knit based on pattern directions.
    The heel short rows start on the sole side. The pattern calls for wrap and turns, but I'm going to use Shadow Wraps instead. I threw in a lifeline in case my short rows were off balanced. 15 short rows completed.
    Completed the heel. Followed the heel shaping directions without modification. Watch out for the last row. The pattern says to turn the work and then SL1, P2tog. THIS IS CORRECT. You will turn the work and work 2 stitches only on the sole needle from the wrong side. The stitches will then be rearranged so that the 2 worked stitches from the sole needle and the 2 adjacent stitches from the heel needle will be on one needle. The remaining 4 stitches will be on the other needle before grafting begins.

    I am now moving back to the foot. At this point I need to try on the sock and get an idea of how long the foot needs to be before starting the toe. I make sure the sock is seated correctly on my heal and then stretch the sock about 1/4" to determine how much further to knit. Pattern says to stop 2" from end of toe. I have about 1 1/8" to go. I am going to hang a marker in my knitting to use as a measuring point.
    An additional 17 rows were needed to finish the foot using a US 1.0 (2.25 mm) needle. I'm threading a lifeline just in case I'm off on the length and to make sure I get the pattern for the toe correct. There have been mixed reports about an error in the toe directions.
    Well, there are several errors in the toe directions. The marker placement works for the first round of the toe, but doesn't work for subsequent rounds. There is also an error in round 10 which causes the ssk to use the first 2 stitches instead of the second 2 stitches. When you get to round 18, the ssk uses the second 2 stitches. The final round doesn't set you up correctly to begin Kitchenering the toe. So I had to make some modifications, starting with the final foot round:

    Final Foot Round: K sole stitches, K7, pm, K to 7 before end of round (this marker isn't used, but it is placed by the original pattern instructions), PM, k to end of round. The markers are placed between the k2tog and ssk on both sides of the instep; this placement is more important than the count.

    Toe, Round 1: K to 3 sts before end of sole sts, k2tog, k to 2 stitches before first marker, k2tog, SM, ssk, k5, M1L, k2, m1r, k5, k2tog, SM, ssk, k to end of round. 3 sts decreased.
    Round 2: K1, ssk, k to end of round. 1 st decreased.
    Round 3: K to 2 sts before first marker, k2tog, SM, ssk, k5, m1L, k2, m1R, k5, k2tog, sm, ssk, k to end of round. 2 sts decreased.
    Round 4: K to 3 sts before end of sole sts, k2tog, k to end of round. 1 st decreased.
    Round 5: K1, ssk, k to 2 before first marker, k2tog, sm, ssk, k5, m1L, k2, m1R, k5, k2tog, sm, ssk, k to end of round. 3 sts decreased
    Round 6: K around.
    Round 7: K to 3 sts before end of sole sts, k2tog, k to 2 sts before first marker, k2tog, sm, ssk, k5, m1L, k2, m1R, k5, k2tog, sm, ssk, k to end of round. 3 sts decreased.
    Round 8: k1, ssk, k to end of round
    Round 9: K around, removing markers.
    Round 10: K to 3 sts before end of sole sts, k2tog, k2, ssk, k to 3 sts before end of round, k2tog, k1.
    Round 11: K1, ssk, k to end of round.
    Rounds 12-17: Repeat rounds 10 & 11
    Round 18: k1, ssk, k to 3 sts before end of sole sts, k2tog, k2, ssk, k to 3 sts before end of instep sts, k2tog, k1.
    Round 19: K around (I added this round to add a little more length to the toe. You can ignore this row if you want).
    Round 20-24: repeat round 18 5 times.
    Round 25: k1, ssk, k2tog, k3. STOP HERE. (I've altered this round to stop in the middle of the instep. when the stitches are rearranged, you will be correctly setup to Kitchener the toe closed.)

    Rearrange stitches so that each needle has 2 stitches from the sole and 2 stitches from the instep. Graft toe closed. This method is essentially giving you a moccasin toe.

    The above modifications maintain the decrease pattern used in the sock. If I were to redo this sock, I would modify the toe even further so that standard decrease methods were used, placing the 7 pattern rows within this framework.

    Why did I name these socks Neon Nights? The way the yarn pools reminded me of those neon signs that move through many different colors. I saw this neon installation on a trip to Shanghai many years ago and it seems like a perfect inspiration for these socks.

    More photos of these socks can be seen at Neon Nights.

    Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

    Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits. Pattern copyright by Lucia Light and or Knitty

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    Fourteen Down, Three to Go

    Well I've completed the Mock Cables and Lace Sock, 14 socks complete! I chose to use Pagewood Farms Glacier Bay in colorway "Daffodil" for this sock. The sock called for US 3.0 (3.25mm) needles and a cast on of 74 stitches with a light fingering yarn. Even with my tight knitting, the sock would be way too big for my foot, so I made some modifications to the pattern. I started with US 1.5 (2.5mm) needles and cast on 66 stitches using the German Twisted Cast On. I first tried the specified cast on, but I didn't want to go through the trouble of keeping an accurate count to get the knit/purl direction correct.

    To reduce the stitch count and still maintain the pattern, I started the chart at stitch 3 and stopped with stitch 35. This removed 4 stitches from the pattern repeat and 8 stitches from the sock circumference. I worked the cuff as specified and completed the "work once" section. Since I like a shorter sock, I repeated the main pattern section 4 times instead of the specified 6.

    The heel flap also required some adjustments. I started with stitch 3 and ended with stitch 34.

    Stitch 35 was moved around to the instep. I adjusted the pattern to do the first slip stitch in the correct location. The heel flap was worked using a US 1.5 needle. Next time I'd use a US 1.0 for the heel flap. The US 1.5 needle resulted in a very long heel flap with a very open chain edge. I stopped after 34 rows.

    I couldn't follow the heel turn directions, so the heel was turned turned using the following:

    Row 1 (RS): SL 1 wyib, K 18 stitches, SSK, K1; turn.
    Row 2 (WS): SL 1 wyif, P 7 stitches, P2tog, P1; turn.
    Row 3(RS): SL 1 wyib, K to 1 stitch before gap created by turn on previous row, SSK (1 stitch before gap and 1 stitch after gap), K1; turn.
    Row 4(WS): SL1 wyif, P to 1 stitch before gap created by turn on previous row, P2tog (1 stitch before gap and 1 stitch after gap), P1; turn.

    Repeat rows 3 & 4 until all stitches have been worked. I have 18 stitches upon completion.

    17 stitches were picked up & knit along the side of the heel flap and then an additional stitch was picked up using the PU2 & K2tog tbl gap pickup technique, row 1 of the chart was knit and the other gusset picked up using the same techniques as the first side of the heel flap. After completing one instep chart repeat, I reduced my needle size to a US 1.0 (2.25 mm) and completed the gusset.

    The foot of the sock took 3.9 repeats. I stopped with row 9, instead of row 10. Row 10 is essentially a "knit" row in terms of how it interacts with the main pattern repeat. My goal was to minimize the need for extra stockinette.

    This is the first time knitting a short row toe, so I threaded a lifeline at the end of the foot. I chose to start the toe on the top of the foot, rather than the bottom of the foot, since I didn't want a ridge on the top of my toe. I followed the pattern, adjusting for my reduced stitch count, trying on the the sock at intervals. The toe fit me at the 8th repeat of the "row 3 & 4" repeat. I turned the toe, again following the pattern, stopping with a wrong side row. However, stopping with a wrong side row did not result in a correct setup to Kitchener the toe. I knit another row, ending on the right side for the correct setup, and Kitchenered the toe closed.

    Overall, I liked this sock. I would however, make two changes.

    1. I would knit a standard heel trying to maintain the mock cable between the heel stitch panels.
    2. I would knit a standard toe. The short row toe requires a large Kitchener graft and did not completely close at the short rows, requiring me to weave in yarn after the fact to close the holes.

    Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

    Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits. Pattern copyright by Ann Budd

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    Closing the Gusset Corner Gap with a K2Tog TBL Pickup

    There are several techniques to close the gusset corner gap when picking up stitches along the gusset. If the gap isn't closed while picking up gusset stitches, there will be a gap that will need to be closed during finishing. Definitely something I want to avoid.

    The most common method of closing this gap is to pickup an extra stitch in the gap itself. This works pretty well, but sometimes the pickup forms a small hole just below the pickup and then we are back where we started, having a hole that needs to be closed during finishing.

    Not satisfied with the typical method, I decided to take advantage of the two stages of picking up and knitting gusset stitches. When I pickup stitches along the gusset, I pickup the stitch and then knit it through the back loop. I take advantage of these two steps to close the gap by picking up 2 stitches and then knitting them together TBL.

    So here's how its done:

    First, pickup the required number of stitches up to but not including the gap pickup, then pickup 1 stitch on each side of the gap, between the heel flap and the instep (just do the pickups, do not knit them yet). Once you have the two pickups on the needle, knit the 2 pickups together through the back loop to close the gap.

    Lets examine this in detail:

    Identify the location of the 2 pickups. On the instep side choose the stitch 1 below the first stitch on the needle.
    Put the needle through the first location (heel flap side)...
    ... and pickup the first stitch
    Put your needle in the first stitch below the first stitch on the left needle ...
    ... and pickup the second stitch, on the instep side. There are now 2 pickups on the working needle. Neither pickup stitch has been knitted.
    Put the left needle through the 2 stitches, in front of the working needle. The 2 stitches will be knit together through the back loop.
    The two pickups have been knit together through the back loop.

    When you get to the other gusset, the instep stitch will be picked up first, followed by the heel flap pickup. The rest of the process is the same.

    The gusset corners will look like:

    Heel Flap to Instep GussetInstep to Heel Flap Gusset
    1st Stitch Below Pickup

    Here are some variations that may be of use depending on your sock pattern:

  • Pickup the second stitch below the first instep stitch instead of the first stitch below the first instep stitch
  • Instead of knitting the two pickups through the back loop, just knit them together
  • Instead of knitting the two pickups through the back loop, knit them together with an SSK
  • I used this technique in Rain on My Window (download now) and in most socks that I knit for myself.

    Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

    Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits.