When the process knitter does product knitting

You have, perhaps, heard of the process knitter and the product knitter. The former knits for the love of knitting, the latter for the purpose of acquiring the finished object. That’s a simplification, of course; most knitters fall somewhere between the two. I’m more towards the process end of the spectrum myself. I definitely need to like the project I’m working on, but I also need to like working on that project. It’s that last bit that delayed the Summer Sampler, nearly fatally.

Click to enlarge.

I fall prey to process knitting every now and then, even though I should be able to recognize the danger signs. Every time it happens, I vow I have learned my lesson, namely how blasted long it will take me to finish the project (if ever). These projects never fail because they’re difficult to knit. Heck, if they were difficult, they’d be challenging, I’d be intrigued, and the project would turn into process knitting. But while the Summer Sampler was attractive enough to lure me in, it certainly wasn’t difficult to work on: no cables, no lace, no colorwork—just aesthetically pleasing knit-purl patterns.

Simple patterns notwithstanding, the Summer Sampler promised to be an uncommon addition to my sweater wardrobe. It was a short-sleeved summer sweater, not something I’d done a lot of. It was dressy enough to wear to work, but looked comfortable. And because it was short-sleeved, it looked like I might finish it more quickly than most sweaters I’d done. Obviously, not only do gauge swatches lie, sometimes pattern photos totally deceive you.

My choice of yarn was as atypical as the pattern I was going to use it for. Whatever yarn I chose needed to have great stitch definition, or else there’d be no point in making the Summer Sampler in the first place. Because I would be wearing it next to my skin, I needed a yarn that wouldn’t be scratchy and that could be machine-washed. I’ve never been fond of knitting cotton, so I investigated the manmade fibers. This is how I ended up getting Lion Brand Microspun, an acrylic six-ply sport weight yarn.

  • Pros: Great stitch definition, soft to the touch, machine-washable.
  • Cons: Wearing acrylic in summer heat is not pleasant. (Although “summer heat” is unknown in my office. Actually, all heat is unknown in my office.) Also, this yarn is infuriatingly splitty.
  • Weirds: Lion Brand called this color “Lilac.” It’s blue. It’s not even a purplish-blue; it’s just blue. I have no idea what they were thinking.

So thirteen years ago, I queued the Summer Sampler (2007!). Eight years ago, I cast on for it. It then took me from 2012 to 2020 to finish it. I totally blame the seed stitch sections. Seed stitch is lovely to look at, but I find it excruciatingly monotonous to work. You have to pay more attention to seed stitch than to garter or stockinette stitch, so you can’t really get into that mindless knitting headspace. But while it requires some attention, it’s not interesting enough to reward it. So, according to my notes, after a strong start in 2012 and enough effort in 2013 to get myself just past the halfway point, I put it down and didn’t touch it again until 2018, all because of twenty rows of seed stitch that I didn’t want to do. And even after recommitting to it, it took me another two years to push my way to the end.

But I did, finally, make it to the end, despite little setbacks like, ah, sewing one of the sleeves on wrong side out. 😅 It fits. It’s comfortable. It’s gotten some compliments. I love the finished product. Which means I’m going to learn the wrong lesson from having done product knitting, and end up doing it again someday!


Summer Sampler
Pattern: Summer Sampler WS 114
Yarn: Lion Brand Microspun
Colorway: Lilac
Needles: 3 (3.25 mm), 4 (3.5 mm)

Fortune’s Wrap

Once upon a time—some unremembered year before I joined Ravelry, so probably in the early 2000s—I bought 10 hanks of Koigu Kersti Merino Crepe. I hadn’t been planning to buy it when I went to the yarn store—I’d never even heard of it before—but they were closing it out, there was enough of it to make a vest, and I liked the colorway.

Fast-forward 15 years or so. I moved a couple of times; the yarn moved with me. I’d see it every now and then when I was digging through my stash looking for something else, and I’d feel a bit guilty that I wasn’t using it. More than once, I seriously contemplated getting rid of it, but then I’d have an attack of the sunk cost fallacy and end up reburying it in the stash and pushing it out of sight for a while longer.

A few years ago, I discovered the Fortune’s Shawlette pattern. I’ve liked it enough to make four of them so far. (I admit I’ve liked some of the finished shawlettes more than others.) Crochet often makes a stiff fabric without a lot of stretch, but between fingering weight yarn and a very open stitch, the Fortune’s Shawlette is drapey enough to make wearing it easy. And because it’s worked sort of like entrelac, it breaks up the color in a short-repeat yarn differently than knitted rows do, in a way I find quite attractive.

With all that going for it, you’ve probably guessed that I was happy to learn that the designer had taken this pattern stitch and turned it into a wrap. I got thrown a bit at first, though, because this pattern uses DK yarn. Also, the designer measures the gauge differently than she did in the Fortune’s Shawlette pattern. For the shawlette, the gauge may be measured on an unblocked swatch—at least that’s how I measured it, and the shawlettes have come out just fine. The pattern for the wrap, however, specifies a blocked gauge swatch. Somehow, that threw me, and that delayed my starting the project by several months. But I didn’t forget about it, and eventually I decided that, like the shawlette, I’d work with whatever hook was large enough that I’d feel as if I was about to lose control of the crocheting. That doesn’t sound all that promising when I write it out like that, but it worked—I even had to drop down two hook sizes from what the designer had used.

The wrap was bigger than I’d imagined. (Because why do anything sensible before starting like use a tape measure to see just how long the finished dimensions would be?) I’d hoped to use up all ten hanks of the yarn, but I’m short, and at nine hanks, it was sufficiently large for my height. As lacy things do, it grew during blocking, going from 17″ x 66″ to 27″ x 86″ (43 x 168 cm to 69 x 218 cm). I suspect I’m going to need to use a shawl pin to fix it in place for anything more active than posing for a photo.

There’s a warm glowing feeling at having finally used a yarn that’s been in your stash long enough for its origins to have almost been forgotten. Although my stash is large enough that it doesn’t seem at all smaller with this yarn out of it…

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Fortune’s Wrap
Pattern: Fortune’s Wrap
Yarn: Koigu Kersti Merino Crepe
Colorway: K451
Hook: K (6.5 mm)

A tartan in texture

Apparently not even months of semi-self-isolation are enough for me to stay up-to-date on this blog. I’m sure there’s some irony in the fact that I’m using my free time to knit and crochet rather than write about knitting and crochet. So now that we’re in the muggy depths of sultry summer, let me tell you about a nice warm sweater I finished back in February.

I bought both the pattern and the yarn for the Highlander cardigan back in 2010. I saw the sweater at a vendor’s stall at that year’s Shepherd’s Harvest and bought the pattern right there and then, although I didn’t get the yarn until later. I then managed to not start working on the sweater until 2019. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to make it as that I wanted to make other things first, and the next thing I knew, nearly a decade had gone by. 😅

Click to enlarge

You’d think a pattern made almost exclusively of knits and purls would be simple to knit. Ha. It was difficult to see the tartan pattern against the dark yarn (yes, I know, I know—I should’ve chosen a lighter colored yarn), and the pattern kept shifting subtly. Even though I memorized it fairly early on, I was constantly counting rows and stitches, trying to make it all come out right. Somehow I didn’t even notice the sweater had cables until I was casting on for the bottom ribbing. The body is knit from the bottom up in one piece, with cables taking the place of side seams. You divide at the armholes—the side-seam cables split and continue around the armholes—and then knit the sleeves and sew them in later.

Why yes, that’s snow reflected in the glass behind me. I said I’d finished this sweater in February!

Although I appreciated not having to sew side seams, I’d forgotten just how long rows take when you’re knitting the front and back of a sweater simultaneously. The pattern is written in good detail, which is really helpful when you’re trying to coordinate cables and cardigan fronts and set-in sleeves. And let’s not overlook the sheer joy of starting and finishing a sweater that had been in my queue for 9 years!


Highlander
Pattern: Highlander
Yarn: Knit Picks City Tweed DK
Colorway: Morning Glory
Needles: 3 (3.25 mm), 4 (3.5 mm)

Two more bracelets

I had some time yesterday, and more beads that I hadn’t used, and came up with another two bracelets.

They turned out to be challenging to photograph. They’re barely showing up against a white background, but against anything darker, it was almost impossible to tell they had any color to them at all.

The bracelet on the left is made of rose quartz and silver tone spacer beads. This started life as a bracelet of all rose quartz, bought with that all amethyst bracelet. I could wish the beads were a deeper shade of pink, but this may be why the original bracelet was so inexpensive!

The bracelet on the right has morganite beads (I think—the string wasn’t labeled) and rose gold tone spacer beads.


Bracelet #1
6 mm rose quartz beads, 3 mm silver tone spacer beads, 1 mm clear stretch cord

Bracelet #2
5 mm morganite (?) beads, 3 mm rose tone spacer beads, 0.7 mm clear stretch cord

Productive procrastinating

A month or so before the pandemic, I was buying beads and findings. Although it would make a good story if I’d had a premonition that I might need to keep myself occupied for a while, the reality was that I’d wandered down the “wrong” aisle at Michaels, seen some pretty beads, remembered that I liked to make bead jewelry, and took advantage of some sales. Still, it was good timing: I went into Minnesota’s stay-at-home order not only with my usual bursting-at-the-seams yarn stash, but a respectable hoard of beads.

Bracelet #1: I wasn’t terribly creative at first. I started off by redoing things I already owned: resized a couple of bracelets, restrung a necklace…that sort of thing. The first piece of new jewelry was a bracelet I made pretty much by transferring most of the beads from a string I’d purchased straight onto some stretch cord and tying a knot in it. Unfortunately, I’m a lot more practiced at keeping good notes for knitting and crochet, and I didn’t record what this stone is. I think it’s beryl, but I’m not going to swear to that.

After that, the beading supplies sat untouched while I threw my energies first into knitting, crochet, and working from home, and then into resurrecting my sewing skills—and my sewing machine—to make masks. I finally found myself in the mood to play with beads yesterday afternoon. Even then, I was only going to repair another bracelet: amethyst beads on a stretch cord that I’d accidentally cut. Maybe 15 minutes, tops, to restring it, and probably less. But while digging the reel of stretch cord out of my box of the beading supplies, I got distracted.

Bracelet #2: I found the stretch cord. I also found a string of iridescent glass beads. With beads with this much sparkle to them, there was no need to get fancy. I was going to just put them on a stretch cord and leave it at that, but then I tried alternating the glass beads with silver spacer beads. It’s a subtle difference, but even though the silver beads are practically unnoticeable, they set the glass beads off wonderfully.

Bracelet #3: Now that I’d found my cache of silver spacer beads, I finally had an idea of what to do with these nifty purple/pink beads I’d gotten. Since the beads were opaque, I used beading wire for durability. The clasp is magnetic. I’m hoping it’s strong enough to hold the bracelet on through everyday wear, since it makes the bracelet so easy to put on with one hand. But if not, I’ll just switch it out for a lobster claw or something.

Bracelet #4: After the two bracelets and restringing a necklace, I finally got around to the amethyst bracelet I’d intended to work on from the start. After the other two, a bracelet of just amethyst beads seemed a mite boring. So I took out a few of the amethyst beads and added some antiqued silver beads. Much better.

Earrings: Practically an afterthought. I was trying to organize the beading supplies and get a better idea of what I had. While doing so, I found some amazonite beads left over from a previous project, some silver heishi beads (ditto), some silver pins (ditto ditto), some silver earring posts/backs…and, well, I can always find an outfit to wear simple earrings with.


Bracelet #1
6 mm beryl (?) beads, 0.7 mm clear stretch cord.

Bracelet #2
6 mm iridescent glass beads, 3 mm silver plated spacer beads, 0.7 mm clear stretch cord

Bracelet #3
8 mm purple dyed shell beads, 8 mm purple glass luster beads, 3 mm silver-tone spacer beads, 0.018 inch (0.46 mm) bead stringing wire, magnetic clasp

Bracelet #4
6 mm amethyst beads, 4 mm x 5 mm antiqued silver rice beads, 1 mm clear stretch cord

Earrings
8 mm amazonite beads, 3 mm antiqued silver beaded heishi beads, 3 mm silver jump rings, silver posts

Lesson learned

Someday, I will learn not to join mystery knit-alongs. Or rather, let’s be more optimistic than that and say that with this shawl, I have learned not to join mystery knit-alongs. I like the concept, and the actual knitting has been pleasant enough, but I have yet to end up with a finished item that I wanted to wear.

I joined this knit-along early-ish in 2019, in great part because the pattern wasn’t the mystery. It was going to use the Sunshower Shawl pattern by Ambah O’Brien; the great unknown was which 12 colors of yarn we’d receive to knit it in. I did enjoy knitting the shawl, one monthly installment of yarn at a time, and I’m seriously considering making another one. But the 12 colors don’t really go with my wardrobe, and I’m unlikely to ever wear the poor thing.

By the way, the final installment was the I-cord bind off that edges the entire shawl. When you set it up, you have 760 stitches on the needle, which is impressive in its own right. But the I-cord bind off uses 3 stitches for every stitch you bind off. So I’ve decided to say I bound off 2, 280 stitches on this shawl. Wow.

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Sunshower Shawl
Pattern: Sunshower Shawl
Yarn: madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light
Colorways: Ceremony, Winter’s Rest, Silver Fox, Constellation, Antler, Star Scatter, Hosta Blue, Dopamine, Coquette Deux, Beautiful Liar, Twin Peaks, Iris
Needles: 4 (3.5 mm)

2019 by the numbers

2019 was a year of a lot of knitting (and crocheting), but not a year of a lot of finishing. I came out of the year with nine projects completed: if not as fantastic as 2018, still more than twice the production of 2017 (the Year of Barely Knitting).

Starting with the big(ger) picture, here’s what I made:

You could argue that there isn’t enough difference between shawls and shawlettes to justify making them two different kinds of projects. It’s mainly a question of size. But if nothing else, the chart is more interesting with more categories in it.

So what colors were these nine projects?

PINK AND PURPLE FTW! And did this surprise any of you? Ha.

Next up: the crafts involved:

I keep saying I want to crochet more. I ended up crocheting less this year: that 11.1% represents one crochet project. But I did it!

And what kinds of yarn did these nine projects use?

Again, less variety this year. You’d think that all the projects I’m doing with fingering weight yarn would at least reduce my supply of the stuff, but I’m managing to bring it in faster than I can use it up (surprise, surprise).

Plans for 2020? I don’t have actual challenges this year like I do for reading, but it looks like staying at home is giving me more crafting time. (Hey, look: I finally wrote this blog post!) I’m trying to emphasize the calming, focusing aspects of knitting/crochet over sheer production, but I really enjoy the zing of finishing something, so there’ll be some internally-generated pressure to accomplish things. But if the point is to enjoy myself, then that’s not a bad thing within reason, I figure.

Delphinia Shawl

My Ravelry queue is an idealistic vision of my aspirations to be an organized creator. In theory, I will add projects to my queue only when I own the pattern. My adding the project will be a commitment to definitely make it, and to reinforce this, I will link appropriate yarn from my stash, reserving it for this future project. If I just want to bookmark an interesting pattern for possible consideration in the future, I’ll add it to my favorites list—no commitment involved. See? It’s a system.

Narrator: She usually ignored her queue and chose projects on a whim from her favorites.

The Delphinia Shawl pattern had come to my attention one day when I was browsing for shawl patterns that would use more than one skein of fingering weight yarn. (Even with bursts of disciplined weeding, my stash is way beyond life expectancy, and I want to use it up faster.) I remember noting that it used two colors and had an arrowhead shape that I’m trying to use for more shawls and shawlettes, since it makes them easier to wear. I noticed at the time that the green yarn used in the original had speckles or splotches of other colors, but I wasn’t intending to use that yarn and didn’t pay any more attention to it than that. Onto the favorites list it went, no doubt with several other patterns that day.

Fast-forward a week or so. I’m on KnitPicks’s mailing list, and I got an announcement for one of their “sock lab” limited issue yarns. This was a Stroll color pair, where there were 10 colors. Five were bright colors. The other five were super-pale shades of those first five. Both the pale and bright versions had speckles of a deeper shade of that color. I found most of them attractive, but limited myself to only getting the pink variation.

Stroll Sock Labs: Berry
Stroll Sock Labs: Berry Speckle

(And yeah, buying more yarn is pretty much the opposite of using up your stash. Still working on that.)

So anyway, what was I going to do with yarn like this? Which is when the Delphinia pattern popped back to mind, even down to how Ambah O’Brien had used a speckled yarn for the garter stitch stripes. This sounded like the perfect pattern for these yarns. And they worked out well. As it turns out, I had much more yarn than the pattern called for, so I was able to add another two stripes. While I was knitting the shawl, I was a mite concerned that the garter stitch bands were 14 rows (7 ridges) wide while the mesh ones were only 10 rows (5 holes) wide. I need not have worried: the perceptive designer had realized that the mesh would stretch more than the garter stitch, and after blocking, all stripes were the same width.

And lo, I have made another shawl. But not from my queue.

—–

Delphinia Shawl
Pattern: Delphinia Shawl
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Hand-Painted
Colorways: Berry, Berry Speckle
Needles: 3 (3.25 mm)

Bliss Kalari Shawl

If you love a pattern, do it again. Since the Lothlorien Kalari Shawl worked out so well, I decided to make one in one of the cakes of Twisted Fiber Art yarn I had in my stash. The chosen cake was in the Bliss colorway. I retrieved the cake from the stash, I chose my needles, and then I hit an unexpected obstacle: the cake was so pretty, I hesitated to even start the project. I just kept admiring the cake!

Eventually I shook myself free of my admiration and got started. The knitting itself was uneventful. As I said back with my first Kalari, it’s a repetitive, not particularly challenging project. It’s meant to show off the color changes of a graduated yarn, and it does that quite well.

Click to enlarge

I did run into a small challenge at the end. The problem was, I had almost enough yarn—but not quite—to do one final pattern repeat. If I finished the shawl the way the designer intended, I was going to have a lot of purple yarn left over, and to my eyes, anyway, the shawl would look off-balance. My solution was to add a picot bind off. I may have chosen the world’s most finicky one, though! I really like how it’s looks, so it was worth the effort (I’m going to keep telling myself that, anyway), but each picot required turning the project twice. I did test other bind offs, but at least for this particular project, I liked this one the best. And it consumed enough purple yarn that I didn’t feel like I’d wasted it.

And ta-da: a lovely, well-color-balanced shawl:

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Bliss Kalari Shawl
Pattern: Kalari Shawl
Yarn: Twisted Fiber Art Ariel Evolution
Colorway: Bliss
Needles: 4 (3.5 mm)

Dyeing II: Fun with acid dyes

Last month, I went to a knitting retreat. The knitting retreat, really, as I haven’t gone to any others and I attend this one faithfully. I took exactly one photo of me knitting and several photos of nature. Crosslake was probably at the peak of its fall color and I would’ve been out in nature a lot more except for the sleet/snow mix we had for much of the weekend.

This year, I participated in the dyeing class. It was taught by the owner of Lavender Lune Yarn Company, who lives sort of nearby. The cost of the class covered one skein of undyed yarn—your choice from a variety of different weights offered—and you could buy more if you wanted to. Not knowing if I’d enjoy yarn dyeing, I went with one skein: a standard hank of fingering weight yarn (465 yards (425 m), 75% merino and 25% nylon). If nothing else, I have umpteen potential patterns to use that with!

Tempting though it might sound, one does not just hurl plain yarn into a pot of dye and hope for the best. We started by soaking our skeins in water and citric acid. The acid sets the dye, which is why these dyes are called acid dyes. After it had a good chance to get thoroughly soaked, remove the yarn and put it in a pot with plain water to cover.

It’s hard to see in these photos, but the pot is on a burner. We heated the water to a simmer, and then started adding dye.

I hadn’t really given much thought ahead of time to what I wanted my dyed skein to look like. As the teacher talked and I looked over the jars of powdered dyes, I decided to go with a light indigo or lavender. I learned that because my yarn was a mixture of wool and nylon, it would be possible to speckle it. Dyes behave differently on different fibers, and I guess they diffuse too much on pure wool yarns to speckle them. So now I was aiming for a pastel blue-to-purple color with specks of dark purple and maybe some bright pink.

This did not quite come out as intended.

I started by putting a small amount of a dye called “Peri My Winkle” into the pot. I figured it’d dye the yarn periwinkle, which I think of as a blue-purple color. What I got was cobalt blue. And as I’d been unwittingly generous with how much dye I put in the pot, it was quite bold in spots. The end result was lovely—it’s just not what I had in mind.

Next, just to see what would happen, I “injected” the yarn with a dark lilac dye in places. You can tell from the drops on the spoon and in the syringe that this, at least, was the color I expected! Mix the dye with some water in a cup, draw it up in the syringe, and squirt it into the yarn without stirring it around.

This, at least, seemed more successful. So I went ahead and sprinkled some fuchsia dye in spots over the yarn, hoping to get the sprinkled effect. It sort of worked. I think I may have put more dye altogether into the pot than the yarn could absorb. Several rinses later, it’s still turning water pink.

Anyway, here’s the final result. Not what I imagined, but quite nice.

Do I want to dye more yarn? Yes. Although I’ll only be working with acid dyes in classes, either at future retreats or in other venues. These dyes are more hazardous to work with than Kool-Aid. You shouldn’t use them in pots that you put food in, it’s not healthy to inhale the powder, and I doubt I should be pouring the waste water down the drain. I don’t have a good working space in my apartment for dyes, nor do I have space to store dyeing equipment. And have I mentioned the large stash of yarn I have that’s already in pretty colors? But a class every now and then would be fun.