Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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A journey of a thousand links begins with a single centimeter

A few years ago, I was wandering through the dealers’ room at CONvergence when I saw my first chain maille jewelry. I ended up buying one bracelet and commissioning a second one, and after that, I made sure to visit that vendor every year. Alas, they were not at CONvergence this year, and while there were other vendors selling chain maille, nothing in their wares called to me. I’d planned on commissioning another bracelet. Now there seemed to be but one answer: I’d have to learn how to do chain maille myself.

The Internet has many flaws, but when you want to learn a new craft, it is a glorious resource. I found books, and the books pointed me to suppliers. I decided on a kit as my first project. From the bracelets I already owned, I knew I liked Byzantine weave. So a kit to make a Byzantine bracelet sounded perfect. It would give me the basic supplies, everything except the pliers—and I already owned chain-nose pliers for beading—and would spell everything out for me. I bought the kit, read two introductory books on chain maille, and started my first piece yesterday.

The good news: the kit’s instructions are clear and easy to understand. But even though Byzantine weave is fine for beginners, I don’t think this particular kit is. I’d assumed the rings would be anodized aluminum, a good beginner’s metal because it’s pretty easy to manipulate. Instead, they’re enameled copper, and besides that, they’re pretty small. That’ll be great in the finished bracelet, because I prefer small, delicate jewelry, but it’s not good for a first project. The copper and the small size of the rings together mean that the rings are much harder to close than I expected. My pliers kept slipping and scratching the enamel. Plus, I need better magnification. I did get a magnifier, and it helps, but I’d like something stronger. I can knit by touch, but if that’s even possible in chain maille, I’m not there yet! In knitting terms, this was like doing your first knitting project with excellent instructions, but with only cotton fingering weight yarn and size 3 (3.25 mm) needles to work with, one of which keeps snagging your yarn.

But enough of the hardships. Look what I made!Byzantine weave chain maille attached to a paper clip.

In real life, that sample is about 1 cm long. I may not be able to salvage it for the finished bracelet, but I’ll still keep it as My Very First Chain Maille. (I’m sure it looks better than My Very First Knitting did.) I ruined quite a few rings to get this far, and I’m stopping for now because I don’t want to run out of rings to finish the bracelet. But I’ve got better tools and a bunch of anodized aluminum rings on order. I got the weave right (like I said, I have good instructions), and some of those closures are surprisingly good, given my complete lack of experience. I just need practice. How long until my order arrives?


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Blue, blue, and more blue

I could tell you tales of this yarn. How I bought it and its cousin—a similar yarn in shades of pink—in 2013: my first gradient yarns. That I’ve tried it in multiple projects, but have had to pull it repeatedly for failure to get gauge. (Supposedly a fingering weight yarn, it has behaved more like a light fingering.) That even though the label stated it was 75% merino wool and 25% nylon, it felt about as soft as kitchen twine. (The page for this yarn on Ravelry makes no claims that the wool is merino.) That eventually I started referring to it as “the problem child.”

Or I could just show you what it finally became:

besimpleblue1

Be Simple Variations is one of those patterns that doesn’t hold you to a specific weight of yarn, so I could stop worrying about getting gauge. Since I no longer had to force this yarn into unsuitable gauges, I went down a needle size, which gave me garter stitch with some cushiness to it, not a limp mess. I started at the narrower (dark blue) end, and while that first shade seemed to go on forever, once the color started to change, knitting the shawlette became downright addictive. Like with long-repeat yarns, I got into a mindset of Just one more pattern repeat and maybe the color will change again…!

besimpleblue2Well, now I’ve learned that the yarn at the beginning of the project, the narrower end of an asymmetrical triangle, is the part that’s going to be closest to my face. Also, a picot bindoff is a much more interesting way of ending a shawlette, given that the wide end is so visible. It consumes yarn a lot faster than you think it’s going to. I had enough yarn left for four rows—half a pattern repeat—when I started the bindoff, but I only had a few yards left at the end. And much to my delight, the yarn softened the second it touched water. It’s still not merino, but it’s not going to be mistaken for burlap either. Another bonus, from the pattern rather than the yarn, is that Be Simple Variations is a good shape for wearing. Once I get it wrapped, it pretty much stays put, instead of my having to constantly tug at it. That inspired me to make a second one, in a randomly-dyed tonal-ish yarn that I’d been saving for a good pattern. (Watch this space for the future Be Simple Variations (pink) shawlette!)

Since I bought this yarn, Knitcircus has discontinued Greatest of Ease I, but when I saw their booth at the Vogue Knitting Live Marketplace a couple of weeks ago, I walked away with two cakes of their Trampoline yarn. (Plus a few other things from the Marketplace, but overall, I was amazed at my restraint.) Both in gradients, of course. Of course, the pink Sock du Soleil yarn from 2013 is still waiting for its perfect pattern—a bit of a challenge, as I don’t have many patterns in mind for only 420 yards (384 m). And I’m going to find the time to knit this yarn and all the rest in the stash when?

—–

Be Simple Variations (blue)
Pattern: Be Simple Variations
Yarn: Knitcircus Greatest of Ease I
Colorway: Ocean Depths
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)


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Pretty, plain vanilla

I like multicolored yarn. I also like subtlety. Together, this means I have a lot of tonal yarn in my stash. I admire brightly multicolored yarn from a safe distance—say, in someone else’s project. Me, I go for yarn in multiple shades of one color (I have two projects on the needles that are in shades of denim blue). Or, if I’m feeling radical, I’ll use a group of closely related colors (I have one project on the hook that is in shades of pink, blue, and purple).

For some reason, despite having almost all my clothes and yarn in the same colors (green, blue, purple, pink, gray), I have trouble finding combinations of clothes and knitted/crocheted things that go together. At least those denim blue projects of mine should go with all the blue jeans in my wardrobe. Frustrated, I decided to try a different approach. Neutrals go with almost everything, but I’d done enough stuff in gray for a while, and black is a stronger color than I want next to my face. Time to investigate the possibilities of white.

herald5

In 2013, I’d made a shawlette in Starry. I haven’t been wearing it nearly as much as I thought I would, but I liked the yarn and wanted to use it again. Alas, Dream in Color has discontinued Starry, and the only skein left in my stash is dark gray, which I wasn’t in the mood for. But when I noticed I was pining for Starry, I realized I wanted this new shawlette to sparkle, and there are other sparkly yarns out there. I ended up with a hank of Knit Picks Bare Stroll Glimmer. I’d gone onto Knit Picks’ website meaning to see what colors they had, but I decided I liked the undyed version better than the rest. Plus, Bare Stroll Glimmer is a 100 g hank; I wouldn’t have to join two 50 g balls mid-project.

herald4As for the pattern, I continue to work my way through Janina Kallio’s ouevre. Herald had several points in its favor. It’s one of those patterns where you basically knit until you run out of yarn. I had more yarn than called for, and I wanted to use as much of it as possible. It has a pattern stitch that was interesting to look at, which was good because there wasn’t any variegation in the yarn to add interest. At the same time, it isn’t so complicated that the shimmer in the yarn was totally wasted on the project.

And the result? Hey, I like it! It does exactly what I wanted, which is go with almost everything I own (except my white and off-white shirts, but I can wear all the other shawlettes with them). The yarn was surprisingly soft; I like to snuggle in it. I did think it would sparkle more than it did. I’ll probably have to choose a darker color for higher contrast with the glimmery bits. And guess what: it comes in a shade of denim blue!

—–

Herald
Pattern: Herald
Yarn: Knit Picks Bare Stroll Glimmer
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


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The Tahoe Scarf and how I got it

Last fall, I had an extra ball of Chroma Fingering on hand and no plans for it, so I invented a scarf pattern and knitted it. And lo, the Lupine Scarf came into existence. I thought it turned out well, and I’ve enjoyed wearing it, so I decided to make another one. A scarf that takes just one skein of fingering weight yarn is a great project for stash-busting. At least if your stash is filled with lone 100 g skeins of fingering weight yarn. Mine is.

I went with a skein of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, a noticeably different yarn from Chroma. Chroma is a single ply yarn with long mirrored color repeats. Shepherd Sock is a plied yarn, much smoother than Chroma, with short color repeats. Both Chroma and Shepherd Sock are wool/nylon blends, but Shepherd Sock is a lot more like string than Chroma is, so I’m hoping I can wear this scarf comfortably in the summer, at least in air-conditioned buildings.

And lo, the Tahoe Scarf came into existence:

Tahoe Scarf draped across a bench.

Having made this scarf twice now, I figured I should write down what I was doing. Although “pattern” seems like a grandiose term for the following. This is more like a collection of suggestions on one way to knit a scarf.

Vertical Lace Trellis Scarf*

Materials: 100 g of fingering weight yarn.

Or thereabouts. This is one of those “knit until the scarf is as long as you want it” things. And while I’m using fingering weight yarn, I suspect you could use other weights just as well, either heavier or lighter, although I don’t know how much yarn you’d need then.

Gauge: ?

For both the Lupine Scarf and the Tahoe Scarf, I used needles larger than you usually use with fingering weight yarn and played around until I got fabric that stretched a lot but still had some structure to it. To put it another way, there’s a point at which if a needle or hook is way too big for the yarn, I feel like I’m losing control of it, and I hold onto yarn and needles/hook alike with a death grip so that I don’t drop it all on the floor. This makes knitting or crocheting uncomfortable. For this scarf, I use the needle size that’s one size smaller than the one at which I’d go into death grip mode.

Cast on an odd number of sts.

How many stitches? It depends on how wide you want your scarf to be. For the Lupine Scarf, I cast on 41 stitches. But although both Chroma Fingering and Shepherd Sock are fingering weight, Shepherd Sock is a lighter yarn. I ended up going down a needle size to get a good gauge on it (to avoid the death grip!), and I increased the number of stitches to 43 to make up for that.

When you cast on for lace, you’re advised to choose a stretchy cast on. I had trouble finding one that was stretchy enough. I finally tried a different approach. The chained cast on is a crochet cast on that isn’t all that stretchy. (You may know it better as the provisional cast on, but when I’m planning on keeping it, it’s hardly provisional.)  I made up for the lack of stretch by using a crochet hook that was noticeably larger than the needles I was going to use. So the cast on doesn’t stretch, but it’s wide enough that it doesn’t need to.

Rows 1 and 3: (WS) Purl.

Row 2: (RS) K1, *yo, K2 tog; rep from * to end of row.

Row 4: *SSK, yo; rep from * to last st, k1.

Repeat these 4 rows until the scarf is as long as you want it. Bind off loosely enough that it doesn’t pull in when you stretch the scarf to its full width. Block ferociously.

With the Lupine Scarf, I wanted to make the colors come out evenly, so I ended up finishing off the scarf well before I’d run out of yarn. With the Shepherd Sock, I was able to knit until the end of the skein. Plus, my skein weighed 111 g instead of the standard 100 g, so I had an extra 48 yards or so (44 m) of yarn to work with. After blocking, it measured 16″ x 75″ (41 x 191 cm). It’ll probably shrink a bit as it relaxes, but that’s still plenty of scarf to wear.

*I found the Vertical Lace Trellis stitch in Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, finally justifying my keeping it all these years.

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Tahoe Scarf
Pattern: Vertical Lace Trellis Scarf (!)
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock
Color: Tahoe
Needles: 8 (5.0 mm)
Hook: J (6.0 mm) (for cast on)


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Holden Shawl

Hey, I’ve knit a Holden!

Once upon a time, there was a free shawlette pattern called Holden. I admired it, noted that it took one hank of Malabrigo Sock, remembered that I had one hank of Malabrigo Sock, and figured that this was meant to be. Or not. I was into the lace border before I gave up and frogged it. I suspected I didn’t have enough yarn to finish it—I wish designers would give estimates of how much yarn you need for each part of a project—and ripping the whole thing out so discouraged me that I lost all motivation to start over. But it kept flitting around in my memory. And then time passed and I was browsing Ravelry for shawl and shawlette patterns, when I saw Holden again, only it had grown (and was no longer free). What was once a shawlette was now a pattern with options for medium and large sizes and different weights of yarn, and the large size was definitely a shawl, not a shawlette.

Once upon a time, I went a little yarn-wild at Shepherd’s Harvest and instead of buying one manageable skein of a pretty yarn, I bought two. This despite the fact that I didn’t have all that many patterns in mind that could use 918 yards (839 m) of fingering yarn. So the yarn went into the stash. Occasionally I’d see it when I was looking for something else, and I’d want to use it because it was a pretty yarn, but, well, 918 yards.mer-madeplusfingering_blackberry_medium

And then came the day I saw the revised Holden pattern, looked at the yarn requirements, and saw that I could make the fingering weight shawl with most of 918 yards, and my brain made the obvious connection. Four months of knitting and a three-month hiatus* later, I have a Holden shawl. The yarn turned out to be lovely knitted up as well as in the hank. Something must have been off in my gauge swatch, because I ended up with less than ten yards (9 m) after binding off—eek! But it’s done, and I’ve gotten past that first Holden defeat. Although I still haven’t found the right pattern for that hank of Malabrigo Sock.Holden3

Oh, and I think you need to start the lace border when you have at least 50% of your yarn left, but unless I make another Holden, I can’t say that for sure.Holden2

*How come sometimes stockinette stitch is peacefully mindless and other times it’s unendurably dull?

—–

Holden Shawl
Pattern: Holden
Yarn: Blackberry Ridge Mer-made Plus Fingering
Color: Blackberry
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


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Cobblestone Shawlette

For a designer whom I’d never heard of before a few months ago, I’m becoming quite fond of Janina Kallio’s patterns. She does a lot with combining solid knitting and mesh, and this appeals to me. So after finishing the Ardent Shawlette, I went straight into another pattern of hers: Cobblestone.

Cobblestone Shawlette

I’d been saving this skein of Rustic Fingering until I found the right pattern, and I decided this was it. (I mean, when a yarn is this lovely shade of pink, you can’t knit just anything with it.) I had more yarn than the pattern called for, but this is a design that lets you add as many pattern repeats as you like as long as the numbers come out right. I added three more. I was weighing the yarn after each repeat, trying to figure out how much the four-row repeat was consuming—plus the repeats were gradually growing, and thus using slightly more yarn…yeah, it was a bit tense at times, and I did a lot more ripping out than I’d counted on. And at the end, I had barely enough yarn to bind off, and I didn’t bind off as stretchily as would’ve been best. But by that point, I was determined to just see it done.

Cobblestone Shawlette being worn.Unfortunately, I was disappointed with this design. Purely a matter of preference on my part; it’s not like the pattern was badly written or anything like that. I simply hadn’t realized until blocking that the garter stitch sections have a much shorter row gauge than the mesh section. Somehow that didn’t occur to me while I was planning the project and I never noticed while I was knitting it (I blame the fact that it was all scrunched up on the needles). But once it was off, flat, and wet, it became obvious that I was going to have to stretch the heck out of the garter stitch sections to keep them from pulling the mesh out of shape, and I don’t like the look of stretched garter stitch. Hmph. (Yes, I’d seen the photos on Ravelry and some of them were close enough to see the garter stitch. I didn’t make the connection. Grr.)

But enough complaining.🙂 It’s done, it’s a lovely shade of pink, and it looks nice when worn. Which is really all that matters.

—–

Cobblestone Shawlette
Pattern: Cobblestone
Yarn: Neighborhood Fiber Co. Rustic Fingering
Color: Victorian Village
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


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The passionate purple of Ardent

I’m not sure why I bother to maintain a queue on Ravelry. I carefully arrange projects on it, match yarn to patterns—and then go off and do projects on whims. The Ardent Shawlette was a whim project. Fifty-something potential projects in my queue when I saw this pattern, and, well, here’s a shawlette. And my queue has grown to sixty-something potential projects, because I decided I liked several of Janina Kallio’s other patterns. So really, the problem is getting worse.

ArdentI was attracted by, uh, the pattern in this pattern (oh English, you’re so wonderfully ambiguous sometimes). I liked how the solid bands of garter stitch alternate with openwork. This looked like it would be a great project for a yarn a little more exciting color-wise than the tonals I tend to use; the solid bands would show the yarn off well, while the openwork would add texture interest. I was right. The yarn hasn’t photographed well, but it’s mainly purple with splashes of dark fuchsia and teal. I bought the yarn in St. Cloud while on my way to the annual knitting retreat a couple of years ago and I’m delighted to have finally found a pattern for it.

Kallio says this is an asymmetrical shawlette. It was when I was knitting it. I tried to block it asymmetrically as well, but I ended up with a more or less symmetrical triangle anyway. I ran out of yarn a few rows from the end—I suspect my gauge loosened up over time. But I was in no mood to rip it out and reknit it, and it’ll work just fine as is.Ardent2

I didn’t expect this project to take as long as it did (three months). I developed a hand problem that noticeably limited how long I could spend knitting at one time. Plus, I found other activities to distract me. (I know, I know: how could anything be more fascinating than knitting? Although crocheting equals it.) But here it is, and I’ve already cast on for the next project. This is Cobblestone, another pattern by Kallio, with more garter stitch and openwork. A pattern that I’d queued when I realized that I liked several of her designs. And that’s why I bother to maintain a queue on Ravelry, it seems.

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Ardent Shawlette
Pattern: Ardent
Yarn: Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk Paints
Color: Violets (9995)
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)


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2015 by the numbers

Yes, I’ve decided this is going to be an annual feature of this blog. Whether or not anyone enjoys reading it, I enjoy putting it together.

The first number, of course, is how many projects I finished in 2015, which is fifteen, nicely enough. No, I’m not shooting for sixteen projects in 2016. That’s a slippery slope that will eventually lead to my being in my 80’s and trying to do fifty projects in a year. Let’s not go there.

I love color, so I track the dominant color in my projects. I don’t love too much math, though, so I count this by the number of projects I’ve done, not by how much knitting I’ve done in each color..

2015knittingcolors

Admire the yellow while you can: I almost never do projects in it despite the fact it’s my favorite color. (It comes from the Little Lion project.) And purple made it in here this year: yay! But gray dominates again. When did I become someone who knits so much in gray?

2015projectcraft

I did much better than expected when it came to doing more crochet. One project last year, five projects this year. It’s not that I’m trying to make it an even split each year; I just want to do more crochet than I have been doing.

2015-yarnweight

 

But then again, diversity of yarn weight went down. I knitted in laceweight and DK last year as well, and fingering wasn’t so dominant. Although it was knitting small fingering weight projects that let me finish fifteen projects this year.

And what’s coming up for 2016? I’ve got some unfinished projects in fingering weight yarn on the needles, and it would be nice to do another sweater, but other than that, I haven’t really planned anything. I’m letting myself not feel like I have to do another fifteen projects. If it happens, it happens, but there are other things I want to do this year as well! [gasp!]


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Lupine Scarf

Back again! I’ve been out of writing commission for a while because of NaNoWriMo; if I was going to write anything in November, it seemed I should be working on my story. This also meant I wasn’t knitting as much. But now it’s December, the writing has gone down, the knitting has gone up, and I’m finally getting around to mentioning that I finished a scarf in October. Mid-October. Okay, fine, if I’d gotten my act together, I could’ve blogged about it before NaNoWriMo started. I didn’t. Let’s move on.

Lupine Scarf draped on a railing.

This is the Lupine Scarf. It’s named after the colorway of the yarn. The only other name I could think of for it was “Lacy Scarf” and that seemed a bit vague. And what would I call any other lacy scarf I might make in the future?

This is one of my rare forays into designing something rather than using someone else’s pattern. It was inspired by several things. I’d enjoyed making my two Fortune’s Shawlettes and I wanted to try something with a similar openwork pattern, but knitted. I considered the Sonoma Valley Scarf. But it’s designed for a sequential colorway, which is what Chroma Fingering had when that pattern was written. Since then, though, Chroma has gone to a mirrored repeat. So I decided to try making a “normal” rectangular scarf—for some reason I almost never go for that.

Lupine Scarf being worn.There were a few misadventures, like trying to find a properly stretchy cast on. I eventually gave up and used a large crochet hook to make a chained cast on that wasn’t remotely stretchy, but was long enough to match the width of the scarf body. I used the Vertical Lace Trellis stitch for the scarf itself, which I found by browsing through Barbara G. Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Yes, I actually used a stitch reference book—they take up room in the bookcase, and I do so little designing that I keep wondering if I can justify holding onto them. Yes, I can.

When I reached the last part of the ball, I realized that 100 g of Chroma Fingering doesn’t allow that that mirrored color sequence to come out evenly. I decided to make the scarf perfectly symmetrical, which meant stopping with 12 g of yarn still to go. The scarf is plenty long for wearing; I’m just annoyed because I don’t like wasting yarn.

Wearing the scarf has been great. It warms my neck, it stays put (unlike so many of my shawlettes, alas), and so far I haven’t dragged the ends through anything. Not bad for a free ball of yarn and an improvised pattern.

—–

Lupine Scarf
Pattern: personal
Yarn: KnitPicks Chroma Fingering
Color: Lupine
Needles: 9 (5.5 mm)
Hook: 7.0 mm (for cast on)


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Wedge Pullover: completed

Why yes, it has been a while since I last wrote about the Wedge Pullover. 2013 to be exact.

Wedge Pullover.

And now it’s chilly enough to model it.

Quick summary of the lost years: I didn’t finish this sweater in time for the 2013 state fair, but I hadn’t expected to. But without a deadline to work to, I lost interest in it. I decided not to enter anything in the 2014 state fair, so there was no pressure to finish it that year. I worked on it every now and then, and eventually I got it done up to finishing the sleeves. I stalled out two rows from the end and the sweater sat like that for months. Then I realized that the 2015 state fair was coming up and that I wanted to enter something. Of the things I could enter, the Wedge Pullover stood the best chance of placing—plus, I was tired of seeing it lying around 95% done. Naturally, despite having almost two years to finish it, I did so at the last minute. In the final few days before entries were due, I knitted those two rows plus a few more just to make sure the sleeves were long enough, sewed the pieces together, and blocked it. I took a few quick photos for people who wanted to look for it at the fair, but it was mid-August and I couldn’t bear to wear it long enough to take good photos.

I entered the sweater in Hand Knitted Articles: Adult sweater, plain pullover (no intarsia or Fair Isle colorwork, no texture stitches or lace or cables allowed) and it won a blue ribbon, my first ever in knitting at the Minnesota State Fair. Oh yeah, I’m thrilled!😀 And the sweater fits too: yay! It got a bit longer when I blocked it. Okay, hanging on a dummy for two weeks probably didn’t help either. But it’s still an acceptable length on me, so I’ll live. So it’s done, I have something new in my wardrobe this winter, and there’s one UFO fewer haunting me.

Wedge Pullover in state fair display case.

On display at the state fair.

Oh, and the Elnora Cowl won a pink ribbon (4th place) in Crocheted Articles: Clothing Accessories. Whee!

Elnora Cowl in a display case at the state fair.

And if anyone knows what that little blue thing hanging in the lower right corner is…

—–

Wedge Pullover
Pattern: Wedge Pullover
Yarn: Reynolds Odyssey
Color: Bright Blue Mix (409)
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm), 8 (5.0 mm)