Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


2 Comments

Antarktis

In March, I went to the Great Guild Getaway. I’d brought along the gray sweater, but having only one project for an entire weekend was too monotonous. (Sleeves. Worked two at a time. Necessary, but done more out of duty and the determination to finish this sweater rather than pleasure.) So I started another shawlette. It nearly didn’t get going because I hadn’t brought along a needle large enough to get gauge, but I was able to borrow one (thanks, K.!) and dive in. Note to self: always bring a full set of needles. Always.

By now, you probably know just by looking that this is another pattern from Janina Kallio. This one is Antarktis, which Google Translate tells me is how you say “Antarctica” in Finnish, German, Norwegian, and Swedish. I didn’t know that when I started, so my choice of a yarn in icy turquoise and blue shades was coincidental. I’m sure whoever named this color Pegaso was imagining Pegasus flying through blue skies on a sunny day, but I think of water whenever I see this colorway. I hoped I’d have enough yarn, because the pattern calls for 400 yards (366 m) and I had 415 yards (380 m), but I still ended up leaving out one pattern repeat in the final mesh section and half a repeat of the lace border.

There was nothing particularly memorable in the knitting process, which is good for my enjoyment of the knitting—”memorable” too often means I had to rip something out—but leaves me with little to write about. I cannot offer you Grand Drama this time, merely a photo of the shawlette.

Antarktis shawlette

So far, no major upheavals with the gray sweater either. Again, not a bad thing from my perspective. I’m really ready to be done with it, though. Only 52 rows until the end of the sleeves!

—–

Antarktis
Pattern: Antarktis
Yarn: Malabrigo Mechita
Colorway: 892 Pegaso
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)


4 Comments

Supposedly simple double orbital

Having made the two Byzantine bracelets and enjoyed doing so (eventually),  I wanted to learn a different weave. I had a lot of jump rings left over from the first Byzantine bracelet, so I tried making samples of different weaves. Mixed success on this front. Some, like the spiral weave, worked fine, although I discovered soon enough that spiral didn’t interest me all that much. But much of the time, even though I understood how the rings were supposed to go together, I couldn’t physically get them to do what I wanted. Welcome to the concept of “aspect ratio.” Basically, jump rings vary in their inner diameter and the thickness of the wire they’re made from, and the two together are the aspect ratio (aspect ratio = inner diameter divided by wire diameter…okay, I’ll stop with the math now). If the wire is too thick in proportion to the inner diameter for the weave you’re attempting, you’re not going to be able to cram the rings into the space available. If the wire is too thin, I’d guess you’d be able to make the weave, but it’d be flimsy and loose and not look very attractive. This latter possibility is all hypothetical to me, since I was having the first problem. Apparently 16 g rings of 7/32″ inner diameter are fine for the Byzantine and spiral weaves, but other weaves like double spiral and box were just not working.

I put the loose rings aside and bought another kit, figuring that at least they’d give me rings that were the right size for the design. Sure, I’d decided these kits weren’t great for beginners, but now I had all the experience of two bracelets behind me (!). Plus, I liked several of the vendor’s other designs. I chose one in double orbital weave and in an attractive combination of rainbow  and silver rings. Silver colored, that is, not real silver. I was still going to be working with enameled copper.

The first stage was encouraging as all get out: make a chain of the silver rings. This took me twenty minutes, tops. Two rings alternating with one ring. I gloated silently at my proficiency. Yes, all problems were behind me and I was on my way to being a chain maille queen. All I needed to do was add in the colored rings, and…

…nope.

It sounded simple. Lay the chain on the mat, which would cause the paired rings to move apart slightly, like a metal Venn diagram. Then take a colored ring and wrap it around the marquis shape in the center of the “diagram,” close it, then repeat with a second ring of the same color. Again, does this not sound simple?

The first ring of each pair, which I thought would be the more challenging of the two, went in with a bit of a fuss, but not much. The second was hell. I’d poke one end in, and you’d think that the first ring would hold the whole arrangement steady, but no. The second ring would get snagged in the first ring, or it’d go through the silver rings wrong, or it’d go through one of the single silver rings. Twenty minutes for the entire silver chain turned into fifteen to twenty minutes for each second colored ring, and often that ring was scratched by the time I finally got it closed.

The solution was in how to insert them. The best way I can describe it was that at first, I was putting the rings in like a needle and thread: point one end in the direction I wanted it to go and use the pliers to pull the ring into position, assuming that the rest of the ring would follow. That’s what the various books I’d read had instructed me to do, and it had worked just fine for Byzantine weave. For double orbital, I needed to put the ring in like a staple: both ends in at once and then close the ring. Okay, jump rings aren’t staples, and I couldn’t put them in simultaneously. But the moment I got one end in, I’d move to put the other end in, and then wiggle the ring a bit to bring both ends up where I could grab them again and close the ring. Success, usually in two minutes!

And finally: one rainbow double orbital bracelet:

Chain maille bracelet, double orbital weave

I’m taking a break from these kits. I’d still like to make some of these designs, but clearly my tolerance level for working with small enameled copper rings is not high. Plus, I’ve ordered several packs of aluminum rings in an aspect ratio that should work better for the weaves that interest me. And after I’ve played with them a while, maybe niobium? I have ideas for how to use that in a bracelet. It’s too bad I don’t wear bracelets in cold weather because they’re hidden by long sleeves, since at this rate, I’m going to have bracelets all over the place.


4 Comments

Byzantine, Byzantine

My interests wax and wane.  I got all enthusiastic about chain maille back in November. I ordered a kit, had some trouble with it, and ordered some more beginner-suitable supplies. When they arrived, I made a start at Byzantine weave. Yes, it was better to practice on bigger rings, and what I’d suspected proved to be true: aluminum is easier to work with than copper, and anodized color doesn’t scratch as easily as enameling. I did a couple of pattern repeats, was delighted to make some progress…and then didn’t touch it again until last month. The holidays? Other interests? Just too much to do? I dunno. What it came down to was, I put the supplies away in the closet, and didn’t take them out again.

I’m getting into setting definite goals for myself this year with the intent of accomplishing them. (Our HR department would be so proud of me, except that most of these are personal goals, not work-related ones.) Looking around for loose ends to tie up in my life, I remembered chain maille and set finishing the aluminum Byzantine weave bracelet as a goal. I don’t know if something was percolating in the back of my brain or what, but despite the lack of practice, this time, I could see real results. Encouraged, I kept adding rings. (I bet the chain maille equivalent of “just one more row” is “just one more pattern repeat.”) Sure, I was still scratching rings or having to reclose them because the ends didn’t quite line up the first time, but actual chain maille was dangling from my pliers.

And then it happened. I closed enough jump rings that I stopped focusing 100% of my attention on trying to do it just right. I kept working, but I started thinking about other things, and then I looked down and realized I was closing rings pretty decently. Not perfectly, but good enough for a beginner’s first piece. That was encouraging as all get-out, so I kept on, and boy, bracelets don’t take nearly as long to make as sweaters do. Meet my first chain maille bracelet:

byzantine-blue-silver-aluminum

Since I was still in happily obsessed mode, it was good that I had that kit on hand to work on. Now with a real sense of what it feels like to open and close jump rings, the kit was comparatively easy. Comparatively, mind you. I still need practice on closing rings well. (Darn. Must make more bracelets, I guess.) And I still think enameled copper scratches way too easily. But look—I made a second bracelet!

byzantine-purple-teal-platinum

I’m happy to be able to work with smaller rings, because I prefer the more delicate look they create. But of course, you need more rings per inch as you go smaller, so pieces take correspondingly longer to make. Still, practice helps speed things up. When I started the kit again, it took me about 45 minutes to do an inch of Byzantine weave in the smaller rings. By the end, about a week later, I could do an inch in 15 minutes. That’s not just because I’m faster at opening and closing each ring, but also because there are “speedweaving” techniques: methods of pre-closing certain rings in a pattern that let you join them together faster. Right now, I’m following the directions and trusting that it’ll work, but with practice, I’m hoping to understand why they make it go faster.

byzantine-together

Together, to highlight the difference in jump ring sizes. The top bracelet is 3/8″ (1 cm) wide; the bottom one is 7/32″ (6 mm) wide.

I like Byzantine weave, and I want to do more in it. (I dream of a bracelet in rose gold.) But there are many different weaves, and I’m in the mood to try a different one now. Probably in silver, light blue, and/or dark blue, since I have a lot of those aluminum rings left over. It’s a good thing blue goes with so many things in my wardrobe.


2 Comments

More near-instant gratification and a not-so-instant goal

I knitted another Rasta Triangle Cowl. It’s a versatile pattern, and it seemed like it’d be great for another Malabrigo yarn I wanted to try: Caracol. As it turned out, though, Caracol didn’t behave much like Rasta, even though the yarns are essentially the same weight. But, hey, it’s beautiful to look at! And yes, I’m giving most of the credit for that to the yarn.

Caracol triangular cowlOne of the reasons I like this pattern is that it doesn’t have a gauge. It simply instructs you to use size 15 (10.0 mm) needles. Generally, I’m fine with that—not having to knit gauge swatches contributes to the near-instant gratification element of this project. The Rasta worked out fine, but Caracol is a thick-and-thin yarn, and the 15s were too big for it. The cowl is lovely to look at, but annoyingly limp. (Lesson learned: whatever I do with my other skein of Caracol—yes, I have another one—I don’t plan to go above size 13 (9.0 mm) needles.) Oh, and the cowl was a pain and a half to block. Not only did it go limp, but touching it to gently pat it out to a rectangle was enough to get damp blue-green lint all over my fingers. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I had to pat it back into a rectangle. The pattern instructs the knitter to stretch the heck out of this piece, but I decided with the first one that I would be happier if it was shorter and hugged my neck more. But the Caracol stretched out merely by becoming wet. I ended up pushing it together and hoping it would shrink as it dried. Which it did. Sort of. Not enough, alas.

Close-up of Caracol Cowl and its buttonsLint and limpness aside, though, it’s a glorious color. I love the stained glass effect created by the black binder thread wrapped around the wool. And unlike the Rasta cowl, where it was a struggle to find good buttons, I found good buttons for this cowl practically the moment I walked into the fabric store.

So, cowl, yes. But I want more this year, knitting- and crochet-wise. Looking over last year’s stats, I was disappointed that my pie chart of yarn weights had only two “slices” in it. So I made up my own Diversity of Yarn Challenge. It’s pretty simple; make something this year in each of the eight standard yarn weights. Caracol is super-bulky (#6 Super Bulky), so I’m off to a good start. I’m currently knitting a DK-weight sweater (#3 Light). I can easily come up with a fingering weight shawlette (#1 Super Fine). I have plans for a chunky weight sweater (#5 Bulky). That leaves jumbo (#7 Jumbo), worsted (#4 Medium), sport (#2 Fine), and lace (#0 Lace). Plus the actual knitting/crocheting of these projects, of course. I have most of these yarns in my stash—okay, I learned there was a Jumbo category as I was writing this post, and I’ll need to get some yarn for it—it’s just a matter of finding patterns for them and making them.

—–

Caracol Triangle Cowl
Pattern: The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Caracol
Color: Teal Feather
Needles: 15 (10.0 mm)


3 Comments

2016 by the numbers

I see from rereading 2015 by the numbers that “I’m letting myself not feel like I have to do another fifteen projects.” Rest assured, I didn’t. I managed nine projects in 2016. No, nothing was wrong. I just found other things to do that weren’t knitting or crochet.

First up, the colors I used in projects last year. Not that there’s a theme here or anything.

Pie chart of dominant project colors.

One of these colors is not like the others…

Okay, now there’s a pie chart I could wear. That’s my everyday wardrobe (with one little exception). Oddly, gray, the color I used the most during 2015, is nowhere to be seen. I’m currently working on a gray sweater, though, so if I finish it this year, it’ll count.

Pie chart of project craft

Well, this certainly wasn’t the Year of Crafting Variety. That 11% represents one project. On the other hand, I did do one crochet project. But I definitely want to do more crochet in 2017.

Pie chart of project yarn by weight

No, not much diversity in my project yarn weight either. I enjoyed the projects I did (most of them anyway), but I’d have liked to have done more of them in something besides fingering weight yarn. And when I did do a project in something besides fingering weight, I went to the other end of the yarn weight spectrum altogether. No happy mediums in 2016!

My plans for crafting in 2017? Still up in the air. More crochet, different yarn weights, and maybe even more colors if that happens to work out. But above all, enjoyment, even if I end up doing a year of nothing except knitted projects in fingering weight yarn.


4 Comments

Well-loved patterns

With summer over, I found myself with more time to manipulate yarn. I had fun using patterns I already loved, mainly to see how they looked in new yarns.

First up, another Fortune’s Shawlette. By now, three times in, I’m quite familiar with the pattern. But when I saw this colorway, I knew instantly that I wanted it and that this is what I wanted to do with it. I mean, seriously, it’s in shades of blue, pink, and purple. That’s basically the heart of my wardrobe—how could I not use this yarn? And the joy of the Fortune’s Shawlette pattern is that variegated yarn shows up as spots of color rather than streaks.

triangular lace shawlette

Fortune’s Shawlette

And after that, as promised, another Be Simple Variations shawlette. I’d planned to make another one of these, and maybe more than one, since they wear well in the sense of not falling easily off my shoulders. The last thing I made in this colorway just never was much fun to wear, and I wanted something that I actually liked. The colorway is out of production, so I figured this was my last shot at it. There’s the tiniest hint of orange in it, a color I so rarely get to wear, but with this much pink and purple around it, I can carry it off.

besimplepink1

Be Simple Variations shawlette (pink)…

Close-up photo of the Be Simple Variations shawlette.

…and a close-up of the stitch pattern and the picot bind-off.

And there they are: two more shawlettes in favorite styles and my shawlette drawer that much closer to bursting at the seams. Oh yeah, wrecked furniture—now that’ll give me a sense of accomplishment!

—–

Fortune’s Shawlette (blue/pink/purple)
Pattern: Fortune’s Shawlette
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock
Color: 26 Wisteria
Hook: 7.0 mm

—–

Be Simple Variations (pink)
Pattern: Be Simple Variations
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy
Color: Cool Fire
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)


4 Comments

The stylish near-instant gratification cowl

About three years ago, I made a cowl in Malabrigo Rasta. I liked the yarn—soft! pretty! thick!—the knitting was simple and fast, and the cowl is attractive. But it’s basically a cylinder around my neck and it doesn’t quite work for me. I wanted something somewhat more shaped. So there I was, still with Rasta-lust, and not sure how to satisfy it. A two-skein Rasta project seemed like it might be a bit excessive: I’m too short to really carry off one of those ginormous Outlander-style cowls, and besides, wouldn’t I be a bit top-heavy and in danger of tipping over? 😉 But I didn’t know if one skein would let me do anything more than cylinders in various stitch patterns.

rasta_triangular_cowl

Last spring, Suncat and I were doing our annual Not-Yarnover day, which involved visiting yarn shops that are technically local, but not our usual favorites. At one, I saw Malabrigo yarns all dyed in this lovely colorway, and the Rasta called. But what to do with it? Conveniently enough, the store had a skein knitted up in this pattern. It looked promising. Note that it’s narrower at the top than at the bottom, just as the neck is narrower than the shoulders. So it covers the area where the neck joins the shoulders, while minimizing the gap between the cowl and the body—a gap that lets chilly air in. This is good. So I was able to justify buying the yarn. (Okay, I can usually find some reason to justify buying yarn, but I thought this one was particularly good.)

The knitting was easy: there isn’t even a gauge to shoot for (whee!). Finding good buttons was more of a challenge than I expected, but the fabric store down the street has a reputation for great buttons, and they were able to come up with these. And it was really nice getting to knit something besides fingering weight yarn. (Note to self for 2017: knit something in some other weight of yarn!) I love the look of seed stitch, but I usually don’t have the patience for it. However, in super bulky yarn, it was only a couple of hours of knitting, and even I can make it through that.

I like this cowl enough to try it again. By now, I’ve picked up a couple of skeins of Malabrigo’s Caracol, which looks to be interchangeable with Rasta, plus I’ve acquired another skein of Rasta. (So much potential!) Maybe I’ll use seed stitch again, or maybe I’ll try some other simple stitch. The main point is, I can have fun playing with these yarns, finish the project super-quick, and not feel like I’ve wasted my time or money because I’ll enjoy wearing the finished project. Win-win!

—–

Rasta Triangle Cowl
Pattern: The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Rasta
Color: Añil
Needles: 15 (10.0 mm)


5 Comments

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?


2 Comments

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)


4 Comments

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)