Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


Know when to fold ’em

TL;DR: I knitted this shawlette all the way to the end, with just the bind off left to do, and then frogged it.

I began knitting Melodia back in June. It had a lot going for it. It’s a pattern by Janina Kallio and I like her patterns. I’d been looking for a pattern that would work well with a skein of Malabrigo Sock that I had on hand, and after I worked the gauge swatch, I knew garter stitch would bring out the colors in the yarn wonderfully. Also, Melodia is a semicircle, which would be a nice change from all the asymmetrical triangle shawlettes that I’ve made. Obviously this was a fine project choice.

Everything started out well. The increases were easy to remember, and the project was pretty much mindless knitting, suitable for passing time during a trip to Wisconsin and for all those conference calls I’m still attending. Just as the garter stitch would threaten to get too boring, I’d get to one of the eyelet rows. And I was right: Azules looks wonderful in garter stitch.


Judging from the pattern, the edges of the shawlette—the ends of the rows—form the straight edge of the semicircle. You start knitting at the center of that straight edge, and work out and down towards the curve. If anything, mine was curving in the opposite direction, and I was headed towards the straight edge. It was becoming clear that blocking this puppy into the proper shape was going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight. But with all the shawlette bunched up on the needle, I couldn’t be absolutely sure I was seeing it right. Maybe I was just worrying unnecessarily, and when I got to the end, it would all work out. Besides, look at how much time and effort I’d already put into it. This is what I told myself through July and August, as I kept knitting away at it and the mass of yarn stubbornly refused to look like the schematic in the pattern.

And, well, I finally reached the last row before the bind off. Now there was a second concern. The pattern calls for 437 yards (400 m) of yarn. My skein of Sock was a bit on the generous side, so I had 453 yards (414 m) to work with. A little extra was to be expected, but I had way too much of the skein left. Ack! Apparently my gauge was off as well, Not the end of the world with a shawlette, but I was loving this yarn and wanted to use as much as possible.

Decision time. I pulled the shawlette off the needle to see it clearly.

Unblocked blue shawlette.


Okay, the bottom edge was more curved than I’d feared, but that was about all it had going for it. I knew that if I finished it, I’d wear it once or twice, mostly out of duty and guilt and then shove it to the back of a drawer or get rid of it entirely. You know that bit about “does it spark joy?” This, most assuredly, did not.

Reader, I frogged it. I’ve steamed most of the kinks out of the yarn and recaked it. It awaits a new project—hopefully, the right one, as this is the second time I’ve frogged it—and I’m happily knitting on two new projects. Score one against the sunk cost fallacy!


Pattern: Melodia
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock
Colorway: 856 Azules
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)



Breaking blog silence

This has not been the most productive year of knitting/crochet ever for me. I just realized that we’re in late July and I’ve only finished two projects. Two. And I haven’t finished a project since early May. Curious, I looked back over the stats for the past five years. I’ve been averaging twelve completed projects a year. Okay, it isn’t my imagination that my output is dropping!

sweater neckband

This neckband is beginning to seem like a mountain that I can never quite get to the top of.

I’ve been knitting fairly constantly (thank you, weekly knitting group), but my focus changed a bit this year. For several years now, I’ve been concentrating on knitting shawlettes, scarves, and cowls—one- or two-skein projects. Naturally, I was able to get those done fairly quickly. By contrast, I came into this year with a sweater on the needles (the Smart Plaid Pullover). It’s mostly done at this point: I’m knitting the Never-Ending Neckband—k2 p2 ribbing with DK yarn on a 16” size 2 needle (40 cm, 2.75 mm) is a bit painful to do for any length of time—and then all I have to do is tweak the length of the sleeves, sew them on, and finish the side seams. It’s just that it’s not done.

Meanwhile, the Bandwagon shawlette is being annoying. I’m knitting it in a gradient yarn, and I planned it so that my favorite color in the range, the light rose pink, would be at the end of the project. The challenge with any gradient yarn is using up as much of the yarn as possible without running out. The first attempt left me with nearly 20% of the yarn untouched. Nope. I ripped back (sob!) to the end of the last increase section and added three pattern repeats. Now I’m not going to have enough yarn. Aargh. Back to the end of the section, and I’ll try just two extra pattern repeats this time. I’m intensely hoping that the third time will be the charm: I’m really ready to be done with this project.

I’m not having technical difficulties with the Sparkly Purple Shawl. It has simply grown too large and heavy to be hauled around casually. However, as we’ve just recorded a temperature of 66.9° F (19.4° C) at the café where the above-mentioned knitting group meets, I may be working on it there to stay warm. Super-bulky yarn: your friend in summer, oddly enough. For those of you not in the area, it’s high summer in Minnesota right now and outside temperatures are in the 80°s and 90°s (25°-35° C). So I’m dressing for those temperatures and this café is an unpleasant shock to the system. All the income from our drinks is probably going towards the electric bill.

Back when I thought I’d finish Bandwagon on my first attempt, I assumed I’d need a second project to get me through CONvergence. I started the Aramingo Cowl, which was not only an attractive design, but would fulfill the requirement for sportweight yarn for my Diversity of Yarn challenge. (Despite my drop in productivity, I’m not ready to abandon the challenge.) I haven’t been having specific problems with this project either; it has simply been pushed to one side while I wrestle the sweater and Bandwagon. Plus, I’ve needed to refer to its charts constantly, so it’s not a project I work on easily around others.

So that’s been My Summer in Knitting: much effort and things to show for it, but not a lot of statistics. The mere fact that I haven’t been finishing projects quickly hasn’t stopped me from buying yarn, so I’m eager to start several projects but I don’t dare because then I’ll never finish anything. I must finish something soon for the sake of my stress levels!


So close!

Still on a small projects kick, I decided to knit another Damson shawlette. This was going to be a no-brainer. I’ve made two Damsons already, and I was using a yarn I’d used before for this pattern. Off I went with a nice, near-mindless project that would use up a tiny fraction of my stash.

I ran out of yarn 4 rows before the end.

Damson shawlette on needle.

I blame this particular hank of yarn for being a little short. It’s advertised as being 4 ounces (113.4 g), but weighing my hank, I get 110 g (3.9 oz.). That 3% difference was enough to, well, not be enough. It’s a painful reminder to weigh your yarn before starting a project, especially when you’re only using one skein. Although now I have further evidence for my hypothesis that if you’ve only used 45% or less of your yarn when you finish the garter stitch section, you’ll have enough left to finish the shawlette. I’d used 50% of this hank for the garter stitch section. But this isn’t the way I wanted to test said hypothesis.

I do have options:

  1. Rip the whole thing out and reknit it one needle size smaller.
    • Pro: I’ll have a shawlette!
    • Con: I’ll have a shawlette that’s smaller. I don’t want it any smaller.
  2. Finish the edge with a different yarn.
    • Pro: I’ll have a shawlette!
    • Con: I want the focus on the body of the shawlette, not the edge, and if the edge is in a different color, it may draw attention to itself. Also, I don’t have any yarn on hand that would match unless I break into an unopened hank, which I just don’t want to do, even if it’s only for a few yards.
  3. Rip the whole thing out and use the yarn for a different project.
    • Pro: I’ll have a project (shawlette? cowl? scarf?) that I actually like.
    • Con: I won’t have this shawlette, and there went all those hours of knitting.

I’m leaning towards #3 because it’s occurred to me to try a Damson in heavier yarn and see if I like it being bigger and warmer. Dream in Color offers the same colorways in their worsted weight yarn that they do in their fingering weight, or I could play with any of the other great yarns out there. And wouldn’t that be better than a Damson that was merely adequate?

Meanwhile, I’ve started a cowl to console myself. Hmph.


The Damson That Wasn’t
Yarn: Smooshy by Dream in Color
Color: Cool Fire
Needle: 5 (3.75 mm)

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September update

Clearly, knitting blogs were meant to be written by people who either knit small projects or knit large objects at a ferocious pace and finish them quickly. I have done neither lately, although I am knitting fairly regularly.

For the moment, I’m focusing on Viajante. Because this is the sort of project that I find easy to forget about—endless rounds of stockinette stitch—I set myself a deadline for the Pink Thing. I started it in the last days of December 2013, and I plan to finish it before the year is up. Which means that I should be three-quarters finished by the end of September. This had been a reasonable pace, it seemed, up until summer. The Pink Thing is alpaca and silk. It’s a doubled strand of laceweight alpaca and silk, nice and light, but, well, alpaca and silk. It’s warm. Not surprisingly, I’d been finding other things to knit during July and August. And suddenly it was September and I was barely past the halfway point. Oops. So now I’m being temporarily monogamous with it while I race to get back on schedule. I was at 70% this morning: there’s hope!

TruLoveBites cowl on needle.

I know it looks like a cap in this photo, but it’s a cowl. Really.

One of the projects that had diverted me from working on Viajante was the Tru Love Bites cowl, my project for knitting at the state fair this year. Alas, I have frogged it. It did get me through my Knitters’ Guild shift, and I’d kept at it, figuring it would be a quick, fun break. But there were problems from the get-go. I used the yarn called for, but I didn’t like how it looked at the gauge called for. Then the pattern was riddled with errors. I had been warned about them by reading about the pattern on Ravelry, and I could work my way through them, but they were annoying, not fun. And then despite the tighter gauge I was knitting at, I ran out of yarn six rounds before the end, at which point I decided the project was doomed and gave up. But before I ripped it out, I slipped it off the needle and tried it on, and that has inspired me to try again. I really like how it drapes around my neck. I plan to tackle it again, armed with my notes from my first attempt, and using a DK weight yarn which should look much better at the recommended gauge. Plus, DK weight yarn will make a warmer cowl, and given the temperature in my office, that isn’t a bad thing.


Over and over and over

I have now knit the Burning Branch Shawl three times in a row, by which I don’t mean I’ve knit three different shawls, but the same shawl three times. If nothing else, this is a testimony to my stubborness.

As I’ve been knitting my way through one shawlette after another, I’ve been analyzing them, trying to figure out which designs are easier to wear. The triangular ones come in so many lovely patterns, but I’ve found them a bit difficult to actually wrap securely around my neck. By contrast, Burning Branch’s curving shape intrigued me because it seemed like it would wrap naturally. (More importantly, I liked the look of it.) The original was made out of a orangey-red yarn, but I went with a green yarn from my stash, so I suppose mine is more of a Burning Branch Shawl.

Burning Branch ShawlIt’s not like there was no warning. The pattern calls for a skein of BFL Fingering Hand Dyed, which is 416 yards. Unlike most patterns, this one advises, “This will use up the entire skein of BFL fingering. Yardage can vary slightly between skeins, so if yours is a little short, it’s fine to bind off a little earlier.” But I was going to use Charlemont Kettle Dye, which has 439 yards, and my skein weighed in at a perfect 100 g, so I figured I had all the yardage promised. Why worry?

Attempt #1: Cast on with a size 4 (3.5 mm) needle. Knit until there’s enough solid stockinette stitch to take gauge. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen until I’m past the halfway point. Discover that despite the gauge swatch, I’m knitting too tightly. Frog.

Attempt #2: Cast on with a size 5 (3.75 mm) needle. Knit until 22 rows from the end, when I realize that 23 extra yards will not be nearly enough. Bind off. Stare at finished shawlette. Frog.

Attempt #3: Cast on with a size 4 (3.5 mm) needle. Knit, confident that if I am now knitting to a tighter gauge than called for and I have more yarn than called for, I will have a slightly small, but complete, shawlette.

Fun with blocking wires.

Fun with blocking wires.

But no. Knitting more tightly only got me four rows further along than my previous attempt. I remeasured the gauge, and yes, I’m still a smidgen tighter than what the pattern calls for, 25 sts/4″ where the pattern calls for 24 sts/4″. I had less than 7 feet of yarn left when I bound off. Is my row gauge completely different than the designer’s? (The row gauge wasn’t given in the pattern.) I went on Ravelry, and looked at what photos I could find of other people’s finished projects, and a lot of them weren’t able to complete the pattern either. It looks fine if you stop a bit short; it’s just frustrating that I don’t get to see mine in all its complete glory.

But enough about what I don’t have. Here’s what I do have: (almost) one Burning Branch shawl in Charlemont Kettle Dye, color Deep Sea. It spirals out from the top edge, growing by six stitches every other row. The solid stockinette parts are “leaves” and the bits with the parallel lines of knitting at the bottom are “twigs.” I’ll see how easy it is to wear, and maybe someday I’ll make another one OUT OF A REALLY BIG SKEIN OF YARN.


Reset and diversion

Sometimes you don’t post about the knitting because you’re just knitting along and there’s nothing much to say. Sometimes you don’t post about the knitting because you made such an elementary mistake THAT YOU CAN’T TRUST YOURSELF TO WRITE COHERENTLY ABOUT IT FOR A WEEK—

[takes deep breath] Sorry about that. Let’s try this again.

Last Saturday, I finished knitting the body of the Midnight Vineyard vest. Armed with T-pins, a tape measure, and my schematic, I began to pin it out for blocking, starting with the shoulders. Sixteen inches (41 cm) wide, good, just stick another pin in over there and pause a moment to imagine what this will look like with the ribbing, and…

Ribbing. Oh…frak. I forgot to allow for the ribbing when I calculated the shoulder width. Sixteen inches was supposed to be the finished width of the shoulders; add ribbing, and now the shoulders will be eighteen inches (46 cm) wide, meaning they’ll either flare or drape oddly, and…and…

[insert the quiet sound of frogging wool here]

Did you know the upper body of a vest is about 40% of the total?

[rip, rip, rip]

In other news, here’s what I’m working on right now. Having just learned that I was being invited to a friend’s birthday party, a gift seemed in order. Since there is a minute chance that the friend might see this post prior to her birthday, I will say no more about it, but merely tantalize with a small detail photo.


The birthday in question is in early January. We will not go into any detail as to how much frogging I’ve had to do on what is pretty much basic garter stitch—I have got to put down the knitting needles when I find myself yawning. But to get this done in time, I’m going to have to be more or less monogamous with it, which means the Midnight Vineyard Vest and I will have a decent cooling-off period before I tackle it again. Which will probably be healthiest for both of us.

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The gauge swatch lied (again)

Signs that you might be off-gauge with your current project:

  • The kit you’re making it from came with two skeins of blue yarn. You’ve used somewhat more than half of one skein.
  • Although it’s a baby blanket, the fabric has the drape of a throw rug.
  • The pattern swears that the diameter of the finished blanket is 50 inches. Remember that you have decided that there’s an error somewhere and the finished diameter will be closer to 44 inches. Still, the fact that the four remaining rounds of the blanket cannot possibly bring it up to even 44 inches should give you pause.

Looks like my 8.00 mm hook will be getting a workout after all.

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The endless beginning

I am now starting the front of the Basket Stitch Sampler for what I think is the third time. This sort of thing kills the allure of any project. My first attempt died when I realized—after knitting 6 inches—that the pattern stitch wasn’t centered. The designer apparently didn’t understand that the pattern stitch wasn’t a multiple of 12 stitches; it was a multiple of 12 plus 1. Oops.

Rip, rip, rip. Add one more stitch to cast-on and begin again.

I haven’t frogged the second attempt yet. I’m going to need to build up emotional strength before I can. In addition to the one stitch added at the start, I had to add two more stitches in addition to the two stitches the designer called for when I hit the six-inch mark in order to keep that pattern stitch balanced. So there I am, with three more stitches than called for…and the front is almost two inches narrower than it’s supposed to be.

Hey, I did work a gauge swatch for this sweater, and washed it and blocked it and everything. But with this sweater, every part features a different basketweave stitch, and the stitch I knitted the swatch in was the one for the back. In my defense, let me just say that when I made this sweater in 2003, I was knitting all stitches at the right gauges on the same needles.

So today I went up a needle size and started the front still yet again. I altered the placement of the pattern stitch again, subtracting one stitch from the cast-on instead of adding it, which will, oddly enough, also center the pattern (is there such a thing as a multiple of 12 – 1 pattern?). And the suspense builds, while I wait to see how wide it will be when there’s enough of it to measure.

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The laws of anatomy

When I first saw the Bookworm Vest in Cheryl Oberle’s Folk Vests, I liked it. It was simple without being boring, and it looked like it would set off Cascade 220 Quatro quite nicely. The only drawback was that even the smallest size, Size A, was larger than I wanted. Maybe this should’ve rung an alarm bell, since this is not a problem I normally have with women’s patterns. But after I looked over the stitch pattern, it seemed that resizing the pattern would be really easy. All I would have to do is make the slightest of alterations to the pattern stitch, and most of my work would be done. So I plunged in.

Much, much later, when I had finished the back, it became clear to me why this pattern doesn’t go below Size A.

Bookworm Vest

I suppose it’s not all that obvious when the vest is lying flat, but the upper back is much narrower than my actual upper back or most women’s. Somehow I completely forgot that your shoulder width has nothing to do with how much you weigh. Or to put it another way, most women’s shoulder widths fall in a much narrower range of sizes than their waists do. So when I went for my < Size A vest, the shoulders shrank in the same proportions as the rest of the vest, becoming ridiculously narrow. No reasonable amount of armhole edging is going to make up for that.

So sometime along, when I’m feeling destructive, this vest gets frogged. Yes, there’s probably some way to reknit the back to more human proportions, but I’m just not interested enough to do it. The Quatro 220 can become some other vest or be donated to charity or something, and I can stop suffering feelings of obligation every time I see the project in the closet.

But drat, I did want to see how those pockets were going to turn out…