Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Finished! Icarus Shawl

Icarus Shawl from Interweave Magazine, Summer 2006.
Started: July 4th 2006
Completed: August 22nd 2006 (In the wee hours. Took me a long time to block, too.)Yarn: Rowan Kidsilk Haze. 3 skeins. All of three skeins! 75 grams, 630 meters/687 yards. Shade 592 light blue.
Needles: Size 5 Denise circulars (not the size 3 called for in the pattern: Knew I was running out of yarn)
Finished measurements:37" deep, 86" wingspan
Pattern Alterations: Only 3 repeats of chart one instead of 5 repeats called for in the pattern. I had calculated correctly that I did not have enough yarn and had no way of getting more. Ended up with a very tight cast off, and then an even tighter final crochet-style bind off in the last third of the pattern. Seriously: Ran out of yarn. Due to the tight bind off, I have more of a scalloped edge than the pretty, extreme feathery points shown in the magazine. Oh well, nothing to be done!Shetland weight: I did actually pass this entire shawl through a ring!
I love this pattern and am really proud of the finished product, even with the problems I had. I am also really proud to have knitted lace! Many thanks to the great knit along and all the super knitters and great advice I found there!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ripping the Kyoto

I'm going to have to rip out all the work I have done on friend's Kyoto. It is too big: I think 8 inches of ease on her size small frame will just not be fixable.
Although it is only one week's worth of knitting, I hate to do it all again. This is the same pattern, in the same color (black) that I have already made for myself. I am already sick of it, and when I am done, it will mean that I knit this damned sweater two and a half times already. Oh well.
Last Wednesday I helped a fellow knitter rip out her incorrectly sized sweater, both for the fun and the emotional support of it. Maybe she will lend me the same assistance.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Not Quite Enough

This photo shows the place on the bind off row where I ran out of yarn. I ended up doing a crochet cast-off for the rest, but it is really tight: I doubt the points will block out as pretty as they should. I am now crawling into bed to get some sleep, because tomorrow night I think the surface of my mattress will be occupied with blocking.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Getting Nervous...

At any point, do you think Icarus knew he was too close to the sun? Like maybe a "whoops" moment? Or, like me, do you think he was just like, "Well, if I go a few feet higher...and maybe a few feet higher...and let's just see how far this flight thing will take me..."
After knitting Icarus all week I am down to the last 4 rows, plus a bind off. I am desperately afraid I will run out of yarn. Nothing to do but run lifelines and knit.
Maybe if I just go a few rows higher I won't get burned...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

And what do I do on my birthday? Knit!
Took the day off work and had a lovely time doing things I wanted to do...which, like the big nerd that I am, turned out to be knitting and a bit of stash organization. But dearest BF gave me jewelry (hmmm...that necklace would make a great strap for a wee felted evening bag or iPod cozy...) and took me out for sushi!
I learned a very good lesson today:
Don't put Icarus down for too long, or you lose what you were doing. Don't get seduced by, say, a fast-easy-portable Mason Dixon warshrag and forget to make knit stitches on the purl (ws) rows. So I learned how to flip a knit stich into a purl stitch on the next (rs) row. Then I practised my new skill... every eleven stitches for the whole row! But I'm not bitter. Every problem overcome teaches a new skill in knitting.
And besides, is that a new bracelet from dearest BF? And does it match my knitting?!?!?!?!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fruit-heads Coast to Coast and Breast to Breast!

Thanks to Stilaholic Nartian knits for sending me this link to a Contra Costa Times article about the Richmond WIC program and the gathering of fruity hats for their Breastfeeding program.
A snippet:
Jeanne Conboy of the Richmond WIC office had contacted Canadian author and knitter Stephanie Pearl-McPhee seeking hand-knitted infant hats to give to mothers at the local event. McPhee placed a notice of the request online, and the result was that more than 300 knitted baby hats arrived in Richmond from throughout the United States and Canada.

Over Three Hundred Hats! And in my comments Ilene mentioned she had over one hundred hats about a week before the Brockton Massachusetts WIC! What an amazing response from knitters! Knitters rule!

Update: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee blogged about the response to her rallying the troops here!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Advanced Knitting Math (for dummies and artsy folk!)

My genius of a brother has been visiting me for the last two weeks. He is wonderful with all smarty-pants stuff, like math, physics, computer science, etc. So I showed him my Icarus-Shawl-In-Progress, told him about my constant worry that I shall run out of yarn, and posed him the following questions:

Q1) Kel has only 3 skeins of yarn (she bought them up at a yarn store with no pattern in mind because she enjoyed feeling them up) of approximately 630 meters (3x210 meters each, according to the ball bands) for a pattern that requires 800 meters. Kel has assumed that her yarn will run out if she follows the pattern exactly. With that in mind, she has cut out 2 of the 5 repeats suggested in the pattern. Will she run out of yarn?

A1) Perhaps. Just from yardage (meterage?) Kel has 78% of the yarn used in the pattern. Are the two repeats enough to cut out this percentage? (This is further complicated by the magazine editors comments that the shawl only weighed 90 grams, which is 90% of the alpaca skein called for in the pattern, and KAL bloggers comments that their shawls took more than the amount called for in the pattern!)

Q2) I am using the shawl percentage calculator found on Rose-Kim-Knits to hopefully determine the percentage of yarn used. However, this MS Excel spreadsheet is an area calculation of a triangle if one begins at either the base or the tip of the triangle and works straight rows to the other side. This calculator, when adjusted for the 196 rows I am now knitting (after cutting out 2 pattern repeats) reports that after one skein I have used 32.1% of my yarn. Will I run out of yarn?

A2) Perhaps. This pattern is not a tip-up or base-down pattern, but a steadily increasing triangle: we increase along all edges of the pattern at once. Therefore, we need to do an area calculation for the triangle based on the gauge we have already achieved, and the pattern's gauge and finished dimensions. We know that the pattern is supposed to be 36 inches base-to-tip and 72 inches across the base. Repositioned into a square, this gives us an end area of 1296 square inches (or 36"x36") over 244 rows using a gauge of 9.5 rows and 5.25 stitches per inch. My gauge is 6 rows and 4.5 stitches per inch, over 196 rows. The first skein of yarn created a triangle measuring 25 x 25, and completed 111 of the 196 rows. Assuming that I will use all three skeins of yarn, and each skein will be 33.3% of the total area of the shawl, then my completed 111 rows will be one-third the total area.

Q3) But wait! This assumes an even pattern, like an even stockinette or something. This pattern begins quite standard, with mostly stockinette with an increase of 4 stitches every-other-row, and a few K2Tog and YO for the stripey ribs. Then all hell breaks loose at the end of the pattern as we create holey, lacey feather looking things. Apparently, the holier the lace, the less yarn we use. So won't we actually gain some leeway in the lacey bits? Does that mean that being short 1.2% on the first skein (33.3% minus 32.1% per shawl-percentage-calculator) will be made back in the lacey bits? You mean I won't run out of yarn?

A3) Perhaps. So people on the KAL have reported that holey lacey bits take less yarn than the basic stockinette at the beginning of the pattern. Can they tell you how much less? (um. no.) What is that percentage? Say it is 50% less yarn for lace than stockinette (I know: It couldn't possibly be that much less, but it makes an easy number). We need to assign the volume of yarn needed to complete the first stockinette area as "thickness 1" and the volume of yarn needed to complete the lacey part as 50% of that thickness, or "thickness .5". We then do the same area calculations above, only realizing that the amount of yarn in the lace will be less by this percentage. However, we still don't know the percentage of yarn used for lace as opposed to the percentage of yarn used for stockinette, so we can't complete this calculation.

Q4) Furthermore, Skein #2 seems to be about half stockinette pattern and half chart 2, which is the beginning of the lacey bits. Therefore, skein#3 will be entirely lacey bits. We thus have to do the above calculations while splitting skein# 2 into half "thickness 1" and half "thickness .5"...

A4) Right. But since we still don't know the exact ratio of yarn usage for lace vs. stockinette, we still don't know the value.

Q5) Assuming I will run out of yarn, I have also switched from the size 3 needle suggested in the pattern to a size 5 needle, on the hopes that a looser, holier knit will give me a large-sized shawl while using less yarn. Knitters often adjust their gauges by trading up or down on their needle size, and since I am a tight knitter, I often go up a few needle sizes to compensate anyway. Will I still run out of yarn?

A5) Do you know what fractals are? (Um. No. Well, kinda, since I just read about the Coastline skirt in Knitting Nature: 39 Designs Inspired by Patterns in Nature by Norah Gaughan.) This is pretty advanced math, but apparently brilliant math-geeks like my brother can figure out the distance of yarn needed to complete the same pattern over a size 3 needle versus a size 5 needle. This blew my mind. However, with the Icarus pattern in general, we still have the same gaps of information (What percentage am I cutting out by not repeating 5 times? What is the ratio between yarn used for stockinette versus an inconsistent lace pattern?) I hope for a more advanced math lesson in fractals, and watch this space for me measuring the circumference of needles and the distance of yarn needed to complete one stitch. I am enthralled!

So, after all of that math, I am no closer to the truth of my yarn usage than I was at the beginning. I shall still continue to knit away and worry and hope, and the yarn will be what the yarn will be. However, he has given me hope that the three steps I have taken:
1) larger needles.
2) cut out repeats #4 and 5
3) Lacey bits will take less yarn than stockinette
Will hopefully yield a large, lacey shawl with perhaps a bit of yarn left over.
(um. You think if I have a bunch of yarn leftover I will be tempted to rip it back and put the repeats back in? I may need some help with the math...)

Update: After an exhausting day of diving, I reported that I was going home to measure my knitting before crashing into bed. You know what he did? He called me a nerd! Ah well. I am thankful I have such a brilliant and cool brother, and shall wear the mantle of "nerd" as proudly as if I had knitted it myself!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Summertime...And the Cotton is Easy

I admit it: I bought cotton at Walmart.
I wish I was a fiber-snob. I wish I had a high-end Local-Yarn-Shop where I could lovingly fondle expensive handpainted fibers hand-spun off the backs of elegant alpacas, sheeps, and silkworms.
But I don't.
I have the internet, which offers non-tactile and high-postage yarn of all types.
I have Ace Hardware which occasionally yields a bit of wool or on-sale cotton next to it's horrific "art yarns" and sparkley ribbons.
And then there is Walmart, which has Lion Brand (won't go there after the disappointing chenille), Red Heart acrylic, sparkley art yarns, and one tiny little shelf of Peaches & Creme Cotton! After a recent foray into Mason-Dixon Global Knitting Universe, I have come around to the delights of cotton. The ease of use, the many colors, the coolness for hot climates, and the cheap prices in local stores. I also enjoy the relaxed ease of working with cheap cotton. This attitude allows for hand-knit dishcloths and bathmats, and opens every inch of life to the possibilities of handknits.
I would never even think about knitting a dishcloth out of handspun alpaca-silk.
While the fiber-snob in me longs for luxury, my reality is more country: I live in a cowboy town on old ranchland. I am awakened at night by the bitching of the neighbor's cows. Wild turkeys are roosting under my porch as we speak. There is a hitching post at the Post Office. And I just swooped up bags full of Bernat cotton on sale at the hardware store for 67 cents a skein! Ye Haw Y'all!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Caught in a Spiderweb

Sometimes I feel like knitting is flimsy. Literally, the project I am currently working on is the very lacy Icarus shawl in kidsilk haze as thin as thread, and I am using big needles so the overall effect is like spiderweb. It is soft and beautiful and feels like I could push right through it.
I know that I use knitting as a meditative distraction from my other worries: The one strand is manipulated through pattern, counting and repetition to yield something beautiful, soft, and three-dimensional.
I work a lot with numbers, and see the patterns in numbers very clearly. Slowly I am getting to a point with this pattern where I can glance at the chart and it all is clear, it all makes sense. I wish the rest of the world was like that.
Numbers I have seen this week:
20,000 Israeli ground troops, 1000 Hezbollah.
51 Israelis dead. 750 Lebanese dead. (Numbers from BBC)
Close to 900,000 Lebanese displaced by fighting (from UN Relief Agency)
Days of fighting (this round only): 20

I don't even know what to do with this. You see why I prefer to think:
"Knit 2, YO, k7,ssk,yo,k1,yo,k2tog, k7..."
And then I just throw it down because, well... It is all just so flimsy.

Update: A wonderful way to vent aggression through knitting! See Yarn Monkey and join the Sock Wars! Pummel your chosen target with hand-knit socks! (It is not lost on me that this wonderful idea comes from a Belfast knitter. You feel me with the knitting-as-flimsy-relief-from-territorial-aggression?)