Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Steek, Well Done

If I say so myself. No problems at all. There are two little strings at the cast on edge, but, as I hoped they would, they just tightened into the crochet stitch above when I gave them a little tug. Whew!

I know that some people expressed interest in watching this from the knitter's version of an operating theater, but I just couldn't wait. I wanted to try one of the armholes first -- for some reason, that seemed "safer" than cutting the neck. Since it's evening, I couldn't get enough good light for a video from my point-and-shoot camera, but there are still two steeks to go.

Really, people, you should try this. It's kind of fun. Like you're getting away with something. And I have -- so far!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Steeks and Geeks

I decided to go with the 3-needle bindoff for the shoulders of the Herz & Baum Vest, which you can see to the right. It was just a matter of using a set-up row to cast of the stitches that wouldnt' be included in the shoulder seems (paying careful attention to the math), and then doing the bind-off. It's not super-tidy, but it does offer the advantage of making the patterns on the front and back meet perfectly. If I'd sewn these seems, I'd have had to play that game where you're always half a stitch off. That would have made my brain hurt. No brain pain for me! It looks like a corner on the left side of the bindoff, but there are actually four cast-of stitches across there for the armhole steeks.

Now, to the steeks. You know how you read the pattern instructions carefully, and then get started, and then, three weeks later when you actually get to some important new structure (like a steek), you think you know all that already? Can you imagine the problems this might cause? I thought so. I forgot that the instructions required twisting two rows in the steek so that the crochet run through those rows would be tighter. This method went up the center of a column of stitches, and not across the halves of two neighboring columns. Not so stable without twisted stitches. Well, that was out -- maybe I could try it without the twisted stitches, but I was scared. Then I thought, "No problem, I'll just use Eunny Jang's instructions for crocheted steeks, which I'd used before on a tea cozy." But that method requires an odd number of steek stitches. Grrr...

So I waited all week until I could consult with the geniuses at knitting. One option we came up with was unbinding the bindoff, then laddering the two rows down and twisting them with a crochet hook and then rebinding off. Tedious, but do-able. Then, knitting genius Staci pointed out that if I just turned the vest (and that frown) upside down, I'd have an odd number of stitches across the steek -- 4 would become 3. So simple, so easy. All I had to do was start the crochet chain at the opposite end of the steek I'd planned. The picture to the right shows in red the "V"s of the three stitch rows (with a little left over on each side. The blue lines show the neighboring halves of stitches that will be bound together by the crochet chain, and the green dotted line shows where the final act will take place.

I've begun the chain already. I was going to use the same yarn, but then I chickened out and found some similar Cascade 220 green yarn (I know you're shocked that I had this), and got started. Ideally, I'd have a little more wiggle room. When I'm done crocheting each side, I'll have a knit and a purl stitch left to fold under. I'm hoping this will give me enough sturdiness for picking up the stitches necessary for the neck and armhole bands. I'm knitting the chain fairly tightly with a pretty small hook, so I think I'm good.

If I can get up the nerve, I might post a video of the slicing. Don't worry, Jene, I'll be sure and save some for you to see live and in person.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Then Refresh His Heart

A few years ago, the men's chorus I sing with performed Brahms' Alto Rhapsody with Rose Taylor. It was a totally enjoyable experience, my first with singing Romantic music like this. Kind of hard to describe -- bleak, yet uplifting at the same time. I only remember snatches of the German lyrics, but as I've been working on this Herz & Baum vest, the phrase so erquicke sein Herz has been going through my mind -- "then refresh his heart."

And I suppose I have been a bit refreshed. This vest languished for a short while, but I got back up to speed recently and today I finished the last of the 24 neck decreases which take place every third round. I have only a few more rows to go until I've got the sleeve holes knit to the requisite length. Even then, I might add a bit more. Most of my height manifests itself in my torso, so I want to make sure this is long enough.

It's clear from the instructions that I am to bind off once I get to the top and then sew the shoulder seams after cutting the steeks. But I'm wondering if it would be possible to bind off just the stitches along the back of the neck during the last round, and then use a 3-needle bindoff on the live stitches between the back and front. Would that work? Which would provide a firmer shoulder seam -- 3-needle bind off or sewing up after a regular bindoff? Right now I'm leaning toward seaming, but it's not going to be easy with all these cables...

On an unrelated note, I somtimes get asked about the title of my blog. It comes from the lyrics in the number Some People from what is arguably the best Broadway musical ever, Gypsy. Just a relevant sample:
Some people can get a thrill
knitting sweaters and sitting still.
That's okay for some people
who don't know they're alive.
Despite the fact that these lyrics knock knitting, this really is a great musical. The original movie version with Rosalind Russel is bland. The made-for-TV version with Bette Midler is better. But nothing beats the original Broadway production with Ethel Merman. Gypsy is 50 this year, and they've just released an anniversary version of the original cast album. If you've never seen this musical, do so. And if I haven't convinced you, listen to this review that aired on Fresh Air a few weeks ago.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Take From Me My Lace

Today, I got to take Franklin Habit's lace knitting class at The Knitting Nest. So cool. I was fortunate to get to see him a little over a year ago when he came to Austin for his 1,000 knitters project, and it was good to see him again.

I'd dabbled in lace a bit -- see this pair of socks and this baby blanket -- but didn't have much of a context for it. No "big picture," if you will. This class helped with that. Franklin covered the basics and the ground rules -- and then told us when we could break them. I found his presentation of three different schools of lace knitting (Orenburg, Shetland and Estonian), intriguing from a history point of view. He also talked about how shawls in each of these traditions are constructed. He passed around pictures and examples from his own knitting. I even got to try on his 1840 Nightcap! Sadly, I didn't get to keep it. But it did fit my ginormous head.

While he talked, we got to work on a scarf pattern that he had created. The pattern (blurred by me) and swatch, along with a few of my notes, are to the left. It wasn't so complicated that we couldn't follow the chart while he talked. And I really liked that he introduced us to the pattern, but didn't read us through the whole thing. Franklin is a natural teacher and it was a real treat to see him in action. Oh -- and on the flip side of the pattern, there was a bibliography of essential lace knitting books. Be still my librarian heart!

If you have a chance to take this class, do so. I suspect even if you know quite a bit about lace knitting, you'll learn a thing or two. And that's always good. Thanks, as always, to the Nest for bringing him here. And thanks, Franklin!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Busting Out All Over

June's here. I feel like knitting, but it's awfully hot for it. Especially with this bulletproof wad of wool on your lap. Even the AC blasting doesn't help. This thing is getting seriously hot. I didn't knit on it at all this week. I was so excited to finally get to the steeks, but a few rows in, I kind of lost my mojo.I'm a little paranoid that I'm not doing the decreases correctly. The pattern doesn't say specifically where to make them. but based on the pattern the steeks grew out of, I think I've got something workable and mostly symmetrical.

It's a little hard to describe, but working out from all the edges of all three steeks I've got a purl, a knit, and then another knit row where the decreases are worked. If you know what you're looking for, you can kind of see this at top center of the picture at the top of this post, near the orange stitch marker. I've consulted with knitters more knowledgeable than myself, and they've given me the go ahead. But as soon as I got it, I stopped. I'm going to try and get back to it today before I totally lose my momentum on this.

Unlike the vest, I'm going gangbusters on the Sailor's Rib Socks. I finished knitting the first one last night and wove in the ends this morning. I cast on the second one right away (sock knitters know why), but it took me three tries. I kept making dumb little cast-on mistakes. That's what I get for trying to knit while watching mindless TV. The mindlessness is contagious.

I think I've gotten closer to balancing the sock pattern to yarn color ratio than I have with previous pairs. The striping is quite subtle and doesn't fight the ribbing pattern at all. I've yet to get a picture that properly represents the deep purpleness of this Malabrigo sock yarn. I've never been a huge purple fan, but this I like.

So I'll be plugging away at these two projects while I eagerly await the weekend. I've never taken a knitting class in my life. I'm pretty comfortable with learning from books (a fortunate occupational hazard), and I'm blessed to know several very talented knitters. So I'm a little nervous, but very excited, to be taking a lace knitting class that will be taught at the Knitting Nest on Saturday by Franklin Habit. It's going to be a blast!