Category Archives: Knitting

The Month

that this burst of blogging is somewhat inspired by the
(writer’s block busting) activity of NaNoWriMo.

It turns out that I am hardly alone in this aspiration.  Someone
else has coined the NaBloPoMo
term for national blog posting month — blogging every day this
month.  That certainly captures the spirit of what I’ve been
trying this month, although I am resisting any urge to sign up. 
Stubborn individualism, I guess.

There is also a NaKniSweMo
— national sweater knitting month — focused on knitting a 50,000
stitch sweater (to match the 50,000 word novels of
NaNoWriMo).     I’m really not doing that — if
nothing else, because I don’t take sweater projects on travel. 
However, I did the math:  I figure my sock project is running at
10,000 stitches per sock.  I am about to finish my first November
sock (the second of a pair — expect pictures!).    I
might put another 10,000 stitches out, depending on what happens with
personal travel next week.  Nowhere near the 50,000 stitch mark.

I guess, no matter whether you slice it in words ore stitches, 50k is a
lot.  Even for knitting, which is essentially OCD with a
productive output.

The Power of a Collective

The other day, with some new laceweight yarn in hand, I was browsing
for patterns for shrugs.  (I could make a lace stole, but I think
it would be nice to have a colourful shrug to wear over a sleeveless
dress, as an alternative to having to balance drapey fabric all
evening).   More specifically, I was browsing through the
patterns for shrugs listed on Ravelry.

To make a long story short, I came across the Rowan pattern Carolina, from their issue
.  From the available pictures, it really stood out as being
the most lacey, interesting, lightweight shrug.  Currently, 22
people have projects started (or completed) for this pattern, and you
can review the pictures posted in Ravelry.  A couple of them are here
and here
in Flickr.  I thought it was interesting enough that I actually
tracked down and ordered the relevant issue of Rowan.

The thing that amazed me was that, flipping through the magazine, the
official pictures of the pattern are quite dull.  Clearly, the
photographer and/or the magazine layout person was not enamoured of
this project, and simply did not show it up to its full
advantage.  I guess they didn’t “feel the love”!

So — their magazine did not sell itself (or the pattern) to me. 
Rather, Ravelry’s collective database of projects and pattern
information did.  It’s another example that filtering everything
through one small perspective (that of the magazine layout process)
does not have nearly the reach that providing open access to multiple
perspectives and sharing opportunities can. 

I never want to be limited to the perspective of a single provider.

How Long: IAD to MSP via ORD?

timeline sock

To Frog or Not to Frog

As I was writing the
entry about my current sweater design effort
, I surprised myself by
reaching the tentative conclusion that I should rip the whole thing
back (frog it) and do something more compelling with the lovely
yarn.   I really had not thought about that before sitting
down and writing out the text.  It was an interesting revelation
that had to be considered.

I reflected on it for a couple of days.  And, I reviewed my very
old blog entry (see here, and scroll down to “Knitting Broccoli”) about
a previous effort that I slogged through and eventually had to
frog.  I compared the projects.

In the end — I think I will not
frog the current design effort, at least not yet.  While I am not
wild about the colour combinations, I do feel I am still committed
enough to the project that I am checking important things like length
and other measurements.  I am not at all convinced that there is a different pattern of these
same colours that would really cause me to whip through a sweater
project at this time.    I’ve been travelling — travel
projects make better progress.  Quelle surprise.  I do still
believe I will be happy to wear the resulting sweater if I just finish
it, AND I believe that I am making progress (albeit slow) towards
completing it reasonably.  That’s a really long-winded way of
working my way to the point that I
think my biggest problem is that I am not spending much time on large
knitting projects at home, and ANYTHING is going to take a long time to

Somehow, that didn’t stop me from buying 6 skeins (a sweater’s worth)
of Araucania
(colourway Cornflower) today — I’m in meetings near Knit
Happens, and I Happened to wander in, let my hand touch a skein and
that was just that πŸ™‚

A Question of Popularity

It happens that there are 2 baby blanket projects I have done that have
each achieved a level of fame.  This was not an intended outcome
— it just seems to have… happened.   In both cases, the
receiving baby seems to have enjoyed the blanket, which is all that

The first blanket to achieve some level of fame (or notoriety) is the Dragon
baby blanket (previously
).  I’ve seen it appear on completely random other
pages, and if I look at the stats for my blog/web pages, I see that it
gets a fair bit of traffic — probably a hit every couple of days
(which counts as high traffic, for this blog πŸ˜‰ ).

The second is the Tie-Dye
baby blanket
, which I have not previously blogged about, but which
I did log in Ravelry, here
From Ravelry’s stats, I can see that it’s been viewed over a thousand
times (which is, approximately, a thousand times more than any of my
other projects πŸ˜‰ ) and over 200 people have fav’ed it.

I have no idea whether how to compare those worlds — the un-Ravelry’ed
Dragon Hide or the un-blogged Tie-Dye baby blanket have each gone off
and struck peoples’ imagination in ways I could not anticipate,
measure, or reproduce.  I suppose, now that I have done a drive-by
blogging of the Tie-Dye
blanket, I should quickly post the Dragon Hide blanket to Ravelry, to
see if it captivates anyone there.

Or, not — see point above about what matters.   This is just
idle curiosity, and a matter of checking the heartbeat on the blog πŸ˜‰

Good thing I’m not in the knitting/design business, I guess!

A Glimpse into the Yarn Industry

I thought this
, about Schaefer
“Sock the Vote” effort, was interesting for the peep into
the yarn industry it gives.

(“Sock the Vote” is a set of 4 colourways of sock yarn Schaefer did to
represent the colours apparently favoured by Michelle Obama, Hilary
Clinton, Sarah Palin and Cindy McCain).

In particular, the article notes,

“Schaefer said her company […] did
some $850,000 in business last year, the best ever for the 16-year-old

But the growth of those in the yarn business is exceeding demand. In
addition, the ailing economy is creating a slowdown.

She expects sales this year to dip into the $800,000 range.

Thus, she said, the popular “Sock the Vote” effort comes at a time when
it is indeed welcome.

Schaefer told of being able to weather the downturn, but predicted
others in the business aren’t going to make it because of growing
competition and the tight money market.

In her business alone, she said, her 16-person work force now is down
to nine because of the weak economy.”

The overall business number is good, though not huge.  Interesting
to see some kind of numbers — assuming an average of $20 per skein,
that suggests they move 40,000 skeins a year.  That’s more than

It is also interesting to note the pure business terms above — while
it’s good  to be in a business that deals with something you
really love, you never can lose sight of the fact that it is a
business, and you have to tune to the market realities or suffer the

‘d like to know how the specialized colourway did — I didn’t have enough resonance with the campaigns to feel I had to buy a particular yarn (as a memento? to make a memento?), but I don’t know if others would have.  And, looking at the colours, I did think the ones that appealed to me most were not aligned with camps I would care to support.  So — did politicizing the yarn help or hinder sales, I wonder?

Seven Years Ago Today…

Crochet baby blanket

Seven years ago today, the project above was called to
action.   Happily, in the seven years since, I have learned a
thing or 2 about taking pictures of knitting and crochet
projects…!   And the recipient has been busy learning all
about more fundamental things!

Knitting Design Perils

Here’s an old project, still underway:


That picture was taken over a year ago (September 2007).  There
has since been progress — but only a couple of inches or
so.   And this is the first piece of the sweater — there’s a
front and 2 sleeves to go after this piece is done.

It’s from my own design, and there are 2 reasons it’s particularly slow

  1. the patterning is inobvious — it’s painstaking to memorize a
    chunk of the pattern so that I can knit a row without having to look at
    the chart for every single stitch
  2. there isn’t anything like enough contrast in value between the
    different yarns to give this the punch it should have

So, I’m picking at it from time to time, between projects, pressing on
to finish but not with enough energy to actually make significant

The first issue is a matter of lack of experience in pattern designing
— I have gained a new appreciation for the value of building
interesting things from simple building blocks (e.g., easily repeating
motifs that build up in clear progression from one row to the next).

The second could easily have been handled by, say, doing a SWATCH, with
the real yarn, instead of relying on the colours I had chosen to
represent the yarns in the knitting design software:


Sigh.  Lesson learned.

Here are a couple of closeups to admire the yarn, which is Green
Mountain Spinnery Mountain
.  I do think it is a wonderful yarn, and this is not
the first time I’ve used it.

Contrast fail Contrast glow


Of course, I could, and perhaps should, pull it all out and do
something more successful with the yarn.  I dunno.  The
overall project is over 2 years old.  Do I want to restart the
whole design process?  Or plug away until I have a finished object
to declare victory?  I guess I’m stubborn, and want to finish the
original design:  I think it will be perfectly wearable, just not
spectacular.  But at this rate, I could pull it out, redesign and
reknit it before I ever finish this original plan…

Looking back to get the picture

I feel I’m not making a lot of knitting progress this year.  
Maybe that’s really a “latter half of the year” problem.  Looking
at my completed
project gallery
,  it’s not like it’s empty for 2008.

Sometimes, I guess you have to look back at a progression of things
(trees) to get the picture (forest).  I know I can look back on
certain years and see almost no knitting output — and further
reflection reveals that they were very busy and distracting years
(usually not in a good way).

What is notable about the gallery for this year is the prevalence of
small projects:  travel
projects.  That would be because of the wild travel schedule this
year.  This is borne out by the almost complete absence of
progress on knitting machine projects — you have to be on the same
continent as the machines in order to use them!

So — how do you look back and measure progress/distraction?

KM Lace — at last!

I believe I finally cracked the mystery of getting my Brother KH930 to
knit lace properly.  I’d struggled with this before, to no avail.

Brother knitting machines have a separate lace carriage that is used to
transfer stitches.  That is, you use the regular carriage to knit
some fabric, switch to the lace carriage to transfer stitches from one
needle to another.  This is what creates the equivalent of “knit
together” and (on the next knit row) yarn over.  It can take
several passes, depending on which way the stitches are meant to lean.
  The electronic program you’ve selected controls which stitches
get slipped where.   And, once they are all set up, you go back to
the regular carriage and knit a row, two or more.

Simple, yes?  And — fraught with peril.  Lifting stitches
off a needle is rarely a challenge for the lace carriage. 
Depositing them on the appropriate other needle is sometimes less
successful.  My experience was that I’d get along mostly okay and
then the machine would drop one stitch in 10.  Well, that’s A
LOT!    More than you can reasonably keep an eye on to
fix if you notice a stitch that looks like it’s about to take a suicide
dive on the next pass.  And it just made a nasty tangle instead of

I looked at any number of things — more weight on the bar pulling the
fabric; less tension; more tension; bent needles… no use.

The following swatch was worked bottom to top.  You can see things
started out poorly (though this is hardly the worst example).  And
then I Figured It Out, and things worked almost perfectly.

KM Lace learning

I suppose I should work a few more efforts before declaring absolute
victory, but here’s the key thing that seemed to make a (logical)
difference:  I ran the fabric being knit down over the ribber
needles (i.e., I covered the ribber needles with a piece of cardboard,
and kept the knitting in the front of the machine instead of having it
drop down between the ribber and the main bed.  Put another
way:  remove the angle of the backwards tilt of the main bed
introduced when you attached the ribber.

Or, perhaps most succinct:  use the ribber OR the lace carriage,
but never the 2 at the same time.