Monday, September 27, 2010

Out From The Ashes

It's amazing how a project can take on a life of it's own and then proceed to take over a small part of your life. As most of you have read in earlier posts I have been working on an Argyle Planned Pooling Project. If your not sure what I am talking about then stop reading and go back to an earlier post.

Anyways, For the longest time I was dying to try this type of project but couldn't find the proper yarn. I finally found the yarn and then proceeded to tangle it into a huge mess.This became the first time I wanted to just throw this project away. I persevered though and finally got the mess straightened out and began knitting. Second time coming up of wanting to throw it away because I realized I would be short enough yarn to make a scarf.

Pretty much was thinking,"oh well", but I didn't want to just give up on the project. The yarn had such perfect colors and the pattern was working. So I changed the scarf to a pillow and finished the first side. Halfway thought the second side I again realized that I was going to run out of yarn before I ran out of project.

Really.... was someone trying to tell me something. It seemed like the gods had transpired to make sure this project never got finished. If you are keeping score this would be the third time I was ready to throw it all away.

Still, I wouldn't quit. So I noticed some black fingering weight yarn leftover from my Haruni Shawl and got an idea.

I could knit a black backing on the pillow. But then I had another idea.....I could knit two rows of the black between two rows of the handpainted yarn.

With that last thought I ripped back my previous attempt and started again. And lo and behold I was once again winning the epic battle that was being waged for my projects survival.

And now that I am almost finished I am loving this second side better then the first. It first of all broadens the argyle which helps to bring out the subtle colors that run around the bolder patterns of purple. It also takes on an illusion look with the black stripes disappearing the farther back that you move. And I really think this back of the pillow is quickly becoming the front of the pillow. Who would have thought.
This project has really become a part of me.

Of course I hope now I haven't jinxed myself.

Keep you posted.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Knitting (unfortunately) towards the beginning

Sometimes knitters, it's just one of those days. The kind where you find yourself knitting towards the beginning. Yes, I know that the goal is to knit to the end, but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way.

I started the morning working away on the second piece of my argyle pillow that used to be a scarf. I was getting a bit bored so I put it down and decided to start a new pair of ankle socks just for a change of pace. I figured I could try and use some patterns from my New Barbara Walker books. I just got three of them a few weeks back.

I looked through the book, found the pattern and then found some colours in my stash that I thought would look great. So far, it's been a good day and everything is moving towards the end

After I finished the first repeat of the pattern, I thought I would take a break and go back for a bit to my argyle pillow. And that was going to be the start of the end or in my case the start of the beginning.

After three or four rows I noticed that the colours in the argyle were harder to control. I knew something had to be wrong, and then there it was. Two dropped stitches. Now in stockinette this would really be no problem but in garter stitch I can't say the same. Well, I fixed the two areas, but knew it was not quite right. I talked myself into knitting forward and that it would be fine in the grand scheme of things. But alas a few rows later I kept coming back to that area. Okay....relax....get a drink and come back to it.

The drink gotten I now tried to fix that spot, and again began to knit forward, knowing full well that it was going to be a futile effort. Sure enough, after a few more rows I couldn't take it and quickly ripped the stitches from the needles and began to rip back. Here I began going towards the beginning. I finally got the stitches on the needles but it still was not quite right. Don't worry just start knitting backwards. You know, towards the beginning. Two more rows and the mistakes were all out of the piece and I was ready to move forward. But I did not want to tempt fate and upset the knitting gods, so I figured I would put the piece down and work on my sock again. This was to be my second mistake.

I knit about 5 rows of my sock, when I noticed something was not right. Yes, think how I felt. Well, it seems that instead of two rows of each colour there was this single row of colour sitting there all by itself. Of course I know what this means, so there I went knitting backwards towards the beginning again.

Well, I have finally gotten both pieces back into a mistake free mode but you gotta know what my next question is.

Do I tempt the fates and knit anymore today. Or should I understand that some days knitting just wants to go backwards towards the beginning.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How a Scarf becomes a pillow

My argyle has been coming along great but with each row I knit there is a voice screaming that the scarf is going to be way to short. Given the 76 stitches this would be a pretty wide scarf. I figured that I could just seam it and double it up into a tube. That would solve my too wide problem, but I am starting to think that nothing will fix my "not long enough" problem.

The ball of yarn is getting smaller and I am convinced that I don't have enough for a scarf. Thinking about the problem I have bandied about the thought of making a pillow instead. And now that I am at the point of no return I am faced with two choices.

The first choice would be to keep on knitting and hope for the best. The problem is that if I am right, and I am so sure I am, then I would be left with a table runner. Or perhaps a scarf for a very, very small person. Either way it would be devastating.

My second choice is to STOP KNITTING.... and put the stitches on holders. I can then cast on again and knit another piece. Then using a three needle bind off and seaming could make the two pieces into a pillow. So this is what I did.....made an executive decision......moved the stitches.....and the part that is so hard.....broke the yarn.

Okay the hard part is done. I have officially dove into a pillow. To try and shake it up a bit more and experiment a bit with argyling, I decided to change up the yarn pattern. Instead of using the purples on the ends to begin and the gray in the middle, I reversed it. Now I have 6 stitches of gray on each end, and the 18 purples in the middle. Same 76 stitches as before.

What I am wondering is that in making this change will it change the look of of the argyle and how the colour move, or will it just offset the two pieces? We'll find out soon.

So that is how a scarf becomes a pillow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Argyle Planned Pooling

I wanted to write about a cool technique that I learned from a couple of really inventive women on Their user names there are "Statnerd" and "Wenat". I first came upon this technique reading a blog post from yarnfloozies.

The idea was to take hand painted yarn. Instead of allowing it to stripe and move about like it wants to, you instead take control over the colours. Wenat showed how to get the colors to stack up instead of stripe. My first attempt came out okay. I was not tight on the colours but the technique was really fantastic.

I loved this new way of thinking about hand painted yarn. Not only can the knitter start to control the colors of the dyer, but the dyer could provide calculated color segments for this type of technique. What has really gotten me excited is what Karla (statnerd) then did. She began to make the colors move in a planned way so that they started to make an argyle pattern. I really loved what she was doing and wanted to try it myself. The only problem was finding the right hand painted yarn. For months I looked in my two Local Yarn Stores but with no luck. All the hand painted was done in a way that would not work. Then I read about a third LYS in my area and stopped in. After opening up many skeins of yarn, in which Connie, the owner, had to then put back together ..thanks Connie for your patience... I finally found the perfect skein.

It was a merino fingering weight hand painted yarn from Tanis Fibers Arts.

The color was prism and I knew immediately it would work perfectly. You can see in the yarn how the Blue, Green, and Pink on both sides of the skein match up. The purple and Grey are at the ends. Man was I excited.

Argyle Pooling

Okay so now let me try and explain how this technique works and how I best found to plan it out.

The first thing I had to do was figure out how many stitches each colour would knit up. I was going to do garter stitch so I only had to worry about a knit stitch. I cast on about 30 stitches and then began to knit. As I did I counted how many stitches were in each colour. Now, one thing I will say about planned pooling is that you really get to be intimate with your stitches. It can really show you how your tension will fluctuate at times. The other reason you have to test this is that the dye segments can vary a bit also. So what I did was set up a chart.

There were four main colours that I was going to worry about.


And so after my swatch of about 10-15 rows I found the following stitch counts

Purple 18, 20, 19, 21, 20
Green Blue 16, 16, 15, 17
Gray 13, 13, 12, 12
Pink 8, 10, 9, 9

From this I was able to take some averages. Also I knew that if the choice was between 19 or 20 stitches for a colour I would use the lower number. It is easier to get a bit looser but there is a limit to how tight you could get. Okay so now I have the following:

PURPLE 18st GREEN/BLUE 15st GRAY 12st PINK 9 st

The next thing to decide was how they would work on the needles. By pulling out the yarn and looking at it I could see that with purple on one end and grey on the other, the other colours would meet up with themselves when knitting the back of the garment. Look back up at the skein and you will see what I mean.

So based on the colours and stitch counts above it would mean the following total stitches

PU 9st (1/2)
GB 15st
PK 9st
Gray 6st

TOTAL 39 stitches

But that would not be quite enough so I though about it more and decided I could put purples on each end with the gray in the middle. Doing so would still cause all the colours to match up.


And if I used 9 stitches for each purple, then I would have a total of 9+15+9+12+9+15+9=78 stitches. Now to make the colours move to form an argyle pattern I needed to cast on 2 more or less stitches. In this case I chose less and cast on 76 stitches. If I was going to slip the first stitch on each row I would have added one more stitch, but I decided to just knit everything.

So then I used the backwards "e" cast on, starting halfway down the purple. Once this was done the rest was so easy.

All I had to do was to use the stitch counts for each color that I had above, and count away. The two less stitches would then automatically takeover. easy.

Now if I came near the end of a color and there was too much of that colour still to go I would loosen up my tension a bit. And if the colour looked like it was going to end before the amount of stitches I needed for that colour then I would knit tighter. Sometimes I would even take my left needle and tighten or loosen stitches already knit on the needles.

And so that is about it. There are so many incredible things that can be done with this planned pooling technique and so many talented knitters out there tackling it. I just hoped I could help anyone to understand this technique so they can have some fun with it too.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Some good, some great, some sad and some downright ugly

It's been quite a while. I have really been on a tear knitting shawls this summer. I seem to love the intricate work. I finished perhaps my favourite piece, which was Nancy Bush's Estonian shawl "MADLI". Just love it. It certainly belongs in the great feelings category. This week also brings the end of the summer and a time in 1 day when my daughter will be going off to University for the first time. I knew it would be an emotional time for me but never thought it would be this hard. I am so proud of her, and this week we have been getting her stuff together. It's all sitting in the front room ready to be loaded in the car. Each time I pass it today I have felt immense sadness and happiness all at the same time.

Sadness because my baby is moving out. I know that each time I pass her room I will wonder how she was doing. I will not be able to see her each morning or night. And there are going to be many days when I probably won't even hear from her. And I will feel so far away (it's only 2 hours). On the other side I find myself with great happiness. Because my daughter has achieved what no other child in our family has done. Going to college. And she is doing it, allow me to brag, on the deans list with a 90 average. I feel happy for her and the many exciting adventures she will take as she grows into a woman.

Yes, it is that time when everything in your life changes just a little bit. On the downright ugly side, I have a family problem. It is something that popped up that shouldn't have. Something that takes this special week of mine and tries to taint it. It is a problem that makes me want space from my family. It is also a problem that will very likely change things for the very worse. I don't want to bore all with the details but it involves a sibling who goes behind your back,and a parent that makes excuses for bad behaviour.

Yes a tough week in all respects. I guess my next post will no longer be from me. But from me who has changed even slightly.