Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Careening the Sixareen

My poor Sixareen Cape. She suffered from multiple errors in the pattern that turned her into an upside down knit funnel for a pinhead. Witness:

Kate Davies admitted Mistakes Were Made, and I recently received my copy of the corrected pattern, and a copy of Snawheid by way of apology. So now it's time to frog the top section down to the start of the decreases and do it all over again, this time with better instructions. So frog I did, 3 skeins' worth, ending with a very kinky pile of yarn.

Not to worry. A soak in tepid water, a squeeze, air dry,  rewind, and we're ready to go again. It makes a relaxing alterknit to the Shepherd. so light, such straightforward stockinette stitch, I can do it while watching subtitled movies. Onward and upward with all the kinks out.

But the experience of this and the Shepherd have tempered my rabid fandom for Ms Davies. I still love her vision, I share a love of Real Wool, of Scotland, the Shetland Isles, and traditional designs and techniques. But she seriously needs a technical editor, a good one, so that her acolytes don't need to knit themselves wigs after tearing their hair out trying to make her designs.

P.S. What's a Sixareen? Look it up. What's careening? Look it up.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Wooly Interlude in Homer, AK

 I've cast on my Seedless Shepherd, and am cranking along, but there's not much to look at yet. So let's talk about something else for a bit.

I had the privilege of a weekend trip to Homer recently, and had a chance to visit their wonderful yarn shop, The CommuKnitty Stash. This is the shop that used to be in a yurt, now housed in a lovely little frame house, easy to find on Main Street.

As you'd expect, they've got wonderful yarn and fiber; they have classes, spin and knit gatherings, and, being in Homer, a sweet dog to welcome you. What you might not expect is this:

Alaska yarn from Alaska sheep, some of which is dyed by the proprietor! So, hey, what are we waiting for?? Let's grab some skeins, grab our knitting pals, rent a cosy cabin, and get on down there for a dye session or a knit or spinning class! Need further persuasion? Well, there's beer, and coffee, and more coffee, and chai, good food, and more good food, still more good food, beaches, scenery out the wazoo.....let's go!!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wishy Washy for a Seedless Shepherd

Wow.  It was a good thing I washed my Shepherd & Shearer yarn. It turned the soaking water brown. Yuck! Sheep are dirty little beasties! There was even a little silt in the bottom of the tub when the water drained out. The whole picture was too gross for prime time, so here's a corner of the bathtub where you can see the ivory tub wall, the scuzzy water, and some dark submerged yarn. Compare and contrast:

Speaking of contrast, here's the one between the washed hanks and one of each that I held back temporarily just so I could see how much difference it made. It may not show as well in the photo as in person, but the washed yarn is definitely a whiter shade of pale. The Colored Flock didn't change color, but got lighter and fluffier.

Now that we're washed and dry, it's time to wind up a ball and start swatching! I have decided to make the Shepherd cardigan, but for sure with some modifications. Purists and/or the designer herself will just have to get over themselves if they don't like it. This is going to be my sweater; it's going to take a good deal of work to make it; and I want it to be a sweater that I like and that I will like to wear.

First of all, the hood's gotta go.  It's enormous--not a fashion detail that looks good on me, and the bulk of it on the back makes it difficult to wear another layer over the sweater. I also have a major problem with the seed stitch borders. Even on the model they flare out, not a look I want. Possibly the flare could be cured by knitting the borders on smaller needles than the body of the pattern, or by using a smaller stitch count for the edge and increasing for the cabled area. However, I thought of a different way to tame the edges; see what you think.

I wound, I cast on, knit, cabled, cast off, washed, blocked, and this is what I got:

Sorry I photographed the swatch upside down. The top is a K4 P2 rib that flows right into the cabling, and it seems to work really well. The cable pattern comes out at the right width gauge, but instead of 32 rows per 4 inches of length, I get 26. It makes the thing pretty much square. I'm not sure what to make of this, but I don't think it will cause trouble, as the important stages of the shape are marked by length ("work until it measures x inches") rather than by a count of pattern repeats. Just to see what I'd get, I finished with the seed stitch and, yup, it sure looks like a ruffle. No thanks.

What about the seed stitch button and buttonhole bands? There's going to be a change there, too. The front edges will be K1 P1 rib sewn to a zipper closure. If I were keeping seed stitch bands, I might use leather toggle closures rather than buttons and holes, but in addition to its ruffling properties, seed stitch is a more open fabric that admits cold breezes, so I'm just going to go seedless with this sweater. Will it still be the Shepherd sweater with all these changes? Does it matter?

And if this is not heresy enough, look out Shearer! I've got a crazy idea about converting that pullover into a cardigan.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My Shepherd & Shearer Is Here!

Last spring I jumped onto a bandwagon launched by Juniper Moon Farm: The Shepherd and the Shearer. The idea was to front some money to the project and they would produce a special batch of yarn to make a hard-wearing sweater and also provide scholarships to women to attend sheep-shearing school. Basic premises are here and here.

Juniper Moon already had a track record as a Community Sourced Agriculture provider of fiber and yarn (you buy a share, half-share, or double share in the spring or fall and receive your fiber/yarn after the year's wool has been harvested and processed). They have some experience at what they were doing, but this was special because unlike the shares, they also commissioned superstar designers to provide patterns for your yarn allotment.

Well, the wait is over and my yarn is here! Ta daaaa.....

My postman was happy about my being so happy to get the package. The Shepherd and the Shearer yarn is there, yes, but what is that brown stuff sticking out of the basket? Well, Miss Piggy here couldn't resist the deal offered by Juniper Moon to assuage subscribers' misery at having to wait longer than promised for their yarn, so they offered a super discount on their CSA yarn to us as well. What you see there is hanks of their Colored Flock yarn from this year. It's a similar weight and sturdiness to the S&S, and feels denser. My idea was that I could knit the Shepherd pattern out of one, and the Shearer out of the other. But now having met the yarns in person, I am going to give them all a wash and have a think about what to make with what.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Finishing Some Objects

Visual quiz--what's this?

A strange blob of strangely shaped knitting?

 Let's turn up a corner and see what we can do with it....

Oooo...a sleeve and some wee buttons appear if you fold up the corners...

 Goodness! It's a Baby Surprise Jacket! Always a test of faith in Elizabeth Zimmermann while knitting it, always a surprise even to its maker when you fold it up and actually have a garment! This is more of that Paton's Stretch Socks in Cherry Sours. I love this colorway so much. This is especially notable  given my usual feelings about pink, but this stuff looks so much like cherry blossoms, not candy. See, you've got the green leaves, the blossoms in several shades of pink, and even traces of the brown branches. It's all so perfect. And there's enough left over for a wee matching hat!

Nor have I forgotten the dark striped Kaffe Fassett sweater. It's all blocked and now in the process of getting seams sewed up:

The neck was kind of small, so I had to frog the original castoff and apply myself to learning Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff. It's very well named and very much worth learning. Changing just the bindoff row led to an opening that will actually fit over my head. Hurrah! And d'you see what I found for "pins" in my seam? Those teeny weeny little hair grippy doodads that were so popular a few years ago!

But we're not done yet! The Churchmouse Inside Outside Cowl is also finished and awaiting the frozen winds of winter:

And all this is just to keep the needles busy while I await the arrival of the Shepherd and Shearer...