Friday, July 21, 2006

Summer Reading

Not reading books, email or blogs which are fine things to read also — but I’m talking about reading your knitting. This is an invaluable skill that can help you in many ways. This includes saving you from mistakes just as you’re going to make them or allowing you to fix a mistake if it sneakily happened when your attention was elsewhere for a moment. Being able to read your knitting allows you to change something about someone else’s pattern that you didn’t like, such as some little asymmetry or something big like the fit of the sleeves or raising the neckline. Heck, you can even design your own patterns from scratch. You can become the master (mistress?) of your own knitting. It’s intoxicating!

In order to “read” knitting, you need to really look closely at the stitches on your needle. Which stitch leg is in front? Normally that would be the right leg but if you’re one of those knitting rebels who have your own method of forming stitches, then it really behooves you to figure out how it differs so you can adjust if necessary when doing some tricky maneuver that assumes you knit like the pattern designer. There are many increases and decreases that not only are worked differently, but they look subtly different from each other as well. Which ones look the way you prefer and act best in a given knitterly situation? Nobody said you had to use the particular version you always use or that is specified in the pattern. (Test anything tricky first on a swatch though, unless you don’t mind frogging and reknitting if it doesn’t work out the way you envisioned.)

To help you choose the right stitch for a given situation, it’s wonderful to have a library at hand. A techniques book such as Montse Stanley's is great for putting many different cast-ons, bind-offs, increases, decreases, shortrows, and other skills and options at your fingertips. Then there’s the Barbara G. Walker Treasuries, Vogue Knitting’s new “Stitchionaries” (there’s 2 out with one more coming), Nicky Epstein’s “Knitting On the Edge” and “Knitting Over the Edge”, plus her “Knitted Embellishments” and “Knitted Flowers” for more inspiration. These are all invaluable for substituting pattern stitches or giving you a gazillion ways to make your knitting your very own individual statement.

Reading your knitting means you can tell whether to knit or purl the next rib stitch just by looking at it instead of having to count or refer to a pattern or chart. This can extend to more complex patterns with practice and can be a real time-saver. There are always symmetries and similarities in knitting patterns and you can find them if you look carefully. That’s why they’re called “patterns”! If you’re hooked on lace (and who isn’t?) you could try books like “Heirloom Knitting” by Sharon Miller, “Knitting Lace” by Susanna E. Lewis and “Creating Original Hand Knitted Lace” by Margaret Stove, all of which seem sadly OOP and are worth looking for in second hand bookshops. (Avoid eBay where they are available at incredibly inflated prices! Unless you are either rich or desperate or both.) These have great information on the “whys” of lace as well as the “hows”. When you can read your knitting you see where you’ve made an error and can rescue a missed yarn-over easily without having to frog which is more difficult in lace. You can tell if there’s an error in the pattern and figure out how to fix it. There are always errors lurking around that even the best editors and proofreaders miss.

So really look at your knitting. Get to know it intimately in all its twists and turns and get control over what you're doing. Then you can ditch the “Blind Follower” epithet that Elizabeth Zimmermann coined and become an Enlightened Knitter.

In other news, I finished the Sea Socks a couple of days ago:

They’re plain socks (for me) in Regia 4ply Multi Effekt Color, 75% superwash wool/25% polyamide (nylon), in colour 5378. It took me just about a month to make them but then I was knitting on 2 other pairs at the same time! Of course I immediately cast on for another pair of socks, this time for my granddaughter. She hasn’t had a pair of my socks since she grew out of the first pair I made before she was born. She’ll celebrate her second birthday in a couple of weeks so I thought I’d make a new pair or two (if I get that far). There might even be enough left of the Sea Socks yarn to make a second pair. The pattern I’m using is adapted from Opal Kid’s Sock with just a few changes. I didn’t like the ruffly cuff (I just ribbed) or the round toe (I subbed a wedge toe) and I made a tiny adjustment for rib symmetry (always important with me!). I’ve finished one sock and it looks quite small but stretches a lot due to the k3/p2 rib that makes up most of it. Now to make a second the same. Yes, I broke my own rule about knitting on two socks alternately because I was too lazy to rewind the 100g ball of Fortissima Colori/Socka Color into 2 balls. Bad Damselfly. I need to make the second sock fast enough so that I don’t forget what I did on the first one. I've already cast on and knit a bit on it.

Also, we have weaving:

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I volunteered to help my weavers’ guild make samples for the Guild of Canadian Weavers newsletters for 2007. We’re using some of the new fibres out there now to show what can be done with them. The yarns in my cloth are bamboo which is wonderfully soft and drapey. It’s been quite fun to get back into weaving after not doing it for so long. Though I am a wee bit rusty, the skills come back pretty quickly. I don’t even mind doing this on my Woolhouse Carolyn table loom with levers instead of treadles. It’s a pretty easy weave to memorize. Although my friend Sandra lent me her WhichOne gizmo for Carolyn which is kind of nifty, I didn’t need it past about 2 repeats of the pattern. I am using my littlest Toika temple however to maintain my selvedges because I’m really bad at pulling in too much. It’s a teeny bit short but it seems to be helping quite a bit. It’s awfully easy to beat to hard or too soft too so I’m trying to get it right. Maybe by the time I’ve woven the first yard? Heh! Here’s a close-up of the pinwheel twill. Purty ain’t it?

Unfortunately we’re running dangerously low on the dark brown bamboo yarn. (No, it isn’t black but points for noticing that they are my colours — and I didn’t choose them!) I’m hoping that the organizer of this project either has or can get some more so we can finish. I think we’ll only need about 3 bobbins full. I have enough to do my couple of yards and then the loom passes on to Sandra.


Anonymous said...

Hey! Nice GCW sample...
It IS okay that I can peak early?

I'm busy setting up my loom right now and it's too darn hot!

Bye for now, Susan

Sharon in Surrey said...

NICE SOCKS old Bean!! and the weaving ain't half bad neither . . . And, you should be ashamed of yourself - no little socks in TWO whole years???? Nice way to use up all the leftovers, don't you think??? Just think of little feet in the Africa Socks.