Finally done… or half done, anyway!

On Saturday I drove Myr to the January meeting of her local lace guild. This is always a great time for me to get some knitting done, and today was no exception. Other than a Lost Hour when I went off on a simple mission to get some Panera soup and sandwiches (and got lost), I spent several hours working on the thumb of my Deep in the Forest mittens. I cast on for these exactly 17 months ago, and this is just the first of the pair. Talk about your delayed gratification!

This pattern is by Tuulia Salmela, whose designs I like a lot.

Very rarely do I get though a knitting session without running into some sort of problem, and this time there were two of the little devils.

Devil One: Brittle Yarn

The yarn I used (Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift) is an established yarn from an old and well-loved maker, listed as a two-ply, but it looks like a single ply to me and nearly un-spun. I managed to get a ball of the black that is brittle. I’d gotten the tension under control enough that I hadn’t broken the yarn since the cuff, but on my last row, right at the tip of the thumb, the yarn parted. After some commiseration from the lace ladies, I took a break to get lunch, then came back determined to fix the thumb.

I first tinked back far enough to weave in the black again, and was knitting along toward the tip of the mitten for the second time when I became aware of the Second Demon…

Devil Two: Forgetting to Check the Fit

The lacer to my left looked over and commented that the thumb looked a bit long. I had Myr try it on, and sure enough, the thumb was about a half inch too long. After taking some measurements and making a couple of calculations, I decided that I needed to remove about 6 rows to get back to the right length. Since 6 rows was exactly the length of the decrease area, I would have to remove twelve rows to get the right length.

It was time to head to our next destination, so we packed up and drove from Matthews to Pineville, for a quick stop at our LYS. I had just enough time to rip back and pick up the stitches, and then off we went to Ballantyne. I had about an hour to wait, so I started working my way back to the tip of the thumb. The work was very fiddly with the fragile yarn and tiny 4-inch DPNs, but I got to the right length at long last.

At home I got out my dogtag instructions for Kitchener grafting and sealed everything up tight. I flipped the mitten inside out and wove in my yarn ends, then hemmed the cuff. At half past six I at last held the finished mitten…

Photo of a mitten made from the Deep in the Forest Mitten PatternPhoto of a mitten made from the Deep in the Forest Mitten Pattern

(I’m trying to stay enthusiastic about casting on for the second of the pair!)

Something for me: Morningside Neckwarmer

I wanted to take a break from mitten knitting and make myself something. A friend recently kidded me for wearing a “store bought” woven scarf. She said something along the lines of “why aren’t you wearing something you made?”

Truth: the scarves I’ve made were boring, or seemingly took forever to make. Or both. A possible solution? Make a neckwarmer instead!

I’ve had Jared Flood’s Morningside Neckwarmer in my queue for a long while, and aside from looking good, it has the added attraction of being in a stitch pattern of which I know nothing. Learning new knitting skills = not being bored with a project!

I cast on a few nights ago and by the second round had run into a brick wall. Naturally I kept going until the end of the third round (stubborn, or merely thick-headed? You decide!), and finally broke down and frogged it. I think that what had happened was that I dropped a stitch or made one too many yarnovers; at any rate, my stitch count was off and I couldn’t follow the stitch pattern, which depends on a slipped-stitch-and-YO combo being in the right place for a K2Tog on the next row.

After a second cast on (and I’m a fan of this double-strand cast on, it makes for a nice, even, comfy-looking edge) I started knitting again the next night. This time most of the stitches where where they should have been, and I was able to see what was going on with the fabric. Where I missed several YO in random places I was able to make a “save” by picking up the ladder and putting it where it should be. I’m about 12 rows in now, and if you ignore the bottom inch of the tube where I had some lingering problems, you can start to make out the ribbing from the brioche stitch.

My first attempt to knit brioche stitch
My first attempt to knit a brioche stitch pattern

I’ve never knitted in-the-round on a 16″ circular except when doing Magic Loop, which by now is my standard knitting method for most of my projects. I started wondering if this little 5″ circle would expand to fit over my head, so I transferred the work to a long cable from my Denise set. Uh, yeah. It’s very big. Much larger than I expected from the pattern photos. I’m going to knit until it’s the recommended five inches in length, then transfer to a longer cable and try the thing on, but I suspect that I’ll end up making this a lot taller than the pattern calls for, to give it a better chance to give me good coverage and warmth under my coat’s collar and at the top of the zipper.

Jared Flood's Morningside Neckwarmer

a simple brioche circular scarf, cowl, or neckwarmer

Jared Flood's Morningside Neckwarmer

WIP: “Dashing” fingerless gloves

I took a couple of snaps of my current ‘train project’ (knitting I mainly work on while commuting). This is a pattern called Dashing by Cheryl Niamath. We have friends in New England who have helped us out of jambs many times over the last 20 years, and these are going to them as a small note of thanks. I’ve got another pair (for them) that is currently hibernating for the winter, but these are moving along pretty well. I modified the pattern to add a thumb gusset.

You’ll see that I’m doing these “2 up” or 2-at-a-time on a long circular needle. This is a technique that helps ensure a few things:

  1. Your pair of mittens (or socks, sweater sleeves, whatever) will be the same length. See my earlier post about messing up row counts for an idea of why this is important.
  2. You’ll finish the pair at the same time. Do a search on Second Sock Syndrome to see just how common it is among knitters to finish one of some pair, and to then experience a vast reluctance to begin the mate. Suffice to say, being done beats being half-done any day.
  3. If you run low on yarn, you might be able to stop early… (uniformly early!) rather than having one complete mitten and one mitten that’s ? done.
  4. If your tension changes over the course of several years months weeks days the changes will—again—be uniform across the project as opposed to one mitten or sock being tightly knit and one a sloppy mess.*
  5. You’re really unlikely to lose one mitten before the second one’s complete.

There are drawbacks… I spend a fair amount of time de-tangling the two strands of yarn and organizing the cord of the circular needle. I also feel as if I get more strange looks from fellow travelers on the train. Since many muggles can’t tell crochet from knitting, the sight of someone managing two strings, two needle points, and two mittens at the same time probably makes their heads explode stops them from even trying to guess what I’m doing.

This is the first project I’ve done with my Kollage square needles. The sales pitch talks about the more-uniform stitch results I can expect (uniform stitches aren’t a problem for me, so I can’t evaluate this claim) and they also mention that your gauge might be a bit off; they say that some users have to go up a needle size to get gauge. I wonder if this is why the mitts are a bit on the snug side?

The main quality I wanted to check out was the “no kink, no curl” low-memory cables. My beloved Addi Lace circular needles do tend toward the kinky side of the spectrum. Ahem. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The cable on these Kollage needles is very, very flexible. I kind of like it, except for one thing… when I would normally be pushing the needle down into the next segment to continue my knitting, there is nothing to push against! The Addi needles slide back in the stitches as expected. The super-flexible Kollage cable just folds over and stops. This means that I have to push a bit, pull a bit, push a bit more. Fiddly. At a recent knit night at my LYS, Susan said “it’s like pushing string.” Exactly. I’ll avoid any jokes about LYS owners being “string pushers.” Honestly. I will.

kollage square knitting needles

Overall, I give the needles an A rating. I’d certainly consider buying more. Friends tell me that the Kollage DPNs are particularly wonderful for glove knitting.

The yarn here is something called “Yarn for Sox,” which is very stiff and a bit scratchy. I read several commentaries on Rav that assured me that a few washings will soften this wool up very acceptably. I’m hoping to be done with this project sometime in the first week in January.

*note to self: write a post about the importance of uniformity in knitting… obviously you have thoughts about this issue!