Kirsti Knits

Time - such a precious Gift is it; To work, to read, and Yes, to knit. - Minnie Gertz

Monday, February 27, 2006


So here it is. The finished Threadybear. I got the final ends woven in at 4:05pm, showed it off to gathered SnB'ers, and then gave it a basic block with a steam iron over a tea towel before going to bed last night. As per usual, click on the photos for a link to a larger image.

The front of the sweater.
The inside, showing off the nice neat stranding.
Here's a close up of the second sleeve (the left one in the picture above). I did a somewhat better job of picking up the stitches, so it's sitting closer to the top of the shoulder. This will lie flat when I spread it out, unlike the other sleeve, which has a small bump to it. So that's one more thing I learned: how important it is to really make sure that your picked up stitches go all the way to the top and aren't one row short.
The other thing that you can hopefully see from the above picture is that the left sleeve has a nicer curve to the bottom of it (I think). When doing the decreases for this sleeve, I left the first and last stitch of the row, and did my decreases on the two stitches outside of that. The first sleeve, I just decreased right at the edges, and so the line isn't quite as nice. Yet another thing learned. The pattern itself doesn't give any specific instructions about type of decreases; it just states to "decrease one stitch at the start and end of every third round". I used paired decreases (ssk at the start, k2t at the end) which I'm trusting made it look more even than if I'd just knitted 2 stitches together each time.
And here was the other scary thing, the thing that made me fear on Saturday that I wouldn't finish. This is how much yarn was left at the end. Count it: 5 balls and one tiny thread. The sweater used 7 colours. The middle shade of the browns, I ended up having to tie the final 1cm long end from the last stitch to another yarn tail to get it to hold while I bound off the cuff. I don't know whether I just used too much yarn weaving in ends, or knit too loosely .... but if anyone else is making this sweater, be very very frugal with the two darkest shades for your main colour (F and G on the chart).

What else did I learn? Let's see: if you're cutting steeks, you don't need to be anal and weave your new yarn ends in past the steek, because once it's cut down the middle, all you'll have done is added unnecessary thickness to the other side of the sweater. In fact, Bethany, who is also knitting Threadybear, found a great article by Lucy Neatby on steeks, where she suggests swapping colours during the first half of the steek and just knotting the ends together. Of course, I didn't do this research, and so only read this after I'd finished knitting and cutting both my steeks. Oh well. Again, this project was all about the learning.

Now it's back to my 2 socks on 2 circs (yay!), my jaywalker socks, and a poncho for a friend's daughter who's about to turn two. The conversation went something like this.

    S: Here's the invitation to E's party. Gifts are entirely optional, but she needs a new poncho, and she really likes purple.
    Me: Oooohkay then.
Actually, it's not that bad. Although I've always hated the idea of knitted (or crocheted for that matter) ponchos for adults, they do look sort of cute on little girls. And Lynne at City Knits found me a nice pattern by Knitting Pure and Simple for a hooded poncho (scroll down about two thirds of the way down the page, and it's on the left hand side), and I've got some chunky purple Plymouth Encore and am well underway. It's pretty simple stockinette, with symmetrical increases, the same kind as the Jaywalker socks, to make the V shaping. It won't show up quite so much in a solid purple, but I couldn't find any variegated stuff that was the right colour. March 11th is my deadline for that, and then it'll be more socks for my Sockapaloooza pal. I've picked out the yarn, and almost decided on a pattern, so want to get started on that soon too.

So much knitting, so little time. But at least I got my Olympic medal. Thanks to Matt at Threadbear for coming up with the pattern and kit; to everyone for the support - real life and virtual - ; and to Terry for not going completely crazy wondering why I was obsessing and spending so much time on something that won't even be worn by a real person. And of course, to the Yarn Harlot herself for coming up with this crazy idea in the first place.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I might just make it!

After a very productive SnB at Caribou last night, and a bit more knitting while waiting for Terry to come home, and then some work this afternoon and this evening ... I'm feeling slightly more optimistic about my chances of finishing in time. I switched from dpns to using two Addi circulars for the sleeve, and that's certainly made things a lot faster, and easier too.

So here's my progress, with one sleeve completed and the other ready to go:

That's one sleeve completed, with ends all woven in too. I'm overall pretty pleased with it, although the sleeve has ended up sitting too low on the shoulder, and making a kind of ugly bump. I'm sure a teddy won't mind, and I've certainly tried to rectify it when picking up stitches for the second sleeve. This is why I'm doing this project, to learn and avoid these mistakes on a full size garment. Plus, although I figured out that I should use paired decreases on the sleeves, I didn't think about leaving an undecreased "edge" stitch at the start and end of the round, like you do on socks. That might make a smoother seam, and again, I'll try that on the other sleeve.

Using the Addi's also made it so so much easier to pick up the other armhole stitches, especially as by putting the stitches onto the cable, I could stretch out the steek so it lay nice and flat for cutting. And, to make up for the lack of documentation of the first steek...

Here's me just starting to cut open the second steek. Note the bottle of wine in the background. This is because the cutting was proceded by...
...this! Barefoot Merlot, highly recommended in combination with Addi Turbos for making your steek cutting a lot less stressful. And, to be precisely accurate, the bottle in the background was Monday night's Gewurstraminer that I tracked down for Terry's Christmas gift.
And here's the end result: one open armhole. OK, it's a rather fuzzy picture, but you can blame Terry for that. Or the wine.

So now we're going to watch the women's figure skating and I'll see how far I can get with this sleeve. I'm not working tomorrow, so hopefully can get it close to done, if not completely done. We've got a busy weekend: going to see two shows at the Ark on Friday and Saturday night, staying over with some friends in Ann Arbor on Saturday, then a church membership class til 3pm Sunday. But I might yet make gold, even if I don't find a bear to model it by then. Heck, if necessary, I'll see if one of Amby's dogs will put it on...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Onto the sleeves

Well, progress has been slower than I'd have liked, due to this strange thing called "real life" getting in the way. I'm not sure if I'll be able to finish in time for the gold medal - but I certainly don't regret tackling Threadybear at all.

Especially as.... I cut the first armhole steek last night. (Cutting the neck steek doesn't really count as it was only 3 stitches wide). Sadly I don't have pictures of me doing the Actual Deed, but here's the garment so far:

The back of the sweater, showing the completed pattern, and ribbed neckline.
The front neckline - it's slightly lower than the back. And look at the wonderfully neat stranding inside!
And here it is. The armhole. I'm only about 2 rows into the sleeve so far, but the steek has already nicely folded itself inside the arm. It was a tad scary (and yes, that's British understatement), but so far, it's all holding together!

I'll be at SnB at Caribou tonight, and Terry's working very late, so I can at least get 4 hours or so done then. Plus I have Friday off work, and Saturday morning... so we'll see how it goes. And yes, to Andy and Suz and all the other people who've asked, I will be going bear shopping for a suitable model.

Thanks to everyone for all your comments and support, and discussion on the Curmudgeon's post I linked to in the previous entry. If you do read her blog, you'll see that she did "eat crow" and realise that the Knitting Olympics is not necessarily a 'sheep' thing, and that many people, including me, are getting a lot of good out of it.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

What I'm learning

Marilyn over at the Knitting Curmudgeon has challenged us Knitting Olympians to prove why joining 4,000 people in a time deadline isn't just sheep like behavior, resulting in nothing but progress reports.

So here's what I'm learning so far.

  1. I like knitting fair isle, even more so when it's small and intricate rather than chunky yarn like my earlier fair isle hats.
  2. How to keep my tension even, particularly tricky when some colours of yarn are much thinner/stickier than others, which are thicker and more fluffy.
  3. How to follow a fairly complex colour chart, without losing my place or row
  4. That working in ends as you go makes for much quicker weaving in, and that weaving the ends in every day is a lot less intimidating than leaving the ends to accumulate for a while.
  5. How to knit steeks - and, pretty soon, how to cut them
  6. An appreciation for generations of fair isle knitters who created these garments without the help of Addi Turbos, on really long double pointed needles.
  7. That none of my teddy bears will be big enough to model the sweater when done! (And, because of the way the sweater is designed, with really low armholes, I don't think I can find a small child with the correct body shape either! Though it would probably fit very badly on Oscar)
  8. To trust Matt in his choice of colourways. I'm actually really liking the browns and blues now.
  9. That I can be a fairly productive knitter, and there is more time for knitting in a day than I'd otherwise have imagined. So "I don't have the time to start a big project" is no longer a valid excuse.
  10. That I enjoy feeling connected to other knitters around the world. The deadline and finishing isn't as important to me as the process, and creating something beautiful that otherwise might have languished at the back of the cupboard for another 6 months.

Not too shabby for halfway through the games, eh? Still to come: cutting steeks, picking up a neckline and sleeves.

So now you've sat through all that rambling, here's the obligatory progress photos. Front and back, taken inside and outside today, while there's actually some sunshine here in Royal Oak.

I'm about 14 rows from the top of the sweater. When I reach there, I join the shoulders, knit some more ribbing for the neck and cut the neck steek. Then it's on to the sleeves. Not bad progress all in all. You can see the armhole steek stitches showing up quite clearly in both pictures, and, if I'd actually taken more time to read Matt's directions, I'd have outlined both ends from the beginning, and used blue (background colour) rather than brown. Oh well. It shouldn't make too much of a difference in the long run.

And now I'm going to see if I can't get another 3 or 4 rounds in before church this afternoon. I wish all other Olympic knitters a productive weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Olympics day 5

Threadybear continues to take shape. I'm about halfway up the body now. Here's the overall progress:

It's about 11" wide across, so I'm going to need to find a large bear to model it when I'm done. The two lighter blues are a little bit more distinguishable in this picture. There's 4 blues in total: the very dark accent colour, the darker shade (A) that's used in rows just above the ribbing, the medium shade (B) which is used in..hmm.. how to describe it. The row near the top with the deep blue and golden brown alternating dots? The rows just below and just above that one are shade B. Then there's shade C which is more of a heathered blue texture. That blue is surrounding the middle row of motifs - the band above the "flowers". Anyway, I'm still having fun knitting it, even though my right arm is starting to ache a little. I didn't do much yesterday, except for weaving in ends, so I'm about a day behind. But this still puts me halfway through the body, so I'm not worried yet.
Here's the fun bits: I've started the steek stitches for the armholes. These are the ones that I'll (eeps) cut into to open them up. I've marked them with the big black arrow. Of course, on Sunday night, I was knitting too late, and sailed past the row on the chart that was marked in green thinking "oh, isn't that pretty". The next morning, I realized that the green line was, in fact, the indication to cast on the steek stitches. So, after ripping back a couple of rows, we're now all set. It was only about halfway up the steek that I decided to always knit the final steek stitch in brown, as well as the first one, as I wanted to really mark where the steek started and ended. Hopefully it'll all be clear when I come to pick up the stitches to start the sleeve.
And here's the other gratifying bit - the insides. One of the tricks in fair isle knitting is to keep your floats (the yarn that you're not knitting with that gets carried behind the work) as even and relaxed as possible. If you pull them too tight, the garment will get puckered; if you leave them too loose, then things can catch on them (not that a teddy bear is likely to have fingers or jewelry, but even so...) I'm pleased with how even this is turning out.

In other news, I've not been feeling so well the past couple of days. I'm going to rest today and see if I can make it to SNB at Caribou tonight.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Day 2's progress

Here's how things are looking so far. I got a row or two ahead of schedule last night - good thing too, as I don't think I'll have as much time today. Hopefully I can catch up at SNB tomorrow night too. And there's a lot of ends to weave in piling up...

I'm feeling somewhat ambivalent about the colourway I chose. The two lighter shades of blue are pretty indistinguishable from eachother, which is a shame. But still, I'm more of a "process knitter" than a "product one" - it's the act of knitting and learning the techniques that appeals, more than whatever the finished object turns out to be. Otherwise, I'd be pondering driving up to Lansing tomorrow and buying a new kit from Threadbear and starting all over again...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Olympics - Day 1

Well I cast on around 2:30pm, while watching the opening ceremonies. Some of the stuff seemed a little slow moving, but the "sparks" on rollerblades, the fireworks, the lighting of the flame itself, and Pavarotti were all rather impressive. And, speaking of impressive (heh), here's my Day 1 progress:

It's fun to be knitting fair isle again. This yarn is a lot more "grabby" than the Bazic I was using for the hats, which apparently is traditional for fair isle. Hopefully it also means that the steeks will "stick" easier. I'm glad I'm using Addi's though - I need all the needle smoothness and slippiness that they provide. It's definitely going to be a sweater for a large teddy bear - I've got one option of my childhood bear, Misha, who I got in Moscow for my very first Christmas. If it turns out too large for Misha, I may have to go "model shopping" closer to the end.

I did do some calculations, and I figure that if I can knit between 12 to 15 rows per day, AND work in the ends as I go, I should be on target to finish in time. Each round at the moment is taking me about 8 to 10 minutes, so that's basically 2 1/2 hours of knitting time per day. I got 16 rows done yesterday so I'm a bit ahead, but will have less time to knit on Sunday. Hope that all the other 3999 Olympic Knitters are doing as well!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Pre Olympic Report

Well, tomorrow is the start of the Knitting Olympics, and I figured I'd give a progress report.

Following on from yesterday's post, Gundel suggested that the odd looking heel might be due to a tension thing ... so I did end up ripping out both heels and reknitting them, taking care to keep my tension fairly tight. Here's the results - not perfect, but definitely an improvement.

My right foot isn't quite as deformed as it seems in the final photo, and there is a tiny gap where one of the heels rejoins the foot, but for a first attempt, I'm pretty happy with it. Plus that'll be hidden by my shoe most of the time, right? Sadly, the finishing of these socks, and the Jaywalker, and the starting of the toe-up Pomatomus, and my Sockapaloooza socks will all be put on hold for... Threadybear!.

This is my project of choice for the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics, which, scarily, has more knitters participating than there are athletes in the actual games. (I'm also somewhat impressed that in a group of around 3000 knitters, I'm the only Kirsti-with-an-i.) I'm pretty well set: I've got my yarn, needles, pattern, all the notes from the Yahoo group. And the wonderful Amby has made us official "Team Detroit" tote bags to proudly keep our Olympic projects safe. Threadybear, by the way, is a traditional fair isle sweater, knitted in the round, with (eeps) 7 different yarn colours and (double eeps) steeks! Steeks are where I take a deep breath, and a sharp pair of scissors, and actually cut into the knitted sweater to make armholes. It's a somewhat scary thought, and hopefully the Olympic pressure will give me the courage to do it. I was going to calculate the number of rows so I could figure out what my daily target needs to be in order to finish in time, but that may be a tad too geeky even for me. Anyway, here's the "pre cast on" pics.

I'll try and update with Olympic progress over the next 16 days, but obviously most of my time will be actually knitting. Feel free to leave encouraging comments and cheer on my progress.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Short Row Heels

Well class last night was a success. A short row heel was created and finished, and I think I pretty much understand the technique. Then when I got home, I did the heel on the second sock. It's definitely much faster than the heel flap/pick up stitches technique, and I think I prefer how it fits my foot. Here's the results from the top, from the back and from the side:

The minor problem is that I think I'm picking up my wraps incorrectly on the knit side of the heel. I love how the purl side looks, but the knit side just isn't matching it. Here's a closer look:

The nice, neat purl side
The not-so-nice, not-so-neat knit side

If anyone's got any suggestions as to how to improve it, I'd be grateful. What I think I did ... when I was on the second half of the heel, I'd knit to the wrap, slip the wrapped stitch purlwise onto the right needle, use the tip of my left needle to pick up the two wraps, slip the stitch back onto the left needle, and then knit all three loops together. Then wrap the next stitch (which means there are now two wraps on that stitch) and turn. Should I have been using a slip slip knit type stitch instead to keep the picked up wraps and the stitch together? Or was I somehow missing a wrap, despite being really careful to pick up the two wrap loops. I can't decide whether it's worth frogging and re-doing the heel, or just leaving it as it is, and trying again on the next pair.

I need to make a decision fast, coz this is the only knitting I have with me for the Red Wings hockey game tonight!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hopefully this post will stay...

Well I tried twice on Saturday to post about Mick Jagger and a red scarf knitted by my friend Lisa and the superbowl halftime show, but seeing as Mick never wore the scarf anyway, it's not too much of a disaster that blogger seemed to eat both of the posts.

Had a great time at SnB last night, and feel like I'm making good progress on the Jaywalker sock.

Here's its current state. Heel is turned, and the sock is back on the two circulars. Because of the curl to the stockinette, you can't quite see, but I'm about half an inch into the gusset decreases. I was glad I'd borrowed Amby's copy of Cat Bordhi's "socks soar on 2 circular needles", because I wasn't quite sure how you picked up the stitches after the heel turn. I like the sideways arrangement, and it's definitely going faster than the double points.

And, in a wonderful suprise, the doorbell rang on Saturday, and I found a box containing....
2 skeins of the most wonderfully soft, bulky wool from Wool in the Woods. It's 200 yards per skein, 17 stitches/22 rows to 4" on size 9 needles ... and was a gift from the amazing Poppy. I'd helped out my sister and her Yaya friends with a suprise gift for another Yaya who lives nearby, and this was my completely unexpected 'thank you'. I've got strict instructions to make something for myself, so I'm thinking some kind of shawl, with lots of lacy yarnovers to show off the gorgeous colours. If anyone knows a pattern, I'd be glad to get some suggestions! Anyway, thank you Poppy - it was above and beyond, and I'm very very grateful.

Tonight is my next 2 socks/2 circs class at City Knits - time to start the short row heels. Apparently, we're not allowed to leave until we've completed at least one heel. I didn't bother with pictures of the socks so far, because they're basically just like the previous post only slightly longer, with 11 pattern repeats. But tomorrow ... they'll hopefully look very different. I won't be SnB'ing on Wednesday night, because Terry and I have got tickets to go see the Red Wings play. (That's the Detroit ice hockey team for any non-americans reading.) But I'll be bringing my socks and knitting during the game - hey, it might be cold in the arena, right? Got to have yarn to keep me warm.

And now to work. Time to start the countdown til 6pm and sock class!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Blog stuff.. and sock stuff

Blog stuff first. Until we come up with our "Team Detroit" button for the Knitting Olympics, I'm signing up for . Thanks Dixie!

And here is proof from snapshirts that my blog is getting somewhat obsessive about knitting socks:

At least Chocolate makes a good showing in there...

OK, now onto knitting stuff. Here are my current projects - all socks of course!

This is the ubiquitous Jaywalker sock, in Fire on the Mountain sock yarn. It's perhaps knitting up with a tad too much bright pink for my tastes, though I love the overall pattern. These may end up with a certain family member who I know adores pink and bright colours....
And these are from my City Knits class - two socks at once, on two circular needles. That in itself is fun, but I'm also knitting these from the toe up, which is a new technique for me (and one that may pay off in other ways - see following paragraph!). I'm about two-thirds of the way through the foot, using an 8 stitch pattern called "Oblique Openwork" from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks, and it's worth clicking on the thumbnail to see the detail in it. The yarn is Lorna's Laces in "denim". I wasn't sure at first, but now I'm really liking how the pattern is working with them. Next Tuesday: short row heels!
And now for the lack of progress report. With the help of Karen Kendrick-Hands from City Knits, who gets even more obsessive about stitches than I do, we figured out how to reverse the decrease, and how to knit the rib so that the stitches would twist in the opposite direction from "knit through the back loop", thus solving the slant problem detailed in the previous post. However ... as you can hopefully see from this picture ... that opposite twist makes for a really thick ribbing, completely overlying the purl stitches, which again, won't work for the scale pattern. So I think I'm left with one option: knit the second sock from the toe up. The Sensational Socks book has a pattern for a toe-up sock with a heel flap, so it should be manageable. The gusset will look slightly different, with a horizontal line where the stitches are picked up, but that bit will be hidden inside my shoe anyway, right? And everyone will be so impressed by the pattern, they may not notice. Or else I suck it up and knit two socks the same. Any opinions?

So that's the knitting news. This weekend I'll be staying as far from downtown as possible while the Superbowl fever hits Detroit.