Archive

Fire Thief

February 18, 2015 - 4:01 pm

I am working on a new pattern. I’ve decided to try something different, and rather than hide it under a bucket during the design phase I’m going to blog freely about the design. If you like the idea and enjoy watching my process drop something in the tip jar over there —>

I’ll also be looking for a test knitter or three when I get this sorted. Let me know if you’re interested.

Hunter’s Curls are my favorite thing right now. I have one completed and a second on the needles and they are fantastic. I asked her how she would feel about me designing a Curl of my own, and she was enthusiastic. So! Here we go.

I decided I wanted to design to commercial yarn this time, and picked the Abstract Fibers colorway Bonfire on the base Temptation. It’s truly lovely. Look: 

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Bonfire is a great name for this colorway. I wanted a stitch pattern that was evocative of flames and worked with the yarn’s color changed instead of fighting them. I decided I needed big yarn-overs in every row in order to show a lace pattern, so came up with this swatch I posted a couple days ago: 

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I worked it on US 8’s, and it opens up nicely and the little three to four stitch runs occasionally stack to make little snaps and flashes of color. Perfect! 

You might notice there’s something going on towards the top of the swatch. There’s a line of faggotting that pops up in between the pattern repeats. That’s because I want to enhance the curliness of my curl, so the stitch pattern will expand as it’s worked by getting spaced out by more and more columns of faggotting. I worked up this chart:

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The idea is that you start with the bottom eight rows and repeat them a few times, then knit the blue transition row and move into the second set of eight, and so on. I haven’t decided how many a “few” is yet. 

The other idea I want to pull into this is something I’ve been playing with for a while, which is making two-sided scarves. I don’t like having a right and a wrong side to my neckwear. I don’t want to have to think that hard when I get dressed. ūüôā So I reworked the pattern to have an A and a B chart, with knits and purls: 

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Looking at the key there you’ll see notation for beads. Because, well, beads are fun! so there will be beads in the faggotting as well. 

The other notion I’ve been playing with in some pattern starts that may never see the light of day is having a circular start that at some point breaks free by having some number of stitches cast-off and the remainder getting worked into a rectangular shawl. I personally prefer long shawls to triangles or circles. 

When I saw Hunter’s Curls I immediately started thinking about how to work this into the start of a Curl shape instead of a rectangle. I am still not sure exactly how the circle will transition into the Curl— I’ve got some ideas but they will require testing. For the moment I’m focussed on getting the circular start done correctly.

I found a fabulous circular motif that was recently published by the inimitable Franklin called the “Laura Star.” It isn’t quite right for this project, however. I want it to flow nicely into the zig-zags. So I’ve added a lot of rows and inserted some columns of k2tog, yo to break it up into 4 st columns like the motif for the body has. You can see them starting to develop below:

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I’m setting them up as alternating knit/purl sections to flow into the flame pattern properly, and that has been the task of the day. Because there are so many increases and decreased it’s damned difficult to chart this out properly. I want the purls to start where they need to start and end where they need to end for the pattern to work out correctly. That means I need to count backwards from where I want to end up to where I need to shift from knitting out of the yo’s to purling out of them, and that turns out to be HARD, at least for me, at least today.

I have found out the hard way that I can’t rip this motif and then put it back on the needles, not even in little sections— if I screw up I have to tink back stitch by stitch and row by row, unless of course I want to start over from the cast-on. Which I have done twice. I have lost count of the rows I have tinked.

That tangle of yarn at the top? yeah. That’s the start of the next tinkage. I’ve dropped stitches down to where I need to rip- four or five more rows. 

The good news is that I’m working all of this out in beautiful charts, so it will be easy for *you* to knit once I’m done. Or, as easy as knit/purl lace that has no resting rows can be. ūüôā This is not going to be sleepy knitting. 

I’m jazzed about this design, and everyone I waved swatches in front of at Madrona was interested as well. I think Susan at Abstract Fiber and I may do a knit-along once I have something ready for the rest of the world.

This, by the way, is what you pay for when you buy a knitting pattern. Done well they are gorgeous and simple for the knitter to use. All of the work that goes into making that simplicity is invisible in the finished product, just like we don’t see the hours of practice when we watch a figure skater or a gymnast perform a flawless routine. Trust me, there’s more going on behind the scenes than you might imagine.

This is perhaps 10% of the way to having a pattern ready to ship— if I’m lucky and don’t hit an impossible problem. I’m not offering advanced sales yet because I know I may not find clean ways to solve some of the problems I see in front of me. How exactly am I going to Curl this circle? Stay tuned and we can find out together.

In the meantime, this is the song I took the pattern name from: 

Thanks so much to Hunter, Franklin, and Susan for their inspiration.

Icterine Curl Completed!

January 8, 2015 - 3:38 pm

Quicky post to share pictures of the completed Icterine Curl:

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blocking:

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Before blocking: 

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Enjoy! I sure plan to. ūüôā

Using My Beading Tool

September 19, 2014 - 7:42 pm

This will be the last post in the Viburnum series, and it’s about the tool I use to bead lace.

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Shortly after I joined Ravelry I developed and posted about a tool I made for beading lace from a guitar string. Folks have been regularly requesting a video on using the tool ever since.

That day has arrived! Here is the video:

 

Making Lace

September 18, 2014 - 12:33 pm

The third Viburnum sample in Knitty was the lace weight one. It’s an interesting “coming full circle,” since the piece I developed the initial pattern with was also lace weight. 

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That first sample was knit in Art By Eve’s “Anne,” which is a 70% Alpaca/ 30% silk yarn. It’s beautiful and drapey and deliciously soft and warm against the skin of my neck. The fiber blend was pretty close to perfect. That sample has now gone to live with Amanda, as a thank you for modeling in the Knitty article.

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I knew I wanted to spin something similar, but nothing in my stash called to me. I had some delicious kid mohair and some alpaca, but I wanted something colorful that would look good on the page with the lavender DK weight wrap, and nothing I had in my stash was going to work with those requirements.

Then I thought of Terry at Rainbow Farms Pygora. She makes the most delicious batts blending pygora with other fibers. Her batts are done in small lots from fiber she dyes in crockpot sized batches, and each one is built by hand on her drum carder. I’ve worked along side her in her studio and was impressed with her process and artfulness.

Fortunately I had this thought about a week before we were scheduled to get together at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, OR. I went straight to Terry’s booth when I arrived and had a delightful time with her picking out a complimentary batt to go with the DK sample. I settled on a deep purple. 

I also splurged on a new supported spindle from Spindlewood to spin the batt up. I have a number of spindles including representatives from most of the major artisan spindle makers, but Steve’s are my favorites. And Connie is such a delight to talk to— if you ever make it to a festival where they are selling you should drop in. 

I wanted to make sure the yarn I spun up was strong and fine enough to carry beads well. Being at Black Sheep I remembered a couple years ago when I took a class from Galina Khmeleva on Orenburg lace spinning. One of the things she stressed over and over that made me chuckle was “You can eat butter with your butter, but why would you?” She was referring to plying fine handspun singles with silk or cotton thread instead of spinning two singles of the same fiber together. It is the practice in Orenburg to ply the cashmere singles with drawn silk. That gives strength and a bit of sheen to the finished yarn, keeps the final yarn quite fine, and makes the single go twice as far! 

I checked the SkaSka booth for a plying thread that would go with the purple batt, but they didn’t have anything I liked in stock. Just down the aisle, though, was the Fiber Addict, who had hand-dyed 60/2 thread that was the perfect color.

So here are my tools and the yarn in process:

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I love support spindling. I find it’s the best way to make a fine, soft single, because the single doesn’t need to be strong enough to be wound on through the orifice of a wheel and doesn’t have to support the weight of a drop spindle. It seems to me the fibers stay relaxed and a little fuzzy because they don’t get that extra tug in the spinning.

To spin this I tore off handfuls of the batt and spun from the tips of the fiber rather than from the fold. I experimented with both methods, but the single was finer and more consistent spun from the tips. Terry’s batt spun like magic! I had an ounce spun up in a couple hours. 

To ply I went to my go-fast wheel. I am fortunate enough to have a lovely Canadian Production Wheel that’s about a century old:

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It’s made for spinning fine and fast. I plyed straight off the bobbin, after winding the thread onto a card:

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The spindle is in a tall water glass with a point protector on the tip, and the card with the silk is in a mug. I wanted to make sure the yarn didn’t become a boucle in the finishing, so I tensioned the spun single while letting the silk glide into the orifice with no tension. That way when the single relaxes it won’t form loops:

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After plying it was time for the finish! Still in the mood to avoid a boucle, I opted for a steam finish. Into the steamer basket with the yarn!

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Onto the stove over a frying pan of steaming water:

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And aaaaaah. Nice relaxed yarn:

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The photos don’t show how much of a change a little steam wrought. The yarn went from being kinky and unbalanced to being smooth.

Beauty shot on the porch:

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And then I set straight to knitting. I love how moebius scarves on the needles like to make heart shapes: 

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Next to the cowl is my beading tool. More on that tomorrow!

Viburnum becomes a pattern

September 17, 2014 - 10:36 am

Shortly after I completed David’s neck warmer, mentioned in the last post, I got an email from Knitty about submissions for the upcoming issue. They were specifically looking for small things, gift sized, and themed for winter wear. 

I mulled over what I might have to submit, and it occurred to me that the pattern I had now knit in two weights could be knit in more or less any weight of yarn, and could be sized up or down as desired to match gauge and style. 

I decided I needed one more size to make my point, so I grabbed a skein of Manos wool and silk and started knitting. I adore the little neck warmer that came out:

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It has been given to my Aunt Lynne as a gift. 

I wrote up the pattern and submitted it. On a whim I sent it to Knitty Spin since one of the three samples was handspun. I was pleasantly surprised when Jillian accepted it— provided I knit all three samples from handspun!

The acceptance note arrived shortly after Spinzilla. I spun for Team Storey, as I have several friends with books published through them. One of the yarns I spun up for the contest was a light purple fulled single from merino/silk top my friend Heidi dyed. It’s the skein in front on the right:

End of Spinzilla

The final yarn was much less kinky— this is the freshly spun picture. 

This style of yarn is one of my favorites. I first made it in imitation of the Malabrigo and Manos worsted singles I adore, and have knit several sweaters and other smaller projects from it. The yarn is quickly and lightly spun, and then heavily fulled to get it to hold together and to balance out the twist. I find this yarn doesn’t pill as badly as a two or three-ply yarn from the same fiber that’s finished less roughly. It will only work with non-superwash blends that are made mostly of feltable wool.

To make it I spin a middling sized single using a supported long backwards draw from the end of top. I spin it only to the point that the single loses the stretchy taffy-like feel, and then run it into the orifice and onto the bobbin.

Pull back, treadle a couple times, run the yarn in. Slide my fingers back down the top a bit, pull back, treadle, run in. It’s as soothing as a rocking chair. The rhythmic motion helps me maintain consistency in the single, and I can spin up a sweater’s worth of yarn in a couple afternoons. Delightful!

Once it’s spun I skein it off on a swift, tie it up well, and beat the living daylights out of it. I wrote up a tutorial a few years ago on learning to spin long draw and finishing a single with a hard fulling wash. There are bigger pictures in my flickr stream, and I think these two capture the spirit and vigor of the finishing: 

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I swish the single in boiling hot water fresh from the kettle with a bit of soap, then dunk it in an ice bath, and move the yarn back and forth again and again until it shrinks and hangs limp in the skein instead of curling up. To finish the yarn I “thwack” it vigorously against a wall or the edge of a basin. The photos show me doing it in the kitchen sink, but that makes a big splashy mess. Most of the time I use the wall of the shower. This action further “sets” the yarn, helping the fulling process along.

Once the yarn dries I put it back on the swift and re-skein it, gently separating the strands where they have stuck together. Generally I have to adjust the swift in several pegs from where it was originally skeined up because fulling causes the yarn to shrink in length and bloom in diameter.

The end result is a soft fuzzy yarn that is, nevertheless, as solid as a hard twisted multiply plied yarn, for a fraction of the effort. It doesn’t have the glossy sheen of a worsted yarn, but it’s lighter and warmer. It’s generally a bit uneven in diameter, but that disappears in the knitting. 

The end result is the neck warmer I wear the most: 

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Yummy.

Viburnum origins

September 16, 2014 - 1:48 pm

Viburnum began as a small take-along summer holiday project. It has origins in conversations with Sivia and Cat about the sorts of patterns that work well in a Moebius design. I am fortunate to have such friends. 

The issue with a moebius is they are knit in two directions at once, so the pattern must look the same from the top to the bottom or the bottom to the top. They are also single sided, with the “front” and the “back” flowing into each other, so the pattern has to be the same on the front and the back.  Cat has many designs which meet these criteria. Sivia has the Harmonia’s Rings pattern, which I had just come through knitting into a sweater when I cast on what was to be the first Viburnum.

After a lot of iterations I ended up with a chart and a swatch that made me happy. It took less time to knit out the first one than it had to design:

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At about the same time I was finishing up the first cowl, I ruined a fleece.

David’s Viburnum was made with some gnarly handspun:

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I botched the washing job on a lovely Romeldale fleece by letting it cool too much in the bathtub. In my defense I was a bit distracted for several hours because the bathtub drain had sprung a leak and was showering my basement with sheepy water. By the time I determined what the problem was and drained the tub the grease had redepositied, and removing it required harsh treatment that was fulling the wool.

Instead of rewashing the whole thing, which I had planned for some colorwork and had painstakingly sorted, alas, I set it aside a bit sticky.

David asked for a neck warmer to cover the space between his bike helmet and his jacket for commuting in the Seattle winter muck, and I pulled out some of this tacky fleece because (I reasoned) it would throw off rain and drizzle better than a properly washed one.

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It performs beautifully in that role, but processing and spinning a fine and sticky fleece into a yarn doesn’t produce a smooth or consistent single, that is certain!

I opened the locks with a flicker, and then ran it through my Pat Green Big Batt carder, and pulled the batt through a diz to get a hand pulled roving. This is a picture of dizzing a wool/silk batt for another project:

pulling roving from the batt

The resulting yarn is fluffy and warm, but … rustic. You can no doubt see the thick and thin bits, as well as the neps and other messy bits. What you can’t see is that I had to pry it apart fir this photo because the lanolin had pretty much glued it together. Nevertheless, it knits up nicely.

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Once I had the yarn I went casting about for a pattern. After some talking and thinking we figured out David wanted a moebius so it would fit high on the back of his neck but down under his chin. I realized I could use the same stitch pattern as my beaded lace cowl, minus the beads, and I knit him one that evening. This pattern is so very fast to knit in bulky weight!

I haven’t decided if I will process and spin the rest into a sweater for him, or let it languish. I did use some to stuff pin cushions, in the thought that greasy fleece would be a nice way to keep sewing pins.
Anyway. I encourage you to knit with your yarn. I have learned so much about spinning by actually working with the yarns I make!

Viburnum in Knitty

September 15, 2014 - 9:15 am

Some of you may have noticed I have a pattern in the latest Knitty!

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It’s called “Viburnum.” It has been shown in three weights of yarn: lace with beads (above) DK:

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and Bulky:

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It’s a moebius cowl, based on the Cat Bordhi moebius patterns from A Treasury of Magical Knitting. I designed it with hand spinners in mind, because the pattern can be easily adapted to any weight of yarn and desired size of knitted neck warmer, from a neck wrap to a shoulder wrap to a double loop infinity scarf. The stitch pattern scales gracefully and always complements the moebius structure.

I’ll write articles each day this week, explaining how to use my Beading Tool and how I spun each of the yarns used. 

Enjoy!

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Making Mud

December 2, 2011 - 4:03 pm

For the past couple years my design effort has been focused on socks. ¬†Turning a simple curve, wrapping around the contours of a foot and leg, these have been the focus of my efforts and time. ¬†But since October I’ve begun shifting my attention to a sweater.

When I started creating my own knitting shapes I started with toys and sweaters, but found when I wanted to write the designs I didn’t have the skills to do so. My interest in design and my interest in socks hit at about the same time, so it’s not surprising they became intertwined. ¬†The majority of my published patterns are socks. ¬†I’ve made conventional designs, slightly quirky designs, and zomg off into the hinterlands odd designs. ¬†Socks have enough geometry to be intriguing, but not so much as to be intimidating. ¬†I have developed the chops to be able to write a sock pattern before I pick up my needles and be fairly confident of having a comfortable, wearable, attractive FO at the end of the process. To be sure I’m not done learning about writing designs so other folks can follow them, but I’m developing my confidence.

Now, though, I am ready to up the ante, expand my horizons, do something new and dangerous. A week or so before Rhinebeck I picked up some powder blue Rowan Kid Classic yarn, and knit a little sweater shaped swatch.

 

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My idea, roughly, is to replicate my favorite yellow Ingenue sweater in shape, but do something entirely my own in design.

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At first I was taking detailed notes, but I rapidly let that go. ¬†There was a lot of ripping. ¬†A LOT of ripping. ¬†I wanted to work this as a circular yoke, with a snowflake shaped lace motif to hide the increases, but couldn’t get the motif to work. ¬†I gave up, and went back to a raglan design, with a little two stitch twist along the raglan line. ¬†The collar is worked with short rows to be asymmetric, and off center.

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I’ve added short rows to the sleeve caps and full bust. ¬†The raglan lines divide the stitches into 4 equal sections, and about half way down the twist diverges from the raglan line.

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I don’t know yet if this will work the way I want it to. ¬†My idea is for the broken rib pattern to form an hourglass shape, with a plain stockinette panel in the front decreasing to the waist and then increasing, and the broken rib pattern increasing and then decreasing, amplifying the wearer’s natural contours.

It may work.

There may be more ripping.

I’m concerned at the moment there may be too many sts across the back. ¬†Perhaps I should have stopped the raglan increases there when I started the diverging line in the front. ¬†We’ll see as I get further.

I have given myself permission to make mud. ¬†Meaning, I can mess up as much as I need to. ¬†This doesn’t have to come out right. ¬†I think I will have a nice sweater at the end of the exercise, but I may yet end up with a misshapen lumpy thing and a learning experience. ¬†I don’t have to get anywhere. ¬†I don’t need to keep careful notes so I can grade this later into a publishable pattern. ¬†This sweater will be a one of a kind learning experience. ¬†I’m learning to make a sweater.

I will rip and re-knit, ponder, then rip some more.  Tweak and explore and consider ways to make this sweater skim nicely without having too much bulk where I want less or being too tight where I want to keep a little mystery about the underlying contours.  Perhaps in the end get frustrated and just finish the damned thing with some flaws, or perhaps drop it in a UFO basket to be ignored for years.  Even so, it will have served its purpose.

I need to learn how to create a sweater, so mud I shall make.  Creative, fuzzy, fluffy blue mud.

Swatchy Swatch

April 8, 2011 - 12:19 pm

Today’s telephone time crafting has been swatching Henrietta. ¬†My goal is to end up with a shoulder wrap thing, with alternating swaths of stockinette and lace, set off by garter ridges. ¬†There have been a number of patterns lately that use this technique to good effect.

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I started on US 6’s, which is the blue/green swatch on the right. ¬†I liked it, but I wanted to see what a larger needle would look like, so I switched to US 10’s. ¬†Holey Moley. ¬†It looks like lace! ¬†It has the right character for the rough handspun look I was imagining. ¬†And it will knit so quickly!!

Both of these swatches are 21 sts across. ¬†The one on US 10’s is 40 rows. ¬†The one on US 6’s is 56. ¬†If I wanted a sweater, I’d go with the 6’s. ¬†Since I want a lacy wrap, it’s the 10’s all the way. ¬†The swatch is .4 oz, so roughly 1/10th of the yarn I have. ¬†I’m going to play with some designs, but I’m thinking I will be hard pressed to get a decent wrap out of that. ¬†Maybe an Elizabethan collar sort of thing, that wraps around neck and shoulders.

No yarn was cut in the making of these swatches. ¬†ūüôā ¬†I cast-off the first swatch, looped the last stitch around the whole swatch and snugged it down, and cast-on for the second. ¬†There’s a small puff of yarn left after the second swatch, which is mostly out of frame on the bottom of the picture, which I dealt with the same way.

My plan is to unravel the swatch, and start the FO with the small skein, then shift to the larger skeins that are actually fractal spun. ¬†I believe the shorter repeat in the small skein spun from two ends of a short repeat ply will work well in the smaller start section of a shawl. ¬†It will still be stripey. ¬†I’m thinking start with the pink end then work through the green, followed by the pinker end of skein B worked through to the dark end of skein A on the bottom. ¬†I’m not committed to that yet, though.

knitting algebra

March 25, 2011 - 9:33 am

Knitting requires math. ¬†Whether I solve a problem physically by separating stitches onto multiple needles or with markers, or on paper, math is getting done. ¬†And math doesn’t have to be scary; particularly not knitting math where you have the object in question in your hand and can check your answer to make sure you got it right!

Today I am working on a pattern for a toe-up sock.  I want it to be 60 stitches around.  I have cast-on 24 sts and dutifully increased 4 sts every other row to get to my desired stitch count, worked the first row of the instep chart, and discovered a problem.  The chart is 29 sts across, so I need to add a stitch.

Looking at the chart, the best way to do this is to add an m1 to the last instep increase round.  On the needles I can fudge this easily enough by finding the middle two stitches and nudging them apart so I can create an increase a couple rows below.  I hate ripping, and avoid it wherever possible, trusting blocking to find me the slack for those extra stitches.

For my directions, however, I’d like the knitter to be able to put the increase in the way they should, ¬†which means I need to figure out how many stitches they need to knit on either side of the centered increase. ¬†Perhaps I haven’t had enough tea this morning, but I needed to resort to pen & paper for this exercise:

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I’m a bit handwriting challenged, so let me translate for you. ¬†I know I need the top of the foot to look like this:

P1, m1, k?, m1, k?, m1, p1.

I need that to add up to 31, which means I need to solve this:

2 + n + 1 + n + 2 = 31 sts

which is the same as:

2n + 5 = 31

which I can shuffle around to be:

n = (31 Р 5)/2

telling me I need 13 sts between the m1’s, for a knitting row of:

P1, m1, k13, m1, k13, m1, p1.

That adds up to 31 sts!  Yay for math!

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