Shaping Success!

March 6, 2015 - 1:38 pm

First the triumphant photo:

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That right there is my GINORMOUS swatch for Fire Thief, using all the charts, but only working a small part of the circular center motif and a couple repeats of the curl expansion chart. I believed in my geometric intuition about how this would work out, but I needed to test. 

Imagine the glass bowl represents your shoulder. The shawl is designed to hug your shoulder and Curl around your neck. (heh heh. See what I did there?) This is a small scale swatch that would fit a two or three year old, and it doesn’t have any beading, but the shaping will work just the same in the adult size. Phew! It works!

Here’s a pic from the top:

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It’s a pretty straightforward knit with just a few tricky bits. More or less you make a circular start, work in the round for the circular chart, then knitted cast-on a couple stitches and take off working back and forth Curling in one direction and picking up live stitches off the circular motif in the other. When you have used up all the sts from the motif you just keep working the Curl charts.

If you want a looser, flatter scarf you can use the progressively larger expansion charts as you work outward, or for a tighter spiral stick with the first chart. 

When it’s as large as you like, work the edging chart appropriate for however you ended up working the expansion charts. 

I have all the charts and am just working up final layout and the transition explanations. I should have it all written up soon— possibly later today– and have a version out for anyone who wants to test knit along with me. I’m off to Ravelry right now to set up a pattern page. 🙂

Let me know if you’d like to knit a test one! All I ask are nice photos. 


February 25, 2015 - 12:26 pm

As of about half an hour ago I have reached the end of the center chart for Fire Thief: 

Fire Thief center

The chart is quite pleasant to work, now that I put the time in to get it constructed correctly. Thanks again to JC Briar and

Over the weekend I bought beads:

Fire Thief beads

I also spent some time with construction paper, scissors, and tape, and I think I have a sense of how I want the shaping to work: 

Fire Thief shapes

I don’t really think there’s any way to know other than to work and see how it comes out. The white paper one in the foreground is the closest to what I think I’ll end up with.

There are eight repeats of the center chart, each of which divides into four arms, leaving 32. This is a number that pleases me. 🙂 I didn’t so much plan it that way as notice it when I was starting to think about how to divide the segments between the various ways of working the expansion chart. 

Next up is to do a tiny bit more chart work to make the transition from the center to the expansion, and then start working and see how it comes out. 

Fire Thief Stitch Maps

February 19, 2015 - 3:39 pm

I’d love to have a pretty progress picture for the Fire Thief, but you’ll just have to imagine it looking sort of like half of what I showed you yesterday. Well, two thirds, maybe. I have ripped back to where I start the first purl column and am going to re-knit again, again, again.

This time I decided not to try to “work it out on the needles,” because that clearly wasn’t a winning technique. Instead I fired up JC Briar’s site where I can enter the pattern and visualize the knitting better. This is the new center motif chart:

Fire Thief Stitch Maps

Just for giggles I also entered the expansion chart

Fire Thief Stitch Maps

I encourage everyone to go have a look at JC’s site. It REALLY helps me understand what’s going on with the knitting. The data entry is a little tedious, but nothing compared to hours of frustration from ripping and re-knitting. I’m now confident I have the chart correct, and I can just knit it out.

I’m going to sign off and do just that. 🙂

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. 


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.


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:


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:


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


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:

2014-07-07 13.13.59.jpg

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:

2014-07-07 14.51.53.jpg

And aaaaaah. Nice relaxed yarn:

2014-07-07 14.54.09.jpg

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: 

2014-07-08 19.54.15.jpg

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:


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: 

19a yarn in hot bath.jpg

21 thwacking.jpg

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: 



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:


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:


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.


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.


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!


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


and Bulky:


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. 



Blue Mud, Revisited

December 29, 2011 - 11:53 am

The blue fuzzy sweater I posted about a couple weeks ago?  umm, yeah.  Ripped back from the bottom of the bust dart to the point where the arm connects.  I knit to the waist, started knitting a sleeve, and it became very clear the back wasn’t going to fit nicely.  Here are some shots:

sweater from the front

The front is good.  The front I like.  The short rows in the shoulder are helping fit my actual shape.  I’m in love with the detail of the broken rib in the raglan increases, and I expect to really, really like the hourglass shaping as it develops.  Very va-va-voom, which is what I was going for.

The back though?

Sweater from the back

Perhaps this doesn’t look awful (other than being a blurry iPhone snap) but it’s never going to be great.  I meant to put more of the back stitches into the sleeve and fewer into the back itself.  I wasn’t paying enough attention when I divided things up (I blame Doctor Who) and tried to convince myself it would be ok.  It’s not.  The back has a poof and the sleeve is pulling too tightly.

Here’s an annotated pic:



So, I’m taking a little break, knitting a few other things, and I’ll get back to the sweater Real Soon Now.  It’s sitting here in my desk WIP basket staring at me.

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.



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


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.


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.


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.


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.  🙂  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:


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 –  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!