Thursday, August 21, 2014

Designing Claire's Gloves: In Which I Find a Use for the Magic Loop

Now that I'm over (more or less) my difficulties with the 21st-century take on the handknit bits in Outlander, I've decided to jump on the bandwagon and design what I think would be the perfect gloves for 18th-century Claire. These will be proper gloves, with full fingers, because eventually it's going to get cold, as in wintry cold, in Scotland. There may be a matching cowl in the offing, but that's down the road.
I'm holding off on a yarn decision for now and concentrating on a more basic design decision: bottom up, or top down. I've done both over the decades, but recently have been making multiple pairs of Robin Melanson's "Strata" for myself and Isabel. I say "multiple" because, unfortunately, our gloves have a habit of going missing. (My first pair were actually stolen when we had a break-in at a previous house. I was more upset at losing my handknitted alpaca and silk gloves than my credit cards!) "Stata" is a great basic glove pattern, but I have to admit to hating the part where I knit the fingers on dpns. It's fiddly, and best done when one feels full to the brim with patience.
Another take on top-down gloves is Meg Swansen's I-cord finger gauntlets. These are definitely ingenious, but I've never been really happy with the look of them--the tension where the ladder at the back of the I-cord is converted to an extra stitch isn't quite perfect enough in my version.
So, this afternoon I played around with a third option--top-down fingers begun with Judy's Magic Cast-On using a magic loop. First, I reviewed Cat Bordhi's hilarious video on how to do the cast on. There might have been some laughing out loud as she pretended to be a parrot in the jungle. Unfortunately, Bill was in the room at the time. I ignored any snarky remarks.
At first I tried the cast-on with dpns. Way too squinchy. Then I tried two circulars, as Cat suggested. Better. Then I caved and tried the magic loop. Perfect.

On my first try, I cast on all the finger stitches at once and, of course, ended up with a squarish fingertip. Then I wised up and cast on about 60% of the total, increasing in two subsequent rounds to the final number. Voila. A nicely tapered tip. Now on to some sketches of the gloves. Garter stitch cuffs? I-cord buttonholes? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No Two-Timing Here

Last Saturday I took a sock class. As a dyed-in-the-wool dpn/heelflap-and-gusset sock knitter, I thought it would be salutary to learn a) how to do magic loop knitting, b) how to knit two socks at a time, and c) how to knit a shadow wrap heel. So I took Cheryl's class at Rosehaven Yarns and learned all of that. Then I came home, frogged my work, and proceeded to make one-at-a-time socks on dpns. I did, however, incorporate the new heel, and I like how it's made and how it looks. Now I'll have to wear these socks around to see how they fit.

Checking the length before grafting

The two-at-a-time approach seemed fussy to me--too much yarn management to be relaxing. My solution to "second sock syndrome"? Cast on and knit a couple of rounds on Sock The Second immediately after closing up the toe on Sock The First. I'm sure two-timing is fantastic for some people. Just not me.
P.S. The yarn is Regia's North Pole Colour, in case anyone is wondering. Size US 2 needles, 56 sts.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Outlander Anachronism?

I'm loving the Outlander TV series so far. The pace is slow, as it should be, so that we get properly set up for plot and character developments down the road, and in Episode 1, which was made available online, I paused my computer to marvel at the tiny details of Frank's knitted slipover. I admired those little red crosses on the pale fingering-weight wool background! Beautifully designed and executed and so 1940s.
Therefore, I had high hopes for the knitted stuff in Episode 2. The 1940s-era knits came through for me again. More views of Frank's slipover, and also a lovely cabled one worn by Claire as Frank tells her about wartime interrogation techniques. But alas, something happened in the scenes set two hundred years earlier. It appeared that the knitted costume design had suddenly been thrust into the hands of a group of trendy young Ravelers. Instead of 18th-century hap shawls and kilt hose, we were treated to a weird chunky open "shawlette" on Letitia, a shawl/cape thing (is it felted?) on Geillis, a chunky, funky shrug!!! and loose, rather heavy fingerless mitts on Claire. I don't have the historical expertise of Kate Davies, but I have looked at many, many photos over the years of antique (especially Scandinavian) knits, and what I saw in Episode 2 seemed more appropriate to fantasy than history. It was imaginative and beautiful, but to me felt out of step with the time period Claire is stuck in.
Geillis Duncan looking perhaps a bit too au courant.
Was this a deliberate design decision, meant to evoke an air of unreality? If so, it was sadly out of sync with the efforts elsewhere in costuming the series to achieve reasonable historical accuracy, and honestly, more than a little distracting. I'm still loving the series, but now it's mingled with a wee bit of disappointment in the knitting department.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

It's All Relative

We're having one of those days -- a day in the middle of summer when it feels more like late September, or maybe even October. It's 1:30 pm here, and the temperature outside has just risen to 16C (that's 60F). Plus it's grey, windy, and damp, so it feels considerably cooler. I've dragged out Harriet's Jacket,

and a pair of wool socks,

and I'm drinking a mug of steaming hot tea. Why does 16C feel balmy in April but freezing cold in August?
Some knitters have written to me on Ravelry asking for a KAL. So far, no consensus on which design. If you have a view, write to me on Ravelry, or here on the blog. It sounds like a fun idea...
P.S. Things could be worse. It's 14C and raining in Ottawa.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

No "Undo" Button? (And a Little Highland Fling)

If you're in your fifties, like me, you remember the days of the typewriter. You remember typing classes where you were not only timed, but measured for accuracy, because with typewriters, once it was on the page, THAT WAS IT. OK, you could use erasing tape to cover the odd letter here and there with white ink, but there was no possibility of real editing, let alone pressing an "undo" button to result in the magical reversion to what was there before. Just think of all those authors throughout the twentieth century who wrote their entire oeuvres this way. It boggles the mind!
Today, as I was working on some waist shaping for the THIRD time on my new cardigan, I lamented the non-existence of an "undo" button for  knitters. Wouldn't it be ever so convenient to be able to tap a button and instantly have what you just did not only undone, but reversed to what you had done before? I know that sentence is over-complicated, but I think you know what I mean. There are probably knitters and designers out there who almost always get things right the first time, but I'm not one of them. Oh well, apparently even Beethoven worked and re-worked his masterpieces (don't worry, I am NOT comparing anything of my own production to his!) But, when you finally get things right, and today I finally did, it's oh so satisfying.

Hard to know if that would be the case if I had an "undo knitting" button. Is pleasure measured in inverse relation to the ease of achieving it?
                                                     . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
Almost every afternoon, as I sit at my computer, I hear piping--bagpiping to be precise. So today, just to be sure I wasn't imagining anything, and to otherwise satisfy my cusiosity, I took a break after that last paragraph and wandered over to the park. Sure enough, this is what I found:

 You can get a taste of my daily afternoon concert below.


So, now I can really be in the mood for Episode 2 of Outlander!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Flotsam and Jetsam

It's Sunday, so that means I'm taking care of a lot of "housekeeping" tasks. I don't refer to actual cleaning, but to paper work, bill paying, and the once-a-week tidy-up of our library/studio. Throughout the week, and particularly at the start of a new design, when I'm looking at a lot of books and pulling out different yarns from my stash, things tend to get somewhat chaotic. From what I've read, that's a good thing, a sign of a creative mind at work, but at a certain point, it's necessary to clear the decks to make way for fresh work and new ideas. Now that my new cardigan is safely launched on the needles, I've been spending the afternoon sorting through the layers of stuff on the desk, chairs, and floor. I'd forgotten about this purchase of some knot-shaped buttons.

Also, I'd put aside these mitts, my take on the classic Newfoundland Mitts, convinced I didn't like how they were turning out.

That's Ella Rae Classic Heather for the main colour, with some handspun inside the "windows". Now that I've just ripped the dpns out, I'm having second thoughts, and might just put them back into production. Proof that one should never frog anything too quickly!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sheepdog Trials, 2014

Drove to Grass Creek Park this morning for Day One of this year's Trials. Even early, the parking fields were filling up. As usual, there were dogs and sheep,

but I was there to check out the spinning fibre. You see, I want to spin some laceweight so that eventually I can knit a Wheatsheaves Scarf entirely from handspun. I'll use a small drop spindle for the project. I don't have the skills to spin such a fine yarn on the wheel, and it will be more enjoyable to have something portable. This will be a long-term goal. Here's what I found...

Alpaca knitting yarn from Silver Cloud Alpacas.
More of same--spun at Wellington Fibres in Elora, ON.
Kool-aid dyed roving from Cornerstone Fibres.

Tomorrow is the Sheep to Shawl competition, with 3 teams in the running. Our Guild won last year.

 Here's wishing them good luck this time out.