Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Lopi Mystery Solved (Sort of)

I had an interesting conversation today with a local yarn shop owner who told me that, because of a fairly recent deal between Berroco and Istex (the Lopi producers in Iceland), ALL North American sales of Lopi are currently being distributed through Berroco. Now, for my American readers I will explain that many, if not most, Canadian yarn shops do not sell Berroco products, and those that do face the problems of border taxes, duties, and brokerage fees when the wool crosses the border into Canada. Lopi does not fall under NAFTA protection, unlike the mattress I recently purchased online. This explains why Canadian shops that previously had reliable inventories of Lopi (enough to knit my Audrey Coat) no longer do.
To get around this problem, a couple of weeks ago I ordered direct from Iceland via this website. I thought the shipping costs would be prohibitive, but lo and behold, the entire ten balls of Alafoss Lopi, shipped, cost about US$80. Since my Ravelry sales are in US dollars, I am able to pay in the same currency through Paypal. So simple, and the wool arrived in just a few days!
I've been beavering away at it for the last few days, while Bill is having fun in Paris, and you can see that I'm at that exciting point where the body and sleeves divide.

You are, of course, looking at the coat upside down since it is knitted from the top down. The most exciting bit from my perspective is the beginning of the seed stitch pleat. There won't be much more excitement from here to the start of the pockets. Audiobook time!
Meanwhile, fall has arrived in earnest. This afternoon the lake was full of sailors bringing their vessels home for the conclusion (or near conclusion) of the season. Here they are at the entrance to the Kingston Yacht Club harbour area.

And you really know it's fall when giant cruise ships drop anchor in the passage between Wolfe Island and the mainland. I think it's mainly German tourists arriving (early) to see the fall colours. Good luck with that. Our weather has been weird and no one knows how it will affect the trees.
Finally, in case anyone is wondering why I chose to stay behind instead of tagging along to France, it's because the prospect of having the house to myself for a week held more allure than the Louvre or Paris Opera. Sad, but true.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tutorial: Decreasing into Cables

My aran sweater is almost done. I'm at the point in the upper body where the raglan decreases are eating into the cables. In a lot of sweaters, even ones in knitting magazines, you will see that when the point was reached when a full cable couldn't be completed, the knitter simply left a portion of the cable in stocking stitch. This is not a good look.
The solution? When there are insufficient stitches to complete the full cable, work the remaining stitches in something resembling the original cable as much as possible.

Example #1: my sweater has columns of OXO cables worked over 8 stitches. When there were not enough stitches left to "place 2 stitches onto a cable needle, hold them at the back, k2, then k2 from the cable needle", I placed 1 stitch onto the cable needle, held it at the back, then knitted 2, then knitted the 1 stitch from the cable needle. OK, I didn't actually use a cable needle (see here for cabling without one), but you get the idea.

Example #2: when the same OXO cable lost more stitches from the other side due to some neck decreasing, leaving only 6 stitches for the entire cable, I brought only 1 stitch from each side to the centre to close the "O" while still moving the original 4 centre stitches to the back.

What does the result look like?

In the above pic you can just catch the beginning of the neck shaping in the upper left corner along with the raglan shaping that's in progress on the right hand side. As the OXO cable is squeezed from both sides, some alteration in the manipulation of the cable was needed to keep it going as long as possible.
The result is an OXO cable that doesn't quite look like the original, but comes close enough to fool the eye into seeing an undisturbed column of cables. Much better than a big patch of stocking stitch in a sea of cables.
BTW, manipulating cables while working raglan decreases is relatively simple when you are working in the round, as I am with this sweater. It's easy to keep all the cables doing the same things as you work them all in one round, as opposed to working in pieces and having to check your previous work to see that you've made everything match. Cable on!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Aran Sweaters I Have Loved

I've been knitting and collecting knitting books and patterns for a long time. I started knitting when I was 6, and now I'm 60. The first sweater I made was in fact an aran, from an old Bernat book (the same one that Karen Templer used recently). As I knit the yoke of my own aran design, I've been poring over my book collection and thinking about some of my favourite arans. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Elizabeth Zimmermann's Fishtrap aran sweater/cardigan. There don't seem to be any really good pics of this anywhere, other than in EZ's Knitter's Almanac (the original edition and the updated one). The best I could do is to take a grainy photo of a page from the latter. It doesn't do justice to the garment.

I think it's the dense twisted stitch texture and the funnel neck that I love.

2. The shawl-collared cardigan from Madeline Weston's Classic British Knits, re-published several decades later as Country Weekend Knits.

You can't see the shawl collar here (if you look at my own designs, you'll see I have a fondness for this style), but you can see the gorgeous cabling. I think I still prefer the earlier edition version, which shows a shorter cardigan hitting around hip length.

3. Alice Starmore's aran pullover from her Fishermen's Sweaters.

This is a very '90s sweater, quite voluminous, and one that would never, ever work on my petite figure, but I adore the intricate textures and the deep collar. Note the the aran I'm designing for myself incorporates a version of the OXO cables you see above.
As an aside, I was fortunate to be able to take an aran class with Alice, and I won't be lending out my copy of Fishermen's Sweaters autographed by its author. It's too precious.
I should also add that it's sad that one rarely sees hardcover knitting books so lavishly produced anymore. I guess technology has changed the publishing business. Newer knitting books don't seem to have the quality photography, glossy paper, and coffee table quality that Alice's original books had. In retrospect, I think the '90s was the heyday of these high-end publications. If you have any '90s original hardcovers, treasure them!