September 07, 2005

BEING A GOOD KNITTER

Like everyone else in the country, I've been feeling overwhelmed by the immensity of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. I've made a donation to the American Red Cross's Katrina Relief fund, and hope you'll do so, too, if you haven't already. I've been following the Give a Little blog for some examples of knitterly fund-raising.

Over the weekend, I exercised great self-restraint by --
not starting a little baby sweater for my sister's newborn grandchild
not starting the Wrapped in Tradition poncho, even though the color I'd been waiting for, the brand-new KSH color Grace, arrived on Friday
FriHarbor 001.jpg
(and a pretty color it is, too!)
not starting the Floral Fair Isle gloves that are a knit-along for the Feral Knitters
not starting the Friday Harbor socks

Instead, I was a Good Knitter. I focused on finishing up the Classy Slip-up socks for my sister. Honestly, I had believed I'd have these done before the end of August, but somehow the knitting of the second sock seemed to go on and on. We spent Labor Day weekend in the San Juan Islands again, and somehow I had forgotten to bring the pattern for these socks with me. But I was so determined to finish them that I stuck to it, remembering how I had shaped the toe, then confirming my recollection by close analysis of the knit stitches on Sock #1 (which I had brought with me). By this exertion of willpower and brain-power, I managed to finish the second sock by mid-day Sunday, only four days into September. Whew!

I then promptly cast on for the Friday Harbor socks. Here's a picture of the cuff, lounging against Scott's navigational chart for the San Juans. At the bottom, you see a chart, at the top, you see an aerial photo of Friday Harbor:
FriHarbor 003.jpg
I'm using Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport in the color Island Blue. I hope I don't hear my Dear Readers groaning, and if they are, I hope they'll forgive me if the color name seems too cutesy for Friday Harbor socks -- but I like turquoise! I'm using size US 3 needles, for now -- will give the sock a fitting and adjust needle size, if necessary.

Now, let me express some opinions about the Friday Harbor socks:

First, as I stated earlier, I am enchanted with the pattern -- a lace panel "like a sailboat's wake" up the front of the foot and leg, ribbing on the back of the leg, and a lacy, undulating cuff.

Second, I am delighted to find out that there's a Yahoo group doing knit-alongs for the patterns in Knitting on the Road, and so I promptly joined that group. I am such a sucker for knit-alongs -- I always want to do 'em all! Somehow, with this book being out already for four years, and with it having not caught my attention before, I didn't realize how much interest there is in this book. And the interest is well-deserved -- there are some great patterns in here.

Third, I do not believe that lace knitting is hard. Okay, maybe there are some lace stitches themselves that are hard -- nupps, for example, and some kinds of multiple decreases such as the centered double-decrease used in the Friday Harbor sock. Stitches such as these may be difficult to execute. But, in the big picture of knitting, lace knitting is not hard. Intarsia is hard, keeping an even tension in cable knitting is hard (and picking up and putting down that darned cable needle and just generally keeping track of it so that it's at hand when you're ready for it is hard). In my book, lace knitting ranks right up there, second only to Fair Isle in the round, as being rhythmic, relaxing, soothing. So when people say to me that lace knitting is hard, I pretty much interpret them to mean that a large project, such as a shawl or tablecloth, just is a long project and requires a long attention span.

Yes, I think, lace knitting can be an endurance test. It may be psychologically hard, a test of perseverance. But, in general, the actual knitting is not hard.

So, there I was, in the San Juans, away from computer access, casting on the Friday Harbor sock and beginning the cuff chart. You cast on 50 stitches, but once the lace pattern starts, in order to have the YOs and centered double-decreases line up, the beginning of each lace round moves back one stitch. The first lace round that I worked, I thought, Hmmm, counted my stitches and had 51 . . . . Tinked, re-worked it, and concluded that you just need to move your beginning of the round back one stitch, on each lace worked round. Once back at home, glancing through the Yahoo group's knit-along list, I see that this aspect of the chart has stumped some other knitters.

Seeing some completed Friday Harbor socks on people's blogs, I come to the conclusion that knitting all 20 rounds of the lacy cuff (as the chart would have you do) is not as elegant as knitting only the first 10, and then moving on to the lace chart for the leg. You see, the first 10 rounds have the lace ladders lining up, and the centered double decreases lining up, to form that undulation at the top of the leg -- but then, the chart has you swapping the positions of the lace ladders and the centered double decreases. With all due respect to Nancy Bush, I think that swapping of positions does not "read" clearly, visually. I've thought that from the photo of the sock in the book, and my feeling is very much confirmed, seeing the completed socks on people's blogs. So I'm knitting the first 10 rounds, then moving on to the main lace chart.

And finally, my last opinion on this sock pattern (for the moment): I think the design will flow better if the strong vertical lines formed by the lace ladders and by the centered double decreases flow directly into the ribbing. But if you knit the 2x2 rib that the chart calls for, the ribbing won't line up consistently with those vertical lines in the cuff. So I am experimenting with a 3x2 rib instead. I may lose some elasticity in this trade-off for more elegant lines -- stay tuned!

And, in Two Swans news, many, many new fall products have arrived and I'm listing them on the site as fast as I can. Everything from the "Almighty Handy Reeling Machine" (honestly, that's what the label, translated from Japanese, says it is), to Rowan 38, to the new Kidsilk Spray. And more new items to be listed in the next day or two. Welcome, Fall!

Posted by Karen at September 7, 2005 11:24 AM
Comments

I've made two pairs of these Friday Harbor socks--both times using the called-for yarn, Mountain Colors--Wool Quarters, was it? (This pattern was written before their "Bearfoot" yarn came out, which is much nicer for socks, IMHO.) Anyway, it was some time ago, but I don't recall any of the problems with the lace cuff you wrote about--I don't remember the number of overall stitches shifting, so I will have to go back now to see how I did it and what exactly I did. I didn't give either of these pairs away so I have them both and will consult them. My recollection is that the pattern was very straightforward.

The double centered decrease is one of the best decreases in all of lace knitting. It looks so cool to have those decreases lined up so nicely!

I do think, though, that the Friday Harbor pattern has a serious "fit" problem. There is very little elasticity in the cuff and in the leg, and it is designed only in one size. The socks looks great, both on and off the foot, but it's a real struggle to get it on and off because of this lack of stretch in the cuff.

While I admire Nancy Bush tremendously, I don't think this is one of her better patterns. (In fact, overall her sock patterns seem to be written first for looks and then for fit.) Mary B

Posted by: Mary B at September 7, 2005 12:58 PM

"Nupps?" Whazzat?!

Posted by: Ryan at September 8, 2005 08:46 AM

Love the socks! I may have to try them one of these days, even if they might not fit so well...

Since you are lucky enough to be my neighbor on the Pacific Northwest Fiber Bloggers webring:

*tag* - you've been tagged for a meme. See the questions on my blog (and if I've got time to answer them all, so do you!)

Posted by: Chrissy at September 8, 2005 01:38 PM

Hi Karen! Love the socks and the chart. You certainly have been exercising self discipline! Guess what? You are on my blog! Check it out. See you soon...

Posted by: Abby Cohen at September 8, 2005 08:16 PM

I don't think the color's cutesey, I think it's perfect. Thanks for all the pattern info and your take on things!

Posted by: Stasia at September 8, 2005 11:14 PM