August 09, 2006


In preparation for a weekend's worth of QKT (quality knitting time), I cut the steeks on my vest one week ago. A warning about the graphic photo ahead: Best avert your eyes, if the sight of shears slicing through perfectly good knitting will give you the willies.


The gaping hole:


And then, we were off for a weekend of camping:


I found a great little spot on the beach where I could knit and be out of the way of the direct sun. (We had glorious 80-degree weather.) The driftwood makes a natural seat, and a natural footrest. There's a knob on the log on which I could hang my tote bag with the ball of yarn inside the bag, feeding out to my hands.

We had a bonfire on the beach in the evening, and the girls went a little tribal on us:


Notice the nearly-full moon in the background. Scott was not happy that they sooted their faces. He'd better remain tactful, though, or the next thing that will happen is that they'll be voting him off the island.

Now, we come to our next chapter of Trust the Experts, and the subject is picking up stitches. Ann Feitelson writes in The Art of Fair Isle Knitting that one should pick up and knit stitches between the main knitting and the edge stitch of the steek; she argues that picking up on the edge stich itself will distort the edge stitch. Alice Starmore, on the other hand, in her book Alice Starmore's Fair Isle Knitting, writes that one should pick up on the edge stitch itself, picking up and knitting on the leg of the "V" that is nearest to the main knitting; she makes no argument in favor of this, other than to say that this is the way it is done. And who's gonna argue with Alice Starmore? (That's a rhetorical question.)

Oh, what a quandary I was in, faced with these two different methods from two different experts. The Buddhists say, "Of the two judges, trust the principal one." That means, don't follow popular opinion or the voice of authority, but do what you know in your heart to be true.

I decided to test out each method -- Feitelson's on the left armhole, and Starmore's on the right:

Stitches picked up and knitted according to Feitelson's method of picking up between the last stitch of the main knitting and the edge stitch.

Stitched picked up and knitted according to Stamore's method of picking up in the inside edge of the edge stitch.

This is the major way in which working on the Master Knitter program has changed me as a knitter. For half a day, my vest had these two armhole ribbings picked up in these different ways, while I looked them over, patted and petted them, and decided which I liked better. In the past, I would have made the ribbings following one method or the other -- in truth, probably would have knitted one ribbing following one method, then changed my mind and ripped it out, and then knitted following the other method, been unsure of whether that was "right" or not, and perhaps even ripped them out and re-knitted them again the other way. Prior to doing this program, I would never have had a vest that was half-and-half -- not even for half a day.

But now, working on the program, I feel open to this sort of experimentation. Having the two different ways of picking up stitches side by side like that, I decided that Iiked Feitelson's method better. It seems to lie flatter and to make a crisper edge. (The Starmore method can distort the edge stitches a bit, and I think you can see from the photo that a few of the picked-up stitches had gaposis problems. Not the kind of thing I want to submit to TKGA's Master Knitting Committee for their review.)

Here's the vest in its present state, the right armhole ribbing having been ripped and reknitted following the Feitelson method:


I really thought I would have gotten the ribbing at the V-neckline knitted, if not over the weekend, at least by this time. But I've come to accept the fact that I am not a fast knitter. And I am patting myself on the back for having enough discipline to focus on completing Level II of the Master Knitter program, despite the many other projects I'd love to start right now, despite the many other projects that are currently languishing on the needles.

That neckline ribbing is just going to have to wait. I'm not having a lot of time to knit right now, because new products are beginning to arrive for fall:


Rowan 40, and new fall yarns. From top to bottom, the yarns are: new Kidsilk Haze shade Violetta; a new yarn called Tapestry in several colors; Kidsilk Night, the sparkly version of Kidsilk Haze; 4ply Soft in the new shade Sooty. Tapestry is a modern blend of 70% wool, 30% soybean protein fiber; it is dyed so that it produces this really cool, ombred effect. Rowan 40 has more going for it, from the perspective of traditional knitting, than other recent Rowan issues. In Rowan 40, you'll find more sweaters that incorporate Fair Isle stitch patterns or classic cabling; very appealing. The garments are more wearable than in other recent issues -- and Rowan has made the effort to extend the sizing of the garments.

I'm working on listing the new items on the Two Swans site, so my knitting time is relegated to late evenings, now. If you want to see a faster knitter than I in action, check out my dear friend Anne's blog for her progress on socks, a KSH wrap, and the Sandness sweater.

Posted by Karen at August 9, 2006 03:02 PM

Is there such a thing as a "vest groupie?" If so, I am one.

Beautiful! (Don't let the girls smear soot on it!)

Posted by: Ryan at August 10, 2006 08:26 AM

I really appreciated your entry today. Choosing the right technique can get me all tied up in knots! Or I give up!
But knitting at the camp site is the best place for working out the details, I find.

Posted by: Esther at August 10, 2006 05:31 PM

The vest looks just beautiful, and I am with you on the picking up method, although I haven't ever seen both ways compared, and am very impressed and interested in your findings. I just like to go between stitches, not into a stitch. I feel vindicated by your experiment! Rowan 40 sounds great, and I am looking forward to perusing it, soon!

Posted by: Anne at August 11, 2006 04:12 PM

i also use feitelson's method. the vest is looking great! did you get to use the yurt?

Posted by: vanessa at August 12, 2006 04:42 PM

Thanks, everybody, for the kind comments on the vest. There have been so many moments with this project where I've felt that I've learned things the hard way. Hope y'all are learning from my examples, even if what you're learning is what not to do.

The yurt is meant as guest quarters. This last trip, the kids slept in it. Weather permitting, Scott and I sleep outside on the deck of the cabin, under the stars. (Or inside, when it's too windy or rainy -- and many's the time we've been awakened by raindrops and had to hustle ourselves, sleeping bags and pillows indoors. In fact, there was the time when Allegra was just a toddler, about two years old, and we were all sleeping on the deck, and a storm rolled in at 2 AM. Scott and I each picked up a corner of her sleeping mat with her inside her sleeping bag on top of it, and slid the whole thing into the cabin, just fitting through the doorway. She slept right through -- never felt a raindrop, never knew she was being moved. She was sooo surprised to wake up inside in the morning!)

Posted by: Karen at August 13, 2006 02:31 PM

lovely vest, and ohh i love that new rowan yarn!

Posted by: pixie at August 15, 2006 10:45 AM

Very inspiring - I thought Level I was easy, but I'm totally stalled on Level II. It was the argyle socks that did me in . . . Someday . . .

Posted by: Theresa at August 15, 2006 07:18 PM