May 30, 2005



You might be thinking, Oh, she's starting something new, again. But to my mind, I'm really just getting around to finishing an old, old project.

One of the requirements for Level II of the Master Knitting program is a vest. The vest is supposed to demonstrate one's skill in picking up stitches around the neck and armhole edges, and one's skill in sizing. (Yes, the vest is actually supposed to fit someone.) One must work within certain parameters regarding yarn choice, too, which I won't belabor here.

I passed Level I way back in the last century. Some of the delay in my completing Level II can be chalked up to Life Getting in the Way, but some of it is due to my own waffling over that vest requirement.

Over the years, I've bought many a vest pattern. For awhile I was taken with the "Venture North" vest from Knitter's magazine, Winter 98. Then there was the era when I thought I'd knit the "Wall Street Cables" from Knitter's, Fall 96 (recently reprinted in the Best of Knitters Arans & Celtics book). When I first met Angela from Canada, she'd finished a cute little cables-and-lace number that fit me perfectly, so I made a trade with her for that Pinguoin vest pattern and some yarn to knit it with. Most recently, I've been eyeing the "British Schoolboy" vest from Folk Vests as something that seems straightforward to knit and that would meet the requirements.

Any of the above would be fine choices, really.

But in my heart I know I could gain the greatest satisfaction from this requirement by designing my own vest -- and that if I didn't design my own, I'd be shrinking away from the challenge. How better to demonstrate my understanding of gauge and sizing, garment proportions, yarn choice, than by designing my own?

So the above choices have been interspersed, over the years, with many swatched attempts at a self-designed vest. If this were a movie, the following swatches would flip by in ever-more-rapid succession:

VestSwatches 001.jpg

VestSwatches 002.jpg

VestSwatches 003.jpg

VestSwatches 004.jpg

For various reasons, none of the above swatches were quite right, either.

(Dragging all of these swatches out for their photo op, I had to laugh: No wonder I can't find knitting needles when I want them -- they are all tied up in swatches!)

Yesterday I devoted another afternoon to swatching. I have a clear picture in my mind of something Fair Isle, but not overwhelmingly stripey; a light-colored palette that still allows the stitch pattern enough contrast to "read:"

Vest 001.jpg

(The ribbing in the swatch above is for visualization purposes only, and is not proportionate to what the ribbing for the actual garment would be.) Yarn is Jamieson's Shetland DK. I think the color (called "Lilac") might qualify me for the Periwinkle Knit-along on that knitting list I belong to, too. By the way, all of the stitch patterns for the above swatches came from Sheila McGregor's book. The inspiration for the corrugated rib in the first swatch came from Ann Feitelson's book, which has, in my opinion, the best discussion of color for Fair Isle work of any book out there.

Last night Scott took the kids out to see the latest Star Wars episode and I had the house to myself. Over dinner (a slice of leftover pizza), I cut to the chase and read Chapter 21 of Maggie Righetti's book. That's the chapter that discusses designing a V-neck vest. And while I had some quiet time, I did some calculating of gauge and had a moment of truth with the tape measure. (Remember that Maggie Righetti emphasizes the importance of measuring the person, measuring, measuring.)

After that, it was just a matter of casting on and getting some momentum on this long-overdue project.

Posted by Karen at 05:05 PM | Comments (7)

May 26, 2005


I've meant to update my blog, late last week, to tie up various loose threads. But every time I sat down to the computer, we had a thunderstorm. And at even the slightest distant grumble of thunder, at the merest glint of lightning, our satellite internet connection vanishes. Poof! And we had recurrent thunderstorms Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday . . . whew!

So, a summary of what's been going on around here:

The Dog Walk that Allegra and I went on earned $2,100 for our county's canine search and rescue unit. $2,100! That's an awesome amount for these kids to raise for their community. And as things turned out, although our dog Lady stayed home, Allegra was able to walk our neighbor's German Shepherd puppy . . . and the two of them got stopped and praised and petted every few feet, so that was a lot of fun for Allegra.

The Zip Code Social for Seattle Knitters Guild was attended by (I'm guesstimating) about 75 people. I had written in my blog that I hoped I wasn't someone who got left sitting alone in a corner somewhere, just because my zip code isn't near Seattle proper. In fact, our well-organized program co-chairs arranged chairs in circles of 10, and each circle was to serve several different zip codes. And in my circle I got to meet a couple of people whose names I knew but had never met in person -- so the intent of the Social was served.

But the funniest moment was when our Vice President opened the meeting, by saying, "I want to recognize the people I think have driven the farthest to be with us tonight, and they are from zip code 98402." Everyone in the room turned to look, and there, beyond the doorway, were two women seated off in a corner. Beyond the doorway, tucked in under the coat racks, these two women were seated practically out in the hall. The 98402 zip code is Tacoma. And it just made such sense, given our region -- here are all the clusters of Seattle/King County -- and then there's Tacoma, way over there. These two Tacomans were terrifically good sports about it, and ended up being included in my zip code seating circle.

In other Guild news, SKG is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Guild Historian Lizabeth Coller and I have been out and about, interviewing the founding members. None of the founders have a completely clear recollection of the Guild's first year or two . . . but one person's story will jive with another's in one little respect or other. For Lizabeth and me, it's like putting together a very intriguing jigsaw puzzle. Some of the founders are still with the Guild, but others have moved on to other interests.

And other upcoming Guild events: Membership Chair Diana Dean and I are coordinating another Lavender Festival Tour and Yarn Shop Crawl for the Guild. This will be the second year we will have put together this tour. The Lavender Festival takes place on the Sequim-Dungeness Peninsula, which is a very sunny and agricultural area of our state. For those who can join us, this is a great day of knitting and visiting with Guild members during the bus ride, touring lavender farms and buying handcrafted items (everything from lavender plants to glass beads to llama yarn for sale), and, of course, visiting two yarn shops. Our tour date is July 16, and I'll be writing more about this in days to come.

And my shipment of sock yarns from Lorna's Laces has finally arrived!


These are the new colors, for 2005 -- and Two Swans has these colors in both the Shepherd Sport and Shepherd Sock weights. (One of these new colors is Periwinkle, and I am sorely tempted to join a certain Periwinkle-along knit-along that is happening on one of the knitting lists to which I belong.) To my surprise and relief, the company has honored the old price (since I did place this order well in advance of the May 1 price increase that they are implementing), so Two Swans is continuing to offer these yarns at the same low price as before.

And, in my personal knitting news, I've been suffering from knitting malaise. I knitted four rows of a Prince Caspian sweater sleeve during last week's Guild meeting, but each row I knitted and tinked and re-knitted, because I was so distracted by the Social -- so I ended up feeling a bit burned out on reading the chart for this sweater. And I've taken a temporary vacation from Master Knitter Level II cable swatches, after producing the first cable swatch that I've been satisfied with -- again, feeling a bit burned out from trying to knit my very best. I've turned to the Sandness sweater for solace during this period of malaise, and have worked several rounds of it -- soothing stockinette, knitting by throwing and picking simultaneously. Can't say enough what a joy and a pleasure working Fair Isle in the round is. Truly a tonic for knitting malaise.

Posted by Karen at 02:20 PM | Comments (1)

May 18, 2005

Guilds and Other Social Occasions

The subject was lace edgings on socks at the Lacy Knitters Guild meeting on Sunday. We made a sample sock with a garter-stitched edging:


The design is by Bev Dillon, Lacy Knitters Guild leader. We knitted the lace edging, then picked up and knitted the sock in stockinette downward, with a garter-stitch heel and toe. The great thing about a garter stitch edging on a sock cuff is that either side is the right side, so it can be worn up, or folded over as a cuff.

When I arrived at Lacy Knitters, I'd forgotten to bring my usual lace swatching yarn with me, but then discovered I had a ball of Jamieson's DK in Peach rolling around in my knitting bag, as well as an extra set of dpns in size 5. So that's what I used.

I didn't quite have time to finish the sock during the Guild meeting on Sunday, but found an extra half an hour the other evening after I'd taken Allegra to school to play in her orchestra concert. I sat in the audience while the kids were tuning their instruments before the concert, and was quite content to finish up the sock while waiting.

Tonight is the meeting of the Seattle Knitters Guild, and it's to be a Zip Code Social. I know my zip code is pretty far flung from Seattle, as are some of my Feral Knitters group members's zip codes. Will there be anybody besides our lonesome selves in our designated zip code seating area? I know the program co-chairs have been working very hard to ensure that won't happen.

I leave you with a picture of "Blackberry Currant," a little top that I almost might be inspired to knit, now that I'm getting to be such a good cable knitter from my multitudinous practice swatches for Level II of the Master Knitter program:

blackberrycurrant copy.jpg

This design by Jean Moss was published in the British magazine, Knitting (April 2005 issue). The yarn is Rowan Wool Cotton in the color Flower. (Oh, it looks like I need more practice with the scanner!)

Posted by Karen at 05:05 PM | Comments (7)

May 14, 2005


Two pieces of good news:

First, I am going to teach a beginning knitting class for teen-agers, this coming August! I'm excited. I've wanted to teach knitting classes, but, since my store is an online one, I've been a little at loose ends about how to go about it in terms of location, advertising for classes, and so forth. Well, some things have come together, and I'm going to teach this class to teens through the county library! I hope this is the first of many more teaching opportunities.

Second, it's long been a goal for Two Swans Yarns to carry the Rowan magazines. (Not just any ol' yarn store can carry Rowan magazines -- you have to meet certain threshold requirements.) I just got the good news the other day, that Two Swans now qualifies to carry the magazines!!! I'm thrilled to finally meet this goal. I believe I'll start with this fall's Fall/Winter issue . . . unless I hear a clamoring here in the comments to get in the current Spring/Summer issue.

Today Allegra and I are going on a dog walk, to raise money for charity. (Lady is a herding dog, not good on a leash, so she'll be staying home and keeping the other animals around here -- especially Cappuccino the cat -- in line.) Perhaps this is the day I can learn to walk and knit at the same time.

Posted by Karen at 10:30 AM | Comments (7)

May 11, 2005


Oh, dear. Rebecca's tagged me. I'm It. Here's the game:

Pick 5 of the following and then complete the sentences. Then pass it on to 3 more of your blog friends! But no tag backs!

The Premise (pick 5):

If I could be a scientist?
If I could be a farmer?
If I could be a musician?
If I could be a doctor?
If I could be a painter?
If I could be a gardener?
If I could be a missionary?
If I could be a chef?
If I could be an architect?
If I could be a linguist?
If I could be a psychologist?
If I could be a librarian?
If I could be an athlete?
If I could be a lawyer?
If I could be an inn-keeper?
If I could be a professor?
If I could be a writer?
If I could be a llama-rider?
If I could be a bonnie pirate?
If I could be an astronaut?
If I could be a world famous blogger?
If I could be a justice on any one court in the world?
If I could be married to any current famous political figure?

Well, first off, I have to argue with the questions. Why is the premise that I am married to a famous political figure? Why can't I just be a famous political figure? Can't I be (in my imagination, of course!) Senator Hilary, and not be relegated to being just a First Lady? And don't even get me started on the political topic of why I no longer think our country will ever elect a woman president during my lifetime. (I used to think this was possible . . . I no longer do.)

And I shy away from the world-famous blogger question . . . just too much pressure. Would hope that my grounding in daily chores and daily introspection would overcome any silliness, any ego-inflation that fame might want to cast on me.

Without further ado, my answers to the questions:

If I could be a musician, I'd play moody piano music.

If I could be a librarian, I'd work in an elementary school and help the kiddos who are just learning to read and thrilled with their new skill to find literature that would open the world up to them.

If I could be a bonny pirate, I'd spend my days on Caribbean beaches drinking rum.... (I don't like heavy seas, I know already from experience!)

If I could be an athlete, I'd be a pitcher for a baseball team.

If I could be a painter, I'd be a watercolorist. My subject matter would be mothers and children, children, cats.

So, who'm I going to tag? How about Marti, Ryan, and Abby! Tag, you're it!

Rebecca and I are starting our book club to read Proust, beginning June 14! We'll meet in Seattle in the evening. E-mail me (or Rebecca) for more information.

Knitting news: At Ferals on Monday night, Norma challenged me to knit my Level II vest in two weeks . . . one week for the front of the vest, one week for the back. Okay, Norma, I am seriously considering this challenge, and really closing in on a decision about that vest. (Norma recently passed Level I.)

Also at Ferals on Monday night, I managed to knit one entire round (384 stitches!) of Sandness, plus a little more. That is remarkably productive, given how much conversation was going on, and how much stamping and labeling of the Guild newsletter I was participating in, too. (By way of comparison, Ryan mentioned to me on Monday evening that at the previous Ferals meeting, she knitted a grand total of one stitch. It ain't about the knitting....)

And, today, I finished knitting the first of my three cable swatches for Level II. (Swatch #14, that you saw a peek of in the photo in the previous blog entry. It looks better in real life, really!) I wrastled it onto the ironing board and blocked it. I lasso'd it with its proper tag. Now to get the documentation written up this evening, so that I can corral the works into the binder. Finishing fully. That's what I'm all about.

Posted by Karen at 08:35 PM | Comments (2)

May 07, 2005


For the last 10 days I have been making a concerted effort to improve my cable knitting. For Level II of the Master Knitter program, I've got to submit 3 cable swatches.

I know that you're thinking, what's so hard about cables? So you use a cable needle (or not), knit a few stitches out of order, and voila! I know you're thinking, Lay aside your perfectionism, woman, and get it on with it, already!

I'm being extremely selective in the cables I choose to knit for this program. Not all cable stitch patterns are created equal. Some are easier to execute than others, and some look better than others in the final product. Cables that move only 1 stitch in the cabling motion are easier and wind up looking better than those that move 2, and those are easier and look better than those that move 3, or 4, or 6. Right now my thinking is that cables that are completely stockinette on a reverse stockinette ground end up looking better than cables that involve a few little purls within their stockinette cablings. And let's just not even get into those cables that have maneuvers on both the right side and wrong sides.

But it's not the cables that have caused me the most grief. It's been the reverse stockinette stitch background.

Reverse stockinette stitch will show every little hiccup in one's tension. It can ladder after a cable. It can "row out" outrageously. The directions for the Master Knitter program actually allow for either a reverse stockinette stitch background or a garter stitch background, for these cable swatches. My experiments don't show me that garter stitch is much easier. And part of me says, Dad gum it, a Master Knitter ought to be able to knit a great-looking reverse stockinette stitch -- so let's conquer this problem, once and for all.

I know about wrapping for the purl stitch the wrong way round, to make that first purl stitch after the cable a smaller stitch. Normally I knit Continental, but for cables, to make those purls just a fraction better, I use the throwing method. After days of concerted practice, days of truly focused efforts to improve and not just spin my wheels (or twirl my yarn, as the case may be), days of noticing and analyzing the way I knit and no longer just blaming the stitch patterns -- I've finally perfected the "give an extra tug" method.

I'm proud to announce that I can now knit an even reverse stockinette stitch background. It's as perfectly even as I am ever likely to get it.

Now let's just get those swatches done, shall we?

Swatch #14, still in progress and not yet blocked.

Two Swans Yarns News: First, the good news: the Harris 4-ply has finally arrived! Ordered in October, delayed due to a winter hurricane at the Harris Mill, I finally received my shipment two days ago. These yarns are produced by the same mill that produces Harris Tweed cloth, and are distributed in partnership with the Rowan yarn company.

Second, the bad news: Lorna's Laces raised its prices, effective May 1. Right now, I am holding my prices steady on this yarn. But I expect to receive a shipment of both Shepherd Sock and Shepherd Sport any day now, with new colors. (Periwinkle! Island Blue! Safari! among many others.) When the new shipment comes in, I'll have to put in a small price increase. So, if you want to pick up some Shepherd Sock while the price is still low, buy now!

Posted by Karen at 12:40 PM | Comments (5)

May 04, 2005


Felina Schwarz and I got together for a bite to eat before last month's Guild meeting. We had just settled in at our table, when Felina came right to the point: "So, how many times are you going to re-knit that sweater?!"

The sweater in question? Sandness, of course. I'm very fond of Felina, but she can be cranky! She does not mince words.

She was remembering, too, that I originally started Sandness with a size small, following the pattern directions. Felina is the one who convinced me that slavishly following the number of ribbing stitches as per the pattern and then increasing the number of stitches to the body was going to make a sweater that would blouse. So I had started over on the small, adding stitches to the ribbing so that the increase would be a good, EZ-approved, Felina Schwarz-approved 10 percent. Once I was about four inches into the sweater, Scott had a serious discussion with me about fit. He could tell, by eyeballing the sweater on the needles, that it was too small. So then I started over on the medium, and had worked it as far as this, when I got worried that the medium, too, would be too small.

"Well, Felina, I guess I'll keep re-knitting it until I get it right," I said.

I explained that I'm getting about 9 stitches to the inch. The pattern lists the gauge at 8 stitches to the inch -- which is the gauge I typically get with 2-ply Shetland yarn on size 3 needles. Why is Sandness coming out with more stitches to the inch? I explained to Felina the theory that Andrea at Feral Knitters had put forth: That Sandness pulls in more than a typical Fair Isle, because you are trading off the main color and contrast color at a fairly fast clip -- you have almost no spreads of four or more stitches that are all the same color within one row of a pattern repeat. No less an authority than Janine has echoed this, saying she's had the same experience. These kinds of stitch designs pull in more.

Before Felina could pepper me with any more questions, I saw June from our Feral Knitters group walking through the restaurant. I waved her over and we invited her to join us. She'd already eaten, but was happy to sit and talk knitting before Guild. June is no slouch as a knitter; she's knitted Sandness.

"So, we were just talking about my gauge issues on Sandness," I said.

"Oh, yeah -- mine didn't fit either," June said unhesitatingly.

"Too big or too small?" I was holding my breath to hear her answer.

"Too small," she said.

Since then, Sandness has been in a lump in my knitting bag while I've been mulling over what to do. Rip to the ribbing, make increases for the large size, and continue? Pick up from where I am now, but go up a needle size? Start over on a large? I don't come to decisions quickly. But I don't want this sweater to become a ghost in the closet, either.

Lately, I've been reading Sweater Design in Plain English by Maggie Righetti. I am working again on my Level II submission for the Master Knitter program, and one element of what I must submit is a vest. I've always thought I would design my own vest (although a self-designed vest is not required, and one could work from a published pattern). I've owned my copy of Sweater Design in Plain English for years, but have only used it as a reference to get to particular information. (You know: looking up something in its index, reading the particular page of relevant information, then putting the book back on the shelf.) But now I am reading it cover to cover and I am finding it as compelling as a novel.

Measure, measure, measure your intended recipient, is Maggie Righetti's thesis. She emphasizes the importance of gauge, the importance of ease, but she always comes back to the ultimate importance of measuring the person.

Prior to this, I haven't actually measured Scott. I've just worked from sweaters that were in his closet. But I thought, Before I do anything drastic like rip back to the ribbing, let's just do a little Righettian measuring. Let's talk about fit and ease, with respect to those sweaters in the closet. And, I'll take the stitches off the needle, put them on a string, and have him try on Sandness-in-progress. So this time, I initiated the serious discussion about fit.

Sandness 001.jpg

The ribbing fits well.

Sandness 004.jpg

He's holding the sweater to keep the stockinette from rolling down -- the better for you to appreciate the beauty of the colors and stitch pattern. There's a big wrinkle in his shirt, too. So with the wrinkle and with him gripping the sweater, perhaps the sweater looks tighter in the photo than it really is in real life. (What the guy won't do for the sake of the blog! He offered to pose wearing fewer clothes, but I've spared you that.)

And here's Sandness in comparison to the sweater that Scott chose from his closet as the one he likes the fit of, the best:

Sandness 005.jpg

So -- I'm going to keep on knitting on this medium size, in faith that it's going to fit.

Posted by Karen at 11:10 AM | Comments (8)