So I had decided that as part of my knitter’s development it was time to knit a shawl.  Note, this is not a stole, but an authentically ‘get your granny on’ triangular shawl.  Though this undertaking involved the obvious danger of looking ridiculous, I had seen many photos of hip young people wearing shawls such as this like scarves, and figured I could pull it off!  So I dyed some recycled cashmere, and eventually cast on!  Laminaria (a free pattern from Knitty.com) was an absolute joy to knit, and I got through it in 4 days!  I took the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria and got a lot of knitting time in both ways, so that helped.

My husband and I had to sleep on the couch one night so that I could block the shawl out on our futon!!  The yarn is approximately fingering weight, and I used a 5mm needle, and it required approximately 500 yds.

unblocked shawl

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I recently have become interested in the exact form that increases and decreases take.  I’d like to build up a better understanding, so that I can choose the best increase or decrease for a given situation, and get the effect that I desire.  So I’ve been swatching a bit.  This first swatch shows paired decreases.  In this swatch, I’m just looking at the way the fabric looks when you decrease with right-leaning decreases (K2tog) or left-leaning decreases (SSK) or with a symmetrical central decrease (Sl2-K1-P2sso).

This one is the result of a left-leaning decrease, knit stitch, then right-leaning decrease.  It was created by doing: SSK, K1, K2tog, which I repeated every right side row.  I think it is interesting to note that the K2togs (on the right side of the central knit stitch) are much more invisible/integrated into the fabric than the corresponding SSK decreases, which do not seem to lie as flat.

This one is the result of the opposite – a right-leaning decrease, then knit stitch, then left-leaning decrease.  It was created by doing: K2tog, K2, SSK, on every right side row.  Instead of being quite flat, this pairing of decreases creates a dominant line which actually stands proud of the adjacent knit fabric.

The third section is a symmetrical central double decrease; Sl2-K1-P2sso.  This is worked by slipping 2 stitches, knitwise, at the same time (as if you were going to K2tog), then knitting the next stitch, and then passing the 2 slipped stitches over the knitted stitch and off the needles.  It is similar to the previous swatch in that it is a strong vertical line which stands proud of the surrounding fabric.  In this case I have worked the Sl2-K1-P2sso decrease every right-side row.

OK, I know it’s positively depressing, the lack of knitting that has been posted on this blog of late.  So though it’s not terribly exciting, I have for you: Noro Silk Garden, knit up into a garter-brim hat.  I loved working with this yarn, which is a joy, and I enjoyed this simple hat pattern I ‘designed’, especially as I made a couple of modifications the second time.

Secondly, I’ve started on YET another hat, knit from Malabrigo Merino Worsted, which until my employment at Urban Yarns, I had not tried.  MMMMmmm it is lovely to knit with (like butter), but I fear it will pill and wear quickly.  But I’m withholding judgment for later.

So of course, I’ve also been spinning!

And loving the results – though they are but meagre.  Upper left is a single-ply mystery-wool that came in a box from a friend of my mom’s, and which I dyed into intense (offensive?) pink, purples and blue – about DK weight, and 170 yds.  To the right is 2-ply, fingering weight merino, spun from tiny balls of roving I bought at a lovely artistan’s shop during my bike trip of the oregon coast (december 08).  It’s about 40 grams, and 130 yds.  At the bottom is ‘wildflowers’ a single-ply silk which I hand-dyed and spun, also procured from the box of mystery handed down to me by a spinning friend of my mother’s.  I have TONNES more silk to spin, but I am seriously lacking the skills to do it effectively.  This little skein, ~ 100 yds, is uber lovely, though, I must say (so modest!).

To wind a centre-pull ball of yarn by hand:

yarn spaghetti

1. First, unwind a skein (hank) of yarn using either a swift, or just by draping the skein over my knees, and gradually unwinding it and dropping it loosely onto the floor, or into a paper bag or box, so that it forms a loose pile of yarn spaghetti.  If you have pets or children, I think the best thing to do is to drop it into a bag or box, so the critters can’t tangle it up.

2. Holding the end of the yarn with your thumb, begin to wrap the yarn around 2 fingers, several times in one direction, then switching the angle at which the wraps are made every so often.

3. Continue winding until you have a little ball on your fingers, and then take your fingers out, and put your thumb into the centre hole, and then continue to wrap the yarn, turning the ball every so often to wrap at a new angle.

Wrap gently, being careful not to make too tight a ball, as this will put strain on the yarn.

Be sure to always have the yarn end poking out of the centre, and be careful not to lose it by wrapping over it.

4. Eventually you will run out of yarn, and have a lovely hand-wound centre-pull ball of yarn!

For most types of yarn, it works to pull from the centre of this type of ball, and this also allows for 2 strands of yarn to be held together from the same ball, or for 2 pieces of knitting to be worked from a single ball (for example, when knitting 2 pairs of socks at the same time from a single ball).

However, some delicate or ‘sticky’ yarns, such as mohair or lace-weight silk yarn can be difficult to pull from the centre, as their strands tend to stick together and tangle.  In these cases, it is best to knit from the outside of the ball.

Enjoy your lovely hand-wound balls!

Last night I had friends over to dye some sock yarn:

It turned out so wonderfully!!  I can’t wait to see how all these luscious colours knit up!  We had a yummy meal, and then started mixing up the dyes, and painting them on the kitchen floor.

This is the most luscious cashmere I’ve ever seen, and I’m SO happy with the colour I’ve achieved.

It’s 600 yds, on 3 skeins, and it’s a little heavier than a standard lace weight, but definitely lighter than fingering.

I’m planning on making it into Laminaria, a beautiful shawl published on Knitty.com.  I’m not sure yet whether I will knit it holding this yarn single stranded, for a lighter effect, or double stranded for something more like a DK weight.  I think I’ll swatch it both ways, and see what I like best.

I’m currently designing this sweater… (well, I guess it’s only a sleeve and a half so far.. hardly qualifies as a sweater)… which is going to be pretty stripey all over.  It’s knit from recycled and hand-dyed merino yarn, and it’s at a pretty fine gauge, knit on US#3 (3mm) needles.  As the same needles are being used for gloves that I’m currently knitting, I have had to wait before getting back to the sweater.  Of course, I’m impatient, because who doesn’t love stockinette in the round with only stripes to distract one from cheesy TV?!  And I think the end product will be very wearable – that is if I ever finish it!!