FO: Pod of Cetaceans

Well, this post has taken a long time to show itself. I finished knitting my Pod of Cetaceans almost a month ago, but I’m just now getting around to posting about it.

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I fell in love with this pattern from Elinor Brown the moment I saw it, and it fit perfectly with one of my goals for this year, which was to steek something! Yeah that’s right, I cut this bad boy wide open. The knitting was really easy—just a bunch of stockinette in the round, and then joined for the seamless yoke and colorwork whales.

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I opted not to do any of the duplicate stitch, partly because I was running short of time and partly because… I don’t know, I just didn’t have it in me? I still like the back without the duplicate stitch that’s supposed to be there.

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And the steeking? Well, it was actually not nearly as bad as it is made out to be. I followed Elinor’s recommendation to review Eunny Jang’s steeking discussion, and crocheted the steek edges before cutting. By the time I got to the cutting part, I was downright gleeful to be cutting into my knitting—there was a little moment of freedom and euphoria and it was a weird knitter’s high to think about cutting this thing I’d been knitting for a few weeks. Look, I said it was weird, okay?

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I knit the largest size offered, as I wasn’t sure just how big the intended recipient had gotten since I’d last seen him and figured having some room to grow was better than it being too small. The cardigan is too big, and that’s okay, even if it means I don’t have any modeled shots.

My other knitting goal for this year was double-knitting, and I still haven’t gotten around to that yet, but hey, there’s still a whole lot of time left in this year. Right? Right.

(Delusions are fun, yo.)

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FO: The Loki Scarf

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This is it! The long-awaited post that will enable every one of you with a basic foundation of knitting and willingness to try out stranded colorwork to knit your very own Loki Scarf! And I bet approximately none of you will replicate my efforts because the way I did this is stupidly insane. It works. But it’s insane.

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This, my friends, is approximately six feet of laceweight yarn worked in a combination of stranded colorwork and intarsia. The chart I created, which is available here, and is completely free, is based on a twelve-stitch repeat.

I worked six repeats across, and added ten stitches to each side for the border, so I cast on a total of 93 stitches. Ten stitches were worked with what I’ll call the C color, then I worked the chart repeats, twisting the working C yarn with the working yarn for the chart repeat (if this doesn’t make any sense, brush up on your intarsia skills). Knit the chart, then twisted the last working yarn with the other ball of C yarn for the other band. You’ll have a total of four balls of yarn going, but you’ll only be working with two at any time. Work the chart three times, then work seventeen rows of C (you can drop one of the balls from the edge and just work with one strand of C), then work the chart until you’re about three inches from the desired length. Work seventeen rows of C again, work three more repeats of the chart, purl one RS row, knit one WS row, take a couple of shots of your liquor of choice, and then do all of that again. If you really like yourself, you’ll start mattress stitching the sides as you go—knit a few repeats, seam up the sides, keep on knitting.

That’s right. You want this scarf to be double-sided? The easiest way I could come up with (and granted, my brain was not entirely connected to my body at this time) is to knit a scarf twice as long as the finished piece.

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I totally cheated and used the fringe to close the gap between the cast-on and bind-off edges, as I couldn’t even begin to fathom seaming anything if it wasn’t completely necessary. I trimmed the fringe to about three inches at each end, so I’m pretty sure this scarf clocked in at over six and a half feet by the time it was done. The yarn, which is 100% cotton, stretched out a little bit while it was blocking, and is amazingly not too heavy.

I want to knit a scarf with this pattern and these colors for myself, but I’m thinking it will probably be a sport weight wool version, and double-sided, which traditionally means the colors are inverted between the sides, but it sounds so much more delightful than knitting twice the scarf.

And as I was waiting to post this until I had super awesome action shots…

That’s Jessi in her awesome Black Widow costume taking on Adam as Loki. And here’s a close up of the scarf.

Many thanks to Adam for sharing the photos, and for rocking the hell out of this scarf, and for not telling people at DragonCon that I’d knit scarves for them.

Questions about the construction of the scarf? Need more clarification? Want to offer me heaps of praise (don’t do that, you’ll only encourage the madness)? Comment below!

Mischief Managed!: Stranded Colorwork and Yarn Management

I am so excited, people, to be able to write this post today. It was going to happen eventually, but today is earlier than expected.

By the time I go to bed tonight, I will be halfway finished with my Loki scarf!

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Yeah I’ve knit a lot of things before, and a lot of scarves before, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that I’m ahead of schedule. Last week when I reviewed the Stitch app, the scarf was only about 45″ long. I need it to be at least 66″ long before I turn it, and when I finish the three pattern repeats tonight, that’s pretty much exactly where I’ll be.

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I don’t know what blocking will do to this fabric. Normally I would say that, since this is a plied cotton yarn, it probably won’t change much. It will certainly smooth out the stranded colorwork, though I’m doing a good job of keeping the floats loose. It may grow a bit. But since I’m planning to seam the sides as I go (by knitting the edge stitches together—we’ll see how that goes), that may keep it from lengthening. But it will be a full 66″ long scarf when it’s finished, complete with a little bit of trim, and it should be done well before the date I need to get it in the mail.

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I’m also excited because I feel incredibly clever about the way in which I am managing working with four bobs of yarn at a time. Since this is a combination of intarsia and stranded colorwork, I’ve got four bits of yarn working each row, even though I’m only using three colors of yarn. I had started out using plastic Ziploc bags with a corner snipped off, so I could twist or untwist the yarns as needed.

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And that would have worked perfectly except for two quirks: 1, I’m trying to knit this while living in a house with no air-conditioning, only electric fans blowing on me, and those fans blow yarn around like nobody’s business; 2, this plan is not good for taking the project on the go. I kept losing time untangling yarns after pulling them out of a bag, or they’d stick together as they were blown into each other, so I was getting frustrated.

As I was clearing out my recycling one afternoon, I came across these empty strawberry boxes and got an idea. I washed out one of the boxes, and then, once I’d gotten to the point where I needed to add a new length of yarn, threaded one end of my mini yarn ball through the slots in the bottom of the boxes. BECAUSE I’M A GENIUS, THAT’S WHY.

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This is working so well. Sometimes the yarn catches on the plastic just a smidgen, or they get super friendly with one another, but it’s easily fixable, easy to knit with, and pretty much the perfect solution for this sort of stranded colorwork knitting. As an added bonus, I can roll up the scarf when I’m finished knitting at the time, and it totally its inside the box, making this the most easily portable project ever.

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People, everything I just mentioned in this post makes me extremely happy! I’m plugging away, making progress, and I’m loving the way the scarf is turning out so far. Hopefully next week I’ll have figured out the “seaming as I go” question and can report back on that.

Added bonus! Threadpanda is now on Facebook! This is mostly a way for me to push blog posts to another social media site, but there may be some extra chatter that doesn’t fit in Twitter’s 140 character limits, as well as another form of interaction with you! If you’re into that whole “liking pages on Facebook” thing, please like my page!

Finished Object: Slanted Peerie Mittens

I do wonder if somewhere a meteorologist is sitting, hang dog and shame-faced about the fact that he/she keeps predicting snow will come to the Northern Colorado area, only to be proven wrong again and again. We had the barest hint at a flurry early one morning last week, and this week, despite predictions of snow Tuesday, Wednesday, and today, there has been nothing. (Although I do have to drive down to Denver this afternoon to collect my family from the airport, so undoubtedly there will be a blizzard or something along I-25.)

I would like to make an appeal to the weather gods, should they be listening. I know earlier I mentioned that I didn’t have any mittens, and so cold weather, snow, and ice were problematic only in that my hands got cold. Well, now I have mittens, so any time you feel like giving us a good dusting, I’m ready!

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Elinor Brown’s Slanting Peerie Mittens, from Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2011 are my FIRST EVER pair of mittens. Well, it’s possible that maybe I had mittens when I was a wee thing and just can’t remember them, but considering that I grew up in Florida where it rarely gets cold enough for scarves, let alone mittens, it seems unlikely. And I knit them all by myself. And they are so warm! They’re warmer than my muppet-lined gloves.*

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Clearly, I couldn’t just leave well enough alone and knit them as instructed. Oh no, I had to mirror the pattern. If you look at the original photos…

…you’ll see that both mittens slant the same way. And they look beautiful. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way the mittens slant.

I just like to make things more complicated than they really need to be.

BUT. This pattern repeat? Amazingly easy and memorable. Once I figured out the pattern on the first mitten, I was able to knit at least half of it without referring to the pattern at all. For the second mitt, I checked the chart for the first few rows—the chart I was reading backwards in order to get the mirrored patterns, mind—and after that I just worked from memory.

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And I loved working the Latvian braid at the cuff. I’d never done that before, but I have to say, it’s incredibly easy and really adds a lovely touch to the whole affair. I used the brown and camel colors for the braid, but I left the brown duplicate stitch off the mittens in the end. I just didn’t think the brown would stand out so well against the dark blue; now I’m thinking of making a pair of brown and camel mittens. Obsessed? Me?

Nooooooo.

One more note, about the yarn: I used Harrisville Designs New England Shetland, a 2-ply fingering weight yarn. Like most Shetland yarns, it’s a really “sticky” yarn, which makes it good for Fair Isle projects (especially those with steeking). While I was working with it, I thought that it was a little scratchy, but whatever, these were going on my hands—their only requirement was that they be warm. Once I washed it though, this yarn softened up so much. I still wouldn’t wear it against more sensitive skin (I won’t be making a scarf with it, say), but it does feel really nice to wear the mittens.

Now, how ’bout that snow?

* I have a pair of gloves that have what I call “muppet lining;” it’s really some fun-fur like material, but it reminds me of muppets. They are warm, but not as warm as my mittens.

Bandelier socks, explained

A brief aside before I begin, I’m incredibly annoyed with the weather lately. Yesterday morning it was nice and sunny and I thought “excellent day for taking photos!” Except then I had to go to my volunteer shift, so by the time I got back, the sky was gray and overcast. And then last night, it started snowing and was quite blustery for a good half an hour, and even though we were supposed to get snow today, now it’s just windy and NOT SNOWING. La Niña, you can move on any time now.

Luckily, I do have a brand new pair of stranded colorwork socks to keep my feet warm, even if the sky is not giving me the snow I’d like.

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The first modification I made was to use sport weight yarn instead of fingering. No, this was not for any particular reason, other than the fact that I’m a dunce. When I found the Brown Sheep Nature Spun in a store, I got all excited and snatched up 8 colors of the sport weight; got home and realized I only needed 7 colors of fingering weight. After numerous swatching fiascos, I finally settled on a needle size that would allow me to keep the stitch count in the pattern AND get the fabric over my heels.

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That didn’t account for the difference in row gauge, however, so I had to get a little creative at the heel and toe areas. At the heel, I split one of the row sections in half and did the first half on the leg, then finished it up on the foot. Please don’t ask me what I did at the toe; I’m not sure I managed to repeat that section on the second sock, so I couldn’t even guess.

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Weaving in the ends was a pain; blocking them was an adventure (it involved an iron, and then prompted me to do a bit of ironing of other clothes). They’re a bit snug, but very warm. Now, if it only it would snow, so I could test out their insulation ability.

Floating away: Tips for managing floats in stranded colorwork

Knitting stranded colorwork patterns can result in a fabric that is eye-catchingly gorgeous. Managing all the yarns, however, can be an incredible nightmare. While the front looks all nice and pretty, the inside can be such a mess.

The key to keeping the wrong side relatively neat and orderly is to wrap up the long strands, or floats, along the back side. That way they’ll be less likely to snag, and you’ll make sure you’re not pulling the yarn too tight when you begin to knit with it again. Pulling the floats too tight can make the fabric pucker and mess with gauge.

Of course I learned this lesson “the hard way.”

You can see the long grey floats in the midst of the deep purples. I managed to keep them loose enough to not pucker, but they I have caught my toes on the floats a couple of times as I was trying on the sock.

For the bottom half of the sock, I caught on to catching the floats.

So as I mentioned yesterday, the easiest way I’ve found to work stranded colorwork is two-handed, or stranded knitting. Here you can see how I’ve got both yarns tensioned, one in each hand.

When it’s time to work with the darker yarn, I pick, or knit Continental style. When it’s time to work the lighter yarn, I throw, or knit English style.

One of the characteristics of a true Fair Isle pattern is that there are rarely long runs of stitches; usually each color is used for two or three stitches before switching to the other color in a row. Many other stranded colorwork patterns use longer color runs, creating the long and potentially troublesome floats. To keep the floats out of the way and the unused yarn from pulling too tight, you want to wrap the unused yarn as you go.

Since I used the stranded knitting method for this type of project, I’m going to be showing how I wrap the yarns. My method may or may not work for you; experiment with whatever feels comfortable for you.

You want to make sure you wrap the yarns the same way every time. If I’m trying to wrap up the yarn in my left hand, I always do so by bringing the right needle up behind the unused color, and then throwing the used color around the needle like normal.

Here you can see the dark purple yarn in between the two needles.

And here you can see that I’ve wrapped the light yarn around the right needle as usual.

When the stitch is finished, it looks just like a normal stitch from the front…

…and you see the unused, darker yarn draping over the used yarn in the back.

When you knit another stitch, you’ll end up catching that darker yarn and keeping it close to the fabric.

If you need to wrap up the yarn in the right hand, insert the right-hand needle into the stitch, then drape the unused yarn over the needle, in front of the used yarn.

Then knit with the main yarn as usual, catching the unused yarn but making sure it doesn’t come through to the front.

This is difficult to demonstrate without someone else around to take the photos, but hopefully this will at least give you some idea. There’s another method of stranded knitting, called woven stranded knitting, in which you “weave” the yarns as you’re working to keep the floats all together. However, I’ve never done this method. I did find a video of a gal who demonstrates her way of weaving in all of the floats; maybe this will work for you!