Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Snow Queen: start your engines...

Yarn: I am using ColourMart 2/28 10/90 cashmere wool. I have 150 grams which is just over 2200 yards. My original intention was to use a fingering weight yarn, but I started swatching with this yarn and the swatch grew into a shawl. It was less than intentional. I actually ordered a different yarn from the UK, but it did not arrive in time for my cast-on...

I chose to work in a natural white color for this project. You can stick with me and use one cone of a 2/28 colourmart yarn or you can use any other yarn of your choice. That means weight, color and fiber content. Please refer to the swatch section for a good discussion about figuring out how much yarn you will need. I would like to make some suggestions about both fiber content and color. Nupps and some of the other stitch manipulations in this pattern require a yarn with some elasticity. For me, that means wool. Better yet, merino. As long as you select a yarn that has some lambswool or merino on board, you should have a pleasant knitting experience. If you choose to use cotton, silk or other yarns without that “give” you might fight with your nupps and thow your knitting across the room. I suggest that you swatch and decide for yourself.
As for color, I suggest something light and solid or nearly solid in color. There is a lot going on in this design and contrasting colors would (IMHO) detract from it. The exception might be a yarn with long color repeats. I think even that would be distracting, but feel free to prove me wrong because you are so good at that!

Beads: I am using 8/0 Japanese crystal rainbow beads. If you use all the bead placements and knit the full Chart F you will need about 33 grams of beads (based on 350 beads per 8 grams which is approximate.) To break it down, you will need 64 beads for Chart E and 448 beads for each repeat (there are three) of chart F. You will need 48 beads for the final section of Chart F. This takes us to a grand total 1456 beads. You have the option to omit any of the beads that you choose. You also have the option to replace any of the nupps with beads. If you do that you will need 6 beads for chart B, 192 for Chart D, 464 for Chart E and 944 beads for the full Chart F. This would be IN ADDITION to the beads mentioned previously. That is a bunch of beads! These numbers work for any size beads you choose, but the weight mention above is approximate and only for 8/0 beads. Finally, the last 48 beads, used for the edging and part of Chart F, can be different from your original beads if you choose. Something a tiny bit large with more flash would be suitable. I am not sure what I will use.

Needles: I am using US 2, 3 and 4 needles. You need a set of four or five double points for the center (smallest size) and a 32 inch circular for the final chart (largest size.) What you use in between is up to you and based on what you have on hand. I used a 16 inch and a 24 inch circular as the piece got larger. Use your smaller needle size up until the final rows of chart D, switch to your mid-size needle and finally to the largest needle for the final rows (82-99) of chart F. I do not usually suggest needle brands, but choose something with an excellent point. See the swatch discussion for more thoughts on needle sizes. You will also need a crochet hook that fits into the beads you are using. For me, that is a US 14 (Tulip brand.) You might also need one straight needle in a size smaller than your main needle size, to help with nupps if you work one too tightly.

Other Stuff:
-You will need stitch markers if you like to use them. I suggest 16 markers, with one being unique to mark the start of the row.
-You will need stainless steel T-pins to block.
-You will need a ruler to measure yarn (see swatch section.)
-You will need a calculator
-You will need a yarn needle to weave in ends

The Swatch
If you are using the same yarn as I am using, you might get away with skipping this next part. . You will have to swatch just a little to select your needle size. Pick the size that gets you the look you like (and consider blocking when you decide.) Once you have your needle size, choose one size smaller and one size larger and see discussion in the materials sections about needles. If you want to use any other weight yarn you should knit the full swatch chart and follow my logic. You can use whatever yarn you choose! Isn’t that liberating? But how many yards will you need? I have no clue, but I know how to figure it out. Take the yarn you would like to use and grab the Swatch Chart. Cast-on 37 stitches and work rows 1-24 (24 is a return row.) Cut the yarn and cut the tail from your cast-on. Rip your swatch and measure your yarn, down to the inch. You will need about 86 times your swatch yardage for this project. Round up. DO NOT omit the nupps from your swatch. They use a good amount of yarn. You may choose to stop knitting before you complete Chart F. There are two places to shorten that chart and you will decide for yourself, based on your yarn weight and how large a piece you want. The number above should give you enough yarn to complete the project in full, but don’t skimp. It is better to have too much than not enough.

The swatch is posted in the files sections of our group tonight, so cast-on and begin your decision making. We can discuss yarn choice!

I am closing our group tonight, but if you missed this project do not despair. The pattern will be available as a lovely booklet once the group is done. AND I am already planning a really cool Summer 2010 project...meow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Snow Queen Technique Tutorial

This project uses some challenging lace knitting techniques. These include a center cast-on, making nupps, making complex Estonian style stitches and placing beads using a crochet hook. I will talk about each of these elements individually.
The Center cast-on
There are many ways to start a piece at the center. I have an excellent blog post that covers several possible techniques:
For this particular project I simply cast-on 9 stitches (3 to each of three double-pointed needles.) I joined, being careful not to twist and I knit one round plain using a fourth needle. With 9 stitches at the start it is not that difficult.

There are two ways to make nupps. The common way is to knit into the stitch (leave original stitch on the left-hand needle) make a yarn-over, knit into the same stitch, make a yarn-over, knit into the same stitch, drop the original stitch from your left-hand needle and knit on. You just made five stitches from the one stitch. On the return row, you carefully purl the five stitches together. It is very easy to drop one of the yarn-overs, so be sure you count all five stitches before you complete the stitch. A much less common way to make nupps (because I might be the only person who likes to do this) is to slip the stitch as if to knit and return it to your left-hand needle with the back leg ready for action. Knit into the back leg of the stitch (leave original stitch on the left-hand needle) knit into the front leg of the stitch, knit into the back leg of the stitch, knit into the front leg of the stitch, knit into the back leg of the stitch. Drop the original stitch from the left-hand needle. On the return row, purl the five stitches together. Count that you have all five on your needles before you complete the stitch. My technique gives you a more firm nupp. Choose the technique that you prefer and stick with one, because they do look slightly different.

Nupps in the round present an interesting dilemma for me. My solution is to work the nupps by bringing the yarn over the top of the needle to knit and also to make the yarn-overs for each maneuver. When you do this your stitch flips so that it sits on the needle presenting the back lag of the stitch to knit. You can do this with either nupp technique for the same result. On the return row you can knit the group of five together with much greater ease.

Other stitch manipulations: -The “make 3 from 5” is worked like so: Knit five together and leave original stitches on left-hand needle. Make one yarn-over and knit the same five stitches together. Drop them from the left-hand needle. You will always be working a yarn-over before and after this stitch, so the stitch count will remain constant. If you knit in a European crossed-uncrossed way you will find this maneuver very easy, because your stitches will present themselves with the back leg forward and you can knit the five together through the back leg without twisting. You can also slip all five stitches (one at a time) as if to knit and return them to the left-hand needle so the back leg is “forward.” You work the “make 5 from 7” in the same way, but you knit 7 together and repeat the directions above until you have made 5 new stitches.

Placing Beads
I have already discussed beads in several places, and here is the link to some previous bead chats! The first two are bead posts and the second two have video clips of adding beads.
We will use all the techniques above for our project and discussion can proceed! I will be posting information for our swatch and materials Tuesday evening. Until then practice your nupps!

I made one of my very special technique videos to share with you today, shot by the lovely BadKitten, directly from my bedroom (I mean video studio...) I work a few nupps in three different ways. The first is the traditional way, best for use working back and forth. The second is my "less common" technique. This one works well for very fine yarn, when it get really easy to loose one of the yarn-overs on your return row. The resulting nupp is a bit more firm. The third technique I show is how I make nupps in the round, which leaves you with the five nupps stitches twisted on the needle and thus allows you to knit the five together through the back legs on your return row. The single stitch left over after you do this will be twisted, but it won't impact the look of your final nupp if you forget to flip it back.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Snow Queen

I would like to extend an invitation to all of you. I am about to begin my 2010 group project. I decided NOT to post charts on my blog for this project. It is too difficult to post high quality charts (especially large charts) here. I decided to start a special group (much like my 2009 Summer group) to host this project with some style. I WILL be posting project updates and techniques here, so even if you choose not to join in you can keep an eye on what we are doing. Added 1/20/10: The group is fully enrolled as of 1/20/10, so closed.

This project uses Elizabeth Zimmermann’s formula for a Pi shawl. She devotes a chapter of her book, Knitter’s Almanac, to this concept and I highly recommend reading it. A Pi shawl is a circle, started at the center. It is worked in tiers, with increase rows between each tier. The formula is very straightforward and anyone can design one by plugging in stitch patterns to the tiers that are divided by increase rounds. I made one Pi shawl, about 20 years ago. I used real Shetland 2-ply and with EZ’s book in hand I cast-on and added a few eyelets as I knit. I gave that shawl away and I have not been inspired to knit one since. There are a few gorgeous versions of Pi shawls available, and a quick search around the internet or on Ravelry will find them for you.

This piece was designed especially for my winter 2010 group project. My group projects are always based on what I feel like knitting. There are no yarn restraints. There are no yardage restraints. There are no limitation on how many pages I can spread out on. It can be as technically challenging as I want. It is in this setting of complete abandon that The Snow Queen project was gestated. EZ was brilliant, but I have never really loved the Pi construction. The concept is elegant but the reality was never quite that for me. I find the huge increase rows visually distracting and without grace. It is hard to get the pattern from one tier to line up with the pattern from the next tier. I did not want to do a stitch pattern sampler with unrelated patterns in each tier, although that would be a fun way to do a sampler. The design challenge for me was to make the tiers flow from one to the next and to incorporate the increase rounds into the design as much as possible.

I redesigned the charts for this project three times before moving forward, which is really unusual for my design process. That such a straightforward construction technique presents a significant challenge speaks to both the brilliance of Elizabeth Zimmermann and the potential of our craft. This design starts out as an argument between a simple Pi shawl and an Estonian shawl. There is a little cat fight between Charts B and C. In Chart C, one can clearly see that the Estonian Shawl has won the battle. Chart E, and F continue that trend, with some of the more traditional elements creeping back in during Chart F. I hope that you have as much fun knitting as I had designing.
This project uses some challenging techniques and is fully charted. There will not be line-by-line directions because there were this would not be ready to share until 2012. All are welcome until the group is full! Knit on...

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Designs for a New Year

Happy New Year!

I am pleased to show you two new designs, both commissioned by the Jade Sapphire Yarn Company and both previewing at TNNA, right now!

The first design is call Netsuke Wrap. It is knit with a new Jade Sapphire yarn called AngelWing. This yarn is handspun laceweight, 100% Mongolian Cashmere and as soft as a cloud. Because the yarn is really handspun, the yardage varies from skein to skein. For such a soft yarn, it has remarkable stitch definition.
This project has an interesting construction and includes Ivory Ceylon beads in the first tier of the border. I consider it a challenging knit.
It is warm and light and can be worn as a wrap...
And also as a shrug, just by adding some ribbons ties.
Very interesting to knit and yummy to wear...

The second project uses one of my favorite yarns, Jade Sapphire 2-ply Silk and Mongolian Cashmere. The colorway that I used is called Purple Haze and the design is called The Beaded Serpent.
I used just one skein (about 400 yards) of yarn, plus Amethyst Gold Luster beads on both ends, along with a gold tassel. The color of the yarn and beads is a perfect blend.
This project also uses an interesting construction, with a provisional cast-on and no cast-off.
A very elegant serpent...

You can ask for both of these new designs where Jade Sapphire yarns are sold. The are brand new, so it might take a few weeks for shops to get them. If you have trouble finding them drop me a comment and I will help!

I added three more patterns to my Raverly Pattern Store (link on the left.) These are Blue Ribbon Sampler, Jade Flower and Crimson Cowl, just in case you were looking for any of these...

Finally, I am getting ready to launch my winter project. It is going to be a Pi shawl, using the traditional construction (thank you, EZ.) I did try to stretch the limits of that construction and I trust the project will be challenging and fun. If you belong to either of my YahooGroups you will get the details by later today. I will post details here next week, so stay tuned!

Until then, knit on!