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Monday, February 28, 2011

Rip Tips

You can lessen your frustration and speed up your pick-up time if you don't just "let 'er rip."  Here are a few pointers, gleaned from my Frequent Ripper Mileage:

1.  Be gentle.  Filaments of knitted yarn can cling like burrs.  Don't just yank; rather, coax the stitches apart.  Keep a blunt-tipped needle handy to help you separate those tenacious little fibers that don't want to let go.

2.  Stop short.  Quit ripping one full row short of where you need to end up.

3.  Stay slick.  For picking up stitches, choose an aluminum needle rather than bamboo.  They'll slide on easier.

4.  Size down.  Your pick-up needle should be at least one full size smaller (in gauge) than the needle you used for the work.  You can size back up when you're ready to begin re-knitting.

5.  Follow closely.  When you're ready to pick up your stitches, gently undo each stitch on that final row, picking up each released stitch as you go.  This will prevent yarn-overs, increases, and decreases from getting lost in the general rip-fest.

Five Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

Stitch and rip, stitch and rip.  How many miles have you ripped in your knitting career?  Mine would probably reach to London. 

It's painful to see your hard work lie there all unraveled, now a little crumpled, hopefully not tangled.  But unless you're willing to rip out mistakes, you'll never achieve knitting nirvana. 

Yes, it's possible to "fudge" a stitch count by throwing in an M1 or a K2tog (I must confess, I've done this more than once when working someone else's pattern), but the work still holds a flaw.  And now that I've decided to share some of my original designs, I'm determined to get it right for the reader. 

So it's five steps forward, three steps back.

The lacy bamboo Cleavage Cover-Up has already had seven reversals of fortune.  Creating an original is an informed hunch.  Sometimes that hunch pans out; often it doesn't.  So it's back to the last spot that "worked."  Seeing the pile of kinks on the couch beside me gives a little twinge, but I tell myself, "That's one more thing I've learned."  And I go forward with my revised plan.

Knitting an original is like living a life:  sometimes you just have to go backwards to get ahead.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I'll Spin You a Yarn

Roving is the stuff of spinners.  From it we draw fibers, filaments that the wheel turns.  It's not exactly turning straw into gold, but we do turn alpaca/mohair/bison/bamboo into yarn that then begs to be knitted.

I'll be honest:  knitting is only the excuse to be spinning.  Whirr, whirr, goes the mesmerizing wheel, taking our thoughts and our worries with it.  (I actually have spun myself to sleep on more than one occasion.)

But knit we must, because spin we more-must. 

You won't be surprised to hear, then, that I have a closet full of original vests and sweaters I've knitted from my own handspun.  I may go back and make stitch notations for them, someday.  If I do, you'll find the instructions here.

Meanwhile, would you believe that this blog began with a bison?  Two ounces of bison, to be exact.  Lovely, soft, fluffy, expensive bison.  John and Sherri gave it to me Christmas before last, along with two ounces of cashmere, knowing my love for spinning.  So it seemed only fitting that the sports-weight yarn I spun from it should go into a garment for John--a manly neck-warmer.  (Sherri got the newsboy cap and neck scarf I made her from the cashmere.)

But halfway through the pattern, I ran out.  It would take two more ounces of Buffalo Gold (at $42 an ounce, Gold is not too great an exaggeration) to complete the neck-warmer.  Wow, pricey neck-warmer!

I don't know about you, but I tend to pursue ideas a big chunk at a time.  Last year it was Jay Petersen's marvelous entrelac cubes.  The year before that it was Hansi Singh's delightful animals.  (Ever knitted a frog?)  This year it seems to be neck-warmers.

Hubbest was a prime candidate, but he's a Harley rider, so the neck just wasn't going to go far enough:  what he needed was probably a . . . hmm, what do you call a neck/and/chest-warmer?  Bib sounds drooley.  Drooley he's not.  (Yummy, yes; drooley, no.)

Anyway, it needed to work up fast and easy, using fiber I had in the stash.  The silvery-colored kid mohair?  Plied with the variegated natural-colored alpaca?  Just the ticket, on #10-1/2 needles.

And this time I made notations.  They're available as a free download on Ravelry.  Look for Easy Rib Turtle Bib.

Of course, I'm still on a roll with the neckpieces.  The next one is a lacy concoction for ladies.  And thereby hangs a yarn, as well.

You see, my cleaning lady saw Hubbest's turtle-bib and said, as she popped it on over her head, "Just what I need to cover my cleavage in a business meeting!"

Well, not quite.  But that started the wheel spinning.  How about a cleavage cover-up in shimmery bamboo, sports weight, knitted with an easy lace pattern? 

It's on the needles as we speak.  And yes, I AM making notations.