Lessons I learned from my lace swatch

I have a gift-giving occasion coming up, only I forgot and suddenly remembered..... yesterday....

So, I pulled out my Barbara Walker Stitch Treasuries and my graph paper and got to work. I decided to plan a scarf using the Rose Trellis Lace pattern, and I swatched and swatched and swatched - not to pick out the proper needles to fit the yarn I had selected, oh no, I swatched and swatched in order to learn how to knit this lace! It's a head scratcher - at least, it is for me. I learned lots of valuable lessons about planning your graph, and I'll discuss those in a minute. First, let's discuss short rows with a garter stitch border.

I noticed is that the garter stitch edging takes up less vertical space than the lace in the middle, so I need to add an extra row of garter stitch every now and then, such that the sides aren't shorter than the middle. Way back, when I began knitting Christmas Mitts (dig around below somewhere), I learned a nifty little trick for that pesky wrap-and-turn.

If you wrap-and-turn like some books tell you to, you end up with an odd little noose around the wrapped stitch, and an odd little hole, neither of which are very appealing to me. If you wrap and turn, then on the way back, pick up the noose, then the noose is much smaller than the stitch, and it is less than perfect, too. Here is a way to wrap and turn on your short rows, which comes out perfect every time.

As you might have noticed, I have a love affair with my little camera, so indulge me in quite a few photos. I could have bigger faults, really, I could.

Here, I've knitted across the 5 edge stitches, anxiously awaiting the short row manuever.

First, I slip the stitch off of the left hand needle to the right hand needle. The yarn is to the back, as you expect it to be when knitting. I pull it around the left hand side of the slipped stitch.
I put the slipped stitch back onto the left hand needle. Notice that I put it on with the front of the stitch facing right. This will make the knitting-together step just a tiny bit easier.
Turn the work over. Now, I'm going to bring the yarn up and over the knitting needle...
...and around the left hand side of the slipped-and-replaced stitch, and put the yarn to the back, in order to knit back across the garter stitch edge.
Done. Can you see the 5 stitches which are kept in the garter stitch edge, and the one stitch which is sort of kind of wrapped? This is how it looks from the back, and ...
...this is how it looks from the front. Now, I'm ready to knit across the garter stitch edge, and continue my way across the rest of the piece.

You might be extra-observant and you might have noticed that the stitches of the body of the lace are mounted in a way which some of you knitting-snobs might consider to be backwards. Well, I'm here to say that they are not backwards, they are just different from what some of you might expect. See Annie Modesitt's webpage for an excellent description of "combination" knitting. It's a way of purling without killing your hands, and I love it and refuse to change and I know how to read my knitting and all is well in the world!

Sorry, I digress. Ahem! Back to our lesson. Below, you can see that I’ve knitted across the 5 garter stitch stitches, and I'm ready to knit the wrapped one. It's very simple - just insert the needle into the front of the knit stitch (which means that because of the way that the stitch is mounted, I'll stick my needle into this pair of stitches as though I've done a ssk - I'll go in from the right side of the stitch. Some of you might like to say that this is knitting into the back of the stitch, but really, it isn't the back, it's the front. Oh, no, here I go again, lol.)
Done! Here, you can see the 5 garter stitches, the one wrapped-and-turned-and-knitted stitch, a knit stitch, a yarn over and a ssk (single, left leaning decrease).

Here is what it looks like from the back. You can hardly see the wrap and turn, eh?

If I really stretch it, then you can see the wrap, but it really doesn't show at all when the knitting is not under tension.

Can you see the other short rows? Of course, you can't, but they are there, lol.

Now, to fill you in on my marvelous discovery! Charts 101.

The Rose Trellis design is written out - not charted - in the Barbara Walker book. I don't do well with written descriptions because I make so many stinkin' mistakes, and if the pattern is written, I can never figure out where I went wrong. So, I decided to take the time to chart it out. Another good thing about charts is that you can chart out many repeats of the pattern, and see how it all goes together.

OK, so I spend All Day Long charting out this pattern, only to discover that it's already been done and it's available for all to see, just by following this link, and printing it out for yourself.

http://toknitisdivine.ca/files/Travelling_Roses.pdf Didn't she do a lovely job on her scarf?

I'm glad that I spent the time charting it out for myself, though, as I feel that I learned a lot.

I wrote the knit pattern symbols in black, in fairly standard knitting short hand - circles for yarn overs, slanted lines for single decreases, three lines in a sort of a triangle-ish form for double decreases. Only the pattern rows are indicated, the "wrong side" stitches are purled. I put little red dots in the pattern, to indicate where the lace pattern repeats. This is a very helpful notation, too.

Then, on the bottom of the chart - the first repeat actually, as I graphed out two full repeats - I wrote the number of stockinette stitches in green. I thought that this would help me while knitting to be able to see at a glance that I'm to knit 9 plain knit stitches here, and 7 there and so on. When I worked on my swatch, I found this to be true. It really helps! After giving this chart a good hearty try with my swatch, and making lots of mistakes and not knowing where I was, and getting frustrated, and wailing and gnashing my teeth, I decided to add a little more to my chart. This is what you see in pencil markings.
I drew little boxes around the stitches which are involved in the decreases. EUREKA! Suddenly, it all clicked into place, and it all made sense, and I knitted another swatch and it came out perfect.

So, in the photo above, you see the uppermost penciled box? This shows me that the double decrease in the row at the top of the box involves one single decrease, one yarn over, and one double decrease, which you can see in the bottom of the penciled box. If I get to the place where this double decrease needs to be made, and the three stitches on the left hand needle aren't what I expect them to be, then I've counted wrong, or I've left out a yarn over on the row below or something, but


This is a wonderful thing. If lace has been giving you fits, then maybe you would like to try this little trick?

In the photo below, you can see some diagonal pencil markings - these connect the knit stitches. You'll see three diagonal lines, marked in the left of center - see them? They are associated with the green "3" - this tells me that the first knit stitch in this set of three knit stitches should be knitting another knit stitch - not a yarn over. I should knit my three stitches, then make a yarn over, then knit one - and this knit one should be in the decrease from the row below (actually, it's from two rows below, but it helps to think of it this way).

All of you experienced lace knitters are probably rolling your eyes, but this was a true learning moment for little old me.
On other thoughts- a little spinning progress. Some Lincoln, which you see, ready to ply. I've already plyed it and washed it and it came out much better than I had expected. The roving was rather dirty, which made it and the single rather rough and scratchy, but it's nice and clean and soft, now. Pix in a few days.

Am I the only one who finds Tulips to be ridiculously photogenic? I can't stop myself!

Denver Art and Pajama Jam!

ANOTHER fibery weekend! Life is so good, and getting better all the time!

My friend, Leslie, invited me to spend the day and the night with her in Denver, and I was thrilled to accept the invitation. We started out our day at the New Denver Art Museum. Leslie is such a tiny, delicate little person - look - she doesn't even come up to the chin of these cows!
But, then again, *everything* is bigger in Denver! lol.

Look at what we found inside of the museum! A man made out of knitting needles! (click for big)

This exhibit really caught my eye - a line of lenses, hanging from strings, in front of a blue chalk line drawn on the wall. I could've stood there for an hour.

Look at how each lens focused the light differently. Way cool.

This is a big museum with oodles of lovely pieces of art, and I won't bore you, but will you please take a look at my favorite, just for a moment?

(Bouguereau - Childhood Idyll - 1900) Ahhh...

Anyway... then we went back to Leslie's house for a bit, then out for a wonderful supper - Thanks Leslie! Thanks Bill! You are the best!

Then - drumroll please - off to the Pajama Jam! Can you believe it - a pajama party at a yarn store. Be still my heart.

I picked up a card with all of the necessary information - give them a visit!

I tell you, I've never seen so many knitters in one place at the same time - ever. We all had a blast. Here are the knitters at "my" table,

...and here are some others.
Knitting has a future! Yay!

The store was packed, and we all had fun. Lots of folks wore their jammies.

See the lady on the far left of the photo, in the light blue, looking right at the camera? That's Bloglessmj and I'm on her blog, lol. (I'm in a black turtleneck.)

So, visit them on the web www.thelambshoppe.com and in person on the corner of 12th and Madison in Denver. This is an unbelievable yarn store. They have a lovely coffee bar in the store, and every kind of yarn and knitting needles and crochet hooks one could *ever* hope for. It is a beautiful store.

Crista rocks. Thanks all - I had a fantastic evening.

Alpaca Day!

My friend, Allie Neas, who raises alpaca (visit her on the web here) invited me, and 5 other women, to visit her at her house, play with her alpaca, and take a fiber lesson from Claire Walker, a local fiber artist. It was as if I had died and gone to heaven. What a wonderful day! We had a blast, and we learned a lot, too.

Claire began by teaching us the finer points of wool preparation. She demonstratated and she discussed carding wool, and rolling it into rolags and punis. She makes it look so very easy.

Then, she demonstrated how to comb wool with dog combs...

...and she gave us each a hunk of scoured wool to practice combing. Winnie jumped right in...

...and Lisa seems to be having just a little too much fun. You know, Lisa always seems to have fun, no matter what she’s doing, lol.

Next, Claire demonstrated how to pile our hunks into a larger hunk, and then to attenuate it, then draft it, then…. Spin it! Take a look at Julie! This is the first time she’s ever done *anything* with fiber! She doesn’t even knit! Look at her go! I think that she’s a natural, don’t you?

Once we got the hang of spinning wool, we moved on to the alpaca. Take a look at this stuff! What a dream. Claire is quite picky about her fiber preparation, and take a good look at what’s in her hands. It’s perfect!

Next – the moment we’ve all been waiting for – Allie gave us each a nice, long section of alpaca roving.

Y’all, it’s to die for! This stuff is as soft as cashmere, without a doubt! Allie sent off some fleeces to be processed, and oh, this stuff is so nice! I had no idea that alpaca was so lovely. The processor did a really good job, too. I could spin this stuff all day long…

I digress.

Claire showed us how to attenuate our piece of roving, and here you see Lisa, Emily and Winnie attenuating their alpaca, and winding it onto their wrists.

Here you see Julie, the fiber natural, beginning to spin hers.

Then, while we were playing with our nifty spindles and our roving, Allie brought out a table and an alpaca fleece, just as it comes off of the animal. There’s a bit of hay and so forth in it, but surprisingly, not too much. Allie and Claire pointed out that since the alpaca’s fleece is so dense, not too much stuff is able to get past the very outermost parts of the fleece.

Claire picked out a lock, and showed us how to comb it. I tell you what, Claire has patience enough for a dozen women.

Next, Allie pulled out some skeins of alpaca yarn that were processed at the mill. See the black on the lower left corner of the picture? This is from one of Allie’s black alpaca – it’s not dyed, but it comes *this* black, right from the animal’s back! Isn’t this amazing?

It is sooooo black. The red, green and golden skeins were originally fawn, then dyed and the colors are so vibrant. You see the fawn skeins in the picture, too.

That pile of dirty old alpaca fleece doesn’t look like much, especially in the photo, but oh my gosh, it’s the softest cloud of fiber that you can imagine. I’m going to remember this day for a very long time!

Here you see the bunch of us, right before we got into our cars and drove home. We really had fun. Left to right – Emily, Lisa, Allie, Claire, Julie (in back), Lisa (in front), Winnie.

Allie and Phil live in Westcliffe, and I was so excited about the whole day that I completely forgot to take pictures of the mountains. The view is spectacular. In the photo below, I was testing to see if we could use the mountains as a backdrop for our group photo, and I decided that the faces would come out too dark (Lisa and Julie were kind enough to stand in while I decided how to best take our group picture), and you can see just a smidge of the mountains. Imagine nearly 180 degrees of these mountains. Just imagine! But, that’s what you get in Westcliffe – the whole western horizon is nothing but the white Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. I tell you, it’s breathtaking!

In the right of the picture, mostly hidden by the little pine tree, you can see Allie and Phil’s brown barn, filled with alpaca. I think that Phil said that they have 40 animals - some grown females, some grown males, and some of the cutest little alpaca babies you could ever imagine! Oh, I wanted to hug them all! Like a stupid-head, I completely forgot to take pictures of these charming cutie-pies. Well, visit their web page for an idea. They are simply too cute!!!

I couldn’t resist buying my little spindle, which I used in the class. Claire makes these by hand, and each one has its own, unique design. Isn’t mine pretty? These are really tiny little spindles – you can see Lisa’s in her hand, in the photo above. But, they do spin really nicely. They are very well balanced, and don't wobble at all.

Take a look at the roving… ahhhhh…..

It spins so easily. I like to use the “long draw” (I think that this is what you call it, lol) because it seems to let the fiber spins to however it wants to spin - - I *know* that the fiber doesn’t have any desires of its own, but still, it seems like the fiber does, indeed, want to be lace weight, or want to be worsted weight or whatever. Humor me - - and let me tell you, *this* fiber wants to be really thin. It spun so evenly. I surprised myself. I’m proud and happy, too.

Ladies and Gentlemen, THIS is fine yarn!

Thank you, Allie and Phil, for inviting me to participate in this wonderful day! Thank you, Claire, for being such a wonderful, patient, and informative teacher! I learned a lot today! (You can contact Claire at this web address - claire@wetmountainvalley.us. You might recognize her name - she writes for Alpacas magazine. She sells spindles, wrist distaves, introductory spinning kits and more! She also sells prepared roving - you won't find it any better prepared ANYWHERE! She teaches an awesome workshop, too.)

Everyone: Go out and spin some alpaca!