Posts Tagged ‘testknit’

Gauge play

March 23, 2012

One of the things I enjoy about sample knitting is the opportunity to get to know new yarns and how they like to be treated without a personal investment in the yarn or in the project.  I don’t have to love it when I’m done, or feel at all guilty about not loving it.  What makes knitting for Spirit Trail Fiberworks unique is that Jennifer rarely uses the same bases as other independent dyers.  She has her own yarns spun ~ and that means F-U-N.

Spirit Trail Fiberworks Holda, Fortune's Red

Holda is unique.  It pairs lambswool with cashmere and dehaired angora.  You wouldn’t really know that on the skein ~ it’s somewhat limp and there’s little to indicate the presence of bunny.

“Project marriage” matters tremendously

Dripstones Cowl

when you’re producing finished samples to show knitters how a new yarn performs.  I enjoy working with Jen to pick out the right patterns to show off a yarn’s qualities.

That’s what attracted me to Dripstones Cowl.  I’ve previously written about my preference for cowls to have some shape ~ to be wider at the bottom and narrower at the top ~ and how I achieve this using different needles sizes.  Here is a designer who produced a pattern incorporating this concept.  But Justyna Lorkowska took it one

Each section knitted with a smaller needle

step farther for my sample purposes: this project is knitted on four progressively smaller needle sizes, so it allows a knitter to see a yarn at four distinct densities.  It also allowed me to see how Holda liked cable gymnastics and whether it would split.

But first, there was some math involved.

Holda is labeled worsted, but my swatching tells me it is lighter ~ I would definitely call it DK.

The pattern is written for a stockinette gauge of 3.75 st/inch with an aran or worsted yarn. For the Small cowl, the cast-on is 108 stitches.  Divide 108 by 3.75 and you get a bottom cowl circumference of 28.8 inches.

Holda had a nice density at 5 st/inch.  Divide the same 108 stitch cast-on by 5 and the bottom circumference would be 21.6 inches.  Each pattern repeat at this gauge is 3.6 inches wide.  So in order to have a finished cowl at the same size as the Small, I used the Medium cast-on ~ 144 stitches.

Needle sizes:  With lighter yarn, I adjusted the needle size accordingly and used US 8, 7, 6 and 5.  I used a mix of Signature stiletto tips and Addi Lace.

Stalactites and stalagmites

Yarn performance:  Judging Holda on the skein, I was afraid it was going to split a lot, especially doing a lot of cable work without a cable needle.  I was delighted to find that it did not.  Instances of a ply not joining with its mates were few and far between, making this a most pleasant knitting experience.   Holda did soften somewhat while knitting, but not tremendously.  The more significant transformation came after its bath.

Unblocked dimensions (flat):  top – 7.75 inches; bottom – 10″; height – 11 inches

Blocking:  A soak in Eucalan relaxed the fibers slightly but really turned the plies into a cohesive fabric with a slight halo from the angora.  Even with color saturation this deep (Colorway: Fortune’s Red, a very orange-red), the water was the color of weak tea after soaking.

As is my habit, I blocked this around an inverted vase to avoid creasing.

Blocked dimensions (flat):  top – 9 inches; bottom – 12.5 inches; height – 11 inches (unchanged)

Size Small using Medium instructions

Modifications:  I knitted the entire cowl as written for the Medium instructions.  If I were making this for myself, I would have followed the directions for the Small and omitted eight rows at the bottom and top of the chart to achieve a shorter cowl for my (and my model’s) less-than-swanlike neck.

Project marriage score:  9   Even with the extra math, this pattern worked nicely for this yarn.  I will make one for myself, or something like it.

Holda’s been a bit tricky to get aHolda’ since Anne Hanson of Knitspot featured it in two recent patterns, Tabata and Fartlek.  It has generous 295-yard hanks, allowing for a full one-skein project from a single skein.  For those who appreciate angora but find fluff up the nose and in the eyes too much to bear, this yarn’s for you.

If anything, Holda looks deceptively ordinary on the skein.  If you have been able to obtain one, do yourself a favor and put it on the needles.  Once you see what Holda can do, you will likely be charmed.  A Holda cowl is a lightweight portable hug.   A pair of fingerless mitts would be a toasty treat.   Maybe that’s what’s next for me ~ after all the sample knitting’s done, of course.


Moving on

October 11, 2011

Chalk this one up as a new experience: a model that I really did not enjoy knitting.


It certainly was NOT the yarn’s fault.  I found the Lachesis, a 100% prime alpaca laceweight to be both fine and strong, and without too much of a halo.  The colorway, Inkheart, was lovely.

The pattern, OTOH …

Blocking helped. Some.

… I readily admit that often my brain resembles Swiss cheese.  My best guess as a mere mortal knitter of the low-maintenance variety, is that in an effort to make enough tweaks to self-publish and avoid copyright infringement on a wickedly similar garment she had

An FO is an FO is an FO

already published elsewhere, the designer got messy.  Put in context:  The pattern contains a special note about sizing and a measurement to take.  Here’s the rub: 1) That measurement does not correspond to the finished size of the garment; 2) following the schematic, I would be a Child’s Large.

Ahem.  Wishful thinking, but even with brain hiccups, that’s a non-starter.

I’m all for clever construction, but when it’s so very clever that the only way to adjust when things go awry is to frog 30% of the garment  ~ game over.  Count me out.

So let’s just say that my homework is done ~ assignment complete ~ buh-bye.

Oh, the reward that I have on the needles now!  Just you wait.


October 10, 2010

In my hectic breadwinner/mommy world, I’ve come to find great satisfaction in small projects.  They are manageable, produce near-instant gratification, and allow me an illusion of control in my utterly not-so universe.  They also let me “taste” yarns without major investment.  While I’m the first one to point out on these pages the idiot mistakes and experiments I make (and learn from) along the way, I’m pretty confident in my skills.  Even so, I’m honored when a professional asks me to knit for them.

Somehow, in the space of three weeks, I’ve managed to produce two samples for Spirit Trail Fiberworks.  Wanna see them for yourself?  Visit Building A-4 at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, aka Rhinebeck.

Hawthorne from Twist Collective, Fall 2010 – 186 g of Lyra in Appalachia

Hawthorne in Lyra

Major modification: Lace section knitted on US 7 Addi Lace, garter short-rows on US 9 Addi Turbos.  Although I did swatch this, I found great disparity between the density of the lace section on the size needle that the pattern advised.

Lace section on US 7

The lace section was just too airy, even without blocking.  In a perfect world (one without so many WIPs occupying my too-many needles) , I would have used an Addi Turbo or even Inox for the lace section, but I didn’t have any available.  I am finding that the Lace version’s finish results in a somewhat tighter gauge than the slicker Turbo finish.  In any case, I wanted this yarn to open up to its glorious smooshy self in the garter portion, so I knitted the last row of the lace chart onto the US 9 and proceeded from there.

As a result, I wound up using one skein of Lyra instead of two.  If you’re a thrifty knitter, this is a good thing, but I advise strong caution, because if your gauge is different, it could turn out the other way.

Lyra - in Appalachia

My recommendation: get two skeins to be safe  and you’ll have ample left over for another project to use for this delicious yarn.  From a “project marriage” perspective, this is a match made in heaven.

Blocking note: In trying to match the schematic,  think I blocked this a little bit too aggressively.  It has beautiful drape, but if I were doing it again, I would concentrate on pinning the points.  It is, after all, a wrap – not a fitted garment.  We learn.

Wast Side Shawl by ShetlandTrader / Gudrun Johnston in Ixchel, 125 g (one skein), Blueberry Fields

Design detail - Wast Side Shawl

I committed no modifications to this pattern.  Knitted on Inox US 2.5 needles.  I love it when a designer puts a neat little feature into a pattern.  Through my own idiocy, I wound up knitting the border 1 1/2 times ~ by the time I was done, I was really done.

Ixchel in Blueberry Fields

My fault, not Gudrun’s.  Because of the unique pick-up that allows you to then have live stitches to build the rest of the shawl, you get this very pretty row of twisted stitches (running across the middle of the detail photo).  I love its delicacy and how it plays to the color.  The 100% alpaca will keep a neck nice and toasty, too.  Although Jen calls this yarn a DK/sport, for lace purposes, it really knitted up as a fingering weight.

For sake of a full-view photo ...

The last photo I post only for the sake of having a view of the full piece.  It was during the Owl-hours of the night and neither lighting nor color correction were my friend.

Unblocked dimensions: 36 in wide x 16 in deep

Blocked dimensions: 48 in x 19 in

If you can believe it, there are two more shawls waiting for blocking … but that will have to wait a few days.  For now, I’m calling this a wrap.


September 10, 2010

In the midst of an otherwise Murphy-esque week, a Priority Mail envelope arrived at my house.

There was no note, but I recognized the return address all too well.

And inside, were two hanks of almost indescribable smooshiness.  If I were a good blogger, I’d have taken some pictures.

Nope, I was so excited to touch this that after throwing Darling Bebe in her bed 40 seconds after putting Darling Bebe to bed, the swift and winder were a-crankin’.

Spirit Trail Fiberworks Lyra in Appalachia

Meet Lyra, a 50% alpaca/30% merino/20% silk blend in light worsted weight from Spirit Trail Fiberworks, shown here in colorway Appalachia.

I wanted to fill a bathtub with it and roll around in it.


My unwritten but understood and accepted assignment:  Hawthorne from Twist Collective for Jennifer’s booth for Rhinebeck.

In fact, as soon as I got the cakes off the winder, I set to swatching.

Looking back, I suppose that’s where things started going awry.  I’ve noticed that I have this tendency to swatch very differently from how I actually knit. My knitting seems to be more relaxed.  And gauge?  Well, if my observation holds any truth, you can just imagine its effect. If I were a good blogger, you would see a picture of this. Right.

US 9?  Sure, my gauge was just a little tighter than the pattern called for, allowing for some relaxing after a soak.

I duly cast on the 311 stitches and got going.

Post-swatching, pre-frogging Hawthorne

Holey lacecaps, Batman!  Loose and drapey is one thing … this was NOT what the designer had in mind.  Not well photographed, but suffice it to say, you don’t want to see through every single stitch.

Oooookay then.  Back to the US 7s I wanted to use in the first place.  After frogging it all.  And casting on another 311 stitches.

While I do not tend to favor variegated colorways, this one is really subtle, and I think it will be gorgeous.  Frankly, I didn’t really mind having to redo what I’d started, other than having committed Knitting Time Lost.  It just prolonged what I think is going to be a passionately hedonistic experience.

Jennifer might have to pry it out of my cold dead hands.


August 17, 2010

To say that my FO was “test-knitting” hardly begins to describe it.

When I set some knitting goals for myself in 2010, knitting a sweater for myself (after brain-drain sent me into permanent accessory-making mode) was on the list.

However: Knitting a sweater involving a 67-row chart of stranded colorwork spelling out words and symbols, and multi-bobbin intarsia — all on US 2 needles was – ahem – not exactly what I had in mind.  Oh, and doing it on a deadline of, “We really needed it yesterday.”  (Which was put very nicely, but an implicit deadline nonetheless.  I am Pavlov’s drooling dog when it comes to deadlines.)

The Yarn Goddess laughs mockingly.

It is 36 days later: I have now been tested as much as the pattern for the FO, which will be appearing in a soon-to-be-published book.  It is serendipitous that my cult-leader friend Clara has a sidebar that is supposed to run alongside it.

I wish I could show it to you here, but perhaps it’s better to let you paint your own mental picture.

I did it.

My instant-gratification reward is now on the needles:

Spring is in the Air by Kristi Holaas

This is Spring is in the Air by Kristi Holaas.  I’m making the full-sized shawl sans beads using the Sundara Sock in Caribbean that (along with too many other lovely yarns) made its way to my house while I was so monogamously test-knitting.  This is the perfectly mindless lace knitting my long piano-playing fingers have been craving for weeks.  I wish your monitor and my camera could capture the real depth and intensity of the color.  Or just how good it feels to knit.

Keeping in mind the rule of Owl yarn purchasing ~ the less knitting time I have, the more yarn I covet ~ it is a darn good thing the test is finished.

I don’t know if my bank account could stand to be tested much more.


August 3, 2010

Two wee words describe my weekend.

Toddler vomit.

Poor Darling Bebe was suddenly wracked with it.  Over and over and over.  And once all that passed, when we sat down to a tiny bit of food the next morning, with her little hands shaking, a terrible discovery:  someone stole Sesame Street.

This is not funny, nor is it made up.  DB does not watch much TV, but she loves SS.  Not the current hip-hop-jerkety-jerk Sesame Street, where someone thinks Bert and Ernie are somehow “improved” by being turned into claymation.  She loves the ones that are ten years old, with plenty of Elmo, and bits and pieces of my childhood, like The Ladybug Picnic, and glimpses of Kermit the Frog, airing on Sprout.  (For those whose kiddos are grown, Sprout is PBS’ toddler channel.) Since we pay the cable monster for every channel man can make up, everything is pretty much On Demand – and that’s how we watch SS.  (Sprout, of course, only airs the program in the middle of NAPTIME.)

On Thursday, we were delighted and thrilled that her favorite episode – Veterinarian – was back in the rotation.  We watch that and several others through round after round of vomit on Friday.

Sometime between 10 pm Friday and 8 am Saturday, someone stole Sesame Street.  It was gone from the cable system – poof!

So I started doing what I do when Warrior Mommy Owl breaks free of her inner chains: I started reaching out to touch someone.  Starting with Comcast.  The customer-no-service rep gave me her pat, “That’s a programming issue.  You’ll have to look up that network.”

“I know it’s a programming issue.  But it is the COMCAST On Demand listing – the listing was there yesterday as its own tab and now it’s GONE.  It’s your system.  You have to know whether it’s somewhere else or been removed.”

“I don’t know how I would find that out.”

“Look, you have my account open and you can see just how much we fork over to you every month.  So I expect you to have Sesame Street available.  And not to have it just disappear overnight. ”

“Yes, I see you are a valued customer.”

“So I assure you that if you do not locate Sesame Street, I will leave you in a nanosecond to go to U-Verse as soon as it’s in my neighborhood.”

“Let me see what I can find out.”

14 minutes later, she came back on the line.

“If you want to know anything, you’ll have to contact Sprout.  Do you know how to do that?”

“You mean the network that I located and already sent an email to while you had me on hold?  And its local PBS affiliate just in case they could help, while I was still on hold?


“I guess you could say I do know how to do that.  Thanks.”

Suffice it to say the rep will not be happy with her little follow-up customer service ranking from the post-contact polls I always participate in.

The weekend passed and Darling Bebe is now as right as rain again.

Monday morning, Sesame Street was back.  All of it.

So you can imagine my surprise when the mobile rang this morning.  It was a woman from Sprout calling me to say that there had been a problem at the head end in New England, but to assure me the programming was back.


I sent an email and they looked into the problem and they called me.


On the knitting front, I must report I have completed every stitch of stranded colorwork.  Four miles of stockinette (aka one last raglan sleeve) stands between me and assembly and finishing.  There is light at the end of this knitting tunnel.

Dispatch from the front

July 28, 2010

Lest you think NutmegOwl has decamped for some fun vacation, I am in my owl box with head down, knitting my brains out on the aforementioned test-knit.  Back and fronts finished, sleeves in progress on this WIP Wednesday.

In the meantime, I will share something that makes me smile grin.

From girlontherocks

From the talented girlontherocks, this utilitarian but so-cute-it-hurts needle sizer/gauge measuring tool.

I discovered it as part of my quest to appropriately honor the birthday of BFF KnittingKittens. And to beef up my stash of knitting gifties for future opportunities.


Rhythmically challenged

July 14, 2010

For the first time in recent memory, water is falling from the sky.  Observed this morning (but not photographed), the first Casablanca lily bloom, face down in the mulch.  Everything in the garden is holding two weeks ahead of schedule.

The Yarn Goddess continues to laugh at my hubris. 

You knitted a gauge swatch?  Of course you did.  And it put you on a US 3 to knit stranded colorwork and intarsia? She chuckles.  So how is it that your stranded colorwork is still too loose for gauge?

Slow progress


On top of that, when I reached the intarsia section, my too-loose gauge allowed for too much bleed-through of the yarn in the back.  Not acceptable. Frogging 18 rows to the start of the stockinette ensues.

I am a smart knitter.

There is more than one way to solve a problem.

I will solve this one.

I’ve deduced that one of the reasons progress has been so blastedly slow is that for me, knitting is all about rhythm.  This holds true for stranded work as well as the textured knitting and lace I love so much.  I’m a pianist by training and my fingers look for the natural rhythm of a pattern.  With this project, other than the yellow section, there is no rhythm.  Every row is watch-as-you-go-don’t-forget-to-look-at-what’s-coming-next.

Blessed relief will come once I’ve finished the back.  The rest of the project involves the same borders, but no single piece is as wide.  I know I’ll work the narrower fields much faster.

Which is good, because for some reason, new yarn keeps showing up at my house.

And I can’t put any of it on the needles, nor complete an overdue promised book review, until I knock this out.

If you are trying to figure out what’s in the pattern, that is the back of the work.  The project is not mine to publicize and if I’m eventually given credit for my part, it will be under my bat-name.  So in the interim, you can see the tidy floats and appreciate KnittingKittens’ favorite colors all together.  And the wonderful 3 AM Enchantments project bag that HappyStasher practically demanded that I purchase.

Peer pressure.  Yeah, that’s it.


July 8, 2010

As duly noted, I love starting new projects.  Hot on the heels of Ishbel, on Monday, I finished knitting my Prairie Rose Shawl from The Knitter’s Book of Wool.  (It is far too hot and humid to block yet.)  So on Tuesday, I conferred with pals and browsed patterns as part of this exciting and creative starting process.  Which shawl to start?  Which stash yarn to use?

Then, an unexpected email.  An author of an upcoming book had put out a query for local test-knitters many months ago.  They had a problem with a sample.  Could I be their “Fairy Godknitter” and make another on the fly?

What fun!  Test-knitting a piece for a book.  Neato.  And the project would be accompanied by some text from my own cult leader, Clara Parkes. Hoot, indeed!

Of course, the Yarn Goddess threw in a “catch.”

If asked to list my Top Ten Favorite Knitting Techniques, intarsia and colorwork would be #20 and #21.  So it follows that this project involves both. On size 3 needles.


Blasted cosmic sitcom writers.

The glass is well over half full, however.  Minh, who has a stash that must be separately insured, somehow picked me to win her blog contest.  Yarn from Minh?  Yippeeeeeeeee!

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