Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Starting the Gansey

Now I've been playing with the gansey for some time. I did a sample square, trying out a number of patterns, some of which have made it into the final version. All were passed by Other Half for his approval, as this is going to be his Christmas sweater 2011. You might think I'm starting Christmas knitting a trifle early, but it is being made with genuine 5 ply guernsey wool (from Frangipani) on 2.25mm needles and OH is over 6 feet tall. Put it this way, I have to lengthen every sweater I knit for him, and knitting it takes forever even without thin yarn and tiny needles, so I decided to reduce the time pressure by starting early.
Here are some of my notes, not sure what they all mean now! My planning is rudimentary; I have decided on the patterns, worked out how many stitches and am all set up to the armhole gussets. What happens after that is going to be a voyage of discovery as I haven't got a clue. Haven't yet thought about how I'm going to construct the shoulders or neck, I'm just focussed on covering the acres of knitting up to the armholes. I reckon I've got a few months before I have to tackle that.
So here it is, the welt (2x2 rib), on my lovely new KnitPro circular, which makes knitting a dream. So far I have managed to create two problems; I didn't close the circle of stitches correctly (i.e. there was a twist part way round) and the 2x2 rib didn't quite work first time round. The first issue was easily solved; with over 400 stitches on the needle, trying to get them all the same way is very difficult so when I realised I had a kink, I just put a twist in the second round to fix it. It's invisible now after several rounds of rib. The second problem was that I was short 2 stitches for the rib; i.e. the round ended with 2 x K, and the next round also started with 2 x K. So I just created two new stitches between, problem solved. The number of stitches isn't crucial in the welt, when I increase for the main body I'll have to make sure the stitch number is right to make the pattern work.

So now I'm off to do some more mindless rib for the rest of the evening. Sporadic gansey updates will follow from time to time over the coming months...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Pleasures and Perils of Knitting in Cotton

When the new copy of Knitting Magazine arrived last week, I did something unusual for me - cast on a project within hours of opening the magazine. This pattern was in the supplement, a Patons sweater, and I decided to use some of the cotton I bought a couple of months ago. The recommended Patons yarn is a new one called "Fusion"; this didn't endear itself to me by being 80% acrylic. I can't wear the stuff as in acrylic I generate enough static electricity to power a small electrical appliance. Cotton it had to be. But this in itself creates other issues; in my experience the problems with cotton are:
  1. gauge - an "aran" cotton yarn is not necessarily the same weight as any other "aran" cotton yarn, even if they seem to knit to the same tension. While you can substitute wool aran yarns without worrying too much in most cases, the same cannot be said of cotton. My gauge for this pattern was one stitch less than the one prescribed.
  2. stretch - cotton stretches more than wool and can droop alarmingly, so finding the correct size and shape to knit can be a challenge. If you look at the photo above, the front of the neck looks high but it's not when worn, it's a not-too-deep scoop neck due to the stretch (sorry there's no picture of me wearing it but it was very out of focus).
  3. shrinkage - some cottons shrink alarmingly when first washed, so creating and washing a sample is a must, even for those of us who are normally cavalier about this! In this case I already knew that there was minimum shrinkage with this yarn, less than 1%, but you do need to take shrinkage into account for some yarns.

So taking all of the above into account, I knitted the smallest size offered, knowing that my gauge would make it a little bigger anyway. But of course when the gauge is off, the number of rows is off too so I had to compensate. As I was getting near the top of the back, I measured it and realised it was going to be too long. So I decided to shorten the last two lace patterns while leaving the garter ridges the same size.

Looking at the front of the sweater in the pattern, another thing that stood out to me was that the neckline was wide and deep; bearing in mind the stretch problem with cotton (as opposed to the original yarn used which was mainly acrylic) and my narrow, sloping shoulders, I needed to reduce that. So as I planned the shortening of the back, I also planned the front and made sure both would work. N.B., this is probably the only time I've planned anything in advance, I'm normally a fly by the seat of my pants gal!

Because of my narrow shoulders, I've long since got into the habit of completely finishing the body first so I can try it on and see where the sleeve seam lands. That way I can decide how long the sleeves need to be. In this case the sleeves were rather long in the design, so I was able to shorten them to just above the wrist by missing out two whole lace patterns. If I'd knitted them the original length, the bottom edge would have been at the end of my fingers!

So this is a rather customised sweater but I'm very pleased with it, it fits perfectly, and the assortment of lace patterns is interesting. And a very quick knit too, just over a week from start to finish. That's the real pleasure of knitting in aran weight cotton!

Sunday, 10 April 2011


Another piece of spring/summer knitting; this is Wray by Lily France, a short sleeved cardi knitted in laceweight. I used Debonnaire Lace by EHD Knits, 80% merino, 20% silk and it was perfect for this project. It is faintly striped as you can see better in the picture below, and I do have quite a bit left over, so very good value for money.
Knitting a cardi in laceweight was a new one for me, I liked the pattern but one of the instructions was "knit the knits and purl the purls"; now when you're knitting in laceweight it's not terribly easy to see which is which unless you're in absolutely perfect light. Still, once I'd got my head round the patterning it was quite enjoyable, all except the arm pleats which were extremely fiddly. I did more buttonholes than the pattern required; I could say it was by design but actually it was by accident. It's unlikely I'll ever use all the buttonholes, but I've put a button for each one just so it looks right. Anyway, it fits beautifully and I'm looking forward to wearing it.