Knitty Winter 2016 Review

:taps mike: Is this thing on?

If I’m getting back on the horse I might as well do the thing properly, right?

Duvet by Heather Desserud: Lovely stranded color mittens.  My only problem is that I, like someone on a bboard I read, don’t like afterthought thumbs.  My thumbs are on the sides of my hands, not on my palms below my index fingers.  But the pattern’s great and the color choices appropriately wintry.

Fiddlers Three by Amy O’Neill Houck:  Why in the name of all that’s holy would you knit gloves in worsted at less than 5spi?  The decorative touches that are supposed to be part of the pattern’s appeal look clumsy at that scale.  Also I don’t understand why anyone would do crochet cast-on by crocheting the chain alone and then picking up; it’s both easier and faster to crochet directly onto the needle where you don’t have to worry about picking up the right bumps.  Fine idea, terrible execution.

Anqut by Laura Bryant: The good old sontag in modern form, beautifully executed in a set of gradient yarns.  Those yarns are in fact the only quibble I have; apparently the set of eight colors used is on the order of $150US.  Which is not completely out of line for 1,500 yards of hand-dyed laceweight, but it’s a bit of sticker shock.

Farrand by Audrey Knight: At first glance I thought this cowl was crocheted; the pattern used looks from a distance like some relative of the old reliable granny square.  But it’s not, and the color choices are quite nice.  “CO 200 with long-tail” is…sigh, but it’s not the designer’s fault that long-tail is a pain in the arse.

Erin Goes to College by Grace Akhrem: Holy gigantic stitches, Batman!  But for a nifty scarf, that’s not a bad thing, and the construction here is interesting enough to be worth the knitting.  As I don’t really wear scarves I’m not sure how practical it is, but it sure looks cool.  Maybe in a slightly less dull color, though.

Snowberry by Amy Christoffers: OK, I know I said big stitches were OK, but I think 2spi is where I start drawing the line.  Also, white pompoms on a winter outer garment seem like they’re just begging to get dingy, and why are you bothering with brioche in only one color?  Go with Erin instead, this one is bleh (and would it have killed them to get a pic in which it didn’t look like the thing’s trying to strangle the model?)

Ashwood by Callista Yoo: I love the cables on this, but I admit I don’t see the logic in pairing that huge cowl-neck with short sleeves.  Either it’s cold enough for the neck or warm enough for the sleeves; you can’t have it both ways.  Worn over a long-sleeved t-shirt might work, I guess, but the model’s just got her bare arms hanging out.  And look, designers of the world: it’s a valid choice to do a rolled edge, OK, but it has to look like you meant it to be a rolled edge, not like you just didn’t know how to stop stockinette from curling like that.  Especially given that the edges of the sleeves thus completely fail to match the hems on the main body.  This is not a total fail of a pattern, but it would need some serious tweaking.

Liberty by Sarah Louise Greer: Nice solid basic sweater with fun-to-work cables.  I never argue with waist shaping and having neckline options is a great touch.

Colorado by Benjamin Krudwig: I really want to like this for the interesting details, but it honestly looks to me like the example garment doesn’t fit the model.  It’s in danger of falling off his shoulders while simultaneously pulling at the buttons, not all of which appear to actually button–like the sweater was meant for someone 6 inches taller and 40 pounds lighter.  (Speaking of buttons, why is one a totally different color?)  It’s impressively difficult to screw up a classic raglan this badly.

Crockerdile by DH Morris: Tying with Pantashrooms and the very last pattern for “Most Knitty-Like Pattern In This Issue”, this one’s adorable.  I’d never wear it myself, but for people of the correct bent it’s hilariously cool, and I really quite like the thumb-loops to make the sleeves into semi-mitts at will.

Cooped Up by Pam Sluter: Classic yoke sweater, though those chickens are a little less chicken-like than they’d be in my ideal world.  Still, a perfectly competent, quirky interpretation of a wardrobe staple.  One note: when you’re twisting yarns at the back to avoid long floats, don’t do it between the same two stitches every row or you end up with a little column of the contrast color showing through.  It’ll probably work out with time and washing but it’s easier to just avoid the issue altogether.

Variations on Chart 429 by Merri Fromm: For all the source of the patterns is said to be “old”, this looks very modern and I’m very fond of the tailored neatness of the hems and other edges.  There are, again, some visibility issues with catching long floats, but overall this is a great pattern.

The Werewolf of Westport by Les Tricoteurs Volants: On a purely style note, someone needs to put a better eyeball on the thumbnails before posting, as this one manages to make it look like the model’s vomiting.  That said, I have mixed feelings about the pattern itself.  On the one hand, it’d be great fun to knit and it’s great for using up small lengths.  On the other, it never feels unified.  It really kinda looks like the designer just picked up whatever yarns were lying around and threw them into the mix.  A valiant effort, but I’m calling this swing and a miss.

Rock Creek Canyon by Rachel Brockman: I hate that acid green with the tonal brown-gray; instead of looking like an accent, it seems to be trying to take over.  With some other contrast color this is a good quick project.

Pantashrooms by Motoko Takahashi: Oooookay.  Look.  Quirky and whimsical are great, and if bloomers covered in vaguely-phallic mushrooms are really what you want, you do you.  But really, what?

Toilet Paper Toilet Paper Cozy by Christine Olea: I have never understood the point of cozies for anything other than teapots where you want to physically keep the thing warm (hence the name), but hey, when the designer comes out and says “I love useless things”, rock on.  It is at the very least funny.

Pattern Reworking

Here’s an update/reworking of the #45 tatted edging from Butterick’s Tatting and Netting 1896 reprint–that is to say, a tatting pattern old enough that the author seems to think working chains is a revolutionary idea that will come as a mild surprise to her readers.  The original is…weird; no two rings have the same number of stitches and the directions are wonky.  I’ve omitted the tiny little thrown ring that serves no perceptible purpose, regularized the stitch counts, and modified the center ring of the Small Clover a little.

Start with a Small Clover.  Each ring joins to the last picot of the one before.

Ring 1: 6-3-3
Ring 2: 3+3-3-3-3-3 (5 picots total)
Ring 3: 3+3-6

Reverse work and Chain 3-6-3-3-3-3-6-3 (7 picots total)

Reverse work and make a Large Clover

Ring 1: 6-3-3-3-3+to first P of R3 of Small Clover 3-3-6 (7 picots total)
Ring 2: 6+3-3-3-3-6 (5 picots total)
Ring 3: 6+3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-6 (9 picots total)
Ring 4: As Ring 2
Ring 5: As Ring 1

Reverse work and work a second chain, 3+6-3-3-3-3-6-3.  This forms the repeat of the pattern.  (For second and subsequent Small Clovers, the first picot of Ring 1 instead joins to Ring 5 of Large Clover.)

Here’s a sample in progress in Lizbeth Size 80 (color #165):
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Stuff What Is Bad For Me

I really need to stop looking at needlework on Pinterest.  It makes me think of all the things I am not doing, which is bad for my mood.

Tempting, But…No

There are these doohickeys called “Roman dodecahedrons“.  They are little bronze (or occasionally stone) widgets, with holes in each of the twelve faces and spheres or pegs at each of the vertices, and the reason they’re called “dodecahedrons” is because no one knows what they’re actually for.  There’s all sorts of speculation, from candle-holders to sophisticated sundials, but they aren’t mentioned anywhere in any documents we have.

Recently, someone decided that the dodecahedrons were knitting nancies, used for making gloves; they went so far as to 3D print a replica and film the knitting.  (It’s a really boring video because about 3/5 of it is “and now we cast off”.)

Now, I’m not qualified to make judgements about whether these things were used as pipe gauges or sun-angle-measurers, but I can tell you one thing: they weren’t for knitting.  Knitting is, you might say, an area of my expertise.  I’ve actually typed up a list of reasons why, so that when yet another of my acquaintances posts about it going, “Hmmm, interesting”, I can just copy and paste.  Here is that list.

1) The Romans didn’t have knitting.  As far as we know, knitting as it’s known today was invented in the Middle East in ~1000 CE.
2) They did, however, have nalbinding, which they used to make socks with separate toes; if they wanted gloves, that’s how they’d have done them.
3) We have no evidence of knitting nancies earlier than the seventeenth century.
4)  If you’re going to use something as a knitting nancy, you want pegs with slight swelling at the ends, not inverted cones or spheres, because bulgy pegs make it significantly harder to form the stitches.
5) The dodecahedrons range in diameter from 4 to 11 cm.  Four centimeters is about an inch and a half; I don’t know who could wear gloves that size, but it wouldn’t be an adult.
6) Why make a complicated, expensive, heavy metal knitting nancy when a wooden disk with nails pounded around the hole in the middle works better?
7) Stuffing the completed bits into the center of the thing is stupid, because it leads to things being all mashed up and hard to move.
8) Your fingers aren’t all actually set on one line.
9) No glove pattern in the world uses the same number of stitches for all five fingers and..
10) …if one did, it wouldn’t be five, which is not nearly enough in any yarn that’s not so bulky as to be ludicrous.  (If you watch the video, look at her fingers when she puts the gloves on.  Does that look like something you’d want to depend on for warm hands?)
11) How exactly does one make the “body” of the glove?
12) The primary reason they think it was for gloves is that the holes are different sizes. However, the holes have no effect whatsoever on the size of the stitches; that’s all about the spacing of the pegs, which is the same all around.

Knitty Deep Fall 2011 Review

I was just discussing, on Sunday, my disappointment with recent issues of Knitty; there’s been a whole lot of big lacey scarves that aren’t really practical, and sock patterns.  This issue reverses this trend somewhat, though there are still patterns that I can’t make as pictured because they use handspun yarn, and too many socks.  Still, a number of things are good, practical garments that are interesting enough to not be boring, and there’s even, mirabile dictu, a pattern intended for men!

This round, I’m going to start linking the patterns directly.  I don’t suppose Knitty needs the link traffic, but it’ll make it slightly easier for y’all to go see what I’m talking about if you’re so inclined.

Takoma by Julia Farwell-Clay: A large coat, which would clearly be inspired by Cowichan sweaters even if the designer’s notes didn’t say so.  The color selection is pretty neat, I think; it’s not at all like the undyed/indigo that one associates with Cowichan sweaters, but has a similar rustic feel.  It’s a bit startling to see sizes going up to a 60-inch chest, but this is supposed to be an outer garment, and with 6 inches of ease at that–and it’s great to see a pattern size with explicit ease noted.  If this aesthetic appeals to you (it doesn’t to me), this is a great pattern to work with it.

When Sampson Met Lila by Insa Ka:  The name is overly cute–I think we’re supposed to be getting a Harry Met Sally vibe out of it, but the choice of Sampson and Delilah to mix with is kind of incoherent–but the pattern itself is pretty neat.  I mean, I’d never wear it and it would look pretty bad on anyone not built like the model, but it’s got a certain something.  The collar looks like it would be annoying as heck to wear, and if you’re one of the people who gets cold when your elbows are uncovered you’d be right out of luck; still, there’s a nice market here and if you want the sexy-librarian look this sweater would do it for you.  I think using neutral colors was a good choice, because this is one of those items where the form should take center stage.

The Candles by Weaverknits: I’m not sure what I think of this.  Coatlike, and the shape’s kind of neat–though I don’t think I agree with the designer that merely changing from stockinette to stranded creates enough waist shaping.  The color choice is very odd, to my eyes; rather more springlike than autumnal.  Overall, the impression I get is just a little off, especially once the shaping gets to the yoke–perhaps it’s the yarn that makes the decrease rows so very clear?  However, total props for steeking, because it’s really not that big a deal.  As I’ve seen noted in several places lately, knitting just doesn’t like to unravel sideways.

Tenney Park by Elizabeth Morrison: I like pretty much everything about this except the colors in the entrelac panel, and color is easily changed.  Even the fact that it’s seamed together at the end fails to make me unhappy, which is something of an achievement as I hate seaming (but then, doesn’t everyone?).  The neckline’s a little high for the well-endowed among us, but only a little, and it ends up looking stylish and sleek.  This is the kind of thing that Vogue Knitting should be featuring.  And yes, entrelac can be a pain in the neck, but really knitting backwards isn’t that tough.

Friendly Grey by Jutta Buecker:  My first impulse was to say “This is a trainwreck”, but really it’s not that bad; it’s just that there are a number of questionable design choices that combine to make an overall bad impression.  Perhaps some of them could be overcome by putting the sweater on someone who doesn’t look quite so much like a preadolescent; as it is, the thing gives the impression of being a child’s pattern that was sized up.  It’s mostly the yoke that’s at issue, I think, because it suggests smocking like on a little girl’s jumper.  I do like the purple and hot pink accents on the grey, though the note that the yarn is “soaked in lavender oil” makes me think 1) Oh yeah?  And how long will that last?  and 2) Gee, won’t it be fun smelling lavender all the time till it wears off?  Also, what’s with the random bit of ribbon hanging from the front?  Overall, I think the pattern would take enough tweaks that I’d just move on.  A valiant effort, though.

Flügel by Hannah Fettig: If I want a shapeless, bland sweater I’ll buy it at Target.  The description of the yarn sounds extremely offputting to me: “made by blowing baby alpaca into a mesh tube of silk”.  And dolman sleeves?  Periodically someone tries to make those look good, and it works about five percent of the time.  So really, nothing here that seems worth the effort, though at least it has an interesting neckline.

Vignette by Amy Herzog: I like three quarter sleeves, waist shaping, and v-necks, so I suspect I’m a little biased on this one.  The lace columns are simple, but add a pretty detail, and are set up so that you could use a darker yarn if you wanted to and they’d still show.  It’d have to be a layering piece rather than an only garment, definitely, but I can’t say as I see that as a bad thing.

Auguste by Axelle de Sauveterre: This is a lovely pattern, explicitly intended for men–though I have to say, most American men would balk at having it knitted in purple.  There’s enough patterning to keep the work interesting without being overwhelming.  I like it; I think most men will like it once you get them past the purple thing.  That being said, what the heck is with the bad poem standing in for a pattern description?  There are plenty of bad poets among the native English speakers (like me!); you don’t need to add to the problem if it’s not your first language.

Microprocessors, Glomerata, Papermoon: Sock patterns.  I actually kind of like Microprocessors, because it’s not yet another “add a lace pattern to a basic sock”.

Mortar by Elisabeth Parker: I admit to having a bias against bulky yarns, but this appears to be a case of using them to good advantage.  Bulky is great for something that’s explicitly an outer garment, meant for warmth.  And I do like the slipped-stitch pattern; it’s not as bricklike as one might think, not being staggered, but it’s cool anyway.

Semi-Precious by Joyce Fassbender: OK, so, getting over my resentment of the fact that I’d have to spend a hundred years spinning if I actually wanted a good duplicate of this shawl, this pattern is where the issue starts falling down.  So far we’ve had a bunch of good patterns; now we’re back to “Great big triangles of lace”.  It’s not that  I object to great big triangles of lace as a class; I just wonder how many of them any one person needs.  Anyway, this is all pretty and stuff.

Apis Dorsata by Anna Sudo: It’s a shawl, and it’s got a pretty hexagonal pattern.  I do rather like that there are two sizes which use exactly the same pattern; it’s just that the one has twice as many stitches per inch.

Callette by Carolyn Bolger: This is very nifty and has all sorts of cool techniques that would make it great fun to knit.  But then when I was done I’d have a scarf, and I basically don’t wear scarves.  Kind of makes me want to design a sweater around the idea, really, because I don’t have enough to do with my life already!

Mathematix by Susan Luni: Again, a cool pattern that looks like a fun knit, leading to a shawl that I’d never use.  And I think that if I made it I’d change the lighter color to something with less blue in it, because it goes oddly with the brown-grey of the darker color.

Alda by Harpa Jónsdóttir: Cute and all, especially as a hat, but you really have to have the kind of style that can pull of multicolored ruffles.

After the Rain by Mary O’Shea: Basic mittens in shape, but I dearly love the colors.  Some might think it’s overkill to buy eight skeins of yarn for a pair of mittens, but you could do more than one pair or use the extra for something else, so I’m not seeing a big problem.

Ambroso by Carol Feller: At first glance these look kind of boring, but the cables are actually more complex than they appear.

Spatterdash wristwarmers by Dagmar Mora: I kind of like these, though one of the chosen yarn/button combos on the pattern page is pretty hideous, but I don’t think I need any more wristwarmers in my life.

Lithuanian Riešines by Donna Druchunas: Again, don’t need more wristwarmers, but beaded knitting is never bad.

Ogiku by Sarah Mombert: Lovely hat, and you know I’m big on stranded color.

Weeping Willow by Natalie Servant: I’m in favor of doubleknitting for warmth, and the effect on this is nice.

Kiwi by cheezombie: Knitted flightless birds, what’s not to like?

Creative Constraints

What I find the most interesting about human creativity is the way we feel obliged to make things harder for ourselves.

It’s not enough to string words together in an interesting way; you have to have a form and make it a sonnet or haiku or villanelle or sestina.  Ribbing to make the cuffs tight isn’t enough; knit into the backs to make twisted rib, because it looks more interesting.  You have a lot of scraps already, but get donations from your neighbors so that you never use the same fabric twice in the top.  Write a novel without using the letter E.

An Untapped Market

Someone on Ravelry posted about having bought legwarmers.  These are the sleeves from a store-bought cashmere sweater, cut off, hemmed and repurposed.

I had no idea.  I think it’s off to Goodwill for me, because it’ll take way less time than making endless little 20-yard skeins…