Monday, October 23, 2006


On the spindle is the singles I spun yesterday afternoon; on the needle the fabric knitted with yarn straight off the spindle, before the twist has had a chance to set. This is something I've wanted to do since I first saw pictures of 'energised singles' ('energized' in the US) in the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook.

I loved the look of the stockinette, the pattern of parallel ridges pulled high and twisted sideways by the torque in the yarn. Having made some, I am absolutely hooked, because the fabric is amazing. It's alive. It's elastic in a way that ordinary knitting is not, it twists and moves in your fingers. It feels heavy, slightly resistant, bouncy, almost greasy, I think because there's so much twist in the yarn that the knitted fabric is slippery. I may have over-twisted it (see the yarn spiralling back on itself between the needles and the spindle), I clearly need more practice. Because the book is right -- this will make fabulous socks.

Note that I dislike the colours intensely. More precisely I det
est the melon orange-pink, and I dislike the overall pastel-ness. But isn't that the point of hand-spinning? I should be able to play with the roving to change the way those colours work. I've already discovered that running a strip of one colour with another creates a spiral that makes mottling (as opposed to heathering, which I suspect comes from preparing the roving). With a bit of luck, thought and practice I might be able to turn those pastel stripes into something more reminiscent of an opal's fire. But with less melon. Local birds will have melon-coloured nests next year.

Ah, yes. The Sweater that fits. I started this on Saturday in a fit of enthusiasm, measuring the back of my neck and following the basic instructions for a v-neck raglan in Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top. I almost immediately realised this was not the sweater I was looking for: the neck was going to be far snugger than I had envisaged. So I took it off the needles and left it to him to rip and roll (he's good that way) while I went to sulk in a hot shower. Fortunately I had the forethought to take a tape measure, paper and pencil, so was able to spend 10 minutes in front of the mirror pretending the front of my neck was the back of my neck, working out where I wanted the V to end (remembering there'll be ribbing) and so forth. Then I measured the body of one sweater I actually like. The result was this (I've redrawn it for you but tried to keep the, er, spirit of my pencil scribbles. Eunny I am not).

The swatch I like is 19st/4", 7 rows/1". At a guesstimate I want a neck opening 8" wide at the back and a correspondingly wide v-neck going down c. 6" (ribbing will preserve my modesty if necessary). The back should be 21" wide (I measured an existing sweater); the front could be less, but will need short-row shaping for the bust. The bottom edge of my belt is c. 11" down from the armpit of the sweater, and I think I want about 3" ribbing... but that's the least of my worries. From an existing sweater and some fudging I think the raglan seam will be c. 9.5" long; I've tried to calculate the number of rows needed for that because I need to know the rate of increase along the seam (I spent most of 2 hours' walk on Sunday thinking about this sweater). At this point I became confused (see the scribbled note in the middle of the sweater) because I forgot that the back is fed by two raglan seams. Brain the size of a pea...* OK, I can use the same rate of increase as Walker, which is 2 stitches (one for the sleeve, one for the body) on each seam on every right-side row. 65-ish rows give 32-ish stitches/seam. 32+32+38 (the neck I started with) give me counts on fingers 102 stitches across the back at the armpit-equivalent. More than I want. I'll have to slow the rate of increase, ideally somewhere the slope can flatten appropriately... near the underarm, perhaps. I'm a bit worried because Walker uses the 2-stitch rate of increase for a sweater with a 5" neck-back when I'm starting with 8"; I wondered whether I would need a steeper angle (ie to add fewer stitches to the back) because I've got more to start with, but the maths seem to suggest not. I would really welcome comments when my brain stops hurting.
Never mind, I can spin. It's addictive. Joanne, you KNEW this, didn't you?

* Some years ago I read something, somewhere that claimed that the tail of some dinosaur-or-other was guided by a 'brain' (read ganglion or cluster of nerves) the size of a pea. I remind myself of this when my much-vaunted human brain fails to notice the painfully obvious and I doubt my ability even to steer a tail.


Anonymous said...

Sarah, I wish I could make a useful comment in relation to the increases etc. Unfortunately not. I have a few skeins of Noro Blossom that I ordered specially for a jumper Of My Own Design. If it's doing bad things to your brain, heaven knows what would become of mine. Anyway, my tension is so unreliable, it's almost irrelevant.

I'm already impressed and sending good vibes.

By the way, I've had my eye on that book. Is it quite useful?

HPNY Knits said...

wow, all that tech talk is way above my head, when it comes to the spinning, but I like the look of your fabric.
when I make an item of my own design I get ready to do a lot of improvising. I sketch and swatch and stuff, but in reality, its more of a on the field changes. see if you can find a design you like somewhere and work with that as a base, like ratio of increases etc.
go girl go!

sarah said...

I can feel the good vibes from both of you, it's wonderful :-) Alice, don't do yourself down: you've made more real clothes than I during our brief acquaintance (shawls and socks are cheating). HPNY, I've been looking for a pattern I could work from, but the yarn is unusually thick for this sort of thing -- it's aran weight -- which makes things tricky. But it's far from impossible, I suspect it's more that I'm trying to plan in too much detail when I don't know precisely what I'm doing. The best thing might be to just cast on (I know the width of the back of the neck) and proceed with caution. The whole point of knitting something from the top down is that I can try it on!

Joanne said...

Sarah, the handspun is fabulous. It looks great and I think you're going to have some heck of a sprongy pair of socks! I've never tried that energized single stuff so it looks great to me. Btw, I find that colors I dislike grow on me when I knit in many other colors. For instance, I've developed a fondness for yellow (who knew) because it is so cheery and contrasts so well with the dark colors I really like...even though yellow alone makes me look vile. It takes time, of course, but that's the magic of spinning. It is addicting to weave and knit color and fiber into fabric, and there is such a feeling of power in being able to spin whatever yarn you really wanted in the first place!

Now, the sweater. I've never done short rows for the bust. Ever. I'm sure it will be great though, you're very smart and mathematically reason why it won't work. Now, here are some ways to cheat. Ann Budd's books -she's written two-really help me in terms of sweater construction. She has lots of grids and numbers to help you be sure the sweater will work. She does it by round #s, so 3 or 5 sts to the inch (everything from 3-7, I think) but I just fit those odd numbers in between the chart numbers and feel reassured.

Other hints...put the sweater stitches on string every now and again (string=yarn you don't care about) and try it on to be sure. Also, increases...I calculate evenly spaced increases by figuring out the number of rows per inch, and the number of inches I am trying to increase over. Then, it becomes an easy "every once every X rows..."

I hope this is helpful!

Kath said...

Wow, I can't wait to see the finished article but so far it's facinating to read all your calculations! Wish my maths was good enough - I definately have pea sized brain when it gets to maths! The hand spun socks look great, I love the effect the tight spun yarn gives and can really see it hugging your feet!