Shawl!

There’s this shawl that I was working on since November. I finished it last weekend.
And then I blocked it.

Shawl, soaking in water:

Shawl, out for blocking, next to my housemate’s shawl, which was the same pattern as mine:

Close up:


I also have a very empty yarn desk right now. Instead, there’s a laundry rack full of wool, which is currently living in the Vericon art show. Which is nice, since it means I get to show it off to everyone, and it looks very pretty there. And I’m coming home with less yarn & wool than I came with, which means less carrying. (Which is definitely a good thing when you are a hobbit.)
Though the yarn desk is sad in its emptiness.

Laundry rack of shiny:


Also, I finally ran out of undyed wool, so I went ahead and ordered the 27 lbs of wool on the internets, and it came on Thursday (while I was out doing stuff for aforementioned Vericon). 27lbs! This is a LOT of wool. I had to unwind some of it and wind it into smaller balls in order to be able to fit the darn thing in the craft cabinet, but it’s there now. I’ll post a picture of that after I take it.

And I’m also getting a bunch of alpaca fleece next weekend when I go and visit my friend’s alpaca farm.

Yay, wool!

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Sierpinski shawl

My mother gave me a book called “Making Mathematics with Needlework” last Christmas, and I fell in love with the idea of making a Sierpinski fractal shawl. Here’s a nice picture and explanation of the Sierpinski triangle”. Basically you take a triangle, bisect the sides to cut out a smaller triangle, and then you have three triangles; keep doing it. My shawl has 5 iterations, and I crocheted it from the bottom tip up. It’s not equilateral! But it still works.

The basic pattern is this: each row increases by 1 arch. The row starts and finishes with 2 arches, which are made by chaining 5 stitches and then attaching it to the arch (or filled fan) below it by a single-crochet. The filled pieces (fans) are made by triple-crocheting thrice into the same stitch and then attaching in a similar way. I don’t like this pattern all that much because it ultimately doesn’t make triangles so much as curvy diamonds, but it worked well overall. It took me forever, though, because each row just kept getting longer! I used a variegated baby yarn of sport weight and a size G hook.

An overall view. It's about 3 feet from base to tip, but the base stretches to about 5 feet.

A closer up view. It's upside-down from the way I actually crocheted it, though.

I also learned something about the Sierpinski triangle that I didn’t know: it’s the mod 2 Pascal’s triangle. That is, it looks like this:
      1
     1 1
   1 2 1
  1 3 3 1
1 4 6 4 1

so you always add the two numbers in one row to get the number in the next row, except that you put a 0 (a hole) whenever the number is even and a 1 (filled space) when it’s odd. That way you get
         1
       1 1
      1 0 1
     1 1 1 1
    1 0 0 0 1
   1 1 0 0 1 1
  1 0 1 0 1 0 1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

and so on. So you can build it from the ground up instead of cutting pieces out. Whee, math geekiness!

Experimental Knitting

…in which curiousity kills the silkspinner.

I recently found some interesting variegated gold yarn and made an extremely simple scarf for my grandmother, pictured below.

littlegoldscarfUpon finishing, I was left with an impractical skein and a half extra of the yarn, not enough to really do anything with. However, I also had a tiny amount of some purple flax yarn my sister had recently brought me, and the two looked fairly nice together.  Clearly a bicolored project was in order.

At this point it occurred to me that, while I’d been learning about cabled knitting for the past year, I hadn’t seen many projects featuring multiple yarn colors and cables.  I wasn’t sure if this was because a) mixing colors in a cabled project and producing a nice effect is difficult or impossible, b) sane people reasonably think that you shouldn’t distract attention from intricate patterns with unneeded complexity, c) said projects existed and I merely hadn’t seen them, d) that sort of thing makes a project awfully hard to block, or e) other.  Ergo I decided to find out if I could knit a small scarf with gold cables but purple background.

The answer to this question turned out to be yes, I could, but only if I was clever in my choice of pattern. My first attempt turned out to be wrong in every respect — the pattern had the cable strands staying in one place and twining around each other, such that the large stretches of unbroken background tended to clump displeasingly and it was hard to tell the crossings of the gold strands apart from the color changes in the yarn. I switched patterns to one that had lots of cable strands moving rapidly over the background  (found here, originally sent to me by hobbitknitter: http://thestormmoon.blogspot.com/2008/03/free-pattern-celtic-cable-neckwarmer.html). This attempt went rather better, although it was still troublesome that the background yarn was slightly thicker than the cable yarn. The other way around might have been better.  Finally I wound up with the following.

DSCN0031experimental scarf

I’m fairly pleased with it. I think eventually I might try a larger project of the same kind, although of course that would require a good deal more planning.

Topological Knitting: featuring the HRSFA Klein Bottle Hat!

Apologies: this post has been very long in coming but I’ve finally gotten around to writing it up.   I did a bunch of knitting last fall and winter, partly spurred on by the HRSFA yarn that the awesome hobbitknitter gave me last summer.  (And general thanks to hobbitknitter for encouragement, yarn, loan of needles when I went in for jury duty, etc.)  At the beginning of last fall it occurred to me that a Klein bottle would be a befittingly awesome thing to turn HRSFA yarn into.

But before we get to that: my Mobius strip, which was sort of a warm-up project for the hat.


There are a number of ways of knitting a Mobius strip:  the one I used was the “inside-out” method, basically the one explained here.   The idea behind this is the following: if you cut a Mobius strip in half you get a single strip with two full twists in it.  Now, knitting a strip with two full twists is easy — you just put two twists in the row of stitches before you join the ends in circular knitting.  So the hard part here is “undoing the cut” by grafting (sewing with yarn) the unfinished edge of the double-twisted self to itself — the first time I tried to make a Mobius strip I had the wrong number of twists in my original strip, and the strip ended up getting internal twists when I tried to join it up.  (Some people thing grafting is cheating, but I think it’s cool.  Also it was a fun challenge, and I had to learn how to do it for the Klein bottle anyway.)

I knitted the strip in k1p1 to make both sides look the same (I needed an odd number of stitiches around for the grafting, so the strip came out as seed stitch rather than rib stitch).  As it turns out, k1p1 is not perfectly symmetric with respect to turning it upside down, and the grafting produced a half-stitch offset, so things didn’t exactly match up where I joined, but I managed to join things in a way that made the seam as unnoticeable as possible.  (I also think seed stitch is just generally pretty good at hiding grafting seams.)

OK: now for the Klein Bottle:

The construction of this was a lot simpler topologically: I just knitted a tube with a slit in it, fed the narrow end of the tube through the slit, and joined it to the other end of the tube. The only tricky thing here was doing all the increases and decreases in k2p2 rib, which I think I managed fairly nicely.

More pictures of the hat in various configurations can be found in my Knitting album on Google here along with the Mobius pictures and a couple pictures of my hyperbolic scrunchie (which didn’t turn out as well as the others; I might post on hyperbolic knitting later if future projects turn out better). Here’s one last one (this is a bit of an in-joke among recent Fusion High Ladies; read the alt-text or click through and read the caption on the link):

Potholder stitch and periodicity

Ordinarily, crocheting in variegated yarn produces alternating patterns because the crocheting goes back and forth. But when you do potholder stitch (see my earlier post) the situation is different. Each row only shows on one side, so all the rows on the same side go in the same direction. That means that a pattern will tend to be regular.

My aunt got some yarn for me to make potholders, and it’s white yarn variegated with five rainbow colors (not blue or indigo). Each white or colored section takes about 6 inches, or 3 stitches. So my 30 stitches turned out to be nearly perfect to make the yarn go through exactly one cycle per side. I thought this would mean that the potholder would have boring nearly-vertical stripes, but it turns out that the dyeing of the yarn is not quite regular enough to permit that. It’s close, but it has zany variation! Take a look.

I didn’t bother to flip my pictures this time: my computer takes all its pictures as mirror-images, which is sort of annoying, but this way it looks as if I crocheted right-handed. Shrug. 🙂

Baby stuff!

I have a friend who has a friend who is having twins. When she asked for recommendations for baby gifts, I offered to do baby hats and booties on commission for her.

She wanted the softest yarn possible, and pastel colors. I had some light blue merino wool spun up which was about the softest substance in the universe (not necessarily all merino wool in general, but this specific wool top). It wasn’t plied yet, so I plied it. I spun it rather largely (it had originally been intended for another project) so I used size 10.5 needles. The hats took me approximately 2 hours each. Maybe even less than that (I finished the first and made the entirety of the second during a game of Dogs in the Vineyard).

The large yarn, however, was not going to work for the booties. So I spun up the rest of the wool at a much smaller weight. The booties took surprisingly little time and yarn; I finished them in about 2 days. (Of course, it took a while for me to get to those 2 days, being in the midst of giant term papers, but once I started it was 2 days.)

I also needed to do some pink and purple trim and flowers, to distinguish the sets, and because blue was probably not a “girly” enough color for the mother of the babies. The pink was also handspun merino from a bunch of small rovings with assorted colors that I pulled the pink parts out of. Actually, maybe we should call it an approximation of pink.

P1040354small

The purple was actually baby llama left over from a hat and scarf I had made last year. It was just as soft as the blue merino, and probably softer than the pink.

P1040355small

The trim was a crocheted border around each of the booties. The flowers were the beginning of this pattern: Flowers!

(I only did the inside flower.) The hats and booties were my own pattern (or non-pattern).

I’m impressed that I managed to do all the crocheting without hurting myself. In the summer of 2007 I injured my wrist whilst doing archaeology. It was the repetitive motion of scraping the balks which did it, because it pinched a nerve in my wrist. That same nerve is pinched when I crochet. Luckily, knitting and spinning have different motions that do not strain my wrist. I can crochet for short periods of time, but if I do it for too long my hand starts to tingle and go numb, and this is even worse when I use tiny hooks and thread, as is the case with my kippot.*
So I decided to give up crocheting for at least a year. This bit of crocheting is the exception; I’m not sure if I can actually go back. Kippot are probably impossible since now it hurts after I do even 10 stitches, and those things take hundreds of stitches.

But I don’t really miss crocheting that much. The kippot I did were shiny, but they took forever, and I couldn’t charge more than $30 (or $36, which is a nice, Jewish number since it is a multiple of 18) for them, which would never make them worth it. Commissions in general are never enough that I would be making minimum wage, but kippot are probably the least economical. Say I could do two scarves in the time it takes to make a kippah. Each scarf is made with $40 yarn, and I charge $80 for each, leaving me an $80 profit. (Or even more if I buy raw wool and spin it myself.) One kippah, yarn costs me $2 (I use so little that I can make a ton of them) I sell it for $36, giving me a $34 profit, which is much less than $80.

The other type of project I would crochet was blankets, which are large, and I used acrylic yarn for them. At this point I pretty much only knit with natural fibers. Thus, I like my knitting projects better.

Though now if I were to crochet a blanket I would use nice scrap yarn and bamboo hooks. Maybe some day…

*This also happened while I was archaeologizing, but I just continued working. I was with a bunch of Montanans, mostly guys, who would work through their pain, and I wasn’t about to be the weak one when I could still physically work. Except in this case I was only further injuring myself. Had I not been stupid I might have just had to take a couple of days off rather than having to leave the dig. It also didn’t help that off dig I was crocheting kippot, since they are small and portable and easy to bring to Israel. Had I had a knitting project instead, I might have fared better.

Cables, cables, and more cables

I’ve been working on a lot of projects with cables recently. I made an alpaca scarf for myself, with celtic knotwork, from this pattern, slightly modified to add a 2×2 cable on each side. (This also results in the scarf being 42 stitches per row instead of the original 32. This was mostly unintentional, but cool anyways.) I spun the dark brown yarn myself.

From HRSFA yarn
From HRSFA yarn

I then decided that I also needed a pair of socks for myself, since when I was making a pair for a friend, I tried them on every so often, and they were really comfy. Originally my socks were just plain old socks, but I thought they were a few stitches too wide, so I frogged what I had. (I actually went on a bit of a frogging spree that day and took out a few other unfinished projects that really needed to be restarted or scrapped.) I started anew, and this time decided that the sock wanted a cable. I charted out a pattern which was based on part of the middle of the scarf.

From HRSFA yarn

I ran into one difficulty, which is that in the scarf, there was a right side and a wrong side, and on the wrong side you knit the knit stitches and purled the purl stitches, moving nothing and crossing nothing. On the right side you did all the cabling. You could easily tell which row you were on and what needed to be done.

However, with the sock, there is no wrong side because it is knit in the round. Thus, every other row is a row without cables, and if you lose track of where you are it isn’t always instantly obvious whether or not you just did a cable row.

Still, I managed to finish it. Now I need to make a second one, and then I will have a very shiny pair of socks.