Friday, May 30, 2008

EUCLID, a Fair-Isle Tee

[updated 3-2010]

A new pattern, designed by Jordynn and Katie. It is available for purchase now, for $6.

Jordynn used Berroco Ultra Alpaca:

Katie used Cascade 220 wool:

We call the pattern "Euclid," in honor of the Greek mathematician, because of the elegant geometric pattern of the colorwork.

We don’t know much about Euclid, other than that he was Greek and partied with Plato and Aristotle in the third century BC. He hung out at the Library in Alexandria and is best known for providing the basis for modern geometry.

Euclidean geometry is complex in its simplicity, a lot like the color pattern of this sweater.

People will be impressed by your apparent knitting prowess when they see you working on this project, but really, the pattern is so simple and intuitive that you won’t even need to keep the chart with you.

You can wear this piece by itself during the warmer months of summer, or layered over a long-sleeve t-shirt or blouse in the fall. If you live in a warmer climate, substitute a mercerized cotton or a cotton/wool blend for a lighter garment.

The pattern is worked top-down using raglan shaping.

Waist decreases are incorporated into the pattern, providing an excellent, customized fit:

The pattern is available in many sizes: XS, S,M, L, 1X, 2X, 3X. It is shown in size M.

Any worsted weight wool or wool blend should work for this sweater. Choose a combination of three contrasting colors.

Check out Euclid on Ravelry.

Available for $6.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fiber Facts: Mercerized Cotton

In 1851, British chemist John Mercer discovered that treating cotton yarn with sodium hydroxide brought about changes in the fiber. Mercerized cotton is stronger, shinier, and smoother than untreated cotton. You can see the difference in the microscopic images of regular cotton and mercerized cotton below.
Regular cotton (above), appears coarse and uneven.

Mercerized cotton (above) appears smoother.

Unfortunately for John Mercer, mercerized cotton didn't really take off until later in the 19th century, when Horace Lowe added an extra step to the process and drummed up interest in the British cotton industry. Mercerized cotton is now widely available to knitters.

I don't want to scare anyone, but the sodium hydroxide used to make mercerized cotton is highly toxic. This is not to say that mercerized cotton yarn *itself* is bad for you, but it might be worth checking where and how these yarns are manufactured, since prolonged exposure can negatively affect workers. The CDC lists a wide array of health effects from exposure to sodium hydroxide:

Sodium hydroxide is very corrosive and can cause severe burns in all tissues that come in contact with it. Inhalation of low levels of sodium hydroxide as dusts, mists or aerosols may cause irritation of the nose, throat, and respiratory airways. Inhalation of higher levels can produce swelling or spasms of the upper airway leading to obstruction and loss of measurable pulse; inflammation of the lungs and accumulation of fluid in the lungs may also occur.

Ingestion of solid or liquid sodium hydroxide can cause spontaneous vomiting, chest and abdominal pain, and difficulty swallowing. Corrosive injury to the mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach is very rapid and may result in perforation, hemorrhage, and narrowing of the gastrointestinal tract. Case reports indicate that death results from shock, infection of the corroded tissues, lung damage, or loss of measurable pulse.

Skin contact with sodium hydroxide can cause severe burns with deep ulcerations. Pain and irritation are evident within 3 minutes, but contact with dilute solutions may not cause symptoms for several hours. Contact with the eye may produce pain and irritation, and in severe cases, clouding of the eye and blindness.

Long-term exposure to sodium hydroxide in the air may lead to ulceration of the nasal passages and chronic skin irritation.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) limits exposure in the workplace 2 milligrams of sodium hydroxide per cubic meter of air (2 mg/m³) per 8 hour day/40 hour work week. Nonetheless, in a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, textile workers in the cotton and wool industry in Croatia had higher rates of respiratory problems. In addition to sodium hydroxide, these workers were exposed to the following:
  • direct dyes (sulfonated azo compounds)
  • reductive dyes (indigo and indigo disodium salts, or anthraquinone derivate)
  • disperse dyes (azo and anthraquinone structure of low molecular weight)
  • naphtol dyes (azo with azochromophorm components)
  • reactive dyes (azo and anthraquinone derivate-Cibakon E, Cibakon F)
  • cation dyes (diphenylmethane derivate, triphenylmethane derivate, or triazine colors)
  • sulfur dyes (sulfur compounds)
  • acetic dyes (sodium salt of organic acids)
  • acetic acid (CH3COOH)
  • formic acid (HCOOH)
  • sodium hydroxide (NaOH)
  • sodium hydrosulfide (NaHS)
  • potasium bicarbonate (KHCO3)
  • chromium salt or ormaldehyde (HCHO).
Yikes! We might question the environmental effect of all these chemicals... In fact, after researching this I'm starting to wonder about non-organic yarns in general, as much as I love the wide array of intense colors and interesting fibers we can buy. Good thing there are plenty of organic yarns out there, not to mention ways of recycling yarn from sweaters and such!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jordynn is Hot

I mean, she's a hot knitter.

How about this: she designs a unique and versatile summer cardigan that would look good on everybody that becomes wildly popular on Ravelry from the moment it is posted.

And now, just a few days later, she's about to finish a second pattern, this completely sexy and unique tube top.

Let me just put it this way: I've never seen cotton yarn look so good.

WIP Update

After finishing my Plath cardigan, I've started a number of new projects.

First, a new design project inspired by salsa singer Celia Cruz. My idea is to create a convertible tank top. I've finished a first draft of the body, below, but still have to make straps.

I also want to tweak the fit a bit with short row shaping for the bust, and maybe a different stitch pattern for the top part instead of plain stockinette.

I've started a light pink version that will use a different stitch and fix the shaping--I cast on about 10 fewer stitches this time, and I'm using a subtle, textured stitch for the top. You can see the detail of the floral band better in this picture, too:

I also cast on for Dalloway. I'm calling mine Oatmeal Dalloway because I'm using neutral beige and ecru yarn. This is a really fun project so far--kind of addictive!

I'm also using some recycled yarn to make the Pintuck T-shirt. Since I just cast on I don't have a photo yet, but here's the yarn I'm using, recycled from a 100% extrafine merino J.Crew sweater. I think it will be pretty!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wisp, and a Revised Object

First, my first lace FO. Wisp, from Knitty, that I have called Wisp-of-Nippon.

I bought the yarn in Japan, and I miss Japan. I wear this and think of Japan. Or rather, of Yuzawaya, the most amazing craft store on the planet. (Said without reservation.)

My husband took the pictures. He put up with me screaming at him about (1) focus, (2) composition, (3) framing, and (4) the dishes. Good man.

I also revised an earlier piece of knitting. This was the second sweater I ever knit. The sleeves were goofy. Lots of things were wrong. Here's the original. Wow, that's just terrible. (By the way, the pattern is the Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug from Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel.)

Here's the new one.

I added some chunky yarn to trim the edges. I wasn't sure about the third color at first, but now I like it. I really like the loooong sleeves, too. Rare for me since I'm so tall.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Plath Cropped Cardigan

My new summer pattern, Plath, is now available at for $4.95. The pattern comes in 8 sizes, from XS-XXL!

Born in 1932, Sylvia Plath was both a prolific author and sweater wearer. She attended Smith College, where she also later taught poetry. She is best known for her autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, and for her poetry collection Ariel.

This sweater was inspired by Plath's classic 1950's sweater girl style, shown above.

Plath features a simple, but pretty, ladder stitch rib pattern, an easy and quick two row repeat.

The sweater is knit top down in the round. The bottom edge of the cardigan features a curved edge that you create by decreasing strategically at each end. After completing the body and sleeves, you will pick up stitches first along the placket and bottom hem, and then along the collar. In keeping with the 1950s “sweater girl” look, Plath is a fitted sweater. If you’d rather have a looser sweater, you can either knit one size up, or adjust the number of increases and decreases in the shaping. Or, use a larger needle size (as I did with my first attempt, below, knit on size 8s).

Friday, May 9, 2008

Knitting Travels

In the last few weeks, I ventured to two cities and their local yarn shops.

New Orleans

Jordynn and I traveled to NOLA for a conference, and in order to make our other lives valuable to our knitting lives, we found the nearest LYS and popped in for a spell. We both bought some Malabrigo worsted yarn. I turned mine into my Malaclapo (a version of Clapotis), and Jordynn's is still in the stash.

I made the first venture to this store, The Quarter Stitch on Chartres Street in the heart of the French Quarter, while J. was actually working. I found some pretty wool, but it had no tags or labels. Curious, I asked the store clerks about the yarn.

The two ladies working the counter--both needlepoint experts--had no idea about the yarn I was fondling. I thought it was Malabrigo, and it was soft like Malabrigo, but the colorways were different than ones I'd seen, and there were no tags. I asked if the yarn was produced by a local company, but we--the needlepointers and I--could reach no consensus. One lady said she knew the brand, but couldn't remember what it was called.

I liked the color well enough, and the variegation of what turned out to be the "Colchina" colorway assuaged most of my worries about dye lot.

On the return trip to the store, J. selected her yarn from the kettle-dyed, single-ply worsted-ish weight pile of yarn (HOW did I not instantly know this was Malabrigo?). At the counter, I said to her, "Doesn't it seem just like Malabrigo?" And suddenly one of the needlepoint ladies said, "That's the brand of that yarn!"


I thought I was getting some nifty local hand-spun or something. Trying to support local business and all that.

The lady said, "The store owner is really concerned about the stock's appearance when it is on display. So she removes the tags."

I bit my tongue.

As a fun game, why don't you, fair readers, post in the comment section the possible--if impolite--replies to this statement. (Dye lots jump immediately to mind.)

Bethesda, Maryland

The LYS there, Knit and Stitch, has a nice variety of yarn. The ladies were helpful if a little standoffish, which seems to be a requirement for working in an LYS. (This must change, people! No one should feel stupid when they enter a store to shop or ask questions. It's terrible knitting mojo, and I've seen it all over.)

They did have a large work table set up, where my husband could sit and open his laptop and work while I spent all the time in the world looking at things. I bought Loop-d-Loop by Teva Durham, some lace blocking wires (since apparently I'm now a crazy lace knitter) and some Eucalan. I only bought one skein of yarn, because I knew I had a box from Webs sitting by my front door, and because their prices were steep. However, as LYSs go, this is a good one.

The shop is in a darling walkable area in downtown Bethesda. It sits above a noodle shop in an old building with lots of character. They carry Manos but not Malabrigo, which is a damn shame. But my only real complaint is that there are no price tags on anything in the store. Not on the excellent selection of Addi Turbos, not on the yarn. Every time I wanted to know how much something cost, I had to interrupt the knitting circle and ask one of the ladies to scan the item. It was ridiculous and no doubt contributed to the aforementioned bad mojo. I mean, even I thought I was irritating.

Here's the cute front stoop:

(What is up with my bushy hair?!)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Some FOs, and Revising One's Knitting

I've finished some projects.

It seems that in all areas of my life, I finish a whole bunch of projects all at once. With my writing, both creative and research, I keep three or four (or eight--who am I kidding) projects going all at once, to prevent boredom, and because the cross-pollination seems to help my creativity. What happens, though, is that I end up with two or three or four projects all finishing at the same time. It's a little overwhelming. And then, once they're done, I hit a lull that can be hard to break out out of. I just want to sit on the couch and watch the Gilmore Girls and revel in my accomplishment. (Rory should dump Logan. Period. I can't stand self-satisfied, semi-alcoholic guys like that.)

The same goes with my knitting. I cast on and cast on and cast on like an insane person, until I have three or four (or eight) projects happening at once. Then, I work furiously to finish them off--it's like I deliberately put pressure on myself. Then, I end up with a whole bunch of FOs at once.

So, in the last week, I finished

Dalloway (a Pryal Design).

Clapotis #2, aka, "El Malaclapo," in Malabrigo worsted (color "Colchina"):

I love how this one turned out.

And a version of Lady Eleanor, made of Noro Niji yarn that I got on sale from Webs. This stuff stretches like crazy, so this ended up crazy-wide. I bound off and made a blanket (a baby blanket...) instead. Meanwhile, I'm casting on with the rest of the Niji to make a shawl to match (a mommy + baby set... . What could these ellipses mean?? Does K-Ro have a secret? Maybe. or Maybe not.)

I'm also revising some projects that I finished--one's that I wasn't totally satisfied with. For example, the second Nella I made, out of Plymouth Boku. The yarn was a squishy, much less sproingy than Kureyon. So the sweater ended up too big around the middle. But it's just perfect as a cardigan, thanks to the hook-and-eye closures I sewed on today.

Ah, satisfaction.

Now, I'm revising Xylem and finishing a lace scarf pattern I've written.