Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Got Tog

I have been intrigued with Icelandic wool for a while and knew that both the outer coat (tog) and the inner coat (thel) were used by Icelanders to knit lace when spinners separated the fibers. Now the commercially prepared Icelandic Einband lace weight yarn from Istex is a combination of tog and thel.

During a class with Judith MacKenzie, I told her about seeing designs knit from tog and from thel at the Textile Museum in Bluondos, and she offered me some lovely dark brown Icelandic lamb fleece to spin.

I used a dog comb to separate the tog, and spun it on a Kundert spindle. During this process, I realized I do not have the patience to properly prepare fleece, and I passed along the lighter brown, soft thel to a more talented spinner. I was persistent, though, and persevered with the tog, plying it on a Lendrum wheel. The quality of my 2-ply lace weight was not great, but friends suggested I try knitting it.

For design inspiration, I turned to the classic Icelandic lace shawls book by Sigridur Halldorsdottir titled Thrihynur og Langsjol or Three-Cornered and Long Shawls (available in the US with an English translation from Schoolhouse Press). I chose Litla Hyrna Huldu and modified it by knitting from the top down, narrowing the garter borders to 2 stitches, and making the shawl larger.

Midway into the second skein, I realized the first skein was landfill quality and started over. Fortunately, only the one skein was dreadful, and I had more than enough yarn to finish the shawl. The tog blocked beautifully and has a nice drape. Had I been more skillful with fiber prep, it would feel silkier since there are odd hairs throughout. Still, it is a wearable and interesting reminder of this Icelandic spinning adventure, as well as proof that I got tog!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Knitting Lace Triangles Second Edition

Knitting Lace Triangles has been revised, and this Second Edition now is offered as an ebook. 

Foliage Shawl
This book originally was written to help knitters design their own triangular scarf or shawl using four lace patterns—Flower, Leaf, Medallion, and Ripple— and a scalloped Arch Edging.

In this second edition, two lace motifs—Foliage and Pod—and three edgings—Foliage, Trellis, and Garter Eyelet—have been added. Instructions and charts are included for knitting all the motifs as an overall lace or as an insert, as well as combining them with solid sections of stockinette or garter stitch.

Nine new samples are shown, including a square.

Pod Shawl
Arbor Shawl

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Blocking Wires & Centered Picot Cast-off

This post will answer some questions that I am often asked about using blocking wires and describe a favorite cast-off.

Blocking Wires
While not necessary for successful blocking, blocking wires can be very useful. They can be woven in and out of eyelets along the border of a top-down triangular shawl or the sides of rectangular pieces.

Instead of weaving them in and out, wires also can be inserted from the same direction into the slipped stitches at the edges of rectangles or into the holes of picots as shown below.

This sample also has a centered picot cast-off to accent the feathers lace edging.

Centered Picot Cast-off
The picot in a picot cast-off normally is worked over 2 stitches. To make the picot, a cast-off stitch is returned to the holding needle, and a knit cast-on is worked in it to add 1 or more stitches. The added stitches are cast-off for the picot, and then edge stitches are cast off to where next picot will start. So the picot starts on one stitch and is completed on the next stitch. Often this is not a problem, but if a picot is desired to accent a single stitch, it can be centered over it.

To center a picot over a single stitch, first increase in that stitch and then start the picot on that increased stitch as outlined below.

1. Cast-off to stitch where picot will be centered.

2. Knit into that stitch, and leaving stitch on needle, put new loop next to it. There will be 2 stitches on working needle—last cast-off stitch and newly made loop.

3. Cast-off loop just made by lifting last stitch over the new stitch, and return it to the holding needle. Then proceed as for normal picot cast-off.

4. Knit cast-on 1 or more stitches for picot.

5. Cast-off 1 or more picot stitches.

6. Cast-off original stitch plus desired number of edge stitches to next stitch where a picot will be centered.

You can watch a tutorial for this cast off, and another example of it is shown on the Magpie Scarf edging.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shilshole Lace Scarf

Since I choose to teach infrequently, I am starting this blog to share knitting information and will begin with a stitch pattern that currently is my favorite scalloping lace. I used it for the Shilshole Lace Scarf.

It always is fun to find a new stitch pattern book. Adventures in Knitting by Barbara Aytes is not new—it was published in 1968—but after discovering it in a used bookstore a few years ago, I had time to explore it again this fall. It has many variations of scalloping lace, and the one I chose to knit was Shell and Wave.

Shell and Wave repeats over 6 rows, and because there is no purling, it is reversible. Elongated stitches are created with yarn-overs on Row 1, and all of those yarn-overs are dropped on Row 2 when the shells are created by knitting 7 stitches together.

After knitting a swatch, I chose some hand-dyed Einband Icelandic light fingering weight yarn for a large scarf. With this yarn, it was easy to slip 7 stitches onto the working needle to drop off the Row 1 yarn-overs, and then transfer them back to the holding needle to knit all 7 stitches together to form the shell.

That was not the case with the Rowan Kid Silk Haze because I had trouble keeping all the stitches for the shell on the needle. Instead, I transferred the 7 stitches to a double-pointed needle (dpn) one size smaller than my project needle and then knit them together off of the dpn.

I always look for a way to read the pattern on the needles in case my stitch count changes, and the key for this pattern was that the 4th stitch in the 7-stitch shell should be directly above the stitch from the last k7tog.

I love both scarfs, and knitting them brought back childhood memories of the shell-littered beach along Seattle's Shilshole Bay. With the addition of a marina, the beach area now is at Golden Gardens Park. 

The only information I was able to find about Barbara Aytes was on the book's dust jacket. There it says she had a yarn and needlework business in North Hollywood. She taught and designed custom handknits and lived in Calabasas, CA. She wrote several knit and crochet books and created many of the stitches in Adventures in Knitting, and I am grateful for the adventure her Shell and Wave started for me.

The Shilshole Lace Scarf is a free pattern.