Friday, December 05, 2014

Cable Knitting Tips, Part One

Bare Naked Wools Kent DK
I am into my third Glentrekker Cardigan, so what better time than this to focus on some cable knitting issues and solutions for them. First, I want to give you just a couple of cable facts from this project.

The Glentrekker pattern mentions the ubiquitous 2/2 RC (aka C4B, 4-st back cross, etc.) no fewer than 1,425 times. Of course, this includes every instance found in the written instructions for nine sizes as well as its place in the Stitch Glossary, but that's a lot! The symmetrical twin 2/2 LC only owns 171 mentions. That is all to say that the 2/2 RC cable is the default cable in the Glentrekker Cardigan, and I planned it this way. Not only is this a good, basic cable for which I have a soft spot, but it's also present in several of the other larger cables in the sweater, so it unifies the design. It's also used so freely to keep things at least a little easier in a project so riddled with cables. In other projects of this ilk, I have paired the 2/2 LC more often to mirror the 2/2 RC. However, that just involves more thinking. It's easier to remember this: Every stationary 4-st cable made up of knit stitches in the Glentrekker is a 2/2 RC. Period. 

What do I mean by stationary? I mean all cables that do not travel. There are a few 2/2 LC cables (and 2/2 RC) that must move around and eat up purl stitches or move across the reverse Stockinette background to get to where they interplay with others, but the ones that do none of these things are all 2/2 RC. Only we extremely cable-obsessed folks will be interested in this, so I'll move on.

In a more general way, I want to address the problem of loose stitches in cable knitting. Some of these loose stitches occur anytime there is a column of knit stitches before the same of purl stitches, as in many rib patterns. This problem can also interfere with the clean outlines of your cables.
Bare Naked Wools Breakfast Blend DK
Although not a part of a cable, the knit column along the front closure of the cardigan can get a little slouchy, and this same problem may occur in some cables, as I will show you next. For now, have a look in the above photo at the leftmost knit stitch in that column--it wavers a bit. What I have been trying as a fix is to purl the first stitch after that knit stitch by wrapping the yarn under the needle instead of over it, in other words, wrapping it clockwise. This uses less yarn than the usual purl, but it mounts the purl stitch backward. Combination knitters do this on purpose. This is easy enough to fix in the next WS row, and it can accomplish two other jobs for me. When knitting in the round, as with the sleeves of the Glentrekker, it can remind me of whether I am on a RS or WS round. If that purl stitch is mounted incorrectly, I'm on a WS round. If not, then time to twist it again! The other reminder is that when I come to this incorrectly-mounted (now knit) stitch on WS, as when knitting the body of the Glentrekker, I should keep the next stitch (now a purl) close to the needle so as not to stretch it. It was already loosey-goosey--let's not make it worse. This fix is easy to remember and to execute as I work. If that doesn't work for you, and you would like an even more involved fix that can make this particular slackness a thing of the past, Techknitter has some grand fixes here

As promised, here is the same offending problem along the side of the leftmost part of the center back cable of the Glentrekker. See that little vertical line just right of center? Yep, it wavers.

Moving on to another, similar problem...
You probably would not have needed the red boxes to train your eye the loose stitches in this picture. I had not really noticed this problem until I started researching loose stitches in general. That was when I noticed that all my left crosses, namely my 2/1 LC cables, were all looser than my right cross ones. Why? 

Well, those stitches are being stretched out more. When I execute a right cross, I place the next purl stitch on the cable needle and immediately knit the next two stitches from the left needle before working the purl stitch from the cable needle. That first knit stitch from the left needle technically only moves over by one, and so does not become stretched. However, when I work a 2/1 LC, I first place the next two knit stitches onto the cable needle, then purl the (now third) stitch from the left needle before pulling that cable needle back and knitting the two stitches from it. The last knit stitch that I work has had to stretch twice as far to be worked in the new position. Once I figured out the problem, I had to figure out the solution, and I am still experimenting. 

One maneuver I am playing with is placing all three stitches back onto the left needle in their new order before working them. In other words, not allowing the two knit stitches to hang out on the cable needle while I work the purl stitch. Another possibility is to work the purl stitch after the cable (because this diamond cable sits on reverse Stockinette) by wrapping it clockwise, as in the first discussion. 

I'll have to work a few more repeats of the cable pattern and finish and block the sweater before I am sure about how much this actually fixed things. I was unable to find anyone else discussing this problem, and I may well be the only knitter experiencing this problem, but if you have any insight I would love to hear it! 

I expect that I'll be back with an addendum here, because I will continue to experiment. Until then, please chime in. Thanks!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Glentrekker KAL Prizes!

I am pretty excited to be hard at work on our first collection of patterns. This stack of hats gives you a big clue. Initially, I was inspired to create four hats with some lovely Bare Naked Wools yarns: Confection Worsted, Stone Soup DK and Stone Soup Fingering. A fifth hat jumped on board and that's when I knew that these wanted to be a set. I later added some hand-dyed yarns to show the hats in color as well as naturals, so I added more of my favorite Made-in-America yarns: Quince & Co (the green in the middle), Madeline Tosh (bottom and top), and one that is new to me, A Verb for Keeping Warm's, Pioneer yarn (as yet not in the stack--on the needles).  The collection has two cable-and-lace tams and three beanies, two of which have unique constructions. Of course, they all include cables in one way or another.

I plan to release one of these hat patterns each day during the week of January 5-9 and then on Saturday, January 10, we'll release the entire collection. That way you can peruse the hat patterns individually before deciding whether you want all of them or just one or two. 

What does this have to do with the Glentrekker KAL and the prizes thereof? They are the prizes!

Every one of you who completes a Glentrekker Hat during the KAL and posts a fully-loaded project page on Ravelry and checks in pretty regularly to the KAL thread, whether here or here will receive one of the hat patterns free or 20% off the entire collection.

Every one of you who completes the Glentrekker Cardigan during the KAL and posts a fully-loaded project page on Ravelry and checks in pretty regularly to the KAL thread either here or here will receive the entire collection free.

You read it right--I need for you to pop in now and again and report on your Glentrekker KAL progress. We want to know how it's going for you, and we want to see pictures! You can start your project page at any time, but the sooner the better always works so that it won't be so hard at the end.

Here's a checklist:
1. Decide whether you want to make a Glentrekker Hat or Cardigan.
2. Get your pattern, whether on Ravelry or on the Figheadh site, or by purchasing a kit from Bare Naked Wools.
3. Join the Figheadh Fans group or Bare Naked Wools group on Ravelry.
4. Post on your KAL thread and let us know about your project.
5. Set up your project page on Ravelry.
6. Finish your Glentrekker project by February 1, 2015, and complete your Ravelry project page.
7. Receive your free patterns!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Swatching for Glentrekker

Let's talk about some options when you swatch for your Glentrekker Cardigan.
First, allow me address yarn choice. This all goes for any cabled knitting project you may attempt.
These are the problem-child yarns when cable knitting. Tweedy, semi-solid, fuzzy-wuzzy yarns may not give you the best result. Why? Because all of these otherwise appealing qualities can hide the cables you worked so hard to perfect.

These are better for cabling, obviously. You can see here that the cables are crisper and more well-defined. These are all plied wool and wool blend yarns, some with silk. Make a careful yarn choice to knit your Glentrekker and you will be happier with the results.

As for what shape your swatch will take, here are the options, according to two variables: how much time you have and how much yarn you have.

Option One
You have a little extra time and you have an extra skein or two of yarn.
Make a hat! The pattern includes two hat options based on Elizabeth Zimmermann's advice that a hat makes a good swatch. It's true! By the time you've made a hat with the stitch patterns involved in the cardigan, you will not only be more familiar with them, but you will be able to accurately assess your gauge based on how you will actually knit the cardigan. The hat on the left, the Glentrekker Toque, is made by knitting a flat swatch that includes all of the cable patterns in the cardigan (because the cardigan is knit flat), blocking the flat piece, and measuring gauge before going on to seam the piece and knit the crown in the round.

The hat on the right is the Glentrekker Slouch Hat and it helps you determine your gauge for the cardigan's sleeve, which is knit in the round. The sleeves of the cardigan and the body of the cardigan have different gauges because of being knit structurally different and because the sleeve has more Stockinette Stitch. 

Notice that both these hats are nicely blocked. The Slouch was blocked on a head form and the Toque was blocked on a round bowl with straight sides.Once you work up a hat for a swatch, you not only know your gauge, but you have a hat to boot! It's always good to have a new hat.

Option Two
You have a bit more time, but not much extra yarn.
This crumpled thing is the "RF & Side" section of the size I am knitting, size 35.5". By knitting this little section, I was able to find my cardigan body gauge without spending as much time as it would take to make a hat. Also, I can always rip this little thing and join him in later when I'm making the actual cardigan. I suggest knitting up one of the smaller-size "RF & Side" sections--you don't really need more than the 57 or so stitches and one repeat of the 28-row pattern to determine gauge.

But, wait, we have to block it. We'll never figure gauge from that crumpled thing.
I stepped outside my comfort zone a little and steamed this swatch for speed purposes. I usually give the swatch a total immersion bath and then pin it out and allow it to dry naturally. However, I want to cast on today, so I wanted to hurry it up. I still prefer the bath treatment, but this works for now.

Option Three
You have no extra yarn and no extra time. 
Start a sleeve! The pattern gives you gauge for each, cardigan body and cardigan sleeve, so you can check to see if you get gauge on your sleeve as you knit it. You have to knit two of them anyway, so no time lost! You can see that I worked the cuff and then one repeat of the 28-round pattern, starting my shaping as I worked. Then I transferred the stitches to a length of waste yarn so I could steam the piece and pin it out a bit. I can also slip it on and give it a try for fit. It fits great. Now I'll steam and pin it out.

I'll let these two rest while I get some lunch, and then it's cast on time, baby!

Just a little note, especially for our Bare Naked Wool KALers--I am making the Glentrekker this time with Kent DK to try it out, and I had to use one size smaller needle than what I used with their Breakfast Blend DK. I think it is because the Romney element gives the Kent more of a halo and it only has two plies, whereas the BB DK has three plies and neater surface. I love them both!

Next time, I'll be posting some tips to help you knit the cables more efficiently. See you then!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Glentrekker KAL!

I'm back to talk about the Glentrekker Cardigan again, because

Yes, we are having not one, but two simultaneous knitalongs of the Glentrekker Cardigan and hats. One of them is on our Figheadh Fans Ravelry Group and the other is on the Bare Naked Wools Ravelry Group. BNW is selling kits with our pattern and their yarn and if you are using BNW for your Glentrekker, jump in with that group. If you are using any other yarn, then come join us in the FF group. I'll be monitoring both groups, but I will be making another cardigan with this luscious yarn that just came today!
The first Glentrekker (top picture) was knit with BNW Breakfast Blend DK in Bakery Rye. This second one will be knit with their Kent DK in Driftwood. Breakfast Blend is an merino/alpaca blend and Kent is a merino/romney blend, so I will be comparing the two. They are both soft and lovely, I can tell you that much.

The Glentrekker KAL starts today and runs through February 1 of next year. There will be prizes and lots of tips and we'll share our progress along the way. Join us!

I'll be back in a day or two with a post about swatching for this project. In the meantime, I hope to see you in the KAL thread!