Monday, March 25, 2013

Cheat your way to the top (part 1).

Is this you?

You have yarn.  Say, for the sake of the argument, amazing yarn.  You have a pattern.  Which your amazing yarn is perfect for.  You've even swatched!  Unbelievably, the pattern looks *better* in this yarn than you thought it would.  The fabric has a marvelous texture.  The stars are aligned, you win at knitting, you have EVERYTHING.

… Except gauge.

Is this you?  It's totally me, at least once year.  And I am here to tell you:  all is not lost!  With a little creativity, we'll be just fine.  All we have to do is change the number of repeats.  

If you're thinking to yourself that this is a total n00b tip, you'd be right except for one thing:  I'm suggesting we change the number of repeats by a non-integer amount.  

Let me give you a few examples:

This hat appears at first to be totally integral.  It's got a 6-stitch repeat and 126 stitches around the brim.  Ah, but 126/6=21.  And 21 is problematic from the point of view of decreasing: 21=3*7 and neither 3 nor 7 is 4 or 5.  And to keep the decreases "in pattern", I would really like the crown of this hat to consist of 4 or 5 triangles like this coming together:

So, what did I do?  Well, 21 is reasonable close to 20.  So I grouped my stitches into five groups:  24, 24, 24, 24 and 30. For the first four groups, I worked the decreases as shown; for the last group, I worked the same decreases at the edges and had an extra column of pattern (ie 6 more stitches) in the middle.  I ended up with 4, 4, 4, 4, and 10 stitches.  At which point I worked 13 k2togs, then threaded the end of the yarn through the remaining 13 stitches, and called it a day.

Here's another hat, which required a little more finesse:

Can I start by saying how much I love this pattern?  It reminds me (in the best possible way) of funky old wallpaper.  But because the fundamental unit of the design is so large, it has a lot less room for fudge; at my gauge, three repeats was going to be positively pinheaded and four was going to be huuge.  So, I knit three and a half repeats.   

There's one insight that makes this trick work, and that is to switch the way you think about the fundamental unit.  It's not a rectangle with a triangle on top; it's a rectangle with a triangle cut out of the top.

If you do an integer number of repeats, it doesn't matter which way you think about the fundamental units.  But, if you do a non-integer number of repeats, your non-integral repeat needs to be a skinny rectangle missing a small triangle instead of a skinny rectangle with a small triangle on top:

See the difference?  The first one is going to fit great, because the crown decreasing starts off at 6 decreases/round, and changes to 8 decreases/round close to the end.  The second one will do the opposite (start at 8 decreases/round, then switch to 6 decreases/round).  I guess you might do this if you wanted to knit a hat which had a dedicated pony tail cozy, but for the rest of us, the first one is going to fit better.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Necessity is the mother of invention

Who knew that if you lived on the first floor, and if you had hardwood floors, and if there's a basement underneath you, that the floors would be COLD? Where I live now is the first such place I've ever lived in my whole life!


It doesn't bother me much, because I have--get this-- a pair of faux chinchilla slippers, along with a veritable army of wool socks. But the husband? He has taken to complaining about the COLD FLOORS. I'm slowly learning that in my life, both professional and personal, that sometimes people tell you their problems because they want you to solve them, and other times they just want their feelings to be validated. I'm kind of wired to be a solution person, so this is one of those things that has taken me a really long time to learn, even longer than what I think is the hardest thing I've learned so far in my life, which is that you can't actually make anyone do anything.

So I don't know whether he's telling me about the COLD FLOORS because he wants validation or a solution, but honestly, this one is in my wheelhouse, solution-wise.


I learned to thrum! That's the name for the technique in which you knit individual stitches with unspun wool, leaving the ends on the inside of the object for extra warmth. These puppies are WARM, let me tell you. However, they are a little less than anatomical and also involve a hideous looking seam in the back there, so I'm thinking up a new pattern already.

The kicker? I finished these while the husband is away for a couple weeks for work. When he gets back spring will surely have sprung. I suppose the floors will still be cold next winter...

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Knitworthy

I applaud selfish knitters. I think, as a woman and moreover as a knitter, generosity is expected to be abundant and in my nature, and that can be tiresome. When I knit in public, the question that follows "what are you making" is almost always "who is that for," and I've been met with some strange looks when I say it's for me. Also, sometimes people are surprised to learn that not everyone knits for babies 100% of the time. I don't even.

But I am not a selfish knitter. It's probably a good thing, because I already have a goodly number of handknit socks, with no sign of stopping, so it's a good thing I can offload 2/3 of them to either my husband or my mom.

The big sticking point for me and non-selfish knitting is color. I love wild, bright colors, and some of the knitworthy in my life have a... more specific and defined relationship to particular colors. Take my BFF Ryan, who as it turns out, went to high school with fellow blogger Jenny Jo's husband. He's knitworthy (I've made him not one but TWO afghans), and a neutral color sort of guy. I guess I can make that work.


That's him and one of his roosters, and he's sporting a Thorpe hat and some garter stitch mittens. He picked out the yarn himself, and although it's a bit of a struggle for me to work with a marled neutral, I dealt. It was worth it. The whole weekend after I delivered these, he would. not. take. them. off. Well that's not true. He dropped the hat in the arena when we went to the barn where he keeps his horses. He picked it up, dusted it off, and said it had now been christened by the barn. Later he set it on a baby's head to see how cute she'd be in it. He set it on the radiator in his house so it'd be nice and warm when he went out to do the farm chores in the morning. This guy will continue to be knitworthy.

And a bonus? There were enough leftovers to make a second Thorpe for a husband who also found the yarn acceptable to his color palette.


p.s. The penguin enclosure at the St. Louis Zoo is one of my all time happy (though stinky) places.