Friday, July 27, 2007

Moebius Cape Pattern

This is meant to be a general bare bones pattern. You supply the knitty gritty flesh :)

Yarn: Indigo Moon Wild Silk Yarn, Fleece Artist Italian silk or any silk or lace yarn.
Yardage: Heck, I don't know. A 300-400 yards. More if you want to sweep up the dust bunnies while you walk :p
Needles: 4 mm 47" circular (or longer) I used Addi Turbos
Gauge: It's a freaking Moebius lace cape, whatever gauge you get is the right one.

As you can probably tell, I’m not a diligent pattern follower. It’s a good thing that lace blocks so well :)

WARNING: Knitting rambling below. For those that are Moebius knitting experts or want to live life dangerously, please pop straight down the Moebius Blossom Cape Pattern)

This project is an opportunity to try out a new lace stitch pattern or to show off a much-loved stitch pattern. It’s also a great project for beginners because even the simpliest lace patterns look great. In fact, I’d suggest that you stick with simplier patterns with 4-8 row repeats. The number of total stitches is dependent on the lace pattern you choose. In the first portion, I also incorporated a row of short-rowed waves. For the sake of saving a few brain cells, the number of stitches for the base of this short-rowed pattern is the same as the number of stitches of your lace pattern.

So for me that number was 14. I casted on 217 stitches. My total number of stitches was 434 (see below). I repeated the lace and short row pattern 31 times for each cycle.

Begin by casting on with Moebius Cast On - I used Cat Bordhi's Moebius cast on. Here's written instructions from a episode of Knitty Gritty that she did. It’s pretty much the same motion as a provisional cast on but with a looped circular needle. The motion makes the yarn bob and weave figure 8’s around your right needle and the coiled cable below. It was absurdly frustrating to figure it out the first time and that third glass of red wine didn't help either! But once I got the hang of it, it was easy peasy!

More Moebius ramblings for beginners:
Now, keep in mind that each stitch that you cast on is actually 2 stitches, one on your right hand needle that is fed from the top cable and a matching stitch on the bottom cable (it'll make sense once you actually do it) . So 200 stitches actually is 400 stitches in total. Take into consideration the stitch pattern you mainly want to use and choose a multiple of that which is closest to 200. If you're a loose knitter, cast on less, a tight knitter, get a drink and loosen up :P

Before you begin knitting, throw on a stitch marker to mark your starting point.
This method has you knitting from the centre of the shawl out, so there is no beginning edge. You will be knitting on both sides of a coiled circular needle (the reason why you want a longer needle). You will knit one coil around and when you reach back what you think is the beginning but the marker is on the other coil, you're only halfway and you still have to knit the other (bottom) half.
The end result is that when you knit a whole row round from the beginning marker and around both coils and back to the beginning marker so it's sitting on your left needle again, you've actually knitted 2 rows of knitting. But it will be noted in the pattern as one row of knitting. Is that as clear as mohair mud? For more ( & infinitely better) details, check out Cat's book from your friendly neighbourhood library.

Make sure that the cable only crosses at one point after you’ve done casting on!

So the outline of the shawl is as follows:

1- Moebius cast on with Colour A and knit for 10 or so rows in total

2- Colour B for another 10 or so rows.

3- Mark of ½ of stitches and start short rows back and forth to form the back.

4- For each pattern cycle decrease by one pattern repeat on each end.

5-Continue until it’s long enough for ya.

6- Reintroduce Colour A for a few rows.

7- Cast off with both yarns.

Here’s the fleshed out Moebius Blossom Cape Pattern:

1-With Colour A, Moebius cast on 217 stitches and knit 5 rows

2- Make waves by short rowing in 14 stitch grouping as follows. K14. Turn work and P13. Turn work and K12. Turn work and P11. Turn work and K10. Turn work and P9. Turn work and K8. Turn work and P7. Turn work and K6. Turn work and P5. (I didn’t bother wrapping stitches at the end of each turn. It’s lace, it’s supposed to have holes)

3-Turn work back to RS and knit to marker.

4- Repeat Step 2 & 3 for the rest of the row (until the beginning marker shows back up on your left hand needle.)

5- Replace Colour A with Colour B. I used the Russian Join method. Begin lace pattern. I chose Barbara Walker’s 'Little Parachute' from Charted Knitting Designs. It’s a 14 stitch pattern of 6 rows.

Colour A in the centre and here I'm just beginning the lace pattern in Colour B. See how the coiled cable loops through both the top and bottom of the knitting and only crosses once.

6- Knit until the Colour B portions are each the same width as the Colour A portion.

7- Mark off 210 stitches (about one half of total stitches)

8- Continue lace pattern in the marked off portion. At end of marked off portion, turn work and work the WS. Keep in mind that before you were knitting in the round so all your knitting was always facing RS. Now you’re knitting in the flat so you might want to adjust your pattern to WS knitting for every other row. Instead of blowing a brain fuse, I simply added a row of purl for all my WS rows and continued with Row 2 of the pattern in the next RS row. This worked fine for the Little Parachutes pattern since the added row didn’t interrupt the pattern too much and it looked like I had two stitch patterns, making me looking smarter than I am.

9- At the end of each pattern cycle, decrease the number of pattern repeats by 1 at each end for the next cycle. So I started with 15 pattern repeats, then 13, then 11, then 9 and so on.

10- Continue until it’s long enough for you.

11- Reintroduce Colour A but leave Colour B on. I just left Colour B hanging off my work and loosely looped Colour A in the stitch below. Afterwards, I wove in the end of Colour A in my knitting.

12 –With Colour A knit one row. When you come to the short-rowed back portion, the end of each pattern cycle will be a little step/gap between pattern repeats. Pick up stitches along the edge. I picked up 6 stitches for each ‘step’.

13- Colour A - K2tog, YO for the next row.

14- Knit your favorite edging (I used Fan and Feather) in Colour A for 4 rows.

15- With both Colours A & B bind off loosely.

Close up. Here you can see the short-row waves in the lighter yarn (Colour A). I really like how the a couple rows of Colour A at the end helps bring out the shape of the edge.

The back. I'm only 5'4" so anything too big will just swallow me up. I aimed for the bottom edge on the back to hit me near my waist which is how I decided how long it was going to be.

Well, I hope this is helpful to you all. I'd appreciate any feedback you have on the pattern and the end product if you try it. I'm not a very experienced pattern writer (as you can tell) and that's compounded by the fact that I'm not a very good pattern follower. I left out the stitch by stitch details of the stitch patterns on purpose. I would like to encourage others to use their own intuition, imagination and improvisation to fill in the knitty gritty details and start knitting beyond the pattern.

Happy Knitting!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Moebius Blossom Cape & Flying Carpet Yarn

I'm just recovering from the Saltspring Island Natural Fiber Festival this past weekend. It was an amazing event with a range of exhibits, vendors and events. There were demos and silent auctions and lots and lots of fibre folk.

I managed the finish up my Moebius cape, which I've named the Blossom Cape, just in time for the festival. The dark purple yarn is hand-dyed wild silk from Trish Moon at Indigo Moon Silks on Gabriola Island. Trish had a stand at the festival and I just had to pick up a few skeins of hand-dyed sock yarn from her. Many of her yarns are naturally dyed and she offers an incredible range of colours and yarn types.
The purple silk is gorgeous and my pictures don't do it justice. The colour isn't as flat as in the photos. There's actually a beautiful, organic shifting and shimmering of different shades of deep purple.
The variegated yarn is leftover yarn from my Winged Series of shawls. I believe it was a Fleece Artist yarn.
I had wanted another warm weather shawl but, as mentioned before, I'm not very good open shawls and the whole shawl pin deal. Also, I don't like having a big, hunking knot tying the ends together. I wanted something of a certain size that would give me enough range of motion and a good dose of drama. Really, why bother making a shawl that doesn't have drama???
So my answer to this conundrum was a shaped Moebius that would mimic the silhouette of a cape without needing to be knotted in the front or pinned. I knitted up a the basic Moebius strip until it was several inches wide (or long, I guess, depending on how your measure a Moebius. Then I short-rowed half of length which would give me extra length in the back and sides. I decreased one pattern repeat on each side for every cycle of the short row.
In the end the bottom half of the moebius actually is a flattened semi-circle. Is that as clear as mud?
I did this mainly because I wanted a longer/wider shawl but didn't want a lot of material twisted up in the center. I wanted something that would flow nicely and drape at all angles. The short-rowing provided all these elements nicely.

ETA - I got a bunch of requests for a pattern for this piece. So I'm working on a Fast & Dirty pattern for the Moebius Blossom Cape.
The festival also held a Fibre to Fashion competition. There were two teams of 5 that had to card, spin and weave a shawl within 6 hours!
It was so much fun!

Here's the spinners going. You can practically see the smoke coming out of those wheels!

My partner in crime and I left Saltspring in a blissful, fluffy daze. We were probably one of the few that actually didn't mind the grey damp weather that has blanketed the Rusty Coast. We were looking forward to spinning all night long.
I practiced some pretty hard-core restraint with my festival purchases but there were a few things that I couldn't resist including some spray painted pencil roving of Blue Face Leicester and silk from Hummingbird Fibre Arts. I couldn't walk away from the display. I just kept circling it, drooling over the roving and all the smashing colours.
I got to spin some up yesterday. Here it is:

I was aiming for a fingerling yarn and came pretty close. The colours came up even more beautiful than I anticipated. Doesn't it look like flying carpet colours? Rich and intense and so full of possibilities.

Have a great week everybody!


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fleece up to my yin yang

I've been dying and spinning yarn for my Fire & Ice sweater every spare moment I've got. Though June's soggy and cool weather has put a damper on my mountain and ocean playtime, it has been perfect spinning weather. The west coast has been pounded with a couple of good late spring thunderstorms.

My dining room has been turned into a fleece factory. Instead of curtains, I have fleece hanging up to dry and the dining room table has been converted into a carding table/fleece 'painting palette'.

I've done most of the dying . I've got my Ice fleece:

and my Fire Fleece:

As my first big dying and spinning project, I'm using this sweater as an opportunity to learn and experiment with various dying and carding methods. I'm aiming for a navajo plied sport weight yarn but right now I'm just thrilled that it's spinning up relatively evenly.
Here's some batts that have gone through various carding techniques. I have about 3 basic shades of blue and some purple for the Ice colourway. For the Fire, I'm working with 2 shades of yellow, orange and a red.

By varying how I feed my drum carder, the number of times I card it and how I layer the fleece, I'm slowly learning that there is a plethora of ways to create different colourways.
Here's some of the yarn I've spun up so far:

Here's a couple of swatches of some pattern's I'm working on for the sweater. I was inspired by the patterns in Eslebeth Lavold's 'Viking Patterns for Knitting'. I wanted to a viking knot that was a tad more elongated and angular than the ones shown in the book so I took a couple basic knot ideas from that book, threw them together, added a pinch of this and that, gave it a twist and this is what I got:
They're looking a tad Elvish which is a good thing in my book. I did a basic outline of what I wanted onto graph paper and then penciled in the exact stitch pattern as I knitted it up. Once I'm done, I have a graph and a complete swatch to remind me of what I'm shooting for. Also this serves as my swatch and give me an idea of how the yarn will knit up like and how the colours will play against each other. From here, I've adjusted and fine tuned my carding and spinning to suit my tastes.

I'm really liking how the two colourways are playing against each other. I think I'm going to stick with the Ice colour as the background and the Fire for the cabling simply because I look better with cool colours next to my skin.

I know it seems like a lot of work to do up the swatches. I've learned that when I'm working out an original pattern with a few spicy techniques, it's worthwhile to do up a swatch and notate the stitches as I knit them, instead of drawing up a graph completely and knitting from there. I know there are knitting designers that can just draw up stuff onto a graph that looks just like what they want it be knitted up. They are the knitting equivalent of Beethoven composing the 9th Symphony when he was completely deaf, IMHO, and I bow down to them. This knitting monkey isn't quite there yet. I'd rather frog a swatch than half a sweater.

Technically, this is not cabling because both the cables and the background are all done in stockinette in 2 seperate yarns. So it's twist stitches with a few cable needle moves. I found in an earlier swatch that a purl background when using 2 yarns doesn't provide the same receding affect that occurs when using only 1 yarn. Stockinette provides the a nice basic background and as a bonus, it makes it super easy to knit up in the round. Though the end product looks complicated, the actually knitting is nothing more than stranding with a few twist stitches and the odd cabling move when it's done in the round.

To keep me from being completely obsessed with the Fire & Ice sweater, I've started a mobieus shawl with hand-dyed wild silk from Trish Moon at Moon Woven Studios.
Maybe I'll have it done in time for the Saltspring Island Natural Fibre Festival later on this month.

It's my no-brainer project for now though it being silk and a lace pattern, it has a 2 glasses of wine limit before it's in danger of turning into a rat's nest.

Have a great week!