Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cotton, Linen and Superwash Wool

I must say, I surprised myself. When I first started knitting, I couldn't distinguish between wool and cotton. For a while, I even enjoyed knitting with cotton more because a lot of the wool sweaters I had in my wardrobe caused me to break out. My very first cable project was a gorgeous scarf, hat & mitten set, knit completely out of cotton yarn. For the past year and a half, the only yarn I used was 100% animal fibers -- mostly wool, with a bit of alpaca and silk blends thrown in. I love the elasticity of the yarn, the lightweight warmth.

Then I found out I had babies to knit for. Not just one baby, but many. I wondered what to do -- I love the idea of gifting a quality handmade object, and wanted it to be wool, I really did. The soon-to-be-parents, though: they would not appreciate a hand-wash only sweater. I looked for alternatives. I'm still dubious about superwash wool because I have never experimented with washing it by machine. My superwash wool socks go right in the handwash with my other hand-knit socks. Then I saw Knitpicks Shine Sport. I bought 8 balls to make the February Baby Sweater and a Baby Surprise Jacket. The yarn was so soft, and so smooth. I had no trouble knitting with it. Whatever bulk and hardship I remembered from dishcloth cotton was replaced by the forgiving nature of dk cotton. As I knit, I thought to myself, "I should make myself a sweater out of this stuff." We'll see if that happens, but it was wonderful.

The two baby sweaters are adorable. I love the February Baby Sweater -- it is such a simple and timeless pattern. I'm not as thrilled with the way my Baby Surprise Jacket turned out. It is pretty, but I had a little bit of trouble with the striping. I chose to do regular stripes to accentuate the form, but I'm not sure if that was such a great idea. There are a few spots where I picked up stitches that show up much better than they would if I didn't stripe.... The sweater is in the laundry right now, so I'll see once it comes out.

I also have been working on Isabella, and am about 1/4 of the way through the front. The back is completed. The vast stretches of stockinette have been a struggle, because in the CotLin (same order from Knitpicks) my gauge in the knit rounds and purl rounds varies drastically. I tried a number of solutions, and found that the best way to avoid this is to pull the yarn a little bit tighter on each purl stitch. No wonder it's such slow going. I think it will be beautiful at the end, though.

All of this plant fiber knitting got to be a little much, and as the weather warmed up I found myself longing for a commuter project. I can finally knit on the train without losing circulation in my hands, and so I picked up some Regia I found on clearance from Webs and began to fiddle. I used Cookie A's toe from Baudelaire, and then began to knit in the round for the foot. I experimented with a heel flap, and like what I ended up doing. I don't know if I "unvented" it as many before me have done, or if it is something new. Basically, I did this:

1. Knit a heel flap across 2 needles as follows: Row A: Sl 1, k across Row B: Sl 1, p across; repeat until flap is square

2. Turn heel as follows: Row A: K half the stitches. K4, ssk, k1, turn. Row B: Sl 1, P7, p2tog, p1, turn. Row C: Sl 1, K to 1 st before gap, ssk, k1, turn. Row D: Sl1, P to 1 st before gap, p2tog, p1, turn. Repeat row C & D until all stitches are used.

3. Gusset: Pick up stitches for gusset, and decrease each side by 1 st every other row. On the heel and gusset stitches, use the heel-stitch pattern: Row A: (Sl 1, k1) across. Row B: k across.
Put decreases into Row B, and decrease until heel stitches return to the number on needles before heel flap.

The heel looks a little bit funky on, but it really seems to fit well. The heel-stitch section also covers more of the foot than a top-down heel flap, so it might be a wee bit sturdier. Right now I'm still working in plain stockinette, but I plan to do the calf-shaping in ribbing once I get there. It looks like I'll have enough yarn to play with.

Once I begin one sock, I can't stop. So I hauled out my Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn that I bought on ebay (it's a mill-end and I have gobs of the stuff) to make Pomatomus. What a great pattern! I love the way the heel fits the shape of my heel. I'm a little concerned about the stretching that the ribbing will undergo after a day on the foot, but it seems tight enough that it will be ok. I'm working down the foot of sock #1.

No pictures today -- I didn't have a chance to get everything together while the sun was out. Maybe I'll manage a photoshoot soon.

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