Thursday, January 19, 2017

Swatching in the round

Swatching in the round is something I know I should do if my project will be knit in the round, but I admit I sometimes swatch flat instead, especially if the stitch pattern is easy to work flat (like stockinette or a knit/purl texture). But for an important project like a garment or something else that will take a lot of yarn and time, there's no way around it - swatching in the round will give you the most accurate gauge information.

In this post I'll be showing you how I knit the swatch for my Cinnamon Stars cowl. The method will work for any stranded colourwork project, and for any other project knit in the round.

I planned ahead by adding a few extra stitches either side of the colourwork chart, alternating stitches of each colour in a chequerboard pattern - I got the idea from the 'bridge' stitches of a traditional no-sew steek. These extra edge stitches helped to keep the inevitable wonky edge stitches separate from the main part of the swatch. 

Because I had plenty of yarn in each colour, I decided to make a swatch that would be cut after knitting. Here's what I did:

1. Using a shortish circular needle, I cast on and knit a couple of rows back and forth in garter stitch.

2. I joined my second colour and began knitting the swatch 'in the round': at the end of each row, I slid my swatch back to the other end of the circular needle, draping strands of the working yarn loosely across the wrong side of the swatch.

3. When I had finished the colourwork, I knit a couple of rows of garter stitch with a single colour and then bound off.

4. I carefully cut the loose strands at the back of my swatch, avoiding cutting through any of the colourwork floats beneath.

5. I tied neighbouring strands together to make a more secure fringed edge on either side. This step is optional, especially if you don't wish to keep your swatch!

5. Finally, I wet-blocked the swatch to make it lie flat and even up the stitches. Once it was dry, I took my stitch and row gauge measurements and my colourwork-repeat measurements.

If you don't have extra yarn to spare, you could knit a 'froggable' swatch by making the loose strands across the back long enough to allow you to block the swatch without cutting them. Alternatively, there are other methods for swatching in the round that use even less yarn - the second method in this TECHknitting post 'Circular swatches knit flat' looks very efficient, but I admit I haven't tried it out yet. You'll recognise the first method as the one I used above.

Do you have a favourite swatching method?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bees on the brain

I'm a week and a bit into my holiday at Mum & Dad's in Whakatane, and so far I've knit half a scarf and taken a ridiculous number of photos. I've borrowed Julian's DSLR camera for the trip, so I can get to grips with its manual controls with Dad's help. It's a lot of fun taking practice photos of whatever I fancy!

But before I get into photo-talk, I'll show you the scarf. It uses a stitch pattern I drafted up about six months ago, which is a lace-and-texture version of my Beeswax cable pattern. It traces the same shapes, with decreases forming the surface layer of honeycomb and yarn-overs forming the layer behind. The benefit of this version is that it's easy to knit flat, whereas the cabled Beeswax pattern is only really suitable for knitting in the round.

The yarn is a rich golden shade of Outlaw Yarn's Bohemia Worsted called 'Troy'. I hope to have the pattern available in about a month's time. :)

One really cool thing about playing with a DSLR camera (and having a photographer and his gear on hand) is trying out different lenses. My favourites at the moment are macro tubes, which can be stacked behind the lens to get varying levels of close-up-ness.

You can really see the darker possum fibres and lighter alpaca hairs in this yarn with a macro shot:

I've also been taking lots of photos around the garden, of flowers and insects and birds. I'm most proud of these bee photos, taken with a macro tube extension. The bee was foraging in a big patch of flowering pizza thyme, one of my family's favourite all-purpose herbs.

As part of my new photography learning curve, I've signed up for the free course A Year With My Camera, which involves weekly email lessons and homework assignments to share in the Facebook group (or on Instagram). We're only two weeks in, so you can still join in if you'd like!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A post-Gift-A-Long post

I can't believe we've come to the end! It's been a whirlwind few weeks helping behind the scenes in the Gift-A-Long, keeping up with the threads, and handing out prizes. While being a moderator has kept me extra busy, it's also been incredibly fun and exciting and I'm looking forward to doing it all again next year. :)

My fellow Hand & Arm Things host Becca worked out the final stats for our category:
Final tally is 238 finished projects (!!) (64% of those declared), but more importantly…
  • nearly 300 people participated in this thread alone,
  • sharing more than 450 GAL-designer-related projects (some not for hands but that’s totally cool),
  • calling out more than 250 GAL-eligible patterns for us to appreciate.

The ongoing parade of WIPs and FOs provided an incredible source of inspiration from the great colour choices, skilful stitching, beautiful yarn (including handspun), and lovely patterns people chose. I found out about new-to-me methods of construction, such as starting a pair of mitts with the thumb and it growing from there (Lee Meredith's Either/Or mitts), and cool-looking techniques like slip-stitch crochet (Yuliya Tkacheva's Snegurochka Mitts), and some just really beautiful cable designs I hadn't seen before (Olga Beckmann's Morosko mittens, and Kelly G.'s Cèilidh Fingerless Gloves).

Another big source of excitement was seeing my own designs pop up! My Beeswax Hat was actually the tenth-equal most popular pattern, with 11 finished projects during the GAL. In total there were 22 finished projects from my patterns, which is pretty amazing! Here are a few of my favourite photos from the 22, including two Beeswax Hats, an Ascent hat, and a Silverwing shawl:

knittingvortex's Beeswax

UkeeKnits' Ascent

rebekafish's Darkwing Duck!

theaburras' Beeswax Hat

For participating designers, a traditional part of the Gift-A-Long is sharing other designers' work. An obvious way of doing this is using their patterns for our own projects, which I did with my GAL socks, and we've also been sharing our favourite patterns on our blogs and other social media. I've been posting collages of great knit designs on my Instagram account. These are a few of my favourites from the past few weeks:

Star Anise by Svetlana Volkova (top left),
Singing Beach
by Bonnie Sennott (top right),
Crisp Apple Strudel
by Katy H. Carroll (bottom right),
and Same Wavelength by Kristina Vilimaite (bottom left).

Stornoway Throw by Anita Grahn (top left),
by Hunter Hammersen (top right),
Tree Rings
by Andrea Rangel (bottom right),
and Badlands Mitts by Kathryn Folkerth (bottom left).

Hudson by Shannon Cook (top left),
by Irishgirlieknits (top right),
Dancing with Bears
by Carol Sunday (bottom right),
and Grellow Love by Clare Devine (bottom left).

Another cool way to share each other's work while getting to know each other better is to interview fellow participating designers on our blogs and podcasts. I've been lucky enough to have been interviewed three times during this GAL! Once by Stephannie Tallent for her Sunset Cat Designs blog (Interview: Amy van de Laar), once by Vikki Bird for her blog (GAL 2016: Meet Amy van de Laar), and Carolyn Macpherson also featured me in an episode of her podcast The Next Beautiful Thing:

Thanks for the ride, everyone! Hope to see you all again next year. 💛