May 21, 2014

30 More Stripe Mania -- Wharf from Rowan Mag 55

The Spring/Summer 2014 Rowan Magazine 55 really excelled at one thing: stripes.  I mean, there's a gazillion striped things in there: 24 out of 38 designs!  I already made one of them and had a great time doing it: my Dollaramy Sally.

My next choice was Wharf by Gemma Atkinson.

I especially loved the little garter stitch shoulders that gave the piece a little bit of zing -- I have a thing for highlighted shoulders.

See my post about my Buckland sweater, here.

Stripes are really good for stashbusting as you can get away with using less yarn.  But it also can lead to stashaugmenting (new word) because you really want the very perfectest colors to stripe together.  Oops, that will be MY story.

The original uses Rowan Wool Cotton 4-ply, but I wanted something a tad warmer.  I also wanted a ginormous palette to choose from, so in came Madelinetosh Merino Light.  I had far too many leftovers of the color Manor from this ski sweater...

See my Julia Sweater on Ravelry, here.

...and so came up with this color scheme:

Swatching it revealed that the Dr. Zhivago's Sky gray was very close to the Manor... I hemmed and hawed and in the end decided that a subtle stripe would be cool.  HINT: to see how a swatch looks on, tie it on your arm with rubber bands!

So if we add it all up: STASHBUST WIN: Only 6 grams left of the main color, yeah!  STASHBUST FAIL: I had to buy 3 extra skeins to get the color scheme I wanted, and now I have awkward amounts left of each.  Stashbusting is like running on a hamster wheel, I swear.

Yes, this hamster would make i-cord!

I changed the stripe pattern around a little, instead of a 1-2-3 pattern, I went for a 1-2-1-3 pattern.  Of course, this brought me to Challenge #1.  When I got to the armhole, the color I was on was pink -- but that was the color that I was supposed to use directly for the shoulder accent!  Argh.  I decided to lengthen and knit the next color stripe pattern.  The problem with this was that it lowered the location of the waist.  Hmm.

And so came Challenge #2...

UGH!!  I don't really know what happened here, but I am definitely leaning toward blaming the yarn for the most part (and maybe my lengthening too).  It's a single-ply superwash and has already stretched for me in the past.  Somehow the hip was ok, but the waist and bust were too large and were making a CHEST SACK when worn.

Recently I described how I like to just sew my seams and chop off the excess.  That time I made a slip-stitch crochet line (or steek) right next to the seam using the original yarn.  I found that was too bulky, so this time I used a laceweight yarn with some synthetics for a thin but strong boundary.

The fit is really quite nice, now.

 I decided to leave the garter hem open on the sides, but am not sure if I will keep them that way, as it sort of rides up the back.

One of my favorite design elements of the sweater is the reverse stockinette rolling collar.  I need to use this more often!  Just use a smaller needle and it looks so darn neat.

Remember the no-man's land Mars landscape from my last photo shoot?  Well, Spring has definitely finally arrived.  We ran into a hipster convenient store (a "dépanneur" in Montréal) that sells nice sandwiches and expensive pharmacy colas called Le Pickup.  It was a lovely lunch and I highly recommend Dandelion Burdock soda, should you find it!

We spent most of our time talking about Singapore, as my husband will be flying there for an interview in June.  How different of a life would that be?!  I tell you one thing, I would have made this pullover in cotton instead of merino wool!  But then, another interview is in Bar Harbor, Maine... which is about the most opposite place from Singapore possible (geographically as well) and which requires Much Merino.  Very interesting times ahead.

See my Wharf in Tosh on Ravelry

Follow my daily knitting craziness on my Facebook Page

May 13, 2014

9 Knit To Be Square! The Rowan Pure Wool Worsted Mystery Afghan KAL

I can't resist a good mystery KAL (knit-a-long)!  When I say good, I mean the kind of KAL that brings together gajillions of knitters from all over the world to laugh, chat and seriously show off... à la Stephen West or Ysolda.

Here is my Stephen West Earth and Sky -- his fist shawl mystery KAL, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Of course, I tried the 2nd KAL and stopped mid-way because I didn't like it... there's always the chance of that with a mystery KAL -- you really just have to take the plunge.  Scary!

Rowan started it's first KAL ever 4 weeks ago, and it will continue until mid-July.

It's an afghan/blanket designed by the admirable Martin Storey using a new washable yarn called Rowan Pure Wool Worsted.

This amazing picture of all the 50 colors currently available comes from Shabby Motley Handcraft, a lovely yarn store in Sault Saint Marie, Ontario.  It's all arranged on their hundred-year old pew!

(I'll give you a little hint and say that 6 new shades will be available in July!)

The KAL pattern comes in 10 clues.  The first 8 are sets of 6 squares (48 total), the 9th is the cabled trim and the 10th is the secret way it all gets put together.

Naturally, to show off the new yarn, the original pattern uses 17 colors of the 50.  Now -- those of you who follow my projects will know that I love using color, my god do I love color!  But guess what??  You will be interested to learn that I am using only one.  YES, ONE COLOR THE WHOLE WAY.

Now originally I wanted to make the afghan in my favorite shade of them all, Mustard.  However, the stars weren't aligned and I ended up with a heathered shade, Hazel.

It's a mix of army green and orange/red, quite unique -- reminds me of certain hunting camouflages, lol!

The KAL is arranged to increase in complexity as the clues progress.  The first clue gave both written and charted instructions for a cute knit/purl triangle motif.

I immediately saw that my gauge didn't match the pattern gauge.  On US 7 (4.5mm) needles, my square was too wide and too short (22x20cm instead of 20x20cm).  BUT, I liked the floppiness of the fabric, as I like my knitted blankets to really drape over me.  So I'm keepin' it UN-square.  This will be a problem if the squares are placed side/side to head/tail.  If that's the case, I will just switch them to side to side, no problemo.

A lot of people are having gauge issues -- if you decrease your needle for stitch width, you will most certainly lose height.  Do your best to get square (unlike me), with a good hard block.  You can read about how I like to block here.

I always count long-tail cast-on as the first row and this time I counted it as the Right Side.  I wanted the top and bottom of the squares to be perfectly symmetrical, so I actually added rows so that I could do that.  You'll see from the fix that I have the cable-like cast-on edge easily available for sewing and 2 purl bump rows instead of 1.

I maintained this through every square.  The second square was a pretty star motif also out of knit and purl.

It was a bit like knitting a dishcloth, honestly (which I've never done, have you ever seen this Ravelry group?)... but there are some pretty awesome knit/purl motifs out there!

See Entropyhouse's EXFOLIATE! Dalek Cloth pattern here.

A lot of people were forced to follow a chart for the first time with this clue, and honestly, I'm pleased about that.  There are some gorgeous patterns out there, especially lace shawls, that cannot be written out.  I like to think that a lot of people have really opened up their knitting horizons with this KAL.

The third square introduced the concept of lace.  It's my girl square.

It's a classic motif that I actually already knew by heart from my recently completed Madonna!

I think people really enjoyed this square.  It has an extra ridge of garter on the top of the bottom which is kind of odd.  In fact, I'm overall not really understanding how all the garter stitch will match up, as each square seems to be random with the edging.  Note: for this square, you can use ssk instead of s1k1psso.  I find it easier, and the top stitch is tighter and looks more neat.

The fourth square, released this week, is a more complicated lace motif that requires the chart most of the time.  First I thought they were DNA strands, because I'm nerdy like that.  But most people thought they were wrapped bon bons!

Note: The samples in the pattern use a sl1, sl1, k1, psso double decrease.  BUT, the video on the Rowan pattern page shows a sl2tog, k1, psso centered double decrease.  Who knows what Martin Storey intended himself!  I really like the samples as knitted and decided to do the twistier decrease.  I think it goes well with the 'bon bon' wrapper idea anyway.

If you'd like to join the KAL, it's not too late!  There are still 6 clues left AND one whole month of time to put all the finishing touches together.  The shopping list and patterns can be downloaded here.  Head over to our Ravelry thread in the Rowan Yarns group to sign-up, and then choose a thread specific to each clue if you'd like to ask questions or post progress.

At the end of the KAL, finished afghans using Pure Wool Worsted will be eligible for prizes!  You will be able to enter in the Ravelry group or on the Rowan Yarns Facebook Page.

Just so you don't feel alone -- there is also an incredible KAL map set up by one of the KAL participants where people have added their locations!  I don't know who is winning, but the UK sure looks crowded.  To add a pin, click "Additions" and "Add Marker".  To differentiate yourself from a close neighbor, put in a postal code and choose a funky symbol.  I'm the candle over in Montréal!

I have this crazy idea to photograph the blanket in some wild way.  My husband found this photo on the New York Times website... shall I book some tickets?

Gaston Ugalde’s “Colorado X,” 2012, exhibited by Salar Galería de Arte, Bolivia, NYT link here.

See my Keepin' It Square on Ravelry

May 7, 2014

4 Amigurumi for Nerds -- A Knitted Hearing Cell!

What on earth is that, you ask?!  This little stuffed guy is a good luck charm I knitted for my husband for his first interview.  We are both scientists, and he is currently applying for professor positions aimed at having his own research laboratory to study hearing and deafness.

Nice description from Candace M. Adams's teaching website.

Yes, this a stuffed version of the part of the "hair cell" he studies, a cell type in the inner ear that is absolutely essential for hearing. You see that little moustache in an upside-down V-shape?  Those are specialized cilia on each hair cell, the hairs if you will, that are arranged very carefully.  When you hear a sound, the vibrations and frequencies are transmitted through fluid in the inner ear, tickling these little hairs and activating a neuronal pathway to the brain.  My amigurumi is just one surface of the hair cell (which is really quite long).   The astonishing anatomy doesn't stop there, each hair cell is also arranged in an exquisite order amongst his brethren, with all the moustaches pointing in the same direction.  This direction and arrangement is critical for hearing.

Long-time followers may recall that I made him a "Hair Cell Sweater", where you can see the hair cells lined up on the body and up the sleeves.

There's a mutant one in the middle of the sleeve, with the V going in the wrong direction... can you find it?

Perhaps now you can recognize the similarities!

One of his discoveries details how this hair cell surface is distinctly different on one side of the hairy moustache than the other.  See his publication here.  This is a photo taken with a scanning electron microscope -- do you see how there are short wormy things underneath the longer hairs?  Those are microvilli -- but see how they are missing from the top!

This is where the knitter comes in with her messy arsenal of weird novelty yarns.

Yes, I actually had a "microvilli" yarn!!  This is some crazy Tahki/Stacey Charles yarn I bought a bunch of years before I had yarn sense.  But wow, am I glad I did!

I basically made a circle out of smooth fingering yarn, and then did intarsia to accomplish the V- shaped boundary between the wormy and smooth yarns.

For the moustache, I took little pieces of fuzzy yarn and strung them through like fringe, securing them on the opposite side.  I then trimmed them so that they had graded hair lengths, just like in real hair cells.

Finally, I had to make another structure I haven't described yet, the "kinocilium".  That's the really big "hair" in the center, and it is really an entirely different structure, but it serves as the point of the V-shaped moustache.  I braided some coarse mohair together and made a knot at the tip!

I then made a back with no intarsia and used all the ends of the yarn as stuffing, and Mr. Hair Cell was done!

We don't know whether the good luck charm has worked yet, I hope to tell you the good news someday, but I can tell you that this little guy has been on every flight since and gets an extra squeeze before it's time to perform.  :)

(Good luck my B, I know that all your incredible hard work will pay off!!)

UPDATE: Wow!  Prestigious Science magazine has published a small review of this post on their website!  I can now say I am "published" in one of the top journals in academic research... and it was for knitting.  ;)

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