June 15, 2014

19 Turning A Corner -- Rowan Mystery Afghan KAL Finishing Tips

It is Week 9 of 10 of the Rowan Mystery Afghan KAL and man, what a lot of knitting it's been!  I'm rather proud to be on track.  The 48 squares are finished (wowzers) and now I am knitting the marathon-length trim.  Oddly, we are still in the dark about how all the squares go together.   I wish that info had come before the trim, because the trim clue photo ends up being out-of context with how the afghan will look as a whole.

Download all the KAL patterns free, here.

First, the trim is not attached in this photo, making it look pretty poofy.  It has been compared to a pizza crust, omg!  Secondly, it's too zoomed in... the afghan is way bigger, but from this picture it looks like the trim will overwhelm it.  No, it won't!  If you'll put your trust me, I've seen a couple of finished afghan photos and it's really worth a try -- this trim is quite small and thin compared to the entire piece.

In this post I give 4 afghan finishing tips, so go ahead and fast-forward to what you may be interested in:

  1. An easy way to count your rows for the original cable trim.
  2. A mod for a wider cable trim.
  3. Instructions on how to use short rows to make nice corners in your trim (you should be experienced doing short rows to try this).
  4. Musings on how to sew it all together.

1. Is it time to cable yet?!

Even experienced knitters need to constantly look back and see how many rows have been done since the last cable.  (Well, in my case, I'm too lazy to use a row counter!)  This trim is a wide cable, C9B, and is done relatively infrequently, every 12 rows, making it something you really do need to count instead of just eyeball.  I found this was a good way to figure out where I was:

Find the cable hole.

Stick your pinky in it, or stretch it to see the bar between stitches right above the whole. Stick something into the stitch that runs right into that bar, or just remember where it is.  

Then count above that stitch to know exactly how many rows you've done!

Time to cable!

One more trim knitting tip: When attaching new yarn to the trim, make sure to do so on the inner purl st side where it will be sewn so that the ends get hidden nicely in the seams.

2. An alternative cable trim

I did think that the original trim cable was bulkier than I wanted.  But I wanted to keep true to the general design of the pattern and even widen it.  Since I used only one color for my afghan, I actually only used 13.25 100g balls to knit all the squares, leaving me with 3.75 left of my 17 balls.  The original trim only calls for (2) 100g balls.  NOTE: The following trim will need about 3 balls or less.

I decided to widen the trim by half, from 11 sts to 15 sts.  I split the big cable into 2 cables, and added a purl row in the center to flatten it a bit.  I like it!  It's still a bit more ornate than I might have liked, but it does do a good job of binding the blanket together.

Original pattern:

RS: P2, K9 (11 sts)
Cable row: P2, C9B

My pattern:

RS: P2, K6, P1, K6 (15 sts)
Cable row: P2, C6F, P1, C6B

3. Pretty-as-a-picture-frame corners

Another issue I had with the trim was the corners.  They are rounded (for ease), but honestly I knew that my attempts at sewing a right angle to an arc was not going to be neat enough for me.  

I thought, how could I make corners out of this trim?  Well, it's not so different from turning a sock heel, so why not use short rows?

I came up with a formula that can work for any trim you might choose, cabled or not.  Because of the way the original pattern was written, all the wraps are done on the wrong side (to turn the corners to the right).  You can easily change this by putting the P2 at the end of the RS row instead of at the beginning.  But for consistency, I'll demonstrate how to do this using the pattern as written.

First I'll give the recipe, then I'll show you in detail with photos how to do it with the original pattern trim.

Short-row Corner Formula:
1. Cast-on provisionally (for grafting later) or cast-on regularly.  For a regular cast-on, you can do a seam or pick out the cast-on at the end to graft.
2. Arranging squares close together as they would be sewn, knit trim to close to the length of one side and BLOCK IT.  You can do this by steaming with an iron, flat out ironing, or pinning and wetting overnight.  Re-fit the edging, adding or removing rows as necessary so that you end right at the corner of the afghan.  End with WS facing.
3. (WS): Start short rows: Pattern to 3 sts remaining, wrap and turn.
4. (RS): Pattern to end.
5. Pattern to 3 sts before last wrap, wrap and turn.
6. Pattern to end.
7. Repeat from #5 until there are less than 3 sts before last wrap, WS should be facing.
8. (WS): Pattern to first wrap, wrap and turn.  This will double-wrap the st.
9. (RS): Pattern to end.
10. Pattern to next wrap, picking up and working double-wraps and wrapped st together when you pass it.  (See photo below for detail on how to pick up and purl double-wrap sts from the WS.) Double-wrap st and turn.
11. Repeat from #10 until no wraps remain, patt to end.
12. (RS): Continue in pattern.

**NOTE: If you want this to be perfect, you should try and continue your cable during the short rows (but don't cable any wrapped sts).  The alternative is to wait to cable until all the short rows are done.  It's worth trying both ways to see what you like, as it really depends what row of the pattern you start the short rows on.  If you start the short rows right after a cable, you'll be fine.  If you start right before a cable row, I recommend cabling early on in the short row process.  Important: You actually don't need all the cable stitches available.  For instance, with the original pattern, if you only have 8 unwrapped sts instead of 9, just do a C8B instead (or rather hold only 3 sts to the back instead of 4), no one will notice, not even you.  ;)

Photo detail:

Pattern to 3 sts remaining.

What the wrapped stitches should look like.

Patterning to 3 sts before wrapped st.  Wrap and turn.

All the single wraps are done.

Pattern to the first wrapped st.  Double-wrap and turn.

Where the double-wraps are.

To purl, pick up the double wraps from the bottom to the top, from the right side.  (To knit, pick them up from the wrong side.)

WS view of picking up the double wraps to purl.  Place double wrap on needle to right of wrapped stitch.  Work all 3 together.

Double wraps and wrapped stitch, ready to be worked.

You've turned a corner!!

4. How to sew this baby together!

I decided I didn't need the make-up clue because I was doing a one-color afghan and could figure something out.  I liked the idea of putting all the blocks diagonally.  I tried to alternate cables with other style motifs.

I'm not sure Neighbor Cat agreed with my choice.

"Oh, this looks so neat and tidy."

"But this square should be over here."

"Actually, NONE of these squares are right, human!"

"That's better."

As you may remember, I love using slip-stitch crochet to seam my garments.  It's a tad bulky but strong and fun to do.  Anything that makes seaming fun is good in my book!  However, I found that a slip-stitch crochet seam on the blanket was too noticeable and touchable from underneath, and I wanted this to be the coziest of afghans.  

Lovely on the top...

...but bulky on the back.

I decided on matress stitch.  I made three 2x8 vertical strips using one long thread each way, and then sewed the strips together.

Then I did long horizontal seams along all of the spaces.  I'm very happy with how neat it is coming out!  

However, I'm disappointed with the garter border design of the squares, which don't always match both vertically and horizontally.  No matter what order I put them in.  Granted, I haven't seen the make-up diagram, but I can't figure out how it would work into some master plan.  We shall see!

Feel free to message me for tips on All Your Afghan Needs (lower left hand corner of bottom of page).  If you do try the short-row tutorial, tell me how it worked out for you!  I'm looking forward to seeing your finished afghans, or "halfghans" (I'm talking to you Rebecca!)... do join us in the KAL Ravelry threads if you haven't already.  :)

See my Keepin' It Square on Ravelry

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June 10, 2014

23 When In Doubt, Flip It! -- Palm Cove in Rowan Pure Linen

When Rowan announced that one of the new Spring/Summer 2014 yarns was a 100% linen blend called Pure Linen, I was intrigued!  I had never used a pure linen yarn, but had felt (and pulled my hand away from) many that were mighty rough on the hands.  Euroflax, I'm looking at you.

I received two sample balls from Rowan and really loved the silver color Arizona in particular.

And what do you know, the accompanying booklet The Pure Linen Collection, had a great top that would be a quick but interesting to make.  The book highlights that this yarn can be used at a lot of different gauges.  Palm Cove by Lisa Richardson is designed for a loose gauge and only needed 4 balls for a long-sleeve top, woohoo!  Also, the open-back detail is big in fashion these days.

Can you believe how perfect the dress was for this top?!

Well, as you can tell, the open back didn't work out!  Two big issues emerged.  First the bottom was sloppy and wavy, a fact that I believe is hidden by the model's arm.

Try to pick up less stitches in the straight hem.

Now, this could have been me.  The way the top is made, you create the backs and front and then pick up along the edges and knit downwards for the ribbing.  If you pick up too many stitches, it could be wavy.  But if you pick up too few, it gathers the fabric (which I like less).  Also, how tight you bind-off makes a huge difference.  I really think I did the best I could... but still, not a high impact piece at all.  Just, meh.

The other problem was the neckline.  You see, you have two overlapping backs compared to a single layer lacy front.  Unexpectedly, the weight of the backs pulled up on the collar in a seriously choke-y way.  Uncomfortable.

Just start the neckline earlier to avoid it being too high.

I was disillusioned, but then I thought... what if I turned this sucker around?!  Whoah, it fit perfect!  The wavy hem was ok in the back, especially since it was lessened by my tush.  :)  And without the unequal weight in the back, the neckline was very comfortable.

Whatever way you like to wear it, I do suggest you secure the opening with a running stitch right near the bind-off.  Otherwise, the parts will shift and you will find yourself adjusting the fronts instead of catwalking and showing off, naturally.

Another thing to consider if you make this top, is how you increase to make the curved backs/fronts.  They are made by increasing quickly and then slower up to the neck.  If you like M1 increases like I do, this presents a bit of a problem.  M1s are the most invisible increases, but they also steal yarn from adjacent stitches.  This is usually fine, but for an edge where you increase every row, you will notice quickly that it is getting really tight on the edge.  I highly recommend that you make a yarn-over in the row before to give extra yarn available for the M1 when you get to it.  You can see more specific photos on how to do this in this post.

Finally -- this is the kind of top that really needs circular sleeves, and I regret not doing it.  The seams are bulky and the gauge is too see-through for that.  Make the effort to do these sleeves in the round, you will be pleased.

This is the "Lacy Bind-off" done loosely for a nice effect.

Ok, so are you ready for my thoughts on the yarn?  This is the easiest review ever, because I LOVED IT.  It is my favorite yarn from the whole Rowan year, maybe the last 2 years!  It may feel firm when it's in the ball in the store, but it is so soft when you knit it you will not recognize it as linen.  Since making this top, I have been making a bag with Quince & Co.'s 100% linen Sparrow yarn.  After a few hours, I simply must put the knitting down, because my fingers feel raw, even though the fabric is lovely.  I would have to knit a lifetime before I felt that with Pure Linen, seriously.  Also, I must say, the shine is impressive -- like a flaxen-haired maiden from a fairy tale.

The yarn is loosely spun and quite thick and voluminous, and so it can handle many gauges beautifully.  With the softness comes some delicacy however.  I don't mean this stuff will break... once I was left without scissors and my teeth could not rescue me, it is definitely strong!  But, because of the softness and spin, fibers will come off easily and small hairs will wisp away.  I found that blocking tamed a lot of these fibers.  In fact, this was the most satisfying blocking experience I've ever had... when I lifted the pieces they were like pristine sheets of cardboard, go linen!

My fellow Rowan Ambassadors have been just as impressed with this yarn, it's really a winner.  See Kristen (Knitionary) and Konrad's (KnittingKonrad) blog posts about their Pure Linen tops they made as part of their über-fun SheKnits/HeKnits KAL for Spring/Summer Rowan yarns.  I fell in love with Konrad's tee, especially.

What a great RA Konrad is, flipping through Rowan Mag 55 all the time!  More here.

Oh, I'm sure Kristen's Rowan Mag is open at her feet!  More here.

If you'd like to try some Pure Linen yourself... /subliminal message DOOOOOO IT/... here are some other favorite designs from the Pure Linen Collection, all by Lisa Richardson.

So Rowan fans... do you know that July 15 is already the release of the Fall/Winter season and Rowan Mag 56?!  Oh dear, I am in trouble.  I've seen everything and I can't wait to show you my favorites.  And I have REAL NEWS, I am traveling to the Rowan mothership in Holmfirth, UK at the end of of the month and will be able to see some of these pieces in person.  So, double info for you all!  If you'd like to stay in tune with the Rowan spoilers I'll be giving in the next month, make sure to watch the Rowan spoilers thread in the Rowan Love group on Rav, or my Facebook Page Dayana Knits.

See my Linen Cove on Ravelry

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