More mosaic knitting!

I actually finished this a while ago but didn’t bother to photograph it. Here it is:

Photo Jun 27, 2 01 44 PM

I’m not too sure what I’m going to do with it but just in case I used a provisional cast on and left the stitches live at the top. I used various mosaic charts from Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns series. I’ll probably combine it with another block and combine them to create something cool. The photo looks a little washed out but in case you can’t tell, the colors are bright pink and neon yellow. I’m really happy with how the sun in the middle looks.

How many patterns do we need?

I really hope I won’t offend anyone with this post, but it’s been a while since I’ve written something essay-ish and I’ve actually asked myself this question recently. My point isn’t to criticize anybody or bash the design industry. My purpose in writing this is to simply ponder and perhaps begin an interesting dialogue with other bloggers about the subject. It’s sort of a navel-gazing type of exercise. Some of my readers may ask themselves from time to time, “How many pairs of shoes do I really need?” I know I’ve asked myself, “How many bags do I really need?” We all have our habits, right?

I was inspired to think about this because I was reading Barbara G. Walker’s book on knitting sweaters from the top down. I’ve had this book in my library for quite a long time and I have never used it. I think it’s because I get busy in my life and lose track of what I would like to do to take my knitting to the next level. In the end, I’ve recently felt inspired to design my own top-down raglan pullover based on a picture I saw so I started reviewing some of her directions.

First, I think I should digress and be totally upfront and honest about why I went to Walker’s top-down book instead of Ann Budd’s (I own both books). If anything, it might help someone in choosing books for their knitting library. Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters is indeed very handy because it does all the math for you. For each typical sweater style there are charts for different knitting gauges. The idea here is to pick a stitch pattern you like and incorporate it into the knitting directions. Walker’s book is quite different in that it teaches you how to design your own sweater and leaves the math up to you. The benefits of Walker’s book is that it provides more information about different styles of constructing each sweater, the options for creating different shapes, and so on. For example, for the raglan sweater she provides an assortment of ways to shape the armholes and gives advice about which raglan seams go best with certain types of stitch patterns. I’ve chosen an unusual stitch pattern so I’ve decided to do the math myself and select from the better variety of options. I’ll definitely turn to Budd’s book again. It’s truly awesome and I love knitting with it.

Now that I’ve explained myself a bit, let’s get back on track. The text that made me ponder the need for patterns was this:

“The subject of knitwear design has been made to seem much more mysterious than it really is, perhaps because many designers are unwilling to share their ‘secrets’ with non-professional knitters. The truth is that to design your own knitwear you need only four basic tools: yarn, needles, a tape measure, and a brain fortified by a third-grade education; for it is usually in the third grade that we learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. There are no other arithmetical operations involved” (Walker 11).

I have to say that when I read this (or re-read it? I’m not sure) I just started laughing really hard and uncontrollably because it sounds so true. Isn’t it strange how sometimes the truth is hilarious? I believe that if anyone dared try to publish something similar now it would not be allowed by the publisher. Of course, maybe if an author went with Schoolhouse Press it would fly.

Of course, Interweave distinguishes itself for actually putting the Knitter’s Handy Book series out there. The only thing is, it is sort of representative of what Walker is talking about in the sense that it provides stitch-by-stitch directions. However, I think the intention of the book is clear: it seeks to simplify the design process so the knitter can just apply whatever signs of individuality are desired on a blank canvas. I, being a devotee of the Knitter’s Handy Books, have to say I am addicted to knitting things this way.

But, does this mean that we don’t need commercial patterns? Walker goes on to tell us: “Those who blindly follow commercial knitting directions may never have given themselves time to understand garment construction, so they remain always at the same level of untutored blindness. Such are the people who have been knitting for years and years, but still say, ‘Oh, I have to have stitch-by-stitch instructions, or I don’t know what to do.’ In fact the construction of a knitted garment is among the simpler things in life. Some of the world’s most magnificent knitting has been done in past centuries by uneducated European peasants, who never went to school and could not read nor write, and whose acquaintance with arithmetic was rudimentary at best. They knitted to clothe the body, not to strain the brain. If they could learn to approach knitting from this angle, so can we.” (10-11)

It’s true that there are knitters and crocheters who like to follow patterns exactly as they are written without adding any personal touches. It’s also true that there are plenty of yarn crafters who feel like they can’t do anything without directions written out for them. Whether we like it or not, knitting and crochet design and pattern publishing is a business and the entire reason why people do business is to make money. In order to make money, designers and publishers have to convince us somehow that we need their patterns. I suspect that some designers and publishers are more aggressive with their marketing tactics than others. I won’t name any names, but one in particular has a podcast that I stopped listening to because it was laying the marketing tactics on way too thick, to the point where I felt like I was being enveloped in a choking fog of smarminess. I don’t think everyone, or even the majority, of designers and publishers are this way, but they all have advertising that I find to be a bit exaggerated. Their mission is to convince us that we need them to help us make beautiful things so we feel like spending our money.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil about this but I do believe that knitting and crochet patterns have changed over the decades. Easy and simple patterns requiring little skill will sell to a wider audience of crafters and therefore the market has a glut of those types of books, magazines, PDFs, and leaflets. Instructions have gotten longer, too. What used to be a two-pager can easily become a five-pager. Older patterns, when they call for two of anything that are the reverse shape of each other, told us to “make another one and reverse the shaping.” Now, instructions often explain how to make each one with the shaping reversal written in. We might have reason to suspect that pattern publishers are on a mission to dumb us down and create generations of knitters and crocheters who can’t fathom following a pattern without each and every little detail and step explained to a “T.” On the other hand, these kinds of detailed patterns are educational for knitters and crocheters who are learning or who need extra guidance in trying out a new technique.

I actually have a gigantic pattern library and I will never make all the things for which my pattern collection could instruct me to do. I’d need, I don’t know, maybe 300 years and an independently wealthy lifestyle to knit all of them. So, maybe we don’t need so many patterns, but the funny thing is that without knitting and crochet patterns I wouldn’t feel as inspired as I do. If there isn’t a need for so many patterns, at the very least I want more patterns so I’m happy they’re out there and available.

What do you think?

Work Cited

Walker, Barbara G. Knitting from the Top. Pittsville, WI: Schoolhouse Press, 1996.

Not too much to report!

I’ve been delaying my post because I’ve been waiting for something to happen to write about. This week I’ve been casting things on. I also finished a pair of socks. Here they are (they’re for my sister). Ta-da!

frans socks

They’re already on a plane crossing the Atlantic to get to her.

Since I finished a pair of socks I of course started another. Since I learned the magic loop method of knitting small round items I decided to try knitting two socks at the same time on a big circular needle. I chose the Kalajoki pattern because I thought it would be cool to knit off two charts at the same time. What I didn’t expect was that learning how to cast on cuff-down socks for knitting two at a time on a magic loop is pretty tough. But then, I found Knit and Tonic’s advice: just start each sock individually and then put them on the magic loop. Problem solved.

A lot of people choose the two at a time method of knitting socks because they suffer from what’s called “second sock syndrome” which means the second sock is quite different from the first. I don’t have this problem. I just wanted to see if I could do it. Here’s my progress so far on my blue Kalajokis:

Photo Jun 18, 1 34 50 PM

I started these socks on Wednesday so I guess I’m zipping along on them. Also, just in case anyone wants to know: I bought 40″ (100 cm) Addi lace needles, US size 1 (2.25 mm). I like my needle to be sharp. I’m quite happy with the cable length and the needles.

If that’s not enough, I finished the sleeves for the yoke sweater I blogged about before and casted on the body and I’ve also casted on a Surprise Jacket which I’m having lots of fun knitting.

That’s all for now. I hope everyone has a good week.

Done: Tapestry crochet bag

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a nice weekend. I certainly did. Nice and quiet. I had lots of time to knit and crochet. I finished a sleeve and started another one for the Fair Isle sweater and I also finished a tapestry crochet bag for my mom. Her birthday is coming up in July.

I’m very happy with how the bag turned out:

Photo Jun 04, 9 16 15 PM

I came to making this bag because someone in my knitting group started one and another club member suggested doing a CAL. In Spanish this type of bag is being promoted as a Wayuu bag. The Wayuu are a Native American group in Colombia that live on the Guajira peninsula. There are members of the group who are very talented artisans who crochet bags, weave different kinds of items, and use lots of beautiful colors and geometric designs. The crocheted bags can have very simple designs on them, like the one I’ve made, and also very complex ones. Here’s a video about the people and the crafts they do:

For some reason a lot of craft supply companies and designers here in Spain are promoting this bag saying it’s going to be very fashionable to carry it around during the summer. There’s even a video recommending you buy 14 balls of DMC Natura Medium in 14 different colors. Do the math. That’s a hefty price. Time will tell if everyone in Spain will be prancing around with a Wayuu bag. Anyway, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on cotton to make one. I cut costs using Katia Cancún in different colors. If you choose a design like mine you can use cotton scraps, too.

There really isn’t a formal pattern to make the bag. All you have to do is get some graph paper and make a chart. Then, you can decide if you want a cylindrical bag or a squarish one. Crochet a circle, square, or rectangle to the size you like and then start to crochet the bag in the round without increasing. Tapestry crochet is pretty cool to learn. There are lots of tutorials online available to teach you how if you want to give it a spin. Also, there are plenty of YouTube videos that teach you how to crochet a Wayuu bag.

This time it’s sleeves first

So, as many of my wonderful readers know, the sweater I recently completed got me down when it was time to knit the sleeves. It’s the nature of the knitting beast: far too many of us hate sleeves. As a matter of fact, I remember my mother letting a few sweaters of hers become vests when I was younger.

Anyway, it’s also the nature of the top-down beast: when you knit a sweater from the top downward the sleeves are picked up around the armholes. This forces the sleeves to be one of the last things you knit.

On the contrary, the nice thing about knitting a seamless yoke sweater from the bottom upwards is that you can start with the sleeves because the sleeve stitches are incorporated into the yoke. This is also true for knitting raglan sweaters in the round bottom-up.

So, I’ve decided to start with the sleeves and get them over with. This way, when I finish the sweater, the last thing I will have knit will be the collar and I’ll be all happy. The knitting is going pretty quickly because I finally decided to learn the magic loop method of knitting in the round. I followed the Craftsy tutorial. With this lesson I learned how to knit on a magic loop in about ten minutes. I have no idea why I thought it would be harder to learn. I hadn’t even bothered to look it up before.

The pattern I’m following is from Leisure Arts and it’s called the “Star Motif Sweater” which is available for download from the web site. As you can see, it’s a vintage pattern. Also, be warned: the pattern instructs you to knit the lower body and the sleeves flat. It’s easy for me to convert it into a circular project because the yoke is knit in the round. I just want my readers to know this before they dive in and buy the pattern. I’m simply not following the pattern because I think it’s quite silly to start from the bottom flat and then knit the yoke in the round and do all that sewing.

My yarn of choice is Cascade 220. The main color, which is sort of tan, in the picture at the top, is #1208. The star motif on the yoke will be in #8555 and #9557, which are a black and dark brown. I’ve made a project page for it on Ravelry, too.

This sweater is not for me. It’s going to be my partner’s Christmas gift.

Happiness is my “Unisex Zip”

I finally finished my sweater. We are approaching summer, the weather is warm and sunny, and all I want to do is fast forward to Autumn so I can wear the heck out of my sweater. Look at me! I’m happy! I finally finished this!

zip1

OK, so my glasses darkened when I took this selfie and I actually couldn’t see my face when I snapped the photo, but trust me, my Mona Lisa smile is a sign of happiness.

I’ve raved about this pattern before so I won’t do that again. If you’d like to make one, check out my Ravelry “Project Page” for it, which includes the link to the pattern, which can be found in the digital version of Ann Budd’s The Knitters Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters.