Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Italian Tubular Cast-on

Last time I mentioned that I will show you a few cast-ons that are exactly the same - but done in different ways, and used for different purposes. I stumbled on this while hunting down various knitting technique videos last week. I was watching one of a cast-on and thought, Wait! that's the same thing as the Italian Tubular cast-on! Then during the week as I was pondering the wonder of all that, I realized that a certain designer's supposedly 'magical' cast-on was yet another slight variation of the exact same technique. I don't know which came first, the chicken or the egg, but you watch and see what you think.

I first found the ITCO about a year ago and immediately loved it. Like many other knitters, I really like the effect that a traditional tubular cast-on gives but find doing it very fiddly and a pain in the neck. Consequently, I was overjoyed to find a way to get the same result without all the fuss and bother. I use this whenever I am working on a project that requires a 1x1 rib (K1, P1). Socks, sleeves, sweater hems, hats... Once you give this simple and fun cast-on a try, you'll find yourself using it every chance you get.

Because my camera will only record short videos I have broken this up into two steps - the actual cast-on itself and working the first two rows are in the first video. Go grab some light-colored yarn in a weight you're comfortable with and a set of needles in the appropriate size for your yarn, and follow along with me.

The original directions I found said a couple of things that I'd like to touch on. One was that this cast-on can only be used with a even number of stitches. I've tried it with an odd number of stitches as well and found that it works just fine.

Those directions also said that you can work either 2 rows or 4 rows of the K1, slip one as if to purl wyif. I've always worked just two rows of this pattern before diving into the 1x1 rib and been happy with the result. Try it both ways and decide which you like the look of best.

Finally, the demo that I saw of this cast-on showed the knitter holding her needle between her knees while she did the cast-on with both hands. It may feel awkward to you at first, but with a tiny bit of practice it is perfectly comfortable to do this cast-on while holding the needle in your hands as you work, and I think this is far less awkward than trying to hold the needle steady between your knees.

After filming the first video, and before filming the second, I next worked about 4 rows of the 1x1 ribbing before finishing off the cast-on. You may do as many or as few of these rows as you like before taking the bottom of the cast-on apart, but do work at least a couple of rows of the ribbing before doing this next stage.

And there you have it, the Italian Tubular Cast-on.

Next time I'll show you the second of these three cast-ons.


PS- It apparently rouses the ire of the techno gods when you are smug enough to announce publicly that you have mastered any form of technology. Just so you can learn from my mistakes...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More New Yarns

You know, I don't generally think of myself as being technically incompetent. But with the computer problems that I have had over the last month, I am beginning to question that self-assessment. However, I do believe that at last I have everything sorted out - with many grateful thanks to my very-patient husband - and all my auxiliary bits are talking to the computer as they should, and the computer is listening. Witness the fact that I was finally able to download these photos to the blog.

You might also take note that once again, I have some delicious things to show you from the parade of new yarns that are making their way into the shop. Lynn assures me that there is even more to come, so you will be seeing more new yarns here as we go along, as well as some old favorites in new colors.

First up, I want to show you the new Malabrigo Lace. I know you are familiar with the Malabrigo worsted weight, a beautiful kettle-dyed yarn in the smooshiest merino wool you could ever hope to meet. Now we have the laceweight, and I can tell you, this stuff is gorgeous. The fiber is a baby merino with 470 yds to 50 grams. The colors are very pretty and well-saturated, just as you'd expect from Malabrigo. I'll admit that my camera phone didn't do justice to the purple at the top, especially.

These would make the prettiest lace scarves for a quick, easy and luxurious gift for someone you know - or even for yourself. I've been knee-deep in my holiday gift knitting since June, so I must admit that that is where my mind is at right now. My preference is to do my gift knitting now, and sit back and smugly enjoy the approach to the holidays without a care. while selfishly knitting for myself. You are welcome to join me.

As I was laying the Malabrigo Lace out on the front table to photograph and turning to talk with Lynn, I espied these beauties hanging on the wall by the register as you come into the shop. Also by Malabrigo, this is a beautiful blend of 30% silk and 70% merino wool, with 150 yds/50 grams. I never used to be a fan of silk, I'll admit it here. My experience with woven or knitted silk fabrics in commercial clothing is that more often than not they have had a musty smell to them that is very off-putting to me, to the point where I just cannot keep that garment on my body because the smell is so overwhelming and unpleasant.

Imagine my delight in discovering that this isn't at all true of silk blend yarns! Now I am in love with the stuff, with it's texture - sometimes matte and light-absorbing, at other times adding a lovely sheen to a yarn that no other fiber can give. To me, the idea of blending silk and merino wool is just a match made in heaven. It has a softness and a vibrancy that is just a joy to work with. Lynn assures me that she has been carrying this delightful yarn for some time now. I replied that when one is as absent-minded as I am, every day is a new adventure.

Kiwi also has a couple of new yarns from Noro! (To me, this is like saying that someone has figured out a new form to put chocolate into.) The multi that you see at the top and bottom of this photo is called Yuzen. It is a 56% wool, 34% silk, and 10% kid mohair. It has a nice hand and it feels as though the drape would be wonderful. The colors blend together in a tweedy sort of way, and next to chocolate, tweed yarn - and especially yarn from Noro - would have to be one of my favorite things in life.

It is a good weight and fiber content to use with another new Noro yarn pictured here, Maiko. Maiko is 35% wool, 30% kid mohair and 35% silk at 130 yds/40 grams, in several very nice 'solid' colors that again have an almost tweedy feel to them. The colors Lynn chose to carry in the shop are really very pretty, and you should be seeing those hit the shelves sometime this week.

Next time I'm going to post more of my amateur videos, this time showing you two different very handy cast-ons for very specific purposes, that I accidentally discovered are the exact same thing! Riveting stuff. Have your yarn and needles handy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

September Sock-Mania

I hope you had the chance to take part in one of the many classes that were offered during the last month in celebration of September Sock-Mania at Kiwi. The shop offered wonderful classes in various sock patterns and sock-knitting techniques, as well as several different sock heels, and Marianne's own wonderful sock design. I got to teach my modified version of the Sherman Heel and had a great time. You should be beginning October with at least some of these incredible projects and techniques under your belt, ready to take on any sock pattern that happens to catch your fancy.

My inner two-year old, I must confess, quite often looms larger than the not-inconsiderable bulk of my outer 50-year old, and my idea of a great time is when I can regress to my mud-pie-making days in the process of creating something both beautiful and practical. And the Paint Your Own Sock Yarn class on Saturday, September 27th with Heather Ordover looks like it was my kind of fun.

Armed with various flavors of Kool-Aid, glass canning jars, rolls of plastic, sock yarn and sock blanks, everyone had a fun, creative afternoon and walked away with their very own custom-dyed sock blanks and sock yarns. For those unfamiliar with sock blanks, they are a large piece of knitted fabric made up with a doubled strand of sock yarn. I've seen some that are pre-dyed but in my mind that takes half the fun out of it. How much better to dye your own and have custom socks! Once you have dyed your sock blank, you knit your new socks straight from the knitted fabric, unraveling it as you go. When I talked to Lynn on Tuesday she was showing off her beautiful green and blue sock blank and looking forward to tackling knitting two socks at once.

They began by mixing the Kool-Aid dyes in jars of water, with labels left near them to remind them which was which. Don a pair of gloves, an apron or an old shirt, and you are ready to dive in.

Here you see Judith playing with the dyes while Heather takes notes about their choices as they go. The table gave them plenty of room to spread out the dyes, yarn and blanks.

Judith paints her blank with yellow Kool-Aid.

It looks like Linda is having great fun working on her very colorful sock blank.

Lynn gets into the act, using my favorite colors on a blank of her own.

Judith with another blank.

When the painting is finished, the dyed blanks are rolled up in plastic wrap, ready to heat up and set the dyes.

They also dyed some sock yarn.

The blanks and yarns, dyed and cooling down after setting.

Some of the finished yarns and blanks, laid out to dry.

All in all it looked like everyone had a great time and I can't wait to see the finished socks that will come from these beautiful custom-dyed yarns. I hope they will allow me to share them with you here.

Many thanks go out to Linda McKittrick for the use of these photos!