Ravi revived

Some of you may be wondering what happened to Ravi.  I was knitting away on it fairly steadily throughout August, and since then it has done a disappearing act.  The truth is that Ravi and I have had a number of disagreements.  I need to solve them before I can finish.  These disagreements revolve around three design features.

First, I had major issues with the sleeves.  I think I’ve worked them out now, as you can see from the above photo, but it was touch and go for awhile.  First, Ravi is designed with three-quarter length sleeves and I couldn’t decide whether to keep them that length or do full sleeves.  I finally decided on the full sleeves and I think it was a pretty good decision.  I like them.  I think the I-cord edging and the fact that they do not come down to a ribbed cuff as many sweaters do, gives my Ravi the appearance of a jacket.  Kind of chic.  That was only one isse I had with the sleeves, however, and not the primary one.

I hated knitting these sleeves in the round.  I always hate knitting sleeves in the round, even though it is all the rage these days.  I don’t see what the problem is with seams.  Knitting the sleeves in the round when the body of the cardigan is knit back and forth leads to its own set of problems, since the gauge doesn’t match.  In addition, knitting garter stitch in the round is not fun (since you have to alternate knit and purl rows even while turning out garter).  And I found that I could not knit it, no matter how I tried or what method I used, without creating “ladders” or “ridges” running down the sleeves.  You can clearly see one in the above photo, running from the elbow to the cuff on my left sleeve.  I am hoping that with a little luck I can block these out.

By the way, once I had almost finished the second sleeve, I decided to check the archives of the Ravi KAL on Ravelry to see what other knitters had to say about the sleeves.  I mentioned in a previous post that I didn’t really follow the KAL, in part because there was so much posted, in part probably pure obstinance.  I was dismayed to discover that many knitters, frustrated with knitting the sleeves in the round, ripped back and knit them flat and seamed them.  Argh!  Why didn’t I do that?  It would have taken me a third of the time and saved tons of aggravation.  Maybe I should have followed the KAL more diligently.  You think?

Annoying design feature number two has to do with the short row shaped back hem.  Here is how it looks on the pattern, as designed and modelled by Carol Feller (taken from her blog, Stolen Stitches):

Here is how it looks at the moment on my Ravi:

See that horrible bulge?  (Some of this bulge is just from the stitches still sitting “live” on the needle at the bottom, which pulls them in a bit.  But some of the bulge is caused by the short row shaping, and it looks terrible.)  Now, once again I searched the Ravi KAL posts, and according to them, many knitters had this problem and they all claim that it blocks out with a good wet block and steam.  Carol Feller agrees, and there are photos to prove it.  Many of them.  Still, I find myself torn between doing all of the finishing on the cardigan and then discovering that the bulge won’t block out and having to rip it all out, or just biting the bullet and ripping it out now and leaving out this feature all together.  In the latter scenario, I would just have a straight hem at the bottom.  The photo below shows both how great the sleeves look at this bracelet length, and how awful the bulge at the back hem looks.

I go back and forth every day about whether to rip this or not.  I think I have probably decided to trust my fellow knitters  and block it out.  It certainly looks great in Carol’s Ravi, and she didn’t steer me wrong with Killybegs, which was an excellent design.

This leads to the third issue and the one that really has me stumped: the buttons, buttonholes, and I-cord edging.  The design calls for an attached I-cord edge that goes all the way down the fronts and around the bottom.  The I-cord looks supremely elegant and gives a very tailored edge to the cardigan. The buttonholes are knit into the I-cord as loops.  I have looked at all the Ravi photos and have found that I really am not happy with the buttons.  On some sweaters they gape, which really detracts from what should be an elegant edge.  On others, the spacing is wrong (and this is hard to fix, because of the lace panel, which leads you to make certain judgements about placement).  On many, the buttons are too heavy and pull down the fabric of the cardigan on one side, making the whole sweater lop-sided.  Some Ravis exhibit all three of these problems.

I have at least five options: (1) Stop fretting, and just follow the pattern.  (2) Knit a button band.  This would entail picking up stitches down both fronts and along the bottom, and knitting a band in garter, complete with button holes. (3) Put in a zipper.  This may be a good option but a slightly scary one as I have never done this before. (4) Use hooks and eyes to make an invisible closure.  (5) Don’t make any closure. Knit the I-cord edging and then wear it open or use a pin to close it.   Not a day goes by when I don’t change my mind about which option to use.  Today I’ve changed it twice….

A Feller double bill

Some of you may think that my last several posts have been about copyright issues, badly behaving designers, gorgeous designs, and things my mother and grandmother knit, in order to cover up for the fact that I haven’t been doing any knitting.  Well, dear reader, you would be wrong.  I have been plodding away on two cardigans, my Ravi cardigan and the Killybegs cardigan, both coincidentally designed by Carol Feller.  I haven’t been able to get any photos taken until today however.

In Ravi, as you may recall, the yoke, including the lace panel, is knit from side to side and then stitches are picked up all around the yoke (about 200 of them) and the body is knit down in garter stitch.  I worked very hard to pick up the stitches as carefully and beautifully as possible and I must say I am quite pleased with the results.  See the pick-up line in the photo below and how even every stitch is?  It can be very hard to pick up evenly around an edge, particularly a long one.  Many times I have to rip and start over.  This one came out perfectly, without any ripping at all, but mostly because I took my time and did it very meticulously.  It took over three hours just to pick up the edge.

In addition to the yoke design, Ravi has an interesting construction at the base.  The body is knit down to the waist, and then there is a bunch of short row shaping on the back of the cardigan, so that the front actually ends quite high up, at the natural waist really, and the back curves down over the hips.  Here is a shot of Carol, from the pattern.

It’s not the best shot for showing this feature, but you can see that the front of the sweater comes to above her belt line, while the back is a good 4 inches lower.  Now, I have actually knit down to where I should start the short row shaping, which effectively means that the sweater will not be any longer than it is now in the front.  I am worried that this is actually too short and I should add a few more inches.  On the other hand, I really like this feature of Ravi, and like the way the swoop in the back looks.  If it was placed too low on the hips, I don’t think it would have the same nice effect.  So, I have a bit of a dilemma; keep it really short in the front, or do some lengthening, which may cover up some pudginess at the waist line but possibly contort the nice line of the back?  If I do make it longer, I will have to add in some hip increases.  In any case, I need to decide now, before I knit any further.  Any suggestions?

Ravi, as you may recall, is being released in segments as part of a giant KAL organized by Carol Feller.  There are currently 891 members of the Ravi KAL group on Ravelry.  That is an awful lot of people following along and knitting this project together.  One would think that that would generate a lot of extra enthusiasm for this project (in me, I mean).  I find, however, that I am something of an anti-populist in these things; I tend to like patterns better when they aren’t insanely popular.  It’s sort of like books – if something has reached the bestseller lists, I feel almost honor-bound to ignore it.  The fact is I have a lot of enthusism for the pattern; I think it is a lovely design and very well executed, and the project notes that accompany each segment are great.  When I started out, I found the KAL forum very useful for deciding on which yarn to use, and which short row method to use, and just looking at other knitter’s progress was fun.  But I notice that, as of this morning, there are 1884 posts on the forum which I have not read.

In addition to Ravi, I have picked up Killybegs again.  I had previously knit the body of the sweater up to where the yoke begins.  In the past two weeks, I have knit both sleeves.

The sleeves are knit on DPNs (double pointed needles).  Knitting on big, fat, wooden DPNs (US size 9), with thick wool, while cabling, is not easy on the hands.  I had to limit how much I knit each day as I found my wrists and thumbs would really start to ache after an hour or so.

But now the sleeves are done and I am ready to join up the sleeves with the body and commence the yoke.  That will be a bit of a challenge, as there will be a huge number of stitches on the needle, and lots of cabling.  On the other hand, just finishing the sleeves gives me a huge psychological boost.  And this incredibly vibrant green, with all of the cheery flecks of orange and purple (Studio Donegal Aran Tweed in “Green”), makes me happy.  I can’t help but smile when I’m knitting with it.

Short rows

This week my knitting mojo took a detour.  I had a couple of lovely projects on the needles, and lots of time for knitting (relatively speaking), but I just couldn’t seem to get into it.  I have often noticed that the amount of knitting I get done is inversely related to the amount of reading I get done.  I read 6 books this past week.  I knit…..very little.

My goal for the week was to finish the yoke of the Ravi cardigan (the directions for which comprised Clue 1 of the Ravi KAL) before Clue 2 arrived.  Clue 2 arrived in my mailbox (electronically of course) first thing this morning, and I finished the yoke section this afternoon.  Mission very nearly accomplished.  Of course, this was facilitated by having a very low goal set; I was mostly done with the yoke a week ago.

There was a lot of discussion on the KAL regarding which short row method would be best for this project.  Carol Feller includes a link to the Japanese short row technique, which she recommends, but which seemed fussy to me; involving the use of many stitch holders or paper clips, and of course, the wrapping and turning and picking up wraps.  I was not in the mood for fussy, and was interested to find on the KAL boards a link to the German short row method, which was decidedly unfussy.  Guess which I ended up doing?  I am not convinced if it was the most invisible method, but I decided early on that the short rows should be seen as a design feature of Ravi.  Instead of trying to hide them within the fabric of the garter stitch, we should instead celebrate them, and have them literally jump out of the fabric.  Looking at mine in the above photo, I think I accomplished that.  They remind me of whalebone in a corset, providing the structure on which the curves are based.

Here is a very brief description of working German short rows in garter stitch.  First, you knit up to the place in the pattern where it says to wrap and turn (first photo below).  But, because we are doing this the easy way, we don’t wrap at all, merely turn (second photo below).

Notice that since we have now turned the work around, and we were knitting, the yarn is now in front (as if to purl).  We then slip the next stitch as if to purl.  Then, we want to continue knitting back.  Since the yarn is in the front, we need to pull the yarn over to the back to be in position for the next knit stitch.  This will pull up the stitch we just slipped, making a funny little v-shaped double loop on the needle, which looks like this:

In the above photo, you can see that I am completely ignoring the v-shaped loop and proceeding to knit into the next stitch.  Thus, we have completed what is normally a complicated wrap and turn, simply by turning and slipping a stitch, then continuing blithely knitting along.  On the return row, you will eventually come up to where your funny v-shaped double stitch is, which will look like this:And, instead of doing anything tricky, you just knit it, putting the needle right through the double loop, as if you were knitting two stitches together:

So that’s it folks, an incredibly easy peasy short row.  No moving stitches back and forth from one needle to the other, no elaborate wrapping procedures, no stitch markers or safety pins; just turn, slip and carry on knitting.  The non-fiddly short row takes a bow!

And please don’t fret; the technical portion of this post is completed.  So, a few comments on the whole KAL thing (recall, this is knitting shorthand for a knit-along, a sort of mass knitting event).  There are now just shy of 800 knitters participating in the online KAL for this cardigan.  There are a number of good things that have emerged for me so far in this process.  First, there was a lot of discussion about which yarn to use.  Since I had never used the Blue Moon Fibre Arts Socks that Rock yarn before, and was considering using Wollmeise, I followed these discussions fairly closely.  There were many helpful comments which helped me to settle on the BMF (and also on the colour, which a number of others are using; it is beautiful, is it not?)

Second, the whole discussion involving various short row techniques was quite useful and led me to the German method outlined here.  Many of the knitters had not done short rows before, so I imagine this would be especially helpful to them.  Third, at some point I read a comment about how the I-cord edging looks wrong for the nearest 2 or three rows on the needle, but then sorts itself out.  “Stick with it;” this commenter posted “and in a few rows you will see it taking the proper shape”.  I very thankfully recalled this advice after a troubling train trip to Oxford, in which I stared in disbelief at my I-cord edging for a very long time, trying to figure out why the last two rows looked funny when all the rest were fine.  Fourth, when Carol first released Clue 1, there was a small but fairly important mistake in the description of the I-cord; a knitter noticed this and brought it to the attention of the forum immediately and Carol had already fixed it and re-sent a revised draft before most of us had opened the file.  I can’t tell you how useful this is.  As a last really positive comment it is great to see all of the progress photos people are posting, especially since this cardigan is being knit in so many different yarns and colour schemes.

On the other hand, I find all of the chatter on the KAL impossible to keep up with.  Knitters, especially knitters on the internet, often have a tendency to be fan girls and to gush a lot (also to rant a lot, although not in this context).  I barely have time to skim what I think are the crucial bits of this KAL, or even the fun or interesting bits.  If I read every comment that was being posted on the KAL, I would never have time to knit.

Well, today I am in possession of the next clue, so I really should stop all this incessant reading and start knitting.  I would like to say hello to both of my daughters, who are busy running around Berlin together this week and hopefully having far too much fun.  I end with a silly photo of me, standing out in the rain and cold while Doug hurriedly took some shots.

A cast of hundreds…and me.

I have been enjoying working on the Killybegs cardigan designed by Carol Feller.  It is a lovely design and the pattern is really well written.  As a result of this, I have been paying attention to Carol, and her other designs, and so I sat up and noticed when she announced she was about to publish her 100th design.  Not only that, but it is a lovely design; a cardigan, called Ravi:

To go along with it’s publication, she decided to host a KAL, or knit-along.  I think that most KALs used to be when a small local group of knitters decided to all knit the same thing, and to meet up once a week or so while doing it, so they could compare notes and offer encouragement.  With the advent of the internet and the huge online knitting community, mediated by Ravelry, the KAL seems to have expanded out of all proportion.  I am normally a more solitary type I guess, or maybe don’t like to think of myself as trendy, so I have never participated in a KAL.  But here, I thought, is a lovely design and an opportunity to experiment with a KAL for the purpose of blog reporting.  (Yes, dear reader, I am doing this for the purpose of science.)

When I joined the Ravi KAL group on Ravelry, there were about 40 others in the group.  This seemed like a nice size to me.  However, the urge to knit this cardigan seems to be pretty irrepressible, and today, as I write this, there are 755 knitters participating in the KAL, and the number keeps creeping up.  The recommended yarn for the cardigan is Blue Moon Fibre‘s Socks that Rock (great name, huh?) in medium weight.  Though many are using alternate fibres, a huge number are using the BMF, which is a small company specializing in hand painted yarns.  Imagine the chaos there when 600 or so people placed cardigan-sized orders of hand painted yarn!  I ordered this yarn, in the colour called Copperline, which is a beuatiful, rich copper, with strand of browns and rusts.  I like the fact that it has the richness, depth and variation that comes from the handpainting process, but not too much variation, which I really don’t like knit up in sweaters.   Isn’t it a lovely shade?

I am going to hold off on my comments about KALs until a little later in the experiment.  I should point out, however, that this is one of those in which the pattern is released in Stages, so that everyone can make an attempt to keep up.  The first clue to the pattern, with directions for the yoke, was released about two weeks ago.  I had yet to receive my yarn at the time, and was determined not to start until I finished knitting Laresca, so I started about a week late.

The first step to knitting anything, however, is to wind the skein into a ball.  I still use the old fashioned method.  This means that for every single skein of yarn that I knit, I shanghai Doug or Emma or Leah into standing around with the yarn draped over their outstretched hands while I wind the yarn into a ball by hand.  They are really terribly good about this whole process, and never complain, though I think they sometimes conspire to run out of the room when they see me holding a skein of yarn in my hand.

I must say that the above photo altered reality a bit in order to get a good shot; I don’t normally stand quite so close, and I usually wind at a furious speed; I had to slow down in order to capture this.  This was also taken on a cloudy, rainy day, and Emma managed to catch the only ray of sunshine that fell in our back garden that day.  This mix of sun and shadow playing on the yarn really reflects the richness you see in person.

I will now make a short diversion in this post, intended for those people who buy me birthday gifts (Doug, are you reading this?).  Many knitters nowadays don’t have to shanghai their family into standing around motionless for hours with arms outstretched.  These knitters have shifts, small mechanical devices which hold the yarn, and which spin, allowing a ball to be wound more easily.  Many of these swifts are beautiful works of art in and of themselves.  Some can even be dismantled and easily stored away when not in use.  Like, for instance, a Hornshaw swift:

Some knitters might also have a ball winder, thus facilitating the process even further, but those hints will wait until another birthday is upon me.

The Ravi cardigan has an unusual construction. The yoke is knit sideways, from center front to center front.  Stitches are then picked up along the bottom edge, and the rest of the cardigan is knit downwards in garter stitch.  The first clue for the KAL was for the yoke section, which is made using short rows, which shape the yoke into a gently curving shape which is wider along the base than along the top.  There is a panel of lace along the bottom edge of the yoke, and the top is formed by garter stitch rows, into which short rows are inserted at even intervals to form “wedges”.  These wedges look really interesting and beautiful in the handpainted BMF yarn.  I have been working on this, very sporadically I must say, for the past week, and am about half way through the yoke.  Here you can see it from close:

And closer:

And closer still:

Isn’t is completely lovely?  In the last photo you can really see the short rows and how they interact with the garter stitch.  I will discuss the short rows in more detail in the next post.

I’d like to end, however, with a comment about Laresca.  I bemoaned the weather in my last post, and said that I would be ready for the sun if it ever showed it’s face. Today, it wasn’t particularly warm, and it definitely wasn’t sunny, but I managed to wear Laresca anyway, through the mediation of that wonderful piece, the jacket.  Here are some photos Doug snapped of me at the office with his phone.

The jacket looks a bit shapeless in these photos, but it’s actually a lovely, comfortable, warm jacket made from felted wool, just perfect for a knitter (it’s from Hobbs).

That’s all the news from Knitigating Circumstances headquarters.  Stay tuned for the scintillating topic: short rows!