July 27, 2005

Fun versus function

Last night, I arrived home from a super-successful running class to find this:


A long-awaited copy of Denim People. yay! I've had the yarn on hand to knit Raspy for over a week now and have been waiting for this to show up. I somehow thought it would be a good idea to order the book from a Amazon Marketplace seller, which saves all of $3, and took 11 days. Now I know how Stephanie feels when waiting for things in the mail :-)

I paged through it while cooking dinner, and in a post-running haze, found this sweater very very cute. Why haven't I seen this on the blogs?


The beadwork seems like it could be great fun, and that girl sure looks good. and the patterning around the neck... so nice.

But let's be honest here - am I really going to wear this?? un-likely. I can just imagine picking it up a year from now, and saying "why?".

This is the tricky thing about choosing a pattern - finding the right blend of engaging knitting + wearability. fun versus function.

Perhaps this is why some people knit soley for others.. or why there are stories of being gifted with crazy intarsia sweaters. The knitter was thinking "oooo I want to knit this.. but I'd never wear it. Maybe my niece/nephew/grandaughter/mailman will.."

We all want to feel like our knitting hobby is worthwhile, that it produces high quality, eminently wearable garments. For me, that means stockinette one-color sweaters. Maybe a little cable action. Those kind of sweaters can get pretty repetitive.

There are a couple sweaters I've been wanting to knit, held up only with questions about their wearability. Like this cabled number from Rowan Vintage Style. and Teva Durham's Ballet sweater, guaranteed to add at least 10 pounds. But I think knitting them would be great fun. and why else do I knit if not for fun?

Cabled sweater   Ballet_small.jpg

Back to Denim People, Raspy is the obvious choice for a sweater that I'll actually wear. It seems fun and somewhat irreverant with those dropped stitches, and it should be interesting to see this denim shrinking action. Raspy actually has a good mix of interesting knitting.

But in the future, I want to try knitting for others more often, and choosing patterns that are challenging, just for the challenge. I want to try to remove the "will I wear it?" question. Because its way exhausting. and I've already got running for that.

August 5, 2005

Raspy Gauge Investigation

In preparation for an impending trip to the laundromat, I knit up some swatches for Raspy.

Wendy ran into some row gauge issues when she knit this sweater, and since we are both using Elann's Den-m-knit yarn, I took getting gauge seriously. I tried 3 different needles, and knit enough rows on each swatch to check for row gauge. I've never ever checked for row gauge, ever. Denim yarn shrinks 10-15% in length when washed, so in this case it really *does* matter.

The gauge is supposed to be 20sts and 28 rows per 4" square, and suggests size 6 needles.


*Note: the stray purl stitches in the swatches indicate what size needle was used.. 6 purl stitches for the size 6 needle, and 5 for the size 5. For post-laundry identification.

They are, from left to right:

Size 6 Needles, Clover Bamboo Circs
These needles are labeled as 4.25mm, slightly larger than the standard 4mm. I got 21sts and 27 rows per 4 inches.

Size 6 Needles, Boye Needlemaster Metal Circs
I've heard stories of getting different gauges with different types of needles (metal, plastic, bamboo). So I tried these. Row gauge went down to the required 28 rows per 4 inches, and stitch gauge remained the same at 21 sts.

Size 5 Needles, Boye Needlemaster Metal Circs
Just for fun, I figured I'd try out size 5s. I knit somewhat looser, which I like doing, and perplexingly ended up with nearly identical gauge to the size 6 needles above. 21 sts and 28 rows per 4 inches. huh.

All 3 needles ended up with 21 stitches rather than the called-for 20. This could be okay though. The schematic indicates the finished size small sweater is 38", way large for this skinny runner. A tighter stitch gauge means a smaller sweater..okay by me.

Right now I am thinking I'll go with the size 5s. But the real decision awaits post-shrinkage calculations.

October 4, 2005

Raspy is it.

After swatching for both the Lace Leaf pullover and Salina without first-try success, I moved on to Raspy. I'd already swatched for Raspy once, but it was confusing, and soon abandoned. Saturday morning, armed with a calculator and an apartment full of sleeping guests, I re-measured those washed swatches and calculated.

The conclusion: size 5 bamboo needles should produce the desired result. Size 4s for starting each piece. I started with a sleeve.

In a risky yet math-based move, I added extra length to the sleeve. I like really long sleeves; they are super comfortable. But would it be too long? Did I learn nothing from Wendy's run-in with the dreaded row gauge?

(warning, photos of cat posing with knitwear ahead...)

Raspy sleeve, pre-wash, looking rather long:

* guard-cat included for scale.

Pre-washing Measurements:
Length of entire sleeve: 35 inches.
From cuff to before armhole shaping: 24 inches.


It didn't get any wider or change color post-wash.. that's just the photo styling.

Post-wash Measurements:
Length of entire sleeve: 28 inches.
From cuff to before armhole shaping: 20.5 inches.

Perfect! phew... After washing, the sleeve turned out absolutely the right size! 20.5 inches hits just below my wrist bone.

The overall shrinkage for Elann's Den-m-nit yarn on size 5 bamboo needles was about 20%. Very similar to what you're supposed to get with Rowan's yarn. So maybe they aren't that different after all. This also corresponds to what the Knitting Wench found out in her highly scientific tests.

Onward to sleeve two!

October 7, 2005

Return of the 38-inch Sweater

This is the start of Raspy's front/back, layered over a basic stretchy tank top. The dull colors in this photograph are the result of a grim overcast morning that portends to interfere with my 20-mile run tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow the plan is to get up at like 5am, take the subway to Central Park, and run. I've been getting up early on the weekends to run since July. Its exhausting. I may not be able to get up early tomorrow if that also means running in the rain.


Raspy is way fun to knit. Raspy makes me want to stay up late at night and knit, which is generally an awful idea. Staying up late just kills me the next day, what with oversleeping and reduced brain function. Plus, runners are supposed to get lots of sleep. Raspy, you are infringing on my game. There is only a month until the marathon! This is no time to slip!

As long as its not raining tomorrow morning, I have a chance. If it rains, I might just be adding miles onto the Staten Island half marathon next weekend.

Back to the subject at hand. Based on a recent glance at the schematic, it appears that Raspy is a 38-inch sweater. A 38-inch sweater is what Rowan recommends for a 34-inch person (talking circumference here). I'd adjust the numbers without delay if this wasn't denim yarn. Post-shrinkage denim is one of the least drapey knit fabrics I've encountered. Think of a demin jacket... not really something you want super fitted, right?

Measurements of the completed knitting thus far indicate I may be getting something closer to 36-37" finished size, which may be just fine. To rip and adjust the numbers or not.. that is the question... that is always the question.

Raspy knitters, how do you like your finished sweaters? Wish it were smaller? Or do the Rowan sizing-people know what they are talking about?

October 12, 2005

A sweater of many starts

Um, why do I have two nearly identical in-progress Raspy bodies? And what happened to the previous flat version?


Both good questions. I'll try to explain this situation.

The first, flat version was deemed too large and sent off to the ball winder.


I reworked the whole pattern to fit closely to my actual measurements (what a concept!), and started again, in the round.

After a couple days of knitting, I became concerned about the rampant curling going on at the bottom cast-on edge. I didn't recall the sleeves rolling this much.. hmmmm. Without undoing the current effort, I cast on again, this time working one row flat before joining in the round.

This new edge is virtually identical to the sleeve edge. I figured I'd be able to see the difference after a couple inches.

(New improved version on the right)

Raspy_roll_1.jpg Raspy_roll_2.jpg

And is there a difference?

Not really.

Ah well, I am going to keep on going with this quasi-improved version because I also started adjusting for row gauge. Row gauge was right on in the swatches, but seems to have gotten away from me in the knitting. So every so often, I get out the gauge-o-matic and see how far off it is. Then I drop a row or two from the pattern.

In theory, this will work. But we saw how far theory got me with that rolling issue..

October 17, 2005

Raspy, the complete sweater

Raspy is done, and I looooove it.


I get why people like Denim yarn. Its like a huge math problem while knitting, but so comfy to wear! I wasn't sure what to expect from a sweater made of *denim* .. I didn't even know what such a thing would look like. Its good though! It even looks decent with jeans. I think its going to be my weekend/evening sweater.


The Specs:

Yarn: Elann Den-m-nit, 13 balls mid-indigo
Pattern: Raspy from Denim People
Gauge: generally approximates the called-for 20sts/28 rows per 4", prewashed.
Needles: Bamboo circs; size 4/5 for the sleeves, size 5/6 for the body

Pattern Modifications:

1. Sleeves. Lengthened the sleeves to 24" pre-wash by adding additional rows before the sleeve cap shaping. I knit the sleeves first. Knowing they were done definitely helped with motivation when restarting the body again and again.

2. Body. Worked the body in the round rather than flat, and adjusted the numbers for an ease-free fit. I followed the pattern for the smallest size, then increased up to 34". Altered the raglan shaping so it would correspond to the number of rows on the sleeve raglans.

3. Row gauge. Constantly checked row gauge and removed rows while knitting. I basically dropped one row from every 7 specified by the pattern. (For those seeking real specifics: decreased every 5th/6th/5th/6th/5th row to the waist, worked 10 rows even, then increased every 9th row 4x to the chest.)

4. Neckline. If I could do it again, I'd do something about the neckline. The front and back are identical. The back looks fine, but the front tends to pull and roll. Same thing happens with my Hourglass sweater. Really, a front neckline should be lower than the back, always. Next time, next time.

5. Edge Stitches. I slipped the first and last WS stitches purlwise. This helped when seaming; everything lined up perfectly. Here's a close-up of the inside-out raglan seams. These work quite nicely with the dropped stitches.


That's it for this denim sweater! Next I might try one with the darker indigo.



diana AT streetsandyos DOT com