Sunday, October 23, 2011

Change of pace

We have had quite a whirlwind here at chez Tinks and Frogs this past week or so. I went back to work on Monday for the first time since Tadpole was born, starting an exciting (and sometimes scary and stressful) new job. And Mr. Tinks and Frogs switched from working a a job that required a certain amount of travel to being a full-time stay at home dad. One of those changes was expected.

We had hired a nanny to come care for Tadpole and had a transition week before I started work. Unfortunately - or fortunately, depending on how you look at it - we discovered that the nanny was not working out as hoped and we had to figure out alternate child care just days before I was set to start my new job. All I can say is that I have an amazing husband and it was such a weight off my shoulders going in to work on Monday knowing that he was taking care of Tadpole.

But this is a knitting blog, I'm sure you're thinking. What does all this mean for knitting? Well, it means that I haven't really done a lot in the last week or so. Catkin progresses slowly but steadily. It's a relatively straightforward knit at this point but still takes concentration and energy that I didn't always have in the evenings. My newest project, a blanket for Tadpole, is moving a bit more quickly - at least in terms of number of rows completed. But it, too, grows slowly since it's worked in fingering weight yarn on tiny needles. A picture will probably have to wait until next weekend, although you won't notice much difference since it's just a garter stitch center square worked on the bias at this point. That garter stitch has come in handy this week when I was just too exhausted for anything else.

What else do these changes mean? They mean that I didn't get nearly as much done as I had planned in the week the nanny was here. I had whittled my to-do list down to a manageable level and was making great progress until we had a bit of a scare Wednesday night. So I spent Thursday keeping a close eye on what was going on in the apartment and agonizing over whether my anxiety had more to do with new job nerves or genuine concerns about the nanny. We let her go Friday morning. As you'll understand, that sapped any energy that I might have had for pattern writing and Tadpole's Purple Sweater is still unpublished.

But I did finish something that week!

Happy Early Birthday, Sis! I had asked my sister whether she minded if I posted her birthday present on the blog or if I should keep it a secret for another month and a half. Knowing I have a terrible time keeping gifts secret, especially ones I'm really excited about, she said to go ahead. Then, when I hadn't posted anything for a while, she cheekily asked if Tadpole's latest purple sweater was meant to be her gift and whether I had made a bit of a mistake with the sizing on that one. And since I forgot to respond to that email (sorry!), I'll answer now: nope, this is your gift.

And this is 500 yards of roughly worsted weight 2-ply 70/30 merino/silk blend. It's soft and bouncy and has that lovely little crunch that silk does. It'll make a perfect present, assuming I can pack it up and put it in the mail sometime between now and the end of next month.

The combed top was a beautiful blend of reds, greens, and golds that were given a muted sheen when spun up with the silk. I actually find merino/silk blends easier to spin than straight merino because the long staple length of the silk makes drafting a bit more manageable.

The yarn will come with a pattern or two. I have a couple of ideas but I'd love to hear suggestions.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

FO: Another purple sweater

Somehow purple seems to have become my new favorite color. At least for Tadpole. It clearly says "Hi, I'm a girl!" without being that color I can only think of as baby girl pink, two very good things in my book.

I meant to knit this skein up into a baby sweater a while ago but I never quite got around to it until this past month. It was sure worth the wait!

After I hung up the phone from scheduling a 6-month photo shoot for Tadpole, I had the brilliant - and delusional - idea that I would whip up a new sweater for her to wear in the pictures. I had a week and that was enough time, right?

This was a quick knit but not that quick. It took me two weeks instead of the one I had planned.

Project specs:

Yarn: About 9/10 of a skein of Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in the flashdance colorway
Needles: size 2 addi lace circulars (magic loop on the sleeves)
Size: 19" chest circumference, which fits 7 month old Tadpole over a long sleeve onesie
Pattern: A sheet of scribbles loosely modeled on the Tea Leaves Cardigan

This is the first top-down baby sweater that I've done completely from scratch. The top-down method is pretty simple but what had always stumped me was knowing how many stitches to cast on for the neck. It's all smooth sailing after that but everything (especially if you're using the EPS) follows from that first number. I worked backwards from the chest measurement and got the figures I needed but afterwards I sat down and came up with a formula that should work every time.

Here we go . . .

Basic Formula for a Top-Down Yoke Increase Baby Cardigan

We'll do the math first and then the "pattern" second.

1. Knit a swatch. All you really care about is stitch gauge here so work the quickest swatch that will get you that number. Write down your stitch gauge.

2. Figure out how big around you want the chest of the sweater to be. 19-20" should be safe for a 6-12 month old baby. Err on the side of making the piece too big since babies will always grow into the sweater eventually.

3. Multiply your stitch gauge by your desired chest circumference to get your key number (K).

Quick digression: since this is a baby sweater, you probably want a cardigan instead of a pullover so you might need to tweak your K a bit so that the piece divides nicely in the front. Round your K to the nearest multiple of 4.

Why 4? You'll need to make button bands for the cardigan that lay one on top of the other. If the center of the garment lies in the middle of the chest, half of the band stitches come from the right front and half come from the left front. In order to have a left front and a right front that are each 1/4 of the total chest circumference, you'll need a chest circumference that is a multiple of 4 stitches (you can't have a right front that is 25.25 stitches wide, even if that's what your calculator tells you the measurement should be).

4. Calculate how many stitches you need to cast on for the neck: K x 57% = neck stitches (N). Now add your button band stitches. I used a 4-stitch garter button band so I added 8 stitches (4 for each band) to my N to get my cast on figure. But N is what you'll use for the next calculations.

5. First Increase Row: ignoring the button bands, (k2, m1) across the entire row. You'll now have 50% more stitches than you had before.

6. Calculate the number of Yoke Stitches (Y) you will need. This is where the Elizabeth Percentage System (EPS) comes in.

  • Body Stitches = K - underarm stitches (8% K on each side) = 0.84 K
  • Arm Stitches = 30% K - underarm stitches (8% K on each side) = 0.22 K (one arm)
Total # stitches on yoke needle = 0.84 K + 2 x 0.22 K  = 1.28 K

6. Second Increase Row: Ignoring the button bands, (k2, m1) across the entire row.

You may need to adjust this by one stitch since your stitch count on this row (after the increases) should equal 1.28 K. To do a quick check before working the row, multiply your stitch count from the previous row (omitting button bands) by 1.5

If your projected stitch count is one stitch too small, work m1, (k2, m1) across the entire row.

If your projected stitch count is one stitch too large, work (k2, m1), end k2 across the entire row.

Now that we have all of the math taken care of, here's the basic outline of the sweater:

Cast on (N + button bands) stitches. Work neck band in whatever stitch pattern you prefer. Switch to your pattern stitch and continue in pattern until the piece is about an inch and a half long. Work your first increase row. Knit in pattern for another inch and a half or so before woking another increase round. Knit for yet another inch and a half or so and then separate out the sleeve stitches as follows. Work the button band and 0.21 K stitches (the left front minus half the underarm stitches). Place the next 0.22 K stitches on a holder (this is the first sleeve). CO 0.08 K stitches for the underarm and work across the next 0.42 K stitches (this is the back). Put the next 0.22 K stitches on a holder (this is the second sleeve), CO 0.08 K stitches for the second underarm and work across the last 0.21 K stitches and the last button band.

You just put the sleeve stitches on holders to work later and now have K stitches plus the button bands on the needle for the body. Work the body until the desired length and finish with a hem of your choice.

To work the sleeves, pick up and knit 0.08 K stitches from the cast on edge at the underarm and work with the sleeve stitches on the holders until the sleeve is the desired length, finishing with a hem of your choice. Repeat for the second sleeve.

That's it.

Where did my inch and a half yoke lengths come from? You want to space the two increase rows evenly through the yoke. So figure out how long the yoke should be and divide that number by three to get how far you should knit before working an increase row. Right now, Tadpole wears sweaters with about 4.5 - 5 inch long yokes. One third of that is 1.5 inches.

 Happy Knitting!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Where has the time gone?

I wore Whippoorwill out for the first time the other night and it was perfect for the chilly weather. It's not supposed to be cold out yet, is it? Well, maybe if the view from our place looks like this:

That's right - fall color!

It's nothing on what you lucky New England folks will see over the next couple of weeks but it's not bad for living in the middle of the city. Time is really flying - tadpole will be seven months old tomorrow, she has a tooth (!), and I start my new job in two weeks. Fall is really here.

So what about fall knitting? Deep breath . . . about that. I'm a bit behind.

My mantra these last couple weekends has been "I just want to finish something." I've made progress but don't really have much to show for it.

For starters, I finally finished up three more squares for Elizabeth and her Blankets for Birmingham project. I don't know what my problem was, especially since the first three went so quickly. But this time I ran into difficulty after difficulty. I think I went through three or four stitch patterns until I found one I liked in the cotton yarn. And then I had gauge difficulties. After ripping out more starts than I care to think about, I did the unthinkable: I knit a swatch. My squares were done three days later.

Now I just need to give them a quick steam and iron job and pop them in the mail. They're coming, Elizabeth, I promise!

I also whipped up a quick pair of booties for tadpole - something to keep her socks on when we went outside.

I used some leftover Manos Silk Blend from the stash and modified the Christine's Baby Booties pattern to make a garter footbed that was 2x4 inches. This ended up being rather large (not unwearable) but got the job done.

You know you've got a winner when the guy bagging your groceries thinks it's a great knit.

The booties were wonderful to have on chilly days until one disappeared on a walk this weekend. I've got a skein of tosh vintage in the stash that is slated to become booties, mitts, and a hat but I've been putting off casting on for a few days.

Why? I just want to finish something!

I thought it was going to be this little sweater I'm making up for tadpole out of tosh sock.

It's a baby version of Tea Leaves that I'm making up as I go. Or rather, it's inspired by Tea Leaves since I don't have that pattern.

As I said, I thought that this one was almost done - I was working on the garter stitch hem with just the sleeves left to go when I decided to check and see if I had estimated the length correctly.

Nope, too short. So I frogged several rows this morning. And re-wound the yarn. Something seemed to have happened to the ball during the fitting.

I'll finish the body today (I hope!) and the sleeves should be pretty quick, which bodes well for starting replacement booties soon.

Except that I also want to finish this:

This, dear readers, is Catkin. What a fun knit! It's clever and makes you pay attention, both of which I really appreciate after several months of pretty straightforward knitting. I'm one row away from starting the pattern in the second section and I can't wait to get back to this project.

Maybe working on Catkin will be my reward for finishing the purple sweater. And that means it's time for me to go knit before nap time is over!