coiled: June 2008

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

summer goodness

Painted, Bright flowers for a bright day.

And, a Super, fantastic gift to make a summer day brighter, and better! Habu yarn, a silk boucle, indigo, hand dyed by Michele!

Thank you. I’ve been knitting blankets in the heat and am pleased to have something small and silky to hold and create with.
I got started on a new scarf, something with enough stockinet to show off the crunchy, slippery texture and a little lace (worked on right and wrong side rows). It’s just enough action to keep the knitter awake.

This knitter is awake, well rested and very pleased.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Knit So Fine

Today is day 4 of the Knit So Fine blog tour and I’m chatting with one of the authors, Laura Grutzeck. Her coauthors are Carol Sulcoski of Black Bunny Fibers and Lisa R. Meyers of Rosie’s Yarn Cellar.

Knit So Fine Designs with Skinny Yarn is a collection of twenty-one designs all worked in fine yarns. The designs are grouped into chapters titled: Simplicity, Speed, Style and Shine. The collection includes a wide selection of long sleeve sweaters, and also a stunning wrap dress, a skirt worked sideways, a ruffle scarf, a lace stole, and a beret; it’s a great collection of classic, wearable designs.

Kat: Laura, have you always been primarily a fine yarn knitter?

Laura: No, when I first started knitting I rarely used yarn finer than worsted weight. It was actually kind of hard to find thin yarns in the stores back then. I remember going into a yarn store a long time ago (BK: Before Koigu) with a vintage knitting pattern from the 40s. I think it called for fingering weight yarn knit on 3mm needles. The store owner told me that they didn’t carry such fine yarn, and besides, “no one knits like THAT anymore.” She made it sound impossible!

Kat: Was there a bulky knit disaster in your knitting past that sent you over the edge?

Laura: Ha, no, I don’t think I ever had a disaster. I was infatuated with the bulky yarns just like everyone else, but I eventually realized that I never used the bulky yarn in my stash. Every time I swatched with it, I wasn’t happy with the way it looked, so back it went to the stash. I guess we just grew apart. J

Kat: Having worked in a yarn store did you get frustrated when people would shy away from the skinny yarns?

Laura: Yes. It can be very frustrating when people wont even consider using a yarn just because it is thin. Even when customers loved a pattern that called for fine yarn, some of them would either refuse to knit it, or ask us to re-write the entire pattern for a thicker yarn! Luckily most of our current customers have seen the light, and have no fear of thin yarns. I think Koigu convinced a lot of people to try fingering weight yarn, and after that, there was no turning back.

Kat: Do you have a favorite design in the book?

Laura: I don’t have a favorite, but I really want to knit Lisa’s legwarmers, Carol’s Bohus sweater and either my asymmetrical cardigan or the lace stole.

Kat: Was there a particular yarn that really spoke to you?

Laura: We got to use a lot of nice yarns for the book; I really enjoyed working with the Blackberry Ridge Cotton Blend, the Regia Silk and the RYC Cashcotton 4-ply.

I noticed that you do a lot of fine gauge knitting yourself, like the beautiful Gossamer Stars scarf in the Summer 08 Interweave Knits. What are some of your favorite thin yarns to work with?

Kat: The other day, I started knitting a lace triangle shawl with
Black Bunny Fiber Laceweight and have to say, that the night I cast on, I stayed up past three in the morning. I couldn’t put it down. Is there magic mixed into those skeins? The colors really made me happy! I did that obsessed knitter thing, talking to myself, and saying, “oh I have to go to sleep, I’ll knit just one more row, just one more row…” Good times! It brought me back to those fun days when I was just catching on to knitting lace and that great feeling of being so excited by the rhythm of the stitch work.

Laura: I’m so glad you liked it!! Carol’s colors really are amazing. I am lucky to know her, because otherwise I don’t think I would be able to get my hands on any of her yarn; she always sells out so quickly. The Lace Stole was knit with the Black Bunny Laceweight, and I think it turned out really well. The yarn has some toothiness to it that I really like. The lace pattern in the stole has a lot of garter stitch in it, and in a drapier, more slippery yarn I don’t think the garter would have worked as well.

Kat: True, the yarn does have a little grip but not at the expense of softness.
I like a lot of the designs but I especially favor the Asymmetric Cardigan. I admit I’m a little obsessed with it. How does it look unbuttoned? I’m imagining that the right front falls dramatically open.

Laura: You are correct; the right front falls forward when you unbutton it. It also looks good with just a few of the buttons buttoned. It is very wearable, I think!

Kat: Moss stitch is a great choice for this sweater. It's hard to not cast on for this immediately. Hmmm I wonder if I have enough yarn in the stash for this one? And, at a gauge of 22 sts and 32 rows to 4” it’s entirely doable.

Laura: Yes, I think this sweater has the largest stitch gauge in the book. I am thinking of knitting one for myself, is one of the projects that I was sad to send off to Interweave.

Kat: Another favorite are those amazing over the knee leg warmers by Lisa. Wow, what a beautiful display of traveling stitches!

Laura: I know, aren’t they beautiful? They are on my Must Knit list.

Kat: Can you briefly describe your design process? Do you start with the yarn, a sketch, an idea of what you want to knit, or a stitch pattern?

Laura: I almost always start with an idea. I get ideas at random times, like when I am walking the dog. Then I start sketching, because sometimes my idea is only for one part of a garment, say a sleeve or a stitch pattern, and I have to figure out what the rest of it should look like. Once I manage to get a nice clear sketch that I am happy with, I start writing the pattern. How about you?

Kat: Sometimes I get an idea and sketch it first, and then swatch for stitch pattern and yarn. Or sometimes, like when I’m designing for a yarn company I will do random swatching, which will generate an idea.

A few years ago when knitting became a popular rediscovered craft it seemed that everyone was knitting chunky scarves. I think that the people that stuck with knitting have moved on and have discovered their knitting styles. The exciting thing is that this is the kind of craft with so many possibilities for exploration.
In the chapter, The Skinny on Fine Yarns, the authors offer arguments for knitting with thin yarn. Among them, the wide range of hand dyed yarns, better fit, more flattering, less bulk, thinner seams, more economical, and the feel.

For me, the feel, is really important and I would add that the knitting experience is more comfortable, since the yarn weighs less; there is less stress on the wrists.
I sometimes dabble with bulky yarns but I always pay the price with wrist pain. So, knitting with fine yarns is good for your health!
If you love knitting at a fine gauge, it won’t take as long as you think because the process will be more enjoyable.

Laura: I completely agree! Thanks again Kat for letting me visit your lovely blog, and asking me such interesting questions!

Kat: Thank you too. It was fun!
For the blog tour schedule click here.