Saturday, November 26, 2011

Building a Modern Calliope

I am thrilled and honored to have my Calliope brioche socks published by Twist Collective. Even though the pattern bears my name, it’s amazing how of a collaborative work it really is, what with yarn choice, editing, layout, photography, and modelling. And a rocking sample knitter (verdigrisknits on Ravelry) who made the red and purple socks, which totally sell the pattern.

Calliope brioche socks
Calliope brioche socks

I work with multiple colors whenever I get the chance, but go to great lengths to avoid working more than one color at a time. Mosaic, double knitting, duplicate stitch – I love them all, but brioche is my favorite.

There’s a lovely rhythm to brioche knitting. It makes a beautiful and luxurious fabric, and can be varied to achieve umpteen million stitch patterns, many of them reversible, of which, Nancy Marchant, to whom I am profoundly indebted for her trailblazing work, has documented all but a few hundred thousand. (I tried to fit a few more dependent clauses in that sentence but ran out of commas.)

Better yet, even after designing several brioche patterns, I’m still not entirely sure how it works. I’m endlessly entertained by the mystery of how on earth I’m actually producing that fabric. With designing, I have started to pierce the veil in places--try enough ways to make the perfect increase, decrease or cable, and something’s bound to sink in. But much remains opaque (such as how to drop down a column, fix a mistake and work back up; grmble grmble ratzen fratzen).

Yet another thing I love about brioche is that it’s an emerging style, so there’s plenty of room for new unventors to make contributions to the literature. Who knows, maybe it’s even possible to invent? There’s no way of knowing, of course. One can only say, well, I was unable to find instructions for this on the Internet.
Calliope brioche socks - sketch
So, I think I may have un/invented the stockinette short row brioche heel. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, really. In fact, when I made my proposal to Twist, I blithely sketched the stripes continuing uninterrupted down the heel, assuming I would easily find instructions on how to achieve this effect. Nope. No how. No where.

I set out on a quest to conquer the short row. The main thing I can tell you about the process is that there are many, many wrong ways to do stockinette brioche short rows. Finally I decided there might be only one right way to do them. This was an astonishing notion, because that is just not the way things work in knitting. In fact, I rather hope that stating my conclusion publicly will prompt someone to step forward and disprove it.

As a side note, I hope I’m not the only designer who writes down in excruciating detail exactly what she did, follows those instructions to the letter to confirm them . . . and arrives at a different result. This does not facilitate the xxvention process. Fortunately, the Kollage Sock-a-Licious was more than up to the task of repeated frogging and re-knitting.

Oh, and the name. I could write something high-flown about how the socks were inspired by the rowdy music surrounding striped big top circus tents and curlicued carousels.* But in truth, I was inspired by men’s stockings of the Regency era. Probably one didn’t find stockings with both stripes and clocks back then, and a dandy certainly would not have worn wool stockings. But one of the great things about inspiration is that it can accommodate a fine and appropriate disregard for the facts.

*By the way, the Wikipedia article on calliopes is an excellent read (although in my neck of the woods, we do NOT pronounce it "kal-ee-oap").

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Twenty-Seven 8 by 10 Color Glossy Photographs

Replacing Dropped Stitches in Two-Color Stockinette Brioche

...with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was...

I’ve posted on Ravelry the first of a series of three photo tutorials on knitting two-color stockinette brioche in the round. The whole series actually has only twenty-four photos, but it’s got enough circles, arrows and paragraphs to make up for the slight numerical shortfall.

I’ll post the next two tutorials over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy!

(all links fixed 2013-04-26)

Part 1: Replacing Dropped Stitches

Part 2: Increases – Right- and Left-Leaning (posted 2011-12-01)

Part 3: Decreases – Right- and Left-Leaning (posted 2011-12-06)

Here's hoping you all have yourselves a Thanksgiving dinner(s) that can't be beat.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Knitters Index

Number of tiny hand-knit gnomes in Anna Hrachovec’s gallery installation ‘Gnomes vs Snowmen: the Battle for Mochimochiland,’ inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry:

Percent of patterns in Jane Austen Knits 2011 with references to Pride and Prejudice:

With references to Mansfield Park:

Number of patterns on Ravelry with ‘Pemberley’ in the title:

Number of forum posts on Ravelry using the word ‘squee’:

Percent of contributors to the Winter 2011 Twist Collective stating that macaroni and cheese was among their favorite comfort foods:

Number of patterns listed on Ravelry with 2-D or 3-D representations of octopi:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


When it is well done, bridal [sic] photography takes a girl who is actually rather pretty and, without telling any falsehoods, clothes her in an aura of romance and splendor. In that spirit, I would just like to say that Jamie Dixon is a brilliant bridal photographer.

Calliope Brioche Socks - in Winter 2011 Twist Collective

Calliope Brioche Socks

Calliope Brioche Socks

Calliope Brioche Socks

Calliope Brioche Socks

Calliope Brioche Socks

Monday, November 14, 2011

How Not to Fix a Dropped Stitch in Silk Mohair

Laceweight silk mohair blends, like Rowan Kid Silk Haze and Schulana Kid Seta, make glorious fabric, but can be challenging to wrangle when you need to fix a mistake. And mistakes such as dropped stitches are all too easy to make when knitting nothing into something.

Dropped stitch in silk mohair

The light grey shows my first attempt to fix a dropped stitch on my Picturesque Cape (piece is worked from the bottom of the photo up). I used a crochet hook to pull the dropped stitch up between its neighbor columns, but the neighbors were completely uninterested in making room for the new stitch, and blocking was no help. Blech!

My next attempt, on the darker grey layer, worked much better. Don’t see any dropped stitches on that layer? Exactly. On the darker layer, I turned to the wrong side and tied a loop of yarn around the dropped stitch and the nearest bar above it to keep the stitch from slipping further. (Still can’t see it? Drop to the bottom of the post for the solution.)

Another reason this technique comes in handy is that dropped stitches in this kind of yarn may be so unobtrusive that you don’t notice them until long after you’ve bound off (so pulling the stitch up would no longer be an option anyway). Luckily, they are not likely to ladder far before you catch them.

Unless your pattern requires a specific stitch count, the fabric is squidgy enough that you don’t need to increase to compensate for a dropped stitch. If you can’t afford to be so free and easy, and actually need to rip back, don a strong pair of reading glasses and work slowly and gently, using a tapestry needle to tease the mohair fibers apart as needed.

File under: High Needs Yarns and the Women Who Love Them

Dropped stitch in silk mohair - repaired