Sunday, April 20, 2003

Best Quote I Heard All Day
"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."
--Hunter S. Thompson

Me on handy!

Fair Isle Blah Blah Blah
So as promised, here's my little discourse on how I work Fair Isle. I don't know what the big deal is with this--in my opinion, lace is more difficult--but here goes not much. Take it for what it's worth.

Beginning at the beginning, I swatch. I used to knit across in pattern, cut the yarn, and then begin again on the right side to emulate circular knitting. I now use Meg Swansen's method from Sweaters From Camp, which is to knit across in pattern, then pull out a length of each color and loop around the back loosely. This leaves the yarn intact if I run out and need a bit more. And it's easier and neater.

I cast on using long-tail. This works fine, the bottom doesn't curl, and I don't have to learn the impossibly obtuse Half German Twisted Decaf cast-on that Meg teaches. (I have 3 basic cast-ons that I use--long-tail, cable, provisional. They cover all my knitting needs. I don't need to learn any more.)

Once I've gotten the thing going without twisting the usually 390+ stitches, I hold the contrast yarn in my left hand, the background yarn in my right. And I never, ever change this. Ever. It's my and Loopy's opinion that more problems are caused by switching hands in midstream than whether the contrast yarn is held in one hand or t'other. All I can say is that my work looks good if I do this. (Note to Kathy Merrick: I'm left-handed, dear one. Shouldn't make a damned bit of difference. I gave up trying to get people to believe I was handicapped years ago. Heh.)

Once past the ribbing or welt, I immediately separate each motif repeat with those little red O-ring markers. This way, if I make a mistake, I'll never have to rip out the whole damned round. And I use one of those circular knitting counters that acts as a marker for the beginning of the round. I always count rows on everything I do, not just Fair Isle.

As I knit, I tend to bunch up the knitting on the left hand needle but stretch it out once it's worked and on the right hand needle. This helps keep the floats loose enough to avoid Fair Isle clumping. And once I have a reasonable amount knitted, say 10" or so, I flip the work to the inside, with the wrong side on the outside "rim" of the circ. (The work won't stay put on the inside if you don't have some length to it.) This adds a bit more distance for the floats to be carried over. Think of a race car driving to the outside of the curve or the inside of the curve. The outside of the curve is a further distance than the inside. Same principle.

I steek using the checkerboard method. I hate the wrapping-the-yarn-around-the-needle method--too sloppy. I do not machine-stitch on either side of the steek sts, I just cut. Granted, I work in 2-ply jumper weight exclusively (Campion, Jamieson's Spindrift, etc.) and the stuff is like velcro.

When the garment is completely finished, I wash it by hand with Ivory Liquid or J&J Baby Shampoo, put it in the washer on gentle spin cycle to remove the excess water, and then block it on a wooly board if it is a pullover. If it is a vest, I block it by lightly steam-pressing it, avoiding the ribbing.

Oh, and reading the charts. First off, I really hate Fair Isle charts that have color blocks. Give me symbols and black-and-white always. Much easier to follow. I basically memorize the stitches to the motif for each row, and their relationships to the stitches in the row below. Most (but not all) Fair Isle patterns are geometric, so you need only to follow the stitch progression and understand it to avoid mistakes. The one Fair Isle that I've worked on that violated this rule was AS's Grand Ave., which has this huge, sort of freestyle motif at the bottom. THAT was a bitch because it had to be worked blindly row for row.

Now, mind you, I've never done a Dale sweater--that's Loopy's domain. I do have a Dale Kolibri Fair Isle kit in the stash that I bought in a fit of vacation insanity one year in New Hampshire, but I doubt I'll ever make it. Cotton is the absolute worst for Fair Isle. If you don't knit it like a machine, it will look like shit. Trust me.

When I get some more length on the Queen Anne's Lace, I'll put up a pic. I'm more and more enamored of Fair Isle the longer I do it. In fact, my next design project will probably be a Fair Isle in Jamieson Spindrift. But I'll finish this one first.

Focus is everything, ain't it?

Too rare in most knitters, I think.

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