Friday, October 19, 2012

A less visible SSK

Quick note so I won't forget.  On SSK, slips first stitch as though to knit (as normal) but then slip the second of the two as though to purl, still with the yarn in back.  Then proceed as normal with the K part of the SSK.  It appears to be quite less visible.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Equalizing Mirrored Yarnovers

This has always driven me nuts.  It applies to cases where a Yarnover is preceded by a knit stitch and followed by a purl stitch, and then that string is mirrored elsewhere in the row (the Yarnover preceded by a purl stitch and followed by a knit stitch).  I looked at tutorials, watched youtube videos and none of them seemed to equalize the size of the eyelets.  That was until I began working on Whippoorwill, a shawl that has mirrored YOs throughout, and they MUST match in size or the shawl will come out with a longer wing on one side than the other.  In the stitch legend, the designer describes a method I hadn't seen before.

Important Note:  Bear in mind, on this particular shawl, YOs are worked on every row (both RS and WS) serving as wingspan length increasers.  On the RS rows, the pattern states that "no modifications are needed."  It's on the WS rows that this treatment is specified; however I think this also may apply universally if the key to equalizing eyelet size is not twisting the yarn on one of them on the next row.  So if working in stockinette, it would just mean that since your "next row" would be a purl row, where on the below shawl-specific example it says "knit into the back of the YOB to open up the eyelet," in general you would instead purl that stitch on the next row in whatever way necessary so that your yarn doesn't get twisted in the process (thereby undesirably closing up that eyelet).  If working in garter instead of stockinette, I think it would be just as written.

That stated, here's how it goes on this shawl.

For k, yo, p, you bring the yarn forward between the needles over the top of the right needle, and back under the right needle to the front of the work, ready to purl the next stitch. 

For p, yo, k, she calls this a "YOB" (yarnover backwards).  Here, you bring the yarn between the needles to the back of the work, over the top of the right needle, and back under the right needle again to the back of the work, ready to knit the next stitch.  However, on this one there's a critical next step.  In the following round, you knit into the BACK of the YOB to open the eyelet.  This prevents that YOB from being smaller than the YO it mirrors.

As for Whippoorwill, I've been wanting a really cozy, BIG shawl, purely for warmth (non-lace).  So though this was designed for fingering, I decided to make it in the large size, and use Berroco Ultra Alpaca, a worsted weight yarn.  My gauge is substantially different on a size 9 needle than her fingering weight yarn on a size 6 needle, and I was counting on that to yield a pretty good size shawl.  However, a Big ETA:  I need to figure some things out before recommending that size modification because there is a design issue that works well for a small shawl but presents a problem with the size I'm making it.  I'm considering a workaround to make this work out in the end, and will blog and/or include Ravelry project notes on it if it does.  Or doesn't.  It's not the shawl's fault.  I'm just bending it into a size beyond what it was specifically designed to be.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

It Wasn't Horse Heaven After All

This is an update to what I thought was to be a wonderful forever home for my much loved (and only) horse of 7 years.

I previously wrote that Cloud was being placed with a wonderful family, etc. You can read that post as I have not changed it.  Well, after telephone updates from Wendy that Cloud was doing great over the course of a 2-month period, after having taken Cloud in June (the beginning of the prime riding season), on August 22 (getting toward the end of the prime riding season), Wendy called me with a "just thought you'd want to know" statement that she was placing Cloud to a lesson barn in a nearby town....  "just for a while." 

I was shocked!  I asked why.  Wendy said that Cloud wasn't being ridden as she'd thought she'd be.  I said that was easy, I could come ride her a few times a week.  Wendy then said, "Well, that, and financial."  I asked what she was talking about.  When we'd talked about her taking Cloud, and she was telling me Cloud would be in her forever home, right here in town, she'd told me that keeping a horse didn't cost her what it normally does because she grows her own hay and her husband's business generates no end of bedding shavings.  So what expense??  "Oh, grain, fly spray, fly masks... "  Well, she knew all that, and these are not expensive.  I went silent.  She then continued, "That... and school's starting next week." 

Awk??  School's starting?  You knew that when you took her."
Now the silence was on her part.  "Well, so anyway, I thought you'd want to know."
I asked if she was selling or giving Cloud away?  "No nothing like that."
Was she making money on Cloud's use as a lesson horse?  "No."
When was this going to happen?
"Sometime in the next couple of weeks."

I asked more questions.  Basic questions.  Cloud's planned time at this lesson barn? (which I'd never heard of).  Wendy didn't know one answer.  These were rudimentary questions you'd know if you were placing a horse in their care.  She said she'd ask her friend (who works there) and call me back the very next day, not only with those answers but with a time when I could come see Cloud at Wendy's before this transfer even got a chance to take place. 

Well, she never called me back and so I started calling her, leaving messages.  Whereupon she call-screened my calls, not answering them (carries a cell phone with her all the time) and didn't return any of my messages to call me back.  Note that I bit the hell out of my tongue and even assured her I wasn't trying to make things uncomfortable, just needed information re what this new plan was since it was all new.   

Obvious scenario?  This goon took a horse, given free with conditions, and lied about the conditions purely to get a great riding horse throughout the summer, then when school started, summarily dumped her.  And either didn't know, or didn't care, about providing proper care to the horse.  "Oh well, she'll be fiiine, let's go to Staples and buy school supplies, then stop at Micky D's, tra-laa."   

Finally I called her husband who said, "Oh yeah, Cloud was moved to the lesson barn last week.  You can go over and see her there.  She's very happy doing trail rides and lessons." 

I went over to the lesson barn.  Only to find some big surprises.  It turned out that not only had Wendy given Cloud to this lesson barn (the whole "just for a while" thing was a lie), but that this had already happened when she'd called me.  I explained to the owner that Wendy had no right to give Cloud to anyone, she had not yet been given a final bill of sale.  But I wanted to see Cloud.

The owner took me to the stall barn where Cloud was, and led her out.  Cloud was skinny!  Ribs showing.  Reeeeeally showing.  Her flank was sunken in.  How can a horse get like that in two months?? 

From this:

To this:

In two months.  Oh.  Well, I later found out she hadn't been given ANY grain.  Period.  Nor hay neither.  Just forage grass.

And she walked like she was in a lot of pain.  I asked what that was about, and the owner told me Cloud had arrived with severe thrush in all four feet.  She'd arrived with her hooves themselves also neglected so that her toes were ridiculously overgrown and the sides of her hooves had starting to actually curl upward.  Lots of hoof wall breakage as a result.  The barn owner had brought in her own (very good) farrier the very next day and he had no choice but to do a very, very close trim to get rid of the damage and start over with new healthy growth.  The barn owner said Cloud weighed in at 980 lbs. (She's a good sized horse, 15-3hh, she should be between 1100 and 1150 pounds.)  She had put Cloud on a high fat grain, 3 times a day, and hay 4+ times a day.  She also had her on probiotics and she was med-packing Cloud's frogs (soft tissue of feet) with medicated strips 2x/day to treat the thrush.  In short, Cloud had been neglected at Wendy's.  Badly!

Long story short?  The barn owner acknowledged that if Wendy had no bill of sale, then she had no right to give Cloud to anyone.  However as prejudiced as I was right off the bat at the sound of the phrase "lesson barn," as I was first hearing of this plan from Wendy (and absorbing the shock of her condition as I was standing there with the owner of the lesson barn), I was also seeing one very knowledgeable and caring owner of that facility.  Paints are her breed.  She loves them.  She adored Cloud, that was obvious.  She was treating Cloud's feet, told me in great detail about the grain formula she had Cloud on, and in fact, she and one other barn had done a 1-year trial on it and swears by it.  The more she talked, the more I liked her.  And this whole conversation was pre-set to be headed south before I even arrived.  By my prejudices.

While there, I looked at her other horses.  She has 42 of them, both boarded and her own herd.  Every one of them looked to be in prime health.  No, I mean really prime health.  You can also tell when horses are happy or not.  They carry their state of mind in their eyes and body language.  They were happy horses, and they were secure (a biggie).  She told me that because of Cloud's temperament, she had been planning to train Cloud as a therapeutic lesson horse.  She is not a certified therapeutic riding instructor, but she has parents who bring their mentally challenged children to her, well aware that she does not have her degree or licensing credentials.  But talking with her, I could see, she knew what she was doing and had a lot of information that the average person doesn't. 

This is now becoming a whole new twist.  Now I'm thinking that maybe Cloud would have a better home here than at any private home.  In other words, I kept an open mind which is very hard to do when you arrive somewhere pissed. 

I visited several more times, stopping in unannounced (it's a public business place).  I watched what turned out to be the operation of getting all the horses in the big group corral (over 15 of them) into their stalls for the night, one by one.  (This has to be done well, because there's a pecking order in a herd, they all know their grain is waiting for them and once you start a thing like that, the horses get edgy, wanting to be next.  Herd dynamics come into play, any lurking challenges can manifest and they can get scrappy.)  It was handled like clockwork.  Fast, no stopping once it's started, wham, bang, one by one, edgy challenges spotted and short circuited before anything escalated.

As she was taking them out and overseeing who's next, I was following along.  And she told me story after story about this one and that one.  One of them was in that barn collapse in Bedford, MA some time ago.  It made big news. He'd suffered broken vertebrae and his whole lower lip had been severed off his face.  She said that at first, the only way he could eat was for her to make a gruel of grain and hay cubes and he could sort of slurp it up with his tongue.  He now wore a permanent pout with no lower lip, but he's re-learned to eat and this was a healthy horse!  (She also gives them chiropractic massages.)  Others had like stories.  She takes in rescues.  She rehabilitates them.  And she puts them to work in what sounded like really sensitive ways.  She said if a horse is happy doing lessons but hates trail rides, she doesn't use him for trail rides.  Doesn't believe in making a horse work at a job he hates.  (And you really can tell.)  She has one horse there who's 41.  Very swaybacked, he doesn't get used at all.  She walks him or lets him be outside in his own pen.  She said until recently she had one horse in her early 50s, who finally died.  The oldest she'd had was in his 60s.  She loves that.

Another time I came by, she showed me the chiropractic horse massage, using Cloud.  40 minutes of it where she's literally hanging off the horse's neck at one point, swinging her own weight back and forth.  Cloud looked very happy!  She stuck her finger in Cloud's belly button to get a landmark for her other hand position, then spread her hands apart, dug her fingers into a claw configuration and putting on pressure, scraped upward.  (Huh?)  Cloud hunched her back up about 3 inches, and I looked at her eyes.  She was relaxed and looking very content.  Whereupon she (the owner not Cloud) mumbled, "Releases pheronomes and at the same time stretches XYZ muscles."

Okay, you know the rest of the story.  I don't have objections whatsoever about Cloud giving lessons OR trail rides.  That's not the part of "lesson barn" that made me nervous.  It's that lesson barns CAN be pretty commercially-oriented, more so than horse welfare oriented.  This was clearly not the case here. 

The first time I visited, one of the questions I'd asked was whether Cloud was lying down.  I know Cloud.  She won't lie down unless she feels totally secure.  Most horses won't because it takes a minute for them to get back up again so they're very vulnerable when lying down and horse are hardwired as prey animals.  But Cloud is particularly discriminating about that.  She'll settle for sleeping on her feet.  Horses do that all the time.  They simply lock their knees.  But it's not deep sleep.  Cloud was definitely lying down.  In the morning she had shavings on her side and I've been there since, seeing telltale spots on her sides and you can only get those lying down.  It's a different dirt/mud pattern than when a horse rolls, but for a horse to roll it has to feel secure too.

UPDATE:  10/6:  At first I left it with this woman that I'm considering leaving Cloud with her.  Not for sure.  After being burned twice with people who sounded so perfect, I needed to see how things went before finalizing anything.  Well, since the above paragraphs, all signs are excellent.  I stopped by a week ago (Cloud's been there since 9/23) and she has definitely put on weight.  Enough to where I think she's likely to end up a tad chubby by some standards.  (Barn owner does tend to like her horses like "calendar horses" meaning no rib showing at all.  She was still walking weird, but she just is going to have sore feet until things grow out.  However she'd just been in the arena by herself and had taken off cantering and frolicking so that might well have made her feet a little sore if they're as compromised as they appear to have been.  But then if she was cantering around on her own... that's a pretty good sign.  But the energy that Cloud was putting out, that little something where I know if she's happy and well cared for or if something's just not right.... everything I saw said she's very content there and feels secure.

So a very bad situation appears to have led to a damned good one.  I like this woman.  She has no children and says she won't be, and her horses seem to fill that gap for her.  There's another story behind why she took to Cloud so.  Reserved for another time, but it's kind of a tear jerker.  Cloud is a dead ringer for a horse that this woman lost.  Same blue eyes.  Same black "eyeliner" rims.  Same neck markings.  Same face markings.  She showed me a drawing portrait a friend did for her, and I thought it was Cloud.  Paints have very specific unique markings.  Very rare to find two that similar.

There are times when something just seems meant to be.  I can go see Cloud anytime.  Tracie assured me she would never sell or rehome Cloud, period.  The girls (volunteer stable teens and pre-teens are at every barn) all vie to groom Cloud, everyone there loves her.  I'm afraid to say it feels right because it did twice before and I got Cloud burned both times.  So I won't say it.  But if things are as they appear to be (and I've been there just often enough and without warning to spot inconsistencies), then it looks like Cloud slipped into a very good situation that I probably would not have ever placed her into straightaway, where the owner is a vet tech, has a full medical kit, not enough ego to hold off on calling a vet if she's unsure or just wants confirmation, goes to seminars on continuing education on horse care (homeopathic leanings but not a stance against conventional meds), good vet choices (and I've heard of the ones she uses, all with flying colors)... dare I say it?          

Best Insight into 1-year-old's mind I've ever read

Quote from her mommie...

"Oh, look! Buttons on the keyboard! I think I'll press them all Oh look! Mama's toe! I think I'll bite it Oh look! A glass of water! I think I'll slowly pour it over this other laptop oh look! A dog! I think I'll cackle and try to pull her nose off oh look! A plug! I think I'll suck on it Oh look! Mama's lap, I must sit in it and press all these laptop buttons again oh look! Mom let me onto her lap! I must IMMEDIATELY push away and get down so I can pull these cords out of the wall oh look! It's mama's toe again! I must bite it! If she yelps I'll put on my cutest face and lightly sing "mommommommomm..."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Old Romney Bird's Nests into a Balanced Navajo-Plied Worsted Weight

Taking up room in my stash were a bunch color-related bird's nests from dye tests I made years ago.  At the moment I'm focusing my spinning on targeting a predictable end result yarn grist after plying.  Much easier to do with a 2-ply, but with each additional ply, the thickness of the single becomes more and more critical.  And I'm also focusing on getting a really balanced skein which I thought would be harder to do with Navajo plying than with 2-ply.  
All these nests totalled 5.5 oz and I haven't tried out my jumbo flyer yet so not wanting to try it on a potential project yarn, I settled for doing it on 2 bobbins.  I've completed the first which goes from lower right in the above photo through one of the two medium-blue/green bird's nests (3rd color over from the top right). 

The ideal would have been to spin the entire 2 bobbins worth of single to keep my grist perspective on the single, and then Navajo 3-ply it all at once but with a full bobbin, there's no way I could wait to see if I'd end up with a worsted weight 3-ply, nor could I stand waiting to see how the color progression blended.  And also whether I could get a balanced skein with chain-plying, using my new-to-me twist control technique.

Well, it is balanced!  Here's the freshly chain-plied skein, right off the bobbin-->niddy noddy, then hung on a door knob.  Not wet-set.  Gheeeeeeeeeee!  
I started out with about 4 treadles per X distance from the orifice, and did the loop test initially to check the twist.  With just a tad of clockwise self-ply action (pretty feeble but enough to pay attention to), I shortened my X distance just a tad.  After a few more checks, I went with it, letting the swoop happen after 4 treadles and not counting the swoop.  Eventually I refined it to 3 treadles, swooping on the 4th and that seemed right.  It worked until the end of the bobbin (which is the first part of the spun single) and wowza, I'd sure started that single out with a crapload of twist.  Not wanting a harsher yarn than I was going to get anyway from these stale nests, I didn't increase my ply twist as it wasn't enough length to worry about.  I'm just making note of it.

I wanted to end up with a worsted weight after 3-plying and voila, I got it.  Yay. 
I've been after trying to gauge singles for a targeted final result grist ever since I started spinning, and with 3-ply, just the teensiest difference in the singles' thickness makes the difference between DK and bulky.  It's a really fine line.  This time I really focused on it though, and early on I sort of identified that spinning the single at 27wpi looked like it would get me there.  (I used my "I-Spin Tool Kit" Ipod App's grist gauge and that little sucker is terrific because each wpi thickness is represented by a white line with red borders so the goal is to see only red on either side of your laid-over yarn.  Much easier to do than that acrylic see-through wpi-marked ruler which I always found useless.)
A couple strand lengths came out bordering on DK and one or two small lengths a little heavier than worsted but for the most part, it's a pretty consistent worsted grist. 

I got 118 yds (less any stretch on the niddy which I tried to avoid this time) out of the first bobbin, total 81.7g, or 2,.88 oz.  That leaves 2.6 oz. left to spin, which I estimate would add another 107 yds. for a total of 225 yds. 

Spinning from stale nests made for some rustic single now and then, and the unwashed yarn felt scratchier than I remember this Romney being.  But with dye tests I would not have used my finest locks.  Maybe even would have used some semi-junk locks (from belly or leg flanks) since my staple length wasn't overly long.  I did, however (well, fairly early on, that is) remember to establish which way the fiber scales lay on each nest to spin from sheep's body to lock tips.  Re that, these were combed nests, not carded, and since I load my combs with shearing ends mounted so as not to peel (strip) the fiber's scales against the grain in the combing, spinning against the grain makes for a rougher yarn.  But the grain was respected and the yarn did soften considerably after washing (Eucalan) so inferior locks or not, stale nests or not, it's project-worthy.    

For later reference, the amount of ply twist was as above, but the amount in the single?  Recall says I got more than a lazy self-ply on loop tests but not multiple, aggressive sproings.  In the very beginning, yes.  I was coming from the merino/tencel "Shiver" colorway laceweight singles in the previous top.  But when I lightened up (pretty early on, before the green was finished), my recall says my loops were forming themselves into just one-stem self-plies that held themselves confidently, but not to a snitty, bratty degree that I had to struggle with to unwind.  Some did though, I did have to hold a few stems secured at tip end to pull apart on occasion but I think I drafted against those.  So I'd say a fair bit of twist, but definitely short of snitty-bratty stage.

I still don't know what twist gets added/subtracted after it goes through the orifice and onto the bobbin, that just remains a mystery because I haven't found anyone who seems to know.  I therefore pull my loops back out, off the bobbin, not just what's yet to go through.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Getting a Balanced 2-Ply

Well, one method, anyway...

When I first began spinning on a wheel, I would hold my hand in my lap, the two singles separated by my fingers and just ply away happily in one smooth continuum.  I got some very pretty 2-ply yarns, but they tended to be overspun on the ply side.  That over-twist made some of my yarns look like a string of perfect beads, but it was sadly overspun as yarns go. Soaking and/or thwacking would beat it into submission, but the overtwist gave some of my yarns a harsher feel. 

At some point, the niggly Caroltude in me began breaking down the plying stage into parts so I could analyze how to control the amount of twist I was putting in—the goal being to get a perfectly balanced yarn and to control how much twist beyond that point that I was putting in because sometimes I just like a little more ply. But to have any predictable say in the matter, I had to first be able to get a perfectly balanced yarn. 

Well, I left that experiment half done over a year ago and have been knitting lace shawls and shawlettes with purchased yarns since then.  But a couple of weeks ago, reminded how much I liked spinning by watching Cyndi learning to do it, I dusted off and oiled Wheel Annie and broke out a 4-oz. top of merino/tensel, hand dyed by Squoosh that had been tucked into my stash because memory said it would love to become a laceweight or light fingering yarn and end up as lace.  The original plan was to Navajo ply it so I could keep this most talented dyer's color changes, but dreamer that I was, there simply would not have been enough yardage 3-plied, Navajo or otherwise.  So back to 2-ply.  And my quest for a perfectly balanced 2-ply yarn because that was unfinished bidnez. 

This was also my first time spinning fine enough to get laceweight (2-plied) because my default spin has always ended up worsted weight which is what I mostly knitted with prior to the lace obsession.  So here's the yarn after 2-plying.

For newbie spinners, a "balanced yarn" is... well, technically, it's X counterclockwise twists per inch where X is equal to the effect of the combined clockwise twists per inch that reside in your singles.  Practically speaking, a super overplied yarn might skew after it's knitted.  So the general idea is to have it balanced.  And the way you can know if it's balanced is to pull a length of plied yarn (that you've let wind all the way onto your bobbin) back off your bobbin, back out of the orifice through which it went, and let a long length of it fall into a loop.  If it has too little plying twist to balance out what's in the singles, the yarn will try to balance itself by adding more clockwise twist.  You can see that because the long loop you're allowing to hang free will twist around itself counterclockwise.  All by itself.  If you have too much plying twist, the loop will twist itself clockwise, as though wishing to add more twist in the singles.  If it just hangs there in a long limp loop, it's a balanced ply.  It's not trying to correct anything.  (Note:  This assumes you spin your singles clockwise and that you ply by spinning counterclockwise.)

So here's what I do to get a balanced ply.  I stick my Lazy Kate under the table, to my left, and position my wheel at a comfortable distance away.  I hold my singles in my left hand, the two separated by a finger, and I pick a holding position that I can eyeball (e.g., lining up a table leg behind it) and mentally record that hand's position as my go-to "holding place."  And that's where I keep my plying hand.  To start ply-spinning, I watch the two singles close to my holding hand, not the part that's going into the orifice.  And keeping my hand there, I treadle.  Once the twist has reached close to my plying hand via traveling toward it from the orifice, in one swift but smooth motion, I pinch off the singles in my left hand and swoop that whole length into the orifice.  A big suckup, all at once.  My take-up tension is set so it's aggressive enough to gobble it up happily, but not aggressive enough to be tugging at my holding hand during this holding process. 

I do that a couple of times, then stop and pull out a long length off the bobbin, through the orifice, and do the loop test.  Just let the yarn dangle and see what it does.  Meanwhile, I've been counting my treadles between swoops.  If my ply isn't balanced in either direction, I either move my holding hand's place closer to the orifice (for more plying twist) or farther away from the orifice for less twist.  This part is trial and error until you find the magic place to keep your hand for the number of treadles you're going to make, the latter being based on your wheel's whorl size, etc.  For me, with my settings, it's 4 treadles.  This remains a constant whether I treadle fast or slow.  (The revolutions of the wheel are the same per treadle at any speed.)

And that's it!  My "swoop" happens fast enough so it doesn't add much twist because I don't stop treadling as I'm swooping, but I do try to keep the speed of that consistent too.  I do stop and check from time to time (more often at first) to make sure I'm right, and make little adjustments to my holding hand's distance from the orifice if needed.  Now as you get used to this, you'll start noticing that another way to gauge your twist is how long the V is.  (The top 2 legs of the "V" are your singles coming off the lazy kate with your separating finger in between the yet-to-be-plied singles and the bottom point of the V is where the twist has traveled up your 2 singles from the orifice so that your two singles are ply-joined).  Based on the distance from orifice of my holding position today, that yarn's balanced twist point had the bottom of the V about 1.5" from the two top legs of the V.  It's a visual thing, but fun to make bets with yourself as you refine your senses to include another way to tell how much twist is enough vs. too much.

This next photo shows the most balanced skein I've ever gotten so far, which is why I'm taking time to write this post.  Simply, I don't want to forget what I did because it's been about a year since I was doping all this out the last time, and I had to do some recall.  But this is one. very. balanced. skein.  And I'm proud of it.  Past ones have been close, but not like this.  This shot was taken with the yarn right off the niddy noddy.  No thwacking, whacking, no soaking, nada.  I didn't even want the hanging skein supported even to the extent of it lying against a flat vertical surface, so opened the cabinet door so the bottom of it was completely free to turn or twist.  Perfectly straight.  Yay!
I did go ahead and soak the skein to set the spin, and gave it a couple whacks for good measure, just because I entertain myself with the notion that it sort of marries the singles.  Okay, so it's also fun to watch my dog get excited when a human hauls off and slams a yard-long hunk o'stuff into the hollow side of the washing machine which makes a loud noise.  She always behaves even nicer after that.  And it's kind of like the punch down in yeast breads.  Kind of one of those things we just deserve to do.

Ignoring the stretch that happens on a niddy and having only counted one side, it looks like I have 308 yds.  I think the shawlette I planned to make this with needs 340 yds.  I have a little of one single left over which I'll ply on my drop spindle but I think I'm going to fall short of enough yarn for another English Ivy (the shawlette).  But oh so close!!  I'll do the match and see if I cut out one repeat that'll do it.  If not, I will probably walk around with my eyes in that pinched up look that happens when someone's pissed and feeling cheated.   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jogless Color Changes

After a year and a half of lace knitting, I got a yen to knit a pair of legwarmers for my precious, adorable, loveable, never-sits-still, determined, speed-crawling 1-year-old granddaughter.  Momma Jenny said she really likes stripes.  And bright colors.  My LYS recommended Plymouth Merino DK which throws in "Superwash" on the label, to boot.  This is a corded type, many-ply yarn with very high twist and it has no halo.  (That also spells frighteningly high stitch definition where any irregularity GLARES at you.)  All they had for "bright" was orange, but since Jenny likes orange and they had one lone skein left in a green that was asking to be paired with it, that was that.  Her colors. 

Okay, so in my 5 years of knitting, I've never done stripes that are narrow enough to keep two yarns active, carrying them forward.  Let alone doing that on a tube, knitted in the round. 

So at my first color change, I tried a simple k2tog which I'd been shown at the LYS but didn't like it.  Next, I tried TechKnitter's "jogless" method where you simply start knitting with the new color, but on the next round you slip that first color-changed stitch purlwise (without moving yarn to back I found out).  I still saw a visible jog.  Now, TK says it's minimally noticeable if seen on the fly, and her samples appeared to have been blocked which can make a huge difference, but I'm obsessive about stuff like this, in the raw.  So I then went to youtube and watched "jogless knitting stripes in the round" by knitpurlhunter, where she also just starts knitting with the new color but on her next round instead of slipping the stitch as TechKnitter does, she lifts the right leg of the stitch below, up onto her left needle and knits it together with that stitch.  I didn't like that one at all.  I did watch Eunie Jang's video on the subject.  Well, as always, I was so depressed watching how freaking fast she knits that I don't even remember how she did her color change other than that, again, I saw a jog.

So I went back to the TK's method.  Okay, so it does have a jog but admittedly it's not a bad jog.  And I do see that if stretched much at all, it shows very little. 

Ignore the top green-to-orange change just having been made on the needles, which I'll talk about in a minute.  The rest of the color changes are just as TechKnitter prescribes.   

Well, looking at it closely, it's that right leg that's the culprit.  That's the long-ish one from the slipped stitch.  The left leg lends itself to "unobtrusive slant" if it just didn't have that damned right leg sticking down longer. Still, it was the best I'd tried out of the lot, so I accepted it. 

After a couple of times though, just for the heck of it, I tried something of my own to modify it.  And Wow!!  NO jog!  There is still the slant, yes.  But knitting in the round is a continuous spiral, so you're going to get slant anyway.  But this had very minimal added slant. 

Here's the first color change with my little added trick, shown at the top of the green-to-orange color change just after knitting a few rows beyond the above photo.
So here's what I added to TK's method (my changes shown in red). 

Round 1 of a color change:  Knit 3 sts in old color just as you've been doing.  Then simply start knitting with new color starting on the next (4th) stitch.  Knit around with new color up TO that 4th stitch of the next round (your first new color stitch).

Round 2:  And having knitting the first 3 sts and now ready to slip the 4th (color changing) stitch, bring OLD color's yarn to front of work.  Slip stitch #4 purlwise (wyib).  Return OLD color's yarn to back of work again and drop it, and just continue knitting with new color.  (You'll have now wrapped the slipped 4th stitch with the old color.)

Round 3:    Knit 2 of the first 3 again, and knit the 3rd stitch somewhat tightly.  Knit 4th stitch (the one you've slipped and wrapped) as normal.  On 5th stitch, pull old color's wrap taut from the back so that its tension looks consistent with all else on the front of the work, and trap old color's yarn however you normally trap a floating carry-forward (OR see below note re trapping a yarn being carried forward vertically).  And just keep knitting with the new color.  At some point, give a glance to the wrap to make sure its tension remains right, and maybe trap the old (carried forward) yarn once again in another couple of rounds just to secure it more.

So what have we done here?  Not much!  TechKnitter's little jog is still there.  All I did was wrap the slipped stitch with the old color.

Here's a close up, face-on shot where it shows with the wrap pulled aside.

These next 2 photos are shot at the same angle, one with the wrap pulled loose, 
the next with it pulled closed.

So we've used TK's otherwise very excellent color changing method, however we've added an old color's wrap around TK's 2nd round's slipped stitch which simply covers up the bottom of that right leg that creates the jog.

Now what's fun about all this is that normally a wrap sits horizontally across the top of a stitch, just like a purl stitch's collar.  But because slipped stitches pull things off skew, fortunately the wrap itself gets pulled into a slant too, just enough to be really useful. 

So that's how I'm going to do my color changes from now on.  Using TechKnitter's very good method, but adding a simple wrap around her 2nd round's slipped stitch and securing its tension on the 3rd round.

Meanwhile, just a side note.  Many people do their color changes at the beginning of a round because that's where they do them at the beginning of a row when knitting flat. Well, when I first started knitting in the round, I'd already seen laddering from both magic loop and DPN needle changes and vowed I'd never get them.  I learned that when you change needles on either Magic Loop or DPNs, you do want to pull that first stitch tight, sure.  But it's the SECOND stitch that needs to be pulled tight also.  So that's sure not the place to be doing color changes!  So I just picked the 4th stitch of a color changing round arbitrarily because by then I'm done with pulling the first 2 sts tight after a needle change, and I do like to snug even the 3rd one a bit. 

One last thing about color changes followed by a slipped stitch done on the next round.  Techknitter points out that if you do the color change repeatedly on the same column (e.g., in my case on the 4th stitch), especially on narrow stripes, you'll very likely start to see some pulling up, because you have repeated cases of slipped (not knitted) stitches in the same column.  She suggests moving your first stitch of the color change over to the next stitch each time.  So my first color change took place on the 4th stitch of the round as outlined above.  The next color change after that, I did on the 5th stitch.  And so on.  The last color change on this particular legwarmer took place on the 11th stitch of that color changing round. 

Trapping a Carry-Forward yarn while knitting with the alternate color:  Okay, since carrying another color yarn vertically was all new to me, I was really watching everything closely because I wanted this first legwarmer to be the only place I see any messes.  It's my learning piece.  Well, I found that when I wanted to anchor (trap) my old color's yarn every few rounds to avoid long snag-worthy floats, I've only known to twist the old yarn once around the new yarn every now and then to trap it, and keep knitting.  One time it worked fine, it all stayed behind the scenes.  But another time, the old yarn peeked through so that there, right in the middle of my subsequent nice clean knitting, there was this unwanted peek-through of the unused color.  Awk??  I had no idea what I'd done differently.  Well, oddly enough, on the good traps where it did not show through, I'd twisted the yarns counterclockwise.  The one where it showed through, I'd twisted them just the same, except I'd done it clockwise.  Now don't ask me why this would make any difference, but the ugliness happened twice and both times I'd twisted the yarns clockwise.  So while I'll just plan on making my trapping twists counterclockwise from now on, if you have any idea why there's a difference, please leave a comment because I'd love to know.

Techknitter's article on color changes:
...and in getting the link to include here, I just happened to scroll down farther on her page only to see that she has a sample with the exact same green/orange color combination that I'd used for these legwarmers!  So hey, not being an orange or green fan, at least I know I picked 2 colors that have some universal appeal.  :-)