Thursday, September 25, 2008


Oh, ladies and gents, how good it feels to be writing again. It's been a tough week. I don't like to bleed in public, so I'll spare you the details, but let's just say that I've felt about as sound, robust and productive as the stock market.

Thank heaven, even more than usual, for knitting and spinning. I can I always tell when I'm heading into a rough patch because suddenly all I want is circular knitting–preferably simple circular knitting. No, not merely simple. Boring.

So I've been working down the foot of the Felici sock, and I started a plain vanilla, top-down sweater for my favorite sweater girl.

Autumn Sweater

It's Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in "Aslan." Very comforting stuff. Quiet. The sweater is all stockinette, though I toyed with a leafy edging from Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge for the hem. Since taking this picture, I've ripped it out. Too fussy. You don't eat vindaloo when you've got an upset stomach and you don't knit fancy patterns when your head hurts–or at least, I don't.

If plain circular knitting is medicinal, spinning is even more so–though treadling isn't something I've figured out how to do while lying in bed (or hiding under it). The bobbin of Border Leicester, which I hope will eventually become Miralda from Knitted Lace of Estonia, is looking a bit plumper.

I've Been Spinning

(As my friend Joe has noted, there's nothing half so exciting as pictures of spinning progress, unless it's photographs of paint drying.)

This week spinning has been an even better tonic for strained nerves than knitting. The wheel, bless it, goes around when I make it go around. No fighting, no questions. No stalls, no bumps, no swerves, no roadblocks. It spins, and the fiber twists, and the damned yarn gets made. A simple victory, signifying little, but at the end of a day in which nothing else has gone smoothly–I'll take it.

Nightcap Stuff

The response to the 1840 Nightcap has been a huge surprise. I figured there would be some interest in the edging, and little or none in the cap itself. And yet folks want to make it, but there have been issues. It's my first pattern, and I tried like the dickens to keep it clear and correct, but not with perfect success–which is why I've started taking a swig of Peptol Bismol before I check my e-mail.

The abbreviation skp, which one or two folks have queried, means "slip 1, knit 1, pass the slipped stitch over." I didn't realize that abbreviation, which is the one I'm accustomed to using, wasn't Knitty's standard choice. (Neither, apparently, did Knitty, as they left it in place.)

In the wake of several questions about fit and gauge, I re-measured the swatch (circular stockinette) and the finished object to make sure I hadn't goofed. I hadn't.

I swatched with several needle sizes and finally settled on a US 0/2.25 mm. It yielded a supple but not blowsy stockinette fabric with the yarn, which is akin to lace weight. The original pattern called for fine cotton, and this was the finest I could find that was readily available.

Those needles plus that yarn, with a cast on of 208 stitches (the original pattern doesn't give an exact number, it only says to use a multiple of 13) yielded a 21 inch opening on a hat with a somewhat loose fit (as compared to your typical beanie for outdoor wear, which is meant to be snug). I slept in the hat a few times and found the amount of ease supremely comfortable.

Apparently, though, I have freaky fingers. Others who are also using (so far as I can tell) lace weight equivalents and teeny-weeny needles are turning out hydrocephalic nightcaps. This is, I fear, going to have to go on my list of perpetual riddles along with the möbius and where lost stitch markers go when you lose them. I don't know why it worked for me, and won't work for others. I only have these two physical objects and my ruler telling me those were the numbers I got.

[Sounds of weeping.]

If your skinny yarn and your teeny-weeny needles are yielding a hat that's too large, I'm afraid all I can suggest is reducing your cast on, using a multiple of thirteen. That should do the trick.

If you're using a fatter yarn, even a thin sock yarn, your nightcap's definitely gonna come out too big unless you cast on fewer stitches. Period. This is a lace weight hat. Welcome to my dark realm of pain and suffering. Some of us like that kind of thing. (I also enjoy tweezing my eyebrows and getting booster shots.)

And finally, at least for now, there is a question about the lace edging–specifically that the initial round adds two stitches in each repeat (with yarnovers), but removes only one (with the notorious skp). That is correct. The second row (and all the even rows) add no stitches, but removes one stitch in each repeat with another skp. Just keep going, my dear, and all will be well.

Oh, and if you want to see free hot skp video action, go here.


Amid the clouds, one silver lining: Grandma's party. Relatives came from all over, the weather was perfect, the birthday girl was surprised, the food was fantastic, and she liked her Swallowtail Shawl very much.

Birthday Girl

Thank heaven, oh thank heaven, for knitting. (And grandmothers.)


Anonymous said...

Hey Franklin,

We missed you! I for one read your blogs for the chuckles (as well as the knitting advice)! So glad you are back amoung the healthy!


Yvonne said...

Take heart, Franklin - you're adored and missed by throngs of fans. I've missed you, too. Maybe you can con Harry into bouncing on the treadle while you draft the yarn from under a blanket??

Anonymous said...

Is she the grandma you wrote about (and pictured) in your Piecework article this summer? She's lucky to have you as a grandson and to get something purple on her 90th b'day.

FiberQat said...

I tried the Stork on the hat The initial cast on on circular needles with wonderful tips but horrid joins wound up large enough to be a small cat cozy, even after I had gone 6 rows. I ripped it out and tried again. Another cat cozy. I cast on 156 stitches and got the right size but found I had twisted my cast on. Did I persevere?

Nope. Will try later after cranking out stuff for Oregon Flock and Fiber. It's a beautiful cap that will keep me warm in my drafty house.

amy said...

Oh, I hope you're not getting mean emails. For crying out loud.

I like stockinette in the round--or flat garter--when I'm stressed, too. I think I knit all garter stitch while my mother was dying. Knit on confidently, through all crises.

Annie said...

For spinning while lying in bed or under it, try the Rakestraw Spinner.
The site is rather annoying, but the spinner is delightful. (Not connected to them, just enjoy the spinner.)

hokieknitter said...

Ah, Franklin, so sorry about the complaining emails. You forgot a lot of knitters like to be led by the hand and don't understand every knitter is different in the gauge they get and the tension they automatically use. Or how to alter a pattern so it works for them. Or that they can and no one will arrest them. Or..or...or, er, excuse me, I was having some flashbacks to some knitting classes I teach. I always go bang my head on a wall when I get home to try to clear the trauma of it out of my brain. Post a link to your last tips on the hat in your sidebar and move on and stop giving yourself ulcers. You're much too nice to have those, even if it might lead to your meeting a nice, eligible doctor. :-)

Ewe-niss said...

Awwww. Hope life is better for you.
I bought my tiny weeny needles and have the yarn in two colors. My mother wants one of the stocking caps and I think I want one too. I may need a jewelers headset to knit it. So you are telling me that I have to check gauge and may have to do a little calculation? Go figure!

:-) Can handle that.

Thank you for working on the pattern for us. I took a look at the book you translated - holy crap! I am surprised you didn't throw the whole thing out the window.

Cynthia said...

Totally with you on the simpler knitting to deal with the cruddy stuff. This year I've gone from lace to plain socks, to spindle spinning, then the ultimate in solace - carding wool.

When the spinning no longer helps, go get a pile of wool and a set of wool cards then make soft, fluffy piles of wooly goodness.

Hope everything gets better - I'm really looking forward to the 'little book'!

Kristen said...

"I slept in the hat a few times and found the amount of ease supremely comfortable." I want photographic evidence. ;) I'm sorry the pattern has given you so much angst, and I hope the people emailing have been much kinder than the cranky lady you mentioned in your last post.

The picture of your grandmother made me most around the eyes. She looks like my Nana almost down to the hairdo. Unfortunately my Nana doesn't really know who I am anymore... (She's 91.) I'm so glad yours not only knows you, but loves your knitting!

Anonymous said...

Amen! (to grandmothers and knitting, not to weeks of hiding under the bed)

Tsarina of Tsocks said...

Dear heart, take a few deep breaths and cut yourself some slack. In the past couple of years I've often had occasion to be amazed by how wildly different the results can be when two knitters use the same yarn and the same needles. This is exactly what gauge is for. If the gauge specification in your pattern matches the gauge of your prototype, then you have nothing to apologize for. Suggested needle sizes are just that - suggestions. Knitting to gauge? THAT is what you take to the bank. (You already know this, of course; I cherish the hope that some day all knitters will.)

Charm I never so wisely, I have yet to produce a pattern that is entirely error-free, and every time someone questions a stitch or a count I go scurrying to the document with heart in mouth to make sure the error isn't mine. Sometimes it is; more and more often it isn't. It took me a while, but I finally learned not to start beating myself up about it until I was sure it was.

Also - even when it is, I try not to bludgeon myself into insensibility. I figure I can correct it more effectively if I'm conscious and don't have blood dripping in my eyes.

Kelli said...

I can count on your blog to make me laugh out loud (and let me tell you...that's hard to do).

You have your granmother's eyes. I am glad she loved the scarf. ~ksp

Anonymous said...

And isn't she absolutely lovely? I'm so glad the day turned out well for your grandmother's frolic.

As for your week, we won't speak of it again. Here's a toast to the weekend!

Anonymous said...

You've given me insight into why I knit nearly all of my socks in plain stockinette.

I hope your spirit recovers soon.

Anonymous said...

Reading comprehension scores have suffered over the years. You said right in the article that they could adjust the size by using a multiple of 13.

Thanks for explaining SKP. I thought it might be that, but it's nice to get confirmation.

I like the image of Harry working the treadle while you spin.

Molly said...

Joe's wrong! Knitting WIPs I can take or leave, but singles on the bobbin are always a pleasure---so long as they're not "art yarn."

Have some chocolate, eh?

PICAdrienne said...

Grandma is such a lovely lady. It is easy to see the kindness and warmth in her face. Inner beauty wears so well. The shawl has a lovely place to rest.

motherbee said...

Oh I hope your problems aren't due to knitters complaining about a FREE pattern. How rude! Don't let rude people get you down.

Anonymous said...

Glad you have weathered the storm, and your Grnadma looks beautiful in her shawl!

Quinn said...

Missed you! Glad you're up for posting, and I hope the oddities of patterns and individual results don't worry you much (more).

the yarn for that sweater is lovely...wish I had an uncle who wanted to knit me sweaters :)

joyknits said...

Your grandmother looks lovely in her shawl - super! As for the pattern questions, hang in there and don't let it discourage you, it comes with the territory.

Unknown said...

Come on out from under the bed, Franklin. I hope you're better (physically or whatever.) Your grandma looks beautiful in her shawl.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I hate bad weeks. I hope yours is over. Tears washing wool lint out of your eyes are, according to scientists, pure saline. Tears of angst have toxins in them. Therefore, I suggest let 'er rip and have it out. I love the Tsarina of Tsocks' advice. I hope she got to you before any bleeding. Bleeding didn't turn out to be the cure all the doctors had hoped. : )

I happen to love pictures of wool becoming fleece. I was in heaven during the Tour de Fleece. Keep on with the pretty pictures. Congradulations on making pretty things in spite of ...


Anonymous said...

your Nana is totally beautiful.

marie in florida

Yvonne said...

Hi Franklin - I've missed you, too. My week has been pretty dismal as well. Spinning always makes it better.

Julie said...

As a relatively new knitter (I consider anyone knitting less than ten years or so new, no snobbery involved, I just think it takes that long to truly be able to knit on autopilot) your gauge is probably quite tight. Quite. It often takes many years, arthritis, or other extreme measures to loosen it up. (For me it was breaking most of the bones in my hand. I think too-tight knitting is far better.) Anyway, don't sweat it if people have to alter the pattern a bit; it's good for them. They may learn something.

Patti said...

Hatchery123I love the sight of singles on the's eye candy for me, and keeps me sane at work when the boss isn't looking. Sorry for all the drama in your life right now, but Lorna's laces is wonderful yarn, and will soothe the nerves I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Chin up, anyone who has the uber-pain threshold to pluck their eyebrows won't be done down by the world :)

Terri said...

Knitting has many times been my salvation; however, not so much the spinning yet...

Your grandmother looks beautiful in her shawl, and your color choice was right works very well with her hair and complexion.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the internet a weird new thing. We've never met but I really care about you and want to give you a big hug and tell you how great you are. Hope the rough patch is over, otherwise you could always come and hang out with me in Australia.

Sweet Camden Lass said...

It's nearly November. You'll be on t'other side of the Atlantic soon. And we'll adore you.

I know what you mean about circular stocking stitch.


Anonymous said...

I live on a tiny overpopulated island in knitting loneliness. There are no serious yarn shops but simply haberdashers who stock some hideous acrylics. I buy all my yarn and needles online, i subscribe to knitting magazines online and knitting blogs keep me company. One day i'd like to set up a knitting circle of friends but with young kids and a job to keep down there is not much time left for now.
Please don't ever leave me that long without a post ;-)) Yours is my favourite blog. Hope this helps you feel better.

Anonymous said...


It sounds like you need it right now.

Take care, and keep knitting.

Anonymous said...

Grandma looks wonderful. I suggest a look at the photo often during the next week. You are a raving successful grandson the rest is just stuff! Oh and I suggest some bubbles if it is your thing, vintage if it has been really bad as you say. Jacqueline x

LizzieK8 said...

I find when my mind turns to thoughts of brain dead knitting my life is getting way to hectic and I need to cut back and regroup.

Alotta.knittin said...

Franklin, dear Franklin, clutch two skeins of cashmere or alpaca to your bosom, pull the covers up to your chin and call me in the morning. Sorry that it's been such a trying week. I feel your pain! I may have to get me a spinning wheel! Sounds like just the thing when I'm in one of those spaces. Big hugs, Cynthia

roxie said...

That shade of blue is perfect for Grandma. It makes her eyes shine like sapphires!

The zen of simple, repetitive movments is so healing. Blessings on your bruises (psychic and emotional.)

only the dog farts here said...

Mine turned out lovely. I'm going to make more. Thank you again for sharing the pattern.

Barca Viola said...

For some reason this post didn't show until today for me...hmmm.

Does the universe know I really don't have anything to add?

Could part of the issue be that a flat-knit gauge swatch may not equal a circularly knit swatch. (EZ is in the wings) Ya' all knit the swatch, right?

Also, are you all doing cotton? Different fibers will behave differently, especially as they become a bigger-than-swatch object.

Franklin-you labels made the situation just sound awful! Better energy should abound this week.

Gerrie in St Paul

Spike said...

Raises hand sheepishly . . . Franklin, I checked the math, and the gauge at Knitty looks a tich off.

At Knitty, gauge given is 32 sts to 4 inches = 8 sts per inch. Fine and dandy.

Reading your blog post, 208 stitches gives 21 inches or 9.9 stitches per inch.

Your real live gauge is almost 2 sts per inch tighter than your pattern gauge! Over 20 inches or so for an adult head, that's a big discrepancy--40 sts, or 4 inches according to Knitty.

This happens. More often than I wanna think about, and it's why I knit top down garments (or toe-up socks). Real live gauge over a garment is often not the same as gauge over a swatch or representative bit (that old measure an inch and put two pins in).

Kudos on the pattern BTW, it is a lovely piece. Thanks for the multiple of 13 comment--now I can play with using the edging on something.

Anonymous said...

Your experiences remind me of the person who goes to the LYS counter with a pattern complete wth a photo of the completed red sweater and says "I love this sweater but red looks terrible on me - do you have this pattern in any other colors?"

Here's another question to ponder - when those same knitters buy a cookbook to make say.... a cake, and it doesn't come out looking like the photo, do they write to the cookbook author complaining?

I'm just wonderin'...

a2z said...

Oh, sign me up. I tried the e-mail addy you put in your blog but it bounced. /\/\/\/\/\/\/
I'm in Shoreview, Minnesota. a2zme aht comcast daht net.

Yarnhog said...

You poor baby. So much trauma for a free pattern!

If you do figure out how to spin while hiding under the bed, could you let me in on the secret? I could use it.

Corbie said...

Oh, Franklin, you're back!! I missed you and your wit very, very much. {{Hugs}}--it sounds like you need them. Here's wishing you soothing knitting, spinning happiness, a nice cup of tea and a snuggle in some nice handknits.

Robin said...

Your grandmother is beautiful! I miss mine and wish that they could have lived long enough for me to knit for them. Your shawl - what a special gift for her!

dragon knitter said...

what part of "size needle to get gauge" do some people not understand?

i'm sorry you're having to deal like that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you again for the nightcap pattern. It is lovely, it came out perfectly when I cast on 13x13 stitches. I hadn't planned on a tassle, I don't do fringe and I have cats, but the tassle keeps it from being a nipple. Panda Silk fingering weight yarn is beautiful for this pattern, by the way.


attiton said...

I suppose I just need a little reassurance myself in Round 21 (and repeats). No one else is confused on this round but me, so I'm obviously just a dork.

The pattern has me YO2 then K2tog all the way 'round...that would have me increasing by a stitch every time (YO2 makes two, but K2tog only reduces by one). However, there aren't any correlating decreases.

But when you start the hat proper, the pattern makes it clear that you should have exactly the same number of stitches as when you cast on.

So ACK! What am I missing? Is that round actually K2tog, YO2, K2tog repeat all the way 'round? Or is it YO2, K3tog, all the way 'round? Or something else?