Tuesday, July 03, 2007

new things in the works

I'm experimenting with two new yarns these days. First up: hemp yarn (Lana allhemp6, "deep river") to make a cool summer top. I'd come up with a concept a few days before my conference trip, ordered the yarn from the fabulous girls at KPixie, and swatched up a storm:

My response to this yarn? Eh. Hemp -- even when sold for handknitting - makes for stiff, slow knitting. More abrasive than I'd expected. Clunky with lace, sloppy with cables (I thought the stiffness of the yarn might make the cables pop, but that was not the case).

Now, all is not lost. The color is rich and gorgeous. I'm sure the garment will soften when washed. And the texture of the yarn means that even stockinette stitch will have a little interest. But the downsides were enough to make me rethink my design ideas and put the project aside for a bit.

What I picked up, instead, was some excellent Austermann Step sock yarn that I'd won in Macoco's blog contest. The yarn is treated with aloe vera and jojoba oil, which makes for very soft sock knitting indeed (what a pleasure after that hemp!).

This timing of this yarn's arrival could not have been more perfect. After knitting Hob, which introduced me to double knitting, I was eager to experiment with trying to knit socks that way. I've tried all the usual ways of knitting socks -- double pointed needles, magic loop, two circulars -- but they all annoy me in some way. DP's are difficult to pack and travel with. Magic loop requires too much adjustment. Two circs means too many needle ends are hanging about. With double knitting, all the knitting can be back and forth on two dps.

I'll describe the technique in more depth at some point, but the basic intuition is that the stitches from each side of the sock are alternated on the needle, and with each pass you knit the stitches facing you and slip the stitches (with yarn in front) on the other side. So, for 2x2 ribbing, this looks like {knit 1, bring yarn to front, slip 2, bring yarn to back} twice and {purl 1, slip 1} twice.

It's pretty slow, but it's fun to be experimenting this way. And it's WAY easier for travelling (in my opinion) than having a tangle of DP needles. I'll keep all of you updated on the progress!

And in a last, but important, note, I want to direct you towards a new blog that a friend and fellow grad student has started: PhD Procrastinating. He's off in Belfast doing dissertation research, and the blog has a highly entertaining record of his misadventures. And maybe if enough people visit his blog from here, he'll be nice enough to bring me back some Irish lace yarn : )


Macoco said...

I'm glad the yarn is treating you well after the hemp! The blue hemp is beautiful though so even though it will be tough on the hands it will be so pretty to wear.
Can't wait to hear more about the double knitting, I can't wrap my brain around it yet, but it sounds interesting.

Jeanne said...

So... you cast on, and... how does the circle connect? Do you knit back and forth like on straights, or knit across going one way, then flip it and knit across going the other way? I've never tried double knitting, but anything to make socks simpler and cut down on the needleage is welcomed! I'll be watching your progress.