Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hybrid Vigour (or Hybrid Vigor)

I have a new Knitty pattern ...

... and it's a Shonsho!

What's a Shonsho? It's a cross between a shawl and a poncho, of course. (and you have to admit, it's better than a Pawl!)
Anyhoo, I've knit a LOT of shawls, and while I do love them, it peeves me a little when the end that I have casually tossed over my shoulder continues to slither back around to the front and drapes, less than becomingly, down the front of me. I can't seem to manage shawl pins either - the pinned end stays put for a while, but eventually that too swings around to the front so that I look like I have a weird knitted tail hanging conspicuously out the front of my shoulder. Maybe I just bend forward too much!
Yes I could have designed a conventional poncho, but I like shawls -  I like their loose, draping ends, I like the asymmetrical lines formed by the edges - I just wanted a shawl that stayed put!
While fiddling around with an old triangular shawl and some safety pins, I realised that I needn't pin the two edges together, I could knit them together, just for a short distance and then disconnect the two edges so they would hang free, just as I like best. And I called it a Shonsho - not quite a poncho, and not really a shawl, but hopefully a better hybrid of both. And that is how Hybrid Vigour (or Hybrid Vigor) came about. 

I knit two of them, intending for one to be knit completely flat, like a regular shawl, but a loud and insistent voice living in my house insisted that she wanted the Shonsho version  - then there would be two, for two sisters who also didn't want to bother with slithering ends.

So the traditional triangular version never got knit, but in case there are any knitters who would prefer a traditional flat shawl, converting it is easy - the only thing you really need to know is to continue working flat until you have 229 stitches then work all the charts as you would a flat shawl. The only chart that requires a bit of extra thinking is Chart A. Currently it is written for working in the round, but to knit flat you just need to understand that the even numbered rows are knit from left to right, not right to left.
If you like the instructions written out, here they are below:

Traditional Triangular Shawl Option
To achieve a traditional triangular shawl worked flat throughout, ignore the instructions to begin working in the round after the first 76 rows. Instead, continue working flat as set for 110 total rows. 229 sts

Work Chart A
Row 1 [RS]: k2, yo, work row 1 of Chart A from right to left to first centre marker (working pattern repeat 4 times), yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, repeat row 1 once more, yo, k2.
Row 2 [WS]: k2 work row 2 of chart A from left to right to first centre marker (working pattern repeat 4 times), sm, p1, sm, repeat row 1 once more, k2.
Work as set until row 22 of chart A is complete.
Work the remaining charts B, C, D & E and bind off as outlined in the pattern.

I deliberately made the stitch motifs relatively simple. Chart C has decreases and yarn overs on both RS and WS rows, but even if you are new to lace, I urge you to give it a go, it's worth it, so you can move on to more complicated lace patterns with MORE lace stitches on WS rows.

Working lace on WS rows as well as RS rows extends the possibilities of lace, and I especially like the way the lines of the motifs are accentuated dramatically when decreases are worked on both sides. To me Chart C produces what looks very much like a fish tail, which flowed perfectly from the previous chart. The optional beads pick out the spine and further accentuate this image.

And if you wanted to know about fit. This last shot at the beach is me, and I'm five foot eight-ish (170cm). The other model is about 5,4 (163cm). Both of us skinny.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The thing about twist

I wanted to show you some things I've discovered over the last few years about spinning, and spinning merino in particular.

Quite a few years ago I spun my first merino finely for a Shetland Lace Triangle.
Knit on 5mm (US 8). I thought I had done a decent job at the time. As I recall the merino was a little difficult to spin, but I managed to spin something semi-fine, in the end. Knit the piece up, and this is what it looks like now, after years of wear.

Pretty blerk, isn't it.

It's all matted and fluffy despite using 5mm needles, and those lovely swirls so obvious in the original pattern are almost completely obliterated. See that safety pin down the bottom right - that's holding a dropped stitch that I only noticed a year after I had been using it. A whole year, and it didn't pull through, the fabric is that matted.

With more experience I now understand my mistake - I hadn't put nearly enough twist in the singles, (or drafted it finely enough, or been nearly patient enough when spinning) and the fibre in the resulting two ply yarn was allowed to puff up and bounce all over the place. That's great if you want a nice squishy hat, but I wanted stitch definition, and I wanted lace. That sorry grey thing is NOT a great example of either.

This blue below is a commercial lace-weight two ply. Being commercial it's not very fair comparing it to my first attempt at spinning merino finely, but it does illustrate a good lace shawl yarn. It's a mystery cone (I'm guessing from The Little Wool Company), but it's definitely not merino. The fabric is crisp, almost crunchy, but without being at all scratchy, and I like it for shawls because it has some substance and doesn't drape and flop all over the place when worn.
Anyhow, check the close-up to see how well the stitch definition holds up.

This purple is from my shawl Regenerate.
The drafting and spinning is better (but by no means perfect). I learned from that grey Shetland Triangle that I need to put more twist in the merino singles - a surprising amount of additional twist. Some of that twist disappears as your singles untwist around each other when plyed, and you certainly don't want to add so much twist that you're producing string.
The purple merino is from a different flock (Treetops Merino) than the grey, so the resulting fibre is likely different as well, but still the spinning makes a big difference. It would probably also benefit from being knit in a larger needle.

This next purple is a swatch I did for Regenerate. It is New Zealand Halfbred from the Little Wool Company, and the fabric it produces is crisp and crunchy, like the commercial blue above. I rejected it because at the time I thought the fabric for shawls needed to be baby soft, but I now think that shawls can benefit from being knit with a yarn that has a little substance, and it's still soft enough to wear close to the skin. The stitch definition is good - and that is in large part due to the ease with which this particular fibre can be drafted when spinning. I will definitely keep this 500gm bag in mind for future work.

This blue is also from the Treetops Merino, and my fine-wool spinning is improving. I learned to put more twist in the singles, and more twist when plying them together. As you can see, it hasn't been washed yet (indeed the thing is going to be frogged), so the wool hasn't been given the chance to bloom. So the jury is still out on it.

So, there you go.
I keep the grey Shetland Triangle by my bed and snuggle in it while reading into the night during winter. I don't hate it at all - it served a good lesson, and if it gets replaced with another winter-night-reading-shawl, I can cut it up and use it as slipper inserts - it's unlikely to fray!