Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sometimes the world turns in mysterious ways

The last time I wrote about my attempt to create a square by knitting in the round, if you'll remember, it was to report a total failure. I had an inkling of where I wanted to go, but the rest was pretty fuzzy.

All I want is a simple square that I can embroider and join with other similar squares to make a sweet baby blanket. That's not so much to ask for is it? I want to use Cascade 220 Superwash (worsted weight) with 4.5mm needles. The square needs to be sturdy. And it needs to WANT to be a square.

So, the morning after my last failed experiment, wherein I added extra balanced increases and got 4 extra 'corners' (Yikes! More of a spiky circle, than a square!) I got an email describing an antique mitten. The author wrote that the knitter had increased randomly, so that you could hardly tell where the increases occurred. Well, now. That's a thought, isn't it?

So, with the universe speaking to me so directly, and my tin foil hat pulled down tightly on my head, I set about my next experiment. With the stitches divided on 4 needles, so that each needle represents one side of my would-be square, I increased 1 stitch just inside the first and last stitches of each needle on every other row. PLUS I increased one stitch randomly, at the same time, somewhere in the middle of the stitches of each needle. A total of 3 extra stitches every other row (which is the increase I calculated last time). I used the increase where you pick up the stitch from the row below, because it's almost invisible. So, when I got to Round 28 (which is 4 in. of knitting from the cast-on centre), I had 43 stitches (which measure 8 in., more or less) on each needle.  I had been thinking about 12-inch squares, and then 10-inch squares, but I've finally settled on 8-inch squares, because I think they'll better suit the embroidery I have in mind. I'll just have to make more of them. (Win some/lose some.)

So, here's the square after I steam-blocked it. It still has the blocking wires in the live edge stitches, because I'm still nervous it's not going to work.

And here it is with the wires removed. Is it not a thing of beauty???!! I flipped it around, and waved it in the breeze, and STILL it wants to be the square it needs to be. I am not worried that the live edge stitches want to curl a little. That will solve itself when it's joined to its neighbour. But the sides are square and true.

Maybe it's because this was a struggle, or maybe it's because it's a triumph of math for someone who can't even keep a simple phone number in her brain long enough to write it down, but this seems like a massive victory. And I'm smart enough to know this is where  I need to leave the project for today.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Reporting back

I promised to report on my squared circle trial. I had hoped it would be with an amazing "Ta-DA!, I DID it!"  Unfortunately, I'm still struggling. :(  All in a day's work.

First, I'll distract you with a photo of my lovely assistant demonstrating the square 
while it was still on my needles. Look carefully, and you'll see my feet. 
Yup. She's on my lap.

Next, a photo of the square off the needles. 
I'm nervous about that point that's forming on each side.

But, here it is blocking. It didn't need much muscle to form the square, 
and there were lots of stitches at the perimeter. No pulling this time.
It's still looks promising.

Here's the stitch-maps chart of what I tried. 
I was a little worried by the way it tends to form a point 
in the middle of this string of stitches (which represents one side of the square), 
but I hoped it would just all work out. 
If you remember, I determined I needed to increase 3 stitches every other round. 
That means 6 stitches every 4 rounds.
Click on the Stitch-maps link to see the instructions written out, if you like. 

Or don't. It didn't work out the way I'd hoped. 
Once blocked, the square still doesn't want to be a square. 
I need a good, solid square to embroider on. 
I'm still working on finding one.

More pincushions

Régina has been busy. She says she's been bitten by the pincushion bug. As bugs go, this seems to me to be a fairly good bug to get bitten by.

Balle Bleu by Régina

Heart by Régina

Balle rose by Régina
Such beautiful pincushions! You can see more of Régina's work on her blog: 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The competition heats up

Felted Flower Pincushion by Gaye 

And today, we have another entry in the Pincushion Design Contest (for the rest of us) 2015. It's a beautiful, and very creative flower made by Gaye of g.a.s. art. Gaye says she comes from a very small town in Saskatchewan "where winters are long and days are short". She says she has lots of time to make ideas come to life.

Gaye's flower pincushion is made from felted vintage wool, with hand blanket stitching on the edges of the petals and leaves, and mounted on a rusty bed spring. How creative! I'd say she fits right in here in the Kingdom, wouldn't you?

She has some very cool owls on her blog. You might just want to have a look.

Exciting news about the pincushion contest!

You haven't forgotten, right? The deadline for the Pincushion Design Contest (for the rest of us) 2015 is fast approaching. April 1st. Winners will be announced the following day, because we don't drag our feet here in the Kingdom. As I promised, there will be prizes.

As well as my puny (and yet-to-be-named) prizes, Heather from the blog Books and Quilts (and a friend of this blog) is sponsoring her own prize, and it's a great prize. She will choose the pincushion that pleases her the most, and award its maker a book from Book Depository. The only restrictions are that the book be no more than $20.  (Can.) in value, and the winner must live in a country where Book Depository offers free delivery. That's practically everywhere!! Heather runs a weekly post called Needlework Tuesday where readers can share what they're up to. Check it out!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Sooooo, did you happen to notice that the blocked square wasn't exactly square? Yeah, me, too. :( And even though I blocked it really hard, it still wowed on the sides. Double :( :(.

Blocking the square as hard as I did had an additional downside. The fabric is way less dense than I intended, and the colourwork especially, looks all stretched out.

I thought for a while the problem might be the corner increases. I was doing Kf&b (Knit through both the front and back loops) of each end stitch. That's not a balanced increase, since each new stitch appears to the left of the original stitch. In my mind, these are 4 equilateral triangles (the 4 wedges that make up the squared-off circle). And they must be symmetric.

Instead of Kf&b, I tried to put a leaning decrease one stitch in from the edge of each side. I won't bother to describe it in any more detail here, because it didn't work. Oh, I like the symmetry of it, but the sides still wowed.

A little math seems to be required, and a little more thought.

For the final block to end up at 12 inches, the radius must be 6 inches. OK. Got that. The inner angle of the wedge must be 90°. I think with the blocking, we've got that. BUT the outside edge of the wedge (the perimeter of the square) should be 12 inches, too. I STRETCHED it to 12 inches with the hard blocking, but should blocking (like marriage) really be that hard? I don't think so.

And that's what brings us to the question of gauge. With Cascade 220 Superwash in my hot little hands, with 4.5 mm needles, I am getting a stitch gauge of 5.5 stitches/inch. So, for a 12 inch outside edge, I ought to have 66 stitches (for each wedge). And what do I have? Only 44.

I forgot about row gauge. I am getting 7 rows/in. That means to achieve 6 inches of knitting, I need to do 42 rows. If I started with 3 stitches, I need to increase 62 stitches over 44 rows. Or, more precisely, over 21 rows, since I increase on alternate rows. This is where my left brain moves over so my right brain can shout, "62 divided by 21 is VERY CLOSE to THREEEEE!"

And that, Knitting Touristas to the Kingdom, is what I'm going to try next. I will make 3 increases in alternate rows. A left leaning increase one stitch in from the starting point. A right leaning increase one stitch before the last stitch. AND, wait for increase right dead centre in the square. It needs to be symmetrical though. Hmmmmm......

I don't think I can visualize this until I actually get the wool on my needles. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Directions

With winter and snow and mittens in the rear view mirror, looking ahead to spring ...

... with a new project. I have a very loose plan, and lots of Cascade 220 Superwash wool to play with. Let's start with squares knit in the round. Knitted quilt blocks, really. Here's the first one:

Blocking is magic, isn't it?