Front and back


Almost looks like a skirt rather than a sweater. I promise it will start looking more like a sweater soon.

Notice the stitch holders. Just after casting off the extra stitches some stitches are put on hold just before starting decreases for the neck line.

On the front neck line, several inches of stitches in the center of the body are put on hold and the knitting continues in the round with decreases on either side of the extra stitches. Thanks to Anne Feitelson’s book, I learned that the decreases should slant towards the extra stitches – totally opposite of what I would have thought.

On the back neck line, about 1/3 of the stitches at center back are put on hold just a few rows before the body is complete. This small dip in the back will help the collar sit comfortably around the neck; or so I’ve read in various knitting books.

Although not shown in these photos, the shoulders were grafter together earlier this week.

Next step is to cut the extra stitches at the sides  and to pick up stitches for the sleeves. What a difficult thing to do since once done, there’s no turning back.

By the way,  this photo wasn’t taken in my yard. We tend not to water the little grass that we do have. This large lawn was well nurtured by my father for the past year.

Knitter ISO jumper board

Last week I must have run across some bad karma because my tension didn’t seem to be up to snuff so mid week I rip out a whole lengthwise repeat. So, even though I anticipated finishing the neck shaping this week, it didn’t happen. Today, I’m just now at that point.


Traditionally, knitted items such as this one are dressed on some type of frame. I did a bit of searching and came up with these pictures.

  • Here’s a Japanese website called Shaela that shows the two most common frames,  “Woollie Horse” and Jumper board. I can just make out from one photo that the Woollie Horse is from Tulloch of Shetland.
  • The Shetland Museum’s website had several old photos of jumper boards.
  • Knitting Beyond the Hebrides has instructions to make one.
  • There’s a website with the URL that appears to be located in Shetland that is selling them.

There’s several online yarn suppliers that are offering some version of this frame with the cheapest around $90. That seems like a lot of money to plunk down on a knitting device that can only be used for sweaters with drop shoulders. Generally, I don’t like sweaters with drop shoulders but overlooked that fact when choosing Firebirds. The colors and pattern was just irresistible.

Hold it a minute

When knitting with only one color I hold the yarn in my right hand between my thumb and forefinger, with no extra yarn wrapped around any fingers. I probably came across this method when I first started teaching myself how to knit from books but didn’t bother learning the details of how to tension the yarn around other fingers. I’ve tried the proper way of holding yarn in the right hand but always go back to my own way. I love how it gives me total control over the tension, even if it is a little slower method of knitting.

Holding two yarns

Learning to work with two colors was quite a challenge. I tried knitting with both colors in my left hand, both in my right and one in each hand. As you can see in the picture, I finally settled on holding one color in each hand. Of course,I don’t hold the yarns as shown in most books.

The yarn in my right hand is held as I do when knitting with one color. The yarn in my left hand is held between the first and second finger. To give more tension to the yarn in this hand, the working yarn is always placed in front of the object being knitted and held in place with my thumb.

While I can put lots of tension on the yarn with this method, I don’t. I always make sure that tension in both yarns is very even and not too tight or too loose. When switching between yarns I “fan out” the stitches on the right needle to make sure the yarn carried along the back isn’t too tight.

My advice on holding yarn is to practice until you find a way that achieves the best results.

Progress report:
Next week the body of Firebirds should be nearly completed. This week I started the arm steeks.

Giving new life to an old planner

Needlebinderinside_1I did a little more rummaging around at the thrift store and found a decent looking binder for my needles. It’s amazing what one can find in that store. I’m recycling this old Franklin Covey planner cover into a binder for my needles. A little scrub down with leather cleaner and it looks almost new. The detachable shoulder strap is a bonus.

For any of you out there that are also looking at various binder alternatives, I noticed that these binder pages from Knit Picks can fit into  8.5″ X 5.5″ binder. Just stagger them until the holes line up into the rings. I also tried this with a normal sized 3 ring binder and voila, the pages can also be made to fit one of those.

I did make steady progress on Firebirds this week. Here’s a photo of the back. Notice how that birds on the left face left and the ones on the right face right? I love this detail of the design. For now I’ve stuck with the pattern hoping all will work out well when I dress the sweater on a woolly board. On the next row the steeks for the armholes will be started.

Ss_socks_yarnEven though it’s hard to put Firbirds down, yesterday I started winding yarn for another sock project. Although I generally knit one item at a time, I’m itching to take on another more portable one.

Working with two hand painted yarn colors on my last sock project was so enjoyable that I want to explore similar possibilities. So my next little project will be the Sunrise-Sunset Socks from Big Girl Knits.

A few changes

Body3repeatsKnitting on Firebirds continues as usual, with a pace of about one lengthwise repeat per week.

Previously I mentioned that I was going to shorten the sweater by one repeat. Well, plans have changed after taking a moment to check my tension.

While my stitch tension seems to be fine (~7 sts per inch), I found that my row tensions is off a bit. I’m knitting 8.43 rows per inch while the pattern calls for 8 rows per inch. Yikes! that’s going to make the sweater about one inch shorter.

I’ve gotten squeamish about shortening the sweater one whole repeat. That would be 3.5 inches, which seems too much. At the same time I’m also concerned about the width. As I’ve been contemplating this dilemma, I remembered hearing the teacher in a beginning knitting class say that you can always block a sweater so it’s wider or longer but not both. With that in mind, I’ll go ahead and knit all seven lengthwise repeats and try to stretch the sweater out an inch with a woolly board.

Besides worrying about the overall length, I also started thinking about how my row tension could affect other parts of the sweater; specifically the armholes and neckline. The difference in row gauge means that I’ll need to start the armhole steeks a few rows sooner so that the length of the armhole matches the length specified in the pattern. However, no adjustments for the neck opening will be needed. After doing a bit of math, I found that the tension differences won’t make enough of a difference to merit adjustments.

Chart_marking_tapeOn another note, I was at the fabric store yesterday checking out fabrics to cover my needle binder and found these tapes near the  rulers used by quilters. Apparently, quilters use them to mark off frequently used measurements on their rulers. When I saw them I though, wow I could use those for marking my knitting chart for my current project.

My first attempt started with a piece of blue tape from “Tape Go Round”; the funny tape dispenser with six little tape rolls. It didn’t take long before I found out this tape wasn’t going to work. When I tried to move it to another row it didn’t come off very easily and started tearing my paper chart.

Next I used one of the tapes called “Glow-Line Tape”. This tape was about $1 cheaper with couple more yards of tape. This one worked much better but oddly isn’t quite tacky enough to last more than a couple of rows.

I ‘m considering going back to good old Post-it notes.

It’s 89 degrees and still knitting


Got one repeat finished this week. I’m coping with the heat by mostly working on Firebirds in the evening and morning when it’s cool. Otherwise, I can’t concentrate and end up ripping out all that I knit.

To get out of the heat, this afternoon, I went over to Fusion Beads thinking I might pick up some beads to make some of those fancy stitch markers.

For this project, I’ve been using one to mark the back of the sweater so I don’t forget to flip the repeat (birds on the right side face right and ones on the left face left). I have no trouble keeping track of the front because the steeks are very noticeable. So, no stitch marker for the front.

Anyways, the stitch marker that I’m using came in the goodie bag give out at the  NwRA conference . Ordinarily I wouldn’t purchase such things but I work on this project I’ve grown fond of the one I have and like the feel of a metal marker. The colors even match the sweater.

So, as I was sifting through the packages of crystal beads at the store, I realized it was all quickly getting out of hand; I don’t need another hobby.  I leave the store with only a few plain sterling silver jump rings  that will work well with my new needles.

By the way, I noticed some excellent tutorials on Fusion Beads’ website, including this one on wire wrapping.

Firebirds started

Lowerbandneedles After a week of crunching numbers I finally got enough confidence to cast on. Figuring out how wide the body should be wasn’t a problem but I wasn’t sure about adjustments to the neckline. Luckily I got some help from a fellow knitter/blogger whose already tackled this pattern.

When I looked through my supply of 3.5mm circular needles I only found two 24″ and one 47″. I tried using the longer needle but quickly found it was way too large. I then tried using both 24″ needles but found the needle tips a bit troublesome to work around. I was about ready to make a trip to the yarn store for a new 40″ circular when my Knit Picks needles arrived.

A couple of weeks ago after reading all the positive comments about these needles on Knitter’s Review I decided to give them a try. I placed an order for some of the Classic Circular needles and one set of the Options Line needle tips and cords. Apparently, these needles are so popular that Knit Picks is having a hard time keeping up with orders.

So what do I think? After working several rows, I can say they’re much better than my Addi Turbo needles. The cables are wonderfully flexible and the tips are a bit sharper which makes two color knitting easier for me. I’m currently knitting with one of the needles with removable tips and so far haven’t had any trouble with them coming loose. Kudos to Knit Picks for taking knitting needle design one step further. By the way, Clara from KR has an excellent detailed review of these needles.