Thursday, February 23, 2006

A belt or a sweater?

Somehow, I'm making progress on my Komi sweater. For some reason, I didn't really think that would happen. But somehow it keeps getting a little bit bigger.

I'm not really sure if I like it or not. All 5 colors have now been used, and the main body pattern is starting to take shape. It's almost time to start the waist shaping. If I don't like it, I should start ripping soon. I'm not sure I like the blue in the border with the yellow of the main body. Maybe that's too much contrast and too much pattern. Also, this is the closest fitting sweater I've made (about 2 inches of ease), and I don't know if the fabric is too thick to make the sweater flattering. Maybe I need just a little bit more of the main body to be sure.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Blogger hasn't let me upload pictures for three days now. I hope you all have really good imaginations.
Edited to add: Blogger finally let me add the photos on my second try this afternoon!

I am addicted to the Olympics. I can’t seem to tear myself away from the television. I don’t usually watch any TV, so this is a big change in lifestyle. Fortunately it will all be over soon. You would probably think that all of this TV time would make for great knitting progress. However, because I’m not used to knitting in front of the TV I’m having trouble focusing on the sports and setting up the body patterning of my Komi sweater. Here’s what I have so far:

That means that I needed a simpler project. Here is what I ended up starting:

That is a toe-up sock made from Koigu and no particular pattern. The colors look pretty close to real life on my monitor.

I don’t usually knit socks. A long time ago (10-12 years ago?) I decided that I wanted to be sure that I could knit socks if I wanted to. So I knit a sock swatch with a heel and a toe. Then, a few years ago, my husband wanted kilt hose. I designed and knit some very pretty kilt hose for him. I’ve also made 4 or 5 Christmas stockings. That’s it for my sock knitting. Commercial socks fit me very well, and I tend to wear through them very fast. Sock knitting has never seemed quite worth it. Mittens, on the other hand, are very much my thing. They are small, portable, and interesting to knit. Unlike my feet, my hands are NOT an easy commercial size. I have very long fingers, but my hands are a normal circumference. I need a Men’s medium or large to accommodate my long fingers, but a women’s medium for the circumference. I do better by making them myself. Working on mittens was another reason not to knit socks.So why did I finally decide to make myself socks? A few years ago I bought three skeins of Koigu. I loved the colors, and wanted to make it into a scarf. After trying four times to make a scarf out of it, I gave up. I just wasn’t getting a fabric that seemed very scarf-ish. I’m trying to work down the stash, and I do really like the colors of the Koigu, so I decided to just make it into socks and be done with it. The only problem is that I’m really liking the sock so far. It is possible that I just might make more. After all, I do have quite a pile of mittens….

Friday, February 17, 2006

Moving On

This is one of my rare posts that does not focus on knitting. If you want knitting, come back Monday and I'll show you some progress on my Komi sweater. If you are a graduate student or postdoc in the sciences, or if you are planning to do graduate work in the sciences, you might find this post helpful.

You may have noticed that I have made very little knitting progress lately. The reason is that I was on the academic job market this year, looking for a job as a professor of biochemistry. For anyone who is not familiar with the process, it involves putting together a flawless multi-component application that is personalized to each job, sending it to many colleges and universities, and then waiting to see if you get an interview. Preparation for interviews requires many hours of research about the institution and the 30+ people you will meet with over two days, as well as preparing a presentation about your research. This is all extremely time consuming, and could easily be a full-time job for 4-5 months. It is also extremely stressful. Unlike the job market in other industries, there is only one time per year that you can apply. If none of your applications are successful, you need to wait a full year to try again. It is also very competitive. There are typically at least 250 applications for each position. These are facts that every graduate student should know before they begin their first year. If I had known, I may not have decided to finish my degree.

I decided a long time ago that I wanted to be a professor at a small liberal arts college. Because of this, I decided not to do a traditional postdoc. Instead, I stayed in the lab where I did my PhD for an extra year to finish up my project and apply for jobs. I applied for relatively few positions (I applied for 7 jobs while everyone else I know who was on the job market applied for 30-40 positions). Looking back on the process, I would have applied for even fewer positions. I now realize that it is all about fit, and any one individual only fits in a few of the available jobs.

I feel very fortunate that I am now finished with the process. I was offered a tenure-track position at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY and I have decided to accept their offer. This job seems like a perfect fit. They even made a job for my husband. The only problem is that it is in a VERY rural location. It will be quite an adjustment after living in the Boston area for the past 6 years. But at least housing is cheap! Do any of you live in the Canton area?

The adventure of moving will begin soon, but I'll hopefully have a little bit of free time first.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Latvian Hat Pattern

In case anyone is interested, here's the pattern for my Latvian Hat. Please know that I am not a professional designer, and this pattern has not been test-knit. I don't think that there are any mistakes in it, but I won't know for sure until someone else knits it. This hat has now been knit by someone other than me. Look here (Ravelry) for a beautiful version knit in Dalegarn Baby Ull (a great fingering weight choice for hats). If you decide to knit this pattern, please let me know. I would love to know if it worked well for you, and to see how your hat turned out. Here is a picture of the finished hat (more pictures are available here):

Yarn: Satakieli, one ball yellow, one ball purple. You will need about half a ball of each color.
Gauge: 41 sts and 42 rows/4 inches in pattern
Needles: size 1 double pointed needles (I used a set of 6, but you could use as few as 4. If you use less than 6 needles, you may want to place markers between repeats.), and size 1 16-inch circular needle
Size: 22.5 inch circumference. The best way to adjust this is by changing the gauge.

Notes: In the chart below, marked squares are yellow, blank squares are purple. The dark line that outlines the bottom of the chart is the boundary of the pattern. Anything outside of that line is just extra graph paper. The chart will be repeated 5 times for the pattern. The first row of the chart is the cast-on.

With yellow, Cast-on 5 stitches. Join and divide stitches over 3-5 double pointed needles to knit in the round.
Row 1: With yellow, knit in the front, back, then front of each stitch.
Row 2-36: Continue to follow the chart. All increases are made by knitting in the front and back of the first and/or last stitch on the needle.
Rows 37-75: Change to circular needle and knit even, following the chart as established.
Row 75: Knit 1 purple, knit 1 yellow around while decreasing 22 stitches evenly spaced.
Row 76: Bring both colors to the front. Purl 1 purple, Purl 1 yellow always bringing the new color OVER the other one. This will cause your working yarns to become very twisted. Pull out enough yarn so that you can push the twist away from you. Do NOT untwist the strands yourself.
Row 77: With both colors in the front, purl 1 purple, purl 1 yellow always bringing the new color UNDER the other one. This will untwist your working yarns.
Row 78: Knit with purple.
Row 79: Knit 1 purple, knit 1 yellow around.
Rows 80-81: Repeat row 77, then repeat row 76.
Cast off with purple.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Latvian Hat Version 1.2

I finished my latvian hat,

but the brim needs some work. First, I think that the whole hat is a bit too long. Second, the Latvian braids flare out. I always forget that my gauge is looser when I do the braids than it is in the pattern. There's a little bit of re-knitting to do, but I'm getting close!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Path to a Star

I finished fixing the hat, and I really like the result.

The Front:

The Back: You can see the round beginning/end. It's not totally jogless, but it's good enough for me.

It looks great with the mittens, too!

Now, a little bit about the design process:

I started the project knowing only what the main body of the hat would look like. I wanted the hat to match the mittens, so the pattern was already chosen. I knew how big each repeat was, and a very small amount of math told me that I would need 5 repeats to fit around my head (22 inches total).

My first thought was to just have the tops of the diamonds meet at the top of the hat. This required me to increase 10 stitches each row. You can see the result here. This was too fast a rate of increasing, so the top of the hat would not have laid right on my head. If I had the right number of repeats (I think that the right number would have been 4, but I'm not sure) this would have worked.

So, what WOULD the right rate of increasing be, keeping in mind that the hat would need 5 identical parts? Well, the idea is to have the crown of the hat be a slightly curved (convex or concave, depending on your point of view) circle, and to have the straight part of the hat start at the same point that the straight part of your head starts.

If I wanted to make the crown be a perfectly flat circle, I would need the radius of the crown to equal the radius of the circle that the straight part of the hat makes. The circumference of the straight part of the hat is 22 inches (according to my gauge). Because 2(Pi)(radius)=circumference, I can calculate the radius to be about 3.5 inches. That means that I need the increases to "last" for 3.5 inches (or slightly more, since I want my circle to be slightly curved).

Because I know my row gauge (approx. 10 rows/inch), I decided to use 37 rows for my crown. I then needed to figure out where I was going to place the increases. There were less than 37 increase rows. I put 1/2 of the increase rows at the beginning, then increased every other row after that. I knew where in the diamond pattern I needed to stop increasing (based on knitting the mittens), so I drew that part of the pattern on graph paper. From there, it was just a matter of filling in the space above the diamond pattern. It was really just chance (and the way it works out when you place the tops of 5 diamonds together) that I ended up with a star on top. Chance can do good things for your knitting!

I hope I haven't lost you in this explanation. Part of my goal with this blog is to help people see that designing isn't really that hard, and you end up with exactly what you want. You just have to be willing to try a few things until everything works out. In the end, you'll learn a lot about how knitting works, and how garments are designed.

inching along

I finally had some time to work on my Latvian Hat last night. This project is going very slowly. That probably has something to do with the 220 stitches per round and the limited knitting time lately. I love the way it is turning out so far. The star on the crown is finished and the increases are done. I'm now working on the body of the hat. I can't wait to wear it!