Sunday, March 7, 2010

Starting an Afghan

I'm on a knitting high this morning. I just finished the third of four afghans, and I am starting the fourth. I thought I would walk through this project as I do it. It will help keep me on track, and explore some of the thinking that gets me into a new piece.

In general, my afghans are 40 x 50 inches. I'm not fiendishly obsessed by the numbers, but that's about what is expected for a full size throw. As always with a custom project there are some guidelines from the client. This throw is for an Ohio State University fan, and therefore it will be red and gray. I made a striped OSU baby blanket for the same client, and she liked it, so I am using the same yarn. This keeps me in the realm of the familiar. I know how this yarn acts and approximately how much it will take. The yarn in question is Knitpicks Shine Worsted. It is 60% pima cotton, 40% modal (beechwood fiber), has a lovely sheen, good stitch definition, and is soft as a cloud. With the amount I need for an afghan, the price is right, too. I don't have to charge an arm and a leg to cover an expensive yarn choice.

There are always other factors that influence my knitting. In this case, I ordered the red yarn first because I was also using it for another project. Meanwhile, the gray sold out, and I have to wait a few weeks to order it. This makes knitting the afghan in strips not only a nice design feature, but an essential time-saving factor. I can knit all the red strips now, and add the grey once the remainder of the yarn is available.

Last week I ordered a stitch dictionary - 400 knitting stitches from Potter Craft. I have paged through it, admiring various stitches, not really studying any particular one but letting them soak in and broaden my scope from the patterns that I've used frequently in the past. The last afghan I made had a diamond/triangle pattern (see the photo of the gold and black throw) that evolved without much thought. This time, I decided to swatch. I wanted a ribbed look but something more complicated than just a flat rib like knit 5-purl 1-knit 5. Lately I've been in love with cables, but a complex cable is beyond the scope and price of this piece. (Yes, I charge for extra complexity.) I decided to rib as follows: *K2, P2, 1x1 RC (right cable), P2 and repeat from *. You can see the red strip that I've worked so far, and a close-up shot. By the way, the gauge with a size 9 needle is 16 stitches to 4 inches and 24 rows to 4 inches.

A small digression: I measured gauge using Knitpicks combined needle sizer and gauge measuring device. It has a clear strip over the ruler that magnifies your swatch, making it very easy to count stitches and rows. This is one of the handiest knitting tools I've purchased, and it was only $2.99.

It just so happens that the strip I showed you was knitted from one ball of Shine Worsted. Measuring it I get about 18.5 inches x 5.5 inches. I can use this information to check whether my supply of red yarn will be adequate. In the case of this particular piece, I can also finish out my red yarn and order enough gray to make up the difference. Knitting one color at a time is helpful that way - your strip width can always change to accommodate the yarn supply. Some might ask why my initial strip is so wide - after all, 18 inches is a big chunk of 40. I'm avoiding the "scarf phenomenon", my term for the time wasted when you are constantly turning a piece of knitting to start a new row. It's just not practical to knit a bunch of narrow strips. You want a piece wide enough to keep your rhythm going and spend more time knitting than turning.
Questions are welcome. I'll continue until this piece is finished.

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