Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Designing Claire's Gloves: Continuing to Explore

There's been a lot of exploration here, both mental and physical, in the last 24 hours. Where to start? Well, first off, I'm really pleased with the fit of the hand portion of my glove, but the design needs a bit more "oomph" overall. I followed the link on Terry Dresbach's website (she's Outlander's costumer and married to the producer of the series) to these "Gunnister Gloves", from late 17th-century Scotland. What you see is a reproduction of gloves excavated from a bog. They are simple, but incredibly stylish. I really love the tapered gauntlet cuff, and so the next step I intend to take is to see what happens if I incorporate that feature into my own design. I won't need to knit an entire glove, just the cuff, so playing with this won't take very long.
Today I made a trip to a yarn shop and had another look at some choices. To be honest, if I had easy access to Quince & Co's "Chickadee", I have a feeling that that would be the perfect wool. I want something in a soft neutral, something close to natural sheep colours, but not cream (do you have any idea how quickly gloves get dirty?) Here are some choices:
1. This is a soft dove grey (as in mourning dove colour)--grey with a slightly taupey undertone.

2. This is a cool beige. BTW, Sublime's "Cashmere Merino Silk dk" has become "Baby Cashmere Silk dk", although it is still available in a great range of adult colours. This one is "Pebble".

Here are the two colours side by side for comparison. Any thoughts?

Note that both of these yarn choices are non-superwash. I prefer that since so many superwash wools grow unpredictably when wet.
3. There's a third possibility that is superwash, shown below.

This is a pale, heather grey, with a much more unprocessed look. Don't know if I want that or not. Don't know how it will behave when firmly knitted and wet blocked. Maybe I'll play with it, even if just for future reference.
I brought another little goodie home. This has been known to happen when one visits yarn shops.

There's such a lovely antique feel to this colourway I couldn't resist. Needless to say, this is for socks, not my glove project!
Finally, while I was on the Quince & Co site, I had a look at their beautiful cowls and infinity scarves. Their photography is so stunning! Yesterday evening I played with my "Old Lady Pink" yarn to see what would happen if I worked it doubled for an infinity scarf.

Hmm, I have to think about this. I'm not in love with this. Part of the design process is learning what DOESN'T work.
P.S. My personal bagpiping concert is underway as I write this (see last week's post about that).

Monday, August 25, 2014

Designing Claire's Gloves: Out of the Mouths of Babes

You can pretty much always count on the truth from your own kids, even when they're not kids anymore. As I was admiring my new wool/silk glove, I casually thrust it in front of James, who was caught unawares in the middle of a bacon and tomato sandwich. "I don't like it," he blurted out. "Why?" I asked. "It's the colour", he replied, while mayonnaise dripped onto his plate. "It's terracotta", I explained. "No it isn't," he insisted. "It's OLD LADY PINK". Horrors! No wonder it never looked good in photos. So, first thing tomorrow I'm off to the wool shop to locate the right colour, or at least a better one.  Perhaps I'll take James along with me (or not). Pattern writing in progress. Test knitters abound. See you later.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Designing Claire's Gloves: Getting a Custom Fit

Is it just me, or do store-bought gloves never fit you properly too? Even the stretchy ones aren't right for me. I think it might be that they're designed for women with long fingernails, and I wear my nails trimmed quite short (I work with my hands, plus I'm a musician, so long nails are out). At any rate, bought gloves almost always have fingers that are a bit too long. The pleasure of handknitted gloves is that you can get a perfect fit. The process involves trying on the gloves as you approach each finger tip (same for the thumb). On and off, on and off. If you're making these for someone else, make sure they're around for the few hours it takes to do this, and that they're prepared for the process. It's worth it.

I record on a diagram how many rows I knitted for each digit so that I can make the second glove to match.
Today, I finished up this prototype glove. I was particularly pleased with the join between the thumb and the palm. Even before the weaving in of the ends, it was nice and snug.

Once all the knitting was done, I turned the glove inside out to weave in the ends, using the ends between the fingers to close up any remaining gaps.

In stocking stitch, I like to weave in ends on a diagonal. It preserves the stretchiness of the fabric and is invisible from the right side. The colour of this close up of the thumb weaving -in is much closer to the terra cotta colour than the hideous pink in the rest of today's photos.

I tried on the glove to assess the fit...

gave the thing a soak in a kitchen bowl, then laid it out to dry.

Tomorrow I'll have a fresh look at it to see what changes/improvements I might make. Do I want to retain the little bit of chevron at the top of the hand? Do I want to add the bars to the back of the cuff (at this point it's plain)? Am I satisfied with the fit of the innovative increasing (FYI, Deb, I made the thumb a couple of stitches narrower than called for in your chart, since I wanted a closer fitting thumb for a dressy glove).
I'll start writing up the pattern tomorrow. Anyone interested in a little test knitting? Just leave me a message on Ravelry.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Designing Claire's Gloves: These Gloves Have a Waist

A lot has happened with my glove since yesterday morning, in spite of a road trip today. (I got most of the thumb shaping figured out and knitted while on the Glenora ferry.) Yesterday, my principal decision was whether to incorporate waist wrist shaping into the glove. I like shaped wrists on ladies' gloves. It keeps them feminine and helps to dress them up so they don't look like work gloves. Why do I refer to it as waist shaping? Because the process is exactly like waist shaping on a sweater: a few decreases to take things in, then a few increases to take things back to where you started. In the case of this glove (I only have one so far to talk about), I chose to make the shaping happen in the side ribs, so that the gansey panel would remain undisturbed. See? The shaping is hidden in the purl sections.

When the cuff was done (twice, because I didn't like the first iteration), I made a big decision about the thumb increases. Rather than knit a traditional gusset, I chose to use Deb Gemmell's method of increasing for a thumb. I remembered the conversation Claire had with Mrs. Baird during the palm reading scene, in which Mrs. Baird informed Claire that the heel of her thumb (her "mount of Venus") was larger than average. (I won't go into the significance of that). Anyway, I like Deb's style of increasing because it makes the base of the thumb very wide. All the thumb stitches are put onto one needle right at the top of the cuff, and the increases happen on the other side of the palm.

I think this is a very cool way to grow the glove and it's really fun to do.
Meanwhile, on the back of the hand, the chevrons were underway.

In the above photo, you can see the thumb stitches on a length of waste yarn, and below, you can see the almost-glove being tried on. Time to separate the fingers!

A few minutes ago, I placed all the fingers, except the index finger, on separate lengths of waste yarn,

and now the index finger is launched. The momentum is building.

By tomorrow at this time, barring some accident, I'll have a glove. They're so much faster to knit than you think they'll be. If only writing up the pattern could be as quick.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Designing Claire's Gloves: Investing Them with Meaning

I'm a morning person. It's the time of day when my energy, creative and otherwise is at its peak. Plus, everyone else in the household is still abed, so there are no distractions. Creative thought also requires time for ideas to ferment and ooze around in the brain. Often ideas come while in the midst of boring physical tasks, like walking, taking a bath, etc.
All this is to say that this morning I woke up and decided to scrap yesterday's ideas completely, because a whole new and better idea had come to me somehow overnight. I'm going to knit Claire's gloves in the traditional way (with a few quirks, see below) from wrist to fingertips. The important thing, though, is to invest them with meaning. They will feature the following:
1. Chevrons, ribs, and steps, a gansey pattern from Inverness (photo from a favourite book, "Cables, Diamonds, and Herringbone" by Sabine Domnick). Claire's life in the early chapters of Outlander is very much focused on Inverness and this pattern is meant to acknowledge that.

However, I plan to separate the elements, with the herringbone on the back of the hand,

 and the bars and ribs on the cuff.

2. To represent Claire's unusual lines on the palm of her hand, I intend to try out a different kind of gusset (which isn't really a gusset), cleverly designed by my friend Deb Gemmell. I might try to insert some ribbing into it (we'll see how that goes) to represent Claire's double, but forked marriage lines.
3. What yarn will I use? I've chosen a wool/silk mix because that would have been available in some form in the 18th century for luxury items. Wool for warmth, silk for beauty and strength (also qualities of Claire, come to think of it). The colour is an earthy terracotta. So far in the TV series, Claire has been wearing a lot of browns and dark blues, and I think this colour would work well with her clothes.

This is a dk weight. Fingering wouldn't provide sufficient warmth (as a Canadian, I know all about that). And I'm knitting on size US 3 needles to make a dense fabric that will not only keep the wind out, but will highlight the texture of the stitches.

See you in a couple of days.....
P.S. This is NOT an attempt to design and knit historically accurate gloves. These gloves are meant to be in keeping with the spirit of the Outlander story, no more.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Designing Claire's Gloves: In Which I Find a Use for the Magic Loop

Now that I'm over (more or less) my difficulties with the 21st-century take on the handknit bits in Outlander, I've decided to jump on the bandwagon and design what I think would be the perfect gloves for 18th-century Claire. These will be proper gloves, with full fingers, because eventually it's going to get cold, as in wintry cold, in Scotland. There may be a matching cowl in the offing, but that's down the road.
I'm holding off on a yarn decision for now and concentrating on a more basic design decision: bottom up, or top down. I've done both over the decades, but recently have been making multiple pairs of Robin Melanson's "Strata" for myself and Isabel. I say "multiple" because, unfortunately, our gloves have a habit of going missing. (My first pair were actually stolen when we had a break-in at a previous house. I was more upset at losing my handknitted alpaca and silk gloves than my credit cards!) "Stata" is a great basic glove pattern, but I have to admit to hating the part where I knit the fingers on dpns. It's fiddly, and best done when one feels full to the brim with patience.
Another take on top-down gloves is Meg Swansen's I-cord finger gauntlets. These are definitely ingenious, but I've never been really happy with the look of them--the tension where the ladder at the back of the I-cord is converted to an extra stitch isn't quite perfect enough in my version.
So, this afternoon I played around with a third option--top-down fingers begun with Judy's Magic Cast-On using a magic loop. First, I reviewed Cat Bordhi's hilarious video on how to do the cast on. There might have been some laughing out loud as she pretended to be a parrot in the jungle. Unfortunately, Bill was in the room at the time. I ignored any snarky remarks.
At first I tried the cast-on with dpns. Way too squinchy. Then I tried two circulars, as Cat suggested. Better. Then I caved and tried the magic loop. Perfect.

On my first try, I cast on all the finger stitches at once and, of course, ended up with a squarish fingertip. Then I wised up and cast on about 60% of the total, increasing in two subsequent rounds to the final number. Voila. A nicely tapered tip. Now on to some sketches of the gloves. Garter stitch cuffs? I-cord buttonholes? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No Two-Timing Here

Last Saturday I took a sock class. As a dyed-in-the-wool dpn/heelflap-and-gusset sock knitter, I thought it would be salutary to learn a) how to do magic loop knitting, b) how to knit two socks at a time, and c) how to knit a shadow wrap heel. So I took Cheryl's class at Rosehaven Yarns and learned all of that. Then I came home, frogged my work, and proceeded to make one-at-a-time socks on dpns. I did, however, incorporate the new heel, and I like how it's made and how it looks. Now I'll have to wear these socks around to see how they fit.

Checking the length before grafting

The two-at-a-time approach seemed fussy to me--too much yarn management to be relaxing. My solution to "second sock syndrome"? Cast on and knit a couple of rounds on Sock The Second immediately after closing up the toe on Sock The First. I'm sure two-timing is fantastic for some people. Just not me.
P.S. The yarn is Regia's North Pole Colour, in case anyone is wondering. Size US 2 needles, 56 sts.