Knitted DNA redux

Knit DNA
Yes, I've heard all of the criticisms: the twist is backwards, not the right offset between the two coils, not enough base pairs per twist... But really this trumps all objections - you recognize instantly what it is.

DNA cable in black

DNA swatch
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
Huh, it actually looks better than life in the photo. Knit in Araucania Nature Wool on size 8 needles. It was very wide, almost 7". And the purled bonds were blending into one large sea of reverse stockinette. The fabric was also stiffer than I wanted. I could have gone up to size 9 needles, but it was already wider than I wanted. At that point, I bailed and went for the Twisted Sister's Jazz. Thought I should document it for my growing DNA yarn substitution infopost.

The internet is a funny place

DNA closeup

I get about 20-30 hits a day from searches (the background level when life takes over from blogging). I am always curious to see what people are searching for, and whether they have a hope of actually finding it here. Sometimes I know the answer, but it is not in the blog, and there is no way to communicate the knowledge. I could write a new entry with the information, but there is very little chance of the person finding it. That's just not how things work.

There was a person searching for yarn substitutions for the DNA scarf today. It is too bad that they didn't wait a day, since I've found my favorite yarn yet. My first scarf, the Plymouth Baby Alpaca, didn't have enough stitch definition - it was warm with beautiful drape, but the cables were mushy. The second one in Silky Wool had incredible stitch definition, but was too light to make a good scarf. Jamieson's DK didn't work at all - the cables didn't pop. My swatch in Araucania Nature Wool was also abandoned - I think it would have worked if I had gone up in needle size (from an 8 to a 9) to give the cable elements enough room, but then the scarf would have been too wide.

But the Twisted Sisters Jazz 100% merino in Argent! Heaven! And knitting on 7s gave the perfect size. Soft, drape, warm, beautiful cables. I did four repeats on both sides and extended the ribbing section a bit to display the panels better. I've finally figured out that the pattern, which calls for five repeats, is too long unless you are 6'4" and wear greatcoats. The scarf took two skeins (167 yds each) and had a couple yards left over.

Further news on the DNA knitting front? I think the Classic Elite Yarns Miracle (50% Alpaca, 50% Tencel, #6 needles) comes very close to the original yarn used in the pattern, from Haneke Exotics (25% alpaca, 25% merino, 50% Tencel). So soft and shiny, I could pet it all night long. I'm thinking a DNA cabled hat.

DNA Scarf w/ blue ribbon

DNA Scarf w/ blue ribbon
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
I did make it to the state fair, on the final weekend. Carrie was nice enough to alleviate some of the suspense by mailing me photos a couple days before. Um, we don't usually wear our scarves over our heads here...

But at least it was displayed prominently, unlike most of the works that were crammed into a tiny display case. It broke my heart to see all of the work that went into the sweaters and shawls, which were all folded up into tiny squares. It was nearly impossible to see the stitchwork, let alone shaping. I thought I was going to be able to get a beautiful shot of my Highland Triangle Shawl, but instead I got this:
Highland Triangle Shawl
Yup. It's that tiny pinkish-rusty square in the center.


At 8 reps
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
I just found out that the DNA scarf won first place at the state fair. Wow. I really have to credit the designer, June Oshiro, though. She designed an extremely elegant scarf, which she was generous enough to share freely with the knitting and scientific community.

The lighting on the finished scarf wasn't the best, so I'm re-running the photo with the best lighting - you get the idea.

Finally finished!

DNA scarf
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
This has to be the project that was hanging out on the sidebar the longest. Even more painful than weaving in the infinite ends for the St. John's Cross scarf was the change in gauge while knitting this. My knitting got a lot looser on the second side - probably a good thing in the abstract, but horrible for the project. It was about 10% wider and 15% longer, which looked horrible with the cables. It was so bad that I didn't think blocking would help, so I avoided it. But the blocking - it is like magic! I stretched the shorter side out, and made sure not to stretch the larger size at all, and came up with good results.

Now, to deal with the cat hair; love the silky wool, but it is a magnet for cat hair.

Wishing for blocking magic

DNA scarf 2
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
I bound off two projects at the Tuesday group knitting at Borealis Yarns. First off the needles was the DNA scarf in silky wool. It really needs to be blocked; as I've become a faster knitter, my stitches have loosened up some. This is probably good overall, since I was knitting at about 75% of recommended gauge before. But blocking had better fix this, or I will cry and cry after all the time I've put into this; I probably should have switched down to a #5 on the second panel. I've woven in the ends, so now I just need to acquire a checkered tablecloth to put over the cardboard to have a guide to block to. I have 100 blocking pins, so hopefully that will be enough.

You will know her by the color of her silky wool

DNA scarf
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
Road trip to Madison, WI tomorrow to view the oldest terrestrial object in the world, which happens to be a 4.404 billion-year-old zircon from Australia. Oh yes, there is also a jazz concert that was commissioned to convey the sense of deep time.

I will also be hitting as many not-so-LYS as possible; it looks like there is a lot of fibery goodness, as well as a lot of weaving and spinning supplies. I will be taking the DNA scarf as a road trip project, in case anyone wants to play "find the moving target."

It's madness, I tell you!

At 8 reps
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
I miscrossed a side mini-cable over an early morning beverage at the local coffee shop. Of course, once I had started, the obsessive cabling desire took over. I originally wanted to get half-way down the side of the scarf, but continued on to complete the repeat. So 1.75 repeats done today, which means two repeats are left.

The new skill of laddering down and re-knitting is wonderful. I've fixed one main cable cross and three miscrossed minicables. The minicables are reversed in direction going down the scarf, so it is easy to miscross even when paying attention. (I also failed to fix the edge of the seed stitch border, and had to cry uncle for that part). So even though this is like comfort knitting -- I really like the cables and I have the pattern memorized -- I'm still learning from it.

Down the other side

Down the other side
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
Last night I could have:

1) learned how to do short rows in the fingerless mittens.

2) figured out the cast-on and first 10 rows for the chevron shadow shawl, which is my self-imposed limit for asking for help, since apparently the instructions are clear until that point[1].

3) on the charity scarf, figured out how to incorporate a different color into the cables, and how to increase the cables in that special Elsebeth Lavold Viking way.

But as you can see by the photograph (and the lack of "learning experience" catagorization), instead I had a lazy day and worked a good deal of the first repeat on the DNA scarf. I can see the cabling obsession starting anew.

[1] I did try to figure out if the knitted cast-on was the same as the cabled cast-on before falling asleep, and woke up to the vision of different topologic means of wrapping string around sticks, and visualizing whether they were equivalent -- a bad sign, no?

A few inches of ribbing

A few inches of ribbing
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
I've been saving this to provide some color contrast -- too many neutrals lately. Most of the ribbing was done at a local concert on Saturday. That part is okay.

However, the few rows I did while angsting about felting last night have a mistaken purl row in the knits right at the beginning, and have to be ripped out. Sigh.

On the plus side, I've found that charity knitting is the perfect thing to fall asleep to; right now I'm working in garter stitch and I can handle that even when tired. I'm afraid of falling asleep and rolling over on the big pig-sticker needles, though. Perhaps that helps with the concentration?

A better view

DNA scarf, cabling on one side
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
Mostly the point of this photograph is a better picture than before, though I have desultorily completed a few rows of k4 p4 ribbing.

A photo!

5 repeats!
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
Which means I'm to the ribbing, though I haven't started yet. Even though I promised myself not to knit when too tired, based on bad results in the past, I was so close I ignored the good advice I gave myself. On the penultimate RS row, I had to knit back three times, and I dropped a stitch. Since this was only my third dropped stitch ever, it was momentarily very traumatic. My first dropped stitch was about six rows down on the fingerless mittens, and an experienced knitter fixed it. My second dropped stitch was on this DNA scarf, while unknitting to fix a mistake, and it was such a mess in the seed stitch section that I knitted back a row to fix it. This stitch was dropped because the DP needle I use for cabling fell out (again with the tired, it took me a while to figure out that it wasn't that I had forgotten to do the cable, it was that the cable needle was missing). But I figured out how to fix the dropped stitch, which was very exciting. And I pushed on to the end of the cabled section, so now it is ribbing city.

DNA scarf, 3.5 reps

DNA scarf, 3.5 reps
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
Not much happening on the blog today, mostly playing around with the settings rather than writing. I think I will need to update and organize the geeky knitting section, by topic, to make it easier to follow.

Got 1.5 reps done today on the DNA scarf, I was hoping for 2 but it is still much better than a normal weekend. I am hoping for 1 rep / weekend and 2 rep / workweek, for 3 total per week. That would make the scarf a 1 month project. This is probably pathetically slow compared with an experienced knitter, but the scarf is over 2,200 stitches.

I've also been starting to read Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Patterns for Knitting; more on that later, when I've absorbed more of the book. This is another reason my knitting has been slowed down; reading and knitting at the same time. This ability has more to do with my reading skills than knitting skills, since I can walk and read at the same time also.

DNA scarf coiling over histones ==> chromosome

A geeky joke that came out of comments here.

Completed: DNA scarf #1

Completed DNA scarf
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
The advantage of leaving behind a slew of almost-finished projects: instant gratification when finished.

The DNA scarf finished drying today, so I took it off the blocking board. I only had one end to weave in, which was very exciting. (I figured out how to splice yarn while knitting this, and LYS owner did the ending piece to show me how to weave in).

The Fibonacci Windy City Scarf was designed to complement this fleece.

Arachne on the needles

Arachne on the needles
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
Actually, I suppose the problem is that I wasn't channeling Arachne enough. Many cultures have superstitions that to make a perfect piece of art will anger the gods; I am certainly safe from that fate!

This is the most frustrating mistake; I had just gotten to the point where I knew the pattern enough to be dangerous, and crossed the cables by extending the longer side of the DNA helix. I did not realize the problem until I was a third of the way through the ribbing. It was actually not until someone else that was DNA knitting pointed out the error in her own scarf that I realized I had a problem at all; otherwise I might have continued in this fashion on the other side.

I can also pretend that the DNase has just unzipped the helix in preparation for replication...

Penelope on the needles

Picking up the DNA scarf
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
Or, "don't sleep and knit."

I usually knit a little bit to unwind (hah!) before falling asleep. Last night I was obviously too tired; I crossed a cable the wrong way, which rarely happens, and I didn't immediately notice, which pretty much never happens. So I needed to unknit back almost two whole rows. In the morning, I discovered I forgot to cross the side twist cables in any case.

So I've discovered that Penelope wasn't really all that faithful[1], she was just so tired and distracted by her suitors that she needed to rip out her weaving all the time...
[1]Not that I blame her, what with Circe and all.

Blocking DNA scarf #1

Blocking DNA scarf #1
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
The Fibonacci Windy City scarf is done blocking, so now it is DNA scarf's turn. I am also weaving in the ends of Fibonacci Windy City, which is taking awhile. I am splitting the fiber into two, and weaving each part in separately; otherwise it is too bulky. I am saving the scraps of yarn to stuff the cat toy.

Yarn substitutions for the DNA scarf, part 2: or what I have also learned lately

Closeup of DNA cables in Moss
Originally uploaded by thomasina. The Jamieson's DK is beautiful yarn. It feels like real wool (so yes, it is a bit on the scratchy side). But it is incredibly wiry and springy, and feels very good on the needles. It is also incredibly light -- I amuse myself by tossing the 170 yard ball into the air. I've knit with it on #4, #5, and #6, and the fives are perfect. It almost feels like what would come out of the spinnerette of a B-movie science fiction beast, or what spider silk would feel like magnified to macroscopic scale, though in a good way. And the
147 Moss

147 Moss yarn is beautiful; deep green with highlights of rust brown and yellow. Overall the other colors are just highlights, and it does not knit up particularly tweedy, of which I am not a fan. Alas, the yarn was too felty, dark, and just tweedy enough to make a poor choice for the DNA scarf. So this yarn is looking for a project (2 skeins, 340 yards total); the start of my yarn stash, but I don't regret buying it.

We aim to please

Full confession time: still harboring the ideal of perfection, after having identified most of the ways to go wrong in DNA scarf #1. Purled two instead of knitting two between the two crossover cables, which doesn't really show in the finished product. Decide to unknit anyway (about 1/3 of a row total). Alas, a bit of a disaster laddering down between two stitches. Could give up and take to LYS, someday, when I have free time (hah!). Decide instead to unknit until problem is fixed... two and a half rows later. Re-knit, cross cables, once again do two purls instead of two knits between the cables (this time on other side). Have not mastered the concept of sunk costs, decide to unknit and fix; this time only needed to unravel the relevant portions. Perhaps need to purposefully place error, have done and get on with it?

PS: This was one thing I didn't have a problem with in scarf #1 -- where the heck did this issue come from?!

PPS: This was meant to refer to the crossing cables issue -- but could equally apply to the perfection hangup. There are five major and three minor problems in scarf #1, but that is enough to put me off from wanting to wear it...

Breaking news: Black DNA scarf

I've gotten a lot of ideas on what works and what doesn't in the DNA scarf by googling and google imaging. I got the idea it might be okay to go to darker colors through a successful forest green scarf. I thought I might be able to reconcile my previously inconpatible loves, dark fibers and cables. Faced with the choice between charcoal and bilberry (dark blue) in the silky wool, I was not brave enough and went with the dark blue... guess I should have tried the black. Sorry, C.!

Yarn substitutions for the DNA scarf, part 1: or what I have learned lately

Plymouth Yarn
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
The DNA scarf pattern was designed with Heneke Exotics, a blend of 25% Alpaca, 25% Merino, and 50% Tencel (cellulose fiber). The original scarf appears to combine soft fluffiness with structure and shininess, the latter qualities probably from the tencel.

The first DNA scarf I knit was out of Plymouth Yarn's Baby Alpaca. This reproduced the fluffiness and softness of the original. However, I doubt it has as much structure. The yarn was "mushy" and difficult to knit with, especially for the longer blocks of garter stitch or seed stitch. Cabling was easy, partly because the yarn had quite a bit of give; this led to gaps in the cable crossovers, even when knitting very tightly. Fortunately, the DNA cables have good definition, but the side twist cables do not. Overall, I think it will be okay once it is blocked; at least the sts to row ratio is okay, since the DNA cables are not stretched in the row direction, as some scarves I have seen online.

DNA scarf #2

DNA scarf #2
Originally uploaded by thomasina.
The second DNA scarf is now at 1.5 reps, the same point as my first photo of number one. I am astounded but pleased that the cables show up so nicely in the dark yarn.

Next DNA scarf?

Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool
Originally uploaded by thomasina.

I am going to try knitting the next DNA scarf in Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool, in the 21 Bilberry to the left. Elsebeth Lavold was able to design her own yarn -- and she is all about the cables. The black was too dark to show the cables well, even by a professional photographer. The darker blue showed cables fairly well in the book, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'd also like to do a scarf in the darker purple, but might have to use the lighter purple instead.

Other geeky knitting projects...

Off the needles!
Originally uploaded by thomasina.

I know lots of geeky people, so I forsee a lot of these in my future. This is knit with Plymouth Yarn's lightest shade of Baby Alpaca on size #4 straight needles and came in at about 80% gauge. It needs to be blocked, badly. The DNA scarf pattern is by June Oshiro, and has been featured on the cover of Nature Genetics and in the Geek Chic section of Fall 2003 Interweave Knits.

View my flickr DNA scarf album to recapture the entire process.