Worsted is for winter

All of you long-time followers, brace yourselves: I’m long past due for a Wearability Wednesday post. This (for those who are new-ish readers) is a post where I look at a knitting project from some time back and check on its wearability.  Do I actually wear it? If not, why not? If yes, how do I wear it?  How do I style it?  How has it held up?  Would I knit it again?  The subject of today’s post is Arleen.  I knit Arleen in less than two weeks in March of 2013.  Here is a photo from back then:


Since that photo was taken, four and a half years ago, I went through empty nest syndrome, gained a post-graduate degree in an entirely new field, and started a third (or is it a fourth?) career.  This has meant (among lots of other things) that I have done less and less knitting and gained more and more weight.  But my Arleen keeps looking good.  Here is a photo from Monday morning:


And here is the back:


As you can see, the fit is still good.  The yarn is Cascade 220, a workhouse worsted weight yarn which is not expensive, comes in lots of shades, and is virtually indestructible. This is not a yarn which is going to sag after a few washes.  It also won’t pill much and it won’t bleed.  It is a good, solid, dependable yarn.  I never thought of it as a next-to-the-skin yarn, but in fact I do not find Arleen to be at all itchy or uncomfortable to wear.

Arleen is an interesting example for a Wearability Wednesday post because it originated as the result of a sweater I frogged and detailed in one of my earliest WW posts, Goodbye Levenwick.  The new sweater was blogged in the follow-up post Hello, Arleen. The fact that the yarn was frogged, and then re-knit without steaming or straightening, and that it looks so good, is another testimony to the Cascade 220.

All of this is good, but I have to tell you there is one serious potential downside to this top: worsted is for winter!  Whenever I see a short-sleeved or sleeveless worsted weight sweater I always have the same thought:  If it is cold enough for a worsted weight sweater, then it too cold for sleeveless.  But herein lies an interesting fact: a sleeveless worsted weight top works really well on a cold day under a blazer.

I sometimes think that we women go through four stages in life: first, we are always cold (this stage begins in childhood and lasts a long time), then we are always hot (this comes with being ‘a woman of a certain age’ to speak euphemistically), then we are either very hot or very cold usually in quick succession, and finally, we end up being always cold.  In these middle two stages, where overheating happens frequently, it is very nice to have a sleeveless but warm top under a removable jacket or blazer.

On Monday, we woke up to weather that was just above freezing.  It was cold.  I was debating what to wear under a jacket: a sweater could lead to me roasting in the middle of a meeting but a blouse may be chilly.  What to do? While rummaging through a drawer, I came upon Arleen and an answer presented itself:  grab Arleen and top it with a jacket!  And just to show you that it works, here I am trying it with a number of jackets.  (Please note, I only changed the jackets, keeping my black jeans and boots on throughout, so I have not bothered to coordinate my whole look here.  Also, it was cold out, I had not put on makeup or otherwise gussied up, and Doug had about 2 minutes before he had to leave for work – thus, we took only a few shots instead of the 40 that I would normally take to get one good one.)

With a retro, 80s, black jacket complete with shoulder pads and gold buttons:


With a rather boring, grey business suit jacket:


With a cool, cropped jacket in an interesting geometric pattern:


With a brown, flannel sporty jacket:


With my Escher cardigan:


I think they can all work pretty well, and give you an idea of Arleen’s versatility.  The neckline is a bit funny with the geometric jacket, although the colour works well.  I like it best with the Escher but think it works well with the blazers.  (If you are interested in my Escher cardigan and have the fortitude to read two very long and technical posts about knitting and modifying the pattern, you can check them out here and here.)  On Monday, I wore Arleen to work with the grey blazer, and sure enough, I took the blazer off when I got warm and put it on when I cooled off.  A good solution.  Clearly this is the exception that makes the Worsted is for Winter rule!

It’s mitten time again!

Yesterday a fantastic anthology of craftivism mittens and mitts popped up in my pattern highlights section on Ravelry.  It is a collection of designs called Join Hands, and as I was savouring the patterns, I realised that it was time for another post about great mitten patterns (previous posts include Merry Mittenmas!, A dozen great patterns for fingerless mitts, and Mittens!). This seems to be becoming an annual feature on the blog, one which I am more than happy to continue.  So, without further ado, here are my picks of the season.

We must do better by Dianna Walla

we must do better

© Dianna Walla

I like all of the patterns in the Join Hands pattern ebook, but this is one of my favorites.  I love anything Dianna Walla designs (she is a fantastic blogger as well; check her out here).  These mitts really speak to me, both for their meaning and for the great lines of the design and the very simple but bold patterning. The proceeds from the ebook will be split equally between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center, two worthy organisations!  The phrase “We must do better”, knitted around the cuffs, is taken from the book We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Iznik by Barbara Gregory


Crissy Jarvis © Barbara Gregory

Barbara Gregory’s designs are nearly always winners in my book.  I love her use of colour and whimsy.  (I knit one of her sweaters which I blogged about here.)  She puts out great mitten patterns every year.  This year I was taken with the design called Iznik.  I am a big fan of tiles, and the Iznik tiles and pottery from Turkey are very distinctive and beautiful.  She uses duplicate stitch for the third colour, so these are not as difficult as they appear, using two-colour stranded knitting throughout.

Petronela Mittens by Anna Lipinska


© Anna Lipinska

This year I seem to be attracted to big, cosy mittens.  I have a cold right now, so perhaps that factored into my selection, but it seems to be a trend on this list.  These mittens are very spare but look like just the right thing to wear for a brisk winter walk.  In fact, these mittens are almost enough to make me wish to take a brisk winter walk, which is saying a lot.  I like these in natural colours but could imagine making them in almost any shade.  Make them for your teenagers and watch them not be able to text.

Herati by Sari Nordlund


© Nicole Mlakar

I like almost anything from the Pom Pom Quarterly.  This pair of mittens really caught my eye (not hard to do with this sumptuous shot – all those beautiful reds and golds).  These are knit with Quince & Co Finch, a favorite yarn, and I just might have these very colours in my stash!  I hesitate to knit mittens without a gusset (see my post To gusset or not to gusset) but these have been circling around in my brain and could very well end up on my needles.

Black and White Mittens by Carolyn Vance

black and white mittens

© TKGA, 2017

These mittens are published in a journal called Cast On, The Educational Journal for Knitters, Winter 2017/18; it is published quarterly by The Knitting Guild Association, a non-profit organization.  This suggests that this pattern is educational; I just think it’s cool.  I am attracted to geometrical prints and also to black and white patterns. These are knit in sport weight yarn on tiny needles, to get a gauge of 10 stitches to the inch in pattern.  The design uses a technique called twined knitting – I don’t know it (I guess that is what makes this educational), but can also be knit with traditional stranded stockinette.

Lines Mittens by tincanknits


© tincanknits

I love what tincanknits do with colour, but this pattern shows how great they are with natural shades as well.  I really like these mittens – I love how the grey and white play against each other, I love the geometry of the lines, and I especially love the photo.  If I had these, I would hang around on cliffs all day waiting for someone to photograph my hands artfully arranged against the rocks.  These are knit in a cashmere blend, by the way, which makes me want them even more.

Tveir Fingerless Gloves by Ella Gordon


© Ella Gordon

I had to include this very Christmas-y design here.  These fingerless gloves are so cheerful and pretty.   They make me think of eggnog and gingerbread and wrapping paper and Christmas tree ornaments.  It’s a very sweet pattern, from the Shetland Wool Week Annual 2017.

Pink Pine Pair by Nataliya Sinelshchikova

pink pine

© amirisu

These are fantastic mittens with a super interesting construction. I covet these, in the exact colours.  I want this pop of pink!  And then maybe I would make a pair with a pop of red!  Or a pop of orange! Or a pop of purple!  Maybe I need many pairs!   I have never heard of this designer and this is her only pattern on Ravelry, but if this is the first she is off to a good start.

I hope this post inspires you to knit a pair of mittens.  I believe there should be a design for everyone in this selection (including all of those on your gift list).  Happy knitting!

Colour scheme: sorted

Doug and I are in Beirut this week.  We are attending a conference on language policy and refugees.  We are also visiting cousins and eating far too much delicious Lebanese food.  I didn’t bring my knitting with me, but I did manage to get some knitting done before I left.  For those of you following my efforts to pick a colour scheme for my newest project, I include a little preview photo:


Happy Halloween!  This year we don’t need scary costumes to frighten us: we can just watch the news instead!

How to make your knitting habit appear cost-effective

Are you worried about how much your knitting habit costs?  More to the point, are your spouses/parents/children/friends worried? Do you find yourself trying to explain away the boxes of expensive hand-dyed artisan yarn, beautifully-tooled exotic wood knitting needles, shelves full of pattern books, trips to wool festivals, etc?  Then this post is for you!

Yesterday I received a promotional email for Selfridge’s (a department store) advertising “seriously smiley knitwear”.   “Hmm,” I thought, “Let’s check out this season’s designer knitwear!” It made me happy!  I was especially happy to see the prices!  (Prices were quoted in pounds sterling; I have given US$ equivalents at today’s exchange rates. The photos are from Selfridge’s webpages.

1.  Rag & Bone (£495; $650)


2.     Altuzarra (£950; $1,247)


3.   Balenciaga (£815; $1,069)


4.   A F Vandevorst (£800; $1,050)


5.      Alexander McQueen  (£840; $1,102)


6.     Calvin Klein (£900; $1,180)


7.     Thom Browne  (£1,160; £1522 – this one is sold out!)


My oh my!  We have two things to cheer about fellow knitters!

1 – RED!!!!!  Just because.

2 – The magic all-purpose reason why your knitting habit is cost-effective! (“But you know, honey, that by knitting this 100% cashmere chunky turtleneck, I am saving around £500 on yarn costs alone!  We should definitely be drinking some champagne while I knit to celebrate my thriftiness, darling!  Even better, we should be drinking it in Fiji!”)

Swatch this space!

I have knit two more swatches to look at different colour options for my new project.  (See my  last post for info, although I have been purposely vague regarding the pattern). Here is Swatch #3:


And here is Swatch # 4:


This now gives me a total of four swatches to decide from:

Clockwise from top left, this gives us:

  1. Swatch #1.  4 colours: navy, cream, light blue and red; flowers in white with red centres
  2. Swatch #2.  5 colours: navy, cream, beige, light blue and red; flowers in light blue with red centres
  3. Swatch #3.  3 colours: navy, cream and red; flowers in white with red centres
  4. Swatch #4.  5 colours: navy, cream, mustard, green and light blue; flowers in light blue with white centres

I have a total of seven shades of the yarn (Gilliat de rerum natura), and there are at least 6 design elements (given that the background will be navy).  This makes for many, many more combinations of possible colours.  I have still not decided what I want, but I am tired of swatching.  I want to get on to the sweater knitting!

I think that if I were to order these swatches from best to worst (for me), I would say: 3, 2, 4, and 1.  I find Swatch #1 feels a bit too childlike, Swatch #2 is pretty nice although subtle, Swatch # 3 is pretty good and almost nails it but still seems a bit stark to me, and Swatch # 4 is very interesting but gives a totally different “feel” to it.  Swatch # 3 feels Norwegian to me, while Swatch # 4 feels rather Central American.

It has been many years since I have indulged in this level of swatching.  The last time was for my beautiful sweater Ormolu, which I blogged about here (way back in 2013).  Here is a photo which shows off it’s beautiful colourwork:


and here is a photo of the swatches I made:


What to do now?  Well, I am thinking very positively of making  the sweater in a cross between Swatch #3 and Swatch #2.  It would involve basically using the colour plan for Swatch #2, but switching out the middle pattern (the 3-row horizontal bar) so that it was in red with blue accents.  Choices, choices….

Saturdays are for swatching

I’ve gone about three weeks now without knitting anything.  I can’t seem to pick up the one project I have on the needles – a very chic Hanne Falkenberg jacket.  I love the jacket and am enjoying knitting it, but for some reason it’s not working for me now.  I am stressed with a very demanding new role at work and I can’t seem to find a project to hold my attention.

I do, however, have some new yarn to play with.  I have noticed a number of knitters on Ravelry – people whose knitting I follow – using a worsted weight wool from France by  Gilliat, called ‘de rerum natura’.  I have thought about buying it for a while just to see what it is like.  I did some research and saw that it was frequently cited as a good substitute for Brooklyn Tweed Shelter.  That sold me!  BT is expensive here in the UK and I prefer to buy more locally when I can.  (I have many projects made from BT yarns, but I enjoy having some options.)  The similarities are in the way the wool is spun, which makes for an incredibly light yarn, with an amazing yardage.  I found a local distributor (Wild and Wooly in Hackney, London), and ordered five different colours:


(Note that I am going to call these colours navy, red, cream, beige and light blue.  They are actually called Nuit, Pavot, Poivre Blanc, Poivre et Sel, and Lagon, respectively.)

Today I have a rare day free and I decided to do some swatching.  I imagine that many readers of this blog will immediately know what sweater I am swatching for, but as it is that time of the year when a knitter’s heart turns to presents, it will be called The-sweater-that-can’t-be-named for the time being.  Here is Swatch #1:


I have only knit half the rows, so this is just part of the pattern (and includes the bottom half of a band of flowers which I have mercilessly cut asunder).  The interesting thing about the pattern is that it can be knit with 3, 4, or 5 colours, and these can be high contrast or rather subtle.  This means there are infinite possibilities.  The swatch above was knit with a US8, which might be a bit too big – the swatch is still damp so I will hold off on determining the exact gauge.  I also, in a very stupid move, knit it back and forth – even for a swatch, this is crazy!

Here is the second swatch:


This one I knit in the round, so to speak.  In other words, at the end of every row I cut the yarns and then slid the swatch across to the other side of the (circular) needle and knitted again.  Thus, every row is knitted as in circular knitting, but it makes for an awful lot of cut ends – which then can’t be ripped out and used again if you are playing yarn chicken.  I knit this one with a US7 needle.  It’s a bit hard to make out in the photo, but this sample uses both the cream and the beige shades. (I also inadvertently added an extra row of beige into the pattern.) Now, I need to decide.  Here are some of my options:

  1. Go with the colour pattern from Swatch #1.
  2. Go with the colour pattern from Swatch #2.
  3. Try other combinations of 3, 4 or 5 of these colours.
  4. Order some more balls of this yarn in some different colours and keep swatching.

Here are some thoughts:

  1. I think I like the fabric with the smaller needle (although the gauge will ultimately determine my choice of needle size).
  2. So far, I am really liking the yarn.  It feels nice while knitting, it is great for colourwork, and it has a much softer hand than I expected.  I will withhold judgement until I’ve finished a garment and worn it for a while, but I am thinking this will be a winner.
  3. I originally decided on the red, navy and cream combo, as that is a pretty classic pairing.  But I wanted to order a few extra colours so I could try out some options.  I chose the beige (slightly darker than the cream) to try to do some subtle shading, and the shopkeeper (thanks, Anna!) suggested the light blue shade.  The red is supposed to be the “pop” colour – in the centre of the flowers and for a few accents. I may try a swatch using just the navy, red and cream.
  4. I should maybe try to make a trip to Hackney and visit Wild and Wooly!  They have a great webpage, cool yarn and are very helpful.
  5. Swatch #1 has white flowers with a red centre, and Swatch #2 has light blue flowers with a red centre.  I very much liked the idea of the pop of red, but I am sort of  considering making a swatch with no red. So, navy background and pattern in cream, beige and light blue? That would very drastically change the pattern I think – no “pop” – but seems intriguing.
  6. I am also toying with the idea of ordering more yarn – a bright orange, a spring green, and a yellow (which unfortunately is a bit more mustard-y than sunshine-y if I can trust my computer screen).  So, I am thinking maybe navy background, white flowers with yellow centres and green accents?  Or, navy background, white or yellow flowers with orange centres and green accents?   (The background is definitely navy as I have 5 balls on hand!

Help! I can’t decide! What should I do?

I only know one thing for sure: swatching is grand!

The opposite of Start-itis

Kelly: “I have the opposite of start-itis, Doug.”

Doug: “What does that mean?”

Kelly: “You know: start-itis is the very expensive compulsion to keep casting on new knitting projects without finishing any of the ever-growing number of knitting projects that you have already cast on!”

Doug: “Yes, I know what start-itis is.  I want to know: what is the opposite of start-itis?”

Kelly: “That’s what I have!”

Doug: “I got that part; what does it mean?”

Kelly: “It means that I can’t cast on anything.  I try and try and nothing happens. I’ve been trying to cast on something for weeks.  I can’t do it.  It’s the opposite of start-itis. What would you call that?  It can’t be called ‘end-itis’, which would be something else entirely.”

Doug: “Okay, Kelly, break this down for me. Why can’t you cast anything on?”

Kelly: “I don’t know.”

Doug: “Do you have yarn?”

Kelly: “Yes.”

Doug: “Lots of yarn?”

Kelly: “Yes.”

Doug: “Do you have patterns?”

Kelly: “Yes.”

Doug: “Lots of patterns?”

Kelly: “Yes.”

Doug: “Do you have an enormous variety of knitting needles and other knitting paraphernalia, overflowing throughout the house, inhabiting every room and potentially procreating?”

Kelly: “Yes.”

Doug: “So you have, realistically, thousands of potential projects, perhaps tens of thousands, with the necessary yarn, patterns, needles, and other accessories that you need in order to cast on?”

Kelly: “Well, I guess so, if you want to put it that way.”

Doug: “But you can’t cast on anything?”

Kelly: “No.”

Doug: “I know what the opposite of start-itis is.”

Kelly: “Really? Fantastic! What is it?”

Doug: “Procrastination!”