Aces!

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I’m very happy to have finished my Acer Cardigan while it is still cold enough to wear it. The above photo was taken last weekend in Copenhagen.  It is such a gorgeous city, but can be very windy.  A squishy, warm cardigan definitely comes in handy.

Amy Christoffers designed the Acer Cardigan in 2010 and nearly 900 projects are documented on Ravelry.  When you get that many knitters using a pattern, you know in advance that the pattern will be good and won’t need any “fiddling”.  I followed the pattern exactly; the only modifications I made were to knit it one inch longer (and use two extra buttons), and also to cast on more stitches for the edgings (see below for details).

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I used Berroco Ultra Alpaca, a worsted weight yarn that is a 50/50 wool and alpaca blend.  It is a very sturdy yarn and has good definition; this latter is very important for this pattern which combines cables with lace.  I am still not sure what I think of the yarn.  It comes in lovely, rich colours, works cables beautifully, and comes in at the inexpensive end of my yarn buying spectrum.  On the other hand, it is a bit itchy and I am worried that the alpaca might become “fuzzy” with use.  I will need to wear it and wash it a few times before I can pass judgement.  Here you can see the great stitch definition:

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I knit this in a size 42 and find the fit to be spot-on, with about one inch of positive ease. The shoulders fit really well, although I find the sleeves to be a bit tight.  I like the fact that I can button it with no gapping.  I used a US 6 needle and US5 for the button bands and neck ribbing.

I found only two problems with the pattern, fairly minor ones, but useful to know about in advance.  Although Amy lists two needle sizes at the top of the pattern, noting that the smaller size is for “edging”, she doesn’t actually note within the pattern itself to switch to the smaller needle when knitting the button band and neck edgings.  This is a VERY niggling point, but I see on Ravelry that many knitters didn’t switch and wish they had. The other problem is actually a small error in the pattern; she has you pick up stitches along the neck by a factor of four, but you actually need a factor of four plus two, so that the ribbing will both begin and end with two knit stitches.  I picked up more stitches than the pattern called for: in my size, she suggests picking up 83 stitches for the button bands and I picked up 103 (though recall that I added an inch to the sweater length), and for the neck I picked up 118 instead of 108.

Here is a photo in front of the Copenhagen Contemporary Art Gallery.  I am standing in front of the exhibition Wish Tree Garden by Yoko Ono. (If you are by chance in Copenhagen during the next two weeks, I loved this exhibit, which will close on the 5th of March.) Thanks to Erun for taking the Copenhagen photos.

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I love the buttons I picked.  I had planned to use a pair of plain wooden buttons, but saw these and instantly thought they’d be perfect.  (I bought them at Loop in London.)  I think they add just a bit of flash to the cardigan.

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This was the second worsted weight cardigan I’ve knit in a row (the first was the Tinder cardigan I knit for Emma).  Unlike Tinder, this cardi flew off the needles; it took me 6 weeks to the day to knit, even including washing and blocking and sewing on buttons. This made me think “I need to knit more worsted weight sweaters”, but now that I have been wearing it, I must say that it is VERY warm.  I think that my next few sweaters will use a fingering or sport weight wool.

It is a dreary day here in England.  I must admit to loving dreary Saturdays – no feeling guilty for knitting all day!  Happy weekend!

Real sweaters. Real people.

I have just returned from a long weekend in Copenhagen.  While there, I finished my latest cardigan.  I was going to show it to you today.  But then my friend Erun wore this:

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Wow!

I’ll just say that again: Wow!

Erun’s mother, Liv, is a knitter.  (I have written about Liv in this post, which tells the tale of how she located a Norwegian knitting pattern book for me, and how it made its way from Norway to the UK via Singapore.)  During the weekend, Erun and I were discussing the iconic Marius sweater, a staple of Norwegian knitting and style. (Estimates are that over 5 million copies of Marius or Marius-inspired patterns have been sold, and at least twice that many commercially knitted Marius sweaters.)  Marius is usually knit in shades of red, white and blue – the colours of the Norwegian flag. Erun is a golden girl, however, and Liv knitted her one in shades of gold.

Not only is this sweater totally gorgeous, but it is knit in wool that is so soft and cozy, you would never want to take it off.  Liv even knitted a matching  winter headband:

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I am pretty sure that this is the loveliest Marius sweater ever knit.  Erun, you are so lucky to have a mother who knits you such beautiful things.  And Liv, how lucky you are to have such a knit-worthy daughter!

Lazy Sunday

It is 3pm on a Sunday, and I have managed so far to spend the entire day lounging in bed, listening to an audio book and knitting.  In fact, if not for the need to take a photo for this blog post, I might not have stood up at all.  I take this as proof that blogging is a physical activity, and will now say with confidence that I am indeed a sporty person.

I have been making good progress on my Acer cardigan, perhaps because I am being totally monogamous; no other project has managed to tempt me away.  I have reached the bind-off for the armholes, and have finished the left front.  (The body is knit in one piece till the armholes, and then the back and fronts are knit separately.)

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Doug and I were invited to dinner on Friday by some friends who have an 8-year old daughter.  She was fascinated by my knitting and asked about a hundred questions.  She was particularly intrigued with the functions of the stitch markers and we embarked on a long conversation about the purpose of each and every one.  (It is astonishing how smart and articulate an 8-year old can be; thank you, Amrita!)  Answering her questions made me realise that others may wonder about this too.  In the above photo, you can see two different types of marker. First, there are the markers which look like a tiny ball of yarn hanging from a loop – you can see these across the top row of the body of knitting, in purple and pink.  These just indicate the boundaries between the patterned and the stockinette portions of the sweater.  Until today, I also had similar markers in yellow which marked the side seams of the sweater.  These have now been removed because I have bound off the underarm stitches.

The other type of stitch marker can open and looks like a little plastic safety pin.  These are used to mark places on the knitting itself.  The markers are colour-coded.  In this sweater, I am using three colours – purple, orange and green.   The purple ones mark where I have made waist decreases, and the orange ones mark the increases.  You can see that I made three sets of paired decreases and three sets of paired increases.  I use the green markers to note the pattern row.  The cable and lace pattern for this cardigan has a 16-row repeat. The green markers indicate every time I begin a new pattern repeat; in other words, there is a green marker on every Row 1 of the 16-row repeat.  These are absolutely invaluable. They mean I never lose my place in the cable pattern.

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I used to mark all of my increases and decreases and pattern rows on a piece of paper as I knit.  This was tedious. The paper always got lost.  If I put a project down for a few months and then picked it up again, I couldn’t figure out where I was.  Now, I mark everything important on the pieces themselves, using removable stitch markers.  As long as I leave the markers in until the very end – when I am ready to block – I never have problems with remembering where I am or with matching one piece to the next.

As I am getting close to finishing this cardigan, I am spending some time thinking about what to cast on next.  I have only one constraint: I can’t spend any money. One of the prime contenders is the Wren Fairisle Yoke, a pullover designed by Marie Wallin:

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I have a kit for this pullover, purchased from baa ram ewe, thus the cost outlay to cast on is zero.  It is not a sweater for the faint-hearted, however; not only is there stranded colourwork involved, but the yarn is fingering-weight.  This project will eat up considerable knitting time, especially for slow knitters like me.  Before I think about casting on, however, I have a question to pose.  Wren is knit from the bottom up, in the round.  I am considering using a provisional cast on for the yoke, and knitting the yoke bottom-up, and then picking up the provisional stitches and knitting the sleeves and body top-down.  The pros (as I see them):

  1. I am worried about the amount of yarn I have in the Main Colour.  If I knit the sleeves and body top down, I will not have to play yarn chicken; if I don’t have enough, I can use a contrast colour on the ribbing.
  2. I think that the sleeves and body look too baggy on the pattern photos (see the Ravelry page, here).  I think it will be easier for me to try on and decrease appropriately to get a better fit if I am knitting top-down.
  3. The Yoke is more fun.  Life sucks right now in many ways.  Fun is good.

The big con (as I see it) is knitting the sleeves while having the whole sweater pooled on my lap; much easier to go around and round on tiny needles without the whole weight of the sweater to deal with.  Have I missed any pros or cons?  Do any of you have experience with this kind of thing? I welcome your advice.

Now that I have finished writing this post, it is time for me to indulge in some physical fitness.  Thus, please excuse me while I walk up the stairs and pick up my book.

 

New projects: knitting and sewing

Observant readers will have noticed a new project in my last post.  I wonder how many of you figured out it was the Acer Cardigan, designed by Amy Christoffers.  Given that there are currently 871 Acer Cardigan projects on Ravelry it is not unlikely that many of you tagged it.  Here is the pattern photo for the design:

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When I got home from Vancouver, I was in the unenviable position of having nothing on the needles.  What to knit?  I fretted for a few days before having a light bulb moment and deciding on this project.  Acer has been in my favorites since the pattern was released in 2010.  That’s YEARS I have been thinking of knitting this cardigan.  Plus, I just happened to have an SQ (sweater quantity) of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in a deep red. Perfect! (The photos look slightly more rasberry; the real colour is a deeper wine red.)

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I whipped out both sleeves super fast (no sleeve island for me this time!) and cast on for the body.  As you can see from the above photo, the body – back and fronts – are knit in one piece until being divided at the arm holes.  This makes the rows fairly long and slowed me up a bit, but I am still making very quick progress.  As of this morning, I have 9 inches of the body done.

Last weekend, I went into Loop in London and found the perfect buttons:

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I absolutely love these buttons!  I think they will be gorgeous on the finished piece.

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I am really moving fast with this sweater and hope to be wearing it in a few weeks.  I am also very happy to be making it from stash; no money spent on yarn this month! Hooray!

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Not spending money on yarn gave me more to spend on sewing lessons!  Yes, that’s right, I have decided to take the plunge and try to get into sewing again.  My plan is to take a dress-making course, but I decided to start with an afternoon intro to sewing class, just to get back in the swing of things.  (I was never a terrific seamstress, probably because my mom is a true expert, and it has been decades since I last did anything other than hand sewing.)

The class was great fun!  It is such a lovely way to spend an afternoon.  I took the class at Ray Stitch in Islington, London.  The instructor, Luisa, was both helpful and nice, and I had a great time with fellow classmates as we figured out sewing machines and made tote bags. (Of course, we all know that they are actually knitting bags, because what else would you need to tote?) Here we are with our totes: Louisa, Judi, Asia, me, and Alicia.

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Knitting is a comfort to me right now as the world reels from political craziness.  It helps keep me (relatively) sane.  My advice – find ways to make your voice heard, don’t watch the news before bedtime, and keep a project handy for when you need talking down from the ledge.

I KNIT TWELVE SWEATERS IN TWO WEEKS!!

Kelly: I KNIT TWELVE SWEATERS IN TWO WEEKS!!

Doug: What?  That can’t be right.

Kelly:  But I used ALL CAPS and two exclamation points!!!  That means it’s true.

Doug: But Kelly, consider the photographic evidence…

Kelly: Photographic evidence?

Doug: Yes.  Here is a photo of your knitting from the past two weeks:

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Kelly:  Exactly.  Twelve sweaters!

Doug: I see two sleeves and around six inches of the body.  That amounts to about 30% of a sweater.  It’s not even close to 12 sweaters.

Kelly: Oh! Now I see the problem, Doug.  This photograph is taken against a white background.

Doug: And?

Kelly: And the other eleven and a half sweaters are white!  They blend in to the background so you can’t see them!

 

Pretty much perfect in every way

I’ve written a lot of posts about the Tinder Cardigan that I have been knitting for Emma. Some of them funny, some of them frustrated, and many of them nit-picky.  But, I have to say, this cardigan is really worth the effort.

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I fretted about the seaming, complained about the yarn, worried that it wouldn’t fit, dragged it around the world and back and then back again, had ridiculous conversations with Emma about whether and how to modify it, ripped out seams, blocked it TWICE, bought three different sets of buttons, knit it in four countries on three continents, and………

it is pretty much perfect in every way.

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I will leave you to read through my earlier posts for in-depth details.  The cardigan was designed by the great Jared Flood for Brooklyn Tweed (the Ravelry link is here).  I used Shelter worsted weight yarn (also from Brooklyn Tweed) in the shade Birdbook. Despite the fact that it is not my favorite yarn to knit with (I don’t like the feel of it in my hands), once washed and blocked it really delivered!  It is so light and lofty and has one of the best tweed palettes anywhere.

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I knit it in a size 34 planning on an inch or two of ease; my gauge swatch lied a bit (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) and it ended up being REALLY narrow.  I blocked it out twice in order to get more width, particularly in the collar and biceps.  It ended up with zero ease – not the look we were going for – but both Emma and I agreed that it looked fantastic this way.

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I made very few modifications.  I knit it two inches longer than called for – both in body length and sleeve length.  I knit the ribbing for 6 inches (instead of the 4.5″ called for).  I put in more buttons (9 instead of 7), and they were also slightly larger than the pattern called for (1″ as opposed to 3/4″).   I found a beautiful ribbon which has a pattern in the very same shade of green, and I painstakingly sewed it over the pick-up seams on both the button and the button hole band.  My hope is that the ribbon will give the cardigan some stability over time and keep it from stretching out of shape.

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I took the unfinished cardigan with me to Vancouver, where we were spending the holiday with our daughters.  While there, I knit the button bands, picked out buttons with Emma (at the funky shop Button Button), sewed on the buttons, and then, as said before (but it demands repeating) painstakingly sewed on the ribbon.

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On New Year’s Day, we drove up the coast, first to Horseshoe Bay and then farther up towards Whistler.  The day was stunning with blue skies and fabulous scenery, but it was icy cold and extremely windy.  In fact, the road into Horseshoe Bay was covered with downed branches and we nearly drove under a tree just as it crashed onto the highway during the drive. As you might expect from our family, we made Emma get out of the car in the freezing cold and gale force winds – repeatedly – in order to photograph the sweater. The things we do for this blog!

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On the photos we took during that drive, you may notice that the cardigan has no buttons or ribbon yet, thus compounding the child cruelty in making Emma pose in the cold and wind!  Once we headed back into Deep Cove, I sat by a roaring fire and started to sew.

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As always, when Doug and I find ourselves in Vancouver, we head down to Deep Cove to take a photo of us on the spot where we were married.  Here we are, at the very spot, a mere 25 years (and a few months) later!

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My year in review – 2016

This year has been such a train wreck in so many ways that it is difficult to put a happy spin on my traditional end-of-year post.  On the personal front, many great things happened this year: I graduated from business school with an EMBA, I settled into a new and exciting career, I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary, and I traveled a lot, including a fantastic holiday with Doug and the girls and dear friends to Sicily, a visit to my mom in Phoenix, and some lovely trips with Doug to Beirut, Verona, South Africa and Vancouver.  The double whammy of Brexit and Trump threw me for a loop, however, and all of this good stuff seems to pale into insignificance when compared to the state of the world.  I admit to feeling depressed and still in a state of shock.

On the knitting front, it has been my least productive year since I began this blog.  My new job took a lot of my attention and energy, and knitting took a back seat.  This year I finished only 9 projects: a hat, a pair of mitts, a shawl, a baby sweater, three cowls and a sweater each for Leah and Emma.  In the photos below, I am modelling Leah’s sweater and I have included a teaser photo of Emma’s on the bottom right.  (I have finished her cardigan but haven’t had time to blog about it yet.  I will get photos before I leave Vancouver and will blog about it soon.)

In an interesting twist, I didn’t knit any sweaters for myself this year.  Last year, I knit five sweaters, all of them for myself.  Most of my knitting time this year was taken up with the gold cabled shawl in Kidsilk Haze Eclipse, which I love to pieces so it was worth the effort. The general trend for the year has been a bit of a loss in knitting mojo, due to lots of other things keeping me occupied and feeling in a bit of a funk.  However, I am happy with the projects I have finished, and they are all getting lots of use, which makes me feel good.

As for the year to come, I am optimistic (as far as knitting is concerned).  I have just two knitting goals for the year.  The first is to organise my knitting tools and supplies, including stash, in such a way that knitting is easy.  Right now it seems like I can never find what I need when I need it, and this often leads me to just give up and read a book instead.  My second goal is to have fun knitting.  I want to knit what pleases me and enjoy the process.  I think I may have forgotten a bit of the fun this year.

This New Year has begun with absolute gorgeous, crystal clear skies here in Vancouver – the kind of days that make you catch your breath at the beauty of it all.  We have been walking in the mountains and enjoying the freezing cold but spectacular outdoors.  My mind is bubbling away with plans for the knitting year to come.  I am looking forward to another year of knitting and blogging.

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