Sleeve cap tinkering

Having just completed a project, last week I found myself pulling out the Sofi jacket which has been sitting unfinished in my knitting pile for most of a year.   This is where I had gotten to before putting it away:

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As you can see, I had finished up the fronts and back of the jacket, and was missing only the sleeves plus all of the edgings and finishing.  Part of the reason that I had stopped working on it was because the sleeves are worked in seed stitch on tiny little needles, and part was because I was having trouble understanding the instructions for the top-down sleeves.

Sofi is a very square garment; the underarms are formed by binding off a bunch of stitches, and then knitting straight up without further decreases, leaving a wide, flat edge under the arm.  The instructions are to pick up stitches along the vertical edges of the sleeves and then to start at the top of the sleeve and knit down using short rows knitted in seed stitch.  I was worried about this construction: didn’t I need to pick up stitches along the bottom of the armhole as well?

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However, the instructions were to pick up 55 stitches along each side, and I had exactly 110 rows of garter, meaning 55 garter ridges on each side.  I took this to be a sign that I was following instructions, and I picked up a stitch in each garter ridge.

I was also a bit thrown by Hanne’s instructions for doing the short rows themselves, in which each row begins by throwing the yarn over the right needle, and ends by working 2 stitches together – one being the yarn over from the beginning of the preceding row and the other the next stitch on the pick up row.  I decided to stop over-thinking it and just follow the instructions and see where they led.  It turns out that this method makes a very nice edge along the shoulder, and looks quite neat:

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As I continued knitting, I began to worry more and more about how the cap was going to be joined under the arm.  I even wrote to the designer, Hanne Falkenberg, sending her photos, to ask if I was doing this right.  It turns out that I was.  Hopefully, you can see from these photos how the sleeve is meant to be sewn to the bound off edge at the underside of the arm.  It is rather clever and also allows you to knit the sleeve back and forth instead of in the round (hooray!).

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Unfortunately, I had to knit the entire cap and start knitting the sleeve itself before I could try it on and see about the fit.  The verdict is that the sleeve is too roomy at the cap.

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Here is another photo where it does not look too bad at the back, but you can see that there is a bulge at the front of the cap:

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I think that part of the problem is that I have too many stitches on the needle. A more serious problem, I think, is that I picked up the stitches at the same rate along the entire armscythe – one stich for every garter ridge.  You can see that the puckering happens along the middle third of the cap, both back and front.  In this region, I should have picked up fewer stitches.

So, what to do now?  I am trying to be sensible and think about it carefully, and examine all of the photos with a critical eye before ripping.  I know that nothing drives me crazier than sleeves which are too tight, so I don’t want to adjust a too loose sleeve and end up with a too tight one.  I think that I will leave this cap as it is, and pick up stitches on the other arm, adjusting the rate of pick-up along the middle third of each side, so that I end up with 10 or so fewer stitches altogether.  Then, I will knit that sleeve down about the same length, so that I will have two sleeves at different widths to compare.  THEN, I will rip out the one that fits the worst!

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I wish you all a good weekend with minimal ripping involved!

Tensho for the win!

I finished my first knitted garment of the year; the Tensho Pullover (Artist), designed by Beatrice Perron Dahlen:

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I knit this for my daughter, Leah, but as she is back in Vancouver now, I have modelled the pullover myself in these photos.  Tomorrow it goes in the post!

The pattern has a good range of sizes covered, from 32.5″ to 51.5″.  I made it in the size 44.5″.  I am wearing it with about 3″ of ease;  Leah is one size bigger than I am, so it will have a tad less ease on her.

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I knit this EXACTLY as written.  This is very rare.  I didn’t need to swatch because I had used the yarn previously and knew my gauge.  I was able to cast on immediately and I didn’t need to change a thing.  I commented on a previous post about how much I love the way that this pattern is written.  It gives me exactly the information I need and doesn’t pfaff around with the information I don’t need. Of course, we will all differ on what we need/wish in a pattern, but I know that I would pick up another pattern by Beatric Perron Dahlen without a moment’s thought.  I like the way she writes and thinks.

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When Leah came home for the holidays, I sat her down and showed her a bunch of knitting designs which I thought she would like.  Her answer to each was the same: “Hmm, that’s nice.”  Imagine this said with no inflection, while trying to hide a yawn.  Finally, I showed her a photo of Tensho, which I had planned to make for myself, and she said “Wow!”.  And, boom, it went from the knit-for-me queue to the knit-for-Leah queue.  I ordered the yarn that day and cast on as soon as it arrived.

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I am wearing it here with the Cascade cap which I knit for Doug, but frequently steal borrow (blogged here).  Tensho is knit bottom up.  The sleeves and the body just flew off my needles, but then I got bogged down with work, Leah flew back home, and I had a gluten-accident (25 years gluten-free and then I made a BIG mistake) – this means I slowed down quite a bit.  Even so, it took me 6 weeks from start to finish, which is a pretty good pace for me.

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I used Gilliat, a worsted weight wool yarn by De Rerum Natura.  I purchased it from Wild and Wooly in Hackney, London. I used this yarn last year to knit another sweater for Leah, SnowFlower, which I blogged about here.  I love this yarn.  It is incredibly durable, it takes to colourwork really well, and best of all – it is economical.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but it is important to me to watch my pennies.  When I go to a yarn event (not too often these days), it is hard not to come to the conclusion that knitters have no limits on their disposable incomes.  I have been spending less on knitting year on year for the past 5 years, and still manage to knit nice things with nice yarn.

Gilliat comes in 100g balls, with 250 metres per ball.  I bought 5 skeins of the grey (Fusian) and 1 of the white (Sel).  I used 45 grams of the white, and I only needed to break the 5th ball of grey for the last few rows of ribbing around the neck.  If I left off a quarter inch from the length of the sweater I could have made this with just 4 balls of the main colour.  This means that the entire pullover comes in at £55.   (As a comparison, if I  knit it with Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, I would have needed 8 skeins of the main and 1 skein of the contrasting colour – and that would be pushing my luck a bit with the CC – which would have come to £112.50.  Note that BT is an American yarn and the Gilliat is a European yarn and I live in the UK; it could be that BT is cheaper in the US and Gilliat more expensive. Nevertheless, my point remains – this yarn is economical.)

Since I know that knitters like this kind of thing, here is a photo of the reverse side:

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I am not a natural in front of the camera.  One of the problems with acting as my own model is trying to relax and not look stiff in the photos.  Emma’s approach is to make me laugh:

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Tomorrow this goes in the post.  Hopefully, Leah will enjoy wearing it.  Apparently it is already warming up in Vancouver.  Am I evil to hope they still have a few cold weeks left in the season so that the pullover gets some use?

Wearability Wednesday: mixed message

Welcome to another episode of Wearability Wednesday, in which I review a previously knitted garment, and comment on its wearability.  Do I wear it, or has it been consigned to a drawer?  How do I style it?  How has it held up?  Would I knit it again? What would I do differently? Does it fit?

Today we will look at this sweater:

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I knit this around this time last year.  I blogged about it quite extensively as it underwent a transformation or two on the needles.  It was a case of choosing the wrong pattern and yarn combination, realising half way through that it wasn’t going to work, and then morphing it into something else to take advantage of the yarn.  You can read about it here.  Given the mis-starts (including some sizing issues), I think it turned out pretty well.  I called it Ocean Waters.

Emma took the above photo yesterday.  You can see that the fit is good.  It is a cool and casual sweater: perfect with jeans, which is how I usually wear it.  It is a “going out for a long walk in the woods” sweater.  A “puttering around the house” sweater.  A “cosy up on the couch with a good book” sweater.  In other words, it is a sweatshirt kind of sweater, only far better because everyone knows that natural fibres beat fleece hands down.

This was the first (and so far, only) project which I knitted with Nua yarn, a new-ish yarn developed and distributed by Carol Feller.  The yarn is a blend of 60% merino wool, 20% yak, and 20% linen. It has a very rustic look, with long fibres, and muted colours (the linen takes up dye differently thus lending depth to the colour).  It is also very warm, due to the yak I suspect, which is why it didn’t lend itself to the summer top I had initially planned to knit.

So, back to the wearability question: do I wear it?  Yes, all of the time.  How is it holding up?  The short answer is: it has pilled terribly.  Here is a photo from a few weeks ago, which I took myself in a bit of a contortionist pose, in order to show some of the extent of pilling:

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This is pretty awful.  As a result, I tended to wear the sweater all of the time around the house – but not out in public.  I want to make clear that this yarn is the most cuddly, warm, deliciously soft next to the skin, absorbent, comfortable, lovely, natural, lightweight, scrumptious stuff ever.  But it pills if I just look at it.

It is also the case that I had not spent much time purposely trying to de-pill it.  So, last week, I took it to task, and tried my best to get rid of all the pills:

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Then, I washed it and laid it out to dry.  You can see from the photo at the top, and the below close-up that it definitely looks better after getting this spa treatment.

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You can also see how very beautiful the colours are, and how the blended yarns result in such a rich canvas.  I mean, this close-up is gorgeous!  Look at the stitch definition! However, I have been wearing it now for a few hours and already the sleeves are starting to pill again.  I have heard of sweaters which are initially very pilly and then magically cease to be after a few washes, and am hoping that might be true for this one.  Because, on every other count, I love this yarn.  It is incredibly warm for its weight, and as soft as can be.  I will continue to wear it and periodically de-pill it, and hope for the best.  And I will probably try Nua again on a different type of canvas – maybe as a cowl or a pair of mitts, perhaps with a smaller needle size and a textured stitch pattern (note that the sweater doesn’t show much pilling across the bodice which is knitted in a knit and purl patterned stitch).

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For all of you who asked me on Ravelry for a review of Nua, I have to say its a bit of a mixed message.  Regardless, it is cold here in the UK this week, and I am staying toasty warm in my Nua sweater.

Bulky knitting isn’t travel friendly

I have been making progress on the Tensho Pullover I am knitting for Leah. Here is the latest progress photo:

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However, I am in Copenhagen today, sitting in my hotel room after a busy day teaching, and the Tensho pullover is back at home on the couch.  You may recall that I took it with me to Berlin a few weeks ago, but that was before I joined the sleeves to the body and started the yoke.  Bulky knitting isn’t travel friendly.

This sweater seemingly flew off my needles for the first two weeks but has since slowed down a bit.  Although worsted weight yarns knit up quickly they also hurt my hands and I have to be careful not to overdo it.  Also, as soon as I realised that I had zero chance of finishing it before Leah flew back to Canada, I purposely slowed down the pace.

Tensho, written by Beatrice Perron Dahlen, is a great pattern.  Not only is it gorgeous but the pattern is written in just the style I like.  It is incredibly easy to navigate.  I have found myself getting aggravated sometimes with the lengthiness of some patterns today, but find this one works really well for me.  (It is the pattern equivalent of Goldilock’s third bowl of porridge:  This porridge is too hot.  This porridge is too cold.  But THIS porridge is just right.)  Note that the pattern has a fair few pages, but most are photos.  The pattern itself is short and sweet without compromising in any way.

I decided to reverse the colours on this project.  The original is shown with dark yarn on a light background.  It is designed, in fact, to look like ink on paper.  The pattern notes state: “This pullover is named for Tenshō Shūbun, a Sumi Ink artist dating from the 14th century.”  I love this style of painting and I am always drawn to black and white designs.  However, I really didn’t want to make a white or cream-coloured pullover and had my sights set on grey.  I wondered whether reversing the colours would be un-true to the intentions of the design.  Is it? I don’t know.  But it works, and I like it.  Here is a closeup of the beginnings of the yoke patterning around the shoulder:

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I did bring another project with me to Copenhagen (one which is easier to carry) but my heart is with Tensho at the moment.

Practice makes better: Lord of the Rings knitting re-visited

Both girls came home for the holiday, and Leah brought home a hand-knitted piece for me to wash.  (Yes, Leah does her own laundry – she lives 4700 miles away!  But this is a special piece and she wanted to consult with the expert.  The expert took it to the dry cleaners.) Long-term readers may remember that I knitted her a Tolkien-themed pillow for her 19th birthday.  She brought home the case (minus the pillow), after five years of wear and tear, and it still looks pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself:

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Knitted into the pillow using stranded knitting is the inscription from the One Ring, written in the Black Speech of Mordor using Tengwar, the transcription system developed by Tolkien for the languages of Middle Earth. (Yes, this is a super-geeky thing to do.)  I blogged about this project extensively at the time and you can see all of the posts, in reverse order, with this tag link.  These posts include information on the conception, knitting, steeking, fretting (first steek!), learning, sewing, and fun that went into the project.  They also include great photos, like this one which shows me holding the pillow while wearing a pair of mitts I knit with the same yarn in the reverse colours (purple on yellow instead of yellow on purple):

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Don’t you just love the transposition of the Batman-esque mitts and the Tolkien medieval-esque pillow? I have to say that I love this project.  It was such a great experience to knit and I think it looks pretty freaking fantastic as well.  Even if you’ve never heard of the One Ring to Rule Them All, it’s pretty cool.

Here is another photo from one of the earlier posts, which shows the project immediately pre-steek:

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This last photo leads me into the reflection behind this post.  Despite the glorious final project, I was pretty crap at stranded knitting then.  (It was only my second stranded project, with the Peerie Flooers hat being the first.)  The difference between the stranded portions of the knitting and the stockinette portion in between the two lines of script is dramatic.  The background (purple) bits are smooth for the stockinette and very uneven and puckered for the stranded portions.

Of course the above picture is before blocking, which fixed a lot of the issues you can see, but blocking cannot fix everything. (Gasp!  Yes, blocking is essentially a miracle technique for fixing almost everything.  Note the use of “almost”.)  In this close-up photo, taken just a few weeks ago, you can see that, even after blocking, the different tensions are obvious:

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Despite the fact that I didn’t continue to work on the technique again until just recently, I have gotten significantly better at stranded knitting, particularly with respect to tensioning. My two recent attempts at stranded knitting, the Bousta Beanie hat and especially the Cascade hat, demonstrate that, despite some remaining problems, I have managed to fix the tensioning issues with two-handed stranding.  I am still slow.

I’m working on a bit of stranded knitting this weekend, having finally reached the yoke of the Tensho pullover.  I hope your knitting weekend is a good one!

Museums, meanderings, and miles of stockinette

We have enjoyed a few weeks of family time over the holiday break.  Much of it has been spent on our favorite family past-time: museums!  We have seen the Ashurbanipal exhibit at the British Museum, an excellent (but fairly gruesome) look at the reign of King Ashurbanipal of Assyria (669-631 BC).  It is beautifully curated and displayed.  This is Leah’s area of specialisation (her degree is in classical Near Eastern studies with a minor in religious studies, and a specialisation in neo-Assyrian art and archeology – how is that for a mouthful?) so it is an obvious choice.  His regime combined the brutal and the beautiful, and this unlikely fusion is stunningly displayed.

We then saw the Anni Albers exhibit at the Tate Modern.  If you are at all interested in textiles and can possibly get to London this month, this is a must see.  (It runs until January 27th; book ahead if you go.)  Albers was a student at the famous Bauhaus, where she studied with Paul Klee among others.  As the Tate says about the exhibition “Annie Albers combined the ancient craft of hand-weaving with the language of modern art”.   This exhibition is a knockout!  In addition to her own pieces – absolutely beautiful – her research, and many of the source materials for her seminal book on weaving are part of the exhibition.  This is a treasure trove for people interested in weaving techniques from around the world and across the centuries.  There is also a collection of correspondence, including letters from Buckminster Fuller, which are fascinating.  As a knitter, I was particularly intrigued by her exploration of knots – her knot drawings blew me away.  Twenty years ago, we toured the Bauhaus in Dessau with the girls.  I have a photo somewhere of Emma hanging halfway through an internal window separating Klee and Kandinsky’s portions of the two-family dwelling they shared at the Bauhaus.

This was followed by half a day spent in the Neues Museem in Berlin.  This has been totally renovated since we lived in Berlin and now houses the Egyptian collection, among other things.  This musuem is gorgeous!  The architecture is fantastic.  Even if you had zero interest in the art and antiquities housed there, you could wander and wonder for hours at the building itself.   It really surpassed my expectations.  They had to kick us out the doors at the end of the day.

Finally, we went to the Pergamon, our dear friend and museum of the heart.  When we lived in Potsdam/Berlin, we went to the Pergamon at least 40 times.  We know each room by heart and it makes up part of the girls’ childhood memories.  I would not be surprised if Leah ended up studying Assyriology as a result of a childhood spent in this museem.  It was fantastic to see it again.  Emma even had a bit of an epiphany in the museum, about her own intellectual pursuits and how our museum-mania contributed to her cross-disciplinary interests.  (She has a joint degree in politics and economics with an interest in international security and power dynamics.)  Part of the museum is closed for restoration (including the Pergamon altar), but we went to the temporary exhibit on Pergamon: Das Panorama, a 360 degree panorama of the ancient city of Pergamon by the artist Yadegar Asisi.  Oh my, is this fabulous!  Absolutely fantastic!  Go and see it if you can.

For textile fans (this is, after all, a knitting blog) the Pergamon also has one of the best collections of ancient carpets. At the moment they have a lovely multi-disciplinary exhibit called Sound Weaving 7.0 – Pergamon edition; The sound of carpets by the Hungarian artist Zsanett Szirmay. She has basically broken down the patterns in the carpets into tonal sequences and melodies, which can be listened to.  Read the description on the link; it is a beautiful exhibit and an arresting idea.

What else did we do over the holidays?  We meandered.  We walked all over the place – inside and out.  Through miles of musem corridors, through London, Potsdam, Berlin, and the Oxfordshire countryside.  We also cooked, we ate, we read piles of books, and I did a mile of stockinette knitting.  I am almost finished with the boring part of the pullover and then will knit the very beautifully-patterned yoke.  (Stay tuned for photos!)

Happy New Year to everyone!  I hope you spent some time pursuing your passions, be they museums or otherwise.

End of year round-up 2018

The end of the year is fast approaching and it is time for the annual review of my year in knitting.  While this was a year in which the political landscape was both depressing and demoralising, the stress-beating power of knitting came to the rescue!  I’ve managed to have a pretty good knitting year, with nine projects finished:

 

Clockwise from the top, these are:

  1.  Paid in Full tank
  2.   Sayer tank
  3.  Ocean Waters pullover
  4.  Offbeat mitts
  5.  Cascade Cap
  6.  Black Welsh Mountain Cowl
  7.  Form pullover
  8.  Ojai top
  9.  Bousta Beanie

I wrote 55 posts this year, which amounted to 30,000 words.  This is my 388th post since I started the blog.  I had viewers from 103 countries this year, with the top five being the US, Poland, the UK, Canada, and Germany.  The standout for me was experimenting with Fair Isle knitting, which I predict will be a big theme in 2019.  I also did quite a bit of travelling this year and managed to post from a few exotic places.  I had a chance to knit with penguins in Cape Town and hang out with monkeys in Tioman Island, Malaysia.  My most viewed posts of the year were:

  1. Knitting and wellness: an interview with Betsan Corkhill
  2. Business Class Cowl  (written in 2016)
  3. To gusset or not to gusset  (written in 2016)
  4. To Carbeth, or not to Carbeth?
  5. Multi-strand knitting: one for the cost of two?
  6. A show of hands
  7. On form
  8. 100 on Ravelry

This marks the end of my seventh full year of blogging (I started in late 2011).  It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this so long.  Yesterday I tried to find a blog post from a knitter I follow and discovered the blog had been deleted.  I did some further research and discovered that almost 80% of the knitting blogs which I follow have stopped during the past two years.  Instagram has increasingly become a go-to medium for knitters, which makes sense as it is a very visual medium.  When I think about it, I realise that the important thing from my perspective is the writing.  I like to write.  It pleases me to put words on paper (metaphorically) with this blog.  I appreciate the visual nature of Instagram and how that has appealed to knitters, but it is the words which draw me and keep me going.

I appreciate the community I feel with this blog and hope that you continue to enjoy it as much as I do.  Best wishes for a Happy New Year!