A bit of knitting progress

I have just arrived in Malaysia where I will be doing some teaching.  I am very jet-lagged and wide awake in my hotel at 3am. This makes it a perfect time to write a post!  I have started knitting again, but cautiously. My hands and wrists are still bothering me.  It started out with my right thumb and wrist and quickly morphed into a more generalized problem with both hands.  I am pretty sure it is a repetitive stress thing.  I stopped knitting altogether for about two weeks, during which I used ice and compression and general idleness (oh no!) to try to fix the issue.  It is still not resolved, but much better.

I reported in this post that I was going to knit a baby sweater for a friend.  I am almost finished with it. (Baby sweaters are so fast!)  Here is a progress photo:

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This photo was taken a week ago, and I am further along.  I only have to add the sleeves and do some minimal finishing.  It is an adorable little knit, using the pattern Mignon, from Loop Knitting.

I have also been continuing to progress with Sofi, my Hanne Falkenberg designed jacket.

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The body is knit in one piece, which means very long rows and very slow progress, especially for a slow knitter like me (even more so with hand problems).  But it is so gorgeous and so much fun to knit that I am enjoying every minute of it.  We shall see whether I change my mind when I get to the sleeves, however; they are knit in seed stitch. Sleeves in seed stitch: double trouble.

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I didn’t want to bring either of these projects to Malaysia.  I did not check a bag so have only a minimal amount of stuff with me.  However, it is a 13 hour flight each way, so at the last minute I searched through my knitting supplies and discovered this little bag, which I had packed at some point with all of the supplies to make a pair of mitts:

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Who would have known that I could be so organised?

Pattern Radar – August 2017

I have been in a bit of a knitting funk lately.  I have also been suffering from pattern overkill; the never-ending stream of new patterns has had the unintended effect of de-energising me.  My creative streak has been taking a nap.

Over the past few weeks, however, something has happened.  New designs are being released for the fall, and many of them have made me sit up and take notice.  Without any further ado, here are some of the designs which have captured my attention.

1. Öræfi by G. Dagbjört Guðmundsdóttir

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© Ístex

This pattern has just been released today and I think it is fantastic. It hits so many buttons for me.  The mix of geometric patterns, the natural shades, the slouchy shape, the mix of traditional and modern – these are all saying “knit me!”.  If I were my 20-something self, I would knit this in a New York minute.  But hey, I have two 20-something daughters, so this may yet hit my needles.

2. Tangled Up in Gray Pullover by Sloane Rosenthal

Photography for Interweave Knits Fall 2017 by Nathan Rega

© Interweave / Harper Point Photography

The Fall 2017 issue of Interweave Knits has some great sweaters in it.  My favorite is this beautiful design by Sloane Rosenthal.  She is a new designer to me, but this pattern puts her right on my designer radar.  This is a casual pullover but has enough crisp tailoring to make it really stand out.  (The back view is spectacular too.)  This one is going right into my queue.

3. Whiskey Creek Pullover by Amy Christoffers

Photography for Interweave Knits Fall 2017 by Nathan Rega

© Interweave / Harper Point Photography

This edition of Interweave Knits also has three great designs for men. It is hard to pick only one for this post.  I love this design by Amy Christoffers; it is very spare, with lovely details. The shawl collar is elegant in a non-fussy way and stands out against the reverse stockinette of the upper body.  Like many of the other sweaters in this post, it combines the modern with the rustic.  Here is a link (Rav link) to all of the patterns in the Fall 2017 issue; in addition to the other men’s sweaters, the cowl by Kyle Kunnicke is a favorite.

4. Skiddaw by Kari-Helene Rain

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© The Fibre Co. 2017

The booklet Fell Garth 2 by The Fibre Company (Rav link) has some fabulous patterns. Again, it is hard to decide which to show here, but this pattern has a very unique shape which caught my eye. It feels fresh and young, with a great swing. Plus, I just love this green! Notice the light shining through the seed stitch on the hem; you can tell the fabric is beautifully light and airy.

5. Loving by Kim Hargreaves

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© Kim Hargreaves 2016

Sometimes, simple is best.  I love the great, classic lines of this pullover by Kim Hargreaves, from her new book, Grace.  I’ve knit a few of Kim’s sweaters (I even knit one twice: see here and here).  Her sweaters don’t waste away in the back of a drawer.  This lovely garter stitch pullover would look great at the office or with jeans.

6. Uncloudy Skies by Deb Hoss

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© Deb Hoss Knits

Deb Hoss designs lovely, classic sweaters.  If she were an architect, you would say that her buildings had “good bones”.  I haven’t knit any of hers yet, but she is definitely on my radar.  This design has impeccable fit and drape. I think it would suit a lot of people (like me!) and would be eminently wearable.

7. Threipmuir by Ysolda Teague

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© Ysolda Teague

Ysolda can always be counted on for her beautiful designs. As she states on the pattern page for Threipmuir: “This yoke is inspired by Icelandic Lopapeysas but the finer gauge provides a larger canvas for more intricate patterning.”  Like the first sweater in the post, the mix of the traditional and the modern is really striking.  I am more likely to wear a sweater made in fingering weight yarn, however, and I love these brilliant hues.

8. Helix cowl by Andrea Rangel

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© Harper Point 2017

Andrea’s new book, AlterKnit Stitch Dictionary: 200 Modern Knitting Motifs, hasn’t even been released yet (here in the UK it has an August 25th release date), but this cowl pattern from the book really attracted my attention.  Actually, everything about this book looks great; the stitch patterns seem both modern and fun.  I have it on pre-order and am looking forward to some entertaining swatching when it comes out.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Pattern Radar post.  These designs should be enough to pull anyone out of the knitting doldrums.

No knitting – bad! New yarn – good!

For the last two weeks I have been unable to knit, due to hand and thumb pain on my right hand.  This has coincided with my two weeks of annual leave, making it doubly frustrating.  It also means that I have no knitting progress to show you.  However, I realise that I have not shared my new yarn purchases.  When I attended Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s workshop at Loop some weeks ago (blogged here), I was able to spend some time yarn shopping as well.

First I bought a skein of The Uncommon Thread BFL Light DK in this pretty shade called “Into Dust”.  You can also see the fantastic button I got that perfectly complements this shade.

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I intend to knit a baby sweater with this (gasp!).  Yes, I have another friend having a baby this year, a little girl this time, and I will once again knit a small gift.  (I blogged here about a cute sweater I made for a baby boy last year; as I commented there, I usually knit for big people.)  I plan to knit the lovely Mignon sweater, designed by Loop London, pictured here:

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I also spent some time thinking about which of Olga’s patterns to knit first, and what yarn to buy for that purpose.  I decided to knit the Boko-Boko cowl. Here is a photo of me wearing the smaller size:

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And here is the pattern photo of the larger size:

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I bought a fairly delicate lace weight yarn, so I am aiming at a slightly more ethereal, drapey Boko-Boko.  I bought 200 grams (1200 metres) of the fantastic Isager Spinni in Red, and also bought 4 cones (1240 metres) of Habu silk stainless – a blend of silk and stainless steel – in colour 18, an almost identical red.  I bought enough of the wool and the steel yarn so that I could double up either of them if needed.  I will try swatching with one strand of Spinni held with a strand of the Habu – but if it is too thin to give the pattern some architectural oomph, then I will progress to 2 strands of the Spinni with 1 of Habu. I can also double up on the Habu if needed, but I think this is unlikely.

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Of course, I may just fall in love with some other idea for this yarn, in which case I will be fickle.  The red is so gorgeous; for me it is the perfect shade!  Olga’s workshop really made me covet a number of her patterns, so you will definitely see some 3D knitted designs as the year progresses.

My hand is feeling a bit better, so hopefully I can start knitting again soon!

“Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to 1987!”

I was looking through some old photos today and came across this:

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Yes, this is me in Paris, in 1987.  Note that I am wearing a hand-knitted top and skirt. This top was a favorite and I wore it frequently.  Like most of my old knits, I have no idea what happened to it.  (See here for a post about long-lost sweaters; it is so sad to lose track of hand-knitted items).  I used a pattern for the top, which I believe was a Pingouin pattern, although I can’t find it in my knitting book collection.  The yarn was a cotton in bright yellow with slubs of white.  No notes of any kind remain (my post-Ravelry knitting is much better documented).

I knit the skirt without a pattern.  It is just two rectangles, seamed at the side, with elastic at the waist.  It is knit in cotton.  I wore this outfit all over France that summer.

PS – If you’ve never heard of the Wayback Machine (or WABAC Machine), that’s just sad. You can read about it here.  Mr. Peabody says so.

 

Sommières, and the knitting ain’t easy

Exhibit 1: I am in Sommières, a fantastic spot in the south of France.  Doug and I are attending a workshop on language and mind.  It is the best type of workshop, with a small group of very smart people doing some serious science, and also cooking and eating together, and enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful town, while staying in a lovely villa.

Exhibit 2: I have done something terrible to my thumb.  I do not know what it is or how I did it.  But it means that I can’t knit.  (Or do anything which entails using two hands.) I brought a knitting project with me – my Falkenberg jacket.  I occasionally try to knit a few stitches and give up and stare at it longingly.

Result:  Sommières, and the knitting ain’t easy.

(With apologies to Mr. Gershwin; I could not resist the pun. For those few souls who have not heard the song, the line is “Summertime, and the living is easy.” I read somewhere that Summertime is the most covered song in history.  Which version is your favorite?)

 

3D Knitting with Olga Buraya-Kefelian

Today, I had the pleasure of attending a class on 3D knitting with Olga Buraya-Kefelian. It was a real treat for me – a day of creative indulgence in London.  It was a small class – the best kind – at Loop, a lovely yarn shop in Islington.  I have long been an admirer of Olga’s designs – they are very architectural and striking, and show a real love of high fashion and of knitting technique.

Below is a photo of Olga, holding the Boko-Boko cowl.  It is knit with a strand of wool held together with a strand of silk-wrapped steel.  It gets its 3D structure from the way it is knitted, with the fabric manipulated by knits and purls and lace techniques, but the steel gives it just a touch of “oomph” which lends some integrity to the stitch pattern.

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It is hard to describe the fabric, which is both incredibly stretchy, bouncy and resilient, and also formed into these fantastic dimensional shapes.  Olga said it reminded her of mountains and craters.  Of course, one must try it on:

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The Moko Moko cowl uses a different “juxtaposition of positive and negative spaces” – to use Olga’s words.  She had two examples with her, knit in different weights.  My favorite was this bright red example in fingering weight wool.  You can see both sides of the fabric here, and both are fascinating.

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One cannot have a knitting class without doing some knitting, so I spent some time working on a swatch using the stitch pattern from the Moko Moko cowl.  Here it is while I am on the first row of curls:

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And here it is while I was on the second set of curls, headed back in the opposite direction:

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Olga has other patterns in which she has managed to knit fabric which naturally pleats. She says it is based on her love of Issey Miyake’s work (which is both glorious and out of the price range of us mere mortals).  Below is a cowl (Miura cowl) worked just in knits and purls which makes a very elegant pleated fabric.  The architecture of the fabric is such that I was able to arrange it as a sculpture on the table for this photo for artistic effect, but rest assured it looks just as fabulous around one’s neck.

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Here is a swatch of another 3D stitch pattern from the many that Olga showed us:

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There were some new stitch patterns, as well, that Olga has been experimenting with and which I promised not to show you as the patterns are not yet released.  One of them was so amazing it nearly caused palpitations among the group, who will clearly wait with bated breath to see what Olga does with it.

When I went into the class, I knew that I was going to make a Boko Boko cowl, but now I want to make all of the cowls. I want to make everything! I can’t tell you how much fun the Moko Moko sample was to knit, and how intuitive and easy it is once you’ve started. (You will not be surprised to learn that I bought yarn after the class.  I will wait for another post to show you my treasures.)

I enjoyed the class so much.  There were eight students.  Here is a photo of us (this was the only place we could fit and the lighting was not the best for a photo):

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Left to right: Erin, Maggie, Xen, May, Kelly, Briony, Fiona, and Linda.

Thank you, ladies! I had such a good time knitting with you! (I always meet the best people at Loop.) Two of the women in the class were wearing hand-knitted garments designed by Olga.  I was lucky to cajole them into a photo for you.

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On the left is Fiona, wearing a fantastic flowy Sakasama, knit in silk.  This garment can be worn in two ways (its hard to describe but the other way is upside down so that the collar becomes the hem).  You can’t really tell from the photo just how fantastic the drape of this garment is, or the shine of the silk, but the fact that Fiona has knit four of them (yes, four!) should give you some idea.  On the right is May, wearing her Apex in a brilliant red.  I believe May said that this was only the second sweater she had ever knit! This is pretty astonishing.  I forgot to ask May the details of the yarn she used, but she has just started blogging and you can find her Apex post here.

I wrote on the blog once of a bad experience with a knitting class, in which a designer who I had admired greatly really disappointed me.  This was certainly not the case with Olga.  She is charming and sweet, passionate about her craft, unassuming, a good teacher, and inspiring.  She patiently answered many questions, and talked to us about her creative process and about her many designing influences and experiences. She said to us: “I want to challenge you and make you so brave!” I left the class feeling challenged and inspired. (And a little bit brave as well.)

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I am the Switzerland of sweater construction

I was reading a thread on Ravelry recently in which people were commenting on patterns. I can’t remember the exact context, but one comment stuck in my head. Someone said “I won’t even look at a pattern if it’s seamed.” Why it stuck in my head now, when I have heard similar sentiments before, I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that I have also heard people say “I won’t knit a garment unless it’s seamed.”

You see, there are two primary ways to knit a sweater. You can knit it in pieces (usually 4 for a pullover and five for a cardigan) and then seam them together. Or you can knit in one piece (either bottom-up or top-down, but that is a different type of argument). In the latter case, you must come to some solution for the sleeves, either picking up stitches and knitting down, or knitting the sleeves up to the armholes and then joining to the body; in any case, the primary goal of this construction is to seam as little as possible. There are many arguments in favour of either approach.  (Which are not the topic of this post.) I have always thought that there were sweaters for which it makes a kind of intrinsic sense to knit in the round; and others for which seaming is the sensible option.

I have increasingly noticed, however, that knitters often take sides, as if this is a battle line. Some designers will only create patterns for seamed sweaters and some are known for always designing in the round; most designers, I imagine, have to negotiate this potential landmine as best they can. If knitters take sides, then designers can lose half of their potential customers right from the get-go. I am not going to take sides. In fact, the point of this blog post is that I don’t take sides. You see, after pondering this for a while (and having nothing to do as I am stuck in my hotel room in Johannesburg, am too tired to leave my room, and have just finished reading my book) I decided to look at my projects page on Ravelry and add them up. (Yes, boredom will get you to do all sorts of useless things.)

What I found was this: 42 sweaters, of which 21 are knit in the round, and 21 are knit in pieces and seamed. This, I think, is the very definition of knitting neutrality. I am the Switzerland of sweater construction!

And this makes me think: are most knitters like me? Do you knit the patterns that appeal to you regardless of whether they are seamed or not? Or do you filter patterns out before you will even consider them? (Or alternatively, re-engineer any patterns that violate your preferred technique?)

Inquiring minds want to know. (Bored minds do, too.)