Sad

I usually have my next few posts lined up in my head, and I had planned to spend Saturday morning writing a new post and putting the finishing touches on the green linen project. Then, I woke up to the terrible news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death.

Ginsburg was such an inspiration to me as a young woman, and she has continued to inspire me, and to inspire my daughters as well. We have lost a true hero. I hate that her death will be turned into a circus of villainy and hypocrisy, as those in power on the right gleefully pounce. I spent the weekend feeling sad and disheartened. However, for me and for millions of others, nothing will diminish her legacy. We will mourn her, and we will celebrate her life. We will continue to care about justice, and we will continue to fight. And we will vote.

Post for a sunny day

The weather gods are shining on us this weekend – it is an absolutely perfect early fall day. The sun is shining, the breeze is breezing, the bees are buzzing, and the neighbours are not mowing their lawns or out with buzz saws doing who-knows-what. Its really too nice a day to spend writing a post, so I will make this one super short.

In my last post, I noted that Doug loved my new shawl. He said to me, “These colours work so well together. I would wear a vest made in these colours.” Oh, you would, would you? So, what to do of course but order three shades of grey, three of pink, three of purple and three of green, so that I can do some swatching. This is what I ended up with:

Not quite the same depth of colours, particularly with the purples, but I think I can pick out a set that will work out okay for what I have in mind.

In the meantime, I cast on for a tee using the Kalinka linen wool blend yarn. The yarn really shows up some contrasts quite nicely. I used twisted ribbing and was amazed at the distinctions between the front and reverse sides. Here is the front:

And here is the reverse:

I have been happily knitting away on this project which is coming along quickly. Here is my latest progress shot:

Ten points to anyone who can guess the pattern!

The perfect day is calling to me. I wish you all a safe place and some peaceful knitting.

Finished at last

I have finished my improvised version of Martina Behm’s Match & Move Shawl, and I think it turned out pretty fabulous.

This shawl came about through some deep stash-busting and far too much thinking. I originally ordered yarn from Plucky Knitter way back in 2011 to make a Color Affection Shawl. It contained three skeins of Plucky Primo Fingering. Believe it or not, I was already writing this blog back then; here is the post (with the great title, “Holy Distraction, Batman!”) where I talked about receiving the yarn in the post. A few years later, in 2013, I wrote about trying to find a different pattern for this yarn.

Eventually, in 2019, when I was searching for a project to take on a business trip to South Africa, I decided to make the Match & Move Shawl, but with stripes in three colours instead of two. This turned out beautifully, until I ran out of yarn (by not following the instructions properly, as blogged here). I eventually ordered another skein of Plucky (the dark purple) to match up with the other three colours, then misplaced the scarf for half a year, and finally got back on track. Whew! This shawl has been through some stuff, which makes it appropriate that it ends up being a product of 2020. (It has survived, so will we!)

I have talked many times on this blog about how I dislike triangular shawls. I knitted this despite that, and I have to say that I adore it! The colours are so rich and work so well together. Depending on how you wrap it, different colours come to the fore, the deep pink in the photo above, and the grey in the photo below.

I started the shawl by following the pattern: bold stripes of colour, alternating green, grey, pink. Then, I realised I would run out of yarn and started smaller blocks of colour, before buying the deep purple and adding it in near the end. So one half of the shawl is very orderly and the other half is very haphazard. Sort of like me! No wonder I like it. It makes me think I need to improvise more often.

The yarn is completely luscious. It is an expensive option for me, especially here in England (when I ordered the kit all of those years ago, I was charged a customs fee for it when it arrived in the country – a very large fee). Adding on the expense of the fourth skein (luckily purchased in London from Loop) means this is a fairly pricey shawl. But I must admit that it is gorgeous, and feels so great to wear. Even Buddha think so:

Unfortunately for Buddha (and me!), Doug thinks so too:

Sorry Buddha, but I think Doug may have dibs!

Size Inclusivity circa 1989

Today, I was thumbing through some old issues of Vogue Knitting.  I stumbled upon this issue from 1989:

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Look carefully at the cover, where it says “Special sizes Part 1”.  Intriguing, no?  Further investigation reveals this:

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Two patterns designed in special sizes.  The text reads: “At long last: Fashionable details programmed into two on-the-go career tops designed and sized for the full-figured woman”.  Here is the kicker.  Every pattern in this edition (with the exception of these two) comes in 5 sizes: to fit 32, 34, 36, 38, 40″/81, 86, 91, 96, 101 cm bust.  These two sweaters, designed for us full-figured gals, also comes in 5 sizes: to fit 38, 40, 42, 44, 46″/96, 101, 106, 112, 116 cm bust.

Let’s review what this tells us:

  1. “Normal” women are sized only from 32-40″.
  2. “Full-figured” women are sized only up to 46″.
  3. Apparently, if you are a size 32-36, the full-figured sweaters won’t suit you, and if you are above a size 40, none of the “normal sweaters” are going to suit you. 
  4. If you are not a size 32-46, then you are not the target audience.

This was 1989, of course, and things have changed since then, right? Well, yes and no. Emma just requested a pullover designed by Kim Hargreaves (Tan, Ravelry link here). I had a look and it comes in 6 sizes – 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, and 43 (81, 86, 91, 96, 101, and 109 cm), which are labelled XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL. So, in 1989 my current size would make me “special”, while in 2020 I am XXL. Head thunk.

On the other hand, lots of designers are now striving to be more size inclusive. Just today, I’ve been looking at a new Kate Davies pattern (Treit, Ravelry link here), sized from 33-60 inches, and an Andrea Mowry pattern (Pink Velvet, Ravelry link here), sized from 32-64 inches. And a quick look at a recent Vogue shows patterns with a much wider range of sizes, like Aegean (Ravelry link here) sized from 32-52 or Staple (Ravelry link here) sized from 36-60.

One of the reasons why we knit is that we can tailor things to fit. But in the old days, a full-figured girl would need to exercise a lot of math to make that happen. Today, we can all be equally mathematically challenged and still knit something that fits.

Indecision

Having finished Leah’s cardigan, I have spent the last week casting around, so to speak, for a new project to cast on. In the first instance, I succumbed to an impulse buy. Milli of Tribe sent around an email with a large array of kits that she had put together for Tanis Lavallee’s Rock It Tee [Ravelry link]. Here is the pattern photo:

© Tanis Lavallee

After some discussions with Doug and some texting back and forth with Emma, I decided it would be a good project to work on in the heat (we’ve been experiencing a heat wave here), and I ordered a kit. The yarn arrived, very quickly, in a lovely package:

The kit contained two skeins of Shibui Knits Silk Cloud in Caffeine and two skeins of Paca La Alpaca silk and merino blend in the shade Ramble:

It is hard to knit when it is hot, but a swatch is pretty perfect since it is small enough not to feel hot or heavy or to pool on your lap while you knit. And this yarn produces a very delicate fabric, light and airy and rather delicious.

It’s difficult to take a proper photo, since the background strongly influences the way the colours look, and the lighting is difficult too. Here is a shot of it held up to the light, which shows the shades a bit better:

Having knit the swatch, however, I am having second thoughts. Perhaps I am feeling washed out at the moment, but I am thinking that I should have ordered yarn that was RED, or maybe PURPLE, or BLUE, but at the very least BRIGHT and EXCITING. I am worried that this combination will just wash me out further, and I feel the need for something cheerier. It is quite beautiful, so it is going into the stash to wait. Someday, this will seem perfect to me, but now – not so much.

This reminded me that I had purchased some very cheery linen and wool yarn recently from Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh (blogged about here). I bought it because the idea of a linen and wool blend intrigued me greatly. The yarn has three plies – one is a very fine light fingering weight wool in grass green, combined with two plies of laceweight linen in a greeny-yellow. You can see this in the photo below.

This swatch was very hard to photograph as it looked very green in some photos:

and very yellow in others:

I asked Doug to photograph the swatch, and he must have taken 30 photos of it against different backgrounds. How can you not love a man who never tires of taking endless photos of your knitting?

One last one:

This yarn makes a lovely fabric which blooms in the wash and seems as if it will have all of the advantages of linen while still having some of the drape, and springiness, and integrity of wool. I had originally purchased the yarn with the idea of making the Tulpe Top [Ravelry link], by Lisa Hannes:

by maliha

I am no longer convinced it it the right project for this yarn. I think that the pattern might not really pop in this yarn; it feels a bit busy. I might need to make another swatch, with the Tulip pattern, to see how it works. In the meantime, I have wasted spent lots of hours searching through Ravelry looking for alternative patterns. Two that I have been considering are the Staple Linen Top [Ravelry link] by Joji Locatelli:

© Joji Locatelli

Or perhaps Yume [Ravelry link], by Isabell Kraemer:

© Isabell Kraemer

So, the story here is that I have swatched for two sweaters, and ended up undecided about either. I think this may be due to the terrible lack of focus which I feel these days, presumably brought about by the pandemic, anxiety, and the never-ending bad news cycle (just mention of the T-word is enough to bring on the shakes).

In the meantime, I have been doing a bit here and there on my Match & Move shawl. I have incorporated the new colour (the deep purple) and I think it works very well:

Unfortunately, with less than 20 rows to go to finish the shawl, I noticed a mistake:

I only had to rip out 6 rows, but it does mean that this project is still on the needles instead of relaxing in the spa right now. I hope that you are all well, and finding some moments of peace and joy to tide you through.

Vodka Lemonade

I have finished the Vodka Lemonade cardigan!  This is a gift for Leah, and tomorrow it will be put in the post.  I took a few photos with me wearing it, but I hope to put up a post with modelled photos from Leah at some point.

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The pattern is by Thea Colman, and despite the fact that dozens of her patterns have been in my favorites for years, this is the first one I’ve knit.  It definitely won’t be the last.   The pattern has some lovely details and all of the finishing is incorporated into the knitting – once you cast off the bottom hem, you are done!  No picking up stitches and adding edging; the edges are all beautifully finished as you go along.

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Leah spends a lot of her time in dresses, and this cardigan struck me as the perfect length and weight to wear over a dress.  I’m a little worried about the yellow – it is not a colour I normally knit with, but it seemed to mix and match with many of the dresses she wears.  Plus, in 2020 I think we all need a bit of sunshine however we can get it.

When I looked at the many Vodka Lemonade projects on Ravelry, one of the things I noticed was that lots of them looked too long to me.  I wondered why knitters were adding length to what should be a slightly cropped cardi.  I think that, if you are aiming for a cropped look like the one in the pattern photo, you should take care with the knitting and make sure that you start the lace pattern early enough.  My finished cardigan measured 12″ from the armhole to the bottom hem, which is one inch less than called for in the pattern.  I had intended to do three repeats of the lace, instead of two, and took Thea’s advice to leave an inch for each repeat.  However, if you are hitting gauge the lace takes 1.5 inches per repeat, so you need to start the lace earlier. (Thus, I knitted two lace repeats instead of the three I intended.)

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I knit this with John Arbon yarn, also a first for me.  The yarn, Knit by Numbers, is a 100% merino wool DK weight yarn which comes in a wide range of colours. I completely love the yarn, a lovely, soft, DK-weight and am very impressed with how it plumped up and softened with a wash.  Leah is sensitive to wool, she can wear it but finds most wool yarn itchy.  I am very impressed with how non-itchy this yarn is, and have high hopes that it won’t pill as much as some other soft wools.

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We are having a heat wave here so I am glad to have this off the needles.  I am currently knitting swatches, which are small and therefore don’t mean having a pile of hot wool on your lap while you knit.  And Doug is keeping me supplied with freshly squeezed lemonade, while I sit in the shade and knit.  It’s not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

 

Knitters, check your dye lots!

I had planned to write a Pattern Radar post this week, but I realise that those posts rely heavily on using Ravelry links. Given the situation with Ravelry at the moment, I’ve decided to postpone the post for awhile. (For those who are wondering what this is about, there are serious accessibility issues for some users on Ravelry following an upgrade; I find it very sad and hope they resolve the problem soon.)

Pattern Radar posts take a very long time to write (you can find them by clicking on the Pattern Radar tag on the right margin). Ditching my plans to write one this weekend means lots of extra time for knitting! I am working exclusively on the Vodka Lemonade cardigan now, as it is a gift for Leah and I want to be able to pop it in the post this week. I am getting close:

This design is by Thea Colman, and is the first of her designs I’ve knit. I thought it would be super fast since it is in DK weight yarn, but for some reason it seems to be taking forever. I only need a few more days to get it done, but my mind is wandering to other projects, and I’m finding it hard to be monogamous. The yarn is from John Arbon Textiles, also a first, and it seems lovely and soft. However, I have a major beef. I ordered 5 skeins of the yarn for this project, and one of them was not from the same dye lot as the others.

I am furious at myself for not checking the ball bands, and pretty mad at the yarn store for sending me odd dye lots. Its hard for me to get a photo today to show this because of the light, but to me the odd skein is very apparent – I started it about 5 inches down from the collar and it finishes just at the sleeve separation.

I am trying to overcome my perfectionist tendencies and to remember that a hand-knitted sweater is supposed to have character. We all believe that, right? (There is another, very small, mistake in this sweater which stands out like a strobe light to me, but I figure if I don’t mention it, maybe it’s not there.)

I thought you might like this photo which Emma sent me of a tree near her apartment:

The back garden beckons! Have a good weekend, and don’t forget to check your dye lots!

Lost and found

Not too long ago, I reported that I had lost a half-finished project – the Match and Move Shawl by Martina Behm [Ravelry link]. Here is a progress photo of my shawl:

And here is the pattern photo:

© Martina Behm

This project has been a bit of a disaster from the start (no fault to Martina). The pattern has a unique shape, formed by having an initial section with increases on both sides, and a second section with increases on one side only. The pattern has a formula for weighing the yarn so that you know when to switch to Section 2. As I detailed in this post, I was on a business trip with no scale available and I kept blindly knitting along even when I suspected it was time to change. It was also apparent that if I had switched at the correct point, the shawl would have been too short.

So, I determined to buy another skein of yarn that would work with these three shades. I ordered one on-line, in the hopes that it would work, as detailed in this post, but then couldn’t find the shawl at all. I tore apart the house looking for it, to no avail. Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve found it! Where, you may ask, was it hiding? Why, right in with my stash yarn where I had searched multiple times! (Head thunk!) I’m also happy to report that I think the new yarn looks fantastic with the other three:

Now I just have to decide how much to rip back and how to incorporate the new colour. Before I decided to buy a new skein, I was trying to use up every available bit of the yarn I had, and I did a bunch of calculations on how many rows I could knit with each of the three shades before running out.

It was an interesting exercise, in which I tried to keep the ordering of green-pink-grey but vary the thickness of the stripes, in order to squeeze every possible bit of length out of the yarn I had. This led to me breaking the pattern up and knitting shorter blocks of colour, as you can see below:

One of the things I really like about this pattern is the big, bold stripes, however, so I think these narrower stripes will end up getting ripped out. And I will probably have to rip back a stripe or two (or three) in order to add in the new shade in a way that looks a bit more organic and less like I ran out of yarn.

I am so happy to have found the project, and also that the new yarn works so well with the others! Now, it’s back to my Vodka Lemonade (the cardi, not the drink!) which I am determined to finish before moving on to something else.

Hatcher

I finished knitting Hatcher a few weeks ago, and given the cold and overcast weather we have been experiencing, I’ve had lots of opportunities to wear it.

Hatcher (Ravelry link) was designed by Julie Hoover. I have long wanted to knit one of her patterns; this one has been in my queue since the pattern was released nearly four years ago. It is a very wearable, comfortable, and smart pullover.

I like her easy-going style and I like her attention to small details. Take for example, the double decreases (using a technique I had not seen before), used at the armscythes and sleeves, which provide for an excellent fit and beautiful full-fashioned tailoring.

The folded over neckline is also brilliant; it really makes a difference to the finished tee:

I knitted this using Kettle Yarn Beyul DK, a blend of Baby Yak, SIlk and Merino. It is luxurious, with a brilliant sheen and a soft feel reminiscent of cashmere. I enjoyed knitting with this yarn immensely. However, I am very worried about the potential to pill. A Raveler alerted me to her experience with the yarn (“very pilly”), and having worn this a few times, I am afraid it might be true. I will withhold judgement until it gets more wear and report back to you.

The real draw of the pullover is the cabling, which has perfect dimensions and really sets off both front and back:

I highly recommend this pattern; it is a quick knit, and very well-designed. I had some troubles getting the neckline to hit at the right spot of the cable pattern (detailed in this post), but I think the problems were more a result of my slightly-off row gauge, than any problems with the pattern.

I look at these photos and all I can think is “Yikes! Covid hair”! Here is the Covid mask to go with it:

I am really struggling with this new WordPress editor. This and being in a bit of a funk means I have been posting less. But never fear, I am knitting away as always.

Linen and tractors

Today, Doug and I drove out to the farm to pick up fresh produce. We shop weekly at Blue Tin Produce, a fantastic farm with a small farm shop and cafe, a short drive away from our home through lovely countryside. Before Covid, we used to sit outside of the shop on a sunny Sunday and have a coffee; now, it is a lifeline to the freshest produce and specialty foods, safely acquired. As we pulled up today, on a drizzly, chilly day in July, I realised three things: (1) I was wearing one of my hand-knitted sweaters, (2) it was Wednesday, and (3) it had been some time since I wrote a Wearability Wednesday post. And, ta-da!, a post is born.

In Wearability Wednesday posts, I re-visit a knitted garment and comment on its wearability and also its durability, paying attention to how I style it and wear it, and how it has aged. You can find all of these posts (in reverse chronological order) by following this tag.

This is a linen pullover which I knitted in 2015. You can see the newly-finished sweater, and read about some small modifications, in this blog post. The design is called Sel Gris [Ravelry link], and is by Claudia Eisenkolb. Here is one of the photos from that post:

The design incorporates some really nice details at the neckline, and ribbed sleeves which are picked up and knit down. It is a nice twist on a basic summer tee. I wear this one with jeans (as here) or shorts, depending on the weather. As it is 100% linen, it is perfect for steamy hot summer days, but it also works well on a drizzly day like today. I had lots of fun posing with the collection of old tractors at the Blue Tin.

I knit this with Shibui Knits Linen, a chainette style fingering-weight linen yarn, which has since been discontinued. However, Shibui Reed, also a 100% linen with a chainette structure, substitutes for this yarn. I have seen the Reed, and I think they are pretty much identical in feel. If you plan to use this yarn yourself, you may wish to read my post, The gauge swatch lies! , describing my first attempt at this pullover, before you cast on. Linen is hard to knit with; this one in particular I found to be a bit hard on the hands, as the texture adds some scratchiness. Once washed, however, the fabric becomes softer, and is quite comfortable to wear. I have washed this one many times, and it hasn’t warped like linen often does; you can see here that it still drapes really well:

I think for a 5 year-old sweater that has been washed and worn, thrown into suitcases, dressed up and down, and survived blasts of sand and salt water on beach walks, it still looks pretty good.

I have knitted a number of summery tees and tanks over the years, and this one has lasted a bit better than most. I have also tried a number of different linens and I find that I am usually unhappy with the linen pulling out of shape. This linen tee has kept its shape (better than I have!). I should note that, unlike many knitters, I don’t throw linen knits into the dryer; I’ve always dried this flat.

Wishing you all some fresh air and countryside, and maybe some linen and tractors thrown in for good measure!