What’s in my knitter’s toolkit? Denial, apparently.

In my last post, I showed you some progress photos of my Callum – a linen tee with drop shoulders.  It was clear from the photos that it is too big.  Really too big.  Not only is it too big, but the arm scythes are cut too low, meaning it can only be worn over a tank. I repeat one of the photos here which shows the bad fit around the back of the arms:


After publishing the post, I had the very good idea to transfer all of the live stitches to a spare piece of yarn and wash the unfinished project.  Then I put it in the dryer (something that still makes my heart stutter, even though I know I can do it with linen). I carefully steamed down the edges of the sleeves.  Many of you left encouraging comments on the post, suggesting that a good wash and a steam would make a big difference; you are right, they did make a difference, but mostly in the look of the linen and the neatness of the edges.  It had no discernible effect on the fit.

Others mentioned that you don’t want a fitted linen garment for the hot days of summer. And, guess what?  We were having a heat wave in England last week.  I sat, sweating in the heat, and I thought “Ease is good.”  I put the stitches back on the needle, picked the project back up and knit an entire other skein of the yarn – over 4 inches of body, adding two more sets of decreases.


Why did I keep knitting when I knew something was wrong?  I don’t know – maybe I am delusional?  Or maybe one of the things in my knitter’s toolkit is denial?  Because the truth is that no matter what I do to the body of the tee, it is unlikely to change the fit across the back and the sleeves, and that is where the problem is.  How easy to think that if I could just finish it, the drape would magically fix itself.  Denial apparently also helps disguise the fact that I am knitting the 44 3/4″ size, in order to give me 3″ of ease, but it is actually measuring 50″ around (two sizes up from what I was aiming for), for almost 9″ of ease.  I did swatch; I swear it!  I don’t know why my swatch lied.

Not only that, but I am in denial about two of the issues that I worried about long before casting on – knitting this tee in the round, and the tendency of the yarn to bias (which manage to compound each other.) Knowing that these were both issues, I blindly cast on anyway, because…well, denial.  And the yarn was pretty.  And it looks nice in the pattern picture.

Maybe I should have waited to get some of this advice from readers:

  1. “It is way, way too big–and knowing linen it will not shrink that much. Either re-do the entire back or, as you said, throw it in the WIP basket for another time and go on to the jacket.”  (from my Mom)
  2. “Me, I’d make sure I have copious notes and photos, frog the whole damned thing and put it in a bag at the back of the closet for another year.” (from Susan)
  3. “The arm scythes are low and it looks like a baggy knit. I think it should go into the time-out basket, for an eventual frogging. I’d re-knit one size down.” (from Ann)
  4. “The lace pattern of the linen top is really beautiful. I agree with you about the back sleeves, though. I knit a cardigan once with sleeves that ended up looking a bit like wings and I found I never wore it.” (from Leah)

This last point, from Leah, really struck home:  am I ever going to wear it if I am unhappy with the fit?  And furthermore, her comment really targeted the defining issue – there is something about the sleeve, especially from the back, that is a problem to me.  I can fix this, but only if I frog and start over.  (The pattern and yarn are both very pretty; so starting over and making it right would be a good thing in the long run.)  That would mean figuring out what went wrong with my gauge (as other readers very kindly pointed out).


What next?  Doug is away and I won’t see him for a few weeks.  Once we are both in the same place again, he can help me take some new modeled photos of it, with the extra length perhaps giving an indication of how the tee will drape.  I suspect that the only practical solution will be to frog.  I also suspect that if I do that, it will be next summer before I try to re-use the yarn.  Why not just frog now instead of waiting for the inevitable?  Because I still have a good dose of DENIAL, and I am going to keep it!

In the meantime, there is always the Falkenburg:


Thank you so much to all of the readers who left comments for me.  You mean a lot to me and I am grateful that you take the time to leave advice, suggestions and good wishes.

Travel knitting recap

I was away from home for a full month, including a working trip to South Africa and a holiday to British Columbia, Canada.  You may recall that I took two knitting projects with me: Cullum, a linen tee shirt with a bit of lace designed by Isabell Kraemer, and Sofi, a light jacket in wool and linen designed by Hanne Falkenberg.  Photos of both designs are shown below:

First off, I must admit to not having accomplished much knitting on either trip.  While in South Africa I was kept quite busy on the job, and in Vancouver and surrounds, I was enjoying hanging out with my daughters and other relatives, and wasn’t feeling the knitting mojo so much.  This latter may be partly because I was concentrating more on the linen tee, which admittedly is not a particularly scintillating knit.  (It is in linen and much of it is in stockinette in-the-round.)  Once I got the jacket on my needles, I found it more enjoyable.  My rationale was that the linen tee was a summer top, so I should put some effort into finishing it while it was still summer.

The tee is knit from the top down; the front and back are joined in the round at the armholes.  Thus, I didn’t get to try it on until after it was joined and I had knit a few inches in the round.  Now that I am home, I have tried it on and…..IT IS TOO BIG!  And, not very nice looking at the back.  Here is the evidence.  This is the front view, clearly a bit big but still reasonable.  (Please note the effects of serious jet lag in these photos; what a difference a little sleep makes!  Look at the sweater and ignore the wearer!)


Here is a side view.  You can see that the arm scythe is very low, but this is the type of tee which I will probably wear over a tank, so still salvageable.


Below is a view of the back.


I am really not happy with the way the sleeves look at the back.  There just seems to be lots of extra fabric everywhere.  UGH! Let’s look at this dispassionately, however.  It is knit in 100% linen.  I know that it will shrink a bit when I have washed it.  I also did a gauge swatch and made sure to wash and dry it before measuring.  So it is quite possible that, once properly washed and dried and blocked, this will look as I imagined it.  I also know that I purposely didn’t want it to be fitted – it is a summery linen tee, made to be worn in hot weather, so it should be loose and airy. Right now, however, I am feeling that it is miles too loose and airy.

What do you think?  Is it as big as I am thinking?  Is it likely to shrink?  Why do the backs of the sleeves look so bad?  Why is the back neck so loose? Is this likely to block out? More importantly: should I rip back and do some re-fashioning?  Should I forge ahead but put in some decreases? (I actually put in one set of decreases on the plane, just an inch above where I’ve knit to in the photo, and was thinking of one more set for just 8 stitches decreased.  Is this too little too late?)  Should I just leave it be?  Or should I, perhaps,  throw it in the (now empty) WIP basket and instead knit the Falkenberg jacket?

To help you address the last question, here is a progress shot of the jacket:


Pretty, huh?  The body is knit in one piece with no shaping, thus it is a boxy little jacket. When I made my swatch, I had this idea that the body would just be a larger version of the swatch – basically the pattern knit as a big rectangle – but I forgot how brilliant Hanne is at design.  Her pieces are so clever and so well-tailored.  To illustrate, here is the side seam:


And here is the centre back of the jacket:


I love these details.

It is Friday evening here in England and they are predicting a gorgeous weekend with sunny skies and hot temperatures.  My friend Erun is visiting and we have good food, good wine, plenty of sun screen and knitting projects on the go.  Which one do you think I will be knitting this weekend?

Better Schooner than Later

I am back in Vancouver having just returned from a lovely road trip with Doug and the girls up the Sechelt Peninsula in British Columbia and then across to Vancouver Island. We stayed in some fantastic places and spent a lot of time on the water. I plan to make a travel post as soon as I have the time, but in the meantime, here is a sneak peak.   Below is a photo of me knitting on a 53 foot schooner off the coast of Powell River, near Blubber Bay.

schooner knitting-1030269

That’s Leah in the background, looking out for whales from the bow of the boat.  (Emma was busy hoisting sails and Doug was at the wheel.) Here is a close-up photo I took of the knitting on my lap.  It is very hard to photograph black knitting and make it look interesting, but I think the texture of the lace knitting in linen looks good with the ropes from the sails.

schooner knitting2-1030272

Of course, I couldn’t resist putting a pun in the post title.  I hope your knitting adventures are pun-worthy, too!

A funny thing happened on the way to the graduation

Emma has graduated!  Hooray!

emma robes-001

We are very proud parents.


Emma looks pretty pleased as well.


Vancouver cooperated with a gorgeous day.  The UBC campus was beautiful. Happy grads and their even happier parents were everywhere.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to graduation….

On Tuesday, I was teaching a full-day workshop in Johannesburg.  On Thursday afternoon, Emma was graduating in Vancouver.  I finished my class Tuesday and rushed out to Tambo airport.  There was an accident on the highway to the airport, so we went a different route (the long route), passing a fire along the way.  I passed through the security and passport control and made my plane –  a nearly 12 hour flight to Heathrow. I made my way through passport control and hopped in a taxi to go home, where I then had 4 hours to unpack my suitcase for Jo’burg (where it was winter and I was working), re-pack my suitcase for Vancouver (where it is glorious and I am holiday-ing), and get back in a taxi to return to Heathrow.  On the way to the airport, our taxi was broadsided by a car in an intersection!  Both cars were totalled; the taxi’s wheel base was crumpled so we couldn’t even pull over off of the road.  Doug and I stood on the side of the road with our bags waiting for another taxi to come pick us up.

We made it to the airport (just!) and on to our plane, had the safety demo and were taxi-ing down the runway when the plane slowed down and detoured onto a quiet spot. We were then stuck on the tarmac for three hours because of a broken indicator on the plane. They re-booted the systems twice and then called in engineers to fix it. I had visions of Emma graduating without us.  Eventually, however, the bad luck ran out and we made it in time.

Kelly and Emma-1030111

Knitters: please note this post’s sole knitting content.  Above, I am wearing my Cool Boots shawl.


Doug tells me to show you the following photo.  This is me at my graduation from Barnard in 1984.  No laughing allowed!

me at barnard grad cropped

What do you do when your daughter graduates from university?  You do a happy dance, of course!


On over-estimating travel knitting time

I had an idea that my 9 days in Johannesburg would have me working all day and then spending the evenings in my hotel room, quietly knitting and listening to audio books. What actually happened was that I worked all day, ate dinner (by myself – boo hoo!), and then went back to my hotel room where I answered email, caught up with admin and collapsed well before 9 each evening.  Not much knitting got done.

However, I was able to spend a few hours on the weekend sitting out by the pool in the Johannesburg winter sunshine (which is almost like British summer sunshine) and get some relaxing and knitting time.  Here is where I sat by the poolside:


Not bad, huh?

And here is a very un-interesting photo of the progress on my black linen tee-shirt.  It is hard to photograph plain, black knitting in progress and make it look interesting.


The tee starts at the shoulders on the back, does some short row shaping, and then is knitted down to the the armhole; then stitches are picked up for the front shoulder and knit down.  There is some lace on the front, which I am just about to start.  Once I get down to the armhole, the front and back will be joined and then the body is knit in the round.

I also cast on for my Hanne Falkenberg jacket.  The fronts and back are knit as one piece, back and forth, so although this photo makes it look like a very small piece, this is actually 300 or so stitches and 40+ inches wide.


Here is a close-up of the pattern in which you can see the variegation in both yarns. The dark blue is a Shetland wool and the contrast yarn is a linen blend.


Here is where I spent most of my time.  This is the lovely campus of the Henley Business School South Africa in Johannesburg.  I teach there around 6 times a year, and always enjoy it immensely.  The students there are fantastic, and the staff always make me feel at home.


Here I am with some of my South African colleagues, from left to right: Lyneth, me, Eli, and Caritas.


I leave you with another shot I took at the Henley South Africa campus.  When you next hear from me, I will be reporting from Vancouver.


Travel knitting

Yesterday, I was in Munich.  Today I am in England.  Tomorrow I will be in Johannesburg. After that, I will head to Vancouver.  I am in heavy travel mode.  What does that mean? Travel knitting of course; the thing that knitters most obsess about when packing a bag.

I have decided to have two projects with me, so that I can alternate between them. First, I am going to knit Cullum, a linen t-shirt with a touch of lace, designed by Isabell Kraemer:


© Pam Allen

I am using the very same yarn used in the photo, a gorgeous deep grey shade of Quince & Co Sparrow called Eclipse.  Sparrow is a 100% organic linen yarn.  It is luminous:


My second project will be the Hanne Falkenberg jacket I discussed in my last post.  I clearly was experiencing technical difficulties on that morning, as I couldn’t read Hanne’s pattern.  When she sent me instructions for a swatch, I realised that I had completely mis-read the instructions for the jacket.  I even went back and checked, so convinced I was right, but no, the instructions were perfect and it was me that was lacking. Here is the swatch:


I love this!  The photo is lovely, but it is far better to hold it in your hand! It is so soft, yet wool-y, and light like a feather.  (Unlike the Sparrow, which is a bit rough on the hands; I know from experience that it will block into a very soft, drapey fabric, however.)

This is a run-by post as I am heading for the airport. Good knitting everyone!


Notes from a Hanne Falkenberg fangirl

When I was in Denmark recently, I tried on a beautiful Hanne Falkenberg jacket at a Copenhagen yarn shop.  (I blogged about the yarn shop visit here.)  I have knitted two of Hanne’s pattern before, one for me and one for my husband Doug.  (You can see them both, plus lots of personal knitting history, in this post.)  I was quite taken with this jacket, which was knit with a combination of two yarns: a lovely Shetland wool and a blend of cotton and linen.  I have been trying to find garments which will look both smart as a work garment, but which would also let me look like “me” and not like a banker.  I promptly ordered the kit:


On the weekend, I decided to swatch the garment.  I am leaving for a trip to South Africa soon and thought this would make good travel knitting.  Unfortunately, I was stymied by the swatch.  The pattern instructions are written out for the whole garment, and I was having trouble sizing down the pattern repeat properly for a swatch-size.  In particular, I couldn’t tell how to line up the reverse rows over a smaller section, and I wanted to see the distribution of the knit and purl stitches over the main colour.  I couldn’t see this from the photo included in the pattern, in part due to the main colour being quite dark. This inability may be due to stupidity on my part, or the lack of sufficient coffee at that point in the morning, but in any case after a number of fruitless attempts, I wrote a letter to Hanne explaining my problem.

This morning I received a lovely letter by email from Hanne, which I reproduce here:

Dear Kelly

Thank you for your message and the interest in my design. I will try and help you. I have never received any questions about  this sample before.

I have scanned one of my small colour samples, which shows some of the pattern, and I have added the instruction for these  rows. The pattern is so easy to work once you get started and you will spot any “faults”/mistakes right away. Only make sure you mark the “side seams” and center back  when you place the pattern on the actual  garment.

I do not have a garment here at home, the many examples are out in the shops for display.

You are welcome to write to me again on this address

Best Regards

Hanne Falkenberg

Included with the letter was a close-up photo of the stitch pattern knitted up, and clear and detailed instructions for knitting a swatch!  This was exactly what I needed!  Not only that, but Hanne had reversed the colour of the yarns for the knitted swatch photo so that I could clearly see the patterning of the background colour.

I love the knitting community!  Thank you to Hanne, who not only makes beautiful designs but also makes me happy to be a knitter.