When you need a rainbow…knit one!

p1020295

I wanted to do a quick project this week.  I rooted around in my yarn stash and found a bag full of half-used balls and remnants of Rowan Fine Tweed.  I really like this yarn and used it to knit my Peerie Flooers hat and my Soumak Wrap, both very colourful projects, meaning lots of bits of many colours leftover.  Rowan has now discontinued this yarn, carrying on its great tradition of discontinuing nearly every yarn I love (knock on wood for Kidsilk Haze).

P1020311.JPG

I had in mind a quick pair of mitts based on Follow your Dreams, a very cute pattern available for free on Ravelry by Vlněné sestry.  Here is the pattern photo:

img_7990__kopie_medium2-1

© Vlněné sestry

I spent some happy time playing with all of the leftover colours when it came to me: I could knit a rainbow!

rainbow-mitts-with-ponytail-1020317

I used a light grey for the background and picked out five rainbow shades for the arrow motifs.  I didn’t think I had enough of the grey, so I knit the ribbing around the wrists in rainbow stripes as well.  The colours are reversed, so the wrist ribbing uses red, orange, yellow, green and blue, and then the arrow motifs work in reverse order from blue to red. Thus, the mitts are framed by the red.  At the time, I had no inkling that the red would match my beloved Acer cardigan so well, but I think that together they are fabulous!

P1020293.JPG

The only other modification I made was to make the mitts mirror images of each other (so that the arrows point in opposite directions).  I loved making this project.  I could easily imagine knitting up many pairs of these, using lots of different colour schemes.  It is a great project for using up small bits of fingering weight yarn.  Using stripes for the ribbing meant many extra threads to weave in at the end, but it was totally worth it.

P1020289.JPG

Some time ago, I wrote a post about the use of gussets in mitts and mittens.  In that post, I mentioned that I had always knit mitts with gussets, and I speculated that gusset-less mitts would be uncomfortable to wear.  Based on my lengthy observation consisting of wearing this one pair of mitts for a few hours (how scientific!) I would venture to say that gusset-less mitts can indeed be comfortable.  I will now have to do more research on the topic, thus necessitating knitting more mitts.  All in the name of science of course!

p1020316

We took these photos this morning in Henley-on-Thames, a beautiful old market town on the Thames a few miles from my home.  (I work there and shop there.)  The sun was shining and everyone was smiling; it was a perfect day to walk along the river and to wear my new cardi and rainbow mitts.

P1020326.JPG

I wish you all sunshine and rainbows this weekend!

Aces!

p1020228

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).

p1020274

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:

p1020277

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.

p1020224

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.

p1020281

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!

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.

p1020026

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.

p1020156

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.

p1020007

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.

p1020161

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.

p1020155

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.

p1020028

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!

p1020014

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.

p1020046

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!

p1020097

Cowl-a-bunga!

p1010886

This year I knit cowls for Emma, Leah and Doug for Christmas.  Today the sun came out in Vancouver and revealed the city in all of its glory.  We went down to Stanley Park to take some photos and enjoy the day.

p1010755

Emma’s cowl is designed by Isabell Kraemer, and is called Copenhagen Calling.  It is a really beautiful pattern and produces a big, lush cowl.

p1010779

I knit it with two shades of Triskelion Elmet Aran which I bought at Yarnporium, a lovely event organised by the folks at the Yarn in the City blog.  I was entranced by the Triskelion display, which had a veritable rainbow of gorgeous shades.  The yarn for both Emma’s and Leah’s cowls was purchased from their booth.

p1010863

Emma’s cowl is in grey and burgundy; the colours are rich and deep.  The yarn is very wooly and sturdy – it has substance and feels good in the hands while knitting.  I was surprised by how well it bloomed in the wash, producing a lovely, lofty, warm fabric.

I purchased one skein of the grey and two of the burgundy; each skein has 160 meters. The pattern calls for 250 meters of the first colour and 330 of the second.  I adjusted the pattern slightly to make up for my lesser yardage.  I cast on with the grey, using US7 needles, and ribbed for 2.5″.  I knit only 2.5 repeats of the slip-stitch pattern (instead of the called for 4 repeats), which brought me to the end of the grey yarn.

p1010830

 

I made a slight change in the pattern, in that just before starting the lace stitch, I decreased 8 stitches evenly around.  Many of the photos I have seen of this cowl have a very stretched-out lace section and I was hoping to avoid this.  I knit the lace on a US6, and then knit the garter rows with a US5 (as per the pattern).  I think the result is perfect.

Unblocked the cowl measured 44″ x 10.5″. I blocked it out quite a bit to open up the lace – it ended up at 50″ x 11″.  I could not be happier with the pattern or the yarn; the combination of the two is fantastic and looks beautiful on Emma.

p1010874

For Leah’s cowl I used the pattern Slip-Zag by Lisa Hannes.  I had wanted to make this cowl for a long time and had always envisaged it in green and purple.  The Triskelion display at Yarnporium had the most stunning array of greens and purples; it drew me in immediately.  There were many beautiful yarns on display at this event, but I found myself unable to walk past their booth.

p1010784

I used a DK weight for this cowl, which is knit in Triskelion Dyfnaint DK, in the colours Llyr and Cepheus.  I had initially chosen a more grass green shade, but upon discussion with the booth attendant, I went for this teal. These two were made for each other – the incredible jewel colours become even more vibrant when paired together.

I cast on 260 stitches and used a US6 needle.  The pattern is very intuitive and relaxing. I knit this while on holiday in South Africa and found it a very enjoyable knit.  Like the Elmet Aran, the Dyfnaint blocks beautifully.  It is wonderfully soft and warm.  I will definitely be using these yarns again.

p1010820

Doug received his cowl a bit early, and I blogged about it here; the linked page includes the free pattern for the design, which I call the Business Class Cowl.  These photos, with the late afternoon sunshine, really bring out the beautiful colour of the cowl.

p1010788

It is knit with Woolfolk Tynd in Darkest Bronze; the sun picks up the bronze shade perfectly.

p1010882

It was good to end out the year exploring new yarn companies; I had never used either Woolfolk or Triskelion before.  They both make fantastic yarns and I already have projects in mind for each.

We had a beautiful day in Stanley Park.  This was in many ways a very trying year and it was good to end it with the four of us being silly together on a lovely day.

p1010825

I normally end the year with a summary of the year’s knitting.  I will definitely do that, but will likely post it a few days into the New Year.  In the meantime, I wish all of you a healthy and happy New Year, with lots of knitting and with a renewed commitment to compassion, human kindness and a just and democratic society.

Happy New Year from me, Kelly, and from my co-conspirators, Doug, Emma and Leah!

Five countries, three continents, one cardigan!

I have been holding off showing photos of the cardigan I knit for Leah until it actually arrived in Canada.  It is taking forever to get there, however, so here we go.  Unfortunately, Leah is not around to model it (thus the need to ship it to Canada), so I have had to model it myself.

P1000751

I started knitting this cardigan in England when the girls came home for a short break.  I knit most of the back piece in Sicily where we had a great holiday (see the photo below of me knitting it on the lawn of the beautiful villa we holidayed in).  I knit one front in my hotel in Malaysia, where I had traveled to do some teaching for the business school.  I knit part of the other front in Singapore, where I met up with my friend Erun for some fun.  I knit the sleeves back home in England.  I took it with me to Johannesburg, where I was again doing some teaching for the business school.  I did some of the finishing there, knitting the neck and one of the button bands.  And then I finished it back home again in England, where I agonized over button bands and general finishing issues.  FIVE COUNTRIES, THREE CONTINENTS, ONE CARDIGAN!

20160516-P1000067

I used a pattern from Amy Herzog’s book, Knit to Flatter, with the not very romantic name of Squared Cardigan.  I had purchased 4 skeins of Madelinetosh Pashmina in the colour Plunge, but only needed three to make the cardigan!  (I used every bit of those three skeins.)  I made a few modifications.  First, following Amy’s advice in the book on options for bust shaping, I ended up knitting the two front pieces in a size larger than the back. This gives extra room for the bust and belly without making the cardigan too big across the back and shoulders.  I think this was a good choice.  I won’t really be able to tell until Leah gets to try it on.  I am modelling it here, and Leah and I are close in size, but she is broader in the bust and shorter in the waist than I am.

P1000774

I also changed the neckline.  Amy’s pattern has a rolled neck, but I put in three rows of seed stitch instead.  Other than these small mods, I knit the pattern as written (how unlike me!).

P1000795

My biggest problems were with the finishing.  I really struggled with the button bands (as documented here).   I decided to sew ribbon to the backs of the button bands and then to use plastic snap fasteners; the buttons are for decorative purposes only.  I’m not entirely happy with this solution.  Doug thinks it would be better with a zipper, and my mom suggested keeping the decorative buttons, but adding hook-and-eye fasteners (instead of the snaps).  Both of these solutions would be good, probably better than what I ended up doing; but honestly, I was so tired of being undecided and wishy-washy and just wanted to get the thing finished and put it in the post.

P1000743

One of the things that makes this cardigan distinctive is the textured pattern on the cuffs and waistband and the way that it curves.  I found this to be very fiddly.  I think that it looks pretty but I don’t feel it was worth the time and effort.  If I made this again, I would just put in ribbing, or better yet, seed stitch.

P1000739

The yarn is beautiful, but I did feel that there was a big colour difference between some of the skeins; in particular, the back is a noticeably different shade than the fronts and sleeves.  I could have fixed this by alternating skeins, but I really didn’t want to do that, especially since I was lugging this thing around the world with me and knitting it on planes and in airports.  I also worry that the yarn has too much drape for this cardigan.  If I were to knit it again, I would use a yarn with more wool content and less silk.  I would also make the neckline higher by an inch or two.

P1000797

So, the conclusion is mixed.  I think it is very pretty; the yarn is lustrous, and the buttons and ribbon are a perfect match.  But, I have some niggling issues with the finishing.  I think, for me, I will chalk it up as a learning experience.  Hopefully, for Leah, it will be a lovely summer dressing option and will get lots of wear.

P1000792

What the best dressed baby is wearing: the urbane hipster edition

Those who know me will tell you that I rarely knit for babies.  Even when my own girls were little, they rarely benefited from the fruits of my knitting needles.  In the nearly five years that I have been writing this blog, I haven’t knit a baby sweater. Until now.

P1000677

I have some friends who have just had their first baby. These friends are special, and thus obviously so is the babe. Clearly he deserved a bit of stylish hand-knitting intervention. I perused baby patterns for quite some time. With Doug’s help, I finally decided on the pattern called gramps, designed by Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel, the duo otherwise known as Tin Can Knits. Here is their delightful version:

9M-gramps-27_medium2 (1)

© Tin Can Knits

 

I made a trip into London to my favorite yarn store, Loop, in Islington (which also necessitates buying cakes at Ottolenghi – poor me! how I suffer for my knitting!). I spent a very long time trying to choose the perfect colours of Madelinetosh Vintage, which we all know is a very luxurious hand-dyed worsted weight wool. I purchased two beautiful skeins: Turquoise, which to my eye is more a forest-y green/blue than an ocean-y green/blue (to use sophisticated colour terminology) and Pecan Hull, which is a lovely but difficult to photograph brown.

P1000670

I bought the yarn without purchasing the pattern first (or even looking at the yardage stats on Ravelry). I bought one skein of each colour – after all, this is a sweater for a baby; how much yarn could you possible need? Imagine my consternation to discover that in the 6-12 month size, this little sweater eats up 260 yards of the Main Colour and 140 yards of the Contrast Colour. A skein of Madelinetosh Vintage is 200 yards.  Whoops!  (Even in the newborn size, I would have needed 240 yards of the Main Colour.)

P1000674

Luckily, we knitters have a solution to problems like this: it is called MATH!!!!  Yes, dear readers, I engaged in a bit of “Pattern Math Fu” to re-design the sweater.  Note that the original pattern calls for a total of 400 yards of yarn.  Note further that I had 400 yards of yarn.  All I had to do was change the pattern sufficiently so that it had a more equal distribution of the colours.  This, I must admit, was rather fun, and I think the end product is completely lovely in every way.

P1000664

I followed all of the instructions for the 6-12 month size exactly, except that I omitted the pockets and elbow pads, and added in seven sets of 2-row stripes on the body and sleeves of the sweater.  Here you can see the yarn that remains:

P1000687

I had so much fun knitting this little sweater.  We actually had a week of decent summery weather (egads!) and I enjoyed the chance to knit in the back garden while listening to a good book.

P1000685

Photos don’t do this sweater justice.  It is absolutely fabulous. It is the perfect sweater for the urbane hipster baby to wear while sitting at his favorite coffee shop charming all the passersby.

P1000667

This pattern also comes in adult sizes.  Resistance is futile.

Gilded paradise

P1000321

I finished my gold shawl weeks ago, but waited until I was in Sicily to photograph it.  We were staying in an absolutely fantastic villa, called the Commenda di San Cologero, which is beyond gorgeous.  (It also has the nicest, most friendly staff you will ever meet.  I’ve stayed there twice now, and hope to return soon.)  It is on the eastern coast between Catania and Syracusa.  As you can see from these photos, it was a most beautiful backdrop for this lovely piece of knitting.

P1000320

The pattern is the #02 Reversible Cabled-Rib Shawl, by Lily Chin and originally from Vogue Knitting, Winter 1999/2000.  It can now be found on-line as well; check the Ravelry pattern page here for details.

P1000350

The shawl is knitted in the now discontinued yarn, Kidsilk Haze Eclipse, by Rowan Yarns in the colour Virgo.  It is a very lovely shade of beige gold.  If you don’t have any Eclipse saved up, don’t fret – Kidsilk Haze is readily available and works perfectly for this pattern.  (I have previously knit this shawl in Kidsilk Haze in a vibrant green, which you can see in this post.)

P1000322

Many people have commented on the repetitive (and endless) nature of this pattern.  If you look over the projects on Ravelry you will see that I am not the only one who called it “boring”.  (Although there are those who find it “meditative”).  It is essentially a very big shawl knit in 2×2 ribbing in lace-weight yarn with cable crossings every 12 rows.

P1000317

The first time I knit this pattern it took me 20 months to finish – it was so boring, I kept putting it aside to knit other things!  I finished this one in just over 4 months.  Perhaps this relative speed is because, having worn the green one countless times over the years, I know that the benefits outweigh the effort.   Perhaps, I am simply in a more “product knitting” place right now.  Or, dare I say it, perhaps I have been too lazy to cast new things on and thus managed to power through.   Whatever the case, the end product is absolutely worth it.

P1000342

In the above photo, Emma is wearing another project of mine, the Viajante shawl, which I knit in 2013; this was another endless, repetitive knit in lace-weight that produced a magical garment.  (We photographed this piece in Sicily as well; it will feature in an upcoming Wearability Wednesday post, so keep your eye out for it.)  Today just happens to be Emma’s 23rd birthday – Happy Birthday, gorgeous!

I am still planning a long travel post for you with lovely photos of our adventures in Sicily. It will have to wait until I get home, however.  I am, rather ironically, writing this post in the middle of the night in my hotel room in Malaysia while suffering terrible jet lag.

P1000337

See that smile in the above photo?  Well, you would be smiling, too.  It was the best holiday ever!