Aces!

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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).

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

New projects: knitting and sewing

Observant readers will have noticed a new project in my last post.  I wonder how many of you figured out it was the Acer Cardigan, designed by Amy Christoffers.  Given that there are currently 871 Acer Cardigan projects on Ravelry it is not unlikely that many of you tagged it.  Here is the pattern photo for the design:

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When I got home from Vancouver, I was in the unenviable position of having nothing on the needles.  What to knit?  I fretted for a few days before having a light bulb moment and deciding on this project.  Acer has been in my favorites since the pattern was released in 2010.  That’s YEARS I have been thinking of knitting this cardigan.  Plus, I just happened to have an SQ (sweater quantity) of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in a deep red. Perfect! (The photos look slightly more rasberry; the real colour is a deeper wine red.)

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I whipped out both sleeves super fast (no sleeve island for me this time!) and cast on for the body.  As you can see from the above photo, the body – back and fronts – are knit in one piece until being divided at the arm holes.  This makes the rows fairly long and slowed me up a bit, but I am still making very quick progress.  As of this morning, I have 9 inches of the body done.

Last weekend, I went into Loop in London and found the perfect buttons:

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I absolutely love these buttons!  I think they will be gorgeous on the finished piece.

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I am really moving fast with this sweater and hope to be wearing it in a few weeks.  I am also very happy to be making it from stash; no money spent on yarn this month! Hooray!

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Not spending money on yarn gave me more to spend on sewing lessons!  Yes, that’s right, I have decided to take the plunge and try to get into sewing again.  My plan is to take a dress-making course, but I decided to start with an afternoon intro to sewing class, just to get back in the swing of things.  (I was never a terrific seamstress, probably because my mom is a true expert, and it has been decades since I last did anything other than hand sewing.)

The class was great fun!  It is such a lovely way to spend an afternoon.  I took the class at Ray Stitch in Islington, London.  The instructor, Luisa, was both helpful and nice, and I had a great time with fellow classmates as we figured out sewing machines and made tote bags. (Of course, we all know that they are actually knitting bags, because what else would you need to tote?) Here we are with our totes: Louisa, Judi, Asia, me, and Alicia.

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Knitting is a comfort to me right now as the world reels from political craziness.  It helps keep me (relatively) sane.  My advice – find ways to make your voice heard, don’t watch the news before bedtime, and keep a project handy for when you need talking down from the ledge.

Sitting here in limbo

Sitting here in limbo
But I know it won’t be long
Sitting here in limbo
Like a bird without a song

– Jimmy Cliff

The girls left yesterday to move to Canada for university and I am officially an empty nester.  Instead of throwing a party, I am feeling rather sad.  As a matter of fact, the very thought of their imminent departure has had me in a state of both melancholy and crankiness all summer, and as a result I have not been getting much productive knitting done.  Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I interrupted my lovely Exeter jacket to knit a Haruni shawl, which I interrupted to knit a Neon cardigan, which I interrupted to make a Viajante shawl/poncho, which I interrupted to make an Enchanted Rock cardigan.  The only one I have managed to finish was the Neon.  I can’t seem to commit to any one project because I am melancholic and cranky in equal measures.  (Did I mention sad?  I am also sad.)

Over the weekend, I decided (rather foolishly) to continue in this interrupted vein to quickly knit a skirt for Emma in the few days before she hopped on the plane.  The skirt was very cute – Chevrolette by Antonia Price:

A_Price-2491_medium2I didn’t have the time to source out any yarn for it, however, and we ended up picking out something that didn’t quite work.  It was too tweedy and rough, it hurt my hands to knit with (thus not lending itself to a quick project) and my gauge was too big.  I knit like a mad woman on it for a day and a half before realizing it was a futile pursuit.  I really like the pattern, however, so I will search out some better yarn for it and make it later in the year.

Despite the fact that I have so many projects on the needles, I keep staring at my knitting basket, wanting to knit something but feeling unmotivated by everything.  Now that the girls are gone, I am thinking I need to get my knitting mojo back on track by knitting things that are deeply appealing to me now, even if it means putting some things aside, being selfish or being unproductive.

I realized this morning that I am not enamored of the Enchanted Rock cardigan at the moment.  I think it is the colour, which while it looks lovely in the photograph:

7785209580_ea4e1b6750_b_medium2really doesn’t suit me.  I have decided to put it aside for now.  Maybe when I am finished being cranky and out-of-sorts, it will once again appeal to me.  I am also putting away the Haruni shawl.  I am not liking the variegation in the yarn:

IMG_6234_medium2I have actually knit it up to the point where the lace pattern begins, so quite a bit more than this photo indicates.  I have realized that all of the Harunis which I like are very simple and plain, with no variegation in the colour.   I think that later I might continue with just a little ruffled border and then end up with a small shawl that I could wear more like a scarf.  Again, I am not in the mood for it now, so into the basket it goes.  I will not feel guilty about putting it aside, even if it is Wollmeise.

This leaves me with the Viajante and the Exeter.  I feel as if I keep knitting and knitting the Viajante but the ball of lace never seems to get any smaller.  It will be beautiful, however, and it is mindless knitting, so I will persevere.  Also, it is purple which is intrinsically pleasing, so it can stay.   Right now, however, I will pull out the Exeter jacket again, which I adore completely, and hopefully it will kickstart my knitting mojo.  For those of you who can’t remember, here is a photo of Exeter, which is designed by Michele Wang:

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I have both sleeves finished:

IMG_6356and about six inches of the back.  It is the type of knitting that takes concentration, and I haven’t been in the mood to concentrate on much of anything for a while, but maybe that is what I need right now to keep me distracted.  Besides, I can’t wait to wear this and envision snuggling up in it all winter.

If these two don’t push my buttons, I have some other projects simmering on the back burner.  I have wanted to knit the Maxfield Cardigan by Amy Christoffers for a long time now.  Here is a photo:

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I bought the yarn for this months ago. It is Skein Merino Silk Sport, which is 50% silk, 50% merino and 100% lucious:

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And if these aren’t enough to keep me happy, I am busy trying to find the perfect sweater to knit for Doug (my options will be the subject of a future post) and I am seriusly considering the Soumak Scarf Wrap from Rowan 54, designed by Lisa Richardson:

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In a change of subject, I would like to thank Vi (pronounced Vee) from Girl Meets Yarn who nominated me for a Word Press Family Award.  I hadn’t heard of Vi before, but I went and checked out her blog which is really cute.   It is hard not to like someone who not only knits and writes well, but plays the flute in a marching band!   Thanks, Vi!

And I thank all of you, dear readers, for putting up with my rather distracted and poorly crafted post today.  Hopefully I shall pull myself out of limbo soon, get some knitting done, and remember how to write.