Seams and buttons

Regular readers will recall that in October I was in a rush to knit the final sleeve of the Tinder cardigan.  This was so that I could wash and block all of the pieces before heading out to Tucson.  The cardigan is for my daughter Emma, who lives in Vancouver, and my other daughter Leah was planning a weekend in Tucson to visit me and her grandparents. My plan was to take all of the freshly blocked pieces of the cardigan (back, two fronts and sleeves) with me, and while there to do ALL of the finishing, so that Leah could take the cardigan back with her to Vancouver and give it to her sister.  I blogged about it here.


This plan failed.  I did manage to finish knitting the sleeve on time and get the blocking done (just barely).  However, the finishing kicked my butt.  There were a number of reasons for this.  First, I was enjoying spending time with my mom and going for walks, lazing by the pool, etc.  I didn’t want to be knitting like a maniac on my holiday.  (Yes, I know – that’s what holidays are for, you knitters are shouting at me!)  Second, this is a big cardigan.  It is tunic length and made of wool.  Tucson was having a record heat wave that week.  Sitting with a humongous pile of wool on my lap while I painstakingly sewed very long seams in mattress stitch somehow lost its appeal.  I mentioned both of these in my previous post.  There was an additional reason, however, which I have not yet shared: the seams looked terrible.

Let me be more specific.  The raglan seams turned out really good.  The instructions for the raglan edging were excellent, and the mattress stitch seams worked out perfectly. Here is a photo of my mom modelling the sweater so that you can see the shoulder and raglan seaming.  (Only one side of the garment was sewn together at this point.)


Likewise, the textured pattern stitch of the sweater was easy enough to use the mattress stitch on and the results are not too bad. A good blocking will sort it out.  (One thing I did change in the pattern was to move the decreases and increases farther out towards the side edges of the garments.  I couldn’t understand why they were set so far in.  Once I started seaming I could see the logic; if I were to knit this again, I would follow those instructions exactly.)


However, try as I might, I could not get the sleeve seams to look anything but sloppy.  I concentrated really hard and went very slowly, but they just never looked right. The sleeves are knit in reverse stockinette stitch, and for some reason, this makes it absurdly difficult to get a decent seam.  Having piles of hot wool on my lap and sweating in the record heat may have been worth it if the seams were perfect; but it really was a slog when I couldn’t get them right.  In the end, I gave up.  Here is a photo which shows the messy seam:


Just to be thorough, here is a close-up:


Aarrgghh!  It looks like a two-year old sewed this seam!  Oh the shame, the shame!

Christmas is soon to be here, and I will be heading to Vancouver in a few weeks.  It is past time to finish this cardigan, so I need to buckle down and get back to work on it.  I have been avoiding it however (and doing a bunch of secret Christmas knitting in the meantime) because of my frustration with the seaming.

Serendipity struck early this week as I was catching up on my blog reading and noticed that the fabulous Leah, of the Fashion: Yarn Style blog, just published a post about the difficulties of using mattress stitch on reverse stockinette.  Leah actually ripped out a reverse stockinette sweater, turned the pieces back to front, and re-seamed it on the stockinette side (thus producing a sweater with a totally different look) because she was so upset with the look of the seam.  You can read the post here.  What really struck me reading this post was the following passage:

“I kept redoing my mattress stitching in efforts to improve this terrible line, because the pattern explicitly called for using the mattress stitch! But no matter how many times I tweaked or pressed the seams, they looked terrible. A wonderful reader has now informed me that the correct way to seam reverse stocking stitch pieces together is to use slip-stitch crochet.”

Can you believe it?  Wow!  Ain’t blogging grand? Thanks to Leah, and her wonderful reader, I can see that the problem isn’t my lack of skill (or at least, not entirely) AND there is a solution to the problem: slip-stitch crochet.

So, dear readers, this leads me to dilemma number 1: should I rip out the sleeve seams and re-do them in slip stitch crochet?  Before answering, I beg you to notice that the seams are done in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, the break-iest yarn on the planet, the yarn that will break if you look at it.  Do I really want to rip that stuff out and try again? Should I give in to my inner perfectionist?  Does anyone ever notice the inside sleeve seam anyway?

Dilemma number 2 concerns buttons.  Just before going to Tucson, I raced to the store to try to purchase buttons.  I went to the John Lewis in Reading and was highly annoyed to discover that my first 6 or 7 choices in buttons were out of stock.  I finally, after much grumbling, picked out the only remaining possibility.


I initially rejected these buttons because I think they are a bit too too small (also, I was aiming for wooden buttons).  I decided to buy them anyway, just in case I wasn’t able to find a better match later on.  They have since grown on me quite a bit.  In fact, I really like them.  But I still worry that they will be too small.  The button bands will be knit in 2×2 ribbing, the same ribbing as the bottom bands against which they are photographed.  Here is a longer distance shot to give some perspective on the actual size:


(Note: now that I look at the pattern photo on Ravelry, here, I see that these buttons are the same size as in the pattern photos – 3/4″.  They still look small to me, however, compared to the ribbing.)

So, what do you think of dilemma number 2: should I keep these buttons or go back to square one and shop again?  It is Christmas time and I try to avoid the stores.  I hate crowds.  I like these buttons.  On the other hand, they were about my eighth choice.  I don’t remember the other buttons, but maybe they were much better.  On the other hand, they may still be out of stock: having a second such button-buying experience would lead to more than mere grumbling.  Add in the Christmas crowds, and I may just have a melt-down.

So, dear readers, what do you think?  Should I stick with these buttons or do I brave the shops?  And should I indulge my inner perfectionist and re-do the damn seams???? Inquiring minds want to know!

Not feeling the Shelter love

My current project is a cardigan for my daughter Emma, knit with Brooklyn Tweed’s worsted weight wool, Shelter.  This is one of those love-it or hate-it yarns; it seems to draw equal numbers of complaints and accolades.  At the moment, I can say, I am really not feeling the Shelter love.

First, however, a photo showing my progress, because Emma asked for one.


I have finished the back, which is knit in a textured pattern, and both sleeves, which are knit in reverse stockinette.  The pattern is Tinder, a design by Jared Flood.  The sleeves have quite a roll to them, which will block out, but which makes it hard to photograph.  (I draped some circular needles over the sleeves to try to cut down on the rolling for the photo.)

I think my problems really began when I started the sleeves.  I do not like the way Shelter feels on my hands while I knit; it feels rough and my fingers start feeling abraded.  It’s hard to describe exactly, but the yarn just doesn’t feel nice.  It feels soapy, and when I have been knitting with it for a while my hands feel dry and scratchy.  I knit the back really fast and was enjoying the fast progress.  The stitch pattern seemed to make the process more lively and I didn’t really notice that much discomfort.  Once I started the stockinette, however, the knitting seemed to drag.  The texture of the finished product isn’t pleasing. (Note to Emma; never fear, this will all be fixed by the blocking.  The finished project will be gorgeous, particularly when worn by you!)


I know for a fact that the yarn will soften considerably when washed and blocked and will become lofty and airy.  I know that it is lighter than almost any other worsted weight wool, so the finished sweater yard-for-yard, will weigh less.  I love the rich shades, the tweediness, the slubs of bright colours, and the rustic quality of the wool.  Most of all, I love the design aesthetic behind Brooklyn Tweed.  That said, I am really not enjoying knitting with this yarn.


I have knit once before with Shelter – but never finished the sweater.  This is a total shame because it is an absolutely gorgeous pattern, Exeter by Michelle Wang.


© Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed


I finished and blocked the back and both sleeves, and they are fantastic, but then I got annoyed with the fronts and put the unfinished project in a plastic box, where it has sat for the last 4 years.  Here is a photo of the blocked sleeves:


and another which shows the beautiful cables:


Why haven’t I finished it? Partly, I suppose, because I have gained weight since I started this project, and partly because the fronts are really fiddly and I can’t find the enthusiasm to finish.  But maybe, subconsciously, the lack of Shelter love has contributed to this project languishing for so long.

Interestingly I have knit two projects from Brooklyn Tweed’s fingering weight wool, Loft, which shares a lot of the properties of Shelter.  These are my Carpino sweater, designed by Carol Feller (blogged here):


and my Escher cardigan, designed by Alexis Winslow, which I have blogged about extensively (here is a link to the Escher posts):


For some reason I find the feel of this yarn less annoying in a fingering weight than in a worsted.

I do think that blocking will work wonders with this wool and that the finished cardigan will be cool.  Perhaps that experience will make me weigh up Shelter and find it worth the effort.  There are a lot of Brooklyn Tweed designs calling my name.  Jared has brought some fabulous designers on board and I love so many of the things they are creating.   I must admit, however, that the next time I knit a BT design, I am likely to substitute the wool.

Variations on a theme

The Tinder cardigan which I am making for Emma uses what Brooklyn Tweed call a classic waffle stitch.  Here is a photo:


I have also found this stitch pattern in the Vogue Knitting Stitchionary, Volume 1; here it is called “garter ridge rib” and is stitch pattern #8.   I recently bought some beautiful fingering weight Woolfolk Tynd yarn to make a cowl for Doug.  While working on Tinder, I was also fooling around swatching many different stitch patterns for the cowl.  After 4 or 5 distinct patterns which didn’t do anything for me, I decided to swatch in the garter ridge rib.  Success!

variations on a theme front

So now, I am working variations on a theme.  When I get tired of knitting the garter ridge rib back and forth in Brooklyn Tweed’s worsted weight, tweedy Shelter on US8 needles, I switch to knitting it in the round with Woolfolk Tynd’s smooth, oh-so-soft, fine fingering weight wool on US4 needles.  (I had to adopt the pattern to knit in the round -very easily done.)  One of the things that makes this pattern work so well for a cowl, is that the reverse side looks good too:

variations on a theme back

This is a rather drive-by post, as I am flying to Johannesburg today.  I am taking both sets of knitting with me, so should hopefully be working my variations on a theme from 40,000 feet!


Appeasing your inner perfectionist

I have been working on my Exeter jacket again, after taking time off to knit Livvy.  I finished the sleeves, and washed and blocked them:

IMG_6356The yarn, Shelter from Brooklyn Tweed, undergoes an amazing transformation when it is washed.  I cannot believe how light and airy these sleeves are.  The Shelter feels much rougher and chunkier when knitting.  As soon as I took it out of the water, it seemed to have halved in weight (even while wet).  It is astonishing.  Exeter has a very interesting cable pattern, that combines cables and lace.  Here is a close-up of the cable on the sleeve:


The cable has a 16 row repeat.  It is not one of those patterns that is instantly memorizable, so you have to pay attention.  For anyone who is planning on knitting this, I have two tips, which will make it easier to navigate the cable.

  1. On the reverse rows (the even rows), you knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches.  The yarn overs are always knit except on pattern Row 6, where they are purled.  As long as you pay attention to the yarn overs on Row 6, the reverse rows are straightforward and need no concentration.
  2. The set-up row at the beginning of the patterning establishes some stitches as knit stitches and some as purl stitches.  While you are cabling, you are crossing stitches in front and behind of other stitches, but it is always the case that knit stitches will be knit and purl stitches will be purled, except on rows 3 and 7. On row 3, a knit stitch becomes a purl when it is is cabled (twice), and on row 7, a purl stitch becomes a knit (also twice).

I really love this.   I especially love the way it looks on the back of the jacket, where there are four columns of cables.   I have only knit a repeat and a bit of the cables on the back, but you can get an idea of how great it looks with the four cable repeatsIMG_6342Here is a closup of the above photo.

IMG_6344Now, dear readers, look carefully at the photo above.  Can you see that I have made a mistake in the cabling?  In the interest of truth in blogging, I will help you out:

mistake detailedOn the left, is the properly executed cable.  On the right, there is a mistake.  I should have a column of two knit stitches travelling to the left, but for three rows, I have purled one of the stitches instead of knitting it.  This is the kind of mistake that is very hard to catch, in fact, one could easily wear the sweater for years before noticing it.  Once you know it is there, however, you see it every single time you look at the sweater, as if it is outlined in purple.  In fact, there is an infamous cover of Vogue Knitting magazine, from a dozen years ago, in which the sweater on the cover has a cable mistake.  I looked at the cover many times without noticing it, but once brought to my attention, it is glaringly obvious.

Now this is where we knitters have differing levels of tolerance.  Some knitters will blithely ignore mistakes.  They may fall into the school of thought whereby “mistakes” are charming proofs that the sweater is hand-made.  (The fallacy of this is that machine-made knits are so shoddy these days, that mistakes are rampant.)  Another group of knitters are fanatically anal-compulsive, and will rip out miles of knitting in order to correct any mistake, no matter how small or insignificant.  This school of thought follows the “I will know even if no one else does, and it will forever make me unhappy” principle.  I think the latter camp sometimes revel in their knitting masochism.  I try very hard to fall into the middle.  The sad truth is, I do a lot of frogging because I want things to be just right.  However, I think it is sometimes important to ignore your inner perfectionist.  Or at the very least, learn how to fudge.  Behold!

First, I thread a tapestry needle with a small length of yarn:IMG_6348

Then I insert the needle at the bottom of the mistake, where I  purled instead of knit, and I pull the yarn through.


Then I make a loop, and pull the yarn through the loop, as in the below photo.  This will have the effect of embroidering a knit stitch on top of the purl.


When the yarn is pulled tight, we see a knit stitch, exactly where it should be.


I then repeat twice more:

IMG_6354By the way, what I have done here, is basically the same as what is called duplicate stitch.  However, duplicate stitch is done with a different colour of yarn, and the embroidered knit stitches are put directly on top of knit stitches; this allows you to insert small areas of colour without having to knit them in with intarsia. So you see, a good bag of tricks is a knitter’s best friend.

Here is the final product:


Perfect!  No one will ever know.  And I didn’t have to rip.  I won’t tell if you won’t.

The almost-finished versus the barely-started

Here we have the almost-finished:

IMG_6086This is the February Scarf, designed by Beth Weaver, that I am knitting for Leah.  I made Leah pose for this just as she got off the bus from a week-long ski trip to the Italian Alps.  Literally.  She hadn’t even walked in the door yet.  Not only had she just spent a week skiing all day long every day, but then she had stayed up all night, on a bus, with 50 other girls and a bunch of teachers driving from Italy to the UK.  (That’s right – they don’t fly them to Italy; they take a bus.)  So, this photo is designed only to show off the length of this almost-finished project and not to be a particularly stylish photo of either scarf or daughter.

Since the Scarf isn’t blocked yet, it is hard to see how lovely it is from the above photo, so here is a close-up so you can see how great it’s going to look:

IMG_6099I have about 8 inches or so left to knit and then I am done.  As you can see, it is pretty long, and will be even more so when it’s been blocked.  The funny thing is, the pattern is written for 6 skeins of Quince & Co Osprey wool.  I am knitting it with just 5 skeins, so you can imagine how long it is supposed to be.  I think 5 skeins is plenty long enough.

So, that is the almost-finished.  Here is the barely-started:


Oh, be still my heart! Isn’t it beautiful! This is the beginning of a sleeve of the Exeter jacket, designed by Michele Wang, in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter.

So, which one do you think I want to be knitting today?  The almost-finished, with at most 3 hours of knitting remaining:

IMG_6099Or the barely-started, with about 3,729 hours of knitting remaining?


We knitters are so fickle.

A smidgeon of knitting

A smidgeon of knitting.  It has a ring to it.  Perhaps like an unkindness of ravens?  A murmuration of starlings? A bevy of beauties?  An absence of waiters?  A prey of lawyers?  Perhaps not.  But when I think of this month, I definitely come up with a smidgeon of knitting.  The rest of the knitting world seems to be on fire this month, but I am moving at a snail’s pace.

IMG_5936I have managed to finish the sleeves on Emma’s Venetian Audrey.  The sleeves are endless tubes of ribbing knit on DPNs.   I hate knitting sleeves.  I especially hate knitting sleeves in the round.  And I especially, especially hate knitting the second sleeve.  These sleeves also seem extra long, but before she left Emma said “Make sure you make the sleeves long enough.  The sleeves on your Audrey are inches too short on me.”  Here is a shot showing the pieces of Emma’s Audrey on top of my finished Audrey.

IMG_5943It looks impossibly skinny but you have to remember that mine has been blocked and washed and worn countless times and the ribs have relaxed.  Notice, Emma, the sleeves are really long.  Promise.  We had a hard time getting the colours to look right with the lighting today.  Here is a better shot:

IMG_5941Why is there a bowl of chili peppers in my knitting shot?  Because they are pretty, that’s why!  See?

IMG_5938While I am busy writing this post, Doug is in the kitchen whipping up a batch of Thai green curry paste, using these lovely chillies.  We will have butternut squash and eggplant curry for dinner (following this recipe more or less; try it – it’s great).  We are using the last of the lime leaves and curry leaves and black peppercorns that Doug brought back from his last trip to Malaysia. Luckily, he is going again this week and can refill our larder.

In addition to the endless sleeve knitting, I have also managed a bit of scarf knitting on my February scarf.

IMG_5928This is fun to knit and the Quince & Co Osprey is perfect, soft and wooly.  It is going to make a lovely scarf.  Hopefully, I willl manage to finish it while there is still cold weather to wear it in.

IMG_5929The scarf may have to compete for my affections, however.  Look what I just received in the mail:


Yes, dear readers, this is a great, giant bowl filled with Shelter yarn from Brooklyn Tweed. (A meringue of Shelter?  A cauldron of Shelter?  A shedload of Shelter?) Fourteen fabulous skeins of Shelter in the colour ‘fossil’.  I have never used Shelter before, but have finally been coerced into buying it, by the unbelievably beautiful designs that Jared and his team of great designers keep turning out.

What do I plan to knit with this?  The Exeter Jacket, designed by Michelle Wang for Brooklyn Tweed Spring Thaw:

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

This is a completely gorgeous double-breasted cabled jacket, but you cannot appreciate it until you see the back:

copyright Jared Flood/ Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/ Brooklyn Tweed

Be still my heart!  As you can see, I will have to get a move on and turn my smidgeon  into a banquet of knitting.