A Nua project on my needles

Last August, I bought seven skeins of Carol Feller’s new yarn, Nua.  I didn’t have a project in mind, but was curious about the yarn, mostly because of its interesting composition: it is 60% merino wool, 20% yak, and 20% linen.  It is also sportweight, a weight which I really enjoy knitting with.  This is the shade called Unexpected Macaw:

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The wool, yak, and linen fibres take up the dye differently, which gives an interesting richness to the yarn.  This particular shade reminds me of well-worn denim.  There is a very natural, rough kind of look to it, likely from the linen, but it is incredibly soft, which I imagine is from the yak fibre.

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I have been keeping my eye out for a pattern to use with this yarn.  And then, last week, this one popped up in my pattern feed:

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© Interweave / George Boe

This is the Sunbird Top by Quenna Lee, published by Interweave Press.  (A note to Ravellers: you can’t buy this pattern from Ravelry; you need to go to the Interweave site, set up an account and purchase a download. This means that you can’t store it in your Ravelry library.)  I thought it would be lovely in the Nua.  Here you can see the top back of the tee:

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I was a bit worried about whether the knit-purl stitch pattern would show up in the Nua; it would certainly be crisper in a plump cotton yarn.  However, I find the resulting fabric very pretty and subtle.  The Nua feels lovely and I think it will result in a very breathable, soft fabric that feels great on the skin.  Here is my progress as of this morning:

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For the first week of spring, it is feeling decidedly un-springlike here.  Having a sweet little tee on my needles is a good antidote and, hopefully, a precursor of beautiful weather to come.

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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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© 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:

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and another which shows the beautiful cables:

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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):

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

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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.

I seem to be stuck in a purple theme

I finished knitting my Carpino sweater weeks ago.  After doing all of the finishing and trying it on, I decided it was too short, so I ripped out the ribbing, and re-knit it a few inches longer.  With my busy schedule, that took a while.  Then, it took an entire week to get some photos of it.  So, here, a little delayed but better late than never, is the finished project:

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This is my first time knitting with Brooklyn Tweed Loft.  I must say the yarn is not what I expected.  The knitted fabric is very fleece-like; it really has the feel of a sweatshirt.  I am not sure what I think about this – after all, if you wanted to wear a sweatshirt then why knit a sweater?  On the other hand, I’ve only been wearing it a week so I would still like to reserve judgement.  There is no denying that the colours of Loft, like its sister worsted yarn, Shelter, are rich and tweedy and lovely.  I wish I had used one of the lighter colours to knit this as the lovely lacey pattern on the front is somewhat obscured in this dark purple.  I tried wearing it with a white tank underneath so that the lace would show up, but it wasn’t the most successful of styles:

1-IMG_8626 Still, it is a nice photo of the shape of the sweater.  If I were to knit this again, I would use a different yarn and a much paler colour (I keep imagining it in a silk blend in a very pale blue or pearl grey).

The pattern is Carpino, and is designed by Carol Feller of Stolen Stitches.  I really like Carol’s designs, and as this is the third one I’ve knit, I knew that the fit would be good and the pattern would be clear.  I was not disappointed.  Except for making it longer and using my normal bindoff (rather than the super stretchy one she recommends) I made no changes to this at all.  It’s knit exactly to pattern.  It is an extremely well-written and intuitive pattern and quite a fun knit.   I have at least two other Carol Feller sweaters on my short list, so its unlikely to be my last.

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I realize that my last three projects have all been purple.  I seem to be stuck in a purple theme here.  In a complete and total change of subject, for some reason this reminded me of the purple man, a character from my childhood.  When I was in junior high school, my dad lived in Manhatten, just off Central Park West, and my sisters and I used to visit him on the weekends.  One of the neighborhood characters was a man who was always dressed entirely in purple – purple coat, vest, shirt, trousers, socks, shoes, hat, tie.  He even rode a purple bicycle.  We would see him frequently and to us he was a beloved part of New York – like the pickle man on the lower East Side.  Once, after many years of seeing the purple man on his own, we were out walking with Daddy and came across the purple man walking hand-in-hand with a purple woman, also dressed head-to-toe in purple.  It was a magical moment, one in which I really thought that there was someone special out there for everyone.

4-IMG_8640Doug took the above photo in our back garden, just as the light was going, late in the evening.  I think its kind of pretty.   In fact, Doug took 171 photos of me in this sweater, so that I could find a few good ones to show you.  I’ve put on weight since I started knitting it (business school should come with a warning label – “Business school makes you fat!”).  There were photos that looked like this:

2-IMG_8627And photos that looked like this:

3-IMG_8641And there were about 150 photos that vanity won’t allow me to publish.

I submitted a big paper this week for b-school, so tonight I am on holiday.  I have poured a glass of wine and plan to pick up my needles and knit something not-purple.

 

When you are on your own, there’s no one to hold the yarn

I have been on my own for three weeks.  Regulars to this blog will know that both my kids are half way across the world in Vancouver at university.  My husband Doug has been in Malaysia for three weeks on business.  I realized the other day that we are equally dispersed around the world in terms of time zones – the girls are currently 8 hours behind me, I am 8 hours behind Doug and he is 8 hours behind the girls.  This makes for difficulties in communication.

But I am here to tell you, communication be damned – this makes for difficulties in knitting!  I am, despite a super busy schedule, knitting away on the ultra-cute Carpino designed by Carol Feller.  I just now bound off the ribbing on the body:

1-IMG_8203I have discovered that there are two major problems with knitting (and knit blogging) while on your own.  First, there is no one to hold the yarn.  Yes, I know that many knitters wind yarn on their own with the use of a swift.  I, however, don’t have one and have always relied on the method of bullying some poor family member into sitting with their hands up in the air while I wind skeins into balls.  (Leah even has a special music mix saved for listening to while immersed in this task.)  I suppose it is time to invest in a swift.  (I must point out, however, that the yarn used for Carpino, Loft by Brookln Tweed, is a very fragile, breakable yarn and I prefer to wind this one the old fashioned way.)

4-IMG_8209The second problem is that there is no one to take any modelled photographs.  I have no proof to offer you, but this baby fits great!  I have made absolutely no modifications to the pattern – none, nada, zip – and the fit is perfect.  I can’t show you, however, because I can’t both wear it and photograph it.  (But what, you may ask, about the now-standard selfie taken in front of the bathroom mirror?  No, no and no.  For reasons why not, please see this delightful post on how not to photograph your knitting written by Emma, my daughter and partner-in-crime.)

There is also the related problem that among the family members, all of whom are frequently called upon to be blog photographer, I am probably the least skilled in this arena.  Thus the top photo, which as you see, has a shadow falling across the sweater.  Sorry, Emma, I know this is not up to your standards!

6-IMG_8211One of the very cute features of this sweater is that the front is knit in a tiny lace stitch and the rest is knit in stockinette.  Above is a photo of the side ‘seam’  (of course there is no actual seam as it is knit in the round).  Isn’t it lovely?  It is such a cute pattern and so easy and intuitive to knit.  I also love the flecks of colour in the Loft. This purple-y colour is called Plume and it has lovely flecks of reds and blues.

Now, all I have left is the sleeves and some very minimal finishing at the neckline.  First, however, I need to wind another skein.  My plan is to drape it over my knees and wind it by hand.  Having done this before in times of emergency, I can tell you that it involves a fair amount of contortion and looks rather silly.  Good thing there’s no one around to take a photo!

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Comfort knitting

Life has been busy.  I wrote my first paper for b-school last week, and my reading list has gone through the roof.  I needed a simple project to knit – something peaceful, something easy.  I was not only looking for comfort knitting; I was looking for comfort.  I wanted to knit a sweater for myself that would be easy to wear, something to throw on with my jeans while I was busy studying.  I didn’t want much shaping.  I also wanted a pattern that I could be absolutely sure of – no fiddling, no reinterpretations, no maths, no mods.  Something that I knew would fit perfectly just as it was written.  In short, I wanted something by Carol Feller.

Last year, I knit only four sweaters.  The year before I knit eight, and two were designed by Carol Feller.  Those were my Killybegs cardigan:

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and my Ravi:

IMG_5469What I needed to fill my comfort knitting craving was another helping of something Carol.  This something:

Carpino_1_medium2This is Carpino, designed by Carol Feller for Brooklyn Tweed and published in Wool People 6.  It is knit with BT Loft, a yarn that I had wanted to try for a while (it’s basically a fingering weight version of Shelter).  I ordered the yarn on a complete whim (from my favorite, Loop, in London) and it arrived the very next day!  Doug was in Denmark and the girls are both in Canada, so I had to shanghai a co-worker during our lunch hour to help me wind a ball.  Despite the paper I was busily researching and writing (or maybe because of it) I cast on immediately.

Today is a lovely, lazy Saturday.  The paper is submitted, Doug is back home and the sun is shining (at long last!).  I have finished the yoke, divided off the sleeves, and started knitting the body, so I was able to try the sweater on for size:

2-IMG_8195And what do you know?  The fit is perfect.   No fuss, straight-up comfort knitting.  The only uncomfortable thing about this was standing in the wind in the cold (4 degrees today) in a tank top and trying not to shiver while Doug took these photos.

3-IMG_8185The photo above shows the beautiful shaping of the shoulder. It also picks up the flecks of colour in the yarn – see the reds and blues?  Boy, do I love tweed!  (There is definitely some rolling going on at the back neck, which I hope a good block will fix, because I really like the I-cord edging on the pattern, and don’t want to put in ribbing to control this.)  Rarely does a sweater fit just right at this point and I often find myself ripping back to before the division and recalculating things.  Even the fit across the back is good:

5-IMG_8187This yarn is one that knitters either love or hate.  So far, I seem to be in the “love” camp.  The yarn is very fine and breakable and I think some knitting styles must “pull” at the yarn too much causing it to snap.  I haven’t had any trouble and find it amazingly soft and pretty.  I will need to wash and wear it a bit before I can make a true judgement, but so far so good.

The pattern comes with some comments from Carol.   She says

“I love the casual nature of sweatshirts but I wanted to add just a little more interest.  The addition of a honeycomb lace panel at the front and delicate shoulder shaping makes this a very distinctive knitted sweatshirt.”

Yes, that’s just what I was looking for – comfort knitting at it best.

Ravi means “sun”

I finished knitting my Ravi cardigan a week ago, but haven’t been able to post it before now.  This is due to (1) not being able to find my bottle of wool wash, even though it was right where it was supposed to be and I looked there twenty times, and (2) not being able to take any photos because it is cold, grey, wet and drizzly.  Did you know Ravi means “sun”?  Regardless of it’s name, my Ravi has no power over the weather. Today, in total frustration, we ran out during a short break in the rain to take a few photos.  Doug kindly stood out in the cold and damp, even though he was feverish.

I reported previously that I was having issues with the back hem of this pullover.  It has a curve which is formed with short rows.  On my un-blocked piece, there was an unattractive bulge produced by the shaping.  I hoped that this would block out.  I was also debating about whether or not to put in buttons, and pointed out that on many of the Ravi sweaters I had seen, the buttons gaped.  I published that post late in the evening and when I woke up in the morning I had a note from Carol Feller (Ravi’s designer) in my Ravelry mailbox.  I thought I would repeat it here in it’s entirety because she made some very good points.

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Sent at 10:04 PM October 14, 2012

“Saw your blog post but was having trouble sending comment, so thought I’d do it here!

I’ve got a suggestion for you on the hem, put the sts on waste yarn and give the short row hem a good steam or spray blocking. If you like it then leave it in. Take care to work the I cord bind off loosely (possibly even bigger needles) to ensure it doesn’t pull the edge in.
Buttonband wise, you are in control of button spacing and the weight of the buttons. Gaping is usually due to knitters using negative ease in their cardigan.”

Isn’t that cool?  What a great idea for the back hem.  Basically, it allows you to partially block your sweater and then make crucial design decisions before doing the finishing.  I don’t know why this never occurred to me.  In the end, however, I didn’t try it.  I decided that all of the knitters who had finished their Ravis couldn’t be wrong, and that it would block flat.  They were right, by the way:

As to the buttons, Carol is absolutely right: each knitter has control of the weight of the buttons and also the spacing, but there were some mitifying factors at play here.  First, the buttons had to be big enough that the I-cord could loop around them (the I-cord acts as the button loop); since the I-cord is rather thick this leaves out really small buttons.  Second, the placement of the buttons is affected by the lace panel in the yoke.  Both of these issues could easily be solved.  However, in my case, the third is the killer:  As you can see from the photos, I knit this sweater with a good deal of negative ease.

(Note to Emma: yes, I did run out and take these photos without stying my hair and doing my makeup.  Furthermore, I am not even smiling.  Trust me, I looked worse in the other photos.)  See the rather wide gap between the two sides of the front?  This is what is meant by negative ease – the width of the cardigan is less than the width of my body.  In a pullover, if the fabric is sufficiently stretchy, this gives you shapeliness and va-va-voom.  In a cardigan, it gives you buttons that gape.  Why so much negative ease?  Well, partly it is because I knew that garter stitch knit at this gauge would have a tendency to stretch.  Mostly, however, it is because I gained ten pounds over the summer and I decided to be optimistic in planning this sweater.  Easy  on, easy off, no?

Now, that we’ve noted the negative ease, look back at the above photo.  Can you see how absolutely gorgeous the finishing is on the front edges of the cardigan?  The attached I-cord is so elegant, the line so beautiful…..this is the real reason to forego the buttons.  I think the edge looks perfect just as it is.  I don’t want any buttons cluttering it up.

Now that I’ve finished knitting two great Carol Feller sweaters in a row (both of them for me!), I can heartily recommend her designs.  They are intelligently written, witty, architecturally interesting and fun to knit.  Next up – a sweater for Leah based on a medieval jewelry design.

Ravi revived

Some of you may be wondering what happened to Ravi.  I was knitting away on it fairly steadily throughout August, and since then it has done a disappearing act.  The truth is that Ravi and I have had a number of disagreements.  I need to solve them before I can finish.  These disagreements revolve around three design features.

First, I had major issues with the sleeves.  I think I’ve worked them out now, as you can see from the above photo, but it was touch and go for awhile.  First, Ravi is designed with three-quarter length sleeves and I couldn’t decide whether to keep them that length or do full sleeves.  I finally decided on the full sleeves and I think it was a pretty good decision.  I like them.  I think the I-cord edging and the fact that they do not come down to a ribbed cuff as many sweaters do, gives my Ravi the appearance of a jacket.  Kind of chic.  That was only one isse I had with the sleeves, however, and not the primary one.

I hated knitting these sleeves in the round.  I always hate knitting sleeves in the round, even though it is all the rage these days.  I don’t see what the problem is with seams.  Knitting the sleeves in the round when the body of the cardigan is knit back and forth leads to its own set of problems, since the gauge doesn’t match.  In addition, knitting garter stitch in the round is not fun (since you have to alternate knit and purl rows even while turning out garter).  And I found that I could not knit it, no matter how I tried or what method I used, without creating “ladders” or “ridges” running down the sleeves.  You can clearly see one in the above photo, running from the elbow to the cuff on my left sleeve.  I am hoping that with a little luck I can block these out.

By the way, once I had almost finished the second sleeve, I decided to check the archives of the Ravi KAL on Ravelry to see what other knitters had to say about the sleeves.  I mentioned in a previous post that I didn’t really follow the KAL, in part because there was so much posted, in part probably pure obstinance.  I was dismayed to discover that many knitters, frustrated with knitting the sleeves in the round, ripped back and knit them flat and seamed them.  Argh!  Why didn’t I do that?  It would have taken me a third of the time and saved tons of aggravation.  Maybe I should have followed the KAL more diligently.  You think?

Annoying design feature number two has to do with the short row shaped back hem.  Here is how it looks on the pattern, as designed and modelled by Carol Feller (taken from her blog, Stolen Stitches):

Here is how it looks at the moment on my Ravi:

See that horrible bulge?  (Some of this bulge is just from the stitches still sitting “live” on the needle at the bottom, which pulls them in a bit.  But some of the bulge is caused by the short row shaping, and it looks terrible.)  Now, once again I searched the Ravi KAL posts, and according to them, many knitters had this problem and they all claim that it blocks out with a good wet block and steam.  Carol Feller agrees, and there are photos to prove it.  Many of them.  Still, I find myself torn between doing all of the finishing on the cardigan and then discovering that the bulge won’t block out and having to rip it all out, or just biting the bullet and ripping it out now and leaving out this feature all together.  In the latter scenario, I would just have a straight hem at the bottom.  The photo below shows both how great the sleeves look at this bracelet length, and how awful the bulge at the back hem looks.

I go back and forth every day about whether to rip this or not.  I think I have probably decided to trust my fellow knitters  and block it out.  It certainly looks great in Carol’s Ravi, and she didn’t steer me wrong with Killybegs, which was an excellent design.

This leads to the third issue and the one that really has me stumped: the buttons, buttonholes, and I-cord edging.  The design calls for an attached I-cord edge that goes all the way down the fronts and around the bottom.  The I-cord looks supremely elegant and gives a very tailored edge to the cardigan. The buttonholes are knit into the I-cord as loops.  I have looked at all the Ravi photos and have found that I really am not happy with the buttons.  On some sweaters they gape, which really detracts from what should be an elegant edge.  On others, the spacing is wrong (and this is hard to fix, because of the lace panel, which leads you to make certain judgements about placement).  On many, the buttons are too heavy and pull down the fabric of the cardigan on one side, making the whole sweater lop-sided.  Some Ravis exhibit all three of these problems.

I have at least five options: (1) Stop fretting, and just follow the pattern.  (2) Knit a button band.  This would entail picking up stitches down both fronts and along the bottom, and knitting a band in garter, complete with button holes. (3) Put in a zipper.  This may be a good option but a slightly scary one as I have never done this before. (4) Use hooks and eyes to make an invisible closure.  (5) Don’t make any closure. Knit the I-cord edging and then wear it open or use a pin to close it.   Not a day goes by when I don’t change my mind about which option to use.  Today I’ve changed it twice….