I finished knitting Hatcher a few weeks ago, and given the cold and overcast weather we have been experiencing, I’ve had lots of opportunities to wear it.

Hatcher (Ravelry link) was designed by Julie Hoover. I have long wanted to knit one of her patterns; this one has been in my queue since the pattern was released nearly four years ago. It is a very wearable, comfortable, and smart pullover.

I like her easy-going style and I like her attention to small details. Take for example, the double decreases (using a technique I had not seen before), used at the armscythes and sleeves, which provide for an excellent fit and beautiful full-fashioned tailoring.

The folded over neckline is also brilliant; it really makes a difference to the finished tee:

I knitted this using Kettle Yarn Beyul DK, a blend of Baby Yak, SIlk and Merino. It is luxurious, with a brilliant sheen and a soft feel reminiscent of cashmere. I enjoyed knitting with this yarn immensely. However, I am very worried about the potential to pill. A Raveler alerted me to her experience with the yarn (“very pilly”), and having worn this a few times, I am afraid it might be true. I will withhold judgement until it gets more wear and report back to you.

The real draw of the pullover is the cabling, which has perfect dimensions and really sets off both front and back:

I highly recommend this pattern; it is a quick knit, and very well-designed. I had some troubles getting the neckline to hit at the right spot of the cable pattern (detailed in this post), but I think the problems were more a result of my slightly-off row gauge, than any problems with the pattern.

I look at these photos and all I can think is “Yikes! Covid hair”! Here is the Covid mask to go with it:

I am really struggling with this new WordPress editor. This and being in a bit of a funk means I have been posting less. But never fear, I am knitting away as always.

How many times can you re-knit a neckline?

Question: How many times can you re-knit a neckline?

Knitter: Is that a rhetorical question?

I had been chugging along on my Hatcher pullover when I hit some neckline issues.  Here is the pattern photo:

hatcher pattern photo

© Julie Hoover

You can see that, in order to get the best visual appeal to the cable pattern, you need to bind off for the neckline at the proper point, preferably halfway through the diamond motif that occurs where the cables cross.

The sweater is knit from the bottom up in the round, and then stitches are bound off for the armholes and the back and front are finished separately, knitting back and forth.  I completed the back and was working on the front.  For my size, I was supposed to bind off for the neckline 5.5 inches above the armhole bind-off row.  That would mean that there was sufficient slope for the front of the neck.

Unfortunately, when I reach 5.5 inches, I had only made the first cross of the pattern.  In other  words, the pattern going up the middle looked like columns of ribbing at that point, with the centre two columns just barely crossing.  Nonetheless, I bound off there, and continued up the sides of the neck, and let me tell you, it looked stupid! (Unfortunately, no photographic evidence remains of this attempt.)  It was clear to me that I had two approaches I could take.

  1. Rip out both back and front down to before the separation at the armhole, knit another 6-8 rows so that I can be at the right point in the pattern when it is time to bind off the neck line.  (Smart knitters will note that this approach would have been facilitated by doing the appropriate measuring before I separated the front and back.)  This would also make the sweater longer, and it is already fairly long.
  2. Rip out the few rows on the front down to just before the bind-off for the neck, and then knit a few more rows in pattern.  This will mean significantly less ripping, but will also mean that the neckline will be raised by however many rows I need to add.  I was worried about the front neckline being raised far too high.  I also didn’t want to then compensate by raising the back, as that would make the armscythe too deep.

I went for the second method (surprise, surprise!) and knitted more rows of the pattern, enough so that there was another set of crossed cables, but the outside cable columns had still not crossed.  I took a photo this time:


You can see that it still looks too early.  If I had put the neckline ribbing in there, the pattern wouldn’t look finished: it would lose the strong architecture and symmetry that makes this pullover so striking.  So, I ripped it out and put in four more rows, enough so that the outside set of cables had crossed.


I think that this is a pretty good position for the cable pattern at the neckline. However, it now means that the neckline is considerably higher, which means that I had to re-think all of the shapings at the side of the neck, because the slope of that curve is now significantly shorter.  I will not tell you how many rows I ended up pulling out and re-knitting in order to get something that looks as if it might work.  (Hint: it was a lot.) Here is where it stands now:


It still looks to me as if there is not enough depth to the front neckline (especially once the ribbing gets added).  I won’t truly know if it will look right until I get it blocked and put the neckline ribbing in and try it on.

Yesterday I whipped out a sleeve:


I knitted this sleeve while watching Groundhog Day on TV for the umpteenth time.  This film seems to have taken on new meaning since the pandemic and self-isolation.  I regret that I have not learned to play jazz piano in this interim (nor made myself into a nicer person, although hopefully I had a head start on Phil).

Keep safe everyone, in this topsy-turvy world.

Hanging on

I hadn’t intended to stop my Lockdown Flashback posts so suddenly, or to skip last weekend’s post.  I have been drowning in work, however, and everything else has taken a back seat.  I was supposed to be in Johannesburg the past two weeks, but since that is obviously not possible, I did all of my South African teaching while sitting in my study here in England.

News flash, Emma: Eight years after you left home, I have now taken over your room!  It’s my study now! I spent a month teaching from the kitchen table while Doug taught from the study.  It wasn’t working, and now we are teaching from adjacent studies.  Sometimes while I am in a meeting, I can hear Doug teaching about electrencephalography from the next room.  I’m thankful that we have enough space to do this.  I have one colleague – with small children – who zooms into meetings from her bathroom as it’s the only peaceful place in her house.

Along with not writing the blog, I was also not knitting, not reading, not house cleaning, and not doing anything else.  Thankfully, Doug is a good cook, and he’s been taking care of me.  I can show you a bit of progress I’ve made on my Hatcher pullover since I last photographed it.  I started off with a bang on this one, and I do think it would knit up in no time, if I had time to knit.  It is a very enjoyable project, with beautifully written instructions.  Here is the back, which only has about an inch to go before I do the shoulder shaping:


The pullover is knitted in the round up until you separate for the front and back, and then it is knitted back and forth.  Here you can see the front:


I love the yarn (Kettle Yarn Beyul DK in Yurt) which is a mix of wool, yak, and silk, and had fantastic weight and depth and sheen.  It really takes the cables beautifully.  I am definitely going to use it again.

Doug and I have been socially isolated for over two months now.  We are extremely fortunate – we are both still working, we live near open countryside, and so far, we are both healthy.  The girls are well, too, although I wonder when we might be all together again.  I can’t help but feel, however, that if one were to believe much of the narrative on the news and social media, that everyone is busy knitting up a storm, quilting, canning and preserving, refinishing furniture, painting the house, reading the works of Shakespeare, podcasting, learning to speak twelve languages, writing and directing a new cinematic masterpiece starring their children and filmed on their phone, magically gaining new editing skills on forty different platforms, and still having time to wash their hair and put on lipstick.

I find that this narrative of the lockdown is getting me down. (Not to mention the pandemic itself, which is very scary.)  I feel like I’m just hanging on, and working hard.  And all of my colleagues are reporting the same, so I know its not just me.  Rumour has it that we are going to be working from home until at least next January, possible next Easter, so maybe there is still time for me to write a great novel, or perhaps just to clean my house.

I hope that you are all keeping safe and well.  If you are knitting up a storm, please let me know and I will live vicariously!

Experiments with colour and texture

I am trying to do a bit of experimenting with my knitting while in lockdown – exploring colour and texture. I am working on three projects now – that might be a record for me in recent years. Each of them is very different from the others and explores either texture, colour, or both in interesting ways. To support getting these projects off the ground, I’ve been knitting swatches.


When I look at this photo, I have the song from Sesame Street running through my head (“One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong; can you guess which thing is not like the others, before I finish my song?”)  Depending on how your brain works, you probably would pick either the top right swatch (no colourwork) or the bottom middle swatch (sharp, bright colours instead of muted neutrals).  But each project is exploring texture or colour or both.  The swatch on the top right might look as if it doesn’t belong to this set, but the project – a pullover, Hatcher – has a strong cabled detail running up front and back.  Here is a photo of it in progress:


I think these cables look fabulous in this yarn – very precise and architectural but also with a beautiful flow to them. This pattern needs a uniform colour – if it was made with a variegated yarn the cables would lose their strength and integrity.

The swatch for the shawl, Koko, really stands out in the swatch photo; not only does it have a 3D texture but I am using a very bright, sharp, nautical colour scheme. If you are going to knit this, you must resign yourself to the fact that the knitting is going to roll. The very nature of the stitch pattern which creates the 3D fabric, is going to roll in on itself, until it gets blocked. Here is a photo when I was just a few inches into the project; you can see that it is basically rolled into a tube.


I’ve knit on this some more since this photo was taken, and the rolling is still happening. I don’t see it stopping, although I imagine it will get better as the sheer weight of the knitted fabric pulls it down a bit.

The third project is really pushing me, for my plan is to adopt a colourwork pattern from a cowl pattern (this one) and create a button-down fair isle vest for Doug. As I have never knitted a garment entirely in colourwork (and have only steeked once, for Leah’s Lord of the Rings pillow), this will push both my knitting skills and my pattern maths skills, as I wing it without a pattern. But before I can get going with it, I have to decide on which colours to use.

This is really an intellectual exercise, as the stitch pattern as written utilises 5 colours and I have 8 colours which I am fooling around with. This makes for seemingly endless options, but I am also constrained by various aspects of the pattern, such as using colours which have enough contrast in each of the “bands” of colourwork. It is quite interesting to try to work within this set of yarns. This is the first swatch I knitted, where I was more concerned with the gauge for knitting in the round; I used bits of the pattern in various colour combinations but didn’t follow the full pattern repeat.


I then knitted up this swatch, where I used a bit more contrast, and also brought in the light brown shade (to contrast with the charcoal):


But this one didn’t really grab me.  And Doug commented: “Hmm, I need to get a pipe.” So, I ended up with this swatch which includes a full repeat of the pattern:


Here I used the medium grey for the two stockinette rows which separate the pattern rows. It makes the whole thing seem quite a bit darker, but I kind of like it. I knitted the ribbing in the dark brown, but am not really happy with that. So, I am now thinking of using the colours from this last swatch but knitting the ribbing in the medium grey.

However, when I sent these photos to Emma, she suggested three other combinations for me to swatch.  Sigh….

For those of you experiencing lockdowns of various intensities, I hope that you are all surviving the experience and trying to keep your spirits up.  Keep well!