Red lace and sunshine

My knitting mojo has been on holiday the past few weeks, hopefully somewhere warm with pina coladas and a pool.  Life has been somewhat hectic, and when I have had some down time I’ve spent it with my nose in a book.  When I do pull my needles out, I’ve been working on Neon.  As it is a summer cardigan, and summer is with any luck on its way, it makes sense to concentrate on this one.

IMG_6574I am making Neon in a really great red yarn, hand dyed  by Sarah of the Plucky Knitter.  The colour is  hard to capture on camera, it is really red without orangy tones, and has a lot of depth to it.  It is called Kissin’ Valentino, and especially in the simple lace of this pattern, looks crisp and elegant, with a bit of sexy siren thrown into the mix.  I can’t wait to wear it with a linen blouse and navy heels.  I have a feeling it will be the perfect summer cardigan.

IMG_6549After the coldest spring in over 50 years, we have had two fairly nice weekends in a row, which has led to some peaceful knitting in the back garden.  The wisteria is blooming, and the field on the other side of our fence is planted in rapeseed just about to burst into full bloom.

Last weekend, I woke up early, pulled on my Killybegs cardigan, grabbed my coffee and sat out in the garden knitting.  As the sun warmed up, I shrugged off the Killybegs, and draped it over the back of the chair.  I went in to get another coffee, and when I came outside, Emma was standing with her camera, taking photos of the chair draped in the lovely green Donegal wool of Killybegs and the vibrant red of the Neon.  Just looking at the photos makes me happy.

IMG_6550I have managed to finish knitting the body of the cardigan.  It is hard to judge the fit, because even though it is knit in one piece and I can thus try it on, it also is lace and will need a really heavy block to open up the lace pattern.  What this means is that it seems impossibly small right now and I find it hard to imagine that I will ever be able to button it.  I have to trust in the miracle of blocking (and remember that I have two daughters who would not be overly upset if it ended up being too small for me.)

IMG_6581I followed the pattern almost exactly for the body, only adding one extra set of hip increases, but I am winging the sleeves.  The lace used on Neon is a simple 2-row repeat, and even though the sweater is knit in one piece, because it is a cardigan it is knit back and forth in rows.  This means that the pattern has a knit side and a purl side.  Joji has written the pattern, however, so that the sleeves are knit in the round.  There are obvious advantages to knitting this way, primarily that you don’t have to seam the sleeve, but for this pattern, because of the way the lace is formed, knitting in the round causes more problems than it solves.

IMG_6582Joji Locatelli is a new-ish designer, but a very professional and thorough one, and she is careful to address this problem. She gives detailed descriptions of how to knit the lace in the round, and even provides links to a video demonstration.  There is no denying, however, that this lace pattern is much simpler and more straight forward to knit back and forth than in the round.  In addition to to the technical aspects of knitting it without purl rows, which involves continually passing stitches back and forth between the needles, there is the very real problem that many knitters have encountered, which is that they end up with a different gauge for the lace when it’s knit in the round.  If you look at Joji’s Ravelry group, you will find many long discussions involving ripping, and changing needle sizes, and trying alternative ways to get the lace to work in the round.

IMG_6577To me, the answer is not only simple, but obvious: knit the sleeves straight, and then seam them.  I must point out that I am not the only one to do this; a number of other knitters have done so, and commented on the forums.  A couple of them asked Joji outright about knitting the sleeves flat and I found her responses very enlightening.  I took a screen shot for you:

Fullscreen capture 02062013 172012I think this reinforces the fact that she is a thoughtful designer, and responsive to her customers, as well as being cheerful and supportive.  The thing I found most interesting about this, however (and why I put them up here) is her comment that knitters today want patterns to be “seamless” and her struggle with the fact that in order to sell patterns you need to make them seamless, even in cases where a little seam would actually make things easier.  I find this rather disturbing.  It makes me want to say “Suck it up, knitters!  Sure, some of us prefer knitting seamless, and some of us prefer to knit in pieces.  But as a knitter, you should really know how to do both and suit the technique to the project!”  It is like those knitters who refuse to do crochet, and are rather adamant about it, even though sometimes a bit of crochet edging is just exactly what your knitting needs.  I think we should all try to be broadminded, and have fun mastering new techniques.  We are still allowed to have our favorites, of course, but why should we restrict ourselves like this in our pursuit of a hobby?  Aren’t we restricted enough in other things we have no choice in?  (I promise, dear reader, this is the end of my rant.)

IMG_6583I included Joji’s second comment, by the way, because if you are going to knit the sleeves flat, please don’t forget to cast on the extra stitches under the arm.  I could so easily have forgotten that; thanks Joji for steering me right!

The sun has peeked out again and I will run out and take advantage of it.  Here’s hoping my knitting mojo gets tired of pina coladas and comes home to challenge my books to a showdown.

Killybegs

I finished my Killybegs sweater over a week ago, but I haven’t been able to get it posted until now.  The four of us have been staying with various friends and family members while on holiday.  This means crowded houses filled with people having fun, cooking and eating too much, children and pets running around, and general mayhem.   This does not lend itself to sweater blocking.

A few days ago, we arrived at our friends Mark and Teresa’s house, which is very spacious and lacking in the kids and pets department, and I had a 48 hour window before the place was filled with guests for Doug’s birthday party.  I walked in the door, and the first words out of my mouth (after the obligatory “Hi”) were “Can I block my sweater, like right this minute?”  Luckily, Teresa understands obsessions and the sweater was duly blocked, and spent 48 hours drying.

The Killybegs sweater is designed by Carol Feller and can be found in her book, Contemporary Irish Knits.  It is knit is Donegal Aran Tweed in a spectacular green with flecks in purple and orange.  I completely adore this colour.  Carol says in the book that the texture of the Donegal Tweed changes considerably upon washing and she is right.  It blooms and softens, and becomes completely cozy and warm and fabulous.  Killybegs is supposed to be finished with hook and eye closures along the front edge, but as I forgot to bring those along, I will sew them on later.  I love the way it looks open in any case, so I am not in a hurry to add them.

I made this sweater without any modifications (except for going up a size needle).  I knit it in a size 36, and blocked it to 37″, thus giving me 2″ of negative ease.  It is extremely rare that I knit a sweater exactly to pattern.  I can rarely resist the impulse to tinker, and frankly, most sweater patterns could use a bit of tweaking here and there.  This one just worked out perfect in every way.

One of the especially clever things about this sweater is the way in which Carol has incorporated decreases into the coin cable on the yoke.  The whole time that I was knitting the yoke, I was muttering “Genius!  This is sheer genius!”  It really is a remarkable feat, both intellectual and architectural, and was a pure delight to knit.

I can tell that this will be one of those sweaters that gets worn all the time.  It feels good on, it looks good on, it makes my inner knitter happy.

A Feller double bill

Some of you may think that my last several posts have been about copyright issues, badly behaving designers, gorgeous designs, and things my mother and grandmother knit, in order to cover up for the fact that I haven’t been doing any knitting.  Well, dear reader, you would be wrong.  I have been plodding away on two cardigans, my Ravi cardigan and the Killybegs cardigan, both coincidentally designed by Carol Feller.  I haven’t been able to get any photos taken until today however.

In Ravi, as you may recall, the yoke, including the lace panel, is knit from side to side and then stitches are picked up all around the yoke (about 200 of them) and the body is knit down in garter stitch.  I worked very hard to pick up the stitches as carefully and beautifully as possible and I must say I am quite pleased with the results.  See the pick-up line in the photo below and how even every stitch is?  It can be very hard to pick up evenly around an edge, particularly a long one.  Many times I have to rip and start over.  This one came out perfectly, without any ripping at all, but mostly because I took my time and did it very meticulously.  It took over three hours just to pick up the edge.

In addition to the yoke design, Ravi has an interesting construction at the base.  The body is knit down to the waist, and then there is a bunch of short row shaping on the back of the cardigan, so that the front actually ends quite high up, at the natural waist really, and the back curves down over the hips.  Here is a shot of Carol, from the pattern.

It’s not the best shot for showing this feature, but you can see that the front of the sweater comes to above her belt line, while the back is a good 4 inches lower.  Now, I have actually knit down to where I should start the short row shaping, which effectively means that the sweater will not be any longer than it is now in the front.  I am worried that this is actually too short and I should add a few more inches.  On the other hand, I really like this feature of Ravi, and like the way the swoop in the back looks.  If it was placed too low on the hips, I don’t think it would have the same nice effect.  So, I have a bit of a dilemma; keep it really short in the front, or do some lengthening, which may cover up some pudginess at the waist line but possibly contort the nice line of the back?  If I do make it longer, I will have to add in some hip increases.  In any case, I need to decide now, before I knit any further.  Any suggestions?

Ravi, as you may recall, is being released in segments as part of a giant KAL organized by Carol Feller.  There are currently 891 members of the Ravi KAL group on Ravelry.  That is an awful lot of people following along and knitting this project together.  One would think that that would generate a lot of extra enthusiasm for this project (in me, I mean).  I find, however, that I am something of an anti-populist in these things; I tend to like patterns better when they aren’t insanely popular.  It’s sort of like books – if something has reached the bestseller lists, I feel almost honor-bound to ignore it.  The fact is I have a lot of enthusism for the pattern; I think it is a lovely design and very well executed, and the project notes that accompany each segment are great.  When I started out, I found the KAL forum very useful for deciding on which yarn to use, and which short row method to use, and just looking at other knitter’s progress was fun.  But I notice that, as of this morning, there are 1884 posts on the forum which I have not read.

In addition to Ravi, I have picked up Killybegs again.  I had previously knit the body of the sweater up to where the yoke begins.  In the past two weeks, I have knit both sleeves.

The sleeves are knit on DPNs (double pointed needles).  Knitting on big, fat, wooden DPNs (US size 9), with thick wool, while cabling, is not easy on the hands.  I had to limit how much I knit each day as I found my wrists and thumbs would really start to ache after an hour or so.

But now the sleeves are done and I am ready to join up the sleeves with the body and commence the yoke.  That will be a bit of a challenge, as there will be a huge number of stitches on the needle, and lots of cabling.  On the other hand, just finishing the sleeves gives me a huge psychological boost.  And this incredibly vibrant green, with all of the cheery flecks of orange and purple (Studio Donegal Aran Tweed in “Green”), makes me happy.  I can’t help but smile when I’m knitting with it.

Up to my armpits in sweaters

There hasn’t been as much time to knit as I could wish this past week, but then again there never is.  Nevertheless, I have been slowly plodding along on my Laresca.  I have reached the point where I split for the armholes, after which I will knit the front and back separately.

The lace panel is looking kind of pretty and the linen fabric is cool and has nice drape.  It is still difficult to know whether it will fit properly when finished, but it is not as bad as I originally feared.  In fact, looking at these photos, I am pleasantly surprised; it looks much better than I thought it would.  (Emma has just called me to say “Gee, this looks much better than I thought it would!”)

I am sure that it will look better with a pretty skirt and some sandals, and maybe an iced coffee in my hand, and some sunshine (though I fear that here in England the sun may never come out this summer).

I have also been slowly working away on my Killybegs cardigan, and, lo and behold, I have also knit up to the armholes on this one.  (Get it –  I am up to my armpits in sweaters!).  Here, I am trying it on for the camera, attempting to smile while awkwardly holding it up in place.

Unlike my rather wishy washy feelings towards the Laresca, I love the Killybegs.  I think it is fabulous.  I adore the brilliant green, the sharp flecks of orange and blue, the unusual placement of the honeycomb cables, the shaping, the cozy, lofty, lovely wool.  In short, I like everything about it.

My only negative comment on this one, is that I wished I had put only four pattern repeats of the single honeycomb pattern, before branching out for the waist. (This is through no fault of the pattern, but likely a combination of a slightly off row gauge and my natural shape.)  As it is, I have knit the 16″ required to the armholes, but the waist of the cardigan sits above my natural waist.  To correct this, I either have to rip out about 10″ and start the waist shaping earlier, or I have to make the cardigan a couple of inches longer.  Can you guess which I will pick?  Hopefully, long cardigans will be stylish this year.

I have also been considering putting a zipper in this.  The pattern has an I-cord edging on the front and hook-and-eye closures, but I rather think that a zip would be pretty nifty.  I am not the best seamstress, and haven’t put in a zipper before, but I am leaning towards trying it out.  What do you think?

It has been a strange week around Knitigating Circumstances headquarters.  Emma is still in Berlin, where she is sick.  Doug has been in Malaysia, where he was sick, and is now in Brussels, where he is still sick.  This leaves only Leah and me (thankfully, not sick) and the house seems very quiet.  Thank you to Leah who very kindly took over Emma’s job as blog photographer this week (though we did send them out to Berlin for a final tweak!).

Trials and tribulations

This has been a frustrating weekend here at Knitigating Circumstances Headquarters.  We have been trying very hard to post the first installment in RETROspective, a series featuring vintage garments handknitted by my mother and grandmother, and lovingly remodelled and rephotographed by three generations of us knitigating gals.  I have the text all ready to go, but we have hit a technological wall.  Emma is in Germany, which means she has no access to the thousands of photos we took for this series.  Before she left, Doug uploaded all of the photos onto a cloud service so that she could access everything remotely.  Unfortunately, Emma has very poor bandwidth, and way too many photos to sort through, so this solution isn’t working out. Yesterday, Emma and Doug had a two-hour long skype call trying to come up with a fix, and finally called it off.

We are now attempting a second solution, using a semi-professional photo sharing site.  I am doing an initial triage through the photos, narrowing them down to a hundred or so, and then we hope that Emma will be able to access them and apply her magic (oops, I meant skills) to get the right photos into the post.  Our aim is to have a system that is optimized for our purposes, because once Emma is finished in Berlin she will be heading off to university and the future of our partnership depends on our being able to work together remotely.  If any of you readers have any experience with these issues, and can offer us advice, please drop us a note.

In the meantime, knitting progresses.  If you recall, last Sunday I discovered a mistake in my Killybegs cardigan and had to rip the whole thing out and start over. I have made great progress this week and have now got 10″ on the needles.  This is a lot of knitting, since the fronts and back are knit together in one piece.

I have also been busy planning another knit.  Assuming that the wind and cold and rain ever comes to an end here, I thought that I might make a summer sweater.  I had a hard time choosing one, mostly because there are so many lovely patterns available.  I finally decided on Laresca, a very pretty, drapy, summer tee:

Laresca is designed by Corrina Ferguson and is available on the Twist Collective.  If you haven’t checked out the Twist Collective, you really must.  It is a webzine with amazing patterns and really good design and layout.  Laresca is made with a Rowan yarn, Panama, that is a blend of rayon, cotton and linen.  There is a nice lace panel that runs up the side of the top and then around the armholes.

Panama comes in some nice colours and I went to the shop fully intending to make this in red, or perhaps purple or green, and completely surprised myself by buying the yarn in a neutral colour – I would describe it as oyster.  I have finished the swatch and hit the gauge right on first try.

My plan is to knit the two simultaneuosly.  The thick wool and needles of the Killybegs are a little hard on my hands, so I hope to switch back and forth between the two projects.  And if we ever get any summer weather, I may concentrate more on Laresca.  Well, dear reader, that is all for today.  Hopefully we will sort out our trials and tribulations and bring you RETROspective shortly.

One step forward, two steps back

This week I cast on for Killybegs, a wintery cardigan knit in thick, warm tweedy Donegal Aran Tweed.  The sweater, designed by Carol Feller, has great shaping details.  It uses a honeycomb cable pattern in an interesting configuration to do the shaping.  The waist is created, not by paired sets of decreases and increases, but by using the honeycomb cable to draw the fabric in.  Here is a photo:

The cardigan is knit in one piece bottom-up, and uses an I-cord cast on.  Casting on over 160 stitches using the cumbersome (but very pretty) I-cord cast-on takes a long time.  In the photo below, you can see the edge it creates, which is very finished and won’t roll.

The honeycomb cables arise in columns before branching out.  I finished three of these cable repeats over the week, producing about 4 inches of fabric; considering that the fronts and back are knit in one piece, this is a fair bit of knitting.  Pretty, huh?

Wait.  Look again.  Look closer.  Can you see something wrong?  No?  Maybe this will help.

On the left is my Killybegs.  On the right  is the swatch that I knit of the honeycomb cable pattern.  I have knit three pattern repeats; can you tell that the first two repeats are too small?  The third is the correct size, as you can see by comparing to the swatch.  For some inexplicable reason, I seem to have been incapable of reading the pattern, incapable of counting, and incapable of seeing what was right before my eyes.  For a whole week.  What did I do?  Rip!  This morning I frogged the whole thing and started over.  How frustrating!

And on another note, Emma and I have been working hard on our upcoming series highlighting vintage knits made by my mother and grandmother.  We had hoped to unveil the first segment today, but have had to deal with two obstacles.  First, there is a lot of work involved and we fell short of time.  Second, Emma has absconded to Berlin, where she will remain for a summer filled with adventure and fun.  As this blog is a very collaborative effort, Emma and I will have to learn to deal with communicating remotely.   But never fear, compared to following a pattern (ahem), it will be a piece of cake.