Sweet and Tart

Welcome to another Wearability Wednesday post, in which I re-visit a hand-knitted garment and discuss its wearability.  The garment in question today is the turtleneck which I finished in early February 2015 and blogged here; below is a photo taken just after finishing.

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The pattern, Lightweight Pullover, was designed by Hannah Fettig.  I took much inspiration from Hannah’s design and the many projects on Ravelry.  (This is a very popular design.)   Once I got going, however, I did my own thing as far as the numbers go – increasing and decreasing where needed, and not paying much attention to the pattern specs.   I took minimal notes, which you can find on my Ravelry project page, here.  I did change the waistband and the cuffs to seed stitch, which I think adds much to the look of the garment.

Of all of the hand-knitted garments in my wardrobe, this is probably the one that has been worn the most in the last year.  Partly, this is due to the fact that I knit it after I put on weight.  (I gained about 10 kilos during 2013-14; many of the knits I made before that are temporarily in storage.)  But mostly, its because it is a very serviceable pullover that fits well into my wardrobe and my lifestyle.

I frequently wear it with jeans.  It is easy to throw in a suitcase and thus it has been worn all over the globe in the last two years.  Below, I am wearing it while examining wool fleeces in the basement of a shop in Llandudno (blogged about here).

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I like that it is lightweight; it is knit in fingering weight wool and this makes it easy to wear and to layer.  I used Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in the fabulous colour Tart. Note that the pattern calls for sportweight wool, but after seeing dozens of Lightwieght Pullovers knit in Tosh Merino Light, I decided that it gave really nice drape.

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I also often wear this garment to the office.  It can be quite easily dressed up or down.  Usually, I will pair it with grey or black, as with these grey trousers:

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Or this black pencil skirt:

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These are all great features and means it gets worn a lot.  But, of course, there are some negatives as well.  This is the first garment I knit in Tosh Merino Light, and I find that it pills. A lot:

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While Tart is a gorgeous colour, I have found it to be a little bit less versatile than I originally thought.  I would normally pair a deep wine with black, grey, navy or brown.  In actual fact, I find that it works much better with blacks and greys than with browns and navys.  Here is a shot with navy; I’m not sure it comes through well in the photo, but the grey tones in the yarn cause it to clash just a bit with the navy (I know this is nit-picky, but it does make it less adaptable in my wardrobe).

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I also have concerns about the fit through the shoulders and arms.  I think it is about a good a fit as a raglan can be, but I am starting to think that a set-in shoulder has a much better fit.  And, it is perhaps a bit too tight (alsa, the weight gain!).  But what bothers me most is the slight felting under the arms:

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Surely, I can’t be the only person who sweats?  The only solution I see is a looser fit under the arms; perhaps more length in the armscythe?  (And a bit more width in the bicep?)

The verdict: this is a fabulous and versatile piece in my wardrobe that sees a lot of wear.  If I were to make it again, I think I would try a different yarn (one that would pill less), and I would add a bit of give to the upper arm.  I think I would also do something with the cowl – make it a bit longer or give it more volume, perhaps?

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Now, it is time to watch the Gilmore Girls (I had never even heard of the show before this summer and am now mid-way through season five – no spoilers please) and do some Christmas gift knitting.  Enjoy your Wednesday!

Turtleneck in Tart

Last week I finished knitting and blocked my turtleneck based on Hannah Fettig’s Lightweight Pullover pattern.  I then procrastinated for a week before weaving in the few ends.  Finally, this morning, I was able to wear it!

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I love how this turned out.  The fit is perfect.  This might be because I tried it on every few inches and knit it to fit.

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I mentioned in a previous post that I was considering making the seed stitch border at the hips a bit longer.  I ended up doing this, taking out the cast-off border and adding half an inch of seed stitch for a total of 2.5 inches.  The pattern calls for ribbing at the cuffs and hem, but I really like the look of the seed stitch; I think it gives the sweater a bit of a dressier line.

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I knit this with Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in Tart.  I wet blocked it, giving it a good soak.  I poured a cup of white vinegar in the water to help set the dye.  It definitely ran – if you are going to use Tart in colourwork I strongly recommend you wash all the dye out first.  I put it through a gentle spin cycle in the washer (inside a bag for delicate wash), and then laid it out to dry.  I didn’t need to pin it as the size was already perfect.  A warning, however, Tosh Merino Light does grow lengthwise after a soak – the sweater is two inches longer than pre-blocking.  Luckily, I was expecting this and the length came out perfectly.

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I am particularly pleased with the fit in the shoulder and arm.  I mentioned in a previous post that I didn’t follow the numbers in the pattern, but just winged all of the math.  This method works well when knitting top-down in the round since you can try it on as you go.

Most knitters will alternate skeins every row when using hand dyed yarn to avoid pooling.  It turns out that I am terrible at doing this when knitting in the round; the join always looks messy.  Besides that, it is awkward and I hate doing it.  For this sweater, I only alternated for an inch or so every time I joined a new colour.  I was lucky and didn’t get much pooling.

I love the fact that this sweater is so versatile.  I wore it above with dressy navy slacks and heels.  Here it is with a skirt.  (It would look better with a navy,brown or black skirt, but you get the idea.)

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Once I finished posing for the photos, however, how do you think I styled it?  Well, how else does one wear a jumper to go walking in the muddy English countryside?

Answer:

  1. You put your hair in a ponytail.
  2. You wear your wellies.  Wellies are essential; trust me.
  3. You borrow your husband’s way-too-big-on-you coat.  Why?  Why have a husband if you can’t wear his clothes?

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Now I’m off to find a muddy field to trek through….

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(By the way, I asked Doug to look at this post and he said “You should have named it Tart in Turtleneck instead of Turtleneck in Tart”.  He deserves to have his clothes stolen!)

Pattern, recipe or inspiration?

I have been thinking lately about how we use knitting patterns; they can be used as a pattern, a recipe or an inspiration.  These terms represent points on a continuum and thus can be rather fluid.  Two questions particularly interest me:

  1. What are the boundaries or tipping points?  For example, when does a pattern become an inspiration?  How much do you have to personalize a pattern before it becomes something else?
  2. How does one appropriately attribute those projects that fall on the boundaries?

Part of the reason I am thinking about this now is because of the project I am currently working on.  I am knitting a turtleneck pullover with Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in Tart.  I usually start a project by picking a pattern that appeals and then finding the yarn.  In this case, I started with the yarn – 4 skeins of the Tart – and a gap in my wardrobe.  Specifically, because I’ve put on some weight, all of my pullovers are too tight and too short.  I wanted a pullover that fit properly and that could be dressed up or down.  I wanted it to look good at the office with a pencil skirt or out hiking with my jeans and boots.  I spent some time (I will admit – I spent a lot of time) pouring over patterns and finally came up with the Lightweight Pullover by Hannah Fettig.  Here is the pattern photo:

copyright Quince & Co

copyright Quince & Co

It’s hard to tell from the photo but the waistband is ribbed as are the sleeve cuffs.  I am not quite finished with mine – the body is knit but one sleeve is about half done, and the other about a third done.  If you look at the most current progress photo below, you can see that mine doesn’t really look that much like the pattern photo.

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Part of this is for obvious reasons – mine has less ease, more fitted sleeves, is longer, and the waistband is in seed stitch instead of rib.  The choice of yarn also changes the look of the sweater quite a bit – the Madelinetosh Light doesn’t have the halo of the angora blend called for in the pattern.  But as it turns out, the reasons for my pondering have more to do with how I used the pattern – namely, not much at all.

Let me be specific.  I choose the pattern and then I bought the pattern.  I decided which size to knit, looked at the pattern and it said to cast on x-many stitches and knit 9 inches for the turtleneck before starting raglan increases.  I cast on the stitches and knit 9 inches and started raglan increases.  But, here is the crucial bit – since looking at the pattern initially to see how the turtleneck was made, I have not looked at it again.  The truth is that the pattern is for a very basic raglan construction, and I don’t need a pattern to make a raglan sweater.  What I do is try the thing on frequently, look at it critically in the mirror and decide what needs to be done.  Is it the right length to divide off the sleeves?  Do I need more waist decreases?  Where is my natural waist?  Does it flare enough over the hips?  It doesn’t occur to me to check the pattern because I am making it to fit ME and to please ME and I have two eyes and can see how it fits and adjust it accordingly.

I am pretty sure that my sweater is between the sizes offered by the pattern though I haven’t checked.  The seed stitch, too, is an innovation.  When I was knitting the body of the sweater I was in South Africa.  I didn’t bring the pattern with me and had limited access to the internet.  I couldn’t recall what the original pattern looked like, but decided that I would make a turned hem because I wanted a neater, more professional look for the sweater – so that it had a bit more polish, like a blouse.  After agonizing over it for a while, I decided to knit an inch or two of seed stitch as an experiment and see what I thought.  As it turns out, I liked it so it stayed.  (Now that I’ve seen the progress photos, I’m thinking of going back and adding another inch of seed stitch at the hips.)

Hannah Fettig is a very popular designer whose patterns are extremely well-written. Hannah was at the leading end of a recent trend towards finer-gauged yarns in sweaters.  She has a perfect eye and many of her designs are on my wish list.  Some of them are very unique and clever, and others are extremely well-executed classics.  This one falls into the latter category and is why I felt confident doing it my way.

Now let’s look at the question of attribution.  On Ravelry, you link to the pattern page for any pattern you use.  At some point not too long ago, Ravelry realized that many people incorporated certain parts of patterns into a finished piece, or merged two or more patterns into one.  They introduced an option: one can either link to a pattern (thus essentially saying “I knit this pattern”) or one can say that the project “incorporates” a pattern (thus saying “I used bits or pieces of this pattern within another pattern”).  When I started the project entry for my turtleneck, I linked to Hannah’s pattern.  At some point, I started to think that perhaps my project deviates from the original enough to say that it “incorporates” the Lightweight Pullover pattern.  I actually changed the Ravelry entry, changing the Name of the project to “Turtle in Tart” and acknowledging Hannah’s pattern using the “incorporates” option.  I also included notes to outline how I made it, so that someone can replicate it if they wish.   To refer back to the title of this post, I essentially moved it from pattern, to either recipe or inspiration.  I must admit to being undecided about this – I have changed it back and forth a few times in the last few days, and it is likely to end up linked as pattern.

Let’s take another example, which I think contrasts quite well with this one.  In the spring of 2013, I knit the following sweater:

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The pattern I used was called Livvy, designed by Tori Gurbisz.  Here is the pattern photo for Tori’s design:

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As you can see, I changed this pattern as well.  I detailed all of the changes I made on this blog.   I made it much shorter, put in hems at the hip and cuffs, and made the sweater curvier, with more negative ease built in but also more pairs of waist decreases.  I think that my Livvy looks dramatically different from the pattern – much more so than my Lightweight Pullover looks from its pattern.  In fact, the types of changes I made are very similar in both sweaters – changing the length, the ease, and the sleeve cuffs and bottom edgings.   However, it would never have occurred to me to use an “incorporates” option in Tori’s pattern.  This is partly because Livvy has some very unique features, which I have utilized, which are instantly identifiable as Livvy.   So why have I wavered about the attribution of one and not the other?

On reflection, the underlying difference between these two cases has to do with the math.  To make the Livvy sweater, I used all of Tori’s numbers as a basis for my own calculations.  In knitting the Turtle in Tart, I didn’t use Hannah’s numbers, essentially ignoring all of the math and calculating my own numbers as I knit.  Thus the former “feels” like I followed a pattern and the latter doesn’t. Looking at the photos, you can see that the end results are very similar – a project based on a lovely pattern that has been “tweaked” to fit my curvier body and my style.  The only real difference is whether I used the numbers or not.   But perhaps this distinction is odd or outmoded.  Is it math that makes the pattern?  Or is it vision?  And, if it’s math, does it still “count” the same now that most numbers are generated by software?  I don’t think there is any right answer here.  (I suspect that both math and vision count, though, depending on the sweater, and perhaps on the knitter, one may be more dominant than the other.)   Many knitters are now using Amy Herzog’s CustomFit, in which they can basically input specifics of a pattern they like and it will generate the maths specifically for their body.  The resulting project is usually attributed to both the original pattern and the CustomFit programme.  (CustomFit also generates a selection of “classic” designs to fit.)   To me the important facts for my two projects discussed here are that (1) I paid for both patterns, and (2) I acknowledged both designers.

There are many related issues I haven’t even begun to get into here, and I have been trying to keep to the issue of how patterns are used, and where one draws the line between following a pattern, using it as a recipe, or being inspired by one.  (That said, I recently came across a funny case.  Someone had seen a sweater worn by a certain celebrity baby, and reverse-engineered it.  She then “published” the pattern.  Later, she became incensed that other knitters were knitting the sweater without attributing her pattern.  Someone asked, very reasonably and politely, why she believed that no one else would be able to reverse-engineer it as well.  After all, if she had done it, thousands of other knitters could have as well.  She responded – in an increasingly snippy and clueless way – that there was no need for anyone else to reverse-engineer it because she had already done so! She was completely unable to see that someone else could have knit it without using her pattern, or that someone might not have seen or had access to her pattern.  I must admit to finding the discussion fascinating.)

What do you think?  When is a pattern not a pattern?  Does it matter?  Is anyone else fascinated by these types of questions?  Have I been adversely affected by writing a philosophy grant this week?  Can I use British spelling conventions and still say “math”?  Maybe I should get to work on those sleeves…..

Shades of autumn

The autumn has definitely arrived and the English countryside is turning shades of reds and golds.  My knitting, without conscious  intention, is following suit.

04-IMG_9887I knit these beautiful mitts this week using Quince & Co Chickadee yarn in the colour Honey.  The pattern is called Antiquity and is designed by Alicia Plummer.

I didn’t like the colour when I first bought this yarn (ordered online) but now I think it is luscious – particularly juxtaposed with autumn’s bounty.

08-IMG_9896There is a small orchard near our house, which I think is mostly a hobby for its apple-enthusiast owner.  He grows dozens of varieties of apples, most of which I’ve never heard of; over a period of four months a different variety reaches its peak every week or two.  Doug and I go there every week through the autumn and try them all.  These are called Catshead apples and they are a very old variety, dating from the 1600s.  I’m not sure what they taste like but they certainly look delicious with my mitts.

Doug has just returned today from an exhausting business trip to Mumbai and then on to Brussels.  It was not autumn-like in Mumbai but Doug seems to have been on the same wavelength as me since he returned with autumn colours.   Since I seem to be developing a theme here – here are my mitts photographed against the antique carpet Doug bought in Mumbai:

07-IMG_9893I have also been slowly making progress knitting my Lightweight Pullover, designed by Hannah Fettig, and knit in the glorious Tart shade of Madelinetosh Light.  It fits in perfectly with our autumn theme today.  Here is a progress shot:

09-IMG_9903This also shows the great fit.  I am modifying the pattern to get an in-between size and I am quite happy with the results.  Tart is such a lovely rich colour.  The simplicity of this pattern, basically just miles of stockinette stitch, allows the colour to shine.

12-IMG_9908When Doug left for Mumbai, he asked me what I wanted him to bring me.  I asked for saffron and a tablecloth.  And Doug, even though he only had a few hours free on the whole trip, managed to bring me saffron and a tablecloth.  I can’t resist showing you the tablecloth here, especially as it fits so perfectly with this post:

13-IMG_9909Amazing, isn’t it?  It’s pure silk and practically luminescent.  I can’t wait to see this adorning my Christmas table.

I cast on another project this week, but since it’s grey  and doesn’t fit the theme, you will have to wait to see it.  Whatever your weather, enjoy the colours!

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