I can’t stop knitting things for Leah in the rich golden colour called Candlewick from Madelinetosh.
In the summer of 2014 I knit Leah a cardigan (Peloponnese by Sandi Rosner for Twist Collective) that used Candlewick as an accent colour against Composition Book Grey. I blogged about it here, where you will find all of the details and many great photos. The cardigan was a huge hit and I am told that Leah practically lives in it:
I had a skein of the yarn leftover, so this Christmas I whipped out a pair of fingerless mitts to match.
Monika Sirna recently released a mitt pattern to match the cowl, but I decided not to use it. First, it was designed for worsted weight while my yarn was DK, but I also found the pattern to be a bit busy. I decided that I wanted a pair of simple stockinette mitts with a single pattern of the cable running up the back ; I think they turned out elegant. I didn’t take any notes – I used double pointed needles in a US size 5, put in a single pattern repeat with one purl stitch on either side, and added a thumb gusset. The only slightly tricky part was incorporating the pattern repeat into the ribbing on the bottom and top of the mitts (which involved decreasing one stitch as the count was off by one, if I recall).
Leah loves them and I think they will get a lot of wear. This colour really suits her.
We are having an astonishlingly warm Christmas here in southern England. The photo above of Leah in her Peloponesse cardigan was taken in August year before last, the other photos are taken today in late December. I think the temperatures are probably the same today as they were on that summer day. Everything is green, and you can see the rosehips on the rose bush and the flowers blooming behind Leah. I have no doubt that the cold will arrive eventually and then hopefully the Candlewick mitts and cowl will be both cheerful and warm.
Recently, I wrote a paper (for my MBA studies) about digital marketing and the yarn industry. While writing the paper, I looked at the range of producers in the sector, in particular new entrants. I also researched how people buy yarn, for example, what kinds of things influence when and how we buy yarn. This made me think about my own patterns of buying yarn. I don’t have a record of all the yarn that I buy and where and when I buy it; some people use Ravelry’s Stash function to keep track of this, but I am not that organized. However, I do have records of all of the projects that I have knit since joining Ravelry in late 2007, and of which yarns I used for each project. I looked at 2008, the first full year that I was on Ravelry, and discovered to my amazement that every single project I finished knitting in that year was made with Rowan yarn! I had only just moved to England in August of 2006 and was still very thrilled to be able to walk into my local John Lewis store and buy Rowan. That seemed the height of luxury at the time to my yarn-buying self.
I then compared 2008 with last year, 2014, and a very different picture emerged, as you can see from the below:
I must point out that these charts show the percentage of projects made with each yarn and NOT the amount of yarn bought; nonetheless, they show a pretty compelling trend. To me, the most interesting thing about the 2014 distribution is that with the exception of Rowan and Noro, which is a Japanese yarn company founded over 40 years ago, each of the other yarn companies I have used in 2014 is a new company: Madelinetosh started in 2006 and Brooklyn Tweed, Quince & Co and The Uncommon Thread all started in 2010. More than 80% of the projects I knit last year were made with yarn from companies that didn’t exist 10 years ago. New entrants into the sector are rapidly changing the market, at least for premium yarns.
I didn’t show pie charts for 2009-2013, but I am a pretty eclectic yarn user. During these years, in addition to lots of Rowan and the companies above, I knit projects using Debbie Bliss, Cascade, Studio Donegal, Hanne Falkenberg, Blue Sky Alpaca, Malabrigo, Mirasol, the Plucky Knitter, Blue Moon Fibre Arts, BC Garn and Wollmeise.
Though my Rowan projects have fallen from their 2008 pinnacle, I still find it a great product. In particular, I am totally in love with Kidsilk Haze, Felted Tweed DK and Fine Tweed. As long as Rowan keeps producing these (and maintaining quality), I will keep buying them. This year, I have so far made four projects, and two of them – the spectacular Soumak Wrap and my Gossamer pullover – used Rowan yarn. When I lived in Australia and Germany, I considered Rowan a luxury product; now that I’m in England, it is more like the standard for me – I use it as a benchmark to compare yarn prices and qualities.
I realize that my yarn-buying profile reflects the fact that I am willing to spend a lot for yarn. In my mind, both yarn and books fall into my entertainment budget. Let’s say that the yarn for a new sweater costs 100£. Well, if that sweater will take 100 hours to knit, then I am spending 1£/hour on entertainment. A bargain! (Compare to a cinema ticket!) A cashmere cowl that costs 120£ but takes only 10 hours to knit is very luxurious but still costs 12£/hour for knitting enjoyment. While I might splurge now and then, my general idea is that if the yarn costs less to knit per hour than a cup of coffee in a nice coffee shop, then it’s a good deal. This kind of thinking (where I consider the yarn as entertainment rather than part of my clothing, or gift, budget) is perhaps reflective of the fact that I am still more of a process knitter than a product knitter. On the other hand, for the past few years I have made fewer impulse yarn buys. I tend to buy yarn for a specific purpose and this seems to be more in line with a product knitter.
I think that part of my willingness to buy expensive yarn reflects the fact that I am knitting less these days. When I am knitting more, then I am conscious of cost and try to use more yarns that are good quality but affordable, like Cascade 220 for instance. I seem to be edging now into a more active knitting phase and I find that this is accompanied by a wish to search out some new affordable yarns (Quince & Co, while very high quality, is pretty affordable; it is moving up fast in my go-to list.) Having two daughters in university is another compelling reason to seek out more affordable yarns, or at least to knit fewer luxury projects. It is good to have a selection of yarns to knit with, and some of them should always be outrageously luxurious to the senses, because knitting, like cooking, is a sensual art. How about you? Are your yarn buying habits changing? Are you buying more, or less, luxury yarns? Do you calculate cost per hour of knitting (surely I’m not the only one)? Do you plan every purchase or are you an impulse buyer? Do you only buy local, or organic, or machine-washable? Inquiring minds want to know…….
Leah’s is knit from the pattern Cabernet Infinity Scarf by Monika Sirna, in the DK weight cowl version. I had a skein of the gorgeous Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in Candlewick left over from Leah’s Peloponnese sweater. I ordered an extra two skeins to make this cowl, as per the yardage instructions, but only used two skeins in all (thus leaving me with one skein for…moi!).
I knit this with a US size 5, which gave it a pretty tight knit. I imagine that most people would knit it to a bigger gauge, but I liked this look better. I then blocked it heavily. It was 7″x36″ pre-block, and I blocked it out to 8″x46″. Once blocked, the cowl is light and airy, and very soft. The cables and lace are crisp and clear in this yarn.
I have wanted to make this cowl for a long time. It is really a striking pattern, particularly in this rich golden hue. It is a bit of a fiddly knit, but is worth the extra effort. It was clearly a big hit with Leah. It goes beautifully with her Peloponnese sweater, but also looks good with many other colours. Leah wears a lot of reds, burgundys, and purples and the gold really shines.
Emma’s cowl uses the Lowbrow Cowl pattern by Thao Nguyen. I had two skeins of the lovely Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in Venetian left over from Emma’s gorgeous sweater, Venetian Audrey. I knit this one with a US size 6 needle, and also knit an extra pattern repeat to give the cowl more width; blocked, it measures 8.5″x48″. I had almost half a skein left over.
Unfortunately, Emma’s Audrey is across the ocean and couldn’t get in on this photo shoot, but I think they will work well together. On my Ravelry page, I have named these two the Golden Cowl and the Ruby Cowl, because of the beautiful jewel tones.
The weather here has been lovely this Christmas; cold but very sunny. We have gone for many long walks through the countryside. The winter sun gives beautiful light. This, of course, gives many opportunities for photo shoots.
My family are surprisingly good at indulging me and this blog. Yesterday, Doug and the girls went into London for the day. They dutifully took many cowl photos in the British Museum. Here they are standing in front of the Bronze Gates of Balawat (fragments and replicas of the huge bronze gates of Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC) from Balawat).
Incidentally, Doug was also wearing a hand-knit cowl. I knit this one a few years ago for myself but it looks better on Doug so its his now. (Its just Malabrigo Worsted held double knit in seed stitch).
Happy New Year to all of you from all of us. I am heading off now to drink home-made eggnog and watch Dinner for One (if you don’t know, ask a German!).
This post is about new mitts, and the story behind them. Because one should always start with the pretty, here are the mitts:
And here is the story.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a mismatch of pattern and yarn. I had a skein of Madelinetosh DK left over from another project and decided to knit a pair of mitts. The yarn is lovely, very soft and warm, and the colour, Composition Book Grey, is one of my favorites. I picked a lovely mitt pattern called Masonry Mitts by Vera Brosgol. Here is the pattern photo:
And here is my attempt to knit it up with the Madtosh:
I really didn’t feel like this was working; in fact, it was pretty clear to me almost from the beginning that it wasn’t going to work but I stuck with it for a while. Leah, who writes this lovely knitting blog, left a comment on my post, in which she says: “It is amazing how the wrong yarn can make such a huge difference in even such a small project as mitts. Good for you for not trying to force the yarn on the project. ” This comment made me think about what exactly was wrong with this yarn-pattern pairing – it also made me realize that there are other people out there who think about things like this. So, for those of you who care about such things, I will discuss it further here. For the rest of you, feel free to look at the pretty photos and ignore those pesky words.
The Masonry mitts are designed to be knit with Cascade 220, which is a plied yarn with a tight twist; it is a sturdy yarn, what we call a “workhouse yarn”. The Madtosh is a soft, fluffy, un-plied yarn which is very splitty. Cascade 220 could be described as architectural – it will keep its shape. It has substance. The Madtosh is lovely and light and unformed; if left to its own devices it will flop. When I tried to knit the Masonry knits with the Madtosh, there wasn’t enough structure to hold the shape. I could have attempted to mitigate this by knitting with a much smaller needle and forcing a tighter fabric. However, another design mismatch was also at play here.
The Masonry mitts have vertical columns of garter stitch and stockinette stitch. Most knitters get different row gauges with the two stitches. This means that one half of the mitt (the stockinette portion) will end up measurably longer than the other half (the garter portion). Garter rows are tighter and pull the fabric together vertically. If you are using a yarn with a tight ply and a good twist, this will still happen, but it will be less obvious and more amenable to blocking.
I frogged the mis-begotten mitt (this means I ripped it out so the yarn could be recycled into another project) and decided to try again with the pattern Toast and Jam, designed by Emily Foden. Toast and Jam also juxtaposes garter and stockinette (I guess I was finding this an attractive theme), but it does it in a smaller portion and over a field that is increasing rather than a straight vertical section. This keeps the mismatched gauges from getting too out of control. Not entirely, though, as you can see from the unblocked Toast and Jam mitts, where the row gauge of the garter section is clearly tighter:
A good blocking fixed this problem. The main advantage of this pattern over the Masonry pattern, with respect to the Madtosh DK, is that the Toast and Jam Mitts are knit almost entirely in Twisted Rib. The twisted rib pulls in the knitting and keeps tight control on the otherwise unplied Madtosh; in other words, it gives it structure and keeps it tight. It doesn’t hurt that it is knit with a 3.5mm needle (a US 4) instead of the 4mm (US 6) that I was knitting the Masonry mitt with. I knit Leah’s beautiful cardigan with the Madtosh and it has flow and drape – it doesn’t need a tight gauge and a twisted rib. But a Mitt takes a lot of punishment – it doesn’t need flow and drape, it needs structure.
One of the lovely features of the Toast and Jam pattern is that the garter stitch portion can be worn on the outside of the hand, or on the palm. Here it is on the outside:
And here it is on the palm:
The next time that you are considering substituting a different yarn for the one the pattern calls for, think carefully. What are the charicteristics of the fabric you want to create? How is it going to be worn? Does it need to be sturdy or delicate? Are you looking for structure or flow? And what are the characteristics of the yarn? Once you think you have a match – go for it, be creative, that’s what make knitting fun! And when you can see that you’ve got it wrong, don’t be afraid to stop. Rip it out and try again. Then, you’ll have a match made in heaven.
In February, I finished knitting my Venetian Audrey sweater for Emma. Since Emma was in Vancouver (and it wouldn’t fit me or Leah), I published a post with unmodelled shots. Emma is now back home for the summer, so I am happy to be able to bring you some modelled photos. (Lots of modelled pictures; this will be a photo-heavy post).
I blogged about this sweater quite a bit during both the planning and the knitting; you can find these posts here. I actually found it quite nerve-wracking to knit this without Emma around to try it on. As the sweater has a huge amount of negative ease built into it, and the ribbing makes it hard to measure properly, I spent many hours with a tape measure and a frown, trying to size it properly.
As you can see here, the fit is fabulous. I must admit, however, that when I sent it to Emma, I hadn’t yet blocked it. I wasn’t sure it needed it and didn’t want to make a mistake in the blocking; I really needed to see it on her before I could judge appropriately how much blocking it needed, if any. I was kind of annoyed that Emma didn’t send me any photos of her wearing it. When she came home and I complained, she pointed out that she thought it perhaps had need of a little tweaking. (Emma has very exacting tastes; on the other hand, she is invariably right about these things.) The sweater has really benefitted from a good block. I didn’t stretch the ribbing out at all, but I pinned the lace out, and added a good three inches to the sleeves and two to the body. (I knit the sleeves a few inches longer than the pattern called for, and then blocked them out even farther. If you plan to knit this pattern, don’t be afraid to build in lots of negative ease, and add lots of length.)
As readers of this blog may recall, I re-wrote the pattern for this sweater. First, the pattern as written is knit in pieces and seamed. Though I don’t normally mind this type of construction, it really didn’t seem to make sense for Audrey. So, I knit the pullover in the round, bottom-up; knitting the sleeves in the round on DPNs and then attaching them at the yoke, and knitting the yoke in one piece.
I also re-sized the pattern. This is because, as I have pointed out here many times before, Rowan patterns run big. If you think you are a size 12, you should knit your Rowan pattern in a size 8. Since Emma is already at the smallest size, I had to do quite a bit of math to get the sweater to fit.
Audrey has beautiful shaping details. The waist decreases, knit into the 2×2 ribbing, are gorgeous. They are very architectural, with columns of ribbing moving in and out across the canvas of the sweater.
The yoke and neckline are also beautifully shaped. The line of the neck is elegant, sweeping, striking. The lace is subtle; it is a garter stitch lace, which gives it a lot of texture. We blocked out the peaks of the lace pattern to give it an undulating edge.
Emma wears it here with jeans and heels, but it is easy to dress up or down. Last year, I wrote a post about my original Audrey in which I showed how easy it is to style it in different ways, and also how flattering it is to many different body types; you can find that post here.
I knit mine in Rowan Calmer, but the sweater is much more elegant knit in the Madelinetosh DK. The colour is very rich, and the ribbing controls the tendency to pool; I didn’t need to alternate skeins.
I am really happy with this one. I think the fit came out just right, I love the colour, the yarn is soft and warm, the style is sexy and classy, and it looks fabulous on Emma (even when caught on candid camera – hehe!).
I finished knitting my Venetian Audrey sweater this week. Unfortunately, since Emma now lives half way around the world from me (and since no one else around here could possibly fit into one of Emma’s sweaters) it will have to go unmodelled at present.
This is a shame because this is definitely one of those sweaters that you have to see on to appreciate. I am going to stick it in a box and mail it to Emma and she has promised to photograph it and post up some modelled shots once she receives it. The pattern is Audrey, by Kim Hargreaves, but as I have explained in previous posts I have substantially reworked the pattern to both make it smaller and to knit it in the round. The yarn is the fabulous Madelinetosh Tosh DK, in the colour called Venetian, which is very hard to photograph. The light today wasn’t the best for capturing it as these photos make it look more purple than it is. The colour is actually like that of deep, dark, perfectly ripe cherries; absolutely delicious and rich and a very deep pink shot through with black.
There are some great shaping details, which can be tricky to execute in the ribbing, but have a big payoff. In the above photo, you can see the shaping in the bust increases on the bodice and also the great detailing on the raglan sleeve and body shaping.
Now for some technical details. If these don’t interest you, skip down to the next photo.
I had to do a lot of fooling around with the pattern to get the ribbing to work out right when I joined the sleeves to start the yoke, and also to get the raglan shaping right. For the body, I cast off 6 stitches each side of the side markers; the crucial factor was that I wanted to end up with one purl stitch on each side of the back and front. I also wanted this for the sleeves (that is, a single purl on either side after the bind off) but realized that to do this, I would either need to cast off too few or too many stitches on the sleeves, so that they wouldn’t match up with the body when it came time to graft the underarms. I had worried before (and commented on the fact previously on the blog) that perhaps I had made the sleeves too narrow. However, when making the sleeve increases, I was cognizant of wanting to end up with the K2P2 ribbing intact all the way around the sleeve, which meant that I had to make increases in groups of 4. I had made 8 increases, which didn’t seem quite enough, but 12 seemed too many.
When it came time to join the yoke, however, I realized that I had not accounted for the bound off stitches under the arm. In order to bind off roughly the same as I had for the body (six each side of center, or 12 at each armhole), and still end up with a single purl on each side, I needed to have made more sleeve increases. So, I ripped out 6 inches from each sleeve, and reknit them, adding two more sets of increases for a total of 10 sets (63 stitches). I was then able to bind off the center stitch, plus 5 to each side, making a total of 11 stitches bound off for each sleeve. Note that this had the side effect of solving the issue of the sleeves being too tight, by adding an additional 4 stitches to each sleeve. Then I joined the sleeves to the body, placing a marker at each join, so that there were four markers, showing the positions of the raglan lines. Since both the body pieces and the sleeves were edged with a single purl stitch, once they were combined, I had a beautiful K2P2 all the way around.
I then made the raglan shaping as follows:
Row 1: * sl marker, P1,K2, P1, P2tog, work in rib as established to 6 stitches before marker, P2tog tbl, P1, K2, P1 *, repeat from * to * three times. (This makes a decrease on each side of each raglan, offset by 4 stitches.)
Row 2: work all stitches as set
I worked these two rows 8 times, and then four times making the decreases only on the sleeve edge of the raglan edges. This left me with 160 stitches.
Aren’t those raglan shapings beautiful? The lace is knit separately in a long strip. It is a garter stitch lace pattern with an alternating stitch count (which accounts for the gently scalloped edges). It has a 12 row repeat. I found that one pattern repeat of the lace, when slightly stretched, fit across 8 stitches of the ribbed yoke, also slightly stretched. Since I had 160 stitches around the yoke after the raglan shaping, the math worked out perfectly! I made 20 repeats of the lace pattern. The only finishing required was to sew the lace around the bodice, and sew the stitches under the arm. And voila!
The only remaining question is whether to block it. I am thinking no – I don’t normally block ribbing, and as this whole sweater is ribbed, I’m not sure it needs a block. I think that I shall just lightly steam the lace, pack it in a box, and ship it to Emma.
I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Rowan patterns run big. Rowan produces beautiful knitting pattern books with high production values – thick, glossy paper, full page photos, interesting backgrounds, beautiful colours. They have a stable of fabulous designers who consistently turn out lovely garments. They have a sense of colour, and of colour playfulness, that can’t be beat. The patterns all use Rowan yarn (of course) which I love and use frequently. I buy every issue and collect them; I pour over them again and again. I have knit many of their designs.
That said, there are some things that drive me crazy about Rowan. They are not big on charting; though they seem to be getting better at this, there are quite a few patterns which I wanted to knit and decided not to, simply because there were no charts provided. A lot of their patterns seem unnecessarily fiddly, and the construction unnecessarily complicated. I recommend reading the entire pattern, and then think each step through carefully; don’t be afraid to rework the construction method. Remember that a good knitter can think of a pattern as a recipe. It won’t kill the brownies to add a little rum and go light on the sugar; and you might come up with something delicious. This same philosophy should apply to your knitting.
The most serious problem with Rowan patterns, however, is the vast amount of positive ease they write into every garment. I tried knitting a Rowan sweater for Doug a few years ago. It had about 10″ of ease written in. I know that men like to have room in their sweaters, but that is ridiculous. I purposely knit down a size, and then ripped out and knit down a further size, and finally gave up all together with a partially finished garment that was huge.
Why am I writing this rant about too much ease in Rowan patterns? Well, the answer lies in Emma’s sweater dilemma. Regular readers of this blog will recall that I have been trying for quite a long time to find the perfect sweater pattern to knit for Emma. We picked out the yarn ages ago (Madelinetosh Tosh DK in Venetian) but have not been able to settle on a pattern. I wrote a post here, where I talked about a number of the pattern options being considered. I was anxious to settle on a pattern before Emma arrived home for the holidays. She was only home for 12 days, and I thought that if I had a pattern picked out and swatched in advance, I could just about finish it in 12 days (if I really pushed it). But Emma and I could not find THE pattern, the one that screamed “I was made to be knit in Tosh DK Venetian for Emma!”
Every day, I would throw out pattern ideas to Emma, and each one would be rejected. On Boxing Day, I suddenly, for no reason that I can recall, said to Emma “We should just knit another Audrey.” And we both stared at each other, knowing instantly that Audrey was IT – the absolutely perfect sweater, both for this yarn and for Emma. Audrey was designed by Kim Hargreaves for Rowan 35. I knit one for myself in the fall of 2009 in black in Rowan Calmer, a cotton blend. I wrote a post last January about how versatile Audrey is; in the post, Emma, Leah and I all model my Audrey sweater. My point was that even though we each have different shapes and styles, the sweater suited each of us. Because the entire sweater is knit in 2×2 ribbing, it has amazing give and is very stretchy – thus, Emma can look good in my sweater. However, as soon as I said it, I could imagine how much better Emma would look in an Audrey that had actually been knit for her, in her size, designed for her shape. And a quick swatch of the Tosh DK in 2×2 rib showed up its fabulousness in every way. Lush. This yarn is lush.
Looking over the pattern again, I struggled to find any reason why it should be knit in pieces and seamed. Now, the fact is that unlike many thousands of rather vociferous knitters, I actually enjoy knitting in pieces, and seaming. I think that in many sweaters (dare I say most sweaters?) the shoulders and sleeves look infinitely better if the sweater has been seamed. I know that it is all the rave to knit in one piece, usually top down, and I can see all the advantages of this, but the primary disadvantage is usually lack of proper fit in the shoulder and underarm and arm scythe. However, there are some styles of sweater for which knitting in one piece, with a yoke, is the obvious way to go. Audrey seems to me to be a clear candidate to knit this way. So, the first thing I did was to rewrite the pattern to be knit in the round, bottom-up.
The second problem with the pattern is the sizing. Repeat after me: Rowan runs big. The smallest size for Audrey is an XS, which is listed as a size 32. Remember that this sweater is knit in rib, and that ribbing needs negative ease. This should be obvious. Ribbing, especially 2×2 ribbing, normally pulls in, producing a thick, cushy fabric. When it is on the body, you want it to be stretched out enough to give the rib definition – you should be able to see each rib articulated. See in the top photo below, how narrow the sweater looks; it is the width of my hand at the waist. But, as you can see in the second photo, when it is worn the ribs will stretch out and become articulated. They will pop. Ribbing gives an architectural interest to your sweater. If you don’t put enough negative ease into the garment, the ribs won’t pop – and you might as well be knitting in stockinette stitch.
Looking back at my project notes, I can see that I knit down a size for my Audrey, because I knew that Rowan runs big. I knit a size M, which gave me 2″ of negative ease. I can also see from my notes that I fretted the whole time about whether it would fit, because it looks tiny as it comes off the needles. (Note that this problem magically disappears when you knit in the round; I had Emma try this on repeatedly – I know the body fits her perfectly.)
Given all this, imagine my astonishment to look at the schematics for the sweater and see that the XS, which is designed for a 32″ bust, actually has 2″ of positive ease written into the pattern (that is, it is designed for a 34″ circumference around the bust). Thus, it is clear that the XS size in the Audrey pattern, the smallest size it is written in, is a good two sizes too big for Emma. What this all means is that I am rewriting the entire pattern, first to knit it in the round, and second to resize it appropriately for an XS.
There was a chance that I could have finished it for Emma while she was home – if I had had the Audrey Eureka Moment in early December. As it was, I had only 7 days to work on it before I put her on the plane to fly back to Vancouver. So, I did the best I could – I knit the entire body of the sweater up to the armpits, so I know that this bit at least fits properly. Then, I took lots of measurements. I also had Emma try on my Audrey and took measurements on it. For Emma’s sweater, I am obviously making it a lot narrower, to fit her narrower torso, but also, Emma is taller than I am, so I will be adding an inch to the length and at least two inches to the arms. Plus, Emma wants it to definitely be an off-the-shoulder garment, so I will knit the yoke an inch shorter.
I am a little nervous about reworking all of the math, and fitting it, without her here to try it on. It is easy to properly fit a garment when you have your model near to hand and can torture them by having them try it on every inch or so. In this case, I will have to rely on my judgement and my tape measure, and then ship it to her with fingers crossed.
Sometime last winter I went into London shopping with the aim of buying some yarn to knit a sweater for me. I went armed with a list of sweaters I was interested in and their various yarn requirements. I also went with Emma, which means that I left the shop without any yarn for me, but with a pile of absolutely luscious Madelinetosh DK for Emma:
Ever since then, we have been trying to pick a suitable sweater to knit with this yarn. Not a week goes by when I don’t email Emma with a link to a sweater pattern and the query “How about this one?” Sometimes, I think we are close to making a decision. But somehow, we never seem to find the one. Since the end of the year is upon us, I have been looking back over the year’s knitting and have discovered that I have not knit a single sweater for Emma all year (egads!). Plus, Emma is flying home for Christmas and will only be here for two weeks before she must fly back for the start of term. This means we have to decide now! I want to be swatched and ready to go when she gets here.
So, what are our criteria?
The sweater has to be right for this weight yarn (DK) and I must have enough of it (I have 1030 metres).
It has to meet Emma’s strict style criteria.
Because the yarn is slightly variegated, a simple, not-too-busy sweater will show off the yarn best.
It has to be something I want to knit (after all, I knit because it is fun; if it’s not fun, I don’t want to knit it).
Every week, our options change, but I thought I would show you some of the ones I am considering at the moment. (Emma, are you reading this?)
First, there is Sotherton. This was the first sweater that Emma picked out for the yarn, many months ago, but we have been wavering about it ever since.
Sotherton is designed by Kathleen Dames, and is in the Summer 2012 edition of Jane Austin Knits by Interweave Press. I don’t really know why I have been wavering about it. Most of the time I think it is just beautiful. Part of the problem has to do with the reverse stockinette, which of course forms the background to the cables. I am not convinced that reverse stockinette is the best canvas for this yarn. Part of it has to do with the shaping – this is the kind of sweater that must be fitted exactly right; if you screw up anywhere in the shaping, it will show and it won’t look good. Emma and Leah very kindly point out that I am good at this kind of sweater fitting, but it also means that I would have to knit it up very fast as fitting is much easier when you can fit it directly to the recipient.
Another one I really like is Low Tide Ripples, designed by Suvi Simola, for Twist Collective.
This one takes a very basic shape and adds some pretty features. I think the cuffs are cute and distinctive, the zigzags show up nicely on the stockinette background, and I like the shoulder shapings. This pullover is designed to be a little roomier, with a comfortable shape that makes it great with jeans. Nonetheless, it is a very grownup and elegant version of a simple crew neck pullover.
One of the things that Emma has been mentioning frequently these days, is that she is cold. It rains all the time in Vancouver, and the winters are dark and grey and gloomy and wet. Emma wants some warm, cozy clothes. That makes me think maybe the best use of this yarn is as a cardigan, rather than a pullover. For cardigans, I think my top candidate at the moment is Dark and Stormy, designed by Thea Colman of Baby Cocktails. Here is a photo of the back:
and here is a photo of the front:
I like everything about this design. If Emma doesn’t want it, I will definitely make it for myself sometime down the line. It looks like the type of cardigan which you could live in. I particularly like the shawl collar.
I think this is ultra cool. It is different, it is fun, it has attitude. This is another one I could see making for myself. I am not sure how it would look with a variegated wool, however; the pattern is very strong, and should stay that way. You want the cables to make a statement; a variegated wool will make it stand out less.
I met Ruth at Knit Nation in 2010, when we both took a design course taught by Shirley Paden. At the time, Ruth was hoping to become a sweater designer. She now has many designs published in some great places. For some reason, Echoes of Winter reminded me of Emma. It could be because it’s very fitted, and Emma can really rock this look. I also think it would look great in this yarn. I do think that if I were to make this one, however, I would shorten it by an inch or two.
I would definitely make it as a turtleneck, however. This jumper has a very pretty cable pattern, that does indeed look like dragonflies, and a nice simple shape. There are many lovely versions of it popping up on Ravelry. I think it would be warm and cozy. I would need to swatch the dragonfly pattern first and make sure it popped enough in this yarn, but I think it’s a nice simple sweater with some flair.
Hannah Fettig has designed so many great, classic sweaters; a number of them were in competition for a place on this list. I am leaning towards the Lapis Yoke sweater, from the Fall 2010 edition of Knitscene:
I think this is a really classic shape done really well. If you are on Ravelry and you want to see what inspired me to put this on my list, go check out FeyaPL‘s version of this. It is made with Madelinetosh DK and is absolutely gorgeous.
This is designed by Keri-Helene Rane for Purl Alpaca Designs. This is designed for and knit with alpaca, which gives it a nice rustic look, but done in the Madtosh DK, I think it would be very chic and sophisticated. It doesn’t look as toasty warm as some of the other designs; but it has a nice shape to it.
I really love this one and it has been in my queue for a long time, targeted for Emma. (It is so clearly an Emma sweater!) The designer is Kristen Hanley Cardozo from the Knitting kninja. This one is designed for worsted weight, not DK weight, so would take a bit of mathematical manipulating; then again, math is what keeps a knitter’s brain young! This sweater is so beautiful (and I love the photo). Imagine that you could change the ribbon according to your mood: black velvet, red lace, etc. The only drawback (besides the math) would again be the warmth factor; with it’s bare neck and 3/4 sleeves it’s not exactly toasty. Remember, Emma is cold over there in Vancouver.
I could continue to add other patterns for hours, but I think I’ll stop now. What a terrible problem to have, don’t you think? Absolutely gorgeous yarn sitting around, and too many beautiful pattern to choose from. Now all I need is for Emma to make up her mind!