Neon lights

IMG_7157This will be a post with lots of photos and few words.  The entire crew here at Knitigating Circumstances has been felled by the flu all week, so words are not flowing freely.  Despite this, however, I have managed to do all of the finishing on my Neon cardigan.  The verdict: this is one fabulous knit!

IMG_7208IMG_7154The pattern, by Joji Locatelli, is really well-written and comprehensive.  I have made few modifications:  I knit the sleeves flat, added one set of hip increases (could have made more), and put in 12 buttons instead of 8.

IMG_7203IMG_7136Despite having made some really stupid (and fairly comical) wrong turns while knitting this (documented on these pages), this project turned out great.  I really think it is the perfect summer cardigan.

IMG_7141IMG_7147This was my first time using Plucky yarn and I can’t say enough good words about it.  I really like the feel of it – it has bounce and loft, but mostly I am crazy about this colour – Kissin’ Valentino.  I definitely see some more Plucky in my future.

IMG_7190Until the last minute I didn’t think it would fit.  In a postscript to my last post, describing my hilarious attempts to block this, I ended up re-blocking the whole thing.  This did the trick.  I won’t take it off until October!


Two projects are slower than one

I am knitting along on two projects at the same time lately, my Exeter jacket and my Neon cardigan.  Both are being knit for me (I am so selfish right now)!  Exeter is a fabulous double-breasted jacket knit with tons of cable-y goodness:

IMG_6460That’s a closeup of the back.  The cables are intricate and beautiful, with lace integrated into the cabling.  It is fun to knit but slow-going and tricky.  Although I have mostly internalized the pattern by now, I still need to concentrate.  The Neon, on the other hand, once I got beyond my initial stupidity (documented here) is easy and takes little thought.  It is good TV knitting, or holding-a-conversation knitting.


Depending on what else I am doing at the time, I am switching back and forth between the two, sometimes quite literally.  Last weekend, when we had pleasant weather, I sat in the garden knitting. When I was by myself, I worked on Exeter; as soon as someone joined me I would put the Exeter down and pick up Neon.  As soon as I was by myself again, I switched back.  While the jacket will likely still take months to finish, the Neon is coming along quickly.  I am just a few rows short of where I will separate off the sleeves and then it will move even faster.

IMG_6445Of course, if I could bring myself to ignore all those luscious cables for a few weeks, I could whip this out super quick, because everyone knows that two projects are slower than one.  I can’t do it though.  There is something absolutely hypnotic about watching the progression of the cables across the back piece of the jacket.  How could anyone resist?

IMG_6457The Neon, while being an easy and intuitive knit once you get started, is still keeping my interest intellectually because of it’s construction.  Knitters today are really moving towards knitting top-down seamless sweaters.  While this has the obvious advantage that you can try the sweater on as you knit, I have never thought the shoulders are properly fitted using a top-down approach.  With either a raglan sleeve or a yoke construction, the shoulder is never as neat as with a properly inset sleeve.  Recently, a number of new methods have been developed for shaping a better shoulder while knitting top-down and seamless.  One of these is the Contiguous Method, developed by Susie Myers.  Many designers are now incorporating this method into their designs.  I have wanted to knit one for awhile.  When I saw that Neon, designed by Joji Locatelli, incorporates a contiguous shoulder, it moved to the top of my to-knit list.

IMG_6450As you can see from the above photo, the shoulder resembles a set-in-sleeve, in terms of its shaping and general architecture.   However, it is knit in one piece with no seams.  I think my execution is not perfect, but I will fix that up in the blocking. So far, I am really liking this.

The Neon is going to need some serious blocking, both to get it to fit (it’s a bit snug) and to get the lace to pop.   It really is a lovely pattern and a fun knit.  Joji is meticulous in her instructions.  If you are looking for a summer cardi, I would recommend it.

IMG_6441In the meantime, our short glimpse of spring has disappeared.  I was shivering in the cold and rain while taking these shots.  And the wind tried to make off with Exeter:

IMG_6454Never fear, the wind and I had a tussle, but I won.  I am now enjoying the indoors, cooking up a storm (butter chicken and spicy eggplant) and sneaking a row in here and there.

How to be stupid at knitting

Last weekend, I got up early on a Saturday morning and decided to do some swatching for my next sweater, Neon by Joji Locatelli.  Here is a photo of Neon:

copyright Joji

copyright Joji

As you can see, the cardigan is knit in a pretty, lacy stitch pattern.  This pattern, Tulle Stitch, is a 2-row repeat.  You can’t get much simpler than a 2-row repeat.  This is my first pattern from Joji, but I can tell you that it is meticulously written.  There is no guesswork involved in a Joji pattern.  She even tells you exactly how many stitches to cast on for your swatch and how to measure it.  So, here I am at 7am on a Saturday.  Doug and Emma had returned home the evening before from Canada.  They are in jet-lag city and are bound to sleep for hours.  Leah is also unlikely to wake early, and if she does, will probably stay shut in her room.  I have literally hours of prime knitting time stretching out before me.  I cast on my swatch before I even make coffee (egads!).

Now the tulle stitch is a 2-row repeat, but since the pattern is offset on every alternate repeat, in the interests of being very thorough, it is charted as 4 rows.  I am sitting on the couch, needles in hand, freshly wound ball of Plucky Sweater yarn at my side, and the Neon pattern on my laptop.  A message pops up saying that my laptop is out of juice and needs to be plugged in immediately, or it will close down.  The cable is upstairs, and not only do I not want to wake Doug up to get it, but I am highly lazy.  So, I grab a piece of paper (the back of a yarn label) and hurriedly scribble down the pattern for the swatch.  I then close down the laptop and cast on for my swatch.  Row 1 of the pattern stitch looks like this:

Row 1: k1, * k1, yo, k1 * to end

This is what I write:

Row 1: k1, * k1, yo, k1

Now for those of you unfamiliar with knitting terminology the star (*) in the pattern means to repeat, in the following sense – you repeat the bit between two stars.  So to knit row one, you would start with a knit stitch, and then do k1, yo, k1 over and over again until you reach the end of the row.  Easy, huh?  But that is not what I wrote.  The star notation is only used in pairs, it makes no sense otherwise.  So the fact that my scribble has a star on row one implies that I need to be repeating something.  This is what I knit:

k1, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1, yo, etc. etc.

This means that I am somehow interpreting my scribbled notation as:

Row 1: k1, * k1, yo * , end k1.

Okay, so this is stupid, but not outrageously so, and could easily be done by anyone who has not only neglected to drink their morning coffee before starting a new pattern but is also too lazy to charge their laptop.  Does my stupidity end there?  No, it does not.

After a few rows, I can tell that there is something seriously wrong.  The swatch looks wrong.  There is no rhyme or reason to the pattern.  It does not look pretty.  Furthermore, it is impossible to “read”, which means that even after a few rows, I could not tell where I was supposed to be in the pattern just by looking at the row underneath.  So, I rip it all out, make myself a cup of coffee, and sit down once again, now properly fortified, to knit the swatch again.  And, of course, even though I look at the pattern again and again, I never even realize that it is missing a star, or notice that my brain is automatically filling in the missing star into the equation, and filling it in wrong!

My second attempt at a swatch looks as wrong as the first.  But the lack of any symmetry to the pattern stitch is only part of the problem.  You see, on the second row of the pattern repeat, you are decreasing one stitch out of every three.  Notice, that my mistaken interpretation of the pattern means that on every odd row, I am increasing one stitch for every two, and on every even row, I am decreasing one stitch for every three.  This means that the number of stitches on the needle will keep growing….and growing…and growing.  After only a few rows, my swatch has doubled the number of stitches.  How could this be?

Thoroughly annoyed by now, I run upstairs, grab the cable (waking up Doug in the process), come back downstairs, plug in my laptop, and start reading the pattern.  Clearly, if the tulle stitch is continually multiplying the stitch count, there must be something in the sweater pattern that continually decreases the count.  But no, the pattern has no such stitch-decreasing mania (and is also very well written and organized).

Doug walks into the room.  He is jet-lagged and half asleep.  “I am a stupid knitter!” I say to Doug.  “Un huh,” he says while making himself a coffee, clearly not thinking this topic worthy of comment. (This is like asking “Do I look fat in this?”  A sensible husband will know that no response is a good response.)

I decide to log into Ravelry and search for an answer to this stupid problem.  First, I look at the finished Neon cardigans.  Lots of them, all beautiful.  I notice that the knitters all make comments like “fun pattern” and “easy knit”.  One knitter even said “Thought it was going to take me 2 weeks, but only took me 11 days, not bad.”  Aargh!  I am getting really annoyed now.  I look at the forums searching for other people agonizing over the pattern; surely someone has commented on the fact that the pattern increases exponentially.   Or that it MAKES NO SENSE AND LOOKS STUPID!  Or, maybe it’s just me.  “I really am a stupid knitter!” I yell to Doug.  “Sure, honey,” he says, clearly paying zero attention to my plight.

I make myself yet another cup of coffee (a double shot espresso latte).  I sit at the dining room table.  I very carefully read over the pattern again, the whole pattern, every line.  At some point a light bulb clicks on: “I missed the star!,” I say to Doug.  “I wrote the pattern stitch out wrong!  It is not k1, yo repeat, it is k1, yo, k1 repeat.  Well, jeez, ” I bang my palm to head, “that makes sense!  See, now it increases one stitch out of every three, and then decreases the same number on the alternate rows!”  I shout this, as if I have had an epiphany, on par, perhaps, with Newton and the apple.  “See, Doug, I am NOT a stupid knitter.  I’m just stupid!”  Wisely, Doug doesn’t respond.

Post epiphany, I knit the swatch.  It looks beautiful:


The pattern is lovely. Furthermore, it is intuitive.  It makes sense.  I can “read” it, from the row beneath.  As for the sweater, once you get past the initial inch or two, the pattern is easy and intuitive.  (The yarn is also gorgeous, but that will be the topic of a subsequent post.)  Here is a progress shot, proving I have indeed advanced from swatch to sweater proper:


I like to think that sometimes even genius knitters have their stupid moments.  I imagine Elizabeth Zimmerman yelling at her husband “But this pattern makes no sense, Arnold!”.  Or Barbara Walker, tearing her hair out, saying “There’s too many increases here!”  Then, at least I’d be in good company.

Christmas in April

On Friday, I came home from work to find a pile of packages at the door.  Among them, were these lovely goodies:


A big pile of knitting goodness, which I had ordered from three different sources (in three separate months, no less) which all arrived on the same day.  Furthermore, they all arrived on a cold, grey April day in which snow flurries drifted out my window all day.  Christmas in April?  Most certainly.

I placed an order months ago for five skeins of Plucky Sweater in the scrumptious colour called Kissin’ Valentino.  It was a pre-order, sold as a kit for the sweater pattern Neon, by Joji Locatelli.   This means that you order the yarn before it’s been dyed, and then have to wait for it to arrive on your doorstep.  In this case, that took even longer than anticipated since the yarn was held up first by Customs, and then by the Easter holiday.  I had wavered quite a bit about between red and green for this cardigan, and even once I settled on red, there were a number of different reds available.  Red is always hard to capture properly in a photo, so when you order it from a photo on your computer screen, it can be a gamble.  Well, this gamble paid off.  The colour is smashing:

IMG_6277This yarn is destined for Neon, a beautiful, lacy, summer cardigan:

copyright Joji

copyright Joji

I also received an order of completely lovely Skein yarn.  I ordered this from Loop, in London, who as always were very helpful.  This is Merino Silk Sport, hand dyed 50% Merino, 50% silk in two colourways, Fig and Outlaw:

IMG_6280Isn’t it gorgeous?  I have a great project lined up for this yarn, but as there’s a story behind it, I will keep it a secret for now.  You will have to check back later to see it knit up.  The colours are spectacular, very rich and yet soft at the same time, like an old painting.

I also received a copy of Amy Herzog’s book, Knit to Flatter.  I am really looking forward to reading it; I have always admired Amy’s blog.  Perhaps I will post a review of it soon.  In the meantime, I’ve got lots of knitting lined up……