Linen and tractors

Today, Doug and I drove out to the farm to pick up fresh produce. We shop weekly at Blue Tin Produce, a fantastic farm with a small farm shop and cafe, a short drive away from our home through lovely countryside. Before Covid, we used to sit outside of the shop on a sunny Sunday and have a coffee; now, it is a lifeline to the freshest produce and specialty foods, safely acquired. As we pulled up today, on a drizzly, chilly day in July, I realised three things: (1) I was wearing one of my hand-knitted sweaters, (2) it was Wednesday, and (3) it had been some time since I wrote a Wearability Wednesday post. And, ta-da!, a post is born.

In Wearability Wednesday posts, I re-visit a knitted garment and comment on its wearability and also its durability, paying attention to how I style it and wear it, and how it has aged. You can find all of these posts (in reverse chronological order) by following this tag.

This is a linen pullover which I knitted in 2015. You can see the newly-finished sweater, and read about some small modifications, in this blog post. The design is called Sel Gris [Ravelry link], and is by Claudia Eisenkolb. Here is one of the photos from that post:

The design incorporates some really nice details at the neckline, and ribbed sleeves which are picked up and knit down. It is a nice twist on a basic summer tee. I wear this one with jeans (as here) or shorts, depending on the weather. As it is 100% linen, it is perfect for steamy hot summer days, but it also works well on a drizzly day like today. I had lots of fun posing with the collection of old tractors at the Blue Tin.

I knit this with Shibui Knits Linen, a chainette style fingering-weight linen yarn, which has since been discontinued. However, Shibui Reed, also a 100% linen with a chainette structure, substitutes for this yarn. I have seen the Reed, and I think they are pretty much identical in feel. If you plan to use this yarn yourself, you may wish to read my post, The gauge swatch lies! , describing my first attempt at this pullover, before you cast on. Linen is hard to knit with; this one in particular I found to be a bit hard on the hands, as the texture adds some scratchiness. Once washed, however, the fabric becomes softer, and is quite comfortable to wear. I have washed this one many times, and it hasn’t warped like linen often does; you can see here that it still drapes really well:

I think for a 5 year-old sweater that has been washed and worn, thrown into suitcases, dressed up and down, and survived blasts of sand and salt water on beach walks, it still looks pretty good.

I have knitted a number of summery tees and tanks over the years, and this one has lasted a bit better than most. I have also tried a number of different linens and I find that I am usually unhappy with the linen pulling out of shape. This linen tee has kept its shape (better than I have!). I should note that, unlike many knitters, I don’t throw linen knits into the dryer; I’ve always dried this flat.

Wishing you all some fresh air and countryside, and maybe some linen and tractors thrown in for good measure!

Just in time for autumn

I have finished knitting Sel Gris – a light, summery, linen tee – just in time for autumn.  Never fear – this will give me motivation (and ammunition) for planning a sun-filled winter holiday.  (One can only dream.)

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I knit this as a test for Claudia Eisenkolb.  She released the pattern a few days ago after a very successful and fun test knit.  It was my first time participating in a test and it was interesting.  I liked the intellectual challenge of helping the designer be as clear as possible, and I very much enjoyed the interchange with the other testers, all of them lovely and generous knitters.

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The detail at the neck, together with the ribbed sleeves, give this tee just a little extra – it is cute and professional at the same time.  I believe that this will be a great contribution to an office wardrobe and will lend just the right touch of femininity to a suit.

I followed the pattern almost exactly, making only the following slight modifications:

  • I made one extra set of waist decreases and bust increases,
  • I added 1 inch in length (before 1st waist decrease),
  • I picked up more stitches around the sleeve (94); thus I knit the body in a size Medium, but the sleeves were just under the size Large

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I can’t  help but notice that Claudia is designing up a storm right now; she has a bunch of test knits in progress, for some lovely designs.  I am very tempted to sign up for another one, but I think I need to exercise some restraint.

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Besides, I have only 30 more (albeit very long) rows of lace to go to finish my Laelia cardigan……

A better fit

Thank you to all for the thoughtful comments on my last post.  I have not yet replied to them all, but I intend to.  I can see that I struck a chord with many of you, who like me, tend to be conflicted about the trend towards longer patterns.

I have been busy with non-knitting matters lately, but am still managing to participate in a test knit for Claudia Eisenkolb.  This is for a lovely linen tee-shirt with short sleeves and a pretty design feature at the neckline, which is called Sel Gris.  I still have to knit the sleeves, but have finished the body:

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You may recall that when I first cast this on, I encountered some serious (and laughable) gauge issues:

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I had to rip and start over again – I went down both a needle size and a pattern size (to a Medium).  This means that I now have about 4 inches of negative ease, which is not what I had intended. Nonetheless, I think I have managed a better fit this time around.  It errs a bit on the snug side, but I am hoping that a good block will give it more ease and drape.  The yarn, Shibui Linen, is not the easiest to work with, but I will wait until after I’ve blocked and worn it a few times to make any firm judgements.  It does have a very rich hue, and makes a quite lovely, sheer fabric.

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This is my first time doing a test knit.  I am very impressed with the thoughtfulness and professionalism of both test knitters and designer; it is a very collaborative process.  I am also left with a feeling that the other testers are all considerably faster than I am.  The deadline for this is September 15, and I think that I shall make it (just), but most of the other testers whipped theirs out in days.

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Enjoy your Sunday!

The gauge swatch lies!

A few days ago, I started a new pullover.  I am using Shibui Linen in the gorgeous colour, Bordeaux.

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Before beginning, I diligently knit a gauge swatch.  I washed it, towel dried it, patted it into place, and let it dry.  I carefully measured it both before and after washing.  I measured it many times; seriously, you would think I was crazy with the number of times I measured it.

I then cast on for the pullover which is knit in the round, bottom-up.  While I was knitting, I took the time to measure the gauge occasionally to make sure that I was still on target.  I had knit the swatch back and forth and the garment was knit in the round.  I am aware that gauges can frequently vary when knit in the round (presumably due to the lack of purling every other row) and wanted to keep an eye on this.   I took measurements over four inches any number of times, and I was consistently hitting the pattern gauge (and my swatch gauge) of 25.  But soon, I began to feel that something was wrong.  I transferred all of the stitches  to a very long needle so that I could try on the garment and take a more accurate gauge.  This is what happened:

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This is not caused by a slight difference in gauge.  What is the problem here?  I am knitting this as a test knit, so maybe the pattern numbers are wrong?  No, I have done the math (as has the designer, who is quite accomplished.)   I think it has something to do with the yarn, which is 100% linen and has a chain construction, combined perhaps with my knitting style (I am a “thrower”) and perhaps with a hundred other unaccounted-for variables. (Another test knitter, using the same yarn commented that “my piece is growing in width just by looking at it”!  However, other testers seem to be doing just fine with this yarn.  Clearly knitting is both art and science, with some mystery thrown in for good measure.)

I’m not giving up; I think both yarn and pullover will be great.  I just have to go back to the drawing board – this time I will trust my gut instead of the swatch.

Yesterday, when I tried it on, I was astonished and annoyed.  How can the yarn DO that?  Today, however, looking at these photos, I must admit to finding it pretty funny.  There are two morals to this story.  Moral number one: you are never so expert a knitter that you can’t make spectacular screw-ups.  Moral number two:  the gauge swatch lies!

Sleeves and a test knit

I usually hate knitting sleeves, especially when I’m knitting in the round.  For some unknown reason, I powered through the sleeves for my Laelia cardigan.  Here it is without sleeves two weeks ago:

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And here are the sleeves:

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The pattern calls for lace on the sleeves as well, but I decided that I preferred them plain.  I am very happy to have finished the sleeves, but there is still a lot of work to be done.  This is quite a long cardi, and as you knit down, the lace pattern continually expands around the back.  I find that I cannot knit this particular lace pattern with my mind disengaged, and that limits when I can knit it.  I have about ten more inches to go, I think.

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That ten inches might take even longer, however, because in the meantime, I agreed to do a test knit for Claudia Eisenkolb.  The test is for a lovely tee made out of linen.  I have seen a lot of patterns for linen tees lately, but this one drew me in because it struck me as very elegant and perfect for work.  (No pattern photos while the tee is in test mode.)  I am using the stunning Shibui Linen in the colour Bordeaux.

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I love the way the yarn picks up the light.  It is so rich and luminous.  The yarn has an unusual chained structure, which you can hopefully see in this photo:

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I am so far finding it a little rough to knit with – the linen is quite stiff – but I very much like the crispness of the fabric.  I think that once washed a few times, it should be perfect.

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I am spending quite a bit of time on the train this month, and this is a much better project for train knitting that the Laelia, which has grown a bit awkward.  To demonstrate, here I am trying to untie knots in the yarn while Doug patiently waits to take photos.  (The knots, by the way, are not in the skein, but result from having too many live threads going at once and getting it all in a tangle.)

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Have a lovely Sunday!