Sparkling in the Southwest

Doug and I spent last week in Tucson.  My 85-year-old step-father, Stuart, was celebrating a second bar mitzvah, 72 years after the first one.  It was moving and fun and gave me a chance to see my folks and step-siblings and their families.  We also got to visit old haunts (Doug and I lived in Tucson in the late 1980s) and to see many old friends.  Doug taught a guest lecture at the U of A.  We communed with the desert scenery, and soaked up some sunshine.  We ate some really great Mexican food.  I knitted for a total of about 15 minutes in 10 days.  Sigh.  But I did manage to take a few photos of my latest cardigan.


Despite having a few issues, mainly me worrying about the fit and making a lot of stupid mistakes with the edging, the cardigan turned out perfectly.


The pattern is Sparkling by Sus Gepard.  I have blogged about it quite a bit (you can see the posts, in reverse order, here). I knitted it exactly to instructions.  The only modifications being that I picked up considerably more stitches around the front edging than the pattern asked for.


I bought the yarn and pattern last January in Copenhagen and then waited some time before casting on.  The stitch pattern is intuitive and quick and the cardigan itself knits up easily.  I fretted quite a bit about the slope of the armhole decreases, but they turned out just right.  I’m not sure why that is; perhaps its been a while since I knit a sweater in pieces?



Here are a few photos from our visit. The Mission at San Xavier del Bac:





The bar mitzvah boy:


photo by Ben Weissman

My step-sisters, Jocelyn and Alison, and me:


photo by Ben Weissman






My Mom and me:


A hummingbird at the Desert Museum:



Sunset through the windshield, with the mountains in the background:


Bisbee Royale:


Good times, great food;  Doug, Marylou, Kelly, and Stuart at Elvira’s in Tubac.  This is seriously good Mexican food.  Go there if you have the chance.


We went from Tucson to Vancouver, where it is considerably colder.  I have switched from tee shirts to down coat, hat, cowl, and gloves.  I’ll post again when we are back home.


Today, I wore my new cardigan for the first time.  I finished sewing in the buttons just yesterday.  I have not even had a chance to photograph it yet.  And this happened:


I am so mad!

Maybe this cardigan is jinxed.

I have been using a backpack since I sprained my ankle, at first because of the cane, and then because it balanced the weight.  I was pulling the backpack up over my shoulders and the buckle caught on the back of the cardigan.  Argh!

This is remarkably similar to another recent sweater disaster, this time to my Acer cardigan:


In this case, I was rushing to an important meeting and trying to juggle a heavy briefcase and a shoulder bag.  The sweater got caught on the straps of my bag and I gave it a bit of a tug to free it, and rip!  Even worse, I didn’t notice it until after the meeting.

Doug says that the solution is for me to have a besotted young man who wants to carry my books for me.  I think this is unlikely.

I am feeling a bit down.  Perhaps a glass of wine and The Good Place will help?

Fifth time’s the charm?

I have finished my lovely Sparkling cardigan, except for weaving in the ends and sewing on the buttons.  I don’t have any modelled photos for you today, but I can tell you that it fits perfectly and is so comfortable.  I just love this one.


I had to re-do the front edging four (!) times, as follows:

1st attempt – picked up 307 stitches, US2 needle, buttonholes on row 5
2nd attempt – ripped back to row 2, buttonholes on row 3
3rd attempt – ripped back to row 1, changed to US3
4th attempt – ripped all the way back, picked up 371 stitches, US2

On the first attempt, I put the buttonholes on row 5 of the ribbing and this made the ribbed edge too wide; I wanted it narrow to match the ribbing at the sleeves.  Thus, the second attempt which merely ripped back to the beginning of Row 3 so that I could make the buttonholes on the correct row.  However, as I mentioned in a previous post, the edging was “bunched”, so I decided to rip back to the first row of edging and then change to a larger needle size (only because I was too lazy to pick up the stitches again).  This was a fail.  Thus, attempt 4, in which I ripped all the way back and re-picked up the stitches at a different rate, ending up with 64 more stitches on the needle, and then knitted the rib as intended with the smaller needle (US2).  So far, so good, one might think.

Imagine my surprise at discovering that I had knitted the buttonholes on the wrong side!  (I even knitted them on the wrong side FOUR TIMES)!  I spent a few days cogitating on this debacle and trying to convince myself that I didn’t care what side the buttons were on.

I finally decided to mention the problem to Doug, knowing that he would tell me how silly this was and that I should just sew on the buttons and wear the thing! But Doug said: “Oh no!  You put the buttonholes on the wrong side? How did you manage that?”  Epic fail.  If Doug thinks I should rip, when he is always in favor of not ripping, this is bad.

At just that point in the conversation, Emma calls, and I tell her that I have put the buttonholes on the wrong side.  And Emma says: “Do you mean to tell me that you care about some antiquated prescriptive clothing rules?  Do you mean to perpetuate non-essential gendering of clothing?”  Uh-oh.  EMMA, the queen of “rip it all out Mom” is telling me to let it be, while DOUG, “Mr. let it ride” is telling me to fix it.  Not only that, but I have strayed into political hot water.

We then have the following conversation:

Emma: “Historically, women’s shirts have the buttons on the wrong side, because it was assumed that women would not be dressing themselves.  And that doesn’t mean a man, but rather that a maid would be un-dressing her. It was a class thing.”

Kelly (doggedly sticking to her dilemma): “So, does that mean that you think I should re-do it?”

Doug: “No, that means that you should get a maid.”

Argh!  I’m left-handed anyway!  If things made sense, the buttons would alternate sides depending on handedness and not gender.

What do you think?  Fifth’s time the charm?


Blocking for the win!

A few weeks ago, I reported being stalled on my Sparkling cardigan.  I had knit the back and both fronts, but was worried that the armscythes were all wrong: my impression was that they were too deep and too long and the slopes were off.  This would mean that the shoulders were too narrow, and that the sleeve placement would be wrong on the finished garment.  I felt that the best option would probably be to frog down (ie, to rip out the finished knitting) to an inch or so above the start of the armhole decreases on all three pieces.  Given the mohair yarn and stitch pattern, this was not an option I was interested in pursuing.

Thus stalled, I switched to other projects (finishing a lovely cashmere lace shawl), before making decisions on Sparkling.  It was Doug who convinced me to block the pieces first and see if the armhole shaping would improve.  I needed to not only increase the width of the shoulders, but also increase the width generally, as the cardigan was on the tight side.  So, I did a careful wash and block of the pieces:


This morning, I sewed the pieces together.


I decided to use backstitch instead of the more labour intensive mattress stitch.  On this garment, I wanted a firmer seam rather than the invisible seam mattress stitch would provide.  I also wasn’t interested in attempting mattress stitch over this stitch pattern.  I think it made a very nice seam (and one which took almost no time to whip together).  Win-win!


As you can see, the blocking seems to have helped.  The shoulder hits about a half inch short of where it should ideally be, but I think that this difference is negligible.


The general fit is good and it fits exceptionally well across the back.  (You may also notice my new hair cut in these photos!)


The armhole depth is still large, but I want to be able to wear this over a variety of clothing and I also don’t want a tight fit, so I am pretty confident it will work.


I can still shorten the armhole depth pretty quickly by removing the shoulder seams and ripping out a few rows and then re-seaming.  What do you think?  The big issue for me with cardigans is that I get hot very easily and I think having room under the arm is not a bad thing.

The real test will come once I get the sleeves knitted up, but I am much happier now.  I also avoided ripping out mohair!  Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK (and it is Doug’s birthday) and the weather is supposed to be fantastic.  I am hoping to get some work done on the sleeves while relaxing in my garden!


For a while I was steaming along on my newest project, Sparkling.  I managed to finish the back and knit both fronts:


And then I got stalled.  There are a number of reasons for this.  First, as I reported before, I am having troubles with my shoulders and back and this has meant less knitting.  I have a great physiotherapist and have started pilates as well and I hope to get that problem sorted soon.

The second problem is with the project itself.  I talk a lot in here about how important it is to knit to your measurements and not blindly follow the pattern.  Also, about the importance of knitting a swatch and then (perhaps even more importantly) paying attention to what the swatch is telling you.  I should perhaps practice as I preach: I kept merrily knitting away on this, even though I had a few niggling doubts.

My swatch clearly gave me a gauge of 23 x 48 in the bubble stitch.  The pattern calls for a gauge of 23 x 52-60 (yes, that’s what it says!).  There must be a great deal of variation in how much the bubble stitch compresses the row gauge between knitters.  Anyway, I didn’t think about the row gauge as I made the decreases for the arms and for the V-neck, and that affects the slope.  It also means that the armscythes are quite deep as I was counting rows rather than inches; they are a good 9.5″ deep unblocked.


If the only problem was that the armscythes were too deep, I could just pull out a few rows at the top of each piece (because this is knit bottom-up).  However, I am also worried that there are too many stitches decreased at the arms and at too long a slope.  Just look at the above photo: it doesn’t look right to me.  The shoulder is too narrow and the armhole keeps getting wider and wider.  The annoying thing is that this was bothering me the whole time I was knitting, and yet I never stopped to think things through.  Also, I never went back and checked the pattern or the photos.  I realise now that in my head the sleeve was shaped a bit differently than in the pattern photo (for one thing I thought it had wide ¾ sleeves) and so I was ignoring the voice in my head because I also had a false picture of the sweater to go with it.

So, the question now is: what to do?  Do I painfully rip back to the beginning of the armholes and re-knit the top portions, or do I blaze on ahead and put my faith in blocking?  Or do I just rip back a few rows to adjust the length of the armscythe and not worry about the width of the shoulder?  Also, do I knit the sleeves as written, or do I go with the picture in my head?  I started one sleeve but it feels pretty narrow, so maybe a re-think is in order in any case.  Until I decide I am stalled.

I must say that the situation isn’t as bad as it sounds.  It could still be that it is just my head messing with me.  What I need to do is take out my tape measure and carefully make measurements and spend some time thinking about the shape and construction of the sleeves and armscythes.  I plan to pull out Shirley Paden’s book Knitwear Design Workshop, and look at her algorithms for sleeve and armhole shapings and then make some comparisons.  This takes concentration, however, and I have been more in the knitting-blindly-along and not in the think-about-what-you-are-doing mode of knitting lately.

Regardless of what I decide, I must say that this fabric is gorgeous!  I just love it!  It is so light and fluffy, and it has great texture.  I love both the inside and the outside of the fabric (you can see both in this close-up of the v-neck shaping):


I am having trouble with WordPress today, and with my laptop as well.  I have now written this post at least 5 times, and used three different browsers and two laptops.  I am ready to throw my hands up in the air about now and declare defeat.  Clearly my knitting is not the only thing that has stalled.

I hope that your knitting (and everything else) is not stalled and that you are enjoying a peaceful Sunday!

Travel yarn shopping: Copenhagen edition

I have been travelling to Copenhagen on business every few months.  I tend to fly in, teach, and fly out, so I usually don’t have much time to do tourist-y things.  Funny, though, that my place of business is located less than 200 metres from Uldstedet, a lovely yarn shop next to Nørreport Station.  I can teach all day, and then go yarn shopping, and still have plenty of time to catch my plane.

(If you are travelling to Copenhagen you should also check out Sommerfuglen, a yarn shop which I have blogged about before. Both shops are lovely, with knowledgeable English-speaking sales staff, and both have lots of sample sweaters available to try on.)

In January, when it was dark and grey, I went shopping at Uldstedet and had my eye on some yarn in a bright spring green to make a cheerful sweater.  Just as I was headed to the checkout counter, my eye was caught by stacks of hand-knit sweaters.  I had to try them on (but of course!).  I must have tried on a dozen of them, but I kept coming back to one which was a very far cry from the bright green spring sweater I was contemplating.  It is also not my usual style, I think:


© Sus Gepard

The photo doesn’t do it justice, I think. It is a fairly shapeless sweater; the interest is in the fantastic textured stitch pattern.  When I put it on, however, it was the warmest, lightest, feather of a sweater.  It felt like being wrapped in a cloud.  The sweater is called Bobbly, and is designed by Sus Gepard, who also owns the shop.

I bought the yarn, and swatched for it immediately, but then my head started talking me out of the project.  It is knit in laceweight yarn, with a wool and silk blend (the grey) combined with a silk and mohair yarn (the pink).  I’ve been having troubles with mohair, and troubles with being too hot.   I am constantly pulling sweaters on and off and on and off again.  I started to think “Would I really wear this?”  And, as the answer was not an emphatic “yes!”, I put the yarn away.

In March, I was back in Copenhagen, and I again stopped into Uldstedet (as one does).  This time, the Bobbly sweater was on a mannequin in the shop and drew my eye immediately.  I really liked it.  But still, I wasn’t convinced I would actually wear it.  It is a lot of work for something that will sit in a drawer.

A few weeks ago, however, this sweater popped up on my Ravelry feed:


© Sus Gepard

This is Sparkling, a cardigan version of Bobbly.  I love it!  Could I wear this as a cardigan? Yes, I think so.  Here is another shot:


© Sus Gepard

Lovely, isn’t it?  So, I am hoping to cast this one on this weekend.   (I am currently working on only one project and that won’t do.)

Here is my swatch:


And here is a shot where you can appreciate how light and airy this fabric is:


I was back in Copenhagen just this week.  And once again, I had time to stop by Uldstedet before heading to the airport.  (Copenhagen is such a great travel city.  The airport is 15 minutes from downtown.  More time to shop for yarn!)

This time, as soon as I walked in the door, my eye landed on a large basket of Madelinetosh Prairie yarn.  I always think that I should buy Danish yarn when in Denmark, and Prairie is a yarn I could buy elsewhere.  Then again, I haven’t been able to get to a yarn shop here in England in at least 6 months, maybe longer.  I have had this top on my mind lately:


© Caitlin Hunter

It is Navelli, by Caitlin Hunter.  I was thinking about this while rummaging through the basket of Prairie, and ended up picking out these three lovely shades (Fog, Whiskey Barrel, and Fallen Cloud ):


I only had about 15 minutes before the shop closed, and spent all of it trying to come up with combinations of three yarns that I liked, and then rushed to buy them as the shop was closing.  It was only later, on the plane, that I realised that Navelli is made with fingering weight yarn and that Prairie is laceweight.  I might be able to do it anyway, knitting a larger size to fudge with a tighter gauge, but that might lead me into yardage problems as I only bought one of each skein.

Some time soon I will need to do some serious swatching (and math-fu!) to see if this will work out.  If not, then I will find something else to do with the yarn.  In the back of my head is the delicate Bonny (see photo below) by Tin Can Knits, which would only take one skein, leaving me two skeins to knit something else with: a striped tee? a summer shawl?


© Tin Can Knits

Decisions, decisions.  But for today, on this cold, wet, grey afternoon, I think it’s time for a bit of Sparkling!