I have just finished knitting a lovely little baby cardigan, a gift for a colleague who is pregnant with her first child. The baby is due next month, which means that I am shockingly finished in plenty of time. I intended to take some un-modelled photos of the cardi to show you before gifting it; however, despite it being terribly cute, the sweater sans baby was missing some vital “je ne sais quoi”. What to do? Kathy Bear to the rescue!
The sweater is knit with The Uncommon Thread BFL Light DK in the shade “Into Dust”. The pattern is Mignon, by Loop London. It only comes in one size (3-6 months) and I knit it exactly as written, except that I went up a needle size, using a US6.
The details of this sweater are adorable. It is knit in one piece with very little finishing needed. I love this shade, which is a sweet lavender with enough depth of colour to keep it from being too sweet. It is both very girly and sophisticated.
I also adore the button, which seems made for this yarn. The button, pattern, and yarn were purchased from Loop in London. I used the same buttons, but in blue, for a cardigan I knit for Leah last summer.
Kathy Bear was hand-made for my daughter Leah when she was born. She was made by Jill Davis, a lovely friend and gifted seamstress. Jill and Doug went to high school together and she has two lovely daughters of her own. She clearly knows how to make a bear with personality.
Kathy has two dresses which she has worn for over twenty years. She thinks a fancy cardigan is long over-due. She is also clearly unimpressed with this baby nonsense. “Knit another one for the baby!”, she says.
I finished my Laelia cardigan almost a month ago but haven’t been able to get photos taken until today.
When I first bought this yarn, I pictured it as a zesty, spring-y splash of citrus orange to liven up a summer sweater; something silky and lacey to slip over a sundress and wear with orange heels. And even though it is most definitely a summer sweater, and will look great next summer over a cute dress, I can’t help but think it looks pretty nice against the brilliant fall foliage here at the back of my house.
The pattern is by Hanna Maciejewska and the yarn is the luscious Merino Silk Fingering by The Uncommon Thread. I can highly recommend both pattern and yarn. The two together make for a very serendipitous pairing.
(I have a terrible cold; thus the somewhat pained expression on my face. Or it could be that I am all smiled out after jumping and whooping for joy today – Go, Trudeau!) You can see how beautifully this yarn showcases the lace pattern. I made two changes to the pattern. First, as I’ve adopted from many other Ravellers, I’ve had the two cascading lace patterns “meet” at the back of the sweater. In the pattern, they are separated by a laddered lace detail; this is done to accomodate the many sizes. You need to do some fiddling with the numbers to make this work, and it won’t be appropriate with every size. Second, I’ve knit the sleeves without any lace.
I had both bad and good timing with this one. Bad timing because I finished it just as the cold weather is settling in, and it will have to sit in a drawer until the spring comes. Good timing because no sooner had I finished it, then I developed hand and wrist problems which have prevented me from knitting.
I am starting a new job this week. The rush to finish up everything at the old job, and the stress about starting up something new, means that my attentions have not been on knitting lately. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to accomplish a bit. I finished up the knitting on my Laelia cardigan (designed by Hanna Maciejewska) and gave it a wash. I had hoped to bring you modelled shots of the cardigan this past weekend, but that was not to be. I still have the finishing to go (ending off threads in lace!!!) and because of the delicacy of the fabric, I need to do this in a bright morning light when I have plenty of time to concentrate. This may not happen right away.
The yarn, Merino Silk Fingering by The Uncommon Thread, reacted beautifully to being washed, and the lace opened up without being stretched or pinned into place. Here is a sneak peak:
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the lace in this one. I adore the way the lace patterns keep extending across the front and back of the cardigan to meet up at the back. (This, by the way, is a variation of the pattern, in which there is a separate laddered lace pattern between the repeats at the back. I had to fiddle just a bit with the stitch count to get it to work out this way. This isn’t possible with every size.) I think the “cascade” of lace that is produced is really pretty. But the lace pattern itself has always struck me as a bit fiddly. First of all, it combines both lace knitting and knitted lace. The former (and, to me at least, most common) consists of a lace pattern where every other row (usually the purl row) is knitted plain (or purled plain, as the case may be). Knitted lace, on the other hand, incorporates yarn overs and decreases on every row of the fabric – front and back. The lace pattern used in Laelia is a 20 row repeat of which 8 rows are knitted lace and the other 12 are lace knitting. This is a bit difficult to get used to, especially if you are not accustomed to incorporating a lace pattern on the purl row, where it is difficult to “read” the knitting. I found that I always kept the chart at hand, never feeling as if I had truly internalized the pattern, despite the many repeats.
The other fiddly bit has to do with the visual impact of the lace, which is a bit of an optical illusion. Hanna says on the Ravelry project page “Laelia is a beautiful subtropical orchid with petals that fan out into stars.” I found when knitting it that sometimes your mind sees the orchid shapes and sometimes not, depending on whether your eye is drawn to the petals, which are shaped by the decreases, or to the holes in the fabric, which are shaped by the yarn overs. Now that I’ve washed it, and the lace has opened up, I can see better what Hanna had in mind. It is definitely growing on me (perhaps because I am done with all the work of knitting it).
Hopefully, I will be able to bring you some modelled shots of this soon, especially as it is by now definitely autumn here, which means that I am yet again a season behind in my knitting. Alas.
In addition to the Laelia cardigan, I cast on for a new project. This one is intended to be a gift, and so it’s a surprise. After the fingering weight lace, all of this stockinette in DK weight is growing rapidly. One little photo shouldn’t give away the surprise:
I’ll tell you about the new job in another post, once I have settled in and have a chance to relax.
Today I find myself in a rather strange position: I am too lazy for words. I would like to tell you all about my slow but steady progress on the lovely Laelia cardigan, designed by Hanna Maciejewska. I would like to wax lyrical about the magical qualities of the Merino Silk Fingering yarn by The Uncommon Thread. I would love to describe in glowing detail the luminosity of this particular shade of orange. But today I am lazy. I want to knit, and drink my coffee, and empty my mind. So today, dear readers, you must be satisfied with photos. As luck would have it, Emma is home, and she kindly snapped some shots for you.
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…….
My orange yarn finally decided what it wanted to be when it grew up.
I bought five skeins of this beautiful silk blend from The Uncommon Thread back in February. As I wrote in this post, the yarn has a mind of its own and I had to wait for it to come to its own conclusions. We finally decided on Laelia, a lovely, lacey cardigan designed by Hanna Maciejewska, of Hada Knits. (Thank you, Laril, for sending me a link to your beautiful Laelia; it definitely helped us decide.) I’ve had my eye on Hanna’s designs for a while; she’s got a really great style.
This cardigan has a cool construction technique. You start with a provisional cast on at the back center neck, and knit the lace for a bit; then, you unravel the cast-on, put the live stitches back on the needle, and knit some more lace in the other direction. Now you have a rectangle with live stitches at both ends. You pick up along the long edge, and – voilà – you get this:
Isn’t it clever? I love it! Then, you start knitting, incorporating raglan increases as you go. This is where it stands as of this morning:
As you can see, the lace pattern runs down the front edges of the cardigan, while the back and the sleeves are in stockinette stitch. The best part about the design is that there is almost no finishing involved.
Here it is, molded into the actual cardigan shape (as much as is possible given the limitations of the needle length):
In the photo below, I’ve held it up so that you could get an idea of the shaping at the front edge and shoulder, and also so that you can see the lace pattern better. (Ignore the pesky hose that wanted to be in the photo.)
I love everything about this one so far. Happy pattern! Happy yarn! Happy knitting!
Yes, my yarn has opinions. It knows what it wants to be. Unfortunately it doesn’t speak, so part of my job is to be an interpretive artist. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it.
I still want to knit Aisance, but maybe not with this yarn. As with most hand-dyed yarn, there is a fair bit of variation in colour both within and across skeins, so it would need to be alternated. However, it is hard for me to see how best to alternate skeins in Aisance – it is knit in one piece and the long edges of the fronts need to be very neat and sharp. Once doubt settled in, it was hard to shake. My yarn could sense my doubts and took advantage. “Find another pattern,” it said. “Find the PERFECT pattern for ME.” (I have tried, believe me, to coax my yarn into being more specific. It refuses. It wants me to work for this relationship. It wants understanding.)
I have spent more time than I care to admit sorting through cardigan patterns and looking at the yarn:
It is the most gorgeous shade of orange. It is luscious. It is happy. This yarn is special and I want to knit exactly the right thing with it. And although I am dying to knit with this fabulous stuff, RIGHT NOW, I won’t do it until I have the perfect marriage of pattern and yarn. I have knit up a lovely swatch:
I like the look and feel of the fabric at this gauge, 24×36 knit on a US4, and would be reluctant to knit at a looser gauge. I am lucky to have 2000 metres (5 skeins). My yarn and I are happy to take suggestions.
PS – This is my 200th post. Thank you to all my readers who keep this fun!
Yesterday was a gorgeous day; the kind of day that said “Spring is here!” The sun was shining. There were lambs in the fields. The outdoor cafes were filled with happy people. And I got spring yarn in the mail!
This is the yarn that I special ordered weeks ago, in the cold bite of winter, anticipating spring kntting. It is Merino Silk Fingering by The Uncommon Thread, a blend of 50% wool and 50% silk in the shade called Citrus. It is mouth-wateringly yummy, sunshine-y and zesty. It makes me happy.
A few posts ago I was lamenting the fact that I had nothing on my needles; I was on the prowl for some new projects. Now I have three projects for spring. Yesterday, Doug photographed all my new yarn just for you. See how gorgeous and rich the orange is in the sunshine? The secret is that the wool and the silk take up the dye differently, giving amazing depth to the colour. And look at the beautiful Rowan Kidsilk Eclipse – I love how sometimes you can see the metallic sparkle and sometimes you can’t. See the hint of sparkle in the above photo?
And here they are mixing with the heathery grey of the Brooklyn Tweed Loft. Three pretty yarns, three spring sweaters (all for me)! So what am I making? The Loft will be Escher – a lovely lightweight geometric cardigan designed by Alexis Winslow for Brooklyn Tweed. I am knitting it in the same lovely shades of grey (such a shame this beautiful phrase has been co-opted) as the pattern photo:
The first step in our Skirt Project is to knit up a sample skirt; a template for the later designs. We want to make sure that the fit is right, and also that we are happy with the chosen yarn, gauge, fabric, drape, shape, style, etc. The initial plan is that I will ponder over the basics involved in designing and knitting the template (and knit it, of course!) while Emma is busy with designing the first series of skirts. Of course it is a much more collaborative process than that implies, since we are bouncing ideas back and forth nearly every day.
There are three major decisions that I have been grappling with: top-down or bottom-up, back-and-forth or in-the-round, and which yarn to use. This post will focus on the yarn selection and I will discuss the other two in the next post in this series.
A skirt needs to have some sturdiness built into it. The skirt has to give and move with your body, but you don’t want it to sag and bag. Essentially, you need to be able to sit and stand, repeatedly, and wash it frequently, and you don’t want it to stretch out or to pill. It needs to have memory, and to “sproing” back into place. I decided that I wanted wool, which has great drape and memory, but with some nylon mixed in to make it tough. Sort of like sock yarn, I pondered. In fact, what I want from the fabric for the skirt is similar to what you want with a sock – it needs to be able to take a lot of abuse and hold up to wear and tear.
The problem with sock yarn is that the gauge is too small. As Emma keeps planning for more and more skirts, I must keep the gauge to something reasonably quick. I thought about it and decided my preferred needle size would be a US5 or 6, and that I would be aiming at 5-6 stitches per inch. After pondering some time on the pros and cons of various types of yarns, I decided that I would try to use a sock yarn but knit with it held double. This serves two purposes – it puts the gauge in the range I want and it also means that I can use a beautiful hand-dyed wool without worrying about pooling.
The Uncommon Thread makes beautiful yarn. I used their worsted weight Lush yarn to make my Livvy sweater and I loved knitting with it. The company is reasonably local to me and is environmentally aware. I can pre-order it from the dyer or can purchase it at my local yarn store (Loop in London), so it is readily available. The sock yarn is very rich and saturated and the colours are beautiful. So, I ordered some of the yarn, called Tough Sock, to make Template Mach 1 (hopefully, there will be no need for a Template Mach 2). I bought three colours for the template skirt – a deep grey (nearly black) called Charred, a very beautiful medium grey with silvery highlights called Plata, and a lovely blue with green and grey tones called Leaden. Here is a photo of the Charred and Leaden colours:
Just as I was about to wind the skeins, I read on the label that the yarns should be washed before using if doing colourwork. I know this of course, but always in my excitement to begin a new project, I neglect this step. This can lead to disastrous consequences (see my earlier post The perils of red for a project gone bad through colour running). So, I washed the skeins and hung them to dry. While this meant that I had to wait a few days before swatching, it also gave me pretty photos of yarn hanging from the line in the breeze; these photos showcase the Plata colour. (By the way, none of the colours bled at all; but we all know that it is better to be safe than sorry.)
The finished swatch is beautiful. The yarn has lots of give, and the colour, with the two strands held together, is even more rich and gorgeous than with a single strand.
I must admit to knitting the swatch back and forth instead of in the round. This means that I can not be 100% certain that the gauge is accurate. (Clever readers may notice the foreshadowing here for the next post.) But I am impatient, and after all, that is why knitting is made to rip! We knitters can be as impetuous as we like, as long as a little ripping doesn’t faze us.
The title of this post sounds a bit lascivious, but the sweater pattern I have been knitting is called Livvy, and the yarn is called Lush Worsted. For those of you who have googled me, this is a knitting post and Lush Livvy is a sweater. This sweater:
I finished this a week ago, but it’s taken me a while to get some photos taken. Livvy is designed by Tori Gurbisz, a fairly new designer; you can find her website here. I really found this design appealing, but I have made quite a few modifications to make it suit me and my body type. Here is one of the pattern photos:
This photo shows up the design features that I really like. The collar can be worn up or down, and the cable pattern is reversible. The cables are slim and elegant, and are made by twisting stitches, thus no need for a cable needle. The cables run down the middle of the raglan increases and then join under the arm with three additional sets of cables, which then cascade down the sides of the pullover. I find this striking and elegant. It’s a very strong, simple statement. Another interesting feature is that the raglan increases are uneven, with the sleeves increasing more rapidly then the body, and this gives a really nice line along the shoulder. I think these details add up to a fantastic and intelligent design.
Here is another photo of the pattern:
While I love the pattern from the waist up, I had some issues with the pattern from the waist down. I think that Livvy, as written, looks great on the model. On me, not so much. First, I am a good 20 years older, and second, quite a bit curvier than the model. I was also looking for a more elegant pullover for office wear. I could instantly see the potential in this pattern for modifications that would suit me better.
I made mine alot curvier. The pattern calls for three gentle sets of waist decreases, followed by three gentle sets of hip increases. I made six sets of decreases, and seven sets of increases. This makes for a much more fitted and curvy silhouette. I also made each set of decreases and each set of increases on the same rows as the twisted cable crosses. This gives a lovely symmetry to the shaping, and meshes with the cables in an intrinsically pleasing way, as if the decreases and increases are merely extensions of the cascading cable panel. You can see this in the below photo (taken in the bright sunshine, so the colour is a bit washed out).
Note that the above photo also shows a slight colour gradation in the yarn. I used 5 skeins of The Uncommon Thread Lush Worsted, in the colour Pontus. This colour is gorgeous and the dye job is really great. One of the skeins was slightly lighter than the other four and had a bit more variegation; I used this one for the bottom portion of the pullover. Though it’s noticeable, I don’t think it distracts from the beauty of the finished piece. The richness of hand-dyed yarn compensates for the slight variegation.
I also made my Livvy shorter. I find this kind of strange, because I am forever adding inches to sweater patterns; at my age, I don’t want my belly hanging out between my trousers and my top. I think the length in the sweater pattern makes a bit more of a casual statement than I was looking for. I wanted a piece I could wear to the office with tailored trousers or a skirt and heels. I knit mine almost 3 inches shorter than called for. (This may also be why I was able to knit this with only five skeins of Lush, which has less yardage than called for.)
The biggest issue for me, however, was the ribbing on the cuffs and waistband of the pullover. To me, the most interesting feature of the sweater is the panels of twisted stitches running down the sides. It is elegant and architectural. I found that the 2×2 ribbing of the cuffs and waistband seriously detracted from this design element; it broke the line and made an otherwise gorgeous feature a little less striking. I was clear right from the start that I would use some other sort of edging, but I wasn’t quite sure which. Doug suggested I try an I-cord edging. This seemed like a good idea, so I originally knit the sleeves with an I-cord bind-off. This is the only photo I have of the I-cord before I frogged it:
See how it’s starting to roll a bit? Although it is a normally very elegant finish, I found it to still be just a bit too clunky for the look I wanted. In the end, I decided to do a hemmed finish for both the sleeves and waistband. I knit in pattern to the desired length, then purled a row (the turn row), knit 5 rows and cast off. I then turned the hem and sewed in place:
I really think that the hemmed edge gives a nice, simple finish to the garment and allows the beauty of the design to shine through.
I made a few other slight modifications to the pattern. I didn’t use short row shaping on the back neck. I will admit to you honestly that I left this out solely out of laziness. I also made fewer decreases on the sleeves. I can also admit to you honestly that this is due to a mistake. I made what I thought were 6 sets of decreases on the first sleeve, and then discovered that in two of the “sets” I only decreased on one side and not both. Thus I decreased from 60 stitches to 50 instead of 48. Did this make my perfectionist inner knitter leap to the fore and mercilessly rip out the sleeve? No, I merely repeated the mistakes on the other side to make the sleeves symmetrical. Sometimes, fudging is a perfectly acceptable response.
I should also point out that I haven’t yet sewn any buttons on. The collar is designed so that it can be worn down, as I do here, or can be buttoned up to make a turtleneck. I will eventually put on buttons, when I find just the right ones, but I do think that the collar is a bit tight to actually function as a turtleneck. It may be that I will need to block it out a bit wider before I can wear it up.
To sum up, Livvy is a great pattern by a new and talented designer; I have made some modifications to suit me and my body type, which I think enhance a lovely design. The pattern itself is well-written and tech-edited. The yarn, Lush Worsted, is lovely – incredibly soft with a beautiful rich tone. It’s also a really quick knit – this took me three weeks from start to finish. The only negative thing about this Lush Livvy, is that spring seems to have just now sprung, and I doubt I will get a chance to wear it before fall. (But I refuse to complain about spring!)