Why I Knit

Sometimes it all comes together just right.  The magical combination of pattern and yarn.  A fabulous fit.  This is why I knit.10-IMG_9778

The only thing better than creating a beautiful knit garment is wearing one.  This is my daughter Leah, modelling the cardigan I knit for her.  Anyone who knows Leah, would know that this sweater just screams LEAH.  It is made for her (both literally and figuratively).

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Regular readers will know that I was racing to finish this before Leah flew off to Canada for her second year at university.  I had a marathon finishing session, knitting the button bands in the middle of the night.  I dropped it into the wash basin just 48 hours before her plane left, worrying all along that it wouldn’t dry in time (or worse, that we wouldn’t be able to photograph it before she left).  Here is a very exhausted but happy mom:

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The cardigan was designed by Sandi Rosner for the Twist Collective.  It is called Peloponnese.  I knew the instant I saw it that I would knit it for Leah.  Astonishingly, although the pattern was released over a year ago, there is only one other project up on Ravelry.  Knitters, you are truly missing out here!  Knit this – you won’t be sorry.

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The yarn is Madelinetosh Tosh DK in Composition Book Grey and Candlewick.  This won’t be my last project with either colour; the Candlewick especially.  It is absolutely radiant – it glows in the sunshine and looks like burnished gold in low light.

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I made a number of modifications from the pattern, which I will outline here.  Those of you who are only interested in the pretty, and not in the boring technical details (surely, no one falls into that category!), could easily skim through the next few paragraphs.  Here is the pattern photo for comparison’s sake.

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Modifications:

1. Long sleeves.  I think a long-sleeved cardigan is more useful.  I was knitting the second size, so I cast on the sleeves as if for the first size (because the wrist is narrower than the forearm) and then increased at 2″, 4″, 6″ and 8″ and then every inch until the desired 72 stitches, and then continued until the sleeve length was right.  (This is always a bit tricky with a yoked sweater; I made Leah try it on so many times and measured it ad nauseum.  In the end, it was perfect.)

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2. The pattern calls for the mosaic portions of the cardigan (around the yoke) to be knit with a larger needle than the stockinette portions.  I used a US number 5 needle for everything – all of the body, the edgings and the yoke.  I liked the way it looked.  Also, I have knit many times using mosaic pattern stitches and knew that my stitches would not be unduly pulled in – I am pretty good at keeping an even tension in mosaic.

3. Alterations to the yoke.  You can see in the pattern photo that there are six rings of mosaics in the yoke (in addition to the edging, which is in garter stitch).  If you look carefully, you can see that this is actually three repeats of the pattern.  Sandi Rosner has written a beautiful pattern, and the way the yoke is designed is brilliant.  I especially like the way the decreases are worked into the yoke.  However, I encountered some fit problems here and had to improvise on the pattern.

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The pattern calls for a decrease row after each pattern repeat.  After I had worked five rows of mosaics (thus two and a half pattern repeats and two yoke decrease rows), I had Leah try it on and realized that (1) the cardigan was stretched too tightly around her shoulders, and (2) the yoke would not be long enough if I followed the pattern exactly.  Before continuing, I would like to stress two points.  First, this is by no means a problem with the pattern.  Recall point 2 above – I did not go up a needle size when I began the mosaic portion – thus it is not surprising that I had a few fit issues.  Second, and more important, is that ALL patterns are written to standard sizes.  The whole point of hand-knitting a garment is to knit it to fit.  You should never just knit blindly to the pattern measurement.  If the pattern says to knit the sleeves to 19″ for a size 38, and you are a size 38 but have extra long arms, it would be crazy to knit the sleeves to fit the pattern rather than to fit your body.

To fix this, I ripped back to before the second yoke decreases and knit another half-repeat before decreasing.  Thus, Leah’s sweater has 7 rows of mosaic (3.5 repeats) with yoke decreases after the second, fifth and seventh rows of mosaics.  This means that the decreases are made in the contrast colour (the Candlewick) the second time.

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4. The buttonbands.  Unblocked, the fit on this cardigan was tight.  I was worried about getting a good fit, but didn’t want to do a hard block on the pattern.  I decided instead to add a bit more give by adding 4 rows of garter stich in the main colour to the beginning of the button bands.  This adds two garter ridges in grey between the yoke pattern and the buttonband edging.  This gave me just enough extra “give” so that the fit is perfect.  And, I think it looks fabulous.  I really like the effect; I think it makes the yoke pattern “pop” even better.

We really went right to the wire with this project.  It was 3pm on Saturday by the time I finished blocking it; Leah and I then hopped in the car and raced out to find buttons.  I had wanted to find yellow buttons, but they weren’t to be had.  Leah insisted these small grey metal ones would be just right, and she nailed it.

01-IMG_9726The weather has been pretty miserable this Bank Holiday weekend, but the rain held off just enough that I was able to unpin the cardigan and put it outside for a few hours on Sunday afternoon, enough to ensure the back was dry.  (You can see I was also busy washing several of Leah’s other hand knitted garments – and one of Emma’s as well; aren’t my girls lucky?)

1-IMG_9703Then, I had just enough time to weave in some ends and sew on 11 buttons (yes, 11 buttons!) before the light failed.  The weather cooperated and a photo-shoot ensued:

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This pattern is beautifully written and detailed.  The cardigan looks so intricate and complicated but is quite simple to knit (the mosaic pattern means that you never knit with more than one colour on any row).  I love all of the little details that make the pattern special; for example, the edging done in the mosaic pattern but in garter stitch instead of stockinette.  This looks so classy!

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And this, Dear Readers, is why I knit!

 

Sneak preview

Leah is leaving in three days to go back to university in Canada.   This means that I am under pressure to finish knitting her cardigan before she leaves.  Since it needs to be blocked, I really need to finish it today.  Yikes!  I am getting close, however, and have decided to give you a sneak preview:

3-IMG_9629For those of you who haven’t been following, this is the Peloponnese cardigan, designed by Sandi Rosner for Twist Collective.  It is knit with Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in Composition Book Grey and Candlewick.  I still need to do both buttonbands and all of the finishing.  Oh, and I must go button-shopping as well!  Wish me luck!

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Zipping along

Despite not having much time to blog, I have managed to do quite a bit of knitting the past month.  I finished a skirt for Emma (hopefully to be blogged soon) and am zipping along on a cardigan for Leah.

3-IMG_9565This photo shows my progress at two weeks:  I have knit about 11″ of the body (which is knit in one piece, so that represents the back and both fronts – a good portion of the sweater).  Here you can see the piece unfolded:

1-IMG_9572The little stitch markers, by the way, indicate increase and decrease rows (in this case, the decrease rows are marked with green and the increase rows are marked with orange).  I always mark my increases and decreases this way; it means I don’t have to bother writing everything down while I am knitting, especially when I am deviating from the pattern.  I can note it all down at the end, before washing and blocking when I take out the markers.  This also makes it very easy to duplicate the shapings on a matching piece – a second sleeve, for example.  (For those curious readers who are wondering about the sweater I am wearing in the above photo, please stay tuned for my next Wearability Wednesday post.)

As you can see from the top photo, I am also making very fast progress on a sleeve, which I started yesterday.  I have often bemoaned knitting sleeves on this blog – in fact I once wrote a post entitled Do you love your husband enough to knit the sleeves?.  I find them to be endless and fiddly and annoying.  If this sleeve is any indication, however, I should be ready to start the yoke by the weekend.

I can’t wait to get to the yoke because that is the fun part of the pattern.  The cardigan is designed by Sandi Rosner and called Peloponnese.  It can be found in the Winter 2013 Twist Collection.  Here is a pattern photo:

peloponnese_z_500_medium2This is my first time knitting with Madelinetosh Merino DK.  It is a very soft wool, with beautiful drape, and the colours are very rich.  It is, however, a bit splitty and I worry that it may pill.  I chose it for two reasons: first because I have long wanted to knit with these two colours – Composition Book Grey and Candlewick (even though it never occurred to me to put them together until I started thinking about this sweater).  Secondly, Leah has trouble with itchy wools so I need to be very careful when selecting for her.  I’ve knit for her before with Madelinetosh Pashmina to great success. This wool will definitely win points on the softness front.

For some reason, I imagined that Peloponesse would be a slower knit.  In fact, it is practically jumping off my needles.  At this rate, I may just manage my goal of finishing it before Leah returns to Canada later this month.

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Too many beautiful patterns to choose from

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:

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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?

  1. The sweater has to be right for this weight yarn (DK) and I must have enough of it (I have 1030 metres).
  2. It has to meet Emma’s strict style criteria.
  3. Because the yarn is slightly variegated, a simple, not-too-busy sweater will show off the yarn best.
  4. 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.

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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.

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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:

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and here is a photo of the front:

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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.

Another one on my list is the Wrapped pullover, designed by atelier alfa:

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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.

Just this week, as I was putting together this post, Ruth Garcia-Alcantud of Rock and Purl, published a new sweater design, Echoes of Winter:

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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.

The Dragonflies Jumper, designed by Joji Locatelli, is another good one.

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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:

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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.

Another option is the Isis Tailcoat:

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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.

Last, but not least, is the Jewel Lake pullover:

5816113452_930c29def8_zI 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!

Sky at Night

bazinga – 1. A catchy phrase to accompany your clever pranks. As popularized by Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory).  2. A short post highlighting something that Emma and Kelly think is freaking fabulous.

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This is the Celestarium Shawl, designed by Audry Nicklin.  (Photos copyright by Jane Heller.)  It is in the latest issue of Twist Collective, a really fabulous online knitting magazine.  When I first saw it, I thought “OK, it’s a pretty shawl,” but as shawls don’t usually capture my attention so much, I flipped right by it.  But I came back to it because it is pretty; I like the round shape, I like the drape, I like the use of beads and eyelets.  I think the yarn is lovely – it is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Seduction in the colour Haida.

But then, I read the description, and, well, it had me:

“Celestarium is an accurate view of the night sky from the North Pole in the form of a pi shawl. Eyelets and beads are used to represent the stars. The center bead represents Polaris.”  [from the Ravelry project page]

This is so cool.  I sent the link to Emma and she agreed – totally cool.  Emma spent part of the summer studying early scientific treatises on the stars for her summer internship, became enthused, and has been studying astronomy at UBC this fall.  We are both geeky enough to think this is an amazing idea for a pattern.

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Doesn’t that just make your heart stop?  Absolutely freaking fabulous.

If the sun ever does comes out, I’ll be ready

England continues to be in the throes of a non-summer; endless days of cold and rain and grey.  I am still wearing a coat to work, making hot soups for dinner, and soaking in a steamy hot tub in the evenings.   I have not worn my sunglasses since leaving Arizona and have forgotten what sandals are. But, if the sun ever does come out, I’ll be ready:

Yes, I have finished knitting Laresca.  (Finally, a finished project!)  And, if I do say so myself, it turned out pretty good.  I complained in an earlier post that I wasn’t really liking this one; both because I had regrets about the colour and because I didn’t think it’s loose, swingy style was really me.  One of my readers (hi, Lou!) pointed out that perhaps I should be applying my own Wearability Wednesday criteria before knitting it, and not investing the energy to finish something I ultimately wouldn’t find wearable.  Well, in a sense I think that is what I did, because in fact my Laresca doesn’t quite look like the original (which I will repeat here again, just for comparison’s sake).

I love this photo, with its long, loose, flowing lines, and I might aspire to wear this look, but it really isn’t me.  On the other hand, my Laresca, a much more fitted garment, paired with a short snakeskin print skirt, suits me rather well.  My top is more fitted for two reasons: first, because I knit it with 4 inches of negative ease instead of the called-for positive ease (a big difference), and second, because I somehow, inadvertently, accidentally ended up with 12 fewer stitches across the back after doing the arm decreases, thus making it even more fitted.  Was I aware that I was decreasing the hell out of it?  Consciously, no.  But, unconsciously, I was clearly going for a different kind of sweater in my head than on the paper.  My hands knew what they were doing.

And as far as the colour goes, it was only after I finished knitting it that I realized that it went perfectly with this beautiful skirt and matching snakeskin heels that I bought months ago (from Hobbs) in anticipation of the summer-that-isn’t.  It’s almost as if I had a grand plan, all along.

So, I’ve got my linen and silk thing going here.  I’ve got a bit of lace.  I’ve got a cute short skirt.  Go ahead, sun, do your worst!  I’m ready for you!

Trials and tribulations

This has been a frustrating weekend here at Knitigating Circumstances Headquarters.  We have been trying very hard to post the first installment in RETROspective, a series featuring vintage garments handknitted by my mother and grandmother, and lovingly remodelled and rephotographed by three generations of us knitigating gals.  I have the text all ready to go, but we have hit a technological wall.  Emma is in Germany, which means she has no access to the thousands of photos we took for this series.  Before she left, Doug uploaded all of the photos onto a cloud service so that she could access everything remotely.  Unfortunately, Emma has very poor bandwidth, and way too many photos to sort through, so this solution isn’t working out. Yesterday, Emma and Doug had a two-hour long skype call trying to come up with a fix, and finally called it off.

We are now attempting a second solution, using a semi-professional photo sharing site.  I am doing an initial triage through the photos, narrowing them down to a hundred or so, and then we hope that Emma will be able to access them and apply her magic (oops, I meant skills) to get the right photos into the post.  Our aim is to have a system that is optimized for our purposes, because once Emma is finished in Berlin she will be heading off to university and the future of our partnership depends on our being able to work together remotely.  If any of you readers have any experience with these issues, and can offer us advice, please drop us a note.

In the meantime, knitting progresses.  If you recall, last Sunday I discovered a mistake in my Killybegs cardigan and had to rip the whole thing out and start over. I have made great progress this week and have now got 10″ on the needles.  This is a lot of knitting, since the fronts and back are knit together in one piece.

I have also been busy planning another knit.  Assuming that the wind and cold and rain ever comes to an end here, I thought that I might make a summer sweater.  I had a hard time choosing one, mostly because there are so many lovely patterns available.  I finally decided on Laresca, a very pretty, drapy, summer tee:

Laresca is designed by Corrina Ferguson and is available on the Twist Collective.  If you haven’t checked out the Twist Collective, you really must.  It is a webzine with amazing patterns and really good design and layout.  Laresca is made with a Rowan yarn, Panama, that is a blend of rayon, cotton and linen.  There is a nice lace panel that runs up the side of the top and then around the armholes.

Panama comes in some nice colours and I went to the shop fully intending to make this in red, or perhaps purple or green, and completely surprised myself by buying the yarn in a neutral colour – I would describe it as oyster.  I have finished the swatch and hit the gauge right on first try.

My plan is to knit the two simultaneuosly.  The thick wool and needles of the Killybegs are a little hard on my hands, so I hope to switch back and forth between the two projects.  And if we ever get any summer weather, I may concentrate more on Laresca.  Well, dear reader, that is all for today.  Hopefully we will sort out our trials and tribulations and bring you RETROspective shortly.