Venetian Audrey modelled

IMG_6465In February, I finished knitting my Venetian Audrey sweater for Emma.  Since Emma was in Vancouver (and it wouldn’t fit me or Leah), I published a post with unmodelled shots.  Emma is now back home for the summer, so I am happy to be able to bring you some modelled photos.  (Lots of modelled pictures; this will be a photo-heavy post).

IMG_6476I blogged about this sweater quite a bit during both the planning and the knitting; you can find these posts here.  I actually found it quite nerve-wracking to knit this without Emma around to try it on.  As the sweater has a huge amount of negative ease built into it, and the ribbing makes it hard to measure properly, I spent many hours with a tape measure and a frown, trying to size it properly.

IMG_6492As you can see here, the fit is fabulous.  I must admit, however, that when I sent it to Emma, I hadn’t yet blocked it.  I wasn’t sure it needed it and didn’t want to make a mistake in the blocking; I really needed to see it on her before I could judge appropriately how much blocking it needed, if any. I was kind of annoyed that Emma didn’t send me any photos of her wearing it.  When she came home and I complained, she pointed out that she thought it perhaps had need of a little tweaking.  (Emma has very exacting tastes; on the other hand, she is invariably right about these things.) The sweater has really benefitted from a good block.  I didn’t stretch the ribbing out at all, but I pinned the lace out, and added a good three inches to the sleeves and two to the body.  (I knit the sleeves a few inches longer than the pattern called for, and then blocked them out even farther.  If you plan to knit this pattern, don’t be afraid to build in lots of negative ease, and add lots of length.)

IMG_6488As readers of this blog may recall, I re-wrote the pattern for this sweater.  First, the pattern as written is knit in pieces and seamed.  Though I don’t normally mind this type of construction, it really didn’t seem to make sense for Audrey.  So, I knit the pullover in the round, bottom-up; knitting the sleeves in the round on DPNs and then attaching them at the yoke, and knitting the yoke in one piece.

IMG_6491I also re-sized the pattern.  This is because, as I have pointed out here many times before, Rowan patterns run big.  If you think you are a size 12, you should knit your Rowan pattern in a size 8.  Since Emma is already at the smallest size, I had to do quite a bit of math to get the sweater to fit.

IMG_6470Audrey has beautiful shaping details.  The waist decreases, knit into the 2×2 ribbing, are gorgeous.  They are very architectural, with columns of ribbing moving in and out across the canvas of the sweater.

IMG_6490The yoke and neckline are also beautifully shaped.   The line of the neck is elegant, sweeping, striking.  The lace is subtle; it is a garter stitch lace, which gives it a lot of texture.  We blocked out the peaks of the lace pattern to give it an undulating edge.

IMG_6494Emma wears it here with jeans and heels, but it is easy to dress up or down.  Last year, I wrote a post about my original Audrey in which I showed how easy it is to style it in different ways, and also how flattering it is to many different body types; you can find that post here.

IMG_6515I knit mine in Rowan Calmer, but the sweater is much more elegant knit in the Madelinetosh DK.  The colour is very rich, and the ribbing controls the tendency to pool; I didn’t need to alternate skeins.

IMG_6526I  am really happy with this one.  I think the fit came out just right, I love the colour, the yarn is soft and warm, the style is sexy and classy, and it looks fabulous on Emma (even when caught on candid camera – hehe!).

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Venetian Audrey unmodelled

I finished knitting my Venetian Audrey sweater this week.  Unfortunately, since Emma now lives half way around the world from me (and since no one else around here could possibly fit into one of Emma’s sweaters) it will have to go unmodelled at present.

IMG_6068This is a shame because this is definitely one of those sweaters that you have to see on to appreciate. I am going to stick it in a box and mail it to Emma and she has promised to photograph it and post up some modelled shots once she receives it.  The pattern is Audrey, by Kim Hargreaves, but as I have explained in previous posts I have substantially reworked the pattern to both make it smaller and to knit it in the round.  The yarn is the fabulous Madelinetosh Tosh DK, in the colour called Venetian, which is very hard to photograph.  The light today wasn’t the best for capturing it as these photos make it look more purple than it is.  The colour is actually like that of deep, dark, perfectly ripe cherries; absolutely delicious and rich and a very deep pink shot through with black.

IMG_6073There are some great shaping details, which can be tricky to execute in the ribbing, but have a big payoff.  In the above photo, you can see the shaping in the bust increases on the bodice and also the great detailing on the raglan sleeve and body shaping.

Now for some technical details.  If these don’t interest you, skip down to the next photo.

I had to do a lot of fooling around with the pattern to get the ribbing to work out right when I joined the sleeves to start the yoke, and also to get the raglan shaping right.  For the body, I cast off 6 stitches each side of the side markers; the crucial factor was that I wanted to end up with one purl stitch on each side of the back and front.  I also wanted this for the sleeves (that is, a single purl on either side after the bind off) but realized that to do this, I would either need to cast off too few or too many stitches on the sleeves, so that they wouldn’t match up with the body when it came time to graft the underarms.  I had worried before (and commented on the fact previously on the blog) that perhaps I had made the sleeves too narrow.  However, when making the sleeve increases, I was cognizant of wanting to end up with the K2P2 ribbing intact all the way around the sleeve, which meant that I had to make increases in groups of 4.  I had made 8 increases, which didn’t seem quite enough, but 12 seemed too many.

When it came time to join the yoke, however, I realized that I had  not accounted for the bound off stitches under the arm.  In order to bind off roughly the same as I had for the body (six each side of center, or 12 at each armhole), and still end up with a single purl on each side, I needed to have made more sleeve increases.  So, I ripped out 6 inches from each sleeve, and reknit them, adding two more sets of increases for a total of 10 sets (63 stitches).  I was then able to bind off the center stitch, plus 5 to each side, making a total of 11 stitches bound off for each sleeve.  Note that this had the side effect of solving the issue of the sleeves being too tight, by adding an additional 4 stitches to each sleeve.  Then I joined the sleeves to the body, placing a marker at each join, so that there were four markers, showing the positions of the raglan lines.  Since both the body pieces and the sleeves were edged with a single purl stitch, once they were combined, I had a beautiful K2P2 all the way around.

I then made the raglan shaping as follows:

Row 1: * sl marker, P1,K2, P1, P2tog, work in rib as established to 6 stitches before marker, P2tog tbl, P1, K2, P1 *, repeat from * to * three times.  (This makes a decrease on each side of each raglan, offset by 4 stitches.)

Row 2: work all stitches as set

I worked these two rows 8 times, and then four times making the decreases only on the sleeve edge of the raglan edges.  This left me with 160 stitches.

IMG_6075Aren’t those raglan shapings beautiful?  The lace is knit separately in a long strip.  It is a garter stitch lace pattern with an alternating stitch count (which accounts for the gently scalloped edges).  It has a 12 row repeat.  I found that one pattern repeat of the lace, when slightly stretched, fit across 8 stitches of the ribbed yoke, also slightly stretched.  Since I had 160 stitches around the yoke after the raglan shaping, the math worked out perfectly!  I made 20 repeats of the lace pattern.  The only finishing required was to sew the lace around the bodice, and sew the stitches under the arm.  And voila!

The only remaining question is whether to block it.  I am thinking no – I don’t normally block ribbing, and as this whole sweater is ribbed, I’m not sure it needs a block.  I think that I shall just lightly steam the lace, pack it in a box, and ship it to Emma.

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A smidgeon of knitting

A smidgeon of knitting.  It has a ring to it.  Perhaps like an unkindness of ravens?  A murmuration of starlings? A bevy of beauties?  An absence of waiters?  A prey of lawyers?  Perhaps not.  But when I think of this month, I definitely come up with a smidgeon of knitting.  The rest of the knitting world seems to be on fire this month, but I am moving at a snail’s pace.

IMG_5936I have managed to finish the sleeves on Emma’s Venetian Audrey.  The sleeves are endless tubes of ribbing knit on DPNs.   I hate knitting sleeves.  I especially hate knitting sleeves in the round.  And I especially, especially hate knitting the second sleeve.  These sleeves also seem extra long, but before she left Emma said “Make sure you make the sleeves long enough.  The sleeves on your Audrey are inches too short on me.”  Here is a shot showing the pieces of Emma’s Audrey on top of my finished Audrey.

IMG_5943It looks impossibly skinny but you have to remember that mine has been blocked and washed and worn countless times and the ribs have relaxed.  Notice, Emma, the sleeves are really long.  Promise.  We had a hard time getting the colours to look right with the lighting today.  Here is a better shot:

IMG_5941Why is there a bowl of chili peppers in my knitting shot?  Because they are pretty, that’s why!  See?

IMG_5938While I am busy writing this post, Doug is in the kitchen whipping up a batch of Thai green curry paste, using these lovely chillies.  We will have butternut squash and eggplant curry for dinner (following this recipe more or less; try it – it’s great).  We are using the last of the lime leaves and curry leaves and black peppercorns that Doug brought back from his last trip to Malaysia. Luckily, he is going again this week and can refill our larder.

In addition to the endless sleeve knitting, I have also managed a bit of scarf knitting on my February scarf.

IMG_5928This is fun to knit and the Quince & Co Osprey is perfect, soft and wooly.  It is going to make a lovely scarf.  Hopefully, I willl manage to finish it while there is still cold weather to wear it in.

IMG_5929The scarf may have to compete for my affections, however.  Look what I just received in the mail:

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Yes, dear readers, this is a great, giant bowl filled with Shelter yarn from Brooklyn Tweed. (A meringue of Shelter?  A cauldron of Shelter?  A shedload of Shelter?) Fourteen fabulous skeins of Shelter in the colour ‘fossil’.  I have never used Shelter before, but have finally been coerced into buying it, by the unbelievably beautiful designs that Jared and his team of great designers keep turning out.

What do I plan to knit with this?  The Exeter Jacket, designed by Michelle Wang for Brooklyn Tweed Spring Thaw:

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

This is a completely gorgeous double-breasted cabled jacket, but you cannot appreciate it until you see the back:

copyright Jared Flood/ Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/ Brooklyn Tweed

Be still my heart!  As you can see, I will have to get a move on and turn my smidgeon  into a banquet of knitting.

A possibly boring post about sleeves

It has finally gotten cold in England.  There may even be snow on the way.  What does your friendly knitting mom do on a freezing cold afternoon?  Why, make her daughter stand in the cold in a T-shirt modelling a knitted sleeve. To add insult to injury, the sleeve is for her sister’s sweater.  Here is Leah, shivering but being a good sport modelling the sleeve for the Venetian Audrey sweater:

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You might recall that Audrey is designed by Kim Hargreaves to be knit flat. I decided to re-write  the pattern to (1) knit it in the round, and (2) re-size it for an XS as the pattern directions had too much ease.   I described my reasoning behind both of these in this post.   It was fairly easy to re-write the sweater body.  The written pattern calls for 96 stitches to be cast on for a size small.  I cast on twice this number, or 192, joined in the round, and knit in K2P2 rib (starting with K1, P2, K2, and ending with a K1; this keeps a K2 rib up the center sides).  I already said that the pattern had too much ease, so why did I start with so many stitches?  Well, despite the fact that Emma is very thin, she is also quite curvy and has hips.  I also hate sweaters that are too clingy on the hips.  For Emma’s figure, I want the sweater to be fairly loose on the hips and then to pull in quite dramatically for her waist.  (I used to be shaped exactly the same about 30 years ago!)

Bear with me now as we delve into technical detail.  The pattern calls for 4 sets of double decreases, each decrease being made about 4″ in from the side seams.  When knit in the round, this means 8 stitches decreased on each decrease row for a total of 32 stitches decreased.  I made 7 sets of decreases for a total of 56 stitches decreased, to 136 stitches (68 each side).  The pattern calls for 74 stitches at the waist for an XS and 80 for a S.  So, I have now decreased from a size S at the hips, to 6 stitches less (per side) than the XS.  The bust increases are single, rather than double, increases so each increase row adds 4 stitches when knitting in the round.  As the shaping disrupts the K2P2 pattern, and the aim is to end up with the pattern intact, you must make sure that after your increases are complete you have K2P2 all the way around.  I made 6 sets of increases, to end up with 160 stitches (80 each side).

OK, that takes care of the body, but what to do with the sleeves?  I want to knit them in the round, but this means I need to make some decisions about how to incorporate the increases into the pattern.  In the original pattern, increases are made at the edges, and then the sleeves are sewn together.  My first issue is how many stitches to cast on.  The pattern calls for 56.  I know I need less; for the body I was knitting at a ratio of about 8:9 for the size XS (thus, I had roughly 8 stitches on the needle for every 9 stitches in the XS).  Looking at the pattern, however, I think that the sleeves are designed too wide in proportion to the rest of the sweater.  First, this is because there is no difference in the pattern between the size S sleeve and the size XS.   Second, you can see it in the photo from Rowan 35, where the pattern is published:

theknittinggarden.com-audrey-lgI think that these sleeves look really baggy, so I want to cut back on the number of stitches even more than my 8:9 ratio.  The pattern calls for 56 stitches to be cast on, and I cast on 43.  Why an odd number?  Well, I decided to have a purl stitch running up the center sleeve, and to increase on either side of this stitch, incorporating increases into the K2P2 ribbing pattern.  The increases look like this:

IMG_5841I think it looks kind of interesting, and though I don’t have a good photo to compare with (since my Audrey is knit in black yarn and thus hard to show these kind of details) it looks a lot less messy than the seam on mine.  Here is a close-up:

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I increased 8 times, at 2″ intervals for a total of 59 stitches.  My goal was to knit it 2″ longer than the sleeves on my Audrey pullover because Emma has longer arms.  I thought I had done that, but as you can tell from the photos, once it is on it stretches horizontally and this makes it shorter.  This sleeve is not yet long enough for Leah so I have to make it longer still to fit Emma.  I won’t make any more increases, however, as I would have to add 4 more sets of increases to keep the rib in pattern.

It took me an entire week to make this sleeve (egads!), mostly because I kept second guessing myself and measuring and remeasuring and contemplating. Now that I have it all figured out, I hope to turn out the second sleeve fairly quickly.

Rowan runs big

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I’ve said it before.  I’ll say it again.  Rowan patterns run big.  Rowan produces beautiful knitting pattern books with high production values – thick, glossy paper, full page photos, interesting backgrounds, beautiful colours.  They have a stable of fabulous designers who consistently turn out lovely garments.  They have a sense of colour, and of colour playfulness, that can’t be beat. The patterns all use Rowan yarn (of course) which I love and use frequently.   I buy every issue and collect them; I pour over them again and again.  I have knit many of their designs.

That said, there are some things that drive me crazy about Rowan.  They are not big on charting; though they seem to be getting better at this, there are quite a few patterns which I wanted to knit and decided not to, simply because there were no charts provided.  A lot of their patterns seem unnecessarily fiddly, and the construction unnecessarily complicated.  I recommend reading the entire pattern, and then think each step through carefully; don’t be afraid to rework the construction method.  Remember that a good knitter can think of a pattern as a recipe.  It won’t kill the brownies to add a little rum and go light on the sugar; and you might come up with something delicious.  This same philosophy should apply to your knitting.

The most serious problem with Rowan patterns, however, is the vast  amount of positive ease they write into every garment.  I tried knitting a Rowan sweater for Doug a few years ago.  It had about 10″ of ease written in.  I know that men like to have room in their sweaters, but that is ridiculous.  I purposely knit down a size, and then ripped out and knit down a further size, and finally gave up all together with a partially finished garment that was huge.

Why am I writing this rant about too much ease in Rowan patterns?  Well, the answer lies in Emma’s sweater dilemma.  Regular readers of this blog will recall that I have been trying for quite a long time to find the perfect sweater pattern to knit for Emma.  We picked out the yarn ages ago (Madelinetosh Tosh DK in Venetian) but have not been able to settle on a pattern.  I wrote a post here, where I talked about a number of the pattern options being considered.  I was anxious to settle on a pattern before Emma arrived home for the holidays.  She was only home for 12 days, and I thought that if I had a pattern picked out and swatched in advance, I could just about finish it in 12 days (if I really pushed it).  But Emma and I could not find THE pattern,  the one that screamed “I was made to be knit in Tosh DK Venetian for Emma!”

Every day, I would throw out pattern ideas to Emma, and each one would be rejected.  On Boxing Day, I suddenly, for no reason that I can recall, said to Emma “We should just knit another Audrey.”  And we both stared at each other, knowing instantly that Audrey was IT – the absolutely perfect sweater, both for this yarn and for Emma.  Audrey was designed by Kim Hargreaves for Rowan 35.  I knit one for myself in the fall of 2009 in black in Rowan Calmer, a cotton blend.  I wrote a post last January about how versatile Audrey is; in the post, Emma, Leah and I all model my Audrey sweater.  My point was that even though we each have different shapes and styles, the sweater suited each of us.  Because the entire sweater is knit in 2×2 ribbing, it has amazing give and is very stretchy – thus, Emma can look good in my sweater.  However, as soon as I said it, I could imagine how much better Emma would look in an Audrey that had actually been knit for her, in her size, designed for her shape.  And a quick swatch of the Tosh DK in 2×2 rib showed up its fabulousness in every way.  Lush.  This yarn is lush.

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Looking over the pattern again, I struggled to find any reason why it should be knit in pieces and seamed.  Now, the fact is that unlike many thousands of rather vociferous knitters, I actually enjoy knitting in pieces, and seaming.  I think that in many sweaters (dare I say most sweaters?) the shoulders and sleeves look infinitely better if the sweater has been seamed.  I know that it is all the rave to knit in one piece, usually top down, and I can see all the advantages of this, but the primary disadvantage is usually lack of proper fit in the shoulder and underarm and arm scythe.  However, there are some styles of sweater for which knitting in one piece, with a yoke, is the obvious way to go.  Audrey seems to me to be a clear candidate to knit this way.  So, the first thing I did was to rewrite the pattern to be knit in the round, bottom-up.

The second problem with the pattern is the sizing.  Repeat after me: Rowan runs big.  The smallest size for Audrey is an XS, which is listed as a size 32.  Remember that this sweater is knit in rib, and that ribbing needs negative ease.  This should be obvious.  Ribbing, especially 2×2 ribbing, normally pulls in, producing a thick, cushy fabric.  When it is on the body, you want it to be stretched out enough to give the rib definition – you should be able to see each rib articulated.  See in the top photo below, how narrow the sweater looks; it is the width of my hand at the waist.  But, as you can see in the second photo, when it is worn the ribs will stretch out and become articulated.  They will pop. Ribbing gives an architectural interest to your sweater.  If you don’t put enough negative ease into the garment, the ribs won’t pop – and you might as well be knitting in stockinette stitch.

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Looking back at my project notes, I can see that I knit down a size for my Audrey, because I knew that Rowan runs big.  I knit a size M, which gave me 2″ of negative ease.  I can also see from my notes that I fretted the whole time about whether it would fit, because it looks tiny as it comes off the needles.  (Note that this problem magically disappears when you knit in the round; I had Emma try this on repeatedly – I know the body fits her perfectly.)

Given all this, imagine my astonishment to look at the schematics for the sweater and see that the XS, which is designed for a 32″ bust, actually has 2″ of positive ease written into the pattern (that is, it is designed for a 34″ circumference around the bust).   Thus, it is clear that the XS size in the Audrey pattern, the smallest size it is written in, is a good two sizes too big for Emma.  What this all means is that I am rewriting the entire pattern, first to knit it in the round, and second to resize it appropriately for an XS.

There was a chance that I could have finished it for Emma while she was home – if I had had the Audrey Eureka Moment in early December.  As it was, I had only 7 days to work on it before I put her on the plane to fly back to Vancouver.  So, I did the best I could – I knit the entire body of the sweater up to the armpits, so I know that this bit at least fits properly.  Then, I took lots of measurements.  I also had Emma try on my Audrey and took measurements on it.  For Emma’s sweater, I am obviously making it a lot narrower, to fit her narrower torso, but also, Emma is taller than I am, so I will be adding an inch to the length and at least two inches to the arms.  Plus, Emma wants it to definitely be an off-the-shoulder garment, so I will knit the yoke an inch shorter.

I am a little nervous about reworking all of the math, and fitting it, without her here to try it on.  It is easy to properly fit a garment when you have your model near to hand and can torture them by having them try it on every inch or so.  In this case, I will have to rely on my judgement and my tape measure, and then ship it to her with fingers crossed.