Wearability Wednesday: Vodka Lemonade

Welcome to another episode of Wearability Wednesday, in which I take a look at a previously knitted garment and reflect on its wearability. Does it get worn or is it stuck in a drawer? If the former, how does it get styled? Has it held up? Was the yarn the right choice? Would I knit it again? Today, I look at Vodka Lemonade, a cardigan pattern by Thea Coleman.

I finished this in August 2020, and wrote about the completed garment in this post. I knit it for Leah, but as she was in Vancouver, I grabbed some quick photos of myself wearing it for that blog post, and then put it in the mail. This is the first time I have managed to get photos of it on Leah, for which I am very happy.

I picked this pattern specifically to wear with dresses. Leah has lots of cute dresses and tends to wear them. I wanted something that was stylish but simple. It had to be relatively cropped because that looks best with a dress. I wanted it to be hard-wearing and easy to style.

I picked yellow because it makes you feel happy. (And it just happened to match a lot of her dresses.)

One of the great features of this dress is that it is knitted in one piece with all of the finishing done as you go along, so once you’ve finished knitting, it’s ready to wear! No button bands to pick up, or buttons to sew in, no collar to attach, just sew in a few threads and voila! I also like the fact that the lapels can fold over nicely, or not, because the pattern on them is reversible.

I also really like the 50s vibe I get from this pattern. It is fun to style, and looks really good on a shapely body.

You can see here that after two years and some washing, the cardigan still looks great. I used John Arbon Knit by Numbers DK in the shade 19-385. It’s a 100% merino wool.

It was my first time using this yarn, and it was really nice to handle. Seeing it now, I am even more impressed. It looks like new, with no pilling! I would highly recommend both yarn and pattern!

I took these photos just last week, some in Henley-on-Thames, and a few at The Ashmolean in Oxford. It was gorgeous and sunny then, and now it is grey and rainy. But a yellow cardigan always brings out the sun!

Hourglass Vest

It’s time for another Wearability Wednesday post! In this occasional series, I revisit a hand-knitted garment from the past and comment on its wearability. Do I wear it? Why or why not? How do I style it? Is it durable? Does it pill? What would I change if I were to make it again? In this edition I write about the #11 Hourglass Top by Theresa Shabes, Here I am wearing it this past weekend:

And here it is when I knitted it in the spring of 2014:

This was a very quick knit, from start to finish taking 23 days. How can I remember that? Well, because at the time I wrote a post about this top called How to become shapely in 23 days; this was a playful title based on the pattern employing a bit of an optical illusion that appears to draw in the waist.

Its been six years since I knitted this and I must admit that it spent most of that time in a box. The truth is, that until this last month, I hardly wore this top at all.

The problem is that I thought about it as a top, and when worn as a top, it is very impractical. It itches! (Do not wear Noro yarn next to the skin!) It’s a wool turtleneck without sleeves! When did I think I would wear it? As a top worn next to the skin, it is a not very effective garment. But, when worn as a vest when going out for long walks in the woods? Now that is a different story.

And when walking through town on a crisp autumn day? That works, too.

While I have discovered a way to put this garment to good use, it still has some problems in my mind. First, even on top of a turtleneck like this one, it is still itchy! Second, I am not a big fan of the neckline. The pattern actually called for rolled edges at the neck and the arms; I left them at the neck but added a few rows of ribbing at the armholes instead. I am not a fan of rolled edges, and don’t like the weird funnel like shape of the neckline. If I re-made this, I would put in a crew neck instead.

I also think that the proportions of the upper half of the garment are a bit off. The upper chest is about an inch too wide; if re-knitting I would decrease more stitches at the armholes. I would also decrease the length from armhole to shoulder by an inch. If you knit this, you need to use a yarn where the colour changes are long; otherwise the optical illusion at the waist will not work.

Above you can see me wearing it on two different days, in two different church cemeteries (where I live, every little town has one of these). The photo directly above was taken in the pouring rain on Saturday. Doug and I jumped out of the car and ran in the rain to take these photos. Yes, we are crazy, but it just goes to illustrate that wool is good for lots of weather. The other churchyard photo was taken the following day while Doug and I were out walking in the brilliant sunshine of an autumn morning.

Take good care, everyone. Be safe! If you can, take the time to enjoy a walk in the sunshine and some wool.

Linen and tractors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old but good

Today, as Doug and I were taking a walk through the fields, I realised two things at once.  First, he was wearing a sweater which I had knit for him many years ago and which has never been featured on the blog, and second, today is Wednesday.  And voila!  A post is born!

Final 6-3

It has been awhile since I last wrote a Wearability Wednesday post, so it is definitely past time to do one again.  Wearability Wednesday is a (very occasional) feature in which I review a previously knitted garment and comment on its wearability.  You can find all of the WW posts (in reverse order) by using this link.

I knit this sweater for Doug in 2006.   This was well before I started the blog (in 2011 – my, how time flies!).  It was even before Ravelry (I joined Ravelry in 2008).  The pattern is from the Interweave Knits Fall 2006 edition, so I must have cast it on almost as soon as my subscription copy landed in the post.

Final 6

The pattern, Spartan Pullover, is designed by Kristin Nicholas. I see that you can now download the pattern electronically from Interweave Press (there is a link on the Ravelry pattern page).  The pattern called for an Aran weight wool.  Instead, I used Rowan Felted Tweed held double.  My very few notes for this pattern (which I input onto Ravelry in March 2008) say: “I substituted this yarn which was much thinner than the pattern called for so I used two strands of the yarn held together. I still had to go up a couple of needle sizes to get gauge.”

I think that this would be much better knitted up with a real Aran weight yarn.  The Felted Tweed is a very nice, heather-y, soft-next-to-the-skin yarn, but at this gauge it isn’t very sturdy.  As Doug put it today: “It doesn’t do much to block the wind.”  On the other hand, it makes for a very lightweight, comfortable sweater.

Final 6-2

I am not a great fan of the drop shoulders, and I definitely should have knitted this a size down!  Felted Tweed is very hard-wearing yarn, but I think that, even held double, it really should have been knit at a tighter gauge.  This loose gauge makes it less sturdy and gives the garment less integrity.  I am a better knitter now than I was then, and in particular, I wasn’t very good at stranding.  (Now that I think of it, this may have been my very first attempt at stranding!) I didn’t maintain the best tension, particularly in the contrast between the stockinette and stranded sections.

I like this photo, although I took it from far off so it isn’t as sharp as it could be:

Final 6-8

Doug had wandered off to help hold up this tree:

Final 6-6

Despite these few quibbles, this is a nice sweater and has held up well.  The pattern is very easy, and written fairly old school (as one did back then).  The whole pattern, including specs, charts, and schematics, fits on a page and a half.  Doug thinks it is a very wearable, comfortable pullover, and well-suited for walks in the countryside. It’s old, but good.

Like much of the world, Doug and I are pretty freaked out by events.  We are diligent about social distancing.  (This is reinforced by the kids calling every day to make sure that we have not had contact with anyone!)  We are both lucky to be able to work from home and also that we live in the countryside and so can still enjoy a walk.  I am trying to keep this blog an upbeat respite from the news right now, as I think we all need a space to relax.  I wish you all the best in strange times.  Keep safe everyone!

Sweet and Tart

Welcome to another Wearability Wednesday post, in which I re-visit a hand-knitted garment and discuss its wearability.  The garment in question today is the turtleneck which I finished in early February 2015 and blogged here; below is a photo taken just after finishing.


The pattern, Lightweight Pullover, was designed by Hannah Fettig.  I took much inspiration from Hannah’s design and the many projects on Ravelry.  (This is a very popular design.)   Once I got going, however, I did my own thing as far as the numbers go – increasing and decreasing where needed, and not paying much attention to the pattern specs.   I took minimal notes, which you can find on my Ravelry project page, here.  I did change the waistband and the cuffs to seed stitch, which I think adds much to the look of the garment.

Of all of the hand-knitted garments in my wardrobe, this is probably the one that has been worn the most in the last year.  Partly, this is due to the fact that I knit it after I put on weight.  (I gained about 10 kilos during 2013-14; many of the knits I made before that are temporarily in storage.)  But mostly, its because it is a very serviceable pullover that fits well into my wardrobe and my lifestyle.

I frequently wear it with jeans.  It is easy to throw in a suitcase and thus it has been worn all over the globe in the last two years.  Below, I am wearing it while examining wool fleeces in the basement of a shop in Llandudno (blogged about here).


I like that it is lightweight; it is knit in fingering weight wool and this makes it easy to wear and to layer.  I used Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in the fabulous colour Tart. Note that the pattern calls for sportweight wool, but after seeing dozens of Lightwieght Pullovers knit in Tosh Merino Light, I decided that it gave really nice drape.


I also often wear this garment to the office.  It can be quite easily dressed up or down.  Usually, I will pair it with grey or black, as with these grey trousers:


Or this black pencil skirt:


These are all great features and means it gets worn a lot.  But, of course, there are some negatives as well.  This is the first garment I knit in Tosh Merino Light, and I find that it pills. A lot:


While Tart is a gorgeous colour, I have found it to be a little bit less versatile than I originally thought.  I would normally pair a deep wine with black, grey, navy or brown.  In actual fact, I find that it works much better with blacks and greys than with browns and navys.  Here is a shot with navy; I’m not sure it comes through well in the photo, but the grey tones in the yarn cause it to clash just a bit with the navy (I know this is nit-picky, but it does make it less adaptable in my wardrobe).


I also have concerns about the fit through the shoulders and arms.  I think it is about a good a fit as a raglan can be, but I am starting to think that a set-in shoulder has a much better fit.  And, it is perhaps a bit too tight (alsa, the weight gain!).  But what bothers me most is the slight felting under the arms:


Surely, I can’t be the only person who sweats?  The only solution I see is a looser fit under the arms; perhaps more length in the armscythe?  (And a bit more width in the bicep?)

The verdict: this is a fabulous and versatile piece in my wardrobe that sees a lot of wear.  If I were to make it again, I think I would try a different yarn (one that would pill less), and I would add a bit of give to the upper arm.  I think I would also do something with the cowl – make it a bit longer or give it more volume, perhaps?


Now, it is time to watch the Gilmore Girls (I had never even heard of the show before this summer and am now mid-way through season five – no spoilers please) and do some Christmas gift knitting.  Enjoy your Wednesday!


Wearability Wednesday is an occasional feature on this blog, in which I re-visit something I’ve knit in the past and discuss it from a wearability standpoint.  Do I still wear it?  Why?  Or why not?  Has it held up to time?  How do I style it?  Today’s post goes back to a pullover which I knit eight years ago, in the spring of 2006.  Unfortunately,  I can only find one photograph of it from that time, so please ignore the bewildered expression on my face and the washed-out colours (this was before we moved to a digital camera, so we were unable to take 40 photos to get one good shot):

2255927184_47bf365b98_zThis is the Klaralund sweater, designed by Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton for Noro. It is knit in Noro Silk Garden.  The above photo was taken in October of 2006, shortly after we moved to England.  Here I am wearing it, eight years later and twenty pounds (egads!) heavier:

1-IMG_9670I have documented elsewhere on this blog my troubles with a repetitive stress injury (deQuervaine’s tenosynovitis) that led to me being unable to knit for more than a decade.  This was the second sweater I made after I was able to take up knitting again.  I wore this sweater to death!  For the first few years after I knit it, it was the go-to item in my wardrobe.  Jeans, check!  Klaralund, check!  Ready to go.  Why did I wear it so much?  I liked to wear hand-knit sweaters and I had very few to choose from at the time.  I loved the colours.  It was easy, un-fussy, but pretty.

At some point, however, I stopped wearing it.  Until Doug took these photos a few weeks ago, I hadn’t had it on in years.  Why did I stop wearing it?  First of all, I think I had worn it so often that I had become bored with it.  Second, as the years went on and I knit more and more, I had a growing pile of hand knits to wear, so it had some competition.  More importantly, however:  this sweater is shapeless.  It is four rectangles sewn together.  There is no shaping whatsoever.  The combination of dropped shoulders and no waist shaping means that it is baggy and shapeless.

2-IMG_9665There is nothing particularly wrong with shapeless sweaters.  In fact, over-sized sweaters without waist shaping and with dropped shoulders are right in style now.  The past few years, however, has had me knitting a succession of shapely, curvy sweaters for me and the girls (for example, Livvy for me, Venetian Audrey for Emma and Peloponnese for Leah).  Compared with them, my Klaralund felt sloppy.  Another reason may also have to do with ego – it is nice to wear a hand knit sweater that shows off your expertise.  Klaralund can be made by a total beginner.

Now that I’ve put it back on though, I think I might resurrect it.  It is still comfortable and easy.  The colours are still bright and interesting.  It has even held its shape (in a shapeless kind of way).  I can still fit into it, despite the extra weight!  Furthermore, it brought back a bit of nostalgia.  I knit this before Ravelry existed.  When I was considering making this sweater, I put ‘Klaralund’ into a search engine and discovered that other knitters were doing the same – this was how I discovered knitting blogs for the first time.  For me, this sweater marks the beginning of the internet in my knitting life.  Who could have guessed that the internet would have so totally changed the knitting community and the way I think about knitting?

So, perhaps the next time I go walk by the river on a windy day or sip my morning coffee in the back garden, I may just pull Klaralund out of the closet.



Green, glorious green!

Today is Wednesday and it’s time for another Wearability Wednesday post.  For those not in the know, this is an occasional series on the blog where I look back at something I’ve knit and examine it from a Wearability standpoint: do I actually wear it?  How do I style it? Has it stood up to wear?  The focus of today’s WW post is the absolutely gorgeous cabled rib shawl:

5084935078_0e4f0c0bca_zThis shawl was designed by Lily M. Chin and published in the Winter 1999/2000 edition of Vogue Knitting (where it is called #02 Reversible Cabled-Rib Shawl); you can find the Ravelry link here.  I think it is likely that this is the single most-worn item of any I have ever knitted.  I love everything about it.

5084343247_710cb2e8ab_zIt is not a knit for the easily bored.  Knitting this takes endurance.  It is not a difficult or complicated knit.  It is, however, very long and repetitive.  This might be why the project took me so long to finish.  I fell in love with it when I first saw it.  (Thanks, Mom, for shipping copies of Vogue Knitting to me all over the world for so many years!)  I waited until October of 2008 to cast on, however.  This may have been aided by the fact that by then I lived in England and I could purchase Kidsilk Haze from my local department store.


I didn’t finish knitting it until July 2010.  It of course does not take  22 months to knit this unless you keep throwing it into a box and letting it sit for months on end while working on other projects.  I did this at least three times due to extreme boredom and tedium.  If you plan on knitting this, do as I say not as I do:  This shawl will be one of the best things you ever knit!  DO NOT consign it to your WIP pile.  Plow ahead and finish it and you will never regret it.


Why do I love this shawl?  I love its delicacy; if you hold it up to the light it is practically transparent.  It is surprisingly warm.  The cables give it a sense of movement and fluidity.  It is very long and can be worn in so many ways, draped over the arms, wrapped two to three times around the neck, tossed over your shoulder.  It looks great with jeans and a t-shirt, it looks fabulous and classy with a dress.  I wear it in all seasons, as a shawl and as a scarf.  I bundle up in it in the winter and wear it on a summer’s evening.


What do I love most about this shawl?  It’s colour.  It is green, glorious green!  I never get tired of this colour.  It cheers me up on dreary days.  It adds impact to a simple outfit.  It stands out in a crowd.  It gets noticed.  It is uplifting.  As Kermit the Frog sings:

But green’s the color of spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like a mountain
Or important like a river
Or tall like a tree

from “Bein’ green” by Joe Raposo

I frequently think about knitting another one.  Yes, it really is worth all of that effort.  My only hesitation is to find the perfect colour to knit it in.  I have seen beautiful examples of this knit in the palest of colours – pearl grey, ivory, soft pink.  It is truly lovely in these soft shades.  But I want something vibrant and alive – a rich, deep red, a gorgeous purple, even brilliant oranges and yellows (not my usual choices) appeal.  When I first saw this green sitting in with the Kidsilk Haze in the shop, I had to buy it.  My choice was made before I even was aware of it.  So, I suppose I am waiting for a colour to grab me by the throat and say “Knit me!  Knit ME!”

4-IMG_2638I have also seen many examples of this knit in different yarns including some worsted weight wools.  To me, however, this shawl demands a light, soft, beautiful mohair – it is made for Kidsilk Haze.  I think that if you are going to spend thousands of hours knitting in virtually endless ribbing (perhaps a slight exaggeration) to produce a garment that you will wear countless times, then you should splurge and buy the very best.


Not a month goes by when I don’t wear this shawl.  The photos from my back garden (with me in a white t-shirt) where taken by Emma in October 2010.  The photos in Tucson (black dress) are from April 2012, while the one on the bridge (purple turtleneck) was taken on campus a few metres from my office, just last week.  Here is one taken yesterday (as you may be able to tell, we are having an unseasonably warm February):


Well, dear readers, that’s it for this edition of Wearability Wednesday.   Lily Chin’s Reversible Cabled Rib Shawl is a completely successful knit in every way; one that is both beautifully wearable and that wears beautifully.


Little red dress

It’s definitely past time for another Wearability Wednesday post, and as today is not only Wednesday but also cold and grey and very autumnal, I’ll take the time to write one.  For those of you new to this blog, Wearability Wednesday (WW) is a semi-regular series in which I look back at some item I have knitted and examine it in terms of its wearability (I use this term mostly in its stylistic sense and not in terms of durability).  I am interested in whether the item actually gets worn, and if so, how it gets styled.   I recently wrote a post about dresses, in which I highlighted lots of great new dress patterns, so I will use this post to examine my Folded Mini Dress:

6076063740_20cccbf81e_zI loved this pattern, designed by Lynne Barr for her book, Reversible Knitting: 50 Brand-new, Groundbreaking Stitch Patterns, as soon as I saw it.  I knit it in the late summer of 2011.  I finished it while on holiday in Umbria, Italy, to celebrate my 50th birthday and my 20th wedding anniversary.  My daughter Emma took the photo above and my friend, Mark, the one below.  We were experiencing a heat wave and it was nearly 40C when we took these pictures.  I am surprised I managed to smile.

6076061910_2bbe18cc1d_zWhen I was knitting this, I was having serious problems with the pattern running way too big.  You could have fit two of me in the first try; I had to rip the whole thing out and start again.  I switched to a smaller size, and also switched to smaller needles, and still had to add nearly twice as many decreases.  I documented it all on my Ravelry page which you can find here.  It looks a bit tight in the photos above, but mostly that is because I was sweating madly in the heat and the dress was plastered to my body.

So, here we have a gorgeous dress.  How often have I worn it?  Well….never.  Why?  Isn’t it obvious?  This dress is much too short.  Despite having gone to great lengths to make the dress more fitted, I didn’t shorten it, and in fact am pretty sure that I added some length to the pattern.  Perhaps I am very long in the torso.  Whatever the reason, this dress looks fabulous as long as I don’t move.  Heaven forbid, I should sit down!

At first, I consoled myself with the fact that this dress was not made to be worn by itself as in the above photos.  First of all it is wool; knit with the lovely Rowan Felted Tweed, one of my favorite yarns.  My plan was always to wear it with a T-shirt underneath, and tights and boots.  With tights on, I reasoned, it won’t really matter if it’s a bit short.  Earlier this spring, I grabbed Leah and pressed her into camera duty, and we had a photo style shoot for this dress.  This is how I envisioned wearing it:


I really love it fashioned this way.  I think it looks fabulous.  I am wearing it with the leather jacket AnElissa bought me for my 30th birthday.  It is stylish but well-loved and worn-in.  The necklace was a gift from my Dad over 30 years ago and matches perfectly.  The boots are Valentino, and I splurged on them nearly 20 years ago, and love them to pieces.  But the fact remains that the dress only looks good here because I have tugged the skirt into place and then not moved until the photo was taken.  If I take a step, lift my arms, or sit down, this dress moves out of the “looking great” stage and into the “mom, you’re embarrasing me” stage.


I have spent two years trying to decide whether to rip the dress out, all the way down to the top of the folded cables, add another four to six inches of cables, and then re-knit the bodice.  I actually have plenty of yarn left over in the same dye lot.  I also know it would go much faster the second time.  The pattern has a lot of fiddly bits along the armholes and neckline.  This is because the dress is designed so that it could be worn with either side in front, and also so that it can be worn inside out (the reverse side is equally cool).  This is one of the things that really attracted me to the pattern in the first place.  It is very, very clever. (In fact, the whole book is full of reversible designs, and is really great; I highly recommend it.)  I am pretty sure that I would always wear it this way, however, which means if I were to re-knit it, I could get rid of the fiddly bits, and just pick up around the arms and neckline for ribbing in the standard fashion.

Somehow, though, there is always something new to knit, and the thought of ripping and re-knitting this (yet again) just doesn’t appeal.  So what to do?  Is this beautiful dress destined for the frog pile?  Well, it should be noted that a dress which is too short on a 52 year old, looks pretty damned good on an 18 year old:

IMG_5997See!  She can jump in it!  She can walk in it!

IMG_5978She can even sit in it!

IMG_5968Clearly, the solution to this Wearability conundrum is to give the dress to Leah!  Way to go, Leah!  You lucked out big time!



IMG_6668It’s been awhile since my last Wearability Wednesday post.  In that one, I discussed being so disillusioned with a garment, that I ripped it out and re-used the yarn.  This month, I will switch tables and show you one of my all-time favorite knits, something I wear ALL OF THE TIME and love to pieces.  This is the beautiful pullover, Ormolu, designed by Barbara Gregory for Twist Collective.

The photo above was taken by Emma when I finished knitting the pullover in February 2011.  I really think the fit is lovely.  These days, knitters tend to make fitted sweaters by knitting them in one piece and trying on constantly while knitting to fit; this one is knit the old fashioned way – in four pieces, which are then seamed together.  This means that fitting it properly entails taking very thorough measurements, taking your time to make and wash a proper sized gauge swatch, using a tape measure obsessively throughout, trusting in yourself, trusting the designer, and keeping your fingers crossed.

(I can tell that these photos were taken two years ago, because although I wear Ormolu constantly, I can no longer zip up the skirt in the above photo; alas!)  You can see in the above some of the lovely shaping details along the sides.  Many fitted  sweaters today I think look beautiful from the front and gap in the back; this one truly fits, from every angle.  The moral – Knitters, don’t be afraid to seam!

The pattern is very well written.  Barbara Gregory has done a lot to promote this slip stitch colourwork technique, in which only one colour is used on a row.  It produces intricate-looking mosaic colour patterns with considerably less work than Fair Isle.  This is the same knitting technique, by the way, used in the Brick sweater which I knit for Doug.  If you want to do colourwork but Fair Isle intimidates you, I would urge you to try this technique first.  My favorite part of the pattern is the neckline, in which a third colour is incorporated, to really great effect.

And, because we knitters always want to see the reverse side, here you go:

I used Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK in purple and navy.  I had a difficult time picking out a colour for the neck detail.  The yarn I ended up using (which unfortunately, I failed to either write down or keep the ball band) looked fairly brown and boring on its own.   I was aiming for gold, but all of the yellows looked too brass, and the browns looked too, well, brown.  So, I tried a lot of options: here are three of them:

I am glad that I went with the golden hue.  When knit with the navy and purple, it really looks like gold, and makes me think of fine metalwork.  This was obviously the inspiration for Barbara, as you can tell from the pattern’s name.  From Wikipedia:

Ormolu /ˈɔrməl/ (from French or moulu, signifying ground or pounded gold) is an 18th-century English term for applying finely ground, high-carat gold in a mercury amalgam to an object of bronze.

IMG_6700It took me 11 months to knit this from cast on to cast off; quite a lot of time.  Despite this, it is not a difficult sweater to knit.  Much of this was due to emotional turbulence.  This is the sweater that I was knitting when my sister called me to tell me that my Dad was dying.   I sat by his bedside, alternately holding his hand and knitting this sweater.  Afterwards, I found it hard to work on, and put it away for a few months before pulling it out again.  This is one of the things that I like most about knitting, that each piece has memories attached to it, of where you were in life while knitting it.  I wear this sweater all of the time, and every time I pull it on, I think of my Dad.  I think that’s pretty cool.

I made a few minor modifications to the pattern, which I detailed on my Ravelry page, but I will copy them here, for those of you who may be interested:

  1. I knit all the right side stitches – no purl bumps.
  2. I added waist shaping. The pattern called for 6 waist decreases, followed by six increases for the bust. I made 8 pairs of decreases, followed by 10 pairs of increases. This means that I had 4 extra stitches on each side when I got to the bust, making it midway between the size 38 1/2 and the size 41 1/2. This gave the sweater zero ease.
  3. I loved the garter stitch ridges that Barbara designed; however, I found that they wouldn’t stop rolling. After knitting about 6 inches of the front, I decided that I wouldn’t be happy with the edges rolling up all of the time, and I ripped out and started again, this time using seed stitch instead of garter. I also used seed stitch for the neckband.
  4. I made it longer. I was aiming for an extra inch and a half, but somehow ended up with an extra 3 inches. I started the decrease pairs on row 24 instead of row 14 of Chart 2.

I fear that I have gotten carried away here.  This post is a Wearability Wednesday post, after all, and here I am blathering on about construction details.  However, this pullover pre-dates my blog so I thought it necessary to give a little background on the project itself before I move on to the important issue of Wearability.

IMG_6687As I stated above, I wear this a lot.  I dress it up; I dress it down.  I wear it to work; I wear it grocery shopping; I wear it to go on long walks.  This is fabulously easy one-stop dressing, and is the thing that I reach for when I want to look good but don’t have time to fuss.  I often wear it with jeans, or with a denim skirt.  I usually pair it with navy trousers and heels, as in the photo at the top of this post.

I have a necklace that looks perfect with it, as if they were designed to wear together.  Interestingly, this necklace is the first piece of jewelry I ever bought for myself.  I was a teenager when I bought it.  It is a reproduction of a piece from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.  I used to live a block away from the museum and I had a yearly entry pass; I practically lived there.  I saw this piece in the museum shop and had to have it; at the time it was an expensive purchase.  That was over thirty years ago, and I still love this piece.  (I wish that all of my purchases were so timeless.)


My only issue with the wear of this sweater is that it pills.  It is not an out of control pilling; but definitely there.  The yarn (which has been discontinued) is a blend of Merino, microfibre and cashmere.   I am not sure which yarn I would use if I were to knit it again, but I would definitely check on the pilling issue before I picked one.

IMG_6701IMG_6702If I had to choose the 5 most successful pieces in my knitted wardrobe, Ormolu would definitely be among them.  I think its success is due to the fact that it is comfortable and warm, easy to accessorize, and has a wow! factor while still being very un-fussy.  The photos in this post have been taken over three winters, and during that time I have never lost interest in this piece.

I once had a few sessions with a stylist about exploring my personal style.  I wore the Ormolu pullover to one of these sessions, and she told me that it would look fabulous with a camel skirt. I don’t know why this never occurred to me.   I have been looking for the perfect camel skirt to wear with it ever since.  In fact, I have put off doing a Wearability Wednesday post about Ormolu, in the hopes of finding the skirt first so I can show you what a brilliant combination it is.  I want a wool camel skirt that comes to just above the knee, with box pleats front and back.  Some day, I will find just the right skirt and maybe that will necessitate a further post, but until then, I will keep the navy vibe going.

We are about to depart on a family holiday, so I won’t post on the weekend, but will return soon after a week in the sun!


Goodbye, Levenwick

I have been trying to decide for some time which of my knits to feature in my next Wearability Wednesday post.  In the WW series, I re-visit a garment I’ve knitted and examine it in terms of wearability.  I try to address the questions:  Do I actually wear it?  If so, how do I style it?  What do I wear it with?  Do I dress it up or down?  If it doesn’t get worn, then why not?  What doesn’t work about it?  Is it a fit issue, or just a poor choice in garment style?

I finally decided to focus this week on Levenwick, a design by Gudrun Johnston for Brooklyn Tweed; published in BT’s Wool People, vol. 1.   Here is the pattern photo for Levenwick:

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

I instantly loved this pattern (though I hate the headscarf).  I was certainly not the only one.  Levenwick has proved to be very popular.  Interestingly, when I look at my blog statistics, one of the most frequently used search terms is Levenwick; a lot of knitters are clearly interested in the pattern.  (Levenwick is also the name of a small village in Shetland, but I imagine most of those searching for it are looking for the cardigan.  Maybe that’s knitting-centric of me?)

I knit Levenwick in September and October of 2011.  I used Cascade 220 in a very pretty teal.  I have written a number of posts about Levenwick, which can be found here (this will link to all the Levenwick posts, including this one, scroll down to read the older ones).  Here is one of the photos we took when it was first finished:

IMG_0118Emma took this photo, and I really like it.  I love the way it looks against the peeling wall and I especially love the contraposition of the teal and the rust.  You can see that the Cascade looks great, the stitches beautiful and uniform.  But you can also see that the fit is not good.  The whole area around the shoulders and yoke is awful and the fabric bunches.  You can imagine, with Emma in charge of the photo, that this is as good as Levenwick ever looked on me.  This photo is the result of Emma adjusting and pulling and re-adjusting, and me not moving.  As soon as I move, even the slightest bit, the bunching looks worse.

Knowing what I do now about the fit issues I had with Levenwick, I can see some of it in the pattern photo.  Though not as pronounced as mine, you can see the fabric bubbling under the model’s chin.  I still think the pattern is lovely, and many knitters have made great-fitting versions of Levenwick.  However, try as I might, I found my version of this cardigan to be pretty unwearable.

Now, when I wasn’t holding completely still and pulling the sweater into place just so, the poor fit became even more pronounced:

IMG_3535The above photo was taken in the stands at the Olympics (a fabulous day watching the rowing).  You can see how happy I was to be there.    You can also see that this sweater doesn’t fit at all.  It just doesn’t.

Here’s another photo, from the same day, taken from a different angle (and yes, that is me, knitting at the Olympcs – Score!):


Let’s face facts: it doesn’t fit.  I tried to wear it, I really did.  I tried it buttoned all the way up.  I tried just buttoning the top buttons.  I tried just buttoning the bottom buttons.  I tried leaving it open (a real no-no).  I am usually good at knitting a garment that will fit properly.  One of the problems with the fit is that the pattern starts by knitting a long strip of lace for the collar and then picks up stitches and knits down.  The collar, however, is really too wide, so no amount of adjusting the pattern as you knit is going to make it fit.  The only way I could have gotten a better fit was to rip the whole thing out and start over with a much narrower strip of lace.  In addition, the raglan sleeve increases just didn’t work out at all.  This could result from my gauge rather than the pattern; my stitch gauge was spot on but my row gauge was off.  Raglan decreases are one of those areas where the right row gauge is essential.

On Saturday morning, I finished knitting Leah’s February scarf and blocked it.  Afterwards, I decided to grab my Levenwick and take some more photos in preparation for writing this post.   This is what I found:

IMG_6115A moth hole!  Holey moley!  (Pun intended.)  Now, I could probably fix this.  But, I rationalized, why fix the hole when I’m not going to wear the sweater?  And before you could say “Goodbye, Levenwick” I had the scissors out and started cutting.


This sweater took a very long time to frog.  Because of the way it’s constructed, frogging was not straightforward.  I put on my headphones and listened to an audiobook (Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold; very enjoyable start to the Vorkosigan series) and spent hours steadily ripping it out.  (Frogging, by the way, is the highly technical term we knitters use to denote ripping out your knitting. I have been told it’s because you “Rip it! Rip it!” – which sounds like the English word for what frogs say.)

I no sooner finished frogging, then I grabbed some needles and started to knit.  I didn’t even take the time to steam out the kinks in the yarn.  (The knitting thus looks pretty uneven but I am fairly certain it will steam out when I block it.)  And what, you may ask, am I knitting?  Well, you will have to stay tuned to this spot to find out.