Thursday, July 23, 2020

Change of heart

Making things is much more fun than writing about making things. At least for me. I’d rather knit something than describe my process of knitting. This is why there are long intervals between the entries into my knitting diary.
As I mentioned before, in June I was working simultaneously on two projects – one was finished and I love the result, and the second one was unraveled being a total failure.
First, my success story.
Kalin by Kim Hargreaves was initially Dreich from her book Grey. I  bought 4 cones of the caramel colored camelhair yarn from ColourMart because I always wanted to try this yarn and seem to have a mild obsession with this color. At the beginning I made a big swatch and washed it in washing machine on high temperature.  The yarn hasn’t felted at all and became softer and a bit fluffier after washing.
The idea was to make a light but warm V-neck sweater, slightly oversized and at least hip long. I started with 2x2 ribs and kept going for almost 16” (40 cm) straight till the beginning of an armhole. It turned out that the bottom part of Dreich is rather short but it has very long armholes to compensate for length. These long armholes wouldn’t have worked with my already long bottom part: see what happens when you don’t read the pattern till the end! Yet, I didn’t want to unravel all my work because it took me about 15 min to finish every row and I made quite a lot of rows before reaching the armhole. What would you do in this case? I looked for another V-neck pattern with approximately same gauge and number of stitches for the body and found Kalin.
Kalin from the book is longer and roomier than my version, and I modified the sleeves – made them shorter with fitted ribbed cuffs. I know that straight long sleeves are the hottest new trend in fashion but they are not easy to wear (at least for me). Unlike the original pattern, my sleeves are knit top-down from picked up body stitches.
Kalin in the book has a deep V-neck, so deep that is slides from model’s shoulders. And from my experience Kim Hargreaves’ patterns often have rather deep necklines. It looks very feminine and attractive on a picture but is not easy to wear. I personally don’t like to fiddle with my clothes while wearing them and I would hate to constantly adjust the sliding down neckline. That was my reason to make it smaller: I started front decreases later than recommended in the pattern, picked up less stitches around the neckline and used the tubular bind off to keep them all in place. You can find all the details of my modifications here.
Surprisingly enough, after being washed in washing machine twice (!!!) the sweater’s dimensions stayed the same, while the fabric became much softer. I still have some leftovers of camelhair yarn that seems to be a very good choice for socks.
My only regret about this sweater is that I cannot possibly wear it now or sometime soon. I do hope though that one day we’ll be able to travel again and will go to colder places. My husband even suggested to turn the thermostat down in one of the rooms and stay there for a while wearing my warm clothes, reading a book, and pretending that I am in Scotland…
My second June project was a total disaster. This yarn – Shibui linen in flaxen – looks amazing but I cannot find a project for it that would suit me. My attempt at making Kim Hargreaves’ Sheringham didn’t work: the pattern wasn’t easy but almost invisible on the finished fabric. At first, it looked like an advantage – I could make as many mistakes as I wanted, no one would ever notice. But then I figured that it was not worth going through all the intricacies of the pattern if no one would ever even appreciate it. And Sheringham was unraveled making it the 6th pattern that I tried to make out of this yarn and failed.
Have I ever told you how much I love old knitting magazines? I believe I have, but I am not ashamed of repeating it again and again. I collect old Pingouins, Phildars, Vogues, and Japanese Keito Damas because you can find in them some great designs. They have more choices and variety in patterns than modern knitting magazines and the pattern descriptions are more detailed and accurate. For me the old magazines are a constant source of new ideas and inspiration.
As a rule, I avoid making patterns that are popular on Ravelry and don’t participate in knitalongs – I cannot explain why but, when I knit for myself, I tend to like things that not many people want to make. Maybe it comes from my childhood in the Soviet Union where we didn’t have much choice in clothes. I would stand in a long line and get a pair of shoes and then half the women in my neighborhood would wear the same shoes and I would see them everywhere. Call me individualist/pretentious/show off, whatever. I do like clothes that are unique and maybe this is why I keep knitting.
This is a long preamble for a sad story of my next attempt at conquering Shibui linen yarn. I found a pattern in an old Phildar that has a very unusual construction and that I’d wanted to make for a very long time and decided that I’ll make it from this yarn. That was a classic case of overconfidence – my Kalin turned out great, a couple of my previous projects also were rather successful. I felt invincible. What can I say? I nearly finished the sweater, but decided to put the parts together to see if it fits me (plus, the parts looked a bit like a puzzle and I wasn’t sure they would fit together). The puzzle came together great but unfortunately it looked ugly on me – plain and simple. The ugliest garment that I’ve produced in a long time (at least, I hope that it was).
I nearly cried. I was so so so disappointed and my first impulse was to throw away the whole thing. I couldn’t even look at this yarn anymore. However, next day (there is always a next day, even though sometimes we forget about it) I was talking with a friend on Zoom and she persuaded me to at least salvage the yarn. Maybe one day I’ll make something from it but the jury is still out.
Meanwhile, during this neverending drama with Shibui linen I managed to start and finish a great cardigan with a very unusual construction from an old Phildar magazine.
It happened rather unexpectedly. First, I unraveled this sweater because, after a couple of washes, it stretched too much and lost its shape. When I was winding the dried skeins into balls the color of the yarn reminded me of the cardigan that I’ve been admiring in this magazine for a long time.
As soon as the balls were done, I sat and made a swatch using the pattern stitch.
This pattern stitch – I believe it is called “basketweave” – looks a little bit like a herringbone stitch but it is much easier. It produces a rather thick and dense fabric preventing the yarn from stretching.
There are only two rows in this stitch pattern. If you want to try it, here how it goes:
Row 1: twist 2 stitches to the left knitways (with needle at back of work skip the first stitch on left needle; knit in the back of the second stitch but do not pull off stitches knit the first stitch skipped; pull off both stitches), repeat 2 twisted stitches to the left till the end of the row.
Row 2: purl one stitch, 2 twist stitches to the right purlways (skip the first stitch on left needle; purl the second stitch but do not pull off stitches; purl the first stitch skipped; pull off both stitches), repeat 2 twisted stitches to the right till the end of the row, purl one stitch.
The cardigan is made in parts. The sleeves are quite unusual, after shaping the rounded top you start increasing, making the haves of the upper front and back. Sewing the parts together was a bit nerve wracking but they all fit like a glove.
The original pattern has the shawl collar and front borders in garter stitch with no buttons.
I made them in 1x1 ribs with buttons and tubular bind off. My only regret – not enough yarn for pockets (Rowan Silky Tweed is discontinued and I couldn’t find even a ball of this yarn in my color).
In the original design you have to cast on fewer stitches for the ribbing and then increase lots of stitches for the basketweave pattern. I didn’t want the difference between the ribbing and the basketweave stitch to be that dramatic and used the numbers for the second size.
While choosing buttons for my new cardigan, I found the vintage ones that I brought several years ago from England – they have the same color that the yarn and, if you look closely, each button has “protest” written in a round.
The cardigan was a fast and easy knit. No drama, no tears, no pain. I recycled all the yarn from the old sweater plus some leftovers of the same yarn in my stash. Love the fit and length of it. Probably, I should follow my husband’s advice and lock myself in a cold room just to experience its softness and warmth.
And now again I am working on two projects simultaneously. One is a gift for a future mother (yes, I am finally decided to tackle a baby blanket), the other one is for myself using a pattern from a vintage magazine (again).

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 12, 2020

It's my own creation!

For a long time I felt like not writing for this blog. Somehow writing about knitting projects and problems that I encountered while making them seemed rather silly and shallow in this situation. Yet, since I kept knitting nevertheless, at some point I got a couple of finished knits and a couple of almost finished ones, and was afraid of forgetting all the details about making them if I waited any longer.
So here you go.
In May I made this cardigan (I call it Creamy Oats)…
… and this t-shirt (Blush on Ravelry).

Both were totally improvised by me. For the cardigan I developed the lace/cable pattern myself (deeply inspired by Brunello Cucinelli’s summer cardigans) and for the t-shirt I used Kim Hargreaves’ stitch pattern for Gabriela from her old book Whisper.
I already explained the process behind the creation of the cardigan. The yarn that I was using – ColourMart Noil Silk – evens up and gets much softer after washing in hot water. For this reason I wanted to wash all the parts together when they were finished.
When the back and both fronts were done, I stitched them together at the shoulders (look at my handiwork, I am so proud of how it turned out!),
picked up stitches along the armholes, and knit both sleeves top down, spacing decreases evenly and finishing the cuffs with a tubular cast off.
Three things slowed my progress: 1) my first attempt at a sleeve was too roomy for my taste, was unraveled, and I had to recalculate the numbers for sleeves; 2) knitting lace with this yarn was hurting my hands and wrists and I had to take frequent breaks; 3) finishing the border ribbing took forever (again, I used a tubular cast off).
When the cardigan finally was finished and washed, I had to construct a special podium (sort of) to block it, since it was huge and took up lots of space.
In spite of all the difficulties, I kept my eyes on the ultimate outcome and persevered. And I am glad that I did. This cardigan turned out exactly the way I imagined it. It is very soft, a bit oversized, and can be worn in Florida all year round. It makes a great cover-up in the evenings and even protects against mosquitoes:) It will be definitely worn a lot here.
My second improvised project was a cropped t-shirt.
I had four balls of this discontinued Shibui linen in my stash that I bought during a crazy shopping spree in a yarn store several years ago because it was on sale. At first I was thinking of making a shawl or scarf from it but then, I don’t use linen scarves that much plus it would’ve taken me ages to finish it. However, when I unearthed this yarn a month ago, I was surprised at how trendy its color was and decided to make a swatch using two threads of yarn together. This way I could knit with bigger needles and my work would go much faster. But, at the same time, I would have twice as little yarn. And I didn’t have a lot of it to begin with, just 900 meters (983 yards).
At first I tried the same lace/cable pattern that I used for the cardigan. No luck – there were too many holes and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to wear this t-shirt without much underneath. Then I remembered Kim Hargreaves’ old book Whisper with summer patterns. Many of them have lace AND cables and could work for me. I ended up using the stitch pattern for Gabriela (a long sleeved cardigan).
With no pattern and very little yarn at my disposal, I took a cropped t-shirt from my wardrobe and decided to replicate its measurements as much as possible.
Of course, I couldn’t copy my ready-made t-shirt entirely – my knitted version had to be even shorter with a V-neck on front and back.
I used an I-cord finishing at the sleeves since I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be any yarn for the ribbing left but I couldn’t get away with it on the neckline (even though I tried). The upper parts would not stay in place and were sliding from my shoulders which didn’t make the garment wearable or practical. I picked up the stitches around the neckline, made several rows of 1x1 ribbing, and then finished with a tubular cast off.
This t-shirt – Blush - is great even though it is shorter than I initially planned. I think it can be worn with just a bras underneath (this is how I am wearing it on the pictures) but you may disagree.
Working lace with this yarn seriously damaged my wrists and I couldn’t knit at all for a while. No worries, I read several books instead – I am on Josephine Tey binge right now, if anyone is interested.
And I watched Making the Cut on Amazon with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn.
I love the shows about fashion and watch them all. Actually, my main enjoyment comes from watching them with my husband who really truly doesn’t care about fashion at all and makes the funniest and most interesting comments ever (his main interest are the sources of inspiration and artistic creativity, even though lately, after many years of watching this type of shows, he started commenting on the overall appearances as well). The designer that I liked the most and that I thought should’ve won the whole competition was Esther Perbandt from Germany (spoiler alert! – she didn’t win). After watching the show I felt like I needed to show my support of her work and design somehow so I found Esther’s website and promptly ordered from it. The wait wasn’t too long and voila!
I got my t-shirt and jewelry with a postcard signed by Esther. When she is as famous as Cardin, I’ll sell it for a million or so at an auction… or maybe not.
By the way, I am wearing Esther's necklace on this photo from her collection Hungry for Life. Sparkly!
After getting some rest, I got back to my knitting. There is a project that I started probably in March (right, I know, it was in a different century). Initially it was supposed to be Dreich by Kim Hargreaves. However, when I was finishing the back, the armholes looked ginormous, and I couldn’t see myself (or anyone else) wearing it. The thing was done on tiny needles with fingering yarn, and one row would take 5 minutes to finish. It was a pity that Dreich didn’t work for me, but I decided to find some other pattern with similar numbers and make it instead. My final choice was Kalin from Myth. It was supposed to be my TV knitting project, but I don’t watch much TV now, so the project was put on back burner yet not abandoned. The rows are long and the progress is slow but I am already on a second sleeve. Pretty soon my variation of Kalin will be finished, washed, blocked, and photographed.
My second project ended up also being a Kim Hargreaves’ pattern, this time from Rowan Denim book. Together with Shibui linen in clay I bought 6 balls of Shibui linen in flaxen (told you, it was a crazy shopping spree!). I tried to make something from this yarn 5 (!!!) times already with no success (kudos to the yarn though which is holding up well after these numerous tries). Now, for my 6th attempt I chose this pattern, heavily modified for my particular needs. We’ll see what happens…

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

How to unravel a knitted garment (tutorial # 4)

Step by step instructions on how to get more yarn in your stash.
Step 1. Find an old knitted garment, made by you or store bought, that you don’t like or don’t wear anymore. You will also need a tapestry needle and a pair of scissors.
Step 2. Find the part that was made last when you were finishing your knit (usually, it is a neckline). Find the place where you hid the yarn ends after binding off stitches. Start unraveling. Avoid using the scissors as much as possible. Be patient.
Step 3. Undo all the seams and divide your garment into separate parts.
Step 4. Unravel each part into a ball.

Step 5. Using a yarn swift make skeins or hanks from the balls. Tie each skein firmly on the opposite sides with two pieces of cord or string leaving rather longish tails (it will help you later to find and untie the strings).

Step 6. Put all the skeins in lukewarm water with Eucalan or Soak wash for about 30 min.
Step 7. Rinse the skeins and hang them to dry. The drying goes much faster in Florida, where I put the skeins outside. In Pennsylvania the process would take a couple of days.
Step 8. When all skeins are completely dry, put them one by one back on a yarn swift, untie the cords, and wind each skein into a ball.
Step 9. Start a new project from your recycled yarn.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

My Imitation Game

How are you doing? Are you OK?

I am still bingeing on Nutella and classic mysteries, but also I am knitting. 
My fair isle designer’s knockoff in cotton is finished. It took me more than a month of quarantine to make it and it wasn’t easy, but I am so glad that I went through with this project.
Knitting colorwork with cotton is a bit annoying because it goes slower than doing the same with wool. Wool is sticky and easy to keep even tension, cotton is slippery and hard to keep even tension, plus it hurts the hands. 
While working on this sweater – I call it Pearl for its colors – I run in a couple of issues. First, I made my neck opening too small to do any ribbing around. As soon as I finished, washed, and blocked the front and back parts, I stitched them together, and made a nice ribbed collar with tubular bind off. It looked perfect but for the life of me I couldn’t get my head through the opening.  The ribbing was unraveled in half and I made a smaller collar with tubular bind off. Again the opening was too narrow for my head (is there a special diet for heads?). My only remaining solution was to make several stockinette rows in the round and bind off as loosely as possible. If I make this pattern again, I definitely need to start the neck opening sooner.
My second challenge was making the patterns stripes on the sleeves match the ones on the body. I had to reknit the sleeves three times to get the result that I was looking for. Thanks to the lockdown, I wasn’t in a hurry and could afford spending as much time as needed to finish the sweater the way I wanted it to be. By the way, if not for the quarantine, I may not even have attempted this pattern – it seemed quite complicated and difficult.

I took many photographs with this sweater because it was an opportunity to wear some pretty clothes for a change (and comb my hair). 
In my opinion, it would look even better in wool. Maybe one day I’ll do it again in a different color combination. Here is the chart that I followed, in case you want to make one.
My next project is also a summer knit and was inspired by some designers’ clothes that I saw on Pinterest. This time I am using ColourMart’s Noil Silk in creamy and tweedy white. It is not cotton, but also affects my hands. Actually, that is why I am writing this post now: I had to take a break from knitting since my wrist hurts too much. 
Yet, despite the breaks, the new cardigan (and it is going to be a summer cardigan) is growing fast.

My main inspiration was Brunello Cucinelli Spring collection (yes, Brunello Cucinelli again!). I like the colors, textures, and shapes of several garments from it, but I had to work with the yarns that were already in my stash. So I started swatching from the Noil Silk and eventually decided on this particular pattern. I think it works better with my yarn choice and will look good on me.
 I want to make a simple oversized coat-like cardigan with low V-neck, no buttons, and dropped shoulders. After washing in hot water, ColourMart Noil Silk loses its stiffness and becomes very soft, silky, and supple. Perfect for Florida!
In addition, I made one more swatch – this time from the ColourMart  wool and cashemere scraps. I wanted to make this Nili Lotan sweater the moment I first saw it last winter (again, blame Pinterest).
Yet, it takes quite a lot of time and patience to recreate a pattern from a picture and somehow, among other things, I couldn’t find time to do it. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one enamored by this particular design, and recently on the Internet I saw this sweater already finished by another knitter. Great, now I could use her chart and save the time!
I haven’t started this project yet and am not sure when I will: too many cotton yarns in my stash call on me at the moment. Nevertheless, this is something to look forward to when I get tired of practical things. 
Speaking of stash, I saw some people on IG complaining about running out of yarn during the lockdown. Running out of yarn is a nightmare, and the first thing I did when we were given “shelter inside” orders, I unraveled 2 of my old projects in order to get more yarn, just in case. I do it all the time – unraveling old projects that I don’t wear and don’t like anymore. Recently I unraveled another one – an old wooly dress that I made about 15 years ago when I was wearing wooly dresses – and took pictures during the process.
If you want to see how I do it, just read my next post.
Stay safe and healthy, and knit on.