Saturday, July 27, 2019

Everything is Pitch-y

I knew that it was a madness to participate in the #PitchKAL from the moment I made this decision, and I still did it. Why?
Because I had never done it before, and it seemed like a good idea:
1) having an opportunity to ask the designer all the questions about the pattern,
2) discussing with other knitters some finishing details, or yarn choices, or needle sizes, or whatever you want to discuss at the moment,
3) taking many pictures of your growing garment and posting them everywhere (Instagram, Ravelry, KAL thread) to show the progress.
In other words, lots of fun, right?
Wrong, at least in my case! I started making Pitch cardigan by Emily Greene one hour before leaving the house for the airport. I knew that I had only two weeks to finish it if I wanted to make a picture of a finished product and post it somewhere, because in two weeks we had another trip planned. And these two weeks were filled with traveling and theater going leaving very little time for knitting.
There was no time for discussion participation or questions to the designer. No time for the pictures and postings. No time for figuring out if there was a mistake in the pattern or it was just a malfunctioning of my tired eyes and brain.
I was certain of only one thing – I was going to make this cardigan anyway so why not now. Maybe I could finish it in two weeks, and then leave for another trip. And even if I couldn’t, I wasn’t losing anything since my major incentive was to have the cardigan. I could always finish it when I come back home.
Let me repeat myself – I love Emily Greene’s patterns. They are classy, modern, and minimalistic in a good way. I’ve made 4 of them already (Pitch is my 5th pattern by Emily Greene) and I love working with her designs.
Pitch has many qualities required by one of my daughters in a cardigan: it is warm, traditional, long, has pockets but no buttons. Yes, recently one of my lovely daughters shared this wisdom with me – apparently, a perfect cardigan has NO BUTTONS. Who would’ve thought? And I used to spend all this time looking for the perfect buttons and sewing them carefully on cardigans…

My yarn of choice – Garnstudio Drops Lima – came from my stash (because I refuse to buy new yarn till I use more of the one I already have) and my gauge was different from the one in the patter (24 rows in 10 cm instead of 32 as per pattern). That fact didn’t make my life easier. On the contrary, as soon as I discovered that the row gauge wasn’t the same I should’ve abandoned the very idea of this cardigan. Yet, it had happened to me before and I managed to survive and even end up with a fitting garment, so I plunged into this project, as I said, an hour before leaving for the airport. Little did I know at the time…
From the beginning I wanted to change some things in the pattern (I always do, nothing new here). My Pitch had to be shorter – my daughter is taller than me but still not that tall, plus her winter coats are on a short side and she doesn’t like a cardigan picking out from underneath a coat. I wasn’t sure I had enough yarn so shortening my version and making the pockets smaller would also help.
I did think about using the tubular cast on but was afraid it wouldn’t look good with cables (because in this pattern cables start with the ribbing) and eventually decided against it. Later, in the KAL thread I saw a Raveler’s version of Pitch with a tubular cast on and it looked nice. But I was too far gone by then and it was too late to change anything. By the way, I didn’t like the way the pockets were made – picked up after both fronts finished – and I thought that they didn’t need cables with ribbing.
One of the major attractions of this cardigan is the shifting cables on both fronts and back with gradually growing ribbing in between. The ribbing is growing from yarn overs that leave little holes at the beginning of each rib, grow after washing and blocking, and are one of the designs features. At least, this is how Emily herself explained it in the KAL thread. After some consideration, I decided to minimize the yarn overs, so the holes won’t be that big and noticeable after washing and blocking. Why? Because I didn’t want them to distract from the cables and ribbing which, I thought, created enough visual interest already.

Being a Brooklyn Tweed pattern, the layout and directions of the pattern are as confusing and esoteric as they come. Every time when I buy a pattern from them, I get really frustrated at how much space they leave between paragraphs, and pages, how big the margins are, and the fact that there are usually 20 or so pages between the abbreviation definitions and the place those abbreviations are used in the text. The wordiness of all Brooklyn Tweed patterns is annoying at best, but here, I think, they managed to outword themselves. They give you three (!!!!!!) kinds of 1x1 ribbing aptly named A, B, and C with detailed explanations of what they mean. At first, I tried to understand the difference, but I didn’t have time for such deep thoughts, plus how many combinations of 1 knit and 1 purl could there be? Many time, many pages later you’ll see in the directions “use ribbing A”. I decided to ignore it and you know what, I bet no one will ever notice the difference between my ribbing A and ribbing B (to say nothing of the ribbing C!).
From the KAL thread I figured that all this nonsense wasn’t actually the designer’s idea but it certainly didn’t help me figuring out the pattern.

Another very tiny thing that I changed was the selvedge stitch that Emily recommends to knit all the time and I knit in the knit row and purled in the purl row. You see, garter stitch selvedge has bumps and their size depends on the thickness of your yarn. In this kind of yarn the bumps would have been too big for my taste. And they don’t make the seaming process easier for me (I know that for some people it is easier to seam using garter stitch selvedge but I am not among them).

I didn’t have much time for knitting and studying the pattern in depth so I decided to use common sense. As soon as I finished one sleeve I didn’t have to think about the process of making sleeves anymore, I just had to go through the same steps one more time. Both times I didn’t get the final number of stitches before the BO. I had 29 instead of 27 in the pattern and I absolutely don’t know why. But at least both sleeves came out the same and no one will come close and count my stitches. So I just left them be.
It took me two takes to make the back. First time I started shifting cables too late and they didn’t shift far enough when I came to the shoulder BOs. I made some calculations, unraveled the back, started shifting cables 13 rows earlier, made the back 9 rows longer, and it helped me to finish the shifting almost right before the shoulders’ BOs which was good enough for me.
Since I wrote down all the numbers and rows, it wasn’t that difficult to copy them while knitting the left front, and the right front was just a breeze.

This pattern seems difficult and convoluted if you look at its directions but it is actually easy and straightforward if you ignore them.
The only thing is not to mix cables’ directions because some of them switch to the right and some – to the left (or, as per directions, there are cables A, B, C, and D – they do have some sort of obsession with the English alphabet!). Yet, if you pay attention from the beginning, and cable them into the right direction the first time, next time you’ll need only to look 6 rows down to know in which direction to cable. All cabling in the pattern can be done without a cable needle – big advantage if you are short of time. And there is the moss stitch and 1x1 ribbing between the cables. The ribbing is easy – duhh! And the moss stitch isn’t much harder. There are no special finishing techniques needed, no buttonholes (and no buttons, yay!).
What I am trying to tell you, is that this cardigan isn’t difficult to knit after you finish the back part. And since I knit my back twice I felt like I knew where I was going and was much more in control of the situation. You know, there are people who love directions and people who love maps. I am certainly in the second category. I get lost if someone gives me directions like: “Turn left at the next pub, go two blocks, and turn left at the light”. But I can easily find any place using a map and a common sense. This is what Brooklyn Tweed patterns remind me of – a person trying to give you directions and using as many words as possible while doing it. And I need a simple map instead.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take many pictures of my work or post often on the KAL thread. But the most important thing was that I finished the cardigan and now can leave for a long trip without it in my suitcase (this is big for me because I have lots of stuff and not much space in the aforementioned suitcase).
The cardigan still turned out too big, long, and roomy. That is why I decided not to model it myself because I positively drown in it. It will fit my daughter, but when I am back from my trip, I’ll wash it in hot water to felt it a bit and make a little smaller.

I do like how the pockets turned out. They are not very practical being so low in the garment so there is no need for them to be that big. I used 1x1 ribbing without cables to finish the pockets, and all the ribbing (including on the sleeves and body) was done knitting and purling through the back loop. It makes some distinction between the borders and the main body of the cardigan.

It was my first time with Garnstudio Drops Lima and I liked working with it: soft, warm, easy to knit. What I didn’t like was the surprising stretchiness after washing. Hopefully, after a hot bath and some felting the cardigan will keep its shape longer.
I didn’t enjoy my first KAL but it wasn’t my last. I’ll try to find another one, when I am not busy, or traveling, or going to theater twice a day, and try to get a blast.
All this shouldn’t stop you from making this cardigan. It is easy, and really beautiful, and it has no buttons!
I am leaving tomorrow and probably won’t be able to write anything long and meaningful for a month and a half but I will be on Instagram. Check out my feed.
Until next time then, 


Sunday, June 30, 2019

And then there were two...

This hat was made by one of the members of our knitting circle. I think it is funny and looks great.
I made two sweaters in June for myself. Yes, it’s been months of totally selfish knitting, nothing extraordinary here, but it is the end of June already and time to think seriously about gift knitting. Otherwise I might get into trouble like last year (see here) when I barely finished my gifts before their actual recipients came home.
This year I have some rather ambitious plans and picked several challenging projects for gift knitting. We’ll see what happens (I’ll keep you posted, promise).
But first things first: I’ve got to brag about my last finished sweaters (you’ll find all the technical details on their respective Ravelry pages, as usual). I love them both and am really proud that I made myself finish them. Why? Both were done on tiny needles. The green one had intricate cables all over, which didn’t make the work more difficult but slowed it down considerably. And both have an interesting construction. It looks like raglan but in reality it is more like saddle shoulder. It requires attention and focusing when blocking as well as when sewing parts together.

First “aside” comment: ABOUT BLOCKING. Too often I hear people speaking about blocking in terms that I would call derogatory. In the Knitting group on Facebook knitters often keep asking questions like “what is blocking and is it really important?” The answer is – YES.
Blocking is an extremely important process of finishing your knitting project and it consists of putting the wet parts of the future garment into shapes required by the pattern on a special mat and then letting them dry. Before you start blocking the parts, you’ve got to soak them in Eucalan or any other wool friendly soaking liquid for at least 15 min. After this, be very careful to not overstretch or distort them in any way, because wet knits become extremely stretchy and pliable. Then you need to spread each part separately on a special mat (I use these ones from KnitPicks) into desired shape and pin them. Personally, I am a big fan of using wires for blocking (something like these). It is a pain to put wires through wet knits but the result is worth the trouble. Highly recommend!

My first sweater – Lucky Green – has been in my queue for a very long time. Yet, I kept postponing making it because I was dreading long hours spent on many tiny cables. It turned out that the cables were much easier to memorize and faster to knit than I had predicted. When I finally started working on this pattern (again, from a Japanese knitting magazine), it became quite addictive.
The yarn for this project – Rowan Pure Wool 4 ply in a bright green color – was discontinued and I had only 8 skeins altogether. Yet, from my previous experience with this yarn, I knew that it is extremely stretchy and you can basically do whatever you can with it when it’s wet. That is why I didn’t make my sweater longer in the torso (I compensated for shortness while blocking) but put some additional rows into the raglan decreases (I didn’t change the number of them, just spread them on more rows) on all parts.
I barely had yarn left for the neckline, not much for sewing the parts together. But the end result exceeded my expectations. I got the right size, shape, and structure. This pullover is more like a long-sleeve t-shirt because it is thin and not overwhelmingly warm. The cables don’t add bulk just the interest. And I love the color!
I must confess that I made a mistake at the beginning of work because I wasn’t paying attention (guilty, but it happens to all of us!). I forgot to decrease two stitches after the ribbing on the back. That is how I got an extra knit stitch on each side. I had to repeat this mistake for the front since the back was already finished when I had noticed it and I didn’t want to unravel it. Later on, these extra stitches became handy because I used them for sewing and they formed a perfect even seam at both sides.

I called this sweater Lucky Green because I was making it (or at least trying to make it) while waiting for doctors’ appointments (yes, plural!). Yet, every time I would start working on it, I was called to get in and see my doctor. Not much progress on the sweater but I cannot complain. I hate waiting, especially at the doctor’s. My last appointment was crucial because it was scheduled only several hours before our flight to Florida. I took the sweater with me and it didn’t disappoint. I went through and was finished in no time. So… it must have been the sweater, definitely the sweater since I don’t consider myself lucky.

My next project was another version of Lou from Phildars Nos Fils Essentiels that I made in January from a very sheddy and hairy yarn. This time I used Drops Baby Alpaca Silk – thin, silky, and soft – for a summer sweatshirt style loose oversized sweater. 

It is much easier knitting something for the second time while using the notes made the first time. That was the reason for picking this particular design. I needed a project for mindless knitting to take with me to the knitting group and relax and Lou is a perfect knit for relaxation.

The only modification I made this time was using smaller needles for the corrugated part (in “point de goudron”) of sleeves. The stockinett part of the sleeves was knit on US 4 - 3.5 mm, and the corrugated part – on US 1 ½ - 2.5 mm to compensate for its stretchiness. I used US 4 – 3.5 mm needles for the side pieces in “point de goudron”.
The hardest part of this design is putting all the pieces together. And at this point blocking comes in handy because it can help with sewing.
I blocked the front, back, and sides at the same time on wires close to each other the way they would be eventually sewn. It made the sewing faster and easier than it was for me with my first version of Lou. My second version is called Cinnamon. It is light, silky, and breezy.

I like this design so much that I might make another sweater like this, even though normally I avoid repetition.
Now, my two new favorite sweaters finished I have to hurry up with my gift knitting because there is not much time left. Probably, I should have started in February, as Colbert mentioned recently.
My first gift is a sweater for a man (not my husband!) who is a really devoted fisherman. I promised him a fisherman sweater almost a year ago, when I came from Scotland where I was blown away by the strong winds and fantastic ganseys. Originally, I wanted to make a traditional gansey from some thin wool on tiny needles but changed my mind. First, because it would’ve been my only gift (and possibly the only project) this year given the thinness of the yarn and the intricacies of the design. Second, because there is not much use for a traditional gansey in South Florida. 
I had some Rowan Calmer in my stash for a while that is more suitable for a warm climate. Plus I managed to find more of identical yarn in the same shade on Ravelry (score for me!).
My design of choice was found in the old Rowan knitting book Rowan Denim. I picked the man’s sweater on the picture – its pattern looks great in Calmer, and I like the overall design since it has the exact mixture of elegance and restraint. Remember, it is going to be a sweater for a fisherman, not an office worker!
Second “aside” comment: ABOUT THE OLD KNITTING BOOKS AND MAGAZINES. In my opinion, it is hard to invent something new in knitting. Pretty much like in music, where there are only 7 notes and a finite number of their combinations. In knitting there are only two major stitches – knit and purl. So, basically,  everything “new” has been already invented, we just need to look it up carefully in the old knitting books and magazines, of which I’ve collected a lot over the years.
Speaking of this particular knitting book – Rowan Denim - style and fashion have changed since the 80s, but the design remains relevant and looks modern. I just had to spend more time making gauge and doing careful calculations to pick up the right size (hopefully). The fact that there is a big range of sizes in this book is really helpful.
And this is what I’ve been working on lately. There are also several cardigans for my children in my near future – they crave cardigans like normal children crave chocolates. I’ll keep you posted about my progress. 
I’ll be traveling for the rest of the summer and sometimes to places with only sporadic Internet. To follow my adventures you’d better go to my Instagram page since I post there much more often.
Until next time,


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Being honest

So… sorry for a long-ish pause! Let’s continue where I stopped the last time.

I fell in love with Kaleidoscope color work at first sight. This was a pattern I’ve been looking for: a sweater with fairisle and round yoke without that 80s mountain ski sweaters vibe. No snowflakes or flowers, strictly geometric design that doesn’t require 78 different colors. I’ve wanted to use up some leftover yarns from the previous projects and this pattern seemed to me the right choice.

Yet, from the start I knew that I needed to make several changes.
First, the colors. Mine were totally different and I wasn’t sure how they would work together. I drew the sweater on a piece of paper and colored it using pencils in the same colors that the yarns I was going to use.

Second, the sleeves. I don’t wear wooly sweaters with short sleeves. If I knit something out of wool, it has to have long sleeves (unless it is a vest, but I rarely make vests).

Third, the construction. Originally, this sweater is made top-down, without any short rows and with identical front and back. Moreover, there are no provisions for the armholes. Just dividing stitches for sleeves and body and working them in the round till the end. Even if you make a sweater like this with tons of positive ease it would still 1) pucker on the chest since there are no accommodations for the back and front differences (aka “short rows”); 2) restrict the arm movement since there are no provisions for the armholes; 3) stretch and lose its form since it was made without seams.
I don’t like clothes that restrict my movement or make me uncomfortable in any way. In the past, while wearing a top-down sweater knit without any short rows, I had to pull it down all the time to avoid the puckering, and it was bothering me. After making my Splashy last year, I discovered that when a top down sweater incorporates increases for the raglan sleeve, it fits and wears better.
And I’ve said many times that I prefer clothes with seams to seamless garments, so I won’t discuss this topic here again and repeat myself. Bottom line, seams had to be incorporated in the design as well.

You can find all the specifics about my changes on my Ravelry project page.
I had 10 days before leaving Florida. Just enough time to tackle a project like this, right? Well, not exactly. Yet, I really truly wanted this sweater to be finished before our departure.
To make a long story short (too late, I know), I finished the knitting part and I managed to steam the whole thing the last night in Florida. The seaming + weaving in ends were done in New York. By the way, I’ve always admired people who calculate the exact number of ends they had to weave in. Maybe they are secretly craving for some sort of reward for it? A sticker or something? I’d rather do the job and forget about it. And there were quite a lot of ends, believe me. I just don’t know how many exactly.
I wore this sweater in New York a lot.
I love everything about it and it works with almost all my clothes. The only thing that I would change if/when I make it again – I would add more short rows right after the neck ribbing. Otherwise, it turned out the way I wanted it – short but with long sleeves, warm but light, colorful but subdued. Perrrrrrfect!!! And I used up quite a lot of stash yarn – yey!
In New York there wasn’t much time for knitting. Yet, I brought some yarn with me to make Sonobe by Jared Flood. Yes, I know, there are many yarn stores in New York, why bring yarn there?
Because I am trying to knit only from stash till the aforementioned stash visibly diminishes. And I visited the yarn stores of New York:
Purl Soho

Lion Brand Yarn

As well as some other stores. But I didn’t buy any yarn. I think that I definitely deserve a sticker for my willpower, don’t you agree?
Meanwhile, I started working on Sonobe. My first hiccup happened right at the beginning, when I was making the first part of the brioched peplum. According to the pattern all the edges are worked in garter stitch (or GSS - A Garter Stitch Selvedge). I didn’t understand why but complied. Soon I noticed that garter stitch, being stretchy, adds to the stretchiness of the brioche stitch, which is extremely stretchy on its own. I couldn’t possibly imagine this being a good thing. At least one edge of the peplum is open. Garter stitch created a sort of rushing or frill at the edge. It looked weird and not polished. After a while, I unraveled everything and started all over using slip stitch/i-cord finishing at the edge to prevent it from stretching.
The number of weirdly complicated abbreviations in this pattern was my second problem. I’ve already mentioned GSS that was absolutely unnecessary to abbreviate and put at the end in the Special Techniques to begin with. There are also such masterpieces as BRK (Brioche knit), BRK-YO-BRK, FD2-L (Fashioned Decrease Left – Double), Inv-L (Invisible Increase Left), and so on. To decipher these unusual abbreviations you’ll need to go to page 20 (!!!) of the pattern, and then joggle back and forth between pages if you want the job done properly.
If the designer didn’t want me, the knitter, to get lost in this pattern, he definitely missed the mark.
Yet, I prevailed. I got very sick in New York and spent one whole week in bed. So the cardigan's body was finished rather quickly.
My next hiccup was on my first sleeve. The sleeves are made in the round. And normally I don’t do sleeves in the round because… well, they stretch and after a couple of washes get too long, and have a tendency to coil and twist around my arms. So I made sleeves flat. I even managed to finish the lapels before we left New York for Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania I promptly washed and blocked all the details. As soon as they dried I wanted to seam them but the body looked too long and strangely distorted so I decided to pin the parts together and try them on first.

That was a major disappointment. Sonobe is described in the pattern as “an impactful, open-front cardigan whose ingenious construction marries knitting and modular origami”. Well, I am not sure about origami, but ingenious this construction is not. In my point of view, it is poor and not well thought through. The brioche at the peplum is rather heavy (and it is understandable, since it’s a brioche, basically a double stitch). It is heavier than the main body which is made without any seams so is bound to be stretchy. As the result the length of the cardigan changed drastically after washing even though I was very careful and did my best to avoid any stretching. Plus as a cardigan it is rather skimpy on top. I used some wool from Scotland hoping to make not only stylish but also a warm piece of clothing. Yet, there is almost nothing to cover the most vulnerable parts of the chest. It is REALLY open, no matter how warm is the yarn that you used.
But the real “cherry at the top” were the fishtail-like flops in brioche at the front. They didn’t make any sense to me. Being rather heavy they were drooping down, unstylish and unpolished. I couldn’t imagine myself ever wearing this strange concoction. Moreover, I couldn’t imagine anyone that I know ever wearing it either.
Sonobe was frogged the very next day without any regrets. I had to think hard about my reasons to make it in the first place because this cardigan stopped having any appeal to me long ago, probably at BRK-YO-BRK. I think the main reason I bought this pattern and started making it was this picture.

I still like it; from a photographical point of view it is great. Unfortunately, not everything that looks great on a picture, especially on one done by a professional, works as a pattern. I discovered this simple truth many years ago. Yet, sometimes it is difficult to figure out the problems with a pattern right away. Especially when all the people who had made it before are singing the praises to the designer on their project pages.
My point is LET’S BE HONEST with each other. After all, knitting is a time consuming endeavor. Let’s help other people and save their time and money.
Everything else that I knit during last month – and I knit several accessories for the upcoming trip to Scotland – wasn’t photographed for a simple reason. I didn’t have time. We are leaving again for Florida and I’ll photograph and write about them later, when we are back, or even when I wear them in Scotland.

Until next time then,


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Orphan yarns

Every year my New Year resolution is NO MORE YARN! I have a huge stash and I am the only one who uses it. Something needs to be done. I’ve unsubscribed from all yarn websites, avoid going to yarn stores like a plague, and I knit a lot. Still, no matter what I do my stash doesn’t get smaller… Everyone who knits understands me, right?
This winter I was in for a good start: I made Ply cardigan almost using up three cones of ColorMart yarns, which made me really proud of myself. So I got bolder and decided to tackle two yarns that had been in my stash for quite a while because they refused to become projects that I wanted them to become. You know, some yarns are just “stubborn” like this. You either overpower this kind of yarn and make something that you want at the moment, or you wait till the matching pattern comes up on your radar. The first choice – just make what you want to make, even if not completely satisfied with the final fabric – doesn’t work for me anymore. I’ve done it before and never wore the finished garments. The only possible solution for this kind of yarn for me now – try different patterns until the match is found.

One of the stubborn yarns was an Irish tweed that I bought in a gift shop during our visit to Ireland about 5 years ago. There were only 6 hanks of this yarn and I absolutely loved its creamy color and silky softness. Moreover, we didn’t have any space in our suitcases at the time, so I was allowed to buy yarn only once throughout that whole trip (torture!). I chose this yarn because it looked perfect for a classic Irish cabled sweater or cardigan. Yet, when I tried a cable pattern using this yarn it came out looking sloppy and uneven, and no matter which pattern I used the result didn’t satisfy me. Neither did I like it in a plain stockinette. This yarn seemed to be spellbound – it looked great by itself but nothing looked great in it.
As soon as I got the new book of designs by Saichika, this cardigan drew my attention. The main pattern is ribbing but it is not your normal ribbing: in the right side row all stitches are knit with every second stitch knit through the back loop, and in the wrong side row it is a regular 1x1 ribbing. I tried this pattern with my Irish tweed doing each purl through the back loop on the wrong side row. The result was amazing: the knit stitches popped out of the fabric and it looked neat and even overall. Bingo! I knew which pattern this yarn would become. The ribbing was quite addictive and the yarn – silky and soft – suddenly very agreeable.

The whole jacket is made sideways and it is hard to try it on while it is not finished. However, from my last experience with Japanese patterns I decided to make it a bit longer – Japanese models tend to be diminutive and I wanted something roomy and oversized. The back and side parts were finished in a week which was unusually fast even for me. It was just pretty easy to work on the jacket –  clear schematics, easy pattern, and cooperating yarn. By the time I started the first sleeve I used almost all five hanks of the yarn and got a bit worried if I had enough to finish the sleeves. My technical husband took the matter in his hands and told me that I definitely didn’t have enough and should start all over making it smaller. 
Since he is never wrong (well, normally, he is extremely reliable) I believed him. Plus, when I tried putting the finished parts together the jacket seemed too long for me.
Another motivation to unravel all my work was the fact that I figured out how to make the edges better after they were already made - there is nothing about the edges in the pattern, at least not in the schematics and I don’t read Japanese. And I wanted pockets! I love pockets especially in jackets, even though I think any garment benefits from added pockets.
Thus, without further ado, I unraveled my work and started it all over (and it turned out my husband was wrong, and I had enough yarn for sleeves – go figure!). This time I followed directions size-wise but used some tricks to make edges stronger, less stretchy, and more even. Which tricks?
For the back part I used an I-cord edge method for the bottom side:
  • Slip with yarn in the back the stitch before last on the right side row, knit the last stitch.
  • Slip the first stitch with yarn in front on the wrong side row; purl the next stitch through the back loop.

For the side parts I used tubular cast on that adds polish.

For pockets I picked up 32 sts with provisional cast on, knit 30 rows and put them on a holder, then, after casting on for the side parts I unraveled the provisional cast on, inserted the pocket lining in the needed space and just ribbed the lining and the main fabric together. After 30 rows I used tubular cast off for 32 sts of the pocket, picked up the lining stitches from a holder and kept going with the side part.

This pattern requires some very cleverly positioned short rows for shaping. I used Japanese short rows.

I don’t remember when I had so much fun assembling a garment before. First, the pattern shows you all the places where parts must be attached to each other. Second, it is very easy to calculate rows and stitches on ribbed fabric to make it all absolutely symmetrical. My only problem was to sew the pocket linings – I succeeded only on my second attempt and I had to use different yarn, much thinner than the main one.
The finished jacket turned out exactly the way I wanted -- oversized, soft, warm, and with pockets. It can be worn with a pin or belt, as well as just unfastened. Its form reminds me of a karate jacket or kimono – hence, its name. I called it Irish kimono because of the Irish tweed it’s made of.

I literally made it twice already but can’t wait till I can make it again for my children. I can see them both wearing a jacket like this. This is a very fast and simple knit – the whole process took just a bit over two weeks – and is perfect for holiday gifts! More information about this project - on my Ravelry page.
My second yarn stashed years ago was given to me by my daughter. She bought it at a knitting store in Edinburgh for my birthday. I was really touched when I got this yarn in the mail and wanted to make something out of it right away, but there were only 9 balls with 110 m each, which is not much, unfortunately. I just couldn’t find any pattern for a warm garment that would require so little yarn.
Fortunately, that was the amount of yarn required for the smallest size of Citrine by Emily Greene. I fell in love with this pattern the first time I saw it on Ravelry. When I figured out that it could be made from the yarn that had been languishing in my stash forever, I was almost ecstatic.

The color of this yarn is amazing – it reminds of forget-me-nots and winter skies. Yet, its texture is rather coarse and working with it was painful for my hands. I couldn’t do it for longer than half an hour at a time. However, with the same gauge as in the pattern and enough yarn for the smallest size the front and back were finished in no time even with frequent breaks from knitting.

My only glitch happened when I started making sleeves. The pattern asks you to make decreases after ribbing, and after decreasing the sleeve became too tight for me. As I have mentioned already I swim quite often and, as a result, my shoulders are getting bigger and bigger (since my back hurts less and less I can live with it). I am telling you this because I am not sure why the sleeves were too small for me – because of my muscular arms or because they are too tight in the pattern. Anyway, this problem was solved easily – I unraveled the decrease row and continued without decreases making increases for the smallest size. At the end I got the total amount of stitches required for the 4th size and used the measurements for this size when sewing the sleeves up. To tell you the truth, I could have made the armholes even bigger.

Citrine, like all Emily’s patterns, is very clearly explained and easy to make. I highly recommend it! The yarn became much softer and a bit fuzzy after spending half an hour in a bath with Eucalan and a fabric softener. This short sweater with geometrical ribbing is extremely warm and looks like a very practical piece of clothing. Again, more on the project page on Ravelry.

My next project – Kaleidoscope  by Knitting For Breakfast - was also a stash buster. But this time, no matter how much I liked the original design, I had to rework the construction completely in order for the garment to be wearable and serve me as long as possible. Details – in my next post. Stay tuned…

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Simple things are more difficult to make, don’t you agree?
All the patterns that I’ve been making lately look simple but have an interesting construction and a flattering silhouette. Actually, the silhouette (as flattering as possible) is the main thing that now attracts me in a pattern. One can always change colorwork or cables, but silhouette is hard to change. If you are not a designer, that is. And I am not.
I wanted to make Ply cardigan as soon as the pattern appeared on Ravelry. I love the lines and geometry of it, combination of stockinette and reverse stockinette, little slits at the front, V-neck, and, of course, big pockets. Yet, at first, I thought that this one wasn’t for me – too long and big, and might make me look like a short-legged gnome. Later, when I bought the pattern – couldn’t help it – I discovered that it required quite a lot of yarn and I didn’t have enough yarn of the same color in my stash. Last month though, I figured that I could make it using three different ColourMart yarns of required length in lace weight (all specifications - on my Ravelry page).
The ultimate color of the mixed yarn – grey and black – would go with ALL my clothes. This way I could work on my stash while finally making this long wished-for cardigan.

First, I needed to shorten the pattern. Initially, the cardigan was supposed to have 19.5” up to armpits. In my version it has only 16.5”. I shortened the hem band all over to 1 ¾” and I started shaping the neckline on the front just after finishing the pockets. And the pocket’s bottom part was shortened as well to 3”.

Plus, I wanted it to be less A-shaped, more streamlined. To that end, I made the back using directions for size 37 3/4 up to armpits without decreases and just before the armhole decreases I decreased 4 sts as explained for side shaping. This way I got 178 sts total as I would were I knitting size 42. Fronts and sleeves were knit using directions for size 37 ¾.
The next one wasn’t a real modification, rather a mistake that I decided to leave and make it look like a feature, not a bug. While finishing the back part I totally missed the line in the directions about switching to all stockinette after the armhole decreases and kept 4 sts on each side in reverse stockinette. I found out that I made a mistake while binding off for the back and I really didn’t want to unravel to the armholes. I was knitting from 3 different cones which would make unraveling quite tricky. Plus it meant to undo many hours of work… Blame my laziness but I decided to just add 4 sts in reverse stockinette to the fronts to make it even.

At first I even thought about making sleeves in reverse stockinette as well but when I actually put together the back and the fronts, the difference was hardly noticeable on my marled yarn. By the way, the fact that I started 4 sts in reverse stockinette right after the armhole decreases to match the back made sewing all parts together much easier!

My last change wasn’t a change per se but a little addition inspired by this sweater by Rag and Bone.
I decided to imitate it and incorporate an inscription in Japanese. I didn’t expect Google Translate to give me the exact translation for “barking knitter” which is my trademark (!), but I thought that “handmade” would do nicely instead. Especially, since it WAS a handmade knit for real.
I taped “handmade” into Google Translate and got the translation. Then, my loving technical husband performed some technical magic on it (put the phrase in PaintShopPro and pixelated it).  At the end I had a printout looking like this.

I used black yarn for my kanji because I wanted the inscription to be subtle, not too obvious and a bit like graffiti. It was so much fun to make that I finished the sleeve in no time.
Also I was kind of worried that I had the right translation because I know that Google Translate is not a very reliable source. As soon as my sleeve was done I posted its picture on Instagram to make sure that I don’t have something stupid or obscene on my sleeve. Fortunately, my Japanese readers confirmed that it was a correct translation. Sigh of relieve and back to work!
Second sleeve took a bit longer but the longest and toughest part was to make the button band. It is done in one go, and it’s double knitted. Ugh!

I have no words to explain how pleased I am with this cardigan. It turned out exactly as I imagined – soft, warm, light, roomy, and comfortable. And look, I am wearing “Handmade” on my sleeve (for those who’d understand!).

I didn’t use as much yarn as required per pattern. Since I know the length of yarn on each black cone (450 m) and I used all three of them, total meterage for Ply was 1350 m. If you, like me, want to make a shorter version and have the same gauge, this is the amount of yarn you’ll need.
I was pleasantly impressed with the thoroughness of the pattern. Have you heard about the all-inclusive resorts? Well, this is an “all-inclusive” pattern. Everything that you need to finish it – and I mean EVERYTHING, all the information possible – you’ll find there. No need to go to the Internet, no links to YouTube video for special techniques. At some point I even found a sentence like this: “Break yarn and pull tail through last stitch” – which strikes me like rather endearing.
It was my first time with double knitting (exciting stuff but it slows down the process to snail pace) and I didn’t have any problems with it thanks to the clear and detailed explanations.  I used my own method for creating a sloped bind-off but if I didn’t know how to do it, the pattern has a full description of the technique.
In conclusion, if you are an adventurous beginner who grew tired of shawls and scarves and consider herself ready for some more difficult stuff, this is a pattern for you. It is not easy (far from it) but it is extremely well explained and the designer is basically holding your hand all the way till the end. And I highly recommend to follow ALL her directions (especially, pay attention to needle sizes, it’s important!).
While I was laboring on my Ply cardigan I managed to finish a pair of socks.
The pattern is called Fragment by Helen Stewart. It is from Laine Magazine Issue 4 that I own but, truth be told, didn’t even notice these socks in the magazine. The original sample was knit in dark brown wool and photographed on a dark background. Granted, it looks artsy and moody, but defies the purpose of pattern photography. I think I am not the only one who by now is annoyed by this new trend of photographing handknits on dark background. When I pick a pattern to make I need to see it as clearly as possible. Otherwise why would I buy it? Does anyone buy patterns just because of good photography? Pretty model? Famous designer? Well, I don’t. I have to be fascinated with a garment itself and it is hard to be fascinated when you cannot really see it in every detail.
This part out of my chest, I must tell you that the sock design is simple and clear, just the way I like it. It was a fast and enjoyable knit; no problems whatsoever. I am glad that I noticed these socks on Ravelry knit in a light color and well photographed.

I used some Cashmere scraps of three different colors for the socks.
See how much of the main color was left at the end? Yes, I was using the scale all the time trying to evenly divide the yarn.
The socks are now on their way to England. My Ply cardigan is finished. And I already started two (!) new projects. One is another design by Emily Greene (here we go again, simple but challenging). The second  is from a Japanese book that I just got on Etsy. Now, this book is a fine example of how knitted patterns should be photographed.
I saw this cardigan and had to start it immediately.
Again, the construction is the key. And it’s like putting together a puzzle.
Stay tuned,