Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Mindless vs. mindful

My last finished project of 2019th was this adorable sweater that I call Easy.
The pattern is Simplicity by Veta Romanenkova. If you are not afraid of seaming and knitting from the bottom in pieces this pattern is the easiest possible.
It is a simple raglan sweater with a turtleneck collar (or not), a staple in any wardrobe. I think that I am going to use this pattern with some tweaks again and again in the future because I really like how this sweater fits me.
At the same time it is a perfectly mindless knitting project that you can work on while watching TV, waiting for an appointment, traveling, or talking to friends. And it is great for the yarns that are lingering in your stash and you have no idea what to make out of them.
I decided to finally use up my never ending stash of ColourMart’s Geelong that many years ago my husband gifted me for Christmas. Actually, I love this yarn very much: it is soft and squishy, can be worn next to skin, is marled and allows you effortlessly blend with the background. Plus it wears well, no pilling, snagging, pulling, or any other unpleasantness. I used this yarn to make two cardigans. One – Slouchy by Mary Lynn Patrick – was knit last year, and I described the whole process here.

The other one – Ando by Yoko Hatta – was knit several years ago and was never photographed before.
It is a very soft and snuggly cardigan, yet, it has no shape and is very difficult to photograph. It has cables all over the body but you hardly can see them on the marled fabric. I use it almost as a shawl and it is warm and feels great but I don’t think this is the most flattering piece of clothing that I possess.
The other sweater with this yarn is Blok by Olga Buraya-Kefelian where it was combined with Woolfolk TYND.
After finishing Simplicity, I still had some leftover Geelong and decided to use it together with my leftovers of Woolfolk TYND (since they worked so well together before) and make a long scarf inspired by another Veta Romanenkova’s pattern  - Three Skeins Scarf. Mine has more than three skeins, will be bigger and longer, and less symmetrical. I am still working on it while watching TV or in a knitting group. It turned out that I need at least one mindless project in my queue at all times!
I started knitting Simplicity, while still finishing my handmade Christmas gifts. This year we had more guests for holidays than usual, and I needed more gifts. Finally, when all gift knitting was done, I began working on a project that I’d been eyeing for a while: a patchwork style cardigan from Keito Dama #183. It reminded me of Pringle of Scotland’s last year collection that I admired in person last summer in Edinburgh.

Similar colors, argyles, and asymmetry. I really wanted this one for myself.
Yet, working with black yarn is difficult for me nowadays. I need lots of light and a very quiet environment to be able to concentrate. And during the holidays I hardly had a spare minute during the day, the only time to knit was in the evenings, while watching TV. Therefore, my patchwork cardigan had to be abandoned.
And then I saw this cardigan by Brunello Cucinelli.
Do you use Pinterest for inspiration? I do it all the time. Especially, when I suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep. Honestly, nothing puts me to sleep faster than browsing Pinterest. And this is how I discovered this cardigan in the first place.
When I tried to find a more detailed view, I saw its price – it was mind bogglingly high. Wow, I said to myself, I could make something like this pretty fast without spending a fortune on it. How cool it is!
Next day, I dived into my stash and found four different yarns, leftovers from 4 different projects. Their colors were very similar to the ones on Cucinelli cardigan. I made a swatch, another one… and then decided to try and copy the design using the yarn from my stash.
I still cannot explain to myself why I made this decision in the middle of the busiest time of the year, but nevertheless, I am glad that I did because my Brunello Cucinelli knock off is almost finished by now.
It was fun, and something to look forward during the day. I used every spare minute to work on it. My husband got inspired as well and helped me with my calculations, explaining the construction from an engineer’s point of view.
My goal wasn’t to duplicate the designer’s model but use it as an inspiration. The original is more of a coat than a cardigan. Being very short and living in Florida, I don’t need a long knitted coat. So my version had to be much shorter. Yet, there was a part that I really wanted to duplicate – the shawl collar construction with colorwork seamlessly switching from the right to the wrong side of both fronts.
The colorwork itself wasn’t too difficult to imitate. To see every stitch and calculate a pattern you need only to enlarge a picture on your computer.
I decided to replicate only one motif – a white and black thin stripe – of the original design. Partly, because the colorwork on the large stripe didn’t appeal to me. Partly, because, after trying several colorwork patterns, I went with the one that seemed the most logical to me.
I don’t know about you, but for me some fair isle patterns seem natural and easy to memorize, no matter how complicated they are, and with some I need to look at pictures all the time and still make mistakes. Go figure!
I ended up with a motif from Keito Dama # 160 from 2013. It has 15 rows, and I was looking for an odd number of rows because I wanted to incorporate one row of white and blue in the middle (it gives a little oomph to the whole motif). Also it is traditional enough to enhance this folksy look of the cardigan.
My first swatches were done with US sizes 7 and 8 (4.5 and 5.00 mm) but eventually I used US sizes 6 and 7 (4.00 and 4.5 mm). Knit tighter the yarn looked neater. Fair isle and stockinette have different gauge if you are using the same needles. That is why you need slightly bigger needles for the colorwork.
I decided against making pockets (it was a really hard decision) because, since I was making it from scratch, the process was stressful enough without pockets, and didn’t want to make it even more complicated. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to finish it, so why would I bother with pockets, if I might just unravel everything at the end? I regret it now because for me everything is better with pockets.
I used provisional cast on for the back and both fronts. When they were finished, washed, blocked, and sewn together, I picked up the bottom stitches and did the ribbing with tubular bind off at the end. Then, I picked up stitches for the sleeves and knit them from the shoulders down to the ribbing with tubular bind off as well.
While working on this cardigan, the most difficult thing was to figure out how to make the collar naturally fold at the shoulders. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts I managed to achieve it using short rows on both sides of the collar.
The other difficult thing was not to forget to change needles between colorwork and stockinette parts.
And one more important thing – matching and centering the colorwork.
When you start with the right (or left) front, the back is already finished. You need to figure out where the parts will be sewn together so the fair isle pattern on the front will continue the motif on the back.
When picking up stitches for the sleeves, don’t forget that the center of the colorwork pattern must coincide with the center of the sleeve. It is not difficult to figure out, but very easy to forget about it.
And now – ta-dah! – my “Brunello Cucinelli” – is almost finished. I need only to wash it, wait till it’s dry, and then I can wear it (imagine, how handy it will be in South Florida!).
Do you want to make something like this? Are you inspired to try something of your own using my “Cucinelli” recipe?
If the answer is “yes”, I wrote down my recipe for it (see all the details below). Let me know if you have any questions. The only thing that I cannot possibly tell you is the amount of yarn needed for the cardigan. I was using leftovers – half of a skein here and quarter of a ball there.
And please, pretty please, send me a picture of your interpretation of this design, if you decide to go for it!

“Brunello Cucinelli” recipe

Gauge: 19 sts x 19 rs = 10x10 cm in colorwork pattern washed and blocked

Back
Using provisional cast on pick up 92 sts.
Knit alternating colorwork and stockinett st for 45 cm (or your desired length).
IMPORTANT: don’t forget to alternate needles between the colorwork and stockinette parts!
Increase one stitch on each side.
After 20 more rws do one more increase on each side. 96 sts altogether.
Shoulders:
Cast off 2 times 4 sts in every 2nd row, 1 time 5 sts in the 2nd row.
In the next knit row cast off the first 5 sts, cast off the middle 18 sts, finish the row.
Work each side of the neck separately.
Cast off 2 st at neck edge in every 2nd row 3 times.
And at the same time continue casting off for shoulders – 5 sts in every 2nd row 2 more times.
Cast off the last 5 sts.
Left front
With provisional cast on pick up 62 sts. Knit 42 sts, put a marker, knit 9 sts, slip a st purlwise without knitting, put a marker, knit 10 sts. In the purl row, purl the slipped stitch after the marker. This stitch is the middle of your lapel. Slip it purlwise without knitting in every knit row and purl it in every purl row. After the front is finished, you will be able to fold the part after the slipped stitch and sew it to the inside of the front.
Start the fair isle pattern.
Keep working for 45 rows. In 46th row knit together 2 sts before the first marker and add one st at the end of the row. Keep increasing at the end of the row every 7th row 8 more times. Move the first marker accordingly after each increase at the end of the row, so you always have the same amount of sts on both sides of the slipped stitch. Made 4 more decreases approximately in every 14th row before the first marker. I was decreasing in stockinette rows so for me it was 46th,60th,77th, and 88th rows.
Don’t forget to increase at the beginning of the row twice starting at 45 cm (or whenever you started your increases at the back).
Shoulder shaping:
Cast off for shoulder in every 2nd row 4 sts twice and 5 sts 5 times. Continue working on 39 sts of the shawl collar while casting off for shoulder.
 As soon as the shoulder cast off is finished, start short rows on the collar.
Short rows on 39 sts of the collar (19 sts, 1 slipped st, 19 sts):
Knit till the last 4 sts on the left needle, turn, purl till the last 4 sts on your left needle, turn. Repeat 3 more times. You should have 7 sts left, 3 on each side of the slipped st. Knit all stitches and continue with the colorwork pattern for 21 rows (approx. 9cm). Leave the collar sts on a stitch holder.
Right front
With provisional cast on pick up 62 sts. Knit 10 sts, put a marker, slip one stitch purlwise without knitting, knit 9 sts, put a marker, knit till the end. On the purl row, purl the slipped st.
Start the fair isle pattern.
Keep working for 45 rows. In 46 row increase 1 st at the beginning of the row and decrease 1 st after the second marker (knit 2 through the back loop). Keep increasing at the beginning of the row every 7th row 8 more times. Move the second marker left accordingly after each increase, so you always have the same amount of sts on both sides of the slipped stitch. Made 4 more decreases approximately in every 14th row after the second marker.
Don’t forget to increase at the end of the row twice beginning at 45 cm (or whenever you started decreasing for the back).
Cast off for shoulder in every 2nd row 4 sts twice and 5 sts 5 times. Continue working on 39 sts of the shawl collar while casting off for shoulder.
 As soon as the shoulder cast off is finished, start short rows on the collar.
Short rows on 39 sts of the collar:
Knit till the last 4 sts on the left needle, turn, purl till the last 4 sts on your left needle, turn. Repeat 3 more times. You should have 7 sts left, 3 on each side of the slipped st. Knit all stitches and continue with the colorwork pattern for 21 rows (approx. 9cm). Leave the collar sts on a stitch holder.
Wash and block fronts and back. Sew the shoulder seams. Fold and sew the lapels, graft the collar and sew it to the back.
For fronts and back: unravel provisional cast on and knit in 1x1 ribs for 8 rows. End with the tubular cast off.
Sleeves
With 4 mm needle pick up 82 sts around the armhole. Knit  for 45 cm in colorwork decreasing 2 sts 10 times evenly. 62 sts. Decrease 10 more sts in the first row of ribbing. 1x1 ribs for 8 rows + tubular cast off.
Press the sleeves through a damp cloth. Sew the seams.
IMPORTANT: multicolored fabric looks better when pressed through a damp cloth from the wrong side!
Wash, dry, and wear with pride!










Wednesday, December 11, 2019

New Year resolution

If you were a superhero, which superpower would you prefer to have? Maybe as a knitter, you would like to be able to knit with light speed and make a sweater in one day?
Well, I think it would be cheating. You can make a knitted garment fairly quickly without any superpowers, just by buying a knitting machine. Yet, if I can produce a sweater in a day somehow it would cheapen the process and the end result at the same time. The time and effort that go into careful selection of yarns and designs, long hours spent swatching, trying different colors and patterns, unraveling half-finished parts because of the poor fit – all of this (and more) create an aura about the garment you get at the end, make it more (or less) dear to your heart and are with you every time you put it on.
Since I was a little girl, I couldn't keep a journal. My day to day life never excited me enough to write about it regularly. However, as I discovered, my knitted garments have this unique ability of reminding me of the place and time where and when they were made. As well as of my state of mind at that moment. Some smells and tastes have this ability, like the famous Proustian madeleines.
Actually, I do want to have one superpower. I want to be able to squeeze easily any hair conditioner from a bottle. It is an every day’s torture for me and I never get to the bottom of a bottle. This superpower wouldn’t make me a superhero for sure, but my life would have been much easier though. Sigh!
If you are wondering about the title of this post, it’s because originally I wanted to tell you about my resolution for the New Year (but somehow got digressed into the superhero topic…). Normally, I don’t make any resolutions. Do you? I am realistic about my abilities and the amount of my will power (or, maybe, rather pessimistic?). If I can accomplish something, I won’t be waiting for a New Year to start doing it. And if I am absolutely unable (=don’t want) to do it, no matter how many resolutions I make, I won’t do it. Believe me, I tried several times and failed. So why bother?
This year though I decided that I need one serious resolution. I want to get the excitement back into my knitting. I want to try and experiment with new things, play with colors and yarns, make some designers knock offs, make something challenging and time consuming… All of this is hard to do, while making clothes for other people. Which I’ve been doing since June, if you haven’t noticed. Over the last six months I made only one garment for myself – my second Kaleidoscope, and it was the most joy I had with my knitting.
Gift making is great and it brings me joy as well to see my knits worn by other people. But it requires speed, severely restricts the choice of patterns, yarns, and colors, as well as styles and sizes. That is why next year my plan is to cut on knitting gifts, and concentrate on making something that I really truly want to make, have wanted for some time but it’s been getting postponed because of the gift knitting. I want the anticipation and exhilaration of a new challenge back in my life!
That said, here are my last two knitted gifts of this year.
I made two round yoke stranded cardigans from Japanese knitting books that I love so much. Cardigans are multifunctional and easy to layer. And I had quite a lot of yarn that I brought from Scotland last year – West Yorkshire Spinners Illustrious – in five different colors. In April I attempted to make a cardigan from this yarn and discovered how much it stretches after washing. The two antidotes for too much stretching are: 1) cables and 2) fair isle. Since I didn’t have enough yarn for cables I picked two fair isle patterns. Japanese patterns were chosen because they are beautiful and extremely accurate. It is easier to just follow directions when you are stressed for time.
And here we are.
First cardigan – Sky (named after the island where the yarn was bought) – is a design by Junko Yokoyama from Sekai No Amimono/ World Knitting, 2015-2016 Autumn-Winter. By the way, I was positively ecstatic when I found this book on Etsy because of all its gorgeous patterns!
I made some changes while knitting this cardigan (see my Ravelry page) but mostly kept to the pattern which is extremely clear and simple.
The body if made in one piece. The sleeves are knit separately (they were supposed to be knit in the round but I made them flat). Then all the pieces are connected for a beautiful fair isle round yoke.
Unfortunately, I managed to miscalculate the amount of buttonholes needed and made one more than the buttons in my disposal. While waiting for the new buttons promptly ordered online, I started the second cardigan.
Winter tale is a design by Yoko Hatta from her book Fair Isle and Nordic.
My two minor changes here were the main color and the 4-row colorwork pattern on cardigan’s edges. Had I followed the pattern, I had to cut the white yarn, which I didn’t want. Everything else was done according to the pattern. Actually, I was surprised at how well this cardigan turned out. It wasn’t my favorite pattern from the book and I decided on making it only because I had the exact same gauge with the yarn. Note to myself – you can never be sure of how it will look in real life!
The body of this cardigan is done in three separate pieces, plus sleeves, everything knit flat. Connecting all the pieces together was the only difficult part for me (I got a bit confused at some point). The yoke knitting was so much fun that it went extremely fast.

While working on the gifts I started a simple and straightforward sweater for myself. I was craving for simplicity (I picked a project that is actually called Simplicity) and wanted to be able to work on something while watching TV or talking with friends. Little did I know how tired I’d be or how time consuming the gift knitting would turn out.  As a result, now I have a back and a front of a sweater that has to be finished and, most likely, will become a perfect addition to my wardrobe.
Nothing flashy or challenging, everything practical and useful. Exactly what I like. As soon as it is finished, I’ll post it on Instagram and Ravelry.
My next blog post will have to wait till the New Year though. Happy holidays, everyone, we all need a good break!
Talk to you in January,

Anna

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Catching up


Getting back into a routine is not easy. Over the last three months I went to many places and was busy with lots of things. Yet, one thing was constant in my life – I kept knitting. Knitting is great for traveling because it doesn’t take up much space in your luggage. Knitting is awesome at the end of a busy and difficult day.
The only thing that is pretty hard to accomplish when you travel or are just really busy with something is finishing. There is nowhere to wash or block the finished pieces in a rented apartment in a foreign country. There is no peace and quiet necessary for sewing those pieces together when you are frantically cleaning and packing all your belongings.
Now we finally moved back to Florida. This time for good. Our house in Pennsylvania is emptied and put on the market. Hopefully, from now on I won’t move around as often as before. While I was packing, I discovered this long forgotten sweater that I made about 18 years ago from Alice Starmore book Fishermen’s Sweaters. I made it with steeks and gussets, using tiny needles and lace weight yarn. A real Starmore, imagine that!
Making this sweater was so difficult that I couldn’t part from it even though I couldn’t wear it either: the white yarn was of a very poor quality and too scratchy; the sweater is so warm that it cannot be worn with a long sleeve shirt underneath. Yet, many years and several washings later, the fabric felted a bit and became less irritating to the skin. It was chilly enough in Pennsylvania so I could finally wear it and even enjoyed doing it.
This is the last Alice Starmore project that I knit and since I probably won’t make another one in near future I decided to keep this sweater for nostalgic reasons/real cold spells.
As soon as we settled here in South Florida, I finished all the projects that were patiently waiting for this moment all summer and fall. Now it’s time for the show and tell. Unfortunately, it’s been a while and I might not remember all the details about the process. Well, I’ll do my best.
First, my long suffering Fisherman sweater or Seahorse (this is the name of the pattern from the Rowan Denim book). I finished all the parts before leaving Florida at the beginning of July, but was able to put the whole thing together only last week.
I used two different sizes of the original pattern (see all details on my Ravelry page) but otherwise didn’t change much. The pattern is a classic Kim Hargreaves: simple, straightforward, understated but stylish. The textured fabric looks well in Calmer. It isn’t too warm and can be worn in Floridian climate. Plus the yarn is soft and squishy, easy to wear next to skin. Fingers crossed that it fits and the recipient of this gift like it.
My next project was another Kimono cardigan from Saichika’s Book of Sweaters Knitting With White Yarn. I liked making this cardigan the first time so much that I decided to do it again using up the leftovers from my Blueberry for Scotland sweater. I made a swatch and it was bigger than required in the pattern. So I used smaller needles (sorry, no recollection about their size).
The finished cardigan is roomy so I wasn’t afraid of it being too small. Plus, since I used this yarn before, I knew how much it stretches after washing. Yet, since I didn’t know exactly how much yarn was left in my possession (as it turned out, not too much), I had to be careful. That is why I didn’t make any pockets this time, and had to do without cuffs on sleeves.
Otherwise everything was done according to the pattern. Again, I used the tubular cast on for the front parts – it helps to hold pieces together and gives a nice finish to the garment.
And again, I admire Saichika’s patterns (they are a work of a real artist/engineer) and plan on making more of them.
This new variation of Kaleidoscope was made from the yarn that I bought by accident.
Does it happen to you? It was a gloomy and rainy day in Glasgow. We just finished lunch and felt reluctant to go outside. Then, my daughter found a bargain yarn store nearby and, obviously, we all went there (who wouldn’t go on a rainy, gloomy, cold day to a yarn store in Glasgow?). All the yarns there were ridiculously cheap and mostly acrylic. The one that I ended up buying was 50% wool and I fell in love with its color. It is deliciously dark rusty red. Unfortunately, there were only 3 skeins of this color in the store plus one in a different dye lot. I figured that I won’t be able to make a full garment from 4 skeins so I got two more colors and decided to use a pattern with colorwork for this yarn. Kaleidoscope was one of my first choices because it is a top down, easily modifiable and adjustable pattern, plus I could finish and wear it right away.
To tell you the truth, I am extremely proud of this sweater. Not only the fit is perfect and the yarn behaves beautifully – being not too scratchy but warm enough for Scottish capricious weather – but its body looks unicolored even though I used all four balls of red yarn and the dye was visibly different. To avoid stripes, I had to alternate balls of different dye lots in every row which was a bit cumbersome but paid off eventually.
It was the first time in a long while that I was able to put a sweater on the moment it was actually finished! And it felt good.
More details on my Ravelry page. All pictures were made in Scotland where I wore this sweater (or jumper, as they call it) non-stop, and where it was left waiting for me till my next visit.
My boyfriend cardigan was done also mostly in Scotland. I bought the yarn - West Yorkshire Spinners Fleece Wensleydale – from this shop which is situated on an isolated farm near a lake. I wouldn’t have even known about its existence if not for Clare, its owner, whom I met in Stirling’s knitting group Oor Woollie. I must tell you, that going to this group and meeting all the fabulous knitters there was one the highlights of my stay in Scotland this year.
Clare told me about her shop and, of course, I went there and bought some yarn. It couldn’t be helped. This yarn is gorgeous – thick, woolly, and a little fuzzy. I decided to start working with it right away because I wasn’t sure that there was enough for the whole garment so I could go to Clare’s shop again and buy more yarn while still in Scotland.
My first attempt at making a top down sweater from this yarn was a total disaster. I worked diligently for a week and managed to finish half of the body before trying it on. That was the moment of reckoning – no one would want to wear the thing that I was making. I promptly unraveled it and decided to stay away from the top downs for a while and make a big wooly scarf from this yarn.
For this purpose I bought a pattern that turned out to consist of only one row (all the rest was an interview with a designer which was not exactly what I normally expect from a knitting pattern). The yarn looked good in a scarf and I kept working on it for several days but then saw My Boyfriend Cardigan by ChrisBerlin on Ravelry. From the first sight I knew that it would be a perfect match to my yarn, so I promptly bought the pattern and unraveled the scarf.
By the way, the yarn still looked good after two unravelings! It looks even better in the finished cardigan. My only problem with it was the shedding. While working with this yarn I was literally covered with white hairs. Clare recommended washing it with a hair conditioner which helped a lot. I still wouldn’t wear it with black clothes but otherwise it is not too hairy and oh so warm.
More about the pattern on my Ravelry page. I loved working on it even though it was a top down seamless cardigan and you know how much I like to change them into “seamfull”. Not this time. It was a delight to make – clear and concise, the way I like them! And I had to go back to Clare’s store for more yarn so it was smart to start this project on the spot.
My last finished project was also made out of the yarn from Scotland.
One of the Stirling knitting group members – Carol – was clearing up her stash and selling some skeins during our meeting. One of her yarns – a lace weight hand dyed dark blue wool – had no labels or any other information about its length or content. No one was particularly interested in it and Carol gave it to me as a gift. Thank you, Carol! With 2 skeins with approximately 800 m each I decided to make a big blue scarf/wrap. I used 2 threads of Carol’s yarn plus one thread of MimiPlus in Blue Tweed colorway from my stash.
The pattern of my choice was Lucca scarf by Julie Hoover. It has a subtle geometrical lacy design that isn’t difficult but keeps you on your toes.
My gauge was bigger than in the original pattern plus I added two selvedge stitches at each side so the scarf turned out wide. It can be worn as a shawl as well as a scarf.
Two additional selvedge stitches were used for a garter stitch border so the scarf wouldn’t curl at the sides. I wish I also made a couple of garter stitch rows at the beginning and end for the same reason, but eventually it blocked well and doesn’t curl much. More of my mods on the pattern page on Ravelry.
Carol’s yarn being extremely soft and silky was coloring my fingers in blue while I was working with it. To the point that I became really worried it anyone could wear this scarf at all. Imagine putting a scarf on, going to work, and discovering that your neck became blue on your way there. As soon as knitting was finished I soaked the scarf in a vinegar solution and then washed and rinsed till the water ran clear. Hopefully, it fixed the problem with the dye.
Actually, I love this scarf/shawl/wrap so much that I might keep it to myself. We’ll see.
In September we went to Cambridge, MA to see our younger daughter for whom I made my Pitch. She wore it and she loved it! And it fits like a glove (I have to mention though that it shrunk a bit after being soaked in hot water and washed before our visit). More pictures on my IG and Ravelry page.
Now I have reported about all my finished projects and you all know what I did last summer:)
Meanwhile, we are in Florida and are going to stay here for many months to come. I have big plans for this winter. Stay tuned…

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, 

Anna


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,

Anna