Wednesday, May 6, 2020

How to unravel a knitted garment (tutorial # 4)

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

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

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

Sunday, April 26, 2020

My Imitation Game

How are you doing? Are you OK?

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

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

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


Monday, April 6, 2020

Hunkering down

Here is my list of favorite things to do for the times of stress (besides sitting idly, looking into the void while contemplating the end of the world):
1. Eat as many sweet things as I can stomach – chocolates, dried fruit, candy, jam, honey (this time my absolute favorite was Nutella because it comes in big jars and is really fulfilling).
2. Read mysteries or non-fiction books. I prefer traditional, Agatha Christi-like whodunits. They are like fairy tales – there is always a happy ending with an evil genius either dead or imprisoned.
3. Watch mysteries or documentaries on TV. Same reason – happy endings, plus, since I watch mainly British mysteries, the acting is always superb.
4. Maintain my usual routine as much as possible (really hard to do because of the sitting idly, looking into the void while contemplating the end of the world which is exhausting).
5. Dive into a difficult, time-consuming knitting project, preferably in fairisle technique.
Well, this time I did all of them except for the last one. I couldn’t possibly start a new fairisle project because I had two very slowly going monotonous projects on my hands and a swatch for a fairisle designer knock off that looked overwhelmingly difficult.
You see, before everything around us started crumbling in pieces, I decided to be more practical and efficient with my knitting and picked two projects that, if finished one day, could be easily worn in South Florida all year round and at the same time would diminish a bit my huge stash.
The first such project was a simple ribbed cardigan from the leftovers of Rowan Calmer that I used for the Fisherman sweater. I wasn’t sure how much yarn I had left since several balls were not full, so I figured that I would start with sleeves and, when they are finished, guess the total length of the cardigan.
I picked “fisherman rib”(aka “patent rib”) as my main pattern because it is very stretchy (to compensate for the yarn shortage) and because it doesn’t “eat up” as much yarn as any other “fancy” ribbing (definitely not as much as brioche stitch).
The “patent rib” is very simple to make:
Row 1: 1 knit, *1 knit, 1 purl* till the end of the row, 1 knit.
Row 2: 1 purl, *1 knit below – knit into a stitch below working together a stitch on the needle and a stitch below, 1 purl*, 1 purl.
I really like how this ribbing looks in Calmer. Working on it was an ordeal though. First of all, ribbing with Calmer was hard on my hands and I had to experiment with several different needles (bamboo, metal, circular, straight) before I settled on a pair that was the least painful to work with. Plus the ribbing was so monotonous and repetitive that I would fall asleep after 2 or 3 rows. So the progress was extremely slow, and at some point I didn’t even want to pick up this cardigan because there was no joy in knitting it.
My second sleep inducing project was a simple t-shirt based on the pattern Simplicity that I already made and liked a lot. I had a cone of silk from ColourMart in a nice sandy color with only 870 m in it. Combined with another yarn from ColourMart – Silk/Wool Laceweight – it knits up at a bearable gauge of 23 sts x 32 rs.

Instead of making a short silky sweater with long sleeves I opted for a longer one with short sleeves and a V-neck. Working with these two yarns wasn’t painful at all but still slow going. Apparently, I rarely get excited about working row after row of stockinette stitch. Yet, it was a good TV-watching, speaking with friends project and was moving much faster than the ribbed cardigan.
And then our lives changed, we had to stay home in quarantine with some vague perspectives and no coherent plan of actions. Did it make you anxious? I bet it did. As for me, I am anxious by default, so yes, no surprise here, I became anxious, worried, scared, depressed, restless, uneasy etc. (if you want more synonyms, go to
So I went through my TO-DO WHILE STRESSED OUT list (see above) and got stuck on the last point – I couldn’t start a new project when I had two unfinished ones on my hands already. That would have brought my level of anxiety to an unthinkable high and I couldn’t even start contemplating the ramifications. Yes, I have to tell you my dark secret – I cannot stand an unfinished thing, an unfinished project in particular. Here, I said it in the open and I already feel better!!!! Psychotherapy in action!
This time I decided to funnel my restlessness and agitation into finishing both the t-shirt and ribbed cardigan as soon as possible. It was not an easy task but I accomplished it and am very proud of it since it took pretty much all my willpower and self-control.
How did I do it? Using my love of numbers and counting. Many years ago I noticed that a difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible task becomes manageable if divided in small parts that can be counted. For example, when I swim, I have to count my lapses. If I do, I can swim for an hour without a problem, if not – I get restless and tired after 15 min. I’ve got a small lapse-counter that I wear on my finger like a ring and an electronic lapse-counting box that my husband custom-made for me so I can always see how many lapses I swam already.
When I knit, I always count the rows with a row-counter (I’ve got several of them, mostly like this one, because I think it’s the best). Therefore, after each part of a garment finished, I have an exact number of rows needed to make it. As you know, all parts in knitting (of course, if you don’t work in the round) come in pairs. One sleeve finished, I knew the number of rows to finish the second sleeve. The back finished – I knew the number of rows for both fronts up to the armholes. And so on.
This way, I managed to finish the cardigan (took me 2 months!) and t-shirt in about 10 days. I was rather worried about the finishing process. As you know, I take my finishing very seriously. I think that it is the most important part of creating a garment and it can make or break it. When you finish a project in a hurry being mortally tired of working on it and impatiently anticipating casting on for a new project, it is easy to botch it up.
As a result, I deliberately slowed myself down, checking and rechecking the results of my work. I spent a day finishing the t-shirt. I used an I-cord finishing for the V-neck and had to unravel my first attempt, because the needles I used were too small and the front started puckering.
More details of my Ravelry project page.
And I spent two days finishing the cardigan, making sure that it would look neat and polished, with right buttons, tubular cast off on all the ribbed borders, and well sewn pockets.
Again, go to my project page for more details.
Boy, this was tough! Yet, somehow, it helped to calm down my feverish anxiety and add some serenity in my daily life.
As to my third project, I finally started it when parts of the t-shirt were blocked and drying and worked on it just for fun when Nutella would stop helping.
Again, my inspiration came from Pinterest. I saw this sweater – Ami Paris crew neck with Nordic jacquard pattern - in bright red and just couldn’t help it.
One day I sat down to experiment and managed to knit a swatch looking almost like the pattern on the designer’s original. I used cotton yarn for my swatch because, again, I was trying to be practical and make something that I could wear here and now.
I like my color combination even though it is not as vibrant as in the original. Yet, after hours of sitting in front of the computer and constant unravelling, the pattern didn’t look easy to me and I was reluctant to make it. I even started looking for other, easier patterns with 3 colors, preferably ones that were already written, so I wouldn’t have to improvise.
Eventually, I decided to make this fairisle crew neck. Desperate times require desperate measures, right?
This is where I am right now.
The work on this sweater has been surprisingly quick. As a template I decided to use a pattern of a sweater that I’d already made with the same gauge, so I don’t have to improvise too much. And, since I am using leftovers of cotton from this sweater, I am not sure that I have enough yarn for long sleeves which would be OK with me (however, in this case I’ll have to work out how to use up the leftovers of my grey cotton yarn later – go figure!).
Oh, and among my other stress-reducing techniques are:
1. Don’t watch news, read a bit of news in the morning when still strong and optimistic, and then stop doing it.
2. Don’t “educate” myself about the problem (meaning, don’t read the endless articles on the Internet that “explain” everything because they usually make things less clear and even scarier).
3. Don’t go on Social Media (well, I go but rarely and for a short amount of time, trying not to get stuck there).
Do you have anything else to recommend? I would love to try something new. Let’s help each other, after all, we are in the same boat right now!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

... and a very long scarf

For the last two months making things was much more appealing than writing about them. As a result, I now have several finished projects to talk about and it might seem that they were knit quickly one after another. Which is not the case: I started my Very Long Scarf and Patchwork Cardigan last year in December almost at the same time and they were finished almost simultaneously in January while Kim Hargreaves’ Canvas was quickly knit later in between two other rather monotonous projects.
You see, for many years I was a “monogamous” knitter, always working on a single project from the beginning till the end, then and only then beginning something new. Somehow, my approach changed in the last couple of months and projects started piling up one after another. And it doesn’t feel messy or out of control like it used to be. There is a project for a knit night, another one – for book listening (or reading), plus I always look for something challenging and unusual, requiring learning new techniques or using the almost forgotten ones.
My Patchwork Cardigan was in the last category – a combination of a challenging pattern and a difficult yarn.
The pattern turned out to be an absolute marvel. There are different techniques used – cables with bobbles, fancy ribbing, intarsia, crochet embroidery, and color block. For each part with a different technique you’ll need either add or decrease stitches in order to keep same measurements. There is no need to change needles or work some other trick, the math is flawless, and if you just follow directions to a T everything will work like clockwork (at least it did for me).
This pattern drew my attention because it reminded me of some pieces from Pringle of Scotland’s collection which is why I picked similar colors. I had only four colors of Rowan Alpaca Merino DK and the pattern asks for five, so I had to improvise. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I love to improvise and always amateurishly tinker with a pattern trying to adjust it to my particular needs. Yet, this was the only thing that I changed in this project – the colors (and the tubular CO and BO).
The yarn was really difficult to work with. Not only is it extremely stretchy, as I’d discovered while working on my Reflection. It easily splits into separate tiny slippery threads, gets stuck on a needle, and after knitting with the black colored balls my eyes were hurting and my fingers were all black! To tell you the truth, on several occasions I nearly gave up and unraveled the whole thing, so much frustration this yarn was causing me.
Yet, I really wanted to use up as much of Rowan Alpaca Merino DK as possible because I have so much (too much) of it in my stash. I bought it on a whim soon after it first appeared on the market during our trip to London because I loved the colors. Also it looked soft and squishy, and very light. And as much as it was difficult to work with, it proved to be the right choice for this particular garment.
Usually, I avoid making intarsia because of the inevitable holes between colors that bother me. This yarn – being so clingy and fuzzy – eliminates any possible holes making the fabric look even and smooth. Crocheting the white criss-cross lines over intarsia colorwork was a torture (mostly because it was almost impossible to pick out a stitch in dark colors) but the end result looks fabulous and I can wear this cardigan with pride since it looks professionally finished. Fancy ribbing in black color on the back was hard on my hands and extremely tedious but when I finally got over that part everything else seemed to be a breeze.
I was worried that the black parts would bleed on the white parts in washing which is why first I soaked them in a strong vinegar solution for several hours and only then washed them carefully in Eucalan. There was no bleeding whatsoever – my problem was solved!
Unfortunately, I managed to use only half of my Rowan Alpaca Merino DK stash and have no idea where to use up the rest of it (any ideas? Help, please!). However, now I have this warm, light, and fuzzy garment that could be worn with all my clothes, especially yellow Keds that were so popular on IG (!)

Actually, I got some amazing feedback after publishing Patchwork cardigan’s pictures. Through IG I met a Russian knitter Irina who actually made the knock offs of not one but two Pringle of Scotland knits – both amazing, go check them out on Ravelry.
Approximately at the same time my Very Long Scarf was finally finished.
I nearly ran out of blocking space for it because it’s so long, and yes, I block my scarves! After washing and blocking, it became softer and bigger, and can be used as a shawl as well as a scarf.
I loosely based my scarf on the Three Skeins Scarf pattern by Veta Romanenkova. It is a free pattern but it’s in Russian only. I picked up 100 sts instead of 80 and kept knitting in one color till the moment when I didn’t have much of the yarn left in this color. Then I would start making two color stripes. Since I was using leftover yarns from previous projects, my color blocks are not as even as in the original pattern. And the finished scarf is much longer, which is fine with me.
For my next project I wanted something that I could make rather fast because I got tired of working on the same things for a long time. My other motivation for making Canvas was the fact that for a while now I’ve been buying cotton and linen yarn only but never making anything from it. Woolly garments are not practical in South Florida and I hardly ever get a chance to wear them here. Yet, sweaters and T-shirts from cotton can be handy any day, and I could actually wear my knits as soon as they are finished.
This is why I got well motivated to finish Canvas as fast as possible. I loved Karol’s interpretation of it on Ravelry and I had 10 balls of Rowan Cotton Glace in my stash that I thought would be right for this project. After several false starts I figured out that the original pattern as it is written in Kim Hargreaves’ book Calm is rather short and wide and I needed something longer but not quite that wide. That was why I used smaller needles than recommended in the pattern – US 1 ½ and US 4 – and made not 6 but 8 repeats of the lace stripes with 8 rows after the last stripe before the armhole decreases.
This sweater has raglan sleeves but the raglan seams are rather short and the neckline is low, too low for my taste. At first, I made decreases in the neckband ribbing as per the pattern but continued ribbing with smaller needles for 10 more rows, made another round of decreases, and bound off all stitches. The result was not completely satisfactory: the neckband’s length was OK, but I felt uncomfortable, a bit like in a straitjacket with the armholes hitched up too high and my arms restricted in their movement.
I unraveled the neckband and knit it again differently. This time I started with US 4 needles for 4 rows, changed them to US 1 ½ needles for another 16 rows and only then made the first round of decreases. I knit two more rows with US 0 needles with the second round of decreases in the second row, and then bound off all stitches. This time the neckband sits at the right place and I can wear it while moving my arms freely.
Remember my long suffering Fisherman sweater that I made as a gift last year? It was a surprise gift and the recipient didn’t know that I was making it. I couldn’t possibly go and check if I was making the right size, so I worried to death if the final garment would fit him well.
This month I finally got an opportunity to take pictures of this sweater in action and I must tell you – it fits like a glove!
I am so proud of myself. I do believe that the garments that I make must be useful and worn by people otherwise this whole thing has no sense. Mission accomplished here!
I took these pictures at that moment at dusk when the sun is not too bright and the light caresses and illuminates the skin. And my model looks so handsome! Don't you agree?
What is next on my needles? I did like the idea of making clothes that I can instantly wear so now I’ve got a couple of summery projects in the works. And there are several designers’ sweaters that I saw on Pinterest that kind of got stuck in my head and now I would really like to try my hands at making them. Yes, I am working on several projects at once and enjoying it, imagine that!
I always turn to knitting when I get anxious or worried (which must happen often if you look at my Ravelry project page) and, as many people in this world, I have tons of reasons to be anxious or sad. Yet, as an ancient Sanskrit proverb says, "One should not speak unless what one says is both true and pleasant." And this is why I prefer stick to knitting here - otherwise I wouldn't talk about pleasant things (sorry, world, but I've got so many unpleasant things to say!). Since we live in anxious times, to put it mildly, and knitting for me is the most effective method of digesting and adapting to reality, my shift to "multi-project-ness" seems only natural.  Don't you think?