Thursday, June 16, 2016

A tale of two cardigans

Actually, it is a tale of one cardigan - Cloudy - with some photos of the second one - Blue disaster. I decided to put them together because they are both summer cardigans and the process of making them was rather frustrating but in a different way.
I decided that I needed more summer cardigans because the only one that I had with me last winter in Florida was extremely handy and I wore it on multiple occasions. When I saw Cloudy in the last Kim Hargreaves’ book, I thought that it would be a great addition to my wardrobe.
A couple of words about the yarn that I used to make Cloudy. The only thing that I know about this yarn is that it is made by ColourMart. I’ll explain.
Several years ago my husband suddenly asked me what I wanted for Christmas. Since he doesn’t do it often – about once every ten years – I got superexcited and asked for the ColourMart yarn. I’ve read a lot about it on Ravelry and seen many wonderful projects made out of this yarn. Yet, every time I would go on their website, I’d get paralyzed by too many types of yarns to choose from. My husband on the other hand never had any problems with decisions plus he is efficient to the fault. He went on Ebay and bought the yarn there. Later  under a Christmas tree I discovered a big (huge!) box full of yarn that had no information about the weight, length, content or anything. There were chocolates in every pack, but nothing else. He picked good colors though – the ones that I definitely like. But it is difficult to figure out what to make out of a certain yarn if you have no clue about at least its length .I managed to identify some of it later (for example, the one that I used while making Blok). But most of it was left un-indentified, like Jane Doe in a mystery novel.
Making Cloudy from this yarn was, in a way, a leap of faith for me. I wasn’t sure I had enough yarn to actually finish the garment. It turned out that I had more than enough, and I was able to make the cardigan longer than in the original pattern because when I wear a cardigan I like my butt to be covered. At least the best (or worst) part of it.
Cloudy has a boxy shape, no side decreases or increases. The different length of back and fronts makes it look modern and a little oversized. The actual cardigan pattern is rather easy and straightforward. As soon as you figure out the directions for which size are right for you. Mine were for the size L. I made 6 buttonholes (the pattern calls for just 5) because I changed the length of the garment.

A raveler who already made this cardigan recommended trying first a sleeve or a front. She was so right! I had to reknit my first sleeve 5 times. Because of the lace pattern. It is not difficult per se – just two rows (no schematics, just row by row explanations), yet, somehow I kept making mistakes in it. Usually, in a pattern there are rows where you have to pay attention, concentrate, count, and other rows where you can relax and just go on autopilot. No autopilot for this lace! At least, not for me. I had to redo every part of this cardigan, the right front – 5 times, which made the whole process rather frustrating. This is not a pattern for the weak hearted, you’ve got to really commit to be able to finish it. My recommendations would be to start with yoga or meditation or both before you even buy any yarn for this cardigan. And no, I will not make it again. Ever.

I love the end result though. This garment is airy and lightweight, perfect for summer (or winter in South Florida). The yarn after washing lost its papery feeling, got much softer while keeping a very good stitch definition. Great yarn! It is a shame I have no idea what it really is. Can somebody help me?
And here are some pictures of me wearing the Blue disaster, my other summer cardigan.

You can also see these projects on Ravelry - Cloudy and Blue disaster.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Feeling blue

Finally I finished this blue disaster and am ready to tell my sad but hopefully insightful story.

It began when I was packing the yarn to take with me to Florida. The main goal was to use up the yarn that had been in my stash for a long while. So I started digging and at some point unearthed two (!!!!) packs of Ella Rae baby cotton in bright blue.
Honestly, I don’t remember when, where, and under which circumstances I bought this yarn. I must have been in coma or just mortally tired. Why did I buy 2 packs? My first explanation is that the yarn was probably cheap. The second one came when I looked closely at the inscription on a ball – 100 m. Only 109 yards long. I had 2 000 m of denim blue yarn, 88% cotton, 12% nylon, which means it would really stretch a lot. What was I initially planning to make out of it? No idea.
After some painful inner deliberations I decided to make a long cabled cardigan. I reasoned that cables would take care of the yarn stretchiness and cardigans usually eat up quite a lot of yarn. Now the question was – which cardigan? There are so many beautiful patterns on Ravelry.

It was a tough decision. I went by elimination method – what I need and don’t need in a cardigan (besides cables, which I definitely needed). First of all, in a cardigan I need pockets. Actually, I wish I had pockets in everything. And yes, if there are no pockets written in the pattern, you can always make them yourself, but… it is much easier when the pattern already includes pockets.
Secondly, I didn’t want a collar for my cardigan. From my experience, cardigans’ collars rarely behave the way they do on pictures. In real life they usually look frumpy and asymmetrical, and it’s not comfortable to wear anything on top of them.
At this point I remembered about this cardigan.
It is from a very old – VINTAGE – magazine. This one.
When I was much younger and just had my first child, someone gave me this magazine to translate a pattern from French. As a reward I could keep it for a while to look at and copy any pattern I wanted.
Boy, I looked and looked! I was in love with all the patterns and models! They were happy and carefree, wore amazing clothes in out of this world colors. You can imagine my life at the time if this magazine made such an impression on me (and I am not a very impressionable person in general). I copied and later made quite a few patterns from this book but I was using poor quality yarn and unfortunately almost all this work is now gone.
When I discovered Ebay (many years ago), one of my first purchases was this particular magazine. I don’t care that it is old. For me these patterns are timeless.  
Yet, I couldn’t just follow the pattern for the blue cardigan. Fashion changed over the years, and the pattern’s sleeves were disproportionately large. I decided to be brave and rewrite the raglan portion of the pattern to make sleeves look modern. Why, oh why I suddenly felt self-confident?! So out of character…
Off I went, and the back was almost finished during our last week in Florida. The yarn turned out to be pleasantly easy on my hands, and kind of addictive. It wasn’t splitty, I could make cables without a cable needle, so knitting was a breeze.
When we came home to Pennsylvania, I promptly made two front parts and was already anticipating wearing it in April (we had unusually cold April this year).
And then (sad, haunting music and drumroll, please) – disaster… While finishing the first sleeve I put all the parts together and finally – finally!!!! – noticed that the cables didn’t match. I don’t know how it would’ve fit me – probably well, but, while calculating and recalculating the raglan decreases I never even thought about the cables and the fact that eventually all the parts will be sewn together. Strange oversight, don’t you think? For a person who’s been knitting for the best part of her life, it was unexplainable and unforgivable. I was really mad at myself.
Anyway, I had two options - finish it the way it was and never wear it, or unravel all the finished parts down to the armholes, forget the raglan, and start all over with set-in sleeves. I picked the second option. But first I had to take some time out, regroup and recover; otherwise I would’ve frogged the whole thing. I am glad I didn’t because the end result looks nice.

These vintage buttons were bought last year in Oxford.

Eventually, only 14 balls of yarn were used. 6 balls left. And the yarn was discontinued years ago. A new challenge for my restless mind (and hands).
I don’t have pictures of myself wearing the thing – my photographer is in Florida. As soon as he is back I’ll post new pictures on Ravelry. For now you just have to believe me – it fits really well, it goes with everything, and I am going to wear it a lot. Halleluiah, all’s well that ends well, right?
Speaking of Shakespeare, we saw 2 of his plays while in London plus two more plays by other authors. Since this is a knitting blog (for the most part) I am not going to write what I think about The Taming of The Shrew in Shakespeare’s Globe and Romeo and Juliet in Garrick theater. Unless somebody really wants to know. Do you?
Overall this trip was very successful and I even found a London subway station named after me.
I bought yarn only for 1 project this time because we had a tiny carry on with no space for yarn. But… I got myself a lot of buttons. Buttons are great for airplanes – don’t take up any space at all.
For more of my London pictures go to my Instagram