Friday, December 1, 2017

White Pebble and beige Moonshine

I am a terrible multitasker. Doing several things at once is not my forte. That is why I usually work on one project at a time. Yet, last month I managed to juggle three projects simultaneously. Highly unusual for me and a bit stressful, but let's talk about the results and then discuss the process.
Arboreal got a separate post because it was finished first and was the fastest from the three.
Pebble is a fitted cardigan from the last Kim Hargreaves' book Grey. I had 10 balls of Rowan Cocoon in my stash - the same yarn that was used in the original pattern.
Pebble's construction is kind of unusual: you make the back and two fronts, then combine them creating side vents.
After few rows the work is divided in three parts again and they are finished separately. The main pattern - lace - is explained only row by row for this design but there is a similar cardigan in this book - Drizzle, also with lace and vents. On page 81 of the book you'll find a chart for the lace pattern that is almost identical to the one used for Pebble.
While knitting the back I became too confident and stopped reading the row by row instructions for the lace because it seemed to be pretty easy to memorize. Who wants to look up every row in a book, right? Well, I finished the back, then the left front, and was almost done with the right front when suddenly I looked closely at the pattern and saw the difference in the upper and bottom parts. The lace pattern wasn't that easy to memorize after all. And I had no one to blame but myself.
Can you see the difference?
I unraveled everything down to the joining of the sections but instead of keeping working on Pebble I started two more projects - Arboreal and Moonshine. Arboreal - because it is a top-down, working in the round pattern and could be finished quickly giving me some sense of accomplishment. And Moonshine - because it is all plain stockinette stitch and could be done while watching TV or traveling, or reading, or whatever you want to do while knitting lots and lots of stockinette stitch.
As soon as Arboreal was finished I started working on Pebble again, this time using the chart on page 81 and paying extreme attention to the pattern. The fact that I have already made all the parts once helped to speed up the process. While working on a project I count all the rows and take notes so the right and left, back and front are the same length and width. Using my notes I promptly finished the body, washed it, and blocked. And that was when I got the second blow - both vents on the bottom of the cardigan were looking in the same direction (see here).
If you check the book you won't find any photo of this pattern showing two vents at the same time. Maybe this is the way Kim Hargreaves wants them to look, I don't know. But I don't like it and I think it is wrong.
You cannot even imagine how hopeless I felt at the moment - the only way to correct this vent problem was to unravel the whole thing AGAIN. No, I didn't cry - I don't cry easily. I decided to try my best to fix the vent's direction without unraveling anything. I was even prepared to cut the yarn with scissors if needed (!!!!) but fortunately one of the vents was the place where I had joined another ball. It wasn't hard to unravel just 8 stitches of the vent, change its direction and knit them together again. Sewing 8 stitches back took some time but it wasn't very difficult either and you cannot even see the difference between the vents. Problem solved:)))
Sleeves were made in record time, as you can imagine. I got REALLY tired of this cardigan that initially looked easy and a fast knit and turned out to be full of pitfalls.
I made size S (34) and it took about 7 balls of Rowan Cocoon (the pattern asks for 8). The yarn is luscious and fluffy, I hope it wears well (I am not sure and I never used this yarn before).
I modeled Pebble to take pictures of it but the sleeves are awfully long for me (or my arms are awfully short). Either way, it will look better on a taller person with normal arms.
Meanwhile I kept working on Moonshine.
It was my refuge, my safe ground, my go-to-when-you-are-sad-or-upset project.
The pattern asks for Rowan Kidsilk Haze and Fine Lace. I used Swans Island Natural Colors Merino fingering and Cascade Kid Seta. After making Ebony I bought more of Swans Island yarn because I loved working with it so much (and it wears well) and was dying to use it again. My gauge was exactly the same - a little miracle - so I didn't have to recalculate or change anything.
Other then the yarn and the sleeves (picked them up around armholes and decreased gradually, more details here) there are no modifications to the pattern.
I love the end result - this cardigan is almost weightless and covers you like a warm cloud. It is cozy but doesn't look like a bathrobe. The only problem - its wearer should be taller than me, or, if I want to wear something like this it must be shorter. These proportions are wrong for me.
I tried my best with the photos, hopefully, when my kids come, I'll be able to take more. But for now, just trust me - it is a great pattern, very simple, and you'll be wearing this thing all the time.
In conclusion - surprisingly enough, I loved working on three projects at the same time. It was fast and not too boring (even though I would have preferred to get a little bit more bored while making Pebble). Will I do it again? Probably.
But my next post will be about calculations and sizes trying to answer this question: what to do if your gauge is different from the pattern gauge?  Till next time then.

Happy knitting!


Monday, November 13, 2017


What is fashion to you?
For me it is a strong motivator to change.
My clothes definitely reflect my mood, and at the same time they help creating it. And I refuse to feel old, shapeless, and fashionless. I think modern fashion is so multifaceted and multilayered, that anyone can find there a little niche, a place for him/herself.
That is why I love looking at fashion collections, especially from the designers who make clothes that I could wear or at least adapt somehow to my wardrobe.
This year many fall collections were full of knits with amazing new interpretations of lace, cables, and color work. Ethnic prints are very much "in vogue" this fall/winter season.

I couldn't help myself and picked as examples 4 looks from the Fall 2017 Collection by Jean Paul Gaultier - I've been a huge fan since the Fifth Element!
Sweaters with round yoke - so called Icelandic sweaters - experience a true revival on runways and on Ravelry.
From left to right and from top to bottom: 1. Tory Burch 2. Prada 3. Anya Hindmarch 4. Loewe.
I don't remember ever seeing on Ravelry so many amazing round yoke patterns before. And so different - you can find one for every taste: top down, bottom up, thin or thick yarn, few or many colors.

From top to bottom and from left to right 1. Telja by Jennifer Staingass 2. Birkin by Caitlin Hunter 3. Captain Rex by Natela Astakhova 4. Bjork Icelandic Summer Top by Katrine Hannibal 5. Blafjoll by winterludes dolls 6. Threipmuir by Isolda Teague.
I've said and written many times that I don't like seamless garments: they don't fit me well and have a tendency to stretch in an ugly way. But I couldn't help myself. To be honest, I love working with colors and do appreciate a quick knit. A round yoke sweater is a quick knit by definition - the only difficult part is the yoke but, if its design is good and all calculations are correct, you don't have to worry about it. Just follow directions and pay attention. Otherwise - no seams, no fuss, no problems with yarn - too much or too little - it doesn't matter because you can always stop or make an extra inch depending on how much yarn you've got left. Or you can add more color work on sleeves and bottom - for fun and to use up all the leftover yarn. In other words, possibilities are endless.
This kind of patterns are good if you are in a hurry and I am behind in my gift making process. Making North took too much time and I am a little worried since Holidays are approaching quickly (if you listen to the radio or go to a store it looks like Christmas is already here!). Making a round yoke sweater looked to me like the best choice at the moment - it could be a great gift for a young person and it would satisfy my cravings for a color work garment.
For my first round yoke project (yes, I got hooked and am frantically planning more colored yokes in my life) I picked Arboreal - very popular on Ravelry now for its clean lines and simple design.
Plus I brought from London (remember all those trips to John Lewis?) Rowan hemp tweed in Almond shade that would look great with the leftovers of this same yarn in Granite. And they would go well together - Arboreal and North (after long discussions with myself I decided to give North away - there is no place for me to wear it and my child definitely can use it).
Arboreal's designer - Jennifer Steingass - is producing ravishingly looking round yoke sweaters with cosmic speed. That is why, even though Arboreal was my first from her, I had a lot of faith in the design. My reservations were about the concept of round yoke in general though.
You see, over the years I've made quite a number of round yoke sweaters. And gave them all away. The fit was wrong, and they made me look very muscular and athletic with big shoulders and upper arms. Especially the ones that were fitted in the body. I didn't want to draw too much attention to shoulders and I wanted my garment to have an oversize, loose shape. To reach this goal I used the notes of this Raveler and made it A-shaped with 4 body increases at the sides in every 20th row.
For the yoke and body I made size B but for the sleeves I picked up 70 stitches following directions for size C. And I almost never make sleeves in the round so this was no exception.
I used twin stitches for the short rows - suggested by this Raveler - and it worked well.
Finishing with Kitchener cast off - my favorite - stretchy and polished.
But my main modification was the neckband. I used provisional cast on because... well, one never knows. When the yoke was finished I tried it on and the neckband seemed to be on a narrow side. Both my children prefer to have some space between the neckline and the actual neck in their clothes (no turtlnecks, please) but I didn't want to unravel the whole yoke and start with a bigger size (especially since the yoke size was roomy enough). Instead, I unraveled the provisional cast on, picked up stitches, and started 1x1 ribbing in the round with every knit st through the back loop while making two stitches in every third or fourth stitch (108 stitches total). Ribbed for 9 rows, folded in half and cast off from inside in the first row of ribbing. This way the neckband is stretchy and comfortable. And will look well with a t-shirt or a shirt underneath.
This is what I like about seamless knits - they are so fast to make and, in this particular case, very satisfying. And give me more round yokes - don't you think that, when well made, they are timeless classics?
Here are my Arboreal and North: they look so well together like it was meant to be.
I am happy because I finished the second gift in no time and don't have to rush my next projects. I've been working on two stylish but warm cardigans for my other child for a while now and was worried that time will be the issue. My next post will be about about these projects. Hopefully soon...

Happy knitting!


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A simple hat

What do you do with leftover yarn after a big project is finished? I hate when it happens. Because at the end of a big project I get tired of the yarn and want to move on, to a new yarn and a new project. Yet, sometimes (as a matter of fact, most of the times) there are leftovers that have to be used somehow. So, what do you do with them?
Here is one of my solutions to the leftovers dilemma: if there is enough yarn left I would make a hat that could be later gifted to someone special who wears hats or that could be worn by yours truly while walking in the Pennsylvanian woods.

After finishing my Dream cardigan I had almost two balls left of Queensland Collection Kathmandu dk yarn that I used for a simple hat.
Here is my recipe to make a seamless hat if you have 300-350 yards of dk yarn and you want to make somebody happy.
The pattern is 3x3 ribs: 3 knit sts, 3 purl sts. Pick up the amount of stitches divisible by 6 + 1 stitch on circular needles. I had 103 sts and used US 3 (3.25 mm) size needles.
Place marker and start knitting 3 knit x 3 purl. At the end of the first row join stitches in the round (DO NOT TWIST!!!). It would be easier and the edge would be more even if you knit together the last stitch of the first row with the first stitch of the second row (that is why I added an extra stitch).
Basically, this is it. Keep going in the round for as long as you want (or as long as you have yarn).
This project is very portable and could be brought to anywhere, especially to a place where people talk a lot. You don't have to pay much attention and can work on it while talking, watching movies, traveling etc.
When you think that you have ribbed enough start decreasing.
Decrease rows:
Row 1: 2 knit sts, 2 knit together through the back loop, 1 purl, 2 knit together, *1 knit, 2 knit together through the back loop, 1 purl, 2 knit together* till the end
Row 2: knit and purl all stitches as they are
Row 3: 2 knit sts, *2 knit together through the back loop, 2 knit together*
Row 4: 2 knit together throughout the row
Cut the yarn leaving a long enough tail, using a sewing needle thread the tail through all the stitches and fasten them tightly.
Pompom is optional. Go wild or go for a humble medium size - it's up to you.
If you want to make your crown bigger - add some rows between the decrease rows (for example, you can add a row or two between Row 2 and Row 3, or add another row of all knit stitches between Row 3 and Row 4).
My other solution to the leftovers problem is a big ribbed collar. Here is an example.
I made this sweater several years ago and the original pattern doesn't have any collar at all. I had quite a lot of yarn left but not enough for a whole project. Plus this sweater turned out to be extremely warm (I made it before a trip to Edinburgh in early spring) and it was logical to add a lush, cosy, ribbed collar. It became sweater/scarf combo - you definitely don't need a scarf while wearing this sweater.
Pattern  - Cable and Bobble Sweater by Debbie Bliss
Any other suggestions for leftover yarn utilization? I can't wait to hear from other knitters. Let's have a virtual "suggestion box". I promise to publish all of them and discuss the most original solutions.
Happy Halloween and happy knitting, everyone!


Friday, October 20, 2017


The pattern is from Kim Hargreaves' book North and is called North. I loved the book in its entirety when it was first published but North wasn't among the patterns that I wanted to make one day. For several reasons. It seemed too complicated (turned out to be true), too warm, and too expensive (10-11 balls of Rowan Kid Classic plus 11-12 balls of Rowan Kidsilk Haze). It looks modern and sporty on the model though, and these pockets! I love pockets because my hands are always cold. Yet, the cables - every four stitches cabled in every fourth row - are the most tedious cables on the planet. How to make a whole jacket in a pattern that requires long hours of boredom? You need a special motivation for this that I definitely didn't have at the moment.
During our last visit to England almost accidentally (as I described here) I acquired a lot of yarn. When at home I looked at 15 balls of Rowan Hemp Tweed in a pretty color of asphalt and instantly knew that they were meant to become a big, comfy, cabled jacket with a zipper and pockets. I myself don't need a jacket like this but one of my daughters definitely does. And it would be a great Christmas present. After all, fall is for making presents and I was a little bit behind already.
Again, North wasn't my first choice for this jacket but when I looked at the yarn requirements it was clear that it was a contender. I already had an unusually big amount of yarn and this jacket would look great in dark grey tweed. After Colonel cardigan I stopped being afraid of zippers. Sure, they take a lot of time and you have to be very focused while sewing them in, but if you make a mistake (or two, or three...) you can always undo and start over. The only thing - you've got to have time and patience.
Same thing with tedious patterns - they need time and patience.
I made a swatch - it was an almost perfect match. Same gauge as in the pattern (my row gauge was different: 22 rows in 4") - a sign, right?
While cleaning my house, I found a zipper I totally forgot about and it was black and the exact length required for the pattern - another sign, right?
So, my choice was made, the dice were cast. Now I had to invent something to trick myself into making this difficult jacket.
After some deliberations, I figured that the most difficult part that probably would take the longest is the back. What if I start with the fronts instead? Fronts need pockets and opening edges which make them more complicated but at the same time more interesting to knit because there is always something happening and you need to pay attention. Plus, if you have already two fronts done it is too late to chicken out and you have no other choice but to finish the project.
This is how my North got started - with the left front. I was instantly pleasantly surprised at how well the pattern was written. Yes, I must admit, North is absolutely brilliantly thought through and calculated.
My only problem was when I got to the point after the armhole when the pattern says: "Cont straight until 11 rows less have been worked than on back to start of shoulder shaping". Since I haven't made the back yet, how could I know when to stop?
No problem. Let's do some math. The armhole measures 19 cm from start to shoulder shaping. The gauge is 22 rows in 10 cm. How many rows for the armhole? X(armhole rows) = (22 x 19) : 10 = 41.8. Approximately 42 rows for the armhole from start to shoulder shaping. 42 rows - 11 rows = 31 rows for the front armhole to neck shaping. Easy-peasy!
And this is how both fronts were finished rather quickly. While they were drying I started the back.
Yes, it was hard to make - cabling 138 sts in every 4th row is not a walk in a park. But... I already knew how many rows I had to make (20 - for ribbing, 86 - till armhole, 42 - after armhole). I don't know about you, but when I know the amount of rows, work seems to be easier. I can pace myself, calculate how fast it could be done if I make that many rows per day etc.
While the front parts were drying, I started alternating working on the back and inserting zipper in the front. Both tasks were strenuous, but at least they were different kind of strenuous.
To tell you the truth, I got really tired of this jacket and its pattern at some point. And was ready to quit. Fortunately, it happened when I was making sleeves. I made them as long as the pattern required but spaced the increases more evenly (more details on my Ravelry page).
After the sleeves were done and were drying I put together the fronts (with zipper sewn-in) and back and made the collar. Again, didn't change anything, followed the pattern that asks you to fold it in half and hide the remaining part of the zipper in the seams. Cool, but took quite a lot of time.
Before I forget, 15 balls of Hemp Tweed were not enough to finish this jacket - imagine that! I ordered two more balls but needed only half of a ball for the collar.
A couple of words about this yarn. There was a knot (or two) in every ball. And they are only 104 yards long. Not good! Plus I got distracted by some strange twig-like strings that I kept pulling out of my thread (couldn't help myself).
Somehow it didn't look right to leave them intact even though it might be an important "hemp" part, who knows? It was easy to work with, yet, a little splitty when cabling without cable needle. A lot of last Rowan patterns are made from this yarn so I was expecting it to be a winner. Cannot tell you that it won me over. The jury is still out on this one.
Finally, the jacket was finished. I put it on and the fit was perfect. Even with long sleeves. I made size M because it is an outdoor garment and is supposed to be worn over other clothes. Still it fits me well. So if you decide to make it one day, be careful with the size, measure everything first.
It was a challenge for me to finish this one and I like it too much to give it away. Yes, most likely I'll keep it - a reminder of my battle with myself.
P.S. About your comments on this blog. They don't appear immediately. I have to approve and publish each one of them to avoid spam. So don't worry if you commented but cannot see it on the blog - it will be there eventually. Just give me some time! Any suggestions on how to speed this process are highly appreciated.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Bell... Isn't she lovely?

There are very few designers that I trust completely. In a knitter sense of trusting, of course! It means that this particular designer poured hours of deliberations and checking into her work and that I, a humble knitter, don't have to recheck and review her pattern before actually making it.
Ann McCauley is this kind of designer. When Bell was first published, I immediately decided to make it sooner or later: it looks classy and elegant, could be dressed up or down, is obviously very flattering for a woman's body. I had one concern: I really wanted to wear this one, not to put it in my closet waiting for the "sweater weather" that might never come for me. Since we became "snowbirds" I've been living in almost perpetual summer which is a little bit frightening because I have almost no opportunities to wear my wonderful wooly sweaters.
My solution was to find some summery and cottony yarn for this sweater, preferably in white. I dived into my stash and found some promising yarns but... in the pattern's descriptions it says that Bell requires 1435 yards for the smallest size, and I wanted to make it a little bit roomier, with more positive ease, therefore, I needed even more yards and I didn't have them in my stash.
So, before we left for England, I went to my favorite knitting shop in Pennsylvania - Twist. Its owner, Debbie, has an amazing variety of yarn choices and helps navigating the yarn realm like no one. Under her guidance I found Cascade Ultra Pima that is creamy white, has a very good yardage, and wasn't too expensive (ha-ha, I obviously bought more yarn, much more yarn because I just couldn't help myself but it wasn't my proudest moment and I don't want to talk about it:))))
At home I made a swatch and my row gauge was a little bit different from the pattern but I liked how it looked and felt, and I had 6 balls of this yarn already. The back was started soon afterwards but then postponed because my Dream cardigan needed all my attention and then we left for England.
We had only a week in Pennsylvania before leaving again - for Florida. I spent that week finishing the cardigan of my dreams and wore it proudly on the plane.
The only project on my needles at the time was Bell and it went to Florida with me with little hope of much knitting because we were supposed to be very busy there. It turned out a lot of stuff got canceled because of the hurricane (see details here) and I had to spend many hours just waiting: for our departure day, for our flight, for the hurricane to finally hit, and for the news of how things were in the aftermath.
During all this let's say trying time I was making Bell. It was more or less brainless knitting (rather more than less), just to keep myself going, just to do something. I picked the second size and... worked and worked without giving it much thought, almost mechanically going through the motions. It was easy with Bell. It is well written and you don't have to anticipate problems, the designer had already done it for you.
The only complication was the pattern's layout. It took so many pages (I printed it out because sometimes you don't have the Internet but still want to knit, you know)! I really prefer when the chart and its legend are on the same page, don't you? Or when you don't have to go back and forth constantly looking for an explanation of a technique. Yet, this is not designer's fault, and a lot of publishing companies are doing it because, well, they went paperless, they don't have to actually print their patterns, so no need to save space.
The one thing that I inadvertently changed in the pattern was the way of decreasing - I made all decreases on the wrong side (knit rows). When I noticed my mistake I was almost done with the back so I decided to keep it this way throughout with the one exception - the neckline. And I especially like the neckline on this garment! This neckline was done the way the designer meant it to be done. No changes at all.
It was hard to photograph Bell well - not only it is almost white, it has a little bit of shine that combined with the sunlight makes pictures blurry. Plus my photographer/husband was even busier than usual lately and not really willing to take any pictures. The ones that I used on my Ravelry page and here were taken in a hurry one evening when the sun was almost out and we both were exhausted. Yes, I am making excuses because I am not fond of these pictures but they are the only ones of this sweater that I have for the moment.
 After I put them on my Ravelry page Ann McCauley contacted me (blushing!). She liked the fit and the end result but was concerned about the yarn. She had used the Cascade Ultra Pima for another project several years ago when the yarn first came out and after a couple of wearings it looked fuzzy and had small pills.
I do hope that Bell will look as lovely in a year from now but I don't know how this yarn will wear. I promised Ann to take pictures of it in a year and send them to her. Let's wait and see. I'll post them here as well.
By the way, I used only 4,5 balls of yarn = around 1000 yards. Keep it in mind if you decide to make Bell.
Meanwhile, for the first time in my life I performed a surgery on my knitting. There are many rewards when you decide to keep yourself exceptionally busy. For example, my house is very clean now, and I got rid of a lot of stuff that I don't need anymore. And I fixed some of my old knits that were discovered in my closet and deemed to be worth of wearing.
This top was eaten by moth before I even had a chance to wear it. It had a big hole right at the bottom front. The pattern was from Rebecca knitting magazine that was popular (and translated to English) at the time and many people were making it (this is the only explanation that I could come up with for why I made it in the first place - ruffles are not my style, plus it is made out of wool but without sleeves, so no idea where and how to wear it).
Anyhow, surgery of a knitted garment has been on my bucket list for a while now. It turned out to be much easier than I thought. After all, moth have already done most of the job. I just had to find the end of the yarn thread and unravel it. Picking up stitches of a finished, washed, and blocked garment was easy. And I used ribbing instead of the original crochet finish and Kitchener cast off that I've been using a lot lately. I like how it looks now. Ruffles are fashionable again, so maybe I can wear it one day. And I overcame my fear of knitting surgery - YAY!!!!