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!!!!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Dreams come true

Technically this was my last #summerofbasics project. I liked the idea of finally tackling something that I've admired for a while but that seemed too challenging or time consuming to make. It was that last push needed to make me realize how many wonderful, interesting, challenging, and beautiful patterns were in my mental queue.
This particular pattern is also from a Japanese knitting book. It was published in Keito Dama # 156, Winter 2012, and in this book - Best Selection Of Aran Knits - that I got for our anniversary from my husband (he bought it on Ebay after I found and sent him links to the books I wanted).
Since I get a lot of questions about the sources of Japanese knitting patterns I decided to write it all down here for those who want to find same books or magazines and make same patterns.
If you are looking for a knitting book that is not sold in American bookstors or on websites with yarn and knitting supplies you'll find them most likely on Ebay, Etsy, and Yesasia. Sometimes on Etsy you can even find an electronic version of a book/magazine and get it almost instantly. In all other cases you'll have to wait for up to 2 weeks (that is how long I usually wait for my orders from Yeasia). Once I ordered a Japanese knitting magazine from Amazon and had to wait for 2 months. I was really worried but eventually got it. So plan accordingly.
Buying rare knitting books seems a good investment to me, since there are few things in fashion that haven't been discovered and used before. Everything is coming back eventually in this or that form, you just have to pay attention. Japanese patterns are feminine and classic, with good math and clear charts. In my opinion they are timeless.
This pattern looked very appealing on its photographs in man's or woman's version. It has EVERYTHING the real classic cardigan needs if you ask me: intricate but familiar cables, pockets, long ribbed sleeve cuffs with thumb openings (LOOOOVE this because my hands are always cold), and a hood.
I had this yarn in my stash - Queensland Collection Kathmandu dk - for what seemed like ages. It was silky, tweedy, oatmeal colored with some grey and black speckles, and probably predestined to become this cardigan, which was why it lingered for so long in my basement.
After some deliberations I decided to go without a hood because I couldn't imagine a situation where I would actually wear it.
After some more deliberations the neckline was also changed in my mind. V-necks look better on me than crew-necks, I really don't need a cardigan that would be too warm - just warm enough.  It is not too hard to change this part of a pattern, especially when the back is already finished and you know already how many rows it takes. Just calculate the amount of stitches to decrease on the neck side, and distribute the needed decreases evenly over the rows after the armholes (this was where I started decreasing, but you can start earlier or later, your choice).
Then I made a swatch and discovered that the woman's size would be too tight for me. I am a tight knitter, and for this cardigan I really wanted some positive ease. That is why I had to work with the pattern for a man's cardigan, which is no big deal because they are practically the same.
After the back was finished I decided to add 3 stitches to both fronts: one selvage stitch, one purl stitch, and one knit through the back loop stitch. That is why, when all was finished and button bands were sewn to the front parts, the seems are not that visible. The button bands ribbing continues the K 1 x P 1 on the fronts.
Also I picked 9 sts for the button bands (I don't remember the exact number, but it was less in the original pattern) and worked them the same way I did for Helga Isager's Ebony. I think it looks more polished and professional when done this way and I am going to use this method again and again.
All parts of this cardigan have a provisional cast-on, which means that at the end, after having assembled the whole thing, you pick up stitches and do the ribbing. Even though, it slows down the finishing, I liked working this way because I could finish everything with Kitchener cast off - again, looks better and more professional to me, plus it is very stretchy. You don't want the ribbing on your cardigan to be too tight, especially on sleeves.
I used my old store bought cardigan as a sample for this garment, checking constantly with its measurements. That was another reason why doing the ribbing at the end was beneficial - I could make it as long or as short as I wanted.
All in all I am very happy with the end result. I dreamed about this particular pattern for a long time, and finally my dream came true. That is why I called it Dream Cardigan.
As I said the finishing took a while, especially since I couldn't wait and started finishing it with jet lag after we just came from England. Needless to say that I had to unravel everything and start all over a couple of days later. Yet, I prevailed and finished it before we left for Florida.
By that time the only project that I had on my needles was Bell. So I took it with a couple of balls of Cascade Ultra Pima. Little did I know, how much I needed this project while waiting for the hurricane and evacuating from Florida. But this is another story that I'll tell next time. Stay tuned...