Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Orphan yarns

Every year my New Year resolution is NO MORE YARN! I have a huge stash and I am the only one who uses it. Something needs to be done. I’ve unsubscribed from all yarn websites, avoid going to yarn stores like a plague, and I knit a lot. Still, no matter what I do my stash doesn’t get smaller… Everyone who knits understands me, right?
This winter I was in for a good start: I made Ply cardigan almost using up three cones of ColorMart yarns, which made me really proud of myself. So I got bolder and decided to tackle two yarns that had been in my stash for quite a while because they refused to become projects that I wanted them to become. You know, some yarns are just “stubborn” like this. You either overpower this kind of yarn and make something that you want at the moment, or you wait till the matching pattern comes up on your radar. The first choice – just make what you want to make, even if not completely satisfied with the final fabric – doesn’t work for me anymore. I’ve done it before and never wore the finished garments. The only possible solution for this kind of yarn for me now – try different patterns until the match is found.

One of the stubborn yarns was an Irish tweed that I bought in a gift shop during our visit to Ireland about 5 years ago. There were only 6 hanks of this yarn and I absolutely loved its creamy color and silky softness. Moreover, we didn’t have any space in our suitcases at the time, so I was allowed to buy yarn only once throughout that whole trip (torture!). I chose this yarn because it looked perfect for a classic Irish cabled sweater or cardigan. Yet, when I tried a cable pattern using this yarn it came out looking sloppy and uneven, and no matter which pattern I used the result didn’t satisfy me. Neither did I like it in a plain stockinette. This yarn seemed to be spellbound – it looked great by itself but nothing looked great in it.
As soon as I got the new book of designs by Saichika, this cardigan drew my attention. The main pattern is ribbing but it is not your normal ribbing: in the right side row all stitches are knit with every second stitch knit through the back loop, and in the wrong side row it is a regular 1x1 ribbing. I tried this pattern with my Irish tweed doing each purl through the back loop on the wrong side row. The result was amazing: the knit stitches popped out of the fabric and it looked neat and even overall. Bingo! I knew which pattern this yarn would become. The ribbing was quite addictive and the yarn – silky and soft – suddenly very agreeable.

The whole jacket is made sideways and it is hard to try it on while it is not finished. However, from my last experience with Japanese patterns I decided to make it a bit longer – Japanese models tend to be diminutive and I wanted something roomy and oversized. The back and side parts were finished in a week which was unusually fast even for me. It was just pretty easy to work on the jacket –  clear schematics, easy pattern, and cooperating yarn. By the time I started the first sleeve I used almost all five hanks of the yarn and got a bit worried if I had enough to finish the sleeves. My technical husband took the matter in his hands and told me that I definitely didn’t have enough and should start all over making it smaller. 
Since he is never wrong (well, normally, he is extremely reliable) I believed him. Plus, when I tried putting the finished parts together the jacket seemed too long for me.
Another motivation to unravel all my work was the fact that I figured out how to make the edges better after they were already made - there is nothing about the edges in the pattern, at least not in the schematics and I don’t read Japanese. And I wanted pockets! I love pockets especially in jackets, even though I think any garment benefits from added pockets.
Thus, without further ado, I unraveled my work and started it all over (and it turned out my husband was wrong, and I had enough yarn for sleeves – go figure!). This time I followed directions size-wise but used some tricks to make edges stronger, less stretchy, and more even. Which tricks?
For the back part I used an I-cord edge method for the bottom side:
  • Slip with yarn in the back the stitch before last on the right side row, knit the last stitch.
  • Slip the first stitch with yarn in front on the wrong side row; purl the next stitch through the back loop.

For the side parts I used tubular cast on that adds polish.

For pockets I picked up 32 sts with provisional cast on, knit 30 rows and put them on a holder, then, after casting on for the side parts I unraveled the provisional cast on, inserted the pocket lining in the needed space and just ribbed the lining and the main fabric together. After 30 rows I used tubular cast off for 32 sts of the pocket, picked up the lining stitches from a holder and kept going with the side part.

This pattern requires some very cleverly positioned short rows for shaping. I used Japanese short rows.

I don’t remember when I had so much fun assembling a garment before. First, the pattern shows you all the places where parts must be attached to each other. Second, it is very easy to calculate rows and stitches on ribbed fabric to make it all absolutely symmetrical. My only problem was to sew the pocket linings – I succeeded only on my second attempt and I had to use different yarn, much thinner than the main one.
The finished jacket turned out exactly the way I wanted -- oversized, soft, warm, and with pockets. It can be worn with a pin or belt, as well as just unfastened. Its form reminds me of a karate jacket or kimono – hence, its name. I called it Irish kimono because of the Irish tweed it’s made of.

I literally made it twice already but can’t wait till I can make it again for my children. I can see them both wearing a jacket like this. This is a very fast and simple knit – the whole process took just a bit over two weeks – and is perfect for holiday gifts! More information about this project - on my Ravelry page.
My second yarn stashed years ago was given to me by my daughter. She bought it at a knitting store in Edinburgh for my birthday. I was really touched when I got this yarn in the mail and wanted to make something out of it right away, but there were only 9 balls with 110 m each, which is not much, unfortunately. I just couldn’t find any pattern for a warm garment that would require so little yarn.
Fortunately, that was the amount of yarn required for the smallest size of Citrine by Emily Greene. I fell in love with this pattern the first time I saw it on Ravelry. When I figured out that it could be made from the yarn that had been languishing in my stash forever, I was almost ecstatic.

The color of this yarn is amazing – it reminds of forget-me-nots and winter skies. Yet, its texture is rather coarse and working with it was painful for my hands. I couldn’t do it for longer than half an hour at a time. However, with the same gauge as in the pattern and enough yarn for the smallest size the front and back were finished in no time even with frequent breaks from knitting.

My only glitch happened when I started making sleeves. The pattern asks you to make decreases after ribbing, and after decreasing the sleeve became too tight for me. As I have mentioned already I swim quite often and, as a result, my shoulders are getting bigger and bigger (since my back hurts less and less I can live with it). I am telling you this because I am not sure why the sleeves were too small for me – because of my muscular arms or because they are too tight in the pattern. Anyway, this problem was solved easily – I unraveled the decrease row and continued without decreases making increases for the smallest size. At the end I got the total amount of stitches required for the 4th size and used the measurements for this size when sewing the sleeves up. To tell you the truth, I could have made the armholes even bigger.

Citrine, like all Emily’s patterns, is very clearly explained and easy to make. I highly recommend it! The yarn became much softer and a bit fuzzy after spending half an hour in a bath with Eucalan and a fabric softener. This short sweater with geometrical ribbing is extremely warm and looks like a very practical piece of clothing. Again, more on the project page on Ravelry.

My next project – Kaleidoscope  by Knitting For Breakfast - was also a stash buster. But this time, no matter how much I liked the original design, I had to rework the construction completely in order for the garment to be wearable and serve me as long as possible. Details – in my next post. Stay tuned…

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this post - because I could so relate. The same resolutions not to buy more yarn, pride in using up my stash. Thanks for sharing.

    By the way, the periwinkle color of your Citrine is one of the few blues that I can wear. I love it.