Sunday, June 30, 2019

And then there were two...

This hat was made by one of the members of our knitting circle. I think it is funny and looks great.
I made two sweaters in June for myself. Yes, it’s been months of totally selfish knitting, nothing extraordinary here, but it is the end of June already and time to think seriously about gift knitting. Otherwise I might get into trouble like last year (see here) when I barely finished my gifts before their actual recipients came home.
This year I have some rather ambitious plans and picked several challenging projects for gift knitting. We’ll see what happens (I’ll keep you posted, promise).
But first things first: I’ve got to brag about my last finished sweaters (you’ll find all the technical details on their respective Ravelry pages, as usual). I love them both and am really proud that I made myself finish them. Why? Both were done on tiny needles. The green one had intricate cables all over, which didn’t make the work more difficult but slowed it down considerably. And both have an interesting construction. It looks like raglan but in reality it is more like saddle shoulder. It requires attention and focusing when blocking as well as when sewing parts together.

First “aside” comment: ABOUT BLOCKING. Too often I hear people speaking about blocking in terms that I would call derogatory. In the Knitting group on Facebook knitters often keep asking questions like “what is blocking and is it really important?” The answer is – YES.
Blocking is an extremely important process of finishing your knitting project and it consists of putting the wet parts of the future garment into shapes required by the pattern on a special mat and then letting them dry. Before you start blocking the parts, you’ve got to soak them in Eucalan or any other wool friendly soaking liquid for at least 15 min. After this, be very careful to not overstretch or distort them in any way, because wet knits become extremely stretchy and pliable. Then you need to spread each part separately on a special mat (I use these ones from KnitPicks) into desired shape and pin them. Personally, I am a big fan of using wires for blocking (something like these). It is a pain to put wires through wet knits but the result is worth the trouble. Highly recommend!

My first sweater – Lucky Green – has been in my queue for a very long time. Yet, I kept postponing making it because I was dreading long hours spent on many tiny cables. It turned out that the cables were much easier to memorize and faster to knit than I had predicted. When I finally started working on this pattern (again, from a Japanese knitting magazine), it became quite addictive.
The yarn for this project – Rowan Pure Wool 4 ply in a bright green color – was discontinued and I had only 8 skeins altogether. Yet, from my previous experience with this yarn, I knew that it is extremely stretchy and you can basically do whatever you can with it when it’s wet. That is why I didn’t make my sweater longer in the torso (I compensated for shortness while blocking) but put some additional rows into the raglan decreases (I didn’t change the number of them, just spread them on more rows) on all parts.
I barely had yarn left for the neckline, not much for sewing the parts together. But the end result exceeded my expectations. I got the right size, shape, and structure. This pullover is more like a long-sleeve t-shirt because it is thin and not overwhelmingly warm. The cables don’t add bulk just the interest. And I love the color!
I must confess that I made a mistake at the beginning of work because I wasn’t paying attention (guilty, but it happens to all of us!). I forgot to decrease two stitches after the ribbing on the back. That is how I got an extra knit stitch on each side. I had to repeat this mistake for the front since the back was already finished when I had noticed it and I didn’t want to unravel it. Later on, these extra stitches became handy because I used them for sewing and they formed a perfect even seam at both sides.

I called this sweater Lucky Green because I was making it (or at least trying to make it) while waiting for doctors’ appointments (yes, plural!). Yet, every time I would start working on it, I was called to get in and see my doctor. Not much progress on the sweater but I cannot complain. I hate waiting, especially at the doctor’s. My last appointment was crucial because it was scheduled only several hours before our flight to Florida. I took the sweater with me and it didn’t disappoint. I went through and was finished in no time. So… it must have been the sweater, definitely the sweater since I don’t consider myself lucky.

My next project was another version of Lou from Phildars Nos Fils Essentiels that I made in January from a very sheddy and hairy yarn. This time I used Drops Baby Alpaca Silk – thin, silky, and soft – for a summer sweatshirt style loose oversized sweater. 

It is much easier knitting something for the second time while using the notes made the first time. That was the reason for picking this particular design. I needed a project for mindless knitting to take with me to the knitting group and relax and Lou is a perfect knit for relaxation.

The only modification I made this time was using smaller needles for the corrugated part (in “point de goudron”) of sleeves. The stockinett part of the sleeves was knit on US 4 - 3.5 mm, and the corrugated part – on US 1 ½ - 2.5 mm to compensate for its stretchiness. I used US 4 – 3.5 mm needles for the side pieces in “point de goudron”.
The hardest part of this design is putting all the pieces together. And at this point blocking comes in handy because it can help with sewing.
I blocked the front, back, and sides at the same time on wires close to each other the way they would be eventually sewn. It made the sewing faster and easier than it was for me with my first version of Lou. My second version is called Cinnamon. It is light, silky, and breezy.

I like this design so much that I might make another sweater like this, even though normally I avoid repetition.
Now, my two new favorite sweaters finished I have to hurry up with my gift knitting because there is not much time left. Probably, I should have started in February, as Colbert mentioned recently.
My first gift is a sweater for a man (not my husband!) who is a really devoted fisherman. I promised him a fisherman sweater almost a year ago, when I came from Scotland where I was blown away by the strong winds and fantastic ganseys. Originally, I wanted to make a traditional gansey from some thin wool on tiny needles but changed my mind. First, because it would’ve been my only gift (and possibly the only project) this year given the thinness of the yarn and the intricacies of the design. Second, because there is not much use for a traditional gansey in South Florida. 
I had some Rowan Calmer in my stash for a while that is more suitable for a warm climate. Plus I managed to find more of identical yarn in the same shade on Ravelry (score for me!).
My design of choice was found in the old Rowan knitting book Rowan Denim. I picked the man’s sweater on the picture – its pattern looks great in Calmer, and I like the overall design since it has the exact mixture of elegance and restraint. Remember, it is going to be a sweater for a fisherman, not an office worker!
Second “aside” comment: ABOUT THE OLD KNITTING BOOKS AND MAGAZINES. In my opinion, it is hard to invent something new in knitting. Pretty much like in music, where there are only 7 notes and a finite number of their combinations. In knitting there are only two major stitches – knit and purl. So, basically,  everything “new” has been already invented, we just need to look it up carefully in the old knitting books and magazines, of which I’ve collected a lot over the years.
Speaking of this particular knitting book – Rowan Denim - style and fashion have changed since the 80s, but the design remains relevant and looks modern. I just had to spend more time making gauge and doing careful calculations to pick up the right size (hopefully). The fact that there is a big range of sizes in this book is really helpful.
And this is what I’ve been working on lately. There are also several cardigans for my children in my near future – they crave cardigans like normal children crave chocolates. I’ll keep you posted about my progress. 
I’ll be traveling for the rest of the summer and sometimes to places with only sporadic Internet. To follow my adventures you’d better go to my Instagram page since I post there much more often.
Until next time,