Thursday, February 27, 2020

... and a very long scarf

For the last two months making things was much more appealing than writing about them. As a result, I now have several finished projects to talk about and it might seem that they were knit quickly one after another. Which is not the case: I started my Very Long Scarf and Patchwork Cardigan last year in December almost at the same time and they were finished almost simultaneously in January while Kim Hargreaves’ Canvas was quickly knit later in between two other rather monotonous projects.
You see, for many years I was a “monogamous” knitter, always working on a single project from the beginning till the end, then and only then beginning something new. Somehow, my approach changed in the last couple of months and projects started piling up one after another. And it doesn’t feel messy or out of control like it used to be. There is a project for a knit night, another one – for book listening (or reading), plus I always look for something challenging and unusual, requiring learning new techniques or using the almost forgotten ones.
My Patchwork Cardigan was in the last category – a combination of a challenging pattern and a difficult yarn.
The pattern turned out to be an absolute marvel. There are different techniques used – cables with bobbles, fancy ribbing, intarsia, crochet embroidery, and color block. For each part with a different technique you’ll need either add or decrease stitches in order to keep same measurements. There is no need to change needles or work some other trick, the math is flawless, and if you just follow directions to a T everything will work like clockwork (at least it did for me).
This pattern drew my attention because it reminded me of some pieces from Pringle of Scotland’s collection which is why I picked similar colors. I had only four colors of Rowan Alpaca Merino DK and the pattern asks for five, so I had to improvise. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I love to improvise and always amateurishly tinker with a pattern trying to adjust it to my particular needs. Yet, this was the only thing that I changed in this project – the colors (and the tubular CO and BO).
The yarn was really difficult to work with. Not only is it extremely stretchy, as I’d discovered while working on my Reflection. It easily splits into separate tiny slippery threads, gets stuck on a needle, and after knitting with the black colored balls my eyes were hurting and my fingers were all black! To tell you the truth, on several occasions I nearly gave up and unraveled the whole thing, so much frustration this yarn was causing me.
Yet, I really wanted to use up as much of Rowan Alpaca Merino DK as possible because I have so much (too much) of it in my stash. I bought it on a whim soon after it first appeared on the market during our trip to London because I loved the colors. Also it looked soft and squishy, and very light. And as much as it was difficult to work with, it proved to be the right choice for this particular garment.
Usually, I avoid making intarsia because of the inevitable holes between colors that bother me. This yarn – being so clingy and fuzzy – eliminates any possible holes making the fabric look even and smooth. Crocheting the white criss-cross lines over intarsia colorwork was a torture (mostly because it was almost impossible to pick out a stitch in dark colors) but the end result looks fabulous and I can wear this cardigan with pride since it looks professionally finished. Fancy ribbing in black color on the back was hard on my hands and extremely tedious but when I finally got over that part everything else seemed to be a breeze.
I was worried that the black parts would bleed on the white parts in washing which is why first I soaked them in a strong vinegar solution for several hours and only then washed them carefully in Eucalan. There was no bleeding whatsoever – my problem was solved!
Unfortunately, I managed to use only half of my Rowan Alpaca Merino DK stash and have no idea where to use up the rest of it (any ideas? Help, please!). However, now I have this warm, light, and fuzzy garment that could be worn with all my clothes, especially yellow Keds that were so popular on IG (!)

Actually, I got some amazing feedback after publishing Patchwork cardigan’s pictures. Through IG I met a Russian knitter Irina who actually made the knock offs of not one but two Pringle of Scotland knits – both amazing, go check them out on Ravelry.
Approximately at the same time my Very Long Scarf was finally finished.
I nearly ran out of blocking space for it because it’s so long, and yes, I block my scarves! After washing and blocking, it became softer and bigger, and can be used as a shawl as well as a scarf.
I loosely based my scarf on the Three Skeins Scarf pattern by Veta Romanenkova. It is a free pattern but it’s in Russian only. I picked up 100 sts instead of 80 and kept knitting in one color till the moment when I didn’t have much of the yarn left in this color. Then I would start making two color stripes. Since I was using leftover yarns from previous projects, my color blocks are not as even as in the original pattern. And the finished scarf is much longer, which is fine with me.
For my next project I wanted something that I could make rather fast because I got tired of working on the same things for a long time. My other motivation for making Canvas was the fact that for a while now I’ve been buying cotton and linen yarn only but never making anything from it. Woolly garments are not practical in South Florida and I hardly ever get a chance to wear them here. Yet, sweaters and T-shirts from cotton can be handy any day, and I could actually wear my knits as soon as they are finished.
This is why I got well motivated to finish Canvas as fast as possible. I loved Karol’s interpretation of it on Ravelry and I had 10 balls of Rowan Cotton Glace in my stash that I thought would be right for this project. After several false starts I figured out that the original pattern as it is written in Kim Hargreaves’ book Calm is rather short and wide and I needed something longer but not quite that wide. That was why I used smaller needles than recommended in the pattern – US 1 ½ and US 4 – and made not 6 but 8 repeats of the lace stripes with 8 rows after the last stripe before the armhole decreases.
This sweater has raglan sleeves but the raglan seams are rather short and the neckline is low, too low for my taste. At first, I made decreases in the neckband ribbing as per the pattern but continued ribbing with smaller needles for 10 more rows, made another round of decreases, and bound off all stitches. The result was not completely satisfactory: the neckband’s length was OK, but I felt uncomfortable, a bit like in a straitjacket with the armholes hitched up too high and my arms restricted in their movement.
I unraveled the neckband and knit it again differently. This time I started with US 4 needles for 4 rows, changed them to US 1 ½ needles for another 16 rows and only then made the first round of decreases. I knit two more rows with US 0 needles with the second round of decreases in the second row, and then bound off all stitches. This time the neckband sits at the right place and I can wear it while moving my arms freely.
Remember my long suffering Fisherman sweater that I made as a gift last year? It was a surprise gift and the recipient didn’t know that I was making it. I couldn’t possibly go and check if I was making the right size, so I worried to death if the final garment would fit him well.
This month I finally got an opportunity to take pictures of this sweater in action and I must tell you – it fits like a glove!
I am so proud of myself. I do believe that the garments that I make must be useful and worn by people otherwise this whole thing has no sense. Mission accomplished here!
I took these pictures at that moment at dusk when the sun is not too bright and the light caresses and illuminates the skin. And my model looks so handsome! Don't you agree?
What is next on my needles? I did like the idea of making clothes that I can instantly wear so now I’ve got a couple of summery projects in the works. And there are several designers’ sweaters that I saw on Pinterest that kind of got stuck in my head and now I would really like to try my hands at making them. Yes, I am working on several projects at once and enjoying it, imagine that!
I always turn to knitting when I get anxious or worried (which must happen often if you look at my Ravelry project page) and, as many people in this world, I have tons of reasons to be anxious or sad. Yet, as an ancient Sanskrit proverb says, "One should not speak unless what one says is both true and pleasant." And this is why I prefer stick to knitting here - otherwise I wouldn't talk about pleasant things (sorry, world, but I've got so many unpleasant things to say!). Since we live in anxious times, to put it mildly, and knitting for me is the most effective method of digesting and adapting to reality, my shift to "multi-project-ness" seems only natural.  Don't you think?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Mindless vs. mindful

My last finished project of 2019th was this adorable sweater that I call Easy.
The pattern is Simplicity by Veta Romanenkova. If you are not afraid of seaming and knitting from the bottom in pieces this pattern is the easiest possible.
It is a simple raglan sweater with a turtleneck collar (or not), a staple in any wardrobe. I think that I am going to use this pattern with some tweaks again and again in the future because I really like how this sweater fits me.
At the same time it is a perfectly mindless knitting project that you can work on while watching TV, waiting for an appointment, traveling, or talking to friends. And it is great for the yarns that are lingering in your stash and you have no idea what to make out of them.
I decided to finally use up my never ending stash of ColourMart’s Geelong that many years ago my husband gifted me for Christmas. Actually, I love this yarn very much: it is soft and squishy, can be worn next to skin, is marled and allows you effortlessly blend with the background. Plus it wears well, no pilling, snagging, pulling, or any other unpleasantness. I used this yarn to make two cardigans. One – Slouchy by Mary Lynn Patrick – was knit last year, and I described the whole process here.

The other one – Ando by Yoko Hatta – was knit several years ago and was never photographed before.
It is a very soft and snuggly cardigan, yet, it has no shape and is very difficult to photograph. It has cables all over the body but you hardly can see them on the marled fabric. I use it almost as a shawl and it is warm and feels great but I don’t think this is the most flattering piece of clothing that I possess.
The other sweater with this yarn is Blok by Olga Buraya-Kefelian where it was combined with Woolfolk TYND.
After finishing Simplicity, I still had some leftover Geelong and decided to use it together with my leftovers of Woolfolk TYND (since they worked so well together before) and make a long scarf inspired by another Veta Romanenkova’s pattern  - Three Skeins Scarf. Mine has more than three skeins, will be bigger and longer, and less symmetrical. I am still working on it while watching TV or in a knitting group. It turned out that I need at least one mindless project in my queue at all times!
I started knitting Simplicity, while still finishing my handmade Christmas gifts. This year we had more guests for holidays than usual, and I needed more gifts. Finally, when all gift knitting was done, I began working on a project that I’d been eyeing for a while: a patchwork style cardigan from Keito Dama #183. It reminded me of Pringle of Scotland’s last year collection that I admired in person last summer in Edinburgh.

Similar colors, argyles, and asymmetry. I really wanted this one for myself.
Yet, working with black yarn is difficult for me nowadays. I need lots of light and a very quiet environment to be able to concentrate. And during the holidays I hardly had a spare minute during the day, the only time to knit was in the evenings, while watching TV. Therefore, my patchwork cardigan had to be abandoned.
And then I saw this cardigan by Brunello Cucinelli.
Do you use Pinterest for inspiration? I do it all the time. Especially, when I suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep. Honestly, nothing puts me to sleep faster than browsing Pinterest. And this is how I discovered this cardigan in the first place.
When I tried to find a more detailed view, I saw its price – it was mind bogglingly high. Wow, I said to myself, I could make something like this pretty fast without spending a fortune on it. How cool it is!
Next day, I dived into my stash and found four different yarns, leftovers from 4 different projects. Their colors were very similar to the ones on Cucinelli cardigan. I made a swatch, another one… and then decided to try and copy the design using the yarn from my stash.
I still cannot explain to myself why I made this decision in the middle of the busiest time of the year, but nevertheless, I am glad that I did because my Brunello Cucinelli knock off is almost finished by now.
It was fun, and something to look forward during the day. I used every spare minute to work on it. My husband got inspired as well and helped me with my calculations, explaining the construction from an engineer’s point of view.
My goal wasn’t to duplicate the designer’s model but use it as an inspiration. The original is more of a coat than a cardigan. Being very short and living in Florida, I don’t need a long knitted coat. So my version had to be much shorter. Yet, there was a part that I really wanted to duplicate – the shawl collar construction with colorwork seamlessly switching from the right to the wrong side of both fronts.
The colorwork itself wasn’t too difficult to imitate. To see every stitch and calculate a pattern you need only to enlarge a picture on your computer.
I decided to replicate only one motif – a white and black thin stripe – of the original design. Partly, because the colorwork on the large stripe didn’t appeal to me. Partly, because, after trying several colorwork patterns, I went with the one that seemed the most logical to me.
I don’t know about you, but for me some fair isle patterns seem natural and easy to memorize, no matter how complicated they are, and with some I need to look at pictures all the time and still make mistakes. Go figure!
I ended up with a motif from Keito Dama # 160 from 2013. It has 15 rows, and I was looking for an odd number of rows because I wanted to incorporate one row of white and blue in the middle (it gives a little oomph to the whole motif). Also it is traditional enough to enhance this folksy look of the cardigan.
My first swatches were done with US sizes 7 and 8 (4.5 and 5.00 mm) but eventually I used US sizes 6 and 7 (4.00 and 4.5 mm). Knit tighter the yarn looked neater. Fair isle and stockinette have different gauge if you are using the same needles. That is why you need slightly bigger needles for the colorwork.
I decided against making pockets (it was a really hard decision) because, since I was making it from scratch, the process was stressful enough without pockets, and didn’t want to make it even more complicated. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to finish it, so why would I bother with pockets, if I might just unravel everything at the end? I regret it now because for me everything is better with pockets.
I used provisional cast on for the back and both fronts. When they were finished, washed, blocked, and sewn together, I picked up the bottom stitches and did the ribbing with tubular bind off at the end. Then, I picked up stitches for the sleeves and knit them from the shoulders down to the ribbing with tubular bind off as well.
While working on this cardigan, the most difficult thing was to figure out how to make the collar naturally fold at the shoulders. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts I managed to achieve it using short rows on both sides of the collar.
The other difficult thing was not to forget to change needles between colorwork and stockinette parts.
And one more important thing – matching and centering the colorwork.
When you start with the right (or left) front, the back is already finished. You need to figure out where the parts will be sewn together so the fair isle pattern on the front will continue the motif on the back.
When picking up stitches for the sleeves, don’t forget that the center of the colorwork pattern must coincide with the center of the sleeve. It is not difficult to figure out, but very easy to forget about it.
And now – ta-dah! – my “Brunello Cucinelli” – is almost finished. I need only to wash it, wait till it’s dry, and then I can wear it (imagine, how handy it will be in South Florida!).
Do you want to make something like this? Are you inspired to try something of your own using my “Cucinelli” recipe?
If the answer is “yes”, I wrote down my recipe for it (see all the details below). Let me know if you have any questions. The only thing that I cannot possibly tell you is the amount of yarn needed for the cardigan. I was using leftovers – half of a skein here and quarter of a ball there.
And please, pretty please, send me a picture of your interpretation of this design, if you decide to go for it!

“Brunello Cucinelli” recipe

Gauge: 19 sts x 19 rs = 10x10 cm in colorwork pattern washed and blocked

Using provisional cast on pick up 92 sts.
Knit alternating colorwork and stockinett st for 45 cm (or your desired length).
IMPORTANT: don’t forget to alternate needles between the colorwork and stockinette parts!
Increase one stitch on each side.
After 20 more rws do one more increase on each side. 96 sts altogether.
Cast off 2 times 4 sts in every 2nd row, 1 time 5 sts in the 2nd row.
In the next knit row cast off the first 5 sts, cast off the middle 18 sts, finish the row.
Work each side of the neck separately.
Cast off 2 st at neck edge in every 2nd row 3 times.
And at the same time continue casting off for shoulders – 5 sts in every 2nd row 2 more times.
Cast off the last 5 sts.
Left front
With provisional cast on pick up 62 sts. Knit 42 sts, put a marker, knit 9 sts, slip a st purlwise without knitting, put a marker, knit 10 sts. In the purl row, purl the slipped stitch after the marker. This stitch is the middle of your lapel. Slip it purlwise without knitting in every knit row and purl it in every purl row. After the front is finished, you will be able to fold the part after the slipped stitch and sew it to the inside of the front.
Start the fair isle pattern.
Keep working for 45 rows. In 46th row knit together 2 sts before the first marker and add one st at the end of the row. Keep increasing at the end of the row every 7th row 8 more times. Move the first marker accordingly after each increase at the end of the row, so you always have the same amount of sts on both sides of the slipped stitch. Made 4 more decreases approximately in every 14th row before the first marker. I was decreasing in stockinette rows so for me it was 46th,60th,77th, and 88th rows.
Don’t forget to increase at the beginning of the row twice starting at 45 cm (or whenever you started your increases at the back).
Shoulder shaping:
Cast off for shoulder in every 2nd row 4 sts twice and 5 sts 5 times. Continue working on 39 sts of the shawl collar while casting off for shoulder.
 As soon as the shoulder cast off is finished, start short rows on the collar.
Short rows on 39 sts of the collar (19 sts, 1 slipped st, 19 sts):
Knit till the last 4 sts on the left needle, turn, purl till the last 4 sts on your left needle, turn. Repeat 3 more times. You should have 7 sts left, 3 on each side of the slipped st. Knit all stitches and continue with the colorwork pattern for 21 rows (approx. 9cm). Leave the collar sts on a stitch holder.
Right front
With provisional cast on pick up 62 sts. Knit 10 sts, put a marker, slip one stitch purlwise without knitting, knit 9 sts, put a marker, knit till the end. On the purl row, purl the slipped st.
Start the fair isle pattern.
Keep working for 45 rows. In 46 row increase 1 st at the beginning of the row and decrease 1 st after the second marker (knit 2 through the back loop). Keep increasing at the beginning of the row every 7th row 8 more times. Move the second marker left accordingly after each increase, so you always have the same amount of sts on both sides of the slipped stitch. Made 4 more decreases approximately in every 14th row after the second marker.
Don’t forget to increase at the end of the row twice beginning at 45 cm (or whenever you started decreasing for the back).
Cast off for shoulder in every 2nd row 4 sts twice and 5 sts 5 times. Continue working on 39 sts of the shawl collar while casting off for shoulder.
 As soon as the shoulder cast off is finished, start short rows on the collar.
Short rows on 39 sts of the collar:
Knit till the last 4 sts on the left needle, turn, purl till the last 4 sts on your left needle, turn. Repeat 3 more times. You should have 7 sts left, 3 on each side of the slipped st. Knit all stitches and continue with the colorwork pattern for 21 rows (approx. 9cm). Leave the collar sts on a stitch holder.
Wash and block fronts and back. Sew the shoulder seams. Fold and sew the lapels, graft the collar and sew it to the back.
For fronts and back: unravel provisional cast on and knit in 1x1 ribs for 8 rows. End with the tubular cast off.
With 4 mm needle pick up 82 sts around the armhole. Knit  for 45 cm in colorwork decreasing 2 sts 10 times evenly. 62 sts. Decrease 10 more sts in the first row of ribbing. 1x1 ribs for 8 rows + tubular cast off.
Press the sleeves through a damp cloth. Sew the seams.
IMPORTANT: multicolored fabric looks better when pressed through a damp cloth from the wrong side!
Wash, dry, and wear with pride!