Friday, June 12, 2020

It's my own creation!

For a long time I felt like not writing for this blog. Somehow writing about knitting projects and problems that I encountered while making them seemed rather silly and shallow in this situation. Yet, since I kept knitting nevertheless, at some point I got a couple of finished knits and a couple of almost finished ones, and was afraid of forgetting all the details about making them if I waited any longer.
So here you go.
In May I made this cardigan (I call it Creamy Oats)…
… and this t-shirt (Blush on Ravelry).

Both were totally improvised by me. For the cardigan I developed the lace/cable pattern myself (deeply inspired by Brunello Cucinelli’s summer cardigans) and for the t-shirt I used Kim Hargreaves’ stitch pattern for Gabriela from her old book Whisper.
I already explained the process behind the creation of the cardigan. The yarn that I was using – ColourMart Noil Silk – evens up and gets much softer after washing in hot water. For this reason I wanted to wash all the parts together when they were finished.
When the back and both fronts were done, I stitched them together at the shoulders (look at my handiwork, I am so proud of how it turned out!),
picked up stitches along the armholes, and knit both sleeves top down, spacing decreases evenly and finishing the cuffs with a tubular cast off.
Three things slowed my progress: 1) my first attempt at a sleeve was too roomy for my taste, was unraveled, and I had to recalculate the numbers for sleeves; 2) knitting lace with this yarn was hurting my hands and wrists and I had to take frequent breaks; 3) finishing the border ribbing took forever (again, I used a tubular cast off).
When the cardigan finally was finished and washed, I had to construct a special podium (sort of) to block it, since it was huge and took up lots of space.
In spite of all the difficulties, I kept my eyes on the ultimate outcome and persevered. And I am glad that I did. This cardigan turned out exactly the way I imagined it. It is very soft, a bit oversized, and can be worn in Florida all year round. It makes a great cover-up in the evenings and even protects against mosquitoes:) It will be definitely worn a lot here.
My second improvised project was a cropped t-shirt.
I had four balls of this discontinued Shibui linen in my stash that I bought during a crazy shopping spree in a yarn store several years ago because it was on sale. At first I was thinking of making a shawl or scarf from it but then, I don’t use linen scarves that much plus it would’ve taken me ages to finish it. However, when I unearthed this yarn a month ago, I was surprised at how trendy its color was and decided to make a swatch using two threads of yarn together. This way I could knit with bigger needles and my work would go much faster. But, at the same time, I would have twice as little yarn. And I didn’t have a lot of it to begin with, just 900 meters (983 yards).
At first I tried the same lace/cable pattern that I used for the cardigan. No luck – there were too many holes and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to wear this t-shirt without much underneath. Then I remembered Kim Hargreaves’ old book Whisper with summer patterns. Many of them have lace AND cables and could work for me. I ended up using the stitch pattern for Gabriela (a long sleeved cardigan).
With no pattern and very little yarn at my disposal, I took a cropped t-shirt from my wardrobe and decided to replicate its measurements as much as possible.
Of course, I couldn’t copy my ready-made t-shirt entirely – my knitted version had to be even shorter with a V-neck on front and back.
I used an I-cord finishing at the sleeves since I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be any yarn for the ribbing left but I couldn’t get away with it on the neckline (even though I tried). The upper parts would not stay in place and were sliding from my shoulders which didn’t make the garment wearable or practical. I picked up the stitches around the neckline, made several rows of 1x1 ribbing, and then finished with a tubular cast off.
This t-shirt – Blush - is great even though it is shorter than I initially planned. I think it can be worn with just a bras underneath (this is how I am wearing it on the pictures) but you may disagree.
Working lace with this yarn seriously damaged my wrists and I couldn’t knit at all for a while. No worries, I read several books instead – I am on Josephine Tey binge right now, if anyone is interested.
And I watched Making the Cut on Amazon with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn.
I love the shows about fashion and watch them all. Actually, my main enjoyment comes from watching them with my husband who really truly doesn’t care about fashion at all and makes the funniest and most interesting comments ever (his main interest are the sources of inspiration and artistic creativity, even though lately, after many years of watching this type of shows, he started commenting on the overall appearances as well). The designer that I liked the most and that I thought should’ve won the whole competition was Esther Perbandt from Germany (spoiler alert! – she didn’t win). After watching the show I felt like I needed to show my support of her work and design somehow so I found Esther’s website and promptly ordered from it. The wait wasn’t too long and voila!
I got my t-shirt and jewelry with a postcard signed by Esther. When she is as famous as Cardin, I’ll sell it for a million or so at an auction… or maybe not.
By the way, I am wearing Esther's necklace on this photo from her collection Hungry for Life. Sparkly!
After getting some rest, I got back to my knitting. There is a project that I started probably in March (right, I know, it was in a different century). Initially it was supposed to be Dreich by Kim Hargreaves. However, when I was finishing the back, the armholes looked ginormous, and I couldn’t see myself (or anyone else) wearing it. The thing was done on tiny needles with fingering yarn, and one row would take 5 minutes to finish. It was a pity that Dreich didn’t work for me, but I decided to find some other pattern with similar numbers and make it instead. My final choice was Kalin from Myth. It was supposed to be my TV knitting project, but I don’t watch much TV now, so the project was put on back burner yet not abandoned. The rows are long and the progress is slow but I am already on a second sleeve. Pretty soon my variation of Kalin will be finished, washed, blocked, and photographed.
My second project ended up also being a Kim Hargreaves’ pattern, this time from Rowan Denim book. Together with Shibui linen in clay I bought 6 balls of Shibui linen in flaxen (told you, it was a crazy shopping spree!). I tried to make something from this yarn 5 (!!!) times already with no success (kudos to the yarn though which is holding up well after these numerous tries). Now, for my 6th attempt I chose this pattern, heavily modified for my particular needs. We’ll see what happens…

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

How to unravel a knitted garment (tutorial # 4)

Step by step instructions on how to get more yarn in your stash.
Step 1. Find an old knitted garment, made by you or store bought, that you don’t like or don’t wear anymore. You will also need a tapestry needle and a pair of scissors.
Step 2. Find the part that was made last when you were finishing your knit (usually, it is a neckline). Find the place where you hid the yarn ends after binding off stitches. Start unraveling. Avoid using the scissors as much as possible. Be patient.
Step 3. Undo all the seams and divide your garment into separate parts.
Step 4. Unravel each part into a ball.


Step 5. Using a yarn swift make skeins or hanks from the balls. Tie each skein firmly on the opposite sides with two pieces of cord or string leaving rather longish tails (it will help you later to find and untie the strings).

Step 6. Put all the skeins in lukewarm water with Eucalan or Soak wash for about 30 min.
Step 7. Rinse the skeins and hang them to dry. The drying goes much faster in Florida, where I put the skeins outside. In Pennsylvania the process would take a couple of days.
Step 8. When all skeins are completely dry, put them one by one back on a yarn swift, untie the cords, and wind each skein into a ball.
Step 9. Start a new project from your recycled yarn.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

My Imitation Game


How are you doing? Are you OK?

I am still bingeing on Nutella and classic mysteries, but also I am knitting. 
My fair isle designer’s knockoff in cotton is finished. It took me more than a month of quarantine to make it and it wasn’t easy, but I am so glad that I went through with this project.
Knitting colorwork with cotton is a bit annoying because it goes slower than doing the same with wool. Wool is sticky and easy to keep even tension, cotton is slippery and hard to keep even tension, plus it hurts the hands. 
While working on this sweater – I call it Pearl for its colors – I run in a couple of issues. First, I made my neck opening too small to do any ribbing around. As soon as I finished, washed, and blocked the front and back parts, I stitched them together, and made a nice ribbed collar with tubular bind off. It looked perfect but for the life of me I couldn’t get my head through the opening.  The ribbing was unraveled in half and I made a smaller collar with tubular bind off. Again the opening was too narrow for my head (is there a special diet for heads?). My only remaining solution was to make several stockinette rows in the round and bind off as loosely as possible. If I make this pattern again, I definitely need to start the neck opening sooner.
My second challenge was making the patterns stripes on the sleeves match the ones on the body. I had to reknit the sleeves three times to get the result that I was looking for. Thanks to the lockdown, I wasn’t in a hurry and could afford spending as much time as needed to finish the sweater the way I wanted it to be. By the way, if not for the quarantine, I may not even have attempted this pattern – it seemed quite complicated and difficult.

I took many photographs with this sweater because it was an opportunity to wear some pretty clothes for a change (and comb my hair). 
In my opinion, it would look even better in wool. Maybe one day I’ll do it again in a different color combination. Here is the chart that I followed, in case you want to make one.
My next project is also a summer knit and was inspired by some designers’ clothes that I saw on Pinterest. This time I am using ColourMart’s Noil Silk in creamy and tweedy white. It is not cotton, but also affects my hands. Actually, that is why I am writing this post now: I had to take a break from knitting since my wrist hurts too much. 
Yet, despite the breaks, the new cardigan (and it is going to be a summer cardigan) is growing fast.

My main inspiration was Brunello Cucinelli Spring collection (yes, Brunello Cucinelli again!). I like the colors, textures, and shapes of several garments from it, but I had to work with the yarns that were already in my stash. So I started swatching from the Noil Silk and eventually decided on this particular pattern. I think it works better with my yarn choice and will look good on me.
 I want to make a simple oversized coat-like cardigan with low V-neck, no buttons, and dropped shoulders. After washing in hot water, ColourMart Noil Silk loses its stiffness and becomes very soft, silky, and supple. Perfect for Florida!
In addition, I made one more swatch – this time from the ColourMart  wool and cashemere scraps. I wanted to make this Nili Lotan sweater the moment I first saw it last winter (again, blame Pinterest).
Yet, it takes quite a lot of time and patience to recreate a pattern from a picture and somehow, among other things, I couldn’t find time to do it. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one enamored by this particular design, and recently on the Internet I saw this sweater already finished by another knitter. Great, now I could use her chart and save the time!
I haven’t started this project yet and am not sure when I will: too many cotton yarns in my stash call on me at the moment. Nevertheless, this is something to look forward to when I get tired of practical things. 
Speaking of stash, I saw some people on IG complaining about running out of yarn during the lockdown. Running out of yarn is a nightmare, and the first thing I did when we were given “shelter inside” orders, I unraveled 2 of my old projects in order to get more yarn, just in case. I do it all the time – unraveling old projects that I don’t wear and don’t like anymore. Recently I unraveled another one – an old wooly dress that I made about 15 years ago when I was wearing wooly dresses – and took pictures during the process.
If you want to see how I do it, just read my next post.
Stay safe and healthy, and knit on.

Anna


Monday, April 6, 2020

Hunkering down

Here is my list of favorite things to do for the times of stress (besides sitting idly, looking into the void while contemplating the end of the world):
1. Eat as many sweet things as I can stomach – chocolates, dried fruit, candy, jam, honey (this time my absolute favorite was Nutella because it comes in big jars and is really fulfilling).
2. Read mysteries or non-fiction books. I prefer traditional, Agatha Christi-like whodunits. They are like fairy tales – there is always a happy ending with an evil genius either dead or imprisoned.
3. Watch mysteries or documentaries on TV. Same reason – happy endings, plus, since I watch mainly British mysteries, the acting is always superb.
4. Maintain my usual routine as much as possible (really hard to do because of the sitting idly, looking into the void while contemplating the end of the world which is exhausting).
5. Dive into a difficult, time-consuming knitting project, preferably in fairisle technique.
Well, this time I did all of them except for the last one. I couldn’t possibly start a new fairisle project because I had two very slowly going monotonous projects on my hands and a swatch for a fairisle designer knock off that looked overwhelmingly difficult.
You see, before everything around us started crumbling in pieces, I decided to be more practical and efficient with my knitting and picked two projects that, if finished one day, could be easily worn in South Florida all year round and at the same time would diminish a bit my huge stash.
The first such project was a simple ribbed cardigan from the leftovers of Rowan Calmer that I used for the Fisherman sweater. I wasn’t sure how much yarn I had left since several balls were not full, so I figured that I would start with sleeves and, when they are finished, guess the total length of the cardigan.
I picked “fisherman rib”(aka “patent rib”) as my main pattern because it is very stretchy (to compensate for the yarn shortage) and because it doesn’t “eat up” as much yarn as any other “fancy” ribbing (definitely not as much as brioche stitch).
The “patent rib” is very simple to make:
Row 1: 1 knit, *1 knit, 1 purl* till the end of the row, 1 knit.
Row 2: 1 purl, *1 knit below – knit into a stitch below working together a stitch on the needle and a stitch below, 1 purl*, 1 purl.
I really like how this ribbing looks in Calmer. Working on it was an ordeal though. First of all, ribbing with Calmer was hard on my hands and I had to experiment with several different needles (bamboo, metal, circular, straight) before I settled on a pair that was the least painful to work with. Plus the ribbing was so monotonous and repetitive that I would fall asleep after 2 or 3 rows. So the progress was extremely slow, and at some point I didn’t even want to pick up this cardigan because there was no joy in knitting it.
My second sleep inducing project was a simple t-shirt based on the pattern Simplicity that I already made and liked a lot. I had a cone of silk from ColourMart in a nice sandy color with only 870 m in it. Combined with another yarn from ColourMart – Silk/Wool Laceweight – it knits up at a bearable gauge of 23 sts x 32 rs.

Instead of making a short silky sweater with long sleeves I opted for a longer one with short sleeves and a V-neck. Working with these two yarns wasn’t painful at all but still slow going. Apparently, I rarely get excited about working row after row of stockinette stitch. Yet, it was a good TV-watching, speaking with friends project and was moving much faster than the ribbed cardigan.
And then our lives changed, we had to stay home in quarantine with some vague perspectives and no coherent plan of actions. Did it make you anxious? I bet it did. As for me, I am anxious by default, so yes, no surprise here, I became anxious, worried, scared, depressed, restless, uneasy etc. (if you want more synonyms, go to tfd.com).
So I went through my TO-DO WHILE STRESSED OUT list (see above) and got stuck on the last point – I couldn’t start a new project when I had two unfinished ones on my hands already. That would have brought my level of anxiety to an unthinkable high and I couldn’t even start contemplating the ramifications. Yes, I have to tell you my dark secret – I cannot stand an unfinished thing, an unfinished project in particular. Here, I said it in the open and I already feel better!!!! Psychotherapy in action!
This time I decided to funnel my restlessness and agitation into finishing both the t-shirt and ribbed cardigan as soon as possible. It was not an easy task but I accomplished it and am very proud of it since it took pretty much all my willpower and self-control.
How did I do it? Using my love of numbers and counting. Many years ago I noticed that a difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible task becomes manageable if divided in small parts that can be counted. For example, when I swim, I have to count my lapses. If I do, I can swim for an hour without a problem, if not – I get restless and tired after 15 min. I’ve got a small lapse-counter that I wear on my finger like a ring and an electronic lapse-counting box that my husband custom-made for me so I can always see how many lapses I swam already.
When I knit, I always count the rows with a row-counter (I’ve got several of them, mostly like this one, because I think it’s the best). Therefore, after each part of a garment finished, I have an exact number of rows needed to make it. As you know, all parts in knitting (of course, if you don’t work in the round) come in pairs. One sleeve finished, I knew the number of rows to finish the second sleeve. The back finished – I knew the number of rows for both fronts up to the armholes. And so on.
This way, I managed to finish the cardigan (took me 2 months!) and t-shirt in about 10 days. I was rather worried about the finishing process. As you know, I take my finishing very seriously. I think that it is the most important part of creating a garment and it can make or break it. When you finish a project in a hurry being mortally tired of working on it and impatiently anticipating casting on for a new project, it is easy to botch it up.
As a result, I deliberately slowed myself down, checking and rechecking the results of my work. I spent a day finishing the t-shirt. I used an I-cord finishing for the V-neck and had to unravel my first attempt, because the needles I used were too small and the front started puckering.
More details of my Ravelry project page.
And I spent two days finishing the cardigan, making sure that it would look neat and polished, with right buttons, tubular cast off on all the ribbed borders, and well sewn pockets.
Again, go to my project page for more details.
Boy, this was tough! Yet, somehow, it helped to calm down my feverish anxiety and add some serenity in my daily life.
As to my third project, I finally started it when parts of the t-shirt were blocked and drying and worked on it just for fun when Nutella would stop helping.
Again, my inspiration came from Pinterest. I saw this sweater – Ami Paris crew neck with Nordic jacquard pattern - in bright red and just couldn’t help it.
One day I sat down to experiment and managed to knit a swatch looking almost like the pattern on the designer’s original. I used cotton yarn for my swatch because, again, I was trying to be practical and make something that I could wear here and now.
I like my color combination even though it is not as vibrant as in the original. Yet, after hours of sitting in front of the computer and constant unravelling, the pattern didn’t look easy to me and I was reluctant to make it. I even started looking for other, easier patterns with 3 colors, preferably ones that were already written, so I wouldn’t have to improvise.
Eventually, I decided to make this fairisle crew neck. Desperate times require desperate measures, right?
This is where I am right now.
The work on this sweater has been surprisingly quick. As a template I decided to use a pattern of a sweater that I’d already made with the same gauge, so I don’t have to improvise too much. And, since I am using leftovers of cotton from this sweater, I am not sure that I have enough yarn for long sleeves which would be OK with me (however, in this case I’ll have to work out how to use up the leftovers of my grey cotton yarn later – go figure!).
Oh, and among my other stress-reducing techniques are:
1. Don’t watch news, read a bit of news in the morning when still strong and optimistic, and then stop doing it.
2. Don’t “educate” myself about the problem (meaning, don’t read the endless articles on the Internet that “explain” everything because they usually make things less clear and even scarier).
3. Don’t go on Social Media (well, I go but rarely and for a short amount of time, trying not to get stuck there).
Do you have anything else to recommend? I would love to try something new. Let’s help each other, after all, we are in the same boat right now!