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?

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