Thursday, July 23, 2020

Change of heart

Making things is much more fun than writing about making things. At least for me. I’d rather knit something than describe my process of knitting. This is why there are long intervals between the entries into my knitting diary.
As I mentioned before, in June I was working simultaneously on two projects – one was finished and I love the result, and the second one was unraveled being a total failure.
First, my success story.
Kalin by Kim Hargreaves was initially Dreich from her book Grey. I  bought 4 cones of the caramel colored camelhair yarn from ColourMart because I always wanted to try this yarn and seem to have a mild obsession with this color. At the beginning I made a big swatch and washed it in washing machine on high temperature.  The yarn hasn’t felted at all and became softer and a bit fluffier after washing.
The idea was to make a light but warm V-neck sweater, slightly oversized and at least hip long. I started with 2x2 ribs and kept going for almost 16” (40 cm) straight till the beginning of an armhole. It turned out that the bottom part of Dreich is rather short but it has very long armholes to compensate for length. These long armholes wouldn’t have worked with my already long bottom part: see what happens when you don’t read the pattern till the end! Yet, I didn’t want to unravel all my work because it took me about 15 min to finish every row and I made quite a lot of rows before reaching the armhole. What would you do in this case? I looked for another V-neck pattern with approximately same gauge and number of stitches for the body and found Kalin.
Kalin from the book is longer and roomier than my version, and I modified the sleeves – made them shorter with fitted ribbed cuffs. I know that straight long sleeves are the hottest new trend in fashion but they are not easy to wear (at least for me). Unlike the original pattern, my sleeves are knit top-down from picked up body stitches.
Kalin in the book has a deep V-neck, so deep that is slides from model’s shoulders. And from my experience Kim Hargreaves’ patterns often have rather deep necklines. It looks very feminine and attractive on a picture but is not easy to wear. I personally don’t like to fiddle with my clothes while wearing them and I would hate to constantly adjust the sliding down neckline. That was my reason to make it smaller: I started front decreases later than recommended in the pattern, picked up less stitches around the neckline and used the tubular bind off to keep them all in place. You can find all the details of my modifications here.
Surprisingly enough, after being washed in washing machine twice (!!!) the sweater’s dimensions stayed the same, while the fabric became much softer. I still have some leftovers of camelhair yarn that seems to be a very good choice for socks.
My only regret about this sweater is that I cannot possibly wear it now or sometime soon. I do hope though that one day we’ll be able to travel again and will go to colder places. My husband even suggested to turn the thermostat down in one of the rooms and stay there for a while wearing my warm clothes, reading a book, and pretending that I am in Scotland…
My second June project was a total disaster. This yarn – Shibui linen in flaxen – looks amazing but I cannot find a project for it that would suit me. My attempt at making Kim Hargreaves’ Sheringham didn’t work: the pattern wasn’t easy but almost invisible on the finished fabric. At first, it looked like an advantage – I could make as many mistakes as I wanted, no one would ever notice. But then I figured that it was not worth going through all the intricacies of the pattern if no one would ever even appreciate it. And Sheringham was unraveled making it the 6th pattern that I tried to make out of this yarn and failed.
Have I ever told you how much I love old knitting magazines? I believe I have, but I am not ashamed of repeating it again and again. I collect old Pingouins, Phildars, Vogues, and Japanese Keito Damas because you can find in them some great designs. They have more choices and variety in patterns than modern knitting magazines and the pattern descriptions are more detailed and accurate. For me the old magazines are a constant source of new ideas and inspiration.
As a rule, I avoid making patterns that are popular on Ravelry and don’t participate in knitalongs – I cannot explain why but, when I knit for myself, I tend to like things that not many people want to make. Maybe it comes from my childhood in the Soviet Union where we didn’t have much choice in clothes. I would stand in a long line and get a pair of shoes and then half the women in my neighborhood would wear the same shoes and I would see them everywhere. Call me individualist/pretentious/show off, whatever. I do like clothes that are unique and maybe this is why I keep knitting.
This is a long preamble for a sad story of my next attempt at conquering Shibui linen yarn. I found a pattern in an old Phildar that has a very unusual construction and that I’d wanted to make for a very long time and decided that I’ll make it from this yarn. That was a classic case of overconfidence – my Kalin turned out great, a couple of my previous projects also were rather successful. I felt invincible. What can I say? I nearly finished the sweater, but decided to put the parts together to see if it fits me (plus, the parts looked a bit like a puzzle and I wasn’t sure they would fit together). The puzzle came together great but unfortunately it looked ugly on me – plain and simple. The ugliest garment that I’ve produced in a long time (at least, I hope that it was).
I nearly cried. I was so so so disappointed and my first impulse was to throw away the whole thing. I couldn’t even look at this yarn anymore. However, next day (there is always a next day, even though sometimes we forget about it) I was talking with a friend on Zoom and she persuaded me to at least salvage the yarn. Maybe one day I’ll make something from it but the jury is still out.
Meanwhile, during this neverending drama with Shibui linen I managed to start and finish a great cardigan with a very unusual construction from an old Phildar magazine.
It happened rather unexpectedly. First, I unraveled this sweater because, after a couple of washes, it stretched too much and lost its shape. When I was winding the dried skeins into balls the color of the yarn reminded me of the cardigan that I’ve been admiring in this magazine for a long time.
As soon as the balls were done, I sat and made a swatch using the pattern stitch.
This pattern stitch – I believe it is called “basketweave” – looks a little bit like a herringbone stitch but it is much easier. It produces a rather thick and dense fabric preventing the yarn from stretching.
There are only two rows in this stitch pattern. If you want to try it, here how it goes:
Row 1: twist 2 stitches to the left knitways (with needle at back of work skip the first stitch on left needle; knit in the back of the second stitch but do not pull off stitches knit the first stitch skipped; pull off both stitches), repeat 2 twisted stitches to the left till the end of the row.
Row 2: purl one stitch, 2 twist stitches to the right purlways (skip the first stitch on left needle; purl the second stitch but do not pull off stitches; purl the first stitch skipped; pull off both stitches), repeat 2 twisted stitches to the right till the end of the row, purl one stitch.
The cardigan is made in parts. The sleeves are quite unusual, after shaping the rounded top you start increasing, making the haves of the upper front and back. Sewing the parts together was a bit nerve wracking but they all fit like a glove.
The original pattern has the shawl collar and front borders in garter stitch with no buttons.
I made them in 1x1 ribs with buttons and tubular bind off. My only regret – not enough yarn for pockets (Rowan Silky Tweed is discontinued and I couldn’t find even a ball of this yarn in my color).
In the original design you have to cast on fewer stitches for the ribbing and then increase lots of stitches for the basketweave pattern. I didn’t want the difference between the ribbing and the basketweave stitch to be that dramatic and used the numbers for the second size.
While choosing buttons for my new cardigan, I found the vintage ones that I brought several years ago from England – they have the same color that the yarn and, if you look closely, each button has “protest” written in a round.
The cardigan was a fast and easy knit. No drama, no tears, no pain. I recycled all the yarn from the old sweater plus some leftovers of the same yarn in my stash. Love the fit and length of it. Probably, I should follow my husband’s advice and lock myself in a cold room just to experience its softness and warmth.
And now again I am working on two projects simultaneously. One is a gift for a future mother (yes, I am finally decided to tackle a baby blanket), the other one is for myself using a pattern from a vintage magazine (again).

Stay tuned!


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