Sunday, December 27, 2009

Honey of a handknitted shawl




What's not to like?

Pattern: Feather and Fan Comfort Shawl, Folk Shawls

Yarn: handspun alpaca, dk-worsted weight, Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and a small hank from another alpaca festival

Modifications: ended garter stitch portion before the wrong side row increases that produce the longer "tails"; used yarnovers for all increases; added a third color to the feather and fan portion.
That was my present. The one gift I knitted was a pair of socks, using Dream in Color Smooshy and the pattern from the Holiday Vogue Knitting:

While a lighter yarn would have shown the lace pattern better, the dark green Smooshy is a pretty color. (Too bad my camera isn't up to capturing it.) There's just enough contrast with the bits of burgundy, but not enough to overwhelm the lace. Initially, I was quite happy to have a pattern that was so complicated. At the time I started these, I needed something to balance the garter stitch shawl and the plain striped socks that were boring me. However, having over half the second sock to knit and only a couple of days before Christmas was a bit too much complication. My holiday schedule didn't allow much solitary knitting time. I finally grafted the toe Christmas morning, gave them a quick block before the fan, and gifted them that afternoon. Whew!

I did modify the toe by continuing the lace pattern along both sides. It made a pointy toe, but was fun to try. The giftee likes fancy toes.

This afternoon I'll finish the plain striped socks and decide what to start for the new year. I have sock yarn wound, but I'm thinking sweater.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Knitting a cabled sock

My project of choice for a trip was cables mixed with cross-ribs.

Blog browsing before I left rewarded me with a look at just how soft and phat a cable can be. I kept seeing it afterwards, superimposed over whatever I was knitting, a cabled sunspot of a memory. It was a sock pattern from a book I don't have and don't want to buy. I tried so hard to ignore it that I forgot, briefly, where I saw it. Just before the trip, I realized it was something I couldn't ignore and that the purply-pink yarn I had been toting around since mid-summer might serve to replicate it. Never mind that I had already selected a pattern for the yarn, a rare (for me) matching of pattern with the recommended yarn. I hadda stick a cable into it.

(Brown Sheep Wildfoote sock yarn and Nancy Bush's Diagonal Cross-rib socks is undeniably a winning combo. If I did it over without the cable, I'd take advantage of the thin yarn and knit it on small needles at a very tight gauge to make it better fit a woman's foot. Wildfoote smooths out so nicely when stressed.)

Not just any cable, either, it had to be a plush, wide, lush cable on the side or, as the photos show, on both sides. It turned out ok, was engrossing to knit, and made the sock fit better. (The pattern is sized for a man's foot.) Although it isn't very true to the original inspiration, it is satisfactory enough. (It's the 2nd image on the Green Apples blog post I linked. Dangerous blog; the photos are outstanding.)

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Not quite Kitty

You never know how long a streak of pretty days will last this time of year, especially in the mountains. I figured I'd better get it together and get outside for photos.

The photos came out ok. As for the sweater, let's just say that the pattern designer, Louisa Harding, and I differ in our ideas of the ideal sweater. Not that this is bad. It's pretty nice, really. It was also quite easy to knit. But then there's the fit. Following the instructions for my size (36") would have produced a sweater with 4" of ease. A little caution led me to select the 34" size, resulting in one with almost no ease in the hips and, inexplicably, 4" of ease in the bust. I'd say this pattern could benefit with a little shaping in the waist and bust.

Never mind, it's pretty enough. Shaping complicates things, especially in a cable and rib pattern. It's the cable pattern that requires a big confession. It's wrong. Totally off. Not that the cables are difficult. I crossed those cables every 8 rows, faithfully and accurately, throughout the back, fronts and sleeves. No errors are evident. It was only upon carefully checking the pattern photo as I prepared to pick up stitches for the button band that I realized--they are supposed to be crossed every 16 rows!

No only is this a huge difference, the large, deep cables were the one aspect of the pattern that convinced me that I wanted to knit this sweater. That's why I consider this sweater "Not Quite Kitty".   For more detail on this sweater, check my Ravelry project page.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

a knitted bandana, Springtime Bandit

In between the sweaters and dishtowels, there are other projects.

This one used yarn I bought at my guild's stash sale last year. It was silk and merino, and fairly expensive for a stash sale. It is probably fingering weight. I wish I knew more about it, mostly because it is quite nice and turned out to be a great buy. Digging through a large plastic bin of yarn looking for something for last year's uber-popular Lace Ribbon Scarf, I came up with two hanks of a mottled indigo-blue. In the end, the idea of a lightweight scarf lost its appeal and the yarn, though wound and ready, was never knit.

This summer, one of the popular patterns is Kate Gagnon Osborn's Springtime Bandit. Though the Bandit calls for worsted weight yarn, I reached for the stash sale leftover that had been sitting on my shelf for over a year, bagged with the right size needles and pattern for the Lace Ribbon Scarf. I'm so glad I did.

It turned out to be a great combo. The weight is perfect, the drape is enhanced by the beads I added on the second-to-last row of eyelets, and the color will go well with my blue coat. Looks like Springtime Bandit is a fine fall knit.

Although the sweaters may dominate my knitting, they don't encompass it. Socks and hats and scarves are sprinkled in and among the sweaters. Probably that explains why I struggle to complete a sweater each month. I'd rather risk missing that goal than miss the fun of knitting a little project that is more complex or more portable or faster than a sweater. This week I'll be closing in on my first original completed pair of socks, sans pattern. Nothing special, but most practical.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lucky Leafy 7, knitted in time

I've enjoyed a zippy week, one which saw the start and finish of my latest sweater. Spurred on by the sudden realization that I had one week left in the month, and one more sweater to knit to keep up with the sweater/month goal of NaKniSweMoDo, I turned my full knitting attention to this quick project.

I have wanted to make the Leaf Yoke top (in purple on the 4th row in that link) since the summer issue of Knit.1 had arrived. I had no idea I would have so much yarn left over from my recently finished Sallie pullover. As it turned out, it was just enough yarn, in just enough time. I used the same brown Jaeger Aqua and the same tan Tivoli Santos Aran, but I threw in some Filatura Di Crosa Millefili Fine in a bright olive for the i-cord trim. This smooth yarn makes a lovely i-cord and certainly livens it up. I've detailed the construction mods on my Ravely page for this project.

I knitted most of it during a lot of car time. Besides spending several long days traveling for business, I enjoyed a little jaunt to the local county fair. This small fair, with only one tiny ride on the "midway", focuses on ranching. There's lots of events involving cattle and horses. Cutting horses are amazing animals. I wish we'd had one on our cattle farm when I was a child. Instead we relied on shouting and waving arms. A smart cutting horse would have been much more fun.

We did have tractors on our farm. I can't say that I'm overly thankful for that, as I became all too well acquainted with tractor operation during my childhood. Still, I appreciate a nice tractor, especially the antique ones at the tractor pull, which are more similar to the ones I drove than the modern, air-conditioned ones I see today. I thought I'd seen all types of old tractors, but I'd never seen a steam tractor until this weekend.

It is huge, and sounds exactly like a train. It even has a whistle! Seeing it unexpectedly was a fun surprise, like the hem of my sweater. Again, I found the finer cotton yarn made a great, though bright, hem.

Big Announcement: The pdf version of my guest towel pattern is up. Check the original pattern post for this improved printable version, or use this direct link.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Knitted Guest Hand Towel Pattern

Bubble Up Towel
(click here for pdf version)

New:  This pattern is available on Ravelry.  Click the highlighted text to view the pattern page on Ravelry and to download the pattern.
Click the highlighted text for an immediate pdf download of the pattern.


Yarn--4 50 gm. hanks (88 yds.) Pakucho cotton, color Natural (very white). Available here. (I don't get any benefit from touting this yarn. I just like it.)

Small amount of contrasting yarn, about 20 yds ea. of 2 colors. I used Blue Sky Organic Cotton.

Needles--size 7 or size needed to get gauge.

Gauge: 20 st./4 in, gauge is not crucial.


Cast on a multiple of 5 stitches plus 1. For a finished size of 15" wide by 22" long, allowing for shrinkage when washed, cast on 81 stitches.

Begin with a turned hem, so if you are careful about such things, use a size 7 or 8 needle to cast on, then knit on a 6. You're going to sew or knit this hem down and you want a loose edge to sew or pick up, and you want the back side to be fairly tight so the hem will lay flat. For me, I think, "It's just a towel" and use a long-tail cast on, starting with a size 8, switching right away to a 7. Draw out an extra long piece for your "tail" and you can use it to sew the hem down.

If you are really particular, use a provisional cast on, so that you can knit the loose stitches from the provisional cast on with the live stitches and eliminate sewing the hem. This is really overkill for a towel, but is one way to get a neat hem.


k - knit
p - purl
k2tog - knit two stitches together as one
k3tog - knit three stitches together as one

p1w - purl one, wrapping the yarn loosely twice around the needle, producing a stitch that has two loops around the needle rather than one

sl 1 del - slip one stitch purlwise, dropping the extra loop you wrapped around the needle on the row before, producing a long slipped stitch (lss)

Border Pattern:

Knit 5 rows in stockinette. If you haven't already, change to a larger needle, the needle you will use for the front of the towel.

Knit 1 row on the wrong size, forming a purl ridge on the right side.

Knit 4 rows in stockinette. Knit a RS row, knitting the cast on or live stitch from provisional cast on together to turn hem, or just sew the hem down later.

Begin border stitch pattern, "Bubble Wrap":

Stitch Pattern Notes: This stitch pattern is from Nicky Epstein's Knitting Over the Edge. It is a great book, and I am indebted to Ms. Epstein for the cute pattern. I've not seen it in any other stitch dictionaries, but am hopeful that it is ok to use it here. Using this stitch pattern will make 15 bubbles, which are actually bobbles with the purl side showing. They are made from one stitch. On wraps, wrap yarn twice, loosely. Be sure to slip stitches with yarn in back. After all bobbles are made, pull the slipped stitches on each side of the bobble to tighten it and loosen the slipped stitch.

Row 1 (WS) With A, p1, *p1w, p2, p1w, p1* repeat 14 times more.

Row 2 (RS) With B, k1, sl1 del, k2, sl 1 del, *[k1, yo, k1, yo, k1] into next st, sl 1 del, k2, sl 1 del* repeat 14 times more, end k1.

Row 3 With B, p1, sl 1, p2, sl 1, *k5, sl 1, p2, sl 1* repeat 14 times more, end p1.

Row 4 With B, k1, sl 1, k2, sl 1 *p5, sl 1, k2, sl 1* repeat 14 times more, end k1.

Row 5 With B, p1, sl 1, p2, sl 1, *k2tog, k3tog, pass k2tog st over k3tog st, sl 1, p2, sl 1* repeat 14 times more, end p1.

Row 6 With A, k1, *drop first lss off needle, sl 2, drop next lss off needle, then with LH needle, pick up first lss, sl 2 sts from RH needle back to LH needle, then pick up second lss with LH needle and k5* repeat 14 times more.

Row 7 With A, purl all stitches.

Row 8 With A, knit all stitches.

Rows 9-16 Repeat rows 1 through 8 once more, changing color B to color C.

Row 17 With A, purl

Row 18-19 With A, knit.
Towel Body:
Now you are ready to knit the middle portion of the towel. I used plain stockinette, but you can substitute another stitch pattern if you prefer. If you use stockinette, you need a border to prevent the edges from curling. I've tried garter, but it was too tight lengthwise. I then tried seed stitch, but it was too wide. In the manner of Goldilocks, I'm now trying the border stitch pattern from Arietta. I mean to use it in my next sweater, and need to practice it.

If you like a selvedge edge, use your favorite, such as slipping the first stitch of each row purlwise.

Body Pattern:
Knit one row, placing two markers, one after the first 10 stitches and one after 71 stitches, before the final 10, then begin edge pattern--

Row 1 (WS) Knit 10 stitches, slip marker, purl 61 stitches, slip marker, knit 10.

Row 2 Knit.

Row 3 same as Row 1.

Row 4 Knit.

Row 5 *p1, k1* 5 times, purl 61 stitches, *k1, p1* 5 times.

Row 6 -7 Knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches.

Row 8 Knit.

Continue the edge pattern (or the pattern of your choice) until the entire towel measures 15 inches in length, then begin the border pattern for the opposite end, first knitting a row on the wrong side then knitting 3 rows in stockinette. Repeat Rows 1-19 of the bubble wrap pattern, knit a wrong side row, knit 5 rows in stockinette, using a smaller needle if you like, and bind off and sew the hem. Alternatively, bind off while picking up purl bumps from the towel to attach the hem without sewing.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sallie pullover, knit and finished

Now that my excessively-modified version of Louisa Harding's Sallie pullover is complete, it's time for a review:

While the pattern from Harding's Summer Classics book is cute, with its jazzy stripes and wide sleeves, I felt I had to add some length to both the body and sleeves to make it more classic. I planned to increase the length from about 20" to 22" and the sleeves from about 13" to 18". I also wanted to add increases and decreases. To begin, I embarked on a complicated combination of the two versions of this pullover.

One version has a straight shape, one flares into a peplum at the bottom. The peplum version echos the flare below the waist with bell sleeves. I began with a more modest flare, adding stitches to a few of the ribs, then decreasing them away before I began the stripe pattern. Along with the shaping calculations, I had to make sure the stripes lined up on the sleeves and the sweater.

While it seems the waistline shaping was successful, the stripe pattern played havoc with sleeve length. Since the main stripes and the sleeve stripes had to line up when I joined them for the yoke, my choice was between 7 stripes on a 19" sleeve or 6 stripes on a 16 1/2" sleeve.

The sleeve length is probably compounded by my decision to use the saddle yoke from Veronik Avery's Skater Undertop for the shoulders. I thought it would be fun to knit a saddle yoke and wanted to avoid seaming in a cotton yarn that knits up as firmly as this Jaeger Aqua does. These photos show me that I should have decreased the front and back a bit more before beginning the sleeve cap shaping. The shoulders are a bit wide and allow the sleeves to droop down even longer. Still, considering the multiple changes I made, it's a wonder this sweater fits as well as it does.
I had to rework the stitch counts a lot, since my yarn gauge for the brown yarn was closer to 22 stitches/4" rather than the 20 stitches for which the pattern is written. That was easy enough, since the pattern suggests over 4" of ease. That's right, it recommends a 40" sweater for a size 36. For most of the stitch counts, I just knit what was recommended for a size 36. My version, with my smaller gauge, measures about 37". It's nice to have a little ease in a cotton sweater--it's so likely to shrink with washing.
While it would be easy enough to rip out the yoke and re-knit it with more decreases, I think it more prudent to wait and see if the sleeves will shrink lengthwise after a few washes. Until then, I'll enjoy the funkiness of long sleeves. They fold up nicely, proving that a quick fix of cutting off the excess and re-knitting the edging would probably work.
I've written up all the mods I made. They are so extensive, it's almost as though I wrote up the pattern. You can see them on the Ravely page for this project.
Edited to omit many of the references which seemed to attract unwanted readers. Still, I will keep comments on this post closed. It's not worth the bother.
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hoover, West Branch, and trains

There is fiber in this story, but most of it isn't mine. On the way to Niagara Falls (slowly I, stop), we stopped at one of the Presidential Libraries/birthplace. Can't say why, but we find these irresistible. It was a totally gorgeous day, so walking around the small town of West Branch, Iowa, seeing the tiny cottage Herbert Hoover lived in for the first few years of his life, was a pleasant break from our long drive.

The peony bushes were stunning. The blacksmith in the neighboring blacksmith shop was entertaining. Walking through the Quaker Meeting House and looking at the woven blanket

and the quilts, not to mention the wall-to-wall rag rugs, in the cottage

was a treat. A treat for me, at least. K was more impressed with the huge Bailey train yard in North Platte, Ne.

Here, trains are taken apart and put back together like a kid playing with tinkertoys, for the sake of sorting out the cars with a common destination and creating new trains to get them there. All this fun is viewed from a new observation tower. Don't miss it if you love watching trains.

If you, however, love knitting socks instead, do knit the Nutkin pattern.

After the slowness of Blackrose, which my brain could not memorize, knitting Nutkin was a joy. I had the pattern after the first repeat. It produces a pretty design that looks great with variegated yarn without the stress of a complex pattern. No cables, just a yarn over and a ssk, a few purls and bam! Impact galore.

I can't wait to knit it again, maybe in Smooshy, Koigu, or some such yarn with lots of elasticity. Wait, I have to knit another one in this yarn first. It does bias a little (all those ssk's with no k2togs), but that may go away when I block it. If not, I might try a modification, reversing the pattern every other repeat.

Details: Trekking Pro Natura yarn (once again), size 2 needles on a turned hem cuff to start, then size 1s for the short-row boomerang heel. The pattern provides great short-row heel instructions, I just boomeranged it by knitting around between the two halves of the heel. I was tempted by the pattern's short-row toe with the cute three-needle bind-off at the top of it, but I remembered other short-row toes that were less than smooth at the join of the rows. I fear that cute bind-off--it looks like a seam and might feel like one! Probably not, but I chickened out and knit a standard decreased toe, grafting the end closed.

The result is a soft, comfy sock (great yarn) that fits well (short-row heel over 60 percent of the stitches.)

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Garter Yoke Cardigan yarn shortage

Recently, someone was amused to learn that I would adapt a pattern to fit the yarn I had. If they looked at my projects, they would really be entertained. Almost all my projects are based on the yarn. For me, it is all about the materials. Patterns photos can inspire me to knit, but rarely to purchase. However, the sight of yarn invariably causes my wallet to leap out of my purse. The touch, the color and the texture of yarn provides the inspiration I need to knit. Once I have the yarn, I pick out a pattern for it. If I can't find a pattern that works, I modify a pattern to make it work.

My most recently completed sweater is both and exception and an example of this rule.

Garter Yoke Cardigan, in last fall's Knit.1 magazine. I've been wanting to knit this sweater all this past winter. I even bought the magazine just to get the pattern, thereby disproving my "yarn first" rule. Even stranger, I've never bought the recommended yarn for the pattern. Actually, I never bought any yarn for the pattern.

What I did buy last year was a bunch of Karabella yarn that was marked down at my lys. I bought some green Aurora 8. I liked it so much that I went back and bought some more in peach, with some Margrite Bulky that I thought complemented it well. It was over 700 yards of yarn, and should have been enough for some type of garment.

It was enough for the Sweet Tee from Interweave Knits. The worry that a bunch of plain stockinette knitting in a light color would visually enlarge my waistline until the possibility of its existence was questioned stayed my needles. *sigh* Consulting a fabulous article on fit in the silver anniversary issue of Vogue Knitting, I learned that a vertical line has a slimming effect. Aha. A cardigan was what I needed. I thought I'd knit the GYC, using the peach yarn as a kind of "muslin" (sewers know what I mean) to see how I'd like to knit the pattern once I actually buy yarn for it.

The knitting didn't take long. I actually finished it in tandem with my last sweater, the green cabled pullover. As you can see, I had to cut it very short. Short sleeves, short cardi. I tried to make up for it with details. The contrasting, picked-up button band was one thing, but the detail I really like is the cuffs.

I copied the cuff idea from a raveler (check my ravelry project for more construction details and a link to the brilliant knitter who thought of deep, buttoned, garter stitch cuffs for this sweater), but I made them short. I had to, I was short of yarn, but I also thought they would be cuter short.

Knitting this "muslin" taught me several things about the pattern. This smooth yarn has too much stitch definition for this pattern, making it difficult to hide the short rows at the back of the neck. I'll look for a fuzzier yarn for my next go-round. Also, I need to keep in mind that garter stitch uses more yarn to cover less area, and buy extra hanks. The pattern shaping is great, though. I probably didn't need those stitches I added under the arm, and thus could knit it again with almost no modifications. The garter stitch yoke really stretches to accomodate my shoulders, making for a very comfortable fit.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day for a deer

A couple of mornings ago, I caught an interloper in my back yard. I knew who she was. I had seen her before and could easily identify her by the two notches in her right ear.

Last July I wrote about this deer, who rested in our yard for a couple of mornings while her twin fawns napped in the weeds of the adjacent vacant lot. I've seen deer around town fairly often since then, but never have I been sure that I saw this particular doe and her fawns, though I've often wondered how they fared during the winter.

I knew that some deer were jumping our fence to eat last year's crabapples. All the wildlife, deer, squirrels, and birds alike, love to eat the little, soft, dried-up, fallen fruits. They've eaten almost all of them, mostly during the night or in our absence, leaving their droppings as evidence of their visits.

There are a few crabapples left to tempt a deer. Also tempted were the deer on the outside of the fence. There were three others in the vacant lot next door. One of them, a fairly large doe, was peacefully munching weeds. The other two smaller does were pacing around our fenceline. I could clearly see the segmented motion of two deer shapes through the cracks between our old fence boards. Watching the brief flashes of their shadows as they walked around, trying to decide what to do, was like watching an old, jerky, silent movie. It was clear that they knew mom was eating crabapples and they wanted some too, or perhaps they were just nervous being separated from their mother.

Then, suddenly, action! With only a little difficulty, a young doe jumped in and started eating while mom watched to see if the other one was coming. There followed a brief interval of nibbling, watching, more nibbling and more watching. They seemed to see and hear us through the window, but were not as interested in us as they were in other noises. Mom was watching her other kid across the fence, but she also took notice whenever a car passed or someone walked by. The morning was well under way and the neighborhhod was becoming increasingly active. The deer became more nervous, both these two and the two in the lot on the other side of the fence.

Since I figured that they would be leaving soon anyway, I thought I'd see what they would do if I went outside. Neither the noise of the door opening or my appearance spooked them enough to cause them to leave.

They simply stood still and stared at me. It was a standoff. I approached ever closer, but they never moved. I waved my ams and said "Shoo!". Nothing. Perhaps they thought I had food for them. A few more steps and I began to wonder if the doe would be motivated to protect her nearly-grown yearling daughter. Deciding that getting too close might not be a good idea, I backed off and went inside.

My leaving shook them out of their trance. After one last brief look around, the doe made her exit. Good. I didn't have to worry about my flower beds or the birdseed and nuts I had put out for the squirrels on the patio. The three other deer were waiting for her. Once she made it across, they headed down the alley and were gone.
This simple drama of the two young does who did not want to be separated from their mother, the one who dared the jump to be with mom, but then hesitated to follow her back out, the one who waited nervously for mom to return, and mom's protective watchfulness while trying to get a bite to eat, seemed so familar. Whether animal or human, the tie between mother and child is obvious.
Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cabled, Cotton, and Knitted

Finally, the cabled cotton sweater is blocked and ready for photos. Actually, the shot below was taken yesterday morning, just before I put it in the washer (hand wash cycle, fabric softener only, no detergent).

It's so nice and new that I'm still treating it a little gently. After squeezing it between towels (for some reason, my washer doesn't spin-dry in the hand wash cycle), I laid it out flat with the fan on it. It was dry by morning and I went out to the crab apple for a few photos.

Unfortunately for the sweater, it was chilly, the sprinklers were on (K exhibited bad timing on the sprinkler project), and the crab apple flowers were distracting.

So that's all the decent photos. I abandoned the camera for the days chores. An excursion to you-know-what Mart has proved the sweater to be quite wearable, comfy and fairly warm, thus proving that using a worsted weight yarn and size 7 needles in the Cabled Pullover pattern from the Silver Anniversary issue of Vogue Knitting can produce a fitted sweater, rather than an oversize one.

The pattern calls for over 3,000 yards of a sportweight wool yarn. I had 1240 yards of a cotton and acrylic blend (ye olde Cotton-ease). Since the sportweight yarn is held double, a heavier weight yarn held single would require 1,500 yards. I thought I'd knit a shorter version to reduce the yards needed to around 1200. Unfortunately, I got carried away with my cables and didn't start the armholes quite soon enough.

The sweater is a smidge too long. That's not a serious problem, but it does explain that crease you see at the bottom in the photo above. I first thought I messed it up in blocking, but now I realize that it gets caught in my lap when I sit. After a couple of cups of coffee this morning, I had a crease. Also, if the sweater had been shorter, I would have had enough yarn to knit the turtleneck to the recommended 11" length. As it is, I only had enough for a 7" turtleneck. The jury is still out on the question of collar length. Certainly it will do, especially since it is short enough to wear up, as a mock turtleneck, or just flopped down in front, cowl-style. For comfort, I prefer it rolled down.

My final commentary on the sweater concerns the shoulders and sleeves, where I made some pattern modifications. When knitting the back armhole decreases, I stopped cabling as soon as the decreases cut into the cable stitches. This left several rows of stockinette above the last cable twist. To eliminate that effect on the front, I cabled and decreased at the same time, crossing the stitches first, then decreasing when knitting the two stitches closest to the edge. You can see the result in the photo above. (All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them). The cable twists go right up to the decrease line. I'd rather have done this on the back as well, but having this difference in the front and back cable endings makes it easier to tell the front from the back when I'm pulling on the sweater.
My second modification was to change the pattern in the sleeves, replacing the diamond cable with a plain cable and the reverse stockinette with broken ribbing. I thought this would make the pattern line up better. In a way, it does. The broken ribbing on the sleeve matches up with the same pattern on the body, the outside cable matches with the second cable on the body, and the inside cable matches with the third cable on the body. It's not perfect, but considering that the sleeve is reduced by approximately 30 stitches and the body is reduced by approximately 60, the only way to get a perfect match would have been to reduce the number of stitches in the central twisted ribbing enough to make room for the diamond cable.

Although I considered it for days, I finally decided against reducing the ribbing. I'm glad now that I left it, for a completely unforseen reason. It allows a lot of stretch over my shoulders.
The shoulders are a part of this sweater that probably need to be re-designed in my version. The oversize version falls off the shoulder; no fit needed. In a fitted version, the back should be raised (I added two sets of short-rows to the back shoulders, but the back neck is still too low). Also, for someone with square shoulders (me!), either the sleeve cap or the shoulders should be wider.

I've read that a yoke sweater might need extra increases in the yoke for someone with square shoulders. Overall, set-in sleeves would fit that body type better. I think the same rule applies with raglans, which are just yoke sweaters with the increases (or decreases) confined to one area.

As it is, I've skated by with this one. My other cotton-ease sweaters have stretched out tremendously. This one will loosen up with each wash.

 Update:  I've worn this sweater frequently for a couple of years, always machine washing and sometimes machine drying it.  Now that it has stretched a good bit, I ripped back the neck, decreased the stitches by nearly half and reknit the neck in a simple ribbing with short rows at the back.  The sweater is even more comfortable now. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Springy hand-knit socks

The socks are done. In fact, they are awaiting a wash--I gave them a test wear so I could decide if they are truly "spring socks".

They are. Perhaps I'm swayed by the lacey bits or by the colors, which do evoke the first glimpse of leaves on a young aspen, but they do feel a bit cooler to me. For now, I'll believe it is the seacell content, even though these socks are 70% merino. I wore them all day on a fairly warm day last week and didn't get the urge to take them off. I usually peel off my regular hand-knit socks by two in the afternoon on a day I consider "t-shirt" weather (meaning I don't need a sweater or jacket over my shirt).

I'm not talking about hot days, though. If it is humid, and the temps are in the 80s, I'm wearing sandals, without hand-knit socks. I'm crazy, but just about knitting, not about wearing hand-knits all the time.

I definitely went a little crazier with this sock, matching the ribbed cuff to the lace pattern of the leg:

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Baily Cardi all knitted up

Cue drum roll, please. I'm about to reveal the sweater that has consumed the last seven weeks of my life. That seven weeks is gone, but at least I've got something to show for it--a cabled delight, knit from the prize-winning fleece of an alpaca named Bailey.

Not bad for seven weeks if you consider I kept up with all my usual daily tasks, plus a little sock knitting on the side. I suppose this cardigan represents a summit in my knitting progress, one that I have worked toward for a good while. It's a sweater I have planned from the moment I found the hand-spun yarn in the A Paca Fun Farm booth at the 2007 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. After I determined I had 1600 yards of a light-weight yarn, probably a dk weight, I eventually selected a pattern from Beyond Wool by Candace Eisner Strick. (I recommend Beyond Wool; I've knit two of the patterns and both are good.) My sweater will now join the ranks of completed projects for this pattern on Ravelry, and there will be two of them!

For a long time I thought I was going to be the first. I added the pattern to Ravelry over a year ago, and was happy to check back and discover that Maddie had posted her completed sweater. Maddie's is knit to pattern. Mine, of course, is modified.

I thought I had gauge, but I didn't. Determined to complete this project I had dreamed about for so long, I modified the stitch pattern, substituting a twist for the lace between the cables. That snugged it up, but hid a lot of fabric. This sweater will stretch out easily to about 48" wide. Relaxed, it is only 32" wide and a comfortable fit for my medium (36") frame.

I did go down a needle size for the cable portion, from a 5 to a 4 (now you know why it took 7 weeks). I wish I had thought to use a size 3 for the border. It does have peplum tendencies, but the weight of the alpaca makes it hang well when it is buttoned.

Speaking of buttons, I'm not omitting a button shot this time. I found cute little buttons at JoAnn's. They are quite shiny and hard to photograph, but I love them. I decided to use nine of them, one at each pattern repeat in the button band. That's nearly twice as many as recommended, which dresses it up a bit. Plus, I can be sure it won't gap between buttons.

The pattern included detailed instructions for the most intricate 4-stitch buttonhole I've ever seen. It had a fabulous finish, but proved to be too big for my larger-than-recommended gauge and smaller-than-recommended buttons. I made up a two-stitch buttonhole that worked well enough.

This close-up doesn't portray the sweater color very well, but it does provide a good look at the buttons.

I had thought I'd get brass buttons, then settled for a gold button embossed with small black squares, ones that I returned in an instant when I found these shiny little ones.

My button hunt added a week to the project, one that I happily filled with finishing my spring socks and starting yet another sweater--one with more, and more fancy, cables than this one! I'll be blogging about those projects soon (I've already taken the photos) and will be starting another sweater and another pair of socks.

I'm relieved to have the urge to blog again. I found that I lost interest in blogging while I was working on my lovely brown cardigan. It thoroughly satisfied my knitting interest. There is nothing better than a great yarn, a good pattern, and the time to work them up into a happy result. Now that it is done, though, I'll go back to blog chasing and vicariously viewing the projects on Ravelry.

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