Just one more…

Like many people at this time of year I am feeling a little seasonally confused on the knitting front. My head tells me I should be starting on spring/summer wear but my body tells me I am freezing and have 6 hanks of John Arbon organic merino aran calling to me from the stash!

I hedged bets by starting my Sakura (aka Amimono’s ‘Robin’) a few weeks ago, but figured I would see if I could squeeze one more in before things start to warm up.

After nearly 2 weeks of plotting I decided to go easy on myself and go for a pattern, and one that has glowing reviews on how well written it is, to boot – the gorgeous Dragonflies Jumper by Joji Locatelli. Here is Isa’s perfect version below (God that girl can KNIT!):

There have been a few mods on the pattern thus far. Another prolific knitter, Momo– better known by her Raverly alias Jettshin- made it into a set-in sleeve 50’s styled number that is stunning (not least in her use of this amazingly saturated but still subtly tone on tone Madelinetosh colourway):

I told myself that this next project would be one in which I would try either top-down inset or saddle sleeves, but since I am planning other mods on top of the lace (which still makes me nervous) I wonder if I should risk another mindfuck project when I need to get this done asap! (chickenshit that I am!).

Those of you out there that have top-down in either before – is it really that much more complicated than top-down raglan?  Having troubles visualising, as I have only down top down a couple times now, so it is still new.

I am most worried about the short rows causing me a world of pain, as the last pattern gave me a brain rash in that department. (!)

There won’t be any lace on the sleeves, just reverse stockinette, but I am trying to figure out how to do the back and front neckline the same ‘depth’, or close, so that it can be reversible.

The dragonfly stitch is very stretchy and pulls the fabric in, so can’t do that front and back as I don’t want it fitted – so planning to do a chunky textured but unstretchy Cartridge Rib on the back to make it more boxy, and then give it a back zip. That way I can wear it as a pullover occasionally but also flip it around and wear as a cardi with a lace back (cardi’s are always my go to sweater).

Thing I want to know is – what happens if you forgo the short row shaping in top down? Does this make the neckline squared off, or do you just end up with front and back the same height (so you need to make sure to get it low enough so the front doesn’t choke you). That is what I am hoping for.

Am I making any sense, oh knitting gurus? Can anyone answer that one?

Help my last two little brain cells clap…

Scandinavia, here I come!

My first colourwork project has been keeping my head warm for the last windy week and I am so very, truly pleased with it. (though you can’t tell in the photo. Who knew it was so hard to photograph your own head?? Concentrating…..cooooncentrating….)
final
I am shocked at how much easier the process is than I’d expected. Much like cables, it is just one of those things you DO…and… it works. Fabulous.

Admittedly, some of the floats are a little tight and those little contrast white crosses that I worked so hard to put in – no you can’t see them, because even though I know they are there, I can barely see them!
progress
3 colours is so much more complicated than two strands on the same row, so some of the small white stitches are being sucked into the grey instead of floating at the ‘same height’…but you know what? I still love it!!! (I just might hate those hidden crosses of pain). Shown frighteningly pre-block and puckered above.

Here it is again from the side, trying to hold in my mass of annoyingly sheep-like hair. Baaa.
side

I even love the lop-sided, imperfect pom-pom that I am STILL schnipping away at in compulsive moments. Bad pom-pom that it is!
pom
Can’t WAIT to start my next colourwork project. Thinking I will do Jared Flood’s Stasis, as it is just so simply perfect…though I might be cautious and take on a smaller mitten project first for more tension practice.

I have enough stashed fingering yarn to start the sweater asap, though…I just need to decide on and dye the contrast colour! Beige with black or navy? Or maybe even bright cadmium? Planning is the best bit!

Howling at the…sun

Finished the Huntress Shawl last week. It was such a super quick knit…and so satisfying!


It really teaches you the differences in SSK and K2tog if you are a new  knitter, and helps you to understand what they look like in other projects. Also how YOs work with them to shape patterns. Definitely a useful learning knit!

I have to admit to struggling a bit at first with the YOs on the sides.  For some reason I just couldn’t count and kept screwing up the eyelet placement.

I put it aside for a week and then started again. The break seemed to help. I managed to get both sides finished in a couple days. This seems to be a normal part of the process for me in more complex patterns. It seems to take me a bunch of repeats with mistakes before I figure out how it all fits together. Frustrating. But then I suppose satisfying when I crack it.

I used a buttery organic merino for it and in hindsight feel this pattern needs something with a bit of drape. The merino actually feels a little too ‘stodgy’ and dense for this as it doesn’t relax enough into the neck when using as a scarf.  If you are in the process of research to start this pattern – you want something that will schlump down…something with a little silk, alpaca or cashmere like the recommended yarn so it hugs your neck more than this yarn.

It is funny…I had planned to do this in the organic silk/merino I ordered at the same time for my dye experiments, and I don’t know what made me switch. I think I was just tired when I started dyeing the yellow, and wasn’t thinking.

Also I was a little mislead, as the yarn was much softer before dyeing and I now understand, first hand, how dyes can change the quality of the yarn. I had always sort of noted it in cashmere sweaters – how the greys or browns were always softer than the coloured jumpers. Now I know it is because the dye changes the feel. Though I wonder if it is heating the yarn that does it. Must experiment.

I ended up dyeing it twice, as well. I am super fussy when it comes to colour and decided it just wasn’t right when I finished. Here it is pre-block (though bits of it got blocked along the way. You can see how curly the ends of the sides are, as they haven’t felt the steam yet. I love seeing how the pattern is coming along, so block as I go to marvel at the wonder of it all!).

Just a touch too green/yellow and not ‘mustard’ enough.

So it went back into the pot.

When it finally dried, it was PERFECT. Still vibrant but warmer and a little more autumn-earthy. Here it is with my Miriam:

I have been wearing all week and it hasn’t pilled in the slightest, just bloomed a bit more and gained a bit of a soft halo.

What a gorgeous yarn…and spun by a small UK mill, so supporting the local industry. It doesn’t have the slightest prickles and isn’t crunchy but doesn’t have that typical merino limpness I am getting so tired of. It is more of a proper ‘wool’ without any of the negatives that sometimes come with a more robust fleece.

I will definitely be getting more of this and doing a large cardi in it. Can see it working up beautifully doubled up in cables! Yummy. I will finally be able to make a beautiful, wooly, white cabled sweater that I can WEAR. I have wanted one forever, but they are always either too itchy or uber-expensive.

Anyway, back to my newest darling.

This is how I generally wear it, with my little pup perched on my neck like a lazy dog in the sun. Love.

 

Owls, Owls Always With the Owls – Part 2

So to continue on my Owls adventure…

Just to make it easy on myself, I decided to further modify the pattern by making it a cardigan and knit the button bands as I went in a seed stitch. That part was remarkably easy… Less easy was the decision to change the long sleeves to cap sleeves and add them into the yoke as I started the owl pattern.

Never having done this before, and not being able to find any tutorials on how to do this, I basically winged it. I cast on the number of stitches I decided I would need for the sleeve circumference…

…and then joined it to the other side by slipping the first stitch on the yoke over to my right needle and then crossing the last bound on stitch over it, inverting them to eliminate a gap.

This worked well (There is probably a better way to do this, but I couldn’t think of anything else!). Unfortunately after doing a few rows I decided the arms were too big (no…NO! They actually weren’t, I just doubted my calculations. Sigh.), so frogged and redid the whole process, dropping 8 stitches on each side. There, I thought, that should do it. Um, no.

Then it really went to hell when I started the owls. It wasn’t that I hadn’t done cables before – that part was fun, and so easy after all my worries!

The problem seems to be that I can’t count.

And forgot to add extra stitches before the button band at the end of the owls to match the ones at the start of the pattern. Eeesh. But I didn’t notice this until I had made a host of other mistakes and frogged back…and back …and back.

All told, I restarted those owls a good 5 times. The last time after I had gotten as far as the eyes (knitting when you are exhausted is NEVER a good idea!).

All of the owls above were frogged. The pain. After all the rejigging I settled on 2 stitches between the first owl and the band, which looks much better.

You can imagine my panic/horror when I tried it on after starting the yoke decreases and realised the arm holes were too tight as the yoke pulled up.

Imagine it now…the sinking feeling in your stomach, tightness in your chest. Desperate thoughts of ‘maybe it will stretch enough with blocking’…

Not in cotton/linen it damn well won’t.

So I got a bit inventive. There is nothing quite like desperation for improvisation.

I figured I hadn’t much to lose so what I would do is…gulp…use scissors.

I carefully put in a life line a number of stitches down from the ones that were being held in the underarm:

Then I unravelled:

Then the scary part. I snipped:

After weaving the gazillion ends in the  armholes were treated as normal, with stitches picked up and sleeves knit down.

I am shocked to say this worked amazingly well! I was worried everything would unravel as I picked up stitches, but made sure I wove the ends in and back so they couldn’t pull free, and it did the job.

Now I know this is sloppy practice and do not recommend doing it as a matter of course, but if you are ever about to hang yourself with your own yarn and feel you have nothing to lose, give it a try.

Much like steeking, it is radical, but works!

I ended up putting in grosgrain bands to stablise the hooks I put in and minimize the bulging below:

And here she is in all her glory:

I only sewed in 2 eyes, as I find the one owl peeking out from the pattern a little less cutesy.

I still haven’t figured out how not to look like a complete dork in the ‘finish’ shots.


But am working on it!

Studying Stripes

I am still catching up on posting some projects, so here is my very first shawl.

‘Shawl??’ you say?

Yes. I know I have been pretty vocal off blog about how gnomey I find the concept of most shawls…but think I finally understand why people like them so much. It is not so much the way they look (which I usually find over the top old fashioned and girly), but the way they FEEL!

I knit this Stripe Study Shawl in a light, fluffy doubled laceweight cashmere/merino and a sleek, heavy dk silk. The wool adds warmth and luxurious squish, while the silk adds amazing drape and a bit of subtle shimmer.

It is, thus far, the most amazing feeling thing I have made. Like a luxuriously light, but warming hug in a chilly office!

It is asymmetrical, so a little edgy (for a shawl).

Another learning curve with tons of short rows and interesting shaping. It is worked from the flat side out to the point, and I obviously went wrong somewhere, as it isn’t flat at the top! Think it might have been a matter of tension.

Also,  a little annoyingly for the newbies out there, the pattern doesn’t mention that you should knit through the wraps to hide them, so I had no idea what would happen until I was done and got these holes:


Another knitting rule there – ALWAYS knit both the wrap and stitch on the next row to hide the wrap.

But…have I mentioned how GLORIOUS it feels? Yum.

Owls, Owls Always With the Owls

After finishing my first big yarn dyeing experiment, I have been steadily working on my Owls cardi since the Olympics started and can finally see the finish line.

(Do you like my Olympic analogy? That is as sporty as I get!).

Below are images of me trying on the cardi in progress to make sure my calculations for the decreases were ok…please excuse the pyjamas!


And again, wearing a proper bra for this one!

I tried it on many, many times and fretted the whole way!

Due to the fact I was doing this in a much thinner yarn than the pattern asks for, I had to make some very uninformed (read: random) decisions on how many decreases I would need and how to sort out the owl pattern.

As you can see in the second shot above, my math, incredibly, worked out ok, and I managed to get the back decreases right on the first try!

Phew.

However my luck ran out there and counting went awry on the more complex part of the pattern…more on that in a following post.

For anyone who is interested, I used sport weight yarn, 3mm needles for the hems and 4mm for the body. I ended up following the largest size or next one down for most of the pattern, though the decreases were mostly done by calculation:
ie. how many inches I needed to drop to the waist from my hips, and the corresponding number of stitches I would have to decrease according to my swatch. My gauge was 5sts=1 inch.

I added 2 stitches on either side of the owls before the button band and did 8 sts of seed stitch for the borders.

More details to come.

Capped Coolness

Not that long ago, I finished my third knit clothing project – the super cute Cap Sleeve Lattice Top by Purl Soho.

A fairly quick knit, or would have been if I hadn’t made a few enormous time-guzzling blunders along the way!

As is the nature with mistakes, I learned some important beginner’s lessons along the way.

For this project I substituted cotton blend yarns frogged from thrift store sweaters, therefore had to do a little jigging around with gauge, but nothing huge. Since I am still a very inexperienced knitter I got the ribbing wrong first time around – it was too tight many,many annoying, clingy, splitty days in (the grey cotton blend I used was HIDEOUS).

Instead of hanging myself with my yarn, I decided to frog from the bottom up, not knowing this is a no-go area in knitting.

After about an hour’s cursing while trying to unpick the ribbing hem, I learned my next knitting rule:

You can’t frog ribbing from the bottom up.

After some desperate googling I found a mention on a blog of how someone had cut into the work from above the ribbing and unravelled down. No picture, but having nothing to lose at this point, I gave it a go. (also, bringing out sharp scissors seemed like the right thing to do at this point. It was important to hold myself back…)

Seriously bricking it, I sliced through a stitch and made a big hole, unravelling and carefully picking up stitches as I went. (Is it just me, or does knitting involve a lot of stomach-clenchingly anxious moments? I hope it is just because I am a novice.)

I seriously questioned whether those two inches were worth all this trouble, but when I considered how many weeks it had taken me to get this far, I persevered. I figured, if nothing else, this was another ‘learning experience’!

The images below show the discarded ribbing on the left – I couldn’t bear to waste any more time reclaiming that yarn – and the pristine rescued, double sided experiment on the right.

I ended up reknitting the rib in the same needle as the body and that worked out fine, though I did change it to a criss-cross-y twisted rib to mirror the lattice at the top:

Never one to leave well enough alone, I also decided to give the top an aqua stripe before the lattice for a bit of zing…especially as I was not feeling that hideous grey cotton! I do wish it was a bit more of a saturated turquoise, like the mock up I did, but it is fine.


It turned out fairly well, despite a host of other mistakes I can’t bear to catalogue. Though I can’t say I enjoyed my first project in cotton (not counting the checkerboard scarf I made when I was 10!).

I really missed the spring and elasticity of wool throughout this knit. Cotton is so unyielding that it really takes a toll on the hands.

(Unfortunately have picked a cotton/linen blend for my next cardigan as well!)

Oh well. I do appreciate how cool and airy it is, even though the unyielding cotton makes my hands ache! Even though the fabric is quite thick, it is cool enough to wear on a mild summer day. Perfect for my warm little carcass!

I have to say, I am looking forward to the autumn knitting though!

Miette

Over the last few months I have learned something about myself – hitherto somewhat unknown – I have a thing for cardigans!

I love them. I mean REALLY REALLY love them.

I have always tended to purchase cardis over pullovers as I tend to run a bit hot, and pullovers always make me overheat. I also don’t care for the whole ‘pulling over the head’ bit, which seems a bit fussy! (how lazy am I?).

My first big ramp up in pattern difficulty was Miette, a sweet little cardi by Andi Satterlund, pictured below.

With a simple lace border detail,

I thought it would be a good project, after completing my first lace  scarf (good fun!)…another level up in difficulty.

It was a good choice. Challenging, so I learned plenty of new techniques, but not too hard for a beginner that I couldn’t finish it. It wasn’t a breeze, but with a bit of concentration in certain parts, it was fine.

I also had hug amounts of help with Jo and Gail’s transglobal KAL (Knit Along for the uninitiated!). Thanks again, ladies!

How nice to be able to follow along with someone else doing the same pattern! I will definitely be seeking more  knit alongs in future. A great way to learn with support.

Before starting I did a lot of research and decided a few modifications were needed – of course! – which made it a bit more challenging.

First off, I used thinner yarn (Madelinetosh DK in Celadon) so had to recalculate a few things. Luckily one of the other sizes was a pretty good match for my gauge and that made it much easier.

I also decided, from reading other people’s comments on Ravelry, that I didn’t want the bust shaping as I tend to wear my cardigans open a lot of the time and didn’t want the boob cups poking out the sides (not that I would have much bulging cuppage to deal with, but one can dream).

I moved the decreases to the sides and it worked remarkably well.

The second mod was to change the twisted rib to regular rib. As the cardi is knit top down I got midway through the ribbing and decided it contrasted too much in the crunchy superwash merino I was using.

Here is before:

I just didn’t feel the crossed rib complimented the lace so went back to a regular 2 by 2 rib and took off the purl row before the start of the band.

After:

This way the ribs flowed right up into the pattern and seemed more cohesive in this yarn.

I spent many ages getting the sleeves right, redoing one nearly all the way once, and finally, near the end, decided to reinforce the button band as it was just too floppy for my taste.

This took a bit of fussing, as I had never done button holes before on the sewing machine. Now I know why you need the special ‘button foot’ attachment. Heh. Oops.

So they  look a bit ghetto, but the ribbon makes such a huge difference to the structured ‘polish’  of the finished result, I think it was worth the aggravation…and the yucky stitching is on the inside, thankfully!

I had some troubles getting the right buttons as well. The ones I initially put on, shown below pre-button band, looked fine…but a bit …meh. they just didn’t add anything special and looked a bit dull.


It took me ages, but I finally found the right buttons on a trip to France at a shop called La Droguerie! (Beautiful buttons if you ever run across one in France. Lots of handmade wooden and shell. They are a chain so look for them in major cities.)

I wanted something that echoed the zig zag eyelet pattern, and these little beauties have just the right amount of spiky-ness and the colour adds a little bit of unexpected zing. Also, the colour combo of turquoise and rusty red makes me think of Tibetan jewellery (hence her name).

So here she is, cardi no. 2 – aka Quxu!

A mere 2 months to completion! Hah! Oh well, I am very pleased with the fit.

Thanks to Andi for sharing this pattern for free…it is really well written and a beauty of a design!

My Dearest Miriam,

My first scary, complex-shaped and most satisfying project was a cardigan called Miriam, by Carrie Bostick Hoge, whose simple, non-fussy designs I just adore:

This cardi was actually the reason I decided I needed to learn to knit properly. I saw it and just NEEDED it.

You know how it is.

At the time that I didn’t feel confident enough to spend £40+ on the Madelinetosh DK , my first yarn love affair, for the project, as I wasn’t sure I would be successful with it,  so ordered some sale skeins of Blue Leicester by British Breeds.

I had read good things about Blue Leicester and figured it would be soft and not scratchy – as if all Blue Leicester would be the same! Duh.

Beginners lesson number 1 – I now understand that I must fondle EVERY yarn before using it. AND rub it across my neck.

It is a little embarrassing in yarn shops, but if they want me to spend that kind of money on string, they are going to have to suck it up.

So. Scritchy wool that didn’t feel great to knit with for over a month. Not a fantastic start.

strident addendum to Beginners lesson number 1 – spend the money on yummy yarn if you are going to spend that much time working with it. There is nothing worse than spending a month on something and then disliking the yarn you knit it in!

Here she is  with stitches being picked up and my first, abysmal, unintentionally asymmetrical attempt at blocking!

Beginners lesson number 2 – when picking up stitches knit through the BACK of the stitch on the first row. This twists the stitch and avoids nasty loose-looking joins, as in photo below:

I ended up fudging a smooth join by going back and stitching the whole collar tighter by hand! It now looks passable.

During the stitching up, I learned first hand why everyone hates this part of projects so much – and have since decided to knit everything else I possible can in the round!

Like these sleeeves. Why, Carrie? Why. (I am sure there must be a logical reason, but have not yet tried it, so can’t figure it out!)

In the end, it was a great learning project – simple but with enough easy challenges to get me to the next level.

I highly recommend it as a beginner’s cardi.

Here is the final product:

Ta dah! So proud. Even if it itches a bit on the back of my neck and I get random pokies sticking into me every time I wear it .

;-?

Oh. And to make matters worse …it pills.

That said, after the initial dismay at the pilling I bought a sweater shaver and gave it a good going over and it is gradually losing it’s pill-y-ness. The stitch definition is still pretty crisp and sharp.

As yarns go, it isn’t as bad as I initially thought, and as I get to know yarns better, realise it is just a matter of usage. I think this yarn is better suited to gloves, like my Knubby Moss Wristwarmers, or socks. Things that don’t sit on the neck or right next to the skin.

Unless you are one of those lucky people who can wear Brillo pads next to your skin and not be bothered!

Damn you.