A gift for you on my birthday

A gift for you on my birthday

Today’s my birthday and I gave myself the gift of a night off last night — i.e. knitting instead of blogging — but I have a little something for you, too! It really can’t be said enough how much I appreciate your time and your support (in every sense) and your business. So today I’m offering 15% off everything* on the Bags & Baskets page at Fringe Supply Co. Use code KTBDAY on the shopping cart page.

I do plan to put together a post today for tomorrow before I drink some champagne tonight (Bob’s making me dinner!), so hopefully there will be a new blog post for you in the morning, but please don’t hold it against me if that doesn’t happen!

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*In stock items only. Not applicable to past or future orders. Etc.

Knitalong FO No. 3: Kate Gagnon Osborn

Knitalong FO No. 3: Kate Gagnon Osborn

As you know, Kate Gagnon Osborn is the #fringeandfriendsknitalong panelist who took the most liberties with the Amanda pattern as we went, and I’ve been as eager as the rest of you to see how it turned out. It’s awesome to see that it’s still Amanda and yet not Amanda — and such a good example of how a pattern can be just a jumping off point for an intrepid knitter. Here are Kate’s final thoughts on the project—

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Kate, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m so glad I asked you to be a part of the official panel for this knitalong because you’ve contributed so much to it — not only in the form of blog posts but by completely reinventing Amanda in front of our very eyes. Can you first just briefly summarize the modifications you made?

I’m so glad you asked me! I felt a little bad when I was going rogue, so I’m really glad my contributions were helpful.

“Briefly summarize”? Courtney would argue that’s never possible for me, but I’ll try!

SLEEVES:
• Cast on fewer stitches for the cuff, increased more sleeve stitches in arm to match the number for the Size M

FRONTS:
• Added a braid on either side of the diamond cable pattern, reduced the honeycomb stitches on the sides
Lowered the neck shaping

BACK:
• Added 1 more diamond cable and one braid for a total of 3 diamonds and 2 braids, reduced the honeycomb stitches on the sides

OVERALL:
• Worked set-in sleeve instead of a raglan
• Picked up stitches for the buttonbands
• Lengthened body and sleeves by 1/2 repeat
• Worked all 5 pieces separately and seamed

That’s a lot of mods. And it turned out beautifully. Were there any points in the knitalong, watching others knit the sweater differently, where you wished you had done something a different way?

Gah … I know! And half of them weren’t intentional! Besides adding more cables (which many may not notice at first glance), the biggest structural/visual mod I made was to convert from a raglan to a set-in sleeve. This was actually totally unintentional — I meant to do a raglan all along, but I discovered deep into the back raglan shaping that the addition of the third diamond cable made for really wonky raglan decreases, so set-in sleeves were a much better aesthetic option. A really lovely element of the original design is the way the cables on the sleeves and body beautifully connect at the raglan seam, so a part of me regrets not having this in my sweater to honor Lene’s vision. While I really love the finished product, a small part of me does still wish I could have just left well enough alone and knit the sweater as written!

Adding those extra diamonds and braids (which meant subtracting a lot of honeycomb) gave it a very different look from the average Amanda. Are you happy with how that worked out?

In the long run, yes, I am. I like odd numbers, so I love the three diamonds on the back, and love the look of a braided cable, so I’m happy I added more of them. It definitely caused me more difficulty in sorting out the sweater — there were long stretches where I never consulted the pattern — but I really love the end result.

The other significant design departure you took was with the button bands. The pattern is written for vertical 1×1 ribbed bands. Why did you opt to pick up stitches for horizontal bands instead, and can you also tell us about your decision to increase the number of buttons?

You and I have spoken a lot about the way the button bands are written in the pattern. In all of the images, the seaming appears to be a non-issue, but I was, admittedly, concerned about the way the button band would join to the body without being seamed all the way down. Others with more foresight than I thought to work the button band simultaneously on a smaller needle, which is genius, but I was too far deep into my fronts before considering this as an option. Once my sweater pieces were complete and it was blocked and seamed, I still had the option of doing the button bands vertically and seaming them on. I tried a few different methods of working the selvage stitch, but nothing looked “perfect” enough, so I ended up picking up stitches and working each band, then working the neckline. I chose to work more button holes because I knew I was going to want to button it up at times, so I wanted to avoid the gaping at the bust that sometimes occurs when not enough buttons are used.

By the way, many people say they don’t love picking up stitches for a button band because of the risk of it waving or being stretched out and causing “ruching” on the sweater body. For a fail-safe button band, all you need to know is your stitch gauge (S) and row gauge (R). The ratio of S/R = the ratio of picked up stitches. As an example, if you have 16 sts and 20 rows to 4″, your ratio is 16/20, or 4/5, so you’d pick up 4 stitches for every 5 rows along your front edge.

You were one of the most vocal members of Team Seam, so you were always planning to knit the sweater in pieces, as written. But the pattern has a seamless raglan yoke, which I think you were originally planning to work flat and seam as well, before you decided to switch to set-in sleeves and seamed shoulders. You were averse to the seamless yoke no matter what, correct?

For the Amanda, I didn’t quite see the point of knitting the body in pieces and the yoke in one piece, so it was my intention all along to do the raglan yoke in pieces. When I made the change to a set-in sleeve sweater, keeping it seamed was a no-brainer.

Despite my love for a classic Lopapeysa yoke sweater, I am a firm believer in sweaters with seams, especially at the armholes/shoulders, where garments are stretched out a lot when worn. Some of my love of seaming stems from the yarns I use most frequently — the Fibre Company yarns have a lot of drape, so a good seam is a really key ingredient to a long-lasting garment — but it is mostly because of my sewing background and how I see most garments constructed. I also much prefer knitting smaller pieces, as so much of my knitting is worked on the go. I know (and really respect) people who are not as seam-obsessed as I am, so I do try to stay open-minded and see the benefit of that way of sweater construction. (I think Jaime’s answer to her choice to go full-seamless is really thoughtful and intelligent and a good lesson on how yarn choice and desired end result can go a long way to inform process. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a sweater quantity of Heirloom waiting to be knit up!)

You’ve also said you loved this project because it gave you a chance to knit a sweater for yourself, as opposed to a pattern sample that will travel around to shows and shops instead of living in your closet. Are you happy that sweater was Amanda? And do you have any idea what your next personal knit will be?

Yes! It was complicated enough that it kept my interest, and the end result is very “me” in style. I went through a phase where I exclusively wore cardigans, but (inexplicably) switched to pullovers a year or two ago. Now I’m trying to meet in the middle, and Amanda is the perfect balance, as I can wear it open, but I can also button it up all the way.

My next personal knit? Oh my … I haven’t actually thought of one yet! After an eight-year hiatus, I recently got back into spinning, so I think I am going to try to spin enough yarn to knit myself a sweater.

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Thanks again, Kate! And you can also see/save Kate’s sweater and notes on Ravelry. I so love how different our three finished panelists’ sweaters are so far — Jaime’s, Meg’s and now Kate’s. Anna, Rebekka and I are all still cranking along — and ironically, our three sweaters are the most alike so far — but it may be a few weeks before I have any more finished sweaters to show you! The #fringeandfriendsknitalong hashtag is still going strong, so keep on knittin’ on!

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: FO No. 2: Meg Strong

New Favorites: Garter bliss

New Favorites: Garter bliss

Maybe it’s the surest sign that my brain is on total overload — the holidays, the persistence of moving boxes, the post-op husband situation — but this photo is the most calming, appealing thing I can think of in the whole wide world right now. If a therapist or yoga instructor told me to close my eyes and go to my happy place, I would call up this photo on the old mental projection screen and let out the biggest sigh. Garter stitch. Warm head. Warm hands. It’s Purl Soho’s Hat + Hand Warmers for Beginners pattern from the learn-to-knit-kit they released in fall of last year — just two versions of garter-stitch rectangles seamed into accessories — but I want so badly to knit without thinking right now that I am considering paying money for the cast-on counts. I already have the yarn!

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: from Marie Wallin’s Lakeland

Did someone say indigo?

Did someone say indigo?

I had visions of a quiet Thursday afternoon all alone in the studio, wandering around in my feed reader, seeing what all I’d been missing out on in these recent hectic weeks, and putting together a nice, juicy Elsewhere. Instead it was one of those scenes where you spend the entire day putting out one fire after another and then you look up and it’s 11pm. So that will have to wait for another day. But I do, at least, have a tiny bit of juicy shop news for you. Remember I mentioned my blue fingernails in those photos the other day? What I had been indigo dyeing was leather — specifically special-edition stitch marker pouches. There aren’t very many of them, and I don’t know if there will ever be more, so if you’re into it, get on it.

Thanks for reading this week, as always, and have a fantastic weekend!

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Winter wardrobe fix, part 2: Quicker sweaters

Winter wardrobe fix, part 2: Quick(er) sweaters

So the other half of the winter wardrobe equation is, of course, sweaters. I’m finally at the point where I’m beginning to believe my Amanda will become a sweater at some point — hopefully by New Year’s — but it’s been a tremendous amount of time on one sweater in the midst of an actual wardrobe shortage. I’m committed to picking up where I left off (i.e., frogged back to the ribbing) with my beloved charcoal Channel Cardigan, and while I have thought of that as a sweater that’s going to take some time and patience, it actually was going fairly quickly (especially as compared to Amanda). And I also have a fair chunk of my worsted-mod Perkins Cove to get back to, which should be a pretty quick finish — although I’m not at all sure I have enough yarn. Regardless, I can’t stop myself from pondering the question of other relatively quick-win sweaters I might just have to cast on.

Generally speaking, I should say, fast is not the main criteria for me when picking sweaters to knit. If I want fast fashion, I’ll just go shopping. For me personally, a handknit sweater is an investment of time, money and creative energy into a garment I can’t get elsewhere and intend to have and love for years. But when you need sweaters, you need sweaters, so here I am thinking in these terms.

If speed were the only concern, I could whip up a few top-down raglans in superbulky wool and call it a day. But I’m looking for some balance — sweaters worth investing in but that are maybe a little bit quicker to complete, due to gauge and/or proportion. I keep shooting myself in the foot by picking worsted-weight sweaters and then knitting them in larger sizes and smaller gauges, creating extra knitting for myself (and in that one particular case, for Anna). Here are a few that are on my mind:

TOP:  Uniform Cardigan by Carrie Bostick Hoge — short, stockinette, simple or shaped neckband, worsted-weight — is probably the sweater my closet is most sorely lacking right now. I’m suddenly inclined to reassign my Slade yarn to this. (I might have enough all from the same dye lot.)

ROW 2 LEFT: Bellows, by Michele Wang, is obviously the sweater that has taken up residency in the foremost part of my brain and refuses to budge. Given the chunky gauge, and how quickly I’m seeing others knit this up, it seems like it would be wise to bump it to the head of the line and maybe have it while winter is most upon us.

ROW 2 RIGHT: Grandson Cardigan, by Josh Bennett, on the other hand, has been on my mind since I tried on the sample in May. It’s a lot of cabling, but it’s superbulky on 13’s — wouldn’t it still be a warm, snuggly sweater in no time?

MIDDLE: Gable by Hannah Fettig, is simple with a fairly abbreviated shape, and a basic pullover (or two) is another legitimate hole in my wardrobe. It’s fingering knitted on 5’s, but I have the urge to knit it in aran weight. I’ve been longing for a sweater in Berroco Blackstone Tweed (because I so love the way my Super Simple Mitts have aged) and this might be just the thing.

BOTTOM LEFT: Quiver by Megh Testerman is worsted-weight and short, with an interesting allover pattern that doesn’t require the fiddlier bits of its knitting all that often.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Chevron Cardigan, another good chunky cardigan by Michele Wang, would be even quicker if it were a little shorter, which is how I would want it.

What’s a wardrobe-challenged knitter to do?

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Winter wardrobe fix, part 1: Simple sewn tops

Winter wardrobe fix, part 1: Simple sewn tops

There’s been some turmoil going on in my home life the past few months that I haven’t really been talking about publicly — health issues with my husband that are finally (hopefully) being resolved thanks to surgery last week — but that means we have basically still not moved into our house. If you only saw the kitchen, you would think somebody lived there (albeit someone who apparently likes bare walls) but if you peered into what we call My Room, you’d think there were squatters in the house. When we moved to Nashville, we didn’t actually move to Nashville but to a town outside of town where the rents are dirt cheap and we were able to get enough space that Bob would have his painting studio in the daylight basement and I would have a room where my sewing machine could be out 24/7. Living the dream! Until … squatterville. The other thing keeping me from putting the room together and to use is that I haven’t had time to give any thought to how to furnish and organize it. But with things turning around finally, I was doing stuff around the house Sunday and a lightbulb went on over my head. Suddenly I could see the room all laid out, and immediately ordered my favorite industrial shelves and a worktable (happy early birthday/Christmas to me!) to use as a cutting table and for blocking. Now all I need is a table for the sewing machine itself (or a dining table so I can commandeer the table we’re currently eating on). And I’m fantasizing about a serger, but I’ll have to win the lottery first.

So my early New Year’s resolution, which I’ve been talking about on and off here for awhile, is to really learn to sew. I learned very young and do it rarely and have forgotten almost everything I ever knew. So I want to start from scratch. As much as I truly need sweaters right now, I just can’t bring myself to buy them, and it will take me awhile to knit the handful I need. Plus who doesn’t love a sweatshirt? So I have two immediate projects in mind for as soon as I get myself organized:

TOP: You may recall I bought the new Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt pattern on my Seattle trip last month. I’d love to make it in a nice heavy fleece, but I’ve also been pondering a fancier version. I bought this gem from J.Crew recently, a glorified sweatshirt in boiled wool, and I could not love it more. Shortly after that, Purl Soho added some exquisite-looking boiled wool to the shop, and along came Linden. Seems like fate, no? Except there’s the matter of the price tag on that wool — and the fear of cutting into it. But I’m not giving up on the idea.

BOTTOM: Then just last week on the Purl Bee appeared the Sewn Raglan Shirt pattern — designed for woven fabrics, with a little gathered neckline. I love it, and am picturing it in a nice flannel. Because there’s no end of how much flannel I want in my closet.

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How to weave on a hand loom

How to weave on a hand loom

You guys know I’ve been super curious about weaving the past couple of years (I never got a chance to tell you about my blissfully calm afternoon of Saori weaving in the midst of our moving mayhem) so I’m thrilled to have these little handmade, solid maple hand looms for the holiday collection at Fringe Supply Co. I own several frame looms and pin looms, and this design is a dream — it’s less fiddly to weave on since the sides are unobstructed. Plus it’s gorgeous. Not surprisingly, this has been one of the most popular items so far this season. When Kathy Cadigan and I were shooting the photos for the holiday catalog, she took a whole series of me using these tools. I love these images, and while the loom does come with a set of instructions, I thought a photo-rich tutorial here might be useful. Pictured in the bottom left photo above, the loom kit includes the I-shaped loom itself, the tiny shuttle, needle stick and bamboo skewer seen to the right of the loom, and the beater at the top of the photo. It also comes with a small amount of warp yarn, as pictured (although the color may vary).

Making small weavings on a loom like this is a great way to use up your scrap yarn stash. If you’re already a weaver, this is an excellent travel loom. And if you’re just curious about weaving, it’s a wonderful way to try your hand at it on a small scale. Fun for the whole family.

Step 1: Warp the loom

I don’t have photos of how to warp the hand loom, since I had done that ahead of the shoot, but it’s pretty intuitive. You simply tie or tape the end of your warp yarn (a nice sturdy, non-elastic cotton is best) at the groove in one corner — any corner will do — and then bring the yarn to the corresponding groove at the other end of the loom. Pulling it nice and taut, catch it around the back of the groove, wrapping the yarn into the adjacent groove. Then again, bring the yarn to the corresponding groove on the opposite side, catch it around the back and into the next groove, and so on. You don’t have to use the full width of the loom. If you want to do a smaller weaving, you can warp only as many grooves as you like, centering them on the loom. To tie off the warp, you can see in the top photo above that I just wound it around the top of the first and second notches at the beginning and the end to keep it secure while I weave. That will allow it to pop off later when I’m ready to remove the weaving from the loom. Same thing if I had just taped it on the back. Whatever works for you! Weaving is easygoing.

How to weave on a hand loom

Step 2: Create a “shed”

As you likely know from grade school experiments with paper plates and construction paper, weaving is under-over-under-over-under, and then on the next pass it’s over-under-over-under-over. (Whether that’s over 1 under 1 or over 2 under 2 is up to you. Experiment with it!) You can do this with a tapestry needle if you like, or by threading your weft yarn through the hole in the end of the needle stick, but it can be helpful to use the weaving tools to create a “shed” — a space between the warp threads — to pass the yarn through. The bamboo skewer is for creating a “fast shed.” Take the skewer and pick up every other warp strand — under-over-under all the way across — then push it up onto the top of the upper cross-piece of the loom, as seen in the photos, and leave it there. This creates a small gap, or shed, that’s easy to pass the needle stick through. Insert the needle stick into this tiny shed space, following the path the skewer took, and turn it on its side to widen the shed, as seen above. For the next pass, you’ll use the needle stick to pick up the opposite warps — over-under-over — then back to the fast shed created by the skewer.

How to weave on a hand loom

Step 3: Load the shuttle and begin weaving

Take a bit of your weft yarn and wind it onto the tiny shuttle as shown. You don’t want a big wad of yarn that will get stuck in the shed — just enough to make however many passes you want to make with that color. Then pass the shuttle through the shed. When changing colors, as seen here, or starting a new length of yarn, just leave the ends dangling — you can simply weave them into the back of the finished piece with a tapestry needle or your fingers. And you also don’t want to pull the weft yarn tight as you pass it back and forth each direction. Keep it loose, with a few inches between it and your previous rows, as seen above. Pulling it tight on each pass will cause the sides of your weaving to draw in. For the white roving seen in the images, I didn’t actually wind the shuttle. I just laid the end of the roving over the notch in one end of the shuttle and used that to push it through the shed.

Now pull out the needle stick, use it to pick up the opposite shed, and pass the shuttle back through the other direction. Continue in that manner, building your weaving upwards as you go. The closer you get to the top of the loom, the tighter it will get. You may find you’re not able to weave right up to the very top.

How to weave on a hand loom

Step 4: Beat the weft into place

As you work, take the beater and use it to press the new rows of weft down against the bottom of the loom and each other. Whether you compress your weaving a great deal or keep it looser it entirely up to you. If you’re weaving with strips of fabric for a little rag rug trivet, say, you might want to pack them very tightly. If you’re making a wall hanging, you might choose to leave some sections loose for a different effect — it just depends what you’re going for.

Tie in long sections of fringe, test out different weaving techniques, have fun with it.

Step 5: Remove the weaving from the loom

Once you’ve woven as large an area as you want, gently remove it from the loom by either cutting the warp or popping it off the ends of the loom. Again, depending what you’re going for, you can leave a gap and tie knots along the top for inserting a piece of driftwood or a dowel for a wall hanging. Or tie the warp into knots along both ends right up against the weft, either leaving the loose ends as fringe or weaving them into the back. Or use a sewing machine and stitch along both ends, then trim or weave in the warp ends.

Et voilà. The first weaving on your beautiful little hand loom.

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In case you’re wondering, yes, the fingernails on my left hand are actually blue in these pictures. I’d had a little glove mishap doing some indigo dyeing the previous weekend. What was I dyeing? More on that later.