An unlikely story

An unlikely story

This is the tale of the most improbable thing that’s happened to me since that one time my Morse Code Cowl was on Stephen Fry’s TV show. But first, we have to flash back to May 4, 2014. I remember the exact date because it was the morning Anna and I woke up and got dressed for the trade show and found that we were both wearing army-green pants and a denim shirt. We thought it was funny — especially since we were doing our Tag Team Sweater Project photos that day — so off we went, dressed like twins.

You may be familiar with Sarah Hatton, one of the designers for Rowan, the illustrious British yarn and pattern company that crops up often in these pages. While Anna and I were sitting on a couch in the Rowan distributor’s booth that day, poring over upcoming patterns and partaking of the dime store candy on the coffee table (there were Jots!), Sarah spied us and said, “I know you two! You’re Tolt and Fringe. I follow you on Instagram!” Which was pretty astonishing, for Sarah Hatton to be recognizing us. But that’s not the story.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago on Instagram. Sarah posted this photo from her latest Rowan booklet, the one up top, and I hit the like button. As in, hey yo, congratulations! She responded and said — I hope she doesn’t mind my repeating this — “Glad you like it @karentempler – the model was kinda an ode to your good self.” To which I responded in my characteristically urbane fashion, “Whut?!” I’ve since seen other pics from the collection, on her feed and elsewhere, and it’s full of girls dressed in army-green and denim (and grey), which, being far from alone in my penchant for that palette, I would never have thought had anything to do with me, or with how Anna and I were dressed the day we met Sarah. After asking if that seemed creepy, Sarah went on to say that the styling on that first photo was “supposed to be a bit Karen and a bit Isabel Marant.” And there you have it: The first (and presumably last) time anyone ever put me and Isabel Marant in the same sentence. And a story so improbable, I had to share it.

The Rowan Loves Kidsilk Haze & Felted Tweed collection is now available, and you can see it in full at Ravelry. Pictured here are Vicky, Paula, Davina and Gemma. And for the record, I would be happy to have this whole outfit:

An unlikely story

The button band conundrum

The button band conundrum

When I wrote the Pullovers for first-timers post, I planned for it to be quickly followed by “Cardigans for first-timers.” I’ve basically been writing that sequel for a year. Obviously the difference between the two — what makes a cardigan a cardigan — is that a cardigan has an opening down the front. Which seems simple enough, but there are a thousand different approaches to that opening. Are the front selvages straight up and down (leading to a crewneck) or sloping (leading to a v-neck)? Are there closures — buttons, toggles, a zipper? Are those closures attached to a button band? And if so, how is that button band created? And not every cardigan has bands or closures — in the past few years, there have even been a flood of sweaters designed to be worn right-side up and upside down. In other words, cardigan construction is a little bit complicated to talk about.

When we kicked off the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, I debated about whether to address the button bands up front or at the point where they’re actually worked in the Amanda pattern, which is at the end. I decided on the latter — even though those of us knitting Amanda had to make a decision up front about whether or not to knit the bands as written. We’ve spoken of that decision in a couple of posts so far (meet the panel and progress report), and it’s been brought to my attention that for the thousands of you reading along rather than knitting along, you don’t know how it’s written.

I’m not sure what I was smoking last week when I said Anna was almost to the join and would hopefully be able to photograph it soon. She is working on her third body piece (she’s done with the back and one front; now knitting the other front) but still has sleeves to knit before she can join the pieces at the underarms! Duh. So while we all keep knitting, let’s pause for a minute and talk about those button bands.

Button bands, like I said, are complicated, but since the Amanda cardigan has straight fronts and a crewneck, this is the easiest type to talk about. Typically, with a straight selvage like this, you would do the bands in one of three ways: 1) Knit them at the same time as the body of the sweater, all of a piece. Generally in that case the “band” stitches — and inch or two of stitches at each front edge — are worked in garter or seed stitch or something relatively firm. Ribbing generally requires a smaller needle than the main fabric, so is not such a good choice for this approach. 2) Pick up stitches along the selvage and work 2×2 ribbing perpendicular to the sweater. For an example of that type of band, take a look at my Acer. 3) Knit two separate vertical bands of 1×1 ribbing and seam them along the fronts. Tightly knit vertical 1×1 ribbing is very clean-looking, and that seam provides stability, but not everyone wants to seam their bands on. (Of course, there are more than these three basic options. And a v-neck cardigan is a whole different can of worms.)

The way Amanda is written is a hybrid of 1 and 3. You cast on all of your front stitches and work the ribbing on the smaller needle. When you’re ready to switch to the larger needle and start working the main fabric, you set aside the button-band stitches on a holder. I asked knitalonger @dxlcarson if I could borrow her pretty photo above, which gives us a really clear look at this. Once the sweater is completed all the way up to the neck, you put those band stitches back on the smaller needle, work the bands to the same length as the fronts, and then seam them on. Again, the reason for not just knitting them concurrently with the body is that the smaller needle creates a tighter, firmer rib, and also creates a difference in row gauge, which you can finesse when you’re seaming them on. So the decision we were each making up front was whether to go ahead and cast on those button band stitches at the outset, or leave them off and do the bands a different way later on. Jaime is actually knitting hers along with the body. Kate and I both opted to leave them off. I think Kate is considering doing picked-up bands (#2). I’m doing separate vertical bands (#3) and am planning to back them with ribbon for a really traditional look, which will also negate the kind of gaping you tend to get with handknit button bands.

On a related note: Saturday I spent eight hours alone in my car, and I took it as an opportunity to listen to knit.fm. I had heard the first two episodes of Hannah Fettig and Pam Allen’s podcast last year, and loved it enough to have sponsored the first two eps this year, but had never gotten to listen to the rest. I had just listened to ep 3 on a walk last week, so I started in on Saturday at episode 4, which happened to be about button bands! If you’re new to the subject (or even if you’re not), it is worth a listen. The whole series is fantastic.

So that’s what I have to say about Amanda button bands. Button holes, we’ll address another day.

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: WIP of the Week, week 4

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Photo © @dxlcarson, used with permission

New Favorites: Uncommon cables

New Favorites: Uncommon cables

As has no doubt become perfectly clear, I adore traditional cable motifs: braids, honeycomb, diamonds, even just plain old twists. Would even go so far as to say I could never get enough of them. But maybe I am in fact OD’ing on them a little with my beloved Amanda, because I am so, so attracted to not-so-classic cables right now, e.g.:

TOP: Catena by Courtney Spainhower — I can’t quite tell what’s crawling out of those arcs but the whole motif is sort of scarab-like, and I love it (there’s a matching cowl included)

MIDDLE: Hineri by Olga Buraya-Kefelian (this one’s actually an Old Favorite that won’t quit) — these extra-luscious cables are worked with additional fabric created on the wrong side (free pattern)

BOTTOM: York by Melissa Thomson — just different enough to be intriguing

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By the way, I’m not exactly sure how I did it, but I confused some people with last week’s installment of New Favorites, about cabinfour’s Pure shawl. New Favorites is about patterns I’m infatuated with and wanting to knit. In this case I was saying I had just gotten two skeins of Far in the mail, was thinking about a few different kerchief ideas for it, and wound up wondering if it would work to scale down the beautiful new Pure to kerchief size and knit it with my Far. Some took me to be saying that I had actually done so, or even that two skeins of Far are enough yarn to knit Pure to pattern dimensions. This is not the case — it is less yardage than the pattern calls for, which is why I was wondering aloud what would happen if one scaled it down. It was certainly not my intention to give anyone the impression that Pure could be knitted, as written, with two skeins of Far, nor that I have knitted Pure, with Far or anything else. (If only I could knit that fast!) Regardless, I apologize for any confusion I inadvertently created.

Fringe in the wild, Rhinebeck edition

Fringe in the wild, Rhinebeck edition

I gave myself a day away from my to-do list yesterday and spent a good chunk of it living vicariously. This is yet another year I didn’t get to go to Mecca — aka Rhinebeck, aka the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival — but I spent contented chunks of time looking at the streams of photos posted to Instagram, especially the hundreds of pics of that one tree. On Friday, I was putting together a quick Instagram post alerting attendees, via the #rhinebeck hashtag, that Fringe totes were available at the fair and it occurred to me to have another contest. Last year, I wanted to see all the sweaters I was missing, and I remember saying in the future I’d do a better job of promoting the contest in advance. And yet here I was at the very last second announcing another, tinier contest.

I go to a fair number of knitting events these days, and nothing makes me happier than seeing people carrying their clearly well-loved Fringe totes around. I started snapping pics of them at Squam and wished I could do the same at Rhinebeck, where there were sure to be many such sightings. So I asked for pics, and I promised a prize. Unfortunately, the announcement was hastily tossed into that rushing stream of images, and only three pics showed up on the designated hashtag, #fringeinthewild, plus one more that had the right intentions but lacked the tag. Starting at the top, they are from @studionorthknits, @abbygoodknits, @theknitterlyhooker and @knityorkcity. According to Sarah’s caption, she was “one of a billion” with the high-fiber tote at the event. Aww!

I love these pics and feel deprived of the chance to see more, and have only myself to blame. So let’s try this again! This weekend is Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago. Fringe totes will be available in The Yarnery’s booth, #221/223. For those of you attending, whether you’ve brought your trusty tote from home or purchase it from my lovely Yarnery friends at the event, show me your tote. You might have it with you in class, on the market floor, knitting in the lounge with other attendees, whatever the case may be. Get creative with it. But the essential part is this: Take a pic of you and your tote at the show, tag it #fringeinthewild #vklive and mention me, @fringesupplyco @karentempler. I’ll pick one or more favorites and those entrants will win a prize from Fringe Supply Co.

Meanwhile, I’m sending word of a little something to all four of these entries. Thanks, ladies! And thanks to everyone who documented the fair — next year will be my year, I’m sure!

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WIP of the Week, week 4

WIP of the Week, week 4

One of my favorite #fringeandfriendsknitalong moments last week was the day @rhiowens and @clairemueller posted back-to-back photos of their twin Ondawa WIPs on Instagram (here and here). Not only did they happen to post them in sequence, they appeared to be on the exact same row of the pattern. It was a little spooky! And both were so beautiful they made me take another look at that pattern. Claire’s caption was about having organized the multiple charts into one plastic sleeve to keep it portable, but it was hard to imagine anyone actually taking this on public transportation. This week, I chuckled at this picture of her with her sweater and her page protector on the train. Have yarn, will travel indeed, Claire! So congratulations, you’ve won this week’s amazing prize, which is 3 hanks of delicious, cream, 10-ply Cormo from Tonofwool at the birthplace of Cormo in Tasmania. There’s a reason it’s called @tonofwool: those skeins are huge! Can’t wait to see what you make of it. And thank you, Ms. Gusset, for the lovely prize!

I also want to say congratulations to Audrey, who as far as I know is the first knitalonger to complete her Amanda (which coincidentally happens to be knitted from Tonofwool). Great job!

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IN TINY SHOP NEWS, a few big baskets and big totes arrived this week!

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone! If you need a good chuckle, read through the hilarious responses on yesterday’s Q for You. I love you people.

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: Amanda panel progress report: Let’s see these sweaters!

Q for You: What are your odd habits?

Q for You: What are your odd habits?

Do you do stuff like this? When Lauren (aka @suskandbanoo) sent me this photo for her Our Tools, Ourselves feature last winter, I laughed out loud. This is so me. Anytime I’m knitting with DPNs or a cable needle, I inevitably stick whatever I’m not using in my bun. The other night I was knitting with my hair down (this apparently never happens) and I was at a total loss as to what to do with my cable needle when it was not in use. It’s a handy trick; the problem is I often forget I’ve done it and go wandering out into the world. Like when knitting in airports, or the other morning in a busy waiting room. I had a double-point in my hair all day on Tuesday without realizing it.

Likewise, I used to keep one of those white rubber stitch markers on my ring finger at all times. You never know when you’re going to need a stitch marker, right? But while it was invisible to me (unless I needed it and was happy to have it), I got asked about it so often I had to stop doing it.

So here’s my Q for You: Do you have weird fibersmithy habits like this? Do you leave a trail of yarn wherever you go. Have your houseguests found skeins hanging in your shower, or a pair of embroidery scissors on every surface? You’re safe here, you can tell us.

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How do you store your patterns?

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Photo © Lauren of Süsk and Banoo, used with permission

Amanda panel progress report: Let’s see these sweaters!

Amanda panel progress repot: Let's see these sweaters!

I had originally planned to talk about joining the body and sleeves this week for the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, but am feeling like maybe we could all use a little Information Intermission. And I thought this would be a good time to check in with our panel and see how some of our sweaters are progressing. Rebekka, Amy and Anna are each knitting uneventfully at their own pace.  Anna is nearing the join and will hopefully have photos of that process for us to talk about next week sometime. But for the rest of us, it’s been a little more eventful.

That’s me up top: two front panels is what I’ve got. Notice anything? I’m determined to do ribbon-backed button bands, which I’ve never done before. Plus I want them to be knitted at an even tighter gauge than my ribbing. (I really can’t abide a flimsy button band, and am at risk of taking it too far the other direction!) So I’d been debating about whether to do the bands as written or knit them separately. After spending a couple of evenings studying Brooklyn Tweed’s tubular cast-on and figuring out how to figure out how to calculate my own cast-on for flat, 1×1 ribbing in that method, I then stupidly cast on the wrong number — and didn’t realize it until I’d knitted the whole ribbing. The good news is I had started with a front piece precisely because it’s the smallest piece and I wanted to make sure my tighter-gauge version of a bigger size was going to come out right. Still, I hated to rip it out and start again. But then I realized I actually had the perfect number of stitches if I were doing the bands separately. So I took it as fate making my mind up for me, and forged ahead. Knitting the bands separately will give me lots of leeway to screw them up, pull them out and do them again if I need to, or change them at any time — which feels good to me.

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Amanda panel progress report: Let's see those sweaters!

Meg Strong, Owner of KnitKnotes (Instagram: @knitknotes)

Meg has arrived at the underarms on her seamless body — but there was one notable setback: a dog ate it! Meg and her brother DG (now my right hand at Fringe Supply Co.) share a house and have the most docile pets on the planet. (I mean.) We stayed with them for most of two months this summer and I was stunned to see knitting and yarn left casually all over the living room each night. My cats would not be able to resist such temptation. So while Meg was watching this dog, she trustingly got up at one point to go to the kitchen, and when she came back the dog was standing on her sweater, using her precious ebony circulars as a chew toy. The knitting was collateral damage, and thankfully she was able to restore it. The circs were totalled.

You’ll also notice Meg’s button bands are of interest. At moments when she needs a little mindless knitting, rather than pondering a quick shawl, she’s been working her bands. Smart!

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Amanda panel progress report: Let's see those sweaters!

Jaime Jennings, Co-owner of Fancy Tiger Crafts (Instagram: @fancyjaime)

You remember Jaime had put a lot of thought (and math) into knitting her sweater at a looser gauge than pattern gauge. She ripped a few times to make adjustments and decided she didn’t like the sweater as much with less honeycomb. So she started over and is now knitting with the same yarn at pattern gauge, which is giving her a denser fabric than she at first thought she wanted. But seeing it writ large, she’s liking it! She’s also pretty much the fastest knitter in the West, so even with all of that — and a week off last week for Spinzilla — she’s ahead of me. She has set a deadline for herself of Nov 5, so she can capture it on her next ultra-photogenic trip, and I’m sure she’ll  make that goal.

Also, clearly her early trepidations about the cabling were unfounded.

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Amanda panel progress report: Let's see those sweaters!

Kate Gagnon Osborn, Co-owner of Kelbourne Woolens (Instagram: @kelbournewoolens)

If we were knitting on a schedule, or there were prizes for speed, Kate would be winning. She redesigned her back to have three diamonds and two braids, which looks great, but then she wasn’t liking how it played out with the raglan shaping. So she converted it to set-in sleeves! She’s a maniac. And no, we won’t be trying to teach how to do that particular alteration! But I can’t wait to see how hers turns out. I think she’s about 10 minutes from done.

So that’s the panel recap. Fill us in on your progress below! And remember there’s another big prize coming this Friday, so keep those photos coming!

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: WIP of the Week, week 3 (plus new buttons!)