Vintage sweaters, snow days and Elsewhere

Vintage sweaters, snow days and Elsewhere

My friend Victoria Heifner of Milkfed Press (she prints the Yarn Pyramid) recently came into possession of a trove of vintage craft supplies and asked me if I would like these two Jack Frost pattern booklets from 1950-51, one book of men’s sweaters and the other of women’s. These vintage booklets always kill me. They’re generally not more than 32 pages each but they are so packed with patterns (even with the full-page photos), and every pattern is a little gem. They’re not tricksy or fancy in any way — just solid, useful, beautifully designed garments. Page after gorgeous page of them. The patterns are all much briefer than knitters have come to rely on these days; they assume you know how to knit, so they cut to the chase. The two books here have as many as 3.5 sweater patterns per page. I adore them, and clearly so did their original owner. The spines have been taped together after falling apart from use, and not recently — the tape has been there long enough to have yellowed and disintegrated by now. The ladies’ book also had the previous owner’s notes tucked inside. Such incredible treasure, Victoria, thank you. I can’t wait to knit from these.

The vintage vest I’m currently knitting is coming along nicely — you can see a glimpse of the finished back piece here. And I did actually sew last weekend for the first time in a year! Rather than diving into the Sonya Philip pattern I wrote about last Friday, I decided it would be wise to start back in with a pattern I already know — dust off those particular brain cells after their long disuse. So I traced off a modified Wiksten Tank and cut it out of some khadi cloth I bought at A Verb for Keeping Warm last spring. We had another snow day in Nashville yesterday, which for me means a work-at-home day, and I spent what would have been commute time finishing it up. I’ll show it to you soon!

Meanwhile, a mini-Elsewhere for your weekend clicking pleasure:

– There’s a promising new webmag called Woven Magazine that just kicked off with a terrific interview with Nashville weaver Allison Volek Shelton, who you’ve heard me raving about before.

– It’s been a long time since I professed my love of Karen Barbé’s blog, but anytime I want to be inspired by the way someone else’s mind works, a trip to her site always pays off. Her aesthetic, her photos … so good.

– I’m happy to hear that Kelbourne Woolens is planning to do Crochet Summer again — maybe that and this free pattern will mean I finally make that granny-triangle shawl I’ve been talking about for … how long?

– And have you ever seen anything more beautiful than these sheep?

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone — thanks for reading!


PREVIOUSLY in Elsewhere

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: A Detacher forever

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: A Detacher forever and ever

If I hadn’t already professed my undying love for Mona Kowalska of A Détacher, I would certainly be doing it now. Her Fall 2015 collection got all my juices flowing; clicking through the images, my brain was thinking up things to sew and knit faster than my fingers could sketch them. Mostly simple little tops and dresses my closet and I are longing for (albeit not in those particular prints — other than the amazing volcanic explosion print!), but the way she’s mixed those breezy little pieces with knits here is classic quirky Mona. Along with simple little change-ups like a woven vest over a sweater dress and knit vest over a woven dress. There’s just no one like her. And nothing, especially, like that look below: quilted jacket over dress-length aran sweater over quilted pants. Ms. K, can I borrow your brain for just five minutes? And also this quilted dress?

Next of the Best of Fall 2015: A Detacher forever and ever

PREVIOUSLY in Fall 2015: Wool and the Gang walks again

Hot Tip: Mark your armhole depth

Hot Tip: Mark your armhole depth

If you’re ever knitting a sweater from the bottom up, there comes a point where you work the armhole shaping and then are told to continue knitting until the armhole measures X inches deep — and I think it’s a measurement a lot of people have trouble with. In the event you’re working the body in one piece and then dividing into front(s) and back at the armholes, you’ll be told to put some part of it (most likely the fronts) on waste yarn while you work the other bits. When you put those held stitches back onto the needles, if you leave the waste yarn in place, you have a clear point from which to measure. But without that, it can be tricky to tell exactly where you’re measuring to, as you attempt to measure straight downward from the top of your knitting to the exact row where the armhole shaping first began. And hard to be sure you’re measuring to the same spot each time you check your progress. One option is to pin a removable marker in that row, but I prefer a mini version of the lifeline. When working the first armhole bind-off row (or later if need be) I’ll just run a short piece of waste yarn through an inch or two of stitches that will line up with the armhole edge. Then all I need to do is measure from that line to the top of my work. You can see here I’ve worked just a little over two inches from my first armhole row, so I’ve got a ways to go.

p.s. Keep in mind the best “waste yarn” is anything non-fuzzy or grippy, so it doesn’t leave any fibers behind when you pull it out. Thin, smooth cotton or dental floss is best.

p.p.s. The knitting pictured is my Spiral-Spun Waistcoat in progress. I decided on 3×1 garter rib instead of the 2×2, thanks to a suggestion from Annri in the comments on my swatch post. Thanks for all your input!

New Favorites: Linda

New Favorites: Linda

I’m truly savoring every cold minute we have left to us, living in dread of the swamp heat I know will be here soon, but also trying not to lose sight of the coming loveliness of Spring. I am eager to trade in my heavy wool pea coat for a cozy scarf or shawl, and there is one that shot straight to the top of my list last week: Linda by Deb Hoss, from Quince’s Scarves Etc. 4 collection. I love the proportions of this thing. And the dense side fringe? Even better than how great it looks is that it’s very cleverly achieved.

I have the exact right amount of yarn left over from my Bellows. Wouldn’t it make it easier on me, when I must give Bellows up for the season, to have this to take its place?


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Modified ganseys

Bellows glamour shots and mod notes

Bellows glamour shots and mod notes

It’s been eight days since I attached the buttons to this Bellows cardigan, and — no joke — I have worn it for some or all of every day since then. Normally I hold off wearing a thing until it’s been photographed, but that was not an option here. A) It’s too good not to wear. B) It’s been bulky-shawl-collar-sweater-weather for rilz. Most of the time I’ve got the buttons buttoned and the collar up for maximum coziness. I don’t have a lot to say about this sweater other than that I love it so much so much I dread the moment when I have to take it off, and the idea of putting it on makes getting out of bed in the morning a little more palatable.

Three weeks of knitting, two weeks of neglect, one week of finishing — as much a dream to knit as to wear. Michele Wang, I love you.

There are a few mistakes: As previously noted, the cables all twist one direction because I forgot to switch on my second piece, so I just decided who cares. And I don’t! There’s a spot where I got off course with the broken rib for two rows. I meant to make it the left sleeve so the mistake would wind up in the rear underarm, but after letting it sit for two weeks before seaming, I forgot to worry about it and it wound up on the front of the right sleeve. Doubt anyone will ever notice. And there’s a minor booboo on the collar short rows. I hadn’t done yarnover short rows on ribbing before (I love yarnover short rows, by the way) and instead of reading the directions, I just assumed the purls would be p2tog’d with the yarnover, since the knits are k2tog’d. Wrong! (The correct answer is SSP.) The result is there’s a little float where each of those yarnovers was. But it’s on the way inside of the collar where nobody will ever see it.

For the record, I am definitely knitting this again (possibly more than once).


– My stitch gauge was slightly smaller than pattern gauge, so I knitted the third size and wound up in between second and third, about a 40″ bust, roughly 6″ positive ease. Which is exactly as roomy as I had hoped for. (And still the shoulder seams don’t quite reach my shoulders!)

– My row gauge matched pattern gauge, so because I was hoping to wind up nearer the second size, and blocking accordingly, I aimed for the second size with regard to the sleeve cap and armhole shaping. The sleeves fit the armholes beautifully.

– Left out the cable in the ribbing except on one sleeve; will leave it out everywhere next time.

– Knitted body in one piece with a basting stitch at the side seams.

– Worked only three cable repeats on fronts; began armhole shaping at 15″ instead of 17″. (Wanted it to hit me where it hits the model.)

– Love love love all of the neck, shoulder and armhole shaping in this pattern. That sloped bind-off is exquisite. Wasn’t wild, though, about trying to seam the shoulders with this fabric. Next time will do 3-needle bind-off to make sure it’s exactly 1:1.

– Started working the neckband and was super bothered about the back neck being worked from live stitches. (I’m a little over-obsessed with everything to do with the back neck.) So I actually ripped out the band, bound off the back neck stitches, and picked up all the way around.

– Adjusted the pick-up counts and button placement because of changing the length. Picked up 3/4 stitches, 55 sts on each front. (The rest as written.) Might pick up two or three more per front.

– Wish I had worked the third-size collar shaping — a few more short rows up top for a more voluminous collar. Next time!

– The only thing missing is pockets. I am constantly trying to put my hands into pockets that aren’t there! I had toyed with the idea of adding patch pockets (and still might) but after wearing it, I think I want side seam pockets in the next one.

– This is my second sweater in a row in this yarn and I couldn’t love it more.

Pattern: Bellows by Michele Wang
Yarn: Balance by O-Wool, in Graphite, held double
Buttons: from Haus of Yarn

Additional photos on Ravelry. And here are the complete posts about this sweater.

Bellows glamour shots and mod notes

What to wear under cardigans

What to wear under cardigans

I promised you a post about tops to wear under cardigans, and it’s turned into a monster. I’m attempting to boil it down here and will expand on it over time, no doubt. Suffice to say: My favorite thing to wear under a cardigan is a sleeveless top with a non-plain neckline of some sort. If it is shirttail-hemmed and/or tunic length, even better. And the be-all end-all is pockets. (Especially since somehow none of my cardigans have pockets of their own.) The two tops I wear the most right now are 1) the Endless Summer Tunic my friend Alyssa Minadeo made for me in that Robert Kaufman dotted chambray the whole sewing world is quite reasonably in love with (seen here and here — I’d like another one about two inches shorter and a hair less flouncy), and 2) a natural linen sleeveless tunic I bought at Express twenty years ago, which I know for certain because I wore it to a concert with my now-husband in the summer of 1994. (I found it in a box of sentimental favorites under the bed when we were packing for the move.) It buttons all the way up the front and has, uh, half-kangaroo pockets — do you know what I mean? — and despite being linen I’ve been wearing it all winter. Like, I’m in jeopardy of wearing it out.

I like both of these because the fabrics go with everything, they both have something other than a plain round neck, and I’m really into that length right now; I think it’s great for layering over. In third place is a collarless, half-placket chambray shirt that I cut the sleeves off of. And right behind that is this, which I’m desperate to duplicate in a natural fabric.

It’s a matter of personal preference, but I don’t like shoving shirt sleeves into sweater sleeves if it can be avoided — it always feel too bunchy. The only thing that would make my existing sleeveless tops better as winter layering pieces (or even wear-alones in the milder parts of spring and fall) is if they were made of heavier fabric, or even a brushed cotton or flannel or boiled wool. So that’s where my head is at.

The photo above is my Instagram pic from the other day of Sonya Philip’s Dress Pattern No. 1, for which my sweet friend Marlee is hosting a sewalong. I believe it’s actually tunic length, and if I were to split the front and add buttons, and change the shape of the pockets, it would be my beloved linen tunic. So I might do that. But I’ll probably sew it as drafted first. Sonya has been a big influence on me in my desire to craft a handmade wardrobe, so I’m thrilled to be about to sew one of her patterns.

With all of that said, here are a handful of sleeveless sewing patterns that are simple and reliable (by all accounts) and that lend themselves to modifications of length, hemline, neckline, etc. All on my to-sew list—

What to wear under a cardigan: Or, sleeveless-top sewing patterns

Wiksten Tank by Jenny Gordy is the only one on this list that I have sewn before, and I can vouch for its being an excellent pattern and suitable for new sewists. It’s no wonder there are thousands of them on the internet. For my next one, I’m planning to sew a longer version and raise the neckline. (See also: Grainline’s Tiny Pocket Tank)

Sorbetto from Colette Patterns (free pattern) is another simple tank, but this one has bust darts. It’s easy to imagine adding length and/or volume to it, and I love the box-pleat detail down the front. I’m eager to hybridize this and the Wiksten Tank.

Alice by Tessuti is one that Felicia Semple has sewn multiple appealing versions of. Those gathers under the bustline would provide just enough interest if you’ve got a cardigan over it, and I love the sleeve-cap detail for when it’s worn alone. I also really want the dress version of this one for my summer closet.

Tova by Jenny Gordy is not a sleeveless pattern, per se, but one of my favorite Tovas I’ve seen is Sam Lamb’s sleeveless version (check out her Wiksten tank in that same post).

Sailor Top from Fancy Tiger is the next best thing to sleeveless. I think those little sleeves would layer quite nicely, and the wide neckband with gathers makes it an appealing layering piece to me. (By the way, there’s a Creative Bug class for this one.)

Endless Summer Tunic from A Verb for Keeping Warm, noted above, has lots of really nice details — including optional side-seam pockets — but is probably the most challenging pattern on this list. I’ll get there.

Just typing this up has me itching to grab my Fashionary and sketch out all the mods and hybridizations that are running around in my head, which I promise to share. And I’m sure many of you have other great suggestions, so please add them below!

This weekend I’ll be sketching, sewing, knitting and taking Bellows pics. (Yes, that is a glimpse of it in the top photo up there.) Love to hear what you’re working on—


The lovely Audrey

The lovely Audrey - free knitting pattern

This whole Fringe Hatalong Series idea was a good one, I can already tell. I finished my lovely Audrey hat — my third FO for the year — and feel confident it would not have happened had I not invited you all to knit along with me. I would have gotten sucked into the next sweater without a palate cleanser or quick finish to bolster me, as this has done. And I know I already said this, but it’s such a joy to watch hat after hat appear on the #fringehatalong tag at Instagram. (140-odd posts and counting!) There are far fewer listed on Ravelry — if you’ve made a project page for your hat, I’d love it if you’d add “fringehatalong” in the tags field so yours will show up with all the rest. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to see every color and pompom and modification. Meanwhile, I love this pretty little hat and am debating whether to leave it au naturel or toss it in a pot of avocado pits.

If you haven’t cast on yet, it’s not too late! The free Audrey Hat pattern is right here, and there’s no schedule. If you have questions, you can always ask them on the pattern post.

I also hope everyone has made the Seattle Children’s Hospital donation of a dollar or two that Anna requested in offering us the pattern for free. Part of my original idea for the Hatalong series was to feature a charity in each installment — a potential recipient for those of you who are knitting with the intention of giving it away — so I was very pleased that Anna was one step ahead of me in suggesting a small monetary donation for this round. From here on out, I’ll be directing attention to charities in need of hats. But if you are wanting to donate your finished Audrey, check with your local hospital hospice or chemo unit.


Jen Hewett for Fringe Supply Co. limited edition project bagUNRELATED NEWS YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR: The fourth and final installment of our limited-edition Jen Hewett project bags has arrived! As before, when they’re gone they’re gone! For this edition, we went back to the linen and jute drawstring bag from edition one. So if you’ve collected all four, you’ll have two linen and two cotton. The preorders have shipped and that left only about 70 bags available in the shop, so if you want one, don’t hesitate! We also got partial shipments of the amazing skim balm and Bento Bags this week, so see if what you’ve been wanting is there while you’re at it! If not, don’t worry, there’s more on the way.