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.

New Favorites: Pure

New Favorites: Pure shawl pattern by cabinfour

So after my post last week about the Woolfolk debut collection, I got two skeins of Far in the mail. (Thank you, Kristin!) They were meant to be for a Knop hat, and oh man it would be delicious. But from the instant I pulled the yarn out of the envelope, all I’ve been able to think is I want that around my neck. 284 yards of pure luxury. Combine this with my latent nervousness over the fact that there’s nothing mindless on my needles right now, and I’ve suddenly got kerchiefs on the brain. Specifically that little garter-stitch kerchief I made for a my mom a couple of years ago. Thoroughly simple, it was really the perfect showcase for such a delicious yarn, and I just loved having it tucked around my neck for those snapshots. But then I’m thinking, isn’t there something equally spare I could knit with it — something mindless but not so mindless? (Don’t think I haven’t considered another Textured Shawl. But I already have a big grey version. In fact, I’m wearing it as I type.) What about a mini Lola? Or a Romney Kerchief? Then a quick trot through Ravelry led me to Pure, the latest from “cabinfour,” who has a way with ultra-spare shawls. I love the subtle progression of textures, and always love a big garter edge, but I wonder if I would love that if I scaled it down? Hm. Either way, it’s got my attention right now.

[DISCLOSURE: cabinfour frequently sends me copies of her patterns, unsolicited. No joke, not an hour after I finished writing this post (before it went live) Pure landed in my inbox. It's like the universe knows!]

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: the Woolfolk collection

Next of the best of Spring 2015: Lace cardigans

Next of the best of Spring 2015: Lace cardigans

The Spring 2015 collections have been soooo mesmerizingly beautiful. If I hadn’t already sold or donated nearly everything I owned, I’d be inspired to do so now, and to start over with all sorts of pretty, girly things, like those seen at Chloé and Sea in particular. So I’ve loved looking at these shows — really, one of the best overall seasons in ages — despite their having been almost entirely devoid of knits. Sob! So tragic.

What few sweaters did appear have been forgettably basic, and maybe that’s why these two stood out from the, umm, crowd. But however you want to look at it, if you want to be on-trend sweater-wise for Spring, think in terms of a sweet lace cardigan, as seen at Michael Kors and A Détacher.

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IMPORTANT REMINDER: Tomorrow morning I’ll be announcing the third winner of our WIP of the Week for the #fringeandfriendsknitalong. So don’t forget to share you knits!

Elsewhere

Yarny links for your clicking pleasure

Before I get into this latest batch of tasty links, I just want to say I know I’ve been pretty tight-lipped about our move and how things are going in Nashville. I put up a little post about it on Instagram last night, for anyone who’s interested.

Now! Let’s get to the important stuff—

— Did you know it’s UK Wool Week / Shetland Wool Week? I, for one, am wishing I was at the Knitting and Stitching Show.

— Related: Melody at Mandarine’s is hosting a knitalong of the beautiful (and free) Shwook Hat, the official pattern of Shetland Wool Week.

— Semi-related: Entrancing video by Kathy Cadigan for Gudrun Johnston’s lovely new pattern collection, The Shetland Trader Book 2

— Very very tangentially related: I would like this deluxe reproduction of Weldon’s Practical Needlework from Victorian England, please.

— Unrelated, but related to you know what: Anna pointed me to this One Jumper Project. Marvelous.

— Cable-licious: Loved seeing Bristol Ivy’s charts and creative process for her Maeve cardigan at the Kelbourne blog.

— And in case you haven’t heard, the Mason-Dixon ladies are blogging again. Hooray! I was blown away by Ann Shayne’s post that kicked it back off, Poverty and Luxury. So good.

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In pursuit of sleeve perfection

In pursuit of sleeve perfection

So, sleeves! First let’s recap what our illustrious and industrious panel is doing here, since there are few people switching teams during the sleeve portion of the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, and I think this is interesting:

Team Seamed Sleeves: Kate, Anna, Rebekka, Amy, Meg, me
Team Seamless Sleeves: Jaime

As Jaime said, “What the heck?” I really thought more people would opt to do the sleeves seamlessly. For me the only argument against is that, with all the cabling, I feel like it’ll be faster to knit them flat and seam than it would be to do them in the round. So I might as well have the benefit of that seam.

I also want to point out in Amy’s sweet photo of her sunbathing sleeves up there (love that project bag!) that although it looks like she’s knitting both sleeves on one long needle, she’s technically not. But she is knitting them simultaneously. If you have Second Sleeve Syndrome, it’s something to think about. You can do like Amy, or even just cast on both sleeves on the same long needle — you’ll be working two pieces of fabric from two balls — and work those sleeves side-by side. That way you finish them both at once and can be utterly certain that you increased on all the same rows and so on. I’ve never done it before but am definitely planning to do it here.

Apart from that, there are three things I want to discuss about sleeves today:

1) PATTERN PLACEMENT

There were a couple of people asking in comments way back about whether the sleeves needed to end on the same chart row as the fronts and back. I mistakenly answered that it didn’t matter, I guess thinking for a brief moment that this was a set-in sleeve sweater or something. Because this yoke is joined in one piece at the underarms and worked seamlessly upward from there, you will want to be on the same row of the chart when you join all the pieces. That way your honeycomb will line up and you won’t have to keep track of being on different rows in different charts.

There have also been questions from people about how to know where to stop with the sleeves if you’ve done them first, since the pattern instructs you to end at the same chart row as the back. Regardless of whether you start with the body or sleeves, my best advice is think of it as tentative. Put your stitches on waste yarn and know that you might need to adjust one or the other upward or downward. For me, the sleeve length is more critical than the body length — I want that sleeve to hit me exactly at the top of my hand, whereas I have less precise wishes for the body length. It just needs to be in the right neighborhood. So even though I’ve started with the body, I’ll knit my sleeves to where I want them and then adjust my body pieces to match that spot. You may do whichever makes the most sense to you.

2) SLEEVE LENGTH

This is a soapbox of mine. I’ve touched on it in the row gauge post and elsewhere, but want to say again that where your final sleeve cuff hits you is a function of sleeve length (meaning, how far you knit before the underarm shaping) plus armhole depth. The sleeve length given in the pattern may or may not be right for you. With your arm hanging straight down, have someone measure from the top of your shoulder to your wrist. Then take a look at the armhole depth in the pattern schematic. Let’s say your desired shoulder-to-wrist length is 23″. And let’s say the pattern’s armhole depth is meant to be 7.25″ of that. That means your sleeve needs to be 15.75″ from cast-on to underarm. BUT, that’s also assuming your row gauge matches the pattern gauge, which is the only way your yoke dimension will match the schematic dimension. If your row gauge is 10% bigger, your yoke will be 10% longer, making your armhole depth 8″. If you attach that same 15.75″ sleeve to it, you now have a total sleeve length of 23.75″, almost an inch longer than you wanted it. And if you had knitted the 17.25″ sleeve the pattern calls for, your sleeve would now be hanging halfway down your hand. So if you’re picky about sleeves, pay close attention to all of your measurements. And maybe re-read that row gauge post.

3) INCREASING IN PATTERN

Many have asked about this, and here again I’m going to hand the microphone to Kate Gagnon Osborn. Take it away, Kate—

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For ease of space (as more space = more cost), it is industry standard to not chart out a full sleeve and, instead, instruct the knitter to “… work sts in patt as number of sts permits …,” but how do you “increase in pattern” exactly?

As you’re increasing, you will actually be working stitches in stockinette until you have enough stitches to work a full repeat of the stitch pattern. In the case of the Amanda sleeves, this means one cable cross, or a total of 4 stitches. Below, I’ve charted the sleeve with 4 increases to show how this would look in your knitting.

NOTE: The edge stitch is not charted — always work the edge stitches (aka selvedge stitches) as written in the pattern. Also, only the right side of the sleeve is included below; the same rules apply to the left half of the sleeve. As this particular pattern has you begin to increase after a certain length on your sleeve (not at a certain row), you may find that you are working your increases on a different row of the chart than pictured. The process is the same, regardless of where your increases may fall.

How to increase in pattern

Increase #1: After working one increase, you have [a multiple of 4 stitches] + 1 in the honeycomb portion of your sleeve. You will work all of your honeycomb stitches as charted, and this newly increased stitch in stockinette stitch (knit on the right side, purl on the wrong side).

How to increase in pattern

Increase #2: After working two increases, you have [a multiple of 4 stitches] + 2 in the honeycomb portion of your sleeve. You will work all of your honeycomb stitches as charted, and your two extra stitches in stockinette stitch.

How to increase in pattern

Increase #3: After working three increases, you have [a multiple of 4 stitches] + 3 in the honeycomb portion of your sleeve. You will work all of your honeycomb stitches as charted, and your three extra stitches in stockinette stitch.

How to increase in pattern

Increase #4: This is where it gets fun! After working four total increases, you are back to a pure multiple of 4 in the honeycomb portion of your sleeve. You will continue to work all of your honeycomb stitches as charted, and the 4 increased stitches in stockinette, until you reach the next row with a cable cross. Then, you will work these 4 stitches in the cable cross, maintaining the alternating left/right leaning cable pattern when doing so. If, as in my sample chart, a cable cross occurs on the same row as your 4th increase, wait until the next cross to work it into your honeycomb pattern — so you’re not trying to increase and cable on the same stitch.

Simply continue in this way until you have worked all of your increases!
KGO

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Thanks again, Kate!

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: WIP of the Week, week 2 (and other fun stuff)

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Photo © Amy Christoffers, charts © Kate Gagnon Osborn; used with permission