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).

NOTES AND MODIFICATIONS:

– 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

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.

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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.

Swatch debates

Swatch debates

Going back to my to-knit list from January, my Bellows is done. (Photos as soon as I can get them, but for now let me tell you I haven’t taken it off since the minute I attached the buttons on Sunday afternoon, and don’t foresee taking it off until April.) The idea of knitting a Uniform cardigan out of the army-green Shibui Merino Alpaca in my stash has been rethunk, and Channel is tabled for fall — I’m thinking it’ll be my Rhinebeck sweater, so I better not put it off too long. And meanwhile, along came the idea of the vest. So I’m swatching. And debating.

Up top is the Spiral-Spun Waistcoat from last week, and my Hole & Sons Wool swatch for it. I never would have thought to knit this DK-weight yarn on 5.5mm needles, but it totally works, and I’m getting gauge for the pattern. I’m just not 100% convinced about the garter rib. I knitted that little bit of stockinette at the top of the swatch and am so tempted to keep it that simple, but I think I might hate myself. Plus there’s already a lot of stockinette on my horizon. But do I love the look of it? I like it better in the sketch I did of the sweater, where it’s as baggy as this garment would be on me, but maybe I’d like it best if the garter rib was 1×1 instead of 2×2. Might have to swatch that before I cast on.

And the change in the army-green Uniform plan is to knit it in Knightsbridge instead of the Merino Alpaca. This is to replace a pair of J.Crew cashmere cardigans I had to let go of before we left California — one grey, one blue, both worn to shreds — and I want it to be as light and thin and soft as they were, without knitting a fingering-weight sweater. This Knightsbridge swatch is perfect. I’m thinking of doing the button bands and pocket edging in garter but ribbing the waistband and cuffs, so I’m debating between the 1×1 and 2×2 ribbing. The bigger debate, though, is whether it makes sense to cast this on right now. The only spring/summer sweater in my closet is a thin grey cotton cardigan in the same style (seen here), which I’m utterly dependent on for trade shows and such but which is not especially nice-looking. It might be better to knit a near-term Uniform out of a magnificent cotton-linen blend or something. So if you have any brilliant suggestions in that realm, I’d love to hear it!

Introducing the Fringe Hatalong Series

Introducing the Fringe Hatalong Series of mini-knitalongs

Because I’m so focused these days on filling in my sweater wardrobe with handknits, I’ve been knitting fewer total items, which means trying fewer patterns and techniques and also knitting with fewer yarns. My closet might be benefiting, but what about my range of knitting experiences? How will I ever get around to all those intriguing hat patterns I’ve been stockpiling for ages? And how will I ever make a dent in my copious stash of single skeins of delectable yarns? Plus I love the feeling that comes with finishing things, and those moments are farther apart when you’re knitting sweaters. So I decided to make a pact with myself to knit some hats in 2015. I’m trying to resist the urge to be overly organized and formal about this — to just pick a hat and a yarn that I’m itching to spend time with — and I’m asking you all to knit along with me on these. Ergo, the Fringe Hatalong Series. I’m thinking of doing one roughly every other month (we’ll see!), and I’m thinking hats because they’re instant gratification and don’t generally take a lot of yarn, but more important, they offer the opportunity to try out lots of different skills in the form of lace, cables, colorwork, unusual construction methods, etc. Which means who knows what we might get into along the way.

I’m always saying I think a hat is a great first knitting project, but certainly it’s a great way to get past rectangles (scarves and washcloths) and pick up life-changing new skills. Future selections will bring other tricks into the mix, but the first hat I’ve chosen for the Hatalong series also happens to be a great first hat, period. So I’m hoping some of you who’ve never tried knitting in the round before will join in. The only thing you’ll need to know is how to knit and purl in the same row — we’ll cover the rest together. And if you don’t know how to purl, here’s a video for you!

Leading up to the first Hatalong, tomorrow I’ll have a post on how to knit a hat — meaning not just how to join for working in the round, but how to assess a hat pattern and decide if you want to make any modifications to it along the way. And then I’ll have another post about whether hats require swatches (pros and cons) and how to knit and measure a swatch. I’ll be referring back to those two posts for the entirety of the Hatalong series. Then on Thursday, I’ll announce the first hat selection by publishing the pattern here on the blog, but I’ll tell you in the meantime that the recommended yarn is Tolt Yarn and Wool’s Snoqualmie Valley Yarn, which I have in my stash and have been dying to get to, and which can be ordered from Tolt. If you want to substitute with something from your stash, you’ll need at least 175 yards of ideally 100% wool, DK (or light worsted) yarn with good stitch definition. So you want something plied (preferably not a single-ply or roving yarn), and in a solid, heather, semi-solid or tweed — something that will be well showcased by a very simple stitch pattern, and that won’t compete with that simple stitch pattern. Gauge for the pattern is given as “5 stitches and 10 rows = 1 inch in Garter Stitch,” so feel free to start swatching if you’re into that kind of thing. ;)

The hashtag for this series will be #fringehatalong, and I’ll be encouraging you to share your knitalong hats, your questions and comments once we get officially rolling on Thursday.

Are we excited?

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PLEASE NOTE: There is currently no way to take a picture of hats I haven’t knitted yet, so the photos at the top of this post are of hats I have knitted in the past. They are merely decoration for the post and are not meant to be indicative of the specific patterns that will be included in the Fringe Hatalong Series. If you’re curious what they are, though, clockwise from top left they are: Gentian, Stadium Hat (free pattern), Heel Stitch Hat and Gorro Montanhac.

So close to finished

This close to finished

For awhile there, thought I might actually have a finished Bellows to show you this week — three weeks after casting on the first of the sleeves. I cast on the body (in one piece, with a basting stitch at each side seam) two Friday nights ago, and bound off last Sunday night, a personal-record nine days later. The body was blocked on Monday night — I machine washed it all! — but this has been one of those weeks of nonstop aggravation and disruption, and I never got a chance to knit the collar. I did pick up the stitches for it, but that’s all that’s left: knit the shawl collar and seam the sleeves. So I should be wearing it any minute now. Oh the unparalleled joy of a fast, warm, gorgeous sweater!

I have to tell you, starting this project — half-cotton worsted, held double, on US11 needles — felt truly bizarre and athletic after spending four straight months on comparatively delicate little Amanda. But that was nothing compared to the swatch I knitted Monday night while this body dried. Consulting the next sweater in my hand-drawn lineup, it was the Knightsbridge swatch for Uniform: the tenderest worsted-weight baby llama on US 6 needles. After Bellows, it felt like I was knitting lace-weight mohair on toothpicks! But wow, what a swatch.

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ICYMI: the shop news for the week has been the smash-hit Fashionary sketchbook, plus the return of the bowls and the balms, two things I have a hard time keeping on the shelves! And we also just got 6 more copies of Macramé Pattern Book, if you’ve been waiting for that one.

Also, I posed this week’s Q for You on Instagram and it’s been the start of a lovely little hashtag, #vitalknits. So take a look at that if you’re there, and please add your photo! I’ve loved reading and seeing all of the responses to that Q, thank you.

Have a fantastic weekend! Tell me what you’re making—

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There is such a thing as knitting too quickly

There is such a thing as knitting too quickly

The speediness of Bellows has been backfiring on me a little bit. I went racing into it without the kind of care and consideration I try to exercise, and as a result, mistakes have been made. Before I cast on the first stitch on that plane two weeks ago, I did study the schematic and strategize about size, with my swatch’s gauge in mind. What I hadn’t done is blocked my swatch. I guess I thought I knew what it would do when soaked because I knitted my Amanda in this yarn. But was Amanda held double? On 11s? With this textured stitch? Nope.

So hasty mistake number one: I cast on a larger size, the third size, because of my apparent smaller gauge. Sped through the first sleeve. Soaked it. Blocked it, and was impressed that, with only a little coaxing, it pinned out to the third-size dimensions just fine. “Oh, so I needn’t have worried about any significant difference in gauge,” I blithely mused … without completing that thought. I sped through the second sleeve, and only then realized — duh! — that if my blocked gauge is pattern gauge after all, my sweater will be the third-size dimensions, not smaller as I had wanted. So what I had on my hands was two sleeves for a sweater with almost 10 inches of ease, when what I wanted was 4-5 inches. What to do? Well, Balance is machine washable, so I crossed my fingers and threw them in the wash to see what might happen.

They came out beautifully and I laid them out gently closer to my desired dimensions, so I think all is well. But I confess these embarrassments to you guys in the hope that someone (if not me) will learn from my mistakes. Block your swatch!

Hasty mistake number two: I forgot to mirror the cables on the second sleeve, so both sleeves have right-twisting cables. I think this one is partially haste and partially ambivalence. As much as I love and want this sweater, I don’t think this is the most compelling cable motif. But, eh, so they all twist one direction — not the end of the world.

The one other “mistake” I made on purpose. When I knitted the first sleeve, I worked the cable in the cuff ribbing, even though I don’t like that. I almost never like that. I thought about not doing it, and I’m not sure why I went ahead with it, but it bugs me. So I didn’t do it on the second sleeve. I may leave it alone and call it asymmetry, or perhaps I’ll rip out the first cuff and re-knit it downwards without the cable.  I’ve never done that sort of surgery before and have huge admiration for all who do, and here’s a good small-scale opportunity to try it. Right?

I’m taking at least one day off this weekend, hoping for a fair chunk of knitting time, and that’s what I’ll be working on! How about you?

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p.s. that great flat Bookhou pouch is coming back to the shop soon.

Knitalong FO No. 4: Karen Templer

Knitalong FO No. 4: Karen Templer

This is pretty silly, but since I’ve been doing all of the other #fringeandfriendsknitalong panelist FO posts as interviews — and to help me organize my copious thoughts on this — I’ve interviewed myself for today’s post! Please forgive me—

Your sweater looks a lot like the pattern photo but you actually made several modifications. Can you summarize them?

– Minor details: tubular cast-on, and I worked the diamond cables so they twist toward each other instead of all one direction
– Knitted it at a tighter gauge, so I knitted a larger size to get the finished dimensions I wanted
– Added a pair of reverse-stockinette stitches flanking each diamond panel (in other words, one stitch to the outside of each of those slipped-stitch borders) to give me a little more wiggle room in my final measurements
– Also added extra stitches in the lower back, to give me the extra width I need across the hips
– Because my row gauge was also smaller, I re-charted the yoke to give me more rows (to meet the schematic’s yoke depth) and re-charted the neck shaping while I was at it
– And I did not cast on the button bands along with the waist ribbing — I left that out and did picked-up button bands instead

Weren’t you hell-bent on doing vertical button bands with a ribbon backing and all that?

I was. Then I knitted this sweater — and nothing but this sweater — for four straight months, and to be honest, I wanted to be done. And specifically I wanted to wear it to TNNA, the trade show, and the only way that was going to happen in the time allotted was to pick up the bands rather than seaming them on. I can always pull them out and change them, but I’m actually really happy with how they turned out.

With all the stitch patterning, I thought it would be nice for the bands to have a distinctive edge, so instead of binding off in pattern, I bound off all stitches knitwise from the wrong side, so what you see is just the edge of that row of bound-off stitches. I love it.

What happened to that whole shawl-collar idea?

I’m super jealous of all the shawl-collar versions that came out of this knitalong — Meg really should lock hers up when I visit. But it became clear that this sweater was going to be somewhere between fitted and too small, and I think a shawl-collar sweater wants to be a little slouchy. Plus I thought back to the impetus for all of this and what I wanted was an ivory crewneck cardigan to replace a retired one, so that’s what I did.

You were knitting for Team Seam, yeah? Are you happy you chose that path?

Yes, I knitted the five separate pieces (two fronts, two sleeves, one back) and then, as written in the pattern, joined them at the underarm and worked the yoke seamlessly. Like Kate, I’m a little puzzled at this approach, since the raglan seams are maybe the most important ones, structurally. And if you’re seaming, why not seam the whole thing? But I was planning to rewrite the neck shaping and, if I didn’t get it right on the first try, it was going to be a million times easier to rip back and adjust if it was one seamless piece. So I went ahead and did that. But then I did something I’ve never done before (although surely someone, somewhere has) — I went back in and seamed the seamless raglan.

Sorry, you did what now?

The raglan “seam” for this sweater is just one stitch in reverse stockinette, which seems really vulnerable to me. It looks nice as you’re knitting it, but I could just imagine it stretching out and looking, um, less good over time. I think it’s more a concern with my fabric than for those who used light, fluffy wools at pattern gauge. Rather than go any further into how or why I did that, I’ll save it for a separate post, because it’s a concept I’m really excited about and will be doing some pontificating about.

But meanwhile, yes, I’m very happy the sweater is fully seamed because I want it to last and keep its shape as long as it possibly can, especially given the time I’ve invested. Like, I hope my great-nieces wear it someday.

You mentioned your fabric — you opted to knit this is in a wool-cotton blend, O-Wool Balance. Are you happy with that choice?

Totally! I wanted this to be a 3-season sweater, and I’m so glad I did that because I would hate to be limited to wearing this only in the depths of winter. It’s too good to be packed away! Cotton is weightier and less elastic than wool, and because I also knitted it at finer gauge, my sweater looks really different from the wooly ones. I might need a wooly one someday. But I love the Balance and how it turned out — the fabric is cozy and lovely without being dense or hot. Exactly what I wanted.

So is there anything you’d change?

If I had it to do over again, I would have been less impatient by the time I got to the neck. I specifically charted the neck shaping (see below) in such a way that the slant of the decreases could be maintained beyond the fronts and into the sleeve tops. So if I felt like the neck needed to be higher and smaller, I could just keep knitting and decreasing. I don’t like it when the back neck of a sweater is too wide — I think that’s when it slides around while you’re wearing it. I’m happy with my neck shaping — the actual curve of it — I just wish I had kept going for a few more rows to keep raising and narrowing it at the back. But it’s a minor complaint in the grand scheme of how happy I am with this sweater.

I learned to knit so I could make this sweater — this is what I wanted to be able to do. The fact that it was knitted in the virtual company of so many good friends and readers is icing on the cake. As I was binding off the neck in a hotel room in Phoenix, I became aware of the fact that the sweater started with Anna and me accosting a stranger at Midway last summer on our way to Squam, and ended with me knitting the neck while at TNNA again with Anna, with lots else in between. So I really don’t have words for what all is knitted into this sweater. The difference between it and some anonymous factory-made sweater is genuinely indescribable.

Knitalong FO No. 4: Karen Templer

There are more photos on my Ravelry project page. And Anna and Rebekka are still knitting, so stay tuned! (I can’t believe I’m not last!)

Bleached horn buttons and Knitters Graph Paper Journal from Fringe Supply Co., of course. Photos by my darling husband.

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: A different way to shape a sweater