Swatching for Bob

Swatching for Bob

Ok, I’m on the brink of casting on my first sweater for my husband. Let’s recap my concerns/criteria for this project:

1. He has to love it and wear it, which means
2. it has to fit perfectly and
3. not be too hot (i.e. not 100% wool) while
4. being washable and durable. But also,
5. I have to enjoy the knitting or I’ll never finish it.

We had decided Fort would be interesting enough for me to knit but not too interesting for him to wear, and to my surprise, he even wants the elbow patches. I believe I’ve narrowed the yarn down to O-Wool Balance, which has some nice heather to it, not too far from the look of the Shelter that Fort is designed for, but is a washable merino/cotton blend. I ordered two shades of green to have a good look at (along with a hefty load of charcoal for myself) and we both love this Emerald one, which is really a sort of earthy Blue Spruce hue (not a jewel tone) that looks awesome with his blue eyes. So far so good!

But given how daunting this feels — and also because I’m thinking of using all that charcoal for my Channel Cardigan — I’m being more diligent than ever about getting to know the yarn. I knitted this big ol’ swatch so we could get a feel for the fabric and the stitch pattern. I washed it, abused it a little bit, even threw it in the dryer, which it totally shrugged off. LOVE YOU BALANCE! But as for this stitch pattern, it’s been blackballed. Bob thinks it’s too chunky looking, and I can see his point. And as much as I think it’s more interesting than stockinette as a fabric, and I do love him enough to put myself through an entire sweater’s worth of k2/p2 if his heart desired it, I can’t say I’m sorry not to be doing that. So it looks like we’re going to stick with Fort and all its other nice details, just doing it in stockinette instead of this waffle texture.

And here’s the thing I really want to mention. It turns out there are quite a few people on Instagram who are about to embark on a sweater for their husbands (all firsts, I think!), so we’re doing a knit-along. A very loose one: all that’s been declared is that we’re knitting for dudes and starting on or about May 1. I don’t think we’ve picked out a hashtag yet, but keep an eye on my @karentempler feed or @byannieclaire, who is the ring-leader on this, and we’ll make sure it’s known when we have one. [UPDATE: It's #knittingforhimalong.] Do join in!

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p.s. I also cast on another sweater this weekend. So much for small palate cleansers! Or is that what the swatch was?

A very twisted selvage

A very twisted selvage

Last night, I went to Claddagh Yarns for a talk by Narangkar Glover (maker of the Knitters Graph Paper Journal) about color theory and knitting. Without giving it a moment’s thought, I wore dark jeans, black oxfords and a black-and-ivory striped tee. But I at least I was knitting with purple yarn!

You may be wondering what’s become of my Tag Team Sweater Project sweater since Seattle, and though it looks barely changed, there’s been a fair amount of knitting. On the way home from Seattle, I picked up stitches for the buttonhole band. (The pattern gives actual stitch counts between buttonholes, and I approve of the placement, so I wasn’t worried about calculating spacing.) Picking up 3 stitches for every 4 rows, as indicated, I wound up with about 56% of the prescribed number of stitches. Like: whoa, major discrepancy. Although I couldn’t explain it (we stuck to the pattern length, and our row gauge might be different but not that different), it was clear that if my stitch count was so far off from the pattern’s, I wouldn’t be able to use its stitch counts for the buttonholes, so I had to abort that mission. Back home, over the course of a few different sittings, I redid the pick-up several times. I knitted one whole band to completion to prove to myself that it was way too short. Ripped it out and picked up higher and higher ratios of stitches before realizing the problem was exactly what I had expected on day one: the selvage stitches.

Trillium has a selvage treatment called Wrapped Chain Selvage (which is called Twisted Stitch Selvage in Slade). Anna and I debated whether or not to do it — I feared it would eventually complicate my life, but she wanted to try it, and you know I do like to try new things so I was persuaded. Then I sort of forgot it was there. With normal stockinette, there’s the usual running thread between every edge stitch and the one next to it, and you pick up stitches in the gaps between those threads. With WCS/TSS, each gap is two rows tall, with the corresponding running threads being twisted around each other, tight enough that you might not notice it’s out of the ordinary. So instead of picking up stitches in each gap, you pick up one in a gap, then plunge the tip of your needle between those two twisted strands and pick up a stitch from there. Oy. At least I finally figured it out, and the bands were short work after that.

So all I have left now is the sleeves, which I’m downsizing from the pattern. Think I can get through them in a weekend?

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IN DRAMATIC WEBSHOP NEWS, the hotly anticipated Cable Fashion Drama is back in stock! This slender-but-jam-packed Japanese pattern book generated a waiting list as long as my arm — I’ve never seen anything like it. But the waiting list people have all been alerted to its presence, so it’s time for you to have a crack at the stack. You can order your copy right here.

Also freshly restocked: Japanese thread snips and row counters, Bento Bags in large natural linen, and two other waiting list items: the Indian rosewood crochet hook in size H and the bone DPNs in smaller sizes, US2 and US3. And might I suggest a tasty treat to go with?

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Happy weekend, y’all. What are you doing while I knit my sleeves?

Organizing my to-knit list

Organizing my to-knit list

I’ve decided to try something new this year — a little thing called planning. Remember when we talked about this? Most of the things I noted in that August 2013 post are still on my wish list! And I’ve been especially itchy lately because there are so many things I want to be knitting and so many yarns in my stash I want to be knitting with, and yet I keep casting on totally other things. Monday night I sat down and made a list of the sweaters I currently think A) I want to knit and B) will contribute to improving my wardrobe situation (as opposed to impromptu knitting projects making matters worse). They are as follows:

1.) I’m thinking about a worsted-weight version of the aforementioned Perkins Cove Pullover by Pam Allen, and am thinking it could be lovely and immensely useful in the navy blue Worsted Twist that my friends at Purl Soho sent me. Definitely a three-season, go-everywhere sweater for me.

2.) There’s a simple top-down sweater in my head that I really want in my closet and that I think would be perfect in Shibui’s Pebble (held double), which I’ve been dying to find the right project for. Would be a workhorse in one of the lighter greys — not sure which one yet. (Swatching with the Abyss I have handy.)

3.) I am absolutely knitting Jared Flood’s Channel cardigan, as noted before, and ordered a skein of O-Wool Balance (organic cotton and wool) to see if that might be the right year-round yarn for it. Thanks so much to Hagen and Vanessa for the recommendation. The skein arrived Monday eve and it’s marvelous — before I’ve even swatched with it, I ordered a sweater’s worth … and then some. If it doesn’t prove to be perfect for Channel (although I think it will), there’s no harm in having a pile of luscious charcoal yarn on hand, am I right?

4.) I also plan to finish my army-green Slade, which will be another wardrobe staple, but since it’s the warmest sweater on the list, knitted in Shibui Merino Alpaca, I’ll chip away at it between now and next winter. Also since it’s stockinette and worked in pieces, it’s easy to squeeze into gaps.

?.) And last but not least, I’m going to sleep-away camp not once but twice this year! (So excited — one trip with my whole family, plus I’m finally going to Squam!!) And I like the idea of knitting a little tee or tank of some sort for that and other purposes. I’m thinking maybe a scaled-down version of Bristol Ivy’s Kit Camisole, or something like the Purl Bee Cap Sleeve Lattice Top or the Riverine Pullover from last summer’s Pom Pom. But I’m probably better off sewing for this scenario, which I need and want to do anyway. So this one’s a maybe. (I’m also working on rounding up the latest great summer patterns since there’s been a flood of them recently. Here’s last year’s roundup if you missed it.)

Them’s the sweaters. There are nine months left in the year, and I have to estimate an average of six to nine weeks per sweater, since I’ve sworn off monogamy. One thing I learned from working on nothing but Trillium for five straight weeks (still ongoing) is that monogamy makes me batty — and a little resentful of whatever it is I’m being faithful to. Plus there are also these items on the list:

• Bob and I have settled on Fort for the first sweater I’ll knit him — I’ve just been waiting to find the right yarn. For him, it absolutely cannot be 100% wool, and ideally it will be washable, but I’m not wild about superwash yarns. After getting that Balance in the mail on Monday, though, we’re both thinking it might be just the ticket and have ordered two more colors to test for him. That’s one more sweater on the list.

• I’m still committed to making some kind of shawl for my mom … just as soon as I can figure out which one!

• There’s another pattern in my head that has to get out — a wrap that I’d love to publish through someone else. I’ve swatched this (right idea; wrong yarn), have extensive notes, and might enlist a sample knitter for it once I swatch with what I think will be the right yarn. But this is a must happen, one way or another. It’s just too good.

And I still want to crochet and weave and macramé and knit footie socks, and allow myself to squeeze in other satisfying little quick-finish projects along the way — to pick up new skills, work with some of the single-skein beauties in my stash, act on whatever new patterns come along that demand to be knitted, etc.

So that’s a whole lot of knitting for the year (nine months), especially if you’re me! I have to be realistic and flexible about this list: If I’m a slave to it, the things on it will feel like obligations instead of desires, which will take the fun out of it. But if I don’t at least write this all down and post it publicly, I’ll get to the end of 2014 with a bunch of random FOs and none of this accomplished. So there you have it.

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The perfect little knitting respite

The perfect little knitting respite

Multiple new skills learned: check. New-to-me yarn: check. Fast finish: check. Amazingly great hat: check! I’m happy I gave myself this little break from knitting my Tag Team Sweater — it can be so rejuvenating in the middle of a long project to shift gears for a minute or two. And this hat is immensely satisfying, both from the process and the product perspectives: fun to knit (the Portuguese way!) and one of the grooviest things I’ve made.

Pattern: Gorro Montanhac by Rosa Pomar (previously seen here)
Yarn: Blackthorn (undyed/#7016) and Wynter (gold/#7650) both from Classic Elite Yarns

A few notes:

  • My favorite kind of pattern these days boils down to “Cast on X stitches. Knit the chart,” and this fits that bill. Love!
  • It’s charted from the wrong side, as the Portuguese knit from the wrong side. So the “right-slanted decrease” (the first in each pair) is actually left-leaning when viewed from the front. Knit it as an SSP. And conversely, knit the “left-slanted decrease” as a P2TOG. (Of course, if you’re knitting it from the right side, that would be SSK and K2TOG.)
  • I realized I haven’t really dealt with charted colorwork decreases before, so I’m not sure if it would be done differently here in the US, but I was momentarily confused by the decrease and the stitch next to it (which it actually consumes) both being present in the chart. In case that should confuse anyone else, note that the paired decreases are right up against each other — there are no worked stitches in between. So whereas the chart makes it seem like stitches 8, 9 and 24, 25 continue to be worked all the way to the top, they actually cease to exist as you work row 26.
  • [edited to add:] I skipped row 37 of the chart, the last work-even round, just to speed up the decreases that tiny bit for a less pointy hat.
  • The pattern calls for aran-weight yarn with US10/6mm needles and a gauge of 4 sts/inch. I went up to a bulky yarn and US10.5/6.5mm needles, because hats tend to be small for me, and my gauge is still smaller than Rosa’s! Her hat must be 20 inches and my finished circumference (before blocking) is about 19, which just fits my big head. I may gain a little room in blocking, but FYI.
  • Love this yarn, but I’m also eager to do it with Rosa’s own Beiroa.

Anyway, I’m smitten, and there are more of these in my future. Here’s this one on Ravelry.

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Sleeveless in Seattle

Tag Team Sweater Project update

If you were tooling past the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue WA on Saturday evening, on whatever highway that is, you may have seen some strange women jumping up and down on the 4th-floor terrace — in the rain. That would have been Anna and me. As I mentioned, Kathy Cadigan did us the great honor of shooting these photos of us in our Tag Team Sweater Project sweaters. The sweaters themselves left a little bit to be desired. As you can see, my Trillium is currently a cap-sleeved number with no button bands or neck edging, while Anna’s Lila is a sultry, off-the-shoulder sort of thing. Very Flashdance. Still, we were wearing them, so they are technically sweaters. And although we didn’t finish them in time for the shoot, we had a ton of fun.

Tag Team Sweater Project update

But let’s talk about this yoke for a minute. The true brilliance of the whole project became clear the moment I was knitting a yoke without having had to knit the whole big rectangle that precedes it. And I’m sort of glad I botched that first sleeve and skipped ahead, because this method of working the yoke upwards from provisionally cast-on sleeve stitches is brilliant. Apart from that little trick, the only modification I made to the yoke was with regard to the number of nupps involved. The pattern calls for basically a solid stream of them in the center of the chevrons. I decided to cut that in half and knitted only the ones at the peaks and valleys, omitting the ones in between. I’m in love with the circular yoke approach — in love with how well this fits my shoulders! — but am a little puzzled by the multiple sets of short rows worked in stages up the back, rather than just at the neckline. All that extra fabric is giving the sweater a little bit of a hunchback, but I’m trusting that it will work out in the blocking.

Tag Team Sweater Project update

We had joked at the beginning of all this about whether we’d be great friends or arch enemies in the end. It’s not the end, of course, but it’s definitely been a great bonding experience between knitters. If we’ve learned a lesson, it’s that tag-team knitting is a fantastic idea, just as long as you don’t saddle it with an unrealistic deadline.

For the rest, stay tuned here and to @karentempler and @toltyarnandwool. And there are more photos and thoughts on Anna’s blog today as well.

Tag Team Sweater Project update

p.s. There are a few more copies of the new Taproot in the shop — the one with the gorgeous Carrie Bostick Hoge shawl pattern. And you’ll also find a handful of XL bentos in red ticking. Assuming you act fast.

p.p.s. Those poor old ballet flats are officially OUT of the closet — so shabby!

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All photos by Kathy Cadigan

Top 2 ways to purl a stitch

Top 2 ways to purl a stitch

Friday was a big learning day for me. I picked up all sorts of random stuff from Ragga Eiriksdottir in the course of learning to steek. (I steeked! And I was in the local paper!) I took another Mary Jane Mucklestone class wherein I learned the Norwegian purl — purling without moving the yarn to the front. Life altering! And then that night in the Marriott lounge, Brooke taught me to knit the Portuguese (ish?) way so I could knit Rosa Pomar’s ridiculously great hat as intended. (Coincidentally, Brooke had learned this from Mary Jane last month, in her Andean knitting class.) And wow, that is the most genius way of knitting EVER.

You knit with the “wrong side” facing — so it’s all done in purl — and the working yarns looped around the back of your neck, one each direction. So instead of working out how to hold two yarns, you hold neither! For tension, you just pull down on the work. And to purl, you insert the right needle into the stitch and use your thumb to pop the appropriate yarn over the needle. Hard to describe but I’m telling you: genius. I only want to knit this way forevermore.

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Vogue Knitting Live was good — much smaller than Stitches West, less manic — and once again it was great to see/meet so many of you. (And Laura from the Purl Bee! And Jared Flood!) Anna and I did do a Tag Team Sweater Project photo shoot on Saturday, with none other than Kathy Cadigan as our photographer, and I can’t wait to show you the results on Wednesday. But I’m in the van today headed back to CA and am pretty fried, so please forgive me if I don’t manage to get a post up in between. Blogging on a mobile device still leaves a lot to be desired!

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Turning a sweater into an adventure

Tag Team Sweater Project update

To no one’s surprise, I’m not in the best shape on my Tag Team Sweater Project sweater. One week from today, I’ll be in Seattle, where I’m supposed to have a finished sweater. What I should have had by Monday, when my beautiful sweater body arrived from Anna (thank you, Anna!), was two sleeves to attach it to. Instead, I had one sleeve. One very wretched sleeve, plagued with ladders, which is a problem I’ve never struggled with before. (Except for that one time I attempted to knit a hat on four DPN’s, but that was sheer foolishness.) So instead of having one more sleeve to knit, I have two more sleeves to knit. And I also have a total loss of patience for knitting sleeves. The last thing I knitted before we started all this was Casey’s mitts, so I’ve been knitting nothing but stockinette tubes for as long as I can remember.

I can’t take it anymore!

I had originally envisioned being done with my four sleeves well before the appointed parts exchange date and had daydreamed about starting the yoke as a separate piece, with the completed sleeves and body grafted onto it later. So that idea was lingering in my mind, even as the sleeve due dates came and went. Since I can’t deal with the sleeves right now and am desperate to move on with the FUN PART — and after consulting Instagram and Michele Wang — I’ve decided to take the approach Felicia describes on her Craft Sessions blog. To wit: I separated the body into fronts and back and, as of last night, am working the phantom arms upwards from provisionally cast-on stitches. And just like that, this sweater went from feeling like a chore to an adventure! Wish me luck as I try to make great progress on it this weekend.

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Speaking of Seattle next week, I don’t think I’ve officially announced this: I won’t just be at VK Live taking classes and making the rounds. Instead I’ve taken Brooke up on her offer to share her booth again, so the Cabinet of Curiosities is going to Seattle! What this means, most significantly, is lots of drive time to work on my sweater.

New at Fringe Supply Co

In shop news for the weekend, two new things have arrived: Taproot 9, which includes a Carrie Bostick Hoge shawl pattern, Lola, that made me gasp out loud, and … cookies! My favorite cookies (to put it mildly), which you can read all about on the cookie page. Also, great news, the wildly popular repair hooks are back in stock in all sizes, in both bone and ebony. So you can find all that and more at Fringe Supply Co.!

Have a great weekend, everyone! As always, I’d love to hear what you’re working on—