Cowichan-style Knitalong FO No. 3: Karen Templer

Cowichan-style Knitalong FO No. 3: Karen Templer

In keeping with tradition, I’m interviewing myself today about my finished vest for the Cowichan-style Knitalong. But first, I want to say I am crazy about the sweaters that have come out of this so far. I knew there would likely be a lot fewer sweaters than last year, this being an odder choice, but those y’all have knitted have been amazing in so many ways. I’ve said there will be prizes and I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to sort that out just yet (see aforementioned comments about biting off too much in October) but I WILL! I’m really excited to highlight some of the stellar contributions, and will do so soon. And of course, we have two panelists still knitting, and new people casting on vests all the time. So keep watching that #fringeandfriendskal2015 hashtag. It’s never too late to join in! OK, here we go—

. . .

You knitted your vest with three strands of worsted (Quince’s Lark) at a tighter gauge than the pattern called for in order to get the size down a little. How’d that work out?

It worked out perfectly! I think the density of the fabric is sort of Cowichan-like — outerwear grade. I also cut 14 rows out of the pattern (the first 14 rows above the ribbing) in order to make it proportionally shorter. It is quite fitted, just what I was after, so not very Cowichan-like in that regard, but I love the fabric and the shrunken fit.

Your one trepidation going into this was working the colorwork flat, and specifically whether you’d remember to read the charts back and forth. How did it go?

This vest turned out to be an amazing learning experience. I not only worked the colorwork back and forth, but I decided I wanted to learn the Cowichan method of trapping floats (I watched the videos linked in this post) and it really was like learning to knit all over again. I was not only holding one yarn in each hand — as I always do with colorwork — but I really had to get the hang of the left hand, to the point of purling with that hand, which I’ve never grasped. But learning the four different ways to work a stitch, depending on whether you’re knitting or purling, trapping the right-hand or left-hand color, was such a fun challenge. I actually enjoyed it so much I want to do it again really soon, so as not to lose track of that new skill. Plus I just really want another one of these.

Here’s the funny thing about my fear that I wouldn’t read the charts right: I recharted the front left panel to work out my motif changes and my shaping changes, but when it came to the right front, I didn’t want to take the time to draw another one. So I actually wound up reading the left-front chart backwards in order to knit the right front, and by some miracle it wasn’t confusing at all! I felt totally brilliant.

In the Meet the Panel post, I think you said you were only going to work the checkerboard stripes with the main motif in between, and skip the rest. What changed?

Once I had worked that much of the back, I realized if I didn’t add in the upper motifs, it would look too much like a wallpaper border wrapped around me, and not at all like a Cowichan. I wanted it to be funkier and not pretty, so I went ahead and added the stripes and chain-link motif on the upper part of the sweater. I still think it’s a little on the pretty side.

You said you recharted for the sake of your shaping changes — what’s that about?

I initially was planning to do the squared off armholes like the pattern but decided I really wanted them to lay nicely given my shrunken fit, and same with adding shoulder shaping. I also decided to not knit the garter stitches at the armhole edge. (My plan was to pick up stitches to work armhole edging but I haven’t done anything at all with the armholes yet, and may never.) So at the armholes, I bound off 2 sts for 2 rows and then 1 st for 6 rows. And for the shoulders, I bound off 5 sts each for the last 4 rows, then bound off the neck sts.

That was for the back. The fronts were slightly different because I added a selvage stitch at each edge so I could work mattress stitch as normal, rather than through the centers of the stitches as the pattern seems to expect. So then I just bound off 3 sts on the first armhole row instead of 2.

What else did you change?

The biggest modification I made was to do a zipper instead of buttons. In looking at some zippered Cowichans online, I decided to do the front edges as a slipped stitch plus one stitch worked in garter. Instead of a 4-stitch buttonhole band overlapping a 4-stitch button band, I needed it to be a total of 4 sts — 2 per side instead of 4 per side. That meant I had to make up those two stitches in each of the collar flaps, which was no big deal since, as written, you skip the increase a couple of times. So I just increased more often until I had the right number of stitches. You can kind of see the shaping and edging changes in my chart, which I’ve included a photo of below.

Installing the zipper was another chance to learn something new, and I’m thrilled with what the zipper does for the vest. I now want to put zippers on everything. I found this awesome tip about how to stabilize the edges and probably would not have completed the task were it not for that. So thank you, Splityarn.

Watching all of the vests appear on Instagram over the course of the knitalong, is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

I really love all of the dark ones and kind of wish I’d used black as my MC and the grey and ivory as the CCs. Or that I had used a natural/undyed light grey, which would have been a little more rustic looking. I also love @wendlandcd’s oversized version with the mega collar and want one like that. But I also can’t stop thinking about Andrea’s black side-bursts. I think my next one — and there WILL be a next one! — will be a slightly less fitted, oatmeal-colored, with spare black motifs, one of which might be Andrea’s bursts.

The other thing I’ll do differently on the next one is learn the true Cowichan way of forming the collar. I can’t wait!

Cowichan-style Knitalong FO No. 3: Karen Templer

PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendskal2015: FO No. 2, Meri Tanaka (full series here)

Queue Check — October 2015

Queue Check — October 2015

I’m sure you’ve all been on pins and needles wondering what happened — did I finish my Cowichan-ish vest in time to wear it at Rhinebeck? I can’t believe I didn’t say so in my Rhinebeck report, but yes, yes I did. Wellllllll, sorta. The zipper needs a little more attention and I haven’t decided what I’m doing about the armholes yet, so that’s one last detail to be tended to. But I love it, I wore it, so did Amber, and I hope to have pics of it soon, at which point I’ll interview myself for the series. I also finished my gorgeous Laurus that same weekend.

If I could drop everything and cast on anything I wanted right now, hand to heart it would be another Cowichan vest, with another mega zipper. However, there are more pressing matters. For one thing, there’s my Slotober Frock, which I honestly still haven’t made up my mind about, so it’s not looking like it will be finished before Slow Fashion October comes to an end. That’s fine and just, right? Then the thing I cast on after the last Cowichan end was woven in (oh lord, so many ends) was the aforementioned black version of my Anna Vest. I’ll be at Tolt for the anniversary and book launch party on the 7th, and I thought it would be fun to wear my vest from the book, but those six inches of knitting you see up there are all I have, so there’s no way that’s happening. I am crazy about the way the Terra is knitting up in this stitch pattern — an unexpectedly perfect fabric — so while I can’t wait for this to exist, the fact that I won’t have it in time for the big event means the project is downgraded, while these two skip ahead:

1) Bob’s first sweater. How long have I been promising this? Forever. It’ll be knitted in this great deep blue-green O-Wool Balance and it will be a classic rollneck pullover. I’m thinking saddle shouldered, but I’ve not knitted a saddle shoulder before. Research to do.

2) My perfect grey pullover.  We’ve talked about this treasured Sawkill Farm yarn — I just need to make up my mind about the pattern. Do I want to do the Purl Sweatshirt Sweater? Improvise a perfectly basic top-down crewneck (with basted seams, of course)? Or apply aforementioned saddle-shoulder research to my own sweater, too. (I mean, this is pretty perfect, right?)

Decisions, decisions. Thankfully there’s the next Hatalong hat, launching tomorrow, to alleviate all the stockinette stitch in my future.


PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: September 2015

Hatalong No. 5 PREVIEW

Fringe Hatalong No. 5 PREVIEW

If you know anything about me, you know I love Fall and I love cables, and I think the two go together like peanut butter and jelly. So in plotting out the Fringe Hatalong Series patterns, naturally I wanted the October hat to be cabled. This month’s pattern been written just for us by one of my favorite designers, and while it’s striking and incredible and intricate-looking, it’s doable even if you’ve never done cables before. I promise! We’ll be working from a chart, so if you’re new to charts take a minute to read through my notes about that from the Hermaness Worsted intro.

I’ll reveal the hat and post the pattern here next Thursday, October 29th. Meanwhile, let’s gather our yarn!

Recommended yarn: The pattern is written for The Fibre Co’s new Cumbria, which is a really special yarn. It’s a worsted-weight blend of 60% Merino, 30% Masham and 10% Mohair. Merino, of course, is incredibly soft. Masham is a British longwool that’s a natural light grey, which creates really beautiful, muted colors when it’s overdyed. And the Mohair gives it a nice bloom when it’s blocked. So it’s a yarn with loads of touchability as well as great stitch definition. I really recommend trying to get your hands on a skein of Cumbria for this if you can. Ask for it at your local yarn shop.

Suggested substitutions: Cumbria is 238 yards per skein, and the hat does use most of that (allowing enough for swatching if you’re into it), so if you’re substituting, make sure you’ve got equivalent yardage. Cumbria’s recommended gauge is given as 18-20 sts per 4 inches in stockinette stitch on US6-8 needles. Because cables knit up more tightly, this pattern’s gauge is 20 sts per 2.75 inches on US6. But you want to start with a yarn with a similar base stockinette gauge to Cumbria in order to get similar results, so consult the ball band on whatever yarn you’re considering and look for that 18-20 sts on US6-8 range. Any nice lofty, neatly-plied, worsted-weight yarn will give you good stitch definition for the cables, but the fabric will be a little bit different from Cumbria’s fiber blend, depending on what you choose. Some good alternatives suggested by the pattern designer — if you’re stash-diving or can’t get Cumbria — would be Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride Worsted, Green Mountain Spinnery’s Mountain Mohair, Fancy Tiger’s Heirloom Romney or Istex’s Lett Lopi.

I do recommend sticking with solids/heathers/tweeds to allow the cable pattern to really shine; variegated yarns will compete with or even blot out the appearance of the cables.

So get your yarn lined up and be ready for the big reveal next Thursday! And keep those #fringehatalong posts coming.


PREVIOUSLY in the Fringe Hatalong Series: Laurus by Dianna Walla

Slotober Frock step 2: What will it be?

Slotober Frock step 2: What will it be?

Where this fabric Allison made is concerned, there are two of me:

One me thinks this is very special fabric and that I need to think long and hard about what it wants to be. I don’t want to rush into anything, cut it hastily, risk wasting it by sewing it into the Wrong Thing. The extreme version of this me thinks the wisest thing to do — especially given how Spring-y the fabric feels to me — is to say, you know what, I’m going to learn the lessons of Slow Fashion October and not try to crank out a dress this month after all, because that would be rushing it and making for the sake of making (to meet my own arbitrarily set goal) rather than being certain I’m spending my time and energy making something I’ll truly get a lot of use out of.

The other me thinks, yes, this is indeed special fabric, but it’s not actually spun from GOLD! I don’t want to overthink it and risk paralyzing myself out of fear of getting it wrong. This is also supposed to be fun, right? The extreme version of this me wants to sew it up into a floor-length Anna gown and pray for just one occasion in my life where a dress that dramatic could go. It would be the most beautiful dress ever. And I would wear it with my biker boots.

Here’s the thing about this fabric that’s stumping me a bit, if I’m being 100% honest: I’m not sure it’s me. I think it’s gorgeous and amazing and I could happily stare at it for hours on end. But how much does it have to do with the rest of my wardrobe? What do I layer it with? Can I make a single outfit with other things I own, or is it only worn one way: on its own.

The best word for it is pretty — it is insanely pretty — and that’s not a trait I relate to much. It would be very simple to sew it into a very pretty dress for someone else. (I see all those hands shooting up right now.) What’s harder is figuring out what it can be that’s me. I have to be able to imagine getting up in the morning and putting it on. It’s also quite a statement, and like I was saying the other day, that tends to limit frequency of wear. I feel like whatever it is needs to be fairly spare and simple — I don’t want to be drowned by the pattern or to feel like the dress is wearing me, but a simpler shape will also allow the fabric to shine.

So I’ve sketched a bit. I’ve piled the fabric onto my dress form. I’ve started a Pinterest board. For now, I’m just going to think about it. But not too hard.


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Week 3, LOVED

Slotober Frock step 1: Yarn becomes fabric

Slotober Frock step 1: Yarn becomes fabric

This is the story of how a little pot of wet yarn became 4.3 yards of exquisite, one-of-a-kind fabric. I’m mostly going to let the (obscene number of) photos do the talking, because to me it’s pretty much sorcery, but this is my friend Allison Volek-Shelton of Shutters and Shuttles working her magic for me. As I wrote in my Fall Amirisu essay: “I don’t raise sheep, or shear them. I’ve never spun my own yarn. And I’m not much of a weaver, either. I’m still at the mercy of others for the materials I make my clothes from. When I knit a sweater or sew a dress, I can be 100% certain that no one was forced to make it for me in unsafe conditions or without being paid a living wage. But what about those materials I’m working with?” So as you may know, my big idea for Slow Fashion October was to have Allison weave a piece of custom cloth for me, from which I will cut and sew a garment.

We got together several weeks ago and decided to build it around a painted warp, a process I’ve seen her do fantastically well for designers Jamie and the Jones. So one day in mid-Sept, I went to her studio to watch the actual painting of the warp, above, and that’s where it all began.

Slotober Frock step 1: Yarn becomes fabric

The US-grown and -spun cotton was painted with fiber reactive dyes Allison had mixed up in a few different shades of blue. After it sat a few minutes, she washed out each hank and hung them to dry in the warm Tennessee breeze, then last Friday I went to watch her begin tying it onto the loom.

Slotober Frock step 1: Yarn becomes fabric

She had previously been weaving blankets on this loom, and cutting those off left the 1200 ends of natural warp, onto which she would tie the 1200 new ends of my painted warp. One knot at a time. This would take her about 4.5 hours, so I left her to it. On Monday afternoon, I returned for the next step: warping the loom, i.e. passing those ends through the 16 harnesses. Gradually the new warp made its way up around the sectional beam, with Allison painstakingly combing out the ends a little at a time as she went, like trying to comb through a little girl’s hair after a bath.

Slotober Frock step 1: Yarn becomes fabric

As she continued to work, I took 600 photos that look like this:

Slotober Frock step 1: Yarn becomes fabric

Once she’d reached the other ends, it was time to tie them to the canvas apron (fewer knots this time!) and then finally the weaving could begin. I was already a little in awe of how physical the whole process is, and then she began to weave. All I can say is that is hard work.  I wish I had video.

Slotober Frock step 1: Yarn becomes fabric

The next afternoon she called me back to her studio so I could watch as she cut it from the loom — 4.3 yards of splendor, the final yard of which we decided to do in a textured weave. It is so beautiful, and so soft.

Slotober Frock step 1: Yarn becomes fabric

Don’t ask me what I plan to do with it. Figuring that out is step 2.


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Week 2, SMALL — and some of my hardest-working garments

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and some of my hardest working garments

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and the hardest working garments in my closet

So again, WOW on the response so far to Slow Fashion October. Today begins Week 2 and our theme is SMALL — we’re talking handmade / living with less / quality over quantity / the capsule wardrobe / indie fashion / small-batch makers / sustainability in every sense. I’d love to hear about everything from your favorite local-to-you designers to how and when you choose to add new items to your closet, wherever they may come from. A lot of people have pledged to spend this month really evaluating their wardrobes and their works-in-progress and making considered decisions about what stays, what gets finished/frogged/donated, what the gaps are, and how those will get filled. So this week should be great!

For me, for starters, I thought I’d show you the Gallery Dress I finished last month and keep going on about. I didn’t really realize it until it was finished, but this dress epitomizes the kind of thing I want in my small closet, being so incredibly versatile and wearable. (Albeit linen.) A few weeks ago, Kathy Cadigan came to Nashville to photograph a bunch of Fringe stuff with me over the course of two days. I had just finished the dress and couldn’t stop wearing it, and the night before our shoot, I was demonstrating to her that I could pull almost anything out of my closet, throw it on with this dress, and look (and feel) pretty damn great. So the next morning, we took a little bit of time to shoot some of those variations. (In our still-empty new living room, which I now think we should never furnish.) At the time, I wasn’t thinking of it as a Slow Fashion October post, but as I waited for the images and thought about it, I realized one of the most interesting parts is what I chose to grab for these photos. I didn’t do a lot of strategizing about what to include, wasn’t trying too hard to make it any particularly pointed range of looks. But as it happens, the things I reached for were some of some of my all-time favorites. The way that all of these beloved, hardworking, long-lasting pieces go together is exactly what I’m striving for with any new garment I decide to make or buy.

The dark spot in this is that some of these things are not of known origins, having been purchased before I began paying attention. So all I can do is hope that no humans were harmed in their making, wear them as long as possible, and do all I can to avoid new things being manufactured on my behalf.

TOP: Worn with a trench vest from J.Crew circa 2009 or ’10. Vests and trench coats are two of my favorite things, so I bought this immediately upon seeing it several years ago, and I can’t imagine there will ever be a year of my life that I don’t wear it. I love it immeasurably. I see now that it was made in the Philippines, hopefully in a reputable factory, but I don’t know. The tote is via Fringe Supply Co, made by a small and conscientious San Francisco company whose workroom I have visited. The boots are new J.Crew, made in Romania, and I wish I could know more than that. Ethical shoes are one of the hardest challenges. Regardless, I’ll be wearing these for years to come.

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and the hardest working garments in my closet

Paired here with the denim shirt I wear probably 150 days a year (including in a ridiculous number Fringe Supply Co. photos). It’s Madewell from several years ago, a dead-ringer for an identical predecessor I wore for at least ten years, and was made in China, so all the same caveats as above. When the time comes, I vow to sew my own replacement. The bag is handmade. The boots are Gap — any markings have worn off, but given what I paid for them I’m guessing they were made in China.

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and the hardest working garments in my closet

Here it is on its own. I was considering this one a try-out of the pattern and sewed it from some inexpensive linen I had on hand — made in China, purchased at JoAnn. It’s the dress version of the Gallery Tunic and Dress pattern (obviously), lengthened by 1.5 inches, band collar variation, and I left off the sleeves, finished the edges with bias. I’ll absolutely be making it again and will address the one fit issue which is the way it wants to form pleats at the shoulders. After consulting Liesl about it, I need to compare the slope of the shoulders to some other patterns that sit better on my frame and figure out how to adjust for that. If you sew and pay attention to this stuff, you know finding fabric that was not made in China is incredibly difficult, and I hope we’ll be able to explore that this month. Handmade bag. And J.Crew sandals from a couple summers ago, made in Italy.

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and the hardest working garments in my closet

This outfit makes my heart sing. The sweater is designed and knitted by me — version two of this one, pattern coming soon — and the bag is handmade by Poglia in NYC (a definite investment piece that will weather beautifully over the years). I would wear this every single day if I could get away with it. But what’s especially pleasing to me about it is that I sketched it and then I made it come true.

Slow Fashion October, Week 2: SMALL — and the hardest working garments in my closet

So we went on to shoot all the planned stuff for two days, and on the third morning, I got up and got dressed to drop Kathy at the airport and head to work. I put the dress back on and pulled my favorite sweatshirt over my head, and Kathy got the camera back out for one last shot. I don’t even know how old this sweatshirt is or where it came from. The tags are long gone. It has holes and stains and paint splatters, and should really never leave the house, but I love it too much to let it go. I’m going to attempt to copy it for myself, and also want to knit a sweater that fits exactly like this, for pulling on over everything. My pouch is handmade by Bookhou, one of the most thoughtful and admirable makers I know. (Returning to Fringe Supply Co. soon.)

I’m not sure I’ve ever owned a garment that elicited as many compliments this dress does, which isn’t why I wear it multiple times a week, but is a pretty nice benefit! I’m still wearing it, even though it’s linen and the weather has taken a serious turn, so if you expect to run into me anytime soon, odds are I’ll have it on.


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Week 1, You (me, all of us)

Photos by Kathy Cadigan

Cowichan vest errata — and how to work those edgings!

Cowichan vest errata — and how to work those edgings!

This weekend, I sat down with my trusty Knitters Graph Paper Journal to rechart the Cowichan-style knitalong vest to my revised row count, try out some shaping tweaks, and see how it looks with the motifs boiled down the way I’m planning. (Will I really like it with just the main flower/snowflake motif and the two checkerboard stripes, or will it look too much like a wallpaper border? Still undecided!) In the process, I realized there’s a problem with the charts. Not necessarily an error, but a detail or discrepancy that requires a heads up—


The image above is of the left front and the back, with their selvages lined up, as if you’re about to seam them together for the left side seam. When you work standard mattress stitch, you lose one full stitch at each edge. The side seam should look just like the center of the back — with a vertical column of MC stitches and just those two little contrast stitches connecting the big flower shapes in the middle. If you mattress stitch these two edges together, the flower “petals” and the horizontal bars will meet. The fact that the needed joining row is depicted at both edges suggests to me that the Japanese would seam this differently — working through the center of each stitch instead of on either side of it, so you wind up with the left leg of the edge stitch from the left front panel meeting up with the right leg of the edge stitch from the back panel. If you knit it as pictured, that’s how you’ll have to seam it. Otherwise, you’ll need to add one stitch either at each edge of the back, or at the side edges of each front. (Augment either the front panels or the back panel — not both.) And if you do that, you’ll also need to invert the checkerboard stripes on one or the other so they match up correctly as well. The easiest/safest thing would be to seam through the centers of the stitches as they appear to expect you to do.


It’s also been pointed out (thanks, Francis) that in the page 2 diagram of the front panels, for the garter stitch button band, it says “4 rows” where it should say “4 sts.” That’s 4 stitches wide.


As noted on Instagram over the weekend, after watching the float-trapping videos Kathy shared for Friday’s links post, I decided to try it. I’ve been attempting to get used to a different way of holding my yarn anyway, and weaving floats like this meant learning multiple new tricks as well as purling continental, which I’ve never managed to do. I’m doing it! All of it. And having a blast. But like I said on IG, it felt like learning to knit all over again. It also totally looks like beginner knitting (more than my beginner knitting ever did) — it is a lumpy mess on the front, while being amazingly gorgeous on the back. But I’m fine with it. It’s fun to be a beginner, and blocking will no doubt help.

BUT, I have a different problem, which Meri also asked me about, which is how to work the solid-color edgings — the garter-stitch armholes and button bands — without the edging looking ratty. I polled the great knitters of Instagram and the consensus was that the best way to do it (other than skipping it and working the edgings separately!) was to do an intarsia-style twist when switching from the colorwork section to the solid edgings. You can see all of the input here, and I found this SweetKM intarsia twist video to be super helpful.


PREVIOUSLY IN #fringeandfriendskal2015: How to read a Japanese knitting pattern (full series here)