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?


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.


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

Goodbye tools, hello Bellows

Goodbye tools, hello Bellows

This may look like a swatch, but let me point out that it’s the jumbo bento bag and size 11 needles you’re looking at. And that this is, in fact, about half of the first sleeve of my Bellows cardigan-to-be, knitted in about two hours on my flight to Phoenix on Friday. I was shooting this pic on the bed of the hotel room when I realized I had left my tool pouch in a hotel lobby chair after knitting a couple of rows while waiting for our room to be ready. By the time I ran back down there, it was gone, and despite putting out an APB on Instagram for other trade show attendees and checking with lost and found incessantly, it was not to be recovered. That makes two things I can remember losing in recent years: 1) my tool pouch and 2) the tool pouch before it, lost somewhere in Utah in July while driving from CA to TN. Nice work, KT.

Of course, tools are replaceable, but this pouch happened to have several of my most-used needles in it — including the needle I needed to finish the buttonband and neckband on Amanda. As previously noted, I had not brought a back-up outfit. But Amy Palmer loaned me a circular that night. Anna loaned me a tapestry needle at breakfast Sunday morning. And a kind yarn shop owner gave me a pair of teeny little snips when she saw me sitting on a bench outside the exhibit hall trying to sew on buttons without any scissors. (Thankfully, I had put the buttons and thread into my bento and not the tool pouch.) So in the end, through the kindness of knitters (in contrast with the one who made off with my pouch), Amanda got done and worn and highly praised. I hope to have photos soon.

But let’s talk about Bellows! I spent the first part of my flight studying the schematic and weighing it against my swatch. Once again, my stitch gauge is smaller than pattern gauge, but this time my row gauge is right on. I’m aiming for 4-5″ of positive ease, and I’ll get there by knitting the third size (43.25″) at my smaller gauge, which will come out to about 38.5″ in the bust. But once again again, that would give me almost zero ease at my 38″ hips, which I do not like. For the body pieces, I might cast on the fourth size (48.5″ would be 43″ at my gauge, about 4.5″ ease at the hip) and decrease down to the third size, which is my preferred way of giving myself the A-line shape I require. Or in this case, given the scale of the allover stitch pattern, I might just start out on a larger needle and then go down a needle size at the waist. Haven’t decided yet, so I started with a sleeve.

I only worked on Bellows on my flight out and back, plus about an hour in the airport — a grand total of six or seven hours — and I was just a few rows from finishing the first sleeve! After spending four months on my Amanda, you can imagine how I feel about this.


Reorganizing my to-knit list

Reorganizing my to-knit list

Sooooo, wardrobe planning. Where was I? Let’s see: handmade wardrobe, quicker sweaters, choosing wisely … right. My very favorite thing about making my own clothes — control freak that I am — is having near-total control. You know what it’s like to decide you want some specific thing and then try to find it: Impossible. But if you’re making things yourself, you have a little more flexibility to actually imagine your ideal wardrobe and then bring it to fruition, as opposed to being at the mercy of what’s in stores. I’m saying “near-total” and “a little more flexibility” because unless you’re weaving your own fabric or spinning and dyeing your own yarn, you’re still a little at the mercy of what’s in stores — they’re just different kinds of stores.

Still and all, I am dreaming up the basics I want in my closet and working out those little issues of what yarns and fabrics are available — and that includes shopping my stash. I have three more basic/timeless cardigans at the head of the list (and tops to go under them, but that’s for another post): Bellows, being a chunky, slouchy shawl-collar; Uniform, being a classic v-neck, without the shaped neckband; and Channel, being a more refined shawl-collar. And I want them in just the right combination of timeless neutrals. (To add to my ivory Amanda cable sweater, brown Acer cable-and-lace jobbie, and purple Trillium, the one spot of color.)

I’m nearing the end of Amanda and have found myself plagued by it and by my mental wranglings over what yarn to use for Bellows. Tormented! In my sleep. I knew I wanted (needed — both from a quick-finish and freezing-weather perspective) Bellows to be next, but could not figure out the right yarn. Or even the right color. I was thinking light heather grey, since Channel is meant to be charcoal and camel-colored yarn is so distressingly hard to come by. But after debating every possible worsted-weight (held double) and bulky on the market, I finally realized the answer was right in front of me. When I first ordered the Graphite O-Wool Balance for Channel, I ordered 21 skeins and had no idea why so much. I just had to have it. Then came the realization that I was going to have to alternate skeins for the entire sweater, which is unfortunate. After swatching for Bellows with O-Wool Balance Bulky (in the color I just happened to have in my stash, a light purple), and not loving the stitch pattern, I started wondering if I even really wanted this sweater. I decided to knit another swatch holding two strands of the graphite Balance together, and I fell in love with that swatch and got more excited than ever. As fabulous as Channel was looking in this color, it was meant for Bellows, and the universe told me to buy enough way back when. Right? Plus using the yarn held double means the skeins will automatically be blended, especially if I stagger the ends. It’s perfect on every level.

Then there’s Uniform. Since tossing off the idea of reassigning my Slade yarn to Uniform, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of this ultra-classic sweater in army green. I’m trying to work out if I can eke it out of the mismatched skeins I have (and feel like dealing with possible gauge differences) or if I’ll need to choose something else. If it does have to be something else, leading candidates are Knightsbridge in Bishop’s Green and Balance again in Malachite. But I love the idea of two sweaters from stash.

So where does that leave Channel? I’m not 100% sure. I want it to either be a silvery heather grey, light camel, or a tweedy oatmeal. And I want the yarn less rustic than some of the others, more snuggly around my neck. So I’m exploring my nicely-plied merino options, for softness with stitch definition. I’m particularly curious about Shepherd’s Wool, and have ordered a ball for swatching. If you’ve knitted with it, I’d love to hear your thoughts about how it wears. And if you have any other recommendations for worsted-weight, soft but not gooey, heather/tweed neutrals and affordable, I’d love to hear it!


2014: My knitting year in review

My knitting year in review

When I decided to line up all of my knits last year in a single post, I remember being chuffed that there were so many of them — more than I had realized. This year is the exact opposite! I mean, I’ve been aware of having a lot less knitting time available to me, and there’s the highly relevant matter of having worked on a single project for the past quarter, but I’m still floored to discover I apparently only finished six things this year. Six! And two of them barely count. But here’s what’s more important about them—

My Acer cardigan was knitted throughout 2013 and only finished in January of this year. But I’m constantly aware of how much that sweater taught me about knitting. And what a sweater!

— Then came the quick pair of Super Simple Mitts I made for my sweet niece.

The Gorro Montanhac was a peak experience. It’s Rosa Pomar’s amazing, amazing pattern and I knitted it Portuguese style, as taught by my friend Brooke, which was a total thrill to learn and do. Then there’s the fact that it was knitted partially in the pleasant environs of Claddagh yarn shop one afternoon in the company of Ann Shayne and begun on my roadtrip with Brooke and Saremy to Seattle for Vogue Knitting Live, where I also got to do the photo shoot for …

My Trillium cardigan, which was my Tag Team Sweater Project sweater. A project that left me with a fantastic sweater, which I now wear all the time, and more important, with a very dear friend in Anna. That whole project (not least the hilarious photo shoot with Kathy Cadigan, another great friendship in the making) was definitely one of the highlights of my year.

— The garter-stitch hat I knitted from my friend Rebekka Seale’s incredible handspun alpaca she gave me, and one of her Camellia Fiber Company patterns — a really simple, soothing knit that accompanied me on my trip to Indianapolis for the summer trade show and onward to Nashville. My friend DG and I visited Rebekka in her studio on that trip, where I took this picture of Rebekka in the unfinished hat, and now DG does all of the Fringe Supply Co. shipping in our studio right across the hall from Rebekka’s.

— And last but not least, Togue Stripes, my Pam Allen mash-up, which I began at Squam with Anna and finished on my migratory drive with Bob from California to Nashville.

That’s pretty awesome, right — not an insignificant, tossed-off thing in the bunch. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better. (Even though my last finished knit was in July! Oy vey.)

I did do a token amount of weaving and mending this year, I should add. And then there’s the tale of all of the stuff that’s still in the ol’ knitting bag—

My knitting year in review

Amanda, which is obviously epic as a project, a garment and a blog event. It’s been thoroughly amazing, and I should be wearing it very soon. (If it fits.)

Channel, which promises to be another true gem to make and to wear, but which I sadly had to frog back to the ribbing. I’m so eager to get this going forward again!

Fort (ish) for Bob is a bummer on so many levels. Taking away Fort’s beautiful texture has made this seem like a really sad project to me, on top of my existential sadness at not having supplied my husband with a sweater this year. I loved the swatch, but don’t like this color at all in stockinette. So it needs to be frogged and rethought.

Perkins Cove, the worsted version, I fully expect to be a good and useful garment, if not the most thrilling thing to knit. But after Amanda and Channel, something a little less thrilling has its own sort of appeal.

All told, not a bad batch of work. Thank you all SO MUCH for reading, commenting, sharing, egging me on (and shopping!) this year. It’s been simultaneously one of the best and worst years of my life, and the “best” part of that equation is owed almost entirely to you and this blog and the community that’s cropped up around it. I wish you all a magnificent New Year’s Eve and the best possible 2015!

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cabling to do …


A different way to shape a sweater

A different way to shape a sweater

Remember when I used to blog about what I was knitting? Back when I used to always be knitting something different all the time and had finished objects to show you?! Knitting one project for three months (and counting!) is hard on a knitblogger, but despite the copious knitalong posts, I haven’t actually posted much about my own Amanda — and I do have some things to tell you about it. Namely, how I created shaping where there is none.

Being sort of a stick figure of a person, I never mind a sweater that doesn’t nip in at the waist — in fact, I’m inclined to skip that part in patterns that have it. I have what my friend Rachel colorfully calls “UBF,” Upper Butt Fat. My bust is about 34.5″ but my upper hip measurement is closer to 38″. I like a sweater to have the same ease at the hip as it does at the bust, so what I’m always striving for is more of an A-line shape. I’m aiming for a 36″-ish bust measurement with this sweater — just about 2″ of positive ease up top — but that would be about 2″ of negative ease at the upper hip, and a tightly fitting waistband would not please me. Amanda has no waist shaping at all, because the honeycomb wraps around the sides and any shaping in the middle of it would be problematic. But sides aren’t the only place a knitter can put shaping! I’d been thinking about putting in some version of back darts right around the time I heard Amy Herzog talking about them on, which sealed my resolve. I’ll tell you what I did, but first I have to take a step back:

I’m already knitting this sweater at a smaller stitch gauge than the pattern, and am knitting the size large knowing (from the math from my gauge swatch) that it will wind up being very close to the medium’s measurements. My fear is it will actually be a little bit small, and it’s also my opinion that the design could use a little more “air” between the slipped-stitch columns and the honeycomb and button bands. So where the pattern calls for 2 stitches of reverse stockinette on the outsides of the slipped stitches, I’m knitting 3 stitches. There are four diamond cables on the body, and I’ve added 2 stitches per cable — flanking the slipped stitches that flank the diamonds — so I’m working with a total of 8 extra stitches on the body, which gives me about 1.5″ of extra circumference to combat my fear of the sweater turning out too small.

So to create some additional width across the lower back/hips, I added some more stitches between the diamonds and the slipped stitches. If you look carefully at the widest part of the diamonds in the photos above, you can see that on the first/bottom diamond, there are 4 stitches of reverse stockinette between the diamond and the slipped stitches on either side. By the time you get to the second diamond, there are 3 stitches flanking it. And by the third diamond, that’s back down to the 2 stitches the pattern calls. So I started out with 8 more stitches at the lower back and gradually decreased those out. Again, that’s only about 1.5″ of extra width — I was afraid any more extra stitches than that would be too noticeable in this pattern — but hopefully it will be just enough to make to me comfortable with the fit.

I’m finally just a few rows from the join, so hopefully it won’t be too long before I know how it turns out!


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: FO No. 3: Kate Gagnon Osborn

Amanda neck shaping, part 1: Karen plots a shawl collar

Amanda neck shaping, part 1: Karen ponders a shawl collar

When I’d been knitting for about three months, I signed up for a full weekend of classes at Stitches West, ranging from one-hour workshops on fixing mistakes, knitting backwards and continental knitting, to a half-day class on Tunisian crochet and a full-day class on the top-down sweater method. I’m pretty sure it was the fixing mistakes teacher I’m remembering having opened up the floor to questions at the end. Someone asked, “What do you think it’s really important to get good at?” Which was an interesting question, I thought. And the teacher responded, “Neck shaping.” Which seemed completely out of left field to me, being a total newb in a room full of newbs. I couldn’t imagine why I would ever need to know how to do that myself, and had no clue how one would go about learning it. OMG. Of course, I wound up inadvertently learning the basics of it in that top-down sweater class, and I’ve drawn on that ever since. I’m comfortable calculating the rate of increase on a top-down sweater, based on whether I want a crewneck or V-neck or whatever, and can turn that around for a bottom-up. Which is about to come in handy.

I mentioned back in our Meet the Panel post that I was concerned about the neck shaping on Amanda. There is only one photo of the sweater in the book (!) and the model’s hair is obscuring the neckline, but it still gave me pause. I looked at the project photos on Ravelry and it does seem to be a case where the neck doesn’t sit quite right on some people, with the tops of the button bands wanting to flap forward and outward. It’s because the neck shape is high, wide and shallow — almost like high boatneck. Buttoned all the way up, it sits the way a high boatneck would. But split open into a cardigan, those high fronts have nothing to anchor them.

We’ll get into more detail about this tomorrow, in part 2. But meanwhile, I’m here to tell you that it won’t be an issue for me after all, as I’ve decided to make my Amanda into a shawl-collar cardigan instead! Reader Callie C asked in the comments recently whether it would be “easy” to make this alteration — specifically, to give Amanda a Bellows collar — noting that she has not knitted a cardigan before. Easy is in the eye of the beholder, but I responded as follows:

I wouldn’t say it would be “easy” but it could certainly be done. The biggest trick is you’d have to change the neck shaping. If you look at the shape of the main fabric on Bellows, it’s a v-neck shape, with the fronts gradually sloping away from each other. You’d have to create that curved edge in order to do a Bellows-style band. For a shawl collar like that, you pick up stitches all the way up one front, around the neck, and back down the other front, and work your ribbing outward from there, and the shawl-collar part itself is created with short rows.

Given that they’re both worsted-weight sweaters, I would buy the Bellows pattern and compare the row gauges (its, Amanda’s, yours) to see if you could just use the neck-shaping numbers from Bellows and then work the collar from that pattern, too. But even if it’s not a perfect 1:1, you could see how Bellows is done and then apply that same thinking to Amanda.

… I should note that you’d be applying that shape to a raglan yoke (Amanda is raglan; Bellows is set-in sleeves), so it wouldn’t be worked exactly the same way as the Bellows fronts. …

Once she got me started, I couldn’t stop thinking about how great a shawl collar would be. Of course, no two shawl collars are alike: There are deep-V, narrow, professorial types, and high-V, super-round Peter Pan-ish types. I’m doing this despite the fact that the other two sweaters I currently have in progress — Channel and Slade (the poor thing) — are both shawl collars, but they’ll all be quite different. I think the shaping on Bellows is pretty perfect, but bought the pattern and the gauge is drastically different than mine/Amanda’s. I hadn’t realized it’s two strands of Shelter (worsted) held together and knitted at bulky gauge. Still useful for seeing the rate of the slant and where it begins and ends. (And I imagine I’ll be knitting Bellows one day anyway — especially knowing it’s bulky!) So I’m on the hunt for other patterns with good shawl shaping and a more similar row gauge — e.g. The Shepherd Cardigan! — but I’ll probably wind up just winging it, and redoing if need be. (Why row gauge, you ask? Because to make this mod, we need to concern ourselves with how many rows are worked within the yoke section, and figure out how many decreases to distribute at what rate amongst those rows. Plus picking up stitches along the selvage is about how many stitches you’ll pick up into the ends of how many rows.)

It’ll be awhile before I get to the neck shaping — I still have half my sleeves plus my back to do — but once I get to it, assuming it works out, I promise to share my notes.

Tomorrow I’m talking to Kate about her many mods, how they led to her set-in sleeve alteration, and what she suggests for tweaking Amanda’s neck shape.


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: WIP of the Week, week 6