Q for You: What thrills you?

Q for You: What's your favorite little knitting thrill?

The three pieces of my Spiral-Spun Waistcoat mod are on the blocking board as I type, drying in the freakishly summer-like breeze blowing through the windows. There’s a lot of finishing yet to do, but it’s been a joy of a project — from the dreamy yarn to the challenges I inadvertently set for myself with my modifications, to the chance to knit my first inset pockets. You know I love to do something new with every project, if at all possible, and I don’t know how I made it this long without knitting an inset pocket, but it’s now officially my favorite thing to do. Just like cables: so simple and yet so magical!

Knitting affords a world of cheap thrills — for some people it’s the magic of mattress stitch, for others turning a heel, for me right now it is knitting an inset pocket. So that’s my Q for You today: What’s your favorite little knitting thrill?

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How do you close out a project?

Modified Wiksten No. 1

Modified Wiksten No. 1

I thought the least I could do while we were in Florida this week was show you the modified Wiksten Tank I made a couple weekends ago — my first foray back into sewing in a while. So the other evening, after a little family outing, I asked Bob to postpone fishing long enough to snap a few pics. He patiently obliged, but my darling niece — very eager to fish with her Uncle Bob — decided to photobomb the proceedings. So what I have is a bunch of awkward photos of me making funny faces at her that don’t really show the top all that well. But she’s cuter anyway!

This one’s sewn from some grey-striped cotton khadi I bought at A Verb for Keeping Warm last year. I’d made the Wiksten Tank before and found, on me, the front of the neck was too low and the front hemline a little too high. So this one is the medium, same as before, but with a few tweaks: I raised the neckline several inches, graded it out from a medium at the underarms to a large at the hem, and used the XL back hemline for both the front and back. This fabric is a little on the stiff side, so the shirt does stand out from the body more than it would in a lighter fabric. I’m eager to cut another one from linen and see how the shape works, but I think it’s very nearly what I want. It’s a fun little pattern to play with!

IN OTHER NEWS, there have been a few developments in the shop this week: The latest issue of Taproot is in; the missing colors of mid-size Bento Bags arrived; more Bookhou pouches in waxed canvas also came in; and there’s a new balm in town — Hand-Aid by my friends at Little Seed Farm.

Hope you’ve all had a lovely week!

My tiny giant cloud

blanket_gauge_lessons

Here’s a little anecdote for anyone who’s ever wondered why or whether gauge matters.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending Rebekka Seale’s blanket workshop in her beautiful studio, with a bunch of lovely women who had traveled from all over. I had provided Knit and Let Knit totes for everyone, and Rebekka had filled them with giant spirals of undyed merino roving and size US50 circular needles. We all introduced ourselves and then set to work knitting fluffy 3×2 ribbed blankets, while chatting and eating and oohing and aahhing over how beautiful the materials were. (And how the rose meringues for dessert looked just like our clouds of roving.) Of course, nobody ever thought to wonder about gauge or knit a swatch or anything — it’s a blanket; who cares, right? By mid-afternoon, we each had a substantial amount of fabric on our enormous needles and I suddenly noticed how vastly different my stitches were from Jennifer’s, who was sitting next to me. We were using the same exact yarn and same exact needles, had cast on the same number of stitches and were knitting the same exact stitch pattern. And yet, as you can see above, her stitches were almost twice as big as mine — as were pretty much everyone else’s at the table. The result being that I was knitting a baby blanket while everyone else was knitting one suitable for adult-sized humans.

In the end, in this case, no big deal. I was already wondering how on earth I would keep this beautiful thing away from my cats, so I took it as a sign, bound off, and seamed it into the biggest cowl known to man. (Just in time for 60-degree weather.)

The moral of the story: Knitting with the yarn and needles used in a pattern is no guarantee of matching results. If size matters, knit a swatch.

My tiny giant cloud

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.