The official plan for the Amanda Knitalong

The official plan for the Amanda Knitalong

Ok! I’m excited about how excited you all are about this Amanda knitalong, and grateful to my partner-in-cardigans Anna for getting the momentum going on Instagram while I’m rowing up the ducks. There’s a lot of information I need to cram into this post, so forgive me if it’s a bit massive.

PATTERN SELECTION

The panel of experts I’m putting together will be focused on knitting Amanda, the sweater Anna and I originally planned to knit. I had said and thought that I would suggest some alternate patterns to choose from. I was looking for things that were A) reasonably-traditional fisherman sweaters, B) the same construction method as Amanda, which is knitted in pieces from the bottom up, joined at the underarms and the yoke knitted in one piece, and C) available for download, since Amanda is only available in a book. Unfortunately, everything I’m finding and love that meets criteria A and B does not meet C.

You may knit any cardigan you like. With our panel of experts, I’m going to be really exploring the construction more than anything — ways to make a variety of mods (most notably knitting it seamlessly) as well as merits and techniques of seaming, button band thinking, and so on. So if you were to pick any raglan cardigan that’s knitted from the bottom up to the underarms and then joined into one piece for the yoke, you will benefit from all of the construction and modification guidance we’ll be presenting. If it’s a cable cardigan, even better! We’ll be talking about cabling techniques as well gauge and seaming with regard to cables. And I want to note that it’s just been revealed that the Brooklyn Tweed Fall ’14 collection is inspired by fisherman sweaters (!!) and thus may very well include some good candidates for this knitalong. That collection will be published on the 9th, so if you’re one of the people looking for an alternative to Amanda, you might want to hang tight for a minute until that publishes.

SCHEDULE

We are not knitting on a schedule. I repeat: WE ARE NOT KNITTING ON A SCHEDULE. I’m going to be publishing content relating to this every week for about eight or nine weeks. The panelists contributing to those posts will be attempting to knit at a pace that will allow for relevant photographs along the way. But we all know I’m not going to finish a cable cardigan in eight weeks, and I’m not even going to try. It will take each of us as long as it takes — for some that might be two months or four months or a year. And that’s FINE! The content relating to each step of the process will be here when you need it.

That said, I’m going to kick this off with a Meet the Panel post on Friday the 12th, followed by a post about starting your swatch on Monday the 15th. Kate Gagnon Osborn will be taking the lead on that one, talking about issues relating to gauge, and specifically measuring gauge with cables. So that will be swatch week! If you can’t wait, feel free to start swatching.

The following week we’ll look at body construction — we’ll talk to our panelists about who believes in seams, and why, plus who will be avoiding them, and how. Then after that, the content will keep coming and, like I said, you just knit at whatever pace works for you.

ERRATA

Note that that there is a known error in the Amanda pattern. The sizes are mislabeled on the sleeve chart on page 123 — make sure you download the PDF with the corrections. But there’s another error not noted in that PDF. The cable cross at the center of the diamond is charted as a right cross but described in the stitch guide as a left cross. The sample worn by the model in the photo was knitted with a left cross, as you can see. You can do it whichever way you like, or even mirror the two sides if you want. I just wanted to note that the description doesn’t match the chart for that one particular cable cross.

YARN SUGGESTIONS

There are dozens of lovely yarns that would work for this sweater — from BT Shelter and Quince and Co Lark to the budget-friendly Cascade 220 — and our panel will be knitting with a variety of different choices (which I’ll include in the Meet the Panel post once they’ve all swatched and decided). You want a worsted-weight yarn, hopefully in natural fiber(s), with a nice twist and stitch definition. If I had all the time in the world to swatch with a variety of yarns, these are the ones I’d try:

O-Wool Balance — this is the yarn I’m using for my Channel cardigan and will almost certainly be using for Amanda. I love that the wool-cotton blend will make it a three-season sweater, plus it’s washable without being one of those squeaky superwash wools. O-Wool is offering 10% OFF Balance through 9/30 with code FRINGEASSOC.

Sincere Sheep Bannock — I love this yarn, and you can see how beautifully it holds a stitch in the sample for Jane Richmond’s Spate mitts. Her Shepherdess, which I love, would also be fantastic. Brooke is offering FREE SHIPPING for the knitalong. Use the code FringeKAL at checkout.

Camellia Fiber Company Merino Aran — I just bought a skein of this from Rebekka the other day and it’s gorgeous. The slightly heavier weight, knitted at pattern gauge, would make a wonderfully dense fabric, which a fisherman sweater should be. In keeping with classic fisherman-ness, Rebekka is offering 20% OFF the undyed. Use code FRINGE at checkout.

Purl Soho Worsted Twist — as I’ve said before, this is my favorite yarn I’ve yet knitted with. The idea of a sweater as luscious as my beloved Gentian hat makes me drool. Just look at those cables!

Fibre Company Knightsbridge — the newest yarn I’m dying to knit with, and again, proven to be a beautiful cabler.

BUT HERE’S MY BIG IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I have not knitted or even swatched this sweater with any of these yarns — I cannot say with certainty that any of them will be the perfect yarn for you or the sweater. Buy a skein and knit a swatch and see if you love the fabric! That’s what swatches are for.

PRIZES

Some have asked if there will be prizes, others have offered to donate some. So yes, there will be prizes. How they will be won I do not yet know, but I’ll tell you when I figure it out!

HASHTAG

Since it’s really the Amanda knitalong but not everyone will necessarily be knitting Amanda, let’s use the hashtag #fringeandfriendsknitalong. Anna and I want to see your sweaters everywhere, but especially on Instagram. So hashtag it up!

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TOTALLY UNRELATED: If you were off having a holiday weekend on Friday and missed it, the second bag in the Jen Hewett series is now available in the webshop — there are still some left, and preorders for #3 are open. And the amazing Bookhou box is back in stock.

What’s up

What's up

A few months ago (before the madness of the move) I got an email from Marlee Grace of Have Company and Courtney Webb of Hey Rooster. They were planning a little retreat for owners of tiny retail businesses, called Shop:Keep, and somehow they had thought to invite me. Being absolutely desperate for people to talk to about how to do this thing I find myself doing, I jumped at the chance, and that’s where I am right now. (That photo up there is the garden behind the house we’re using for the event.) We started out yesterday morning with a loose agenda that included long, leisurely afternoon breaks, during which I was planning to blog. But it turns out all six of us have been absolutely desperate for this conversation and we utterly failed to take a break. We talked and talked and talked until past midnight, and we’re about to start up again. I want to take full advantage of this while I’m here, which I hope you’ll all understand, so the big knitalong post I’ve been promising is going to have to wait a little bit. And this may or may not be the only post here for a couple of days. But I wanted to give you a little bit of a quick heads-up about what’s up with the knitalong:

There are a lot of really knowledgeable people planning to join this knitalong, so I’m putting together a panel of featured knitters, who I can poll or interview about various topics along the way. The thing about knitting a sweater — at least (or especially) one as basic as this one — is that you can totally knit it as written, but there also are numerous opportunities to choose your own path. Some people will knit it in pieces, as written; others will merge the three body pieces into one, or knit the sleeves in the round instead of flat, etc. At least one of our panelists will be knitting it entirely seamlessly, while another will be making the case for the structural value of the seams. So it will be a chance to see one sweater knitted by lots of different people with different approaches and perspectives, and learn some techniques from some actual experts. I’m super excited about this, and think it’s worth it taking a little longer to get it rolling in order to make it this really amazing experience for everyone. Plus some of the people whose yarn I’m recommending have offered to give you guys a discount of some sort. In other words, it’s a lot of ducks I’m lining up right now, so I hope you’ll bear with me while I put it all together. Like I said, it will be worth it!

This week in “mistakes Karen made”

This week in "mistakes Karen made"

If it looks to you like the top couple inches of this fabric (my beloved Channel cardigan) is wet — or in shadow maybe — I assure you it’s not. That dark stripe across the top is just a plain ol’ rookie mistake. When I ordered this yarn, the lovely Jocelyn Tunney of O-Wool wrote me a note saying that the fiber takes the Graphite dye a little unevenly, and emphasizing what the site says when you order it, which is that you should treat it like a hand-dyed yarn and alternate skeins. I did my first ball change at the top of the ribbing, where it wouldn’t matter if the color was slightly different. Then I knitted along happily with the next ball, not thinking about the matter until I had only a couple of yards left. So I knitted two rows with the new ball, then one row with the old ball, then back to the new ball. I mean, the skein didn’t look that different, right? What could go wrong? Then I sat it aside for two weeks. I was thrilled to have time to knit a repeat on Friday night and another on Saturday night. And when I spread it out to check it over, even in the low light, it was painfully evident that Jocelyn was right. So I have some frogging to do.

Oddly, this isn’t a thing I’ve run into very many times. Meg says she would have knitted the entire sweater with two skeins, alternating the whole way. So now I’m debating whether to rip all the way back to the ribbing or just halfway into the first section, far enough to alternate for a couple of inches. Meanwhile, I just keep thinking what Kay Gardiner would say at a moment like this: “It’s ok. I like to knit.” Especially this.

I’m on my way to Chicago today but I am working on the knitalong schedule and alternate pattern suggestions and yarn recommendations and lots more, and will have a post very soon with all of that. I know a lot of you are eager to cast on — and of course you can — but I want to have all my ducks in a row. So sit tight! It’ll be worth it.

Let’s talk about this Amanda knitalong

Let's talk about this Amanda knitalong

I’m thrilled that so many people responded positively to my suggestion that maybe you might want to knit the Amanda cardigan along with Anna and me this fall. I’m also a little nervous because I don’t really know anything about hosting a formal knitalong, having only barely hosted very, very informal ones in the past. So I’d love your input on this. Here are some questions I have:

1) Shall we all knit Amanda, or shall I declare it a Fisherman Knitalong and suggest some other patterns as candidates? (Both cardigans and pullovers.) It would be nice to all be knitting the same thing, so we can compare notes and strategies on very specific aspects. On the other hand, Amanda is available only in a book (albeit a very good book, with lots of appealing patterns) and is written for just four sizes (33, 35, 38, 40). So I can see the benefits of going either way with this. I can also imagine a Fisherman Knitalong becoming an annual (biennial? triennial?) event.

2) How formal or structured do we want this to be? Knitting to a deadline tends to make me dislike knitting, and I don’t have the bandwidth to create and monitor a Ravelry group or anything like that. But I also feel like a total lack of structure will not help any of us accomplish our sweaters. What if we set a fairly loose deadline for each stage of the sweater. I can do a kickoff post for each part, discussing things to consider before casting on, etc, and then we can have ongoing discussion of that component in the comments on that post. Everyone can post progress shots on Ravelry, their blog, Instagram, whatever publicly accessible web-based location they prefer, and link out to those from comments. Does that work? (Scheduling it out according to parts/pieces is an argument in favor of us all knitting the same sweater, or at least sweaters with the same basic construction method. Amanda is bottom-up pieces, joined at the underarm, then knitted upwards from there in one piece. Plenty of other sweaters take that approach.)

3) Can we start on September 15th? (Or maybe swatching starts on the 1st?) I need some more time with my Channel before shifting gears, plus I don’t have yarn for swatching Amanda yet, much less a decision and a sweater’s worth. I imagine many others will also need time to pick yarn and swatch. Swatching will be very, very important for a heavily cabled sweater, my lovely friends — you really want to be sure it’s going to match the pattern measurements and come out to the size you want! (We’ll talk about how to adjust for gauge, etc., no worries.)

4) How much time do we all think is reasonable for the various parts? Swatch, back (hem to underarms), left front (ditto), right front (ditto; and some people will no doubt opt to knit the body as one piece instead of three), sleeve 1, sleeve 2, yoke, button bands, neck, and seams if you’re doing them.

I don’t expect we’ll have unanimity on any of this, but let’s talk it over and then I’ll post a follow-up with details, yarn recommendations and some other thoughts before we get started. Yes?

Yarn is magic

Yarn is magic

It’s late Thursday night as I’m typing this, and I’m supposed to be putting together a big, juicy Elsewhere list for you, but I spent the majority of the day up to my bloodshot eyeballs in spreadsheets, filing my sales tax return, and my brain is DONE. So instead I’m showing you a pretty picture of my Channel Cardigan in progress. Ooooohhhh.

I swear there were about seven hours during the spreadsheet ordeal where I had my teeth clenched and forgot to exhale. But then before I left the studio, I went upstairs to where this beautiful floor is and pulled everything out of my bento bag and took this picture — and in the five minutes I was with the yarn (not even knitting it!) a bunch of the stress just slid right off me. Yarn is magic.

Have a beautiful weekend, lovely people. Tell me what you’re working on!

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p.s. That ridiculously great pouch up there will be in the shop as soon as I can get it shot and listed, along with its friends. Sorry to tease you! But I latched onto it the moment it arrived.

Best. Swatch. Ever.

Best. Swatch. Ever.

You all know I’ve had Channel on the brain (and the approved knitting list!) since trying it on back in March, but my fever escalated around the time of Squam. I was packing for that trip, knowing it would be cool nights and mornings, and was shocked to have nothing suitable: no sweatshirt and only super wooly sweaters that I could not bring myself to put into a suitcase in June. What I wanted and needed was my Channel cardigan — the one I’m planning to knit in this fantastic O-Wool Balance, which is an organic, washable, cotton-wool blend that knits up into a light, airy, not-too-warm fabric. I.e., the perfect all-seasons cardigan. I have two more trips this summer that all but require this sweater, except of course the sweater does not yet exist. But behold my swatch! The best swatch of all time.

I wanted to practice the charted stitch pattern, and particularly the English Rib portion, which is a little conflictingly described in the pattern. The chart includes the two ribbed sections and the chevrons in between, and I added five stitches of moss stitch on each end, since that’s what happens in the sweater. However, gauge for the sweater is actually given over moss stitch, not the charted stitches, so after knitting a few repeats of the chart, I switched to moss for a couple of inches, which gave me the necessary four vertical inches of moss to measure my gauge. The swatch has since been machine washed (it came out practically dry! damn, I love this yarn) and measured, and I appear to be spot on pattern gauge. And the fabric couldn’t be better for what I’m wanting. I had a blast knitting this, so I’m as eager as can be to cast on.

Of those two upcoming trips I really want this sweater for, one of them is next week. And though it’s not an opportunity to wear it, I hope to do a meaningful amount of knitting on it. I’m traveling with my entire family (in celebration of my parents’ 50th anniversary) to a retreat place somewhere in the mountains of NC, where I’m told reception is spotty, at best. I’ve got blog posts queued up for you, but:

IMPORTANT SHOP NOTE: I’ll be packing orders this weekend and will drop them at the PO Monday morning on our way out of town. The rest of the orders from Sunday through Friday will ship during a special session on Saturday the 26th. So if you’ve got something you know you need next week, get your order in today!

Togue Stripes

Togue Stripes

Verdict on this tank sweater: BIG LOVE. So quick (actual combined knitting time), so simple, so useful here in the land of 90-something-degree days. Dress it up, dress it down. And it’s forever entwined in my memory with Squam — this yarn and the green needles and porch floor and weathered decking were just the most soothing and pleasing visual combination. I love love loved it.

Togue Stripes

As you know, I wanted a cross between Pam Allen’s two recent tank sweater patterns. I wanted the weight and gauge of Togue Pond with the look of Saco Stripes — specifically the A-line shape, plain lower edge, stripes (obviously) and wider “straps.” So here’s what I did:

— Knitted it in the Kestrel yarn (in Pebble and Senza) using the Togue Pond pattern (second size).

— Omitted the waist ribbing and short-row shaping — I simply did one purl round after the cast-on and then worked straight in stockinette.

— Cast on with US10 needles and worked the first couple of inches, then switched to US9’s, then to US8’s after the top stripe. When I do it again, I’ll just start on US9’s; it’s already getting to be a little more flouncy at the waist than I’d like.

— Anticipating that it would grow with blocking and over time, I knitted it shorter than I wanted it. Unfortunately, I didn’t write it down, but I think it was 13 or 13.5 inches before dividing for front and back. After blocking and a couple of wears, it’s now 15 inches (not including the ribbing).

— I worked the first stripe 3 inches (I think) from the cast-on edge. The Senza stripes are 2 rows each, with 6 rows of Pebble in between.

— I staggered my waist decreases a little differently (just keeping them in the grey), and did fewer of them. When it came time to divide for front and back and work the armhole shaping, I had eight more stitches than the pattern called for, which gave me two extra stitches in each “strap.”

— I did the 3-needle bind-off for the shoulders with wrong sides together, so the seam is exposed. I also have a bad habit of forgetting to bind-off when doing a 3-needle bind-off — I just do all the k2tog’s and wind up with a row of live stitches. So then I go back and pass the stitches over each other to bind them off. Which actually makes a nice substantial looking exposed seam.

— I had seen comments on Ravelry that people were picking up fewer stitches for the neck/arms than the pattern called for. I picked up 96 for the neck and the same number as the pattern for the armholes.

— To counteract the growth tendency, I deliberately did my bind-offs a little on the tight side.

— I did not do jogless stripes, and I did not carry the Senza yarn up the sides either, because I knew it would show through, given the loose-ish gauge and high contrast. So when weaving in each of those Senza ends, I did one duplicate stitch from the right side of the fabric to even out the jog, and I’m happy with how it turned out.

Our first evening in Nashville, we were over at our friend Jo’s for BLTs. I wove in the last of the ends on her deck and she threw it in her washing machine while we ate, then laid it out to air dry. I’m already in love with the fabric and know it will just get softer over time, so definitely put me down as a linen convert.

Togue Stripes