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)

Queue Check — September 2015

Queue Check — September 2015

It’s colorwork season over here, y’all. (And knitalong season, obviously!) I’m finally sailing through my Laurus from the Fringe Hatalong Series — but I flubbed it! I was knitting while socializing the other evening, looked down at one point and realized I had knitted the final colorwork row all wrong. It’s just a few rows of stockinette back, so I’ll rip it soon and finish it up. I forgot how fast a plain ol’ stockinette hat knits up! Even with a few rows of colorwork thrown in.

And of course the big sweater on my needles at the moment is my Cowichan-style Knitalong vest, up top.

Honestly, I was a little perplexed about this vest. I chose grey, black and ivory for the “color” scheme because it’s my failsafe. But as much and as long as I’ve been wanting a Cowichan-style vest, I honestly wasn’t sure how I would wear it. (Which troubles me, given my “don’t make it or buy it until you know how it fits in” rule.) Over the weekend, I was plotting out some sewing projects, sketched a simple top-and-skirt combo for some plaid fabric I’ve been dying to sew up, realized the vest will look amazing with those two pieces — worn in various combinations with other things — and now I can hardly stand the wait. After casting on the ribbing Sunday night, I realized I don’t think I’ve ever been this eager to see a project develop. Fortunately, it shouldn’t take long!

I mentioned last month that I’m not planning a Rhinebeck Sweater, per se — this vest will be my Rhinebeck sweater. But there is one other thing I’d like to have for my Rhinebeck trousseau, which is that Linda scarf I’ve been talking about for months on end. I still want it in what’s left of my stash of camel-colored Shibui Merino Alpaca. So as soon as I finish Laurus, that will be next on the needles. I realize a whole scarf is almost as ambitious as a sweater (coming from one who has never knitted a whole scarf before) and Rhinebeck is only three weeks away — and I have a vest to knit! — but I’m fantasizing about it anyway. No pressure, Karen!


PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: August 2015

Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

When I first laid eyes on what is now our sweater for the 2015 Fringe and Friends Knitalong — the Geometric Cowichan-style Vest from Pierrot — all I thought was I have to have that. Once I realized it would make a great knitalong, I started asking myself who would I want to knit it with (in addition to, you know, everyone) and who would make for thoughtful contributors to the panel. As well as who might take this very basic pattern in interesting directions. My first thought was a friend and frequent collaborator, photographer Kathy Cadigan, who I knew also had vests on the brain and a lot of interest in Cowichan. My next thought was another pal, Andrea Rangel, who has lived in the native land of the Cowichan sweater and has a lot of first-hand knowledge, as well as being an interesting knitter and designer in her own right. What about the Japanese pattern angle on all of this? Well, Meri Tanaka, my editor at Amirisu, was the obvious choice. Andrea and Meri are both pretty petite, so I knew they’d have interesting ideas about resizing the sweater. And then of course I really wanted a dude on the panel this time, especially since it’s ostensibly a men’s pattern. When I got wind of the fact that Brooklyn Tweed was on the brink of launching a bulky yarn that would be perfect for this sweater, I knew I had to ask Jared Flood if he’d like to join the fun. Thankfully, everyone said yes! And a panel was born.

What you’re about to see are already five very different yarn selections and swatches, and a whole bunch of great thoughts and ideas about the challenges and opportunities with this pattern. It’s a long post! So take your time with it, leave any questions below, and we all hope we’ll have given you lots of food for thought before you start swatching for your own. Which I can’t wait to see! Don’t forget to post URLs in the comments and/or use the #fringeandfriendskal2015 hashtag when sharing your progress online. And be sure to follow the panelists on Instagram (all linked below), where they’ll be sharing as well!

And with that, let’s meet the panel—

. . . . .

KAREN TEMPLER, of this here blog and Fringe Supply Co. (Instagram: @karentempler)

Yarn: I’m using Quince and Co’s Lark (100% wool) held triple. I think it’s just rustic enough to feel suitable for a Cowichan-style sweater, while still being soft enough for my annoyingly sensitive neck. I’ve chosen the heathery grey Kumlien’s Gull for the main color, with Crow (black) and Egret (ivory) for contrasting colors.

Swatch: I’ve debated whether I want to do this in three colors or just two but swatched in all three, so I started at the right edge of the back chart with the checkerboard stripe, working up into part of the main motif. This is my first time knitting colorwork flat — I’ve always read color charts from right to left on all rows, working in the round. In the photo above (and here) you can see I mindlessly read one of the purl rows from right to left instead of left to right and botched the swatch. So that’s what this swatch taught me — that I’ll need to remember to read back and forth as I work back and forth!

Size/ease: I knitted the solid army-green test version of this sweater at pattern gauge/dimensions and I like the slouchiness of it on me, but want this one to be a little more fitted. Ideally it would be closer to 36″ circumference instead of 39″, so I’m aiming for 10.5 stitches per 4 inches. To get there, I’m knitting the tripled Lark on US13s instead of 15s. This swatch blocked out to 11 sts/4 in, or 2.75 sts/inch, and I’m happy with the density of the fabric, but that’s smaller than I want the sweater to be, so I’ll try to keep it a little looser as I’m knitting the real thing. (Why is there no US14 when you need it?) My row gauge is actually right on pattern gauge: 12.5 sts/4 in. That would put it at the pattern length of 25″, but I want this version a bit shorter as well as more fitted.

My target length is closer to 21″, so I want the sweater to amount to 66 total rows instead of 80. Given that it’s a vest, I’m good with the armhole depth at 9″ (28 rows), plus I don’t want to mess with anything from the armhole up. (I wouldn’t want to have to rework the collar.) So I’m leaving the upper portion of the sweater untouched, and simply omitting the first 14 rows after the waist ribbing.

Mods: In addition to debating two colors or three, I had debated possibly leaving out some of the motifs and having the colorwork be a little more minimal. Once I realized I needed to cut 14 rows to get my desired length, that decided it. So I’ll be knitting solid grey up to the first checkboard stripe, then the main motif, another checkerboard, then solid grey again the rest of the way up.

For the army-green version, I bound off 3 sts instead of 2 at each armhole edge, to create a little bit wider armhole and less fabric across the shoulders, and I’ll probably do the same here, depending on how the size is looking once I’m knitting. (I like the square armhole on this.)

I considered knitting the body in one piece, with a basting stitch at the side seams, just so I don’t get start-over-itis at the beginning of each piece. But given the likelihood that I’ll mess up the colorwork a time or two, I think it’s better to stick to the shorter rows of smaller pieces rather than risk ripping out unnecessarily long rows. And besides, it’s 2 seams of 52 rows each (or in my case, 38 rows each) — it takes about 15 minutes to seam this together. So pieces it is!

There’s one other mod I’m contemplating. I kind of want to put a zipper on it instead of buttons, so I may leave out the button band stitches when I cast on the fronts, and work the bands/collar flaps separately, then seam them on, then sew on a zipper. I’ve never done a zipper and have really wanted to, and not only is this the perfect opportunity, it’s very little knitting to do over if I mess something up on the first attempt.

Concerns/trepidations: As noted above, I’ve never done colorwork flat before. I was really worried about doing the colorwork on the purl rows, but swatching showed me it’s super simple, so I think I’m over it. As long as I remember to read the purl rows on the chart from left to right!

. . . . .

Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

JARED FLOOD, creative director of Brooklyn Tweed (Instagram: @jared_flood)

Yarn: I’m knitting with our new chunky-weight yarn at Brooklyn Tweed: Quarry. I got super excited about the idea of doubling the yarn to create something that felt similar to an authentic Cowichan. Quarry is similar in style to the traditional single-ply Cowichan yarns used in traditional sweaters only more softly spun, lighter in weight. Holding two strands together landed me exactly on pattern gauge (on my first swatch nonetheless … how often does that happen?) and the fabric has that lofty, rustic appeal that I love so much about traditional Cowichans. I can’t wait to get to work on the full vest.

I waffled about color for a good long while but ended up deciding on Hematite (a sort of black-pomegranate) as my main color, with Gypsum (warm white) and Flint (brown) colorwork accents. I loved the idea of a version with Navy and Greys (Lazulite, Flint and Moonstone) but I figured 90% of my wardrobe is already shades of grey and blue-grey, so I’d go for something with warmer tones.

Swatch: I worked up two swatches and hit my target gauge right out of the gate. It felt like a sign that this vest needed to happen!

My first swatch was worked on a US13 (9 mm) and tested out single-color stockinette with two strands of Quarry held together. Because I invariably need to go up one or two needle sizes when working stranded colorwork, I knit my second swatch (pictured) with US15 (10 mm) — those take some getting used to! — and got an appropriate gauge in stranded pattern that would match my single-color gauge on the 13s. I’ll plan to switch back and forth between these two needle sizes as I jump from bands of stranding to bands of single color in the body of the garment.

As for finishings, I’ll most likely use several needle sizes for working details on the collar, button band and armhole finishings. I like working trims and edgings at a much firmer gauge to create a more durable and professional looking garment. I’m entertaining the idea of trimming my armholes in a “finer” yarn (a single strand of Quarry, rather than double stranded) and potentially the collar this way too. I’m not sure yet, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I should have a good idea of what the sweater “needs” once I have the meat and potatoes of the knitting done.

Size/ease: I’m planning on swapping out the colorwork patterns for those of my own choosing and tailoring the garment as a “made to measure” piece. Now that I have my swatches to take blocked gauge measurements from, I will make a custom chart with my measurements to map out how my motifs will be placed vertically on the body.

As for ease, I want a fit that will hit close to the body when worn over a long sleeve button-down shirt. Since the fabric is so incredibly thick, I’ll probably opt for about 6″ of positive ease, which I’m hoping translates into a flattering silhouette — not oversized, but not too fitted either.

Mods: I’ve already started poking at the pattern and I’ll probably end up slightly modifying just about every detail. I can’t seem to help myself when knitting from existing patterns … it’s just too tempting to add details that will result in a completely unique garment. Aside from swapping out the color motifs (you can see the large motif I’ll be using in my swatch—it’s the same motif I used on my Nehalem cardigan for women from our Fall collection at BT. I still have that motif on the brain and thought it would be fun to see it translated in a larger scale on this vest. I liked it enough to throw it into a garment for myself.) I also hope to do some fun ribbed shaping details on the shawl collar. Once the body is knitted, I’ll assess the weight and feel of the finished fabric before deciding how to proceed with finishing details.

I’m also going to knit mine seamlessly and steek the front opening and armholes. Since I’ll be knitting the cardigan in the round, I also knit my swatch that way (hence the “fringe” along the sides). I’ll be working my steeks with a sewing machine (rather than a crochet method) in order to decrease the bulk of the facings with such a thick yarn.

Concerns/trepidations: Working stranded colorwork with a chunky yarn held doubled does seem like a good recipe for knitting body armor … but because this is a sleeveless piece, I think that could work. I’m hoping to end up with something super warm and cozy, suitable for Fall and Winter camping trips to the Oregon coast! A Cowichan vest does seem like the perfect sweater for my first rainy-season back in the Pacific Northwest.

Working with fabric this thick is definitely a little out of my wheelhouse, so I’m wondering if the final fit will be exactly what I’m envisioning. There’s only one way to find out!

. . . . .

Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

ANDREA RANGEL, independent knitting designer, Andrea Rangel Knits (Instagram: @andrearknits)

Yarn: It’s not at all what I had planned, but I’m going with a new yarn that I found at my LYS, Beehive. It’s Rowan Brushed Fleece, a blend of wool, brushed alpaca and 5% polymide. It’s soft, fluffy, and I can’t help but describe it as frothy. I kind of want the vest to feel a little like a puffy vest, so the lightness and loft seem spot on. (It is not at all like a traditional Cowichan sweater though. Not one bit.) I did not think I’d do the red and black, but when I picked out the skeins, they seemed just right, so I’m actually matching the pattern colors.

Swatch: I knit my initial swatch (uh, also known as one vest front) with US10s for the plain St stitch sections and US11 for the colorwork sections. I generally have to go up about two needle sizes to maintain gauge across patterned and un-patterned work. I don’t normally knit an entire piece of a sweater as a swatch, but one front was only 25 stitches wide, so it seemed like the most sensible thing to do in this case.

I like the fabric that the yarn makes even though it’s an unusual choice for me (so fluffy!), but the colors felt way too bold and decorative. The more I looked at it, the more it reminded me of a very loud Christmas sweater. The snowflake motif is pretty, but it just doesn’t suit me. So I changed my plan completely – I came up with some different color patterns (and knit another swatch/front) and I’m feeling better about it. It’s still more graphic than I usually wear, but I think I will actually wear it.

Size/ease: I’m knitting my vest at a tighter gauge (12 sts = 4″) to get a bust circumference of about 34″, which is about 3″ of ease on me. I’ll have to adjust the way I work the patterns vertically too since my row gauge will be condensed and I don’t really want it any shorter.

Mods: As mentioned above, I decided to swap out the color patterns, so that’s the most obvious one. I’m also going to knit the button bands, armhole edgings and collar afterwards instead of doing them at the same time. I want to use a smaller needle for these sections and I feel like picking up stitches gives more structure to everything.

I’m planning to adjust the armhole shaping so that it curves smoothly, instead of sticking with the square bind-off. To do that I’ll bind off three stitches, then decrease every right side row twice to end up with the 5 stitches shown on the chart for the armholes. At the top of the shoulder I’ll do a little short-row shaping to bring the neck edge up a bit and use three-needle bind-off to join the front and back (with the seams on the outside).

I don’t know yet if I’ll actually do it, but I’m contemplating adding pockets. If I decide to go for it, I’ll knit some big squares for linings and sew them to the inside of the vest with the opening along the side seams. The soft fluffiness of this yarn seems like it would make divine pockets.

Concerns/trepidations: I’m not 100% convinced that I made the right color choice. The red and black seem so strong to me and I’m almost wishing I had neutrals or even something like burnt orange and brown. But red and black will add variety to my wardrobe, so I’m sticking with it for now. I’m also still hesitating a bit about the yarn itself. I really like it, but it doesn’t have the most “outerwear” feel to it. I’m pining for some more solid wool roving a little bit. But it’s fun trying something unusual, so I’m sticking with it for now. And maybe I’ll make another one that’s more traditional too.

. . . . .

Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

MERI TANAKA, editor of Amirisu Magazine (Instagram: @sparkle512)

Yarn: Quince and Co Puffin. Puffin is one of my favorite yarns. Kyoto in winter is extremely wet and cold with very few sunny days. Last winter I wore my Puffin pullover almost every day, and I need a new one for this winter.

Normally, I tend to avoid brown/tan colors, but I have been dying to knit with Audouin and Caspian. Such beautiful heather colors! Poppy (dark orange) and Bird’s Egg (light blue) are added to brighten it up.

Swatch: The smaller of the two swatches was to see if I can get my intended gauge with Puffin, which is 12.5 sts per 4″/10cm, so that I could order the colors I wanted. Using US13 needles, I had thought my gauge was too tight because my WS rows were quite uneven. Once it was blocked, this turned out to be the right gauge for me.

For the larger swatch I used US15 needles to see the difference, and the gauge was too loose. Although, this second swatch is the color scheme I am going to use.

Size/ease: I am tiny even for a Japanese woman, and I don’t like bulky sweaters/vests to be too loose, so naturally, size modification is necessary. I will make the body narrower by 25%, while at the same time, I want to keep the original length. It will be like a tunic rather than a vest.

I had thought about modifying the chart in order to shrink the size, but could not figure out a good way without changing the pattern completely. Instead, I decided to change the size by increasing the number of stitches per inch. Which is why Puffin will be used only one strand, not two strands held together.

Mods: To make the body longer, I will modify the colorwork pattern slightly.

Concerns/trepidations: I found it quite difficult to do colorwork with such bulky yarn on wrong side rows. To maintain the tension is quite tricky. Luckily, after blocking, the swatches became much more presentable. I am hoping the same thing will happen to my vest.

I had also considered knitting the body in one piece, but I am not very confident working such a long purl row in colorwork, so I decided against it. For cast on, instead of the normal long-tail method, I am going to use an easy 1×1 rib cast on which I have found on Ysolda’s blog.

Overall, I am very excited about this project!

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Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

KATHY CADIGAN, photographer/spinner/knitter (Instagram: @kathycad)

Yarn: I’m using beautifully rustic Retrosaria Bucos held double. I fell in love this Portuguese artisan yarn the minute I laid eyes on it at my LYS, Tolt Yarn and Wool. Bucos is processed entirely by hand, then spun with a distaff and long hand-held spindle. I think the thick-thin, nubbly texture will lend a lot of character to my Cowichan-style vest. I’ve decided to go super-traditional with color choices, using just two natural sheep colors: ivory for the background and a marled brown as contrast. My inspiration for using a marled color instead of a solid comes from a vintage Cowichan sweater I saw three years ago on a visit to see Andrea Rangel in Cowichan Bay. It was designed and knitted for Canadian weaver Leola Witt. I haven’t stopped dreaming of that sweater since!

Swatch: I chose the chain-like border motif for my swatch because of its straightforwardness. Andrea taught me how to weave floats on the back side of the work on every stitch (the way Coast Salish knitters do) and I’m just starting to get the hang of it. My gauge is at 9 sts per 4 inches on US15 needles. The yarn is surprisingly lightweight even at this substantial gauge.

Size/ease: I’m following Karen’s lead and plan to knit a solid color (dark brown) test version of the pattern first, so I can decide how fitted I’d like the final version to be. I’d like the circumference to be about 36″, slightly fitted with about 2″ of ease.

Mods: I have a feeling I’ll have to modify and maybe even substitute colorwork motifs to accommodate my gauge. I will use the motif charts found in the book Salish Indian Sweaters by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts for reference.

Concerns/trepidations: My main concern has to do with the pattern motifs. I’m a little bit worried that my marled yarn choice may obscure the motifs but I really like the worn-in rustic effect of the marled color, so I’m going to give it a whirl!


For some thoughts and math guidance on tampering with the size through changes in gauge (especially making it larger), see my post in the comments below.


PREVIOUSLY : Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2015: Cowichan style

Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2015: Cowichan style

Fringe and Friends Knitalong: Cowichan style

The pattern: Cowichan-style Geometric Vest by Pierrot Yarns (free pattern)
The schedule: Start now or whenever. Knit at your own pace!
The hashtag: #fringeandfriendskal2015

Ok friends, here it is! The pattern pick for the Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2015 is the Cowichan-style Geometric Vest from Japanese yarn and pattern company Pierrot. In true Japanese fashion, it’s simply a chart with a few annotations — by which I mean every stitch of the vest is charted, not just the colorwork motif. There are no written instructions — you simply knit what the chart depicts. It’s like the paint-by-numbers version of knitting, and this is an ultra-basic example. (Beginner-friendly, even, if you skip the colorwork.) The pattern is a free download right here — go ahead and take a look.


So raise your hand if you guessed this year’s pick was a Cowichan-style sweater? Congratulations, you were right! Now raise your hand if you guessed it was a Japanese pattern for a men’s vest. … (waiting) … Nobody? Ok, I warned you it was kind of a kooky pick. But give it a minute to sink in. First off, it’s not really a men’s sweater. It’s perfectly unisex in the way that Cowichan sweaters (real or -inspired) are boxy, unisex shapes. It just happens to have a 39″ chest circumference, which can be altered by adjusting the gauge. Think of it: Boys and girls, knitting together! Second, don’t let the Japanese part scare you. What we have here is an incredibly simple vest (very versatile as a wardrobe piece), knitted at superbulky gauge, that can be done with or without the colorwork. To demonstrate these points, I knitted a solid colored one (in O-Wool Balance held triple) at pattern gauge and dimensions, and modeled it above. Cute, right? That’s about 6″ of ease on me, and it would be also be cute with less ease.

So it’s not a whole lot of knitting but it does present some interesting challenges (knitting from a chart instead of written instructions, knitting colorwork flat — or not) and gives us lots to talk about while we knit. We’re going to talk about Japanese patterns, about Cowichan sweaters (and their being co-opted by other cultures), about ways to work that collar, and whatever else comes up along the way.

On Monday I’ll be introducing you to this year’s illustrious Panel of Knitters and their swatches, but I’ll tell you now that we’ve already got a bunch of very different sweaters about to happen from this one pattern. This is going to be a blast.

If you’re perfectly comfortable with the pattern and want to dive right in, go for it. If you have any trepidations at all, I would recommend holding off until you read all of the thoughtful notes from the panelists about how they’re (we’re) each swatching and approaching the sweater — what yarn we’re each using (all drastically different, but all good options), what we’re doing with gauge to change the dimensions, what modifications we might be planning to make, etc. Lots of good food for thought in that Meet the Panel post coming Monday.

And I’ll also have a Hot Tip for you on Tuesday about a way to make it a whole lot easier to swatch with yarn held triple, if you go the DK-held-triple route. So there will be a lot of useful information at the beginning of the week that you might want to read before starting.


The vest is knitted at superbulky gauge of 2.5 stitches per inch, but the recommended yarns are not superbulky yarns. They are  Pierrot Yarns Soft Merino Bulky (a bulky gauge yarn) held double, and Pierrot Yarns Soft Merino (a DK yarn) held triple.

If you’re substituting, you can use any yarn with which you get your desired gauge. You could knit it all with a single strand of superbulky, or with a bulky held double, or a DK held triple, or any combination of these things. You just need to get your gauge right. I’ve done the math for you, but make sure you round up from these numbers to be sure you’ll have enough; yardage does vary from one knitter and one yarn to the next—

MC (brown) :
pattern calls for 12 skeins x 44 yards = 528 yards of bulky (held double)
= 264 yards superbulky
= 792 yards DK (held triple)

CC1 (red) :
pattern calls for 3 skeins x 104 yards = 312 yards of DK (held triple)
= 104 yards superbulky
= 208 yards bulky (held double)

CC2 (black) :
pattern calls for 2 skeins x 44 yards = 88 yards of bulky (held double)
= 44 yards superbulky
= 132 yards DK (held triple)

I repeat: These are approximate numbers. Please buy more than you think you need, just to be safe!


There is no sign-up form or deadline (or Ravelry group to join) or anything like that. To knit along, simply knit along!

Ask questions and share your progress in the comments here, and/or use the hashtag #fringeandfriendskal2015 wherever you post. It was lovely to see so many friendships forming on the hashtag feeds on Instagram and Ravelry over the course of last year’s event, and I look forward to the same kind of community forming around this year’s sweaters.


I will be awarding prizes in late October sometime, rather than taking the WIP of the Week approach like last year. There will be a few categories, and I’ll post those down the line a bit when it’s all sorted out. But yes, there will be prizes.

Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2015: Cowichan style


Just like last year’s Amanda knitalong was more broadly a fisherman knitalong, this year’s is more broadly a Cowichan knitalong. While the panel will all be knitting some version of the vest noted above, you might opt to knit a different Cowichan or Cowichan-inspired sweater or accessory altogether. Here are a few possibilities:

TOP LEFT: Nehalem by Jared Flood (See also: Rockaway)
TOP RIGHT: Yetsa’s Bolero by Sylvia Olsen
MIDDLE LEFT: Takoma by Julia Farwell-Clay
MIDDLE RIGHT: Cowichan Jacket by Pierrot Yarns
BOTTOM LEFT: Cowichan Snowflake Vest by Pierrot Yarns
BOTTOM RIGHT: Tokul by Andrea Rangel


Photo of me by Kathy Cadigan

What I made on my summer vacation

What I made on my summer vacation

Before we got in the car Saturday morning in Florida to drive back to Tennessee, I made my sister put on the dress I’d finished hemming five minutes earlier and told her I was just snapping a pic to send to Anna Maria. Dear sister: I did not dupe you. I wasn’t intending to put it on the blog when I took it, but you look so cute! And I’m so proud of this dress.

My sister bought a sewing machine, so the big thrill of the week, for me, was getting to spend a lot of quality time with her and her Janome, teaching her what little I know about sewing but having a ton of fun doing it. Together we made her this dotted blue double-gauze Painted Portrait Dress, and yes, I am proud. For one thing, I spent more hours sewing in a shorter span of time than I ever have in my life, and made almost no mistakes. But this one was also a bit of a skill stretcher.

While we there, I also finished that linen Gallery dress that’s been hanging around for months waiting for my sporadic attention. I kept saying that was my sewing skills refresher course — and it was — but the Painted Portrait took it a level beyond that. It’s not that it’s a difficult dress, it’s just way more steps than anything I’ve sewn in a really, really long time. But it came together beautifully. My linen dress is also fantastic, but Bob and I took some not-great photos. I was being characteristically stiff in front of the camera, and since the interfaced placket business hadn’t been washed yet, so was the dress. I’m hoping to get some better pics of it soon, because I have a lot more to say about it — it’s a triumph on more than one level.

Did I knit the whole turtleneck sweater as planned, in the midst of all this? Pretty much. After casting on in the car on Sunday, I had the front and back on the blocking board Wednesday morning (I’m telling you, this is a crazy fast knit!) but then I didn’t touch it again until we got into the car to drive home. I got it seamed and half of the turtleneck knitted before we pulled into our driveway, but confess to finishing it off on my own couch. Still: started one Sunday and finished the next. Photos are being taken this week and the pattern will come soon, I promise.

As if that weren’t enough making for one week, I also got to knit the last few rows of my Hermaness Worsted. I had thought this one would be a great gift hat, but I’m not sure I can part with it. It’s just too good. Oh and hey, new hashtag alert: #noggintest for that moment when you can’t resist trying on (and photographing) your nearly done hat. Use it in good health.