Knitalong FO No. 3: Kate Gagnon Osborn

Knitalong FO No. 3: Kate Gagnon Osborn

As you know, Kate Gagnon Osborn is the #fringeandfriendsknitalong panelist who took the most liberties with the Amanda pattern as we went, and I’ve been as eager as the rest of you to see how it turned out. It’s awesome to see that it’s still Amanda and yet not Amanda — and such a good example of how a pattern can be just a jumping off point for an intrepid knitter. Here are Kate’s final thoughts on the project—

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Kate, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m so glad I asked you to be a part of the official panel for this knitalong because you’ve contributed so much to it — not only in the form of blog posts but by completely reinventing Amanda in front of our very eyes. Can you first just briefly summarize the modifications you made?

I’m so glad you asked me! I felt a little bad when I was going rogue, so I’m really glad my contributions were helpful.

“Briefly summarize”? Courtney would argue that’s never possible for me, but I’ll try!

SLEEVES:
• Cast on fewer stitches for the cuff, increased more sleeve stitches in arm to match the number for the Size M

FRONTS:
• Added a braid on either side of the diamond cable pattern, reduced the honeycomb stitches on the sides
Lowered the neck shaping

BACK:
• Added 1 more diamond cable and one braid for a total of 3 diamonds and 2 braids, reduced the honeycomb stitches on the sides

OVERALL:
• Worked set-in sleeve instead of a raglan
• Picked up stitches for the buttonbands
• Lengthened body and sleeves by 1/2 repeat
• Worked all 5 pieces separately and seamed

That’s a lot of mods. And it turned out beautifully. Were there any points in the knitalong, watching others knit the sweater differently, where you wished you had done something a different way?

Gah … I know! And half of them weren’t intentional! Besides adding more cables (which many may not notice at first glance), the biggest structural/visual mod I made was to convert from a raglan to a set-in sleeve. This was actually totally unintentional — I meant to do a raglan all along, but I discovered deep into the back raglan shaping that the addition of the third diamond cable made for really wonky raglan decreases, so set-in sleeves were a much better aesthetic option. A really lovely element of the original design is the way the cables on the sleeves and body beautifully connect at the raglan seam, so a part of me regrets not having this in my sweater to honor Lene’s vision. While I really love the finished product, a small part of me does still wish I could have just left well enough alone and knit the sweater as written!

Adding those extra diamonds and braids (which meant subtracting a lot of honeycomb) gave it a very different look from the average Amanda. Are you happy with how that worked out?

In the long run, yes, I am. I like odd numbers, so I love the three diamonds on the back, and love the look of a braided cable, so I’m happy I added more of them. It definitely caused me more difficulty in sorting out the sweater — there were long stretches where I never consulted the pattern — but I really love the end result.

The other significant design departure you took was with the button bands. The pattern is written for vertical 1×1 ribbed bands. Why did you opt to pick up stitches for horizontal bands instead, and can you also tell us about your decision to increase the number of buttons?

You and I have spoken a lot about the way the button bands are written in the pattern. In all of the images, the seaming appears to be a non-issue, but I was, admittedly, concerned about the way the button band would join to the body without being seamed all the way down. Others with more foresight than I thought to work the button band simultaneously on a smaller needle, which is genius, but I was too far deep into my fronts before considering this as an option. Once my sweater pieces were complete and it was blocked and seamed, I still had the option of doing the button bands vertically and seaming them on. I tried a few different methods of working the selvage stitch, but nothing looked “perfect” enough, so I ended up picking up stitches and working each band, then working the neckline. I chose to work more button holes because I knew I was going to want to button it up at times, so I wanted to avoid the gaping at the bust that sometimes occurs when not enough buttons are used.

By the way, many people say they don’t love picking up stitches for a button band because of the risk of it waving or being stretched out and causing “ruching” on the sweater body. For a fail-safe button band, all you need to know is your stitch gauge (S) and row gauge (R). The ratio of S/R = the ratio of picked up stitches. As an example, if you have 16 sts and 20 rows to 4″, your ratio is 16/20, or 4/5, so you’d pick up 4 stitches for every 5 rows along your front edge.

You were one of the most vocal members of Team Seam, so you were always planning to knit the sweater in pieces, as written. But the pattern has a seamless raglan yoke, which I think you were originally planning to work flat and seam as well, before you decided to switch to set-in sleeves and seamed shoulders. You were averse to the seamless yoke no matter what, correct?

For the Amanda, I didn’t quite see the point of knitting the body in pieces and the yoke in one piece, so it was my intention all along to do the raglan yoke in pieces. When I made the change to a set-in sleeve sweater, keeping it seamed was a no-brainer.

Despite my love for a classic Lopapeysa yoke sweater, I am a firm believer in sweaters with seams, especially at the armholes/shoulders, where garments are stretched out a lot when worn. Some of my love of seaming stems from the yarns I use most frequently — the Fibre Company yarns have a lot of drape, so a good seam is a really key ingredient to a long-lasting garment — but it is mostly because of my sewing background and how I see most garments constructed. I also much prefer knitting smaller pieces, as so much of my knitting is worked on the go. I know (and really respect) people who are not as seam-obsessed as I am, so I do try to stay open-minded and see the benefit of that way of sweater construction. (I think Jaime’s answer to her choice to go full-seamless is really thoughtful and intelligent and a good lesson on how yarn choice and desired end result can go a long way to inform process. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a sweater quantity of Heirloom waiting to be knit up!)

You’ve also said you loved this project because it gave you a chance to knit a sweater for yourself, as opposed to a pattern sample that will travel around to shows and shops instead of living in your closet. Are you happy that sweater was Amanda? And do you have any idea what your next personal knit will be?

Yes! It was complicated enough that it kept my interest, and the end result is very “me” in style. I went through a phase where I exclusively wore cardigans, but (inexplicably) switched to pullovers a year or two ago. Now I’m trying to meet in the middle, and Amanda is the perfect balance, as I can wear it open, but I can also button it up all the way.

My next personal knit? Oh my … I haven’t actually thought of one yet! After an eight-year hiatus, I recently got back into spinning, so I think I am going to try to spin enough yarn to knit myself a sweater.

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Thanks again, Kate! And you can also see/save Kate’s sweater and notes on Ravelry. I so love how different our three finished panelists’ sweaters are so far — Jaime’s, Meg’s and now Kate’s. Anna, Rebekka and I are all still cranking along — and ironically, our three sweaters are the most alike so far — but it may be a few weeks before I have any more finished sweaters to show you! The #fringeandfriendsknitalong hashtag is still going strong, so keep on knittin’ on!

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: FO No. 2: Meg Strong

Knitalong FO No. 2: Meg Strong

Knitalong FO No. 2: Meg Strong

Knitalong panelist Meg Strong dropped by my studio yesterday so I could take the finished photos of her Amanda (in the grainy rainy-day light) and it was all I could do to let her have the sweater back after she kindly permitted me to try it on. As I told her, if I saw this sweater walking down the street, I would totally accost the wearer, ask if it was hand-knit, take a photo, text with Anna about possible pattern choices, and inadvertently launch a whole knitalong in pursuit of that sweater. So there you go!

Meg kindly answered a few questions for us all—

You were sort of playing for both teams — Team Seam and Team Seamless. You knitted the body in one piece but then worked the arms flat, right? What was your reason for not knitting the sleeves seamlessly as well?

In my early days of knitting, I would consider patterns only that were written top-down, for one reason: terrified of seaming!  After knitting many a sweater that met that one requirement, I found they all would tend to fall off my shoulders as the day wore on.  With a little research and many a discussion with knitters that had many more years experience than me, the verdict was that seamed sweaters give your garment structure.  I wanted to keep the sleeves seamed for that one reason, structure. The seam will help keep the sleeve shape with all the tugging that goes on when putting a sweater on and pulling it off.

The decision to knit the body in one piece as opposed to seaming, as the pattern dictates, was made for a few reasons. In a previous post, I explained that I tend to not be overly excited about knitting the same thing twice. So I tend to work both sleeves at the same time.  Same for left and right fronts of a cardigan. The Amanda pattern incorporates these panels of the honeycomb cable, which creates a very rigid, dense fabric.  Knowing the fabric produced would be rigid, I decided to cast on for both left and right fronts along with the back, and worked the body in one piece.  The gamble paid off — the sides are stable, due to the stitch, and the sweater body isn’t “walking” around my body.

Are you happy with your choices? Were there moments in the knitalong where you wished you’d done something the other way around?

Absolutely! Happy with every decision I made!

You’re also the first of the panelists to have attempted a shawl-collar modification, which worked out stupendously — I am totally coveting this sweater. (And it fits me perfectly!) For those like you who had cast on the button-band “tab” along with the waist ribbing, and were thus committed to a vertically knit button band, do you care to share how you did it?

First, love this method of working a button band! The first sewn button band I worked was the Linney Cardigan from Amy Christoffers. I had no idea why I was doing what I was doing, just following directions, but after I wore the sweater numerous times, I knew why that button band was sewn on. It all goes back to structure — again, all the tugging that goes on when putting on a sweater and pulling it off. That button band looks every bit as good today as it did fresh off my needles.

My modification for the shawl collar began on the sleeve joining row. For specifics, definitely take a look at my project page on Ravelry. In general, I decreased 1 stitch at each edge, every other row, until I reached the “neck shaping” directive in the pattern, then continued working the pattern as directed. The actual shawl collar grew out of the button bands. I worked the button bands up to the point that my v-neck modification began, then began to increase 1 stitch, after working the established edge stitch, until I was satisfied with the width of the shawl. For me, that was after I had increased to 31 stitches.

You mentioned to me when we were taking these pics that you realized along the way that you don’t really wear crewneck cardigans, so it’s good that the notion of a shawl-collar mod came up as we were knitting. Are you happy with how it turned out? Anything you’d do differently if you had it to do over again?

I absolutely love my Amanda! I tend to knit items for the meditative aspect of our craft and rarely knit for the challenge. For some people, knitting miles and miles of stockinette fabric absolutely drives them nuts. I, on the other hand, am in absolute bliss. For me, Amanda was a challenge knit — not from a difficulty perspective, but it’s one that required brain power that I usually don’t bring to the knitting table. I will say, however, by the time I got to the yoke, I had the chart memorized and was able to allow my brain to wander and enjoy. I have this overwhelming sense of accomplishment when I look at this sweater. Seventy-five days ago, this sweater was nothing more than yards and yards of yarn — beautiful yarn, but yarn! I am always amazed at what one can create with two sticks, some string and desire. Amazed.

Oh, to the “anything I would do differently” question: yes, how about neglecting to do the first buttonhole and mis-crossing a cable? I would like a do-over on both of those. Who has a magic wand?

And will you be cabling again anytime soon?

Ha! I treated myself to a sweater’s worth of Windham from Jill Draper Makes Stuff, and thought for sure that I would cast on today for a nice relaxing stockinette sweater. I have spent the better half of the day perusing patterns, and every one I have considered for this yarn is, you guessed it … cabled!!

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Thanks, Meg! You can see more pics of Meg’s finished sweater on her Ravelry project page. And by the way, there are two more completed shawl-collar Amandas, that I know of: Trm26 on Ravelry and @wendlandcd on Instagram (and Ravelry) — both gorgeous!

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: FO No. 1: Jaime Jennings

Giving thanks … for Meg’s mod

Giving thanks ... for Meg's mod

There are so many things I’m thankful for today: the friendships I have gained by becoming a knitter, the fact that you all find this blog worth reading, my wonderful husband and family. And also: this photo, which I flagrantly stole from #fringeandfriendsknitalong panelist Meg Strong. (Who, you know, taught me to knit in the first place. So thankful for Meg.) In addition to wondering how best to go about converting Amanda into a shawl-collar cardigan, I’ve also been wondering what it would look like. Would I love it as much as I think I would? Add to that the fact that I’ve reached that point where I am bored to tears with the monotony of this chart, feeling like if I don’t get to the join soon, I may never get there at all. And then this photo pops up on my phone, and all faith and enthusiasm are restored!

As with Jaime’s, I’ll have a Q&A with Meg here on the blog when her sweater is complete, but in case you also needed a boost — or the mod notes — in the meantime, I wanted to share this with you today.

If you’re in the US, I hope you enjoy your turkey! And no matter where you are, I hope you take a minute to count your blessings. Thank you for being one of mine!

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: FO No. 1 Jaime Jennings

Knitalong FO No. 1: Jaime Jennings

FO No. 1: Jaime Jennings' Amanda cardigan

Jaime Jennings is the first of our illustrious knitalong panel to have finished knitting her Amanda cardigan, and it’s a beauty in undyed Heirloom Romney. She put up a thorough post on the Fancy Tiger blog on Friday, and I had a few questions for her as well:

First, Jaime, let me say your sweater is SO CUTE. It’s motivating me to keep going. I especially love that natural dark grey. And the leather buttons. But enough fawning! So how are you feeling about having knitted for Team Seamless? Were there any aspects that came up during the knitalong that made you wish you’d done any part of it any differently?

I’m so glad I was Team Seamless! I took out all the selvedge stitches so the side panels on my sweater and underarms look amazing with absolutely no breaks in the honeycomb pattern. There were two reasons that Team Seam might have been better for this. One was that I didn’t fix any cable mistakes. (I made a few.) I had so much work on the needles for the body, I was scared to drop down and fix anything and risk really messing up a lot of knitting. It makes you question ripping out more since there is just so much knitting on the needles. Second was the button holes, which were hard to line up evenly not knowing the exact length of the finished garment. Next time I would knit the sweater seamlessly, but I would knit the bands as written, back and forth after the rest of the garment was completed. I’m still glad I did Team Seamless though.

Do you think you’d still have been the first one finished if you’d knitted it in pieces? I want to pit you and Kate head-to-head in a knitting race sometime.

Maybe … seaming doesn’t really take that long. Kate would definitely win in a head-to-head knitting race. She had to take a break to knit another sweater and I just knit this one sweater.

One of the reasons you were confident knitting this seamlessly is that your Heirloom Romney is such a sturdy yarn, and it does seem (based on the photos) like it also worked up into something almost lopi- or jacket-like in density and warmth. I know it’s a big subject but what’s your nutshell stance on softness versus durability or ruggedness when it comes to yarn and choosing yarn for projects?

My nutshell stance is I’ll take durability over softness any day. You’re talking to a woman who has made four lopi sweaters, three Heirloom sweaters, and three sweaters in Loft or Shelter … it’s pretty obvious where my heart lies in terms of my love of a rustic wool. Amanda is a lot of work. I would be heartbroken if it started pilling or wearing out in a short amount of time. I wear my knit garments a lot — I wear them hiking, camping, while shoveling snow, snowshoeing, while wearing backpacks, you name it. I love being confident in knowing I can wear my finished garments often. This is especially true of a cardigan when you know you’ll always have a shirt on underneath, so softness isn’t such a concern. Of course, depending on the pattern, I might want a yarn with more drape, and every once in awhile I’ll knit something that’s just really soft that feels amazing. My next sweater is going to be Northdale, and again, that’s a big commitment. I’m going to knit it in Jamieson and Smith for durability.

You mentioned at the beginning that you were a little intimidated by the volume of cabling involved. Would you say you’re a cable devotee now or just glad you did it?

I am! I loved the cables. It was (surprisingly) easy to get into a rhythm with them, and I love the look. This sweater made me feel super confident in my cabling skills, so now I feel I can knit anything!

You talked a little bit about your neck modifications in your blog post — the neck being the thing you and I were mutually concerned about at the outset. Are you really thinking about ripping it back and altering it more?

I might … The jury’s still out. I’m going to wait and see more people’s finished sweaters. If one looks really hot, I’ll redo mine. But that’s not going to stop me from wearing it right now. I’m growing to like it more and more each time I wear it and I’ve gotten tons of compliments, so that is awesome!

Have you picked out your next cable project yet?

No, but I’ve got my eye on about 10 things from Brooklyn Tweed. I especially love Field — because I definitely didn’t get enough of the honeycomb stitch. Honeycomb forever!!

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Thanks, Jaime — and congratulations on the gorgeous sweater! You can also see/save Jaime’s sweater and notes and more pics on Ravelry. Will the rest of us ever finish? Time will tell …

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: The simple joy of seaming

The simple joy of seaming

How to work mattress stitch

Can I just take a minute to publicly say how awesome Kate Gagnon Osborn is? When she signed on as a member of our Panel of Experts for the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, she offered to share her seaming wisdom (and enthusiasm). In the meantime, she’s taught us all so much more: how to accurately measure gauge with a cable swatch, how to account for post-blocking changes in row gauge, how to work increases “in pattern,” and even how to rewrite neck shaping. She blows my mind on a regular basis. (And we’ve laughed a little over how few comments there have been on her ultra-detailed posts. Did she blow your minds, too?) And now it’s finally time to talk about seaming! Kate has an excellent tutorial on the Kelbourne Woolens site (in their ever-expanding Tips & Tricks section) and I can’t see any point in reinventing the wheel. So she’s updated that tutorial with Amanda photos and you can read it at the other end of this link: How to work mattress stitch. (Thanks for being you, Kate!)

Despite my ongoing issues with knitting sweater pieces (all of which boil down to ADD) I genuinely enjoy the act of seaming those pieces together. It is so easy and so magical, pulling that strand and seeing pieces come together to form a whole.

So after blocking your joined sweater and sewing up those side and sleeve seams, all that’s left is to finish off the button bands, including working the button holes, and pick up stitches for the neck band. For guidance on picking up stitches, particularly for the curved portions of a neckline, the best resource I know is Pam Allen’s passage on the subject in Knitting for Dummies, which I think everyone should own. I also love her discourse on button holes in that same book. For those of you who don’t own it, I refer you to the buttonhole/band episode of Knit.fm. Well worth a listen!

From here on out, I’ll be checking in with our panelists as they finish their sweaters, starting with Jaime Jennings. And I also have more to say about the specific tiny mods I’ve made to my Amanda. And of course, we’ll all be watching the hashtag for as long as there are people using it!

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: Skiff hats of the knitalong

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Photos © Kate Gagnon Osborn

Single-flock souvenirs

Single-flock souvenirs

I’m not sure I’ve ever really written about this, but I’ve spent considerable time in the wine world. Between living where we lived (including a few years right in Napa) and having a cousin who’s a small-batch winemaker, we’ve spent a significant amount of time in vineyards and cellars, literally working harvest many years and drinking the fruits of our labor, among other things. So I find myself pretty routinely drawing comparisons, in my mind, between yarn and wine. I’m oversimplifying here to keep this brief, but in wine you basically have a continuum that ranges from stuff like Charles Shaw (aka “Two Buck Chuck”) — a dude who buys up everyone else’s leftover juice and dumps it together in a tank — to “single-vineyard wines.” In between are brands that buy specific quantities of known fruit from known growers, winemakers that contract with growers to grow fruit to their exacting specifications, and wineries that grow their own fruit on their own property. With Estate and single-vineyard wines, you know exactly who grew it on what exact plot of land. (Plus there’s all the blending of varietals and whatnot.) There are equivalents for all of that in yarn, which starts with farmers all around the globe selling their fleece to be graded, sorted, blended and resold for assorted purposes — from mattress stuffing to yarn for hand-knitters. The big yarn brands buy fiber through brokers. One might not care at all about breed or origin, only that it meets a certain micron count (the way fiber is graded for softness); another might be specifically looking for merino or alpaca or whatever, in addition to the grade. Then you have yarns such as, for instance, Brooklyn Tweed, where they can tell you not only that the fleece comes from Targee-Columbia sheep but that those sheep live in Johnson County, Wyoming. Or Woolfolk, which is built around a specific Patagonian merino. And so on. My very favorite yarns are undyed (sheep colored) and minimally processed (sheep scented/textured), but the ultimate are what I call “single-flock yarns,” and I was lucky to bring two of them home from my trip to Tolt.

If you happened to read the article I wrote about Tolt for Knitscene, you already know about Snoqualmie Valley Yarn. Anna approached some neighboring farmers who raise BFL–Clun Forest sheep, and together they produced 400 skeins of rustic, undyed, bouncy yarn — “farm to needle” — three of which are now mine. My friend Lori asked Anna for other local yarns, and when Anna walked up to us with an armload of options, I grabbed one of them right out from under Lori’s nose. (Sorry!! Geez, I’m such an asshole sometimes.) As you can see from the handwritten label, it’s 200 yards of “Longwool Lamb” from Abundant Earth Fiber on Whidbey Island. It’s soft and fluffy and one of my favorite sheep colors, that nearly-black brown. Some other lucky person had made off with the rest of it before I got there, so this one precious skein is all I have. But what treasures.

The one other place I was dying to visit while I was in Seattle was Drygoods Design, which did not disappoint, and the one thing I was hoping they would have is the freshly minted Linden Sweatshirt pattern from Grainline Studio (love that Jen Beeman), which they did. So those are my know-your-source souvenirs from a thoroughly lovely trip.

Single-flock souvenirs

Coming soon (x2)

Kathy Cadigan shooting for Fringe Supply Co

I was hoping to have some arrivals news for you today that didn’t happen (yet), but I wanted to say to everyone who came to Tolt last night: Thank you! So good to meet you. And also to let you know that the bulk of my (freezing cold) time in Seattle has been spent with Kathy Cadigan shooting all of the lovely goods I’ve got lined up for Fringe Supply Co. for the holidays. It’s all incredibly exciting and I can’t wait to start showing you! Soon … very soon.

Happy weekend!