New Favorites: Shawl-collar cardigans

New Favorites: Shawl-collar cardigans

Yes, I have been knitting Slade, but I’ve got grandpa cardigans on the brain lately, in a general way, and think they’re such a great investment of one’s knitting time and money. Are they ever out of style? Is there anywhere they don’t go? There seems to be a steady stream of good patterns, too — most recently these two:

LEFT: Channel Cardigan is classic Jared Flood; it’s like the sweater version of his Guernsey Wrap and Guernsey Triangle. I like the idea of  a more fitted grandpa sweater like this, although I’d give it full-length sleeves.

RIGHT: Earl by Amy Miller is more of a classic oversized grandpa — yay for pockets! — but I love the simple overall texture and the really generous shawl collar. I would just give it some buttons.

Speaking of shawl-collar cardigans, have you seen the movie Summer in February? Not a great movie, but visually beautiful and worth watching just for the knits. The lead female character has an exquisite grey hat and two shawl-collars — one oatmeal and one charcoal — that she wears throughout the movie. And they are heaven. Heaven!

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Acer: the final chapter in a epic tale of a girl and her cardigan

Acer cardigan as knitted by Karen Templer / Fringe Association

Raise your hand if you thought I’d never finish knitting this Acer. (It’s ok — even my hand is half-raised.) Now keep it up if you formed the impression I wasn’t enjoying it. Anyone? It’s perfectly understandable, what with my having spent most of eleven months neglecting it, but really, nothing could be further from the truth.

I first chose this pattern in part because I wanted to make myself seam something, and this has a body that’s knitted in one piece with separate sleeves seamed on at the end. It didn’t seem like a daunting project at all — I’d knitted more complicated lace patterns than this, although not worked flat; had picked up stitches for enough collars that nailing this one was no problem at all. (Would you pause for a second on that last pic and look at how perfectly symmetrical this neck is?) I was well-versed in figuring out the right ratio when picking up stitches along a selvedge, as for the button bands, and had read and imagined various buttonholes, without having actually knitted one. But somehow, despite all that, doing it all in concert for this particular outcome was like taking a really enjoyable master class. I loved every step of it: the portability of those standalone sleeves, working the very simple and pleasurable (easily memorized) charted stitches, becoming an ace at laddering back to fix mistakes, blocking the body and seeing the lace spread out, steaming the button bands and collar as each one got added. Even seaming on those sleeves! It seemingly didn’t teach me much that was new, but because it’s not a hand-holdy pattern — it assumes you know what you’re doing —  it put my skills to the test in a progressive manner. And passing that test — especially solving the fun little puzzle of the exact right neck decreases, row by row, based on where I happened to be in the chart — increased my confidence as a knitter tenfold.

But screw all that — have you seen the sweater I got out of it?! At one point, I was posting a progress shot in Instagram and I got a little self-conscious about everyone applauding my efforts. One very kind person complimented me on my determination to finish, and I said it was sad that I’d made it seem like some epic thing simply by not working on it for months on end. But once the sleeves were on, I held it up to show my friend Leigh and her eyes got huge, and she gulped, and she said to me: “It’s EPIC.” And I realized she’s right. It IS epic! And I’m super proud of it.

Acer cardigan as knitted by Karen Templer / Fringe Association

This is my fifth or sixth (finished) sweater, but it’s the first one that feels like a Real Sweater, somehow. I am completely smitten with it, even though I wish I’d done the button bands differently. I’m super judgy about button bands, not gonna lie, and this isn’t my favorite kind. I like the look of them, but think horizontal ribbing like this is often too flimsy, and to me nothing ruins a sweater like a gaping button band, all pulled into scallops. I’m not sure why I wound up doing it this way, after swearing all along I was going to do a 1×1 vertical band. But I did, and because I was concerned about the stability of it (even though most or all of the Acers I have bookmarked look perfectly fine!) I used seven buttons instead of six, which doesn’t quite quell my neurosis. So I might back the bands with ribbon at some point. Regardless, I’m wearing this forever, and can hardly wait for the first time someone asks me if I made it.

Yes!

Pattern: Acer by Amy Christoffers
Yarn: Shelter by Brooklyn Tweed, in Nest
Buttons: from Fringe Supply Co.

For gory details, minor modifications and additional pics check it out at Ravelry. And thank you to every single person who cheered me on, and to Amy for creating such a fantastic pattern.

Acer cardigan as knitted by Karen Templer / Fringe Association

New Favorites: Ebony and ivory

New Favorites: Ebony and ivory knitting patterns

There have been two new knitting pattern photos this week that have made my eyes widen and my mouth fall open. Both happen to be near-black and off-white, which is a combo I find irresistible. And in both cases, used to exquisite effect. First came Joelle’s Diagonal Pinstripe Scarf, a simple garter-stitch scarf (free pattern at the Purl Bee) knit on the diagonal with randomly placed single-row stripes, which creates a sort of ticking effect due to the garter stitch. Or as she says, “in Heirloom White with fine lines of Dark Loam, the effect is like a graphite drawing on cotton rag paper, loose and mysterious.” Then came Michele Wang’s Alloy, part of the latest Brooklyn Tweed collection, BT Winter 14. It’s classic Michele — an impeccable set-in-sleeve pullover with contrasting textures — but in this case she’s added color-blocked panels in the sleeves and sides. Had it been knitted in anything other than Fossil and Cast Iron, it wouldn’t have been the same. As is? Want.

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By the way, I know there are several of you who’ve been studying my Pullovers for First-Timers post, trying to decide what you want your first sweater to be. If you’re leaning toward a drop-sleeve pattern (i.e, no sleeve-cap or armscye shaping) there are two great options in that new BT collection: Abbott by Michele Wang and Benton by Julie Hoover. Both manage the proportions well.

Color of the Year: Orchid vs Thistle

Brooklyn Tweed Thistle: Color of the Year

Pantone has announced their Color of the Year for 2014 — they’re calling it (gag alert!) Radiant Orchid. It’s a tricky color, let’s be honest. I’m a big believer in the right shade of lilac-ish purple (it looks nice on me, as the Color Me Beautiful lady told me all those years ago) but it’s so easy for it to be cloying. The first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the announcement, though, was Brooklyn Tweed‘s “Thistle,” which is perfect. The tweed gives it a little bit of necessary roughness, messes it up just enough. (When you think about it, the names are funny — if I’m at the flower stand, I will reach right past the orchids and grab the thistle any day of the week.) It’s been under consideration for my Trillium cardigan, if I ever get to it. Charcoal, ivory or Thistle, and most likely the latter. It’ll look marvelous with my camo pants.

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New Favorites: Round yoke sweaters

New Favorites: Round yoke sweater knitting patterns

There’s so much discussion of the relative merits of raglan versus set-in-sleeve sweater construction that it’s easy to forget about the raglan’s discreet, seamless cousin: the round yoke sweater. Unlike raglans, where the yoke-shaping increases or decreases* line up visibly along the seams, round-yoke sweaters have them evenly distributed around the yoke, making them all but invisible. For me at least (but I believe generally — you’ll correct me if I’m wrong), round yokes are chiefly associated with Nordic sweaters, where the round-yoke approach means the increases/decreases can be disguised within the characteristic colorwork of the yoke rather than interrupting it. But the method has its merits, colorwork or no colorwork.

Hannah Fettig recently released a small collection of round-yoked patterns, called Knitbot Yoked, and there are also a couple of great ones in yesterday’s Wool People 6 collection from Brooklyn Tweed (which of course is full of all kinds of loveliness). But ever since trying it on, I’ve been obsessed with the round-yoked cardigan from their previous collection, BT Fall ’13, which fit me around the shoulders like no other sweater I have ever had on. So these are now all on my official to-knit list:

TOP LEFT: Trillium cardigan by Michele Wang is the one I tried on and can’t step thinking about. Flat body and circular sleeves are knit separately from the bottom up, joined at the underarm, and the yoke — ringed with texture instead of colorwork — is knit seamlessly from there.

TOP RIGHT: Willard Fair Isle Pullover by Hannah Fettig is my favorite from her aforementioned Yoked collection. Top-down seamless with a minimalist’s version of colorwork. AND! It’s designed for Quince and Co.’s Owl yarn, which I’m dying to knit with.

BOTTOM LEFT: Skydottir pullover by Dianna Walla is a more traditional stranded-yoke design, showing just how beautiful a single contrast color can be. Body and sleeves are each knit circularly from the bottom up, joined at the underarm, and knit seamlessly in one piece from there.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Rook pullover by Kyoko Nakayoshi is my absolute favorite from Wool People 6. Top-down seamless with gorgeous cables and a doubled neckband.

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*Increases if you’re knitting from the top down; decreases if you’re knitting from the bottom up.

New Favorites: Breathtaking BT sweaters

Oshima and Stonecutter sweater knitting patterns from BT Fall 13

So it’s officially fall — equinox or no equinox. The first NFL game has been played. The new iPhone has been announced. Annnnd let’s see … what else? Right, Brooklyn Tweed’s Fall 13 pattern collection has been unveiled. You may have seen the lookbook yesterday. It’s 106 pages of cables and camping, so you know I’m in, but for me it’s all about these two sweaters:

ON TOP is Oshima by Jared Flood. (I literally just paused and let out a big meaningful sigh after typing that! Hilarious.) Brioche-yoked and cowl-necked, it’s one of the very few cable-free pieces in the collection and it’s just stunning. I can’t resist describing that top right photo as “Helmut Lang takes a hike.” That back shoulder detail just kills me.

ON BOTTOM is Stonecutter by Michele Wang. Nevermind a little pause-and-sigh, I wish you could have heard the sound that came out of me when I first laid eyes on these photos. This is not a word I throw around lightly (unlike, say, “obsession”) but I have no qualms about calling this a masterpiece. The hip detail, the magnificent center cables, the little rolled neck. It’s perfection from start to finish.

The thing about a design as perfect as that is it sends me into a little existential knitting crisis, as there is absolutely nowhere for me to insert myself into it. I wouldn’t even change the color, much less modify it in any way. I would want to knit it exactly as written, and in that case I can’t help wishing someone would just sell it to me. But I both admire and want it so much I may knit it anyway, and when someone says to me, “Wow, did you knit that sweater you’re wearing?,” I’d have the immense pleasure of saying, “Yes.” I had nothing else on earth to do with its existence, but every twist and turn of every cable, yes, I did knit it myself.

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Knit the Look: Josefine Nielsen’s plaid scarf

How to knit a version of Josefine Nielsen's plaid scarf

I’ve been saving this image of Danish model Josefine Nielsen and its time has finally come. Back-to-school season is here, so it’s safe to start dreaming again of trench coats! And plaid! But what if the plaid scarf was knitted instead? To emulate this one, all we need is Stephen West’s Kex scarf pattern and a slight shift in color palette for the Brooklyn Tweed Shelter yarn. In place of the original colors, I’d suggest A) Fossil, B) Long Johns, C) Birdbook and D) Faded Quilt.

See Vanessa’s original post for a better look at the trench!

And for this week’s ICYMI pick, since there are so many new readers since then (hi, everybody!), how about the introduction to Knit the Look.

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Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission