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

New Favorites: BT’s best shawl collars

New Favorites: Brooklyn Tweed's best shawl-collar cardigans

When I was talking to someone recently (can’t remember who/where) about putting a shawl collar on my Amanda cardigan for the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, they said something about how on-trend that will be. And I suppose it will, but it got me thinking. There are definitely lots of shawl collars in the stores right now, but aren’t there always? I genuinely don’t think there’s ever been a year when there haven’t been amazing shawl-collar cardigans I’m dying to own. Certainly the shapes and details vary, and they may be more “in” one year than the next, but a shawl-collar cardigan is never out of style. And I think that timelessness is a big part of why I keep casting them on! It seems perfectly reasonable to me to invest large chunks of knitting time on a garment that cozy, and that I believe has a greater chance of wearing out than falling out of fashion. So that train of thought and yesterday’s Wool People release got me looking at the Best of Brooklyn Tweed shawl collars:

TOP: Field by Kazekobo, the newest entry, from Wool People 8. Honeycomb on the body, reverse stockinette sleeves, and compound raglan shaping — a total classic. Plus based on the gauge, it appears to be the perfect pattern from which to borrow the neck shaping and collar method for a shawlified Amanda. (Was there anyone at BT reading these posts thinking “Hold on! We have the perfect candidate!”?)

ROW 2 LEFT: Channel Cardigan by Jared Flood, from BT Winter ’14, knit-purl splendor already on my needles. Even though I’m planning to leave out some of the details that make it so exceptional, I think this is the Sweater of the Year.

ROW 2 RIGHT: Timberline by Jared Flood, from BT Men. I could stare at those intricately branching cables all day, and think the collar on this one is perfection.

MIDDLE: Little Wave by Gudrun Johnston, from Wool People 6, textured stitch panels with garter-stitch accents. And pockets! This one didn’t make that huge of an impression on me until I tried on the sample and fell in love. (I’ve also been taking a second, third and fourth look at Persimmon lately.)

BOTTOM LEFT: Burr by Veronik Avery, from BT Fall ’12, in stockinette with stylized shaping. Looks like such a simple sweater, and then you start to notice all the amazing, subtle details.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Bellows by Michele Wang, from BT Fall ’14, allover texture with cable accents. Seriously, it’s all I can do to not cast this on before finishing Amanda and Channel. And actually, my all-time favorite BT shawl collar might be another Michele design: the Arlo kids cardigan.

I wish I had every one of them in my closet right now and forever.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Offshore

Elsewhere

Yarny links for your clicking pleasure

Know what I’m excited about?

- the impending Seamwork webmag from Colette

- the impending podcast from Woolful

- Ann Shayne’s crazy 8-yarn sweater for the #fringeandfriendsknitalong

- the fact that people like this exist (thx, jo!)

and

- Felicia Semple’s Stash Less series

Not to mention there’s a new BT Wool People collection coming along any minute now … [UPDATE: Here it is, the Wool People 8 lookbook]

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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

FO Sightings: Skiff hats of the #fringeandfriendsknitalong

FO Sightings: Skiff hats of the #fringeandfriendsknitalong

While the #fringeandfriendsknitalong has been open to any fisherman-cabled object of a knitter’s choosing, there are clearly way more Amanda cardigans being knitted than anything else, followed by Ondawa and Bellows, it seems. But in the accessory department, the clear favorite has been Jared Flood’s Skiff, published just as the knitalong was kicking off. And of course they came together way faster than the sweaters. I wanted to take a minute to pay them tribute:

+ WorthingGirl on Ravelry, knitted in Fibre Company Acadia

+ lmscott from Ravelry / @lianneknits on Instagram, knitted in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter

+ waldorfmanufaktur / @waldorfmanufaktur, knitted in Fibre Company Organik

+ DanaRae19 from Ravelry, knitted in Berroco Ultra Alpaca (she’s also completed a White Pine cardigan; so good)

+ @recklessglue, knitted in … unknown

+ QuiltedTortoise / @thequiltedtortoise, knitted in Plucky Knitter Primo Worsted

+ tumblingblocks / @tumblingblocks, knitted in Madelinetosh Tosh DK

+ @kimberley.buergel, knitted in Camellia Fiber Company Merino Aran

And now I want to knit this hat! Huge apologies if I missed any finished Skiff pics in rounding these up.

Also, @fancyjaime is the first of our Panel to finish her Amanda — the knitting, at least. She posted a pic from LAX, unblocked and no buttons yet, and I can’t wait to see it all finished up.

I promise next week we’ll talk about seaming.

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PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: Amanda neck shaping: Kate reworks the crewneck
PREVIOUSLY in FO Sightings: Junko’s patchwork shawl

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

Among the many people I’m looking forward to seeing in Seattle this week is Tif Fussell, better known as dottie angel, who is utterly unique and one of the funniest people I’ve met in the craft world. She’s also responsible for my using the British expression “pants” as often as possible in conversation lately, as in “I realize I have been most pants at actually answering what you ask and could in fact have a very good career as a politician ..​. .” You can find her on her blog, Instagram and Facebook, and be sure to take a peek at her crochet patterns on Ravelry. Thanks for doing this, Tif!

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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

I am crafter who likes to sew, hand embroider, appliqué, crochet and dabble in knitting, being particularly fond of working with recycled and vintage fabrics alongside of yarn. I cannot recall a time when I did not make something with my hands. If I am not making with my hands, I get quite ‘not nice’ to know. I am a self-taught crafter — my limitations therefore created my style of patching and piecing things together in a pleasing way to me, and in turn became the crafting style of dottie angel. From there I have evolved into applying this method towards a multitude of makes. I tend to be much happier making things up as I go along rather than following a pattern, for if I do end up following a pattern, chances are quite high I will go off the path or, at the very least, add a bit of bling to the end result. I am also rather fond of rectangles and squares when it comes to yarny matters. They truly can become something quite glorious when all is said and done.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

I love wood or vintage tools; I love the look, the feel, and the history which comes with them. However, nine times out of ten I do not find they work so well for me, and I end up using tools which do the job brilliantly but, to my eye, look quite pants compared to handmade or vintage tools. Oh but saying that, I do have a lovely pair of scissors which I found at Tolt Yarn and Wool and another, larger size on a pottle in Portland. They are beautiful and I blinged them quite happily with some frayed fabric on the handles, just so they knew how much I loved them.

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

I have a drawer of shame when it comes to knitting needles and hooks. I tell myself it is okay because the drawer belongs to a fabby midcentury cupboard but alas, they are scattered in there willy nilly, and now that I have circular needles too it is getting out of control. I wish this were not the case but it is. However, I am delighted to report I am more organized with my sewing notions, preferring to use old vintage colanders, cook pots and baskets to keep things where they should be. Everything has its place; it’s just that some places are sadly more messy than others.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

My yarny works-in-progress live in an enamel bowl which is easy to pick up and take to stitch circle at Tolt Yarn and Wool if need be, or live by the fireplace ready for when we have a few moments to spend quality time together. It also pleases me greatly should I glance upon my bowl during the day. My fabric works-in-progress are laid out in my ‘atelier of sorts’ where I can pottle past and ponder en route to doing domestics or procrastinating. Quite often I have to return to the scene when I am working on fabric creations to discover it was not a crime after all which was being committed, but something rather peachy.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

Without a doubt, that would be Miss Ethel, my trusty sewing machine. She is a workhorse with no bells or whistles, she knows how to get the job done and she does it well. Without her steady influence I would be lost. In a fire, she would be the one I would grab alongside of my recently embroidered mittens, of which I am smitten. You could point out my mittens are not tools as such but I must include them, for Miss Ethel and my mittens are equally highly prized by me.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

Do you lend your tools?

I have never lent a tool and now I am wondering why this is? I wonder if I give off the vibe of “do not ask Tif, for she would never lend”. I have my granny in my ear from when I was a small being saying “never a lender nor a borrower be” and perhaps all these years I have carried that invisibly about my person, thus no one has asked to borrow a tool of mine, thus I have not lent. When my clan of 4 were small and compact, living in England at the time meant we did an awful lot of rainy day crafting, which required lots of pairs of scissors. I would make sure my fabric scissors were clearly marked with a fabric tag for fear they would be used on paper by a little one. Was it Shakespeare or some ancient bod who wrote “hell have no fury like a woman scorned noting her fabric scissors have been used on paper”? Alas I fear I give off a ‘not a lender’ vibe which I will add to the top of my new year’s resolutions, to rectify promptly.

What is your favorite place to knit/crochet/whatever?

If I am knitting then it takes all my concentration (sometimes with tongue sticking out), therefore I must knit solo — unless it is squares, then I can relax a bit. If I am crocheting, I am much more social and carefree. If I sew with Miss Ethel (my trusty sewing machine), once again I fly solo for I am in my happy place, just her and me doing what we do best. If I am hand embroidering, I am happy to be in company but again, I am muchly happy to be on my own. It would appear I like to craft alone, at home, for crafting is my therapy. I put the world to rights in my head and I cannot do that unless I am alone. Perhaps it is a fall back to the days when our home was filled with noise and small beings and I would retreat to my crafting for quiet at the end of the day. However can I just say, whatever or whenever I am crafting at home, my constant canine companions are always close by, they are terribly good at listening without judgment, not talking back and admiring my creations however dodgy they may be turning out to be.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I am a lover of the seasons, having only ever lived where seasons come and go. I go into full-on nesting mode which involves many a cunning plan to knit or crochet when the chilly days appear. And when the sun becomes my friend again, I find it most tricky to give yarn any consideration. Fabric on the other hand is a year round creativity for me, not in the least affected by the seasons. Therefore it would be true to say, yarn can fall out of favor, whereas fabric is always in favor with me.

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

Can it be a confession? For I must confess, as I have carried it inside for donkeys years: My trusty crochet hook is just not a handsome chappy yet he does a fine job at stopping the old aches and pains in my joints. However, I am ashamed to admit, his non-aesthetic ways do not please when it comes to taking photos, and I will lay out my natty bit of crocheted goodness and heartlessly toss him aside for a ‘staged’ bamboo hook for the photo opportune moment. Yes I am a rotter of the worse kind, and just confessing this sin has me weighed down even more in guilt for my Mr Hook and not feeling in the least bit lighter, as I had hoped.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

What are you working on right now?

Like so many makers, I have a fair few things I should be working on or deadlines looming yet I have mastered the fine art of procrastination, resulting in many hours spent making and doing what pleases me, rather than what is of priority. I have tried in more recent times to pull up my crafty knee socks and get a better balance, thus I work on the must-dos, and give myself a pat on the back with a day off pottling about my crafty space without agenda. Recently my bonce (head) has been filled with notions of:

1. embroidered knitted mittens and fingerless friends
2. macramé oversized, cascading down the wall, made with leftover threads and yarn
3. vintage hmong strings of happy
4. doilified dream catchers with beards
5. 1930s knitted neck warmers
6. oversized pom poms made from a variety of leftover yarns
7. making another set of knitted sleeves proving to myself second sleeve syndrome does not have to be for life
8. plump roundie crocheted cushions made from the gigantic yarn cone I bought back from my travels to Marrakech earlier in the year
9. adding to my granny trousseau. I am not yet to be a granny but I am planning for the future as my knitting of small garments is slow going. I will make it a lending library of sorts for my clan, to love and to use and then to return for the next small being in line
10. publishing my dottie angel frock pattern in the late spring of next year

Yes, that is what my head is filled with, day and night, some of which I am working on, some of which is in the pipeline for a rainy procrastinating sort of day to come along, and all bar one are personal, hence proving my knee socks have not been pulled up after all and my ability to become a professional crafter is still a long way away.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Tif Fussell (dottie angel)

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Jen Beeman (Grainline Studio)

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Photos © Tif Fussell

 

Holiday knitting cheat sheet: Warm hands, warm hearts

Holiday knitting cheat sheet: Warm hands, warm heart

Given that fingerless gloves have always been my favorite thing to knit, it’s funny that we’ve talked about hats for the whole family and cowls all around, but I’ve never done a holiday knitting rundown of which mitts to knit for whom. Well, here it is!

1. the girly girl: Rhea Wrist Warmers by Kari-Helen Rane — pretty lace on the back of the hand, ribbing everywhere else

2. the tomboy: Stadium Mitts by yours truly — what can I say? so simple and versatile (free pattern)

3. the traditionalist: Leaves Fingerless Gloves by Valentina Georgieva — easy cables-and-lace chart in aran weight (free pattern)

4. the english major: Brooke Mitts by Michele Rose Orne — simple colorwork that won’t slow you down

5. the sophisticate: Fure by Olga Buraya-Kefelian — yep, still have these long, luscious beauties on my mind

6. the dude: Man Hands by Shireen Nadir — slightly more dudely than the average unisex mitts

7. the art student:Gradient Mitts by Krista McCurdy — ombré is irresistible (see also Purl Bee’s Colorblock Hand Warmers, longer, fingering, gussetless, free)

8. the unknown recipient: 70-Yard Mitts by Hannah Fettig — lightning fast, stash-busting and, depending on color, suitable for anyone

Like always, that last one is also a great idea to just knit to have on hand … for that Oops! moment.

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Speaking of gifts, if you’re not inclined to knit for the whole family (or you’re crafting your own wish list!), know that I’ve got lots of amazing goodies coming to Fringe Supply Co. in the coming weeks. I put one super fun gift item up over the weekend, just because I couldn’t resist: Shabd’s Magic Jar Dye Kit.

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PREVIOUSLY in Holiday knitting cheat sheets: Cowls all around