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!


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!!


Thanks, Jaime — and congratulations on the gorgeous sweater! Will the rest of us ever finish? Time will tell …


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 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!


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: Skiff hats of the knitalong


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.


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Offshore

Amanda neck shaping, part 2: Kate reworks the crewneck

Amanda neck shaping, part 2: Kate reworks the crewneck

As promised in neck shaping part 1 yesterday, I’m talking to panelist Kate Gagnon Osborn (aka @kelbournewoolens) today about the mods she’s made to her Amanda, which are extensive and stunning, including how and why she reshaped the neck — and how you can too, if you’re so inclined.

. . .

Dearest Kate, you’ve made a few changes to your Amanda. Tell us about them.

I went off the rails a little bit with this pattern. I agreed (was honored, really), to participate in this knitalong as a panel member, as it provided me with the opportunity to knit a sweater for me — something I have not done since, well, I really don’t know when — and I loved the idea of an open-ended yet educational knitalong. My intention from the start was to treat it as my “mindless project” — to follow the pattern as written, not worry too much about it, and end up with a sweater. With the added bonus of not having to write, size, edit, and publish a pattern at the end of it all.

And I knit the sleeves as written. Almost. I cast on a few less stitches for the cuff, as I was worried they flared as written. But that was it. No other mods. And then I jumped into the back, and had every intention of knitting it as written, too. But I find odd numbers to be exceedingly pleasing, so I tweaked it a bit to give myself three diamond cables. Which meant that the patterning was wider than the raglan would allow (a really lovely design element in the sweater as written — if you look at the raglan shaping on the fronts and back in relation to the diamond panels, they all work together beautifully) so set-in sleeves it was. Then came the fronts. I was really enamored of the braid, so I added a few of those, and went on my merry way. After the armhole shaping to match the back, I got to the neckline. At this point, I felt like a rogue panel member high on wool fumes — I had modified so much, I needed to work the neck as written. But you had mentioned you thought the neck was a little floppy and too high. A perfect opportunity for more mods, yes? So modify I did!

I should state that this is a matter of personal opinion; there’s nothing empirically *wrong* with the neck as written. But if you agree with me, what do you think is the issue?

The pattern has you work 2 yoke setup rows + 1 raglan decrease row + 34 (36, 36, 38) additional raglan rows (decreasing every other row), for a total of 37 (39, 39, 41) rows — or 5.5 (5.75, 5.75, 6)” — before the neck shaping begins. You then work the remaining raglan decreases and neck shaping over 12 rows, or 1.75″, for a total raglan depth of 7.25 (7.5, 7.5, 7.75)” After the yoke is complete, a 1.25″ neckband is worked, leaving a mere .5″ (1.75 minus 1.25) between the top of your front neck and shoulder height.

This is very classic, but one of the issues I have with raglans (primarily top-down) is that many do not account for the necessary difference in front and back neck height (depth). Without the space between the neck ribbing and your physical body, the fabric has no where to go if not secured (buttoned) at the highest point, and will naturally flop out when worn.

What did you do differently with your neck shaping?

My back armhole depth is 8″, plus I worked .75″ of short-row shaping at the shoulder, for a total of 8.75″ length at the neck edge, measured from where the armhole shaping begins. I wanted about 3.25″ difference between the top of my shoulder and the top of my front neck after working the 1.25″ ribbing, so that meant I needed to begin my neck shaping 3.25″ + 1.25″ = 4.5″ before my armhole is complete. Since I knew my depth already from working the back, subtracting my neck shaping depth from my armhole depth at the neck edge, I got 8.75″ – 4.5″ = 4.25″. Meaning I needed to begin my neck shaping after working 4.25″ up from the start of my armhole.

That is quite a bit lower than the Amanda pattern begins its shaping. Amanda has you bind off (or set aside, rather) 10 stitches, then bind off 3 stitches at the beginning of the next 10 rows (i.e. 5 times on each side of the neck). So it’s sort of terraced. Do you have a preferred tactic for shaping a crewneck?

I recommend binding off about 1-2 inches of stitches at the neck edge, then I decrease at the neck edge every row a few times, then every other row a few times, then work straight to the end. Since I’m working set-in sleeves, not a raglan, I don’t have to worry about “eating up” all of my stitches at the end of the shaping. This makes things a little easier when messing around with the neck stitches, so I usually decrease until I like the curve, then knit straight up to the end. (It is basically like working a deeper, more pronounced set-in sleeve armhole, but at the neck!)

So for those who are knitting a seamless raglan yoke as written, but wanting to lower the front neckline, would it work to just knit the neck shaping as written but start it a couple of inches sooner?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: yes, but the shaping as written is designed to eat all the neck stitches over those few rows, so you may have shallow, wide shaping, then a long bit of working straight. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

And for the more intrepid among us who might want to give the front neck a curve more like yours, what would you advise?

As I mentioned, it is a little harder to figure out the neck shaping when it comes to raglans, because you need to eat up all of the neck + raglan stitches in order to have a smooth neckline shape, and the specific numbers directly relate to which raglan row you decided to begin your shaping on. (This is another reason why many raglans do not have neck shaping – the front is just left straight across to mimic the back, and the flat fronts, sleeves, and flat back create a nice oval shape.)

In order to sort out a deeper neck and the corresponding numbers, you need to work some basic arithmetic to figure out your shaping:

I’ll use the second size as an example. Say you want your neckline to begin 4.5″ from the tops of the shoulders, and you’re working a raglan depth of 7.5″ as written, you need to begin your neck shaping at 7.5″ – 4.5″ = 3″ after the armhole join. At a gauge of 7 rows/inch, that’s 21 rows from the join till you start shaping. So you would work the 2 yoke set-up rows, the raglan decrease row, and then 9 more decrease rows (decrease rows being every other row).

Still using size 2 for our example, we know from the pattern that each front has 43 stitches at the join. Over those first 21 rows, 1 stitch on each front is decreased in the set-up row, then 1 additional stitch on each front 10 times at the raglan for a total of 11 stitches decreased. So at the start of your neck shaping, you would have 43 – 11 = 32 stitches total on each front. If you read through the rest of the pattern, it calls for a total of 51 rows in the yoke (2 yoke setup, 37 raglan shaping, 12 neck shaping), of which you’ve worked 21 so far. So you have 30 rows to go, half of which (15) are raglan decrease rows.

With 32 stitches left and 15 of them going to raglan decreases, you have 17 stitches to use for neck shaping over your 30 remaining rows. I would divide them into thirds: 5 + 6 + 6. Bind off 5 stitches, then decrease 1 stitch every row 6 times, then every other row 6 times, working all of the neck shaping over 19 rows. For the last 10 rows, work only the raglan decreases.

. . .

Kate, you’re awesome.

One last thing I want to stress about neck shaping is that it’s largely a matter of personal preference and personal body shape. Amanda (or any sweater) might be perfect for you as written, or it might take some tweaking and retrying. Same goes for Kate’s scenario, above. Props to @wendlandcd for trying this one as written, finding it lacking for her body shape, and being undaunted about ripping back and trying a v-neck instead. This is the beauty of knitting! It’s not like sewing, where once you’ve cut the fabric, your options are limited. With knitting, you can always rip and adjust — especially when it’s only a few inches of knitting, like a neck or yoke. When you put so much into a sweater, take the time to get it just right. For you.


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: Amanda neck shaping, part 1: Karen plots a shawl collar

Amanda neck shaping, part 1: Karen plots a shawl collar

Amanda neck shaping, part 1: Karen ponders a shawl collar

When I’d been knitting for about three months, I signed up for a full weekend of classes at Stitches West, ranging from one-hour workshops on fixing mistakes, knitting backwards and continental knitting, to a half-day class on Tunisian crochet and a full-day class on the top-down sweater method. I’m pretty sure it was the fixing mistakes teacher I’m remembering having opened up the floor to questions at the end. Someone asked, “What do you think it’s really important to get good at?” Which was an interesting question, I thought. And the teacher responded, “Neck shaping.” Which seemed completely out of left field to me, being a total newb in a room full of newbs. I couldn’t imagine why I would ever need to know how to do that myself, and had no clue how one would go about learning it. OMG. Of course, I wound up inadvertently learning the basics of it in that top-down sweater class, and I’ve drawn on that ever since. I’m comfortable calculating the rate of increase on a top-down sweater, based on whether I want a crewneck or V-neck or whatever, and can turn that around for a bottom-up. Which is about to come in handy.

I mentioned back in our Meet the Panel post that I was concerned about the neck shaping on Amanda. There is only one photo of the sweater in the book (!) and the model’s hair is obscuring the neckline, but it still gave me pause. I looked at the project photos on Ravelry and it does seem to be a case where the neck doesn’t sit quite right on some people, with the tops of the button bands wanting to flap forward and outward. It’s because the neck shape is high, wide and shallow — almost like high boatneck. Buttoned all the way up, it sits the way a high boatneck would. But split open into a cardigan, those high fronts have nothing to anchor them.

We’ll get into more detail about this tomorrow, in part 2. But meanwhile, I’m here to tell you that it won’t be an issue for me after all, as I’ve decided to make my Amanda into a shawl-collar cardigan instead! Reader Callie C asked in the comments recently whether it would be “easy” to make this alteration — specifically, to give Amanda a Bellows collar — noting that she has not knitted a cardigan before. Easy is in the eye of the beholder, but I responded as follows:

I wouldn’t say it would be “easy” but it could certainly be done. The biggest trick is you’d have to change the neck shaping. If you look at the shape of the main fabric on Bellows, it’s a v-neck shape, with the fronts gradually sloping away from each other. You’d have to create that curved edge in order to do a Bellows-style band. For a shawl collar like that, you pick up stitches all the way up one front, around the neck, and back down the other front, and work your ribbing outward from there, and the shawl-collar part itself is created with short rows.

Given that they’re both worsted-weight sweaters, I would buy the Bellows pattern and compare the row gauges (its, Amanda’s, yours) to see if you could just use the neck-shaping numbers from Bellows and then work the collar from that pattern, too. But even if it’s not a perfect 1:1, you could see how Bellows is done and then apply that same thinking to Amanda.

… I should note that you’d be applying that shape to a raglan yoke (Amanda is raglan; Bellows is set-in sleeves), so it wouldn’t be worked exactly the same way as the Bellows fronts. …

Once she got me started, I couldn’t stop thinking about how great a shawl collar would be. Of course, no two shawl collars are alike: There are deep-V, narrow, professorial types, and high-V, super-round Peter Pan-ish types. I’m doing this despite the fact that the other two sweaters I currently have in progress — Channel and Slade (the poor thing) — are both shawl collars, but they’ll all be quite different. I think the shaping on Bellows is pretty perfect, but bought the pattern and the gauge is drastically different than mine/Amanda’s. I hadn’t realized it’s two strands of Shelter (worsted) held together and knitted at bulky gauge. Still useful for seeing the rate of the slant and where it begins and ends. (And I imagine I’ll be knitting Bellows one day anyway — especially knowing it’s bulky!) So I’m on the hunt for other patterns with good shawl shaping and a more similar row gauge — e.g. The Shepherd Cardigan! — but I’ll probably wind up just winging it, and redoing if need be. (Why row gauge, you ask? Because to make this mod, we need to concern ourselves with how many rows are worked within the yoke section, and figure out how many decreases to distribute at what rate amongst those rows. Plus picking up stitches along the selvage is about how many stitches you’ll pick up into the ends of how many rows.)

It’ll be awhile before I get to the neck shaping — I still have half my sleeves plus my back to do — but once I get to it, assuming it works out, I promise to share my notes.

Tomorrow I’m talking to Kate about her many mods, how they led to her set-in sleeve alteration, and what she suggests for tweaking Amanda’s neck shape.


PREVIOUSLY in #fringeandfriendsknitalong: WIP of the Week, week 6

New Favorites: Offshore

New Favorites: Offshore

Swans Island released a little pattern collection a few weeks ago called The All American Collection, and I can’t get this Bristol Ivy pattern, Offshore, off my mind. Slouchy and unisex, it has some handsome cables up the front of a simple stockinette sweater, and another one running up one sleeve, across the saddle shoulder (love a saddle shoulder) and back down the other sleeve. It looks like a such an easy but engaging knit, and the slouchy, unisex, sweatshirt-y shape looks so perfectly cozy to me right now — great for weekdays and weekends alike.

See also: Oranmore.


p.s. In case you haven’t already seen it, I added a photo to the end of Thursday’s post about joining Amanda parts at the underarm — a spectacular photo of a just-joined Amanda. Go look!


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Uncommon cables