Vintage sweaters, snow days and Elsewhere

Vintage sweaters, snow days and Elsewhere

My friend Victoria Heifner of Milkfed Press (she prints the Yarn Pyramid) recently came into possession of a trove of vintage craft supplies and asked me if I would like these two Jack Frost pattern booklets from 1950-51, one book of men’s sweaters and the other of women’s. These vintage booklets always kill me. They’re generally not more than 32 pages each but they are so packed with patterns (even with the full-page photos), and every pattern is a little gem. They’re not tricksy or fancy in any way — just solid, useful, beautifully designed garments. Page after gorgeous page of them. The patterns are all much briefer than knitters have come to rely on these days; they assume you know how to knit, so they cut to the chase. The two books here have as many as 3.5 sweater patterns per page. I adore them, and clearly so did their original owner. The spines have been taped together after falling apart from use, and not recently — the tape has been there long enough to have yellowed and disintegrated by now. The ladies’ book also had the previous owner’s notes tucked inside. Such incredible treasure, Victoria, thank you. I can’t wait to knit from these.

The vintage vest I’m currently knitting is coming along nicely — you can see a glimpse of the finished back piece here. And I did actually sew last weekend for the first time in a year! Rather than diving into the Sonya Philip pattern I wrote about last Friday, I decided it would be wise to start back in with a pattern I already know — dust off those particular brain cells after their long disuse. So I traced off a modified Wiksten Tank and cut it out of some khadi cloth I bought at A Verb for Keeping Warm last spring. We had another snow day in Nashville yesterday, which for me means a work-at-home day, and I spent what would have been commute time finishing it up. I’ll show it to you soon!

Meanwhile, a mini-Elsewhere for your weekend clicking pleasure:

– There’s a promising new webmag called Woven Magazine that just kicked off with a terrific interview with Nashville weaver Allison Volek Shelton, who you’ve heard me raving about before.

– It’s been a long time since I professed my love of Karen Barbé’s blog, but anytime I want to be inspired by the way someone else’s mind works, a trip to her site always pays off. Her aesthetic, her photos … so good.

– I’m happy to hear that Kelbourne Woolens is planning to do Crochet Summer again — maybe that and this free pattern will mean I finally make that granny-triangle shawl I’ve been talking about for … how long?

– And have you ever seen anything more beautiful than these sheep?

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone — thanks for reading!

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PREVIOUSLY in Elsewhere

Bellows glamour shots and mod notes

Bellows glamour shots and mod notes

It’s been eight days since I attached the buttons to this Bellows cardigan, and — no joke — I have worn it for some or all of every day since then. Normally I hold off wearing a thing until it’s been photographed, but that was not an option here. A) It’s too good not to wear. B) It’s been bulky-shawl-collar-sweater-weather for rilz. Most of the time I’ve got the buttons buttoned and the collar up for maximum coziness. I don’t have a lot to say about this sweater other than that I love it so much so much I dread the moment when I have to take it off, and the idea of putting it on makes getting out of bed in the morning a little more palatable.

Three weeks of knitting, two weeks of neglect, one week of finishing — as much a dream to knit as to wear. Michele Wang, I love you.

There are a few mistakes: As previously noted, the cables all twist one direction because I forgot to switch on my second piece, so I just decided who cares. And I don’t! There’s a spot where I got off course with the broken rib for two rows. I meant to make it the left sleeve so the mistake would wind up in the rear underarm, but after letting it sit for two weeks before seaming, I forgot to worry about it and it wound up on the front of the right sleeve. Doubt anyone will ever notice. And there’s a minor booboo on the collar short rows. I hadn’t done yarnover short rows on ribbing before (I love yarnover short rows, by the way) and instead of reading the directions, I just assumed the purls would be p2tog’d with the yarnover, since the knits are k2tog’d. Wrong! (The correct answer is SSP.) The result is there’s a little float where each of those yarnovers was. But it’s on the way inside of the collar where nobody will ever see it.

For the record, I am definitely knitting this again (possibly more than once).

NOTES AND MODIFICATIONS:

– My stitch gauge was slightly smaller than pattern gauge, so I knitted the third size and wound up in between second and third, about a 40″ bust, roughly 6″ positive ease. Which is exactly as roomy as I had hoped for. (And still the shoulder seams don’t quite reach my shoulders!)

– My row gauge matched pattern gauge, so because I was hoping to wind up nearer the second size, and blocking accordingly, I aimed for the second size with regard to the sleeve cap and armhole shaping. The sleeves fit the armholes beautifully.

– Left out the cable in the ribbing except on one sleeve; will leave it out everywhere next time.

– Knitted body in one piece with a basting stitch at the side seams.

– Worked only three cable repeats on fronts; began armhole shaping at 15″ instead of 17″. (Wanted it to hit me where it hits the model.)

– Love love love all of the neck, shoulder and armhole shaping in this pattern. That sloped bind-off is exquisite. Wasn’t wild, though, about trying to seam the shoulders with this fabric. Next time will do 3-needle bind-off to make sure it’s exactly 1:1.

– Started working the neckband and was super bothered about the back neck being worked from live stitches. (I’m a little over-obsessed with everything to do with the back neck.) So I actually ripped out the band, bound off the back neck stitches, and picked up all the way around.

– Adjusted the pick-up counts and button placement because of changing the length. Picked up 3/4 stitches, 55 sts on each front. (The rest as written.) Might pick up two or three more per front.

– Wish I had worked the third-size collar shaping — a few more short rows up top for a more voluminous collar. Next time!

– The only thing missing is pockets. I am constantly trying to put my hands into pockets that aren’t there! I had toyed with the idea of adding patch pockets (and still might) but after wearing it, I think I want side seam pockets in the next one.

– This is my second sweater in a row in this yarn and I couldn’t love it more.

Pattern: Bellows by Michele Wang
Yarn: Balance by O-Wool, in Graphite, held double
Buttons: from Haus of Yarn

Additional photos on Ravelry. And here are the complete posts about this sweater.

Bellows glamour shots and mod notes

Swatch debates

Swatch debates

Going back to my to-knit list from January, my Bellows is done. (Photos as soon as I can get them, but for now let me tell you I haven’t taken it off since the minute I attached the buttons on Sunday afternoon, and don’t foresee taking it off until April.) The idea of knitting a Uniform cardigan out of the army-green Shibui Merino Alpaca in my stash has been rethunk, and Channel is tabled for fall — I’m thinking it’ll be my Rhinebeck sweater, so I better not put it off too long. And meanwhile, along came the idea of the vest. So I’m swatching. And debating.

Up top is the Spiral-Spun Waistcoat from last week, and my Hole & Sons Wool swatch for it. I never would have thought to knit this DK-weight yarn on 5.5mm needles, but it totally works, and I’m getting gauge for the pattern. I’m just not 100% convinced about the garter rib. I knitted that little bit of stockinette at the top of the swatch and am so tempted to keep it that simple, but I think I might hate myself. Plus there’s already a lot of stockinette on my horizon. But do I love the look of it? I like it better in the sketch I did of the sweater, where it’s as baggy as this garment would be on me, but maybe I’d like it best if the garter rib was 1×1 instead of 2×2. Might have to swatch that before I cast on.

And the change in the army-green Uniform plan is to knit it in Knightsbridge instead of the Merino Alpaca. This is to replace a pair of J.Crew cashmere cardigans I had to let go of before we left California — one grey, one blue, both worn to shreds — and I want it to be as light and thin and soft as they were, without knitting a fingering-weight sweater. This Knightsbridge swatch is perfect. I’m thinking of doing the button bands and pocket edging in garter but ribbing the waistband and cuffs, so I’m debating between the 1×1 and 2×2 ribbing. The bigger debate, though, is whether it makes sense to cast this on right now. The only spring/summer sweater in my closet is a thin grey cotton cardigan in the same style (seen here), which I’m utterly dependent on for trade shows and such but which is not especially nice-looking. It might be better to knit a near-term Uniform out of a magnificent cotton-linen blend or something. So if you have any brilliant suggestions in that realm, I’d love to hear it!

New Favorites: Modified ganseys

New Favorites: Modified gansey sweaters

I’m always hearing people talk about the gansey — relative of the cabled aran jumper in the classic fisherman-sweater family — and its characteristic underarm gusset. One of these days I’ll knit one and understand more specifically what the traditional construction is like. But it might have to get in line behind these recent interpretations, which are both calling out to me —

TOP: Eastbound Sweater by Courtney Kelley has an “exploded gusset” and slouchy shape, looks like the perfect spring/fall sweater to me

BOTTOM: Alvy by Jared Flood might be gussetless (not sure) but borrows the gansey look for a nicely androgynous sweater

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Foldover mitts

My classic British vest

My classic British vest

Despite the ice and snow on the ground, and as much as I want to get to the rest of my sweater queue (once I finish my neglected Bellows), my thoughts are starting to turn to my warmer-weather wardrobe challenges. Which brings me back to my Hole & Sons wool and my wish for it to become something quintessentially British: namely, a vest. It’s the perfect thing for spring, and if I want to wear it this spring, I better get started. I’ve been thinking I’ll just tweak a classic v-neck cardigan pattern but have been sort of dreading the stockinette, so I decided to conduct a little research for inspiration and/or a particularly interesting pattern, and golly, would you look at this gem?!

The Spiral-Spun Waistcoat is a WWII Jaeger pattern (a knit-it-for-the-troops design — “choose air force blue or khaki wool”), available as a free download from the Victoria & Albert Museum, with an allover texture that is just interesting enough while remaining timeless. It might be exactly the thing — I shall have to swatch and see.

So close to finished

This close to finished

For awhile there, thought I might actually have a finished Bellows to show you this week — three weeks after casting on the first of the sleeves. I cast on the body (in one piece, with a basting stitch at each side seam) two Friday nights ago, and bound off last Sunday night, a personal-record nine days later. The body was blocked on Monday night — I machine washed it all! — but this has been one of those weeks of nonstop aggravation and disruption, and I never got a chance to knit the collar. I did pick up the stitches for it, but that’s all that’s left: knit the shawl collar and seam the sleeves. So I should be wearing it any minute now. Oh the unparalleled joy of a fast, warm, gorgeous sweater!

I have to tell you, starting this project — half-cotton worsted, held double, on US11 needles — felt truly bizarre and athletic after spending four straight months on comparatively delicate little Amanda. But that was nothing compared to the swatch I knitted Monday night while this body dried. Consulting the next sweater in my hand-drawn lineup, it was the Knightsbridge swatch for Uniform: the tenderest worsted-weight baby llama on US 6 needles. After Bellows, it felt like I was knitting lace-weight mohair on toothpicks! But wow, what a swatch.

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ICYMI: the shop news for the week has been the smash-hit Fashionary sketchbook, plus the return of the bowls and the balms, two things I have a hard time keeping on the shelves! And we also just got 6 more copies of Macramé Pattern Book, if you’ve been waiting for that one.

Also, I posed this week’s Q for You on Instagram and it’s been the start of a lovely little hashtag, #vitalknits. So take a look at that if you’re there, and please add your photo! I’ve loved reading and seeing all of the responses to that Q, thank you.

Have a fantastic weekend! Tell me what you’re making—

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Best of the best of Pre-Fall 2015: Simplicity rules

Best of the best of Pre-Fall 2015: Simplicity rules

So The Row wins again. The only thing better than pitch-perfect sweaters is sweaters on top of sweaters, right? That top image leaves me wanting a better look at the vest, but whatever it is, yes please. And the tissue-thin version of the classic rollneck (recently discussed)? And the perfectly proportioned ribbed pullover? These are the sorts of impeccable sweaters I want to knit to wear for years upon years.

But a very, very close runner-up this season is the look below from Derek Lam. Don’t know if the black layer is a tee or a featherweight sweater, but either way, this combination of black and camel (my god those trousers) with the unexpected spark of a lilac vest trimmed in black, white and green … Well as DG would say, it’s just too much to think about.

Best of the best of Pre-Fall 2015: Simplicity rules

PREVIOUSLY in Pre-Fall 2015: Moody blues