New Favorites: from Farm to Needle

New Favorites: from Farm to Needle

First, can I just tell you: I am blown away by the response to the Slow Fashion October kickoff. I’ve been reading all of the comments and blog posts (linked from the comments) and Instagram posts and their comments and ensuing discussions and … wow! I’m a little fearful of my ability to keep up with it all! But so thrilled to see that this has struck a chord and that so many people are into it. I’m more excited than ever to see what everyone has to say and share this month.

Second: This post is weird. But New Favorites is all about patterns I’m dying to knit, right? And right now at the top of that list is my own pattern. Weird, weird, weird. A lot of you had asked me to write out my version of the vintage men’s waistcoat I knitted earlier this year, but I really wanted to rework it from the ground up — different weight, stitch pattern, shoulder shaping, the whole nine yards. So when Anna officially asked me if I’d like to design something for her book — now known as Farm to Needle — given that Anna is a vest fiend like me, I suggested doing just that. And the Anna Vest pattern was born. The thing is: I didn’t knit it, and it’s not my sweater. I wrote the pattern and enlisted my amazingly talented friend and master sample knitter Jo Strong to do the principal knitting for me. I did the finishing and sent the vest off to be photographed, and am left wanting one of my own. So there it is: on my New Favorites list, with all the usual longing. (I also want the model’s braids.)

There isn’t a single thing in the whole collection that I wouldn’t love to make and have, but to my great surprise, the one other pattern I can’t get out of my head is Dianna Walla’s Aspen legwarmers (and socks), which must surely be the most fabulous legwarmers in history. Yes, I did just profess my love for a pair of legwarmers.

Weird, weird, weird.


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Dress-down sweaters

Knit the Look: Rachael Wang’s silvery cables

Knit the Look: Rachael Wang's silvery cables

You know my current obsession is slouchy dress-down sweaters over simple dresses, and I like ’em cropped, but I’m loving this long, all-platinum version photographed on Rachael Wang. To approximate her fisherman-cable sweater, all you need is Paton’s free pattern, the Honeycomb Aran pullover, knitted it in something luxe and silvery, such as Woolfolk’s Far in Color 03 or The Fibre Company’s Knightsbridge in Barley. Make it a size too big, and add a repeat or two above the hem.

If you’ve got the chops for sewing silk, you could easily make the dress to go under it. See April Rhodes’ Slip Dress pattern, which comes included with the Date Night Dress. Just cut it straighter and longer.

See Vanessa’s post for another look at Rachael’s outfit, head to toe.


PREVIOUSLY in Knit the Look: Alex Yuryeva’s plaid pullover


Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission

Cowichan via Japan: How to read a Japanese knitting pattern

Cowichan via Japan: How to read a Japanese knitting pattern

One of the funnest aspects of this year’s Fringe and Friends Knitalong is the fact that it’s a Japanese pattern. It’s my favorite kind of pattern — simply a chart with some notes. But the fact that it’s a garment (one size), and that the Japanese do things a bit differently, makes it just challenging enough to be interesting. Panelist Meri Tanaka and I had an enlightening conversation about why Japanese patterns are the way they are, what that has meant for knitting in Japan, and how to interpret the assorted unfamiliar markings on this one. I learned a lot and am sure you will, too!

By the way, there are already quite a few sweaters appearing on the #fringeandfriendskal2015 hashtag on Instagram. Take a look — and keep ’em coming!

. . .

Karen: First, can I ask you: The Japanese seem especially smitten with Cowichan-style sweaters, which hail from Canada — specifically the Vancouver area. Is it similar or related to the fascination with American sportswear (which I think you do better than we do), or is there something in particular that makes the Cowichan style so appealing in Japan?

Meri: Actually, Aran, Fair Isle and fisherman sweaters are equally popular in Japan. Many trading companies import sweaters from the UK and Europe for various fashion brands. For people who like more outdoor/camping-type clothes, it seems Cowichan style is more popular. Japanese men love “authentic” fashion items from around the world, learn about their histories, and love to wear them.

At the same time, many people seem to think that because Cowichan sweaters use very thick yarn, they are easier to knit (which is, as most knitters know already, not always true).

So this pattern is nothing but a collection of schematics along with a big chart of each of the three vest pieces, with annotations indicating assorted details the knitter might need to know. I have a couple of Japanese knitting books and they’re all like this — at most you get a detailed diagram with measurements and counts all over it, along with a chart for any necessary colorwork or pattern stitches that might factor in. Often the entire garment is charted like this one — stitch by stitch. Is this the standard/traditional form that Japanese knitting patterns take? Or is that a more modern approach?

What you described is a standard form of Japanese patterns, more or less. I am not sure if I can call it traditional, though. What I have learned is that during the post-war period, a few dressmaking schools created their own standards in terms of pattern writing, needle sizes and yarn thickness. As you can guess, it was based on sewing patterns. I am guessing that in those days most women went to sewing schools to learn how to draw patterns to fit their body, so that they knew how to adjust knitting patterns as well. That was regarded as part of their preparation to get married, because store-bought clothes were still very expensive, and it was one of the housewives’ responsibilities to make clothes for the family.

That knowledge is not common anymore, because very few people go to dressmaking or knitting schools these days.

Because it’s charted and not written out, it’s only one size. I know, on the whole, Japanese people tend to be comparatively petite (pardon the generalization!), but it’s not like you’re all exactly the same size. Are Japanese knitters simply more fluent or intrepid at resizing things? Or what’s the attitude and approach toward the sizing?

Most Japanese women are within the range of 4″ height difference, but body types are definitely diverse. I usually have a hard time finding clothes at stores because I am about 3″ shorter than the average, but my body is slightly thicker.

As I described earlier, when the system of knitting patterns was established in Japan, most people knew how to grade patterns to their own needs. It’s not the case anymore, which results in the majority of knitting patterns in books and magazines being loose and bulky, so that one size fits all.

With Amirisu, you take a more Western approach to the patterns, with graded sizes and written instructions. Would you do it that way if you were only publishing in Japan?

We feel that part of our mission is to make knitting more approachable to the younger generation. Having one size with minimal explanation in a pattern makes it extremely difficult to pick up knitting. Because the standards are different in Japan, the hurdle for non-Japanese products and patterns to enter the market has been extremely high — so people had access to very limited resources. (Still so, although the trend is changing.) The majority of knitters are not used to knitting from written patterns, and until we started our knitting workshops in Japan, and my partner published a book, there weren’t many places or resources to learn how to read them. We want to show people that there is a whole wide knitting world out there, with millions of choices and possibilities. In other words, we would like to continue publishing patterns as we do now, even only in Japanese.

How to read a Japanese knitting patternThe Japanese charts work just like English-language charts, because it’s how knitting works — you start at the lower right corner with the first stitch, building stitches from right to left, then (if working flat) you read the next row from left to right and invert the stitches (a knit on the right side is a purl on the wrong side, etc) as you’re now working from the wrong side of the fabric and back across the row. A translated pattern like the one we’re knitting from — Pierrot’s Cowichan-style Geometric Vest  — will have a legend showing what the various symbols mean — and the stitch symbols tend to be the same as ours. A blank box is a knit, a dash/dot is a purl (cables are the same, in cable patterns).

However, there are markings on this pattern that are not familiar and not translated, per se. (I want to emphasize to everyone that it’s important to read the Knitting Tips box on the first page of the pattern, which does explain several things.) Can you help us understand the unfamiliar marks? Let’s start with the diagrams on page 2, looking at the schematic for the back panel. There are marks above the “CO 49 sts” and below the actual diagram that look like |—|—, mirrored at the other end and below the fronts. What does that mark mean?

Those indicate ribbing patterns. For the back panel, cast on is 49 stitches, and the ribbing goes like (K1, P1) x 24, K1. | is a knit stitch, — is a purl stitch. This is important when you cast on for the front panels; the right front ribbing ends with ||, or two knits. The first row of the right front is a WS row, so the ||— would be read P2, K1 from the wrong side. Does that make sense?

Oh, interesting! Not only did I not get that those indicated ribbing (which is clearly depicted on the chart, so not a problem), I completely missed that the chart includes the cast-on as row 1 — that’s definitely different from Western charts, where row 1 is the first knitted row.

If studied, the page 2 diagrams tell us pretty much everything we need to know about stitches and rows and COs and BOs and needle sizes and so on — right down to how far apart to work the buttonholes. Then the charts on the following two pages show us the actual stitches — the placement of ribbing and garter stitch and colorwork. On the diagrams of the fronts, it’s noted that you decrease 1 stitch after the waist ribbing. On the chart of the front, where some people have thought the waist ribbing was knitted separately, that’s really just pulled apart to show you which two stitches to work together to get that -1 decrease. Right?

Yes, and this is very kind and easy to understand diagram compared to other ones I’ve seen in Japanese knitting patterns!

How to read a Japanese knitting patternAs we work our way up the diagram of the fronts, in the upper right of page 2, there’s a set of annotations that looks like this:

1 RE

This was totally cryptic to me my first time knitting the pattern. In the Knitting Tips box on page 1 it says “#-#-# = rows-stitches-times.” I get that this is tied to the increases for the collar flap shaping, but either I’m really not understanding what that means or the numbers are wrong — I couldn’t get it to add up to the same number of increases depicted in the chart. (So I ignored it and just knitted what’s pictured in the chart — increasing on any row where the chart got wider.) Do you have a better way of translating that, or helping us understand it?

Sure! This is one of the critical points to understand Japanese patterns. Please note that there are a few variations based on which (Japanese) standard the designer is using, but the basic idea is the same. This array of numbers should be read from the direction of your knitting. In this case, it’s bottom up, so the first set of numbers is 1-1-1.

The numbers read like this: Every # row(s), increase (or decrease) # stitch(es), # time(s).

In terms of the first increase, it’s really not “every 1 row”, but it simply means you increase one stitch, once.Whether to increase or decrease is often omitted from the diagram, and knitters need to figure it out themselves. (99% of the times it’s pretty obvious.)

As for the last one, “1RE”, this is something that the translator of this particular pattern came up with on his/her own. Usually it’s written as “1段平” in Japanese, meaning “1 row even”. When using Japanese knitting books, please do not expect to see “RE” here.

If you understand the above, I think the row counts add up to 18. What do you think?

Aha! “Every” is the keyword. Based on “rows-stitches-times” I was reading 2-1-2 as “On the next two rows, increase 1 stitch 2 times.” Which makes no sense to begin with (2 times on a row?), and explains why the numbers weren’t adding up. It’s really “every 2nd row, increase 1 stitch — and do that twice.” Every 2nd row being every other row. So that’s two increases over the next four rows. The “4-1-1” would be increase one stitch on the next 4th row. Got it! I hope that makes sense to our readers, too. Thank you.

I think there’s been confusion for a few people about the large black/white dot depicted on the collar diagrams. There’s nothing for us to do there, knitting-wise — it’s just saying match up the center of the left edge of the back collar to the center of the corresponding front flap and seam them together, and vice versa. It reminds me of the kind of mark you’d see on a sewing pattern. Is that a typical mark in Japanese patterns?

I can’t say these marks are typical. It seems the designer of this pattern is very kind to show which pieces to sew together.

Last but not least, I had someone ask about the V along the edges of the front charts, at the bottom of the last page. That one says only “slip stitch” and I’m assuming you work it just like I describe in this post. Is that correct, or do you do that any differently than I do?

The placement of the V is a little confusing, but it’s the same “slip stitch” as you describe in your blog post. (I love that turtleneck vest so much, by the way!)

Thank you! What’s the main thing you think people should know about trying to knit from Japanese patterns, especially those that haven’t had the annotations translated like this one has? What’s the best way to learn?

If you can overcome the fact that most patterns have one size only, usually the only difficult part is increase and decrease. Please keep in mind that cast-on/bind-off and increase/decrease methods, as well as a lot of details, are often not described in the patterns; it’s totally up to you. There are not many techniques used in Japanese knitting — for example, most cast-ons are done in either long-tail method or with crochet cast-on with waste yarn.

We’ve been publishing a series of articles on Japanese knitting patterns in Amirisu magazine, and they are available for free (online versions). Hope that will help a lot of adventurous knitters!


PREVIOUSLY IN #fringeandfriendskal2015: Elsewhere: Cowichan links (full series here)


Pattern © Pierrot Yarns; pattern images/details used with permission

Queue Check — September 2015

Queue Check — September 2015

It’s colorwork season over here, y’all. (And knitalong season, obviously!) I’m finally sailing through my Laurus from the Fringe Hatalong Series — but I flubbed it! I was knitting while socializing the other evening, looked down at one point and realized I had knitted the final colorwork row all wrong. It’s just a few rows of stockinette back, so I’ll rip it soon and finish it up. I forgot how fast a plain ol’ stockinette hat knits up! Even with a few rows of colorwork thrown in.

And of course the big sweater on my needles at the moment is my Cowichan-style Knitalong vest, up top.

Honestly, I was a little perplexed about this vest. I chose grey, black and ivory for the “color” scheme because it’s my failsafe. But as much and as long as I’ve been wanting a Cowichan-style vest, I honestly wasn’t sure how I would wear it. (Which troubles me, given my “don’t make it or buy it until you know how it fits in” rule.) Over the weekend, I was plotting out some sewing projects, sketched a simple top-and-skirt combo for some plaid fabric I’ve been dying to sew up, realized the vest will look amazing with those two pieces — worn in various combinations with other things — and now I can hardly stand the wait. After casting on the ribbing Sunday night, I realized I don’t think I’ve ever been this eager to see a project develop. Fortunately, it shouldn’t take long!

I mentioned last month that I’m not planning a Rhinebeck Sweater, per se — this vest will be my Rhinebeck sweater. But there is one other thing I’d like to have for my Rhinebeck trousseau, which is that Linda scarf I’ve been talking about for months on end. I still want it in what’s left of my stash of camel-colored Shibui Merino Alpaca. So as soon as I finish Laurus, that will be next on the needles. I realize a whole scarf is almost as ambitious as a sweater (coming from one who has never knitted a whole scarf before) and Rhinebeck is only three weeks away — and I have a vest to knit! — but I’m fantasizing about it anyway. No pressure, Karen!


PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: August 2015

New Favorites: Dress-down sweaters

New Favorites: Dress-down sweaters

My new favorite thing in the world is dresses. Sadly, at the moment, I only own one! Since finishing it while I was in Florida, I’ve worn my linen dress nearly every day. (Post about that coming soon.) But basically, all I want to wear is dresses right now, with other stuff layered over them. As we’re heading into fall, that means I’m thinking about those layers. What I crave — in addition to the sleeveless turtlenecks and vests I’ve been smartly lining up — is simple, boxy, slightly cropped, super casual sweaters. Sweaters with which to dress down a dress. A consult with my closet this weekend showed me this is a major void right now, thanks to my recent focus on cardigans. The two that are always on my list are Purl Bee’s Sweatshirt Sweater and Julie Hoover’s Sanford (along with Shellie Anderson’s new Trace, of course), any of which I want to knit a little bit wide and cropped. The same goes for these two newer additions to my list:

TOP: Element by Kirsten Johnstone, another classic sweatshirty shape

BOTTOM: Inscribe by Shellie Anderson, a perfect layering piece with that deep V


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Crazy good colorwork

Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

When I first laid eyes on what is now our sweater for the 2015 Fringe and Friends Knitalong — the Geometric Cowichan-style Vest from Pierrot — all I thought was I have to have that. Once I realized it would make a great knitalong, I started asking myself who would I want to knit it with (in addition to, you know, everyone) and who would make for thoughtful contributors to the panel. As well as who might take this very basic pattern in interesting directions. My first thought was a friend and frequent collaborator, photographer Kathy Cadigan, who I knew also had vests on the brain and a lot of interest in Cowichan. My next thought was another pal, Andrea Rangel, who has lived in the native land of the Cowichan sweater and has a lot of first-hand knowledge, as well as being an interesting knitter and designer in her own right. What about the Japanese pattern angle on all of this? Well, Meri Tanaka, my editor at Amirisu, was the obvious choice. Andrea and Meri are both pretty petite, so I knew they’d have interesting ideas about resizing the sweater. And then of course I really wanted a dude on the panel this time, especially since it’s ostensibly a men’s pattern. When I got wind of the fact that Brooklyn Tweed was on the brink of launching a bulky yarn that would be perfect for this sweater, I knew I had to ask Jared Flood if he’d like to join the fun. Thankfully, everyone said yes! And a panel was born.

What you’re about to see are already five very different yarn selections and swatches, and a whole bunch of great thoughts and ideas about the challenges and opportunities with this pattern. It’s a long post! So take your time with it, leave any questions below, and we all hope we’ll have given you lots of food for thought before you start swatching for your own. Which I can’t wait to see! Don’t forget to post URLs in the comments and/or use the #fringeandfriendskal2015 hashtag when sharing your progress online. And be sure to follow the panelists on Instagram (all linked below), where they’ll be sharing as well!

And with that, let’s meet the panel—

. . . . .

KAREN TEMPLER, of this here blog and Fringe Supply Co. (Instagram: @karentempler)

Yarn: I’m using Quince and Co’s Lark (100% wool) held triple. I think it’s just rustic enough to feel suitable for a Cowichan-style sweater, while still being soft enough for my annoyingly sensitive neck. I’ve chosen the heathery grey Kumlien’s Gull for the main color, with Crow (black) and Egret (ivory) for contrasting colors.

Swatch: I’ve debated whether I want to do this in three colors or just two but swatched in all three, so I started at the right edge of the back chart with the checkerboard stripe, working up into part of the main motif. This is my first time knitting colorwork flat — I’ve always read color charts from right to left on all rows, working in the round. In the photo above (and here) you can see I mindlessly read one of the purl rows from right to left instead of left to right and botched the swatch. So that’s what this swatch taught me — that I’ll need to remember to read back and forth as I work back and forth!

Size/ease: I knitted the solid army-green test version of this sweater at pattern gauge/dimensions and I like the slouchiness of it on me, but want this one to be a little more fitted. Ideally it would be closer to 36″ circumference instead of 39″, so I’m aiming for 10.5 stitches per 4 inches. To get there, I’m knitting the tripled Lark on US13s instead of 15s. This swatch blocked out to 11 sts/4 in, or 2.75 sts/inch, and I’m happy with the density of the fabric, but that’s smaller than I want the sweater to be, so I’ll try to keep it a little looser as I’m knitting the real thing. (Why is there no US14 when you need it?) My row gauge is actually right on pattern gauge: 12.5 sts/4 in. That would put it at the pattern length of 25″, but I want this version a bit shorter as well as more fitted.

My target length is closer to 21″, so I want the sweater to amount to 66 total rows instead of 80. Given that it’s a vest, I’m good with the armhole depth at 9″ (28 rows), plus I don’t want to mess with anything from the armhole up. (I wouldn’t want to have to rework the collar.) So I’m leaving the upper portion of the sweater untouched, and simply omitting the first 14 rows after the waist ribbing.

Mods: In addition to debating two colors or three, I had debated possibly leaving out some of the motifs and having the colorwork be a little more minimal. Once I realized I needed to cut 14 rows to get my desired length, that decided it. So I’ll be knitting solid grey up to the first checkboard stripe, then the main motif, another checkerboard, then solid grey again the rest of the way up.

For the army-green version, I bound off 3 sts instead of 2 at each armhole edge, to create a little bit wider armhole and less fabric across the shoulders, and I’ll probably do the same here, depending on how the size is looking once I’m knitting. (I like the square armhole on this.)

I considered knitting the body in one piece, with a basting stitch at the side seams, just so I don’t get start-over-itis at the beginning of each piece. But given the likelihood that I’ll mess up the colorwork a time or two, I think it’s better to stick to the shorter rows of smaller pieces rather than risk ripping out unnecessarily long rows. And besides, it’s 2 seams of 52 rows each (or in my case, 38 rows each) — it takes about 15 minutes to seam this together. So pieces it is!

There’s one other mod I’m contemplating. I kind of want to put a zipper on it instead of buttons, so I may leave out the button band stitches when I cast on the fronts, and work the bands/collar flaps separately, then seam them on, then sew on a zipper. I’ve never done a zipper and have really wanted to, and not only is this the perfect opportunity, it’s very little knitting to do over if I mess something up on the first attempt.

Concerns/trepidations: As noted above, I’ve never done colorwork flat before. I was really worried about doing the colorwork on the purl rows, but swatching showed me it’s super simple, so I think I’m over it. As long as I remember to read the purl rows on the chart from left to right!

. . . . .

Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

JARED FLOOD, creative director of Brooklyn Tweed (Instagram: @jared_flood)

Yarn: I’m knitting with our new chunky-weight yarn at Brooklyn Tweed: Quarry. I got super excited about the idea of doubling the yarn to create something that felt similar to an authentic Cowichan. Quarry is similar in style to the traditional single-ply Cowichan yarns used in traditional sweaters only more softly spun, lighter in weight. Holding two strands together landed me exactly on pattern gauge (on my first swatch nonetheless … how often does that happen?) and the fabric has that lofty, rustic appeal that I love so much about traditional Cowichans. I can’t wait to get to work on the full vest.

I waffled about color for a good long while but ended up deciding on Hematite (a sort of black-pomegranate) as my main color, with Gypsum (warm white) and Flint (brown) colorwork accents. I loved the idea of a version with Navy and Greys (Lazulite, Flint and Moonstone) but I figured 90% of my wardrobe is already shades of grey and blue-grey, so I’d go for something with warmer tones.

Swatch: I worked up two swatches and hit my target gauge right out of the gate. It felt like a sign that this vest needed to happen!

My first swatch was worked on a US13 (9 mm) and tested out single-color stockinette with two strands of Quarry held together. Because I invariably need to go up one or two needle sizes when working stranded colorwork, I knit my second swatch (pictured) with US15 (10 mm) — those take some getting used to! — and got an appropriate gauge in stranded pattern that would match my single-color gauge on the 13s. I’ll plan to switch back and forth between these two needle sizes as I jump from bands of stranding to bands of single color in the body of the garment.

As for finishings, I’ll most likely use several needle sizes for working details on the collar, button band and armhole finishings. I like working trims and edgings at a much firmer gauge to create a more durable and professional looking garment. I’m entertaining the idea of trimming my armholes in a “finer” yarn (a single strand of Quarry, rather than double stranded) and potentially the collar this way too. I’m not sure yet, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I should have a good idea of what the sweater “needs” once I have the meat and potatoes of the knitting done.

Size/ease: I’m planning on swapping out the colorwork patterns for those of my own choosing and tailoring the garment as a “made to measure” piece. Now that I have my swatches to take blocked gauge measurements from, I will make a custom chart with my measurements to map out how my motifs will be placed vertically on the body.

As for ease, I want a fit that will hit close to the body when worn over a long sleeve button-down shirt. Since the fabric is so incredibly thick, I’ll probably opt for about 6″ of positive ease, which I’m hoping translates into a flattering silhouette — not oversized, but not too fitted either.

Mods: I’ve already started poking at the pattern and I’ll probably end up slightly modifying just about every detail. I can’t seem to help myself when knitting from existing patterns … it’s just too tempting to add details that will result in a completely unique garment. Aside from swapping out the color motifs (you can see the large motif I’ll be using in my swatch—it’s the same motif I used on my Nehalem cardigan for women from our Fall collection at BT. I still have that motif on the brain and thought it would be fun to see it translated in a larger scale on this vest. I liked it enough to throw it into a garment for myself.) I also hope to do some fun ribbed shaping details on the shawl collar. Once the body is knitted, I’ll assess the weight and feel of the finished fabric before deciding how to proceed with finishing details.

I’m also going to knit mine seamlessly and steek the front opening and armholes. Since I’ll be knitting the cardigan in the round, I also knit my swatch that way (hence the “fringe” along the sides). I’ll be working my steeks with a sewing machine (rather than a crochet method) in order to decrease the bulk of the facings with such a thick yarn.

Concerns/trepidations: Working stranded colorwork with a chunky yarn held doubled does seem like a good recipe for knitting body armor … but because this is a sleeveless piece, I think that could work. I’m hoping to end up with something super warm and cozy, suitable for Fall and Winter camping trips to the Oregon coast! A Cowichan vest does seem like the perfect sweater for my first rainy-season back in the Pacific Northwest.

Working with fabric this thick is definitely a little out of my wheelhouse, so I’m wondering if the final fit will be exactly what I’m envisioning. There’s only one way to find out!

. . . . .

Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

ANDREA RANGEL, independent knitting designer, Andrea Rangel Knits (Instagram: @andrearknits)

Yarn: It’s not at all what I had planned, but I’m going with a new yarn that I found at my LYS, Beehive. It’s Rowan Brushed Fleece, a blend of wool, brushed alpaca and 5% polymide. It’s soft, fluffy, and I can’t help but describe it as frothy. I kind of want the vest to feel a little like a puffy vest, so the lightness and loft seem spot on. (It is not at all like a traditional Cowichan sweater though. Not one bit.) I did not think I’d do the red and black, but when I picked out the skeins, they seemed just right, so I’m actually matching the pattern colors.

Swatch: I knit my initial swatch (uh, also known as one vest front) with US10s for the plain St stitch sections and US11 for the colorwork sections. I generally have to go up about two needle sizes to maintain gauge across patterned and un-patterned work. I don’t normally knit an entire piece of a sweater as a swatch, but one front was only 25 stitches wide, so it seemed like the most sensible thing to do in this case.

I like the fabric that the yarn makes even though it’s an unusual choice for me (so fluffy!), but the colors felt way too bold and decorative. The more I looked at it, the more it reminded me of a very loud Christmas sweater. The snowflake motif is pretty, but it just doesn’t suit me. So I changed my plan completely – I came up with some different color patterns (and knit another swatch/front) and I’m feeling better about it. It’s still more graphic than I usually wear, but I think I will actually wear it.

Size/ease: I’m knitting my vest at a tighter gauge (12 sts = 4″) to get a bust circumference of about 34″, which is about 3″ of ease on me. I’ll have to adjust the way I work the patterns vertically too since my row gauge will be condensed and I don’t really want it any shorter.

Mods: As mentioned above, I decided to swap out the color patterns, so that’s the most obvious one. I’m also going to knit the button bands, armhole edgings and collar afterwards instead of doing them at the same time. I want to use a smaller needle for these sections and I feel like picking up stitches gives more structure to everything.

I’m planning to adjust the armhole shaping so that it curves smoothly, instead of sticking with the square bind-off. To do that I’ll bind off three stitches, then decrease every right side row twice to end up with the 5 stitches shown on the chart for the armholes. At the top of the shoulder I’ll do a little short-row shaping to bring the neck edge up a bit and use three-needle bind-off to join the front and back (with the seams on the outside).

I don’t know yet if I’ll actually do it, but I’m contemplating adding pockets. If I decide to go for it, I’ll knit some big squares for linings and sew them to the inside of the vest with the opening along the side seams. The soft fluffiness of this yarn seems like it would make divine pockets.

Concerns/trepidations: I’m not 100% convinced that I made the right color choice. The red and black seem so strong to me and I’m almost wishing I had neutrals or even something like burnt orange and brown. But red and black will add variety to my wardrobe, so I’m sticking with it for now. I’m also still hesitating a bit about the yarn itself. I really like it, but it doesn’t have the most “outerwear” feel to it. I’m pining for some more solid wool roving a little bit. But it’s fun trying something unusual, so I’m sticking with it for now. And maybe I’ll make another one that’s more traditional too.

. . . . .

Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

MERI TANAKA, editor of Amirisu Magazine (Instagram: @sparkle512)

Yarn: Quince and Co Puffin. Puffin is one of my favorite yarns. Kyoto in winter is extremely wet and cold with very few sunny days. Last winter I wore my Puffin pullover almost every day, and I need a new one for this winter.

Normally, I tend to avoid brown/tan colors, but I have been dying to knit with Audouin and Caspian. Such beautiful heather colors! Poppy (dark orange) and Bird’s Egg (light blue) are added to brighten it up.

Swatch: The smaller of the two swatches was to see if I can get my intended gauge with Puffin, which is 12.5 sts per 4″/10cm, so that I could order the colors I wanted. Using US13 needles, I had thought my gauge was too tight because my WS rows were quite uneven. Once it was blocked, this turned out to be the right gauge for me.

For the larger swatch I used US15 needles to see the difference, and the gauge was too loose. Although, this second swatch is the color scheme I am going to use.

Size/ease: I am tiny even for a Japanese woman, and I don’t like bulky sweaters/vests to be too loose, so naturally, size modification is necessary. I will make the body narrower by 25%, while at the same time, I want to keep the original length. It will be like a tunic rather than a vest.

I had thought about modifying the chart in order to shrink the size, but could not figure out a good way without changing the pattern completely. Instead, I decided to change the size by increasing the number of stitches per inch. Which is why Puffin will be used only one strand, not two strands held together.

Mods: To make the body longer, I will modify the colorwork pattern slightly.

Concerns/trepidations: I found it quite difficult to do colorwork with such bulky yarn on wrong side rows. To maintain the tension is quite tricky. Luckily, after blocking, the swatches became much more presentable. I am hoping the same thing will happen to my vest.

I had also considered knitting the body in one piece, but I am not very confident working such a long purl row in colorwork, so I decided against it. For cast on, instead of the normal long-tail method, I am going to use an easy 1×1 rib cast on which I have found on Ysolda’s blog.

Overall, I am very excited about this project!

. . . . .

Cowichan-style Knitalong: Meet the Panel!

KATHY CADIGAN, photographer/spinner/knitter (Instagram: @kathycad)

Yarn: I’m using beautifully rustic Retrosaria Bucos held double. I fell in love this Portuguese artisan yarn the minute I laid eyes on it at my LYS, Tolt Yarn and Wool. Bucos is processed entirely by hand, then spun with a distaff and long hand-held spindle. I think the thick-thin, nubbly texture will lend a lot of character to my Cowichan-style vest. I’ve decided to go super-traditional with color choices, using just two natural sheep colors: ivory for the background and a marled brown as contrast. My inspiration for using a marled color instead of a solid comes from a vintage Cowichan sweater I saw three years ago on a visit to see Andrea Rangel in Cowichan Bay. It was designed and knitted for Canadian weaver Leola Witt. I haven’t stopped dreaming of that sweater since!

Swatch: I chose the chain-like border motif for my swatch because of its straightforwardness. Andrea taught me how to weave floats on the back side of the work on every stitch (the way Coast Salish knitters do) and I’m just starting to get the hang of it. My gauge is at 9 sts per 4 inches on US15 needles. The yarn is surprisingly lightweight even at this substantial gauge.

Size/ease: I’m following Karen’s lead and plan to knit a solid color (dark brown) test version of the pattern first, so I can decide how fitted I’d like the final version to be. I’d like the circumference to be about 36″, slightly fitted with about 2″ of ease.

Mods: I have a feeling I’ll have to modify and maybe even substitute colorwork motifs to accommodate my gauge. I will use the motif charts found in the book Salish Indian Sweaters by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts for reference.

Concerns/trepidations: My main concern has to do with the pattern motifs. I’m a little bit worried that my marled yarn choice may obscure the motifs but I really like the worn-in rustic effect of the marled color, so I’m going to give it a whirl!


For some thoughts and math guidance on tampering with the size through changes in gauge (especially making it larger), see my post in the comments below.


PREVIOUSLY : Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2015: Cowichan style

Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2015: Cowichan style

Fringe and Friends Knitalong: Cowichan style

The pattern: Cowichan-style Geometric Vest by Pierrot Yarns (free pattern)
The schedule: Start now or whenever. Knit at your own pace!
The hashtag: #fringeandfriendskal2015

Ok friends, here it is! The pattern pick for the Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2015 is the Cowichan-style Geometric Vest from Japanese yarn and pattern company Pierrot. In true Japanese fashion, it’s simply a chart with a few annotations — by which I mean every stitch of the vest is charted, not just the colorwork motif. There are no written instructions — you simply knit what the chart depicts. It’s like the paint-by-numbers version of knitting, and this is an ultra-basic example. (Beginner-friendly, even, if you skip the colorwork.) The pattern is a free download right here — go ahead and take a look.


So raise your hand if you guessed this year’s pick was a Cowichan-style sweater? Congratulations, you were right! Now raise your hand if you guessed it was a Japanese pattern for a men’s vest. … (waiting) … Nobody? Ok, I warned you it was kind of a kooky pick. But give it a minute to sink in. First off, it’s not really a men’s sweater. It’s perfectly unisex in the way that Cowichan sweaters (real or -inspired) are boxy, unisex shapes. It just happens to have a 39″ chest circumference, which can be altered by adjusting the gauge. Think of it: Boys and girls, knitting together! Second, don’t let the Japanese part scare you. What we have here is an incredibly simple vest (very versatile as a wardrobe piece), knitted at superbulky gauge, that can be done with or without the colorwork. To demonstrate these points, I knitted a solid colored one (in O-Wool Balance held triple) at pattern gauge and dimensions, and modeled it above. Cute, right? That’s about 6″ of ease on me, and it would be also be cute with less ease.

So it’s not a whole lot of knitting but it does present some interesting challenges (knitting from a chart instead of written instructions, knitting colorwork flat — or not) and gives us lots to talk about while we knit. We’re going to talk about Japanese patterns, about Cowichan sweaters (and their being co-opted by other cultures), about ways to work that collar, and whatever else comes up along the way.

On Monday I’ll be introducing you to this year’s illustrious Panel of Knitters and their swatches, but I’ll tell you now that we’ve already got a bunch of very different sweaters about to happen from this one pattern. This is going to be a blast.

If you’re perfectly comfortable with the pattern and want to dive right in, go for it. If you have any trepidations at all, I would recommend holding off until you read all of the thoughtful notes from the panelists about how they’re (we’re) each swatching and approaching the sweater — what yarn we’re each using (all drastically different, but all good options), what we’re doing with gauge to change the dimensions, what modifications we might be planning to make, etc. Lots of good food for thought in that Meet the Panel post coming Monday.

And I’ll also have a Hot Tip for you on Tuesday about a way to make it a whole lot easier to swatch with yarn held triple, if you go the DK-held-triple route. So there will be a lot of useful information at the beginning of the week that you might want to read before starting.


The vest is knitted at superbulky gauge of 2.5 stitches per inch, but the recommended yarns are not superbulky yarns. They are  Pierrot Yarns Soft Merino Bulky (a bulky gauge yarn) held double, and Pierrot Yarns Soft Merino (a DK yarn) held triple.

If you’re substituting, you can use any yarn with which you get your desired gauge. You could knit it all with a single strand of superbulky, or with a bulky held double, or a DK held triple, or any combination of these things. You just need to get your gauge right. I’ve done the math for you, but make sure you round up from these numbers to be sure you’ll have enough; yardage does vary from one knitter and one yarn to the next—

MC (brown) :
pattern calls for 12 skeins x 44 yards = 528 yards of bulky (held double)
= 264 yards superbulky
= 792 yards DK (held triple)

CC1 (red) :
pattern calls for 3 skeins x 104 yards = 312 yards of DK (held triple)
= 104 yards superbulky
= 208 yards bulky (held double)

CC2 (black) :
pattern calls for 2 skeins x 44 yards = 88 yards of bulky (held double)
= 44 yards superbulky
= 132 yards DK (held triple)

I repeat: These are approximate numbers. Please buy more than you think you need, just to be safe!


There is no sign-up form or deadline (or Ravelry group to join) or anything like that. To knit along, simply knit along!

Ask questions and share your progress in the comments here, and/or use the hashtag #fringeandfriendskal2015 wherever you post. It was lovely to see so many friendships forming on the hashtag feeds on Instagram and Ravelry over the course of last year’s event, and I look forward to the same kind of community forming around this year’s sweaters.


I will be awarding prizes in late October sometime, rather than taking the WIP of the Week approach like last year. There will be a few categories, and I’ll post those down the line a bit when it’s all sorted out. But yes, there will be prizes.

Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2015: Cowichan style


Just like last year’s Amanda knitalong was more broadly a fisherman knitalong, this year’s is more broadly a Cowichan knitalong. While the panel will all be knitting some version of the vest noted above, you might opt to knit a different Cowichan or Cowichan-inspired sweater or accessory altogether. Here are a few possibilities:

TOP LEFT: Nehalem by Jared Flood (See also: Rockaway)
TOP RIGHT: Yetsa’s Bolero by Sylvia Olsen
MIDDLE LEFT: Takoma by Julia Farwell-Clay
MIDDLE RIGHT: Cowichan Jacket by Pierrot Yarns
BOTTOM LEFT: Cowichan Snowflake Vest by Pierrot Yarns
BOTTOM RIGHT: Tokul by Andrea Rangel


Photo of me by Kathy Cadigan