What’s up

What's up

A few months ago (before the madness of the move) I got an email from Marlee Grace of Have Company and Courtney Webb of Hey Rooster. They were planning a little retreat for owners of tiny retail businesses, called Shop:Keep, and somehow they had thought to invite me. Being absolutely desperate for people to talk to about how to do this thing I find myself doing, I jumped at the chance, and that’s where I am right now. (That photo up there is the garden behind the house we’re using for the event.) We started out yesterday morning with a loose agenda that included long, leisurely afternoon breaks, during which I was planning to blog. But it turns out all six of us have been absolutely desperate for this conversation and we utterly failed to take a break. We talked and talked and talked until past midnight, and we’re about to start up again. I want to take full advantage of this while I’m here, which I hope you’ll all understand, so the big knitalong post I’ve been promising is going to have to wait a little bit. And this may or may not be the only post here for a couple of days. But I wanted to give you a little bit of a quick heads-up about what’s up with the knitalong:

There are a lot of really knowledgeable people planning to join this knitalong, so I’m putting together a panel of featured knitters, who I can poll or interview about various topics along the way. The thing about knitting a sweater — at least (or especially) one as basic as this one — is that you can totally knit it as written, but there also are numerous opportunities to choose your own path. Some people will knit it in pieces, as written; others will merge the three body pieces into one, or knit the sleeves in the round instead of flat, etc. At least one of our panelists will be knitting it entirely seamlessly, while another will be making the case for the structural value of the seams. So it will be a chance to see one sweater knitted by lots of different people with different approaches and perspectives, and learn some techniques from some actual experts. I’m super excited about this, and think it’s worth it taking a little longer to get it rolling in order to make it this really amazing experience for everyone. Plus some of the people whose yarn I’m recommending have offered to give you guys a discount of some sort. In other words, it’s a lot of ducks I’m lining up right now, so I hope you’ll bear with me while I put it all together. Like I said, it will be worth it!

This week in “mistakes Karen made”

This week in "mistakes Karen made"

If it looks to you like the top couple inches of this fabric (my beloved Channel cardigan) is wet — or in shadow maybe — I assure you it’s not. That dark stripe across the top is just a plain ol’ rookie mistake. When I ordered this yarn, the lovely Jocelyn Tunney of O-Wool wrote me a note saying that the fiber takes the Graphite dye a little unevenly, and emphasizing what the site says when you order it, which is that you should treat it like a hand-dyed yarn and alternate skeins. I did my first ball change at the top of the ribbing, where it wouldn’t matter if the color was slightly different. Then I knitted along happily with the next ball, not thinking about the matter until I had only a couple of yards left. So I knitted two rows with the new ball, then one row with the old ball, then back to the new ball. I mean, the skein didn’t look that different, right? What could go wrong? Then I sat it aside for two weeks. I was thrilled to have time to knit a repeat on Friday night and another on Saturday night. And when I spread it out to check it over, even in the low light, it was painfully evident that Jocelyn was right. So I have some frogging to do.

Oddly, this isn’t a thing I’ve run into very many times. Meg says she would have knitted the entire sweater with two skeins, alternating the whole way. So now I’m debating whether to rip all the way back to the ribbing or just halfway into the first section, far enough to alternate for a couple of inches. Meanwhile, I just keep thinking what Kay Gardiner would say at a moment like this: “It’s ok. I like to knit.” Especially this.

I’m on my way to Chicago today but I am working on the knitalong schedule and alternate pattern suggestions and yarn recommendations and lots more, and will have a post very soon with all of that. I know a lot of you are eager to cast on — and of course you can — but I want to have all my ducks in a row. So sit tight! It’ll be worth it.

Let’s talk about this Amanda knitalong

Let's talk about this Amanda knitalong

I’m thrilled that so many people responded positively to my suggestion that maybe you might want to knit the Amanda cardigan along with Anna and me this fall. I’m also a little nervous because I don’t really know anything about hosting a formal knitalong, having only barely hosted very, very informal ones in the past. So I’d love your input on this. Here are some questions I have:

1) Shall we all knit Amanda, or shall I declare it a Fisherman Knitalong and suggest some other patterns as candidates? (Both cardigans and pullovers.) It would be nice to all be knitting the same thing, so we can compare notes and strategies on very specific aspects. On the other hand, Amanda is available only in a book (albeit a very good book, with lots of appealing patterns) and is written for just four sizes (33, 35, 38, 40). So I can see the benefits of going either way with this. I can also imagine a Fisherman Knitalong becoming an annual (biennial? triennial?) event.

2) How formal or structured do we want this to be? Knitting to a deadline tends to make me dislike knitting, and I don’t have the bandwidth to create and monitor a Ravelry group or anything like that. But I also feel like a total lack of structure will not help any of us accomplish our sweaters. What if we set a fairly loose deadline for each stage of the sweater. I can do a kickoff post for each part, discussing things to consider before casting on, etc, and then we can have ongoing discussion of that component in the comments on that post. Everyone can post progress shots on Ravelry, their blog, Instagram, whatever publicly accessible web-based location they prefer, and link out to those from comments. Does that work? (Scheduling it out according to parts/pieces is an argument in favor of us all knitting the same sweater, or at least sweaters with the same basic construction method. Amanda is bottom-up pieces, joined at the underarm, then knitted upwards from there in one piece. Plenty of other sweaters take that approach.)

3) Can we start on September 15th? (Or maybe swatching starts on the 1st?) I need some more time with my Channel before shifting gears, plus I don’t have yarn for swatching Amanda yet, much less a decision and a sweater’s worth. I imagine many others will also need time to pick yarn and swatch. Swatching will be very, very important for a heavily cabled sweater, my lovely friends — you really want to be sure it’s going to match the pattern measurements and come out to the size you want! (We’ll talk about how to adjust for gauge, etc., no worries.)

4) How much time do we all think is reasonable for the various parts? Swatch, back (hem to underarms), left front (ditto), right front (ditto; and some people will no doubt opt to knit the body as one piece instead of three), sleeve 1, sleeve 2, yoke, button bands, neck, and seams if you’re doing them.

I don’t expect we’ll have unanimity on any of this, but let’s talk it over and then I’ll post a follow-up with details, yarn recommendations and some other thoughts before we get started. Yes?

New Favorites: from the Knightsbridge collection

New Favorites: from the Knightsbridge collection

I’ve been waiting forever to rave about these patterns and I can’t wait any longer! My friends Kate Gagnon Osborn and Courtney Kelley at Kelbourne Woolens (they sell the Fibre Company yarns) have been working for months on this collection for their newest yarn, Knightsbridge, and it’s so, so good. I saw the call for submissions last winter. Saw the teaser pics from the photo shoot last spring. Saw the yarn and the finished garments at the trade show in May. And nearly stole my favorite pullover right off of Kate when she was wearing it at Squam. (Remember I said then you’d be hearing more about that sweater she was pictured in.) They finally listed the patterns on Ravelry a few days ago and they should be for sale — along with the yarn — in a day or two. So I’m waiting no longer!

If you look at the whole Knightsbridge collection, you’ll see there are lots of good patterns by lots of good designers. And I love all of it far more in person than in the photos (which isn’t often the case). I’m particularly crazy about the stitchery on Maura Kirk’s adorable Harvey vest. I don’t think I could pull off that retro neck, but it would be easy to modify — and I will very likely knit that at some point. But as it happens, my very very favorites of the bunch are all by Kate and Courtney themselves:

ABOVE: Courtney’s Teegan sweater is freakishly similar to that little post-it sketch on my own pinboard, so obviously I’m gonna love it. And this is probably not the only time I’ll post about her Royston cap. Would you look at that amazing crown?!

BELOW: Kate’s Gillam is the One that Must be Knitted. (She slipped me a working copy of it awhile back, knowing the depths of my love for it. Thanks, Kate!) And her Henrietta hat is just a perfect cable beanie, complete with luscious doubled brim.

New Favorites: from the Knightsbridge collection

I have one and two half skeins of Knightsbridge in my stash, which is sadly all in storage at the moment. I’ll tell you that I saw the yarn the night before I saw the garments and I was a little underwhelmed by it. It seemed too soft to me — by which I mean too gooey for stitch definition and long-term wear. But once I saw how it knitted up, I was totally blown away. Look at those cables! I can’t wait to knit with it.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Lena Samsoe’s fisherman cardigan

Knit the Look: Mariska van der Zee’s EZ pullover

Knit the Look: Mariska's van der Zee's EZ pullover

Stretching the Knit the Look boundaries a little bit, I want to talk about this head shot of model Mariska van der Zee — or, more specifically, her sweater. Between the hair fiends, the fashion fiends and the knitting fiends, this photo was flying around Pinterest a few months ago, just about the time a big chunky sweater was beginning to be unthinkable. I don’t know who manufactured Mariska’s sweater, but the instant I saw it all I could think was how easy it would be to replicate. It’s Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Hurry-Up Last-Minute Sweater — a classic EZ recipe from her Knitter’s Almanac (what do you mean you don’t have it?!) — knitted in super bulky. It would be delicious in Purl Soho’s Super Soft Merino or Blue Sky Alpacas’ Bulky.

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PREVIOUSLY in Knit the Look: Vasilisa Pavlova’s waffle sweater

Yarn is magic

Yarn is magic

It’s late Thursday night as I’m typing this, and I’m supposed to be putting together a big, juicy Elsewhere list for you, but I spent the majority of the day up to my bloodshot eyeballs in spreadsheets, filing my sales tax return, and my brain is DONE. So instead I’m showing you a pretty picture of my Channel Cardigan in progress. Ooooohhhh.

I swear there were about seven hours during the spreadsheet ordeal where I had my teeth clenched and forgot to exhale. But then before I left the studio, I went upstairs to where this beautiful floor is and pulled everything out of my bento bag and took this picture — and in the five minutes I was with the yarn (not even knitting it!) a bunch of the stress just slid right off me. Yarn is magic.

Have a beautiful weekend, lovely people. Tell me what you’re working on!

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p.s. That ridiculously great pouch up there will be in the shop as soon as I can get it shot and listed, along with its friends. Sorry to tease you! But I latched onto it the moment it arrived.

New Favorites: Lena Samsoe’s fisherman cardigan

New Favorites: Lena Samsoe's fisherman cardigan

To call this Amanda cardigan a “new” “favorite” is the most hilarious of understatements. It’s been on my Ravelry favorites list for over a year, but it recently surfaced again. And it goes well beyond favorite and deep into obsession territory. I’ve long been planning to knit myself an ivory cardigan, to replace one I had to retire, and have been searching for just the right pattern. And you know I love nothing more than a good fisherman sweater. But I resolved to make my ivory cardigan an aran one after a layover in the Chicago airport in early June. Anna and I met up there on the way to Squam and found ourselves stalking a woman in the boarding area. We were convinced she was headed for Squam, too, and thought she might actually be one of our shuttle-mates. She was wearing flip-flops, jeans, a cute indigo floral-print top, and the most gorgeous handknit fisherman cardigan. We stared and whispered and speculated, and Anna finally worked up the nerve to ask her if she was Squamwardbound. She had absolutely no idea what Squam was and was definitely not who we thought she was. But in the aisle of the plane, standing around the baggage claim in NH, we couldn’t take our eyes off her sweater. So Anna approached her again and asked if she could take a picture. The girl was not a knitter, but she said she loved the sweater because she suspected it was handknit (I can’t remember how she said she came into possession of it), and it definitely was. It was gorgeous.

Not long after we were back, Anna texted me while I was out for a walk one night and asked me if I remembered that sweater. I said I hadn’t been able to get it out of my mind, and she asked if I knew a good pattern. I’ve bookmarked many over the past few years — remember it was the idea of knitting my own fisherman that made me want to know how to knit in the first place — and I eventually found my way back to this pattern, Amanda by Lena Holme Samsoe. I try really hard to focus on downloadable patterns here on the blog, but this one is from a book, Essentially Feminine Knits. I ordered it the moment I rediscovered the pattern, got it in my held mail upon return from NC, and there are a bunch of good sweaters in there.* I know this because I did flip through it quickly when I pulled it out of the envelope, but once I got to the Amanda page I laid it open on my desk and it’s been sitting there staring at me (and vice versa) ever since.

So I’ll be rearranging my to-knit list a little bit to make room for Amanda right after my Channel. (OK, there may be some overlap.) Anna wants it in wool and I want it in cotton or a blend (more Balance, perhaps?), and we’re thinking of knitting it together beginning in September. Not tag team, just knitalong. Let me know if you want to join in!

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*Check out this woman who seems to be knitting her way through all the sweaters in the book! Including two Amandas.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Groovy crochet tunic