2017 FO-2 : Camel Channel cardigan

2017 FO-2 : Camel Channel cardigan

Being that this was nearing completion so close to takeoff, I thought I was going to refrain from doing an FO post about it until I had photos of myself wearing it on the trip, but as soon as I snipped the last woven-in end yesterday, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand the wait. So here it is in all its glory — albeit on a hanger and an armless dress form. I’m sure there will still be Paris photos to come. ;)

In short: LOVE.

Sooo it’s not the sweater I originally set out to knit — different proportions than expected and, as a result, not shawl-collar — but I couldn’t love it any more for what it turned out to be. When I slip it on, it feels utterly perfect: like it’s exactly as it was meant to be, and like it suits my frame perfectly.

It’s a modified version of Jared Flood’s incredible Channel Cardigan pattern, knitted in Jones & Vandermeer’s Clever Camel, and like my Gentian hat of yore, this was a magical combination of yarn and stitch pattern. Every minute I spent with it in my hands was heaven, even when I was ripping back and redoing, and I am sad that it’s over! The fabric is beyond words. (And I wound up using far less yarn than I thought, so it wasn’t even as expensive as I was prepared for it to be! Although still definitely an investment, and very definitely worth it.)

There was a moment early on when I got nervous about using this natural camel color for this particular project. Halfway into the first sleeve, I realized the combination of color and texture was going to feel very ’70s to me, and the question was whether it would be good ’70s or bad ’70s. In the end, it does feel like a really great thrift-store find (and just a tiny bit like I pinched it off Mr. Rogers). But I’m glad I went with it. My only regret is not making the pockets about two chevrons deeper, but they’ll serve their purpose just fine.

Most of all, I want to say that this sweater is, somehow, truly next level. It terms of how polished and professional it feels, it easily surpasses everything I’ve knitted to date. I couldn’t be prouder — or more excited to wear it. Thankfully we’re traveling somewhere it stands a chance, because it’s too late in Nashville!

2017 FO-2 : Camel Channel cardigan

Pattern: Channel Cardigan by Jared Flood
Yarn: Clever Camel by Jones & Vandermeer in Naked (undyed)
Cost: 10 skeins @ $19.80/ea (spent in 2016) + $7.50 buttons + $8 pattern (spent in 2014) = $213.50
Buttons: 20mm bleached horn narrow-rim buttons from Fringe Supply Co.

Modifications:
– knitted sleeves flat and seamed
– added side seams (via basting stitch at each side)
– added inset pockets
– omitted waist shaping
– omitted eyelets/belt
– omitted seamed shawl collar; worked a plain, picked-up, garter-stitch band instead (US5)

Size notes:
I knitted the size 38.75 size at a very slightly larger stitch gauge, so it’s a more like 40-41″ in circumference (about 5-6″ positive ease on me), but all vertical dimensions (sleeve length, V depth, total length, etc) match the pattern/schematic.

You can scroll through all of my posts on this sweater hereInstagram posts here, and favorite it at Ravelry if you’re so inclined!

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Black yoke sweater

Origin Stories: Starcroft Fiber Mill

EDITOR’S NOTE: Happy Friday! Today I’m pleased to launch another new regular column, this one by Hannah Thiessen (whose book Slow Knitting is due out this Fall) on the subject of yarns with great origin stories! I hope this will be a great resource for all of us who want to know more about where our materials come from, representing a wide range of sources, fibers and price points. I also want to say a special thank-you to photographer-knitter Gale Zucker (follow @galezucker on Instagram) for providing the shearing-day photos for this piece! For more of Gale’s photos of Nash Island, see her blog.
—Karen

Origin Stories: Starcroft Fiber Mill

BY HANNAH THIESSEN // The first time I encountered Jani Estell’s yarn from the Starcroft Fiber Mill, it felt a lot like being let in on a well-kept secret. I was in New York, attending a fiber show, and some friends of mine mentioned that there would be a yarn-related pop-up show the same day in Greenwich Village. Having never been to Greenwich Village before, and always enticed by the idea of undiscovered yarns, I hailed a cab and headed out for adventure.

The weather was chilly (perfect for those having wooly thoughts), and the rotating art-space venue was just the right amount of cozy, rustic, and full. The glowing warmth of incandescent light and fading sunshine lit up several large farm tables and rustic benches, laden with Starcroft Fiber Mill’s Nash Island wools. Jani Estell wove her way through those purchasing single skeins and sweater lots, while some knitters settled in on skinny, wiggling benches and pulled out their projects to chat. I couldn’t resist the pull of this perfect moment and purchased seven skeins of Nash Island Light, a soft and shiny worsted (almost aran) weight yarn. The color I chose was the palest, faintest collection of cloudy blue: what I dreamt as a reflection of the story of this wool.

The story, really, is simply the best part of this yarn. Yes, the hand is lovely, the colors are beautifully applied, the finished knit has character in abundance — but so many yarns can lay claim to these attributes. It is after the true “yarn” untangles, after I discover the story of a wool, that I truly fall in love.

100 years ago, in 1916, a woman named Jenny Cirone’s father became the lighthouse keeper of a small island off the coast of Downeast Maine. Jenny started a flock of sheep that she tended on Little Nash Island. Over time, her family purchased the land of the small island and its neighboring, larger one, Big Nash Island. When the lighthouse was decommissioned, she moved to the mainland, but continued tending her flock until she was 92 years old. In her will, she entrusted the flock (now wild, with free reign of the island) to her neighbors, the Wakemans, with whom she had a deep friendship (and had taught to lobster-fish!). They continue to care for the flock today in the same way, leaving the sheep free to roam, and rounding them up for shearing. The wool from each shearing was partially sold at wool markets and also combined with a local wool pool, until Jani began working with them around 2005.

Jani Estell started up a small spinning mill just a few miles inland from the Nash Islands in 2000. She began processing fibers for small customers and eventually came into contact with the Wakemans and Jenny (who passed in 2004.) As a local purveyor of yarns, Jani got to know a shearer who worked with the Nash Island flock and was asked along to complete the circle — help out with the shearing. She felt immediate kinship with the Wakemans and with Jenny, whose passion and love for the sheep on her islands was contagious. After working with the sheep, Jenny, and the Wakemans, she fell in love with the story behind the wool and felt a desire to create yarns that could fully celebrate the uniqueness of the island’s fleece. Jani shifted the focus of her mill to producing only her own Starcroft-branded yarns, and providing the Wakeman family with the viable income needed to support the continuation of the Island flock. She is now involved full-time as the wool manager for the flock and purchases all the wool from the islands at fair-market price.

Origin Stories: Starcroft Fiber Mill

After 100 years on the island, the sheep are truly their own landrace breed, with Coopworth and Romney wool introduced through breeding for continued genetic diversity. They produce heavy fleeces with a 6-8″ staple fiber: a medium wool that is surprisingly soft, airy and shiny, with a glowing halo. She sees the wool as akin to a fine wine: Changes in weather and diet for the sheep can yield small changes, giving each shearing a unique vintage. Unlike hay-raised wools or other rustic wools, Nash Island wools are almost completely free of chaff, due to the diet and habitat of the sheep, making them easy to work with and requiring minimal processing. Jani dyes them in a range of “fog-washed” colors, similar to watercolor washes on wet paper.

The sheep are absolutely wild by nature, and do not interact with humans regularly. They have formed a dynamic community and Jani says that they tend to stay together in family groups: Grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters and a matriarch ewe might be seen ‘standing vigil’ in lambing season. Their caregivers do their best to minimize contact and observe from a distance. For now, the future of the sheep is clear: It is the desire of Jani and the Wakemans to continue to care for the sheep in just the way that Jenny did. The island is privately owned and cared for with the same level of respect and dedication, and the Wakemans’ three daughters have grown up with the islands and sheep as part of their lives. The eldest Wakeman daughter and her mother have even learned to shear, allowing the mantle to be passed down from Donna Kausen and Geri Valentine, friends of Jenny’s who have been shearing the flock for 35+ years. Shearing is a community effort, with Jani, the Wakemans, and friends from near and far joining to ‘complete the circle’ and bring the wool to the mainland.

Jani has now fully dedicated her time and the mill to solely producing yarns made from the wools of the island flock. Currently, there are three yarns available from Starcroft Fiber Mill: Nash Island Light, a light worsted-weight 2-ply from ewe wool; Nash Island Tide, a DK-weight 2-ply from ewe wool; and Nash Island Fog, a special fingering-weight 2-ply made exclusively from the flock’s lambs’ wool, with an added touch of Maine-grown angora. This Spring, she’ll introduce a new yarn, which I will await with eager anticipation and ready needles. In some small way, by buying the yarn, it’s almost as if I’m getting to complete the larger circle: the story of lives entwined with wool.

Hannah Thiessen is a freelance creative & social media strategist who specializes in yarn and fiber. She knits and dabbles in other crafty pursuits on her blog, www.handmadebyhannahbelle.com, and you can follow her on Instagram as @hannahbelleknits

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Photos of Jani Estell, husband Grant and sheep © Gale Zucker and yarn photo © Holly McBride for Starcroft; used with permission

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

I have so many thoughts and developments crashing into each other as I try to write this post! The big news, if you didn’t see it on Instagram, is it’s no longer just a fantasy — I am officially going to Paris. (Woohoo, gonna make it to Europe before I’m fifty!) We leave a week from Monday, so obviously I’m racing to finish my Channel cardigan (please pray that I have my pick-up rate right on that button band — there isn’t time to knit it twice) and narrowing down my packing list.

As I mentioned before, this mini travel wardrobe is something of a pre-Spring wardrobe planning exercise for me, and I’ve also made a few choice ready-to-wear purchases lately, a couple of which factor into my packing scheme. Those are just noted here for the moment and I’ll have more to say about them when I get to proper spring wardrobe planning.

I’ve also acquired three pairs of shoes lately (pictured up top), all of which are going with me. The amusing silver pair (handmade in LA by Solid State for Nashville brand Goodwin) were my birthday/Christmas/holiday-bonus gift to myself, perfect for dress up but they instantly brighten up any day; the cushy black Vayarta slip-ons (scored on sale by happenstance) are handmade in Mexico and will be my main walking-around shoes on the trip; and the faux-snake ballet flats (no longer available) are from J.Crew, alleged to be made in Italy, and I hope that’s strictly true.

Ok, so what am I taking to PARIS! The current plan is just that little stack of stuff up top, minus the linen garment second from top in the pile (cut for not being versatile enough), plus the camel cardigan not included in the stack because it’s still on the needles. Here’s the full suitcase inventory:

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

SWEATERS
camel Channel cardigan (pardon my drawing)
black wool-linen cropped cardigan
black-and-ivory striped pullover

TOPS
– Elizabeth Suzann Artist Smock (new, made in Nashville)
– plaid top (me-made but never blogged)
– black Imogene+Willie pocket tee (new, made in LA, no longer available)
– linen-cotton Madewell chambray popover (c.2013, fast fashion but I’m making it last!)
black silk gauze sleeveless top

JEANS
natural Willie jeans from Imogene+Willie (2016)
rigid Willie jeans from I+W (2017)

PLUS
– grey scarf from Churchmouse (2015)
– still debating between trench coat and hooded rain jacket (not pictured)
– underwear, knitting project, etc. (not pictured)

I should note that one of my weird neurotic tics is that whatever clothes I wear on a plane are generally dead to me upon arrival. I’ll be wearing my thick black ponte stretch pants (from J.Crew circa 2009/10) and probably my big chambray shirt (rescued from Bob’s Goodwill pile) in flight — along with the grey scarf and black slip-ons — but that’s why neither one of those garments factors into my outfit planning. So in my suitcase, as it currently stands, will be just the 10 garments above, from which I can make at least 20 outfits, with plenty of room to spare. (We’ll be on the ground in France for 8 days!) Here are 15 of them:

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

These are all good for me — definitely enough outfits, enough variety, enough layering options (with the jacket especially), and options for an assortment of temperatures and weather conditions. So it’s pretty golden, as is. Comfort-wise, though, I’m wishing (perpetually!) that I had a nice tidy presentable grey sweatshirt and a comfy but attractive pair of drawstring pants, both of which I had hoped to make by now, but that’s not happening. So unless I break down and buy one or the other — or there’s some drastic change in the forecast between now and takeoff — what you see here is what I’ll be taking. To Paris.

Eep!

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PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part 1)

New Favorites: Chevron hats

New Favorites: Chevron hats

I’ve heard from so many of you that you’d love to knit the Channel cardigan but aren’t sure about taking on the scale of the project. And then there’s me (and others), having worked that lovely stitch pattern and missing it. So for all of us, here are some recent hat patterns with differently enticing chevron stitches to entertain us:

TOP: Braddock by Christina Danaee

MIDDLE: Quill by Andrea Mowry (in the current issue of Taproot)

BOTTOM: Prism by Emily Greene

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Texture by the yard

Knit the Look: Marthe Wiggers’ vintage-chic pullover

Knit the Look: Marthe Wiggers' vintage-chic pullover

I love how simultaneously retro and au courant Dutch model Marthe Wiggers looks in this slinky, ribbed, black mock-neck sweater and motorcycle jacket. Such simplicity with that sweater, and as usual what makes it noteworthy are the tiny little details — the proportion of the peaks and valleys of that ribbing, and the shift in scale from the sweater to the neck. Which is easy enough to emulate. Vintage patterns would be the best bet on this one, but there are some available options to work from. There’s a reasonably similar Rowan pattern from a few years ago, Fiori (just add ribbing) but it’s worsted weight, whereas Marthe’s sweater seems to be a fine-gauge machine knit. So I’m going to recommend Pierrot’s characteristically rudimentary, English-translated Japanese pattern called 22-23-20 Ribbed Turtleneck Sweater (free pattern), which is written for fingering weight. (As with pretty much all Japanese patterns, it’s one size, so add to the stitch count as/where necessary to adjust the width.) To make it look more like Marthe’s, try the rib in 2×1 or even 3×1, switching to 1×1 on smaller needles for the collar. And instead of knitting the neck to full turtleneck length, stop at about 3”. Yarn-wise, for that gorgeous heathered black I’m a big fan of Quince and Co’s Sabine colorway, which is available in fingering-weight Finch.

For more photos and Marthe’s full outfit, see Vanessa’s original blog post. And for guidance on how to read a Japanese knitting pattern, click here.

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PREVIOUSLY in Knit the Look: Camille Charriere’s stripes

Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission

Changing the Channel

Changing the Channel

Life is funny sometimes. Or closets? Maybe closets are funny sometimes. Not ten days ago, I was a person with a trusty charcoal shawl-collar cardigan nearly always by her side, and another (lighter, woolier) shawl-collar cardigan in progress. Then in the space of a few days, I went from two shawl collars to none — and somehow all of this is ultimately a happy tale.

My parents came to visit toward the end of the week before last. My mom wanted to see the sweaters I’d finished since she’d last been here, so we got into my little closet. As I was pulling things out, I was reminded that I’ve wanted to have her try on my Bellows. She’d had it on pretty much exactly two years ago, right after I finished it, and I’ve never gotten over how perfect it was on her — like I’d made it just for her. Some part of my brain is always wanting her to put it on again so I could confirm that, and then I would know that the Bellows dimensions were perfect should I ever knit her a sweater. I didn’t say any of this to her — only that I wanted to see it on her again — and sure enough, it slipped onto her just like Cinderella’s slipper. She started beaming, turning back and forth in front of the mirror, and joke asking “How much …?” and I had a hard time folding it up and putting it away.

That evening, we went our for dinner on the screened porch at our favorite restaurant and I loaned her the sweater, knowing it would be more comfortable to eat in than her jacket. Again that happiness on her face. As we were sitting there eating, I knew I couldn’t take it back from her — it was hers. As much as I minded that it was not brand-new or made specifically with her in mind, she apparently couldn’t have cared less. The next morning when she put it on to leave, my heart melted again — I was sad to see it go of course (my companion!), but so happy it was going with her and that she was so happy.

And then it hit me: What on earth am I going to wear now?!

But there was still my Channel in my near future, right? No worries. Once they were gone, I blocked the Channel pieces I had finished a few days earlier, and left them to dry over that weekend. For me, seaming is a daylight (and thus weekend) task, so I knew I’d have to let the pieces lay there on my table untouched through last week, and I dutifully set about swatching for the bands and collar (by which I mean starting one, measuring, starting over … with three different needles). By Tuesday evening, impatient to see how it would come together, I clipped the pieces to my shirt, and I knew almost instantaneously that it was a good thing I hadn’t gotten any farther with the bands. This would no longer be a shawl collar.

The sweater I’ve had in my sketches and my head all this time has been based on the photos and the sample I tried on three years ago, when I first decided to knit it. It hit me mid-hip, the sleeves were a tiny bit short, and the V of the neckline hit just below my bust. I made a mental note that the only thing I’d tinker with was the sleeve length and that I would move the top button placement up a bit — I like a shawl collar to be high and snug. As I started knitting, I made the decision to stick to the pattern dimensions so as not to require any tweaks to the length or shaping of the collar itself, since it’s a bit of a job. So rather than scrutinizing the schematic, as I usually do, I just followed the pattern as written. When it said to knit the body to 17″, I thought that seemed longer than the one I’d tried on, but longer wouldn’t be bad, so ok. What I failed to notice in my non-scrutiny is the depth of the V. So what I have on my worktable is gorgeous and useful … just a different sweater than the one I thought I was making. This sweater has a very deep V that hits right at my belly button, and the hemline falls below my crotch. In other words, it looks exactly like my modified-Vidje sketch, only with a different surface texture:

Changing the Channel

For me, these proportions call for a plain button band, not an elongated shawl collar, which feels like a disservice to Jared’s stunning pattern, but also the right thing to do for my garment. So all of a sudden, instead of filling the (now larger than anticipated) shawl-collar gap in my closet, this one is filling the gap Vidje was going to be meant for! And now that there are no shawl collars in my closet, the landscape of my queue is taking a completely different shape. Suddenly I have all kinds of options and considerations I had ruled out, some exciting rethinking to do, and a gorgeous-albeit-unintended sweater almost finished.

• Channel Cardigan pattern by Jared Flood in Clever Camel

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PREVIOUSLY: All Channel posts

Elsewhere

Elsewhere: Yarny links for your clicking pleasure

Hi, happy Friday! Before we get into this installment of Elsewhere, I want to profess my love for all of the comments you left on Monday’s post about Folkwear. So many lovely stories and memories, then the cherry on top was THIS. The whole thing gave me heartmelt, and I want to again wish Folkwear’s new owner, Molly, so much luck in reviving this legendary brand. Ok—

Knitting Pretty — I’ll be watching this short vintage film ce weekend (photo top left)

– Are you playing along with MDK March Mayhem?

– If you haven’t been following Kristine Vejar’s textile adventures in Bali and Java, go look while it’s still at the top of her feed! (bottom right)

Felt as “fossilised fabric” (and can I go to that retreat, please?)

Is that a “hank,” a “skein,” a “ball” … ? (bottom left)

– I love this Seamwork profile of Asiatica, one of my hometown’s most distinctive businesses

– Where do you stand on Missoni’s pussyhats? Here’s Michele Wang’s take

Alabama Chanin has some upcycling to do (top right)

Heaven is layers of sweaters

– And this gorgeous woman and her crocheted scarf on The Sartorialist

I’m excited about this weekend — I blocked the pieces of my Channel last weekend and get to stitch them together. It’s been clear for a few days that this sweater is taking a little change in direction, though, and I’ll have more to say about that next week!

I hope you have an awesome weekend. As always, I’d love to hear what you’re working on …

SHOP NEWS: We’ve got a new batch of the Lykke straight needles sets (along with the individual sizes) and Knitters Graph Paper Journals, and all of the mini scissors (except the owls) are back in stock. Along with so many other gems at Fringe Supply Co.!

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PREVIOUSLY : Elsewhere