2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

I had a realization about yarn and seamless sweaters while knitting this gorgeous thing: The more a knitting project feels like playing with Play-Doh, the more fun I find it. The joy in being able to mold and remold a thing until it’s exactly what I want …

Let’s recap: When I first set out to knit this sweater — which began from Courtney Kelley’s St. Brendan pattern — it was going to be my least improvisational act of knitting. I loved the black-and-tan sample sweater so much that my plan was simply to copy it, straight from the pattern. Same yarn, same colors, same bottom-up construction. I was knitting on US9s instead of suggested 8s, to match gauge; I planned to make the size 45 lower body and decrease to the size 38 counts by the time I joined the sleeves; I used my favorite tubular cast-on; and I knew I was going to shrink and shape the neckhole when I got there. Minor stuff.

Instead, I knitted the body and yoke as intended except with phantom sleeves, had (my own) fit issues with the yoke depth, and severed the yoke from the body, at which point I also realized it might suit me better without the colowork on the lower body and sleeves. I put the yoke back on the needles and reknitted the body and sleeves downward to my own fit specifications, omitting the colorwork. Then for the upper few rows of the yoke and neck, I did the following:

– Modified the last three rows of Chart E — the one that takes us from the colorwork to the neckband — since I no longer had a CC1 (tan) to transition to, and instead was transitioning back to my MC (black). I basically created a grey diamond but with a decrease in Row 4, so it’s more of a diamond-blob than a true diamond. Or a sawtooth — let’s go with that. This additional decrease round brought the stitch count from 108 to 81 sts, and I made it 80 on the following round.

– On Row 6, I worked a set of short rows (with 6 turns) to raise the back neck a bit, which created the wedge of black you see between the colorwork and the neckband in the back. I also worked my last pass around that short-row round as my bind-off round, closing the short-row gaps as I encountered them. So Row 6 was the last row, the short rows and the bind-off all in the same round. (For the short rows, I placed the first 4 turns at the equivalent of each “raglan” position, then the last 2 in the back, slightly closer together than the raglans. I have no idea if that’s how anyone who actually knew what they were doing would do it!) It’s a pretty slight drop between the back and front neck, but just enough to make a difference. If I were to do it again, I’d put a set of short rows just below the colorwork yoke.

– And I then picked up 72 stitches (at a rate of 7 out of 8) and worked a folded neckband. This sweater, with this yarn and my changes, feels very vintage ski-sweater to me, and I wanted to play that up by giving it a sort of retro neckline — high and round and with the folded ribbing. It’s already stretched out a bit (as neckbands will do, which is why I insist on working them from picked-up stitches, and even then try to make them smaller than I ultimately want them, knowing they’ll grow) and I’m tempted to pull it out and pick up 68 sts instead.

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

I’m head over heels in love with this sweater. Visually, the most obvious changes I made are that it’s 3 colors instead of 4, and there’s no colorwork on the lower half of it, which definitely makes it a very different sweater from the original. But for me the more meaningful change is in the fit. If you look at the left sleeve cap in the two photos below, you can see the difference in the yoke depth. The pattern has only 4 or 5 rounds of MC knitting between the underarm (sleeve join) round and the start of the colorwork. I wound up putting more like 18 or 20 rounds in there — bringing the total yoke depth to 9″, which is much more comfortable for me. No longer being beholden to the stitch counts for the lower colorwork charts, I was also able to simply knit to all of my own desired measurements (most notably a 42″ bust measurement for 8-ish inches of ease).

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

Oh, and of course I also knitted the sleeves flat (with 5″ fold-up cuffs and tubular bind-off) and added a basting stitch for side seams.

Now can we talk about the yarn for a minute? This is the new Arranmore and I would like six or seven sweaters in it, please! It reminds me a lot of the first yarn I ever fell in love with — the discontinued Kathmandu Bulky — but in aran weight. I adore it. Between the yarn and how good a circular-yoke sweater feels sitting on my shoulders, I would love nothing more than to wear this sweater every single day.

I’m calling it my Tennessee Lopapeysa, since I can get away with wearing it as outerwear here, the way Icelanders wear their lopi sweaters — although this winter, it’s not even that. Our upper-60s January has given way to mid-70s February, so I’m afraid I may not get to wear it until next year. Maybe it will be my Rhinebeck sweater! Finished well in advance.

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

Pattern: St. Brendan by Courtney Kelley
Yarn: Arranmore by The Fibre Co., in Malin Head (black), Glenveagh Castle (grey) and St. Claire (ivory)
Cost: $7 pattern + $168 yarn = $175*

You can scroll through all of my posts on this sweater hereInstagram posts here, and put a heart on it at Ravelry if you like!

*Given the frogging and extra skeins purchased and there being no way to know what percentage of the sweater’s finished weight is the MC yarn, I’m guessing at how many skeins of black actually got used, but then I also used less than a skein each of the ivory and grey. So this is a rough estimate that probably slightly overstates the true cost.

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Striped pullover

Queue Check — January 2017

Queue Check — January 2017

So where am I on that Channel Cardigan I want to take to Paris? Well, the sleeves are still done! And I’ve added a whopping inch or two to the body.

All my late-night nervous knitting energy has been poured into the second coming of my St. Brendan sweater. It’s been two weeks since I ripped it back to its yoke, and it already has two full sleeves (knitted flat) and about half of the body. That cake of black yarn you see in the pic is my last skein before I have to get into the kinky frog pile, so I’m considering it a good stopping point. When this skein runs out, I plan to knit the neckband from the frog pile, then block the whole thing (also soaking the rewound skeins) and seam the sleeves. I haven’t decided exactly how long I want it to be yet — I want to see how it looks with the upper half and sleeves all done and blocked, which will tell me what the rest wants to be. And I also have the cuffs on waste yarn — thinking about knitting them long enough to fold up.

You may notice there’s no colorwork on those sleeves. I’ve decided the way it is now, with just the yoke, it really is exactly the sweater I’ve been wanting. I expect to be done with it in another week or so — hopefully there will be at least a few days in February cold enough to wear it! (She says from balmy Nashville.)

Then it’s full speed ahead on Channel. The anticipation of that camel yarn and melodious stitch pattern is what’s getting me through all this stockinette …

Channel Cardigan pattern by Jared Flood in Clever Camel | all Channel posts
St. Brendan pattern by Courtney Kelley in Arranmoreall St. Brendan posts

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: Year-end 2016

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part 1)

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part 1)

I’m indulging a little fantasy — one I hope will become reality. April in Paris. Bob and I have never been to Europe (never been anywhere except Mexico and the Bahamas) and I keep saying this is the year we figure out how to make it happen … although it still seems incredibly far-fetched for something that’s ostensibly happening in three months! Regardless of whether it’s daydreaming or advance planning, I’m using the idea of packing for that trip as motivation for a couple of other things:

  1. A firm deadline to complete the knitting of my Channel cardigan-in-progress. What better garment to wander the early-Spring streets of Paris in than this sweater? So I’m making it the focus of my imagined Paris packing list.
  2. A reason to start thinking about how I want to dress this late-Winter/early-Spring in general — i.e., what few pieces I might add, and are they to-buy or to-make? It would be lovely to be ahead of the game on the latter for a change. Plus I haven’t touched my sewing machine since August, so it’s wise to think through what best to make when I do.

Since I’m forever dreaming of a wardrobe so concise-yet-versatile that it would fit into a carry-on and combine into a thousand outfits, that’s what I’m aiming for here. I have a first draft of a proposed packing list (slash shopping list slash making list) in the form of that messy sketch up there, comprising 12-14 endlessly combinable garments. And I’ve also started sketching out some of the outfit combos in my beloved Fashionary notebook. I’m trying to strike a balance between having it all decided too far ahead of time (being over it by the time April gets here) and having it more-or-less-decided far enough in advance to have time to make the makes.

An embarrassingly long while ago, the lovely people at Brooklyn Tweed asked me if I might want to do a guest board for them at Pinterest, and since Jared Flood’s Channel Cardigan pattern is the centerpiece of this whole mental exercise, I’ve made this the subject of my pinboard. So far I’m collecting inspirational images, places to go while we’re there, garments I might want to have with me. I’ll be adding to it over the course of the next couple of months, if you’d like to follow along! Hopefully it will end with me actually standing in front of the Eiffel Tower in my Channel.

Of course I’ll have more to say about it all here as I zero in on the details. And if you’ve been to Paris and have recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

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PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Winter wardrobe week

St. Brendan, ripping for joy

St. Brendan, ripping for joy

There’s a thing that happens to me on those rare occasions that A) I decide to knit a pattern more or less as-is and B) it happens to be a fast knit: I forgo thinking. St. Brendan is an extreme example — I believe it’s literally the first time I have ever knitted a sweater exactly like the sample. Same yarn, same colors, everything. I was excited about the prospect of not thinking, actually, just racing through the knitting and throwing on the sweater! The only thing I took a second to consider was that I’m between sizes, and I made a simple snap decision about that.

I always make my sweaters slightly wider at the hem than the chest because I am wider at the hips (38″) than the boobs (34.5″). Since this one involves colorwork, the stitch counts can’t really be fudged the way I normally would — they have to be a precise multiple for the charts to work out — so I blithely cast on the size 45 body and planned to decrease down to the size 38 stitch counts by the time I got to the join round. And then I tried to squelch the nag in the back of my head who kept muttering “what if the 38 is too small?” I am a fan of a 38″ sweater, I would respond quite firmly. “Yes, but for this sweater? You’ll want more ease.”

To my credit, I did allow that I might have a yoke depth problem, which is why I postponed the sleeves, right? (Good call.) But between the pattern’s fairly shallow yoke dimension at that size and my yoke being even shallower, due to my Compact Row Gauge Curse, it just didn’t fit me right at all. I needed to deepen the yoke and widen both the upper sleeve and the chest dimension for it to fit just the way I like. (NOTE: None of this is in any way a fault of the pattern — these are my personal peccadillos.)

Of all the ways to construct a sweater, bottom-up-seamless is my least favorite. I just really hate knitting that first inch or two after the join round — all that stress on the underarms (and the knitter). So it’s the method I’ve done the least of, and have the least experience tampering with. Had I taken a minute to read into the pattern and think about what was happening, I would have seen that I could easily add stitches and rows where I needed them before getting to the colorwork, but I did not take said minute. See paragraph 1, above.

So what then? When I was writing that Hot Tip about postponing the sleeves, I was like Karen, why didn’t you just start at the bottom of the yoke in this case, if you were worried about the yoke depth and know you don’t like bottom-up-seamless anyway?? And again, that nag was correct — I should have. So now I’ve made up for it. With tremendous joy and liberation and anticipation of a sweater that fits precisely the way I want it to, I ripped out everything but the yoke, which is now back on the needles as if it were a top-down yoke. (All I did was snip a strand at the armhole and unravel that row, then pulled out another row or two on the yoke itself before putting it back on my needles. This is animated for your enjoyment below.) I’ve reallocated the sleeve and body stitches, slightly shifted the motif placement, and recalculated the shaping and yoke depth to match my own preferences, like I do with every other sweater I knit! If you saw the details, you’d feel confirmed in your suspicion that I am a crazy person. I am literally moving things around by a matter of a couple of stitches here and there, but I know what a difference it will make to me in the end. With a sweater that knits up this lightning-quick, why not get it right?

Here’s the other thing: I’ve kept the lower body intact for the time being in case I want to graft it back on, but I am feeling like I’ll probably make it plain black from the yoke down. I’ve been saying for over a year that I want a black sweater with a colorwork yoke (here, here and here), so it seems dumb to make something not quite that, no matter how perfectly gorgeous it may be. But I’m deferring a decision on that point for the moment.

Refresh the page if needed to see this in action:

St. Brendan, ripping for joy

Happy weekend, everybody! We’ll be at Haus of Yarn tomorrow with our mini-Fringe Supply Co, along with Plucky Knitter! If you’re in the Nashville area, I hope we’ll see you there. And if not, there’s a new Amirisu in store this morning and lots of other favorites back in stock — go take a wander.

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PREVIOUSLY in St. Brendan: Hot Tip: Postpone the sleeves

FO-2016.21 : Striped pullover

Striped Pebble sweater (2016 FO 21)

All of my thoughts and knitting process notes for this fantastic pullover (my last finish of 2016) are covered in my Q&A post about it, but for those of you who want all of the stitch counts and other nitty-gritty details, those are below. And in addition to “modeled” shots for FOs this year, I’m making an effort to do outfit ideas for them too — so here’s the first round of that (below)! For these photos, though, I opted to throw it on with my oldest and dearest.

The only thing not noted previously, I think, is that my starting point was that I wanted the neck and cuffs and hopefully the waist band to be black. Ideally, the underarms would also have been black, but there was no way for that to work without some less acceptable compromise on another factor, so I just kept the armholes deep enough that the fabric is not up against my underarms at all. Also, technically, I should have been switching to an ivory stripe at the point where the cuffs happen, but decided to just extend them in the black, and I love the way that worked out. I wish I had gone a tiny bit longer on the final waist/hem stripe to lend a little more visual weight there, but it’s all good!

I want to say thank-you one more time to Shibui for giving me this yarn for the Top-Down Knitalong (plus one of the WIP of the Week prizes). This fabric is just incredible — light and thin and soft and warm all at the same time — and I am thrilled to have this sweater in my closet.

You can scroll through all of my posts on this sweater here, Instagram posts here, and fave it on Ravelry if you’re so inclined. Again, process notes are here, and stitch counts and other blow-by-blow details are below.

Pattern: Improv (top-down tutorial)
Yarn: Pebble from Shibui, held double; approx 6 skeins Ivory and 6 skeins Abyss
Cost: free pattern + complimentary yarn = $0
(yarn would have been $228 had I paid for it; the most expensive sweater in my closet, and I would consider it money very well spent)

Striped Pebble sweater (2016 FO 21)

GAUGE

5.75 sts and 8.5 rows = 1 inch (measured over 4″ = 23/34) knitted on US6/4mm

TARGET MEASUREMENTS

42″ chest = 242 sts
13″ upper arm circumference = 74 sts
9″ yoke/armhole depth (76 rows)
12-stitch underarms
13.5″ body length (includes 2″ hem ribbing)
22.5″ total length
16.5″ sleeve length from underarm (includes 2″ cuff ribbing)
8″ cuff circumference

DETAILS

— Co 68 sts divided thusly: 1 | 14 | 38 | 14 | 1

— On row 1, increased one stitch at each raglan marker for a basting stitch

Increased (kfb) at front neck and in pairs at each raglan on every other row

Worked neck shaping until 2″ of depth, cast on to bridge the gap and join, then worked a few more rounds so first stripe was 2.5″ at the back (and neckband would be fully enclosed in a black stripe)

Continued increasing sleeve and body sections to 12 sts short of target counts, worked even to intended yoke depth, then cast on the 12 sts at each underarm

— Each yoke/body stripe (in the round) is 21 rows; but sleeve stripes are 22 rows each — to add some length and because sleeves were knitted flat

— Increased a few times along the side seams for A-line shape (and included basting stitch at each side seam)

Decreased sleeves gradually from 74 to 68 sts, then on final row before starting the cuff ribbing decreased to 50 sts

— Picked up 88 sts for neckband (approx 3 out of 4) on US5/3.75mm, worked to double length for foldover band; to ensure no tightness due to fairly small neck hole, worked final two rib rounds on US9/5.5mm then did sewn BO, before loosely whipstitching to the cast-on edge on the inside

Striped Pebble sweater (2016 FO 21)

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: My sewing year in review

Queue Check — Year-end 2016

Queue Check — Year-end 2016

My Knitting Year in Review post makes it seem like 2016 was my Year of Stockinette — and it pretty much was. Of the FOs, the only thing that isn’t plain stockinette is my Anna Vest, which is the next closest thing to it. But apparently I was really just saving the best for last! I’m ending the year with the mesmerizing knits-and-purls of my Channel Cardigan (top, in Clever Camel) and the colorwork of my St. Brendan (bottom, in Arranmore), and loving every minute of it — so happy to squeeze in a spot of colorwork before the year is up. (Can you believe the only cables I knitted all year were on my abandoned first-version knitalong sweater?)

I’ve been on summer break this week — it was my first time off since the beginning of May, and we’ve been in 88-degree Florida, so it felt entirely like summer break. I finished the second Channel sleeve cap on the drive down, and literally made a mistake on almost every row, after having sailed through the rest of the sleeve without a one. Clearly my brain was wanting a holiday, so after finishing up the hem ribbing, I cast on St. Brendan and have been wallowing in … yep, stockinette! Apart from those 14 rows of colorwork, which make it seem like not a plain stockinette project at all.

But a thing happened — it was tiny. Like 38″ around instead of the 45″ it should be. I’d swatched like a good girl, and my blocked swatch (on US9) was spot on, so I had reason to hope it would block out correctly. But rather than plow ahead with worry, I transferred it onto waste yarn (at the point pictured above) and blocked it. It’s totally fine! So a day later, it was back on the needles and I was cruising through the body, which at this point is a good 14″ long or so. And good gravy I love this yarn and this fabric.

I had plans of doing a big, meaty forward-looking Queue Check for today, but decided I’d rather wallow in my holiday, so I’ll think about 2017 plans in January, yeah?

Thank you so much for everything this year, and for all the great comments this week — especially your feedback under Top posts of the year. I’ve been reading them all and will be going back through and responding now that I’m home. Happy New Year’s Eve to you (tomorrow), and I wish you all the best in the coming year—

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: November/December 2016

2016: My sewing year in review

2016: My sewing year in review

So this is a different sort of surprise for me: I sewed 12 garments this year, which is definitely more garments than I sewed in the previous 20 years combined! Granted, they are extremely simple little clothes, averaging maybe a yard and a quarter apiece. But I also haven’t sewn since sometime around mid-August — so really I sewed 12 garments in 7-ish months. And combined with the knitting, I made 21 things this year. No wonder my closet is feeling so much better.

More important, though, I like all of these clothes:

– The wool gauze pullover was worn a lot before it met an unfortunate fate in a dryer. It now lives with an 8-year-old friend, but a pal just sent me a length of the exact same fabric in case I want to make it again!

– The blue striped dress was in regular rotation for awhile and no doubt will be again this spring/summer

– The muumuu doesn’t get a lot of wear, of course, but it makes me smile every time I open my closet door

– The two sleeveless tops — black and blue striped — both factor heavily into my winter wardrobe, and I can’t wait to make another version

– The striped skirt was a test, but it’s gotten a little bit of wear and I’m eager to iterate on it

– The black muscle tee is a total favorite, my first time sewing a knit, and will be repeated soon!

– One reason to look forward to warm weather again is the chance to wear the two little box tops

– And the three camisoles are multi-functional and well-loved

If I have a resolution for 2017, it’s to advance my sewing skills and also figure out how to be more efficient about it. For one thing, I bought a serger back in October, which has yet to emerge from the box, but learning how to use it is my number one priority going into January. As I mentioned yesterday, I feel like I’ve reached a place where I know what I want in my closet. Now to bring my skills up to speed!

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PREVIOUSLY: My 2016 knitting year in review