I finished knittingBob’s sweater vest in plenty of time for him to wear it out to dinner on New Year’s Eve, and the man could not be happier! Nor could I, honestly — this vest turned out so much better than I imagined. And that’s due to two things: a highly detailed pattern paired with some very nice yarn.
You may recall I had bought a skein of this at Stitches West last winter, and Bob basically picked it off my shelf one day and said “I want a sweater out of this.” It’s Plucky Knitter’s Yakpaca in “Pinstripe” — a 50/50 blend of yak and alpaca — and there’s no way he would wear a full sweater in such warm fibers, so thankfully what he wanted was a vest. And after poking around a bit, we settled on Churchmouse’s His Vest pattern.
My gauge was slightly bigger than the pattern gauge (I knitted the yarn on US6 needles at 4.75 sts/inch) and for such a straightforward garment, it would have been super simple to just wing it. But there were so many subtleties to how the pattern is written — very fine attention to the armhole shaping, shoulder seam placement, neck treatment — that I wanted to try to use the pattern. Since all my numbers were different, that got to be a bit of a headache (and I wound up not doing their tidy little neck selvage trick) but I’m glad I did it, and if I were to make this again, I would knit it precisely to the pattern.
Apart from the slight difference in gauge, the only change I made was to tweak the length — we wanted it to hit right at the front pockets of his jeans — and raised the neck, which meant going my own way on that whole part.
It’s a really lovely, simple garment, and a perfect case of how much yarn choice can matter. The fabric this yarn creates is so soft and elegant that I had this hanging on the door to my room for about 24 hours and I just kept staring at it having that “wow, I made that” feeling, even though it’s such a simple thing! It just looks so luxurious.
It was 70 degrees on New Year’s Eve and he wore it anyway, looking perfectly dapper. Sorry I didn’t get a photo!
FINALLY! I know it’s been hard for a lot of you to wait to start knitting (and some just couldn’t stand not to cast on), so I’m extra happy kickoff day for the Fringe and Friends Steekalong has finally arrived. There is no firm end date. The feed will have my focused attention through Feb 17th, but feel free to knit at your own pace. Ultimately, this is not about deadlines or prizes (although see below) — it’s about challenging yourself, having fun, and making a sweater!
Normally, kickoff day is when I introduce you to the panel of knitters who’ll be featured here on the blog throughout the kal, but I’m doing things a little differently this year — or rather, taking a sort of hybrid approach from past FAFKALs. As of today, the “panel” consists of just me and Mary Jane, and I’ll be looking for standout contributors to the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed, assembling a sort of panel on the fly.
For the next three or four weeks, I’ll pick projects that are of particular interest, and post a q&a with one of them roughly once a week. (Maybe exactly once a week, maybe less — we’ll see how it takes shape!) And then for any of those panelists that finish in a timely fashion (i.e. by end of Feb or so), I’ll also do an FO interview here just like I’ve done with panelists in the past, so everyone can see how those projects turned out.
So if you’d like to see yourself and your project featured here, the way to do that is to post about your plans on the feed! Photo quality always counts, but so does having an interesting approach or story or plan of whatever sort. Are you making some clever mods to the pattern, inventing your own, doing something interesting with your yarn choice? Setting some other sort of goal or challenging yourself in an inspiring way? Tell us about it! And you could wind up on the panel of featured knitters, which will also come with a gift from Fringe Supply Co.
YOU COULD WIN PRIZES!
Apart from the chance to be added to the panel and featured here, there will be random prizes everyone has a shot at. On February 17th, I will draw 5 knitters from all of the qualifying posts on the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed and those 5 knitters will each win a Field Bag of their choice!
Master plan: As we’ve just gone through a December that hovered in the 50s, 60s, even some 70s, and I’m unable to wear all of the sweaters already in my closet, I had to face the fact that I would not be making this gorgeous sweater for myself — so for who then? Partly because of my color concept (below), I started thinking about all of my beautiful little nieces I’ve never knitted for, and realized if I were to knit this at worsted gauge, it would come out kid-sized, and they could pass it around depending who it winds up fitting. So that’s what I’m doing! (And I’ll also finally be taking this opportunity to cut open my purple lopi sweater.)
Yarn: Obviously when you’re knitting for kids, you think a little harder about the yarn. I want a nice wool that will cooperate with a steek (so nothing too gooey soft) but that will be acceptable to the littles (so not too woolly). So I think I’m going with Germantown. I know from swatching with it for the Anna Vest that it is quite flexible about gauge, and since I may be mixing yarns for the colorwork, in order to the get the tonal gradation I want, that feels important. I’ve ordered some at the last minute, and will swatch and see the moment it arrives!
Palette: I’ve mentioned that I’ve really been craving yellow lately, and ever since reading about Mary Jane’s initial inspiration for the yoke — the flickering of sunlight — I’ve been wanting to see this sweater in a nice bright yellow with paler yellow and off-white colorwork. The reason I say I may be mixing yarns is that Germantown offers what I think (from online photos) will be just the sort of saturated, cheerful yellow I want for the main color, and a natural for the lightest, but not a nice soft buttery yellow in between. The skein pictured above has been in my stash for several years — it’s an older offering from my friends Camellia Fiber Co. , an aran-weight Merino that was naturally dyed with marigold petals, by my friend Rebekka. I’ve been saving it, not knowing for what, and I know the girls would love this story — plus that will give a little extra softness to the neckband. So I’m going to see if I can make it work with the Germantown. If not, I may try my hand at dyeing my own middle contrast color! The girls might rather it were purple or pink, but I’m pretty committed to the yellow idea.
Plan: I think I’m going to put a zipper in this one. Either that, or knit the button band before I cut the steek. Both are things I’ve seen in real Icelandic Lopapeysas.
Yarn: I’m using Léttlopi because I have it and because I love it!
Palette: I think it will be 3 colors of red because I have enough of them in my stash. Two of the colors are really close … I’m going to swatch first. I have a favorite discontinued red I might use if I can find it, otherwise it’s going to be kind of a fade effect, which could be nice!
The colors kind of remind me of melted candle wax. Might not be a great visual for some but I find it kind of intriguing.
Somehow tomorrow is 2019 — which means the start of the Steekalong — so I’m here today to confess about the knitting projects that were spontaneously started and not finished this month. While Bob’s vest parts were blocking, and again when it was awaiting seaming and I had a flight to catch, I unintentionally cast on two more black stockinette projects. So this is also known as The Tale of the Black Blobs.
The first (upper one) is the evolution of the idea of knitting another dickey in the black Wookfolk Luft. Rather than simply knitting Grete again, I got inspired by the Flying Solo, plus a simple funnel shaped stockinette cowl I made and gave away the first year I was knitting, plus my neverending thoughts about dickey possibilities. And what I originally cast on has grown and changed and seems not done changing yet, so I’m not sure where it will wind up. Maybe it will be a garment before I’m done! But wow this yarn. I wasn’t sure I would like it and I don’t — I love it.
I took the first 8″ of it with me on my flight to Palm Springs for my birthday, only to realize I had brought everything but the yarn. Fortunately, I had brought a back-up knit: a Carbeth Cardigan to cast on. My hope, honestly, was that the cowl-dickey-whatever project would occupy me for the trip and I’d have packed the back-up unnecessarily. But as soon as I sat down on the plane, I discovered my mistake. So really, I had no choice!
If you’ve been reading, you know how much I’ve been debating with myself about the color and yarn for the Carbeth. I so loved Shannon’s off-black one, but I have a cropped black cardigan (but I’m forever on the fence about that one) and it would be so gorgeous in the toffee OUR Yarn, but then would I hate myself for not making it black? And if I made it black, what yarn? There’s the OUR Yarn in black, but for this particular garment, I wanted it less black. One night it struck me that I could hold something together with it, and that in fact I had enough black Pebble left from my striped sweater to do the job. So I knit a swatch and it’s lovely. The Pebble lends a bit of lightness and heatheriness, and I matched row gauge and am only slightly off on stitch gauge. So whether it’s defensible or not, it is now on my needles.
I’d hoped to finish one or both of them before the year came to a close, but my workload has not allowed for it — not to mention the difficulty of limited late night knitting time with three black stockinette projects to choose from! Needless to say, my Sólbein will not be black.
By the time the calendar blows over to January, I’ll have completed 19 knitting projects, which is a lot for me, but almost half of them were Log Cabin Mitts! When I came up with this pattern back in January — my contribution to last winter’s Fringe and Friends Logalong — it was one of those magical manifestations where you wonder where on earth it came from. I said at the time that they felt like the only truly creative thing I’d ever done, and I’m still so amazed at how beautifully the pattern worked out — and how fun it is to play with — that I have no intention of ceasing to knit them, even having finished 7 pairs this year: the originals (free pattern here), grey, black-and-white, toffee, black-and-blue, verb kit and indigo. (Grey and black-and-blue have been given to friends but will likely be replicated for the collection, which still feels like an art project in process.) The toffee pair live in my jacket pocket and are worn on the regular, but the black-and-white ones are my favorite rendition so far.
Then there’s another hat that’s never been blogged because it’s a pattern I’m supposed to be writing, plus my Hozkwoz hat from the Fringe Marlisle Knitalong. So a total of 6 hats. And of course the cable dickey I haven’t been able to shut up about either before or since knitting it.
The dickey and matching toffee mitts are easily my most-worn, best-loved wardrobe additions this year, and the ivory Første hat is one of the most stunning things I’ve ever knitted. And in addition to the Log Cabin Mitts, I also designed a second mitts pattern this year: Cascara Mitts for Tolt’s anniversary collection. I can’t add them to my tally because I have only knitted 1 mitt for the sake of writing the pattern (plus two more partials for teaching purposes), but I love those mitts and will be making myself a completed pair in the future.
Log cabin and marlisle were both new techniques for me this year, as were the clever construction on the 1898 Hat and mosaic knitting, which was used for the unseen pattern-to-come hat. (Oh wait, there’s one more secret hat — a sample for someone else’s pattern that also involved a way-new technique!! Tell you more about that when I can. So that’s 7 hats, and 20 finished projects in total.) I also got to knit quite a few cables and did some experimenting with the earflap hat and the sweatshirt vest. And published two patterns I’m proud of. Not to mention finally getting the Anna Vest published as an individual download. Phew!
My big adventure was supposed to be my navy-and-black linen Carolyn Pajamas for Summer of Basics — a challenging sew for the top, and the fun of piping on both top and bottoms. When the shorts were looking absolutely stunning (but way too small), I realized I really wanted to do full-length pants instead, and wound up off on a tangent that resulted in pants, modified shorts and a Wiksten Kimono (now known as the Wiksten Haori) in three different striped shirtings from my stash — a hodgepodge of coordinating pj parts. In the end, I’m happy enough with them, and wear them all, but still really eager to do the fancy navy-and-black duo.
For the rest, the results overall are mixed. On the one hand, I made the most-worn garment in my closet: the natural canvas pants I wear literally 3 or 4 times a week and have taken on all but one trip this year (that one being Squam Lake, where they didn’t go for obvious reasons). The recycled denim pair are worn pretty regularly, but I somehow don’t have the same level of adoration for them. On the other hand, I made the puffy short-sleeved Linden that’s already been given to a niece, followed by the long-sleeved Linden that I inexplicably cut on the cross-grain, so it stretches top to bottom instead of side to side. It doesn’t stop me from wearing it, but it does make me feel like an idiot every time! The jury is still out on the linen-cotton Carolyn pants — we’ll see if they make it into rotation this spring.
The most fun I had sewing this year was (once again) a refashion: the unfinished Clyde Jacket I had scored at last December’s Elizabeth Suzann sample sale (abandoned before its sleeves were attached) and converted into a vest. I LOVE this thing, and really enjoyed solving the puzzle of how to work with the existing style lines and seams to get the garment I wanted:
But the bottom line is that I want to have a lot more fun sewing in 2019 — both in terms of using/pushing my skills and in what I use them to create. More on that to come—
I did that thing where I convinced myself I was going to come home from my Thanksgiving road trip with nearly finished front and back pieces for Bob’s sweater vest. (Details on the pattern and yarn here.) Instead, of course, I knitted about two inches on the drive to Atlanta, an inch on the drive back, and not a stitch while we were with my family. Too many meals to prepare, kids to fling around, dominoes games to lose. But I have, at least, done my alt-gauge math and made it into the armhole shaping on both pieces, so it’s downhill from here!
Which means it’s about time to decide what I’m casting on for myself when this is done. As you know, I’ve been deliberating. And deliberating some more. Based on the notes in my mood board post last week and an assessment of my stash — as I continue to make slow but steady progress on my cleanout — I’ve got three yarns vying for my attention.
LEFT SKEIN: While I was at Tolt a few weeks ago, I bought a skein of black Luft to swatch with for another Grete, and when I got home a box arrived from my sweet friends at Woolfolk with enough to finish the job. This one is pretty much a sure thing, so very likely the next project on my needles. All there is to think about is the mods I want to make this time, beyond what I did with my first one.
MIDDLE SKEIN: The Our Yarn I’ve been saying I want to use for a Carbeth Cardigan, amplified by my trying on Shannon’s on that same trip. Shannon’s was knitted in the soft black Quarry and it really felt like a sweater that belonged in my closet, so as confident I am that I would absolutely love it in the toffee, I’m questioning whether I’ll regret not making a replica of the sweater that felt so entirely perfect to me. Especially since I also have other ideas for the toffee.
RIGHT SKEIN: The other sweater quantity in my stash that’s crying out the loudest is the YOTH Neighbor I bought at Stitches West back in February. I really love this nubbly, heathery wool and am dying to knit it up, but I’m also being mindful about my quest for less warm sweaters, which led me back to Kram, which has been on my shortlist for three years. I’m leery of these kinds of sweaters (basically triangular garments meant to sit on a square frame), so I still regret not trying on Tank’s when I had a chance at Knitting With Company two years ago, but it looked great on her and the fact that I’ve had it in mind for so long is a good sign. I’d probably need to hold this yarn triple, and believe I have just enough to pull that off, but I’m also considering holding an ivory or lighter blue with it to brighten up the color, since this is a pretty grey blue.
And then there’s the sewing queue. Writing about my wool muscle tee the other day made me think I might want to make another with the toffee-colored wool I have in stash, which was actually woven from the same yarn above. And fueled by the winter mood board, I pulled this purple fabric off my shelf. It’s a gorgeous deep eggplant with patterning in a lighter shade of lilac, woven in Thailand. I bought it a few years ago at Craft South when they had a pop-up with a woman who buys indigenous textiles on her global travels. (I can’t remember her name or brand!) I’ve been waiting for it to tell me what it wants to be, and I’m now thinking a pretty little sleeveless top of some sort. This fabric will go with every cardigan I own (including the to-be-steeked purple lopi) as well as my army and denim shirtjackets, and a little sleeveless top is of course useful year-round. I don’t know what exactly, but I’m picturing something feminine, with maybe a little gathering or pleating at the waist? If I can find the right pattern, I might have the time next weekend, and it would be my idea of a perfect little #sewfrosting project, just in time for the holidays.
There are 410 finished pairs of Log Cabin Mitts logged in Ravelry at this moment, and only 7 of them are mine! There were the originals, the heather grey, the ebony and ivory, the toffee, the black-and-bluish, the mountain mist and now these, at long last. These are knitted in Pioneer from Verb (natural and indigo), one of my all-time favorite yarns, and have been awaiting their thumbs since March or April only because of the indigo dye. As much as I love it, indigo does get on your fingers when you work with it. It washes right off, of course, and sets when you block it. But it means it’s not a project you can toss in your tote to finish on a flight or whatever. Anyway, they were totally worth the wait, in their lovely indigo asymmetry.
The way we all feel about sweater season is how I also feel about fingerless mitts season. My hands are just happier when clad in wool, and these are really my favorite of allllll the mitts. I’ve been wearing the toffee pair nonstop since it cooled off, and there’s just something magical about the way the garter ridges of the log cabin patterning makes them mold just so to your hands.
Of the 7 pair I’ve finished, I’ve given away 2 and have an eighth in progress, with no doubt more to follow. I mentioned before that this collection of mitts feels like some kind of deeply personal art project I can’t explain. But I’m so happy to be back to it!