I’m joining the start-over club!

I'm joining the start-over club!

It’s funny what a photo can show you. When I took the pic for last week’s blog post of my yoke laying flat, it was to accompany my paragraph about how I was chugging along exactly as planned. But what I noticed as I was posting it was (despite all my planning about how to get the stitch pattern to align correctly at the front neck) I had completely neglected to worry about how the stitch pattern aligned at the raglan seams. As a person who struggles with perfectionist tendencies, it’s funny that I didn’t notice or think to worry about it sooner, and it’s impossible to ignore now that I’ve seen it. So all last week I struggled with it. You’ve all made an incredible impression on me — all of the fearlessness and determination and good-natured ripping that’s been going on in the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 — and so there’s no way I was going to leave it. I didn’t even mind the idea of ripping back and restarting, in principle, but what was bothering me all last week as I thought about it was that I didn’t want to start this sweater over.

For me to knit an ivory cable sweater that isn’t the Aran sweater I’ve been talking about for the last five years is just silly. (I’ve already knitted a cardigan instead of that longed-for pullover.) And I also don’t think it’s the very best use of the Pebble, which is too good to waste on the wrong stitch for it. But with Slow Fashion October upon us, I’m more mindful than ever about not knitting a sweater just to knit it, or because it might be a cute sweater, or because there’s a knitalong going on. I’m determined to only to make garments that both A) I desperately want to exist an B) will have a distinct impact on my overall wardrobe. This ivory cable sweater was meeting neither of those criteria. So I listened to my apathy and decided to scrap it — and it truly felt like a #rippingforjoy decision, as Felicia calls it. The question was: What to do instead?

I spent several days pondering it, going back to my original thought of a light-colored, lightweight, lightly textured pullover, looking through the blog and Pinterest and stitch dictionaries seeking inspiration for what to do with this ivory yarn, and coming up empty. I kept finding myself wanting to incorporate a second color — a pinstripe? Mosaic stitch pattern? Stranding of some kind? Saturday night I found myself pawing through my stash bin, and my hand kept going to the two skeins of black Pebble in there. Karen, focus! Ivory Pebble, not black. Frustrated, I literally laid down on the floor of my little workroom, stared at the blank ceiling, and asked myself what my closet was really missing. Again my mind went to that black yarn and the idea of stripes. STRIPES! Not just any stripes — black and ivory awning stripes, à la Debbie Harry. I hopped up and pulled up the Fall ’16 Mood board I’d recently made to look for that photo I’ve loved for ages, and found it and a Jenni Kayne striped tee sharing space on the inspiration board I’d been neglecting to consult. The answer was right there the whole time.

And I have to tell you, the instant I settled on it, I could not wind that yarn and cast on fast enough. (I even already had a swatch!) The yarn is so happy now — the fabric is amazing! — and this is a sweater I cannot wait to be wearing.

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Speaking of things photos show us, Jen also made a decision prompted by her photo for last week’s post. Fisherman’s rib in-the-round is sort of like garter stitch — it leaves a mark where you switch from knitting on one round to purling on the next. She hadn’t noticed it was causing two of the ribs to sit awkwardly close together until she took that pic of Jon wearing it. So after some discussion and deliberation and swatching, she’s settled on “half-brioche” which is a version of fisherman’s rib that includes a resting row, which should obviate the issue. I love her new swatch even more than what she had going — and the hope is it will also eat less yarn, be less onerous knitting, and lead to a less heavy garment. So we’re both starting over!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: Panelist check-in

WIP of the Week No.5 (+ mandatory Slotober reading!)

WIP of the Week No.5

I truly can’t say enough about how life-affirming it is to read through the discussions on all of the sweaters in the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed every day. (And “life-affirming” is not a term I use often — or maybe ever!) The knitting world is an amazing place, but the support and advice and encouragement here exceeds anything I’ve ever seen, and I couldn’t be more wowed by you all. The sweater that impressed me the most this week and is thus earning the title of WIP of the Week is the cardigan (pictured above) by Brigit, who is @thewoolwitch on IG and themistwitch on Ravelry. Brigit set out to make a coat-like cardigan in lopi, and has been sharing generously every step and decision along the way. She patiently knitted and seamed a vertical button band to match the length of this garment, then she put it on and posted pics, asking openly whether or not she’d gotten the fit right. And when the majority opinion was that the sleeves were too large for her small frame and making the whole thing look too big for her (“tragically-too-large” rather than “cool-girl-oversized”, as she put it), without seeming to even bat an eyelash she ripped out the entire thing — save the button band! — and is starting from scratch, so she can really hone every single detail along the way. As she said:

“I am so excited to have this come out right, and so excited that we are heading into Slow Fashion October because, to me, taking the time to reknit a sweater so that it fits just right is part of what slow fashion is all about. What’s the point of making your own clothes if you aren’t going to love them?”

Dude.

Brigit is far from the only one to be ripping and tweaking and improving, but I think she is the first to rip a finished KAL sweater — and all the way to stitch one. But what has impressed me most about the whole thing is her spirit and attitude. Plus that’s going to be a great sweater. So Brigit, you’ve won 10 skeins of Woolfolk’s luscious Far in the color of your choosing. Email me at contact@fringesupplyco.com to collect your prize!

I also have a little more Far to spread around this week — two bundles of three skeins each — and have picked two winners at random because there are just too many amazing entries to choose from! @kirsten_weis you’ve won three skeins in Color 16, and @borealindigo you’ve won three skeins in Color 17. Please email me so we can send your yarn!

Next week’s penultimate bonus prize is 8 skeins of Arranmore, the new Fibre Co. yarn you all know I’m dying to knit with, donated by Kelbourne Woolens (who are taunting me with those killer patterns). So keep those pics and tales and general amazingness coming!

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MICRO-ELSEWHERE: Speaking of the Kelbournes (as I call them) and of Slow Fashion October, they recently included a link in their weekly newsletter that is the single best article I’ve ever read about the problems our gluttony and cast-off-itis creates, and I’m going to link it today and repeatedly as we head into Slotober, because I think it should be mandatory reading for all clothes-wearing humans on planet Earth: No one wants your old clothes. PLEASE READ!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! Did you watch Rams yet? I loved it.

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: Panelist check-in

 

New Favorites: The solace of hats

New Favorites: The solace of hats

There have been a lot of great pattern collections released in the past couple of weeks. So many good sweaters I’m trying not to think about right now (but will definitely get around to raving about!) because I’d rather think about hats. I think it’s when I feel the least in control of my to-do list that I start to really crave a nice little hat to knit before bed. Is that an epiphany I’ve had a hundred times before? Regardless of circumstances, a hat is always so achievable and uncomplicated, so bite-sized. So satisfying when everything else is a sea of unfinished business (including, uh, the four sweaters on the needles). Any of these would do nicely  —

TOP: Phōs by Fiona Alice — from the awesome new Amirisu that just hit the shop — is colorwork combined with texture in a geometric motif I love

MIDDLE: Fluffy Brioche Hat by Purl Soho would be a sweet little intro to brioche and an eminently wearable hat

BOTTOM: Furrow Hat by Jared Flood — from his book Woolens — would be such a melodic knit, that simple combo of moss and cables

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Finn Valley and St. Brendan

Slow Fashion October, take two

Slow Fashion October 2016

If there’s one thing I learned from the incredible experience that was Slow Fashion October last year (barely glimpsed in the pics above), it’s that it’s an even more complicated conversation than I realized — and I knew it was complicated! But it is, plainly, a hard one to talk about. It’s hard even to say what “slow fashion” is, as it’s different for every person. I don’t think it’s at all important to agree on either a definition or a list of shoulds or musts or don’ts. What’s important is having the big messy beautiful discussion — right out in public — and getting each other thinking. So, difficult or not, bring it on! I couldn’t be more excited for season two.

Last year I set up a framework of loose weekly themes to give the discussion a tiny bit of structure (Small, Loved, Worn and Known). I liked the theme approach, and think you all did too, but I feel like they were so loose that some of what seemed obvious to me actually seemed non-existent to others. Such as the fact that the conversation is not just about handmade — it’s about all the ways (and reasons!) we can approach a slow-fashion wardrobe. When I first created the @slowfashionoctober Instagram account last year and had to reduce the idea to one sentence for the profile, I wrote:

A celebration of the small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, known-origins wardrobe.

I thought that was pretty good! And I still think looking at it from all of those angles is key. So for this year’s themes, I’m making them slightly more specific to (what I see as) the primary facets of slow fashion. Here goes:

Week 1, Oct 1-9: INTRODUCTIONS
Who are you, and what does slow fashion mean to you. What got you started thinking about it — people, books, films, etc. Are your concerns environmental, humanitarian, financial? Most important: How does your thinking factor into your life and closet. Also, any special plans or projects for Slotober, and what are you hoping to get out of it?

Week 2, Oct 10-16: LONG-WORN
How can we make the most of the clothes already on the planet — from taking care of and mending and wearing things longer, to thrifting, swapping, heirlooms, hand-me-downs, alterations and refashioning.

Week 3, Oct 17-23: HANDMADE
How do you understand your style, choose projects well, advance your skills, get the right fit, and keep things interesting and long-lasting at the same time. What are your go-to patterns and most successful garments. How do you avoid mindless acquisition of yarn and fabric, or making “too much.” How do you make time and space for making — and why?

Week 4, Oct 24-31: KNOWN ORIGINS
Good (especially good and affordable) sources of yarn and fabric with traceable origins. And for the things we buy, favorite sources: from small-batch designer-producers to fashion companies trying to do the right thing in a transparent way.

Two issues came up in the past few days’ discussion on IG that I especially want to encourage anyone with knowledge or advice to weigh in on along the way: 1) the challenge of kids and fast fashion, and 2) plus-size options, both in terms of patterns and ready-to-wear.

So, just like last year, this is a framework that you can choose to use or ignore as you like, but it’s here if it’s helpful. I think this year I’m also going to post regular (daily?) questions along the way that you can either respond to in the comments or use as a prompt for a post of your own. Maybe you respond to one a week or maybe all of them — totally and completely up to you.

There is no right or expected way to participate — chime in wherever and however and as frequently or infrequently as suits you. If you’re posting on your blog, use pingbacks or leave links in the comments on my posts here so people can see what you’re writing. On social media, use hashtag #slowfashionoctober to contribute and follow along. And I hope you’ll also strike up the conversation in your 3-dimensional world throughout the month.

The most important thing I can emphasize is this isn’t about judgment. We all have different opinions and resources and time and wishes and skills — we are each on our own path. Like I said at the start of this post, what matters is just to be talking and thinking about it, and doing whatever is desirable and possible for you.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

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PREVIOUSLY: Slow Fashion October 2015

Pictured are some of the contributions from last year that got highlighted in the @slowfashionoctober feed: top left, top right, middle left, middle right, bottom left, bottom right

Swatch of the Month: The lopapeysa trail

EDITOR’S NOTE: All I’m gonna say about Jess’s column this month is it’s so beautiful I can’t even stand it. Iceland 2017 or bust—
—Karen

Swatch of the Month: The lopapeysa trail

One of the great ironies of my twenties is that I went to Iceland before I was a knitter. I knitted a little bit – mostly hats and fingerless gloves and things like that – but didn’t know anything about Iceland’s knitting history, its iconic yoke sweaters, the fuzzy skeins of lopi. But when yarn is being sold in grocery stores and sheep are everywhere you look, you quickly get the idea that understanding knitting’s place in Iceland is central to understanding the country itself.

This was back in 2012, shortly after the country’s financial crisis, and that striking yoked sweater known as a lopapeysa seemed to be the uniform for all Icelanders — a source of national pride and identity. Ragga Eiríksdóttir (raggaknits on Ravelry) was interviewed during the recovery about just that, saying that following the collapse in 2008, “suddenly everyone started to knit Icelandic sweaters like crazy” as both a return to their roots and as backlash against the banking and globalization that had seemingly brought the country to this place. This isn’t just a casual observation – Ístex, the country’s biggest wool manufacturer, is now producing twice the amount of wool yarn as it did nearly 10 years ago. This quote from Árni Árnason in The Reykjavik Grapevine sums it up well:

It resembles the country’s rugged nature and reminds us of the history of farming and fishing when it provided its wearer with a vital shield from the disastrous weather one can encounter in the wild. Furthermore it appeals greatly to the disillusioned and globalised 21st Century traveller. It’s as close as one can get to the source without shovelling shit in a sheepfold.

This resurgence in knitting had me wondering (like with the Aran sweater from last month’s post) about the origins of the lopapeysa. As you drive through the country, sheep are clustered in nearly every valley and mountainside. They seem as ancient and integral to the landscape as the moss or the waterfalls. Surely, I thought, Icelanders have been knitting for centuries, right? But the recent digging on Arans gave me pause before assuming that the iconic sweater had been around for just as long.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ICELAND

Vikings began arriving to Iceland between 870 and 930 CE, first settling in what is now Reykjavík and then moving on to settle the remaining arable pockets of countryside. In 930 CE, the Alþingi (pronounced “Althing”) formed to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth, the oldest national parliament in the world. Leaders from across the island met at Þingvellir (pronounced “Thingvellir”), a huge rift valley that marks the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the meeting between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It’s now a national park, just a short drive northeast from Reykjavík, and is stunning and awe-inspiring to see in person.

By any measures, life has never been easy on Iceland. When it was first settled, the North Atlantic was in the middle of the Medieval Warm Period, when temperatures were warmer than usual – a period that lasted until about 1250 when Iceland fell into the Little Ice Age until the mid-19th century. Within the first few hundred years of Vikings’ arrival, the country transformed from a lushly wooded landscape to arctic desert – mostly due to deforestation, overgrazing by cattle and sheep, and farmers pushing the land to the brink of what’s possible to survive.

After the Icelandic Commonwealth fell apart in the 13th century, the island was controlled by a mix of outside powers – the Norwegian Empire, the Kalmar Union (a united Norway, Denmark and Sweden), and later Denmark. For centuries, Iceland was one of the poorest countries in Europe. It was ravaged by two outbreaks of the Black Death in the 15th century; a smallpox epidemic in the 18th century; and continuous natural disasters and volcanic eruptions made survival a constant struggle.

But through it all, Icelanders remained committed to their history and identity. The sagas and eddas, written in the 9th, 10th and early 11th centuries, are some of the greatest accomplishments in world literature. They detail the history and genealogy of early Icelandic settlers and many Icelanders can trace their family lineage back to figures in these stories. The literacy rate is near-universal and has been since the end of the 18th century, and I remember speaking with an Icelander while I was there who credited this high literacy rate with Iceland’s ability to rise out of poverty in the 20th century. During and after World War II, the country prospered substantially, driven by the industrialization of the fishing industry and the Marshall Plan, receiving more aid per capita than any other country in Europe. In 1944, they gained independence from Denmark.

I’m telling you this not because it’s related to knitting, but because it’s central to understanding who Icelanders are. They have been living for centuries in one of the most remote and unforgiving landscapes in the world, and have somehow risen above those odds to become one of the most prosperous, highly educated, creative and independent people of anywhere. These are some of the qualities that I admire most in Iceland and its people, and ones that I see come through in their knitting.

Swatch of the Month: The lopapeysa trail

KNITTING ON ICELAND

When the Vikings first arrived, they brought sheep with them. Bred in near-total isolation for centuries, Icelandic sheep have become one of the purest livestock populations in the world. Icelanders have relied on them for centuries for meat, milk and fiber (and still do), but now the rest of the world knows them primarily for their fleece. Their fleeces are dramatically double-coated. The outer coat, called tog, which has a mohair-like quality, is most suitable for outerwear. The inner coat, called þel (pronounced “thel”) is fine and incredibly soft. These two fibers can be spun separately, but they’re often spun together.

The word lopi simply refers to roving, but Icelandic knitters realized that they could knit with lopi instead of spun yarn to create a light but durable sweater. Traditional lopi can be found in a plate or disk, called a plötulopi , which is harder to find outside Iceland. Most commercially-available lopi is a lightly spun yarn that can be found in aran, bulky and superbulky weight.

The oldest piece of knitting found in Iceland is a mitten excavated at the Stora Borg farm in southern Iceland, dated to early 16th century, but written sources about knitting suggest it’s likely been around much longer. All people knitted, both men and women, and children were taught to knit very young. Everyone was expected to complete knitting tasks that were equal to their age and ability. For women, that might be a pair of socks each day, and for kids, a pair of mittens each week. Other objects have been found on other farms across Iceland too, but as you may suspect, the lopapeysa is not one of them. The story of that iconic garment is a much more recent one.

THE LOPAPEYSA

There are a few things that unite all lopapeysas. First, they’re always knit in lopi, usually a bulky weight. Second, there’s usually no shaping, so most designs are unisex. Lastly, there’s a unified pattern or design sweeping across the yoke.

As for the origins of the sweater, there are a few theories. But maybe the most convincing theory (and also most surprising – for me, anyway), suggests that the yoke pattern was inspired by the Greenlandic nuilarmiut. I had never heard of this garment before, but after a quick Google image search, you’ll see the connection. A nuilarmiut is an intricate, brightly-colored beaded yoke that’s part of a traditional Greenlandic woman’s costume for an important ceremony, such as a wedding or national holiday, and has become a powerful symbol of Greenlander identity.

Greenland and Iceland share a long history, shaped in part by their close geographic proximity but also their history of Danish rule. Laurie Bertram, a history professor at the University of Toronto, writes that the nuilarmiut/lopapeysa connection was likely fostered by a 20th-century Norwegian land claim campaign and handknitting revival movements in both Iceland and Norway. She then points to Kate Davies and Harpa Hreinsdóttir’s book Yokes for more of the history.

Davies writes that a Norwegian knitter and activist named Annichen Sibbern Bøhn drafted the first knitting pattern using the nuilarmiut as inspiration around 1929, basing her pattern on the beaded collar depicted in George Schnéevoigt film, Eskimo. (Davies writes about this a bit on her blog if you want to see photos.) Annichen named her pattern Eskimo, and combined the structure of the circularly-knit Norwegian sweater with the patterning of the Greenlandic nuilarmiut. Annichen was a pretty rad woman – she spent 1927 traveling around Norway and documenting traditional knitting patterns, which were compiled in her landmark book, Norsk Strikkemonstre. During WWII, she and her husband were active in the Norwegian Resistance. If you’re interested in learning more about her, you can check out a PDF of an article that Terri Shea wrote for Piecework Magazine here, and thanks to Terri, now order Annichen’s reprinted book here.

Davies and Hreinsdóttir argue that the adoption of a Greenlandic pattern by a Norwegian woman was a political act, a deliberate stance of independence in response to a scramble between Norway and Denmark over Greenlandic resources and territory at the time. The pattern was published in several magazines and eventually spread to Iceland, where Hreinsdóttir suggests that the pattern and its roots took on new meaning for Icelandic knitters. Following Iceland’s independence in the 1940s and the Cod Wars of the ’50s and ’70s, the lopapeysa — a hard-wearing sweater made from Icelandic lopi — symbolized Iceland’s independence from foreign powers. The sweater took on a life of its own and went on to become a cornerstone of the Icelandic handknitting and tourism industry and the icon we know today.

Swatch of the Month: The lopapeysa trail

THE SWATCH

Knitting with lopi was obvious for this swatch, but the design options were seemingly limitless! I picked up a copy of Védís Jónsdóttir’s book Knitting with Icelandic Wool from my local library for some pattern inspiration, and was struck by the tree design in Jóhanna Hjaltadóttir’s pattern Ár trésins. It was originally published in the 1960s or ’70s, but the design looks geometric and fresh, as if it could be designed today.

I’m also not sure how this happened, but I had never knit with lopi before! It’s light, lofty and knits up super fast. It’s also pretty affordable compared with other bulky yarns (under $10 per skein), which is great if you’re going to make a big, cozy colorwork sweater with it. Since the colorwork yoke of any lopapeysa is worked in the round, I knit the swatch in the round as well.
—Jess Schreibstein

Swatch of the Month: The lopapeysa trail

Yarn: Álafosslopi in Black, Light Grey Heather and White
Needles: US9/5.5mm metal needles
Gauge: 16.5 stitches / 18 rows = 4 inches in colorwork pattern, below

ME T H O D

For the colorwork chart, please see Védís Jónsdóttir’s Knitting with Icelandic Wool.

Swatch of the Month: The lopapeysa trail

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PREVIOUSLY in Swatch of the Month: Aran sweater legends

Top-Down Knitalong: Panelist check-in

Top-Down Knitalong: Panelist check-in

As you may know, I’ve been neglecting my official knitalong sweater (above) the last couple of weeks in favor of finishing up one of the two other Improv sweaters on my needles — the black cardigan. (Which I’ll post details and numbers for very soon!) But I’m now back to my cable sweater and making slow-but-steady progress toward my stated plan. My fellow panelists, however, have been having all sorts of adventures with their planned sweaters. So I thought today would be a good time for a little check-in!

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Top-Down Knitalong: Panelist check-in

JEN BEEMAN (@jen_beeman)

How far into your sweater are you?

Currently I’m about 2″ down on the body, below the split for the sleeves. Unfortunately, fisherman’s rib is slow going and even slower when you’re knitting a man’s sweater. I definitely understand why more ladies don’t knit for their dudes — it’s like 2x the sweater!

Have there been any stumbling blocks or setbacks along the way? And if so, how were they resolved?

Ohhhhh yes. My first mistake was casting on during the Olympics. Apparently I am completely unable to count while yelling at the TV. After I got that sorted I accidentally pulled out 5 rows of knitting right at the front neckline increases which meant 2 increases were pulled out. I couldn’t fix it well enough, because of the fisherman’s rib pattern, so I ripped everything out and started over, but with a lifeline this time.

This weekend I had to rip back again when I realized I’d cast on a few too many stitches at the underarm. Jon has very wide shoulders which are disproportionate to his arm and torso width. This means garments either fit him through the shoulders and are huge in the arms and torso, or they fit him through the body but are super tight in the shoulders. The amount of stitches needed to fit over his shoulders is greater than the amount of stitches I need for the body and arms so I’m in the middle of trying some fancy/strange shaping that I’m kind of figuring out as I go. I’ll update you guys on whether this bizarre plan of mine works or not once I figure it out. [Editor’s note: As this is a lifelong struggle of mine, I look forward to those notes!]

Upon looking at the photo of Jon wearing his sweater, I also noticed an issue with the ribbing that was not apparent while the sweater was laying flat. I’m currently blocking it to see how severe the potential problem is. I’ll get back to you on this situation later!

Has your plan changed at all from where you started, or are you still charging toward your original design?

Still charging! It’s been a lot of trial and error so far but I’m still excited about finishing this sweater for Jon … hopefully before the weather turns cold.

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Top-Down Knitalong: Panelist check-in

BRANDI HARPER (@purlBknit)

How far into your sweater are you?

I have one needle going on the sleeve about to hit the elbow and one needle going just at my hips. I created hourglass shaping on the side. So far I’ve ripped out one area or another at least 4 times!

Have there been any stumbling blocks or setbacks along the way? And if so, how were they resolved?

I was going to make the body about 14″ long, stopping at the waist. I picked up lengthwise at the border to start closing up the cardigan at the front, using the same lace and needle size I’m using for the body. It looked awful. LOL. The border was baggy. So I tried taking it down two needle sizes and it looked much better. After trying it on, I no longer liked it as a cardigan. With the lace, the border, side shaping and the crochet detailing I plan to add as a finishing, the whole thing started to feel like the ornamental sweater “I would only wear with” kind of garment. So I’m ditching the cardigan idea for a turtleneck pullover and I’m really excited!! Now it’s the “I always wear this sweater when” kind of knit. It’s not a layering piece for an outfit; it is the outfit!

Has your plan changed at all from where you started, or are you still charging toward your original design?

I planned to use 4 balls only. When I started to imagine the sweater of my dreams, I hopped a train to Purl Soho so fast and snagged 3 more balls of the Flax Down and lucky me they had the dye lot! I thought I would have to do some fancy short-row or bust-line shaping, but a simple 2 to 3″ border on each side will work perfectly and add some ease to bring it together. The cardigan is now a pullover, and since I have enough yarn I’m going to make it hip length like a mini sweater dress! Scratched the short sleeves for long sleeves with a slight bell at the cuff maybe. I couldn’t foresee any of these changes, but it’s evolving into something more than I could have ever imagined!

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Top-Down Knitalong: Panelist check-in

JESS SCHREIBSTEIN (@thekitchenwitch)

How far into your sweater are you?

I’m about 3 inches in. Ha! I cast on the neck for my funnel/mock-neck sweater using a tubular cast-on, instead of using the neck-shaping method in your tutorial, which has led to its own challenges. Nothing that hard, but it’s led to a lot of trial and error.

Have there been any stumbling blocks or setbacks along the way? And if so, how were they resolved?

I think I’ve ripped this sweater out to the shoulder-shaping section about six times now. Here’s why:

Frog 1: Raglans seemingly increasing too fast (working them every other row for front, back and sleeves)
Frog 2: Raglans increasing too slow (working them every third row for front, back and sleeves; did the math that I should have done, ahem, at the start of this project and realized that the armholes would be at my waist once I got enough stitches on the needles)
Frog 3-6: Decided to return to the first raglan increase method and add neck-shaping via short rows (which I had avoided before), which I ripped out a lot to get them to look right

After the latest and near-successful short-row shaping (wrap-and-turn method, neck-shaping length about 1 inch, or 4 rows), I still wasn’t satisfied – you can see in the photos why. The short rows are very visible despite my multiple rip/redo efforts, and it was bugging me. Then I hung out with my friend Olga Buraya-Kefelian (@olgajazzyknits) for an evening and picked her brain a bit, and she recommended two alternative short row methods: German short rows and Alice Yu’s method for shadow-wrap short rows. I’m hoping to give these a try early this week to fix the visible short row problem. There will still be a jog, since the short rows change the direction of the stitches by a slight angle, but I don’t mind that as much.

Here’s to the seventh time being the charm!

Has your plan changed at all from where you started, or are you still charging toward your original design?

Design is still unchanged – if I can make it past the yoke! Still aiming to finish my sweater by the time I head to Rhinebeck, but that’s looking like an increasingly challenging deadline to meet. Wish me luck!

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Thanks, everybody! And of course, you can keep up with all of the knitalong sweaters on the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed on Instagram or by checking out the projects linked to the Improv pattern page on Ravelry.

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIPs of the Week No.4

WIPs of the Week No.4: Ding and Sari

WIPs of the Week No.4: Ding and Sari

This week in the Top-Down Knitalong has been more encouraging and rewarding and heartwarming than I could ever have imagined. I think of knitting your first improvised top-down sweater as a life-changing experience — and honestly not just as a knitter — but the extent to which that’s been reflected in the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed the past few days leaves me nearly speechless. As does all of the boldness, creativity, determination, heart (as they say in sports), support, advice, and general awesomeness on display. As just a paltry few examples, I offer these notes by @aguillettefashion, @meganann_lynch, @wendlandcd, @kelseyleftwich and @schmidcr. Most charming caption of the week goes to @tinystitchers. And also, these are two of the cutest baby pictures I’ve ever seen: @armenuhik and @abigailrosechapin. So you can imagine the difficulty in choosing one sweater to feature as WIP of the Week, and in fact when it came down to it, I couldn’t choose between the following two:

This week’s bonus prize of 12 skeins of O-Wool Balance goes to Ding Ren, aka @halfcrystalline on Instagram and also halfcrystalline on Ravelry, whose photos are above. Ding is one whose planning and experimenting and enthusiasm and determination and openness has been, I think, encouraging to everyone watching. You’ll find loads of great WIP shots in her IG feed. The particularly nice moment this week, in keeping with the whole of her approach, was when she knitted her split hem, sought feedback, ripped and redid it for a more successful effect — and I’m eager to see it blocked. I’ve loved several of her remarks along the way, including “Live sts used to scare me but now they are exciting when it means the sweater can be exactly the way I want it to be” on this photo, and the number of new techniques she’s tried in the course of this WIP. Not to mention this great post about her yarn selection. Basically, her whole act of documenting this sweater has been epic. Congrats on your fabulous project, Ding, and on winning the generous prize from O-Wool. Please email me at contact@fringesupplyco.com with your color selection and mailing address! And thank you, O-Wool!

WIPs of the Week No.4: Ding and Sari

The second WIP I’m featuring this week is by Sari N, aka @sari_n_ on Instagram and sarijaotto on Ravelry — and it happens to be another of the many gorgeous ivory sweaters going on. It’s been fun to watch this amazing cable sweater develop since she first cast on — she’s posted copious great photos at every step along the way. But I especially loved her comment on this photo, ending with: “You can learn anything you want if you commit to it.” So Sari, please email me and I have a $75 Fringe Supply Co. gift certificate for you.

Definitely go look through all of the photos and discussion on both of those sweaters if you haven’t seen it all. Such good stuff. And next week’s bonus prize will be 10 skeins of Woolfolk Far, truly stunning merino (and a brand-new stunning pattern collection, by the way). So keep up all of the good work — keep those pics and stories coming with the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 hashtag, and link your Ravelry project to the Improv pattern page if you’re using my tutorial.

One side note I want to make about top-down, in response to this post of Sari’s about where to begin the waist ribbing. (Take a second and go read that caption.) Most published patterns are written bottom-up — it is way easier to write a graded pattern that way. What it means is the designer (hopefully) has thought about the right hem treatment for the yarn and design, and how that feeds into the stitch pattern, which progresses upwards from there. However, when it comes to separating fronts and backs, beginning armhole shaping or neck shaping, it just happens wherever you happen to be in the stitch pattern at the moment you reach whatever the prescribed length is. So there’s a chance your cable and your neckline might not intersect in the absolute perfect way, or whatever. With top-down, it can take a little more planning to get optimal placement of your stitch pattern around your neckline, but you get to do that by starting there, whereas the less obvious intersection of stitch pattern and hem is the one that’s left partly to the chance of where you are when you reach your desired length. So I find this to be one of the big benefits of creating your own pattern from the top.

SEPARATELY, first let me say thank you for the response to the new Woollelujah! tote. I’m loving the pics of this bag that are starting to appear under #fringesupplyco and #woollelujah and would love to see yours. Please tag them!

Second, this should be an Elsewhere week, but I have spent every would-be web-scouring moment glued to the knitalong instead, so I have no idea what’s going on anywhere else! Except that several very kind people have alerted me to the fact that the Icelandic movie Rams (previously noted here) is now available on Netflix and Amazon. And I will definitely be watching this weekend. Will you?

Have a lovely one, everybody — thanks for being amazing!

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PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: How to knit inset pockets (top-down)