The ivory aran-gansey (2018 FO-19)

The ivory aran-gansey (2018 FO-19)

Hey look, I knitted a sweater! Crazy how long that took me. Inspired by Daniel Day-Lewis’s perfect gansey but bearing in mind what works best for me and my frame, I sketched out this little aran-gansey mashup as part of my Summer of Basics plan, and cast on in the middle-row bench seat of a van lurching its way through the winding roads of rural Portugal. I hadn’t done any actual math or planning. All I had was my inexact-texture-but-gauge-ly predictive swatch plus the little sketch taped into my notebook. So in that van seat on that steamy late June day, I did just enough math to calculate a good-enough cast on, and in I went.

Because it was a slapdash start and I didn’t expect it to work, I also didn’t put any basting stitches in the raglans, or take many useful notes. I thought I almost certainly was just knitting a bigger, more texturally accurate swatch, which I’d eventually rip out. But I never did! And I just kept winging it the whole way. (Albeit with lots of intermittent blocking to make sure everything would work out ok.) So while I normally share all my stitch counts and measurements for any Improv sweater I knit, I’m sorry, I don’t have that for you today. Plus if I were to do this again, I’d make a thousand tiny tweaks. So perhaps at some point I will do this again (in navy!), make those tweaks, and take proper notes for sharing. But the short version is that it’s just a standard top-down raglan with a stitch pattern thrown in for the first 9.5″ or so — double moss stitch broken up every 3″ with two bands of garter stitch. And I put garter along the top of the waist ribbing as well. And used my favorite folded neckband technique.

Natural sweater inventory

You may recall the overarching aim of this one was to make myself a much-needed, easygoing, 3-season-ish pullover, and I couldn’t be happier with it in all those respects. I’ve knitted quite a few sweaters with O-Wool Balance at this point — organic, machine washable, 50/50 cotton-wool blend — and am thrilled to have a mostly stockinette one for myself, as I covet Bob’s every time he puts it on. This fabric is so incredibly cozy. (I like it best after a machine wash and a few minutes in the dryer, but do mind your gauge if that’s your intention! Don’t wet-block your swatch and then machine-wash your FO.) And if you’re thinking back to my recent sweater inventory, you’ll note this rounds out my collection of natural sweaters quite nicely: There’s the shrunken cotton fisherman (L.L. Bean 2010), this new cotton-wool gansey, the heavy-duty wool fisherman and the wool cardigan.

I also made those pants I’m wearing above, which I wouldn’t actually intentionally wear with this sweater — that’s a bit of a blah combo even for me! But it was convenient to take the sweater photos while I happened to be wearing the pants, so I’ll tell you about those tomorrow.

Speaking of the wool fisherman, I also sent it through the washer and dryer last week — being incredibly vigilant the whole way — and it finally fits the way I always wanted it to! (Assuming it doesn’t grow back to its former size when worn.) Officially all set in the ivory department!

Pattern: Improv
Yarn: O-Wool Balance in Natural

You can browse all the posts about this sweater and save/fave it at Ravelry.


PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Wiksten Kimono, pajama-style





Hot Tip: Allow for adjustments

Hot Tip: Allow for adjustments

Sometimes the finish line of a project is not a bright line — you can ease your way across it with finesse, as needed. Take this sweater, for instance, which I bound off on Labor Day. This was a classic case of why knitting top-down is great and also why some people rail against top-down: To wit, A) yes you can try it on as you go and get it exactly how you want it, but B) only if you take into account what happens when you block it. My unblocked gauge on this sweater was 7.25 rows per inch, whereas after a wash it came in at 8.25. That’s substantial shrinkage! Had I simply tried on the sweater and bound off when it looked done, it would have been way too short once it was washed. Here again is why it’s critically important to count rows rather than measuring fabric. But that said, I wasn’t 100% sure how I wanted it to fit or how long I wanted the cuffs and waist ribbing to be — those are all little fit and design details that I like to let the sweater dictate as it takes shape. Part of trying on a top-down in progress, for me, is letting it tell me what it wants to be.

So in this case, I did my math to calculate total rows and decrease placement for my projected lengths but also left room for last-minute adjustments, just in case. A few rows before what I thought would be final, I put the cuffs and body on waste yarn, washed and dried the sweater (this O-Wool Balance is machine washable, but you always want to treat your swatch and your WIP however you’ll treat the finished garment, whether that’s hand-washing or whatever) and put it on again to make those final decisions before binding off and seaming. (I knitted the sleeves flat, as usual, so yes there was seaming.)

It’s all about being the master of your own knitting! I’ll show you the whole sweater as soon as I can get photos.


PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Don’t panic

Queue Check — August 2018

Queue Check — August 2018

Y’all, I have been doin’ some KNITTIN’. The past two weeks, I’ve had quite a few nights in a row where I actually got some knitting time before bed, during which I sailed through the sleeves on this aran-gansey mashup of mine and then returned the body stitches to the needles. I knitted on it both Friday and Saturday night, and then had all of Sunday afternoon off. So I curled up on my couch with a candle lit next to me, this sweater in my lap, and The Guernsey movie (whose title I can’t bear) playing for the second time, pretending that the slightly gloomy day outside was actually chilly rather than swampy. And I knitted and knitted and knitted. About 8:45, I found out Pose was expiring from On Demand that very night and I had four episodes to go! So I stayed up past my bedtime, binge watching and knitting — around and around and around. And as it turns out, I will almost certainly be done with the knitting before Summer of Basics comes to a close, although whether it will be blocked and seamed by then remains to be seen. Regardless, the next time you see this one, it will be on me. And there will be a grin on my face.

(Speaking of Summer of Basics, you’ve seen how to enter for the Grand Prize(s), right? Don’t miss that!)

The next thing I cast on will be my  project for the upcoming Marlisle Knitalong, and since it will be small — and in theory the “swatch” for a next sweater — I’m not rushing to get another sweater on the needles right now. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on the assorted tidbits of to-do’s that came up during my great sweater inventory of twenty eighteen.

And then, with all of those inventory learnings and assessments in mind, I’m going to take stock of the sweater quantities that live in my stash and make some hopefully wise decisions about how best to make use of them. Which means there’s a very forward-thinking Queue Check a’brewing …

(Lykke needles, stitch markers and leather stitch marker pouch from Fringe Supply Co.)


Speaking of the Marlisle Knitalong: It kicks off this Friday! Are you ready? There are some people already popping up on #fringemarlislekal, and you can get the full scoop on the kal here. Anna is also teaching at several locations in Europe and the US over the next month or so — I’m SO bummed I can’t get to Fancy Tiger to take her classes there! — so check this list to see if you might have a chance to learn from her.


PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: July 2018

Hot Tip: Don’t panic

Hot Tip: Don't panic

I wish I had a logbook of every time I’ve ever thought there was something horribly wrong with my knitting, only to realize it’s actually totally fine. Sometimes these occurrences are more phantom than others — like the time (during my first year) I had cast on for a sweater and there was something off about my ribbing. The multiple wasn’t working out but my cast-on math was correct and my stitch count matched, so it seemed literally impossible for there to be anything wrong, and yet there was. I looked at it over and over, counting and recalculating. I showed it to Meg, who did the same. Neither of us could make any sense of it, and yet it seemed clearly, undeniably wrong. Until the next morning, when I looked at it again and couldn’t even figure out why I thought it was off — there was literally no problem.

On the other hand, sometimes the “problems” are quite plainly right in front of me, in three robust dimensions. Like, oh, these raglans. After I blocked the yoke at the end of the first two bands of double seed, there was a tiny whiff of a notion that something might be a little wacky. But I blithely put it back on the needles and kept knitting, with it bunched up on a smaller-circumference circular for those last long rounds, like you do. The other night, I made it to the division round and could finally lay it out flat and take a look at what I’d wrought, and OH MY GOD WHAT IS UP WITH THESE RAGLANS!! The sweater seemed to think I had a little bonus boob at each raglan seam and was perfectly shaped to accommodate them. For a few minutes, I was holding my breath, hand over mouth, trying to think what could possibly have gone wrong and just how far I would need to rip to fix it.

But I have a rule: Do not panic. And above all, DO NOT RIP. If something seems off, I set it down — preferably overnight — and at least half the time, I find it was a moment of temporary insanity on my part. There’s literally nothing wrong. A good portion of the other half of the time, it’s not nearly as grave as it might seem. With these raglans, I had to think it was some weird result of where the increases ended combined with the mitering of the fabric at the raglans and the upper part being blocked and the lower part not. That all of that was just creating a temporary buckle. Or at least, I had to hope — and to find out for sure before I hot-headedly ripped anything out.

So I put it on waste yarn and into the wash, the same as the upper part had done. And I hoped that it would even out in the wash. That is the other lesson that must never be forgotten in times of don’t-panic: Blocking is magic. The upper and middle left images are Before; the middle right and lower images are After.

I’m pretty sure the raglans are fine and the four stray peaks will not reappear, but there is a chance now that I’ve gotten carried away and made it too big! Still not panicking and not ripping. I won’t know for sure until I knit a bit farther on the body and at least one sleeve. So that’s what I shall cool-headedly do …


PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Take a selfie

Queue Check — June 2018

Queue Check — June 2018

I’m back from Portugal with SO much to tell you — and about 2700 photos to sort through. But this morning I can at least tell you about the state of my knitting from the trip! For the first few days, I was still finishing up a secret project, but then I finally got to do the math and get started on my Summer of Basics sweater. This project was cast on in the back of a van on a particularly twisty drive in the Porto region (one epic excursion among many) but caught a foothold on our one and only sit-still day, mid-trip, at a super chic mountaintop hotel called Casa das Penhas Douradas. While four of us went for a long hike that day, the other five made ourselves at home in one of the common rooms, which had half walls of sliding glass so the whole room opened up to the mountain breeze, and I know I’ll remember that day and that room every time I ever wear this.

That is, if it works out — I’m not yet 100% sure about it. To recap: I’m making an aran-gansey mashup, heavily inspired by the traditional Staithes gansey from the whole Daniel Day-Lewis hullabaloo, and its “seeds and bars” patterning. But figuring out the best version of that for an ivory, worsted-gauge, raglan situation isn’t as simple as it might seem. I’ve swatched it a few different ways — different “seeds” and different “bars” — and this yoke is sort of a bigger swatch, which may or may not be the winner. I won’t know for sure until I knit a couple more inches (at least to the next bar), add a neckband, and see how it looks after a wash. But it’s pretty promising, and it’s been perfect company while traveling.

Rosa mentioned while we were knitting that day that Portugal also has a gansey tradition, so you know I’ll be digging into that. And now that my whirlwind June is drawing to a close, I’m eager to start on my other two SoB garments.

Improv sweater in O-Wool Balance yarn in Natural
Jen Hewett x Fringe Field Bag from Fringe Supply Co. (available tomorrow morning!)


PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: My Summer of Basics plan