The case of the unfinished cardigan

The case of the unfinished cardigan

I keep thinking I’m right on the brink of being able to do an FO post about my blue Bellows sweater, but instead today I’m giving you the UFO version. Reader, I shelved it.

This is a classic case of “so near, and yet so far.” The sleeves and body were finished two weeks ago. I got more yarn for the collar, calculated my mods, then labored over that for a few nights last week, wrestling this blue wool octopus in my lap. This weekend was one of those rare cases where I actually had a couple of hours each on Saturday and Sunday that I could choose to spend knitting or sewing. Saturday, I dutifully finished up the collar. Sunday, I started setting in the sleeves. And as I was doing it, I went from thinking about how many other things I should be doing with that time (namely, the hats), to how many other things I wanted to be doing right then (uh, making myself a new pair of pants), to how absolutely devoid I am of any notion of what to wear this with. I’ve been saying all along that I imagined it would mostly get worn with leggings and slippers on the couch on bitter cold nights, and that’s all well and good. But I’m having to face the actual, stark reality that, other than couchwear, nothing. Blank. Nada single outfit in mind.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s a killer sweater. It’s both bigger and bulkier than my first Bellows. I love my mods, and it seems like it will fit exactly as I intended. It’s just a surprisingly odd shade of blue. Beautiful, but odd. In my head, it’s the same light blue of the sample sweater. But in reality, it has green and purple undertones that make it weirdly hard to pair with anything else in my closet. It would be ok with ultra-faded denim … if I had any. With the dark denim I actually own, it seems kind of dour. (At least right now; that combo might seem fine next fall. Fingers crossed.) And it’s somehow just slightly off with everything else.

Given that the window is just about closed on it for this year anyway — I mean, there might be another day or two before spring officially arrives — I started genuinely resenting the precious time I was spending on it. So I stopped and assessed. The sleeves are set in and look fantastic. Still to do are seaming the sleeves and the sides, sewing down the pocket linings, giving it another full-sweater blocking to settle the collar and seams, weaving in the ends, and sewing on buttons. And at that point, I said to myself, “Self, put it away.” You can finish it and figure it out next year.

This is not like me — I live to cross things off of lists. Having an open item like this is enough to keep me awake at night for the next eight months. But I feel good about this decision. I’m putting this guy and the purple lopi sweater (still awaiting its refashion) into the closet, folded neatly and out of the way. And I’ve made a note on my calendar in October to pull them out and get them ready for the return of the cold weather. I can imagine how excited I’ll be to have two near-sweaters waiting for me then, like a gift.

Bellows pattern by Michele Wang in limited-edition yarn from Harrisville Designsall Bellows posts

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PREVIOUSLY in Projects: The February hats project

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Hot Tip: Check the back

Hot Tip: Check the back

Even if you think you’re really good at reading your knits and purls, it’s not always entirely straightforward. Some stitch patterns are harder to decipher than others, so you also have to get good at finding other ways of tracking or counting or seeing things. Often, it’s as simple as flipping your work over and checking the back side. Take this stitch pattern for the Bellows cardigan, for instance. The main texture is “broken rib”: purl rows alternating with k1/p1 rows. You can get the hang of how to count those purl bumps in one column vs the other, or you can just flip it over — the back side is garter rib. It’s not only easier to count the columns of knits (for me, anyway), but it’s also quicker to see where you are in the stitch pattern at any give time.* The same can be true for large fields of cables and many other textures. So whenever you find yourself working on a stitch pattern that’s a little harder to read or count, check the back! You might find the answer there waiting for you.

*Just remember: A purl bump is the back side of a knit stitch, and vice versa.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Steam out the kinks

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Queue Check — January 2018

Queue Check — January 2018

It’s been my goal for my blue Bellows that I would knit it start to finish (other than the partial sleeve-swatch) within the month of January. For two reasons: 1) I’d like to wear it. I have a bad habit of finishing sweaters just as it becomes too warm for them, and have to immediately put them away for next year. And 2) my sister and her family are going on a ski trip in March, and at Christmas I offered to knit them each a hat. In order to have any hope of having all four hats done on time, I’ve set myself a firm start date of Feb 1. Meanwhile, the cardigan is in jeopardy.

I was on track to have the back piece finished and bound off on Friday night, soaked and onto the blocking board before I went to bed, so it’d be dry and ready for next steps by Sunday morning. The collar on Bellows is a project unto itself, so it was imperative that I take advantage of a little window of opportunity Sunday morning to (at minimum) get the shoulders seamed and the collar stitches picked up, so I could knit that over the ensuing couple of evenings and be done on schedule. ALAS, at the last minute, I realized I should have been listening to the voice in my head that had been saying all night “this seems like a lot of fabric.” I am often smart enough to check stuff before bind-offs, and so just for good measure I spread the back out next to me on the couch and popped the unblocked front piece on top of it. And yup, I had gotten carried away the night before. I’d been dutifully pinning a marker on every 10th row, knowing the fronts were 60 rows from ribbing to underarm and thus that my sixth marker would mean I was ready to begin shaping. (Ref: Count, don’t measure.) And yet I’d knitted 70 rows. Did you know that marking your rows for easy tracking only works if you actually count your marks?

So I lost half of my Saturday to removing the bottom ribbing and first ten rows, and getting it back onto the needles before re-knitting the ribbing downwards. I thought this would be faster than ripping back 44 rows at the top and reknitting them on Saturday night, but that would have been the wiser move. Rookie mistake: I didn’t realize knit-purl rows aren’t so easy to rip upwards. In the end, fixing it this way took just as long and cost me a bunch of aggravation and a fair chunk of yarn. During which I also realized I might not have enough yarn for the collar anyway! So it’s not currently where I wanted it to be, and is now vulnerable to being shunted aside while I turn to the four-hats project.

Meanwhile, one of the hats is actually started — ostensibly the quickest one. It’s Lancet in charcoal-colored Quarry, and I say “ostensibly” because it’s a sort of annoying chart — wide and fussy and not predictable or memorizable — which could slow me down. But still, chunky gauge.

I’ll tell you about the whole set of four hats when I haven’t already gone on for three paragraphs about my 10 extra Bellows rows! And the other thing that has magically appeared during my time on my mini-stepper this month is most of another pair of my log cabin mitts, this time in cherished Hole & Sons leftovers from my vintage waistcoat a few years back. Mitts pattern imminent …

Unless any of the four hats prove conducive to mini-stepper knitting, the log cabin-while-exercising will continue into Feb.

Bellows pattern by Michele Wang in limited-edition yarn from Harrisville Designsall Bellows posts
• Lancet by Jared Flood in Quarry color Slate
• Log cabin mitts in Hole & Sons (no longer available, but see its cousin, Isle Yarns)
Lykke Driftwood needles from Fringe Supply Co.

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: December 2017

Queue Check — December 2017

Queue Check — December 2017

I had this notion that I was going to do a big forward-looking queue planning sort of post for today, but after so many hectic weeks I find I only want to think about what’s right in front of me at the moment.

I mentioned the other day that I expect to be wearing my grey Cline sweater by New Year’s, and I’m still on track for that, now most of the way through the second sleeve. (This photo is from Sunday.) What’s left is to seam it all together — a considerable amount of seaming in this case — pick up and knit the neckband, then finish the cuffs downwards, once I can see how it fits. I have a road trip coming up which should afford me the time to do all of that, except I’m still somehow hoping to have most of it done before I go.

– Once that’s done, I’m moving forward with the idea of replacing my Bellows (which I gave to my mom) with a new blue one, using my Harrisville Rhinebeck yarn. I took a sitting away from the grey the other night to knit this sleeve swatch and it’s interesting how differently the color reads from how it looked in the skein — not better or worse, but more of the purple tone comes through. I feel like it might be worn at home every night with my pajamas more than out and about, but either way I know this will be a fast, warm and well-worn sweater, and I hope to get it fairly well on its way during my trip.

– And then there’s the little matter of my Log Cabin Make-along project which I’ll be revealing and starting in earnest on Jan 1!

Both of those projects — textured/cabled cardigan and log cabin knitting — are so appealing right now, on the heels of the grey stockinette, and more than enough to satisfy my fingers for the time being. But out of curiosity, I took a look back at last year’s year-end Queue Check to see what I had said about what I wanted to make this year. Of the knits, two were since completed (striped raglan and camel Channel), one is on the needles (grey Junegrass pullover, above) and the other two are still next on the list in some form: big cozy shawl-collar (above) and big cozy turtleneck (i.e., my Charles fixation). From the sewing list, three of the four were completed (blue shirt, striped sleeveless tee, white linen shell) and the remainder is already/still at the top of my sewing list for January: a simple sweatshirt or two. Ok, technically I did make myself a sort-of sweatshirt, so I guess I completed that list, but I still want a good long-sleeved fleece and/or melton one.

So I guess I know what to do!

Have a magical weekend, everyone —

Cline pattern by Julie Hoover in Junegrass Batch One from Fancy Tiger Crafts (no longer available, see Batch Two) | all Cline posts
Bellows pattern by Michele Wang in limited-edition yarn from Harrisville Designsall Bellows posts

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: November 2017

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Bellows glamour shots and mod notes

Bellows glamour shots and mod notes

It’s been eight days since I attached the buttons to this Bellows cardigan, and — no joke — I have worn it for some or all of every day since then. Normally I hold off wearing a thing until it’s been photographed, but that was not an option here. A) It’s too good not to wear. B) It’s been bulky-shawl-collar-sweater-weather for rilz. Most of the time I’ve got the buttons buttoned and the collar up for maximum coziness. I don’t have a lot to say about this sweater other than that I love it so much so much I dread the moment when I have to take it off, and the idea of putting it on makes getting out of bed in the morning a little more palatable.

Three weeks of knitting, two weeks of neglect, one week of finishing — as much a dream to knit as to wear. Michele Wang, I love you.

There are a few mistakes: As previously noted, the cables all twist one direction because I forgot to switch on my second piece, so I just decided who cares. And I don’t! There’s a spot where I got off course with the broken rib for two rows. I meant to make it the left sleeve so the mistake would wind up in the rear underarm, but after letting it sit for two weeks before seaming, I forgot to worry about it and it wound up on the front of the right sleeve. Doubt anyone will ever notice. And there’s a minor booboo on the collar short rows. I hadn’t done yarnover short rows on ribbing before (I love yarnover short rows, by the way) and instead of reading the directions, I just assumed the purls would be p2tog’d with the yarnover, since the knits are k2tog’d. Wrong! (The correct answer is SSP.) The result is there’s a little float where each of those yarnovers was. But it’s on the way inside of the collar where nobody will ever see it.

For the record, I am definitely knitting this again (possibly more than once).

NOTES AND MODIFICATIONS:

– My stitch gauge was slightly smaller than pattern gauge, so I knitted the third size and wound up in between second and third, about a 40″ bust, roughly 6″ positive ease. Which is exactly as roomy as I had hoped for. (And still the shoulder seams don’t quite reach my shoulders!)

– My row gauge matched pattern gauge, so because I was hoping to wind up nearer the second size, and blocking accordingly, I aimed for the second size with regard to the sleeve cap and armhole shaping. The sleeves fit the armholes beautifully.

– Left out the cable in the ribbing except on one sleeve; will leave it out everywhere next time.

– Knitted body in one piece with a basting stitch at the side seams.

– Worked only three cable repeats on fronts; began armhole shaping at 15″ instead of 17″. (Wanted it to hit me where it hits the model.)

– Love love love all of the neck, shoulder and armhole shaping in this pattern. That sloped bind-off is exquisite. Wasn’t wild, though, about trying to seam the shoulders with this fabric. Next time will do 3-needle bind-off to make sure it’s exactly 1:1.

– Started working the neckband and was super bothered about the back neck being worked from live stitches. (I’m a little over-obsessed with everything to do with the back neck.) So I actually ripped out the band, bound off the back neck stitches, and picked up all the way around.

– Adjusted the pick-up counts and button placement because of changing the length. Picked up 3/4 stitches, 55 sts on each front. (The rest as written.) Might pick up two or three more per front.

– Wish I had worked the third-size collar shaping — a few more short rows up top for a more voluminous collar. Next time!

– The only thing missing is pockets. I am constantly trying to put my hands into pockets that aren’t there! I had toyed with the idea of adding patch pockets (and still might) but after wearing it, I think I want side seam pockets in the next one.

– This is my second sweater in a row in this yarn and I couldn’t love it more.

Pattern: Bellows by Michele Wang
Yarn: Balance by O-Wool, in Graphite, held double
Buttons: from Haus of Yarn

Additional photos on Ravelry. And here are the complete posts about this sweater.

Bellows glamour shots and mod notes

So close to finished

This close to finished

For awhile there, thought I might actually have a finished Bellows to show you this week — three weeks after casting on the first of the sleeves. I cast on the body (in one piece, with a basting stitch at each side seam) two Friday nights ago, and bound off last Sunday night, a personal-record nine days later. The body was blocked on Monday night — I machine washed it all! — but this has been one of those weeks of nonstop aggravation and disruption, and I never got a chance to knit the collar. I did pick up the stitches for it, but that’s all that’s left: knit the shawl collar and seam the sleeves. So I should be wearing it any minute now. Oh the unparalleled joy of a fast, warm, gorgeous sweater!

I have to tell you, starting this project — half-cotton worsted, held double, on US11 needles — felt truly bizarre and athletic after spending four straight months on comparatively delicate little Amanda. But that was nothing compared to the swatch I knitted Monday night while this body dried. Consulting the next sweater in my hand-drawn lineup, it was the Knightsbridge swatch for Uniform: the tenderest worsted-weight baby llama on US 6 needles. After Bellows, it felt like I was knitting lace-weight mohair on toothpicks! But wow, what a swatch.

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ICYMI: the shop news for the week has been the smash-hit Fashionary sketchbook, plus the return of the bowls and the balms, two things I have a hard time keeping on the shelves! And we also just got 6 more copies of Macramé Pattern Book, if you’ve been waiting for that one.

Also, I posed this week’s Q for You on Instagram and it’s been the start of a lovely little hashtag, #vitalknits. So take a look at that if you’re there, and please add your photo! I’ve loved reading and seeing all of the responses to that Q, thank you.

Have a fantastic weekend! Tell me what you’re making—

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There is such a thing as knitting too quickly

There is such a thing as knitting too quickly

The speediness of Bellows has been backfiring on me a little bit. I went racing into it without the kind of care and consideration I try to exercise, and as a result, mistakes have been made. Before I cast on the first stitch on that plane two weeks ago, I did study the schematic and strategize about size, with my swatch’s gauge in mind. What I hadn’t done is blocked my swatch. I guess I thought I knew what it would do when soaked because I knitted my Amanda in this yarn. But was Amanda held double? On 11s? With this textured stitch? Nope.

So hasty mistake number one: I cast on a larger size, the third size, because of my apparent smaller gauge. Sped through the first sleeve. Soaked it. Blocked it, and was impressed that, with only a little coaxing, it pinned out to the third-size dimensions just fine. “Oh, so I needn’t have worried about any significant difference in gauge,” I blithely mused … without completing that thought. I sped through the second sleeve, and only then realized — duh! — that if my blocked gauge is pattern gauge after all, my sweater will be the third-size dimensions, not smaller as I had wanted. So what I had on my hands was two sleeves for a sweater with almost 10 inches of ease, when what I wanted was 4-5 inches. What to do? Well, Balance is machine washable, so I crossed my fingers and threw them in the wash to see what might happen.

They came out beautifully and I laid them out gently closer to my desired dimensions, so I think all is well. But I confess these embarrassments to you guys in the hope that someone (if not me) will learn from my mistakes. Block your swatch!

Hasty mistake number two: I forgot to mirror the cables on the second sleeve, so both sleeves have right-twisting cables. I think this one is partially haste and partially ambivalence. As much as I love and want this sweater, I don’t think this is the most compelling cable motif. But, eh, so they all twist one direction — not the end of the world.

The one other “mistake” I made on purpose. When I knitted the first sleeve, I worked the cable in the cuff ribbing, even though I don’t like that. I almost never like that. I thought about not doing it, and I’m not sure why I went ahead with it, but it bugs me. So I didn’t do it on the second sleeve. I may leave it alone and call it asymmetry, or perhaps I’ll rip out the first cuff and re-knit it downwards without the cable.  I’ve never done that sort of surgery before and have huge admiration for all who do, and here’s a good small-scale opportunity to try it. Right?

I’m taking at least one day off this weekend, hoping for a fair chunk of knitting time, and that’s what I’ll be working on! How about you?

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p.s. that great flat Bookhou pouch is coming back to the shop soon.