Hot Tip: Knit all the parts at once

Hot Tip: Knit all the parts at once

Knitters will always tell you about socks and sleeves: knit them two-at-a-time so you don’t have that dread feeling of starting over with the second one. I feel the same way about ALL the parts. As much as I love a seamed sweater, I don’t enjoy starting back at the cast-on edge 4 or 5 times, especially once I’ve gotten into the rhythm of a chart or stitch pattern. So no matter what I’m knitting, I’ve become a polygamist: I rotate between the pairs or component parts rather than knitting them in the ol’ serial monogamy fashion. (Same for a top-down sweater — you’ll usually see me moving back and forth between the body and sleeves, advancing them all gradually.)

In the case of this fisherman sweater, I’ve now blocked a half-sleeve (as previously discussed) and the partial back, so I can see what’s really happening with my stitch gauge between the two (their being quite different, due to the differing stitch patterns) and make decisions about the respective sizes of the body and upper sleeves before I get to the underarms. So each time a piece went into the bath, that was a perfect chance to cast on the next one!

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Count, don’t measure

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Queue Check — June 2017

Queue Check — June 2017

I’m in Kansas right now — I came for a family reunion and have stayed for a funeral.* My eldest aunt, who had been ill for a very long time, succumbed just at the moment when eighty-something of us had already come from near and far to be together, which was characteristically polite and organized of her. May she rest in peace. So I’m about one-third of the way into the first sleeve of my Bernat fisherman sweater (in Arranmore) for the Summer of Basics and already there’s Squam dock time and this precious family visit knitted into it. And if that weren’t enough, this is the most joy I’ve ever gotten from two sticks and a ball of string. I crave it when it’s not in my hands and love working every stitch. (My top three Joy of Knitting projects — pure pleasure in the stitch patterns and the yarn in my hands — are this, Gentian and Channel.) Having charted out the vintage written-instructions pattern and seen what is happening, which is quite straightforward, I have no need to look at either the pattern or the chart and can just knit away at this happily, with just the right amount of brain detachment and engagement, watching the textures develop. It’s true love in every way.

I even made a tiny mistake in the very first cable cross, and left it, so that’s out of the way!

I did make some more progress on my so-called Summer Cardigan (in Balance) before casting on for the fisherman, but at this point it’s going to be impossible for it to get my attention. Hopefully the same won’t be true of my Archer shirt for #summerofbasics, which I plan to cut the muslin of this coming weekend.

*Hence the lack of response from me on Friday’s Q for You answers, but I have read them all and hope to respond when I have a chance — great conversation as usual.

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: May 2017

Charting a course for my fisherman sweater

Charting a course for my fisherman sweater

I began the first of my Summer of Basics garments on the plane last Tuesday — in this case, not with a ball of yarn and knitting needles but with a Knitters Graph Paper Journal and a freshly sharpened Blackwing pencil. This is for the 1967 Bernat fisherman sweater — my choice for the sweater I’ve wanted for decades — and Step 1 was/is to convert the written instructions to a chart, so I can actually see what’s happening and make any necessary adjustments thereto. After an hour or two of converting words and abbreviations to marks on graph paper, I could see that the sleeve is just panels of raspberry stitch, one repeating cable motif, and what I believe will become broken rib with the underarm increases. What I haven’t puzzled out yet is why they took what became clear is a 12-row repeat and wrote it out as 36 rows, but I’m guessing it’s because the front/back center panel will prove to be a 36-row repeat and perhaps they meant to make sure you kept them aligned in some way that the pattern never ultimately specifies? I may never know. But anyway, I began with the simpler sleeve chart so I could have it to swatch with.

I’ve been thinking Arranmore might be the perfect yarn for me and this sweater. I do want it to be a classic ivory fisherman, but feel like the slight tweediness of the Arranmore (it has little flecks of tan and light blue) might be my friend in terms of long-term spots or discoloration. Plus I just really love this yarn, which I previously used for my black yoke sweater. So one morning, chart in hand, I sat on the dock at Squam and began to swatch.

The first swatch was on US8/5mm and the fabric was too loose for my liking, so I began again on US7/4.5mm, which is the swatch pictured above. As I knitted it, I thought the yarn might not be right for these stitches, as the fabric felt stiff and the cables looked underwhelming. (It’s such a weird cable.) I took it to class to show my students and we talked about how I plan to take my time, swatching with as many yarns and needles as it takes to find the right thing, given all I’ll be putting into this sweater and how long I’ve wanted it. Then I decided I might as well take the time to dunk the swatch and make sure I didn’t like it any better after blocking, and guess what: it’s pretty dreamy. This photo was taken while it was still damp, and I really should have taken a dry one to show you, but you’ll have to take my word for it — I can’t stop draping it around my arm.

That meant trying to sort out size and gauge as compared to the vintage pattern, which is rather short on the sort of details we’re used to these days. There’s no schematic, and the gauge is simply given as “11 stitches = 2 inches.” Eleven stitches of which of the many stitch patterns, we can’t know. Is it an average across the whole sweater? If anyone out there is an expert on the way things used to be done, I’d love to hear from you, but meanwhile that will have to be my assumption. If true, my gauge is slightly more compact at 6 stitches per inch, which means I’ll need to knit the XL and still come out with a sweater slightly smaller than intended — or figure out some tweaks to the patterning to compensate.

[UPDATE: A couple of commenters have said it would have been implied in those days that the stated gauge was for stockinette stitch — which tells a very different story than cables! But looking at the pattern’s stitch counts and finished circumference, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. For example, the XL (44-46″) calls for a 122-st CO for the back, which divided by 22″ is 5.5. (I.e., their “11 sts = 2 inches.”) Same for the other sizes. So it does seem to be the average gauge of the finished fabric and not taken from stockinette.]

On the flight home, I was too brain dead to do anything but stare at the swatch, my chart, and the photos I’d snapped of the pattern photo so that I could zoom in on them and try to sort out the details that aren’t present in the pattern itself. The swatch had me thinking even the smallest sleeve would be too big, and I was toying with the idea of eliminating two of the cables from the sleeve, leaving just one down the center of the arm. But as usual, it’s a good thing I was prevented from rushing in, since while staring at it all, I realized that would necessitate the same change along the sides of the body — a change I don’t want to make — AND the fully dry swatch is actually totally fine. Patience does pay off, even if it’s imposed.

So all that’s left is to commit to the investment it will be to do a yarn-eater like this in this particular yarn, but I feel like it will be more than worth it.

Charting a course for my fisherman sweater

ARMY PORTER NOTE: What remains from our starter batch of the army green Porter Bin, launched at the Squam Art Fair, will go into the webshop this Friday morning, June 16, at 9am Central Time — set your alarms!

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PREVIOUSLY  in Summer of Basics: My plan

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My Summer of Basics plan

My Summer of Basics plan

Ok, so I’ve thought and rethought (and rethought!) what my 3 garments will be for the Summer of Basics Make-along. This whole event grew out of my desire to push myself to sew an Archer button-down shirt, and wanting company in taking that leap, but it’s not the only thing my closet is lacking that I never get around to. (Hence, let’s all make 3 basics over the next 3 months!) So I really want to choose wisely. Let’s face it, I’ll almost certainly make more than 3 things in the next 3 months, but I want my publicly-declared SoB-3 to really challenge me and hold me accountable. Of course, I also want to make things that will be truly useful in my closet. So here’s where I’m at:

BUTTON-UP SHIRT: I’ve been saying for awhile that my beloved pale denim workshirt (which I wear for some part of almost every day — and look, I’m even wearing it in my avatar pic to the right!) was headed for a breakdown. That has now officially happened: both sleeve caps are in shreds. So that’s what I’m replacing with my first Archer, and that one was already a replacement for a nearly identical shirt before it. Between the two, I’ve had some version of that shirt for at least a dozen years. For the next generation, though, not only will it be handmade, but I’m planning on light blue chambray instead of the denim. (Gettin’ crazy over here!) But I still want it to have some of the character of the denim workshirts so, inspired by this J.Crew photo, I’m planning on slightly darker stitching (as happens to denim shirts as they fade and the thread doesn’t) and bone buttons (a nod to the pearl snaps on my old friends). I’m scared and excited.

SWEATER: I’ve been saying my SoB sweater would be the grey pullover I really truly need. But A) I’m a little leery of the idea of casting on a grey mostly-stockinette US6 sweater when I already have a grey mostly-stockinette US6 sweater on the needles. Plus why would I not use this opportunity to focus on the one sweater I want most in all the world — the whole reason I learned to knit in the first place — the fisherman sweater of my dreams. So I’m doing it. Since I plan to chart out the written directions from the vintage pattern, and likely do some tweaking, I’ll start with the swatching and charting right away and hope (hope hope hope) to be able to finish the whole thing by the end of August. I am elated over this decision.

PANTS???: I’ve got pants on the brain. As in, I’ve never made pants and I’m signed up for a jeans workshop in September, and it seems like maybe I should have made some semblance of a pants-like thing before that. Right? My very favorite old pajama pants have also passed the point of no return, and while I was taking them apart this weekend and trying to trace off a pattern to replace them, I was also thinking how much I love my simple elastic-waist Florence Pants (I seriously wear them at least 4 times a week) and about this Idea Log and that striped fabric on my shelf, a pair of striped Ace & Jig pants I almost bought last year … you get the picture. However, part of me also wants to reserve the third slot and not commit right this minute. So as much as I want and hope to do this, it’s currently ever-so-slightly tentative.

I’ve got a lot to do still in preparation for Squam next week, but am eager to get started on some part of this over the weekend! What will you be starting?

(Fashionary sketch templates from Fringe Supply Co.)

Big news from Fringe Supply Co!

SPEAKING OF SQUAM: There’s some really big Porter Bin news over on the @fringesupplyco IG feed. Hint: army green is coming! If you’ll be at the Squam Art Fair on the 10th, don’t miss your chance to snag one — check the Instagram post for details.

AND IN CURRENT SHOP NEWS: We’re temporarily out of the wildly popular Lykke interchangeable sets (more coming mid-month) BUT! we finally have spare tips and cords for sale! EDIT: And now the new Pom Pom is here!

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PREVIOUSLY: Summer of Basic Make-along starts now!

Queue Check — May 2017

Queue Check — May 2017

With my linen Sloper finished, I’m back to this allegedly-for-summer grey cardigan, the lone WIP at the moment. (Actually, that’s not entirely true — I’m also finishing up the hat samples for my Squam class. More on that to come.) I had the idea that I would knit the Sloper during my 10 days in Florida and then finish this cardigan by the end of May, but forgot I was working from my sister’s house and not actually on vacation! So apart from the drive home, there wasn’t much more knitting than usual … and thus here we are, the cardigan still very much a WIP. In addition to really needing this sweater right now, we’ve got Summer of Basics starting Thursday and I haven’t finalized my plan for that yet, although it will include the grey half-texture pullover. Plus there’s the make and mend list I just put together a couple of weeks ago. Plus I’m dying to swatch for the vintage fisherman sweater. It’s like I’m on the brink of starting so many (great, useful) things! So for the moment, I’m just taking a deep breath, concentrating energy on this cardigan, and seeing what I can do with it before the deluge.

Queue Check — May 2017

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Queue Check — March 2017: A whole new queue

Queue Check — March 2017: A whole new queue

Queue Check — March 2017: A whole new queue

Here I am at a pivotal moment! My you-know-what cardigan is done, and the shape of my sweater collection changed drastically this month, leaving me with effectively nothing on the needles and a whole new knitting horizon to consider. The next thing I cast on actually has to be my hat pattern for my Squam class in June, so that’s likely going on the big trip with me. But then, as previously noted, I’ll be picking two sweaters to cast on — one from the mindless column of my list and one from the challenging column. As it happens, I have a nice long list to pick from! But the top two are above:

MINDLESS: The least exciting sweater in my sketch pile is the one I need the most. I’ve been saying for as long as I’ve had this blog that I need a good summer cardigan, and Bellows had stepped into that role the last two years. Now that it’s gone to live with my mom, I have to immediately fill the summer-cardigan gap. Rather than make another superbulky shawl-collar to improbably fill that role, I’m going with something more basic and adaptable — a simple V-neck Improv cardigan. But I do think the yarn should still be Balance, as Bellows was. Holding this yarn single (it was doubled for Bellows) means alternating skeins and I’m lazy, so I got to thinking about other ways to deal with the ball changes. I’ve always loved Joelle Hoverson’s idea, from her Diagonal Pinstripe Scarf, to knit a stripe wherever she happened to be when she put the project down, and thought I could follow similar logic here, except knitting a couple of garter ridges wherever the ball change happened to occur. I debated sticking with the Graphite colorway, since that had worked well for me, but think this particular cardigan might seem too somber in charcoal, so I’m going with the light grey, Talc.

CHALLENGING: As eager as I am to replace my shawl collar, I think it’s high time I knitted the fisherman sweater I’ve always dreamed of. 2017 is the year, dammit! And I plan to take my time with it, so I better get started. I believe I’ve settled on the vintage pattern, Bernat 536-145, that keeps turning up in my path, over and over, since that feels like the universe trying to make a point. I haven’t tried it yet, but for the yarn I’m hoping I can make Arranmore work, because I’m in love with this yarn and think the tweediness of it would be both attractive and useful here. We’ll see what a swatch says!

Beyond that, I’ve made three more pattern/yarn decisions — all standing in the Mindless line:

Queue Check — March 2017: A whole new queue

TOP: There’s a sweater floating around Pinterest the last few years that I find myself never not wanting (I think it might have been Steven Alan), but of course it was several seasons ago and no longer available, so I’ve decided that’s what I’ll be doing with my treasured Junegrass. (Improv) I also have ideas about the timing and context of this one, which I’ll have more to say about soon!

MIDDLE: I knitted this swatch with the two weights (bulky and DK) of the brassy TN Textile Mill merino held together, and I’m deeply in love with it. Want to make a big, simple funnel-neck pullover, and am so tempted to do it right away — it would be so quick! — but that’s silly when it can’t be worn for months and I have a pressing need to fill. So it will have to wait. (Also Improv.)

BOTTOM: For all the times I’ve said I wish my purple Trillium cardigan was grey, I’ve decided to make a grey one. I happen to have the two random sleeves I knitted long ago from my beloved Sawkill Farm stash, and am planning to see if I can make them work for Trillium. Not sure if I’ll do the chevrons-and-nups treatment around the yoke or modify that somehow.

And then there are the others on the horizon that I haven’t made any yarn decisions about yet:

Queue Check — March 2017: A whole new queue

TOP LEFT: I’m champing at the bit to try the Cocoknits Method of top-down, which leads to English-tailored shoulders and set-in sleeves. I want both a big bulky pullover and a chunky cardigan, and will likely follow some version of the Emma pattern for whichever I ultimately decide on.

TOP RIGHT: Yep, it’s that sleeveless turtleneck again. I’m going to knit another one and hope you will too! I’ll have lots more to say about that tomorrow.

BOTTOM LEFT: Not letting go of the cowichan-ish idea, likely a customized version of Jane Richmond’s West Coast Cardigan.

BOTTOM RIGHT: And pretty sure the shawl-collar replacement will be Norah Gaughan’s Sourcebook Chunky Cardigan. Not sure about yarn yet, but this will likely come next in the Challenging column, someday when the vintage Bernat is done.

Either of those last two would make an excellent Rhineback sweater-jacket, so that may have bearing on how the queue plays out over the next few months!

(Fashionary sketch templates and Lykke Driftwood needles from Fringe Supply Co.)

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: February 2017

Make Your Own Basics: The fisherman sweater

Make Your Own Basics: The fisherman sweater

If you know me at all, you know that A) I believe no closet is complete without a good ol’ ivory fisherman cable sweater, or “aran sweater,” and that B) I’ll take any opportunity to blog about my favorite fisherman sweater patterns, even if it means repeating myself somewhat. So obviously, sooner or later, the fisherman sweater installment of Make Your Own Basics was bound to happen. (As is my knitting one! One of these days.) I put together a roundup last year of a whole big bunch of favorites, and there are new ones all the time, but for the sake of Basics, I’m boiling it down to just the truly classic—

TOP: Honestly, all the best aran patterns I’ve seen are in vintage pattern booklets, and the crème de la crème is Bernat 536-145 (aka 4106-145), from the Bernat Book of Irish Knits, 1967. With this Basics series, I’ve tried to stick to easily accessible/downloadable patterns, but given the number of people who pipe up every time to say “I have that book!” it seems like it must not be terribly hard to come by — and regardless, well worth effort. This particular pattern is written for four sizes, but it’s unisex — meaning a deep yoke and wide upper sleeves to accommodate a manly-man physique. I have a huge yearning to create charts for this old pattern and rework it a bit in the process, but I would also very happily knit and wear it as is.

BOTTOM: For some random reason, I think of Steve McQueen’s aran sweater as the one by which all others must be judged, and the Honeycomb Aran by Patons comes pretty damn close. Regardless of how Steve it may be, it is utterly timeless and happens to also be a free pattern. For a very similar set-in-sleeve alternative, see Grit by Kim Hargreaves.

For me, for it to be truly classic and iconic as a wardrobe staple, it does need to be undyed/natural yarn. But obviously what feels most basic and building-block-ish to you may vary.

For more, see:
• Aran sweater legends
• Best fisherman sweater patterns
Cable sweater amazement of the 1960s-80s
Quest for the perfect aran sweater
• and the Amanda knitalong

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PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The v-neck sweater