How about a mini sleeveless turtleneck knitalong?

How about a mini sleeveless turtleneck knitalong?

Dear friends, I know you feel I’ve teased you with promises to publish the pattern for this sweater (see v1 and v2) over the last couple of years, and it was never my intention to withhold it from you. Look, Kathy even shot these photos for me a year and a half ago! When I was knitting the two of them, I kept what I believed to be very detailed notes and diagrams for this very basic pattern. But when I finally got time to pull out those notes with the intention of writing it up, ages later, it turned out to be, mmm, lacking. I have my work cut out for me getting it deciphered and written, and then there’s tech editing and laying out the pattern and all the other stuff that comes with … and I just don’t have the bandwidth!

But in the meantime, I had a thought. I know a lot of you really want to have a better understanding of how to manipulate patterns — and I want you to have that, too! — and this one, being so broad strokes and bare bones and sleeveless, is a great opportunity to experiment with it. So here’s what I’m proposing. On Monday May 1st, I will publish this in the simplest possible form: a chart and some footnotes. Kinda like a Japanese pattern only minus the inscrutable annotations. I’m calling it Sloper — the name sewers use for a basic pattern/template with no seam allowances that you can manipulate as you wish. I’ll spend a few blog days, I imagine, walking you through how simple it is to make key changes — to widen it, lengthen it, add waist shaping, tinker with the armholes and neckhole and the finishing details, make it a crewneck instead of a turtle. And then we’ll do it as a mini-knitalong! (Hashtag #sloperKAL) That way everyone can see what changes everyone else is making to suit their size and shape, and we can all learn from each other.

This is a fun one to play with, especially since it’s multiple strands held together, and a total blank canvas begging to be messed with. You can play around with marls, colorwork, stripes, whatever comes to mind, if you want. And this is such a quick and simple knit, it’s great for a spring quickie — and your finished garment will prove useful in the transitional weather and air-conditioned offices, etc. I’m willing to bet you’ll make more than one!

What do you think — are you in?

To get the wheels turning in your mind, and so you can do some advance planning: The gauge for the pattern is 2.5 sts and 3.75 rows per inch (aka 10 sts and 15 rows over 4″). You can use any yarn and needle combo that will give you that gauge, measured after blocking. The black sample is knitted in Quince and Co Lark (in Sabine) held triple on US11 / 8mm needles, and weighs 411g, so just over 8 skeins. (The flax one is discontinued yarn, also worsted held triple.) The sample size is 38″, but again, the point will be to show you how to adapt that to whatever size you want!

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PREVIOUSLY in Knitalongs: Top-Down Knitalong

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

New Favorites: from The Artisan

New Favorites: from The Artisan

You guys know how much I’ve loved some of Helga Isager’s past collections (2012, 2013, 2014), and when the images from her new book, The Artisan, started showing up on the Internet, I knew I was not only going to be saving a ton of them at Ravelry for later, but that I would want to stock this one in the shop. It arrived last night (the English version) and I swear I almost slept with it under my pillow, hoping I could wake up inside of it. The whole thing is incredible, but my top picks are:

TOP: Pearls – an allover diagonal-stitch pullover

BOTTOM LEFT: Birch – a cozy slouchy cocoon cardigan

BOTTOM RIGHT: Twine – a fuzzy little cabled turtleneck

You can see the whole pattern set at Ravelry and pick up a copy of the book at Fringe Supply Co.!

p.s. If you’ve had your eye on the black Field Bag, please be aware it’s now in limited supply, so get it while they last!

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Chevron hats

2017 FO-2 : Camel Channel cardigan

2017 FO-2 : Camel Channel cardigan

Being that this was nearing completion so close to takeoff, I thought I was going to refrain from doing an FO post about it until I had photos of myself wearing it on the trip, but as soon as I snipped the last woven-in end yesterday, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand the wait. So here it is in all its glory — albeit on a hanger and an armless dress form. I’m sure there will still be Paris photos to come. ;)

In short: LOVE.

Sooo it’s not the sweater I originally set out to knit — different proportions than expected and, as a result, not shawl-collar — but I couldn’t love it any more for what it turned out to be. When I slip it on, it feels utterly perfect: like it’s exactly as it was meant to be, and like it suits my frame perfectly.

It’s a modified version of Jared Flood’s incredible Channel Cardigan pattern, knitted in Jones & Vandermeer’s Clever Camel, and like my Gentian hat of yore, this was a magical combination of yarn and stitch pattern. Every minute I spent with it in my hands was heaven, even when I was ripping back and redoing, and I am sad that it’s over! The fabric is beyond words. (And I wound up using far less yarn than I thought, so it wasn’t even as expensive as I was prepared for it to be! Although still definitely an investment, and very definitely worth it.)

There was a moment early on when I got nervous about using this natural camel color for this particular project. Halfway into the first sleeve, I realized the combination of color and texture was going to feel very ’70s to me, and the question was whether it would be good ’70s or bad ’70s. In the end, it does feel like a really great thrift-store find (and just a tiny bit like I pinched it off Mr. Rogers). But I’m glad I went with it. My only regret is not making the pockets about two chevrons deeper, but they’ll serve their purpose just fine.

Most of all, I want to say that this sweater is, somehow, truly next level. It terms of how polished and professional it feels, it easily surpasses everything I’ve knitted to date. I couldn’t be prouder — or more excited to wear it. Thankfully we’re traveling somewhere it stands a chance, because it’s too late in Nashville!

2017 FO-2 : Camel Channel cardigan

Pattern: Channel Cardigan by Jared Flood
Yarn: Clever Camel by Jones & Vandermeer in Naked (undyed)
Cost: 10 skeins @ $19.80/ea (spent in 2016) + $7.50 buttons + $8 pattern (spent in 2014) = $213.50
Buttons: 20mm bleached horn narrow-rim buttons from Fringe Supply Co.

Modifications:
– knitted sleeves flat and seamed
– added side seams (via basting stitch at each side)
– added inset pockets
– omitted waist shaping
– omitted eyelets/belt
– omitted seamed shawl collar; worked a plain, picked-up, garter-stitch band instead (US5)

Size notes:
I knitted the size 38.75 size at a very slightly larger stitch gauge, so it’s a more like 40-41″ in circumference (about 5-6″ positive ease on me), but all vertical dimensions (sleeve length, V depth, total length, etc) match the pattern/schematic.

You can scroll through all of my posts on this sweater hereInstagram posts here, and favorite it at Ravelry if you’re so inclined!

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Black yoke sweater

Origin Stories: Starcroft Fiber Mill

EDITOR’S NOTE: Happy Friday! Today I’m pleased to launch another new regular column, this one by Hannah Thiessen (whose book Slow Knitting is due out this Fall) on the subject of yarns with great origin stories! I hope this will be a great resource for all of us who want to know more about where our materials come from, representing a wide range of sources, fibers and price points. I also want to say a special thank-you to photographer-knitter Gale Zucker (follow @galezucker on Instagram) for providing the shearing-day photos for this piece! For more of Gale’s photos of Nash Island, see her blog.
—Karen

Origin Stories: Starcroft Fiber Mill

BY HANNAH THIESSEN // The first time I encountered Jani Estell’s yarn from the Starcroft Fiber Mill, it felt a lot like being let in on a well-kept secret. I was in New York, attending a fiber show, and some friends of mine mentioned that there would be a yarn-related pop-up show the same day in Greenwich Village. Having never been to Greenwich Village before, and always enticed by the idea of undiscovered yarns, I hailed a cab and headed out for adventure.

The weather was chilly (perfect for those having wooly thoughts), and the rotating art-space venue was just the right amount of cozy, rustic, and full. The glowing warmth of incandescent light and fading sunshine lit up several large farm tables and rustic benches, laden with Starcroft Fiber Mill’s Nash Island wools. Jani Estell wove her way through those purchasing single skeins and sweater lots, while some knitters settled in on skinny, wiggling benches and pulled out their projects to chat. I couldn’t resist the pull of this perfect moment and purchased seven skeins of Nash Island Light, a soft and shiny worsted (almost aran) weight yarn. The color I chose was the palest, faintest collection of cloudy blue: what I dreamt as a reflection of the story of this wool.

The story, really, is simply the best part of this yarn. Yes, the hand is lovely, the colors are beautifully applied, the finished knit has character in abundance — but so many yarns can lay claim to these attributes. It is after the true “yarn” untangles, after I discover the story of a wool, that I truly fall in love.

100 years ago, in 1916, a woman named Jenny Cirone’s father became the lighthouse keeper of a small island off the coast of Downeast Maine. Jenny started a flock of sheep that she tended on Little Nash Island. Over time, her family purchased the land of the small island and its neighboring, larger one, Big Nash Island. When the lighthouse was decommissioned, she moved to the mainland, but continued tending her flock until she was 92 years old. In her will, she entrusted the flock (now wild, with free reign of the island) to her neighbors, the Wakemans, with whom she had a deep friendship (and had taught to lobster-fish!). They continue to care for the flock today in the same way, leaving the sheep free to roam, and rounding them up for shearing. The wool from each shearing was partially sold at wool markets and also combined with a local wool pool, until Jani began working with them around 2005.

Jani Estell started up a small spinning mill just a few miles inland from the Nash Islands in 2000. She began processing fibers for small customers and eventually came into contact with the Wakemans and Jenny (who passed in 2004.) As a local purveyor of yarns, Jani got to know a shearer who worked with the Nash Island flock and was asked along to complete the circle — help out with the shearing. She felt immediate kinship with the Wakemans and with Jenny, whose passion and love for the sheep on her islands was contagious. After working with the sheep, Jenny, and the Wakemans, she fell in love with the story behind the wool and felt a desire to create yarns that could fully celebrate the uniqueness of the island’s fleece. Jani shifted the focus of her mill to producing only her own Starcroft-branded yarns, and providing the Wakeman family with the viable income needed to support the continuation of the Island flock. She is now involved full-time as the wool manager for the flock and purchases all the wool from the islands at fair-market price.

Origin Stories: Starcroft Fiber Mill

After 100 years on the island, the sheep are truly their own landrace breed, with Coopworth and Romney wool introduced through breeding for continued genetic diversity. They produce heavy fleeces with a 6-8″ staple fiber: a medium wool that is surprisingly soft, airy and shiny, with a glowing halo. She sees the wool as akin to a fine wine: Changes in weather and diet for the sheep can yield small changes, giving each shearing a unique vintage. Unlike hay-raised wools or other rustic wools, Nash Island wools are almost completely free of chaff, due to the diet and habitat of the sheep, making them easy to work with and requiring minimal processing. Jani dyes them in a range of “fog-washed” colors, similar to watercolor washes on wet paper.

The sheep are absolutely wild by nature, and do not interact with humans regularly. They have formed a dynamic community and Jani says that they tend to stay together in family groups: Grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters and a matriarch ewe might be seen ‘standing vigil’ in lambing season. Their caregivers do their best to minimize contact and observe from a distance. For now, the future of the sheep is clear: It is the desire of Jani and the Wakemans to continue to care for the sheep in just the way that Jenny did. The island is privately owned and cared for with the same level of respect and dedication, and the Wakemans’ three daughters have grown up with the islands and sheep as part of their lives. The eldest Wakeman daughter and her mother have even learned to shear, allowing the mantle to be passed down from Donna Kausen and Geri Valentine, friends of Jenny’s who have been shearing the flock for 35+ years. Shearing is a community effort, with Jani, the Wakemans, and friends from near and far joining to ‘complete the circle’ and bring the wool to the mainland.

Jani has now fully dedicated her time and the mill to solely producing yarns made from the wools of the island flock. Currently, there are three yarns available from Starcroft Fiber Mill: Nash Island Light, a light worsted-weight 2-ply from ewe wool; Nash Island Tide, a DK-weight 2-ply from ewe wool; and Nash Island Fog, a special fingering-weight 2-ply made exclusively from the flock’s lambs’ wool, with an added touch of Maine-grown angora. This Spring, she’ll introduce a new yarn, which I will await with eager anticipation and ready needles. In some small way, by buying the yarn, it’s almost as if I’m getting to complete the larger circle: the story of lives entwined with wool.

Hannah Thiessen is a freelance creative & social media strategist who specializes in yarn and fiber. She knits and dabbles in other crafty pursuits on her blog, www.handmadebyhannahbelle.com, and you can follow her on Instagram as @hannahbelleknits

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Photos of Jani Estell, husband Grant and sheep © Gale Zucker and yarn photo © Holly McBride for Starcroft; used with permission

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

I have so many thoughts and developments crashing into each other as I try to write this post! The big news, if you didn’t see it on Instagram, is it’s no longer just a fantasy — I am officially going to Paris. (Woohoo, gonna make it to Europe before I’m fifty!) We leave a week from Monday, so obviously I’m racing to finish my Channel cardigan (please pray that I have my pick-up rate right on that button band — there isn’t time to knit it twice) and narrowing down my packing list.

As I mentioned before, this mini travel wardrobe is something of a pre-Spring wardrobe planning exercise for me, and I’ve also made a few choice ready-to-wear purchases lately, a couple of which factor into my packing scheme. Those are just noted here for the moment and I’ll have more to say about them when I get to proper spring wardrobe planning.

I’ve also acquired three pairs of shoes lately (pictured up top), all of which are going with me. The amusing silver pair (handmade in LA by Solid State for Nashville brand Goodwin) were my birthday/Christmas/holiday-bonus gift to myself, perfect for dress up but they instantly brighten up any day; the cushy black Vayarta slip-ons (scored on sale by happenstance) are handmade in Mexico and will be my main walking-around shoes on the trip; and the faux-snake ballet flats (no longer available) are from J.Crew, alleged to be made in Italy, and I hope that’s strictly true.

Ok, so what am I taking to PARIS! The current plan is just that little stack of stuff up top, minus the linen garment second from top in the pile (cut for not being versatile enough), plus the camel cardigan not included in the stack because it’s still on the needles. Here’s the full suitcase inventory:

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

SWEATERS
camel Channel cardigan (pardon my drawing)
black wool-linen cropped cardigan
black-and-ivory striped pullover

TOPS
– Elizabeth Suzann Artist Smock (new, made in Nashville)
– plaid top (me-made but never blogged)
– black Imogene+Willie pocket tee (new, made in LA, no longer available)
– linen-cotton Madewell chambray popover (c.2013, fast fashion but I’m making it last!)
black silk gauze sleeveless top

JEANS
natural Willie jeans from Imogene+Willie (2016)
rigid Willie jeans from I+W (2017)

PLUS
– grey scarf from Churchmouse (2015)
– still debating between trench coat and hooded rain jacket (not pictured)
– underwear, knitting project, etc. (not pictured)

I should note that one of my weird neurotic tics is that whatever clothes I wear on a plane are generally dead to me upon arrival. I’ll be wearing my thick black ponte stretch pants (from J.Crew circa 2009/10) and probably my big chambray shirt (rescued from Bob’s Goodwill pile) in flight — along with the grey scarf and black slip-ons — but that’s why neither one of those garments factors into my outfit planning. So in my suitcase, as it currently stands, will be just the 10 garments above, from which I can make at least 20 outfits, with plenty of room to spare. (We’ll be on the ground in France for 8 days!) Here are 15 of them:

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part deux)

These are all good for me — definitely enough outfits, enough variety, enough layering options (with the jacket especially), and options for an assortment of temperatures and weather conditions. So it’s pretty golden, as is. Comfort-wise, though, I’m wishing (perpetually!) that I had a nice tidy presentable grey sweatshirt and a comfy but attractive pair of drawstring pants, both of which I had hoped to make by now, but that’s not happening. So unless I break down and buy one or the other — or there’s some drastic change in the forecast between now and takeoff — what you see here is what I’ll be taking. To Paris.

Eep!

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PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: April in Paris (part 1)

New Favorites: Chevron hats

New Favorites: Chevron hats

I’ve heard from so many of you that you’d love to knit the Channel cardigan but aren’t sure about taking on the scale of the project. And then there’s me (and others), having worked that lovely stitch pattern and missing it. So for all of us, here are some recent hat patterns with differently enticing chevron stitches to entertain us:

TOP: Braddock by Christina Danaee

MIDDLE: Quill by Andrea Mowry (in the current issue of Taproot)

BOTTOM: Prism by Emily Greene

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Texture by the yard