New Favorites: Unexpected cables

New Favorites: Unexpected cables

The book and magazine scene has been pretty great lately, with several worthy collections having been released in just the past week or so. Of all the knitting patterns they collectively contain, two I’m stuck on involve rather unexpected use of cables:

Hague by Michele Wang is from her fantastic new Capsule collection (now in the webshop). I’m super smitten with that allover ridge texture and surprised how well the cables work in combination with it. Sadly, boatneck and drop-shoulder are two no-no’s on my frame or I’d be struggling not to knit this immediately! I might still find a way …

Eldingar by Courtney Cedarholm is from the Winter 2017 Amirisu (which we’re unfortunately already sold out of). It’s inspired by the colorwork yokes of lopi sweaters, translating that into a yoke encircled in large cabled diamonds that then zigzag down the body (although I might be inclined to skip that part and keep it to the yoke).

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Colorwork practice

Best of the Best of Pre-Fall 2017: Joseph

Best of the Best of Pre-Fall 2017: Joseph

It’s good that the Fall 2017 collections will be starting in about 10 minutes, because I’m fairly underwhelmed by the Pre-Fall ones. Not surprisingly though, Joseph is once again at the top of my list of exquisite knits (alongside incredible woven pieces with all the giant patch pockets I love). Just look at those incredible long layers up top, the exaggerated turtleneck and impeccable cardigan in the middle, and then the long rib-knit tunic and pants paired with that exceptional pink coat. Nevermind how unwearable those pants are, I want it all. But especially that army sweater-coat.

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PREVIOUSLY in Pre-Fall 2017:

Hot Tip: Bury your ends

Hot Tip: Bury your ends

I don’t weave in ends — I bury them. Among the many arguments over why seamed garments are better than seamless, or vice versa, the one that comes up possibly the least often is how useful those seams are when it comes to weaving in ends! Seamless lovers often say they hate mattress stitch or don’t want to take the time, but in my view mattress stitch is way less time and bother than trying to weave in ends invisibly on a seamless garment. Mind you, I am a devout spit-splicer, really only use splice-able yarns, and so my projects have as few ends as possible. But every knitted item has at least two ends, and a garment will have several more, by the time you join new balls at underarms, pick up stitches at necklines, etc. (And this gossamer striped sweater would never have happened if I hadn’t known I’d have basted seams to bury all those ends in.) If you’ve got seams to work with, and always join new yarn at an edge (where a seam will be), all you have to do after the seaming is done is run your tapestry needle up through the seam allowance, then back down again, and voilà! Fast, secure and simple.

See also: Q for You: How do you weave in your ends?

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Postpone the sleeves

Idea Log: Cowichan-style cardigan, take two

Idea Log: Cowichan-style cardigan, take two

Speaking of colorwork and my desire to do it more regularly, there’s a sweater idea I want to put a(nother) pin in for 2017 — a cardigan I’m pretty much never not thinking about. It’s partially the J.Crew sweater from my last Idea Log of 2015, which has been taped up next to my closet door ever since, and part Andrea’s vest from the Cowichan KAL, and part this sweater seen on Nashville leather-goods maker Annie Williams (photo by my friend Melody who shares space with Annie). Over time they’ve mashed up in my head into the sketch above. It was one of my many concept sketches for the Top-Down Knitalong, but it seemed wrong to do another Cowichan-inspired sweater for that. (And I’m so happy with the direction I went!) But like I said, this one is always on my mind. Hopefully some version of it will be on my needles before the year is out.

(Fashionary sketch templates from Fringe Supply Co.)

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PREVIOUSLY in Idea Log: Three easy (Kayne-style) pieces

St. Brendan, ripping for joy

St. Brendan, ripping for joy

There’s a thing that happens to me on those rare occasions that A) I decide to knit a pattern more or less as-is and B) it happens to be a fast knit: I forgo thinking. St. Brendan is an extreme example — I believe it’s literally the first time I have ever knitted a sweater exactly like the sample. Same yarn, same colors, everything. I was excited about the prospect of not thinking, actually, just racing through the knitting and throwing on the sweater! The only thing I took a second to consider was that I’m between sizes, and I made a simple snap decision about that.

I always make my sweaters slightly wider at the hem than the chest because I am wider at the hips (38″) than the boobs (34.5″). Since this one involves colorwork, the stitch counts can’t really be fudged the way I normally would — they have to be a precise multiple for the charts to work out — so I blithely cast on the size 45 body and planned to decrease down to the size 38 stitch counts by the time I got to the join round. And then I tried to squelch the nag in the back of my head who kept muttering “what if the 38 is too small?” I am a fan of a 38″ sweater, I would respond quite firmly. “Yes, but for this sweater? You’ll want more ease.”

To my credit, I did allow that I might have a yoke depth problem, which is why I postponed the sleeves, right? (Good call.) But between the pattern’s fairly shallow yoke dimension at that size and my yoke being even shallower, due to my Compact Row Gauge Curse, it just didn’t fit me right at all. I needed to deepen the yoke and widen both the upper sleeve and the chest dimension for it to fit just the way I like. (NOTE: None of this is in any way a fault of the pattern — these are my personal peccadillos.)

Of all the ways to construct a sweater, bottom-up-seamless is my least favorite. I just really hate knitting that first inch or two after the join round — all that stress on the underarms (and the knitter). So it’s the method I’ve done the least of, and have the least experience tampering with. Had I taken a minute to read into the pattern and think about what was happening, I would have seen that I could easily add stitches and rows where I needed them before getting to the colorwork, but I did not take said minute. See paragraph 1, above.

So what then? When I was writing that Hot Tip about postponing the sleeves, I was like Karen, why didn’t you just start at the bottom of the yoke in this case, if you were worried about the yoke depth and know you don’t like bottom-up-seamless anyway?? And again, that nag was correct — I should have. So now I’ve made up for it. With tremendous joy and liberation and anticipation of a sweater that fits precisely the way I want it to, I ripped out everything but the yoke, which is now back on the needles as if it were a top-down yoke. (All I did was snip a strand at the armhole and unravel that row, then pulled out another row or two on the yoke itself before putting it back on my needles. This is animated for your enjoyment below.) I’ve reallocated the sleeve and body stitches, slightly shifted the motif placement, and recalculated the shaping and yoke depth to match my own preferences, like I do with every other sweater I knit! If you saw the details, you’d feel confirmed in your suspicion that I am a crazy person. I am literally moving things around by a matter of a couple of stitches here and there, but I know what a difference it will make to me in the end. With a sweater that knits up this lightning-quick, why not get it right?

Here’s the other thing: I’ve kept the lower body intact for the time being in case I want to graft it back on, but I am feeling like I’ll probably make it plain black from the yoke down. I’ve been saying for over a year that I want a black sweater with a colorwork yoke (here, here and here), so it seems dumb to make something not quite that, no matter how perfectly gorgeous it may be. But I’m deferring a decision on that point for the moment.

Refresh the page if needed to see this in action:

St. Brendan, ripping for joy

Happy weekend, everybody! We’ll be at Haus of Yarn tomorrow with our mini-Fringe Supply Co, along with Plucky Knitter! If you’re in the Nashville area, I hope we’ll see you there. And if not, there’s a new Amirisu in store this morning and lots of other favorites back in stock — go take a wander.

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PREVIOUSLY in St. Brendan: Hot Tip: Postpone the sleeves

New Favorites: Colorwork practice

New Favorites: Colorwork practice

Every time I knit a stranded project (meaning, about once a year) I find myself lecturing myself about how I really need to not let so much time pass between efforts. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be more fluid at it? To venture into projects that are more than just a few rows of colorwork in a sea of solids? After more than a year hiatus, I finished the stranded portion of my St. Brendan-in-progress very quickly and I am hereby swearing not to go so long before I do it again! The solution: hats between sweaters.

TOP: Coronal by Erica Smith

MIDDLE LEFT: Banff by Tin Can Knits

MIDDLE RIGHT: Verso by Bristol Ivy

BOTTOM: Northdale Hat by Gudrun Johnston

The only trouble is I want them all to be black and natural …

For colorwork advice and pattern recommendations, see: Colorwork for first-timers

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Bulky cardigans

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