Squam part 1: Gauge lessons

Squam part 1: Gauge lessons

I have so much to tell you (or show you) about my six days at Squam Art Workshops (aka art camp for grown-ups) that I’m breaking it into two parts! First, let’s talk about my classes. This year and last, I’ve taught a class called In the Company of Cables, which is ostensibly a class about how to knit cables but is really a class about getting comfortable with reading charts, tracking your progress, fixing mistakes, seeing the pattern in a way that often frees you from needing to keep referring to the chart, and so on. Which is good, because this year all but six of the people who signed up already knew how to knit cables! I’m always saying you should take classes from people you find interesting, even if you already know the thing they’re teaching, because there’s always something to be learned in amongst all the dialogue that happens in a knitting class. I say that, and then I freak out a little bit when people who already know everything I’m teaching take my class! So hopefully even the pros in the room picked up a good tip or two. I certainly enjoyed spending the day with both groups, and feel very honored that people would want to listen to me yammer on about something they already know. So thank you to everyone who signed up, beginners and lifelongers alike!

(Gravest apologies to the half of the cutie-pie sister duo I accidentally cut off in the only still photo I took of Friday’s group! Everyone is in the frame in the video version found in my Instagram highlight reel.)

In Friday’s class, we had an amazing demonstration of why gauge matters. For myriad reasons, I don’t ask my students to swatch for the hat that I teach, but they do have homework. They’re asked to cast on 90 sts and work the first few rows of the pattern before coming to class. Everyone uses the identical yarn, Osprey, and size US8 needles. Obviously, because everyone’s tension varies, everyone’s finished hat size will vary, and my hope is that everyone winds up with a hat that will fit someone they know. But I do state that if you know yourself to be a loose knitter, cast on 80 stitches instead, so your hat won’t be gigantic. Check out this photo:

Squam part 1: Gauge lessons

Am (@oystersandpurls) is on the right, and she cast on the prescribed 90 stitches. Am is a tighter knitter than me, so her hat is smaller than my pattern/samples. Brienne (@brienne_moody), on the left, is a loose knitter so she cast on only 80 stitches, and her hat is still bigger than my samples! Think about this for a second: the hat on the left has 10 fewer stitches and is significantly larger than the hat on the right, even though they were knitted in the same yarn on the same size needles. Fortunately, they both still fit: One is a slouchy beanie and the other is a fitted skullcap. But it was an incredibly vivid example of the difference gauge makes in the finished dimensions of a project — even a little hat.

(And how cute are they with their matching toffee Field Bags? I just noticed that.)

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New Favorites: A little something to knit

New Favorites: Graphique kerchief knitting pattern

You know I do love a little kerchief (exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C) and plus — are you sitting down? — I’ve been struggling to knit lately. I can’t seem to attach to anything, and have been thinking what I need is a little something mindless and pocket-sized to have on the go.* Something quick but useful, that would give me that happy jolt of a finish, and BAM! along comes Graphique from Shibui. It’s nothing but a little stockinette square with concentric stripes, but I think if I were to knit it, I might stripe it more like that Joelle Hoverson scarf I’m always on about. In fact, I might just cast on tonight and see if I can score a little win before the yarn for my Summer of Basics sweater arrives.

I’m back from Squam, by the way — a day later than planned (hence the brief blog outage) and wildly behind on everything — so I’ll have my recap and outfit rundown for you soon.

*Of course, there’s always the Log Cabin Mitts but I seem to have stalled on my epic series for the moment. I have one pair that’s been awaiting thumbs since early March, and another pair in progress where I’m not happy with the yarn choices. So I’ve been reluctant to reach into that bag, as well!

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What to do when you can’t (or won’t) “get gauge”

What to do when you can't (or won't) "get gauge"

When I asked about your all-time favorite posts, lisakoby said: “I have the post regarding swatching to get the fabric you like and using the gauge to adjust the fit bookmarked and I refer to it every time I swatch for a new pattern. Every single time. It has been invaluable in my knitting life.” That makes me so happy! I do find this to be a really important lesson for sweater knitters to learn, since often you simply cannot match both the pattern writer’s stitch and row gauge, so then what? It’s pretty critical to know how to think through the implications of knitting at a different gauge and making adjustments as needed — and it’s not even hard! So today that’s the post I’d love for you to read: How to account for gauge differences.

p.s. That post was tied to the knitalong for my Anna Vest, and I’ve had several people recently asking about that one. I’m aiming to get it published as a standalone pattern this fall!

(Bento Bag and ruler from Fringe Supply Co.)

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Introduction to sweater knitting: Construction types and starter patterns

Introduction to sweater knitting: Construction types and starter patterns

If there’s one past post — or set of posts — that I believe to be endlessly useful and also of particular relevance at the moment, it’s Pullovers for first-timers: Or, an introduction to sweater construction and its lesser-known sequel, Cardigans for first-timers: Or, how button bands work. As we head into Summer of Basics, I hope to see a lot of people knitting their first sweater, and so I offer you these bits of guidance in choosing where to start. But whether you’re participating in SoB, maybe just thinking about getting started at some point the future, or have knitted a sweater before but want to gain a better understanding of the different sweater construction methods/types and their respective pros and cons, give these posts a read. And of course, they’re also chock full of pattern recommendations of every variety!

PICTURED ABOVE clockwise from top left:
Basic Round-Yoke Unisex Pullover by Hanha Fettig: top-down circular yoke
Sweatshirt Sweater by Purl Soho: bottom-up seamless raglan
Dwell by Martin Storey: fully seamed, set-in sleeves, sewn-on bands
• Casco Bay Cardi by Carrie Bostick Hoge: seamless, bandless, collarless

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New Favorites: Summer stripes

New Favorites: Summer stripes

The Summer issue of Pom Pom is all about stripes, and it’s astonishing how many distinctly different ways the designers have managed to deploy them, even though the majority of the patterns are simple little summer sweaters! My favorite details among them:

TOP: Anna Maltz’s swingy little Tarmac tank with it’s striped edging!

MIDDLE LEFT: Tina Tse’s simple little Deauville with it’s perpendicularly striped hem

MIDDLE RIGHT: Gina Rockenwagner’s deft plaid Anni

BOTTOM: Amy Christoffer’s log-cabin inspired Riley (I am obsessed with this photo!)

BELOW: And the cross-hatching on Julie Knits in Paris’s Vasarely wrap

New Favorites: Summer stripes

PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Thea Colman on a roll

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My Summer of Basics plan!

Queue Check = My Summer of Basics plan!

I don’t know how it’s June already but I’m pretty excited about it because today’s the day — the start of Summer of Basics 2018! “Summer of Basics” being shorthand for “3 months for making 3 garments our closets are in need of, in the company of like-minded individuals, and maybe stretching our skillsets along the way!” For the full rundown on what Summer of Basics is all about (along with suggestions!), see the preview post, but that’s really the gist of it. What three things would make it easier and more delightful for you to get dressed in the morning? Identify them, make them, and share your progress on Instagram using hashtag #summerofbasics. (If you have a private account and want to participate — or be eligible for prizes — you might want to make a separate, public account for this purpose. Posts do have to be public to appear in hashtag feeds.)

I’m putting off any talk of prizes for the moment because the very idea of prizes — while they’re obviously fun and motivating — can make people a little nutty sometimes, and I don’t want prizes or categories to influence your planning in any way. Just figure out what you want to make (challenge yourself!), and those finished garments are the real prize! Anything else that might happen is icing on the cake. For now, let’s concentrate on the cake!

. . .

So what am I making this year? I have gone around and around — and of course I reserve the right to alter this plan along the way — but I have tentatively decided on the following three gap-fillers:

1. Cool weather pullover: Improv
This is the most problematic hole in my closet. I’ve done a magnificent job of making myself deep winter sweaters, but we don’t have a lot of deep winter in Nashville. What we have a lot of is cool weather — cool enough that you might crave a sweater, and can get away with it, but not if it’s pure wool. And I have exactly one such sweater: a cotton fisherman holdover from my store-bought clothes life. So I’m making a lighter, more abbreviated, not 100% wool pullover! Haven’t quite decided on yarn yet, but my plan is to make the love child of an aran sweater and a gansey: the “seeds and bars” motif transferred onto a raglan yoke. (With apologies to the historical purists out there!)

2. Frilly white sleeveless top: Alice Top by Tessuti
As previously discussed, I need to replace last year’s white linen shell, and one of my all-time favorite warm weather garments is any kind of slightly frilly white top, especially sleeveless. So I’m taking this opportunity to finally try Tessuti’s Alice top pattern, which has been on my list for a few years now, and the idea is to add some frill in one way or another. This will largely depend on what kind of eyelet (or who knows) fabric I might come up with, so the exact details are TBD. But I’ll almost certainly make a more straightforward Alice in the meantime, with something(s) from my stash.

3. Pajamas!: Carolyn Pajamas by Closet Case
I think a pair of pajamas is a total closet basic, and yet I have never owned proper pj’s like this in all my life. I’ve had lots of pajama pants — my very favorite thing (especially if they’re flannel) — but never a matched set, or this kind of top, so it feels to me like a luxury item! I also love the quite long-lasting trend of a fancy pajama top as street wear, so in considering fabrics for this, I may decide on something that would also work outside the house. I’m excited about the piping — have only ever done that on upholstery — and may even challenge myself to sew with a slippery fabric! Really not sure yet. I have a heap of navy linen in my stash, and the idea of linen pj’s sounds kind of dreamy. So I don’t know — fabric TBD! And will I make pants or shorts for the bottoms? Also to be determined, depending largely on which way I go with fabric.

(Fashionary sketch templates from Fringe Supply Co. And oh, hey, there’s some fabulous paper goods news over there today!)

. . .

I just realized I didn’t manage to do a Queue Check post for May, as I’ve been finishing up my spring make list and my other knitting projects are top secret, but this SoB plan is the state of my queue as we head into June.

(If you missed it last year, I made a fisherman sweater, my first button-up and my first pants!)

So now how about you? I can’t wait to see what you have planned! Remember to use hashtag #summerofbasics when sharing on Instagram.

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PREVIOUSLY in Summer of Basics: Get planning! (introduction and details)

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Must-have books lately

Must-have books: The Vintage Shetland Project

There have been all kinds of books published, obviously, since my last little Books Lately post in October, but there are 3 that have come into my possession this spring (all of them hardcover) that simply must be noted—

I first mentioned Susan Crawford’s The Vintage Shetland Project back in 2015, when she had completed the garments and patterns and photography for this epic book and was beginning a crowdfunding campaign for the printing. Not long after, she was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer, and I think a lot of us held our breath both for her and for this incredible work-in-progress. Thankfully now she and the book have both come out the other side. This is a project — and thus a book — like nothing else. I don’t know how to summarize without doing it a disservice, but the elevator-pitch version is that Susan made it her life’s work to study garments and accessories in the Shetland Museum, to learn from them, and to recreate 27 of them in pattern form. The garments she chose are all from the first half of the 20th century (an epic era), knitted by for-hire knitters but who made these garments mostly for themselves or loved ones, from their own imaginations, employing techniques and details that wouldn’t be conducive to either commercial knitting or pattern writing. Think about it: To recreate them, Susan had to literally study every tiny stitch (of Fair Isle colorwork and lace), build charts from the fabric in front of her, and even create yarns in weights and types and colors to match the scale and fabric and palettes of these garments. And then to write usable, graded patterns for them — it’s mind-boggling. And then she photographed it all on the windswept isle of Vaila! But beyond all that, the book she has written melds fashion history and knitting history and the individual histories of these garments. It’s truly remarkable — and mammoth in scale — and I’m so happy it exists. Thank you for sending it to me, Susan; it’s a treasure. (The link above goes directly to Susan’s webshop, but note that she is in the UK. I’m not sure how widely available it is in US yarn stores or whatever. If you can’t find it at your LYS, Mason-Dixon is stocking it.)

Must-have books: Vogue Ultimate Knitting Book

When I was learning to knit six years ago, I picked up multiple encyclopedic how-to-knit books, but Vogue Knitting’s Ultimate Knitting Book was not among them. And those I did buy, I consulted in piecemeal fashion — looking up how each author suggested I pick up along a neckline or whatever. I’ve still never seen the original (1989) or previously updated (2002) editions of this book, but if I had had this edition — which is “completely revised and updated” — I would have sat down on my couch with it and read it from cover to cover, and saved myself lord knows how much trial-and-error anguish and googling and trauma. This books start at yarn — weights, fiber types, etc — walks through every conceivable how to from cast-ons to cables to colorwork, and heads straight into how to design for yourself. It’s only 350 pages (which seems slender compared to the other big knitting bible on my shelf) and packed full of illustrations and photos, and yet it manages to provide at least introductory level info on literally everything. I don’t know how they did that. But I might still sit down on my couch and read it cover to cover.

Must-have books: Japanese Stitches Unraveled

The world is full of stitch dictionaries, but the latest one from Wendy Bernard, Japanese Stitches Unraveled, has a couple of interesting things about it. First, it’s a compilation of stitch patterns she’s found in obscure Japanese stitch dictionaries and has named and re-charted to make them more accessible. But she’s also gone so far as to chart each of them up to four different ways, depending on whether there are distinctions to be made if you’re knitting bottom-up or top-down, flat or in-the-round. And she also offers guidance in the front of the book for how to go about incorporating them into your knitting projects. Each section of the book ends with a pattern, ranging from garments to home goods.

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Of course, the book I’m most dying to get my hands on right now is Jen Hewett’s Print, Pattern, Sew. Jen and I are teaching together at Squam next week (and we’ll both have tables at the Art Fair) so I’m definitely coming home with that!

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