Blue Bellows at long last

Blue Bellows at long last

Meanwhile, I’ve finished my warmest sweater to-date, lol, my second edition of Michele Wang’s Bellows cardigan. I was SO RIGHT back in February when I shelved this: My November self could not have been happier to get to finish a sweater exactly as the corresponding weather for it arrived. I mean, how often does that happen? When I put it away, I had seamed the shoulders, knitted the button band, and left myself some notes for record-keeping purposes. So all I had to do on Sunday evening, with the first overnight freeze upon us, was seam the sides and sleeves and sew down the pockets. And well, in theory, sew on the buttons, but I haven’t identified the right ones yet. This will definitely qualify as a coat here in Nashville for most of the season, and I still expect to wear it mostly on my couch on cold, drafty nights since the color is so weirdly difficult to pair with anything.* But I wore it to work on Monday with my natural wide-legs and black tee — the only outfit I’ve come up with so far — and it was cozy both indoors and out.

(Please pardon the grainy-splotchy photos, they were taken in the gloomiest light imaginable and brightened to within an inch of their lives. The yarn does not really look like that top photo — it’s the best I can do!)

My original charcoal Bellows (now my mom’s) was knitted at slightly finer than pattern gauge and scaled for a little more fitted fit. This one is slightly chunkier than pattern gauge, and while I made it the same length as before, it is both bigger and thicker. There’s just more of it, so I’m extra glad I kept it to this length, 16″ from cast-on to underarm bind-off. (Slightly shorter than the pattern; the model must be 7′ tall.) For this one, I mostly followed the third size but I think they’re basically size 2 sleeves with a size 3 sleeve cap to fit the armhole. I made the same mods as before: no cables in the ribbing, only three repeats of the cable chart. But I made two other significant changes for this one:

Blue Bellows at long last

1) I added pockets. There’s not really an ideal way to do it with this stitch pattern, so it’s slightly awkward but worth the trade-off. I have pockets! All I did when knitting the fronts was to knit the first chart repeat once, then 4 rows of ribbing between the two slip-stitch borders for the pocket edging. The pocket lining is 16 rows of reverse stockinette then the first 4 rows of the second chart repeat, so the ribbing on the pocket overlays the bottom 4 rows of the second cable, which makes it look a bit truncated. But pockets tend to hang open a little bit, giving you a glimpse of the cable inside the pocket, which I think optically balances it out a little bit. I’m not sure anyone would ever be aware of it if I didn’t point it out — they look more natural than I thought they would.

2) I wanted the button band to be a bit narrower on this one, but conversely wanted the shawl collar to be a little more voluminous than the original. With the difference in gauge I was really winging it on that adjustment. I removed 4 four full rows of ribbing, making the band a total of 8 rows rather than 12, and worked some extra short rows for the shawl shaping — 13 on the first short-row sequence, 11 on the second, according to my notes. (I no longer know how that compares to what’s in the pattern.) With the narrower band, I worked 3-st buttonholes, for slightly smaller buttons, so now I need to find the right buttons.

Ultimately, this thing is a beautiful beast, being extremely warm and also taking up an entire cubby in my little closet, so we’ll see whether it winds up getting worn enough to earn its keep. But for now, with the temperature having not escaped the 30s yesterday, I really am happy to have it! I love this classically woolly yarn and think it made for a powerhouse sweater, but there’s no question my original yarn choice (Balance held double) made for a more regionally appropriate version.

Bellows pattern by Michele Wang in limited-edition yarn from Harrisville Designsall Bellows posts
Town Bag from Fringe Supply Co. (I don’t have to hide it anymore!)

*For everyone who keeps telling me it’s not a hard color to wear, please try to understand that you really can’t know — unless you’ve seen this yarn in real life — and take my word for it? I can’t even get a photo to reflect the actual purpley-dusty-tourquoiseness of it, much less demonstrate how it really does not go with denim like you’d assume it would.

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PREVIOUSLY in 2018 FOs: Hozkwoz Hat

Marlisle, you’re fun (2018 FO-23)

Marlisle, you're fun (2018 FO-23)

Oh look, I finished up my Hozkwoz Hat (from Anna Maltz’s amazing book Marlisle) quicker than I thought I would! So cross that one off the list. Although I have to say, overall it took me a whole lot longer than I imagined. This was sort of slow going for me (cast on during the Fringe Marlisle Knitalong). The marlisle sections are far enough apart that I never needed to figure out how to hold yarns for this, so I just dropped one strand when I got to the solid sections, then picked it back up again. I tried to be super cautious about the length of my float, but there are spots where it’s a hair short and slightly pinching the ivory tower of stitches, but I do not care in the least — its lovely and warm and clever as could be.

This hat is knitted top-down, which means the crown can serve as your gauge swatch. My measurements were confusing, though — the X measurement is bigger than stated in the pattern, while measuring my garter suggested I was more or less on track. No matter, though, since it’s top-down: I figured I could just forge ahead and if it was proving to be on the large side, I could always decrease some stitches before working the ribbing. But there was no need to. All is well!

This is Sincere Sheep’s Covet (CA Rambouillet/alpaca/silk) in natural, and my mini skeins of Kelbourne Woolens’ Scout (100% wool) weren’t quite enough to do the job, so I subbed in some blackish tweed from my leftovers bin for the last inch or two. Were this solid-colored stockinette, you’d no doubt be able to tell I switched yarns, but in this context it’s perfectly invisible. And I knitted the whole thing on a US9 needle, including the ribbing.

I’ve seen a lot of amazing variations with this hat, but the gorgeous tonal one at the top in this photo has me thinking along those lines for another …

Hozwkoz Hat in Sincere Sheep Covet and Kelbourne Woolens Scout
Drawstring bag, blocking board and Lykke needles at Fringe Supply Co.

(The sweater is L.L. Bean.)

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: The dickey I didn’t know I needed 

The dickey I didn’t know I needed (2018 FO-22)

The dickey I didn't know I needed (2018 FO-22)

There was a night a couple of weeks ago where I was frantically looking for something to knit. My plum Anna Vest was blocking; I’d left my marlisle hat at work; I no longer have the thumb instructions memorized for the Log Cabin Mitts, and picking up my unfinished pair wasn’t going to take up that unexpected chunk of knitting time anyway. And so on. I could have cast on a sweater, but it would have been both underconsidered (I can’t make up my mind) and wool (since that’s what I have in my stash in sweater quantities), and I obviously didn’t want to do that. So I pulled up New Favorites and scrolled through looking for something I’d been wanting for a decent amount of time and that I also had yarn for in stash, and I landed on Grete, the crazy dickey I can’t get out of my head. PERFECT. Then I remembered it’s written for bulky yarn, which I don’t have meaningful amounts of in stash. ARGH. And then it slowly dawned on me: the exquisite single-batch, toffee-hued, Oregon-raised bulky I’ve been dying to knit with. I only had one skein on my shelf at home, but I had plenty in the webshop and had set aside a pile for myself at the studio. (Hilariously, I had made this connection last spring when the pattern published but had forgotten it in the meantime.) So I cast on.

The only thing I didn’t like about knitting this was how quickly it was over. I have friends who say the thought of coffee gets them out of bed in the morning. I had one morning where I woke up thinking “the sooner I get up and get through my workday and my workout, the sooner I can knit those cables.” Although, I did extend it by making some changes and revisions and re-knits along the way.

When I first blogged about this pattern, I mentioned that I wanted the neck to be snugger, and we talked about various other mods in the comments, including putting a back on it, which I did. But I was surprised to discover when I started knitting that the neck ribbing folds down over cables, as opposed to ribbing folding onto itself, and I couldn’t imagine wearing that, so I ripped it back. In total, here are the changes I made:

The dickey I didn't know I needed (2018 FO-22)

– Cast on 8 sts fewer (on US8 needle) for snugger neck
– Ribbed for 8″ (instead of 10″ of half ribbing/half cables)
– Worked an increase round at the end of my ribbing to get to the original stitch count
– Instead of binding off for the back neck, put those sts on waste yarn
– Worked the front panel exactly as written, on US10 needle for main fabric
– Returned the back sts to needles and worked a back just like the front, but only two repeats of the chart
– (I’m wishing I had added another repeat or two on the front so it hits me more like the one on the model, but that’s ok — I never did check my gauge so don’t know how it compares!)

In the interim, I tried two other ideas for the back (involving stockinette and short-rows and altered stitch counts to adjust for the gauge …), thinking it might not lie flat or sit right if I didn’t account for neck shaping somehow. But that was time wasted, because this totally worked. The back flap gives it a little visual ballast, plus I couldn’t stand the thought of cold air on the strip of skin between a shirt collar and the bottom of the dickey. And while I thought it was just a visual thing, it does actually help it stay seated better as well.

I also couldn’t be happier with my yarn choice for this, the OUR Yarn, and love it most because it’s a way I can feel like I’m wearing a luscious wool turtleneck sweater in a climate that doesn’t really allow for that. And did I mention it looks amazing with my matching Log Cabin Mitts?

The dickey I didn't know I needed (2018 FO-22)

So I’m eager to knit another one — wider somehow to account for my broadness, and with another variation for the back — and am thinking it should be black. I’m just debating between this same yarn for that (a deep, rich black which would be gorgeous) and trying it in the intended yarn, Luft, which is a wool-cotton blend and lighter, more heathery black.

Pattern: Grete by Woolfolk Yarn, with mods listed above
Yarn: OUR Yarn from Fringe Supply Co. in toffee (8.8oz, 2.25 skeins with my mods)
Pictured with: Fringe Field Bag in waxed camo

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PREVIOUSLY in Finished Objects: Plum Anna Vest (pattern now available)

How to make a visual closet inventory

How to make a visual closet inventory

OK, so I’ve had a lot of questions about how I do my photographic closet inventory and Closet Rummy™ outfit planning — especially since talking about it on the Love to Sew Podcast — and with so many people participating in the closet cleanout challenge for Slow Fashion October, I wanted to post a full rundown on how I do it.

This has been the single most effective thing I’ve ever done in terms of helping me really really KNOW what’s in my closet and how it works together; saves me time getting dressed; and prevents poor making/purchasing decisions. For instance, if I’m considering knitting something like a navy blue pullover, let’s say, it’s easy to think “oh hell, that’ll go with everything.” But when I can pull up all of my pants (har!) and say, Now really, which of these will you wear it with?, and the answer turns out to be two plus jeans, that’s informative. (Like is that enough to justify it, or will it lead to the ol’ “I need to make x, y and z to go with my navy sweater.”) Or if I’m obsessing over a pair of shoes, I can glance at the most recent outfit rundowns and ask myself How many of those outfits would I actually wear them with, and are they better than whatever is already pictured there?

It’s funny how many people have said to me “I know your closet better than my own,” and that says it all about how clear and illustrative it is to have this sort of photo inventory, and to consult it regularly.

My process might not work precisely for you, but I hope you’ll be able to adapt it in a way that will! Here are my steps:

1. TAKE PHOTOS

This takes like two minutes, total, when it’s a matter of adding a new acquisition to your existing inventory (and hopefully you add rarely anyway, right?), but it can feel daunting when you’re starting from scratch. So I don’t recommend trying to photograph your entire closet. Pull a selection of the clothes that are relevant right now, that you’ll be wearing in the next month or two, and just photograph those. Then you can add gradually over time.

– Place the garment against a white wall or surface and in daylight. (You don’t want a surface color or the yellow tint of artificial light throwing you off.) Our guest room gets excellent natural light so I use the wall adjacent to the window for this (and the rice paper blind acts as a natural filter). I take a painting off the wall and hang the garment on that nail, then aim my iPhone at it. It would be even better to have a large sheet of white foam core or illustration board (from the art/craft store framing department); lay it on the bed or floor near a window or open door; and lay the garment on there with no hanger. I do this with shoes and mean to start doing it that way with clothes to eliminate the hanger.

– Why is that better? Ideally, you’d have nothing in the photo that isn’t the garment, and especially nothing that’s adding an extra color. If you make a black-and-white outfit combo and the shirt is hanging on a pink hanger or background, it will register on your brain as a black-and-white-and-pink outfit, which it’s not. My wooden hanger is at least a neutral, but it would be better to have a white hanger or no hanger at all.

– Do your best to hold the camera so it’s parallel with the garment. You want the photo to be as straight and accurate as possible, with no distractions or distortions. And I try to keep the scale the same from one photo to the next, so the relative proportions are evident — although that’s not always strictly possible. The hanger (along with the paneling of my guest-room wall) is helpful in that regard: I try to keep the hanger about the same size and position in the frame when shooting tops, for instance. You could also make markings on your foam core for where you want the hanger and the edges of your photo to be, or whatever works!

2. EDIT AND SAVE PHOTOS

-iPhone photos, at least, tend to be quite yellow and/or grey, and you’re not likely to have perfect light every time, either. I use the A Color Story app on my phone to correct the photos (as previously discussed here, along with tips from Jen Beeman and Brandi Harper) but you can use the built-in edit function or any app you like. If you are not familiar with photo editing, a few simple steps will go a long, long way. Use the Sharpen function. Play with the Brightness and Contrast settings, and try the Curves tool in ACS. (It can be as simple as grabbing the center dot on the curve and dragging it toward the upper left corner a little or a lot.) Use the Warmth slider to correct the blue/yellow balance, and the Tint slider to balance the green/red tones. Seriously, with just a little trial and error you’ll get the hang of it! Then it will only take you a few seconds per photo once you do, and you’ll be able to use those skills to improve all of your photos.

-Again, try to be as consistent as possible with editing the photos so they’re all nice and clear and bright.

– If nothing else, make an album in your camera roll and keep all of your garment photos together in there.

– Even better is to save them together in a folder on your hard drive or in the cloud, which is what I do, with descriptive filenames like “black linen pants” and “ivory fisherman sweater.” I have few enough clothes that I don’t subcategorize them, apart from the fact that I keep shoes in their own folder, but if you want to make folders for pants and dresses and sweaters, go for it! (That might also help you see any imbalances, like if you have 20 pairs of pants and only two shirts.) Again, organize them in whatever way works best for you. I like having mine on a cloud-based service so I can access them from anywhere, anytime I might need to.

3. COMPILE PHOTOS INTO OUTFITS

– Once you have them saved somewhere, even just opening up that folder in grid view wherever the images live can be enough for you to see your whole closet at a glance, and that alone will likely give you outfit ideas or guide your future decision making.

– Since I use Photoshop every day of my life, I use it to compile my outfit grids for the Wardrobe Planning posts, which I then print out and keep handy. There are quite a few apps now that apparently allow you to do the same sort of thing, but I have not personally tried any of them, since I have a process that works for me. Stylebook is the one that gets mentioned to me the most often. Capsule Wardrobe was created by knitter Kelsey Leftwich. And I recently ran across one called Personal Lookbook on Instagram. I’m sure there are many more, and would love to hear from anyone who has used any of them!

– But you can also line up pics into outfits anywhere you can import a photo. It could be a spreadsheet or a word doc or just about anything, really. The only important thing is that you be able to place any given photo more than once, since you’ll want to incorporate any given garment into multiple outfits, right?

Like just about anything, this could feel daunting and time-consuming while you’re in startup mode, trying to figure out your best tools and techniques and process. But once you find a system that works for you, it will actually save you a ton of time and take only a few minutes here and there to update — and then a fun hour here and there planning a month of outfits or what to pack for your next trip.

I hope everyone will share their own strategies and advice in the comments below! And if there’s anything I’ve left out, just ask!

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By the way, pictured is my recently finished Anna Vest, the pattern for which published yesterday. It’s my 21st FO of the year, the third knitted garment I’ve finished in 2018, and there are a few other details on Ravelry. So this photo has been added to my wardrobe files!

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The ivory aran-gansey (2018 FO-19)

The ivory aran-gansey (2018 FO-19)

Hey look, I knitted a sweater! Crazy how long that took me. Inspired by Daniel Day-Lewis’s perfect gansey but bearing in mind what works best for me and my frame, I sketched out this little aran-gansey mashup as part of my Summer of Basics plan, and cast on in the middle-row bench seat of a van lurching its way through the winding roads of rural Portugal. I hadn’t done any actual math or planning. All I had was my inexact-texture-but-gauge-ly predictive swatch plus the little sketch taped into my notebook. So in that van seat on that steamy late June day, I did just enough math to calculate a good-enough cast on, and in I went.

Because it was a slapdash start and I didn’t expect it to work, I also didn’t put any basting stitches in the raglans, or take many useful notes. I thought I almost certainly was just knitting a bigger, more texturally accurate swatch, which I’d eventually rip out. But I never did! And I just kept winging it the whole way. (Albeit with lots of intermittent blocking to make sure everything would work out ok.) So while I normally share all my stitch counts and measurements for any Improv sweater I knit, I’m sorry, I don’t have that for you today. Plus if I were to do this again, I’d make a thousand tiny tweaks. So perhaps at some point I will do this again (in navy!), make those tweaks, and take proper notes for sharing. But the short version is that it’s just a standard top-down raglan with a stitch pattern thrown in for the first 9.5″ or so — double moss stitch broken up every 3″ with two bands of garter stitch. And I put garter along the top of the waist ribbing as well. And used my favorite folded neckband technique.

Natural sweater inventory

You may recall the overarching aim of this one was to make myself a much-needed, easygoing, 3-season-ish pullover, and I couldn’t be happier with it in all those respects. I’ve knitted quite a few sweaters with O-Wool Balance at this point — organic, machine washable, 50/50 cotton-wool blend — and am thrilled to have a mostly stockinette one for myself, as I covet Bob’s every time he puts it on. This fabric is so incredibly cozy. (I like it best after a machine wash and a few minutes in the dryer, but do mind your gauge if that’s your intention! Don’t wet-block your swatch and then machine-wash your FO.) And if you’re thinking back to my recent sweater inventory, you’ll note this rounds out my collection of natural sweaters quite nicely: There’s the shrunken cotton fisherman (L.L. Bean 2010), this new cotton-wool gansey, the heavy-duty wool fisherman and the wool cardigan.

I also made those pants I’m wearing above, which I wouldn’t actually intentionally wear with this sweater — that’s a bit of a blah combo even for me! But it was convenient to take the sweater photos while I happened to be wearing the pants, so I’ll tell you about those tomorrow.

Speaking of the wool fisherman, I also sent it through the washer and dryer last week — being incredibly vigilant the whole way — and it finally fits the way I always wanted it to! (Assuming it doesn’t grow back to its former size when worn.) Officially all set in the ivory department!

Pattern: Improv
Yarn: O-Wool Balance in Natural

You can browse all the posts about this sweater and save/fave it at Ravelry.

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Wiksten Kimono, pajama-style

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Wiksten Kimono, pajama style (2018 FO-17/18)

Wiksten Kimono, pajama style (2018 FO-17)

Friday afternoon, depressed at seeing “sew kimono” stuck in a long, dreary list of weekend chores, I gave myself permission to skip out of work and let a couple hours of stolen sewing time be an indulgence rather than just another to-do. (Thank you, Felicia.) So by midday Saturday, I had finished the Wiksten Kimono I’d laid out as part of my alternate pajama plan for Summer of Basics, and I actually enjoyed every minute of sewing it.

I followed Jenny’s notes for the unlined version of the kimono jacket, leaving out the interfacing on the collar so it would be soft and bunchy. And again in the interest of yardage preservation, I cut the under collar on the cross-grain. Otherwise, it’s straight from the pattern, and I’m quite pleased with my little housecoat — although I like it best with the collar up and bunched and the sleeves pushed up, super ’80s all the way, so wish I hadn’t done that with the cross-grain. But still! I like it, and will probably even wear it out of the house. It’s the mid-length medium, by the way, and thanks again to Jenny for sending me the pattern.

It seemed appropriate (or at least justifiable) to take Sunday morning photos of it with my Carolyn pj pants, complete with bedhead so you get the full effect:

Wiksten Kimono, pajama style (2018 FO-17)

And then there are these, uh, boxer shorts? When I was done with the kimono, I still really wanted a pair of pj shorts to go with it, so I pulled out another remnant of remnants and the pajama pants pieces I had traced off before, and made the quickest possible version of them: no pockets, no cuffs, not even the actual shorts pattern, just the pants lopped off and teeny hemmed. Of all the lovely design details of the Carolyn Pajamas pattern, the only one I kept intact was the faux fly, which — combined with the fabric — wound up looking like a somewhat sad pair of boxer shorts. But eh, I’m happy to have them. And more committed than ever to making a proper pair of the shorts, cuffs and pockets and all (in the blue stripe fabric of the kimono, if I can squeak it all out of what’s left), as well as getting back to the navy linen pants plan, as soon as possible.

Who knew pajamas were so fun to make? And talk about an indulgence — I’ve never had such nice pajamas before. (Although I have worn plenty of boxer shorts with my tank tops.)

It occurs to me I’ve now technically completed three garments for #summerofbasics, as pictured here, although none are exactly what I initially set out to make.

In case anyone missed it, here’s how to submit your final SoB finishes for a chance at the grand prize! I’m not eligible for prizes, but I’m still trying to finish my sweater in time!

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PREVIOUSLY in SoB PJ’s: Carolyn pajama pants

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Pajama pant perfection (2018 FO-16)

Pajama pant perfection (2018 FO-16)

You guys, I haven’t finished anything since the beginning of June, and it’s been even longer since I had had a major jolt of that “wow, I made that” feeling. These pajama pants are pure love. But wait: pants? That was neither the plan nor the revised plan.

To recap: As part of my Summer of Basics plan, I was making Carolyn pajama shorts in navy linen with black piping, but they were a little too fitted for comfort. They were also so gorgeous in the navy-black combo that I decided I wanted to do them as the pants instead of the shorts, with the intention of wearing them out of the house. So I resolved to make another, simplified pair of the shorts to work out the size, and then would go back to the navy pants.

So. Saturday morning I went into my sewing room and began tracing off the bigger shorts, then realized it would be easier to trace the pants and just make them shorts length, and then I’d have the pants pieces all ready to go (assuming the size was right). My plan to “simplify” things by doing them hemmed instead of with the cuffs was counterintuitive: As I was giving myself a migraine trying to figure out how to rework the side seams and inseam (in matching ways from front to back) to accommodate the wide hem I wanted, I realized that would be so substantially different from the pants that it wouldn’t tell me anything at all about the fit of the pants! So if I wanted this next pair to function as a fit muslin for the navy pants, I would have to make the pants.

Pajama pant perfection (2018 FO-16)

The bad news is: I still don’t have the pajama shorts I really do need right now. The good news is: I do also need pajama pants, and these are fantastic. If I hadn’t sewn them in such pajama-y fabric — translucent, no less — I would 100% wear them out of the house. So now I’m more excited than ever about the navy linen pair.

These are View A, no cuffs, but I like them enough that I might actually go back and add cuffs at some point. Meanwhile, I just turned the hem 3″ and 3″ and sewed it with a medium stitch in case I decide to take it out and do that. And sewed the waistband my usual way. No other mods — the cut and fit is spot on. For the record, these are a straight size 12, just with a wider hem.

And yes, I’m counting these as my first finish for #summerofbasics.

(Worn here with my omnipresent black Adventure tank)

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Linden sweatshirt

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