2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

I had a realization about yarn and seamless sweaters while knitting this gorgeous thing: The more a knitting project feels like playing with Play-Doh, the more fun I find it. The joy in being able to mold and remold a thing until it’s exactly what I want …

Let’s recap: When I first set out to knit this sweater — which began from Courtney Kelley’s St. Brendan pattern — it was going to be my least improvisational act of knitting. I loved the black-and-tan sample sweater so much that my plan was simply to copy it, straight from the pattern. Same yarn, same colors, same bottom-up construction. I was knitting on US9s instead of suggested 8s, to match gauge; I planned to make the size 45 lower body and decrease to the size 38 counts by the time I joined the sleeves; I used my favorite tubular cast-on; and I knew I was going to shrink and shape the neckhole when I got there. Minor stuff.

Instead, I knitted the body and yoke as intended except with phantom sleeves, had (my own) fit issues with the yoke depth, and severed the yoke from the body, at which point I also realized it might suit me better without the colowork on the lower body and sleeves. I put the yoke back on the needles and reknitted the body and sleeves downward to my own fit specifications, omitting the colorwork. Then for the upper few rows of the yoke and neck, I did the following:

– Modified the last three rows of Chart E — the one that takes us from the colorwork to the neckband — since I no longer had a CC1 (tan) to transition to, and instead was transitioning back to my MC (black). I basically created a grey diamond but with a decrease in Row 4, so it’s more of a diamond-blob than a true diamond. Or a sawtooth — let’s go with that. This additional decrease round brought the stitch count from 108 to 81 sts, and I made it 80 on the following round.

– On Row 6, I worked a set of short rows (with 6 turns) to raise the back neck a bit, which created the wedge of black you see between the colorwork and the neckband in the back. I also worked my last pass around that short-row round as my bind-off round, closing the short-row gaps as I encountered them. So Row 6 was the last row, the short rows and the bind-off all in the same round. (For the short rows, I placed the first 4 turns at the equivalent of each “raglan” position, then the last 2 in the back, slightly closer together than the raglans. I have no idea if that’s how anyone who actually knew what they were doing would do it!) It’s a pretty slight drop between the back and front neck, but just enough to make a difference. If I were to do it again, I’d put a set of short rows just below the colorwork yoke.

– And I then picked up 72 stitches (at a rate of 7 out of 8) and worked a folded neckband. This sweater, with this yarn and my changes, feels very vintage ski-sweater to me, and I wanted to play that up by giving it a sort of retro neckline — high and round and with the folded ribbing. It’s already stretched out a bit (as neckbands will do, which is why I insist on working them from picked-up stitches, and even then try to make them smaller than I ultimately want them, knowing they’ll grow) and I’m tempted to pull it out and pick up 68 sts instead.

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

I’m head over heels in love with this sweater. Visually, the most obvious changes I made are that it’s 3 colors instead of 4, and there’s no colorwork on the lower half of it, which definitely makes it a very different sweater from the original. But for me the more meaningful change is in the fit. If you look at the left sleeve cap in the two photos below, you can see the difference in the yoke depth. The pattern has only 4 or 5 rounds of MC knitting between the underarm (sleeve join) round and the start of the colorwork. I wound up putting more like 18 or 20 rounds in there — bringing the total yoke depth to 9″, which is much more comfortable for me. No longer being beholden to the stitch counts for the lower colorwork charts, I was also able to simply knit to all of my own desired measurements (most notably a 42″ bust measurement for 8-ish inches of ease).

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

Oh, and of course I also knitted the sleeves flat (with 5″ fold-up cuffs and tubular bind-off) and added a basting stitch for side seams.

Now can we talk about the yarn for a minute? This is the new Arranmore and I would like six or seven sweaters in it, please! It reminds me a lot of the first yarn I ever fell in love with — the discontinued Kathmandu Bulky — but in aran weight. I adore it. Between the yarn and how good a circular-yoke sweater feels sitting on my shoulders, I would love nothing more than to wear this sweater every single day.

I’m calling it my Tennessee Lopapeysa, since I can get away with wearing it as outerwear here, the way Icelanders wear their lopi sweaters — although this winter, it’s not even that. Our upper-60s January has given way to mid-70s February, so I’m afraid I may not get to wear it until next year. Maybe it will be my Rhinebeck sweater! Finished well in advance.

2017 FO-1 : Black yoke sweater

Pattern: St. Brendan by Courtney Kelley
Yarn: Arranmore by The Fibre Co., in Malin Head (black), Glenveagh Castle (grey) and St. Claire (ivory)
Cost: $7 pattern + $168 yarn = $175*

You can scroll through all of my posts on this sweater hereInstagram posts here, and put a heart on it at Ravelry if you like!

*Given the frogging and extra skeins purchased and there being no way to know what percentage of the sweater’s finished weight is the MC yarn, I’m guessing at how many skeins of black actually got used, but then I also used less than a skein each of the ivory and grey. So this is a rough estimate that probably slightly overstates the true cost.

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Striped pullover

Queue Check — January 2017

Queue Check — January 2017

So where am I on that Channel Cardigan I want to take to Paris? Well, the sleeves are still done! And I’ve added a whopping inch or two to the body.

All my late-night nervous knitting energy has been poured into the second coming of my St. Brendan sweater. It’s been two weeks since I ripped it back to its yoke, and it already has two full sleeves (knitted flat) and about half of the body. That cake of black yarn you see in the pic is my last skein before I have to get into the kinky frog pile, so I’m considering it a good stopping point. When this skein runs out, I plan to knit the neckband from the frog pile, then block the whole thing (also soaking the rewound skeins) and seam the sleeves. I haven’t decided exactly how long I want it to be yet — I want to see how it looks with the upper half and sleeves all done and blocked, which will tell me what the rest wants to be. And I also have the cuffs on waste yarn — thinking about knitting them long enough to fold up.

You may notice there’s no colorwork on those sleeves. I’ve decided the way it is now, with just the yoke, it really is exactly the sweater I’ve been wanting. I expect to be done with it in another week or so — hopefully there will be at least a few days in February cold enough to wear it! (She says from balmy Nashville.)

Then it’s full speed ahead on Channel. The anticipation of that camel yarn and melodious stitch pattern is what’s getting me through all this stockinette …

Channel Cardigan pattern by Jared Flood in Clever Camel | all Channel posts
St. Brendan pattern by Courtney Kelley in Arranmoreall St. Brendan posts

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: Year-end 2016

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

Hot Tip: Postpone the sleeves

Hot Tip: Postpone the sleeves

I know the last Hot Tip was about knitting the sleeves first, but this time I want to talk about the exact opposite! This is my St. Brendan-in-progress, and it’s a perfect example of a case where deferring the sleeves makes more sense. With bottom-up-seamless construction, you knit three tubes — one body and two sleeves — then you work a join round where you knit across the front of the body, across the stitches of one sleeve, then the back of the body and the other sleeve, and voilà, you’ve got them all joined together on one circular needle, ready to proceed with the seamless yoke. But sometimes, you might not be ready to commit!

Sleeve length is a function of two factors: the depth of the yoke it attaches to (shoulder to underarm) plus the length of the sleeve itself (underarm to cuff). In the case of this sweater, I don’t know exactly how deep the yoke will be, so how could I know how long to make my sleeves before joining them at the underarm? What do I mean I don’t know? The schematic in this case is not quite as detailed as I like a schematic to be, but even if it were, that’s not enough information. I already know my row gauge tends to be more compact than everyone else’s, so working the prescribed number of rows might very well leave me with a shallower yoke than the pattern writer’s. Plus I’m planning to change the neck a bit — working some short rows to bring the back neck up a little, and making a smaller neckhole. So I’ll be adding rows that the pattern doesn’t call for, and don’t know how many (I’ll be experimenting), which means I can’t know precisely how my finished yoke will sit.

That’s when this trick comes in handy. (That, or you aren’t certain about the fit or styling or color or something, and want to see how it plays out before investing sleeve time. Or you just really want to get on with the yoke because that’s where all the fun is!) I learned this one from Felicia of The Craft Sessions a few years ago and find it invaluable. As noted above, when you get to the point of joining the body and sleeves, you have the body on one needle and the sleeve stitches on another. It doesn’t actually matter whether those stitches on the other needle are literally sleeve stitches — you just need stitches to work into. In this case, I am meant to have a sleeve composed of 54 sts, 8 of which have been set aside for the underarm, and the other 46 of which are to be joined to the body. So I need a needle with 46 stitches on it. To get them, I’ve simply taken a length of waste yarn, cast on 46 stitches (plain old long-tail), then worked the join row into them exactly as if they were the sleeve stitches (repeating for the second sleeve). When my sweater is done and blocked and I know exactly where the underarm falls, I can measure exactly how long I want my sleeves to be. At that point, you carefully unpick the waste yarn and put those live stitches back on a needle, and you have a couple of choices about how to proceed:

  1. Knit the sleeves from the top down, either picking up or casting on for the necessary underarm sts, and reversing the sleeve shaping so you’re working decreases instead of increases. You can even knit them top-down flat, if you like. (Note that in a case like this one, where there is colorwork involved, you’d need to work the chart from the top down as well. Not all charts are readily invertible.)
  2. Knit the sleeves from the bottom up, exactly as described in the pattern, then graft them together with the live stitches from the yoke.

Of course, to get sleeve length (or any length) right, in any case, you need to have blocked your swatch and measured it carefully, before and after blocking. If the fabric grows or shrinks with blocking, you always need to take that into account when knitting your sweater/parts. As always, a blocked swatch and precise measurements are the key to nailing the fit.

p.s. If anyone’s concerned about the shape of this sweater, remember the bottom 8″ or so have been blocked and the rest has not, which is why it’s so much wider at the bottom right now.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Start with a sleeve

Queue Check — Year-end 2016

Queue Check — Year-end 2016

My Knitting Year in Review post makes it seem like 2016 was my Year of Stockinette — and it pretty much was. Of the FOs, the only thing that isn’t plain stockinette is my Anna Vest, which is the next closest thing to it. But apparently I was really just saving the best for last! I’m ending the year with the mesmerizing knits-and-purls of my Channel Cardigan (top, in Clever Camel) and the colorwork of my St. Brendan (bottom, in Arranmore), and loving every minute of it — so happy to squeeze in a spot of colorwork before the year is up. (Can you believe the only cables I knitted all year were on my abandoned first-version knitalong sweater?)

I’ve been on summer break this week — it was my first time off since the beginning of May, and we’ve been in 88-degree Florida, so it felt entirely like summer break. I finished the second Channel sleeve cap on the drive down, and literally made a mistake on almost every row, after having sailed through the rest of the sleeve without a one. Clearly my brain was wanting a holiday, so after finishing up the hem ribbing, I cast on St. Brendan and have been wallowing in … yep, stockinette! Apart from those 14 rows of colorwork, which make it seem like not a plain stockinette project at all.

But a thing happened — it was tiny. Like 38″ around instead of the 45″ it should be. I’d swatched like a good girl, and my blocked swatch (on US9) was spot on, so I had reason to hope it would block out correctly. But rather than plow ahead with worry, I transferred it onto waste yarn (at the point pictured above) and blocked it. It’s totally fine! So a day later, it was back on the needles and I was cruising through the body, which at this point is a good 14″ long or so. And good gravy I love this yarn and this fabric.

I had plans of doing a big, meaty forward-looking Queue Check for today, but decided I’d rather wallow in my holiday, so I’ll think about 2017 plans in January, yeah?

Thank you so much for everything this year, and for all the great comments this week — especially your feedback under Top posts of the year. I’ve been reading them all and will be going back through and responding now that I’m home. Happy New Year’s Eve to you (tomorrow), and I wish you all the best in the coming year—

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: November/December 2016

Queue Check Deluxe — November/December 2016

Queue Check Deluxe — November/December 2016

When I first started doing these Queue Check posts a couple of years ago, it was at least partly to try to get myself to focus, but in the earlier posts I was still ping-ponging around between projects, with new ideas about what to cast on every month. Lately, I’ve been so disciplined and, well let’s face it, so slooow that the posts have been more WIP status than queue planning. Honestly, I’ve been scared to distract myself from the sweaters at hand because I want them so badly. But after this week of Winter ’16 Wardrobe Planning posts, I feel like I can safely start projecting into the future again.

DECEMBER PLANS: I swore to myself I would have my striped sweater finished before it came around to Queue Check again. I was convinced I’d be finishing it last weekend, but I wound up (happily) with houseguests, so that didn’t happen. But after the Oct-Nov slow spell while I had so much else going on, I’ve been making headway on the sleeves lately. It’s amazing how quickly things can go when you actually work on them! So I’m hoping ol’ stripey will be done by the end of this weekend, and the next time you see it will be a FO post. (That’s Shibui Pebble, and an improvised top-down raglan.)

After that, all attention and energy will be in seeing how quickly I can move my Channel Cardigan along (yarn is Clever Camel, undyed). Even though the first sleeve went very quickly, I know this sweater is a lot of knitting — the collar alone with take some serious time. But I want to see how far I can get with it before Christmas, because …

Then I have a road trip, and I’m thinking of seeing if I can knit a Carrowkeel within the space of that trip. I’m pondering using Arranmore in Cronan but haven’t seen the color in person yet, so can’t be sure.

And then it’s a question of next priorities heading into January. These three of the six sweaters I proposed on Monday are what’s elbowing their way to the front of my brain:

Queue Check Deluxe — November/December 2016

ABOVE LEFT: I am really stuck on this idea of a big cardigan-coat. I’m haunted by Jenny Gordy’s, and also obsessing over this Lauren Manoogian number. I’m considering the possibility of using my Sawkill Farm trove for it, held double, and will swatch soon and see what I think about that. It could actually be a really quick project at bulky gauge, and extremely useful.

ABOVE MIDDLE: I’ve never been anything but serious about St. Brendan, but last night I went so far as to order the yarn.

ABOVE RIGHT: is the simple pullover I’m needing and dreaming of, and there’s nothing I want more than to have Junegrass on my needles. But as I said Monday (and so many of you have said in the meantime!) I can solve the pullover problem more quickly by sewing a Linden or two. So that’s high priority and this Junegrass pullover will likely be in line right behind St. Brendan. And then I also eventually want the same sweater in a nice rich camel.

This week has been amazing for me in terms of really getting my head around what’s in my closet, how to wear it, and what I need and want to do next. In fact, it’s opened my eyes to the fact that I have what I’ve always wanted: a small collection of highly combinable pieces. (I.e., Garanimals for grown-ups.) So my challenge now is to keep adding very thoughtfully, keeping it reined in while still indulging in and enjoying the process of making clothes and augmenting a wardrobe.

In addition to the above adjustments/additions to my knitting queue, here are the other to-do’s that came out of it all—

SEW:
– nice “sweatshirt” or two
– denim shirt?? or light-blue shirting (or buy?)
– black/ivory striped sleeveless tee
– white underlayer top of some kind

FIX:
– re-sew buttons on grey vest
– block black sleeveless turtleneck out a bit larger
– mend the mended jeans
– mend light-blue sleeveless chambray top

BUY:
– new jeans
– black silk band-collar top?
– tan/cognac shoes, clogs or ankle boots

Also: Do another clean-out of the things that aren’t getting worn and find them happy new homes.

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: October 2016

New Favorites redux: Finn Valley and St. Brendan

New Favorites redux: Finn Valley and St. Brendan

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Arranmore Collection — how much I loved all of the garments and how sad the photos made me. Turns out there’s a second set of samples knitted in alternate colorways, which are even better than the originals, and they were in the middle of being photographed on a simple dressform. When I saw this whole new set on Kelbourne’s blog, I nearly fainted. How amazing does Finn Valley (top) look in this gorgeous camel-y tweed? And the dark version of St. Brendan (bottom) is a sweater I truly don’t think I can live without — I want it exactly like this. (Clearly I’m nowhere near over that whole dark yoke sweaters fixation.)

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: the Arranmore Collection