Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 1: Jess Schreibstein

Top-Down Knitalong FO No. 1: Jess Schreibstein

Hey, guess what — there’s a member of the panel for the Top-Down Knitalong who finished her sweater! Brandi is either also there or on the brink, and Jen and I are still plugging away at it, but today I am pleased to show you the finished object of the lovely Jess Schreibstein. In case there’s anyone who doesn’t know her, Jess writes the Swatch of the Month column for Fringe Association, charms Instagram as @thekitchenwitch and just launched her new website. So let’s hear about this sweater—

. . .

You’re the only panelist who will have completed the same sweater you started — yours is true to your original plan. Be honest: Feeling at all smug about that? ;)

You know, I didn’t even realize that I was the first person on the panel to finish her sweater until I wore it the first time. Then it just dawned on me – like, WOW, how did that even happen?! But all along, my primary goal was to stay dedicated to getting the sweater exactly how I wanted it, and I took it as a given that that process would take time and trial and error. But once I made it through yoke and neck shaping, the rest of the sweater came together easily, and I set myself a deadline of finishing by the Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. Which I did, but barely, in true Rhinebeck fashion. The sweater finished drying the morning I left!

You wound up admirably spending a lot of time and revision on your neck, in an effort to get it just how you wanted it. To recap, you cast on your neck stitches and worked the funnel neck in the round, and initially weren’t going to do any neck shaping. But then you decided to add short rows, which took a few tries. Can you talk about why you didn’t want to shape the neck the traditional way — I know some people were curious why you chose the route you did — and how you feel about the short rows in the end? Do you feel you solved all the problems you were trying to solve?

You’re right – instead of casting on stitches and working the neck shaping back and forth before joining in the round, per the method you describe, I worked the neck in the round and then used short rows to get the neck shaping I was after. To get a turtleneck or mock neck with the traditional method, I would have to pick up the cast-on neck stitches, which wouldn’t really be an issue except that the simple lines of knit and purl are so important to getting my particular design to look right. I wanted those lines from the neck to move seamlessly into the yoke and body, without any funky jogs or noticeable seams around the neck.

I ran into setbacks on the short rows because I really just hadn’t had to use them much before, so didn’t know about some pitfalls in particular methods that make them unattractively visible. The knit/purl rib can also be less forgiving for short rows. On the recommendation of my friend Olga Buraya-Kefelian, I used the German Short Rows method, and spaced the turns 2 stitches apart from each other to lend a gradual grade to the shaping. It definitely worked, and I’m pleased with the result!

It seems like once you got over that hump, it was smooth sailing for you. Were there any other setbacks or revisions along the way?

The biggest revision was on the sleeves. I originally intended to knit them flat, as you’ve recommended for multiple reasons, but found after working half a sleeve that the seam would look sloppy with the decreases and the K1P1 rib. Instead, I worked them in the round, working in a knit seam down the center of the sleeve with a purl stitch on either side – which were later seamed up with a basting stitch. I was worried that a basting stitch on either side of this center “knit” seam, effectively creating two seams on the inside of the sleeve, might look bulky or feel stiff, but after blocking they melted into the sleeve and they look great.

You chose YOTH’s Father in Olive for your sweater (which they generously provided, I should note — thank you, YOTH!) How do you feel about your yarn selection for this sweater — are you into the Rambouillet, happy with how it’s performing this particular job? Anything you might have done differently there?

I loved working with YOTH’s Father and am so grateful to them for providing the yarn! The color is so rich and the stitch definition is stunning. Thankfully, Veronika at YOTH reached out to me before I started knitting to let me know that she recommends alternating skeins, since there is slight color variation from skein to skein. This definitely helped blend any slight light and dark differences in the yarn.

How did you wind up treating the lower edges — the cuffs and hem? And did you include other basting stitches anywhere or knit anything flat?

The edges of the neck, sleeves and hem were all worked in a size or two smaller needle than the body of the sweater to create some subtle shaping and a snug fit on the wrists. I bound off all edges with a tubular bind off, which looks great with the rib. I also added a few rows of decreases on each side of the hem of the body for the same reason – some subtle shaping and a snug fit. No parts of the sweater were knit flat, but I added basting stitches on either side of the wide raglans and to the inside of the sleeves, as I mentioned. They added so much great structure to the sweater and look great.

This was your first time knitting a sweater top-down — and apart from the neck shaping, you mostly followed the process described in my tutorial, right? What do you feel you got out of the process, if anything, and would you do it again?

That’s right, no other major changes from your outlined process besides the neck shaping. I have to say that I learn a lot each time I knit a new sweater, but this one was different. Thanks to this process, I now have a much deeper understanding of sweater construction than when I started. But even more importantly, I was part of a larger community of knitters trying, failing, and trying again to design their own sweaters, which helped me stay positive and focused on the ultimate goal – learning how to make a killer sweater for myself! I definitely plan to use this method again, specifically for some basic cream and black cardigans I’d love to have in my closet.

Thank you, Karen, for organizing and hosting this KAL and inspiring so many of us to create our own improvised sweaters! So grateful to you.


(Where’s my blush face emoji?) Thanks so much for playing, Jess!

I’ll have the rest of the panelists’ sweaters to show you as they/we finish up! Meanwhile, there’s still action on the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 hashtag and the Improv top-down tutorial is here (or on Ravelry) for you anytime.


PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: WIPs of the Week No.7

Make Your Own Basics: The shawl-collar cardigan

Make Your Own Basics: The shawl-collar cardigan

In all honesty, Make Your Own Basics is my favorite series I’ve done so far on the blog. (Scroll through the whole collection here.) I have a deep and abiding love of basics, but I also increasingly find basics to be the most rewarding things to make. As proud as I am of my trophy sweaters, it makes me really happy to wear clothes so classic and hardworking that nobody would ever think to ask me if I made them. (The new black cardigan is the epitome.) My number one goal in life is to someday be wearing jeans and a grey t-shirt and have made them both.

I just wanted to say all of that at the outset of this installment because we’re in the midst of Slow Fashion October and I think it’s an important point! So with that said …

I’m of the mind that every good wardrobe requires a good shawl-collar cardigan, the coziest of garments and useful even for warm-climate people who find themselves at a beach bonfire on occasion. It’s just a thing you have to have! My love for big slouchy cable cardigans is well documented — my beloved Bellows, which I wear multiple times a week in my studio; the incomparable Channel Cardigan, which I’m currently knitting after more than two years of yarn deliberations for what I expect to be a lifelong companion; in fact, a whole raft of shawl-collar standouts from BT. But this is Basics, and so while I think you could argue that any of those would actually qualify, let’s talk about these simple stockinette gems today:

TOP: Georgetown by Hannah Fettig is equally appropriate at work or with pj’s in front of the fire

BOTTOM: Fredericton by Kiyomi Burgin, with it’s two-strand marl and contrast edge, has that classic professorial flair; leather buttons recommended!

See also the previously noted Fable and Killybegs.


PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The sweater vest

New Favorites: Every stitch of the Tov collection

New Favorites: Every stitch of the Tov collection

I mentioned recently that I’d gotten a sneak peek from the set of the shoot for a new collection and that there was a cardigan I was losing sleep over. It turns out the entire collection — the Tov Collection from Woolfolk, for their latest yarn, Tov — is drop-dead ridiculously to-die-for gorgeous. For me, and what makes my heart race, it’s the single best pattern collection I’ve seen in the five years I’ve been doing this.

Here’s the thing: the day the lookbook first snuck into my inbox, I got the vapors. But before making a claim like “best I’ve seen in five years,” I have to stop and check myself. Let’s face it: the photography, the house, the ivory yarn and cables — it pushes every one of my buttons. Was I being swayed by all of that, or are these patterns as good as I initially thought they were? Having looked at it more times now than I care to admit, I can honestly say: Take away the house, make the garments colors I don’t like, whatever — they’re stupendous.

So here are my favorites: All of them! Starting, of course, with the sweaters:

Vidje by Kristin Ford, above, is the cardigan I was on about. This design is a tightrope walk; it could have so easily gone awry, but the bands of texture blocking are beautifully done. I mean, the shift in scale of the honeycomb is so gorgeous I’m hellbent on knitting this thing even though I hate knitting honeycomb! It might take me two years to finish it, but I ain’t lettin’ that stop me.

New Favorites: Every stitch of the Tov collection

Bue by (newcomer?) Nele Redweik might manage to distract me from Vidje for a minute. I’ve been planning to do a pattern for a sleeveless cabled tunic, but now I don’t have to! This is perfection.

New Favorites: Every stitch of the Tov collection

Gevir by Sarah Solomon represents that balance I think we’re always looking for, of a garment that’s striking — what I like to call a trophy knit — but also very practical and wearable. The combination of wide ribs and vertebrae-like cables, the way they’re deployed here, is slimming rather than adding bulk. And it feels extremely fashionable and classic at the same time. Absolutely gorgeous.

New Favorites: Every stitch of the Tov collection

And then there are the accessories:

TOP: Rille by Olga Buraya-Kefelian is just fantastic looking hat — must have

BOTTOM LEFT: Mont by Olga Buraya-Kefelian is a pair of long mitts that are just a good thing done well

BOTTOM RIGHT: Arkade by Antonia Shankland is the weirdest stitch pattern I’ve ever seen, makes no sense to my brain, but I find the dimensionality and pillowiness of it fascinating!


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Mitten mania

Craftlands: Cordova, Alaska

I had this post scheduled for earlier in the year, but realized it belongs to Slow Fashion October when Dotty Widmann, the organizer of everything you’re about to read, said the following about George, pictured below: “I want for people to see how beautiful the work was on those sweaters, like the one Val made and George could not wait to put it on. He asked Valerie to make the sleeves tight on his forearm so he could get them into his gloves, and a little shorter as well. Just one of the several special touches on each one.” I mean …

Craftlands: Cordova, Alaska
Photos above, clockwise from top: George and Valerie Covel both in Dutch-style ganseys knitted by Val; Cordova Harbor; Sheridan Glacier

If there’s a more scenic place for a fiber retreat in the US than Cordova, Alaska, I don’t know what it is. But for organizer and shop owner Dotty Widmann of Cordova’s The Net Loft, it goes way beyond scenery — and even way beyond yarn. (And this post is going WAY beyond the standard Craftlands post, with good reason.) Dotty held her first large-scale retreat in 2014, with high-profile teachers flying in from all over and more than 100 people in attendance. Then she traveled to Shetland, experienced the entangled histories of knitting and fishermen first-hand, had an epiphany, and launched the Cordova Gansey Project. You may remember me linking to her blog series way back when. It’s almost criminal to summarize, but Dotty was inspired to bring awareness of that shared history to her own remote Alaska fishing community. To simultaneously create and revive a tradition, with locals knitting ganseys for themselves and the fisherfolk they love.

In summer of 2015, Dotty brought in experts to teach the Cordovans about ganseys and their history, and the gansey project wound up inspiring and informing the second large-scale retreat, FisherFolk, which happened in June, and which included an exhibit of ganseys on loan from Moray Firth in Scotland. My good friends Anna Dianich and Kathy Cadigan were lucky enough to attend, and if you follow them on Instagram (@toltyarnandwool and @kathycad) you already know how amazing their photos were — from the sweaters to the fisherfolk to the glaciers and beyond. The photos in this post were all taken by Kathy, but definitely go scroll through their feeds for more. And Anna has also posted a bunch of photos on the Tolt blog today. In fact, go take a look and come back — we’ll wait!

Craftlands: Cordova, Alaska
Photos above: Jacob Hand aboard the Morning Star in a sweater he designed and knitted; the Cordova marina; Anna Dianich in her Seascale sweater

I asked Anna and Kathy about the trip and the retreat and they couldn’t have been more effusive. Anna had this to say about the gansey she knitted for the trip: “I knitted the Seascale sweater and used our Snoqualmie Valley Yarn, wanting to wear the sweater while in Cordova. I have to say, though, after seeing the sweaters that were knitted by the Cordova women and men, I am a little embarrassed. I was knitting to get the sweater done in a timely manner but these folks really took their time (years!) and put so much thought, love and care into their garments. Each knitter designed their sweater, either for themselves or a loved one and put in design elements that represented them or their surroundings. These sweaters are breathtaking, and Kathy and I vowed to design and knit one too. It will take us years to finish but that doesn’t matter.” Anna loved the air, the sounds, the fresh catch for dinner, the wildflowers, but most of all she loved the people: “The landscape is gorgeous but the people are spectacular. I wanted to know everyone’s story and they were all so fascinating! Most of the people in town fish; around half live in Cordova year-round while the other half are only there seasonally, choosing to travel the world or live somewhere else during the off-season. A lot of the people are artists and creative folk, very talented and worldly people. Some families have been doing this for generations while others are new to the industry. I learned about the Alaska fishing industry and how it’s all families, about 500 of them. We need to support our fishermen — eat wild wild-caught Alaska salmon!”

Kathy concurs: “All in all, it’s a very cosmopolitan place! There are artists, poets and musicians that live in Cordova. I think the remoteness promotes creativity. Visitors mix in with local fishermen very easily. I love that even though it was obvious many people who attended the retreat came from outside of Cordova, none of us felt like we stood out as ‘tourists.’ The surrounding landscape is more breathtaking than can be described, and in the center of it all, the harbor with all of its fishing vessels and little houseboats looking onto the sound just makes you smile. There are so many beautiful things to see and do. You can drive about 45 minutes from town to hike Sheridan Glacier. Anna and I saw a moose on the way there and we hiked that glacier in like 30 mins! Really the most tremendous visual payoff for the least strenuous hike I’ve ever taken!” And the classes went beyond knitting, just like The Net Loft itself does. For instance, Kathy took a class that incorporated found elements into the tying of fishing nets and Dotty inspired Anna to take up watercolor by giving her an impromptu painting lesson at the shop.

But all of this just scratches the surface. Nobody can talk about the Cordova Gansey Project or the FisherFolk Retreat better than Dotty herself. I asked her a few questions, and the depth and feeling of her responses speak volumes — so what follows is Dotty’s interview in full. I promise you’ll be glad you took the time to read it!

Craftlands: Cordova, Alaska
Photos above, clockwise from top: Dotty Widmann welcoming FisherFolk attendees; foraging for dye plants at Sheridan Glacier; Moray Firth Ganseys at the Cordova Museum; Cordova resident Jane Allen in Elizabeth’s Johnston’s Spinning for Fisherman’s socks class

. . . . .

KT: This was your second retreat, correct? But the first one since the Cordova Gansey Project. How different would you say this one was from your previous? How did the gansey project factor into the retreat this time around?

DW: The Net Loft sponsors small retreats and an ongoing variety of workshops, but this was our second large-scale retreat, and the first of those since the inception of the Cordova Gansey Project. Both events were “personally driven,” meaning they stemmed from a personally driven theme. The one in 2014 was centered around friendship, and the fiber and friends connections made along the way. This friendship theme was the thread that tied the workshops together, as well as the hope and desire to bring quality instructors to our remote community to encourage growth in our knitting skills,  but the classes themselves were widely varied.

The FisherFolk retreat this past June was different in that the entire event and each class was connected in some way to the FisherFolk theme, which focused on commercial fishing and its various fiber art connections. The Cordova Gansey Project was the core of the event. Even the skill-based workshops were supportive of the underlying theme of fishing and the fiber arts. The idea for this particular retreat was to be a larger event that would offer the original gansey workshops from the summer of 2015 to a wider audience, as well as provide an opportunity to view the local ganseys that we had been knitting over the past year (as well as a few from out of the immediate area, but still within the state). It was a very personally driven event, the essence of which continues to be intricately woven into the many lives of those who are knitters as well as members of our active commercial fishing community, both directly and indirectly connected to our town.

You wrote extensively about your idea and plans for the gansey project before it began. How was it seeing it take shape in your community and beyond? How does it compare to what you originally imagined?

My first thought when I read this question was that I feel uncomfortable calling it my idea when so many people, past and present — some I have never known personally — have influenced and directed me. It is not so much what I imagined as what idea was planted in me. As the story unfolded, I began to realize how so much of my life and all those knitters and friends and past times were converging into this project, as well as into the FisherFolk event, and that the emerging idea was not so much mine as one that needed a willing person to carry it out.

The project is both simple and complex. The simplicity of it is that it is about knitting a working garment in wool for someone we love. This is nothing new, unique or different, as to knit for those we love is universal to knitters and transcends time and place. By its very nature, hand knitting is a personal experience. So much of our knitting is tied to family, friends and loved ones. For us as a fishing village, this concept translates into taking a functional working garment designed many years ago for the fishermen of the past, and recreating it for the fishermen of the present. The actual manifestation has grown into something that resonates with a wider audience, for even if you are not a fisherman, if you are a knitter, when you study about and learn how to knit a gansey, you are connecting with your knitting ancestry, regardless of your actual personal cultural identity. The project is complex in that it has taken on another life in terms of logistics and events, and how to best get other people started, and managing what first started out as a simple idea of just basically making my fisherman son and family members a gansey to wear out on the fishing grounds.

In regards to how it compared to what I personally had imagined or envisioned, there are different aspects of this. The motto for the project is “In proud tradition of harvest, heritage, and handknits.” First, in our fish town of Cordova, Alaska, last summer (2015), when we had Beth Brown-Reinsel come and get us started on the traditional garment, it was wonderful to see others here in town embrace the concept. It was emotional for me to see my knitting friends take on this idea and join me on this adventure, especially in light of our interwoven lives and history. Seeing the idea manifested into concrete charts, yarn and swatches, and later into actual finished garments, was especially touching to my heart, because just like my blog story, they each had a story and their garments reflected that, which was something I had somehow deep down hoped would happen. This was the handknit component.

Second, this summer. I was touched by the comments from many of our local fishermen who viewed the gansey exhibit from the Moray Firth region of Scotland, while it was here at our museum. There were many fishermen who took time out to come to the museum and check out the exhibit, as well as those knitters and non-knitters from our local community. They scrutinized the many vintage photos, read the verbiage on the banners, and as they wandered through the sea of garments suspended in the room and on the walls, you could see them connect with those faces and sweaters of the fishermen of the past. For us here, there are basic elements that have not changed over the years — boats, nets, corks, lead lines, ocean, fish, and those who are involved both directly and indirectly with catching fish. The vintage pictures had them all. It is hard to put into words, but the same connection that I had felt when I had visited the Shetland Islands was felt by those who came and saw the exhibit here. One of my original missions for the project was to connect our fisher knitters with our fishing knitting heritage, while showing how we valued them as harvesters, and this began to be accomplished, or at the very least ignited. I heard over and over, “I want a gansey”, or “My husband wants me to knit him a gansey.” One day this summer, while the exhibit was here, a sailor arrived in town from Britain and was walking through our little town. He just happened to be wearing a gansey into our isolated village. That day I had call after call to the shop that there was a visitor in a gansey walking about town. Everyone was noticing and wanted me to know. Men and women alike were stopping him all around town and asking to look at his gansey. Poor soul, but evidence that people here now know what a gansey is and what the story is behind it. They feel a kinship to the gansey heritage as somehow part of their own personal history.

Third, for those outside our area, I had hoped that the gansey project would be a vehicle to tell the stories of our current local harvesters, and most importantly, the value and faces behind those who harvest the wild fish they purchase. There is no getting around it, the original ganseys were intricately connected to fishing, fishermen, and the fisher knitters. The fish were and continue to be the driving force. When my fisherman daughter caught wind of the project, she saw the handknitted ganseys as a way to clothe with love and care those who take the time and effort to carefully harvest and prepare the best quality product for market. We invite others to join the project in the spirit of this harvest and heritage, but for us, essentially, this goes back to the simple idea of knitting a beloved fisherman a garment designed originally for a fisherman, and that is being accomplished, one gansey at a time.

We also invited other designers to participate in the project and have patterns available that have aligned themselves with the Cordova Gansey Project. This includes the Fisher Lassie cardigan by Bonne Marie Burns, which is a contemporary gansey-inspired garment that takes the basic elements and turns them around and into a female garment. Bonne’s design was inspired by our project and she has come and taught workshops both this summer and last on this fascinating knit. Tin Can Knits designed the Bowline Hat as our FisherFolk hat. Kate Davies designed Pink Fish, a set of lovely mittens with a scale pattern, and Julia Marsh from the Highlands of Scotland designed us a small color stranded fish pattern for making a fish with yarn that we had from our one and only sheep in Cordova, Shawn, and using wool we dyed in a group indigo dip at our event.

What was your favorite thing about the retreat?

I loved seeing the fellowship between knitters, and newly formed relationships and connections made. I loved the excitement and anticipation throughout the week. I loved peeking into the classrooms and watching the learning taking place. It is like having a garden. Seeds are sown, and I get the pleasure of watching the seeds sprout. As our small knitting community grows and learns new things, I get to see what that growth blossoms into. In light of this, I think my favorite part of the entire event was the evening when the ganseys that people had been knitting for the past year were shown one by one on the stage. Although honestly, I was a bit exhausted from all the preparations and follow through for the event, as I listened to each person’s gansey story and looked at the beautiful garments that had been made or were almost finished, and saw the look on the faces of those who had knit and those who had been knitted for, many of whom were dear friends, I was deeply moved and my heart was touched beyond words.

What’s been your favorite thing about the gansey project?

I believe it is both honoring and appreciating and connecting to our knitting family ancestry, as well as how involved and interested those being knit for presently have been as we knit for them.

Craftlands: Cordova, Alaska
Photos above: Lake Eyak; Jane Allen wearing the gansey she designed and knitted for her son, and her daughter Elaina wearing a Fisher Lassie cardigan, also knitted by Jane

Is the gansey project ongoing, and what do you have planned next? When will the next retreat be?

The gansey project is an ongoing project. The shop carries an extensive supply of Frangipani 5 ply gansey yarn from the UK in a wide variety of colors, including a custom color named Cordova that they made for us, which corresponds to the color of an aerial view of the Copper River Delta, which is where the silty glacial waters meet the sea, and is the headwaters for the pathway of the Copper River salmon and the site of the Copper River wild salmon commercial fishery.

We also are carrying a domestic artisan yarn from Upton Yarns, milled in the United States using wool from sheep from an island off the coast of Maine and hand-dyed naturally with indigo by Sarah. We carry all the elements needed for designing and creating a gansey including the Traditional Ganseys book and DVD by Beth Brown-Reinsel, large sheets of charting paper, knitting needles and heaps of encouragement. The project is open to anyone, anywhere who is interested. One can go through the process of making their own, which begins first with making the miniature gansey in Beth’s book, but it is also fine to use a pattern to make a garment in any size, any gansey pattern, with your choice of yarn. Frangipani and Upton give great stitch definition as well as our 12 ply Alaska Fisherman yarn. We are working on putting together a kit that will be on our website, due to the interest we are receiving form outside our area. If one is interested in finding out more, they can always contact me and I am happy to answer any questions. There is a great gansey group on Ravelry and we have a Facebook group.

Some people are continuing to finish their ganseys that were started last year and others are just now starting. Some have already completed three of them, and some are on their second. We have added the Faroe sweater to the project and those who took Mary Jane Mucklestone’s workhop at FisherFolk are working on their Faroe sweaters which are part of the project. We have woven labels for any hats that are completed including the Fishermen’s Keps that were started at FisherFolk, and printed canvas tags for those who finish their ganseys or sweaters. I am working hard now to complete my gansey for my son Nate and then make one for my daughter and son-in-law. We are a small town, but the project is really just getting going and would be nice to see it move throughout the state, and to wherever it naturally flows, and that its mission for honoring harvest, heritage and handknits would continue in whatever form that takes.

Next … in light of what was said above, I am still very much in the midst of this and with the knitting world moving so quickly these days from one thing to the next, I actually want to savor this. I want to enjoy finishing knitting this project for my son and focus and think of him as I knit all the love I can into his gansey. I don’t want to miss this opportunity to treasure this time and this project. Time is already moving so fast for me, and what is next after that are the next couple of ganseys I would like to knit for my family and just getting and keeping the shop in order. I am actually not sure what the next retreat will be. It will be smaller and perhaps with just one or two instructors. I am awaiting the next inspiration and tap on the shoulder. There are instructors we would like to have come to our area, and always so much more to learn, but for now after this FisherFolk event, we need to allow what we have learned to percolate, and take and put our new learning into use, and that takes time.

I believe also that this is a component of slow fashion, to appreciate what we have before us without feeling the pressure to keep up with an ever-changing world, as if we might be missing something, or as if what we have or even what we are doing in our craft life is not or never enough, and that even though it is important to take time to do our very best and to be thoughtful in our creative lives, we must remember to keep in perspective that the objects themselves are simply a vehicle for expressing our love and care for those we love and care for, and it is the people who wear and use these things that we value most of all.

Craftlands: Cordova, Alaska
Dotty on a hike to Crater Lake, with her Cordova Gansey Project backpack

PREVIOUSLY in Craftlands: Knitting With Company

All photos © Kathy Cadigan, used with permission

WIPs of the Week No.7 (and fun new stuff!)

WIP of the Week No.7: Kelsey

I’m going to say I’m at a loss for words and then proceed to write quite a lot of them, but I guess what I mean is that I’m not in possession of the right words to describe what the Top-Down Knitalong has been like. I’ve talked a lot about the amazing attitudes on display, but the variety and creativity is also well and truly remarkable. Participants have ranged from sweater novices to sweater aficionados who’d never done top-down to published sweater-pattern designers scratching a creative itch. The sweaters run the gamut from classic stockinette pullovers to elaborate colorwork and cables, and in every shape and proportion imaginable. (Check out the clever construction on this and this, for example.) And the stories! The sweater designed by her 10-y-o; the dude who said “I would totally wear this” and is getting one of his own; the top-down dog sweater; great-grandma’s yarn … If I were to try to post a highlight reel here, it would be hundreds of sweaters long — truly every single sweater deserves acclaim, and the whole thing is such a reward for time spent perusing it, both on Instagram and on Ravelry. Alas, I have two final bonus prizes to award, and picking them was both simple and impossible.

Above is the honey-colored cable sweater by Kelsey, who is @kelseyknits on Instagram and kelseyknits on Ravelry. She was so excited about her swatches she cast on a couple days early and has been one of the stars of the show ever since. There haven’t been many days when her latest pic wasn’t in the Top Posts section of the #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed, so in love has everyone been with her progress. She’s said she wanted to get outside her comfort zone with both the color and the deployment of the cable patterns on her top-down raglan, and I’d say it paid off! Kelsey, you’ve won 7 skeins of Father from YOTH Yarns, gorgeous US-grown and -milled Rambouillet, in the in-stock color of your choosing. Drop me an email at and we’ll discuss how to get it to you!

WIP of the Week No.7: Orlane

And the remaining prize goes to Orlane, who is @tete_beche on Instagram and orlane on Ravelry (and the creator of the Textured Shawl Recipe I’ve knitted three times and explicated here). Orlane’s sweater is undeniably beautiful, but it gets better and better the more you know and the closer you look. She’s French and used some gorgeous farmy yarn from Brittany, one skein of which she avocado-dyed. She smartly didn’t start the colorwork until just below the neck join, then stuck with simple geometric repeats centered within the stitch counts between the raglans. My favorite detail, though, is not just the folded hem (which I’m totally into right now) but the fact that she gave it a striped facing. It’s amazing from start to finish. Orlane, you’ve won the 15 skeins of small-batch California-grown Range from A Verb for Keeping Warm in your choice of Lighthouse and/or Quartz colorways! Please email me at with your choice and mailing address!

Both have amazing IG feeds and tons more pics of their sweaters all along the way, so make sure you click through and check them out.

I want to say a huge thanks again to all of our prize donors: Shibui, Purl Soho, Brooklyn Tweed, O-Wool, Woolfolk, Kelbourne Woolens, A Verb for Keeping Warm and YOTH Yarns. You’ve been amazingly generous!

And I want to congratulate all of the WIP of the Week winners and, truly, every single person who took on this challenge. The knitalong doesn’t end here — all four panelists are still knitting and so are countless others — so keep using that #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 tag to share. If you’re following my tutorial, please link your Ravelry project to the Improv sweater pattern page so I can see. And I want to say again I’m truly so inspired and in awe of all of you. You’ve taught me so much about being a brave and determined knitter, and you’ve done the knitting community proud with all of the support and advice and camaraderie you’ve provided each other along the way. It’s been an honor! And I mean it: keep it coming! (I’ll do my best to keep up, but Slow Fashion October also starts tomorrow! So please understand I’ll be juggling.)


New at Fringe Supply Co: bling, cleaner and wax for your beloved Field Bag

We’ve got some really fun stuff in the webshop today: bling, canvas cleaner, canvas wax, and even a small number of Field Bags to apply them all to! (More next week, universe willing.) Click through for details on all of those items, since this post has gone on long enough!

Happy weekend, everyone — see you tomorrow here and over at @slowfashionoctober!


PREVIOUSLY in Top-Down Knitalong: Let’s talk about underarms

Queue Check — September 2016

Queue Check — September 2016

Since last month’s Queue Check, I’ve finished the black Linen Quill cardigan, sidelined the purple tutorial sweater until winter weather warrants its completion, and decided to scrap my Pebble cable sweater in favor of stripes! In the time between putting the cable sweater on hold and eventually deciding what to do instead, I worked on the first sleeve of my Channel Cardigan (top, in Clever Camel*), which is just absolute heaven. The yarn is heaven in the palm of your hand; the fabric is magical to watch develop; the knitting looks as if it’s already been blocked, it is so perfect and gorgeous; the stitch pattern was easily memorized long ago, so it’s easy to pick up and put down at any time. I mean, every stitch of it is paradise — to the point that I briefly considered starting over in the lighter shade of camel, but Jen talked me out of it last weekend. As much as I want to be wearing it, I could happily knit this sweater forever.

Which is part of how I came to realize I had a problem with the ivory cable sweater. Every time I got a few minutes to knit at night, I reached for the Channel. Obviously it’s incredibly hard to compete with, right?, as end-o-day knitting experiences go. But I felt like my knitalong sweater should be something I wanted badly enough that it did compete for my attention. Well, I’m happy to report that this striped Improv sweater (bottom, in Pebble) is every bit as satisfying. This yarn, in stockinette? How many is too many times to use the word paradise in one post? Watching the stripes develop is just as fun as the cables. It’s going faster because of the difference in gauge. And I am SO HOT TO WEAR IT. I cannot wait to have this one, and am definitely reaching for it over Channel, so I’m feeling very very good about that decision to start over. Even if it did put me in jeopardy of being the last panelist to finish!

As much as I’m trying to not to think beyond these two sweaters right now — since it will likely be Thanksgiving before Channel is done — I’ve had an advance look at a collection coming out very soon that makes my brain hurt it’s so good. There is one cardigan in particular that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about for weeks, since I saw a snapshot from the photoshoot. In the final images, I can see it’s not the same shape I guessed it was from that glimpse, but it will be when I make it! I’ll be able to tell you more about it soon. But if my unwavering fixation is any evidence, that would seem to be next in my queue.

*By the way, Clever Camel is back in stock and Jones and Vandermeer have renewed the discount offer. Use code FRINGE at checkout on their site for 10% off Clever Camel through October 15, 2016.


PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: August 2016

Make Your Own Basics: The sweater vest

Make Your Own Basics: The sweater vest

I’m not sure why they’re so controversial, but in my view a sweater vest is an absolute closet staple. As a lifelong fan of androgyny and tomboy style, I love a vest over a shirt, but love it even more over a sleeveless top or dress. But best of all is its ability to go both under and over things at the same time — it’s a layer-lover’s best friend, in other words. Obviously when it comes to patterns, I feel pretty good about my own Anna Vest (top), which evolved from a vintage British military-man’s pattern. (See my latest favorite FO here. Love how she styled it.) I’m also a fan of my friend Kate Gagnon Osborn’s stockinette Cadillac Mountain (middle) with garter rib edgings. And for a pullover that has that classic borrowed-from-the-boys feeling, I’m into Blacker Designs’ free pattern called simply V-Neck Sleeveless Tunic. Can’t go wrong with any of ’em.

I would even go so far as to argue that a fair isle vest is a wardrobe basic! Even though I’ve never owned on, it’s one of those items that always looks fascinating and timeless, no matter where the trends might take us. I like Ysolda Teague’s Bruntsfield, Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Voe Vest and Yoko Hatta’s #05 Fair Isle Vest, to name just a few.


PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The t-shirt