Queue Check — September 2017

Queue Check — September 2017

Last month I declared that September would be finish-it month — an attempt to prevent myself from casting on anything new before doing my Fall wardrobe planning. Then I promptly cast on something new, the cardigan pictured up top (details here). I did make progress on the purple sweater (from the top-down tutorial) — just the last sleeve to knit, once the humidity goes away and I can stand to be near it. And I also finished the two tees that were awaiting their top-stitching, and ticked off a few other bits from the fix-it list. But I’ve still not lengthened the black cardigan, and I have abandoned the grey one altogether. It’s just too much apathy to bear.

So the vanilla cardigan (another Improv) is sailing right along. I’m about 7″ into the long slog of the body, another 9″ or so to go, and rather than setting it aside and finishing the sleeves first, like I often do, I’m eager to finish the whole body, the button band and possibly even the pockets before I knit the sleeves. I’ll tell you more about that down the road — still mulling the details. Happily, this spontaneous cast-on fits right into my fall/winter plans, so no regrets!

And then there’s that grey swatch up there, what? During the Summer of Basics I got a little obsessed with all the Cline sweaters everyone was making — especially this one (click to the second pic) and this one. I found out a couple of friends were casting on, and that Fancy Tiger and Drygoods Design are co-hosting a Junegrass knitalong, and I got sorely tempted. Cline is designed by my friend Julie Hoover, and it’s honestly not one that earned my affection when she first released it. It fits the model in the exact way clothes tend to hang, tent-like, on my scarecrow shoulders — the fit I spend my life in avoidance of. But then it was so cute on so many other people and I started wondering if there’s any way it might look ok on me. Through Julie’s kindness (and that of a stranger), I was able to try on a sample while I was in Denver to make jeans, and it’s surprisingly cute on me, although I’ll need to lengthen the sleeves and watch the neck width. So I came home and swatched for it with my Junegrass (batch 1; there’s now a batch 2), and I’m pretty sure that’ll be my next cast-on. (In which case I’ll be twinning with Jess!)

So much stockinette.

Happy weekend, everyone! If you require anything from Fringe Supply Co., we’re always here for you, and I’d love to hear what you’re working on!

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: Reader, I cast on

 

Fall ’17 wardrobe planning, part 2: Closet inventory

Fall closet inventory
Fall closet inventory

So I mentioned on my Fall Mood post yesterday that, having gotten my sartorial feet back under me, so to speak, I’ve been starting to have a little more fun getting dressed again. Yesterday I talked a bit about color seeping back into the mix, which you can see above, and the other aspect of that is what I referred to as “curve balls” — by which I just mean putting things together in odd or unexpected ways.

I am no Cary and Jenna — as much as I admire their reckless abandon when it comes to pattern and color. But I do like to mix things up, even in my own minimalist-leaning ways. For example, camo is my favorite print on earth because, in addition to being neutral and going with just about anything, it’s fun to mess with. When I bought the seemingly dressy, black silk Elizabeth Suzann Artist Smock in February, I wasn’t convinced I loved it enough to keep it … until I put it on with my camo pants and silver shoes, at which point there was no giving it back. I bought a pair of Ace&Jig pants this summer — black and white, being me — and my favorite thing is to wear them with my snake-print ballet flats. Even just throwing in a tan shoe where a black one would have been the obvious choice, and vice versa, can make an outfit feel more me, more idiosyncratic. More amusing. Sometimes it means I’m wearing something others might find confusing, but if it makes me feel good, out the door we go — that is all I care about.

I’m feeling really good about the clothes I’ve made over the past year — as if I’ve really hit my stride as both a chooser and a maker — and although they are very straight, I feel like they all lend themselves to the odd combos and to the days when I just feel like playing it straight. And meanwhile, I’ve bought a few pieces that raise the quirk quotient.

It feels really premature (in the unrelenting heat) to be putting together this inventory of my fall and winter selects, while many of the clothes from my summer list will continue to play a starring role for the next few weeks — more about that tomorrow. But anyway, here’s what I’ll have to work with over the coming months:

SWEATERS
camel cardigan
yoke sweater
striped raglan pullover
fisherman sweater
black cardigan
grey wool “sweatshirt” (sewn, wool knit)
purple cardigan
black lopi raglan
– boiled wool pullover (J.Crew 2014)
– shrunken cotton fisherman (L.L. Bean c.2010 but still available)
– cashmere turtleneck (J.Crew c. 2009)
cowichan-style vest
black Anna vest
grey vintage waistcoat
Sloper turtleneck

It’s astonishing to me how different this is from last year at this time, when those first four sweaters didn’t yet exist, nor did the grey pullover. Having them all in my closet, waiting for fall to arrive, feels like a major wardrobe windfall. And going through this process, I’m feeling extremely good about my decision to cast on the vanilla cardigan. The grey turtleneck is on its last legs, but I’m hoping to squeeze in a few more wears this year. The next thing I cast on, though, will be a simple grey pullover.

TEES/TOPS
black muscle tee (see also black gauze version)
striped muscle tee
– grey sleeveless tee (Everlane, no longer available)
white linen shell
– dotted chambray tunic (Endless Summer, made by a friend)
– plaid top (me-made, never blogged)
– silk smock (Elizabeth Suzann)
chambray button-up
– plaid cotton flannel shirt (Uniqlo c. 2011)
– plaid wool flannel shirt (Fischer, 2015)

I still need to make another version of my black sleeveless top that’s longer in the front, for layering. And I’m planning to make another flannel shirt for myself this year — another Archer — but looking over the lineup here, I don’t feel any urgency about any other tops at the moment. Although I’m still itching to bring the big-pleated top idea to life. Oh, and I already have the sleeveless tee cut out of the same grey wool knit as the “sweatshirt” pictured, so that will definitely get sewn together soon, perfect for winter layering.

STATE SMOCKS
I’ve been stalking the State Smock releases since we still lived in California, so at least four years, and can never spot one that’s right for me that isn’t already sold. That is, until last month (while I was piecing together the interview with Adrienne) when I scored both an olive drab one and a pale pink one; and then while I was in Denver, I managed to get a white one. I don’t know what it is, but it is the most magical garment ever. If I’ve had the olive one for 50 days, let’s say, I’ve worn it for all or some of at least 30 of them. The pink one gets worn mostly around the house, while sewing, etc. And I expect to wear the crap out of the white one forthwith. I would happily wear one every day of the year. These guys have really given me whole new ways to wear my existing clothes — more on that tomorrow.

JEANS
– threadbare jeans (Old Navy c. 2013)
– natural denim jeans (Imogene+Willie, made in US, 2016)
handmade jeans
– dark cropped jeans (J.Crew Point Sur, made in US, 2016)

I am well-stocked in the jeans department. There are the faded jeans pictured plus the visibly mended pair, both of which are perilously fragile and need more shoring up, but that’s the color of denim I want to be wearing right now: super faded. The natural jeans are great. The handmades are my all-time favorites — nicest and best-fitting pair I’ve ever owned — and the only way to get them to fade is to wear them. A lot. Hopefully the dark denim will seem more appealing once cold weather is upon us. And in addition to the J.Crew jeans pictured, I also have my dark denim Imogene+Willie jeans. (The ones that went to Paris with me.) Definitely no needs here.

PANTS
– b/w patterned pants (Ace&Jig Derby in Highland, no longer available)
olive pants
– camo pants, heavily mended (Gap c.2009)
– wide-leg khakis (J.Crew, 2016)

This makes it look like I have a well-rounded pants collection at the moment, but: the Ace&Jig pants will feel much too thin and flimsy in just a few weeks; the olive pants got ruined in the wash; the camo pants are also perilously fragile and my most beloved ever, so I’m wearing them sparingly; and I don’t wear the khakis very much. The olive “toddler pants,” as I call them, are really the only thing I want to wear right now, so my plan is basically to make four pairs that will replace what you see here: a natural canvas pair, denim, wool herringbone, and camo. Those will get me through the winter, and they’re clearly the most urgent items on my make list right now.

Tomorrow: outfits!

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PREVIOUSLY in Fall 2017 Wardrobe: Mood

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The Details: Folded neckband

DETAILS: How to knit a folded neckband

Any time I make anything, I make a lot of decisions along the way — some of them quite minute. The more I knit, the more comfortable I am with the basic functions of knitting, the more attention I find myself paying to little tiny tweaks or details or finishing tricks. I revel in making things as polished as possible, including on the inside. (Even though I often unapologetically leave ends hanging around inside!) I try to share as much of my thinking as I can because you never know which little detail might be exactly the thing someone was wanting to know or didn’t even know to wonder about — I always appreciate that in reading about people’s projects. But it means I wind up trying to pack too many thoughts into every FO post, and a lot gets left out. So I’m starting a new series called The Details, and my aim is to pull out (at least) one little detail per project to focus on in its own space.

I’m starting with the neckband on my fisherman sweater — or more specifically, the spot where the fold meets the pick-up ridge. This folded neckband was a little controversial in the comments the other day, but I am a big fan of a folded neckband. To me, it gives even (or especially) a simple pullover a really nice polish. It’s quite common and popular right now, but if you combine a slightly higher neckline with a folded band, it does have a bit of a retro look. This sweater comes by its retro neckband naturally — it’s a 1967 pattern — but I’ve done folded bands on my last 4 pullovers: fisherman, yoke sweater, b/w striped sweater and the purple Improv sample. It’s one of those choices you’re always free to make — if a pattern has a folded band and you hate it, don’t do it; if it has a plain band and you prefer it folded, go for it.

Over these four sweaters, I’ve been playing around with different techniques for accomplishing the same task. A folded band is just a band that’s twice the width of the plain band, folded in half and stitched down to the inside of the garment. (Although some patterns will have you knit the dead-center row on a larger needle, but I find it unnecessary.) It’s best knitted from picked-up stitches, so you have that pick-up ridge to sew it to, but beyond that there are options. Technically, you can do whatever you want, as long as you’re careful to retain some elasticity where you’re sewing the two together. (Just like binding off too tightly on a plain band can make it difficult to get over your head, you have to be careful not to stitch a folded band down so tightly that the neck hole has no give.)

Some patterns call for you to bind off all of your stitches “in pattern” and then sew the bind-off edge to the inside. Other patterns will have you knit to the intended depth and then sew through the live stitches. That saves the step of binding off, but it means if you do make it a little too tight and the seam strand breaks when you pull it over head at any point, you’ve got live stitches on the loose. So I prefer to bind off all of the stitches, but you do need to do it verrrrry loosely so there’s plenty of stretch. I work the bind-off round (and sometimes even the round before that) on a needle 2 or 3 sizes up from my ribbing needle, and then use a separate strand of yarn for the seaming. The nice thing about sewing it down is the ribbing acts as a perfect guide — make sure you’re folding each rib down onto its own back side, and everything will be perfectly aligned all the way around.

But there’s the question of how you’re binding off and how exactly you’re joining the two edges. With this fisherman sweater, I found my absolute favorite mix of all the methods I’ve experimented with. I worked the bind-off row (on a size US8 needle after working the ribbing on US6) all as knit stitches, rather than in pattern, which leaves a visible chain along the edge of your ribbing. I love the way that bind-off edge looks when laid down next to the pick-up ridge — it’s like having a lovely bit of braid overlaying a join. To keep the neatness, I joined them together by running my tapestry needle down through the bottom leg of the stitch on top and the top leg of the stitch on bottom (the adjacent legs from each edge, in other words), pulling the yarn snug but not tight, then up through the next stitch and the bottom leg of the one above it, then back down through the next pair, and so on. It’s a lot like grafting — the seam yarn is basically invisible. I stumbled onto this out of a mix of haste and curiosity and it’s the neatest inside of a handmade neckband I’ve ever done. Will be my method of choice from now on.

p.s. If you’re wondering when I’m going to shop posting pics of this sweater, the answer might be never!

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Queue Check Addendum: Reader, I cast on

Queue Check Addendum: Reader, I cast on

I’m in Denver for the weekend, at Fancy Tiger, learning to sew jeans with Heather Lou from Closet Case. I feel a million times more confident about this after my Summer of Basics makes (button-down! pants!), but still, please send positive thoughts toward Colorado! I didn’t get to pull together an Elsewhere before I left (although there are a million links that are potentially new-to-you in the scroll) but I did manage to cast about and cast on for a new project, despite my solemn vow not to start anything until I finished my WIPs. If there was an office pool on this, I hope you were smart enough to bet against me.

HERE’S THE THING! A) None of those were suitable for travel. B) I can’t knit the grey thing. I just can’t. It has to go. C) I did work on the purple sweater, finished the body, but it is still too warm (even in air conditioning) to be anywhere near lopi. So the second sleeve will have to wait a minute.

So what did I cast on? The most vanilla sweater imaginable: an ivory V-neck, stockinette, top-down cardigan. This is the sweater my closet has been missing for several years, after I said goodbye to a beloved old Chanel-ish sort of boxy ivory crewneck one I wore with everything. Plus I can’t let go of this Arranmore and have been dreaming of a cardigan ever since I knitted a stockinette swatch while working out the details on my fisherman sweater. (Ok, truthfully, I’ve been dreaming of the same thing in black Arranmore ever since finishing my St. Brendan, and actually have conversations with myself about not lenghtening my existing black cardigan and knitting the black Arranmore one longer, so I can have both!) (I have “seek help” on my to-do list for after Denver.) This will be a very plain sweater, but richly and deliciously so, and I’m also scheming about some interesting pockets, so we’ll see. The first inkling of a top-down sweater is my favorite travel project, and I’m happy to have this one with me.

ASSORTED UPDATES:

– If you haven’t already done so, make sure to visit the blogs of Kelbourne Woolens, Grainline Studio and Fancy Tiger Crafts to see who won all the #summerofbasics prizes (in addition to the prizes I announced on Tuesday) and what the Kelbourne/Grainline/Fancy ladies made!

– I did hear back from Dress for Success of Houston and they are currently seeking not just women’s workplace-appropriate clothing, always, but also casual wear for Harvey recovery. (They’re doing a clothing drive tomorrow including kids’ and men’s clothes as well, but I’m not clear on whether they’re accepting those things after today.) Please make sure they’re clean, presentable, no holes or buttons missing or anything like that, and send to Dress for Success, 3310 Eastside Street, Houston TX 77098.

– And we’ve restocked a bunch of bestsellers that sold out during the recent SPLC fundraiser: bonsai scissors, wooden gauge rulers, bone repair hooks, many of the Bento Bags, Knitters Graph Paper Journal, Stowe Bag patterns, nearly all sizes/lengths/parts of the Lykke Driftwood needles …. the list goes on, and you can find all of that and more over at Fringe Supply Co!

I hope you, too, are doing something fun and challenging this weekend! I’m sure I’ll be sharing liberally about my jeans workshop on Instagram @karentempler for the next three days. Keep an eye on my Story, especially.

(Lykke Driftwood needles from Fringe Supply Co.)

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: August 2017

New Favorites: Massaman set

New Favorites: Massaman set

One of the first things I ever favorited at Ravelry, when I first learned to knit, is this “Charcoal set” by a knitter who goes by knittimo — a simple charcoal pullover and a little cowl knitted in the same yarn. I didn’t necessarily love the particulars of the cowl, but I loved the idea of a removable turtleneck, basically. I remember how charmed I was when I ran into it. (We were still living in the always-blustery Bay Area then, where protecting your neck is a daily must, year-round. Being able to remove the cowl once inside was immensely appealing.) In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen two different patterns released for a sweater with matching cowl, which brought that old favorite to mind. The one I an enamored with is Massaman by Elizabeth Smith, a sleeveless take on the same thought. You know I love a sleeveless turtleneck, but I also adore this little tee without its cowl. Having the cowl option, though, makes an already great layering piece that much more fun to play with. And it would be so fun and quick to knit …

Uh oh. I think I hear my resolve cracking.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Colorwork for minimalists

Before and After: Fisherman sweater redux

Before and After: Fisherman sweater redux
Before and After: Fisherman sweater redux

Happy Labor Day, for those in the US! I’ll have Summer of Basics highlights, thoughts and prize news tomorrow, but I couldn’t wait to show you the “after” pics of my fisherman sweater fix. (See my previous post for the original/full rundown.) I’m not sure how dramatic the difference is in the photos, but trust me: It’s no longer rippling around me; gone is the cape effect in the back, the rolls of fabric with nowhere to go; and it is a sweater instead of a tunic. Whereas before I was thrilled with it as a piece of knitting, now I’m thrilled with it as a garment. Even my husband, the only other person to have seen it in person both before and after, took one look, nodded, and said, “It looks good now. You saved it.”

As I had postulated, I’d simply gone much too wide and a bit too long with it when I initially blocked the pieces. In the “before” (left) photos, it was about 43″ at the chest (8.5″ ease), 46″ at the hips (7.5″ ease), and roughly 26.5″ long. Which could be totally fine for a lighter, thinner sweater with less surface density, but was not working with this fabric. By giving the finished garment a nice long soak and then being more gentle in laying it out, it’s now more like 41″ in the chest (6.5″ ease), 44″ at the hem (5.5″ ease), and about 25″ long.

Before, it was not too terrible looking from the sides, definitely a little long in the front — just a bit too much of a good thing — but looked awful from behind. More to the point, I did not feel cute or comfortable (or even proud) in it. I felt swallowed. Thankfully it was easily fixed, without having to rip out a single stitch.

What is this sorcery, some of you will wonder? A piece of wet knitting is a like a lump of play-doh — you have a lot of power to mold it. In a case like this one, the broken-rib portions and and the raspberry stitch are fairly fixed in their widths, but the cables (just like lace) have quite a lot of give. When I first blocked the pieces, I had pulled them way open, making the fabric wider. Whereas in the reblock, I did not. It’s as simple as that. Likewise, rather than pulling at the length at all, or pinning it in place to dry, I gently coaxed it shorter as I laid it out, and left it free to pull up even more as it dried.

So it took only a few minutes of effort — and a couple days’ wait — and now I finally feel like I have the sweater I wanted all these years. That photo up top is of a dream come true.

See also: How do you block your finished knits?

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: The fisherman sweater

2017 FO-11 : The fisherman sweater (SoB-3)

Finished: The fisherman sweater (SoB-3)

The hardest part about making clothes, if you’re like me, is that when you’re done with them you have to put them on and have someone point a camera at you. Many are the times I feel I’ve done a disservice to a lovely garment due to my ineptitude as a “model,” but never more so than with this GLORIOUS fisherman sweater. My love, my holy grail. The reason I wanted to learn to knit. The garment I searched years for in shops and catalogs, then pored over patterns for another five+ years — between when I learned to knit and when I finally cast on. The sweater that’s been my constant companion for the past two-and-half months. Dearest Sweater: You deserve better than me.

So I’m being a little bit coy with the photos here because, basically, I blew it. Although, in fairness, we’re sort of both to blame — the sweater and me. In addition to my awkward self, the photos tell an unfortunate truth about the sweater, which is that there’s just a little too much of it. As a piece of knitting, it couldn’t be more stunning. But as a garment, it’s wide and droopy in the back, too long in the front, just a bit too big throughout the whole body. Schlumpy. (You’ll have to take my word for it.) But it’s fixable.

You may recall how obsessive I was being about the gauge and the proportions — blocking the first many inches of the back and the sleeve, doing my math, calculating for my perfect shape. I’m very particular about proportion, and the actual gauge and dimensions were a bit vague with this vintage pattern. A slight difference in how the gauge was measured could mean my version would be anywhere from fitted to enormous, and which of those it would be would determine how long I made it. (If it was going to be big, it could be on the long side, but if it was going to be fitted, I would make it shorter. I don’t like a long narrow tube of a sweater.) When the first half of the back blocked out to slightly wider than the XL dimensions given, I decided to go with it being oversized, while carefully controlling the upper sleeve dimensions so I wouldn’t appear to be drowning in it. And while the sleeves are fine, I am drowning in the body. Well, not quite drowning, but treading water a bit? And because the fabric is so dense, it matters. The good news is, I think it’s just that I blocked it too aggressively and may be able to fix it simply be reblocking it. It’s not very far from perfect, and if I can coax it a bit shorter, and resist laying it out quite as wide, that may be all that’s needed. It’s literally soaking as I type, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.

If that doesn’t solve it — if it requires surgery — I’m fully prepared to do it. I intend for this to be my forever sweater, and I love it way more than enough to get it absolutely right.

Finished: The fisherman sweater (SoB-3)

I do believe it was fate that kept throwing this pattern into my path over the past few years, and am eternally grateful to the sweet reader, Catherine K, who sent me the stack of vintage booklets that included the Bernat Book of Irish Knits, seemingly the most popular knitting booklet (and aran sweater pattern) in the history of knitting. I’m so happy I decided to take Summer of Basics as the excuse to finally knit my long-longed-for fisherman, very pleased with my choice of Arranmore for the yarn, so insanely glad that when I finally settled on a pattern it was this one, and I love that I wound up knitting it in its 50th anniversary year. There’s also some poetry to the fact that I charted out the stitches on the flight to Squam at the beginning of June, knitted my swatch on the dock there on a cool early-summer morning, cast on in the car on a trip to see my family, bound off in the car on a trip back from seeing Bob’s family, and did the seaming on my screened porch at home on our first pleasant waning-of-summer day. Now I just have to wait for the weather to wear it!

Pattern mods and details are below, but remember today’s the last day to submit for SoB prizes. If you haven’t already, take a look at the notes on how to enter to win! Judges will deliberate and winners will be announced next week.

FO : The fisherman sweater

Regardless of any of the above, this is the most spectacular thing I’ve ever made and it was really very simple, which I’ll write more about another day. I know it looks complicated, but it’s just a few very straightforward, easily memorized stitch patterns knitted ad nauseum, with a decrease at each end of the RS rows for the raglan shaping, and a standard bit of neck shaping. There’s really not much to it!

The only tweaks I made were as follows:

– It’s essentially the XL at the bottom and scales down a bit in the upper regions, so I started the front and back pieces (on US5 for the ribbing, then US7) with 122 sts but I decreased three times between the ribbing and the underarms, leaving me with 116 each (in between the L and XL) when I reached the underarms. (Note that one of the ways the XL gets its width is there are 2 extra sts between the side cables and the raspberry stitch, which I didn’t like, so that’s where I did 2 of my 3 decreases on the back, with the third at the selvages. For the front, I moved those two stitches to the broken rib. You can see this in the photo below if you look closely.)

– For the cuffs, I cast on 46 sts on US5, increased to 60 on the plain knit row before starting the stitch patterns, and only increased 10 times as I worked the sleeves, so I had 80 sts at the underarms (in between the M and L).

– That meant I had fewer broken rib stitches in my sleeves (10 at each edge) than my sides (14 each). In order for the stitch patterns to stay aligned correctly at the raglans, I just decreased the sleeves more slowly at first than the body, so I arrived at the last of the broken rib stitches on the same row, then decreased evenly (every RS row) on all pieces from there up.

– Because I had fewer stitches throughout at the beginning of the shaping, I only needed to work 64 rows of yoke instead of 68, which made my yoke slightly shorter and spared me the overly deep underarms seen in the pattern photo.

– I did fudge the decreases a bit on the last few rows, since decreasing within the raspberry stitch portions is not normal and not equal from one side to the other — was careful to make sure I worked the same number of rows between underarm and bind-off on all edges, and that I had the same number of sts in each sleeve top at the end. (I kept a few more than the pattern called for — 10 or 12, I think, instead of 8.)

– And then I made up my own neck shaping, since I didn’t like the original and had different stitch counts anyway, but I did keep it high and small like the original — wanted to keep that vintage look.

– I also bound off all stitches and picked up for the neckband — I don’t believe in knitting a neckband from live stitches. I picked up 84 on US6, worked in the half-twisted rib for more like 2.5″ (pattern calls for 3″), bound off on US8 needles and sewed it to the pick-up ridge.

Pattern: Bernat 536-145 from Bernat Book of Irish Knits (1967)
Yarn: Arranmore in St. Claire, 8 skeins
Cost: Free pattern (gift from a friend) + $112 yarn (paid wholesale price)  = $112

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

FO : The fisherman sweater

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: My first pants (SoB-2)