The case of the unfinished cardigan

The case of the unfinished cardigan

I keep thinking I’m right on the brink of being able to do an FO post about my blue Bellows sweater, but instead today I’m giving you the UFO version. Reader, I shelved it.

This is a classic case of “so near, and yet so far.” The sleeves and body were finished two weeks ago. I got more yarn for the collar, calculated my mods, then labored over that for a few nights last week, wrestling this blue wool octopus in my lap. This weekend was one of those rare cases where I actually had a couple of hours each on Saturday and Sunday that I could choose to spend knitting or sewing. Saturday, I dutifully finished up the collar. Sunday, I started setting in the sleeves. And as I was doing it, I went from thinking about how many other things I should be doing with that time (namely, the hats), to how many other things I wanted to be doing right then (uh, making myself a new pair of pants), to how absolutely devoid I am of any notion of what to wear this with. I’ve been saying all along that I imagined it would mostly get worn with leggings and slippers on the couch on bitter cold nights, and that’s all well and good. But I’m having to face the actual, stark reality that, other than couchwear, nothing. Blank. Nada single outfit in mind.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s a killer sweater. It’s both bigger and bulkier than my first Bellows. I love my mods, and it seems like it will fit exactly as I intended. It’s just a surprisingly odd shade of blue. Beautiful, but odd. In my head, it’s the same light blue of the sample sweater. But in reality, it has green and purple undertones that make it weirdly hard to pair with anything else in my closet. It would be ok with ultra-faded denim … if I had any. With the dark denim I actually own, it seems kind of dour. (At least right now; that combo might seem fine next fall. Fingers crossed.) And it’s somehow just slightly off with everything else.

Given that the window is just about closed on it for this year anyway — I mean, there might be another day or two before spring officially arrives — I started genuinely resenting the precious time I was spending on it. So I stopped and assessed. The sleeves are set in and look fantastic. Still to do are seaming the sleeves and the sides, sewing down the pocket linings, giving it another full-sweater blocking to settle the collar and seams, weaving in the ends, and sewing on buttons. And at that point, I said to myself, “Self, put it away.” You can finish it and figure it out next year.

This is not like me — I live to cross things off of lists. Having an open item like this is enough to keep me awake at night for the next eight months. But I feel good about this decision. I’m putting this guy and the purple lopi sweater (still awaiting its refashion) into the closet, folded neatly and out of the way. And I’ve made a note on my calendar in October to pull them out and get them ready for the return of the cold weather. I can imagine how excited I’ll be to have two near-sweaters waiting for me then, like a gift.

Bellows pattern by Michele Wang in limited-edition yarn from Harrisville Designsall Bellows posts

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PREVIOUSLY in Projects: The February hats project

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Beyond New Favorites: Marlisle

Beyond New Favorites: Marlisle

The most astonishing thing about knitting — this thing people have been doing for centuries! — is that not only is there always more to learn, but there are still clever people coming up with new ways do things all the time! New shaping and construction methods, smoother increases/decreases, original stitch combinations and motifs. You can argue that there’s actually nothing new under the sun — that every idea has been had before; maybe we just don’t know about it. But it doesn’t matter! It’s the constant flow of creativity that thrills me. And Anna Maltz’s new book, Marlisle: A new direction is knitting, is a superlative example. The book released on Saturday (our copies are going quickly!) and I can’t remember being so excited about a brilliantly simple idea or a collection of patterns.

It occurred to Anna (aka @sweaterspotter) awhile back that if you were knitting with two yarns held together — creating a marl — and you dropped one of them from time to time, carrying it as a float in the back for a few stitches, you could suddenly do all sorts of intriguing things, with none of the fuss of intarsia. She calls the idea “marlisle” — marl crossed with Fair Isle — and it first appeared on her Humboldt sweater, which has been in my queue ever since. With this new book, though — and the 11 patterns it contains — she’s really pushing the envelope, and applying the idea in a variety of ways. There are simple but very effective applications like the hat above, Hozkwoz, or the cover sweater, Midstream, with vertical stripes up the front and back. There are slightly more complex ones, such as the drop-dead stunning yoke sweater, Trembling, with its 3D facet motif. And there’s the incredibly meticulous pair of mittens, Delftig, with an intricate tile-like design achieved by alternating between holding one color, the other, or the two together. So she’s covered a range of surface designs — from bold and graphic to allover flame patterning to gingham and plaid and trompe l’oeil effects, and used them on everything from hats and cowls to shawls and sweaters. The whole thing is truly stunning, and I’m sooooo excited and inspired by it all. I cannot wait to cast on.

You can see all of the patterns at Ravelry and order a copy at Fringe Supply Co. (Our stack is dwindling but we’ll have more any minute!) There’s a fresh interview with Anna on the East London Knit podcast, and you can also read more about the Ricefield Collective here and her appearance in Our Tools, Ourselves here.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Colorwork mitts

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Idea Log: The pre-Spring sweater

Idea Log: The pre-Spring sweater

Of all my Yarns in Waiting, the one grunting at me most impolitely from the shelf is that skein of bright green Andorra from late last year, and as it happens, I’m also in the mood for some color — especially all of the greens — as we head toward Spring. I was originally thinking this one might become an old-school, oversized, V-neck sweater vest with wide ribbing at the neck and armholes. I still really like that idea, but somewhere along the line — probably due to the mohair content of the yarn — a slightly retro little pullover wandered into my thinking. I have in mind that my next pair of toddler pants will be made with the more tailored fit of my camo pair combined with a slightly straighter, narrower, longer leg. And I like the idea of these two shapes together, especially with flat boots for transitional weather. The shape of the sweater is not entirely unlike my lopi version, but more fitted and much lighter fabric, which I would be hoping is enough to offset the warmth of the mohair.

It popped back into my mind again last week after I posted that insane Sacai sweater/dress mashup. I was studying the sweater part of it thinking I wannnnt that … and wondering if maybe my little green mohair sweater needs some cables. And then along came Francis in the comments, saying it reminded her of Julie Hoover’s Hatcher pattern, which I’d somehow completely forgotten about, even though I’ve tried it on! So now I’m picturing something in between all of these things …

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PREVIOUSLY in Idea Log: Cocoon cardigan

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New Favorites: Plain and Simple

New Favorites: Plain and Simple

Here’s one of those cases where I get a peek at an upcoming book and love the patterns so much I instantly order a big stack of copies for the shop. So today we have Pam Allen’s latest, Plain and Simple, in store and it’s also the focus of my current favoriting. The book includes 9 sweaters (6 pullovers and 3 cardigans) plus a hat and a cowl-like object, and all of the sweaters are of the sort that you can imagine having in your closet for years, dressing them up and dressing them down, wearing them until they’re too tattered to leave the house in. (The subtitle is actually “11 knits to wear every day.”) And yet they also run the gamut from stockinette to colorwork to cables and textures, so it’s a knitting cornucopia. These are my very favorites:

TOP: Birch — a statement yoke sweater

MIDDLE LEFT: Chestnut — a simple allover-cable cardigan

MIDDLE RIGHT: Oak — a reverse-stockinette classic

BOTTOM: Willow — gansey-inspired beauty

You can see the whole pattern set at Ravelry and pick up a copy of the book at Fringe Supply Co.!

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Geometric yokes

Best of the Best of Pre-Fall 2018: Sacai’s mad genius

Best of the Best of Pre-Fall 2018: Sacai's mad genius
Best of the Best of Pre-Fall 2018: Sacai's mad genius

This is actually the only collection I’ve looked at so far from Pre-Fall 2018, but I’m declaring Sacai the Best of the Best, because what could possibly outdo it? The whole thing is a nutty textile-nerd dreamscape, wherein classic suiting fabrics and buffalo checks and Nordic sweaters have cross-bred into insane hybridized garments so imaginative I wonder what the design team was smoking. While I love the idea of 4 sweaters being smashed into a single garment, I don’t necessarily love or want all of the end results — as much as I admire the vision and creativity on display. But some of it I do want. Badly. Like, I love the floor-length cable-sweater/white-cotton dress (look #31 if the links are wiggy) so much I want to renew my vows just so I can call it my wedding dress. (Definitely with the orange boots.) And I’d love to have the zip-up lopi/suit coat mashup outfit (#32) for my getaway ensemble!

I have no idea where I could ever go in look #20, but I might be trying to figure it out for the rest of my days. I mean …

Best of the Best of Pre-Fall 2018: Sacai's mad genius

PREVIOUSLY: Best of Spring 2018

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Queue Check — January 2018

Queue Check — January 2018

It’s been my goal for my blue Bellows that I would knit it start to finish (other than the partial sleeve-swatch) within the month of January. For two reasons: 1) I’d like to wear it. I have a bad habit of finishing sweaters just as it becomes too warm for them, and have to immediately put them away for next year. And 2) my sister and her family are going on a ski trip in March, and at Christmas I offered to knit them each a hat. In order to have any hope of having all four hats done on time, I’ve set myself a firm start date of Feb 1. Meanwhile, the cardigan is in jeopardy.

I was on track to have the back piece finished and bound off on Friday night, soaked and onto the blocking board before I went to bed, so it’d be dry and ready for next steps by Sunday morning. The collar on Bellows is a project unto itself, so it was imperative that I take advantage of a little window of opportunity Sunday morning to (at minimum) get the shoulders seamed and the collar stitches picked up, so I could knit that over the ensuing couple of evenings and be done on schedule. ALAS, at the last minute, I realized I should have been listening to the voice in my head that had been saying all night “this seems like a lot of fabric.” I am often smart enough to check stuff before bind-offs, and so just for good measure I spread the back out next to me on the couch and popped the unblocked front piece on top of it. And yup, I had gotten carried away the night before. I’d been dutifully pinning a marker on every 10th row, knowing the fronts were 60 rows from ribbing to underarm and thus that my sixth marker would mean I was ready to begin shaping. (Ref: Count, don’t measure.) And yet I’d knitted 70 rows. Did you know that marking your rows for easy tracking only works if you actually count your marks?

So I lost half of my Saturday to removing the bottom ribbing and first ten rows, and getting it back onto the needles before re-knitting the ribbing downwards. I thought this would be faster than ripping back 44 rows at the top and reknitting them on Saturday night, but that would have been the wiser move. Rookie mistake: I didn’t realize knit-purl rows aren’t so easy to rip upwards. In the end, fixing it this way took just as long and cost me a bunch of aggravation and a fair chunk of yarn. During which I also realized I might not have enough yarn for the collar anyway! So it’s not currently where I wanted it to be, and is now vulnerable to being shunted aside while I turn to the four-hats project.

Meanwhile, one of the hats is actually started — ostensibly the quickest one. It’s Lancet in charcoal-colored Quarry, and I say “ostensibly” because it’s a sort of annoying chart — wide and fussy and not predictable or memorizable — which could slow me down. But still, chunky gauge.

I’ll tell you about the whole set of four hats when I haven’t already gone on for three paragraphs about my 10 extra Bellows rows! And the other thing that has magically appeared during my time on my mini-stepper this month is most of another pair of my log cabin mitts, this time in cherished Hole & Sons leftovers from my vintage waistcoat a few years back. Mitts pattern imminent …

Unless any of the four hats prove conducive to mini-stepper knitting, the log cabin-while-exercising will continue into Feb.

Bellows pattern by Michele Wang in limited-edition yarn from Harrisville Designsall Bellows posts
• Lancet by Jared Flood in Quarry color Slate
• Log cabin mitts in Hole & Sons (no longer available, but see its cousin, Isle Yarns)
Lykke Driftwood needles from Fringe Supply Co.

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: December 2017

New Favorites: Geometric yokes

New Favorites: Geometric yokes

There was definitely an “it” sweater at Rhinebeck in October — dozens of beautiful versions of Caitlin Hunter’s Birkin pattern from Laine Magazine. There was one in particular — hay colored with bright bits of colorwork — that was utterly stunning and made me want one just like it. However, the standout sweater of the whole weekend for me — the one I haven’t stopped thinking about — was pre-release at the time. It was the sample of Beatrice Perron-Dahlen’s Tensho Pullover (top), which was being worn by Alexis Winslow, who had just finished modeling for the photos. Bea kindly sent me the pattern afterwards. Amber has just finished knitting a black version that is so good it hurts. (If I didn’t have this.) And there’s also now a Tensho hat. But in the meantime, it’s one of three starkly geometric yoke patterns to make it on my Favorites list:

TOP: Tensho Pullover by Beatrice Perron-Dahlen

MIDDLE: Winter Woven Sweater by Tomo Sugiyama is a Japanese pattern (i.e., just a one-size annotated chart) and I’m not sure if it’s available individually, but oh how I want one

BOTTOM: Kirigami by Gudrun Johnston is rendered in high-relief texture rather than colorwork

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TOTALLY UNRELATED: To those asking to test knit my log cabin mitts, I am furiously finalizing and assembling the pattern, in the hopes of publishing it next week. If there’s anyone hot enough for it that you’re ready to cast on immediately and can imagine having feedback to me by Sunday, I’ll be happy to send the raw text to a few of you for that purpose. Otherwise, everyone can expect to see it very very soon!

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Two-way hats

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