Q for You: Are you a sweater knitter?

Q for You: Are you a sweater knitter?

I know I’ve asked you all before what you knit the most of, but I have a very specific subset of that Q for You at the moment, which is: Are you a sweater knitter? [ETA: Pullovers and cardigans are both sweaters.]

Here’s why I ask. I haven’t made a scientific study of it or anything, but I would swear that in the course of the 5 years I’ve been paying attention, pattern collections and indie magazines and such have gone from being half or mostly accessories, with a few sweaters thrown in, to often being sweater collections with a couple of accessories thrown in, if even that. (And socks are definitely more scarce than they once were.) It has me wondering whether that’s the bias of the people putting them together, or whether there’s evidence that people are really that much more interested in sweater patterns than anything else these days. I know there are new sweater knitters joining the ranks every single day, but I would still assume there are far more accessory knitters than sweater knitters roaming the earth. So how to explain the shift in the collections? If I’m right about that. And I really believe I am! Or maybe it’s a pendulum swinging back where I wasn’t around for its previous swing the other direction?

So this is not just a Q but a PLEA to the thousands of you reading this post, will you take two seconds to leave a comment either saying Yes (I am a sweater knitter) or No (I’m not a sweater knitter)? If you have the time and the will, I’d love to hear more — if no, do you want to be; if yes, is it all you knit. Sometimes, always, never. Whatever you want to tell me! But please, I’m dying to know—

Hi, my name is Karen, and I am a sweater knitter.

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Oh, and for aspiring sweater knitters, see: Pullovers for first-timers (an introduction to sweater construction) and Cardigans for first-timers

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s in your Field Bag?

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

When knitalongs breed patterns

When knitalongs breed patterns: Two great Cowichan-style cardigans

There was a certain irony, during the Top-Down Knitalong, in seeing people who were engaging in knitting without a pattern (in most cases for the first time) being asked repeatedly about their sweaters, “Are you going to publish the pattern?” “Please publish the pattern!” And (irony aside) I’m really excited about how many patterns will, apparently, be coming out of that knitalong. But these things take time, and what I am pleased to tell you in the meanwhile is that two patterns (that I know of) also came out of the previous year’s knitalong, the Cowichan-style Knitalong, both of which have been released in recent months:

TOP: West Coast Cardigan by Jane Richmond
Jane is an extremely popular pattern designer, and one of my first favorites when I took up the craft, so I was thrilled when she jumped into that knitalong, sharing that it was her first time doing stranded colorwork! Rather than knitting a vest, she opted to knit more of the classic zip-front jacket — albeit top-down raglan rather than drop-shouldered. Demand for the pattern ensued, followed by a year or so of pattern-writing and testing all that, and it’s now the subject of its own knitalong. The pattern also includes blank charts if (like me) you’re wanting to create your own motifs.

BOTTOM: Watkins by Whitney Hayward
Whitney (most recently noted for Stone Wool) also opted to knit a cardigan that was a huge crowd-pleaser, while being a little more loosely Cowichan-inspired. This one is bottom-up seamless, with a more traditional shawl-collar — and a steek! — and is bulky gauge rather than superbulky, so some might find it a little more wearable.

I can’t see any reason why I shouldn’t knit one of each!

To learn about Cowichan sweaters, see: the full Cowichan-style knitalong scroll

UNRELATED SHOP NEWS: We’ve got the new issue of Koel Magazine; the new KnitWit with article by yours truly; the latest volume of Brooklyn Tweed’s Capsule books, by Michele Wang; a fresh stack of Jared’s book; the newly repackaged Stowe Bag pattern; all five colors of the Field Bag in stock at the same time, along with Porter Bins; a new batch canvas wax and cleaner (sold separately) … the list goes on! Find it all at Fringe Supply Co.

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New Favorites: Unexpected cables

New Favorites: Unexpected cables

The book and magazine scene has been pretty great lately, with several worthy collections having been released in just the past week or so. Of all the knitting patterns they collectively contain, two I’m stuck on involve rather unexpected use of cables:

Hague by Michele Wang is from her fantastic new Capsule collection (now in the webshop). I’m super smitten with that allover ridge texture and surprised how well the cables work in combination with it. Sadly, boatneck and drop-shoulder are two no-no’s on my frame or I’d be struggling not to knit this immediately! I might still find a way …

Eldingar by Courtney Cedarholm is from the Winter 2017 Amirisu (which we’re unfortunately already sold out of). It’s inspired by the colorwork yokes of lopi sweaters, translating that into a yoke encircled in large cabled diamonds that then zigzag down the body (although I might be inclined to skip that part and keep it to the yoke).

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Colorwork practice

Best of the Best of Pre-Fall 2017: Joseph

Best of the Best of Pre-Fall 2017: Joseph

It’s good that the Fall 2017 collections will be starting in about 10 minutes, because I’m fairly underwhelmed by the Pre-Fall ones. Not surprisingly though, Joseph is once again at the top of my list of exquisite knits (alongside incredible woven pieces with all the giant patch pockets I love). Just look at those incredible long layers up top, the exaggerated turtleneck and impeccable cardigan in the middle, and then the long rib-knit tunic and pants paired with that exceptional pink coat. Nevermind how unwearable those pants are, I want it all. But especially that army sweater-coat.

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PREVIOUSLY in Pre-Fall 2017:

Idea Log: Cowichan-style cardigan, take two

Idea Log: Cowichan-style cardigan, take two

Speaking of colorwork and my desire to do it more regularly, there’s a sweater idea I want to put a(nother) pin in for 2017 — a cardigan I’m pretty much never not thinking about. It’s partially the J.Crew sweater from my last Idea Log of 2015, which has been taped up next to my closet door ever since, and part Andrea’s vest from the Cowichan KAL, and part this sweater seen on Nashville leather-goods maker Annie Williams (photo by my friend Melody who shares space with Annie). Over time they’ve mashed up in my head into the sketch above. It was one of my many concept sketches for the Top-Down Knitalong, but it seemed wrong to do another Cowichan-inspired sweater for that. (And I’m so happy with the direction I went!) But like I said, this one is always on my mind. Hopefully some version of it will be on my needles before the year is out.

(Fashionary sketch templates from Fringe Supply Co.)

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PREVIOUSLY in Idea Log: Three easy (Kayne-style) pieces

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