First of the Best of Fall 2017: Simple shapes and sweaters

First of the Best of Fall 2017: Simple shapes and sweaters

I started to type I’ve begun to think about Fall, but honestly, when am I not thinking about Fall? What I mean is I’ve begun to think in earnest about shapes — especially what shape I want my fisherman to be, and how I want to wear it in the near term. So naturally, I took a stroll through the Fall 2017 shows, which I hadn’t had a chance to do yet, and I am in love with the Elizabeth & James collection — so many lovely intersections of proportion and knitwear to be lingered over. Like the simple red mock-neck with slightly exaggerated skirt, the incredible cardigan-coat in grey and charcoal, and the chic little waffle sweater — the coolest long johns top ever — with narrow black pants. To name just a few.

First of the Best of Fall 2017: Simple shapes and sweaters

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Queue Check — June 2017

Queue Check — June 2017

I’m in Kansas right now — I came for a family reunion and have stayed for a funeral.* My eldest aunt, who had been ill for a very long time, succumbed just at the moment when eighty-something of us had already come from near and far to be together, which was characteristically polite and organized of her. May she rest in peace. So I’m about one-third of the way into the first sleeve of my Bernat fisherman sweater (in Arranmore) for the Summer of Basics and already there’s Squam dock time and this precious family visit knitted into it. And if that weren’t enough, this is the most joy I’ve ever gotten from two sticks and a ball of string. I crave it when it’s not in my hands and love working every stitch. (My top three Joy of Knitting projects — pure pleasure in the stitch patterns and the yarn in my hands — are this, Gentian and Channel.) Having charted out the vintage written-instructions pattern and seen what is happening, which is quite straightforward, I have no need to look at either the pattern or the chart and can just knit away at this happily, with just the right amount of brain detachment and engagement, watching the textures develop. It’s true love in every way.

I even made a tiny mistake in the very first cable cross, and left it, so that’s out of the way!

I did make some more progress on my so-called Summer Cardigan (in Balance) before casting on for the fisherman, but at this point it’s going to be impossible for it to get my attention. Hopefully the same won’t be true of my Archer shirt for #summerofbasics, which I plan to cut the muslin of this coming weekend.

*Hence the lack of response from me on Friday’s Q for You answers, but I have read them all and hope to respond when I have a chance — great conversation as usual.

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: May 2017

New Favorites: Summer sweaters

New Favorites: Summer sweaters

This might be a bit whiplashy — we were just talking about ski sweaters two days ago — but happy summer! Have you thought about knitting a little summer sweater? Lots of good patterns lately, but these especially have caught my eye:

TOP: 217s-06 from Pierrot Yarns is garter simplicity incarnate. I can’t find the pattern where they told me to look, but it seems to be just four squares (or two squares and two tubes, if you prefer) UPDATE: It’s been added to Ravelry since last I checked!

MIDDLE LEFT: Auger by Pam Allen is more garter goodness, this time in tank form (See also: Pam Allen’s linen tanks)

MIDDLE RIGHT: Monterey Tee by Kate Gagnon Osborn is a dressier option, with lace as ventilation

BOTTOM: Fog Cutter by Thea Colman is more of a San Francisco or rocky-coast-of-Maine sort of summer sweater

See also previous summer sweater pattern roundups here and here.

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QUICK SHOP NOTE: We’re still waiting for more of the full-size Lykke interchangeable sets, but the good news is the short-tip sets are here! (A set of 9 pairs of 3.5″ tips for making 16-24″ needles.)

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Colorwork plus

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Make Your Own Basics: The ski sweater

Make Your Own Basics: The ski sweater

This a funny installment to fall at the start of summer, but there’s still one more sort of archetypal sweater I think every closet could benefit from and thus want to include in Make Your Own Basics. For the sake of being able to give this entry a label — and taking a mainstream-consumer-historical point of view (as opposed to a knitting purist’s POV) — I’m going to classify it simply as “a ski sweater.” That’s a term that has for a long time been very loosely applied to a woolly, generally brightly colored sweater with some form of colorwork patterning either on the yoke or all over, which was common outerwear for the slopes before the high-tech outdoorwear craze — look at this vintage chic-ness with the matching hat — but which, more importantly, is a useful part of any wardrobe. Colorwork sweaters have roots in many different knitting cultures of the world, but are most closely associated with Fair Isle and the assorted Nordic traditions. As far as knitters go, I definitely think everyone should knit one of one sort or another!  And hey, if you want it in your fall/winter closet, summer is the time to cast on.

There are thousands of great patterns to choose from, but here are a few good options:

TOP: Dalis by Dianna Walla features Fair Isle-style bands of stranded motifs

MIDDLE LEFT: Dalur by Hulda Hákonardóttir is a fairly ornate Icelandic lopapeysa

MIDDLE RIGHT: Star Jumper by Oddvør Jacobsen is in the Faroese tradition

BOTTOM: Sigla by Mary Jane Mucklestone is sort of a pared-down lopapeysa with geometric punch

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PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: Loungewear

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Charting a course for my fisherman sweater

Charting a course for my fisherman sweater

I began the first of my Summer of Basics garments on the plane last Tuesday — in this case, not with a ball of yarn and knitting needles but with a Knitters Graph Paper Journal and a freshly sharpened Blackwing pencil. This is for the 1967 Bernat fisherman sweater — my choice for the sweater I’ve wanted for decades — and Step 1 was/is to convert the written instructions to a chart, so I can actually see what’s happening and make any necessary adjustments thereto. After an hour or two of converting words and abbreviations to marks on graph paper, I could see that the sleeve is just panels of raspberry stitch, one repeating cable motif, and what I believe will become broken rib with the underarm increases. What I haven’t puzzled out yet is why they took what became clear is a 12-row repeat and wrote it out as 36 rows, but I’m guessing it’s because the front/back center panel will prove to be a 36-row repeat and perhaps they meant to make sure you kept them aligned in some way that the pattern never ultimately specifies? I may never know. But anyway, I began with the simpler sleeve chart so I could have it to swatch with.

I’ve been thinking Arranmore might be the perfect yarn for me and this sweater. I do want it to be a classic ivory fisherman, but feel like the slight tweediness of the Arranmore (it has little flecks of tan and light blue) might be my friend in terms of long-term spots or discoloration. Plus I just really love this yarn, which I previously used for my black yoke sweater. So one morning, chart in hand, I sat on the dock at Squam and began to swatch.

The first swatch was on US8/5mm and the fabric was too loose for my liking, so I began again on US7/4.5mm, which is the swatch pictured above. As I knitted it, I thought the yarn might not be right for these stitches, as the fabric felt stiff and the cables looked underwhelming. (It’s such a weird cable.) I took it to class to show my students and we talked about how I plan to take my time, swatching with as many yarns and needles as it takes to find the right thing, given all I’ll be putting into this sweater and how long I’ve wanted it. Then I decided I might as well take the time to dunk the swatch and make sure I didn’t like it any better after blocking, and guess what: it’s pretty dreamy. This photo was taken while it was still damp, and I really should have taken a dry one to show you, but you’ll have to take my word for it — I can’t stop draping it around my arm.

That meant trying to sort out size and gauge as compared to the vintage pattern, which is rather short on the sort of details we’re used to these days. There’s no schematic, and the gauge is simply given as “11 stitches = 2 inches.” Eleven stitches of which of the many stitch patterns, we can’t know. Is it an average across the whole sweater? If anyone out there is an expert on the way things used to be done, I’d love to hear from you, but meanwhile that will have to be my assumption. If true, my gauge is slightly more compact at 6 stitches per inch, which means I’ll need to knit the XL and still come out with a sweater slightly smaller than intended — or figure out some tweaks to the patterning to compensate.

[UPDATE: A couple of commenters have said it would have been implied in those days that the stated gauge was for stockinette stitch — which tells a very different story than cables! But looking at the pattern’s stitch counts and finished circumference, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. For example, the XL (44-46″) calls for a 122-st CO for the back, which divided by 22″ is 5.5. (I.e., their “11 sts = 2 inches.”) Same for the other sizes. So it does seem to be the average gauge of the finished fabric and not taken from stockinette.]

On the flight home, I was too brain dead to do anything but stare at the swatch, my chart, and the photos I’d snapped of the pattern photo so that I could zoom in on them and try to sort out the details that aren’t present in the pattern itself. The swatch had me thinking even the smallest sleeve would be too big, and I was toying with the idea of eliminating two of the cables from the sleeve, leaving just one down the center of the arm. But as usual, it’s a good thing I was prevented from rushing in, since while staring at it all, I realized that would necessitate the same change along the sides of the body — a change I don’t want to make — AND the fully dry swatch is actually totally fine. Patience does pay off, even if it’s imposed.

So all that’s left is to commit to the investment it will be to do a yarn-eater like this in this particular yarn, but I feel like it will be more than worth it.

Charting a course for my fisherman sweater

ARMY PORTER NOTE: What remains from our starter batch of the army green Porter Bin, launched at the Squam Art Fair, will go into the webshop this Friday morning, June 16, at 9am Central Time — set your alarms!

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PREVIOUSLY  in Summer of Basics: My plan

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New Favorites: Whelk

New Favorites: Whelk

I keep telling myself I really need to make more things with sleeves (both sewn and knitted) but for the past few years, I’ve been dying to knit a sweater vest. Not a waistcoat — I’ve done that. A few times. — but a pullover vest. There’s an idea I’ve had in my mind a long time, and there’s Grille, and then Bue, and now there’s this fantastic Martin Storey pattern, Whelk. I’m showing you the kids’ version here because this photo is so darling, but it’s written for children through adult sizes, and is perfectly unisex. There’s something funny about essentially painting a bullseye on your own chest, but I just love it.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Crocheted slippers

A bevy of Slopers: highlights from the mini-knitalong

A bevy of Slopers: highlights from the mini-knitalong

It’s been so fun hosting this mini-knitalong for the Sloper sweater this month, as seen at #sloperKAL — and such a rainbow of results! We’ve got everything from hot pink to brown to denim blue (and many shades of grey, of course!). Stripes, solids, marls and texture. Turtlenecks, crewnecks and boatnecks. Linen, cotton, wool, you name it. And there are several people on their second or third one! Which makes me grin from ear to ear.

Here are a few of my favorite finishes,  although every sweater in the feed (WIP or FO) makes my heart melt a bit — thanks to everyone for knitting along!

TOP: @fabrickated has finished THREE this month — the photo up top is of her knitting a Sloper while wearing a Sloper! They are grey, hot pink and forest green with a contrast edge, and they’ve featured heavily in her fabulous #memademay outfit lineup, as you’ll see if you scroll through her feed. She layers them over dresses, under cardigans and jackets — with scarves, belted, on their own — and just generally shows off how versatile a garment it really is. Kate puts a shorter turtleneck on hers, so it can be worn either up (as in the hot pink photo link) or rolled down.

BOTTOM LEFT: @hellomister also put a shorter mock turtleneck on her adorable green Sloper. And how cute is this whole outfit? I love a Sloper over a shirt or tee, and stripes poking out of anything is always a good idea.

BOTTOM RIGHT: @mmlemichl got clever with her cheerful yellow crop top. Instead of binding off 3 sts for armhole shaping, she cast on three for more of a box top. She also gave it a big wide neck. (I’m eager to see how @tananose’s V-neck version of this turns out.)

Of course, it’s never too late to cast on! The Sloper pattern is free here on the blog, along with all sorts of adaptation ideas and guidance, and I always want to see what you make of it, no matter when. So please continue to use the #sloperKAL tag on Instagram and link your Ravelry projects to the pattern page.

(If anyone missed my linen V-neck version, that’s here!)

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PREVIOUSLY: Sloper: Basic pattern for a sleeveless sweater