Category Archives: I knit

I spy with my wandering eye…

I have a whole whack of knitting projects underway already, but most if not all of them are great swathes of stockinette, either in the round or flat. It’s a little…dull. And I’ve been eyeing my Ravelery queue for something new.

1. Tatara. How amazing are these fingerless gloves from Brooklyn Tweed’s new Capsule collection? These are way up the queue, not least because I lost my favorite handknit (black cashmere!) fingerless gloves when we were in Iceland. In fact, I may run up to Purl at lunchtime today and pick up a skein of Loft so I can get going on them.
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2. I have two lopapeysurs started already, but I planned those before I came across the Modern Lopi book and became a little obsessed with Rúntur and its very cool inside-out yoke. I’ve always liked sweaters that showcase the “wrong” side of colorwork, but I’ve never made one. I do recognize, of course, that this is another giant stockinette project, so it’s pretty far down the list.
Modern Lopi designs by Lars Rains

3. Speaking of another giant stockinette project—this time in fingering weight!—I can’t get my mind off Agnes, also from Brooklyn Tweed. I bought yarn to make this in Iceland so I’ll get to it eventually, but can’t justify casting on before I finish at least one other fine-gauge project.
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4. The Guernsey Wrap has the kind of frequently changing simple knit-and-purl texture that’s both relaxing and interesting to knit. And it’s so pretty! But do I need another big scarf/wrap? Well… (but maybe?)
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The yarn haul

While we were planning our trip, Rob mentioned that he liked the patterned-yoke Icelandic sweaters. I gave him the choice of me making one ahead of time that he could wear there or getting yarn there and making one once we were back. He opted for getting yarn there, so I gave him a number of pattern options, he picked one, and I made note of the yardage. One afternoon, the four of us took a trip out to Álafoss to the main Lopi store and he picked out two colors of Léttlopi for a Huron for himself, while I accidentally picked out almost the exact same colors of of plötulopi for a traditional lopapeysur for myself. The pattern I picked out was from an out-of-print Lopi pattern booklet, and the woman at the store kindly made a copy for me. I don’t think it would have been that big a deal to translate it from Icelandic—the colorwork is charted and there isn’t much in the way of shaping—but I did manage to buy a digital English-language version on Ravelry once we got home, so I don’t have to worry about it.

The plötulopi—the wheels of unspun fiber at the bottom of the photo—is interesting stuff. It’s fragile, yes, but not as delicate as I’d been expecting. It can withstand a bit of tension before it drifts apart. I swatched it double stranded on 10s, and the resulting fabric is very lightweight for its thickness and surprisingly soft.
IMG_6276.JPGThe yarn on the right in the photo is a fingering-weight wool from Finland that I’d never heard of, let alone seen before. Rob and I were running around buying some souvenirs and gifts on our last full day in Reykjavik, and on a lark I popped into the yarn shop upstairs from the grocery store where we’d been buying our dried fish and tea all week. Most of the wares were from companies I can get in the States easily enough—Debbie Bliss, Rowan, Brooklyn Tweed even—but this stuff is something special. Plain and utilitarian on one hand, but richly colored and hitting the perfect midpoint between soft and sturdy. I bought three colors for an Agnes pullover and should have enough left over for some smaller items too. The woman at the store said it’s her favorite yarn for mittens, so maybe I’ll make some in homage to her.

Fall knitting

As the weather has been slowly cooling off here in the Northeast, I’ve been rereading the posts for Colette’s Wardrobe Architect project and thinking about what I’d like to be wearing this fall and winter, what shapes and fabrics make sense for what I do every day, and what external forces may come to bear on what I actually end up wearing on a day-to-day basis. The latter is something I need to pay closer attention to. I actually put together a pretty nice, mostly handmade capsule wardrobe for this summer: a couple of breezy skirts, a few pairs of pants, a few dresses, and several shirts in linens and chambray and cotton double gauze that all went together and worked for the office and most what I do when I’m not at work. But unfortunately, I failed to take into account the fact that our office air conditioning is set so high that it was too cold for me to be in there with bare legs or arms. (It’s out of our control; the thermostat is controlled by the building.)

I’m also thinking back over the last few years and considering what in my closet has gotten the most wear. Three of my current knitting projects for the season ahead are directly inspired by beloved items that I already own.

1. This summer I wore my Harper Tunic from Elizabeth Suzann at least once a week, usually more, both to work and on the weekends. It was a splurge at the beginning of the season, and one that was 100% worth it. Joji Locatelli’s Boxy is similarly oversized and, well, boxy; I’ve started it in a burgandy alpaca that I think will go with everything I own. The knitting is mind-numbing, but I trust that I’ll wear the sweater loads.
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2. My Twenty Ten Cardigan is of my most frequently worn handknits.
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I have high hopes for Beaubourg, which I think has a lot in common with Twenty Ten—high neck, short sleeves, some interesting design elements—but without actually looking that similar. I have a big cone of heavy worsted-weight black Donegal wool that should be a great fit for this pattern. The yarn is a little textured, so having the purl side out will show that off.
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3. I have an a-line, vaguely mod French terry tunic that I bought from Uniqlo a few years ago and wear at least once a laundry cycle three seasons of the year. I’ve admired the Still Light pattern for years, and I think it would fill a similar wardrobe niche, so I finally just bought the pattern and ordered the yarn. Like Boxy, it’s a whole lot of stockinette on small needles, but more than 2200 people have made one, so it’s clearly within the realm of possibility.

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Exeter, onward

I’m in the final stretch of knitting Exeter. The back is done, one sleeve is done, and both fronts are done, shown here pre-blocking. The construction method the designer chose is one I haven’t seen before: you cast on for the full width of the front and knit the ribbing and pocket lining, then you divide it in half and knit the cable panel separately from the ribbed section and collar, which are done on a smaller needle for added stability and structure.

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It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that with all of the ripping out and recalculating and reknitting I’ve done on this cardigan, I’ll have knit the whole thing twice over by the time I’m done. I don’t mind redoing my knitting, generally speaking. I’m certainly not hurting for sweaters and since I’m on something of a mission to make fewer, better garments for myself, I’d rather put in the extra effort and end up with something that’s as close to perfect as I can get. Some of that extra effort on this sweater has been required because my row gauge is so far off from the pattern, so things like the increase rate of the shawl collar and the decrease rate of the sleeve caps have taken a lot of trial and error. But a whole whack of it has been pure boneheadedness, like when I left out an entire pattern repeat on one of the fronts or this buttonhole error:

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The ugliness of the one on the left had bothered me all along, but it wasn’t until 30 rows on that I realized it was especially ugly because I’d put it in the wrong place. See how the one on the right just disappears into the fabric? That’s because the hole cuts across a knit column and the tightly pulled edges disappear into the recessive purl columns. The one on the left is exactly the opposite. I tried to ladder down to fix it, but that wasn’t happening. And because that row of buttonholes is located below where the two halves of the front were split, I had to rip out the entire, completed cable panel, the pocket lining, and a couple rows of the bottom ribbing until I could redo the buttonholes. It was not ideal, but the only way out is through, after all.

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Lucky for me, I had a lot of help from this little monkey.

WIP: Exeter

One of the ways I’m choosing to be guided by my word of the year is to focus on a few core projects that may take longer to make and require more thought and attention, but that I’ll love wholeheartedly and want to wear to tatters. The first project coming under that umbrella is Exeter.
exeter-6-600x900The silhouette is similar to one of my most coveted ready-to-wear pieces of recent years, Everlane‘s chunky knit cardigan, but with a more knitterly stitch pattern and nice construction details like knit-in pockets.
main.original.585x0The yarn I’m using, Imperial Yarn’s 2-ply Columbia, s amazing, especially once it’s washed. It’s incredibly soft for such a sturdy yarn, has phenomenal stitch definition, and manages to feel both rustic and luxurious. I love how essentially sheep-y it is. I’m finding that I have less and less patience for the kind of heavily processed yarns that make up the bulk of the handknitting market, though that’s a rant that’s probably best saved for another time.

It’s a little heavier weight than Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter, which the pattern is written for, so I’m following the numbers for the smallest size in order to end up with a medium-sized sweater. The back came together pretty smoothly and I was almost finished with the first front when I made an unhappy discovery: I’d left out a full repeat between the ribbing and the armhole shaping. (Since the ribbed portions are knit to a firmer gauge than the cable and lace portions, each of the front pieces is separated after the bottom ribbing, knit in two pieces, then seamed later.)
IMG_4548.JPGThere was nothing for it, but to rip back and reknit it.
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Out with the old

Around the start of the new year, I pulled out every single project I have in the works and considered whether I wanted to continue with them, whether the finished item was something I genuinely want in my life (something that will “spark joy,” as Japanese master of tidying Marie Kondo says). These are the projects that didn’t make it into 2015.
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I still think the Stripe Study shawl is a fantastic design and I like the color combination I was using (dove gray and cream). I also really like both of the yarns, Jade Sapphire’s 4-ply cashmere and Swan’s Island merino/silk. But the fact that they are almost but not quite the same weight was driving me crazy. I’ve been starting and ripping out and restarting this shawl since February—I started it on the plane to Hawaii for our honeymoon—and it was time to call it. I don’t have any particular plans for either yarn at this point, but

The garter stitch log cabin blanket in an assortment of handspun yarn hasn’t been ripped out yet, but it will be. I had started it sort of on a lark, as an easy project to have on hand whenever I wanted something I wouldn’t have to think about, and I didn’t give much thought to the layout of the colors. I’m not thrilled with how the light and dark shades have ended up and I’m also realizing that I don’t have quite enough yarn to make a decent-sized throw. I think I’m going to use the yarns in something woven instead. I do really love the way the colors look together and something like a plain-weave blanket woven in panels will showcase them nicely. Plus, just using them as weft will allow me to make a bed-sized blanket.

Knitting and unknitting

Good news first, right? I love this hat.
IMG_4149.JPGIt’s Scrollwork from Brooklyn Tweed, knit from my dwindling stash of cashmere. I have to admit that I didn’t love knitting it; the cable pattern never quite became second nature to me, though the pattern itself is extremely clear and easy to follow, and the fact that the yarn was several very fine strands held together meant that the knitting and cabling both had to go very slowly, but it was worth it.

And this sweater turned out exactly the way I hoped:
IMG_4227.JPGIt’s Chalkstone knit in Berroco’s Ultra Alpaca Light, which is finer gauge than the pattern calls for, so I ended up knitting a couple sizes up from where I normally would. The lace pattern was easy to memorize and I love the fancy-relaxed vibe the finished garment has.

This one, alas, is getting ripped out and the gorgeous yarn repurposed.
IMG_4247.JPGI’ve always liked Cobblestone. I think the simple design is lovely and the way it plays garter and stockinette off each other is very elegant and sculptural. Unfortunately, the fit on me wasn’t great. It’s designed for men’s broad shoulders, which I don’t have, and I didn’t find the neckline especially flattering. Plus, in hindsight, I think it looks better in a rustic wool than the drapy alpaca I used. I’m planning to use the yarn for another Effortless Cardigan, which will suit it perfectly and produce a garment I’ll wear a lot.

Also, man, my hair is getting long. Maybe today is the day I search out some braiding tutorials online…

Fall knitting

Cobblestone is finished and awaiting blocking. I’m toying with the idea of overdyeing it though; the yarn has an olive component that’s much more visible in the knitted fabric than it was in the yarn and it’s not a color that flatters me or would look good with the rest of my wardrobe. The blue in the background is beautiful though, so I’d like to find a similar dye color, one that’ll preserve the blue, but move the olive into more of an aqua-teal. I was initially thinking about trying to set up an indigo vat (using these crystals, I haven’t taken complete leave of my senses), but a light navy or royal blue regular dye bath is probably the way to go.

The other two main projects I have going at the moment are Baby Cables and Big Ones Too in a black finewool and Chalkstone in Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light that I reclaimed from a sweater I knit a few years ago. It was one I designed and I was planning to release the pattern, so I don’t think I ever showed it here, but it had some shaping issues that I couldn’t be bothered to resolve and it’s been taunting me from the bottom of a box since. This is a much better use for the yarn.

20140915-083858.jpgThey’re both patterns I’ve had queued for a while—years where Baby Cables is concerned—and they’re both garments I’ll wear a lot with clothes I already have. I’ve been trying to move toward knitting with long-term wardrobe planning in mind, rather than picking projects based on what would be fun to knit or what would work with yarn that I have on hand. These two have me off to a pretty good start, I think.

Cobblestone

Even with the soap R&D taking up a lot of my time and mental space this summer, I’ve still managed to do some knitting. In a happy confluence of events, I wanted to make a new very warm knock-around sweater for this fall and winter and Michelle cleared out some stash and passed along a whack of Blue Sky Alpaca Melange. I’ve always liked the Cobblestone Pullover pattern–it uses extremely basic stitch patterns in a way that’s graphic and interesting, but wearable and simple. The alpaca is a little lighter in weight than the yarn called for in the pattern, but I know I’d want to scale it down a little bit; the smallest size is 39.5″, which is an inch or two bigger than I wanted here. The only real change I made was to cast on a smaller amount at the wrists–even in the pattern photo, the sleeve cuffs seem disproportionately billowy. I cast on about an inch’s worth fewer stitches and moved the increases a few rows closer together so I could end up with the same number at the upper arm. Actually, that’s not true–I did make one more change. The pattern calls for five decrease rounds: a k3, k2tog; two k2, k2togs; a k1, k2tog, then a final k8, k2tog that knocks off six or seven stitches. I didn’t do that last one so the neck opening would be a little wider and more feminine.

I actually did cast off last night, but we’re having one of those oppressively hot and humid days of which we had so blessedly few this summer and the last thing I want to do, even at 8:15 in the morning, is put on an alpaca sweater. I still have about a skein and a half of this yarn left, and I’m thinking about making a pair of elbow patches. The garter stitch patches will look perfect on this sweater and they’ll help keep my elbows from poking through.
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