Category Archives: I knit

A cabled cardigan to transform me into Stella Tennant

This time of year, it can be hard to rally a tremendous amount of enthusiasm to work on this kind of project–it’s far enough from done that even if I devote all of my knitting time to it for the next month or so, it won’t be done before it’s too hot to wear it–except that it’s extraordinarily nice to knit. The yarn is gorgeous, a multistrand cashmere/merino from School Products that I’ve been hoarding for close to a decade; the color is basically the best color, a rich, heathery navy/purple/black that’s surprisingly tricky to photograph; and the simple cables are easy to work but produce a lush, plush fabric that I basically want to wrap myself up in forever, or at least until the temperature climbs much north of 60. The back is done and I’ve cast on for one of the fronts.

This was my inspiration for it, a tear sheet I’ve had kicking around long enough to forget where it’s from. I love everything about it: the cozy sweater, the gorgeous dress, the setting, her luminous skin and wacky bedhead, her feline friend, the enamel basin of … berries, let’s say, the eccentric-highborn-English-ladyness of it all. As much as I love looking at Marion Cotillard in Dior, my idea of chic is much closer to Stella Tennant with oxfords and socks under her gown and a cat at her feet.

And speaking of feline friends, Fuzz Ferdinand is keeping pretty busy being super handsome all the time.

FO: Alpaca/silk tunic


I have some freelance projects coming up that will be pretty time-consuming (one knitting, one editing) and I’ve known for the last couple of weeks that I won’t have a huge amount of time for my own knitting projects in the next month or so. So I’ve been making a concerted effort to work on a couple of things whose finish lines were within reach.

I did manage to knock one out this week, the handspun alpaca/silk tunic.

It’s basically exactly what I was aiming for: an easy-to-wear, slightly oversized seed stitch tunic. I managed to block one of the sleeves a couple of inches longer than the other, which is a little annoying, but since they’re cuffed anyway, it’s not the end of the world. I can try to fix it the next time I wash it.

Here’s a close up of the fabric. Allover seed stitch isn’t the fastest or least annoying pattern to do, but damn, it looks fine.

I didn’t quite manage to finish my ombre sweater, but it’s close: another inch or so of stockinette, then some garter stitch to wind things up. I may sneak in some time on it in the next week or so; I’d hate to miss out on wearing it this winter.


Current projects

I find it helpful to once in a while drag all of my works in progress out into the light. I can take stock of where everything stands, possibly get excited about a project I haven’t worked on it a while, or decide that something isn’t worth finishing and then either rip it out to reuse the yarn or just make the whole thing go away.

Happily, I still like everything in this particular crop.
20140118-140928.jpgClockwise from the upper left, we have a long-term project making crocheted hexagons from worsted-weight scrap yarn–it’s going to be spectacular and it’s going to take for-fucking-EVER; then a log cabin blanket from worsted and heavy worsted handspun in purples, reds, blues, and grays–I had a lot of those in quantities that weren’t enough for garments, and most of them are too coarse for next-to-the-skin accessories; an Alga in my ombre handspun, which is going to be a knockout; the beginnings of a cabled cardigan using some cashmere/merino I’ve had stashed for a while, and a handspun seed stitch tunic in alpaca/silk, which is probably the closest to being done except that working on it is pretty tedious and I have a hard time making myself do it. Still, I’d love to be able to wear it this winter, so efforts shall be made.

A fine new hat


This is exactly what I wanted: a charcoal and black striped toque that is neither hair-smooshingly tight nor slouchy. I used sportweight alpaca yarn I’ve had since 2004 or so, and didn’t follow a pattern, just cast on enough stitches to make 21″, knit the first inch or so in 1×1 rib on smaller needles, worked straight up for about 6″, and did a basic decrease series (k11, k2tog around; one row plain; k10, k2tog around; one row plain, etc.). Now I’m just trying to decide if I want to leave it as is or add a pompom to the top…

Start as you mean to go on

I rang in the new year last night at the Andrew WK show at Irving Plaza, where Rob’s punk/metal karaoke band was one of the opening acts. Here, our friend Aaron is onstage with them doing MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams”

20140101-112610.jpgI have to confess that I didn’t really know anything about Andrew WK before they booked this gig. I mean, I knew that he existed and that he was kind of a party dude; I saw people retweeting his “party tips” from time to time. Between that and the photo he uses as his avatar, I’d somehow gotten the idea that he was a DJ who was sort of a bastard child of Russell Brand and Mark Ronson. Once Rob stopped laughing long enough to show me some videos, he described him as a very positive, earnest rock n roll guy. And he is. He’s all about joy and happiness and he puts on a hell of a fun show. He’s a sweetheart and all of the musicians he plays with are really lovely and friendly. I have all the warm feelings in the world for him. [sidenote: I’ve been relistening to the audiobook of Tana French’s Faithful Place, which is set in Dublin, and I’ve been charmed by the way some of the characters refer to sweet people (those they dote on) as “dotes,” which I love (“ah, he’s a little dote, he is.”) but don’t think I could ever pull off–I’d be afraid people would think I was calling them dolts. Still, Andrew WK is a dote, sure.]


Later in the set, there was a guy in a gorilla suit playing some kind of percussion instrument that involved hitting a block with a stick.


And now it’s New Year’s Day, which is my favorite day. I love thinking about the year ahead and what I can do today, right now, to set the tone I want. More live music. More writing here. We’re heading out for brunch at a favorite neighborhood spot in a minute, then I’m going to spend the afternoon doing a bit of work on all of the knitting and sewing projects I currently have in circulation, probably while watching some BBC crime dramas. I bought myself a rotary cutter and its accoutrements for Christmas, so I’d like to teach myself how to use it. I’m going to make some hoppin’ john later and work on a couple of proposals for projects I want to do this year, some of which are writing and some of which are knit design projects. Maybe we’ll take a walk around Prospect Park. I’ll paint my nails (increased fanciness in 2014!).

Another New Year’s Day tradition for me is to cast on a new sweater. This year, I think it’s going to be an Alga out of my recently finished ombre handspun. I swatched the yarns a few days ago and am really happy with how they look together.


New pattern!


This is actually a remarkably quick knit. The yarn is bulky (Cascade Ecological Wool), the colorwork is mosaic (so there’s only ever one strand of yarn in play at a time), and the construction is simple (body and sleeves are worked back and forth to the armholes, then they’re joined and the raglan decreases are done seamlessly). But it’s still graphic and interesting and I think manages to feel both a little retro and very modern.

If you’d like the pattern for yourself, it’s available at Ravelry here. Happy knitting!

Fingerless mitts

I’ve been trying to do some knitting that’s not necessarily interesting or exciting, but that will supply me with a thoroughly terrific version of something I can use. And that’s how I ended up with these black cashmere fingerless mittens:

I used some yarn in my stash and this Countrywool pattern, which is a great basic worsted-weight mitten pattern with a nicely fitting thumb gusset. When they were the length I wanted, I knit three rounds of 1×1 rib and bound off. There isn’t a tremendous amount to say about them, except that it was tremendously satisfying to be able to make exactly what I wanted for myself, especially since it used yarn and a pattern I already had.

The quest continues

I am on an ongoing, somewhat quixotic, quest for the perfect knit turban pattern. (Beside the one I linked to there, which has since been ripped out, there was another one I tried to knit in pieces that was decidedly not a success, but I can’t seem to lay my hands on the post right now.) There’s just something so batty-chic about a turban, it really goes with the impoverished aristocrat style I’m playing with this winter.

I thought Imagiro had possibilities:
It’s not quite a turban, but it definitely has pleasing, turban-like qualities.

So I dug out some stash yarn, a lovely charcoal/black tweed that was labeled Shetland when I bought it, but I don’t believe it; it’s too soft and lack Shetland’s characteristic wooliness. I just found a fantastic vintage fuchsia and charcoal houndstooth Harris Tweed coat at a thrift shop recently, and have been wanting some neutral accessories to wear with it so I look less like a knitter-clown. (We all know the knitter-clowns, don’t we? All of their accessories–and frequently their clothes–are different, usually hand-painted colorways; each piece may be lovely on its own, but the overall effect is a bit…cacophonous.)

The knitting is extremely straightforward, just a garter stitch rectangle that’s shaped through some origami-style folding that I’m not sure I did altogether correctly.

I like the finished hat, whether it’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be or not, and have worn it every day this week to, I daresay, some modest acclaim, but I can’t say that it’s the knit turban I’ve been dreaming about. So the quest continues. I have a vintage pattern that has both ‘stocking’ and moss stitch variations that’s in the line-up, and I have good feelings about Gazost, which looks like it’ll work up quickly at the very least.

Terrible photos of unsatisfactory projects

This weekend, I made two things that I thought were going to be fantastic that just…weren’t. It happens, and it doesn’t generally bother me much, except for the wasted time; not every idea is going to be a winner.

I’ve been seeing a lot of strong graphics of plus signs on high-end home dec items and some clothing and really like the way they look: very Swiss Army. I was thinking about knitting an intarsia sweater, but then it occurred to me that I have a black cashmere sweater that I haven’t worn much since I finished it, so I worked up a plus sign applique that I thought could achieve the same look with a fraction of the work. I don’t think it works though. The plus sign is a bit wonky, and the whole thing reads more Loving Hands at Home than chic.
It looks less awkward in the photo than it does in real life, actually, but this is definitely a project I’m not going to see to fruition. One good thing about the whole enterprise though is that it gave me an opportunity to look at this sweater and figure out that part of why I never wore it was because the neck bindoff was tight and uncomfortable. So I undid it, knit a few more rounds, and bound off very loosely. The yarn has pilled like crazy and I need to address that, but then I’ll have a perfectly good sweater that I should wear a lot this winter.

The other ill-fated project from this weekend was a Dashing mitten in the same wool/angora stash yarn as the plus sign above. (I think it was widely available, but wasn’t Classic Elite Lush; no labels.) I’ve made these before and really like the pattern. Unfortunately, I didn’t check the gauge and they turned out too long, which would actually be fine if they weren’t also too big around. I think part of my mistake here was trying to go full mitten; the yarn is heavy and warm enough that I thought making fingerless mittens out of it would be like having a short-sleeve parka–if it’s cold enough for these, it’s going to be too cold to have my fingertips exposed–but the gussetless thumb is awkward at full size. I could try felting them a little, but I don’t want to shrink the upper arm part, which fits perfectly. Luckily, I have no hangups about ripping out my knitting — I’d rather get it right.