Category Archives: fair isle

Pardon me, I couldn’t hear you over how awesome my sweater is

Legendary, folks. Legendary. It is done, it fits like a dream, and it is going to kick all kinds of ass when I wear it at Rhinebeck this fall. This is Autumn Rose.

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Pattern: Autumn Rose, by Eunny Jang (published in Jamieson’s ‘Simply Shetland 4′)
Yarn: Palette fingering weight, from Knit Picks
Needles: 3.25mm Addi Turbos
Cast on: April 25, 2009
Bind off: July 23, 2009 (then a couple more days for washing/blocking)
Modifications: Many.

Oh, where do I start with the modifications. The most obvious one was the colour scheme. I went with Knit Picks’ Palette because I own quite a lot of it, and I quite like the colour selection now that they have been expanding the heathers line. I hope they will continue to expand further, as it can only make the yarn more versatile as a colur-work tool. The original Autumn Rose colours in the pattern are gorgeous, but just not a good fit for my own colour preferences. I tend more towards reds and purples and jewel tones and the original scheme reads more on the rustier – or, well, ‘autumn’ side of the spectrum. After much swatching and indecision, I settled on the one you see here.

In place of golds, I made use of the new green shades Knit Picks added to their Palette collection recently. The main one is clover (in place of old gold), and the others from darkest to lightest are spearmint, edamame, celadon, and green tea heather. In place of the oranges and blues used in the original, I used purples and reds. The main one is garnet heather (seen next to clover in the ribbing sections), and the others from darkest to lightest are merlot heather, bark, clematis heather, huckleberry heather, and lilac heather. (Aside: if Knit Picks ever discontinues the garnet heather shade, I may not survive. It is my absolute favourite).

Also, let it be known that swatching is WORTH IT. The only thing keeping me on the ledge while I fretted over whether it was coming out too small was knowing that my swatch did indeed block out to gauge after I washed it (when knitting sweaters remember to both knit and wash your swatches, friends, much tragedy could be saved.)

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Another key area in which I made modifications is in the length and sizing. Essentially, if I had knitted this pattern purely according to the written instructions and not put any thought into it, it would have been several inches shorter, the waistline would not have fit me, and the shoulders would have been far too snug. This alone does not make this a bad pattern – it is extremely gorgeous, make no mistake. It simply means that this pattern is designed for a person several inches shorter than me. This is also a pretty common thing for me, the only difference is that with a fair isle patter like this, you can’t exactly rip out a few inches and start over as easily as with a plain single colour project.

I think that anyone making this sweater would be smart to begin by drawing their own pattern schematic based on their own body and the desired measurements you want, then ensure that once you have begun and established the chart, your knitting follows the length measurements you need and the stitch counts you need for width based on gauge.

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Never forget that when you are knitting a sweater, whoever designed it is never going to be exactly as smart as you. That pattern was not designed for your body, and your job – which you are entirely qualified for – is to know your body well enough to adjust whatever it is you are knitting to fit yourself. This concept generally gets emphasized in the context of knitting plus-sized sweaters (and rightly so), but I’m here to tell you that as a tall woman, never once have I encountered a sweater pattern that hasn’t required some modification. I’ve added length to sleeves and hems, and re-placed waistlines so often now that it’s become second nature, and I generally need to add at least an inch or more between the waist and armholes in order to ensure the waist actually sits where my waist is. The moral of the story is, if you want your sweaters to fit – know thyself! Measure your body, know your gauge, and know how much ease you want to achieve, and make it so.

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The original Autumn Rose pattern calls for an extremely low neckline, so much the better to accommodate negative ease around the bust and provide a very modern look. I did, however, raise the neckline about 2 inches, which I have seen from Ravelry is a pretty common modification. I am pretty happy with this decision and am comfortable with how this would look over a tee or camisole from my own wardrobe. Essentially, I set the neckline to begin at about the same time as the armhole decreases. Additionally, I lengthened the shoulders by spacing out the last several decreases a little more than what the pattern specifies. I have broad shoulders, so this was a good decision for me.

You wanted to see the inside, right? Right, I thought you did, that’s why I took pictures of it. There’s the white crocheted edge of the cut steek, now tucked away neatly inside the neckline. You can also see all the ends of the yarns from all of the colour changes, which were woven in as I worked each new pair of colours.

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When I learned to knit fair isle, the first project I made was a Philosopher’s Wool sweater. On their website the Philosopher’s wool folks have a video about knitting two-handed for colour-work, and this along with a personal tutorial from my friend Dee was essentially all the instruction I had on two-handed technique. I use the same general approach not just for knitting but for weaving in new colours a few stitches before the change-over (you can see where all the ends are sticking out there just before the side seam, on either side). This essentially means that you are weaving in ends as you go, which saves you from having to weep the tears of a thousand rivers weave in all the ends after you are finished the whole sweater. All that’s left is a bit of trimming, sew in the ends at the bind-off and cast-on edges, and you’re done.

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On my last post a few days ago when I was cutting the steek on this sweater, a lot of you commented on what an act of courage it must be to do this, or how brave I must be to be working steeks or colour-work. And you know, that absolutely tickles me because the fact of the matter is, ‘brave’ is probably the last adjective in the world I would use to describe myself. If I made you a list of all the things I’ve shied away from doing because of being too chicken, well…it wouldn’t be a very pretty list. But after knitting a sweater like this (and this may be easy to guess based on how many other possible ways there are to stress out about a project like this, as described above), the actual cutting of the steek becomes sort of beside the point. In the process, I’d forgotten that steeking is something that really does call for a bit of moxy. So, if making this sweater makes me in any way brave…I’ll take it.

And Elspeth? Since we are supposedly both knitting this sweater to wear for Rhinebeck 2009…If you don’t find a way to make this sweater yourself, even though I know you’re sweating bullets over getting gauge…I’m comin’ for you. That’s right, YOU.

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And YOU TOO, if you don’t get out there and knit yourself some fair isle. Grab your favourite colours, grab a stranded pattern, any pattern, no matter how simple or how difficult, and DO IT. You’ll never look at knitting the same way again.

(Also, thank you all for the birthday wishes/spinning congrats yesterday, they were fantastic.)

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Filed under fair isle, finished object: sweater

Dear Blog

Today, I cut up my knitting.

I laid in a crochet reinforcement

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And then I cut that steek, that single, beautiful steek.

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And then my sweater had a neckline.

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And lo, it was good.

So, dear blog, all that’s left to do now is the ribbing on the neckline and a teensy bit of finishing, and then the blocking. And blog, even though I know it’ll probably be OK and the gauge swatch I made said it would be OK, and I even went ahead and l taunted Elspeth like that…

I really really really hope it fits.

Finger-crossingly yours,
Me.

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Filed under fair isle, fearless knitting, sweaters

Only one way to go from here

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Stay tuned.

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The Reckoning

Dear Elspeth,

I know that you’re probably very busy doing things like your “job” or important things in the “real world” or that you might even have “other knitting” to do besides work on Autumn Rose. Still, I am compelled to point out that I am knitting on Autumn Rose and so far, you are not, and here I was given to understand that were both in on this together. Fair Isle solidarity and all that jazz.

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Now, I feel that I’ve been pretty patient up until now. After zipping through most of the body I gave myself a bit of a break, allowed myself to be distracted by Cat Bordhi, even went off to a conference and did some “real world” stuff of my own.

But I’m back at the Autumn Rose knitting now, and have now reached the point where the sleeves join the body for work in the round, which puts me in the enviable position of knitting rounds which are only ever going to get shorter from here on out. And at great risk to my own knitting karma, I feel the need to point out that I am currently LEAVING YOU IN THE DUST. My wooly, stranded colourwork dust.

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At this point my only recourse is to keep knitting, knowing that at this rate I may well finish before you even start, and either a) take up heavy drinking in order to assuage my guilt, or b) dance around the house clutching my knitting calling “neener neener neener” in my best sing-songy voice. And both of those options are pretty much giving free reign to the knitting goddess to come strike me down with a sweater that doesn’t fit, or cause me to run out of a crucial colour an inch before the end, or plague me with horrible Knitter’s Elbow, or some other such retaliation.

C’mon, Elspeth. Lonely fair-isle knitting is soooo lonely. You know you wanna.

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Four months later

Back in January, as I embarked on the busiest and arguably my most stressful semester thus far, I started a pair of Sanquhar gloves. Because naturally, when you have lots of stress, the best response is to add a comparable amount of stress to your knitting. As it happens, I got about 75% through them in January but then set them aside for more portable projects, and they sat long enough by the wayside that I became worried they would enter the eternally despondent land of Unfinished Objects, never again to return to the friendly grove of Works in Progress.

Thankfully, this was not their fate. I picked them up again last week and finished the rest of the second glove, and lo, they are beautiful.

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Pattern: Sanquhar Gloves, instructions by Tata & Tatao, largely composed of a set of charts and a few English translations from Japanese. (You have got to love the modern knitting world wherein a centuries-old traditional Scottish knitted garment is re-interpreted through pattern instructions in Japanese, then re-fashioned into English translation.
Yarn: A Touch of Twist light fingering weight (270yds per 50g), in dark purple and pale teal, purchased at Rhinebeck 2008.
Needles: 2.0mm steel DPNs.

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The pattern actually directs you to use laceweight and 1.5mm needles – and don’t get me wrong I’d still love to try that – but this would have resulted in gloves too small for my own hands, and in any case I was looking for an excuse to use this bit of my Rhinebeck purchases. (I still have 2 balls of the same yarn remaining, in a pale purple and dark red. Hmmm). Overall it worked quite well, though somewhere between January and May I must have had a gauge shift, because the fingers on the 2nd glove turned out slightly bigger than the first. Happily, this is not very noticeable when they are worn, and in general the pair fit, well, like a glove. (Ho ho ho, I kill me).

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This is, to say the least, an adventurous pattern. One of the main challenges is that because the instructions are English translations from Japanese, they are relatively sparse. However, the charts are quite clear, and the Sanquhar knitting format leaves little room for maneuverability, which is good for interpretation – the ‘blocks’ format of the motif are all the same size and as long as you can keep this consistent, and work at a gauge that will produce a glove of the correct size for you, the pattern will work. Although this is my first time knitting colourwork at such a tiny gauge, once you get the hang of it it is easy to develop a sort of rhythm to it, as is often the case with stranded colourwork.

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The only thing I didn’t quite do properly were the finger gussets – I fully admit that I pretty well fudged those. I would like to try another pair of these sometime in order to give it my 100% and do better. But you know? These still kick ass. I’ll take ‘em. The overall result is an incredibly intricate, light yet warm pair of gloves that nobody else on Earth has. I am actually debating whether to put them into regular Winter rotation come November – they are gorgeous and I would love to show them off, but on the other hand I don’t think I would recover if I lost one, or both.

Thankfully I have the summer to ponder that. Onwards, yes? Yes.

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Filed under accessories, fair isle, fearless knitting, finished object: accessories

Just one more row

I can stop any time I want.

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Maybe.

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Change of pace

The last few days have been pretty slow around these parts, involving a fair amount of knitting, sitting, DVDs (X-Files renaissance ahoy), and the occasional excursion into the outside world for provisions or moderate socialization. Now that the term is ending I can actually have a proper few days of leisurely sloth, before returning to attempts to Think Thoughts or Write Things.

Knowing I’d have a few hours-long chunks of time for knitting, I brought Autumn Rose with me this week to the cat-sitting, in order to give it a solid start. I’d hoped by now to be past the first full repeat of the main motif, but still I think it’s taking shape quite well.

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This is a slight variation on the last swatch I did – I wanted the garnet heather (dark red) more prominent and I think this is going to work quite well. The combination has a very rich look overall and I’m pleased with the balance of bright and muted tones. Now…to just keep on knitting. These are long rows and lots of colours, and I’ll be adding 2-3 inches of length to the body before I’m done, so I’m expecting this to keep me busy for the next little while.

On the cat-sitting front, things are going rather well at cat pace. Boy do these cats have me marked. As soon as food hour approaches Greedo wraps himself around my ankles and moans at me, hoping for that ever elusive morsel of wet food (I have strong willpower though, and the opposable thumbs necessary to open cans, so hah). And as soon as I look like I might be sitting down and creating a lap, Somerset hovers in wait. (She has overwhelming powers of extreme cuteness, though, so there my willpower fails.)

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I have also learned that Greedo is not deterred by competition from laptops.

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Tomorrow their regular humans will be back, though, so I’ll have to go back to non-cat-hair-covered knitting. How will I manage?

Happy Wednesday, folks!

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Filed under cats, fair isle, sweaters