Category Archives: sweaters

On the subject of sweaters

This is the introductory post for my 6-part post series on the process of knitting a sweater. Scroll down to the end of the post to find links to all of the individual posts. 

Because fall is quickly approaching – and with it, sweater knitting season – I’ve been doing a bit of thought behind the scenes here at Knitting to Stay Sane (me and my yarn stash are all very excited about it) and prepping a series of a few blog posts on the subject of sweater knitting. One post a week here for the next few weeks will be about a different aspect of the process: a sort of road map to the kinds of decisions that will help you get a sweater that you like. It won’t be an absolutely fully detailed explanation of every technique or step involved – a lot of people have written or published about different aspects of this, and I’ll be pointing you in the direction of many of them – but rather, is intended to be a bit of encouragement if you are a knitter interested in sweaters or figuring out how to approach them with some thought.

I often hear from knitters about the whole Sweater Knitting Thing. Among all the many possible choices of garments or items for knitters to construct, many people point to sweaters as being among the most challenging and intimidating. I think much of this is due to their sheer size. Compared to the ball or two of yarn that is normally required for a hat or pair of mittens, or maybe twice that for a scarf, it’s true that sweaters are a commitment of both yardage and time – and let’s face it, some days you don’t have much of either. But I don’t think that project size is always the true litmus test of challenge. Hold up a scarf worked in the Orenburg style of lace in one hand, and a stockinette pullover in the other, and then ask yourself if sweaters are always going to be more challenging than scarves. It’s true that larger projects do ask a commitment of you, but “challenging” or “easy” is often in the eye of the beholder.

Aug16-Sweater

However, I do agree that sweaters offer the knitter a sufficient – and often satisfying – amount of challenge, even putting aside the whole notion of size. Sometimes it is because we fixate on a particular technique that is used in the pattern (“Oh, that’s a beautiful cabled pullover, but I’ve never done cables before and I’m worried it’ll be too hard”), but it’s a rare technique that is applicable only to one kind of garment. Much of the real challenge with sweaters has to do with the fact that sweaters are garments that are going to be worn over a large portion of our bodies, and therefore need to fit us according to the many dimensions of those parts. The fact is that even if you choose a pattern which is a loose-fitting stockinette box (thus avoiding fabric-construction techniques which might be daunting), you still have to ask yourself how long you want it to be so as not to overwhelm your body, and how long the sleeves should be so as to not end up constantly tugging them down or rolling them up, and what colour it should be, and what yarn you should use, and so on. The challenge comes from the fact that we need to be in control of our relationship with the garment we are knitting, much, much more so than with other kinds of knitted objects.

If you’re a person who is already familiar with other methods of garment construction – for example, if you’re a sewist who also knits – you’ve had other opportunities to ask yourself some of these kinds of clothing-making questions. Still, knitting offers us the chance to ask different questions than other crafts. Not only are we constructing a garment, but we are constructing the very fabric that the garment is going to be made of. This fact results in a lot of agonizing over things like gauge, swatches, yarn substitution, fiber content, yardage, and so on. Put these together with the project of making a large garment, and, well. There is a lot going on with sweaters.

Royale2

For many of us, we are used to acquiring clothes by going to a store (or many stores), trying on clothes (possibly many many clothes), and buying the ones that fit and leaving the store with those specific items. Sometimes our knitterly approach to making sweaters mimics this – we choose the sweater size we think will fit, then knit it, then try it on and see if it fits. While this is certainly a way to get sweaters, it overlooks a lot of steps that are open to us as knitters to help us get the sweater we really like and will actually wear. When you knit a sweater, you have many possible decisions open to you, relating to pattern and yarn selection, fit, techniques, and so forth. Rather than viewing this as a series of little intimidations, I think it’s best to consider these as opportunities for you to be in charge and get the results that you want. You are the boss of your knitting, and even if you make mistakes they are your mistakes, not the mistakes that were made for you by some clothing manufacturer. YOU get to decide what results from the work of your needles.

If you are a knitter new to sweater knitting, or simply a knitter happy to learn more about the whole process of working a completed, satisfying sweater, this blog post series will definitely be you. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about the process of constructing a knitted sweater, from pattern selection and construction styles, to gauge, yarn selection, and finishing. I don’t intend this to be a comprehensive guide to all things involved in sweater knitting; I won’t, for example, be giving you step-by-step breakdowns of how or where to add short rows or demonstrating all kinds of increases or decreases – but I’m going to include links to resources along the way for things like that which might be helpful. While this will not be a comprehensive guide to every possible sweater pattern or every possible detail involved, it will help you find your footing in the land of sweater knitting if that is something you are interested in learning more about. I won’t tell you what sweater you should make or how much time you should give yourself to knit it, but I do hope that when you do arrive at making these decisions for yourself, you’ll be armed and ready to do it right.

Part 1: Choosing A Pattern

Part 1 (Addendum): Browsing For Patterns

Part 2: Construction, Style, and Fit

Part 3: Yarn Selection and Substitution

Part 4: Reading the Pattern

Part 5: Modifying the Pattern

Part 6: Knitting it Up

Looking forward to seeing you all next time! I hope you’ve got something fun on the needles, whether big or small.

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Filed under fearless knitting, knitting knowledge, sweaters

Summer camp for grown ups

I spent this past week in the company of a group of knitters and other artists and art students at the Haliburton arts workshops, teaching my ‘Knitting Sweaters That Fit’ class that I did last year. It was a good week and I look forward to returning again – I not only had a great bunch of students but the weather was mercifully cool and calm, with the exception of one day of rain. (July has been trending towards the unbearably hot and humid this year, and I emotionally braced myself accordingly when setting off for a week in an un-airconditioned cabin, grateful to discover the peaceful weather report ahead. Excellent for knitting.)

July24-Haliburton

July28-SweaterClass1

Having a full week to teach is really an extraordinary thing, since I’m used to doing half-day or single-day workshops. In this class we spend time alternating knitting on sweater projects to talking all about the many details that go into sweater knitting like swatching, fit, measuring, finishing steps, considering your yarn and substitution possiblities, even making duct tape dress forms, and on and on. And because it’s knitting, everyone gets to chat while working away, and this week my students finished their time with hugs and a hope to see people again next year – it really is sort of like summer camp for grownups.

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July28-SweaterClass3

It is also an intriguing thing to be doing a class like this down the hall from such a diversity of other workshops – pastel drawing, painting, fiddling, jewelry-making, clowning, and so on. Chatting with the other instructors inevitably brings up interesting comparisons between our work and it is fascinating to try to place knitting amongst or in parallel to so many other creative pursuits. I think there is a lot of common ground in that everyone is trying to make something, create something, in a way that pleases them and meets some personal need in their lives or expresses something about themselves. I have no doubt there is artistic truth in knitting, but most days of my knitting life pass without me thinking directly about it.

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July28-SweaterKnitting

In the mean time though, I’ve now gotten myself back to the real world, remembering how constant connection to the internet and reality is both wonderful and horrible all at once, and diving right back into the final stretch of my deadline projects before figuring out the next batch of things for August and the fall. And maybe catch up on a bit of sleep in there somewhere too, heh. It’s that re-entry, as they say.

My teaching page (up there on one of my blog tabs at the top) is on its way to filling up for the fall! Lots of day workshops scheduled for Toronto, and I’ll soon be adding a few more for Peterborough and who knows where else along the way.

Happy knitting this weekend!

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Filed under sweaters, teaching

No rest for the wicked

Friends, I would have genuinely sworn it was the weekend, like…a minute ago. Wasn’t it just yesterday? I really thought it was. Apparently, though, we are now on to April, which means that Saturday wasn’t just last week, it was last month – HAH, nice trick there, calendar.

Saturday was a pretty great day, though. I met Kate at mumble-mumble-o’clock and we hit the road early in the morning for Collingwood, Ontario, where Karen at Grey Heron Yarns was hosting a day-long ‘Knit Fest’ of classes and food and gathering. Kate and I each taught two classes (Entrelac and Tips for her, Colour-work 101 and Lace 101 for me), and these knitters were ready. I’m not sure what they’re putting in the water up in Collingwood, but it makes for a very capable bunch of knitters, I’ll say that much.

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Mar31-KnitFest1

We were so busy that I almost forgot to snap pictures until nearly the end of the day, but thankfully Karen and Brenda didn’t! Collingwood, I look forward to knitting with you again some time. (My teaching page is currently up to date, for anyone in Southern Ontario looking to come join in with some learnin’ this spring.)

In my own knitting life, projects and dreams continue apace, and my rich fantasy life is filling with all kinds of spring and summer plans. I have been thinking about what ambitious lace project I would like to work on this year, since Peacock Feathers took up some attention last summer. Knitted Lace of Estonia? I’m coming for you. (I’d be lying if my desires weren’t leaning towards the Crown Prince Square on the cover, but I might allow myself to start on a Miralda’s Triangle instead. I think that’s as close as I can get to being restrained and sensible ;) )

Apr4-Royale3

And speaking of being not at all restrained and sensible, because I apparently don’t have enough to knit on, I couldn’t take it anymore and cast on on Sunday for a third Royale pullover. I’m currently adding some revisions to this pattern – an additional size, and the option for full sleeves – and it’s making me want another one. I’m currently hoping this will be done before I go to teach Twisted Stitches and Travelling cables next (which will be at Shall We Knit in Waterloo, April 21st), so, you know. Nothing like some self-imposed deadlines.

If you need me, I’ll be over here knitting while staring lovingly at my yarn stash. I have plans.

Happy knitting this fine Wednesday!
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Filed under sweaters, teaching

Event Horizon

You know, sometimes, when you start a sweater and then blink and discover that almost six months have passed since you started it and you still haven’t finished it yet, you then discover that you are actually pretty close to finishing it after all?

Me too.

Feb16-Gwendolyn2

I have started to feel a bit of unease with this project, because it’s been on my needles off and on for so many months now, and I’ve gone and changed the size I’m making halfway through, and then there’s the whole cable on the sleeve fix that I still have to go back and do, and (because I decided my 2011 self didn’t need to worry about that, and I’d let my 2012 self handle it instead)… and it actually occurred to me the other day that should I (stash forbid) end up running out of yarn and needing another skein, this will actually end up being a minor challenge since I’m pretty sure I neglected to keep any of the ball bands with dye lot numbers on them when I wound up all the yarn (self, that was not wise)…

But the thing is, and this is the most important thing, is that I am currently one front piece and one hood away from having a finished cardigan, and that is close enough for me to taste the sense of accomplishment. I have been loving working with this colour (it’s a Cascade 220 Heather, in a beautiful turquoise, edged in a dark reddish brown), and it finally hit me that, wait a second, soon I’ll actually be able to WEAR this colour, not just look at it on my needles.

Feb16-Gwendolyn

Come on, cardi, you and me – and I know I said this back in October, and then November, and then again in January, but this time I mean it – LET’S DO THIS. February is for finishing! (And hey, if Steph’s Gwendolyn can survive a little re-knitting as well as a little singeing in the oven, mine can survive a bit of neglect. Probably.)

What will you finish in February, dear knitters?
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34 Comments

Filed under cables, fearless knitting, sweaters

Urban Collection: Locke St.

What can I say, folks, but that it’s a great relief to finally get to show off a few designs to you after keeping them under wraps for so long. February marks the first wave of releases of my Urban Collection, which will be a collection of eight knitting patterns in total. Between February and April I’ll add 2-3 more patterns to the collection each month until it is complete. (My previous post gives a good visual snapshot of the first five designs – the rest are in the works!) My goal for this collection was a set of patterns that would sit well in the “urban classic” realm – designs that will be comfortable and wearable now as well as a few years from now.

Locke Street Cardi

Rather than overwhelm you all at once with the whole sha-bang, I’ll be staggering the releases so that they are a bit more seasonally appropriate – as a result, the warmest patterns are the first ones out of the gate in February. Closer to April, you can predict a few lighter accessories and lace pieces to make an appearance. The complete collection will contain two sweaters, two lace items, and four smaller accessories. I hope you’ll love them as much as I do! All of the patterns feature Tanis Fiber Arts yarn, in a variety of yarn weights from Aran to laceweight.

As the patterns are released, you’ll be able to purchase them individually at any time in my Ravelry store, but if you’d like to take the plunge for the whole set, the collection may be purchased now for a few dollars cheaper than the final collection price, and I’ll keep that ‘preview price’ available until the March patterns are posted (around March 12th, a month later than today.) Once you’ve purchased the collection, you’ll receive updates as patterns are added.
(I’m working on making these available on Patternfish as well, as an e-book, for non-Ravelry users – stay tuned for updates there!)

LockeSt2

Since I was working with the aesthetic of “urban classic” in mind, when thinking about pattern names I decided to draw on the cities in which I have lived as a knitter. The patterns are all named after streets that I am familiar with in these cities. The first pattern I’d like to introduce you to is the Locke St. Cardigan. This is named for a favourite street of mine in my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario (if I’m hanging at a cafe or heading off in search of poutine or organic chocolate bars, or even a run to the bank – chances are, this is where I’m doing that.) This is a buttoned cardigan in the style of a classic cabled knit, including modern details like waist shaping and v-neck collar. Using DK-weight Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label yarn at 5.5 sts/inch, it is also a little lighter than a traditional Aran cardi might be, which means you’ll be able to get good wear out of this as a layer underneath your jacket in the cold seasons, or wear it as a layer itself when it’s a bit warmer.

LockeSt1

Friends Austen (above) and Emily (in the detailed shots) helped me out with modelling this, and both were pretty comfortable in it. In fact, I think it fit Austen so nicely that I am a little surprised she didn’t try the “hey! look over there!” trick, only to have me turn around and discover she was missing.

How about the cables? Let’s talk about the cables. You want cables, hoo boy, this sweater has cables!

LockeSt-Detail1

I like using symmetry and structure in my designs when I can, and the big show piece of this sweater is the way the cables lend vertical focus and visual appeal, especially down the back of the piece. Two diamond cables twist down the centre and are flanked by a few smaller twists and claw cables, for accent and delicate appeal. There is a blend here of cables and twisted stitches (mostly sneaking in in the ribbing and in between the cable placements – I just can’t give up my precious twisted stitches entirely, it seems!).

LockeSt-Detail2

Sizing for this pattern runs between 35-55 ins around at bust (when closed), and is intended for slight positive ease between 2-4 ins or so, according to preference. As usual, I provide some suggestions in the pattern notes about how to work cables without a cable needle, if you’re interested in that method as a potential way of building speed and efficiency. (Having said that, though, I know there are knitters who are speed demons with cable needles, so choose whatever method floats your boat!)
And also as usual, feel free to consult the pattern schematic and gauge if you prefer to modify your patterns for a more customized fit for yourself.

Thank you again to Jane D. for the photography on this project, and Stephannie Tallent for the technical editing, and to friends Tammy and Kelly for providing test-knitting feedback during the knitting process!

Now that I’ve said a mouthful, I’m looking forward to taking a break for a couple of days to knit and let these February projects be out in the world a little bit. When next we meet I’ll formally introduce you to the Locke St. cardi’s companions – the Aberdeen Ave. hat and mittens. They are just as warm and toasty, and the weather seems to agree – we finally have snow around these parts!

Happy knitting this fine Sunday!
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Filed under cables, design, sweaters

Edgewater Cardigan

I can’t tell you how happy I am that it is finally cold enough to not only wear hand-knits, but to enjoy wearing hand-knits. I admit I am not at all the sort of person who rejoices over +17C temperatures in November. I’m a knitter, darn it, and I like being able to snuggle down into the yarny results of my labours. With that said, I’m pleased to have been wearing this sweater the last week – the sweater which I am happy to show off to you today as a new design. It’s what I wore on the Saturday at Rhinebeck this year and it’s a cozy cardigan for sure. Edgewater is available on Patternfish and my Ravelry store, and debuts at a slight sale price for the month of November.

Edgewater2b

This is a sweater that I designed as I went along, starting with some deliciously soft wool (Manos Maxima – very similar to Malabrigo Worsted), and a wide looping cable running up along the sleeves. By the time I got to the body I had the rest of it figured out – the cables repeat up the back, and are joined by some tinier cable twists up alongside the edge of the button-band. I also threw on some pockets, which I think may well be my favourite detail of the whole thing. I like having that little extra spot to hide things I’m carrying with me – or even just to slide in my iPod while sitting at the cafe.

EdgewaterPocket

The sweater is worked from the bottom-up, and the sleeves and body are joined in one piece for raglan shaping at the yoke. There is shaping at the waist, and a slight shawl collar for just a touch more comfort – however, in the instructions I note that a plain button-band could easily be worked and the shawl collar omitted. Because this is worked on a field of ‘reverse stockinette’ – i.e. the purl side of the stockinette shows on the Right Side of the work – all of the decreases on the body are worked on the Wrong Side, or the knit side. I’d much rather ask you to do k2tog and ssk than p2tog and ssp. Those ssp decreases can be fiddly, and I have no shame in admitting I like to avoid them if I can.

EdgewaterSleeve

I am extremely grateful to Melissa Jaarsma, who took the beautiful modelled shots you see here, while we were at Rhinebeck. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, and she went snap-snap-snap and before you knew it we had these lovely pictures you see here. I think this might be the most I’ve ever liked myself in photos. I also owe a note of thanks to Jaya Purswani for the technical editing on this pattern. Thank you, ladies, for your helpful work!

Nov21-Edgewater2

I’ll offer one last note on the yarn selection for this pattern, for any eager would-be knitters! Manos Maxima (and Malabrigo Worsted, the nearest substitute for this) are wonderfully soft and a joy to work with. They are single-spun ultra-fine merino that is pretty much like knitting with kittens. However, when a yarn gives so much in comfort and softness, it tends to neglect sturdiness and hard wearing. So, feel free to choose accordingly and go with a plied yarn or hardier wool, if that would serve you better! This is worked at a pattern gauge of 18 sts/4 ins, so a variety of worsted or Aran yarns would be suitable.

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And if you are a sweater knitter or no, I wish you a happy Monday (that’s also known as Happy Castle Day, if you’re me), with possibly a refreshing beverage also. I’ll catch up with you again later in the week, with more knitting to be done.
Happy knitting!

23 Comments

Filed under cables, design, finished object: sweater, sweaters

November thoughts

Thank you all so much for your comments on Monday’s blog giveaway post! It is wonderful to read your stories of knitting on the go. And I think it says a lot about knitters that so many of us are so prepared with all sorts of different items where ever we go – not just with knitting! But you’ve got to admit, having knitting makes a lot of times a lot easier.

Random number November

I’m pleased to report a winner – thanks to the Random Number Generator the winning entrant is #321, which by my reckoning corresponds to Laura, who commented last night. I’ve sent her an email and we’ll get her hooked up with her very own Rio bag asap! Thank you all so, so much for participating. I’m sure I’ll be doing another giveaway before too long, but in the mean time I hope you’ll stick around for some regular-old knit blogging as well. ;)

Knitting continues around here this week, on a few different fronts, and I’m excited to be bringing a few new patterns your way in the coming month! Including at least one free pattern here on the blog. I’m continuing to make way for a few new projects just for myself this month as well, so that I’ll be comfy and cozy for the winter as well as hopefully a few gift recipients. My new Podsters are coming along nicely, and I do believe I’ll post a slightly revised version of this pattern when I’m done. I think there could be a better differentiation between the smaller and larger sizes (so that the small is more…smaller), so look for that soon at the very least.

Nov2-PodstersInProgress

And in other news, November has been dubbed by online knitters as “National Sweater Knitting Month,” or “NaSweKniMo” – an answer to “National Novel Writing Month” or “NaNoWriMo” (affectionately referred to as NaNo) – and while I didn’t cast on for a new project November 1st as the rules would have you do, I do fully intend to finish one of the current sweaters on the needles before the end of the month. I had such hopes for October. While I did get my Rhinebeck sweater finished, it turns out that after carting my Gwendolyn sweater and my as-yet-unfolding Briar Rose Abundance sweater around with me, as November dawns I still have a grand total of…two pairs of sleeves, and one hem.

Nov2-SweatersInProgress

I think I can improve on that progress! Here’s looking at you, November.
What do your November knitting plans include? Will you be casting on a new sweater, or are other projects catching your eye?

Happy knitting this Wednesday!

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Filed under accessories, sweaters

Cozy

It’s been an odd week around these parts – first it took me a solid couple of days to catch up on sleep/energy from the expenditures of Rhinebeck weekend, and then there were a few days of family waiting and uncertainty ending in some sad news. My knitting mojo’s taken a hit this week as well, I’m sure partly due to the above and also partly due to the regular post-project-completion ennui of finishing up my Rhinebeck sweater just in the nick of time.

And so while there are several projects scattered around that I could and should be working on at this very moment (including finishing writing up the pattern for said Rhinebeck sweater), I’ve reached instead for the Briar Rose Abundance purchased at last year’s Rhinebeck. Despite the “worsted” indications on the labels, I read it as a bulky yarn since it swatches up nicely over 14 sts/4 ins.

Oct21-AbundanceSleeve

If I can get a complete full length sleeve in less than a day, sign me up for that action for a little bit. I’ll let the other projects fight with it for some time, but a bit of cozy bulky purple wool is feeling pretty good at the moment.

Like my last sweater, this is starting with a sleeve and some cables, but unlike my last sweater, I actually have a fully-formed plan for it right from the starting gate. More sweater coziness ahead, which is good, since the fall wind doth blow out there.

I hope your weekend is restful and full of knitting! I’ll catch you again next week.

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Knit all the things

I know there are lots of people who welcome the return of fall, but I think if you’re a knitter you have a bit of an edge on that. It’s been pretty fun watching the knitters on my Twitter feed exclaim about the return of cool weather, or talk to other knitters who are saying things like “I can wear my socks again! And sweaters! this is so great!” I mean, I know there are some people who are probably agreeing with the weather guy on TV calling a 23C forecast for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend “really nice,” but in my head I’m thinking “are you kidding??? We want sweater weather! GIVE US BACK THE SWEATER WEATHER.”

We’ll all be eating these words round about Februrary when we have had just about enough of sweater weather thank you very much, but I digress. SWEATERS.

Oct5-GwendolynSleeves

I’ve been slower than I’d like to progress with my Gwendolyn cardigan (the hazard of working several projects at a time), but breaking into the second sleeve this past weekend gave me a bit of nice momentum. But I’ve got to turn my attention to my Rhinebeck cardigan over the next week and a half, because it turns out that’s all the time I’ve got left in between now and then. And you know, I don’t mean to brag about my progress or anything, but I’ve got both sleeves done. And the hem of the body. Yeah, so that’s totally almost done. Maybe another day or two and I’ll have it licked.

Oct5-MaximaCardiProgress

Okay, so it’s going to be close, as per usual, but I’m loving the yarn. Manos Maxima is pretty close to Malabrigo worsted, and I don’t think I need to tell you how soft and squooshable THAT is. It’s like knitting with kitten purrs.

Oct5-MaximaCardiDetail

I’m making this up in my head as I go, but I think I’ve got the plan for the body down. Going to throw in a few more cable details along the edge as well as down the back, and I think it’s going to work out nicely. And it’ll be so cozy. Once it’s done the only thing left will be to cross my fingers (along with 1,000s of others I am sure) for sweater weather at Rhinebeck. Here’s hoping!

Lots of great knitting weather to come. Goodbye summer! It’s time for wool season.

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Filed under design, sweaters

An emerging plan

Since I apparently don’t have enough to do, and since it’s now a whole 3.5 weeks away from Rhinebeck (HAH that snuck up quickly), I thought it’d be a good time to cast on for a Rhinebeck sweater. I like having something new to wear at Rhinebeck, and I just bought this lovely dark teal green Manos Maxima (a soft single-spun worsted, much like Malabrigo worsted) at the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter’s Fair and wanted to cast on for something before it sat for too long and became a forgotten part of the stash.

It’s going to be a cardigan, and with a few soft and squishy cables to go with the soft and squishy yarn, but other than that, I don’t have the entire plan nailed down yet. I’m going “off the cuff,” as it were. (Yuk yuk yuk, I kill me.)

Sept21-Cuff

Not sure yet if it’ll have a regular collar or a shawl collar (ooo, shawl collar…), pockets or no pockets (ooo, pockets…) but I DO know what I want the sleeves to do, so I’ll start there. If it all works out nicely, I’ll write it up. And goodness knows it’s finally starting to be sweater weather out there! Which is very exciting. The nice bonus with this is that at 4.5 sts/inch it’s going to work up relatively quickly, so I’ll have a cozy finished knit before too long.

Happy knitting today! May your Wednesday be over quickly and have your preferred refreshment waiting for you at the end of it.

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Filed under sweaters