Category Archives: sweaters

On not getting gauge (and being OK with it)

Yesterday I met up for lunch with Austen, and was ready to cast on for Gwendolyn at the same time. (Because, you know, I didn’t have enough to knit already.) Austen has already been zipping along on hers for a few weeks, aiming to be done before she goes off on a trip in mid-September. Mine will not be done by mid-September, but I promised all the same wayyyy back in March or so, that if she wanted to knit that sweater then I would too, in a sort of two-person knitalong. And fall’s coming soon, and one can never have too many nice knitted sweaters (I’m knitting mine as a cardigan), so I was game.

I swatched up for it last week, with some trusty Cascade 220 I bought in Kingston at Wool-Tyme back in June (I can never resist Cascade 220 when it’s on sale), and was surprised to discover I was very close to pattern gauge at 19.5 sts/4 ins on 4.5mm needles over stockinette, where the pattern requests 20 on 5.0mm. Then, I washed and blocked it. (Because I intend to wash and block the sweater.)

Aug29-Swatch1

Post-washing, my gauge changed to 18 sts/4 ins. I would have been disappointed except for the fact that I have always always always since the beginning of time gotten 18 sts/4 ins on Cascade 220 on 4.5mm. It’s important to make sure, though, just in case, because for all I know that changed since the last time I checked. So you would think this would be the point where normally a person would have to make a decision about what needle size to re-swatch with to get closer to pattern gauge, but actually, I’m good to go. I like the stockinette fabric I’m getting with that needle, and to go down any more snug would probably mean the cabled fabric will wear like iron and stand on its own, so I’ll stay here.

As it turns out, sticking with 18 sts/4 ins and making a size smaller than what I would have made at pattern gauge, will get me the size that I actually want in the end. (I even did the math on that. It all checks out. Take THAT, gauge! You are not the boss of me!) And it also so happens that Austen had the same experience and is proceeding with the exact same plan, and so far that’s turning out well for her.

I’ve cast on with the first sleeve – just in case of problems, it’s a lot easier to rip out a sleeve than to rip out and re-start the whole body – and lickety split I’ve got little sleeves for my portable transit knitting.

What fall knits are you hoping to cast on for soon?

Happy knitting until next time!

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Filed under swatching, sweaters

Back in action

I’ve returned from my week away at the Haliburton School of Arts summer program, and it’s been a jam-packed week! I could have done without a couple of the very hot days (if you’re a few hours north of Toronto and the humidex is still in the 40C+ range, that is HOT, YO), and especially without whatever bug chomped on my foot and led me to spend my final evening of the week waiting to see an ER doc (and, as it turns out, get some antibiotics, erk), but the knitting parts of the week were all good.

My class was all about sweater knitting, particularly about knitting sweaters that fit, and assorted other things that came up over the course of the week. Our little group got on very well, in fact so nicely that we all met for breakfast on Friday morning and they surprised me with a nice card and thank-you wine. (I have no doubt that it will taste better than regular wine). By mid-week they were even dreaming up other knitting classes I should come back and do next summer, so with any luck we’ll get to do it again.

July23-ClassPhoto

Over the course of the week we chattered on about measuring, swatching, (and then more about measuring and swatching), pattern reading and modification, finishing, yarn behaviour, and lots more that I’m probably forgetting.

July23-DonnaJackieBarb

We made duct tape dress forms, as one does.

July23-JackieSue

July23-BarbDonna

And we also ate chocolate, chatted, knitted, and enjoyed our luck at having an air-conditioned classroom. We commented at how convenient it is to have chosen a craft (or art?) that allows us to be able to sit and talk in a group at the same time as actually doing the execution. It really is a nice bonus.

And now I’m back in the big city again for a few days and readying myself to exchange one whirlwind for another as I prepare to leave for Sock Summit next Wednesday. There’s more knitting to be done, and I suspect some laundry and list-making.

Catch you again in a couple of days! And stay cool, knitter friends.

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Filed under fearless knitting, sweaters, teaching

Things I’ve been doing

I’ve been short in the blogging this week, but not in the to-do-ings. Things I’ve been keeping busy with include:

1. Finishing up some sock designs for Indigodragonfly, to appear in her booth at Sock Summit 2011, in just 11 short days. (Note: dates on calendar may be closer than they appear). They are all Firefly-inspired, and you can catch a glimpse of Kaylee (above) and Mal (below) here. Inara is the third, to follow. I love them.

July15-KayleeMalSocks

2. Finishing up a pair of Jaywalkers that have been on the needles and in my purse since April and I had sort of almost given up hope of finishing. But slow and steady wins in the end, and now I have another pair of Lorna’s Laces Jaywalkers (9th? 10th pair?) in ‘Montrose’, to add to the sock drawer.

July15-JaywalkersMontrose

3. Being really frustrated that I’m still not running. (Yes, I’ve started physiotherapy. No, this does not make me feel much better about having to cancel a 2nd half-marathon in 3 months.)

4. Cooking up some designs for the fall. Man, I love cables. (As does this Tanis Fiber Arts DK, in garnet. Man, I love garnet.)

July15-TanisDKcardi

5. Reviving a healthy obsession with Harry Potter inspired knitwear.

6. Preparing to head off this weekend for the Great North Woods, or more accurately, the Haliburton School of the Arts, where I’ll be teaching a week long workshop starting Monday, on sweater knitting. I basically love everything about sweaters, and though I am filled with equal parts delight and anxiety over teaching a week long workshop for the first time, I think probably the delight will win, since sweaters are awesome. (And usually so are knitters).

Catch you next time! And in case I’m gone all week, as my friend Jane likes to say, kids, don’t burn down the internet while I’m away.

Happy knitting!

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Filed under design, finished object, finished object: socks, socks, sweaters

Month’s end

Folks, I say this every month, but this time I honestly do have no real clue as to how the time has managed to pass so quickly. How is it possible that tomorrow it will be June? Many parts of me are in full on rejection mode about this. Especially the parts of me that are recoiling in horror at the 40C+ humidex that is already climbing in. Now really, a knitter needs a bit more time to adjust to this sort of thing. Especially when said knitter happens to be knitting a wool/silk pullover. (One could also argue that said knitter should really have moved on to the lace silk shawl already, instead, and one might be sort of right about that, but one would also have to deal with said knitter’s stubbornness. So.)

I’ve been busy enough behind the scenes here, keeping up with my running (and now with some rest after over-doing my poor hip, WOE is me), getting busy with some new designs for later this summer and the fall, and generally trying to get with a new routine. Speaking of catching up with a few things, though…

1. The TTC Knitalong (Calling Toronto-area knitters!) is happening yet again, with many excited knitters already planning to descend on the city, knit their way through the streets, streetcars, and subways, and converge with lots of happy purchases and chatter. If you’d like to sign up, do so quickly, since spots do sometimes fill up quickly on some of the teams! Have a 2nd or 3rd choice ready! I’m planning on volunteering along with one of the North teams if all goes well, since that’s a route I haven’t sat in on before. But they all promise yarn and good times.

2. In March I promised you that I would donate proceeds from my pattern sales to charity, in light of ongoing relief efforts in Japan and around the world. And although I mentioned the results of this on my Twitter feed, somehow it got away from my blog and I would be remiss not to finally report to you that, thanks to your purchases and a bit of my own top-up, I donated $400 to charity, split evenly between the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. Thank you for your generosity, dear knitters!

3. In knitting progress news, I am pleased to report that my Silk Garden Hourglass sweater now has both two sleeves AND a body, and is moving along swiftly on the yoke. I’d hoped that I might have it done this month, but that does seem a bit less likely now given that, at the time of reporting, the month only has about six and a half hours left in it.

May31-NoroHourglass

Still, I am enjoying it. I ran into a bit of a fretful moment on the weekend when I realized I was down to my 2nd last ball of the darker colourway, but still had 3 more of the brighter one. Happily, I also happened to be hanging out with Lisa’s kitties on the weekend (cute kitty picture included below, for reference – new wee Athena, and Greedo), and her place is close to Passionknit, and they had a veritable wall of Silk Garden choices. Now that I have procured 2 extra skeins, I am sure this means I will now manage to squeak by to the very last yard of the original set of yarn, and not need them at all, but one does always want to be prepared to meet that eventuality with some reinforcements at the ready. Thankfully, Silk Garden is always useful to hang around the yarn stash.

May27-Kitties

4. I’ve been doing a bit of pattern updating, and am happy to announce that my Lamplight Shawl is now available in wide release, both in my Ravelry store and on Patternfish. I did this pattern last year for The Sweet Sheep, and the larger version (very cozy, or so I think) uses one of her Soft Spun Super Skeins, which are wonderful in that you can get an entire big shawl out of one and never have to stop to join skeins or weave in ends.

Aug22-Shawl5

5. Sock Summit Registration happened – and I am pleased to have snagged a few classes once again! I’ll be knitting with Cat Bordhi, Cookie A, and Franklin Habit. It will be a great bit of vacation and visiting and knitting and learning (um, and maybe shopping) and general merriment. Will any of you be there as well?

Happy knitting! Catch you next month. (ha!)

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Filed under design, knitting in public, sweaters, Uncategorized

Approaching sweaters

Because knitters are diverse, inventive, and also often very stubborn people, we have at least a dozen ways of doing any one particular thing. I was talking about this with Austen the other day in reference to socks and heel construction – you could go on for days with the variations. So it is with sweaters. You can go in the round, in pieces, top down, seams, fake seams, yoked, cardigans, whatever you’re feeling like that day. I still like to go bottom-up with my sweaters, and don’t mind a good seam or two for structural integrity if it is so called for. This Hourglass Pullover, though (pattern in Last Minute Knitted Gifts), has appeal for being in the round and entirely stockinette. It’s pretty quick to knock out if you are so inclined, and I’m happy to report that I’m already at the halfway mark or possibly just past it.

May25-NoroHourglass

One thing I like doing with sweaters, if I have the presence of mind and it makes sense at the time, is to begin with the sleeves and get them done before beginning the body (whether or not the whole thing is in the round or not). It doesn’t actually give you any advantage in time, but it does offer a wonderful psychological advantage of letting you finish the two quickest bits while you have that period of new-project momentum. You’re going to hit the “oh good gracious why is this project not done yet” doldrums during the body at some point, so you may as well get there with nothing else left to do but the rest of the body, rather than having to psych yourself up for the sleeves still to come. Also, if you are the sort of person who sometimes resists gauge swatching (not that you would be, of course, but you might know someone who is, you know ::cough::), the sleeve is usually a pretty low-stakes part of the garment, so you can take the first half of the sleeve as a sort of working swatch, and adjust things from there if you need to. It all works out.

I was pleased to discover that indeed, I am getting gauge, and indeed, the alternating Noro Silk Garden colourways are doing their crazy thing and coming up with their own colour plan as they usually do. I’m trying hard not to engineer the pattern and to let it fall as it may, since everything will eventually repeat itself. And a colour muddle, if repeated enough times, becomes a design feature, as Sally Melville says, so I will give control to the yarn and let it produce the sweater it wants. Looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Happy knitting this Wednesday!

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Filed under sweaters

Around and around

The Pi Shawl, she is done, and I am well pleased. I wore it out on Wednesday as a layer under my jacket (then, erm, learned very quickly to be careful not to choose jackets with little grabby snaggy parts underneath the collar – had a close call) and got to show it off at the Toronto Downtown Knit Collective meeting at ‘show and tell’, which was also super fun. Go ahead and knit yourself one of these, man. I mean, sure, it’ll take a while. But then you get this:

May20-PiShawl2

This is worked with 2 skeins (just 2 skeins – 5g left of the 2nd one) of Indigodragonfly 50/50 merino/silk, or about 1400 yards, in “One, one purple skein, Aaa Aaa Aaaah!” that I got myself last summer as a birthday present. I had a 3rd skein waiting and ready, but was glad to get to just the end of the 2nd one and not be left with a large amount of remnants. This is on a 4.0mm needle and after a solid blocking is about 5 and a half feet across. If i had to do it again, admittedly, I would go down to 3.5mm and work more rounds to compensate for the difference. The finished product here is lovely, but the yarnovers are a little wider than I’d like (this ain’t no Orenburg lace, to be sure, but you know) for full comfort. Still, I’m happy with it, and it’ll be a nice light layer or scarf to throw on when needed.

May20-PiShawl1

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s instructions for this shawl are workable for a number of different yarn weights, so you could easily do it with fingering or DK if you like, for a snugglier garment. The yarnover variation here (yarnovers worked every 6th round) is one that appealed to me since it adds just a hint of interest, but a plain stockinette version would surely be the ultimate in mindless knitting, if a person were drawn to that sort of thing. And the garter stitch border is sitting there doing just what I wanted it to – being plain more than fancy, and floating along happily at the edge.

May20-PiShawl5

So look at that. Sometimes when you put a project away for a few months, and then come back to it, you realize you really CAN finish it after all! Thank goodness.

I do have the Peacock Feathers shawl still waiting and on deck to come up next, but before I start that I am getting in some quality speed-stockinette time on a new Hourglass Sweater (pattern from Last Minute Knitted Gifts). It’s been on my brain ever since January when I went to Vogue Knitting Live with Lisa and she pulled hers out of her suitcase to wear one day and I immediately wanted one of my own. We’re just in sleeve country at the moment, but I’m hopeful that chugging away on this will have me a completed sweater in a brisk enough period of time, and then I can sink my teeth into some more lace knitting.

May20-NoroHourglass

Happy long weekend, or regular weekend if you are not in a Canadian part of the world! And happy knitting to all.

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Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, finished object: shawl, lace, sweaters

And then you get a sweater

Between late January and early April I worked on the Dusseldorf Aran, as a brightly coloured respite from the winter and a “someone else’s pattern” respite from my own design work. I enjoyed it. I would have liked to have finished it a bit sooner, and gotten some winter wear out of it this past season, but I’m pleased enough that it will be waiting for me in my closet come October.

May8-Dusseldorf4

It’s a lovely pattern (Fiona Ellis, for Interweave Knits Winter 2009), and the pleated sleeves are completely fun. Granted, they are also a bit less practical, and this won’t be a sweater to wear while, say, washing dishes in the sink, but it’ll be a nice warm and dressy sweater all the same. The yarn is Ultra Alpaca from Berocco, in a stubbornly bright magenta shade that I found at Stitch in Jordan Station, Niagara, last year. I brought the pattern and materials with me to the Vogue Knitting Live event just to use as a reference for a sweater class with Anne Hanson, and then back in my hotel room later on I thought, “you know, I actually want that sweater. I will cast on right now!” So I did. I made a few modifications – lengthening the torso by about an inch and a half or so, lowering the neckline slightly, and adjusting to a smaller size than normal to account for my slightly looser gauge than what the pattern called for. It worked out well.

May8-Dusseldorf5

I hear a lot from knitters who consider sweaters to be in the “wow that’s hard, one day I’ll do that” category. And I get it – a sweater is a commitment. This is more time and yarn than many other kinds of projects. But it’s all incremental. Casting on – check your gauge, check your measurements and size. Choose where you’re going to modify the pattern, if you have to. (Hint: your body may not be the same body as the one in the pattern schematic.) Then move on to the hem, then the decreases, and before you know it you’ve finished the body and are moving onto the sleeves.

Then the finishing looms, but then you do it and when you’ve sewn up the seams and woven in any ends, then you have a sweater. I often think the reason I procrastinate the most on the finishing stage (seriously, it could be a single skein shawl with only 2 ends to weave in, and I’ll leave it for a week until I get around to sewing them in), is because then the project isn’t a project any more, it’s a garment and I don’t get to knit it any more. Which is odd since I actually really love getting to move on and choose the next project, but I suppose it’s some weird way that my subconscious says “hey, you LIKE the knitting part, remember? Let’s make it last longer!”

May8-Dusseldorf2

Anyway, I like sweaters. Socks and other accessories have colonized so much of my knitting in the last year or two that sweaters often get left aside, and I would like to knit more of them. Really, they are the best example of knitted satisfaction – in a sea of commercially-made sweaters that don’t fit you exactly right and aren’t made in the materials you prefer or the colours you might choose for yourself, the knitted sweater is the best example I can think of, of knitters wielding their power to make their closet more satisfying. Heck, I bet Tim Gunn just wishes he had a shelf full of handknit sweaters. It sometimes takes a sweater or two to get there – like anything else in knitting, the first results are often less than perfect. But it doesn’t mean you can’t get there with a little effort.

So if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go have a visit with my stash and ponder more sweaters. Who cares that summer is around the corner? Happy Monday!

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Filed under cables, finished object: sweater, sweaters

Piecing together

On Saturday I had a blissful escape day into Toronto, to do some big city shopping and knitterly mingling. It was so great I’m planning a repeat this coming weekend, and made even more appealing by the fact that outside temperatures are showing actual warmth. (That whole plan to knit mittens and dare spring to come seems to be working).

Apr7-DusseldorfAran

So, naturally, now that spring is coming, I’m finishing a sweater. I’ve been working on the Dusseldorf Aran (pattern by Fiona Ellis) off and on for about two and a half months now, mixed in with all the other miscellaney of knitting and regular life, and it’s been a lovely colour of Ultra Alpaca and the cables are great. The pieces are finished now, and it’s just the blocking and finishing left to do. I’ve been hemming and hawing a bit over whether or not the pleated sleeve cuffs (in progress, below), will be practical in my wardrobe (I imagine this will not be a sweater conducive to, say, washing dishes in the sink), and I see on Ravelry that other knitters have modified their Dusseldorfs to be simple straight tapering sleeves as is more traditional. But the thing is, the pleats are actually sort of fun. You knit, of course, way more fabric than you think you need on a sleeve cuff, plan in some fold lines (thanks, Fiona, for the awesome instructions), and then the pleating row comes along and you fold it all up with DPNs and do a lot of working 3 sts into one, and then you have a pleated cuff. That’s pretty great, man.

Apr3-DusseldorfSleeves

I’d gotten up to finishing the body and the first sleeve last week, but was dragging my feet on starting the second sleeve, as one does. Still, I took it as an alternate project with me for transiting into the city (sleeves are eminently portable, as Elizabeth Zimmerman always said) last Saturday.

Therefore, if I’d actually been working on the sleeve while I was sitting knitting away at the random Starbucks I chose to start out my Toronto day last Saturday, it would have been much more perfect when I ended up running into Fiona Ellis herself.

Apr2-FionaEllis

True story. She and her husband (who is just lovely and whose name, I am embarrassed to say, I have now forgotten, I keep wanting to say John but I’m sure that’s not going to be right), were out for Saturday coffee and we ended up chatting for a short while, about knitting and technique and design and all sorts of things. That was pretty darned neat, to say the least. I will, needless to say, now expect to have impromptu coffee chats with notorious knitters on every trip into Toronto, so if the city can get on that for this coming Saturday, that’d be great.

(Oh, and Fiona said blocking makes the pleats even more awesome. Can’t wait.)

Happy knitting!

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Filed under cables, knitting in public, sweaters

Thank goodness for yarn

You know, the more I knit the more I am grateful to be a knitter in the spring. It has nothing to do with needing to produce a bunch of warm garments (although given weather reports for the near future around southern Ontario I don’t think we’ll be giving up the sweaters or gloves any time soon). In the fall transition, it is definitely about knitting the stuff. You get the whiff of chill in the air and suddenly you find yourself casting on five sweaters. No, for me in spring it’s mostly about the yarn. I get to carve out a half hour in the morning, or an hour or two in the evening, or whenever it is the knitting suits me, and spend that time staring at a colour that in no way resembles greying half-melted snowbanks, and the thought that non-knitters don’t get to do this makes me wonder how they survive waiting for spring.

Mar8-Pleats1

The Dusseldorf Aran, while slightly sidelined, is coming along gradually, and the bright magenta is helping. It’ll be a little while yet before that colour shows up in nature anywhere around here. (And oh yeah? Pleats. Pleats, man. This sweater has pleated cuffs. It’s the first time I’ve gotten the chance to do pleats on anything knitted, and I dig it. Bit of folding here, bit of DPN knit-3-stitches-at-once action there, and then you have pleats.)

Mar6-RibbedSocksSTR

My project of adding a few more pairs of socks to the sock drawer is also coming along well, and last weekend I finished up another pair of 3×1 ribbed socks (from my basic ribbed sock pattern, in this post), in another Socks That Rock mill end colourway. (I’ve got to start making more dents in my Sock Summit stash, for serious.) And the best part of finishing a pair of socks (well, aside from wearing them)? Now, I get to walk over to my stash, look at all the yarn in all the colours, and pick out a new skein to knit with.

Mar11-SockStash

Yarn pretty much rules. I hope you’ve got some waiting for you today! Have an awesome weekend.

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Filed under finished object: socks, socks, stash, sweaters

Gradual but steady

I have reached that stage of the holidays where, despite the fact that my load is relatively light compared to many others with enormous families, I have come to terms with the fact that not everything I wanted to get done is going to happen before Christmas, and I’ll just let finished things happen where they may. Some of the cookies will be post-Christmas cookies. I’ll finish up the Lord of the Rings re-viewing maybe on Boxing Day. I’ll be getting on a plane tomorrow and that’ll be some nice key knitting time right there.

Dec22-CaramelsAndKnitting

My grandfather’s socks, the only knitted gift that is a real must on my list, are on the go and are likely going to be the only thing I’ll work on for the next few days. I started them yesterday (ahahaha yeah, I’m a bit behind) in between stirring the pot of caramel I had going while attempting to make caramel marshmallows. (You know, because I somehow burned half of the simple sugar cookie recipe, but managed to make caramel marshmallows just fine? Yeah, I don’t know either.) Needless to say, those took basically all afternoon yesterday, but they are delicious. And a few little bags of them will be gifted, which is extra awesome.

I’ve also been so close to finishing up my Elizabeth Zimmerman yoked sweater that have been letting myself spend time on it this week in the scant couple of days that I’m at the homestead in Hamilton, because there is a sewing machine and I’ve been mostly by myself (my parents are living abroad this year, in Australia, and my sister and I carry on to relatives in Edmonton for Christmas festivities), which means I get to do things like make caramels and cut steeks whenever I darned well please. And I’m really looking forward to a) having a new winter sweater to wear, as well as b) finally finishing one of the ongoing projects I’ve had lingering for a couple of months and being able to move on to a new sweater or something else according to my whims.

Dec22-EZyokeCardigan1

I picked this back up again a week or two ago after neglecting it for a bit, and it’s only just gotten interesting in the last few days with the addition of the fair isle patterns on the yoke. It’s been the sort of project that I haven’t displayed much of on the blog because it would have amounted, essentially, to a sequence of photos of more brown stockinette knitting. But then, suddenly, poof, the colour-work portion came up and I was buoyed to get it done. The buttonband and neckband are just going to be basic ribbing, which means the steek edge is going to be visible on the wrong side of the work (as compared to a folded-over facing), so I elected to do just a simple sewn reinforcement. I sewed a line of stitches down each side of the middle of the steek…

Dec22-SteekSewing

Dec22-SteekBeforeCut

…and then cut right down the middle.

Dec22-SteekFinished1

Dec22-SteekFinished2

And that was that. Done and done. I tell you, steeking never gets old. And because this sweater is worked all at once in the round, all I have now is the ribbing for the buttonband, a few ends to sew in, and I’ll be done. Of course, there is the small matter that I forgot that I will need buttons, to sew onto the buttonband. But I’m sure that’s just a small matter, right? Buttons will magically materialize somehow? Um…maybe? I’ll be on the lookout. And will be sure to report back when it’s all done for good.

Whatever stage of holiday or non-holiday knitting, craziness, or both, you may be at right now, I wish you the best this week. And I’ll toast you all when I have a drink with my knitting later on tonight. And tomorrow. And probably Christmas Day and the day after that.

Happy knitting!

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Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, fair isle, fearless knitting, steeks, sweaters