That final step

It’s an odd thing sometimes with project finishing. If I haven’t got a deadline attached to something, then often my brain will check out and move on once the bulk of the actual knitting is done, and final things like weaving in ends or sewing on buttons will sit there waiting to be done until the very last possible moment of, “oh wait, I need to actually wear this now, so I’d better go ahead and do that.” I think it’s the product of my knitting brain looking for the next challenge, and it usually craves starting a new project altogether over the tedium of finishing. Or maybe I get tripped up on having to go to a separate store to find the buttons, because for some that seems exponentially more tedious than buying the yarn.

But the truth is I don’t actually mind the finishing, because you get finished clothing out of it. And when it comes to sewing up pieces together into a sweater, then you get to see it transform into a collection of flat pieces into a 3-dimensional garment, and that’s pretty great. And then you get to wear it.

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In other words, back in September I finished knitting my Uji cardigan. A few weeks later I even bought buttons for it. But knitting brain had done the aforementioned thing and moved on, and somehow, even though a sweater + buttons isn’t exactly the same thing as a sweater with buttons on it, in my mind it totally was, so I went and did other things. Also, this is a gorgeous and totally bulky, warm, furnace-like sweater. This is not something one casually reaches for when it’s November and still +8C outside. That’s still DK-weight sweater time, and I could wait.

And then, December came. And lo, when December arrived, it brought cold. Last weekend we had snow and daytime temps of -10C, and I finally saw the light and went and took eight minutes out of my life to sew on the frigging buttons. I AM SO GLAD I DID. This sweater basically rules, and I will now promptly spend all winter wearing it for my couch time in the evenings, or maybe for a quick dash outside if it warms up to, you know, freezing.

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I knitted my Uji in Knit Picks Cadena (which I have learned is now sadly discontinued! woe.), which is a bulky-weight wool/alpaca blend. This is pretty much the warmest possible combination of yarn descriptors you could possibly get. Regular wool would be pretty great too, possibly even more ideal since the alpaca content makes it drape more heavily, but I’m happy with how mine turned out. I knitted a size for about 5 inches of positive ease, which I also like for a bulky cabled sweater that is meant for a warm outer layer.

The main modifications I made to the pattern were to shorten it – I removed about 3 inches in overall length, which probably reduced to about 2 inches post-washing and blocking. I also changed how I worked the sleeve cap shaping to use decreases instead of stepped bind-off. I like being able to sew vertical seams when I sew my sleeve caps into my armholes, so that was basically just a personal choice of how I like to construct things. And finally I reduced the number of armhole decreases at the back & front pieces to make the cross-shoulder measurement wider than written, to fit my shoulders. Other than that, I worked it as written. It’s a nice comfy sweater, thanks for the pattern, Ann Marie!

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Happy knitting this fine Thursday! Hope you’re staying warm wherever you are.

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At least you can get a hat out of it

As is typical when I have a lot of different projects to be working on, or when I’ve been working on the same projects for a while and am feeling bored (or both), I’ve been letting myself get a bit distracted by the thought of new knitting projects. I haven’t actually cast on anything new yet, but I’ve gone so far as to print out patterns and read them plan yarn selections – which is sort of almost the same thing, if you can fool your brain into thinking that knitting in your mind is the same thing as knitting in three-dimensional reality.

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Last week the latest issue of Twist Collective came out, and I cast a glance in its direction (as one does), thinking that I’d just return to my regular life afterwards. But there were cabled things in there, and I am sucker for cabled things. Fiona’s Ruddington cardigan would be just up my alley, and I’ve got about three different stash yarns that could jump into action on that right away. But then there is something about the totally ambitious all-over cabling winter-coziness this-sweater-will-keep-you-warm-forever action of Andrea Rangel’s Joist pullover, and I could not stop thinking about it.

The rational side of my brain held me off long enough to realize that maybe I’ll have to wait to cast on for the actual sweater until something else comes off the needles. But then a different part of my brain pointed out that, hey, that is a cabled sweater knitted in the round, and it refers to gauge measurements in the round, and so before you knit the sweater you’re going to have to knit a swatch in the round.

And you know what another word is for ‘swatch knitted in the round?’ Hat. The other word for that is ‘hat.’

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I took a lone skein of Cascade 220 Heathers from my stash (which is the substituted yarn I’m planning to knit the final pullover with), and grabbed some 16″ circulars and sat down last Saturday with some Sleepy Hollow episodes, and I knitted myself a swatch hat. I cast on 100 sts for [k2, p2] ribbing until I felt like I had enough ribbing, then increased to 144 sts so that I could get 6 full repeats of the main stitch pattern in there. Then once I felt it was long enough (after trying it on and checking it out in the mirror a few times) fudged up some decreases within the pattern (consulting with my super handy all-purpose guide on all such things), and then I had a hat.

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It’s not exactly the same thing as getting a sweater of course (well okay it is not really at all in the slightest way the same thing), but it’s enough to help me measure gauge in pattern and to select the pattern size I want to make from the instructions.

And, I get a new hat. Who doesn’t need more hats?

Happy knitting this Wednesday!

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Self-made merry

December always seems to sneak up on me a little bit. I know it’s coming, of course, but there’s something about expecting there to be the 31st of November following the 30th and then realizing that no no, actually we roll right into December and it’s the last month of the year now. And it’s a busy month, and the month of realizing ‘OH WAIT there’s all that stuff I still meant to do this year can I still fit all of that into one month and also experience holiday craziness’, and seasonal knitting usually crams itself in there. So, in conclusion, December is a little nutty.

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I am fan of advent calendars, though, coming as I do from a Christmas-celebrating household. I often fantasize about being the sort of knitter who plans her time well enough to make a knitted advent calendar (and I know several of you out there are in fact that sort of knitter, which gives you my undying envy) – you know, 24 little hand-knit mittens or pockets or pouches that get hung up with little notes or gifts inside of them. Truthfully, I have the sort of obsessive/impulsive personality that would totally be on board with that, so I haven’t written off the possibility of a future handknit string of advent mittens, but in the mean time I have my own self-made one.

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Last year I got resourceful and cut up a bunch of old Christmas cards (which I always save but let’s face it never do anything with except leave them in a box), wrote down 24 tasks of varying sorts – some for other people (donate to charity), some for myself (knit whatever I want for a day), and some for just plain festive activity (have a holiday-ish drink) – and strung them up one day at a time. The other week I was mentioning the whole enterprise to Julie and she was all, “dude, did you blog about that? Because that is the coolest.”

(Edited to add – I haven’t shared my whole list of 24 things here because, well, it’s for me. ;) But it’s fair to say I’ll be posting of a few of them along the way on my Instagram account.)

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So here I am sharing a little bit of the festive season with you, dear knitters – I hope you have time for your own personal celebrations and reflections as the year winds down. And there’s always time to treat one’s self to some personal knitting projects as well! If you’re staring down a long list of gift knitting or gift shopping to get done in the next few weeks, don’t forget some moments for yourself when things are hectic.

Have a great first week of December ahead!

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Cables understand me

It’s been a busy month – well, busy couple of months, really. October passed in a flurry of holiday visits and Rhinebeck travels, and November has been a busy one for the ol’ day job, not to mention getting sidelined by viral plague for the last week, so knitting activity here at Knitting To Stay Sane has been continuous but varyingly so. I’ve had fits of productivity and then days of going back and forth between current projects and starts at new ones – design swatching and planning, or project dreaming.

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One project I’ve had on the go since fall started is a new cabled sweater design. It’s been in my head for a year and I was desperate to start it. So as September was coming to an end I cast on for this pullover even though I knew I didn’t really have time for it. It’s been a nice comfort to have in the wings, and I am hoping it will be ready to share with all of you in the new year. (There’s going to be a men’s version as well. I’m nothing if not ambitious).

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Some people turn to stockinette or garter stitch to sooth them in hectic times, but for me it’s gotta be cables. Sometimes the knitting brain just wants what it wants. [Edited to add - the yarn is Harrisville Designs 'Highland' - a worsted wool that's a little bit sheepy but still a little bit soft ;)]

What projects are you dreaming about these days? There’s always so much to choose from!

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Rather loose relationship with time

I think one of the oddest things about knitting world has got to be the strange way we experience it as a form of time. Like, “Oh sure I can get that sweater done in two weeks to wear for my birthday party.” Or “Christmas Day is technically only 6 hours away, that’s lots of time to finish this pair of gloves I’ve hardly started. No worries.” Or the fact that sitting on a train for an hour a day each way on my commute isn’t as big a deal because it’s knitting time, as opposed to just “geez why am I not home already I am so tired” kind of time.

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When you add knitting design in there it gets even more bizarre. Sometimes I work on something for self-publication and can have something turned around in exactly whatever amount of time I feel like it, and then if I’m working on something for another publication I could be rushing to get it done in less than a month. The next part is that sometimes, depending on the publication, this could bear no clear relationship whatsoever to when the final pattern sees the light of day. As a designer you roll with it, though, because otherwise we’d just never get anything done.

Anyway, this is all a long way of saying that a sweater I actually knitted 2 years ago was formally published 2 months ago, and finally my brain has sorted itself out long enough to tell you about it. (And get some photos. I can’t bear myself to announce anything knitted without getting photos of it).

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A couple of years ago my friend Tanis asked me if I would contribute a sweater to her book Knitting Architecture, and it was so delightful a concept that I couldn’t possibly turn that down. It’s a book of women’s sweater and accessory patterns all based on key examples of architectural & design style. Mine was ‘art nouveau’, and the result was this cardigan, named for Alphonse Mucha, a famous artist and all around art nouveau dude.

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It’s a modified-drop-shoulder, kimono-style cardigan meant to be quite loose, drapey, and comfortable, and uses a combination of dynamic cables and textural stitches to evoke the same kind of organic lines that art nouveau was famous for. My original sample was a bit smaller than what I would normally wear for myself, and since my ‘auntie’ Patricia not only is the right size for it but also is a lover of all things art nouveau and deco, I knew the sweater definitely had to go to live with her. After I got it back this fall I went over to her place to grab a few photographs of her in it and the handoff was made.

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The cardigan is knitted in 4 pieces from the bottom up, and then seamed. It’s in worsted weight using Berroco Ultra Alpaca, one of my favourite yarns and a lovely blend of wool and alpaca. Perfect choice for this kind of project. It was a delightful book to be a part of and a great collection of designs to boot. And I’m glad to finally share it with you!

Happy knitting this weekend!

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That time it took me 2 months to get FO photos

So, one of the things I’ve been learning as a relatively new 9-to-5 Toronto commuter (other than a new appreciation for knitting time as an in-transit coping mechanism for, well, commuting), is that it’s a lot darned harder to get Finished Object photos of something when daytime (read: daylight) hours get sucked up by that pesky ‘work’ thing, and call me crazy but I like having daylight in my knitting photos.

Thankfully, I have a fellow knitter as a co-worker, so we finally squeezed in a moment on coffee break last week to get me some photos of the Locke St. cardigan I finished back in the middle of September. Sweater photos! With me in them and everything!

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I’ve been wearing this sweater at least once a week since the fall chill arrived and couldn’t be more pleased with it. I did it in Tanis Fiber Arts DK in ‘sprout’, one of the newer colour-ways from Spring 2013. I’m loving the cables and the shawl collar and would actually not rule out doing another one of these for myself in another colour, some time in the future. (So many knits, so little time).

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I published this pattern almost 2 years ago, and took the time to update the pattern while I was knitting my own sample of it. The pattern notes now include an additional size on the smaller range, and now includes bust sizes 33(35, 38, 41, 44, 48, 51, 55) ins bust, when worn closed. I’ve also updated the schematic to include a bit more detail, and modified the shoulders to be a bit narrower, based on knitter feedback. Overall, though, it’s still the same cabley-goodness cardigan it’s always been, and works pretty well for my 9-to-5 wardrobe, I must say!

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You can find the Locke St. cardigan Ravelry store as usual, and also on Patternfish.

In conclusion, finished handknits are fabulous, as are photographs of them. What finished knits are you itching to get photographs of for your Ravelry project pages?

Happy knitting this Wednesday!

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A Giveaway Winner, and Yarn Chatter

Wow, so many of you commented on my giveaway post, with so many fabulous fall knitting plans! I particularly salute those of you who are already on top of your holiday gift knitting, because I have to admit that hasn’t even crossed my scattered mind yet. I wish I had more than one skein of yarn to give away, but as it is I’m pleased to announce a winner, thanks to the friendly neighbourhood random number generator. And it’s wee number 16 that pulls the winning prize! Congrats to Lynn Scott, commenting on Oct 29th. Lynn, I’ll be in touch about getting your prize to you.

RANDOM.ORG   True Random Number Service

In other news, let’s talk a little bit about yarn – specifically, knowing how much to buy! Last week after my Rhinebeck yarn haul post, a couple of you asked about how does a person know how much yarn to buy for a particular kind of project? It’s something we all have to grapple with when buying a new batch of yarn.

This is often made easier if you know you’re going to be making a small project. For example, “sock yarn” tends to come in 100g-ish skeins that are the right amount for an average pair of socks (but get two if you’re making socks for large men’s feet). In fact, you can usually get a single project out of something with at least 100g in it, like a hat or a pair of mitts. My Squall Hat pattern, for example, takes a single 100g skein of chunky yarn, and the Union Station beret also takes a single 100g skein even though it’s worsted weight, not chunky.

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Larger projects, on the other hand, are trickier. Once you get into the habit of making large projects like sweaters, or even blankets (do people knit multiple blankets? I knitted one like five years ago and am just now recovering), you start to know how much yarn to grab. For me, I know that 7 or so 100g skeins of something (like Cascade 220 worsted-weight, below) will be enough for a sweater. I can get away with 6 skeins if it’s not terribly complex or cabley (cables eat up yarn more so than stockinette or knit/purl textured patterns), or if I’m doing 3/4 sleeves instead of full sleeves. I know this because I’ve made a lot of sweaters for myself, so I’ve had practice picking out yarn.

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If you haven’t had a lot of practice picking out yarn for your own large projects, though, or if you’re knitting a sweater for someone else, you can do two things: 1) be at the mercy of the yarn requirements for the pattern, or 2) estimate based on standardized guidelines like these, or, more popularly, these, in a leaflet which is frequently sold at yarn shops right near the counter. (Also makes a nice knitter gift!) The trick with #1 is that you need to know what pattern you are going to make in advance of purchasing the yarn, which doesn’t always happen. Some of us would argue that this rarely happens, in fact. (It’s just so easy to get taken in by beautiful yarn sometimes.) So, in that case we end up resorting to #2 and going in with an estimate based on chest circumference of the finished garment.

In either of these instances, you need to know a few things off the top of your head, especially if you end up chatting with a friendly yarn shop employee for advice on your purchasing needs:
-What size garment am I going to be making with this?
-Do I think it’s going to have a whack of cables and bobbles and fussy yarn-eating stitches on it?
-Do I think I’m going to have to modify a standard pattern to add or subtract yarn? i.e. is my body likely to be shorter/longer/smaller/bigger than what standard patterns are written for? (I say this as a Tall Person who frequently adds length to sweater bodies and sleeves. My friend Jessie who is 8 inches shorter than me has the opposite problem).

The other piece of advice here that you’ll tend to hear a lot, is always buy an extra ball/skein of yarn if you can help it. It just does not hurt to have the extra just in case. If you keep that extra skein tucked away with your original yarn store receipt (without winding up the skein and making sure not to lose any labels or anything), you can most likely return it if you don’t end up needing it. Or, you can keep it and make a hat or pair of mitts or something else small for yourself or a gift. Unless the yarn is very preciously priced or comes in very large skeins, erring on the side of extra is just plain sensible.

Have you developed your own ‘system’ for remembering project amounts? Do you keep an index card of project yardage in your wallet for emergencies, or have other helpful steps at the ready? Share them in the comments and we’ll all be excited to learn them.

Have a great Thursday afternoon! Hopefully with some knitting in it, and a refreshing (adult?) beverage at the end of the day.

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