New Pattern: Dundas Pullover

In between breaks from attempting to finish a fingering weight sweater in two weeks (don’t worry, I really am doing things besides knitting, I promise!), I’ve got a new spring/fall pullover pattern to share with you. This is my Dundas Pullover, available on Ravelry and Patternfish now!

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This is a casual, almost ‘sweatshirt style’ sweater, easy to wear and a little bit airy thanks to the lace pattern panels. It’s my habit to knit cable patters when I design sweaters, but this year I’m trying out some lace options to stretch out of my comfort zone. I’ve also included some modern details for some stylish flair, using short row shaping to create a sloped hem that is slightly longer in the back than in front. (Although one could easily knit this straight and omit the short rows for a regular pullover hem) The cuffs are also a bit long, just the way I like them!

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This sweater is worked in DK-weight yarn and is shown here in Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label DK, in ‘poppy’ red, which has been great to work with the last little while as winter has finally receded. I think this would work well in a variety of yarns, and actually if I had time I would love to do up another one in a wool/cotton blend.

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It’s knitted seamlessly in one piece from the bottom up, with raglan shaping at the yoke, and a modest scoop neck for comfort. I’m liking this for the in-between days of spring and fall, or cool evenings in general. And glad to have the pattern out in the world!

I also want to give a shout-out to my friend (fellow knitter) Lisa who modelled this for me, who actually matched her shoes to the sweater, even though you can’t see it in the photos. I now desperately want a pair of red flats to wear this with. Dangit, Glenna, get it together of course you match your shoes to the sweater, what were you thinking.

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Anyhow, whether your shoes match your sweater or not, I hope you have a great weekend ahead! Happy knitting.

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Pattern: Dundas Pullover, on Ravelry, on Patternfish
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label DK, shown in ‘poppy’ red

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Because why not

April is here, the sunshine is suddenly not only bright but warm, and things are ticking along here in knitting world. I will actually have a spring sweater pattern available shortly, and I am really looking forward to sharing with you hopefully in a few days. In the meantime, I am already ticking away on something new, with an extra personal challenge added.

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Shortly before Easter I was thinking up another sweater idea and mentioned it to my sister, whose response was essentially, “That sounds great, I’d wear it. Just knit that up in 2 weeks.” I couldn’t actually start it right then (I was concentrating on finishing the above-mentioned sweater pattern), but the idea of knitting it up in 2 weeks was an intriguing enough challenge, especially since I’m working with fingering weight on this one. (A worsted weight or even DK sweater in 2 weeks….now that’s something I’ve done before. Never one at 6.5 sts/inch though). I think this was partly vicarious, since she doesn’t get to knit as much at the moment, but also just to goad me into trying.

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Still, I cast on on Friday and the idea of just charging through this as quickly as possible started to seem pretty appealing, so I’m going to give ‘er my best shot. I also, just for fun, want to do this as both a pullover and a cardigan, so maybe that could turn into 2 finished sweaters in a month? I don’t know, man, it’s spring and just about anything seems logical at this point. All this sudden sunshine and green things outside, they’ll start to mess with your perception of reality, I swear they will.

The moral of the story is, here I am now with about 10 inches (in the round) worth of a sweater, and am hoping that if I just keep going and line up some good Netflix viewing for evening knitting time, I’ll just keep knitting really fast and pretend that I haven’t had time yet to get bored with the same stitch pattern over and over. And then I’ll just suddenly get a sweater. Sure, that’ll work…right? Why not.

I hope you have some good knitting time ahead this Wednesday, and that the outside world is treating you as nicely as ours is around Ontario! Until next time.

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Pattern: Sweater design in progress (by me)
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Purple Label Cashmere sock (‘truffle’ colourway)

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Drastic measures

There’s a funny thing that happens in blogging world, probably in many different areas of the DIY/crafting/making/creative spheres, which is that we have a tendency to focus on completed projects and attractive successes more so than the yucky middle areas or failures. I don’t think this is necessarily a conscious decision, either, and it happens to the best of us, but when left unchecked for a while it can all to easily start to appear as though we’re all producing perfectly completed things all the time and never worry about mistakes any more. I can tell you that experienced knitters/designers/creatives of all stripes would probably respond to that with a loud HAH BLOODY HAH, and then proceed to tell you about their many fuck ups. Experienced knitters don’t stop making mistakes, we just do them more rapidly and keep finding new ones.

So, let me take you back to one of these mistake times, a little less than a month ago when I was finishing up my Ossel dress (which has by no means been retired for the season yet, true to form we have snow predicted for Easter Sunday just for kicks), I had a situation arise that I discovered during the blocking phase.

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This dress is worked in pieces from the bottom up, and once I finished the pieces I washed them and then pinned them all out to block and dry. It was then that I discovered that I had knitted the back piece a full two inches longer than the front. I don’t have an exact explanation for why this happened, just that it is indeed the kind of thing that can happen, and when your pieces are as long as those for a dress, it can be more challenging to measure your pieces against each other with the right amount of accuracy and make sure both are the length you want. This is also an increased risk when you are working in pieces from the bottom up as opposed to top-down/seamless – but then also because I worked this in pieces, there is the upside of being able to address the problem on only one piece, not the entire sweater. (Every technique has upsides and downsides, I am here to reassure you).

The extra 2 ins in length was in the skirt section (i.e. the widest half at the bottom). There are a few different ways you can go about fixing this, depending on your level of skill/patience/interest:

1. Rip back the piece to the skirt, including ripping out 2 ins of extra length, then re-knit the shaping decreases and increases for the body and everything all up to the shoulders.

2. Rip back the piece just enough to remove the first 2 inches from the body, then re-knit from the armholes up and say to hell with any of the shaping increases and decreases matching up.

3. Turn your attention to the front piece instead, making it 2 inches longer in order to match the back.

4. Ignore the mistake and just seam it up as best you can anyway, accepting that the back is going to be a little bit bunchy from the extra fabric.

I did none of these things. I wanted the extra length gone from the back, not added to the front, but I didn’t want to spend another week or more re-knitting. I went for Door #5.

Let me also pause for a moment and say that I am a person who is normally pretty free with my encouragements about knitting techniques – I really believe that most things in knitting seem much much harder than they are, and a lot of the time just plowing ahead and learning the New Thing will get you past the hesitation and you’ll be fine. I still think this is a useful approach most of the time. However, this is not one of those times. This is a Break Glass Emergency move. We are playing for all the marbles with this move, and it is not for the faint of heart.

Reader, I got my scissors, and I cut that extra fabric out of the knitting. Yes, yes I did.

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Now, I am a big fan of cutting my knitting when it properly applies, in other words I really enjoy cutting steeks. Steeks, though, are planned well in advance and have a normal sequence of steps involved, and they make vertical cuts not horizontal ones. Cutting across your knitting horizontally is riskier, and is awkward when you are cutting off the bottom of something because it’s harder to unravel “up”. Most knitting wants to unravel “down”, or possibly a little bit sideways if it’s going to unravel at all.

So, in making this cut I had to be pretty precise and cut exactly where I wanted to to be, and because it was moss stitch I had to pay close attention to the cutting line. (Also, I was doing this in the basement TV room, so no, it really wasn’t the most ideal lighting ever, and also it was the weekend so I’m pretty sure I had had at least one cocktail if not two, already. HI, ISN’T THIS FUN? I’m such a good role model, kids.) I’d never done anything like this before, but I’d heard of it done before, and the knitting part of my brain is home to most of my confidence, so I just went for it.

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Once I had the cut made where I wanted it, I put the stitches back on the needles as quickly and carefully as possible (removing more bits of cut-yarn fuzz along the way). You can see some knotted bits at the end where I secured some of the cut ends at the sides. It’s not pretty but it’s fine, because the seaming at the end turns all that crud to the inside of your work not the outside.

From this point forward it was actually pretty smooth sailing. All I had to do was re-knit (“downwards” direction) the ribbing at the bottom hem, and we were good to go. Actually, having the ribbing made it easier than it might have been otherwise because trying to match patterns would have been more challenging when picking up and going in the other direction.

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Then, I continued with seaming up the dress and it was all fine after that. The only real disadvantage was that now I had the bottom of my skirt freshly knitted and bound-off and I have admittedly still not re-blocked it, so the back hem is going to be a little bunchy until I finally wash it again. This is something I can live with.

This was a high-risk, high-reward fix. If it had failed, my recourse at that point would have been to re-knit the entire piece over again. Luckily that didn’t happen, but I do take some comfort in that fact. I don’t know how many material hobbies exist that would allow you to remake the same item all over again, with the exact same materials, in order to correct a mistake, but I am guessing it is pretty few. Unless your knitted item has accidentally fallen through a shredder, it doesn’t actually matter what the mistake is. You can knit it again. (Of course we don’t usually want to do that, but it’s a good safety net to have).

Have you had big time mistake-fixes recently in your own knitting life? I hope they turned out well in the end.

Happy weekend, knitter friends!

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A shawl, no reason

I don’t know about you, knitter friends, but I seem to have arrived at pre-spring state of mind where it has finally sunk in that the big projects I was working on for a few months over the winter are finally done. My knitting brain knows that there are other projects it wants to work on but can’t quite seem to remember which one I was going to work on next.

So, while I was figuring that out, I busted out a quick shawl.

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This is my Duke St. Shawl pattern, that I only ever knitted once for the original sample but always meant to go back and make another one, even bigger. Since I’ve also been taking long and longing glances at my yarn stash, I also felt pretty good grabbing a few skeins of worsted weight yarn that were not getting used any time soon and pressing them into immediate service.

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I used 4 skeins of Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label, in the garnet colourway which has always been one of my favourites of Tanis’ colours. (For those with the pattern, this involved adding an extra repeat of the ‘plain’ body section as well as the edge chart). The only hitch is that I didn’t acquire all of these skeins at the same time – at least two of them are old enough that they were made with the original garnet dye composition that has since changed, which means this shawl takes a time jump from about 3 years ago to…6 or 7? Yarn world, it’ll keep you guessing.

My only real attempt to manage this was to try to work the skeins in as similar an order as possible, so that the “most like” skein appeared next. It should stand to note that I could have alternated skeins every 2-4 rows throughout, which would have produced a more consistent appearance overall…but I did not, I simply went forth and knitted. The advantage of a triangular shawl worked this way is that any difference in yarn colour will appear more like stripes than pooled sections of colour variation, so it’s an easier risk to take on.

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The result almost turned out to have an almost ombre effect, grading from light to dark towards the outside edge. I like it. I even took the time to pin out the edges into lace points during blocking to give it a good finishing touch. I’ll be honest, I don’t actually know if I’ll wear this shawl or simply save it to give away as a gift some time in the future, but knocking 4 skeins out of the stash and into a finished object is darned satisfying.

I’m working away on finishing a new spring pullover design, but I think I’ll be looking around for another stash project as well, before too long!

Happy knitting this Tuesday!

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Pattern: Duke Street Shawl
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label, ‘garnet’ colourway

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Changing it up

Greetings knitter friends, on this second day of spring that may or may not be colder than the first day of winter we had back in December. And if I still have sweater knitting weather in my future you can be darned sure it’s going to be colourful! I’ve been making good progress on a new design that I’ve actually had swatched up and in the brain for almost a year already. It feels good to be knitting up some bright red sweater action when it’s still pretty grey outside.

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I’ve been spending some time this week hanging out with some kitty pals while their regular humans are on vacation, so the couch knitting time has been plentiful. I’ve actually gotten to the point where I need put down the body in order to start the sleeves before joining them, and so that means I need to decide what I’m doing with the sleeves before casting them on (simple? I’m thinking simple sleeves to go with the lace panel on the body…yep I think that’ll work), so while I put that aside for a moment I’m picking up the Duke St. Shawl I started spontaneously the other week.

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So basically I am all red yarn all the time right now. The greys and browns and dull purples can wait a bit longer.

Hope you’re having some good knitting time this weekend! And a refreshing beverage or two.
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Pattern: pullover design in progress
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label, ‘poppy’ colourway

Pattern: Duke Street Shawl
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label, ‘garnet’ colourway

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Pi to the Fourth Power

My fourth Pi shawl is done, I’m pleased to report, and it even made it just under the wire for Pi Day on Saturday. I cast off around lunchtime and laid it out for blocking that afternoon, and I am well pleased.

(It is also, I should mention, challenging to take full photos of a circular shawl without assistance, so in addition to these I may point out past Pi Shawl posts here and here)

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Having done a few of these, I get a lot of Pi Shawl questions. I thought I would go ahead and answer a few of them in a kind of Pi Shawl FAQ, if you will:

How long does it take to knit a Pi Shawl?

For me personally, it’s taken me between 3 months (this one) and 11 months (last one). I liked having the Pi Day deadline for this because I think it made me work on it a little more regularly than I have for the other Pi Shawls that I’ve done. I’ve done each one with the same yarnover pattern on every 6th round (this is a variation suggested in the Knitter’s Almanac pattern directions), which makes it repetitive enough that it’s really easy to put down and pick up whenever you feel like it without worrying where you are in the pattern. This means that I tend to keep the Pi Shawl on ice for when I need a movie theatre project or a for-when-I’m-waiting-around-somewhere project, and I don’t dedicate myself to it like I usually do for a sweater or other accessories.

At the same time, though, most of the other gals in my group at Rhinebeck this past October also bought yarn to make Pi Shawls, and at least two of them were finished a month later, so clearly your mileage may vary. This is a very versatile project, and pretty easy for a variety of skill levels – no seriously, it is. To me the challenging part of it is just the sheer yardage and commitment involved. Other than that, if you can knit in the round and know how to do yarnovers (or are cool with learing how), you are really really good to go on this.

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Where do I get the pattern?

This is the ‘July shawl’ pattern in Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman. If you’ve never encountered Elizabeth Zimmerman’s knitting patterns before, allow me to give them a big recommendation. Much of her patterns and writing in general pre-date knitting blogs by a few decades, and are written not so much as ironclad instructions but as guidelines that can be altered or adapted depending on the yarn weight you’re using. She’ll remind you to pay attention to gauge, to make swatches, and to decide how you want your fit and size to be, and then give you principles to work with. She has confidence in your knitting brain and in your ability to use it. She’s great. Sometimes I will re-read parts of her books before bed just for fun.

The Knitter’s Almanac is written as twelve chapters each for a month of the year, and a pattern for each month. If you had the mind, you could start with the month you’re at and just knit your way through the whole book. I confess the ‘July shawl’ is the only one I’ve done yet, but i have taken a long look at the knitted pants (long underwear ish) in September during more than one cold winter, and there are some nice mittens in there too.

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How much yarn do you need to knit a Pi Shawl?

Well, it’ll vary based on what kind of yarn you’re using, naturally, but the recommendation is for 3-4 4oz skeins of whatever weight you’re using. For each of the 3 fingering weight ones I’ve knitted, I’ve used between 325g and 375g of yarn. The first one I did was laceweight, but I like the fingering weight (or ‘sock yarn’ weight) as a nice light option that is a little more sturdy. I think more and more that my next Pi ‘Shawl’ will actually be a blanket, since a warm wooly circle would be great for the reading nook, and a bit faster than fingering weight. Naturally, your finished size also influences the yardage, so buy an extra skein if you are nervous.

How do I know how big to make it?

The shawl is constructed from the centre outwards, and then you complete it by working a knitted-on border (rather than binding off from the finished edge). So, it’s hard to visualize the complete size of the shawl while you’re knitting it. What I tend to do is hold the centre of the shawl in one hand and the working edge in the other, and when that length is about as long as half my wingspan (from my chin to wrist, more or less), then I stop and work the border. I’m 5’9″ so my shawl is going to be bigger than someone shorter than me, but it also will fit me proportionally which is what you want. Mind you, for a blanket I might just keep knitting it as long as I feel like it if I want it to be cozy.

But how do you wear a Pi Shawl?

I wore one of my other Pi Shawls last October at Rhinebeck, bundled all around my neck and shoulders, since it was a cooler weekend than originally forecast. I can’t tell you how many people stopped and asked me what pattern it was, it was awesome. The other fun part was how many people thought it was some kind of cowl or modern wrap, and then I got to pull it off and reveal that it was in fact a big circle – really this got to be pretty neat. Not bad uptake at all for a pattern that’s four decades old.

This was also neat because I can’t tell you how many people take one look at the Pi Shawl as a big circular shawl and ask “but how would you ever wear that without looking like frumpy and weird?” (I may be paraphrasing a bit there) And the answer dear knitter friends is that you just wear it. Make it in a colour you like that you know you will want to reach for as an accessory, and then wear it however it pleases you to do so: Folded in half over your shoulders; wrapped around your neck like a big muffler; draped whole as a single elegant layer over a fancy dress; a-symmetrically over one shoulder; pinned with a shawl pin. Or, depending on what kind of yarn you’re using, it could turn into a veil (laceweight, with some fun charted lace patterns used in the different sections perhaps?) or a lap blanket (break out the worsted weight wool).

I like browsing the finished Pi Shawl projects on Ravelry every so often, because everyone who does manage to get a “wearing it” shot always looks so happy with it. Finishing one of these is good for the soul.

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There you have it, knitter friends, possibly a lot more about Pi Shawls than you wanted to know, but they are pretty darned neat and it’s hard to resist evangelizing about them just a little. I’ll take a pause before my next Pi thingie (really thinking hard about the blanket option next), but ahhh there will be a next one for sure.

Happy knitting this fine Monday!

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Pattern: Pi Shawl (“July shawl”, instructions with many variations in Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman)
Yarn: Miss Babs Kathadin, colourway ‘holy moly’
Needles: 4.5mm/US #7 circulars

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The Dress

My knitter friends who live in the internet, I’m pleased to report back with full real photos of The Knitted Dress. And that I am in fact still wearing it now and it is so comfortable that while I won’t be casting on another knitted dress right this second, it is a nice enough thing to be wearing that I definitely would do another one at a future date.

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This is the Ossel dress, pattern from Twist Collective by Allison Green. I bought the pattern a little over a year ago when we were coming through a serious Game of Thrones winter and the very idea of being covered in wool from shoulder to knee seemed like a really really really great idea. But buying a pattern is just so much easier and faster than actually knitting a pattern, so it took me several more months to actually get around to knitting it. I chose this for my Christmas Day cast on (I like starting a new project as a present to myself).

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The pattern is neatly written and has just enough challenge with the cables on the sleeves and front that the hardest part was the back – all moss stitch – and actually only took a couple more skeins than I would normally use to knit a sweater of similar fit. It turns out the epic endless grey moss stitch was, uh, a bit of hyberbole. That, you know, happens sometimes when you decide to knit a grey mostly moss stitch dress.

I would say the biggest challenges are very similar to the kinds of challenges a knitter has when making a sweater – deciding what kind of fit you want (negative ease, zero ease, or positive ease), knowing your measurements, choosing a pattern size, choosing what modifications you want to make. The main difference, besides the bare fact of having to knit more fabric, is knowing the length and being aware of your full hip measurement and how you want things to fit over your legs. If you’ve knitted a skirt before you’ve had to make all of those decisions already, but if you’ve only done sweaters, that’s new territory.

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In retrospect I wish I’d made it maybe an inch or two shorter, but otherwise I’m pretty pleased. I like the saddle shoulder construction and the i-cord bind off for the neckline, and it’s a simple enough style that modifying in order to add or subtract width, or combine sizes for upper body & lower body, would be pretty reasonable. My only gripe is that this pattern does not indicate length measurements in inches, but in pattern rows, nor does the pattern schematic indicate a length measurement for the skirt section. Somebody who is 5’2 is going to make a waaaayyyy different dress from me even if they have the same bust size, so information like that is super useful. (You can also dive into pattern details to find this out by taking the number of rows and dividing by row gauge, then getting inches as a result, this is also true and is what I did.)

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All in all though, this is a nice comfy dress and I’m glad I knitted the pattern. It’s the first time I’ve knitted something that was basically a fully formed outfit, and I even grabbed some accessories from the mall sale racks to dress it up a bit and treat it nice. Accessorizing knitted things just like regular grownups do with regular clothes! Amazing, I will do this more often.

I hope you’ve got some finished projects (or soon to be finished projects) to celebrate as well. Happy knitting!

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Thank you, Needlework, for letting me snap some photos while visiting your shop today! It was the perfect background.

Pattern: Ossel, by Allison Green for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #8401 Silver Grey

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