Yarn Along with Small Things

Every month, Ginny Sheller shares her current knits and current reads on her blog, Small Things.  Check out what she’s doing this month. It’s a good way to get new knit and book recommendations, so come on and join the fun!

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I’m still beetling away on my Barley Sugar cowl -- I’m almost ready for the last stockinette section! -- and reading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, at long last.  It’s good but I find her prose a bit spare, and not that easy for me to really get into.


Scrappy Socky Happiness

My True Friend sweater (still in progress, but I'm very close to the end of the seemingly-endless striped section!!) is in a fingering-weight yarn, and at the end I'm going to have quite a few small balls of yarn left.  In fact, over so many years of knitting socks, and fingering-weight shawls, and hats and mitts, I have quite a few ends of balls.  Together they would make a pretty nice memory blanket (instructions here), or an Excavation (fringe means no ends to weave in!). 

I could also make a pair or two of Happy Scrappy Socks.  The socks doesn't solve my problem of having tiny balls of fingering-weight yarn with no nylon or mohair in it, though.  I've got a scrappy crocheted blanket in progress, and I just mixed fibres -- wool, cotton, nylon, alpaca, mohair, silk, whatever --  with wild abandon, figuring the blanket wouldn't get much wear (at least not the way a pair of socks gets wear) and could be handwashed when necessary.  Isn't the randomness strangely beautiful?


Slip Sliding Away: Slippery Yarns

I am currently knitting True Friend with some incredibly slippery yarn.  Allegedly wool, though I can't be sure as I can't read the labels (in Chinese) and the slipperiness is really making me doubt my original judgment on the wool content (which, admittedly, was just guesswork to begin with). 

I got myself into a bit of a pickle when I was dragging the project around, not being careful enough.  I had the working end coming from the center, and the outside of the slippery, slippery skein started unravelling.  The two ends tangled, and I spent precious knitting time picking the ends apart and winding them back up.

 The offending ball...

The offending ball...

So that got me thinking about ways to hold together a center-pull ball made of slippery yarn.  Someone makes mesh "yarn bras" (I don't know why that term makes me shudder so much) which are basically like the mesh that fruits and vegetables come in.  I've done a DIY yarn bra; I find the one from a three-packof garlic is the right size for a typical yarn ball.  It worked well but the mesh started getting holes after a while (for what it's worth, the ones that you can buy look more robust than my DIY ones) and also the plastic mesh is slippery and can let the yarn free.  I've also seen people use old pantyhose -- you could just cut the foot off an old pair with runs (as an aside, is there anything you can't do with old pantyhose? https://thesecretyumiverse.wonderhowto.com/how-to/18-awesome-ways-reuse-old-pantyhose-0138241/ https://www.rd.com/home/cleaning-organizing/pantyhose-uses/ http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/20-interesting-household-uses-for-old-nylon-hose-stockings-212234).  And my last idea was a zip-top bag, with the zip unzipped just enough to let the working end of the yarn through.  And the ball inside the bag could twist and turn as much as it wants.  So far I've settled for winding the outside end very firmly around the middle of the center-pull ball, tucking it in tightly, and being very careful when I manipulate the ball.

Sweater Eleven, Installment Two: True Friend

I've accomplished the collar (easy peasy, and the twisted stitches look sharp) and the front and back panels (super-fun short rows followed by very tedious back-and-forth on a smallish number of stitches).  Then I spent an hour and a half last night picking up a total of 320 stitches, along the sides of the flat pieces, and now I'm on my fourth round with a total of 460 stitches.  Each round is taking forever, and there are so many stitches it's not "flowing" around the needles very well.  I've already joined the shortest and the longest cables from my interchangeable needle set to make an extra-long circular, and it's not enough.  The stitches bunch up in one place, so I have to stop periodically and move them around the needle. 

Despite all this, it's really fun to watch the sweater come together, especially now that I'm in the striped portion.  So...progress is happening, about as fast as a glacier creates a new valley.


It's a bit inscrutable in the imageabove, but the open part in the middle is in the neckhole, then there are two panels (front and back) in red, and then the striped portion is started by picking up stitches around the two panels.  The striped part is shaped with decreases at the shoulder seams and increases at the four corners of the panels (shown in the two images below).

Sweater Eleven, Installment One: True Friend

1.  What's the pattern?

True Friend, by Veera Välimäki; from the pattern collection Interpretations Vol. 2.  I found this pattern by using Ravelry and searching for a sweater pattern using a fingering-weight yarn in multiple colours, and the pictures on Ravelry are so striking!  It's an oversize sweater, fitted at the shoulders but loose nearer the bottom hem, with a most interesting construction method.  And check out some of the colour combinations in the projects on Ravelry!

 Image by Jonna Jolkin

Image by Jonna Jolkin

2.  Which yarn did you choose?

I'm trying to destash some yarn I bought in China nearly 10 years ago (eep!).  I was really into making colourwork mittens then, so I stocked up on this quite nice stuff in four colours (two balls each), but then my enthusiasm waned because of the fiddliness.  So I don't have enough of one colour to make a sweater, but putting all the balls together, I think I have enough yardage.  I'd better have enough yardage, LOL.  I'm not even a hundred percent sure of the fibre composition for the yarn as I can't read Chinese characters.  It does say 100% something, and it also features the Woolmark logo, as well as a picture of a ram. 

My MC is red, my CC is blue, and also likely white when I run out of blue.

3.  What size are you making?

I'm making the medium (the third size), because I was too excited to gauge swatch.  I probably should have swatched, because some of the sweater is knit flat and some in the round, and my gauge is never the same with both.  If I swatched, I could change needle size to get the correct gauge in the different portions, but excitement won out over good sense.  I am hoping the oversize nature of the sweater will compensate for any difference in gauge I may have, but I think I will be lucky if this sweater turns out to fit in some capacity.

Not many so far -- I have plans to use three colours rather than two, because I am limited by the quantities of yarn in my possession, but so far I haven't reached the point where I've had to incorporate a third colour.

5.  Would you knit this again?

I really think this is worth answering twice, the first time when I'm in the beginning stages, and the second when I'm staring at a finished object.  So far, I am loving this pattern, but knitting a fingering-weight sweater, never mind an oversize one, is nearly as large an undertaking as a Ph.D. thesis (trust me, I speak from experience).  At this stage, the answer is probably not, even though I'm having fun knitting it.

Sweater Ten, Installment Two: Schnee

I made some progress on this last week, while on the road to Jasper and to Mount Robson.  I've finished all the shoulder shaping (lovely short rows!).  It's a seamless top-down sweater:  you cast on stitches and knit the back to the bottom of the armholes, then pick up stitches for each of the fronts and knit each of those down to the bottom of the armholes, and then you join everything together on the longest and strongest circular that you have, shape the armpits, and continue to knit the body down to the bottom hem. 


That's where I'm at now; in the endless moss stitch of the body.  The sweater is getting pretty heavy, though having it on a circular helps -- I can't imagine doing a sweater like this on straights!  Wool isn't even a particularly heavy fibre, but altogether I've put, I think, 2.5 balls into it so it feels pretty heavy.  And, though it may not look so in the pictures, the semi-solidness of the yarn is becoming more apparent the more I knit, which is nice.  


In the picture above, I tried an easy way to keep track of the decreases at the armpit; I took out one locking marker per pair of decreases, and then attached that marker to the decrease as I did it.  That way, I couldn't forget how many I'd done and how many I had left to do, and it would be really obvious if I forgot a decrease.  I've seen this tip other places but haven't tried it until now, though I think I will continue to use it.  This would be super handy for any shaping, like for a sleeve, or armhole, or waist shaping, or even on a hat.  I recently bought these Clover locking stitch markers http://www.clover-usa.com/en/knitting-and-crochet/140-locking-stitch-marker.html  and I love them; they're sharp-tipped and smooth, and, as with all Clover tools, really nice to use.  You don't even need anything fancy to do this, though.  Safety pins would work, though I'd be careful with the coiled kind.  Even a paperclip would work, if you're careful. 

Sweater Two, Installment Four: Montview

So close to the finish on this one!  Seaming is done, weaving in is done, sweater is blocked, buttons and snaps are purchased.

I had actually never seamed reverse stockinette stitch before this sweater.  I was reading a book of Deborah Newton's and she said that as seaming reverse stockinette often produces an unattractive "gutter" at the seam, she will do a stitch or two in stockinette at the edge, in order to have neater seams.  I did only read this after I'd finished all the knitting for Montview, but am keeping it in mind for my next non-stockinette sweater.

Since I didn't do any stockinette edge stitches, I had to seam reverse stockinette.  I found some excellent tips from Twist Collective (article in PDF format here) and in Arenda Holladay's article here.  The latter article instructs you to seam every row (unlike when you're mattress-stitching stockinette stitch and can seam two rows at a time), so that all the rows align correctly, while the Twist Collective article says to seam two rows at a time.  I ended up cheating a little bit, especially when easing the sleeves into the armholes (where the rows don't line up exactly because of the curves), but it looks good, overall.  Nothing anyone would notice anyway, wink wink. 

Weaving in the ends was pretty straightforward but it was strange sensation to be weaving ends into stockinette (as reverse stockinette is the public side of this sweater's fabric).  I always felt like I was wrongly weaving ends into the "right" side of the sweater, funnily enough.

I then wet-blocked.  The yarn I used on the collar was unwound from another sweater, and as I failed to wash it before knitting, it was pretty kinky and the knit fabric rumply.  So I wet-blocked by soaking (in warm water and wool wash), rolling between two towels to press out all the water, and then drying it on foam mats for, like, a week.  I'm not even joking; it took that many days to dry completely and my craft room smelled like a wet sheep for that long.  I think I have to change up my blocking method a bit, maybe press out a water a second time, with a dry towel, or maybe try steam-blocking.  I do like how crisply it dries with wet-blocking, though, and it's so easy to reshape when it's wet.

I do have to put in a set of snaps, and then a set of non-functional.  I think I'll do the snaps first, then the buttons over the snaps.  If you can believe it, I put buttons on my first couple of finished baby sweaters (lo these many years ago) with the yarn I knitted with.  I laugh now at how naive I was, struggling to pull thick yarn through the tiny holes of buttons!  I use sewing thread now, tying off with as many knots as I can manage, and the sewing goes much more smoothly.  I can't say I always do the neatest job, but the sewing is usually concealed under the button anyway.

Year of Twelve Sweaters Update

And I have four works in progress that I've discussed:




Toddler Surprise Jacket

As well as one more still in progress , which I haven't blogged about because it's a design I'm working on.

Of the four still in progress, Montview, Killybegs, and the Toddler Surprise Jacket should be relatively quick to finish, while I may be reknitting Alafoss entirely.  I am challenging myself to completely finish those three sweaters before I can start a new one.  If I finish them by the end of August, that will put me 2/3 of the way to my goal of knitting twelve sweaters , which puts me right on track (assuming one sweater per month). 

I'm thinking I will knit Schnee and finish up a Tomten.  Along with the design I'm working on, that will take me to twelve.

And when this is all over, I will have to pick a new project for 2018.  Year of Sock Yarn, anyone?  I was thinking I could aim for twelve projects with sock yarn.  Likely mostly shawls and socks (which is all I seem to want to knit now that I've committed to finishing twelve sweaters this year!), assuming my hands don't cramp up and fall off in 2017.  I've got so many ideas for yearly projects, I could keep going for a while.  A year of Elizabeth Zimmermann (twelve EZ projects), a year of new techniques (twelve projects, each incorporating a technique I've never done before), a year of shawls, a year of socks, a year of hats (hats are so fast that I would have to make at least 24 hats in a year), a year of cables...I'm drooling just thinking about so much knitting!

Sweater Nine, Installment One: Baby Surprise Jacket

I started this a couple of weeks ago, to have something to knit while travelling and visiting, and also to use up some scraps.  It's progressed so quickly that I have hardly had time to blog about it, and now here I am about to weave in the ends and seam up.  It's just that fast! 

First, the pattern:  this is Elizabeth Zimmermann's classic Baby Surprise Jacket http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/baby-surprise-jacket knitted in aran weight yarns.  I can't say enough good things about this pattern, though this is surprisingly my first time knitting it in garter stitch, the way it was written.  I've tried the stockinette version before (some Ravelers have kindly posted their modifications) but it's just not the same.  I'm knitting from the version in The Opinionated Knitter https://www.schoolhousepress.com/the-opinionated-knitter.html  (a delightful book, by the way; it makes you feel like EZ is right there, knitting without looking at her work.  It is funny how much a pattern written in the '60s elides, though: no notes about methods for casting on,  binding off, or picking up stitches, few about increases and decreases, not a lot of detail about row counting (only "ridge" counting) and finishing.  One can figure it out, and it always turns out fine, but going from knitting with contemporary sweater patterns that number in the tens of pages to an older pattern on a single page is a bit jarring.

Second, the yarns:  I am combining Brown Sheep's Lamb's Pride Worsted http://www.ravelry.com/yarns/library/brown-sheep-lambs-pride-worsted (a nice solid single, in turquoise and brown) and Stitch Nation's Full O' Sheep http://www.ravelry.com/yarns/library/stitch-nation-by-debbie-stoller-full-o-sheep (a fuzzier, less compact single, in pink).  The colours don't go too badly together, right?  I was just going to do the turquoise and brown at first, but then I was running out so I added in the pink to make up the yardage. 

 The ends from stripes before weaving in -- like fringe, no?

The ends from stripes before weaving in -- like fringe, no?

Third, the size:  I think because this pattern is written in garter stitch, and because it's so square, it (roughly) works to upsize by changing to thicker yarn and appropriately thicker needles.  I ended up with a pretty large gauge, and I think the resulting sweater will fit H (a newly minted three-year-old, thank you very much).  It's definitely not a baby size, which is fine, because H has already claimed it, tried it on, and told everyone in the vicinity that I'm knitting her a sweater.

 Isn't the "wrong" side as pretty as the public one?

Isn't the "wrong" side as pretty as the public one?

Fourth, modifications:  I did a lot of guessing and adding my own ideas only because the pattern isn't too specific.  I used a long-tail cast-on (my usual) and a suspended bind-off from the right side (this looks neat and holds the garter stitch well).  I mirrored my increases and decreases around a center stitch, and I'm planning to use mattress stitch for the shoulder seams.   I put the buttonholes on the right side and made six (instead of five, as the pattern says), and H will get to pick out some buttons pretty soon.  I'm not sure how I'll finish the neckline yet; it looks pretty rough so I think I'll have to do something. 

 Mitered gloriousness

Mitered gloriousness

Fifth, knitting this pattern again: I would absolutely knit this again; it's quick and satisfying.  And such a good way to use scraps!  It's also a bit boxy, so I'm brainstorming ways to make the increases a little less brutal.  I also like the ribbed cuff I saw on some Rav versions.  I really like the look of applied i-cord that I saw on Ravelry, so I might do that on my next one (an applied i-cord neckline edging with an i-cord bind-off along the front and bottom edges.  I am also thinking about knitting an adult-size one for myself, but it is really boxy, especially in the sleeves, and I'm not sure it will get a lot of wear.