FO: Alafoss

Alafoss is done at last!  It should have been a quick knit but having to reconfigure the yoke myself took a bit of extra time.  Also, not knitting this from the top down cost me a ton of time, though I did learn a lot!


1.  What did you learn from knitting this?

That I shouldn’t be knitting sweaters from the bottom up anymore.  I knit this entire sweater that way, then realized the sleeves and body were too long.  I tried to rip out the top portions of the sleeves and body, but ran into problems when I tried to graft them back onto the yoke.  So, I then ripped out the body and sleeves and reknit them from the top (well, the bottom of the yoke being the “top”) down. To recap, it’s so, so difficult to get the sleeve and body lengths right when you’re knitting from the bottom up, and it’s relatively easy to convert a bottom-up pattern to a top-down one -- however I do the math, it always comes out in favour of the top-down method.

Also, it's the first time I tried the false grafting method:  you start with a bound-off and a cast-on row (no live stitches, hence the "false" part) and then you kind of weave them together to get a neat, nearly undetectable, and hopefully stronger underarm.  We'll see how it holds up, but I am pretty happy not to have as many holes as doing it the traditional way (grafting live stitches together). 

2.  Would you knit this pattern again?

Yes, I think I would.  It’s pretty straightforward and can almost be knit as it’s written.  Even without accounting for converting it to a top-down sweater, I did have to do some math with the decreases in the yoke, to make it so I didn’t end up with strange fractions of the colourwork designs in the yoke, but that wasn’t too difficult.  

3.  How will you wear your new sweater?

This sweater isn’t for me, it’s for O, and I imagine he’ll be wearing it while sipping hot chocolate by the roaring fire in the ski chalet.  

Year of Sweaters Tally:  10

FO: Killybegs Sweater

1.  What did you learn from knitting this?

There were a couple of new techniques for me with this sweater, which is partly why it took so long.  First of all, I use a knitted-on I-cord edging on the fronts, collar, hem, and sleeves, and I would definitely do this again.  it looks so neat and somehow keeps the stockinette from rolling too much; the only thing that you have to be pretty careful about is the rate at which you pick up stitches along whatever edge you're I-cording to.  I did have to do a little trial and error to find the right ratio of pick-up stitches, but when I got to a ratio that made the edge lie flat, it was sublime.

I also did my very first sewn-in zipper, in twenty years of knitting -- can you believe it?  I went in to this with a bit of planning, because I've never sewn a zipper into knitting before, and because on Ravelry there are a few people saying they put zippers into their Killybegs sweaters and ended up with a lot of rippling (and so they ended up taking out the zippers and putting in buttons or hooks and eyes). 

I consulted Splityarn, Pickin' and Throwin', Purlbee, Deborah Newton's Finishing School, June Hemmons Hiatt's Principles of Knitting and, probably my favourite of all, Margaret Radcliffe's The Knowledgeable Knitter.  Never hurts to have a few opinions, and pick what you think will work the best for you!

I did end up handsewing the zipper, but considered knitting it in like Tangled Twine did for a little while.  I thought it would be great to get the zipper installed at the same time as I was finishing the edge with attached i-cord, and the sweater called for i-cord edging to begin with, so it wouldn't be much of a stretch.  However, I'm going to save this idea for another project, because there would be too much going on for me, what with knitting the attached i-cord, the picked-up stitches, and the zipper stitches all needing to come together at the same time.

After all this, I started off trying to pin the zipper in, before I sewed it, and it was just so bumpy and ripply I couldn't trust it.  So I pinned, then laid the sweater flat (to be sure the edge wouldn't ripple), and basted.  I tried on the sweater, zipping the up and down a couple of times to make sure nothing would catch.  After that, I went through and backstitched the zipper in, leaving the extra zipper tape at the top of the zipper loose.  Lastly, I folded back that extra flap of zipper tape at the top, and stitched it out of view.  After cutting out the basting thread, the sweater was ready to go!  It's beautiful and it's so exciting to have another technique under my belt.  My only regret with this zipper is that although I did have the presence of mind to buy a separating zipper, I didn't go to the trouble of buying one that zips up and down from both ends.  The sweater is a teeny bit tight through my midsection (especially after Christmas, oy) and if I could open it from the bottom end, I could give it a different shape.

2.  Would you knit this pattern again?

It was an easy knit, with just enough cabling to keep it interesting, and I love the way the honeycomb cable dissolves into the stockinette background.  I don't know if I need another identical sweater, but maybe I'd knit one for someone else.

3.  How will you wear your new sweater?

Mostly open, due to the aforementioned tightness, over a tunic top and leggings.  This is kind of my go-to outfit, now that I think of it.  I'll have to brainstorm some new outfits and incorporate more dresses.

Year of Sweaters Tally:  9 (getting so close!)

Sweater Seven, Installment Five: Alafoss

Or, Hard Graft

So I had the sweater all done, but then I got O to try it on and it was too long in the body and the sleeves.  Instead of ripping and reknitting, I decided to be clever and cut the sweater apart:  I cut the body and sleeves from the yoke, ripped out as much as I needed to to make it the right length, and then tried to graft together what I had.  For some reason, I ended up with a whole bunch of extra stitches in the yoke, and so I ran out of stitches to graft after I had gone the whole way around.  Argh...

Surprisingly for me, because I haven't always been so fond of Kitchener stitch, the grafting itself went pretty well -- it blended right in, anyway, and it wasn't obvious where I had grafted, which means the tension must have matched pretty well.

After months of gnashing my teeth and trying to forget about it, I finally ripped out all the grafting, ripped out all the body and the sleeves, leaving only the yoke; I then steamed the yarn to get the kinks out (this is an amazing trick, by the way) and rewound it into balls.  I started on the live stitches at the bottom of the yoke and am now knitting the sweater from the top down, which is what I should have done in the first place.


I kind of thought, when I started, that I should knit in the traditional way -- that is, from the bottom up.  But now, given how superior an experience it is to knit a sweater from the top down, I think I'm going to modify anything else I knit.

Finished Project: Plum Sweater

It's done, done, done!  I looove this sweater, which is knit from the Schnee pattern by Suvi Simola, and the timing is perfect.  We're having a pretty chilly winter!  And please excuse deer-in-the-headlights quality of the photos; I used my tripod for the first time to do self-portraits and I need more, let's be kind, practice with it.


1.  What did you learn from knitting this?

Putting in the work to plan and swatch and make sure you're going to do it right the first time is definitely worthwhile.  All that time I spent swatching and thinking about how to approach the sweater, as well as the time I spent ripping out and reknitting, was so worth it because this sweater turned out absolutely perfect, exactly the way I wanted, and I'm sure it's going to be a workhorse in my wardrobe.

2.  Would you knit this pattern again?

You bet I would!  As I was finishing the second sleeve, I was already shopping for yarn to knit another (I am truly a sucker for emails announcing sales).  Luckily I managed to keep my finger off the "buy" button, because there is so much yarn in my stash right now, but I could see coming back to this sweater later, when I've destashed some.  The fit on this sweater is so perfect -- the body is big and slouchy, which is what I was looking for, and meanwhile the sleeves and armholes aren't too big.  Kudos to the designer on that.

3.  How will you wear your new sweater?

It will probably go with anything in my wardrobe; a t-shirt and jeans, a tunic top and leggings, a dress...endless possibilities. 


Year of Sweaters Tally:  8 (I'm so happy to have this done but eep, I'd better get knitting!)

Year of Twelve Sweaters Update

The knitting continues, slowly.  For the last month or so, I've  had a lot of stiffness in my shoulders and neck -- enough to give me headaches, and enough that, whenever I picked up the needles, my left trapezius would start to throb and I'd have to stop.  So no more marathon knitting sessions, sadly, and that's put me way, way behind on my goal of finishing twelve sweaters this  year. 

There are two sweaters I can finish without much knitting, so I'm going to put the gears on with those while I deal with my sore muscles.  Stretching my neck and shoulder muscles every day, twice a day or more, has helped.  I kind of made up my own sequence of stretches based on targeting the muscles that are the most painful for me, and this yoga lady helped a ton.  I kind of adapt the stretches based on how much time I have and/or where I am.  While the pain is slowly receding, I'm still not able to knit the way I could before, which makes me so sad. 

  Image from  Evolved Pilates

Image from Evolved Pilates

So this is a cautionary tale, really -- take care of yourself and do preventative exercises for your hands, wrists, shoulders, neck, and other postural muscles, because otherwise you end up having to give up knitting temporarily.  Take a break from knitting every half hour or so if you don't already, and give your poor, hardworking muscles a rest.  And when you do knit, watch your body position and posture, like this physical therapist recommends.  There are some other good stretches for knitters, with clear pictures and a video, here

Since I've been sidelined due to what I think of as an occupational injury, and since my project deadline was arbitrary and self-imposed, I'm going to give myself an extra month to finish.  I've got enough sweaters in progress that I think I can make it, and this is kind of my gift to my neck and shoulders.   I'll get to work on sewing on buttons and snaps, and installing my first zipper, and that will put two more sweaters (Montview and Killybegs) under my belt by the end of the year.  I have three more that will require actual knitting (my Schnee, my Alafoss, and my Lizzie sweaters) but it's all straightforward and I think I can do that in January.

Meanwhile, I've decided on my year-long project for 2018.  Even though I won't make my deadline for this year's project, I found it really focused and motivated me to get things done, knitting-wise.  So I'm going to take on a new project for next year, which I'll announce toward the end of the month.  Happy knitting, everyone :)

Sweater Twelve, Installment One: Lizzie

1.  What's the pattern?

Lizzie, by Julie Weisenberger (from Cocoknits Sweater Workshop).  You can follow along with my progress here.

2.  Which yarn did you choose?

I'm destashing!  Four skeins of Cascade 220 Paints in Red Mix.  It's not quite enough yardage for a full sweater in my size, but with a top-down pattern, I can stop the sleeves whenever I run out.

3.  What size are you making?

I'm making the second size, which is a medium, and supposedly will fit me with a tiny bit of negative ease.

4.  Any modifications?

My gauge is slightly off, but I'm waiting to try on the sweater and see if it will matter.

5.  Would you knit this again?

Yes, definitely!  In fact, I did the yoke twice (my gauge was off and it was too tight the first time), and the second time was much easier going, as I'd already learned the techniques and figured out how the pieces were going to come together to make a sweater.  Also easier because the gauge wasn't as tight, and so things like picking up stitches became easier.

 You can see the clips holding the collar to the back neck, and the pick-up line for the shoulder, as well as the top of the sleeve cap (over on the left side)

You can see the clips holding the collar to the back neck, and the pick-up line for the shoulder, as well as the top of the sleeve cap (over on the left side)

FO: True Friend Sweater

I'm not entirely sure what to call my True Friend Sweater...I did use three colours instead of two, switching to white when I ran out of blue, so maybe some three-based pun?  I've got it -- the Striking Sweater, because of the sharpness of the colours and the memorability of it.


In the meantime, this sweater is done!  While I wouldn't call it a quick knit, it was certainly quick to finish -- no seams to be seamed, just ends to be woven in and a dead-serious blocking.  I thought up some questions that I think I should ask myself after every major project:


1.  What did you learn from knitting this?

I learned that I can put together two cables from my interchangeable needle set to make an extra-long circular needle, and I also learned that I wished I could put together all three to make an extra-extra-long circular needle!  My goodness, there were so many stitches once I started knitting in the around, and they only increase as you go.

I learned that my unknown fibre is probably wool, because it really, really smells like wool when it's wet.

I learned that if I want to get something done quickly, I should pick a project with as little finishing as possible, since that's where I get bogged down.  The knitting is fun and gets done relatively fast; the finishing, not so much.

I also tried, probably for the first time, piercing the yarn when I was weaving in ends (rather than just kind of duplicate stitching) and I think that worked really well.

The last thing, I think, is that I should have a pen or pencil in every project bag, so that it's easy for me to make notes.  I didn't take good enough notes with this sweater.  For example, when I did the ribbing at the bottom hem, I didn't write down how many rows, and I didn't write down which bind-off method I used, so the bottom hem doesn't really match the cuffs well.  I acknowledge this is a very minor point, and no one will ever notice but me, but it does bother me and could have been avoided.  At least the two cuffs match each other, since I took good notes with the first one -- it would be way more noticeable if they didn't.

2.  Would you knit this pattern again?

I'm not sure I would knit this particular sweater again, as it's so distinctive that I don't think I need another, but I would consider knitting another sweater in fingering-weight yarn, and also another sweater by the same designer.  The pattern wasn't long, but it also wasn't short on salient details, and the construction is so, so clever.

3.  How will you wear your new sweater?

I think over black leggings or skinny jeans?  It's just a teeny bit too short to wear with leggings (at least at my age) so I think I'll have to do it with thicker pants.


Year of Sweaters Tally:  7 (I'm so happy to have this done but eep, I'd better get knitting!)

Knitting Sleeves on Top-Down Sweaters

How was your Halloween?  It was a snowy one here:


Apparently this isn't unusual for Edmonton, according to my MIL, but I don't remember a snowy Halloween since I moved here (in 2004).

I'm in the midst of two top-down sweaters, and while I always enjoy doing the body knitting, I really, really, really dread the sleeves.  You're knitting a small circumference in the round, which means DPNs, and the multiple points of the DPNs are constantly getting caught in the body of the sweater.  The sweater yoke and body is heavy, and keeps pulling on the sleeves, which is also a nuisance.  And, probably the thing I hate the most, knitting in the round means the body is constantly twisting and needs to be untwisted, so every couple of rounds you have to lift this terrible heavy thing and let it untwist.

First-world problems, I know, and luckily Karen Templer at Fringe Association has a few good ideas.  First, knitting the sleeves before you've done most of the body.  And, come to think of it, there's no real drawback to doing this.  You are probably already confident the yoke part fits anyway, and if it doesn't, it's as much work to frog the body as it is to frog the sleeves.  And her second is to knit the sleeves flat.  This way, you're not turning the sweater around and around, having to untwist it.  The only "drawback" is a seam to sew at the end, but it could be worth it because the knitting of the sleeves themselves won't be so awkward.  It's a bit too late for me to try these ideas on my True Friend sweater, as I'm on the cuff of the first sleeve, but I'm going to give knitting flat a go with my Schnee sweater (I'm about to cast off for the body). 

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?  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  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 Ten, Installment One: Schnee

1.  What's the pattern?

Schnee, by Suvi Simola; a top-down oversized, long, drop-shoulder, moss-stitch cardigan.  If Google isn't failing me, "schnee" is the German word for snow.  Appropriate for a white winter sweater, textured with moss stitch (which reminds me a bit of snow; even in texture as your eye goes across the surface but not completely flat). 

 Photo credit: Suvi Simola

Photo credit: Suvi Simola

It's going swimmingly so far.  The pattern has you knit the back, shaping with short rows, then pick up stitches and knit the right front and left front (shaping each with short rows).

There are well-thought-out diagrams and a lot of explanation in the pattern, so I never got lost or had to rip.  I know it makes for a much, much longer pattern, but I really appreciate when the designer includes a high level of detail.  It means the knitter doesn't have to do as much guessing and the finished product is more likely to turn out the way the designer intended.  And if, as a knitter, you want to make modifications, more details give you more ways to know how and where to modify the pattern.

The designer also developed the pattern for a dizzying array of sizes, which I appreciate.  It's not that I would necessarily need to make more than one size, but it is an indication, to me, of how much the designer thought through the grading in the pattern.

2.  Which yarn did you choose?

I didn't go with the yarn the pattern calls for; I picked out a different yarn and colour for this sweater (Black Plum, in Sweet Georgia's Superwash DK), though sometimes I wish I had done it in white or cream, because the sample sweater is so pretty.  I'm really not a white-clothes kind of person, though.  Anything light-coloured that I wear inevitably ends up with tomato sauce or juice stains on it.


I bought the yarn online, and it looked very semi-solid in people's Ravelry pictures.  When it arrived I was a bit disappointed: the skeins, and also the swatches that I knit, look more solid than semi-solid.  Now that I'm partway through the sweater and partway through a couple of skeins, though, I'm happier because it does look way less solid.

3.  What size are you making?

The designer recommends 10" of positive ease, so I'm knitting the 46" bust size. 

4.  Any modifications?

My row gauge is off from the designer's, but not much, so I'm basically knitting the pattern as is.  I've done the first part of the back and the two fronts, then joined them, and now I'm knitting the body to the bottom hem. 

5.  Would you knit this again?

I'm not sure I need another cardigan like this; I hope this one lasts me a long time.  That said, oversized wool cardigans definitely come in handy, so...we'll see in a year or two, I guess.  Depends how much this one actually gets worn.

Based on how well the pattern is written, though, I would definitely knit another of Suvi's designs.  I'm already eyeing up her Leap Year Cardigan, Rhilea, and Color Your Shawl.

You can follow along with my progress on Ravelry.

Sweater Nine, Installment Two: Toddler Surprise Jacket

I've given this sweater a promotion to Toddler Surprise Jacket, given how big it turned out.  It's not overly proportional (the sleeves seem a bit short and wide) but it will work as a jacket over a long-sleeve tee, in the spring and fall.  It somehow feels appropriate, since the weather's been a bit gloomy and cool for the last couple of days.

I had a big burst of productivity the last couple of days, and I finished seaming (fun!), weaving in (super fun!) and sewing on the buttons (funnest of all!).  Check out that beautiful shoulder seam (in the third picture above), which is the only seam in the sweater.  It's a bit tricky to seam the side of a garter stitch piece to a cast-on edge, but I think it came out looking and sitting well.

I think the colour scheme came together nicely, and H seems to like it.  Ah, toddler models: she gave me a wealth of wonderful poses to choose from, ranging from tongue out to get-me-out-of-here face, LOL. 

Best thing of all, one more sweater finished! 

Year of Sweaters Tally:  6

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 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  (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 (a nice solid single, in turquoise and brown) and Stitch Nation's 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.

Sweater Eight, Installment Two: Hawkherst

From a non-wearable object to a finished object in just a few days!  Actually it took longer, because according to my notes, I finished this sweater last August.  It wasn't until this week that I tinked back the sleeves and made a decision. 

It turned out that ripping back and moving the colourwork band at the wrists higher up (toward the shoulders) would leave like two inches between the colourwork bands on the sleeves; in short, they would look strangely close together, and the spacing wouldn't even come close to mimicking the spacing of the bands on the body.  So my reknitting job became even faster: all I had to do was rip back and finish the sleeves with a ribbing band.  It actually took longer to rip out than it did to finish the knitting, as I had already woven in (but not cut, crucially!) all the ends, but in the end I finished it in a few evenings.  And....voila: my finished, wearable, perfect-sleeve-length Hawkherst!

 Isn't the inside pretty too?

Isn't the inside pretty too?

Year of Sweaters Tally:  5 (a little behind schedule, but I'm not worried)

Sweater Eight, Installment One: Hawkherst

I finished this sweater last August, according to my notes, but when I tried to wear my Hawkherst sweater last winter the sleeves are too long.  I'm going to have to modify them, and I just need to figure out the best way to do it.  The body was knit and the shoulders seamed, and then the sleeve stitches were picked up and knit in the round down to the wrists.  I can't decide if I should just rip back past the first colourwork band, or if I should rip back past the second colourwork band; the first option has the advantage of being faster, because it will take less work, but the second is, more "proper" in that I think the end product will look better.  If I know my habits, though, and I think I do, the colourwork bands were so fiddly and annoying that if I rip back all the way to the pick-up row at the shoulders, I am very unlikely to ever re-knit the sleeves again.

So my options are a sweater that is not perfect but is wearable with less work, or a sweater that will be perfect and wearable in the end but that I may never end up finishing.  What would you choose?

Sweater Seven, Installment Four: Alafoss

To add to the story from the last post about Alafoss, I discovered after I had crunched all the numbers that the pattern repeat for the second colourwork band in the yoke wouldn't fit neatly into the number of stitches I was told to decrease to!  I would have had a fraction of a snowflake at the end of the round, which would be really obvious and which I knew would annoy me. 

So, I had to first figure out the correct number of stitches I needed to have to fit a whole number of pattern repeats around the yoke, and then I had to figure out the new "decrease evenly across rnd" scheme based on the new number of stitches.  Luckily, it worked out to something nice and easy, but man, did I ever do a ton of math on this yoke.   I also ended up reknittingthe first few rows of the snowflake band a few times, which was a bit annoying.  I still really like the pattern, but I am definitely going to document this on Ravelry so that others won't have the same troubles.  Note to self: consult Ravelry before you start a pattern, not after you're having troubles.   

The body and sleeves turned out a bit long because the yoke ended up long as well, so I devised a way to shorten them without reknitting:  I unjoined the sleeves and body from the yoke, ripped out the extra rows, and then grafted them back with Kitchener stitch.  I thought I was being sooooo clever, and I even neatly took apart the sweater and put each piece on a different needle.

This turned out to be, like, the worst idea ever.  I am still trying to figure out where I went wrong and how I should have done it, but in grafting, I am at the end of the yoke and sleeve stitches and have 24 extra stitches on the body!  If it were two or three extra stitches, I could probably find a place to hide them, but twenty.  Freaking.  Four!!  So frustrating.  So now Alafoss is cowering in the corner while I try to figure out what to do: unpick all the grafting (which took me three hours), of course, and either re-knit everything from the top down, or rejig the grafting and see if I can somehow get the stitch count to match.  And, as a very last resort, I could always convince O to grow a hump on his back, kind of under his left armpit, where the lump in the sweater would be.

 Is it killing you how there are so many more stitches on the bottom needle than on the top needle?  Gives me the sads...

Is it killing you how there are so many more stitches on the bottom needle than on the top needle?  Gives me the sads...

Sigh...the things I go through in the name of good knitting.  Sad days for Alafoss,  you guys, but I'll sort it out eventually.

The Case of the Biasing Swatch

I thought I was all set!  I decided I wanted an oversized wool cardigan, and after browsing through Ravelry I settled on Schnee.  I bought the pattern and then started looking for wool, finally deciding on Sweet Georgia DK.  It's superwash, semi-solid, and comes in quite a few colourways.   What took me so long was picking a colour I don't really have in wardrobe but that I would wear often (in that it would go with most of the clothes I already own).  I am usually really attracted to turquoise and grey, so I already have a few sweaters in those colours.  I chose the Black Plum colourway, which I feel will go with all the grey and turquoise in my closet. 

When the yarn arrived from Urban Yarns (I had an order big enough to get free shipping, and they managed to squish an impressive amount of yarn into a plastic envelope), I started swatching right away.  That was probably a month ago, and I'm still swatching.  Granted, I've been working on other projects since then, but still...

So this is what happened.  The sweater is knit in moss stitch, so I decided to use that for my gauge swatch.  I started with 42 stitches across, all knit in moss stitch, and partway through I could see the swatch was biasing: the left edge was leaning conspicuously.  Never mind, I thought, it will all come out in the blocking, and I kept knitting.  When I bound off and the swatch was off the needles, it wasn't square -- in fact, it was distinctly trapezoidal. 

I wasn't sure whether the leaning, called biasing, was due to the yarn or to my knitting style, so because the edges were so distorted, and because I remembered Deborah Newton mentioning in one of her books that she usually does two stitches in stockinette at the edges (to make seaming easier, but in this case I thought it might also stabilize the knitted fabric), I tried another swatch in moss stitch, this time with two stitches at each of the left and right edges in stockinette.  As you can see below, it was still biasing -- less, than the first swatch, but still biasing!  I did a bit of Googling (Margaret Radcliffe has some good tips here) and found out that if your stitch pattern is balanced (i.e. made of knits and purls, like moss stitch is), and your knitted fabric is still biasing, it could be due either to the way you knit or to the yarn being unbalanced.  However, unbalanced twist in yarns is far, far more common with single-ply yarns, and since Sweet Georgia DK is a two-ply, I didn't think unbalanced twist in the yarn was the problem.  However, to make sure of this, I embarked on my third swatch: a plain stockinette swatch. 

The stockinette swatch, not surprisingly, turned out just fine and square, and so I had to conclude that it was my knitting habits that were causing the biasing.  Amy Herzog's blog post was instrumental in starting me down this avenue of thought.  Thus, I began a fourth swatch, in moss stitch, with two stitches in stockinette at the two side edges, and this time, I formed my stitches in a more consistent way. 

Miraculously (or maybe not, it's really just physics!), the fourth swatch came out square and neat, and right on-gauge.  All that time, it was the way I was knitting.

The swatch saga is complete!  This seems like such a cumbersome process, but I am discovering more and more that it's the work you put in before and after the actual knitting of the sweater that makes the biggest difference to the finished product.  It's a lot of work to knit so many swatches (and I think I'll have to frog them to have enough yarn to finish the sweater), but it's still less working than reknitting the sweater pieces.