Don’t like it? Break it and make it better.

I’m a great believer in not just leaving things alone – if something’s broken I like to fix it. In this case, this:

Original Silje jacket

The Silje jacket really never worked – whether the tension was just too tight, I don’t know, but the yoke was definitely uncomfortable for the recipient across the shoulders. Which meant it rarely got worn. So after it sitting in the to-be-frogged pile for a while I finally got around to ripping it to pieces a month or so ago. I already knew what I wanted to do with it. One of the most popular sweaters I’ve knitted her was the Starshine from the same company (GarnStudio) – this one:

 

So I thought the best thing I could do with the yarn was make another one, using some of the same colours from the Silje jacket. Completed today. As usual I have a scadload of ‘ends’ floating around inside the sweater, but what the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over…

Blue Starshine sweater

 

She likes it because she says it looks like the big collars the ancient Egyptians used to wear. Whatever works.

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Making a sweater bigger

This sweater has a story. A saga, almost. The Too Long:Didn’t Read version: I began it, ran out of yarn, pursued a stranger over the internet until she agreed to sell me some yarn, but by the time all this had happened and I’d finished it, it was too small for its recipient. That brings us up to date.

I hate wasting yarn (plus I have no money for yarn just now), and in my view, yarn that hasn’t literally worn to rags still has plenty of life left in it. So the obvious solution is to

  1. rip this sweater back to its component pieces
  2. frog those back to balls
  3. begin again
  4. deal with ugly-head-rearing of exactly the same not-enough-yarn problem later…

Step one and two have been achieved, mostly.

Step three is in progress (former-front included for scale and to reassure myself that the new sweater will, in fact, be bigger)

Little sweater-front, bigger sweater-front

Step four. I have a plan…

An ex-sweater…

A pause

There has been a long silence on the blog due to me having (slightly unexpectedly) decided to do a Masters in Librarianship and Information Science. Which took up all the time I formerly thought of as ‘spare’ and also some that really wasn’t spare at all. There was no room for knitting, reading, woodworking or any of the other things I usually do when I’m not working, avoiding housework or poking facebook.

However, the first semester is now drawing to a close and with only two assignments left there is room to breathe. And knit. So first of all, a confession. The big black knotty nightmare? Is no more. All my grand talk about lifelines turned out to be so much bunkum when I noticed a mistake, decided I could live with it, and so moved my lifeline past it. Then I decided that I couldn’t live with it after all, and – get this – decided to try and frog back past it. Despite knowing all the stuff I said about the impossibility of frogging knitted lace. Literally, I looked at this fragile web of holes and thought “it’ll be fine”.

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The Mistake

Reader, it was not fine. So now the poor thing is half-frogged and sitting in a cupboard where it can’t remind me of my own stupidity. I loved the pattern, and I loved the way it was turning out, but I have to go a-a-a-a-l-l the way back to the very beginning and that’s not something I’m prepared to do just yet. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

In the meantime there are socks in Lang Jawoll Degrade, which looks so gorgeous in the ball it’s almost a shame to knit it up:

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a kind-of-Hapisk-but-not-really because I’m just striping Debbie Bliss grey 4 ply with leftover sockyarn. Projects for leftover sockyarn are great for someone who knits socks because there are always little balls at the end (if you’re a match-obsessive the way I am). And this is going to be either a blanket or a shawl. Haven’t decided yet, but I like the way the colours are coming.

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Scandinavian cowl, coming along ok:

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And some FOs because there were children with cold hands and heads so there needed to be hats and mittens…

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Free yarn!!

There are few things I like more than a free knitting project, as I’m generally thoroughly broke, and when a sweater has proved unsatisfactory it’s better to frog it and knit Something Better.

This sweater started out life as this one:

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It was very generously knitted for her – unfortunately a bit too generous. The neck was so large that the whole thing would just slide off her like a gigantic cowl – cotton is pretty stretchy anyway and the moss stitch made the situation worse. So, obv, I frogged it.

That time, it got turned into a Debbie Bliss hoodie from Junior Knits. I wasn’t especially happy with it so I don’t have a photo of the completed sweater. It wasn’t great because, like a lot of knitted hoodies, the hood part was so heavy that it dragged the whole thing backwards, meaning that you end up with a bare tummy. Also, like a lot of Debbie Bliss’s patterns for children, the length of body is short compared to the length of the arms. I always find with her patterns that I have to add a few centimetres to the body length otherwise by the time the sleeves fit the body is too short.

So, it didn’t get photographed until I was casting around for a new project. I’d started a new sweater for Smallest Boy and had run out of yarn (of which more later) but I really liked the pattern – Rowan’s Jack Pullover. Frogging seemed like the best option. So, here it is after the start of frogging:

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I was hauling the yarn directly off the old sweater and knitting it into the new, as I couldn’t see any reason to pull it all apart before starting, so after a bit it looked like this:

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And now it’s this:

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It got the ultimate vote of approval, which was that Oldest Daughter immediately started wearing it and hasn’t taken it off since yesterday. Definitely Better.

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More or less happy. Ish.

After a couple of false starts and various pauses while I waited for new needles, extra yarn, more new needles and buttons to arrive from the internet, the Silje Jacket is finished. It’s quite pretty.

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I’m happy with my colour substitutions (original colourway was a bit beigey)15-1

The pattern, however, was not fun to knit. I’ve knit a few GarnStudio patterns before and I think they suffer firstly from being written for a different knitting culture and secondly from having to be translated. I tend to find them odd to read and despite having been knitting for about 35 years now I have to pore over them to ensure that I’m doing them correctly.

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So what was wrong with this one? Well for a start it’s knitted from the bottom up. Every pattern I’ve ever encountered to date that has a yoked chest and arms is knitted from the top down. Knitting upwards it’s very difficult to incorporate the sleeves. It also means that when you get to the colourwork you’ve got all that weight of sleeves and body flopping around pulling your work hither and yon. Accurate, consistent tension is crucial if colourwork isn’t to pucker, so having to constantly stop the rest of the work sliding around is – frankly – a PITA.

Second issue is that the colourwork is done back-and-forth. Everyone’s tension is slightly different when they purl from when they knit. Really good colourwork cardigans are knit in the round and steeked (cut open) to be finished. This works well because knitting doesn’t unravel from side to side, only from top to bottom. Purling colourwork in one direction and then knitting it in the other makes for nasty ‘turning’ pulls at the ends unless you’re exceptionally careful and it’s also much harder to follow the pattern because you’re reading it backwards and from the wrong side.

I also wasn’t mad keen on the pattern requiring three colours to be carried for some rows and over very long distances as well. Not only do you have three colours to try and keep de-tangled but one of them has to be wrapped around one of the others every five stitches as otherwise there’ll be a great long loop of yarn on the back. Or several dozen in the case of this pattern. For a child’s cardigan that’s inevitably going to be yanked around and hauled on, that spells picky fingers pulling loops to see what will happen. In case of doubt, this is a Bad Thing to happen to colourwork. Proper Fair Isle colourwork has only two colours per row (as much as anything else so that you can hold one in each hand for speed and non-tangling-ness) and the patterns are by-and-large designed so that you don’t have mile-long floats. You can see on the reverse side where it’s ‘proper’ Fair Isle-style colourwork (the orange and white row that is in effect the negative of the right-side row) and where it’s not (most of the rest, particularly the white and grey where the grey had to be twisted in every fifth stitch).

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Apart from grumbling nearly every step of the way, though, I did knit it according to the pattern. Except for changing the needle size down to 3.75mm because I thought the 4mms made the fabric too loose. Which meant I had to knit some sections in the next size up so it was big enough.

So apart from all that, I’m moderately happy with it.

I Do Not Like It, Sam-I-Am

I’ve started a new cardigan for Alice because she’s got a thing at the moment about wearing dresses (probably because I’ve dressed her in trousers for seven years) and you don’t really wear sweaters over dresses (do you? I think it looks odd).

So I found a nice pattern we both liked – the Silje Jacket from GarnStudio. 15-1It’s got a pretty little flounce at the hem and I thought the colourwork yoke would be a nice thing to aim at after a mile or so of stocking stitch.

So far, so hoopy. I ordered the yarn and, after agonising for the requisite amount of time about my colour-substitutions, this is what we’ve got:

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The main body of it will be in the navy, and the majority of the colourwork will be the pale blue, the grey and the white. The orange and the mustard are accent notes in the middle of the zigzag to give it a bit of zing. It’s Drops Karisma, which is the first time I’ve knitted with a GarnStudio yarn, despite using their patterns a few times.

So I cast it on and the frill was fine. Switched to 4mm needle for the body – which ought to be a perfectly reasonable size for dk – and I Am Not Happy. I think because it’s superwash (something I will be noting more carefully when buying yarn in the future) and therefore doesn’t ‘stick’ to itself, it’s producing a very thin and holey fabric:

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It might be something that gets fixed when it’s washed, but given that the superwash treatment is specifically designed to stop it changing when it’s washed, I somewhat doubt it. Two options: a) carry on and hope or: b) change down a needle size again and hope that the extra stretch you get from superwash will compensate for the smaller size * (again, because it doesn’t stick to itself this creates a less stable fabric so it stretches more). I don’t really trust that the colourwork is going to look nice – you need the yarn to kind of fuzz up and get friendly with its neighbour for good colourwork – so I’m going to wash what I’ve done so far and see what that does.

 

*Yes, there is an option c) ‘just don’t be so picky’ but I think we both know that’s unrealistic.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time ever…

This marks something of a milestone. I’ve been knitting for about 38 years now, and never, ever, ever have I done what you’re supposed to do before commencing a project and knitted a swatch. But the truth is I had some yarn that I wasn’t quite sure about, and I didn’t yet know what I was going to knit with it, so it seemed like knitting a sample and seeing how it behaved when it was knitted and washed would be helpful.

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It’s mixed Corriedale and Hebridean from Blacker Yarns, overdyed turquoise. I knitted myself a sample using the needles suggested and got quite a stiff fabric. It softened up a bit when it was washed, so I thought I’d forge ahead and cast on. Then it occurred to me that maybe – just maybe – given the number of sweaters I’d knitted myself that I never wore (because they don’t fit), perhaps I should measure my gauge.

Glad I did. Because this yarn, which brazenly calls itself a DK, knits up at nothing like the nearly-six stitches to the inch that DK normally gets you. It’s five (and a tiny, tiny fraction of a stitch). Which scaled up to the 37 inches of the chest of this sweater adds up to at least an extra 30-odd stitches that I don’t need, which in turn is going to translate to an extra SIX INCHES of chest. So. Glad I made with the tape measure. (While I was being The Perfect Knitter I thought I might as well go the whole hog and knit myself another swatch on .5mm bigger needles, to see if I preferred that fabric. And that most definitely gets me five stitches to the inch.)

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Anyway, after all the ruminations I’ve decided to knit myself a v-neck top-down sweater because I had such an awesome experience the last time I used The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top Down Sweaters and I am a glutton for punishment. That one did turn out ok in the end. I was trying to use up various bits of yarn and so getting exactly the same length of colour section in each bit of the sweater was a bit fiddly (had to knit all three sections simultaneously, which makes for a lot of needles). But at least it fits now…

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(Or will do when he finally grows a bit – at the moment he’s pulling some sort of Tin Drum act and still wearing clothes he should have outgrown months ago.)