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.

 

Twisted stitches

The latest Sweater For Me is off the needles. I’m not generally a big fan of sweaters for me, mostly because what I enjoy knitting has very little in common with what suits me/what I enjoy wearing. As an example the finished Heirloom Gansey:

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went more or less straight to Knit For Peace because although it was satisfying to do there was no way I was ever going to wear it. (Much as I love Alice Starmore’s books, some of the designs seem to have a rather 80s feel about them. I lived that decade and have no desire to do so again.)

So all in all it’s pretty rare for me to knit a sweater for myself that I like… BUT – the latest top-down creation is Done:

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It’s very plain – just a bit of waist shaping – but I really like the detail of the twisted stitches on the raglan sleeve. As I mentioned previously I did at one point have this joining up under the arm and then looping up and over the arm but it didn’t work.

Also, I’m not really clutching feverishly at the hem in the pic, it just looks that way.

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The other bit I like a lot is the edging at collar, cuffs and bottom edge.  It took me several goes, faffing about with the sleeves, to get this right. I had a traditional 2×2 rib to start with, but it just looked a bit coarse.

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What I ended up with was a 3×1 rib which looks much neater as you can see from the pic. Then there’s a little bit of stocking stitch (3 rows) preceded* by a row of purl, to get the tiny bit of curl on the edge. The purl row acts as a firebreak and stops the stocking stitch simply curling up as far as gravity will allow. I’ve made this mistake before on a colourwork sweater where the stocking-stitch edge curled up to such good effect that mostly what you saw of the colourwork was its backside. The back of this is entirely satisfactory, however.

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*preceded because it’s top down and therefore knitted out to the edges, rather than starting at the edge/bottom and working up.

So, how’s it going?

It’s going well, since you ask, actually. Having recently battled through my hopeless inability to follow instructions in Ann Budd’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters I haven’t really broken a sweat doing it a second time in quick succession. Though this time, As God Is My Witness, I did discover a mistake in the book. As  you’ll know, when you knit a top-down raglan sweater you start off knitting flat and then eventually join up to work in the round. With a v-neck like this one you join up after a rather longer period of knitting.

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I’d been knitting for quite some time when it occurred to me to wonder exactly when I was supposed to be joining up to make it a sweater (rather than a cardigan). Reading, re-reading and re-re-reading the book, it became clear to me that At No Point did Ann instruct me to join for knitting in the round. So I asked her on her blog, and because she’s a lovely and helpful person she answered me almost immediately. I’ve written it in by hand in the book as I will inevitably have forgotten by the next time I want to do this. *

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So anyway, this is where I am. I’ve left the bottom ‘live’ for now because I want to be sure I’ve got enough yarn for sleeves and neck before I make it any longer. I don’t especially want yarn leftovers so when I’ve done the sleeves and the neck I’m just going to keep going until it’s a bit more tunic-length. If I have to do some increases to allow for the fact of having hips then so be it. I initially kept the twisted stitch pattern going, cabling it under and over the sleeves, but it looked a bit odd as the rest of the sweater is quite plain, so I ripped back the sleeve I’d done and started again. Definitely something to ponder for another time, though, perhaps on a patterned aran.

 

  • In case this ever happens to you, you join up as soon as you have the same number of stitches for the front as you have for the back. My neckline is slightly heart-shaped because I did it one row after.

Colin, meet World

Comfy, cosy, a nice warm mousy colour, knitted in soft merino – every librarian should have one. (And yes, that amazing room in the picture is a library… From Candida Hofer’s book, Libraries.)SONY DSC

This is Rico Essentials Merino DK and I wasn’t all that impressed with how it was knitting up, when I started – it was a bit too crisp, but a bath did good things for it. Everything softened and bloomed and lost its uptight twist, so now it’s all much more relaxed.SONY DSC

The issues I had with the collar don’t seem to have translated into problems of any significance with the final piece, so I’m going to assume that those sixteen stitches I couldn’t find were basically irrelevant (one can only say this with confidence at the very end of a piece… normally sixteen stitches would matter a great deal).SONY DSC

Also, its owner likes it, which is the main thing.SONY DSC