Gauge and other matters

I’m a pretty arrogant knitter. I generally assume that if there’s something wrong with a knit then it’s the pattern’s fault. So if a sweater fabric is stiff and unresponsive, then it is Not Because Of Anything I Have Done. However… after knitting the Julien sweater twice (because the first time its recipient was essentially unable to breathe), I did do myself the favour of reading Kate Davies’s excellent disquisition on the subject of gauge. I don’t do gauge swatches. The only time I ever did it was for a sweater that I hated (though that was more to do with the colour, the yarn, the pattern and the fact that I hate wearing sweaters I’ve knitted than the gauge). But after reading Kate on the subject it did, belatedly, occur to me that it was just possible that I ought to do a swatch before knitting.  (The Julien turned out ok in the end)

Boy wearing a sweater-vest
Julien sweater

So on the latest sweater for Oldest Child (who is growing so fast that sweaters now have a shelf-life of approximately six months) I actually did the swatch thing. And it was worth it because the recommended needle size for the yarn gave me something far too stiff.

This was always going to be a super-basic, throw-on sweater. Debbie Bliss cotton dk print that I got (very) cheap on eBay, but a really pretty turquoise. I eked it a bit with some other balls that came bundled with it, which make quite a nice yoke (though if I was doing it again I’d start the yoke higher) and she’s immediately snatched it, refusing to even let me sew in the yarn ends (fine by me).

Girl wearing sweater
Top-down plain sweater

Mystery knits from the freezer

Okay, so I had kind of forgotten about this one…  I was having a bit of a tidyup in the freezer (because I store all the woollen hats and scarves and gloves in the freezer during the summer to keep the moth-demons away) and found this lurking at the bottom underneath some pizzas.

A quick try-on reveals that it is, miraculously, still just about big enough for the child it was originally intended for (though the shirt it was supposed to go over has been outgrown), so I think I’d better pick it back up.

This one has had a troubled history… it was first knitted by a kind grandmother for Boy 1, but then he outgrew it and rather than wait for Boy 2 to grow into it, I thought I’d reknit it as something else for Boy 1. It had been heavily cabled with a pocket on the front, so I was pretty sure that I’d have enough for a plain pattern. I picked Julien by Drops and planned to make it a sleeveless pullover. So I frogged the cabled sweater.

The next problem was that I had no idea what yarn it was, thought it was a 4ply and used needles accordingly. Friends, it was not 4ply. I knitted the whole thing without bothering to check my gauge, and realised extremely belatedly it was far too dense a fabric, and had come up far too small. (It did look nice, though.)

So I sighed, and frogged the sweater – again- and figured out that in fact it was more like a sportweight and would function perfectly adequately with 3.25 needles, so here we are again. Just need to do sleeveless sleeves now.

(you can’t tell, but it’s bigger)

Good meeting, thanks!

One of the small upsides of the current situation for me is that now so many meetings are online I can knit during them, so my work-rate has shot up. The sweater I started recently is now ginormous (honestly, this is supposed to be a for a 12 year old, but it would fit me. I can only assume that the yarn the pattern was created for shrinks by about 30%).

Finished the back and about to start the front. One unconsidered side-effect of using a variegated yarn is that of course when your stitch-count changes – as it does when you shape for the sleeve-holes – then the yarn puddles very slightly differently. So there’s a rather nice optical illusion here that the diamonds are smaller.

Also have a pair of socks on the go in some Scheepjes yarn I bought a-a-a-a-ges ago.

I’ve never knitted with Scheepjes before, and it’s lovely. Super-soft and cosy, and the way this one (Our Tribe Happy in Red) colour-changes is very pretty. I might feel less positive when it comes to trying to get my feet to match, but I’ll cross that one when I come to it. In the meantime there are some rather lovely other colours that it comes in…

We’re not going to talk about the shawl.

Strange times

I am getting rather more knitting than usual done just now, mainly because I am At Home. Of course the reason I am At Home is the same as everyone’s else’s reason for being At Home, ie a global pandemic. It feels quite weird for us to be carrying on relatively as normal – barring going out or doing anything – while some people are having the most stressful and dangerous time tangling with CV19, and I am very conscious of being in an extremely fortunate position. I’m employed and can still work, I’m a student and can still study, my family are all healthy and I am able to homeschool because they are primary-age and even though I don’t know a fronted adverbial from a hole in the road, I can handle most of the rest of the curriculum.

So – as part of being responsibly #stayathome, I am notching up a reasonable number of wins on my needles. Finished a chunky sweater last week, also a pair of socks

Plain vanilla socks in WYS Kingfisher sockyarn

then did a stash dive to see if there was anything I had enough of for a child-sized sweater. Lo and Behold there was a pack of Debbie Bliss cotton DK I’d completely forgotten about, in their ‘print’ series.

Very pleasing blues, and a nice pattern from Rowan that has enough to keep me interested but not so much I lose track.

The same cannot be said for the other WIP, which is the wrap I picked up a couple of months back (or it could be a couple of weeks, time is weird right now). I’ve never managed to learn the border pattern on this, so I have to painfully follow the chart for every border repeat.

I’ve done a dozen repeats so am hopeful that it will bed in at some point, but the fact that I’m not loving it means it’s very easy to be distracted by other things. <checks the stash for more sockyarn>

I didn’t mean to cast you on

But there was half-price Rowan Cocoon in the John Lewis sale and it would have been CRIMINAL not to buy it and then I sort of had to cast it on just to see what it looked like and then there was more knitting…

The sweater did go on hiatus while I finished up some socks for a friend who was just coming to the end of a round of chemo. They were in King Cole Zig-Zag Holly Berry, and I didn’t take a photo of them (though I really wish I had because he has size 14 feet and they were the biggest socks I’ve ever knitted), but this:

knits up like this:I do love a self-patterning yarn.

Anyway, the sweater is a Very Basic chunky sweater pattern. The recipient doesn’t like patterns, shapes or bright colours when it comes to sweaters, so this straight-down-the-line pattern has now been knitted four times.

Handily finished just in time for the weather to get boiling.

Probably never going to knit this again

The grey Starshine is finished. It’s in Rowan Superwash Pure Wool DK.

I think the recipient likes it,

and now I get to do the all-three wearing-matching-sweaters-at-the-same-time shot.

You would not believe the bribery I had to resort to for this picture.

Accidental sweater

Well, I had to babysit for a friend, and I didn’t know what size feet the current sock-recipient has, so obvs I had to start something new. And, rather handily, it turned out that the box I thought had Christmas decorations in it ACTUALLY HAD YARN STASH IN IT. So that was exciting, and far better than Christmas decorations. So I had to cast on a sweater.

This is the third time I’ve knit this pattern. Some patterns you just… make friends with. I knit the first one for Eldest Daughter when she was about six, and now the current six year old is wearing it.

Then I knit this one when another pattern didn’t work out that well and I needed something else to do with the yarn.

And now I’m knitting the biggest size. It’s in some Rowan Pure Wool DK that was frogged from a sweater that my mother knitted for Eldest Boy, plus some other Rowan DK that I have no recollection of buying but presumably did because stash fairies AREN’T REAL.

Happily I have discovered that GarnStudio have heaps more sweaters and accessories in this pattern, so I more or less plan to be knitting it until she goes to university or rebels, whichever is sooner.

Too Many WIPS

A WIP is a Work In Progress, for any non-habitual knitters reading this, and at the moment I am in the stressful condition of having too many on the go.

This is partly to do with finances – although I am no longer a broke student, working half-time does mean that the yarn diet continues (this is seemingly going to be a perpetual state of affairs) – and partly to do with my mother’s endearing habit of knitting sweaters for the boys and their less endearing habit of growing. So I frog them to re-knit them bigger. But then, obviously, I run out of yarn. This means that this:

Julien sweater

and this:

Water Stripes sweater

are currently awaiting an infusion of cash and yarn.

There’s no real excuse for the Scandy cowl. I love this knit and the utter bonkers-ness of it, and a ball each of the Debbie Bliss Slate and Ecru would probably see me through to the end. I have knitted my way through charts A to Q and only have 41 rows of chart R left, so I just need to bite the bullet and get on with it.

This one, though…

This has been heartbreaking. It’s destined to be a colour-striped-with-grey blanket. It’s in 4ply and stocking stitch and there are about 600 stitches per row if not more. I dug it out after a hiatus and … it’s had moth. There were a couple of small holes that I could mend, but I had to grit my teeth and rip back about a foot of it because they’d eaten through a whole stripe of six rows. That represents at least a week’s worth of knitting. So I’ve done the hard part and ripped out all the holey section – now I ‘just’ need to re-do what had already been done before I can get into new colours, but it needs to go into the freezer for a bit to kill any pestiferous eggs, too.

Let’s not talk about the sampler squares that are destined for a blanket sitting in a bag under the desk.

Dreaming of being a blanket…

Oh, and the Eldest has just outgrown her Starshine, so it’s been handed down, so now she needs a new sweater…

Second verse, same as the first

Or more like fourth verse, actually. When I like a thing, I generally like it a lot.

Rowan Jack sweater

And I love this pattern: it’s great for boys and girls; it’s got exactly enough complexity to keep you interested so it feels quick to knit and that you’re not banging on and on forever in stocking-stitch – but not so much difficulty that you have to read the pattern every five minutes. The yarn washes well and can take the sort of temperatures you need to get out chocolate, ketchup etc; the shape is comfortable; it looks good on.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of direction it took to get this pose

World’s most reluctant knitwear model

So now I am in the embarrassing position (for them) of having matching sweaters for all the children. If you’re wondering why it’s four verses (same as the first), there was another one that got frogged because it was too small as soon as it was finished…

Farewell, Sneezy et al

The sneezy sweater is done, and was received with gratifying delight by its new owner.

I LOVE colour change yarns – there’s something about watching the changes pass through your fingers as you knit that I find endlessly delightful – and Noro is great for this. It looks like quite abrupt stripes when viewed from a distance

but up close the shadings are more subtle over a few rows and it’s lovely watching it come together.

The best way of making stocking stitch interesting that I can think of. Yarn is Noro Cyochin in shade 6, and the pattern is Debbie Bliss’s Nell sweater from the Junior Knits book. The only change I made was to drop the front-neck slightly as she doesn’t like having it up under her chin.

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