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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Better… for now

It’s not that I’m super-picky, but I do like my finished objects to more or less resemble the pattern they were knitted from. (Okay, I am also super-picky…) The Mr Darcy was so far from where it was supposed to be that it bugged me and made me wince every time The Man wore it. (Despite this he insisted he loved it, even though it stretched nearly to thigh-length. Or possibly because of this…) Whether it was the Debbie Bliss Riva, or the seamless construction method, or the stitch pattern, or all of the above, I don’t know. But it was enough to make me take the wretched thing to task and rip it, rip it, rip it. (Not as fun as it sounds, because the Riva is quite ‘sticky’ and likes to stay where it’s been knit).

So after winding it all into large, fuzzy, kinked balls with little felted chunks falling off it everywhere, I started again. This time I stuck with a pattern I knew – the plain and simple chunky sweater from yarnforward.com. This was one of the first things I knitted The Man in 2009 and he still wears the pants off this one:

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There’s also been a purple iteration:

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and a variegated-grey one, of which we shall not speak because I accidentally felted it in the washing machine and it came out with no other future than to be a blanket for my mother’s cats.

So – the pattern seemed like a safe bet. I made it slightly longer than the pattern requires because he will pull his sweaters down all the time, but other than that I knitted the same size I’ve knit him before.

Reader, I f*cked up. For the last two years The Man has been doing weights on a regular basis, and while the older sweaters have stretched with him… this one? This new one, knit from yarn that I’d frogged from the other sweater I knit him?

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It’s too small. There’s every chance that I am going to have to knit this damn thing again.

Exactly the right number of projects

This is a problem I have mentioned before. The How Many Projects Is The Right Number Of Projects Problem. Knitters who are good at project-monogamy won’t recognise this problem. There are, I am told, people who can start a project, knit along on it, finish it and move on to the next project. I have no idea how they do this.

Others, of which (whom?) I am one, have more of a kid-in-a-candy-store approach. “Oooh, new yarn!” *casts on*. “Oooh, I like what SHE’s knitting!” *casts on* “Oh, someone asked me for socks!” *casts on*

So for a start there’s the excitement factor of Beginning a New Thing (I thought about including a joke along the lines of flirting with some light fingering – which is a pun, obv, not just a rude single entendre – but couldn’t really make it work).

There’s also the fact that not all projects can be worked on in all circumstances. You don’t, for example, want to be taking a two-thirds finished sweater on the bus to knit. Too big, too much to lug around, too intrusive. You also can’t follow a complicated lace or Fair Isle chart whilst trying to follow complicated storylines in a film. Trust me, either your knitting or the plot suffers from a lack of attention.

Finally there’s the for-me-undeniable truth that project-monogamy is – frankly – boring. I heard once that Ridley Scott worked on three screenplays simultaneously on three different desks depending on what he was feeling like at the time. Projects are like that for me. BUT (and this is a big BUT) (f’nar etc) – You Can’t Have Too Many Or You Get Knitter’s Guilt. This can come in many forms – some people stress over the size of their stash, others about self-imposed and probably arbitrary deadlines. I get guilt if I have too much stuff on the go. Nothing gets any proper attention or work, nothing makes progress, it all just sits there guilting me out.

So the nub of the problem is this: I need knitting that can be done on the bus or train. I need knitting that requires being spread out over a large area (for those Netflix-and-chill evenings). I need knitting that requires concentration and effort. I need knitting that requires zero concentration and effort. I need long projects. I need short projects.

And, knitters, right now I have the Answer. I have The Perfect Balance. I have three projects on the go:

A sweater for the Husband, frogged from the disastrous Mr Darcy (added bonus here that the yarn was FREE because of being from something else!)

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Socks for me (probably) in a plain-vanilla but still attractive rib pattern

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A cowl, also probably for me, in a pleasingly duochrome (is that a word?) Fair Isle pattern that looks insanely complicated but is actually pleasingly challenging without being tears-of-frustration difficult.

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I Am Happy.

White and one other

I always find bi-colour knitting quite pleasing. A combination of two well-chosen colours can really pop. (I have a secret hankering to knit something in aubergine-purple and lemon-yellow, just because those two colours look amazing together when it’s fruit and veg. It’s possible that it doesn’t look quite as good when it’s yarn, which is basically what’s stopping me.) I had some yarn leftover from the Starshine sweater I knitted for The Daughter last winterSONY DSC

and decided to turn it into mittens, using another Drops pattern (excitingly named 110-40).

I knew from knitting the sweater that the Rowan Pure Wool DK is considerably narrower than the Drops Karisma DK that the pattern was designed for. (I do not get how yarns can call themselves a particular weight when they knit up so differently.) So of course, hypothetically I should have knitted a swatch to figure out the gauge. But as I had time before the friend’s-birthday deadline I was knitting it for I obviously skipped the boring swatching and cast straight on for the project. I got halfway up the hand before realising that this was, in fact, a bad idea. While I could get my hand in it was stretching the colourwork out in an unattractive fashion. So, I ripped it all back and started again, using the larger size this time. That worked fine. They’re a little bit big on me but plenty warm.

I really like the long cuff – warm wrists helps with warm hands. The first section is doubled over so you get the nice frilled edge. This was the first set of colourwork mittens I’ve made – I think another time I’d just chart out the back-of-hand pattern myself because it’d be fun. I’d probably choose a different pattern for the thumb, as well – in this pattern the thumb pattern is continued from the palm pattern. I expect that’s the way it’s usually done but I found it so tricky trying to incorporate the stitches you add for the thumb into the pattern in a consistent way that I gave up for one side of the thumb increases (which is why there’s a blank green space at the base of one side of each thumb. What the hell – they match).

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On their way to their recipient (I’m hoping for another cold snap so she actually gets to wear them).

I really enjoyed knitting in the green and white, so as I appear to have a bad case of cowl-itis (every cell of me is yearning to make Louisa Harding’s Isadora cowl which appears to be the absolute epitome of match between yarn colours and pattern) I decided to cast on this feller – Crazed Scandinavian Cowl from WendyKnits. (As an aside, there’s another version she does with sockyarn leftovers that has my name all over it.)Cowl102515-240x215

That’s hers, obviously. Mine is rather less impressive at this point:

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But it’ll get there. I’m knitting it in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino and I’ve just run out so it’s on hiatus until I can get to the yarn store. It’s very easy to knit – because it’s double-sided (essentially a long tube) all the floats are hidden away inside so you don’t have to worry about catching in the long floats (and man, some of them are looooong). When you get to the end you graft the ends together. The stitches up the side are slipped which means it will naturally fold along those lines up the side. I tacked the bottom edges together because it was curling and annoying me that I couldn’t see the pattern develop.  The pattern calls for Magic Loop, which I’ve never liked, so I’m doing it the same way I’d knit a sock – one needle on top, one on the bottom. Or at least there will be once I’ve bought another 3.25mm circular. Now for the yarn store…

Unsatisfactory. Do it again.

This is to do with a sweater that I knitted last winter for The Husband. The pattern’s from knitty.com; Mr Darcy is a lovely-looking plainish man-sweater.darcyBEAUTY

Husband won’t wear anything too fancy or patterned, so this moss stitch in a variegated yarn is about as much as I can get away with. SONY DSCThe yarn seemed fine too – Debbie Bliss’s Riva is reasonably priced, comes in some man-friendly colourways, and is warm.

However…

This is a very non-constructed sweater – ie it’s knitted in the round, you divide for the yokes to knit up to the neck and then the sleeves are picked-up and knitted down to the wrists. The only seam is the three-needle bound-off shoulders. And therein lies the rub. No seams makes for a seriously sloppy sweater in the Riva and I really wouldn’t use this yarn again for a project of this size. Because it’s knitted in the round there’s nothing to stop it stretching in any direction and it’s not only got rather longer but it looks pretty formless when it’s on. SONY DSCYou can see from the picture that it’s been pulled out into almost a skirt shape. I promise there’s no shaping doing that! The neck is supposed to be a short funnel-neck with a little roll but because the weight of the sweater pulls it all out it ends up as more of a boat-neck. I would use the pattern again but it’s actually pretty displeasing to me the way it is and if Him Indoors didn’t like it so much I’d probably pull it apart and reknit with seams. I’d take some of the length off too.

In a word. Unsatisfactory.

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.