Category Archives: Sweaters

Summer 2014 sweater update

Okay, as promised here are the rest of my notable knitting projects.

In some 13+ years of knitting, I have only made one adult sweater (a boxy men’s pullover) and a handful of kids’ and babies’ sweaters. And in the past year or so, I haven’t knitted at all! But suddenly this has all changed. I have sweaters on the brain.

First up, during the recently-mentioned inventory of my yarn and fiber stash, I discovered my superwash merino yarn. I had taken 4 ounces of blue/yellow dyed fiber, 4 ounces of purple/orange, and 8 ounces of red-purple/gold, and combined them all into one project that used the concepts in Color in Spinning to get a beautifully heathered and flecked blend of complementary analogous colors. I had 13 ounces of bouncy round purplish DKish 2-ply and knew that quantity would not be enough yardage to clothe my little girl for long. So I looked for a simple stockinette cardigan that would showcase the colors and textures of the yarn while being a fast knit, and no annoying buttons. I found a winner in Harvest, the free pattern from tincanknits that’s sized for newborn to 4XL. My gauge wasn’t quite right, but it was dead easy to adjust by knitting from a larger size’s stitch count. I started this in June, and now the body is done and one sleeve started. Not long now!

handspun-harvest-wip-2

 

Next, I started contemplating my fleeces. I had that gorgeous gray Corrie/Merino…I started searching for long lightweight drapey cardigan patterns, and quickly rediscovered Old Town by Carol Sunday. I loved the lines, the sleeves, the lace. I knew that the funky modular construction would keep me chugging along better than a typical architecture with long monotonous sections. I spun a quick sample of my yarn and swatched it, hit gauge immediately with a semi-woolen sport weight that had amazing elasticity and made a cohesive fabric but still showed up yarnovers nicely in my swatch without blocking. I started spinning the yarn for TdF, and once I had about 8 ounces spun I couldn’t stand it any more and plied up enough to start knitting. I’m now through the yoke and ready to start the sleeves; I estimate I’m 1/4 of the way through and I’ve used about 2.6 ounces. This is going to be an airy sweater! I’ll spin up 14-16 ounces for good measure, since I’m planning to knit the tunic length.

old-town-wip-2

Finally, in my quest to reduce the volume of my stash I bumped into my sweater quantity of Holiday Yarns Super Sheep DK. I’d purchased it for a cardigan KAL but when the knitting hit a snag, I realized I had never actually wanted a cardigan in this color anyway. :\ I’ve been debating for years whether to send the whole lot out to be overdyed, but this time when I pulled it out, I started mulling over a non-cardigan pattern for it…maybe something cabled, to use up as much as possible of the yardage…and I realized that for a close-fitting pullover, this color was just fine! Well, close-fitting means it has to fit my figure, and I’ve got me some curves. I knew I wanted a pattern that would accommodate vertical bust darts and other tweaks to the shaping. This search lead me straight to Amy Herzog, who apparently in my year of knitting hiatus has become THE guru of fitted knits! Her Alta pattern is textured and cozy, fitted and flirty, with the detail up the arms and the big ol’ cowl neck that should balance my figure nicely. Between my gauge (I’m knitting a little finer than the pattern calls for) and the adjustments I wanted to make for my figure, I had to do a little math, but in the end I am somewhat confident in my decision to knit the stitch count that will give me an inch or so of ease at the high bust, but add an extra inch or so of room to the full bust. I’m not actually sure if I’ll be brave enough to knit and wear that impressively large collar, but I have plenty of time to decide to adjust it to be a scoop neck. In the meantime, I’m actually kind of liking this knit flat in pieces thing! An entire arm is done — done! — and I’m probably 4-5″ into the back.

alta-wip-2

The last two sweaters in my lineup are still in the planning stage. DS has been watching as I knit sweaters for his sister and myself, and as I talk about and execute various yarn design strategies. He’s grown increasingly excited to have me knit a perfect sweater of his own. The original plan had me using scrap fiber from my stash, and DS sketched me up a design that was full of stripes and glow-in-the-dark fiber and various features included to maximize snowball fighting efficacy. But over time we’ve gotten (hopefully) more practical. I’ve accumulated a range of very soft blue wools that I will blend into a single heathered yarn. I also got ahold of some glow-in-the-dark fiber that I will blend with some assorted white wool as an accent. I might just design a simple raglan from scratch, or base it on the Wonderful Wallaby. But DS and I do both love Veronik Avery’s Magnus hoodie from the BT Kids collection. First things first: card the fiber, sample the spinning, THEN we can make final decisions on the pattern!

blue-sweater-fiber

The last sweater is another planned stashbuster. After my baby knits business petered out, I was left with a couple of pounds of Peace Fleece inventory. I’ve thought for a while about making it into a big cozy colorwork sweater, but finally this month I started acting on this plan. I *hope* I have enough yarn to make an Elizabeth Zimmermann Three-and-One cardigan. It will be knit in the round and steeked. I will incorporate other shades of Peace Fleece and even a little Bartlettyarns if I have to on the sleeves and/or buttonbands. It will be shapeless, but with two layers of PF it will be so warm! And the colors are to die for. I have my needles set and my yarn wound and my colorwork chart copied out, but I think I’ll make myself finish another big project before starting this one. We’ll see.

three-and-one-yarn

Phew! I will aim for a fall knitting update and hope to show lots of progress…back to school is in two weeks! My baby girl starts kindergarten, so for the first time I may have multiple full days per week in which to accomplish household tasks and my own projects…we will see what the future holds.

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Getting my groove back

The beginning of 2012 hasn’t been good for me and fiber. I felt my interest waning a little bit in the weeks leading up to our vacation to California. Other things were SO much more fascinating than boring ol’ yarn and fiber: namely, a burgeoning interest in accounting, of all things. Given the chance to spin, knit, or read about non-profit bookkeeping — I’d choose the latter, every time. I know. Taking fickle mindedness too far!

Unfortunately, by the time I got home from California to the dreary gray February Pacific Northwest, ennui and disinterest had bloomed into an outright revulsion for all things yarn, fiber, spinning, and knitting. I looked at my stash and wheels and I shuddered at the waste of space…and then I recoiled at the complete break in my own personality I was experiencing! This wasn’t me! I now think there was something like Seasonal Affective Disorder bringing me down.

The annual Whidbey Weavers Guild Spin-In was approaching at the end of March and my attitude toward fiber still had not lightened. My parents urged me to attend (egging me on with offers of free babysitting), and I resisted at first, but at last I relented, hoping to see some friends there. And as I prepared to go, something started to re-kindle within me. I looked at my wheels and instead of complete disgust, I saw a window of opportunity…I was struck by a vision of using a petite and portable and extraordinarily quiet little wheel in the living room of my house while my children sleep. Not making unusually fine yarn or complicated or difficult yarn, but just yarn. Usable yarn. Plenty of it. So I looked at the balance in my checking account and decided I hadn’t used my “mad money” allotment in a few months — I took a check with me to the Spin-In, to put a deposit down on a Pocket Wheel. Step one of re-entry into the world of fiber bliss was complete.

As I sat and listened to the lecture (on wild silks of India) I basked in the presence of super neat fiber folks. The next day I headed back to the event bright and early, and got some shopping done. While idly browsing (thoughts at the back of my head involved a sweater quantity of dark rich brownish something or other) I stumbled across the Island Fibers booth, where I noticed the bags of fleece. The first one I beelined my way to was the most incredible deep black shot through with silver and tipped with ruddy red-blond.

sally bill lockAs a clear vision of a gorgeous heathered yarn popped into my head, I saw the tag on the fleece…in lieu of a breed it was marked simply, “Sally Bill Special”. I think my jaw dropped at this point. Just last summer, in a class on choosing and spinning fleece for socks, Judith Mackenzie had shared with us a Sally Bill fleece. Sally was a shepherdess on the San Juan Islands — on Lopez no less, an island with which I have a deep affinity and a decently long history. She imported a Romney/Lincoln flock to the island, but closed gene pool being what it is, she used any local ram to procure lambs. As it turned out, she was something of a genius when it came to selecting for the traits she preferred in a handspinner’s fleece, so even seeming-random breedings were chosen to improve her flock and she culled the remaining ewes carefully to progress her wool toward an ideal. Judith raved about this flock and held it up as an example of how a flock can excel in producing handspinner’s fleece despite its lack of pedigree. Judith! And here was one of the golden fleeces, within striking distance!

I didn’t hesitate. I nearly elbowed the customer out of the way who had been checking out when I discovered my prize. I had never purchased a whole fleece before, and I knew that the $16/pound price was a bit of a premium, but I didn’t care. I had to have it. And this was step two of rediscovering the joy in fiber. I beamed so wide I feared my face would split. I ran around finding everyone I was on speaking terms with, shoving handsful of raw smelly sheepswool locks at them. “DID YOU SEE WHAT I JUST GOT???” I shared my bliss with everyone.

The majority of the fleece went to the fiber processor on site, who happened to be Taylored Fibers. I hadn’t worked with any of their roving before, but I really liked what I’d seen and fondled at their booth in previous fiber shows. I put my faith and my fleece in the capable hands of Mr. Taylor, keeping just about 8 ounces to play with.

And once I got home, play I did. I washed the fleece and then started preparing it. I started by combing a few locks and it seemed I was exactly right, that the silvery bits and sun bleached tips would lighten and warm the black fibers into an interestingly flecked shade of deepest espresso or dark chocolate.

brown-black combed top

I spun some worsted samples from combed top, and at the other end of the spectrum I spun some woolen and semi-woolen samples from hand carded slivers.

woolen and worsted spun yarns

I loved these yarns. I remained so pleased with my purchase.

And then today, Mr. Taylor visited my island and brought my roving with him! The final tally was 4.75 pounds of roving from 7 pounds of fleece, and it is GORGEOUS.

bump of brown roving

It resembles nothing so much as my own hand combed top, it’s nicely blended and has minimal veggie matter and almost no neps. As soon as I could I grabbed a chunk and introduced it to my CPW, using my current favorite semi-woolen draw (attenuated short draw with twist in the fiber supply for a lofty and bouncy but fairly smooth and even result). Spinning it was HEAVEN. I have never, ever had such a nice spinning experience. It drafted almost on auto-pilot, it enthralled me with its dancing colors, it was so soft and touchable! The diameter and twist it wanted to spin at with my default spinning was a lovely versatile singles. I wound it off and did my oft-used sampling method of winding an Andean bracelet, then re-winding the resulting two strands into another bracelet, so that I could ply together four strands and get a round yarn from just one singles without the added complication of Navajo plying. I spindle plied about 9 yards, then finished it somewhat roughly.

yarn on leaf

I LOVE THIS YARN. I love the color. I love the handle. I love the bounce and the slight sheen, I love the evenly consistent grist. The whole experience of creating it has nearly left me breathless with the pure enjoyment of it. LOVE.

I even started a little swatch, knitting it up on US 6 needles in a k3p2 rib. Do you see the squooshy 3-dimensionality? This yarn wants to be cables! I think it might be a little too fat for the project I have in mind, but I predict a 3-ply might be just what the doctor ordered.

k3p2 ribbed swatch

So there you have it. I’m back. I am more in love with wool than ever, and I’m feeling a little more sedate about it. Instead of ambition and braggadocio, I’m feeling a quiet and steady, deep and abiding satisfaction. It’s wool…it’s all good, man. 🙂

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Deadlines

I have always been my most productive when I have a firm deadline to meet. Well, I’ve determined that some of my knitting projects have deadlines attached to them, so I am going to see about using my downtime more productively to knit instead of having idle hands when I read the internet or watch the kids play.

My TKGA Master Knitter instructions, and my current membership, will “expire” in January of 2011. So my goal is to finish and submit my work before that point. The good news there is that I am knitting with really good tension in my back-and-forth stockinette! I’m proud, because rowing out was a major stumbling block for me even after I recognized it as a problem. (My circular knitting seldom suffers from this issue, because it’s my purl rows that go wonky if I don’t pay attention.) I’ve also selected yet another yarn — I think this is the third or fourth. I’m going to stick with this one come hell or high water. I think.

I’m getting caught up in the excitement of the knit-along that I’ve joined. I’m excited about the yarn I’ve chosen, and I’m excited about the work that Sandi Wiseheart has so far put into her descriptions of how to measure oneself, and how to swatch accurately. I don’t want to be too far behind the rest of the knit-alongers so I very much want to finish my Husband Sweater ASAP. It’s really pushing it but I’m hoping that I can be done by the end of the month? Eep. Honestly, since it’s boring stockinette I can work on it while doing almost anything. Tonight at our little knitting meetup, I found myself gasping audibly when I’d come around to the marker on the sleeve I was knitting. The rounds were going so fast! We’ve been watching a lot of Battlestar Galactica lately and I’m finding it quite easy to put at least 30-60 minutes of work onto the body of the sweater just by knitting in the dark at any point when kids don’t need my attention. 🙂

So, I’ve got my deadlines set, now I’ve just got to get with the knitting! If only it weren’t swelteringly hot here – somehow wool is slightly less enthralling when it’s filling your lap in the middle of an 85 degree house! Well, we don’t have too much to complain about when the heat only strikes about once a summer. And man is it lovely to sit on the back porch in the 70 degree evenings with a light breeze…

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Why do I knit what I knit?

Lately I’ve been working on keeping my WIPs (Works in Progress) under control and manageable. At the moment my Ravelry project page lists just five. Some people (*cough*my husband*cough*) might question why I have more than one. Well, here’s why.

Here’s one of the swatches for the TKGA Master Hand Knitter program, Level 1. I’ve been working on this project on and off since 2007. It’s very, very tedious and requires very careful attention to be paid. Needless to say I seldom have that attention to spare, and I seldom work on these swatches.

Then last December I started a project I’d been talking about and planning for for weeks: a man-sized sweater for my darling husband. At this point it’s all stockinette, all the time. And it takes about 1,365 stitches to make an inch of progress on the body (about 442 stitches per inch of sleeve). Bo-ring. And I tend to set it aside when I am feeling less than charitable toward the hubs (hey, I’m human, it happens) or when I’m convinced he’s not going to like the end result or when I’m convinced I’m not accomplished enough to get the sizing and fit and shaping right. Although I haven’t gotten terribly far in 8 months, I still feel like it’s possible to finish before the weather turns cold again, especially since the final shaping should be challenging enough to hold my interest.

So in March of this year, the Ravelympics came along. I joined a team that was focused on challenging ourselves – in particular, many of us chose a challenge to include spinning for and knitting a project. So I thought long and hard and proceeded to attempt to spindle-spin 4 ounces of merino and then knit it into a pair of socks, all within 16 days. Ell. Oh. Ell. Yeah, right. In the end I accomplished the spinning in about a month which was actually pretty great, and got the first sock done in some reasonable span of a few weeks, but then…second sock syndrome. The project is small, and fun, and I love the colors and the feel of the handspun, but I’ve already done this pattern for the first sock. So now it’s bo-ring. I try to put a few rows on it when I can.

This brings us to June. I was organizing my stash yarns shortly after having read an Elizabeth Zimmermann book. My mind was whirling with ideas to get rid of some of the odds and ends that plagued my storage capacity. Then it hit me. I had a friend due with a boy within a few weeks. I would make the famous Baby Surprise Jacket! It would be quick and easy and a nice breather from the more tedious stuff on my plate. So I cast on, knitting every row with some increases and decreases for variety; I threw in some stripes here and there…but then I decided it was too big to give a brand newborn. And the friend wasn’t really all that knitworthy anyway. And the Peace Fleece was awfully scratchy. And how was I going to make those arms a reasonable length at these proportions? The garter stitch got tedious, and without motivation to finish…I set it aside. I try to throw a row or two on it when I think of it.

And now it’s August! Last month another spinning challenge, this time the Tour de Fleece, led me to complete another handspun yarn. This time it was a 4 ounce skein of handpainted BFL/silk blend. Gorgeous. The plan was to knit it into a lace scarf for a knitalong in the month of August, but when the KAL didn’t materialize, I couldn’t resist. I chose a lovely pattern for this yarn and I cast on anyway. It’s going SO fast. The yarn is an absolute treat to work with, soft and sweet-smelling (mmm, my Soak wool wash!) and I love watching the colors unfold beneath my fingers almost as much as I love zipping through the right-side rows just a few stitches at a time (knit 3-decrease 3 into 2-knit 3-yarnover!) In just over a week I’m 4 rows from the end. I think I’m hooked on knitting lace, especially from handspun, but more importantly, it’s just plain refreshing to have a project go from start to finish so quickly and so successfully! So although it admittedly has taken me away from my other projects, I’ll soon be done and back to the stockinette slog with the fresh memory of how great it feels to FINISH. 🙂

And in the meantime, it's summer on Whidbey!

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This is my insanity

I recently stumbled upon a blog post from Never Not Knitting, in which she mentioned her Playful Stripes Cardigan. Looking at it I thought it would be perfect for my little girl! My first impulse was just to take the original as inspiration and simply to knit a cardigan with a striped yoke and picot edging. But then I decided the designer deserved my support, and I’d be more likely to complete the project if I didn’t have to wing it with my own calculations and measurements, so I bought the pattern on Ravelry!

Now, I’ve already picked out the yarn (though I’m not 100% sure it will complement the baby girl’s coloring) but…back and forth knitting? Having to match up stripes across the cardigan front? No, no, no. I’m taking a cue from EZ. I’m going to STEEK this puppy. Nevermind that I’ve never done it before, LOL.

Just, tell me this. Am I completely nuts? Or just a little? 😛

Also, as requested, a photo. 🙂

Sunset through the drizzle on Memorial Day

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That gray sweater

OK, so after I repurposed the sweater as not-a-gansey, I started getting *really* annoyed with the gauge I was using. Although the Beaverslide merino is a heavy worsted yarn, I was knitting it up at 5.5 spi on US 4 needles, in hopes of making a rather weatherproof fabric.

Well, it wasn’t even that weatherproof, but it was making the knitting go so slowly and painfully. Also, while ganseys are designed to be close-fitting garments (hence the underarm gusset for easy movement) most men prefer more ease – I agonized over the chest circumference I was aiming for, and decided I’d be much happier if I could make it a smidge bigger.

So I ripped it out. Right back to the ribbing. Fortunately it wasn’t a ton of work lost. I started over with US 6 needles and am getting about a 4.75 spi gauge. Much nicer hand to the fabric, and I think I’ve decided to work to a 4″ ease which should be nice and roomy.

It’s still slow going though. It’s a lot of tedious knitting, and while project monogamy doesn’t come naturally to me, I don’t feel like I can start anything new while this is hanging over my head.

So, tonight is for knitting on miles of gray stockinette and doing endless gauge calculations to get the Perfect Sweater! May I finish it before the end of 2010. :p

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Project roll call

Just to get everything in one place. 🙂

I’m knitting a Pretty Thing (pattern by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) out of my handspun Abbybatt.

Also working on a sweater for the DH. Gray merino, very yummy. It just does not want to be a gansey though. I’ve decided to knit a Seamless Hybrid instead. I think DH will be as likely to wear it as he would the gansey, if not more so. If he still wants a cabled sweater when it’s done, I’ll make him the sheepy white Aran that he was originally envisioning!

I’ve restarted the TKGA Master Hand Knitting program, Level 1. It’s stalled again, of course, but I think it counts as a work in progress. I do like the Briggs & Little yarn I’m using, I think it’s going to block very nicely and I’m getting exactly 5 spi.

Of course I’m also spinning. On the Kundert, I’m plying the last <2 ounces of my fingering weight merino. I am in LOVE with this yarn. The fractal method came out beautifully and I am just dying to see it knit into socks.

On the Bosworth Mini I have an ounce of silk. Mostly just practicing my silk spinning, I think I will use some berry-colored dyed silk that I have on order for plying with my gray pygora. This undyed silk might ply up nicely with some of my alpaca though.

On my new Tracy Eichheim spindle (the comets on the left) I’ve started some laceweight Ashland Bay merino/silk (not pictured). I’m not entirely pleased with it though, it’s coming out as froghair and feels a bit too lightweight to work with. I might start over and make it a bit heavier. Maybe even wait until my Bosworth is freed up, it does love to spin fine.

And I have a spinning wheel now! I love my Fricke, I can’t believe how easy it was to get the hang of. And I’m spinning yarns I could never accomplish on my spindles, in a fraction of the time! So far I’ve done 2 ounces of bulky, lofty 2-ply Shetland (84 yd) and <2 ounces of dense, shiny 3-ply Gotland X Finn (75 yd). That’s two skeins knit, plied, and finished in less than a week! I’m pretty impressed by the speed. Next project will be the other 2 ounces of Gotland X Finn, then maybe I’ll really stretch myself with a more difficult project. 😉

I think that’s it for fiber crafts at the moment, I’m trying to restrain myself from casting on any more knitting or starting any other spinning projects until I get a good groove going with the current ones! But I also have:

  • Planting seeds for the summer’s vegetable garden.
  • Choosing and planting flowers.
  • Weeding, OMG so much weeding and pruning.
  • Working with the dog — I want to start the Control Unleashed exercises with her, starting with matwork (must find my clicker!)
  • Keeping up with the housework — I’m finding a decent system using my iPod’s calendar.

And raising two awesome kids, which is more fun and more hectic than ever now that the baby is walking and the big boy is, well, a threenager. 😉

No rest for the weary! Hopefully more content-ful blogging is on its way.

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