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Top-down Knitting in the Round: Rolling Rock

It’s time for another knitting update!

This year has been the year of Christmas 2016 knitting. My goal (likely unachievable) has been to make a knitted Christmas gift for everyone in my immediate family. Including siblings, spouses, parents and various little ones, that’s 11 people all-told.

I also decided that since my grandmother is turning 100 this year, I should knit her something special, too.

Oh, the folly! Here we are, already the end of August, and I have but 3 of 12 projects completed. I am no speed knitter, and I have gotten side-tracked.

What got me side-tracked? Thea Colman’s beautiful “Rolling Rock” jumper. That’s what.

Who Doesn’t Love Top-Down Knitting?

There’s so much to love about this sweater. Knit from the top-down, there’s no need to seam shoulders, or worry about picking up and knitting for the sleeves.

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The “seam” on a seamless top-down knitted shoulder

By starting at the neckline rather than the hemline, you work your way down in one piece, building your shoulder “seams” and sleeve caps in what’s called the contiguous shaping method.

The neckline is a nice Henley, giving the front of the sweater an attractive styling detail.

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Henley neckline

All this is worked on circular needles with a medium-length cable. After finishing the shoulders and sleeve openings, the sleeve stitches are put on hold and the piece is joined to work in the round just below the Henley opening.

After that, it’s smooth sailing through the waist shaping and lace panel, down to the hemline ribbing.

An Easy Lace Pattern

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Lace work is intimidating to many, and I admit to being one of those. It would do a beginner well to learn how to read charted instructions, as Thea offers hers only in charted format (other patterns will provide both charted and written instructions).

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That being said, this is a super simple 6-row repeat. The instructions are clear, and you quickly get into the groove of the repeat.

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I learned to read the lace quite quickly, and stopped having to refer to the chart after two or three repeats. It helps that the lace pattern is actually an image of a bottle, so you can easily see where you are in the “drawing.”

I Love Not Having to Pick up Stitches for Sleeves

Knitting from the top down, you shape your shoulders and sleeves, and then leave two sections of stitches on hold while doing the rest of the body.

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Once your body is done, you go back and put the stitches on hold back on your needles and off you go! It’s so wonderfully comfortable, and it’s great not to have to pick up stitches to knit the sleeves.

I always have trouble picking up stitches for sleeves. There is always a gap between the main body and the picked up stitches, which I try to close up with a whip stitch once my sleeves are done.

Some Tricky Parts and Pattern Notes

The trickiest part of this pattern was picking up and knitting the Henley neckline ribbing. Thea recommends picking up 6 stitches per one inch, depending on your gauge. I found that that wasn’t enough (my gauge was tighter than recommended), and did my usual pick up 2 stitches for every 3 rows.

Also, she has you start knitting the picked up stitches on the opposite end from the pick up. That basically means that you have to do a long-tail pick up, coming back to where you started to use your working yarn.

That might not make much sense, but if you have questions, I’d be happy to try and explain better.

The pattern is quite clear, though chatty. Thea’s style is wordy, which can be confusing at first. She gives clear instructions, and gives a lot of advice about making modifications for body type, etc. It’s great to have those suggestions, but it can be a little confusing.

Finally, when she instructs you to join in the round, she says to remove the stitch markers that indicate where to do the waist shaping. However, if you remove them, you have no indication of where your row begins. I left in the left-side stitch marker and used that as my reference for beginning and end of row.

I’ll Post Photos Later

Right now it’s too warm to actually wear my Rolling Rock, and I haven’t found buttons for it yet. My mom’s coming to visit soon, and she’ll bring her magic box of buttons for me to choose from.

We’ll get some nice atmospheric shots soon, and I’ll add them to this article.

Happy knitting, all!

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My First Try at Fair Isle Knitting

Fair Isle knitting is a technique that involves knitting with two different-colored strands of yarn.

Called Fair Isle because it originated in Scotland on (you guessed it!) Fair Isle, it is also known as stranded knitting, stranded colorwork, or simply colorwork.

Wikipedia tells me that it first became popular when that irrepressible fashion plate the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII of England, famous for abdicating so he could marry his American divorcée girlfriend) started wearing Fair Isle sweaters on a regular basis. What a fashion rogue.

Anyway, I thought it was HIGH time I gave this famous (and fun!) technique a try. So I picked out an adorable pattern: Anders, by Sorren Kerr (link to pattern page on Ravelry.com).

Learning to hold two strands at once

The first trick to Fair Isle knitting is to learn to hold two strands of yarn at once. I knit English style, which means that I hold my yarn and tension in my right hand, and throw my yarn around my needle to build my stitches.

Continental-style knitting is when you hold your yarn and tension in your left hand, and “pick” your yarn with your needle to build your stitches.

So to knit Fair Isle, it’s useful to know how to do both, and at the same time! Here’s a helpful YouTube video for doing just that:

Once you’ve got the technique down, you’re ready to go!

Knitting up the Anders jumper

I have loved this pattern since a lady at the Montreal Stitch n’ Bitch discovered it. But I had a few problems for getting started.

First, since I was using stash yarn, I only had my main color in Drops Baby Merino, and my contrasting color in cotton Kapok DK by Sublime yarns (now discontinued).

Knitting with two different fibers can be a problem. Cotton is not as elastic as wool, and will eventually stretch out. Whereas wool retains its shape thanks to its elasticity. For this reason, I decided to do the bottom edge ribbing in my main color, to make sure that the bottom wouldn’t stretch out.

My second problem was that I did not have quite enough of my main color. So I decided to make it a short-sleeved, mid-season jumper.

Finally, though I *love* my Addi Clicks Turbo circular needles, my shortest cable was not quite short enough for the 6-12 month size I was knitting. My stitches were stretched over my cable, which changed my tension somewhat.

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Please pardon the terrible lighting!

Despite these little setbacks, I soldiered on, and I am quite pleased with the result. I apologize for the terrible photo, but I have a tendency to finish things at night.

Not especially visible in the photo is the vickle stitch braid that lines the ribbing edges on the collar, sleeves and hemline. It’s a sweet little detail that I really enjoyed.

The buttons were pilfered from a spare button box my mother inherited from her mother. Due to lack of time, I did not do a full wet-block, but gave it a good go with the steam iron. We’ll see how it holds up in washing…

Final thoughts on Fair Isle knitting

I love it. It’s a little slow, and you have to be careful about carrying your yarn when you have large stretches of one color. But despite that, it’s a lot of fun to see an image emerge as you work.

I will definitely be doing more Fair Isle knitting, including at least one more Anders for one lucky kid!

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Why I stopped reading parenting blogs

Why I Stopped Reading Parenting Blogs

Before the Bug was born in January 2015, I did a lot of reading.

Chico and I both got the Baby Center weekly emails, telling us just how pregnant I was and comparing the foetus to different fruit and vegetables (for size, I mean). It was exciting to follow his development week by week, and know how he was growing.

It wasn’t until after the Bug was born, though, that I really delved into the online world of parenting blogs and forums.

And it wasn’t long before I realized I simply had to stop.

Parenting bloggers are not always experts.

I’m someone who likes to seek advice from perceived experts. Most bloggers describe themselves as normal parents and share tips that have helped them (I’ve done it myself!). But when it comes to a specific concern, they are rarely qualified experts.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course. But when you’re in the totally normal state of near-panic when you first get home with your child, you’re often looking desperately for immediate answers. Answers which most bloggers and forum posters are not qualified to give.

Parenting blogs don’t describe your situation.

You’ll never find a forum post or blog article that perfectly describes your situation, or your child’s.

You’ll be thinking, “That *sounds* like what’s happening, except for this, that and the other thing.” So the solutions or suggestions they make never seem quite right, because you’re not sure their situation is the same as yours in the first place.

Then there are the blogs and books (I’m thinking of the “What to Expect” series in particular here) that make things sound so categorical. Reading these can make you feel even MORE insecure, especially when what they’re saying goes against what’s happening at home.

You can’t get immediate, accurate answers.

Online advice never comes fast enough. When you’re a panicked new parent, wondering if what your child is doing is normal, you want answers NOW.

Most people can’t call up their paediatrician and ask every single question whenever they want. If you go searching for info online, you have to wade through your search results first, then see if they apply to your situation. If you post on a forum, you never know how quickly someone with any experience is going to answer you.

You’re craving advice, information, or perhaps just comfort immediately, but you cannot get it.

When advice comes in, there can be too much.

Sometimes, when a question I had was responded to, it brought on even more confusion.

There are so many rights and wrongs, so many ways of doing things that are dictated by our family practices, our cultures and our backgrounds. Sometimes it can just be overwhelming thinking of all the possible solutions to a problem.

Often, by the time I got around to trying any of the suggestions I had received, whatever it was was no longer a problem.

Getting into a vicious cycle.

For a couple months after the Bug was born, I had some books I looked to frequently (“What to Expect the First Year,” and others), and I was frequently on Baby Center forums. I started listening to a parenting podcast called “The Longest Shortest Time.” I became a member of a couple of Facebook parenting groups. I downloaded an app for timing nursing sessions, measuring the baby’s weight, and knowing how long he slept.

While each of these resources was helpful in its way, and none of them was negative or toxic, I became overwhelmed.

Seeking answers or advice, I would turn to one or any of these resources, and would inevitably come back with more questions than answers. That brought on anxiety, as I then tried to find answers to the new questions that had sprung up.

I even wrote a couple of articles myself, hoping that by putting things down in words, I would clear up my own confusion, and thus make things easier.

Finally, I decided that spending my time with all these things was breaking down my confidence, rather than building it up.

So I threw it all out the window.

Not literally. I didn’t throw a book out the window.

I cut myself off. I deleted the app, shelved the books, stopped listening to the podcasts and removed myself from the forums and Facebook groups. I also cut off contact with a couple of people in my life who had proven to be toxic.

I decided to trust my instincts–to trust my husband’s instincts. I decided that the only “experts'” opinions I wanted or needed were our family and our doctor’s. I did hold on to the Quebec “From Tiny Tots to Toddlers” book, which healthcare providers in Quebec often refer to as “the Bible.” But that was the one resource I retained.

And do you know what?

I found myself so much more relaxed, more confident, more delighted with our baby, and happier.

Suddenly, motherhood became joyful rather than fearful.

Rather than over-thinking things, and worrying about how I was going to be a parent, I found the confidence to enjoy every single day.

I realized that it’s not about how *I* am going to parent, but how *our son* needs to be raised. Taking the focus off of me and putting it back onto our son actually helped me make more time for myself.

It may sound contradictory, but there you go. Deciding to be confident and to trust my instincts, allowed me to use the time I had spent worrying to do other things. I made new friends. I got back into my crafting.

Life got good again.

No, life got better. Because now it includes a wonderful little person I am lucky enough to call our son.

 

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