Sounds great, right? Sleeves are an afterthought, right? Well, no. Not really. Sleeves can be complicated, long, frilly, fussy, or just plain tedious.
Luckily, I’m knitting my sleeves two at a time using magic loop, and I’m knitting stockinette stitch in worsted weight wool. It shouldn’t take me too long. That’s why I’m basically writing my Weekender sweater by Andrea Mowry off as done.
Time to Move On!
I wrote a while back about some fantasy knitting. And while there are some exquisite patterns in my fantasy knitting list, the reality is that I’ve got some yarn I should probably use up.
I am a terrible shopper. At least, when it comes to clothes.
I lose patience quickly, and get grumpy and tired. I am not motivated whatsoever by clothes or shoe shopping. When I need new clothes, I make a marathon shopping trip. It’s so much of a marathon that I’ve learned to notify my credit card company in advance, otherwise they freak out.
But there is one thing I like to shop for. One thing that I don’t get tired of, and I could shop for it until my budget was spent.
Have you guessed it yet?
C’mon! What else could it be?
That, and knitting patterns.
It wasn’t always this way. I used to only buy yarn for a specific pattern. I would decide what I wanted to knit and either buy the recommended yarn or a cheaper alternative.
This was especially true when I crocheted exclusively and thought that the only yarn available was the acrylic stuff you can get at Walmart.
The Wonders of Wool
But then I discovered the wonders of wool. Once you start knitting with wool, you cannot go back.
The amazing properties of wool are many, and if you are a person who is trying to make eco-conscious fashion choices, I highly recommend you look into wool products (biodegradable and flame retardant? What’s what you say??).
I’m not going to lie, mostly I buy affordably-priced yarn from Knit Picks. What can I say, their selection is great, the colors are always consistent and vibrant, and their prices are unbeatable.
But sometimes, I like to splurge… Here are some of the yarns currently on my wish list:
The Neighborhood Fibre Co is a Baltimore-based indie dye company founded and run by Kalida Collins. They are currently running their Pride month special, and I am drooling over their rainbow dyed mini skeins.
Ever since living in Montreal, I have swooned over Julie Asselin’s range of yarns. I have knitted things with her yarns, and the color and quality never disappoint.
Tanis Fiber Arts, by Tanis Lavallee is also a Montreal-based dyer and knitwear designer. I have never used any of her yarns, but I have them on my wish list. One of her patterns is in my to-knit pile and I cannot wait to get cracking on it!
What I Love about Yarn
The thing I love most about shopping for yarn and is…
The endless possibilities contained in one skein of yarn. You can make anything! A hat! An elegant sweater! Even an adorable plush toy!
I have to remind myself that I cannot knit all that quickly. My shoulder protests and life intervenes.
But that doesn’t stop me from making purchases I shouldn’t upon occasion. Someone should really hide my credit card when my browsing history shows up a lot of yarn stores.
(Who am I kidding? Hiding my credit card wouldn’t help! I know all the information by heart!)
Friends and fellow knitters, I admit I have a problem. Or perhaps several.
KnitPicks was having a St Patrick’s day sale on green yarn (naturally), and (naturally) I indulged. I sprang for a few skeins of their Stroll sock yarn, in a lovely everglade heather hue.
In a fever of startitis (when you can’t stop starting projects), I immediately prepared to cast on a pair of Tin Can Knits Rye Light socks (free pattern!). I had knit these socks before for myself to great effect, so I wasn’t worried.
Oh, but I should have been!
I dutifully knitted a swatch in the round on my DPNs and found that my row gauge was way off. But I mean WAY off. I changed needles to get the right stitch gauge, but I didn’t know what to do about the row gauge.
I decided it would be fine, and started on the first pair. Part-way through the first sock, I had a realization.
I DO NOT ENJOY KNITTING SOCKS!
They’re too fiddly. Whether knitted on DPNs or with magic loop, they’re tetchy little things (especially children’s socks).
The second problem
But now I had another problem.
In my unbridled enthusiasm to make socks for all my boys, I had been talking it up. Now my Bug and my Bear both expected socks! I couldn’t just toss them aside!
The third problem
Despite not liking the knitting process too much, I soldiered on. I finished the first sock, and then the second.
Now came the moment of truth! It was time to try them on!
They got on his feet alright, but then… They sagged. And sagged. And SAGGED.
So I cast on the second pair, this time for the Bug. But this time I did a little research.
According to Kate, socks should be knit with about 10% of negative ease. In other words, the final measurements of the socks should be about 10% smaller than your foot.
I did some careful measurements of the Bug’s feet, but I made one key mistake. I did not measure his feet while he was on the floor.
The best way to get an accurate foot measurement for sock sizing is to measure the length of the foot while it’s standing on the floor. Also, measure the width around the ball of the foot when the person is standing.
This wouldn’t have been such a problem, if it hadn’t been for that…
Dratted row gauge.
Many sock patterns tell you to knit for a certain number of inches or centimetres for the ribbing, and then down the cuff. So you might think that row gauge doesn’t matter too much.
But you would be WRONG!
Because when you get to the heel and the gusset, at these points you start counting rows. So if your row gauge is too short, your heels and gussets will be–you guessed it–too short.
When we got them on his feet, they seemed to fit just fine.
But over the course of the afternoon, they gradually slipped down, down, down… Until they were bunched up inside his shoes, poor lamb.
Being The World’s Sweetest Child, he never complained and insisted he liked his new socks. But I knew better.
Back to the drawing board
Both these pairs will have to be unraveled. I WILL get these right!
But wait, you say. Didn’t you say you didn’t enjoy knitting socks?
The Tempestry Project allows you to visualize “climate data in a way that is accurate, personal, tangible and beautiful.”
“Uh… what,” you say? It’s a marriage of crafting and climate change activism! Hooray!
Each Tempestry is a knitted tapestry of temperature data. You select your location and your year, and the Tempestry Project folks will send you the temperature highs for each day that year.
For example, I ordered a Tempestry kit for Geneva Switzerland, 1985. My kit arrived with an Excel spreadsheet with 365 lines, starting January 1st 1985, ending December 31st. Each line shows the date, the day’s high temperature, and which color you need to knit to correspond to that temperature.
The original kit also includes a color card (pictured above) with little yarn samples, and just the right amount of each color yarn for you to knit your full Tempestry.
Knit or Crochet (or Cross Stitch!)
You can choose either to knit or crochet your Tempestry. If you decide to knit, you can also choose whether to do it in garter stitch or linen stitch.
The lovely thing about the linen stitch is the texture it gives the whole Tempestry. The pattern recommends a small 3-stitch garter stitch border with the linen stitch, and I’m loving the way it looks.
Really, you can knit or crochet this any way you choose. You just have to be conscious that you only have a certain amount of each yarn. This project is easy to adapt and personalize.
Giving Climate Change Data Context
What this project does is it allows you to contextualize climate change data. If you’re like me and you struggle to see how climate change awareness and activism can fit into your daily life, then this might help.
I mentioned my kit for Geneva, 1985. I also ordered one for Geneva, 2017, because some extraordinary circumstances meant that our second son, our Bear, was born in Geneva in 2017 (we were expecting him to be born in Germany).
It will be interesting to see how these two kits compare once they’re knitted. How much warmer was Geneva in 2017 than in 1985? I remember it being hot as hell in 2017, especially as I traipsed around town the morning of the Bear’s birth, unaware that I was going to deliver a baby later that afternoon. The Tempestries should illustrate the difference.
A Tutorial for Your Tempestry
I discovered the Tempestry Project from Staci Perry over at VeryPink Knits. She published a video tutorial for knitting a Tempestry, and her colleague Casey from the (now defunct) VeryPink podcast interviewed the crew at the Tempestry Project.
I’m sharing Staci’s tutorial below, in case anyone is interested. Her YouTube channel has been my go-to resource for knitting lessons.
Other Ways to Participate
There are lots of other ways to participate in the Tempestry project. They sell their very own needle wranglers, as well as other patterns and kits on their websites.
They’ve developed a “new normal” series, which show “a visual representation of annual deviations-from-average temperature for different locations.” Some of the results are pretty nuts.
This is a great project, and a great way to dip your toes into what is now being called “craftivism.” More on that another time, perhaps.
You’ve heard of fantasy football? Well this is nothing like fantasy football. Let’s just make that clear from the start, shall we?
Since I am still off the knitting, it’s given me plenty of time to fantasize about what I want to knit once I’m allowed to. I’ve browsed through my copies of PomPom Quarterly for ideas, but mostly I’ve turned to the wonderful online world of:
I have dutifully updated my stash on Ravelry, and because of the wonder of this database, I can then look at what other people have knit with my yarns and be inspired.
Of course, I inevitably start looking at patterns that do not call for the yarns I have stashed. Oh, dear…
I do not have all the sport weight yarn necessary to make this pattern! I don’t even own the pattern! What I do own are several other patterns that I haven’t knitted yet.
So let’s focus on the patterns I actually own, shall we?
In My Ravelry Library
First off, the Statis pullover by Leila Raven for Brooklyn Tweed. I have been wanting to make myself a yolked sweater for a while now, and I’ve seen this one in the flesh before. The original pattern did not have the contrasting color around the neckline, but when I saw it like this I fell in love with it. Happily, I also have a yarn to use for this project.
Originally purchased for another sweater, I decided against knitting that one and have set the yarn aside for this baby. It’s a gorgeous O-Wool O-Wash fingering in colors I do not usually select. It’ll be nice to branch out from my usual greens/blues.
Next up is Tanis Lavallee’s Seaboard sweater. This one is an absolute gem. It’s got so many interesting details, it makes me drool! I love the dropped shoulders, the split hem, the boat neck, the combination of lace and cables… Pretty much everything about this is lovely.
Once again, I do not have a yarn for this project. So this one will have to wait, unfortunately, until I work through some of my stash.
Third is a pattern I’ve knit before, but in child sizes. Tin Can Knits make wonderful patterns for beginner knitters, and their Flax Lite sweater pattern is a favorite for baby gifts. I’ve knitted versions of this for my Bug and for other people’s kids. Now, however, I want to make it in adult size for my Chico.
It’s an easy top-down sweater knit in the round. The garter stitch detail on sleeves will look great on Chico, emphasizing his shoulders. The pattern is unisex, and shouldn’t require any shaping, but I can play with it and see if I want to taper it slightly just below the shoulder blades to give it a slimmer waist. I’ve never done any customizing, so we’ll see how that goes.
I bought yarn for this project at a fiber festival in Virginia back in the fall. But I had a forehead slapping moment earlier today when I realized that this sweater quantity of yarn I have is in DK weight, not fingering!! D’oh!! I’ll have to swatch and see what can be done.
I’ve done it again. Once again, I have completely frogged a project.
(In case you’d forgotten, “frogging” is the process of ripping out a knitted project in order to correct a mistake, or–as in my case–to completely begin again.)
Thankfully, this time it’s not so bad as the last time I frogged a project. Last time it was a WHOLE. SWEATER. This time, it was just a hat.
This hat and the huge lace number I worked up for my MIL’s Christmas gift are probably the reason my shoulder finally said:
OH FOR GOODNESS SAKES WOULD YOU STOP ALREADY?
I could feel the ache in my shoulder, and I knew something was up. But I just couldn’t bring myself to set aside a project before it was finished. I like finishing things. I’m one of those knitters who usually doesn’t start a new project until I’ve finished my last one. And I just had… to… FINISH!
The hat I didn’t want to put down was the Mjolnir hat by Raven Sherbo (free pattern on Ravelry!). I love the way it looked when I saw the photos, and I really enjoyed knitting it up.
However, I knew I was taking a risk right from the start. I started the hat while we were on Christmas vacation in Spain. I had planned to make a different hat pattern, so I only had my 3.5mm needles. Mjolnir calls for 2.5mm for the ribbing, then 3mm for the body.
Already a bit of a risk, but I figured I usually have a tight gauge and generally have to go up a needle size anyway.
Well… not this time my friends.
Ignoring the Voice
Using my absolutely gorgeous Rosy Green Wool Manx Merino Fine (in the Scots Pine colorway), I cast on and blissfully ignored the little voice in my head telling me this was not a good idea.
You know the voice I’m talking about, right? Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (AKA the Yarn Harlot) wrote about The Voice recently.
It’s the little voice of your own experience telling you you really ought to know better. It’s fun to ignore that voice. Until it isn’t and you have to frog an entire project. The hat was simply too big, despite my having a rather larger than normal head (literally: when I buy hats I have to buy a men’s XL).
Moral of the story: the voice is always right! The Yarn Harlot knows it! And now I do, too.
(On a side note, it is rather encouraging to know that I do indeed have such a voice–I’m getting to really know my knitting!)
Back to the Drawing Board (or the cast-on)
So it’s back to the drawing board for my Mjolnir hat. I’ve already soaked and dried the wool back into a hank. I will likely take another stab at the hat, but this time I’ll use the right needle sizes, AND I will make it a double brim hat for extra coziness.
Stop the presses! I have been ordered to take a two week break from knitting!
I’ve given myself a repetitive movement injury in my right shoulder. Though it’s not terribly painful, it’s wise to nip this in the bud before it gets to be a big problem.
This is, as you can imagine, a blow. Over the past few days I’ve really come to appreciate how important knitting is to my well-being.
Knitting is therapeutic
Between caring for kids, job hunting and running the household, life can get a little dull. Let’s be real, many of these tasks are downright tedious.
Knitting gives me a break from that tedium. Because it’s easy to pick up and put down, I can seize a free moment to go into that meditative and calming trance. Usually I have the radio going, and knitting allows me to keep my hands busy and better focus on what I’m listening to.
But without knitting?
Well, contrary to what I would have expected, my productivity has fallen dramatically.
I thought that without the distraction of knitting, I’d use the time to fill out more job applications, get the chores done and devote myself to my children.
But actually, I’ve found that without knitting, there is no promise of relief from the tedium.
Suddenly all the chores seem so onerous, and the job applications seem too hard. And honestly? I’ve felt more depressed than I have since the period after my mother died.
While there certainly are other factors contributing to that, it seems that not being able to knit has magnified these negative feelings.
Toughing it out
I’ve been reading more, which is great. But while reading is a favorite activity of mine, it’s not as easy to do with kids in the house. Reading requires complete focus, and I can’t engage in conversation or listen to something informative while I read.
*Sigh* I keep telling myself this is temporary, and that with help from an excellent physical therapist (hooray!), I should be able to get back to knitting before long.
I’ve often wondered, with all the knitting I do, why I don’t have more finished projects to enjoy.
Most of the things I’ve made, I have given away. I give them to friends and family to enjoy (I hope), and then I make something else.
It’s not that I don’t care for the finished products. I am excited to see how they turn out, and I enjoy seeing people wear the things I’ve made. But I’ve realized that the finished object isn’t what makes me tick.
For me, it’s all about the knitting itself. That makes me a process knitter.
For project knitters, on the other hand, “the highs are higher, the lows are lower, and probably overall it’s hard to be as satisfied on any given day to work on something.”
As a process knitter, it’s true that I get most enjoyment out of actually doing the knitting and getting it right. It’s a puzzle to figure out, a mystery to discover, and when I get a good pattern, it’s good fun.
How to Choose Patterns for Process Knitting
Now that’s not to say that I don’t sometimes find knitting a project a bit of a slog. If I’m not motivated by the pattern, if it’s boring or too repetitive, I’ll get into a slump.
In order to avoid such a slump, I pick challenging patterns. I look for new construction of a sweater, or new stitches or techniques so that I can learn something new.
I’m currently working on Carol Sunday’s Mia Francesca, a heavily cabled number with an interesting new construction I’ve never encountered before. It’s fascinating, and I’m enjoying it immensely. It will probably be finished, however, just in time for warm spring weather.
Finally Knitting for Me
Though I’m not a project knitter, I do want to make more items for myself that I’ll be able to enjoy. Since 2016 was the year of knitting for others, 2017 is the year of knitting for me. First this cardigan, and next up will be a new shawl to enjoy.
Dr Markman also notes that knitting is a great brain training activity for three good reasons. First, the fine motor control needed to knit engages your brain in a valuable way. Second, it requires problem solving, since you often have to figure out instructions or new techniques. That requires thought, which is always brain-healthy.
Finally, the social side of knitting is also beneficial. If you get stuck, or you need help, you can call up your knitting friends or go to a knitting circle, which is also good for the brain.
“Jane!” you exclaim, “That’s terrible! Why? After all your hard work!”
You’d be right there. It was a lot of hard work. But it turned out to be simply too fitted. And I figure, if I’m going to be making clothes for myself, I want them to fit correctly. And so, I frogged it.
How to Frog
I always find inspiration on YouTube from Stacey Perry of VeryPink Knits. Her video about reusing yarn is super helpful.
I would just make one note: I did NOT take the ball off the ball winder once I had finished unraveling. I kept it on there and wound the yarn around the swift, and put it back into hank form from there. It just seemed a little easier than dealing with the cake of yarn rolling all over the place.
How I Got to This Point
You might think that this must be the world’s most frustrating thing to do. After spending hours on a project, having to rip it out and start over again must be maddening.
You wouldn’t be wrong.
In my case, I wasn’t so frustrated, because I did see it coming. I tried on my sweater periodically, and I knew it was more fitted than I had wanted. But I kept telling myself I would be sure to like it when it was done.
But when I had finally finished it, I had to be completely honest.
I was never going to wear this sweater.
It was going to be one of those things that sat in my closet and I never put on because it clung a bit too unforgivingly to my curves. *Sigh* I simply had to frog it.
Where is the Emotional Value in Frogging?
Frogging does have its value. It is a rather cathartic exercise. It’s fun to see how quickly you can unravel something that took HOURS to make (did I say “fun”? I guess I’m masochistic).
But of more value still is the thought process that leads to frogging as a conclusion.
We want everything we do to be successful and beautiful, but that’s not always going to happen. Some things simply don’t turn out well.
And that is okay!
It’s okay to fail at things, and recognize that we have failed. Especially when failure is so relatively unimportant, as in the case of an ill-fitting sweater.
Frogging allows us to acknowledge our failure, embrace it, learn from it, and try again (or move on).
Try, Try Again
I plan to make this sweater again. An indication that something was wrong should have been that I had an entire skein of yarn leftover. Seeing as I had an over abundance, I will make the sweater again in a larger size.
No one likes to have to admit that we need a larger size, but hey. That’s life. It’s hard not to slowly expand as the years go by and the baby weight never totally comes off (SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME I’M NOT ALONE ON THIS).
At the very least, I will have a beautiful, nicely fitting sweater that will flatter my new figure.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.