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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Since I’m so bored with social media, it’s time I shared a knitting update with you all!
This delightful little pattern caught my eye on Instagram (yes, my feed is populated by my relatives, their babies, and yarn): Petite Lisette, by Lili Comme Tout.
It’s billed as a dress, but the finished product is much more like a tunic than a dress:
The dress is worked bottom-up in the round, first on 4mm needles, then on 3.5mm. I found the broken ribbing at the hem a little strange-looking at first, but now it’s grown on me. I did add a couple of centimeters in length, but it still seems too short to be a dress.
Next came the box pleats: The pattern includes some very helpful instructions, and I didn’t find it necessary to make my usual how-to search on YouTube. You might need to, though, if you’re more of a visual learner.
They are a bit finicky, and I found myself not breathing for several seconds at a time while I was working them. The fear of dropping any stitches had me holding my breath and sticking out my tongue in concentration.
Bodice & Neckline
To work the bodice, you knit up to a certain point, then put some stitches on hold while you work up either side of the neckline. This is done both at the back and the front.
It’s hard to measure well when all your jersey knit is curling, and I think I might have made it a bit lop-sided. It probably doesn’t help that I was knitting in moving vehicles, airplanes, and other such uncomfortable places that make laying a piece out and measuring it difficult.
The cast-off around the neckline is an i-cord bind off (link to an instructional video). It’s a pretty bind off, but it’s slow, and the pattern calls for making an extra length at either end for tying. I think if I make this dress again, I will skip the extra lengths, do an i-cord bind off and then fashion a little button loop and sew on a button for the closure.
Picking up and knitting for the sleeves is always tricky, and I get this horrible gap between my main work and the picked-up stitches. I have no idea how to avoid this, so if anyone has any tips, I’d appreciate it!
My solution has been to sew them closer once I’ve finished the sleeves. Not ideal, but it works.
You can choose to make the dress with short, capped sleeves, or with longer sleeves. I did a three-quarter length. There is a box pleat at the end of each sleeve, which is a bit tricky, but looks very cute once it’s done.
The i-cord bind off on the sleeves posed another problem: How to graft the end of the bind off to the beginning so that it looks nice. I had some help doing the first sleeve, and that one ended up looking pretty nice.
But for the second sleeve, I was just winging it. Since I didn’t have internet access at the time, I couldn’t fall back to a YouTube video search. I have since found this video on grafting the i-cord bind off, which I hope others will find helpful.
Yarn & Notions
The yarn I used is Sweet Georgia “Tough Love” sock yarn in orchid. It’s a great fingering weight yarn, and it’s nice and soft for a little baby to wear. It’s also machine washable, a definite plus.
I used my Addi Click circular needles for the body, and some knitpick double-pointed needles for the sleeves and box pleats. I’m a huge fan of my Addi Click needles (I have them in metal).
And that is all she wrote! It is currently with little Avery, ready for her to grow into it this winter.
I got the pattern for the Alpenglühen cardigan on Ravelry. It was recommended to me by a friend for a first sweater, as she said the pattern was excellent and easy to follow. It really is! If you’re looking for a pattern for your first sweater, try this one.
Since this was my first try at a garment, I decided to go by the book and make a swatch. It turns out my gauge was perfect.
The yarn is Studio Donegal’s Soft Donegal. It’s 100% merino wool with a tweedy, multi-colored flecked texture. My parents bought it for me in Dublin, Ireland last year and gave it to me as a Christmas present. It’s a gorgeous color, soft, and even the jersey knit gives a nice stretchy result. I love it.
Confounded By Cables
Though I’d done cables before, this was my first big cabled piece, and darn it if I didn’t make a mistake in one of my cables only to realize it 10 rows later. The horror!
What to do?! Rip out 10 rows of work? Ignore it and pretend it’s not there only to have it haunt my dreams? No. A solution had to be found.
Enter social media. The Knitting Lodge community on Google+ is a great resource where lots of experienced knitters hang out. I posted a cry for help there, and also contacted Staci Perry of VeryPink Knits on Google+. She kindly sent me her video for correcting a stitch.
After studying the blog posts provided by the Google+ knitters and Staci’s video, I was ready to pull off the most complicated knitting technique I have done to date.
Holding the stitches on either side of the three offending stitches on my needles, I proceeded to drop down to where I had forgotten to cable. Then, using a crochet hook and a knitting needle, I worked my way back up using Staci’s technique.
My Chico will tell you that I held my breath for about 15 minutes while doing this. Afterwards, when I had successfully accomplished my mission, I felt like the KNITTING QUEEN OF THE WORLD! Lots of high-fives ensued.
Jersey Stitch is Boring
The back of the sweater is nicely fitted. However, it requires what seems like MILES of jersey stitch.
It’s hard not to pull out your measuring tape every few rows to check how you’re doing. The best advice I can give is to try to get through this part of the process as quickly as possible.
Gaps in the Sleeves
I had some issues with the wrap & turn required for creating the shoulder cap of the sleeve. The wrap used to create the short rows caused a gap along the seam where I picked up from the main body to knit the sleeves.
I was unable to find a solution for the problem. I tried several techniques, including the Japanese short row technique, but none worked any better.
My final solution was, when I was putting the finishing touches on, to just sew through the seam inside out.
Pick Your Buttons Carefully
On a sweater like this, the buttons really bring it all together and give the final finishing touch. I wanted to splurge, so I visited Rix Rax here in Montreal.
The selection of buttons is vast, but expect terrible service with a healthy dose of bad attitude to go with it.
It took me about a month and a half to finish this sweater. And when I finally blocked it out and sewed on the buttons, I could not wait to wear it.
And wear it I did. I wore it to work twice in one week. My colleagues humored me by complimenting me every few minutes. Whenever I wear it outdoors, I can’t help but expect strangers to stop me on the street and say, “What a nice sweater!” I am inevitably disappointed when no one in the grocery store takes notice.