Thursday, November 29, 2007

the trouble with kelly (the cardi)

This design, from Erika Knight's Classic Knits , is everything I love in a sweater: retro-cute, cropped, simple, soft yarn, 3/4 sleeves. It almost reaches Rowan-style. But why is the neckline so awkward?

It isn't just me. I saw many beautiful Kelly Cardigans on Ravelry and most, if not all, had necklines that hit the model in the wrong spot. I thought the best photo was one where the neck of the sweater was covered by the collar of the dress underneath. Why didn't Erik Knight lower the neckline in front? It would have looked so much better.

Of course, if I make it again (and I might), I will attempt to make this adjustment myself. But I am not too sure of myself in neckline alterations.

Another alteration I am unsure of is arm hole/sleeve cap. And again, why did the designer make the arm hole so billowy? This shows in the book photo, where there appears to be too much fabric at the sides. My version of the sweater repeats the same flaw even though I am a totally different size and shape from the model in the picture.

Despite these problems, I love the sweater. It is incredibly soft and comfortable. One feature that some might see as an additional flaw doesn't bother me. That is the lack of buttonholes. Rather than use snap fasteners as the designer suggested, I just left the front open. Buttonholes in handknit sweaters can be difficult to manage and sometimes ruin the line of the design. I did not want to risk that with this (near) perfect sweater.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

twisted sisters unwound: a book review

Twisted Sisters Knit Sweaters: A Knit to Fit Workshop
Vogel, Lynne
Interweave Press 2007

The Twisted Sisters have outdone themselves in providing clear and detailed directions for constructing a sweater. They have developed a system (explained in chapter 2) for capturing and mapping every possible measurement that you would need to design a sweater down to the half cuff circumference of a sleeve, and, step by step, they help you go from measurements to gauge to sweater parts to finished garment. The Sisters take this information in every possible direction too, including up, down, and side to side construction. They also include some wonderful charts and tips like suggested guages for various purposes.

If, like me, you want to design your own sweaters and are good at following written directions (which most of us knitters are) you should condsider buying this book.

I borrowed my copy from the library, and I am not going to buy it, and here's why: the Twisted Sisters designs make my eyes hurt. As hand spinners and dyers, I guess the Sisters are more interested in surface design of knitted fabric than they are in fashion and shape. But all of their designs have drop shoulders. They don't explain how to shape a sleeve cap or set in a sleeve. They have never heard of waist shaping. I may not be the most fashionable or shapely knitter out there (I'm not), but I try. I don't want to knit bag-like sweaters (on purpose).

I think the colors and neckline of the sweater in the lower photo are pretty, but check out those droopy shoulders and sleeves. In the upper photo, the Twisted Sisters love of surface design has spiraled out of control.

This is the first Twisted Sisters book I have ever looked at. I think I might be more intereested in what they have to say about fiber and socks than I am in their design aesthetic.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

deep thoughts about clapotis

In case you have been knitting under a rock, Clapotis is an enormously popular internet-based pattern - a scarf/shawl created in a genius way by designer Kate Gilbert. When I first saw this pattern in Knitty I confess to being unimpressed. I don't exactly take to variegated yarn (Kate used Lorna's Laces Lion and Lamb for her prototype), nor to drop stitch patterns, which strike me as a cheap version of lace. There was really nothing I liked about this pattern except the look of the photo with the Frenchified model enjoying un cafe at an outdoor cafe.
But fifty million knitters can't be wrong. When I noticed how everyone aclaimed the wonderfulness of this pattern, I took another look. I found myself liking the way the garment could be either a shawl or a scarf, and the offhand way that Kate showed the wrong (purl) side of the fabric. Naturellement, I wound up making one. For my trial I used an inexpensive but nice yarn: Paton's Classic Merino in a peachy variegated colorway called Regency.

I discovered that unlike many patterns, Clapotis is the perfect medium for variegated yarn. This yarn striped diagonally, so the striped and sometimes pooling effect is nicely broken up by the design. Then I discovered that Clapotis is so cleverly shaped and is such easy, soothing knitting. Then I found that Clapotis is wonderful to wear, warm, cozy, and clinging. Like Kate, I prefer Clap unblocked and scrunchy. It also clings better with the purl side up. I actually wear this every day. And of course, the first time I wore it in public I got more than one enthusiastic compliment. It is a pretty color. So guess what? I am a Clap convert.
And I made another one! For mom. Same yarn in the pink and brown colorway called Rosewood. Now the only issue I have left with Clapotis is its chunkiness in worsted weight wool. As is, I love it as a shawl, but as a scarf not so much. That is why I have plans for a third Clapotis in a thinner, slinkier yarn to be more scarfy. I am thinking Knitpicks Shimmer, a laceweight used double. Thank you Knitty and Kate Gilbert.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the year of the scarf, part 4

13) The Virgin Suicides made September 2006

used mixed yarn (cotton and synthetics) on #8 (US) needles

finished size 5.5" X 58" not including 8" fringe

A gruesome name (from the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides) for a pretty scarf. This was a simple design (cast on 190 stitches and work approximately 46 rows), but it took a long time to get a pleasing sequence of colors. In some ways, this was the most challenging of all in terms of design, although it doesn't look it. Note that the 12 rows on each edge are mirror images. This is one of my favorite scarfs, perhaps second favorite to Blue Shoes and Happiness in part 1.

14) Accidental Scarfmade November 2006
mixture of blue, green, and purple mixed synthetic fibers, worsted weight

This scarf is not named for a book. It is crocheted, and as may be obvious, started out as an afghan. I liked this strip of afghan so much I decided to fringe it and it became a scarf. Much of the fiber is leftover acrylics from a series of Doctor Who scarves my daughter made several years ago with some additions. I was very tempted to keep this scarf, but I ended up giving it as a belated Christmas gift in early 2007.

15) Suzanne's Scarf

started October 2006; finished August 2007
used 300 yards Jamieson's 2 ply Shetland Spindrift on #4 (US) needle
pattern in Interweave Knits booklet, sent with magazine subscription. It was published in the Spring 2000 issue.

This scarf is named for the recipient. It was my first knitted lace project and with thin yarn on small needles, it took forever. The leaf-shaped lace was easy and the pattern made it's own scallops on the edges. The repeated lace motifs were 11 stitches wide (I forget how many there were - Maybe 10?) and I separated them with markers. The scarf was knit in two parts and grafted together in the center. This was also my first attempt at Kitchener Stitch, and I found it surprisingly easy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

the year of the scarf, part 3

9) Absolute Friendsmade in August 2006
used 100 yards Modea Dea fur and 100 yards Lion Brand fur held together on #11 (US) neeedle
blocked to 7" x 68"

This is an extreme example of the yarn doing all the work. It is all garter stitch. The two yarns are a lighter and darker version of the same color which together made a medium. I knew in advance that the recipient strongly favored this color and texture.

10) Xenocide

made in August 2006
used 250 yards Southwest Trading Bamboo on size G (US) hook
blocked to 5" x 55"
Stitch adapted from Seaman's Scarf pattern in Vogue Knitting to Go Crochet Scarves

My first crochet project, featuring an easy lace stitch. The result was good partly because the yarn was soft and pliable and the stitch was open work. For the most part though, crochet is not as good as knitting for garments, leading to a fabric that is stiff and bulky. I learned crochet so that I could add edging to knitted garments. The scarf is small, and so is the recipient. This is a good color for her.

11) Ender 2
made in August 2006
used 200 yards each Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in light blue and white on # 8 (US) needles
blocked to 6.5" x 63"

The intent of this scarf was to have a friendly and folksy feeling as fitting the personality of the recipient. I don't know why exactly, but this design, especially in these soft colors, seemed to work.

12) Every Mother is a Daughter

made August 2006

mixed yarn on #8 (US) needle

finished size 5" x 84"

pattern Yarn Mix Scarf from Vogue Knitting on the Go Scarves 2

This scarf was made for someone who loves bright colors. It took a litte while to get the right color mix. It was knit longways with about 250 stitches cast onto circular needles and then finished in just a few rows. The pattern mixed knit and purl rows so that the color changes were visible on both sides, resulting in a reversible scarf.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

the year of the scarf, part 2

Here are three more scarves from the 2006 Christmas project:

6) Ender's Scarf

Made July 2006
used 465 yards of Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran on #9(US) needle
blocked to 7" x 63"
Cabled Cashmere Scarf from Vogue Knitting on the Go Scarves

Why is this yarn grey when all the scarves for this project are supposed to be blue? The yarn came from Oze Yarn in Australia and of course the color on the monitor looked blue. The color is called Opal, which suggested blue to me. Be that as it may, the color, while a definite grey, does have a bluish cast and it is a very nice color. This scarf would suit a woman or a man.

7) Rococo

made July 2006

used 300 yards of Cascade Sierra (blue) and 100 yards of Cascade Pima Silk (white) on #7 (US needle

Blocked to 5.5" x 71"

The pattern is called Multidirectional Diagonal Scarf

This Cascade cotton blend yarn is excellent. Sierra is a cotton/merino blend (80/20). The wool adds bounce to the cotton so it is not so stretchy or heavy as pure cotton would be. Pima Silk is 85/15 cotton to silk and is very soft and silky. I have some stashed in a light pea green for a simple sweater which I want to reproduce from the shape and measurements of a store-bought one.

8) Abarat

Made July 2006
used 328 yards of Noro Silk Garden on #8 (US) needle
blocked to 5.5" x 70"
same multidirectional scarf as above

This is the most spectacular of the scarves due to the spectacular Silk Garden yarn. Note also the cute corkscrew fringe from Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge. The scarf pattern is very cute and clever as well. In the case of Abarat, the yarn does all in work. In the scarf above (Rococo) I tried to get the effect by changing yarns. While not bad, the effect is more subdued and a little rustic looking. I downloaded Photoshop Elements to help with the pictures. I think it did a good job on this one. It is especially good for color correction. Note the black cat tail in the upper right hand corner of the photo.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

the year of the scarf, part 1

Last year (2006) I made 15 scarves to give as Christmas presents. I got the idea when I bought a red chenille scarf on sale at Marshalls in the new year. I thought two things: 1) this scarf would be so easy to make make; and 2) this would look good on Peggy.

Yes, Peggy would have looked great in a red scarf, but as it happened I decided to make scarves for everyone I knew, each one different, and to simplify the choices I went with the color blue. I figured that everyone looks good in and likes one or another shade of blue.

This project turned out to be a fantastic creative jolt for me. I wanted to make each person a scarf that I thought would especially suit her - looks, style, and personality. (The recipients were all women; men don't wear scarves.) This got me into designing a bit. And because the scarves were relatively small, I was able to try all sorts of wonderful yarn that I had thought too expensive to buy for a large project. (The sad result is that I now use more expensive yarn for all of my projects.)

I apologize for the quality of my photos. I can see that I'll have to learn to take better photos in order to effectively blog knitting. I would appreciate any advice you may have about this.

Here are the scarves, in order of creation (by the way, each is named for the book I listened to as I knit it) :

1) The Love Wife

made in April 2006
used 300 yards of hand-dyed mohair and silk, about sport or dk weight, on #8 (US) needle

blocked size: 7" x 55"
adapted garter stitch chevron from Harmony stitch guide

This was my first use of hand-dyed yarn. I got it online from an eBay seller named kimiK who sells a lot of beautiful sock yarn at reasonable prices. I loved the yarn even though it pooled in the knitting. That didn't bother me. It also bled and smelled. The smell was pretty, but it creeped me out a little.

2) Blue Shoes and Happiness

Pattern for this scarf here.

  • made in April 2006
  • used 300 yards of Noro Cash Iroha (worsted weight) on #9 (US) needle
  • blocked size 6.5" x 52"
  • adapted basket weave stitch from Mon Tricot with blue and green trim (garter stitch) with green being a few yards of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride.

This was my absolute favorite of all the scarves. First, the Cash Iroha was so beautiful: glossy and heavy in a good way, smooth and soft. This picture really does not do it justice. It had a little Scottish look about it with the blue and green colors and the short fringe along one long side. In fact, I ordered yarn to knit it again for myself, which I will do someday. The original yarn came from Woolneedlework in Canada; the second from Janette's Rare Yarns, an eBay store in the UK.

3) The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night Time

  • Made in May 2006
  • used 320 yards of Cascade 128 (bulky) tweed on # 11 (US) needle
  • blocked size 7" x 63"

  • pattern modified from "Cabled Cashmere Scarf" from Vogue Knitting on the Go Scarves

This was for the lady who would have looked good in red chenille. A far cry from red, but the blue is much brighter and prettier than it looks here. The yarn came from a local yarn store.

4) Marilyn's Scarf (named for the main character in The Interruption of Everything)

  • Made in June 2006

  • Used 350 yards of Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk (aran weight) on #9 (US) needle

  • blocked size 6" x 55"

This yarn was from (I think) Woolneedlework. I used my favorite basket weave pattern with a long-side fringe idea taken from Nickie Epstein's Knitting on the Edge, Saxon Braid Scarf. The fringe consists of a plain stockinette border at the edge of the pattern work. The stitches of the border are unraveled to make a fringe loop, It didn't make sense to me until I did it. The Saxon braid itself is spectacular and I might knit it sometime.

The yarn color is actually a soft duck egg blue, and it is a soft, soft yarn. It was actually a color mistake purchased for a different scarf to use with a chocolate brown of the same yarn. They did not look as good together as I expected them to, at least in the design I used. Marilyn, however, turned out to be a glamorous scarf.

5) The Historian

  • made in June 2006
  • used 340 yards divided between teal and brown of Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk (aran weight) on # 8 (US) needle
  • blocked to 6.75" x 58"
  • adapted Speckled Rib, a slip stitch pattern from Harmony Guide

At first I was least happy with this scarf, but that may have been because I hated the book I was listening to. The design alternated blocks of the slip stitch pattern, which looks polka dotty,
with smaller stockinette sections and a garter edge. I made a row of five knitted bobbles to finish each end. This design is one of the most original. However, it is heavy and tends to curl. I grew to like it.


I am starting this blog because I am obsessed with knitting. I have enjoyed seeing other people's knitting on various blogs and so wanted to contribute. I have begun to post projects on Ravelry; that inspired me to blog about my projects so I could record and say more about them. I hope you will find this useful.

I have been knitting since I was about 12. My left-handed aunt (a legendary knitter) taught me to knit, so as a result I, a right-hander, throw the yarn with my left hand. This is not the way most people knit. In my turn, I have taught this method to my daughter, so we both knit strangely- but effectively. For us, this style results in loose knitting, although I have begun to tighten up by consciously tightening my purl stitches. So I no longer always have to go down one or two needle sizes to get gauge.