There is such a thing as knitting too quickly

There is such a thing as knitting too quickly

The speediness of Bellows has been backfiring on me a little bit. I went racing into it without the kind of care and consideration I try to exercise, and as a result, mistakes have been made. Before I cast on the first stitch on that plane two weeks ago, I did study the schematic and strategize about size, with my swatch’s gauge in mind. What I hadn’t done is blocked my swatch. I guess I thought I knew what it would do when soaked because I knitted my Amanda in this yarn. But was Amanda held double? On 11s? With this textured stitch? Nope.

So hasty mistake number one: I cast on a larger size, the third size, because of my apparent smaller gauge. Sped through the first sleeve. Soaked it. Blocked it, and was impressed that, with only a little coaxing, it pinned out to the third-size dimensions just fine. “Oh, so I needn’t have worried about any significant difference in gauge,” I blithely mused … without completing that thought. I sped through the second sleeve, and only then realized — duh! — that if my blocked gauge is pattern gauge after all, my sweater will be the third-size dimensions, not smaller as I had wanted. So what I had on my hands was two sleeves for a sweater with almost 10 inches of ease, when what I wanted was 4-5 inches. What to do? Well, Balance is machine washable, so I crossed my fingers and threw them in the wash to see what might happen.

They came out beautifully and I laid them out gently closer to my desired dimensions, so I think all is well. But I confess these embarrassments to you guys in the hope that someone (if not me) will learn from my mistakes. Block your swatch!

Hasty mistake number two: I forgot to mirror the cables on the second sleeve, so both sleeves have right-twisting cables. I think this one is partially haste and partially ambivalence. As much as I love and want this sweater, I don’t think this is the most compelling cable motif. But, eh, so they all twist one direction — not the end of the world.

The one other “mistake” I made on purpose. When I knitted the first sleeve, I worked the cable in the cuff ribbing, even though I don’t like that. I almost never like that. I thought about not doing it, and I’m not sure why I went ahead with it, but it bugs me. So I didn’t do it on the second sleeve. I may leave it alone and call it asymmetry, or perhaps I’ll rip out the first cuff and re-knit it downwards without the cable.  I’ve never done that sort of surgery before and have huge admiration for all who do, and here’s a good small-scale opportunity to try it. Right?

I’m taking at least one day off this weekend, hoping for a fair chunk of knitting time, and that’s what I’ll be working on! How about you?

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p.s. that great flat Bookhou pouch is coming back to the shop soon.

Goodbye tools, hello Bellows

Goodbye tools, hello Bellows

This may look like a swatch, but let me point out that it’s the jumbo bento bag and size 11 needles you’re looking at. And that this is, in fact, about half of the first sleeve of my Bellows cardigan-to-be, knitted in about two hours on my flight to Phoenix on Friday. I was shooting this pic on the bed of the hotel room when I realized I had left my tool pouch in a hotel lobby chair after knitting a couple of rows while waiting for our room to be ready. By the time I ran back down there, it was gone, and despite putting out an APB on Instagram for other trade show attendees and checking with lost and found incessantly, it was not to be recovered. That makes two things I can remember losing in recent years: 1) my tool pouch and 2) the tool pouch before it, lost somewhere in Utah in July while driving from CA to TN. Nice work, KT.

Of course, tools are replaceable, but this pouch happened to have several of my most-used needles in it — including the needle I needed to finish the buttonband and neckband on Amanda. As previously noted, I had not brought a back-up outfit. But Amy Palmer loaned me a circular that night. Anna loaned me a tapestry needle at breakfast Sunday morning. And a kind yarn shop owner gave me a pair of teeny little snips when she saw me sitting on a bench outside the exhibit hall trying to sew on buttons without any scissors. (Thankfully, I had put the buttons and thread into my bento and not the tool pouch.) So in the end, through the kindness of knitters (in contrast with the one who made off with my pouch), Amanda got done and worn and highly praised. I hope to have photos soon.

But let’s talk about Bellows! I spent the first part of my flight studying the schematic and weighing it against my swatch. Once again, my stitch gauge is smaller than pattern gauge, but this time my row gauge is right on. I’m aiming for 4-5″ of positive ease, and I’ll get there by knitting the third size (43.25″) at my smaller gauge, which will come out to about 38.5″ in the bust. But once again again, that would give me almost zero ease at my 38″ hips, which I do not like. For the body pieces, I might cast on the fourth size (48.5″ would be 43″ at my gauge, about 4.5″ ease at the hip) and decrease down to the third size, which is my preferred way of giving myself the A-line shape I require. Or in this case, given the scale of the allover stitch pattern, I might just start out on a larger needle and then go down a needle size at the waist. Haven’t decided yet, so I started with a sleeve.

I only worked on Bellows on my flight out and back, plus about an hour in the airport — a grand total of six or seven hours — and I was just a few rows from finishing the first sleeve! After spending four months on my Amanda, you can imagine how I feel about this.

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Reorganizing my to-knit list

Reorganizing my to-knit list

Sooooo, wardrobe planning. Where was I? Let’s see: handmade wardrobe, quicker sweaters, choosing wisely … right. My very favorite thing about making my own clothes — control freak that I am — is having near-total control. You know what it’s like to decide you want some specific thing and then try to find it: Impossible. But if you’re making things yourself, you have a little more flexibility to actually imagine your ideal wardrobe and then bring it to fruition, as opposed to being at the mercy of what’s in stores. I’m saying “near-total” and “a little more flexibility” because unless you’re weaving your own fabric or spinning and dyeing your own yarn, you’re still a little at the mercy of what’s in stores — they’re just different kinds of stores.

Still and all, I am dreaming up the basics I want in my closet and working out those little issues of what yarns and fabrics are available — and that includes shopping my stash. I have three more basic/timeless cardigans at the head of the list (and tops to go under them, but that’s for another post): Bellows, being a chunky, slouchy shawl-collar; Uniform, being a classic v-neck, without the shaped neckband; and Channel, being a more refined shawl-collar. And I want them in just the right combination of timeless neutrals. (To add to my ivory Amanda cable sweater, brown Acer cable-and-lace jobbie, and purple Trillium, the one spot of color.)

I’m nearing the end of Amanda and have found myself plagued by it and by my mental wranglings over what yarn to use for Bellows. Tormented! In my sleep. I knew I wanted (needed — both from a quick-finish and freezing-weather perspective) Bellows to be next, but could not figure out the right yarn. Or even the right color. I was thinking light heather grey, since Channel is meant to be charcoal and camel-colored yarn is so distressingly hard to come by. But after debating every possible worsted-weight (held double) and bulky on the market, I finally realized the answer was right in front of me. When I first ordered the Graphite O-Wool Balance for Channel, I ordered 21 skeins and had no idea why so much. I just had to have it. Then came the realization that I was going to have to alternate skeins for the entire sweater, which is unfortunate. After swatching for Bellows with O-Wool Balance Bulky (in the color I just happened to have in my stash, a light purple), and not loving the stitch pattern, I started wondering if I even really wanted this sweater. I decided to knit another swatch holding two strands of the graphite Balance together, and I fell in love with that swatch and got more excited than ever. As fabulous as Channel was looking in this color, it was meant for Bellows, and the universe told me to buy enough way back when. Right? Plus using the yarn held double means the skeins will automatically be blended, especially if I stagger the ends. It’s perfect on every level.

Then there’s Uniform. Since tossing off the idea of reassigning my Slade yarn to Uniform, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of this ultra-classic sweater in army green. I’m trying to work out if I can eke it out of the mismatched skeins I have (and feel like dealing with possible gauge differences) or if I’ll need to choose something else. If it does have to be something else, leading candidates are Knightsbridge in Bishop’s Green and Balance again in Malachite. But I love the idea of two sweaters from stash.

So where does that leave Channel? I’m not 100% sure. I want it to either be a silvery heather grey, light camel, or a tweedy oatmeal. And I want the yarn less rustic than some of the others, more snuggly around my neck. So I’m exploring my nicely-plied merino options, for softness with stitch definition. I’m particularly curious about Shepherd’s Wool, and have ordered a ball for swatching. If you’ve knitted with it, I’d love to hear your thoughts about how it wears. And if you have any other recommendations for worsted-weight, soft but not gooey, heather/tweed neutrals and affordable, I’d love to hear it!

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Winter wardrobe fix, part 2: Quicker sweaters

Winter wardrobe fix, part 2: Quick(er) sweaters

So the other half of the winter wardrobe equation is, of course, sweaters. I’m finally at the point where I’m beginning to believe my Amanda will become a sweater at some point — hopefully by New Year’s — but it’s been a tremendous amount of time on one sweater in the midst of an actual wardrobe shortage. I’m committed to picking up where I left off (i.e., frogged back to the ribbing) with my beloved charcoal Channel Cardigan, and while I have thought of that as a sweater that’s going to take some time and patience, it actually was going fairly quickly (especially as compared to Amanda). And I also have a fair chunk of my worsted-mod Perkins Cove to get back to, which should be a pretty quick finish — although I’m not at all sure I have enough yarn. Regardless, I can’t stop myself from pondering the question of other relatively quick-win sweaters I might just have to cast on.

Generally speaking, I should say, fast is not the main criteria for me when picking sweaters to knit. If I want fast fashion, I’ll just go shopping. For me personally, a handknit sweater is an investment of time, money and creative energy into a garment I can’t get elsewhere and intend to have and love for years. But when you need sweaters, you need sweaters, so here I am thinking in these terms.

If speed were the only concern, I could whip up a few top-down raglans in superbulky wool and call it a day. But I’m looking for some balance — sweaters worth investing in but that are maybe a little bit quicker to complete, due to gauge and/or proportion. I keep shooting myself in the foot by picking worsted-weight sweaters and then knitting them in larger sizes and smaller gauges, creating extra knitting for myself (and in that one particular case, for Anna). Here are a few that are on my mind:

TOP:  Uniform Cardigan by Carrie Bostick Hoge — short, stockinette, simple or shaped neckband, worsted-weight — is probably the sweater my closet is most sorely lacking right now. I’m suddenly inclined to reassign my Slade yarn to this. (I might have enough all from the same dye lot.)

ROW 2 LEFT: Bellows, by Michele Wang, is obviously the sweater that has taken up residency in the foremost part of my brain and refuses to budge. Given the chunky gauge, and how quickly I’m seeing others knit this up, it seems like it would be wise to bump it to the head of the line and maybe have it while winter is most upon us.

ROW 2 RIGHT: Grandson Cardigan, by Josh Bennett, on the other hand, has been on my mind since I tried on the sample in May. It’s a lot of cabling, but it’s superbulky on 13’s — wouldn’t it still be a warm, snuggly sweater in no time?

MIDDLE: Gable by Hannah Fettig, is simple with a fairly abbreviated shape, and a basic pullover (or two) is another legitimate hole in my wardrobe. It’s fingering knitted on 5’s, but I have the urge to knit it in aran weight. I’ve been longing for a sweater in Berroco Blackstone Tweed (because I so love the way my Super Simple Mitts have aged) and this might be just the thing.

BOTTOM LEFT: Quiver by Megh Testerman is worsted-weight and short, with an interesting allover pattern that doesn’t require the fiddlier bits of its knitting all that often.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Chevron Cardigan, another good chunky cardigan by Michele Wang, would be even quicker if it were a little shorter, which is how I would want it.

What’s a wardrobe-challenged knitter to do?

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