Category Archives: Projects

Things what I am knitting

A change is as good as a rest

Around about this time two years ago, Garnstudios put a 25% discount on all their alpaca-containing yarns. I bought a large amount of Drops Nepal and made one of my favourite jumpers to date. I even had 5 leftover balls when I was done – not quite enough for clothes but something to be put aside until an idea came along. Now Garnstudios have put all those yarns on sale again.

Dammit, I’m not made of stone.

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Old yarn, meet the new yarn. I’m sure you will be very happy together.

Recently completing a very fiddly fine-gauge project put me in the mood for the polar opposite: I want a big cosy rug of a project that I can spread out over my knees and keep warm with as I work. So, the next project will be a cardigan of the long, slouchy style commonly referred to as ‘boyfriend’. That term irritates me on several levels, not least because it insists on being the most accurate search term for the kind of cardigan shape I want. The nerve of it. No male I know will want to wear this thing when I’m done with it!

Grumping about confusing gendering of clothing aside, there are quite a few long cardigan patterns I’ve found and liked, but none were quite right for what I envisioned: Linney (don’t like the pockets), Shapely Boyfriend (don’t want raglan sleeves), Two Boyfriends (not sure about the proportions, don’t want stripes!). The problem with designing your own clothes, I’m finding, is that it gets very hard to work from other people’s patterns. It’s like if Goldilocks decided “None of these are just right! I’m going to the kitchen to make my own porridge! With golden syrup! And organic oats!”. What I’m trying to say is that improvising your patterns may get you exactly what you want but it’ll make you ten times pickier and it also it takes longer and you may get caught by bears.

Whilst the picture in blog post shows a serene pile of raw cardigan, I will have long since cast on long by the time you read this. I look forward to making and wearing this cardigan, I really do. It’ll keep me happy and warm until that glorious day when it finally becomes socially acceptable for me to wear my dressing gown to work.

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FO: Fancy Winter Gloves

gloves

One of these gloves took a reasonable amount of time to make, the other did not. I kept putting it down and getting distracted by newer, shinier knitting projects that did not involve quite so much repeated twisted rib on tiny little needles. The coming signs of winter were what spurred me into finishing the second glove properly: the smell of frost in the air, the bite in the wind, the newspaper headlines of “SNOW: WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE” or words to that effect anyway.

The pattern is His & Hers Gloves by Dagmar Mora. My apparent mental block against twisted rib aside, it’s a great pattern. It’s extremely well-written and thoughtful, the construction is a masterstroke in simplicity and the end result is guaranteed to fit you like a second skin.

You know that little brain tingle you get when putting on clothing that fits you snugly and just-so without any tugging or fighting it? The perfect dress; the right walking shoes; these gloves. They slip on and suddenly all is right with the world. Maybe it’s the same part of your brain that enjoys order. Regardless, they’ve been treating my hands very well. New favourite gloves! Success!

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Impromptu Jumper Surgery Pt.2

In my last post I demonstrated the “hacking wildly” technique of jumper reconstruction. I wasn’t expecting such lovely words of encouragement in response! Thank you to everyone who commented, it was very reassuring.

In this post I have calmed down a bit as I sew and stitch up the mess. Here is your mood music for today.

As much as Shetland wool binds to itself, I still didn’t feel quite able to let the edges go unsecured. So I got out the sewing machine for some quick reinforcements. Sewing onto knitting is fairly similar to sewing with jersey fabric, only the scale of the fabric is much larger. After playing around with the cutting scraps I determined that a straight stitch is best for securing horizontal edges and a simple zigzag stitch does the job for vertical edges:

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And whilst the sewing machine was sitting there I thought I might as well save time and use it to sew up the seams as well. Now please don’t go thinking this is the expert handiwork of someone knows what they’re doing. It’s actually the late-night stitching of someone with nothing to lose. Oh, I might end up with a piece of knitting I might wear instead of one I never wear? What a decision!

Just like when you’re sewing regular fabric, every seam needs to be disciplined with a steam iron straight away. It took me a while to twig this and I was wondering why my seams looked so bad until the lightbulb went on. Eventually I was merrily steaming away like it was any other sewing project.

So after the reinforcing and basic seaming, it’s time to go straight back to the knitting needles and leftover scrap yarn. The buttonband is picked up through the fabric and knitted on just like a regular knitted cardigan. Let’s see how the body is fitting now…

2body

Much better. I even bagged some legit vintage buttons from Beshley’s (her vintage button collection is quite substantial these days!) That just leaves the sleeves to sort out. I picked up along the top of the cuff, and added an extra band of fair isle for length. Joining it all back onto the main sleeve body was a right faff though. It was basically impossible to keep the stitch count straight so I just whipped out the sewing machine again. It’s not terribly neat, but at least it doesn’t look like an accident.

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I seamed the sleeves with the sewing machine, but when it came to setting them in, I resorted to a proper hand-sewn backstitch. It’s just easier to get an even result that way, as far as I’m concerned. One thing I noticed on undoing the jumper was how crappy my stitching was back when I first made it. Nowadays my stitches are both smaller and faster and I have a solid method for setting properly (it involves a lot of safety pins). It’s nice to see how far you’ve come sometimes.

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Done! The cardigan still has a very boxy shape, but that’s ok. It keeps it vintage-looking. The new neckline and sleeves are a massive improvement in my book. It’s not perfect but it feels a whole lot more me when I throw it on over my existing outfits.

This was an interesting mixed-media experiment. If there’s anything to be learned from this, it’s that steaming Shetland wool like there’s no tomorrow is absolutely ok and should possibly be encouraged.

On top of this I get to feel as if I’ve made a whole new garment from scratch in a week!

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Impromptu Jumper Surgery

One of my earlier completed jumpers is the Fair Isle Yoke jumper from A Stitch in Time Volume 1. It’s knitted entirely in Jamieson & Smiths 2-ply Shetland wool. I think it looks great, with those colour choices and texture. But it fits horribly. That unflattering neckline, those badly gathered and awkwardly short sleeves, the weird boob-eliminating bagginess, ugh. Whenever I’ve worn it I’ve spent the entire day tugging it into place.

fiy-before

The problem is, even though I have enough leftover wool for small alterations, I’ve already washed this jumper and the wool has matted just enough to make ripping and re-knitting an exercise in futility and madness. It sat neglected for some time, until I suddenly decided to take action. When ripping your jumper is no longer an option it is time to start treating it like fabric.

This post contains a fairly long photo sequence, so you may enjoy this background music to set the mood.

First things first is to unravel the collar. It’s messy, because of the aforementioned matting. On the plus side I have no problem cutting open all the seams. Then it’s just a quick steam and squish with the iron, and I have all these lovely pieces of knitted fabric just waiting to be measured and re-cut into a more suitable shape.

fiy-7Most of the increases are cut off the sides to reduce the blousiness. Bonus: watch as the winter sunset ruins most of my picture-taking.

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Then it’s time to deal with the neckline…

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I did this by eye because I am goddamn hardcore.

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That edges of that scrap are completely solid by the way. I know some of you would rather eat your own hands that cut into the colourwork you laboured over, but trust me, Shetland wool won’t let you down.

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I don’t know how the sleeves got so poofy originally. Total mistake on my part. Here is one sleeve laid atop t’other to show how much I ended up taking off!

Because the sleeves are too short I will be picking up and knitting along the bottom edge, then reattaching the cuff once I’ve inserted the extra length. It only needs an extra 1.5 inches to make it solidly elbow length, so it’ll be easy.

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And so, after all that, a new and slightly different garment begins to emerge…

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Join me in my next post where I will either be adding extra sleeve length and buttonbands or howling in despair at the realization of what I’ve done. Either way, fun times!

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FO: Snowdrift Jumper

sd_Fin

So can you tell I’m pleased with this one? It is a jumper that has sprung into my head and sprung out again in a relatively short time, and it totally works! Fair Isle everywhere, just like in my dreams!

sd_side

My ideas for a faux-seam even worked out ok too, hiding the jog in the colourwork/shaping and neatly bordering the yoke pattern. I think it looks sort of like I’m wearing a strappy vest over a regular jumper from a distance (a cami-jumper?)

Also, I will continue to bleat on about how great Excelana yarn is until you are all using it for colourwork projects because it is great – it is so, so smooth and warm and stretchy once it’s been blocked out. There was a point in this project where the unblocked sleeves were making me a bit nervous because when I tried them on they were cutting off the circulation somewhat. They had a lot of long floats and very little stretch but after a good wash and a ruthless blocking they were ok. It is good when sleeves do not cling onto your arms like chinese fingertraps.

Now I seem to recall I had some other knitting lying around somewhere. I’m off to look down the back of the sofa…

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All Fair Isle, all the time

So here’s a quick little update on how the super-cosy-winter-jumper is going. (I still don’t have a proper name for it yet.)

wipjumper

I have knitted one torso and one sleeve! They’re sitting on separate cables at the moment, waiting for the day when I finish the other sleeve and the whole lot can be worked in one go. That little swatch at the top may just give you an idea of where I’m going with this…

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Can’t talk. Knitting.

excelwip1

Whee!

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How unfortunate!

Woe is me, for it is the height of summer and I have been struck by a really really good idea for an incredibly warm winter jumper and have had no choice but to start swatching.

excelswatch

Turns out fair isle in Excelana DK is at optimum snuggling thickness. I expect weather will just bounce off and run away whimpering. You all know how much I enjoy Excelana 4-ply and this is no different.

The real kicker is that I have achieved a gauge of 6 stitches per inch, over a 12 stitch pattern. Ohmigawd you guyyyys all my sizing calcs will line up perfectly!!! Now I’m going to have to go and drop everything and knit this sucker.

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Circular yoke experiments

It’s almost too hot for knitting at the moment. Outside anyway. I’ve never been so grateful to be living in a garden flat. This is because I’m so English if I’m exposed to temperatures over 32°C I burst into flames and wither away with a dying shriek of “This is absolutely bloody ridiculous it issssss!”

My patented summer survival plan is two-fold.
1. Knit only lightweight projects (e.g. laceweight blouses)
2. A mixture of 4 parts gin, 2 parts sugar syrup, 1 part lemon juice, poured over ice and topped up with club soda.

Before the temperatures took off though, I had a good time whipping up an experimental top-down, in-the-round t-shirt in that awesome Yarnyard yarn I have kicking about.

yoke3

This is just the main stockinette ‘body’ with no proper hems so the bottom edge is rolling like crazy right now. It wants to be a belly top but my stomach hasn’t seen the light of day since 2005. Let’s not start now.

yoke2

What really makes this top an experiment for me is the armpit shaping. Once I knit the yoke, bound off the tops of the armholes and separated front and back, I knit in these little short-row triangle wedges at each armpit edge. These raise up the conical shape of the yoke and make it sit directly on the ball of your shoulders (if you get the calcs right).

I was trying to ape a vintage jumper pattern I knitted a while ago, which uses similar shaping to give you a circular yoked jumper and set-in sleeves at the same time. It lets you get super-fitted results if you’re so inclined.

Vintage schematic

It’s hard to find modern patterns that do this but Anne Kingstone is a designer that favours the technique in such garments as April and Mallorn. It seems like the main problem with knitting circular yokes is you have to be very sure they’re the right circumference for your own individual shoulders. If it’s too loose/the armhole is too deep the yoke slips down and you get rumpling by the armpit like so:

yoke1

And then of course the opposite problem gives you all sorts of stress and stretching in the fabric at the sleeve cap bind off point. Luckily I think this turned out ok!

Now I’ve used up all that lovely bright green, I still have a whole ball of dark green to add for contrast. The only niggle I have at this point is I want the contrast bands to be pretty thick, which probably means ripping back both top and bottom until it looks right. Ripping is always just a tiny bit depressing!

Anyway. Stay cool guys, stay cool.

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Normal service will resume shortly

Oh hi there! I figure an update is overdue. Recently all my knitting has been secret knitting, and there’s been plenty of it. This is not a bad problem to have.
Actually I’m pretty excited about it and I am really looking forward to showing it off. Good job that on the internet, secret-revealing is an opt-in process because in real life I have the subtlety and tact of a brick through a window. With “LOOK WHAT I KNITTED YOU GUYS” written on it. Even better is that it won’t be too long before I can.

Incidentally, my last major bit of secret knitting is nearing publication too. The march of Doomsday Knits continues, and now Alex Tinsley has all sorts of sneak previews up on her blog. It is looking good. Seriously good! Not sure which pattern I want to make more of a song and dance about to be honest?

There are some non-secret achievements though. Mainly I have now knitted a 3” ribbed waistband in laceweight. Now that is something and not nothing. This thing? Took ages. Achievement!

lwbwip

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