Wrapped in Stocking Stitch

Hello!

After the red tweedy stocking stitch cardigan I wrote about two weeks ago, I’ve finished another cardigan, again in stocking stitch (stockinette stitch in the US). The design is called Modern Wrapper Fine. According to Barbara G. Walker it is all wrong.

In the introduction to A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns she writes:

“All-over plain stockinette stitch is dull to look at and boring to work, even for the beginner. Though it may be done entirely by hand, it lacks the inimitable flavor of hand-knitting. A machine can make it very nicely, but the hand-knitter is not a machine and should not try to imitate one.”

“This being so, there is no reason to spend the time and care of hand-knitting on a garment of stockinette stitch. It is a waste of both. The finished garment, which ought to display the knitter’s taste and skill, displays nothing but poverty of invention.” (p. xx)

Oh dear! Was my cardigan a waste of time? Does it display a lack of taste and skill? Let’s take a closer look.

The Modern Wrapper Fine is worked completely in stocking/stockinette stitch, apart from the wide front bands in garter stitch. Back and fronts are knit from the bottom up. It does not have buttons and can be worn open or closed with a nice pin.

It is oversized, with sloping shoulders that are joined with a 3-needle bind-off. Instead of armholes that curve inwards, the fronts and back taper outwards at the top. This means that the sleeves hang very low. In my case they start halfway on the upper arm.

The sleeves are knit from the top to the cuff, from stitches picked up at the ‘armholes’. Sleeve and side seams are closed with mattress stitch. The hems and the sleeve cuff have a small band of reverse stocking stitch.

The best feature of the Modern Wrapper Fine, in my opinion, is hidden at the back of the neck. There are a few clever short rows there that make the neck band sit perfectly. It doesn’t show very well in the fuzzy yarn I’ve used this time, so here is a picture of the MWF I knit years ago in a different yarn combo.

The details:

  • Pattern: Modern Wrapper Fine (here on Ravelry). It is a finer variation on the original Modern Wrapper, which is even more oversized (here on Ravelry).
  • Size made: XS/S. I usually wear size M or L. This garment is really, really oversized. The finished bust in this size is 137 cm/64”. For me that means it has 46 cm/18” of positive ease.
  • Yarn: 7 balls of Rowan Kidsilk Haze (shade 582 ‘Trance’) and 4 balls of Rowan Fine Lace (shade 933 ‘Aged’) held together. There was quite a bit of yarn left over; my MWF weighs approx. 300 grams.
  • Needles: 3.25 mm (US 3) and 3.75 mm (US 5)

This project took me over a year from start to finish. Not because it was so time-consuming, but for the silly reason that I made a mistake in the front band and didn’t notice it until I’d finished the entire front.

Kidsilk Haze is notoriously difficult to unravel, and it took me a long time to pluck up the courage to fix the mistake. In the end, the combo of these two yarns wasn’t hard to unravel at all.

So, was this project a waste of time? All I’ll say is that for me, knitting big panels of stocking stitch in these two lightweight yarns was like meditating. For the rest I’ll let the pictures speak.

Now that I’m taking up sewing again and am looking for suitable projects to make, I find descriptions on other maker’s blogs very helpful. And also pictures of the finished items worn by ordinary people (not photo models.) I hope my descriptions and pictures will be helpful in the same way.

The yellow-flowering plant in the background is woad, the dye plant I grew as part of a community project. I was going to write about it, too, today, but on second thoughts I’ve wittered on long enough already and it really deserves a post of its own. I hope to come back to it soon.

Bye for now! Xxx

How to Design Your Own Sweater

Hello!

Instead of just showing you the cardigan I’ve designed and knit for our daughter, I thought it might be more interesting to tell you how I did it.

There are many approaches to designing things, of course. This is merely my simple, practical way for designing a sweater knit from the bottom-up in pieces sewn together later. I’ve developed this method over the years and have tried to summarize it in 10 (hopefully easy to follow) steps. So, here we go.

How to Design Your Own Sweater in 10 Steps:

1 – Decide what you’re going to make
For whom would you like to knit a sweater: For yourself? A loved one?
What type of sweater would you like to make: A pullover? A cardigan? A summer top?

2 – Take measurements and draw a diagram
Find a garment with approximately the fit you’re looking for and measure:

  • Chest width
  • Length
  • Armhole
  • Neck width and depth
  • Width at shoulders
  • Sleeve length
  • Sleeve circumference at wrist
  • Any other things you think may be useful

The chest/shoulder/armhole part is the most important. The rest is easy to adapt. Draw a diagram incorporating these measurements. It doesn’t need to be to scale, it’s just for your own reference. This is mine:

3 – Think about what you want and draw another diagram
Things to consider are:

  • Silhouette: straight, A-line, waist-shaping, tapered etc
  • Body length: cropped, hip-length, tunic
  • Sleeve length and shape
  • Neckline: V-neck, round neck, boat neck, turtle neck, shawl collar etc
  • Details: buttons, pockets, stitch pattern, ribbing or no ribbing…

Add any relevant measurements to your new diagram.

Tip: If you have never designed anything before, keep it simple. If you have a little experience, you could set yourself a challenge. I used a very simple armhole and sleeve cap:

And gave myself the challenge of adding a cable, flowing from the ribbing at the bottom and into the neckband.

Another challenge I set myself was matching the ribbing of front and back so that the seam would be near invisible.

4 – Choose your yarn and work out approximately how much you’ll need
If you’re an experienced knitter you’ll probably have some idea. It also helps to look at other people’s projects from the same yarn on Ravelry. Find a few similar garments in a similar size and check how much they took. Then add some extra for swatches and to be on the safe side.

Note: I did it the other way around: Fell in love with the yarn first and bought a generous quantity. Far too generous as it turns out. Never mind – it only means that I have enough left for a hat and a scarf.

5 – Swatch
a – First swatch to decide what needle size you’re going to use: how open, drapey or dense do you prefer your knitted fabric for this project? Knit generous swatches – aim for at least 12 x 12 cm/5 x 5”. Wash your swatches and leave them to dry flat, or block and/or press them, just like you intend to treat your finished sweater.
b – Then knit more swatches. This time in different stitch patterns and ribbings you might want to use. Again wash/block/press them.

6 – Decision time
Decide what needle size(s) and pattern stitch(es) you’re going to use, how wide your ribbings and button bands (if any) will be, exactly what your neckline is going to look like, where any pockets will be placed etc. Add details to your diagram if you think that will be helpful.

7 – Start knitting the back
Using your swatches, calculate how many stitches you need to cast on. Do you need to increase or decrease for, say, an A-line or waist shaping? Write down everything you do and keep your notes together. It isn’t necessary to work everything out beforehand. You can think about the armhole, neck and shoulders while knitting.

8 – Do the maths for the front(s)
If you’re designing a cardigan with button bands, make sure they overlap. Work any buttonholes in the second front. Think deep about your neckline, and work out how to get what you want.

9 – Work out the sleeves
How long? How many rows to armhole? How many stitches do you start with? How many do you need at the armhole? Spread the increases out over the length.

10 – Work out and knit the final details
Now all you need to do is wash, block and/or press your pieces and seam everything together. Add button bands (if not incorporated), patch pockets, neckband etc.

There, all done!

Starting from a deep green, finely knit, shop-bought V-neck pullover, I arrived at a fawn, chunky, hand-knit cardigan with a round neck and cables along the fronts.

It does not fit over our daughter’s already impressive bump, but will keep her back and shoulders warm.

With quite a few weeks to go, how much more will that belly grow?

Well, I hope this all makes sense. Do you sometimes design your own sweaters, too? Is your method very different from mine? If you’ve never designed anything yet, why not give it a try? Your sweater may not turn out perfect or exactly how you envisioned it, but it will be uniquely yours.

Burgundy Cardi

Hello!

Thank you for your kind comments about last week’s autumn walk. Today it’s all about knitting again. Looking through my photos I have a feeling it may become a longish post, so why not make yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee before diving in?

I’ve just finished a cardigan for our daughter and thought I’d talk about that for a bit. It’s the cardi I had to unravel the front of because I hadn’t read the pattern properly. Well, that was quickly remedied and it was soon time to check the sleeve length.

I didn’t have our daughter or any of her clothes at hand to measure the length, but I found an old sweater of mine she often borrows that I thought had exactly the right sleeve length.

It’s a different shape and size, but that didn’t matter. As long as the measurements across the chest and along the underarm were the same it would be all right (I hoped). Measured by the old sweater, the sleeve had reached the arm hole and the starting point of the sleeve cap. The sleeves were soon finished and it was time to go looking for buttons.

I popped into a large fabric store while we were on our way to visit our daughter and was greeted by a colourful wall of buttons. (For those of you in the Netherlands, it is just outside Deventer. There is nothing on their website but the address and opening hours, but as there are so few fabric stores left, I thought I’d include a link here anyway.)

I tried to be quick because my husband was waiting outside. He is always patient, but I didn’t want to keep him waiting too long or arrive too late. I got briefly distracted, though, by the displays of satin ribbons…

… denim fabrics…

… and bling-bling.

‘Come on, just focus on the buttons, you can do it,’ I told myself. I looked at the wooden buttons…

… as well as the red ones.

So much choice! These 4 seemed most suitable.

In the end I chose the colour that matched the yarn best, the bottom one.

Time to see if the cardi fit and the sleeves were the right length. I pinned it together on the outside to make it easier to try on.

Yes, perfect! And the sleeves were the right length too.

Now all that was left to do was seam everything together.

My waistbands are getting a little tight and I don’t think it is because my clothes have shrunk. I’ll really need to watch what I eat for a while.

For a low-calory, high-protein spread, I emptied a tub of no-fat fromage frais into a sieve lined with a piece of moist cheesecloth, placed the sieve on a mixing bowl and left it in the fridge overnight. The next morning it had a nice spreadable consistency and I mixed in a couple of tea spoons of dried herbs and some sea salt.

I used a tasty German mixture with wild garlic and chili flakes that we got as a gift, but almost any fresh or dried herbs will do.

Well, back to the cardigan. To sew everything together I used the ordinary back stitch. At least I thought it was ordinary. But a while ago I talked with someone who always used mattress stitch and didn’t know how to do the back stitch. For her, and others who have never back stitched their knitting together, I’ve sewn a part of the side seam with a contrasting thread and taken pictures.

Mattress stitch is worked from the outside. It is very precise and best for very delicate knitting and for matching up stripes. Back stitch is much faster and works well for anything else. It is worked on the wrong side of the knitted fabric. First everything is pinned together with the right sides together.

(My pins come from the chemist’s and are meant for fastening old-fashioned hair rollers.)

It’s very simple, really, but not so easy to put into words. I hope the picture below is clear enough.

Back stitch is worked from right to left, holding the edges of the fabrics up. What you do is, basically:

  • Insert your needle from nearside to far side about 0.5 cm/¼ inch to the right from where the thread came up,
  • *Insert the needle from far side to near side about twice the distance to the left.
  • Pull the yarn through and insert the needle from near side to far side again through the same hole where the yarn originally came up* (where the vertical white thread is in the picture)
  • Repeat from * to *.

It gives a neat seam on the outside and looks like this on the inside:

I hope this is clear. If not, there is a good video here on YouTube.

After sewing on the buttons the cardigan is all finished. The pattern I used is the Quintessential Cardigan by the Churchmouse design team – a simple, classic cardi with great attention to detail. An elegant neckline, neat button bands, a few short rows at the hem, nicely sloping shoulders and well-fitting armholes.

The yarn I used is Lana Grossa ‘EcoPuno’. It looks warm and woolly, but actually is 72% cotton. The other 28 percent is a mixture of merino and alpaca. It does not stand up very well to unravelling, but other than that it was a nice enough yarn to knit with. The ‘Eco’ suggests that it is (partly) organic, but the ball band or the manufacturer’s website do not say anything about that.

It is an airy, lightweight yarn and the entire cardi in the size I made (finished bust size 99 cm/39”) weighs only 270 grams. Here it is in its entirety:

It was a lovely cardi to knit and I can see myself making more of these in different colours and yarns.

I had great difficulty capturing the colour in my photos. In some it looked purple, in others almost fuchsia. In real life it is the colour of the darkest leaves on this farm building that we often pass on our walks.

A beautiful deep burgundy.

Talking about this burgundy colour reminds me of something else – an unmatched pair of Gazelle Mitts. I knit many of these mitts before I was completely satisfied with the design.

The one on the left is the final version, before I knit the ones that ended up in the pattern. The one on the right is a discarded version that is ever so slightly different. Can you spot the differences?

I think I’ll unravel that and reknit it to make a matching pair. They’ll make a nice December gift.

With that we’ve come to the end of today’s looooong blog post. As always, thank you for reading and have a lovely weekend!

An Interesting Knit

Hello!

Phew, it’s finished! My Panel Debate cardigan, I mean. It took me about 8 months from start to finish. Well, I knit several other things in between, but on 2.75 mm (US 2) needles and with quite a few technical challenges, it wasn’t a quick knit.

It certainly was interesting, though, and I thought you might like to read about some of the special techniques (so much I-cord!) and what helped me finish it.

Panel Debate is a pattern by Danish designer Bente Geil, and can be found on Ravelry under its Danish name Paneldebat. I used one of the designer’s own yarns: Geilsk Bomuld og Uld – a light fingering weight blend of 55% wool and 45% cotton.

Reading through the pattern, I couldn’t make head nor tail of the instructions for the neckline. There seemed to be something wrong, so I e-mailed the designer. She said she’d look into it and sent me a new version of the pattern the very next day (during her Summer break!). Excellent service, I have to say.

The design is modular and is made up of many panels (hence the name).

Each panel is knit onto the previous one, and the panels are alternately knit horizontally and vertically. The vertical strips end in fans made by knitting short rows.

What helped me knit the fans, was copying the instructions for them onto a separate page, with each step on a new line. I marked the row I was knitting with a sticky note and moved that down after each row. That way I was able to keep track of where I was.

I lengthened the body by 4 cm (approx. 1.6 inches). No problem at all – just added the required length to the first 3 panels and the rest took care of itself. I also enlarged the armholes because I’d heard from several other knitters that they’d turned out rather tight.

After the body was completed, the armholes were finished with attached I-cords.

Armhole before… 

…  and after attaching I-cord.

Then stitches for the sleeves needed to be picked up from the I-cord (the sleeves are knit from the top down). That really was a pain at first. But it went a lot better using a crochet hook and slipping the stitches from the hook onto the knitting needle.

Then I had to adapt the sleeve cap to the enlarged armhole. That was a bit of a puzzle, but after several tries I was happy. I used the magic loop method to knit the sleeves.

I’m not entirely happy with that, because it shows all along the middle of the sleeves. I hope the line will fade with washing and wearing. I haven’t had this problem before. Could it be because of the cotton content of the yarn? Or the reverse stocking stitch ridges?

The sleeves are finished with I-cord along the wrists as well.

Finally there was more I-cord to knit – all along the fronts and the neck. First I had to pick up a zillion stitches. Then I cast on 4 extra stitches for the I-cord.

I knit a few inches, saw that the I-cord ‘pulled’ on the front and frogged it. After repeating this several times, I finally found out how to solve it – by pulling the first stitch (on the outside of the I-cord) up a little longer than usual and holding it between my thumb and index finger while knitting the second stitch, to keep it from tightening.

This is the attached I-cord knitting process step by step:

1 – The 4 I-cord stitches are on the left needle, together with the picked-up stitches on the panel. At this stage, the yarn is hanging between the picked-up stitches on the garment and the 4 I-cord stitches. Now the yarn is passed behind the stitches to the first stitch on the right.

2 – Knit 3 stitches (knitting the 1st stitch very loosely and keeping it from tightening by holding it between thumb and index finger while knitting the 2nd stitch). Slip the 4th stitch knitwise, knit the first picked-up stitch along the panel and lift the slipped stitch over this stitch.

3 – Now slip the 4 I-cord stitches back onto the right needle.

Repeat these 3 steps for hours on end, until all of the picked up stitches along the fronts and neck have been used up, meanwhile making button holes along the right front.

Finally, ‘all’ I needed to do was weave in what seemed like an endless number of ends.

I put on some music, and several cups of tea later that was done, too.

Oh, and let’s not forget the buttons! I happened to have just the right ones, bought long ago in a lovely little shop.

There, all finished!

Here is a close-up of the very special armhole.

And this is what the cardi looks like from the back.

What helped me through the challenging parts of this knit was:

  • Finding moments in my week when my brain was up for a challenge (for me especially Saturday mornings)
  • Cutting the process up into smaller steps, taking a break after finishing a step and giving myself a figurative pat on the back
  • Using a crochet hook for picking up stitches
  • Copying difficult bits onto a separate page and keeping track of where I was by means of sticky notes
  • Relaxing and uplifting music in the background
  • Having good (day)light
  • Blogging about it

All in all, I’m happy with the process and happy with the result!

Well, that was a lot of technical detail. Sorry to the non-knitters among you (it’s a miracle you even got this far). If all goes according to plan, my next post will be of more general interest. Bye for now, and hope to see you again soon!

Domino Knitting

Hello!

After all the gadding about of the past few weeks, I think it’s time for some serious knitting again. I hope you’re up for it.

I first heard of domino knitting from a Danish woman I once met on a campsite in Rondane, Norway. She was sitting in front of her tent knitting back and forth on very short wooden needles. I was intrigued and asked her what she was making.

As is often the way with knitters, she was only too happy to talk about it. She told me that she was making a scarf for her sister-in-law from a pattern in the booklet Domino Strikk, by Danish designer Vivian Høxbro.

As soon as the booklet came out in English, in 2002, I bought it.

Høxbro didn’t invent the technique. In her foreword she tells us that it had been around for at least a century before she discovered it, only it wasn’t called domino knitting then. She was the one who made it popular, though.

The booklet clearly explains how domino knitting works with small modules, ‘knitted together while the work progresses, just as one “pieces” the tiles in dominoes’, and encourages us to try the techniques out by knitting potholders first.

I made a couple of potholders to give domino knitting a try. They turned out too big and floppy to be useful. I have never used them, but kept them as a kind of curiosity. Here they are:

I left it at that, went on to knit other things, and more or less forgot about domino knitting. Until I started knitting a cardigan called Panel Debate last month.

As the name suggests, it is made up of panels. After finishing the first three panels, I suddenly thought, Why does this feel so familiar? Wait, this is potholder number five!

Well, it’s more like a super extended version of potholder #5, but it follows the same principle.

Narrow panels (1-3 below) are knit back and forth in alternating knit and purl ridges. Then stitches are picked up along the long sides for the next panel (4), knit lengthwise. The panel next to that is a narrow strip again, attached by knitting it together with the stitches of the previous panel every other row, and so on and so forth.

Calling Panel Debate an extended potholder doesn’t do it justice at all, of course. What with the knitted-on sleeves and I-cord finishing it is much more than that. The designer has also added lovely short-row fans at the bottom of fronts and back.

It’s a lot of stitches on 2.75 mm needles, and after I’d knit the swatches I wondered if this cardigan really was a good idea and if I’d ever finish it. But because of the modular technique, Panel Debate stays interesting and makes me want to keep on knitting.

There are heaps more domino-knit type of garment patterns around. Many of them use variations on the mitred squares of my potholders.

It’s a technique particularly suitable for colour-shift yarns like Noro. I really love the way this sweater makes use of the colours.

As Høxbro warns us in her foreword, ‘Domino knitting is addictive.’ Why did it take me so long to get hooked?

(Un)springlike

Hello! It’s so good to ‘see’ you here again. I really hope that you’re all doing okay. Life here is very much as usual, strangely enough, apart from the almost constant feeling of unease and worry in the background. I’m still working (from home), cooking, cleaning, and doing everything else I need to do. And I’m still always knitting. I really, really miss seeing people in real life, but am grateful for all the other ways we have for keeping in touch, including this blog, although this is a bit of a one-way thing.

After a cold spell with night frosts and a raw wind, spring really and truly arrived here about two weeks ago. All of a sudden it was warm and sunny, leaves were unfurling and trees were starting to blossom.

Only my knitting was out of sync.

I was knitting a warm wool-and-alpaca sweater for our daughter. Not exactly something she would need in spring. And even the colour was unspringlike!

When I think of spring colours, I think of yellow, fresh green and pink. I associate the (hard to capture) deep burgundy-meets-terracotta of my knitting yarn more with autumn. Warm yarn, wrong colour – uh-oh, another knitting project in danger of becoming a UFO!

But then my eye fell on the newly unfurled leaves of the Japanese maple in our back garden…

… and on the fresh young leaves of the skimmia.

Through the lens of my camera, I started seeing more and more of these so-called autumn colours. Enchanted by the frothy pink blossoms of Japanese ornamental cherries, I had never really noticed their leaves before. Now I saw that they were actually orange:

And the flowers of the elephant’s ears in our front garden are a really springlike pink, but look at the stalk!

Walking around with a camera in hand can be like a treasure hunt. I often see things that I would otherwise not have noticed. Besides, it helps me to focus outward and keeps me from ruminating too much. You could give it a try, too, if you like (or perhaps you already do?). Any old point-and-shoot camera will work.

Here’s just one more treasure I found – pear blossoms on the big old pear tree in our back garden. The general impression is white, but there are lovely red ‘things’ inside. I’m no expert, but I think they are the anthers (correct me if I’m wrong).

Phew! UFO attack avoided. Having seen all these springtime reds and oranges, the colour didn’t feel wrong anymore. I felt like finishing my knitting project, and that’s what I did.

The pattern I used is the Better-than-Basic pullover designed by Churchmouse.

And here is the finished sweater (it would have been nice to photograph my daughter wearing it, but unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity for that):

It looks pretty basic at first glance, so why is it called Better-than-Basic?

To start with, the pattern has options for several different versions: tunic or hip length (mine is in between), wide or narrow ribbed edgings (I’ve chosen wide), and a funnel or a turtle neck (I’ve done neither of these).

Then there are the special techniques, like the ‘clip & turn’ short rows for a gradual shoulder slope:

The same short-row technique is also used at the hems, so that the sweater hangs more evenly.

Other features are an invisible cast-on, two special bind-off methods, and tips for customizing sleeve and body length – all explained very clearly.

The shoulder seams are placed slightly forward and the special sloping armhole results in a relaxed dropped shoulder without too much bulk under the arm.

On special request, I made the sleeves extra long, so that they can be used as hand warmers during bicycle rides. Or they can be worn folded up, like here:

Okay, maybe this is not an ideal springtime knit, but it is definitely a pattern to keep in mind for next autumn.

Finishing Willapa

Hello! Today it’s all about knitting (and some music). I’m sorry to disappoint the non-knitters among you – I promise to write about something of more general interest next time.

I had been feeling a bit off-colour for several days, but struggled on until I thought, ‘Enough is enough’ and gave myself an afternoon off. I brewed a pot of tea, put on some music and spread an unfinished knitting project and everything I needed to finish it out on the dining table.

Do you remember me writing about UFOs and my New Year’s resolution to finish (or frog) them all? Well, this the first one. It is a cardigan called Willapa that was designed by Annie Rowden for Brooklyn Tweed. This is the front page of the pattern with a ball of the yarn I used:

I would have liked to make it from the original yarn, Brooklyn Tweed ‘Loft’, but the only shop in our country stocking that had run out of my colour choices A, B and C. I chose Lamana ‘Como Tweed’ instead. The yarns are similar, but not the same. They are both fingering weights, both tweedy, and both knit up to the same gauge. But Loft is more rustic and has (imho) more interesting colours, while Como Tweed is airier and softer.

So, why did this cardi become a UFO? I’m not entirely sure.

It was almost finished, but very soon after I’d started the front border, the frog chorus started to chant ‘Rip-it, Rip-it’.

The pattern said ‘slip the first stitch PURLWISE with yarn held in back’, while I would have chosen ‘slip the first stitch KNITWISE with yarn held in back’. I had my doubts, but thought, ‘How much difference can it make whether you slip a stitch purlwise or knitwise?’

So, I ignored the frogs and knit on. And on and on. It wasn’t until it was time to bind off that I decided I wasn’t happy with the edge stitches at all. They were different on the left and right and looked untidy.

But before I followed the frogs’ advice and ripped out many hours of knitting, I knit a swatch to check if slipping the first stitch knitwise would really be better than to slip it purlwise:

Yes, it did make quite a difference. The bottom half (A) of the swatch was knit slipping the first stitch of every row purlwise, the top half (B) slipping them knitwise.

Slipping the first stitch purlwise gave a stretchy/loose edge with a very different left and right side. Slipping the first stitch knitwise made the edge firmer. There was still a slight difference between left and right, but that was hardly noticeable.

So, I frogged the front border, knit it again, and was glad I’d taken the trouble.

At this stage Willapa was still a WIP. After the front border I knit the pockets and all the knitting was done. It was then that it became a UFO. I suppose it was because it was almost summer by then, and a warm cardi seemed irrelevant. And also because I dreaded weaving in all those ends and wasn’t happy about the pockets.

Well, my afternoon off solved all that. Weaving in the ends took about an hour, but was quite pleasant with some good music on.

My husband isn’t a big fan, so I only play this music when he’s not there. But I love it, especially On the Nature of Daylight. It is something between classical and minimal music, and the composer’s own website says, ‘The Blue Notebooks is a subtle and peaceful protest against political, social and personal brutality.’

With that peaceful protest in the background, I found the courage to finish my cardigan. Here it is:

It has a very wide front border, widened at the neck with short rows, that can be turned down to a nice collar.

Following the instructions in the pattern, the pockets would have ended up exactly on the sides of my hips. This is already my widest part, and it doesn’t need to be accented by pockets. So I moved the pockets down and forward, where they almost disappeared into the lower border:

Unlike the pattern, I used the same edge stitch for the pockets as for the front border (slipping the first stitch knitwise). The pattern didn’t say how to sew on the pockets. I tried out several ways, and in the end just used ordinary small back stitches. The pockets are on the small side, but big enough for a hankie or a slip of paper with some notes.

Willapa is knit from the top down, has narrow sleeves with wide cuffs meant to be folded double, and has lovely raglan shoulders.

All in all I’m very happy with the pattern, the yarn and the end result. If you’re looking for a simple, but definitely not frumpy looking cardi to knit, I can really recommend Willapa. You can find it on Ravelry and on the Brooklyn Tweed website. It is a well-written pattern and, apart from the edge stitches, there is much to love about it. I hope my notes are helpful for anyone making it.

(I can also recommend taking an afternoon off when you’re not feeling quite well.)

So this was my first UFO turned FO. One down, eight more to go.

UFOs and a WIP turned FO

Knitters love abbreviations. An experienced knitter will be able to instantly visualize an instruction like ‘K2, yo, *(k2tog) 3 times, (yo, k1) 6 times, (k2tog) 3 times; work from * to last 3 sts, yo, k2tog, k1’.

Now, please don’t run away screaming if you’re not all that into abbreviations. For this post it’s enough to know just these three:

  • FO = Finished Object – This speaks for itself. Any piece of knitting that is completed (including weaving in the ends and sewing on buttons) is an FO.
  • WIP = Work In Progress – This refers to a piece of knitting that is actively worked on, or at least is still in the forefront of the knitter’s mind.
  • UFO = UnFinished Object – A UFO is an incomplete piece of knitting that has been abandoned, hidden away in a dark cupboard or even completely forgotten.

Note: the line between a WIP and a UFO may be thin.

As I told you last week, I have more than a few UFOs. Some of them have lived in a dark cupboard for quite a while. Here they are:

There are 9 items in total: 4 cardigans, 2 scarves, 2 cowls and 1 crochet project.

Embarrassing? Yes, slightly. But there are worse skeletons to have in one’s cupboard, aren’t there? And I can’t be the only one, surely?

My resolution is to finish them all in 2020, or rip out the ones that I don’t want to finish anymore and repurpose the yarn. I’ll write about them here, now and then, hoping that they’ll provide some inspiration, or an interesting or funny story. The only rule I’m imposing on myself is that they should all be gone (finished or repurposed) by the end of the year.

I plan to take the UFOs out of their hiding place one at a time, and transfer them, one by one, to the basket I made last year. I’ll place the basket in plain sight, so that I won’t forget it.

But first I needed to free up the basket. So to start with, I’ve finished my blue knitting project. This wasn’t a UFO but definitely a WIP.

It is a long-sleeved cardigan with knit-in pockets. I chose this pattern by Kim Hargreaves because I wanted something simple for everyday wear.

Sometimes I block garment pieces, but this time I followed the designer’s instructions and pressed them. I placed the pieces on the ironing board, covered them with a damp tea towel and, with the iron on ‘wool’, carefully pressed them.

It’s a miracle what this does to the knitting:

Inside of pocket before pressing...
...and after pressing

It’s very satisfying to see all the neatly pressed pieces hanging over the back of a chair:

For me, it is at the finishing stage that a WIP is most in danger of becoming a UFO. No matter how much positive self-talk I use, I don’t enjoy the finishing part of knitting. But some music and a mug of tea help a little.

Invisibly sewing the pocket linings to the inside of the fronts took several attempts. After seaming the rest together and sewing on the buttons, the entire cardigan was done. A WIP turned FO.

Am I happy with it? On the whole, yes, but there are two things I’m not entirely happy with. The first is that the cardi twists slightly to the right, as you can see in the photo below.

It’s not that I put it on hastily. I already noticed that the pieces were slightly askew while I was still working on them. It must be something in the yarn that makes the fabric behave this way.

The yarn (Rowan ‘Alpaca Classic’) is made with a new technique. The alpaca fibres are blown into a cotton tube, resulting in a soft and airy yarn. I’m not an expert, but perhaps the cotton tube needs a tiny bit of tweaking?

The second thing I’m not happy with is that the button bands gape. Look:

The button bands don’t overlap as they should. This isn’t because the cardi is too tight – it has enough ease as you can see from the back.

It’s always hard to get narrow button bands right. Maybe they gape because the yarn is so very, very soft and airy. Oh well, I’ll usually wear it open anyway.

The things I do like are the simple, round neckline…

… the rolled sleeve hems and pocket tops…

… and the side vents with their neat garter stitch borders that are exactly the same width as the border along the bottom of the cardi.

I love this kind of attention to detail. But what I love most of all about this cardi is that it is incredibly soft and lightweight. It weighs just 250 grams! Very simple and very wearable.

Kim Hargreaves is an independent British designer. Her patterns have given me many hours of knitting pleasure over the years. The pattern of the cardigan above is called ‘Fair’ (Ravelry link) and comes from Kim’s book Pale.

Procrastination

Back in February I decided that, in addition to some simple things and socks, I would also like something challenging to knit. Rummaging through some boxes in a cupboard, I found the kit for a Norwegian cardigan with a leaf pattern that I bought in 2006(!). I was looking forward to finally doing something with it.

To start with, I wrote a blogpost about our visit to the spinning mill in Norway where I bought it. Then I took everything out of the bag.

There were 7 colours of wool, in skeins of different weights. There was an iron-on label, a length of velvet ribbon and a small quantity of thinner wool. And there was a photograph of the cardigan.

The pattern was not included, but that was fine. I already had the book containing the pattern – Poetry in Stitches by Solveig Hisdal. It was the book that had lured me to the spinning mill in the first place.

Poetry in Stitches contains patterns for many cardigans and pullovers, for adults, children and babies, a few children’s hats and a summer top. And there is a muff and a pair of wristlets in an interesting combination of knitting and crochet. It is filled with beautiful photographs, not only of the knitted items, but also of the textiles and folk art from several museum collections that inspired them.

Even if you’d never knit any of the patterns, Poetry in Stitches is a book worth having. Unfortunately it is out of print, but there are some second-hand copies around. I saw one for $ 369! But some more reasonably priced ones, too.

After unpacking and photographing everything, I screwed my ball winder and my umbrella swift to the edge of our dining table and started winding the yarn.

Long ago, I used to wind yarn by hand, while somebody else held up the skeins. It’s a companionable and relaxing thing to do. But if you have many skeins to wind, the set-up with swift and ball-winder is much more efficient.

The result is different, though. Instead of round balls, a wool winder makes yarn ‘cakes’, that are flat on two sides and don’t roll away.

When all the yarn was wound, I put everything neatly together in a basket. I found a corner in the living room for it, and…

… there it has stayed. Untouched. Eight months after I unearthed the kit, I haven’t knit a single stitch. And before that it has lain around for 13 years! This is starting to look like a serious case of procrastination.

We all procrastinate from time to time, I suppose, but I’m not terribly familiar with procrastination. So, why am I procrastinating now? Don’t I want to make this cardigan anymore? Yes, I do. I really do. Lack of time isn’t the problem either – I can find time for all kinds of things. What is it then?

I could sense some question marks, doubts and uncertainties in the back of my mind, but they were rather vague and elusive. Time to bring them out into the open. Time for one of my problem-solving writing sessions.

A notebook, a pen and a big mug of tea, that’s all I need. And sometimes I also use a kitchen timer. As I often do when I’m stuck, I wrote down everything that came up as quickly as I could. I took a break, and then looked at what I’d written. What I saw was lots and lots of question marks.

Taking a closer look, I also saw that they could be grouped into three topics: The knitted fabric, shape and fit, and non-knitting elements.

The knitted fabric

This pattern has much larger motifs than Fair Isle or other stranded knitting usually has, which means long floats at the back. How do I prevent the knitting from ‘pulling’? How do I get a nice and even fabric? How do I get crisp leaves? And how do I prevent the veins from getting lost in the leaves?

Shape and fit

This cardigan is basically a large rectangle with fairly wide sleeves attached. There is no side or shoulder shaping, and no armhole shaping either. Not very flattering. Am I going to knit it as it is, or am I going to do something about it? If so, what and how?

The pattern only has two sizes, which look like Large and Extra Large to me. How do I get the right size? And especially: will I be able to get the sleeves the right length? They look rather on the long side on the model, and my arms seem to be slightly shorter than average. Do I need to shorten the sleeves? And how? They have wide stripes, matching the front and back, that can’t be made narrower. And I can’t just leave a stripe off at the top or at the wrist, can I?

Non-knitting elements

There is a velvet ribbon along the fronts and neck. The ribbon in the kit feels fairly stiff. Is it suitable for sewing onto the softer and more stretchy knitted fabric? Will I be able to sew it on without the ribbon or the knitting buckling? Will I ever be able to get the corners of the square neckline right?

Then there’s a lot of cutting involved. Cutting into knitted fabric is always rather nerve-wracking. I will need to cut the front open to make the tube into a cardigan, and I will need to cut armholes. And in this case, I will also need to cut a large piece out of the front for the square neck and a smaller, curved part for the back neckline. Without the help of any diagrams. Scary! I’m afraid to spoil all those hours and hours of knitting at the last moment.

And then there is the lining. Will it work – a non-stretchy cotton lining inside a stretchy woollen fabric? And where do I find a suitable fabric? At a quilt shop perhaps? Or should I leave it out? What is its function anyway? Is it purely decorative or is it essential for, say, the button holes?

And what about the button holes? They need to be made through both the knitting and the lining. They don’t look particularly nice and neat in the photograph, do they? Will I be able to make them so that they don’t spoil the entire cardigan?

Taking the time to look at what has brought me to a standstill seems to have been really worthwhile. I don’t have the answers yet, but at least now I have the questions out in the open. And, as Aristotle said:

Asking the right question is half the answer.

So, what do I do now? I’ve looked around for ways to deal with procrastination and came across tips about setting goals and deadlines. I’m not happy with those – they feel too much like work. What I did like was an item on WikiHow called How to Overcome Procrastination Using Self Talk. It has some very friendly pieces of advice, like ‘focus on starting rather than finishing’, ‘break a long project down into short tasks’, and ‘make it fun!’

I can do that! My first short task will be ‘knit swatches’ (Duh, any knitting project starts with knitting swatches. Why didn’t I think of that before?). I’ll start with that, without looking too much at all those question marks ahead of me. And making it fun won’t be any problem at all. Knitting is fun in itself, and the yarn and colours are lovely. All I need to do is make a pot of tea, put on some music and start knitting.

Knitting Sideways

Mid-September. The mornings are starting to feel chilly and the smell of autumn is in the air. In the garden there are still some roses to be picked and the autumn anemones are flowering profusely. It’s the time of year to start thinking of warm and woolly knits. But first it’s time to finish some summer projects.

My ‘big’ summer knitting project was an oversized T-shirt, from a pattern called Sideways Tee, designed by Churchmouse. I’m not much of a summer knitter – I prefer woolen yarns and cosy socks, sweaters and shawls. But after a very hot spell early in the season, I realized that I needed something cool and summery to knit or I wouldn’t be able to knit at all on hot days.

Now I’d like to show you what I made and how I set about it. I like looking over other makers’ shoulders and hope that what I’m doing will be interesting and useful to others too.

Before I start knitting a garment, I always swatch. I don’t swatch for socks, and I don’t always swatch for shawls and scarves. But for garments it makes all the difference between success and failure.

This time it was a good thing I did, too. For the first swatch, I used the recommended needle size (4.5 mm) but didn’t get the right gauge. So I went down a size (to 4.0 mm), knit another swatch and, yay, the gauge was correct. I washed both swatches to make sure the knitting didn’t shrink or grow, but it was fine, so I could start knitting.

The Sideways Tee has an interesting construction. Both front and back are started from a provisional cast-on in the middle, and are knit outward to the sides. It isn’t called Sideways Tee for nothing.

In this case it isn’t your usual ‘crochet a chain and pick up stitches from the bumps.’ It’s a more sophisticated provisional cast-on, that is crocheted over the knitting needle.

I’ve used this technique before, and think the result is much better than with the crocheted chain technique.

At first sight this Tee looks very simple. But the only thing that is simple about it, is the stitch pattern – a simple stocking stitch. Other than that it has many interesting features, like sloping shoulders, side shaping and short rows. The 8 pages of the pattern are packed with instructions, diagrams and special techniques.

I could easily lose my way leafing back and forth through all these pages, and took several measures to prevent confusion.

To start with I marked everything related to my size with a pink highlighter (I’ve discovered that yellow becomes invisible in lamp light). I used a row counter (the bright green thing) as well as sticky notes to keep track of where I was in the pattern.

The first half of the back ended with some short rows, done with a special technique called C&T (Clip and Turn) by the designer. It involves lots of locking markers, as you can see here:

I used some very fine metal locking markers for this. They were a gift from a friend and I really like them, because they don’t distort the knitted fabric like the thicker plastic ones can do with this technique. (I did use plastic ones to indicate armholes, neckline etc.) In the final row, all the gaps caused by the short rows are closed and the stitches are placed onto a piece of waste yarn.

Then the stitches  from the provisional cast-on in the middle are picked up, while the waste yarn used for the cast-on is removed.

This technique works very well. I think it’s rather daring to start like this, because you could easily get a wonky row right in the middle of the front and back that would spoil the entire garment. But I can’t see where I picked up the stitches – can you?

After finishing back and front it was time to start seaming the shoulders. At this point my Tee looked like this:

For me, this was the absolute low point of this project. It looked terrible, like some kind of frumpy, strangely shaped, too short poncho. If it wasn’t for this blog, I could easily have thrown it into a corner never to look at it again. But I’d planned to show the finished T-shirt here, so I persevered.

After closing all the seams and knitting on the edgings, I washed the shirt and threw it into the dryer until almost dry before blocking it.

When it was on my blocking mats I saw that it was going to be okay after all.

The size was exactly as it should be according to the pattern. I was really happy with that. I only pinned the shirt into place with a few T-pins. After drying, I steam pressed it for an extra neat finish.

And this is what my Sideways Tee looks like when worn:

It’s a very different type of garment from what I usually choose. Usually I choose more fitted, A-line shaped garments. So this was a bit of a gamble, but all in all I’m happy with it.

The only thing I’m not too happy about, is the neck edging. There is a row of rather loose stitches along the front neck.

I don’t know what I could have done differently. Maybe it’s because the yarn has no bounce and doesn’t fill up the holes, or maybe it’s because the sideways knit stitches stretch too much. I don’t know. It’s just a small detail, however – the rest is fine.

I like the drape and feel of the knitted fabric. I think it’s a flattering shape. And I like the sloping shoulders and fit of the ‘sleeves’ (which are, basically, just armholes with an edging).

Finally, here’s a shot of the back. It’s definitely oversized, but far from shapeless.

Well, I finished that nicely in time for summer, didn’t I? (Summer 2020, that is.)

Oh, and then there’s the yarn, of course. I almost forgot to mention it, but it’s one of the most important elements. It can make or break a knitting project.

I chose Juniper Moon Farm ‘Zooey’ for my Sideways Tee because it felt cool and crisp, and because it happened to be available from a local yarn shop. And I chose white because it’s a nice and summery colour that goes well with jeans.

Zooey is a 60% cotton, 40% linen blend with thicker and thinner parts. It is loosely twined and, because of that, very splitty. It is easy to miss one of the strands, resulting in a thin spot in the knitted fabric, or to mistake one stitch for two and accidentally increase a stitch. I’m speaking from experience. Both have happened to me and I’ve had to frog quite a bit to fix it.

After a while I got used to the yarn, and developed a knitting technique that prevented me from sticking the needle into stitches by pushing the strands together with my index finger. This is definitely not a yarn for mindless knitting. Having said that, it gives a very nice fabric – drapey with a lovely irregular structure.

Well, that’s the story about my Sideways Tee. If you’d like to make one too, I can recommend it. It’s a really enjoyable and interesting knit. Looking ahead to autumn, I think it will work very well in a cosy woolen yarn, too.

To end today’s blog post, in style with the focus on white, here’s a picture of our beautiful autumn-flowering Japanese anemones ‘Honorine Jobert’.

Note: This post isn’t sponsored in any way. I only mentioned the pattern store and yarn brand because I think it’s essential information.