A Tale of Two Sweaters

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Every knitter knows “the sweater curse”: if you knit a sweater for somebody with whom you are in a romantic relationship before you marry them, your relationship is doomed. It makes a certain amount of intuitive sense: for one thing, a sweater is a huge investment of time and energy, which might make the recipient uncomfortable. Furthermore, a sweater rarely comes out exactly perfect, which might cause the recipient to not want to wear it much, which might create tension in the relationship. The theory is that if you’re committed enough to each other enough to marry, then your relationship can stand the strain of a possibly-wonky sweater. Or else it’s magic. Who knows? What I know is that I flouted this ancient wisdom once in my youth, and I reaped the consequences. In my case, I think the actual sweater didn’t have any direct effect on the end of that relationship, but I was not fool enough to test the sweater curse twice. Though Pat had been asking me to knit him a sweater for years, I refused to do so until we were married. His marriage proposal, which was written down for me to read, ended with the words “now look at the sweaterless guy over there,” where he was kneeling with a ring.

So how could I do otherwise than to knit him a sweater immediately after we got married? I had to finish my brother’s blanket first, which you can read about in the previous post, but once that was done, this sweater was the first order of business.

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The pattern is Reece by Jane Ellison, from Queensland Collection Book 9 — yes, I had to track down this obscure print book to find the pattern that my husband wanted. That’s love, folks. He wanted something pretty plain and not flashy, but he was also fairly particular about what that meant, and there just aren’t as many mens’ sweater patterns out there as you would like. The pattern called for knitting the sleeves flat, though, which I hate and avoid whenever possible; I knit them in the round from the top down instead, just from measurements and math.

The yarn is KnitPicks Swish DK in the “dusk” colorway. The zipper came from Zipperstop, a website that will sell you a zipper in a custom length & color. I hadn’t intended the color of the zipper to be quite so much brighter than the yarn, but Pat decided he liked it that way. I also decided after about two minutes of trying to sew in the zipper myself that I would just pay a tailor $20 to have it professionally installed, which was better for everyone. I did manage to hand-sew in a zipper once, but it was on the sweater for He Who Shall Not Be Named, and maybe the less we can repeat that situation the better.

This past winter, I also knit my very first pullover:

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Cardigans tend to make more sense in southern California, but I do wear pullover sweaters in the winter, especially at night in our apartment where we tend not to run our ancient inefficient gas heater & just pull on layers of clothing and blankets. And I had loved Norah Gaughn’s Lempster since its debut in Knitty in 2013. I especially loved it in the original yarn, Berroco Abode, a thick-and-thin yarn with a lovely speckling effect — I just didn’t like any of the samples showing up on Ravelry in more conventional yarns nearly as much. However, when I decided to finally knit Lempster this past fall, I was dismayed to find that the original yarn had been discontinued. Fortunately, this had happened recently enough that I was still able to find it for sale at a variety of places; it was just hard to find sweater quantities in colors I liked. I couldn’t find the original blue colorway in sufficient quantities, but I eventually decided that the muted purple of the River colorway would also be very nice, and that’s what I settled on.

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I made a few modifications to the original: I knit the sleeves full-length, and I did the cable motif on the back also, as you can see here. This sweater is not for the faint of heart: in addition to the charts’ being complex, the construction (especially at the beginning) is really confusing, and in a few key places the directions are just plain wrong. The following Ravelers’ notes were key in helping me figure out what the heck I was doing: FuzzyPumpkin, Sophie7toes, Ephiphonora, and Handstitch. Another issue I had was that in blocking, this thing grew like 4 inches of length, which I ended up just unravelling. The Berroco Abode was super sticky and GREAT for unravelling without losing more stitches than you intended — which was, alas, something I had to do a lot in this project. I got to be an expert at fixing messed-up cable crosses several rows back without unravelling whole rows, which there really ought to be a knitters’ trophy (or at least a merit badge?) for.

But I really like how it came out, and the Berroco Abode makes a sweater that is lofty and lightweight while still being warm — it’s great for chilly California winter days, which is in fact when these photos were taken. But don’t worry: soon enough you’ll see me sweating in the summer heat while bravely sporting fall and winter wear for the sake of getting through my project backlog!

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Deflect

IMG_5827I’m sorry — unlike knitting magazines, I can’t take my sock pictures on scenic outdoor rocks, so you’ll have to settle for my scenic indoor couch. I’d never let Pat go for a walk on the beach in his handknit socks, anyway! These are his Christmas socks, a little belatedly blogged. The pattern is Deflect by Hunter Hammersen, from Knitty’s Deep Fall 2013 issue. The yarn is Oink Pigments Sock in “Misplaced Marbles.” I got it at the Torrance Fiber Festival this year — I guess I never did a post about my haul, but it was quite small: just this, bought expressly for these socks, and a skein of gorgeous laceweight purple that you’ll see pretty soon when I make it into a spring lace project of some kind. I was on a mission to buy yarn for this pattern when I was there, and I bought this one because the color was good for ManSocks(TM), and because it felt and looked very similar to Dream in Color Everlasting Sock, which is what the pattern actually calls for. When I got it home and compared it to the skein of Everlasting Sock that I had at home, it was so identical that I think they might even actually be the same yarn base! Even the colorway was pretty similar, though I’d judged the skein I had as “too girly” — more on that later.

IMG_5826This yarn looks a little darker and bluer here than it actually is — in person it’s closer to photo #1, though that one’s a tiny bit washed out. I enjoyed knitting these socks, though I think I ran into a minor problem with the numbers on the heel in the large size. It’s been awhile, so I don’t remember the specifics, but it was just very clearly a mistake in the number of stitches that I should have ended up with or something. Easy to spot and ignore. I just love the way the cables are arranged in this sock! And the toe is gorgeous — I was a little skeptical as I was knitting it, since it seemed like the decreases were happening in unorthodox places, but it looked great when it was done and on the foot.

This is truly a unisex sock pattern, and since I had that skein of Everlasting Sock sitting around waiting for me to do something with it, I decided to make myself a pair also! I’m right about to start the toe on the first one here:

IMG_5842I suppose it’s a little hard to tell from this picture, but I judged this yarn to be “too girly” for Pat’s socks because of the green and purple. When I got his skein home, though, I felt pretty silly — the difference is quite minimal. Here they are side-by-side:

IMG_5846His looks a little more huge than it actually is/was because he’s been wearing his socks pretty frequently for the past month and a half so they’ve stretched out a bit, and you can see there’s some wear on the sole there. But the colors, they’re not so different. I’m pretending that I meant us to have matching socks all along…

Acer Cardigan

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I’ve finally finished my Acer Cardigan! After starting it a year ago, abandoning it all summer, then ripping it out this winter because it was too big and knitting the next smallest size, this is a sweet victory. The sizing is now perfect — here it is all buttoned up:

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The sleeves are still a little big — I ignored the pattern and tried to knit them top-down to fit, but they still came out a little large. I did this because the first time around, I knit one of the sleeves as written and it came out huge. But I’m super happy with this! Here’s a back shot where you can see the cable pattern clearly:

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The yarn is Madelinetosh Vintage in the “charcoal” colorway, purchased exactly a year ago at Imagiknit in San Francisco. This year for spring break, Pat and I are just hanging around Long Beach, and it’s been great so far. We’ve had a picnic, done pub trivia, gone to the roller derby, and watched all four hours and 20 minutes of the Met’s production of Die Walküre. I also bought these new sunglasses, which I love.

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I taught myself Techknitter’s Tulip Buttonhole for this sweater and it worked great! It’s definitely a little fiddly, but that video I linked to there shows you everything you need to know and the resulting buttonhole is very sturdy and strong. Pat was endlessly amused to learn that a “new” buttonhole had been recently invented, that buttonhole technology was in fact improving, but it totally is and I recommend that you check this out if you’ve missed it!

Hooked

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I just received these lovely crochet hooks in the mail from Matt of According to Matt…, one of my favorite crochet and knitting blogs! Aren’t they lovely? They’re a European brand called KnitPro, which can be ordered from this UK-based store, among other places. He ran a contest a few weeks ago asking people to guess how many buttons were in a jar, and I happened to hit on the right number first. The story of how that happened is super dumb: I planned to enter my street address #471, as my guess, but I misremembered it as 417, and a commenter a few before me had already guessed that, so I guessed 419 instead and that turned out to be correct. Hooray, faulty brain wires! I highly recommend Matt’s blog; his projects are always super colorful and inspiring, and he’s always got a sunny attitude that makes his posts a pleasure to read. As you probably know, I’m much more of a knitter than a crocheter, but this is a wonderful excuse to spend some more time crocheting — previously I just had a bunch of cheapo metal and plastic hooks from Michael’s. I think what I’d really like to make is a super-stashbusting freeform crochet tote bag.

I am almost done re-knitting my Acer cardigan — check it out:

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I am now officially farther along with it than I got the first time, when I finished the body and one sleeve before deciding it was hopelessly too large. As you can see, I’m knitting the sleeves top-down this time, because the sleeves in the pattern came out weirdly large for me. Knitting them top-down allows me to try it on as I go and make them fit better. I’m super proud of myself for figuring out how to do this on my own, based on my notes from my Leitmotif Cardigan, which was written with top-down sleeves that I modified a bit to fit my short arms. I now feel confident that I can do top-down sleeves on any sweater I choose, which is pretty awesome! I should be done with this sleeve pretty soon, and then it’s just button bands, collar, and finishing!

I even bought some buttons today:

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I usually end up buying two sets of buttons for my sweaters, because I’m rarely 100% sure in the store what is going to look best on the sweater, even though I make sure to bring a sample of the yarn in with me. In this case, I’m glad I did — I very nearly came home with just the top set of buttons, but the bottom ones are now the clear winners in my mind. I do like the rustic simplicity of those top buttons, though, and I think I’ll probably keep them for the future rather than return them. This sweater should be done pretty soon — so keep your fingers crossed for me that we don’t start getting hit with the 80-degree southern California spring days just yet!

Hold This Thread As I Walk Away

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Once upon a time (last spring), I started knitting an Acer Cardigan in this lovely Tosh Vintage yarn. I knit the whole body and one of the sleeves:

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And it was a little bit too big for me. The sleeve (just pinned on in this pic) was WAY too big, but the body was okay — it’d be a little loose, but I was going to layer under it, right? By this point it was summer and Pat and I were leaving for Austin, so I decided to set it aside and redo the sleeves and other finishing work in the winter. Now it’s February, and I’m 20 pounds lighter than I was a year ago, and this sweater was WAY TOO GODDAMN BIG. And so:

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I’ve started alllll over again, knitting a smaller size. I’ll also probably just pick up stitches from the shoulder and knit the sleeves top-down to fit me, now that I’ve been burned once by the sleeves in this pattern. It’s a little frustrating, but why knit a sweater that won’t fit?

In other long-hibernating-project news, I am finally moving towards finishing my linen-stitch pillows. I tried three different seaming methods before I hit on one I liked:

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This is the stockinette back joined to the linen-stitch front of one of the pillows (unstuffed). I’m pretty pleased with how nice and neat this looks. My original plan was to just crochet the backs and fronts together, since I like crocheting much more than I like seaming, but this created an ugly bump in the stockinette section — I didn’t think to take a picture, but it was gross. Then I tried backstitching, but I eventually got spooked about not being able to see the seam (since the wrong sides were facing me), so now I’m doing a version of mattress stitch and it’s working well, if slowly.

I’ve also started a new mindless project for third-drink-of-the-night knitting:

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The pattern is Groovy by Annie Lee of JumperCablesKnitting. The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, which I bought in Seattle about a year ago. I expect this will take me about six million years to knit, as it’s knit on US 2s and may take as much as 700 yards of yarn, though I definitely might quit before that. But what a lovely, simple concept for a shawl! I had to pin it to get the pleats to separate for you, but presumably blocking will make them lie reasonably flat.

That’s all I’ve got for now — enjoy your holiday if you’ve got one!

Doubling Down

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So much sass! Shield your eyes!

I have finally finished my handspun Lilac Wine cowl. The fiber (100% merino from Weaving Works in Seattle) started its life like this:

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… was spindle-spun into this yarn:

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… and is now this lovely cowl:

ImageI deliberately chose a very simple pattern because I loooove the color of this fiber and I wanted it to become something easy to wear that I would reach for over and over. This pattern fit the bill, though it’s secretly not quite as easy as advertised. It’s just 1×1 rib, but it also involves the sewn tubular cast-on and bind-off, neither of which I’d ever done before and both of which took me a million hours and are really fiddly and annoying. Ultimately I don’t think either one of them is really worth the effort, particularly over so damn many stitches. To make matters worse, opinions seem to differ in different tutorials about how exactly to execute them, and TechKnitter, who I usually trust with my life, leaves a crucial step out of her bind-off instructions (namely that you need to be moving the yarn to the front when you’re slipping the purls, and to the back when you’re slipping the knits). In all seriousness, the bind-off took me three hours and it’s not even as stretchy as I’d like. I’m seriously considering undoing it and just doing my standard lace bindoff, so that I have a little more breathing room when wrapping it double:

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I also finally roped Pat into allowing me to take some shots of him in the Deliah Scarf I knit him for Christmas:

Image“… Ladies?” We’re both pretty psyched about how this came out. The blue (“Deep Space Blue” in Alpenglow Sporty Rambo yarn) is a great color for Pat, since his eyes are blue and he wears a lot of dark, saturated colors.

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So jaunty! The Rambouillet wool is completely perfect for cables; super springy and very soft. Did I mention the scarf is completely reversible?

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He looks pretty pleased with it, huh?

Post-Holiday Roundup

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Hello and happy 2013! Now I can finally reveal to you all of my holiday knitting. What you see here is the reversible cabled scarf I knit for Pat. Unfortunately I didn’t finish this in time for him to wear it when he was visiting my family on the east coast — it still needs washing and blocking — but it’s so gorgeous that I felt compelled to lead off with it anyway. The pattern is Deliah by Bobbi Padgett, and the yarn is Alpenglow Sporty Rambo (rambouillet wool) in the colorway “Deep Space Blue.” I hope to do another photoshoot once it’s washed and blocked!

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These here are Mysterious Mittens made for my dad, who is allergic to wool — so they’re knit in Wendy Peter Pan DK New Soft Blend, a pretty decent acrylic. He requested “lightweight mittens,” so this DK-weight pattern seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I also figured this pattern in this color would match the Koolhaas Hat I knit my dad a few Christmases ago!

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This is a 3AM Cable Hat knit for my brother to match the Palindrome Scarf I knit him last year. Both are knit in Classic Elite Portland Tweed, in colorway “Folkestone”– this is literally made of the leftovers from last year’s scarf. I finished that scarf on the 23rd, so I didn’t have time to knit the hat last year! Both these patterns are riffs on the classic “Irish Hiking Scarf” pattern, but the Palindrome Scarf is reversible (it was my first experience with reversible cables), and the 3AM Cable Hat is, well, a hat. There are several “Irish Hiking Hats” out there, but after careful scrutiny I decided this pattern was the best of the lot.

And last but not least — as in, it took me much longer than my dad’s and brother’s gifts combined — an Issey Scarf for my mom:

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Pat and I had hoped to get modeled shots of it on me before he left, but we didn’t have time — it really looks fabulous on a person; it’s so wide and squishy and luscious. It’s my first Olga Buraya-Kefelian pattern, though I’ve been a fan of her innovative designs for awhile. This is knit from the leftover Madelinetosh Pashmina in “Composition Book Grey” (which is quite purple!) from my Leaving Cardigan. I knit this on size 4s rather than 5s as the pattern specifies because it looked like the pleats were holding their shape better on 4s. I was a little worried, though, that the resulting scarf was too dense and stiff — until I blocked it, and it relaxed beautifully. I love this so much that I really might knit another one for myself despite how tedious the knitting is — I’ll have to keep my eyes open for more Pashmina!

You may have noticed that this site’s appearance has slightly changed — I “upgraded” it to a newer version of the WordPress theme I had been using. I basically like the new look better, but one thing that’s weird about it is that all parts of it, including the pictures, look washed out until you mouse over them. It’s apparently supposed to look like things are “rising out of the mist,” but it’s not great for a photo-oriented blog. Bleh. Anyway, please do mouse over the pictures to see them at their full saturation!

I have more to share with you, but I’m going to wait until next time to show you what I’ve been working on since the holidays. Cheers!