A Tale of Two Sweaters

fullsizeoutput_1be3

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.

fullsizeoutput_1be1

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:

fullsizeoutput_1bdc

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.

fullsizeoutput_1bde.jpeg

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!

fullsizeoutput_1bdf

Emelie

Image 1We’ve covered the chuppah, so here is the sweater I knit for Amanda’s wedding. To be fair, I started it without having the wedding specifically in mind, but the general idea of this sweater was “neutral-colored thing to wear over summer dresses in the evening,” so I quickly realized it would work well for this occasion and motored to finish it in time. The pattern is Emelie and the yarn is Anne Hanson’s Breakfast Blend Fingering in “Oatmeal.” This was a case where the yarn was the inspiration for the project — Anne brought this yarn out in (I think) the early spring and I was desperate to knit with it, and it occurred to me that the “Oatmeal” colorway would be perfect for “neutral-colored thing to wear over summer dresses in the evening.” So I looked through my Ravelry queue, and Emelie seemed to fit the bill. I loved how customizable the pattern is, and the trim, tailored look of the whole thing.

ImageFoolishly we didn’t get any pictures of the sweater at the gorgeous wedding location, so you’ll have to settle for these beer-wielding reception pictures. I chose to knit the 11″ version of this sweater, going for a cropped look — it works great with dresses like this, but I have a little regret that I didn’t knit the 13″ length, which would have been more versatile. I’m going to have to decide how I feel about visible swaths of t-shirted midriff. But a bonus of knitting it at this length is that my whole third skein of yarn is untouched! So I think I’m going to knit a pair of Anne’s delicious Waffle Creams socks with the leftovers.

Aaand I’ll leave you with a grainy-but-amusing after-dark shot. ‘Til next time!

Image 2

Rainshine

IMG_5604 Knit from my own handspun yarn! This pattern is Rainshine by Boo Knits. I’ve had a couple of her lovely shawl designs in my queue for a few months now, but this is the first I’ve actually made. I don’t think I ever even showed you an in-progress shot of this, it knit up so fast! But I do like to include fiber-to-yarn shots in my posts about handspun items, so here’s the yarn when I was spinning it up: IMG_5245_2 Two ounces of a 50/50 merino/silk blend from the Sincere Sheep, purchased from the artisan herself at Vogue Knitting LA last fall. I spindle-spun 420 yards of laceweight yarn, and used a little more than 350 yards of it in this shawl.

IMG_5608

I did the extra rows for the “more dramatic” edging that the pattern offers as an option, but I didn’t use beads and I didn’t do the crochet bindoff, because without a bead to weigh down the middle of that 10-chain point, I thought it might lose its shape and become a loop instead of a point over time. Also, the crochet bindoff was going to be a huge pain in the ass.

IMG_5607

Overall, I’m very happy with this piece. I think it’s a good match of pattern to yarn; I wanted something for this lavender color that was going to be sort of wispy and ethereal, and this pattern fits the bill!

Here’s what else I have going:

IMG_5624This is actually much bigger now, but I didn’t feel like shooting it again — I thought I was going to make this post two weeks ago before I went on vacation, but it didn’t happen! This is the beginning of a Laminaria shawl that I’m knitting according to Xavi’s mods in order to leave out the star chart and start straight in with the blossom chart. I made one of these the regular way back in 2009, and I love it but it’s very big, very wooly, and very gray, so I don’t actually wear it all that often. The yarn I’m using this time is Serenity Silk + from Zen Yarn Garden and it’s lovely. The picture here makes it look both more uniform and more blue than it actually is — it’s really a shifting blue-green that I hope Pat & I can capture when we shoot the finished object!

I’ve also been working on a little summer cardigan of a type I’ve been needing for awhile:

IMG_5637And as you can see, I’ve made a lot of progress! (This came on vacation with me, too; also it’s just been a long time since I’ve written a post.) It’s an Emelie cardigan; the pattern is by Elin Berglund. The yarn, which I’m totally in love with, is Anne Hanson’s new Breakfast Blend Fingering in the “Oatmeal” colorway. I’d been needing a little cardigan in a neutral color to wear over pastels etc in the warm weather, and as soon as this yarn came out I knew it would be perfect. As great as it would have been to pair Anne’s yarn with one of her own patterns, I also knew that Emelie, with its cropped length option and its 3/4 sleeves and its lack of seaming, was the sweater I wanted to knit with it. And I can’t say enough good things about this yarn — it’s soft, but with a good firm hand that makes you have real confidence in the shape and longevity of the finished sweater.

I promise it won’t be such a long stretch between posts next time. I’ve actually just gotten started on an exciting “vintage” project with some yarn my mom found in her basement, but I’m going to wait until next time (when I’ve made a little more progress) to tell you about it!

River Crossing

IMG_5518_2

If you’re wondering how I managed to finish two sweaters in two weeks, don’t worry — I didn’t. I started this one last fall, then shelved it in favor of Christmas knitting, then I wanted to knit my heavier-weight Acer Cardigan first so I could get some wear out of it in the chilly early months of spring. All I head left on this one was the sleeves and the collar, which is what I finished over the past two weeks!

IMG_5501_2

This is River Crossing, from Cecily Glowik MacDonald’s lovely book Winged Knits, knit in Hazel Knits Piquant Lite in the Nickel colorway. I honestly would not recommend knitting this pattern using this particular yarn, as it’s a bit too thin, but I was dead set on marrying this color with this sweater and I’m pretty satisfied with the results.

IMG_5496_2

I was able to get gauge with the thin yarn — on the recommended needles, no less! — but the fabric is quite open and prone to stretching, and the texture around the collar doesn’t pop like it could. A plumper fingering weight yarn would make a sturdier fabric and make the whole piece tidier.

IMG_5499_2

Even with these issues, I’m happy with the finished garment — it’s a good basic sweater, and something I already find myself reaching for regularly. My only complaint about the pattern itself is that the yardage estimate seems way off — in the size I knit (36 3/4″), 1180 yards were called for and I only used 880! That means I have a lot of this pretty gray yarn left, and I’m thinking about using it as the base color in a scarf or shawl that’s striped with lots of leftovers from other sock and shawl projects. Hooray for stashbusting!

Acer Cardigan

IMG_5458_2

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:

IMG_5470_2

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:

IMG_5461_2

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.

IMG_5465_2

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

IMG_5415_2

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:

IMG_5407_2

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:

IMG_5410_2

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

IMG_5395_2

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:

IMG_5289

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:

IMG_5380_2

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:

IMG_5390_2

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:

IMG_5402_2

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!