Persisting in Error

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This was not the right yarn for this project. A sweater whose main design feature is dramatic lace sleeves should really not be knit in a fine, fuzzy alpaca that will obscure the intricacy of the lace, nor should it be knit in a shade so dark that it makes the lace difficult to see at all except in bright direct sunlight as above. But I was so excited to learn that, yardage-wise, I could make Poema by Vera Sanon in just three skeins of Yarn and Soul’s “Superfine 400” 100% alpaca yarn that I went for it anyway.

The result is a perfectly fine, normal-looking pullover in a color I like (see how it matches my sunglasses!) that occasionally, in the right lighting, will be noticed for its stunning sleeves.

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Note how in this picture you can’t even tell they’re there. By the way, the pattern asks you to knit the non-lace part of the sleeves in reverse stockinette, but I knit them in regular stockinette because that just seemed crazypants to me. I guess it’s to make the lace stand out more? By making your sleeves weirder on the whole and therefore more noticeable?

Let me talk about what I do really like about this sweater: its neckline. When you are knitting it, you will be worried about how huge and floppy the neck area seems. But once you go through the horrible and labor-intensive process of picking up stitches & knitting the welt edge of the neckline, then knitting the ribbed neck trim, you will end up with a very neat, stable, perfectly-shaped neck-hole:

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Also, despite my knee-jerk instinct to wet-block everything, I followed everybody’s advice on the internet to only steam-block this because alpaca is very fragile when wet, and it came out just fine.

So all in all, I do count this in the “win” column because it’s very much a wearable everyday garment, but I really would recommend that you use a springier, more defined yarn such as the Madelinetosh DK that the pattern calls for.

Off the Naughty List

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Once upon a time, I knit most of a sweater. I had some trouble with the sleeves, and I put it down. It languished for years on what I assumed was the naughty list, but a few months ago when I picked it up and looked at my notes, I could find…… nothing wrong. Just the body (complete), one complete and seemingly fine sleeve, and most of another sleeve. All it needed was literally one more row on the last sleeve, and the yoke. (For you non-knitters here from Facebook, a sweater’s “yoke” is the shoulder part that connects the sleeves to the body.)

Stunned, I cast my mind back, and finally recalled that though I had had to re-do one of the sleeves for some reason, I had not, in fact, ragequit the sweater. I’d just stopped because my brother’s wedding was coming up, and I needed to spend 100% of my knitting time on his wedding blanket, a task that ended up taking nearly a year but was totally worth it. (Click through if you haven’t seen that lately; it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve made!)

When I was done with the blanket a year later, this sweater was a thing of the distant past. The sleeve problem loomed in my mind, even though (apparently) it had actually been solved. So I moved on to other projects, and this sweater continued to languish. But this past December, I picked it up again and realized that it really only needed ~10 hours more knitting, and I would have an entire brand new beautiful sweater! Ta da!

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The pattern is Lavandula by Triona Murphy for Twist Collective, and I did make some modifications. I noticed from looking around on Ravelry that one surefire way this thing could turn into a disaster was for the lace pattern to not fully cover one’s boobs & the body ribbing to start halfway up them. Since I have a long torso as well as some, ah, blessings in the boob department, I added two repeats of the lace pattern to what the pattern called for before I began the neck & shoulder shaping. (That’s 4 total repeats of the lace pattern before the shaping, despite the fact that I was in the size range that called for only 2.) In retrospect, I could have cut a couple inches from the ribbing part to avoid ending up with such a very long cardigan, but I don’t think it’s so long as to be weird, and my boobs are fully covered in lace, so MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

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This boob-zoom is brought to you not merely by my desire for you to behold my ability to alter a pattern to fit my body, but also these rose buttons, which I think are SO PERFECT for this cardigan. (From Jo-Anne’s!) I did add more buttons more frequently than the pattern called for, to avoid bust-gapping. (There are 8 total buttons, with I think 10 rows between them, and no button at the very bottom.)

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By now you may be noticing the cuffed sleeves. This is because I wet-blocked this sweater, and I forgot that wet-blocking causes superwash yarn to grow. The sleeves were knit bottom-up, though, so I wasn’t able to just unravel them shorter. I tried, believe me, and it was a nightmare and I eventually cut my losses and decided to cuff them.

The yarn is Tosh DK from Madelinetosh in the “Tart” colorway, a gorgeous deep red yarn with a bit of black in it. I bought it from Imagiknit in San Francisco, which is basically Disneyland as far as I’m concerned. The salespeople there insisted on getting down all their skeins of Tart and unfolding them and helping me choose skeins that really matched, that had a similar amount of black in them. Bless them. I did not alternate skeins in this project, and the color is very even. Behold the yoke:

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Here’s one last shot for you, which I insisted on taking because let’s face it; this is not not a sexy librarian sweater:

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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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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!

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River Crossing

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!