It is typical to find me in my closet of hand knits when I am looking for something to wear. This past week was no different. I pulled out my lovely tri-color tunic I finished about six months, ago. I thought it would be the perfect layer for the weather and proceeded. With a casual, happy feeling I put on this garment, looked into a mirror, and thought, “hey, what happened?” I felt like I was swimming in it. Did you ever notice that when something doesn’t fit the way you want, it becomes highly distracting? I was uncomfortable to the point that I changed out of it knowing I needed to do some adjusting.
For a project that pretty much flew off the needles, it is interesting that I have so much to say about it. I have lots to say not due to any pattern issue or yarn dissatisfaction, but rather the changes I made in how I constructed it. From long tail cast on to sewing on the seam binding along the back neck, I feel these changes led to its success and will lead to the garment’s longevity.
I want to capture, in writing, some of my thoughts from this last week when I was invited to speak to the Buffalo Knitting Guild’s Membership and be the first of its programming for the 2016/2017 season. The talk was advertised as such:
SEPTEMBER 8, 2016 HOW DOES YOUR KNITTING GROW?
Presented by Marja Coons-Torn, Holly Olmstead
Our Guild President and Vice President introduce the theme “Grow” for this year’s Knitting Guild Season with a program to help you grow your skills through photography and technology. We’ll learn tonight how to photograph our knits beautifully and stylishly, just like the top designers do! And we’ll go on an interactive journey into new technology that the Guild will be incorporating this season.
As Grandmother, I was recently invited to the DC area to babysit grandchildren while very intent parents set up house for their temporary move. (no photos because I never knew how to take care of young ones and be a photographer at the same time)
“If only the sleeves were longer.” “If only the neck was loser.” “I wish I had shaped the side seams.” “If only” or “I wish” thoughts are prevalent in the world of hand knitting. They are phrases I very much want to avoid, of course, as they create your beautiful handiwork to have a lot of shelf time and I knit to wear my garments. Unfortunately, they are phrases that all knitters have had at one time or another including me when expectation and reality do not meet and to me, the talented knitter is not one who knits but is one who knows how to avoid or solve their “if only” moments. Also, one who actually wears their knits if that is indeed the knitter’s purpose for knitting. I believe I am in the midst of such a situation, admitting it, and coming to terms with it. I may have an idea you may want to borrow if you have an “if only” issue that is similar. Here goes:
First and foremost in choosing a project, that project must be wearable in my lifestyle and go with the existing pieces I have in my wardrobe. Of course, I am always looking at new trends in fashion, as I would like to think that even in retirement, I can continue on this quest of always looking fashion-forward. But, what I have realized is that not all the pieces I intended on knitting are appropriate to wear in retirement and that I need to tweak my intentions for better purpose once knitted. In an effort to get my yarn and pattern stash aligned to my lifestyle of retirement, I’ve had to do some reconsidering of patterns and re-shifting of yarns. This has encouraged me to catalog remnants into their respective weights. The more I play with my yarn, the more ideas I am getting and the more possibilities I seem to muster. While this is exciting and certainly mindful of utilizing all of the materials I have here at home, I continuously need to remind myself to have patience and that I will eventually be able to act on many of these ideas.
This process has me researching in places I didn’t even know patterns existed. Such places as VogueKnitting.com > free pattern tab or LionBrand.com > free patterns. Maybe, most yarn companies with websites have free pattern availability. A function on Ravelry that has become most helpful is the pattern tab and its settings on the left-hand margin with specific criteria, being able to drill down to what you are looking for thus making pattern research more expedient. Also, the function on Ravelry called queue has never been as helpful to me as it is right now as I can keep my pattern ideas listed there so as not to forget. Well, one thing led to another and pretty much this is how I found ‘Trench Coat’ by Wilma Peers, a pattern from Vogue Knitting’s online pattern store. Not a free pattern, but on sale. I literally paid pennies.
I am drawn to the unexpected when knitting. Or the juxtaposition of opposites which oftentimes leads to the unexpected. For example a cardigan that can be flipped upside down or right side up or glamorous yarn knitted into a hoodie, or pleats in super bulky weight yarn. When I think of a trench coat, I think of rain or wind and in a twill type of fabric. So, the fact that this pattern was suggesting knitting a Trench Coat was highly interesting to me. Hmm. . . I thought. A trench coat for blue skies! Complete with lapels and pocket flaps and what appeared to be a beautiful contrast edging, I had to go for it.
Then I noticed the suggested yarn. Acrylic. 100% acrylic. Oh, boy my mind began racing with all the thoughts of what could go wrong with this project in this yarn. On the other hand, being so inexpensive I thought I would give it a try and when all fails, simply start over with yarn I knew more about.
So, I began and learned the half linen stitch. This half linen stitch, formed with slip stitches and yarn carried on the outside of the work, creates a woven looking fabric. Being of bulky weight (by title only as the yarn itself is as light as a feather), knitting the pieces really just motored along. No button holes, no pockets (what you see are just flaps added on at the end), this was really a breeze to knit. 5 pattern pieces (back, 2 fronts, 2 sleeves, and the collar which is picked up from the neck and knitted) and it was time for my favorite part of any project, the finishing touches. Bands were fairly easy to knit up the front however I had to readjust the number of stitches I picked up (way less than what was called). And, for some unknown reason, the side seams were not cooperating as I felt they should. A minor bit of blocking helped that matter and truthfully I was surprised acrylic even responded to blocking. The collar edging as well as the flap edging was downright fun to do. One has to pick up the stitches neatly as when the lapel is wide open flips to the front with the raw edge to the outside.
Well, I kept waiting for epic fail of this project. I got to the end and to my surprise, I have what I think, is a beautiful, trendy trench that can easily be worn with today’s shapes underneath.
So, my stash is well bundled now. The ‘new’ yarns for projects continue in waiting and the scraps, which I prefer to call remnants, are bundled according to weight. I can easily pull out the same-weight remnants and mix and match to my heart’s content. This also helps me to get my creative juices flowing as somehow when I pair colors together, ideas come forth. The project that this post is about has come into existence in exactly this manner.
When I purchase yarn for a project I always purchase at least one extra skein. Many times I cut into that skein as my gauge rarely matches the gauge of the knitter who actually knitted the garment photographed in print. If there is little yardage on a particular skein, I have been known to purchase more than one extra skein. If the yarn is on sale, I have been known to buy out a particular color. In doing this, that means there is typically extra yarn after a project has been knitted. I LIKE that as then, without further yarn purchase, I can go and “play” with these remnants.
I chose to dabble with the remnants of the bulky weights that are in my stash. By holding colors together, these three surfaced as cohesive in my eye. They remind me very much of colors of a sunrise or sunset that we, hubby and I often see and appreciate. The yarn came from these three projects:
Fair-isle collared jacket (The collar was knitted from fingering weight remnants.)
Elephant Cardigan Each of the project links will take you to the patterns.
The red is Zealana Artisan Tui, the yellow is a Debbie Bliss chunky luxury, and the deeper blue gray color of the elephant cardigan is Rowan’s Colourspun. Now, to add to the mix of deciding fibers, weight and content, there is always the possibility of going into another weight of yarn and holding it double. When the Colorspun is held double, it worked perfectly as a bulky weight and was just the right shade for that sunrise/sunset appeal. Many trials, a bunch of swatches, and research of a pattern that would be exciting to me, (fashion forward, unique, and wearable with my current lifestyle AND mix and match with existing wardrobe), I finally came to this. Perfect, I thought. With an understanding of construction, planning ahead,
I knew I had enough of each remnant to pull this off. The pattern above is actually knitted in Zealana’s Tui.
Mari Lynn Patrick is the designer of this fabulous Topper, pattern can be found in Vogue Knitting Fall 2011. I am such a fan of Mari Lynn and have knitted many of her designs. (At the bottom of this post is a gallery of my work with her patterns.) This pattern has quite the unique construction and sports an inside-out appeal. The wrong side of the knit is face up, side seams are sewn with mattress stitch on the inside leaving the seam exposed on the outside. Rolled hems on all edges, hem, sleeve, and neckline add interesting details, as well.
I especially like that the grey is around my neck and at the pockets as it is amazingly soft and scrumptious. Plus, I am reminded of the effort (and love) that went into the elephant cardigan for my husband.
We waited for a sunny day to show off the beauty of the yellow. And, the temperature was perfect for this outfit. Can’t you just imagine the sun setting in the background in these beautiful colors?
Here are other Mari Lynn Patrick designs that I have worked up in recent years. Putting together a collection from one designer, a knitter can see details that perhaps were inspirational in choosing that particular pattern. Perhaps a designer can capture his/her imagination and collect elements that are thought-provoking and possible to create in another original way. As the owner of this existing hand knit collection, the color palate rings of similarity. I had not realized that. Am I drawn to these particular shades? It leaves me pondering and isn’t that what creativity is all about?
If you were to read the notes of knitters who have tackled this project, Fretwork designed by Shiri Mor, you would be struck by a few common strands of thinking. The first common thread is one of curiosity over the sweater’s construction. I was no different. In viewing the pattern, you can see how initially it looks like a cabled sweater but then looking more closely you see detached cords that are woven so of course, curiosity sets in as you wonder how in the world does one knit that?
And, then the conversations take a turn to the fit of this garment. Some say to knit a size with “negative ease” while others suggested knitting a size larger. Others were frankly honest about their end product not fitting at all. Well, I do not know what negative ease is and I can’t take a chance on randomly knitting a size up. Why would you not knit your size? What I mostly made of these comments was that it was of utmost importance to pay particular attention to the finished size of this garment and that how it fit was quite relevant to the happiness in the end. The pattern did say “close fitting”, so that was the start point for me.
I set my mind into motion wondering what the designer’s concept of close fitting was (everyone has a different idea) and how close fitting did I want mine? I know from experience that if a garment is in any way pulling or hugging tightly to my body, I will not wear it. On the other hand, if the measurement is too loose fitting, will the woven cords droop? I did consider dropping the idea of knitting this altogether as another aspect of this project, a basic crewneck, is not a shape I prefer for my body type and truthfully is not exciting enough for me to pour my energies into. However, there was this knitting/weaving combo thing and we go back to the inquisitive nature of knitters.
In the meantime, I just happened to purchase a book entitled Good Measure, Knit a Perfect Fit Every Time by Deborah Newton.
I am very much a fan of hers, her patterns and techniques are specific and thoughtful and this book is as comprehensive regarding construction, fit, and design of a garment as her other books have been on their topics. Wow, perfect timing I thought. And, there it was, pg. 51, a definition for close-fit: “a close-fitting sweater can be slightly smaller, the same as, or up to 2 ” larger than the body measurements, depending on the thickness of the fabric and the elasticity of the pattern stitch. A close-fitting sweater often has shaping to conform to the body’s dimensions, but does not cling.” OK, now I have something to work with and immediately I knew the size I wanted mine. And, of course the size I wanted was not one that was written in the pattern.
Not all is lost when you know about gauge. I know that this is always a sure fire way to get the size garment you want. ok, I noticed the front and back were pieced or constructed in 3 parts, 2 sides and the center panel. So, I began knitting a side panel with the recommended needle size to work up a swatch. I knitted quite a ways up as I’ve learned a more accurate gauge can be gotten with a larger swatch. I might have learned that from Deborah Newton, as well. Also, it gave me practice in cord weaving. According to the schematic, my swatch measured no where near even the smallest size! It measured much, much smaller or narrower. Oddly so. So, narrow was my swatch that I changed to the next larger needle and cast on the number of stitches for the medium or the 41″ size given in the pattern. When I measured this second swatch, I noticed I was getting gauge for the smallest size or the size 34″. ok, I thought . . . getting closer but I wanted 36″ (up to 2″ larger than body measurements and not clingy). What to do . . . So, I studied the pattern to see where the designer worked in the stitches for the larger sizes. I noticed that she increased the number of stitches on the side panels. So, I thought if I added 4 stitches or another grouping of 2k2p on each side panel, that when sewn together would give me the added 2 inches, 36″ from 34″, I wanted while keeping the design elements of the sweater in tact especially the lovely woven cables that edge the sides of the sweater. I love the way those woven cables just edge the set-in sleeve seam.
I knitted the entire garment making those changes. Imagine the size my sweater would have been if I had not taken the careful and necessary time to knit several gauges and figure that out!
Other than measuring and re-measuring along the way making sure my gauge was staying consistent and that I had not made a mathematical error, the knitting of this was not so bad at all. Process and Tips here! The shape, a basic crew neck, did not pose any further challenge.
I love the color, it fits exactly as planned, and will be a very practical comfortable addition to my wardrobe. I do need to work on finding a shirt that will stay in place underneath, however.
The photo shoot was at historic Chautauqua Institute. I wore walking shoes (this is the exact location I broke a bone in my foot a few years, back wearing non-walking shoes). I wanted to change into the heels that are in the bag I’m holding but hubby encouraged otherwise. And, while I’m talking shoe wear, can you believe I ran across these? I have not purchased them….. yet.
Recently, I met up with a dear friend, a Mom who was determined to find the just-right item to knit for her daughter. Where do you begin? Well, we chose to meet in a local yarn shop and chose to keep the project small. Keeping in mind the recipient’s tendencies towards tailored suits, the needed attire for her work, we looked for a cowl or scarf pattern that would compliment such an outfit. We perused a variety of pattern books as well as found samples of knitted garments, similar to what we had in mind. The samples were not necessarily of the patterns we were looking at but served well as inspiration and gave us a sense of weight and texture of the yarn used. When we came across this pattern, Checkered Cowl designed by Olga Buraya-Kefelian in the book Scarf Style 2, we stopped and thought how much we liked its features: the striping, the lacy effect, and the use of fingering weight. We thought this item would make a lovely gift.
I remembered having some fingering weight, Lorna’s Rose in my stash that had lost its intended purpose. I loved the pattern as much as my friend and thought it might be fun to knit one, too. It would be our own KAL (knit a-long), that is two people knitting the same thing with the intent of helping and encouraging one another. At a recent fiber fest, written about here, I purchased one skein of Hedgehog Fibres Sock in graphite for the second color.
Don’t be fooled by what seems simple!
I am always amazed at no matter how experienced you are or what size or skill level the project, there is always something new to learn:
Dropped stitches: You knit the scarf in two colors for the horizontal striping and then when finished knitting its length, you drop stitches (every 6th) to get the vertical striping. It immediately transforms from a plain striped scarf to the lacy appeal of this checkerboard. The stitch drops quickly and easily in the first 3 – 4 rows, but I had to ‘pick’ at the sides of the stitch to unravel it completely to the end. This actually took more time and diligence than expected. I used a blunt darning needle to do this so as to avoid splitting the yarn.
Carrying yarn: The carrying of the unused color up along the edge of the scarf was uncomfortable for me. I was taught that carried yarn ought only be carried in a horizontal direction, across the back of the knitted fabric, never carried up. However, this prevents weaving of many ends had the yarn been cut with each color change.
Kitchener stitch: This is the only seam and brings together the live stitches on the short ends. By doing so creates the loop of the cowl. Kitchener stitch, like all stitching, takes practice to match the tension of the knitting. It creates a beautiful weave where the seam virtually becomes part of the knitting.
Blocking: I chose to ignore the directions as written. I laid the piece flat side down, texture up while in a rectangle shape (before sewing it in a loop), on a damp towel, spraying lightly with water. I let it dry and then sewed it up. This allowed the beautiful texture to remain, unharmed.
I think the cowl is lovely and matches the weight of my balloon hem, zip up the front, tuck pocketed style rain coat. Whatever your aesthetic, this cowl seems to work!
In looking through the lens of a knitter, a schematic is a diagram of the fabric’s shape you are creating. A thorough schematic has measurements included in both horizontal and vertical directions, otherwise known as width and length at key ‘fit’ points of the garment. Those measurements on a schematic are typically posted in inches as well as centimeters. These measurements inform how the garment will ultimately fit in the eyes of the designer. Also, the schematic is meant to match the written directions of the pattern. The purpose of a schematic is to clarify those directions for the knitter. A schematic also serves well when one surfs knitting patterns. One look at a schematic immediately forecasts the shape of the garment. It is hard to believe that there continues to be patterns without these informative diagrams. I have been both challenged as well as successful in the making of a project due to the schematic of a pattern.
The schematics below are from five different projects of mine from the past few years. These schematics range from “WHAT! You’ve got to be kidding” to “WOW, I’m impressed!” Stop for a moment and see if you can see what is wrong or really great about each of these:
Problem: The measurements say centimeters, however along the hem, are in inches. Every measurement should be in BOTH inches and centimeters. This caused minor angst in the time it took to figure that out and, of course, some unit converting. The result is below.
Problem: No measurement for the circumference of the neckline. I was pretty happy with this schematic, although minimal in content, until I had difficulty with the stitch count around the neck. I could not pick up the number of stitches the pattern recommended. If there had been a measurement on the schematic, I could have used that measure to better understand how many stitches I should pick up in accordance with my gauge. I ended up guessing and hopefully the little cardigan will fit the baby comfortably.
Problem: No measurement for the armhole or shoulder or neckline or width of sleeve at hem. All of these measurements really matter. A garment too tight in the armholes will sit on the shelf in my wardrobe and not be worn. I solved this by knowing from past projects how wide I wanted my sleeve to be and knitted that sleeve width, accordingly. My experience solved the problem where the schematic fell short.
WOW is all I can say! This is the most thorough schematic I have ever seen! Almost overkill! The knitting of this project was smooth sailing.
This is also a very thorough schematic and is likely what has inspired me to write this blog post. In this case, the pattern’s directions did not match this diagram. Without the schematic and my ability to re-create a life size pattern, I would not have known how to proceed with the project. The schematic was the sole key to the fit and success of this project.
These hand knits actually are my wardrobe, as well as part of my heart and soul, as early as the point of yarn purchase. So, the expectation of success at the end is of the utmost.
In looking through the lens of a (potential) knitwear designer, I will remember the importance of a thorough and accurate schematic in the planning and writing of a pattern.
History Lesson One
The other review I wrote for the Knitting Guild of Greater Buffalo was about a presentation called Eleanor Roosevelt: History of Knitting given by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic local historian, Ann Colopy. The talk was mostly a biographical sketch of Eleanor Roosevelt, both her private life as well as her public persona. According to our speaker, Eleanor found great solace in knitting as therapy but also sought outreach programs in which to make her knitting meaningful and purposeful for someone. I believe the guild invited her to hear of A First Lady’s knitting needs, desires, influences, and aspirations but also the lecture and lecturer invited us to become reflective and consider our own practice, how our surroundings and/or time in life impacts our knitting.