Archive for the 'sweater' Category


A knitting disaster

It figures, of course, that as soon as I publicly announce that a knitting project is on the verge of completion, something goes horribly wrong. I finished the second sleeve that same day and set out to seam the whole thing together. “I’m nearly done with this!” I thought. “I’ll actually get to wear this sweater this winter!” And then the gods who like to tamper with the lives of knitters decided to strike me down for my hubris.

p1149045sweater.jpgSee how big the armhole is here? See how narrow the sleeve is? No amount of tugging or fudging will make the two line up.

How did this happen? Well, I started this sweater three years ago. I didn’t use the yarn the pattern called for (it’s from the first Yarn Girls book—and all of their patterns call for outrageously expensive boutique yarns that result in $200 sweaters) but I thought I had the gauge right. Apparently I didn’t.

I also didn’t keep good notes (or any notes, actually) about what measurements I was aiming for or what changes I’d made to the pattern. And I also didn’t check my knitting as I went along, blindly assuming that everything would fit together just right.

My friend Katie happened to stop by as I surveyed the disaster, and she and my husband both endeavored to convince me that the sweater is salvageable. But even if I rip back to the bottom of the armhole and reknit from there, the body of the sweater will still be far too wide for me. I want something that’s good for layering, not for disappearing in.

So I’m going to frog the whole thing. Honestly, though, I’m not terribly heartbroken about it. I’ve learned a lot about knitting in the past three years, and I think I can make a much better sweater now. Also, this is bulky yarn knit up on 10.5 needles, so it won’t take too terribly long to knit up again.

Now I just have to decide what to knit with all this yarn. (And I have another two skeins of this stuff beyond the five or so I used for the sweater.) Suggestions, anyone?


How I spent my summer vacation

p8146263.jpgI bought the yarn for a Wonderful Wallaby for Sylvia several months ago. In late spring I started one sleeve but, about a third of the way up, decided I didn’t like how it looked, so I frogged it and turned my attention to other projects. I brought the yarn with me to Vermont and managed to finish the whole thing in just over a week (thanks to Gina, who lent me her size 8 Denise needles after I realized I’d left mine at home). It was done just in time, too: the day after I finished it, cooler weather moved in, so Sylvia got to wear it right away. Fortunately, she loves her new sweater–she’s particularly fond of the kangaroo pocket in the front, which she filled with rocks, leaves, and sticks during this hike.

p8146266.jpgI really enjoyed knitting this sweater. The yarn I used (Rowan All-Seasons Cotton, in Native) is a delight to work with–I want to make something for myself with this stuff!–and the pattern is very well written. The section on picking up stitches to start the pouch wasn’t completely clear to me at first, but luckily for me my friend Beth (who has knit several Wallabies herself) was around to help me figure it out. I made a few changes to the pattern: I increased the below-pocket length by an inch; I eliminated the ribbing on the bottom hem (I don’t like tops that bind at the waist…it’s been years, I think, since I last tucked in a shirt, and that was probably for a job interview) and used a simple rolled stockinette edge instead; and after increasing the hood a few stitches on the second row (as called for), I also increased by several stitches on the third row, creating a fuller hood.

The Wallaby is a nearly seamless sweater. You have to graft (Kitchener stitch) the top of the hood (which is knit flat) and the armpits. I had a little trouble with that, as the last stitch in each of those rows all ended up large and loose. Hmmm. Also, the bottom-center of the placket stretched out a bit (you can see it in the first photo). I suspect this is partly because I knit a size 4T sweater, which is a bit large for Sylvia (who’s just 27 months), so it hangs from her shoulders a bit. But Beth tells me this is a problem she’s seen, too, and isn’t sure if it’s avoidable. I’ll have to do some poking around to find a solution for this before I knit another one.

Yarn: Rowan All-Seasons Cotton, 6.25 skeins
Color: Native
Needles: #6 DPN and 24″ circular, #8 DPN and 24″ circular
Size: 4T
Start: 5 August 2007
Finish: 13 August 2007



I am very very fortunate to be part of a local knitting group. It’s been around for years (ten? fifteen?–long before I moved here or even started knitting), and I joined about a year and a half ago at the urging of two friends who are fellow knitters and parents of some of the kids in Sylvia’s playgroup. At the time, the group meet monthly at a local community center. Since then, we’ve decided that we like to knit together so much that we’ve added a monthly meeting at a local coffee shop and impromptu meetings at a bookstore. These “impromptu” meetings generally take place during a week when we’re not at the community center or the coffee shop. In short, we’re meeting pretty much every week. I love these evening get-togethers–partly as a chance to spend some time with grownups, partly as a chance to let my husband have some time on his own with our daughter (post-dinner playtime and bedtime), and partly because all of those women know a heck of a lot more about knitting than I do, and I get to learn a lot from them.

img_0001.jpgI’ve decided to knit a sweater for myself. It’s a wrap cardigan called Damson Wine that uses Rowan Kid Classic. I’m actually using the called-for yarn for this, though in a dark green rather than the original purple. I thought about throwing caution to the wind and just plowing right ahead, but since I don’t have the 7.5mm needles the (British) pattern calls for, I’m using the nearest equivalent, US11, which is just a smidge larger than the 10 7/8 the 7.5mm would be if they actually existed in U.S. sizes. My knitting is often a bit tight, so I figured the extra needle size would probably be a good thing.

With lots of help from my knitting pals to figure out exactly how many stitches to cast on, I knit a gauge swatch last night, using Jil Eaton’s technique of adding a few rows of garter stitch (I used four) at the top and bottom and three garter stitches on the left and right sides to create a tidy, easy-to-measure “box” of knitting in the middle. This pattern is a twelve-row knit pattern that uses 7.5mm needles on the odd rows and 5mm (US8) needles on the even rows. (Good thing I have Denise needles! I just put one of each size on either end of cable, and I’m good to go!)

This is not the ideal project to work on if you’re hanging out with a bunch of interesting people and aren’t familiar with this type of knitting. Let me just say this: I am a terrible multitasker. Truly awful. If my husband tries to talk to me while I’m addressing an envelope, I screw it up. If my little paladin is running across a wide-open space in the middle of the desert in (geek alert!) Tanaris, she has to stand still so I can type “Hello” to a friend who just logged on. And if I’m trying to knit a swatch with yarn-forwards and k2tog and skpo and all sorts of stuff like that–and different in every row–I cannot talk to anyone. (But I can listen to conversations, as long as they’re not the sort that expect a response from me. So maybe I have a teensy weensy bit of multitasking ability.) Fortunately, the gauge swatch didn’t take very long to do, so I was able to move on to a project that let me be a bit more social.

p8015774.jpgSo here it is, the gauge swatch in all its glory. As you can tell, it is unblocked. And after my friend Pat measured it about a dozen times to be sure, it still comes up about a quarter of an inch too short in each direction. So what to do? If I go up a needle size on the large needle, then I’m using a US13, which will surely be too large. If I go up a needle size on the small needle, then I’m using US9 and US11…and they might be so close in size that the big-small variation in the pattern gets lost. Pat’s advice: “Steam it, pin it to the measurements you want, then see how the yarn likes being stretched that way.” We’re both optimistic that blocking will do the trick–even just pulling the swatch by hand opened up the lace pattern nicely. I’ll keep my fingers crossed…


A trio of baby sweaters

p6185036sm.jpgWhat’s that hanging in the greenery? Those are three of the four baby sweaters I made for three friends having babies this summer. Interestingly, I purchased the yarn and chose the projects long before any of the babies’ sexes were know. As it turned out, all three babies are boys. How about that. The simple boatneck was finished first and went to Liza (whose baby was born in late May) a couple of weeks ago. I finally completed the other three sweaters last week. Two were given yesterday, and one is already wrapped up and will be delivered soon. So I’m afraid this less-than-perfect photo will have to suffice until I can get photos of the babies wearing their new duds (maybe next winter?).

p6185039sm.jpgThe vest goes to Megan (whose baby was born last week). Sylvia modeled it before I wrapped it, but I thought I’d post a photo of it all by itself. I hope to see the baby soon, and I really hope he and his parents like this little item. The rows of purl stitch really pop against the stockinette background, but the pattern isn’t so complicated that I have to consult a chart for each row.

p6185037sm.jpgThe other two sweaters are for my friend Minjoo (whose baby is due in mid-August; she’ll get them today at her baby shower). The terra-cotta-colored sweater is in KnitPicks Shine Worsted (like the sweaters I made for my other two friends), which has a very nice hand and yields a surprisingly substantial fabric. This is a pattern I developed myself (and will try to write up soon), with some inspiration from Debbie Bliss’s Simple Boatneck and the famous Wonderful Wallaby. I did have one big snafu while making it: because of its very small circumference, I had to knit the body on double-pointed needles (rather than circulars), and because everything was all sort of scrunched up on the needles, it was only when I go to the point where the neck placket opens up that I was able to stretch out the knitting on the needles a bit…and discovered that I’d been knitting the placket in the middle of the right sleeve. Sigh. That was easily (though time-consumingly) fixed, though, and I am very pleased with how it turned out!

p6225109sm.jpgHere’s a close-up of the neck and closure on the other sweater. This is the kimino sweater from Jil Eaton’s Minnies book. I chose Green Mountain Spinnery Cotton Comfort in Weathered Green for this one. I love the color. And I love the yarn–it is such a pleasure to work with. And I love that this yarn is from Vermont, where Jan and I got married with Minjoo as the maid of honor.


Pinwheel sweater

Last Sunday afternoon I decided I really wanted to knit a child-sized pinwheel sweater using the free pattern from Elann. I’d never made one of these before (though I’d seen a similar one, based on a Vogue Knitting pattern, worn by an adult friend), but I’d come across the pattern the day before and found myself possessed by an insane desire to knit one of these things immediately.

The pattern calls for Elann’s own worsted-weight 100% wool yarn. I’ve never used it before, but I did have several balls of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes worsted on hand. So I planned what I hoped would be an eye-pleasing combination of colors and cast on. A few hours later, I was already in the middle of the third “donut,” right at the spot where the first armhole is created. For some reason, the pattern tells you to start a new ball of yarn here. I couldn’t quite understand why, but I did it…and then once I had cast on stitches for the other side of the armhole, I realized that starting a new ball of yarn was completely unnecessary. So when I got to the second armhole, I just kept plugging along with the ball of yarn I was already using, and everything worked out just fine.

I did have some trouble with the crochet provisional cast-on, though. This was the first time I’d ever done one, and when I went to pick up the stiches for the sleeves later I found that I hadn’t cast on to the correct loops of the crochet chain. So instead of unzipping like the top stitching on a big bag of rice (anyone out there know what I’m talking about?), the yarn refused to budge. I had to remove each loop from the crochet chain separately. Fortunately, there were only eighteen loops, so this didn’t take very long.

This is a very interesting sweater. The child-sized version is supposed to fit someone as small as six months old to someone as large as four years old. My daughter, who’s modeling the sweater here (with some coaching from her dad, who helpfully shouted, “Now point to the stove and the refrigerator at the same time!” as I took the first photo), is two years old. You can see that the sleeves are rolled up a bit, so she’s got plenty of room. (And because the bottom two-thirds of each sleeve is done in k1p1 ribbing, it stays put when it’s rolled up–very helpful if you want to put it on a short-armed baby.)

The sweater has eight sections, and the sleeves are separated by two sections one way and by four sections another. (This layout is very visible in the third photo here.) So, depending on how the sweater is put on, you get either a long sweater with a short collar (the first photo) or a short sweater with a long collar (the second photo) that could even be used as a hood for a small baby. In both orientations, the sweater kept sliding off of Sylvia’s shoulders–especially in the long-collar-short-sweater direction. (Note that this sweater has not been blocked. I guess it’s possible that blocking might help with this problem.) So I’m thinking about putting some I-cord ties or maybe even some sort of button in the front. If I stick a closure right in the middle, across from the armholes, it should line up properly when the sweater is worn in either direction.

This sweater was a pretty fast knit in #9 needles (#8 for the ribbing on the sleeves). I started it on a Sunday afternoon and was finished (including weaving in the ends!) the following Saturday evening. It also didn’t use much yarn: I used less than one skein each of the red, blue, and white and just under two skeins of the gray. Wool of the Andes is $1.99 per skein, so this sweater cost under ten bucks to make (and there’s still plenty of red, blue, and white to knit a donut of each in another sweater!). (I should point out, though, that I decided to omit the funky I-cord loop edging that the pattern calls for. I seems like the sort of thing a toddler would get caught on everything and end up pulling on the sweater.)

At the end of the photo shoot, once Sylvia had finished identifying all the major appliances in my kitchen, I spread out the sweater on the floor for one last photo. Sylvia rushed to get her own camera and lent me a hand!


A better boatneck

Three of my friends are pregnant. Babies are due to arrive in May, June, and August. Needless to say, the knitting projects that are occupying my time these days are of the baby-sized variety. Since I ordered the yarn for these projects, one of the three has learned (and announced) that she’s having a boy, but the other two babies will remain mysteries until they are born. I chose the same yarn for all three items: KnitPicks Shine Worsted (a machine-washable mostly cotton blend that handles and drapes beautifully) in the Terra Cotta color, which I think would look nice on any baby.

For my friend Liza (May), I decided to knit an old favorite that I’ve made several times before (including twice for my own daughter): the simple boatneck sweater from Baby Knits for Beginners, by Debbie Bliss. For the 6-9 month size (plus the gauge swatch), I ended up using well over three balls of yarn. I made a couple of modifications to the original pattern, including the use of the three-needle bindoff on the shoulders. (I am a huge, huge fan of this technique and use it all the time now. What a great way to get bombproof, neat, tidy, perfectly-lined-up shoulder seams!) Here’s what the sweater looked like about a month ago, right before the tendonitis really kicked in and I had to put it away for a while.

My wrist is feeling much much better, though, and the problem seems to have gone away (though I still wear the wrist splint during most of the day and all night, just to be cautious). For the past few days, I’ve felt mended enough to knit and even do some seaming. So I’ve finished putting together this sweater, and I am mighty pleased with the result. The other modification I made to the pattern was in how I attached the sleeves. Rather than knit the sleeves separately from the bottom up, then sew them into place, I picked up the stitches at the shoulders and knit the sleeves from the top down. This meant I had to reverse engineer the sleeve a bit, figuring out how do the decreases that are usually increases when coming from the other direction. Again, I ended up with a very sturdy, tidy seam.

One thing I really like about this pattern is the little bit of garter stitch at the hem and cuffs. This detail isn’t busy enough to distract from the sweater as whole (and probably doesn’t even get noticed most of the time), but it’s a nice little variation from the sea of stockinette stitch around it.

I did knit a gauge swatch, but the sweater seems a little big (this always happens to me, even when I dutifully check for gauge…). I’m not worried about it, though. It’s intended to fit a child who will be around five or six months old when the cool weather returns, and since Liza and her husband are both very tall people (and their first baby wasn’t tiny!), I suspect this baby will need all the extra sweater he or she can get!

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