Knitting in the Fall: Bedford Redux

Bedford2.3
Bedford

Pattern:   Bedford by Michele Wang, from Brooklyn Tweed Fall 2011

Yarn:  About 10 years ago I went to a wool market and got sucked into buying this hand-dyed silk and kid mohair yarn. The yarn was absolutely gorgeous, and I had visions of knitting something luxuriously fabulous with it.  It didn’t matter at the time that I really dislike mohair.  I really thought if I had just the right project, I would LOVE mohair.  It never happened.  The yarn became three different sweaters, and this is the fourth and final incarnation, because of course mohair should not be frogged, ever, let alone three times.

Modifications:  This is the second version of Bedford; I didn’t wear the first version  because while there wasn’t anything wrong with it, it was just a tad too thin to wear a shirt underneath.  And at some point I needed the yarn for a new version of Bryn Mawr dress . . . .  For this Bedford, I knitted the raglan two stitches wide instead of four, made the body longer and the sleeves shorter.

Thoughts:  For such a detailed (over-written, as I think BT patterns tend to be), the directions for the neck shaping doesn’t work.  It is a good thing that I haven’t followed neck or sleeve instructions — for ANY pattern — for at least a couple of decades, mainly because I am a small woman and I routinely modify patterns to suit my dimensions and preferences.  But back to the instructions:  Michele Wang really should have done a better editing job with the directions for neck shaping.  Her buyers, and Brooklyn Tweed  fans in general, deserve better.

As for the finished sweater . . . .  I don’t love variegated yarn, I don’t love mohair, so I am pretty sure I will not be wearing this top much.  On the other hand, I do like how the sleeves turned out:  even though I also don’t like reverse stocking stitch in general, the purl fabric works well for this variegated yarn.  Maybe some day, someone will see me wearing this sweater and love it so much that I will just give it to her!

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Knitting in the Fall: Svalbard Redux

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Svalbard
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Svalbard

Pattern:   Svalbard, by Bristol Ivy, from Brooklyn Tweed Wool People 6.

Yarn:  Laramie, a hand-dyed merino wool in worsted weight from Mountain Meadow Wool (Buffalo, Wyoming), in color Prairie.  The yarn is rustic but soft, in a color that is outside my comfort zone — but the ladies at the yarn shop convinced me that it goes with my complexion . . . .

Modifications:  I knitted this cardigan a few years ago but never liked the Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool yarn: it had almost no memory and was unaccountably itchy around the neck.  Svalbard 1 became one of the few sweaters I never frogged, and I gave it away without regret.  But I liked the pattern itself, hence Svalbard 2.  The only modifications I made were shorter sleeves.

Thoughts:  It was a fun knit four years ago, and it was a fun knit this time around.  I like this version much better, I even like the colour!  It is a big long on me, but now that I am solidly middle-aged, coverage is a good thing.

Knitting in the Fall: Stonecutter


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Stonecutter

Stonecutter3

Pattern:  Stonecutter by Michele Wang, from BT Fall 2013.

Yarn:  Merino wool/silk/cashmere blend yarn from Lambspun.  I recycled the yarn from a cardigan I knitted for Mom about 10 years ago.  Green was her favorite color, and though she loved the cardigan, she didn’t wear it much because she thought it too nice for everyday wear.  I found it neatly stored away in her closet, brought it home, took it apart, and waited for inspiration to strike.

Modifications:  I made it pretty much according to pattern but with usual adjustments for length of sleeves.  The sweater grew with blocking, but I don’t mind the extra room.

Thoughts:  I like Michele Wang’s patterns; she does interesting designs that are aesthetically pleasing and fun to knit.  Having said that, today’s knitters seem to expect over-written patterns, and this one is no exception.  I continue to be surprised by 16 pages of instruction:  does anyone really need 4 paragraphs on how to wash and block knitting?

On to specifics:  I also continue to be surprised by many knitters’ enthusiasm for the tubular cast on, particularly the perception that the tubular cast on gives a sweater a more “professional” finish.  I have not seen too many hand-knit sweaters where the tubular cast on looked truly polished, and the model for this pattern is NOT one of them.  The cast on looks very bulbous to me and does not flow into the ribbing.  Obviously, the cast on is a design choice, and I prefer the traditional long-tail cast on for an edge that is flexible, clean, and does not draw attention to itself.

The designer also spent too much bandwidth on the selvedge:  I personally do not find the “wrapped chain stitch selvedge” particularly neat or structured.  In my experience, careful sewing together of edges can correct pretty much any minor imperfections in the knitted flat pieces.  This is another area, as with the cast on, that knitters should be able to figure out on their own.

Finally, I must comment on the Elizabeth Zimmerman “sewn bind off” recommended by Michele Wang.  Clearly I did not use this method:  it is fiddly, and for this particular neckline, unwarranted.  The usual bind off gives a neat and flexible finish that disappears into the gentle roll of the reverse stockinette neckband.

I am not against designers having their personal preferences, but there are many knitters tackling these patterns who are not experienced, and who may think that because a designer says to do this or that, that these methods are in fact the best.  The best, of course, is whatever works and produces the result desired.

Knitting in the Winter: Rhapsody in Cables

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Rhapsody in Cables

Pattern:  Rhapsody in Cables, by Joji Locatelli.

Yarn:  Alice Starmore Scottish Fleet, in cream.  I have never worked with this yarn before, and it surprised me by how nicely it bloomed and softened with washing.

Modifications:  Scottish Fleet is a 5 ply gansey yarn, so I knew my gauge would be off.  I guesstimated the third size to get the fit I wanted.  I also wanted the sweater to be tunic length, so I added an extra band to the front bottom, a zigzag cable pattern that I think works well within the context of the over all design.  I also have a fear of cling, so I added some shaping stitches in the back to give the tunic a slight A-line.

Thoughts:  I love Joji Locatelli’s aesthetics.  Many designers try new approaches to sweater construction that are intriguing on paper and interesting to knit, but the end product frequently have zero wearability (I am thinking in particular of this bolero by Norah Gaughan).  This tunic has a very simple silhouette, and Joji Locatelli could have stuck to a fairly conventional construction method, but she chose to do something different — and it was a delightful knit.

Knitting: Dresses for the Winter

Wisteria2.2
Wisteria dress

Years ago, I knitted the Wisteria in its original sweater form: https://opiegp.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/wisteria/

It was beautiful, but the yarn I used was wrong for the project.  It was too soft, the sweater grew, and I never wore it.  I finally frogged it this past spring, and a couple of weeks ago I decided to reknit Wisteria as a dress.

Pattern:  Wisteria, by Kate Gilbert, from Twist Collective Fall 2008.

Yarn:  A DK weight merino/cashmere/silk yarn from Lambspun of Colorado.  This yarn has been a few projects and has held up beautifully over the years.

Modifications:  The pattern converts into a dress without fuss.  I added some bodice darts at the back to prevent “poofing” under the yoke, added darts in front and back (along with those at the sides) for smoother skirt increases, and shortened the sleeves to 3/4 length.

Thoughts:  The yarn was perfect for this project; it is light, and the dress conforms without clinging.

Bryn Mawr2.1
Bryn Mawr dress, version 2

I knitted my first Bryn Mawr dress also with the wrong sort of yarn: https://opiegp.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/knitting-for-the-fall-vortex-street-pullover-bryn-mawr-dress-halliard/

Again, the yarn was too soft, and the dress was incredibly clingy and picked up static like crazy.  But I loved the pattern, so I reknitted the sweater this past spring.

Pattern:  Bryn Mawr dress, by Alex Capshaw-Taylor, from Interweave Knits Fall 2013

Yarn:  Sport weight mule-spun Elsawool in undyed medium grey.  This is a cormo wool, and I love it as much (if not more) than merino wool.

Modifications:  I opened up the neckline, and did not bother with the skirt hem.  I knitted the sleeves on from the top using short rows to shape the caps.

Thoughts:  The pattern was as fun to knit this time around as last time.  More important, the dress fits well without cling, and the cables still show up even with the darker yarn.

Knitting for the Winter: Dickson Dress

I love the idea of a knitted skirt, but I don’t wear skirts: they don’t tend to sit in the correct place on my body, they creep up or down and end up everywhere except where they should be.  On the other hand, I have an ongoing love affair with knitted dresses, so when I see interesting patterns, whether for tops or cardigans or skirts, I turn them into dresses.  Hence, the Dickson Dress:

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Pattern:  Dickson, by the wonderful Norah Gaughan.

Yarn:  Lambspun of Colorado DK-weight merino/silk/cashmere blend yarn, in the colour “black platinum.”  At least I think that is the colour name.  I bought the yarn about 15 years ago, and until two years ago, it was a sweater coat.  I did not realize until I started working with the yarn that there were two distinct shades of black.  I know that is the nature of hand-dyed yarn, but nevertheless I was surprised because the owner of Lambspun has always been amazingly careful with her quality control, and I have never had problems with variations within each dye lot.  Anyway, when I frogged the coat I thought I had separated out the two shades, but I was wrong.

Modifications:  This is a top-down dress knitted in the round.  I improvised the V-necked bodice and did my usual knitted-on sleeves with short-row shaped caps.  I didn’t feel like “finishing” the neckline, but I did do two rows of single chain crochet at the back neck (in a pink yarn!) to prevent the dreaded stockinette roll.  The skirt portion is the actual Dickson pattern with not as many rows of ribbing at the top.

Thoughts:  Another winner from Norah Gaughan!  The problem with improvisation is that I never quite know what the garment will look like until I do the final blocking and get it on my body.  I like how the neckline turned out, but the sleeves, which were meant to have a bit of puff, looks a bit wide.  The skirt portion turned out great, pity about the line of color change.  Sigh.  But, I will wear it and I’m sure that shade change will be less obvious when the dress is in motion 🙂

Knitting for the Winter: Miss Marple

The television Miss Marple is my style icon; in particular, I love Geraldine McEwan’s version.  Her Miss Marple is just slightly off-kilter, with that bit of a mad gleam in her eyes.  And of course I love her goofy hats, and her genteel but well-worn 1930s clothes.  This knitted coat is one of my favorites, and I found the free pattern for it  here, courtesy of Bex at Subversive Femme.

Miss Marple.2

Pattern:  Swagger Coat by Corticelli, mid-1930s

Yarn:  Worsted weight merino/mohair blend yarn from Beaverslide Dry Goods, in the color chokecherry (I think).  I recyled this yarn from a pullover I knitted about 10 years ago.

Modifications:  This is actually the second version; I got through the entire first coat and realized I couldn’t live with the fit through the shoulders.  So …  I reknitted the whole thing with the following modifications:  I changed the 7-1 pattern repeat to 6-1 so the vertical “stripes” became thinner, which also compensated for the fatter yarn I used; I did some shaping to give the coat a slight A-line; I don’t like garter bands, so I used double seed stitch instead;  I also did not like the way the patch pockets looked, so I placed them lower and just knitted them on in the same direction as the body pattern.

Thoughts:  This was a very simple knit, and as such, the directions were very simple.  I just know that if this sweater were designed today, the directions would take up five pages instead of one and be excruciatingly detailed for no good reason, and the coat would have a stupid name attached to it.   There were errors in the original pattern, which did not surprise me, but the errors were really obvious so were easy to spot and easy to correct.

I think this is a very stylish coat.  I love the crossover tab closure, I love the big buttons, I love the functional pockets.  And of course, Miss Marple would instantly recognize this even if it is not quite the 1930s colour palette.