Knitting for the Winter: St. Brigid

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St. Brigid tunic

Pattern:   St. Brigid by Alice Starmore, from the original 1997 edition.

Yarn:  Malabrigo, worsted weight, in “shocking pink.”  I bought a 10-pack from a fellow Raveler, hoarded it for close to a decade, and finally decided that St. Brigid was a worthy project.  Being kettle-dyed, there are colour variations that resulted in a band of darker pink across the lower chest.  Oh well.

Modifications:  The original pattern called for Alice Starmore’s Scottish Heather (a DK weight yarn) knitted up into a very generous 45 (or 48) inch pullover.  So, modifications included decreasing the number of cable patterns across to finish at around 38 inches, but the same number of vertical repeats because I wanted to make a tunic.  I didn’t use Chart A, but substituted 2 x 3 ribs at the sides of body and sleeves.  I think the ribs made for easier and neater increases and decreases.  The sleeves were meant to be 3/4, but stretched with blocking to wrist length.  I didn’t want the original collar (I think it is overwhelming), so I made the neck opening square, framed with simple 3 x 3 cables.  I made the body slightly A-line with increases “hidden” within the purl stitches between individual cables.  Finally, I knitted the tunic top-down in-the-round.

Thoughts:  My all-time favorite cable pattern!  She-whose-name-must-not-be-spoken is THE master.

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Knitting for the Spring: Gaia

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Gaia, version 2

Back in the days of print patterns, I used to collect knitting books.  I have original first editions of Alice Starmore books, including ones that have never gone back into print.  I did not realize how expensive those Starmore books were until I traded one for a couple thousand yards of her iconic Scottish Fleet yarn.  Anyway, in my knitting library I also had a couple of books by Jean Moss.  I remember buying Sculptured Knits because I loved the cover:

sculptured knits

This was back in 1999, and over the next few years I knitted (or rather, started) many patterns from the book, but never the Lautrec Bolero from the cover.  Gaia was one of three projects I managed to start AND finish, and I loved it.  I knitted it in a hand-spun undyed wool, and wore it for years before I decided I needed the yarn for something else.

About a month ago, as part of addressing the issue of overcrowding in my yarn cabinets, I found the Cable-Down Raglan by Stefanie Japel.  I must have knitted the pullover about 10 years ago, but I have no clear memory of this sweater.  Except for this one work, I can look at all my other projects and tell you about the pattern, the knitting process, the changes, and the yarn.  l don’t know what happened . . . .

Pattern:  Gaia, from Sculptured Knits: 48 Timely Designs Inspired by the Decorative Arts of the 20th Century.  

Yarn:  Unknown DK-weight tweedy merino wool yarn.

Modifications:  I modified the pattern to knit seamlessly from top down, with the sleeves picked up from the top and caps shaped via short rows.  The front bands were knitted on as I went, with regular short rows to make sure the bands didn’t flare.  The original cardigan had a soft point collar, but I don’t like collars in general, so no collar here.  The sleeves were supposed to be full-length, but since I did not have enough yarn, they became three-quarter.  The bottom band is knitted from leftover kid mohair/silk yarn from another project; I like the contrast of colours and texture.

Thoughts:  I love this version of Gaia!  One thing I did that I did not do on the first Gaia is keep the small pockets set into the bottom band.  I never understood the concept of teeny tiny non-functional pockets, but these days I think any pocket is a good pocket.  I made these bigger than the pattern pockets, and they will in fact fit my mobile phone, credit card, and some change.  Finally, about the Little Old Lady buttons: Mom, like Moms of her generation everywhere, left behind a big collection of buttons.  These buttons came from her hoard, and I love them on this cardigan.

Knitting in the Winter: Manzanilla

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Manzanilla

Pattern:   Manzanilla by Joji Locatelli, from her Authentic Collection.

Yarn: A merino/silk/cashmere blend yarn from Lambspun of Colorado.  This yarn has been many projects, including Rosamund’s Cardigan and Silver Belle.  I had hoarded so much of this yarn that I was able to make the Wisteria dress as well as this pullover.

Modifications:  I used a DK weight yarn because I find worsted weight to be too heavy for wear.  Since I am still on the tunic kick, I gave the body A-line shape and lengthened it a couple of inches.  I also made the back a tad longer and gave it a slight curve with short-row shaping.  Instead of grafting the sleeve seams, I used a three-needle bind off.  And, not obvious in the photo, I sewed a button at the top of each side hem to stabilize the split hem.  Finally, I widened the width between the garter ridges progressively from top to bottom.  

Thoughts:  I just love this sweater!  When it came off the needle, the sleeves were quite snug, but I was able to open things up with a bit of judicious blocking.  Joji Locatelli designs lovely, minimalistic sweaters, and her experiments in construction produce clothing that are actually wearable.

Knitting in the Fall: Bedford Redux

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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!

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

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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.