Knitting in the Winter: Rhapsody in Cables

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

Wisteria dress

Years ago, I knitted the Wisteria in its original sweater form:

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:

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:




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.


Knitting for the Winter: Koto



Pattern:  Koto, by Olga Buraya-Kefelian, available from

Yarn:  Umpteenth recycling of a worsted weight yarn from Beaverslide yarn.  Each time I reuse this yarn I tell myself it is the final incarnation.  Maybe.

Modifications:  I reduced the number of stitches — who can actually carry off a size small at 45″?  As it is, it is still a tad too big and the sleeves too long, so there is that Michelin Man thing going with the sleeves.  If I were more industrious, I would unravel the sleeves (which I was clever enough to pick up and knit downward from the top) and make them an inch shorter, but that probably isn’t going to happen

I also used my usual tried-and-true method of short row wraps.  I tried out the “shadow wrap method,” and while I understand the idea behind it and its application in sock knitting, I think it is overkill for this particular pattern.  Perhaps if I had used a smooth yarn, the shadow wrap method would have been more appropriate.  The Beaverslide yarn I used is rustic with a certain amount of thick-and-thin, and the shadow wrap did not produce a particularly neat finish.

Thoughts:  This was an interesting knit: I love the construction and the cool retro-future feel of the finished sweater.  I also liked the fact that the name of the pullover actually makes sense: I see the Japanese-inspired simplicity and elegance of shape, and of course I see the strings of the koto in the articulated ribbing design.  One of my pet peeves is the randomness of names assigned to patterns; I want to see a connection, I want to see the inspiration.  I recently came across a series of patterns from Carol Feller named after the seven hills of Rome.  I did my best, but I just could not see the connection between names and designs, although I appreciated the fact that she at least went for a Latin rather than yet another Gaelic word.

As with many recent patterns, I think Koto was over-written.  This may be good for novice knitters, but it was surprisingly irritating for old hands.  And while I am being grumpy . . . .  If you (that would be you, the designer) know that what you are calling the Joinery Bind Off is in fact “commonly known as the ‘Three Needle Bind Off,'” then why not just call it that?

All complaints aside, Koto is a wonderful design, and if a friend wanted one for herself, I would be happy to knit it again.

Knitting in the Spring: Arabella


Pattern:  Arabella, by Ann McCauley, from Brooklyn Tweed Wool People 7.

Yarn:  Kiwi Wool in cream, a DK weight yarn from Lambspun.  I bought this yarn many years ago in both undyed and the cream colors.  This incredibly soft yarn that has held up well through various recycling projects.

Modifications:  I adjusted the gauge for a thinner yarn, but other than that, I made the sweater pretty much according to pattern.  As usual, I picked up stitches for the sleeves and knitted them from top down (because I really hate sewing in sleeves) and made them shorter than specified.  I also winged the collar; even with proportional adjustments for the gauge, I picked up fewer stitches than the math indicated.

Thoughts:  I love the swing shape of the tunic, although I am not enamoured of the squared-off shape of the split hem.  If I were to knit this again I would start the decrease of the sides from the bottom rather than wait until after the side seams are joined.  The sweater is simple and elegant.

Knitting for the Fall: Coal Cardigan


Awhile ago I wrote about Teva Durham’s cabled riding jacket: it was going to be my second time with the pattern, using the same Beaverslide yarn as the first time.  Well, I gave it a go, and just as I thought, the pattern was still a mess.  I don’t know why I thought it would go better this time around; I suspect knitters are optimists, in the sense that you work on something for a relatively long time and you expect a wonderful product at the end.  So, the long and short of it is that while I still think Teva Durham is a talented designer, she needs to figure out how to write a proper pattern.  The instruction for the riding jacket is a classic example of a pattern that is both under-written and over-written. Why not provide the entire chart for both skirt and bodice?  Why do the cables not match at the shoulder seams?  Why give such a complicated set of instructions for the collar, which can be knitted and attached in a more efficient manner?  And why is said collar so tight that only someone with a bird neck can actually button it up?  In the end, I took the sweater apart — again!! — and it became Véronik Avery’s Coal Cardigan.

Pattern:  From Brooklyn Tweed’s BT FAll 13 collection, the Coal Cardigan by Véronik Avery.

Yarn:  Beaverslide worsted-weight merino yarn, recycled from many previous projects.

Modifications:  I made the smallest size, but the yarn is thicker than Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, so the cardigan ended up quite large on me with a very generous front overlap.  I picked up the sleeves from the shoulders and worked them top-down, with short-row cap shaping.  I have been doing this for years because I hate sewing sleeves on the body.  In this case, the sleeve caps lose some definition that seams would have provided, but I’m OK with that.

Thoughts:  I should have knitted this on circular needles, but side seams do provide structure.  For visual balance, the cardigan should be shorter, but I like the lower hip length for coverage.  It’s a nice casual sweater, and I get to use Grandma’s brooches for closure!