Knitting for the Winter: St. Brigid

St. Brigid.1
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.


Knitting for the Spring: Gaia

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


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: 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 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!

Knitting in the Winter: Svalbard

Svalbard cardigan
Svalbard cardigan
Back chevron detail
Back chevron detail

Pattern:  Svalbard, by Bristol Ivy, from Brooklyn Tweed Wool People 6.  I fell in love with the “chevron increase” detail in the back, and also liked the idea of an easy-going, no closure swing jacket.

Yarn:  Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, in teal (discontinued colour).  This is my first time knitting with this yarn — indeed, with any yarn from the Elsebeth Lavold brand.  I like the slightly slubby texture of the yarn, and the silk content gives the knitted fabric a very nice drape.  I did not enjoy all the little pieces of hay and other scratchy bits left in the spun yarn; they were a nuisance while knitting, and I can still feel them when I wear the sweater.  Over all, I probably will not knit with this yarn again.

Modifications:  My yarn is a DK weight, so I used the directions for size 42.5 and ended up somewhere around 38-plus.  It is definitely quite roomy, and long — but I am quite short.  The armscye was a bit tight before blocking, and although fine now, this is a cardigan for wearing over a light top.  I should have tapered the arms more, but having never worked with Silky Wool before, I didn’t know that the yarn would relax as much as it did with blocking.  Oh well.

Thoughts:  Bristol Ivy is a thoughtful designer.  I love the ingenious shoulder and body shaping she achieved with her chevron increases, which resulted in lovely stylized hearts on the back yoke and under the arms.  Not that anyone is going to look under my arms, but the design details are there, and I know they are there.  The cardigan does have a bit of a bubble shape to it, even after blocking.  I would not recommend this shape for someone who is any combination of big/ busty/short, because the shape adds width (this from a 100-pound woman).  But, I will wear this because the color is pretty, it is comfortable, and I’m past the age when I actually give a damn about looks 🙂