The Tunisian Crochet Cowl is still plodding slowly along, but it’s in that awkward period of no visible progress, so I won’t bother showing it here. The yarn balls continue their shrinking, so it should be done soon.

In the meantime, I have something new to think about. My sister was wearing this sweater when I saw her last weekend. I liked the drape and the hemline, so of course I had to inspect it to see how it was made.

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It turns out that it’s just a rectangle with arm holes put in the right places. Who knew?

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I thought it was a really interesting variation on the Mondrian Sweater, which was essentially a rectangle that wraps over the shoulders and has a cutout that goes under the arms. The arm holes are placed a little differently here, and all of the shoulder shaping that I used in the Mondrian sweater is eliminated, making for a much simpler design. It’s fun how a slight change in armhole placement completely changes the hemline, too.

The armholes appear to be cast off without any shaping at all. They’re worked on a diagonal, but without interrupting the stitch pattern.


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There couldn’t be a simpler garment to recreate, and my brain has been chugging away in the background while I grade term papers and write exams. It’s a little hard to see in the photos, but the pattern in the original is just a simple lacy cable design. This is nice because it’s reversible and it doesn’t have an “upside down” and “right side up” direction, so that both front panels look the same to the casual observer. Still, I’m wondering what other stitch patterns might work for something like this, and whether I have suitable yarns in the stash. Maybe by the time the cowl is finished I’ll have another project ready to go on the needles?

1) I am not nearly as fast at Tunisian crochet as I am at knitting.

2) All projects go faster when you work on them.

This was a busy work week, as we begin to slide into the final crunch time of the semester. But I’m making progress, albeit slowly. Hopefully  there will be something more interesting to show soon!

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Happy Springtime!

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Our first crocuses opened today, and I am so excited to be done with winter. (Hopefully the chicken wire will deter the squirrels and chipmunks from munching on my bulbs like they did last spring…)

We’ve had several days in the 50’s and 60’s, and between that and a few days of warm rain, it’s finally beginning to feel like we’ve turned the corner. There’s still snow in the forecast for next week, I think, but the ground is thawing and winter can only delay for so long. If you consider that my backyard looked like this a month ago:

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it’s easy to see why this might be exciting:

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My perennial herbs are greening up, and the soil is in that soft and squishy stage where it’s best to stay on the path. Another couple of months, and everything will be back in bloom again. My gardener’s itch is growing!

Things have been pretty quiet on the crafting front lately. I spent about a week with nothing on the needles after the Mondrian sweater was finished. And then all of a sudden it was a Tuesday night, and I was heading out to knitting, and I had no knitting. So, I grabbed a couple of skeins that I’ve been meaning to get to, took a quick look at Ellen’s Tunisian crochet tutorial for her Paving Mitts pattern, and headed out the door. At knitting, I swatched this:


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I really like how the stitch pattern lets the variegated green yarn shine through the teal background fabric. I swapped accent and base colors a little more than halfway through, but I definitely liked the fabric on the left better, with its bright green v’s popping out through a lattice of teal.

I pulled out the swatch on the train the next morning, prior to casting on for the real project (a long cowl). When I did so, I was surprised to find that you can pull out all of the green stitches without affecting the teal background fabric. When the green is gone, you end up with a loose-gauge knitted fabric left behind. I took a picture, but can’t find it now…I think I must have accidentally deleted it from my phone. In any case, that observation got me thinking, so I put it aside to play with later.

The cowl has been inching along over the past week and a half, and it’s beginning to look like something.

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I continue to like how the colors play together, but I’m less enthusiastic about the pronounced tendency to curl. Some poking around online reveals that this is a common problem with Tunisian knit stitch, but most sources say that it should block out. I’m hoping so, because that amount of curl will be a deal-breaker if I can’t make it lay flat in the end.

I’m not terribly fast at picking up stitches for each round, so this is definitely not a speedy project for me, but it’s coming along a bit at a time.

Today, I finally had time to settle down and play a bit more. Like I said, I noticed that the green accent yarn can be ripped out of the fabric without disturbing the knit base yarn. This made me wonder if it would be possible to add accent stripes to an already-knit piece. I didn’t have a good-sized swatch handy, so I pulled out my Bright Stripes sweater and added a few temporary “features” to the back. (Since it’s just crocheted in, it’s very easy to pull back out, with no harm done to the knitting.)

I started out on the stockinette side, and picked up one leg from each knit stitch:

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Then I worked a chain crochet stitch around the black knit stitches, just like you do when working the Tunisian Crochet.

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The only problem was that I had to carry the yarn in front to work the crochet, so I ended up with the wrong “side” of the chain stitch pointing forward. (In the Tunisian crochet method, you work the crochet and then a row of knitting, and picking up the knit stitches rotates the crochet purl so that the v’s face forward…)

The row that I got from this method looked a lot like purl bumps (and the back of the Tunisian crochet project), so I decided to see what would happen if I worked from the back side of the fabric instead.

Again, I picked up stitches, and then joined on the green yarn for the crochet.

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I worked a series of single crochet stitches, using up one black loop and two green loops per stitch until there were no black stitches left.  (This ends up making a crochet chain with the green yarn, wrapped around the black yarn to hold it in place.)

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This left me with a little row of (slightly uneven) purl bumps…I need to work on my tension!

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And when I turned the fabric over, there was my sideways crochet chain, just like in the Tunisian crochet!

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This seems like it might be fun to play with as an accent for knitted items – I have lots of ideas bouncing around in my head for things to try. I also figured out an only-slightly fiddly way of making Tunisian crochet on knitting needles, so it would be easy to work this as an insertion in a knitted piece. It makes me think of the knit-weave garments that I saw at Rhinebeck last year, made by Koochi-Ku.

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It’s not actually the same, but there are certainly interesting things to be done by blending different fiber techniques!

It’s taken a while to get photos, but the Mondrian Sweater is done!

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The sleeves are a little bit long and slouchy, perhaps, but after the past couple of sweaters where I swear the sleeves shrunk by an inch with wear, I wanted to make sure that they had plenty of length. They’re a tiny bit baggy, but that just moves the sweater a little more toward slouch-around-the-house rather than a formal jacket style, and I can roll the cuffs if I want to eliminate some of that length. Since I mostly use sweaters as slouch-around-the-house garments, the looser fit will be fine with me!

I like how the color blocks in the back highlight the construction, though I’d have been a tad happier if the red/brown line were an inch and a half closer to center. (That’s the thing about bold, graphic designs – they just beg for a certain level of exactitude, which encourages my perfectionist side…)

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I do like how the blocks of color play off of one another, though. The three red panels keep your eye moving in the back (especially interesting in this photo, where the red vase pulls your eye right outside of the sweater and into the background – that wasn’t done on purpose, but it worked out rather well), and the dark green does the same in the front. Interestingly, the dark brown “reads” as red in some lights (see the first photo), which makes kind of a cascading blocks effect sometimes, too.

I think the shoulder shaping does a nice job of keeping the neckline clean, and there’s plenty of room to move my arms. In a second version, I might make the neck cutout a little deeper, even, so that the back neck seam falls a little further down the spine. I like a collar that stands up my neck a bit, so it worked out well for me, but I think most people prefer a neckline that sits a little lower in the back. It’s a subtle detail and barely visible in the photos, but it’s something I noticed while blocking and might want to come back to in future, should I revisit this design.

The back seam between shoulder blades is a little short, and it binds just a little with certain motions. You can see that showing up in the fabric distortions in this photo:

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It’s not uncomfortable to wear since the sweater has a lot of ease anyway, but if I were to do it over I’d add another increase wedge in the back panel to increase the width on that seam just a smidge. (And I would probably also reduce the overall ease by an inch or so as a result.) Incidentally, a longer back seam would put the vertical seam back where I wanted it, with the color blocks meeting slightly closer to center – a win all around.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how this one came out…not bad for a first round with an odd geometry and an improvised design!

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Before I really considered knitting the Mondrian Jacket, I was thinking that it would be a good pattern to use with handwoven fabrics. It’s a very simple shape, mostly rectangles, and uses one continuous piece of fabric with a few darts and tucks thrown in. I finally got around to pulling out some of my handwoven yardage this afternoon, and took a few pictures to sketch out the idea.

It’s a completely different feel, but I like the way the warp-faced stripes run down the sides in this version of the garment.

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And they’d do interesting things in the back where they meet.

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I also really like this shoulder fold

 

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It’s a bit simpler than what I did with the knitted version, but I really like the lines. I’d have to make a muslin to see if it would restrict arm motion too much in the actual garment, but I like the spare simplicity of this design, and how the stripe lines intersect.

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Of course, this version looks nothing like a Mondrian at all – it’s amazing how changing the color pattern alters the design.

The vertical stripes also have me wondering if this could be knit sideways to take advantage of a self-striping or variegated yarn. I don’t see why not; the shoulder shaping would simply be accomplished using increases and decreases rather than short rows. Some pieces would have to be knit in sections, but that doesn’t seem like such a big deal. On the other hand, there would be some incredibly long rows!

It always takes me longer to find a good name for a project than it does to knit it. I’ve decided to call the current “modern-art” sweater the Mondrian Jacket after Piet Mondrian, an artist working in the De Stijl art movement in Holland in the early 1900’s. His artwork was characterized by the asymmetrical balance of blocks of color, intended to strip art down to its most essential components. As often happens with famous artwork, I didn’t even know Mondrian’s name until I went looking for it, but I subconsciously had his paintings in my mind’s eye as I designed the color blocks for this piece. I left out the solid black lines and strayed from the primary colors a bit, but the asymmetry and the solid blocks and dynamic color arrangement remain.

Knitting on the jacket continues apace. I was a bad blogger and completely failed to take a photo of the body laid flat before seaming it up, but here’s a nighttime photo of it in progress. This was taken just before the midpoint, in one of the early fit-tweaking sessions.

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The sweater is knit up from the hem (which also wraps around the back), then a large section is bound off at the armpit, when increases and shoulder shaping begin. The photo above was taken just after shaping the first shoulder, and before knitting across the sweater back.

Here’s a picture of the swatch sweater laid flat at a similar stage (note that this one was knit with the right side first, while the actual sweater was knit with the left panel first…doesn’t change anything about the shaping, but the swatch would wrap around the mannequin on the opposite side):

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From there, I knit across the back, shaped the second shoulder, and then knit down to the hem on the opposite side. I stopped to steam press the fabric so that it would lay flat for a photo, and then completely failed to take it before seaming up the back.

I then picked up stitches from the increase sections and knit the sleeves from the top down.

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The only two seams in the garment are shown with dashed lines in the photo below.

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I still need to finish the second sleeve and knit the front bands and collar, but on size 3 needles it’s going very quickly. I’m a bit torn about what to do with the collar (I  drew it as a flat, kimono-like neckline, but am also considering a deep shawl collar instead), but I think that my choice may be made by my yarn supply in the end. I think that the modern design probably calls for sharper, cleaner lines anyway, so the flat front is probably best. I’m playing a bit of yarn chicken with this project, which was intended to use up yarn from the stash (it will). I definitely have enough to finish the sleeves – wasn’t sure for a while there, but I’m certain now – but I don’t know how much I’ll have left in the dark green for the front bands. Fortunately, Cascade does still make this color if I get myself into a scrape, but I want to see if I can make it without buying any more yarn. It’s always fun to have a challenge, right?

I made a couple of adjustments to the fit while knitting that changed the location of the seam lines. I was hoping for a slightly closer-to-center vertical seam, but I think I’m ok with where it ended up. After trying the sweater on, I think I would also add some short row darts in the sweater back section; it could use a little more length between the shoulder blades than I could give it with the shoulder shaping alone. (Incidentally, if the back had been longer, the seam would have shown up closer to where I wanted it to be….)

Other than that, I’m very happy with the fit and the design so far. It’s certainly been a quick knit, and it’s used up yarn that’s been in the stash forever. I bought the green and gray Cascade 220 at The Fiber Gallery in Seattle in 2008, intended for a colorwork project that never took off (I decided that the yarn was too heavy a gauge). The red and browns were added to the collection for my “weave-knit” swatches while I was in Madison in early 2011. It’s not often that I get to use up so much of the deep stash in one go, and it feels good to knit it up into something after having it hanging around for so long.

It seems that I have reverted to blogging in my head…I was sure I’d posted this past week, and the photos are on my camera, but apparently I got distracted somewhere between taking pictures and sitting down to write. (Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence lately…)

Last weekend (was it just last weekend?) I went to SPA – a fiber event in Freeport Maine. A bunch of knitters swoop in, take over the 3 biggest hotels in town, and knit for about 5 days straight. Many people knit for 5 days, anyway. I had to work until Friday, so I took the train up on Saturday and did an overnight…1.5 days is better than none!

There’s a vendor market at one of the hotels, and we also poked our noses into 3 or 4 yarn shops in the area. Then there was dinner at the hotel, more knitting, and then a long breakfast in the morning. It was a lot of fun, and a nice crafty break from all this winter we’ve been having lately.

The temptations were many, but I was fairly good in my shopping, all things considered. I bought several skeins of Shepherd’s Wool Yarn, which I had never seen before. It’s mill spun in Michigan, with a nice hand and a lot of twist. This should be enough to knit another mega scarf.

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I also picked up 4 oz of yak-silk blend from Port Fiber, which should spin up into something wonderfully soft. This was the first thing I saw when I walked into the market. When the sun hits it just right, it shines like gold.

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I also picked up a mini-loom from the same vendor: for small, portable projects. I’m not sure yet what I’ll make with this, but it seemed like a clever design and I love nice wooden tools.

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As I mentioned, we stopped at several shops in the area, which poses something of a problem for someone who doesn’t need to buy any more wool. Rather than fall down again on fiber, I bought this fancy notebook to fill with ideas.

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And finally, I bought another shawl pin from Leslie Wind (warning: her website has background music that plays when you click on the link). I love her designs, and how well her pins stay in my knitting – an important feature for someone who wears them on a long daily commute.

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(I’ve just remembered that I also bought some discounted novelty yarn for accents in weaving, but that is put away already and probably not worth getting back out for a photo.)

It was a fun weekend of shopping and spending time with fiber friends, and I’m looking forward to going again next year.

At the end of the last post, I was still pretty sure that this little thought experiment with the one-piece sweater was going to be just that: a thought experiment. It was a fun idea to consider, but I didn’t feel any driving desire to cast on and knit.

And yet, it was crowding all other design ideas out of my head. And I needed something to cast on, so I kept playing with it. I don’t really have sweater quantities of yarn in my stash, and the few yarns I had weren’t the right yarn for this project, somehow.

But then it occurred to me that I had a bin full of Cascade 220 in a variety of coordinating colors.

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What would this look like in a multi-color version? I made a rough sketch of the sweater, and scanned it into my computer. Then, I got out the colored pencils, and got to work.

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The fun thing about the multi-color version is that it really highlights the geometry. To my surprise, I liked the blocky, modern look, especially in the asymmetric designs (A, B, and E are my favorites).

I’ve decided to try knitting this up, if only to have something on the needles. After some more hemming and hawing, I settled on B as the color arrangement of choice. I have no idea if this is something that I will actually wear – it falls into the category of project that I will either adore or completely forget about once it’s off the needles. I’m not usually big on blocks of color in clothing, but something in it appeals to me, and that seems like enough of a reason to move ahead.

I’m off to SPA in Maine this weekend, so I should have lots of knitting time to make some progress (I just finished the dark brown section and am starting the gray). More soon!

I think I mentioned before that this picture got me thinking about one-piece kimono designs.

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Except for a little bit of bunching at the underarm and a tiny bit of binding over the shoulder, a few pins turned a wide scarf into a very comfortable, flattering sweater.

The idea nestled quietly in the back of my brain for a few days, and then began to toss and turn. What if the front panel had a split in it so that the wide part went under the arm and the narrow part went over the shoulder? How would that geometry work?

That turned out to be a harder question than I at first suspected. I started out with some drawings of what I thought the shape would look like, but quickly realized that this was a slightly bigger leap than my brain could make alone.

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So I got out some scissors and started playing with paper.

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I cut out a shape something like the rectangle I’d imagined, and then began playing with the dimensions to see what it would take to make it fit a real body. I added some measurements that I thought would reflect the right dimensions.

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…and quickly realized that I had not yet accounted for a neck.

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Whoops! Changing the folding angle helped a little, but I wasn’t convinced that it would be enough.

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Changing the fold location made the neckline a little more realistic. (This was a lesson I learned when making the Striped Shawl Sweater…increase/decrease placement makes all the difference in fit!) We’re also getting close to the kimono look here, which I like.

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But notice those shoulders? That’s still a pretty steep angle, unlike the body of anyone I know. Clearly, that was going to take a little more work. After a few more adjustments to the shaping, I ended up with something a little closer to what I was looking for (early models to the left, newer models to the right. Note that the shape looks less and less like a rectangle, and more like an “M” as you go).

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But still, those shoulders are pretty steep. How much are they off by? I got out the dressform and a roll of wide paper, and started pinning things in place to see how it would all work out. (The beauty of paper here is twofold: it’s cheaper than fabric, and it has absolutely no give…it won’t hide any problems with the shaping! Also, you can write notes all over it explaining what you think you should be doing instead.)

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Not too bad, actually, but there was still a lot of extra fabric at the neckline, and the hem clearly needed some more room. I lopped off a good 5 inches of fabric at the neck, and added some deep darts at the shoulder to increase the ease. Armed with these measurements, I adjusted my original sketch.

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This was getting closer to right. The question of how to actually achieve this shape with knitting still remained, though. If you follow the shape through considering the knitting direction, there are several places where things don’t quite seem to work. So I cast on for a mini-sweater to figure out what it would take to knit this thing – kind of an oversized swatch. I ended up reworking the shoulder section several times (I’m still not sure I’m satisfied, but it’s getting there), and today, I steam-blocked this (one half of my “M”):

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That’s one half of the sweater, with the hem at the bottom and the center back section still on the needles. All folded up, you can see that it’s starting to look like half a sweater, too.

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The shoulder is looking just about right here, though I still need to fuss a bit to get the decrease line to lay flat. There are also some choices to be made about how much underarm panel should be allotted, and exactly how wide the back panels should be. I haven’t decided if I like the deep v-neck or whether I’d go back to the wide-band kimono look, but now that I have a working knitted model all of those changes will be easier to make.

I’m not sure that this will ever be anything more than an interesting swatch, but it has been fun to figure out how to fold an almost-rectangle into a sweater body all in one piece (the sleeves would have to be picked up and knitted on, like in a traditional raglan design). If I do scale up the design, there will be lots more swatching to make sure that those angles stay consistent and that the measurements will work for an adult body. Still, in between projects, it’s been a fun idea to toy with, and that’s what process knitting is all about!

It has been just over 2 weeks, and I still don’t have anything on my needles. I made an attempt at writing up a hat I designed last year, but the charts are complicated and we all know by now that writing down patterns is not usually the thing to get me in a creative mood. (Finishing patterns, on the other hand, has a very satisfying feel to it…I’m looking forward to a couple of those in the near future.)

I cast on a mini practice version of a sweater geometry that I’m currently noodling through, but that was really to give me something to knit at knit night and to keep my hands busy in case I get stranded on a train. More on the sweater later…that’s another full-on process post.

I am in one of those moments in life where one thing is ending and another is about to begin, but I’m not sure what that beginning is or should be. Sometimes, it pays to lean into that pause. As so often happens, my knitting is a reflection of the state of the rest of life.

The practice sweater did help to take the edge off, but between projects (no knitting?!) is not a comfortable place to be. Sometimes, though, it’s important to lie fallow. It’s easy to forget that fallow is not idle, and that downtime is often quite productive. I could rush to cast on just to have something, or I can wait for something compelling to come along. Usually, I would choose the former, in the interests of maintaining rhythm. (My creativity works best in a steady rhythm most of the time.) But sometimes it pays to linger in that downbeat, to just let things settle until they come back of their own accord. Breathe all the way out, and then wait until you must to breathe back in. I am very, very good at committing, but right now is not the time.

Fortunately, I have some spinning to do for a sweater that I may or may not knit (no commitment there!), and that has been keeping my hands occupied while my knitting takes a rest.

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I’m sure I’ll be back at the projects soon enough. Until then, it will be little things that get knit around here.

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