I have thought for the past few days that I would have a finished object to show you if I just held off on posting for one more day.

Well.

Instead, I have a not-finished object to show you. In fact, I have an object that is very likely on its way back to yarn.

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I have been motoring along on my latest shawl, which has miles and miles of stockinette and garter stitch. It’s been the perfect mindless knitting, and I made great progress on it at TwinSet Summer Camp. (Which reminds me…my goody bag was delivered to me yesterday, which means that I now have something to show you, and therefore another post that I can write.)

This week, I finished the main body section of the shawl and switched back to the dark purple yarn to finish the edge. I knit away until I thought it was time to begin the cast off, and worked a 3-stitch i-cord bind off all along the bottom edge.

Or rather, I cast off about two-thirds of the bottom edge, at which point I ran out of yarn. I muttered a bit, let it sit overnight, and then pulled back the cast off and tinked back an extra row of the border. I was pretty sure that would be more than enough to give me the extra little bit of yarn needed to finish the bind off.

Last night, I worked the cast off again. This time, I ran out about 1/5 of the way from the end. Sigh.

Fortunately, I got far enough in the cast off that I could lay the shawl out in full to see what I think of it. And, well, let’s say there are pluses and minuses.

The good:

– It’s almost done! Knitting has occurred!

– I like the raised welts in the contrasting color; I wasn’t sure about those at first, but I think they add nice texture to the main body section.

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– I like the distribution of color in the shawl, and especially how the hem echoes the neckline. I was hoping for a longer purple section at the end, but I think that what I have is deep enough to balance the visual weight of the different sections.

– I like the tiny rows of yo’s that separate the shawl sections. I added these as a decorative effect, and also as a practical answer to small differences in gauge between the different sections.

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….which brings us to the not so good:

– The gauge difference at the hem is big enough that the edging looks sloppy. I expected this to be a problem, since the main body section is stockinette-based and the neck edge and edging are garter stitch, but the transition was so smooth at the neck edge that I thought I could get away with it at the hem, too. Unfortunately, it appears that that’s not the case. I expect that this will get worse with blocking, not better. At the very least, I need to pull back to the yo line and decrease some stitches out of the purple garter stitch section so that it lays flat.

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– The overall shape of the shawl ended up much more like my Spiral Shawl than I had intended. I was going for crescent, not pentagon. The interesting thing here is that I increased even more per row that I did in the Passegiata shawl, but I changed some of the increase locations (in the Passegiata, all of the increases occur at the outside edge of the shawl; in this one, two occur at the outside edges and 4 occur in the body of the shawl). This seems to have moved me away from crescent and more toward pentagon, but it did smooth out the bump at the neckline that bothered me in the Passegiata. One step forward, two steps back, I guess.

– I was hoping that the increase lines would be more subtle, especially in the welted portion of the shawl. I noticed that the angles were more obvious than I wanted while I was knitting, but wanted to see how it looked when the final garment was laid out. For a more crescent-like look, I think I’d need to space those increases out more, and to distribute them more randomly throughout the rows.

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Now, the question is whether to just pull back and reknit the border, or whether to reknit the whole thing and fix the bigger shaping issues. At this point, I think I need to stop and do some careful analysis of the reasons for the changes that I did (and didn’t) like in the shawl shaping, and then I’ll decide whether to head back to the drawing board or whether to just patch up the border.

My guess is that I will end up pulling out the whole thing. The pentagon shawl shape has a tendency to sit nicely on your shoulders but doesn’t wrap around nicely, and it’s the latter quality that I usually appreciate most in a garment of this type. Since wearability is my primary indicator of whether or not a design “works,” it’s likely that this difference will be a deal-breaker.

Still, I think I’ll give it a day or two to settle, and then I’ll do some thinking about the structural changes that need to happen in order to get the shape that I want. Reknitting does give me the advantage of not needing to come up with a new project right away, though I was looking forward to working with a different color of yarn!

I haven’t been making much progress on any one thing lately, but I have been working on lots of different projects! We took some pictures of the finished Passegiata shawl the other day. The colors really glow in the light from the setting sun.

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This closeup also shows a little bit of the i-cord bind off that I used for the project. I’ve never tried one before, but am really happy with how it came out. I did just a three-stitch version, so it’s pretty tiny, but it’s very flexible and gives a nice finish to the very stretchy fabric.

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I intended to make a second version of the same shawl, but the Passegiata has a bit of a hump at the center back that I wanted to get rid of. I did some poking around online looking for shawl-shaping strategies, played around a bit with different yarns, and before you know it, I’d gone off and designed my own shawl instead. We all knew the pattern thing couldn’t last long, didn’t we?

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This is a photo of the new shawl from a couple of weeks ago. I was playing with different options for the color patterning in the main body of the shawl. The two yarns are almost too similar; you can’t see the stripes at all in the stockinette rows at the bottom of the piece, using either the solid pink or purple as the contrast band. In the end, I settled with the option that I tried first: four rows of variegated yarn separated by two rows of garter stitch in the solid color. That adds a little bit of extra dimension that helps the contrast rows to (literally) pop out a bit.

I’ve also been doing a bit of weaving, here and there. I cut this piece off the loom a couple of weeks ago, and gave it a good wet finishing last week. This is my first foray into using novelty yarns in weaving, something that I’ve long suspected I’d enjoy. The left hand side of the accent stripe is made up of 7 strands of novelty yarn – two of a bumpy-spun peachy rayon, and 5 of a black glitter yarn to give a bit of sparkle. It’s subtle and toned down, but the fancy yarns add a lot of interest to the piece. I also added details in the off-white background fabric by interspersing random threads of a thicker gauge to help give the ground fabric a more interesting texture. It was a little slower to wind the warp, but I really like the result.

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Now that that’s off the loom, I’ve started working on the next project, a set of tea towels in summery teals and yellow.

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This first one uses yellow as the weft color also – probably not my favorite combination, but it does make a nice greenish color for the main fabric, and I have a lot of yellow yarn and not as much teal. This project is just puttering along in an on-again, off-again way, but it’s nice to have something on the loom.

In keeping with that spirit, I’ve been planning a new warp for the big loom, too.

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This one will be a more complicated project, with lots of different colors to mix, so it will take a while to get this one ready to weave. The main warp pieces (piled on the table in the photo) are a pair of warps that I painted in Madison at a guild workshop in 2010. I knew I wanted to make them into a wider fabric, so I held off until I got the bigger loom, and just haven’t gotten around to warping it up since then. I’m hoping that will actually happen this summer; I’d like to turn these into something I can actually weave!

I’ve been doing a major reorganization of my studio lately, which is how I came across those warps again and decided to pull them out. I also came across a bunch of fabric cut out for project bags, just waiting to be embroidered. Rather than sticking it back in the drawer I found it in, I decided to throw the whole pile of stuff in the middle of my office floor so that I’d be reminded to deal with it. (This is a favorite method of mine for getting things done that I never seem to get around to. If I can’t put it away, it will make me crazy that it’s out, and I will actually work on it. Making a mess is surprisingly effective at motivating me to get things done.)

I’ve been doodling a few accents here and there.

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That last one is a deliberate attempt to do something completely outside of my comfort zone. It’s so easy to stick with things you know and like, and to shy away from things that feel gaudy or “too much.” I find that shaking things up a bit often helps to jumpstart my creativity in other areas as well, so every once in a while I’ll decide to do something completely unlike me. “Hideous” is the word I probably would have applied to this particular pattern through most of its evolution, but I have to admit that it is beginning to grow on me. It’s not my style – a bit too 70’s/retro for me – but it is starting to come together into a coherent design. Sometimes it’s fun to see where “I would never” can take you.

I’ve also been spinning a bit, after neglecting my wheel for too long. I didn’t want a big, long project to start off with, so I pulled out the braid of yak/silk blend that I bought at SPA in February, and started working on that. It’s hard to capture the luster in a photo, but it really does shine like gold. I must be in the mood for sparkly things lately, because this really appeals to me. (There were metallic threads in the embroidery, too, now that I think of it…)


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And finally, yesterday a friend of a friend came over and taught a tatting workshop at my house. I’ve never tried tatting before, and it was fun to play with. I still need a bit of practice, but I ended up with something that looked almost like the butterfly in the pattern by the end of the day. It’s always good to stretch those learning skills and try something new!

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Inspiration is a tricky thing. Sometimes it comes naturally, slipping in quietly and curling up against you. At other times, it pours in torrents too fast to contain. And sometimes, you just have to go and hunt it down, pounding the pavement in search of something that catches your fancy.

Lately, it’s been in the latter category for me, and I’ve simply been too busy to do much about it. But my student finished up her summer work in lab the other day, and things are beginning to quiet down. (Sort of. Or at least change pace. That counts, right? Often, a change of direction is as good as a rest. I’m hoping, anyway.)

Last Friday, Branden and I headed off in search of the ocean after work. It was a gorgeous day, but a tiny bit on the cool side. We decided to explore Wingaersheek beach in Rockport. I’ve never been to Cape Ann, but it’s supposed to be very nice. Despite being back in MA for three years, we’ve hardly even begun to explore beaches on the North Shore.

When we got there, the beach was deserted. It was right around dinnertime, and the cooler weather seems to have discouraged the usual summer crowds. The tide was out, and we probably walked for a mile or so each way. I don’t think we saw more than 10 people the whole time we were there; we had practically the whole beach to ourselves.

We walked along, finding tiny treasures

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and admiring the wind patterns in the sand. (I could look at sand patterns all day.)

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And then there are the tracks left by the water as it recedes

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I see lightning bolts, tree roots, dendrons and axons. What do you see?

Then there were our own tracks, stretching back across the sand.

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Even tire tracks took on a slightly magical feel. (Wouldn’t that look nice as a raised slip stitch pattern?)

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As the sun got lower and lower, the sand sparkled like gold.

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The sky above us was just as amazing.

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And there is so much of it.

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I love the sense of wide open space at the ocean. Some part of my just sighs with relief at the sense of expansion by the sea. (There’s a tiny person out on those rocks, to give a sense of scale.)

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It’s hard to find wide open spaces in New England, except for these huge stretches of land that the ocean reclaims a couple of times a day.

See that tiny patch of marsh grass?

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If you look a little closer, you might just see some of the colors from my Passeggiata shawl.

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Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

The Tunisian crochet cowl lived a very short life, I’m afraid. The curling didn’t get any better when it dried, so I ripped it back and cast on for a Passegiata instead. (Please excuse the cat shadow…it was all I could do to keep her off the shawl long enough to take the picture.)

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If you’ve been here for a while, you know that I’m not usually interested in knitting from patterns, but there’s a lot going on in the background right now (some of it hard, all of it voluntary, much of it good), and I don’t have the bandwidth to design things from scratch at the moment. There’s some comfort in knitting a gauge swatch and just casting on, and it was either that or not knit for another month or two until things settle down.

The latter clearly wasn’t an option, and so to Ravelry I went, where I reveled in the amazing variety of projects available to knit. I went with something simple – a garter stitch crescent shawl with increasing stripe width. Doesn’t get much easier than that. True to form, I’ve made a couple of minor, unintentional “modifications” to the pattern (mostly having to do with not keeping track of stitch counts) but the design is forgiving enough that it doesn’t matter.

It’s good to have something on the needles again. I’m kind of amazed at how fast it is flying along, actually. Having a project that pulls me in and makes me want to keep going makes all of the difference.

I love how the colors are working in the shawl. Having the two yarns separate lets them play off of each other really nicely, and I’m actually liking the bright green undiluted. There’s enough variation in the dyeing to keep it interesting but not enough to pool, and I think I like the green yarn better balanced but not subdued by the teal.

Of course, the fact that the pattern is flying along means that I have a new problem. What to knit next? I will be out of knitting again in a couple of rows, and need to come up with something else to cast on. I thought about going back to Ravelry for a second round, but I think I might play with color/stripe variations on this same shawl design instead.

I did some digging in the stash, and came up with a few color combinations that would work.

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Based on yarn quantities, I’m thinking that the purple set in the middle will be the next one to go. Depending on how much time I get to spend on knitting this afternoon, I may even cast on tonight. It’s nice to feel some forward momentum again!

Sorry for the radio silence! Between the end of semester rush, a lull in my knitting, and the garden coming back to life, May has been a busy month.

I cannot believe how long it has taken, but I finally got to the end of the Tunisian crochet cowl. I added a little rib edging with an improvised slightly-lacy cast off, and blocked it last night.

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Sadly, the edges are still showing a pronounced desire to roll after blocking, so this is likely heading for the frog pond as soon as it’s dry.
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Good thing I love those colors, and will want to work with them again!

 

It was interesting to try a new technique, and I’m excited about the possibilities of Tunisian crochet for accent features in knitted garments, but it is not going to replace knitting for me anytime soon. The time it took to finish the cowl is a reflection of the fact that the crochet method just doesn’t draw me in.

Knitting also hasn’t been drawing me in much lately, though. This is by far the longest I have been without a (knitting) project on the needles since I started knitting again in 2008. It’s also only the second time in 8 years that I have had so little to say that I could get by on just one blog post in a month!

I have been petting a skein of Briar Rose Sea Pearl, and wound up a ball several weeks ago now to start a swatch. I started out with a simple knit-purl design, in my standard firm fabric for sweaters. (This is heading toward a rectangle sweater like the one my sister was wearing in the last post.)

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I wasn’t loving it, though. I tried a bunch of things, and eventually ended up working the yarn at a very loose gauge.

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I’m still not sure that this is “it,” but I do like the semi-sheer fabric it creates. For a scarf, I’d probably go with it, but I’m concerned that a sweater won’t hold its shape. I’m also worried that it will snag on things, because the fabric is so open. I’m not very good with high-maintenance garments, and anything I wear has to be pretty low fuss.

I do like how the garter stitch diamonds really pop when viewed in the right light, though.

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So that’s still in the early stages, and I’m feeling pretty far from casting on. The swatch is now about 2 feet long, and is quickly heading toward being a small scarf rather than a swatch. I’m hoping that this idea gels pretty quickly, though…can’t leave those needles empty for too long!

I’ve also been doing a little bit of weaving. I warped and wove a project earlier this spring, but I’m not sure I ever blogged about it. It’s not terribly photogenic right now, so I’ll wait to take pictures when it’s off the loom. In any case, I finished it a month or so ago, and wound a new warp to put on in its place. I decided to try tying on the new warp this time rather than rethreading from scratch.  

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Some people swear that tying on is the only way to warp a loom. I can see how it might be useful for a very complicated warp with a difficult threading (provided that you wanted to thread the same thing over again), but I think I’ll probably stick to threading from scratch for simple projects like this one. Tying 361 knots in the right order was a pretty fiddly business!

Now that the threads are tied, the new project is mostly on the loom. There’s a little more fiddling to be done with the setup, and I need to re-sley the reed, but other than that it’s almost ready to go.

Other than that, there hasn’t been much news in my crafting world. Hopefully June will be a better month for knitting!

 

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!

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