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Remember this?

Quite possibly not, I imagine. I wrote a pattern for this hat way back in 2010, which has since been sitting on my hard drive waiting for a final edit (yes, I needed to count stitches. It was terribly hard, and took all of 10 minutes).

I’m hoping that it will finally see the light of day this fall. Anyone interested in a test knit, to be finished by mid-September?

(If this one doesn’t grab you, stay tuned…I am hoping to have another coming out soon, but we all know how that goes…)

Edited to add: I am also still looking for a unique pattern name for this hat…suggestions are welcome!

In my current quest for a quick finish, I decided to take a little detour from knitting and work on some sewing for a while. With a simple pattern, you can have a sewn garment in a matter of hours, where a knitted one would take at least days if not weeks. Of course, being me, I didn’t take the simple route, even if I did choose a simple pattern.

My friend Heidi came over last week for some fiber play (we took a turn on her spinning wheel, mixed some batts, and generally had some fiber fun). She was wearing an embroidered linen tunic with a really simple construction that struck me as something that would be easy to make.

You might remember that sewing with handwoven fabrics is one of my long-term goals, and this shirt seemed like a really good candidate for handwovens. Minimal shaping and very basic design would make it an easy starter garment, and the rustic feel would work well with a coarse handwoven fabric. So, I set out to see what I could do.

Rather than start with a handwoven, I figured I’d develop the pattern with a commercial fabric. A quick trip to Joann’s got me a linen look blend, which has a slightly rustic feel but a nice weight and drape to it. It also has a pronounced simple weave structure, which is ideal for doing embroidery.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done pattern development from scratch. Twelve years ago I could have drafted a pattern in one go that would have worked, but my body has changed since then and my skills are a little rusty, so I decided to start out by using a little bit of a template.

I found a shirt in my closet with a fit that was kind of close to what I was going for, and started from there.

First, I laid the shirt out flat and traced the main body pieces onto paper, paying special attention to the armhole shaping.

After a bit of fussing with curves and adjusting the neckline to fit the design I wanted to make, I cut a muslin from scrap fabric.

This let me get my hands on the 3D garment and start planning how I’d deal with the shaping. I checked out how the new neckline worked, and figured out how the garment would hang with the adjustments I’d made. Once the basic body shape was roughed up, I turned my attention to the accent details that I wanted to be the focus of the garment.

I had a picture in my mind of a set of embroidered gathers as the main decorative and shaping element for the piece. I wanted something that would match the rustic cut of the garment, and that would let me do the shaping I needed without cutting the fabric. I also needed to see what the gathers would do to the 3D shape of the fabric.

First, I started with paper. I cut out a shape that roughly matched my neckline and started folding to see what did (and didn’t) work, and what size of gather gave me the amount of take up that I’d need in the end. Then, I took a couple of designs that I liked most and sampled them out on scrap fabric. This let me see how the gathers looked in actual fabric (without the benefit of any ironing or finishing techniques), and it let me try them on to see how the contours matched the actual shape of my body.

It turned out that this was a good idea, because both of the gathered patterns ended up making a strange point in the fabric that I wouldn’t have wanted in the middle of my chest. Placed more to the sides of the neck opening, that bump actually helped with the bust shaping. With feedback from the “swatches,” I went back and made the front of the actual garment, in the final fabric.

The gathers here are only placeholders, sewn in by hand as a temporary measure while I figure out the garment construction.

Eventually, I wanted to add embroidered details, and I had a leaning toward cross stitch. As I was wandering around my office, I noticed a weaving bobbin full of yarn that I’d used on a previous project. I really liked the colors, and the silk thread was about the right weight for the details I was looking for. So, I decided to try that in the swatch.

I really liked what I was getting, and the color changes of the variegated yarn sold me on using this one if I could. However, this is a knitting yarn made of silk, dyed in fairly intense colors. All of those things mean that it’s not optimized for embroidery. Most importantly, I wasn’t sure how colorfast it would be. That’s especially important when you’re stitching onto an off-white fabric, so I decided to do another test on the swatch.

I don’t really plan to wash this garment in hot water, but I wanted a margin of safety just in case. So, I washed the swatch in hot water, and this is how it came out.

Definitely glad that this wasn’t the actual garment!

My options at this point were either to change the thread, or to find a way to reduce the bleeding. Silk yarns (and especially ones with intense colors) often have extra dye in them that isn’t discharged during the dye process, but they’re often colorfast once that extra dye is released. With that in mind, I took a small skein of the yarn, and soaked it in hot water multiple times. Each time, the amount of dye released seemed to reduce, and the amount that blotted off onto a paper towel had almost disappeared after about 5 washes.

I started a new swatch to play with the hem accent design, and to test the wash fastness of the prewashed yarn. Here it is, after two washes (one in cold water, one in hot).

There’s still a tiny bit of bleeding on the hot water wash, but not nearly as much as the first time, so I think it’s probably safe to use.

Yesterday, I added some sleeves, finished up the back shaping, and sewed the hems on the garment itself.

At this point, all that’s left is finishing the neckline and adding the embroidery. Not exactly a quick finish, but it was fun to change gears for a while and polish up some rusty skills!

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Massachusetts we’re beginning to see the signs of fall. The maple seeds are browning up and falling from the trees. My bleeding hearts are yellowing and going into hibernation for the winter. The days are getting shorter, and there’s an unmistakable chill in the air. Usually we’d be in the middle of a heat wave around this time, but this year it seems that fall is coming more gently, and early.

To me, that means two things. First, summer is almost over, and a new semester is upon us. Any crafting time I want before the school year starts has to happen now, or not happen at all. It also means that it’s almost time to wear warm things again, so I’d better get knitting.

The Kneon cowl is coming along nicely at last. I’m well past the point where I pulled back, but you’d never be able to tell it from the photo. That’s how it is with moebius knitting; you just can’t see how far you’re getting until all of a sudden you’re done. At least it makes a nice, small project to take on the train to work with me on the days that I’m going in to campus.

The tiny needles and invisible progress weren’t helping with my sense of building pressure to make warm things, though. So, I returned to a project that had stalled, and started over.

I bought this yarn this spring from Coveted Yarn. It’s Plymouth Yarns Chunky Merino Superwash, and it is huge. I never knit bulky yarn or on big needles, so it’s amazing to me that I can polish off a ball of this in just a couple of hours. I abandoned the hexagon lace pattern that I’d been using before in favor of a simple 2×2 rib, and I’m really happy with the change. The lace just wasn’t popping the way I’d hoped it would, and the ribbing is working really well with the yarn.

I realized about 3/4 of a skein in that I could actually have gone back to my original width on the scarf (I’d decreased because the lace was eating up yarn too fast), but decided to just keep going full steam ahead. It means that I’ll probably have a skein left over and the scarf won’t be quite as wide as I’d like, but this is a project for progress.

The size 13 needles really do help with the progress, too. My hands don’t quite know what to do with needles that big, but the fabric is coming out beautifully at the looser gauge. There’s at least some hope that I’ll have one project done in time for fall!

I think I’ve settled on a design that will work for the Kneon project. I’m going to base the construction on the Harmonia’s Rings cowl by Sivia Harding. That way, I get the drape and shape of a moebius, but can knit the slip stitch neon pattern in the round without exposing the back side. The cowl will have a much narrower neck opening which will use less yarn, and I’ll still get the wide accent band that I was hoping for. The finished item will be somewhere between a cowl and a capelet, and should do a nice job of keeping my shoulders warm at work. Perfect, right?

The only problem seems to be getting it started. The first time I cast on, I made the neck opening too small. The second time, I miscounted the stitches. The third time, the stitches were right, and I knit happily along for a few hours. When the fabric got long enough, I stopped to have a closer look at how it was coming out.

Note that there are not one but two twists in that moebius. I didn’t even know that it was possible to twist a moebius cast on. But, here we are, back at the frogging stage again.

Fortunately, I haven’t gotten that far, so it’s not that big of a deal to rip back, though the yarn is starting to show the wear a bit, and I’d like to move from process to product knitting at some stage!

This is one of those moments where the universe is either throwing up a big “do not enter” sign, or it’s testing your persistence on the way to a great finish. I’m choosing to believe the latter, and hoping that this project has not been doomed from the start!

I do believe this is the world’s most-swatched project. The last post was #4 or 5, and I’m counting the corner as a separate swatch, even if I didn’t cast on and knit it separately (I didn’t want to break the yarn, as I intend to frog and re-knit it).

The only thing more fun than knitting fabrics on three different needle sizes* to get the right gauge is knitting three fabrics and working out the corner decreases to make an flat mitered corner in a stockinette-base fabric.

As you can see, the miter didn’t turn out to be a perfect 90 degrees, but I’m calling it close enough for garment design.

The decreases actually turned out to be easier than I expected, though I went the wrong way at first and decreased more slowly than a garter stitch mitered corner when I should have decreased faster. Turns out that decreasing every other row and alternating between 2 and 3 stitches per decrease row is just about right for the stockinette section. I decreased 2 stitches every other row for the linen stitch, and 2 stitches for every purple row in the slipped stitch section. I’m not sure how to count that one; each “row” is knit twice – once with the neon yarn, and once with the purple – and the other yarn is slipped. If this were fairisle, you’d knit both yarns at the same time and call it a single row, but that was too fiddly to be worthwhile with the crossed stitches, so I stuck to knitting one at a time and slipping the other. So if I knit each row twice, and decrease the second time that I knit it, does that count as decreasing once per row?

With all that decreasing going on, I was also noticing the yarn balls shrinking at a fairly alarming rate, so it came in handy to have a huge swatch so that I can calculate how much knitted fabric I can expect to get from these three skeins. The swatch itself is 8 x 15″ (minus a corner). That’s a total of about 104 square inches. So far, I’ve used 45 g of my base colors, and I have a total of  175 g left. That puts me at (very roughly) 512 square inches possible for the total piece. (I should actually get a little bit more than that, since I’m not accounting for the neon yarn in that calculation.) Still, 512 square inches is not a lot.

The top contender for the final design was the Poncho Cowl by Stephen Berg, which is basically knit flat as a rectangle and then seamed. I’d rather knit this pattern in the round, and I didn’t want to have a break in the neon herringbone, so I went ahead and figured out how to turn the corner while knitting (see swatch above). Then it’s just a matter of figuring out how big the rectangle needs to be. I pressed a different scarf into service, pinned it up on my dress form, and made the opening significantly shorter than shown in the pattern photo to reduce the overall length. It came out as 14 x 48″, or 672 square inches.

That’s 31% more inches than I have yarn. To actually have enough yarn, I’d need to decrease the width to about 10 inches, which would make it more like a scarf and less like a poncho/shawl.

So, we are back to the drawing board again. Both Teresa and Jan have suggested a circular cowl, and right now that’s sounding like the most practical option. A 24 inch (hem) cowl  could be about 21″ wide with the yarn I have, which would be more than enough.

I’m thinking that this one needs a little more time to percolate. Perhaps I’d better go come up with something else to swatch…

*000, 00, and zero. Because some day I will find myself really wishing I’d written it down.

After a couple more tries, I think I’ve gotten the stitch counts and needle sizes right for a nice, even fabric with no pulling in at the colorwork band. (I also tripled the number of stitches in swatches #2-4 so that I’d be able to see more subtle effects over a large piece of fabric.)

I thought that this would be the last swatch, but I’ve come up with one more thing that I need to try before deciding on an actual design. At the rate I’m going, this could take a while…

The rag rugs, however, popped up nearly instantaneously. It turns out that I didn’t have too much warp, after all. The take up on these things is huge, which makes sense if you think about the fact that the warp yarn has to go over and under each one of those fat weft scraps. I didn’t think about that at first, so was surprised when the warp ended up being quite short by the end of the weaving.

I’m happy with the rugs I got, though, and can definitely see this being a recurring project!

Since I’ve been dithering about so many other things (the swatch above, the crocus sweater, whose fate remains unknown…), I thought it was high time that I stopped dithering about this project, which has been quietly awaiting a zipper since November. I pulled out my duct tape dressform the other day and started pinning, and now I have one completed sweater for the fall.

The yarn is a Shetland lambswool that I spun from top purchased at Greencastle in 2012. It’s a pretty fine 2-ply yarn, and it knit up beautifully. I love the weight of the fabric, and definitely plan to knit more sweaters at this gauge. It’s not quite next-to-skin soft, but I didn’t find it uncomfortable for the short period that I wore it the other day. I think the embroidered details are working nicely, too. I kept them minimal, but decided not to pull them out, after all. Fall is coming far too quickly for me to want to hurry it along, but I’m looking forward to wearing this sweater when the temperature starts dropping again!

July has been a busy month. On the 5th, we set off on a week long drive along the East coast. First, we visited the Shenandoah national forest and the Luray Caverns for a couple of days, then we spent a couple of days in DC catching up with friends we haven’t seen in a long time, exploring the Smithsonian (Air and Space and Natural History), and seeing some of the national monuments. From there, we headed up to Fair Winds Farm to visit with Jan and Ellen and then on to Twinset Summer Camp. I was only able to be there for about 24 hours, but that was long enough to meet the other campers, make some new friends, and teach a tablet weaving class. On Saturday afternoon, we drove back to MA and I re-packed my suitcase before heading to bed. On Sunday morning I caught a 9 am flight to Chicago for a jam-packed 5 1/2 day conference. I stayed in Chicago for an extra night and caught up with my friends Mimi and Elaine (who has no blog, but frequents the comments), and then flew home on Saturday afternoon.

To say it’s been a whirlwind is a bit of an understatement, but there were a lot of fun things packed into those two weeks. I am just starting to feel back on my feet and caught up on email again (I’ve given up trying to feel caught up on work…). With all the things going on, I have done almost no knitting at all this month. Instead, I’ve been pondering what to do with the Crocus sweater. As you may remember from the last post, I’m a ball of yarn short of what I thought I had, and it’s not looking likely to surface anytime soon. I think that probably means a redesign is in order.

Honestly, I’ve been a little bit ambivalent about the yellow in the sweater yoke anyway, so I’m not sure that I’ll be heartbroken if I have to redo it. I did really like the flower stitch pattern, but it requires that I use the base yarn (the one I’m running out of) as one of the strands in the colorwork, and I could stretch my yardage a lot if I were able to eliminate that. Since the yoke is the widest point in the sweater, a small savings there would make a big difference in what’s left over to finish the arms of the sweater. Luckily, I knit the yoke separately and then picked up stitches from a provisional cast on to knit the body. I think that means that it should be very simple to pull back the yoke without tearing out the rest of the sweater.

I have two braids of a similar purple in a gradient colorway, and I’m thinking that these might just do as a substitute for the yoke. I’d need to decide how to spin them up, but I think these could work very nicely as an alternate yoke, and it would give me a lot of extra yardage to play with.

While that idea is percolating, I’ve been continuing to swatch for the next project, knit with the neon pink yarn from Steven Be’s. (This project really needs a name…). At the end of the last swatch, I really liked the colorwork pattern, but I knew that it would be challenging to balance out the gauge between the linen stitch, stockinette, and slipped stitch patterns. I used three different needle sizes, which worked great in my 3″ swatch, but I wasn’t sure I trusted that result to hold in a bigger piece of fabric. So, I started a bigger swatch. I also switched down one needle size on all 3 needles, because I liked the slightly tighter gauge for the slipped stitch pattern. (Now knitting on 0, 1, and 2.)

This is one of those instances where I’m glad I double checked the swatch. I haven’t blocked the new one yet, but you can see that the linen stitch edge is rolling slightly, and the fabric takes on a distinctly trapezoidal shape just where the slipped stitch pattern begins. The stockinette section looks almost ruffled; clearly there are still some issues to be worked out with the gauge before deploying this in a larger piece.

What exactly that larger piece might be still remains a mystery, too. I don’t tend to wear shawls, and this doesn’t feel like a scarf project to me (it’s very clearly single sided, among other things). I really like my moebius cowls, but that also requires a piece with two presentable sides. I have one simple cowl that I never wear because I don’t like how it hangs, but that’s a much thicker fabric and I think I might like one knit at a lighter gauge.

I like the Poncho cowl by Steven Be, which would be particularly fitting since I bought the yarn at his store. It’s out toward the edges of my fashion comfort zone, but then so is the neon pink. I’d really like to figure out how to knit a version of it in the round, though the decreases would be easier to get right in a garter stitch fabric.

Right now, I’m thinking that I’ll probably see how the swatch looks blocked and then go from there. There are certainly lots of options to consider!

I was inspired by a wall hanging in Mimi’s apartment to actually start one of my summer weaving projects. I bought some cotton rug warp back in November, and have been waiting for a chance to turn some of Branden’s old khakis into rag rugs. It turns out that this is the equivalent of knitting on super bulky yarns on huge needles. We warped up the loom last night, and I’ve already woven off the first rug! It is satisfying to be progressing so rapidly, but I have to admit that I may have put on too much warp…I think I’m likely to run out of pants to cut up before I run out of warp to weave. Still, I’m really liking the texture of the fabric, and I’m sure I can come by more scrap clothes somewhere – at the thrift store, if nowhere else.

Considering how fast the month is going, it’s nice to be making progress on at least one summer project!

The crocus sweater was growing steadily, right up until the beginning of the week. I was sailing down the home stretch to the cuff on the first sleeve, and went to get my last skein of yarn to start working two balls together to blend the colors. Except there was no last ball. Or, rather, there is a last ball, and it appears that I’m on it.

I was sure I had only used four skeins so far, but I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find the 5th. I’ve counted ends in the sweater, but since I was working two balls at a time for most of the sweater it’s hard to tell for sure how many are in there. So here I am:

And there is only a half a ball (about 100 yards) left. The sweater is already pretty well fitted, and any tighter would be too tight for what I wanted. I could bring the hem up an inch maybe, but no more. I have a tiny bit of unspun batt left over (in case there was a need for some creative color blending at the end), but it’s only a fraction of an ounce. I don’t really want to increase the width of the colorwork in the sleeves and body, and I’m not sure how much yarn that would save, anyway. I could pull back and reknit at a looser gauge, hoping to stretch the yarn just a little bit further. I could try increasing the colorwork band at the neck, or I could spin up and work in another colorway to help stretch the yardage. But as of right now, no matter how you cut it, I don’t have enough yarn.

For now, my plan is to stall and hope that extra ball shows up. I’m pretty sure it’s not here, but hope springs eternal. I’m not 100% in love with the yellow band near my face (yellow has never been my color), so maybe this is simply an opportunity to redesign the sweater into something that I’ll like even better. Fortunately, it’s on big needles and hasn’t taken long to knit, and I’m a process knitter at heart anyway. Before I rip, though, I’m going to let it sit in time out for a while and see what comes up.

In the meantime, I’ve been playing with this:

That’s the yarn I bought at Steven Be’s in Minneapolis earlier this summer. That crazy neon yarn cried out to me, and then I chose the green and purple to balance it out and tone it down. The pictures today are horrible, but you get the idea (we had a rainy day and I didn’t have time to futz with the camera and lighting…it was a post today or post in 2 weeks kind of deal, so ugly pictures it is). I’m playing with a wide slipped stitch motif  for a hem decoration on a striped/two-tone stockinette ground. The two ends of the swatch are the slipped stitch pattern with a forward-crossed stitch; the one in the center is a simple fairisle. I like the sharpness of the slipped stitch version, and the dimensionality that the slightly raised slip stitches give to the fabric. It looks like the neon is peeking out through a lattice of the darker yarn, and I like that effect a lot. I’m currently planning on a linen stitch derivative for the hem of the piece, since it won’t roll easily and should be firm enough to stand up to the slight pull of the slipped stitch pattern at the ends of the rows.

Combining linen stitch, stockinette, and a twisted slip stitch pattern in one piece is a bit tricky in terms of gauge, though. On the left end of the swatch, I used the same needle throughout, and the gauge varied markedly from one section to the next. Even after a fairly firm blocking, the fabric has a tendency to pucker and curl at the transition from one stitch to another. The pattern on the right was worked with three different needle sizes; the larger size 1 (2.5 mm) for the linen stitch, the smaller 2 size (2.75 mm) for the stockinette, and larger 2 size (3.0 mm) for the slipped stitches. (I’d like to say here that I find it absurd that there are six different needle sizes between 0 and 3 in my knitpicks harmony sock needle kit. I love having a series of closely spaced needle sizes, but the metric naming system makes so much more sense!)

In any case, the final effect with the three different needles was much better, and the final fabric is much more even in the later part of the swatch, though the stitches are a little loose for my liking. I preferred the slightly tighter look of the slipped stitch pattern worked on the smaller needles, so I think I’ll probably shift the whole series down one needle size to get a slightly firmer gauge. Since I’ll also be switching to Addi circs for the final garment, this calls for yet another swatch to see if their size 0, 1, and 2 are similar enough to the Knitpicks size 0, 1, and 2. (Or should that be 0, little 1, and big 1??)

More soon, hopefully, but so far I’m liking how this is coming together!

You know that moment just after you finish weaving in the last end where you lay out the project to admire your handiwork? The one where you notice a mistake right in the middle of the project? Well.

Turns out a blog post can do that, too. I went to post on Sunday about how much I liked the new colorwork decreases (I do really like them very much).

They look like flowers in their own right, don’t they? I am very glad that I decided to go down to two stitches in the decrease pattern instead of 4, because 4 stitches along the decrease line made pretty prominent stripes that I didn’t love. I’m calling that change worth the ripping and reknitting, even if it wasn’t voluntary.

In preparation for writing my blog post, I went to take a picture of the decreases. Except instead of the flowers above, what I saw was this:

Not quite so flower-y, huh?

It turns out that my colorwork pattern is off by 2 stitches on two of the decrease lines, and that’s enough to move me from little flowers to something a little less exciting. Sadly, I  was apparently consistent within each sleeve but not from sleeve to sleeve. This means that I will have one set of decreases with flowers and one without in the front of the sweater, and a matching mismatched pair of decrease lines in the back.

I think this happened because I decided to mirror around the center, and it’s a 4-stitch repeat, which shifts everything over by two. Perfect symmetry at the button band = broken symmetry or a different stitch count across the two halves of the sweater front.

I’ve decided not to pull back again because I don’t think this will matter much in the grand scheme of things. A very detail-oriented person will notice it, but from a few steps away the difference kind of gets lost. (Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.)

I was apparently spoiled by the slip stitch pattern that I used in the Seafoam sweater. There, I paid no attention whatsoever to the decreases, and they just worked. Next time, I’ll have to remember to swatch my transitions, too!

(Note: the title of this post is sadly apt, in a different context. Our backyard chipmunks have reappeared this year, and they have dug up and eaten each and every one of my crocus bulbs, and most of the hyacinths and snowdrops, too. Now, instead of the row of green shoots that I had a couple of months ago, I have a neat row of little holes where the flowers used to be. Apparently we’ll be re-planting this fall, and installing some chicken wire. It won’t be much use against the marauding rabbits, but at least it will protect the bulbs!)

A weekday post! If that’s not a sure sign of summer, I don’t know what is.

Of course, the reason that I’m posting in the middle of the week is that I have been (to borrow a phrase from the Twinset podcast) bitten by my knittin’.

I cast on for the crocus sweater on Monday, and worked an inch or so on the train on Tuesday morning. Tuesday night knitting got me well into the colorwork, which I then decided to tweak and ripped back about 2 inches to start over on Wednesday. I got back on track quickly, and things were going along just swimmingly until last night at around 11, when I looked down and saw this:

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a twist in my cast on. A twist that I did not notice for 4 inches and 3 days of knitting, including laying out the fabric to check that it was the right size against another sweater. I checked for a twist twice at the cast on, once at the 1 inch mark, and even had Branden check at the cast on to be extra sure (I often have him double check me when I’m casting on this many stitches. A second pair of eyes is worth it to avoid ripping back.)

And yet somehow, we missed it. Either that, or it magicked itself into being when I wasn’t looking. Knitting can be tricksy like that. There’s no getting around the fact that the twist is there now and it’s plain as day, even if two people could swear that it wasn’t there two days ago. It’s a mystery.

Just moments before I discovered the twist, I happened to be thinking of one more tweak I should have made to the colorwork decreases, but decided that it wasn’t worth pulling back again. I am taking the twist as a sign that that change really was meant to be. I am also taking it as a reason not to break the yarn on long colorwork repeats until after finishing the yoke next time.

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