b r o o k l y n t w e e d
The glorious red blob is finally shaping up into something really special, and I'm loving it.
The spiral is, to me, a constantly intriguing motif in knitting and I love patterns that play with and incorporate its structure. I'm enjoying this sweater so much, I might make two - what a great pattern!
I had a wonderful time in Virginia teaching and got to meet a whole bunch of wonderful knitters. Between the recovery from my trip and preparations for my real vacation, things have been a bit crazy, but I'm gearing up for a hell of a lot of knitting over the next month.
As of tomorrow, and for the entire month of July I'll be relaxing on the west coast on a much needed vacation. I'll be passing back and forth between Seattle, Portland and the Oregon Coast with knitting always by my side and happily leaving the NYC humidity behind. I plan on knitting a lot and finally getting to play around with some new design ideas. I will have my computer with me, so you may not notice much of a change around here, other than hopefully more knitting output than normal. That's what vacations are all about, right? At least for us knitters.
Goodbye Brooklyn, hello Pacific.
New Yarns. New Blobs.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all of your kind words on the past few posts. It's fun to finally get all this knitting out there, as its been piling up somethin' fierce throughout the spring. I'm psyched that so many of you are getting the itch to knit big garter-y blankets. Good timing too, they'll be done just in time for fall. And in case you missed it, I updated the last post with a link to a picture of the full blanket (check the very last lines of the post).
Now that we've cleared the air of the finished knitting, I can get back to babbling on about all the many random things that are running around unfinished. I'll continue to ignore the projects whose lengthy hibernation hasn't yet ended, if it ever does. (Scott, Scott? Where are you?)
I've been hit with a fresh new wave of sweater-knitting-fever, and have had a couple of absolutely wonderful yarns stashed and waiting for a time just like this. The most important of them are the following:
A big batch of hand dyed yarn from Sundara. I procured 10 skeins of this unbelievable red last Christmas (self-love Christmas presents are great, aren't they?) and have been thinking about it all year. It's her (sadly now discontinued) worsted merino semi-solid, and I've finally found a worthy use for it.
I've started Meg Swansen's Spiral Yoke Pullover, a sweater that has been on my list for a long time and is, I think, a great match for the yarn.
In a rare display of self-restraint, I actually knit the sleeves first this time. Something I should do more often, because when you're as excited as I am about a certain yoke pattern, you don't want to stop for anything once you reach the underarms.
The other stash jewel that I've been coveting to work with is a big batch of Queensland Kathmandu Aran Tweed that I snagged from the WEBS sale this year. Chocolatey, tweedy, woolen spun, and soft (cashmere, silk, merino, thanks) - I'll knit you any day.
The nameless blob seen below? Yep, you guessed it - another seamless sweater. You'd think I'd tire of 'em, but I can just never get enough. (I guess this is the same syndrome sock-knitters are plagued with, right? There can never be enough handknits to cover your feet?)
This is a design of my own that I've been itching to realize for some time and hopefully will. Don't hold me to it, though. Designs always have a lifespan of their own.
I'm off to Virginia early in the morning to teach at the Purl Jam over the weekend. If you're signed up for some of my classes, I'll see you there! BT e-mail response times over the weekend will be delayed, as a result, but I'll surely be fielding double-time when I return. Until then!
Knitted Garter Stitch Blanket (AKA Big Squishy Lovefest)
Of all the things I've knit, I can't remember a time when I've been more smitten with a project. Sure there may have been things that we more exciting or eventful to work on but nothing (and I mean nothing) is better for wrapping yourself up in than this. (I realize the timing of this post is absolutely ridiculous as I'm writing in the middle of this summer's first heat wave, but there it is)
Pattern: Knitted Garter Stitch Blanket in Sheepsdown (Ravelry)
Source: The Opinionated Knitter by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Materials: Cascade Eco Wool (100% undyed Peruvian) #8063; yarn held double
Amount: Just over 9 skeins; approx. 4500 yards, 5lbs (!)
Needles: US13 circulars (although straights will work too)
Finished Dimensions: 80 x 53 inches
Started: October 2007
Finished: May 2008
Here is another example of how far a simple, clever design can go. The pattern originally appeared in Elizabeth Zimmermann's 9th Wool Gathering Newsletter in the Fall of 1962. It is available now in The Opinionated Knitter (a collection of Elizabeth's newsletters) with both the original texts (typewritten and all) and diagrams alongside Meg's present-day suggestions and updates to each pattern.
The original pattern calls to be knit in Sheepsdown, Schoolhouse's super bulky, lightly spun, undyed wool. Gorgeous stuff, and I had grand plans of knitting with it before I got economical and turned to my stash to find a plethora of Eco Wool begging for attention. Holding Eco Wool double gave me a bulky gauge (not as bulky as Sheepsdown, but close) and a wonderful squishy, cozy fabric that seemed like a dream to work up a whole afghan with.
Now, about the simplicity and the genius: the entire blanket is composed of four interlocking pieces, all of equal width, which are formed by simple mitered corners. The beauty, to me, is that throughout the entire process you always have 24 stitches on your needle. Always. And there is nary a purl stitch to be found. Netflix Knitters Dream Project? Yes.
Because my gauge was 3 sts per inch and the pattern calls for 2sts per inch, I upped my stitch count from 24 to 36 in hopes of having a very large, very substantial piece of knitting upon finishing. Another benefit of the design is its complete ease in resizing - because the only shaping involved is a mitered corner and you only have one number to worry about (24sts), you can essentially knit this in any weight of yarn at any size depending on how many stitches are cast on. I think a baby-blanket version in a nice soft DK weight wool would be lovely.
Whenever there's this much garter stitch, and this much weight, stretching and distorting of fabric can become a valid concern. Another built-in advantage of the design is that the fabric's consistent directional changes due to the mitered corners gives more structure while mainting wonderful stretchiness. The addition of the I-cord edging also frames the entire piece with added structure to keep everything in shape, and I think cleans up the design for a very nice finish. The I-cord edging is a suggestion from Meg, and one I definitely think is worth the extra time at the end - I love how it turned out.
The directional patterning also makes a wonderful texture and a wonderful play with light and shade, as different parts of the whole catch light differently (see photo below). The finished dimensions on mine came out to about 80"x53" - nice and big, and fits perfectly on the surface of a queen-sized bed. Also a favorite for snuggly folks on couches.
Finishing on this one is a big job and also entails some important decisions. There are many ways to seam up garter stitch, and I tried different methods to see what I liked best. I first tried an invisible garter graft, which looked nice on the RS, but not as nice on the WS, and was too weak in my opinion to hold this beast together. I decided in the end on using a single crochet chain seam to join all the pieces. The crochet seam has some major advantages here: first and most important, because the geometry is strong and completely carries the aesthetic, I wanted a visible seam that accented the construction in a clean way (and had an acceptable WS look). Aside from the aesthetic aspect, a crochet chain is strong and can really take a beating without a flinch. Because this thing weighs about 5 lbs (!) a strong, sturdy seam is essential.
As I mentioned above I trimmed the whole thing with a 3 stitch I-Cord, both for looks and structural help. After all the pieces were sewn together, I knit up one stitch for every ridge and attached the I-Cord all the way around, grafting the first and last row together invisibly.
Another quick tip: I recommend a sewn bind-off on all pieces. It keeps the ends of each piece stretchy and matches the cast on (I did a long-tail).
I'm totally enamored and think this is a lifer - good sturdy wool in a good sturdy pattern is sure to hold up for the long haul. I want to thank my models, Ryan and Joelle, for being total champs and swathing themselves in this thing during 96 degree heat without complaint. That's a feat unto itself.
And although you're folded up for summer, dear blanket, when September rolls around again you'll know how truly loved you are. Happy knitting one and all.
Edited to Add: Oops! Looks like I forgot to take a picture of the beast in its entirety! Had to strap on the wide-angle lens and clear out the living room... but I got it. You can see the full shot here.
I really had to dig deep through the blog archives to see when, oh when did I even start this thing! I got the yarn when it was just released in Fall of '06 and started the knitting some time early in December. I remember that I started this on a sick day - I was in bed, freezing, wearing wooly things and needed something soft and colorful to keep me busy. I don't think I ever thought it would be two summers later before it was wearable, though. Don't you love knitting?
Pattern: Top Down Raglan Recipe
Source: Knitting From the Top by Barbara Walker
Size: 43" Chest Circumference
Materials: KnitPicks Swish Superwash Worsted (100% Superwash Wool)
Amount: 6 balls "Bordeaux" & 7 balls of "Truffle" (finished sweater weighs 650g)
Started: December 2006
Finished: May 2008
Barbara Walker is right up there with Elizabeth Zimmermann as one of the veritable forces of nature in the recent-history of our craft. Aside from her most well-known contribution and complete re-invention of the stitch dictionary, she is also credited with exploring, dissecting, and propagating knitting from the top down, not just sweaters mind you - hats, dresses, pants and more! Her book is a classic and comes highly recommended from me. She is truly a wonder.
If you've never knit a sweater from the top down, you must try it. My very first sweater was knit in this manner,and I've always had a fondness for it. Aside from one minor drawback, it's full of all kinds of advantages, the most valuable being absolute control over length in body and sleeves and the try-on-as-you-go possibility. As you're knitting, you can don your garment as many times as you need in order to get your lengths just right before that final bind off. (In fact, you could technically knit the sweater whilst wearing it, as exhibited on the book's cover, although I don't recommend it.) (Yes, I tried) If your sleeves grow after washing, just rip out the bind off, tear back an inch and bind off again. It's all very convenient. The drawback? The sweater gets a little cumbersome and large towards the end, when you're finishing off that last sleeve you may get a little tired of flipping the whole thing around as you're knitting. I think, though, that this is a completely reasonable price to pay for the obvious benefits of top-down knitting (intuitive points, check).
[EDIT] Awesome tip left in the comments by Miss Sandra - after finishing the yoke, knit the sleeves first. When you're ready to start the body, tuck the sleeves inside the yoke to minimize all those awkward appendages while turning your knitting. It won't change the weight of the garment, but will definitely help with the cumbersome aspects of maneuvering your sweater. (Thanks, Sandra!) Also I forgot to mention, EZ recommends (in Knitting Workshop) to keep the bulk of the garment in a canvas or cottan bag as you work for ease of turning.
I think the main reason for the long lull between start and finish on this project was primarily a materials issue. As far as superwash wools go, I think Swish is a pretty good one - where softness is concerned, it's wonderful (baby knitting heaven) - but I've realized over the years that I'm not a big superwash man. Back in 2006 I think I was still optimistic, but in the end I prefer my wools to be as sheepy and woolly as possible. When wool fibers are treated to be washable they lose some of the qualities that I'm most drawn to and since knitting, for me, is very much about the tactile experience, these material choices really make a difference in how fast or slow a project goes. (I think I have some cotton projects that may never rise from their half finished states. They're really old.)
My sweater grew slightly after washing . When I swatched (waaay back then), I washed and dried in a machine and had a shrinking of row gauge. So when I decided that I'd just wash it by hand like I do with all my other sweaters, I was caught off guard when the thing grew a bit upon drying. This little surprise turned out to be a blessing in disguise - the yarn gets über soft upon washing, and the fit was slightly baggier than I'm used to, the sleeves just a little longer than normal - turns out it's one of the coziest ones in my collection now and I've been wearing it a lot (those days are over now, 95 degree forecast for the weekend. Blargh.)
[EDIT] I forgot again to mention something important about my stripes! This info is also true for my striped vest, as I seemed to get a lot questions about jogs with that project as well. In all of my striped projects, assuming I'm working with only 2 colors, I employ this technique for jogless stripes and carry the unused yarn along the inside of the garment, wrapping the colors around each other at each color-change to catch the unworked yarn and keep things clean on the inside. There are no extra ends to weave in, and the beginning of the round is almost completely invisible on the RS of the fabric.
All in all, I'm really happy with how this turned out - while I don't love knitting with superwash, i do like wearing it. Also, it's definitely an interesting wardrobe item color-wise. And speaking of color - I apologize for the slight deviation in color-correctness from photo to photo. Magenta and warmish brown really like to trick my camera!
Up next, a ginormous wool blanket that can swallow people whole. Not kidding.
This one has been a long time coming, but I think it was worth it.
Pattern: Shifting Sands Scarf by Grumperina [*via Ravelry]
Materials: Malabrigo Pure Worsted Merino in "Frank Ochre"
Amount: 2 hanks; 430 yds/200g
Needles: US 9/5.5 mm straight Clovers
Finished Dimensions: 65" long, 6" wide
Start Date: November 2006
Finish Date: November 2007 (shameful I know)
This is one of those projects that sat in my basket and got a lot of short-term play, off and on over the course of a year: bus trips, flights, waiting rooms, etc. It inched along slow and steady but I finally knit up all the yarn sometime last Fall. As for why it took so long to get blog play, I can't be sure, although it might have something to do with all the wearing that was happening in the colder months. Malabrigo users know how neck-friendly this stuff is!
Modifications: The pattern is written for a sport weight yarn but is easily modified for any weight you'd like. The pattern repeat is 5 sts wide, so any multiple of 5+2 (two selvage sts) will work. I cast on 42 stitches, rather than the 52 suggested by the pattern, and knit until I ran out of yarn. The other mod I tested out was a hem on either end of the scarf to combat the natural curling of the fabric. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out - you can see the hem in the previous photo.
Here's what I did: I cast on 15% less stitches with a provisional cast on, knit one row, knit one row increasing evenly across the work to 42, worked a turning row using *k1, sl1* across, work one row stockinette, work first pattern row and continue scarf as written to end. I tacked down the loose stitches after all was said and done, but you could easily knit the hem together with the 3rd row of pattern for a super-clean join.
As for the hem on the other side, it's basically the reverse order of the previous instructions: work last cable row, knit one row, knit turning row (k1, sl1 across), decrease 15% of sts evenly across next row (I decreased 5 or 6 sts), knit 2 rows and tack down loose stitches invisibly to back of fabric. Press the edges with a steam iron to get good-hem-behavior and a nice finished look.
I have a finished sweater and a finished blanket to share with you in the next couple posts. The summer heat might be here, but my wool addiction is stronger than any weather condition. Bring on the summer sweater knitting!