Friday, March 31, 2017

Two Knits

First, I should probably apologize for this post because I'm writing it while listening to a playlist of random favorites.  At the moment, Neil Diamond's Holly Holy is playing.  It's distracting.

This playlist makes me happy and sad all at once.  But happy usually wins out and I dance like a freak around the house, usually.

After finishing the Julia Sweater,  I wanted to get into two more sweaters that have been on my list for a while.  I've enjoyed knitting lots of socks and shawls in the last year, but I want to get back to garments.

I like to have at least two knits going at all times- one that's good for tv knitting and one more complicated.  Guess which is which?

The top sweater is the Gingerbread sweater from Libby of Truly Myrtle.  It's a classic style, wide-neck sweater.  When I first saw it on instagram I thought how I wanted to knit mine in cashmere.  Then I came back to reality and started looking for something with just a little cashmere in it.  I found this Lana Grossa Alta Moda Cashmere Fine on sale at Loveknitting.  It's only 10% cashmere, but may as well be the real thing to me.  It's softer than my kitten.

Even though Gingerbread is a seemingly straight stockinette sweater, I found the beginning, short rows and shoulders, really interesting.   But that's about as far as I am.  Since I am almost finished recovering from that sprain, I thought I'd really focus on the cabled Journey, by Alina of Gift of Knitting Designs.  I'm hoping to finish it before the recovery period is over.

This one is knit in trusty Wool of the Andes Tweed in Brass Heather that I've been saving until I knew what the heck was going on with my body.  I think the hormonal weight fluctuation has settled down, so I'm digging into the all the cables.  I'm also knitting this so it will have a little ease.
I have two thoughts here: I so love this color and moss rib makes ribbing bearable.

And so this sweater has accompanied me through three Planet of the Apes movies and anywhere I go that doesn't involve holding a conversation with anyone.  Dogs don't count.

I made a serious dent on this sitting around the campfire and while the family played Catan (There were 5 of us.)  And now I'm actually looking forward to sleeves.  Did I just type that?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Baby Granny Stripe Blanket

I guess I can post this blanket now that it's been gifted and the recipient has been born.  It made me so happy to think of the loving home she would grow up in as I worked on this blanket.  I was also excited that her parents loved it because, guys, this was totally a case of me winging it with pretty colors, then pulling it all together with a tutorial and a how-to book.

Inspiration: I decided on a granny stripe afghan because they are all over instagram right now and so all of the various #rabbithole somethings have seeped into my subconscious.  But as I worked on it, I thought of the precious baby that would be dragging it around one day and of my grandmother who made us crochet blankets all through our lives.

The first one she made me was in a seventies palette of yellow, orange, and cream.  It was probably a baby gift.  I would drag it to the living room with me to watch Saturday morning cartoons.  That was when you could watch Bugs Bunny and Scooby.  Sometimes I would throw it over me, ghost-like, and peek out through the holes to watch the show.  It was also a picnic blanket for stuffed animals and dolls, during the brief period when I played with dolls.  My daughter used it this way, too.  It was an acrylic/ titanium blend.

Grandmommy made me a pink and white one when I was in fourth grade, and a solid cream afghan, as I neared adulthood.  I still pull that one (above) up over the bedspread on cool nights.  It has a burn hole in it from when my daughter sat too close to the chiminea, and there's an old cat sleeping on it as I type this.  Suffice it to say, it is much loved.

The green and orange one was made for my parents.  My mom would fold it at the end of their bed.  Somewhere along the way, I ended up with it and it has been used by everyone in my family at some point to cover with on the couch.  I don't mind the scratchiness of the acrylic.  It's a nostalgia trigger from childhood.  (Remember how perfume companies were infusing perfumes with slightly plastic-like scents in the 90s to woo the Play-Doh generation with subliminal nostalgia?  Well, it's like that.)  It feels soft to me because it was made by sweet hands for my sweet mother.

The one in the best shape has the orange and cream medallion design.  She made this one for herself, but gave it to me when she sold her house.  I doubt it was used very often because it's pristine.  Isn't it glorious with that orange fringe?

These blankets were on my mind the whole time I crocheted my gift.  When I was about halfway through, I took it with me on a visit to my grandmother's.  I wondered what she'd think of the scrappy stripes.  She noticed it, peeking out of my bag, right away.  It's a different style than those she made, but she liked it.  The variety in yarn color was amazing to her.  This just wasn't an option when she crocheted 40 years ago.   I left that visit thinking of how I take my ability to use my hands in these fine motor movements for granted.  Even being able to clearly see what my stitches look like is a blessing.

My Baby Granny Stripe:  When I started this one, I was just testing out a granny stripe pattern I found on Ravelry.  I used worsted weight, in case it made a good baby gift, but I didn't expect it to look good.  I spent a whole afternoon digging up all of my worsted scraps.  I am so, so glad I kept them.  There were plenty of times I wanted to chuck my leftovers because they weren't even enough to make a hat, but a voice in my head said, " them..." This voice is the reason our garage is a wreck and everything in the crisper is rotten.

Once I got to like the third row,  I could not put it down.  It moved so quickly.  I think I crocheted the whole thing in 10 days, working mostly in the evenings when my husband and I stare at the tv like zombies.  No, make that 8 days because I had a migraine for 2 of them and, even for the daring, crochet is hard with crossed eyes.

Something about crochet makes me feel invincible.  I don't mind just fiddling until it looks pretty good.  There's no desire for perfection (and this blanket was not perfect), but still it enabled me to churn out a really fun gift in a craft I'm a noob in.  It's how knitting used to be before I knew much about it.

As I began, I couldn't tell if it would be nice and square or veer off with accidental extra stitches.  It veered, a little, but I corrected it with blocking.

Details:  I think I already told you about my color scheme, which was basically 3 or 4 stripes in compatible colors, with a unifying stripe of Quince and Co wool in Clay, every once in a while.

The first thing I needed to learn to do was make a magic knot.  Below is a reference for myself: lay old and new yarn ends next to each other.  Tie the old end to the new yarn, then tie the new yarn end to the old yarn strand.  Pull both yarns until the knots slide together tightly.  Trim loose ends and crochet on.  Below, is my photo shorthand.  Google a video if you want something more complete.

I relied on Lucy, of Attic24's, pattern heavily.  It's a freebie, so click on it to get the basic gist of my blanket.

Since it was for a baby, I only ch 122 stitches with a size G hook.  I made sure to make it a multiple of 3, plus 2.

After this, I switched to a size F hook and followed the pattern for rows 1-5.  I kept this up until I had 79 "stripes".

Here's where it gets fuzzy.  (Remember I fiddled a lot.)  I didn't know how to make my last stripe look like the first, which included the initial chain row.  This might have been clear in the pattern, but it wasn't to me.  So after the last stripe in a green colorway, I continued using that color and worked a sc in 3 out of 4 stitches for one row.

At this point my blanket was a little wonky from changing tension, plus those few stitches I added on accident, in the beginning.  It needed an edge to square it up some.

I ran out of Quince and Co Lark in Clay before the main blanket was finished, but I had ordered some Osprey in the same colorway.  The difference between worsted and Aran was no big deal, but i was glad to have Aran for a nice, firm border.

I went down to a size D hook, tied the Clay into the last color of yarn and began working dc clusters in the spaces created along the left side by the ch 3's.

At the first corner I ch 2, then worked sc in each stitch along the bottom edge.

At the next corner, I ch 2 again, then worked down the right side with dc clusters, as with the left side.

For the last corner, I ch 2 then worked a sc into each stitch along the top.
Again, I ch 2 at this last corner (where I had begun the edging) and started a second border.

Second border:  I worked sc in 3 of 4 stitches along the sides and in every stitch of the bottom and top edges, always ch 2 at the corners.

This gave the whole thing more structure.  Then I blocked it out to almost square.  It took some work, but I think it's decent.

I didn't write down my dimensions, but it was a good size for really wrapping a little babe or for a child to drag around the house and make blanket forts with on Saturday mornings.

I'm not a natural crocheter.  Even reading back on these notes I made looks a little Greek to me.  But I'm sure I can fumble through a fingering weight one now.  I have plenty of scraps for that and I won't have to dig around for them.   I also think I need to use that blessings hands that can craft and eyes that can help me see it to make my Grandmommy an afghan for Christmas.

(on ravelry, kollabora, instagram, and flickr)

My other post on this project is here.  More WIP photos are here and here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


I could knit Feyre again.  And again.  It was that satisfying.  I was imitating the sample, knit in Brooklyn Tweed's Newsprint.  I think the Patons Classic Aran and Dark Grey Marl colorways gave mine a similarly graphic look.  True black would've been nicer, but I was on a budget.

This shape of this shawl is new to me.  It's longer than the normal crescent shawl, so it works like a scarf, too.  I can't wait for an opportunity to try it out.  Sadly, we didn't have a winter this year, and it's practically summer.  You can't tell, but I was dying from heat in these photos.  However, next winter, I will be ready!

Though I wanted to knit mine with two high contrast colors, I think adding more colors or toning down the contrast sounds interesting too.   Check out Katy's multicolored version.

Shannon is one of my favorite designers.  She designs things I could wear every single day, and the pattern books she's been making with Jane Richmond are beautiful.   But, you knew that.  Shannon also has a really great Ravelry group, with the best knit-alongs.  They are the KALs I can't live without.

Details:  I used size US 8 needles and 2 skeins of each colorway to knit this.  I also used season 1 of Baskets to fuel my knitting.  There's really nothing else to say about the knitting, except that it was bliss.

I had high hopes for going somewhere neat to take these photos, but the weather turned hot and I got a migraine, so my house it was.

What I love about this shawl is the contrast, the stripes of color and texture, and the interesting shape.    I love the border too.  I think this shawl would look great with my black maxi dress.

I knit this for the Grocery Girls' BFF Knit-along, for which we could knit any pattern by good friends Shannon Cook or Jane Richmond.  Guys, I have a list a mile long, and I've already knit a lot of their stuff.

I have plans for 4 more of Shannon's,  Timber being first on that list.  I also have plans to use some recycled super bulky wool for Jane's Entwine.

(more on my ravelry, kollabora, instagram, and flickr)

My other posts on this knit are here and here.
There's nothing these two have designed that I wouldn't love to knit.  I'm their secret BFF.

What have you guys knit by these BFFs?  And which of their patterns do you want to knit next?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Julia Sweater

I don't know what happened.  I slipped this big sweater over my head and next thing I knew it was like the last 26 years were a dream.  What?  I'm 17 again, wearing guys' sweaters with baggy... everything?

Friends, I knit the biggest, simplest, most monotonous seed stitch sweater ever and it is perfect!  I once thought I'd never knit oversized, drop shoulder sweaters.  Never say never.  At my heart, I am a product knitter.  And a tomboy.  Now I won't have to borrow any of my husband's sweaters if I want to wear something big and cozy.  I can just pull on my sweater-as-fountain of youth and feel like a girl again.  Minus the angst and melancholy about growing up.

My son asked if I meant to wear dad jeans for these photos.  Are dad jeans a thing?

This is the Julia Sweater from Wool and the Gang.  Remember how I was finally getting around to knitting one of their patterns?  Well, I did and I'm so pleased with it.

Don't let my declaration that the stitch pattern was monotonous come across as a put down.  It's not.  I mean, to a new knitter this would be fantastically interesting.  To me, it was a slog.  But a slog that took me through a season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and the first season of Major Crimes (because I missed my Closer friends, even though it's not as good as The Closer.)

Sometimes you want a tv knit.  In my case, I wanted a lot of it.  After a while, I found a rhythm and the purling, every other stitch, wasn't so maddening.  And, boring as seed stitch is to an advanced knitter, it makes the best finished sweater!

There is a lot of seaming, but what else can you do when you knit a four piece sweater this big.  If I'd knit it in the recommended 100% cotton, think how heavy and twistable it would be.  Nah, this needed nice, sturdy seams.  That process was actually pretty easy.  I don't think I had to rip it back and start over once.  With no shaping, the pieces fit together really well.

Details:  I used size US 5 needles and Classic Elite Chesapeake yarn in the Faded Rose colorway.   That sounds like a country singer's stage name.  It is 50% wool, 50% organic cotton.  This made all of those little stitches more bearable to my hands than pure cotton would have.  It will also be more wearable, for me, without as much wool content as usual.  The yarn is discontinued, hence the super cheap price tag, but I really, really, enjoyed working with it.

So with all of this straightforward design, the only challenge for this knit was planning for after-wash growth.  I wanted just the right amount of "oversize," you know.  My gauge was off, but I can't remember by how much, and I've misplaced my printed pattern at the moment.  I think the pattern gauge was 14 sts/22 rows and mine, before blocking, was 16 sts/ 28 rows per 4 inches sq.  After blocking, it was 16 sts/ 24 rows.  I did stretch it for length when blocking, but I think I could have easily blocked it for more width, if I'd wanted to.  That's what I did with the sleeves, in fact.

I followed directions for a medium but my finished chest circumference was 42 inches, that of a size large, giving me about 7 or 8 inches of positive ease.  That's about the amount of ease the sample seems to have on the model.

I noticed lots of finished Julias on Ravelry were more fitted than the sample on WatG's site.  So I made a last minute decision to make mine larger than I'd originally planned, which led to a rousing game of Yarn  Chicken.  I ended up finishing the front and not being happy with the length.  I blocked that piece and got 2 more inches out of it, but would have preferred more.

So I decided to knit an extra couple of inches on the back, see how much yarn I had left, then come back to the front to add length if my yardage allowed.  I counted my additional rows so that after I ripped out the front neckline, I would be able to add exactly the same amount of length as I had on the back.

I then moved on to the sleeves.  I wanted a bit of "overhang" with those, too.  So after knitting them extra long, two-at-a-time, I blocked them for width and held them up to the sweater, to see if I had the length right.

This is when I placed markers on the sides of the body where each armhole should begin, so that I'd have plenty of room where sleeve and body joined.  Several knitters mentioned having trouble with tight armholes.  I was hoping that by blocking the sleeves for width and the body for length I would have plenty of room for a nice sized armhole.

I usually have to remind myself to not seam pieces too tightly, but when the pieces are pre-blocked I feel I have to be careful to not be too loose.  I don't know if the seaming yarn will grow a bit after washing and with the added weight of the pieces. It probably wasn't necessary, but I was mindful to keep my stitches from being slack.  

My finished measurements were 26" in length, 42" bust, and 14.5" around the arm at the sleeve/body seam.  That means I got 3" extra, in length, from blocking.  I'm wearing it with about 7" of ease.

Here's what I love about this sweater:  Seed stitch (once it's knitted)-duh,

The turned under edges of neck, cuffs, and bottom.  All of that turning and stitching was super tedious, but it gives this a professional look.  By professional, I mean better than the oversized crap they sell at PacSun, etc.

The way the neckline widens, when seamed under. 

Seed stitch with jeans.

My next knit from Wool and the Gang will probably be the Tommy Top or a beach bag- can't decide. There's also that Christmas gift I need to finish... 

Other posts on this sweater: planning and trucking along

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

So Much Seed Stitch, Then a Rant

How have I been knitting for 15+ years and still not yet knit a Wool and the Gang pattern?  Weird, huh?

So the Julia Sweater is my first one.  It's also been in my WIP basket for six months.  I realized this when I went on a recent cleaning frenzy.  I was told that in order to heal a back/hip sprain (that I think I got a year ago lifting heavy things in my backyard) I must drive very little and walk and stand a lot.  Oh, and I can clean house.  Thanks, Doc.  When I do go somewhere farther than 5 minutes away, it's with the shotgun seat cranked all the way back, gangster-style, and my husband or one of the kids chauffeuring. Yes, I am a diva now.

Anyway, I had started this sweater because of it's uncomplicated nature- oversized, drop shoulder, and seed stitch.  I thought it would be perfect for waiting rooms and dark movie theaters.  Simple and shapeless, it still looks great... at least when WatG styles it.  It's the kind of sweater you want to put on and leave on until either yourself or the sweater requires a hose-down.  I've since realized, however, that seed stitch stinks in a dark theater, so it went into the basket until about a week ago.

The pattern calls for Shiny Happy Cotton, labeled as a bulky yarn, but I'm using Classic Elite Chesapeake which is worsted.  Shiny Happy Cotton is rated as a Dk weight yarn on Ravelry, so mine has been a good substitute.  It's also only 50% organic cotton, then 50% wool.  I thought it would make it lighter, warmer, and keep it from sagging with wear.  (By the way, it's a discontinued yarn, but Webs still has other colors on super sale right now.)   I really like the way it feels to knit with.  It is easier to work with than pure cotton and it's a pretty color.  Pretty color is essential when you're making four million seed stitches.

This would have been an excellent sweater to knit as a new knitter, back when every stitch felt like a mini miracle.  I could've practice tension, knits, and purls, but not have to worry about difficult seaming or perfect sizing.  If only WatG existed when I was just starting out!   However, I would've found the cost of kits too high for my budget back then.  They do rotate their patterns for sale separately, though.  That's why I have several, without the kit yarn, just waiting in the queue.

When I think about Wool and the Gang, I can't help but think of all the companies and individuals that have borrowed their aesthetic, pattern ideas, packaging, etc.  I know I wrote a post up on We Are Knitters a while back, but I've come to feel uncomfortable using their patterns.  I did enjoy knitting  the kit I bought, and I will eventually blog about it, but I don't think I'll be buying more.

It's hard to know where to draw the line on flattering imitation and calculated replication.  So many designers and companies are all riding the same trend waves that it's inevitable that some will simply be slower to catch on.  That's just timing.  But, then there are times, like this when it's an obvious rip-off of a lesser known designer who will be unlikely to challenge it.  Makes me think of something I read years ago about Urban Outfitters.  To this day, I really don't like that company.  I'll admit I've bought some records there, though.

If you take a look at all of the similarities between We Are Knitters and Wool and the Gang's business concept, packaging, promotion, and advertising it can't be accidental and, even if it's a normal business practice, I personally don't like that kind of thing.

I remember reading a Flickr friend's thoughts on imitation in photography.  She said something like she thought if she made at least three significant changes to the concept, it was a case of inspiration, not imitation.  And, looking at her muse's photo next to her own, it seemed just that.  Not to mention, she wasn't selling her photo, just creating for the sake of making.  Her goal was self-discovery, not monetary gain.  I'm not sure why that has stuck in my head all these years, but I agree.  When I borrow I like to give credit, link up, hashtag, whatever.  I don't need to pretend I'm the source of all ideas.  This applies to articles I read and things I knit.  Really, is there anything more annoying than when someone makes a clever remark and the person standing next to them starts repeating it louder, over and over for attention?  Blah. Same principle, here.

I wrote up a pattern, years ago, and put it on Ravelry for free only because the Madewell cowl I borrowed the idea from was no longer for sale.  It was a total copy and I freely admitted it.  I would never have printed it if the original was still available to purchase.  I loved the experience of seeing something and trying to recreate it, and that was all.  That was totally a case of filling a pattern void, not pretending to be the designing OG.

Actually, I'm sure I could've looked at this sweater sample and knit a copy without purchasing, but why not give a few bucks as credit to the ones who made me think of it, especially when I'm going to be putting my FOs on my blog?  I really like supporting designers.  My appetite for patterns is too big for my available knitting time.

Having said that, I realize there are tons of sellers ripping each other off on Etsy all the time.  It would be difficult to keep track of it.  It's also difficult to notice how much of the barrage of images we see each day is settling into our subconscious to influence our creations.   But, when a larger company picks on the little guy, it really bugs me.  Must be my father's labor union influence.

So what's the test for innocent vs self-promoting imitation?  Will it steal customers?  Is it almost exactly a copy, or heavily modified?  Is it styled the same?  Does the product name or ad copy read the same?  Is it a pattern of behavior or a one-time coincidence?

(more on Ravelry, Kollabora, Instagram, and Flickr)

So, yeah, I'll stick with Wool and the Gang for knitting kits.  I do have kits for the Tommy Top, Milo and Piazza bags, and Shakti Shorts.  I can't wait for summer to knit these.

Have any of you knit Wool and the Gang patterns or want to?