Knitting and Love

The most amazing things have come into my life in the last month and half as a result of (or in conjunction with) my decision to knit again. I’m not an expert or long-time knitter, but last winter I knit three sweaters, two of them Elizabeth Zimmermans under the influence of Kate over at Fabrickated. Then I put down my needles. I was somewhat tired of knitting endless rows of stocking stitch, have no desire to get into complicated stuff, and wondered how many hand-knit sweaters I needed. Three seemed like enough to me.

But in September I found I had two desires — one to join a “knitting circle” as a means of having some sort of social life. All four yarn shops in Vancouver have an evening when they host anyone who wants to knit and chat. The second desire was to try out Colourmart (again I have to say under Kate’s relentless promotion of them in her blog). Just kidding about the “promotion” part Kate.

When I discovered Colourmart had no-fee delivery(!!) I jumped on it, and ordered some chocolate brown merino wool ostensibly to match one skein of red/purple wool I bought last year. I’ve since discovered the red/purple is too bulky, so I’ll sub left-over cream wool from one of my sweaters of last year. I’m using a free top-down vneck pattern I found at Ravely a few years ago.

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While waiting for the wool to arrive I started attending a knitting circle at Baaad Anna’s Yarn Store. There’s so much positive about this that I almost don’t know where to begin — but they all have to do with “community”. Every week there are between ten and twenty-five knitters (most, but not all, women) of all ages. I’ve had conversations with various of them about a whole slew of topics. Some have been knitting for 50 years, so there’s a wealth of help and advice available.

Since I couldn’t start my sweater, I spent the first few weeks swatching (see the pic above). But I’ve now discovered that the yarn store hosts some knitting for charity events. If I should want, I could knit purple hats for newborn babies (yarn supplied). Every second Sunday they have a charity knit and chat. They also knit stuff for other causes. I believe right now people are knitting socks for homeless people.

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If you look past the reflections in the window, you can see the knitters inside.

I want to keep attending, which means I have to plan several projects. LOL.

I checked out what the yarn stores had on offer for a fingerweight wool, because I think I might prefer handknits made of lighter weight wool. I found something gorgeous at one of the stores, but they only had two skeins. I went back a week later because I hadn’t found anything else, either there or at Colourmart. I was possibly a little pushy with the sales clerk. I “demanded” she call their head office to see if the yarn was available at their other store in another province, and to see if it could be ordered. No luck.

BUT while I hung around the store sorrowfully looking for something else I might like, the sales clerk was busy on her cell, checking out Ravelry. She found someone selling four skeins of that exact yarn out of her stash!! Can you imagine? I went home, contacted Heather from some place in England, confirmed she still had the 4 skeins and they were in perfect condition, and ordered them.

Then my introductory package arrived from Colourmart. They included a sample pack of yarns of various weights, plus some samples I had asked for. I knit up two of the samples and decided I wanted to order them. They’re a fingerweight blend of merino, cashmere, cotton and silk, one in Khaki green, and the other in burnt orange. I had put them both in my shopping basket but by this time (a month later) they had expired. Unfortunately they appeared not to have any of the khaki left in stock! I contacted them and asked if they by any chance had a cone of it kicking around anyplace. In response, they went through their warehouse and informed me they’d found a cone for me. So I’ve placed my second order with them. But again I’m struck by the helpfulness of people, and by my luck (?) in finding what I want.

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So I now have three projects lined up. That should take me through to the summer.

I’m wondering if knitting circles happen in other cities/countries? No blogger I’ve read has mentioned anything about them, but they’re such a resource. A couple of years ago I heard about them by way of a newspaper article about a retired woman who attended several every week and unravelled sweaters she bought at thrift store to knit for charity. It struck me that she was finding a way to get together with other people and do something she found meaningful.

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Hand knit sweater #3

I finally finished my third hand-knit sweater — can I say “of the year” even though it’s January and the year was 2017? This is a top-down sweater from Cocoknits. In the book it looked like this

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I didn’t particularly like the neckline, so I subbed the neckline for another sweater in the book. I also wanted a sweater that flared out into an A-line shape, but that was not pulled in again by a ribbed hem. I actually knit the body following the instructions to add 4 stitches every 12 rows, and then ripped it back to just under the bust because there wasn’t enough flare. I added 4 stitches (2 to each side) every fourth row instead, and I’m happy with how that turned out. The hi lo hem is made using short rows, and because I had extra stitches because of my extra increases, I ended up adding a couple of extra short rows. I like this. It’s totally simple, which tends to be my aesthetic. The yarn is not uniformly dyed, so the splotchy-stripey colour is the design feature.

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You can see the fabric better maybe below

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It took me forever (well, almost two months) to knit this and part of the reason is that I discovered I don’t really like to sit inside my house knitting for long stretches. I enjoyed knitting my first sweater in the summer, when I could sit out on one of the porches. That was a relaxing way to spend some quality outdoor time. So I’m going to wait to start my fourth sweater until it’s nice enough to sit outside.

I had to force myself to not sew anything for the last month so I could finish this!

 

 

Second sweater done

I finally finished my second Elizabeth Zimmerman yoke sweater. This one is a fair bit different from the first one — I reused DK weight half wool, half alpaca yarn from a sweater I found unwearable, and I reduced the number of stitches from what my measurements indicated (from 188 to 180) for a tighter sweater. I’m glad I did. I bought some coordinating red and blue yarn (half wool, half acrylic with a touch of nylon) to make stripes after the really nice woman at the yarn store showed me a picture of a Kate Davies Keith Moon design.

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I like it! I especially love the broad red stripe around my shoulders. I think this is as far as I’ll go for designs in a yoke sweater. I’m pretty sure I’m too lazy to try the standard kind of Scando-designs and I tend to prefer simplicity. This doesn’t mean I haven’t loved some of the designs my fellow bloggers have produced with this patternless design.

I find there’s a bit of wave in the fabric caused by the “brutal” first row of decreases. It would be nice if that waviness was gone. Does anybody know anything about that? Have people who made stranded designs had the same thing?

When I tried this sweater on after it was done, I considered removing the top couple of inches to eliminate the final row of decreases (in this case I knit two together at every 4th and 5th stitch). That would give me more of a boat neck look. I don’t think I will because I’m fine with it the way it is, but I think if and when I make another of these, I will consider that alteration in advance.

I wore this sweater out and about after taking this picture late this afternoon, and it was warm as toast. I think that’s a thing with alpaca. Another thing with alpaca is that it’s heavy. The wonderful woman at the yarn store, Sarah, told me it can’t hold its weight so it tends to stretch longer and longer. It was something I had noticed and hated about the previous sweater I had knit with this yarn. Wool from sheep looks springy, but hair from alpacas hangs heavy, like, well, hair. I don’t think I will knit with it again, but I do think it was a good idea to make a close-fitting sweater with this yarn.

If you look closely you can maybe just see why I originally chose this colour. It’s exactly the colour of my eyes. Bat, bat.

So now …. what to do about this?

I have an unfinished V-neck, raglan sleeved sweater knitted with this yarn that my mother sent me after she was given it by a neighbour in her retirement residence who could no longer knit. My mother can’t knit anymore either due to shoulder issues so she sent it along to me. It came on a cone. I don’t know what it is, or what its preferred gauge is. I knit the sweater on large needles for a loose look, but when I could finally try it on, I got lost in it (it turns out the number of rows per inch is as important as the number of stitches per inch — who knew?) I suspect the correct gauge is the second from the top, which is knit with 4 mm needles. The picture on the left shows that the yarn is braided rather than twisted. If anybody knows anything about that, please share!

I love the colour and would like to knit a v-neck raglan tunic length sweater, possibly with a bit of flare. There’s enough yarn I’m sure.

Simple yoke sweater done

I’ve been knitting along with kate of fabrickated.com and a bunch of other women for a few weeks now. We’ve been knitting up from the bottom using an Elizabeth Zimmerman non-pattern. How I love the non-pattern! No more squinting at three dense pages of instructions for what to do on each bloody row of knitting! No more confinement to size 150/175/200!

I measured my bust, and then the approximate bust line of two old sweaters and settled on a number. I multiplied the number of stitches per inch with that number and cast on accordingly. All other measurements are percentages of this number. If you can figure out 20 per cent of something, you can knit this sweater. Well you can always have recourse to youtube, as I did for videos on grafting and picking up cast-on stitches. Oh, and for using a circular needle for only a few stitches in a technique called “magic loop”.

Here’s the finished product.

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We used Zimmerman’s book “Knitting without Tears”, which I took out of my local library so I could supplement Kate’s instructions and get the broader picture. The book was published in the 1970’s I believe, and the colour-worked yoke sweaters are a bit old-fashioned, I think. But I did a bit of research on Ravelry and saw people are updating it in a variety of ways — lowering the neckline and shaping the waist, for example.

My variations included shunning all ribbed knit cuffs, bottom and neckline. I have to confess that at the moment I loathe all ribbed knit “endings”. I substituted garter stitch, which I’m happy with. On the wrists I used needles a size smaller for the border, and I like that. I lowered the neck a bit, and kept it a bit wider by reducing a stitch every fifth stitch rather than every second. Zimmerman deals with the need to raise the back by knitting a few extra rows of the back neck border (back and forth) before finishing the border in the round. I chose instead to knit a few extra rows of stocking stitch at the back. Makes more sense to me.

I have no experience with colour work and wanted to knit this up quickly so didn’t bother. Also, I’m not sure I’m a fan of that Norwegian ski sweater look. I must say I have been admiring some of Kate’s sweaters. And, while knitting, I began watching a Netflix series that I’m going to tell you about because it’s pertinent. Have any of you watched “The Killing”? It’s American, but inspired by a Danish detective series. It’s filmed in Seattle, and only on rainy days, as far as I could tell, so it has an appropriately “noir” aesthetic. The lead detective is a woman who always wears her long hair tied back, and whose uniform consists of sneakers, jeans and wooly sweaters. For the first five episodes she wore the same colour-worked yoked sweater, just like the Zimmerman yoked sweaters. So I got a good, long chance to see these sweaters in action. It was great. And for anyone with a Netflix account, I highly recommend the series. It has great themes pertaining to what it is to be human. If you watch it, study the sweaters 🙂

I used about one and a half hanks of Lion Brand fisherman knit yarn, undyed. I bought 3 hanks a couple of years ago when I knit my first sweater after taking two basic knitting courses. So I guess I could make an identical second sweater? That might be a bit of over-kill. However, since the first sweater I knit was unwearable, I have been harvesting its yarn for a second Zimmerman yoked sweater.

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I’m currently swatching, but I think I’m going to have to wet the swatch to get the curl out so I can get an accurate gauge. I may be knitting a bit looser than I did a few years ago.

As I told people on IG, I ran into trouble with the underarm grafting on this sweater, and took myself off to Gina Brown’s Yarns and Wool store for help. While there I bought a hank of brilliant crimson yarn to go with this new sweater. Unfortunately it turned out I brought along a remnant of the wrong yarn. Not this sweater yarn but a brighter version that I had used to make a hat, which I subsequently gave away. I don’t think the crimson is the best match to this subdued aqua, so I’m going back to the store to return it and look for something better.

Does anyone have an opinion as to whether I need the same yarn for some colourwork? If so, I’ll get just one colour because this half-alpaca, half-wool Beroco yarn only comes in 100 gram hanks, and they’re not cheap. But if I could use something else of the same gauge, something that comes in 50 gram balls, I could maybe use two other colours.

While I was at the store, the lovely saleswoman, whose name was Sarah (I think) showed me a picture of a Kate Davies yoked sweater. Here’s a picture of it: the keith-moon

I’m going to take inspiration from it. I was thinking of a stripe, and this design shows me how beautiful one or two stripes can be.

Welting and Knitting 2

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Need I say more?

No, but I’d like to say a little about the bag, which I made from three different upholstery samples (you know those squares or rectangles that often come in a pad of several colours). I was totally constrained by the size of my samples. The bag is a good size though — it fits an 8 x 12 book or sheaf of paper. The single welt pocket will hold wallet and phone. It’s unlined because, well, it’s upholstery fabric. I copied the handle design from a leather or pleather bag I saw in a store last week. It is a long length of fabric folded wrong sides together and serged. At the shoulder point it is folded again and sewn. I think this will help the straps stay on the shoulder. I have an identical square of fabric in blue and plan on using it to make another.

The knitting is the body of the EZ yoke sweater. I removed the needles and replaced them with screw-on caps. I’m now using the needles to knit the first sleeve, using the “magic loop” method. That’s a really bizarre way of using circular needles, but it works! (there’s good info online about this method)

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I’ve decided I’d like to do a little learning for the rest of this summer. I have enough summer clothes, so it seems like a good idea to take a diversion. Welt pockets — they seem like a great thing, but I only had two sets of instructions in my stash, both Vogue. One of them was incomprehensible. So this week I watched a youtube video and read about a half dozen sets of instructions. I’m pretty clear now on how to make them, although I see not everybody does them the same. Some people sew only the two long parallel lines next to the cutting line, but others sew the two short lines also, making a complete box. I tried both, and think the box is preferable (that may be different if the fabric is really heavy). Some people secure the welts by stitching in the ditch, but others topstitch a box around the opening. I think that too would depend on the type and weight of fabric. My Vogue patterns made no mention of interfacing, but most people seem to use it. I suspect it’s helpful except where your fabric is stiff and crisp (when you may not need it). Anyway, I practised a few times. Here’s my final attempt, on wool, with interfacing.

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It took me a few stitches to get to the ditch. The right side has the sewn short edge, which I prefer to the left side. I will take this newly acquired skill and try it on a simple carry bag.

 

I’ve also joined Kate at Fabrickated and a few other people, knitting an Elizabeth Zimmerman seamless yoke sweater. This is full of learning opportunities, as I’ve only knit one and a half sweaters since I took up knitting again a few years ago, and both are unwearable.

I’m using an aran weight wool that I bought a couple of years ago. It’s meant for fishermen knit sweaters. I’ve got four stitches to the inch on 5.5 mm needles, which is exactly what the label on the hank calls for. It’s a bit heavy, but I hope it will generally hug my body and look good. I’ve got about 11 inches knit up so far and am enjoying it.

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I did have a couple of minor problems to solve already. I split a stitch somehow, tried to fix it, knit another round and discovered when I got back to the stitch that it was a mess. The only thing to do was drop the stitch (gasp!), let the threads of the yarn that had been split find each other, and use a crochet hook to bring the dropped stitch back up. It worked! I also discovered I was using a cable that was too long. So I had to figure out how to change to a shorter length in mid-stream (I use a set of needles with separate nylon cables that are screwed onto the needles.)

I got the Zimmerman book that Kate mentioned (“Knitting without Tears”) out of the public library and am reading that too. I like the approach. And because of that, I’ve decided to try to learn to knit “continental”. I’ve tried it for a few stitches and it works — it makes a lot of sense actually. So one day I’ll swatch continental style and see if I can get comfortable with it. It’s supposed to be faster.

And finally, here’s a pic of some ducks. They were swimming in a body of water we call “False Creek” which has become a lovely place to go for a walk (in the past it was surrounded by industry). I like the colours in the water. Have a great week!

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sock it up

Yarn and I  do not have a great working relationship. You might say it’s tangled. I remember knitting two items as a teenager (with my mother doing the ‘specialty’ tasks like casting on and decreasing stitches). One was an orange orlon cardigan, and the other was a fantastically bulky and gruff ‘manly’ turtleneck sweater for my first ‘boyfriend’. Does anybody *not* knit a sweater for a boyfriend?? His mother, who actually liked me, ruined it in short order by, apparently, hanging it on a line to dry after washing it. I didn’t take knitting up again until two years ago, when I went to my local knit shop and took two courses. The first was an intro in which we knit scarves and hats, and the second was a sock-knitting course. I knit a perfectly fine hat in a lovely teal-coloured wool in the first class, but then realized I don’t like toques! I gave the hat away, in an uncharacteristic act of generosity. When I found some strange kind of unrefined and undyed yarn in a thrift store — it looks kind of like straw with hairs sticking out of it — I decided to try again. This time I knit little holes around the edge and threaded a leather thong through them. Not bad. Not sophisticated, but not bad. 2015-04-23 11.54.24 I’d found a big ball of yellow and pink spotted wool at a thrift shop which I used for the socks. They look lovely, I couldn’t have asked for better. But when I wear them I really feel how they don’t clasp my foot as store-bought socks do. I keep them in my drawer and admire them more than I wear them. 2015-04-23 11.53.44 Then I knit a sweater on my own. It called for a little waist shaping, and I thought I was being clever when I altered the shaping to fit my high waist. Now I have a bulky wool sweater that looks like it has an empire waist. Not good. 2015-04-23 11.51.40 Then I knit three quarters of another sweater with a whole pile of yarn my mother donated, at which point I realized the sweater was ALL WRONG. It seems you do need the right number of stitches both horizontally and vertically in the gauge. I put everything including a brand new complete set circular needles away. But this winter when I was travelling I spontaneously picked up some balls of lovely baby merino wool and started knitting a scarf that’s wide enough to be a shawl. I love it. And I realized I like knitting. Knitting allows me to empty my mind. And believe me, I really do need regular de-cluttering above the neck. So I pulled out two balls of sock wool that I had bought two years ago. It was a bit pricey, but I loved the look of it. Such a soft red, I thought. There were no pictures of how the yarn knit up, but I love red as an accent colour, and this seemed like such a soft red, a baby red if there could be such a thing. I figured if I could remember how to knit socks, and remember how to read the pattern, and remember how to knit with four skinny needles, it would “prove” I was ready to return to knitting. I did remember all those things, and was able to confirm by watching youtube videos. 2015-04-23 10.26.02Now that I look at the ball I don’t see it entirely the same as I saw it before I knit it up. I swear it looked like a soft, warm, soothing baby kind of red. I thought I’d get an irregularly patterned red sock. Here’s what I got. 2015-04-23 10.22.51Look at that horrible rusty orange. And what’s that awful spotted green doing in there? I didn’t see those colours in the ball!? And the stripes are so rigidly regular. I wanted spotted, not stripped. This is not my sock. This is some country grrrl’s camping and hiking sock. Pout. So what to do? Well, first knit the second sock. I’ll just pretend I’m a country girl next time I hike into town to catch an opera. Then look for a good sweater pattern and STICK WITH IT. No adjustments, no creative touches. But that’s so not me ….