Blogging the Blob

Quick update: I’m finally at the yoke shaping!

small raglan

There was a stretch of despair while I was on the third increase section of the body. It was just endless, endless, endless rounds of stockinette, with over 350 stitches on the needles. I gritted my teeth, watched a lot of Doctor Who, and finally arrived at the joining of the sleeves, my brain a little numb.

Then there were 500+ stitches on the needles for several rounds. It went on and on and on. And suddenly, the rounds were doable. At the end of the modified raglan shaping, I was even surprised that the yoke had arrived so soon!

Now the yokes are going a tiny bit slower than expected because of all the purling. But look at that beautiful line of shaping stitches!

small yoke

Truly this pattern is marvelous, although I’m sure I’d enjoy it more if I hadn’t been bedazzled enough to offer to make it in fingering weight!

Half a Chestnut

I’m suffering from serious second-sock-syndrome, people. I decided to make a pair of Cabled Knee Highs, but extended them to well over my knee in 2×2 ribbing and reinforced the sole with the slip stitch pattern commonly used on heel flaps.

small foot 01

It looks nice on the foot, the colour is a very delicious That Ol’ Chestnut  in Dragon Sock, and the fit is good overall.


But omg the thigh high ribbing! I now loathe ribbing like I loathe nothing else. I suppose the second sock will have to wait a while to materialize!

small folded 03

The sock is so long, I couldn’t even get the whole thing into one picture without resorting to some cunning origami folds to show all the textures.


Dissecting the Green Blob

Much has been said about the Seamless Hybrid before: its flattering clean lines, the textural contrast between the horizontal and vertically oriented fabrics at the shoulder, the rather astonishing fact that all this is done without sewing!

green blob 1

How does it work? We start with a torso circumference of X sts, and work up the body of the sweater. At the underarms, 5%X sts are put on scrap yarn on each side. Then each sleeve is started with 20%X, worked up with increases till it is 33%X; then 5%X is moved to scrap yarn for each sleeve. The body and sleeves are united on one large needle, and everything is knit in the round, making a centred double decrease every third round, at each junction of torso and sleeve, until half the bicep stitch count remains on the sleeves. Then the saddles are worked back and forth, knitting together with the front and back torso at each end. This ‘eats’ the torso stitches while extending the saddles across the shoulder. A gap is left for the front neck while the saddle continues along to mid back. Then the other shoulder saddle is worked similarly, and the two are grafted at the back. Finally, the underarms are grafted together and the neck is finished.

It sounds a little bit overwhelming the first time, but I’d read the instructions so many times in the last couple of years I could probably have done it in my sleep. Because this is a recipe, you substitute in your own gauge and percentages – there are no restrictive pattern stitch counts to maintain!

And of course I had to fiddle with the pattern a tiny bit…

Time for a pattern analysis!

I love:

  • The astoundingly entertaining and clever construction.
  • The clean, defined lines of the double decreases and saddle shaping.
  • How flattering it is on every single man photographed in one!

I changed:

  • The torso shapelessness – I calculated the desired width at hips and chest, added ease, and determined stitch counts with those measurements. The torso is a gentle V shape for good fit. Ditto for the sleeves.

For further refinement, I started the twisted rib hem with an Italian tubular CO. A twisted rib column, about an inch wide, continues along the sides to the underarm to maintain the fit. I’ll also add a few short rows at the back before the saddles begin, and probably line the collar and cuffs with contrasting yarn.

Since this is my first Seamless Hybrid and I don’t know how the yoke shaping will affect the ultimate length of the sleeves, I started them provisionally and will finish them with ribbed cuffs once I can hang the whole garment on a body to check fit.

I decided to make it a pullover because I wasn’t sure if the thin, drapey fabric would bear the weight of a zip without skewing. Also, I knitted at a tighter gauge – about 8 stitches per inch – for a more cohesive fabric which would not get distorted by its own weight. If I have enough yarn left I may darn elbow patches on the inside to forestall wear and tear.

Now I’ve got one more increase repeat left – 36 rounds – before I can finally get to the yoke shaping. I am sooooo looking forward to that!

Travelers Yarns

My brain is a little weird in that I find the explanations of magic tricks more charming than the tricks themselves. I actually enjoy re-reading mystery stories because you know exactly where you’re going, and so have time to pay attention to the literary scenery and admire the writer’s craft in planting clues artfully. I like shifting focus to the background and seeing it burst into detail!

And that, people, was a slightly awkward segue into postal tracking numbers. I love them. They reveal a glimpse of the inner workings of countries’ aviation systems, postal systems and impex processes – I warned you my brain was weird!

I once FedEx-ed  a package from Bangkok to Bangalore, naturally assuming that it would travel on one of the numerous direct flights between the two cities. But the package flew north to Guangzhou, southwest to Mumbai and then southeast to Bangalore. Why, why why????? What made it more efficient for them to do that???? Is that a regular hopping route for FedEx planes? Do they have a giant sorting facility in Guangzhou? So many questions, so much new information!

Final segue: I nerdishly tracked this yarn across the postal and Customs systems of two countries, estimating (rather accurately, I’m proud to say) with holidays and weekends how long it would stay at each stage. I noted with interest how exactly the same timestamp (controlled by computers) would appear on similar but slightly different messages (controlled by humans who initially input the standard messages) in the two countries. I saw the same timestamp got updated at different times in different countries. So much information, geography and infrastructure information from a little alphanumeric string! How delightful!

small 1

Oh wait, you’re here for knitting content. Yeah, this is going to be a Seamless Hybrid for my husband.

The sleeves are done (thank you, post-conference hotel nights tv!) and I’m now working on the body. 350+ stitches per round! But that’s how weird my brain is – I offer to knit fingering weight pullovers for 6’5” humans.

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Milk Maiden

small horiz 3

Done and appreciated! I stalled forever on sewing up half the sleeve seams (the remaining halves were worked in the round). Work, travel and very often both together are my excuses. And also, the prospect of inviting heatstroke by wearing the sweater for the photos!

Background discussions here and here.

Not to be too theme-ish and all, but here’s an autumn coloured sweater, right in the middle of September, and it even has little leaves along the neckline! I really didn’t plan that, I promise.

 small full 1

Pattern: Milk Maiden from Brave New Knits
Yarn: Cascade 220 Sport; 100% wool; sport weight; 150m (164yd)= 50 g; “Pumpkin Spice”; almost 7 skeins
Needles: 3.5mm bamboo circular
Mods: See previous posts.

Flight of the Milk Maiden

Or, Time Zoned Out

Or, More Marvelous Facts about the Human Body

When kept awake for 24 hours in perpetual artificial twilight on a long-distance flight with no real daylight stimulus, the body can knit for hours. Hours, I tell you. Tirelessly.

Of course I would never advocate taking unnecessary long-distance flights just to get a jump on knitting, that’s a bit too extreme; but wow, most of the body on a sportweight pullover done in one day! That’s amazing!

Here’s why my Milk Maiden pullover is now: body done, sleeves half done.

small body

I avoided all the fussy instructions around the neckline by knitting the body first and setting the sleeves in seamlessly. To shape the body I followed a CustomFit generated pattern up to the point where the bust ribbing starts. There I stopped making front increases, and just increased across the row as given in the Milk Maiden pattern. Then I continued with a twisted rib panel on the bust, bound off armholes after dropping faux seams to the bottom rib, finished the back in stockinette and finished the front panels in garter. When worn, the garter ridges get stretched and echo the thin vertical lines of the twisted rib on the bust, so the whole neckline looks cohesive.

small neck garter

Cuffs and hems are echo the bust panel in twisted rib, and are begun or cast off tubularly for more polish.

small rib

I may work a thin i-cord around the whole neck to make it look really polished. Or not. The yarn is Cascade 220 Sport in Pumpkin Spice, an interesting neutral which looks like brown with embers glowing from within.

Pondering the Barefoot Milk Maiden

Thank you everyone, for the interest in the Shifting Sands Recipe! I’ve never seen such a jump in stats before, and those little Paypal notifications make me very happy :)

Now I’ve been working on Milk Maiden from Brave New Knits; before tracking progress, let’s jump into a little pattern analysis.

small crop

What I Love:

  • The square neck
  • The leaves across the front
  • The ribbed bust panel
  • The fitted look

What Must Change:

  • Too clingy – 5 inches negative ease!
  • Neck just a tad too deep – I don’t want to wear a visible shirt under the pullover all the time, because nothing really will coordinate with the leafy neckline.
  • Sleeves too short – if it’s cold enough to wear wool, it’s cold enough to require coverage.

All the above are easy to fix: I generated a sweater via CustomFit with minimal ease and a deep scoop neck which I changed to a square neck by doing all the BOs in one row. Also, because that ribbed bust panel is such a feature, I changed it to twisted rib to make the vertical lines really prominent, and echoed that at the hem and cuffs as well.

And finally, something about the neckline instructions in the pattern just didn’t feel right. It just was too fussy, as if soldered on to an existing garment. So I poked around, and found a CLUE! Look at the designer’s post about the sample here – the neck is five leaves wide and the garter edges are very narrow. But by the time the sample is photographed for the book, the neckline has wider garter edges and one leaf less. Curiouser and curiouser!

My guess is that the original design (which was inspired by a medieval European, wide, almost-falling-off-the-shoulders neckline) was deemed too impractical and those garter strips were widened to compensate.

And that’s today’s edition of pattern investigation / analysis nerdery. Next episode when I start a new project!

Shifting Sands CustomFit Recipe Release!

Three years ago, I knitted myself a cardigan in the beautiful Malabrigo Sock “Ochre”. On a whim I took a photo of myself in the mirror, instead of propping my camera up on a stack of books as usual. My balcony was clean, trees in the background were blurred and perfect dawn light curved softly around the edges of the crisp latticework of stitches.


The photo propelled my blog from obscurity to modest fame. It was pinned innumerable times, brought many new visitors to the blog, got featured by Julie on Modification Monday and my project climbed into the top ten on Ravelry favourites. And then came countless requests for a pattern, some directly to me, others as comments on Pinterest. I felt rather bad, since I knew I wouldn’t have time to learn about pattern grading in order to offer the pattern for sale.

Not anymore!

The Shifting Sands Cardigan is now offered as a CustomFit Recipe, here. I hope you enjoy knitting it! Since this is a fairly new way of releasing patterns, I’m putting down Frequently Expected Questions. If I miss anything, ask away!


1. What’s a CustomFit Recipe?
CustomFit is a web based application where you enter your measurements and get an individualized knitting pattern for a flattering garment. You select sweater parameters (length, sleeve, neck) and CustomFit produces detailed instructions on how to knit that sweater, in your gauge and your yarn.

A CustomFit Recipe is a set of instructions to give to CustomFit in order to replicate a particular cardigan in your size and shape. It usually includes instructions for special design elements.

Think of it this way: If CustomFit were for sewing, you would normally enter your measurements and fabric type, pick design elements (neck, sleeves, etc) and receive pattern pieces which, when sewed together, would fit you perfectly. However, if you wanted to replicate a particular dress worn by Celebrity X, you would buy a Recipe for that pattern, which would tell you what instructions to give CustomFit to replicate that particular dress in your size, and additional design details like frills and collars. Make sense?

2. This is All So New to Me! What Do I Do?
First, purchase the CustomFit Recipe here . Read it through and decide on your yarn.

Then create a CustomFit account here (it’s free, like creating a Ravelry account). Enter your measurements (detailed video guides are available) and swatch (video guides are available).

Next, enter sweater options instructions from the Recipe. Once everything is entered, CustomFit will ask you to pay. Do that, and a detailed, customised knitting pattern for the stockinette body is instantly generated for you!

Finally, the fun part! Knit your stockinette sweater following the instructions from the CustomFit pattern, and then knit the collar following instructions from the Recipe.

3. Which Means I Pay at Two Points?

In the  Recipe you’re buying detailed instructions for the lovely collar and more. Oh and for my creative process :).

In the CustomFit pattern, you’re buying detailed instructions for knitting the basic stockinette cardigan body, in your yarn, your measurements, your swatch.  It’s worth it, not having to waste a single minute trying to match a designer’s gauge. And you get a perfectly fitting garment!

4. What Exactly Do I Get?
In the Recipe, available here, you get:
– Detailed discussion of yarn combinations for sweater and collar.
– Full instructions on design parameters to enter into CustomFit, including customization.
– Detailed instructions for knitting the collar, with photos and charts.
– Detailed instructions on sewing the collar to the body, with photos.
– Assurance that the Recipe has been test knitted and tech-edited.

In the CustomFit pattern, available here, you get:
– Detailed instructions on creating a perfectly fitting stockinette cardigan body.
– Full customization options – you are free to change the sleeve and sweater length.
– Yardage estimates for your selected sweater body yarn.
– Freedom from having to match a designer’s swatch!

5. And Finally…
The first two pages of the Recipe:

Interested? Purchase the full Recipe here !

Six New Sources of Happiness

Next up:

1. Catkin sweater: this shawl pattern is just too pretty to be ignored, but I cannot wear lace shawls in any way approaching the flattering. I’m going to make a stockinette yoke, use the herringbone stitch from the pattern for the rest of the sweater and end with the dancing catkins pattern around the hem. Oh and the bottom will be a wide U shape, bordered with the bright “Forestry” yarn (TML), scooping in to the waist and buttoned along the sides. The picture below is pretty, but not very real — Forestry is a much more vivid green and I’m not sure if the brown can be an equal partner; perhaps a swap is on the cards?

small catkin swatch

2. Leitmotif – in a lovely, licheny, Portland Tweed. I may work the stockinette section in the round and steek it up the front just to speed things up.

 small leitmotif swatch

3. Milk Maiden:  in Cascade 220 Sport, Ginger Spice. Probably de-sexified a little bit, so it’s more wearable.

 small milkmaiden swatch

4. Seamless Hybrid Man Sweater: The Man is 6’5” and only likes fingering weight yarns. Wish me luck. And my fingers, strength. And my mind, grim persistence. On the other hand, all 16 seasons of the utterly charming Midsomer Murders are on Youtube, so this just may go faster than expected.  To be worked in a combination of stockinette, twisted rib and subtle chevron texture, in TML “Grey Gardens”.

 seamless swatch

5. Talamh: in the iconic “Tart” in TML. This picture in no way does it justice — it’s a deep, complex, wine red. I’m thinking of converting this into a pullover, with i-cord necklines and overlapped, rounded fronts. Maybe also a detachable cowl in the same lace pattern if there’s enough yarn left over?

 small talamh swatch

6. CoP Legwarmers: It’s been long enough. Winter is coming. Let’s be prepared.

small legwarmer

Boticelli Tunic

There she goes!

 small boticelli 2

I’m happy with the result, but please, no more fingering weight tunics for a long time.

I’ve documented our long journey together since January: my desire for a striking, lightweight woolen dress; shaping and design elements.

At our journey’s end, a quick summary: tunic length dress; inseam pockets edged with herringbone stitch and i-cord; wide, square neck edged with i-cord; herringbone stitch collar, shaped around the neck with short rows; sleeves picked up from the armscyes and knitted down, ending with a strip of herringbone stitch bordered with welts (to mimic i-cords in horizontal knitting).

There are lots of polished touches I love about this: the i-cord borders, the way the skirt shaping automatically forces the pocket edges to swing out diagonally, the faux seams along the sides.

small boticelli 3

I love the yarn and colour as well, and can’t imagine anything so sacrilegious as using Malabrigo Sock to actually make socks! It is soft and strong, but has an unexpected matt denseness. On the body it feels woolly, but also velvety. Slightly more variegation than I liked, but I can live with that!

Now for the Earth to swing back around the sun, so I can actually wear it!

Pattern: my own, generated with CustomFit; the border pattern is from Herringbone Socks.
Yarn: Malabrigo sock; 100% wool; 402m (440 yds) = 100gm; light fingering weight; 4 skeins in “Boticelli Red”. Just scraps remained at the end.
Needles: 3.0 mm circulars for everything.


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