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.

Event on the Horizon

I’ve been busy working on a big step forward.

pattern cover

Yes, finally! The Shifting Sands Cardigan will soon be released as a CustomFit Recipe.

The Recipe will have lots of detailed instructions, photographs and charts. Plus, a thorough discussion on possible yarn combinations for body and collar. It’s being test knitted and tech-edited right now and so far, the results have been great!

One more thing: I’ll be taking down the instructions for the collar from this page within the next week since they’re large and wieldy and contain too much algebra! The Recipe is much cleaner.

The Recipe will guide you through CustomFit options to select to knit the base cardigan, followed by clean and detailed instructions on how to knit the collar. If you’ve already started the base cardigan using any other pattern, you can use the Recipe only to make the collar.

Very excited about this, and big thanks to all my testers!

Paisley Pajamas

More quick sewing! One of the wardrobe needs I identified during all my travelling is that I hardly have sleeping pajamas I can be seen in by other people. I only had ratty ones!

I used the shorts pattern from the Dozens of Ways to Repurpose Scarves to whip these up. I also sewed them production style, sewing the same seam in both garments, pressing them in one go and then moving to the next seam. It does make things quicker!

small book photo

First, the leftover border print viscose from my Taffy Blouse. I extended the legs of the pattern without bothering to fit or taper them in any way, and bound the bottom with self bias tape.

small green viscose

Next, a lovely pink and grey abstract print in some kind of crepe from the botched remains of a dress. This fabric just wants to drape and hang and I was forcing it into the structured dress with darts and a waistband. The bodice was beyond saving, but the skirt portion was just right for these shorts and a non-fluffy ruffle.

small pink grey


Yikes, look at that! It’s as if my poor Purple Turtle has pyramidal scutes caused by calcium deficiency!

small 2nd row

The reverse (which is actually the RS) is a teeny bit more subdued.

small 2nd row back

This is getting interesting. I’m knitting at a very tight gauge, so I had to run and buy more yarn. But will I ever wear this skirt??!

Palate Cleanser

I sewed up some more quick stuff lately, as a break from all the knitting. Also, because I reorganized, sorted and neatly stored all my fabric and yarn stash and was pleased to find I had enough to make things which had been on my mind for ages! One of them was a shirt using a pretty pale cream cotton with a fine red paisley print.

small 01


I used my old sloper and risked making it without a closure. I can just about pull it over my head, so I’m glad I didn’t waste time making buttonholes and inserting zips. There’s a ruffled collar and slight puffed sleeves. Best part:



Tiny scraps! I feel compelled to save scraps larger than my palm although I have no plan for them. But these are tiny and discardable.


Boticelli Details

I finished a marathon session on the Boticelli Tunic recently, determined to reach a significant goalpost – finishing the body. And now, ‘tis so!

I’m going to start the collar and sleeves soon. Meanwhile, here are some details:

Using CustomFit for a Square Neck
CustomFit currently does not have a square neck option, so I started with a scoop neck, the same depth as armscyes. To shape the scoop neck, the generated pattern instructed me to bind off most of the stitches in one row, then a few remaining stitches gradually on each side to shape the rounded edges of the neck.

small neck detail

To make a square neck, the solution was obvious – I would have to bind off all the stitches in a single row and then work the sides of the neck as straight vertical edges. However, there was a small wrinkle (hah!) in the calculations, caused by bust shaping – I had more stitches in front than at the same level of the bodice at the back. And I knew that CustomFit would have dealt with those extra stitches by decreasing them during the scooped neckline shaping, to ensure that the front and back shoulders ended up with the same number of stitches. How, then, was I to know which stitches were being decreased (in my generated pattern) to shape the neck, and which to reduce the extra bust stitches? Here’s how:

No of Back bodice sts at armhole BO row = B
No of Front bodice sts at armhole BO row = F
Ie, total number of extra bust sts on Front Bodice = F-B = E

Initial BO on generated scoop neck pattern = X
Shaping decreases on generated scoop neck pattern = Y
Ie, total sts removed during scoop neck shaping = X+Y = Z

But out of these Z sts, E sts are the extra front bust sts.
So these E sts can be decreased in the row below the square neck BO. The remaining Z-E sts can be BO straight across in the next row.

As knitting instructions this works out as:
On front bodice work up to 2 rows below armscye row.
Decrese E sts along the middle (with my stitch count, it worked out to [k2, k2tog] across the middle)
Work next row straight
BO armscye sts, knit left front sts, BO Z-E sts in the middle of the piece, work to end.
Continue with armscye shaping on each side, keeping neck edge straight. Shape shoulder same as back bodice.

Pocket Construction
I used my method detailed here, worked in the round. The edges of the pockets are worked in a strip of pattern from the Herringbone Socks, bordered by double knit tubes.

smaill pocket detail

I continued with increases every 4th row to shape the flare of the skirt… and these increases also made the pocket edges swing out  diagonally. Just what I wanted!

small pocket incs

Note that you’ll have to make the same increases on the pocket lining pieces too, to make sure they stay in phase with the skirt shaping.

small pocket back

I feel I’ve been working on this forever. From early January, in fact! But of course there have been lots of breaks, including little bites of something large and chunky to recover from hundreds of stitches in light fingering weight yarn on 3mm needles…

small 03


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