Wearing Handknits – US

A while ago, I promised to share how I’m incorporating my me-mades into a practical wardrobe, without doing anything special to feature them (let’s face it, most of us style blog photos to make the handmade garment shine!).

Here’s the first instalment of what, I hope, will be an ongoing series!

These are the clothes I packed for a trip to the east coast of the US in early summer. The weather was slightly chilly — the daily range averaged for the duration of my stay was 20C to 12C — with a couple of warm days where the maximum went up to 28C.  Of course, temperature controlled indoors make a huge difference! I find I need at least one layer less, both indoors and outdoors, when my skin gets the frequent respite of warmth indoors. I’ve spent the same temperatures in eastern Africa, northern India and Brazil and needed thicker sweaters, simply because there is no indoor heating and your body is constantly trying to beat the chill (however slight).

I needed smart casual; luckily I don’t work in a sector where stuffy business suits are required.

Other Notes
All the pictures below are exported from the Stylebook app on my ipad. I find it such a great resource for planning, packing and logging! There is a very tedious bit at the beginning when you have to log all your clothes, but once that necessary step is over, you’re good to go. I didn’t upload all my clothes in one go, just a few at a time every day till they were all done.

Because the pictures of the garments were taken under different light conditions, some outfits appear not quite right, as if the garments don’t really gel together. But in real life they do  :)

Some items, like socks, don’t appear in any outfits at all. But they were still used — at bedtime or when lounging — just as not part of an outfit.

Packing List
Screenshot from Stylebook, apologies for the blur! I’m only linking the handmades here, if anyone has burning questions about the RTW stuff, please ask!

DC trip 1

  1. Chestnut Knee Highs, blogged here
  2. Knotty or Knice, blogged here
  3. Natsumi, blogged here
  4. Thermal, blogged here
  5. Dusseldorf, blogged here
  6. Nightblooms and Seedpods, blogged here
  7. Oshima, blogged here
  8. Arabella, blogged here

My only consideration here was to stay very cozy because spending 27 continuous hours in air conditioning is hideous.

Meetings / Outings

Lounging Informally

Lessons Learnt
I think I could have done with two less sweaters less. And probably skipped some of the necklaces! But otherwise, good multi-use items, leaving more space in my luggage for yarn. Because that’s the whole reason we travel, right?!

The Vision of a Pullover

I’m joining in the #fringeandfriendskal2016, are you? It’s the first time I’ve ever done a knit-along, and it came about because there is absolutely no pressure. There is no specified pattern, yarn, or designer, no Ravelry group or email list to sign up on, no pre-conditions of swatching. In other words: my kind of knit-along. I may have just mentioned here and there that a demanding job requires my knitting life be exactly the opposite. As soon as there are conditions attached to any knitting, I lose all interest. So this KAL is perfect! As long as it’s a sweater, worked top down, within the time frame, it’s a valid entry. I’m in!

What I really love about this particular KAL is the little condition that no existing patterns may be used. Knitting allows so much creativity and scope for customisation, it always dismays me to read of others who are too intimidated to modify a pattern. It’s just yarn! Make it do what you want to do!

Although the KAL does not allow an existing pattern, it certainly doesn’t dissuade you from having a plan — as detailed or on-the-fly as you like. Here’s mine:

I wanted an elegant pullover, with subtle patterning. Something neutral enough to wear incorporate into my existing wardrobe of colour, but not so boring that it looks like it came from RTW. Most of all, this needs to be a working sweater, not matter how beautiful, hence long sleeves (because if it’s cold enough for me to need woollens, it’s cold enough to need long sleeved woollens) and a scooped neck (I’m busty).


Longtime readers will know that I love colour. Although I am (grudgingly) ceding to the need for a few neutrals to tie my colourful items together, I still cannot bear to wear a neutral colour, in a basic silhouette, which is also unfitted. Something’s got to give, and in this case it was the yarn. Yes it’s black/grey. But what a black/grey! A core of molten, metallic rayon, surrounded by a halo of mohair. It’s fluid and supple, yet warm and cosy. It’s good for winter parties and work meetings. It’s plain enough for the day but special enough for evenings. Basically, it’s perfect. (It’s also my first yarn love and the reason I joined Ravelry).


Design Details
I love modern dropped shoulder silhouettes. No ugly, bulky, 80’s shapes here — the fabric is drapey, shoulders are shaped and drop only a little bit past the shoulder, the neck is scooped, the sides are slightly flared and  the hem is hi-lo. It is, in fact, to the exact dimensions of my Natsumi which fits perfectly, but this one is worked top down instead of side-to-side.

But a stockinette sweater still looks un-special, so there will be three narrow cables down the front, spreading apart gently. And once I’d decided that, how could I not have narrow saddles, with the same cables running from neckline to cuff?

Secrets of Structure
All great knits have structural secrets doing behind-the-scenes heavy work, while still looking effortless. Like gymnasts. Or great underwire bras. Or cantilevered bridges. My sweater will have:

Increases, decreases and increases on the front. One set of paired increases and decreases will rapidly widen the triangular wedges between the pattern strips, without changing the overall stitch count. Another set of increases will gradually widen the sides, to match the back. In the exploded view below, the turquoise dots show the paired increases and decreases that separate the pattern strips. All orange dots show increases to shape the sides and neck openings.

I thought of having a single set of increases  on the front do the double duty of widening the triangles and forcing the sides out to match the back, but was stumped by my deeply scooped neck which had a very small flat area at the bottom of the ‘U’. Barely 20 stitches, which was not enough to contain the pattern strips and their separators. So my pattern strips start out with only a single purl stitch between them, but rapidly acquire knit and purl separators; matching decreases ensure that the stitch count does not change. Meanwhile, the sides slowly flare out matching the back.

The pink dots along the sleeve seams show shaping decreases.

So many short rows. This is meant to be hi-lo, not ridiculously-hi-somewhat-lo. So there will be bust shaping short rows to add length to the front only, just below the neck. Yes, right there on the front with the two different rates of increases and decreases going on already. All the short row points are yellow dots: they shape the shoulders, curve the front and back, and add extra length to the front only.

Tubular BO. Because binding off ribbing in pattern is just ugly.


Knitting Process and Direction
1. and 2. Work saddles, centering a single pattern strip on each.
3. Pick up and knit one back shoulder, short row to shape. Increase for neck. Repeat on other side, CO stitches for the centre of the neck and join to other shoulder. Work down with increases and short rows.
4. Do the same on the front, except keep track of way more things.
5. and 6. Pick up stitches from back, knit across saddle, pick up stitches from front. Work to cuff with shaping.
7. Pick up and knit stitches around neck, rib for a couple of inches.

Of course, pretty pictures aren’t much help in the actual knitting. Here’s what the hardworking diagram looks like, before being converted to actual stitch counts:


Whew, better return to the knitting!

In Colourwork this Time…

… Yes, I proudly present another pair of socks:


But! This is the first time I’ve participated in the Ravellenic games. After the series of socks I’ve been churning out, this project might not be considered enough of a personal challenge; but I decided that all the travelling and meetings I had to do added a time challenge. And so they did, except that I was stuck in a metal tube for 12 hours; a metal tube, moreover, with an outdated and limited section of videos, and the long stretches of ribbing went very fast.

I also like how the eye of partridge stitch on the heels and balls of the foot look like jute sacking in this colour:


I think I have one more pair in me for this year. And then back to sweaters!

Pattern: Border Socks
Yarn: Too many to list, see project page on Ravelry. I tried to make this a stashbusting project, but I still have some yarn left in each colour.
Needles: 2.5mm dpns for the colourwork, 2.25mm for everything else
Ravelled: here

Gulls and Stones

Having learnt my lesson with the Show Off Stranded Socks — that Madelinetosh Sock, 2.25 needles and my hands create socks that can tightly encase my legs only at  60 stitches or less, I decided to cast on 64 stitches, but decrease more rapidly down to 56. Even that didn’t work! So I ripped out the couple of inches I’d knit, and started again with 56. Much better.

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I worked in garter rib for an inch or so, then started the pattern repeat. As I was knitting, I felt growing frustration at how slow it was. Compared to the other socks it seemed to be crawling along. And then I realised that due to the slipped row, I had only 3 rows growth for every 4 rows worked. No wonder it felt slow!

So I ploughed on, continuing the beautiful gull pattern down the heel flap. I know this is sock heresy — everyone says that the heel flap has to be especially reinforced — but I’ve never had my flaps wear out. I’m far more likely to get holes at the heels and balls of the feet, so that’s where I reinforced the fabric with the eye of partridge stitch.

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I do feel my sock knitting mania beginning to subside now. It’s as if my dpns are telling me they’re getting tired, where earlier they were raring to go. I do think I’ll crank out one more pair, in colourwork, no less, before I make a final decision.

I’m really in love with the colour, though! I bought the skein because this colour was going to be discontinued and so I got it at a slight discount.

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Pattern: my own, adapted from Paul Atwell socks
Yarn: Madelinetosh Sock, 0.67 skeins, “Ginger”
Needles: 2.25mm dpn
Ravelled: here

Counting Sheep

Aah the sleep sack!

Client’s Brief to Knitter: should last baby till 18 months at least; should have his name on it; should be adorable; shouldn’t allow baby to wriggle out; should keep his arms warm; shouldn’t allow baby to crawl inside; no hood.

Knitter’s Brief to Client: should be fun to knit; need freedom to throw in bunch of fun, crazy stuff; should be adorable.

Happy Result:

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Here’s the best thing about baby knits that don’t need to fit — you can do anything! I started with a magic CO, worked in the round till the sheep were done, then changed to back and forth (to allow for deep slits along the side so the squiggly creature could be inserted easily), decreased to shoulder width, stranded back and forth (not difficult, simple ‘lice’ pattern), threw in a bit of intarsia, shaped a neck and shoulders, and trimmed the front with a couple of rows in a contrast colour!

Wait, did I tell you that the trim also incorporates buttonholes, so that the sack can hold the baby’s arms inside or outside? And they’re sparkly!

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After all that was going on in the front, I didn’t have much energy left for the back, so it’s much simpler — the stranded pattern occurs less frequently and there is no neck shaping, only sloped shoulders to match with the front. To tell the truth, I got super bored doing the back, ignored it for a couple of weeks, then finished it in a day and a half, spurred by fears that the baby would grow too large to fit (totally unfounded).

Then it struck me that the baby’s fat little toes could get caught in the floats, so I also lined it with a cut up t-shirt. It sounds like a lot of work, but was really, really fun!

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If you would like to replicate it, my Ravelry notes are quite detailed, and you’ll have to use the free Baa-ble Hat pattern, making sure that your total stitch count where you want the sheep is a multiple of 60.

Pattern: my own, with Baa-ble Hat
YarnCascade 220 Heathers, Filatura di Crosa Principessa, Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted, Sirdar Snuggly DK (2 colours)
Needles: 5.5mm square (=5.0mm round)
Ravelled: here

Delicious Nectar

Oh look, another pair!


This time, the Show-Off Stranded Socks in Madelinetosh Sock, the deliciously named “Nectar”.

The pattern stipulates starting with a multiple of 4, and I feel foolish in not reducing the stitch count. The original 64 turned out way too loose in my gauge. However, I like my socks long, so by telling myself I’d wanted calf length socks anyway, I got the cuff to fit snugly at my calf, and then reduced 8 stitches by the time I reached the top of the heel flap.

The heel itself was an interesting construction, not one I’ve encountered before. I like that the stitch pattern continues down the back of the heel where other socks have a reinforced flap — something I’ve never found necessary. However, I’m not enamoured of the shape of the heel itself. So I may steal only the idea of continuing with the leg pattern down the heel flap for regular, gusseted heels from now on.

I love this latest pair, so pretty! I continued the pattern up to the tip of the toe, as usual. The little horizontal bars are particularly beautiful in a variegated yarn.

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Pattern: Show-Off Stranded Socks
Yarn: Madelintosh Sock, 0.86 skeins, “Nectar”
Needles: 2.25mm dpn
Ravelled: here