A Tiny Exaggeration

I am amazed and bemused to report that I stopped knitting for a month. There was too much travel and too much work, both adding up to too much stress, even though of a good kind, the stress of accomplishment and success; but whenever I tried to pick up any knitting, my mind cringed and said “No!”

So odd!

Once all the travelling was done I tried to start, but couldn’t. My Ravelry queue, full of things I’d longed to make, bored me. The sight of my WIPs exhausted me. Fondling skeined yarn irritated me. Nothing new inspired me. So I just stopped knitting.

In the meanwhile, I’d been discussing a baby sweater with a pregnant friend. And what a pleasure it is, to discuss gifts with people who know exactly what they want! A clear “yes” or “no” is so much more helpful than “whatever you like”!

After some discussion, the design brief was as follows: great looking rather than intended for the long-term; to be used for the newborn photoshoot then framed, so would have to be the smallest size; no insipid pastels; no dull colours like brown or black; to suit a super-cool individual who just happened to be an infant. The sort of infant who sits in plush velvet armchairs in his library, in horn-rimmed glasses, reading leather bound books and smoking cigars (ok, perhaps the last bit is a trifle exaggerated!!).

So of course I knew it had to be a shawl collar smoking jacket. With stripes or colourwork for emphasis. And matching booties. And some extravagant colourwork on the cap to show off my knitting skills. And since the kid would outgrow everything in a month, why not a toy which he could use for a longer time? Everything colour coordinated of course!

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And lo and behold: even as I was planning it all out my knitting mojo came back! I suppose a baby set was different enough to tickle my brain and get it going again. I also managed to use up a lot of scraps yet make a coherent colour scheme, so felt happy about that too.

All yarn and gauge details are on each item’s Ravelry page. Briefly, here’s the final set:

Baby Sophisticate Cardigan– I should have ‘shawlled’ the collar more, but needed to save the yellow yarn for the rest of the items.

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Saartje’s Booties – made with as few ends as possible to avoid the previous set’s nightmarish millions of ends to sew in.

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Cap – simple garter brim cap with colourwork quickly charted out on paper.

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Purlbee Hedgehog – ran out of the fuzzy white at the bottom of the belly and had to use the heathered grey. Did three rows of 1×1 checkerboard pattern to make the colour change look intentional, and I quite like the effect now! Added bowtie in same yellow yarn from other garments so that it looks like part of the set.

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And that’s it! Thank you Baby E (whose name is still unknown, but who has been informed at an embryonic stage that his middle name shall be Exaggeration, so I can call his mother the ‘Mother of Exaggeration’) for making me happy to knit again!

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Red Silk Cocoon

Done! I made no significant changes except to generate the basic cardigan with CustomFit. This required some number massaging for the sleeves, since the cocoon stitch needs about 10% more than stockinette for the same gauge. I used a button-band allowance of -6”, with neck depth at 5” below underarm.

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The pattern features a clever built in front-band, which I continued to the back of the neck.

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My only regret was not buying a 5th skein of yarn. After finishing one sleeve, I weighed the remnants and there was clearly not enough for the second sleeve, let alone ties. So I had to do a bit of nip tuck on the first sleeve to harvest enough yarn for the second. The hems were finished with some Cascade 220 (“Cordovan”). I had initially intended to use “Red Wine Heather”, but it didn’t look good. Better an obvious contrast than a bad match, right?

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The main yarn, Dream in Color Classy, was peculiar. While making my last two sweaters a few weeks ago, I found it soft and strong; but this time it was much rougher with significant thin patches. And there seems to be no variegation at all, just a single strong colour. Probably an older batch?

Anyway, quite happy with this cardigan!

Details
Pattern: Silk Cocoon Cardigan, Interweave Knits Spring 2009
Yarn: Dream in Color Classy; 100% merino; 229m = 113g; “Cinnamon Girl”; 4 skeins. Cascade 220 Heathers “Cordovan”; 25m.
Needles: 3.5mm for 4 rows of sleeve; 5mm for everything else, worked lever style
Ravelled: here

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.

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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!

FEQ

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?
Correct!

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 !

Event on the Horizon

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

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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!

Under 60

Done and done!

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I had planned lots of modifications, like making the circular bit smaller behind the neck, and adding pockets, but finally did none of that. Laziness, what can I say? That, and the pleasure of following a really well written pattern. I might have made more of an effort with a fitted construction, but the circular body ensures it’ll fit without any mind breaking calculations, so why bother?

I did modify the sleeves: the garter cuff is longer and I made a tulips buttonhole to insert my thumb. Just to ensure my palm stays warm in winter.

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Because this is totally a winter cardigan. It’s squishy, it’s fuzzy, it’s heat-stroke-inducing warm, it’s like a soft cuddle. Worth it.

Details
Pattern: Opposite Pole
Yarn: Cascade Eco Highland Duo; 70% Alpaca, 30% Merino;180m (197yd) = 100g; Aran wt; 5.75 skeins; “Toffee”. The yarn estimates are generous. I used around 300yds less than the smallest size yardage, even though I made one size up.
Needles: 5.5mm square and 5.5mm round. See here for why these two are different.

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Humming Along

This is so much fun,  it feels like I’m knitting backwards along a clock face as time moves forwards.

 2300 hours

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2100 hours

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1800 hours

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1600 hours

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1500 hours

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1400 hours

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1300 hours

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0000 hours!!

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I’ll admit it got a teeny bit tedious towards the end, but I pushed on, averaging 3.7 wedges per skein. This is the absolutely, utterly, soft and fuzzy Cascade Eco Highland Duo in “Toffee”. It’s soft and fuzzy and I know it will pill like mad. But I’m ready to dedicate the rest of its wearing life to constantly shaving it because the squish is WORTH IT!

Twists and Turns

Some well-designed, complex-looking knits have such a perfect blend internal logic and self-references that they almost knit themselves. Consider the circular part of Opposite Pole: reversible cables (twists and braids), garter, simple cables, joining short rows, what a melee of instructions!! Or is it?

The pattern is, in fact, charted with beautiful clarity. But the real delight is in the knitting, when you realize all the separate components receive such clear pings off each other that after a few rows there is no need to refer to the pattern. Really! Behold:

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The first thing to constantly keep in mind is the rate at which the circular section is knitted onto the rectangular one (to eliminate the need for seaming). However, to account for differences in horizontal and vertical gauge, every row is not joined to every stitch. Meaning one needs to remember which row is a joining row and which isn’t. Simple solution? Pick up the legs of the stitches from the rectangular section on a circular needle, skipping where necessary, before starting the circular section. Then, just join the circular section to the picked up stitches.

In the photo above, the green scrap holds live stitches along the back neck. An arc of the circular section has already been knitted on to the back rectangle. The bamboo needle holds the picked up stitches which will be joining points for the circle when it swings back up from the right to be finally grafted to the live stitches.

Next, remember the reversible cables (marked with a cable needle and safety pin, respectively) are set in a field of garter while the lone simple cable (extreme right) is set in a field of reverse stockinette. Also, the reversible cables are basically 1×1 rib, except on cabled rows. Within a couple of rows your brain will knit the knits and purl the purls and garter where necessary, eliminating another need to refer to the chart.

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Next, on which rows do we need to cable? The reversible twist and simple braid are worked every fourth row, simple enough to remember and read directly from the knitting. It’s also pretty easy to know the direction of the cable: the reversible one is always done in one direction while the simple braid is twisted first right then left, just like braiding hair.

Once the brain has absorbed all the above, the only element remaining for which we need to use the chart is the big outer reversible braid right? This is cabled every sixth row, out of sync with the other two cables. However, because this one involves moving six stitches across another six, any time you try to do this on fourth row, the cable cross will be just too tight and the fabric won’t let you. So pretty soon, your brain picks up that this needs to be done every sixth row. Oh and this was the only cable I actually needed to use a cable needle for, so I stuck it in there to remind me as I knitted along.

At this point, the pattern has you work a solid 20 rows straight, so everything gets hardwired into your brain. You’re 90% there to not needing the chart at all.

And then come the wedges! Also easy, formed with short rows turning every alternate stitch in the garter section. I used safety pins to mark the end of each wedge.

But wait… after the short rows, the reversible outer cables have progressed further than the inner simple braid. How do we start keeping track now? This is where good design comes in; by the time you have finished the short rows, you’ve worked a multiple of four rows along the outer edge. Meaning, your inner braid and reversible twist can still ping off each other and be cabled on the same row.

An easy way to count: There should be nine cable twists between two safety pins, five on straight rows and 4 formed by wedge shaping short rows.

I promise you your brain will read and sing the logic of this pattern, with no need to look down at the paper after you have worked one wedge in the circle.

Here’s where I was a couple of days ago. I’ve already finished several more wedges, and am now halfway past joining the circular section to the rectangle along the lower edge.

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April Debutantes

Spending all of last year on sweaters has given me a raving appetite for small items: caps, gloves, cowls and more! But there were still sweaters I dreamed of knitting, queued forever, which I couldn’t bring myself to remove during my occasional queue purges. So I took some time to plan for them, thought of modifications to make them fit into my winter wardrobe gaps, even down to suitable colours.

Next up:

1. Snapping Turtle Skirt: I’m planning this as the brainless filler. Whenever I’m zombied out  from work, I’ll work on a hexagon. That’s the plan, anyway! In Katia Azteca, a palette of purples, greys, lilacs and pink.

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2. Boticelli: You’ve already met this one.

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3. Opposite Pole: exactly as written, perhaps with pockets. I may reduce the width of the collar section, so that it doesn’t need to be folded so many times behind the neck. This soft squishy yarn is Cascade Eco Highland Duo in “Toffee”, undyed alpaca and merino. See why I make L-shaped swatches. 

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4. Drops Blah Blah: who can remember the long alphanumeric strings of Drops pattern names?! This will be a tunic, with very subtle colourwork: I deliberately chose a brown with strong reddish undertones. Both are Cascade 220, in “Red Wine Heather” and “Cordovan”. Most of the colourwork will be near the hem, fading to dots by the waist. A very toned down interpretation of the pattern will lie along a scooped neckline, ending with a cowl or folded funnel neck with crisp twisted ribbing.

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Rosamund’s Sweater

At last! My errant 13th of 2013. It travelled with me, one-armed, for three months until I sat down and finished the arm in 3 days.

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I had envisioned Rosamund’s Cardigan as a big woolly thing, dramatic collar and sweeping curved edges. The twisted reversible cable rib is so delicious… doesn’t it look like piped icing?

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I wanted it snuggled against my neck and cosily embracing my wrists.

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And of course a big woolly cardigan needs pockets, especially ones edged with a toned down echo of the neck and cuff swirls.

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The construction was easy: a top down raglan. I made inseam vertical pockets and just eyed the front curve, decreasing where I felt I should. The cables were worked along with the curved edges until the curve became almost horizontal; at that point, I held the cable stitches separately and finished the stockinette section (after casting on a stich at each edge to use in seaming). Then I added a similar seam stitch on the inner edges of the cable strips and worked them separately, throwing in short rows to force them to curve. (See how there’s no seam when the cables are vertical – right side of pic – and then the seam starts when the cables become horizontal on the left side of the pic?)

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All done by eye, no great maths involved. Where the strips met I grafted them together (see here for techniques on grafting ribbing; I bound off one side and grafted live stitches to the edge), and then sewed them to the cardigan body using up seam stitches previously created.

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Apart from that, I did my usual bust and waist shaping and made it longer than specified. One thing though: I’d added some short rows to raise the back neck, but they turned out to be unnecessary. In fact, they were bunching up so much that I snipped them in the middle, unravelled the short rows, and grafted the live stitches together again for a smooth nape.

As some people may notice, I put the buttonholes on the wrong side. That is, the short front overlaps the longer one instead of vice versa. I realized my mistake after I’d finished most the yoke, but couldn’t be bothered to rip out and start over.

Invisible CO and BO for all edges! See how the ribbing magically flows from WS to RS without a hard edge anywhere!

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Details

Pattern: Rosamund’s Cardigan, Interweave Knits Fall 2009
Yarn: Cascade 220; 100% wool; 201m= 100g; “Blue Sky Heather”; used up almost all of 6 skeins since the ribbed cable eats a lot of yarn.
Needles: 4mm for everything.
Mods: longer, rounded edges, pockets, long sleeves, tubular CO and BO for ribbed edges, more shaping.

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