Initiating Arabella

After moaning and complaining about knitting fingering weight sweaters, here we are again, with a fingering weight tunic.

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Another Brooklyn Tweed pattern, Arabella. It’s a simple, vented tunic, made special by the gores which push the fabric out into a playful, swingy shape. I’m planning to use CustomFit for the top of the body and sleeves, and am knitting the bottom with stitch counts from the original pattern which match up most closely to the numbers needed for the CustomFit yoke. This means I’ll end up with a front which is slightly larger than the back (as generated by CustomFit), but that’s what I need for good fit. I’ll also get a bit of negative ease in the bust, which is also something I prefer to the intended positive ease of the pattern. Finally, I’ll make full length sleeves (if I have enough yarn) and also add short rows to the front of the body, to ensure it doesn’t ride high as I’ve seen in many projects on Ravelry.

The yarn is Madelinetosh Merino Light (again!) in “Pecan Pie”. Let the moaning begin!

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Wren in Navy

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Colette Wren — DONE!

I haven’t made any Colette pattern since the Dahlia a couple of years ago, because the rather simple stuff they put out since then didn’t inspire me. But Wren, yeah!

Of course I decided upon the version with the panelled skirt. I did have to make some important changes to get the kind of fit I like. That said, there are some issues with the drafting of this pattern, so take note!

Size
Looking at the sizing guide, my bust size put me in XS. But the finished garment measurement on that would give me negative ease of 4 inches! Eep! I know a little bit of negative ease on knits is good, but 4 inches?? I became thoughtful.

Because of my thick waist, I decided to grade up to S in that area. But the finished measurement on that would still give me some negative ease. I became really, really, thoughtful.

Finally, my hips put me back in XS. But the finished garment would still give negative ease of 4 inches! Never! Negative ease in a clingy garment which extends below the hips means butt cupping and pelvic cling and all sorts of other maladies out of the fitting dictionary. I wasn’t going to let myself in for any of that.

Fortunately, I’d sewn my Muse Natalie a few weeks ago, and the ease on that was perfect. Mildly negative in the bust and mildly positive in the waist and hips. So I knew I was on the right track and felt very confident in choosing to go up to M at the hip notch. I did, however, go down to XS again by the hem, to get that shapely look the garment was trying to achieve.

I’m not sure why the pattern has so much negative ease throughout. Perhaps it’s a way of getting the garment to ‘fit’, but to me that seems like lazy drafting. Knits can be shaped, albeit not with darts, and should be, instead of just relying on the stretchiness of the fabric.

Pattern Changes
Back: XS at shoulders and underarm, graded to S at waist. So many reviewers complained that the armscyes were too loose that I simply drew in a smaller one from my Muse Natalie pattern.

Front: XS at shoulders and underarm, graded to S at waist. I also did an FBA of one inch, so that I gained 2 inches across the whole front and so kept the negative ease of the finished garment to 2 inches (original 4 minus 2 added via FBA). I didn’t remove the extra width added to the waist by the FBA, since I need ease for my tummy. Now, to do the FBA, I had to open a side dart. This I rotated close and moved the excess fabric to the front edge. In the picture below, the green area is the extra width added through my FBA, and the red wedge is the extra fabric in the neckline.

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Instead of hemming the neck as suggested, I cut a long strip, reduced it by 10%, and used that as a continuous facing all around the neck once the shoulders were sewn.

Also changed the armscyes to Muse Natalie.

Sleeves: Used from the Natalie pattern, with an added cuff.

Back Skirt: S at waist, graded to M at hip and back to XS at hem.

Front Skirt: Ditto above. However, I also filled in the shaping at the top of the skirt panels to make them fit the extra width on the front added via the FBA. In the picture, these extra filled in bits are in red and maroon, and match the green FBA width above them.

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Sewing
After all that, the sewing was fairly simple. I did all seams with a zig-zag stitch and didn’t need to finish any edge since the fabric was so stable. I also twin-needle top-stitched almost every seam, and love the crisp look!

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Fabric
Quite a thick, luxurious navy with thin metallic accents. One way stretch only.

Verdict
I really like this garment, especially with my changes. I can’t imagine how clingy it would have been without grading up through the body! However, there are a few things I would definitely change the next time

  • Remove a one-inch-tapered-to nothing wedge from the CB
  • Bring in shoulders for a narrower neck on the back
  • Ditto on the front, continuing the extra fabric all the way to the waist for more coverage.
  • Full bicep adjustment on the Muse Natalie sleeve

If you intend buying this pattern, do be aware that most reviewers have noted problems. The sleeves are very wide and low and practically everybody has had to modify or substitute. The waist is pretty high; I like that, but it’s something to note if you want the dress to hit at your natural waist. The neck finishing is a bit amateurish, and many others have added a facing instead of simply turning it down. And the (in my opinion) excessive negative ease throughout the body is a bit disconcerting.

Finally, there are two great eyesores about this dress. First, the wonky hem — this is my inexperience with sewing knits. I’m hoping washing and pressing will sort that out. Second, the hideous, undulating waistline. This is very, very obvious since it’s on the front, and seems to be  a problem in every Wren I’ve seen, caused by the neckbands being kept short to prevent gaping. You can see how the waist rises along the sections where the neckbands are attached.

This means that the Wren pretty much always has to be worn with a belt. I’m thinking of drafting a self belt and incorporating that into the side seam the next time I make it.

Now I don’t mind making adjustments for fit, and certainly don’t expect pattern companies to draft to my specific body shape. Some narrowing and widening to fit my unique body is certainly expected. But I do expect companies charging premium price to ensure that the basic draft is good.

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Score
7/10. Three points deducted for the undulating waistline, which should have been fixed as a design drafting error! And also for the gigantic original sleeves. But apart from that… I like the pattern and already planning other versions; perhaps one in a thin, copper coloured knit with flutter sleeves? How tantalizing!

Dusk in Summer

I started Natsumi (Jp = “beautiful summer”, one of many meanings) in Madelinetosh Merino Light “Dusk”. The colour is gorgeous! A very delicate salmon pink, more dawn than dusk in my opinion!

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As usual, I tweaked the pattern heavily.

I Kept
– The lovely cable and lace strip
– Dropped shoulders
– Curved hem
– Sideways construction
– Positive ease

I Changed
– Amount of ease; I’m aiming for 6″ upper torso ease (equivalent to 3″ full bust ease)
– Circularity of hem; recalculated to make a gentler slope
– Ease at hip; added short rows to make a swingier shape
– Position of pattern strip; lowered it so the bottom edge covers the bust
– Bust shaping; added another line of shaping above the strip only on the front
– Neck; changed to scooped shape with bind offs and decreases
– Neck finish; will probably apply an i-cord
– Sleeve cuffs; will probably add ribbing to match the hem

Essentially, I charted the shape I wanted, and recalculated everything according to my gauge. I’m dealing with millions of markers: 2 for the hem shaping, 4 to define edges of pattern strips, 3 for the shoulder and bust shaping.

Have split the neck, now working my way slowly across the back.

The Lightweights

So — culling knitwear! Following on from the introductory post, today we tackle the lace, fingering, sport and dk weights. All pictures are read top to bottom, and I’m categorising garments into Keep, Reconsider or Fix, or Discard.

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Dark Neutrals
Icarus Dress – Totally, uselessly, unworn as a dress because too tight, too lacy. But I really like the lace skirt, so I think I’ll tweak it into a Coachella. Reconsider or Fix.
Tiger Whisperer – unworn because I need more coverage if I want to wear a cardigan. Discard.
Tangled Vines – Unworn because boring colour which goes with nothing. Discard.
Lacy Vesper – Unworn because I keep forgetting about it! Move into heavier visibility and see if it gets used or not. Reconsider or Fix.
Milk Maiden – Worn and loved! Perfect for layering in winter. Keep.

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Reds and Pinks
Zick-Zack Cardigan – Worn and loved! Goes wonderfully with dark bases like navy and black. Keep!
Cranberry Nectar – I love it and it looks great, but never seem to wear it because I never see it! Store for better visibility. Keep.
Manu – Sadly unworn. It felted slightly because of my dying experiments and has been just a little too tight ever since. I probably should knit another one, this is such a great pattern. Discard.
Delysia – Loved, but never worn because I don’t see it (seems to be a common theme with my cotton and other warm weather knits!). Store for better visibility. Reconsider or Fix.
Boticelli Tunic – Not yet field tested since I haven’t been in very cold weather since making this, but I totally love it. Keep.
Red Arrowhead – Sleeves were always too short, hitting at just the point where they enlarge my bust. Discard. Actually, I quite love the fabric… maybe cut and make a cushion cover or bag?

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Oranges through Greens
Ginger Lizette – Store for visibility, wear more. Keep.
Chainlink – Just finished, so not field tested. Keep.
Citrus Chevrons – Not field tested. Keep.
Shifting Sands – I love this one but never wear it because the short sleeves are uncomfortable! I’ve already bought the yarn to make longer sleeves. Reconsider or Fix.
Katharine Hepburn – The most useful cardigan ever! I’ve worn it with practically everything for five years, and the fabric is still strong and beautiful. Keep, keep, keep!
Climbing Vines – Well worn in chilly weather. Fabric still good. Keep.

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Blues through Purples
Blue Bamboo – Loved and still being worn. Keep.
Eyelet Top – Never worn because the armscyes are too tight. I learnt sooo much while making this one, probably because it was the first garment at the beginning of my knitting fever (fuelled by the internet) way back in the winter of 2008-09. I figured out lace pattern placement, positioning shaping in knitwear, modifying patterns and crochet finishing a neckline, only to stumble at correctly calculating armhole depth. However, this has been worn several times, and has served its purpose in teaching me to knit fitting garments. Discard.
Adriatic – Pretty, useful and wearable. Keep.
Nightblooms and Seedpods – Absolutely adore this one, but it leaves my arms very cold. Maybe order a skein to lengthen sleeves? Knit and attach contrast undersleeves? Keep.
Deep V Vest – So many memories! Reading Eunny Jang’s wonderful blog and finding the pattern. Ordering a pattern online for the first time (so speedy!), buying my still-favourite 3.5mm circulars, and falling in love with the heathered Zara Chine yarn line. I even remember I was at a training course and went to the big department store nearby, where the perfect combination of colours leapt out at me.  But most importantly, I value the experience of measuring my own body and discovering its quirks for the first time – and creating a measurement set that allowed me to make well fitting garments for years. I still use those figures from 2009 when I’m not using CustomFit to generate a pattern. Unfortunately, this vest never got worn because I could never find a suitable inner layer. Goodbye beloved garment! I’m glad I’ve already found you a loving home. Discard.

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Greys
Victoria Yoke -meh. This one feels as though it should be useful although I’ve never worn it. Probably because when I travel to a cold place, I save luggage space for gorgeous handknits and not a drab little thing? Must get over this thinking. Reconsider or Fix.
Thermal Kitten – Love! Keep!
George Street – Utterly, totally, useful as an inner layer in winter!! Keep!
Charcoal Dahlia – Very pretty, very useful. Keep.

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And Finally…

Discard (by which I mean ‘Find Loving Homes For’):

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Reconsider or Fix:

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Keep:

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Next, tackle the heavyweights!

Navel Gazing

Brooklyn Tweed released their first CAPSULE collection a few days ago, and it is gorgeous! I was totally smitten by Cusp, even though it is highly unlike anything I ever wear. However, I’d been thinking of making myself a large poncho thingy for a while now, and when I saw this, I just KNEW it was meant to be.

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This lovely tweedy, flecky, yarn (Classic Elite Portland Tweed “Golden Green”) was originally saved for a Leitmotif cardigan, but I’ll make that with something else now. Although the yarn is Aran weight (as opposed to the worsted weight required for Cusp), I figured it would be an easy substitution because of the way the pattern is constructed: it is, basically, two circles knit in the round, each radiating outwards from a belly-button start; they are finally joined around the top halves of their circumferences for the shoulders while the bottom circumferences get a ribbed hem. And additional ribbing finishes the arm slits and neck.

I was very wicked and did not swatch. See, something knitted in the round should be swatched in the round. So a correct swatch for this sweater would be a centre-out piece… which is the actual beginning of the sweater itself. So I used the first few rows as the swatch, and decided to just stop knitting it once the circle was large enough. I’m making the back first, to get an estimate of how large the front circle needs to be, and I’ll probably steek in the arm slits on the front. And I’ll definitely steek in a V-neck, no high crew neck for me!

I’m well on my way through the back now; this is so much fun!

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Lotushima

So this happened:

3 Oshima front 4

It took a couple of weeks of travel knitting, and my great frustration with its speed and ease of knitting was that the one time I decided to be sensible about the amount of yarn I packed, the sweater practically knit itself. Even with all the brioche. So I had to pack away the unfinished piece and think longingly of the two remaining skeins at home.

Oshima front neck

I had originally intended this yarn for a Slanting Gretel Tee, but felt an extreme reluctance to cast on. Perhaps that was knitters’ intuition warning me that the yarn and pattern were not well matched? That I was on the verge of generating clown vomit? Most variegated yarns look like gorgeous works of art in the skein, but like clown vomit knitted up.

And that’s because the beauty of the skein comes from horizontal lines of colour, like brush strokes mingling and interweaving:

Punta Merisoft

Once knitted up, those painterly strokes become weird zig-zags, colours pool, and everything becomes messy.

Blotchy

They key to avoiding that is a stitch pattern which maintains those horizontal lines. Like garter:

better

Or, even better, linen stitch:

best

Now my yarn wasn’t as variegated as the one above (Punta Yarns Merisoft Handpainted Aran), but still behaved badly when knitted. Behold the pretty, pretty skein:

Malabrigo Rios Lotus

And the horrid, squiggly stockinette:

Blotchy Oshima

So I took the lazy way out: the easiest way to get horizontal lines of yarn is to umm, just flip everything over so that reverse stockinette is the right side.

Horizontal Oshima

To avoid pooling I alternated skeins, but switched to a single skein in the brioche section since there is enough going on within the stitch pattern to prevent colours from stacking up.

And finally, my thoughts on the pattern. I had loved and queued it ages ago, and thought a lot about what finding the perfect yarn. And then, a couple of weeks ago, realised I already had the yarn. No other projects had been knitted in variegated yarn, but surely colours in the same family would not disrupt those architectural brioche lines? (They don’t).

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Like all Brooklyn Tweed patterns, this one had way more ease than I like. So I generated the sweater body with CustomFit, switching to Oshima instructions once the brioche started. The starting line of the brioche forms a strong horizontal component, and I tried to position it where I figured it would be more flattering – just a little above the underbust – by eliminating about an inch of straight knitting from the front and back yokes. The Oshima pattern also has an equal number of stitches front and back, which really doesn’t work for me. I ended up with more stitches on the front anyway, thanks to the CustomFit instructions, so decreased those stitches in the horizontal neck BO. I also added short row bust shaping (in addition to the regular increases and decreases generated in the CustomFit pattern) in the reverse stockinette section just below the yoke. I omitted the folded cuffs, using 1×1 twisted ribbing there and at the hem.

Then, the collar: Yes, it really does use four needle sizes! But it’s worth it, because compressing and expanding the knitting gives it that beautiful drape. My collar ended up shorter than the pattern, but I’m pretty happy with it. Knitting it to full length would have required another full skein.

Final thoughts: Love it! Love the trim shaping (the original is gorgeous but slouchy, and I really don’t do slouchy), the architectural lines of brioche shaping and the squishy collar. High necks aren’t usually recommended for busty people, but the deep curve of the collar’s edge functions visually like a scoop neck, so it remains flattering.

And yeah, the collar is stylable:

5 Oshima collar 61 Ohshima collar 5

Details
Pattern: Oshima, body generated with CustomFit
Yarn: Malabrigo Rios; 100% superwash wool; 192m = 100g; 5 skeins; “Lotus”
Needles: 5.5mm straights for all reverse stockinette (worked lever style); 4.5mm for hems, cuffs, yoke brioche and 3rd section of cowl; 4.0mm for first section of cowl; 3.5mm for second section of cowl; 5.0mm for fourth section of cowl.
Ravelled: here

Behind Orange Chainlinks

Speaking of pattern lust, I want, want, want  Chainlink NOW!

When it was first released, I was coming out of a phase of knitting too many endless projects – tunics, a man sweater and thigh high stockings – in fingering weight yarn, so didn’t have the heart to cast on. But it was always on my mind, and now I’m ready!

It really is a gorgeous knitting puzzle, as stated in the pattern description. It starts with side strips; next, the front and back triangles are worked (ignoring the dangly vertical ribbing for now). Then the rib portion of the triangles are put on holders, another set of ribs are cast on provisionally, and knitted together with the chainlink pattern and the side strips. All are now worked together in one piece, shaping the diamond outline by decreasing the chainlink section while increasing the stockinette shoulders. Finally shoulders are shaped and bound off. Small triangles are seamlessly added to fill in the gaps between diagonal ribbing at the sides. Then the bottom vertical ribbing chunks are worked, shaping a diagonal edge at the sides, and sewn to their corresponding side strips. Both front and back are worked the same way. Shoulders are sewn, sleeves are picked up and worked downwards, side and sleeve seams are finished. Whew!

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I was very strongly tempted to work as written. Who doesn’t love a juicy, geometric, knitting puzzle that miraculously transforms into a gorgeous garment? However, I was held back by lack of yarn. As always I had bought a limited amount since I hate leftovers, and couldn’t afford to incorporate so much ease (recommended 8 inches, yikes!), as well as waste so many tails in a multitude of pieces. As it is, I may have to cannibalize the swatch. Additionally, I dislike dropped shoulders.

So I’m modifying it to a seamless raglan. First, I omitted the side strips. I made the front and back triangles, then joined them in the round, casting on for strips of vertical ribbing at each side. Since I didn’t like the long, narrow, triangles, I omitted all decreases in those sections, creating broader and shallower triangles. Once the pieces are joined in the round, I continued to increase the chainlink section every alternate row, offsetting the expansion of fabric by consuming the diagonal ribbing in the vertical ribbing at the same rate.

Once that is done, I’m going to throw in some mild waist shaping. A few inches below the underarm, I’ll start generating diagonal ribs, offsetting the increases by consuming the chainlink section at the same rate. Then I’ll bind off the underarms, make sleeves, put everything on one needle and finish like a seamless raglan, throwing in some short rows to shape a scoop neck.

At least, that’s the plan. Should work, right? I hope I have enough yarn for the dangly vertical ribbing, which I’ll knit in one piece each side.

There are lots of knitterly refinements in the pattern, which I’m keeping. For example, sleeve shaping occurs at the centre panel, instead of the side seams. I planning to make lifted increases since I’ll be working them bottom up. To match the eyelet increases in the bottom triangles, the tops have eyelet increases coupled with immediate decreases, and shaping decreases. I’ll keep all that. It’s a little more work, but why not, to get perfectly matched top and bottom triangles? In fact, it’ll just become part of my seamless raglan shaping.

I know this is meant to a loose tunic, and mine is intended to be way more shaped. In one fell swoop I got rid of the ease and the dropped shoulders. But I strongly believe that garments should echo shape of the wearer to be most flattering. If I was more angular, or much more rounded – both cases indicating a less curvy figure – I could carry it off as written. But I have inflexions, and need shaping. All the little puzzle pieces in the pattern exist to form a square-ish shape for the front and back. I don’t need that.

Approaching waist shaping soon. Will keep you posted

A Golden Beginning

The last ten days, I managed to finish another sweater. I know! What it is to knit with worsted weight yarn! It was the Dusseldorf Aran, and of course there were mods. Let us honour tradition by starting with a pattern analysis.

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Love!
– Those cables.
– The long vertical lines formed by the cables.
– The intriguing sleeve cuff: two i-cords appear to emerge from the cables, out of the plane of the sweater, and are then tied into a bow.

Lose!
– The seed stitch hems and cuffs.
– The puffy, pleated cuffs – too bulky.
– The scoop neck. I am usually a lover of scoop necks, but decided to prolong the lives of the cables a  little longer.

Fixed!
I generated a relaxed fit pullover with CustomFit, because I intend to wear this over other layers. The hems were easy, I swapped in a tubular CO of k2p2 ribbing for four rows, then increased by 10% while changing to stockinette, to account for cable compression. On the sleeves, I did a version of long-tailed CO which creates the desired combination of knits and purls from the beginning. Oh and found a way to eliminate the pleats and still retain the design essentials. I’ll write in detail about that in a separate post. Finally, I changed it to a V-neck, continuing the cable panels up around the back neck to meet at the centre of the nape. I changed the cables a tiny bit too, adding an extra twist to the central ‘rope’ at the knot. And mirrored the central ‘rope’ on the two front panels, and the sleeves as well. The back is in plain stockinette, except where the neckband extensions from the front travel to the nape.

Hmm, that’s all, I think! It all went by in a blur while listening to an audiobook version of Ayala’s Angel by Trollope. I do like it!

Burrard the Second

My almost second attempt at the Burrard is on the needles. I had finished the back and both sleeves before I decided to block them. <Insert sad face>. It appears I measured the gauge while the swatch was still mildly damp, and doing its usual superwashy, spready thing. Once it was bone dry, it sprang back into a compact, dense fabric, and the pieces would maybe have fit me when I was 17. Maybe.

sleeves small

So anyway… I’ve caught up now and have only the collar to do. Yarn ball remnants, starting top right and clockwise, of Front, Back, Sleeve , Sleeve and Swatch are below. I expected the front to eat much more yarn, but with the deep gap for the collar I still managed to finish in under a skein. The collar should use up all these remnants!

small remnants

Let’s do a quick pattern analysis.

Like / Keep
– Those cables! Yummy!
– That shawl collar!
– The deep, ribbed front band!
– The general lusciousness!

Change
– I need a pullover, so that’s what I’m making.
– I need a quick pullover, so the back is all stockinette, and the cabled pattern of the back will be moved to the front.
– All stockinette back and sleeves can be a tiny bit boring, so I’m adding the outer cable pattern to the sleeves.

Final Pattern
– I generated a relaxed fit pullover with Custom Fit, and added 10% more width to the sleeves and front after the ribbing, to account for cable compression.
–  I added a cabled panel to the sleeves.To make it flow organically from the cuff rib, I had to shift the cable panel a tiny bit to the front of the sleeve, mirroring both the cable and panel positioning on the other sleeve. Once I positioned the cable panel, it was too delicious to not continue up the shoulder as a saddle!
– Omitted the final BOs on top of the sleeves to continue the panel as a saddle.
– Since the saddle takes up some shoulder space, the front and back armscye lengths are reduced by half the width of the saddle.
– Bound off a chunk of sts in the centre front for a low V-neck, and will fill it in with a deep, ribbed, shawl collar.