Julie knits and writes and knits.

Archive for sweaters

The Shoddy Little Sweater

Some projects just find their own time. I began this sweater on June 30, 2007. Flickr keeps track of these things for me. So 18 months in the making, and another month or so for the photo shoot.

It began with the yarn. I saw hanks of Colinette Parisienne in Soft Sienna at Lizzie Ann’s Wool Company in Holland, Michigan, one of my favorite LYSs. I had to have the yarn. I knew it was for my daughter.

The yarn reminded me of dryer lint. But in a good way. You know that soft non-color of dryer lint? It’s kind of blue, kind of grey, kind of pink? It’s fuzzy, light, soft?

I brought the yarn home and started swatching with it.

I already had the idea of making something tiny for my daughter, something t-shirty or camisolish, and had been swatching with silks and merinos and rare Habu Textiles stuff, but not falling in love.

But this yarn.

I knew I wanted to live with it for awhile. I found the needle size (US 5) to make the fabric that made me happiest.

Then came a class with Lily Chin, learning to design knitwear for my own body, or anyone else’s. I’d been steeping myself in Zimmerman, and so Chin’s class layered courage on Zimmerman courage along with some techniques for drawing patterns and constructing garments.

Just watching my girl and how she dresses made the form clear: A t-shirt. But not too, too sweet of a t-shirt. A long t-shirt that pokes fun at t-shirts.

I wanted to mess with the stockinette.

And then the women in my family were having fun with this word, “shoddy.” My hilarious niece, one of the funniest people I know, started us all using the word in a way that injected it with affection and comfort and kindness. A dryer-lint sort of feeling.

I decided to call the project Shoddy. At that point the rest of the form sort of fell into place. I knew it would have random yarn-over holes. (It turns out I’m not capable of completely random behavior, because I formed rules about the holes as I knit. I couldn’t help it.)

And then the process was pretty straightforward. I grabbed one of my daughter’s favorite t-shirts, and used it to make a pattern and a fabric model for the piece, which traveled in the project bag and served as a reference as I knitted.

I knew I wanted to make a seamless sweater, and did my math to know how many stitches to cast on. I cast on provisionally, thinking I might want to knit t-shirt-style hems, but not wanting to decide right away. (I did do this in the end, but after changing my mind 42 times.)

Then I just knit to match the fabric model, marking the sides, and decreasing two stitches at each side for a few rows to form waistline curve, and increasing to climb back up to the armpits. The yarn overs are either single or double YOs, decreasing with the next stitch so that I was never increasing or decreasing stitch numbers except at the sides for shaping. I decided to swim the holes up fro the sides in the front to the center, and just run a line of them down the center in the back. Not sure why. It just felt right.

The arms were a little challenge. I wanted the exact angle of the sleeves from the original t-shirt, and if I were Elizabeth or Meg, I probably could have figured out how to increase at the armpit to make them without seams, but I chose to start the sleeves flat –again casting on provisionally — for about an inch to match the flat pattern before joining them to the body. as you would for any seamless sweater. So it’s not an entirely seamless sweater. There is a one-inch seam under each sleeve. I’ll loiter in seamless sweater purgatory for a few millenia for that, I’m sure.

I had recently made a complete Elizabeth Zimmerman EPS Saddle-shoulder, and was still madly in love with the fit and the fun of knitting it, and so chose that style for this piece. I planned on a kind of funnel-neck, and knit it that way at first, but when the girl tried it on, it just… blech. No. I knew I had to rip back to make a bateau, but… A.) ripping mohair is just not fun. B.) I had no idea how to knit a bateau neckline.

And so the piece lingered and reproached me for… a while.

I next went off to a weekend camp at Schoolhouse Press with Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen and Joyce Williams. Show and tell is part of that, and I decided to show the Shoddy, though it was incomplete. Anybody who visited with this sweater had the same impulse, to throw it up in the air and watch it float. It’s that light and fluffly. Meg did that with Shoddy. And her eyes sparkled. It was a happy moment for me, let me tell you. Well, they eliminated all of my agony in about four seconds, Meg and Joyce, who pointed me to this neckline on this sweater:

Which you’ll find in her book Latvian Dreams, which of course I had. I felt a little like Dorothy. I’d had the answer with me the whole time. And now I had more courage from the Source, the Well, from Mecca.

So you would have thought I would have ripped right into that baby. No, I kind of sat on it for awhile. Not sure why, though I have likened it to finishing a good book. I really slowed this project down.

I ripped back the neck, and found the bateau an easy and elegant thing to knit. No problem. Basically you’re knitting two little V-neck decrease points at each shoulder, then a purl turning ridge, and then increasing at the same point so that when you fold the hem back inside, it matches up, and all you have to do is stitch the live stitches down. Very easy and elegant.

And that dictated the hem treatments for the arms and bottom hem too. Simple…. so why wasn’t I finishing it?

It just sat without its hems for ever so long. I pulled it out and pet it, folded it up and put it away… for MONTHS.

Post Project Depression. That’s the only thing I can offer for why it has taken me so long. I loved this baby, and had a hard time letting it go.

But then winter returned, and my daughter was kind of wondering.. and my knitting friends were wondering, and everyone has been wondering…

I finished it. Blocked it. Gave it. And today, finally, have photographed it. It worked. It’s pretty.

Thank you, thank you to all who helped inspire and teach and offer courage.

And on to the next unfinished thing…

The whole gestation is documented here.


Fitting Shoddy

See how much I don’t want to prep taxes? Three posts in 24 hours. That’s how much. And then whooping cranes flew over my house. Am I supposed to file papers when that’s going on? And then the girl stopped by for a fitting:

I’m making her hold her arms like that because the sleeves aren’t sewn yet. Those Zimmermanesque saddle shoulders are perfect. The provisional cast on threads will all be hems. But first, we were looking for the right neckline. We think this is basically it. Sort of a bateau. Bateauish.

All the open holes in Shoddy will show when she wears something dark under it. We’ll have a shoot when it’s all done. but this is a step in the right direction… Now I have to figure out how to finish that neck… Pick up stitches along the new line, yes. Trim back anything extraneous, of course. Knit the hem out. But a proper turning ridge? Should I do a turning ridge? Just press and hem? Hmm… Back to the swatches for some expermenting. Any advice, anyone?

Bad Blogger catching up

Bad blogger, bad blogger, bad blogger. I won’t make excuses. There has been knitting. Plenty. And I’ve been *thinking* of making a record of it. But it takes having pressing deadlines at work and a looming income tax deadline to really give me the procrastinator’s push to spend my time blogging about knitting instead of meeting deadlines. Makes sense, right?

So a fast roundup of progress shots, many of them fuzzy, and then I swear I’m going to post about the adorable twins and their tomtens. Soon, soon.

I have too many projects going. Have had. For some time now. And so I’m determined to get them off the needles, or many of them, anyway, before I cast on this, which has been calling to me for ages now. Doesn’t help that my friend Lorilee cast one on and off in about a minute and a half last month. Still, it’s going to be so good. I know it. A good reward for finishing some stuff. So it’ll have to wait.

I finished these socks, which still strike me as a waste of Koigu, but I never worked up the gumption to frog them and do something more Koigu-worthy. They are comfortable, and handmade, and mine. And off the needles.

Started and finished ANOTHER zeebee one evening when I was feeling put out about my rule of not casting anything new on until I finished other things. Sorry for the fuzz photo. The yarn is a scrumptions hand-spun collected during a Hello Yarn spree awhile back. Take my word for its beauty. The sort of yarn you can fall into, get lost in.

Another project I started after vowing, profoundly, not to start another, is a new take on my ipod mittens, which I now think of as iPhone mittens (hee!), this time with a gussetted thumb and the prettiest Regia sock yarn… again a fuzzy mess of a photo, but a better photo shoot is coming…

Here’s a project I started BEFORE the boycott. It’s the Vogue anniversary scarf by Nicki Epstein, which I thought would be a challenge for me, but turns out to be so darn easy it’s deadly dull. This is meeting knitting, but not quite mindless enough to be TV knitting. And I knit in so few meetings that… it’s taking awhile…

Now here’s some juice, though, on three projects I’ve designed and feel enough love for that they’re taking too long just because I spend a fair amount of time just petting them…

Here is Shoddy, my daughter’s mohair t-shirt. Nearly done. We need to decide how to treat the neckline, whether to keep the funnel I’ve knitted or cut it down into a scoop, or go bateau, or what. Mohair will let you decide. Here’s the Shoddy Flickr set that will let you see the work in progress…

I started this little guy a good while ago to see how I felt about Fair Isle in a more traditional Shetland wool… Also to play with my new Cochenille software. I feel good about both. Quite good. We’re nearly close on this. A bit under motivated, because I’ll miss it when it’s gone, and because the little man it was intended for has outgrown it. Sigh. Flickr set here.

And the Peacefleece Tunic has been seriously languishing, but I have no idea why. Why? I suspect it’s because of the little vest. I like working color at that smaller gauge a whole lot better than with big, clunky yarn. When the color work is done, and I can proceed with a nice mindless bunch of in-the-round knitting, I’m sure it’ll go pretty fast…

Ummm… oh, there is another scarf, er.. two, that haven’t made it under a camera’s lens… Now the question… How many of these things must I finish before getting to the Hemlock? Hmm? Anyone?

Momma loves her new software

I knew I wouldn’t get much further on the little fair isle sampler vest until I got out and loaded and learned the Cochenille knitting software I’ve been sitting on for a couple of months. Tonight was my night. Amazingly easy to use, with much learning still to do, I plunged ahead to grid out the little vest so I could get back to work on it. So glad I did. It will still require some fudging about, since the vest is worked in the round, but I’ll fix the chart as I go and then upload the finals. Just having the palette and grid in front of me helped me plan out the finish of this little guy, avoiding all sorts of problems I would have had if I’d kept winging it…

Noro Cardigan FO

Here was the idea….

And here it is all finished and keeping me warm:

And here I am pretending I don’t know my photo is being taken..

Things I learned in designing this sweater:

*My shoulders are not as wide as I imagine them to be. I’ll use my actual shoulder measurements next time, not measurements from sweaters that already fit around my hips.

* Fitted sleeves matter to me.

* Think through the wearing of the sweater, and not just the aesthetics. I will have pockets in my next jacket. And maybe in this one too, except I don’t think the Noro can handle pockets.

*Noro Kureyon is soft, and gets a lot softer and more drapey after blocking. Also it lengthens with blocking. And maybe also with wear.  It is, perhaps, not an appropriate yarn all by itself for a jacket. Or any heavy structural thing. Think light and squishy stuff for this yarn. But nevertheless, this jacket is lots of fun to wear.

*I languished in the making of this sweater in part because the palette is so strong. During certain seasons of the year, I could not imagine myself wearing it, and so lost interest in it. Of course, as soon as the leaves started to turn, I NEEDED the sweater. I’m not sure what the lesson is here… trust my instincts? Stretch a little? Or stick to safe colors for projects with a heavy investment. Or maybe I haven’t learned a thing. That is always possible.

*I ALWAYS overestimate the amount of yarn I need for a project. In this case, I have more than enough yarn left to make another of these sweaters, along with hats and scarves to match. Anybody feel like a trade?

*Sweaterwizard is okay software for getting a pattern started and estimating yarn (which I did after purchasing the yarn), but has too many limitations for me. I’m trying out the Cochenille suite one of these days, and will let you know what I think. I think I’ll love it, since it came recommended from hot knit designers…

*Learning little tricks from great knitters is a worthy lifelong pursuit. Especially finishing tricks. Thanks so much to my teachers for this sweater, Dixie, and Maureen.

And I’m back to the fair isle vest I frogged enroute to Stonington, where it is raining and grey and foggy,  just the way I like my Maine seashore…

Tomten show on Flickr

Fun watching while I knit twin tomtens:

Noro Cardigan Blocking

Noro Cardigan Blocking

And it is done! Actually, it’s been all done but for the buttonhole finishing and end-weaving, and just sitting there in its bag for, oh, a couple of weeks now… It should be dry in the morning. And tomorrow? Temps should reach the upper 80s….

But I’m headed to Maine for a few days, where it ought to be cool enough to climb into this for a photo. Will post again then…