Julie knits and writes and knits.

Archive for zimmerman

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.


Peacefleece Tunic Update

So close…

Barb modeling

Barb modeling

Here is Barb modeling the Peacefleece Tunic. It’s come a long way from its beginning... which was just a bunch of yarn in my stash and a sketch:

Peacefleece sketch

Peacefleece sketch

Of course it’s a Zimmerman yoke sweater with lots of modifications. I am not happy with the neckline, which I’ll rip back, bring in more closely, and work up the standing collar in a color pattern, as I had envisioned it. It’ll be a bit tricky to work those patterns, but I’ll figure something out.

Once again, I’ve knit the hems, and everyone at my knitting sleepover likes the idea of the brown rolls showing rather than stitching the hems back. We’ll see.

Here my friend Barb is modeling the thing, because, my hips are not the same size as they were when I started this sweater. That’s a problem. I’ve contemplated steeking slits into the sides, etc., but it looks so great on Barb, that I’m thinking I’ll take the Zimmerman high road here… This tunic fits her the way it was supposed to fit SOMEBODY… right? So maybe it’s Barb’s.

On the other hand, I’m redoubling my intention to meet my goal of getting in the pool every morning….

Let’s see how long it takes me to make that neckline look the way it should… If you have any brilliant ideas for this project, I’d love to hear them!

Yes, you’re right, I’ve been lagging

Not in my knitting, mind you. I’ve been knitting. Not in a finishing mode much lately. However, I’m destined for a knitting sleepover with buddies at the end of the week, and have finishing on my mind for a couple of projects there. Depends on the ratio of silliness:knitting. We’ll see.

Meantime, though, babies have been happening, and garter stitch very much in the air, thanks to garter mojo oozing from northern Wisconsin and Brooklyn. Smacking me upside my head from both directions.

So a couple of these:

BSJ in handspun for baby Michael

BSJ in handspun for baby Michael

BSJ for the next baby

BSJ for the next baby

And that led me quite naturally to get started on that Meg Swansen vest that Jack claimed from the sweater room at Schoolhouse Press.

I can’t tell you how many sweater patterns and vest patterns I’ve dangled in front of that man, how many discussions about what woolen garments he will and will not wear, but nothing could quite prepare me for his falling in love with this:

Megs Vest on Blurry Jack

Meg's Vest on Blurry Jack

Megs Vest Back

Meg's Vest Back

Now, of course… he’s not a frog guy. And he does like his more sedate colors, and so here’s where we are so far….

Megs Vest in Jacks Colors

Meg's Vest in Jack's Colors

It’s a kissing cousin to the BSJ, a friendly little knit, starting with the cast on that runs down the fronts of the vest from armpit-height around the back, mitering up the front of the vests until you complete the fronts to the side of the body, then knitting back and forth the way you would a Zimmerman saddle to knit up the back to the armpit. Then you work strictly on the back until you get to the back of the neck, work the fronts down from the back of the neck, working some cute short rows to make those nice cuppy shoulders, and join back at the front with a three-needle bind off. Icord for about four years around the entire outside. We will not include frogs.

He sees this as the perfect around-the-house deep winter warmer upper. No sleeves is the part that makes him happy. And there’s a definite Robert Bly kind of pull my old hippie has to this garment. No doubt about that.

Knitting it up in two plies of the magical Unspun Icelandic that Schoolhouse Press sells. This stuff is really wonderful to work with. I’m dying to finish it so I can tackle some single-ply projects. I can see myself getting a lot done in this wool.

The pattern? It’s scratched on notes from my class in Marshfield, and not mine to share anyway. But if you’re interested, all you really have to do is whine enough to the folks at Schoolhouse, and I’m sure a pattern will surface somehow.

Hudson Bay Blankets X Zimmerman

Here’s the bug currently up my nose….

Hudson Bay Point Blankets

If you live anywhere in the vicinity of the Great Lakes or Great Plains or Canada, these blankets are familiar as family.

And I’m especially in love with the Capots or Capotes, coats made from these blankets. Here’s how to make a capote if you’ve always wanted one.

What I’m thinking is, these blanket aesthetics would work really, really, really well with a lot of Zimmerman garter stitch designs. Certainly the Tomten is an ideal blanket coat pattern, if you wanted to knit your blanket rather than sew it. The BSJ would look pretty great with the Hudson Bay blanket colorways, yes?

I’ve got three projects in my head that will be informed by this idea. A whole tomten coat for me, the Meg Swansen vest I pored over and plotted at camp for DH, and an endless stream of BSJs, in blanket stripes.

The Swansen vest is cast on in the amazing icelandic wool from Schoolhouse Press.

My tomten and the BSJs will be an exercise in stash burning of a lot of old Galway.

Am going to do some figurin’ and then cast that one on today while I Knit In Public at my LYS, Lizzie Ann’s. I’ll be there mid-morning, tea in hand. We’ll take over the sidewalk. Bring your knitting and a folding chair!

A few FOs to show off soon, believe it or not…

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?

Tomten show on Flickr

Fun watching while I knit twin tomtens:

Plain Gray Finished

Plain Gray Finished

Originally uploaded by juju&jack

Finished! Some time ago, actually. But it was a painful finish, and I haven’t been ready to talk about it…

Okay some details… You may not remember my last post about this project, when I was thinking the arms were too tight, and I planned to rip the sweater back and the arms back to make them deeper… Right?

Well, I did. And reknit and finished it.

When I tried it on the man, we discovered that it just, just wasn’t working. I had to study and study lumply, pulling, strangly shaped thing for quite awhile as he modeled it in the blazing heat before I realized that the dimension that was all wrong was his shoulder width. Somehow I had measured his shoulders, and then did the math for not his actual 17-inch shoulders, but did the math for the 14-inch shoulders EZ says is average.  MY shoulders are 14 inches…  And I’m average, I guess.

Twice I knit the yoke of this sweater for a guy with 14-inch shoulders.

And it wasn’t until I ripped it back and knit it up a third time that it hit me: He maybe didn’t need deeper arms after all. The arms were tight because the shoulder dimension was off… So….

Yep. You got it. Ah, no I didn’t document all these sweater versions and ripping with more photographs, but I did tint the walls and ceilings with my language upon realizing my third set of mistakes.

And what I’d like you to know above all is that Zimmerman, if you CAN FOLLOW HER REALLY EASY DIRECTIONS, is and remains a genius. This sweater is lovely. It stretches all every which way, and this guy is just dying for the snow to start falling.

The Marr Haven? Soft and rough at the same time. A beautiful tweedy effect, and it really holds up well to ripping… Doh!

This whole long, 50-inch-chest sweater took just shy of 6 skeins. A very fast, very pleasurable knit. Very borrowable sweater…