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Monthly Archives: May 2013

IMG_8969Do you swatch, always?

We should sleep 8 hours a night. We should eat our daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. We should floss our teeth every day.

We should knit swatches.

I will make an admission here. I don’t always swatch. And for me, gauge swatches….sometimes lie.

My gauge on the same yarn can vary slightly because of:
– The brand of needles I use,
– The mood I’m in,
– If I’m watching a tense TV show,
– If I’m rushing, or relaxed
– If it’s commute knitting,
– If I’m knitting flat or if I’m knitting in the round,
– If I knit a stockinette piece or a reverse stockinette piece. (This one baffles me still).
– If the last knitting project I was working on was lace…or socks.
– If I’m doing stranded colorwork.

etc., etc., etc.

The point I want to make is — it’s a really good thing that knitted fabric is pretty forgiving. Even if my stitch and row gauge can be off a little, I always knit a swatch if the fabric I want to create is an important feature of a big garment.

For June’s Cardigan, I’m noting that the gauge specified is 20 stitches x 28 rows over 4 inches with US 7 as a recommended needle size. My yarn’s stated gauge is 4.5 stitches/inch with US 7 needles to 4 stitches/inch on US 9 needles.

The yarn has 40% mohair content, which is going to make this yarn very forgiving in terms of gauge. With the garment I want in mind and thinking that my inclination is to be a bit a bit tighter knitter than a looser knitter, I have knit a gauge swatch using US8 needles. I’ve only knit one other Hannah Fettig sweater, so I am unfamiliar with her knitting inclination (there are some designers who I am perfectly on gauge with, and there are some designers who I seem to always knit tighter than, and there are some designers who I seem to always knit looser than…..).

As you have probably already surmised, I’m not trying to “hit” the gauge. I know that I am likely to get a looser gauge than what the pattern calls for, and that there’s some math ahead in my future as I plan this sweater.

The biggest issue for me with this swatch is whether the yarn knit up would muddle the stitch designs that are one of the attractive features of this sweater (remember, my yarn is a bit variegated) and whether the looser gauge and yarn would also interfere with some of the stitch designs. With that in mind, here is the swatch, pre-blocking.

I’ve made a swatch 30 stitches wide, with a 3 stitch garter border. The eyelets right above the garter indicate what needles size I used (just a YO and k2tog 8x)…because while I used to be able to remember these things, I cannot anymore. I knit enough fabric above the eyelets so that the piece was no longer distorted by the eyelets, and I tried the cable pattern and the purl stitch pattern that is on the border of the sweater.

Pre-blocking, I’m already seeing an issue with the diamond stitch pattern. I make mental note of this and am already considering eliminating it. I think the cable looks nice though, and am toying with staying just with a simple cable.

IMG_8965I don’t want to block the piece as hard as I would block, say a lace shawl. (This is another reason why I like to measure the gauge swatch before I wet it) After I thoroughly soak it in (this case) warm water with a bit of wool wash and blotting it dry with a towel, I’m pinning it out, as you can see, just to straighten out the swatch, and have basically smoothed out the wet rectangle. I’m pinning the corners to keep the piece flat.

The Swatch Police will also come out to say — “hey, what about your gauge swatch in the round???”, because the sleeves are knit in the round. And it’s true, my gauge in the round is slightly tighter than my gauge flat. (Lots written on this but here is a good article on why this is usually the case.)

IMG_8968It looks like my stitch gauge will be 4.25 stitches/inch, vs. the pattern’s 5 stitches/inch, or 17% bigger…which is a pretty significant difference. This means that there will be pattern adjustments for size ……which will be the next blog post!

I get asked this all the time.

There was a time,  when my knitting consisted of picking a pattern, buying the exact yarn that was called for, and knitting exactly to pattern, except for a few standard modifications like sleeve length. I would go rogue sometimes and change a color.

There’s nothing wrong with this. I still do that from time to time, because I belong to yarn/pattern clubs, or I am curious about the garment that was intended to be made. But most of my knitting now starts with thinking about a garment, and picking the yarn and pattern (or not) to make as close to what I envision the piece to be.

This may be my favorite part of the whole knitting process — the knitting that happens in my brain!

In the case of the Sweater KAL we are about to do, I picked the pattern (June’s Favorite Cardigan) for the design details of the cardigan. The story about the sweater that the designer, Hannah Fettig, told, made me envision the garment that I wanted to make.

SQUISHY. That is what I wanted. Something that would make the cardigan look hand made. Ideally, something that looked like handspun. And, I wanted a little bit of fuzz, because to me, fuzz is cozy. I also did not want this cardigan to be heavy, weight wise. This meant that I wanted a yarn that was spun woolen, and probably was a 2 or at most a 3 ply yarn. And if I couldn’t find that, I was going to choose a fiber that would add loft to the yarn. (Now you know why I started spinning. I’m a little bit picky….now if I could just get good enough at spinning to create exactly what I’m looking for……!!)

I could have gone a totally different direction. Squoosh factor can be achieved using a really bouncy, round yarn. A rounder yarn would give you great stitch definition, and if I really wanted to highlight the design details (which I love on this cardigan), I would have picked such a yarn, and in a light color.

Color is important here because of the cable and the stitch details. While there is nothing wrong with knitting this in a darker color, the beautiful details in the sleeves and around the front edge of the cardigan would show up better in a lighter colored yarn.

The yarn that the designer used for this cardigan, Quince  Co.’s Lark, would be an example of a rounder bouncier yarn I could have used for this cardigan. I know that at least a couple of our Sweater KAL friends, are using a yarn that would give wonderful stitch definition while being really soft and cozy. (Yes, you two with the cormo yarn, I’m talking about you!)

IMG_8956The yarn that I chose, Green Mountain Spinnery Green Mountain Green,  has a recommended gauge of 3.5-5.0 stitches to the inch. It’s 60% wool, and 40% mohair, which will create a fabric that should be light but warm, if knitted at the right gauge. Since I want to take advantage of the loft from the mohair, I will be knitting this to create a relatively loose fabric. I chose the variegated yarn (and I went through the entire stock at the Spinnery when I was up there for the Spring Retreat) to chose a lighter colored, less obviously variegated skeins. The variegation is subtle enough, I think, to not detract from the stitch details.

Because I know what kind of fabric I want, this makes swatching relatively important. I will admit — sometimes I do not swatch and use a part of the garment itself as my “swatch” (and yes, this means sometimes I rip out large projects halfway through and start over). I won’t swatch if I’m knitting out of yarn I’ve used before, for example, or if I’m knitting a lace shawl. In fact, I know my knitting gauge is not 100% consistent and is very reflective of what other projects I may have on the needles (if I’m knitting lots of socks, my gauge will be a bit tighter, if I’ve been knitting many shawls, my gauge may be looser), or my stress level, or even time of day. So, I gauge for the “fabric”. I want to make sure that after I soak the garment, and let the yarn bloom a bit, that the end fabric has the drape, the squish factor and the feel that I want. And if I’m not knitting to the gauge called for in the pattern, I am more likely to take out the calculator and do some math rather than change the needle size to get the dimensions right.

Don’t worry, this is not hard, and besides we’ve picked a pattern that I think is pretty forgiving in terms of fit.

I will be swatching in the next few days. In the meantime, I’m still knitting and spinning away to clear the decks a bit before June 1.

 

 

IMG_6206Poor Lucy. No matter how many years she has been with me, she is considered “the new dog”.

She has been The New Dog for seven years as of this week. She’s no longer a shiny new puppy, but except for a few stray grey hairs on her muzzle, the black fur on Lucy is still as shiny as a panther’s and the white fur, when just out of the bath, still sparkles.

IMG_1519There are many things I would have done differently with this dog. One thing I did right, though. I didn’t squash her tendencies to be the master manipulator. And she is the master, on the order of Yoda.

And you thought I call Lucy Yoda just because her ears are like Yoda’s.

That is only part of the reason. The other is that she has supernatural ability (i.e., use the Force) to make humans pet her.

Lucy loves her pets and scritches, more than food and more than toys. Some dogs demand their pets from humans but I am a big believer that I shouldn’t pet a dog just because she demands it (unless he is 13), so Lucy has had to work around this (what she considers) stupid human rule.

She makes you want to pet her. It goes like this.

IMG_6641Situation 1: Coming through the door to (what she considers) Her Kingdom, i.e., my place. Well, a dog’s gotta greet the human, and the human’s gotta greet the dog. This is prime petting zone for Lucy. Even if you were predisposed against petting dogs, when a dog comes at you with her ears down, head down, tail doing the helicopter, running toward you then sits in front vibrating with anticipation with the tip of her tail going back and forth at 100mph….well, what’s a human to do? That totally deserves a scritch. That is the opening. Then, Lucy uses Th Force when she get’s the human to convert the innocent scritch into a full body massage. She stretches into your hand, and then leans into you as she was waiting all her life for that scritch. Then she turns this way and that, getting you to scratch every itch she has ever had and could ever have. I fall for this every single time I come through the door.

Situation 2: Sitting on the couch. Suddenly you “feel” eyes on you. You look around and you see them. They could be peering around the corner of the couch, with the tell-tale ear tips straight up like antennae toward you. (Those ears? They are just Lucy’s antennae for focusing The Force Beams.) Her big brown eyes are willing you to call her over. And you do. Watch out. Once you do this? It’s all over. Because she puts her little face in your lap, and then looks up at you with those big brown eyes. Guess what happens? Pet pet pet pet pet pet.

Situation 3: Hiking. Lucy, as usual, is enjoying the outdoors. Sniffing a flower there, eating some grass here, scoping out some critters. It’s actually a little bit annoying when you have another dog that is all business and stays on course on the trails. Exasperated, you call her, and she comes, mouth open and happy — and sits in perfect heel position, and gives a tail tip wag. OK, she’s not so bad and c’mon, that deserves it. Pet pet pet pet pet.

See what I mean? She’s a sneaky little one.

Happy adoptaversary, Lucy, may you manipulate away at your pack (and you even have Finn at your beck and call!)  for many more years to come!

IMG_0645

A few friends have some smooshy, cozy yarn in their stashes that are screaming to be knit into smooshy, cozy cardigans. I do as well, and I’ve agreed to knit a sweater with them.

A sweater in summer? You may say. But with the weather doing what it is doing in the Northeast this year, we may find (to my glee) that little warm cardi is just the thing we can throw on our shoulders as we sip our coffee in the morning.

(Just a note to say: That is such an idyllic picture for me and so far from reality. I don’t sip coffee until I have taken the daily early AM walk/slog/jog with my dogs so I’m already fully dressed, probably sweating, and not in some cute “just rolled out of bed” wear.)

June’s Favorite Cardigan is a Hannah Fettig design that looks to be nearly perfect for this. Nice cable accents to keep the knitting from getting too boring, raglan sleeves which I think is a must for a cozy sweater (and since it’s an open cardi, there shouldn’t be an issue with trying to make the sweater fit around the bust and have the armholes down at your bellybutton…), and what looks to be a stress free knit.

This will be a very loose knitalong/KAL. Basically, I will be posting a pretty loose schedule, and will be knitting this sweater and posting progress on a weekly basis. Please feel free to share your comments and link your Ravelry project pages down below!

imageCast on date is June 1. The assignment, should you wish to accept it, is before 6/1/13, you will:

1. Buy the pattern
2. Buy the yarn (I am using Green Mountain Spinnery’s Green Mountain Green, photographed above.)
3. Gather all materials (if you use a cable needle you’ll need one, we’ll need darning needles..)
…and of course, swatch.

I think this sweater can be finished in a month. I’ll be posting about my swatch next week!