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IMG_1963As my Adventure’s with June’s Cardigan would attest, I have a tendency to pick a sweater pattern, actually pay for said pattern, and proceed to tinker with the pattern beyond recognition.

That seems to be my modus operandi.

Why? Well, I think all of this is seeded in the fact that I believe that when I knit a sweater, I am creating the fabric AND the garment, so I should be able to make EXACTLY what I am picturing in my mind. It’s very much like cooking. A little of this, a little of that, I have in my mind what I want….and I go about trying to achieve it.

Well with sweaters, this could mean making many calculations. I’m not shy about making these calculations. In fact, sometimes like in cooking, I have a tendency to do this on the fly. Of course the intention as I am starting my bush wacking through a pattern that I’m going to remember my route with a few trail markers. If I’m plowing through a project (think deadline) then my memory is still relatively reliable. Should I put a project down for more than a few days though? UH…..not so much.

Just a bit about the math involved. I don’t have a particularly curvy body to fit. In fact, my body is basically a rectangle (sort of a plumper version of Jackie, who Amy talks about here). I have two pet peeves with sweater patterns. If I knit a stated size to fit my bust, it rarely fits across the shoulders. If I knit a size for my shoulders (note, not many patterns give this measurement!!!) I look like…well, a rectangle covered by knitted fabric. What I normally end up doing is monkeying with the yoke and upper arm/armhole area to make a sweater that is snug enough but not super tight. We won’t mention here that I think the sleeve cap and armhole is the one place on a sweater where calculating a length involves a curve (um, 12th grade math. This is calculus. That was a long time ago.).

I can usually get pretty close, and with a knitted fabric, which is forgiving, this usually is good enough. But I am never confident in sweater patterns, I start getting squirmish and itchy to modify patterns as I near the arm hole shaping, and I feel like each knitted sweater has an element of Hail Mary in it.

Enter Amy Herzog.

IMG_9130I met Amy last March when I attended the Green Mountain Spinnery Spring Retreat (one of my most favorite knitting retreats!) in beautiful Saxtons River, Vermont. She came to the class with 40? 50? sweaters. She came ready to demonstrate what a well fitting sweater, for your body type, could do for the shape of your body. It was fun, it was engaging, and I was full in. So full in that I decided that the sweater I was knitting was completely wrong for me, and I ripped out about 500 yards of knitting. The “new” version of this will hopefully be much better fitted, and much better suited for my body than the colorwork (yes, it was 500 yards of colorwork) body cozy I was knitting for my rectangular torso.

IMG_9132When Amy mentioned then that she was working on developing a software program that would generate patterns fit for your body measurements, given a swatch, my ears prickled. All I could think was, NO MORE SPREADSHEETS.

So, when Amy put the call out for Beta testers a couple of months ago, I raised my hand. I raised my hand VERY high and waved it around all over the place.

IMG_9128IMG_1954And guess what? Tada! A simple, but well fitting sweater in a killer yarn for me to wear every day (or until I can knit more sweaters to go into the rotation). It fits perfectly in the shoulders. The top seam for the sleeve hits exactly at the right place on the shoulder. The armhole is fitted, but not tight. When I swing my arms around, the sweater does not pull anywhere. But it is snug in all the right places, just enough to make my rectangle have some curves.

After all these years, I am conditioned to buy a certain yardage of yarn to make a sweater. The upside of a nicely fitted sweater was that I had plenty of yarn left over (yet another bonus) to knit a cowl. Presto change-o. The v-neck sweater can also play in my wardrobe as a cowl neck sweater.

IMG_1962The cowl is Circumnavigate by Heidi Kirrmaier. As with Heidi’s beautifully simple sweater designs, The cowl has just enough of a knit/purl stitch pattern to be interesting without taking away from the slight variegation I have in the yarn that I used.

As for the yarn…it is JulieSpins Silky DK in fluorite. I asked Julie how she would describe this color…and she says it is a “silver grey with a hint of yellow”. It is a strangely wonderful color. It’s grey but not really. It’s got bits of yellow and blue and in some lights the sweater looks green. Just like fluorite!

Now I’m just waiting for the weather to go my way so I can wear this sweater. Now you want a perfectly fitted sweater too, right? Well, Amy’s CustomFit software is still in beta test. But the software seems to be working, given the amazing finished object photos that are starting to pop up. I’m sure all the elves in the background who make these things work are hard at work. I will refer you to the Fit Diva’s website and link to her newsletter subscription for up to date news on the software!

PS. There are many who are finishing up their second and third sweaters….I, too, have cast on for a CustomFit-ized version of a relatively ambitious sweater in fingering weight cormo. More on this as I make progress!

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.

 

 

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!

…Because December is all about socks. As you all know, I’m not much of a sock knitter.

Unless there is a goal. And, I have to finish 3 more pairs of socks by the end of the year to successfully complete my 12/12/12 in 12, also known as the Crazypants Plan.

Irisberry socksMy latest pair is Cookie A’s Cubist Socks. It’s knit out of Iridaceae Colorworks Cypella — 80% BFL/20% nylon yarn with high twist that I really loved knitting. (Loved so much that as soon as I finished these socks, I ordered 3 more skeins in various colors from Ali’s shop). These were destined to be gifts from the get go, hence the colorway that I used is Irisberry, which variegates from periwinkle to purple. Very pretty, for a big purple lover. These socks will be packed up in my friend’s bag so she can take them to her Mom in Shanghai.

I’m sprinkling my knitting all over the globe!

And, I’ve 4 more pairs on the needles:

sock design1. I have resurrected what I’m calling My Innovation Socks. I took a sock design class from Cookie A at Vogue Knitting Live in January. I have 1/4 of a pair done, and I have pulled this out from the depths of my cabinets. It’s a sock full of twisted stitches (because I was way too ambitious in my foray into sock design), but at least it is being knit out of Wollmeise 100% in Himbeere, which is a fuscia!

IMG_85032. For the friend who is going to take the Cubist Socks to its rightful owner, my go-to sock in sport weight, which is Adrienne Ku’s Simple Skyp Socks. These are being knit in Sanguine Gryphon Bugga in Golden Orb Weaver. They are relatively quick…knit on US/2.0 needles, and simple yet not boring. After my standard of 64-72 stitches cast on for regular sock weight yarn, casting on 56 seems so few! (I should have really researched worsted weight socks!!!)  How can I send a pair of socks off to China without putting some socks on the carrier, right? These should be nice and squishy as the yarn is 80/20/10 merino/cashmere/nylon blend.

IMG_85053. Sarsaparilla Socks by Cookie A (October Sock Club exclusive pattern). These are going to be for Dad — and are actually the first club pattern I’ve cast on with the club yarn. The yarn is an exclusive, Super Duper Sock Club Yarn milled by Green Mountain Spinnery in the color…Sarsparilla. I believe the base is the same as Green Mountain Spinnery’s Forest yarn (70% fine wool and 30% Tencel). I’ve JUST cast this one on, and using US1.5 instead of my usual 1.0. This yarn feels scratchy in the skein and a bit rough as I am knitting it, but the knitted fabric is surprisingly soft. I’m thinking that blocking will further soften the final product.

solfar4. Solfar Socks by Cookie A (June Club pattern) in The Plucky Knitter Primo Fingering in a really pretty blue called Vintage Icebox. Another pair out of the club yarn. I really like this base so the knitting is going relatively quickly here.

If I knit #3 and #4, then I am also all caught up on the Cookie A Sock Club patterns for the year. Which enables me to rationalize how I should (and I already have) sign up for this Club again in 2013. Which you should, by the way. The patterns (you get 2 every other month) are worth it all on their own — because honestly, Cookie A has singlehandedly made me like knitting that second sock — but you get 2 cookie recipes every other month as well, and the yarn she has sent with the club has been very nice. (If you think about it, with all the intricate patterning in the socks, you will never get clown barf in this club).

The December shipment is here as well, and depending on how the above socks on the needles go…maybe I can cast those on before the end of the year, as well.

Can I finish?