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I have no issues knitting through the summer. (Well, I have a few caveats like no big wooly project sitting on my lap for prolonged period of time even with the AC on). There’s nothing like the first hints of fall to get me excited about sweater knitting, though.

After what seemed like a heat wave that lasted forever, summer seemed to have gone in a flash and we had a relatively temperate end to August here in NYC.  Very conducive to sweater knitting. So conducive that I finally finished my June’s Favorite Cardigan, and I test knitted a lovely little sweater, Miranda, which should become a staple in my wardrobe this fall.

IMG_9177 - Version 2First the June’s. Or more like, as it ended up being, “INSPIRED BY” June’s Favorite Cardigan. The last bit of knitting, which took all of an hour or two, has been completed, the ends were woven in and the garment blocked. The sweater is knit out of Green Mountain Spinnery’s Green Mountain Green, a yummy yarn. (So yummy I just ordered another sweater’s worth for a pullover…). My sweater is oversized, the cable band has been doubled which has made the collar around the neck wider, and I can pull the cardigan closed around my body like a big wooly hug if I get cold.

IMG_9173The test knit was for Miranda, for the lovely  Josée Paquin. It’s a casual hoodie sweater, with a kangaroo pocket and short sleeves. The architectural cable panel in the front, which integrates into the pocket, is the dressy feature here. The hood is fully functional and fits nicely over the head….and not just another piece of knitted fabric that will keep my neck warm. I anticipate wearing this sweater quite a bit this fall. The bonus is that the yarn, Lorna’s Laces Shepherds’ Worsted in Cookie’s Deep Dark Secret, was a prize for a KAL for sweater out of Cookie A’s Shapes + Forms book!

I definitely am willing sweater season to get here quickly, and have a couple more sweaters on the needles…..Think I have stripes on my brain!?

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Now that we’ve finished the sleeves….are any of you our there wondering if you have enough yarn?!

This is very approximate and requires some digging back in the brain for some formulas for calculating area for certain shapes. But, it will give you at least some idea of whether you have enough yarn, and perhaps plan for some modifications if you are running short.

First, we’ve already knit the sleeve. The sleeve is a trapezoid. The area for a trapezoid is calculated using the formula: 1/2*h*(b1+b2) where h is the height of the trapezoid (and in this case the length of the sleeve), b1 is the length of one end of the base of the trapezoid (in this case the circumference around the wrist) and b2 is the length of the other base (in this case the circumference around the top end of the sleeve).

You also know how much yarn you have used, either because you have kept track, or because you can weigh the sleeves and convert that into approximate yardage because you know how many yards of yarn there is in 1 gram/1 ounce of yarn.

From the above, I know that I can knit “x” square inches using “y” yards. Divide that yardage by the square inches to get the y/x yard/square inch.

Using the schematic, I know that the body up to the yoke join is a rectangle, and I can calculate the area of that area of the sweater. I can also approximate the top back as another trapezoid, and the two fronts as 2 more trapezoids. Add these, and remember to calculate the edging band (another rectangle) and add that. You will get total area in square inches to be knit. Multiply this by the yard/sq. inch  rate of your yarn usage, above. Now you know how much yarn you need to knit the rest of the sweater. You can weigh the yarn you have left (or add up the yardage on the label assuming that is correct) and you can see if you have enough yarn.

What if you don’t have enough yarn? Here are some options:

1. Order more. Hope the manufacturer/store has the same dye lot.
2. Think about shortening the body. The amount by which you need to adjust this length can be calculated by doing the above calculation backwards.
3. This sweater has a edging band. Is there a contrast yarn you can use on the edging?

And then, more dramatically,
4. Can you modify sleeves to 3/4? Short sleeves? This would probably require re-knitting of at least the upper portion of the sleeves, depending on how dramatically you are changing the sleeves.
5. Can you do all the ribbing and the edging band in another yarn/contrast color? This would require some yarn surgery — snipping the ribbing off the sleeves, picking up the live stitches, and knitting the ribbing in the contrast color, and of course, doing this for the body (or ripping out the body and starting the ribbing on this different yarn, depending on where you are in your project.

IMG_8911The result? Sometimes good! I actually do this quite a bit, with mixed results, but here is a recent example of a fingerless mitt I was making out of handspun…Sure, I could have spun a bit more yarn, but I like the orange accent.

More often than not, I do buy extra yarn and deal with the leftovers….later.

Hope that is helpful!

Here are some WIP photos from some people who have told me that they are following along on this KAL…Remember to PM me on Ravelry if I can use your photo on my blog!

Nice going, everyone!!

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IMG_0009What!? No, I did not take a sleeve workshop at Squam Art Workshops. But, I did finish the sleeves for my June’s Favorite Cardigan while attending the Squam Art Workshops and cast on for the body.

Couple of observations about my sleeves….
1. Perhaps I should have alternated skeins. Each skein is different on this yarn, sort of like handspun that was randomly plied. If I were being a perfectionist, I would have alternated the skeins. You can see from the enhanced photo that the skein changes are pretty obvious. From a normal distance away though? Good enough for government work.

Which is a perfect segway for two topics: Stephen West and alternating skeins.

I took a class from Stephen West (highly recommended, for many useful tips but also for the high entertainment factor). One of the best quotes (paraphrased): “If someone notices a knitting mistake on a garment and they see it, they are WAY TOO CLOSE. Take 3 steps back.” LOL. Two take aways from the class. I learned a ridiculously amazing cast on for garter which involve a bit of a pirouette of the wrists, and his shawls are beautiful in person. And yes, I’ve already been mentally rifling through the yarn that I have on hand to pirouette cast on one of his shawls. Stay tuned!

IMG_9027Alternating skeins. I would say that I alternate skeins, while using hand dyed yarn, 90% of the time. If I enhance the photo with high contrast (see left), you can definitely see that there is a major demarkation where I changed skeins. If I wanted to avoid this, I would have started alternating skeins…maybe not for the entire sleeve but at least for the last 4″ or so leading up to the switch.

You can probably see that I’ve already made a modification on the sleeve….I twisted the cables in different directions rather than keeping them twisted in the same direction, so that they both twist into the body.

I’ve cast on for the body, and am knitting along. There was a question as to what “knit as established” means — for me, that means keep the knitted fabric/pattern going as it was set up: So, stockinette is stockinette, and pattern stitches are pattern stitches.

I think I’m going to take a day in the middle of the week and post progress photos from other participants. i am loving how this sweater is knitting up in the other yarns. If I were to select a different yarn, I would definitely pick a very light colored, round yarn.

See you soon!

The schematic in a pattern is an incredibly valuable resource. It has tons of information in it. Look at the numbers, and not just the diagram.

I am casting on today, and I already see a big issue — there are only 2 circumferences for sleeve cuffs for a sweater that comes in 10 sizes. And since I am not a huge fan of dangly cuffs, I will be making an adjustment here, and adjust to make sure that by the time I get the sleeves to the length I want, I have the right circumference on the arm. (This means doing some calculations on the frequency of increases within the available length of the sleeve, so you will have to rely on the row gauge you’re getting on your swatch as well…as you progress further into the sleeve, the row gauge you are getting on the sleeve will give a better sense.)

With the knowledge that ribbing will “suck in” the fabric a certain amount, I have cast on what I think are the right number of stitches and have started knitting…..

One thing to keep in mind? The beautiful seeded rib must be knit in the multiple of stitches it calls for.

And, I don’t know where I have picked this up, but I always cast on one more stitch than called for when knitting in the round and slip that last stitch in the round into the first stitch in the next round.

Next decision: is the ribbing called for in the pattern long enough? I am a sleeve pusher-upper. And, I want enough length in the sleeves to be able to pull the sleeves over my hands without it looking sloppy. My solution? A longer rib. I am knitting my rib a bit longer than called for (shortening the amount of turf left to squeeze in all my sleeve increases!) And make a note, if you’ve changed the length of the rib on the sleeve. I like to mirror this, most of the time, at the hem of the body!

june sleeve start

I think it’s a good start. Now onto the main part of the sleeve….

And here’s Blunckie’s progress. The yarn she is using is just PERFECTION. I think it’s perfect for this sweater. Great stitch definition, and it looks so soft even from here!! And look how far she has gotten already!!!

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A few advantages, in my mind, for starting on the sleeves.

1. It’s your “in the round gauge swatch”, and it’s also a check to see if you’re going to like the garment. You can try on as you go! If you don’t like a sleeve, you are likely not going to like the sweater.
2. You’ll get a sense for the pattern, and how the yarn knits up in a bigger piece of fabric….in essence, it’s like you’re progressing onto a bigger swatch!

Usually, and if I am on gauge for the project, I will knit the sleeves two at a time on magic loop. This way, I don’t have to “remember” (i.e., take copious notes because I don’t ever really remember anymore!) my increases for “later” (or when I get to the second sleeve — which, with my track record, could be years after the first sleeve!).

However, for this, I’m going to do one sleeve at a time. I’m not super confident in my modifications.

The upside? After knitting the sleeve and the body up to the yoke, I should be 100% confident of how I’m going to modify the rest of the sweater (where all the action takes place).

If you are participating in the KAL and do not mind me featuring your progress on the blog, please contact me at Finnsmydog on Ravelry!

Knit on!

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.