Hi, Blog

So you’re still here, one year later, and Internet still hasn’t swallowed you up. I’m glad.

During that year where we went our separate ways, I lost the impulse to knit for some time. There were a few months where I thought about knitting a lot, but didn’t at all touch yarn or needles. Then, one fine day, I picked them up and they haven’t left my hands ever since. (This is a way of speech. Even knitters still do need to eat, drink, sleep, keep their houses in order and play the organ.) Some more months were spent merrily knitting before the need to put some thoughts in writing arose again.

Today I thought it would be fun to make a few notes about cardigan shapes for future reference (particularly with the intent of providing me with some good laughs on the day when I’ll have completely changed my mind on this fascinating subject).

In general, I don’t think knitting is difficult. Knit stitch, purl stitch, yarn over — if you master these three very basic operations, then the whole world is yours and endless possibilities open. Some patterns, like complex lace knitting, do require a certain amount of concentration, but it’s more a question of practicing said basic operations in the right order and being able to count. This is why knitting complex lace while watching rugby is not a brilliant idea, because you’ll end up confusing the pattern repeat count with your favorite team’s score, which usually does not have a neat and pleasing result. (Don’t ask me how I know.)

What I do find difficult, however, is the proper fitting of garments (even for myself, as I am the person I knit most garments for, since I always have myself at hand when I need to check measurements). This took me years to learn and I still do stupid mistakes which result in an unflattering fit. One thing I realized lately is that it has much to do with body image and misconceptions.

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Narrow shoulder strips + busty lady… Ugh. I sent the thing to the frog pond.

For example, I have narrow, sloping shoulders and I have long believed I should compensate by wearing (and making) things that have squarish shoulders. This, dear Blog, is not true — not for me, anyway. The thing is that I have a rather ample chest, and if I make, say, a cardigan with classic, sewn shoulders and set-in sleeves, the narrow strips of fabric on the shoulders do nothing but emphasize how generously endowed I am. Also, I have long believed that baggy, boxy shapes would be slimming. They’re not. (I know, I should have figured that one out long ago. Well, better late than never.) I have long heard that “garments constructed with a circular yoke, particularly a patterned circular yoke, don’t look good on busty women”. In my case, this is completely wrong.

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The Epiphany Cardigan. See the difference with the above picture ? And no, I haven’t shed a single pound between the two…

Until a few months ago, I’d always thought that a garment (I’m using that here as an umbrella term for “sweater” or “cardigan” or any piece of knitting designed to be worn on the torso) should be knit to my actual measurements, or just a little larger, to fit. It took me almost 10 years — 10 years ! — to figure out that in order to have something fit “just right”, I have to knit it on the small side, with a little bit of negative ease, and let the fabric bloom to my exact mensurations while blocking (because if your garment is just a tiny little bit too wide, and if you submit it to the process of soaking it and laying it out to dry, you will get something that is noticeably too big). This knitting-altering realization came thanks to my “epiphany cardigan”. Quite unexpectedly, I chose a pattern which was combining quite a few of the “no-no’s” I’d been applying as a filter in my pattern choice. It was meant to be fitted and knit on the small side. It included a circular yoke. It had (gulp !) horizontal stripes. It also was the most flattering cardigan I had ever worn, let alone made.

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The latest yoke cardigan to date. Again, it fits just right and I’m so pleased with this shape. And there isn’t a single seam !

I think that, in my case anyway, the circular yoke has the effect of encompassing the bust area into a larger design which runs not from one armpit to the other but from one shoulder to the other, and thus, actually draws less attention to the chest than a classical squared-shoulder shape like the disastrous attempt pictured above left.

That cardigan had the effect of triggering an obsession with yokes (more precisely yoked cardigans, since I have also come to the conclusion that I don’t really like wearing sweaters) which has not (yet) resulted in a plethora of new yoked cardigans in my life, as I’m a relatively slow knitter, but did produce one more piece and the embryo of a third.

There was one more thing I realized when I picked up knitting again : I don’t enjoy sewing and assembling the pieces of a classical cardigan made of five parts (two sleeves, two fronts, one back — that is, if you’re lucky and there is no collar). I much, much prefer knitting in the round, sleeves and all. I know seams are supposed to give structure to a garment. But what can I say ? I have always suspected I wasn’t a structured kind of woman !

 

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More Socks

Happy 1st of August to everyone ! Today is the Swiss national day, commemorating the Rütlischwur that marks the birth of the Swiss nation.

To join in the fun, I have new socks.

IMGP6364These colours are admittedly nothing like the Swiss national flag. They are Flutter-by Socks (Ravelry link) and the yarn is Rico Superba Poems, in the colourway Candy. The pair took about two thirds of one ball. The pattern is fun and easy, but was maybe not the best match with this yarn — the butterflies are a bit lost in that riot of wild colours.

To avoid disturbing the colour transition on the instep, I simply knit the heel from the other end of the ball, and broke it (the other end, not the heel) when it was time to pick up gusset stitches.
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Anyway, I’m quite smitten with them. As the temperature was rather chilly, I wore them yesterday evening, hot off the needles, to the traditional 1st of August (or rather July 31st) fireworks, whose bright colours they matched perfectly. On that occasion, I became one of those eccentric ladies who wear woolen sock with sandals because they can’t stop admiring their own feet. (I had forgotten to take into account the fact that at 10:30 pm, it would be dark outside anyway. But that didn’t stop me from trying to show them off to the friends we met on the way).

These socks drew some comments when I knit on them in the train to and from the IMGP6367university. The general feeling seemed to be that these vibrant shades made people feeling better in spite of the terrible weather we had these past few days weeks. I agree. Fireworks socks. I really feel as if I could rocket to the roof when I wear them ! Simply looking at them makes me giggle. I must really be getting weird. Nobody had warned me that socks had such an effect on your brain !

Socks

My back is getting much better, so I should soon be able to put together a blog post about the knitting side of my holidays.

Meanwhile, the weather here at home seems to have forgotten it is supposed to be summer. It is raining cats and dogs, there is wind and chilly temperatures, and so I have new socks. (Actually I had finished them just before we left for the airport one month ago, to spend a two weeks and half summer vacation at my parents-in-laws’, and I wove in the ends today.)

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The pattern is Pine Tree Toe Up Socks (Ravelry link), but I’m calling them my mexican socks, because the colours remind me of mexican food — corn ears, chili, red beans. I’ve forgotten what the yarn is. They’re bright and cheery, they’re only my second pair of toe-ups, with a short-row heel that could have been managed better (the first was made for The Husband, who doesn’t feel the irrepressible call to become a sock model), they don’t match and I don’t care, and they bring to me a little bit of the summer I’m yearning for.

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And they’re especially welcome since I forgot my favorite pair of hand knit socks at my parents-in-laws’, who live some 9’000 kilometers away (so it’s not really as if I could just drop by and pick them up next week). It was just a plain pair of socks, but in a lovely Kaffe Fasset colourway. I had bought the yarn in Jersey, during my first “on our own” holiday trip with The Husband, because it had lovely blue, green and purple hues which reminded me of the island — sea, grass and heather. They fitted me perfectly, were hard-wearing and associated with wonderful memories of a great time in a stunningly beautiful place. I miss them and I hope Mother (that’s what I call my mother-in-law) will safely put them away until next year.

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In case you wonder why on earth anyone would bring woolen socks on a summer vacation, I have only one word in answer : planes. Planes are cold places. Feet get cold on planes, therefore it is most unwise to board one without a pair of good woolen socks. I nearly panicked on the journey home when I sat in the plane, opened my bag to fish out my socks and realized they were not here. Thankfully The Husband, who, by some mystery of nature, does not get cold feet as easily as I do, even on planes, handed me his own pair, and I was safe.

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I’m really glad to have this fun new pair as a compensation. The pattern was great, straightforward and easy to follow. I made only a few changes : I didn’t want to have open eyelets on each side of the “spine” featured in the chevron pattern on the leg (because these were meant to be “warm” socks, and holes in your socks kind of defeat that purpose), and I purled every yarn over through the back loop on the following wrong side row so as to twist the stitch and thus close the hole. This meant that the pattern would be loosing some of its stretch in terms of width, and that I would have to add an increase row after turning the heel, so that the sock would be neither too loose on the foot nor too tight on the leg. It took me two unsuccessful tries to settle on the right numbers, but I got there eventually.

Socks are good. I have another pair on my needles, in the most psychedelic rainbow colourway. Very satisfying to knit and the ultimate antidote to bad weather.

The Purple Sweater, Done at Last : Francis Revisited

IMGP5884A few posts back, I wrote about that purple sweater I was finishing for a friend. Well, it is done. It is blocked and dried, all ends woven in. And I’m so unhappy with it.

As you can see, it is very big on me – but my friend is larger than I am, so hopefully this won’t be too much of a problem. Also, the collar looks a bit weird. That’s because I read the instructions too fast, didn’t realize it before I was done and so fed up with working with that yarn that I didn’t want to rip back and redo it. Case in point : just before the moss stitch border at the end of the collar, the pattern read : K1, M1, K to end of round. And what did I of course do ? *K1, M1* to end of round.

Actually, even if a bit weird, I don’t think the collar looks that bad. My issue is rather with the yarn. Now it has been washed and dried, I do like it a little bit better; the stockinette parts are really soft to the touch. But, as I said when I was knitting it, is extremely unforgiving. Joining between balls showing ? Check (I can make out at least three places on the front in the above picture). Woven-in ends showing ? Check (see left sleeve). I’m not sure how to fix that, so any idea or solution would be welcome.

It’s a Toy ! ( Or Rather Two) : Flat Foot Floogie and Monkey

One of our friends is expecting her second child for around Easter, and that gave me the chance of trying my hand at something new : making toys.

IMGP5882It was a completely uncharted territory for me, but I think I managed rather well, if I may say so myself.

I first made the gift for the soon-to-be-born baby. I was advised by some wise folks on Ravelry to go for a lovey-type toy, so it would be easy to grab for the tiny fingers of a new-born infant. I chose to make him or her (the parents opted not to know the gender of the baby beforehand) Barbara Prime’s Flat Foot Floogie, in the rabbit version, because it was so cute and a good compromise between an animal-shaped toy and a lovey. Flat Foot Floogies have a flat, garter stitch body with stuffed paws, tummy and head. And did I mention they’re so cute ? I’m now looking for a baby who might appreciate the lamb version.

IMGP5831I have to say a few words about safety here. At first I was concerned with the stuffing possibly getting out of the stuffed parts through the stitches (I was imagining the baby sucking at it and getting fibers in his/her mouth). I was advised to line the stuffed parts with something like old stockings in order to prevent that from happening, which I did (with clean old stockings, obviously. I’m the kind of girl who washes and keeps her old stockings, thinking that they might come in handy some day — and I just proved myself right). I think it will do a good job of keeping the filling inside the toy. But I now have misgivings of another kind. The old stockings are nylon, and the filling is polyester, which means that my cute lovey is a potential fire hazard (that goes also for the Monkey, knitted with acrylic yarn while the Floogie is made with merino wool). I’m sure our friends are responsible parents who don’t set toys on fire before giving them to their children, but still, accidents happen. I can’t help remembering a birthday party where I had been invited as a little girl, when the birthday girl’s favorite pink nylon sweater caught fire because of the firework candles which had been set on the cake (everyone reacted pretty quickly and she was scared but unharmed). Then again, maybe it wasn’t a very good idea to use them in the first place. So, I decided on writing a little warning note along with the care instructions, and trying to find safer materials for next time.

IMGP5880When I finished the Flat Foot Floogie, I thought : “That’s too cute. Big brother J will be jealous if he doesn’t get his own cute and cool toy”. And this is how I went to look in my stash and casted on Sarah Keen’s Monkey, which I chose because monkeys are cool and because this particular monkey had such an endearing little face. I didn’t have enough yarn of a single colour to make the darker body parts, so it’s striped. Never mind. I’m sure green and brown striped monkeys blend in better with their environment, and thus have a longer life expectancy.

This little fellow took me much longer to make than the Floogie. It’s made of rather a lot of different parts (I counted 15, and that’s without the additional banana which I chose to skip).The knitting part was easy, but I couldn’t help feeling somewhat intimidated when the time came to sew it together.

Monkey parts before sewing ; forgive my ill educated, photobombing cat

Monkey parts before sewing ; forgive my ill-mannered, photobombing cat

So many bits and pieces ! So many ends waiting to be woven in ! Just assembling it (closing the side seams, stuffing, sewing the right body parts in the right places) took me longer than actually knitting it. But I did it in the end, and I even think my sewing doesn’t look too bad, which is quite an achievement for me. I still managed to get the ears wrong (I forgot to fold them in half and sew the side seam), which I justified by declaring they look more like actual monkey ears that way.

Now the next step for these two lucky critters is to head to warm and sunny Southern France, where their new home is waiting for them.

IMGP5876I was a bit surprised to realize that, while I’m perfectly happy to send the Floogie away (it’s so clearly a baby toy), I wouldn’t mind keeping the Monkey. In fact, I’m half considering to tell my friend to send it back, should little J not like it — and I do hope Monkey will be loved and cuddled and carried everywhere till it falls apart. (That’s an image of speech. I took such pains to sew it together solidly that I’m firmly expecting it to be as good as new when J will give it to his grandchildren.) And I’m not the only one who finds it so endearing. Yesterday evening, when Monkey was still half-finished, legless and tailless, my husband fondled it and asked a bit shyly : “Would you knit me a toy if I asked you to ?” Why, of course I would — and maybe one for myself too !

A Shawlette For Spring : Dianna

IMGP5779 - Version 2I had something “hatching” a just a little while ago. Well, this is it ! It’s a shawlette made from just one skein of Noro’s Silk Garden (S304). Noro apparently sources its fleece from organic farms and tries to use nonpolluting dyes, which I hope is true, because it would spoil my delight at this new neckwarmer thingy if it wasn’t. Anyway, it is an entrelac shawlette, and as it has been said many a time before, Noro seems to have been invented for entrelac, or entrelac seems to have been invented for Noro, whichever way you would prefer to have it. I was in need for some bright, cheerful colours, and I couldn’t have better chosen the yarn. Actually, I had bought it to knit some socks. Then I looked at it and pondered. This yarn was just too lovely to spend its days hidden under shoes and trousers. IMGP5750Then, socks wear out, and have to be darned until they’re past repair and disposed with, and I knew I would hate to see this yarn undergo such a process.

I spent some time looking on Ravelry for a pattern which would be a good match for these bright and happy shades and finally settled on Jane Araujo’s Dianna. Dianna is a clever pattern that devilishly combines entrelac and lace, so it does take some time to wrap one’s head around it. But once this is done, the rest is a breeze, making it a perfect traveling project. A good part of my Dianna was knit on the train. That said, I’m not quite sure I have completely understood how the construction was supposed to work, since some of my squares look more like rectangles. I don’t know what happened there. Oh well, never mind.IMGP5746

One of the main reasons why I chose this pattern was that each entrelac square (or, er, rectangle) features a little lacy leaf. This really appealed to me, as spring is underway and everything is blossoming or burgeoning, and the mountains around our place are covered in an extraordinary green between the last patches of snow. Then it is Lent, and Lent is a good time to think about everything new : new life, new creation, new creatures, new births. I thought this combination of yarn and pattern would be in harmony with such a theme, and it was.

I knit the pattern without modifications for the main body. I briefly considered swapping the lace pattern for another, but decided against it. Of course, Dianna is meant to be a full-sized shawl, and I only had one skein of sock yarn, so I resized it to a smaller version. I had yarn enough to knit 9 whole tiers plus the “fill-in” triangles, and add an edging (I opted for something rather simple : one knit row, one eyelet row, two knit rows and a picot bind-off).

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Before blocking…

As usual, blocking really felt like performing some kind of magic trick, at the end of which an unattractive crumply rag suddenly transformed in a thing of beauty.

Speaking of blocking, I have a mystery to solve. I used to have a blocking kit, you know, one of these useful sets of blocking wires, T-shaped pins and a big, heavy-duty ruler giving measurements both in inches and centimeters. Then we moved and it disappeared into thin air. Well, that’s actually untrue : it has to be somewhere in this house. But where ?

Blocking !

Blocking !

All in all, this was a completely addictive and thoroughly enjoyable knit. I liked the pattern, I like the yarn, and I’m seriously considering knitting a second one for someone’s birthday (these colours, as much as I love them, are not that someone’s cup of tea). But before I do so, I have other things on my needles waiting for attention !

Old Friends Already : Ilmarinen and Bavarian Sweater

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Ilmarinen

Old friends, that’s what these two garments already feel like, although I finished them relatively recently. Surprisingly, they also are little-knit patterns on Ravelry – the one, Tuulia Salmela’s Ilmarinen cardigan, registers only 11 projects when it’s beautiful colourwork (and a well-written, clear and free pattern) ; the other, Sarah Monroe’s Bavarian Sweater, has none yet (despite also being a well-written and clear, though not free, pattern). I’ll probably add the first one when I finish writing this post.

In the few past months, both cardigan and sweater have made their way into my standard wardrobe ; I find myself wearing them again and again because they’re pretty, fit well and are comfortable.

IMGP5729Ilmarinen, I must say, was heavily modified as I went along. For three reasons : the first is that despite knitting a gauge, complete with steels, and blocking it, the cardigan turned out to be way to big (I really don’t know why). I had to take in quite a bit by making big seams under the arms, which kind of ruined the whole purpose of knitting in the round, but I wasn’t brave enough to rip it all and start all over.

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Short sleeves !

The second reason is that I had succeeded in convincing myself that dropped shoulders would flatter my own already drooping shoulders, but when I tried it on, still sleeveless, in front of a mirror, I knew that it wouldn’t do. So I decided my Ilmarinen would be short-sleeved. All it took was to gather the stitches around the armhole and add a few rows of corrugated ribbing.

Collar

The third reason is another case of self-delusion : I had planned on closing the front with a zipper, forgetting that I actually don’t like zippers. Of course, I only remembered that after I had secured the cut steeks of the front in two layers of stockinette stitch and finished them off with I-cord, too late to add buttonholes. I thought it would look nice if, rather than sewing in a zipper I wouldn’t like, I simply joined both fronts at the top by knitting them into a collar. (I ended up wearing it with an added safety pin to prevent the edgings from curling).

And there it is : highly enjoyable colourwork I loved knitting and love wearing.

Bavarian Sweater

Bavarian Sweater

Now, the Bavarian Sweater was much more straightforward. I think I didn’t make any modification, which is quite rare for me.

On the whole, I’m quite happy with it ; look at all these lovely, intricate cables ! I forgot to take a picture of the back, but it also features them. That means you get to knit them twice in a row (as it’s knit in the round). What else could you wish for ?

Cables !

Cables !

The only thing I’m not completely satisfied with is that the finished sweater puckers under the arms. I should probably have done some shaping in order to get an even better fit. Oh, well. These cables are worth it.

 

I should also mention the yarn I used for this, The Natural Dye Studio‘s 4 ply in the colourway “Nude” (this, obviously, means it’s undyed). It’s wool from Bluefaced Leicester sheep, it’s very soft, warm, light, and knits up to a wonderful fabric.

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This is where I wish there actually were readers on this blog, because I think these two patterns would deserve a big shout-out. They’re just too lovely and too enjoyable to remain hidden in the depths of Ravelry’s database.