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 !

 

I Spun !

Today, The Husband and I went to a neighbouring village which was celebrating a Salt Festival. The place where we live now used to be on the main salt smuggling road from France, and the memory of these times is kept alive by a festival every year. There are a lot of craftspeople exposing and selling their work, most of them dressed in mediaeval attire. This is where I met Marilynn. IMGP6497

So, of course, I went to speak to her.

Marilynn was demonstrating spinning as it was done in the Middle Ages. Here she is spinning from a Shetland fleece — a very thin, very even single ply which looked as if it could have been used for lace. She had brought various kinds of fleeces : the white one on the left from local Swiss sheep (she didn’t seem to be very impressed with them), the two next piles of fleece rolls were Shetland, as well as the carded locks on the right. In-between were carded rolls of some British sheep (she had forgotten which), and the uncarded grey locks were Jacob fleece, which she made us pat while explaining the basics of spinning.

The Husband too was fascinated by what she was doing and asked her some questions.

Then she asked me if I’d like to try her spindle.

She showed me how to hold it, how to spin it, how to pull just a bit on the carded wool every few centimetres. And then, I tried. I was clumsy and awkward, far from the perfect precision of Marilynn’s beautiful single ply. I produced something weird and uneven, on some twenty centimetres. Then, Marilynn plied it on itself and gave it to me.

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Here it is. It’s nothing much, but it has about 3 centimetres in total which about look like an ordinary 2-ply you could buy in a shop, and I’m ridiculously thrilled with it.

Of course, if I want to spin my own yarn, I should learn more and practice.

But Marilynn has offered to teach me.

I’m thrilled !

 

Lever Knitting : Being a Beginner All Over Again

I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days about the way I knit.

As you probably know if you’re a knitter yourself, there is an infinity of ways in which to hold these two needles and yarn. The two commonest methods probably are English knitting and Continental knitting, in which each hand holds a needle and the yarn is wrapped by either by the right hand (English) or by the left (Continental).

I taught myself to knit from a book, and the way demonstrated there was Continental. (I think it was a French translation from a Debbie Bliss book, but I’m not quite sure.) When I showed off my new skills to my mother and grand-mother, both knitters, they at once commented on the “weird” way I was doing it — I discovered later that both were English knitters. (That is, that they knit English. They’re French English knitters.) As an aside, most people I have seen knitting here in Switzerland knit English too, and they assume I’m knitting “French”. An elderly lady who once watched me knit a sock in a café actually exclaimed : “You knit in such a funny way, you must be French !” (As an aside to the aside, if you Google “French knitting”, you will find links to a kind of loom knitting that produces tubes of fabric and that I knew as “tricotin” in my childhood. The one I had, almost exactly the same as the one you can see in the link, could only make long, thin straps of knitting similar to I-cord. The only difference is that I was taught to use a crochet hook instead of a knitting needle to operate it.)

I picked up speed as I knit on and on, and I achieved an average speed with knit stitches, but purling has always been slow and awkward for me. I have never really mastered the way you have to wrap the yarn around the needle when purling a stitch, so I developed my own way of doing it, which involved completely letting go of the left needle and wrapping the yarn, held between index and thumb, around the right needle tip before grabbing the left needle again to slide it off the new stitch. Believe me, this is just as slow as it sounds.

I am reasonably fast with knit stitches, at least I’m satisfied with how fast I knit. The issue here is of a different kind. In Continental knitting (or maybe the way I do it), when knitting, you insert the tip of the right-hand needle into the next stitch on the left-hand needle, then the tip of the right-hand needle goes and grabs, with a little twist, the yarn held at the back of the work by the left hand, and pulls it through. That little yarn-grabbing twist implies a swift movement from the wrist. In the past few weeks, something in my right wrist has taken to clicking every single time I perform this gesture. It’s not painful, I simply feel the “click” in the joint, but I very much doubt this would be good for my wrist in the long term. It’s probably my wrist’s way of telling me I’m straining it too much, and I do need a right wrist.

Two days ago, after much consideration and researching on the net, I decided to try and switch to lever knitting. There is not much you can find about how to do it, except for fascinating videos of the revered Yarn Harlot doing it at a supernatural speed and explaining it as she goes. (I find her movements so beautiful to watch that it played a big role in my decision. It reminds me of someone playing the harp.) This video from one of her lucky students seems very helpful too, but I haven’t attempted yet to lever-knit on circulars. Lever knitting, as its name aptly suggests, is a way of knitting where one needle, held stationary, acts as a lever, while one hand holds and wraps the yarn and the other, holding the second needle, slips the stitches one by one onto the stationary needle.

I’ve been trying that, both on straights (with the right needle stuck under the armpit) and on dpns (the Yarn Harlot also demonstrates how to do this), for the past two days. I’m not going to lie : right now, I find it hard. (That might be an understatement.) My biggest difficulty is that, having knit Continental all my knitting life, I have no clue about how to efficiently hold and wrap the yarn with the right hand. Seriously. I’m clumsy. I struggle. It takes me two or three tries to get the yarn wrapped around the needle tip. I keep changing positions, trying to tension the yarn differently over my fingers, not finding that “just right” balance between yarn feeding too easily and not feeding at all. Yesterday, I tried it, dpn stuck at the base of my right thumb, on a plain sock I’m knitting while working in the library. It took all the will I could muster not to utter huge strings of obscenities — because, well, a library is supposed to be a silent place — and I’m usually the kind of girl who never swears.

That sock was at the stage of the gusset decreases when I picked it up, and all of a sudden, I realized I had lost my usual visual reference points as well as my muscle memory. What I felt certain would make a k2tog turned out to make a ssk, and what I was sure would result in a ssk produced a k2tog. I thought I would go crazy before the end of the afternoon. I’m back to knitting so tight, as when I first took up the craft, that I more than once ripped four or five stitches off the left needle when trying to pull it away.

So why am I persevering ?

Evenness.

Evenness.

First, although I read people, on Ravelry’s Lever Knitting Group, writing that they had fully caught up with their initial speed after four hours of lever knitting, I didn’t believe that I would adapt quickly, mainly because I (rightly) anticipated that switching from Continental would mean building a whole new muscle memory. I’d expect it to take closer to four weeks than four hours ! Then, because I feel I have to change anyway, to spare my wrist. And, last but not least, because the swatch I’ve been knitting on my straights, from a cheap acrylic yarn, looks really amazing —dense, smooth, and incredibly even.

In the meantime, I feel like a beginner all over again. There are so many questions to which I don’t know the answer yet : can you knit with your needle under your armpit on a seat that hasn’t got a back ? How to you keep the needle from going backwards when there is no back on which you can rest the needle cap ? How do you do colourwork ? Should I buy different needles ? Should I think about investing in a knitting sheath ? Will I ever adapt to this and knit as if I had done it all my life ?

If you have successfully converted to lever knitting, I’d be very interested to hear from you, because this is what it feels like right now :

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(Let’s ignore the fact that this cartoon plays on crochet vs knitting. This is beside my point.)

More scary than reassuring.

Slower Days

I’ve caught a lot of colds lately. As a result, I feel tired, sometimes unwell, and there are days where most of my knitting projects feel too much, too complicated, too demanding. So I’ve taken to knitting simple mitered squares out of yarn scraps.

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Just squares, in garter stitch, with colours going from darker to lighter shades. They feel good.

As I make them on tired days, I simply tie the scraps together with a knot. It doesn’t’ look great on the wrong side, but I’ve decided I didn’t care.

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The plan is to sew the squares into bigger squares of similar colours, then to sew the bigger squares into a blanket.

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I’ve got seven squares so far. I’m still far, far away from a complete blanket. At this rate, this will probably take me a few years to complete. But at least, I have something to help me feel better on slower days. Garter stitch feels good, squares feel good, sorting through the scraps to pick matching colours feels good.

I like too that each square is like a little memory of what I’ve knitted in the past. As I add yarn scraps, I remember a sweater, a shawl, a cowl, a baby blanket, a hat, a pair of socks, things I loved knitting. It feels good.

In other news, today is the International Memorial Day for “comfort women“. Have a thought or prayer for them. There are a little less survivors with each passing year, and they need us to remember them so that such atrocities never happen again. If you feel so moved, you can also support the UN action against sexual violence in conflicts.

On The Unfortunate Demise Of A Series

I don’t presume that there are such things as Regular Readers on this blog. My stats keep me from that delusion. However, just in case some people one day wonder about the abrupt end of the “Adapting a pattern for a thinner yarn” series, here is a word of explanation.

First, let me proudly say that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my reasoning. I had done my

The swatch did look promising...

The swatch did look promising…

math better than I expected. The yoke worked, the body seemed to be the right side, but the more I knitted on it, the less I liked it. I blame it on the stripes, because as pretty as the two yarns looked side by side on the swatch, on a full-sized sweater it was quite different. The variegated yarn pooled, and I don’t really like pooling unless it’s on purpose. Then I tried it on, and those particular stripes were not at all becoming (and even less slimming) on a real bust. Not at all.

So I frogged the whole thing.

What did I do with the yarn ?

First, I used the variegated sock yarn to play around a bit with planned pooling, trying to get an argyle pattern.

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Pretty argyle…

 And it worked too, and I got all excited about it and began to have big dreams about an argyle stole when I realized there was no way the ball I had would be enough for a place mat, let alone a stole. This was an interesting experiment though, and I fully intend to make it a full-scale project (a stole, or maybe a baby blanket) one day. But when I do, I’ll buy yarn specifically for it, and try to make sure that I have enough.

The argyle experiment met the same fate as its unfortunate predecessor and headed for the frog pond.

The blue angora, wound up into a ball again, was waiting for the right idea to emerge in my brain.

Stripes !!

Stripes !!

A few days later, I accidentally ran into three balls of Rico Superba Poems, in the colourway Granit, sold for a really ridiculous price. I bought them, intending to turn them into socks, went home, and put the balls next to the blue angora. I looked at them, pretty things sitting side by side, and had a revelation. These two yarns were meant for each other. I went on Ravelry and chose a pattern I had been wanting to knit for some time : Mon petit gilet rayé (Ravelry link). This is knitting up like a dream. I’m making it at a slightly wider gauge than I would usually do for this yarn weight, and though I’m a bit concerned about the durability of such a fabric, it does feel wonderful — feather-light, airy, and soft. And there is something about knitting stripes with a gradient yarn and a solid one which is absolutelyIMGP6445 mesmerizing. This cardigan almost seems to knit itself on its own. The body is already finished.

On a side note, I’ve noticed that everything I’ve knit for myself in the past few years was slightly too big (body image, anyone ?). So I decided to try and knit something which would actually be the right size. The pattern says it’s for a size M, which I am. I wanted to be on the safe side, so I casted on the right number of stitches on 4mm needles instead of 3,5mm ones. I’ve tried the thing on, and it does fit, sort of. Except it’s so tight I look as if I had stolen the clothes of a 5-year-old. (Hm. Maybe that’s why the pattern notes state that it is a “very fitted cardi”. It turns out that, as much as I love this pattern and how the cardigan is turning out, “very fitted” is not my idea of “pretty”. I’d be happier with simply “fitted”.) I don’t want to rip it and try once again from the beginning, so I’m just going to play with the width of the buttonband to make it an acceptable fit.

IMGP6392And what happened to the variegated sock yarn ? Well, it is finally becoming — guess what — a pair of socks. Using sock yarn to actually knit socks — shocking, I know.

The pattern is Aquaphobia, a slipped stitch pattern which avoids pooling, and it is turning into a very nice sock indeed. I’m already anxious to have that pair finished and on my feet !

Obsessed

Sunday morning at church, during the introducing praise, the pastor said something like “Loué sois-tu, Seigneur, pour le doux clapotis de l’eau” (“We praise you, Lord, for the sweet lapping sound of the water”) and all I could think of was a shawl. (If you don’t see what I’m talking about, search google for pictures of “clapotis”).

Then yesterday I was in the library, reading a serious article for my doctoral research, which mentioned several times a “sheetlike object”. I kept misreading it as “sheeplike object.”

I might be a little bit obsessed with wool.

Shopping For Yarn In South Korea (Or Trying To)

Eleven years ago, I met a young Korean at my university. Three years later, I married him.

IMGP6170Since then, we’ve been going to South Korea every summer, to visit his family and discover the country (well, for me anyways). In all that time (that’s nine trips to South Korea, including one where I went on my own for work), I can’t believe I had never shopped for yarn in Seoul, even though I had just learned how to knit on my very first stay on the peninsula.

So when our plane landed in Seoul earlier this month, yarn shopping was one of the first items on my to-do list. As it turned out, it was both a success and a failure, and all in all an interesting experience.

So one day, after a fun morning spent exploring the streets of the medicinal herbs market (that’s its entrance gate you see above) and a nice meal of bindaetteok — a kind of rice and green onion pancake…

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That’s bindaetteoks you can see piling here in the background

… The Husband and I headed for Dongdaemun, one of Seoul’s districts known for its textile industry, and specifically for its underground shopping centre, because I vaguely recalled having read on Ravelry that there were yarn shops here. That’s when my well thought-out plan — take my time, explore, take lots of picture, pick up fun things I could not find in Europe — started to go out of control.

We descended the stairs leading to the shopping centre, and I drew in a deep breath and began to feel dizzy and a little unsteady on my legs, because all I could see was yarn. Yarn everywhere, from floor to ceiling. So I staggered into the first shop, The Husband (probably worrying vaguely) in my tow. (Actually I’m not even sure how many yarn shops there were. Maybe it was just that one. I was so mesmerized that my memories are very unclear.) There was so much yarn I felt completely overwhelmed.

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A tiny corner in the yarn shop. That’s my husband in the middle. You can’t tell from that picture, but he’s a very handsome man.

When I bursted through the door on my wobbly legs, my entrance was greeted by a surprised “oh !” from the two shop ladies, very likely because I don’t look quite Korean. One of them said : “Hello, what are you looking for ?” and I managed to gather my wits enough to mumble : “Er… yarn.” (I can speak Korean. Not fluently, but I can manage most situations of daily life.) Note that this was the only answer which came to my mind, in a place literally filled with yarn and very little else.

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A tube of a very green, very ordinary-time-of-the-Church-calendar green yarn.

The rest is a blur in my mind. There were so many things to see, and the two ladies were so excited to have a foreigner-who-speaks-Korean-and-who-knits as their customer that they took me from one corner of the shop to the other, and at some point they asked me what colour I’d like and I bursted out “green” (I did have dreams about a green cardigan) and they got out all kinds of green yarn in about every possible green hue between yellow and dark blue and in all sorts of weights and had me pet them and wanted to know what exact shade I had in mind and… When I gathered my senses, I stood in the middle of the shop with two tubes of very green yarn (that’s 10 balls. Ten.).

Then the lovely shop ladies explained that since I was a foreigner, and not only that, but a foreigner who could knit and speak Korean, they were going to give my some knitting needles. Just a few. Like five circulars (five !) in 3 and 4mm. Admittedly they were rather cheap-looking needles, two bamboo points linked by a plastic tube, but still. Then they decided this was not enough and threw a scouring pad they had crocheted out of metallic yarn into the mix. I could barely believe it.IMGP6359

At least the yarn I had picked was something rather unusual for me : a cotton/wool mix with apparently some cashmere in it. The feel is quite surprising, a bit like a soft, bouncy cotton. Or like a very crisp wool. The stitch definition is quite nice. As soon as we were home in the evening, I picked a pattern (that’s Akebia.  I couldn’t decide between lace and cables, but why decide when you can have both at the same time ?), I took out one of my bamboo-plastic needles and happily broke knitting’s number one rule. I didn’t swatch. Or rather, I made a vague thing resembling a swatch, pretended to measure it with the ruler app on my smartphone screen, frogged it and cast on. The needles do work. I like the feel of bamboo, but that’s a personal thing ; the plastic tube is a bit of a pain on cast-on rows (because my cast-on stitches are rather tight and making them slide on the tube is difficult), but once that first row is over they’re quite alright.

IMGP6361My green cardigan is growing nicely. The back is complete and I’ve begun the right front. The size seems to be just right, which is a good thing since I didn’t really swatch. I wish I had though, because my needles are now dyed in green and it could have been a good thing to know in advance what will happen when I wet-block it.

On the whole, I’m happy with that yarn. Had I not been so overwhelmed, I’d probably have chosen something a bit different, not in terms of fibre content but in terms of colour (I’d have preferred a tonal or semi-variegated yarn, I think). But then I’ve no idea how to say that in Korean, and I don’t think The Husband knows either.

When we left Korea, I thought I’d make a little test with those needles. I borrowed some thread and a needle from my mother-in-law, ran a lifeline through my knitting just in case, and on the next morning I showed up at the airport security check with my knitting in my bag (I’m putting that in italics because I’m French and French airports state explicitly that knitting needles are prohibited from cabin luggage, so I had always believed I would never be able to knit on a plane). I was prepared to have to open my bag and answer a few questions. I was even prepared to have my needles taken out of my knitting and thrown away (hence the lifeline). Nobody said anything. We went through security again before catching our second plane. Nobody said anything. I knit on both flights. Nobody said anything. These bamboo and plastic tube needles are officially my new plane needles.

Adapting a Pattern For a Thinner Yarn : 2. Converting The Numbers (Which May Include Lace)

This post is part of a series which will be written as I’m knitting a project in a much thinner yarn than is used by the original pattern. It’s primarily intended as a guide to myself for further reference and, if needed, so that I can pin down what went wrong.

In the last post of this series, I established my working gauge for this project. I’ll now try and convert the numbers given by the pattern in order to adapt them to my gauge.

Truth be told, I sometimes wonder why I chose a craft involving so much calculations when I used to hate algebra in high school. Anyway, there’s no escaping it : let’s do some math !

I have a gauge of 3 stitches and 4 rows per centimeter, which means it should be 30 stitches and 40 rows per 10 centimeters (or 4 inches). The pattern calls for (gasp) 17 stitches and 22 rows per 10 centimeters/4 inches. That’s almost (but not quite, that would be too easy) half my numbers. It means that to get the correct numbers of stitches for my yarn, I have to multiply the given stitch numbers by, roughly, 1,75 (figure obtained by dividing gauge stitch/10cm number, here 30, by pattern stitch/10cm number, here 17) and the given row numbers by, roughly, 1,8 (again, figure obtained by dividing gauge row/10cm number, here 40, by pattern row/10cm number, here 22).

I’m planning on knitting the pattern’s size L, so, for example, that’s how it goes :

The instructions say to begin with yoke by casting on 58 stitches. I’ll cast on 58 x 1,75 = 101 stitches (the result actually is 101,5 stitches but I’ll choose to go with the smaller figure every time because the design already has a lot of positive ease). Given the nature of the yoke (raised by short-rows in the back and featuring seven repeats of a lace pattern), the next thing I’ll need to to before going further is to figure out how to treat the lace, or more exactly, how many stitches will be needed at the beginning of the lace pattern to achieve a similar shape and size. I’ll also need to figure out how I’m going to work the yoke increases.

That means not only more calculations, but also, unavoidably, some charting and some more swatching to see how it works (due to scarcity of yarn, I totally plan on not blocking that swatch and on unraveling it as soon as it has fulfilled its purpose).

So, as one can see here, the lace pattern for size L begins with 9 stitches. For me, that would be 9 x 1,75 = 15,75. I’ll go with 15 stitches as this needs to be an uneven number. There are two stitches on each side of the “stem” of the leaf. 2 x 1,75 = 3,5. I’ll make that 4,  so as to have an even number of stitches which will make it easier to add increases after a bit. 4 + 4 = 8 ; 7 stitches remain for the leaf. That’s how I’ll start. (Phew !)

There are 7 lace repeats. 7 x 15 = 105. This means I’ll had to increase 4 stitches at the bottom of the collar to fit the 7 repeats in.

Now, the original lace pattern begins with increasing 9 times, every second row, by adding yarn overs on each side of the central stitch (the “stem”). To achieve the same width, I’ll need to increase 9 x 1,75 = 15,75 times. Let’s say 15 (because, again, that design has lots of positive ease). These increases will be made over 17 x 1,8 = 30,6 rows. I’ll make that 29 (so that I can increase every second row) and keep in mind that I might want to add one or two more row(s) at the bottom of the yoke.

Then, the tip of the leaf is shaped by decreasing 10 times over 19 rows. For me, that will be 16 decreases, every second row, over 31 rows. At the same time as the tip decreases, the yoke width actually increases. The pattern does that by adding 2 times one increase, then 5 times 2 increases, unevenly spaced (of course). I will instead increase 1 stitch 4 times every 4th row, then 2 stitches 9 times (5 times every 4th row, 4 times every 6th row).

Now I need to swatch and check it works — that is, wether the leaves keep the right shape and size, and wether the yoke will be wide and long enough (I’m expecting some differences lengthwise because I simply replicated the number of rows between increases of the original pattern instead of calculating new ones ; as I’m rather short, I’m hoping the yoke will fit this way. If not, I’ll have to space the increases differently).

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Here’s the swatch, roughly pinned for photo purposes. It helped me determine two things : 1. the measurements seem to match those indicated by the pattern ; 2. I won’t be knitting the yoke with the variegated, but with the solid yarn, and simply stripe the main body and sleeves.

I haven’t worked out yet how to knit the short rows used to raise the back of the neck. That’s because it’s one of the things I do better with yarn and needles in hand.

So, the next step will be to actually cast on that tunic !

Adapting a Pattern For a Thinner Yarn : 1. The Gauge

This post is part of a series which will be written as I’m knitting a project in a much thinner yarn than is used by the original pattern. It’s primarily intended as a guide to myself for further reference and, if needed, so that I can pin down what went wrong.

Preamble : The Curse

I’m the repeated victim of a Curse. I call it the “Pattern Curse”. Invariably, the story begins the same way : I see a pattern on Ravelry, and it’s love at first sight. It’s such a pretty thing that I need to knit it. I think about it. I sometimes dream about it. I order yarn for it. After a few days’ wait, I find the yarn in my mailbox. I anxiously open the package, and there it is, in all its glory, its softness and its lovely shades. And it usually is at this point that the curse strikes, taking the form of a perverse revelation : the pattern I had fallen in love with, I so desperately wanted to knit, the pattern for which I had ordered the yarn — this very pattern is clearly not good enough for such loveliness.

Some three weeks ago, I fell in love with a wonderful pattern — Veera Välimäki’s Laneway.  As my birthday was getting close, my husband ordered the yarn for me as a present. I chose two different yarns I wanted to try : one was Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in “Rockwell”, the other Isager Alpaca in pale blue, two fingering weight yarns.

Softness and beauty — Lorna's Laces on the left, Isager on the right

Softness and beauty — Lorna’s Laces on the left, Isager on the right

I was completely delighted by how they felt and looked when they arrived. And, of course, the Curse hit. All of a sudden, Laneway didn’t feel right. Would it really do justice to these glorious colours ? Was I sure I would wear it — after all, this wasn’t the type of clothes I usually wear, was it ? Before I knew it, I was searching Ravelry’s database, looking for that perfect pattern which would make my new yarn shine and sing. I was sure of two things : 1. I wanted it to be long, like a tunic or a mini-dress, and look nice over trousers ; 2. I wanted it to have some stripes.

This is what I settled for : a Drops design poetically called 151-6. (To be fair, its actual name seems to be Orchid Bloom, which is a bit of a mystery since I spot some fairly big leaves, but nothing looking like any kind of flower.)

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Notice how I swapped a perfect pattern for a — sorry, Drops — rather dull one. That’s typical of me. But then, I wonder if that’s not what I like in this pattern : it seems to have lots of unexploited potential, like a blank canvas waiting to be transcended by colour and texture. Laneway, on the other hand, is a design with lots of personality, maybe too much and too different from mine.

As you can see, this Orchid Bloom sure is long, but it has no stripes — and, more importantly, it is written for a much thicker yarn than fingering weight.

I did not allow such trifles to deter me from my aim, though. I made a sketch of what I had in mind, colour-wise :

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As I said, it is only a sketch (and a not very good one), but it shows I’m planning to knit the yoke and the bottom lace edging with the darker, variegated yarn, the rest in blue, and to add some Stripes above the lace edging and the sleeve cuffs. I’ll also probably make the body a bit shorter, but, if I have enough yarn, make the sleeves long instead of three-quarters length. So far, so good.

Serious Matters Begin Here

Now when I begin a new project, I usually (let’s say two times out of three) knit a swatch to check my gauge. This, of course, is to ensure I get the right number of stitches and rows per inch (or per centimeter) so that the garment won’t be unwearable because it’s too tight or too large (if I don’t get the stitch number right), or because the raglan yoke, for example, is too short or too long (if I don’t get the row number right). Here, since I plan on using a yarn of a different weight, the good news is that I don’t need to match the pattern’s gauge. I do need to do two other things though :

  • first, ensuring I’m using the right needle size for those yarns, that is, that I’m happy with how the fabric looks once it’s washed and blocked ;
  • second, establishing the new stitch and row numbers, so that I can do my math and convert the numbers given by the patterns into the right numbers for my yarn.

That sounds pretty serious, doesn’t it ? Don’t worry, that won’t last. I spoilt everything by running the risk of knitting really tiny swatches, and thus of getting not quite accurate results, just because I don’t think I have too much yarn for this project. And besides, being thrifty with one’s yarn is a good thing, right ? So here are my swatches, or rather my two swatches in one, each presenting the grand number of (ahem) 15 stitches over 15 rows and knitted with 3mm needles. 

Colours here are fairly accurate.

Colours here are fairly accurate.

After careful measuring, both yarns gave the same results of 3 stitches and 4 rows per centimeter (that would be 7.5 stitches and 10 rows per inch). There is a noticeable difference in texture, though ; the alpaca is more stretchy than the sock yarn. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

So, I now have my gauge. Next step will be adapting the numbers given by the Drops pattern so that they work with it.

Time freely spent

Perfection — minus 21 stitches.

Perfection — minus 21 stitches.

A few weeks ago, Mr Knitting Theologian requested a vest to wear over his shirts at work. He was rather specific about what he wanted : something relatively close-fitting, grey, in a non-scratchy wool. I spent some time on Ravelry and found a pattern we both liked (Aspen). On a work trip to a Real City (we live on the country), I took some time to stop at a yarn store where I found some gorgeous, squishy and very soft grey merino yarn — and Mr Knitting Theologian liked it very much. Then, on a quiet evening, I settled on the sofa, did some maths to knit the vest in the round as he didn’t want a front opening, and cast on. It was wonderful. The wool knit to a magnificent fabric. There was enough plain stockinette to be a quiet and meditative knit, and two nice cables on the front to keep it interesting. Very quickly, it became quite addictive. I spent every free minute I could find knitting on it. The more it grew, the more I loved it. A soft, cushiony wool ; a deep, not quite solid grey ; a dense, very even texture ; everything about it was pure pleasure.

On Sunday, I had knit enough of it to bind off stitches for the armholes and knit the front and the back separately. And that is when I realized there should have been 21 more stitches between the two cables on the front.

palm_sunday_cvetnica_orthodox_iconAt first, I was, of course, angry and frustrated. I think I even said something along the lines of “This knitting thing will make me crazy”. After a few moments, though, I remembered it was Palm Sunday, the day hundreds of people gave up their coat — their only coat — to pave the road into Jerusalem for Christ, out of sheer joy and love. Ripping thirty-two centimeters’ worth of perfect knitting wasn’t half as impressive a thing to do. What I remembered too, instants later, was that this was not just knitting. This was — this is — Pleasure. Doing it all over again would be more bliss than frustration, time spent not only creating a beautiful thing but also feeling that soft yarn between my fingers, pressing my cheek against that beautiful, smooth fabric, making stitch after stitch not only with a wonderful yarn, but with joy and with love, with joy at making something beautiful for someone I love. Because sometimes, knitting is that good.