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 !

 

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 !

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.

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.