Poncho Progress

I’ve been working steadily on my Canal Poncho, designed by Nancy Marchant, pattern published in “Worsted – a Knitwear Collection” (Laine Magazine publishers), using La Bien Aimee Corrie Worsted yarn. The plain back is already finished and I’m almost half way finished with the front, with all these colorful intarsia cables. This is the first time I’ve worked intarsia cables and once you get the hang of it, it’s really addictive. You DO have to manage a lot of yarns but thankfully I don’t mind untangling yarn – it’s a zen exercise. There are 5 balls of yarn and 18 small bobbins of yarn going on. Not for the faint of heart and not really for new knitters either.

I really love finishing 2 rows, turning it over and seeing what the new progress looks like. The cables are worked only on the right side rows, so the wrong side rows go quickly. I stop and straighten out my yarns every 2 rows. My shoulders thank me for the little break in the knitting. I am knitting this project, and leaving it to sit when not knitting it, on my sewing table upstairs. I would find it really difficult to knit with it on my lap. The table supports everything and keeps it organized.

Wrong side view

Nancy has included very detailed instructions in the pattern, explaining how to move your yarns so that the wrong side is super neat and there are not long floats anywhere. Look at how nice it is! I have to be honest. The first time I made a swatch of this cable pattern I had it wrong and there were floats here and there. I had to stop and read the instructions again and then just followed them! It’s all there – I just thought I was so clever that I didn’t have to read it through. WRONG! Trust the pattern and do what it says and it will come out like this.

I’m working on a schedule so that I get it done sooner rather than later, and so that I don’t get burned out on it. I knit 4 or 6 rows per day. Every day. It’s my quota. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but with this kind of knitting it’s all my brain and shoulders and back can handle right now. I’m also doing some light yoga in the mornings and a little hat knitting in the evenings. My shoulder strength is coming back slowly but surely.

So far there are only 2 Canal Poncho projects on Ravelry, but if anyone out there wants to give it a try, I say go for it! I’d be happy to give you tips and encouragement. And look what an amazing project you will have when it’s done!

Canal Poncho – finished example – Laine Publishing photo

Frog Like a Boss

Foldlines sweater, first try

In April last year I finished knitting this sweater. In 2020 I was knitting like a fiend (nothing else to do in lockdown, right?) so I finished SIX sweaters, a lap blanket, a baby blanket, six hats, a shawl and a cowl. AND I spun and plied at least 200g of lace weight yarn and knit most of a giant lace christening blanket. No wonder I wrecked my shoulder!

Anyway, the above sweater didn’t get much wear over the past year. As you can see, it has 3/4 sleeves. This was not the plan! This sweater should have had long sleeves but I ran out of yarn. And the sweater is really big on me. It measures 45″ around. It’s supposed to be boxy shaped with drop shoulders, but this was really too much. In last week’s post I talked about the decision to frog it and knit the sweater again. This week I took those balls of yarn and re-skeined them

washed them

let them dry and twisted them up, ready to go for the next sweater.

I have a total of 718 grams, counting those little ends that I’ll use if I have to. I’m going to knit Foldlines again, but in the smaller size and with long sleeves. Luckily, I didn’t wear the sweater much, and the yarn is the type of yarn anyway that doesn’t pill very much. I really don’t have to worry about reusing this yarn at all – it’s in perfect shape as if it’s never been used or worn.

I can’t say the same for another sweater that I frogged earlier this year. This sweater was knit with Madelinetosh 80/10/10 Worsted MCN, which is 80% Merino wool, 10% cashmere 10% nylon. It’s the softest stuff you’ll ever wear next to your skin, but also because of the content it pills like crazy.

I made this sweater in 2015 and did wear it now and then. I didn’t wear it as much as I thought I would because I didn’t like how it fit. It’s a raglan shoulder sweater but the shape of the shoulders wasn’t good on me and I was constantly pulling it up on my shoulders. It was annoying. It probably didn’t help that this yarn, along with being super soft, is super HEAVY. It’s superwash and worsted spun, so there isn’t much air between the fibers which makes it heavier than other yarns of similar diameter. I really hadn’t worn this sweater very much at all in the past couple of years. The color of the yarn is so lovely that I decided to frog it and reuse the yarn. Easier said than done!

This sweater was knit in pieces and sewn together. There were LOTS of ends to pick out and seams to rip back. It took patience and a lot of swearing to get it done. But I managed it.

In this case I caked the yarn after washing. This is hand dyed yarn so each skein is a little different from the rest and I will alternate skeins to keep the colors even throughout the next sweater. But not only do I have to consider the color of the skeins, but also for this one I have to consider the amount of pilling and wear. I matched up skeins, 2 by 2, according to color and also pilling. One “good” skein paired with one “worn/pilled” skein. The one on the bottom is the worst for pilling and I’m hoping I don’t have to use it at all. Luckily I still have 2 skeins extra from when I knit this sweater in 2015 so I’ll use those also in the new sweater and avoid the worn out skeins if possible.

For my next sweater for this yarn I think I will knit something with a lace pattern to try to lighten up the weight of it. Or maybe just plain stockinette and certainly no cables (like the first sweater) to weigh it down.

So, the moral of this story is – if you have sweaters you aren’t wearing but you love the yarn, don’t be afraid to rrrrrrripppppp (frog) them out and start again. Or give the sweater away to someone else who will love it. But don’t let it just sit in your closet gathering dust! And besides, unraveling knitting is fun and satisfying! Or maybe I’m just strange…..

Always Knitting

Despite the past couple of posts being all about sewing, there has been, and always is, knitting going on. I think I’ve had at least one project on needles since…. 1977? And before that always some kind of craft project in the works. Since I was very young. Anyway, here are the latest knitting projects.

It’s hard to believe, but even with this shoulder injury, I’ve finished six things so far this year (photo above)! I’m surprised myself. A sweater, a baby blanket, a pair of socks, a hat, a shawl, and a huge Shetland lace christening blanket.

I only have two things on my needles right now – a hat and a test knit for a friend that I really can’t talk about much. I can show you a bit of that project and a nice tip for changing skeins of yarn.

If you are knitting something with an edge that will always show, like a shawl, or cardigan where you are knitting the front edges at the same time as the rest of the sweater, or in any situation where an edge will not be hidden with a seam or picked up stitches, you want that edge to remain beautiful. You don’t want to see, anywhere near that edge, where a new yarn was started or ended. How do I do that?

You can see in this knitted piece (photo above) that the ends of new and old skeins begin and end inside the knitted edge. I knit with the old yarn to the end of the row, turn, and then knit back to the end of the edging section (in this case, 5 stitches). Then I add in the new yarn and continue knitting the row to the end. Turn and knit back all the way to the end of the row, passing by the point where the yarn was added in. Turn and knit to the yarn change point, 5 stitches in. Pick up the old yarn and continue down the row to the end. Turn and knit back to the end. Continue in this way for a few turns and then cut the old yarn (or when you run out of that skein, if your yarn estimation is good!). Continue knitting with the new yarn. In this way you can weave in the ends farther into the knitted piece where it won’t be seen and the edges remain perfect. Actually, if you are knitting with commercially dyed yarn with a matching dye lot number, you don’t need to do this back and forth exchange of skeins. Just start and end the skeins inside the edge. I knit with both skeins for a few turns because they are hand dyed and are not identical and I didn’t want a jarring change to be seen in the knitted fabric.

The other photo I can show you of this project is the pile of bobbins I’m using to knit the intarsia part of the design. Yes, it’s intricate and fiddly to get started, but once you are 10 rows into it, it’s less fiddly and starts to become automatic knitting. And the results are stunning, trust me. 😉 I hope to be finished in a couple of weeks to show you the FO.

As for the hat, I’m knitting this with Western Sky Knits Merino 17 in the color Cake. This is the softest yarn you’ll ever knit with, other than cashmere. And I’m sure it will pill less that cashmere. I’m knitting the pattern Musselburgh from Ysolda. This is going to be a double thickness hat. You start at the crown of the inside, knit to the bottom edge, keep knitting the same length to the shaping of the crown, then decrease to the outside crown point. You end up with a tube with rounded points at each end. Fold one end into the other and voila a double thick hat! I’m knitting this with 2.5mm needles with a gauge of 8.5 stitches/inch, which is smaller than the smallest gauge in the pattern. I just estimated how many stitches I’d need based on the other sizes/gauges given and also compared it with a few other hats I have. So far so good! It’s super easy tv watching knitting, even though my shoulder still can’t take very much of that. I hope to be finished before it snows.

Finally, I UNKNIT something this week.

Last year at Stitches West I bought yarn, Sincere Sheep Cormo Worsted, with the advice from the lovely Yarniacs. I bought 6 skeins thinking it would be plenty for a sweater. I knit Foldlines, by Norah Gaughan. I love the pattern. I love the yarn. Unfortunately I made the 42″ size for a boxy fit (which ended up being 45″ with my gauge) and I didn’t have enough yarn for long sleeves. I hardly wore this sweater because 3/4 sleeves with a worsted weight sweater just didn’t work for me. I needed a warm sweater, which needs long sleeves. So, again with sage advice from the Yarniacs, I decided to frog the whole thing and I will reknit it in a smaller size and will have enough yarn for long sleeves. It took me all day yesterday, painstakingly pulling out the seams and woven in ends, to unravel it and now I have 660g of balled up yarn.

Next I need to skein it up for washing before I can think about starting to knit it again. Along with a couple of other sweaters I’m looking forward to starting. Without hurting my shoulder again.

My Bag

Since about February of this year I had so much shoulder pain that I couldn’t knit at all. My physical therapist said “no knitting!” since that was what caused my injury in the first place. So I did some sewing instead. I have also been on the search for the perfect bag, since forever, and thought “well, I’ll just make my own!”.

I started by making a couple of cloth shopping/tote bags.

The green one was made mostly from curtains we weren’t using and the blue one from face mask material and a pair of pants I cut up. I made 2 of the green ones and gave them to my mom and sister. The pattern for that one is from Bagstock Designs. The blue one I use all the time for shopping and sometimes for a beach trip. The pattern for that one is an old Butterick pattern I’ve had for a long time. I felt like I really had this bag making down pat. I got cocky.

In June we all had high hopes for being able to go to a music festival later in the summer. Vaccinations were rolling out. Things were opening up. I thought it would be fun to make a festival bag – something shiny and festival-like and a real celebration bag. I found some cool vinyl and fake leather on a German fabric shop called Fabrics Hemmers. I bought everything I needed from this web shop. Except for the pattern. I bought the backpack pattern from RLR Creations.

I had never sewn this kind of material before so I went to my local sewing shop and asked for advice about what needle to use. Just a regular needle would be good, but had I thought about the presser foot? Huh? Yes, I needed a special non-stick presser foot, otherwise the vinyl would stick and not feed through correctly. Gulp. That was an expensive addition. Ah well, a learning experience. I also had to buy clips to hold the pieces together, instead of using pins. You can’t pin vinyl because once a hole, always a hole and you don’t want holes where you had pins.

Finally I could begin with the cutting and sewing. What an experience! What I learned….

  1. Vinyl is more flexible than you think so don’t be afraid to hem edges.
  2. Vinyl is thicker than you think so making an article that needs to fold in half, like this backpack, was maybe not the best choice.
  3. Working with endless zippers was something new and challenging. It took many many tries to get the zipper pull to go onto the teeth correctly.
  4. With this pattern, and endless zippers, you have to sew over zipper teeth. Do it by hand, letting the needle slide between the teeth. Don’t use power to sew over this because you’ll just break the needle. Which I did a couple of times.
  5. My sewing machine was just barely able to handle all the layers of material when sewing in the top zipper and it was hard work with my hands too. I don’t think I want to do this again. It also doesn’t look really good – the seams don’t line up at the top and the stitching is a little wonky. Since it’s vinyl, and I’m tired of working with it, I’m calling it GOOD.
  6. Working with clips instead of pins is a pain when you are working on something in the middle of your fabric (instead of just edge seams), like the outside zipper pockets. If I were to make this again with the same materials I’d just skip those outside zipper pockets.
  7. The large size backpack is not as large as I thought it would be. It’s like a medium sized purse, especially once you fold it down and clip it closed. Of course if you want to really pack it full you can leave it standing up and zipped closed.

More photos of the bag in process and finished:

I will definitely use this bag. Tomorrow I’m taking the train to Tillburg to visit the Textile Museum with a friend and I’ll take this bag with me. It’s not perfect but it is very useful and fun.

I still haven’t found the perfect bag but I’m willing to keep making my own to find it. I think next I’ll try making a bag with waxed canvas. Something waterproof would be perfect for our weather.

And just in case you thought this new-version blog is just about sewing, I’ve also got knitting news coming up.

I’ve started knitting a hat with some beautiful and incredibly soft Western Sky Knits Merino 17 Light. I also found this cute case (“etui” in Dutch, stolen from the French) at my local HEMA which is perfect for small projects.

I’m also working on a test knit for a friend, which I can’t really talk about, but next week I’ll show you a nice tip for starting a new skein when your project needs a neat edge.

AND I’ve started on a very exciting spinning and writing project that I’ll talk about in the coming month.

Until next week, happy crafting! (By the way, festivals were not allowed this summer after all. Hopefully next year.)