One Glove

The first of EJ’s gloves is finished. I think he will be as glad as I am when they are both done because I’m bugging him all the time to try it on. It is knit to fit!

The pattern is Seascape Gloves but there are instructions also for mittens or fingerless mittens in the same pattern. I used Zauberball Crazy yarn which EJ picked out himself at de Witte Engle in Den Burg, Texel. I used 2.5mm needles (2 circs) for the ribbing and tops of fingers, and 2.75mm for the hand and beginning of the fingers.

palm side

The pattern is easy to follow and in general I like the result. The only thing that didn’t go well is the shape of the base of the thumb. It was a big hole. When I picked up stitches for the thumb I did some short rows between thumb and first finger to try to fill in the gap. That worked ok, but I’d rather not have to do that. I’ll see on the second glove if I can keep that from happening in the first place.

the filled in gap

I have started on my second mitten and once I’m past the thumb area I’ll also start on the second glove. I am really looking forward to getting back to my CARDIGAN!

I’m also spinning – working on Experimental Spinning 2, which I’ll be able to share next Tuesday. I’m already plotting ES 3. But before that I want to prepare an article proposal for Ply magazine. I hope they like it! If they don’t, well, you’ll see it here instead. 🙂

Free Patterns

I have a couple of free sock patterns on Ravelry and I thought I’d put them here as well. Above is a photo of Butterfly Circus socks.

These socks are called Seasonal Socks. In the pattern there are 3 lengths (Spring, Summer, Fall/Winter) and 3 ending treatments (picot edge, bind off calf length, and increases to a knee length).

part of the toe charts

Finally, I have updated the charts for knitting left and right toes. You can use them to knit toe up or top down socks and also for socks with more than 60 stitches in the foot.

You can find all of these things, and more, on the Resources page. Enjoy!

One Mitten

I finished the first mitten yesterday. Today I went out into the windy cold day to try to find some light to take a few photos. This group of statues stands in front of the public library in my town. In 2018 the library was voted the “Best Library in the World”, as judged by IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations). But back to the mitten….

I started working on this on Christmas Day so it has knit up very quickly, also considering other ongoing projects. It was a cold afternoon and I was glad to have even ONE mitten to put on.

This Estonian yarn is rough and tough and perfect for mittens. I used size 2.25mm needles and got the same gauge as the pattern (36 sts/inch/10cm). They fit me perfectly, but I have small hands. You could easily go up to 2.5mm for a larger size and still have a good warm fabric.

The pattern is Kainoruusu, which I knit as given except for adding the Latvian braid before and after the cuff. For that I used the instructions from the free pattern Warm Hearted Mittens on Knitty.com.

I’m knitting these mittens as part of the Yarniacs Self Indulgent KAL, which runs from the winter solstice to the spring equinox. The mittens are really self indulgent because I don’t NEED them. I have other mittens. I have mittens that I bought in Estonia. Mittens I’ve knit. Mittens I don’t wear often. But these are so pretty that I just couldn’t stop myself. And when you have the yarn in stash, there’s no reason not to!

I’m also busy working on the man gloves. I’m up to the fingers on the first glove, so you’ll be seeing it soon. And I need to get back to my cardigan!

As a sneak preview…. can you guess what I’m up to here?

Goodbye 21, Hello 22

In this year of stops and starts, ups and downs, open and closed, left and right, here are my best 9 projects of 2021. All of them are on Ravelry if you are interested in more details. From top left:

  1. 374 grams, 2670 meters of Shetland lace weight, spun on a Schacht Matchless; knit into 9.
  2. Shark tank baby blanket made for the newest member of the family
  3. 920g of 2-ply Aran weight, 70% Shetland fiber, 30% sparkly merino/sparkles, spun on an Electric Eel Wheel 6.0
  4. Canal Poncho, pattern by the fantastically talented Nancy Marchant
  5. Exploration Station shawl, pattern by the also fantastically talented Stephen West
  6. Sweater Spin 2021, knit with yarn from 8.
  7. Best Vacation Ever sweater, my own pattern, knit with 10 colors of Holst Garn Tides
  8. 450g 3-ply BFL, fiber dyed by me, knit into sweater 6.
  9. Shetland christening shawl, 140cm / 55“ square, 291g final weight, knit from 1.

If you know me, you know I’m a planner. On 1 January 2022 I’m planning my projects for the coming year…. Finish the 3 projects that are in progress. Make yet another baby blanket. Spin the next episode of Experimental Spinning. Send an article proposal to Ply Magazine. Knit another version of the Best Vacation Ever sweater and write up the pattern. Sew a dress with my own designed fabric. Sew a dress with all of our cast off jeans. And then we’re up to summer and I want to do some dyeing outside……

I have also been thinking about this blog, and Instagram and FaceBook and Twitter, and how to make this all work together and create things that others find interesting enough to come back to. I have re-opened the Under Dutch Skies FB page. I’ve linked Instagram to that page and also to my Twitter account. Today’s blog post will be a test to see if the link between WordPress and those accounts play nicely together and will post simultaneous updates.

That’s the technical side of things, but what about content? What am I trying to do here? What keeps the blog from becoming a chore instead of a fun creative thing? I have found that trying to write a blog post every week with a “big story” is really difficult. I am not that fast with my projects! I really want to write about the start, middle and end of a project every week. But, starting in 2022, as you are seeing here, I’m going to write more often, smaller posts, and at least once a month write a longer complete project (or technique) post.

I’ve been blogging for a long time (those old years are archived now) and I found that when I wrote something every single day for a month, my readership went way up. People have the attention span of fleas and if you aren’t creating, they aren’t coming back. I’ll start writing more. Please come back!

What are you planning for 2022? Are you planning ahead or do you just pick up what feels good in the moment?

Holidays Lazy Days

Mitten cuff

It’s the Tuesday between Christmas and New Year – technically a holiday week here in NL – but I’ll still write a little something on the blog. I have no finished object to share, but I do have some new projects to show you.

Above is the first cuff of my Kainoruusu mittens. I’m making them per the pattern, mostly. I just can’t help but modify something in every pattern! I’ve added the 2 Latvian braids below and above the color work section (the red and white candy cane). The cuffs I’m making in red and white and the rest of the mitten will be dark grey and white.

The yarn is some Estonian yarn that I bought during my trip there in 2013. It’s not soft yarn but it’s sturdy and great for mittens. It should be softer after washing, but I wouldn’t want to wear it around my neck.

Here’s a photo of the inside, in case you’re curious what that looks like. I always like to see the inside of things. 🙂

Inside

I’ve also started a pair of gloves for DB. When we went to Texel a couple of weeks ago (to get our Christmas lamb) he saw this yarn and wanted to buy it for himself. Either for a hat or gloves. I was secretly hoping for a hat, but in the end he chose gloves.

left hand

You can see that I’m working up the hand, increasing on the right side for the thumb. I chose the pattern, thinking that it would be great for gloves – sturdy and long wearing. That is certainly true! But the stitch pattern used is hurting my hands to knit. The pattern is Seascape Gloves. Here’s a closeup of the stitches. This multi-colored yarn doesn’t make it easy to see, but it’s a 2-stitch twisted thing.

You put the right needle through the first stitch on the left needle, and knit the SECOND stitch on the left needle, bring your right needle back out, and knit the first stitch through the BACK loop, then slide both stitches to the right needle. I had no idea it would cause my hands so much trouble. But you know, the things we do for love.

Here’s the inside of the glove.

I’m trading off working on the mittens, then the gloves, so my hands get a break. There has also been a little spinning going on, for the next Experimental Spinning post. Hopefully I’ll have that ready to show in another week.

These dark days make photography so difficult! I spend a lot of time trying to get the colors to match what my eyes see. I think I’m pretty close this week.

That’s it for craft pursuits this week. I’m also practicing the accordion and cooking and baking and taking care of the neighbor cat while they are out of town, and visiting family. I hope you are having a nice holiday week and can find joy, even in the smallest of things, during these pandemic times. Til next week, happy end of 2021!

FO & WIP

This past week I finished the 12 recipe tea towels/wall hangings that I started in November. WHEW that felt good to get those off my plate. I hadn’t touched them in several weeks and in that time I had kind of forgotten how I made them so I spent more time ripping out than sewing for the first one. But after that it went smoothly and I finished them in 2 days.

I’ve decided not to trust them to the mail. They’d have to cross 2 countries and 5,000 miles and probably cost a fortune because they are heavy. I will take them with me the next time I visit my mom and mail them from there. Hopefully this Spring. Everyone will just have to wait!

AND I started a new sweater. This one is a cabled cardigan that I could really use in my wardrobe. This is my second winter after returning from California and I need more warm sweaters. This sweater is called Sandstone Peak, designed by Irina Anikeeva. I fell in love with it the second I saw it.

(c) Irina Anikeeva

I’m knitting it with Cascade 220, which I had in stash. The colorway is called “Galaxy” and it’s another one of those hard to capture colors. Most of the time it looks dark brown, but in some light it looks dark purple. On dark winter nights it’s just black and I need a neck light to knit.

The instructions have you knit this from the bottom up, seamless, then knit the sleeves in the round, then put them all together at the underarms and knit the yoke seamless. Well, you can guess from other posts that I am a fan of seams in such a garment so I’ve decided to knit each piece flat and seam it together. It just takes more teasing out of the pattern instructions, especially at the yoke, but so far it’s not too bad. The instructions are very clear and easy to follow, which makes it also easy to tear them apart and see the pieces separately. I added 1 stitch at each edge for a selvage for seaming. I’ve finished one sleeve and started the second.

My plan is to have this finished by the end of January, with plenty of winter left to enjoy it. I’ve also got some mittens queued up to start, and DB has asked for either a hat or gloves (he hasn’t decided yet), so plenty of knitting on the horizon.

And that’s my FO (finished object) and WIP (work in progress) for this week. I was hoping to post about my spinning project(s) but I’m not quite ready for that unveiling. Come back next week for some spinning experiments in color.

Sweater Spin 2021

spinning BFL on an Electric Eel Wheel 6.0

Since I started spinning I have always had at least one “big” spinning project each year. Some years it was yarn for a sweater and some years it was at least 200g of lace weight yarn for a large shawl. Since the pandemic, and not working (and since I wrecked my shoulder with too much knitting), I’ve spun about 3 times that much per year. This year I finished spinning lace weight Shetland for a ginormous shawl, plus 2 sweater quantities of yarn. And some other spinning tests (more about that next week).

Last week I talked about sewing seams in sweaters and this week I’m going to show you my handspun seamless top-down sweater. It’s good to have options in your knitting!

I had been meaning to spin up this fiber since I dyed it a couple of years ago. I just love red and bright pink together. This is BFL (Blue Face Leicester sheep breed) fiber. I think BFL comes in a close second to Shetland wool for my favorite to spin. It’s very soft, but not as soft as Merino, which means that, for me anyway, it’s an easy relaxing fiber to spin. I’m not constantly fighting to keep it under control. It’s happy to be spun very fine, or thicker – whatever you want, it will oblige.

The fiber itself had to be pulled apart a bit and fluffed up before spinning. I didn’t do the greatest dye job and it was a little bit flat and matted. But with little effort I had beautiful little nests (nests on the left, matted fiber on the right).

I grabbed random nests from my bag to spin the singles. I made 3-ply yarn because that is my favorite yarn to spin and knit and wear. Those 3 plies together also hide any imperfections in your spinning pretty well. I ended up with about 455g/16oz of sport weight yarn. I hoped it would be enough.

I went looking for a super simple, plain raglan sweater pattern. You would think that after all these years I would have a go-to pattern like this all ready to cast on. But I rarely make something simple and plain. 🙂 I do have some books that have calculations for sweaters (“All Sweaters in Every Gauge”, “Knitting From the Top”, “Designing Knitwear”) and I did look through them but I was feeling lazy and just wanted someone to have done the work and figured out the numbers for me. I chose “#265 Mid Weight Neck Down Pullover” by Diane Soucy. Lots of people on Ravelry love this pattern so I felt confident it would work for me too. And it did! Super simple, straightforward no-nonsense pattern. I highly recommend it.

I was happily knitting away (see my previous blog post about fit) when I noticed that my yarn was being eaten up pretty quickly. I hadn’t planned to use the solid colored bits of my yarn because the blended yarn was so much prettier, but I HAD to use it to have any hope of finishing with long sleeves. The length of the sweater was plenty long, so in the end I had to go back and unravel part of the bottom and use that yarn on the second sleeve! I unraveled a row, knit it onto the sleeve, unraveled another row, knit some more sleeve, and on and on until the second sleeve was the same as the first. I ended up taking out 5 body rows.

Since I wanted the body ribbing to be a good length, I unraveled the rest of the ribbing and then 5 body stockinette rows, then knit the ribbing again and bound off. I was left with less than an arms length of yarn. WHEW. The sleeves are JUST long enough. The sweaters weighs in at 453g. I need to remember that number so that I spin at least 500g of sport weight in future to be sure to have enough for a plain sweater. And also measure the length of the yarn, not just the weight. (eye roll here – silly beginner/laziness not to have measured the length)

I’m really happy with the sweater and the yarn and the pattern. It took me exactly one month to knit. Almost-instant gratification! It was a cold grey day when we took outdoor photos.

I also want to share how IMPOSSIBLE it has been to capture the colors of this sweater. In the end, YOU pick which color you like best and I’ll say that’s what it looks like. I tried to take photos in all kinds of light and it was never just right. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Any of them are good. 🙂

Do you plan out your projects, months ahead? Do you fantasy knit or spin? I sure do. I’ve already started another cardigan, I’m planning to make mittens starting the end of this month. I’m going to start a new spinning project the end of this week. I have a sweater planned for January, a baby blanket in February, and maybe a handspun sweater in February too. If I was smart I’d make seasonal items the season BEFORE I want to wear them, but I feel like I’m always running to catch up. I’ve just cast on a winter cardigan but I want to be wearing it now. Maybe I need to just skip a season and jump right into lighter weight sweaters to be ready to wear them in the summer. If I was smart.

Seams in Knitting

Link to this how-to document found below.

I’m an active member of the Yarniacs Podcast group on Ravelry and lately we’ve had some discussions about sewing seams in sweaters versus knitting sweaters in the round without seams. Some new knitters have never knit a sweater in pieces. I feel so old when I tell them that this is how I learned to knit! We used straight needles and knit back and forth and then sewed the pieces together. I’m not saying that one method is better than the other – each have their place depending on the garment you are making.

This is not a new discussion. In 2013 I designed a sweater that was designed to be knit in pieces and seamed. I realized then that this might be a stumbling block for knitters so I created a how-to document to teach people how to make beautiful and strong seams. In my previous blog (now retired) I had this document available for readers to download so it’s about time I put it back up there for anyone to use.

You can find the document here.

I explain how to sew vertical seams, horizontal seams and mixed vertical to horizontal seams (sewing in sleeves for example). I also show how to pick up stitches for necklines (or for sleeves in some patterns).

I had intended to use this document as a teaching guide but I never ended up teaching this class. Now, 8 years on, there are YouTube videos and online classes that will show you these techniques and my little document is just one of thousands of resources out there. But everyone learns differently and maybe this will be helpful to you.

Let me know if you have questions about sewing seams in your knitwear. I’m happy to help. I don’t want this technique to become a dying art! Seams have a function that can’t be replaced by any other method of knitting (see the document to find out more!).

Enjoy!

Canal Poncho in Amsterdam

At Stephen & Penelope in Amsterdam, standing in front of the Corrie Worsted wall

This past Sunday I finished my Canal Poncho and today I visited Nancy in Amsterdam and we took some photos. I really (not just saying it) love this poncho. The design is so unique and clever and the yarn is wonderful to knit with and is very warm and cozy. And just look at these colors! Nancy and I have really different color palettes for our ponchos and they both look great (if I do say so myself).

I talked about this poncho in a previous post and I gave some tips about knitting it. I have some tips about finishing it too.

When I started this poncho I wound up my bobbins with 6 arm lengths of yarn on each bobbin. I had no idea how far that would get me. Nancy had said that 3 arm lengths would be good to start with but you might run out and have to start another length of yarn before you get to the end. Three arm lengths would be the MAX I would recommend if you are NOT using bobbins because otherwise you’ll end up with a very tangled mess after every 2 rows. I had big enough bobbins that I could easily fit more yarn so I went for longer lengths hoping that I would have enough to get through the entire piece with just that. And I did! I had about 6″ (15cm) of dark blue and orange left at the end of the longest cables – just enough! My advice is to wind as much as you can on the bobbins and then you only have to deal with 2 ends – beginning and end – per color.

I think it is just as important to have beautiful insides of garments as well as outsides, so in full disclosure style, here is the inside of my poncho. You can see, at the very beginning of the cable section, a little “oops” bit of orange yarn carried over. By the time I saw that mistake I was so far along that I couldn’t bring myself to rip back and fix it. So I sewed it down a little while at the same time weaving in the beginning of the orange yarn tail and left it there. It is a testament to being human after all. And then I paid really close attention after every row to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake in where I left the yarns. There were 2 more times when I saw that I had laid them incorrectly. To fix that I unwound my bobbin, pulled the yarn out from where it was and stuck it back in where it should be. One time I had to drop the cable stitches, tink those back 2 rows, fix the yarn end, and knit the cable back up. It’s hard to explain in text but if you’re knitting this pattern you’ll know what I mean. It was frustrating and took time to fix but looking at the clean inside of this garment is very satisfying. Well worth the effort.

I steam blocked the poncho pieces before sewing them together. I found that my knitting was a little skewed and the pieces were not straight rectangles but some steaming took care of that quickly and easily. Steaming also relaxed the stitches so that the cable stitches look neater and more even.

When I had finished the knitting, and had sewn the shoulder seams, I left all the ends of yarn hanging. I picked up the stitches around the neck and knit the neckband. THEN I wove in the ends of yarn from the cable section, weaving them into the seam of picked up stitches from the neckband. In this way you have no bulk from weaving ends into the front poncho knitting. After all the ends were woven in I sewed down the neck band loosely on the inside. It makes for a very neat edge.

I also steamed the neckband when all was done. I held my super steam iron above the knitting, hit it with blasts of steam, and then just patted it down a little with my hand.

This poncho took me 2 1/2 months from start to finish, but of course it wasn’t my only project and I was also traveling during that time. It is a project that takes dedication in attention, time and space. I worked on the front piece upstairs on my craft work table where it stayed put. Moving all those bobbins and cakes of yarn around was just not a reasonable thing to do and working on it on a table is by far the easiest way to go. I’m lucky to have a dedicated space for that. I also had a schedule – at least 4 rows and preferably 6, per day. That kept it enjoyable and kept me on track to finish before the book is available.

You can find this pattern, and more beautiful garments using La Bien Aimée Corrie Worsted, in the book “Worsted”, available on her website here. The Canal Poncho can be seen also on Ravelry here. My project page is here.

Top Down in the Round

This past June I spun this yarn from BFL (Blue Faced Leicester) fiber that I had dyed myself. I had a couple of braids of bright fuchsia and a few different reds. I split them apart and randomly spun the colors together and then 3-plied the singles. The last little bit of red on the right was left over on a bobbin that I chain plied. I had been wanting to spin this for a long time and since I wasn’t knitting very much (bad shoulder, remember?) I had time to spin. It ended up being somewhere between DK and Sport weight, 438 grams.

I decided to knit a plain sweater with this yarn, without any fancy stitches because the yarn is bright enough and I wanted the yarn to be the star of the show. I am still hoping that I have enough! But what type of construction should it be?

I looked through Ravelry. I looked through my knitting library of books. In an effort to keep things simple, I decided on top down, in the round, raglan. Raglan sweaters fit me fine and it’s easy TV knitting to make increases in specific places every other round. BUT, which pattern to choose?

I really don’t like (“don’t like” is a polite way to say that I really hate) rectangular necklines and wide boat necks. Why are all the most popular designers creating these necklines, that don’t fit necks? I suspect because it’s easy to design this way. Fewer calculations. Easier directions. But not a great fit. I looked around until I fount this pattern – #265 Neck Down Mid Weight Pullover on the web site “Knitting Pure and Simple” and that is a very apt description. So many basic patterns that do just what you want them to do – fit and flatter. You can also find the pattern and more info on Ravelry here. And my sweater on Ravelry is here. What I especially like about this pattern is that the neckline is cast on for the back and shoulders and knit back and forth, increasing for raglan shaping, and after about an inch you begin shaping the front neck, eventually casting on for the lower front neckline and begin knitting in the round. Great neckline shaping without short rows. After you knit the sweater you go back and pick up stitches for the ribbing around the neck, which also adds some stability and strength to the neck (as opposed to starting with the ribbing and just knitting down from there).

Now, lots of people believe that the incredible life changing benefit of top down sweaters is that you can try them on for size as you knit – as if you CAN’T do that with bottom up, which as you can tell from my tone of voice, I think is nonsense. You can certainly try on a bottom up sweater just as well. In my mind the advantage of top down is that if you aren’t sure if you have enough yarn to make a sweater you can decide as you go along to shorten the length of the body or sleeves or both in order to have a finished garment with the amount of yarn you have. Otherwise, honestly, I don’t see what the big advantage is. One DISadvantage to knitting top down is that you are swinging around a lot of sweater when knitting the sleeves, which is kind of annoying.

Anyway, I had made my decision so off I went. My gauge was a little bit off, so I am knitting the 3rd size (42″) to end up with a 38″ sweater, on size 5 US (3.75mm) needles.

I got to the part of the instructions where you should slip the sleeve stitches to waste yarn while you continue knitting the body in the round. Here is where you really REALLY need to check the size to be sure you should do this step, or knit further to make it bigger, or rip back to make it smaller. So I tried it on.

Well, unless you have someone to help you by holding the knitting down, making sure it’s laying on your body right, etc., I don’t see where this helps a lot. Sure, it fits around my body, but is this the correct length to take the next step? Beats me. So I decided the better check would be to compare it with sweaters that fit me well.

First I compared it to this fingering weight top down circular yoke sweater.

At first glance my knitting looked a little short compared with this sweater. The fit should be pretty much the same.

But after laying it out more carefully, matching the top of the shoulders, the points of sleeve hold were the same. So far so good! Let’s compare another sweater.

This is a DK weight sweater with a rather rectangular neckline, that I’m not so fond of, and you can see how the shoulders slope dramatically down. The sweater actually doesn’t fit all that great, but it’s cozy and I do wear it a lot.

Compared to this sweater the point of separation is a little short, but honestly, this blue sweater is long in the armpits so I’m happy that the new red sweater is not as long.

In summary, I think it is more useful to compare your knitting with a sweater, or sweatshirt, that fits you well to see if you are on the right track with sizing.

Yesterday I put my sleeves on hold and started knitting down the body in the round. I’m thinking that I might put this on hold after an inch or two and knit the sleeves. At least I won’t have all the body weighing me down when I’m knitting the sleeves in the round. Here is my progress so far, pinned down on my ironing board. The color is pretty accurate. This is such easy knitting that I expect to be finished well before Christmas. It looks like a PRETTY Christmas sweater to me!