Monday Through Friday

sweater photo 1

I have been wanting to make this sweater for a very long time.  You know how it is. So many sweaters to knit, so little time. This is a free pattern from called Girl Friday. Seems to me it is the perfect work sweater.

I knit this with the perfect yarn, Quince & Co. Lark.  I LOVE this yarn. It’s 4 plies of wool making it a bouncy worsted weight. It’s not superwash which means it is also lighter weight than, say, Madelinetosh Worsted.  Comparing my MadTosh Worsted sweaters with this one – wow! what a difference! This yarn is just soft enough to wear next to skin without any problem. I’m wearing this sweater right now, with that collar on my neck, and it’s just fine.

The pattern called for knitting the pieces separately and sewing it together, but I’m getting lazy in my old age so I did some math and figured out how many repeats I needed to knit the body all in one piece, separating the fronts and back at the armholes.  I also knit the sleeves in the round from cuff to armhole and then back and forth up to the top of the sleeve.  The only sewing was setting in the sleeves, which I actually enjoyed. Just enough sewing to be enjoyable but not a slog.

I made 4 buttonholes instead of the 3 in the instructions. I hate gaping sweater bands.

It fits me really well (the lonnngggg sleeves are intentional) and I’m very happy with this sweater. I knit it in one month and 2 days, so a very quick knit. I’m sure I will wear it a lot!

Mad May Indeed


Over on the Ravelry group Madelinetosh Lovers, Mad May is in full swing.  Lots of people are knitting with Madelinetosh yarn with the aim of finishing a project within the month of May.  I started a project but I clearly won’t make the deadline.

Above is one finished sleeve.  I knit nearly all of it on my trip from Amsterdam to Bangkok.  I’ve also started the body, knit in the round, but I’m only about 3 inches (7.5cm) along.  I’m here in Thailand, on business (photos taken in my hotel room), and have been working a lot and not having a lot of knitting time.  I only have one day off while I’m here (today) and I’m going to spend 4 hours in a spa getting rubbed, scrubbed and pampered.

Anyway, back to the sweater.  This is a mashup of 2 sweater patterns.  I liked parts of each so put them together in my own kind of concoction.  I’ll detail all that out when the sweater is finished and I know which of my modifications really work.

Here are some closeup photos so you can see what the lace really looks like.  The yarn is Tosh Sock in color Lettuce Leaf which I’ve been hording for quite a long time, waiting for the perfect pattern to come along.  I guess I had to make up my own.

And, yes, you read correctly, Thailand.  The place that has just been taken over by a military coup d’etat.  Luckily I’m not in Bangkok, but in Chiang Mai, up north where life is still peaceful and people just go to work and go shopping and carry on with their lives.  As long as the airports stay open…..

Dahlia is Done

I finally finished this sweater!  I started it ages ago – almost two years ago – and put it into time out a couple of times.  All the stockinette was just so boring.  You see, the back lace part was the only interesting part.  The rest….

… is all just plain knitting.  Ho Hum.  I like it, but it’s strange to wear.  I have only worn it once so far, to work for a whole day, and it felt like it was constantly about to fall off my shoulders.  Most of the time I wore it open, like this.

The yarn is fantastic and feels wonderful and soft.  It’s Madelinetosh Pashmina, sport weight, 75% merino, 15% silk and 10% cashmere, color Duchess.  The pattern is Dahlia from Interweave Knits, Fall 2011.

It’s basically a rectangle with 2 holes for sleeves.  There’s no shoulder shaping at all, which is why it feels so weird.  A shawl with sleeves.  I will wear it more, for sure.  I just have to figure out how to get it to stay where I put it!

Neon is New!

I just finished knitting this sweater and I LOVE it!  The pattern is Neon by Joji Locatelli.  The yarn is Madelinetosh DK Twist in color Mansfield Garden Party.  If ever a pattern and yarn were meant for each other, this is it.

The yarn is so variegated that I really had no idea what I was going to make with it that wouldn’t end up looking like a pooled mess or clown barf.  Then my new friends I met in Santa Cruz showed me all their Neon sweaters and I thought that I had found the solution.  I did indeed!

Like all Madelinetosh (and most all hand dyed) yarns, there are differences in each skein.  You can overcome this by alternating skeins as you knit (to mix up the color differences) but I really didn’t want to bother.  What I did bother with, however, was making sure that where I changed skeins, the color differences were matched in the body and sleeves.  You can see above where the colors kind of change, and they change at the same points in the body as in the sleeves.  I weighed my skeins and used 60% for the body (knit in one piece) and 20% for each sleeve.  Clever, no?  These color differences are much more obvious in a photo than in real life.

Modifications I made to the pattern –
First, I didn’t make all the waist decreases.  I skipped the last one.  I’m short and I don’t have much of a waist, so skipping a decrease made perfect sense for my fit.  I made 3 rounds of decreases and 3 rounds of increases.

Second, I did the bottom ribbing and the sleeve ribbing bind off using Jenny’s Amazingly Stretchy Bind off.  I thought it needed to be really stretchy, and after washing and blocking it is indeed stretchy!  Maybe this was overkill.  I probably could have used just a normal bind off.

Third, my sleeves are shorter than the pattern states which I did by knitting fewer ribbing rows.  I have short arms.

Fourth, and importantly, I knit my sleeves FLAT instead of in the round as the pattern states.  She goes to great lengths to explain how to do this stitch pattern in the round, which is very fiddly and annoying.  Why bother?  Just knit them flat with an extra stitch either side for seam allowance and spend 10 minutes sewing them up at the end.  Simple!  No worry about gauge or anything.  When I got to the cuffs, I did knit them in the round.

sleeve seam

Fifth,  I made a small ribbing neckline instead of the stockinette stitch in the pattern.

And finally, also importantly, I knit the neck ribbing and the front bands ribbing on needles TWO SIZES smaller than called for.  I read on Ravelry that a lot of people found the bands floppy.  Simple solution.  Use smaller needles.  Actually, every sweater I’ve ever knit that has ribbed bands calls for smaller needles for this part of the knitting.  I don’t know why Joji choose to use the same size.  Mine turned out great.  Oh, and I also made 3 stitch button holes because my buttons were kind of big.  Perfect.

I’m super happy with how this turned out.  It fits perfectly and I’m sure to wear it all the time.  I’m tempted to make another one!

Sweater ONE

Today, the last day of January and the last day of this “blog post a day” schedule, I’m announcing a new sweater design – Sweater ONE.  Sweater ONE is a very easy, basic, perfect first sweater for a new knitter.  It is knit in worsted weight, in pieces and is sewn together.  There is almost no shaping which makes the knitting even easier.  There are ribbing patterns in strategic places to make the sweater less boxy and more modern.

The above is a part of the sleeve I’m knitting.  The yarn is Lorna’s Laces Worsted.  Andy is going to make a sample sweater in Cascade 220 Superwash in a size to fit himself.  The pattern is written for 8 sizes from blocked sweater size 35, 38, 41, 44, 48, 52, 56, 60 inches (89, 97, 104, 112, 122, 132, 142, 152 cm).

As soon as the 2 sample sweaters are finished I will be searching for test knitters.  I hope that I can find as many and as wonderful test knitters as I have for Mandy’s Heart.  They have been so helpful!  Since this sweater is designed for the first time sweater knitter, I’d love to find test knitters who have never knit a sweater before or only 1 sweater before.  It’s not so easy for me to judge the difficulty of patterns since I’ve been knitting so long and have managed to knit from any kind of pattern you want to throw at me.

So, stay tuned for more information about Sweater ONE.  I’m hoping to get test knitters working before April.

Almost Ready

This is the first page of my new sweater pattern, Mandy’s Heart.  Just a few final reviews and it will be ready to lease into the wild.  Pretty exciting!

Unfortunately, I had to be my own model.  I’m not happy about that.  It’s not ideal.  But I’m cheap and I was available.  For now I will have to do.

My test knitters are in the final push to finishing their sweaters.  I have 8 test knitters working diligently and I will be eternally grateful to them for their willingness to take on this task.

Launch date is set for 14 February.  The sweater is named Mandy’s Heart for my niece Mandy and Valentine’s Day seemed the perfect date to release a pattern with cabled hearts running down the front and sleeve.  The pattern will be available on Ravelry, and if I can get things set up in time, here on this blog.

First FO of 2013

Today I finished the pink version of Mandy’s Heart.  Here are some photos of the seams.  I’m really happy with how the pattern stitches match up in the seams.  This version is made with O-Wool, 50% wool, 50% cotton.  It does feel much different from the 100% wool version.

Here’s a photo of the sleeve being sewn in, first at the beginning of the seam, then later towards the top where the sleeve bind offs begin.

I like to sew in sleeves starting at the bottom, working up to the top of the sleeve.  Then I start again at the bottom and sew up the other side, meeting at the top.  I find it easier to sew in the same direction as the knitting.

Here’s the finished sleeve seam.

The next job for me and this sweater pattern is to organize a photo shoot with my models.  It’s going to be interesting trying to line up their time, my time, and the weather.  I’m hoping that next Saturday the planets will align and I can get photos taken.

I’m really thrilled that this is all on schedule.  I plan to release the pattern on February 14.  My test knitters are working steadily.  The pattern layout is coming along too, after fighting with software and finally settling on a format I can work with, looks nice and I think will be very user friendly.  Exciting stuff!

Stay tuned for more info on the matching socks.  I’m half finished with the first sock already.  I do have to be careful of my shoulder though.  After yesterday’s massage, complete with elbow in the shoulder work, my back is pretty sore.  I’m only doing some sewing today and very very little knitting.  Stupid shoulder.


I am busy working on the pink O-Wool Balance version of Mandy’s Heart sweater.  This is the back.  I wasn’t going to post so much of the pattern online until February, but here I am showing you the main fabric.  If anyone wants to design another sweater using this kind of fabric, well, you won’t be the first and I’m probably not the first either!  You can only put knits and purls together in so many ways and I’m sure I’m not the first to knit them in this arrangement.

It’s times like this that I wish I was a faster knitter.  My friend Nancy told me that I really need to learn continental style knitting (I’m an English knitter, or a “thrower”) not only because it’s faster but also because it would probably be less strain on my shoulder.  When my shoulder starts to hurt these days, I immediately stop knitting.  And when I say stop, I mean stop for a few hours, not just a few minutes.

You can tell that this Balance fabric is much different from the Vintage fabric I showed a week ago.  It’s not nearly as bouncy or stretchy.  The 50% cotton has a big impact on the fabric.  It knits up to gauge immediately.  Washing the gauge and laying it out to dry makes the stitches look more regular but doesn’t change the overall size or shape.

I’m really hoping to get the back finished in the next few days and move on to the front.  The front is a lot more interesting to knit because of the cable section.  I’m looking forward to that!

By the way, I’ve started my own group on Ravelry here, in case you want to follow the progress of this sweater, and more sweaters to come (soon).

Sneak Preview

These past few months I’ve been busy designing and knitting.  I haven’t shown you anything of this effort because, well, because I just wasn’t ready for the world to see what I was working on.  What if it was a flop?  What if I decided that instead of self-publishing I would try to get it published in a magazine?  Today I can finally give you a sneak preview of the sweater and pattern that will be coming soon.  And to ask for help.

The idea for this sweater was born from the desire to see more bottom-up, knit flat and seamed, interesting sweater patterns on the market.  Knitting without seams, in the round, top down, is all the rage.  That’s fine, and I love those methods myself, but I don’t think it’s good for new sweater knitters to start with that method, and I also think that anything knit with heavier yarns needs seams for stability and strength.  I couldn’t find patterns I liked so I decided to design my own.  I’m absolutely thrilled with the final result and it’s all I can do to keep from showing you the entire thing in detail!  All in good time….

I’ve named this pattern Mandy’s Heart.  There is a heart cable motif running down the center front and down the center of one sleeve.  Mandy is my niece, who I *heart* very much.

Today I’m announcing that I’m looking for test knitters for this sweater.  I’m going to post this request on a couple of Ravelry forums.  I thought I would post the same request here just in case you miss it on Ravelry and are interested in participating.

A Fall and Winter classic crew-­?neck sweater with cable details and stretchy figure flattering fabric. Knit in worsted weight yarn from the bottom up, in pieces, and sewn together.

The front of the sweater has a heart cable motif running in a column down the center. The back does not include the cable column. Directions are given for a sleeve with the cable column running lengthwise through the center of the sleeve, and directions for a sleeve without the cable pattern. Both sample sweaters were knit with one sleeve in each design with the heart cable on the left sleeve.

I recommend using 100% wool or yarn with at least 50% wool for this sweater. Using a tightly spun wool yarn will show off the cables and stitch pattern to their best effect. I would not recommend using alpaca or silk as the fit will be substantially different than intended. Having said that, you are of course free to use this pattern as a basis for your own take on the design and use whatever yarn you wish!

The sweater is designed with only 1”/2.5cm of ease. This is less than the typical ease for a worsted weight sweater. Please note that the finished sweater measurements are for un-­? stretched fabric. The fabric is very stretchy and will easily accommodate curves and waistlines. My design goal was to create a sweater that hugs the body in a flattering way, even with a worsted weight yarn, and feels good to wear.

I’ve designed this sweater to be knit in pieces and sewn together. I am a firm believer in seaming a garment of this weight. Seams, especially shoulder and sleeve seams, add the strength needed to hold a sweater of this weight in the correct shape. A worsted weight sweater without shoulder or sleeve seams will very soon sag and lose its shape and look old before its time. Taking the time to make beautiful seams will give you a beautiful garment you will wear for years. Don’t be afraid of seaming! There are many fantastic resources online to help you sew invisible seams in your knitted garments. (See the Appendix at the end of the pattern.)

Requirements for test knitters:

  • You need to be comfortable knitting simple cables, making right and left leaning decreases (SSK, K2T), and knitting and purling through the back loop.  You need to be able to read basic knitting charts.
  • The sweater must be made with worsted weight yarn and you must match the gauge given (within reason).
  • The yarn used must be at least 50% wool (superwash is ok).
  • You must join the Ravelry group for the test knit and give weekly feedback on progress.
  • You must be open and willing to communicate what you like and what you don’t like about the pattern, what problems you have, and any solutions you may offer for problems others may have.
  • The sweater must be finished with all input given by 10 February 2013.  The pattern will be released to the public on 14 February.
  • You will not share the pattern with anyone outside of the test knitter pool.

What do you get in return?

  • My gratitude!
  • Recognition in the pattern notes and on Ravelry.
  • Final copy of the pattern free, PLUS the pattern for the matching socks (coming also in February), PLUS a free copy of my next sweater pattern (which is already in the works).
  • Individual support from me while knitting your sweater.  I will answer all questions within 36 hours and will provide detailed photos of my sample sweaters and knitting techniques if required.

If you are interested in being a test knitter, and you are on Ravelry, drop me a message on Ravelry, or add a comment to this post, and I’ll send you more information.  The pattern will be emailed to test knitters.  It is currently in a pdf file, without fancy formatting.  I’ve included several photos, but more photos with different models will be included in the final version of the pattern.

I am now making a second sample sweater, in the same size, using a yarn that is 50% wool and 50% cotton so you can see the difference that makes to the fit and drape of the sweater.  I’ll be knitting along with my test knitters, heading for the February deadline.

Look out for February 14 when the final version of the pattern will be available!

(Almost) Finished Sweater

Yesterday I finished my blue summer sweater.  I ended up making elbow length sleeves because that’s all I had yarn for.  I had 4 skeins of this Cascade Ultra Pima and that’s as far as I got.  I just didn’t want to buy another skein to make the called for 3/4 sleeves.

What do you think?  I think it’s too big.  I’m a little bit sad about that.  It would be ok, but the problem big-ness is in the neckline and the drape of the yarn.  Cotton, especially mercerized shiny cotton like this, is slippery and it drapes really nicely.  The pattern, however, called for wool, which doesn’t drape like slippery yarn.

I wore it around Amsterdam in the afternoon and it was just annoying me with its big-ness.  I have decided to put it in the washer (it is washable) and dryer (it’s not meant to go in the dryer).  It should shrink a little and that will be good.  I’ll put it in a lingerie bag so the fibers don’t get banged around too much.

I’ll do another photo shoot in a couple of days when this is done so you can see if there’s any difference.  Hopefully for the better!