Every year I resolve to post more WIPs, but I almost never do. This is the year, I swear! In fact, I swatched the other night so I ought to get some credit for that, right?
This is Brooke Nico‘s latest pattern in Vogue Knitting, the Lace Batwing Top, and I’m using the exact yarn called for—Artyarns Ensemble Light, in the same delicate blue color even. It’s been a long time since I knit any complicated lace, and whoa. The pattern has a long repeat, and while I bet I’ll eventually memorize it, well, it did not click for the short duration of the swatch. I’m going to have to employ some of those tried and true tricks for following a chart—a long Post-It should do just fine. But I’ll admit it’s kind of pleasant to be knitting something that’s actually mentally challenging as opposed to all the mind-numbing garter stitch I’ve knit of late! This one is going to take concentration.
Originally I thought I’d tweak the pattern—oh it would be so simple, I thought—by making the knits twisted. I thought it would give a little more depth, and I honestly love knitting twisted stitches. But then I started knitting it and I realized how foolish I was being. There are decreases, and much of the pattern is worked flat, and who am I kidding? That was overly complicating the lovely design, and was entirely unnecessary. I did make one small change, though: Instead of a sk2p for the double decrease, I’m doing a centered double decrease. It just seems slightly more elegant even if it’s a bit more fussy to execute.
Knitting this complicated lace, which is going to definitely mean slower going, is going to be completely rewarded by using this yarn. You guys. I actually said to Jason that I don’t know how I’ll go back to knitting with normal yarn again. Because 50% silk, 50% cashmere? This is the stuff. I’m going to go block the swatch to be thorough, but I can’t wait to get going on the knitting. Casting on for the ribbing asap!
I almost didn’t do a wrap-up this year, but I just realized that I have done one every year for many many years now and why should I suddenly stop? First up, my knitting accomplishments for the year:
Who knew I was able to complete so much while at the same time whining about not being “able to knit” because of my thumb pain? There really isn’t such a dearth of knitting, is there? There are two missing projects: one is a design I did for a book that’s not coming out for a while yet so I probably shouldn’t show it to you anyway. I also knit a hat for a work giveaway that I didn’t document at all. Those coffee cup cozies were a little thing I did for Knit Simple magazine. They assigned me cozies, and I couldn’t decide which pattern to submit, so I showed Editor in Chief Carla Scott all of them, and she said “yes! we’ll do all three!” Ha.
I like that you can see how I used the same yarn for my Buckwheat as the hat for Carol; I should start making hats out of all my leftover yarn! Thanks again are due to Caro Sheridan for the photo shoots we were able to do this year, for Buckwheat, the Bulky Topper, and the green hat!
I’d declared 2012 “the year of the quilt” and I wasn’t wrong. It was definitely a year of sewing. With my injured thumb, it was far less painful to sew, so our entire dining room area was pretty much unusable as a place of eating. (“Be careful! Don’t spill on that!” gets old fast.) Here are all my quilty endeavors (plus an embroidery project that I never blogged):
That lion embroidery? I made that for my dear friend’s baby; because mom and I met while taking yoga together 6 days a week for a few years, I added “simhasana” to the embroidery (the Sanskrit for lion pose) and stitched the little lion’s tongue sticking out (like you do in the pose). Just a little touch of something personal, and a really cute result. The one in the lower right has yet to be shot in daylight, but that will come soon, and the one in the middle on the bottom actually is basically finished and has been in use but has never been photographed! I need to get on that. The quilting that I did this year was mostly on my tiny machine, but I did do a mix of machine and hand quilting on the star quilt that hasn’t been blogged. I feel really confident in my skills as a quilter now, too, so I’m really happy with what I did this year.
Earlier in the year the last of my bees finished up, so I have some bee blocks in my catalog of finished stuff:
I wasn’t good at documenting these, actually. And in fact, I may have never fully finished the Dresden plate in the bottom middle, but I don’t remember where I put the blocks-in-progress! (This is what happens when I actually clean the apartment.) I’m so glad that I participated in a total of 3 bees. You really gain so much skill and knowledge so quickly. I know that bees are tricky—I mean, you’re trusting other people to have the same standards and skills as you—but I also enjoyed being exposed to so many different kinds of blocks and ways of approaching a quilt. Actually, in my finished quilt mosaic are two of the bee quilts that I had made: the picnic blanket came from my Twitter Bee, and the stars (the unfinished one in the mosaic) was from KBeeC, a bee among my KBC friends. The third bee, the Solid 6, comprises most of my finished bee blocks in the mosaic above… But I picked a block for everyone to make that it turns out I really don’t like very much. I’m torn as to what to do with the blocks that were made for me, so I’m sitting on them until the right idea comes along.
What’s up for this year? Well, the month of January is going to be basically a rest from quilting. I’ve got two business trips, we have houseguests, and I’m just, I must confess, tired. I like having a clear dining room table! I’m enjoying just sitting on the couch watching TV when I get home—plus lately I’m so busy I get home late from work. But I’m sure when I’m back from TNNA things will come back—I intend this to be the year of sewn clothing! (Something that, despite having taken classes on the subject more than once, I am still quite intimidated by.) But I still have a bunch of quilt ideas swirling around in my brain that I can’t wait to make real. There will always be knitting, too, of course, don’t worry. Just this morning I bound off on a long-suffering project—stay tuned!
I didn’t make the journey up to New York Sheep & Wool this year, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t knit something just in the nick of time! About three weeks ago, when the temperature finally started to change, my need for a new sweater overcame me. I started researching colorwork pullovers (inspired in large part by Julia’s newly released Hiro) but somehow ended up looking at solid patterns and stumbled on Madigan, a Melissa LaBarre pattern for Quince & Co. I knew I had the perfect yarn in my stash, so off I went to wind and swatch.
Fittingly, I bought this yarn (Stonehedge Fiber Mill‘s Shepherd’s Wool) at Rhinebeck two years ago, when I was eager to amass more sweater quantities of yarn. I was looking for a nice, wearable gray. I found, however, this bright blue. I think, in the madness that is shopping at Rhinebeck, I neglected to think this through, so I bought it even though I couldn’t exactly picture it in a sweater. “Sweater quantity? Sold!” This electric blue haunted me from its place on a shelf in my craft corner. Nothing ever seemed quite right. Then I found Madigan. It couldn’t be more perfect.
The sweater is a cinch to knit, but that doesn’t mean I actually managed to follow the directions. You know how you read over a pattern, start knitting, and feel confident you know what it told you? Yeah, that led to varying stitch counts, some uncalled-for plain knitting in the middle of the waist shaping, and likely not as many stitches in total at the hips. But you know what else? It led to a perfectly fitting sweater that I finished the Friday before Rhinebeck. Either I was lucky or I actually can successfully improvise a sweater after all these years.
Speaking of improvisation, my friends and I improvised our own Rhinebecky day in New York City, instead of driving 2.5 hours up to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. We went to Knitty City, a crafts fair, and Central Park to approximate yarn booths and fall foliage. Just like at Rhinebeck, we took time for a photo shoot (this time Tania and Holly took my pictures, instead of Caro). But we also went shoe shopping, ate a calm and line-less brunch, and were home in time for dinner. So in some ways we improved on Rhinebeck! All that was missing were all the friends I didn’t get to hug. Next year, I’ll be back!
Nothing beats a knit that comes together fast, wears super easily, and uses up a good deal of yarn from your stash! The Bulky Topper by Mari Lynn Patrick was one of my favorites from the Fall 2011 issue of Vogue Knitting, and Lauren suggested in January that we do a little mini knit-along together. Circumstances conspired to give me long stretches of knitting time in February, so I finished up my new most favorite knit in one quick week!
When I visited Lauren in Chicago for a weekend, she excitedly pulled out her yarn to show me, and I’ll admit, I was downright jealous. Hers is the most lovely of grays, a color that I’ve been obsessed with lately. But I wanted to use something from my stash, and I have no gray in a sweater quantity. I had this dark brown I bought at Rhinebeck years ago, when I was in a long-lived brown phase. I harumphed but plunged ahead on a gauge swatch, not even sure if the yarn would work. But as I worked it, the brown started to get into my brain: I love brown! Why had I forsaken it for gray! But damn, did I need a pair of brown boots to wear with this sweater.
Before I’d even finished a single piece (it’s knit flat and seamed—and that’s important to the design, actually), I was out shopping for boots. I found the pair in the photos, and I’m in love! They’re the perfect color, comfortable right out of the store, and exactly what I wanted. They’re from some Italian brand I’d never heard of (I bought them at Century 21). We ran around on the beach and they held up just fine; I splashed around puddles in them recently and nothing calamitous happened. But wait, this is a post about knitting a sweater, not about a pair of boots? Okay then.
So yeah, my knitting of this sweater is actually fraught with some drama. It has been years—literally YEARS—since I knit something flat. It’s also been I-don’t-know-how-long since I knit something that was in reverse stockinette. And you know what? I row out. If you’re not familiar with the term, rowing out is used to describe an effect that comes about if your purls and knits aren’t quite the same height. I must be a touch looser when I purl, so I get slight troughs that are visible on the reverse stockinette side (they’re not visible on the stockinette side for me). I fretted and faffed and ultimately started working my knits on 10.5s and my purls on 10s and it evened out significantly. I even tried different hand positions (going back to knitting English; purling combo) and nothing else helped. In the end, I only worked this two-needle trick for the front and the sleeves; the back was done all on size 10s. Honestly, there’s still evidence of the rowing out even having used that trick. Apparently I need some remedial knitting lessons!
The other reason I raced to get this knit in a week was that I was on a weekend away with my best knitting peeps, and one of them is photographer Caro Sheridan, who I knew could get some awesome photos of me in the sweater. Of course, I finished the damn thing on a beautiful sunny Saturday with blue skies (the same day that I took that picture of Pam in her dragon mitts). But I conveniently finished it that NIGHT. And the next day? A Nor’easter came charging through. It was cold and wet and felt a bit like a hurricane at times. So we hunkered down in the house and there was no photo shoot. The next day, when it was windy as all heck, sand was stinging its way down the shore, and the sea was more churn than water, we dashed down to the water’s edge and had us a photo shoot. Her hands were red and our faces were freezing within moments, but I gotta tell ya: My torso? Not cold at all. Bulky Topper FTW!
Here’s video evidence of the windiness! I say “It’s really windy out here!” And then I ask her if she can even hear me, suspecting that you can’t hear anything over the wind hitting the microphone. And I was right!
If you’re like me, you often look at basic sweaters in stores and mutter to yourself, “I could just make that.” How often do you see a simple pattern from a knitwear designer and think, “but that’s just a basic sweater, I could just make it up myself.” But how often do you? Well, if you’re still like me, and you’re being honest? You never do. If you embark on a design idea, you get more ambitious and end up paralyzed with indecision. That’s when you should, like me, rely on the fantastic patterns already out there. Veera’s Buckwheat fit the bill perfectly.
Because, let’s be honest, it’s a simple little sweater. Knit from the bottom up in the round, then joined at the shoulders so that the sleeves can be picked up and worked down, it requires practically no finishing and gives you a clean-lined, simple sweater that goes with anything. I wore it with dress pants to give a talk at TNNA, and I wore it with jeans when hanging out with friends that night. At breakfast that morning, I mentioned having just sewn on the buttons and my coworker, both Vogue Knitting’s executive editor and Knit Simple’s Editor in Chief, laughed and said she had assumed it was store-bought. Aw shucks!
The yarn is Sanguine Gryphon‘s Skinny Bugga, bought at this past Rhinebeck with no knowledge that the company was going to shutter within weeks (and split into twonew dye studios). Sanguine Gryphon was legendary at fiber festivals; people would line up and wait more than an hour to be rung up! I happened into the booth during a rare quiet moment when there were, honest, about 3 people browsing. I needed 3 skeins, so I was definitely limited by colorways that had multiples, but even if I’d gotten there first thing, I think I still would have chosen this color. (“Sea Star”)
It blocked out a bit loose and floppy, which means it’s just a touch too big, but no matter. I like the way it drapes. Sadly in just one day of wearing it, and carrying a purse (as one does), it’s starting to pill and look a little ragged on the side. That’s super disappointing, but hopefully will just require a little upkeep between wearing. The buttons? A mismatched pair of about-the-same-size black ones I found in my button collection. Likely they are both spare buttons from other garments I own. Who knows. I hate buttons. I hate selecting them, sewing them on, etc. So these are just fine by me!
The awesome FO shots? Courtesy my friend Caro of Splityarn, the photographer-to-the-knitting-stars (and me!). We met in a parking lot in Phoenix, along with Pam of FlintKnits, who was getting her own personal photo shoot, too, for a to-be-released pattern (Isn’t that sweater awesome? Love the color and all those cables). Stitchy, of course, was there to smooth the wrinkles and tame flyaway hair. Caro and Stitchy are a photography duo par excellence. (And for hire!) Afterward we had dinner of cheesy Mexican fare and had drinks in a revolving bar. Revolving bar!