Mireille

This sweater was almost a year in the making—I started it on June 1st last year, and finally bound off the neckline on May 23rd. This was a project that I worked on in fits and starts, knitting steadily on it for a good bit and then laying it aside for long enough for me to forget where I was or what my plans were. I made the knitting unnecessarily confusing for myself by not taking any notes as I was progressing through the pattern. I at least had the sense to get this finished up before having a baby. If I had tried to pick this up in the fall or winter while balancing an infant, I knew the sweater would be a lost cause.

Mireille Pullover

This is the Mireille pullover from The Shetland Trader (Gudrun Johnston). This is the third Gudrun Johnston pattern I’ve made—I’ve previously made Audrey in Unst and Little Wave—and I really enjoy her work. Her sweater patterns have such great attention to detail and thoughtful construction methods that I really feel like I learn something new from each piece. With its loose fit and dropped shoulders, the design lines of this sweater are unusual for me. But I’ve had some success with a few boxier and oversized sewing patterns. Plus, I started knitting this at a point in time when my measurements were in flux and trying to knit something more fitted would have been kind of pointless.

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I ended up knitting the 48.5” bust size—my bust measurement was ~43” when I started and has more recently been ~41”, so I’m looking at wearing this piece with 5-7 inches of ease at the bust. The pattern calls for holding two different yarns together, which I didn’t want to mess around with. Instead, I substituted Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Charcoal, which worked well in terms of matching the pattern gauge and getting enough drape for the style.

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I pretty much followed the pattern instructions exactly. I swapped the cable called for in the pattern with a simple rope cable (when I was swatching, I just couldn’t get the charted cable to look neat enough for my liking) and changed the rate of decrease for the sleeves to get the right length, but I didn’t make any modifications otherwise. That makes it seem like knitting this piece was pretty straightforward, but it wasn’t. I actually attempted several different pattern modifications like adding width at the hip, adjusting the length of the body to account for the growth that my swatch showed, and widening the sleeves a bit based on my measurements. These are all pretty typical sweater alterations for me, and they all turned out to be completely unnecessary. Indeed, a big part of the reason that I kept picking this sweater up and then putting it down again was because I needed to rip out so much of the work that I had just completed and I kept getting frustrating.

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The failure of my attempted modifications had nothing to do with the pattern. A small part of it was simply that my gauge swatch lied to me—when I blocked the body to check the length, for instance, it turned out that the piece simply didn’t grow like my swatch had so my length adjustments were for naught. My changing measurements caused another set of issues since fit adjustments that I had planned out when beginning the piece ended up being unnecessary six months later. But I think the biggest factor was simply that this is the first time I’ve knit a loose-fitting sweater like this, and I was just at a loss for being able to visualize how the schematic measurement would or would not work for my body.

Mireille Pullover stitch detail

I really love the texture of this design, as well as the shaped shoulder, and I’m hoping this sees frequent wear in the winter. I’m going to have to wait until then to post modeled shots and really evaluate the fit, however. I can easily get the sweater on, but all I can see is how obviously wrong the fit is for my current (pregnant) body, which makes me feel frustrated with the sweater. Better to stash it away for a good bit, and evaluate the fit at a more appropriate time. Until then, I’m just glad this piece is no longer hogging space in my project basket.

Madigan

This sweater was part of the stack of projects I finished up before the year ended. It’s a first attempt to deal with the lack of knitted pullovers in my closet, but I’m frankly not sure how I feel about the style on me. Aidan expressed some serious doubt about this sweater when I finished it–he was deeply skeptical of the concept of the short-sleeved sweater and said something along the lines of “Is this an actual thing in fashion?” Seeing the photos, I’m skeptical now too and think it looks better on other people who have made this than it does on me.

Madigan

The upside is that Madigan is a pretty straight-forward knit. After working with some truly massive, page-intensive patterns like the Grandpa Cardigan and Little Wave, it was refreshing to work on a piece where the actual instructions for the sweater, from cast on to bind off, fit on a single page. It is knitted from the top down in one piece, and the majority of the body is knitted in stockinette, which makes this a really easy pattern to adjust for fit.

Madigan

I started with the 42.5” as my base size, following that set of instructions through the cowl and yoke shaping. I needed to add about 3” worth of stitches for my full bust, so I cast on for a few extra stitches under each arm and worked a set of vertical bust darts after I finished the welt pattern in the yoke. I also added 3” of length to the front through horizontal bust darts and substituted my own shaping for the waist and high hip.

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By the way, I’ve been doing the standard wrap-and-turn short rows for my horizontal bust darts. But with this project, I tried using German Short Rows following this tutorial from La Maison Rililie. It’s a great tutorial and I’m really happy with the result—the German Short Rows blend in so much better than what I was doing before.

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Ramona carefully supervised the blocking process.

The yarn is Valley Yarns Northampton in Medium Grey. This project is a testament to the healing powers of blocking. When I first finished it and tried it on, it felt like a sausage casing and the cowl was completely stiff. After a nice, long bath, the yarn relaxed, the fit was much more comfortable, and the cowl has enough drape that it lies nicely now.

Madigan

Still, even the wonders of blocking aren’t enough to save this one for me. I’d much prefer a lighter weight pullover–worsted weight just feels too bulky to me for a garment like this. Plus, the style just isn’t my favorite. At this point, I’m about 90% certain that this one is going to be ripped out and turned into something new. Such is the beauty of knitting. I’m thinking a second version of the Grandpa Cardigan in this gray would be especially useful. We’ll see.

Jet Pullover, or, The Sweater That Would Never F*****g End

Knitting this sweater was a major slog. I worked on it intermittently for nearly a year, throwing it aside when I was too frustrated or bored with it to even look at it and picking it up in fits when I could convince myself that it was worth finishing.

Basic Knitted Pullover

The idea for this particular sweater came after the yarn refused to work with two different patterns. I decided if it wouldn’t play well with a pattern, I’d just improvise a plain, no frills v-neck pullover. I wanted something similar to my Blank Canvas sweater but in a dark neutral that I’d be more likely to wear on a regular basis.

Since I had extensive notes on the way I had worked the shaping on my Blank Canvas, knitting the body of this pullover went smoothly and pretty quickly, given that it’s knit up in a fingering weight yarn (Cascade 220 Fingering in Jet, more specifically). It’s when it came time to work the sleeves that things took a hard turn towards the miserably tedious and frustrating.

My first plan was to work a seamless, top-down sleeve shaped with short rows, which is the same sleeve method used in the Grandpa cardigan I finished around the time I began this sweater. But the short row sleeve caps looked terrible, so after trying twice to get it right, I ripped it out completely and decided to do a regular seamed, set-in sleeve. I used an armscye calculator to help me figure out how to work the sleeve cap shaping and decided I would knit full length sleeves with a deep ribbed cuff.

Knitted Pullover V-neck Detail

So I knit up the first sleeve which seemed to take forever, especially since the cuff ribbing was never-ending. And when I got to the end of the sleeve, I realized that the sleeve was about 2” too long and, more importantly, there was no way that I had enough yarn for two full-length sleeves. So I ripped out the entire first sleeve (which at that point represented endless hours of joyless, painful knitting) and reengineered my sleeve plans to give me ¾ sleeves. My third sleeve plan was, mercifully, a charm but the knitting still took forever—mostly because I had started to actively hate this sweater project and was alternating between knitting a bit and thinking very seriously about ripping the whole thing out.

I finally finished the second sleeve in early August. It took me another month to stomach picking it up again to knit the neckband, sew in the sleeves, and weave in the ends. But once I put it on, all the hate and resentment was gone. I love this sweater. The fit is relaxed and casual, it’s soft and lightweight, the neckline is just where I wanted it, the yarn goes with pretty much every other piece of clothing I own, and this particular shade of charcoal/soft black is my favorite. I will wear this sweater all the damn time.

But I will not be improvising a super basic, fingering weight pullover again any time soon. Or ever.

Moving and Knitting

We’re finally moved into our new place, unpacked, and mostly settled. Everything went about as smooth as it could and, of course, it was still incredibly stressful. I’m so glad it’s over. There were about 10 days between when our stuff got picked up by the movers and when it got dropped off, and since Aidan was working, most of those days were me spending some quality time with Netflix and my knitting.

TV-wise, I watched Rectify, Inside Amy Schumer, and the new season of Orange is the New Black, all of which I recommend. (I mean, the newest season of OITNB took awhile to find its footing and some of the story lines were kind of heavy handed and Piper continues to be THE WORST but it was still a pretty good watch overall.) Knitting-wise, I finished my Winterlong cowl before I left New York, and I’m planning to write a separate post about it. Since then, I’ve had three different sweater projects on rotation, and I’ve been picking one at random each day to work on. So here’s the big update on my sweater knitting:

Jet Pullover

Jet Pullover

I started this sweater back in September when I decided to improvise a fitted pullover after this yarn (Cascade 220 Fingering in Jet) refused to work for anything else. I got the body knitted up pretty quickly but got completely bogged down by the sleeves. My initial plan was for long sleeves with a very deep ribbed cuff. The ribbing took forever and was seriously tedious knitting, and then by the time I finished that first sleeve, it turned out it was way too long and the cuff was creating a weird below-elbow billow in the fabric. Plus, it became clear that I wasn’t going to have enough yarn to knit two full-length sleeves. So this project got shoved in a bag and put in time-out for a few months (which is now evident in all of the wrinkles) until I figured out a new plan. The revised plan is now to make a pullover with 3/4 sleeves that will be very similar in style to my Blank Canvas, except with set-in sleeves. I’ve finished the first sleeve and the second sleeve is moving along quickly. I’m hoping I can get this one finished up before it’s a year old.

Little Wave

LIttle Wave in progress

I started this sweater–Little Wave in Valley Yarns Northampton Dark Teal–back in March and knit about 10″ of the body before putting it away during all of my sock knitting. When I started this project, I was going to omit the pockets and the garter stitch elbow patches but realized I wanted both when I came back to this pattern a couple of weeks ago. So that meant ripping out everything but the ribbing so that I could work the set-up row for the pockets. The upside of re-knitting almost all of the body is that it allowed me to make some adjustments to the shaping at the sides. I just finished knitting up to the armholes this morning, so I’ll be moving onto the sleeves next.

Slanted Sleeven

Slanted Sleeven in progress

This is my newest project, which I started right after I got to Ohio. The pattern is Slanted Sleeven, which is a pretty basic cardigan that uses a “slanted contiguous sleeve” method that basically allows you to knit what looks relatively similar to a seamed, fitted sleeve cap while knitting seamlessly from the top-down. I started this pattern, using some Valley Yarns Charlemont in Dusk leftover from my failed Apres Surf Hoodie, mostly because I was curious about the construction method. Between the unusual construction method and the fact that the pattern is written in a unique way, what seems like a simple or boring cardigan is turning out to be a pleasing knitting challenge. I’ve had to adjust the pattern numbers a bit because I’m using a fingering weight yarn (the pattern is written for sport weight yarns), and I’m clearly not far enough to be able to try it on yet, but I think the sizing is looking good so far. But I probably just jinxed myself with that comment so we’ll see what happens.

knitting corner

We still have stuff to arrange around our new place, but my crafting stuff is pretty much in order at this point. I’ve marked out my little knitting nook in our living room and I’ve got my sewing stuff all organized in the second bedroom upstairs. After having to take about a three week break from sewing because of the move, I’m very much looking forward to spending some time with my machine this week.

sewing space

I’m hoping this means I’ll have a few sewing projects to share soon. Although, most of the projects at the top of my list are shorts or pants, so they could very well all wind up in the trash. Regardless, I’m glad to have access to my machine again!

Blank Canvas

This is kind of a boring, basic pullover, but this project was meant to be an experiment with a different sweater construction method. I’d say the experiment was a success.

I prefer to knit sweaters in pieces and then seam them together, and this is partly because I find knitting an entire adult-sized sweater in one piece rather tedious and partly because I’ve just had better luck getting a seamed sweater with set-in sleeves to fit me well. Raglan sweaters, in particular, have given me a lot of trouble in the past because they just don’t seem to agree with my body. Not only have I found it difficult to get a good fit with traditional raglan sweaters, but I don’t think they look particularly good on me either. I just don’t seem to have broad enough shoulders to pull a raglan sweater off without looking, well, frumpy. While a set-in sleeve helps to define my (relatively narrow) shoulders, traditional raglan lines have a way of making my shoulders disappear. Not good. Still, the lines of a raglan sweater offer some attractive design options (color blocked sleeves, textured sleeves, striped sleeves, lace sleeves, etc.) that just wouldn’t look quite as good with the set-in sleeves I typically prefer.

So I wanted to try Ysolda Teague’s Blank Canvas pattern, which claims that women who don’t typically look good in raglan sweaters might prefer the look of the modified raglan shaping used in her pattern. A traditional raglan yoke is shaped through a series of decreases or increases (depending on which direction you’re knitting) where the sleeves and the torso connect. These decreases/increases are worked at an equal rate across the sleeve and torso, and are usually worked at a consistent frequency, to basically create four straight lines that run diagonally from the underarm to the neckline. The yoke of Blank Canvas switches up the traditional raglan shaping and instead has you decrease across the sleeve and body at differing rates and also changes the frequency of decrease at different points in the yoke to create a raglan line that more closely follows the physical contours of the arm and shoulder. And I can now verify that this kind of shaping does, indeed, look a lot better on we narrow-shouldered-and-busty types who don’t look good in a traditional raglan.

I followed the instructions for the size that most closely matched my upper bust measurement and the fitting through the shoulders is spot-on. This method of shaping the yoke isn’t quite as simple and straight-forward as working a traditional raglan, but Ysolda’s pattern directions are very clear and easy to follow. Now that I’ve worked with the pattern, I feel like I could easily adjust the shaping to accommodate different weights of yarn. I’m looking forward to playing around with this raglan construction more in the future. While I followed the instructions for the yoke shaping and the sleeves, I determined my own cast-on numbers, worked out my own shaping through the body, and added my usual 3” of HBDs. I also swapped the pattern’s crew neck for a deep V-neck. The yarn I used is Berroco Vintage DK in Neptune—it’s a color that says “spring” even if the weather around here doesn’t agree.

The view from our front door last Wednesday. Taken during my “Spring” Break.

There are a couple of other things that I’ve learned from this project:

  • Because I modified the pattern to create a deep V-neck, I worked all of the raglan shaping back and forth rather than in-the-round as the pattern specifies, and this  meant having to work some of the decreases from the wrong side. This turned out to be pretty easy, and it’s a good reminder that I can decrease on wrong side rows whenever I’m knitting flat if I want to—something that opens up possibilities for figuring out rates of decrease in the future.
  • This pattern uses a different increase method than I’ve worked before. I usually work a M1R/M1L, while this pattern uses lifted increases (which are explained at the end of this Knitty article). I was a little worried about how these increases would look in the final product, but they create a very neat finish. The best part is that I think it’s a lot more intuitive to figure out how/when to work a left or right-leaning decrease than it is with the M1R/M1L business. I plan to continue using lifted increases in the future.
  • Finally, I wanted to tweak the fit at the back of the sweater since I don’t think I’ve been using quite enough back shaping. However, I couldn’t decrease on the back any faster than I’d been doing or the fabric would start to bias. So after looking at some other people’s projects on Ravelry (which is a nice way of saying that I spent a lot of time studying other people’s backsides), I decided to add a second dart halfway between my usual decrease line and the edge of the back of the sweater. I decreased an additional half inch on either side (removing an extra inch of fabric overall), and I’m really happy with the result. I’ll definitely be working that second set of darts in the future.

I want to keep expanding my familiarity with different sweater construction methods. I want to try making a circular yoked sweater (perhaps the Van Doesburg Pullover from the Spring issue of KnitScene?), and I’m also intrigued by the top-down method Andi Satterlund uses in her patterns. Do you have a favorite sweater construction method?