It’s winter, the time when all good knitters get to work and churn out the knitwear. I’ve been watching a newly-discovered podcast, “Fruity Knitting” on YouTube, while working my stitches. The wintry weather outside makes creating inside an awfully satisfying occupation.
But wait, late last week, our northeast Ohio temperatures hit 75. Many people had the same idea I had. Get out there and enjoy the fair weather while you can. One of my Facebook friends posted a video of her early morning walk around her neighborhood. That prompted me to post photos from my walk around town that same morning.
Yup, its 7 am. The sun is just rising and folks are driving to work. This is the downtown area of my small, northeast Ohio community. It is centered on a village green where in olden times, sheep and cows grazed. Below are some of the buildings on the green.
Now, there were once many churches right on the green but now, only one, Christ Church Episcopal, remains in its original location serving its original purpose.
The others have been repurposed to be the Spiritual Life Center and the town hall.
Spring is here in northeast Ohio. This morning was possibly the last morning cold enough to persuade Greg to don his Lopi sweater for a photo shoot. His is the third and last Lopi of the season to come off my needles after a winter-long jag of Icelandic yoked sweaters.
It all began when my son and daughter-in-law visited Iceland for their honeymoon last October.
They both bought Icelandic yoked sweaters while there. When they came for Christmas, I drooled over their sweaters. That pleased them no end because they had brought home Lopi yarn and the pattern book for a Christmas gift for me. Of course, I wanted to make more than the original gift of wool would allow. The Nordic Store was really quite happy to sell me more yarn to make more than one project.
I got right to work and made Hela for myself. I think the light green is the only color from the original gift of wool.
Foyle’s Pullover from Customfit by Amy Herzog delivers on the promise of a sweater that will take me to the grocery store, on a hike, to work, to the library. But wait, I work in a library and I frequently walk to work! This sweater has been my go-to sweater this January on the coldest of days. (I could walk to the grocery as well, but usually have more to carry home than I am willing to tote).
I was sold on the Clara Yarn Shetland 1.0 when it came out last year. A dk weight, it knits up easily. 100% Shetland wool, it proves to be remarkably soft, but I do wear a cotton knit shirt underneath, not only because of the lace “Arches” pattern, but also because there is scratchiness. I think that is more than made up for by the toasty warmth of the fiber.
This was my first pattern written by Customfit from the measurements I supplied. The pattern was true to my specifications and the instructions were clear and concise. I followed the option to knit it flat and after seaming the shoulders and the side seams, I worked the set-in sleeves top-down with short rows. For this part, I followed the instructions from Kristenlynnea‘s Knitionary blog post “The Perfect Fit:Sleeves”. One other item about the fit had me curious. Amy puts waist darts in the back of this pattern, but not in the front. I’ve noticed a bit of excess fabric in the fack of many of my sweaters and perhaps this would solve that problem. Unfortunately, I made the sweater with a slightly loose fit, so the back is still not fitted the way I guess Amy intended. In fact, if I were to make another, I would shorten it and go for a close fit.
All in all, the Customfit process seems a great way to order a pattern that is designed for you. Give one a try, being sure that you submit true measurements and that you have carefully considered what kind of fit you want.
Like many knitters, I have quite a stockpile of yarn. Some yarn I have purchased in quantities sufficient for a sweater. Other skeins I have purchased one of, just to see how I like working with the yarn and because the color compels me. One rationale is that, like an artist, I need to have a palette of colors (and fibers) from which to work. This year, I promised myself I would knit only from my stash. I would resist temptation and slowly whittle down my stash.
Stash Buster Number One – Chevron Mini-Dress
The Chevron Mini-Dress in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of Vogue Knitting seemed to hit all my hot buttons. It was fashion-forward in a retro way. The model was knit in pinks,oranges, and reds which never fail to catch my eye. The yarn called for is Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima, a DK weight cotton for which I had a good substitute, Tahki Cotton Classic. The only stumbling block was that I had 4 colors – an ivory, 2 shades of green, and indigo. The pattern called for 6 analogous (or adjacent to eachother on the color wheel) colors. I used the weighted random stripe generator to create a stripe pattern that might not look too amateurish.
The pattern works from the hem up and I wanted to work from the top down. If I ran out of yarn, I wanted to decide whether or not to make this tunic longer by buying more yarn. In the end, I did buy one more skein of ivory which pretty much matched my original ivory and being separated from the older ivory by other stripes, seemed to blend well.
I worked on this all summer.The finished product looks quite different from the model nad yet, it still seems like a throwback to the 1960’s. The most remarkable thing about it is that the Cotton Classic from my stash was probably 15 years old!
Stash Buster Number Two – Quadri
Von Hinterm Stein published Quadri in September 2014. What I love about this is that it is a contemporary rendering of the shawl, light as feather, double sided, and employing simple squares for pattern. I learned a new technique, Navaho knitting, to make the triple-stranded squares with the one strand of the working yarn tripled while knitting. There are many demonstrations of this technique on YouTube.
On an impulse I had purchased a 1500-yard skein of Filatura Di Crossa Centolavaggi from a Ravelry designer. That is an amazing length and look at the cake it made!
This travelled around with me all summer and into the fall. The whole 1500 yards fit nicely into my knitting travel pouch. The finished Quadri made a perfect retirement/birthday/Christmas gift for Diane.
One Step Back
Alas, I am but one persuasive article away from purchasing new yarn. I read so much knitting literature – books, magazines, and blogs – that I put myself at risk of scuttling my stash resolution almost daily. And who could be more persuasive on the subject of yarn than Clara Parkes? She offered a one-time Shetland 1.0 yarn in undyed colors through her website. I couldn’t resist the uniqueness of the offering and purchased 5 300-yard skeins. The yarn is now on the needles as Foyle;s Pullover from Customfit by Amy Herzog. Temptation wins…for now.
Thomas Edison once said that “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. If you don’t believe it, take a look at this lovely book by Felicity Ford. In the introduction to this little masterpiece, she states that her “work is about finding and celebrating a sense of place through the gorgeous, bodily mediums of knitting (that we wear) and sound (that we live in)…a knitted record of paying attention to and being present in to my immediate surroundings.” She goes to great lengths to describe both the inspiration and the perspiration process that results in her briliant stranded knits. You will see that her knitted art is created using that very proportion (give or take a few percentage points) and she has named the whole thing “the Knitsonik system”.
Her inspiration is found in everyday objects such as biscuit (cookie, to us Americans) tins, buildings, factories, roadways, brewpub signs, books, electronic devices, and just about anything that catches her eye. She photographs what she sees around her and studies those photos as the source of both platettes and patterns. In Felicity’s eye, anything is can transformed into stranded knitwork.
Once she has examined something, she selects a palette of yarn colors, sketches out patterns and charts them, considers shading of background colors and shading of pattern colors, and how the two interact. She knits a long swatch as she plays with her patterns and her colors, reviewing and revising as she goes. This goes on until she is satisfied with her patterns and colors. The finished swatch is then blocked to use as a sampler that can be applied to an actual knitted garment. Although this is the “perspiration” phase, Felicity seems to delight in the sweating of the details!
The patterns she creates are included for use by the reader as well as adaptations of them to knitted garments such as fingerless mitts and leg warmers. So, if the reader does not feel lead to create his/her own designs, there are instructions for reproducing Felicity’s. But, if you want to try your hand at designing stranded colorwork, you have some great instructions laid out for you.
Other notable features of this book are beautiful photographs, “Top Tips”, and “Further Reading” suggestions. There is also a recipe for Felix’s Fabulous Fruitcake because Felicity used the fruitcake as inspiration for one of her designs! Finally, if you go to Felicity’s website at knitsonik.com, you can hear recordings of sound that inspires her knitting.
I loved this book for the inspiration and for the affirmation that I receive from it in my creative processes. If this is 99% perspiration, then it looks pretty good to me. “Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook” should be on every knitter and designer’s bookshelf.
I have made garments from Annie’s patterns before. Years after their making, they still attract people and garner compliments such as “You made this?” and “This is gorgeous”. I smile and mention this fantastic designer, Annie Modesitt.
Knitted Wraps and Cover-Ups is Annie’s latest pattern collection of fantastic designs , interesting in their construction and use of techniques. These are one-of-a-kind garments. Annie is doing what she does so well, making garments with an interesting “twist” in them. Not only does my inner knitter want to see just how she does this, but it also wants to wear these pieces.
For example, take the Cross-Body Wrap & Scarf. It is one continuous piece of fabric with undulating cables and small honeycombs, knit in one piece and twisted before seaming to be worn as a wrap or as a cowl.
Or, consider the “Fitted Lace Off-Shoulder Top” meant to be worn over a camisole or tank dress. Worked in the round from the bottom up, the front lace panel widens to shoulder width. The short sleeves are knit separately and joined with the body just below the shoulders for a lovely neckline.
There are a range of skill levels, from beginner to advanced. In the beginner category, we have the Basketweave Bolero which is beautiful, easy to make, and with a little extra detail in the edging treatment that sets it apart from other easy patterns. Another easy pattern is the Lace Cuff Shrug with the same extra detailing that will make this a pleasure to work and wear. The advanced patterns, such as the “Stained Glass Circular Jacket” or the “Log Cabin Cardigan”, will challenge the experienced knitter, but are accompanied by very explicit instructions that will really help the knitter along.
Each pattern has both written instructions and charts, including color where applicable. Not only that but the charts are printed large so there is no need to go to the enlarge function on the copier to get a readable version.
Whenever I see an Annie Modesitt design, I think to myself, “I’ve got to see how she puts this one together.” My second thought is usually, “I would love to wear this”. I just read her latest publication, Knitted Wraps & Cover-Ups. It does not disappoint!
Top down patterns are everywhere. I decided to learn by doing, after reading some in Barbara Walker’s classic “Knitting From the Top”. I chose patterns from 3 different designers, Morrocan Nights, Cornhusk Pullover, and Tulipgarden. An additional 2, Autumn Bloom and Ottoman Crescent were created by me.
I’ve learned that in top-down knitting, the key measurements are the shoulder width and the distance from the top of the shoulder to the underarm. If I don’t get these two initial measurements right, then the garment will not fit.
Moroccan Nights by La Maison Rililie looked like a quick knit and a satisfying garment to wear. I wanted to learn more about top-down knitting by the doing of it, so I chose this pattern. I’ve got to say that the sleeves are so tight on my skinny arms that they drag the neckline almost off the shoulder. I’m pretty sure this is the fault of the knitter and not of the designer!
The yarn, Manos Fino, feels good in the knitting. Thanks to Helen at Ewes d’Bleu Yarns of Distinction for guiding me to this lovely fiber. Because it is hand dyed, each skein is-slightly different. I should have double-balled the entire project. Instead, I double-balled beginning at the stockinette section of the lower body. Lucky for me, this worked because of the textured stitch pattern in the upper body disguising the slight difference in dye lots between the skeins.
The 6 snow days we had during the rampaging winter months in 2014 gave me time to work on my own design. Again, I wanted to learn more about top-down garments and specifically, yoked necklines. So, using the Ottoman print (found on Pinterest with a link to the original site) as my inspiration, I graphed the yoke.
The yarn is Sunday Knits Nirvana, Eden, and Angelic and I do love the softness of her product. It really is ‘angelic’ or’nirvana’ or like being in ‘Eden’ as this fiber slips through my fingers. The wearing of it is equally lovely.
The actual finished garment hit a few snags. I stupidly made the yoke too long (about 10″). To remedy, I cut the top off and added the neckline ribbing! I decided to knit a few more top-downs from other designers as part of the learning process.
Every once in a while, I see a pattern that I feel compelled to make. Even though it wasn’t top-down, Ágnes Kutas-Keresztes’ Cornhusk Pullover, from Interweave Knits Fall 2013, had to be made. My lovely husband picked up the yarn at Knitters’ Mercantile on his way home from a business trip. Knit in the round from the bottom up til the underarms, the back stitches are put on a holder, the sleeves are cast on and the rest of front of the garment is knit up to the shoulders and and then worked from the shoulders down the back. At least this part is top down! The sleeve stitches are cast off. The lower back is grafted to the upper back and the sleeves are seamed. Voila. Project completed. I love the ombre effect of Kauni Wool 8/2 Effektgarn, especially since there is a nice big band of my power color, orange.
I went to New York in June and did my own personal tour of Manhattan yarn shops. String was my first stop. The place was buzzing with knitters sitting around doing their thing. A Prism trunk show had Windward Layers in the color “zinnia” that would not let go of me. I bought enough for a sweater and made up my own top down design. This time, I made raglan sleeves and a v-neck.
Still wanting to experience more top-down knitting, I happened upon a call for test-knitters by HintermStein. I had never done a test-knit for anyone. HintermStein’s designs looked nice to me and the results of other knitters seemed successful so I asked if I might join. Jutta was very kind to allow me a late start on Tulipgarden. I realized that while my yarn stash is extensive, I did not have enough worsted-weight yarn in any color to make a complete sweater, even in my small size. In Annapolis, Maryland, I happened upon a new yarn shop, Yarn Basket. The owner kindly steered me to Berocco Vintage in a caramel color, perfect for this test knit.
Tulipgarden is really well-written. As the designer states, the sleeve cap fits perfectly. Of all the top-down knits I’ve made this year, this shoulder and sleeve-cap are the best. I’ve worn the sweater many times now and always receive compliments.
It has been a great year for knitting top-down. More to come in 2015.