August 12, 2015

21 Vogue Knitting and How I Became A Knitter -- Leora Schlanger Cardi

It's official. I've returned to the (magazine) fold from whence I came and Vogue Knitting is back in my world! After finishing this very-most-awesome pullover from Fall 2014, I couldn't resist and moved right on to Leora Schlanger's #26 Cardigan from Spring/Summer 2015.

You see, while I laud Vogue Knitting for its role in my birth as A Crazy Knitter, my patience was tried for a few doozy years there, and I admit to letting my subscription founder.

Do you want to know the silly way I started knitting?  Circa 2004, while I was living in Manhattan doing my Ph.D at Columbia University, I meandered through the Union Square Barnes and Noble and came upon this odd section which I can only refer to as "seasonal". There I found shelves and shelves of plastic pouched knitting kits by Suss Cousins, a Swedish knitwear designer for Hollywood films.

Just finding this photo on Google is exciting!

Now, I was always that crafter kid in school. The one who fastidiously put together wooden dinosaur skeletons or slaved over paint-by-numbers (which turned out to be mostly religious Last Supper-y forgeries because the most complicated kits were always pious). And yet -- even though my grandmother knitted, I never thought to ask her how or ever really seemed to care.  I remember the slippers and dolls she made, I even remember her asking for a pattern and yarn to knit me something while she was in the hospital during her last days. THAT would have been an honorable time to start knitting, Dayana! Shameful I know, but I suppose so much good has come out of the influence of a mass-market book franchise that I should just accept the workings of fate.

That kit had horrible horrible instructions. In fact, I brought it on a small vacation that instead of ending in romance, ended up with me alone and obsessed, up till dawn trying to figure out the Ikea version of the knit stitch.

It was only when I got home and learned that the internet was --HOLY MOLY-- the most gigantic resource, that I was able to figure it out.  Well, sort of. I still knit my first Suss kit garment rong. The purl stitch is twisted the whole way through, yikes! That's how I learned my favorite knitting quip: "IT'S A DESIGN ELEMENT, PEOPLE."

(Ah, youth.)

After I had gone through 4 of the kits, I decided to strike out on my own and I meandered to the magazine section of B&N. There I spotted this lovely lady on the cover with a tank top that was going to be MINE.

VK Spring/Summer 2004

I used my best acrylic (let's save the start of my stash for another day, shall we?) and managed, having fixed my purl stitch.  My seams are atrocious.  My end weaving is abominable (the ends are actually coming out of each of those woven cords in the front).  But it was Vogue Knitting instructions at their errata-laden finest, and I loved every second of it.

Well, that was a long segué into my Vogue Knitting renaissance, wasn't it? Let's talk about why I had to cast-on #26 Cardigan (oh VK, how I love thy naming scheme) immediately.

First, I wanted to stash bust. When only half a sweater uses fair-isle, you've got a good chance to use that annoying intermediate amount of stash: too much for an accessory, too little for a sweater. That's the solid red crochet cotton.

And shhh I HEAR YOU, I know you are laughing at the clownish yarn that makes up the rest of it... it's kind of awful! But I was walking through (now defunct) Zeller's and there was a whole bag of the crazy stuff for $10, only because it had no labels. All I had to do was walk down the aisle with labelled stuff to ID it as the sketchy Bernat "Satin Sport Ombres". Ultimately, this yarn is really poor quality stuff. It fuzzes, fluffs, pills -- every word under that thesaurus section. The colors are outrageous, and of course it is space-dyed for wacky pooling.

ETA: Some of you have asked how I got my elbows and bust to match. You might be interested in my post on Planned Pooling. This yarn is space-dyed by a machine and therefore has a very predictable pattern.  Just start your sleeves at the same point in the color sequence and you are good to go.

The original uses Koigu. Beautiful gorgeous Koigu -- I knew I was not going to replicate the beauty of the original with this Bernat nonsense. So why do it, you ask? Well, I don't let crappy yarn get in the way of what I really love about knitting: the process. My spidey sense detected a fascinating construction, and I wanted to figure it out.  It didn't matter with what! Are you apalled?  You say, "All this work for a bad yarn?!" You know, if I did knit way less than I do, I probably wouldn't buy crappy yarn ever and make all my garments in the best I could afford.  But I am a little machine, and my budget and desire to make crazy things has to overwhelm quality in the end.  KNITTING IS JUST TOO MUCH FUN TO WAIT FOR A BUDGET.

I get it if you have a different outlook.

The Construction:  The body is 3 pieces like a normal cardigan, but the back piece is actually a wedge that increases steadily from a narrow strip.

This allows the front to have that great diagonal drape!

To make the drape even better, short rows are used at the bust.  My clowny pooly yarn really shows it off well.  And look, the pooling even matches, a miracle!

Now, if I stand this way perfectly (don't blow!), everything looks great.  But the major issue with this cardigan is the open fronts.  They are stockinette, so they just curl inward... severely.  This is the natural stance.

I did modify the color a bit, there is a strange reverse stockinette part to the bottom that I didn't like... I made it all in stockinette and doubled it over until the bust.   It didn't make any difference to the drape.

So in comes my trusty stitch marker. Someday I might add a button and a loop? Still undecided.

Other issues to think about: the collar is really floppy.  For some reason it uses a much bigger needle. It's a nice lacy look, but I really wanted a collar than would stand up on it's own. You may want to go small and pick up way more stitches (but you'll have to recalculate the short row shaping).

Also, the sleeves were GINORMOUS. I didn't notice that until I had knit the entire thing and was swimming in it. But look:

I ripped it out (except I kept the cuffs and grafted them on later), and went to my top down, in-the-round, picked-up sleeve method detailed here. Much better, my goodness.

This was a ragingly fun garment to make. I didn't see the Himalayas in the original pattern, but I see them now with my bright Nepalese colors, don't you?

I may be a clown on a mountain, but I'm a happy one!

See my Himalaya on Ravelry

July 27, 2015

17 Picture Perfect Purls -- The Byzantium Top by Irina Anikeeva

Let's take a moment to talk about dishcloths. Oh no, are you bored already? You've got that same glazed look I get when anyone talks about knitting dishcloths. Bear with me and blink that away because knitting dishcloths is astonishingly popular and there are 8,343 PATTERNS recorded on Ravelry!

Me?  I don't comply. To prove this to you, back in 2008 I joined the group called "i'd rather poke myself in the eye with a dpn than knit a dishcloth".

Truth be told, dishcloth patterns do something I really love: they make rather sophisticated pictures using just knit and purl stitches. Here are some whimsical examples:

Blubb Dishcloth by Barbara 8

Dishcloth Owl by Mamafri

Octopus Dishcloth by Mamafri

Happy August Everyone Dishcloth by Wineta

You'll see two things that all of these cloths have in common, 1) cotton yarns with excellent stitch definition, and 2) angled shots to successfully see the designs. While I was always tempted to join the fun -- I wanted to keep my eyeball intact too.

Mad Eye (crochet) by GothKnitty

So, of course, I jumped at the chance to test knit Irina Anikeeva's excellent new pattern "Byzantium Top".

Finally, purl pictures that are life size, geez! For those of you that don't know, Byzantium is the ancient Greek colony that They Might Be Giants forgot to mention in their famous song. (It was the predecessor of Constantinople and Istanbul). There are a lot of interesting Byzantine tile patterns, but I see a butterfly. Or an Aztec mask!

This is a top-down seamless tee that uses short rows to raise the neck and incorporate a dolman sleeve. It's very fun to make, especially when you get to the front to play with your purls. Of note, the purl pattern is used only every other row, so you get a break to zone out.

There's also a subtle scoop hem on the back that I really like.

To get my stitches to stand out, I dived into my stash of the classic yarn Rowan Cotton Glacé. This is a sport weight 100% mercerized cotton that is very tightly spun. You couldn't split this stuff if you tried! It was my first time using it and to be honest, it was a tad like knitting with rope. It's not very comfortable on the hands, but it still glides across the needles better than other cottons I have used (I'm just not a cotton fan, let's be honest). While it’s tough on my hands, it’s all for a good reason: the stitch definition is incredible and I can't see it ever wearing out, even on a swashbuckling Maine sailor!  Like me!  (okay, totally not me)

Take heed though: it wrinkles!!

Also, don't forget what we learned about dishcloths, that you can only really see the pattern in the right angle and shadow.


...versus this.

Before the hollyhock bloomed, with deer-chomped leaves!

This was really a good knit for the spring.  It's not an airy kind of tee, so it's suitable for the cooler weather we have in Maine.  Too cool for my taste... yesterday (July 26) was a high of 63F, ugh!

The only thing you can do in that weather is sweat work, so we stacked a cord of chopped wood.  It's my first time doing it, but I look forward to doing it again someday.  (A far enough away day, like, after my hamstrings stop self-combusting.)

It faces South (good) but there is no roof (bad).  We are trying a tarp roof method.  Check out our birch tree "paperweights"!

I am positive that you can look forward to some knitting pictures in front of this backdrop in the near future!

See my Byzantium on Ravelry


Before I go, I need to show you the 3rd of probably 4 waves of flowers in my garden.  We're getting to a point where everything that I showed you was unknown in the Spring has flowered, and tons of stuff that wasn't even there in the Spring is flowering now!

Please do feel free to ID in the comments, I am clueless!

My mystery hollyhock started as a merlot, but now is a deep pink, yum:

The "cherry" tree is so not a cherry tree:

Pale pink delicacies, like candied flowers:

Fuschia papery bouquets:

Yellow daisy like things but with dill-like leaves:

A totally different set of day lilies:

The russian sage is juuuuuust starting:

And so is this brushy thing:

Finally, my only addition, the Home Depot rose has 3 buds:

She should be a pretty one, do come visit again to see her in fully ladylike form!

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