October 6, 2014

10 It's All In the Details -- Laszlo Cardigan from Graphic Knits

I always need a really good reason to knit something that is all in stockinette.   I soooo love to make my knitting life difficult (and this blog is becoming a testament to that), but sometimes a simpler knit catches my eye because the final product has more than stockinette.  It has details -- lovely, carefully thought-out, keep-Dayana-interested-or-else details that make the pattern a true delight.

This is the Laszlo Cardigan by Alexis Winslow, a top-down seamless picture of elegance from her new book "Graphic Knits".  The book is released this month, woohoo!

I became an instant fan of Alexis's work and especially her attention to detail, when I discovered her fabulous earflap hat pattern, Arbuckle.  I wear it every day of my Montréal winter, I highly recommend the pattern.  Read my blog post about it here.

I was lucky enough to be chosen to join a small group of bloggers who received Graphic Knits a little early.  We all picked different patterns that we liked best and are now releasing these posts to celebrate the book's release -- scroll to the bottom to see a schedule of other posts in our little blog ring!

There were obviously many tempting patterns to choose from, but as I mentioned before, what caught my eye about Laszlo was the details:

First there was this great big sailor collar!  I had never made one of those, and I saw that it was constructed in a clever way with increases and short rows.  Fun.

I made some tiny little mods -- I thought the transition from the last short row into the ribbing was a little bumpy on the original, so I knit an entire row without short rows to smooth the transition.  Secondly, and this is something I always do, I used an end to whip stitch the edge of the button band ribbing to add bulk so that it would meet better with the collar ribbing.  Ribbing always wants to accordion back on itself, and these types of edges are never very square without a little help.

The inside of the collar is all in reverse stockinette.  If I do up the button at the end of the collar a little of it shows, which I actually like.  However, I really recommend you do the following to perfect the look:  to change from stockinette to reverse stockinette you have to transition from picking up in knit to picking up in purl.  You may find that this leaves a blip of the wrong color showing.  Just make sure to duplicate stitch over it until it disappears!

A second fab detail is the button placket cuffs.  Yes, that's a lot of buttons to sew, but it's worth it because it adds such a nice dressmaker's detail to the rather simple cardigan.  I did use one less button because I made my sleeves too long (I always typically overcompensate!).

Finally, there are the sweet pockets.  Now these are optional because they are sewn in later, but who doesn't love pockets?  I made them bulge out a tad more than in the original, just for the "I-actually-use-these-pockets-look."  Don't you just love the little button closing it?

A note about the buttons: they need to go on two different colored fabrics, the light colored sleeves/pockets and the dark colored button band.  In the original they only show on one color.  So, I tried hard to find a button that would show up on both fabrics, and I'm really happy with that choice.

In the pocket pic above, you may have also noticed the little decreases running down the middle front, just like the seam of a fully fashioned blazer... so nice!  See what I mean about details??  The decreases are also cleverly placed in the back.

I used Rowan Pure Wool Worsted in Satin and Clove shades, and it came out really nice and soft after soaking and blocking.  I think this yarn is growing on me after the epic afghan I finished earlier this year.

If you are thinking of making anything from the book (and you should scroll down to see my other faves), I have advice for you:


They are so useful.  I only learned too late of a fabulous way of doing a tubular cast-off on my 1x1 ribbing using kitchener stitch.  You just grab every knit stitch on one needle and every purl on another, and then sew them shut as if it were the toe of a sock!  Unfortunately, the tip box was on the page after the body ribbing and button band so I missed using it there.  However, I did "catch" it in time for the cuffs.  I LOVE THIS TECHNIQUE!

This was a lovely knit, I really enjoyed it.  If you like top-down seamless sweaters, this is a good one, and all of the little details will keep your interest high.  (Do make sure to check the errata available, for the print copy.)

If you'd like to learn more about Alexis's process designing the patterns for Graphic Knits or see what she is up to, please go visit her blog on Knit Darling.com and become a follower!  Here are some other knits from the book I particularly like:

See the Germander Shrug on Ravelry

See the Tanager Shrug on Ravelry

See the Orly Cardigan on Ravelry

And better, why don't you visit some of the other bloggers in our little release party?

Up now -- Heather Zopetti Designs -- Woodstar Mitts and a Graphic Knits book giveaway!
Oct. 9 -- Stockinette Zombies -- Germander Shrug, Rockland Cardigan and Sweetness Pullover
Oct. 9 -- Knitscene/Knitting Daily Blog -- Barbet Turtleneck
Oct. 15 -- Polkadot Overload -- Bowerbird Wrap

See my Laszlo Cardigan on Ravelry

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September 24, 2014

13 How To Adapt Shrinktastic Denim Yarn for a Non-Denim Yarn Pattern

I am always confused when people rave about denim yarns -- you know, the ones that shrink significantly after you wash them?  How on earth is that a good idea?!  Especially for someone with monkey arms, like moi.  Oh wait, do I hear a knitting dare?  did you just dare me??  Ok, I'm doing this.

Rowan has carried a denim yarn in one form or another for many many years.  The forms change because the mills and sources change, and denim yarn lovers really weren't thrilled with the last version "Denim" which was discontinued last year: too soft, too floppy, no good denim feel.  "Original Denim" replaced it this Spring and I got me some.

You can certainly feel the difference.  I know because I've got them both in front of me as I type this -- and the new one is strong and sturdy, like a pair of workman's Levi's.  The old one?  It's so soft that it's that pair that is going to rip a great big hole in a very compromising location... tomorrow.

Now, there aren't a gajillion patterns out there for denim yarn: specifically, patterns that account for the rate of shrinkage of the yarn after washing.  The best source by far is Kim Hargreaves's Denim People, and you'd never be able to tell it was published 10 years ago, the designs are brilliant and timless (that's the magic of Kim Hargreaves, of course!)

But Rowan also just released a booklet, Denim the Next Generation, filled with patterns by Martin Storey including my fave, Penzance Cable.

I really didn't want to do anything that complex though, and anyway, I find long-sleeved cotton sweaters to be too heavy to wear.  I wanted to be able to take *any* worsted weight yarn pattern and adapt it for denim.  So I did me some math on the gauge difference (28 rows changes to 32 rows after washing), and I'm going to give you the secret.

Let's put this in the context of a pattern:  

1) After every 7 rows of stockinette stitch, knit one extra row.  Then knit 7 more, and knit another row.  Repeat.

2) If the pattern says to knit 50 cm, knit (50cm + (50cm x 0.125), or 56.25 cm with Original Denim.  An easier calculation for this is: 50 cm x 1.125 = 56.25 cm.

I've been told by Rowan that stitches other than stockinette may shrink differently, so if you want to tackle a non-stockinette pattern, you probably want to make a swatch and wash it to really figure out the difference.  But I heard that knitting dare ringing in my head, so I decided to do something wild and crazy with a ton of different stitch patterns and show you what happens.

I chose a pattern from the Silkystones book, which is another worsted weight yarn released by Rowan last spring. This is Cascade by Marie Wallin.

It's awfully oversized, so I thought this would be ideal in case it shrank in all directions.  But to be honest, I removed a ton of stitches in width because it just looked gigantic: I went from 109 sts per side to 89!  I also followed my rule to add 1 row for every 7 knitted, adding them easily in the reverse stockinette sections.

I started this in Maine, where I discovered that those pockets in foldable chairs actually have two functions.

I also learned that denim yarn makes your hands blue!  It's easily washable and it takes a good stretch of knitting to start seeing it -- but be aware.  This also translates to washing your piece *alone* for the first time, ok?  It's going to be in hot water and it is going to bleed like a smurf.

I decided that all this would be the most informative for you if I showed you how it shrank.  So I laid the finished piece onto cardboard and traced its outline.  Then I washed it in the hottest water I had (which wasn't even the recommended 60C) and paid $2.50 at the local laundromat to tumble dry the darn thing, as we do not have a dryer in the house.

Holy crap, it had shrank like mad in all directions!  Not only that, the dye had really run off, and some of the stitches were almost white!  Let me tell you, this was not what I expected.  However, what I absolutely loved was how the stitches suddenly popped out of the top.  I mean, every stitch was tight and defined and looked perfectly performed.  OHHHHH>>> THAT'S WHY PEOPLE LOVE DENIM YARNS..

But please don't despair if it seems to have shrank too much!  Guess what?  You can get a lot of your size back if you wash in hot water but AIR DRY.  (The laundromat was horrific, I was not ever going back.)

Phew!  I must say this was a fun experiment.  Although, I might have been crying if it wasn't wearable, who knows.  Actually, on the crying side, I spilled strongly steeped Earl Grey all over the lower front of the thing shortly after all of these photos, and oh the irony: you wash denim garments repeatedly just so that they'll get this lovely fade to them (due to the overdyed nature of the yarn), but the moment you spill any color on it, it sticks like nobody's business.  There is NO getting it out, sigh.

If you like or hate denim yarn, tell me!  And tell me if I've scared you off or made you curious, lol.  

See my Cascade in Original Denim on Ravelry

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