January 23, 2016

9 Back to the Basics: Rowan Options KAL with Amy Herzog

Back in November, when Rowan announced it would be having a garment KAL, I gave a sigh of relief. I needed a break from endlessly modular home decor!  The Rowan Options KAL was designed by Amy Herzog -- you probably recognize her name from the Custom Fit program she developed. For that, you key in your measurements and you get a pattern shaped the way you want, based on a swatch gauge of any sort.

The Options KAL does have a Custom Fit version, but I decided to try the free Rowan pattern to see how Amy puts her designs together. The options were a Striped (or Not) Cardigan or a Textured (or Not) Pullover:

I decided on the striped cardigan, so I could play with the color palette of the new Rowan yarn Pure Wool Superwash DK. Wait -- did you just feel some déjà vu? Yes, this is the new DK weight version of the Pure Wool Superwash Worsted from last year's blanket KALs. Also note for those of you confused -- the word "superwash" has been added to both names, but it's still the same yarn.

My palette was Black, Steel and a tonal blue-green called Marl. Man, I love Marl!

The yarn is very similar to the Pure Wool Worsted -- not too scratchy, but not incredibly soft. It pills a bit, about what you'd expect from the way it is spun. I did find the black to be really hairy though -- you might be able to see it on my close-up photos. Little grey/white hairs.

Part of the KAL included videos of Amy describing different elements of her design, you might want to check those out, even if you aren't doing this particular pattern. One of the things that intrigues most people is that she doesn't use bust measurement for sizing -- she uses the circumference of the underarm -- right up in as close as you can get. ;)

To pick a size, I first tried to get the gauge -- but no matter how I tried, I got 21 stitches instead of 23. Because Amy recommended 2" of positive ease, I thought the 35.5" size would work. It did in that I got a 2" ease out of it (39" finished underarm), but really the cardigan is too big for me. The body is fine, giving some ease to wear over something bulky -- but the shoulders are clearly too wide. See that blip when I raise my shoulder?

Oh well, I guess that's what CustomFit is for, lesson learned for next time!

Some notes about the pattern. The striped cardigan was apparently only striped in the front, but the pattern didn't make that clear. DON'T WORRY if you want to stripe the back, the contrast color yarn quantities are sufficient.

Also, if you want to do the striped version, I would recommend not carrying the contrast color yarns up through the main color. It makes the seams too bulky and some of those colors could show through.

I'll blame my shoulder problem on my size choice, but one thing that really didn't work out was the bottom of the sleeve. The increases started way too fast and gave me a bell at the end.


First, I used mattress stitch to take in the bottom seam to where I wanted it.

Then I used my shiny new birthday gift, a serger, to easily cut the yarn and bind the edge at the same time.

HAHAHAHAHA, no. "Easily", really Dayana? That failed miserably!

Ohhhhhh, crap.

So out came the 80's New Home to the rescue. I needed to sew REALLY close to the seam now, because I had cut the yarn and it was unraveling! My moment of brilliance was to take out the zipper foot -- that allowed me to get right in there close to the mattress stitch seam. I'll be using the zipper foot for non-emergency steeks from now on.

Two rows of that machine sewing and then some trimming of the yarn! Phew, that was a close one. :D

See my Finally, Knitting With Black on Ravelry

And now for some me news. The me news isn't good, though. I've got elbow tendinitis. You know, a part of me thinks that every knitting blogger has to have an injury post eventually -- but I was hoping to escape that blade. I think that my tendon is weak from crafting, but that it was the Maine Fall necessities of leaf raking and wood hauling that did me in.

So, I'm off knitting for awhile. It's not the worst thing ever because oh my god! There's other stuff to do in this world, who knew!

So far last week:

1. Exercising almost every day
2. 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle
3. Reading (found some old Patricia Cornwell mysteries)
4. Machine sewing (denim cardigan for the man)

I'm actually rather proud. Maybe we all need an "injury" now and then, hey?

December 27, 2015

5 Ready For Hitchiking Again -- A New Thumb For My Winterland Mitten

These are the quintessential winter mittens. I mean, look at that pastoral wintry scene! Don't you just want to see how warm that fire is inside, and lounge with a book and hot toddy by your side?

As you can see, I marked one thumb of my Winterland mittens by Wenche Roald with the year I made them.

Four sweet years of hard, relentless wear... I biked in these mittens, sweated in these mittens (thus the red bleeding into the white), stacked wood in these mittens. They didn't have that "spare me I'm handmade!" fate... they were my utility mittens. Why? Because they were just so warm (a seriously intense gauge) and such a slim fit. They didn't get in the way of anything!

However, the thumb eventually couldn't take it.

The wool I used was from a farm in Poland, dyed goodness knows when, of mostly unknown provenance! Needless to say, there was no nylon anywhere near that yarn (if you want socks and mittens to last, you need some nylon in the mix).

Luckily, I had saved leftover yarn, and it was time to make a-mends! Always do this, my friends. I'll often give away or sell the remainder of my yarn after a project BUT I always keep a small ball of each color to do repairs. Believe me, it has saved me countless times.

First I charted out what the thumb looked like and when it started decreasing. I suppose I could have re-downloaded the pattern, but lazy.

Then, I threaded one end of a circular through the right leg of every stitch in the row on one side...

...and then the other.

Then I cut off most of the top of the thumb (leaving a good record in case my chart was wrong)...

...and unraveled until I had everything cleanly on my circular, ready for using magic loop.

A bit of knitting and voilà! You can see how bright and white the new yarn is, haha. No matter, I love this reminder of what the mitten has been through, and the new life it will surely have in Maine!

See my Nicolas and Sonya In the Night mittens on Ravelry

And now for some HOUSE UPDATES! The long summer, fall.... and WINTER(?!) of our deck renovations are finished! First it was the screened porch and some of the deck. Then we realized we should just bite the bullet and do all of the deck when we installed the mudroom. That's her on the right, isn't she the sweetest thing?!

The concept was this: Install the mudroom onto the house as a no foundation/no insulation addition. Post and beam styling, open rafter ceiling, large plate glass windows, french doors and a black metal roof. Tiled flooring with a heated undermat as well. All the materials were chosen so that it could double as a sunroom in the winter, and happily, it easily reaches a delicious 72 or more on a cold sunny day.

Let's start from the inside of the house! This is the view from our hallway, which used to have boots and shoes strewn all about.

We shingled the inside of the room, like we did in the screened porch. This is a nod to the classic houses in Maine, covered in gorgeous (but a bitch to maintain) cedar shingles. We're basically pretending that the outside of our house is not vinyl siding while being inside our additions.

The ceiling is so lovely...

...the tiles are faux wood. We need to decide if we'll have a low table in front of this window, not sure if a plant would make it at night.

The French doors take up one whole wall. These will probably be difficult to open when a pile of snow dumps on the deck! But we decided to deal with it, after all there are only 3 other doors AND a window you can use to leave the house if necessary.

The deck is made of gorgeous douglas fir, a splurge. We stained it even more orange than the fir, because we really wanted to maintain it's unique shade as long as we could. (All wood grays out over time in the sun, but in different tones).

In the Spring we get to have some landscaping fun! We're pretty wiped out cash-wise, as you can imagine. Barring disasters (which of course WILL happen), the next big expense will be our closet re-design. Did you know we still have all our clothes in wardrobe moving boxes?! Can't wait for that next step!
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