September 8, 2015

10 When a Pattern Name Is the Perfect Description - Comfort by Kim Hargreaves

I wanted something comfortable, so I went out on a limb and picked a pattern called Comfort! That sentence could probably be this whole blog post (though clearly I am incapable of leaving it at that), because this piece is absolutely As Described. Ok, maybe it should have been called Extreme Comfort, to really nail it.

I always struggle photographing a Kim Hargreaves piece, her photo shoots are a lot to live up to. Comfort is a "coatigan" from the book Still.

If you look at the shoulders, you'll see the beautiful aura that the unique combo of Rowan Kid Classic and Rowan Kidsilk Haze make together. In person it is rather astonishing how the colors mix, as well.

Rowan Kid Classic is my all-around favorite yarn (yes, OF THEM ALL), but I had never thought to hold it together with a fuzzy laceweight. I mean, there's already mohair inside of it, did I really need more? But WOW, whatever it is, the silk from the Kidsillk Haze, the extra fuz, this piece turned out to have one of the most luxurious fabrics in my knitted wardrobe.

I would say, "you have to try it NOW" except this combo is very expensive. Ravelry has conveniently calculated that 3,920 yards of yarn were used for this cardigan (oh my)! Even using my go-to site for the best yarn prices (Jannette's Rare Yarns) 12 balls of Kid Classic and 10 balls of Kidsilk Haze comes out to a pretty $235. Is it worth it for this garment, in the end? Yes, a resounding yes, if you can budget it. I am sure I will be using it non-stop at work because it is gorgeous, classic and best, freakishly warm.

The original garment is held open.

But I'm not a fan of cardigans with no closures. Yes, there is a belt -- but a note of warning, there are no instructions for belt loops to hold them on! (Visit my Ravelry page for a pattern for those.) A belt without buttons is too finicky for me, too much adjusting all day. I decided to add buttonholes.

The plastic buttons are vintage and fab, and I found them at a wonderful button vendor at the Fiber Frolic in Windsor, Maine. I can't believe how close the color matched!  Two were faded, so I alternated them down the front.

Now, if you're like me, you change all your knitting patterns. Well, I got into some serious trouble changing this one. One thing I love about Kim Hargreaves -- she really thinks ahead.  Where she starts her stitch patterns in the series is important. How it will match up once you get to the multitude of raglans?!  IMPORTANT.  Oops. I had to make one sleeve THREE times and ended up fudging it.

Also, this is a moss stitch ribbing which makes deep grooves in the fabric. Take note that where you make the seam in the pattern because it will make a difference in the way it drapes.

The other great thing about this pattern is the shawl collar. Conveniently, it is made while knitting the fronts, by continuing to knit a strip at the end that gets eased in around the neck.

For those of you making this, don't worry if the strip seems short. It's important that you match the excess fabric in the shoulders so that they hold nice and firm without droop.

And let's not forget about the fun part... pockets!

While the pattern is so well put together, I must admit, it was seriously tedious. It took months in front of the TV, as it wasn't really fun enough to do without watching something. The result is a dream to wear, though, so it you'd like to jump in -- just keep thinking of the blissful moment when you can finally wear it. Oh, and WORD TO THE WISE: use rubbing alcohol to remove pine sap from rocks, ugh!!

See my Extreme Comfort on Ravelry 

And now for a lot of house updates (scroll to see the best for last)!!

First, we had our first set of guests for the summer's end, with my in-laws visiting from Geneva, Switzerland. Thank you, Yvette and Claudio for coming to our little Utopia, we loved having you here!

Second, our kitchen island was finally installed. As in moored, as in no more tabletop moving while I leaned on it, oh that was annoying.

Before the island, and also before the gas stove.


This extravaganza started in February and was delayed because of the butcher block.  Our third iteration of it still has a significant damaged spot, but I just couldn't go through another round.  It has transformed our kitchen and best of all -- it passes the yarn winding test!!

Third, the garden is on its last legs! We put a hummingbird feeder out late, but it was a big success. Within an hour we had a full out war going on between a red one and a green one. Most of them are gone now (the leaves are turning already!), but yesterday a runt that wasn't looking so good took a nice long drink.  Hope you make it little guy.

The hydrangeas look so healthy and tall, but never made blooms. What should I do for next year?

The russian sage is tall and a lovely blue, and I have a few holly berries.

Finally, our screen porch is being built! I was a bit scared today because they had to cut a big hole in the wall to insert the door. It was a huuuuge WOW moment when I walked in, there is so much more light in the living room! That sliding door faces west.


After painting the wood paneling.

We are extending the deck to have access from the outside as well.



From the inside.

And why do we have stairs down to the meadow? For our future sauna, of course! I can't wait till I can give you THAT update.

August 12, 2015

22 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

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