Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Little Christmas Sparkle

First, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Channukah and I'd like to send out a wish for Peace on Earth in 2009!

Since this is a knitting blog, I will move right to my latest FO, "Agnes & Joy," finished just in time to wear to Christmas dinner tonight.

I modified the pattern to lower the waist to my natural waistline -- the pattern calls for it to be just below the ribcage which seemed odd.

I also made the sleeves full-length as in "Joy" but used the cuff design from "Agnes."

I sewed on grosgrain ribbon to stabilize the buttons and had to add a couple of snaps to ensure the front stays closed.

I knit the sleeves plain (without beads) except for a bracelet row of beads on the sleeves and cuffs and a extra 3 beads above the right cuff.

Finally, the buttons are made of beads that are similar to those knitted into the body. The beads are very subtle and are hard to see except when they catch the light.

I really like this design and enjoyed knitting it. I admit that at first I didn't understand the instructions to cast off at the waist and then pick up the stitches again in the next row, but as you can see it leaves a pretty braid right at the demarcation between the moss and stockinette stithces.
The endless stockinette stitch on number 2 needles did get somewhat tedious by the time I'd started on the sleeves, but created a nice smooth fabric which suits the yarn.
This is a very lightweight sweater, appropriate for wearing over a blouse.

Here are the details:
Pattern: a hybrid of "Agnes" and "Joy" both by Kim Hargreaves
Size: Medium
Yarn: Rowan felted tweed in watery (a little over 8 skeins)
Next up: Vine lace top-down cardigan from
Have a Happy Holidays everyone!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Psychedelic Sweater

I'd like to say here, at the outset, that I don't normally wear bright colors. I usually wear dark and muted-colored clothing and try to project a professional image in my work attire. I say this because my latest sartorial creation is uncharacteristically exuberant. The back story is that I've been quite taken with Kauni effektgarn in the rainbow colorway. At the same time, I found a beautiful brocade pattern by Kim Hargreaves and decided to combine the two. I'm still not sure if it was a completely compatible marriage of yarn and pattern.

The original pattern was for a vest and you can see that in the shaping, which I do like.

The process of putting together the sweater began with cutting the steek ...

... and then designing a sleeve pattern. Again, this was taken from a vest pattern, so I had to figure out what design to use for the sleeves. I decided to take a small motif from the pattern on the front of the body which you can see here:

However, making the rest of the sleeves all black did not work. I thought it would tone down the vivid colors of the sweater, but it just looked as though it was from a completely different sweater. So, after this false start, I decided to combine the flower motif from the front with the stripes from the back of the body. I also decided to use a "Siamese" or "twin steek" in order to keep the color changes as consistent as possible across the two sleeves.

Fraternal twins, separated at birth:

Here are some further project details if you're still with me:

The pretty leaf design in the front blended together too much and I don't really care for the combination of green and orange, so I used double-stitching to highlight the pattern in blue.

Meanwhile, the buttons bring out the red.

A bientot!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

So Far, So Good: Works in Progress

I've finished the back of Agnes/Joy and I'm really liking how it is turning out so far. I wasn't sure about the combination of tweed and beads, but the added sparkle seems pretty. I may skip the beads on the sleeves, however, to tone down the evening look so I can wear it to the office.

In the meantime, I was also inspired by a Jillian Lewis design to create an equestrian-style knit jacket. Here is her design as found on the Internet. Her version is rumoured to retail for $700.00!

My much less costly version is taking shape here:

A few mistakes have occurred during the course of the shaping, but rather than rip back and lose the creative momentum, I'm pushing forward.

The yarn, elsebeth lavold Classic AL baby alpaca and merino wool blend, is a dream to work with!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Agnes & Joy

I am becoming a huge fan of Kim Hargreaves' knitting designs. In perusing many of her books and designs in magazines, I've noticed that she frequently tweaks and modifies the same basic design for different yarns and seasons. I feel this frees me up from slavishly following any one of her particular patterns and gives me implicit permission to mix and match her ideas and design elements. Accordingly, I've taken two of her very similar designs and decided to combine and modify them to fit my particular preferences.

"Agnes" is an older design published in Rowan Magazine 35 (Spring/Summer 2004) made up in a cotton yarn with bracelet length sleeves. "Joy" is a newer design published in Vintage Knits and features a tweeded yarn with a chevron design done in beads knitted into the body of the cardigan. It's an interesting idea to pair beads with a tweeded yarn - evoking two different moods - so I thought I'd try it. However, Danish damask (knitting a pattern into stockinette stitch using purl stitches) drives me crazy! Although it looks pretty, I constantly lose my place and get frustrated. So, forget it. I will use a simple placement for the beads following the placement of French knots in the Agnes pattern. (I also could not bear the idea of making a zillion French knots.) So, to my mind this is a happy hybrid of two Hargreaves designs. We shall see how it turns out.

Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed Sport 5 ply (12 wpi) in "watery" colorway

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Original Knitting Inspiration

Today I suddenly remembered what set me on the path to knitting.

To set the stage: I attended high school in a coastal Northern California town in the 1970's. During that difficult period of adolescence when I was trying to find my identity, I developed a deep admiration for a girl in my class named Jody. Jody had a unique and very cool sense of style and self-assurance that seemed beyond her years. She didn't fit into any of the typical social groups or cliques. She was a star tennis player, but not part of the "jock group." She was intelligent and made good grades, but was definitely not a "nerd." And with her white blond hair and blue eyes she was strikingly pretty but was not a cheerleader type or a "surfer chick." Jody just seemed to float above the typical and banal social dramas that set the stage for life in high school. She had that mysterious aura of charisma one associates with movie stars.

One chilly winter morning she came to school in a beautiful, very colorful turtleneck sweater that she wore with great panache. I imagined that she looked as though she'd just stepped off the ski slopes of Austria (think Audrey Hepburn in the opening scene of Charade). Anyway, I overheard her telling someone that she'd knit the sweater herself from yarn scraps in her mother's knitting basket. It had turned out to be much too big for her, so, (she continued nonchalantly) she'd thrown it into the washing machine to felt it. Now keep in mind, teenagers in the '70s did not exactly view knitting as the coolest of hobbies. And yet, at that moment, I felt inspired to go home and create my own unique knitted fashions. Thirty years later, I'm still at it!

BTW, the last I heard Jody had become a renowned sculptor / painter living in Soho who sells her art to wealthy connoisseurs from around the world. (Wouldn't you know it?)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An Orchid for Nancy

I pushed myself to finish this sweater yesterday and, after 6 hours of non-stop sewing, here is the final result:

It's a Kim Hargreaves' design called "Orchid" from her Nectar collection. (Also the same design as "Beatrix" in her Thrown Together collection and "Darcy" in the Heartfelt collection). This one is made up in Rowan purelife organic cotton naturally dyed in the Logwood colorway.

In this close-up of the neckline you can see the array of buttons used.

My friend Nancy (the giftee) picked up these vintage buttons at a crafts fair and asked that I use a random assortment. No two buttons are alike on this sweater!

Because this was a gift, I tried my very hardest to do a perfect job, but of course there were mistakes.

1. I messed up on the broken rib pattern while working the short row shaping on the back peplum. Did not go back and rip it out.

2. The buttonholes are a bit sloppy. I don't like the method of yo, k2tog -- I much prefer to cast off two stitches, then cast back on, then work the cast-ons the following row. Much neater looking.


Lessons learned:

1. I learned how to do mattress stitch. For me, I have to leave the loops small and pull the seam closed every few stitches or the yarn gets hopelessly stuck.

2. My bind-off is usually too tight, but I learned it's also possible to make it too loose. The neckline is bordeline floppy. Sigh.

3. I am a huge devotee of the single crocheted seam. I know, I know, it's bulky. But, it's quick! By the time I'm piecing together a sweater, I'm ready for quick!

Casting off until next time ....

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Color Me ... Turquoise

I can't resist fun little quizzes like this one which gives you the colors that describe your personality. My colors are green and blue which seems to fit pretty well. Given that I'm a therapist, the other parts seem to fit as well.

you are turquoise

Your dominant hues are green and blue. You're smart and you know it, and want to use your power to help people and relate to others. Even though you tend to battle with yourself, you solve other people's conflicts well.

Your saturation level is higher than average - You know what you want, but sometimes know not to tell everyone. You value accomplishments and know you can get the job done, so don't be afraid to run out and make things happen.

Your outlook on life is bright. You see good things in situations where others may not be able to, and it frustrates you to see them get down on everything.
the html color quiz

I know, I know, what does this have to do with knitting? Not much. But, I have been knitting away and the creative juices have been flowing as I design a sweater that is a hybrid of several I've admired. I don't want to blog about it too soon, however, before I find out if it's a success or not. Don't worry, apparently "I know I can get the job done!"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Daisy Buttons? You be the Judge

I'm knitting Orchid from Nectar by Kim Hargreaves for a friend who has a funky, retro sensibility.

Yesterday, I found these black and white daisy buttons in my LYS.

Question: Are these super cute and would totally make the look? Or, are they incredibly tacky?

Let me know what you think. Here is another look at the buttons:

I was also thinking of adding a thin cream-colored edging to the neck and front to complement the two tone look.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Rainbow Brocade

I've finally finished the body of the brocade vest, which I plan to turn into a cardigan. As you can see the colors are very vibrant. My husband refers to this as my "psychadelic" knitting.

I've edged the pocket tops with black wool and plan to do the same with all of the edges. I think I will add sleeves in black as well. For the sharp-eyed among you, you will notice a big mistake on the right-hand side of the front where the pattern doesn't match below and above the pocket tops. Oh well, it's too late to fix that now!

Next up: Steeking and edging.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Pop Quiz

There is an interview for the S.O.s of knitters circulating on the web. I found it here at Purl Diva: Knitters Are Sexy and traced it back through about 15 knitters, but not to the original source, so I can't properly credit her whoever she may be. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to interview my husband.

First, a little background information: About 9 years ago I knit him a sweater in cotton yarn. The yarn stretched and stretched and stretched until we laughingly referred to it as his "sleeping bag." It was eventually frogged.

Me: What is your favorite thing about my knitting?

Him: The quality of what you make.

Me: What is your least favorite thing about my knitting?

Him: It takes time away from me.

Me: What is something I've knit that you recall as good?

Him: Everything you've done in the past year or so.

Me: Do you think knitters have an expensive hobby?

Him: No. (Smile. I guess I've got him buffaloed on that one!)

Me: Do you have any hobbies?

Him: Yes. (No elaboration offered)

Me: Do you have a stash of any kind?

Him: You mean like my liquor cabinet?

Me: Have I ever embarrassed you by knitting in public?

Him: No.

Me: Do you know my favorite kind of yarn?

Him: No. (In all fairness, I don't really have a favorite.)

Me: Can you name a knitting blog?

Him: Well, there's "Knitters of America" (smile -- he means Ravelry)

Me: Do you mind my wanting to stop at yarn stores wherever we go?

Him: No.

Me: Do you understand the importance of a swatch?

Him: Yes. That's where you practice knitting the thing you're going to knit to make sure the compression and size are right. That's what you should have done before you knit my sleeping bag!

Me: Have you read Knitting Therapy?

Him: I have once or twice.

Me: Did you leave a comment?

Him: No.

Me: Do you think the house would be cleaner if I didn't knit.

Him: He laughs and says, "Yes!" (We often joke about our crimes and misdemeanors against Good Housekeeping Practices.)

Me: Anything else you'd like to add?

Him: No.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Experiment in Brocade

With this project I am attempting to stretch myself in terms of my knitting abilities. I'm experimenting with circular stranded knitting and colorwork. I'm trying to teach myself how to knit with a color in each hand, to weave in the ends, avoid twisted stitches, and notice the effect of different color combinations. It's a lot. But, I'm having fun, so the end result is almost beside the point.

So, it's a vest knit with a two-color brocade pattern that was designed to be knit in pieces in intarsia. I've chosen to knit it as a stranded pattern on circular needles with two balls of Kauni Rainbow (EQ) colorway yarn.

The pattern is a lot of fun to watch develop as the colors change and the non-repeating pattern unfolds.

The yarn holders are a little distracting -- they are keeping the pocket stitches "live" to be finished later.

The pattern was taken from an old (1992) Kim Hargreaves book.

Oh, BTW, did I mention it has a steek? (Eek!) Stay tuned as the fun continues ...

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Berry Happy 4th!

Here's a firecracker of a sweater for the 4th -- although it's obviously much too hot to wear it. It's already stored away for October. I love the soft hand of this yarn (Knit Picks Andean Silk in Hollyberry).

Project Details:

Pattern: Lily Chin, Knitters' Magazine Fall 2002
Yarn: Knit Picks Andean Silk in Hollyberry (55% Alpaca, 23% silk, 22% Merino wool)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On the Block

The front and back pieces are finished and blocking. I focused my blocking efforts on the seams so they will lie flat for sewing up, and left the gathered and ribbed areas unpinned and did not spray them with water. (I try not to block the life out of my knitting, after having done so in the past.)

For the first time ever, the measurements of my finished pieces lined up almost exactly with those specified by the pattern. A shocking development. It's amazing how a small thing like a gauge swatch can really help.

Now, on to the sleeves ...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Draping Knitted Fabric

Perhaps it's because I learned to sew before I learned to knit that I'm intrigued by the idea of creating knitted garments in a similar fashion to garments that are sewn from fabric. Lily Chin's design, "Ruched Magic," appealed to me for this reason. (Pattern is from Knitter's Magazine, Fall 2002.)

I wear the color deep red a lot and am a big fan of soft, comfortable things to put on my body, so I chose this beautiful KnitPicks' Andean Silk yarn in Hollyberry.

I've finished the back and am three-quarters of the way done with the front. Sorry, no pics yet. Look for a F.O. soon!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Saga in Stitches!

It's finally done! I put this aside for almost 7 (!) years. However, because I loved the pattern of leaves, I decided to commit myself to finishing it. "Commit" is probably a good operative word here as the steeking process nearly drove me crazy. Never having steeked before, I blithely created a steek by securing only one of the colors! What was I thinking? This gargantuan mistake had to be corrected by a lengthy process of crocheting, sewing, and creating a facing. I guess it was all worth it, as I do love the finished product!

Here you can see the pretty striping that was called for by the pattern when shaping the underarms. I don't know if you can tell, but the first repeat of the pattern is inexplicably shorter than the elongated versions higher up on the body. Did my knitting get looser as I went along?

Here is a close-up of the button placket and the sleeve design. One drawback to this pattern is it defies memorization. I literally had to check each stitch in the stranded body, and really struggled to remember the sleeve design. In the end, I gave up on the cuff design and skipped it. I actually think it looks okay plain.

Pattern: Poetry in Stitches, by Solveig Hisdal, page 160
Yarn: Hifa 2
Needles: US 1 and 2

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Knitting Fever

I have been knitting away feverishly in an attempt to finish up some projects so as to allay my guilt about wanting to start new ones. I finally finished the body of the Poetry in Stitches "leaves and vines" cardigan. Here it is saturated with water on my homemade blocking board:

Meanwhile the sleeves are coming along apace!

I couldn't resist trying out the Koolhaas hat, but chose the wrong yarn for it (Karabella Aurora 8). The yarn is much too sproingy for the cable pattern. The pattern actually gave me fits, but I'm determined to make another one with a different yarn and a nicer cable holder.

Given my frustration with the Koolhaas hat, I thought a Zimmerman watch cap would be just the ticket. However, I discovered two things in making these. One, my cast-on style is much too tight. And two, I don't think I decreased correctly as these seem to resemble prophylactics more than hats ...

However, I did love the brioche stitch. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Finished Object: Poetry in Stitches Cardigan, p. 54

Well, it's finally done! It was a relatively quick knit (3 months as opposed to 3 years)! I'm generally pleased with how it turned out although there is definitely room for improvement (e.g., I made the sleeves a bit too baggy). I was happy with the yarn I used -- I substituted Rowan cotton glace in maritime for the recommended Hifa yarn. I do worry about it stretching out, but the design of garter stitch from side to side should mitigate against this. Here are various views of my FO: