Pattern Radar March 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Pattern Radar post.  It is rainy, grey and blustery outside my window this morning – just the right day to be thinking about little spring sweaters.  New Spring patterns seem to be published almost daily right now; here are seven that have caught my eye.

This is the lovely Violetta by Vibe Ulrik Sondergaard, published in Rowan 57 (all links in this post are to the Ravelry project page).

© Rowan Yarns, 2015

© Rowan Yarns, 2015

Here is the back view:

© Rowan Yarns, 2015

© Rowan Yarns, 2015

I love the swingy lines and casual vibe of the Swingback Hoodie by Amy Gunderson, published in knit.purl Spring/Summer 2015:

© Interweave Knits

© Interweave Knits

I am a big fan of the patterns coming out from Shibui Knits.  Here is a lovely example, called SS15 Square by Shellie Anderson:

© Shibui Knits

© Shibui Knits

Here is a close-up of the side panel:

© Shibui Knits

© Shibui Knits

Kidsilk Haze is one of my favorite yarns, and I love the way that Marie Wallin uses it in Philomena, from Rowan 57.  My wardrobe could use one in every colour.

© Rowan Yarns, 2015

© Rowan Yarns, 2015

I love Drift, by Kristen Finlay, for Skein Designs.  (I just happen to have some beautiful Skein yarn in my stash.  Hmmm…..I see you, Drift.)

© Kristen Finlay

© Kristen Finlay

If polka dots are your thing, you can’t beat the lovely Lus by Mer Stevens for the Pom Pom Quarterly, Sring 2015:

© Ana Mercedes

© Ana Mercedes

When the talented Lori Versaci designs for Shibui, you know the design will be a knockout.  Here is her Mix No. 28:

© Shibui Knits

© Shibui Knits

To really appreciate the design, you need a close-up of the neck detail:

© Shibui Knits

© Shibui Knits

This is something of a drive-by post as I am immersed in writing papers this weekend, but its been fun to take a break and dream of Spring!

Knit one, crochet two

I am going to come right out and say this:  I like knitting much more than crochet.  Now, please, dear Readers, hold off on the lynch mobs.  I’ve seen tons of beautiful crochet, and I’ve also seen tons of horrid knitting.  And, back in the day, I dabbled in crochet myself, even once making a beautiful filigree blouse in fine white cotton.  It must be said, however, that both aesthetically and as a creative process, I prefer knitting.

A few months ago, when I had the very good fortune to go to the Headquarters of Rowan Yarns in Holmsfirth (you can read about it here), I was given a goodie bag.  In that goodie bag was a new pattern collection by the fabulous Marie Wallin, called Filigree, Collection 3, subtitled “10 crochet designs for women by Marie Wallin”.  Five of these designs are made by combining knitting with crochet.  And I mean this not in the sense that I normally see, in which a knitted sweater has a crocheted edging, but rather in the sense that for each of these patterns, both knitting and crochet feature as a design element.  The combination of the two modalities is an intrinsic part of the pattern.  And I have to tell you, these designs are gorgeous!

I’ll show you my three favorites here.  To look at the others (including the five crochet patterns which are also lovely) go the the Ravelry page for this booklet, or to the Rowan  page.  Here is a lovely cardigan pattern called Buttercup:

© Marie Wallin, 2015

© Marie Wallin, 2015

I tink this is a charming mix of sweet and sexy.  I can imagine this styled so many ways. It’s a nearly perfect summer cardigan.  Even so, I must admit to liking the next one even more.  Here is Anemone:

© Marie Wallin, 2015

© Marie Wallin, 2015

I love how this is so crisp and sharp but still girly and pretty.  Regular readers will know that I have a thing for patterns that are architectural – as soon as I saw this pattern I thought about iron filigree bridges.

In order to demonstrate to you what I meant I did a search for “iron filigree bridge” and found this lovely photo:

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This is a photo of the Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale, which was built in 1779 and is “the oldest surviving cast iron bridge in the world.”  The photo and quote come from a post from the blog The Happy Pontist: A blog from the UK about Bridges and Bridge Design.  I have only read this one post, but you can bet that I will be giving this blog a serious look.  Many years ago, I used to work on Wall Street and live in Brooklyn and I would walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get to work.  I just love a beautifully designed bridge.

Is it just me or can you see this too?  Buttercup is, well, buttercup-y – all soft and flowery, but Anemone is sharp and edgy with  hard edges, but incorporated into a soft package.  I love it.

I think my favorite, however, is this one, Tulip:

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The use of crochet in this pattern feels very innovative to me; it is interesting and fresh.  The Knit rowan site writes:

Designed by Marie Wallin using our beautiful soft matt cotton yarn Summerlite 4ply (cotton), the main section of this top is knitted in a cable and lace stitch with an unusual welt section made up of double crochet strips.

If you can, zoom in on the crocheted section.  It is really a cool design.  The design makes me think of a modern, crisp take on a 1920s flapper dress.

I love these patterns.  In fact, I love them enough to overcome my crochet bias.  I am thinking that only the amazing Marie Wallin could do that!

When to put your knitting down

I have been a little obsessed lately with the Rowan Kidsilk Eclipse yarn I bought up in a pale, shimmery gold shade called Virgo.  It knits up into a barely there, transparent fabric that is fluid and molten.

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For months, I have spent most of my weekends and evenings studying for the MBA.  This leaves little time for knitting and other relaxing things.  Last weekend, I downloaded an audiobook I had been waiting impatiently for, and spent a day in utter, decadent luxury – sitting in bed, listening to my book and knitting away.

I am knitting a sweater in piece work; knitting bottom-up, flat.  I realize that most of my sweaters the last few years have been knit in-the-round, which means I try them on frequently and know that they fit.  Last weekend, my book was great, I was in the zone, and I kept knitting up the back piece of the sweater, merrily making waist decreases till I hit the waist, and then increases up to the armhole. I am not really following a pattern and was mostly operating on auto-pilot.  At some point, I took a small break, stretched the piece out to admire it, and realized that it looked small.  Really small.  Not going to fit me small.

I spent at least an hour taking measurements – measurements of me, of the piece, of nearly every sweater that I owned – then I tried on nearly every sweater that I owned, re-measured everything, and concluded that, sadly, I needed to rip.  I had cast on enough stitches, but had added too many paired decreases, at too sharp a slope.  I needed to rip out 11″ of knitting.

Well, it goes without saying that ripping is sad.  It is frustrating.  It is discouraging.  Anyone who has ever ripped out mohair will know – it is also a royal pain.  Ripping out lace-weight mohair that is plied with a metallic thread – not nice.

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I ripped and ripped, sighed a bit, put the stitches back on the needles, put my headphones back on, and began once again to knit.  I knit six inches, and had finished my third pair of decreases when I stopped for a minute to count my stitches.  It is easy to lose a stitch with laceweight mohair – its always best to count occasionally.  I found, however, that I had too many stitches.  Twelve too many stitches; how could this be?  Smart readers may have already figured it out – I made three sets of paired increases instead of decreases!

Aarrgghh!  I had to rip out another six inches!  I don’t know whether it was the book, which I could NOT stop listening to, or the yarn, which was hypnotizing me.  Probably both.  But the result was hours of wasted knitting, copious amounts of ripping, and the killer – a flare-up of my repetitive stress problems.  (I have deQuervaine’s tenosynovitis; which I blogged about here.)  I had to forego knitting for the next five days to try to settle it down, and will have to take it easy for a while to keep it under control.

The moral of the story:  Do not be seduced by great yarn and a great book;  Know when to put your knitting down!

Spring Projects

Yesterday was a gorgeous day; the kind of day that said “Spring is here!”  The sun was shining.  There were lambs in the fields.  The outdoor cafes were filled with happy people.  And I got spring yarn in the mail!

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This is the yarn that I special ordered weeks ago, in the cold bite of winter, anticipating spring kntting.  It is Merino Silk Fingering by The Uncommon Thread, a blend of 50% wool and 50% silk in the shade called Citrus.  It is mouth-wateringly yummy, sunshine-y and zesty.  It makes me happy.

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A few posts ago I was lamenting the fact that I had nothing on my needles; I was on the prowl for some new projects.  Now I have three projects for spring.  Yesterday, Doug photographed all my new yarn just for you.  See how gorgeous and rich the orange is in the sunshine?  The secret is that the wool and the silk take up the dye differently, giving amazing depth to the colour.  And look at the beautiful Rowan Kidsilk Eclipse – I love how sometimes you can see the metallic sparkle and sometimes you can’t.  See the hint of sparkle in the above photo?

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And here they are mixing with the heathery grey of the Brooklyn Tweed Loft.  Three pretty yarns, three spring sweaters (all for me)!  So what am I making?  The Loft will be Escher – a lovely lightweight geometric cardigan designed by Alexis Winslow for Brooklyn Tweed.  I am knitting it in the same lovely shades of grey  (such a shame this beautiful phrase has been co-opted) as the pattern photo:

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

I love the above photo; it makes this cardi look so light, soft, cozy and stylish.

I ordered the orange yarn specifically to make Aisance, a beautiful spring cardigan designed by Kirsten Johnstone:

© Carrie Bostick Hoge

© Carrie Bostick Hoge

© Carrie Bostick Hoge

© Carrie Bostick Hoge

I love the idea of knitting this in a bright pop of juicy orange.  The silk blend will give it drape and swing and fluidity.  It’s the perfect cardigan to wear with a pretty summer dress.

What about the Rowan Eclipse?   I’ve been busy this week, knitting away:

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I am pretty captivated with the yarn which literally knits up light as air.  It is a chameleon, changing in every light.

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But what will it be?  Shhh….it’s a secret!

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Ravelry made me do it!

A few weeks ago I was perusing the Rowan pages on Ravelry, and came across a discussion about discontinued yarns.  A number of Ravelers were expressing dismay over the discontinuation of Rowan’s Kidsilk Eclipse.  Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Kidsilk, in all of its incarnations.  Here is one of my favorite projects ever, knit in Kidsilk Haze:

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And here is another, knit in Kidsilk Spray (now discontinued) for my lovely daughter, Emma:

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But I have had my head down lately, studying and working hard, and Kidsilk Eclipse has not hit my radar at all.  I had not even heard of it, and now it has been discontinued.

I then came across a comment from Leah, who writes the lovely knitting blog Fashion: Yarn Style.  She said:

“I have never seen anything to equal the gold shade of Kidsilk Haze eclipse! I am knitting a pullover in it right now, and every time I pull out my knitting a ton of people gather around! The yarn is that beautiful.”

I thought to myself “If Leah thinks it is beautiful and unique, then it must be true.”  I have absolute faith in Ravelers.  Then, I thought to myself “I wonder if I can still find any of it for sale here in the UK?”  The first site I found had sold out, but then I located some at Derramores.  And then, somehow, mysteriously, my credit card was in my hand, and I ordered a dozen balls!  How could that have happened?

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The yarn arrived and it is lovely and gossamer light.

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The colour is hard to describe.  The gold metallic thread is very gold and shiny, but only in certain lights; otherwise it is quite muted.  But the mohair thread is a lovely, pale champagne, more beige than gold, and provides enough subtlety for the gold to bounce off of.  It gets more beautiful, but also more interesting each time I look at it.

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Of course, one cannot receive 12 balls of Kidsilk, be it Haze or Eclipse, and not want to instantly cast on.  This is definitely going to slow down my progress on my Escher cardigan, but I plead knitigating circumstances here: Ravelry made me do it!

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Knitting, Interrupted

I have just finished up a few intense weeks of work and study in which there was no time for knitting.  I mean that in the broadest sense of the word.  It was for all intents and purposes a period of Knitting, Interrupted.  No knitting, no reading about knitting, no writing about knitting, no daydreaming about knitting.  Even in those moments when I was idle, I was too tired to move, much less knit.  My thanks to all those who left lovely comments on my last post and on Ravelry about my Lightweight Pullover; I was happy to read them.

Despite these past few weeks, I do have some knitting progress to share with you from before my knitting blackout.

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As you may recall, I had picked out my next project, the very cute and architectural cardigan called Escher, by Alexis Winslow for Brooklyn Tweed:

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

As with all projects, the first step was the swatch.  For this sweater, I needed to match a stockinette stitch gauge and a 2×2 ribbing gauge.  I started fooling around with some swatches very late (around midnight) on a Sunday evening.  I remember this because it was Superbowl Sunday, and here in the UK the coverage started around that time.  I also remember it because I had a question about the gauge and I wrote an email to pattern support at Brooklyn Tweed.  When I woke up the next morning, I discovered that my email had been answered within two hours of sending it, ON A SUNDAY, and DURING THE SUPERBOWL.  There is no denying that is exceptionally good service.

My question was: “How can you get the same gauge in rib with a smaller needle, than you get in stockinette with a larger needle?  This seems to me to be physically impossible:  ribbing always draws in the stitch count, even when blocked; knitting it with a smaller needle should make it even tighter.”

The answer was: “The ribbing is blocked more aggressively to achieve the same gauge as the stockinette stitch. The ribbing will be more flattened out than it normally is.”  Message to self:  Be more aggressive.

One of the more interesting features of this cardigan is the triangle at the back which is formed with short rows.  Here is a progress shot as I was starting the triangle:

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The short rows are interesting and the way they shape the fabric quite mesmerizing.  It is also pretty fast knitting.  A warning, however:  it is very easy to do the first side of the triangle, but you have to pay attention on the second.  I kept miscounting and had to rip back twice.  Finally, I marked each wrap-and-turn with a removable stitch marker so that I could see where I was.

In the Notebook section of the Brooklyn Tweed website, Jared Flood has a series of interviews with BT designers.  The interview with Alexis Winslow is really interesting and it has a lovely discussion of the design process behind Escher.  Alexis says:

“Escher was definitely a challenge for me. My original design concept didn’t have that beautiful V-shape–it was straight up and down like a stripe. I knitted the sample, and realized that I could achieve a much better fit if the armholes angled downward a bit. I went back to my sketchpad to work out solutions. There were a lot of different ways I could do this, but I decided the central triangle would be the most elegant way to solve this problem.”

from: Designer Conversations: Alexis Winslow; Brooklyn Tweed notebook (link above)

Please check out the interview.  I love that it shows some of Alexis’ sketches of the original design idea for Escher – before she added the triangle to the back.  Alexis has recently written her own post about this design, which you can find here, which has even more info on the design and its development.  She also has photos of it buttoned, which are missing from the Brooklyn Tweed shots.  Anyone interested in the design process or in this lovely garment should read these posts.

Here is the most current progress shot, taken this morning:

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I really love the way that the short rows change the direction of the knitting.  It makes the piece very striking and fluid.  I am nearly done with this portion of the cardigan and have come to the realization that two-thirds of this piece is ribbed.  If you don’t like ribbing, this may not be the project for you.  I am going to look at it philosophically: all of that aggressive blocking will help get rid of my frustrations.  First I’ll knit myself into a Zen-state, and then I’ll pin the crap out of it.  More proof of the health benefits of knitting!

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Turtleneck in Tart

Last week I finished knitting and blocked my turtleneck based on Hannah Fettig’s Lightweight Pullover pattern.  I then procrastinated for a week before weaving in the few ends.  Finally, this morning, I was able to wear it!

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I love how this turned out.  The fit is perfect.  This might be because I tried it on every few inches and knit it to fit.

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I mentioned in a previous post that I was considering making the seed stitch border at the hips a bit longer.  I ended up doing this, taking out the cast-off border and adding half an inch of seed stitch for a total of 2.5 inches.  The pattern calls for ribbing at the cuffs and hem, but I really like the look of the seed stitch; I think it gives the sweater a bit of a dressier line.

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I knit this with Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in Tart.  I wet blocked it, giving it a good soak.  I poured a cup of white vinegar in the water to help set the dye.  It definitely ran – if you are going to use Tart in colourwork I strongly recommend you wash all the dye out first.  I put it through a gentle spin cycle in the washer (inside a bag for delicate wash), and then laid it out to dry.  I didn’t need to pin it as the size was already perfect.  A warning, however, Tosh Merino Light does grow lengthwise after a soak – the sweater is two inches longer than pre-blocking.  Luckily, I was expecting this and the length came out perfectly.

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I am particularly pleased with the fit in the shoulder and arm.  I mentioned in a previous post that I didn’t follow the numbers in the pattern, but just winged all of the math.  This method works well when knitting top-down in the round since you can try it on as you go.

Most knitters will alternate skeins every row when using hand dyed yarn to avoid pooling.  It turns out that I am terrible at doing this when knitting in the round; the join always looks messy.  Besides that, it is awkward and I hate doing it.  For this sweater, I only alternated for an inch or so every time I joined a new colour.  I was lucky and didn’t get much pooling.

I love the fact that this sweater is so versatile.  I wore it above with dressy navy slacks and heels.  Here it is with a skirt.  (It would look better with a navy,brown or black skirt, but you get the idea.)

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Once I finished posing for the photos, however, how do you think I styled it?  Well, how else does one wear a jumper to go walking in the muddy English countryside?

Answer:

  1. You put your hair in a ponytail.
  2. You wear your wellies.  Wellies are essential; trust me.
  3. You borrow your husband’s way-too-big-on-you coat.  Why?  Why have a husband if you can’t wear his clothes?

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Now I’m off to find a muddy field to trek through….

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(By the way, I asked Doug to look at this post and he said “You should have named it Tart in Turtleneck instead of Turtleneck in Tart”.  He deserves to have his clothes stolen!)