Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sweater update and "Knitting Architecture"

Sometimes, knitting is like pulling teeth. Nothing works. You start, you stop, it sucks. You can't get the stitch pattern right or the stockinette puts you to sleep or you knit the first sock and decide there's no possible way you can ever make the second. You're just stuck.

But other times, it's all easy. It's a happy dog on a sunny afternoon getting a belly rub. The knitting floats on a breeze, skis smoothly downhill, and flows like a river. Ahhhhh.

I'm fortunate; my current sweater adventure is turning out to be a joyous experience. Here's the latest picture of the back of my Memories from Maine cardigan aka the Cape Cod Cardigan from Marilyn King. 

How much fun! It's a complicated sweater made easy. The top-down construction, which starts with a little rectangle saddle shoulder, blooms quickly into an entirely cabled cardigan. I will blog more about the construction in a future post; I want to get the sleeves done first.

Meanwhile, I've got a stack of new knitting books on my desk to tell you about. Today's offering: Knitting Architecture - 20 Patterns Exploring Form, Function, and Detail by Tanis Gray. In this book, the author uses the architectural design principle of "form follows function" to create beautifully knitted garments and accessories. My favorite: the King's College Pullover which, as Tanis says, evokes "the vaults, buttresses, and ancient archways of Gothic buildings... this structured pullover by Mari Muinonen is wearable architecture." You'll be delighted to know that this design comes in sizes up to 60-3/4 inches.

One nice graphic design touch: Tanis provides companion photographs that show the inspiration for the design. This is not the photo from the book, but it will give you a sense of what I'm talking about. Interesting, isn't it?

Besides sweaters, Knitting Architecture offers mittens, skirts, socks, and shawls, including this stunning Hotel Tassel Wrap by Asa Tricosa. I love the mesh design element and the sophisticated, sleek art nouveau feel. This shawl's inspiration comes from the Belgian Hotel Tassel, designed by architect Victor Horta. Again, I love seeing the inspiration behind the design.

Sigh. Time to get back to work. But tonight, I'm back to sublime knitting. I wish you an entire lifetime of sublime knitting.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My new sweaters

We must be heading into the holiday season because I've just finished a red sweater and have now started a green one. I promise not to wear them together!

This week, I finished my Red Rondo and am pretty happy with it. It's the first time I've worked with Cascade 220 and I'm impressed, mostly by how well it blocks up. My only issue is that the red yarn bled like crazy during the blocking. It didn't effect the sweater or the other colors, but the two white bath towels I used to squeeze out the extra water are now permanently pink.

As you can see, I decided to forgo a button band and insert a zipper instead. I like the look, including the simplified line down the front. My only complaint is that the zipper is a little stiff. I may take it out and insert one with smaller teeth. We'll see how anal I end up being.

With this sweater, I used a variation on the shaping that worked well. I usually do princess seam shaping, as shown in the Bartok's Tunic I finished earlier this year. This shaping removes extraneous fabric and gives me a better fit. Usually I do two sets of shaping, one below the waist and one above.

But with the Rondo, I moved the upper shaping to the side seams. This removes the line that points to my boobs but still gives the same fitted effect to the bustline. I like it, at least for this sweater.

With both of these sweaters, I've gone back to a longer length. This has been a challenge for me over the past few years. I see the benefits of wearing sweaters that stop before the widest part of my hips, but this also means that my belly roll shows. I hate that! I find the longer sweaters much more comfortable to wear than sweaters like this, for example, something I made but have never worn.

With my Rondo, I also used more ease. Recently Julia Farwell-Clay mentioned to me that not all sweaters need to be fitted closely to the body, and I think she's right. I still don't like big, shapeless sweaters, but not every sweater needs to be shrink-wrapped to my body either. I knitted Rondo using this sensibility. I'm happy with the fit even from the back, although if someone could find a magic sweater that eliminates my mighty derriere, I'd be much obliged.

Now that the Rondo is finished, I've started on a new sweater that I'm very excited about; I call it Memories of Maine because I bought the yarn there on vacation. Tom and I stayed in mid-coast Maine for an absolutely sublime week of R&R.

During one foray, Tom carted me two hours south to Halcyon Yarns in Bath, Maine. I walked in to find endless floor-to-ceiling shelves with yarn galore. Woo hoo! But next to the cash register, the staff had just finished setting up a display of a brand new yarn called  Harrisville WaterSHED. The colors are OMG gorgeous. Harrisville describes the product: "soft-spun, minimally processed, cushy super-heathered woolen yarn." Exactly.

I promptly bought every single skein of green in the joint; they even went upstairs to recover one skein that had been snatched by the photographer to be photographed for their upcoming catalog. It's in the photo below.

I started looking for a pattern before I finished the Rondo and decided on Marilyn King's Cape Cod Cardigan. I wanted to make a traditional Scottish cabled sweater to celebrate my newly discovered heritage. As described on the Rav pattern page: "Knitted top down from the saddle shoulder, this cardigan features modified drop-shoulder sleeves- also knitted from the top down. The cable pattern is easy to memorize- the featured cable is simply offset to create an over pattern. Size adjustments are made by adding reverse stockinette stitches between the cables, so the design is well balanced in all sizes. Front and Neck bands are picked up and knitted."

I knew my new yarn would be perfect for this pattern. I loved the swatch right away, as well as the thistle buttons I found at Knit Picks (KnitPicks sells some great buttons, btw).

I've made good progress in just a couple of days of knitting. The cable pattern is indeed easy to memorize. I like the saddle shoulder construction, too. I knit two straps and then picked up stitches along the long side of one. Then I cast on stitches for the neck and then picked up stitches from the other band. Then I knitted downward in pattern to the underarm. I then picked up stitched on the other side of the strap and knitted downward for the right front of the cardigan. Note: no seams for you anti-sewers!

I was hoping to have my Rondo done by Thanksgiving - and now I'm hoping I can have Memories of Maine done by then, too. After that, my conundrum begins: which sweater do I wear to my family's gathering? This is what's known as a good problem to have. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rolling along

I'm not quite finished - I'm working on the button bands - but my Red Rondo is very near the finish line and I'm loving it.

My cardigan version fits well, too. I made some adjustments to my fitting methods with this sweater. I'll give you details after I block the sweater and get some pictures of me modeling my creation. But I've made yet another Julia Farwell-Clay design that I love. She truly rocks.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Once a year, Tom and I pack up our lives and venture north to our beloved New England. I may not have been born there, but I possess the soul of a New Englander. We're spending this week in our favorite home away from home, a beautiful little cottage on the Penobscot River in Maine. All I can say is ahhhhhhh.

The only joys in a long car ride are that Tom always drives and I always knit. This has given me ample time to work on my Red Rondo. I'm finally ready to start the colorwork, thank God. I've literally been knitting stockinette for MILES.

I'm hopeful I'll be able to finish the sweater this week - we'll see if I can do it while I'm relaxing with my beloved. So far, SO good.