better sweater

Aran Weight Sweaters

 

Clockwise from left to right: 1. Wainwright by Bristol Ivy, 2. Dressage by Amy Miller, 3. Samantha by Amy Miller, 4. Parapluie by Hilary Smith Callis, 5. Golden Wheat Cardigan by Veera Välimäki

Now that Epistrophy is almost complete (I know! It's on the blocking board right now!), I'm getting ready to unravel my next sweater for Project No. 8. Unfortunately the aran weight pattern options in my Ravelry Library are rather minimal right now, but I've selected a few that I think might work. Now I just need to unravel, determine the yardage, wash, pick a pattern, and get to knitting!

 

2014 TBSP Year in Review & Plans for 2015

 

I should have posted this before New Years but...Sibella...so today will have to do! Here's my 2014 knitting year in review and my pattern plans for 2015!

Projects: 1. Campus Jacket // 2. Hypatia // 3. James // 4. Acer // 5. Sibella // 6. Woodland & Palmyre

It was a great first year for The Better Sweater Project! I knit five sweaters--six, if we're counting Uniform--and two shawls. I learned some new tricks like short rows and the mattress stitch, and improved my cabling and lace knitting skills. I also learned two important lessons:

  1. Fiber quality matters! While I absolutely love all the sweaters I knit this year, there are some that I love a little more than the others. Acer (a wool/acrylic/mohair blend) and James (cotton/acrylic) probably get the most attention when I'm reaching for something warm. No doubt it's because they're so soft and comfy! That said, Campus became a closet staple this December as the weather turned cold and Hypatia got a lot of use in the spring and summer months since it pairs so well with dresses and tunics. Still, I wish C and H were a wee bit softer to the touch. This year I plan to be more choosey with the items I frog.
  2. Swatching is a must! So I know I say "always always swatch" on my DIY page because, heck, it's important! But often one to ignore my own advice, I rarely swatch...or rather, I rarely swatch properly. Instead I'll cast on 30 or so stitches, knit a couple rows, measure, make sure I'm within the gauge limits, and then get going. If the gauge is off I'll go down a needle or two without re-swatching and hope for the best. This has led to some pretty serious gauge shame and frogging. Sibella was one of those gauge disasters. I had nearly finished the body and a sleeve when I thought, "Hey, this looks a little loose." To my nonsurprise my gauge was off. Rip rip rip. This year I plan to swatch properly. Any resources on the subject would be greatly appreciated!

As for 2015, I am very excited to embark on new knitting adventures! Some patterns I'd like to tackle include:

1. Bressay Dress by Gudrun Johnston // 2. Backbay by Jared Flood // 3. Ondawa by Michele Wang // 4. Stasis Pullover by Leila Raabe

The Better Sweater Project has been a real gift to me this year. It has provided me with a sense of purpose when I've felt lost, and highlighted a resourcefulness I didn't quite know I possessed. It has allowed me to further explore my passion for knitting and transformed the way I look at the craft. I am so happy to have stumbled upon the wonderful world of recycled yarn and better sweatering!

Looking forward to knitting the Better Sweaters of 2015, transforming meh into yeah!

 

Finding the Right Pattern

 
Finding the Right Pattern
Finding the Right Pattern

1. Flex by Heidi Kirrmaier // 2. Naiad Tank by Meghan Jones  // 3. Ipsi by Jane Ellison // 4. Togue Pond by Pam Allen

Finding the right pattern for your yarn, especially harvested yarn, can be a bit of a chore. Even so, it's an aspect of the knitting adventure that I relish, despite the time it takes. Here's a glimpse into my process:

First, I go onto Ravelry and sort my personal library by yarn weight and type of pattern (e.g. sweater). If the results don't look promising, I turn to the general Ravelry pattern library. This can be incredibly overwhelming so make sure to use the filters (e.g. sweater, aran, woman, adult, etc.)! I then select patterns that catch my eye and add them to my library without purchasing (who knows, you might want to use them later for a different project!). I know this is not typical for Ravelry users, but I find it so much easier than favoriting as you can use all the sort filters later.

Ravelry
Ravelry

Next, I cull. I try to bear in mind the fiber of yarn I will be working with. Am I using an animal or a plant based fiber? How might this sweater sit if I'm knitting it with wool instead of linen? (That is a legit question I'm asking myself right now as I attempt to knit Flex with a wool/acrylic blend!)

Once I have three to six patterns that I like (the contenders for my current Better Sweater Project are at the top of this post), I pick my top choice and begin swatching. Remember, even if you use the weight of yarn suggested by a pattern that does not necessarily mean that your yarn will produce the same gauge as the pattern. If my swatch doesn't match up to the gauge indicated on the pattern page, I try using a different needle size. If this doesn't work out, I move on to another pattern and begin the swatching process again. Once I have the winning combo, I progress to the final step.

Leap into knitting! Take a chance and see if your project will fly. Only time will tell if my acrylic/wool version of Flex will end up awesome or get frogged and turned into something else. But that's part of the grand knitting adventure, right? Cheers!

In short, I:

  1. Sort through my personal Ravelry library or the general Ravelry library by weight.
  2. Select patterns that I might want to work with and add to personal library.
  3. Cull these patterns, picking out the ones that would work with they fibre of yarn I'm using.
  4. Swatch and swatch and swatch.
  5. Leap into knitting!

Update: After taking a "leap" and beginning Flex, I soon discovered that I had completely inaccurately gauged my yarn as aran when in fact it is worsted. I blame this mis-reading of yarn weight on the slightly fluffed out quality of the yarn from washing (and not on my utter incompetence). Back to the library I go!

 

In Progress: Blue Acer Cardigan

 
Acer in Progress | The Better Sweater Project
Acer in Progress | The Better Sweater Project

My Acer Cardigan (pattern by Amy Christoffers) is taking shape! At my current rate, I very well could have 11 or 12 better sweaters completed by the end of the year. Madness!

This pattern has been a lot of fun...so far. I'm a little worried about picking up and knitting the neck and button bands. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

As far as the recycled yarn goes, it's actually really lovely. At first I was a little nervous because of the crazy slub (meaning the yarn has thick and thin pieces). I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that it actually knits up relatively smoothly. The cables have some variation in size, but fortunately it's not very noticeable. (My tension is practically perfect (wink wink no srsly guys) so I blame this on the yarn.)

More images--and the finished project--to come soon!

 

Knitting Injuries

 

Nothing says nerd like a knitting injury. And boy oh boy, what a nerdy week I've had!

Maybe it was my marathon knitting or working with tiny needles, but all of a sudden my right hand went into spasm and gave up functioning on Sunday. Not only was knitting out of the question, but really doing anything with my right hand. Typing, opening jars, writing, you name it.

Although I have sustained strains in my hands and wrists from knitting before, it's been awhile and I had hoped that my days of injury were behind me. I guess not. It's taken several days of icing, arnica applying, and hand brace wearing to bring things back to normal.

While I have by no means perfected preventative or healing measures--this injury is surely proof of that--I have done some research and have a few suggestions and resources to share.

Prevention

  1. Hand stretches! Every day! Knit Freedom has a great post on fascia stretches which help give your muscles room to move! I love love love these!
  2. Take breaks!
  3. Apply arnica on sore muscles and rub your hands before and after you knit. But don't push to hard! (I've made that mistake--I'm a huge fan of deep tissue massage--and accidentally made things worse.)

Healing

  1. Ice the injury!
  2. Stretch those hands. Follow Prevention Step 1.
  3. Rub it out. Gently. Follow Prevention Step 2.
  4. Don't use it! Do not under any circumstances knit! You will only make things worse. Give it a few days.
  5. Brace it. This isn't necessary but wearing something on the injury, like a hand brace or compression glove, helped me remember not to use my hand.

Resources

  1. Crowd-sourced tips for preventing knitting pain at All Free Knitting.
  2. Tips for marathon knitters at 3 Sleeves to the Wind.
  3. Ergonomics for knitters at Knitting Daily.

Do you have any tips or tricks for preventing strains from knitting or handcrafts? And once the strain is there, how do you support healing?