knitting

Yarn Bowls

 

Looking for a last minute gift? This yarn bowl from Twig & Horn popped up on my Pinterest feed today and would make a fabulous holiday present. From the shop:

Yarn bowls are the solution to keeping your yarn from rolling away and falling to the farthest corner behind the sofa (where it inevitably falls in with the no-good dust bunny crowd). Guide fine- or heavy-gauge yarns down the slot to the opening, where it will stay safe and secure while you knit, yet ready to release the yarn without breaking if needed. Turned by hand in Maine from American birch, and finished with natural oils for protection. Each sturdy yet light bowl is unique—no two are alike.

I am a big fan of my own yarn bowl and use it all the time. Made from reclaimed ash and finished with a natural wax, mine is from Mountain Street Arts on Etsy (who doesn't appear to be selling them currently). I've compiled a short list of other Etsy yarn bowls at the bottom of this post.

My yarn bowl: The perfect size at 6 by 2 3/4 inches.

My yarn bowl: The perfect size at 6 by 2 3/4 inches.

Never Mind!

 

So you know how I just wrote that post about designing my own colorwork sweater? Well, I was sketching and swatching and looking up more patterns for inspiration, &c....when I stumbled upon the colorwork sweater of my dreams:  

Epistrophy by Kate Davies! It is everything I wished for and more! Plus, the yarn weight matches my Rowan and I have just enough skeins! I couldn't be more pleased.

Epistrophy is actually 1 of 11 patterns in the digital book Yokes by Kate that was published late last year. While I usually buy individual patterns when possible, I'm actually glad that in this instance I was forced to purchase the whole book (as you can guess, patterns from Yokes are not sold separately). The first 43 pages contain essays on the history of yoke design, and are replete with interviews and photographs.

In this exciting new book, writer and designer Kate Davies unravels the tale of one of the Twentieth Century’s most distinctive sweater styles - the circular yoke. From Shetland and Iceland to Canada and Sweden, Kate’s essays and conversations take you on a journey around the North Atlantic, exploring the yoke’s intriguing and often surprising regional narratives.
A garment with unexpected national and political resonances; an important marker of personal and cultural identity; a fashionable barometer of trends and technical transformations from the 1920s to today, yokes have connected the lives and livelihoods of many different women.

Fascinating! I can't wait to read more!

This will be my first foray into Kate Davies' designs and I just have this feeling that we'll get along well!  My plan is to learn all I can about colorwork and elegant pattern design at Kate's virtual feet, and hopefully at a later date this year I'll tackle a colorwork sweater design of my own! Huzzah!

 

 

Colorwork

 

E's mom sent me a whole sweater's worth of Rowan Yorkshire Tweed DK earlier this month (thank you, Mary!) and I've been spending all my free time thinking about what I'm going to make. In addition to the nine skeins of tweedy pink there's one skein of tweedy purple. Inspired by Felicia Semple's cardigan, and one of the lovely colorwork designs on it, I thought, "Hey! That could work here!" and then, surprisingly for me, "Lemme swatch that!" And so I did.

The result, while a little wonky around the edges, is so fabulous that I think I'll have to do it! The variation in color is certainly subtle but I think it will knit up nicely.

I haven't yet decided if this project will be a pullover or a cardigan. If I go the cardigan route, I might just try my hand at steeking (thanks again, Felicia, for the inspiration!). Here's some more simple colorwork inspo from Ravelry:

1. Strokkur by Ysolda Teague// 2. Lady of the Lake by Susan Mills // 3. Stasis Pullover by Leila Raabe // 4. Sundottir by Dianna Walla

So even though this sweater isn't technically a Better Sweater, I'm still planning on documenting the process of knitting it in this journal. My goal is to make up the pattern myself as I go, which should be hilarious. I am pretty badat math (a huge bummer as a knitter) so there will be many foibles to share. But if it all works out in the end maybe I'll start crafting my own patterns for future Better Sweaters! I've designed a few hats in my time...how much harder can it be? I'll keep you posted!

Before I can get this new show on the road, however, I need to finish Better Sweater No. 7! Almost done with the first sleeve woohoo!

Also, my Addi Click Interchangeable Needle Set arrived and I am SO STOKED about them (see image above)! Knitting the little colorwork swatch was a breeze with the yarn slipping so easily off the needles. How I wish I'd bought these years ago. They are indeed an investment but certainly one worth making!

 

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!

 

Just In Time

 

Last night (New Years Eve) at approximately 10:30pm I finished Sibella! That's right: Sibella is complete! That's 5 better sweaters, and 2 shawls, in 2014!

This project's been a real beast. Cotton is so unforgiving. Not only did the yarn dry out my hands, it also hurt them as I strained to keep proper tension. Ultimately, though, the struggle was worth it and the final product is lovely. Soft but with structure, this sweater is perfect for all seasons.

I'm planning on taking some legit pictures this afternoon at the Berkeley Rose Garden and will post them soon with more details on the knitting process.

Happy New Year!

 

Other Projects

 

I have to admit: real yarn, like bought at a store made from gorgeous fiber yarn, has become less appealing as I march forward with the Better Sweater Project. While my wallet lets out a sigh of relief, my other knitting projects that aren't better sweaters are crying out for attention. One such project is my Woodland Shawl by Nicole Lohr. Last week for World Wide Knit in Public Day I asked my partner Eric to snap a few pictures of me, well, knitting in public. (And wearing my Better Sweater No. 3!) Since I was between better sweaters, my Woodland Shawl got a healthy dose of loving (at least 10 rows!) and I remembered how good it feels to knit with quality product! Don't get me wrong, I love my recycled yarn! Still, nothing quite compares to a cake of Malabrigo lace. Especially Malabrigo lace in Frank Ochre.

(That last one is a windy outtake that I kind of love!)

 

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!

 

Wool People 7

 

Oh, goodness! Wool People 7 from Brooklyn Tweed was released today and, like all of their pattern publications, is fabulous. Check it.

I'm thinking one of these baby's will be slated for my next Better Sweater project. Some of the contenders:

Sweaters1
Sweaters1
Sweater2
Sweater2

1. Arrabella by Ann McCauley / 2. Devlan by Bristol Ivy / 3. Seine by Kyoko Nakayoshi / 4. Coda by Olga Buraya-Kefelian