Educational Mistakes

At a job I once had, my boss would sometimes spend a huge amount of money and time on a vendor or a project that (usually foreseeably) didn’t work out, then shrug it off, “Well that was an expensive lesson.”

One might think I’d have learned sweater hubris by now, that I’d take the time to check gauge or try it on to check fit early on in the process…



And one would be wrong.

At first glance, this might appear to be a finished sweater (apart from the unfinished grafting under the arms) and technically, it fits. I waited until I had finished the neckline and cast off to try it on for the first time, expecting a roomy, almost boxy feel, and instead it is quite fitted, to the point of being body-hugging. At certain angles with careful layering and maybe if I were a little happier with my figure at present, it could work, but I wanted a cozy, smooshy, decadently textured and cabled sweater, not something clingy and short that can only be worn with Spandex underneath.




The little holes from careless neckline pick-ups block out, right??

My gauge, once I finally checked it, was way off, something like 5 stitches/inch instead of 3.8, which makes perfect sense, as this sweater is about 25% smaller than I expected it would be. I briefly tried to convince myself it would stretch a lot in blocking and end up at the expected dimensions, which it might, but since I have more than 5 balls of yarn leftover and this wasn’t exactly a quick project, there is no reason to compromise.




No, raglan decrease gaps don’t bother me at alllll…..

The closer I scrutinized it, the more flaws I started to find as well. I wasn’t happy with the gaps introduced by careless pick-ups for the neckline, but I was willing to sew them shut by weaving in some reinforcing threads. Ditto for the gaps made by raglan decreases along the shoulders, which probably wouldn’t have been so visible if the shoulders weren’t stretched as much. And weird decreases on the sleeves are just par for the course, right?




I mean, no one ever looks at sleeves, do they?? Sigh…

I know I would not be happy with this sweater as it is. I am a better knitter than this, and I care about these details too much to let them slide. The time I spent pretending I didn’t care or that, “It’ll all block out!” was “expensive” in knitting terms, but very valuable lessons. This sweater taught me how to make a seamless yoked sweater in pattern (way easier than I thought it would be). I also learned how important it is to track rows in moss stitch, after the first large frogging-and-restarting.

And now I’ve learned, for real, to actually check my gauge and not just follow the pattern blindly, hoping it’ll all work out. As this was knit with size 6 and 8 needles, I expect 8/10 will do the trick, so long as the pattern holds up. I also plan to make some adjustments with things I didn’t like, such as making a better plan for incorporating sleeve increases in moss stitch, inserting a filler stitch to absorb the raglan decreases on the sleeves, and learning how to pick up neckline stitches more neatly so I don’t end up with gaps.

This project has been like a security blanket for when I needed comfort or an escape from reality, and I mean it when I say it’s been a true pleasure to knit, so I don’t mind starting over to get something wearable with the right finishing details. Let’s hope I’ve actually learned my lessons this time.

Two New Cast-Ons

When I first started knitting, documenting every stage of the project and its progress was almost as important to me as the actual stitches. As life grew more complex, I became complacent about knit-blogging (perhaps you’ve noticed) and considered it quite a feat if I got the cursory details slapped up on Ravelry, let alone took a photo. I’d like for that tendency to change, and I’m giving myself permission to enjoy this part of the process again too.



During a lengthy stay at my parents’ house this winter, I was buying new yarn for a pair of socks I’m knitting for my brother when I had an irresistible hankering to knit a sweater. Drawn in by the allure of free shipping and a Valentine’s Day sale that made this yarn shockingly affordable, I found a pattern for the Olwen Sweater, a beautiful seamless cabled pullover with a lovely yoked raglan-sleeve construction. In a cushy worsted-weight yarn, with this delectable purply-magenta color, it has been an absolute delight.

When I got back to my apartment in April, I found a few places where I’d flubbed the pattern (I started it when I had a fever, after all), so I ripped back to the ribbing, and it’s been smooth sailing since. I’m now past yoking the sleeves to the body, which was way easier than I’ve always imagined it would be, and I’m cruising toward the finish just in time for what promises to be a sweltering hot summer. Fortunately, this sweater is in a style, color, and quality I foresee myself enjoying for many years to come, so it will keep.



As I was returning to the shore this Memorial Day weekend, it seemed impractical to try to squeeze a nearly-finished wool sweater into the already overstuffed backpack I was bringing, so I tried to think of a good traveling project. I landed on a new cast-on for Kieran Foley’s Seascape Stole, a gorgeous undulating pattern that’s been tempting me since it was published in the summer 2008 Knitty, and for which I’ve had this yarn earmarked since June of 2009 (yikes – that feels like it just happened).

As I am working it on a 16-inch circular needle and only using one page of the chart from the 2015 revised version, this project currently fits in a small sandwich bag, making it ultra portable and quite a pleasure to knit on the go.

I hope to share a lot more this summer, as I am coming back to the surface in many areas of my life.

FO: Tweed Hat for Knit Aid

This past spring I really enjoyed getting into charity knitting.



Pattern: Improvised. My project page is here.
Size: Adult, approximately 22″ diameter
Yarn: Regia 6-f├Ądig Tweed (discontinued) DK weight, 70% wool / 25% nylon-polyamide / 5% rayon-viscose, in colorway 70; I used about 1 skein, approximately 50 grams, 136 yards/ 124.4 meters
Needles: Size 7 (4.50mm) circular and DPNs
Modifications: n/a

Started: April 24, 2017
Finished: May 10, 2017

I started this hat right after finishing the neckwarmer I made last April, and I worked on it at the first Knit Collective meeting.



I finished it while overlooking the Statue of Liberty, which felt somehow fitting and symbolic for a gesture of solidarity and love for refugees.



I kept within Knit Aid‘s requirements of dark, gender-neutral colors, but I thought it would be nice to use a soft, luxurious-feeling washable tweed. I had originally bought this yarn with the intent to make either slippers or gloves as a gift, so I knew it was squishy and nice against the skin.



The pattern was improvised after working out the gauge and trying it on a few times to figure out where to start the decreases. I worked the crown in quadrants, which gave it a neat, tidy fit.



I recently saw Ai Weiwei’s incredibly moving documentary Human Flow at a screening in Manhattan (trailer below). It was such a heartbreaking, profoundly emotional film that showed the refugee camps and the spirit of the people living in them at the scope and scale of crisis it truly is.



I already felt strongly that I wanted to do something to help, but after seeing the stories and experiences shared in the film, I am more committed than ever to bringing some warmth and love to people’s lives. I donated this hat in May, and I hope that it has found an owner who it is warming and protecting by now, or that it will soon. And I especially hope that whoever owns this hat will feel the love and concern that went into every stitch.

Chrysanthemums

Every year around mid-October when I catch the first briskness in the air and realize autumn is properly settling in, I get a hankering to knit like mad. I am super behind on knit-blogging (literally – there are multiple, elaborate sweaters I have finished but haven’t photographed yet!) but I will be working through the catch-up pile soon. Meanwhile, as I finished a pair of socks and had some size 1 needles free, I decided there was no time like the present to have another crack at colorwork


As I started working on the Chrysanthemums mittens from Knitty, it occurred to me that chrysanthemums are the birth flower for November, so these would make an excellent birthday present to myself (November 1).



In the first pass I made the background of the main section yellow and the chrysanthemums this purplish fuchsia, but it looked drab and I really disliked how much the strands in the back showed through with the tension issues I was having. I also realized that if my intent is to (ultimately) have these mittens go with a Selbu Modern beret as planned, they wouldn’t coordinate well in reversed colors.



Much better.

I ripped back to the cuff but decided to keep the picot trim and wrist section with a yellow background for contrast. I’m much happier with the color combination now and excited to see how these come out!

FO: Neckwarmer for Knit Aid

It’s funny how the universe puts things in your path right when you are looking for them. I’m not sure what prompted me to search for a knitting group on the day I did, but it happened I found a wonderful one that was just about to have its first meetup. The Knit Collective is a new New York-based group that partners with established non-profits to donated hand-knitted items to those in need.



Pattern: based on Knit Aid’s Snood. My project page is here.
Size: A tube approximately 9 inches high and 23 inches in circumference
Yarn: Classic Elite Alaska (discontinued) super bulky weight, 50% wool / 50% alpaca, in 1581 Tree Grove; I used every bit of 2 skeins, approximately 100 grams, 50 yards/ 46 meters
Needles: Size 17 (12.75mm) straights
Modifications: Worked with a provisional cast-on and grafted the finished seam, slipped edge stitches, reduced width (discussed below)

Started: April 23, 2017
Finished: April 24, 2017

The first project is working with Knit Aid, an organization based out of the UK that is bringing hand-knit hats, gloves, neckwarmers, blankets, hot water bottle covers, and other warming items to refugees in camps. When I read about the conditions in these camps and imagine people in already tenuous and frightening situations shivering through the night in below-freezing temperatures, my heart can’t take it anymore.

A hand-knit item is a small gesture, but an important thing. Taking the bitter edge off the cold so a person can sleep is huge for anyone, but I hope it gives extra comfort to those most in need to know other people in the world care about them and are trying to make their lives a little better.



I had some squishy wool and alpaca super bulky yarn in my stash that I bought years ago to make a boyfriend a hat. I was delighted it fit the criteria for fiber content and was suitably dark and gender-neutral to comply with Knit Aid’s requests.

Though I based my neckwarmer, which for some reason they call a “snood,” on their pattern, I decided to use a provisional cast-on to eliminate a bulky seam at the back of the neck. Working with size 17 needles, I joked, was like knitting prop comedy, and I was amazed at how quickly it took off.



So quickly, in fact, that I had zero qualms about frogging the whole thing and starting over when my first version was too tall (chin to chest) and too tight, due to having slightly thicker yarn than the pattern called for and a bit less of it than would have been ideal.



As lovely as Classic Elite Alaska is, I am mystified about why it was put up in measly 25 yard skeins. Most of the hats I saw (only after buying 2 skeins per color) used at least 3. I reduced the amount of stitches and ended up with a neckwarmer that is still snug, but can comfortably slide over my gigantic head. I expect it will be huge on a normal-sized woman or child.



I slipped the edge stitches to give a braided look that should be soft where it touches the skin. I grafted the last row to the cast-on edge to make a fairly seamless tube, which will be comfortable if worn lying down.



I was initially concerned that the snugness looked like a Victorian collar (also, please forgive the frowny and poorly-lit modeled shots – I was running late and rushing). Not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s not as unisex as I’d envisioned.



When tucked into my hoodie, though, it just became a super warm base layer that could be pulled up to cover the lower face or over most of the head and neck if needed.



Knit Aid encourages you to write a message on their cards to include with your items, to communicate good wishes and let refugees know that people all over the world are thinking about them, praying for them, and putting their hands and hearts into this little gesture. (Of course, it is also important to contact your representatives and work at these issues on all fronts). As I knit, I thought about the person who would receive this neckwarmer, and I hoped with all my heart it would give comfort, warmth, and love to someone who needs it.

I am so happy to have found a group of like-minded, truly lovely knitters in the city, and I’m excited about upcoming plans for fundraisers and more knitting meetups.