The Christmas sweater that almost wasn’t….

Or, “It takes a village to knit a sweater.”

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In keeping with the trend of posting Christmas knitting way after the fact (and what better way to celebrate Christmas goodness than to talk about it a few weeks before Halloween the year after), let me present to you, Little A’s Christmas sweater that almost wasn’t.

(Actually, one of the reasons I didn’t post earlier was because it was a test knit and it was to be on the downlow. But, Jones, the sweet little old man cable sweater by Tin Can Knits finally got released.)

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Let me reconstruct the scenario from way back when I first heard of this test knit and jumped at the chance. I love Tin Can Knits’ designs (and the fact that they are partly based in British Columbia) so Little A and I rushed to Twisted, my favorite LYS, and Little A chose this beautiful cranberry DK yarn “Cherry Fizz” from Hazel Knits.

Even though the pattern called for DK yarn, I struggled with getting gauge and eventually had to go down several needle sizes to get it right. That should have tipped me off that the number of skeins I had originally purchased might be not enough. But, at that moment, I was marveling at my knitting skills and the fact that I was making my first Real! Cabled! Sweater! I was doing it! It was all coming together!

The sweater is a bottom up construction with minimal seaming and shaping. There is a little shaping at the collar, but essentially, the sweater is a series of rectangular panels with the sides folded over and seamed at the shoulder.

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The two side panels fold over to form the front.

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I got so sidetracked by the sweater’s cuteness and my own awesome abilities that I didn’t pay attention to the amount of yarn I had. But by the time I had finished the body and the first sleeve and was starting the second sleeve, I began to sweat.

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This photo says it all. I was so close but close just doesn’t cut it.

I called Twisted, but they had run out of skeins in this color. Since we were heading up to Vancouver, BC for the holidays, I started calling yarn stores along the I-5 corridor to see if they had any in stock. No luck. Finally, someone at Fiber Gallery suggested I contact Wendee of Hazel Knits directly. Hazel Knits is based out of Seattle, and maybe, just maybe, there was a skein or two lying around.

My sad and plaintive letter to Wendee:

Dear Wendee,

I hope this email finds you well. I’m trying to finish a Christmas sweater and I’m 3 inches from finishing up the last sleeve and I’ve run out of yarn. I had purchased my Hazel Knit Lively DK in “Cherry Fizz” at Twisted, but they have sold out of this color.

I’m in Portland, OR and am driving up to Vancouver, BC tomorrow (Dec 22). I called Fiber Gallery in Seattle hoping that I could get some on my drive up through Seattle, but alas they are also out. The woman at Fiber Gallery recommended I contact you directly, and I was wondering if there was ANY way I could purchase one skein of yarn tomorrow. I know it’s a long shot, but I would so appreciate it!!!

Thanks so much, and I look forward to hearing from you.
She must have felt sorry for me because she emailed me back right away. Sadly, she didn’t have any of the Lively DK in Cherry Fizz left. She even called around to see if other stores had some. Talk about awesome customer service! None of the brick and mortar shops had any, but then Wendee recommended that I contact Melissa at Stick Chick Knits, an online store.
Melissa was just as friendly and responsive as Wendee. Within 24 hours, I had a hookup! She had ONE skein left!! Melissa was so sweet and offered to meet me at a cafe in Seattle. She said I could text her as we got closer and she would drive over and meet me there.

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Here is our meeting at Diva Espresso. What a superstar Melissa is! I gave her a big hug and bought her coffee. It was the least I could do. Check out that cute little paper bag with the elusive Lively DK in Cherry Fizz inside.

Without the help of all these wonderful people during the busy Christmas season, this sweater would have remained a one-armed wonder for who knows how long. And of course, a silent hero in all of this is my sweet hubs, V. He had to listen to me wail and whine the whole time and then drive me around Seattle looking for a cafe.

As with all Christmas stories, there is a feel good ending and an accompanying lesson. Usually it’s about the true meaning of the Christmas spirit and the importance of family and friends. In this yarnie Christmas version, I learned that extra skeins are not a waste of money! Buy an extra skein of whatever yarn you’re using, especially 1) during the Christmas holidays when inventory is low and you are under a time crunch and 2) if your yarn is from an Indie dyer. Inventory is already small and the holidays can make it even more difficult to find.

The fiber community is made of up incredibly sweet, generous and helpful people, and this Christmas sweater is further evidence of that. Thanks, Wendee and Melissa!

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Pattern: “Jones” by Tin Can Knits
Yarn: Lively DK in “Cherry Fizz” from Hazel Knits
Good Samaritan:  Melissa Goodale

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Storytime sweater

For the past couple of weeks, V has been reading Harry Potter to Little A and me. We started with The Sorcerer’s Stone and then burned through The Chamber of Secrets. Little A draws while I knit. I can’t imagine life being better than this.  And, if there’s one thing that V loves it is having a captive audience for his various British accents. He got into the character of Gilderoy Lockhart with a gusto that was both hilarious and slightly disturbing. After dinner, he would ask casually “So, shall we read Harry Potter?” so as to downplay the fact that out of the three of us, he’s probably J.K. Rowling’s biggest fan. He just happens to be very late to the party. (Those of you who have read more than a few of my blog entries will have noticed that we’re still living like it’s 1999.)

During our Harry Potter story time, I’ve been test knitting another pattern by Tin Can Knits, a lovely cabled cardigan that is full of texture and density. With its old school styling, this cardigan might easily have been a pattern from The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits. This is going to be a Christmas sweater for Little A.

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I’m really enjoying this knit, and this pattern is fun and easy to memorize. The moss stitches and cables are a nice change from the all the stockinette I’ve been knitting.  As much as I love knitting with handspun yarn, the ones that I’m often drawn to are colorful and barber pole-y, and they would have competed with the textures of a pattern like this.

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I’m using Hazel Knits DK Lively in “Cherry Fizz.” As you can see, it has wonderful stitch definition and lovely depth of color. Hazel Knits is based out of Seattle, and I found these skeins at Twisted. Little A chose the color. It is 90% wool and 10% nylon which I think will add durability and help retain shape, or at least I hope so. The sweater is going to be quite heavy because though the recommended yarn for this pattern is a DK yarn, this particular yarn is a heavy DK and I had to go down three needle sizes from the recommended needle size to get gauge. I have a feeling that this sweater is going to stretch and lengthen because of its weight, but I’m hoping the nylon will offset this a bit.

 

Pulling out the knits

We had a nice sunny but cold spell in Portland recently so I took advantage of this anomalous weather to take photos of knits I finished back a while back. (As a side note, we’re back to wet, cold and grey so everything is right in the world again.) I tried cajoling Little A to stay still. Taking photos of this little ham is a crap shoot. One minute she’s smiling, laughing and pulling out her moves. The next minute it’s meltdown. IMG_4725

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The top-down cardigan, Hibbis, is a test knit, but the testing process was less about pattern modification and suggestions so much as it was about identifying grammatical errors in the translation from French to English. I was really drawn to this pattern because I liked the simple lace flowers at the yoke. But now that I’ve knitted it, I would definitely recommend modifying this pattern. The collar is too wide and keeps slipping off Little A’s narrow shoulders. Not only would I cast on fewer stitches for the collar, but that would have allowed me to raise the collar and give me space to have another row of the lace pattern. For Little A’s sizing, there were only two rows of this lace, which which seem a bit off balance to me. I like my patterns to fall on odd numbers. Despite the loose collar, Little A loves this sweater, which is knitted in Cascade 220″Fuschia.” This just goes to show at the end of the day, the wearer’s opinion counts the most.

The squishy cowl she is wearing is knitted from handspun superwash merino from Nest Fiber Studio. The colorway is “London Jupiter.” This was a fun and easy knit to show off handspun yarn. It is an easily adaptable pattern for children and adults. And as the name of this pattern highlights, it is really squishy. I got these darling buttons from Mom’s Buttons.

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What can I say? I love Nest Fiber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top down handspun

I’ve been trying to figure out how to knit a V-neck cardigan from the top down by reading Barbara Walker’s Knitting From the Top. I wanted to design and knit my own cardigan, but I couldn’t figure out crucial steps in the construction process. While her book is brilliant in presenting the structural formula of top-down knitting, for someone like me who has not done a lot of sweater knitting, it was a bit too abstract; I needed a more detailed step by step explanation. In looking for a simple V-neck cardigan prototype, I found exactly what I was looking for: Audrey’s First Day Sweater designed by Elizabeth Smith. It’s a great pattern to start learning about top down raglan cardigan construction. And what’s even better is that it’s free.

I finished this cardigan in a couple of weeks, despite a very hectic schedule. And it’s thick and warm–just in time for fall!

(This toque, which I spun and knitted in San Antonio, has been getting a lot of use recently. Little A and I both take turns wearing it.)

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The yarn is spun from two 4 oz bumps of  Spunky Eclectic falkland that I had purchased from a Ravelry destash. The yarn is worsted weight and I had a little less than 400 meters so I knew that I couldn’t have long sleeves.

I spun the two bumps slightly differently to give some variety in the color shifts. One bump I split in half cross-wise and spun each half across the top. The other bump is fractally spun. I split it in half cross-wise and spun one half across the top but split the other half into 8 strips lengthwise. You can see the different effects in the two halves of the sweater. The top half, which has thinner band of colors, is knitted using the fractally spun yarn. As with my previously spun sweater, I’m partial to having striping changes.

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Given that this was a top-down sweater, I wanted the sleeves to be knitted with the fractally spun yarn so to match the upper body. Shortly after I knitted the yoke, I decided I had better save the rest of this yarn for the sleeves so I set it aside and then continued knitting the body with the other skein. I then weighed the yarn I had set aside and divided it into two same-sized balls to make sure that my sleeves would be roughly the same length. I knitted the sleeves till I ran out of the fractally spun yarn. If I had initially spun this 8 oz with a plan to make a sweater, I probably would have probably followed this awesome PDF explanation from Gizometer on Ravelry. Though the instructions are for a gradient sweater, I love the breakdown of the ratio between the amount of fiber needed for sleeves and the amount needed for the body. These instructions present the division of fiber and colors with easy to understand diagrams.

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I modified the sweater a bit so that as Little A grows, it can be worn as a bolero. It’s cropped and wider around the chest. I added four extra stitches under each arm.

Spunky Eclectic “Field of Screams” (May 2010 club fiber) waiting to be plied.

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Growing up swatchless

This is a Little Sister’s Dress that I knit very early on in my knitting frenzy. I must not have done a swatch because it took Little A two years to grow into it. And, there is still definitely a lot more room to grow!

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In fact, this was so big that I could even wear it as a top. But, I’ll spare you these photos. Sassypants is way more adorable than tired middle aged mom.

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IMG_7122This sweater dress has been in storage for a while, as you can see from the deep creases and wrinkles on this dress, but we finally pulled it out so that Little A can wear it before it gets too hot again.

I’m just glad that it was too big as opposed to too small. Suffice to say, now I definitely swatch.

The yarn is Little Red Bicycle Penny Farthing Sport in “Tulip.” Sadly, I think Little Red is no more.