Archive for the “sweater” Category

"World of Wool Custom Blend" was too boring for a project name, so I was going to pick something more descriptive and fun. Every time I look at these colours combed together, all I can think is "Unicorn Spit"... so I guess that's what it is. Not too dignified, but certainly descriptive!

Combed fiber in a variety of greens and blues, with a streak of pink.

Since I haven't done a project this ambitious before, I thought it might be a good idea to be deliberate and careful about how I proceed. So I pulled off about half an ounce of fibre from the big bag and spun it into singles, then made a two-ply and a three-ply (actually chain-ply, but close enough) yarn to test. I even kept little samples of each step along the way, wrapped around an index card and taped on the back so it doesn't fall off.

Reference card with information about the fibre written on it and sample yarn wrapped around it.

Then I washed my tiny skeins the same way I'll eventually wash the full-size ones: by soaking them for fifteen minutes in lukewarm water with a bit of wool wash, draining and squishing the excess water away, wrapping them in a towel and thwacking them a few times on the side of the tub, and finally draping them over a drying rack. This resulted in 22 yards of 16 WPI (wraps per inch) two-ply, and 13 yards of 12 WPI three-ply yarn.

The three-ply is so much rounder and even, and at this point even without knitting a sample, I was already leaning towards choosing it. But being careful and deliberate requires swatching!

Samples of two-ply and three-ply yarn, spun from the same singles.

Once the yarn was dry, I knit small squares of it. First I tried the three-ply on size 6 (4 mm) needles, but that seemed a little stiff. I knit a row of k2, yo as a separator and tried again on size 7 (4.5 mm) needles, and that felt much better. Then I knit the two-ply on size 4 needles. It was quite nice but thinner than I want the eventual sweater to be, so I started playing around with cable crossings just to see what it would look like. The answer was "really good, actually," but it's still not the yarn I'm imagining for my sweater.

Knit samples and leftover bits of yarn.

Overall, I am absolutely thrilled with the dusty teal colour of the yarn and swatches. The different greens and blues all heather together beautifully, and the pink acts to mute the saturation but still pops out just enough to give it some real interest. It's exactly what I wanted it to look like when I chose the eight different colours that went into the blend.

It's not just the colour that I'm excited about, it's also that the feel of the swatch is perfect. It's smooth but not too soft; I don't think it will be itchy, but it should wear well and not turn into a felted pilly mess too quickly.

With the sampling and swatching done... it's time to start spinning for real!

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There I was, at the National Museum of American History (one of my all-time faves) and there it was... THE SWEATER. Well, one of many sweaters, anyway - but it's The Sweater that was donated to the museum. It's been rotated out of display for a while, but there it was...

Mr. Rogers's sweater.

Mr. Rogers's red cardigan sweater with cables on either side of the zipper

I took some more pictures, of course, because one doesn't get to see such an iconic piece of knitting very often. Here's a closer view of the collar and zipper. I couldn't tell what the zipper was made of, but the Smithsonian's website says that it's metal. The collar looks as if it's folded over to make two layers:

closer view of Mr. Rogers's sweater's collar and zipper pull

The cuffs are turned up just slightly:

very zoomed in picture of Mr. Rogers's sweater sleeve and cuff

This sweater has set-in sleeves with a cable down the side, though some of the others he wore on the show had raglan sleeves with ribbing. Some of them had pockets, too, unlike this one.

side view of Mr. Rogers's red cardigan

Some things I noticed and found interesting: First, it was a bigger gauge than I was expecting, and the zipper pull is relatively large. I wonder if that's for ease of grabbing while on camera! The cables turn the same way on both sides of the sweater, which really surprised me... and one of them seems to have a slight mis-cable in it, which just goes to show that nobody's knitting is perfect. Even Mr. Rogers's mom's knitting.

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Once upon a time, I had two wool sweaters - one in solid blue, and one in an all-over colourwork pattern. In the style of their time, they were rather boxy and unfitted, but they were warm and wool, and I wore them to do things like shovel the driveway or go ice skating. One sweater was lost to the washing machine ("But I washed it on the gentle cycle!" he said. "It hasn't shrunk that much, maybe you could-- oh.") and the other has worn thin.

I went looking in the stores and online for new wool sweaters, and quickly found that the only place to get an affordable, 100% wool sweater is... in the men's department, and those wouldn't be too flattering on me. Sweaters that are sold in lady-shapes are cotton or cotton-blend or altogether synthetic, or they're expensive and cashmere. They're not meant for shoveling snow or ice skating at all.

Since I can't buy what I want in a store, I've come to the conclusion that in order to get new wool sweaters I'm going to have to knit them myself. I'm not sure if I really want to knit a sweater, and I'm also not sure if that's my perfectionism talking (Ack, a fitted garment? That's an awful lot of time and yarn for something I might get wrong...) or my lack of desire to take on another larger, non-portable project while I've got that lace stole on the needles.

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Pirate-Husband has a vest. It is fleecy and green, and fits him perfectly, and keeps him warm. He and I went shopping this past weekend and I'd hoped to get such a vest for myself, except girl-shaped. But... no luck. Apparently only men can have warm clothing. Women can have warm outerwear, it seems, but nothing like fleece vests or flannel-lined pants or wool sweaters without going to specialty camping/outdoor stores. We saw some lovely wool sweaters in the men's department, both fine- and heavier-gauge, but all of the women's sweaters were made of cotton, unaffordable cashmere, or nasty acrylic blends.

Anyway, we went looking for this vest for me and we didn't find it, so now I'm considering the possibility of knitting my own vest. This is quite possibly overstepping, as there are only so many hours in a day and I can only knit so fast, but I'm cold, and thinking about warm clothing makes me feel a little bit better.

Here are a few links to patterns on Ravelry that caught my eye, even though I've absolutely zero plans to buy yarn or knit vests right now:

This buttoned waistcoat from Drops looks as if it would be quite warm, but I think at 17 stitches to four inches it might be a heavier gauge than would be flattering on me. Maybe it would work if I wore something very fitted underneath. It does have the added benefit of being free, and the buttons are a nice touch.

Another free vest pattern, originally in Finnish but now translated to English, is Hilja. It has subtle shaping, so that it doesn't just hang loosely off the chest and cause the wearer to resemble a deflated balloon. Those of us who are better endowed can surely appreciate that. It's only available in one size - but it seems like that's my size, so perhaps it won't require too much adjusting for a proper fit.

Rustica is a little more sporty-looking. I like the pink-lined pockets a lot, but the body of the vest doesn't seem to be as fitted. Perhaps if I had more experience with fitting garments, I might take this one on. Actually, no - if I knit a lot faster, I might make this vest. But it takes me so long to make things, I might as well face up to it: I like this, but it's not what I really want if I only get to make one vest. I want something a little more smooth that I can wear to the office. Still, this is going in the favourites list.

The George Sand vest is thoroughly awesome, both for its namesake and for its use of Noro Kureyon in the colourwork. I am a sucker for both Kureyon and women who flout convention. If I had to choose right now to knit a vest, I think it would be this one.

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I've gotten some great suggestions in comments, twitter, and email - thank you all! You've helped to narrow down my options quite a bit. I'm definitely leaning towards a pullover sweater in a 9-12 month size, which should fit the twins very nicely just as they come into their first winter. Here are the four finalist patterns, in no particular order:

Henry's Sweater from the Spring 2010 issue of Petite Purls. The designer says the pattern is "boy-ish"; I don't think it would look too out of place on a baby girl. The yarn called for is an aran-weight, just slightly heavier than worsted, but I think worsted would work out just fine. The babies are likely to be small; between my sister-in-law's being a very small person to begin with, and twins tending towards the small side anyway, smallish sweaters will be all right.

The Childhood Remake Sweater is designed to be knit with two strands of a light DK yarn held together; I think one strand of worsted weight should match that just fine. The recommended gauge is 17 stitches to 10 cm - that's about right, right? I really like the solid colour of the body combined with the stripes over the shoulders.

From the Yarniad, the Candlestick Sweater looks easy enough to make, and the stripes on the sleeves are just too cute. Knit in a worsted-weight yarn, it should be a fairly quick knit. The stripe on the sleeve gives quite a few options for a matching-but-not-matching second sweater, too.

Last but not least, the Telemark Pullover (Ravelry link). While the design is entirely a solid colour, some of the projects that other knitters have worked up show a wide variety of stripes to choose from. Telemark, the recommended yarn, isn't superwash - but KnitPicks has other sport-weight yarn that is, like Stroll. On the other hand, knitting a DK-weight sweater might take a little too long for my short deadlines.

There are a couple of important qualifications to these sweaters:

1. They must be quick and easy knits. Nothing in a fingering weight yarn here. The kids will only get to wear these sweaters for a few months at most, so there's no point in going super-fine or fancy. And whatever yarn I choose has to be superwash, so my sister-in-law doesn't have to worry about tossing them in the laundry.

2. I have to like the pattern enough to knit it twice. I do this with socks all the time, so I'm not too concerned about actually making the second sweater, but I've knit some sock patterns that I've sworn off forever (I'm looking at you, Pomatomus) and I don't want that to happen with these sweaters.

3. They have to be cute, of course, and the pattern has to be such that I can knit the second sweater in swapped colours to the first. If I work on other baby-clothes first, I can probably hold out on starting these sweaters until my brother and sister-in-law announce the sexes of their babies. Honestly, though, I think standard pastel baby colours for clothing are boring, so the sexes really won't matter at all when it comes to my colour choices. I'm considering a rich brown, or hunter green, or deep orange. Maybe a rusty red or a teal blue. Sea green is one of my favourites, or a sunny gold stripe might add a nice touch.

I might end up having to flip a coin to decide!

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Irish YarnFriend Adina recently went on a two-week trip to Ireland with school, and brought back a present for Pirate-Husband and me - YARN. (Does she know me, or what?) I've been tasked to knit Pirate-Husband a sweater. He wants something traditional and cabled, of course, and is actually *happy* that the wool is so scratchy. It is, he says, how a sweater should be. I personally prefer softer wool, but I'm not the one wearing it, so it's all good - he'll probably wear a turtleneck underneath, anyway.

Irish Yarn with a Penny for SizeIt's natural, undyed brownish-gray, a beautiful color, but the stuff is completely unlabeled. I don't know its weight or yardage. Adina said that two yarn store ladies told her that five skeins would be enough for "an extra-large American male's sweater," and she may be able to find out more, even if it involves a phone call to Ireland.

At first, Pirate-Husband thought that I would be able to get this sweater knitted for him in time for next winter. I pointed out that sweaters take time, and that I don't have a pattern yet, and that I've never made an adult-size sweater before, and that I have other knitting projects going on, and that my knitting time is quite limited because it's much more important to work on the house right now. So we're planning this one for winter 2009-2010.

Speaking of the house, I spent all weekend working up there. Not a single room is 100% complete yet, but we accomplished a lot - there is spackle on walls, we purchased paint, the only thing left to clean in the kitchen is the oven. On Saturday the hot tub guy told us that the spa itself is fine but the chemicals are all out of whack. We now have a testing kit and a weekly maintenance ritual. Also on Saturday I discovered that there are three koi in the supposedly empty upper pond. On Sunday it dropped way below freezing and I got to see the fish huddling around the pond heater. The lower pond has no heater; the koi freeze and thaw with the weather. We've only lost one of about twenty so far. I'm hoping the rest of them make it through the winter.

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At WEBS, I wandered slowly through the aisles, touching every single yarn with one finger. Then I bought enough yarn for Revolution, in a warm brown color with sage green for the accent color.

A few days later, I went to Yarn Forward in Ottawa, and picked up a ball of Lang Jawoll sock yarn. I've never knit with it before, and the colors looked fantastic - dark and bright greens, and brown. If I'm remembering correctly, it is self-striping. The included bit of reinforcing yarn for the heel and toe intrigued me, and ultimately I couldn't resist.

I also made a note that Lang Jawoll Superwash would be perfect for Clessidra. It's the same gauge as Regia Silk, but a lot less expensive.

And that is the end of my stash enhancement for quite some time. This stuff had all been budgeted into my vacation, so I don't feel bad about buying it. I still have to purchase a lazy kate with my birthday money (I've been waiting until we have the house a little more set up), but after that, I'm on a strict yarn diet. Money has to go to the house and it's not like I have a shortage of yarn! I hereby resolve that I will not buy any more yarn or fiber until the MD Sheep and Wool Festival in May.

Even the pretty stuff on Etsy that I was supposed to buy with the rest of my birthday money.

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