Can you marry a pattern?

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The Alec XL sweater which I made with Rowan Pure Wool Worsted Superwash in the Green Wash color way is blocked, dry, and good-looking. Knitting this sweater could have become the bane of my existence because the wearer — my partner — was very impatient to see this done. If I ever knit another sweater for him — that is, if he’s lucky enough — I won’t tell him that the project in front of me on the needles is his. He will find out when it’s completed. If I worked on another thing that was not his sweater he would ask me why I wasn’t working on his sweater. Anyway, I’ve said it could have become the bane of my existence which means it did not. That’s because it was so much fun to knit. I truly love this pattern. I love it so much I might marry it. Since I’m already married, though, I’ve made plans to make two more for myself with more Rowan Pure Wool Worsted (not superwash).

The detailed photos below explain why I want to marry the Alec XL sweater pattern.

Let’s discuss the left-hand photo first. See how nice the button band looks? I don’t think it’s all thanks to my masterful knitting (although I’m pretty good). The button band is very carefully planned so it looks like that on purpose. The designer included it in the knitting of the sweater itself, not as something to sew on afterwards. The way it is included in the knitting is very clever. In the same photo you can see how nicely the collar is planned, too. Again, not my idea. The designer gives good directions for some very quick and simple short-row shaping in the back so it looks just right. Also, check out the stitch pattern. It’s a two-row repeat. That’s all. This is not an invention the designer came up with. Barbara Walker documented it in A Treasury of Knitting Patterns and it’s called “Grecian Plait Stitch.” The interesting thing is how it looks different “upside-down,” which the designer did indeed play with on purpose, including it in a top-down construction. If you move your eyes to the right-hand photo you can see how the choice of raglan increases was very tasteful. The placement of the garter stitch border on the collar is absolutely essential too, not only to keep it from curling up but to decorate it nicely, also.

folded

The sweater just looks great when you wear it, when you sprawl it out on a table, or even when you neatly fold it.

Alec XL does get some help from some very light blocking, though. This is especially true if you choose the garter stitch option for the hem and cuffs. Without blocking they flip upwards. The same is true for the collar, which is quite unruly without some wet blocking.

So, yes, I want to marry a sweater pattern. It’s just perfect in every way.

My WIPs aren’t worth the fuss

Today is Wednesday. That’s when we yarny bloggers talk about and photograph our lovely works in progress. Today, like most Wednesdays, I started working at 8 AM and finished working at 9:30 PM. So, let’s see, I’m super excited to talk about my WIPs, but they’re mostly the same old stuff and I, the-earning-my-bread-with-the-sweat-of-my-brow type, didn’t really feel like fussing with photos. Enter the Wednesday WIP text version — so totally vintage — with helpful links to photographs already posted to refresh your memory about my lovely WIPs — so totally not vintage. Also, you might notice that one thing I like to talk about just isn’t here in the WIP category. That means it’s finished. In fact, it’s already been worn by the wearer, before blocking, and now it’s drying on its blocking rack because I’m sly (and thank God, it looked so wrinkled and awful on the wearer). But that’s all for now. It isn’t FO Friday yet (please can Friday come faster? I’m tired.)

In the Paleolithic times I started crocheting a doily called “Elegant Pineapple.” It has this name because back in the vintage times Leisure Arts was all that and the convention of naming patterns something other than a number was just in its toddler stage, so there wasn’t this attempt at being all chic and stylish with the one word titles for patterns. Now we can enjoy knitting and crocheting such things with an unpronounceable word for a name. I’m waiting for the day Knitty publishes a pattern with a title like “ñlkjsaiwhtg.” Pattern titling is taking the path of baby naming these days. Anyway, I crocheted a couple more rounds on the swellegant doily I like to call “All Year Round and Another Year Too” and so I am approaching the finish line, but I got distracted. If this doily had a one word name I guess it would be something like “Crochetyoulongtime.”

That’s mostly because I’ve been working on my Tunisian crocheted squares afghan, which Trinidad, from the “Tejiendo de Corazón” YouTube channel, named, in her rebellious old skool style, “Manta de bebé 2” which is Spanish for “Baby blanket 2.” You might recall I mentioned I’ve adapted the pattern so it’s bigger and not for little babies, but rather big grown-ups.

I also casted on another vintage Star Motif sweater. This time the main color is blue. There’s no photo because it is not much right now. I’m starting with the sleeves again. If you want to see a photo of some ribbing with a few rows of stockinette stitch above, I’m sorry to disappoint you. However, you can Google pictures of the same thing. I’ll even wager there’s a blue one out there! I know, I know, I’m so lazy I didn’t even bother with a stock photo and call on you to enhance your reading with whatever photo (is that the same thing?)

My hexagon afghan has once again been abandoned for the time being. Just too many other things to knit and crochet. I’ll probably never finish it. Or maybe I will. Who knows? It is more than welcome to inhabit the afghan cubby as long as it needs to live there.

As I work on my WIPs I plot and scheme what else I would like to knit or crochet. I’ve been held back from starting anything more due to a lack of available project bags and a lack of energy needed to sew another one. The idea of finishing another project so a bag becomes available has crossed my mind, but naaaaahhhhh nope.

I hope you’re enjoying your WIPs. I totally love mine and I feel so much better when I have time to unwind and knit or hook a little bit at the end of, or in the middle of, a hectic working day. I had the chance to watch an episode of Vikings between classes today, which is why I was lucky enough to cast on a sweater sleeve.

Has my sock obsession declined?

Today I have begun to break a record in my knitting and crochet history. In three months I will be finishing precisely three sweaters. I finished my gray cabled “Evergreen Aran” sweater in December. I proceeded to complete a crocheted “Telegraph” sweater in January. Now I am finishing the first sleeve for an “Alec XL” and, since the latter is for my partner and he can see what I’m working on most of the time, the second sleeve will be done next week because … WEARER PRESSURE.

I started a pair of red socks last week but that’s about it. I haven’t finished a pair of socks, actually, in a very long time. For the past, I don’t know, decade and a half, nothing has been more enjoyable for me than to knit a pair of socks.  That’s a loooong binge on socks. Am I entering a sweater bender period of my life?

As I’ve been knitting the sleeve on the “Alec XL” I’ve actually been asking myself, “Which sweater shall I make next?” I’ve been checking out knitting stitch dictionaries because I want to make my own easy-to-knit cardigan with some Cascade 220 Quattro I’ve got in my stash. And then I ponder the vintage “Star Motif” sweater I want to make (can’t decide on the colors). I also wonder about if I feel like starting another Alec XL for myself – I bought yarn for two. Sparks of gansey thoughts have floated through my brain also – which color is hard to say, I’ve got orange, brown, and green yarn to use for a gansey. Perhaps my indecision about which sweater to start next means that once I get the green Alec XL done I will get back into my sock craze.

Only time will tell. At least my knitting mood has made my blog more varied. A few months ago I was worried I was blogging too much about socks.

I did order some Arne & Carlos 3rd edition sock yarn – I have some limited edition of the same line in my stash , yikes! I certainly have plenty of sock yarn just in case I feel the urge to get back into my sock obsession, so that’s a relief. Whew.

The afghan cupboard

For the longest time I’ve been storing large afghan projects in a box. The box has been hidden in the spare bedroom. Do I knit and crochet in the spare bedroom? No. I knit and crochet in the living room. It’s gotten to be a nuisance to work on afghans because I’ve had to drag out the box and then put it away. Finally, I decided to claim some wasted space in the living room: a cupboard that had photo albums. I don’t look at photo albums nearly as often as I knit and crochet. Soooo… the box that once stored the afghan projects now keeps the photo albums safe. The cupboard (which I now lovingly call the “afghan cubby”) now has all the yarn and the afghans in progress.

afghan-cubby

As you can see, my hexagon afghan in progress is sitting cheerfully on top of the yarn skeins. The Tunisian afghan was sitting on the sofa waiting for me to work on it when I snapped this photo.

I’ve been using my new system for a couple of weeks now and I love it. When I feel like crocheting a hexagon I just grab some yarn and get going on it. If I feel like working on my Tunisian crochet afghan, I just retrieve it from the cubby. No more taking out and putting away boxes. Added bonus: the cubby is about 4 feet away from the sofa!

Sleeve stitches, please step aside

It’s that time of the week to talk about WIPs. I’ve made a lot of progress on my Alec XL. Now that I’m done with the increases for the sleeves and set the sleeve stitches aside on some scrap yarn it’s really looking like a sweater. If you remember from last week, the sweater was all scrunched up on the circular needles. Now with the sleeve stitches out of the way you can truly appreciate its top-down charms.

alecxl

Practice your Spanish with craft videos

I have been teaching Spanish and English for about 20 years, and, until now, it had never dawned on me that I could actually write something that might be useful to language learners and yarn enthusiasts at the same time. I think this has to do with the fact that I speak Spanish and English equally well (although English is my native language) so I have always checked things out in both languages without giving much thought to it. I constantly tell my language students that watching and listening to videos related to their favorite hobby is a great way to practice. It’s fun because you’re interested in the content, it’s educational because you’re practicing the language you are studying, and it’s practical because you can learn new things about your hobby.

I’m limiting myself to talking about Spanish language tutorials for knitting and crochet, but you can actually practice just about any language this way by searching on YouTube. You can also do this for any craft you’re interested in.

You might ask yourself, “how will this help my language skills?” Well, for starters, the big focus here will be, of course, on listening comprehension. One of the benefits of using how-to videos for listening practice is that we often, for practical reasons, need to replay segments of a video to make sure we’re mastering the craft skill demonstrated. If you’ve ever done listening comprehension activities for homework or self-study, you have probably encountered an especially frustrating recording you had to play over and over again to answer the comprehension questions. By using a how-to video you won’t feel so bad about replaying things because this is what you would do with an instructional video in your native language. It will feel totally natural to scrub back with your needles or hook and yarn in your lap. It’s a nice change of pace from the typical listening activities you might have to do.

Another benefit is that you’ll learn new vocabulary or reinforce vocabulary you already know because very often the action or object talked about is shown to you. If you hear the word “aguja” you will more than likely see a finger pointing at the “aguja,” which is Spanish for “needle.”

Finally, you will more than likely learn something about knitting or crochet you will find valuable. In different Spanish-speaking cultures, knitting and crochet is very popular among a wide range of people representing a variety of social classes and ethnic groups. People over the centuries have independently developed strategies, tricks, and techniques that have not yet been published in books about knitting and crochet, but rather passed down from generation to generation. Some of the more interesting videos I find are the ones made by “everyday” people who want to share something they learned from their mother or grandmother.

Below I’m going to give two examples of crochet and knitting, respectively, to demonstrate how you can put these videos to good use for language study and expanding your knowledge of your favorite craft. After you check this blog post out, hit YouTube and start doing some searches in Spanish (or whatever language you’re studying) and have fun making your new discoveries! Hint: If you’re not sure how to say or write a search term in the language, look it up in a bilingual dictionary. A useful online, multilingual dictionary is http://www.wordreference.com

Two Crochet Videos

“Trinidad Tejiendo de Corazón”

I discovered the Crochet instructor Trinidad while searching for Tunisian crochet videos. This teacher has a ton of content. Her YouTube channel is like a big, interactive stitch dictionary. She also has some instructional videos that help people to make her very own designs. She does not write patterns for projects. Instead, she explains the pattern in the video while demonstrating each step. I used her “Mantita de bebé 2” instructions to start my Tunisian crochet afghan I posted about previously. I’ve altered the pattern for a larger afghan, but you could make a baby blanket just like Trinidad does in her video, too!

This video showed me a concept that was new to me: Crochet squares while joining them at the same time. If you’re curious, check out the video. It’s interactive, linking you to different supplementary materials from her web page as she goes.

“Tejiendo Perú”

The video below is a fine example of how a lot of new tips and tricks can be learned in a brief clip:

Knitting

“Tira del Ovillo”

Knitters abound in the Spanish-speaking world and often their shop owners make videos to feature the products they have available for their customers to purchase. This is a great opportunity to learn vocabulary related to knitting tools. In the video below the owner of the online shop Tira del Ovillo gives a visual overview of some of the knitting needles she has for sale:

“Romi W”

This YouTuber demonstrates an easy way to count the number of rows you’ve knitted if you’ve lost count:

Go for it!

So, what are you waiting for? Get on YouTube and start discovering a whole new world of knitting and crochet in Spanish or any other language. You can watch a video that shows you how to do something you already know how to do to practice vocabulary or you can exercise your ears and try to learn a new technique or follow a pattern.

Crack that WIP!

It’s Wednesday. Time to WIP it good.

I have no idea if I was just a genius or absolutely, positively unoriginal, but I just couldn’t help myself. And now, for the WIPs. I’ve been working on two. I am really having so much fun working on them that I am indeed WIP-ing it good. So good, that while I’m working on them I keep thinking about how I want to make a million more of them, with different colors, with different yarns, with different “hacks.” I’m like gushing every time I pick them up and work on them.

First up is my “Alec XL” which I’ve been dying to cast on since I bought the pattern. I ordered some blue Rowan Pure Wool Worsted for it a few months ago and it’s been sitting in my stash. It’s still in my stash because, after Christmas, and with all the sales on Love Knitting’s online shop, I talked myself into buying some Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted to make another one. I managed to talk myself into the purchase by saying, “this one will be for José and in reality I’m being generous because he’ll get a nice new sweater out of this even though I need more yarn like I need a hole in my head.” Oh, how evilly twisted the yarn shopping mind will be. I bought it because I want to play with the yarn and the pattern twice. There is no selflessness going on here. The really twisted thing about it is that José will think, “awwww, he made me yet another sweater! how generous.” Mwahahaha.

Here’s my progress so far. It’s a top-down sweater, my favorite kind to make.

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The sweater is very intelligently designed, with a front chest area sporting a nicely textured stitch pattern that is a two-row repeat. The back and lower part of the sweater – along with the sleeves – are stockinette. I love the color way, too. It’s called “Green Wash” and it’s light enough to show off the stitch pattern and interesting to knit with on the stockinette parts. It’s a good sweater to knit at a knitting club meeting, while traveling, binging on TV shows and movies, etc. because it’s pretty simple. I just might have to adjust the shoulder part at the top for sizing because I wanted to leave about 4″ of ease but the wearer’s shoulders are a bit narrow. We shall see. It’s top-down so all it will need is a quick try on to make sure it has the right fit.

What can I say? I want to knit a bazillion of these. I know I’ll knit at least one more and it will be for me because I already have the yarn for that in my stash.

In my never ending quest to play with my new Tunisian / Afghan crochet hooks I started an afghan. This afghan is super cool: The squares are crocheted one at a time but they are crocheted together at the same time, not sewn later. This means that, when I finish the afghan, there will be very little finishing to do. I can even weave in ends as I crochet. It is like a magical afghan. I’ve made one of my own personal changes: I’m making a bigger one because the original pattern is for a baby afghan. I got the pattern and learned the technique from a Spanish-language YouTube video. I will link to the video very soon because either on Friday or on the weekend I plan to blog about videos, so keep your eyes out for that. Anyway, I’ve digressed. Here’s my progress on this afghan that I want to make thousands of with all kinds of different color combinations:

Making this afghan is also a fulfillment of one of my life-long wishes. I’ve known how to Tunisian crochet since I was about 14 years old but never actually had the chance or time to sit down and make a big project with it. I’ve made some small projects, but ever since I was a kid and learned how to crochet Tunisian Simple Stitch from a stitch dictionary lying around the house I’ve wanted to make an afghan. I was always told, “well, it uses up too much yarn, yadda yadda yadda.” I’ve stopped caring about how much yarn it uses up. It’s worth it. I feel like I was born to Tunisian crochet and I’m having so much fun with this project I wish I had got around to doing this sooner.

I hope you’re having as much super awesome fun as I am with your WIPs. I haven’t felt this energized while knitting and crocheting for quite a while. I must say it has its drawbacks. For example, when it’s time to make dinner I don’t feel like it because it takes time from my working on my WIPs.