I can talk about my WIPs on a Wednesday

This morning I actually caught a break from working and had time to photograph my WIPs with some good quality sunshine. I’ve been knitting, crocheting, and cross stitching.

My sock made with Cascade Heritage Prints is taking its time. You’d think I’d be pumped to finish the first of the pair since I’ve already finished the foot and most of the leg. But, nope. My hands get too sweaty in this 90 degree (F) weather.

sock

The background for my sock is my crochet tablecloth, which is also progressing slowly because I only work on it for maybe twenty minutes a day. Again, it’s the uncomfortable feeling on my hands in the hot weather. Cotton breathes but while it’s doing that it suffocates my hands!

Anyway, as you can see, it is approaching the correct size of its intended wearer, which is the table that it is resting on. When I use up this second skein of cotton it will be time for me to start a nice border for it with skein 3. I’m thinking about using a filet pattern.

tablecloth

My crochet “Telegraph Sweater” designed by Peter Franzi is also coming along very gradually. If the cotton is uncomfortable in my hands, just imagine how the wool feels. Anyway, this garment can take its time. I’m in no hurry just yet to wear it, considering it’s July and I wish it wasn’t necessary to wear clothes.

Cross stitch – for the most part – has cured my need to create in uncomfortably hot Castilian weather. I’m glad I’ve got back into this pastime. I’ve been spending most of my free time cross stitching and less of it knitting and crocheting. The pattern I’ve chosen, which is Joan Elliott’s “Celtic Wheel Cushion” from her book Magical Cross Stitch, is a delightful challenge with very fine color details. The rose and the bunch of grapes you see have three or four shades. If you think the fruit and the flower look awkward you have a good eye. There is a lot of backstitching to complete for outlining things as well as to add stems and other little details. Right now the poor rose’s leaves are just suspended in midair and disconnected from the flower.

crossstitch

I have already become an over-enthusiastic cross stitcher and ordered more stuff for future projects. I’ve got plenty of Aida cloth in different colors and I’m waiting for some seed beads, floss, and Kreinik metallic threads to arrive in the mail. Yeah, you bet, when I’m in, I’m all in. After placing my order I forgot that I wanted some gold-colored Aida cloth for a bookmark I’d like to make, so I’ll have to buy some more supplies soon.

I can’t wait for the end of the day when I finish work and relax with a little WordPress browsing so I can see what you’re up to with your WIPs.

 

Review: Top-Down Crochet Sweaters by Dora Ohrenstein

Top-Down Crochet Sweaters by Dora Ohrenstein, Storey Publishing: 2016, 176 pages. Paperback, spiral bound, and several digital editions available. Grade: A.

I bought this book because I wanted a guide to designing my own crocheted top-down sweaters. I love knitting sweaters top-down and I’ve already crocheted one sweater the same way. That one was designed by Peter Franzi, who seems to have been a very active author recently. My issue with his sweaters is that they typically use the same all-over stitch pattern with some very beautiful embellishments in color and / or texture. I didn’t really feel like crocheting a second one using his favorite all-over alternating rounds of double crochets and half-double crochets through the front loop this soon. How dull! What choice did I have? It was time to find a way to make up my own stuff. In the future I’ll make another Franzi sweater, for sure, but I need variety, too.

In her Introduction to Top-Down Crochet Sweaters, Dora Ohrenstein explains her objectives: 1) the book is devoted to sweaters with raglan and circular yokes, 2) the reader can learn how to design a sweater from this book with the aforementioned yokes, and 3) the fourteen patterns provided will please crocheters at all levels, from beginning to advanced.

From here, the text is divided into two sections: First, how to design and “tweak” and, second, the fourteen patterns.

The design section is very informative and gave me all of the information I wanted, which was a happy surprise. The author gets into the details of shaping and provides diagrams that illustrate the process of crocheting a sweater top-down. The diagrams are very clear, helpful, and welcomed. She then gets into the nitty-gritty of the considerations one should take in planning a garment, covering necklines, yoke shaping for a good fit, how to measure oneself for the yoke, the principles of raglan and circular design, and how to get the lower body and sleeves just right. A great deal of text is then devoted to all the measurements required with a solid discussion of ease.

One of the aspects of this section that I have truly found useful are the photographs and wise use of models. To demonstrate, for example, the importance of choosing the right neckline, examples are shown on different models. To clarify how to get the shaping just so, a variety of women with different body types are pictured wearing samples.

And then we move on to section two, which, honestly, doesn’t interest me much because all of the sweaters are designed for women. No possible hacking could ever make any of the garments suitable for me and my preferences. However, I think there’s a lot here to interest a woman, or, even better, to motivate a man to crochet a really awesome top-down sweater for his mom, sister, friend, or girlfriend. A lot of the women in my life crochet tons of sweaters for themselves because the men in their lives don’t want one, so I don’t think I’ll find much use for the patterns. However, for me these patterns will be helpful to study and learn from because they combine – in a delightful variety of ways – all the techniques and methods described in the first section of the book on design and tweaks.

This book deserves a grade of “A” because it’s just what one needs to learn about crocheting sweaters top-down. I could be cruel and give it a grade of B because there are no patterns for sweaters I would like to wear, but I think that would be totally heartless. First of all, what man besides me wants crocheted sweaters? Second of all, I’m pretty sure the vast majority of crocheters in the world are women who deserve to make themselves some really chic top-down sweaters. This collection has plenty of trendy fashions for the ladies to create and wear.

The end of the sweater binge

Since November 2016 I have finished five adult-sized sweaters. I still have yarn to make more sweaters but I think I’m going to take a break from them for a while. Never in my knitting and crochet life have I ever finished one sweater a month until now. I feel pretty accomplished but also ready to take on smaller projects for a few months. The end of sweater binge happened last week, on March 30, when I finished my oak Alec XL. Today I finally got around to taking a photo of it. Check it out, along with a pic of me wearing it with a smile. 🙂

Ready for its “premiere”

When we wear or use something for the first time we say in Spanish that it’s listo para estrenar. The verb estrenar is the verb “to premiere” and, interestingly enough, it’s also used for films when they are shown for the first time in movie theaters. My blue star motif sweater is ready for its premiere, but today it’s a bit too warm for wearing a wool sweater. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be cold so I think I’ll wear it to knitting club. That’s usually the nicest place to estrenar something you made yourself, isn’t it?

I finished the knitting on this sweater on February 28, but it was most definitely not ready to estrenar. Have a look at some before and after photos and, if you’re new to knitting and / or crochet, learn a thing or two about blocking.

Blocking can be as simple as washing the finished project and allowing it to dry flat. As a matter of fact, for most things we knit and crochet, that’s the usual procedure if the yarn is 100% wool. People sometimes like to block “aggressively” which means they pin the garment down with blocking pins to make sure it dries at the desired dimensions with absolutely no unwanted textures. As you can see from my before-and-after photos you can achieve quite a bit from simply washing the garment and letting it dry flat. If you look at the “after” photo, to the right, you can see some crinkly texture below and above the star motif. That is the result of decreasing because on a seamless yoke sweater knit in the round the upper body is decreased aggressively about three or four times. This, of course, is noticeable on a color pattern. If I were a fussy blocker, I might have pinned the living daylights out of those areas. I did not bother because after I wear the sweater those stitches will settle themselves down automatically and remember where and how they need to be shaped. That’s the magic of pure wool, especially an untreated wool like this one, which is Cascade 220. It still has quite a lot of its natural properties. This is unlike a superwash wool, which has been treated with chemicals to remove them. As a matter of fact, I don’t typically get aggressive with blocking on any of my wool projects like sweaters, socks, and hats. I just wash them and let them dry flat. I do get fussy with lace if it seems unruly, but even wool lace, if spread out nicely, doesn’t need much in the way of pinning if the yarn isn’t too cobweb-like.

I of course took a picture of the whole sweater!

whole-thang

If you follow my blog enough you know that I made this same exact sweater in different colors a while back. I downloaded the pattern from Leisure Arts. It isn’t expensive so, if you’d like to knit up one of these, check out the pattern. It’s vintage, with a model sporting a 1970s mustache and all! It’s actually hard for me to believe that this is a “vintage” sweater. I think it’s quite modern to wear in the 21st century. Perhaps it would be better to call it a timeless pattern?

How fast can I post?

I’ve got 18 minutes until midnight, which means in 18 minutes Wednesday will be done and Thursday will begin. I am on the threshold between “Wednesday WIPS” and “Just Another Thursday.” Today was a bright, beautiful, glorious day with more sun than I could shake a stick at, so between classes I had some time to fuss with photography and get some somewhat OK photos of my WIPS.

First of all, why not talk about some socks I’ve casted on? A few months ago I said I wanted to make some red socks with some kind of triangular pattern on them. Well, I tried that a couple of months ago and it bored me. I just wasn’t feeling it. So, I frogged it, proceeded to finish two sweaters while contemplating what kind of red socks I wanted to knit. In the end, I fell back on my good old cable pattern I like so much. It’s basically cables slapped onto my vanilla sock formula. Here is my sock I’ve started, basking in the sunlight:

red-sock

Last week I started a Star Motif sweater with the “Blue Smoke” color way that could be from no other than Cascade 220. Over the weekend I finished my sleeves and by tomorrow I’m pretty sure I’ll be attaching them to the yoke because I’m just an inch shy of finishing the lower body.

blue-star-motif

This is what happens when you knit monogamously. In one week’s time I’ve knit about 3/4 of a sweater. I think it helps that I haven’t had to think too much. First of all, I’ve used this pattern before, so I pretty much don’t need to concentrate too much on it. Second of all, most of the knitting is “kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk” which means I can pick it up and put it down whenever I like. I can even knit this while drinking alcohol. Yes, I am certain because I’ve done it.

I have a WIP in the waiting. I winded some Gründl Hot Socks yarn and bought a second set of Hiya-Hiya mini circular needles. You might notice that my mini circular purchase found a way to duplicate itself:

socks-in-waiting

The way my new needles got duplicated is a saga that only an Amazon order disaster can produce. I ordered my second set of needles on January 16. They weren’t in stock so they were sent to me on Jan 26 with an estimated arrival date of February 1. February 1 came and went and so a new estimated arrival date of February 5 was established. By February 7 I was on the phone with Amazon customer service. If they weren’t going to arrive a week from then I would receive a refund – upon my special request because Amazon wanted to refund me right then and there. Last Wednesday the needles, in my mind, were lost forever, so I ordered some more from another shop I found on Google. On Saturday morning the needles I ordered from Amazon magically appeared at my doorstep, in a mangled package which, of course, did no damage to my needles inside. Yesterday my other arrived. So, now I have three sets of Hiya-Hiya mini circs for knitting socks. I’ve decided to keep the duplicates because I like to knit gloves with fingering weight yarn. Anyway, Amazon customer service is AWESOME and I am their number one fan. So friendly, helpful, and eager to resolve problems. I hope I never have to talk to them again, but they were enthusiastic about doing the right thing. Amazon has won itself some serious points with me and I will continue to shop with them.

My clock says it’s midnight, so I am posting my WIPs on the cusp. Happy knitting and crocheting!

Can you marry a pattern?

spread

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.

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