Wearing sweaters 2

Still no FO! I’ll probably finish my Thanksgiving decorations tonight or tomorrow morning. So, I’ll talk about the sweater of the week, which is my “Unisex Zip.” Try not to notice that I need a haircut and a shave, OK?

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This pattern comes from the digital edition of The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters” and is used as an example to show you how to design your own knitwear using the numbers from the “blank” pattern for a basic modified drop shoulder sweater. You can find information about it here.

I love wearing this sweater for many reasons.

First of all, it’s a wardrobe basic. There are no cables, no fancy color designs. The pattern calls for a multi-colored yarn, which means it goes well with lots of other clothes. The stitch pattern breaks up the stripes of color very nicely so you don’t get big, dominant pools of color. If you wear a long-sleeved tee under it, as photographed here, and put on a pair of jeans, it acquires a casual look. However, you can also wear a button-down shirt with a collar and some khakis to look more dressed up.

Another benefit is the stitch pattern. It’s a ribbing, but with slipped stitches. I don’t know if anyone reading this has actually tried to wear a truly ribbed sweater. I find them uncomfortable because they cling so much. This ribbing clings, but not to the point of strangulation, which makes it very comfortable. The modified drop shape adds enough contour to the chest without outlining it too much.

Also, this is a light wool sweater. The yarn weight is sport, so it’s warm, but not too warm for Fall weather. The pattern calls for a camouflage color way from Briar Rose. Unfortunately, this yarn is now discontinued, so I had to look for a substitute.

Which brings me to the last reason why this is a favorite: THE YARN. Briar Rose discontinued their sport weight line, so I needed a different merino wool. I got really lucky here. I live on continental Europe, where merino wool is just everywhere. As a matter of fact, if I travel 15 minutes outside the city I can easily find a flock of merino sheep roaming about in a field. I bought my spun-and-dyed-in-Spain merino wool from Tejo lo que Hilo. The name of the company translates to English as “I knit what I spin.” They have beautiful hand-dyed wool, which you can see knit up in the photo. This little company also sells equipment for spinning along with yarn you can dye at home. The quality of this merino wool far outdoes that of a more “trendy” and pricey brand, such as Madelintosh, which will pill even before the knitting is completed. I finished knitting this sweater in May 2016 and it still hasn’t produced any annoying fuzzies. Last year I wore the living heck out of it and this year I plan to do the same. So yes, good-quality, reasonably priced merino is sometimes better than the big name brands that cost more money. Sturdy merino wool exists, and some of it is grown, spun, and dyed right here in Spain. This sweater, for me, is a wardrobe staple and a special souvenir from my favorite country to live in, representing a way of life and a language I love.

Wearing a hand-knit sweater, when it’s properly made to fit well, is such a luxury, especially when it’s made of soft merino wool. It’s also cool to know that my hours of knitting won’t turn into a sweater with ugly balls of fuzz sticking out any time soon. It will eventually happen, but the material I chose has slowed down the process very nicely.

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Wearing sweaters 1

It’s that cold time of year to get out the sweaters and wear them. Yay! I don’t have an FO and from now on, every Friday that I don’t have an FO I’m going to show off my sweater collection. This week, I broke out an oldie but goodie, the “Arguyle” gansey I finished about three or four years ago. I believe this was the second sweater I finished since I had begun living in Spain. I used four-ply yarn rather than the recommended sport weight which means I even used a different gauge! It took me about 10 months to complete. I’m glad I did all that hard work and used wool. It still looks like new. I chose two inches of ease rather than the recommended four and I can still wear it successfully! Yay me. I may be in my forties, but I can still wear slinky sweaters.

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As far as “wearability” goes with this sweater, I wish I could turn back time and not follow the pattern exactly. This gansey is knit traditionally with an added twist: a saddle shoulder. I don’t think the designer shaped the front neckline well enough to account for the saddle. If I could knit this all over, I would have added more shaping at the neckline to make it deeper. The saddle with this minimal neck depth causes the sweater to shift around a little too much on the shoulders and sleeves which means it’s a bit fiddly to wear. If I wear a jacket, I have to adjust the sweater again when I take it off. Other than that little picky aspect of it, it’s a good lightweight sweater perfect for this time of year when the temperatures drop somewhat.

Anyway, one fun part about knitting and crocheting – besides doing it – is being able to use your makes, isn’t it? With some good quality wool a sweater will last a lifetime looking like new.

WIP Wednesday: “St. Enda”

What a coincidence that today is All Souls Day and I have a Saint of my own hanging off my knitting needles! I may not be religious, but somehow I’ve managed to live a parallel life on this day after Halloween. I know! Halloween is over! Total bummer!

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I’m making a lot of progress on this Celtic saint. As you can see, I’ve got the front done and now I’m 2/3 of the way up the back. You can also observe that on the front I didn’t bind off my remaining stitches, I just left them “live.” I’m not following the directions, which instruct the knitter to bind it all off. My reason is simple: when I knit the sleeves I shall simply knit the saddle onto the shoulders. Yes, I’m an evil genius who wishes to sew as little as possible. I suppose some people take great pleasure in sewing saddles onto shoulders. I do not.

I’ve also very cleverly put garter stitch selvage edges on my pieces. I’ll do the same on the sleeves. This way, I can mattress stitch the body together very easily and also crochet the sleeves to the body. I’ll more than likely mattress stitch the sleeves together, though, so they match the body seams.

A lot of people think that crocheted seams are too bulky. This is simply not true. Mattress stitch, actually, can leave more bulk than a slip-stitched seam. I’ve experimented a lot with crocheting my knits together and I’ve discovered that if you’ve got a textured stitch pattern, like on this sweater here, a garter stitch selvage that is slip stitched together on the wrong side blends in very well. It’s far less annoying than doing that silly “fake grafting” thing on bound-off edges. It looks neat and professional, without all the “take the tapestry needle this way, then around, then that way, try fudging a little, rip it out and try again” nonsense.

The cold weather is approaching. As a matter of fact, we are almost on the verge of turning the heat on. The temperature is wicked cold in the morning, rises to room temperature or slightly less by noon, and then drops quickly back to wicked cold at sunset. Needless to say, I was very happy and content to watch Stranger Things, season two on Sunday, knitting a cowl and hiding under my bulky crochet afghan.

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I snapped the photo with my iPhone on Sunday afternoon just in case I wanted to document this WIP on the blog. You can’t see my legs because they’re under my afghan. When I finish this cowl I’ll still have plenty of purple Cascade 220 Super Wash Quatro to make a scarf for a Christmas gift. So, a long time ago I bought a ton of purple yarn, that’s for sure! I got a cardigan for myself out of it and now I’m going to knock some Christmas gifts out of it, too! By the way, the cowl is still a WIP. I started it and stopped knitting on it on Sunday.

 

Sweater #10 = Done

I cannot believe I’m posting about the tenth sweater I have finished in 2017. First of all, I cannot believe I had so much yarn in my stash. Second of all, in the past I’ve always made one or two sweaters a year. Since I’ve moved to Spain I’ve added 14 sweaters to my wardrobe and 3 to José’s. It may seem like I’m a totally selfish knitter, but José actually has in total eight sweaters I’ve made for him. When I lived in the US I didn’t knit any sweaters for myself and they were all his. Once, I tried to knit a sweater for myself when I was living in the US and José talked me into giving it to him when it was finished. Another good rationalization is that I am the person doing the knitting and buying the yarn, so my hard work and investment makes me deserving of having more sweaters. Zero guilt.

The other exciting thing is that this sweater-wearing season I am going to debut a lot of sweaters. I finished most of my stuff in the “off-season.” I’m totally going to slum the knitting club this year.

Anyway, about the purple cardigan.

I decided I wanted a ton of buttons so I made 18 button holes that would fit around medium-sized buttons. The reason for having so many buttons on this cardigan is so I can change its look depending on how big or small I get this winter. At the moment for some weird reason I’m actually getting smaller. For example, remember the “Up and Down Crunch Sweater” I crocheted and designed? It fit me with zero ease about a month ago. Now it would fit me with 2″ of ease. Anyway, I’ve digressed. The buttons were a totally lucky find at the Chinese bazaar (that’s like a dollar store). In total they cost me about €1.75. They’re just the right color and they’re plastic so they’ll survive the washing machine nicely. The yarn I used was the discontinued Cascade 220 Superwash Quatro I bought four years ago or so. The “pattern” I “followed” was for the top-down raglan sweater in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters by Ann Budd. I actually didn’t follow the directions exactly. I included the button bands in with the body of the sweater and I increased at the neckline gradually rather than casting on stitches all at once. I put moss stitch on the yoke and did the rest of the body in stockinette, which was extremely boring. I don’t think I’ll knit stockinette stitch flat ever again unless I somehow make a bad decision a second time!

I still have yarn left over from this project. Two skeins to be exact. I’ll have to figure out what to do with them. I’m pondering the One-Skein Wonders books.

I’m still not wearing my handmade sweaters, unfortunately. It’s October and unusually hot. Every day this week and next it will be 80 degrees F.

Better late than never

It’s Thursday morning. I don’t think it’s too late to share a WIP. Wednesdays for me are not ideal for blogging because I have a lot to do at work.

I finished the knitting on my purple cardigan and I washed it. Now I’m very gradually sewing the buttons onto it. With any luck I’ll have an FO Friday post about it if I can manage to get motivated to sew more buttons.

While the cardigan was drying, on the weekend, I cast on “St. Enda,” a by now classic Alice Starmore design. It looks so complicated! Forgive the bad photo, please, I have to figure out what went wrong with my camera.

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The reality is: no, it isn’t as difficult to knit as it looks. First of all, you can mostly knit without a cable needle. The only place where you need a cable needle is when there’s a fancy maneuver to cross the stitches out of order. Second of all, the sand stitch on either end of the sweater is very basic and not at all difficult to execute from memory. The honeycomb panels are also easy to do from memory. I only look at the chart for the Celtic knot panels and by now only superficially. I just follow where the purl stitches wind up on every right-side row. That’s the nice thing about making traveling stitches that are almost always paired with purl stitches. You always know that the purls are the background so you can easily figure out where the knit stitches wind up. That’s why I only have to follow where the purls are shifted to on the chart.

My favorite thing about this pullover, besides the bold Celtic knot, is the ribbing. It’s all cabled. The same happens for the collar. It’s just refreshing to knit up a ribbing that isn’t 1 x 1 or 2 x 2. I’ve waited twenty years or so to knit something designed by Alice Starmore. It won’t be the last time, that’s for sure. I suspect that I’m going to get into an Alice Starmore “mode” of sorts. I have many of her books and there are quite a few sweaters – including a really nice gansey – that I want to make for myself. The only problem is that I need to be a little less selfish and knit at least one for José. I know he wants a light blue sweater, so I’m planning my next project with him in mind. I’m trying to decide between two sweaters, one of them by Starmore and another by a different designer. We shall see! First, I should probably get this sweater done, right?

Purple cardigan on a WIP Wednesday

I’ve been knitting away at my purple top-down cardigan. I’m almost done with the body and then I can get going on the sleeves.

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I haven’t knit stockinette stitch flat in years. Wow, is it boring! I really made a push on it over the weekend to try and get it all over with. I almost made it to the bottom, but not quite. I wanted a sort of plain cardigan and I’m getting one, it’s just I have to make a real effort not to yawn while knitting and purling back and forth.

Free pattern: Up and Down Crunch Sweater

If you came here just to download the pattern, scroll to the bottom of this post and download away! Updated September 27 at 12:30 AM CET. Reason: corrected instructions for foundation dc stitches. Now you are told to pm in the middle stitch of the group of three. UPdated again September 27 at 11:05 PM CET. Reason: changed wording of decrease rounds for sleeves (picky change).

Well, I finally got this crochet sweater pattern written. In the end, I decided to go with myself as the model for the small and large sizes of the sweater. My blog followers get to see and download this pattern first, before I put it on Ravelry, since a couple of people asked me to write it all up. In the pictures, above, you can see me wearing two different sizes. The brown one is size small, or 42″, with 0″ of ease (yikes, but I felt sleek in it!). The orange version shows me in the large version, or 46″, with 4″ of ease. Originally, I thought the brown one gave me 1″ of ease but I think it was a long time since I had measured myself and I’m afraid I got a bit wider! Whoops.

The sweaters are also shown with two different types of yarn. For the brown one I used El Gato Negro lana especial 4/4 C, which is a 4-ply yarn. The orange sweater was made with Cascade 220 Fingering, a lighter, 3-ply yarn. I love how both came out. In the pattern I make more yarn suggestions and even offer advice on using a 5-ply yarn.

I tried to accommodate a good range of sizes: 42″ (44″, 46″, 48″, 50″). This way, dearest women, if you want one for yourselves you can work out the bust measurements easily.

The pattern seems a bit long, but in exchange for that it is easy to read without columns or text boxes. Additionally, I wanted to explain all the little details, like clearly describing the pattern repeat and how to decrease and increase in pattern so that people will feel more confident in customizing their sweaters. I also wanted to explain the options to anyone who wants to customize it to fit their personal needs and tastes. Since this is a free pattern without any official pattern testing, tech editing, etc., I decided that I could use my liberty to innovate and leave sleeve length up to the crocheter. I found it ridiculous to give a sleeve measurement for each size. I don’t think I’ve ever made the sleeve the same exact length as indicated in any sweater pattern. So, no sleeve numbers. Make it long sleeved, short sleeved, three-quarter sleeved, no sleeved, whatever floats your boat!

Download the pdf pattern here! And, of course, have fun crocheting!