FO Friday: “Denim wash” Alec XL

This sweater is finished.

It’s all washed and ready for its wearer to enjoy it. The only thing is: it isn’t cold enough to wear it. Also, I’m glad I had an FO for Friday because the alternative would be to talk about the sweaters I’m wearing. I’m not wearing sweaters so I would not have a Friday post without this Alec XL.

This is the second year in a row I have finished a sweater in January. It’s pleasant to start the new year with a finished sweater.

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Wednesday WIP: Another Alec XL

I’m actually here to talk about a WIP for a change, as my morning lessons are canceled. I’m a pretty fast knitter so I thought I could get one of partner’s sweaters started and finished in time for January 6, the day in Spain when people often exchange Christmas gifts and the Three Magi come to leave presents for children.

My partner picked out the color for this one, which is called “Blue Wash” by Rowan Pure Wool Superwash. It’s a quick knit, but I just need to get the second sleeve, the collar, and the buttons done.

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I’m definitely getting my $7 or so worth of sweaters out of this pattern. It’s so much fun to knit. I’ve already made two and plan to make more in the future. It’s also fun to wear. It’s very comfortable when it’s a little bit over-sized. Of course, it’s also very warm in winter.

The issue with sweater wearing this year is that it’s an unusually warm winter. The temperatures aren’t as extremely cold as usual.

St. Enda has been placed on the back burner until I get this semi-Christmas gift done for my partner. I made a lot of progress on it before I cast on this Alec XL. In fact, I’m 3/4 of way done with the back so all that will be left to do – soon enough – will be the sleeves, seaming, and the collar.

Wearing Sweaters #3 (and I can’t count to eight)

It’s FO Friday and I don’t have any FOs to showcase, so we shall have a look at what sweaters I’ve been wearing.

I’d also like to take a moment to let you know that I have recently discovered that I can’t count to eight. Browsing through my blog today and reflecting on the sweaters I’ve knit and crocheted this year, I realized that my post “Sweater #10” was totally wrong. In that post I said I had finished 10 sweaters this year. Totally wrong! In reality, this year I have finished eight. I counted ten because, first of all, I thought I finished my gray cabled sweater this year when in fact I actually finished it in December 2016. Also, I thought I finished two snowflake sweaters this year, one for me and another for my partner. That is so wrong! The other snowflake sweater was completed in 2016 in August. Whoops!

Anyway, I think was inspired to reflect on this because this week I’ve been wearing my HUGE snowflake sweater, or, if you like, the star motif sweater. This is a 1970s Leisure Arts knitting pattern and I love it. I loved it so much, in fact, that I made two, as mentioned above. Last year, when I knit it, I was a bit larger, so of course I made my sweater larger. This year, I’m smaller, so this sweater now fits me with a whopping 7 inches of ease! I don’t mind, though, because it’s so comfortable to wear. It’s an easy and quick knit, too, especially if you don’t follow the directions and knit the whole thing in the round instead of fussing with knitting the lower body and the sleeves flat.

snowflakesweater

I’ve been wearing this so much that I’ve wrinkled it just a little! I don’t care, it’s comfy and it keeps me very warm. I used Cascade 220 yarn for this and planned my snowflakes, or “stars” to be a faded color so that they appear and disappear, depending on what angle you see them at and the amount of lighting that shines on them. In the above photo they are very subtle. You can tell how huge this is on me by looking at my underarms. There’s lots of room to move around in this sweater! I could probably fit another person under it, or perhaps even shoplift if I were the shoplifting type.

I hope you’re wearing handmade sweaters this winter. I have no idea why, but it’s just fun to wear them.

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.

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, I mean 8 = Done

I cannot believe I’m posting about the tenth eighth (I can’t count, obviously!) 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.