Not as hard as it seams

worsted131209aWhen I started teaching myself to knit, I decided early on to stick to a few principles. One of them was that I would not bother knitting things that required substantial amounts of seaming. Another one was that I would not knit baby items. (Yet another one was that I would not knit socks. We’ll have to talk about that some other time.)

The reasoning behind the first choice had a lot to do, in retrospect, with the way Elizabeth Zimmermann’s aversion to seaming had insidiously crept inside my brain, and convinced me that seaming was a tedious, tearful, life-draining activity, better left to stupid knitters who had yet to discover the freedom of going seamless. Obviously, EZ (bless her soul!) was not the only culprit here, since praise for seamless knitting was almost all over the Internet (I’m looking at you, seamless top-down raglan sweaters!), and seaming appeared at best as a necessary hassle you sometimes just couldn’t avoid, but had otherwise better keep well away from.

The motivation behind the second principle was that, as a male knitter, I probably wanted to keep aloof from what I perceived as the most traditional, feminine form of knitting practice. I mean: a woman gets pregnant, picks up needles, and starts making overcutesy baby booties, hats and sweaters. Or suddenly, all around her, people go into a knitting frenzy and produce aforementioned overcutesy items. Me? I wanted none of that. I wanted to make a statement by knitting manly things mainly for myself.

The combination of these two choices mean that I’ve been quite content to knit scarves, mittens, seamless sweaters and throws, as well as the occasional lace shawl. But it seems that all (silly) resolutions must die someday. And as far as these two are concerned, they died the day Alexandra was born.

Alexandra is my godson’s sister, she is seven months old now, and for her (and her mother) I was willing to knit this overcutesy cardigan as a Christmas gift. The pattern (garter bottom cardigan) is part of Petite Purls’ clever (and free) Back to Basics series.

worsted131209eThe different pieces of the cardigan were knit quite leisurely over a week, using 1.5 skeins of Malabrigo’s wonderful Rios superwash worsted merino in the Glazed Carrot colorway. Blocking, seaming and finishing were done during the week-end. How’s that for undelayed gratification? While working on this project, I greatly benefited from:

  • this Ravelry post on cardboard cutting boards, that had me buy one of these handy boards for blocking purposes;
  • this tutorial by Cheryl Brunette, which covers almost all the skills needed for making a sweater (that are also quite useful in many other situations):

Processed with VSCOcam with se1 presetBelieve it or not, before this first cardigan project I had not really put into practice the following skills, which I only had a theoretical understanding of:

  • seaming in different varieties of mattress stitch (which I now know to be a pleasurable activity in its own right);
  • making i-cord, attaching it and using it as a button-loop;
  • making a shank for a flat button, and sewing it on knitted fabric.

What about you? What are the silly knitting principles you’ve got rid of lately?

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I went to London and all I got was…

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetI had a professional meeting in London yesterday, with a couple of hours to spare around Oxford Circus. So I planned to use my time visiting the surrounding yarn stores, and treat myself to special findings I might come across. I first went to the yarn department at John Lewis. Shopping for yarn at a department store might not sound very exotic or exciting, but the supply was substantial and the yarns on display quite… appealing. I tried hard to resist all those wonderful Rowan skeins, Debbie Bliss varieties, and Noro assortments. In the end, I bought 2 balls of Louisa Harding merino/silk blend, pour la beauté du geste you might say (and with the idea of making yet another lacy baktus kerchief).

You see, I wasn’t in a buying frenzy since I intended to have a look at the fancier stuff at a place I had heard of, called All the fun of the fair, off Carnaby Street, in Kingly Court. Alas! When I got there, the shop was nowhere to be found. A thorough(er) search on the web taught me the place did not exist anymore, having closed earlier this year. How’s that for lousy planning? (I’ve learnt since that other people have experienced the same frustration.)

It was getting late, and time for my meeting, which lasted for hours on end. So afterwards I only had time to hop on the last Eurostar to Paris, with just a few meters of blue merino and silk yarn in my bag.

Next time, I’m getting my revenge.

Leap of faith

Processed with VSCOcam with x5 presetProgress is being made on the lopapeysa. Having finished the bottom part of the body, it’s now time for the sleeves. Once you get the hang of it, knitting two of those at once on two circular needles is no worse, in my experience, than knitting one sleeve at a time with dpns or the magic loop.

Knitting sweaters does strange things to the mind. One day you’re convinced the whole thing will be too small to fit, and the next it becomes self-evident you could put two of you inside that big bag of stitches. You can’t trust your senses, and you can’t rely on the confidence your swatch and all those calculations are supposed to bring. You can only have faith. And carry on.

Well, let’s carry on, then.

 

One hundred grams of silk and merino

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetThere’s something about the Baktus scarf that makes it a pattern I often find myself compelled to knit. Something about that combination of garter stitch and sideways triangular construction that’s just satisfying for the soul. And that basic, easy-to-remember pattern just begs for experimentation. I’m especially fond of the lacy variation by Terhi Montonen, with which I’ve knitted one of my go-to accessories. And now I’ve added this striped, variegated, blue-red version to my growing collection. Whipped up with a mere 100g of Louisa Harding’s Grace silk and wool blend, and stretched quite a bit on the blocking mat, the thing drapes nicely around the neck and looks much more sophisticated than it actually is.

I know I’ll be making more. And adding a twist of my own, next time, probably.

Knitting in the finest city

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetI’m in San Diego, attending a scientific conference, and had decided to keep this strictly professional. But you know how it is… You take a look at the Knitmap in your free time, you find a local yarn store that looks nice, and you figure it would be a nice stroll… And, hey, wouldn’t it be great to buy just a little skein of American yarn to take home – for keepsake purposes, mind you? There’s always your handy fellow knitter/weaver who thinks it’s a great idea too, just to have a look you know, not necessarily to buy anything…

And you indeed end up in The Grove‘s knitting section, spending a full hour going through their nice choice of yarns, and buying things for the stash monster you’d sworn you wouldn’t feed.

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Just an update…

worsted24After a couple of twisted starts, and the timely discovery of the fabulous 3-in-1 TECHjoin, I am happy to say that progress is being made on the lopi sweater. Which is good news, since fall has already, erm, fallen I guess, here in Paris.

I’m trying to pretend I can’t hear that little voice at the back of my mind that keeps whispering the sweater is too small and won’t fit. That freaky little voice that doesn’t believe in measuring tapes and is unyielding to algebra.

Twisted

On Monday night, after the tedium of producing and measuring swatches, I settled for what I thought might be the correct needle and pattern size for making myself that Lopi sweater (I can’t really tell yet, because there was no easy way for me to get the recommended gauge). I cast on 192 stitches for the body (I’m making the XL large version in 4mm and 5mm needles, when I usually wear M to L), joined in the round and managed to knit ten rows when I had a minute or two…

And noticed only today that my stitches were twisted to begin with, when I joined the round. How this went undetected I can’t really explain. But it made me smile that I had actually made a mistake I’ve kept reading about (“join in the round, being careful not to twist“) and have always thought was very easy to avoid. OK, it also hurt my pride a bit.

I’m taking this as an invitation to start again and try out knitting the body on two circular needles, a technique I intend to also use in order to knit the two sleeves at the same time.

I’ve also started reading The Knitter’s Life List,  thoroughly enjoying it so far (Knitter’s Review here).

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