American Wool Series

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Start to Finish: Pomme de Pin

Are you all tired of my sweater posts? Let me tell you, I had an incredible urge to set it down while knitting the body and start knitting something else (in fact, I cast on another sweater) but after a day-long break I picked my cardigan back up and powered through. 

It helps that I was sick on Tuesday of last week and was able to spend almost the entire day recovering on the sofa while knitting and watching Dawson's Creek (guilty pleasure!). I finished the bulk of the knitting, sewed in the sleeves, and blocked the body of the sweater before picking up the button band. 

Now all I have is 300+ stitches to knit back and forth before I'm ready to sew on buttons!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Start to Finish: Pomme de Pin

I didn't post any progress on this sweater last week since I was knitting my way through the body. I made a couple of decisions about this sweater after reading through the pattern and referring to the schematic that I'd like to share.

If you've knit lace you'll know that something magical happens when it hits the water - it grows! Those crumpled stitches relax and the finished piece grows and opens up during the blocking process. This sweater is knit in an allover lace pattern so it makes sense that it will grow during the blocking process - both vertically and horizontally. The instructions for the body say to knit until it measures 17 inches but the schematic for the sweater also says 17 inches. If the lace pattern is going to grow lengthwise then I know that I need to knit less than 17 inches for the blocked measurement to match the schematic. 

This is where your swatch comes in handy! Your unblocked swatch measurement and your blocked swatch measurement will give you the magical number of rows or inches you'll need to knit the sweater to the correct length to match the schematic. My swatch is still MIA but I know that my swatch grew about an inch after blocking. Based on that information I decided to knit my sweater body to 15 inches and I'll rely on the blocking process to eke out that extra two inches. I'll use this information for knitting the sleeves since I don't want them to be too long. I've made a lot of progress since last week - I split for the fronts and back, knit the rest of one front, and am most of the way through the back. If all goes well I may have a finished cardigan by the end of January!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

Music Monday

"Jolene" by Dolly Parton. Catch the outfits on this one. One of my co-workers at the new job is named Jolene and every time she answers the phone this song pops in my head.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Start to Finish: Pomme de Pin

 I'm making some progress on my Pomme de Pin cardigan. The ribbing took two days of commuting by bus to complete.
Here I am today, about half-way through a repeat of the pinecone lace pattern. Everything is very straightforward, as in 17" straight up knitting in pattern. There's no waist shaping to deal with but if I were to add some this is how I would do it: keep more stitches in stockinette on either side of the stitch markers for the sides and decrease or increase to your heart's content. In order to do this you need to know the distance from the hem of your garment to your waist and then distribute the decreases evenly along that length after the ribbing. The same thing goes for increases - measure the distance from your waist to your underarms and distribute the increases along that length. Since this is meant to be a cozy, untailored type of sweater I'm knitting it as written.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Start to Finish: Pomme de Pin

I'm hosting a cardigan KAL in one of my very favorite groups on Ravelry - My Sister's Knitter - and thought I'd share my process when knitting sweaters for myself. It seems straightforward enough, right? Choose a pattern, choose some  yarn, knit a swatch, knit a sweater. Done.

A lot of things go into my decision-making process, including the yarn and pattern, but also my body shape and my existing wardrobe. So let's talk about body shape first - Amy Herzog has an amazing class on Craftsy that gives a great overview of different body shapes and some guidelines for what sweaters might work for each shape. In the end, though, you should wear sweaters that make you feel great about your body and that you'll love regardless of whether they fit into specific guidelines for your shape.

For example, I have a proportionate figure where my bust and hips are both 43" and my waist is 36". I also know that my bust and my rear stick out about the same distance from my body so I don't need to do short rows to make adjustments for a large bust and a small rear or vice versa (short rows help sweaters not ride up in the back or front if you have a bust/rear inequality, or a large tummy). When I choose sweaters I tend toward patterns with set-in sleeves, or the illusion of a set-in sleeve, so that the sleeve cap seam creates a visual reference point for the outer limits of my body. Cardigans are also at the top of my list for wearability since the vertical line down the center of the body visually breaks up the width of my bust and hips.

How do I choose a pattern?

If you're on Ravelry, use the advanced pattern search and filter your search by the attributes you want in your sweater. For example, I would search for cardigan and set-in sleeve and maybe a fabric characteristic that I feel like knitting such as cables or lace or a construction method such as top-down or bottom-up. If you have a yarn in your stash you'd like to use you can also choose that weight of yarn.

If you're not on Ravelry I suggest visiting an LYS and looking through patterns and books as well as getting suggestions from staff.  

 Photo via Savory Knitting

I chose Pomme de Pin since I absolutely love Amy Christoffers' patterns and already had the pattern in my library (it meshes with one of my resolutions for this year). This pattern also has a lot of projects listed in Ravelry so I can browse how it looks on different body types and with different amounts of ease. Generally, I knit a 42" bust since I like a little negative ease. Pomme de Pin is meant to be worn with 3-ish inches of positive ease which puts me smack dab in the middle of the third size. I'm okay with that amount of ease since the other option is to knit about 4" of negative ease. This cardigan is meant to be a cozy, lightweight piece so 3" of positive ease sounds just about right to me.

What about the yarn?

I'm using yarn from my stash (another resolution) that I purchased from Webs at Stitches West last year specifically for Pomme de Pin; Valley Yarns Northampton Sport in Ocean Heather. Again, you can look at what other knitters used for their sweater on Ravelry, dig through your stash, or visit an LYS for suggestions and help. One thing I do look at when substituting yarn is the content of the yarn. If a pattern calls for a silk blend yarn you're going to want a yarn that has similar drape if you want your finished sweater to look the same. Pomme de Pin calls for Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport which is a superwash wool yarn - my yarn isn't superwash so my swatch will tell me if it's going to behave correctly. That leads me to the swatch.

Do one. Really. It's going to tell you a lot about whether or not the pattern and yarn will play nicely together. I've knit a large-ish swatch - about 7 inches square - and washed it just as I would my finished garment and then let it dry before measuring it. My swatch (mysteriously disappeared now that I want it to show y'all a picture) was spot on for gauge so I'm going to go ahead and cast on!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Music Monday

The Monks performing "Oh, How to Do Now" on German television in 1966.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Resolutions? Resolutions! 2014

I'm not much for setting really concrete goals. An example of this is that it took me nearly ten years to go from the owner of an AA degree to the owner of two BAs. And yeah, I moved to a new city, put down roots, had to get a job to pay for the new city, and got married and started a family before deciding that I should really get going on my education goals. See? Whackadoo. 

I can't even promise myself that this year will be different, but I've finally realized that goals don't have to be concrete - I can strive toward bettering myself or my craft or my life in small, measurable ways.

Annual airing of the stash on Jan. 1st

I've got some loosey goosey goals for this year that I think I'll be able to achieve:
  • use my pattern library
  • knit more sweaters
  • use my stash, especially sweater stash
  • be mindful when choosing projects
  • learn all about weaving
  • think hard before purchasing (especially yarn)
  • be happy with my knitting, if I’m not it’s a sure sign that something is wrong
 I've got an embarrassing number of patterns and books listed in my Ravelry library. I'd like to use the patterns I have with the yarn that's in my stash, especially to knit more sweaters. Enter the mindfulness part of this equation - sometimes I know that something isn't quite right for a project and I knit it anyway and am unhappy with the result. Makes sense, right? I seriously need to face up to a yarn+pattern fail before I get to the finishing stages of a project. Aaaand instead of running out to buy new yarn for said project I'll go to my stash first since I'll be thinking hard before making purchases this year. Do I need it? Is it practical? Do I already own something that can serve the same purpose or fulfill the same need? 

Finally, I got a loom for Christmas! It's a 15" Cricket Loom and I want to learn all about weaving this year so I can weave up some of my copious stash into wraps and scarves for Christmas gifts next year.

There you have it! Like most other knitters who declare their 2014 goals I've put myself out there for public scrutiny. What are your goals for 2014? I promise I won't hold you to them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Year in Review: 2013

Like most knitters I'm spending at least part of my New Year's Day thinking about what I accomplished last year and what I want to achieve in this brand spankin' new year. First I want to take a look at my 2013.

Knitmeter says I knit 24,796 yards in 2013. This is roughly 6 to 8,000 yards less than I've knit in the previous couple of years but I'm totally fine with that number. Much of the 24,000 yards came directly out of my stash except for Christmas gifts since I didn't have non-wool fingering weight yarn or the correct yardage of other weight superwash yarns.

I knit 18 pairs of socks:

I don't have pictures of Mr. B's Christmas socks yet (he wore them straight out of the box and I forgot to snap a picture) or my brother's Rye socks. That's 11 pairs of gift socks over the year - not too shabby.

As co-host of the Doubleknit Podcast I hosted a Deep Stash KAL and pulled out a lot of "precious" yarn and finally used it. It was a great exercise and worked well in tandem with Stash & Burn's Use it or Lose it challenge - I ended up knitting 16 projects that worked for both KALs.

I published a hat pattern, Pillsbury, which is free on Ravelry (photo by Quixoticpixels).

I knit a ton of accessories this year. Here's a sampling of them.

I also knit several sweaters but I have a particular favorite from 2013 - Audrey in Unst.

 I also joined Instagram this year (I'm ErinBirnel) and cultivated several online friendships with other knitters and crafters, you know who you are!

This was also my first full year Cold Sheeping. The idea is to either put in place a system whereby you knit more yarn than you bring in (Cold Sheeping Lite) or create custom goals for yourself. I had several exceptions in my Cold Sheeping: Stitches West, my birthday, and yarn for gifts or to finish projects. Honestly, I did end up buying yarn more than that but I was way more thoughtful about it than in the past. I'm continuing my Cold Sheeping efforts until Stitches West 2014 and then reassessing my goals.

I feel good about the progress I've made this year and I think 2014 will be even better.  I'll be posting goals and my somewhat non-resolutions for 2014 soon, stay tuned for that! You can see all of my 2013 projects on Ravelry if you follow this link. If you're interested in tracking your knitting progress over the course of the year I highly recommend adding a tab in your projects for 2014 and then tagging each project you knit as well - you'll be amazed at what you can achieve.

Happy 2014, knitting friends! I hope it's a good one for you!