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Category: Knitting

Bell-Sleeved Jacket

I’m pretty deeply depressed right now and not able to grapple with regular blogging, but here’s some knitting I’ve been doing to pass the time and prove to myself I can accomplish things.

Rose wearing her bell-sleeved jacketPattern: #15 Bell Sleeve Jacket, from Vogue Knitting International, designed by Daniel Adamczyk.
Yarn: Naturelle Aran 10-Ply, 100% wool
Gauge: 16 sts/24 rows = 4 inches or 10 cm on US size 6 needles
Size: XS (at my gauge, this gave the Medium width indicated in the pattern)
Knitting Dates: 21 October 2006 - 22 November 2006

Modifications: Many!
I knew from the start that I didn’t want to close the sweater with a belt and decided on hook-and-eye tape instead (although I have to resew it so that the edges fit more tightly than in the photo above). With the yarn I’d chosen, I was more comfortable with the fabric I got at 4 stitches/inch than 5, so I was able to follow the XS instructions to get a Medium width sweater, following the Medium or my own directions for how long to make various pieces.

I quickly decided not to make a collar once it became clear that the collar would be 13 inches long in the back, which seemed excessive. Instead I carried the inner cable up the front and attached it to the back neck, which I made about an inch lower than the pattern called for. I used short rows to shape the back cable part and left an open section to transition from right-curving to left-curving cables. I also changed the way the decreases toward the shoulder worked on the front so I’d end up with the same number of stitches as the back. The picture in the magazine shows a second line of knits with reverse stockinette separating the two, but this is not what the pattern specifies. I also used short rows for the shoulders on front and back, as well as for the back collar opening.

Since I wasn’t attaching the collar, the extra rows on the front edges to which the collar gets attached seemed superfluous and I didn’t much like the idea of matching reverse stockinette to orthogonal stockinette at the bottom. For a bottom edging to the garment, I used a provisional cast-on so I would have free stitches at the end once my seaming was done. I then knitted up the pattern at the bottom of the sleeve, though without the decreases for added bell effect; I just cast on the closest number of stitches to my live stitches that was a multiple of 8 (plus two selvedges for the front edges). I kitchener stitched this bottom flare to the live stitches. This added 2 inches in length, where the pattern-specified reverse stockinette (in my gauge at least) would have been about 0.5 inches.

Last, I worked an edging in double knitting with a garter stitch selvedge (Cast on 8 sts. or other even number. Row one: K1, *k1, slip 1 purlwise with yarn in back,* repeat from * to end. Row 2: *Slip 1 purlwise with yarn in back, k1* repeat from * to end.) I attached it to the garter selvedge on the inside edge of the sweater by alternating mattress stitching one stitch of the sweater to one of the edging and one of the sweater to two of the edging, going in under two stitch bars before coming up for the next stitch on the sweater side. This gave me a tension that didn’t buckle in but also wasn’t floppy. There may be better ways to do this, but it was my first experience with an edging like this.

Thoughts: I really like the changes I made, but I’m not sure they’re enough. I love the way it’s fitted through the bust and at the waist, but after that it flares and flares and flares, which I just don’t think is a great look for me. If I’d been able to add a few inches of fairly straight knitting, maybe another diamond’s worth (and I’m honestly tempted to make another version in which I do that) and then the flare would be down sort of camouflaging my thighs rather than uncomfortably close to my waist. I’m getting better at figuring out what sort of things I should wear, but maybe how to wear them is a bit beyond me. My sweater currently retracts to about 22 inches in length, which is shorter than suggested in the pattern. I’m hoping I can block it aggressively to get out the few extra inches I want. I just have very springy yarn and I’d hoped all the weight at the bottom would hold it down more. I’m frustrated by the how excessive the bottom flare can be but I still love the sweater and what I did with it. I’m hoping blocking will move me into total swooning territory, but I’m proud and it’s warm and perhaps that’s enough. Or maybe I’ll learn from my mistakes and make a second, which could be a lot of fun!

Kiri (and a little more)

I take off tomorrow for my grandparents’ home, so I’ll be gone for the rest of the week. It will be interesting to see how I get by without regular internet access! Steven will still be around and, I hope, posting some of the thoughts he’s been talking about with me lately.

In addition to being helpful, I should have some time for reading and I’m bringing a knitting project with me, hoping I’ll pass through airport security with my needles. When I come back, though, I can promise at least one comics post. Tonight I finally found the notes I’d taken for Art Spiegelman’s first post-9/11/01 lecture, which he discusses in the introduction to In the Shadow of No Towers. (I probably shouldn’t have let Tom Spurgeon publish something so conversational and rough, but basically all that I said stands.) So that’s something I will accomplish, but I’ve accomplished more than just cleaning and packing this weekend.

Rose wearing the Kiri shawl I finally finished a shawl for my grandmother, Polly Outhwaite’s Kiri (free PDF format pattern). I had been working on this in early summer but put it aside when I was having trouble with my arm and only picked it up again in the last week to get it finished. The pattern was easy to follow and memorize and I think it makes a lovely shawl. This is yarn that my grandmother gave me, some sort of mohair blend I think in a pale, mottled brown. I think these cones I got are remnants from a closed knitting mill, but I’ll ask about them when I see her. She used to knit blankets from them and while I have the pattern she used, I’ve been sticking to smaller projects, shawls, scarves, and soon a sweater.

Rose showing the size of the Kiri shawl I used U.S. #7 needles and with such thin yarn the finished product is practically weightless when it’s worn. It’s about 58 inches along the top edge, 29 inches along the central spine that hangs down. I think each side has 11 points along the edge. I could have blocked it bigger, but my grandmother is not as tall as I am and I think this size will be sufficient. I blocked the shawl by soaking it and then pinning it out to the proper dimensions (I ran a piece of yarn through the top horizontal edge to keep it straight) and shape. Since I finished knitting at 11 last night, I ended up making adjustments until midnight and while exhausted, which probably wasn’t the best state of affairs.

detail of Kiri leaf lace pattern I do think it’s a lovely shawl, light and delicate. I like the repeated leaf pattern that covers it, especially in a light, natural color like this one (although my striped tank top detracts from any simplicity). I think it will be a welcome gift and it has the added advantage of looking more complex than it is. I would recommend this pattern to a first-time lace knitter and it can be expanded to a variety of sizes, from a tiny kerchief to a huge shawl. Mine is midsized, about what you would apparently get with two skeins of Kidsilk Haze, but I think it’s a good size for my purposes, and by this time tomorrow I’ll know!

Minisweater elegans

Rose wearing her minisweaterIt’s sweater time again, although this is the last garment I’ll be showing for a while. This is the minisweater designed by Stefanie Japel. I think I began on 1 September and ended 5 September or something like that, and I worked on several other projects at the same time. I deviated from the pattern quite a bit, but that’s sort of the point with this setup. Instead of worsted weight yarn I used very nearly all of two skeins of Araucania Nature Wool Chunky in a variegated bright green. The body was knit on U.S. size 7 needles with the garter stitch edges done on U.S. 4 needles.

detail of minisweater back

I used yarnover increases to make decorative eyelets along the raglan seams. I made straight raglan sleeves, omitting the puffed portion, and threw in a few short rows. The sleeves are also not as long as the ones in the original pattern because I was running out of yarn. I think I got through 5 rows before starting the garter stitch border. I made two more sets of increases on the body after separating the stitches that make up the arms, although this may not have been a great idea as the back is just a tiny bit loose. The button also wants to come undone, so I may end up taking it out and moving it so the fronts have more overlap where they meet, which would then tighten up the extra space in the back.

detail of minisweater front

And here is the front with its button closure. Moving the button would give me slightly more coverage, although coverage clearly isn’t really the point of this design. Because it’s wool and knit much less loosely than the garment in the pattern, it seems very warm and should be a great coverup to let me keep wearing tank tops into the fall. The fabric is very fuzzy but doesn’t seem to be pilling and doesn’t leave fluff on my clothes. And I chose a red button on purpose, because I had a theme for this sweater and that theme was TURTLE.

Rose\'s turtle, FoucaultThis is Foucault, my six-year-old red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). He doesn’t actually live in the sink, but I was scrubbing out his tank tonight and figured this was a good opportunity for a photo shoot. Since he’s a mature turtle, his shell is fairly dark now, but I like the combination of various greens and a spot of red and used a color scheme more reminiscent of his looks as a hatchling. I don’t think he’ll get the following that some comics bloggers’ pets have, but that’s okay. Being a turtle, he values his privacy.


Rose wearing her Funky sweaterI’m finally getting photos of a sweater I finished more than a month ago. I had been calling this my SPX sweater, although I didn’t really think I’d need a sweater in Maryland in September. Now it turns out Steven and I won’t be able to attend this year and instead I’ll be staying with my grandmother while she goes through a surgery, which means the sweater may get to make its debut after all.

It’s the Funky sweater from Rowan #34, last year’s winter issue. I used the now-discontinued yarn called for in the pattern for the jacket version, Rowanspun Chunky in color Fern. I used between 7 and 8 skeins to make the Medium size. The pattern calls for 9, but I did not use the yarn to sew my seams, which might have made some of the difference. I generally knit loosely and I think used US 10.5 (but maybe 10) needles instead of the 11 called for in the pattern.

back view of Funky sweaterI think I followed the pattern as is except to add 2 inches to the sleeves to accommodate my gorilla-like arms. The hook-and-eye closures are also my innovation (I don’t really want a big, cozy sweater that is open and drafty at the front) although I am in the process of removing the ones I’ve put in and moving them so it will close more tightly. As shown in the back view, there’s plenty of room for layering under this (and the lumpiness is due to my not standing straight).

stitch pattern and shaping detailWith big yarn and needles, this was a very quick knit. I think I spent 3-4 weeks working on it only intermittently. This photo shows the side shaping, which is pretty much all that goes on here. The stitch pattern is so simple that it’s a great mindless project, but the shaping keeps it from being too bulky. I loved the rough, tweedy yarn, and it has softened considerably after one wash. There was quite a bit of vegetable matter in the yarn and I expect to be picking burrs out of it for some time to come, but I’m a sucker for its rustic charm.

detail of Funky collarAnd this, I think, is the best part, what drew me to the sweater. I’ve never seen a crazy bobbled collar like this and it fascinated me. I didn’t do the world’s best job attaching the collar, but I still like the way it looks and it, too, gives the sweater more shape and character than many bulky knits have. All in all, while it was a straightforward and relatively quick project, I do think it’s a fun and comfortable sweater I’ll wear a lot (as weather permits; tonight was not ideal for heavy wool sweaters!) and have around for years to come.


Next up is the Audrey sweater from Rowan book 35. I started working on this last December and had various spurts of effort followed by total inactivity, so I have no idea how much time was spent on it.

Rose wearing the Audrey sweater

I used Rowan Calmer yarn in the color Peacock on U.S. size 5 needles. I did not join the Audrey Knitalong but did read all the posts and benefited from them. The Calmer is amazingly soft and stretchy, though I think it will pill eventually. I had a lot of worries about how this sweater would look on me. I lengthened the body and sleeves by somewhere between 1 and 2 inches and worked the body in the round to the armholes. I did not do the raglan decreases as specified in the pattern; I thought decreasing into one purl row rather than two made a nicer line and a more symmetrical match between the body and sleeve sections. Because I was paranoid that it would be too small, I put a few short rows in the bust to make darts as well as doing the waist shaping detailed in the pattern.

detail of Audrey sweater waist shapingI did not, however, follow the shaping directions, although I increased or decreased the right number of stitches on the appropriate rows. Instead I decreased and increased in ribbing to get an hourglass shape similar to the one suggested in Tiffany’s knitalong post. I think this is a much more elegant and smooth look than the setup in the original pattern.

detail of Audrey sweater lace necklineI ended up knitting the lace directly onto the sweater (I did not bind off the neck stitches but left them all on one big circular needle) because I couldn’t figure out a nice way to sew it on. I did 18 lace repeats for the medium size and the neckline is high but not confining. My moment of idiocy was when I didn’t check where I was beginning on the lace, meaning that my seam is quite visible above my left shoulder on the front rather than on the back. I haven’t decided whether this bothers me yet. I may rip out the seam and try to do something more invisible, or maybe this is the time to finally take advantage of the current trend for pinning knit or fabric flowers on shirts. We’ll see.

I don’t know where I’ll wear this yet or how comfortable it will be and I’m not likely to find out until the weather cools considerably, but for now I’m basically happy with my finished product and definitely happy to be done with it at last. I’m going to wash it and try to stretch the torso a little bit, hoping this will even up the ribs a bit and then find some excuse to wear it in the fall.

(Thanks to Steven for taking the photos of me wearing this and the flower basket shawl in the last post and for not laughing at me too much for looking vampiric in the first photo here. Believe me, the alternatives were worse!)

Flower Basket Shawl

I’ve been gone a long time and it felt really good. I’d been getting bored, I admit, and peevish and, for a time, quite sick, and so the break was welcome. I took advantage of my time away to work a lot and read and especially knit. In this post and another tonight I’ll highlight two projects I’m proud I finished and I hope to have images ready for another post Tuesday or Wednesday. Then it will be back to more word-heavy postings.

First up is the Flower Basket Shawl pattern designed by Evelyn Clark and published in the Fall 2004 issue of Interweave Knits, which was a quick knit I whipped out during the first weekend in August.

Rose wearing the shawlI stuck pretty closely to the pattern for a change, knitting on U.S. size 7 needles and using one hank of DZined wool/hemp sport weight I think in color WH12154 used single rather than doubled because of the yarn weight. My only change was that on the left side of the shawl I changed the directions of the double decreases (ssk, return that stitch to left needle, pass next unworked stitch over) to give it a more symmetrical look that probably no one will ever notice. I did the number of repeats in the pattern and I’m sure there was enough yarn left over for one if not two more. I was just being lazy and fast and didn’t want to have to rip out my work if it turned out I didn’t have enough.

This detail shot shows the slight variegation in the yarn, as well as the pattern detail, with each pattern block a basket with a flower in the middle:

flower basket pattern detailThe hemp in the yarn gives it a crisp, almost papery feel and is less stretchy than wool alone. Because of that, I think I lost about one inch in each direction from the dimensions indicated in the pattern. This makes the shawl a bit small for my purposes (though it would have been small anyway) but I think it will still be useful if I close it with a pin rather than trying to tie it.

And here is a little picture of my shawl blocking. After letting the shawl soak in soapy water, I wove string down the center spine of yarnovers and along the top and then used T-pins to secure each scallop on the bottom edge.

blocking the flower basket shawlAll in all, it was an easy and satisfying use of a few days’ knitting time. I’d already used the pattern once before with Noro Lily cotton/silk yarn to make a smaller version for my brother’s girlfriend during the winter. The lace patterns are easy to memorize and once started just keep going. I would definitely consider using the pattern again, perhaps for a slightly larger version with DZined wool/hemp/mohair, which has a bit more sheen and halo. I’m not sure where I’ll have occasion to wear a shawl, but at least now I’m prepared.

No year’s resolution

Speaking of resolutions, this isn’t one, but I was actually quite domestic tonight and am unjustifiably proud of getting many loads of laundry finished as well as dishes and making an apple crisp. Actually I accidentaly put in too much butter, but I think it will turn out tasty nonetheless.

I’m not sure I can promise to be chock full of sweetness and light since I think it might be cathartically fun to be cruel for no reason, but the chances are good that I won’t try it. And speaking of nice, did I mention there’s no comics content here? None!

Instead I’m going to take advantage of our new digital camera to show off what I did knitwise in New Orleans and on the plane to and from, and this is another thing I plan to continue in this new year. [Kelly, I warned you not to look. Recall this.]

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