Cowl/Capelette Progress

capeletteprogressI’ve made some progress on my cowl/capelette in the past few days despite fighting a cold, working on new yarns for my Etsy shop, and performing the normal daily grind of activities that we all have to face.  I love the colors in this yarn but I’m still worried that it obscures the stitch pattern a bit.  I’m on the “bee stitch” portion of the capelette and I’m really enjoying this one!  The bees are created by increasing YOs that are dropped on subsequent rows.  Then, when you have 4 stacked sets of dropped YOs, you knit under them all which separates the wings and creates the little bee body.  You can find the basic bee stitch on knittingfool.com.  Although, I’ll share my modified version when my cowl is completed.

capelettestitchesAs I mentioned, I’ve been working on new yarns for my Etsy shop (and my personal stash!)  🙂  This time, I’ve dyed yarn blanks in a variety of colorways and methods.  Some are semi-striped, some have more of a gradient effect and some are just randomly splashed with bold spots of color.  While I’m going to enjoy knitting my cowl/capelette, I’ve got my mind going over ideas for my next project that will incorporate one of these new yarns.

yarnblanks2If you are new to yarn blanks, they are basically machine knitted fingering weight yarns.  (It’s much easier to dye yarns in gradient colorways using the yarn blank instead of tying off sections of a skein.)  You can knit directly from the sock blank and unravel it as you knit or you can unravel it and wind it into a ball and then knit from the ball.  The end result is a beautifully unique garment.  I am envisioning a shawl knitted from one of the all-over dyed blanks and some socks from one of the stripe-ier blanks.  I’ve named the new line “Watercolors” because they look like watercolor paintings to me.  🙂

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Next Up – A Lacy Capelette/Cowl

capeletdesign2After a lot of swatching and thinking, I’ve settled on my next project.  It’s going to be a lace-weight capelette that uses a couple of my favorite new stitches: the bee stitch and the fir stitch.  I’m hoping that the capelette will double as a long cowl when draped around the neck and then become a lacy wrap when pulled down over the shoulders.  As always, I’m casting on with my fingers crossed that things will work out in the end.  I’ve never made a capelette and I’ve actually never knitted a garment with lace-weight yarn.

I’ve selected a variegated yarn from my newest yarn line- Delight which is a silk/merino blend that is super soft.  I’m hoping that the stitch pattern and the color changes won’t fight with each other too much in the finished product.

capeletstitI’m planning on using the fir stitch at both ends to give a pretty scalloped edge and the bee stitch in the center portion of the capelette.  The bee stitch must be knitted from the bottom up so that part is settled.

beestitchIn other news, I found a pin on Pinterest that suggested putting out your little yarn ends for the birds.  I’ve put mine out in a suet cage and I’m hoping to see some colorful nests around the neighborhood.  So far, I haven’t seen any takers of my colorful fluff.  🙂

YarnEdns

Lace Weight Design Ideas

LaceDesign3With a lace-weight swatch in hand, it’s back to the drawing board.  The warmer weather and a new yarn line have me inspired to knit something light and airy to throw over a camisole or tank.  Cotton yarns are hard on my fingers so I’ve been avoiding their use even though I have a sweater-quantity stash of sport weight cotton in a beautiful baby blue.  Fingering-weight wools just feel a little too warm for summer so I’m thinking of using a silk/merino blend lace-weight.

The stitch pattern is still up in the air but I have settled on using a US size 4 needle with the lacy yarn.  The fabric produced on the larger needles is light and airy but dense enough to seem like fabric.  However, I haven’t decided on whether I want to knit a shrug or lacy tank.

LaceDesignI foresee a few more days of swatching before the next project is settled upon.  Then, I just need to select which colorway I want to use.  Here’s a peek at all the lace-weight silk/merino blends that I’ve recently added to my Etsy shop.  I’m thinking of using one of the sunnier colorways.

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I Heart My Dragons! Favorite Finished Object EVER. And, a Review of DROPS Air.

dragoncomplete4When you take the “softest and fluffiest yarn EVER” and combine it with the measurements from your favorite sweater and then throw in a couple of dragons… it’s REALLY hard to to wait for the finished project to manifest.

It feels like I’ve been working on the sweater forever, but looking back over my posts, it’s only been few weeks.  The anticipation has been brutal.

The end result is my favorite finished project that I’ve ever produced.  The sweater is soft, snuggly, warm and has a couple of dragons too!  Pure happiness is how I would describe my feelings about this sweater.

dragonbuttonsChoosing buttons that were worthy enough for my prized creation was not an easy task.  My preference is to take my project into the store and audition buttons.  However, the store with the best button selection (Joann Fabric around here) doesn’t carry enough cards of each button type to finish a sweater.  When you see the long aisle of buttons, it gives the false impression of ample selection.  But when you scratch the surface, you see that there’s usually only 3 to 6 buttons of any particular design.  I’d fall in love with a button and find that there were only 4 total buttons in the store- a stretch for the front of this sweater.

I finally settled on a silver filigree design with a shank.  There were only 6 buttons so I had to use a larger (but similar) button for the top.  You’d have to look very closely to notice.  And, I think folks will be too distracted by the glorious white creatures on the front to decide to inspect the buttons.

dragoncomplete3Along the way, I had to rip out the tops of all the sweater pieces because I mis-read my own directions and produced too-shallow of an armhole.  I also had to rip out the buttonhole band 4 times because my math for placement was wrong.  But, it did force me to come up with a new method for determining button placement that involves putting removable stitch markers where each buttonhole goes so I don’t have to rely on my own memory.  I cannot seem to watch TV and focus on knitting at the same time!

But I remind myself that with knitting comes frogging.  It’s inevitable.  And, I think it’s a good lesson and practice in patience for me.  Knitting forces me to take a deep breath, let it all roll off, and refocus.  I’m sure there’s another life lesson in there somewhere.

So, what was it like to knit with the “softest and fluffiest yarn EVER”?  It was awesome!  🙂  Because DROPS Air is a “blown” yarn and not a plied yarn, it weighs 30-35% less than conventional yarns which means this sweater feels light and fluffy.  Many of my sweaters weigh a ton but this one feels like wearing a cloud.  The yarn isn’t without it’s downsides, though.  It’s sticky and a bit difficult to frog.  Those alpaca hairs like to cling to each other and with the way that I seem to knit, frogging is a requirement.  However, it only required minimal scissor help to frog this yarn.  And, I was able to re-knit with the abused yarn.  This sweater consumed a total of 6 – 50g gray balls and a partial 50g white ball.   This yarn went a lot further than conventional 50g balls.

For my next project, I’m eyeballing the Hitchhiker shawl that many of my fellow knitting blogger friends have produced.  It looks like it would go very well with my hand-painted yarns and discourage color pooling.  While I mull over ideas for the next project, you know I’ll be ecstatically clad in a couple of white dragons.  🙂

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Back Neck Shaping- A Stab In the Dark

dragonbackThe back piece of my dragon sweater is off the needles and blocked.  I couldn’t seem to follow my own directions and had to rip out the entire thing back to the underarm bind off.  Apparently I cannot watch TV and knit at the same time.

I’ve noticed lately that many of my favorite shirts and sweaters not only have waist shaping, they also have shaping at the back of the neck.  Instead of researching what a normal back neck shaping curve looks like, I threw caution to the wind and mimicked my front neck curve with much less depth.  I’m hoping that I don’t regret my laziness after this thing is assembled.   It’s about an inch in depth.  I started the curve when I started the shoulder slope shaping.

Here’s a close up of the neck:

dragonbackneckIt looks a bit messy but it should work out okay once stitches are picked up for the collar… as long as it’s not too deep.

And, since I had so many stitches to reduce to get from the bust measurement to the shoulder-to-shoulder measurement, I ended up decreasing every row in the underarm.  I don’t think it looks too bad:

dragonbackunderarmThe first sleeve has been cast on.  I’m resisting the urge to over-complicate the sweater design by adding a motif of some sort up the sleeve.  Plain stockinette is a bit tedious but at least it goes quickly in-the-round.  I’m knitting the sleeves without a seam until the underarm to keep it fast and easy.

This project has been going a bit slow because I’ve been getting side-tracked with other things like painting yarns.  We keep having these strange warm & sunny winter days and I can’t resist the urge to haul my things out to the yarn and play with wet wool and color!  Here are some pics of my latest batch.  These hanks are a soft and cushy worsted weight superwash merino.  You can find them in my Etsy shop.  Dyeing yarn has become just about as addictive as knitting.  I’m definitely knitting something with painted yarns in my next project!  🙂

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Dragons, Dyes, and an Awesome Hank Winder

dragonOne dragon is completed and the other one has been cast on!  I’ve been busy with other projects (like yarn dyeing) which has slowed down my knitting progress.  But I’m still super excited about the Drops Air yarn and my new dragon friend who I think I’ll call Steve.  To follow the shape of my store-bought sweater underarm curve, I settled on decreasing every row.  It doesn’t look too bad.  I’ve held the sweater piece up to my body and it looks like it’ll be a great fit.  Steve’s new wing isn’t as pretty as the original wing design but at least it isn’t in my armpit anymore.

silkyyarnsHere’s a peek at the yarns that have slowed down my dragon project.  I was in a more serene mood this time and produced subdued hues with my color mixing instead of the supersaturated colors of my last batch.  This yarn base is a superwash merino and silk blend that has a very pretty sheen.  2 – 100 gram hanks were dyed in each colorway so a larger project, like a shawl, could be made.  When my dragon sweater is finished, I may sneak some of this yarn out of my Etsy shop and cast on for a spring shawl.

I like to re-skein my yarns after they have been dyed because I feel like it better represents what the yarn will look like when it is knitted.  But, winding a skein isn’t an easy task without the right tools.  And, these tools can be a bit expensive.  So my super-sweet husband volunteered (after I begged and pleaded with him) to construct a skein-winder for me.  Here’s a home video of my daughter demonstrating how to use the new contraption that has saved me a lot of work!

My Dragon Wings Are Being Eaten by the Underarm!

dragonwingThere’s always some kind of snag when it comes to knitting.  For my latest sweater, I neglected to take the underarm curve into consideration when planning the placement of the dragon.  I didn’t realize this until the wing stitches were being consumed alive by the underarm decreases.

dragonwing2I’m going to have to rip back about 20 rows and but the wing is redesigned.  The new wing still looks pretty good and it will follow the curve of the underarm somewhat.

Speaking of underarms, I’m noticing that for a set-in sleeve to fit the curve of my body, the conventional bind off and every-other-row (EOR) decreases just aren’t cutting it.  My last sweater had so many stitches to decrease at the underarm that the underarm curve went up about 3 inches and looked a little strange with the EOR decrease approach.  Plus, this became a problem with designing my sleeve cap to match because I didn’t need to reduce so many stitches in the sleeve.  Using my store-bought sweater measurements, I’m finding that I have the same problem!  In order to match the shape of the store-bought, I must decrease every single row or do a double decrease every-other-row.  Here’s a close up of the EOR double decrease approach.

dragoncurve  Since I love my store-bought sweater, I’m going to trust the measurements taken from it and just ignore convention.  I really, really want this sweater to be a perfect fit.  The yarn is scrumptious and I just love the dragons.  Keep your fingers crossed for me please!

Bad Ass Dragon Sweater- The Beginnings

dragon sweater designAfter taking measurements from a favorite store-bought sweater and ordering “the softest and fluffiest yarn ever,” I’ve finally settled on a motif – dragons!  I wanted something to wander up the front of the sweater but didn’t really want anything floral or too sweet.  This is where Pinterest comes in really handy!  I’ve been collecting intarsia and color-stranded patterns there and browsed through them to find this lovely cross stitch dragon.  He was pinned from indulgy.com so I have no idea to whom I should attribute this gorgeous artwork, unfortunately.  This dragon was way too large to fit my sweater so I started free-handing on knitting paper in a rectangle that would fit my sweater front.

firstdragonMy first attempt produced a dragon that had a lot of line and little fill.  I was afraid that with the super fluffy yarn, he would get lost and he would look like scribbles on the sweater front.  So, I filled him in and came up with a more solid dragon that I’m now using in the sweater.  I think this new design can overcome the fluffy yarn, still be seen, and the eye can tell it’s a dragon.  If I were more confident in my sleeve-cap design abilities, I would write up a pattern in multiple sizes to share.  However, I’m not confident in designing with the set-in sleeve but please feel free to use the dragon chart in your own favorite sweater recipe!dragonsmall  (Of course, for personal use only, please.)

I’ve run my numbers and have cast on for this thing.  I’m super excited!  Dragons plus the shape of my favorite sweater plus the “softest and fluffiest yarn ever” should equal one bad ass sweater!  Maybe it’ll be done in time for the premier of Game of Thrones?!?  dragon half

I’m using a mix of color-stranding techniques and intarsia techniques.  I’ve never had to do this before but it seems to be working out.  There’s only one or two strange-ish stitches on the front that I think I can live with.

Below, there’s a peek at the back:dragon back Anyone else had to knit with a mix of these two techniques before?  And, because I’m not sure how much yarn to cut for my intarsia yarn butterflies, I’ve just left the whole ball of yarn hanging off the back.  This slows me down a bit because I untwist the lot of them each row.  Maybe I should just cut them and add new as necessary.  That would probably be much more efficient.

Here’s a close up of the sweater piece.  You can definitely get a feel for the fluffiness of the yarn.  And, you can see my little gnome helpers!  They are available in my Etsy shop, if you’d like some for yourself.  They really are a delight to knit with!  I love them._MG_6209

Plotting a Succesful Sleeve Cap- What a Learning Curve!

sleevecapfinalAfter four separate attempts, I’ve finally produced a wearable sleeve cap!  It’s a little embarrassing that I totally overlooked taking the around-the-arm shoulder-to-shoulder measurement and kept producing silly narrow sleeve caps, but at least I figured it out!  In case you missed it, you can catch up from my previous post, the sleeve cap nightmare.

The bottom line of sleeve cap design is that the sleeve cap must 1) fit into the armhole and 2) fit over your arm.  I was totally neglecting the second requirement!

Here’s a schematic of what was going on:sleevecurveMy sweater had a ton of ease that I had to reduce away to get the sweater narrow enough at the shoulders for the set-in sleeve.  This required a large bind off and then lots of reducing afterwards.  Most sweater design books suggest that your sleeve cap reduction mimic this curve.  But, as you can see, for my sleeve, this means that I’m reduced to only 6″ of fabric before I even get to the top of the sleeve cap.  I knit 2 narrow sleeve caps in a row and seamed them into place with disastrous results, as you can imagine.

Once I finally measured my arm from shoulder-to-shoulder and then measured the sleeve cap from an existing sweater, it dawned on me that I was reducing too many stitches in the initial curve.  Eliminating the steep reducing slope on my sleeve cap kept enough stitches to adequately cover my arm.  Yay for that!  It turns out that most adults need around 3″ on the final bind off and over 8″ in width across the upper arm.  Who knew?!?

I was so focused on making sure that the circumference of the sleeve cap curve would match the circumference of the armhole that I totally overlooked the width.  To ensure the pieces will match up when seamed, the rows on each piece have to match.  But since we’ve got that horizontal bind off of the sleeve cap to match with the vertical rows of the armhole, the bind off rows need to be translated into vertical rows.  Understanding this helps you determine how tall you can make the sleeve cap.

In the end, I’m glad I conquered my fear of the sleeve cap and on the fourth try, got it to fit.  🙂  Next time, I may plot out the sleeve cap before I knit the sleeve.  A little extra ease in the sleeve would have also given me more stitches to work with and the curves could have matched up a little more.

The Sleeve Cap Nightmare

sleevecapThe sleeve cap curve is a bit of a mystery to me.  It’s why I’ve stuck to raglan construction for most of my knitting life.  It’s not that I haven’t designed and knitted set-in sleeve sweaters but it’s always with a deep breath and my fingers crossed that the sleeve cap will fit correctly.   I just follow the armhole bind off and initial stitch reduction curve from the sweater body and then fudge it a bit until I get to the 3″ final bind off.  It’s worked for me until this sweater.

To dodge plotting the sleeve cap curve, I found an after-thought knit-in-place scheme.  This method worked okay when the sweater was all one color but you can see in the pic above that when you are dealing with stripes, it looks terrible.  There’s no avoiding plotting the stupid curve for this sweater.  Or, maybe it could be an ugly oversized vest?  Hmmmm.  Tempting!

sleevecap2My second attempt at the sleeve required knitting the sleeve in-the-round from the cuff up.  When I got to the sleeve cap, I took a deep breath and shaped the bottom exactly like my armhole and then reduced stitches on the way up while keeping an eye out for overall circumference so it would fit into the hole.  It was a half-success.  The cap fit into the hole but it looked ridiculous and pulled in on the sweater.  The pic doesn’t clearly show the spectacular awfulness of the sleeve cap but it was really bad.  Fail #2!

sleevecap3For the third attempt, I pulled out a sweater design book and skimmed through the sleeve cap section.  The information I gleaned- follow the sweater curve and leave a wider final bind off.  Easy enough.   Keeping an eye on the overall circumference, I knit the sleeve cap again and carefully seamed it in place.  Voila! – worse than the last sleeve cap!  This pic shows more clearly that my sleeve cap just isn’t wide enough.

Back to the drawing board!  After reading more extensively and taking my shoulder-to-shoulder around-the-arm measurements, it’s became clear to me where my problem lies.  I cannot duplicate the armhole curve in my sleeve cap, which is counter to most of the advice in my books.  My sweater has lots of ease that I’m reducing away in the armhole.  If I follow that curve, I’m reducing my sleeve cap too much and it doesn’t fit around my arm.

The upside to all of this knitting and frogging and seaming and ripping, is that I’ve been forced to actually learn how to plot the dreaded sleeve cap curve.  While I still need to knit yet another one of these guys, I’m pretty confident that this one will not only fit into the armhole, but will also fit my arm nicely.  Time will tell.  Keep your fingers crossed for me, please!