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.


design, sweater

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!  🙂


color stranded, design, intarsia, sweater

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 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

design, sleevecap, sweater

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.

blocking, design, sweater

How Do You Really Block a Sweater?

blockingAs my newest sweater piece came off the needles, contradictory advice on wet blocking swirled in my head.  I’ve been on a bit of book binge and have purchase some new knitting books:  “Finishing School” by Deborah Newton and “Knowledgeable Knitter” by Margaret Radcliffe.

Ms. Newton is a pattern designer and declares that “less is more” when it comes to blocking- with the caveat that you should treat your swatch as you would your finished garment.  She talks about taking your hand-knits to the dry cleaners and that a little bit of steaming is generally enough. Ms. Radcliffe, on the other hand, extols the virtues of wet blocking and highly recommends wet blocking your pieces before assembly.  She says that many yarns can be wet blocked.  In fact, the manufacturers will generally say “dry clean” if they feel a dye may run and that water will not damage the fiber.  The two books take very different approaches to blocking.

blocking3I suppose if the main purpose of your garment is to be photographed for a magazine and not worn regularly, then wet blocking (aka hand-washing) isn’t crucial.  So, steaming is enough as your sweater will never see water in it’s entire life.  But, if like me, you plan on wearing your handknits, and eventually hand-washing, then wet-blocking both your swatch and your sweater is very important!  At least that is the conclusion I have drawn.

I don’t mean to pick on Ms. Newton or her book.  In fact, there is a goldmine of information in there.  The blocking piece just confused me for a while because I’ve just recently gotten into the habit of wet-blocking my swatches because of former knitting disasters and the “less is more” advice had me second-guessing myself and scratching my head.  🙂

blocking2My latest sweater is a stash buster.  I’m going for a crazy, garish, super-comfy sweater.  I’m planning on knitting the other side of the front with different colored stripes to add to the obnoxious-ness of the sweater.  So far, only the front left piece completed.  I’m holding a fingering weight yarn double and the two-colors-at-a-time approach gives each stripe at heathered appearance which I like.  The yarn is Palette from Knit Picks that was in my stash.  I’m going to try to knit projects from my stash for a while to see if I can get to a point where I can open my yarn cabinet without yarn jumping off the shelves at me.  After 4-5 sweaters, I should get my stash down to a reasonable size.

KnitBookUsing a technique picked up from yet another knitting book, The Big Book of Knitting, I’ve inserted diagonal pockets into the front of the sweater.  I think they are a little on the small side but it’s not worth it to me to rip them back.  Perhaps during finishing, I could rip out the sewing and pick up stitches and extend the pockets all the way to the center.  We’ll see.

And, I notice on the blocking mat that the center yellow stripe is 2 rows too short!  It’s not a huge, big deal as long as I match the short stripe on the right side and back pieces.  My sweater will just be .25″ shorter than I planned.  I’m just glad it didn’t happen in the arm hole.  No one likes squeezy armholes!  I suppose I could perform surgery on this sweater to add back the stripes like I did with my lounger socks.  Hmmm… maybe surgery is in order.

socksurgery4This sweater seems to be flying off the needles since I’m not writing a pattern at the same time.  And, I’ve ordered a purple metal zipper for the front closure from an Etsy shop.  I really love Etsy.  There are some amazing hand-made things on there in addition to the entire section of craft supplies.  I’ve got my eye on an interchangeable knitting needle case.  Is it not the best design for interchangeables?  My current interchangeable needle storage method is the “stuff them all into a drawer” method.  This would be a HUGE improvement.

design, sweaters

After-Thought Set-In Sleeve Is a Success

illsleeve2For the most part, I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants knitter.  When I finally reached the arms on my newest sweater, I decided at the last minute to try out a new-to-me sleeve technique that I refer to as the “after-thought set-in sleeve”.  After seaming the shoulders, I picked up stitches around the armhole and knitted an arm in place.  This technique uses short rows to knit back and forth to create a sleeve cap before then knitting in the round down to the cuff.

Overall, the after-thought set-in sleeve is easy to accomplish but I don’t think the wrap and turns are as pretty as regular increases/decreases in a sleeve.  However, the ease of construction and the elimination of seaming makes this technique very attractive!

gravityfallsIf you are interested in the nitty-gritty details of this technique, By Gum By Golly offers a very detailed and picture-heavy tutorial that you can check out.

illsleeveThe concept art of this sweater (provided to me by my daughter) has fuller sleeves down to the cuff.  I tried to create this look in the sleeve with minimal decreases down the arm and then performing k2togs all around right before the cuff.  The sleeve looks pretty close to the original sketch, right?

I’m hoping to finish up the second sleeve in the next day or two.  Then I’ve just got to put on the collar and put in the vertical orange lines to finish the “bricks”.  Maybe by next week, my kiddo will be able to wear her new sweater.  🙂

cables, design, mittens

Tech-able Mittens

cabledmittI love mittens.  They keep my hands and fingers so much warmer than gloves but I rarely wear them because I cannot answer my phone or use the GPS while wearing them.  Fingerless mitts solve a lot of this problem but my fingers are still COLD.  The solution?  Finger holes in the mittens!cabledmitt3cabledmitt2However, the holes in the mittens created another problem- a draft while not in use.  I found that a simple garter stitch flap overcomes this obstacle.  Yay for that!  I haven’t yet knitted a flap over the thumb as you can see in the picture.  It turns out that I knitted the thumb too large.  There’s a little bit of tweaking to be done to the pattern before it’s really wearable.

The strange flap on the wrist is a button band.  There are pretty silver buttons in my stash that I thought would compliment a cabled pattern.  Buttons can add that bit of sparkle to a project that brings the whole thing to life.  🙂

I’m really excited about these mittens.  It’s a shame that they need reworking before they are wearable.  I’ve been taking notes along the way for a possible future pattern release.  In the meantime, I’ll be sitting by the fireplace in hand-knitted socks with my dog creepily staring at me while I work on these mittens.  Hope you are staying warm as well.fireplace

color stranded, design, sweaters

Mushroom Mistake?

Fungi2Sock yarn sweaters take forever!  Many hours have been spent knitting this sweater and I’ve produced only 4 inches of fabric.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to knit up an adult size large sweater with fingering-weight yarn.  I guess I was in the mood for something tedious.

I’m a little worried that between the bright Noro colors and the mushrooms, the sweater may end up looking like a psychedelic nightmare.  lol.  I can’t decide if I should bail on this sweater now or just plug ahead.  I would love to hear your opinions on this matter.

bowlOn a side note- I recently took the kids to paint pottery with some friends… and the pottery store had yarn bowls available to paint!!  I was soooo happy to see them on the shelf!  I’ve been eyeballing some of those things on etsy but I’m glad I held off so I could paint one for myself.  My creation isn’t as beautiful as those on etsy but I’m thrilled to have it.  And, my daughter was kind enough to put a little lamb in the bottom of the bowl.  🙂

color stranded, design, sweaters

Fun With Fungi – New Sweater

FungiThe original plan for this yarn was to create a stained-glass-window sweater.  After much consideration, I decided to create something a little more fun so maybe my oldest daughter might want to wear this when it’s finished.

I’ve got the fungi mapped out and ready to go.  At this point, I’m thinking of going with solid black raglan sleeves and keeping the color on the body only.  And, there will be a 10-stitch steek down the middle so it can be opened into a cardigan.

This is another fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants project.  I did knit up a small test swatch to get gauge.

design, sweaters

Tullia Finished – As Good As It’s Gonna Get

TulliaFinished2I’m calling this sweater DONE.  The sweater is wearable but not my fave.  On paper, the collar is deep enough but the sweater wants to use the collar as part of the shoulder and the collar won’t stay rolled over.  The lacy stitch pattern has a tendency to stretch in strange places… like across the back of the shoulders helping stretch out the collar and eating into the fabric of the collar.  Maybe I should stabilize the neck line too?

TulliaFinishedI’m tired of trying to rescue this piece so it just may have to stay in its current form.  Will this sweater keep me warm?  Yes.  Would I buy this sweater off a rack at a store?  No.

I’m not sure what is up next on the needles.  My hubby says he’d like a man’s version of Olwen.  But, I also just got in some lace-weight yarn and I’ve never knitted a shawl… so maybe a shawl.  Although, I have several balls of Noro and some solid black yarn that I was thinking of turning into a color-stranded creation.