look!

Another perk of my new place – the wash basin in my room is big enough for blocking even large items, like the back of my to-be Minimalist Cardigan! :) Please ignore the rust etc. – it is a student residence after all… :)

Doing this is long overdue – I meant to do it just before I set off to Paris so that it was dry by the time I got home. However, as I am the master of putting things off until the last minute (I started packing at about 7pm on Sunday evening, we were leaving at 5am in the morning), certain things simply didn’t get done. Oops! :)

I’m considering this a sort of a test-block, so I didn’t pin it out or anything, I just lay it flat on a towel on the floor, I want to see how much it will grow and whether I’ll need to rip and make a smaller size. It definitely feels too big already, but then again – I’ve never made a cardigan for myself and I don’t know how the pieces are supposed to look before you put them together. The measures seem to be just slightly off from the pattern, so maybe it’s ok after all? We’ll see. For orientation purposes, you get a(nother) nasty photo. My feet are included for size estimation! ;)

Oh, and Paris, you ask? It was lovely. Lovely! I was so sad to have to come back to London, and the obligations that come with it. I definitely needed a longer vacation… But I’ll stop moaning about that and very soon I’ll share with you lots of yummy photos of the trip! Watch this space… ;)

unravelling and debating

Debating more unravelling, that is. I haven’t had much time to devote to knitting in the last few days, though I stuff my Minimalist-in-Progress into my bag everywhere I go, just in case a brief window of opportunity opens up. Last night I got an unexpected night off so I settled into my armchair, put my knitting in my lap and browsed the BBC iPlayer for some good TV to accompany my knitting, as it really requires no thinking at this point. They had Casanova with Heath Ledger, so I thought: ” just the perfect kind of senseless easy movie I need!”

Well, as it turns out, even senseless movies can distract! As I was watching it, I got to the shaping of the armholes on the back, and misunderstood the pattern – it sure seemed odd that I would be doing the final two rows of decreases on one side only, but with the movie making noise in the background (and Heath drawing my eyes away from the pattern ;), I decided not to ponder on it to much and assumed it was some secret ingredient of sweater knitting that I had not discovered yet and that made sense in some way which I didn’t understand. Only after I finished the decreases and counted my stitches did I realize that I had two extra stitches. Then I read the pattern carefully and realized it had called for decreases on both sides of the needle on right side rows. Yeah, go figure. Let’s just blame Heath for this outburst of daftness I exhibited.

Luckily, I just have two rows to unravel, though stitch-by-stitch even that is annoying. It’s also reminding me of a fact which I have been trying to supress for a while – that the back is already coming out 2.5cm wider than it was supposed to (despite my spot-on swatch!), and that I have been told that this yarn expands a lot in blocking. The current extra 2.5cm should be ok since I had chosen to go for the smaller size (remember my in-between-sizes dilemma), but if it expands a lot more in blocking, I’ll be in trouble.

Nonetheless, for now I’m ploughing on as it is, and we’ll see how it goes. The ripping debate is on the NO side at the moment. But tell me one thing – why on earth does a sweater knit 95% in seed stitch call for a swatch in stockinette? I feel like my dilemma may have been alleviated had the pattern given instructions for swatching in seed…

the sound of knitting

I’m alive! :) It just dawned on me that you might be thinking my move ended fatally, since I’ve been quiet much longer than is normal for me… :) But no worries, I’m all good, it’s just that there’s been a lot going on… Lots of moving activity, going away parties, football, birthdays, walks in the city, dinners, hanging out. It’s all been wonderful, but it also left me craving a little bit of being in one place and with one person (me!).

And there’s no better way to regain that sense of calm and quiet than with knitting. :) I’ve been sneaking away with my Minimalist every chance I get… And this morning, as I did a little bit of knitting before delving into some more serious business, it struck me that knitting can be pleasing to a completely unexpected sense – that of hearing.

Yes, we’re all used to enjoying knitting primarily tactile-y (see photo) and visually, sometimes even the sense of smell comes in (c’mon, don’t be shy, you know you’ve sniffed the occasional hank of yarn!), but listening to knitting – I never really thought about that before. These needles I’m using now produce such a perfect clickety-clack, quiet enough to not bother someone napping in the room, yet loud enough to create a pleasant rhythmical cue for me. I’d say the sound is at least half the reason why I’m enjoying knitting this so much.

Do you know the feeling? Or do you think I’m crazy? I’d love to hear about your experiences with the sound of knitting…

heaven

Someone asked for in-progress photos from the project I wrote about starting yesterday. Little did I know that I would have some progress to show today already!

This shows about half of what I have (if you look closely, you’ll see it’s folded over) – a good chunk of the back. I just couldn’t stop! As you know, by now I’m pretty used to working in k1p1 for long stretches, so getting into that rhythm wasn’t an issue at all! And I’ve found I don’t mind purling, when it’s combined with knitting. What I really dislike is just endless rows of purling only. That tires me out.

But the reason why I’ve made this much progress in one evening is something else, I think. The needles. When I had just moved to London, and Ysolda (who is having a 25% off sale today only!) had just published her Snapdragon Tam pattern, I was dying to make it asap! I bought a wonderful yarn, but I couldn’t get the correct gauge with the needles I had – everything indicated that I needed a 4.5mm needle. But that seemed to be sold out at whatever store I went to. Finally I found Loop, where the lovely shop assistant spent quite a bit of time digging through their needle stash to find me the right size. The needle she found was kind of short, and I wasn’t sure if the cable length would be enough for a hat knit in the round, but she worked with me and was really nice and knowledgeable.

The needle was a Hiya-Hiya. I had never tried them before and was a little suspicious, but she recommended it warmly and I decided to trust her. I am so thrilled now that I did! This needle is a joy to work with, it’s very light, the cable is nice and flexible, the joint between the needle and cable is not at all noticeable, the needle is slippery enough to let you knit fast yet sticky enough to not make yarn fall off the needle on its own. And let me say it again – it’s very light. I didn’t think this would mean much, I mean how much does a needle weigh anyway, but I can really feel the difference when I’m using it!

I have also used Addi needles since, but I wasn’t as thrilled with them. That doesn’t mean I disliked them, I think they are very high quality and if you want a reliably good needle, they are highly recommended. But the Hiya-Hiya gives me that extra thrill! Let me say that this could also be biased by needle size. The only Hiya-Hiya I have is 4.5mm, and that is arguably one of the most comfortable needle sizes generally. But I still think I’m onto something here and I’ll definitely be buying more Hiyas in the future!

Oh yeah, and Hiyas combined with this amazing blend of wool and acrylic just takes me straight to heaven! I think this cardi might be knit up sooner than any of us expected! ;)

a pattern, a swatch, a decision

One big project finished, and I’m feeling like I’m ready to tackle another one. I’ve never achieved a finished adult garment before, but today I made a decision to change that. If I could finish this Monster below, surely I can finish one little cardi for myself! Especially if I have the perfect yarn already in my stash (I had been saving it for the right project).

Well, remember how I was talking about cardis for the summer? I chose one from that list! The Minimalist Cardigan. I made a full size swatch yesterday, which was an exception: I usually only do about ten rows, I’m more concerned about getting the correct number of stitches than the correct number of rows. I was so proud when I finished this one and realized it matched both the number of stitches and the number of rows perfectly!

Now how often do you get that? :) So as soon as I finished measuring my swatch I went straight online and bought and printed the pattern. I plan to cast on this evening. 

Of course, there had to be a slight glitch. The difference in bust measurement between sizes provided in the pattern is on average 4 inches. Of course, when I measured my bust, it fell exactly in the middle between two sizes (two inches either way), and I don’t know which way to go. The pattern doesn’t mention anything in the sense of negative or positive ease, so no clues there. I’ll try to scour people’s notes on Ravelry to see if anyone has recommendations. I don’t think it will be too much of an issue, in the end, since it’s an open-front cardi without buttons, but I do want to get the sleeves right…

In the meantime, the baby cardi has been ripped and I’m making another swatch. It was coming out way too big. I’m contemplating changing that project completely, I’m not sure I can handle so much purling right now :( so it’s good that I’ll at least have one good project going as I struggle with that one… :)

Lota, finally

I’m not quite decided whether Elizabeth Zimmerman is a genius or a woman of incomprehensible logic. But one thing is for sure – it seems that making one of her designs is a sort of right of passage in the knitting world.

Understanding her ‘pithy’ instructions can be a real challenge. Without the clarifications (textual and visual) of wonderful knitters on Ravelry, I would’ve been completely lost. At moments like that, when my only response to her instructions was “she wants me to do what?!”, I was quite sure she was a woman of incomprehensible logic.

Then, on the other hand, when the final result came to look as seamless as this, I decided she might after all be a genius.

I loved the garter, but hated the lace (it bored me to death). I think next time I might take KathrynIvy’s idea and replace the lace with plain stockinette.

It took me forever to choose the buttons. As I was making this, I started hoping that it might be very well received, and, as Lota is a first child, that it just might become an heirloom. And you can’t just put any buttons on an heirloom! I envisaged dark metal flower buttons, but couldn’t find anything I really liked. Then I came across these wooden ones. As soon as I saw them, I knew they were perfect.

The parcel finally took off yesterday. And I think I’ve passed my rite of passage.

Oh, one more thing… The cardigan isn’t travelling alone!

But more on that tomorrow…

summer knitting

Let’s get this clear straight away: I’m not a fan of knitted summer items, such as knitted strapless tops, knitted skirts, knitted bathing suits… For me, knitwear, even if it is in a light and cool material, implies warmth. So I stick to non-knitted tank tops, skirts, dresses, etc. in the summer. That doesn’t mean, however, that there is no room for knitting in the summer! I don’t mind working away at any project during the heat, and last summer I knit on every single day of my coastal vacation. Call it addiction. ;) And there is one other thing – every once in a while, there will be that fresh evening breeze. Or that cool rainy day. The perfect opportunity to snuggle up in that one soft cardigan you slipped to the very bottom of your suitcase, just in case. While I adore summers, I have spent too many of them in 40-degrees-Celsius heats to not appreciate those rare occasions of cooler air. And since I am spending this summer in a much ‘milder’ climate, I can expect more of those cool days. So, does it make sense now that my idea of knitting for the summer is – cardigans?

Here are a few of my favorite cardigan patterns in different styles. Each is simple yet special, and each would look lovely with a nice summer dress or jeans. Cardigans are great – they go with everything!

I talk about Ysolda and her designs way too much, but in any cardigan roundup, there is no way her Coraline can be skipped! I love this style of cardigan, with just a few buttons (or a nice clasp) at the very top, it looks so girly and dreamy – and it’s perfect for dresses.

Then there’s Slippedstitch’s Brompton. It’s a more classical design, buttoned all the way down, but with some interesting edging features and super long sleeves, perfect for snuggling up with a book. You know you want to… ;)

If you’re in for something that looks kind of summery as well, have a look at Ruthie Nussbaum’s Minimalist Cardigan. The 3/4 sleeves and no buttons make it perfect to just throw on over something as you’re leaving the house. This is probably my favorite style of cardigan, I can never get enough of them. There are some photos on Ravelry showing it styled with jeans and a casual t-shirt, and it looks brilliant!

Finally, a cardigan I’e been meaning to make forever. I first fell in love with its name, and then with the cardigan istelf. Mary Weaver’s Mrs Darcy is closed only at the bottom and has some really nice waist-shaping thrown in. This can be very useful for dresses cut just below the breasts, which, let’s face it, sometimes make you look pregnant. With a cardigan like Mrs Darcy you can give them a nicer shape if you don’t feel like facing the quizzical looks on a certain day… ;)

There we go, that was my little selection of items I would like to have for the summer! At the moment I’m constantly wearing my cheap store-bought mustard-yellow cardigan, washing it every few days to make sure it doesn’t start smelling… It just makes everything looks interesting, and it makes me feel all warm and protected – just like the perfect summer cardigan should!

Click on images to go to image source!