Something I’ve alluded to but maybe not directly stated is that one month ago I started a full-time job in a fairly conservative, upscale office. I love my job, and I’m happier than I ever imagined being every day (thank God).
I did notice, though, that my wardrobe was a bit of a mish-mash of pieces that didn’t immediately seem to add up to higher-end business casual attire. I read a very helpful article on Jezebel, How to Dress for Work, and I adopted the advice of a sort of “work uniform,” the same type of clothes layered together each day. For me it’s been either pencil skirt + blouse + cardigan, or dress + cardigan, with stockings and heels. Simple, easy, and surprisingly comfortable.
You may notice that the word “cardigan” appears twice in my work uniform repertoire, and you would correctly assume that I have a lot of cardigans in my closet. My love and need for cardigans was one of the big reasons I learned to knit years ago. So as I look through my queue and think about projects I’ve imagined myself wearing in some distant future, my focus has now turned toward the more “business casual” or office-ready garments.
My definition of office-ready may be a little different or pickier than others’, but for the time being, I am seeking flawlessly-finished (in my parlance, that would be seamless), finer-gauge, classically detailed, versatile styles that still have a bit of visual interest and personality to them. That works out rather tremendously because those are exactly the type of sweaters I most enjoy knitting anyway.
One such endeavor is the lovely Summer Waves Cardigan (PDF), which I’ve started above. I’m planning to lengthen the sleeves, and I’m toying with adding one of the lace repeats from the collar band to edge the sleeves. I picture wearing this over a summery dress, with a skinny belt.
I hope it looks as nice in the office as it does in my imagination!
Pattern:Peggy Sue by Linda Wilgus, a free pattern from Knit on the Net. My project page is here. Size: L (42″) Yarn: Knit Picks CotLin 8-ply DK weight, 70% cotton / 30% linen, in Sprout; I used less than 5 balls, approximately 250 grams, which was 615 yards / 562 meters. Needles: Size 6 (4.0 mm) Modifications: Omitted waist cables, knit button band in garter stitch, continuously with body.
Started: June 18, 2010 Finished: August 15, 2011*
* – Actually, I finished knitting it July 19, 2010, then I took until August 15, 2010 to block it. Then I thought about buttons for a year and finally sewed them on August 15, 2011. Then I waited another 9 months to actually wear it out and photograph it.
In an unprecedented streak of FOs, I have another little cropped cardigan. I realized recently that if I wear my hand-knit garments when I meet my mother for the ballet, I can ask her nicely to photograph me with a scenic Upper West Side backdrop, at a time when my hair is brushed and I am (more or less) put together. These results obviously vary, and while my mother is a very talented photographer on her own, I don’t think she particularly excels at snapping flattering shots of me. But to be fair, I’m probably not going to like any photographs of myself until I am at a healthier weight, so I’m going to shut up and be content that she obliged me in taking any photographs at all. And get to talking about the knitting.
I like this style of cropped cardigan very much because it gives modesty to low-cut spring or summer dresses, without adding bulk or a bunch of fabric around one’s waist and back. I’ve noticed that a lot of “summer cover-ups” that can be found in stores tend to hang past the hips and obliterate any sense of the silhouette. I think they try to make up for the one-size-fits-all lack of shaping with open weave crochet and a sort of beachy vibe, but to me, that tends to accentuate the frumpiness. I realize this is totally a personal bias, but for me, I want something that seems a bit more tailored, while still having the ease and softness of a sweater.
This project involved a lot of pausing and deliberating, which could rightfully be interpreted as dragging my feet. I loved the original design straight off. At the time though, I had an intense cable aversion, after working too many teeny tiny cables on socks, so I decided to omit them and put ribbing in their place. Predictably, the design sort of depended on the cables pulling the sweater in at the waist, which mine does not do. I further modified the shape by continuing in stockinette longer than I should before switching to ribbing because I didn’t want the switch to hit at a weird spot on my bust-line (I’m sure everyone has that one top with the seam that insists on riding up and making it look like your breasts are falling out the bottom).
These modifications probably would have been alright if I had added in a little waist shaping or continued the ribbing longer, but I was limited by both the amount of yarn I had to use and by the total lack of elasticity in this cotton/linen blend. I genuinely love the yarn, and I was impressed by how comfortable it was to wear and the nice drape it had – but it is not a clinger in any way. It gives the sweater a sort of popover feel, without veering too far into boxiness, so it still feels nicely retro and feminine.
It’s also entirely possible, based on the wideness of the neckline, that I’ve knit too large a size or that my gauge was completely off. I honestly never checked because I liked the fabric I was getting. Ah well.
One of my biggest concerns was that the button bands not gap at all, even in the slightest. This fixation may be part of why I was okay with a roomier size. I took a page from a seamless baby cardigan that I had knit, working the button bands at the same time as the body of the sweater. I chose to work them in garter stitch, instead of moss stitch called for in the pattern, because I reckoned that would match better with the ribbing I was planning. I also off-set the buttonhole by one stitch, so that there was slightly more fabric on the outer edge of the band, and I sewed the buttons a little bit off-center as well.
I’m glad I paid attention to the buttons. They can make or break such a simple garment. I’m trying to be mindful of this type of finishing detail, much as I loathe sewing on buttons, because in the end, I’m really happy with these. They’re a shiny plastic that is a nearly perfect color match for the yarn, with pretty abstracted flower shapes that pick up the springtime, garden idea. I was careful to sew them all exactly horizontally (despite their appearance in this photo) so the front band would have a uniform feel. Considering I will most likely exclusively wear this sweater buttoned, I’m very pleased that the bands don’t gap at all and the whole thing looks tidy.
I think if I had it to do again, I’d knit this sweater in a stretchier yarn, or I’d go another direction with a fluffy mohair or angora. I would also get over my aversion and knit the cables because I think they would have impacted the shape significantly.
Still, this is a cute and wearable top. Its seamless construction made it both highly enjoyable to knit and incredibly comfortable to wear. Now I just have to get the Buddy Holly song out of my head.
I love learning and speaking foreign languages. I am fluent in Spanish and Italian, and I’m working on French. I love picking up fundamentals of grammar in other languages, and I genuinely enjoy discovering the quirks and peculiarities of a given culture’s modifications to a base structure.
One of the things I love best about languages is the way they stick in some part of the brain, whether used or not, and come up to the surface as needed, Italian words and Spanish idioms rolling into conversation naturally and comfortably. I find that lace-knitting is its own language, and I love that I am becoming slowly, modestly fluent in lace.
I had started my Wakame Lace Tunic way back in early 2010, over the holidays when I needed to take my mind off of an emotional situation (that’s always the way with me – I bury my feelings in lace). I put it aside just after establishing the sleeves on the back, when I got too busy with my graduate thesis. I packed it up when I moved to Staten Island, and I only just took it out again the other day.
Luckily, I speak lace. I’d left myself all the information I needed with the amount of stitches on the needles, and I was able to read where I was at in the first sleeve repeat. With a quick perusal of the pattern, I came right back up to speed, and I’ve been just chattering away with this gorgeous tunic since then.
I’m enjoying it immensely, and like most lace projects, it’s a great comfort for me during another emotionally trying time (I’ll talk about that once it’s all settled). I can’t get past the cleverness in the construction of this garment, and I look forward to making more progress as I zip up toward the end of the back and get ready to start the front.
Pattern: Whisper Cardigan by Hannah Fetig, from the Spring 2009 Interweave Knits. My project page is here. Size: Large-ish Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss Lace 2-ply laceweight, 70% wool / 30% silk, in Malachite; I used about 2.44 skeins, approximately 122 grams, which was 1074 yards/ 981 meters. Needles: Size 7 (4.5 mm), Size 4 (3.5 mm) and Size 2 (2.75 mm) Modifications: Lengthened sleeves and back.
Started: April 27, 2012 Finished: May 17, 2012
No surprise, I adore this sweater. Projects like this sweater are the reason I wanted to learn how to knit. I was able to turn some thin wool/silk string into a garment that is my favorite color, customized to my size, in a beautifully-designed style, the likes of which I could never find in a store. And I had fun doing it!
Recently on Twitter, Bette Midler asked, “Are they ever going to make dresses with sleeves in them again? Am I doomed to a life of sweaters and coverups?”
Unfortunately for Bette and I, no, they really aren’t. I snarkily replied to her Tweet (which also called on Tim Gunn) by pointing out that the last winner of Project Runway, Anya Ayoung-Chee didn’t even know how to make sleeves. But really, am I just shopping in the wrong stores, or is there a serious deficit in spring/summer dresses (or even fall and winter dresses) with sleeves that adequately cover the arms? At best, maybe you can find a fluttery cap sleeve, but that doesn’t really cut it.
I am nuts about sleeves both for modesty (I just don’t think underarms are appropriate in professional or non-beach settings) and because my arms always get cold in air conditioning and at night. I also really don’t like how fat and flabby my upper arms are right now, so for nicer occasions (or really any occasion) I don’t want to put all that on display.
I love this sweater because it gracefully covers my arms without completely obscuring my dress. It keeps me comfortable in air conditioning, but because it is so lightweight and breathable, I was equally comfortable in 78-degree sunshine. Fluttering around weightlessly, it added a draped, feminine touch to complement my dress without making me look buttoned-up and constricted, too prim, or too childish, as shrugs and cropped cardigans sometimes can. I think it will also work well over tank tops and sleeveless blouses for a more casual look. In short, as a garment, this one is perfect.
And at 120 grams, it weighs next to nothing, so it makes a great carry-along in case I ever do want to bare my arms, without adding bulk or weight to my bag.
Because this is my second time knitting this pattern, I already knew the changes I wanted to make. I lengthened the sleeves by 10 rows at the end of decreasing so they would come down past my elbows. I lengthened the back and “skirt” portion to 11″ below the ribbing, so that it would hit in a place I liked, especially when I sat down. I found the parts of the sweater that curved forward (formed by increases at the edges) perfectly covered my midsection while seated (it’s wrinkled in the back in the first photo after I spent the afternoon at the ballet, but it was sorted by the time I got home).
I already knew how much I love this yarn. In this color, the little twirly edges remind me of tendrils, which makes me love it even more.
The slightest issue I had while wearing it – which was probably caused more by the neckline of my dress – is that occasionally it would fall open more on my right shoulder than I wanted it to (I had my purse on my left shoulder). I tried it on over a tank top when I got home, and it was fine.
I’m incredibly pleased with this sweater and this project. I was delighted to see that working exclusively on one project – even in laceweight yarn – produced pleasantly speedy results. The turnaround time was faster than the 3 weeks indicated because I started one sleeve before finals, then finished the entire sweater the week after. As I noted in an earlier entry, if I can speed up my ribbing, it would have taken half the time.
So Bette Midler and I can quit despairing about dresses not designed with women like us in mind. We may not get sleeves on the dress, but I can totally whip up something fabulous that I love to wear. You can bet there will be even more laceweight, seamless sweaters in my future.
Pattern:Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fetig, from Knitbot. My project page is here. Size: M (40″) Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss Lace 2-ply laceweight, 70% wool / 30% silk, in Aegean; I used about 2.38 skeins, approximately 119 grams, which was 1074 yards/ 957 meters. Needles: Size 5 (3.75 mm) and Size 6 (4.0 mm) Modifications: Used kf&b increases, worked 1×1 ribbing on the collar.
Started: June 9, 2009 Finished: April 25, 2012
Oh boy, what a saga this sweater has been. Though it was literally years in the making, it was worth it. I’m thrilled with it, and it’s everything I thought it would be.
(Please excuse the wrinkles – this is after it was rumpled up in my overnight bag.)
It’s perfectly lightweight, but substantial enough to keep me warm in the enthusiastic air conditioning of NYC (this time was at the NYC Ballet, where I usually freeze). It’s crisp and trim enough to look professional, with an airy drape and fluttery quality that make it really enjoyable to wear.
The only real modifications I made were in working kf&b increases, offset by one stitch from the raglan “seam” and working 1×1 ribbing for the collar and band edging so it wouldn’t roll. The ribbing was suggested in the pattern, and I like the way it relates to the 1×1 ribbing at the lower edge.
I’ve probably professed my unending love for seamless sweaters before, but I seriously can’t say enough good things about how tremendously satisfying it is to make a laceweight sweater that is basically flawless. This pattern is brilliant, simple, and fun. It has gotten me positively addicted to laceweight, seamless sweaters (expect more soon), and I’m thrilled with the results. I’m equally thrilled with the yarn and its genuinely lovely color.
It would be a lie to say I’ve been knitting monogamously since starting this sweater, since I’ve actually finished two other sweaters while working on it (I know, right??), but for the most part, I’ve been obsessively focused on it, and it’s showing.
I’ve reached the “long rows” or skirt portion below the ribbed waist/collar, nearing the finish line on what has been an intensely enjoyable and lovely project.
The amount of time I’ve spent doing 1×1 ribbing in laceweight yarn this week is a bit staggering. It made me realize that on my last Whisper Cardigan, I stopped the ribbing half an inch short, with no memory of why I did that. I also noticed something about my 1×1 ribbing itself.
This is the outside, which frankly, looks a little cruddy. This photograph is obviously pre-blocking, so presumably the unevenness and sort of wonky appearance of the stitches should sort itself out.
But look at the backside. The knit stitches are so much more even, tame, and nicely spaced. These photos don’t show it, but the back looks much nicer when stretched too. Why is the wrong side of my ribbing so much nicer-looking than the right side??
When I accidentally picked up stitches backwards on another ribbing-edged project, I thought I could test an idea I had, that knitting my ribbing with the backside as the right side would result in a nicer edging. At first, it had the intended tidy, attractive appearance and I was very pleased with myself. But after stretching it a little in trying the garment on, the two sides are indistinguishable. So much for that theory.
I’ve always knit English (yarn in my right hand, throwing over the stitches), in part because it’s how I was taught and because I’ve read that it typically results in more even stitches and consistent gauge. I’m starting to wonder if I wouldn’t benefit from switching up how I do my 1×1 ribbing, not only for improved appearance, but for what I imagine would be a dramatic increase in speed.
Nevertheless, I’m thrilled with where this project is going, and I’m glad I soldiered through all that ribbing. I can’t wait to share some FOs with you soon.
I recently realized that over the years I’ve finished a number of projects that I either never photographed or never blogged, and in my desire to no longer be the worst and most delinquent knitting blogger that ever… didn’t blog, I’d like to remedy this circumstance.
So here is the first in a series of Flashback FOs, which happens to be one of my most-loved and most frequently worn hand-knit garments.
Pattern: Whisper Cardigan by Hannah Fetig, from the Spring 2009 Interweave Knits. My project page is here. Size: between a M and L Yarn: Knit Picks Palette 4-ply fingering weight, 100% wool, in Twig; I used about 3.5 balls, approximately 174 grams, which was 804 yards/ 735 meters Needles: Size 7 (4.5 mm) and Size 4 (3.5 mm) Modifications: Used fingering weight yarn instead of laceweight, customized width across back.
Started: April 10, 2009 Finished: August 15, 2009
If I had to guess, I’d say I was planning to take more flattering photos, but I hope you get the idea.
Smile, 2009 Vicki, you have a lovely new sweater.
From the moment I saw this design, I was taken with its clever seamless construction. Cast on at one sleeve and worked across the back to the other, it has a similar anatomy to many shrugs. But instead of simply leaving ribbed edges, this cardigan goes on to short-row panels that make surprisingly fun little flaps that tuck in right around the ribcage. It’s strange how much I enjoy that detail, but I find I want just a little more coverage than most cropped cardigans and shrugs offer in that area.
The flaps also give it a more breezy, casual attitude, while gliding over more of one’s back and sides. In person, of course, that faux seam at the back is straight and I don’t usually get the sweater all bunched up at my back like this.
I used a fingering weight yarn instead of the laceweight the pattern called for, both because it was in my stash and because I wanted something a little more substantial. This pattern is easy to customize to one’s desired length and width anyway, so I found it was effortless to follow as written using a substituted yarn weight. At the time I knit this sweater, I was working in a lab that was much too enthusiastically air conditioned, so having something wooly yet fluttery was just right over my summer dresses and blouses. I’ve continued to get a genuinely impressive amount of wear out of such a simple garment, perhaps specifically because it is so simple and easy to wear.
The slightly flared sleeves and tendency for the short-row flaps to roll and curl gives this sweater a pleasantly casual, easygoing feel, while its trim ribbing and seamless construction keep it looking elegant and graceful.
If there is such a thing as a perfect pattern, I’m inclined to believe this is it.
Back in 2010 I made a laceweight sweater that I adored. Then I wrecked it when I was trying to block it. I was so sad that I put it away for months.
When I took it back out last summer, intending to unpick the bind-off and repair the parts I’d ripped, it became a disaster. My collar became a tangled mess, and in a fit of knitterly rage, I went at it with scissors. It… wasn’t pretty.
I nicked the body of the sweater while angrily trying to cut off the collar, which necessitated reknitting the bottom several inches and ribbing. By that point, I just couldn’t look at it anymore. I relegated it to the depths of my WIP basket, periodically taking it out to admire it, but I dreaded reknitting the collar.
Finally this week, I worked up a head of steam and reknit the whole collar. Now that it’s over, I’m actually relieved that the first bind-off was so inflexible because it gave me time to rethink the length of the collar/bands.
Now I don’t want to jinx it, but the ends are woven in, it’s soaking in lavender-scented Eucalan, and I’m pretty confident that I will soon have my favorite sweater I’ve ever knit.
Then again, I’ve been here before with this sweater. Let’s hope it sticks this time!
My big brother is one of my heroes, and I could go on and on about what an amazing human being he is, as well as his specific accomplishments in siblinghood – and to him, I do – but for the purposes of this project, I think it mostly suffices to know I love him dearly. I’ve also been promising him a hand-knit hat for an embarrassingly long time. I think most people don’t really need super-warm hand-knit hats, but my brother is a fishing boat captain, an avid hunter, and a general rugged outdoorsman who is frequently to be found in the woods or on the water in freezing, wet conditions, gleeful as could be.
My first attempts at hat-knitting for my brother were destined for failure, I can see on hindsight (I actually have a third attempt about 80% complete in my knitting basket, which doesn’t even fit me). I used a cotton blend yarn, needles that were too small, didn’t cast on enough stitches, and I attempted colorwork for the first time despite knowing it would cause additional tightness. I seem to come across the description “fat Irish head” a lot, and for my family, this description does seem particularly apt. My brother’s head is 24″ in circumference (I think mine is around 22″), yet I continued to knit standard “adult-sized” hat patterns, with all the gauge problems one could ask for, as if I would somehow stumble into a hat that fit. Spoiler alert: I did not.
I finally broke out the cone of oiled wool I had purchased years ago for a pair of shooting gloves for my father (still have to fix one thumb of those – jeez, I’m awful with gifts). I decided for a ribbed hat, to make it stretchier, and I found a really stylish and terrific pattern. Predictably, I had to go through a few failed attempts at this pattern, too, before I acknowledged that my yarn was thinner, my target size larger, and so on.
In a way, it’s good that all this fumbling delayed the finished hat because it gave me time to really think through this thing I was making. I wasn’t just gratuitously knitting my brother a hat – I wanted this to be the hat, the warmest, snuggliest thing he owned, which would keep his brilliant brain toasty even when it’s snowing on the ocean and remind him that his sister loves him every time he wears it. I started to think about the experience of wearing oiled wool next to the skin, and it honestly did not sound comfortable at all. I may joke about him being part Viking and a pirate, but my brother is also a stylish guy in his thirties, who has nice skin that he probably doesn’t want scraped raw with each wearing.
Fleece lining, I thought, will be the way to make the hat soft and comfortable, super duper warm, and give it structure. But boy do I hate sewing, and I didn’t even know where to begin with hat-lining. Here is where I blundered into what I consider one of the most brilliant ideas of my knitting career to date: to line a hat with fleece, buy a pre-made fleece hat and sew it in. Structure? Done. Seaming? None. Super weather-resistant, pill-resistant, washable fleece? In the bag.
The hat is blocking as we speak, but I’ve learned from my experiences. I’m going to make absolutely sure that the big Carhart hat I bought for a song (the Amazon comments of which extolled its virtues for fitting large-headed construction workers and outdoorsy men of the world) actually fits my brother before permanently sewing the hand-knit oiled wool part to it. I know the hat I’ve knit is finally big enough, and it’s the right style and feel, after all these years. It’s not his main birthday gift, or in fact being presented as one of this year’s gifts at all, since it was meant to be his gift way, way back in 2008, but I will be giving it to him when we celebrate our birthdays in a few weeks (mine is Nov 1, his Nov 3). I really hope he likes it!
This summer I am taking intensive courses in Organic Chemistry, which as you can imagine, takes up an enormous amount of time and energy. I’m doing things a lot differently than I did the last time I attempted summer classes, though, taking great care to be much more organized and live in a better balance. I’m making time to enjoy the gorgeous weather, to see friends and attend events in my beloved city, and to be a happier, calmer version of myself than I think I’ve ever been.
I draw almost every day in my sketchbook (on ferry rides to and from Manhattan, mostly). I notice it is making me much more attuned to organic shapes, curves, the forms and substance of nature, growth, and the magical little processes happening unassumingly all around us.
(Shadows like lace, on Water Street, in lower Manhattan)
I’m currently working on a second bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, a subject I find intensely inspiring and fascinating in elaborate and wonderful ways. A lot of the study of chemistry is recognizing patterns of behavior, which are based on the underlying structural tendencies of molecules that give rise to functionality. In essence, things act the way they do because they are what they are. I find that incredibly beautiful.
I also decided I’m going to minor in Mathematics, in part because my degree already requires all but one or two of the courses for the minor, but also because, like chemistry, I feel like math is this extraordinary way of unraveling the mysteries and intricacies of the universe, as a means to discover even more incredible ones.
The combination of these fields has me finding and accepting this system of order that governs the way things work, and it’s so effortless and elegant that it would be easy to miss entirely. Systems seek balance, but not homogeneity. Functions have inverses that aren’t opposites. And on and on, it’s just exquisite.
When I think about knitting, it’s a fantastic binary system. Knit or purl, basically, though I am inclined to also include yarn-overs, increases, and decreases as one’s knitting alphabet. Even these five elements seem totally manageable, if math can wrap itself around integers, fractions, positives/negatives, exponents, negative exponents, imaginary numbers, trigonometric functions, infinities… you get the idea.
When you put these elements together, you form much bigger and more ornate systems that have their own properties (similar to molecular functional groups comprised of only protons, neutrons, and electrons). Even very simple combinations (2 hydrogens and an oxygen, say) make a significant impact in a design. This is to say nothing of the properties of fibers, color, the way the yarn is spun, and so on and so forth, which expand in this seemingly infinite array of combinations and possibilities.
I’m knitting the Upstairs wrap/scarf, which I am finding extremely pleasurable. As a pattern, it demonstrates such satisfying elegance: each patterning section is constructed with a decrease, a yarn-over, and a combination of knit stitches that add up to 7. The yarn-overs move sequentially back and forth across the section, a perfectly-balanced little staircase. Can it get lovelier?
And yet the swooping, gorgeous shapes it creates as you knit are so much more evocative and organic than what are essentially zig-zagged lines. The delicate colors in this hand-painted yarn dance about in intriguing combinations that remind me of Monet’s paintings of sedge grass under rippling water. I am utterly, intrinsically enthralled with this project.