I speak lace

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.

FO: Whisper Cardigan

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.

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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.

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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.

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FO: Featherweight Cardigan

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.

I just plain love this sweater.

Previous Entries on this Project:

Whispering and Ribbing

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.

Flashback FO: Whisper Cardigan

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.

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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.

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