Summer Knitting

Glancing over at my knitting basket, I can’t help noticing it’s taken on a distinctly summery feel.


I wouldn’t ordinarily have said I knit seasonally, as I am still making wool sweaters and heavy cabled things, but lately I have been craving softer, lighter colors, cotton and linen, and finer gauge yarns. I can also count on the summer for a major boost of start-itis, with three new cast-ons included (so far).


The first is a shrug that begins with a square lace panel constructed from the center out (I will sew that hole shut in finishing). It’s intriguing to watch the lace pattern build organically, and I’m looking forward to figuring out how to convert the pattern to be as fully seamless as possible.


Next is Lepidoptera, which I will admit I cast on in a total impulse because I couldn’t resist the beautiful soft pink yarn wound up in a cake after I used a bit of it to finish the candy pink Featherweight sweater I’ve been working on for years. I love the look of this pattern, and I know I will eventually enjoy working on it, but because the two lace panels are knit with two strands of yarn held together and there is an expanse of one-strand stockinette in between, one winds up juggling three balls of yarn at a time. I haven’t mastered the maneuvering yet, so this project is neither particularly easy or portable. I can’t help wondering why it wasn’t designed with two strands held together throughout, but I’m sure time will tell.



Lastly, a pair of Catnip Socks, a beautiful free pattern by Wendy Johnson that I have had queued since 2010, knit in this soft green hand-painted yarn that I love fanatically. I was chiding myself for casting on new socks when I have been trying to focus on sweater-knitting and have a huge pile of finished socks that I haven’t blocked or photographed yet, but I was able to justify them by the fact that I work from home and my apartment gets frightfully cold in the winter (and autumn…and often spring). Like most New Yorkers, I am nuts about not wearing shoes indoors, so I wear socks and slippers almost every day – they might as well be hand-knit, right?

These socks also gave me the opportunity to participate in my favorite sock-knitting group on Ravelry again, and I hadn’t realized just how much I missed the community and camaraderie there until I logged back in and poked around. When I saw the July-August challenge is lace, I entered some kind of fugue state where my hands were winding the yarn and pulling out needles automatically.

And on the theme of community, I have finally set up an Instagram account just for my knitting and crafts: @vickiliciousknits. I hope you’ll hop over and say hello – I’d love to connect with fellow knitters and craft-obsessives!

Educational Mistakes

At a job I once had, my boss would sometimes spend a huge amount of money and time on a vendor or a project that (usually foreseeably) didn’t work out, then shrug it off, “Well that was an expensive lesson.”

One might think I’d have learned sweater hubris by now, that I’d take the time to check gauge or try it on to check fit early on in the process…



And one would be wrong.

At first glance, this might appear to be a finished sweater (apart from the unfinished grafting under the arms) and technically, it fits. I waited until I had finished the neckline and cast off to try it on for the first time, expecting a roomy, almost boxy feel, and instead it is quite fitted, to the point of being body-hugging. At certain angles with careful layering and maybe if I were a little happier with my figure at present, it could work, but I wanted a cozy, smooshy, decadently textured and cabled sweater, not something clingy and short that can only be worn with Spandex underneath.




The little holes from careless neckline pick-ups block out, right??

My gauge, once I finally checked it, was way off, something like 5 stitches/inch instead of 3.8, which makes perfect sense, as this sweater is about 25% smaller than I expected it would be. I briefly tried to convince myself it would stretch a lot in blocking and end up at the expected dimensions, which it might, but since I have more than 5 balls of yarn leftover and this wasn’t exactly a quick project, there is no reason to compromise.




No, raglan decrease gaps don’t bother me at alllll…..

The closer I scrutinized it, the more flaws I started to find as well. I wasn’t happy with the gaps introduced by careless pick-ups for the neckline, but I was willing to sew them shut by weaving in some reinforcing threads. Ditto for the gaps made by raglan decreases along the shoulders, which probably wouldn’t have been so visible if the shoulders weren’t stretched as much. And weird decreases on the sleeves are just par for the course, right?




I mean, no one ever looks at sleeves, do they?? Sigh…

I know I would not be happy with this sweater as it is. I am a better knitter than this, and I care about these details too much to let them slide. The time I spent pretending I didn’t care or that, “It’ll all block out!” was “expensive” in knitting terms, but very valuable lessons. This sweater taught me how to make a seamless yoked sweater in pattern (way easier than I thought it would be). I also learned how important it is to track rows in moss stitch, after the first large frogging-and-restarting.

And now I’ve learned, for real, to actually check my gauge and not just follow the pattern blindly, hoping it’ll all work out. As this was knit with size 6 and 8 needles, I expect 8/10 will do the trick, so long as the pattern holds up. I also plan to make some adjustments with things I didn’t like, such as making a better plan for incorporating sleeve increases in moss stitch, inserting a filler stitch to absorb the raglan decreases on the sleeves, and learning how to pick up neckline stitches more neatly so I don’t end up with gaps.

This project has been like a security blanket for when I needed comfort or an escape from reality, and I mean it when I say it’s been a true pleasure to knit, so I don’t mind starting over to get something wearable with the right finishing details. Let’s hope I’ve actually learned my lessons this time.

Two New Cast-Ons

When I first started knitting, documenting every stage of the project and its progress was almost as important to me as the actual stitches. As life grew more complex, I became complacent about knit-blogging (perhaps you’ve noticed) and considered it quite a feat if I got the cursory details slapped up on Ravelry, let alone took a photo. I’d like for that tendency to change, and I’m giving myself permission to enjoy this part of the process again too.



During a lengthy stay at my parents’ house this winter, I was buying new yarn for a pair of socks I’m knitting for my brother when I had an irresistible hankering to knit a sweater. Drawn in by the allure of free shipping and a Valentine’s Day sale that made this yarn shockingly affordable, I found a pattern for the Olwen Sweater, a beautiful seamless cabled pullover with a lovely yoked raglan-sleeve construction. In a cushy worsted-weight yarn, with this delectable purply-magenta color, it has been an absolute delight.

When I got back to my apartment in April, I found a few places where I’d flubbed the pattern (I started it when I had a fever, after all), so I ripped back to the ribbing, and it’s been smooth sailing since. I’m now past yoking the sleeves to the body, which was way easier than I’ve always imagined it would be, and I’m cruising toward the finish just in time for what promises to be a sweltering hot summer. Fortunately, this sweater is in a style, color, and quality I foresee myself enjoying for many years to come, so it will keep.



As I was returning to the shore this Memorial Day weekend, it seemed impractical to try to squeeze a nearly-finished wool sweater into the already overstuffed backpack I was bringing, so I tried to think of a good traveling project. I landed on a new cast-on for Kieran Foley’s Seascape Stole, a gorgeous undulating pattern that’s been tempting me since it was published in the summer 2008 Knitty, and for which I’ve had this yarn earmarked since June of 2009 (yikes – that feels like it just happened).

As I am working it on a 16-inch circular needle and only using one page of the chart from the 2015 revised version, this project currently fits in a small sandwich bag, making it ultra portable and quite a pleasure to knit on the go.

I hope to share a lot more this summer, as I am coming back to the surface in many areas of my life.

Some newer cast-ons

I have a lot of catching up to do. Let’s start with three new cast-ons from the end of the summer / early fall.



The first is a lacy cotton-modal blend cardigan, which I am trying to work completely seamlessly using this lovely Knit Picks Shine in Crocus, a fuchsia color that still reminds me a bit of phenolphthalein. This yarn had been committed to a classic Erika Knight Deep V-neck sweater for oh, nine years (have I really been knitting so long??) but I ultimately decided I just didn’t want to deal with the seaming. I also felt like the fabric of the sweater was too drapey and would make for a clingier fit than I wanted for a long sleeve pullover.



I’m delighted with the lace pattern and fabric being created, and I think it uses the airiness and drape of the yarn better for something I can wear over dresses and blouses in the spring, fall, and cooler days of summer.

Recently Interweave ran a great sale in their online shop, and I scooped up several digital editions of Knitscene that I’d been meaning to get for $3 each. I immediately cast on for the Byzantium Stole in a beautiful tan wool-silk blend that I can already see myself wearing with a green motorcycle jacket that I don’t wear often enough.



I love the clever geometry of this pattern and how it’s coming together in this yarn already.


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As I was knitting, admiring the Art Deco sort of pattern that was emerging, I kept thinking about this metallic silvery yarn that I had tried to turn into a shrug (with pretty disappointing results). What if I worked this scarf (let’s be real) on larger needles to make a bigger, wrap-like stole?



Of course as soon as I found the right sized needle, I cast on for that too, and I’m happy with the way it’s coming together. I don’t usually work the same pattern in two yarns / gauges at the same time, but they have such different feels that I think they will result in two unique pieces. Plus I enjoy the clever pattern so much I look forward to knitting it twice.



This yarn is still having some issues, which unfortunately seem to be part of how it’s made (I’ll discuss this more soon). It also keeps snagging on the join of the circular needle I’m using, which is maddening, but I guess it will save me the anxiety of when it inevitably catches on my earrings, zippers, or whatever other things always seem to reach out to grab my scarves while I’m wearing the finished stole.

So, much more soon! Maybe I’ll even photograph some of the sweaters I’ve finished lately.

FO: Foxtrot Featherweight Cardigan

Pattern: Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fetig, from Knitbot. My project page is here.
Size: 38.75″-ish
Yarn: Knit Picks Shadow Lace 2-ply laceweight, 100% Merino wool, in Foxtrot Heather, 24511; I used almost exactly 2 skeins, approximately 100 grams, 880 yards/ 804.7 meters.
Needles: Size 6 (4.00 mm)
Modifications: Used kf&b increases, worked 1×1 ribbing on the collar.

Started: July 31, 2015
Finished: September 16, 2015

I love the first Featherweight Cardigan that I made so much I knew I wanted another. I believed that by knitting a slightly smaller size, at a more open gauge, I would get basically the right size, but use only 2 skeins of laceweight yarn. I was flying blind and gambling on the yardage, but I’m delighted to find that I was right, and I’m quite pleased with how this one came out.

This type of sweater is exactly the reason I wanted to learn to knit in the first place. I am always looking for lightweight garments that can be worn over printed sundresses (my closet overflows with these) to cover my arms in the spring and summer. It is a combination of modesty and practicality: when I attend the opera, ballet, symphony, etc., the air conditioning inside is typically frigid, but it’s usually too warm outside to be comfortable in a jacket. I find that store-bought cover-ups or cropped cardigans tend to have critical flaws, such as too heavy a yarn, too busy a pattern, too frumpy a style, or sleeves that are really only a conceptual suggestion and don’t properly work the way I’d like as sleeves. I’m often left mystified about what to wear to complement all these pretty, colorful dresses that isn’t just another plain white or black cotton cardigan.

The open, fluttery gauge of this sweater kept the Merino yarn from being too warm even outdoors in the sunshine, but it was warm enough that I didn’t feel chilled indoors. I will admit that because the temperature on the day I took these photos was closer to 50° than 75° and it was unpredictably windy, I did bring a jacket and scarf, but I didn’t feel the need to wear either until the sun had set and I was walking home at night. A little cardigan that can comfortably span 20-30° or more is a real winner in my book.

I modified the pattern slightly by changing the collar and front to 1×1 ribbing, which I also did on my last Featherweight. Once I was happy with the length and the sleeves were complete, I basically knit for as much yarn as I had, and the length I ended at is spot-on. It is just long enough to cover the back of my neck if I am chilled, but because it is so lightweight, I found I could neatly fold it over like a shawl collar in the back as well. I had a much easier time picking up stitches for the neckline and managing the construction in general on this one, and I’m thrilled it looks tidy and clean overall.

I was so enthused upon the completion of this project last fall that I actually immediately cast on another, in pink, which I set aside once I got busy with an exciting new employment adventure (if you’re interested, you can read more about that here), and of course, winter knitting.

I really do need to get better about photographing my finished projects. I have a list of more than 30 things I’ve completed, and in some cases have been wearing for literally years, but it’s rare that I can get someone willing to take a photo. And it’s rarer still that what they take actually shows the knitting well or is flattering enough that I’d like to share it in public. So I’m going to play around with a tripod and a timer or a remote shutter release, to see if I can be a little more timely if I photograph finished projects on my own.