For a Little Fashionista (Handspun In Threes Cardi)

Earlier this year, I did what is for me a nearly unprecedented thing – I finished a handknit present a whole six weeks before the gift-giving occasion. This feat was made even more remarkable by the fact that I also spun the yarn up first. I then made up for this extraordinary punctuality by waiting more than half a year to blog about it.

I think I did show you the yarn last spring, but just in case not, here ’tis:

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This is Southern Cross Fibre “Dragon Fruit” on Bond/Silk, the February 2015 Club Offering (my first SCF club!). I spun it up as soon as I received it, and it was a dream. I ended up with 252 yards DK 2-ply, perfect for a toddler cardigan.

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This picture doesn’t do justice to those juicy colors. Oh YUM, I love them.

The knitting was fast and easy, and one week later, I was done:

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This is the In Three Cardigan, and it was a very sweet knit. After finishing up, I had enough yarn to crochet this precious Flower Accent, perfect for embellishing the sweater or attaching to a headband. I found some gorgeous green bakelite buttons from Sewing Vineyard on Etsy.

The sweater was for my great-niece, on the occasion of her first birthday. I made the 12-month size but with a slightly bigger gauge, figuring it would fit for fall.

And it did…

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Oh mercy, y’all. She is KILLING ME with the cute! And those grey boots!!! With those jeans! There may be nothing I love more than seeing someone I love wearing something I made for them. And when one of them looks this good in it, it just makes my heart explode.

raveled

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Once in a Blue Moon (Handspun Rosa Sweater)

Once in a blue moon, I write a post exactly when I intended to write it. This is not that time. I’ve been trying to write this post for three months.

I’ve written a little about the difficult summer my family went through this year, which culminated devastatingly in the sudden, unexpected death of my mother 10 weeks ago. As horrible as losing her has been, things actually could have been even worse. Because a little more than a month before my mom died, my father almost died.

It’s a long and unusual story that I don’t have the emotional energy (or hand dexterity) to tell now. But the upshot is that, on the evening of July 29, I found myself speeding up the road from the panhandle of Florida (where I had been vacationing with my husband, kids, and husband’s kids) to Atlanta, where my dad was being rushed (from a hospital two hours away) for emergency surgery for an aortic dissection that had gone undetected for 10 days. I made it to his bedside literally five minutes before he was wheeled away (at 12:45am), and my brother and I spent a fretful night alone in the waiting room, calling our mom with updates (my mom, a paraplegic, was unable to travel to be there herself). At 6:30 the next morning, the surgeon came to tell us that not only had the surgery been successful, but it looked like my dad might regain kidney function (he had been in kidney failure for several days at that point and, going into the surgery, we thought the best outcome was that they would save his life and he would be on life-long dialysis). To get to see my dad awake, alert, and okay following the harrowing events of the previous several days was one of the happiest experiences of my life.

After spending several more relief-filled hours in Atlanta, I drove back to my parents’ house to spend an unexpected evening with my mom. It was a wonderful evening together, as we celebrated my dad’s remarkable survival. We went to bed with such relief. The next day, I drove back to the beach to spend a final night with my family there before packing up to leave there the next morning. When I had left them two nights earlier to head to Atlanta, we had never expected that I would make it back to the beach. But I did, and that night, we had a picnic down by the water, and we saw this:

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A blue moon, that happened to be orange.

It felt to me like a harbinger of hope. My heart felt exactly like that moon – big and luminous. We went back to the beach house and, later that night, I cast on for something out of some handspun I had finished a week earlier. It was the first I’d been able to knit in days, and I did it out of such a sense of joy and relief.

I started with this:

Into the Whirled, "Death," on Superwash Merino

Into the Whirled, “Death,” on Superwash Merino

And though it was only four ounces, I decided to attempt something I thought might be impossible – an adult-sized top. I just cast on and went for it. We went from the beach back to Georgia, where I enjoyed more time with my mom (while my dad continued to recover in the hospital). There is so much conversation with my mom knit into these stitches. And the knitting just breezed by – I finished in three days. It was my last completed project that my mom got to see.

Once in a blue moon, fiber goes from bag to wheel to needles to body in a flash.

And then, the day after I took the modeled shots, I got to drive back to Atlanta and pick my father up. He was discharged and sent home, not only having survived the aortic dissection and emergency surgery, but having unexpectedly recovered full kidney function.

Once in a blue moon, the impossible thing becomes possible, and life happens where death was meant to be, and celebration and relief take the place of fear and grief.

When I tried on this piece, I was disappointed, as I often am. I had to finish knitting before i wanted it to be done, because I only had so much yarn. So it’s shorter than I’d prefer. And the stress of this summer took its toll on me. so I’m also heavier than I’d prefer. Even so, I put the thing on and went out in the Georgia heat to take pictures.

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The pattern is called the Rosa Cardi (I don’t know why, because there’s no cardiganized version). As originally written, it has points on both sides of the hem, but many people have knit it with just one point, which is obviously what I did, too.

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I really like this fast and easy pattern a lot, even though it may not currently be the most flattering piece I own. It is really fun to knit, and I think it’s cute in handspun.

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But I’m very unlikely to wear it without something underneath it (and in fact, I think it’s intended as a layering piece).

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So after these photos, I put it away for awhile. Then my life slid sideways and I kind of forgot about it altogether. Then a few weeks ago, I saw it in my closet, and I felt a lot of pain, remembering how happy my mom and I were during the time I made this sweater, and how hopeful. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever feel like wearing it.

But this week, I did. The day I had to go to the orthopedist about my hand, I suddenly felt an unexpected and very strong desire to wear the sweater. So I put it on, over a long-sleeved t-shirt, and I wore it to the doctor’s office.

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taking a picture in the doctor’s office bathroom, as one does

And despite the look on my face, I was really pleased to be wearing it, and actually got multiple compliments.

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I like it a lot better as a layering piece, and I already have plans for making another.

When I got out of the doctor’s office with my new splint, my very first impulse was to call my mom. Which is not much different from every other day, honestly. So that was hard. But there’s something about wearing this sweater – and I know this sounds woo-woo or mystical or maudlin or whatever – but … I mean, there’s a piece of her in it. Her happiness, as we celebrated my dad’s remarkable survival; her companionship, as we watched baseball and true crime; her encouragement, as she saw me model it; her love, which stills wraps me up, and covers me.

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Once in a blue moon, something that was too painful to do (like wearing this sweater) becomes an unexpected door to some kind of solace (like feeling her love when I wear it), and the difficult becomes good, and the stitches become some kind of healing.

raveled

One More Baby Knit for 2014 (Easy Baby Cardi)

I did a very poor job in the second half of this year blogging my finished knits. Which is why, in these last days of December, you are suddenly reading about things I made in July and August. I still have a few more projects to show you from 2014 before I can move forward into 2015. I have exciting plans for the new year, and at this rate, I will be telling you about them in the spring!

For now, though, I have another baby knit to show. In 2010, I had the great joy of officiating at the wedding of one of my online knitting friends, Elspeth aka Wry Punster. Since that time, we have enjoyed such shenanigans as dressing alike at Rhinebeck…

Double Allegheny

Double Allegheny (photo credit: Kirsten Kapur)

… and eating all the fried things while there.

This fall, neither of us were able to make it to Rhinebeck. My excuse was lack of funds and time. Her excuse was much better than that. She was busy having a baby. (The baby didn’t arrive on Rhinebeck weekend, but very close to it!).

If the Yoked Cardigan is my favorite girl baby knit (and it is), the Easy Baby Cardigan is my preferred knit for a baby boy. It had been three years since I’d made it, and I’d almost forgotten how fast and fun it is.

Easy Baby Cardi

Easy Baby Cardi

I usually make it in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport, which is a superwash wool, making it easy for new moms unaccustomed to handwashing their knits. But I knew Elspeth could handle a little handwashing, so I made this sweater in my favorite commercially available yarn – Stonehedge Mills Shepherd’s Wool, Worsted (a Michigan-made yarn), in lime-green.

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I always make this sweater without the hood – I just prefer the look of that dapper little collar instead. I also opted this time for seed stitch (instead of garter) for the collar, the button band, and the wrists/waist. I just love the look of seed stitch, and I think it gives it a slightly more polished look than the garter.

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Instead of the ties the pattern calls for, I always crochet a little button tab and add one big button. I just think that is such a fun look, and again, slightly more polished. I thought this matte white button looked pretty sweet with the lime green (though the colors didn’t show up quite right in this photo).

If you’ve never knit with Stonehedge, do yourself a favor and get your hands on some. It is so soft and buttery, and comes in such a gorgeous range of colors. Every shade has so much depth and richness. It also comes in a very generous skein of 250 yards! I first discovered this yarn in my local yarn shop (sadly no longer in existence) years ago, and I think it is finally starting to gain wider notice. With good reason.

I also highly, highly recommend this pattern. It is quick and fun and looks super-cute on both boys and girls. The pattern is graded from newborn to 18 months, so you can make one for any of the babies or toddlers in your life.

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But Sometimes a Sweater Happens Like This (Autumn Reis)

Sometimes, you plan a sweater for a long time. You figure out what you need, you buy the yarn, you make the plan, you finish up other projects, and then, at the right time, you cast on.

But sometimes, a sweater happens like this: you see a picture, you get obsessed, you drop everything, and you just start making it.

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Sometimes, you spend a lot of time and money acquiring the yarn you need for a particular project. You stalk updates for your favorite indie dyer, you make your PayPal cry, you try to be home to intercept yarn deliveries.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: all the yarn you want is already in your stash, and you are just now realizing it wants needs to be this sweater.

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Sometimes, you swatch and block, swatch and block, until you get the gauge exactly right. Because you know that with a sweater, this is really important. And you know that, with colorwork, your tension is going to be different than it is with plain knitting. And you know that, when you’re using your precious Plucky Knitter yarn, you really need the project to come out right.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: you pseudo-swatch and skip the blocking. Your gauge never once matches the gauge of the pattern. You do some calculations and make your own numbers. You knit by intuition.

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Sometimes, you knit with confidence, knowing that you’ve chosen the right colors, the right style, and the fit is going to be perfect. You have no worries about how things will turn out, because you’ve laid all the groundwork with your swatting and blocking. You have no concerns about whether the style of the sweater is suitable for you.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: you second-guess yourself the whole time, you worry that the sweater will grow to an unwearable size in blocking, you aren’t certain that, even if it fits, it will be flattering on you. And then you try it on and you cannot believe how much you love it.

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Sometimes a sweater is well within your skill set – a mindless knit, something not unlike the dozens of other projects you’ve made. You enjoy the knit because it’s an escape from everything else on your mind, and it doesn’t challenge you to think too much.

But sometimes a sweater happens like this: you push beyond your comfort zone, you play with color, you learn new things about your tension and your technique. You don’t even know what color you are going to put where until you do it. You surprise yourself. You learn from yourself. You learn from your craft.
Sweater yoke in progress, blogged. #knitting #reis #westknits

 

Sometimes (but not usually) you get the sweater done exactly when you meant to, or close to it.

But sometimes, a sweater happens like this: other things get in the way, everything takes longer than you think it will, you question why you chose to knit a fingering-weight colorwork sweater, you despair of ever finishing. And then one day, four months after you began and two months after you meant to be done, you finish.

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And it is everything you’d hoped it would be.

If I had it to do over, there are things I might do slightly differently – mostly, I might arrange some of the colors in the yoke in a slightly different order. I would also try to find a brown from The Plucky Knitter instead of the Lorna’s Laces “Chocolate” I used. All the other yarns except the variegated in the body are TPK, and I can tell a difference between the rich, saturated, semisolids of TPK and the less-nuanced chocolate brown.

But really, who cares? Because I am thrilled with this sweater. I loved making it and I love wearing it. The fit is fantastic. The feel is perfect (my first fingering-weight sweater). The colors are so rich and luscious.  This was my first Westknits design, and it was such a fun and inventive knit. It was also a very freeing experience to just follow my muse when it came to color. Given how long it took me to make this sweater, would you believe I could actually see myself knitting the same pattern again? I love it that much.

Autumn Reis

Autumn Reis

But you can’t blame me, right?

raveled – Reis, by the inimitable Stephen West

 

Friday Round-up: Works-in Progress

I will not deny that I have a little attention deficit issue going on right now. I have three compelling projects, and it’s difficult to decide which one to attend to most.

Option 1: finish the sweater

Reis Yoke

Reis Yoke

(I am very, very close to done)

Option 2: keep working on the shawl

Pi Shawl

Handspun Pi Shawl

(it has now reached the unidentifiable blob stage)

Option 3: finish this test-knit, which I cast on last night:

handspun colorwork mitten

handspun colorwork mitten

(can I just say how much I absolutely adore this pattern? It is everything I expect from Kirsten, who always creates beautiful designs written with clear, straightforward directions.)

Option 4: keep bouncing between all three projects, while my brain, head, and heart all hum with happiness.

(I’m sure you can guess which option I’m choosing.)

Flashback Friday :: the last kid sweater I made

When I showed you Tiny Dancer’s sweater last month, I included a look back at the last sweater I had made for him. I meant to do the same this week, when I showed you Little Buddha’s new sweater, but I forgot. So today here’s a wee look back at the last sweater I made for him:
Steggie, at last

I made this right before his fifth birthday, five years ago. So yeah, it’s been half his life since he’s had a hand knit sweater from me (it was even longer for Tiny Dancer). This sweater is Steggie, a brilliant pattern poorly executed in a terrible yarn choice.

Steggie, detail

raveled

When I look at these pictures, I can’t help but see what a terrible job I did, especially with installing the zipper. But mostly, it makes me nostalgic. He was still in preschool in these pics, and now he’s a tween.

I wonder if I can manage to make his next handknit sweater before college?

 

Just another tween sweater :: The Deuce, the second

 

The Deuce, #2

The Deuce, #2

After all the talking I’ve done about this sweater, actually finishing it and showing you pictures seems a bit anti-climactic. Especially since I didn’t finish it in time for winter wear. As I mentioned last fall, I set a goal of knitting both my kids sweaters in one season – an idea I’ve found challenging in the past because kids have that pesky habit of growing. It’s been difficult to start and finish sweaters for both kids before one or both outgrows whatever I’m making.

This time, I wanted to make coordinated colorwork sweaters for the two of them, and I was going to design them myself. That was my first problem, because trial-and-error ended up slowing me down. Then some other knitting got in the way, and the next thing I knew, it was February before I was finally finishing up Tiny Dancer’s sweater.

After watching me take so long finishing his brother’s sweater, Little Buddha asked me if I would please not work on anything else until I finished his sweater. I obliged, and it took me a little more than three weeks to make – much better than the nearly five months it took me to finish his brother’s.

garter stripes

garter stripes

Like his brother’s, this sweater has garter stripes at the waist and the cuffs. I was going for a pretty low-key look, and I think I got it. I wanted to use up some of the tweed in my stash, which I bought years ago in sweater quantities for the whole family. Unfortunately, I had no lime green, which was the color Little Buddha really wanted (his favorite color). I found this Cascade Tweed in the right shade. It has the tweedy look, but not the tweedy feel, which was a disappointment to me – I really enjoy knitting with rustic yarns.

striped cuffs

striped cuffs

The stripes in his sweater coordinate with his brother’s sweater and with yarn I have in my stash for sweaters I have planned for My Old Man and me. Of course by the time I get around to knitting those, I’m sure the boys will have long outgrown their pullovers.

Even with maintaining project monogamy and finishing this knit in less than a month, I still didn’t manage to get it done in time for cold weather. I mean, it did snow once after I finished knitting (on April 15, because this is Michigan and the weather doesn’t have good manners), but it didn’t stick around.

Little Buddha

Little Buddha

By the time he can wear this sweater for real, I’m sure the sleeves and body will be too short. But that’s the good thing about knitting, right? I can go back and redo it, and make it right. So in the fall, I will be able to start the season with two basically brand-new sweaters for both boys, and that sort of counts as reaching my goal, right?

 raveled

 

 

 

 

Fashion Friday :: owls, revisited

Whoo-whoo wears wool in spring?

20140327-162256.jpgThis girl does.

But if you’re going to have to wear your winter woolies when spring has already sprung, it might as well be something you totally completely love.

I made this owls pullover back in the fall of 2009, and I still love it to pieces.

for Rav: o w l s
(pictured here with TTL Mystery Socks 2009, my Michigan Radio mug, and much shorter hair)

My favorite owl is the one on the back, with purple eyes:

whoo-whoo!

whoo-whoo!

They look pink in this pic, but they really are purple – I should have included this handknit in my recent roundup of my obsession with purple+gold.

I tend to gravitate towards making raglan sweaters, but I’ve realized lately that I really, really like wearing yoked sweaters. I think the only yoked sweaters I’ve made for myself are this one and Zelkova, and now I’m wondering why, because both Owls and Zelkova are two of my very favorite sweaters.

Which kind of sweater do you tend to want to knit – raglan, yoked, set-in sleeves? And which do you think is most flattering on you?