Marettimo – an exercise in beauty

I am delighted that I have a beautiful knit top to add to my collection. The Marettimo Sweater is a perfect addition to my fall/winter/spring wardrobe. When Caitlin Hunter released this pattern during the summer, I fell in love with the bold lace stripes. I wasn’t necessarily planning to cast on another short sleeve top so soon after my Tegna, but after a wild summer I decided that a little deviation from my knitting plans would qualify as self-care rather than self-destruction.

I cast on Marretimo to celebrate my birthday in August and to eliminate any extra stressors, I used only yarn from my stash. The yarn – zen yarn garden in serenity silk + – was good enough for this project. While the fiber content was perfect, I did notice that the speckles in the yarn had greater contrast the the original design. The greater contrast in the main color meant that this sweater could easily become busier than I intended. So to mitigate that, I chose to work the lace and boarder in the same color (an idea first recommended by Kyle). This simplified the sweater and made the lace section truly pop, while also allowing the speckles their time in the spotlight.

Do I love speckled yarn? no, not really, and the more I knit with it the more I think, this looks so lovely in the skein and wound in a ball but when it’s knit up, it looks a lot like those printer ink test pages… maybe it’s just this particular yarn with the contrasting speckles. I’m not totally opposed to using speckled yarn again, but it seems less likely since lately I’ve been consumed by breed-specific yarns and local fibers.

Using stash yarn always comes with challenges – my contrast color is leftover from my Zweig sweater. I assumed I would have just enough to finish the sweater – and I cut it so close. Too close, really. My sleeve lace section is lacking in a coordinating bind-off. This is the only part of the sweater I’m questionable about – do I really like the contrasting hem? should it be longer? Should I try to find a similar blue singles yarn for the hem? For now, it’s okay – and since I rarely go back and fix my knitting, it will probably be okay for the rest of time.

I made quite a few modifications – first my gauge was tighter than the pattern. So I did some calculations and cast on for the medium size. After knitting the body, I realized that the neckline was far too open for my preference, and the sweater was much longer than I intended – so I ripped back and reknit from the armholes up – resulting in a more cropped sweater. From the separation for the arm holes – I knit the size small. I also raised the front neckline by binding off more stitches for my first bind off row and eliminating two short rows on both shoulders. This neckline is perfect for me! I felt so empowered to make an adjustment that was previously too complicated for me to complete. I think modifications might be my favorite thing about knitting at the moment.

I thought a lot about this project – why I wanted to knit it – and how it might affect me. I intended this project to be an exercise in beauty, where I would forgo my typical practical intentions and knit something I did not need. In the end, after thinking about beauty, realizing that maybe this yarn wasn’t my ideal of beauty, and reworking the shaping of the neckline, I’ve come to understand my own commitments to “the beautiful” in a new way. Somehow, I had come to associate “beautiful” with something I could not have. Maybe it was because I assumed beauty came with a heavy price tag, though I’m not ready to commit to this explanation. However, choosing to make a project that was primarily valuable for its appearance (secondarily for its function) placed the creation of beauty in my hands. No longer is beauty something outside me, now I know I can make something beautiful. And the way I can accomplish this is by thoughtfully planning out a project that is both visually enticing and environmentally considerate. The ethical deeply impacts the aesthetic – I can’t separate these two. Something cannot be beautiful unless it tells the story of concern for the environment and my neighbors well-being. When I look at my handmade wardrobe, pieced together from secondhand fabrics, unravelled yarns, and local or breed-specific fibers, I can see that these qualities contribute as much to beauty as the color, weight, or design.

My exercise in knitting a beautiful project was certainly thought-provoking (and it produced a new garment!). I might try this kind of experiment again, with a different virtue rather than beauty, maybe courage or honesty. But, for now, I’m still working out how beauty impacts my creativity and my craft. I have a lot to think about.

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Summer Long Socks

It took me one summer to finish these socks. They’re basic bitch 64 stitch socks with a short row heel and a 2×1 ribbed cuff.

I found this yarn at Scrap It Up, Cincinnati’s secondhand craft store. There was no label but it looks similar to a patons sock yarn (washable wool + nylon). I haven’t knit with yarn like this before – I found it unbelievably splitty.

I cast on these toe-up socks so I could have some easy knitting while I watched the latest Star Wars movie in a dark theater. Turns out the theater was far too dark and as I tried to knit I split at least three stitches…

These sizing of these socks was a bit of an enigma. I measured and counted rows, but one sock was an inch longer in the foot than the other. When I re-knit to make them both the same length, they only matched up with the previously too short sock was 10 rows longer than it’s counterpart. No idea what happened there or why simple arithmetic couldn’t capture these socks, but now they’re the same length, so that’s good.

I love having a pair of slow moving socks on the needles. It seems like it takes me a full three months to finish a pair of socks (they’re never a first priority). I have two more balls of unknown sock yarn and I’m hoping to cast on some ribbed socks to branch out from my stockinette sock rut.

Reyna: My First Shawl (for me)

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Hooray for my first shawl (for me). I knit my actual first shawl last fall (read about it here) as a gift for my mom. After seeing the versatility that the shawl brings to an entire outfit – I set my sights on starting my own shawl collection. Reyna is what I would consider a classic beginners knitting pattern. A triangle shawl with simple increases, the mesh lace sections add manageable places to build skills in reading your knitting. The simplicity of this shawl made a perfect summer travel project. Reyna went with me to the lake, the pool, and the parking lot waiting to pick my husband up from work…

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I have something to admit though, about shawls. When I first started knitting… and until last year… I was anti-shawl. I had no idea why they were wanted objects. Why would I want to knit something I couldn’t wear? Also they have this reputation for being downright matronly and I am not a matron. I had to deal with so many granny comments already simply by knitting in public and adding shawl knitting to my list of activities would only bring on more old lady comments.

I was very prejudice. And discriminatory. First of all, there is nothing wrong with “matronly.” Except that it maybe conflicts with an American overemphasis on the values of youth and sex appeal. I’m actively working to destabilize that in my own life. An item doesn’t have to be youthful or sexy to be valuable (and to be honest sexy is never something I’m going for anyway). Second of all, sweaters will always be my first love – I seriously doubt they will be booted from the top of my knitting queue. However, the shawl is a useful and beautiful way to add more wool to my life.

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Reyna, while being a simple beginner shawl, has also made a serious contribution to my life. She has pointed out unfair prejudices that needed examination. She has allowed me to move past those prejudices into a much more open and beauty filled world. And she had given me knitting – the only gift I really wanted.

If you want to see the other blog posts about Reyna, you can find them here and here

Set Up your SSK’s

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About halfway through my Reyna shawl I had an idea. Reyna by Noora Backlund (a free shawl pattern) uses knit two together (k2tog) and the opposite facing decrease (ssk) to create the lace sections.

The slow and jerky nature of slipping stitches to create the correctly leaning decrease started to annoy me. So I found a way to orient my stitches on the needles so they were already set up to ssk and k2tog without having to do any extra slips. This is a free pattern – so I’m not going to be very discreet with the pattern details. However I won’t be regurgitating the pattern in this post, so check out that pattern!

The lace sections in the Reyna shawl are simple – right of the marker is a yarn over + k2tog classic lace combo. Left of the marker is it’s counterpoint: the y/o + ssk. The trouble is, after the speed of the k2tog, the slipping portion of the ssk feels jerky and awful. But there’s a faster way.

The trick is in the purling. On the wrong side rows, I used two different purl methods to change the directions of my stitches. On the side that is going to be the ssk section (wrong side of the shawl, right side of the marker) I used the combination purl stitch. Combination purling orients your purl stitch so the first leg of the stitch is behind the needle and the second leg is in front of the needle. Basically, it’s backwards. Then, after the marker, in the section that is going to be k2tog, I purled in my normal continental style.

Here’s the break down:

Right side: k2tog on left side of marker. Ssk on right side of marker

Wrong side: combination purl, marker, continental purl.

Just for added clarity – I made some videos! (It’s my first knitting and video experiment okay so it’s going to be bad.)

This is how I combination purl:

And this is my awkward continental purl:

So when it’s time for the right side, this is what my k2tog + y/o looks like

And here is my ssk + yo, all set up with no need to slip any stitches.

That’s my trick to setting up my ssk!

I have a secret. That combination purling method? I do that all the time. I confess that I’m a combination knitter. So for this shawl, I actually figured it out the other way around – I had to remember my awkward way to continental purl to properly set up my k2tog stitches.

One of the reasons I’m a combination knitter is because my purling was so awkward and started to hurt my fingers and wrists! So I found another way. A quick google search for continental knitting hand pain brought me to handful of links about arthritic knitters and easier methods on the joints. After switching to the combination method – my joint pain has significantly reduced and I can knit for longer sittings. I’m a full on combination knitting convert.

There are more informed videos out there about combination knitting (I learned from this video). If you’re interested, I recommend checking them out!

Finished Object: Tegna

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My Tegna certainly had a rough start (and middle) but now she’s here and beautiful.

The popular Tegna pattern by Caitlin Hunter has been in my sight since it was first published. I fell in love with the delicate lace, the simple body, and the dropped shoulders. It was the perfect pattern to cast on early in the summer. I’m glad it’s finished so I can enjoy wearing it while the sun blazes and my skin fries – except I’ll be wearing sunscreen and a hat so this hopefully won’t happen.

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While all my newly finished projects feel special, my Tegna has a little more oomph. The yarn I chose to work with was unraveled from a cotton/silk blend J Crew cardigan. When I found the cardigan at the thrift store, it was originally cream, but that next weekend I went to another amazing dye session at Alpaca’s of Troy, an alpaca farm outside of St. Louis, MO, and dropped the sweater, pre-unravelled, into the indigo bath. Then, I left it for eight months.

When I pulled out the cream-machine-knit-now-indigo sweater and unraveled the pieces – I was delighted with the results. I imagined that dying a sweater in its knit form wouldn’t affect the dye process – and the dyed sweater looked thoroughly soaked. However, while unraveling I noticed that each knit stitch created a unique resistance technique. The resistance of the knit stitches created a speckled like appearance on the yarn. This was aided by the fact that the cotton/silk blend was unplied and shifted during the unraveling process.

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I ended up with a beautiful teal speckled yarn that blew all my previous expectations of the effects natural dyes can give. That said, maybe if I had ever knit from a sock blank I might have figured this out sooner. Hand-dyed sock blanks seem to have the same closely speckled effect.

I adjusted the pattern to fit my tighter gauge. In my original gauge swatch, my yarn in the pattern recommended gauge (22 sts and 26 rows) appeared loose and unorganized. So I swatched on smaller needles and landed on a gauge of 27 stitches and 36 rows per 4 inches. I’ve noticed that I prefer tighter gauges in my recent projects – like my Featherweight – which have all used non-wooly yarns. Clearly, when knitting garments, slippery, non-fluffy silks, linens, and cottons benefit from a tighter gauge than their fluffier yarn counterparts. If I followed the pattern for size M (43.75″ bust) then my Tegna would come out around a size S (38″). Gauge math is by far one of my favorite knitting techniques I have ever learned. Nothing has made me happier than adjusting the pattern to fit my gauge so I can have the pattern I want in the fabric I want.

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I made one other tiny mod: I only knit my Tegna body to 12 inches instead of the 14 recommended in the pattern. I always like to shorten patterns a tad because I’m 5’3″ and I wanted my Tegna to be cropped (more than slightly cropped as intended in the pattern). The result is a little stomach-bearing, but I’m cool with that.

I had some hiccups in the knitting process – all of my skeins were noticeably different shades of teal-indigo. I tried to blend the yarn by alternating skeins, but the striping effect was quite apparent – and something I wanted to avoid. So I chose to apply the “fade” technique and slowly transition from one skein to another when my current skein was nearing it’s end. Overall, I think this blended the different shades of blue in a much more palatable way and one that I’m happy with.

It was difficult to decide to unravel my almost completed Tegna to correct the striping effect. I put up a poll on Instagram stories to crowd source some advice – and I found the votes were split evenly: 50% knit again and 50% leave it as is. But, to be honest, I didn’t even wait for the results of the poll to unravel it – I determined that the striping would prevent me from feeling proud about my color management in this sweater – something which I’ve been learning about and working on with a surprising amount of effort since I began to knit. I feel like I’ve finally hit some sort of stride with color management and I don’t want to settle for something that doesn’t feel right to me. So, in a double effort not to cut corners and to trust my gut, I unravelled half of my little baby Tegna and started again.

The extra work always pays off. I have said this in previous blog posts, but every time I decide to unravel something and try again, I always feel like it’s worth the effort. I think I’ve built up enough rapport with myself to trust my opinion regarding the knitting process, what looks good, and the artistic qualities of my pieces. Basically, I’m feeling like a knitting bad-ass that can’t be stopped.

My Tegna is going to serve me well this summer, and for summers to come.

Happy Making

Jaime

In Progress: June Knitting

My summer of knitting has arrived.

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I’m very excited that I finished my #MeMadeMay18 featherweight cardigan. I’ll have a post about this soon. Though I’m sad I can no longer knit with this amazing yarn, this finished object has opened up space for a new cast on in my knitting queue!

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I have a tiny little hem worm of my Tegna sweater by Caitlin Hunter. I am so excited for this top – perfect for summer but suitable for cooler months as well. I am knitting my Tegna out of a silk/cotton blend I reclaimed last fall. I dyed this yarn at Alpacas of Troy with with Sumac berries and Indigo. The result was this lovely teal-blue with green undertones. I also experimented by dying this sweater in its machine knit form. The result was quite exciting, the dye is speckled evenly on the yarn which enhances the shimmer effect from the silk fiber content. This yarn looks like the waves of a lake on a summer day softly lapping the shore; not too much drama but just enough movement to capture my attention and lull me into relaxation.

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I had a little hiccup with my Tegna. I swatched three times to achieve the pattern gauge – starting with a US 5 and finally getting gauge on a US 7. I cast on for the medium, which would have given me about 9 inches of positive ease and knit half of the lace, I realized the bottom circumference of the sweater was far too large for my size. Even with the decreases in the lace, I would have been swimming in this top. Nine inches of positive ease on my petite frame is just a little too much. I also noticed that in my gauge on US 7 needles, the lace was already quite open. I thought this whole top could do with a downsize. I downsized my needles to a size 5 and, after some gauge math magic, cast on, again, for the medium size. This will give me a top with about two inches of positive ease which will probably be more my style. I’m hoping this all works out.

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I have two other projects that are probably going to travel with me the entire summer. The first is my Reyna shawl by Noora Backlund – which I’m knitting because my friend Kate in St Louis decided to cast this on as her first shawl project! After yarn shopping with her and guiding her through the first bits of the pattern, I realized that I really wanted one of these shawls for myself.

I had the perfect yarn – a gift from my friend Anna after her trip to Wyoming during the 2017 total eclipse. This yarn is the most amazing collection of purples. It’s Palouse Yarn Company Merino Fine in the Total Gravity colorway. This color is part of a special collection the dyer made especially for the eclipse and I think the dyer absolutely nailed it. The purples are so rich, but shift in tone from a lavender to an almost black. I’m really enjoying the color of this yarn.

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My second project is this little basic sock – made with a commercial Patons sock yarn I picked up from a reused craft store in Cincinnati. I have yet to find sweaters that I can unravel that are suitable for sock yarn, as I always prefer a tightly spun yarn for my socks. Most of the sweaters I come across in thrift stores end up loosely spun, if spun at all (especially if they’re blended fibers or have any sort of cotton content). Therefore, I keep my eyes out for any commercial sock yarn I can find at secondhand craft stores. One day, I would love to knit my socks without superwash or nylon content – but until that day I’m eagerly watching Mrs. M’s no-nylon sock experiment to glean from her research.

Usually, I knit my socks cuff down and use a heel flap and gusset, however, I started this sock toe up and will probably throw a short row heel on there just for ease. The short row heel doesn’t fit my foot quite as well as a flap and gusset – I have quite a high arch and instep – however, it’s been a while since I tried a short row heel and I want to double check the fit on my tighter sock gauge that’s developed over the last year since I’ve been regularly knitting socks.

I’m quite pleased with the projects I have on the go for June – my Tegna, Reyna, and my toe-up sock. The variety of these projects has kept me interested as I still mourn the absence of my sewing machine. Speaking of my wonderful sonata sewing machine, I’m beginning to miss it so much that I’m thinking about naming it! Naming is a skill that I seriously lack (if you only knew how long it took me to come up with a name for this blog – hint two+ years). However, I think my trusty machine deserves some attention while I’m away. Since my machine was originally owned by my mom, I’m thinking a name from her generation will suite it best. Something like Linda, Karen, Tammy or Denise. Or I might go super 80’s like Heather, Tiffany, or Stacy. As of now I’m leaning towards Stacy or Linda.

Me Made May 2018 Plans

May 2018. My first Me Made May. It could not come at a worse time (final paper season, end of the semester, moving to Oregon for the summer, etc.), but I am psyched out of my mind to join in this year.

I had a few me mades in May 2017. My first t-shirt, a shift dress, a basic top and a couple of easy skirts, but for some reason I didn’t jump in – fear maybe? This year I’ve done all the things I’ve put off doing (like starting a blog), so of course I will fulfill my goal of wearing me mades for a whole month.

So what’s my challenge? I already wear at least one me made every day. It’s hard not to… my sewing and knitting plans are focused on what I will actually wear. So I’m challenging myself to wear, make, or mend a me made item each day for the month of May.

Mainly, I want to use this challenge to finish the everyday cardigan I have been trying to make since I first started knitting… I keep putting it off. I never found the right pattern, nor the right yarn color… but all this procrastination ends now: I’ve found my perfect basic cardigan.

It’s the featherweight cardigan pattern by Hannah Fettig… yep. That one cardigan pattern with over 9000 projects on Ravelry. Real original with this one, but it’s just. the. perfect. cardigan. I need this cardigan – did I mention that I HAVE JUST ONE BASIC CARDIGAN (one that I wear regularly). It’s my uniform cardigan, which is a heavier weight, more casual piece. I need a cardigan that can be dressed up or down, that will work in cool and warm weather, and that will mesh with my wardrobe. This pattern is it, the perfect everyday cardigan.

The perfect material came my way one day while I was out thrifting – a pink silk eileen fischer pullover. Light fingering weight yarn, beautiful silk feel, drape for days, and my favorite dusty pink. This thing will be perfection (have I used perfection too much, its just the only word that fits perfectly)

I’ve planned it, I’ve swatched, and I need to start knitting.

So May – bring it on, by the end I hope to have my perfect basic cardigan finished and ready for summer (most likely ready to be packed in a drawer to return in October… but still READY).