Ushida Cardigan

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I have a new finished cardigan! The Ushida Cardigan designed by Whitney Hayward from Making Zine no. 6 Black and White is now snugly wrapped around my shoulders – keeping me warm on a cold and rainy Tennessee day.

This cardigan has all the features – a saddle shoulder (perfect for my broad and rounded shoulders), pockets, a shawl collar – everything I want in a cardigan. It’s knit in pieces and seamed after the first round of blocking, then the shawl collar is added with some extra short rows for shaping (a very nice addition).

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My Ushida Cardigan is made from a reclaimed Abercrombie and Fitch sweater. The original sweater had basic cables running along the body, so I knew that cables would work with the dark chocolate brown color of the yarn. After unraveling this extra large sweater, I realized (and this is the case for most machine knit garments) that the worsted weight yarn was actually made from three fingering weight unplied yarns. If the original sweater did not already have a cabled design, I would not have expected this yarn to work so well with cables. Usually, general yarn wisdom states that tightly plied yarns work best with cables – they created the best pop. However, the cable pop on my Ushida Cardigan is 100% fantastic, so this yarn is obviously an exception to that rule.

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I started this cardigan the week before Christmas, right after I finished all my major holiday knitting obligations. I was absolutely certain I wanted the finished cardigan in all it’s cabled glory, but I wasn’t really in the right headspace to knit a complex cabled design. The beginning of a new semester and the start of writing my dissertation made it difficult for me to work on this cardigan at length. I would put a few rows in most nights, but there were often stretches of three days, or so, where I wouldn’t knit at all. That’s rather unheard for me. This cardigan required some headspace I didn’t always have. I finished it eventually, after two months and some weeks, which makes this my second longest sweater project of all time (this sweater is for sure the longest wip I’ve ever had).

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I had to play yarn chicken. I guestimated that an extra large sweater would yield enough yarn for this cabled giant. Once I unraveled everything, washed my yarn, and weighed 10 yards, I realized I was going to be about 100-200 yards short. To mitigate this, I knit my pocket linings in different yarn (leftover from this sweater). I knew this would be extra important because I wanted to knit my sleeves an inch longer than the pattern called for! My choice to use different yarn for the pockets was affirmed when I used up my very last bit of yarn on the shawl collar. It was an intense moment (and I skipped one repeat of short rows), but it all worked out.

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I did some crazy gauge math. My first swatch on the recommended needles was far larger than the recommended pattern gauge. I swatched twice more, on my third swatch I found a needle size that created the same stitch gauge as the pattern, but the row gauge was way off. If I used this new gauge, I would have a much shorter sweater with tiny arm holes. I decided that row gauge was probably the most important number to follow in this cabled design – there was no place to add a small amount of length as the cable repeat was about 40 rows long. So I chose to follow a swatch that produced the same row gauge but with a stitch gauge just a little bigger than the pattern recommendation. Because my stitch gauge was wider than the recommended gauge, I would end up with a much wider cardigan. To mitigate this I did some magic stitch gauge math and identified that if I followed the numbers for the first size, I would most likely create a cardigan that had the width of the fourth size. I learned this kind of genius math stitch witchery when I took Amy Herzog’s Fit to Flatter sweater class at Vogue Knitting Live in Pasadena in 2015. That conference changed my knitting life – mostly because of that class and meeting Susan B. Anderson.

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Every time I adjust the gauge for a pattern I feel a little nervous about the results. While my math might be right, will the finished product look like I imagine it? In this case, I was pleased with the results. My math was spot on and I now have a cardigan with just enough positive ease to layer over a long sleeve layer, I’ve even worn it over other handknit pullovers!

This sweater is a dream. I am so please I took the time to knit this delightful cabled cardigan. I think everyone should have a cardigan like the Ushida cardigan in their handknit wardrobe. It’s a true sweater showstopper.

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Reclaimed yarn vs. secondhand yarn vs. recycled yarn: what’s the difference?

083243ca-282b-4987-bc07-bc9674d0a98b-1I’m just about to cast on my next sweater project. I’m using reclaimed yarn and secondhand yarn. I previously used these words interchangeably, but now, each has taken on distinct meaning. So I’m setting out to clarify the difference between reclaimed yarn, secondhand yarn, and recycled yarn.

Reclaimed yarn: yarn which is harvested through unraveling a previously knit item. This yarn can come from either a hand knit or machine knit item. It usually goes through a washing process to reset the fibers.

Secondhand yarn: unused yarn acquired from secondhand sources. Buying someone else’s stash yarn, finding unused yarn at a creative reuse shop, or skeins found at a thrift store. Can be acquired in whole or partial skeins, cones, balls, or cakes.

Recycled yarn: yarn from a manufacturer that includes recycled content. This yarn has been respun from previously used fibers. This yarn is then purchased in new form, with a yarn label that includes “recycled” listed in the contents. Often fiber blends of wool, cashmere, silk, nylon, and cotton.

As the world of secondhand fibers continues to grow, I think it’s important we develop specialized terms to clarify unique materials and approaches. So, what do you think? Do you agree with these definitions? What else would you add?

Saturday Project Bags

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I finally had a sewing day – after a year and a half I finally had a full day to sew whatever I wanted. I woke up with high hopes, I wanted to make a muslin for my first pair of persephone pants. I bought the pattern last spring, and had absolutely no time to make them with all the moves, but this Saturday was the day I could start.

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And then… we had no printer paper, so I couldn’t print out the pattern. So I thought I could drop by the store to pick up some paper and a glue stick, but then I remembered I didn’t have a car! My husband was off working a climbing competition all day (which was the reason I could have the whole day to sew in the first place). So, car-less and paper-less, I abandoned my plans to start on my beloved pants.

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Thankfully, I had a back up project – the Japanese Style Linen Tote project bag from Makine Zine no. 6 Black and White. Usually I carry around my sweater projects in those larger reusable grocery bags (pressed plastic fabric, anyone?). These bags are functional, but they’re 100% ugly and rip easily. I wanted to house my beautiful knitting projects in something equally as beautiful – so these totes were a high priority. It’s almost like fate said “You don’t need new pants… you do need a project bag.” Thanks fate for setting my priorities straight.

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I found some beautiful larger pieces of upholstery wool at Nashville’s creative reuse shop called Turnip Greens. This place is packed with secondhand materials. They operate on a “pay what you think is fair” philosophy, So I bought two pieces of wool (and some other odds and ends) for $2 – which is the cash I had in my wallet.

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Just as I was ready to cut out my fabric, I realized I was missing something. My fabric scissors. I left them in St Louis in my sewing basket, which houses all my other sewing tools. All I had were old paper scissors. And a loop turner. No pins, no sharp scissors, no marking tools, no rotary cutter, no seam ripper (NO SEAM RIPPER).

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I was determined to finish at least one bag, so I set out with my baby paper scissors and cut out my pattern from my thick upholstery wool. I’m used to cutting corners – almost every sewing project is an exercise in “how can I not follow the pattern and just use what I have.” I was already doing a TON of improvising. First, I was using wool instead of linen for the main fabric. Second, I never use interfacing, so I sewed old reusable bags and old denim to the lining to stabilize the bag. Third, the handles call for webbing, but I used stabilized upholstery fabrics instead. So, adding my lack of tools to my already improvised day didn’t seem like quite a stretch. I managed, heck, I had fun! So much fun that I was able to make two bags.

The pattern includes a beautiful bit of sashiko embroidery – but seeing as I had no hand sewing needles, I left the decorative patches off and kept my bags simple. On the second bag, I added a little selvage fringe to one of the seams. I love this little detail! I also love that these two bags are fraternal twins – made from the same materials but with totally different looks.

These bags are perfect; made from secondhand materials that cost me probably $4 total. I am always surprised that I can make beautiful things from discarded items. Even though I’ve been on this reclaimed craft journey for over two years now, it still surprises me that I can do it and that these materials are just out there waiting to be used. I’m stoked about these bags – and I can’t wait for my next sewing day to see what secondhand things I’ll create next.

 

Raina Shawl

The story of a shawl that embodies my yarney commitments.

I’ve already determined that I am a shawl convert; once a disbeliever, Iam now a committed member of the handknitting shawl society. The Raina Shawl by Andrea Mowry from Making no. 4/Lines is an incredible shawl. I had high hopes of making this squishy piece when the magazine was first published – and finally found the perfect yarn match this fall.

I love the two yarns in this shawl. One is a breed-specific farm yarn: Round Barn Fiber Mill Esme – a pure Jacob yarn from a single sheep (named Esme) whose fleece produces this lofty, soft, and delightful natural brown yarn. I paired Esme with a white Shetland yarn that I reclaimed from a thrifted sweater. This reclaimed yarn is a little more robust than Esme, which is why the Shetland took the first color place and Esme plays a supporting role in the background of the brioche. The chance to hold a recycled yarn along with a breed-specific yarn is my ideal knitting project! I care so much about using yarn from these two sources: small farms and rescued sources – and the fact that I could use them together in one project where they work so well together was truly satisfying.

This project also brought a new technique: two-color brioche. I’ve done brioche before – usually one-color, with a lot of mistakes and confusion. I have heard from other knitters that two-color brioche can be frustrating and time consuming as it involves sliding a finished row of stitches to the beginning of a needle and following with the second color – so it takes two rows to finish one row. I had no interest in sliding my stitches to the beginning of the needle. So, before I started this project, I sat down with the Sockmatician one-pass brioche tutorial and focused. I learned the one-pass method in one night and cast on my shawl the next day. I will admit, the last time I had to focus like this in a knitting project was when I was learning to knit back in 2011… There was a lot of focus going on.

With one-pass brioche, my Raina Shawl was a very smooth and satisfying knit. I love the finished shawl and the way the two yarns play together. I finished this shawl the night before my second PhD qualifying exam. I wore it during my exam as a protective wooly layer to remind me that: yes – I am amazing! I can knit this shawl and I can pass this exam. I did pass, and I think the focus and clarity I found from knitting Raina helped immensely.

Raina was a delight to knit. Worth every bit of intense focus.

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.

Alex Shirt – 2018 Make Nine

The Sew Over Alex shirt as basic as it gets.

I can finally breathe easy now that I have a basic white button up in my closet. The last time I had something this basic was when I had to wear a school uniform in 2008. This shirt is much better than that uniform.

This shirt is relaxing. I mean, the Alex Shirt is a relaxed fit, but it genuinely calms my worries and soothes my anxieties. I feel like the missing piece has been found. With this basic white shirt, I can shine confidently. My wardrobe has entered a new realm of creativity. This basic has me feeling inspired.

The Alex Shirt is my perfect basic oversized tunic length shirt. Dressy enough for presentations and casual enough for chilling around the house. It has volume, it has sheen, it has drama, but mainly it is pure basic bitch button up.

The pattern was simple to follow. I did make a muslin. I was concerned that my size wouldn’t have enough room for my shoulders. However, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved when my first muslin fit well. I could move my arms back and forth and in circles without busting any seams. The oversized nature of this shirt made it a perfect fit for my unique shoulder situation.

The Alex Shirt is labeled as an intermediate pattern in the City Break Ebook. I’ve been sewing for a year now and label myself as highly adventurous. This pattern was my first shirt yoke, and it was 100% successful thanks to the Sew Over It YouTube tutorial.

The best part about this 100% cotton shirt is the fabric origin: a secondhand bedsheet. Though if you’ve been following my sewing journey it’s probably not surprising as most of my clothes used to be bedsheets. This one is a beautiful satin weave cotton with a high thread count. It’s absolutely luxurious to wear; smooth and silky, but still structured.

I made a couple of small changes. First, I chose to do a regular box pleat at the back, rather than an inverted pleat. I think this highlights the pleat as a central feature of the shirt. Second, I curved both the back and the front of the shirt hem. In the pattern, the back hem curve is exaggerated while the front has a straighter cut. As a petit person, I find shirts that land at tunic length feel more comfortable than those that stop at the hip, a curved front hem helped me accomplish this length without adding bulk to the sides.

I’m pleased to check another item off my 2018 Make Nine list. The Alex Shirt (along with my Mia Jeans) brings my current completed total to two. It’s only February, so I feel comfortable with my progress so far.

Happy Making!

Finished Object: Carbeth

This enjoyable and fast sweater knit has come to a end. My Carbeth sweater is bound off, blocked, and finally dry.

I used two mystery cones of yarn held double for this project. One a wooly, rustic black and the other a soft, smooth blue. These cones were purchased from Scrap It Up, the creative reuse store in Cincinnati. I would highly recommend a visit to this shop if you’re near the city – the diversity of supplies is incredible.

I used the Patty Lyons ssk decrease recommended on MDK: it’s mainly just slip one then pass it back to the left needle then knit through the back loops. Patty Lyons also has a one move version of this decrease, but I found that actually made my stitches looser rather than tighter.

Blocking was simple, I followed the plate method and used a 10″ plate. Surprisingly my sweater took three days to dry. Probably because it’s been raining in STL for the past four days and everywhere is quite humid.

This was a great basic and easy sweater. I think I’ll wear it often in the deepest part of winter as it’s toasty warm (I might even say boiling). Hopefully I can get a few more wears before Spring arrives.