Summer Knitting

I love summer knitting. There. I said it. Whew! Just getting it out in the open like that makes me feel so light and free!

Knitting is usually all about the big, warm, cozy sweater, right? The wool cardigan, the bulky jacket, the stranded or cabled details that add extra warmth. Come spring, in knitting groups everywhere, people will start glaring at the rising mercury and muttering, “I don’t know, maybe some socks or a lace shawl until the weather breaks.” And it’s true that holding a blanket or heavy jumper on your lap in August doesn’t feel very nice.

But there’s so much more to summer knitting than socks and accessories. Don’t get me wrong — I’m an avid sock knitter, and I’ve knitted more hats and gloves over the years than any person could ever need. They’re fun little projects that factor high on the instant-reward scale (as instant as knitting ever gets, anyway). So I do get excited in the hot months about knitting little light bits of froth to drape around my neck or pop onto the ends of various limbs.

Even more than that, though, I love knitting tees and vests and tanks. And tiny little cardigans! They’re perfect for summer when the air conditioner is blasting arctic air all over your bare skin. And little skirts! I can’t wear skirts in Chicago’s frozen winter, but in the warmer months, skirts are the greatest thing ever. A warm breeze against bare legs? Yes, please!

Now that the weather is turning warmer, my knitting time is also turning to warm-weather items. First on the list is this Ankestrick cardigan in a laceweight that I just barely managed to start last summer.

summerhill start

Summerhill in Misti Alpaca Lace

That’s a top-down cardigan using the contiguous shoulder method that I’ve become so addicted to. It’s a great way to ensure a good fit. I find it better, generally, than a raglan in both fit and style, but that didn’t stop me from casting on this raglan cardigan a week or two ago.


Miette in Classic Elite Lush

That’s Andi Satterlund’s popular retro-style pattern, and the yarn has enough angora in it to make it seem even more retro. This is proving to be a quick knit so far, and it might end up living on the back of my chair at the family business through most of the summer. I don’t spend many hours there these days, but I spend enough to want a dedicated cardigan there. This might be it.

I’m eyeballing one, possibly two tunic/minidress things, another Elfe tee, and this extremely cool skirt — check it out.

golfjes skirt

Golfjes from Atalier Alfa

I’m so, so taken with Alfa’s patterns. She blows me away with the inventiveness of her stitches and style lines. That Golfjes stitch pattern makes my fingers itch to cast on. Doesn’t it kind of look like ripples on the surface of a busy lake? I’ve already picked out the yarn I’ll use, some Lorna’s Laces sock yarn in mostly black, gray, and cream, with just a slight touch of red here and there. (Colorways Pinstripe and Embers.) (We’re all shocked that I’m using black and gray, right? But there is SOME red in it!) The yarn is wound and ready to go, and I can’t imagine I’ll hold out much longer before casting this on. Knitting time has been precious, which is probably the only thing keeping this skirt off the needles right now. Every now and then, I see that project bag sitting all forlorn and patient in the drawer, and I coo, “Soon, my pretty, very very soon.”

What are you excited to knit this summer? Or do you put your needles away until the first frost in autumn?



When first impressions are wrong

Okay, so I made this sweater/coat/cardigan thing, and I was a bit iffy when I first finished it just because it’s really, really big. Crazy big. Like, I made the size medium (12-14), which is my normal sewing size, and I had to take 4″ (10cm) out of each side seam. And it’s still very generously sized, even with that extra 8″ removed. Here, this will give you an idea–


McCall’s 7057 View B minus 8″ in girth

This thing has so much more volume than most of what I wear these days. I like a trim silhouette, and this is far from trim.

But check out that collar! That’s the detail that made me rush to make this garment in the first place. It’s actually a convertible hood. It drapes around the shoulders, as shown, or you can wear it up, like this.


Goal for 2015: I will get a decent camera and learn how to use it

That’s like a magic trick, right? Such a fun design detail, and I really liked sewing it. With the hood down in collar form, you can’t really see how huge the shoulders are. The big proportions are a little more apparent with the hood up. So at first I was worried that this would feel like one of those enormous snow jackets our moms all made us wear when we were little.


I can’t put my arms down!

But then I wore it. Tuesday was warm for Chicago in January, a tick above freezing. So I threw on dark jeans, a black long-sleeved tee, some heeled boots, and my favorite long silver statement necklace, seen in the photo. I added red leather gloves, my red bag, and a black fedora, and I was out the door — and this cardigan coat thingie was absolutely perfect. It kept me warm enough outdoors without overwhelming me with heat indoors. Comfortable. I could let it drape open if I became too warm, and wrap it close if I became too cold.

But just because a thing is comfy, that doesn’t mean it looks okay. I had to pick up my nephew from high school that day, and I heard more than one MILF called at me — not that we encourage these things, but at least it’s some evidence that I didn’t look like I was wearing a big sloppy bathrobe. One of the sports coach teacher men was rather friendly with me, too, more evidence that it wasn’t completely hideous. And I liked wearing it. Of course, I like wearing some pretty awful things in the name of winter warmth, so I know better than to think this is evidence of style. But I didn’t scare off children or sportsball men, so how bad can it be? That was my logic, such as it is.

That was Tuesday. As I woke up Wednesday, my first thought was, “I wonder if it will be warm enough to wear the big thing again.” And today, Thursday? Same thought. I woke up hoping I could wear it. I think I might have a new trend here. I don’t know what it is about this cardigan, but I know I’m going to wear it until it is dead from overwork and exhaustion. One wear, and I was hooked. It’s like the crack of sweater jackets.

The fabric is this black wool sweater knit shot through with silver lurex threads from Mood Fabrics. It’s right around sport or DK gauge, just under 6 stitches to the inch, so it’s fairly heavy for a milled knit fabric. It sewed like a dream and feels incredibly good — warm and cozy, but it’s definitely wool, just a mere touch of rusticity in the hand. I loved sewing it and would absolutely sew it again.

I only had two minor quibbles with the pattern. One, there are no belt loops. I made the belt and didn’t even notice that a belt loop pattern piece was nowhere to be found. I might just do a crocheted loop at some point, but honestly, I doubt I’ll ever use the belt. It just feels bulky and awkward when it’s belted, and the belt kind of ruins the line of the garment.

My other minor quibble is that the instructions have you sew the pieces together in an unusual order. Instead of sewing fronts to backs at the shoulders and then sewing the hood/collar thing on, it calls for you to sew the fronts to the hood/collar, then sew the backs, then sew the shoulder seams. That seemed like it would be unnecessarily fiddly, so I didn’t do that. I couldn’t think of a single reason why anyone should!

But neither of these quibbles is really anything to detract from an overall great pattern. I already have my eye out for some red wool sweater knit, because OMG, this thing in red? I NEEEEEEEEEEEED one!

Have you ever had a wrong first impression of one of your creations?


One of my favorite gadgets

I bought this really cool gadget at a sewing expo, and I never add buttons without it. It’s handy for sweaters, shirts, skirts — any kind of garment, any kind of fabric, as long as the button band is straight rather than curved.


SimFlex Expanding Sewing Gauge

This is basically a metal accordion doohicky with helpful pointy bits on the end. Those helpful point bits are two-pronged and manage to be about the same width as the holes in a 2-hole button, which makes aligning buttons very easy.

For my Dark Pearl cardigan, I used the top and bottom hem to mark the top and bottom button placement and sewed those into place. Then I used the doohicky to mark the placement of the other buttons.


All you have to do is expand the accordion to match whatever you’re doing — here, I use the top and bottom buttons as my guide, and the middle two prongs mark the spots for the other two buttons. No tape measure required! This tool was a little pricey, almost twenty bucks, but it is worth every penny. No more trying to do math in my head as I try to divide inches by eighths! Just point the prongs, mark, and sew. Perfect results every time.


Forgive the headless selfie — let’s just say I’m looking for a new hair stylist and leave it at that. I’m very pleased with how this cardigan turned out. There were a few rough moments with the ugly yarn, but a bit of dye took care of that, and the sweater fits beautifully. I love the way the lace panel drapes across the yoke, and I can imagine wanting to wear this one All The Time.

What sewing gadgets do you love? Have you ever splurged on a gadget and discovered it’s more an essential than a splurge?


Choosing buttons and a brief Vogue Knitting Live report

I was at the Vogue Knitting conference yesterday, where I’d hoped to find some buttons for my Dark Pearl cardigan. It was a thin hope, I admit, because the marketplace at this show is usually on the small side — only a few vendors, and the booths always seem tiny compared to other cons. And this year was not an exception. Small show. The only buttons we saw were of the handmade clay type, perfect for children’s garments but not at all the look I want for this cardigan.

I did buy two skeins of this sock yarn. This is Leading Men Soliloquy, a light fingering yarn in a 650-yard put-up. These are big skeins, and very reasonably priced. Two skeins provide enough yardage for a sweater. I bought two in the colorway Royalty, a semisolid purple. It’s actually a bit darker than this picture would indicate, but still a true purple, not an eggplant or indigo. These will become a henley sweater with a bit of lace on the yoke, most likely, unless I find a different pattern I like better.


So that will be fun to knit, but not right away. Into the stash it goes for now. As long as I was mucking about in my stash, I pulled out my small hoard of buttons and tried many on the Dark Pearl cardigan. And hooray, I found some that worked.


That top button, a shiny silver floral thing, is just to show what a true silver looks like against this yarn. Far too bright. The black plastic buttons on the bottom are pretty, but when you step back, they get lost in the fabric. So I’m going to use the middle buttons, which are silver with scored black circles radiating out from the center. The detail is hard to see in this picture, but the net effect from a distance is about the same as you see here — visible, but not overwhelming. I think they’re perfect.

We spent very little time on the show floor at Vogue Knitting Live, mainly because there was very little to see. That’s okay. I don’t need any yarn right now, and the two purple skeins were a splurge. I also bought some needles I needed, and some decadent lanolin body lotion from one of the regular vendors, but that was it. I think we only spent an hour and a half in the marketplace, and a good bit of that time was spent browsing patterns. It’s a small show floor, nothing at all like Stitches, but there are a few vendors we really like — Sophie’s Toes, Grinning Gargoyle, Leading Men. Dragonfly was there, and I had hoped to pick up some of their silk fingering yarn, but they didn’t bring any to the show. Oh, well, don’t need more yarn anyway. My stash runneth over.

I wouldn’t mind that the vendor list is small except that the admission is so steep. They want to charge $20 admission. Yes, you can get discount coupons, but it’s still way too expensive for a show this small. Every year, I say that I won’t bother again next year. And I’m saying the same thing this year. I wouldn’t have gone this year except that all my local area yarn stores have closed and I really did need those needles.

Also, it was an opportunity to do a bit of shopping downtown. I usually avoid shopping on State Street because we have all the same stores at my local malls, so why bother. I go to Michigan Avenue for the upscale department stores or to the neighborhoods for boutique shopping, but usually avoid State Street. But I’ve been on a hunt for good, warm leather gloves for a couple of years, and I heard from a friend that Nordstrom Rack had a good variety of leather colors all lined in cashmere. My hands are super tiny and hard to fit, but I got lucky there. I found two pairs, one red and one pink, that are perfect.


These will be great for the milder cold — Chicagoans know what I mean by this. Upper teens and twenties is mild cold weather, and you can get away with some sleeker outerwear on days like that. For a really cold day, though, I’ll need heavier gloves. No way a bit of fine leather and cashmere will stand up to a subzero day. But I’ll likely just get some ugly, bulky snowmobiling gloves and not worry too much about it. Some days, function trumps style.

This is a really ramshackle post with lots of disconnected ideas, but that’s sort of how the day went yesterday. I shoehorned a lot into one little Friday, and I’m pleased with the results.


Ah, that’s better

You know how it is when you order supplies online. Most of the time, you get exactly what you expected. The color, texture, weight, and hand are exactly as pictured and described by the vendor.

But every now and then, something goes wrong.

I wanted to knit the Dark Pearl cardigan in a semisolid gray, and I ordered three skeins of sock yarn from an online vendor that appeared to be just that. However, what I received was a self-striping sock yarn in two shades of gray and black. This is how it looked when it was knit up.


You can see that the stripes pool differently on the body than on the sleeves. And in the lace panel along the front (unblocked, so it looks rather lumpy), there are large pools of different shades along the right side of the lace.

This is not the look I wanted. Not at all. The yarn is mostly wool with dashes of alpaca and nylon, so I knew I could do a very simple Rit dye treatment to even out the color. I was able to do that today, and this is the result.


That’s so much better. Now it’s a very dark charcoal, almost black, with slight (very very slight) tonal variations. I’m in the process of mounting it to the blocking boards this afternoon, and it should be dry and wearable by Sunday.

Now all it needs are buttons. I’d been planning to use silver, but now I’m wondering if black might be better. What do you think? Black or silver?


Speaking of jade…

On a recent fabric stash-dive for cotton prints to make pajama pants, I spotted a 2-yard cut of a simple cotton broadcloth with red flowers on a jade background. Out of curiosity, I pulled out my jade wrap cardigan to see how these might look together.

005I like that. I tend to be a little hesitant about mixing prints and textures, but I think that lace and that particular print read pretty well together.

Now, I have only to decide which shirt pattern to make from that cotton. Or should I make a sleeveless dress? Is that too much print for a dress? I recently picked up this Butterick 6066 pattern and could make this sleeveless dress:


If that print is too much for a dress, I might make this Simplicity 1590 retro shirt instead.


Decisions, decisions. One thing is for sure, though. I appear to like this particular jade green more than I was ever aware! Who knew!





My first goal cardigan

When it came time to start knitting in my goal-weight size, I was thrilled. I love to knit, but I’ve primarily knit accessories for the past several years because the few sweaters I made seemed like too much work for a body that needed to change. But when I was within about 35 pounds of goal weight, I could start to see the finish line and hit on an idea: a wrap cardigan. I could knit a wrap cardigan in my goal size right then and there, and the criss-crossing fronts would make it easier to wear as my body continued to change.

003 The green doesn’t photograph very well. I’ve tried in several different kinds of lighting, and it always looks too mossy when it is truly a jade with blue undertones. I chose this pattern, Veronik Avery’s Strawberry Lace Wrap Cardigan (ravlink — all links in this post connect to ravelry) from Knitting Classic Style because I’ve always had good luck with her patterns in the past. She started her career as a costume designer and dressmaker, which tends to provide a good foundation for knitwear design. Her attention to detail is fantastic, and the wrap front was just what I wanted.

I opted to use some Classic Elite Attitude, a cotton-silk blend, that had been marinating in my stash for quite some time. I’d bought enough of this to make a roomy sweater in my former plus size, and I quickly realized that meant I could make both the cardigan and a fitted pullover, too, in the same yarn. A quick rummage through the stash turned up some sock yarn with the same shade of green (plus some cadet blue) to make a striped tee later. And just by pure coincidence, I had just picked up some Berrocco Ultra Alpaca Fine to make a Laneway minidress that just happened to incorporate this same shade of green. That would give me three pieces, eventually, to wear with this cardigan. So this seemed like a good place to start.

I did modify the pattern. (I almost always modify the pattern.) I added waist shaping at the side seams to eliminate some of the bulk under the belt. This yarn is an aran weight and knits to a gauge of 18st/4″ in stockinette, which is already pretty bulky without adding volume. I also added grosgrain ribbon ties to the inside wrap to keep it from drooping across the front. If I had to do it over again, I might use a picot edge on the turned hems at the hip and cuffs, but that is a personal preference rather than a real pattern adjustment.

It was a great pattern to knit, and I wear this cardigan all the time. It looks equally well with blue jeans or a skirt. The green mixes particularly well with gray, white, or blue. I’m less thrilled with it against black, which seems to take some of the luster away from the yarn. Jade and black never did seem like a good combination to me, in any case.

What’s your favorite style for a cardigan? Do you have one particular cardigan that you can throw on over everything, or do you collect them?