Red and Grey Vest

Well, I finally finished it! Here it is — the vest I’ve been promising my mom for several years now.

The pattern I started with, from Vogue Knitting Fall 2011.

Truth to tell, this isn’t the original design. That was from Vogue Knitting, Fall 2011, and required some yarn I wasn’t able to find. I not only couldn’t find the original recommended yarn, I couldn’t find a substitute at the appropriate gauge. So I pulled out the calculator and measuring tape, and re-wrote that pattern to fit the new yarn.

I also had to adjust the size, since my mom didn’t want the sweater to be as big around as the finished size for the original pattern. Plus, she wanted it longer, with some adjustments to the sleeves. So I factored all of that in, and carefully wrote out each and every change.

Then I started knitting. Talk about tedious. The back was 24″ wide and 27″ long, and except for the two inches of ribbing at the bottom, entirely stockinette stitch. When I got to the front, I couldn’t stand the boredom any longer, and got started on the inserts before I finished the “boring” part. I realized that was also the best way to make sure the two pieces would fit together.

The inserts were two pieces of Shaker-style ribbing that would create a diamond shape set in the upper half of the front, with a buttonband down the middle. That’s where the math failed me. I could not get the pieces to knit up to the right size and shape, and eventually lost all motivation to keep trying.

So I told my mom, sorry, it’s not going to be that sweater you first wanted. Just isn’t going to happen. She was disappointed, but accepted it.

The finished result.

Instead I found a houndstooth check pattern and knit up the two pieces you see in the finished sweater. They had to be knit up separately from the bottom half since the stranded knitting made for a much tighter gauge, but fortunately the required size and the check pattern I found meshed together perfectly.

I used Rowan Pure Wool Worsted, a superwash wool that I think will wear well and be very comfortable for my mom. The last sweater I made for her wasn’t a superwash, and even though I warned her not to throw it in the dryer, she did — and it came out felted and considerably smaller.

The buttons came from Needlework Unlimited in Minneapolis. My friend Karen owns that store, and it’s one of the few yarn stores I know of that carries a decent selection of buttons. I’m told they’re a big investment for stores and don’t sell very quickly, so it’s just not possible for everyone to stock buttons.

In the middle of my work on this vest, I found a yarn store in Rochester, Minn. that carries the original recommended yarn for that pattern from Vogue Knitting. Someday, maybe I’ll actually make it. In the meantime, I think this will look really cute on my mom and will serve her well!


Dominant Side in Colorwork

Blue Green GlovesIn case you’ve never seen it, or heard of it, I thought I’d show you an example of what a difference using one color over the other as a dominant color can make. We all have a dominant side when we’re knitting, and surprisingly, that side can change (mine did). You need to knit a sample to discover which side is yours.

What do I mean by “dominant side”? When you’re knitting fair isle, for example, you’ll typically hold one skein of yarn on your left side and one on your right. One of those two colors is going to “pop” a little more. Can’t change that, no matter what technique you use. For that matter, even if you place both skeins on your same side, one of them is going to dominate. I don’t know why, but that’s the way it is.

I deliberately knit these gloves switching the dominant color. Frankly, it’s more noticeable, in fact it’s quite noticeable, in real life, but you can still see it in the picture. Look at the fingers in particular. (You’ll also note on the left hand glove I missed an error in the pattern on the bottom of the hand in the first few rows of the fair isle pattern.)

It’s important to know which side is dominant because you’ll want to make a choice with the colors. In the case of the gloves, I wanted the blue (right) to be dominant, however, looking at the two, the fingers really look better when the olive green was dominant. Of course I could have switched once I finished the hand, making the blue pop in the hand and the green in the fingers, but I wouldn’t know to do that until I finished the glove or if I’d knit a small sample to start. (Or some experience might have told me that, too.)

Samples don’t always tell the story, thought, so sometimes it’s a best guess with a little fingercrossing, combined with knowing there really isn’t a right way and wrong way most of the time. When I look at those two gloves, I don’t have a strong opinion about which one is “right.”


Background Image Credit:© striZh — Fotolia

Grey & White Nordic Hat

Decided it was time to knit a hat for my brother, but I’m not sure this will end up being it. Turned out a little slouchier than I anticipated, and I don’t think that’s his style. However, I think it looks kind of cute on me! It will find a home somewhere.

Grey & White Nordic HatI used Cascade 220 Superwash, and was really pleased with it for this project. After completing it, however, I’m thinking I maybe should have gone down a needle size. I used a size 8 needle, and a size 7 may have been better. Not a big deal. Certainly wouldn’t have been as slouchy, but I don’t think that was the determining factor there.

However, then it might just have been a big hat, without the style that comes with the slouch.

I did use a size 4 needle for the band, and I’m glad I did, since the rest of the hat is so big. It keeps it snug.

Grey & White Nordic Hat flatThis was a fairly easy stranded pattern, with very little to carry in the back (only one spot where you had to carry it over 7 stitches, so you’d want to catch it there to keep it from pulling). There were several rows of 1×1 colorwork, and that makes my wrist sore after a bit. The perils of an aging knitter, I suppose.

My brother has his annual ski trip to Jackson, Wyoming typically in January, and I’d love to surprise him with a hat for his next trip. I actually have no idea what his style for hats might be. Nordic? Cable? I may have to knit up a couple and ship them off to him in the fall so he can choose.

I’ll throw in one really silly choice just to test his reaction. Ha.

The pattern for this hat can be found on Ravelry (and it’s free!) under Reynald by Drops Design.


Background Image Credit: © Hasloo Group Production Studio — Fotolia

Red and White Toque Part 2

Well, the first attempt with this pattern (see my last post) was less than successful, and never one to stay away from a challenge, I tried again with different yarn. I also held the white yarn on my left side this time, since it appears that’s my dominant color side in stranded knitting these days. Somewhere along the line that switched…hmmm….

red and white toque woolAnyway, I used Cascade 220 Superwash (worsted weight) this time, with much better results. Still, there are other fair isle patterns I’ve made that are so much prettier. I had a post last December in which I compared different yarns I used for one pattern. Hopefully I got the image problems I was having before with that post corrected! If there are still problems, please let me know. I’m not sure I can correct them at this point, but I’ll try.

I went up a needle size because the pattern was pretty small — finished size of 18″ diameter, that’s small for an adult woman, — and lots of ladies in my family wear larger hat sizes.

I will add a pompom, I think. This hat really needs one. I’m not generally a pompom gal, but I think I’ll make an exception here.

I’m not sure if this will end up in the donate pile with the other one or not. It’s a very pretty hat, I’m happy with the results, it’s just that there are other hats I’ve made that I’m happier with. It would make a great “giving” hat. It’s machine washable, warm and pretty.

The pattern was in the Fall 2015 Vogue Knitting. It’s really easy, I mean really easy, one of the easiest fair isle patterns I’ve ever done.


Background Image Credit: © Hasloo Group Production Studio — Fotolia

Red and White Toque

Red ToqueI suppose you never can have too many hats…at least that’s my excuse for making so many. Also, they make great gifts, so having some handy when you need them is a good idea.

This one may not make it in the gift pile for two reasons: one, I didn’t realize the yarn I chose (Barisienne by Bergere de France) is an acrylic yarn, something I really don’t like to knit with, and two, I’d forgotten that somewhere along the line, and fairly recently, my dominant side with stranded knitting switched from my right to my left side, so the white doesn’t “pop” like I’d like it to.

Still, the shape of the hat is really cute, and the red is nice and bright. For that matter, the white is bright, too, making this a cheerful hat for a gloomy winter’s day. But acrylic…just not what I want to put my time into…not as warm. It will probably never wear out, however.

This might be a good charity hat. I believe in giving attractive hats, mittens and scarves to charity, and I’m being pretty picky about the dominant color thing. The hat is still good looking. I also believe in giving machine washable goods with charitable giving. Most of the people I’ve given to have few, if any, hand wash only garments, and would have no idea how to care for them, nor would they want the bother.

The only thing left is a little pompom for the top, if I can figure out how to make one without a pompom maker. I know it’s easy, I just haven’t done it before.


Background Image Credit: © Hasloo Group Production Studio — Fotolia

In Praise of Gloves

I’ve got to say, they’re a pain in the butt to knit — well, the fingers are, anyway — but in terms of practicality, gloves beat mittens every time.

I made three pair last year, two for me and one for my mom, and I’m working on another pair for a friend right now. I wear mine all the time in the cold weather, and find it’s a lot easier to drive with knitted gloves than mittens.

Anything you have to grip is going to be easier, of course.

Here’s the biggest problem in my experience: finding a well-written pattern. I don’t know what it is about gloves, but the patterns are almost always difficult to follow. There are some I’ve had to re-write for myself before beginning to knit.

pink & black nordic glove 2 nbg
Made with Blue Sky Alpaca, yummy!

I did find one pattern easy to follow: Pattern #1 from the Fall 2011 issue of Vogue Knitting. Surprisingly, for VK, which usually has more contemporary patterns, they’re traditional Nordic gloves. That’s the pair you see here.

There are some small errors in the chart that don’t really show up if you follow it the way it’s written. Check your gauge and check it again. They call for size 3 needles with a stranded pattern that’s 6 stitches to the inch. I went up to a size 6 needle and even then I was lucky blocking it allowed me to stretch it out some.

I made this pattern first with a merino wool, then with an alpaca/merino blend, and finally with some shetland wool. The shetland was by far the easiest to work with; the alpaca/merino blend (above) had the prettiest end result but tended to slip off the needles, especially when working the fingers.

Like I said, they can be a pain to knit at times, but the end result is so worthwhile I’m willing to make a few more pairs. I’d just like to find another pattern!

Below is the pair knit with shetland wool (left) and merino wool (right). The merino wool was Milla Mia, which was slightly lightweight for the pattern, although I wear these gloves all the time and they’re just fine. The shetland wool was bits and pieces from my stash and I honestly couldn’t tell you what all it was.


Beginning, End, and oh Yeah, the Middle

gloves no bkgdQuestion I can rarely answer: “How long did it take you to knit that?”

I have no idea. I don’t keep track.

I can say it’s not an even pace through the whole project.

Nothing I like more as a knitter than the beginning of a new project, especially one with a new technique or one I haven’t tried in awhile. Right now I’m going through a fair isle/stranded phase (I got over mosaic in one project), before this it was lace.

The start of a project is my most productive. I can get the entire back of a sweater done in one or two nights, but I’ll slow down substantially after that…substantially. If it’s something like a hat, I might complete it in one evening. The first one, that is, if I actually do knit the same pattern twice (I don’t often).

nordic hat 2
This hat took about 6 hours to complete, start to finish

The hat on the left I finished in one night. The second one, identical pattern and with yarn that was only slightly more difficult to work with, probably took me twice as long, but it seemed like so very much longer.


Mom's Nordic Hat no bkgd
This one took a 100 million years, or longer

So when people ask me how long it takes to knit a sweater, I truly have no idea. One section may take me ten to 20 hours, while another section the identical size could take two or three times as long, because I pick it up and put it down again. I get just a tiny bit bored with a project after that initial rush.

That’s why I’m not one of those knitters who always has two to five to twenty projects going at once. If I did, I would have fifty WIPs (or more) just crowding my way-too-small living space and wasting my time and energy.

Well, maybe two projects going at once. Never more than three, that’s a promise.

My projects have a purpose. I rarely have a deadline, because I don’t like the pressure, but there is a relatively immediate intent (before this newborn baby hits the age of three, for example).

While there’s nothing I like more than the beginning of a project, the finish is a pretty good feeling too.


Storytelling through Design

One of my favorite fellow knitters, Rita, uses her art & design training in the pieces she knits. She’s only been knitting for two or three years, yet the projects she’s designed are advanced beyond what you see in many magazines.

Rita's penguin outfit III thought my favorite was the little penguin-themed snow outfit she made for a friend’s baby until I saw her phenomenal fair-isle scarf. Each section has meaning for her. It may be the pattern, such as a symbol celebrating her daughter’s marriage, or the colors, personal choices that reflect moments in her life.

It’s knit entirely in sock yarn and took her some time to finish, in part because she had to research the designs, and in part because it was knit with such lightweight yarn & small needles. She took it section by section, never really knowing what she’d be doing a few rows down the line. It’s incredible.

The only “problem” with a project like that, to me, would be the fear of losing it.

Rita knit two hats last year with Blue Sky Alpaca, taking the same care in color and design choices she always does, and they were lost in the mail during the Christmas season. You so rarely hear of that these days. She had them tracked and insured, but it didn’t matter. They were lost.

That hasn’t stopped her, though. She continues to design and knit, every piece more stunning than the one before.

I can’t wait to see what she does next.


Same Hat, Different Yarns

I went a little crazy and knit up several hats in this Nordic pattern (Pattern #8 from the fall 2011 issue of Vogue Knitting), each in a different yarn, just to see how the various yarns looked in the same style. My apologies for the quality of some of these pictures.

red and grey nordic hat
Blue Sky Alpaca

The first, the red & grey, was made out of Blue Sky Alpaca. I can’t rave about this yarn enough, although I would question the wisdom of wearing a baby alpaca blend in truly wintry weather. I’m not sure how well it would wear, especially with any rain, sleet or snow, although it likely would be as warm as anything else.

This hat (like all on this page, of course) comes down below the ears, which is important in chilly weather. It’s hard to find something even remotely stylish that fully serves this purpose, and quality yarn does help. Of course when the temperature drops I find my concern about style does proportionately as well.

Rowan Wool Cotton

The second, the black and pink, was done in Rowan Wool Cotton. Not as much give due to the cotton, but a little denser and therefore will be pretty warm. Will probably have to go to one of my cousin’s kids, though, since the lack of give will make it tighter and I’m not sure it will fit an adult.

Mom's Nordic Hat no bkgd
Nature Spun Sport Weight

The third, the blue & white, was completed in Nature Spun sport weight. It knit to gauge, but is fairly lightweight, appropriate for some climates but not the severe winters I’m used to in the Great Plains states. It should be noted the blue background with white design is a very traditional color combination for Nordic hats, both Swedish and Norwegian.

Red & White Nordic Hat
Nature Spun Worsted Weight

I also knit two in the Nature Spun worsted weight yarn, a better choice. The first hat I used the same size needles as for the sport weight, which surprisingly was still easy to knit. That hat is very dense, perhaps too stiff. For the second I went up a needle size and it’s still pretty dense, but maybe more appropriate to the weight of the yarn. Like the blue & white hat above, these are traditional Nordic colors, used a little less often than the blue.

Liberty Wool

And finally, I used Liberty Wool worsted weight for this eggplant and citron colored hat. The yarn is wonderful, but initially I was hesitant about the colors. Some of my friends consider it an updated look for the style, but to me, it takes more than color to update a Nordic hat. Still, the yarn was the right weight and had the traditional look of wool some might like (as opposed to the baby alpaca, for example). Eventually I came around, and my mom, who’ll be wearing it this winter, loves it.

I knit this one needle size up and the hat was a full size larger than the others.

My favorite yarn? It’s a tie between the Liberty Wool and the Blue Sky Alpaca, with the latter being more fun to knit with. It’s much smoother and slides off the needles, making the knitting go more quickly.