Knitting, crafting, cooking, and motherhood… trying to do it all!

Posts tagged ‘knitting in the round’

The Season for Sweaters

In 2014, I knit fifteen sweaters. FIFTEEN. Only one of those sweaters was adult-sized, but fifteen sweaters is no small feat. Not to mention I also knit 9 vests, 11 hats, 1 cowl, 4 pairs of mitts, 1 pair of baby leggings, 4 pairs of socks, 3 bows, and countless swatches and project beginnings. It’s been a busy year for knitting!

I thought I’d take some time to show off some of those sweaters that have not yet been featured on my blog. I’d like to start by raving about the ladies of Tin Can Knits. Alexa and Emily are the masterminds behind the Tin Can Knits design team. They are amazing women who, despite each having a baby last year (just like me!), released a new book of knitting patterns entitled Road Trip. Their designs are a wonderful blend of modern and classic, with easy-to-follow instructions and clear guidelines for any knitter. As if that isn’t enough they also have a blog to help knitters through new and/or troublesome techniques. The greatest thing about TCK, though, is that most of their patterns are sized baby through adult. I got to try many of their patterns for my four boys and I never had to worry if they had the size I needed. I’m going to begin detailing my Season of Sweaters by showing off some of my favorite Tin Can Knits designs.

The first sweater I knit was Caribou from TCK’s Road Trip. The recommended yarn was Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. I had been interested to try this yarn, so I invested in some ‘Almanac’ colorway for a toddler sweater. I was excited to try this pattern because of its unique construction. You actually knit the cable band first, then pick up stitches to knit the top and the bottom. The button band ribbing lines up perfectly with the cables, so they seem to extend to the edge. Knit in the beautiful (and incredibly lightweight) Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, this sweater turned out to be incredibly adorable. I chose the 2-4 yr size, which turned out to be much too large for my 2 year old, but the sleeves cuffed nicely and it will last for one or two years to come (just in time for his baby brother to grow into it!).

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While I loved the Caribou sweater, I wanted something a little dressier for Jonathan to wear for Christmas. I chose TCK’s Prairie Fire sweater. This sweater uses lacework to create a design that comes to a point on the front, then wraps around the sweater to meet in the back. It’s such a clever design. Even though this sweater was modeled on girls, I decided my little guy was “man enough” to pull off lace. I couldn’t be happier with the results. Knit in the 1-2yrs size, this was a perfect fit for Christmas. It goes well with a turtleneck or polo shirt underneath and I can’t get over how handsome he is (I know, I’m a little partial).IMG_7753

I wrote in a previous post about knitting a baby cardigan using TCK’s Clayoquot without the colorwork. I decided to knit this sweater with the colorwork in the 0-6mos size for a dear friend who just had a baby. The Clayoquot pattern is a great pattern for anyone new to stranded knitting. I loved knitting this girly little sweater (I never get to use pink!) and I can’t wait to see it on Baby Elise!

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One more TCK pattern: the Antler Cardigan. After knitting all the sweaters I liked from Road Trip, I invested in TCK’s older book, Pacific Knits. This book includes lots of great patterns, but I bought it specifically to knit the Antler Cardigan. I chose the colorway Peacock Shadow from Dream in Color, mostly because my son Roman said he liked turquoise. The color ended up looking a lot more navy than turquoise, but I love the way the tonal yarn looks in this simple pattern. Knit with size 9 needles, I flew through this pattern for my eight-year old. Roman wore a white polo shirt underneath for Christmas Eve Mass.

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Those are all of the TCK sweaters, although you can find quite a few of their hat designs in my previous post. The next sweater I need to feature is a classic design by Elizabeth Zimmermann: the Baby Surprise Jacket. Elizabeth Zimmermann, known to many as the mother of modern knitting, created this incredibly clever design and it is still one of the most knit baby patterns today. It is knit flat, then folded origami-style and seamed to create a darling baby jacket. I highly recommend this design for every knitter to try. The construction is truly one-of-a-kind. In my version I used Plymouth Select Worsted Merino Superwash. I added length to the sleeves and added a hood, using i-cord around the edges of the hood and cuffs.

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In an effort to learn how to knit a set-in sleeve, I chose the pattern Arlo from the BT Kids collection. This is an amazing sweater, but it was WAY more work than the seamless knits previously listed. This sweater was knit in five pieces, seamed together, then had a shawl collar picked up and knit with short rows. I learned SO much from knitting this sweater, but I also spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos to learn some of the new techniques. The results are fantastic, though I do regret not using Brooklyn Tweed Shelter to knit this design. I love seeing my six-year old Adrian wearing this sweater around town.

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So, there is a sampling of some of my favorite designs from 2014. My absolute favorites cannot be revealed just yet… they are of my own design and will remain a mystery for a few more months. 2015 holds many more sweaters in store. I’ve already finished two (one of them a massive sweater for me) and February is just getting started!

Hats! Hats! Hats!

One of the greatest things about cold weather (one of the ONLY great things about cold weather) is the chance to wear the things you’ve been knitting all year. Although my boys have some hats I crocheted for them years ago, I figured they needed to upgrade to some knit hats and it gave me a chance to learn more about hat construction. Thus became my mission… to knit hats for the family!

At the end of October I had knit plenty of things for my kids, but hadn’t made much for me. I had bought some Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (colorway ‘Thistle’) to knit Jared Flood’s Laurel hat. I thought, “It’s small, I should be able to finish in a night.” Ha! The pattern is lovely and the chart was easy to read, but I wasn’t as quick as I dreamed I was. I finished in about three days, but long hours were put in during that time. It was a great learning experience, but I kept making small mistakes and needed to tink back or ladder down to fix the problems. In the end, the result was beautiful. I love my new hat and I love that I took the time to make something for myself!

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As the cold winds of December blew in, I started working on a hat for my baby. I wanted to try knitting Tin Can Knits’ Clayoquot cardigan with colorwork (I had knit this pattern without the colorwork here), but I thought I would start with the Clayoquot Toque. I knit this one in less than a day. It’s super cute, but I do wish it was just a bit larger. I try to make things to last more than a couple months, but with growing boys that’s tough to do! This hat looks nice and is quite durable knit in Cascade 220 Superwash.

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Moving on, I wanted to try out a pattern from the Tin Can Knits book Pacific Knits, which I had recently received. I used some lovely Dream in Color Classy yarn (colorway ‘Peacock Shadow’). The pattern is Sitka Spruce, and uses twisted stitches to create an awesome geometric pattern. This one was not for my boys, though. This one was a gift for a special friend who has recently moved to a much colder place. I figured the warm wool would be perfect for those snowy days in Buffalo, NY. This one also turned out a little shorter than I wanted, but after blocking it was closer to the correct size. The tonal yarn looks amazing with all those twisted stitches!

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Three days before celebrating Christmas, I decided to make a hat for my husband using more Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (colorway ‘Birdbook’). I chose Apple Pie— another TCK pattern. This one features a ribbed doubled brim. Although it was tedious to knit the extra length of the doubled brim, I think it will be super warm. All the cabling within this hat took a long time, but I love the results. I love how it looks on me, so it was almost a disappointment when my husband loved it and wanted to wear it! (Ha! Just kidding!) That doubled brim was a foreshadowing of a future project… a project that made the hat brim seem like nothing at all (more details to come!).  Here is the hat modeled by Yours Truly.

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Next up was a hat for my second son, Adrian. I decided to do yet another TCK pattern (I own two of their books, of course I’m going to knit their patterns!)– Stovetop. This uses moss stitch to create an interesting texture and some simple cables along a main panel. The crowning glory, in my opinion, is the pompom on top. I knit this one with some leftover Plymouth Worsted Merino Superwash (colorway ‘Primavera’) and I am SO happy with how it turned out. Although it was created for Adrian, my third son Jonathan has adopted it as his own and looks incredibly cute in it. Here it is modeled on Adrian:

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Dying to try more simple colorwork, I found The Easy Ombre Slouch Hat, by Paul S. Neary, a free pattern on Ravelry. I changed the pattern quite a bit (detailed on my project page), but it was exactly what I was looking for. I used the same Plymouth Merino Superwash used in Adrian’s hat, paired with some blue yarn of the same brand. This design also inspired me to design a sweater with a similar effect. I loved the results, but my oldest son Roman has been crocheting hats for himself, so this one doesn’t get much use.

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One final hat to add to the post… another one that was intended for me! Although the Laurel hat I made at the beginning of this post is great for cooler weather, I wanted one that could withstand heavy snows (not that we’ve had any this year). I used, you guessed it, a TCK pattern. This one is called Tofino Surfer and is from their book Pacific Knits. I had some trouble finding yarn to get the recommended gauge. I settled on some Cascade 128 and used a size 9 needle. The hat turned out great with one exception. Because I used a smaller needle size, the tighter stitches caused it to stick up straight instead of slouching. As I blocked it I stretched the wool, which helped a lot, although it does require a little push to make it slouch. No modeled pic for this one:

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What are your favorite hat patterns? The cold weather isn’t through yet… I could always knit another!

Taking the “EEK!” Out of Steeking

STEEKING. It means that you will be cutting stitches that you just spent hours (if not days) knitting. Crazy, right? I had never heard of steeking until I started knitting in January. While watching an instructional video on YouTube, it recommended a steeking video. Curious as to what it was, I watched in amazement as a carefully knit sweater was cut straight down the middle. From that point on, I was fascinated by the concept but did not take the opportunity to try it myself until this month.

Why would you cut your knitting? Steeking was developed by knitters of the Shetland archipelago and is particularly associated with Fair Isle knitting. The idea is that you can knit a cardigan sweater with frequent color changes and never have to turn your work to the back where all the colors are being carried. You essentially knit a tube in the round and make cuts for the front of the sweater and/or arm holes. If you use a particularly sticky wool and change colors correctly, you can cut your sweater without any extra reinforcement. If you are using a fiber that has been processed (such as a superwash), you will need to reinforce your stitches with a line of single crochet or with a sewing machine. After the sweater has been cut, the knitter can pick up stitches down the middle to create a button band to finish the garment.

I have read a lot about steeking and have watched several instructional videos. Elizabeth Zimmermann used steeking quite a bit and describes the process throughout her books. Intrigued, I was determined to try it myself. About a month ago, I received a digital download of the Tin Can Knits book Road Trip, which featured a steeked sweater. After knitting their Caribou sweater pattern (as I mentioned in my post about cables), I decided to try their Clayoquot pattern and experience steeking first-hand.

Clayoquot is a lovely sweater, featuring a Fair Isle design that I really love. I had previously purchased some Cascade 220 Superwash in “Ruby” to make a sweater for my two year old son, Jonathan. Since I had just knit the Caribou sweater for him, I decided to knit Clayoquot in the 6-12 mo size for my baby boy, Christian. I looked at all different colors to use for the Fair Isle patterning, perused project pages of other knitters, and finally decided that I didn’t want to knit with multiple colors. I wanted a simple red sweater. Now, I realize that the beauty of their design is in the patterning, but I wanted a versatile sweater that could go with everything. I loved that the pattern included pockets (my first time knitting them) and I would get the chance to try steeking with a sweater I could knit in just a couple days. I also feel that to become adept at stranded knitting, I need to teach myself how to “flick” the yarn with my right hand so I can knit a color in each hand. While it is on my list of things to learn, I’m still trying to improve my speed with Continental knitting.

If you are trying steeking for the first time (and every knitter SHOULD), I highly recommend reading up on it first. The lovely ladies of Tin Can Knits have an excellent blog post which I read repeatedly before making the first cut (and you get to see pics of a super cute baby!).

Here is a brief shot of my steeking experience: 1. Sweater knit in the round with the middle five stitches prepped for steeking. 2. Two lines of single crochets down the front to protect the stitches. 3. Cut down the middle of the stitches. 4. Steeking is complete.

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Add a button band and some buttons and, voila!

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Christian has a sweet little sweater now and it took just a couple of days. I’m glad I started with something so small, but I now have the confidence to steek in the future. It no longer intimidates me and I love that I can knit it all in stockinette with very little purling. And now a few pics of my own cutie in his newest sweater:

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Designing a Pattern

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I had a baby in April and I finished the adult sweater for myself soon after.  It’s been almost two months since my last post, but it has been a BUSY two months.  I have a new baby who needs constant attention during the day, three additional boys (all finished with school for the summer), and a husband who was out of the country for part of the time.  To top it all off, I had surgery and spent some time recovering while family helped with the kids.

Nevertheless, hardly a day has gone by that I haven’t picked up my knitting.  In fact, I’ve been working on my largest knitting project to date… designing a pattern that will be tested, edited, and ultimately sold through ravelry.  If all goes well, it should be up by the beginning of August!  This post is to tell a little about my process.

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Before I finished my Right as Rainbow Sweater, I started looking for my next project.  As any mom of young boys knows, sweater vests are one of the most popular dress items.  Hardly a Christmas or Easter goes by that I don’t spend money on sweater vests for my boys.  This seemed like a relatively easy thing to knit, so I started searching the patterns on ravelry.  Unfortunately, the selection I found was somewhat lacking, particularly when I narrowed the fields to children’s sizes and unisex/boys.  There was a selection of vests that came from a publication but were not available for purchase online.  There were a few sloppy looking vests with uneven proportions and armhole ribbing that stuck out from the sweater.  There were girly looking vests.  There were a couple of halfway decent patterns, but there was only one I would even consider buying, and it wasn’t even sized to fit all my boys.  (I’m a sucker for matching/coordinating outfits!)

I was shocked.  How could a clothing item that is so popular in the stores and so (seemingly) easy to knit be so lacking in patterns?  Searches for “socks” or “hats” or “cardigans” give hundreds, if not thousands of results when the field is narrowed to children. My mission became clear– to knit a sweater vest that would look good and allow me to create coordinated looks for all my boys.

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I thought a lot about how to knit exactly what I wanted.  I knew I wanted to incorporate stripes and I knew I wanted it knit in the round with worsted weight yarn.  Some of the patterns I found knit the vest in several pieces and then seamed them together.  Seaming is my LEAST favorite part of knitting, so I wanted to figure out a way to seam the sweater only at the shoulders.  I scoured the internet for similar patterns and checked out books from the local library.  I made notes about elements I liked in various patterns and thought carefully about how to turn those elements into a vest.  Then I began to knit.

Having purchased a variety of colors of the Cascade Sierra yarn, I knew I wanted to incorporate lots of colors.  While the sweater for myself included various shades of blue and gray, I wanted to use different colors for the boys.  I settled on five colors: Tangerine, Deep Turquoise, Aqua, Moth, and Forest Green.  I used Excel to help visualize the pattern I wanted to create.

I began with Jonathan’s sweater, knitting a size 3T guided by a size chart I found online.  The sweater worked up quickly, but I soon realized that my original pattern was not going to look good as a final product.  I tore the rows apart and went to a more basic ABCDE pattern.

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I finished the vest (minus the ribbing) in about a week and tried it on Jonathan.  It fit, but just barely.  I became nervous that it would not fit once I completed the neck ribbing.  I wish this instinct was wrong, but unfortunately it was right.  The vest would not go over his head once the neck ribbing was complete.  Luckily I had not yet started the arm hole ribbing.  I decided to keep the top half intact so I could refer back to it and I cut the vest nearly in half along the thin green line of stitches underneath the neck opening. *sigh*

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This is what goes into designing: lots of trial and error!  I tried again, adding length, more decreases, and using a stretchy bind off.  I was holding my breath as I tried the finished product on my toddler.  It fit!  Not only that, it looked GOOD.  And I had created it.  Completely from scratch and without a pattern.  This was a HUGE moment for me!

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When it comes to crafting, I am a *bit* of a perfectionist.  Okay, I’m just a perfectionist.  And when it comes to putting out a pattern that I’ve created, I want it to be perfect.  Even though I was going to have my pattern tested, I wanted to test it myself and work out all the kinks.  So I made two more versions.  I made a size 6 for my son Adrian and a size 8 for my son Roman.  With each vest, I made little changes to help improve the quality of the pattern.  I used the same colors for all the sweaters, but used them in different band widths and different sequences.  I was surprised and pleased at how different (yet similar) they all turned out.

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After writing up the pattern, my friend Stephanie helped me photograph the boys in their vests.  We got some great shots and I spent a lot of time editing them and putting together a visually appealing pattern to send out for testing.  I sent the pattern to three different people for proofreading and feedback.  Last night I posted the pattern on ravelry to get testers.  I have two testers that have already started and I’m hoping to get 5 more.  I’m so proud of this pattern and proud that I was able to knit such stylish looks for my boys.  It is frustrating to me that so many of the adorable knitting patterns available are only for girls, so I am excited to contribute one for the boys.  Of course, this pattern would also look adorable on a girl.  I will list it as a unisex pattern, but I’m keeping my title: Band of Brothers Sweater Vest.

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Knitting in the Round

My first project knit in the round:

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On a trip to the local yarn store, I talked to some more experienced knitters to find out more about needle sizes and circular needles.  According to this woman, circular needles were the way to go.  They can be used for knitting in the round, but can also be used for large knitting projects, going back and forth as if using straight needles.

My first set of circular needles came from Hobby Lobby.  I bought a 16″ length with needles that screwed onto the cord.  I have since decided that I would rather spend the extra money to get quality circular needles that remain attached.  The needles I bought tended to unscrew while I was knitting, which was very frustrating and would have been terrible if I dropped all those stitches due to a needle malfunction.

So… I wanted to make a hat for myself that involved knitting in the round.  I searched the internet very carefully, knowing that I wanted to make a hat with cables.  This was when I first discovered the pattern searches on ravelry.com.  If you are a knitter or crocheter, you HAVE to sign up for this website!  It allows you to search for patterns (free or for a small fee) with as many search criteria as you can imagine.  You can limit searches by free/paid, knit/crochet, VERY specific items, yarn weight, needle size, and SO much more.

I found a free hat pattern (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/declans-hat) that had some unique cabling I could adjust to my size.  While all the “models” were male, I figured I would add some extra ribbing to allow me to fold up the brim and I could even add a pompom to the top if I wanted to make it a little more feminine.  The ribbing made it so stretchy that it would fit a bigger head, so I figured the extra allowance would be good for my first adult hat project.  The pattern called for a size 6 needle, but I had a size 8.  Because this pattern is so versatile, I figured I could swing it by following the pattern for an adult medium.  Of course, I had to try on the brim to be sure it wasn’t ridiculously huge:

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The pattern was great and I got to practice reading a knitting diagram with this pattern.  I also got to practice holding cable stitches to both the front and back (which wasn’t hard, but took a little bit of practice).  The trickiest part was when the rows started decreasing and I realized it was not going to stay on the circular needles.  The light bulb went off in my head– THIS is why people say you will need double pointed needles (DPNs) on a hat project!

Bad news.  It was 10:30 at night (kids are asleep, making 9-12:30 at night the best time for me to knit), and I did not have DPNs.  Nor did I have experience with DPNs.  Hmmm…. I understood the concept of how they would work.  I had read the section on them in my “Learning Knitting” manual and had watched a video or two on YouTube to see them in action.  The best solution would be to wait until the next day when I could run to the store and buy some DPNs, but I am NOT a patient person and I was determined to finish that night.

What happened next is tough to blog about because I’m still kind of baffled as to how I did it, but I managed to complete the hat.  I pulled out my size 8 straight needles and pulled the stoppers off the end.  Then, through a complicated method of knitting with one end of a needle and then sliding them onto another needle so the point was facing the opposite direction, I managed to decrease the stitches correctly and come up with a finished hat.  The good news out of all this– when I finally used DPNs on another project, they were a piece of cake after this creative but unconventional experience!

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I love my new hat and I love how it matches my handmade fingerless mittens!  As you can see, my toddler loves it, too!

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