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

Posts tagged ‘sweater’

Adding a Pocket to the Twisted Trails Sweater

The Child for All Seasons MKAL is in full swing on Ravelry! It’s never too late to join, and you can even preview the Autumn Collection before buying. Purchasing the year gets you 12 children’s patterns for one low price, released seasonally throughout the year.

This season, I have designed two of the patterns: the Trail Mix Fingerless Mitts and the Twisted Trails Hooded Sweater. Both are perfect fall knits for the little ones in your life!

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Having already knit 4 versions of the Twisted Trails, I decided to make a version with a kangaroo pocket for my godson Michael. I had never knit a kangaroo pocket, so it was a bit of a learning experience. My whole goal was to have the cables travel uninterrupted up the front of the sweater. I achieved that goal and I’m so happy with the results! Although this is not a pattern or an addition to the pattern, any adventurous knitter can use my notes to modify the pattern on their own. If you have questions, jump in on the MKAL forums and I’d be happy to answer them!

1. I began by knitting a rectangle the size that I wanted the inner pocket to be. I used a hoodie belonging to my older son as a guideline and chose to make mine approximately 8″ x 6″. I began with a provisional cast on (onto a spare needle). I also added the bright orange yarn as a lifeline since this was a technique I had not yet tried.

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2. Next I began the ribbing according to the pattern. On the first row of the main color, I knit all the stitches without beginning the cable chart set-up. Instead, when I came to the stitches that would center my pocket along the front, I lined up the needles WS together and worked k2tog with one stitch from each needle.

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3. After attaching the pocket to the ribbing, I worked the pattern as stated for approximately 1 inch to create some bottom depth for the pattern. At that point, I began working each section flat– the section that was the width of my pocket (including the cable chart) and the section that did not include the pocket. When I reached the length of the pocket, I was ready to join them together. I joined them the same way as before, lining up the needles and working k2tog or p2tog as needed. The difference was that this time I also had to cable as I was working the stitches!

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4. Once the sweater was finished, I used mattress stitch to seam the side of the sweater with the pocket rectangle, leaving the opening for the hands.

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5. Using the contrasting color (gray) and smaller needles, I picked up and knit 24 sts (a multiple of 4). I worked the same ribbing pattern as indicated for the hood ribbing. Using mattress stitch, I attached the sides to the sweater.

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6. The result was a beautiful new hoodie for my nephew’s birthday, shown here modeled by my son Adrian. I am sure this will get plenty of use all season long!

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I hope this is helpful to anyone wanting to add kangaroo pockets to their handknits. And if you haven’t already, join us as we knit our way through the year in the Child for All Seasons MKAL!

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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Cables are the Best!

Since my last post, I have been crazy busy designing knitwear. I now have four patterns for sale on Ravelry, two in testing, two to write/photograph… and about a hundred more ideas swimming around in my head. I love seeing other people knit my designs and I have gotten so many compliments on the clarity and quality of my patterns.

For the past several months, I have been having a love-affair with cable knitting. I learned how to do a basic cable on day 3 of learning to knit. It was a technique that I had never encountered with all my years of crocheting and I was so excited to try it! Since then, I’ve been studying and swatching TONS of cable patterns. I’ve been studying their construction and the layout of the charts. I’ve now moved on to creating my own! I found a lot of great cable ideas in this book by Melissa Leapman:

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I absolutely love argyle, so my first order of business designing my own cable was to attempt to cable argyle! I tried MANY different ways of doing it, but there was only one that I really loved. I used this as the basis for creating a cardigan vest for Michael, my godson and nephew. He told me his favorite color is, “toy-quoise,” so that is the color he got!

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You can see from the picture that this uses a thick cable for the main diamonds, and a thinner cable (created with twisted stitches) in the background. The front of the vest features cabled diamonds along the front panels. the edging is all done in rice stitch. Be sure to check out my Diamondback Cardigan Sweater Vest on Ravelry!

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Michael loved his new vest and it seems to be a hit with my customers as well!

This fall I tried two cabled cardigans that were not my own design. I created Arlo, by Brooklyn Tweed, and Caribou, by Tin Can Knits. I loved both of these patterns! Arlo begins with a tubular cast-on (my new favorite cast-on!) which make the stitches look like they wrap over the edges of the sweater. It was knit in five pieces, so I got lots of practice with seaming and my first experience with a set-in sleeve. I am SO happy with how it turned out!

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Caribou, by Tin Can Knits, was another fun knit. This one had such unusual construction that I had to try it! The cable band is knit first, then you pick up stitches above and below to create the rest of the sweater. My favorite part is how the cables appear to run straight onto the button bands! I knit this one using GORGEOUS Brooklyn Tweed Shelter Yarn and I can’t wait to use their yarn again! I’m going to have some very warm boys this fall!

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My favorite cable project was my own. Roman, my oldest son, requested that I design a sweater for him in honor of his eight birthday. I let him choose from the color palette of the Plymouth Worsted Merino Superwash and he chose the color “Primavera.” I wanted to play on the X’s and O’s without being too obvious about it. I swatched and swatched for months (here and there) before settling on a Double X pattern on the back with seed stitches in the middle and a chain link “O” pattern running the length of the sleeves. This is one of the patterns that is finished, but needs to be photographed and written (hopefully soon!). Roman is LOVING his special sweater!

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Be on the lookout for new cable patterns to come from me! My boys can’t rock the lace, but they look awesome in cables! I just can’t wait to do more 🙂

Favorite Stretchy Bind Off

In the pattern I just created, I called for the knitter to use “your favorite stretchy bind off.”  In the course of making four coordinating sweater vests, I tried a number of stretchy bind offs.  I looked through books, searched the internet, and watched YouTube videos to see what others recommended.  I tried a number of them, some of which made it only a few stitches before I ripped it out and started again.  Somewhere along the way, I found one that suited my needs quite nicely for this design.  It’s stretchier than a regular bind off, but not so much that it gets stretched out.  It has a nice even line with no extra flare (or flair!).  I have since gone back and tried to find the bind off online to find the name and give credit, but I have not had any luck.  So, I’m going to name this the Twisted Stitch Stretchy bind off, as each stitch is twisted by being worked through the back loop.  Here it is!

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Twisted Stitch Stretchy Bind Off

1. Knit the first stitch.

 

2. If the next stitch is a KNIT stitch, knit the second stitch through the back look (k tbl).  If the next stitch is a PURL stitch, purl the next stitch through the back loop (p tbl).

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3. Slip the first stitch on the right hand needle over the second stitch (like you would with a regular bind off), so you are left with a single stitch on the needle.

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4.  Continue steps 2 and 3 until you are left with one stitch.  Break yarn and pull through the last stitch.

 

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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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My First “Raglan” Sweater

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I created a sweater a couple weeks ago (click here to see the post), but I knew I could do better.  I searched ravelry for more newborn sweaters, and came across a pattern that was sized from 3 mos. to 3T.  I figured that would be a good sizing option because it would make it slightly larger than the newborn sweater I had already created and I would be able to knit a larger size for my toddler if I wanted.  This Bigger Bitty Cabled Cardigan pattern was slightly more complicated than the last sweater I made, but still looked easy enough for me to handle.

The greatest thing I learned from making this sweater was the meaning of the term “raglan.”  I had heard the word used before, but had no clear understanding of what it was.  Raglan refers to the way the sleeves are attached in a diagonal from the collar to the armpit.  There are other ways of attaching sleeves, but this style is referred to as “raglan.”  The cool thing is that you actually begin making the sleeves when you start the pattern.  Using KFB stitches as directed, you create the diagonal which will later be the beginning of your sleeves. As you can see in the picture below, this was all knit in one piece.  There are stitch markers holding the stitches which will later be knit in the round to become the sleeves.

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Another cool thing about this pattern was that it included buttonholes.  The other pattern I made suggested sewing on buttons and squeezing them through the stitches.  Had I known how easy it was to make a buttonhole, I would have just made some of my own.  Instead, I left the blue sweater without buttons.  I did make a small mistake on the second buttonhole from the top, but it is still functional.  I did not realize that YO (yarn over) and K2tog (knit two together) could be combined.  I realized my mistake (although I’m not sure how I did the top hole correctly) and fixed it on the rest of the holes.

I have not yet posted on blocking, which is apparently a very important part of the sweater-making process.  I have blocked both the blue and the green baby sweaters, but do not have finished pictures to post.  I will mention that both sweaters look even better now that they are blocked.  Instead of more posts, I am 39 weeks pregnant and I am focusing on the upcoming arrival of Christian Joseph, my fourth baby boy.  Hopefully in the next week or two I will have some adorable photos to share of my new little guy wearing all of his hand-knit apparel!

Knitting a Sweater, Keeping it Small

My goal for the year is to knit a sweater for myself.  I was not ready to jump into such a large endeavor, so I started looking up newborn sweaters.  I figured I would start small… if I could create a newborn sweater, there’s a chance that I might be able to create one for myself one day in the future.  I searched ravelry for an easy newborn sweater, and found one that was knit in one piece using worsted weight yarn.  This sounded like a good option, so I went with it!    Unfortunately, it was linked through ravelry, but it was actually from a book.  The good news was that my library had a digital copy in stock and I was able to borrow it for free on my phone, found and downloaded in minutes.  (Side note: if you have the technology, I highly recommend borrowing library books through digital media!)  You can click here to link to the pattern I found on ravelry, or you can find it in the book More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, by Joelle Hoverson.

Using the same circular needles I used on the hat, I was able to knit the sweater.  Although it is not done in the round, the circular needles provide lots of space to create larger projects.  Then you can simply switch back and forth between the needles as if it were knit using straight needles.  Knowing this, I have almost completely converted to circular needles!

Next decision: what yarn to use?  I found some great yarn at Hobby Lobby that is 100% cotton (“I Love this Cotton!” in blue).  The downfall to using cotton for a sweater is that it is not as springy as a wool yarn or mixed yarn (according to the lovely lady at the yarn store).  This makes sense and is good information for when I create a larger sweater.  For a newborn, though, I don’t think the yarn needs to be as springy and it’s hard to beat the soft feel of cotton while holding that sweet little one.

The project began at the bottom of the back of the sweater and utilized the seed stitch.  I had never done a seed stitch before, but it is created simply by alternating knit/purl stitches.  Instead of lining them up like you do to make ribbing, you stagger them.  Once again, if you don’t know how to do it, look on YouTube.  That site has revolutionized crafting!

It was SO exciting when a sweater shape started to form! Here it is with the back of the sweater completed. (Note: the wavy shape along the back is a result of it being held on the curved wire of the circular needles.  It would not lie completely flat while attached. Also, I realize the lighting is bad, so you get a better idea of the actual sweater color in the final pictures.)

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You’ll also notice in the picture that I got to use stitch markers for the first time (and understand what they were for).  Stitch markers slide onto your needle according to the pattern directions (typically indicated as “pm” or “place marker”) and you slide them onto each new needle as you stitch.  As you work, the markers define the changes in the pattern.  For example, you can see in the picture that the seed stitch was worked along the cuff  to create a pattern at the end of the sleeve.  Then the stitching went back to stockinette before reaching the stitch marker at the top of the garment, indicating that I should switch to seed stitch along the collar of the sweater.  The two remaining place markers work the same way to keep the garment symmetrical.

This project was a challenge, but it gave me a good understanding about a lot of techniques used in making a sweater.  It did not turn out perfectly, but, hey, I had only been knitting for a couple of weeks!  The biggest problem was that the stitches did not line up perfectly, so it caused some bumps during the seaming and prevent the front of the sweater from lining up just right.  Because of this, I am still debating whether or not to add buttons.  The pattern did not call for button holes, but says that the stitches have enough room to fit small buttons.  I have my doubts about this, mostly because my husband has a hard time lining up buttons on a baby when there are actual holes that match up.  That, and I kind of like it button-free.

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I hope to knit a few more small sweaters before I attempt to put the work into making one for myself.  With boys ranging in ages from newborn to age 7 1/2, I figure I have plenty of “models” for creating garments.  I want the sweater for myself to look GOOD, and not look like some kind of craft project… my boys aren’t as picky!

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Along with the blue cotton yarn, I purchased some coordinating green yarn.  I’ve been using them to create mix-and-match separates, which I plan to blog about.  Here’s a sneak peek of what’s coming:

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