From Floppy to Fabulous – I-cord Saves the Day

I love Hannah Fettig’s designs and I love Madelintosh DK, but sometimes I don’t love them together. The first time I knit, what I like to call the George Hancock (a combination of Georgetown and Hancock patterns in Home and Away) I loved it. But I also knit is from the bottom up, in pieces. What I failed to realize is that the structures came from the seams.

The second time I wanted to try a top-down version, since everyone is always saying how you can get a better fit. To match my figure, I made a medium until the waist and then increased to a size large at the hip. This also made the sweater longer, which I also wanted.  

I hoped the smaller size on top would also help compensate for the heavy garter collar, but it didn’t. The front hung in a deeply handkerchief hem and the back pooched out, making my hips look even bigger—the opposite of what I’d hoped.

To fix it I tried these in order:

  1. Taking off the collar and knitting it with one size smaller needles (2 sizes smaller than the body)
  2. Knitting side i-cord ties at the waist
  3. Adding i-cord to every edge in a “sturdier” but “lighter” wool

The first one helped. The sweater fit a bit better, but it still was saggy in the front and poochy in the back. So, I moved onto #2, attaching two i-cords at the waist to tie it shut. No joy. I tried a leather belt but even that failed to hold up all that garter in a slippery Madelintosh.

The pattern was written for Quince and Co’s Owl, not a heavy merino superwash wool. It only worked in the bottom-up pattern because the seams provided structure.

At Red Alder, one of the designers mentioned that i-cord was the “duct tape” of knitting. So, after the leather belt experiment failed, I took a lighter, yet stickier, wool yarn and knit i-cord around every edge—including the sleeves, which were too short because I ran out of yarn (bonus problem solved).

The i-cord directly onto the garment edges by picking up a stitch for every row. As I was going around the neck, I noticed it wasn’t having the right effect at the fitted waist, so I tore it back and skipped every second stitch 2” above and below my natural waist. This created fitting in the collar to match the body.  

Lastly, I sewed up the bottom and created a top attachment to create a pocket. Because who doesn’t want a full-sized hidden pocket in their sweaters?

A Fitted Knit Jacket With a Pocket

I’ve frogged a lot of sweaters over the years—too many to count—including the sweater from the last blog. Sometimes frogging makes sense, but this time I knew that the pattern/yarn should have worked. I knew it was a structural fail, not a knitting fail. And when structure is what lets you down—i-cord is a potential solution.

So, hats off to i-cord!

Knit on!

To Tear Out or Fix; That Is the Question

Are you a ripper or a fixer? I’m a bit of both.

One of the teachers at the Red Alder Fiber 2022 Festival said that i-cord is the duct tape of knitting. And while I’m sure that there are cases where this is true—it doesn’t fix all problems. For example, if you knit the armholes much, much, much too large–i-cord is not a solution.

Sweater patterns do not typically fit me. I have several things against me.

  1. I’m curvy, particularly in the hip area.
  2. I’m broad shouldered (wide across the back) and small breasted.
  3. My rise from my breasts to my shoulder is long.
  4. I’m almost 6 feet tall

The pattern I used is Audrey, by Melissa Leapman—a beautiful, easy-to-read, quick knit. To make it fit me better, I made adjustments to fit my unusual body. The design is for someone less curvy than me—it has no fitting but gave the impression of hourglass figure—no matter what your shape.

To deal with my longer body, I knit a few more “straight” rows at the bottom. To deal with my long measurement from top of the shoulder to nipple, I did this same at the top of the body too. Unfortunately, while this worked well at the bottom, it didn’t at the top. I ended up with a huge armhole–about 4″ to large for my twiggy little arms.

Audrey – body pieces blocked

I really, really should have cut my losses early and tore it out. Instead I blocked the pieces, sewed them together and knit the button band. The latter took two tries to sort out with my adjustments.

After three tries at the sleeves, Bottom up, then top down, followed by a hybrid (armpit short rows), I realized that no amount of fiddling would fix it. But given I tend towards the fixer end of the spectrum, I sallied forth.

And now?

I’m ripping. But that’s okay, I have all kinds of ideas on what do to (and not to do) to make it fix me in the best way possible.

Wish me luck!  

When Knitting Isn’t a Labor of Love

I have cast-on-itis. I want so badly to cast on another sweater project, my teeth ache! This is because, at any given time, I like having a “menu” of projects on the needles. This generally consists of:

  • A pair of socks
  • A hat or scarf (or both)
  • A sweater
  • A throw or blanket; and (maybe)
  • Minor household items (rug, dishcloths, etc.)

There was a time when I had one (and only one) project going at a time, with other projects queued behind. The monogamy ended when I started knitting blankets because they are harder to do “in transit”. This led me to realize, I really enjoy having a selection of projects to choose from depending on my mood, where I am, and what I’m doing.

At present, I do not have a sweater, hat, or household item on the needles. And my closet is full of project bags filled with all the necessaries to get started. This is to keep me focused on completing at least one of my two WIP blankets. If I had my way, one of these I’d toss out—yarn and all.

It’s been years since I started the throw, which only gets worked on as a chore. I want to finish it and send it on, but it keeps getting stalled.

How I ended up here was I wanted to prevent my mother buying a pretty throw made of cheap, plastic yarn she saw in an art shop. It was obvious to me it was for looking at, not using. So, I asked her if she planned to use or display it. “Use it, of course!” *sigh*

I regrettedly I told her I’d make her something she could actually use. Unfortunately, mom went out and bought the same velour yarn and picked out a close pattern. And here we are, years later, her without a throw for her couch and me with a project I pick up rarely and reluctantly. Deep in my heart, I’m cetain it will have the same problems as the art shop blanket.

Velour WIP Blanket

Knitting for family and friends should be a labor of love. “Knit to order” is for people that do it for a living. In short, if the urge hits you to stop a person from making a bad knitted item purchasing decision you shouldn’t. Firstly, support to support the fiber artist and secondly for your own sanity.

Has this happened to you? Is so, what was the item and what did you do?

It’s Done! It’s Not Done.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this sweater. I loved the first version of it. So much so, that I decided to knit another. The pattern was great. I loved the yarn I chose. Why not knit it in another color? The first one took just over 2 months—I started in mid-July 2015. I finished in early September.

The first one was bottom up. So, I decided the next would be top down. The first one grew—as Madelinetosh is known to do—so this time I’d make it one size smaller. I also wanted it to be just a bit more fitted to my shape and longer. All these things are easy to manage in a top-down sweater.

Fast forward to November 2017, I cast on and started knitting. I had other projects on the needles, so this wasn’t going to be a 2-month sweater. Also, I mostly knit bottom-up sweaters, so I was in ‘learning mode’.

My first problem came in February 2018 with the sleeves. This was a mental thing. I feared that I would not be able to match them as well as the bottom up version, when I knit them 2-up on the same needle. It’s a great trick I learned from a master knitter. So, I set the project down until I could muster the courage to try and figure out how to assure myself they’d be perfect.

Perfect. That word was the issue. And it is something I’m working on with myself–to be okay with not perfect.

In November 2019 a group of other island ladies (friends of Island Wools) on Facebook started a “Finishers Club” for people that had too many WIPs. After sitting on this project for nearly two years, this was the one I put forward for me to finish in lockdown.

The sleeve problem was pretty easy to solve. I used magic loop. In retrospect, this was a no-brainer. I knit two up socks all the time, so why not the sleeves in the round?

The next issue I discovered was after I thought the sweater was done—I’d failed to use a smaller needle on the collar and it was HUGE.

This collar is not for the faint of heart. Sure, it’s garter and therefore boring. But it’s also 270 stitches. Each row is as wide as an afghan. I “finish” only to find that the collar hung to me knees. I looked at various ways to “fix” it. None was viable. The collar had to come off.

This is when having a group helps. You told people you’d do it and that motivates you to keep going, especially when you see them knocking off theirs. I did work on other WIPs in the meantime (including an afghan). But this was the “call out” project. So after I unknit the collar. I immediately (okay, more like three weeks later) cast back on with the right-size needle.

This problem isn’t about perfectionism, it’s about the reason I wanted a second sweater of the same type. I knew that if I didn’t fix it, I would not wear it.

Having groups to keep you going is a boon. And lockdown helped too.

What gets you started again after you’ve put something down?

Lemonade from Lemons

I bought this beautiful Spincycle yarn from Dyed in the Wool in the color Shades of Earth from my local yarn shop. I planned to and did knit them into beautiful, albeit expensive, socks.  

Dyed in the Wool by Spincycle Yarns in Shades of Earth

The trouble began when my husband wore them. The yarn literally broke in places. In one day, the ribbing popped at the top and a hole appeared in the instep. I was, to say the least, bummed. This wool was not good sock yarn.

I frogged them back to skeins and looked to see if I could pair them with nylon thread, but that made a tangled mess when I made attempt #2.

Frogged Balls of Wool and the Start of My Gauge Swatch

With all the stash reduction plans, I went through and catalogued my whole stash. When I came across these lonely skeins, I just couldn’t help myself. With so many big projects and requests looming, that will take *forever*, I felt like I needed “a win”; something beautiful and something quick.

The Bias Scarf pattern, by Shelby Dyas is great free pattern designed for eating up stash. I already had it in my queue with a different pair of yarns. I wasn’t expecting to do it with just one yarn, even though the designer did. What she chose was a variable yarn made from torn up silk saris.

One good (and bad) thing about DITW yarn is that the weight varies a lot (from sock to sport weight) as does the color, so even though I tried to purchase similar looking balls, they are very different.

In a bias scarf variability just works. And because it won’t be in shoes and worn so heavily, the lack of durability will be much less of an issue.

Up Close Detail of the Color Variation

Lemonade from lemons! I’m not done yet, but even as a work in progress, I think this might be the prettiest scarf I’ve ever knit.

Any comebacks you’d care to share?

And Then There Was One

I love travel. It’s a good thing, given I travel 33-50% for my work. This means I also like being at home when I have time off.

My husband has a love of Scotland that comes from his youth in the South of England. His father took him to the Isle of Skye when he was fifteen and every year or so, we go back. And for me, it’s all about the hiking and the wool.

The project I brought was a pair of socks using Knitpicks Felici in Stormy Sky (fitting for Scotland). It was a special striped run I’d picked some up at Stitches West last year. And I was so excited to finally use it and hopeful my husband would have a spare pair of socks for hiking.

We used Edinburgh as our basecamp for the trip. We only passed through the city—several times as we came and went from visiting friends and family in Southern England before we headed to Skye. I was just reinforcing a heel when our stop came and I thought I’d safely tucked the sock away, but when we got to the hotel, I was one sock short.

Yes. I did cry. But then I immediately picked up my needles and cast-on another pair.

You gotta get back on that horse and ride it! Am I right?

From a Toque to a Beanie in One Heat Cycle

There’s a lovely young lady that makes my protein shakes at the club where I work out. Every time I see her, it brightens my day. She calls me by name, remembers what I order and she’s 3 dimensional; she talks about her life, work and laughs at herself. In short, she’s a good soul.

One morning she was talking about wanting a hat now that the weather is turning cold and though she’d been looking she could not find one she liked.  “What color?” I asked. “A pretty dark blue; not as dark as navy”. She wanted She also it to be ‘slouchy.’ “You know what I mean?” “Yes,” I replied, “I do.”

And what better thing is there to do, than to use a skill you have for a good soul? Nothing. I was on a mission to make her a toque. It would only take a day or so and it would be a nice thing to do for a nice person. Colorwise, my mind instantly went to Azul Profundo by Malabrigo—but I worried about variation in the varigation—some skeins are lighter than others. Ordering it was a risk.

That weekend I was at Tolt Yarn and Wool with a friend from Yorkshire, UK and happened on Woolfolks’s Tov, 6 T. I knew the minute I laid eyes on it, that I’d found THE color. Heaven knows what 6 T means, but ‘in person’ it is a richly saturated darkish blue nearing teal without the inky blackness of navy. I paired it with a dark gray—also baby cashmere—Sublime Yarn–Tittlemouse.

I was so thrilled when I finished. It just needed a wash and a block, but it ended up in the drier with a few other superwash woolens when my husband did the laundry. Oh! No! Even still damp, I could see it had felted into a beanie—and not a toque that would fit the need. 

So, I’m on the hunt for replacement yarn and this time in a superwash wool. In the meantime, I’ve got a tiny beanie for my child-sized head.

*head shake*