Thursday, September 12

Sweater Season KAL - Be prepared

That's what the scouts say anyway.   I think when beginning a knitting project especially, a large project like a sweater almost all the hard work is in the preparation.
Lincoln has been quoted as saying "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I'll spend the first four sharpening the axe".
I guess what I'm saying is start with a sharp axe...
I've learned most of these little tips and tricks the hard way, although they do seem a bit obvious on reading through them. Sometimes we all just need a reminder to eat our veggies.

First and most important, you CANNOT make yarn & a pattern match by sheer force of will.  I know I have been guilty of this, and I bet some of you have too.  You have found THE perfect sweater, the one you see in your dreams, the one you will wear every single day all Fall long and you are itching to cast on...but all in your stash yarn the color you picture it in and have almost the right amount of yarn for is the wrong weight.  Within reason you can "push" the stated gauge on the ball band a little but you need to understand what the does to the fabric.

Using thinner yarn than suggested will make an airier & drapier fabric.  This is usually a better option than using a thicker yarn than suggested which will give you a more dense and stiff fabric. Of course you still need to get the gauge listed on the pattern if you plan on following it exactly.

Another thing to think about is same gauge doesn't always mean same fabric hand.  The swatches below are both the same gauge but the left is knit with Nimbus held singly and the right it is held double.  Besides the look being different the drape of the fabric created is totally different.

The last little tip about preparedness I'll share is REALLY use your swatch!  What I mean by this is try the ribbing or an unfamiliar technique out on this tiny piece of knitting before moving on to the real thing.  If you've never picked up stitches from the side of a piece of knitting, trying on your swatch is a low risk way of perfecting your method.  Then, when you are ready to pick buttons, you can bring your swatch with you to test for size rather than dragging the whole sweater along.  I recommend not banding your swatch in garter, although I know many knitters like to for 'prettiness' but I think it can slightly distort your gauge, so unless you are making a cardigan trimmed with garter, resist the urge!

This probably could go without saying but, I'll say it anyway: wash & block your swatch if you intend to wash & block your sweater, the gauge may change and it is the safest way to test for colorfastness.

I've had such a hard time trying to decide what sweater to make for Rhinebeck this year.  My mom emailed and said she was really wanting to make the Sweatshirt Sweater from Purl Bee and I realized I could REALLY use a utilitarian sweater just like that. She's making hers with Mohonk.
And I was totally set on doing that too

Sweatshirt Sweater from Purl Bee

...and then I did last week's post with all the beautiful sweaters from my Ravelry group and had a moment of indecision.  While "idling" through new patterns on Ravelry I also stumbled across the perfect in its simplicity Crows Nest Cardigan by Amy Christoffers and got to thinking how gorgeous that would be in Hudson, done in stripes of a multi and contrasting solid color...

Crows Nest Cardigan

Or maybe Strokkur by Ysolda Teague made in Valkill which is a DK weight so there would be a bit more air in the knit than if I used Aran weight but the Cheviot fiber will hold it's structure really well and had a twist similar to traditional lopi yarns.  I'm imagining it in Cloud with the colorwork done in Dark Roast and Paprika...

But you can never have enough cardigans, I like the super low neckline of the Delancey Cardigan and it would be perfect in undyed Rockwell with a bright overdyed shade as the stripes

So it looks like I haven't really narrowed my choices down at all!  Luckily there is a lot of yarn here to choose from so maybe I'll just swatch for a few of these options and have a think for another week.
Have you started a new Fall sweater yet? I'd love to hear what you're making! Maybe it hep me decide - or if nothing else help grow my Ravelry queue to even more epic proportions...

Friday, September 6

Sweater Season

It's cold this morning. Like, SweaterWeather cold. I love it!
If you read my blog post earlier this week, you know I've had sweaters on the brain. I might be a bit biased but to me, almost nothing is better than wearing a hand knit or crocheted sweater on a cool Fall day. In my new sweater daydreaming I took a little stroll through the finished sweaters in my Ravelry group and WOWSERS was I impressed.  It did not help me settle on which sweater to make as my brand spanking new Rhinebeck sweater for this year but it certainly was inspiring! I thought I'd share (with the maker's permission of course!) a tiny selection of some really beautiful sweaters:

Knitosaraurusrex (what a user name!) seems to be pretty prolific in her making and we seem to share a taste for color and a bit of quirkiness. She made the sweater below using(ish) the Zuma Tunic pattern and three colors of Mini Empire.

Knitosaurusrex's Forest For the Trees
 Krisnicole made this insanely beautiful version of Party Mix using some variegated Hudson, for everyone who is afraid of variegated sweaters I think this is a perfect "gateway" sweater.  Toned down a bit by the semi-solid contrasts  it is really a showstopper!
krisnicole's indian corn & candlewick
 Empire sweaters abound!
Myself, I love a variegated sweater, and here are a few people who obviously feel the same, these sweaters are all made with Empire - which by the way, is getting prepped to make its first appearance of 2013 in the shop soon, you can join my email list up on the right hand side of this blog to be among the first to know when it does...

Queenofquitealot went with the Classic Ladies Raglan, which seems like a perfect choice to "tame" the wildly variegated colors of her Empire skein and Alisamcr started with a crocheted cardigan pattern but ended up heavily modifying it for a more flattering fit, the result is a perfect & very wearable cardigan!
Queenofquitealot in a classic knitted in Empire
Alisamcr's crocheted cardi

Then there is my Empire sweater which I think encompasses everything about Autumn in Upstate NY, changing leaves hues in a cozy cardigan with some of the best wood buttons I've ever found, they are apple wood, what could be more Upstate NY?!  
(I know you'll ask, and I'm sorry to tell you there isn't a pattern, yet.  I improvised it so I'd have something to wear to Rhinebeck and have been meaning to get the pattern together but that just hasn't found its way onto the schedule yet)
Upstate NY Autumn in sweater form

My postergirl Cal Patch sporting (almost) head to toe JDMS
You probably know the picture above is my BFF (Best Fiber Friend) and sewing guru, Cal Patch in full fiber fest gear she's wearing her own design Wingfeathers crocheted with Splendor, a Laurel headband knit in some commercial yarn (BLASPHEMY!) Just kidding, it is Noro if you can't tell by looking. In my opinion the pièce de résistance and according to a cursory Ravelry search the ONLY one of its kind (how can THAT be?!) of this amazing outfit is her crocheted EPS sweater made from an Empire hank.

Laura Nelkin ready to pick peaches in raspberry
The most recent sweater added to my rav group pool is Laura Nelkin's modified Beach Street Park made in Mohonk she squished and squished and cradled at Vogue Knitting Live last January - I was so glad to see it finally as a sweater!  You can find all of her mod notes over on her blog obviously it gets colder out by the Finger Lakes earlier than it does here, I wasn't quite ready for a sweater a couple weeks ago...

Above is a sweater I knit - and there IS a pattern for this one made out of Nimbus. Because Blithe is knit with lighter than air laceweight it is diaphanous but because that laceweight is a blend of 70% angora and 30% silk it is the absolute warmest thin sweater you can possibly ever wear.  I love that it is a big, cozy silhouette but you can still see hints of you shape underneath so you can be warm without adding lots of bulk.

I'm ready to knit about 16 new sweaters, think I can squeeze them in while prepping for Fall fiber season? Maybe not 16, but I am hoping to make at least 1 new sweater for Rhinebeck.  
I started a thread in my Ravelry group for moral support and will be posting some tricks I've found for making sweaters come out the way you envision them over the next bunch (six to be exact) of weeks.  Are you ready for sweater season? Please  join us over on Ravelry and let's all encourage each other along to finish some new sweaters!

Wednesday, September 4

Spinning a Sweater

I've been dreaming of sweaters almost non-stop since I woke up on the first morning that had a cool breeze blowing through the windows.   

I have had a couple incredibly beautiful fleeces that have been slowly getting washed and carded over the past couple years (yeah...) but finally they have made it to the spinning stage!  I could not be happier.  They are both lovely naturally colored fleeces from Elihu Farm and I've carded in gobs (two plastic "salad" containers worth if you need specifics) of angora from my mom's bunnies that I dyed in super hot shades, pinks bright & pale, flame orange, bright purple...

I kept the two fleeces separate in the carding and have been alternating between the dark & the light sort of randomly while spinning.  My plan is to Navajo ply them so I get thick & thin stripes.

Why on earth did I start this project last weekend, just before my busiest season starts? Madness? Masochism? Distraction from the inevitable? A little gift to myself? Probably a smattering of all of those.  I haven't 100% decided what sweater pattern this will get knit up into. It will depend on my finished WPI and yardage, both of which I'm terrible at determining beforehand. I do have almost 2 pounds of batts so I figured that should be enough for my options to be pretty open.  

Have you started dreaming of sweaters yet?  
Have you ever spun for a sweater? 
Should I seek professional mental help? 

I'd love to hear your answers to any of the above questions!

Sunday, September 1

I'm not having a HUGE AMAZING WHOA NELLY Labor Day Sale

I know.... what a downer, right?  

Isn't this the weekend when everyone who owns a business tries to talk you into buying tons and tons of stuff at rock bottom blowout prices? I guess it is now. I'd like to ask you to spare a moment or two to think about Labor Day, not the last weekend at the beach-barbeque on your Monday off-back to school sale Labor Day but the "real" one.

Labor Day celebrations were started as an act of defiance.  Laborers taking a non-paid Monday off listening to speeches and marching for fair wages and safer work conditions.  Here is this country, where we are so rich in so many ways it is easy to forget how many people working in this country still have to go to work on Monday and still probably aren't making a fair wage.  

I went to The World Domination Summit this Summer and heard from many amazing speakers & business owners.  One of the speeches that stuck me the most was Bob Moore from Bob's Red Mill.  He talked about growing an equitable company. A company that pays workers fairly, has them work in a safe environment and has grown on the strength of all of their work.  On his 81st birthday Bob gave away the ownership of his company to his employees. He divided the stock of his now multimillion dollar company up by shares based on how long people had been working for him. He had been doing profit sharing for the company's whole history, even when the profit sharing checks he wrote were 2 figures.

"Put people before profit. Share with those who helped you build it.” - Bob Moore in his speech at WDS.

I'd ask instead of trying to find the cheapest backpack at a big box store this weekend, try to find a local company making things that will last past October and spend your money with them.  

Aurora Shoe Co. hand made in Upstate NY (and my favorite shoes)
It is good for your community and your heart.  The more we spend on things produced with care and high ethical standards the more sustainable those things become.  The downtown of your small town can only stay (or become) vibrant instead of a sprawl of shopping centers that could be picked up and dropped in any part of the country without looking out of place if YOU shop them.

If you don't want to eat food produced with the use of GMOs and chemicals, shop at your local farmer's market, big corporations have way less care for your health than your neighbors do.
Ride your bike to your local bookstore, I know Amazon is SO convenient and Barnes & Noble has a 25% off coupon but someone in your town lovingly picks out the books in their shop, they can probably make actual recommendations based on what you like, as opposed to the person working in the book department of a box store because the guy who normally works in that department called in sick and tomorrow they'll be back in kitchenware.
You know how much you appreciate it when the LYS owner helps decipher a pattern that has had you cursing at you knitting? They'll appreciate you even more if you buy your needles from them instead of waiting for the big sale online.

I think the only way to wrestle the American economy back from the brink of collapse is to buy conscientiously.  We are never going to make the cheapest t-shirts again.  We may be able to make the best, most ethical, produced without the factory workers getting brown lung t-shirts.  Trying to do this does mean having less in number but better made things. I'm certainly not perfect in this (or any!) regard but I'm trying.

Don't let what you consume consume you.