Archive | June, 2009

Summer knits and thrifts

24 Jun

Now that Buttercup is finished I’m trying to decide what to knit next!  Summer is always a difficult time… I don’t want to knit too many short sleeved things because I really only wear short sleeves for 3 or 4 months of the year.  One thing I’m really enjoying about working at home is the control I have over the temperature – no overly aggressive air conditioning in my house!  Unfortunately, I’m still at my other job until mid July (last day is July 19th!) so I still have to deal with it there.

I’m thinking of knitting a shawl… I’m in love with the Milkweed Shawl from Cosmicpluto knits, and I’ve wound up some mediumweight Socks that rock for that purpose.

But I do think I want one more short sleeved sweater at least this summer, so I may be working on 2 projects at once!  I like the two patterns below, both from a Classic Elite booklet (I already own the book and want to get some use out of it!)

I’m leaning towards the first one, but they are both so cute!  I’m also plotting some crochet – the new Interweave Crochet is out, and it’s got some great projects!  My favorites are the two below, but it’s an excellent issue.  I only wish it came out earlier in the season!

The 2nd sweater is knit from classic elite sundance, and I already have enough of that yarn to make it!  The first sweater is made of Rowan Bamboo soft, and I don’t know… I cannot imagine the awful splitty mess that would result from crocheting with that yarn.  It’s so splitty to knit with that even I can’t stand it, and I generally ignore splitting.  I cannot imagine it for crochet!  But lots of subs exist, and isn’t it pretty?  I’m more likely to make that one, since it has longer sleeves.  I need to see bigger pictures and get my hands on the magazine!

Monday I had an epic thrift shopping day (haul is below, with bonus Sarah Jane in photo.)

Yes, I broke my rule and got a sweater – it’s bobbled, so I had to!  I also found 2 great dresses (the blue polka-dotted one is so retro and adorable) and some excellent brand new pants.  And 2 nice jackets.   All the stuff up there, plus the shoes and bag below for under 50 bucks!

I love those rainbow sandals, and they are unworn as well – no sole wear, just a few marks from being in storage probably.  Clearly I favor quantity over quality in my wardrobe, but I’m ok with that!  This week I also discovered that I apparently wear a petite size, and that’s why pants never fit me.  I figured that being 5’7″ took me out of that department, but apparently I have depressingly short legs (but now I have pants that fit, which makes up for it!)

I’m pleased that you all enjoyed my closet photos, and I hope this inspires some new thrifters – it’s all about the thrill of the hunt for me, and some weeks I find nothing, but occasionally I find the greatest stuff for next to nothing (a tip: Monday is the best day to go, if it’s the sort of place that puts out donations right away… you get a good selection of weekend donations, without fighting the hordes of weekend shoppers.)

FO: Buttercup

23 Jun

Pattern: Buttercup, by Heidi Kirrmaier, available free on ravelry

Yarn: Elann Nilo in Blueberry (linen/cotton blend)

Needles: US 4 and 3 (5.5 st/in)

Notes: First of all, the color of the yarn is completely off in these photos.  It’s actually a nice purple, with very little blue, but it refuses to photograph properly.  I wouldn’t want anyone to buy this color thinking that they’ll be getting this shade!  Anyway, I love this sweater!  The pattern was very simple and easy to follow.  I made the original version, not the revision with the higher neckline.  The neckline is wide, but it’s not scandalous or anything, so I’m pleased with that decision.  It’s about 16″ long from the sleeve separation.  I knit the sleeves entirely on the smaller size to tighten them up, and mine have about 10 less stitches than the pattern called for (not sure if this was my error or the pattern, but I like it that way anyway.)

I did all the a-line increases as well as the increases at the end for the lace.  It is not too swingy at all, and I was a little bit worried.  I picked up stitches for the neckline a 2/3 ratio, including the back neck (usually I would do 1 for every stitch there.)  This really tightened up the neckline, which was quite floppy beforehand.  I also did all the increases at the beginning, resulting in some gathers around the back.  I’m not sure the gathers would work for everyone, but I quite like them because they are unusual.

As far as I’m concerned, I could knit with Elann yarns 90% of the time and be happy.  Nilo is a great yarn, and I recommend it without hesitation.  It’s light and drapey, but not at all hard on the hands.  It does not split, and contains no vegetable matter.  I liked it knit to a DK tension, but I also think it might work as a sport weight.  It does have a little tendency to wrinkle (all linens do) but other than that it was perfect – it didn’t even have a ton of knots like the Elann Luna I used last.

This one finished up quickly – but aren’t sweaters without real sleeves grand?  It’s the best part of summer!

Closet, unedited

17 Jun

I have gotten several comments lately, wondering about how I style my knits. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first I wanted to show you all what I’m working on now.

This is Buttercup, free by Pipibird on Ravelry. I’m using Elann Nilo, a cotton/linen blend which I am seriously loving.  The pattern is easy but not too boring (although I do have a lot of stockinette coming up!)

Anyway, onto the idea of styling knits.  Truthfully, I just really love clothes.  I have since highschool, although my concept of stylish didn’t necessarily line up with the grunge styles of the day.  When I pick knitting patterns I always judge them carefully for wearability.  Something may be the most interesting pattern in the world, but if I’m going to feel self-conscious in it, I’m not going to knit it.  Hand-knitted socks, especially in handpainted yarn, sometimes toe this line for me.  I don’t choose patterns or yarn colors based on clothes that I already own, nor do I knit to match items in my closet.  It is true that I prefer jewel tones, so anything knit in those colors is likely to match something in my closet.  Speaking of closets…

Yes, you get to see my unedited, un-neat closet.  One of the large selling points for our house was that for such an old house (110 years or so) it has a big master closet – a walk-in, if not a huge one.  I’ve added a double rod on one end, and I have plenty of room to hang everything now, as well as keep some of my hand-knits on a shelf and on the shelves above.  It isn’t ideal, and someday I want to replace the innards of the closet with something more organized, but I’m thrilled with it for now.

I’m also completely addicted to thrift shopping.  90% of what you see in that closet probably came from a thrift or vintage store (mostly thrift, because I’m cheap like that.)  I usually hit my favorites every 2 weeks, and everytime I do laundry I discard items that aren’t holding up, or which aren’t as great as a I thought they were (sometimes it’s easy to get carried away when something is a good deal.)  In this way I’m able to have a constantly rotating wardrobe without having a huge clothes budget – mine is practically nil, except for the occasional pair of pants or shoes.  Yarn, I tell myself, doesn’t count, and goes in the entertainment budget.

When I thrift shop, I do look for items that will go well with handknits, so I have a lot of interesting short sleeved patterned shirts, or long sleeved knits or blouses that I imagine looking nice under a vest.  I don’t buy sweaters, even to recycle the yarn (I tried it once and found it tedious.)  I try to imagine whether an item will work with my lifestyle, although as my job is now changing I can buy more casual things again, and not worry so much about looking really conservative.  I have an idea of the face I want to present the world, and I don’t buy things that don’t go along with that.  I go to the mall sometimes and try things on, so that I will know my size in items likely to turn up in a thrift.  I don’t want to have to try anything on there.    I don’t buy pants at a thrift, generally.  It’s too hard to find something that fits, and bad fitting pants are tragic.  I need most of my pants hemmed anyway, and it’s not worth it on something used.

When I style knits for photos, I try first to imagine the image I want the sweater to project – is it fun?  Trendy? Classic? Bohemian?  Then I pick items from my closet that go with the sweater, trying to find a coordinating color in the pattern, or going with a neutral solid.  I like retro looks, but I don’t want to look like a museum piece.  So (for instance) I matched the Clementine shawlette with a dress from Ann Taylor (which I wore for my Wedding rehearsal dinner) because what I liked about the shawl was its’ retro silhouette.  With Honey I wanted to emphasize the great shape of the pattern, so I chose a trumpet skirt to echo the hourglass shape of the top.  With the minimalist cardigan I wanted a more modern look, and I wanted to dress up the simple shape, so I chose a contrasting teal color, and took the photos in low light to bring out the colors.

I actually wear all of these this way in real life (or I did, before I sadly killed that skirt by washing accidentally.)  I don’t know if this was helpful, but I get questions all the time about my clothes here, and I always feel bad when I have to say that what I’m wearing was probably in stores 10 years ago.  It seems like a lot of work to read it, but I really enjoy it – in fact, putting outfits together for photos is one of my favorite things about this blog!

FO: Peaches

14 Jun

Pattern: Peaches by Kim Hargreaves, available in Breeze

Yarn: Rowan Handknit cotton, 1.5 balls

Hooks: 4 mm and 3.5 mm

Notes: As I said before, I’m not sure I’ll actually use it, but it was fun to make! The pattern was pretty clear, but I do have one beef… it didn’t include gauge information, or finished size information.  I’m pretty sure mine turned out a little big, but I can’t say for sure – perhaps I just have a small head?

I can’t quite figure out the name – I see no peaches, maybe grapes or very stylized pineapples.  The raised stitches were a bit of a pain, but nothing too bad.  I knit one fewer straight round, and several fewer rounds of single crochet at the end.  Be sure to do the crab stitch (the last round) because it really tightens up the opening.  Keep in mind that this pattern is written in British crochet terms, so DC is our single crochet, treble crochet is the same as our double.

I love to crochet hats – it’s the only way I end up with any, since i hate using DPNs or small circs for knitted hats.  I hope we get weather that works with this hat at some point in the fall – right now it’s rather humid, though it wasn’t bad when I took these photos.

FO: Empire Waist Cardigan

12 Jun

Pattern: Empire Waist Cardigan by Pam Allen, from Classic Elite 9098 New Harbor

Needles: US 4 and 3

Yarn: Elann Luna in Midnight Sky

Notes: Excuse the unflattering, too big pants – it’s laundry time here!  Anyway, I love this sweater.    I knit the XS size, largely without alteration.  I did knit only 1/2 inch of ribbing on the bottom, but other than that it’s to specs.   This sweater feels very much like something I might want to buy in a store – it’s a classic yet modern cut, and I can see myself wearing it all the time.

Because the top of the sweater is knit sideways, I did have an operator error moment.  At one point I was supposed to knit the back to a certain # of inches and then go onto the sleeves.  I didn’t realize I should measure the neck opening side, not the bottom of the back, and ended up with a tiny bodice and much ripping back.  So be sure you know where you are when knitting this.  Other than that, the pattern was very clear.  Picking up for the skirt, and then the increases for width were time consuming but not confusing.

The yarn was great, and I would use it again.  It is a bit splitty, so picking up stitches wasn’t fun at all, but the results were worth it – it’s drapey and lightweight, perfect for our hot summers!  The marled color was interesting without being odd looking.  And it was an excellent value at under $3 a ball.

The sweater did stretch on washing, and now it’s perfect – it was a little small in the top before washing.  I highly recommend this pattern, and am looking forward to knitting more classic elite patterns now that Pam Allen is doing such a great job there.

Stockinette overload

10 Jun

The empire waist cardigan is finished – my poor wrists!

I can’t tell yet whether I like it, as this is a sweater that really needs a good blocking.  I’m hoping that it stretches out a bit, as before blocking I thought the shoulders could be wider (which is funny, since that’s why I ripped back the first time!)  Usually things that are knit sideways stretch quite a bit that direction, so hopefully it will work out!  It’s gloomy and rainy today, but once things get more sunny I will get an FO shoot on this one!

To combat all that stockinette, I cast on for Peaches, my crocheted hat.

I do wonder about the idea of cotton hats for summer.  Perhaps in England, where I imagine they don’t have the awful summers we do here, this is a practical item.  Personally, I plan to wear it in the fall, before it gets too cold, but that works for me!  The pattern is fun, and it shouldn’t take too long to finish.

I caught Sarah Jane relaxing in her favorite chair this morning… I love how she is camouflaged here!

Don’t you dare try to steal my chair.”

“Ok fine, but I get to work the mouse!”

And we’re back!

4 Jun

We’ve made it back home today, after a little over a week away.  We drove to Wisconsin, and toured Madison, Wisconsin Dells, House on the Rock, Eau Claire, and Milwaukee.  Sadly, we were called back a bit early when we got the news that my husband’s uncle had died suddenly.  We are dealing with that right now.

I managed to get the obligatory “knitting on the road” photo.

Those are my Monkey socks of course, and I did finish that one.  Unfortunately, it’s a bit big, but I’ve decided to finish the other sock for my Mother in law.

Wisconsin was really fun – we visited some touristy spots and learned a few new things

(my hatred for Ketchup is famous, so I loved the mustard museum!)

We saw cheese in unnatural shapes

We ate food that was really bad for us

We got to pet some deer


and stay on a lake

we also got to visit old friends in Milwaukee and meet our new niece, although I don’t have many pictures from those parts of the trip!  And of course there was knitting.  I made a mistake on the empire waist cardigan, and had to reknit the back twice, but it is finally finished and sewed together.  I’m working the skirt, which doesn’t look like much yet, but it’s getting there!

we also visted a yarn store – Lakeside fibers in Madison, which was just wonderful – large and well organized, with an attached coffee shop, just the way I like my yarn store.  I may have visited twice… I’m not saying!  I got a few things…

The yarn on the left is Smooshy sock yarn in Giant peach, which I have been wanting.  I got 2 balls of Rowan All Season cotton to make a crocheted hat from Kim Hargreaves new book (to the right, below.)  I have made her hats before, and they are always my favorites.  The yarn in the middle is cascade 220 – 3 skeins of charcoal gray and 3 other colors (the 2 greens are not the same, but they are similar… I wanted the yellow/tan to stand out.)  I’m going to turn them into a crocheted cardigan (to the left below.)

I’m feeling like crocheting something soon!  My Mom took care of the cats while we were away, but they were lonely… here is Sarah Jane pretending not to care we are home.

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