Summer knitting = shawls and lightweight tees, right? We want to work on the things we imagine ourselves using. Nobody’s thinking about cozy sweaters while sweltering in the heat of the sun and waving away mosquitoes.
Unless you’re me. I got an itch to cast on a fingering-weight colorwork yoke pullover in the middle of July. Maybe it was the rainy June. Maybe it was that this year’s summertime temps have been tolerable. Maybe I’m disinclined to knitting tanks and tops I rarely wear them, even when I make one I like quite a lot. Or maybe I won a Visa gift card in a raffle and decided to treat myself to a sweater’s quantity of yarn. OK, yes, it was definitely that last one, and who doesn’t immediately cast on a long-coveted project after procuring the material to make it?
If you can get over the idea of knitting a sweater during a season when you don’t want to think about wearing one, a lakeside midsummer mini vacation is actually the perfect time to be knitting it. I had the colorwork chart complete before we left and the mindless, continuous stockinette was ideal work while supervising the kiddo’s frequent swims. Between lifeguarding, fewer chores (why is it that chores take up so much of my time and yet my house looks the way it does?) and quiet interludes in the morning and evening, I knit the body of this sweater in THREE DAYS. This is not a thing that could have happened in any other circumstance. Magic.
Pattern: Darkwater by Jennifer Steingass
Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Peerie
Colorways: Morel for the body & Cobbler for the yoke
I was so thrilled with my Anaashah that I sensibly decided to knit another pattern from the same designer with the same gauge in the same yarn brand. Why mess with a proven combination? Even so, you just never know with knitting. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then all knitters are insane because we know darn well doing the same thing almost never produces the same result.
As I knit this I thought: oh, no, this is a little too much like Anaashah. I should have made the body in a dark color, instead. Oh, well, there’s always next time. In the meantime I’m ready for fall. I’m waiting!
Back when I was making those Santa sweaters I had to order more yarn. Have you ever run short on yarn and needed to order more? Of course you have. So you know that it just doesn’t make sense to pay for shipping for only the few balls needed to complete your current project. The obvious, practical, and economical thing to do is to order a sweater’s quantity worth of something else at the same time, which was how this really delightful HiKoo Sueno came into my possession.
Pattern: Papillon by Svetlana Volkova
Size: Cast on medium with a gauge that produced something a bit smaller
Yarn: HiKoo Sueno in Rust
Confession time: I had assumed papillon was sort of botanical term and it wasn’t until googling the word while writing this post that I learned it’s a dog breed. I have to tell you, I am deflated. I have met many fine dogs and my family had dogs growing up, but I am not a dog person. Sorry/not sorry.*
Anyways, name aside, it’s a perfectly good pattern. I love the yarn. Good stitch definition, not itchy, orange without being ORANGE. Everything came up roses in this make. I didn’t even make careless mistake after careless mistake! Boring for blogging, eh?
The project I cast on next was a bust, though. I ran out of yarn almost before I started. You win some, you lose some.
*It has since been brought to my attention that papillon is the French word for butterfly. Who knew? Approximately 275 million French-speakers, but I’m not among them!
I’m late to the stranded yoke colorwork knitting fad that’s been bursting for the last few years. I always admired them, but if you’ve never priced out the cost of purchasing 3 or 4 or more different colorways of fingering- or dk-weight yarn, your virtual shopping cart’s total may give you a shock. I can usually justify a yarn or fabric purchase, but I could already feel before completing the purchase the guilt of an unfinished sweater I had sunk so much cash into and I dreaded having so many barely used skeins of yarn left over. I imagined them haunting my dreams, taunting me every time I dove into the stash, reminding me of that sweater that cost $$$$ but only used half that $$$$ in term of yardage. It would be yet more leftover yarn that I can’t get rid of yet never seems to serve a purpose beyond “maybe mittens, someday”. Buying yarn, you see, has a psychological cost as well.
The parade of fantastic patterns and makes kept coming. It was only a matter of time before I found the perfect gateway into stranded yoke colorwork sweaters.
It feels contrary to knitterly consensus to admit that apart from its obvious gorgeousness, I started with this pattern because it uses only two colors. What knitter worth her or his salt is trying to limit the amount of yarn on hand? The leftovers from this sweater, I rationalized, could be used in my next, and the leftovers from that one into the one thereafter, and so on. It would be a sort of step-up plan into the really colorful yokes.
I guess I’m OK with stash creep if it’s gradual.
Also in the forecast: maybe some mittens? Someday?
Winter babies are my very favorite to knit for, early winter babies especially, born when the nights are longest and there are so many cold days ahead and the year is new or will be soon. I don’t care if the tiny sweater will fit for only a few weeks or that it might get spit up on. It’s a sweater for the littlest, most fragile bodies that need the warmth the most. Little sweaters for baby humans are a knitter’s blessing. Summer babes, equally knit-worthy, just don’t have the same urgency.
My first baby was born two days before winter solstice and I remember those days being so warm and cozy and sweet and special and feeling like a Christmastime baby was the best sort of baby because the world seemed to slow down and know its specialness right before bursting with energy and newness at the same time as I was slowing down and experiencing the world in an entirely altered way.
Of course I would have thought any time was the best time to have my baby, that’s how it works, and I’m sure this baby’s parents feel exactly the same way.
I was in my 20’s when I started knitting. I plodded along through the early disappointments, of which there were many. I learned to chalk them up to the learning curve, retreating back to what dish towels after the especially painful setbacks. It’s been a while, now, since I was in my 20’s and I’ve knit a lot of things between then and now besides lots (and LOTS) of dishcloths. I’ve knit socks and sweaters and mittens and hats and scarves and toys, and even a willie warmer. I’ve knit cables and lace and stranded colorwork.
But I had never knit intarsia on such a large scale, or possibly ever, though I vaguely remember being frustrated by the twisting yarns and the idea of intarsia has always inspired a sense of dread that I can only attribute to one or more failed attempts that I buried deep into my subconscious. I definitely had some yarn bobbins at some point which indicated some interest or intention to learn the technique, but I cleaned them out because I was never going to use them anyways. Hobbies and clutter, am I right? I am overwhelmed by stuff but anticipating what may or not be useful or when is a crapshoot.
I saw this pattern on ravelry and decided I was not going to be intimidated any more. I wrapped my yarns on cardboard and it worked just fine. Just fine in this case means I had to untwist everything ever couple rows because it quickly became a rat’s nest, but that’s the nature of the beast. The knitting itself, I was happy to discover, was surprisingly easy, if fiddly.
There were a lot of ends to weave in:
A vital blocking:
And a fair amount of embroidery and finishing:
And some sewing up:
Add a collar and viola!
I am completely chuffed with myself. These may not be to everyone’s taste, but I am thrilled with them (my kids, on the other hand, not so much! But I don’t hang my sense of knitterly worth on their opinions) and I feel so accomplished. I had built intarsia up to be my last knitting frontier and it turned out to be just… knitting.
I don’t know how to introduce these projects. They reveal some part of my person and general cheeseball-ness that I try to keep under wraps.
I love kitschy Christmas. I’m too self-conscious and unorganized to go all out, and my decorating scheme probably looks more like a lack of effort than a preference. Christmas red in my house is a true red, not burgundy, green is, well, green, not lime or forest. I thought about buying a tasteful wreath this year, but why should I when I already have one made of multicolored Christmas balls? I prefer colored lights to white and tinsel to popcorn. Our stockings are handmade. They don’t match, nor do our ornaments and I always felt kind of bad for trees whose ornaments do. A coworker once told what was to her a funny anecdote about how how excited she was when she moved into her first house to have an all-matching Christmas tree and how her mother undermined her efforts by sending her a box of her childhood ornaments. I had always considered trees with matching decorations soulless and associated them with department stores. I’d had no idea it was something anybody would want in her own home.
Different strokes for different folks. Not everybody wants a kitschy mishmash, not everybody wants matchy-matchy, only a few would make her children matching kitschy Santa sweaters.
There are lots of reasons not to make your children matching Christmas sweaters, especially if you’re as bad at laundry as I am. I don’t know which is worse: wondering if they’ll even wear them or wondering how long before an ice cream or chocolate stain ruins them. Time will tell which fate will befall these sweaters. If I had to wager a guess I’d say the blue will never be worn and the pink will be stained before we leave the house. That’s OK. I don’t mind. Knitting is my love language.
I adore bonnets. I’m happy to harmoniously co-exist with bees. I often have a bee in my bonnet. Just ask my husband. No, don’t, he might tell you how I go on about how our children’s ridiculous bedtime routines or how much I dislike apples that aren’t baked into pies or crisps or my neighborhood’s impassable, crumbling sidewalks or how antagonistic KC’s drivers and roads are to bikers and pedestrians or any of the other things I rant at him about.
Look at this sweater I made instead. It’s a distractingly bright shade of yellow that I am confident will appeal to bees everywhere.
I bought this yarn to make a sweater for Hubs. Alas, I never found a pattern for him that suited this yarn’s color or gauge. When the Beekeeper cardigan popped up it was the right gauge, right color, right pattern, right time. Ding ding ding ding! The only criteria this pattern didn’t meet was that wasn’t for Hubs. OH WELL.
The pattern instructions were comprehensive, detailed, and backwards to what I’m used to with the gauge and sizing information at the end instead of beginning. I just couldn’t grok it. It took me forever – minutes, possibly! – to figure out where to find that info and when I did I skipped over the size information, picked my size based on the finished measurements and got myself into trouble knitting the yoke because I thought the instructions were referring to the former when they were in fact referring to the latter and they were not the same though both were the same number. Confused? I was, too! But it was in no way a problem with the pattern, it was a problem with my reading comprehension yet again. If putting that info at the end was a tactic to make a knitter read the entire pattern before casting on it did not work for me. I am clearly far too smart for that and I knit the yoke 3 times just to prove how good I am at (not) reading and following directions.
Luckily it was a super quick knit for all that and I’m happy with it. The yarn doesn’t itch at all (this is the 3rd sweater I’ve made out of this yarn for this reason; they’re all winners and I might be getting superstitious), the sleeves are the perfect just-a-smidge-longer-than-bracelet length, the neckline isn’t too wide, every dimension is big enough but not too.
The bees have completed their work for the year so I’ll have to wait until spring to see if they like my sweater, too.
We have a new baby in Hubs’ extended family. His family is small and this is very big, very welcome news. This baby lives far too from us in a Texan climate I don’t understand which confused my usual sensibility to knit. Do Texan babies even need sweaters? No matter, she’s getting one anyways. Even if it is 84 degrees today (I checked). Perhaps it will be useful in chilly overly air-conditioned restaurants?
After putting Leaves of Grass in time out I picked up a swatch I’d made last fall for a sweater I just can’t make a decision on which got me to looking for my size 8 needle. I found it in my knitting basket along with a partially completed Lottie cardigan that was holding it hostage. I subscribe to the philosophy that if you’re going to make something for a new baby it’s best, if possible and reasonable, to also give a gift to the older sibling(s). I’d started this project more than a year ago as a big-sister companion gift for a new-baby sweater and left this, the larger, to languish when I decided two handknit gifts was possible but not altogether reasonable. OK, then, I thought. I guess I’ll go ahead and finish that up.
And I did! The knitting went along fine without incident, but… there always seems to be a but. Things are just not going my way lately in a death-by-a-thousand cuts sort of way. When I soaked this little sweater to wet block it it grew to gigantic proportions. With dismay I remembered that this had happened before with this pattern and Cascade 220. I threw it into the dryer which restored it to its original child-sized proportions, but fuzzed it up. It emerged looking hard worn without ever having been worn at all.
Not without it charm, but not gift-worthy. We don’t need another sweater that my child will deny and ignore, yet into her sweater drawer it goes to be denied and ignored. If it doesn’t have Minnie Mouse on it it doesn’t rate. Wait, do they make Minnie Mouse buttons? Of course they do! Silly me. But will that be enough? Worth a shot.
My friend told me that I have the most holiday cheer of anybody he knows. It was meant as a compliment (or good-natured teasing), but it made me feel misunderstood. Once October hits I get very busy. This is intentional. I do the things and I buy the things and I make the things. But to me it doesn’t feel like cheer. It feels like desperation. Not desperation to make all the things or do all the things or have a perfect holiday. It’s a coping mechanism. I keep busy while I feel like I’m heading towards a cliff I can’t see. I worry that I’ll careen off that cliff and I have to do as many things as I can before that happens. My avoidance masquerades as excitement. I let myself get lost in the trappings so I don’t have time to think about the spirit.
The confusion this creates is understandable. Look, for example, at the Christmas outfit I made this year. I’ve already talked lots about my new Christmas sweater, but I haven’t mentioned my new skirt.
Pattern: Everyday Skirt by Oliver + S
Fabric: Moda, Berry Merry, Reindeer Games Cream
Mods: No pockets! I rather miss the, but didn’t want to spend the time or fabric.
Front looks the same as the back.
Back looks the same as the front
If I was going to make a sweater-babe-style sweater I needed a skirt to go with it, after all.
It’s more a costume than an outfit. You know how faking a smile will improve your mood? This is that in clothing form. But I’ll tell you a secret: there are moments when I wonder if my friend might be right. It may be that I do have a lot of holiday cheer. I tell myself that I’m faking it but maybe it’s that I’m finally letting that cheer assert itself a little. This year maybe there’s room for all the feelings the holiday brings.