designing knits, part 2

Picking up where I left off: My yarn arrived, I’ve cast on, and started knitting! The yarn is as soft and delicious as I remember – and yes, it will pill a little since it’s so soft. That’s the nature of the beast for a single ply merino wool, but it’s a trade-off I’ve chosen to deal with to gain the soft feel, the drape, and the pattern effect. Actually, that leads me nicely into what I wanted to share about the process of designing this top: compromises.

That doesn’t really sound like a good thing in designing, but here’s the deal – knitting this lace top the way my original pattern is written would be somewhat convoluted, and probably a little irritating. Let’s go back to how I made the pattern in the first place: I used a soft jersey to drape the top on a dressform to the look that I wanted, then transferred that to a paper pattern. Knowing my gauge from having knit my sample, it was just a matter of marking all the places that had changes in angles (like the waist, or the tip of the shoulder, or the collar line for example), measure the distances, and calculate the amount of rows and stitches that needed to change in between all those points. It was quite a lot of math work, but I think it was a pretty accurate way of coming up with the shaping of the garment.

Now, I followed these numbers accurately. This meant counting rows all the time, and in order to keep track of where I was, I kept having to note on my pattern what row of the 8 row pattern-repeat the next increase or decrease would happen on, so I knew I was on the right row. One decrease might happen on row 5 of the repeat, then I had to count 17 rows and make sure the next decrease in fact was on row 6 of the repeat, and so on.

I don’t think most knitters would find that approach very enjoyable, or logical, or clear. So here is where my compromises come in: in order to make it easier and less frustrating for the knitter, I am choosing to move the decreases and increases to always be at the same point in the pattern repeat. That way, all you have to count is how many of those repeats to go before the next decrease. Yes, the shaping won’t be as optimal as the original, but the tradeoff is a pattern that is better to work with. In the end, I think moving a decrease 3 or 4 rows won’t make too significant of a change to warrant a more knitpicky kind of counting.

Any other pet peeves in knitting from patterns? Mine is knitting in sections and sewing the back and fronts together when it could just be knit in one piece from the start!

around here








It is very much so fall. It’s a season that can be breathtakingly beautiful, but it can also be mushy brown leaves in a puddle of rain and discarded trash. I’ve been trying to find the charming pieces of fall this week, in between a couple of sick days and a whole lot of knitting. Knitting equals fall, right? Especially cables and tweed and woolens.

I’ve been clued in to a farmer’s market that happens every Thursday in the university area of town. It’s hugely popular – to the point of people sitting and waiting before the guy even arrives! – which is funny, since it’s just one farmer with his goods. But the carrots and the cauliflower are the best I’ve tasted, and this week I even scored tomatoes and broccoli (it’s usually pretty picked over if you don’t show up right at the start). I feels so good about buying and eating things that were pulled out of the ground a few days ago, a few miles away.

This week I’ve even worked on a sewing project, which has been a while since. Of course, I’m complicating things by thinking about changing the construction and cutting things on the bias, but I’m happy to finally be working on this dress, and the fabric is dreamy (and a little crazily patterned for my usual self, but comfort zones needs to be challenged!). And the yarn for my Geithus lace knit top sample arrived! It is gorgeous, and fantastically soft.

designing knits

I’ve already mentioned in a couple of posts that I’m working on another Geithus lace knit top, which is this thing, if you’ll remember:

I’ve decided to tweak it and publish it, and thought it might be interesting to tag along and see the process!

I bought this absolutely gorgeous Manos del Uruguay yarn while in the US last month to make my sample with, but then I knit up a swatch in the honeycomb pattern that is the main part of the lace knit top, and… it’s completely wrong. Wrong for this project at least! Let’s compare the swatches, shall we?

Making the second swatch in a new yarn was quite an interesting experience. After I realized the yarn was wrong for this project, I started thinking about *why* it didn’t work. Going through those things and deciding the reasons they didn’t work with my project was a reminder of the design process itself. It’s full of decisions you make based on the vision you have for your end product!

The green yarn is a smooth 2-ply lace yarn, and I decided I need a yarn with more give for this garment. The slippery, silky Manos also produced a fabric (color aside) that just didn’t feel right. It was less plum, and less dense than the original swatch, which was something that was important to me in designing the top originally. I didn’t want it see through!

The gauge was way off, and while I could have made another swatch with a smaller needle size, I believe a needle size of somewhere around US 0 or 2mm would just be enjoyable for the detail work involved in this! I decided that a single ply yarn that will somewhat stick to itself was the right yarn for the type of fabric and drape and opacity I wanted to achieve. A last thing I realized about the single ply, was that it would offer a clearer stitch definition. In the green sample it’s hard to see that there is a pattern at all!

So with the swatch telling me I had the wrong yarn, I’ve ordered 3 skeins of Malabrigo in a colorway I’m a little anxious and a lot excited to see if the color will make sense. It should be on its way to my mailbox right now! In the meanwhile, I’ve been crunching numbers. I’ve got some changes I want to make from the original pattern, such as proper cap sleeves instead of an extended shoulder; a more defined side rib to tackle the decreases; and a better way of finishing the armholes and the collar. I’ll come back to those later, when the yarn has arrived and hopefully I’ve started knitting the sample!

I hope this peek into the process of designing knits was interesting!

new yarn, and fall knitting

Ooo, shiny new yarn! Actually, most of my yarn is not very shiny since I far prefer wool in all sorts of forms, but the newcomers do make me excited about the projects I have planned for them!

This is the public part of my stash right now by the way. And by public, I mean that one of those white boxes to the right holds some projects and less photogenic yarn, and this is what I have on display. No color surprises here! I have my feet planted solidly in the bluish greens, greenish yellows, greys, and browns.

First up of my new purchases – Quince&Co Lark yarn, in the color Kittywake. It must have been the dreary day I bought the yarn, but the color looked even stormier then. No matter, it’s still a heathered warm blueish grey color, and I’ve got big plans for it! I’ve been planning another Bayview Street cardigan, but decided to go for a more neutral color this time, so it can pair with all the colors the mustard yellow of the first cardigan is having some trouble with. The yarn seems squishy and springy in the skein, and I’ve been wanting to try some Qince&Co yarn for ages!

I also got some Rowan Felted Tweed yarn, in a seafoam kind of color. It was on sale for half off, so I snatched up what was left, with no spesific plans for it. I’m sure I can come up with something eventually. It might be just shy of enough for a proper sweater or cardigan… Perhaps I shall have to hunt down some more?

Lastly, some truly gorgeous yarn from Manos del Uruguay! Isn’t that green just crazy pretty? I’m completely in love with it. This is for another one of my Geithust knit lace tops – I’m working on tweaking the pattern to put it up for sale, so of course I have to knit it again to test my changes! Also, the yarn I used the first time was a single ply and  a little fuzzy and pilly, so I’m also testing to see if I like this yarn better.

After seeing Jen of Grainline Studio’s photo breakdown of her handmade wardrobe, I decided to blatantly copy and do the same, so today I took pictures of a bunch of my handmades. Coming up is a post on that, and my crafting plans for the fall!

yummy yarn

I’ve added some yarn to my yarn-stash this summer! My mom bought me this brown handspun yarn at a market. Or, rather, it was part of a project of building a replica of the Norwegian vikingship Osebergskipet. The ship is being built using period accurate techniques, tools and materials, and it’s all being done outside in Tønsberg’s town square, for all to see. It was so cool to see all the people involved, and how far they had gotten on this year and a half-long project (and that’s just the actual building part, they’ve done preparations and research for years!).

Among the woodworkers and blacksmiths, there was a trailer with Gammelnorsk spelsau, a very old breed of sheep, and they had homespun yarn for sale. Seeing the sheep that the wool came from made this yarn even more dear to me, so whatever gets made from these two skeins will be very special!

The next yarn I actually (gasp!) bought with a project in mind. This is rare. The yarn is Cascade 220 Heathers in Gold, and I think this color is the most wonderful color. It’s an elusive yellow-gold-orange, with flecks of both red and green, which seems like an odd combination, but it certainly works! I just can’t wait to be able to wear this soft wonderfulness, and this is the project that necessitated buying this very lovely yarn:

Click on the photo to go to the designer’s pattern-page. Design by Elinor Brown, photo by Ingrid Deon.

Isn’t is lovely? I can’t wait to knit and to wear this! It’s the Bayview Street Cardigan, and I’m casting on as soon as I’ve made a swatch and made sure I know what I’m doing have all the needles I need in the right size. I’m even participating in my first Knit-Along (KAL) for this, which I am very excited about! Here is the ravelry link for the KAL, if anyone feels moved to knit this as well!

Lastly, the yarn that isn’t yarn yet. I shoved this big bag of fleece in my suitcase coming back from my summer at home, and now I plan to spin it all up. I don’t have access to a spinning wheel, so it’ll just be me and my drop spindle this time around. I’ve spun yarn out of this wool earlier, so I know it will be fairly co-operative. I’m thinking maybe some chunky one-ply? I might even try to work it into my final collection of my Fashion Design degree, but no promises. In the meanwhile, I have a hefty pile of wool that smells like sheep – and that is a good thing to have.