After serving several weeks as my inspiration project, I hit a speedbump in knitting my Mermaid Humboldt sweater. I had a few flights coming up and needed a relatively easy project that I could work on while travelling. I returned to my hibernating She Loves Wool sweater. It’s been a good few months since I ground to a halt with the incredible monotony of knitting long row after long row of black stocking stitch. However, this was exactly what I needed to ease my anxiety on the plane- and simple enough that I could start the new season of Orange is the New Black at the same time.
After a long weekend spent in France with my dad, I had nearly finished the black section of the front.
I am now coming up to what I think will be the most challenging aspect of this knit- the neckline. There are no modelled pictures of anyone wearing a She Loves Wool sweater online. From the few photos of unmodelled sweaters, the neckline looks far too open for my liking. I am going to have to make some significant alterations to get it the way I want, which will mean lots of lifelines and I will also attempt to take detailed notes.
With that in mind, this project was becoming a little unwieldy for travel knitting. I decided to cast on one of the sleeves to take on my various summer holidays. I finished the second ball of black yarn and put the body on hold until I have some time to start working on the fair isle section, which I think I will enjoy.
The first sleeve- I had used up one ball of wool at this point. The sleeves were quite funny to knit. At first, they seemed to be going really quickly compared to the body sections. A couple of inches into the plain black stocking part, they seemed interminable. Then, all of a sudden they seemed super long and the first ball was nearly complete.
I hadn’t mentioned in my previous blog posts but I made one of my standard alterations to patterns and used a tubular cast-on for all of the pattern pieces. I just love the neat edge that it produces. I used the Ysolda method for the sleeve- can’t remember if I did the same for the body but it doesn’t really matter. A tubular cast on is one of those things I prefer to do at home rather than on the move as it’s quite fiddly.
The current status is that the back is complete aside from alterations, the first sleeve is nearly ready to start the fair isle work and the second sleeve is my current travel knitting project. Since taking the photo, I have managed to start the fair isle on the front section too.
Pattern and yarn: She Loves Wool kit by Wool and the Gang
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I’ve been so busy writing about all my zero waste and cooking stuff that it could appear that I have not been doing any making. The truth is that I am working on a few things, but there isn’t much to post about. Sewing-wise, I am working on one project that I can’t write about yet and held up on another by a technology problem. I will have very little sewing time until September because I have a few trips planned. I can’t wait to get away, but I’m definitely a little frustrated by how little time I have been able to make for sewing.
Knitting wise, I am chugging away very slowly on my She Loves Wool. This project is probably the most suited to travel knitting, so hopefully I will make a bit more progress during August. I’m having a bit of time off from Mermaid Humboldt since I found it quite stressful to decide how I want the colours to look on the sleeves. I have also nearly run out of turquoise KidSilk Haze so I need to get some more.
ANOTHER unexpectedly time-consuming project has been shortening my League sweater. Although I wasn’t as ecstatically happy as I had hoped when I finished it, this sweater has turned into a great workhorse garment during the cooler months (i.e. pretty much all of them in London.) However, I have never been happy with the fit. I always finagle it for pictures so that it looks okay, but it is simply too long.
I don’t like the way that the combination of relaxed sizing and additional length works on my body. Somehow it took me nearly two years to realise that I could make it shorter (facepalm emoji).
Looking better already!
This project hit a bit of a roadblock after my Mermaid Humboldt made me realise that I could not re-knit the Titus yarn without washing and stretching it out first. I absolutely loathe winding yarn, so it took me about two months to get around to it.
I also wound the remaining yarn that I harvested from my blue ivy cardigan.
Very much regretting that I only cut the front of the sweater, which means I still have to unravel, wind, wash, hang and re-wind the yarn for the back.
On a more positive note, I have started re-knitting the ribbing on the front. I had to increase a few stitches because somehow my numbers didn’t add up. I’m fairly sure I haven’t dropped any stitches so no idea how that works.
Not long after writing my last blog post, I tried on my Humboldt sweater and realised that I wasn’t happy with how the gradient was looking. When I calculated how long I wanted each section of colour to be, I didn’t know that I had made a mistake when measuring my Port Charlotte sweater and therefore the dimensions were out. Also, the ribbing section is much more navy than turquoise, meaning that the turquoise section looked way too narrow.
The only viable solution was to rip back to where I finished the turquoise part.
This marl is pretty difficult to photograph! When I was looking yesterday, I couldn’t see much of a difference but now I can. I spent quite a bit of time examining the pattern schematic to try and think about the look of the gradient rather than just calculating it and I’m hoping this way will work out nicely. I will also have to think about how to do the sleeves, which will be much longer than the body.
I’ve managed to finish knitting the body and I think the length is looking as I want it. It feels so weird to be deliberately making a jumper too short!
I managed to cast on my first sleeve so that I could work on it on a flight. Despite the current heatwave in London, I’ve been making decent progress.
Now having a bit of a dilemma about how I want the gradient to look on the sleeves! Maybe it’s time for another lifeline…
Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz
Since first dreaming up the idea of this sweater over a month ago, I have finally managed to cast on!
I decided to use the finishing treatments from Paper Dolls, particularly the i-cord bindoff. I know it looks really good with corrugated rib and I think it will help with the overall effect I’m trying to achieve. I love the finish it gives so much that it’s worth the extra effort. I did a provisional cast-on with some yellow scrap yarn using this method. I will finish with i-cord once the sweater is all done.
It’s hard to knit marlisle quickly! I tried the method Anna suggests in the pattern but it didn’t work for me so I’ve been holding the main colour in my right hand as normal and the additional colour in my left as I would for fair isle. FYI I’m holding the Kidsilk Haze double.
I had decided to be lazy and knit the navy yarn without soaking it. However, you can see in the picture above that it looks really uneven. I mean, I guess it’s understandable given how curly the yarn is.
I wasn’t confident that the knitting would even out enough with blocking so I took the time to soak the yarn to stretch it back out. The knitting is looking much more even now.
I’m feeling a little uncertain about how the sweater is looking so far. The swatch was a little square of perfection but somehow I’m not sure how it’s translating onto a larger scale. The sweater also seems a little bit big but from both measuring and trying on I think I’m on track. I’m going to continue on and just hope for the best since I’ve already put so much work in.
On the plus side, I’m finding this project enjoyable and stimulating to work on. I just really hope that I will feel the final product was worth all the labour.
Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz
Ravelry project page
There’s more work to do before I can even start my exciting mermaid Humboldt project. I was on a bit of a roll when I finished harvesting half of the yarn from an old sweater so it wasn’t long before I started trying to figure out how to unravel the second jumper I am upcyling, my blue ivy cardigan.
Unravelling is a bit like detective work. Since you can only unravel in one direction, you have to figure out (or remember) how the garment was constructed. I find it quite addictive. There are nice sections of long, uninterrupted mindless frogging. Then you get to something like an underarm or collar and you have to work a lot more carefully. I tend to sew up using yarn tails, which adds another layer of complexity. I see it as a challenge to have the yarn in as few sections as possible- that’s what prevents me from getting frustrated and cutting it!
I’m going to freeze this yarn before I work with it. My old house had moths, and I want to make sure that the final sweater is larva-free. I’m feeling quite laissez-faire towards soaking and winding the yarn before I use it. I’m currently leaning towards just giving it a thorough wash when I block it instead.
My She Loves Wool sweater is very much on the back burner at this time. I think mermaid Humboldt feels much more like my creation in comparison to making something from a kit. I feel quite up for creative challenge at the moment, whereas at other times I want mindless crafts to work on.
Malabrigo Yarn Sock in Cot D’Azure
Total amount: a little over 300g
Original cost: £38.97
I was so excited about my latest knitting idea that I started to unravel my Bay sweater pretty quickly.
Just taking the pieces of the jumper apart was several hours’ work. Mohair is very sticky and I quickly realised that seaming using sequinned yarn had been rather stupid. Oh, past me who didn’t know I would one day rip this sweater out! I started to wonder whether this had been such a good idea after all. I worried that separating the sections where two strands of yarn are held together (the light blue) would prove impossible.
Fortunately, things got a bit easier once the sweater was back in its constituent pieces. Unravelling just takes quite a lot of patience. I had to undo each stripe, separating the strands on every other one, and then carefully wind. The yarn isn’t too kinky (quiet at the back, please) so I’m thinking I probably won’t bother with soaking it before I reuse it.
Light blue Kidsilk Haze: 16 balls, 44g
Kidsilk Haze Glamour: 8 balls, 50g
Turquoise Kidsilk Haze: 14 balls, 44g
Finally ripping out my black cabled sweater opened my mind to the idea of turning disaster into triumph. Making is one of my passions in life and I believe it’s okay to spend money on the things you love. However, I’m also aware that I have a lot of cash tied up in unloved handmade items; wasteful both financially and in terms of the raw materials. I feel ready to stop carrying around an archive of mediocre knits and start ripping and reusing.
This change in my attitude got me thinking again about how my creative life might reflect what’s going on for me internally. I hope it means I’m getting ready to let go of emotional habits that do not serve me, changing to something more positive.
One thing that put me off making the Humboldt sweater when I first considered it two years ago was the cost of the yarn. Even using some recycled yarn, I would have to buy at least two skeins of speckled yarn (around £20 each) as the contrast colour.
As well as harvesting some yarn, unravelling took me on a trip down memory lane. I looked back on some of my old blog posts and tried to track when I started documenting projects here and on Ravelry. Seeing my Bay and Blue Ivy sweaters side-by-side on Ravelry got me thinking.
I remember spending a small fortune on the Rowan yarn during my first trip to Liberty of London when I was doing my doctorate. Though I loved the raw materials, the finished sweater was never me. I’ve probably worn it twice.
The navy cardigan got a lot more wear when I first made it. However, it was never quite the garment I hoped it would be. When I was younger, I was obsessed with designing things myself. I think I got this from my mother, who cannot even stand following a recipe. Now, I prefer to leave the hard work of designing to someone else, adding my own twist in smaller ways.
I think this cardigan was the fourth or fifth knitted garment I ever made and I managed to convince myself I was ready to take on a design project. Although the cardigan is okay, it has been unworn for the past couple of years. One of my quirks as a knitter is that I hate semi-solid yarns. I like things to be a uniform, saturated colour.
The juxtaposition had me. What about making a marl with the navy blue and a faded effect created with the kidsilk haze? I had a slight reservation about how the sequinned yarn would fit in, but I loved the idea.
As well as being less wasteful, I have been thinking recently about how I can downsize my stash. I am moving house soon and, as always, I have too much stuff. However, when I was planning this project, a massive advantage was the fact that I keep all my scraps. I had enough leftover yarn from both sweaters to make a gauge swatch and play a little bit with effects.
When I was working on the swatch, I initially preferred the stocking section (a happy accident). However, looking at it now, I think the garter stitch adds to the soft, dreamy effect of the mohair. I’m so happy with this swatch! The fade looks beautiful. The camera doesn’t really capture it, but there’s a lovely lustre to the yarn too.
Unblocked gauge (5mm)
20sts x 31rows = 10cm
18sts x 29 rows = 10cm
Even though my gauge is off, I don’t think it makes sense to go up a needle size. I want a slightly more fitted version of this sweater anyway, so I will just be very careful when calculating the size I am going to make.
I’m thinking that my mermaid Humboldt could be the perfect project for the Upcycle challenge being hosted by #craftblogclub on Twitter. I think the deadline of 25th June is a little ambitious but it still gives me something to work towards. I took part a couple of years ago and made my Cateralls, so I like the idea of doing something very different.
Original cost of navy yarn: £39
Original cost of Kidsilk: £50-60
Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz