I’ve finally managed to get some pictures of my mermaid Humboldt sweater! I finished knitting it months ago, but it was far too warm to wear it for some modelled pictures. I took the sweater up to Edinburgh, where I was competing with my quidditch team in Highlander Cup VII (we won by the way) and managed to get some pictures.
All in all, I spent over a year working on this project. I consider that to be time very well spent. I was able to transform two garments that weren’t getting any love into a new sweater that I hope will bring me joy for many years to come.
When I first learnt to knit ten years ago, I was definitely more of an ‘item’ knitter than a ‘process’ knitter. I was desperate to finish projects, sometimes staying up all night to get them done. As the years have gone on, I’ve become aware of how important it is to plan a project. To swatch, to measure, to research yarn. As I’ve spent time on these preparatory stages, I’ve started to enjoy them for their own sake. I feel confident that all the work will pay dividends. And there is pleasure to be taken from the planning itself- from being meticulous, from experimenting and thinking deeply about what I am creating.
Fortunately, this fits in perfectly with my burgeoning anti-consumerist values. Just because you’re a maker doesn’t make you immune from the pernicious influence of fast fashion. It’s easy to feel like you need to churn out a certain number of projects each month, or that you need to compulsively buy yarn or fabric for your stash. I don’t want to become a Smaug enviously guarding a big pile of fibre. I want a carefully curated wardrobe full of items that I enjoy making and wearing.
This is probably the most alterations I have made to a pattern:
- Very different gauge
- Worked pattern with less ease than recommended
- Held yarn triple to incorporate ombre effect
- Provisional cast-on and tubular cast-off used throughout
- Altered neckline
I also did so much ripping that I have probably knit this sweater 1.5 times:
- Unravelled a load of the body because I wasn’t happy with the ombre
- Unravelled most of a sleeve to incorporate all of my remaining turquoise yarn
- Unravelled the neckline twice to get it to look the way I wanted
I’m glad that I am much more at peace with ripping and re-knitting these days. Again, it is part of the process.
Humboldt by Anna Maltz
3 skeins Malabrigo sock
4 balls Rowan Kidsilk Haze*
2 balls Rowan Kidsilk Haze Glamour*
I have nearly one ball of the lightest blue Kidsilk and a couple of small balls of the sock yarn remaining
*I held the Rowan yarn double, which is why I used so much
Original cost of materials
Sock yarn: £39
Kidsilk: £50-60 (six balls @8.95 = £53.70 but I can’t remember what I actually paid)
Cost of additional materials
Two balls of KidSilk haze @ 8.95 each = £17.90
Previous posts in this series
Without tempting fate, this should be my last WiP Wednesday about this project. I did quite a lot more work on this sweater after my most recent post about it, which I think is worthy of some blog space.
Finishing the sleeves was quite straightforward and I joined the sleeves and body for the yoke. It was quite fun to work the marlisle pattern again, which was just as well because the first few rounds of the yoke feel incredibly long after the relative speed of the sleeves.
Checking the finished projects on Ravelry, I saw that there was a lot of variability in the necklines. Some knitters (including me) write quite detailed notes on their projects, while others don’t add anything. It was hard to tell how my project was going to turn out. I added a lifeline before working the neck shaping and I’m glad that I did.
A few rows into the neck shaping as written, it became obvious that the pattern is for a boat neck. Boat is one of my least favourite necklines- I just don’t think it suits me. I ripped back to my lifeline before going on holiday.
In the end I decided to tackle changing the neckline in two ways. I added more increases (every other row rather than once every three rows) along the raglan seams in the body on both the front and back. Since I have quite broad shoulders, I don’t like excess fabric to accentuate that part of my body. I also changed the short-row shaping on the front neckline.
I had to do some more ripping when I accidentally knit the additional raglan decreases before I had calculated the changes to the neckline shaping. I used a combination of eyeballing and maths to work out how I wanted it to look. I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my pet peeves is having a t-shirt showing when I am wearing a sweater. I just think it looks messy. So my aim was a close neck that should cover the layer beneath.
I took some pictures of the notebook pages where I did my quick maths. Kate Davies wrote a recent blog post about knitting and creativity. It discusses the idea that knitting is ‘relaxing’ at the expense of allowing knitting to be creative, engaging and absorbing. This relates to the idea that ‘women’s work’ is something straightforward and mindless, or even frivolous.
Even when following a pattern, knitting can involve a lot of processes that are not remotely relaxing. Undoing work can be frustrating. Figuring out how to change a design is a highly creative problem-solving endeavour, bringing to bear all the knowledge one gains through years of practice. It is an engineering project. Part of the reason I write all of these WiP posts is to give an impression of the work that goes on behind the scenes. When you say, “I made it,” most people have no idea of what that actually means.
In the end, I didn’t have quite enough of the light blue kidsilk to finish the sweater, so I had to buy one more ball. Somehow I hadn’t noticed that the balls are £8.95 each last time I went to John Lewis! I will have most of a ball left over.
The neck ribbing is virtually done now, so the final stage will be the finishing. I am using I-cord edging throughout, which I hope will give a very clean finish. It’s currently a bit warm for a sweater, but knowing English weather I imagine I will find an opportunity to get some pics once this garment is ready to wear.
Previous posts in this series
This sweater has been in my WiP basket for several months now. Shortly after my last blog post (and taking this photo), I ran out of turquoise yarn.
I was also a bit uncertain about how to do the ombre on the sleeves. All in all, I was not feeling so inspired by this project, but fortunately that gave me the impetus to finish my She Loves Wool sweater that had been similarly languishing.
Looking at this photo with fresh eyes, I felt that it probably was time to start changing colours soon. I think it will make sense visually to have the colour change over my elbow.
Another complicating factor was the yarn. I had hoped that I had salvaged enough from my Bay sweater for this whole project but, alas, that was not the case. Even worse, I wasn’t sure which colourways of Kidsilk Haze I was working with.
I’m sure Stitch’n’Bitch, my bible in my early years as a knitter, recommends that you never throw ball bands away and thus avoid these problems. I know I followed that advice for quite some time, but old ball bands are a super annoying thing to have lying around the house. I’ve discarded them all in various house moves.
What would make sense in the modern world would be to record this information on Ravelry. Now-me generally does that (I would like to be more fastidious about including all info, including dye lots), but unfortunately the Monique of 2013 did not. I have the colour recorded as ‘blue-green.’ I was fairly sure that the colour was ‘peacock’ but when I checked the Rowan website, there are two other shades that fit the bill. I had hoped to buy the extra yarn on eBay, but in the end I made the pilgrimage to John Lewis, praying that they had the right colours in stock. I took my swatch with me to compare.
Not an exact match, but perhaps it is unreasonable to expect the colours to be a super close match when you buy extra yarn over six years later.
I wasn’t sure whether I would have enough of the lighter colour either, but I decided not to buy more at this stage. What I will do to try and circumvent that problem is make the section with the sequins longer than originally planned. I also wanted to use up the Kidsilk Haze Glamour.
I spent quite a bit of time knitting over the May bank holiday weekend. I was coming off an incredibly stressful week, and I needed the time to myself.
I finished the second sleeve and realised it made more sense to use up all of the turquoise yarn in the sleeves. Hopefully this will mean I have enough of the pale blue to finish the yoke without having to purchase any additional yarn.
I tried my best to make the sleeves match by weighing the yarn as I went along. Unfortunately I only have digital food scales that measure to the closest gram. Not especially helpful with mohair, which is incredibly light. Hopefully a local drug dealer will donate a more precise scale to one of the charity shops I frequent.
I have now ripped the first sleeve back to the turquoise area to insert the remaining yarn. The sleeves are lovely and quick to work so should be on to the yoke soon.
I really really hope I am going to come out with a sweater that I am happy with. I have put a lot of work into recycling two old garments into this piece so I will be quite heartbroken if I don’t like the way it turns out. That being said, I am having a cropped sweater moment so it should slide seamlessly into my wardrobe as long as all goes to plan.
Previous posts in this series
I bought some fibre in Finland with the aim of knitting some replacements for our kitchen sponges. I’m pleased to say that I’ve finished! And I thought I would write up a quick pattern.
When I searched on Ravelry, I couldn’t find many free patterns for simple dishcloths, hence making up my own. I believe the technical term for this stitch pattern is a 3*3 garter rib.
22sts and 38 rows to 10cm in pattern.
I used a 3.5mm needle. I tried a 4mm first but I wasn’t happy with how the work looked.
A characteristic of this yarn is that it varies significantly in width- not really a problem, especially since a dischcloth doesn’t exactly have to be an item of great beauty, but I don’t like uneven knitting.
Cast on 27 stitches. I used long-tail CO.
Rows 1-3: Knit
4 (WS). K3 P3
5 (RS). K
Repeat rows 4-5 until work reaches desired length (I went for 12cm).
Knit two more rows.
I used the yarn tail to crochet a hanging loop in the corner.
I managed to see another inspirational exhibition in Helsinki. My flatmate and I were visiting our Finish friend and I read that we were just in time to catch the Grayson Perry show at the Kiasma gallery. I went to see his exhibition when I was in Bristol for a conference less than a year ago but was still keen to see more.
Folk Wisdom contained some different pieces to the last Perry exhibition I visited. Again, I was impressed by how prolific he is as an artist and how he brings methods that might be traditionally regarded as craft into the realm of high art.
I love Perry as a cultural commentator. The image below is just part of one of his huge tapestries, itself part of a series. However, it really captures an issue that comes up a lot in my work as a psychologist.
I’ve been noticing how artists that inspire me have included my current interests in their work. For example, the textiles on show at the Frida Kahlo exhibition I visited. Similarly, I was taken by the garments Perry had made.
I have been getting more interested in beading since doing some work on the vintage jacket I picked up. I’m hoping to do an embroidery and/or beading class at the Royal School of Needlework soon. I noticed that part of one of Perry’s tapestries was beaded.
While in Helsinki we were staying near an adorable LYS called Snurre. Of course I coudn’t resist possing in and my flatmate was very patient while I looked at every single skein in the shop. I had hoped to get yarn that was linked to Finland in some way but they were a little low on stock. I ended up getting this, which I plan to use for some new fingerless gloves/mittens to match my planned Kelly anorak, if I ever get around to making it. I impulse-bought the buttons, which are made from coconut husk and would be perfect for a cardigan.
I also picked up this hemp yarn at the local craft store in my friend’s hometown. I’m planning to use it to make some plastic-free kitchen scourers.
Finally, we managed a visit to the national craft museum in Jyvaskyla. I highly recommend it. It’s got lots of interactive exhibits, which are always a plus for me. I resent not being allowed to touch stuff in museums. I tried my hand at the loom pictured and I’m even more sure that I want to have a proper go at weaving.
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 we’re over halfway though the year, I thought I would review where I am with my sewing for the year. I have completed five items so far.
It’s interesting for me to note that, just like last year, my plans have changed hugely in the six short months since I made them. Here’s what I thought I might make:
- Cloud Lark
- Stripy Lark
- Ultimate shirt in Liberty fabric
- Third day dress in viscose
- Wearable toile- copy of the perfect pencil skirt I have
- Threadcount 1617– I think I will start out with a toile using a viscose remnant I have.
- I also have my eye on some beautiful viscose with a monstera (my favourite leaf) print for a second version. I won a £20 voucher from Sew Over It’s #SOIshowoff competition, which would buy 1.5m
- Teal anorak
- Dotty Linden
Now I’m thinking that I’m more likely to end up with this:
Cloud Lark Stripy Lark Nautical Linden Floral Threadcount 1617 Dotty Linden
- Wink blouse
- Clouds and rockets blouse
- Navy corduroy trousers
- Teal anorak
I’ve written a little about this before, but I would still like to get better at making pre-planned projects. Lots of the items on the first list are things that I would like to make and would be useful but somehow they don’t grab me. The shirt in particular has been on there for 18 months and remains no closer to being cut out. In contrast, my wink blouse went from twinkle in the eye to wearable item in five days. At the same time as wanting to plan, I don’t want to (and perhaps can’t) put reins on my creativity. I’m realising that sudden inspiration and feverish spurts of making are part of my process.
I’ve been thinking in therapy about how I find it difficult to know what I want in life. Often I see myself as a plastic bag blowing around in the breeze, Making is one of the few spaces I have where I know precisely what I want and then make time to work tirelessly until I have it.