My Magnolia Sweater: Cruise Control (with a little bit of math)

My Magnolia Sweater, by Camilla Vad, is really coming along now. I have recovered from last week’s mohair tangle debacle and separated for the sleeves. I’m in the cruise control part of the project that is just miles and miles of stockinette in the round as I knit down the body.

The pattern says to knit until the body measures 16 cm from the underarm, and then start the lace pattern. I am a big fan of Patty Lyons, resident knitting guru. If you don’t read her blog, you should because it is a bonanza of helpful knitting information. Patty always says “the tape measure touches your knitting twice, once when you measure your gauge and once when you block. Otherwise it’s locked in a drawer.” In order to figure out how long to knit, you have to calculate how many rows it would take to knit that length given the pattern gauge, and then adjust if your gauge is different.

I love a good bit of math, especially if it’s in the service of delicious sweaters. So, using the pattern row gauge of 30 rows / 10 cm, you would have to knit 48 rows to get 16 cm. My gauge was a little off, and I got 32 rows / 10 cm. I’m going to have to knit 51 rounds of stockinette to get the right length. Let’s face it, I’m going to check with a tape measure as well, because I’ll probably lose my place and forget what row I’m on. At least I have something to go on.

I’m not going to lie, I’m really excited and nervous about trying my hand at the lace pattern. I am going to have to figure out how to use a lifeline before I get there, because the chances I’ll get it right on the first go are pretty slim. I should probably swatch for it first, but that would take all of the fun out of it, right? Living on the edge, knitting style. Do you swatch new stitch patterns, or is that just for knitting gurus?

Knitted Sweater Vests: Yea or Nay?

I have to admit, when I think of vests, the first thing that comes to mind is McLovin from the movie Superbad:

So when knitted sweater vests started popping up in Ravelry’s Hot Right Now feed, I initially thought “good for you, not for me.” But the more I pondered it, the more enticing a sweater vest sounded. Hear me out: less yarn to buy. No underarm stitches to pick up. No unplanned detours on sleeve island. Were vests really as bad as I thought? A quick search through some recent patterns might have just changed my mind.

Friday Slipover V-Neck

© PetiteKnit

The Friday Slipover is one of the newest patterns from PetiteKnit. I love her patterns and have had a lot of success getting the right fit. With broken rib, part of it knitted flat, and stitches picked up at the neck band, there would be plenty of new-to-me techniques to make this interesting. This vest might be cooler than I am.


© Woolfolk Design Team

Forsten by Woolfolk Design Team looks like the kind of cozy piece that I could live in. Also, although it’s shown in reverse stockinette stitch, it’s supposedly completely reversible. I bet you could just knit this inside out and it would be nothing but stockinette stitch all the way.

Mino Pullover Vest

© Jenn Bakos Photo

Mino Pullover Vest by Sylvia Watts-Cherry goes the farthest to prove to me that there is more to sweater vests than suburban dad fashion. This vest would be a huge challenge for me. Considering the only garments I’ve ever made have been top-down in the round, this is the complete opposite. It’s a bottom-up, stranded colorwork, worked flat and seamed together. Yikes. But the end result is stylish and fun. Who doesn’t need a challenge?


© Lone Kjeldsen

Sleeveless by Lone Kjeldsen is the kind of pared down aesthetic that makes me love Danish knits. It’s also bottom up, but knit in the round. This is the kind of easy piece that could get a lot of wear.

Cherry Blossom Top

© Magali McDonald

Cherry Blossom Top by Magali McDonald is an adorable fitted vest that would be perfect for spring or summer. Somehow it had never occurred to me that a sweater vest could have negative ease. But now that I’ve seen it, I really want to try it.

So, what do you think? Sweater vests yea or nay? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.

Yarn Talk: Northern Bee Studio Soft DK

I intended to knit a hat for each of my girls this winter. I cast on in February and knit the easy ombré slouch hat by Paul S. Neary in Northern Bee Studio’s Soft DK. I used the colorway orchid (shown above) and an off-white called clouded vision. It was my first attempt at stranded knitting, and I was so pleased with how it turned out.

Sadly, this hat suffered an early death when it got caught in somebody’s sleeve and I ran it through the washing machine. After that I didn’t have the heart to try colorwork again for many months.

Now that we’re all stuck at home for the foreseeable future, I have a little more time than usual to try something challenging. I cast on the Winter Storm Hat by Gabrielle Vézina. The hat has a k1, p1 rib at the brim and then a repeating snowflake pattern that decreases down to eight stitches. It was a fun knit, and I love the finished result. I’m not that great at stranded knitting on dpns. But with a little extra coffee and some choice swear words, I was able to finish up the top.

For this hat I also used two colorways of the Northern Bee Studios Soft DK: orchid (above), and clouded vision.

This was my first time using Northern Bee Studio yarn, and I was really impressed. Soft DK is 80% superwash merino, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon. The yarn is super soft (hence the name) and springy. I love the beautiful colorways. My girls are always looking for bright saturated pinks and purples, but Soft DK also comes in moody blues and greens that are more my style. Northern Bee Studio is based out of Rib Lake Wisconsin, and all of their yarns are hand-dyed. I would definitely use this yarn again, as long as I can keep it out of the washing machine! What is your go-to yarn? I’d love to hear about it.

Fix it or Frog it: Why am I so Hard on my Socks???

Basic Ribbed Socks by Kate Atherley

I have only ever knit one pair of socks. I am embarrassed to say that they took me as long to knit as a whole adult-sized sweater. I have ridiculously small feet. Size 5. Elf feet. And still, they took so long. At the time I was a brand new knitter. I had never used needles smaller than US 8. I had never used dpns. The yarn was so beautiful: Northern Bee Studio Yak Sock. Once I knit them, I realized none of my other socks fit. They were all too big. I vowed that one day, I would knit a whole drawer of socks so I would always be able to wear socks custom-made for me.

But I think I have loved these socks too much, because I went to put them on this morning and look what I found:

Have you ever seen a hole so big?

I know there are ways to repair socks. I’ve read the articles and watched the videos. But I can feel in my heart of hearts that this one is beyond saving. On the other hand, the second sock appears to be perfectly fine. And you know there’s no way I’m getting rid of a perfectly good sock that took me weeks to knit. I’ll just have to wait until I get a solid case of second sock syndrome, and then I can wear my mismatched socks with pride. Knowing that they are custom made for me.

What to Knit: HØR no. 11

© Lone Kjeldsen

HØR no 11 by Lone Kjeldsen

It’s getting hot here in Chicago and I just saw the first firefly of the season last night. This is the perfect time to take a look at lightweight summer knits. I was strolling through Ravelry, as you do, and I happened across this crisp, breezy, linen tee, HØR no. 11. This is the eleventh in a series of linen tops from Danish designer Lone Kjeldsen, and it has handily jumped to the top of my queue.

There’s a lot that is new to me: it’s a garment knit side-to-side. It has an i-cord edge which I’ve never done, but it can’t be too bad, right? I’m a little hesitant because it looks like all-over ribbing which might be slow for me to knit, but the slight shaping at the sleeves is really beautiful. I might have to give it a try. This fingering-weight tee looks like the perfect light top for summer. Since the suggested yarn is linen, it shouldn’t be too hot to have in your lap in June or July. On a side note, Lone also has the most amazing bird sweater for children, but that’s an inspiration for another time!

© Lone Kjeldsen – this makes me want to master colorwork

What are you knitting this summer? I’d love to hear about it.

Sometimes Good Enough is Perfect

When I started knitting, my family didn’t really know what to make of it. Skeins of yarn and circular needles started popping up in places all over the house. Double pointed needles and measuring tape took up residence in the couch cushions. My husband stayed out of it – after 17 years he knows when to ride it out. My kids, however, were more direct. They wanted to know about the yarn. They wanted to know about my project: Is it hard? Is it something for me? Is it pink??? And it was really only a matter of time before they wanted in on this knitting thing too.

I have a 9 year-old boy, a 5 year-old girl and a 4 year-old girl. All three of them started asking me if they could knit something too. So, I got some straight wooden needles and picked out a pattern for a beginner scarf. After trolling Ravelry for way too long I settled on the Easy kids’ pom pom scarf by Lainie Wicks.

© Laine Wicks

It’s garter stitch all the way, and I figured the kids could knit a few rows on it and I could finish up the rest. The pattern was perfect, but there was no way that I could sell my girls on a gray scarf, even if it did have hot pink pom poms. They are very much in the “more is more” camp, so when I asked them what color we should use, they naturally said “ALL OF THEM!!”

I am ashamed to admit that it appears that I am a yarn snob. If I am going to spend two months knitting a sweater, I want it to be amazing at the end. But I sincerely doubted that the level of rainbow that my girls were looking for could be found in a special order from Denmark. And there was no way I was going to knit a kid accessory that required hand washing. So, we settled on Caron Skinny Cakes in the colorway rainbow. It’s 100% acrylic dk weight self-striping yarn that can be thrown in the washer and dryer without a second thought. They love it so. much.

The pattern was a breeze. It was so easy that I even tried teaching myself to knit continental. (It didn’t stick). The kids all knit some rows with varying success. There are some yarnovers and a little bit of a varying stitch count for reasons undetermined. Normally I would see holes in my knitting and rip it back to fix it. But they are so proud of their work that the three of them have been taking turns wearing it around the house, despite the fact that it is 85 degrees in Chicago today.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter if it’s acrylic, or if the colorway is bright enough to burn your retinas, or if there are a few unintentional short rows. Sometimes, good enough is perfect.

Yarn Talk

Movers & Makers Wicker Park Worsted

One of the biggest challenges for me as a new-ish knitter is yarn. I just don’t know enough about it and how it behaves to feel comfortable picking out a new yarn or substituting in a project. It’s not a big deal when I’m making a pair of socks with a single skein, but when it’s a sweater with two yarns held double it’s riskier. Who wants to spend two months knitting only to discover that alpaca stretches waaaay more than the suggested yarn, and now your t-shirt is a t-shirt dress?

I’ve started yarn talk to encourage me to branch out and try new yarns. I’ll try to pick local or small batch dyers when I can so that I’ll be able to see what they’re like without the benefit of pages and pages of project pages on Ravelry.

This week I tried knitting with Movers & Makers Wicker Park Worsted. It’s available exclusively at my local yarn store, Nina Chicago. I’d seen it before but never tried it. This yarn is 100% superwash merino. It’s hand dyed by Kristin Oldach in small batches and has cool local names for its colorways like reckless red (for reckless records, a vinyl record store), violet hour (an artisanal cocktail bar in wicker park), and smoke daddy (a BBQ place). I used winter on hoyne and gold star blackout to knit up two June hats by Meghan Kelly from Kelbourne Woolens year of hats.

There are 218 yards in each hank, so there was more than enough to knit two hats out of the two colors.

I have to say, the yarn was lovely. It was soft and springy and not at all splitty, even using the sharp metal needles that I like. The black is pretty tonal, with parts of it reading more gray than true black, but I like the way it knit up. I would definitely use this yarn again, and I’m really excited that it’s local. Do you have a go-to yarn? I would love to hear about it.

Fix it or Frog it

Tangled up in Gray

Don’t be fooled by that innocent face

I should have known that trouble was coming. The weather was great, all the kids had slept through the night, and my knitting had been behaving for the most part. I started to think that I would be able to divide for the sleeves on my Magnolia Sweater before too long. Haha. Little did I know.

Chaos, as it were, came in the form of a fluffy white dog. Max is a year-old Bichon frise who is lucky that he is very cute. He is usually a very good boy. But this time, he had a bit of an incident with my mohair, and it resulted in this:

This is what is left of the mohair that is currently attached to my sweater. It’s my own fault. I had put the yarn on the floor to keep the two skeins from getting tangled up with each other. Then Max ran by and, the yarn just stuck to his little velcro legs. I am going to be able to untangle it. I think. But my dreams of separating for the sleeves this week are looking less and less likely. The worst part of it is, this is so much better than it looked an hour ago. I can’t untangle anymore without knitting some of it to tame some of the yarn that is still wound properly, so it’s going to be a while until I know for sure if I’m really and truly stuck.

Has your knitting been treating you poorly? I’d love to hear about it.

What to knit: Your weekly knitting inspiration

Stepping Stones Cardigan by Rebecca McKenzie

© Rebecca McKenzie

Stepping Stones Cardigan is the latest pattern by Rebecca McKenzie. It’s knit from the bottom up in a DK weight yarn and has a lovely lace detail down the front and along the hem and cuffs. It’s drop shoulder and there’s no side seaming (yay!). Rebecca is kind enough to recommend yarns for substitutions if you’re on a budget so that new knitters like me don’t have to agonize over their choices.

I have never made a cardigan, but this one has almost convinced me to try. The easy fit and subtle detailing make this a piece that I could easily see getting a lot of wear out of. From a knitting perspective, there’s plenty to test my skills: bottom up construction – which is new to me – shoulder seaming, and a three needle bind off. But even with all that, it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of the intimidating finishing that sometimes keeps me from trying a cardigan (I’m looking at you, button band.)

What do you think? What’s in your queue these days? I’d love to hear from you.

Nothing wrong with a little lace

or, that time I knit a sweater in the dead heat of summer.

My first attempt at German short rows

I cast on the Magnolia sweater by Camilla Vad. I am working on the long-sleeve version in Rauma Lamullgarn color way 13, and Rowan Kidsilk Haze color way 664 held double. Both of the yarns are a light gray.

I am a fairly new knitter and I’m not very comfortable substituting yarn. The garments that I’ve made so far have pretty much used whatever yarn the pattern recommended. But Camilla Vad is currently updating her online yarn store and I couldn’t find another place to buy the yarn that the pattern specified. To make matters worse, my local yarn store was closed, because pandemic. So I tried my best and ordered some yarn that looked comparable online. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured there are worse things than having a sweater quantity of nice yarn, even if it didn’t work out.

The Rauma is really hairy, which was a surprise. I was worried it would be too scratchy for my liking, but after I swatched with the mohair silk and washed it, it softened up nicely. I swatched in the round and got stitch gauge, but my row gauge was off: 32 stitches per 10 cm as opposed to 30 stitches. I think it will be ok as long as I add in some extra rows as I go along so that it doesn’t end up too short.

check out this twisted rib!

Magnolia is a top-down sweater with short-row shaping and a beautiful twisted rib at the neck, the hem and the cuffs. There’s also a leafy lace detail at the hem and cuffs as well. I figured it would be a good introduction to lace since it was only in certain places instead of all over the place. I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

© Camilla Vad