Friday, January 28, 2011

In which I go a little crazy with the knitting...

The Christmas Tree was just taken down a week ago...I've been a busy birdy with school but I've also been busy knitting.

I finally finished the long-suffered Rebecca knitted dress, the Rare Books cardigan and I've finally finished the Mittens of Loveliness (see below). I also managed to squeeze in a very quick cowl neck-warmer for myself and some leg-warmers and have started on a warmer hat for the Mr.

Proudly presenting the Not-Really-Rebecca Knitted Dress:

The finished product. Took just under 4 months to knit with a couple of wrong turns, deviations, heartache and banishment. But it turned out perfectly. I like it better than the original Rebecca magazine design which inspired it. I decided to go with short sleeves so I can choose whether to wear it with a long-sleeved top underneath like a tunic or as a sleeveless dress with a slip under. (Hanging Arm courtesy of the Mr).

Arm/Sleeve detail. I made a little band of ribbing around the opening. The dress is knit entirely in one piece without any seams. (I knit in the round from bottom hemline to neckline with bind off and picking up for sleeves (to make the sleeve holes). I did have to come back and do the ribbing around the sleeves and hem by picking up stitches, but otherwise its technically seamless :) ) This is because this airy mohair shows up all the seams through it and I wanted it to look really neat.

The neckline drapes really nicely around and can be worn as a cowl neck or as an off-the-shoulder number. I would have made it more like a hood, so it can warm your ears, but I ran out of wool :) The neckline was inspired by this dress I posted about ages ago. Its a really flattering neckline.

Now to the Rare Books Cardigan, the replacement for the unruly Twinkle cardigan. This cardigan was developed to withstand the freezing temperatures of the Rare Books room at the library. It also held up outdoors nicely the other day when it was -25 degrees celsius here, keeping me nice and warm under my outer jacket layer. The neckline doubles as a scarf, keeping the neck warm too. I haven't got a nice button for it yet, so I'm still fastening it with a safety pin. The body of the cardigan is knit seamlessly from hem to armpits, then splits into 2 fronts and back. I then knit the sleeves (several times cause I made them too small then too big!). The collar is a crochet rib because I wanted some more chunky texture. Plus I find its way easier to crochet a collar around a curve and calculate the reductions than it is to knit it.

Crocheted Neckline Detail

Worn Crossed-Over and Fastened

Overall Cardigan Unfastened

Magical Back 'Darts' for shaping

The Mittens of Loveliness are finally done and have been subjected to serious mitten-testing procedure and found very satisfactory. The Mr. says they are too big for me and claims that I knit them for him, but he will let me borrow them if I take care of them nicely. I am inclined to agree on the too-big part. But the pattern is one size, with no dimensions given, so it was really difficult to know if they would fit or not. I calculated my gauge and guessed they would be a little big, but I'm not clever enough yet to re-write a fair isle pattern myself. So I just wear the mittens a little loose in the hands. I'm planning on stuffing my old mittens inside these ones for extra warmth, so there is at least plenty of space for the extra layer. I estimate that the Mittens of Loveliness are good down to -5 outside a pocket, and good down to -15 inside a pocket. With the extra old mitten inside they should be good down to -25 inside a pocket and to -15 outside. We shall see. The weather here is yet unpredictable (even to the weatherman it seems). Today we have snow where none was forecast.


Just as nice on the other side

Happy Together at Last

The neck-warmer was developed from a vogue knitting email I got last week with their 'sand cables' stitch. I had seen a few months ago someone design a cowl with a similar type of cable stitch inspired by a Burberry scarf. I thought theirs was rather nice and when I saw this stitch pattern in my inbox, I thought it would look great as a cowl too. Having about half or 3/4 a ball of wool left from the Rare Books Cardigan, I got knitting. I had made excellent progress (ie: at least 30cm) when I realised that I'd messed up somewhere with my over/under cable business. Being the perfectionist I am, I ripped it all out and started again. But on 10mm knitting needles, I was still done by lunchtime. I took it for a test run yesterday and found it satisfactory, though not as warm as a triple wrapped scarf. It was nice though not to worry about catching scarf ends in the zipper of my jacket for once. Worn about the forehead this also makes an excellent (and hilarious) turban-style headband. I don't recommend this unless you want laughs. If you want to make your own its easy:

Let's call this: Snow Drift Cowl (there's no sand around here, but plenty of interesting wind-driven snow patterns)
Get some 10mm knitting needles and some chunky chunky wool. I used Bernat's Roving in 'Bark' and less than one ball. Probably could get 2 cowls out of one ball...
Cast on 24 stitches (thats 2 repeats of the 12 stitch wide sand cables stitch pattern). You can do 3 if you want it to be a wider cowl. It will curl up at the edges, but the cable kinda holds it flat a little, so you wont have the whole cowl roll up into a tube.
Following the stitch pattern, knit merrily being very careful not to mix up when you are cabling in front or behind.
Make about 7 repeats of the pattern (about 70 rows). You can keep knitting if you want a longer cowl or want to twist it or loop it twice when you wear it.
Finish with two plain old rows of stocking stitch and bind off. (72 rows + cast on and bind off)
Mattress stitch the ends together to form a loop.
Weave in your ends and you are done.

Looks sort-of like a braid when worn

Laid flat

How the 'sand cables' look

Right, so Leg-warmers. These I also used Bernat's Roving in 'Clover'. I think calling it 'clover' was a stretch, its more like dirty acid green (but I guess that doesn't sound so appealing!). Anyway, these were another self-invented pattern. I used 2 balls of wool, one for each leg. There's no shaping, they just stretch to fit your legs. These make thigh-high leg-warmers (its cold here) but you will look slightly silly. But hey, everyone looks silly in leg-warmers. Measuring your own legs is essential here, or you will have arm-warmers, not leg-warmers. Its also important not to cast on or bind off too tightly, or you will have tourniquets, not leg-warmers.

Folded in Half

Stitch Detail

The full length is 36 inches

No More Cold Knees:
You will need 10mm knitting needles, 2 balls of chunky chunky wool such as Bernat's Roving and a measuring tape.

Measure your mid-calf and mid thigh. Pick a mid-measurement between the two. I've got shapeless legs, so I made the leg-warmers straight. You can test your chosen measurement by making your tape measure into a loop around you leg and seeing if you can get the loop up to the level you want your leg warmers to end. You will look pretty silly doing this, so I recommend doing thus only amongst good friends. Adjust your measurement accordingly. Remember that the ribbing at the top and the bottom of the leg-warmers makes them stretchy at least an inch or three.

I've you have shapely legs, you might want to add some shaping at the thigh-end. I would make some little increases 1 stitch in from the end of a row on the right side of the stockinette. Near the seams, a M1 is hidden quite well and its easy to make. The chunky wool makes about 2.5 stitches to 1 inch, so if you have several inches different between calf and thigh (more than 3 inches different), you will need make some increases. Eg: for an extra 2 inches, you need to increase 5 stitches on right-side rows. So it will take you 10 rows to make your 2 inch increase.

Right. So my calves are 13 inches and thighs 16 inches (don't judge!). I made my leg-warmers 13 inches (flat measurement un-stretched, they easily make 16in stretched), so at the calf, they are comfy (and I can stretch them over my winter boots if I want) and at the thigh they are stretched and stay up nicely. At our gauge of 2.5 stitches to the inch, that equates to about 32.5 stitches. Allowing for my relaxed (lazy) knitting tension and love of whole numbers, I rounded this to 30 stitches.

So I cast on 30 stitches and then made 10 rows of K1, P1 ribbing.
I followed this with 50 mesmerizing rows of stocking stitch.
Then finished off with another 10 rows of K1, P1 ribbing.
Bind off loosely. This is important for avoiding tourniquet.

So, really, the measuring and calculating is the most difficult part, the knitting is easy. I made mine while reading this.

The Mr. requested a warmer hat. For this I'm using the lovely thick Peruvian wool from Cascade which I got at my favourite shop in Montreal. Again, an invented pattern. This one is still in testing though, so we shall see how it turns out! The wool feels good and should be nice and warm. I'm knitting tightly, hoping it wont be too stiff a fabric but will be warm. We don't want the Mr. to have a silly hat.

I love the colour of this wool, its the perfect blue for me and looks great on the Mr too!

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