Monday, October 1, 2018

Great Lake State





My yarn stash is frankly burgeoning with beautiful things.  Inspiration is all over the place, and I make lists in my phone and on little loose pieces of paper that get lost of all the things I want to make and do.  I feel like I’m planning the next ten knit sweaters and trying to make room in my life for another quilt or two because I just love them, and I love to make them.  And you and I both know I have enough yarn and fabric for all these things and more.  Well, ‘tis the season, isn’t it?  That first gloomy day, when rain splatters the clean windows and leaves are just starting to burnish, I get to wanting another big, cozy cardigan.  I have a few of these already, but it doesn’t take much to get those wheels turning again, every single September.  This year, I had before me five skeins of Barrett Wool Co’s beautiful Wisconsin Woolen Spun worsted weight yarn in the colorway “Pebble” and it was sort of begging to be my Annual Big Cozy Cardigan.  I did my usual Ravelry dive, and of course found a whole bunch of patterns I want to knit right now, but nothing that seemed just right for the Wisconsin Woolen Spun, which is very plump and round (I think that’s fairly unusual in a woolen-spun) and thick and lofty.  I can’t think of another yarn offhand that is like it—maybe Brooklyn Tweed Quarry?  That one might be similar.  Well, it is light, but thick, and almost cottony soft.  

I did what I always do when I can’t find the right pattern—I made up my own.  I’ve talked about this before, many times, and I know it sounds like I’m downplaying it when I say it’s easy, but honestly.  It really is easy.  If you can knit a sweater from another designer’s pattern, then you can make your own pattern.  If you know how to use a measuring tape and a calculator, you can make your own pattern.  There is no magic trick, I promise.



I start with a sketch of what I’m imagining.  There are no revolutionary ideas at work here, just a shawl collar and a couple panels of cables; I’m not trying to invent anything, I just want a sweater.  Then I knit a square, and I block it.  When it’s dry, I ask myself:  Do I like the fabric?  If the whole sweater from my sketch was like this, would I be happy?  When I’m satisfied with the fabric I got, I get out a ruler and measure:  how many stitches per inch am I getting with these needles and this yarn?  Once I have that number, I decide how wide I want my neckline to be at the back and then I measure myself at the back neck.  Like, as in, hold the measuring tape across the back of my neck, where I’d like the back neck of my sweater to be.  Sometimes I point to either side of the back of my neck and Doc measures between my fingers.  I do some (very simple!) arithmetic and then just start.  In this case, I also made a swatch of the cable panel I planned to use, and then charted out the whole front yoke sections on graph paper, so I could keep track of the cables and the neck increases at the same time.  None of this is difficult, and I firmly believe you can all do it too.  What can go wrong?  You might have to rip back now and then, and re-knit stuff, or start something over—I have to do that all the time.  But this is fun, right?  Knitting is what we do for fun.

I have been calling this sweater Great Lake State—yarn from Wisconsin, knit in New York by a girl from Michigan, in the exact color of these moody inland seas, turbulent and alive in the fall.  Blue-gray-blue.  Gray.  Blue.  The collar is tall and snuggly, and the sleeves are extra-long, because that’s the way I like them.  A few cables for added Grandpa-ness.  While it was blocking, I noticed I had misplaced one of the buttonholes, but when I checked myself for perfectionist tendencies and found none there, I knew it was fine with me to leave it alone.  This is my sweater, for layering when the gale winds start to blow and the blizzards come early and stay late.  This is my armor.

21 comments:

  1. Oh, that sketch is incredible. I wish I could draw. Lovely sweater, as always.

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    1. I'm making use here of a croquis--a lightly drawn and stylized empty body outline that you can draw your design over. I got mine at Fringe Supply Co. :)

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  2. Really beautiful cardi. Must have taken an age to pick up the buttonhole band stitches! I finished my new chunky cardi yesterday and when I handwashed it today, it came out looking horribly flat and the ribbing was stretched and flattened. I'm hoping drying it flat overnight will help the fibres recover else it will all have been a waste of time, energy and money.

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    1. I've resigned myself that an all-the-way-around buttonband does indeed take forever. :D

      If your sweater yarn is wool, it will recover just fine. xoxo

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  3. Yay, Wisconsin! (where I grew up) Your sweater is absolutely gorgeous. Do you ever share your patterns?

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    1. I have a few scarf and blanket freebies on Ravelry (look for me there as KristenJ) but I don't have the first clue how to write a garment pattern so that someone else could follow it, nevermind the grading...ack! I'm not opposed to figuring it out, but I just haven't ever yet. :)

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  4. So lovely! You are such a sweater knitting inspiration. I have had the Lanvad pullover in my cart since I think last year when you knit it, just waiting for a pattern sale (that I luckily caught last month!)

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    1. Oooh, you'll love the Lanvad. That one was a delight. xoxo

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  5. It’s beautiful, Kristen, and the fit is great.

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    1. Thank you, my dear. I'm quite pleased with it. :)

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  6. absolutely stunning! you're so talented
    no, i can not make my own, can't even fathom it, sorry but i'll stick to knitting from a pattern.
    thanx for sharing

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    1. Thank you, lovely. (Yesyoutotallycould,youreallycould...) :)

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  7. Really lovely cardi! You are very good at what you do. I would call myself an advanced beginner. Some knits kinda scare me but that one that you made doesn't scare me. lol It's kinda cabled, I have made those. ;) Really nice work Kristen.

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  8. That is an absolutely beautiful sweater! Well, I love every sweater you have posted on your blog. I am not a knitter (love my sewing machine though). I laughed out loud when I got to the part of your blog post where you said "None of this is difficult". You are incredibly talented and fearless and that is what makes your sweaters so awesome!

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    1. Well, I figure there isn't much to lose--most knitting mistakes can be undone, so might as well try, right? Thank you, dear. xoxo

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  9. I have a question about swatching. If you don't like the swatch, like gauge or something, after blocking do you frog it and try again or make a new swatch? Does reusing yarn after blocking matter? Being inexperienced, I'm afraid I'll use my whole stash swatching to get it right if I don't frog them.

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    1. At the start of a project I will knit and block as many individual swatches as I need and then keep them handy as I work the sweater in case I run short and need to harvest them for the yarn. The kinks from a blocked and then unraveled piece of knitting will affect your gauge, so yes, it does matter, but if you run out and end up needing the yarn, you can unravel the swatch, wash the yarn to get the kinks out, let it dry, and then use it. I'm not averse at all to re-knitting with swatched yarn if I need it, but it rarely comes that close.

      Sometimes, too, you can tell right away if the fabric you're getting in a swatch is waaay off, and you can rip it out and try again before blocking it. Then there's no need to wash it. :)

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  10. what a lovely sweater and your sketch too is amazing! wow. I too have been thinking of using a pattern from a previous sweater I made but I want it with a few changes. Hmmm, wonder if I can do it.

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    1. Diane, you can totally do it! I believe in you. Let me know how it goes. xoxo

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  11. I love your posts and everything looks wonderful. I love your idea thanks for sharing.
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