Monday, 29 March 2010

All's well that ends well

"Zaire" sweater finished
Originally uploaded by Asplund

Last night I was in despair, beginning to suspect the yarn was superwash in secret. After spending all day finishing the sleeves and weaving in ends, I handwashed the sweater to felt it gently by hand.

As expected, the water made it grow even bigger at first. Not expected and far worse: no matter how increasingly violently I kneaded and rubbed the sweater it wouldn't shrink. Not even a session in the tumble dryer had any effect! (But I've almost got biceps muscles now. Almost.)

I imagined the only possible way to use this sweater would be to pitch it on the main square and sell beer inside.

This morning I wrestled with it again: washed it in the machine, tried a longer session in the dryer, rinsed it alternating between hot and cold water... Nothing happened. Finally I put it in the machine again and washed it in warmer water, so fed up with it I didn't mind risking it would shrink too much.

Would you believe it, it shrank to the right size and it's like thick fabric, just what I hoped, and surprisingly soft. Who's a lucky guy?

Here's a picture of what the back of the neck looked like before felting. The definition of the garter stitch is far less prominent now, which is something I prefer.

Instead of sleeve seams (not a fan of sewing) I picked up stitches, knitted a row, and then did a three-needle bind-off. Here's what the right and wrong sides of it look like.

Edited to add: I received an award from Annika. Thank you!

I'm supposed to forward it to 12 other bloggers, but it seems most of the blogs I read already have received it. So, instead I'd like to dedicate it to everyone who reads my blog.

Friday, 26 March 2010

"Zaire" sweater: sleeve

"Zaire" sweater: sleeve
Originally uploaded by
First sleeve nearly done! I haven't made up my mind how to finish the cuff, so I've started knitting the second sleeve.

I will probably fill in the gaps with green triangles to make the cuffs similar to the body. Another colour could be used for variation, of course, or the edge could even be scalloped. (I really don't think the last idea would work very well with the overall design, which practically consists of straight lines going in different directions. Thinking about different ideas is fun, though! )

For a while I toyed with the idea of having more stripes, but suddenly remembered the drummer accompanying Sarah Vaughan in this clip and changed my mind instantly. But how I would have loved to be there hearing her live!

Friday, 19 March 2010

"Zaire" sweater: progress and modifications

"Zaire" sweater
Originally uploaded by Asplund

Well, "Zaire" tent would be a more appropriate name. I'm optimistic about this project anyway, certain that some felting will make a big difference.

Apart from the unintentional but considerable resizing, there are some conscious modifications:

1. Addition of mitered stripes at the bottom.
2. Addition of the same stripes at the beginning of the top-down knitted sleeve. (My intention is to have them near the wrist too.)
3. Shoulder squares knitted in one colour instead of broken up into four triangles.
4. Similarly, the collar is knitted in one colour, although I added a beige and blue triangle at the back of the neck for fun.

Here's a picture of the original design for comparison.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Giant surprise jacket

I expected this sweater to become somewhat big, but not enormous. The width of the bottom part is fine, but the squares seem to stretch in all directions.

After joining the shoulders I could try it on; unfortunately, wearing it is like camping.

Here are my options:
1. Make friends with a giant to give it to. (Asplund and the beanstalk?)
2. Gain a lot of weight. (Which I did after I quit smoking, some 12 kilos/26 pounds. About half of that is gone now - and even though I don't think I need to lose more I definitely don't feel like gaining another 50 pounds.)
3. Felt it gently on purpose to make it shrink. (Possibly having to make friends with one of the seven dwarfs instead.)

I have tried two similar ways to join the shoulders using the three-needle bind-off method. (Both of them different from Isager's instructions.) To the left in the photo above you can see where I added a knit row to the stitches I had picked up, and to the right there is a purl row before the join. I much prefer the purl version and will remake the other one.

The indigo blue shawl I knitted recently has found a new home. Fair trade: I had a shawl I didn't need, and my aunt had a chair (dog not included) she didn't need.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Adding some colour: part 2

WIP: Zaire by Isager
Originally uploaded by Asplund

One more row of squares and a section of mitred striped before the shoulder join.

I'm happy with my addition of yellow and the way those stripes frame three squares.

Next there will be four squares: two light beige (looks white here) in the middle and two medium beige at the ends.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Adding some colour

WIP: Zaire by Isager
Originally uploaded by Asplund
A ball of yellow wool was practically calling me from a corner of my stash, and I couldn't resist adding it to the other colours. There will be two more mitred stripes; my plan is to make the next one yellow too to achieve a kind of frame for the next set of squares.

In addition to this modification of the stripes, I've decided to knit them garter-stitch to make them blend with the squares. The original design has stripes that consist of a combination of stocking stitch and garter stitch; I tried this first but thought enough was going on already, especially with my additions of stripes and colours, and changed it to have the same texture all over.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Zaire: wrong side

The intarsia joins look all right, but I hope (and expect) they will look even better after blocking. Long way to go before I'm there, though.

Variation makes this a nice sweater to knit: three different colours make the squares interesting to make, and after making six big squares it's time for mitred horizontal stripes.

In the original design there are three white stripes against a dark background, but I've decided to make two with a rusty cold carrot stripe betwen them instead. Next time I'll post a picture of the right side.

I'm telling myself to see all the ends to weave in as a form of variation too.

Monday, 1 March 2010


WIP: Zaire by Isager
Originally uploaded by

To my surprise I've started a project that features - heavily! - no less than three knitting techniques I'm usually not attracted to:

1. Garter stitch: too monotonous to knit in my opinion.
2. Intarsia: difficult to make neat joins.
3. Entrelac: also difficult to make neat joins, and I seldom like the way the results look.

What happened? Well, in short I was looking for inspiration how to use some beautiful colours in my stash, opened Marianne Isager's Knitting out of Africa and saw her design Zaire. A perfect pattern to display colours and to see how they interact.

My choice of colours is far less dramatic than Isager's, but I've kept her arrangement of dark and light areas. I've added a horizontal zigzag line at the bottom, partly because I was getting tired of green garter-stitch knitting and wanted a change, partly simply to see how it would turn out. I rather like the way it reaches the very edge.

Now that I'm into this project I find myself more positive about the three techniques, very much thanks to how they improve each other: the colour changes make garter stitch less monotonous, and garter stitch makes the intarsia and entrelac joins neater. What's more, it keeps the entrelac from "billowing", which is what I personally don't find attractive about the technique even though I admire the skill it takes to knit it.

My first entrelac join was clumsy (between beige and green areas). It was a really good exercise for me to analyse why it turned out that way and how I could improve it, so it was worth the time it took. I rather like having to solve problems, since it makes me feel I learn new things.

The problem here seemed to be knitting not only two colours together, but also a knit and a purl stitch. Therefore, I added a beige row to the green part. Lo and behold, knitting two identical stitches (beige purls) together made quite a difference!