Savory Knitalong: Meet Amy!

I finished my Larch cardigan a couple of weeks ago, but the KAL is still kicking, and hopefully if you’re playing along at home, you’re close to wrapping up yours to be eligible for the prize drawing!

I can tell you that Larch will most definitely not be the last Savory Knitting pattern I knit. Now, when I’ll find the time to knit those other patterns is a different question. This two-month knitalong is really a celebration of Amy Christoffers, a dynamic talent in our knitting world, and it seems only right that we get to know a little bit more about the creative genius we’re all enamored with right now. I wanted to do this much sooner, but you know all about good intentions and plans and real life interference and all that. (Plus, you know, I was knitting a couple of cardigans.)

Q: How long have you been knitting?
A: Since 1999…

Q: How did you first learn…
A: My Grandmother tried to teach me when I was 8 or 9 but she wasn’t a very patient teacher and I wasn’t very interested so… I learned in college from a library book (the Principles of Knittng, how lucky was that!?)

and what first drew you to the craft?
A: A lace scarf in lavendar mohair. It was love at first sight, but a really bad choice for a first project.

Q: How long have you been designing knitwear?
A: Since I finished that first project, (it ended up nothing like lace). I’ve been writting patterns since 2010.

Q: How would you describe your overall design aesthetic?
A: I don’t know… I try to make things that are interesting to knit without being unnecessarily difficult. More importantly they need to be wearable not just comfortable, something you actually wear every day because it looks good and makes you feel good.

Q:Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
A: You know that old chestsnut “write what you know?” I’ve wanted to design clothes since I was 6 years old and I have a huge (HUGE) library of magazine clippings but, since anybody can (and does) look at the same fashion magazines and catalogs for inspiration, I try to look around me at my environment for ideas that will make my projects different.

Q: Texture seems to play a large roll in your designs, as opposed to color work or specific silhouettes. (By texture, I mean visual, as in letting the color variations in the yarn do the work. or tactile by incorporating stitch patterns.) What draws you to this design element?
A: I love color work, LOVE IT. I hope you’ll start seeing more of that soon. Knitting draws me to it. There are so many ways to decorate a surface, (painting, carving, emboridery…) but knitted texture patterns are unique and special to this medium.


All photos © Amy Christoffers

Q: Acer was the first garment pattern you published, in early 2010, and you’ve published more than 40 patterns in magazines, online, and under your own Savory Knitting label. How do you manage to stay passionate about designing knitwear?
A: It ebbs and flows. Generally the busier I am the faster the ideas come and when I hit a quiet spell I have a backlog of sketches and swatches to motivate me all over again.

Q: AND HOW DO YOU GET IT ALL DONE?!
A: I have no idea.

Q: If you are willing, please describe your general design process–do you sketch first, swatch first, etc.
A: Most of the time I sketch first, to get an idea for the whole of the idea, then swatch. Sometimes though the swatch sort of takes over and the whole idea spins off into something else and the original sketch gets saved for later. I think the most interesting work comes when you can be flexible and let ideas evolve.

Q: I realize this is probably the most difficult question, but do you have a favorite design that you’ve published, and if so, why is it your favorite?
A: Goldfish Mittens! Because they’re silly and practical. And small.

Q: You also sew and paint, what other, if any, creative outlets do you enjoy?
A: Cooking, bread baking, sometimes I enjoy gardening but I am not very good at it which takes some of the fun out of it. Also, parenting is a very creative endeavor and it takes a lot of the energy I used to have for new and exciting.

Q: Favorite fiber?
A: Wool.

Q: English or Continental?
A: Continental… I started out English and I can go back and forth as needed.

Q: Cake or pie?
A: Neither. (C is for cookie, is good enough for me!)

Thank you, Amy, for inspiring us all and being so helpful when we have had questions throughout the knitalong!

FO: My New Favorite Cardigan

I realized the other day that I haven’t knit too many cardigans for myself. I think the only one, prior to this, was my February Lady Sweater, and there’s the one I knit for my mom, and now there’s my Larch! And I love it. Love love love it.

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I kind of sucked at getting full-length shots, but that doesn’t mean I love it any less!

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Delicious accidental bokeh! Thank god for tripods and the self timer feature on my camera. As I’ve mentioned here before, I added a bit of length to my cardigan—working for one more inch before beginning my decreases, and then spacing out the decreases by an additional two rows in each section, for an overall body length of about 17″ before binding off for the neck shaping. I worked the sleeves a bit longer, too, aiming for 20″ instead of the 19″ listed in the pattern, and for the first time ever, I believe, I have sleeves on a cardigan that are just right. With my arms at my side, my sleeves hit at the base of my thumb, which is my preferred sleeve length, and this makes me stupidly happy.

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I especially love the collar, even if all of the twisted stitches did lead to some wrist discomfort. The collar is soft and squishy and looks perfect whether I button the cardigan or leave it open. Plus, I can imagine wearing the collar “popped” on especially cold days. Thankfully the weather lately has been nice—in the 60s yesterday!—so I’ve been able to wear the cardigan as my outer layer and show it off to the world. I wore it to my volunteer shift on Sunday and then again yesterday, and I’m having trouble not working it into all of my outfits this week. There is snow in the forecast for tomorrow, so maybe not then.

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For buttons, I picked up these adorable little wooden flowers at Fancy Tiger a few weeks ago. I wanted something simple that would still stand out on the red backdrop, and these fit the bill beautifully.

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Pardon me, I’ll be busy living in my cardigan for the next few weeks.

Sweaterday: Can I get a witness?

I know I am not the only woman who has knit herself a Larch cardigan, so I know I am not the only one who feels the pain of a million stitches in twisted rib being pulled down by a ton of fabric. Can I get an amen?

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All of those stitches wouldn’t be a problem if I hadn’t a) been knitting like a fiend all last month and b) been moving bits of furniture around last night (I’m having an issue of sorts with my apartment, and was trying for a quick fix that’s not actually going to work). But finishing up the collar and then picking up the stitches for the front edges of my Larch this morning nearly did in my wrist.

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That said, all of the deliciously squishy fabric around the collar is totally worth the pain. I have five rows to knit, two sleeves to sew in, and a few ends to weave, and then I will have a brand new cardigan. Those five rows have a ton of stitches in them and will likely take me close to an hour for each row, but I don’t care.

Meanwhile, another cardigan body is off the needles and blocking.

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My plan is to concentrate on finishing Larch this weekend, and then start tackling the Delancey sleeves during the week. This week is an off week in the course of the whole knitalong, but since I am trying to finish early, I will be sneaking ahead a bit.

Also, I really need a bigger, cat-can’t-get-to blocking space.

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Amen.

A month of Savory Knitting

February was the first month of the Savory Knitalong, and I’m so stupidly pleased with the progress all of the participants have made. Given that there’s a little bit of creative chaos involved in a knitalong that features many different patterns, things have gone relatively smoothly, and it seems like everyone who’s knitting along is having a good time working on their sweaters. I’ve borrowed photos from folks to show off how wonderful everyone’s knitting is going.

Joyatee is the Super Achiever for the knitalong, being the first to finish her White Pine cardigan. It looks great on her, and she knit this in record time, thanks to studying—multitasking for the win!

Blendab1 is working on her Starfish Cardigan, and I think the little stars are so cute! I’d never really noticed them before, as I think the sample project on the pattern page is knit in a darker colored yarn, but they really stand out in this lovely green color.

Another pattern in my queue, Pinoli, is getting some attention from ingabean in this amazing blue color.

Speaking of beautiful blues, Daisydeadpetal is frantically trying to finish her Bailey cardigan before the proposed release date of a new Roman Hills colorway. This woman, love her though I do, is clearly crazy, but does have some pretty yarn.

Lisakbye’s Merryall cardigan is also knit in Roman Hills yarn, but this is a delicious red color and her cardigan is looking so wonderful. Just some sleeve knitting to go and I think she’ll be done!

We’ve got a few gals who are knitting Amy’s newest pattern, Pomme de Pin, including Sarah of Knit York City.

Owlmazing makes is also knitting Larch, in a gorgeous blue/periwinkle-ish color.

That’s just a small sampling of the awesome work taking place in the knitalong thread. You still have time to join in! The deadline for the KAL prize drawing is March 31, so if you’re one of those super knitters who can knit a sweater in a month, feel free to knit with us!

Sweaterday: Nearing the Finish Line

There’s an excellent chance that I will have a completely finished Larch cardigan by the end of February.

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I won’t have finished photos of it until next weekend, most likely, but I’m inches away from finishing the bulk of the second sleeve. The sleeve cap takes no time at all. While they’re blocking, I’ll start working on the edging, and in theory, all of this could be done by Tuesday evening, leaving Wednesday evening for sewing in the sleeves and weaving in the few ends (God bless spit-spliceable yarns), and that, my friends, would be an entire cardigan finished in one month.

I know there’s people who knit a sweater a month in much the same manner that I blink, or inhale oxygen, but I didn’t think it would be something I could do. I set up the Sweater Odyssey group on Ravelry to encourage people (like me) to give ourselves a goal and a couple of months to knit a sweater. Not only has this proven to me that I can, in fact, knit a sweater in a month, but it doesn’t even have to take the entire month (since I was working on that other cardigan at the same time). And I’ve been a relative slacker this past week, only knitting for a couple of hours spread throughout the day most days (lunch time, maybe an hour in the evening; Thursday is knitting night so there was much more knitting then).

And I wasn’t knitting exclusively on my Larch either. I finished the right front of my Delancey cardigan, and started on the back.

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The goal for Delancey this week was to finish the right front and make it about midway through the back. I’m pretty sure I can finish the second sleeve of Larch today and then probably finish the back of Delancey tomorrow, but even if I don’t, I’m right on track (and planning to knit through the rest week Allyson’s planned following week 4, so I can get this finished by my self-imposed deadline).

My wrist is feeling better this week, probably because I was “slacking” in the knitting department. I know I’ll need to pause and rest throughout the weekend, but since I’m contemplating taking down my Christmas tree (don’t judge me) and have some other household chores that I’ve been ignoring, I think that will give me plenty of time to rest while still making great progress.

Whew.

Stretchy cast-on techniques

I cast on for my second Larch sleeve, and as I was working the basic long-tail cast on, I thought about this video that Lisa showed me yesterday. Developed by “Tillybuddy” (that’s her YouTube handle, anyway), it seems to be a variation on the cable cast-on that also works like a tubular cast-on.

Here’s a video of a tubular cast-on from Ysolda Teague.

My personal favorite stretchy cast-on is the Twisted German cast-on (also called Old Norwegian in some circles). It’s stretchy but it’s not “limited” to ribbing, so it works well if you want a slightly stretchier edge to the bottom of a sweater (or a sleeve, perhaps).

I will definitely be giving Tillybuddy’s cast-on a try—it looks incredibly helpful for ribbed sock cuffs. What’s your favorite cast-on, stretchy or otherwise?

update: by request in the comments, I’m posting this video from New Stitch a Day for the knitted cast-on.

Sweaterday: Pass the catch-up!

Yeah, that was pretty awful. No, I’m not going to apologize.

So we are officially into crazy land, where I am actively knitting two cardigans at the same time. I’ll talk about Larch first, because there’s not too much to talk about. I cast on for the first sleeve last Monday and have been working away on that. Right now I’ve got about five more increase rounds to go, and my sleeve (when it’s not rolling up) measures about 10½”, so I’m over halfway to starting the sleeve cap.

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I have this dream that I’m going to finish the sleeve by the end of the long weekend. Under normal circumstances that would be totally doable, except for this little thing called Delancey.

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My yarn (Berroco Vintage DK; I’m on a Berroco kick with these two cardigans) arrived on Monday, and I walked over to my friend’s house to pick up my yarn (we’d gone in on the order together to save on shipping and to better qualify for the fantastic WEBS discounts). I swatched that night, and was surprised that I had to go up to the size 8s—again, my gauge falls to the looser side, so I usually go down a needle size at first. But this yarn is slightly lighter than the yarn called for in the pattern (Vintage DK gets 144 yards to 50 grams as opposed to Knit Picks Capra’s 123 yards to 50 grams), so I’m guessing that’s why I needed bigger needles than I expected. After washing, my stitch gauge is spot on, while my row gauge is a little bit off (my guage is 24½ rows versus the 26½ rows the pattern calls for).

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This is a pattern that counts by rows, so one would think you’d want your row gauge spot on, but I am knitting this cardigan in size about 3″ too small for my bust and the fabric is knit on the bias, so the fact that my rows are coming out a big longer than gauge will actually work in my favor.

Being that I was a little over a week behind when I got my yarn, I thought it would take me a little while to catch up to Allyson’s Knitalong. I underestimated my insanity. I cast on for the cardigan Tuesday night, and by Thursday I was joining the two panels together and closing in on the first week’s goal (row 58, for those following along at home). This week’s goal was to get to row 108, and I’m at row 76 as of this blog post, so I’m thinking I will be caught up in no time. And that makes me happy, as I’ll feel more like I can balance knitting Larch sleeves and Delancey parts and don’t have to frantically stay on top of one more than the other.

I’d really love to finish my Larch sleeves by the end of next weekend, so they can block and dry while I start to work on the edging and then concentrate fully on Delancey, but I’ve also been having little twinges in my left wrist (which makes no sense to me, because I’m a thrower, not a picker, so I use mostly use my right hand). I have found that if I rest it enough—say, knit for 2 episodes of Community on DVD, sit and rest for 1—the twinges are much less prominent or non-existent.

Also, the next person who looks at me with pity and “informs” me that English knitters are slow is going to get laughed at. (It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.)