New Pattern Release: Muireann

She’s finally here! The top-down girls’ cardigan you’ve been waiting for. Or, at least, the pattern I’ve been taking ages to release to you.

I wrote this pattern in 2011 and it’s been in the back of my mind since then to get it into shape for general release. I had it test-knit over the summer and that was helpful in highlighting a number of issues. But it was really only when I recently started making time for design work every morning that I was able to give the pattern the focus it needed to re-write it.

Introducing Muireann

Introducing Muireann

Introducing Muireann

Muireann is a top-down girls’ cardigan with ribbed bodice and feather-and-fan lace swing that started with the buttons! My daughter fell in love with beautiful ceramic buttons in the shape of dolphins. Blue-variegated yarn was quickly purchased and a sea-themed jacket was promised.

The girls’ name Muireann (pronounced Mwih-RhaN) is derived from the Irish words for “muir” which means ‘sea’; and “fionn” meaning ‘white’ or ‘fair’. True to its name, the combination of the color-changes and the shaping of this jacket re-create a “fair sea” for the dolphins.

The colour-changes of the yarn on the bodice are like the play of sunlight on a deep, blue sea. When the structured ribbing reaches the empire line the change of gauge to ridged feather stitch allows the fabric to flare. The ridged feather stitch pattern is textured enough to allow the variegations of the yarn to shine. As a bonus, the waves formed by the stitch pattern are like the waves breaking on our local beach.

2011.03.30 - Muireann - lace

“The ridged feather stitch pattern is … like the waves breaking on our local beach. “

Muireann is graded for all sizes from 2 years old to 16 and is worked from the top-down using Barbara Walker’s method for simultaneously set-in sleeves as follows:

  1. After a provisional cast-on, the back is worked until it is one-sixth of the armhole circumference.
  2. Then each front is worked from the cast-on stitches to the same length as the back.
  3. Stitches are picked up for the sleeves and the fronts, back and sleeve-caps are worked simultaneously, with paired increases forming the sleeves.
  4. Just before the sleeves are divided away from the body, stitches are added to the body and the sleeves for the underarm shaping.
It started with the buttons!

It started with the buttons!

Thank you to all of my awesome test-knitters especially Maritere and Myjoha who posted great pictures on their Ravelry Project pages.

You can download Muireann from my Ravelry store. ETA: [For those of you who just want to put it in your queue or library, for now, (hint! hint!) here’s the link to the pattern page on Ravelry.] I’ve laid out the pages with the photographs grouped so that the pattern falls over the central four pages – to minimise printing. By way of introducing myself to you all as a designer, Muireann will be free until Jan 2015. I hope you enjoy spending time with Muireann!

It is accomplished

Where Oh Where have I been?

“It is accomplished” – a Death

On the 24th June last I got some devastating news. A dear friend of mine died suddenly while he was on his holidays in Lanzerote. I’ve been wondering about how to blog about this for ages. I wanted to be able to give you all a feeling of what this man was like and how much he meant to me. But words fail me. I don’t have the eloquence to convey his brilliance. 

He was a shining light snuffed out too soon and I’m still foundering in the dark. 

Once I realised that I’m never going to be able to give an adequate impression of him or what his loss has meant for me I realised I just have to blog-on regardless. 

Why Oh Why am I back?

“It is accomplished” – an FO!

It would have to be a biggie that would get me back to my blog again after such a hiatus, wouldn’t it? Yoouuu betcha! 

One happy customer!

“It is accomplished” – an Achievement!

The completion of this cardigan signifies the huge journey that I have made in my knitting knowledge and ability. A journey that started over three years ago. 

When I knit this cardigan the first time I spent two months knitting; slavishly following the Glenvar pattern as written. The pattern itself posed no challenge: knitting on-the-flat using cables, increases and decreases was very familiar to me. So I spiced things up by learning a few new techniques: 

  • As I came close towards the end of all the knitting I learned about spit-splicing from Lisa in TIK – very effective in the 100% wool Kilcarra I was using.
  • When I had all the pieces ready for sewing, I discovered, through the power of d’Interneh (Knitty’s coffeeshop mainly) a concept I had never come across before: blocking. I did this fastidiously, measuring out all the pieces according to the schematic and waited days for them to dry.
  • When it came to sewing-up all the pieces, I researched widely, bought “Knitting for Dummies” and became adept at invisible seams. I was very impressed with all my attention to detail: you couldn’t tell where the seams were and the sleeve caps melded beautifully in to the armholes.
  • Then when it came to the zip I bought “Domiknitrix – whip your knitting into shape” by Jennifer Stafford and followed her instructions to the letter. Steam it? Check. Pin it? Check. Fit it on again as a double-check? Ah… disaster.

The Behemoth of Epic Proportions

I learned the harsh reality that many a knitter learns only the hard-way: pieces knit to the correct dimensions does not guarantee a well-fitting garment. Later I learned why it is that so many patterns are written in pieces rather than maximizing the benefit of construction through knitting: editors of ladies magazines, where patterns were published, had more understanding of sewing-based construction for garments. Hence all the pieces were knit into the fabric shapes rather than the knit stitches being manipulated to mould the fabric.

Enter: Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara G Walker into my life and my knitting. Enter: radical new ideas such as knitting-from-the-top, calculating gauge, charting my own design, customizing my knit to fit. Oh! and with a few short-rows thrown-in – always with the short-rows! 

The subtle benefit of Short-rows

This project has tested me at every turn. I have documented before how much more it and my knitting conspired to teach me – whether I wanted to learn or not. Even at the very end, when all the knitting was done and all that was left was the zip, I was very nearly thwarted: the original zips went AWOL and a special trip into Dublin City Centre was made to buy a long-enough zip.

And I’m still learning. Even now, as DH is giving the cardigan its first outing in public tomorrow, I’m still thinking I might re-do the cast-off on the cuffs because I’ve just learned Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast-off  (JSSBO) from my latest Cat Bordhi book. However, Bootie (the Ever-wise) pointed out the more likely explanation is that – after three years – I’m not yet ready “to break-up with the cardigan”. 

But, let’s face it: The Behemoth has been vanquished. Debbie Bliss’s Glenvar pattern has been conquered. And what’s more: 

I did it MYYYYYYY Waaaaaaay!

WIPs Wednesday: GlenvarAgin BeginAgin


Body Done!

Originally uploaded by UnderMeOxter

You haven’t seen it in a while, so I wanted to reassure you that I had made some progress in the past while. I finished the body in mid-May but only this evening got DH to try it on so that I could confirm this. All I’ve left to do now is the sleeves, sew in a zip and finish the collar.

I’ve oooodles of incentive to help me over the line:
For starters, I wouldn’t let myself cast-on for any of my planned projects until I finished this. This has meant I didn’t do

  • a cardigan in variagated blue Lamb’s Pride for DD in February;
  • a brown cotton jumper for DS in March or
  • my lacy shrug in Manos Silk Blend for me in May.

So much for plans, eh?

In addition, This Is Knit are planning to knit Annis, the Knitty Surprise in the latest issue, as their Summer KAL. Cast-on is scheduled for 13th June. There’s nothing like a bit of a deadline to get me to focus on finishing a project – just ask my latest socks!

Sado-Maso-kNit-stick

Would ya take a look at this…?

Yup, I’m at it again! Only this time, I’ve got the colour purple juuuuust right. In fact, it was finding the correct colour purple, at the Knitting & Stitching show at the RDS, that started my down this road – yet again. They say, third time’s a charm. They also say that the definition of madness is to do the same thing repeatedly – in the same way – while expecting a different outcome.

Quick re-cap, shall we?

First there was the original pattern – Glenvar by Debbie Bliss which looks like this.

Glenvar by Debbie Bliss

Then we had what it became in my hands:

The Behemoth of Epic Proportions

Then we had the drive to Rip One / Knit One – and GlenvAaaargh!!! came into being.

Rip One

Knit One

Unfortunately this – by a quirk of gauge (a.k.a. a learning experience) – turned out to be of Petite proportions. You can see from the picture, as it lies alongside the left front of The Behemoth. I thought I had learned everything there was to learn with GlenvAaargh!!!.

But no!

Did you know that the gauge of knitted items, which have been sitting around and relaxing for a while, is markedly different from what you’ll produce with the same yarn and same needles after it’s been frogged? I do – now!

I was willing to overlook the fact that GlenvAaaargh!!! only fit DH – at a stretch. I even worked in an extra two inches along the button band. I did this very cleverly too: vertically, row-by-row, in pattern. Elizabeth would have been proud. She might even have apreciated my wish to overlook the small question of completely forgetting to create a neckline! At all costs, even to dignity itself, I was not willing to admit defeat.

That is, until I encountered the right colour purple. Very quickly – in the time it takes to whip out your wallet and buy 30 more balls of yarn – I decided to give it another go. I also decided that GlenvAaaargh!!! will be mine; afterall, it fits me! I decided that a different neckline – something more crew-neck – will be fine.  Most of all, I decided GlenvAaargh!!! will not be frogged – that much is certain.

And in the meantime, my new top-down version of Glenvar, using just the right colour purple, is progressing very nicely. As before, I’m using instrutions from the class I took at TIK on Knitting a Set-In Sleeve garment from the top-down. However, the hard lessons I learned while knitting GlenvAaargh have paid off:

  • I didn’t lose track of my short rows;
  • I didn’t forget the neckline;
  • I didn’t rush to complete the underarm increases
  • I worked out the pattern repeats so no fancy cabling is needed underarm.

I can’t believe how fast this is knitting up… er… down. The best thing about this method is that all the fun and interesting stuff happens at the beginning: first the short-row shapings for the sholders (try saying that quickly!); then increasing for the neck soon afterwards; and then – since I’m trying the version with the Simultaneous Set-in Sleeves – the increases for the sleeves start soon after that. None of these “events” take too long and there’s nice intervals of following the pattern straight for a while. I’m nearly at the point where I separate the sleeves from the body. At that point, all the hard work of figuring things out is over and it should be a straight-forward, enjoyable knit – all the way to the end.

Here I go again

So, am I’m a sucker for punishment or am I tenacious? If it fits DH, then all of the trials and tribulations – and all of my perseverence – has been worth it.

If it doesn’t… let’s just not go there!

Demented

Come all ye and gather to hear my sad tale:
Of the pattern that thwarts me and taunts me to fail;
Of the cables that twist and the ribs that won’t rip;
Of the short rows that sever’d my mental grip.

You may recall me banging on about mentioning my disasterous first attempt at knitting a cardigan for DH’s 40th Birthday (coughcough in August ’07cough). Oh yes, who could forget that epic: the two-months of knitting; the episodes of running short of wool; the frequent trips to buy yet more; the kilometers of yarn; the production of something big enough for a Sumo Wrestler? I dubbed it “The Behemoth” with all the affection that name inspires! 

Rawrh!

Rawrh!

This would be Bliss!

This would be Bliss!

The Back of Behemoth
The Back of Behemoth

Why is it, when I make mistakes, they can’t be small, intimate affairs? They have to be bombastic productions with stratospheric repercussions. They say you learn from your mistakes. Perhaps my subconscious feels the need to SHOUT LOUD to get my attention. Learning from your mistake would involve doing the same thing, the same way – only better, because of all you’ve learned. Right? Of course not. This knitter has to do the same thing a completely different way and learn a whole new set of mistakes.

 I was inspired by my knitting hero, Elizabeth Zimmermann, to give it another go. Barbara Walker helped point the way: down-wards! and Aileen gave me the knowledge. With that knowledge came courage. I charted, I calculated and I measured my swatch (i.e. The Behemoth – at least it was good for something). I cast-on – provisionally – and started my top-down version of Debbie Bliss’ Glenvar pattern. Mistake #1 of my whole new batch. I call my second attempt “GlenvAargh!!!”, with almost as much affection.

Learn from my mistakes (a.k.a. share the pain)

Follow that line!

Follow that line!

Mistake #1: You can’t knit up and down from a provisional cast-on in ribbing. At least, not without something “hookey” happening to the rib. I was aware of this but decided to lash on, regardless. The result is intriguing but I’m guessing no one’s going to notice.

Mistake #2: Short-row shaping (for the sholders) and cables is not a great combination; it may wreck your head! I got through it and was happy with the result, mainly because I survived it.

Mistake #3: This one is hard to explain – basically my calculations gave me 210sts around; the stitch pattern is based on 10sts; I planned to centre one repeat on the back and work the remaining 200 around. This meant the pattern repeat was not centred on the side seams. I decided this was fine and charted my way all around. According to my charts the front cables & ribs didn’t line up with the back. I didn’t realise that my charting was completely useless until I reached the underarms. Of course, the way the sholders were set up, the front and back cables and ribs have to line up. If I wanted to keep to the pattern I needed a stitch count of 200 or 220.

Mistake #4: My first response on realising Mistake #3 was to opt for a stitch count of 200 and I rushed at joining under the arm-holes. Only then did I realise the impact this would have on the length of the armholes. Similarly, a stitch count of 220 would make them too long. GlenvAargh!!! went on time-out for a long time while I stewed over the repercussions. I couldn’t bear the thought of ripping again.

The other day, a light went on. It was possibly inspired by fellow Knit-Knight (we meet in Swords, you see) Clare (a.k.a. Clarabel on Rav). She’s been knitting Mirage Pullover from More Big Girl Knits. I was very taken with how the lace pattern travels up the side seams and the underarm of the sleeves. I realised I could make a new chart for the side seams, based on 15 sts. Sigh of Relief: Aaaah!

So, I got out my graph paper, pencil, rubber and stuck my tongue into the corner of my mouth as I charted my new territory; focused me. Then I ripped back the two rows to unjoin the fronts and back; fearless me. Then I realised that I’d messed up in my increases for the armholes, previously, so I ripped back another inch; determined me. I used a smaller needle to pick up the stitches as a life-line before I ripped; clever me. Something a little odd happened as I was ripping the back. I figured it out as best I could and knit on; brave me.

Mistake #5 (yup, I’m not done learnin’ any time soon…) Pay more attention when something strange happens, even when you’re ripping. I’ve ripped out a short-row on the back and botched it up beyond all recognition. My short-rows are so good, even I can’t find them. All I know is the cable pattern is out of kilter – the first two repeats don’t need a cable twist for another two rows but the rest of the row is on the cable-twist row. GlenvAargh!!! is on time-out, for a third time, until I figure this one out.

Oh! and while I’m at it: Mistake #101 – you can’t frog ribbing from the bottom up (as the wise lady says – ask me how I know…) The Behemoth bites me even as I slay it.