It’s spring here in D.C., and it’s time to think about summer knits. I have a long queue for winter, but I am needing some immediate gratification. Katherine has been asking for a tank for a couple months now, which is exactly the kind of quick but complex project I need. So, off to Ravelry I went to find a sleeveless top to knit in cotton or linen. As usual, there are so many choices, but we were able to narrow it down to 6.
Top left is Auger, by Pam Allen of Quince & Co. I love her use of garter stitch and the detailed split hem in this casual tank. Top right is the elegant Ginger by Kim Hargreaves from Rowan: The Summer Tweed Collection. Middle left is Quince & Co., Amalia, designed by Pam Allen. This is such a graceful top that could really go from casual to dressy. Middle right is the classically designed Square by Shellie Anderson from Shibui Knits SS15. This tank has such an interesting contemporary feel to it with the paneling on the side. Looks like we have a theme here, with the bottom left, also a Quince & Co. pattern, Annex, designed by Norah Gaughan. Norah is such a creative genius on unique construction, and this top is a great example of her artistry. All of these were such strong contenders, and are staying on our queue for summer tanks for future projects.
The tank she ended up choosing though was from Classic Knits by Erika Knight (featured above), a book that I have had for years. The subtitle is 15 Timeless Designs to Knit and Keep Forever which certainly is true since we are using one of the patterns thirteen years after publication. The pattern is called the Cotton Camisole and it has such a delicate quality with her use of decreasing with an eyelet stitch. We chose Rowan’s Summerlite 4 ply cotton yarn which is soft to the touch. I can see knitting quite a few things from this book of beautiful designs. Oh, if I only I could knit all the things!
As with most knitters, if I am sitting idly somewhere, I need to have a project in my hands. While I was a great packer due to traveling so much in my banker days, I wasn’t so good about being prepared for a knitting project(s) to take on a holiday. That learning curve was a lot longer. So this is what I have learned:
Plan ahead! I mean at least a week ahead. I used to leave my knitting project to the night before the holiday. Not good. Especially if it’s a new project and a swatch has to be made. All swatches should be wet blocked and dry at least two days ahead of departure. Keep good notes on pre-block and post-block measurements.
Consider a project(s) that is easy to carry around. A flat knitted sweater with all of its sections probably isn’t holiday worthy. I just recently got into sock knitting, and socks are great for airplanes and urban transportation. A scarf, shawl, hat, cowl, and mittens are all good project ideas for being on the go.
Circular needles or double pointed needles only. Those airline seats aren’t getting any roomier, and the person next to you might get cranky if they keep getting jabbed by the end of a straight needle. If this is a road trip, personally, I still go with circular and/or double pointed needles.
Now for the tough question. How many projects should you bring? I remember bringing all the yarn and supplies for three projects on a trip to Disney World with my kids. Yeah, I know! Consider your holiday. Is it a laid back relaxed vacation with a lot of downtime on a beach or cabin in the woods? Depending on the size of the project, and how fast you knit, two (maybe three) projects will be plenty. I always like to bring at least two that I can switch between just in case. It also allows for unexpectedly losing your mojo on one of the projects. You still have something to knit! If it’s an active holiday, then a very portable project (or two if small) is a good choice. Consider your flight time or road trip time, too. You may not be knitting much while being a tourist, but if you have significant seat time, then factor that in on how many projects to bring.
Determine how you want to access the pattern for your project. I am still one of those people who prints out my patterns. I have tried to use an iPad based program, but it just doesn’t work for me. While I have a knitting notebook, I like to write notes on the pattern as I go, thus the preference for a printed pattern. Regardless, have the patterns printed or downloaded to your preferred device ready to go. Read through the pattern and make sure you have all of the supplies listed for the pattern.
Create a project bag for each project. In each project bag, I put the needles and yarn needed for that particular project, and a stitch counter. For the supplies that are needed for most projects, I will put those in just one of the project bags. After all, you are traveling, and you want to keep things as minimal as possible. Measuring tape/ruler, stitch markers, stitch holder, scissors (keep them small, especially, if you are traveling on a plane), pen or pencil for note taking, darning needle, and any other supplies required by your pattern (such as a cable needle). I have never had any issues with my knitting needles going through security, including international flights.
Have fun on your holiday! If you forgot something, isn’t that a great excuse to find a local yarn store on your travels?
I am a third generation maker, with my grandmother being a seamstress by trade and my mother was both a sewer and a knitter. I have been knitting sweaters for many years now, and I have had a preference for knitting sweaters flat. Harking back to those influential seamstresses in my life, I believed that knitting flat and seaming up the individual pieces was just how it was done. Then I met the Doocot Sweater by Katie Davies. I might not ever go back to flat work again! Joking, not joking!
As a slow knitter, this type of sweater construction is a game changer. While it is cropped, which does speed things up a bit, this has been the fastest sweater I have ever knit. If you haven’t tried this type of sweater construction, I highly encourage you to do so. This particular sweater starts out knitting flat, back and forth, then after splitting off for the sleeves, you join for working in the round. Of course, doing a gauge swatch is the number one rule of getting a finished sweater that resembles the pattern you desire. Some of us; however, have purl stitches that create a difference in flat knitting versus knitting stockinette in the round.
Tip: I always buy an extra skein of yarn just to be on the safe side.
To get gauge, I ended up doing 8 swatches. After all of that swatching, I ended up with was a size 3 needle for the flat knitting back section, and a size 5 needle for knitting in the round (I have very fat purl stitches). I was able to get the number of stitches per 4 inches gauge for both, but the row count was off on both so I just needed to do a bit of math to make adjustments.
If you don’t know how to swatch in the round and are more of a visual learner, you can check it out on this video WEBS video.
Here’s how I go about swatching in the round:
Using a circular needle, you cast on, and instead of turning your work, you move it back to the right needle, and knit across, again not turning your work, but moving what you just knit back to the right needle, continuing this way until you have enough rows for checking your row count. There will be yarn floats at the back of the work that you will cut after soaking your swatch, but before wet blocking. In the photo above, the swatch with the fringe is my swatch for knitting in the round.
Another thing I do is try the sweater on as I go. In the case of knitting flat, I hold it up to myself or the recipient to make sure I am on track. In this case, I was making the sweater for Katherine and I am so glad I had her try it on! I made a rookie mistake by looking at the length dimensions that were in centimeters and acting as if they were in inches! So, I got the opportunity to rip about 5 inches of stockinette.
Trying on as you go is extremely important. I always have written down my pre-blocked and post blocked gauges so I am aware of the differences, and I still try on the sweater mentally noting that it might be fitting a bit more snug then after blocking.
My fiber preference is wool, or wool blends with natural fibers. While I have many environmental reasons why I choose wool, what I really love about working with wool is that it is very forgiving. I may not be the best knitter, but after a bath in warm sudsy water and wet blocking, those wool fibers just line up with each other and create such a beautiful fabric. I was fortunate to learn about knitting from people who find the importance in blocking, so I have always wet blocked everything I knit. In my opinion it is a step you never want to skip.
In making this sweater, I followed some of the basic rules that I was taught many years ago:
Always swatch and get gauge, or at least the fabric you want and then do the math (In this case, swatch for both flat and in the round).
Keep notes on your unblocked and wet blocked gauges.
Try it on as you go allowing for unblocked and wet blocked differences.
Once completed and your ends are woven in, give your sweater a nice warm bath with soap appropriate for wool, and wet block.
These simple steps helped get my Doocot sweater to look this beautiful! What are some of your basic rules you follow when you knit?