Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Soft and Softer Coral Cardi

Most knitters probably have some yarns, that are difficult to decide to make into something - not because they are tricky yarns, but because they are sooooo good.... So no project seams to do them justice. Yet I say, take a deep breath and cast on! You will work with more care, because you love that yarn and the final project will be completely amazing. Plus, you will justify another purchase of some gorgeous fiber goodness!!

So, here is my latest project.(It still needs buttons, but I'm working on it!) I have had this yarn in my stash for almost a year, I think, and I probably got the last 2 skeins when I bought it... so only 200 grams. Really, I wish I'd had about half a kilo to make a cardi or a sweater for myself. Instead, I finally decided to use this for my daughter, Adriana. After all, she is the one and only and certainly deserves it! Here are some finished photos (and I still have enough left for another small project):
top-down cardigan after washing photo

Adriana in her new cardi
I have knit this in one peace, top-down. Here are my notes for it in case anyone would like to attempt knitting one like this - or if I will make another one (I am considering a summer dress, based on this):

I swatched and calculated all stitch counts particularly to my daughters measurements. She is about 2,5 y.o. and measures 51cm around the chest, 15cm around the arm - a comfortable fit, and 12 cm is how deep my armhole is. My gauge after washing is 22 stitches/10cm. This project took me about 3 evenings of knitting and about 135 grams of this lovely wool.

Yarn: 5% cashmere 95% merino wool, 300 meters/100 grams

I cast on 94 stitches and did a garter brim, making a reinforced buttonhole on 4-th row 3 stitches away from side. Reinforced buttonhole is something I learned in this project, and it is a really nice, strong buttonhole, which doesn't look like it will stretch, change shape or size or anything else. I highly recommend trying it, if you don't know this technique yet! (I followed this video, a little blury, but perfectly understandable and well explained) My buttonholes are 3 stitches wide and will fit a button of about 12-15 mm of size, I think.
Reinforced buttonholes are so much better!

After 9 rows (5 garter ridges on right side), leave 8 stitches at each side to continue in garter (place markers ;) )and knit the next row in front and back loop of every stitch, doubling the stitch count -KFB.
There should be 172 stitches on needles after this row.
Purl back.
Next row, garter 8 st., and then *knit 2, KFB* repeat between ** to the other 8 stitch garter section.
There should be 224 stitches on needles after this row.
Continue in stockinette without further increases.
Make a reinforced buttonhole after every 10 garter ridges.
After 12cm divide for sleeves like this:
where 38 stitches are both fronts, 40 stitches goes on waste yarn for sleeves, and 68 stitches are for back.
Continue knitting the body part until you are satisfied with length. I went for a total of 6 buttonholes and a 6 garter ridge finishing, starting the garter finish at the end of body along with the 8-th garter ridge after 5-th buttonhole. (does this sentence make sense? :) leave a comment if you want me to clarify) Make the buttonhole as you would normally - after 10 garter ridges from the last one. I actually cast off on the wrong side, so my finishing looks like this:
bottom finishing, casting off at wrong side, so it ends with a garter ridge.
Once the body is finished, pick up the stitches for sleeves. I picked up 3 extra stitches: 2 from the sides of the body stitches and one from the space between last front and first back stitch of the body.
Now, here is my trick for knitting both arms the same length: I don't take out the waste yarn that was holding my stitches earlier. It is very easy to count how many rows I have knit and so I have cast off at the exactly the same row for both sleeves:

easy way to knit sleeves same length

just pull the waste yarn out once you are done with both

I ended up knitting 45 rows in stockinette after picking up stitches and then 3 garter ridges for finishing. Now that it is washed, I wish I had done another 5-or-so rows, since by fall these sleeves might be a little on the short side...

That is it!

*buttonholes. For girls, on the right side. For boys, on the left side. My buttonholes are 3 stitches away from the side and 3 stitches wide. In other words, I knit the body, come to the last 8 stitches (the garter edge), knit 2, make a 3 stitch buttonhole, and knit 3.

* I slipped every first stitch of the row for a neat edge.

*I know of 2 sellers, who sell this yarn. One is colourmart - they generally have a lot of very, very, very nice yarns! and an amazing customer service. The other one is Kingscraig Fabrics - they have an e-bay shop with some yarn listings as well as their own ready made products, which look absolutely amazing... Not a very wide choice there, but they are nice fibers and for very reasonable prices. 
These are all oiled yarns, that require washing in hot (as hot as your hands can stand!) water with dishsoap to remove spinning/knitting oils. Just leave your finished item to soak until the water is warm, then wash the soap out. I usually do a mild vinegar soak after that (to neutralize soap) and then rinse that out, too. The fibers bloom out beautifully after this and become so much softer and nicer! In fact, don't judge any yarn you have purchased from these sellers before you do these steps. Trust me :)

So, my task now is to find some lovely buttons... :) I am leaning towards some simple wood ones - I saw some nice ones from coconut on e-bay, but they would take a month to arrive... so I'll be heading off to some local haberdashery shops, I guess... 

Let me know, in case you make something based on these notes! I'd be so happy to see it!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Felting a ruffle scarf

I took some photos while felting the last few ruffle shawls. A few people have asked me, how to get the ruffles, so here is how I do this.
First, I lay out the center lengthwise, then the ruffle part around it with fibers going outwards. Thin, but many layers of fibers are best for a uniform result. No matter how you design the rest, the center part should be strong, so I usually press the fibers down with my hands carefully to feel for any weak spots (just looking at it might not be enough to judge, especially the black - the fibers are fluffy and can trick the eye).
Depending on how much fiber I have laid out for the ruffle part, the ruffle can be thick and firm or sheer and lacey, cobweb looking. I like both results, actually. This time I wanted a fairly firm, but not too thick ruffle. At this stage you should also decide how long do you want the ruffle to be. In this photo my ruffle only has one staple length, and it would have been rather short. I added a second layer later, but it was tricky to do since I did not want to mess up the rest of my design. So, if you want big ruffles, lay a second layer of wool going around the scarf again, overlapping fibers well.

The fun part :) I did not really like the green mix by itself too much, so I wanted to add other colors to bring a bit more contrast to it.I went with black and 2 shades of lilac

 The darker lilac is barely there, just shadowing a little.

 Then I added peaces of mawata silk hankies in some parts - I just cut them with scissors and stretched to fit the area that I wanted to cover.
I decided I wanted the ruffle to be wider, so added a second round of fiber around it - it was really tricky not to mess up the rest! Better to do that before laying out the design.

 Sprinkle with warm soapy water and roll. Unroll after each 100-125 rolls to check and change the direction. Once the scarf passes the 'pinch test', I usually unroll and felt the center of it by hand a little further. Work on the ruffles, shaping them gently the way that I want them to look. (Sorry, no photos from this part, but I got carried away and had soapy hands, too... :))
I fulled this scarf slightly, shocking the fibers with cold and hot water plus a few gentle throws - this wool felted very easy and I did not want to over-do it.

Rinse well. I usually put my scarves to rest in a light vinegar bath ( a couple spoons of white vinegar to a bowl of neutral t` water), then rinse well again and hang to dry. Once dry, the scarf should be ironed on wool settings, and sometimes I even use a little steam. Ironing makes a big difference.
Here is a photo of the finished scarf:
 I actually like to toss one end of it over the shoulder, but I can't seam to find a photo showing it... The colors are a bit more green and less blue in real life - this was a cloudy day and no matter what I tried, they don't look right on my screen.

And here is another one. I love how this came out - a really dramatic effect! I had used a very fine 18.5 micron merino wool as a base and it is really really soft! 
center fibers going lengthwise

two staple-lengths of ruffle
 I used a very interesting fiber mix to decorate this scarf - the white fibers are linen, combined with black and bright red, the effect is rather amazing!
ruffle felt scarf layout before felting
And here it is after felting:
Felt ruffle scarf black with red and white accents

The black one is one of my favorites. I had some doubts when I was shopping for linen, but it was definitely worth trying out the unusual!