Posted in Machine Knitting

A Winter White Corvid

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I quite like my first Corvid Coat from Brooklyn Tweed. So much so that I decided to knit it up again in a cream. And, I can pick an undyed winter white for a coat because as someone said to me, “You must not have children.”

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A few things I did differently this time. The pattern calls for a cartridge rib collar. A close approximation on my machine is to knit fisherman’s rib.

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On my first version I knit the upper collar  5 inches wide because I don’t read knitting and that’s what I thought it said. But, mine wasn’t wide enough. Going back and reading the instructions again (with slightly better understanding of knitting) I see that it should actually be about nine inches in width. So, now it turns back.

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I also got the hang of short rowing my shoulders so those seams should look smoother and prettier (except where I forgot to ‘wrap’ my stitches resulting in some holes. But, what’s really nice about short rowing is how much less bulky the seams are!

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Because my yarn is a heavy Aran weight, (undyed wool from Colourmart) I was able to knit the back all in one section on my bulky machine. Last time I had to split it in two sections.

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I know this sweater is going to show all. the. dirt. So, I washed my gauge swatch in warm water — preparing this for a lifetime of abuse. I took this sweater up to New York last week for a wedding.

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Jordan was kind enough to wait until we got back home to tell me the back of the sweater hit every single stair on every subway we took.  Popped this in the washing machine as soon as he let me know and it was sparkling cream in no time.

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Due to the weight of the yarn (almost four pounds in this coat!) the coat also hangs/pulls longer than drafted. If I were to make it in this weight again I would shorten the overall length. But, more likely I will make it in a worsted wool as called for in the design. I am planning two more of these. One in a red and another in a nice steely grey.

Posted in Machine Knitting

Ravello Sweater

My goal in 2017 is to knit all year round. I was a bit knitted out after all the pink hats for the Women’s March on Washington and Jordan’s letterman sweater. When I returned to my machine in March I found myself making a lot of rookie mistakes. The best way to avoid skill slide I suspect is to knit all year.

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Organic Cotton Plus reached out to me in January about possibly partnering on a blog post. The fact is I don’t partner on posts, test patterns or sew for other people because I don’t like deadlines. So, I immediately wrote back to say thank you for asking but I have enough fabric and I hate sewing under deadline. Except my email bounced back to me. So, I went on their website to get a correct email address. While poking around I saw they had yarn. And, I thought, “Oh! Do you now?”

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Needless to say, my new email to them said I’d be delighted to partner if I could use one of the naturally dyed wools from their website,  if it was possible to get enough for a sweater and if I could wait until March before posting anything  (I was in the middle of Jordan’s letterman sweater, I desperately needed to sew jeans, I promised to sew a prayer shawl for a bar mitzvah and I was wrapping up an on-site consulting gig so I knew I just didn’t have a bunch of extra time). This timeline and the yarn worked for them, so GAME ON.

I selected the worsted weight wool in Natural, Deep Black and Indigo to knit the Ravello Sweater from Isabelle Kramer.  The yarn comes in hanks with a “Sustainable Stitches” label.

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Organic Cotton Plus uses waste material from plants to dye their yarns. The leftover waste from the dyeing process is biodegradable. Compost and irrigation water is used to grow dye, medicinal plants and food crops for the Indian families in India involved in the dye group. Now, as an all-electric car driving, home composting, and soon to be urban gardener (#GrowFoodNotGrass) this warmed my liberal snowflake heart.

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I wash and wet block all the pieces of my garments before I seam them up. Sometimes it’s because the yarn comes oiled (glides through the machine easier). But, mostly I find a nice block makes seaming a million times easier as the yarn has relaxed and it’s in the right shape. The yarn has beautiful stitch definition. And, when made up on my Brother 270 (a bulky gauge machine) it really looks like a hand knit!  Also, the natural dye process is ever so slightly uneven in the way that hand-dyed yarns are. So, it didn’t look commercially made which I also really like.

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So, I was hopeful that when I did my first wet block I’d be able to get rid of some of the dye transfer I’d noticed in the garment. The Deep Black  in particular gives off a light dust when wound in to cakes and run through the machine. I also noticed there was color transfer to my hands from working with yarn. I reached out to Organic Cotton Plus about the amount of dust and dye transfer. They let me know that I received a first run of the product and have enacted better quality control to eliminate this problem.

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The second issue I had with the yarn were my blacks are two different dye lots. Now, I only noticed this after the first wash. Organic Cotton Plus does say that their vegetable dyed yarn may not be as colorfast as traditional chemical dyes and can fade ‘over time’. So, I think I have two dye batches vs the quality of the color.  But, like the dye transfer/ crocking  I see, no one else seems to notice.

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After washing, I could see that the smudgy coloring I’d noticed was still there. And, overall the natural cream was a bit dingier and I could see that the blue also bled a bit. Now, this could all be chalked up to using such extremely different colors in one garment, something I will probably be hesitant to try again. But, I would definitely NOT recommend it with a black or a non-chemical dye that has a higher chance of running.

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Would you like to talk about the elephant in the room otherwise known as my neckline? So, I wanted to try an i-cord trim for the neckline. I found two helpful videos from

Susan Guagliumi

and Diana Sullivan

and got to work. Unfortunately, the i-cord bindoff didn’t work perfectly for me. And, you know what? That’s ok. It’s my first time trying it. It’s not perfect. Heck, it’s not even acceptable. But, I did it. And, I’ll do it better next time. This is a casual sweater that I won’t be wearing to business meetings and I’m okay with how it looks.

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Now, the conclusion to this long tale. I attempted to use some dye color remover. The dinginess of the yarn really bothered me. And, as Jeanne pointed out it made it look like there were mistake where there weren’t. So, I used some dye remover, with hot water in the hand wash cycle of my machine and the entire sweater shrank to a size unwearable by me. While I’m a little sad to not have it in my wardrobe, I have a friend who I think will love it. And, the excess *did* come out. But, lesson learned. Even if the directions say start with hot water, maybe start with cold and wash it by hand. And, I did love this sweater on me so I’ll be reattempting it soon.

Posted in Machine Knitting

Vintage Varsity Letterman Sweater

I love the Tweed Rides and Seersucker Socials that take place in Washington DC. Participants dress in vintage inspired clothing and ride bicycles around Washington. It’s the ultimate hipster American thing and despite not having gone for a few years, I kind of love everything about it. When I first met Jordan I asked if he’d ever go with me and he gave a flat ‘no’. But, when I showed him a now discontinued Abercrombie University of Michigan varsity style sweater, he said if he had that, he’d go.

Well, grab your craft beer and vanity monocle, Jordan. Because we’re going on a hipster bike ride.
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I decided to knit this sweater for Jordan’s birthday. The cardigan is drafted to his measurements using Garment Designer (which drafts for both sewing and knitting). I have found GD to have more ease than I prefer so I used the minimum ease option and tapered sleeves in the design.  I think the fit through the torso is okay. And, I’m very happy with the length of the bodice. Where I failed, is that I’ve never made a sloper for Jordan from the program like I did for myself. I just assumed since mine fit so well off the bat his would be the same.

I can’t say that’s true. I found the sleeves on this to be about two inches too wide and three inches too long.** ETA: It looks like I added length to the ‘long’ sleeve. When I can pin him down, I’ll remeasure his bicep.

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The back neck also gaped pretty badly. So much so I that I machine sewed in two darts. This is a guess as I’ve never done this before: But, I think the neckbands are usually done in ribbing which has a lot of stretch and would pull the neckline in to the body. The plain stockinette bands should probably have been shortrowed  around the back to add curvature. And / or I should have wet blocked some shaping in to them prior to applying them to the cardigan.  If I were to make a stockinette neckband the same way, I would short row around the neck to snug up the fit. But, if you have other ideas, I’m all ears!

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Speaking of the neckband, I didn’t knit in buttonholes. I didn’t know what buttons I was going to use and wasn’t sure about placement since I was just knitting a doublewide band to length. So, I decided to machine sew the buttonholes after I bought buttons locally.

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I think the shoulders hit about the the right place too. Maybe move them in 1/4 inch. The back waist is a little large, but nothing some short rows (darts) couldn’t fix in the future. I also made a machine knit hem. Which I’ve actually never done before! But, when I looked up vintage style sweaters online, I saw they used hems rather than ribbing for the bottom.

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Now, the yarn… oy. The yarn. I first bought the Cascade 220 Superwash. I read reviews for it online after purchasing and the reviews weren’t great. I thought I can make this work! I couldn’t. The yarn haloed (got fuzzy) and had a weird feel. I had to frog the first piece of sweater I knit and the yarn got super ratty and wouldn’t easily unravel. I decided life was too short and I could make hats from the leftover blue. So, I ditched that yarn  for a lambswool from Colourmart and kept the daffodil color from Cascade fro the Michigan Maize.

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I ordered the Michigan M  and the ’13 (the year he graduated law school) from Sunshine Chenille on Etsy.  The M is perfect, I love the quality of the patches. But, unfortunately, the colors kind of clash. The M is more of a gold and the yellow I used is a pale butter color. But, I’ve decided to live with it and the other flaws.

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This was also the first time I knit pockets. It felt like magic! And, like sewing welt pockets. I knit these in 1×1 rib. I don’t LOVE them. But, I like that I was able to make them.

Overall Jordan likes his sweater! And, he’s asked for more cardigans. Because, he’s really an old man inside a 29 year old frame 😀

I think this is the fifth garment I’ve machine knit? I tried several new-to-me techniques (pockets, hems, cardigan, sewing buttonholes on a sweater knit). I also learned a bit more about fit and how to best use my design software. So, it’s a win for me despite some issues.  And, hopefully I’ll continue to improve!

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We took photos at the City Dock in Annapolis today where we met his parents for brunch. This naval officer coat was his Hanukkah gift in 2015. It’s heavy wool, resists rain and American made (and is apparently missing a button). I love it on him.

Posted in Life, Machine Knitting

Craftivism and a Tendonitis Update

It’s not often (read: under duress  and rare circumstances) I make things for other people. I am more than happy to give away clothes I’ve sewn that don’t work for me. But, straight making things from scratch for others — pretty much only happens for Linus and Jordan (and in that order).

That should help you understand my absolute commitment to and love for my friends when I tell you I (with Jeannie’s help) knit 28 Pussy Hats for them to wear to the Women’s March on Washington last weekend.

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I never questioned whether or not I was going to attend the DC March. It was a natural reflection and intersection of my beliefs and politics. When I first read about the Pussy Hat project and saw it was easily adaptable to the knitting machine, I was hit with one thought, “I will knit these for my friends“.

So, I just posted a quick note on Facebook offering to knit hats at cost thinking I’d get a couple of replies. I was gobsmacked by the response. I heard from middle school friends I knew in Germany, high school friends living in Denmark,Spain and San Diego, college friends from LA and Spain, coworkers, most of my amazing and irreplaceable bookclub, Jordan’s bosses, Jordan’s former bosses and more.

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Now, God bless Jeannie. A few weeks after I offered to knit these hats my tendonitis started flaring up.  And, just when Jordan reminded me that I’d essentially entered into a contract with a lot of people (LOL)  Jeannie sent me a note and told me — not asked. But, told me, “I’m knitting hats for you”.  The sense of relief!

Let me tell you this. Walking down to the DC March and seeing scores of pink hats was an overwhelming feeling. I’m a very practical person and have previously thought the idea of craftivism a bit of an eye roll. But, it was visually impactful to see a united sea of pink. This Esquire article does a great job of discussing the historical intersection between fashion and politics.

During the day, as friends started posting photos on social media during and after the March I got all the feels. I was so happy to see the people in my life who support the same causes as I do and irrevocably touched to see them wearing hats made for them.

I wore mine out the night after the March to dinner. The owner of the restaurant shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you’.  A group at the bar nodded, smiled and told me they liked my hat as Jordan and I walked through the restaurant. It was a very long and emotional day and these small acts nearly had me in tears. It also helped me understand the impact of uniformity in a time of disruption.

I wore it in the weeks leading up to the march and I noticed as we got closer women started to smile at me, now after the march strangers are talking to me. Its a powerful thing to see people on the street and know you’re connected.

I read an article that noted that the there are three symbols of the march that are important because they took time, thought and planning, signs, the hats and clear bags. Nearly every woman (and many men)had all three of these things and it brought all 500,000 people together regardless of their skin color, background or religious choice.

— Renee’s friend Liz


Now, for my tendonitis. Thank you so much for your responses and suggestions on my last post about this. I saw a hand specialist at the hospital last Tuesday. It’s still tendonitis. I’d been afraid I might have carpal tunnel too. The doctor administered a cortisone shot to my wrist and my hand hurt like hell for two days (totally normal). Now, the wrist and thumb pain I was experiencing  has gone away.  I can type  with capital letters again! I can use scissors again!  It’s a week later and despite these improvements, my grip is super weak still. I can’t really hold a needle, cut with a knife, hold on to something for an extended period of time or type on my cell phone without problems. But, I feel like I’m on the mend overall. I’m giving it another week to see if my grip improves. I do miss lifting weights :-/ I mean, not really. I hate exercise but like the results.  Heh.


Whew. This post is so long! To wrap up, I’m currently knitting Jordan’s birthday present. It’s a varsity style letterman’s sweater. I have a whole Pinterest board with inspiration if you’re interested. Hopefully that’s what my next post is about 😀

Posted in Machine Knitting

Small Adventures in Machine Knitting

Jordan and I spent Thanksgiving with my family for the first time in our relationship. Let’s just say I had no idea family holidays were tied up in who you spend them with. Growing up a military family, we’ve never lived closer than four hours to extended family so we always did our own thing. We hosted a lot (people from church, soldiers who weren’t near family) and as an adult I’ve spent holidays with friends, family, alone, on vacation… kind of doing whatever I wanted to do. As a kid, we didn’t make a big deal about mother’s day and father’s day and birthdays were pretty low key. It’s not the same in Jordan’s family at all! Throw in Jewish holidays on top of traditional American holidays and Christian holidays on top of inlaws that live three hours away and I’ve learned you practically need a police hostage negotiator to get through the calendar.

Since we stayed with two of my aunts in Brooklyn, I decided to knit them scarves as a hostess / thank you gift. I’ve made these before. They are the hand knit designed  l’escargot bleu scarf from Escape Tricot out of Montreal. It takes just three colors and is one long triangle.

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Mine aren’t as wide as designed as I’m limited to my 200 machine needles. But, still lovely I think. I am always SO BAD at choosing colors in a vacuum. So, this time I plugged in the yarn colors I have from Loops & Threads in Ravelry and chose trios that I liked other people making.

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Denim Blue, Charcoal, Ivory

I’ve also used my machine this fall to knit socks. Yep! You can knit socks on a knitting machine! Learning to sock knit also took a fair bit of practice on my end to wrap my mind around circular knitting and short rowing. I used the instructions from a Singer knitting machine book on knitting socks in 3,4 or 5 ply (it’s a free download online). You can make them on a flat bed machine or one with a ribber. I knit mine using the ribber.

I knit socks that fit! And, Jordan is equally amazed and ready to go to dinner 😅.

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The first pair went to Jordan as I didn’t understand they needed a bit of negative ease. They fit him perfectly and he wears them weekly. But, I had to tell him NOT to wear them around the house. I mean, they are hand knit and precious! Treat them with love, lol.  Put on hiking socks from a big box store when your feet are cold, please.

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This green pair is ALL MINE.  I don’t know that I’m going to become a handmade sock nut. But, they are fun to make and a great way to get familiar with your machine’s ribber, circular (in the round) knitting, and short rows. I’m still working on the grafting and closing that short row hole at the heel.

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And, I think winding yarn manually with my winder is what really did in my wrist tendonitis last month with these projects. In addition to the skein winding, there’s a LOT of hand manipulation with these and pretty repetitive motion. I bring this up because I have found machine knitting to be better for my wrist than hand knitting. But, it’s not totally without some issues.  But, I tell you what. When a sock comes off your machine and you spent three years knitting a basic scarf by hand before, it feels pretty incredible!