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.

IMGP0550 photo IMGP0550_zpszt51xiko.jpg

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?”

 photo IMG_20170206_204627383_medium2_zpsd62k0asc.jpg

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.

IMGP0552 photo IMGP0552_zpsrrsqnkmy.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_20170314_222844_zpszj6r4vo4.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_20170315_113048887_zpsa0ribtwx.jpg

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.

IMGP0549 photo IMGP0549_zpsq47pjuta.jpg

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.

IMGP0559 photo IMGP0559_zpsw4dewwj2.jpg

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.

IMGP0551 photo IMGP0551_zpsvmfkjeqq.jpg

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.

IMGP0556 photo IMGP0556_zpsqojgc6zc.jpg

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.
IMGP0480 photo IMGP0480_zpsoacxxjzq.jpg

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.

IMGP0485 photo IMGP0485_zpsjsjdvuki.jpg

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!

IMGP0476 photo IMGP0476_zpsgf8amhb4.jpg

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.

IMGP0472 photo IMGP0472_zps1r7aqncl.jpg

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.

IMGP0478 photo IMGP0478_zpswcu5opd2.jpg

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.

IMGP0489 photo IMGP0489_zps7jvnp8na.jpg

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.

IMGP0474 photo IMGP0474_zpsprks4o7w.jpg

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!

IMGP0493 photo IMGP0493_zpstsmwnkax.jpg

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 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.

 photo IMG_20161120_134303_zpslnjaegtc.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_20161120_214817975_zpsbwdknsow.jpg
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 😅.

A post shared by Renee (@missceliespants) on

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.

 photo IMG_20161123_080901376_zpssnxqasrq.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_20161123_075055_zpsrwvjtssr.jpg

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!

Posted in Machine Knitting

Brooklyn Tweed Corvid Coat

DSC_0043 photo DSC_0043_zpspcviijzg.jpg

I’m so excited to share this sweater with you. Why? Well, to start, I’m utterly in love with it. It’s the first time I’ve been able to take a commercial pattern and knit it on my machine. The Corvid Coat from Brooklyn Tweed conveniently has a schematic so I could use Garment Designer to draft the design and produce a machine pattern for me. Also, it appears they hired my reincarnated self to model the design….

 photo Corvid_01_zpsgoiq8iin.jpg

A few changes (and flaws), well, one big one. The collar and lower front extension on the original is in cartridge rib. I think the closest approximation my ribber does to this is fisherman’s rib. But, because I hadn’t done it before and requires tucking – which I also haven’t done before- I just made a 2×2 rib. But, don’t fear. I plan to make this in a cream Corriedale yarn I bought last year and will do fisherman’s rib then.

 

 

The flaw: my collar isn’t  wide enough. If you look at the original design, it flips back on itself and still looks about the same width as the lower ribbing. I read the directions to be five inches in width. But, I got it wrong. When I make this again, I’ll widen the collar to 8 to 10 inches and lengthen the collar a few inches (I accidentally made mine a few inches short).

DSC_0039 photo DSC_0039_zpsojwrkkba.jpg

The sleeves are also snug on me (although now that I’ve worn it around, they have loosened up). Which I could clearly see when I drafted it in Garment Designer. But, I decided to go with the exact provided measurements instead of, oh, you know using the software I own that allows me to customize fit.

DSC_0072 photo DSC_0072_zpspwtiyfpz.jpg

Because the Corvid is mostly straight stockinette, this knit very quickly with whole swaths of simple knitting (no increases or decreases). I knit this on my bulky Brother 270 (new to me this summer)  in a sport weight yarn from Bartlett yarns that I picked up at Maryland Sheep and Wool this year.  This weight yarn probably knits best on a mid-gauge machine. I knit this on Tension 1 (which the lower the number, the tighter the tension). I’m also so sad now I’m going to miss MDSW in 2017. We have two weddings in May. One of them in NY during MDSW.

DSC_0047 photo DSC_0047_zpso4mkbmez.jpg

I am not 100 percent happy with the ribbing.Before blocking, it had a nice beefy hand and great definition. But, post wet block, the 2×2 rib looks a bit flat along the front hem. I’m not sure if that’s a product of the yarn or the Tension 0 I knit it on (again, the bulky machine isn’t ideal for a sport weight yarn). So, for the collar and lower front extension, I used steam to give the ribbing a final block.  I know that a lot of people hand knit the ribbing and add it to the machine. But, I have really bad tendinitis in my hands that prevent me from hand knitting.

Due to the width of the back and lower rib, I did have to knit them in sections and seam them together. But, I think it’s really hard to tell unless you’re looking.

DSC_0064 photo DSC_0064_zpsyxtoncf4.jpg

Any who, if you can’t tell, I AM FEELING MYSELF. I am so happy to have a REAL sweater made from REAL wool that I made. It’s EXACTLY why I wanted to try machine knitting.

DSC_0080 photo DSC_0080_zpsivdxmv7j.jpg

And, I get to wear it during the fall!

What’s next… a good question. I’m kind of swamped with work the next few weeks. I quit my 9 to 5 back in July and have had a (miraculous) steady  stream of consulting work since then. It’s been extremely liberating. But, not nearly the amount of time I thought I would have with my sewing and knitting.  When things calm down in November,  I’m thinking of either Brooklyn Tweed’s  Brighton with a diamond shape tuck stitch or the lovely raglan sleeve Roslyn (both designed by my friend Veronik). But, seriously, at some point I need to start holiday gifts….

DSC_0092 photo DSC_0092_zps9balo0hj.jpg

Somewhat more technical notes on my Ravelry page

Posted in Machine Knitting

Sweet Like Carmel Cardi

Way back in May I decided to knit a summer sweater based on the Carmel sweater by Isabell Kraemer. I love most anything with stripes and  decided to make this my third knit garment.  It’s been knit over 1900 times! Over the summer it became a UFO when I was short green yarn and needed to order more. And, then I was entirely distracted sewing tee shirts and work out pants.

IMGP0143 photo IMGP0143_zpsulm3lsmp.jpg

Now, at the beginning of fall, I decided to pick it back up again. It’s a ‘summer’ sweater because the yarn is a  DK weight, linen/ silk blend from Colourmart and provides zero warmth. I knit all of it including the ribbing on my Brother 830, a standard bed knitting machine.

IMGP0152 photo IMGP0152_zpsy6sotnlf.jpg

The Carmel pattern is a written pattern (no schematic) only. And, I don’t really read knitting. So, I made a bunch of guesses about the dimensions and drafted away in Garment Designer. For this, I went with the cardigan in a basic shape, boat neckline and 3/4 tapered sleeves.

IMGP0145 photo IMGP0145_zpsylnsab4o.jpg

If I were to knit it again, I would knit a round neckline, contoured (more fitted) bodice, raise the armhole and keep the sleeves and length as originally drafted. I’d also pick colors with a higher contrast. The colors here are fine. But, I’d love something with a bit more contrast.

IMGP0155 photo IMGP0155_zpslnzuklf6.jpg

I really learned a lot from knitting this. I had to figure out where my color changes would be, picking the right tension for the ribbing, using my linker to seam the garment and just how very much I hate weaving in ends.

IMGP0154 photo IMGP0154_zpsno4ejkiq.jpg

IMGP0153 photo IMGP0153_zpszuxchyub.jpg

IMGP0148 photo IMGP0148_zpsrhc5hl7d.jpg

I borrowed this hat pin from my friend Liz. And, will be on the lookout for some of my own!

Ravelry notes here

My next knitting project is the Corvid Coat from Brooklyn Tweed. I’ve already started it on my bulky knitting machine using a sport weight yarn I bought a Maryland Sheep and Wool. Maybe I can get this one done while it’s still fall!