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Design Process Part 2: Sketching, Swatching, and Math

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Earlier posts in this series: Design Process Part 1: Inspiration

Now that I have a pretty good idea of the general look and construction I want for the sweater, it’s time to think about the details. First up, I do a rough sketch of the design.

new sweater sketchAhem. I did warn you it was rough. I’m not much of an artist, so if the sketch isn’t for submission to a publication, I don’t spend much time on it. But it gets the idea across!

I also included the targeted measurements for my size. Before, I would need to look up standard guidelines for this bust size, but I’ve knit enough size M fitted sweaters now that I know most of these measurements off the top of my head. A few of them are specifically tailored to my preferences–I like a little bit of positive ease on the upper arm, for example, but I tend to like an inch or two of negative ease at the bust. I also tend to like slightly longer sweaters (probably because a large bust tends to make shorter sweaters ride up at the bottom!).

Next up, choosing yarn! Fun!

It was pretty easy in this case. I have this gorgeousness in my stash:

BFL labelThis is Blue Moon Fiber Arts BFL Sport in the “Manly, yes, but I like it too!” colorway (great name, eh?). I purchased two giant skeins (about 1300 yds) at Rhinebeck last October. After checking Ravelry, this looks like plenty to knit this type of sweater in a 36″ bust size. The great thing about top-down, too, is I know I have the option of knitting shorter sleeves or a shorter body if it looks like I’m running low on yarn.

Swatch time! As I mentioned in this post, the recommended size on the label for this yarn is incorrect. After a quick check on the yarn’s Ravelry page, I started with US #4 (3.5 mm), and I liked the fabric I got after I wet-blocked the swatch:

New sweater swatch

Pardon the craptacular phone picture.

My measured gauge after blocking is 6 sts/8.5 rows to the inch. A little thinner than I usually prefer (I’m generally a DK and up girl), but the yarn’s soft and nice to knit with. Due to some kind of distracting life stuff going on right now, a stockinette, finer gauge sweater is just what the doctor ordered!

If I were knitting a bottom-up sweater, this is the point where I’d usually do some quick, rough calculations and then dive right into the knitting.

BUT… this is going to be a top-down sweater. So that means I have to do a whole bunch of math before I know how many stitches to cast on.

new sweater mathYeah, that wasn’t too much fun. It took me two whole episodes of Supernatural!

Some designers prefer to grade the pattern for all the sizes before they start knitting the sample in their size. I confess, I’m not one of those. I work out the numbers for my size, tweaking them as I go, and then grade the pattern for the rest of the sizes when I’m finished with the prototype.

Next up: casting on! Woohoo!

Bonus picture: one of the kitties “helping” me photograph the swatch.

New sweater swatch Mort

 

 

FO Friday: Weeny Sweater

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I have an FO I can show you for Friday! Second week in a row!

minisweater full

Although that photo doesn’t show scale very well, it’s little, trust me.

The specs:

Pattern: Tiny Holiday Sweater Ornament, free from the KnitPicks website. I didn’t use my own pattern! Gasp!

Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Sport in Moorland, leftovers from my Put Together sample.

Notes: I didn’t enjoy this knit, unfortunately. Part of it is my fault–I didn’t have enough fingering weight yarn around, so I decided to knit it with sport weight on size 2′s. This meant the stitches were very tight and it was hard to work the front and back cables without a cable needle (my preferred method).

The pattern itself was too fiddly for my taste. Also, I would estimate it took me about 6-8 hrs of knitting. That’s as long as I would spend on a worsted-weight hat or mitten: too long for an ornament, in my opinion. I’m planning to make a few more little sweaters for gifts, but I’m going to find a nice DK or worsted pattern for the rest.

At least it came out cute! It’s hard to make anything out of Madelintosh that doesn’t look fabulous, really. Look at the depth of color:

minisweater close

And in other news, I’m planning to knit yet another pattern of someone else’s, this time for my adorable 2.5 year old niece! I have a few skeins of Malabrigo Arroyo in a lovely grayish-purple that have been sitting around waiting to become something, so I swatched it up yesterday:

Arroyo swatch

Isn’t that gorgeous?

Glamour shot:

swatch glamour

I’m drooling over little girl patterns on Ravelry, trying to pick out the perfect one. It’s such a novelty to be able to pick and choose without having to write my own, haha!

My current favorites are (Rav links):

Sweet Peasy: This is really cute and looks quick and simple. My gauge is a little smaller than required, so I’d have to go up to the next size and hope for the best, though.

Saffron: RIDICULOUSLY cute. I’m a little worried it’s too girly for my niece’s stylish mama, though… and I know from experience that ruffles are painful.

Sweet Poppy: Love this one… but I’m a little worried I’d run out of yarn. Also, the sweater has to be mailed all the way across the country, and I’m thinking the drapey fronts probably wouldn’t fare so well. It might need re-blocking at the other end!

Do you have a go-to toddler sweater knit in sport or DK weight yarn?

New design brewing…

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I’m already thinking hard about how to use my beautiful Tosh Merino Light from the last post

…and after some sketching and swatching, I think I have a winner!

sketch for new design

I went back and forth on the “interesting rib” I wanted to do… and finally decided on this nice mock-cable rib:

swatch for new design

I love mock cables. They’re easy to do, require no cable needle, and look just as pretty as “real” cables.

So now that all that’s decided… I’m waiting until September 22nd to cast on. Sigh. I want to participate in a knit-along with the members of the Madelinetosh Lovers group on Ravelry, and that’s the official start date.

Until then, I have a sweater pattern to finalize and some winter accessory swatching to do. That sounds like fun too, don’t get me wrong… but I can’t wait to get my hands on the Tosh!

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Photography Challenge

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long KCBW banner

Day 2: Photography Challenge

Swatch color wheel (note all the green):

Swatch color wheel

Leftovers color wheel (lots more reds, blues, and whites in this one):

Leftovers color wheel

FO Friday: Secrets

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I’ve been knitting my brains out for the past few weeks… but unfortunately I can’t show you any of it. Three commissioned designs, three patterns to submit to Knitty, more swatches than I can keep track of.

Pile O Knits

Pile 'o indeterminate knits

Swatch city

Swatch city

The green sweater (which I’m planning to self-publish) is finished, but it needs blocking and buttons. I have a strict don’t-show-before-it’s-blocked policy, so that one’s gonna have to wait too.

I’ve also been rediscovering my addiction to 90′s sci-fi TV shows. Am I the only one who thinks shows used to be much more fun 15-20 years ago?

FO Friday: Collapsible Lightbox

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No knitting FOs to show off today (the green sweater’s coming along, but it still needs another sleeve). I have something else that’s almost as good, though–the husband made me a collapsible lightbox!

Big lightbox

I had been using one that he made a while back which worked (all the yarn photos I’ve posted here were taken in it), but suffered from one fatal flaw: it was really too small for my purposes.

I ended up with a lot of shots like this that needed to be cropped down (swatch is of my Kari Baby Blanket):

too small shot

Also, shots of white yarn tended to get washed out pretty severely (swatch of my Bevin Pullover):

White swatch on white background

We had trouble storing the box in our little apartment, too. We ended up having to devote a whole shelf to it in our linen closet. So when hubby offered to make me a bigger, collapsible lightbox, I jumped at the chance.

Not only does the new one use a clever placement of Velcro tabs to fold down so it can be stored at the back of a closet, but it has removable, different-colored backdrops!

Now I can get shots of white yarn that look like this:

White on green background

Much better, no? And I have SO much more room to take shots. It’s awesome.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the old and the new lightboxes:

comparison shot

I took lots of pictures as hubby was making the box, so I’ll be posting a photo tutorial here in the next few days for anyone who’s interested in making their own. Stay tuned!

More SEX… I’m trying to quit, I swear!

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Another Stash Enrichment eXpedition! I was up in Monterey for a writer’s workshop this weekend and had some time to kill before it started… so I stopped into one of my favorite yarn shops, A Twisted Stitch. I wasn’t going to buy anything… but somehow these migrated into my hand:

goodies

That’s Alice Starmore’s phenomenal Aran Knitting (new and expanded edition) and two skeins of Arroyo, Malabrigo’s new sport-weight yarn, in Plomo.

plomo Arroyo

A more accurate picture of the color.

I’m loving the book–the first section is a comprehensive history of the Aran islands and the sweaters that made them famous. I had many misconceptions about this style of knitting, but Ms. Starmore has set me straight! The next section is cable motifs, many of which are new to me. I got three design ideas just flipping through the book in the store, so I figured I’d better buy it, heh. The last section is gorgeous patterns, which I can admire even if I’ll never knit any of them.

At the earliest opportunity, I tried out one of the cable motifs in the Arroyo–isn’t it beautiful?

Arroyo cable

I’m thinking opera-length gloves, if I can manage to squeak a pair out of two skeins….