Pattern Mods

Cambia, Girls' Version

I wanted to have a sample of the girls' version of Cambia

Luckily all knitters are not like me!

If they were, then designers like me would have a hard time selling patterns:  by the time I've done the knitting

Beam me up, Scotty

16_july_005_web If Interweave Knits had sent me light pink yarn instead of light yellow, who knows--maybe I would have named my lace shoulder shell pattern "Captain Kirk"!*  When it came time to send the written instructions to the IK editors,

What comes to mind when you look at these photos?

A) Valentine's Day! B) A swimcap a la Esther Williams C) A strawberry D) Odessa?!  You poor thing, what did she do to you? E) All of the above Yes, but what is it, this delectable-slash-disturbing item?  Just a little Valentine's Day folly that I whipped up over the weekend, with both thanks (for a wonderful pattern) and apologies (for heinously hijacking said pattern) to Grumperina.  Thing is, I had these darling red rabillettes, and I was imagining a hat upon which they could swirl gracefully from brim to crown--and then I saw Odessa.  I have to admit that as I knitted, I was tempted to abandon the tacky aluminum hearts and work the hat as G. intended; it really is a lovely design, and the rabillettes tend to obscure rather than complement its graceful lines.  But, gosh darn it, those rabies tags sure are some silly fun!  Just ask the TS (teenaged stepdaughter), whose hat has inspired numerous comments, the best (so far) being "Does each of those come from some dead animal?"  (The answer, of course, is "No, just from my deranged ex-veterinarian stepmother.) Notes on Odessa:  I used Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece (a slightly heavier yarn than the Rowan Cashsoft DK that the pattern calls for), decreased the number of pattern repeats from 11 to 9, and got a hat with an unstretched diameter of just under 16"; it's a little tight on me, but fits my nine-year-old perfectly.  As for the rabillettes, I spaced them more widely apart than the pattern calls for, and used a technique I believe I first saw in Lily Chin's Knit & Crochet With Beads; the holes in the tags are almost 3 mm. in diameter, so I didn't have to prestring--just used a crochet hook to pull a stitch through each tag as needed.

Cropped sweaters and funky cables

Just stopped in at Barneys to check out their sale, and I noticed that (like everywhere else this year) they have SO many cropped sweaters, from barely-boob-covering to navel-grazing.  It's a more flattering look than one might think, layered over a longer shirt, and--as a knitter--every time I see one, I can't help thinking how much faster it would knit up than something hip-length. Anyway, that reminds me of the Norah Gaughan pattern I spotted last spring in Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2005.  The page is looking beat-up because I carried it around with me for weeks; yes, knitting this "Open Rib/Cable Pullover" did take me awhile, although not just because of its length.  First of all, the pattern called for Dale of Norway "Svale" with a gauge of 22 sts per inch, but the yarn I wanted to use, Filatura di Crosa "Mirto," a cotton/rayon/linen blend, worked up to 26 sts per inch--the finest yarn I had used for a project so far.  The gauge difference translated to a difference in size of about 1 1/2 inches for every 10 inches of circumference, so I chose a size with that in mind, and got started on one of the sleeves. This was also my first try at using a chart (other than for multiple-color patterns), and once I got into it, I loved it.  I found it much easier to see where the pattern was going than when following written directions.  Here's a close-up of the cable panel, which is gorgeous.  It uses a cool 12 st crossover (6/6) which--believe me--is about as many stitches as you can cross without making yourself cross-eyed.  I did drop one stitch during the cross, early on, and even when I realized on the next row that I was one stitch short, I couldn't find the missing stitch within the crossover!  I thought maybe I just k2tog by accident, so I just inc 1 and kept going, but several inches later, I saw the dropped stitch starting to show.  Rather than frog, I just used a short piece of yarn to anchor the stitch to the wrong side of the crossover, so it couldn't unravel further.  Another cool thing about this cable is that the yos used to create the eyelets fall between a purl and a knit stitch, so you just act as if you forgot to move the yarn under the needle from the front to the back of the work, and there you are--super-quick yo.  Even so, this sweater took me a couple of months to finish, and if you compare the photo below to the magazine photo above, you may see another reason why:  I changed the sleeves from raglan to set-in.  The more I looked at the top photo, the more I realized that I didn't want a slipping-off-the- shoulders sort of sweater, where I would always be pulling it up, or having to wear the loathsome strapless bra, or ruin the line with a camisole.  At first I thought I would just continue the raglan shaping and raise the entire neckline.  With one minor setback (after several rows, I caught an error in the directions which had me making the raglan decreases slanted in the wrong direction) I completed the sweater this way, neck ribbing and all, but this just didn't look very good; the raglan seams are more vertical than most, and the angle where the sleeves joined the body wasn't attractive with the raglan seam extended; plus, the ribbing didn't match up.  So I frogged back to the armhole shaping and worked set-in sleeves instead, Sweater Wizard ( being a big help with the sleeve cap shaping.  This worked much better with the rib motif. On a satisfaction scale of 1 to 10, I would have to rate this a 6 or 7 (worn it a few times), compared to my AV sweater, which gets about a 3 (hop into the frog pond).  Why only a 6 or 7? Problem #1 is visible:  slight bra show-through, which isn't so terrible; I just have to wear the right bra (which I am not in this photo).  Problem #2 (also visible!):  the color is brighter on me than I expected from seeing the yarn in ball form or on the needles.  Problem #3 (also visible): the ribbing expands horizontally along the shoulders, so even though I backstitched the shoulder seams in an attempt to make them nonstretchy, they still tend to sag off my shoulders.  If I had wanted a drop shoulder, I would have knit one.  Problem #4 (not visible from these photos):  the back hikes up slightly, which makes me think I should just suck it up, unravel a few seams, and make the back a little longer.  And the shoulders narrower.  Why don't I?  I just don't feel like it.  Know what I mean?

The happy cat hat

  Here she is, in profile:  the Happy Cat Hat, festooned with several dozen 1999* vintage rabies tags, which clink musically (though not alarmingly so, as they are carefully spaced) when the wearer is in motion.  I've outlined the cat's ear, which is difficult to see in this photo. I realized early on that if I followed Sonya Laska's "Sparkle Hat" instructions in Stitch 'N Bitch, I would probably end up with rabillettes marching diagonally across the areas where the ears needed to be, so I tried to chart the positions of the rabillettes first.  This wasn't very successful because I couldn't figure out how to chart a hemispherical object very effectively (I started thinking about Mercator projections, which seemed a step in the too-complicated direction).  Finally, I ended up knitting this hat from the top down, following Barbara Walker's directions in Knitting from the Top, and knitted some of the rabillettes on the front and back into place.  I worked ear flaps and I-cord ties, adding a few rabillettes on the ties, and then added the ears to the hat, following Kitty Schmidt's "Kitty Hat" instructions in Stitch 'N Bitch.  Then I sewed on more rabillettes until I was pleased with their layout.  *Should you wish to obtain some rabillettes for your own use, you could try your local vet's office; unless they employ a viciously organized office manager, they probably have boxes of old ones sitting around, perhaps behind those cartons of puppy and kitten care handouts that they ordered by the thousands to save $$.  Anyway, a rabies vaccination is officially good for 3 years at most, so if your vet suspects that you are trying to obtain a rabies tag without  paying for a rabies shot for your pet, you can lay those suspicions to rest by asking if they have any pre-2002 tags they'd like to get rid of. 

Nightmare: Knitting a sweater for myself

Now that I have a few projects under my belt, it's time to knit something for myself.  It started as innocently as that.  And then I saw this Adrienne Vittadini ad in a magazine, and tracked down the pattern book at WEBS (  I found a gorgeous silk & cashmere yarn, horribly expensive, at the Black Sheep Knitting Co., in Needham, MA.  So far, so good, right? (By the way, if a certain sense of deja vu is setting in, you may have read about Grumperina's AV sweater nightmare at  Read on, read on--just be warned that your sense of deja vu will only increase.) Anyway.  I did a swatch in stockinette stitch, and then I decided to start with a sleeve so I could see how the lace pattern looked.  It looked great!  So good, in fact, that I decided to block it and sew the seam so I could try it on.  This was back in, oh, January 2005, before I started obsessively photographing every stage of a project (before I had a blog, in other words), so I will have to rely on words alone:  the sleeve was long enough for an ape, and wide enough so that, instead of falling in a fluid line from shoulder to wrist, it wadded and wrinkled into something resembling an elephant's leg.  I conquered my disappointment by figuring I had learned an important lesson:  openwork stitches expand after blocking!!  Undaunted, I frogged and started over, this time decreasing the width of the sleeve by omitting a partial repeat on each side.  Didn't take too long to reach the sleeve cap, but by the time I arrived there, I had realized that since I had changed the lace stitch repeat on the sleeves, I would now have to change the lace stitch repeat on the body so that the cables and eyelets would miter nicely at the raglan seams (see photo above).  At the time this frankly seemed a little over my head, but I did some calculations and realized my raglan seams should work if I just centered the body lace on a cable instead of an eyelet panel. So I finished the sleeve and started on the body.  Here is a close-up of the end of the sleeve, and of the transition from stockinette stitch to lace on the front--which turned out to be my next problem.  My relief at seeing that the lace patterns would meet properly at the raglan seams was short-lived, as I held the front up to my body and realized that the lace started precisely at nipple level--not very flattering, not a look I'm comfortable with.  (Which is exactly how the sweater falls in the photo above--meaning the fact that I got so far before noticing this was entirely caused by my own carelessness.  HATE THAT.  Although in my own defense, the mannequin appears to have been constructed with only a faint suggestion of nipple--kind of misleading, really.)  With much profanity, I did more calculating, having realized that since the gauge of the lace and stockinette sections was different, moving the lace up my chest was not as simple as just working a few more rows of stockinette.  Not only that, but I realized I was dissatisfied with the casual, tending-to-roll stockinette hem--the sweater seemed a little too dressy for that--so with a deep breath I frogged, and started the front over, this time adding a turning row for a more finished hem.  I got all the way to the end of the front and then thought the neck just seemed too high, so I backed it down a bit, and then knit the back and second sleeve without incident.  Put it together, blocked it, and then--well, here it is.  Does it seem a little, um, sacklike to you?  BAGGY?  I don't look much like Ms. Mannequin in it, do I.  Only now did I realize that I had based the measurements on an UNBLOCKED swatch.  $#^^&%^**#!!!  In desperation, I actually wetted the thing (silk and cashmere, if you recall), and threw it in the DRYER.  Alas, that only made it short and wide, and closed up the lace pattern.  By the way, that slight fuzziness that is visible on the stockinette part started while I was knitting, and was NOT a result of the dryer--so if you don't like fuzzy sweaters, don't shell out $30 a skein for this yarn--or avoid stockinette stitch, as the lace sections look fine. I did wear it once, out to dinner, and the thing was so awfully warm that I felt lightheaded.  After a couple of glasses of wine I looked into the mirror behind the bar and watched the beads of sweat rolling down my bright red face.  I couldn't wait to leave.  I wonder how many others out there have their own AV sweater nightmare....

"The rabid kitty hat:

Prevents hydrophobia, excessive salivation, death, attacks of incoherent rage, and generally aberrant behavior!"  Maybe I should have gone into marketing.  Should "death" come last?    Unfortunately, while thinking about rabies tags and what they signify--that the wearers have been vaccinated against rabies--I also came to the inescapable conclusion that "rabid kitty hat" should logically be "NON-rabid kitty hat."  Sounds kinda clumsy.  Think, think.  I guess I'll go with "happy cat hat," assuming that your cat would be happy if it knew it was safe from the dread disease. Well, I'll get to work on the prototypical hat ASAP.  In the meantime (back to the recap of the last year's FOs), this Cotton Aran Sweater, again from DB's Classic Knits for Kids, was my next project, following the Aran Coat and the Chevron & Feather Scarf (see 12/3 post).  Since I'd made something for my toddler, I thought I'd better knit something for my older son.  He helped me choose the pattern and told me red was the color.  I used Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece (80% cotton and 20% merino) in Barn Red, and I did swatch this time.  The pattern called for a high crew neck, but as I neared the neck on the front, I realized that the center panel would stop at an unattractive point.  I decided to do  a V-neck instead.  That's it!  The only change I made to this pattern.  Here is a close-up of the panels.  Very nice.  Sadly, this sweater hasn't seen much use because my son thinks it's too wide--and I have to agree.  I think I can blame this one on Debbie, because her designs generally go wide.  Okay, so I could have easily narrowed the double moss stitch panels along the sides.  Too late now.  Maybe I'll take off the drop sleeves, cut an inch or so off the body sides, sew them up and then reattach the sleeves--although then the sleeves might be too short.  On the other hand, maybe they'll be just right, I'm not sure (that shows you how little he's worn it).  Maybe I won't take off the sleeves, I'll just angle into the body from the armpit and narrow from there to the hem...aargh.  Anyone want a nice wide sweater?

Rabid kitty hat, etc.

Teenaged Stepdaughter has pointed out that the rabillettes might be even more appropriate for the Kitty Hat designed by Kitty Schmidt (, and featured in Stitch 'N Bitch immediately after the Sparkle Hat.  I have to agree.  As for as how to best utilize the rabillettes, that will take some experimentation.  On the swatch at left, I tried using only seasonally appropriate green bells, which I thought went nicely with Berroco's "Medley" yarn. I suppose I could have used Christmas red yarn, although my eyes hurt just thinking about it. Anyway, the r-ettes are spaced fairly close together in the bottom two rows, which I'm thinking would work best for a border, and farther apart in the top three rows.  They are quite large, 1 1/4" wide and 1 1/8" high, and could probably be spaced even farther apart with good effect, or even used as individual accents.  Some of them wanted to turn and show their backsides, so I let them, to give an accurate idea of how they will look on a project.  What an odd direction I've taken since my first project after returning to knitting, a year or so ago.  Here it is again, the Aran Coat by Dame DB (accessorized with TV remote--a forbidden toy unless Mom is trying to shoot a few photos).  That same bright blue merino yarn (brand? no idea) used to be part of the project that caused me to stow my knitting needles for over a decade: a sweater in the round that I inexplicably did not realize was big enough to fit a sumo wrestler until it was almost up to my armpits. Anyway, once I decided to try knitting again, I thought to begin with something for the smallest person I knew--my year-old son.  I liked this pattern in DB's Classic Knits for Kids, but it only included directions for one size, 4-6 years, and it called for aran weight yarn--too heavy.  I pulled Sumo out (ouch!  I remembered that blue as being a little less intense) and the yarn appeared to be light worsted weight.  Well, what if I followed the pattern, using worsted instead of aran?  It would probably turn out to be, oh, size 2 or 3; if it was still too big, he could grow into it....  So I frogged the thing and got to work (no, I didn't make a swatch).  As you can see, the finished article did turn out rather oversized; I estimate it will truly fit him well sometime next year.  The only part that really gave me trouble was the collar border.  With no schematic of the collar, and no photo of how it looked from the back, these directions confused me:  "Cont in patt until border fits along shaped edge of collar to centre...."  Huh?  So I took the pattern and partially finished collar into my friendly local yarn shop, Creative Warehouse in Needham, MA, where one of the employees looked at them and said, "Hmm.  I don't know.  I guess you'll have to just trust in the pattern."  "'Trust in the pattern?'"  "Yes, just keep going, it will make itself clear.  Trust in the pattern."  Okay, Yoda. Well, Yoda was right--and the directions seemed crystal clear, in hindsight.  Next, I knit a scarf, slavishly following the pattern (see "Chevron & Feather Scarf" in "Finished!").  After that, I started making changes to the patterns; small ones, at first, but then....  More in my next post.