Deco on camera

Published on Wednesday April 10th, 2013

And sadly, I really mean “on camera phone.” The logistics of a proper shoot for a deserving handknit aren’t really that staggering, but the alignment of husband-photographer + decent weather + compliant wee kiddos hasn’t really presented itself. And since I’d like to prove that I finished something for myself to wear before next autumn, out came the phone.

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This is Kate Davies’s Deco, and I mostly love it. Neither of these photos reveals its chief flaw, which is that my hips are either not where I think they are or they aren’t shaped the way I imagine or both. And as a result I’ve got a hip-shaped pooch of fabric several inches above my actual hips. This is despite having lengthened the body of the cardigan by a couple of inches, anticipating that I have a long torso and wanting coverage to the tops of the jeans I usually wear. And it’s happened to me before… my much-loved-anyway Amanda cardigan has the same problem. What I should be doing for a cardigan this length, apparently, is either to cast on fewer stitches so I don’t have to decrease more than a couple of times to reach the narrowest circumference or to begin the decreases immediately and just space them farther apart. Lesson learned. (Maybe.) I could also use a couple of hook-and-eyes at the bust, but I’m waiting until my post-nursing days to see if that’s still necessary.

But I am in mad hot love with the design, this color, and the yarn itself, which I snatched up at the Madrona Retreat in 2012. It’s from a little shop in Port Gamble, Washington called The Artful Ewe. Heidi Dascher owns the shop and dyes on a number of lovely and unusual bases. Her batches are small… I think I bought all there was of this color, and as you can see by the shortened sleeves, I could have done with a sixth skein. Artful Ewe doesn’t have a web presence for sales, so you pretty much need to visit in person or find them at a show, but this is a base yarn called Argentina, a blend of Polwarth wool and silk. I could knit it every day for the rest of my life. And worked at the tight gauge Davies calls for in this pattern, it should wear very well.

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Deco was done in time to wear to Madrona this year—I sewed the vintage glass buttons (from the awesome selection at Happy Knits) on the train to Tacoma—and has been in steady wardrobe rotation. (It’s surprising how many colors hot coral red goes with.) If I knit it again, I think I’ll do a standard button band with button holes. I won’t deny the flash of bright ribbon facing is fun, but sewing that sucker so that both sides came out even was a bear. I did one side three times to get the rib to match reasonably well without bunching in places, no matter how well I thought I’d pinned it. Elizabeth Zimmermann was opposed to ribbon facings on the grounds that they won’t stretch with the knit fabric, and although I can see a way to use this to one’s advantage—to stabilize the back of the neck and shoulders, for instance…my Blue Thistle could use a dose of this treatment—I think I stand with her (as on so many other points). And stitching on all those snaps as well as the buttons…it’s a good thing I had a hard deadline and a lot of motivation to finish for Madrona, or Deco might languish yet in the work basket, all but done.

For the hard-core knitter looking for details on the experience of working from this pattern, I’ll refer you to my Ravelry notes. I’m really happy with my defeat of the slipped-stitch rib’s tendency to row out, and I did encounter an oddity in the sleeve-cap shaping, both of which I discussed in my notes.

Some women crave doughnuts…

Published on Sunday March 11th, 2012

… but I, apparently, just want a shot of pure color.

I went to the Madrona retreat last month with the goal of finding a non-Merino DK wool for Kate Davies’s Deco cardigan. Browsing the websites of vendors in advance, I cast my eye on Sweetgrass Wool’s Mountain Silk, a Targhee/silk blend that looked promising. I first gravitated to the lichen and straw shades — a bright leaf-colored cardigan would be just the thing for the season. But I found myself unable to ignore a warm pinky orange, which is not in my usual palette at all. I’m not even sure it’s a color I could wear, but I thought I’d check it out at the marketplace and make a decision there. Sadly, it turned out to be much more pink than orange, and I was surprised to find I really had my heart set on a hot orangey red. I actually walked clear ’round the market afterward thinking maybe I just wouldn’t buy anything this year. (Go ahead, laugh.) Then I saw them: loose hanging skeins of the most vivid coral red, a flash of scarlet peeping out from a forest of muted earth tones, like cardinals in the conifers. They were an order of magnitude brighter than anything I’d pictured adding to my stash or to my closet. They were a color my grandmother would have chosen. They were perfect. “They’re probably Merino,” I sighed to myself. They weren’t. They are Polwarth wool with a bit of silk, and home they came with me from the Artful Ewe booth. (I’d link their website, but there’s no yarn to be seen there. Visit if you find yourself in Port Gamble, Washington some weekend, though. I mean to.)  The Polwarth sheep is, to be fair, three-quarters Saxon Merino in its ancestry, but includes Lincoln genes to add stoutness and luster. This yarn, called Argentina, is soft and svelte and springy, but whispers of a sturdier character as you knit. Particularly at the tight gauge Kate dictates in this pattern, I expect it to wear very nicely.

My beginnings have grown far past the attractive slip-stitch hem you see here. Non-knitters may now tune out if they haven’t already: I’m about to get really geeky and technical. A note on working this stitch motif, if you’re thinking about making this cardigan yourself: I found I was having trouble with “rowing out” in my reverse stockinet stitches immediately left of the slipped columns. The strand behind the slipped stitch doesn’t provide enough tension on the first of the purl stitches to hold it in shape, so it loosens up and crowds its upstairs neighbor, and your knitting appears to divide itself into bands of two rows. This is a not a sweater I mean to wear to the dog park, if you know what I mean. I want it to look its absolute best so it can class up my wardrobe. So the rowing out was bugging me when I swatched. But I found I could solve it entirely by wrapping the yarn clockwise for the first of the purl stitches. This maneuver uses less yarn, so it winds up adding the necessary tension to even out that stitch. It also twists the mount of the stitch, so you must knit it through the back leg on the return row, but that’s no extra effort. The near cousin of this problem came to visit once I was out of the hem section; for the body of the cardigan the slipped column is flanked to the left by a knit stitch. You don’t see the bands as you do on the purl side; instead you get an uneven column of V’s BIGsmallBIGsmall up the work. It’s just as unsightly and detracts from the clean line of the slipped stitch. I’m not sure if the wrong-way wrap trick would solve it for a knit stitch — it might well — but it’s a more awkward maneuver for a thrower like me and would also involve purling through the back on the return row, which I don’t believe is anyone’s favorite. My solution is to slip and knit as usual on the front side of the work, but then on the purl side to lift the strand onto the left needle and work it together with the slipped stitch. There, now, that’s far more than you wanted to know. But maybe it will help some frustrated perfectionist out there…

I’m adding a wee bit of length to this cardigan because 12.5″ from hem to underarm sounds really, really short for my long torso, but I’m worried about running out of yarn, so I’m going to let it be a more cropped style than I usually wear. That’s an excuse to look for some cute, high-waisted, vintage dresses like the ones Kate seems to have in her closet, right? Oh, and apparently this poppy red is some kind of Color of the Year, which I totally didn’t know when I chose it. I feel so trendy in spite of myself.


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