Monday, January 27, 2014

Last year's fave knits and must-try recommendations

Looks up from knitting

Oh. Hey. I'm surprised you're still here! Nice to see you! I appreciate your comments and interest in my ramblings, despite my poor correspondence. Life has been pretty busy, but not in the December deadlines kinda way; I just tend to work best when I throw myself into a project and tune out the world for a while. January is my knitting free-for-all, and I love thinking back to the old projects as I scheme up new ones for the coming year. As I've had time to put last year's knits to the test, some of them stand out as real winners, probably because I use them all the time. So this is my "items I am most glad I knit last year" recap.

My "red" sweater.
This is literally my every-day sweater. Except in the extreme temperatures we've experienced in the recent "polar vortex," I don't usually wear a coat; if anything, I layer a light sweater underneath this one and wear it everywhere. Indoors and outdoors, this is my favorite sweater. Here's why:
  • It rakes in compliments all the time.  The color, the collar, the cable - there's something gratifying about receiving a compliment from a stranger or coworker before they realize that my sweater is handmade. 
  • Nothing says "snuggly" like a good shawl collar. I'm glad I took the time to get it right. Thanks to Bill for the pointers!
  • Long sleeves. I really hate sleeves that don't cover the base of my hand; in this sweater, even when my elbow is bent my wrists feel safe and secure. The extra-long ribbing at the cuffs has a similar effect as the shawl collar. Yum.
  • The yarn is fab. (It's Spud & Chloe Sweater, a wool/cotton blend.) Okay, so while knitting, the cotton content in the yarn made my hands a little tired, but the result is a sweater that actually looks best when I've gently machine washed and dried it, and it feels great even when I'm only wearing my short-sleeved work shirt underneath. It's perfect for indoor wearing because it's not too hot, but when layered with other stuff it becomes snuggly. I'm so glad I was able to get this yarn while I still had a store discount at Loop. It's quality stuff. Also, considering the constant use it gets, it is holding up pretty well.
I knit this sweater from Barbara Walker's top-down method, and I think it's my best sweater so far. Despite the fiddly bit in the shoulders, it was a beautiful construction that flows pretty nicely. I've been experimenting with different patterns and constructions, but perhaps I should revisit this one soon and see if I can't perfect it some more.

I was initially frustrated with some technical issues on this hat, but those were worked out, even if I felt a bit miffed in the process. So when I finished the hat, I had mixed feelings about it; despite that bias, this has become my go-to hat, and I'm quite glad I purchased the pattern. I believe the hat was designed specifically for this yarn, and with good reason. The yarn looks great, and feels as luxurious as anything you could buy in a store. The hat has held its shape despite almost daily wearing. As hats go, it's perhaps a bit more forgiving than some on my hair, and it covers my ears comfortably (I'm very picky there). The designer did a lovely job working out a stylish hat using just the one skein of yarn. I have to admit that a lot of hand-knit hats look or feel inferior to the ones available in the stores, but this is certainly not one such handknit. If you decide to give this hat a try, I highly recommend using the yarn called for - and that's coming from me!! 

Leaves of Grass
It's just so purdy, thanks to the yarn being so fabulous.
Think of it as a favorite painting that you enjoy every time you look at it, then try wrapping that painting around yourself to keep off the chill. My sisters loved it enough that they put in their requests for next Christmas. 

Norwegian-wool Experimittens
One of my responsibilities at the nursing home includes taking smokers out into the cold and doling out cigarettes, then standing watch so no mishaps occur. These mittens have been a constant companion during smoke break, and I love the feel of the padded fabric created by the stranded colorwork, especially in the Norwegian wool yarn. I have dreams about knitting another pair that does not flip open, perhaps in the same charming pattern, for those times when I don't need to use my fingers.

Color Craving
This one kinda surprised me, since I put up with so much negativity from other people knitting during the mystery KAL. The look really bothered some people, and the shape challenged people who couldn't figure out how it could be worn; I think in both instances they were trying to approach it the same way as all the other shawls they had knit. But for me, it has served as an extremely functional and smart-looking accessory. Whenever I or my partner wear ours out, strangers go out of their way to let us know how they admire our scarves. It also helps that I ended up substituting a color that matches my red sweater rather perfectly! The scarf fills in the gap in the v-neck of the sweater, and I feel pretty good about it. Sometimes I entertain the thought of knitting another one in different colors, to coordinate with other outfits, even though it's quite an investment of time and money. The process was a fun one, and barring any stupid mistakes, it was an easy enough knit.

Woolen-spun Shetland Triangle
I know this is another shawl, but I view it as being from the other end of the knitwear spectrum in its creation and aesthetic. It is my other go-to shawl because I love the feel and look of it, and it packs easily. This may be the first time I was able to successfully create a yarn that was designed for a specific purpose, and I am still amazed at its softness and lightness. Usually my handspun yarns are heavy and lunky, and while I feel fairly comfortable making a knittable yarn on a spindle, the addition of spinning a gradient from rolags made this project unique and exciting. This shawl keeps out the chill quite well, despite being riddled with holes. Ever since finishing it, I've been plotting to repeat the process and probably even the pattern.

So there you have it; if you've been looking for project inspiration, I hope this gives you some ideas that have proved worth my while. What have you made in the last year that you've most enjoyed?

Cheers, and happy wool-play!


  1. Your Shetland triangle, man. I'm so impressed.

  2. I love your fabulous recap of handknits! You made some amazing pieces.

  3. I love them all and I think your Color Craving is very striking :)